Recently in Media Category

I'm not real fond of Joe Klein, but he hit this nail on the head. The McCain campaign is at war with the media, and they need to be. The level of divergence between McCain-Palin and reality is breathtaking.

  • McCain is playing his "maverick" card for every ounce it is worth, but McCain voted with Bush 100% of the time in 2008, and 95% in 2007. That's not change we can believe in, it's change you spot on the sidewalk, and don't bother picking up, because yech, it's dirty.
  • Palin has to attack the media, because they are uncovering a torrent of horrible things McCain failed to. Personally, the deal-breaker for me is Sarah Palin is a book burner
    Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
  • Palin supports abstinence only sex eduation. I have a daughter, and I understand the desire to keep kids away from sex. But when you run across a livejournal community where 16-yr-old girls are asking if having their arm exposed to semen can make them pregnant, you realize that maybe abstinence-only sex education is sort of like Africans who think you can cure HIV by raping a virgin.
  • From her questionnaire:
    11. Are you offended by the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

    Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I'll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.

    So ignorant, it is almost physically painful. Shouldn't people a 72-yr old heartbeat from the Presidency have a bit more historical perspective? The Pledge of Allegience was written in 1892, long after the Founding Fathers were all dead. The words "under God" weren't added until 1954.

Finally, I read her last answer:

12. In relationship to families, what are your top three priorities if elected governor?

1. Creating an atmosphere where parents feel welcome to choose the venues of education for their children.
2. Preserving the definition of "marriage" as defined in our constitution.
3. Cracking down on the things that harm family life: gangs, drug use, and infringement of our liberties including attacks on our 2nd Amendment rights.

I'm all for protecting our 2nd Amendment rights. We can debate the definition of "well regulated militia", but ultimately, Americans have the right to bear arms. But while I think the NRA and Republicans in general actually hit on one of the main reasons we have the right to bear arms - because it's a lot harder to enforce a totalitarian tyranny against an armed populace - I think they are turning a blind eye to a lot of other Amendments. In particular, the Fourth Amendment has been, at best, on life support since the PATRIOT Act. No sooner is it raised, than the specter of terrorism is summoned to justify abuse. This is crystal clear:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It's pretty simple: you have to have probable cause before you go searching, supported by Oath or Affirmation. You can't troll in general - by, say, requisitioning all the records of a library, or all purchases from Amazon. And you need legitimate evidence... that would be probably cause a crime has been committed, and that doesn't include raiding the homes of would-be protestors. "Conspiracy to commit a riot." Yarg. These leads us back to the first Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

People have a lot of grievances, and the RNC convention is a pretty reasonable place to express them. Peaceful protests are protected by the First Amendment.

This isn't to say McCain-Palin is all bad. McCain has taken almost no earmarks. Bravo, Senator McCain. Earmarks are part and parcel of the disgusting "scratch my back" politics that plague Washington and ruin government, making it wasteful. And I admire McCain for not playing the game. Others, like Obama, have played the game but also, tried to change the rules.

I'd have preferred to see Obama avoid earmarks altogether, although this is clearly a systemic problem, as the voters "back home" elect these national politicians, who partially get graded on bringing home the bacon. In other words, earmarks are bad - for all the other states. (So in that sense, I applaud the citizens of Arizona for putting up with McCain's "failure" in that regard.)

There are a lot of myths floating around right now, though. For example, the idea that liberals are the big spenders. But government spending grew under Reagan, fell under Clinton, and rebounded up under George W Bush. I'm in favor of smaller government; but I'm very skeptical of McCain's fiscal conservative bona fides when he is so in tune with GWB.

Ultimately, though, I also feel like the parties have to be held responsible for their performance. McCain on Katrina:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain took stock of still-hurricane-damaged areas of New Orleans on Thursday and declared that if the disaster had happened on his watch, he would have immediately landed at the nearest Air Force base, drawing a sharp contrast to President Bush's handling of the tragedy.

McCain called the response to Hurricane Katrina "a perfect storm" of mismanagement by federal, state and local governments.

Except that McCain was cutting his birthday cake with President Bush while New Orleans sank. The levees breached and New Orleans sank while McCain was enjoying his birthday cake with a President who should have been doing his job. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns... And the Katrina fiasco was part and parcel of the cronyism of the Bush administration. There were far too many people either grossly incompetent or teeming with partisan agendas in the Bush administration. I don't expect White House staff to roll over and play dead for the other party, but going after the jobs of people who oppose you politically even when they're competent is just... gross malfeasance.

Anyhow, all this leads up to what got me thinking tonight, which was this Gallup poll, which I find sort of surprising. Sure it has been reported here and there in the media, but the nonpartisan tax policy analysis is simple: the after tax income of at least the bottom 80% of income earners would be higher under Obama's tax proposal. You're not even in that top quintile unless you make at least $88,000 a year. However, this is averages; a lot of the policy giving larger refunds from McCain's proposal comes from Obama's policy absolutely brutalizing the top 1%, where they would actually see their after-tax income decline.

So, you're worried about higher taxes from Obama? You should be, if you're making over $250,000 a year. Or maybe you shouldn't be. After all, you're making $250,000 a year.

I'm not real fond of even chasing this, because unlike many "liberals", I know that many things have become more of a meritocracy over time. Consequently, I'd expect the rich to get richer, simply because the economy is growing more efficient at allocating wealth for performance. That said, I also think people in general - especially anyone at the median or above - needs to look at their lifestyle and ask why Americans stopped saving money? 7-10% very consistently, until 1992ish, and it has been downhill from there. (And I'm sorry - there's just no way you can blame Clinton for poor savings, when we say the biggest gains in real income in ages; unless the explanation is irrational exuberance over personal finances. Maybe we can ask Tyler Cowen.

Anyhow, how is it so many people think Obama will raise their taxes and McCain won't? It's just backwards. It's marketing. And I'm not fond of marketing. We can debate the merits of policy, and I hold economists like Cowen in great esteem, and it seems like they are rarely in the corner of policy markers like Obama. But let's at least get the policies straight. You have less money under Bush unless you're rich; you saw a tiny tax cut if you were middle class, which was promptly destroyed by his deficit spending putting the value of the dollar through a meat grinder. Because it turns out that oil you thought was so expensive hasn't gone up as much as you thought. It went up, yes, but it's an international commodity, and the dollar has gone down. If your wealth (or paycheck) was in constant ounces of gold, then oil is only up about +100% instead of +400%.

Long post. I hope the next 8 years and more finds us all better off than we are; working hard, and leaving a better world. I'd like to write another post soon about the way energy policy is the pre-eminent issue of our day. Our energy policy is the key issue for us over the next 10 years. It will be the lynchpin for our economy, our foreign policy, and our environment. A good decision on this could lead to a new era of prosperity, or the end of America as we know it and the rise of the Middle East, Russia, and others. (It has already begun, of course; just witness the stuff Dubai is building. With your oil dollars. Patriotism? When I see this, man, I am ready to volunteer to build windmills on the weekend. I am not kidding.)

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.

Muslim Violence

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My father wrote me an email after Muslims opposed to the caricature of Mohammad began to threaten and enact violence. He asked for a blog on the topic, and he added, in part:

They can Burn effigies of our leaders and president, effigies of Christians, burn our flag, chop off heads of innocent civilians, kidnap journalists...shall I go on? All of this is the name of Mohammed, but we have a cartoon and it sparks riots, boycotts and violence all over the world. The Danish Government is to be congratulated for not offering and condolences or apologies on behalf of freedom of the press.

In today's news, the BBC reports that an Iranian paper is seeking cartoon submissions about the Holocaust.

"Does the West's freedom of expression extend to... an event such as the Holocaust or is this freedom of expression only for the desecration of the sanctities of divine religions?" the best-selling paper said in its announcement.

It also asks for cartoons covering "America and Israel's crimes and plundering".

Iran's conservative rulers are supportive of so-called Holocaust revisionist historians, who argue that the systematic slaughter of Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II has been exaggerated for political ends.

I applaud them. This is an appropriate response. And I can say for my own part: the freedom of expression extends to all expression. I don't care if you're preaching your religion, promoting your political point of view, pandering to the ignorant by linking immigration to a poor economy to promote racist attitudes, or discussing your opinion of a great movie. Speech is speech. If you're not directly threatening someone, or inciting an immediate danger by yelling Fire in a crowded theater, then your speech is okay.

Not everyone agrees with me. For example, in the Age newspaper, they wrote:

THE newspapers that opted not to publish the cartoons offensive to Muslims that triggered riots in the Middle East should also have avoided publishing material that deeply offended Christians, says Treasurer Peter Costello.

And also:

"And Christians didn't have a riot, you know, they voiced their protest and just as the newspapers have the right of free speech to publish these things, so you have the right of free speech to condemn it." [Said Treasurer Peter Costello]

I disagree. Out of the blue, I'd largely agree. That is, I don't necessarily see the purpose of just spuriously offending a bunch of Christians. But this week, in the context of the Mohammad cartoon and the response and discussion, clearly offending Christians isn't a terrible idea, because it serves the interest of placing them in the shoes of the Muslims who were offended by the Mohammad cartoon.

Notice, however, the Christians did not have a riot, and this is key. I can't find the reference right now, although I suspect it may have been in the majority opinion in Cohen v California, but one of my favorite quotes can be paraphrased as: "The best cure for bad speech is more speech."

As I see it we have two choices: we can either get used to being offended, we can isolate ourselves from each other, so each society is perfect in its homogeneity, or we can homogenize the world. The last will be a bloody and futile endeavor, and the second simply isn't any more realistic than deciding we should all give up electricity. So our last choice is to simply learn to live with one another. Every time we grasp at the illusion of success with the other two choices, we will cause problems. In that sense, at least, I can only hope we are all offended once in a while, and we get used to it.

It's clear to me that many Muslims are ignorant - either intentionally or unintentionally - of how our press system operates. Since my impression is that a number of these religious states have state-run media arms, this isn't a surprise. To many of them, something in a UK newspaper is a declaration by the UK government. But we know better. Not to say the government doesn't have a shamefully large influence over our press at times, but certainly it is safe to say that our newspapers do not simply print what they are told to print, and avoid what they are told to avoid.

Clearly the direct message straight from the government of Iran that the holocaust is a fraud is no less offensive to jews than these cartoons are to Muslims. I expect jews to react with some sense of outrage to such claims, as I expect Muslims to react with some sense of outrage to these cartoons. But outrage in these cases must be channelled into peaceful protest, discourse, and more speech.

From this PBS interview:

STEPHAN RICHTER: That's a good point, but moderate Muslims also need to take the battle into their own societies, into the structures, into Saudi Arabia and so on. And that's what's missing because you have plenty of Middle Eastern Muslim papers that are full of viciously anti-Semitic cartoons every day, and this is the law of two standards, and that doesn't work because we really need to apply all standards that you advocated also into those societies, and then we can make it work.

AHMED YOUNIS: And I think the majority of Muslims would agree with that. And our track record is clear, whether it is the Taliban with Buddhist temples or attacks against Christian communities in Muslim countries, we're very consistent, religious freedom is for everyone, not just for ourselves.

This will likely become one of the great debates facing society in the future. From whence do we derive our morals? Of course, it is easy to say, "religious freedom is for everyone", but why are women not permitted to show their face in public in some predominantly Muslim countries? Is such modesty not religious in origin?

Until recently, I might have believed Ahmed Younis. Perhaps I still do. Certainly, electing Hamas to power in Palestine is a frightening indicator that the extremists may outnumber the moderate or secular Muslims. But on that note, I must look to my own country, because I am equally afraid the extreme religious right may outnumber moderate or secular Americans.

And so I think everyone should ask: from whence come moral standards? Because if your answer is religion, your morals are guaranteed to be incompatible with someone else's. I think there are self-evident and universal principles that can evolve with thought into a moral system. Secular philosophy can lead to morality. We do not need a book - whether it is the Bible or the Koran - to tell us how to be moral.

Scott Adams was relatively deft with this dilemna in God's Debris. We have little or no empirical evidence to help us select between religions. Choose your book - the Bible, the Koran, a bunch of Watchtower society pamphlets or the Book of Mormon, among others. Why one and not the other? Do Christians not think Muslims are a bit crazy for their fervor? Do you not think Muslims believe Christians to be misguided at best for theirs?

I think the BBC story on escalating tension is worth a read.

"We're seeing ourselves characterised as an intolerant people or as enemies of Islam as a religion. That picture is false. Extremists and radicals who seek a clash of cultures and religions are spreading it," Mr Rasmussen said.

There is no doubt in my mind that whatever the opinion of a majority of Muslims, there is certainly everything to gain and nothing to lose for extremists to incite violence and protest among their fellows. The greater the rancor, the easier it is to fost further violence, and that is what they thrive upon.

Did you know the cartoons were originally published September 30, 2005? Even the Norweigan reprint is almost a month old now. Clearly, there are forces at work here other than natural outrage, because natural outrage would have happened sooner.

We need to be keenly aware of the demogogues who operate by preying on religious fervor domestically, just as much. To look to the Bible a moment, we must be sure there is no plank in our own eye before removing the spec of sawdust from our neighbor's eye. I've written many times - and will continue to - about the influence of the religious right on our politics and the dangers of both liberal and conservative positions on issues. One thing remains obvious to me, however: Bush is the most dangerous President to be elected in my lifetime, and perhaps ever. He has little or no respect for the Constitution, little or no respect for civil rights, and is willing to trod all over both to promote either a pro-Christian-right agenda or a pro-totalitarian agenda. He's done little or nothing to actually protect us from terrorism, since it is clear that invading other countries and fomenting resentment is not going to protect us from terrorism half as much as would strengthening our border security, creating a truth-driven intelligence community, and hardening our infrastructure to make terrorist attacks on key targets more difficult. Instead, 9/11 has been used as a red herring to incessantly expand government size and power. And the religious right is a key voting bloc that Bush would be unelectable without. So we walk into the fire as a nation.

I hope everyone, Christian, Muslim, and everyone else keeps talking about this issue and other issues. I hope we try to evaluate things based on all the information we can find. I hope we stop spinning and start paying attention and thinking. The cartoons, in a sense, are admirable. They've sparked a response that has led to an important discussion about how we all get along in a world where our beliefs will sometimes offend one another. We either need to learn to get along - and that means sometimes knowing we will be offended - or we may as well start fighting now.

So, Robert Cringely has a piece on the death of traditional advertising. The nutshell idea: because pay-per-click revenue offers such a transparent view of its efficacy, it is stealing advertising dollars from print media and TV advertising.

Agreed. As a business owner (or co-owner), I find Google ads a very attractive way to spend my dollars. I am utterly certainly about the ROI for each dollar spent. And while the ads that work in the space (Scrapbooking Supplies, which my wife sells both online and B&M) are not "cheap", they are effective and measurable. Compare that to neighborhood fliers left on doors by hand, or to back-of-magazine classifies ads or even the more expensive traditional radio, magazine, and TV ads. They're all nearly impossible to track. Moreover, they clearly do not work generally in an immediate way. My father runs a jewelry store and did extensive TV advertising. He has learned, and I have heard advertising salespeople repeat this, that you need to advertise on TV reasonably heavily for about 6 weeks before your "message" "sinks in" and people respond. Compare that to my click throughs, where the majority of successful clicks result in immediate sales, and I can also easily know who signs up for a newsletter or such and orders later, and who returns to order more times in the future.

None of this is a new line of thought, but fundamentally, *this* is why TV content producers and distributors should be falling all over themselves to do TV on demand. Basically, people should rent a cheap box that lets them get VOD. The VOD should basically give them access to all content, with either a viewing fee, a purchase fee, or an "advertising viewing" ratio. But if the system has you "sign in", then data about you and your interests and such can be used to tailor commercials for you. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that everyone wins with more targeted ads. You see a smaller number of ads which you find either aesthetically appealing, funny, or interesting. Advertisers get interested consumers and better results. Win-win.

Let me take this a step further. TVs, equipped with videophones, can voice-recognize interest.

"If this sounds interesting, say 'Operator' and we will connect you with a WidgetHouse Widget Consultant now.... [pause]"

And if you don't say anything, in 3 seconds it hops over to your content.

Can you imagine a TV that can respond to an expression of interest by a consumer and connect them to someone who can help the process along?

This could happen tomorrow. All of the technology exists now. Heck, you could skip the video and just have voice recogniition. Register your TV with your phone number. You say "operator", and your phone rings. And API could even handle interest contacts for different mediums. Download a free show for your video iPod. It says "Interested?" and you say yes or no, and the yes triggers an email/call/etc when you reconnect your iPod. (or, in a world with a wireless/cell-enabled iPod, you get a call then, or an SMS message with a number or whatever)

TV is an awesome channel for entertainment, but pay-per-click has shown it really stinks for advertising. Sure, it has reach, but it doesn't channel consumer interest well, it is difficult if not impossible to evaluate advertising effectiveness, etc. Plus, with Text ads, you can try 5 different bits of copy and google will automatically gravitate towards the one that works best. Imagine if a big TV advertiser could show 5 TV ads and the ones people "liked" automatically moved more into rotation.

I can't go as far as Cringely and actually predict any of this will happen. There's no catalyst. I expect to see a move toward direct user-supported TV in the near future. Frankly, I have to wonder why I should pay $60/mo for digital cable... I already have DSL, don't I? I should be able to get my TV over one pipe, getting just the shows I want. Assuming the pipe costs $40/mo (that's more than the $30 you can get DSL for in a lot of places now), that leaves $50/mo that phone companies could claim a big fat piece of by dislodging cable. I mean, Cable companies are offering IP based phone service - why are bells not offering IP-based TV service?

The Little Red Hoax

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The story about the student being interrogated after checking out Mao's Little Red Book was a hoax. Good to know this sort of thing is getting found out, but I wonder how often?


The Digital Transition Content Security Act would embed anticopying technology into the next generation of digital video products. If it makes its way from Capitol Hill to the Oval Office and becomes law, the measure will outlaw the manufacture or sale of electronic devices that convert analog video signals into digital video signals, effective one year from its enactment. PC-based tuners and digital video recorders are listed among the devices.

As usual, the MPAA thought process is completely flawed. First of all, there are so many old devices capable of converting analog to digital that any self-respecting pirate will have a supply for the next century. Secondly, since when is it fair to place a multi-billion dollar burden on one industry (consumer electronics) to protect the profits of another industry (content)? And the MPAA hasn't even tried doing things another way. There's been no simultaneous movie/dvd/net release where you download a full-featured full-sized film via a custom BitTorrent client for $8. Where's the Napster-style service for movies? $20/mo and you access every movie ever made that's over a year old, and view just-released features for $2 more?

Content is crazy. The world is split into two people:

  • Those who have money and want convenience.
  • Those who have time but want value

Movies are currently not particularly cheap or convenient. Movie theaters are expensive, their food is worse, the seats suck, the picture is grainy and splotchy, they're inconvenient (showtimes always start too soon, too late), and that's to say nothing of the patrons you might run into. Now, some places manage to be cool like Alamo Drafthouse, but those are few and far between.

Meanwhile, movies cost $6-9 for 2-3 hours of entertainment, and they're over. Alternately, there's the DVD, paying $20, give or take, for something you've already seen. Or, alternately, if you're full of time and have $20, you can spend another month on World of Warcraft... they obviously understand their market, unlike the MPAA, which is why they're making millions (soon to be billions)? $4/hr, or $0.20/hr? Hit-or-Miss maybe of a movie, or psychological addiction?

When the revolution comes, the MPAA is first against the wall.

TiVo: a brief day in the sun

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PVRBlog notes NBC is griping about TiVoToGo syncing recorded shows over to a video iPod. As they note, NBC doesn't have a leg to stand on. What should be noted here is that this is why companies like NBC are so into the idea of a mandatory broadcast flag. That guide is worth reading.

I wrote my Congressman a while back - John Carter of the 31st district of Texas, about this issue. I got back a fairly standard "thanks for writing" response. However, I'd like to excerpt a bit of his reply:

[...] It is important to find a balance between protecting intellectual property rights while also maintaining high quality distribution

As you may know, a boradcast flag is a sequence of digital bits embedded in a television program that signals that the program must be protected from unauthorized redistribution. This signal does not distort the viewed picture in any way. Implementation of this broadcast flag will permit digital TV stations to obtain high value content and assure consumers a continued source of attractive, free, over-the-air programming without limiting the consumer's ability to make personal copies. This issue has received growing attention over the last year because of the December 31, 2006 deadline that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has placed on the transfer from analog to digital broadcast.

He goes on to note that a court ruled the FCC doesn't have the authority to set that deadline, and says the house is considering legislation to GRANT that authority to the FCC.

You can see the tilt apparent in the letter. Whether this is misinformation that has been fed to my Congressman, and he actually believes that, or whether he is simply a victim of media company propaganda, I don't know. But I do know that it is self-evident that "assuring consumers a continued source of attractive, free, over-the-air programming" doesn't require a Broadcast flag, and that it will be used to limit their ability to make personal copies.

It is ironic, of course, that the content industry has fought tooth and nail against every innovation, despite the fact that they have universally just expanded the market. Can you imagine a world without VCRs or DVD players? (Let alone TiVo) That's the world the MPAA wanted. They failed, but in the Broadcast Flag, they may yet succeed. After all, what good will your VCR (or TiVo) be if it has to obey a Broadcast Flag and simply not record things?

As EFF says, "In short, the Broadcast Flag is about the movie studios demanding unprecedented veto power over digital technology because they believe they can see into the future and have the right to knee-cap technological innovation, free competition, and consumer rights in order to prop up aging business models."

TiVo to iPod/PSP coming

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Via PVRBlog I discovered that TiVo will allow you to move TiVoToGo video to your iPod and PSP. I have several observations about this.

It's a smart move, in that it helps differentiate from Set-Top offerings. One of the most dangerous things for TiVo will be set top DVR offerings. While I use TiVo at home, my wife selected Time Warner's DVR "service" for her office. It's laggy and generally inferior, in my opinion, but it doesn't require any sort of purchase and it's set up for you. Anything that differentiates TiVo from those set top boxes is good.

It gives you real value for your TiVo fee. As Ars Technica pointed out, being able to cheaply populate your iPod (or PSP) with video which might otherwise cost you $2 goes a long way to "soften the blow" of their monthly fee. Ars Technica also astutely points out that this is exactly why media companies want a Broadcast Flag. It isn't piracy, not while the "flag" is merely an instruction to consumer electronics that naughty devices could ignore. It's because they want to charge you many times for the same media.

This is likely to encourage content providers to get their shows up. Whether they do it via the iTMS or via something like TW/AOL's free In2TV service, they're going to want to get them up to compete with "free time shifting".

As usual, the question I ask myself is: if I'm a media exec, why am I not leading the charge? When Apple announced a video iPod, I'd have been the first one to want to slap my media library up for download. Can a 320x240 resolution show really cannibalize DVD sales? I think not. This is really about convenience. But frankly, networks could offer their own media player that forced you to sit through some commercials, and do distribution via p2p to cut their bandwidth costs, and essentially just expand their audience without any downside. Hell, if they put the stuff on a PC, they could even reserve some screen space for text or banner ads if they didn't interfere with the show. Hello, captive audience. But they won't think of that until there's another paradigm dominating the market - and it won't be long now.

Long have I awaited the coming of that which was foretold... George RR Martin's Feast For Crows. Yes, it's the 4th book in the series, and it is like crack. I want that book. But UPS lost it. It shows as "Front Door"; I've never had anything stolen before. But it isn't here. I'm going to have to report it missing and wait for a replacement. I was so busy coding and setting up certificate authorities and such that I didn't have time to even check that it had arrived... and when I did, I discovered it had gone missing. Grrrr.

The upshot of all this is that I make this blog post, because if you haven't read GRRM's masterwork, you're missing out. If you are interested, start with book one, Game of Thrones, and proceed from there. It takes about 200 pages of Game of Thrones to get into the groove, and then there's no stopping it.

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