The entry where I send my four readers elsewhere

Anyone who reads this site can decipher that I enjoy the writing process. I have a few favorite topics that appear repeatedly, but I’ll write about whatever interests me at the moment. Unfortunately, today I don’t have enough time to focus on news commentary. Instead, allow me to point you to two interesting pieces from around the Internets that fascinate me.

First, from Kip at A Stitch in Haste discusses the idiocy of Congressional Democrats and their new proposal called AmeriSave. This is the basic summary of the program:

AmeriSave Match: Help middle and working-class families achieve retirement security by matching dollar-for-dollar the first $1,000 contributed to an IRA, 401(k), or similar plan. The AmeriSave Match will not involve creating a new type of account; instead, it builds on a successful model of 401(k)s and IRAs by increasing incentives to participate. Individuals would receive their AmeriSave Match after they filed a tax return, at which time the funds would be directed to their 401(k) or other plan.

Kip responds accordingly.

This new matching scheme is apparently meant to deflect from (i.e., continue the absolute obstruction of) private accounts within Social Security.

It is also a total fraud. The matching plan will have little or no impact on national savings. It also, by definition, does nothing to address the Social Security crisis (understandable since Democrats lie by insisting that there is no crisis anyway).

He gives a detailed, point-by-point explanation for why AmeriSave is an idiotic, pandering non-solution. Remember, when the government offers us anything, we’re paying for what’s offered. It’s shameful when politicians treat us as if we’re too stupid to understand this. Unfortunately, I fear they may be right with many, though. (Yes, I’m speaking of the further left liberals, the ones who imagine that socialism is a good idea not yet given a fair chance to succeed.) Either way, read Kip’s post. It’s good and worth the short time investment. (As is the rest of his blog.)

Next, I didn’t write about the scandalous sex included in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This type of issue is important to me, as I care most for the First Amendment and the surrounding free speech/intellectual property implications in today’s society. Unfortunately, politicians saw this non-scandal as a chance to jump up and pretend to lead. (Yes, I’m speaking of you, Senator Clinton.) I’ve read a few news reports, but I already understand the issues. If I’d had the time, I would’ve written about the stupidity surrounding the whole mess. Instead, read Timothy’s take on the topic at The One-Handed Economist. He wrote what I wish I’d written. As a bonus, I laughed out loud. Consider:

I have little to no patience for this kind of crap. Look, if you’re too goddamned stupid to not buy your child a game clearly based on violence, you don’t really have the luxury of demanding that the game company did something “irresponsible”. Hidden content is the bread and butter of gaming, that stuff has been around since the advent of computer games. Those of us familiar with the subject matter call them Easter Eggs.

Furthermore, the goddamn game is called GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS, what did you think it was going to be about? Quiet strolls in the park collecting flowers? How can you not know this stuff, parents? If you refuse to “protect” whatever perceived innocence your precious little children have, then it certainly isn’t my job to do it for you. It also certainly isn’t the governments, and you certainly don’t have the right to ruin fun for everyone else.

Read the whole thing. It’s not just funny, it smacks everyone deserving of a good smack.

As a side point, for what it’s worth, I followed a link to The One-Handed Economist when Timothy defended me in a comment spat at Jeff Jarvis’ BuzzMachine. I use my intellect when I comment on other sites, but not everyone can be expected to follow the same on the Internets. When some kind folks attacked me for not being an ideologue with only sycophantic, partisan intentions, Timothy backed me up. I’ve never met corresponded with him, but I checked out his site and liked it a lot. I recommend it.

Now I’ll have to TiVo Joey

Yes, I know this is only interesting to me, but Alias returns with its fifth season on September 29th. Do you have any idea how relieved I am? I may very well have fretted that Alias’ return would be delayed (I’ve since destroyed my Ben Affleck voodoo doll). But that’s ok, because Jennifer Garner’s pregnancy will be a plot point in the new season. Consider:

Jennifer Garner is expecting a baby, so her “Alias” character will be too, even though she’s a globe-trotting spy. “We are going to embrace the fact that she’s pregnant,” ABC programming chief Stephen McPherson said, referring to the character, Sydney Bristow.

Asked if he thought the show might lose male viewers who eagerly anticipate seeing Garner in action, McPherson replied that “she’ll be able to run a fair amount.”

I watch the show because it’s imaginative, well-written, and entertaining. I trust J.J. Abrams (I mean, Alias! Felicity! Need I say more?), so I’m not worried. I can accept that the show plays on its sex appeal, but give us a little more credit. If you doubt me, remember that I travelled to New York to see a play for the sole reason of meeting Arvin Sloane Ron Rifkin. I’m not brain dead; I can enjoy the show with parts of my body above my waist line, thank you.

But this is the key:

But he acknowledged her exploits would change when Garner is visibly pregnant. To protect the show’s sex appeal quotient, a younger agent who is being mentored by Sydney will be added, he said.

That role has yet to be cast.

I’d like to mention here that I’m free for “any” acting gigs that might be available, whether designed for a woman or a man. If it worked for Shakespeare, it can work for me.

As I listen to a DJ report on the best artists for the next decade

I heard about the radio payola scandal while listening to the news on my way home last night. Consider:

In late 2002, an official at Sony music was trying to boost interest in the song “A.D.I.D.A.S.” by Killer Mike, and considered sending disc jockeys at WAMO-FM one Adidas shoe to promote the song. Jocks at the Pittsburgh station, and others throughout the Northeast, could get the second shoe after playing the song 10 times, he mused.

To which I offer a resounding “duh” and “who cares?”. Who didn’t know, or at least assume, that this still occurs? Does anyone care, other than New York’s Attorney General? Yes, payola is against the law, but is it really the largest issue Mr. Spitzer’s office faces? So Sony has to pay $10 million to make the investigation go away. So what? How does this help the people of New York? The criminals are still free, with the newly confirmed opinion that they can pay a fine, courtesy of Sony’s stockholders, to whom they have a (now broken) fiduciary responsibility, and all is forgiven. How does that help enforce the rule of law? Perhaps, instead, it’s merely election campaigning.

But no matter, there’s a more important point in this. Consider:

How the Spitzer investigation will affect the way Sony and the other big music companies work with radio to get airplay remains to be seen.

What will it mean for the listener, who supposedly owns the public airwaves? Radio is already under pressure to compete with other forms of music — from satellite radio, with its diverse formats and commercial music, and Internet radio, which offers a smorgasbord of music for every taste.

Ultimately, tightening the definitions of payola and enforcing them may benefit both music makers and music consumers. For artists without a well-oiled promotion and money machine behind them, it may level the playing field. For listeners, they may get to hear what they want — not what the music industry wants them to hear.

Ummm, I already listen to the music I want to hear. Granted, some of the same issues of repetitiveness still occur, but I can change the station to one that plays something different. If that doesn’t work, I change the medium (not form of music – that’s stupid… form is chants vs. pop, not satellite vs. the Internets) to something else. It’s called competition and it works pretty well. Terrestrial radio, where this non-scandal (apparently) occurred, may not know that because they’re too busy being suckered in by free trips to see Celine Dion, but eventually they’ll learn. The free market has a way of teaching its lesson much more effectively than any bureaucrat could.

Not just one of J.K. Rowling’s best characters

I’ve written before that I love Sirius Satellite Radio. I own stock in the company, but more importantly, I’m a subscriber. I listen to Sirius while I’m at work and when I’m in my car. I only bother with terrestrial radio to listen to Howard Stern and Don and Mike. And in January, Stern moves to Sirius. So, yeah, I think the company has a future. And I think know it’s better than XM, which, having tried both services, I feel qualified to judge.

Banc of America disagrees. Consider:

In a preview of the satellite radio industry, Banc of America Securities reiterated a “buy” rating on XM Satellite Radio Holdings (nasdaq: XMSR) and a “neutral” rating on Sirius Satellite Radio (nasdaq: SIRI).

Banc of America noted that XM preannounced second-quarter net subscriber additions of 640,000 subscribers–a sequential increase of 18%. The research firm estimates net adds for Sirius will equal 420,000 subscribers–a sequential increase of 34%. “Our estimate assumes a higher retail share of 45% in the second quarter but based on our new proprietary retail survey we believe that our second-quarter net add estimate could be 20,000 to 30,000 too high.”

The proprietary estimate indicates a second-quarter share split of 40% and 60% for Sirius and XM, respectively, which is below the research firm’s 45% and 55% estimate. “Although Sirius likely gained retail share from first-quarter levels of 33% due to the $50 promotion, 40% would be viewed as slightly disappointing in light of the $50 promo for May/June–which was more aggressive than XM’s.”

I admit that I left my detailed stock analysis days behind when I finished my MBA. However, a simple point jumps out at me from reading the second paragraph. Of course XM’s retail share was higher in the second quarter. XM has baseball, which starts in March/April (depending on your level of lunacy affinity for the sport). A reasonable person should expect XM’s sales to jump when the baseball season begins. That’s especially true when factoring in that this was the first year of XM’s Major League Baseball coverage.

That leads me to the not-so-brilliant conclusion that content matters. I don’t just want the hip factor of satellite radio. I’m not going to spend $12.95 per month just to be one of the cool kids. It has to entertain me or I won’t bother; there are too many other options. As Sirius and XM gain subscribers based on offered content, the back-and-forth subscriber war will continue.

Banc of America (sort of) acknowledges this. Consider:

For the third and fourth quarter the research firm forecasts 47% and 51% share adds for Sirius, respectively, resulting from the introduction of Howard Stern. “Sirius, we believe, is expecting to ‘ride’ Stern versus engaging in direct price battle, as it cannot manage cost-per-gross addition in the same fashion as XM, in our view.”

And there you go. It’s obvious, of course, that Sirius is expecting to “ride” Stern. $500 million has a “betting big” connotation, but there’s the content concept again. Sirius isn’t engaging in a direct price battle; it’s engaging in a direct content battle. Which is the future.

Even XM knows this. If not, they wouldn’t go after baseball and all the other moves they’ve made. But if they thought like the analysts, assuming that price is the key motivating factor, XM wouldn’t have raised their prices to match Sirius. Short of collusion, that seems to indicate that Sirius may have judged that piece of the business better than XM. Analysts seem to forget this when they discuss the two companies.

I don’t want to imply that Sirius’ success is guaranteed. It faces huge costs in its business and has yet to reach positive cash flow. At some point, the positive trending numbers must cross from red to black and it needs to happen soon. Money going out must generate money coming in. I’m not sure Martha Stewart can achieve that. And, again, Howard Stern will cost $500 million over the next five years. Mel Karmazin may be a genius, but that’s a lot of ad revenue to generate, especially in a business that is moving from reliance on local advertising to national advertising.

Patience is necessary with a business this risky, but the necessity of providing compelling content, and all its ramifications, are the reality (and promise) of satellite radio. Past numbers may tell a story, but the true test will come later, when Sirius and XM deal with the lasting results of current content decisions. As a subscriber and investor, I’m happy with my commitment to Sirius.

Day Five of my new drinking problem

Blogging will be non-existent light over the next few days because Danielle and I are unpacking, trying to organize our new house. We had no time for cable and no access to the Internets until late last night (Comcast somehow thought that Danielle’s first name is “null”; don’t ask), so I’m a touch out of the loop about what’s going on in the world. All that and I’m too tired to even mention how tired I am.

The facts, although sufficient, aren’t biased enough

Charles Krauthammer has an Opinion Journal column about neoconservatism and its seeming victory in today’s political world. Consider:

The post-Cold War era has seen a remarkable ideological experiment: Over the past 15 years, each of the three major American schools of foreign policy–realism, liberal internationalism and neoconservatism–has taken its turn at running things. (A fourth school, isolationism, has a long pedigree, but has yet to recover from Pearl Harbor and probably never will; it remains a minor source of dissidence with no chance of becoming a governing ideology.) There is much to be learned from this unusual and unplanned experiment.

Alright, interesting beginning. So I keep reading as Mr. Krauthammer rolls through the last 15 years of political victories (President(s) Bush) and failures (President Clinton). It’s a partisan to dismiss President Clinton’s achievements, but this basic fundamental point isn’t too far off.

Still, the achievements of the elder Mr. Bush far outweigh the failures. The smooth and peaceful dissolution of the Soviet empire began, Saddam was stopped, and Arabia was saved. But then came the second, radically different experiment. For the balance of the 1990s, for reasons having nothing to do with foreign policy, realism was abruptly replaced by the classic liberal internationalism of the Clinton administration.

It is hard to be charitable in assessing the record. Liberal internationalism’s one major achievement in those years–saving the Muslims in the Balkans and creating conditions for their possible peaceful integration into Europe–was achieved, ironically, in defiance of its own major principle. It lacked what liberal internationalists incessantly claim is the sine qua non of legitimacy: the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

Otherwise, the period between 1993 and 2001 was a waste, eight years of sleepwalking, of the absurd pursuit of one treaty more useless than the last, while the rising threat–Islamic terrorism–was treated as a problem of law enforcement. …

That’s the crux of the so-called Clinton failure, isn’t it. He lead the nation into complacency regarding the threats facing our nation. He could’ve done more and he didn’t. His four years were a damaging slide into preventable danger.

I’ve heard that message, but I don’t buy it in totality as the gospel of fact. President Clinton didn’t paralyze the threat when he had the chance, a fact that most can agree on. However, most indications reveal that he wanted to take more action on the looming threat. He failed to act based on disagreement from his Cabinet. Blame him for governing based on polls and I won’t disagree with you. Blame his approach to the world and I will disagree. And here’s why:

Then came another radical change. By a fluke or a miracle, depending on your point of view, because of the confusion of a few disoriented voters in Palm Beach, Fla., this has been the decade of neoconservatism. Bismarck once said that God looks after fools, drunkards, children and the United States of America. Given the 2000 presidential election, it is clear that he works in very mysterious ways.

In place of realism or liberal internationalism, the past 4 1/2 years have seen an unashamed assertion and deployment of American power, a resort to unilateralism when necessary, and a willingness to pre-empt threats before they emerge. Most importantly, the second Bush administration has explicitly declared the spread of freedom to be the central principle of American foreign policy. George W. Bush’s second inaugural address in January was the most dramatic and expansive expression of this principle. A few weeks later, at the National Defense University, the president offered its most succinct formulation: “The defense of freedom requires the advance of freedom.”

I’m not challenging his conclusion, because that’s a different debate, and one with which I (mostly) agree. And I don’t want to get into the idea that God caused hanging chads and stupid voters so that George W. Bush could become President of the United States It’s silly and plays into the ridiculous “Republicans are godly, Democrats are godless” garbage so prevalent in our politics today. I will, however, accept the hyperbole for the sake of Mr. Krauthammer’s argument, since the logic in, and implicit in, the second paragraph is the support flaw in his argument. That is what I wish to tackle.

In the past (almost) 4 years, the world is different than it was before. This, of course, comes back to September 11, 2001, an event conservatives, neo- or otherwise, seem so willing to remember whenever it helps to score political points. Here, I think Mr. Krauthammer credits President Bush with too much of a pre-September 11th master plan for what has happened since that day.

The argument repeated shortly after the confusion dissipated after September 11th, some conservatives couldn’t restrain themselves from verbalizing the “Thank God Bush beat Gore in the election, can you imagine how much worse we’d be” nonsense. The only conclusion we can draw as to how a Gore presidency would’ve dealt with those days is that we don’t know. The rules changed on that day. President Bush had given no indication before then that his administration’s policy would deal with regime change and hunting terrorists into every corner where they hide; he had no reason to do so. We knew the threat existed, but we didn’t know how close it could hit us. We most certainly failed to understand the magnitude of the problem, but that failure didn’t strike only liberals.

Argue that liberals still don’t get it, and the facts will bear that out into obvious truth. Argue that we still need to be even more diligent in our pursuit of evil murderers, and we can debate the how. But don’t debate the merits of neoconservatives and President Bush’s doctrine compared to a hypothetical presidential administration. At some point we need to recognize that we have seen the enemy, and he is not Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. Pushing that theory only serves to politically divide us further.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

FCC meetings to be supervised by Jo Frost

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin answered questions about broadband and broadcast indecency. I’m not going to bother with his broadband comments, even though he offered some fiscally irresponsible strategies for rural access to the Internets. My focus is on Mr. Martin’s answer to the following question:

WSJ: Do you think the government should be in the role to decide what’s indecent?

I didn’t have any great hope of an answer I’d agree with. The answer should be “no” (or, if I’m having a particularly happy dream, “NO!”), but nothing in the last 18 months provides any expectation of that. I read his response with trepidation.

Martin: You always have to be careful when you’re talking about the government being involved in content issues. For anyone who expresses concern about what’s on television or radio today the first line of defense always has to be the parents. The parents who are with their children and should be watching or supervising what they’re watching on television or listen to on radio should be doing everything they can to make sure their children aren’t being exposed to things they think are inappropriate. Fundamentally, the government should be trying to provide tools for parents to help them control what’s coming into their living rooms and what their kids are exposed to.

My “NO!” answer came, but out of my mouth, not Mr. Martin’s. Fundamentally, the private sector should be trying to provide tools for parents etc. etc. etc. Which, if my last read through my television’s manual, the private sector is already providing. One of them, the power button, it’s provided since the day the first television went on sale. Other tools popped up over the last few decades, including the channel block, the V-chip, the telephone, and eBay. I know those last two might be hard to understand, but they work quite well. Any parent can find the phone number for the local cable company and cancel cable. If that’s insufficient, they can even use the Internets to sell the television on eBay. Wow, capitalism rocks!

How is it not about creating a moralistic nanny state?

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Using a machete to slice a cupcake

I found this interesting headline on Drudge today. Behold:

Wow. That seems scary. I live in the D.C. area and ride the Metro, so I need to know more. I clicked the link, only to discover a most interesting opening line. Consider:

Subway riders may face random police checks of their bags under a security measure being considered in the nation’s capital, the latest city to look for ways to deter terrorism on rail systems.

Mr. Drudge may consider himself a reporter, but I prefer my journalism to be unbiased factual, thanks. My world will continue, though, because I already knew that he’s a hack.

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”

The title quote, which I like, is from Thomas Paine. Yet, today seems like the day to mention two recent quotes, as well. Both were given in response to Justice O’Connor’s announced intention to retire. Consider:

“This is another opportunity for President Bush to appoint a conservative jurist to the federal judiciary who will interpret and apply the Constitution properly instead of legislating from the bench and relying on international opinion and public polls.” – Republican South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster.

“As a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, I’ll be looking forward to hearing from a nominee who understands that the role of the courts is to interpret the law, not create the law.” – Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa

Remember, to put those in context, it’s never been about “activist judges”. It’s been about judges who won’t allow the (Republican) president or the (Republican) Congress to govern unchecked. Perhaps Sen. Grassley should introduce a bill to prevent Judge Roberts from becoming activist in the likely event that “Judge” is replaced by “Justice”.

(Link originally found at Wonkette)

I watched The Amazing Race at 9pm tonight.

Concerning Judge Roberts’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, I don’t know how reliable this report is, so I’ll have to withhold judgment until I read more. However, if true, I’m not optimistic about the coming years. Consider:

I’m told that the President waited to make this decision and that it was a deliberate decision. The President, I’m told, wanted someone he knew, someone who would be seen as conservative, and someone who would “tread carefully” on Executive Powers. Roberts was the only one in the end who fit the bill.

The last thing we need right now is someone who will tread carefully on Executive Powers. If there has ever been a President who needs to be restrained by the Constitution’s checks-and-balances, it’s President Bush. Unfortunately, there’s no paper trail to inform this theory, so wait-and-see is the best we’re likely to get.

Consider me underwhelmed.