The state of the college football playoff’s TV rights

The so-called “Champions Bowl” may not have a venue or even a proper name, but it does have a TV deal. ESPN will reportedly pay the SEC and Big 12 Rose Bowl money to show the game over the duration of the new playoff format.

Make no bones about it: this puts ESPN in a dominating position to land the entire college football playoff, especially if it also lands the Orange Bowl. The BCS wants to take advantage of the increased and higher-value inventory to pit networks against one another and drive up the price, but ESPN will now have two of the five most prominent games in the new system, maybe two of the top three. Fox and CBS will need to do a lot to convince the BCS to split up the new postseason. I’m not sure they can even put enough pressure on ESPN to force them to put the new playoff (and, presumably, the Rose and Champions Bowls) on ABC, meaning we might be in for more national championship games on cable for another twelve years. At best, I would expect ESPN or ABC to alternate with Fox or CBS for the championship game, even if they don’t officially win the rest of the new postseason contract. Reportedly, CBS hadn’t even shown interest when the Rose Bowl deal was announced, meaning Fox must fight ESPN alone.

(I don’t see NBC being a factor, because they need to save their money for sports that can help build the NBC Sports Network, especially if they lose the baseball rights. They might be a dark horse for the Orange Bowl if Notre Dame agrees to an arrangement with it, similar to when they showed the Gator Bowl when Notre Dame had an arrangement with them, and I think they will because the selection committee could be selecting as few as two teams that aren’t in the playoff to go to other bowls, and the Rose Bowl reportedly would like that to be substantially more often the case than six, meaning Notre Dame needs to do something to protect their elevated stature in college football. I also think this removed whatever slim chance Turner, with their lack of college football and not being a broadcast network or ESPN, had to land any part of the new playoff.)

To put it simply, the new college football playoff is ESPN’s to lose. Fox and CBS have one heck of an uphill climb ahead of them.

Sport-Specific Networks
8 10.5 4.5 4.5 0 1.5

I may be missing some things again, but I don’t see how one draws the conclusions I read. I mean, I know what they refer to, but I don’t know how you know what they are, and at least one is just plain wrong.

(From MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck. Click for full-sized black hole accretion.)

As it turned out, not even the entry of Jake, Roxy, or Dirk into the medium was going to be saved for the end-of-sub-act flash (nor was it necessary for Roxy or Dirk to return to the future and actually be present for their own entry into the medium, which Dirk’s robots Sawtooth and Squarewave chaperoned instead), with those events instead being handled in a series of updates released shortly after Hussie’s trip to Comic-Con.

What was big enough for the end-of-act flash? The full reveal of Calliope’s brother, taking a back seat (to the point that his name, Caliborn, is almost casually dropped in the command) to his escape and entry into the medium. He apparently stays in the sarswapagus long enough that his red spiral fills up to become a red disc (though the exact cause isn’t clear), then gets up, unlocks his own shackle, and proceeds to gnaw his own leg off to be rid of the other shackle, casting a rather Lord English-esque silhouette in the process. As much as it’s been hinted before, that all but admits that Caliborn is, in fact, a young Lord English by explaining much about his appearance, even the tooth he spits out afterwards. We then see that his cruxtruder is showing “~U” rather than an actual time, and his kernelsprite apparently turns into a black hole that sucks up his house, the Statues of Liberty, even the planet itself; it might be the same black hole that appears at the end of the flash (in the image above), leaching away material from the red supergiant the cherubs’ planet was orbiting.

What’s that? As much as you understand it, you don’t think that outweighs the deaths of the protagonists or their entry into the medium as candidates for the end-of-act flash? Oh, I forgot the part with Lord English himself, where he utterly destroys a dream bubble and everything in it. Or the part where Jack Noir and the Peregrine Mendicant apparently stop fighting upon reaching the scene of the crime… including, apparently, some maimed horrorterrors. (If the black hole at the end of the flash is the one Caliborn left behind, what, exactly, are they reacting to? The remnant of the explosion, the maimed horrorterrors, something else?) In the end, this flash might be the most dramatic flash we’ve had so far that didn’t end Acts 4 or 5.

But more than that, I feel more than ever like we’re actually getting back to the actual plot. This flash focuses away from all the new characters and squarely on Lord English (even Caliborn ultimately serves the purpose of illuminating the similarities between him and English); it fully establishes the threat that Lord English presents and sets him up as the main villain of the rest of the comic, utterly overshadowing the Condesce, Jack Noir, the horrorterrors, and everything else. With Hussie promising a third intermission after this next break, the focus is about to move back to the main, established cast and their race to stop Lord English and put a stop to his threat for good – possibly with help from the comic’s other villains. If Lord English is the force that’s killing them, I actually suspect it’s doubtful that the horrorterrors were working in cahoots with Doc Scratch after all, but accidentially misled Rose into creating the Green Sun, perhaps because Doc Scratch perverted their intent or orders. The other case is if the Green Sun plays a key role in English’s defeat, whether because of the presence of PM, Jade, or even Jack Noir, or for some other reason; contrast the Green Sun with the red giant the cherubs’ planet orbited and that we see at the end of the flash.

On the other hand, given this circumstance I’m not sure I like the notion of Caliborn being a young Lord English. Even though he is an unredeemable asshole, it seems like it might humanize him too much, given his status as an utterly implacable villain above all villains, who even the comic’s resident Lovecraftian abominations fear.

Two lesser football leagues complete TV deals

CBS Sports Network continues its acquisition of every professional league no one else wants, completing the long-rumored agreement with the UFL, that league everyone’s heard about but that couldn’t even complete a four-team season last year. I’m not sure whether to count the CFL towards NBC Sports Network’s total (added in the middle of the season!); for now I’m not because it’s not a primary arrangement and no one stateside (or hell, even in Canada) cares about the CFL. Both deals seem to shut down speculation I had read that indicated that the AFL and CFL were on NFL Network because of the NFL’s influence on its TV partners; NBCSN used to air CFL and UFL games in the past, but stopped doing so around the time Comcast acquired NBC.

Sport-Specific Networks
7 10.5 4.5 4.5 0 1.5

Wha… what’s this? It’s… could it be? …an ORDER OF THE STICK post! Oh, joy!

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized light amongst the darkness.)

Rich Burlew’s time has been somewhat monopolized by fulfillment from the Kickstarter, so the comic itself has actually slowed down considerably since the Kickstarter wrapped up back in February.

That’s not to say that things haven’t happened in that time. In fact, we got a whole fight scene between the OOTS and the new Linear Guild, with Tarquin trying and failing to pretend to be Thog. We even got at least one funny moment when Roy caught on to the ruse and removed “Thog”‘s helmet – only to reveal a mask with “Nope!” written on it. But there hasn’t been anything that I’ve actually felt the need to post on.

So why am I posting about it now? Only to note the change of pace we’re seeing with the focus on the Linear Guild, with the trap the Order has laid for them revealed from their eyes. I don’t think there has ever been a point when we’ve been at this level of remove from the OOTS, with another group of characters (let alone the group they’re fighting) becoming the viewpoint characters and the OOTS becoming the “other”. Rich has always had very well fleshed out villains, but the Guild is basically serving as shadow protagonists at the moment.

Part of this reflects the interesting interpersonal dynamic amongst the marriage of convenience that makes up this version of the Linear Guild, especially the surprising conflict between Tarquin and Malack, which has overshadowed any question of the chain of command. The two of them have been together since their adventuring days before Nale was even born, but Malack was never particularly willing to team up with the murderer of his kids for any reason, and he’s started to clash with Tarquin over his disregard for efficiency in favor of drama, stretching out the first round with the OOTS and disregarding the loss of some of the reanimated former minions of Girard to the same trap Vaarsuvius fell into. Malack has always seemed more noble than Tarquin or the rest of the Guild, but now I seriously have to wonder if he’ll eventually turn on the group.

A bigger part of the perspective flip, of course, is to allow the OOTS to look halfway competent for once…

Coming up on Da Blog in August…

I tried to get back in the swing of doing webcomic reviews earlier this year, and I’d be dumb if I didn’t take advantage of the summer to get more in. I’ll probably lay off the webcomic reviews once school starts, but I’ll start putting up some next week. I have three different comics in the hopper for me to write reviews on and a few more besides.

Also, I’ve had quite a few spam comments get through the filter recently, so I’ve been thinking about making some changes to the comment system.

I’ve also removed the ShareThis buttons, despite our being in the middle of the #OccupyTea series, because I’m sensing a growing laziness on their part. The list of buttons I can add via the customization feature has barely changed since I installed the plugin, and oddly, I can use checkmarks to add Google+ and Pinterest buttons but I can’t do so in customization, at least according to their help page. Then after upgrading the plugin and changing some of the settings, I saw that the default button name now appears to be the short code for each service, which results in some pretty long names. Long story short, I don’t like the direction the plugin is headed and I might try and look for an alternate solution, one that doesn’t hijack the entire sharing process.

Yes, this is basically a stall post to continue The Streak. Waist-deep in a personal project right now, don’t know how much work on the #OccupyTea series I can get in this week.

A modest proposal (I really need to stop overusing that particular phrase, this is serious):

So David Stern wants to make the Olympic basketball tournament an under-23 affair like the soccer tournament, partly to increase the prominence of FIBA’s World Cup of Basketball, formerly the World Championships. That would greatly minimize the number of NBA players who went to the Olympics.

Baseball got kicked out of the Olympics mostly because no MLB players would leave their teams in the middle of the season to go to the Olympics.

So why not expressly make the Olympic baseball tournament an under-23 affair?

Granted, it’s still the middle of the baseball season, and players are even more likely to go to the majors early in baseball – I don’t know if baseball and especially the Angels and Nationals would particularly like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper leaving their teams in the middle of the season to play for Team USA, though it would certainly spike interest in the tournament…


I was all set to have all these plans for the week that I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and I was going to give my thoughts on the sanctions against Penn State today…

…and then last night I realize I have an insect bite on my left pinky that’s restricting my ability to straighten or bend it all the way. Then today I notice it’s restricting blood flow to the tip of my finger, and I end up going to an urgent care clinic, and now I’m on antibiotics and Benadryl all week and I’m already sleepy as I’m typing this.

I still intend to get everything done I said I was going to, but all in all this might be a pretty light week.

Okay, this isn’t working.

I was quite proud of myself for buckling down and getting Part V of the #OccupyTea series finished last night. I was on cruise control throughout the entire process.

It took about four hours.

There were some periods when I was doing things not productive to getting the post finished, but not very many, and I’d spent a significant amount of time writing about half the post earlier in the week. Let’s be generous and say each post is going to take me six hours to complete at that rate. Even if I were to focus entirely on the series all day, with a break to catch up on RSS feeds and watch my normal shows, I’d probably only complete about one and a half posts each day. I was hoping to work with a buffer with this series. That’s not a picture very conducive to that, and it’s certainly not a picture conducive to me figuring out what order results in the best flow of ideas, best allows ideas to build on one another, as opposed to picking topics semi-randomly on the fly like I’ve been doing.

So I’m going to abandon any pretense of this series being a five-day-a-week series. I will endeavor to complete at least one post a week, and complete the whole series before school starts and certainly before the election, but I will only work on the series when I’m particularly motivated to do so. In order to get that flow of ideas I mentioned in the last paragraph, expect another one-post week next week, with the rest of the week filled with the stuff I mentioned in my last Blog News post. By not forcing myself to focus on this series when I don’t want to do the heavy thinking associated with it, I can focus the rest of my time on another project I’m more into, one I actually have higher hopes for raising the profile of the site with, and one I’m nowhere near as through with as I’d like.

The Occupy Tea Party Platform, Part V: Balancing the Budget

It’s not hard to figure out why the government has so much trouble balancing the budget and why the national debt keeps ballooning. Americans like their taxes low and their government services high. Democrats fancy themselves Robin Hood, taxing the rich to play for government services for the poor; Republicans want to cut services so they can lower taxes, and both parties are generally only successful at making things worse for the government, but not before wasting a lot of time arguing about it.

The debt ceiling, last year’s “crisis” should have made clear, is wholly ineffective at forcing the government to keep spending down. A balanced budget amendment isn’t the answer; states have balanced budget requirements and lose massive amounts of money anyway because of the use of Stupid Accounting Tricks to hide gazillions of dollars in expenditures off-budget, and in any case such an amendment would rob the government of flexibility during war or recession. What’s needed is to encourage the government not to overspend or undertax during the strong years.

We had a surplus during the Clinton years, when a Democratic president, a Republican Congress, and a strong economy collided to wipe out the budget as a problem. We’ve seen some elements of the solution – bringing defense spending more in line with what America actually needs, for example, and if health care reform works it should actually increase government revenues as health care’s drag on the economy is reduced and the government recoups savings from waste – and we’ll examine more specific points of spending in future posts. In this post, however, we’ll look at more general principles of budget management and taxation.

First, let’s consider how the Republicans claim they can have their cake and eat it too, the Laffer Curve. It seems simple, even obvious: If the government collects tax at a rate of 0%, obviously, they won’t collect anything. On the flip side, if it collects tax at a rate of 100%, no one will be left with any reason to do anything, and the government still won’t collect tax. Hence, it is possible to actually increase government revenues by lowering taxes.

But it doesn’t take long to find problems with it. For one, it seems to rely on an overly rational view of human nature. The Laffer Curve came to prominence during the Reagan years and the 100% tax rate was said to represent what happened in the Soviet Union… except the Soviet Union seemed to work just fine for around 70 years. Most people will do things for reasons other than monetary gain, whether because they’re forced to or they just like the work; I’ve been working on Da Blog for over five and a half years and have barely seen a dime from it.

On the flip side, both the theory and practice of capitalism suggest that people will attempt to squeeze out every last penny they can for themselves. I can’t imagine why the sort of person basic economics proposes, living under a 99% tax rate, wouldn’t still try to do as much work as they could in order to squeeze out that one percent. Granted, this wouldn’t leave people with much money to spend on keeping the economy (and themselves) running, but the government itself could still contribute at least a little to the economy, even if not very well (as in the Soviet case), and both of these still seem to suggest a peak in the Laffer curve somewhere greater than 50%, possibly substantially greater. Right now, the highest marginal income tax rate the United States government levies is a measly 35%.

Until the Reagan years the highest marginal tax rate was 70%. During much of the 50s and until 1965 it was as high as 90%. From the 50s until the Reagan years the top 1% represented less than 10% of all income before taxes, probably closer to 5%; now it’s upwards of 20%. You think maybe there might be a connection there? What if I told you that the lowest marginal tax rate was 10%, not much lower than 35%?

The Tea Party’s counterargument to this is to question the premise of taxing the rich more than the poor at all, which smacks of penalizing the rich for success, stealing their presumably-legitimately-earned money, and implicitly demonizing them. For all that they attack them, after all, the vast majority of “the 99%” would trade places with the 1% in a heartbeat. Many Tea Partiers would rather do away with the progressive income tax entirely, in favor of one of a number of flat tax schemes, and cut back heavily on government services for the poor that provide less incentive to advance to a higher class, and thus less incentive to work. The left, they argue, think that the rich shouldn’t have any advantages over the poor, when that would defeat the purpose of work in the first place. There’s not really any reason for the government to be in the business of redistributing the wealth, and it’s not clear that there’s much economic benefit either; in fact, the rich are more likely to invest their money because the poor have to spend it on their needs, and the former is ultimately better for the economy, since it actually builds the engine instead of just running it.

It’s not an argument that should be dismissed out of hand, though the answers to the questions raised by the “Horatio Alger argument” are mostly out of the scope of this post. We should first mention, however, that to my knowledge, in our tax system no one ends up with less money by making more money. I referred to marginal tax rates earlier; that means that those tax rates only apply to the next dollar you spend. All the income you make within a previous tax bracket is taxed at the rate of that tax bracket. There is no “jumping” from the government taking 10% of your money at one level to 15% of it on the next. By the same token, no one would dare take 80% of a poor person’s money, even if a rich person is also being taxed at 80%.

For now, let’s shift our focus away from communistic “he has more than me and that’s wrong” questions and focus on the question of whether people have enough. Let’s shift the discussion away from “the 99%” and “the 1%” and towards “the 15%” of people that met the Census Bureau’s definition of poverty in 2010 (incidentally, the highest rate since Clinton took office). This could simply refer to people with a lot less money than the super-rich. Or it could refer to people who spend all their money on keeping themselves alive with nothing to spend on anything else, and not necessarily doing a good job of that, so that they end up spending a lot of money on junk food. It could refer to people who live in poorly-constructed houses or apartments, possibly in intense filth and squalor and near sites of pollution, if they have a home at all. It could refer to places where people have so little that gangs arise to protect what they do have and drugs become rampant to take one’s mind off their condition, leading to mass imprisonment.

It may not be clear that redistributing the wealth is within government’s purview, but reducing poverty surely is, at least indirectly, allowing the government to spend less on prisons, the health system, police, and the drug war. If nothing else I could argue for the provision of basic income or negative income tax, a compromise whereby the Tea Party gets their flat income tax (perhaps in the 20-50% range), but the government also pays a flat amount to every citizen in the United States. This wouldn’t be enough to allow or encourage people to stop working en masse, but it would be enough to keep people alive and give them a place to live; I’d imagine it would be at least as much as a part-time minimum wage job, perhaps the amount of the federal poverty level. That might allow for the dismantling of most welfare programs, as well as cuts in other programs such as Social Security, which might mean the government comes out ahead in the long run.

(The FairTax proposal advanced by some within the Tea Party contains elements of this, replacing the income tax component with a sales tax that has the added effect of encouraging investment, though relative to current tax policies it would hit the middle class harder than the wealthy, and such a tax (probably more than double current state sales taxes, close to triple) could result in massive evasion.)

We’ll see in later posts how, Horatio Alger aside, the rich tend to have advantages that mean their children are far more likely to stay rich than poorer children are to become rich; for example, investment is not only better for the economy, but it also ends up returning money back to the investor, allowing the rich to get even richer. There are probably better ways to correct this imbalance than simply taxing the rich more, but I do have a problem with lowering or repealing the capital gains tax, as it smacks of opening a loophole in the income tax system (I’d support making the capital gains tax equivalent to the income tax), and I’m actually a bit mystified as to why anyone who supposedly believes in the ideal of Horatio Alger would oppose the estate tax, as it lessens the “Paris Hilton effect” of simply having daddy’s fortune plop into someone’s lap without doing any work. Since land isn’t something you actually work for, but rather is something that’s just there, I could also see the argument for a Georgist tax on land value, which could also have environmental benefits.

By raising taxes on the wealthy and/or reforming and simplifying the tax code, combined with finding a way to curb pork, unnecessary and harmful subsidies, and wasteful spending, and enacting reforms in other areas of government, we can create a streamlined, efficient government that works for everyone and still makes headway on the national debt. That’s a vision of the government that everyone can get behind.

The schedule heading into next week:

Expect two more #OccupyTea posts Thursday and Friday.

Sometime next week, I’m going to flesh out my thoughts on the PA Kickstarter a little more, specifically further clarifying the distinction between them, an up-and-coming or new artist, Louis CK, and a big media conglomerate.

There will be reference to things Gabe and Tycho are doing as part of the Kickstarter.

I will probably also post on the end-of-act flash in Homestuck next week, assuming it comes out by then. My hunch is that, in the unlikely scenario it comes out before the end of this week, I’ll still put the post off until next week.

I also have a hunch I’m going to be posting on Questionable Content at some point in the next ten days as well.

(Hey, remember when the webcomics section was all about OOTS, Ctrl+Alt+Del, and comics by David Morgan-Mar? Those were the days, weren’t they? Now I’m just another one of those guys who freaks out at every Homestuck update, with a little QC, xkcd, and general webcomic news mixed in…)