TAKE: vote yes on WGA strike authorization

The Writers’ Guild is weird.  For one thing, some of the members are owners or bosses.  Writers who become showrunners and share in the profits of a show can have an owner’s interest.  Another: writers have agents who negotiate for them.

Some writers make lots and lots of money.  Others are unemployed, or at least unemployed as writers.  It’s not really a union, it’s a guild, like a medieval guild, an association of craftspeople who work a certain trade.

Why is Staalmesters translated as “Syndics”? Rembrandt’s Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild.  The Sampling Officials sounds cooler.  

Or maybe something like London’s livery companies?:

A writers union going on strike can seem silly when you picture a union like this:

and a strike like this:

I find this on the Post-Bulletin: Steve Martell, Charles Brown, and an unidentified third man stand on the picket line on the morning of August 17, 1985, outside the Hormel Foods plant in Austin, Minnesota.  Did Trump steal that style of hat consciously?

and writers like this:

But, if you’re in the Writers Guild, and you’re a Helytimes reader, I think you should vote yes on the strike authorization.

If you’re not in the Writers’ Guild, here are the facts, as I misremember them:

  • TV writers are making less and less money but working the same amount of time.  As shows have smaller orders of episodes, ten instead of twenty-two, writers are still working the same amount of days, but since many of us get paid per episode, we’re getting paid less for the same or more amount of days working.
  • The studios are making enormous profits.*
  • The studios sort of owe it to us to maintain our healthcare and pension plans, due to deals that were made over the years, and they’re saying they’re not going to do that.

Like all workers, we’re getting squeezed as much as possible by companies whose mandate is to be as profitable as possible for shareholders.

Workers can and should use every tool they can to fight for as much as they can.  Our guild’s leaders are negotiating and have asked us to vote to authorize a strike, so they can bargain as effectively as possible.

Gunawan Kartapranata provided Wikipedia’s photo for the article on Bargaining

That’s pretty much my take.  I hope it doesn’t happen.  It will be very painful and hurt a lot of people.  It shuts down production, which means grips, PAs, electricians, etc. are all out of work too.  And actors, lots of whom have really struggled to get a shot and are going to continue to struggle.

I think the studios should just give us what we asked for.  Disney is one of the studios we’re negotiating with.  They have a market cap of $178 billion.  I appreciate that Bob Iger has his strategic challenges with ESPN and so on but it seems wise and reasonable to me to  say “fine let’s give the creators of our highly profitable content their not ridiculous demands and continue generating money from some of the world’s most popular entertainment, TV shows and movies.”

During the last strike my dad sent me his book of AFL-CIO songs

If we do go on strike, I think we shouldn’t picket.  That was unhelpful.  There should be some human shows of solidarity, but daily picketing got to be a weird ritual, some kind of bizarre martyrdom that in the end made us look more ridiculous.  I am proud to say I feel like I did my duty, but I preferred my days answering the phones at Strike Headquarters to making small talk with Tom Bergeron while I held a sign outside CBS.  Although that was fun too.

We discussed Rap Around. Source.

A dissenting opinion from a writer with always interesting takes:

The idea of a WGA strike in these times, when freedom of expression is a far more fundamental issue than small differences between comparatively large amounts of money, is stunningly tone deaf and offensive.

That’s on a moral level.

On a strategic level, strikes are only effective when one side has both desperation and leverage. The WGA has neither.

I voted for the WGA strike in 2008. I regret it. The tangible benefits to the lives of working writers have never been explained in any relevant or understandable terms. The tangible losses to writers’ lives were painfully clear.

This is a bad idea masquerading as the right thing to do. On every level, it is not.

The issues at stake in the last strike were complex.  I thought it was important for writers to get some kind of residual for streaming content.  Whether it was necessary or well-executed, I’m not informed enough to answer.  There was a layer of silliness to it for sure.

I do feel some energy like “one strike is fine, but two in this short a time is awful much.”

I kind of get that?  But: the WGA is sort of the first union down the chain.  We’re on the frontier here, that’s why we keep having to fight.

So, that’s my take.

* I saw the number $51 billion thrown around.  I have no idea where that came from.  Does it include, for instance, Disney’s theme park division?  It’s hard to assess how much profit the studios are making.  The AMPTP represents over 350 companies.  I’m sure some of them are doing terribly!

But, here are some numbers for the bigger companies, from a 2015 Forbes magazine rundown by Natalie Robehmed:

Once the theatrical run of a film is over, studios make money from home video, video on demand, and through syndicating hit TV shows, as 21st Century Fox was able to do with Modern Family. Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox clocked the second highest profit of the publicly traded studios, earning $1.5 billion in 2014. It measured revenue of $10.3 billion, largely from betting big on books that turned into box office hits hits such as Gone Girl and The Fault in Our Stars.

Undeterred by the failed Comcast/Time Warner merger, NBCUniversal outdid itself and recorded its most profitable year ever. The studio notched $711 million in profit on $5 billion in revenue – the second best ratio in Hollywood.

Warner Bros.’ films grossed a collective $4 billion in 2014, but the studio pocketed $1.2 billion in profit from $12.5 billion in revenue. This was up 23% on 2013’s tally. The studio weathered its fair share of flops: Transcendence, Blended and Winter’s Tale all failed to perform. Its pockets were fattened by the last Hobbit movie, plus popcorn cruncher The Lego Movie which has a sequel in the works. The studio is also expanding its $5 billion television business internationally, paying $267 million for production company Eyeworks which operates in 15 countries

etc.  There is poor baby Paramount:

The title of least profitable studio goes to the Viacom-owned Paramount. Despite an increase in its films’ performance at the international box office, the filmed entertainment division tallied just $219 million on revenues of $3.7 billion. This was a decrease from 2013, when profit surged thanks to selling distribution rights for Marvel movies to Disney.

Hit me up if you disagree, find factual errors, want to express a contrary view!

Roundup of books I haven’t read all the way through but have in a crate in my garage



PFC Albert Bullock took this one of the damaged Franklin.

My copy is pre-owned and comes already highlighted:

I’ve always hated Hugo’s.  On acting technique:

How about this one, about Australian historians?

Geoffrey Blainey’s recipe for peach-tin eggs:

Graeme Davison on the wrong side of the law in Melbourne:

There are no wasted humans:


from the boss Thomas Cleary:

And finally, some Daily Drucker:


As the date of the August 21 eclipse draws near, keep this important safety information in mind: You MUST use special eclipse safety glasses to view a partial eclipse and the partial phases of a total eclipse. To do otherwise is risking permanent eye damage and even blindness. The ONLY time it’s safe to look at a TOTAL eclipse without proper eye protection is during the very brief period of totality when the Sun is 100 percent blocked by the Moon. If you’re in a location where the eclipse won’t be total, there is NEVER a time when it’s safe to look with unprotected eyes.

NationalEclipse.com sends that along.

Great info at their site.  Plus Eclipse Classifieds:

Can’t help but note the Path Of Totality is pretty red.  Then again, I guess any path is:

Map by the great Brilliant Maps.



This appears in the News section of my phone.

Warren Buffett

New Berkshire Hathaway letter is out.  Free insight and humor for capitalism’s cheery uncle, a great read every year, even if I understand at most 1/12 of it.



Sunny American optimism:


The infectious, enthusiastic amateur style of writing reminds me of Bill James:



Some of the companies Berkshire owns:



9.3% of your Coke is Berkshire’s.

An unlikely hero:


Jack Bogle founded Vanguard, and created a simple, low cost index fund for everyday investors.


found that at JL Collins impressive website.

Buffett tells you, in simple terms, how to get rich:


Why people don’t do that:


On the other hand here’s the S&P 500 chart since 1980:


Doesn’t look like a washtubs moment to me.

Over at marketplace.org, Allan Sloan points out some of the things Buffett leaves out:

Allan Sloan: Two things are missing. One was how wonderful the management of Wells Fargo was, which he wrote the previous year. The second thing is he lavished praise on this company called 3G, what’s known as a private equity company, from Brazil, which manages a company called Kraft Heinz, which is Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest investment. And what it does is it goes around, it buys companies — now with the help of a lot of financing from Berkshire Hathaway — it fires zillions of people, the profits go up, and then after a while, it goes out and buys another company and does the same thing.

Buffett makes me think of Andrew Carnegie, a zillionaire of a hundred years ago who also had some kind of public conscience.  If some percentage billionaires weren’t also lovable characters like Buffett, would capitalism collapse?  Does his dad humor, like Carnegie’s library building, plug a dyke that holds back revolution?


At the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders conference, you can challenge table tennis champ Ariel Hsing:

Speak Out!

WILD response to Hayes’ post on Measure S and California’s ballot cranks.   Very cool.




Source: the WPA

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Which one of you jokesters


Ordered me two copies of The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen?

Very funny.

Mission accomplished, it’s next up after I finish Tom Ricks: