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March 23, 2008

Hillary's Bosnia Trip and the Fate of the World

Last week I mentioned a statement out of Hillary's campaign that was so cynical I found it downright revolting. I'm following up today with a statement from Hillary herself that appears to be a blatant lie.

"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base." --Hillary Clinton, speech at George Washington University, March 17, 2008. [Democratic Underground]

Here is a photo of the actual incident:

The photo was retrieved by the Washington Post.

Here is a video (thanks to Donklephant):

I don't know what to say other than that I don't want another unmitigated liar in the White House. Especially one who seems to be running partly on the idea of being an especially smart person, but who isn't tuned-in enough to know that her lies are often of such of a nature that they can be quickly exposed by the media. (There are plenty of other lies coming from her or her campaign that I'm not taking the time to mention here.)

Which brings me to another point. As everyone knows, the Internet is a hugely important factor in this campaign. For instance, most campaign money is now being raised through the Internet.

Sometimes people explain the Clinton's campaign approach as being based on old-school politics. Perhaps, they say, if they were of today's generation, they'd be different. It may be that Hillary has simply been trained over decades that this is the only way to win an election, and that with a different experience, she would have taken a very different approach.

I am willing to hypothesize that the main difference is the Internet. For instance, in the old days, Obama's speech in response to the Wright flap would have been seen by very few people. Instead the TV networks would run a few sound bites, and spend most of the air time conducting interviews with analysts saying that the speech wasn't going to make any difference because the Wright sound bites are much more powerful than any that could be culled from Obama's speech. (Which is basically what is happening network news today.)

But almost three million people have accessed the whole speech on YouTube. It's a great speech. Some have said it's brilliant.

I'm not sure I'd classify it that way. To me, it seems more like a reasonable and intelligent person talking directly to us as if we, too, are reasonable and intelligent. And that is historically so extremely unusual in American politics that by contrast, it's as if it is brilliant, even if it's "only" reasonable and intelligent.

He assumes what the television networks do not: that Americans have an attention span that can tolerate thoughtful speech for more than 10 seconds. But that's also the speech's drawback from the old-media perspective: there aren't many (any?) sound bites that can be extracted from it. It would not have been effective in the old-media days except for those few who would go to the trouble of finding and reading the whole thing in a newspaper. And historically, that group has not been enough to reach the critical mass that determines elections.

The ability for any American who wishes to to conveniently see such a speech is a potential game-changer, particularly because those viewers have the ability to tell their friends (and readers, in the case of bloggers) what they think. The availability of such materials on the Internet (including such materials the expose of Hillary's Bosnia lie), added to word of mouth, means that the possibility for a new style of politics is here.

I believe Obama's success so far in this campaign is a result of that possibility reaching actual fruition. I believe that we may be entering an era where lies will be less commonplace and more quickly exposed. And where the result of that is that people are elected to high office who are more honest in their approach because the old style just won't work as well. People who are fundamentally dishonest will be less likely to succeed; and those who aren't won't be trained to believe that dishonesty is the only way to win.

But a key step in that equation is the word-of-mouth piece. Sound bites on the media are still extremely powerful. Most people will still not view Obama's race speech on the Internet; they'll see the Wright sound bites on the networks. So the availability of materials like this on the Internet is not enough. Word of mouth is also required. As Obama says, "We are the solution." Those who don't view the materials directly can hear about them from those who do. Hopefully they will be inspired to view the original materials for themselves. But if not, they can still be moved by hearing from those who have done so.

Either way, it's good. Anyone who shares the information is helping the process, one way or another. Obama's success so far indicates that the two factors, combined, can reach critical mass. I think it's time to hypothesize that this election is already historic, and potentially world-changing: we may be entering a time when our elected officials will be... better. To a nontrivial degree. Nothing is ever perfect and utopia never arrives. But better is good.

Think of the music industry. The Internet is truly transforming it. There is absolutely no reason to assume that the same can't happen for politics, and for reasons that are not dissimilar. It just isn't as obvious, yet, what is changing and why.

We all have to chip in, though, to make it happen. And that's why I am posting this today.

March 23, 2008 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 19, 2008

Apple tacking subscription fee onto iPod/iPhone?

There have been rumors making the rounds that Apple has been looking at offering a music subscription service as an alternative to its so-called “a la carte” model where iTunes customers pay a flat fee for every song they buy. Naturally the a comparison with RealNetwork’s Rhapsody service comes to mind.

But now there’s a report from the Financial Times that suggests that Apple is instead looking at another model: Charge an extra premium for the iPod or iPhone device, and then offer consumers full access to the entire iTunes music library. It’s similar to a deal from phone maker Nokia. But the FT says the big difference is in scale. Nokia is said to offer a pot of money that amounts to $80 per device, and then divide the pot among the record labels according to market share percentages. Apple’s proposed rate is said to be closer to $20, which makes a lot of sense. Of course they’re pretty far apart on what constitutes a reasonable rate.
Meanwhile, I can’t help but remember that Steve Jobs years ago derided the idea of “renting” music. He often hates something before he loves it. Remember when he said music was a background activity and that as such video wouldn’t make sense on the iPod? It wasn’t long before Apple launched TV shows on iTunes. Yeah. It’s like that. This story is probably true. [BusinessWeek]

In a post entitled "Steve Jobs vs. Subscriptions" I once argued on this blog that a subscription model is superior, and that despite statements to the contrary from Jobs, it was for temporary, tactical reasons that Apple wasn't already moving in that direction.

I listed a number of reasons the subscription model is superior. The first comment to that post was from someone purporting to be Steve Jobs who said "And here's one reason it isn't superior: when I stop paying all the music goes away." (Personally, I see no reason to think it wasn't the man himself; that's something he has said in other contexts as well.)

My response was: "But, unless you were planning to stop buying music piece-by-piece, you'll be spending money in the future on music anyway. And I, for one, have no such plans. So, I don't see how the 'when I stop paying all the music goes away' has much merit in the real world."

I subsequently heard from some folks who claimed that they never needed to buy signficantly more music than they already bought in college, so in fact, they said, the Jobs argument was true for them. I find it hard to believe anyone is really like that, but I suppose some people are.

Others argued that subscriptions cost too much. My reply was basically that that was an illusion, undoubtedly brought on by the high price of the first subscriptions services. There was no reason that subscriptions had to remain that high -- if you thought they were going to, you just weren't thinking ahead enough. One solution, I argued, was to have different tiers of service.

The model of tacking $20 onto the price of an iPod/iPhone fulfills that promise in a big way -- although it's so cheap it even eliminates the need for different tiers. According to the BusinessWeek article, folks in Europe tend to buy new cell phones every year, so at least for that group it's equivalent to a $20/yr subscription fee.

But, more likely, the music access would be time-limited and when it expires, Apple would offer a renewal on an annual basis.

I don't know if Jobs is able to do a deal with the labels that really gets the pricing down to that level. But if he can pull it off, it will be a huge step forward. (At least for those music lovers who also like Apple hardware! A group I happen belong to -- my family owns two iPhones, three actively-used iPods, two Apple TV's, and three Apple laptops.)

Update: It looks like it's not actually going to happen in the near future, but the idea is being "kicked around":

According to a story in the Financial Times, Apple (AAPL) would charge enough for iPod and iPhone devices to cover the cost of licensing entire music collections. It would use that premium to create a pool of revenue, a portion of which would be divided among the major music labels, the newspaper said.

Trouble is, no such talks are under way, according to people familiar with Apple's plans. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment. Insiders at major music labels were similarly dismissive. One person familiar with the matter said the idea of subscription plan has been "kicked around" for about a year, but said there have been "no meaningful discussions" on the subject. [BusinessWeek]

I continue to think that the long-run outcome will probably be some kind of iTunes music subscription service. This recent "kicking around" is a first step.

March 19, 2008 in Music, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 15, 2008

No smooth jazz ID3 tag

Jazz and smooth jazz are very different things. People who like jazz very often dislike smooth jazz. (Frankly, I can't stand it, though I listen to jazz quite a bit; for example John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" is one of my favorite recordings of all time.)

Or as Wikipedia puts it:

The term "Smooth jazz" seems to inspire controversy. Normal jazz purists contend that smooth jazz is, in actuality, not jazz of any kind, regarding it as a misleading marketing buzzword that represents an attempt to hijack the ostensible prestige of jazz in order to sell what is really a form of "elevator music". They consider the smooth jazz genre uninspired, lacking the depth of expression, harmonic and rhythmic sophistication, and complex improvisation that are hallmarks of traditional jazz; substituting, at times, trite and hackneyed musical phrasing.
But there is no ID3 tag for smooth jazz. Id3 tags include one for Rock, and also distinguish many different kinds of rock (Southern Rock, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, etc.). Many of those rock subgenres share fans much more readily than jazz and smooth jazz do.

This seems to me to be a significant oversight in the ID3 tag definition.

If any readers know who to lobby to change this, please let me know -- I think this could be a helpful change for music software.

March 15, 2008 in Music, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 10, 2008

Has she no sense of decency?

I've been keeping politics out of this blog lately, but this just takes the cake.

Howard Wolfson, Clinton's chief spokesman, said during a conference call with reporters that Clinton would not pick a running mate who has not met the “national security threshold” — as Clinton’s military advisers and Wolfson put it on the call — but that it is possible Obama could meet that threshold by this summer's Democratic convention.

In other words, if she gets to be the nominee, and she needs him as VP in order to harness his enthusiastic supperters, he'll magically gain enough experience to be President. Honestly, I find the brazenness of her cynicism amazing, astounding, and revolting.

She undoubtedly thinks that's the only way the Democrats can beat McCain. But the fact is, Obama came out of nowhere and is doing pretty darn well without stooping to such depths. It's possible to do. She just can't do it herself.

March 10, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 08, 2008

Predicting personality based upon musical tastes

Interesting research showing very positive correlations between musical tastes and certain predicted personality traits:

While videos and photos are good for assessing conscientiousness and extraversion, music preferences beat them in allowing observers to predict the participants' own ratings of their agreeableness, emotional stability, and openness to experience. In all, observers' ratings of participants were positively correlated with 14 different personality traits, including those listed above, as well as others such as forgiveness, imagination, and positive affect. [Cognitive Daily]

March 8, 2008 in Music, Science, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)