The end of Netflix

So, I was quite surprised today to learn via FB that Netflix (a service I generally love) is splitting its business into two: Netflix streaming service and a new DVD delivery service, Qwikster.  Much to the dismay of virtually every commenter (and myself) these services will not be linked at all.  Wow, that it so customer unfriendly and I can’t see how it won’t really cost them business.  I especially agree with this comment:

” You’re continuing to make a classic mistake: thinking you’re something different than what everyone believes you are. You’re not a DVD company and a streaming company: you’re where I go to watch movies.”

How could they possibly think this is a good idea?  As Megan McArdle argues, here’s how.  Basically the mail-delivery DVD business is a dead-end business and Netflix wants to get out of it and at the same time protect their brand:

It’s not that Netflix doesn’t have a problem.  They have a huge problem.  The company never wanted to be in the mail-order DVD service long-term; it’s not a good business.  Redbox was threatening to carve off the casual users, leaving them with the high-traffic movie buffs who don’t make them money; meanwhile, the warehouses necessary to maintain the business at high traffic levels are costly to build and operate.  Plus any idiot can see that the future is likely to be in painlessly streaming movies over the internet, not putting physical discs in little envelopes and mailing them.  The fact that the Postal Service is near bankruptcy tells you a lot about the viability of business models based on mailing things.

Looks like the big losers of the future will be people like me who don’t just want the latest hot releases (which Redbox has covered) and are unsatisfied with the lesser options on streaming (e.g., right now you cannot get any of the classic HBO series, Mad Men, some great Indie films and documentaries, etc., except via Netflix DVd– or an expensive purchase).  If there’s no viable business model for renting that content– and I sure hope there is– that’s a huge loss to consumers.

Libertarian health care

Well, it’s about a week old now, but I couldn’t close the tab on Andrew Sullivan’s post about the “let him die” shouts from the audience in the last Republican debate without quoting here:

Look: in some ways the honesty is refreshing. Yes, failing to get your own health insurance creates an obvious free-rider problem, and this is at the heart of the health insurance debate. We need to deal with that, and this was one of the more admirably candid moments in the entire years-long debate.

Look: I’ve long been a skeptic of government-provided healthcare, but I do have a core (maybe Catholic?) belief in helping the sick. Even the foolish sick. And certainly the poor and sick. In my personal life, I have found it morally impossible not to want to help someone stricken with illness, in whatever way I can. I’m sure my own health struggles have impacted this view, as my experience alongside a generation in a health crisis. Do I think we should have done nothing while hundreds of thousands died of AIDS? Of course not. Ditto cancer and all the ailments that flesh is heir to. America, moreover, has a law on the books that makes it a crime not to treat and try to save a human being who walks into an emergency room. So we have already made that collective decision and if the GOP wants to revisit it, they can.

Here’s how: offer an honest proposal from the GOP to repeal the emergency room care law. Why not? If you are going to repeal universal health insurance, then make your libertarian principles coherent. And make the case that people unable or unwilling to buy health insurance deserve the consequences. That makes sense. And the question of why Perry or Ryan or Bachmann support this free-rider loophole in contradiction to their principles is one worth asking again and again.

Of course, even if such libertarian purity does make sense, that cannot excuse the emotional response to the issue in the crowd last night. Maybe a tragedy like the death of a feckless twentysomething is inevitable if we are to restrain healthcare costs. But it is still a tragedy. It is not something a decent person cheers.  [emphasis mine]

Yep.  I’ll take libertarian seriously on health care when they go ahead and follow through on their principles and propose that we end mandated emergency room care.

Fox News has decided (at least for now)

So, not long ago, I wrote:

I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday about the Perry v. Romney battle things have come down to and I decided who I think will decide the Republican campaign– Fox News (and right-wing media) more broadly.  If Fox, Rush, etc., essentially stay neutral, Perry wins as he’s just the dripping, bloody, rare red meat the Tea Party and the GOP base craves.  Of course, the grown-ups in the room want Romney, but there’s no reason to think the Tea party, etc., will play along.  Unless.  Unless, Fox and friends decide that Perry is a huge general election liability (which he is– Fed Up! anyone?) and go after him.

Well, Walter Shapiro has been doing his Fox News watching, and at least for now, there definitely on board the Perry train (via Kevin Drum) :

So Walter Shapiro sat through 50 hours of Fox News a couple of weeks ago to find out who they were rooting for. The answer wasn’t hard to come by:

No Republican makes Fox squirm like Ron Paul….Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were each granted a single, respectful, prime-time interview and were otherwise mercifully left on the cutting-room floor…

….The Bachmann blackout was, of course, the direct result of Rick Perry pandemonium. More rapidly than the rest of the press corps, Fox News simplified the GOP battle to Perry versus Mitt Romney. Eric Bolling, one of the regular panelists on “The Five,” captured the glow surrounding Perry, saying, “We have had this discussion every day since Perry got in the race—that he is the real deal.”….Where does Romney fit into the prevailing Perrymania? Awkwardly. Romney has not been ignored like Bachmann, since every two-man race needs a second banana.

….Still, it wasn’t hard to infer where the preferences of most Fox personalities lie. Late-night Fox host Greg Gutfeld offered the most memorable summary on “The Five.” “Mitt Romney is like somebody you hook up with periodically until you get serious and you want to meet somebody serious,” he said. “He [is] friends with benefits. And Perry is marriage material.” Yikes.

Well, that answers that.  Of course, if the economy gets even worse, this is a Democrats nightmare as we’re looking at President Rick Perry.  But for now, I think Rich “Social Security is a monstrous Ponzi scheme” Perry is the best thing Obama could hope for (this side of Bachmann).

[On an unrelated note, the linked page-- like many I've seen of late-- has an Obama jobs bill ad that starts playing audio every time the cursor moves over it.  Man do I hate that.  It's almost enough to make me hate the jobs bill.]

My unwanted genes

Via the Telegraph:

Sperm bank turns down redheads

The world’s largest sperm bank has started turning down redheaded donors because there is too little demand for their sperm.

Ole Schou, Cryos’s director, said that there had been a surge in donations in recent years, allowing the facility to become much more picky about its donors.

“There are too many redheads in relation to demand,” he told toldDanish newspaper Ekstrabladet. “I do not think you chose a redhead, unless the partner – for example, the sterile male – has red hair, or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads. And that’s perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case.”

Mr Schou said the only reliable demand for sperm from redheaded donors from Ireland, where he said it sold “like hot cakes”.

Well, I’m glad to know the Irish have what I have to offer.  Though, I think four humans with my DNA is probably enough.

Hospitals, pay cuts, incentives, and bad timing

Had quite a scare Saturday evening.  Had just started our walk when Alex started coughing horribly, dry heaving, and gasping while breathing.  At 6:30 on a Saturday, not an urgent care anywhere around was open, so we hurried Alex off to the Emergency Room.  A breathing treatment (which Alex did his best to resist) and a shot of steroids (he refused the oral administration) and Alex was back to himself in fairly short order.   The diagnosis ended up being spasmodic croup.  David had croup a couple times as a toddler, but it always came on gradually.  The completely sudden onset totally threw us.  We actually thought Alex had some sort of foreign object partially blocking his airway.  Anyway, this particular interaction with our health care system led to a number of thoughts.

1) Excellent care at WakeMed Cary.  Hooray for them.  They actually took Alex back before making Kim go through all the registration rigmarole.  Trouble breathing is taken quite seriously.  Appreciated the thorough and thoughtful care– right down to the ER physician calling the next day to check on Alex.

2) Damn this is going to be expensive!  Rather than cut my salary, the state of NC (i.e., the Republicans now controlling the legislature) have decided to more stealthily cut my compensation by hugely increasing employee contributions to health care costs.  The ER copay is $233 + 20%.  Not looking forward to that bill.

3) When talking with the doctor last night, I mentioned that our initial concern was a foreign object in the airway.  Since Alex’s case of croup did not present in a more typical way, the doctor suggested it “would not be unreasonable” to perform an x-ray.  Not unreasonable perhaps, but this also struck me as a classic example of over-utilization.  Given that croup can, though more rarely, come on suddenly and given that Alex did not have anything in his mouth at the initial onset, it seemed highly unlikely for this to find anything.  Many would have figured, “oh, insurance will cover it.”  I thought about the insurance co-pay, and that this was classic over-utilization.  And that it was sure to extend Alex’s stay in the ER, something he surely didn’t need.

4) Damn the timing sucked.  Presumably, the high ER  co-pay is intended to make people think twice about using the ER so that more cost-effective treatments will be used.  But when everything else is closed and your child is struggling to breath, there’s no financial incentives involved.  We’re just punished for the bad timing.    That happens on a week day and the urgent cares are still open where our co-pay is only $80.  Yeah, I know, I should just be happy Alex is okay, but I’d be even happier if we weren’t out all the extra money.   Sometimes incentives help.  Sometimes they just punish people who have no other choice.

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