Thursday, March 29, 2007

If For No Other Reason

USNews & World reports ......

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson appeared to throw cold water on a
possible presidential bid by former Sen. Fred Thompson while praising former
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also weighing a presidential run, in a phone
interview Tuesday

Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things
that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson said of Thompson. "[But] I
don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," Dobson added,
saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect
with the Republican Party's conservative Christian base and win the GOP

In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary
Schneeberger stood by Dobson's claim. He said that, while Dobson didn't believe
Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless "has never
known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his

Dobson's phone call to U.S. News senior editor Dan Gilgoff Tuesday was
It marked Gilgoff's first discussion with Dobson in over two years,
since the magazine's political writer began work on The Jesus Machine: How James
Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture
War, published this month by St. Martin's Press. Dobson had agreed to answer
only written questions for the book. (emphasis added)

The Religious Right have not helped the Republican Party. Every announcement they make spurs the Left to raise money with screaming fears of the coming Christian-American Theocracy. Their Do-What-We-Say-OR-We-Stay-Home attitude has not assured a solid unchallenged Republican domination of the House, the Senate or the Presidency. Their leaders want the control of power without the ugliness of exposing themselves to examination or vote.

Politicians pandering to preachers is ugly. It may also violate some tax and election laws. If The Rev. Dobson was to lose his TAX EXEMPT status, his political aspirations and machinations would be very much quieter. The same goes for those religious leaders and houses that support the Democrats. Peddling tax exemptions for religious dispensation should not grant political access or power.

Religion as politics has not brought good to any nation. We witness the daily warfare in the Middle East. We have read of the horrors in Europe and other places around the world. We don't need an American Pope, Mullah, Ayatollah, Headman, or Voice of the Divine Spirit in our politics. We are fragile humans with flaws struggling and following our conscience towards our own solutions. We allow and promote religious diversity. We encourage people to choose and follow their own conscience. We have, pointedly, made it a part of our foundation that the state shall have no role respecting the establishment of any religion. We do much better, at being American, when we elect humans who share our frailties and foibles. We remain true to the American spirit when we change out our leaders on a regular basis.

Religious organizations could use a Herculean stable cleaning on a regular basis... Why are religious leaders given lifetime power and influence? If it is good to change political leaders regularly why is it bad to do the same for religions? Why is it so seldom done?

Does the Religious Right really want to stay-at-home and be out of a Democrat controlled government? Do they care so little for their values and positions that they would abandon them out of spite? Positions and values so lightly held should be ignored by any leader worthy of the name.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Brand Betrayal

The NYTimes and most of the traditional Establishment Media continues to have problems with with the evolving future. The Internet is a disruptive force. It has changed many patterns of commerce and communication. It will change many many more.

Rapidly following the news that InfoWorld was abandoning its 29-year-old print magazine in favor of a purely online life comes news that LIFE is moving in the same direction. Do we want even more online content?

What is the future of publishing, communications and information? The Internet has turned them into commodities. Every industry has faced the possibility of becoming commoditized. When it happens that what you produce is available, with little differentiation, from many suppliers, the lowest cost providers gathers the largest market share. This gives them greater economies of scale and a lower cost basis. This drives the price spiral further down making it harder for competitors to remain in the market.

To break the commodity death spiral every business fights to establish itself as a brand name. Quality, value, differentiation and consistency are paramount in making the buying public recognize the brand value and paying a premium.

What is most surprising is how fast Establishment Media have trashed their historially held brand names. The scandals of, fake reproters, fake-but-true news, fake-but-fake reports, enemy propaganda passed as war correspondent footage, enemy agents posing as reporters, sock puppetry among the columnists, political bias, and indifference have given new forms of information access to what should have been an insurmountable advantage.

WSJ has worked to add value to their print and online forms. They have made it easy to research and find information. They offer several forums and email newsletters to enhance and remind their customers of their presence. They charge for these services, but they are building brand loyalty. The WSJ offers transparency to their items. They re quick to correct and acknowledge errors. They allow the customer to interact and react to stories. They identify their writers. Forbes magazine does something similar but from a different perspective.... Each publication has its own "voice" or view of what they consider important about the news they report. This distinction allows the reader to identify and trust their reports. The combination of print and online are helping to hold their margins while they fight the same disruptive forces. They do not claim to be neutral. They are willing to take sides and defend their position. They are willing to explain their conclusions and provide the details that led to them.

The Establish Media's claims of impartiality, neutrality and summary reporting are arrogant "trust me" voices that are losing their audience as they betray their trust. Their arrogance has led them into blind allies. Their disregard for their readers or viewers is affecting their subscriber and viewer base. This affects their ad rates and general revenues.

All business relationships are based on trust. We trust that the money we provide will bring us the value we seek. We trust that the seller will honor their commitment to the value. When that trust is betrayed, we walk away and never return. When we are truly disappointed we tell others, organize to spread the news of our unpleasant experience and file lawsuits.

Brands are short-cuts to Trust. When we travel we know that a certain standard of quality will be available from the known and recognized brand. When we enter a new establishment, we place our money at a greater risk. We may be pleasantly surprised. We may also be disappointed.

The conscientious trashing of great brands betrays the generations of effort that went into building the public trust. It is arrogance and ignorance that only comes from a distant relationship with the customer. Successful businesses stay close to their customers. They listen, anticipate and reward the customer for their patronage.

There are some that leap in glee at the slow death of Establish Media. We don't. We would like for them to right themselves and regain our trust. To do this, they must get close to their customers. They must be come transparent, stop manipulating the trust that is offered, stop taking short term advantage, provide value for money. Will they act before they begin a death spiral?

The world awaits their decision but is, at present, buying elsewhere

Threats to Bloggers

Convergence of blog subjects, newsletters, and emails on the subject of hate mail, hate comments, and personal attacks. What is the future of the Blog-O-Sphere? Whither are we going? What is legitimate comment and what is intimidation? Who gathers facts and who reports what they think they read?

What is Free Speech? What are the limits? Who decides? What is the value proposition of a blog?

I wrote earlier of my views. I think that we should let the marketplace of ideas decide. As author of this blog I will decide what I will post and what comments I will allow. I think each blogger should be responsible for their own content. Those commenter's who disagree or disparage, insult and wish only to anger should not be allowed entry. They are free to start their own blog, website, newsletter, or written column in a paper periodical. Let them find their own audience... Should their style of insults and abuse become popular then they will benefit by having a taller soapbox to reach a larger audience.

This early and lengthy Political Season is a great opportunity for everyone to jump in with their ideas, observations, comments, suggestions, opinions. There will be some who are incoherent. Some who cannot communicate and who, in frustration or by habit, will attempt to intimidate the owners, writers, authors of these forums. They must not be allowed to gain traction. The wave of intimidation will lead to legal remedies and protections. This will do nobody good. Politicians, given the opportunity to control speech, control what people think, say, do in the name of safety and protection, will go too far. They cannot be trusted to remain disciplined and restrained. McCain-Feingold is one example of good intent becoming bad law. DMCA is another. The Laws on "hate" crimes have yet to be thoroughly tested. They smell of "thought crimes" and lead us down the Alice in Wonderland/Looking Glass path to "1984" of Orwell.

We have all waded through the Internet flame wars and Internet bun fights that could be misconstrued as invitations to a lynching. Mob mentality arises too easily when people are anonymous and sitting alone in their room. The proper limit to Internet speech is the invocation of violence to another.

The childhood mantra applies "Sticks and Stones make break my bones, but words will never hurt me" ... When the words incite and encourage the uses of sticks and stones, then they go too far.

We, the Blog-O-Sphere owe the reader good value in return for their time spent reading our gems. The quality may be uneven, but it should be entertaining and rewarding in some sense. As you have noticed, this blog is new (less than a month) we are building our audience. We hope that you feel your time has been well spent here.

Gene Callahan has written about the use of "capital" as meaning a person's time.

There are no constant laws that determine what valuation a particular person will place on future satisfactions as opposed to present ones. We have all heard stories of some little old lady who has worked as a secretary her whole life, for a moderate wage, living in modest circumstances. Upon her death, her friends are shocked to discover that she had amassed a fortune in stocks and bonds. Equally familiar are the stories of the profligate rich, who squander a fortune in riotous living.

ultimately, all capital goods only have value due to their finally yielding some consumer good. The importance of capital structure increases tremendously as we begin to examine more complex economies. Capital structure will be crucial to our examination of socialism.
Making the dismal art understandable and interesting brings some interesting writers forward.

Hotel Tango: InstaPundit, Little Green Footballs

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blog-O-Sphere is Important

Dean Barnett has some observations on why the Blog-O-Sphere (my spelling) is important; Why politicians are paying attention; what we can do to improve the message.

he blogosphere is important. It’s more important on the left than it is on the right, for sure, but politicians of all stripes have reached a consensus that the goodwill of the blogopshere is something to be courted.

This isn’t because of bloggers. Rather, it’s because of our readers. Blog readers, both left and right, are exceptionally high–end consumers of news. Among blog readers, there is a disproportionate amount of what Malcolm Gladwell calls “mavens” in his book “Tipping Point.” To generalize, blog readers are well informed big-mouths. They wield influence beyond their numbers.

So what happens in the comments section of blogs, including this one, has to be on some levels meaningful. The commenters represent the community, and it’s the community that politicians want to reach.

He then talks about those who comment. He dislikes the crude, rude and just plain nasty comments. Who does? I doubt even those who write such comments would like reading them. Americans have a limited vocabulary for insult, obscenity, and other forms of verbal abuse. We are sadly diminished in our insult capacity. Our language for obscenity does not improve much from the age of 6 (when we discover naughty words) until we reach our dotage. The English, French, Australians, Germans, Dutch, cultures from Asia and the Middle East, all are more inventive and outrageous. Why post insults that are not imaginative? At least make the comments sections readable for the casual reader.

Hate mail is in that same category. Why pay attention to people who cannot marshal an argument, cannot present their position, cannot defend it, and then abuse the reader? Life is too short for boring circles. Hate mail does nothing for the reader. The sender feels good. Why read it. The one caution about hate mail is to never reply.

There are 70 million+ blogs according to one count, (other counts say 50+ million) . The goal of any blog, as with any writer, or speaker should be to inform and entertain. Talking to oneself does nothing to advance an idea or reward the audience for the time spent. Yes, anyone can climb upon their soapbox and begin shouting. However, to cut through the clutter the audience must get something for their effort. They must receive something for their time and attention.

All conversations are a marketplace.

The Future is Available For Viewing

I have recently discovered The Futurist blog. I am truly enjoying the concise writing and logic. In the most recent post

A recent Zogby poll confirms what most Americans already know painfully well, that the mainstream media is significantly further to left of the political spectrum than the general population.

Of all respondents, 64% feel the media as a leftist bias and only 28% perceive a right-leaning bias. Republicans aside, 66% of Independents and even 17% of Democrats believe that the media has a leftist bias.

Of course, none of this is a surprise.

Even if we concede that Fox News is biased to the right, that makes it just one out of eight news networks with a Republican bias. The left thus still controls 7 out of 8 news networks.

"But out of 8 news networks, if 7 are left-wing, and just 1 is right wing, and even that network contains liberals, why does Fox News bother you so much? If only 1 out of 8 news networks caters to half of the population, yet you want to suppress even that, that means you are opposed to free speech, doesn't it? How is what you seek even remotely fair?"

If they insist that Fox News should be suppressed because Republicans are 'dumb', then remind them of how people earning over $50,000 a year overwhelmingly voted for Bush, while Kerry had a majority only among those who earn under $30,000 a year. Income may not corelate directly to intelligence, but income certainly does not have an inverse correlation with intelligence. Anyone who suggests that a group that is 'rich' is simultaneously 'dumb' is desperately trying to fight off realities that fail to affirm their belief in their own intelligence.
This is one of those "AHA!" moments... One of those times when you knew how you felt but lacked the words. You never formed the argument because you never had cause.

I am now a fan. Go Read, Scroll back and read some archived posts... You'll enjoy the journey. I did.

Economist Predicts

The Economist predictably predicts that the dearth of music sales means the death of music as we know it. They have no faith in human ingenuity. They have no trust in Adam Smith's invisible hand or the marketplace. They have no idea that music existed before the arrival of the Industry and that it will survive long long long afterwards.

I think it's safe to say that there would be less music available overall. Many people are arguing that bands could simply use albums as loss leaders for concerts. ... But most people will probably spread the savings over their entire budget, meaning only a very modest boost for live performance earnings. ... Probably downloading will modestly increase the amount of concert attendance and the price people are willing to pay for them, but I can't see it doing so by anything but a small fraction of the revenue stream being lost from selling recorded music. ... Meanwhile, professional artists have to eat. If you reduce the size of the revenue streams available to fund their music-making, some of them will have to spend less time making music, and more time making money some other way. ... It's not hard to imagine that the death of the music industry could also mean the death of overproduced boy bands and Britney Spears knockoffs.
What will we do without gatekeepers and marketing gurus to decide who's a star and who's not? What the Economist fails to understand is that we never did need the gatekeepers and marketing manipulators. We never did need multi-BILLION-dollar record execs. We never did need multi-BILLION dollar recording stars. The mega-rock stars will have to survive on their paltry few millions. This of course means fewer hangers-on, fewer retainers, fewer trips to rehab, fewer drugs and alcohol, fewer expensive tantrums, fewer fixers and menders to do all the little deeds that must be done to achieve the right mood, fewer dollars for politicians and political posturing. There will be more emphasis on making music and selling songs that entertain and move the audience.

We do not now, nor did we ever, need expensive CDs selling us 13 songs of crap for the one hit we wanted to buy. We do not now, nor did we ever, need Greatest Hits CDs filled with bad recordings of hit songs. We do now, nor did we ever, need compilations of songs from other releases and two new songs packaged as the latest NEW release. The audience doesn't stop buying at age 25. They get tired of being ripped off and seek other avenues.

The Record Industry screwed the public. They milked us like we were dairy Holsteins... We will not miss them. We will watch as they dangle Octopus Contracts to corral any new artists
who are fool enough to sign. They will use legislation to control the consumer when they can no longer manipulate the market.... The Internet is freeing those with imagination, talent, drive, ambition, and ability even in modest amounts. The audience exists. The means to reach the audience exist. The key, as with all markets for all commodities is to find the strike point. Where is the value point at which a willing buyer will purchase and a willing supplier will sell? The Internet will help sort that out.

The Economist is very much of the Olde European School. Namely; Find a Market and Control It. Their bias against capilalism and free markets is not overt. They simply cannot conceive that such a thing can exist and proceed to write as if it never has and never will. I use their publication as a cracked mirror that helps me see more clearly. The skewed perspective helps reveal the underlying flaws that are not always visible when viewed straight on... They cover America like anthropologists covering an alien society. Perhaps we are.