Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Taking Your Business, By Duress

I'm aghast. Utterly, and truly, mind-numbed beyond belief. I have now read something which utterly scares me.

Odd how that seems to happen with more and more frequency these days, eh?

So, what has gotten my proverbial panties in a bunch (does "this time" need to be added?)?

Well, it's Treasury Secretary Geithner, who happens to be Obama's lapdog employee in matters relating to finances and the economy. What's happened is that on Tuesday he went before Congress and "requested" the ability to seize non-bank financial firms (as an aside, the non-political FDIC can seize banks). This power he would then exercise via consultation with the Fed and the President.

So basically, what this guy wants is the ability to nationalize any organization that strikes his fancy.

And how exactly is this not socialism?

Amusingly, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has apparently jumped on the Ron Paul bandwagon and started questioning him on just what part of the Constitution allowed for this, and other actions that have been taken since March of 2008, to occur.

Of course, he was only able to point at Congress since no one in the White House is quite certain just what the Constitution says. After all, they had quite a bit of fun rewriting/interpreting the second and fourth amendments (as an aside, as of today (3/25) that bad wording is still up at WhiteHouse.gov site).

This is why our nation is failing. This is why we need major reforms of our laws. This is why we need to go back to our roots and shrink this over-bloated monstrosity which we call a Federal Government.

When the government begins to take the stance that it is all right for it to randomly, and unilateraly take private possessions then you know something is amiss. You know that our freedoms and our liberty are once again curtailed and will suffer.

Additionally, wasn't one of Obama's "promises" to do away with the whole lobby construct? How exactly would this help that? What this does is forces non-bank financial corporations to PUSH money at those they beleive will be in power in order to buy good will so that their business won't be seized by government fiat.

Don't believe me? Then how about this, we know that Chris Dodd is the Senator responsible for ensuring that those $160 Million in bonuses (out of the $107,000 Million in federal "bailout" funds) at AIG were allowed legally. Guess who got the most campaign contributions from AIG?

Here's a hint, it wasn't Ron Paul. Heck, it wasn't even Barney Frank this time.

This is the environment which the Obama administration is creating. Strong-arm tactics designed to force companies to do the will of the administration -- or risk your entire company being TAKEN from you.

Finally, once the government has this power in the hands of the Treasury Secretary what is stopping them from putting it into the hands of the Energy Secretary or the Commerce Secretary? It's a very small step from the government grabbing "non-bank financial companies" to the government grabbing "companies."

We've seen it in Public Domain seizures. Traditionally, properties were only grabbed in Public Domain for roads or schools or other government needs. Today, thanks to the Courts, Public Domain is utilized to seize property so that it can be given to private investors.

Now, imagine this scenario. Say, someone owns and runs a small non-bank financial firm. Now, imagine that AIG has been trying to purchase this firm, but offering a pittance as opposed to a true valuation of the company's worth. Since we know that AIG can buy Senator Dodd in the matter of bonuses, it's not a small step to seem them buying a Secrertary and having this small firm seized, and then given over to AIG, much the same way that Public Domain works today.

Now imagine that being the case for any business anywhere.

With this power, the government will utterly own every aspect of our lives. Everything we have or do, will be at the whims of the government. We will be slaves to this massive monstrosity which is Federal Socialism. Consider the following:
  • We rent our land from the government (since we're forced under duress to pay property taxes or be evicted from said land) despite any type of ownership claims
  • The government can claim said land, and give it to any organization as they see fit via Public Domain
  • The government can seize your finances or non-land property on the suspicision of drug activity thanks to the "War on Drugs" (unless you happen to be a current or former Congressman)
  • The government seizes your income (and the more you make, the more they take) to redistribute it as the government sees fit
  • If this new power is given to the Administration, the government can seize any business, and all businesses will run at the whim of the government rather than market forces
This is the "Land of the Free" which our forefathers shed their blood and tears for. This is the land which our forefathers threw tea into Boston harbor for.

If only it still was.

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oh Noes! It's a Bonus!

The American Tax-paying public, and the bottom-feeders that force said public to fund their exorbitant lifestyle, are in a bit of a furor. Mainly, AIG, one of those recipients of the bad-idea called kickbacksa bailout, is paying its top executives, and other important employees millions of dollars in bonuses.

These are bonuses that AIG has had in place for months; long before that last $30 million.

My surprise is that anyone is surprised at this?

These bonuses are paid to those employees who figure out ways to bring money into the company. And someone had the brilliant idea that the government would float them. Regardless of whether or not they SHOULD be floated.

Because let's be serious, they shouldn't have been.

They should have been forced to go through the bankruptcy system, and have their top management stripped and their organization and debt reorganized.

Instead, top management is more entrenched than ever, and they now have proof that the government will cover any bad, or risky, behavior they take on behalf of the company.

When will those... morons? idiots? No, those aren't the right words; the comparison is insulting to morons and idiots. Ah, when will those politicians realize that the best government is the one which governs least.

Let businesses that need to fail, fail. It's the entire point of the bankruptcy court system.

And above that, remove government influences from market places as much as possible. The less there, the better.

Need another example (besides the perfectly justified AIG bonuses of taxpayer money)?

Then, let's look at the small-car industry. These are those "fuel-efficient" ugly atrocities which no one really wants to own. At least not while gas is reasonably priced. Yet government is forcing the auto manufacturers to create these cars, and what's happening is that they're sitting on car lots and just not selling.

So what is the "recommendation" by the car dealers and manufacturers? Raise taxes on gas pushing the price to a minimum of $4 per gallon. Despite the fact that such a price hike would finish destroying the economy, doesn't anyone see the idiocy of forcing taxes to move products?

Why not build cars that people want to drive and sell those? Oh yes, I forget, the government imposes regulations on the manufacturers.

See the vicious cycle?

Too bad there's not more Ron Paul's up there in Washington to break it...

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hollywood Helps Terrorism

In case you've missed it, an MPAA backed study has released findings that claim film piracy helps organized crime and even terrorism. This is released at the same time as the Rand Corporation (the folks who performed the study) and the MPAA and other media cartels have been trying their best to increase what is constituted as piracy, and forge stricter and harsher civil laws in relation to that. The MPAA and RIAA have long been irked at the concept of moving IP from one media to another (I'm talking about things like ripping songs from a cd to play on a digital device).

The following quote appears to be the few sentences most often qouted from the report, and I can see why. They distinctly tell you what the report writers are going for, in just a few words of mumbo-jumbo.
Moreover, three of the documented cases provide clear evidence that terrorist groups have used the proceeds of film piracy to finance their activities. While caution must be exercised in drawing broad conclusions from limited evidence, further investigation is a timely imperative. These cases, combined with established evidence for the broader category of counterfeiting-terrorism connections, are highly suggestive that intellectual-property theft — a low-risk, high-profit enterprise — is attractive not only to organized crime, but also to terrorists, particularly opportunistic members of local terrorist cells.
And they're right. IP theft as it is currently describe is low-risk. It's easy to rip a DVD.

But, I'm not so certain how "high-profit" I'd describe it.

Sure, there's a lot of potential profit to be made utilizing real-world media. The pirates down at the local flea-market who are selling pirated copies of the latest blockbusters for $10 the week after said movie's release, or a 5$ copy of the latest mass-produced, boy-band CD.

But that's not who the MPAA and the RIAA have been after when they say "piracy."

All to often, they have been after those individuals who have the temerity to share music or movies. Or worse, the poor old lady down the street who just happens to run an open wireless network which someone is routing through.

So, it's obvious tht one form of piracy is easily leading to the other. How to bypass it though? How to stop having Hollywood fund terrorism? Because let's face it, it's the simple fact that the media is controlled--and coupled with arcane, and evil DRM--which produces piracy.

Think, one can't pirate Moby Dick.

Sadly, the media-mafia has a plan, and it works along these lines:
  • Implement all the draconian measures of the PRO-IP Act (PL 110-403)
  • Utilize the Baucus-Hatch legislative improvements to the USTR's Special 301 process to meddle in the affairs of other sovergn nations
  • A Media/mafia friendly and consumer antagonistic Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
  • Attach IP protections to global trade agreements
  • Use the G8 as a club to enforce IP concepts
  • Make a large, IP-centric organization, dedicated to suing IP users for copyright infringement--a global version of the MPAA or RIAA in other words
  • Force other sovering nations (focus on China, India and Russia) into generating additional laws to create more hurdles for the legal customers of IP
As can be evidenced by my take on those "enhancements" I think it's utter and pure tripe. It's hogwash. Poppycock.

Why?

Let's look at our own history for an example: The Prohibition.

What happened during this time? During the Prohibition, alcohol manufacturers in coutnries surrounding the United States flourished, as that alcohol flowed easily and often into the nation. The mafia quickly stepped into place, and soon there was a thriving black-market for the stuff, allowing the crime syndicates (including notorious gangster Al Capone) to flourish.

Here's a little secret, for years, my dad has hoped that the government would fully outlaw cigarettes. As then the mob would bring them in, and sell them for less than the current price of the things.

So, what's the secret here? Where's the point where these two concepts hook up? It's simple, the more something is regulated and structured and used to attack the consumers, the more the consumers will turn to illegal means to access it.

Another example is the computer game Spore. I, and thousands of other gamers, looked forward to this game for years upon years. Yet, when it was released, it had the most draconian version of DRM I had ever seen (I belive there's still a class-action lawsuit concerning it and a rootkit it installed over in California). So, what happened? Well, thousands of folks bought it, but it was still the most "pirated" game ever.

After all, the pirated version lacked the DRM measures. So a lot of people would buy the game, and then download the cracked version of the software so they didn't have to deal with the DRM.

Now, if we really want to stop Hollywood from helping terrorism, then we need to rip apart the current copyright scheme and put a better one into place. These would be my suggestions:
  1. Put any movie/book/song/etc that has not been physically distributed in the last 25-35 years (for corporate copyright holders) or the life-span of the author, artist (for copyrights owned by a person) into the public domain -- leaving things in perpetual copyright is BAD for culture as a whole, and public domaining these older works allows them to be used more easily in transformative works--which is a good thing
  2. Allow CHARACTERS to be copyrighted. For example, Mickey Mouse would be protected under Trademark laws, and Disney would retain the rights to him (as long as he was being used in their distribution channels), but the earliest animations featuring him (such as "Steamboat Willie") would enter the public domain
  3. Enforce DRM-free digital & physical distribution. Digital distribution begs to be free (I'm talking DRM-free, not necessariliy cost free). People want to use their copies in any way that they choose. Let them.
  4. Remove the "Making Available" clause of copyright enforcement. Just because something is up on BitTorrent does not mean that it came from it. Additionally, just because it's a torrent does not mean that it was distributed
That's for the government side. For the media-cartel sides, I suggest producing free, or cheap, electronic copies.

Consider, an ebook is $10 at Amazon, a bit under half the price of a Hard-Backed version of the book, AND a few dollars more than a mass-market paperback.

Yet, there is barely any distrubution costs, and even less production costs (we're talking just editing, formatting, and maybe a "cover" for a digital book)--that makes this a nearly a pure profit sink, and there is literally no reason that it needs to be that expensive.

They should, at most, be $5 for a new release from a recognizable author. Personally, I think a per-word pricing structure would work out ideally. Say old books (published 5+ years ago), go for a $0.02 per 1k words, new mid-tier or lower books, and top-tier (authors like Stephen King who gets a major premium and have good name recogintion) novels that have been out for 2-4 years go for $0.03 per 1k words, while new, top-tier books under 2 years old, go for $0.05 per 1k words.

But in the end it's simple, the MPAA by enforcing this draconian DRM schemes, and crazed copyright/licensing pyramids is producing the situation which makes what this report states to be true. Their actions are what allows piracy to flourish and be a high-profit sink.

So, yes, let's fix it. The first thing we can do is outlaw organizations like the MPAA.

One can read the full report here.

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