Obamacare is even less Consumer-Friendly than Cable/Television/Telephone Television

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 17th, 2014

Week in Review

Currently there are no market forces in health care.  Which is why health care costs are so high.  When buyers and sellers meet they always agree on a price that makes them both feel like winners.  Just watch an episode of one of those pawn shop shows.  The seller wants a higher price.  The buyer wants to pay a lower price.  As they move towards each other they arrive at a price that makes them both happy.  The seller gets an amount of money he values more than the thing he’s selling.  And the buyer is getting something he values more than the money he’s paying for it.  Making them both feel like winners.

It’s not like this in health care.  Because there is a third party between the buyer and seller.  Either an insurance company.  Or the government.  Just like there is a third party between networks’ programming content and the consumer.  The cable/satellite/phone company (see Why Your Cable Bill Keeps Going Up by Evan Weiner posted 4/12/2014 on The Daily Beast).

The television networks and the television carriers, whether it’s through cable, satellite or phone lines, carriers seeming are always fighting these days over the cost of programming and what rights’ fees should be. The rights’ fee is what a television carrier pays for a networks programming. The carrier then passes that cost along to consumers and tacks on an additional fee because they too feel the need to be compensated for bringing the program into a home.

The injured party is the subscribers who have little course to affect the talks unless they decide to drop their provider for another, and there is no guarantee switching to another provider will end TV blackouts…

Thanks to the 1984 Cable TV Act, cable subscribers have really no say in what they want for their needs. The cable carrier was allowed to establish tiers of services. The consumer could take a local, basic tier alone or basic and basic extended but would have no choice in what they wanted to buy and were forced to take whatever the multiple system operative wants to give them or they opt out of having cable TV. The same apparently holds true for satellite TV and the phone companies.

Cable/satellite/telephone television is like Obamacare.  As consumers can’t keep the programming they liked and wanted to keep.  As it is for Obamacare.  Where people who had health insurance they liked and wanted to keep could not keep it.  Instead, a third party, the government, forced them to buy a tier of health insurance they did not want.  Only they do not have the option to opt out of Obamacare.  Because buying health insurance is mandatory.  Unlike cable/satellite/telephone television.  For as much as we may hate our cable/satellite/telephone companies at least we don’t have to buy from them under penalty of law.



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Anti-Smoking People fuming over Britain’s Failure to enforce Plain Cigarette Packaging

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 14th, 2013

Week in Review

I was talking to a woman I knew who was in her 40s.  She took out a cigarette and lit up.  I asked her why she started smoking.  Was it the pretty cigarette packages?  The cigarette advertisements in her youth?  For back then the Joe Camel ads were still out.  As well as a slew of other cigarette ads.  Including cars painted up with Kool cigarette advertisements driving around town.  And the Virginia Slim ads were telling women they’ve “come a long way.”  Smoking advertisements were everywhere.  So did these things prove so attractive and irresistible that she could no longer withstand the lure of cigarette advertising?  No.  She started smoking because all her friends were smoking.

Kids want two things in life more than anything else.  To be grown-up.  And to be cool.  That’s why they start smoking.  Because smoking is only for grownups.  By law.  Which makes them look grown-up when they smoke.  Because only grownups smoke.

Then there is the cool thing.  Boys worship their rock heroes.  The guys who play their low-slung guitars with a cigarette dangling out of their mouth.  It’s just so cool looking.  Keith Richards.  Jimmy Page.  Eddie Van Halen.  Slash.  You name a guitar superstar and odds are there is a poster selling somewhere of him with a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

The stars in the movies they watch seem to all smoke.  For there is nothing cooler than a grizzled actor suffering through a stressful scene lighting up a cigarette afterwards to enjoy some soothing relaxation.  And few things are sexier than a femme fatale that seductively smokes a cigarette.  Our girls see this.  And they, too, want to be grown-up and sexy.  Which is why so many of them start smoking.  And when all of their friends are smoking, too, it just doesn’t seem like there is anything wrong with it.  And because all their friends are having sex that, too, seems okay.  It’s the softer side of peer pressure.  Well it can’t be bad if EVERYONE is doing it.

This is why this 40 something mother of 3 started smoking.  And she continues to smoke because she now enjoys it.  Like those grizzled actors in Hollywood movies.  There’s nothing like lighting up after a stressful work shift.  Even though today she is bombarded with warnings of what smoking will do to her health.  Despite anti-smoking legislation.  And the high taxes placed on cigarettes.  She still smokes.  Because she started smoking young to be cool and grown-up.  And now that she is a smoker her government attacks her with high taxes.  And legislation that ostracizes her like a leper.  Measures now coming to India (see Smoking bans, tax could save 9 million Indians: study by AFP posted 7/10/2013 on France 24).

Banning smoking in the workplace and levying a tobacco tax could prevent more than nine million deaths from cardiovascular disease in India over the next decade, according to a US study…

They found that smoke-free laws and increased tobacco taxes were the single two most effective measures, according to the study in PLoS Medicine on Tuesday.

These two measures alone would reduce heart attack deaths by six million and stroke deaths by 3.7 million, for a total of 9.7 million, over the next decade, the paper said.

The study compared five different tobacco control measures: smoke-free legislation, tobacco taxation, provision of brief cessation advice by health care providers, mass media campaigns, and advertising bans.

Interestingly, one measure is conspicuous by its absence.  This (see Delay on plain cigarette pack decision ‘sad day for child health’ by Sarah Boseley and Andrew Sparrow posted 7/12/2013 on The Guardian).

Lives will be lost as a result of the government’s decision to kick the notion of plain packaging for cigarettes into the long grass, say scientists and campaigners who accuse ministers of bowing to tobacco industry lobbying…

More than 200,000 young people under 16 start smoking every year. With advertising banned, cigarette packets are the only vehicle that companies are able to use to recruit children to the habit. The review said unadorned packs were less attractive to young people, improved the effectiveness of health warnings and reduced the numbers who mistakenly believed that some brands were safer than others.

Kids don’t start smoking because of pretty cigarette packages.  Or cigarette ads.  There are a lot of ads for kids to eat their vegetables yet many kids still resist those ads and refuse to eat their vegetables.  This has got to be the most asinine measure to get kids to stop smoking.  For if they really want to see who is at fault for getting kids to start smoking all they need to do is look into a mirror.

Liberal policies that attack traditional values and the traditional family have far more to do with kids starting smoking than Big Tobacco.  We’re giving high school kids free birth control.  Access to abortion.  And the morning-after pill.  Traditional values are ridiculed on television and in the movies.  Telling these kids that they’re not kids but grownups.  Who can make responsible decisions for themselves.  So they do.  They choose to be sexually active.  And we say we must respect their decision and not try to instill our morals on them.  Yet when they decide to start smoking we say that is wrong and blame Big Tobacco.  So much for our ‘grown-up’ children making responsible decisions.

And we’re never allowed to complain about the non-traditional behavior on television and in the movies.  Where getting stoned and having casual and consequence-free sex is now the norm.  And okay.  Our kids are seeing this.  As well as these people smoking.  They see this and want to imitate it.  Because if everyone is doing it just can’t be that bad.

If you really want to get kids NOT to start smoking then we need their heroes to stop influencing them into smoking.  We need them to be positive role models.  Not the ‘rebel against everything your parents and teachers tell you to do’ people that they are.  The bad boys.  And the naughty girls.  Who practice their art for the kids of the world to see.  And when life imitates art these stars say, “Don’t look at me.  Where are these kids’ parents?”

Not only does government endorse this behavior they facilitate it.  The liberal side of government.  The cool side of government.  Who want these kids to see how cool they are by not being like their parents or their teachers.  So they will vote for them.  And not those stuffy conservatives who don’t want them to have any fun.  Because they won’t vote for them once they wise up with some real education and real-world experience.  So they sacrifice our kids on the altar of politics.  By encouraging all kinds of bad behavior.  Like smoking.  Which they then blame on pretty cigarette packaging.  And not the societal decay they created.



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Jane Fonda didn’t like Seth MacFarlane’s Boob Song during the Academy Awards

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 2nd, 2013

Week in Review

The Academy Awards was a success.  The Academy wanted to appeal to a younger demographic.  So they picked Seth MacFarlane.  In the promos for the Academy Awards MacFarlane said he was Seth MacFarlane.  And to ask your kids to explain who that was.  And that he was hosting the Academy Awards.  And to ask your parents what that was.  Indicating that he was a new young hip host for the old stodgy awards program.  Exactly what the Academy wanted to bring in more viewers.  And it worked.  For Seth MacFarlane delivered exactly want the Academy wanted.  But not everyone was happy with his hosting (see Jane Fonda Slams Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” Oscars Song by Us Weekly posted 2/28/2013 on Yahoo! Movies).

Lena Dunham isn’t the only celebrity who was offended by Seth MacFarlane’s musical number during the 85th Annual Academy Awards, in which the first-time host saluted actresses who went topless on film. Jane Fonda, who presented the Best Director award with Michael Douglas, slammed the Family Guy creator in a Feb. 27 blog post on her official website.

During MacFarlane’s original song, which he performed with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, the 39-year-old comic referenced everyone from Halle Berry to Kate Winslet. What the song failed to mention, however, was that several of the actress’ topless moments occurred during rape scenes.

That is not the only reason women go nude in the movies.  Some do so simply to get a part.  There’s a general rule of thumb that the more nudity in a film the worse the film is.  Such as low-budget B movies that aren’t Oscar bound.  That titillate the viewing audience.  But a movie that titillates is still a movie.  And it can go on an actress’ resume.  Helping her to get discovered.  As long as she looks good in the nude.  Which is a requirement to get a part with a nude scene in a titillating B movie.  For they use nudity to spark interest in a film when the characters and plot don’t.  Such as almost any Russ Meyer film.  A man who had a thing for large breasted women.  Or any of those Friday the 13th movies with a gratuitous nude scene to break up the predictable plot, poor character development and bad acting.  Whereas some of the greatest films of all time were rated G.  Such as Gone with the Wind.  A movie where no women went topless.

Some women go topless to try and redefine themselves.  Such as teen stars trying to lose their ‘good girl’ image.  So they can transition to grownup roles.  And few things kill that ‘good girl’ image more than a good girl letting the girls out on the big screen.

Some bigger names go topless for the big payday that going topless provides.  It was big news, and even bigger money, when Halle Berry and Jennifer Aniston let the girls out.  For let’s face it, it’s the beautiful people in Hollywood movies.  Feminists have long complained that older and less beautiful actresses don’t get the parts that the more attractive ones do.  Even when they are superior actors.  For apparently people want to see beautiful women on the big screen.  And there is only one thing that the people want to see more.  The breasts of beautiful women.  And Hollywood being a business likes to give the people want they want.  Even if it exploits women.  As it exploited a young Jane Fonda.  For Barbarella was little more than sexploitation.  And a far cry from her work in The China Syndrome.

“What I really didn’t like was the song and dance number about seeing actresses boobs. I agree with someone who said, ‘If they want to stoop to that, why not list all the penises we’ve seen?’ Better yet, remember that this is a telecast seen around the world watched by families with their children and to many this is neither appropriate or funny,” Fonda wrote.

What, did Fonda become a Republican?  For years Republicans have been complaining about the growing vulgarity of American television.  That television today is “neither appropriate or funny” for families with children.  But the liberals just call these Republicans a bunch of old prudes.  Saying that they need to lighten up.  To get with the times.  To be more progressive.  Guess you cross the line when you mention how many actresses have shown their boobs on screen.  For that is true vulgarity.

Yes, MacFarlane’s humor was a bit crude at times.  But one thing you cannot deny.  Seth MacFarlane is talented.  He could sing and dance.  Be funny.  And he was nimble on his feet even when a joke bombed.  If you took the vulgarity out you’d think you were watching someone from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  While adding in the vulgarity helped introduce it to an audience that would probably never have watched a musical in their life.  But they may now.  Even if it’s only the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Once More, with Feeling.  Or Monty Python’s Spamalot.  Or Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park: Bigger Louder and Uncut.  Or their The Book of Mormon.  Musicals that are a bit more accessible.  As they are written for a younger, hipper crowd.  Macfarlane may have dissed America’s leading ladies but he may have regenerated interest in song and dance.  Perhaps even getting more people to see the blockbuster Hollywood musical Les Misérables.  Which Anne Hathaway won best supporting actress for her portrayal of poor, tragic Fantine.  A lady that has let the girls out a time or two in her professional career.  And it took her to an Academy Award.

Which is more offensive?  Women taking off their clothes on screen?  Or identifying the women who took off their clothes on screen?  It seems if you’re offended by one you must be offended by the other.  If so these ladies should lighten up.  Get with the times.  And be more progressive.



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Taking Guns away from the People Least Likely to use them will not reduce Gun Violence

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 5th, 2013

Week in Review

There’s a lot of talk about some kind of national gun control after Newtown.  Anything to take guns out of the hands of people.  Even the most law-abiding among us who have guns in their homes for self-defense.  The least likely among us to use that gun in a gun crime.  So you imagine they are going to get even tougher on those who may be more likely to use a gun in a gun crime (see A Question for Gun Control Liberals by David Frum 1/2/2013 on The Daily Beast).

How can you support gun control and oppose stop-and-frisk? Seriously, how otherwise do you imagine that get-tough rules on illegal handguns would ever be enforced?

Or not.

Apparently the safest place to hide a handgun is under your coat while walking the streets.  It may be profiling.  But if you’re in an area known for gun violence where people illegally carry handguns and sometimes use them in street altercations resulting in innocent bystanders getting shot then that intrusion on personal liberty may do more to protect people from gun violence than taking guns away from the homes of law-abiding citizens.

If we take guns away from people who aren’t using in gun crimes but do nothing to take them away from people carrying them illegally we unarm the good guys while leaving the bad guys armed.  It may stop someone from mass killing people in a theater with a gun.  But they may just find some other way to commit mass murder.  While those with illegal handguns will continue to fire their weapons indiscriminately in places like the south side of Chicago.  A place with some of the most restrictive gun laws.  And some of the worse gun violence.  But since a lot of it is black-on-black crime in a Democrat-controlled city the Left doesn’t like to talk about it.  So they don’t.  And instead propose legislation that won’t address the true problem.  Societal decay.

You can see it on television.  You can see it in the movies.  You can hear it in the music.  You can see or hear something that was shocking and scandalous in the Eighties and kids will scratch their head today and ask why?  And then go back to their videogame in the basement where they will kill people indiscriminately while snacking on a bag of Cheetos.  And washing those cheesy snacks down with some ice cold Mountain Dew.  When kids in the Eighties went to the arcade with other kids and tried to get a frog across a busy street.  Or tried to get an Italian plumber to hop over things a gorilla threw at him to save a damsel in distress.  While chowing down pizza slices.  And drinking ice cold Mountain Dew.  With their in-the-flesh friends.

Kids were still innocent in the Eighties.  Today television, movies, music and videogames have desensitized them to some of the most graphic violence.  And our electronic world has turned them away from human interaction.  Creating a lack of empathy for real people as their world consists of impersonal videogames and social media.  Throw in a breakdown of the family and a turning away from God and religion and it gets worse.  In short, societal decay.  Which is a far greater problem than guns in the home of law-abiding citizens.



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Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Moving Assembly Line, Economies of Scale, VCR, Cell Phones and HD Plasma Television

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 1st, 2013

History 101

The Moving Assembly Line allows GM to Divide their Costs over more Units than Rolls Royce

Rolls Royce automobiles are very expensive luxury cars.  Of impeccable quality.  It may be the finest automobile ever built.  And I say built not manufactured.  For they build a Rolls Royce by hand to ensure that high quality.  By some of the most experienced and skilled artisans to ever hone metal, wood and leather into an automobile.  Because of this they can’t make a lot of them a year.  They set a record sales total in 2011.  By selling 3,538 hand-crafted automobiles.  The entry price for a Rolls Royce?  Around $250,000.

By contrast GM sold 152,389 Cadillac luxury automobiles in 2011 in North America.  These are not hand-crafted.  The Americans build them on moving assembly lines.  Which is why they can build 43 times as many Cadillacs than they can hand-build Rolls Royces.  The entry price for a Cadillac?  About $33,100.  While a top of the line may cost you around $63,200.  Now Cadillacs are nice.  The name has become synonymous with high quality.  The best quality is the ‘Cadillac’ of something.  The quality may not be Rolls Royce quality but few will complain about that quality when sitting behind the wheel of a Cadillac.  They are glad to settle for a Cadillac over a Rolls Royce.  Especially when it costs 7.5 times as much to get into a Rolls Royce than into a Cadillac.

Why are hand-crafted Rolls Royce automobiles so much more costly than Cadillacs manufactured on a moving assembly line?  Economies of scale.  The higher production levels of the mass-produced cars allows GM to divide all of their costs over many more units.  Bringing the unit cost down.  And the selling price.  With fewer sales the unit cost for Rolls Royce is much higher.  As is the selling price.

As Demand grew Manufacturers were able to Bring Prices Down thanks to Economies of Scale

Rolls Royce pays a price for their commitment to quality.  They can’t sell cars as inexpensively as some of their luxury rivals.  But that’s okay for them.  As the market for hand-crafted luxury cars is large enough to keep them in business doing what they love.  Building the finest quality automobile in the world.  And those who want the best can afford to pay a quarter of a million dollars for an entry-level Rolls Royce.  So they do.  Which is why Rolls Royce doesn’t have to worry about economies of scales to compete against their competition.

Before Henry Ford built the moving assembly line cars were too expensive for the working man.  Henry Ford changed that.  Once they started manufacturing the new driving machine on the moving assembly line Ford was able to reach an economy of scale that greatly increased production rates.  Bringing down the unit cost.  And the selling price.  As new products entered the market place they were typically unaffordable to all but the rich.  But then as demand grew manufacturers were able to bring prices down thanks to economies of scale.  Like Henry Ford did with the automobile.

The first commercially viable video tape recorder was the Ampex model VR-1000 in 1956.  It cost $50,000 (about $421,000 today).  It was the size of a kitchen stove.  And about the only place you found them were in television broadcast studios.  From this early beginning came the technology for the video cassette recorder (VCR).  By the mid to late Seventies schools had one they rolled from room to room.  It cost approximately $5,000 (about $19,400 today).  About a decade later you could buy a smaller unit that could do more for around $2,000 (about $4,000 today).  Just before the DVD player and the digital video recorder made them obsolete you could get a nice one for about $100.  They were so small and so inexpensive that you bought one for every television in the house.

Bringing these Prices Down are State-of-the-Art High-Tech Manufacturers throughout Asia

When the first cell phones came out we called them car phones.  Because they were so big and had no real battery life that they were permanently installed in a car.  Connected to the electrical system of the car.  The first real portable cell phone was something that looked like a brick and weighed in around 2 pounds.  The battery gave you maybe an hour of talk time.  And it cost $3,995 in 1982 (about $9,600 today).  By 1993 the price was down to $900 ($1,400 today) but still weighed in at 2 pounds.  By 1996 the weight dropped to about 3 ounces.  It cost about $1,000 ($1,400 today).  By 2002 you could buy a flip-phone with a built-in high resolution camera for $400 (about $510 today).  And so on until they got smaller and more powerful with longer battery lives.  Today you can often get a pretty nice phone free when you sign a contract for service.

Things people like and demand can accelerate this process of quality improvement and lower prices.  For half a century the television has been a fixture in most American homes.  So technology buffs with money were always ready to spend a lot of money on the next best thing.  And when high-definition plasma televisions hit the market it didn’t take long for economies of scale to bring prices down as demand exploded for these beautiful things.  A Panasonic 42″ high-definition plasma television cost around $2,500 in 2004 (about $3,000 today).  About 4 years later you could get a slightly better set for about $700 (about $750 today).  Today you can buy an even better 42 inch plasma set from Panasonic for as little as $400.

Bringing these prices down are state-of-the-art high-tech manufacturers throughout Asia (Japan, South Korea, etc.).  They can mass produce cell phones and televisions and other high-tech goods at remarkable production rates.  Filling ships with their goods to export around the world.  They bring together high-skilled labor and the best in automated production equipment.  They can retool and begin new production so fast that they can fill the demand for the next big thing without missing a step.  And quickly ramp up to an economy of scale wherever they see growing consumer demand.  Bringing down unit costs.  And prices.  Making a lot of happy consumers around the world.



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