That Pathetic Census Commercial

Throughout the NCAA tournament game broadcasts this past weekend, I kept seeing the same commercial for the 2010 federal Census.  You’ve probably seen it, too.  It begins with some unshaven, slovenly guy in a bathrobe going out to get his mail.  He gets the census form and suddenly the street is crowded with passersby.  He walks along, his bathrobe flapping in the breeze, coaches a pregnant woman being wheeled by on a gurney as she is ready to give birth, and eventually meets up with a throng that includes a marching band.  The message of the commercial — at one point specifically stated by the schmoe in the robe — is:  “Let’s all fill out the census to make sure that we get our fair share of federal funding!”

The commercial really bugged me when I saw it, and as I’ve thought about it since then I’ve slowly realized why.  First, the spokesman is a portly slob.  He comes out to get his mail in his bathrobe in broad daylight, so he apparently doesn’t have a regular job, and he’s got plenty of time to go waltzing around town.  (What is he, a blogger?  Hey, wait a minute!) More importantly, however, the whole point of the commercial seems to be that people should fill out the census so they and their neighbors can get more money from Uncle Sam.  What a destructive message!  The Census has now become all about communities sucking even more cash from the federal till.

I have no doubt that the Census Bureau did some careful testing and was told that this commercial was best calculated to convince people to fill out and return their census forms.  If I am right on that, it is pathetic indeed.  It is just another indication that we are increasingly becoming a dependency culture, where the first inclination of many people is to appeal to the federal government to take care of them and solve their problems.  Like the clod in the commercial, we sit at home in our bathrobes, insisting that getting help from the federal government is our birthright and focused primarily on doing whatever will help us to quickly get a bigger piece of the federal pie to consume.  Is this really what we have come to?

Rising On The Implausibility Meter

I’ve recently posted on the boring nature of this season of 24.  The producers and writers apparently have heard such complaints, because the show has taken an abrupt veer into the random violence, outright implausibiilty, and general weirdness to which the loyal viewers of the program have become accustomed.

Last night’s episode was a good example.  Consider:

*  Jack Bauer and three other CTU agents engaged in a machine-gun firefight with a group of terrorists at some deserted industrial facility on the shores of the East River, near Manhattan, at 4 a.m.  The din of gunfire continued for a good half hour, without any sign of police or, for that matter, concern by local residents whose sleep was interrupted by the local equivalent of World War III.  (Pitched gun battles apparently are so commonplace in the NYC area that they aren’t worth bothering about.)

*  Minutes after CTU’s computer systems were totally fried by the explosion of an electromagnetic pulse device, the redoubtable Chloe O’Brian pulled a gun on an NSA engineer in order to try her hastily developed plan to fix the systems by “tapping into the trunk line.”  Surprisingly, the NSA geek would not allow her to try her improvised approach after she scowled a few times and waved a piece of paper with a scrawled diagram at him.  After barricading herself in the room, only to have security break back in, she is permitted to try her plan, her jury-rigged fix works and gets the systems up in seconds, and by the end of the show she is back at her desk getting a pat on the back from her boss.

*  The first CTU mole — a 24 tradition — has been exposed to be agent Blondie.  After being a mere annoyance with her idiotic subplot about her ex-boyfriend and his criminal buddy, she strangles a hefty Arkansas probation officer who had been bugging her for information about the ex-boyfriend and rolls him into a man-sized ventilation duct conveniently located at floor level.  (With ventilation systems that sizable, CTU probably is not very “green.”)  She then makes a phone call to the lead terrorist to say that her cover has been blown.  No kidding!  Makes you wonder what the lead terrorist thought about Blondie’s lengthy absences during the first part of the terrorist operations, as she haplessly dealt with her ex-boyfriend before finally sinking the corpses of the ex-boyfriend and his buddy into a deserted pond.

*  Chloe’s 4 a.m. call is fielded by a wide-awake, fully clothed former FBI agent Renee (Freckles) Walker.  Walker is told that Jack Bauer is in some vaguely described area, immediately heads there, and arrives in time to use a handgun, from a distance of about 200 yards, to plug two terrorists who are getting ready to splatter Jack’s brains across a parking lot.

Sure, it’s implausible, but I’ll take implausible over boring any day.