Author archives: Chris Gacek

Viacom-Time Warner Cable Cut Deal for Price Increases

by Chris Gacek

January 6, 2009

Last week, cable giant Time Warner “negotiated” a deal to keep showing Viacom’s channels after December 31, 2008.  As a Los Angeles Times article indicated the companies were battling hard with Viacom threatening to turn off kid’s shows to get their money:

Viacom had purchased newspaper advertisements, featuring a tearful Dora the Explorer, and placed an on-screen crawl on its channels to alert viewers to the impending programming blackout. The ads encouraged viewers to complain to Time Warner Cable.”

“The tactic worked — parents reported having to soothe children who were upset over the prospect of not being able to watch their favorite shows on Nickelodeon, including ‘SpongeBob SquarePants.’” 

Emotional blackmailers of children - in which circle of Hell did Dante place such scoundrels?  Not a pleasant one I’ll bet.

Well, of course, Time Warner capitulated and agreed to a 12% increase for the Viacom channels.  Under the old agreement, for example, Viacom received about 32 cents per subscriber per month from cable operators for MTV.  If you didn’t want MTV - tough.  Time Warner carries Viacom channels into 13.3 million houses, so one-third of a dollar per month per subscriber ain’t chicken feed.

Unfortunately, the mechanism to protect consumers from such price increases, manipulation of children, and unwanted purchases of cable channels is not in place.  What would that be?  It is having the power to refuse to purchase and pay for cable channels. 

This episode points to the need for consumer choice in cable TV channel selection.  If cable subscribers had that power - - SpongeBob SquarePants would probably be the one who would need some serious consolation right now after many adults turned him off and pocketed the change.

More on the Crushing Costs of Higher Education

by Chris Gacek

December 12, 2008

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the growing unaffordability of higher education and its effects on families, I bring your attention to a Wall Street Journal article.  The author, Philip Shiskin, writes, “As the economy shrinks, joblessness expands and small-business owners lose income, many students and their parents are struggling to make payments for the second half of the academic year, which are typically due this month or in January.”  The story describes one parent who is carrying $100,000 in debt for her three children while planning to fund a fourth child.  Finally, it seems standard now that a good private college or university will be cost $50,000 per year.  In my opinion, this “business model” is completely unsustainable and is crushing parents and young adults across America.

Higher Education’s Broken Business Model

by Chris Gacek

December 8, 2008

    Jay Ambrose has written an important column about a recent study publicizing the skyrocketing costs of higher education.  Ambrose’s article discussed the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education’s recent report, “Mearusing Up 2008”.  “Measuring Up” makes it clear that the higher education business model is broken - like a lot of American institutions, it seems.  These hard realities are underscored by the current economic downturn.

    From 1982-2007, college costs increased 439% while median family income went up only 147%.  Of course, such numbers are always subject to various adjustments and corrections, but that it is a huge disparity that reflects what we have all observed.  College costs are out of control. The New York Times has also discussed the report here and here.

    Ambrose notes that some leaders in the educational establishment want more government money, but he correctly points out that “government assistance and student loan programs have contributed to the inflationary spiral at these institutions already, supporting them in their bad, old ways and keeping them from needed reform.”  There is a great deal of truth in this observation.

    Finally, Ambrose reiterates a point made by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute, and with which I agree, that a major restructuring of college education may be in the offing.  It may be time for us to consider training professionals - like accountants, financial advisers, software engineers, nurses - with a combination of online education and apprenticeships.  A larger point is this:  the universal four-year liberal arts education may have become economically untenable given the debt levels students are being forced to bear post-graduation.  If the federal government would like to do something, it should construct aid programs that force colleges to compete for federal aid monies and students based on affordable tuition prices and cost containment.

Two Important Pieces from the Washington Times

by Chris Gacek

December 2, 2008

Over the extended holiday weekend, the Washington Times published an editorial and a commentary piece that are well worth reading:

  • The Times editorial appeared on Friday, November 28, and was entitled “Judicial Imperialism.”  First, the paper discusses the worrying ramifications of the recent settlement by eHarmony, a California company, which was forced by the state of New Jersey to offer dating services to gay customers in New Jersey.  Second, the editorial discusses the dangerous and illegitimate effort to have the California Supreme Court thwart the will of the Golden State’s voters and declare its recently-passed marriage amendment unconstitutional. 
  • The commentary piece was authored by Jeffrey T. Kuhner.  His first Sunday opinion column with the Times was published on September 28th.  In Kuhner’s latest, entitled “Obama vs. Pope Benedict,” he recognizes the struggle that may erupt between Mr. Obama and the Pope should the new administration pass the Freedom of Choice Act.  He sets the stage as follows:

Mr. Obama signing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) “would be the equivalent of a war,” a senior Vatican official told Time magazine last week. “It would be like saying, ‘We’ve heard the Catholic Church and we have no interest in their concerns.’ ”

FRC Submits Comments to HHS on Conscience Protection

by Chris Gacek

October 5, 2008

      On August 26, 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) asked the public for comments about rules it proposed to protect the rights of conscience of health care providers - in particular, to permit them to refuse to assist in, provide, or refer patients for abortions.  These conscience rights were created by three historic federal statutes known more commonly as the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments.

     The Family Research Council and several other groups filed comments on September 25th responding to HHS.  Get a copy of them here.

     Here is a summary of our main points:

  • HHS’s proposed rules (regulations) are needed because many participants in the health care system are violating the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments. Many intended beneficiaries of these landmark civil rights laws - intended to protect health care providers’ right of religious and moral conscience - do not know their rights under the law. HHS regulations are needed to clarify the extent of these statutory protections.
  • HHS should adopt a fertilization-based definition of pregnancy (and thus abortion) because that is consistent with the prevailing medical dictionary definitions, religious thought, and medical science on when life begins: these are, after all, conscience protections, so they should protect the conscience’s of the various health care providers.
  • Even if HHS does not adopt a fertilization-based definition of pregnancy, it should reject the implantation-based definition in HHS’s human-subject regulations for a number of reasons.

 o   For example, non-uterine, ectopic pregnancies demonstrate that uterine implantation cannot define the onset of pregnancy.

  • As a final alternative, HHS should recognize that the reasonable, subjective religious or moral conviction of the individual or institutional health care provider should govern, given the statutory focus on protecting conscience. Religious freedom and conscience in this country plainly reflect the views of the individual or institution, not the views of third parties.
  • Recognizing a right of conscience does not discriminate against women or violate any concepts mandated in Roe v. Wade and its progeny which do not purport to require any particular health care provider to participate in abortions.
  • HHS should enforce the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments in the same manner as it enforces other civil rights statutes, like Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
  • HHS’s Title X regulations, which require grant recipients to counsel and refer for abortions, appear to violate the law as set forth in the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments.



HHS Proposed Conscience Regs Published in Federal Register

by Chris Gacek

August 26, 2008

Today, the Federal Register published the Department of Health and Human Services’ notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to ensure that HHS “funds do not support coercive or discriminatory policies or practices in violation of federal law” (lower case mine). The notice for these proposed conscience protection rules can be found in PDF via this link. The deadline for filing comments is September 25, 2008.

HHS Announces Conscience Protection Regulations

by Chris Gacek

August 22, 2008

Julia Duin (Washington Times) has written a fair article today on the proposed regulations that HHS will publish soon in the Federal Register and which are designed to “protect doctors and other health care professionals from being fired or discriminated against for refusing to provide abortions for conscience or religious reasons.” HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt has blogged about the regulations and the reasons that make their promulgation necessary. A draft copy of the proposed regulations is available from Sec. Levitt’s blog using this link. Yesterday, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, released this statement.

More Gossip

by Chris Gacek

July 25, 2008

Back on May 5, 2008, I posted a blog note about the sleazy TV show - “Gossip Girl.” Well, Gossip Girl is in the news again - see the article in Newsweek. It appears that the geniuses who produce this sleazefest have decided to quote the show’s critics in advertising posters promoting the new season of raunch. So, for example, one ad quotes Parents Television Council which had called the program, “Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate.” If you have the maturity of a 14-year-old boy this is probably mind-bogglingly clever.

I prefer to see these ads as another a piece of evidence that this country needs cable choice (a la carte) more than ever. Parents need to be able to block networks like CW - even though it is a broadcast channel - from entering their home. Perhaps then the folks at CW and Gossip Girl will be less like likely to mock the decent Americans who really do care about the welfare of teenagers and young adults more than the prospect of selling ads and making buckets of money. Oh, sorry, I should have said - producing great art.

The L.A. Times eulogizes an abortionist

by Chris Gacek

May 20, 2008

The Los Angeles Times could barely control its praise for abortionist Harvey Karman whose May 6th death was announced by the paper this past weekend.  Unfortunately for The Times, the truth cannot be smothered in the internet age, and it had to grudgingly give up some facts about Karman.

The obituary writer, Elaine Woo, revealed that “[w]hile training in psychology at UCLA, [Karman] started an underground abortion referral service and eventually performed abortions himself, for which he was convicted and sent to state prison for 2 1/2 years.”  I don’t think psychologists are “trained” to perform surgery - or am I missing something?  In truth, Karman was practicing medicine as a surgeon without training, a license, or facility privileges.  His criminality actually involved killing Joyce Johnson in April 1956 after he botched her abortion.

Well, Karman gained early release from prison and went on to butcher more women - once again, here is Ms. Woo:

Karman also had many detractors, particularly because of his attempt to revolutionize second-trimester abortions with a device called the super coil, which was inserted into the uterus and expanded when exposed to moisture, causing a miscarriage. It caused serious complications, including hemorrhaging and infection, when it was used on about a dozen women in Philadelphia on Mother’s Day in 1972.”

One of the activists, Carol Downer, who co-founded feminist women’s health clinics in SoCal in the 1970’s told the Times, “Harvey engaged in some very irresponsible experimentation on women’s bodies.”  “Irresponsible experimentation” - that is very charitable.  But, Downer had to offer praise because Harvey was “a real change agent.”  And, if a change agent wants to make an omelet, he may have to break a few eggs.

If you want to read a very different bio of Karman - read all three pages of this web post written some time before Karman’s death; and then this on the death of Joyce Johnson.  The account rendered here of the carnage Karman wrought on Mother’s Day 1972 in Philly is somewhat more detailed:

Keeping sloppy records, working well into the night, the abortion team managed to pack the 15 patients selected for ‘super coil’ abortions by the early morning hours. One woman ended up hospitalized in Pennsylvania due to lacerations. Others needed to be hospitalized upon return to Chicago. Local health authorities contacted the Centers for Disease Control, which investigated and found that two of the patients had been lost to follow-up, one required a hysterectomy, one was hospitalized for twenty days with infection, and one continued to bleed until she became anemic. In total, nine of the 13 patients who could be tracked down had suffered complications.”

What a guy!!!  For more details on Harvey Karman’s career as a butcher, see Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D., and Richard N. Ostling, Aborting America (New York: Pinnacle Books, 1979): pp. 85-93 (Nathanson, a distinguished ob/gyn, provides excellent medical-scientific insights into Karman’s medical activities and inventions.)

Gossip Girl and Cable Choice

by Chris Gacek

May 6, 2008

On April 25th, I wrote here about Quin Hilyer’s terrific column describing some vile television programming he encountered.  Well, I don’t think even Quin could have dreamed up one TV network’s recent ad campaign.  This vile promotional campaign was created and distributed for The Gossip Girl, a national broadcast from the CW network.

Gossip Girl is a relatively new sleazy teen and young adult-centric show that glorifies sex, drugs, and drinking in a group of Manhattan college prep students.  After a spring hiatus, the show returned with new episodes on April 21st preceded by a blasphemous and soft porn ad campaign.  As one website put it: “The desperate ad campaign clearly shows that the producers want Gossip Girl‘s viewer to know that there will be a whole lot of sex scenes in the coming episodes.”

The attack on decency was multi-pronged.

First, a once-respected magazine, New York, sold its soul to carry the most vacuous review of anything ever written or broadcast.  The piece came complete with a cover featuring the program’s stars lying in bed together pretty well undressed in orgiastic poses.  In the center of this cover photo, one finds “Best Show Ever*” imposed, and, as is befitting of such art, the cover story was duly titled, “The Genius of Gossip Girl.”

Second, the new season is supported by raunchy still photo and video ads.  Both promotions are focused on the phrase “OMFG” - which is probably not a phrase you are familiar with.  “OMG” is an abbreviation for “Oh, My G-“, the ubiquitous disrespectful exclamation of the popular culture.  Well, “OMFG” is a spin-off of this phrase whose etymology is not certain but seems to come from the teen internet subculture.  Yes, the “F” stands for what you think it does.

When I say that the still life ads are sleazy, I mean they are SLEAZY.  Now that you are familiar with the lingo, take a look at those posters that are appearing on standard street-size and sidewalk billboards:

The OMFG theme isn’t exactly hidden, and neither is the sexually explicit content.  There is also at least one offensive OMFG video ad for Gossip Girl that is available on the CW website, YouTube, and on television.  Of course, a CW honcho denied in an interview with CNN’s Brooke Anderson that OMFG means what it clearly means.  Anderson was incredulous, so she conducted “man on the street” interviews to prove her point.  Only two women over 60 were not able to define OMFGSee the CNN interview featuring Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council.  Kudos to Anderson.

Let’s be clear: this is an ad campaign and television program promoted by a major American broadcast network and targeted at teenagers and young adults.  Parents who are concerned about this might wish to contact one or two of the Gossip Girl sponsors and complain about the blasphemy, the decadence, and the cruel indifference to the moral lives of the young revealed by the network and its advertisers.

At times like this I think:  wouldn’t it be nice to have the power to tell my cable provider that I don’t ever want the CW network to be seen in my house again?  It sure would.  It’s definitely time for cable choice and time to find out how the presidential candidates feel about consumer empowerment over the media content that comes into our homes.