Archive for October 2003

National Health Care

To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association,
the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”

–Thomas Jefferson

From The Federallist

Wow.

From the Sports Section:

Asked Wednesday how to limit Tomlinson, San Diego’s running back, Seau told reporters: “You give him watermelon and load him up with fried chicken and tell him to keep eating.”

Seau, who is of Samoan descent, later said he and Tomlinson, who is African-American, are friends and the comment was meant in jest. Seau was wearing a Tomlinson jersey when he made the comment.

Wow.

The Art of Self-delusion

The ratings show that as guys like me abandon broadcast TV, Network Executives Scratch Their Heads. What is so hard to figure out?

AS the ratings have rolled in for the first three weeks of the new television season, one question has dominated the conversations inside the industry’s executive suites: what the heck is going on?

Short answer: Your programming sucks.

Network executives are baffled by a season unlike any seen before. Returning hit shows like “Friends” and “E.R.” are losing significant numbers of viewers from previous years. New shows have performed far worse than almost anyone expected, a result capped off Monday night when the Fox network started two shows that had received huge promotional pushes during the baseball playoffs, “The Next Joe Millionaire” and “Skin,” and they posted crushingly disappointing numbers. And men between 18 and 24 are apparently deserting television in droves. So far this year nearly 20 percent fewer men in that advertiser-friendly demographic are watching television during prime time than during the same period last year.

Guys don’t give a shit about Joe Millionaire, and we don’t give a crap about Skin, unless someone makes a soft-core porn with that name and runs it on Skinemax.

The drop-off in these viewing figures tabulated by Nielsen Media Research is inexplicable to industry executives. “Frankly what we’re seeing strains credulity,” said Alan Wurtzel, the president of research for NBC.

“Our shows can suck so bad that people don’t watch them? That’s unconcievable!”

Executives are demanding an explanation from Nielsen for these discrepancies, which, if they continue, could leave the networks on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in so-called make-goods, free commercials to make up for falling short of guarantees to advertisers.

(Nielsen explains later.)

Jack Loftus, the corporate spokesman for Nielsen, said the ratings company had assiduously checked its data and was confident the numbers were accurate. He said that while the drop in young men watching television was highly unusual, it was real. Mr. Loftus said Nielsen was examining several possibilities to explain the decline, including some unexpectedly high use of video games and DVD players by the young men now absent from television, and even the possibility that a certain number of the young men who are supposed to be in the sample may have been called to duty in Iraq by the National Guard.

“Sure, we’ll look at every hairbrained possibility, but everything we have seen points back to the belief that your programming sucks.”

Steve Sternberg, a research executive in the advertising industry as senior vice president for Magna Global USA, said the situation “is certainly a mystery.” But he said that the make-good issue would probably not become acute for a while. “Everybody at this point is saying let’s see what happens when baseball gets finished,” Mr. Sternberg said.

Network executives said none of Nielsen’s explanations so far could explain the suddenness of the viewing drop-off and its concentration in just one demographic group.

“You can’t explain a 12 percent decline in men 18 to 34 or close to 20 percent in men 18 to 24 by saying they’re playing a lot more video games,” said David F. Poltrack, the executive vice president for research at CBS.

He added, “The fact that it’s concentrated in one small age group makes it worse, and even more likely that it’s an aberration.”

Mystery? Mystery? Look, you dunce, your godddamned programing sucks green donkey balls! Your shows are crap! There is no better way for us to show you that than to stop watching and when we do you won’t listen! Stop programming crap! We won’t watch it anymore! We’re madder than hell, and we aren’t going to take it anymore!

One possible factor is more basic, Mr. Sternberg said — the quality of the new shows. “I’ve always noticed that we never hear anybody talking about the programming.” He noted that the networks, which still tend to drive the overall viewing figures, have suffered though a grim start to their new prime-time season. “What has anybody put on that’s going to appeal to young men?” Mr. Sternberg asked.

The answer was not much, even before the Fox network’s belly-flop Monday night. Fox has been on the programming sidelines most of the fall because of its coverage of postseason baseball.

You stupid assinine . . . Wha? A voice of reason? Okay, let’s look at Fox’s lineup:

  • Joe Millionaire: Crap
  • Skin: Crap
  • The OC: Crap
  • Boston Public: Jumped the Shark
  • That 70’s Show: Jumped the Shark
  • 24: Can’t follow it becuase I don’t spend every day watching TV — I might watch if I had Tivo
  • A Minute with Stan who?

    There is some light at the end of the tunnel:

    Until Fox really started to compete, several executives said last week, the question of a fall-off in young male viewers could not be fairly assessed because Fox is the network that most appeals to that group.

    But that group did not show up on Monday for Fox — and neither did most anyone else. The poor performance of “Joe Millionaire” could not be attributed to the shortfall in young men because all categories of viewers that once liked it seem to have stayed away.

    FOX doesn’t appeal to men anymore except for two things: the Sunday Comedies, and COPS. We watch COPS, and anything with “Most Amazing”, “World’s Scariest”, or “Police Chases” in the title. We watch the Sunday comedies, even if the Simpsons jumped the shark a while ago and you sent Futurama off to Adult Swim.

    Stop running crap, and you’ll get your viewers back. Until then, I’ll watch American Choppers for my reality shows, and Reno 911! for my comedy.

    For more on this, Tom Devine has some opinions as does Adam at the Supermercado Project. Strangely, Technorati doesn’t point me to anyone who shares the network exec’s confusion. Imagine that.

    Note to Tom: If you were thinking of “Dirty Laundry”, the phrase is “Bubble-headed bleach blonde” When I was taking RFTV in High School it was our news theme.

    (Via Neal Boortz)

The Upset Hayseed

I just heard this exchange on the The Russ Martin Show when a Hayseed called in:

Russ: Hi, you’re on the air.

Hayseed: Hey — you tricked us yesterday.

Russ: How?

Hayseed: You were playing “Best Of” but you didn’t say it was “Best Of.”

Russ: So? When you see a repeat on TV, they don’t come on and say, “This is a repeat of Friends“. They just play it. If you haven’t seen it, it is new to you.

Hayseed: Yeah, but how am I supposed to know if you are really there today?

Silence

Russ: You’re right. There is no way to know.

To borrow a quote from General Turgidson, “And then he hung up.”

Smoking Bans

Professor Bainbridge has a post that ties in nicely with my Laura Miller rant titled Smoking bans and private property rights. The crux is:

Externalities sometimes justify government intervention. If I run a factory that spews pollution into the air, the damage to my neighbors and the environment is part of the overall social cost of running my factory. Because I don’t bear those costs, however, I have no incentive to reduce the pollution my factory generates. By adopting appropriate regulations, the government can force me to internalize the cost of pollution, which is a fancy way of saying that the government can force me to take those costs into account when I make decisions.

The mere existence of an externality does not justify legislation, however. In a free society, with limited government and respect for private property rights, at least two conditions must be satisfied before government intervention is warranted. First, my actions must in fact produce external costs. Second, there must be a market failure — that is, people must be unable to solve the problem without government help.

The one part that I take exception to is this:

The secondhand smoke problem usually is the principal justification for banning smoking in public places. Fair enough. I will concede that smoking has negative externalities.

If that given was taken simply to move the argument along, I can accept that, but I hope that he doesn’t actually believe that tripe. The science behind the “secondhand smoke” claim is the biggest pile of horseshit I have ever seen (and my grandfather raises horses, so I’ve seen a few piles.)

Ok, Moore is Still an Idiot, But

A Counterpunch idiotarian pundit (I apologize for the redundancy) rants about how Michael Moore Proclaims Mumia “Did It” and throws an absolute hissy fit.

Mumia did it. OJ did it. We all know that they both committed the crimes they were accused of. OJ was rich and famous enough to get out of his; Mumia wasn’t famous enough until after he was already convicted. I’m not going to get into whether or not they got fair trials. Mumia probably didn’t; OJ did. However, that doesn’t change the facts and conclusions.

Not getting a fair trial and being guilty are not mutually exclusive. They aren’t even related. When Michael Moore fucks up and tells the truth, he has idiotarians like this guy jumping on him. Just this once — just for a moment — I actually feel sorry for Michael Moore.

I’m sure that the next time I see his name, I’ll be pissed off again, but at least then it really will be his fault.

The Reagan Gambit

P6 asks us to Think about it in regards to China undergoing the sort of economic implosion due to an Arms race, like the gambit that Reagan pulled in the 80s on Russia. (This started out as a comment, and then got too long, so I’m putting it here instead.)

Like P6, I don’t think it was the entirety of Russia’s fall, but I do think that Reagan’s gambit was instrumental. Something like that is always a matter of pushing an existing trend over the edge. The Soviet Gambit that Reagan pulled wouldn’t work with China, but economic warfare on a different track, (like fostering a grassroots boycott of Chinese products like the sort that is hammering France right now) could start the slide.

Soviet Russia, like all of major failures, wasn’t a single-point failure. It was a cascading failure. Central control is always tenuous at best, and has to be subsidized (Russia was able to do this with natural resources, the Nazis did it with technology, the Italians… uh… serve as an example.) Mismanagement cascaded into ideological war, ideological war strained the mismanaged economy by requiring expensive low ROI programs, the low ROI programs strained the mismanaged economy further, US superiority in the ideological programs caused a ramp-up on the low-ROI programs, rinse, repeat, *boom*.

China seems to have escaped that cycle by not pursuing the ideological war, and keeping things to the surrounding Asian states. When they start using things like the space program as ideological tools, they risk the danger of getting pulled into that cycle, and there is no question that the US has more money to burn than they do. Right now, I think their program is 90% economic and military, so they are skirting that danger. If we could push them to abandon the militarily and commercially useful and start doing low ROI missions like the Mars shot, then we might be able to drag them into it, but I’m not betting on it.

But that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be a similar Bush Gambit. Right now, the sort of thing that could push the strained Chinese economy (almost all central economies are eternally strained — even Japan) into a cascading failure would be North Korea. The Chinese seem to be backing away from it, but the ROK is a child state of Red China. When NK melts down, it will be bad for China. If it is a peaceful meltdown, China will be forced into the ideological war to save face. If we can keep the ideological war cold (and not hot) then we will eventually win.

The alternative ROK meltdown is war. When that happens, China’s biggest problems (barring radioactive fallout) will be refugees. They will flood out of the peninsula and into mainland China. China will be forced to either accept them and the poison of discontented people who have experienced the worst of communism, and be forced into an ideological war to prove them wrong, or they will have to bottle the refugees up in camps or graves, and face potential hot war over human rights issues, or the same ideological war we have been talking about when it gets out to their own people where the refugees are.

China is walking the communist razor blade. They might walk for a long time, but slipping — even if they don’t fall — will still be bad.