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102 posts from July 2005

July 29, 2005

Friday Random 10

John Coltrane, Sun Ship
Bruce Springsteen, I'm Goin' Down
Johnny Cash, Redemption Song (with Joe Strummer)
Nina Simone, Strange Fruit
Mississippi John Hurt, Ain't Nobody's Business
Elvis Costello, Welcome to the Working Week
Calexico, Bloodflow
Roy Bailey, Song for David
John Lee Hooker, The War is Over
Buddy Guy, Too Broke To Spend the Night


Scott and Matt don't have a problem with payola. I do. Here's why...

Payola deceives consumers and hurts recording artists. Payola is an explicit quid pro quo in which a record agent compensates a DJ for playing a specific song. Unlike other kinds of promotions, payola is covert and "contractual." Payola is distinct from other perks and promotions designed to instill a more nebulous sense of obligation (aka "good will").

Not all pay-for-play is payola. The FCC payola and sponsorship identification rules allow pay-for-play, as long as the paid material is identified as such:

Thus, for example, if record companies or their agents pay broadcasters to play records on the air, those payments are legitimate if the required sponsorship identification message is aired. If it is not aired as required by the Communications Act and the Commission's rules, the broadcast station will be subject to enforcement action.

If the Juice Tiger buys airtime for an infomercial, it shows up in your TV listings as "paid programming." If Sony wants to run a Celine Dion radio infomerical, the FCC won't stop them, as long as they disclose the sponsorship to the audience.

Slate's Daniel Gross doesn't think payola is a big deal because it doesn't really undermine consumer choice. He argues that if you don't like what your station is playing, you can change the channel. He also notes that radio isn't the all-powerful gatekeeper it once was. Today's consumers have a variety of sources of music and a variety of media to store and play it.

Nevertheless, payola undermines consumer choice. Consumer choice isn't just the ability to listen to a station whose programming you tend to like. Consumers should also be able to make an informed choice about the different services offered in the radio market.

The station that runs on payola is offering a fundamentally different service than a station whose DJs have creative control. An independent DJ is offering her expertise and aesthetic judgment. It's her job to listen to way more music than I'll ever hear and to choose the good stuff.

As a consumer, I want independence from my DJ. In a payola system, I can't choose to listen to independent radio because I have no way of knowing who's taking which bribes from whom.

Payola also hurts recording artists by distorting royalties. Sweeps week is one particularly egregious example. Royalties are supposed to be a function of total airplay. But it's too cumbersome to record each play individually. So, sweeps weeks are used as estimates. The record companies often bribe DJs to overplay certain artists during sweeps week. That's just plain stealing from artists who got more play during the rest of the year than they did during sweeps.

Payola was considered scandalous in the 1950s because consumers wanted the DJ's taste and expertise. A lot of people say that they know about payola and don't care, but if they're really as jaded as they let on, why do the record companies prefer to operate in secret? Sony just lost 10 million on secret deals that could have been legal if they'd put appropriate disclaimers on the paid material. Why take that risk? Because labels and stations know that consumers don't like being force-fed.

Hackett 0H-2


Support Democrat Paul Hackett for Congress. The special election for Ohio's Second Congressional District (OH-2) will be held on August 2nd. No Democrat has ever come within 20 points of a Republican in OH-2 and nobody thought Hackett had a chance--but the latest polls show him in a dead heat with his Republican opponent Jean Schmidt.

Make your own campaign sign.

July 28, 2005

Eric Minamyer backs down on own blog

Update on the race for Ohio's Second Congressional District:

Eric Minamyer, failed Republican primary candidate turned failed "Swiftie" admits that Jean Schmidt's Democratic opponent Paul Hackett lead Marines in combat.

Minamyer also said that if he were speaking for anyone it would be for himself and not for Jean Schmidt, but that he wouldn't have anything to say for himself until August 3rd.


I was going to say something paternalistic about how civilized societies should ban cage matches. Then I thought, fuck it. Let these consenting adult savages rip each other to shreds for the amusement of their mouth-breathing friends: Alive and Thriving in the Midwest: Brawling in Cages. [NYT permalink]

Society probably ends up shouldering many fighters' medical costs. That's fine. Health insurance and sick benefits aren't prizes for healthy living or good character. But why should we waste any additional resources trying to protect these losers from themselves?

Let's just rewrite the laws to let fighters sue the fight promoters who stage these spectacles. A little no-holds-barred litigation might defuse some of the profit motive.



A judge has ruled that the state of Utah can't prevent Elizabeth Solomon from obtaining a custom license plates that read GAYSROK and GAYRYTS, respectively.

"The narrow issue before us is whether a reasonable person would believe the terms 'gays are OK' and 'gay rights' are, themselves, offensive to good taste and decency. It is the conclusion of the commission that a reasonable person would not," [Judge Jane] Phan wrote. [AP]

Virtual license plate courtesy of the ACME License Maker.

2nd Distict within Paul Hackett's reach

Democratic Paul Hackett trails his Republican opponent by only 5 points in the race for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District (OH-2).

Tim Tagaris of the Swing State Project explains the stakes in OH-2:

[O]nly one Democrat has received more than 30% of the vote in over 20 years. With less than one week to go, this race is within 5 points. And not only is it within five points, but Jean Schmidt is tanking. And no, I am not sitting in my hotel room with a .pdf file in-front of me. Here is what I am hearing, so take it fwiw...

The NRCC conducted a poll earlier this week (there is another poll in the field, but no idea by who), that showed the poor numbers. The numbers were leaked by a Republican who is part of a group that doesn't see eye to eye with Schmidt on certain issues.

In response, the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has just dumped $285,000 into an astounding 1800+ point ad buy that will start running Friday through Tuesday. This is public record. [Emphasis added.]

Please donate to Hackett's campaign through Act Blue. I did.

Why? Chris Bowers summarizes Hackett on core progressive issues. Democraticavenger lists his top 5 reasons to support Hackett.

(A good list, but DA neglects to mention that Hackett has secured the coveted Ethical Werewolf endorsement. Veteran Ohio-watchers know that the lycanthrope vote is huge in OH-2. Silver coins make this contingency very nervous.)

Predictably, Jean Schimdt's campaign is trying to "swiftboat" Hackett.

If for no other reason, give because you're sick and tired of swiftboating. A lot of Democrats are still kicking themselves (and each other) for not responding forcefully to Kerry's swiftboat smear. Now's you're chance to hit the swifties where they live.

The election in on August 2nd. Stay tuned to the Swing State Project and the OH-2 blog for updates.

Keep your talking points at the ready. Stars and Stripes has the facts about Hackett's 20-years of military service:

He arrived in Iraq in August, and took over convoy commander duties and helped organize the payroll of Ramadi-area government workers. In November, he volunteered to help secure the eastern entry into Fallujah while coalition forces swept through the city.

“I certainly did not do the heaviest of the lifting,” he said. “But on the convoy, we were ambushed on more than one occasion.” [S&S]


  • Served 8 months with the 4th Civil Affairs team near Ramadi, major USMC
  • Reenlisted circa 2003
  • Served in the reserves from 1992-1999
  • Left active duty in 1992
  • Served 2 years on Okinawa
  • Attended Naval Justice School, 1988
  • Commissioned, 1985

(On a lighter note, a totally different Paul Hackett has assembled a charming collection of original Australian bird photography.)

CAFTA passes 217-215

House RollCall CAFTA

By The Associated Press
July 28, 2005, 12:36 AM EDT

The 217-215 roll call Thursday by which the House approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

A "yes" vote is a vote to approve the agreement.

Voting "yes" were 15 Democrats and 202 Republicans.

Voting "no" were 187 Democrats, 27 Republicans and one independent.

Click here to see the gory details.

July 27, 2005

First brownout of the season

The lights dimmed twice during dinner. So, I'm now blogging in the dark with the AC off.

Seems only prudent: Heat wave sends New York power demand to another record high. [AP]

Yes, I'm still bitter about getting caught on the street without a bus ticket home during New York's last blackout. I hadn't actually moved to the city yet. I was just in town for job interviews. Luckily, we'd signed the lease on our new place in Brooklyn. I was in Manhattan's Chinatown when the lights went off. I was completely broke at the time and I had no idea how to get back to the apartment.

I figured everything would be okay if I could just get across the Manhattan bridge. So, I started walking. It wasn't what you'd call a justified true belief, but luckily I was right.

Update: Morgaine has good advice for everyone coping with the heat wave:

In the mean time, here’s the next action. It’s not about politics.

Check on your neighbors. Make sure they have what they need to cope with the heat.

In 1995, the people who died in Chicago were the ones that didn’t have anyone to check in on them. Community is a person’s best chance of survival in a heat wave or almost any other emergency. If you don’t know your neighbors, now is the time to get to know them, especially if they are elderly, sick or have small kids.

Water means everything – clean water to drink, or taking a bath or shower in cool water, or a spray bottle of water or wet washcloth used in front of a fan can keep people from having heat exhaustion or stroke.

What helps, what doesn't

Miscellaneous findings from this week's news:

Eccinacea doesn't help colds.

Circumcision helps reduce spread of AIDS.

Prayer doesn't help heart patients.

Antidepressants may not help most people.

NY's smoking ban helps reduce second-hand smoke symptoms.