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Friday, May 09, 2003

I've Been Promoted

Apparently I am the Canadian Minister of Environment and Labour. I wish someone had told me earlier I would have made some capricious decisions and resigned in protest over the governments decision to lick the boots of France.

As to the nasty golf course battle: I reward golfers and piss off environmentalists. I guess the other Kevin Aylward is not so bad after all even for a lefty Canadian. I too am all for more golf courses. Of course I will be asking for Clintonesqe comped membership or rounds.

Update: I have resigned. And it turns out my minister position was for the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. There may have been some ulterior motives in my resignation from the post. Oh well...

Hollywood Invades The Blogoshpere

Of course I'm exaggerating. Production companies are not likely staking out blogs to acquire the film or television rights. What with all the media convergence though where is the one as yet unsown fertile field? The blogoshpere, of course.

The assignment today is to give a representative movie, mini series, series, of actor/actress to go with a blog. Another way to think about it is imagine you were pitching a blog to a studio exec. How would you describe the blog in terms of a Hollywood reference. Maybe if you were pitching the BitchGirls you might describe them as Thelma and Louise on the Internet. For the record, yes I know there are more than two BitchGirls - it was just a quick example.

I haven't thought it through extensively but I'll throw out a few examples:

Blog                                    Movie/Series/Star
Rachel Lucas                        Annie Get Your Gun
Amish Tech Support             Witness meets Caddyshack
InstaPundit                          Dan Ackroyd in the Bass-O-Matic SNL spoofs
Moxie                                   Kim Novak in Vertigo

That's all I have for now... The InstaPundit analogy only make sense if you have been following the filthy lie campaign at IMAO.

Discuss amongst yourselves - here, there, or anywhere...

Circular hypocrisy

Maybe I'm just opening myself up for flames, but the whole assault weapon ban debate has me in twisted in knots of pretzel logic. First a couple facts:

1) Growing up I hunted, and all the men and some of the women in my extend family hunted. We fly fished a lot as well, but that's not so important. My grandfather was a midwestern lawyer who lived on a large ranch in Kansas. My dad and siblings grew up on the ranch.

2) I own no guns.

3) My wife, to my knowledge has never fired a gun.

4) We do not let our kids play at a house where we know the owners keep guns.

5) I believe that people have the right to own guns.

That list may or may not put me in a large group of the citizenry, I don't know and I'm not really interested in finding out. My problem with guns mostly centers around automatic weaponry. For self defense and AK-47 is just not necessary. I grew up on shotguns and rifles. Imagine how much easier the whole debate would be if handguns and automatic weapons did not exist. It's real hard to "conceal" your shotgun. Concealed weapons are what freak me out. If I know you have a gun (because I can see it or your shotgun racks) I'm in gun safety mode. It's a learned habit, you could not accompany the adults on a pheasant hunt without the proper amount of training and respect for weapons in our family.

So if you really want an automatic weapon, my question is why? For sport? To kill the bad guy real good? I just don't get it. There is plenty of fire power legally available in gun and sporting good shops. None of us are in such danger that we need to spray 1000 rounds a minute at anyone. Again I harken to the midwest where your pickup does your talking. Every other pickup has a gun rack and a good many have an unloaded or loaded weapon in them. Not the place to whip out your Saturday Night Special, when probably 25% to 50% of the population has the drop on you.

In the postage stamp world of suburbia the equation is different. I don't know how many of my neighbors have guns, and I'm not really looking to find out. But when a neighbor announces that they keep a gun in the house, they are off the playlist. It's not my job to police them for gun locks and proper safety conditions. Logic dictates that I must assume that they are dumbshits and any small child could find and discharge their weapon as easily as they could stuff a popsicle in the VCR.

So there you have it, I'm all for gun rights, except for your tripod mounted Bazooka, and Matthew and Andrew can't come over to play today, they're uh sick, yeah that's it...

Thursday, May 08, 2003

GM Should Be Felating Murdoch For Buying DirecTV

In the neverending charade that is the Congressional hearing, Democrats were trying to do a little grandstanding at the expense of the potential new owner of DirecTV (See Ruppert Murdoch Defends DirecTV Purchase).

What these asshats forget is how royally GM screwed the pooch on this deal.

Just 2 years ago GM blindly accepted EchoStar's $32 billion bid for DirecTV over a smaller News Corp bid. Still Murdoch was up there close to the EchoStar bid and had been in negotiations with GM for a long time. Any clown could see that a merger of the only two players in the satellite TV market in the US would invite regulatory intervention, and to no ones surprise that is exactly what happened. GM's sell off strategy always seemed to be to find anyone available to bid up the price against Murdoch, who clearly wanted DirecTV.

Fast forward to last month and GM had pissed away billions in profit and finally sold a controlling stake in DirecTV to Murdoch for $6.8 billion. Hughes (the parent company of DirecTV) tracking shareholders are furious at the losses that they have had to absorb. GM clearly needed to cash out, but over the course of shopping the asset to everyone but the one man who really wanted it they managed to deflate the selling price massively. I think News Corp. should have let GM twist in the wind a little more, but at the end of the day they got their prize and GM is left holding the bag.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Delaware Bashing

I was all set to do a big long rant on how I detest Delaware, specifically the government of Delaware. In a nutshell they operate like the Soprano's, constantly looking for new ways to shake down outsiders. The giant scam of their "forced robbery" on Interstate 95 was my major beef. So I started listing all of my grievances against the state, and in the process of doing research on exactly how much money they make off of the 11 mile stretch of I-95 that runs through their state I found Jonathan Chait's THE CASE AGAINST DELAWARE - Rogue State at TNR. He nailed it...

Here are two major points with regard to how the state of Delaware forces you to help fund their state coffers:

Altogether Delaware collects some $120 million--around 6 percent of its budget--from tolls, most of it extracted from non-Delawareans.
Incorporation fees... Delaware collects so many of these fees that they, along with some associated revenues, account for a whopping one-quarter of total state revenues. The revenue stream is so large (relative to Delaware's budget) that the state needs no sales tax.

Damm I hate that toll.

How Could One Blogger Be Any More Wrong?

Some one named RonK has a post at Daily Kos that is trying to revise history in real time concerning Iraq. The full post is here. While I take issue with just about every line in the post, there is one particular item that is so wrong it just cannot be left hanging out there. It is regards to the effect of the war on terrorism. Here's the quote:

Forget what you've been hearing for the past year and a half. Terrorism doesn't depend on money, or state sponsors ... though it will use both if it can. Organized terrorism lives or dies on the dynamics of two key population subgroups:

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Terrorism (9/11 style) depends on nothing but money. Any assclown can get a grenade and blow himself up in a Tel Avi restaurant. It takes money to fund a cell of sleeper terrorist on foreign soil with no jobs. Correction, it takes a lot of money. That is what is so interesting about the emptying of some of the coffers in Iraq reported over the last few days. If we don't track and recover that money surely some will make it into the hands of the bad guys. History has proven that an effective terrorist organization requires either state sponsorship or wealthy benefactors. Run down the list of every terror organization currently known and you will find a mini bureaucracy that requires care and feeding.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Kidnapping Lands Egyptian Grandmother In Maryland Prison

This is a story that caught my eye this morning as I scanned the pages of the Washington Post. Buried in the local section was a story about a a custody feud and kidnapping landing a grandmother in prison. The story is here.

The unique angle to this story is the the custody holder is the Maryland father and the mother is the kidnapper. Her escape to Egypt was made substantially easier due to the fact that her family is very wealthy, and they were active participants in the kidnapping. I did a little digging and found various articles on the history of the story. Here are the relevant articles (in reverse chronology):

Fox News story story on the kidnapping

Fox News story on the sentencing

And in a bizare twist: The mothers recent add for an Au Pair in Cairo

After reading all the articles it is really hard to feel sorry for the grandmother, who could not be bothered to obey the first rule of fugitive justice - never return to the country you are wanted in. The allure of her San Diego condo was too great. Another strange part of the story is that the mother fled the country in the middle of a custody battle, that in most cases she would have won. By kidnapping the two children she automatically lost her case. Another odd piece of the story is that the mother and grandfather seem content to let the grandmother rot in jail rather than return the kids. Given the number of international custody kidnappings it would seem prudent for Maryland officials to keep the only bit of leverage they have (the grandmother) over the mother.

From NY Daily News - Rush & Molloy
The '70s folkie formerly known as Cat Stevens has become a voice of moderate Islam since the the Sept. 11 attacks. But Israeli officials are charging that thousands of dollars donated by the "Peace Train" songwriter for humanitarian causes in 1988 were rerouted to the terrorist group Hamas, GQ magazine reports.
The article by Jake Tapper claims that Stevens, who changed his name to Yusef Islam in 1977, gave the money to Mouhammad Abdel- Rahman, a son of the notorious blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
"We don't think this - we know it," Israeli government spokesman Daniel Seaman tells the magazine.
Islam also helped radical cleric Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammad get a lawyer after he was jailed for saying Britain's then-Prime Minister John Major was "a legitimate target" for assassination, the mag reports.
His brother, David Gordon, says Islam has distanced himself from radicals and argues "no one ever knows where the money goes" with such charities.

That's like acting suprised that a contribution to the Greenpeace would go to fund a bunch of hippies trying to intercept a Japanese whaling boat. Cat Stevens is an ass. At least he hasn't signed the pro Castro letter, yet...

Coming Soon US Version Of UK Hit Coupling

If you are a fan of Friends you owe it to yourself to check out the UK comedy Coupling on BBC America. Do this now before the only reference you have to the Coupling series is a NBC remake of the show coming this fall.

NBC president Jeff Zucker is quoted in a NY Daily News article as saying the show would be slotted for a 9:30 PM time slot. The likely candidate night is Thursday, as the show would fit as a bookend to Friends.

Coupling is the smartest comedy of the genre on the air right now. Much like Seinfeld in its heyday, but more sexually edgy. I will not bore you with plot or character summaries, I'll just implore you to seek out the original version. For those without BBC America, I know that Coupling plays on some PBS stations. Search for it on Tivo - you do have a Tivo, right?

Unfortunately the character of Jeff, played on the BBC version of Coupling by Richard Coyle will probably be a disappointment to anyone who is a fan of the British version of the show. There is almost no way to describe what he adds to the show. The best analogy I can think of is Christopher Lloyd's manic Jim Ignatowski character on Taxi, but more focused on breasts.

Monday, May 05, 2003

A Modest Proposal

There has been a lot of press recently on the after effects of the decision against the major record labels in their case against Morpheus and Grokster. Much of the speculation has centered on the record labels potential use of proactive search and destroy programs against consumers. Most of the information coming out is aimed at the casual P2P user as a form of FUD (fear, uncertainty,and doubt). The record industry wants you to believe that they are the bogeyman who can lock your computer or erase parts of your hard disks if you continue your copyright infringements. For the most part, it's all BS.

Technically all of the shadowy types of measures they are leaking to the press (see the NYT article - Registration required) are already available in the form of viruses, trojans, etc. Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy has some legal advice for the record companies, and was where I saw the NYT article first. There is nothing revolutionary being discussed, rather it is that the potential threat comes from multi billion dollar conglomerates as opposed to teenage hackers. There is almost no chance of the record companies crossing the line into proactive destruction of your computer property, there is only the perception that they are able to do it. If you believe that the record companies or their agents may launch such an attack against you, your file sharing behavior will change, so the logic goes. When that day comes, the record companies will have scored a partial victory in the war against music trading. Imagine if everyone on Kazaa stops sharing, figuring the other guy would share. When that day comes the service stops being effective.

So the premise is that the record company would like to index your computer for illegal media (MP3's) and remove them. Here is my offer to the record companies. I will opt-in to a piece of software that ensures that my computer does not store ill gotten music or media under one condition: You have to pay me!

My payment, of course, would be in music or credits to CD stores, online music services, etc. Basically I agree not to participate in music trading for a payoff. I am making a rational economic decision based on an examination of the music economy as it exists at this instant. There is a continuum in the music industry between free MP3's available on the P2P networks and the $15 to $19 CD I can get in the store. If I like a single song and want to listen to it, the marketplace leaves me little choice but to go to a P2P service to get it. It's not like I can walk into the CD store and pay for one song. If on the other hand I want to get the latest Dave Matthews album, I must make another choice between spending all of the time necessary to get every track off the P2P networks or just stopping by the store and paying the full price for the CD. Given that I have a job and kids, I do have a monetary value attached to my free time. Downloading and burning a CD could take at least an hour of my time, hence in most cases I would opt for the CD purchase (especially if the price were lower). Obviously students and teenagers have a much lower monetary value attached to their free time and may be less inclined to stop using P2P.

So if I let the record companies (and/or the movie industry) certify my PC as copyright infringement free, I expect that they will pay me for that privilege. Why? Say, for example, that I "steal" 50 albums a year at a loss to the record industry of $750 per year. Keeping my PC copyright infringement free would lead me to spend some portion of that $750 dollar loss on actual recorded music. For this example lets say that by participating in the "program" I buy $250 worth of CD's that I would not have otherwise bought. At this point the record industry has made incremental revenue gains of $250 with the added benefit that I cannot share the music with millions of my closest friends. Forrester estimates the record companies are loosing $3.1 billion dollars a year to 1 million or so users of P2P systems. In that case I would be costing them about $250 a month as an average user (sound a little high to me). So if the net benefit of my departure from the P2P field would be $3250 dollars a year, what would I really like from the record companies in return? How about a cut of the profits, by way of some free songs? The exact number and frequency are really not the point, market conditions and rational self interest will determine at what point I agree to "buy" the monitoring program. Is it one song a week, month, year? There are any number of levels that will satisfy various percentages of the P2P community.

If participating in the slow demise (one PC at a time) of the P2P networks earned me the opportunity to make one legal mix CD every couple months I would probably sign on. A lot of other casual users might sign on as well.

My premise is that the record companies are only really aiming at the casual user of the P2P systems. Hardcore users with nothing but time on their hands would probably be immune to any offerings. So as a casual user myself, why do I use P2P systems? It is most certainly not to get whole albums, rather it is to make "mixes" of favorite songs or artists or genres.

Anyone who has used P2P knows that getting a whole album is usually a less than satisfying experience. Whether it is poor sample rates, missing songs, or cutoff recordings, you usually spend a lot of time to make an album copy and the result is not always a great copy. Here's the secret the the labels just flat out don't understand:

The P2P services flourish because there is no good way to get a legal compilation of songs you want from the record industry!

Face it, no one wants a lot of the songs on most CD's. If I hear a Coldplay song I like, I might want to put it on a mix CD for the gym or the car, but at no point will I actually go buy their CD or spend the time necessary to download the entire album. So if you take it as a given that I will never buy a Coldplay CD, what if the record industry had a way to make money from me if I wanted a Coldplay song? This seemed to be the idea behind Apple's entry into the music field with the IPod service. As a side note, if retail music stores stocked only the top 100 CD's and had a machine that made on demand CD's from the catalog of recorded music I suspect that they would do as well or better financially as they do now.

So if the record company is going to pay me to opt-out of P2P wouldn't that cost them a lot of money? No. If the payment was in music that I could get for free from P2P it's pretty much a zero sum game for the record company. I would not be spending money on that Coldplay song either way, and there is only a small out of pocket royalty cost to the label (which I'm sure they would negotiate out of future artists contracts). Think of it like your friendly neighborhood drug dealer giving out samples of the goods, an investment of goodwill for a potential future paying customer...

Update: Charles Hill likes my idea, I think :-).
HobbsOnline A.M. weighs in.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Kiwi's Like Brie

As reported on DailyPundit, New Zealand seems to have thrown its hat into the French/German/Russian ring. The timing of this seems odd, since it is not at all clear that the "alliance" (a term I use loosly) will remain solid in the post war dash to get in on the Iraq action.

NZOOM One News details New Zealand PM Helen Clark's top level meeting with Chirac. One interesting bit from the article comes from the opposition party:

But the National Party says New Zealanders should be horrified by what it says are attempts to distance the country from its traditional allies Australia, Britain and the United States.

"Helen Clark is now saying NZ's interests are best served by joining a Franco/German/Russian bloc," National's leader Bill English said.

I couldn't have said it better myself. The must really be pissed about losing the America's Cup...


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