Categories
entertainment

The Daily Show with Whom

The Daily Show isn’t perfect. It holds its fair share of establishment-friendly positions. But it does try. It tries to remind folks about the financial fraud for which there has been no reckoning. It tries to remind people about veteran’s issues and gender equality. It keeps on raising the fact that our government isn’t nearly as representative as it should be.

And Jon Stewart bears a large share of responsibility for that. A sort of Eye of Sauron watcher for good, the show has done a lot to try to restore sanity and promote progress in the land of opportunity. All while making us laugh. But at some point a show that has been helmed so long and through so many stormy years has to change leadership.

Stewart took on the show in his mid-30s, and one would expect the man has saddle sores for days at this point. So I would expect that the show gets handed down to someone younger. That might mean a younger correspondent, or someone unaffiliated. But I do think it goes to a younger-ish person. Someone who can grow into it and let the show grow with that.

A show like this really needs young blood to keep the pace, to keep the audience from feeling like they’re watching an old guy tell them how it is, and to have somewhere to go with it. Stewart is accomplished, and that tends to give a level of surety and cautiousness to an entertainer. He knows the ropes almost too well, his calloused hands leave him roaming over familiar ground.

A newcomer is usually the best choice in this circumstance. Someone that will garner respect from the troops, but someone from outside. Picking a young-ish correspondent to move up can foster resentment. Especially from older correspondents and plausibly from the audience. “What, you’re my boss now, Diapers?”

Indeed, the correspondent pool typically grows up and moves on, rather than staying with the show indefinitely. There are exceptions, and those exceptions comprise a core contribution to the show that makes them invaluable. But many of the correspondents find their talents pushing them in other directions.

Going with an older, trusted correspondent might seem logical, but their career horizon just would not have the same staying force for growing the show.

All of that said, who will take over? I could be entirely wrong here. Bureaucracies don’t always do what seems best, and a choice that contradicts me might very well work out. In the end, it’s really a lot like picking a presidential candidate. You have what works best, and you have your pool of candidates. And sometimes you don’t have the luxury of the ideal candidate (as Stewart was when he took over).

Or sometimes loyalty gets the better of you and you give the candidacy to the guy who’s next in line. A sort of succession-by-blood folly that you can’t seem to evade. Who knows?

Is it discriminatory that I suggest a younger replacement? There are calls for the new host to have particular genitals. Is that discriminatory? For the record, I want the genitals to be older, but the rest of the new host to be younger. I’m compromising here. Consider it an olive branch. Oh, you don’t like olives? So consider it a eucalyptus branch.

No, I will be happy with a female head-of-funny at The Daily Show. Or an older kweeng (or qkuienegn or however you portmanteau queek and ning) clown. Just keep it funny.

Anyway, here’s hoping Stewart reprises You Wrote It, You Watch It (kidding?).

Categories
entertainment

Misleading Maths

We all know that the incorporated politicians and the incorporated media are not doing their jobs properly. They are twisting every aspect of reality in an attempt to wring out every last ounce of money and power they can get. All without a thought toward their long-term profitability.

But one key to their deception is found in mathematics. Not high-level holy-cow-you-can-do-THAT kind of math, but just a trick so simple that you’ve probably been graded down a hundred times for doing it on accident.

That trick is leaving things out. Oops, you forgot to carry the one. Your answer is wrong. -1. But when they do it, they seldom get marked off. They are bold enough to dispute everything.

One example of this I’ve seen lately is the math of activity-impacts on climate change. Whether it’s calculating that an electric car pollutes more than a combustion car, or that bicycling is worse than the combustion car, or that the average car moves at so many miles per work-hour.

To calculate these things is an exercise in aggregation. And it’s easy to leave some out. It’s difficult to not disclaim the result, or discuss why you may be wrong. And that’s the bit the incorporated entities leave out. They leave out the humbleness of humans. They act like the math is so obvious that it couldn’t possibly be wrong.

Guess they haven’t learned anything from the math that sank the markets only a stone’s throw back.

But it is the humility, the acquiescence to reason and margin for error, that marks the true champions of our species. The incorporated have no humility for the masses. They are there to sell. A sale cannot be predicated on an admission of doubt, for then caveat emptor (may the buyer beware). Can’t have that.

Or can we? I question with only mild reservation the sage wisdom that politicians must follow that line, where the candidate cannot honestly say, “maybe my opponent is your better choice for you. I believe I’m better, and I will make that case, but I may in fact be wrong.”

I question the wisdom that the climate skeptics and deniers try to sell, that we ought do nothing. Any who will say, “though you may be in grave danger, do nothing until such time as blood is drawn,” must either be kin to the undertaker, of a sadistic bent, or simply deluded.

Indeed, if there had been humility leading to the war against Iraq, it might have taken a far different course, as if there had been the same skepticism applied to the claims of that administration as there are to the science of the climate.

Categories
entertainment

Internet Police to become ISPs

Or: How the Biggest Pirates of All Will be Reading Your Emails in the Near Future

Let’s start with a history of copyright.  Okay, a very brief history.  It used to be that copyright lasted roughly from birth to high school.  Over time that became from birth until your grandkids are dead.

Let me repeat that.  Over time, the protection of copyright went from a useful institution to one that stole from your parents, your grandparents, and is now stealing from you.

The number of works that people download illegally every year (talking individual works, not the number of times they are downloaded) dwarf in comparison to the number of works that the content industry and government have stolen from us.  The cost to society lost to actual theft of works (as opposed to downloading and other forms of mere infringement of illegitimate laws) is astounding, and yet there is no attempt to actually moderate the law.

Indeed, were the tail of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America properly worded, these extensions to copyright would undoubtedly be unconstitutional.  The people have not been given just compensation for their public property taken for private use.

And so we find ourselves approaching a world where the Internet Police will soon become the ISPs.  They have every reason to do so, of course.  They control vast media interests that make money off of limiting competition, harming the future of our economy by blocking countless avenues of competition.  Were they properly regulated, this conflict of interest would be damning.

But this world is improper, and the impropriety reaches to the highest offices of the land.  The Republicans are legless when it comes to arguments favoring competition, as they support the highest barriers to entry in the political realm.  They campaign to make the barriers even higher, with voter identification laws to block even the suffrage of the poorest among us.

That probably is unconstitutional, given the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.  But that language only punishes by loss of representation proportionate to the disenfranchisement.  Given that elections can be decided by very narrow margins, the loss of less than a percent of the ballots in some cases, they can see themselves affording a paper-only loss of representation before congress (and that’s if the law were even enforced).

So what do these dinosaurs have in store for these digital adding machines we find ourselves using for so much?  They intend to watch it all through a looking glass, hoping to scare up a glimpse here and there of some infringing packets of information.

But is there any doubt that for a $100 fee you can skate and infringe to your heart’s delight as you can now circumvent security at the airports for such a modest sum?  It seems all too likely.

And whose copyrights will be protected by these new efforts?  Only the biggest, baddest mamajammas need apply.  Independent artist?  Get bent.  Academic?  Screw.  Don’t appeal to a Western audience?  Take a hike.

But all of that’s secondary.  Primary is the fact that it won’t work.

It will work in some acute cases.  I have no doubt they’ll bust a few wary users here and there, make them scared enough to do something stupid like bullies always tend to do at the cost of society.

The big picture will show a failure.  As spectacular as the failure of the War on Self-alteration of Blood Chemistry, if not quite as well funded, and with less guns.

We will see virtual tunnels spanning the Internet to match the real tunnels spanning borders.  We will see more encryption.  Greater privacy.

If you increase the barrier to safely infringe copyright, you end up with the same situation with drugs: people will step up their game.  You would hardly have seen the advent of heroin and cocaine (much less crack) were it not for the black market (though some amount of concentration of the active ingredients in the natural plants did occur with the advent of patent medicines, it wasn’t as amplified as the black market pushed it to be).

If it takes more effort (and possibly money if you have to buy access to an encrypted tunnel) to infringe, the average person will start wanting to make sure they get their effort’s worth and money’s worth, and infringe with more regularity than they do now.

I wouldn’t be surprised if enterprising law firms set up honeypots for the ISPs, as a means to sue them for everything from tortious interference to breach of contract to false advertising.  Even if not, they will be more than happy to sue on behalf of those that lose their access and their business (even their lives if they have VOIP and can’t get emergency services due to being cut off).

This is just a bad plan.  Private policing has known deficiencies beyond the few I’ve already mentioned, including selective enforcement.  As mentioned already, the people paying for the police will be getting the protection, but they’ll also be choosing who their protection is enforced against.  They won’t be hounding lawmakers or their families.  Their own instances of infringement will be allowed to continue unabated.  In short, the inconsistencies and corruptions of such a scheme are unworkable.

This is going to cost the ISPs money unless it turns out to be nothing but a charade.  That’s possible: they want to scare people without taking any real action.  But if they take action, it will be costing them money, and it also breaks from the wisdom of running a business: that you should not bog yourself down with concerns that don’t appeal to your bottom line.

The objection there is that they do want to make money off content, that conflict of interest I mentioned before.  But it’s not really a conflict if they had their MBAs on straight.  In a new world, where the dinosaurs of content finally go to sleep, the media distributors pay less money for more content.

Competition does earn less money in the short term, but it also costs less money.  It gives the ability to make short-term gains quickly, as well, as minor competitive advantages in markets with strong competition mean the market can fluctuate rapidly.  But it also means the market is much more stable and adaptable in the long term, and more submarkets can emerge and extinguish to fit the changing needs of the customers.

Enough ranting, just remember that the ISPs don’t know what they are doing, keep your friends and family safe from them.  Private police tend to become very corrupt very quickly.

Categories
entertainment

The Economics of News Stories

When a big story breaks, like the killing of a major figurehead of a terror corporation, it follows the typical market model.  More stories (firms) enter the market (news stream) given the demand and resources, until the market is saturated (people get tired of it) or a more viable alternative (new story) comes along.

Just as a new product generates a lot of interest (a fad) for awhile, a new meme spreads rapidly until it reaches a point where it hits dead walls (places it either can’t spread due to lack of saliency or where it has already spread) or runs out of steam (the spreaders give up on it).

All systems are informational systems.  The fact that information spread is vital to every aspect of human life still has not quite been recognized by most policy makers.  Secrecy is the equivalent of clogged arteries to an economy; we get heart attacks, where lack of fluidity in the market causes various sectors (organs) to seize and cell death begins to occur (firm closures, downsizing, layoffs).

Worse than simple secrecy is the one-way mirror.  Asymmetric informational flows are poisonous because of the ability for only some firms to recognize trends.  When a piece of information is only available to limited numbers, it can never reach its full potential.  That is why Open Source works: spread the information of how a piece of software is programmed and the result is better software because more eyes swept over it and had the opportunity to refine it.

All of our current problems, from health care to warfare to budget to terror scares, are the result of poor informational flow.  Many of these problems are caused by man-made dams in the information flows, where a single company or an industry seeks competitive advantage or to simply perpetuate their cash flows through the ignorance of others.

It’s vital we recognize the harm from informational blockage, lest we repeatedly find ourselves victimized by poor information.

Categories
biz entertainment

Hulu: Pay Model?

Various sources (eg, The Guardian: Roy Greenslade: Murdoch’s propaganda campaign to charge for content) reported about hulu.com’s plans to charge for access.

The problem is that corporations tend to overcharge for their content.  Then they complain about an alleged sense of entitlement when their customers supposedly want it for free.  They are reading things wrong: there’s very much a sense of entitlement, but it’s one not to pay too much.  This goes for all forms of content and “intellectual property”: books, news, images, videos, movies, television, music, video games, software, web applications, academic articles, and so on.

Free is less than too much, so free wins over too much every time.

People deserve payment for their creations, but the economics dictate that how much they charge and what they are prepared to deliver (ie, their pricing/business model) will change the composition of their customer pool, determining their revenue.  Before the digital revolution, all sorts of sharing occurred that wasn’t priced in to their model, and yet no one screamed bloody murder over one newspaper getting passed around the coffee shop or office.

The sooner the content creators start moving to alternative models, the sooner they will find the sweet spots, and the sooner they will get paid for their creations.  But if they merely try to copy their old models in the new landscape, they are liable to find themselves with lingering pain for quite some time.

As I did not see specifics on the pricing/business model that Hulu will be using, I will withhold judgment about this move.  But I will say that if they plan on overcharging, they might as well buy some Going Out of Business signs while they’re cheap.

Update: An article on mediamemo.allthingsd.com, How Much Will You Have to Pay for Hulu? Nothing. How Much Will You Pay for “Hulu Plus”? Good Question. states the pay content will be in addition to the existing site, rather than moving some content to for-pay so it doesn’t sound like they are doing anything very dangerous with regard to their business model.  I just hope they get creative and take their time to create a better model that can be mimicked by others.  It can work, if they don’t get too greedy.