July 2008 Archives

Music companies seriously need to send Pandora a gift basket or something. Pandora is a streaming music radio service that "learns" your preferences based on thumbs up/down ratings, and my experience so far is that it is impressively accurate. I created a channel based on Digitalism [Warning: spammy myspace page]. Great band in the electronic/techno vein. I proceeded to thumbs up/thumbs down (mostly up) about 10 songs or so, and now, about the worst Pandora produces is "tolerable", and I've bought several songs of Amazon.

This is what discovering music should be like. You indicate preferences, and something mixes your favorites in with potential new discoveries. Don't like one? It is skipped, on to the next one. Like one? Get a high bitrate copy of your own immediately, DRM free.

I picked up the Digitalism album off iTunes on the strength of the badass song Idealistic and the fact that it was itunes plus, so no DRM. Now I'm following from those songs, via Pandora, into the Chemical Brothers, and songs like Weak in the Knees by Bender (I couldn't even find a site). That latter song was like #eleventymillion in popularity on Amazon, but I *love* it.

The e-book, TV, movie industries have a lot to learn from how to get value from consumers.

This winning combo has me delightedly trying out new music, with a great "hit ratio" (unlike traditional mass-media radio), and makes it easy to buy a song I want. Bravo, Amazon and Pandora.

You can't legislate this sort of success - you can only earn it by serving the needs of consumers better.

Reading the inestimable Five Thirty-Eight today, I saw this Ad.

The ad leads on to a dull warning that Barack Obama plans to "lift the cap on social security" and that this will be the "biggest tax increase in history", and that it isn't necessary because the Social Security "crisis" is fake.

So, of course, it's deceptive.

First, Obama hasn't stated exactly what his plan is, and has repeatedly talked about leaving a "hole" from 97,500 to 200,000, to avoid hitting people who make middle to upper-middle class incomes in high cost of living areas.

Second, while Social Security is not currently in "crisis", there is a problem with it. It will be insolvent eventually, and worse, we currently owe the Social Security Trust Fund on the order of $5 trillion. Yes, that's $5,000,000,000,000. When it comes time - and this won't be very long, as boomer get nice and retired - to pay out that money, where will we get it? We either have to collect it in taxes, cut spending and services, or borrow it from someone. Right now, the Social Security fund has purchased US Treasury notes (bonds) with the trillions of dollars in surplus it has - surplus that will be needed for Social Security to survive the boomers. Yes, SS is solid until something like 2047 or later with all that money - but do we really want to try to sell another $5 trillion in bonds to foreign governments when the dollar is colossally weak? No.

Third, and this is really the point of the post: Who is this ad supposed to sway?

It's basically deception by omission, because it simply fails to mention who will be affected by the mentioned tax increase. The current cap on Social Security is $102,000. The 2006 census indicates that 5.63% of people earned $100,000+ per year. Therefore such an increase will affect less than 5.63%. And many of them probably to a small degree. It may be the "biggest tax increase in [insert time period here, sparing no hyperbole]", but there's still a 94.27%+ chance that it won't affect you.

Now, the real number is probably considerably lower, because some amount of those 5.63% are earning some share of their money through dividends, capital gains, and other things which are not subject to FICA. Putting an ad on a political site to warn the 5.63% of high income earners about Obama is silly, of course. Those who even remotely care, know. No, the problem here is the uninformed among the other 94% who only take away this: "Obama will raise my taxes!", without knowing it is patently false.

This Generation

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"We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet," Mr. Gore said. "Every bit of that's got to change."

Every generation has an epic challenge it must rise to. Whether it is a struggle for a free Europe and a free world, toeing the line against the spread of communism, rising from the ashes of the Great Depression, or going to the moon. There are moments where we have opportunities to leave an imprint of positive change on the world. These moments are not free. They are costly, in blood, treasure, or both. But the cost of ignoring these moments is greater.

The time has come for every American to ask how they can cut back and save, to direct resources toward the building of a mighty green infrastructure, that can power us, and perhaps the world. We need to demand on every level that people work together to support this. Push our science departments to dedicate research resources to green energy. Push politicians to collaborate on green funding. If you can possibly do it, try to be an early adopter of green tech - and I don't mean a Prius, I'm talking about a roof full of Solar Panels. It is time to blend our determination, our hope, our expertise, and our drive to build an infrastructure for the next few centuries.

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