Archive for March, 2007

Suicide Bombers Are Not Just From Iran

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Part of the escalation of diplomatic tensions between the United States and Iran, unrelated to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, has been the fact that Iran is the main meddler in Iraq. This fits hawkish theories that Iraq is just a proxy war between the United States and Iran (which it may be).

Evidence points to Syria being the real culprit. David Satterfield, Condi Rice’s adviser on Iraq estimates that 85 to 90 percent of the foreign suicide bombers in Iraq had traveled through Syria.

Satterfied told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “They (suicide bombers) see Syria as a more accommodating country through which to transit across the border to come into Iraq to perpetrate their terror.”

In considering the implications for possible war with Iran it should be noted that Syria is a bigger culprit.

Death to Children

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Federal prosecutors have been cracking down on illegal immigrant children entering the United States. The initial concern by the government is fear that the children will be either be drugged or could possibly be hurt when taken across the border. This has resulted in a zero-tolerance policy for the practice.

The actual result of this policy shift is that now a higher penalty for crossing through the main ports of entry with a child than taking the child across the border through the desert. A policy has been created that may result in the increased deaths of illegal alien children crossing the border, due to the dangerous conditions of the desert border crossing, in an effort to protect the lives of those very same children. I guess the U.S. government is serious about giving Mexican children the option of Liberty of Death but only with a partial liberty once they have entered into the United States considering that there parents could be deported for simply working at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Mythology of Edwards Background

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Lots of people have heard the story of John Edwards background. He grew up poor as the son of a mill worker.

It turns out the Edwards story is not that simple. Edwards family was solidly middle class. Unlike the way Edwards makes it sounds, his father was not a low level laborer at the mill but was in fact part of the management.

John Edwards has continued to push this fantasy about him growing up poor in order to impress voters. Policies such as universal health care seem a lot more genuine when they are proposed by someone with humble roots.

More Evidence on Copyright Royalty Board Evidence

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Evidence on how awful the new Copyright Royalty Board rates for internet radio continue to add up.

KRCW in Los Angeles faces $350,000 annually in new fees for internet radio broadcasts:

Up until March 6, webcasters figured their royalty payments as an affordable percentage of total revenues. In the case of KCRW, that was a negligible number for Seymour, since the entire NPR network had negotiated a flat fee and it was paid by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Maybe not anymore. Under the new system, which requires that Internet broadcasters pay per performance – meaning each time one person listens to one song – her new bill for 2006 went from essentially zero to about $350,000. And it’s going up. For each of the next four years, the rate goes up at least 30 percent every year.

“This is ridiculous,” she adds. “You’re getting an automatic increase, but then, if you get more listeners – which, of course, you hope you do – you’re paying more, too. If you can figure out how much you’re paying – that’ll probably be a full-time job!”

LA’s City Beat warns that the Copyright Royalty Board may limit consumer exposure to new artists:

KCRW, for instance, is one of the key radio stations in the world for breaking new talent. That audio stream is drilling straight into the offices of film companies, advertising agencies, music supervisors, tour packagers, and journalists all over Los Angeles. Bands need to be on that stream. If KCRW cuts off its online streaming because it can/t afford a $350,000 hit, these bands risk losing exponentially more money and exposure than they could possibly recoup from royalties. And that�s just one station.

The Corporate Royalty Board rate set recently is another example of the government siding with special interests against the greater good of the consumer.

Link via Hit & Run

The RIAA Tries To Destroy Internet Radio

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

The Copyright Royalty Board wants to kill internet radio. At least that is the idea you might get from looking at the fee structure they are about to impose on internet radio stations.

Each internet radio station will have to pay through the nose. Internet radio channels with individualized streams have to pay a minimum of $500 a stream no matter how few listeners. The Copyright Royalty Board has adopted the ridiculous standard fee “per performance” which means the fee rate to stream to one listener once. In other words an internet stream of one hour a week would cost $11.

Everybody, except for the RIAA, is against the proposed broadcast fees. The proposed fee rates were suggested by SoundExchange which is an offshoot of the RIAA. This has brought together diverse interests from NPR, and other nonprofit stations, to the National Association of Broadcasters representing giant radio companies like Clear Channel. Hopefully, this will be just the first round of suggested fees since the Copyright Royalty Board has granted a rehearing.

The effect of this copyright change will be to drive people out of the marketplace. Amateur internet radio stations are likely stop broadcasting once a fine structure is adopted that will dramatically increase operating costs. NPR has pointed out that under the new set of copyright fees, NPR has pointed out thatNPR will be paying more to play songs on the internet than to play songs on regular radio where they reach a larger audience.

These rate changes will be retroactive. In my mind that violates the spirit of the Constitution’s prohibition on ex post facto laws. People involved in internet radio stations may have acted completely differently in 2006 if they knew of the crazy fee structure the RIAA would impose on them.

Could podcasters be next? RIAA may view podcasters as the next set of copyright violators to seek royalties from.

Hopefully, the fees designed by SoundExchange are not final. The Copyright Royalty Board has agreed to hold new hearings on the matter.

Hip-Hop Can Survice in Brazil Without The State’s Support

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Larry Rochter reports, in the New York Times, on the Brazilian government’s subsidy of hip-hop:

This is one of Brazil’s Culture Points, fruit of an official government program that is helping to spread hip-hop culture across a vast nation of 185 million people. With small grants of $60,000 or so to scores of community groups on the outskirts of Brazil’s cities, the Ministry of Culture hopes to channel what it sees as the latent creativity of the country’s poor into new forms of expression.

The program, conceived in 2003, is an initiative of Brazil’s minister of culture, Gilberto Gil, who will be speaking on digital culture and related topics on Wednesday at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Tex. Though today one of the country’s most revered pop stars, Mr. Gil, 64, was often ostracized at the me’ve become a multimedia laboratory. Getting that seed money and that studio equipment has enabled us to become a kind of hip-hop factory.

Hip-Hop can be a very powerful force that should be embraced and allowed to spread but hip-hop can do so without the backing of the government.

Government subsidization may lead to unintended consequences there is no reason why hip-hop should be any different. The government by sponsoring music and artwork effectively endorse a particular style.

Brazilian rap, at least as it has developed in poor neighborhoods here in the country’s largest city, tends to be highly politicized and scornful of lyrics that boast about wealth or sexual conquests. In contrast, the funk movement in Brazil, also imported from the United States but centered in Rio de Janeiro, is unabashedly about celebrating sex, bling and violence.

There is no objective way for the government to recognize which style of rap music is preferable. Endorsing either the political or materialistic rap music would endorse the values and ideas behind the music decisions that are best left up to the people through market forces.

As a part of this hip-hop outreach by Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture, record companies have also been giving tax breaks for producing rap records. This may create the unintended affect of record companies producing rap instead of other more indigenous forms of music.

The New York Times story briefly mentions some hip-hop enthusiasts such as Manu Brown have decided to resist the government support.

The four elements of hip-hop can prosper in Brazil without the government’s assistance.

The RIAA Is Not Out To Get Hip-Hop

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Hashim Warren has gone beyond the effort of your average blogger and actually done some research.

Quote:

Being the good reporter that I am, I spoke to the RIAA about what make them pursue a piracy raid. They explained to me that their crack downs are sparked by random tips from people. There is no grand plan to harm hip-hop laying in the desk of an RIAA executive.

Some fans of hip-hop may be saddened to learn and should admit that the RIAA may be jerks but are not planning a grand conspiracy to prosecute hip-hop.

Save Us From The Astroids

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

One of the few areas where government is needed is to protect its citizens from threats. The possibility of 20,000 asteroids that could destroy cities or potentially end all life is a threat that the government should stop.

According to the New York Times, “

NASA can find and track most of the nearby asteroids that could hit and damage the Earth, but there is not enough money in its budget to finish the project within a 15-year deadline mandated by Congress, according to an agency report released Friday.

As Matthew Yglesias points out as a proportion of the budget costs for this project would not be very high instead we are getting a moon base and continuing to fund unnecessary government programs.

Hagel Has Anounced He Might Be Doing Something

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Chuck Hagel held a press conference on Monday to announce that he, uh, might run for President. People aware of the press conference already knew Hagel was thinking about running for President, plus it is automatically assumed that you might be running for President if you are in the United States Senate.

Hagel’s announcement is not completely crazy. Hagel was able to use the opportunity to use free media air time by making a fake announcement; a tactic already used by Barak Obama on Monday Night Football and by John McCain on David Letterman’s show. In addition, Steve Clemons speculates that Hagel has thought things out is waiting for his momentum to build and waiting for the other candidates to slip up and have a macaca moment.

The most disgraceful thing about the media’s coverage of Hagel’s candidacy is the lack of space given to an actual announcement by Ronn Paul that he is running for President.

Ron Paul on C-SPAN:

Online Videos by Veoh.com
Macaca:

Obama on Monday Night Football:

The Quickening Death of Vinyl

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Hip-Hop may be dying but vinyl is also dying.

Sandbox Automatic has been the leading online retailer for vinyl copies of rap music until recently when Sandbox Automatic announced they will stop selling vinyl. Blogger grandgood.com speculates Sandbox Automatic has stopped selling vinyl because the margins are too low. My (baseless) speculation is that the hip-hop vinyl market has decreased in recent size as the technology of CD turntables has improved as traditional vinyl DJs, such as DJ Jazzy Jeff, have decided to use CD turntable systems.