# Random Thoughts – Randocity!

## Are Nielsen Ratings Accurate?

Posted in botch, ratings, television by commorancy on June 9, 2022

This article seeks to show that how Nielsen Media Research chooses its ratings families may alter the accuracy of the Nielsen’s ratings. More than this, this article seeks to uncover just how antiquated and unreliable Nielsen’s household rating system actually is. Let’s explore.

What is Nielsen?

I’ll give a small synopsis here, but Wikipedia does a much better job at describing who and what Nielsen Media Research (one of this company’s many names) is. For all intents and purposes, I will refer to Nielsen Media Research as simply Nielsen for the purpose of this article.

Nielsen is a research group who seeks to identify how viewers, among other avenues of information that they gather, watch Television. During the 70s, this was the primary means by which TV executives learned the ratings fate of their television programs.

How does Nielsen work?

Nielsen still relies on its Nielsen households to provide the vast majority of its television ratings information. It does this by sending out unsolicited mail to households around the country attempting to solicit a household into becoming a Nielsen household. By using this moniker, it means the family who resides at a specific household must do certain things to not only participate in the Nielsen program, but must also provide feedback to Nielsen around its viewing habits.

How does Nielsen collect its ratings information?

According to Nielsen’s own site, it says the following:

To measure TV audiences and derive our viewing metrics (i.e., ratings, reach, frequency), we use proprietary electronic measuring devices and software to capture what content, network or station viewers are watching on each TV and digital devices in the homes of our Nielsen Families. In total, we measure hundreds of networks, hundreds of stations, thousands of programs and millions of viewers. In the U.S., electronic measuring devices and millions of cable/satellite boxes are used to provide local market-level viewing behaviors, enabling the media marketplace to gain a granular view of TV audiences.

What that means is that, as a Nielsen household, they will send you a device and/or require you to install certain software on your existing devices which will “measure” your viewing habits. In other words, they spy on what you’re watching and it reports back to Nielsen what you specifically watched and for how long. For example, Nielsen might install software onto your smart TV device, Roku, TiVO, Apple TV or possibly even your cable TV provider’s supplied box.

Nielsen may even be willing to supply you with their own device, which you will place in-line with your existing TV and devices. It does say “devices and software”, meaning one or both can be used.

Rural vs Urban

Typically, larger urban city areas tend to vote Democrat more often than Republican. These urban areas are also typically more densely populated. On the flip side, rural areas tend to vote Republican more often than Democrat. Why is this information important? It’s important to understand these facts because it can drastically alter the accuracy of Nielsen’s ratings. Let’s understand why.

For participating in being a Nielsen household, you’re given a stipend. In other words, you’re paid for this service. Let’s understand more about this pay. You’re paid around $10 a month to participate. If you remain a Nielsen household for a certain period, around 6 months, Nielsen will pay you a bonus. All told, for 6 months of service, a Nielsen household will receive around$200.

Here’s where the Urban vs Rural comes into play. Rural areas tend to be more depressed economically. Meaning, income is generally less and the need for extra money is, therefore, higher. Urban areas tend to boom more economically meaning the need for extra money is, therefore, lessened.

If a rural household receives a card inviting them to become part of the Nielsen family, explaining all of the “benefits” (including the pay), rural viewers are much more likely to take Nielsen up on their pitch. It seems easy enough to get paid simply for watching TV. On the other hand, urban areas are less likely to take Nielsen up on their offer not only because the pay is so low, but because urban viewers are much more savvy around their privacy.

Who would intentionally invite a company into your household to spy on you, even for money? One might say, well there’s Alexa. Alexa offers benefits to the user far greater than what Nielsen provides. Nielsen provides spying for cash. Alexa offers app features, smart house features, music, calling features, recipe helpers, and the list goes on. Nielsen’s device(s) and software(s) don’t provide those much extended features.

Nielsen’s spying is one tracked and only helps out TV executives. I might add that those TV executives PAY Nielsen to gain access to this information. Which means that if you’re a Nielsen household, you’re getting paid out of money collected from TV executives. In effect, it is the TV executives who effectively sign your Nielsen paycheck that you receive. I digress.

Random Solicitation

Make no mistake, Nielsen solicits households through a random mail selection process. It sends pitch cards out to inform and solicit households to participate. They may even include a crisp \$1 bill to entice the household. Nielsen knows that a certain percentage of people will take Nielsen up on their offer to participate in the program.

The difficulty is that this selection process relies on random chance for whomever chooses to participate. This goes back to Urban vs Rural argument. Because depressed areas are more “hard up” for cash, they are more likely to take Nielsen up on their offer than Urban areas, who urban viewers are not only likely to be mistrustful of spying using digital devices, these people also don’t necessarily need the small-ish amount of cash that Nielsen is offering… considering the amount of time required to watch TV (and do whatever else Nielsen requires). Yes, Nielsen requires you to watch TV to participate. The whole thing doesn’t work unless you actually watch TV.

This ultimately means that it is more likely rural Republican areas of the country are over represented in Nielsen’s households and equally likely Democrat areas to be under-represented in Nielsen’s ratings. While Nielsen has no control over who chooses to accept the “Nielsen Household” solicitation, Nielsen does control the parameters to entice people into the program. Thus, their parameters are skewed toward lower income households, which are likely to be in predominantly rural areas.

In other words, depressed rural areas are far more likely to need the extra cash and be willing to jump through Nielsen’s hoops than more affluent urban areas. That’s not to say that there won’t be a percentage of viewers in urban areas as some households in those areas may elect to participate.

Disposable Income

Urban areas can be a bit more affluent than rural areas. Urban area residents may have more in disposable income, but also because it’s a larger city, it has more entertainment options. This means entertainment options besides watching TV. When you live in a small rural town, entertainment options can be extremely limited even if disposable income is available. Rural townships tend to encourage more TV watching more often than urban areas where night clubs, restaurants, theme parks, opera, live theater events, shopping and large cinemas are common. More entertainment options means less need to watch TV as often.. except for specific shows.

Thus, urban viewers are less likely to want to participate in Nielsen’s household program than rural viewers, whose entertainment options may be limited by both what’s available near them and by their disposable income.

Extrapolation

Here’s the crux of Nielsen’s problems. Based on the over and under represented areas due to Nielsen’s flawed selection process, they attempt to make up for this by extrapolating data. Regardless of how the households may be skewed, Nielsen intends to extrapolate its data anyway.

Nielsen estimates that it has around 42,000 households participating in 2022. Though, I’d venture to guess that that number is not completely accurate. I’d suggest Nielsen may have perhaps half that number actively participating at any one time. There might be 42,000 households signed up as a Nielsen household, but likely only a fraction actively participate at any specific moment in time.

For example, not every household will watch a specific sporting event when it’s on. Only those who truly enjoy watching a specific football game might be watching a specific game. This could drop that 42,000 households down to under 5,000 viewers. If it’s a local sporting event, it could drop that number down well below 1,000 and maybe even below 200 actively watching.

200 equals 1 million, 5 million, 100 million?

How does this affect the ratings? Good question. Only Nielsen really knows. The problem is, as I stated above, Nielsen uses extrapolation.

What is extrapolation? Extrapolation is the process of using 1 viewer to represent many viewers. How many is a matter of debate. It is a process that Nielsen has employed for many years, and it is highly inaccurate. It makes the assumption that for every one viewer watching, there will be a specific number also watching. How many are extrapolated is really up to Nielsen. Nielsen must come up with those numbers and herein lies the inaccuracy.

Effectively, Nielsen fudges the numbers to appear great (or poor) depending on how it decides to cull the number together. In other words, extrapolation is an exceedingly poor and inaccurate way to determine actual viewership numbers. Yet, here we are.

Digital Media Streaming

With digital streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Crackle… more specifically, devices such as DVRs like TiVO and devices like Apple TV, Nielsen’s numbers may be somewhat more accurate when using these devices. However, one thing is certain. Nielsen still doesn’t have 100% accuracy because it doesn’t have 100% of every TV household participating.

Again, Nielsen’s numbers may be somewhat more accurate because we now have active digital streaming devices, but Nielsen still employs extrapolation to inflate the data they collect. Nielsen takes the numbers they collect, then guess at how many might be watching based on each single viewer’s behaviors.

Why Extrapolation over Interpolation?

Interpolation requires two distinct sets of data points in which to fill in the interior data gap between those two sets. Filling in data between two distinct sets of data is a bit more accurate than attempting to guess at data points outside of them.

With viewership numbers, it’s only one set of data at a single point in time. Everything that is gleaned from that single set of data is always considered “outside” or “extrapolated” data. There’s nothing in a single data set to interpolate. You have 42,000 households. You have a smaller number watching a TV program at any point in time. That’s all there is.

If Nielsen ran two unique and separate sets of 42,000 households of viewers (a total of 84,000 viewers), interpolation would be possible between those to separate sets of 42,000. Nielsen doesn’t utilize this technique, thus making interpolation of its collected data is impossible.

How Accurate is Extrapolation?

Not very. I’ll point to this StackExchange article to explain the details as to exactly why. In short, the larger the number gets outside of the original sample size, the larger the margin for error… to the point where the error outweighs the value of the extrapolation.

[Extrapolation] is a theoretical result, at least for linear regression. Indeed, if one computes the so-called ”prediction error” (see this link, slide 11), one can easily see that the further the independent variable 𝑥 is away from the sample average 𝑥¯ (and for extrapolation one may be far away), the larger the prediction error. In the link that I referred to one can also see that in a graphical way.

In a system where there is no other option, such as during the 70s when computers were room-sized devices, extrapolation may have been the only choice. Today, with palm sized internet enabled phones containing compute power orders of magnitudes faster than many of those 70s room-size computers, continuing to use extrapolation honestly makes zero sense… especially when accuracy is exceedingly important and, indeed, required.

Extrapolation Examples

If 1 Nielsen viewer represents 1,000 viewers extrapolated (1:1,000), then 100 Nielsen households watching suggests 100,000 viewers may actually be watching. If 100 Nielsen viewers watch a program and each household represents 100,000 viewers (1:100,000), then this suggests 10,000,000 viewers may be watching. Just by changing the ratio, Nielsen can alter how many it suggests may be watching. Highly inaccurate and completely beholden to Nielsen making up these ratios. As stated above, the larger the number diverges from the original sample size, the larger the margin of error… possibly making this data worthless.

These suggested extrapolated viewership numbers do not actually mean that that many viewers were, in reality, watching. In fact, the real viewership number may be far, far lower than the extrapolated numbers suggest. This is why extrapolation is a bad, bad practice. Extrapolation is always error prone and usually in the wrong way. It makes too many assumptions that are more than likely to be wrong.

Unless the person doing the extrapolation has additional data points which logically suggest a specific ratio is at play, then it’s all “best guess” and “worst error”.

How many businesses would choose run their corporation on “best guess”? Yet, that’s exactly what TV executives are doing when they “rely” (and I use this term loosely) on Nielsen.

Biased

Even above the fact that extrapolation has no real place in business, because of its highly inaccurate and “best guess” nature, these numbers can be highly biased. Why? Because of the Urban vs Rural acceptance rates.

Unless Nielsen explicitly goes out of their way to take the under vs over represented nature of Nielsen households into account when extrapolating, what Nielsen suggests is even more inaccurate than I even suggest just from the use of extrapolation alone.

CNN vs Fox News

CNN has tended to be a more liberal and, thus, a Democrat favorable news organization. Though, I’d say CNN tends to be more moderate in its liberal Democrat leanings. Fox News, on the other hand, makes no bones about their viewpoint. Fox News is quite far right and Republican in too much of its of leanings. Fox News is not always as far right as, for example, Alex Jones or other extremist right media. However, some of its leanings can be as far right as some quite far right media. Here’s an image from the Pew Research Center that visually explains what I’m describing:

Whether Pew’s research and datapoints are spot on, I’ll leave that for you to decide. I’ve reviewed this chart and believe it to be mostly accurate in terms of each outlet’s political leanings. Though, I personally have found PBS to be somewhat closer to the “Average Respondent” location than this chart purports… which is why even Pew might not have this chart 100% correct. For the purpose of CNN, Fox News and Hannity, I’ve found this chart to be spot on.

As you can see in the chart above, Fox News itself is considered a right leaning news organization, but not far off of center at around a 2. However, the Sean Hannity show is considered just as far right as Breitbart at about 6-7. CNN is considered slightly left leaning at around a 1 (less left leaning than Fox News is right leaning at 2).

What does all this mean for Nielsen? It means that those who are Republican, which tends to include more rural viewers than urban, those rural viewers tend to be conservative. Because Nielsen is more likely to see participation from rural viewers than urban viewers, due to its enticement practices, this skews Nielsen’s accuracy towards conservative viewership and away from liberal viewership. Nielsen’s enticement practice isn’t the only problem which can lead to this skew, though.

Meaning, Fox News viewership numbers as stated by Nielsen may be highly overestimated and inaccurate. Quantifying that more specifically, Fox News viewers may be over-represented where CNN viewers may be severely under-represented. It further means that unless Nielsen actually realizes this liberal vs conservative under vs over representation disparity in its Nielsen households (respectively) and, thus, alters its extrapolated numbers accordingly, then its viewership numbers published for CNN vs Fox News are highly suspect and are likely to be highly inaccurate.

Worse, Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Because this man is in it for the cash that he can milk from the Fox News network, he’s more than willing to pay-for-play. Meaning, if he can get companies to favor Fox News by asking them for favors in exchange for money, he (or one of his underlings) will do it. Murdoch can then make more money because more advertisers will flock to Fox News under the guise of more viewership. Fake viewership is most definitely lucrative. Because Nielsen extrapolates data, this makes faking data extremely easy.

Unlike YouTube where Google has no reason to lie about its reported views, Fox News has every reason to lie about its viewership, particularly if it can game other companies into complying with its wishes.

Nielsen Itself

Nielsen purports to offer objective data. Yet, we know that businesses are helmed by fallible human CEOs who have their own viewpoints and political leanings and who are in it for the money. One only needs to look at Rupert Murdoch and Fox News to understand this problem. Some CEOs also choose to micromanage their company’s products. Meaning, if Nielsen’s current CEO is micromanaging its ratings product, which is also likely to be Nielsen’s highest moneymaking product, then it’s entirely possible that the ratings being reported are biased, particularly in light of the above about Rupert Murdoch (who is also a Republican).

Conflict of Interest

When money gets involved, common sense goes out the window. What I mean by this statement is that since TV executives / networks pay Nielsen to receive its ratings results periodically, Nielsen is beholden to its customers. The word “beholden” can have many meanings in this “sales” context. Typically in business, “beholden” means the more you pay, the more you get. In the case of Nielsen, it’s possible that paying more to Nielsen potentially means that business may get more / better ratings. That sort of breaks the “objective” context of Nielsen’s data service. It’s called “Conflict of Interest”.

In essence, in this case it could represent a pay-for-play solution, a true conflict of interest. There’s honestly no way to know what deals Nielsen has brokered with its clients, or more specifically with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Network. Most companies who do sales deals keep those details close to the vest and under non-disclosure binding contracts. The only way these deals ever get exposed is during court trials when those contracts can become discovery evidence for a trial. Otherwise, they remain locked in digital filing cabinets between both parties. Even then, such contracts are very unlikely to contain words disclosing any “back room” verbal handshake deals discussed. Those deal details will be documented in a separate system or set of systems describing how to handle that customer’s account.

Let me count the ways

There are many problems in the Nielsen’s rating services that may lead to highly inaccurate information being released. Let’s explore them:

1. Nielsen’s solicitation of households can easily lead to bias due to its probability of luring in people who are hard up for cash (e.g., rural Republicans) vs those who are not (e.g., urban Democrats).
2. Nielsen’s products and software spy on knowing users about viewership habits. Spying of any variety is usually viewed with skepticism and disdain, especially these days and especially by certain types of people in the population (usually liberal leaning individuals). Rural Republicans are less likely to understand the ramifications of this spying (and more willing to accept it) than urban Democrats (who tend to be more likely to work in tech based businesses and who see this type of spying as too intrusive).
3. Nielsen’s numbers are “fortified” using extrapolation. Fortified is a nice way of saying “padded”. By padding their numbers, Nielsen staff can basically gyrate the numbers any way they want and make any channels viewership numbers look any particular way. Which ties directly into…
4. Nielsen sells its ratings product to TV producers and networks. Because these deals are brokered separately for varying amounts of money, the network who pays the most is likely to see the best results (i.e., pay-for-play).
5. Nielsen moved away from its “on paper” auditing system to the use of digital device auditing. Because Nielsen removed the human factor from this ratings equation (and fired people as a result), it also means that fewer and fewer people can see the numbers to know what they truly are (or at least were before the extrapolation). Fewer people seeing the numbers means higher chances of fabrication.

Looking at all of these above, it’s easy to see how Nielsen’s numbers could be seriously inaccurate, possibly even intentionally. I won’t go so far as to say, fake, although that’s entirely possible.  However, because Nielsen employs extrapolation, it would be easy for a Nielsen staffer (or even Nielsen’s very CEO) to make up anything they want and justify it based on its “proprietary” extrapolation techniques. Meaning, numbers stated for any network’s viewership could be entirely fabricated by Nielsen, possibly even at a network’s request or possibly even as part of that network’s deal with Nielsen.

In fact, fabrication is possible based entirely on number 4 above. A TV network could pay significantly to make sure their network and their programming is always rated the highest, at least until they stop paying for it. With Nielsen’s extrapolation system and when data can get played fast and loose, it’s entirely possible for such a sales scenario to manifest.

Why are Nielsen’s Numbers Important?

Advertising. That’s the #1 reason. Companies using TV advertising wish to invest their advertising dollars into channels with the highest viewership. The higher, the better. Nielsen’s ratings are, therefore, indicative that a higher ratings share means higher viewership. The problem is, Nielsen’s extrapolation gets in the way of that. Regardless of whether or not cheating or fabrication is involved, the sheer fact that extrapolation is used should be considered a problem.

The only thing Nielsen really knows is that of the 42,000 Nielsen households that it has devices in, only a fraction of those households watched a given program or channel at any specific time. Meaning, the real numbers of viewership from Nielsen offers a maximum of 42,000 viewers at any moment in time… no where close to the millions that they claim. Any number higher than 42,000 is always considered fabricated whether extrapolation or any other means is used to inflate that number.

That companies like Procter and Gamble rely on those 42,000 Nielsen households to determine whether to invest perhaps millions of dollars in advertising on a channel is suspect. That companies have been doing this since the 70s is a much bigger problem.

In the 70s, when there was no other way to really determine TV viewership, Nielsen’s system may have held some measure of value, even though it used extrapolation. However, in 2022 with live always-on internet enabled phone, tablet, computer, game console and other smart TV devices, measuring actual live viewers seems quite feasible directly from each device tuned in. If someone is live streaming CNN over the Internet, for example, it’s not hard to determine and count this at all. If hundreds of people are streaming, that should be easy to count. If millions, it’s also easy. Why extrapolate when you can use real numbers?

The days of extrapolation should have long ended, replaced by live viewer tallies from various digital streaming devices, such as phones, computers and Apple TVs. Whether these devices are allowed to phone home to provide that data, that’s on each viewer to decide. If the viewer wishes to opt-in to allowing their viewership metrics to be shared with each TV station, then that’s far more realistic viewership numbers than Nielsen’s extrapolated numbers. If they opt-out, then those stations can’t see the numbers. Opting in and out should be the choice of the viewer.

That’s where privacy meets data sharing. Some people simply don’t want any of their private data to be shared with companies… and that’s okay. That then means some level of extrapolation (there’s that word again) must be used to attempt inflate the numbers accordingly.

Let’s consider that 42,000 is 0.01273% of 330 million. That’s trying to represent the entire population of TV viewers in the United States from less than 0.01% of people watching. Insane! With always-on digital devices, if 10% opt out, that’s still provides 90% more accurate viewership numbers than relying on Nielsen’s tiny number of households. Which means there’s way less amount of data to attempt to extrapolate. That advertisers don’t get this point is really surprising.

Auditing

You might think, “Well, isn’t Nielsen audited?”

Most companies dealing with numbers are typically audited. Unfortunately, I’ve found that working in a tech business which sees regular audits can still have fabrication. How? Because those who work on the technical side of the house are not those who get audited. Meaning, those systems administrators who maintain the logs and records (i.e. databases) aren’t under the scrutiny that the financial side of the house gets.

If it relates to money and sales, auditing of the accounting books is a regular occurrence and must uphold specific standards due to legal requirements. Auditing when it relates to anything else is catch-as-catch-can, particularly when laws don’t exist. Meaning, the auditors must rely on the statements of staffers to be accurate. There’s no way for an auditor to know if something has or hasn’t been fabricated when viewing a log.

Worse, if the company employs a proprietary algorithm (read private) to manage its day to day operations, auditors typically are unable to break through its proprietary nature to understand if there’s a problem afoot. In other words, auditors must take what’s told to them at face value. This is why auditing is and can be a highly inaccurate profession. I should also point out that auditing isn’t really intended to uncover treachery and deception. It’s intended to document what a company states about specific questions, whether true or false. Treachery and deception may fall out of an audit, but usually only if legal action is brought against the company.

In the case of money, it’s easy to audit records of both the company and third parties to ensure the numbers match. In the case of proprietary data, there’s no such records to perform this sort of matching. What an auditor sees is what they must accept as genuine. The only real way that such deception and fabrication becomes known is if an employee performing such fabrication blows the whistle. An independent auditor likely won’t be able to find it without a whistleblower. Because jobs tend to be “on the line” around such matters, employees are usually told what they can and cannot say to an auditor by their boss. Meaning, the boss might be acutely aware of the fabrication and may instruct their employees not to talk about it, even if directly asked.

In fact, employees performing such fabrication of data may intentionally be shielded from audits, instead throwing employees who have no knowledge at the auditors. It’s called, plausible deniability.

Overall

None of the above is intended to state that Nielsen fabricates numbers maliciously. However, know that extrapolation of data is actually the art of data fabrication. It takes lower numbers and then applies some measure of logic and reasoning that “makes sense” to deduce a larger number. For example, if one person complains of a problem, it’s guaranteed a number of other people have also encountered the same exact problem, but didn’t complain.

The art is in deducing how many didn’t complain. That’s extrapolation by using logic and reasoning to deduce the larger number. Extrapolation clearly isn’t without errors. Everyone who deals in extrapolation knows there’s a margin of error, which might be as high as 10% or possibly higher and which grows as the extrapolation data size increases.

Are Nielsen’s ratings numbers accurate? Not when you’re talking about 42,000 households attempting to represent the around 122 million households with TVs. This data doesn’t even include digital phones, tablets and computers which are capable of streaming TV… which smartphones alone account for about 7.26 billion devices. Yes, billion. In the United States, the number of smart phone owners is around 301 million. There are more smart phones in existence in the United States (and the rest of the world) than there are TV’s in people’s homes.

So, exactly why does Nielsen continue to cling to its extremely outdated business model? Worse, why do advertisers still rely on it? 🤷‍♂️

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## If you’re a gun owner, you need to read this!

Posted in gun ownership, law enforcement by commorancy on June 7, 2022

Gun ownership comes with a whole passel of responsibility. However, on the heels of the Uvalde mass shooting and, inevitably, ever more mass shootings to come, some legal suggestions are brewing in Congress… suggestions that may impact your very freedom to live in the United States. Are these ideas good for gun ownership or indeed individual freedom? Let’s explore.

NRA as champions for gun ownership?

Many believe the NRA is a champion over gun ownership and for gun owners. Let’s explore why this may not be the case in the long term. If you’re a card carrying NRA member, you should definitely read this article to better understand how the NRA might not actually be looking out for your own welfare as a U.S. Citizen. Before we get into exactly why, we need more details on where we stand and where things are headed.

Uvalde Mass Shooting awakens Outrage

The Uvalde mass shooting, which saw a total of 21 people dead, including 19 children and 2 adults with 17 injured, has once again stirred the outrage pot. With that outrage comes many outrageous claims of how to handle the ever perpetuating gun violence clearly gripping the nation.

Some suggest repealing the 2nd Amendment. Some suggest banning only assault style weapons. Some suggest “red flag” laws. Some suggest “mental health” watches. Some suggest “Enhanced Background Checks”. Congress is now focusing on “red flag” laws and “mental health” issues. Here’s exactly where gun owners need to be concerned and outraged themselves. None of the suggestions currently on the table are actually good for gun owners. Why?

The 18 year old Uvalde shooter had purchased his rifles and ammo just 3 days prior to the incident. More than this, this shooter tagged his actions instantly as they were progressing. However, very little was tagged prior to the rampage beginning. What this meant for this shooter is that “mental health” examinations and/or “red flag” laws likely would have done little, if nothing at all to prevent this mass shooting. This shooter was, for all intents and purposes, clean of these possibilities. In other words, his purchase likely wouldn’t have triggered “mental health” concerns or “red flag” laws (if they had existed). This is why these “red flag” and “mental health” laws won’t work under these conditions.

How will “red flag” laws actually work?

Think about the movie Minority Report. If you haven’t watched this film, I highly that suggest you do so if only for research purposes. What exactly is a “red flag” law? The idea behind “red flags” is to find people of dangerous intent BEFORE a problem exists. These laws attempt to be “proactive” laws which seek to find “dangerous intentioned people” before any damage, injury or death can occur. That’s a very tall order. That also sounds a lot like clairvoyance.

As I suggested, “Doesn’t this sound like Minority Report?”. Having seen this movie, you know that its premise uses clairvoyant people known as Precogs to “see” crimes BEFORE a crime occurs. That’s exactly what “red flag” laws also attempt to do. How will “red flag” laws actually work?

We know that crystal balls and other clairvoyant techniques are not really possible in law enforcement. To a small degree, psychics may exist who can see small and limited information at specific times, but not to the degree or level of the Precogs in Minority Report. No. What will happen with these so-called “red flag” laws is that they will rely on everyday people to report suspicious activity by others to the authorities. We also know people tend to lie, cheat and steal. So there’s that.

Texas New Bounty-based Abortion Law

If “red flag” laws take the shape of the new bounty-style abortion law, then we have a serious problem. Bounty-style laws are ripe for abuse, lying and cheating against fellow citizens. It’s also ripe for use as cancel culture. If any “red flag” laws are bounty-based, it’s a guarantee that unscrupulous people will take advantage of the bounty by lies and cheating to cancel people they don’t like.

It gets worse. Because cops are masters of profiling, someone’s lie coupled with a perfect profile could lead to a “pre-arrest” over “red flags”. What exactly is a “pre-arrest”? It means the cops are authorized to take the person into custody over the possibility of an action not having yet been performed. Yes, this sounds exactly like Minority Report.

Let’s understand how such a scenario may unfold. You’re a family of four with another on the way. The typical 4.5 member household. You’re also avid gun owners. At least one of your kids is old enough to use guns for recreation purposes… and they do. Let’s also assume a bounty-based “red flag” law exists in your jurisdiction. Your neighbor sees little Billy out in the front yard playing guns with toy rifle you’ve given him, aiming it at random animals. The next day, a squirrel lay dead on that neighbor’s doorstep of what seems to be a gunshot wound.

These are all now incontrovertible facts. Coupled with a solid gun ownership profile in your family and what the neighbor witnessed, the facts line up to trigger both “mental health” evaluations and “red flag” laws. This means the cops now have the right to come take your son in for “mental health” evaluation based on “red flag” laws and those cops may also now have the right to confiscate your weapons as evidence. They might even have the right to take you, the parents, into custody.

This situation is likely “best case”. Meaning, the evidence is now fact and incontrovertible. This scenario doesn’t involve lying outright, but it does involve bad assumptions and bad conclusions. That doesn’t matter, however. The “red flag” laws take over and supersede bad assumptions. The cops have a duty to make sure the laws are enforced and that people are “safe”. Thus, off little Billy goes to be checked into a sanitarium for evaluation and held under suspicion of “red flag” violations.

14th Amendment vs 2nd Amendment

This is where we see a clear violation of the 14th Amendment. What exactly is the 14th Amendment? Let me give you a quick refresher…

Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

How is this a violation? Because now, based on “red flag” laws, the child has been detained into “medical custody” (though it’s to a mental health facility, not a jail) and those guns may have been taken into evidence under that “red flag” law as evidence… without due process.

The question is, will the “red flag” laws be subject to due process as the 14th Amendment requires? Even if it does require due process, what is the person charged with? The future possibility of a mass casualty event? Are we really trying to make Minority Report a reality here? Are we truly trying to pre-arrest and pre-charge people based merely on suspicion of harm to others?

This situation is exceedingly dangerous, not for mass shooting events, but for the foundation of democracy itself. This is yet another severe erosion of the constitution. We cannot sacrifice the 14th Amendment to allow the 2nd Amendment rights to stand. We also should not erode 2nd Amendment rights to allow the 14th to stand. Both amendments must stand together or not at all.

Profiling and McCarthyism

We’re heading into dangerous territory with “red flag” laws. These types of laws won’t stop mass shootings, but they will halt democracy because of lack of due process. Minority Report is a film with a unique idea. It’s also an idea that has no place in today’s democracy.

We simply cannot create laws to “pre-arrest” people for something they might or might not do. Laws are intended to be reactive and handle situations AFTER a crime has been committed. Law was never designed to be “proactive” to stop crime before it happens. Some might say laws deter. In some cases they do, but a deterrent is not the same as proactive law. There is a difference. A deterrent shows people there’s a severe consequence and penalty for certain actions. It lets people decide whether to perform an action. If they choose to perform that criminal action, then they take the legal consequence. Proactive law seeks to empower law enforcement to arrest and detain people before they’ve done anything wrong, merely on suspicion of intent.

What “red flag” laws do isn’t a form of deterrent. Just the opposite. “Red flag” laws seek to use people to lie about others to get law enforcement to “handle” them. It’s a way to allow people make shit up, possibly plant evidence, then have people they don’t like carted away on suspicions alone.

What that means for gun owners is that after “red flag” laws pass, gun owners are on exceedingly shaky ground (and so are their guns). All it takes is an exceedingly nosy neighbor and your kid’s questionable behavior or even you may find yourself locked up in a “mental health” facility for an indefinite period of time. If law enforcement decides they believe you or your family are a “danger to yourself or to others”, the “red flag” law triggers and bye-bye 14th Amendment. No due process. No court trial. No charges even. Just locked up, possibly forced to take drugs, forced evaluation and no more liberty or 2nd Amendment rights until, well, who knows really? No due process means possible indefinite detainment.

Red Flags and Gun Ownership

As a gun owner, you should be exceedingly concerned over these “Mental Health” and “Red Flag” laws now being considered because these laws can and will be used in retaliatory ways against gun owners. Not only can these laws be used to take away your liberty on mere suspicion, they can be used to take your guns into evidence… depriving you of both 2A rights AND 14A rights simultaneously.

If you’re a gun owner and wish to remain that way, you should be vehemently against both “red flag” and “mental health” combined laws. Both will undermine your ability to continue to own guns. These “mental health” laws won’t seek to find the lying and cheating among us. No, they will seek to find those who are considered a “danger to self or others”… and those people are easy to spot being gun owners.

Why? Because the “red flag” laws are intended to target people who “might” use guns in very specific and mass damaging ways. These laws won’t and can’t target non-gun owners. These laws are, therefore, specifically intended to target any gun owner who appears intent on perpetrating gun violence upon others… which can be easily trumped up with seemingly innocent photos. Even simply owning a gun might be enough to make the leap to that suspicion.

Cancel Culture

A lot of people bring this topic up frequently, particularly on social media. Because many believe we are in the midst of a cancel culture, “red flag” laws give opportunistic “cancel culture” people the very means by which they can cancel gun owners that they don’t like. If you own a gun, be prepared for cancel culture. In fact, you might even consider these “red flag” laws as a type of law intended to be used for the purposes of cancel culture.

A neighbor doesn’t like how you think or how you act AND you own a gun? With “red flag” laws you’re at risk. You now fit the exact profile that “red flag” laws seek to find and eliminate. Nevermind that you never intend doing anything like a mass shooting. The fact that you fit the exact profile of that type of person is enough for “red flag” laws to trigger your capture. Yes, cancel culture may become very real.

Say, “No” to “Red Flag” laws. Say, “Yes” to gun licenses.

“Red Flag” laws have no place in our world. Not only do they violate the 14th Amendment to both life and liberty, but they also violate due process. I also guarantee these laws will be used to unfairly target gun owners. These laws also won’t solve our mass shooting problems.

Those intent on finding a weapon to perform a mass shooting will still manage to find them. Why? Because profiling doesn’t work. Let me say that again. Profiling doesn’t work. A small percentage of the time, background checks and intuition might aid in stopping a mass shooting. The vast majority of the time where there is no background information, there’s no red flag information and there’s no way to know the person’s intent, those people will find a way to gain access to a weapon and use it for mass casualties. These “no information” scenarios are most common (see Enhanced Background Checks below as to why) and won’t be caught by suspicions or mental health evaluations.

How do we solve the gun problem? Gun licensing.

Gun licenses solve two things at once:

1) It forces people into a specific process to obtain that license by paying a fee.
2) It forces people to learn required information about gun safety and owning a gun to obtain that license.

We’re required to have a license to drive. We’re required to have a license to practice medicine. We’re required to have a license to practice law. We’re even required to have a license to hunt and fish. Why are we not required to have a license to own a weapon?

Obtaining a license does a lot of things at once, beside those two mentioned above. It allows the license issuer to perform necessary checks prior to issuing the license. It also has the issuer inform necessary other government agencies of the license request. It also means a person cannot run out and buy a weapon without first presenting a valid license.

Applying for a license also tells the issuer that the person has passed any necessary tests to prove competency. If an eye exam is required, it tells the issuer that the person’s eye sight is enough to properly see to use the weapon. More than this, a licensee may be required to register all weapons owned under that license. Meaning, the license issuer knows which weapons the licensee owns.

Licenses may also grant other benefits, such as “concealed carry” as long as certain conditions have been met. If specific training has been learned around assault style rifles, that kind of a license may also be issued. For example, if you were in the military and trained with certain types of military grade weapons, that might grant a certain type of license.

There’s also the flip side. If the person violates the terms of the license, it can be revoked, suspended or confiscated, thus preventing the use of any weapons. If the license is revoked, all ammunition must be surrendered and all weapons that person owns must be sold within 10 days or be forfeit to authorities. This licensing, in fact, is the very definition of “well regulated” as defined in the 2nd Amendment.

Holding a valid license means you understand the value of what that license means and what those guns mean. Law abiding gun-holding citizens should have no problem obtaining a license or maintaining it.

Will licenses alone solve the mass shooting problem? No. There are those who are intent in doing what they intend to do. That means, they’re patient and willing to follow the processes. It does weed out those who are unwilling to follow the rules, which is a small percentage. In fact, it probably would have stopped the Uvalde shooter as he wouldn’t have been able to obtain a weapon without a license.

However, for those who are patient and willing to follow the rules, that won’t stop someone from performing a mass shooting while carrying a valid license. That’s why more is needed.

Minimum Liability Insurance

Like cars, gun owners need to carry liability insurance. If a gun is used to damage person or property, the owner of the weapon is responsible for that damage, in similar form to owning a car. Thus, minimum liability insurance should be required when purchasing any weapon. For every weapon you buy and own, you must inform the insurance company to add that weapon to the policy. Owning certain types of weapons or too many weapons might trigger higher insurance premiums, for example. Age might also dictate higher insurance costs, in similar form to car insurance. Some weapon types might even be considered uninsurable, preventing you from buying it.

This type of monetary cost of ownership is also a type of deterrent. Remember when I discussed various deterrents above? Well, this is a type of deterrent. By enforcing certain costs to gun ownership, it means the person is willing to take on those costs to own a weapon. Owning one (1) gun for protection is expected, thus insurance may be affordable. Owning 100 guns could be considered excessive and/or a hazard by insurance companies, thus higher rates. Owning too many guns might be cause to prevent insurance. Let the market decide what is considered socially acceptable.

Federal Taxation

The Federal government needs to heavily tax certain styles of weapons and firearms. If a gun falls into the assault style category, for example, the tax on the weapon might be as much as 50% of the cost of the weapon. If you want to own it, it will cost you. You don’t need assault style weapons to protect yourself. A small pistol is just as effective to prevent and deter bodily harm as an assault rifle. All firearms protect equally in this regard. Thus, weapons which cause overly excessive property damage or cause excessive injury should be taxed exceedingly high. Weapons which cause less injury or damage would be taxed at a much lower rate.

Taxation and insurance together won’t stop mass shootings because people will find the money to purchase the weapon regardless of its costs. Let’s talk about…

Enhanced Background Checks

Some have proposed enhanced background checks as a possible solution. Let’s examine why this one won’t work either. It’s all in the demographics. Let’s take a look at statistics of school shootings by age:

The vast majority of shooters start at age 12, peak at age 17 and taper off after age 21. That’s 836 shootings between those ages. Then, there’s a spike after age 31+ for a total of 125 shootings. The vast majority of shootings occur in that child to young adult age group demographic tapering off around age 21.

Between the ages of 12-21, there may be very little data to “red flag” or “mental health” to evaluate and likely even less for “enhanced background checks”. The one case where we absolutely need these proposed laws to affect change will, ironically, do absolutely nothing. These are mostly kids who’ve yet done anything. Most of the mass shooters are first offenders of anything. They’re not even in the system to find. Meaning, it is these shooters who end up the biggest problem, yet there’s likely almost no information to be found on them prior to their rampage. “Red Flags” require actual red flags. Meaning, you have to be able to find information on the child’s behaviors to know if any red flags exist. Without any data, attempting to apply “red flags” is meaningless.

For some, it may be possible to scour social media to find one or two of these of these children who may exhibit a behavior that could be considered suspect. However, does one or two posts sufficiently trigger “red flag” laws or even “mental health” concerns? Clearly, these kids likely won’t even have a background to review. Meaning, enhanced background checks won’t work.

This is why these “red flag” and “mental health” laws also aren’t likely find these shooters in this age group. These laws are likely to only impact only adults above the age group listed, not children in the mass shooting age group shown. Meaning, more mass shootings continue while “pre-arrests” take place against adults who likely weren’t even a threat.

Children who want weapons are usually taught to like and want weapons by their parents. Meaning, the parents are usually gun owners themselves. Kids learn from their parents. Thus, when a child wants a gun, it’s typically because a parent already owns one. What does this mean for background checks exactly?

It means that parents know kids want to have a weapon of their own. Some parents oblige and are willing to buy their kids a weapon as a gift. Buying and gifting weapons to children means background checks are entirely subverted, as are “red flag” laws and “mental health” evaluations. Any background check performed would be on the parent, not against the child. A background check system can then be subverted by having a parent buy the weapon, then gift that weapon to their child. Even if the parent knows the child has violent tendencies, a parent might still buy and gift such a weapon to their child. Would a background check have found that child’s violent tendency? Possibly not.

Child privacy laws are fairly strict in the United States. Meaning, unless law enforcement has sent a subpoena to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram for those sites to release “hidden” child data, law enforcement may not even see the child has posted questionable, but hidden content. Even then, many of these posts aren’t uncovered until long after the fact… once law enforcement gets involved. As I said above, laws are reactive.

Even now, children are learning the lesson of what to post, when to post and what not to post. Such background checks are predicated on children continuing to post “red flag” content to social media without thought. Children learn quickly and, thus, “background checks”, “mental health” evaluations and “red flag” laws would only be as good as children are smart. Those kids will smarten up quick if they know their Instagram is being watched.

Would “red flag” laws help here? Likely not. However, these same “red flag” laws might actually end up flagging the parents over a child’s behavior. In fact, some recent cases seek to hold parents accountable for their child’s actions.

Holding Parents Accountable

Such a case is now pending. If this case is successful, it may open the door to charging more and more gun owner parents with their child’s actions. James and Jennifer Crumbley are looking at potential jail time over involuntary manslaughter charges stemming from their son’s actions. The trial is still ongoing as of this article, but the outcome of this trial could lead to further gun owner parents seeing jail time over their own child’s violent actions. This is the first in what’s likely to become a commonplace situation for many parent gun owners. “Red flag” laws only seek to expand this situation.

This Crumbley case, however, is not without merit. If a parent knows their child may have mental health issues and is a danger to themselves or others, the parent shouldn’t encourage and indulge in their child’s violent fantasies by buying them a gun. This is allegedly what James and Jennifer did for their son. Ethan Crumbley then allegedly killed four classmates at school with that gun. Now, the parents are being charged for involuntary manslaughter over knowing their son could do this, yet doing nothing to stop him… and even encouraging him by buying him a gun.

Where do “Red Flag” laws end?

That’s a good question. Since these laws have not yet been written, it’s too early to tell. However, based on the Crumbley situation above, it’s easy to see “Red Flags” laws covering not only the person flagged, but also people around them who’ve enabled that person, such as the situation with the Crumbleys. If the parents are found to have enabled and indulged their own child’s violent fantasies by buying weapons for them, those “Red Flags” could end up covering parents as well.

For this reason, gun owners need to be concerned over what these “Red Flag” laws are intended to do. The first major problem is that these laws more-or-less try to rely on clairvoyance. Cops aren’t clairvoyant. Therefore, the only thing cops can rely on is suspicion, experience and intuition coupled with reports from others. What that translates into is a cop possibly seeing things that aren’t there. If the laws are written vague enough and which give carte blanche to the officer, then as a gun owner and a parent, you could be carted off to a mental health facility simply because of a Facebook post of your child brandishing a weapon.

Nothing of what was done was considered “illegal” by itself. However, these “red flags” are enough to detain a person indefinitely under psych evaluation. That’s a grey area under the law. In a mental health facility, you’re not exactly jailed. Under certain exceptions, it can’t be considered unlawful detention. It also bypasses due process. Because “red flags” laws can’t really charge someone with a crime as none yet exist, which means detention in a medical facility. And.. here’s the loophole which allows that detention:

Although nurses or patients may disagree with the wisdom of such a decision, in most situations, patients do have the right to refuse treatment. Exceptions arise for mental incompetence, patients who are a danger to self or others, or where capacity is diminished due to drug or alcohol use.

These “red flag” laws when combined with “mental health” concerns will end up falling under the “danger to self and others” exception listed above. Because a person has been “red flagged” as a “danger”, that means they have given up their rights to live in society. Meaning, the concept of “false imprisonment” is now no longer on the table because those “red flag” laws will have superseded those rights.

Let’s take this concept one step further. Because the “red flag” laws have not yet been written, there’s no way to know how easy it will be to trigger cops into “red flag” action. Assuming it’s likely to be relatively easy, this means it will also be easy to have anyone committed to a mental health facility indefinitely under “danger to self or other” watch. This also means the person loses their liberty, which is protected by the 14th Amendment over a “red flag” law.

Effectively this becomes George Orwell’s 1984 on steroids.

Overturning Laws as Unconstitutional

Laws are valid until they aren’t. What I mean by this statement is that laws remain legally enforceable until a court enjoins them from being enforced. That means going through a court of law and requesting a judge to enjoin the law from enforcement on specific grounds. Until that happens, people who’ve been detained under “red flag” laws must remain detained until the law is enjoined. Even if a law is enjoined, it may prevent future detainment, but those already detained may remain detained until the court trial concludes.

This kind of law is an exceedingly slippery slope. Once we’ve walked down this path, other laws will begin popping up under this same “predictive” model, using these same “mental health” loopholes. Having words with your neighbor, then claim that person’s actions are a “danger to self and others” and off they are carted. This silliness could be perpetuated on many different items around the household and in many different forms, not only with guns. As I said, it’s a slippery slope.

“Red Flag” Laws have no place

There is no place in our society for “predictive” law enforcement. It’s ripe for abuse from unscrupulous people who will alarm police to false flags. Yet, police must follow up and investigate. If the person fits a specific profile or appears a “danger to self or others” (for whatever reason), they can be taken into custody and held for indefinite time under “mental health” evaluation, bypassing both due process and liberty rights given us by the 14th Amendment.

Predictive law enforcement has no place because it’s easily abused. Even our current reactive law enforcement is abused at times. However, these laws are mostly not based on bounties. If these new laws being considered are enacted using this new “bounty” model, all bets are off how the situations will be handled or how many people may end up detained.

This is a dangerous time to own a gun in the United States. That danger comes not only from the weapon itself, but from the laws that are being considered to manage the people who own them. Eventually, the stigma of owning a gun might be so severe that people are forced to get rid of their weapons or face “red flag” retribution from unsuspecting non-gun owning cancel culture neighbors.

Beware. This future is dawning.

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## Dumb Commercials Series: Uber Eats (again)

Posted in commercials, entertainment by commorancy on June 4, 2022

Here’s yet another extremely dumb Uber Eats commercial depicting even dumber actors chowing down on paper goods, deodorant and other non-food items. We just got past people eating Tide-Pods and now this? Let’s watch.

I understand that some people may find this hilarious, but I find it sad that commercial producers need to resort to this sort of both low brow humor and depiction of people taking things so literally. I guess actors get off on playing these extremely dumb roles, but for me it’s off-putting.

For Uber Eats, this one is right out of the frying pan and into the fire. Directly on the heels of those stalker Simone Biles commercials right to this inane idea? Yeah, let’s show the exceedingly dumb people of the world that eating paper goods, deodorant and liquid soap is possible. Yeah…

… and then there’s also this one…

… and this one …

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