Want to make the world a better place? Steal more music!

Bob Lefsetz continues to speak the truth:

“If you’re arguing against theft, if you’re arguing for higher prices, you’re showing your ignorance, you’re shilling for the man. Please open your eyes to the overall game. The distribution lines must be redrawn, for the benefit of artists and society. Don’t let the usual suspects tell you otherwise. They’re just afraid of the future. Which will benefit them too, if they’re willing to hunker down and compete, just like everybody else.”


The Day They Packed Up The Vinyl Revisited

This is a day I will never forget.  I was in the Sam Goody at Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego and I saw all the vinyl being packed up in boxes.  This was towards the end of eighth grade, so the date was June 1990.  I guess there is some significance in that date (ie end of the eighties, here comes grunge all that B(*)(*)JIFDJ).  The fact was the Compact Disc had become the standard with the Cassette being a close second.  Ever since then I have had some fascination with records since they were no longer a mainstream item for sale.  Only dj’s, collectors, or fans of underground music would buy these things.  At the time I did not think much of it and I bought Led Zeppelin IV(or symbols or ZOSO or whatever you want to call it, you know the one with Stairway on it) on cassette.

 Although I was young in the eighties, as far as I know LP records sales were down since about 1985.  Cassette sales were more common.  Although they initially didn’t sound better, they didn’t scratch.  Plus you could put them in your walkman or crank them in your fly dope 1985 Chrysler Le Baron Convertable.  Of course vinyl was still the standard for the single.  I have to note the single as a sales medium died with the advent of the Cassette or CD single.

 As far as I can recall, I didn’t even know about CDs until 1987 when I got into buying music.  It would be three years before I bought my first CD (Depesche Mode Violator).  On a side note I find it amusing that I saw a CNN newsblurb from the early nineties on packaging and selling CD’s and the problems involved.  These were the days of the long boxes.  I can’t believe that nobody thought of just packing them in cellophane. 

 OK so I really am just rambling but the point of this is when will we see the day they box up the CD’s at the mainstream stores (and really this would be end of the straight music chain retailer).  After recently looking for a certain Black Sabbath album (Sabotage to be exact) and being disappointed by Best Buy, Borders, FYE, and Barnes and Noble, I have noticed a significant reduction in volume of CD’s available.  Plus with finally embracingt the  IPOD (and with me being someone that  held on to landlines, dial-up, and of course vinyl longer than anybody of their generation), this is indeed significant.

Utopian Financial Research Project Gone Awry


Wanted: Gullible Lawyers

All I can say is…wow. A terrible scam. Such a free research site would be pretty awesome though!

Photo by :

Ben’s sick day links

Doug shmoozing 

If I’m going to be home with the flu, I might as well post some interesting links.  And BTW, all hail our new contributor FiestaRed…let’s hear more!

1- If you’re afraid of the big bad record companies prosecuting you (read this article about Doug Morris if you really don’t realize how out of touch the big labels are), there are many other options for ‘sampling’ new music. 

 Since I am a metalhead, I recommend you check out these blogs (you might need to brush up on your Spanish):

InfiernoMetal    Classic Extreme Metal    TheBlackHorde 

2- Go see Van Halen (with David Lee Roth)!  Lefsetz Letter has the best review yet

3- Read the true story of the Merzbow Car!

Happiness and Public Policy


Now, it would be extra special had this been published in the WSJ!

From the NY Times: All They Are Saying is Give Happiness a Chance. Excerpts:

“The era of laissez-faire happiness might be coming to an end. Some prominent economists and psychologists are looking into ways to measure happiness to draw it into the public policy realm. Thirty years from now, reducing unhappiness could become another target of policy, like cutting poverty.

“This is another outcome that we should be concerned about,” said Alan Krueger, a professor of economics at Princeton who is working to develop a measure of happiness that could be used with other economic indicators. “Just like G.D.P.””

“Most disconcerting, happiness seems to have little relation to economic achievement, which we have historically understood as the driver of well-being. A notorious study in 1974 found that despite some 30 years worth of stellar economic growth, Americans were no happier than they were at the end of World War II. A more recent study found that life satisfaction in China declined between 1994 and 2007, a period in which average real incomes grew by 250 percent.

Happiness, it appears, adapts. It’s true that the rich are happier, on average, than the poor. But while money boosts happiness, the effect doesn’t last. We just become envious of a new, richer set of people than before. Satisfaction soon settles back to its prior level, as we adapt to changed circumstances and set our expectations to a higher level.”

“Despite happiness’ apparently Sisyphean nature, there may be ways to increase satisfaction over the long term. While the extra happiness derived from a raise or a winning lottery ticket might be fleeting, studies have found that the happiness people derive from free time or social interaction is less susceptible to comparisons with other people around them. Nonmonetary rewards — like more vacations, or more time with friends or family — are likely to produce more lasting changes in satisfaction.

…More broadly, if the object of public policy is to maximize society’s well-being, more attention should be placed on fostering social interactions and less on accumulating wealth. If growing incomes are not increasing happiness, perhaps we should tax incomes more to force us to devote less time and energy to the endeavor and focus instead on the more satisfying pursuit of leisure.

One thing seems certain, lining up every policy incentive to strive for higher and higher incomes is just going to make us all miserable. Happiness is one of the things that money just can’t buy.”

Photo by Aaron Logan

Northeastern University Patent Suit Against Google Search; E-Trade Stocks Down 59%


What a Monday. Suit filed last week by Northeastern University and Jarg, owner and sole licensee of a patent on splitting up search queries to search them over multiple databases to speed up the search, which basically is how Google’s search capabilities function–the suit is for an injunction and damages. That would be insane if it got to the point of Google settling; if I were Northeastern and Jarg, represented by the biglaw law firm Vinson and Elkins, I would play no holds barred. Take it to a jury! Refuse settlement! Of course there’s the KSR case which makes it easier to invalidate patents–at any rate however, they could OWN Google if they won. The patent was issued in 1997, Google was incorporated in 1998.

Northeastern sues Google over patent

Read a transcript of an interview with library advocate and NYU Associate Professor of Culture and Communication Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of a law review article against critiquing the Google book project on the web magazine First Monday.


E-trade stocks down 59% on an analyst’s report that there was a 15% chance that E-trade would go bankrupt, apparently due to exposure in the whole subprime mess. (I thought these financial people were paid so much money because they were geniuses at dealing with and diversifying risk. It’s more like a few become billionaires and hopefully don’t wreck the economy for the rest of us with their exotic shenanigans.)

The way this highlights the psychological aspects of the financial markets is really interesting, since it was just one analyst’s report, and only estimating a 15% chance of bankruptcy…read the comments, a lot of people think the sky could be falling on many of the big financial houses…quite a lot of speculation.

E*Trade’s ‘Bankruptcy’ Risk: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Rebranding the United States as the Non-united Non-states of Independent Rational Actors–The Subprime Fiasco and Insights into Distaste for Government Regulation

usa.gif*Note: yes, this is a disorganized, rambling rant*  But I’ll leave it up for now…

Why bother having a nation at all–why not just dissolve the US as a nation, as a “People,” and rebrand it as an unassociated office park space for transacting business?

Of course government regulation is a highly controversial topic. Of course it’s no magical panacea. But as a nation, we seem to believe in laws and order, and the Rule of Law–doesn’t the Rule of Law, if we think that is indeed a worthy goal, necessitate some degree of government regulation–or do we assume that the free hand of the marketplace will also establish and enforces Rule of Law? That doesn’t seem to be the case historically. For instance, plucking a topic from current headlines, would we outsource national security here in the US to private companies such as Blackwater (it doesn’t look like market forces are doing a good job at making private security companies like Blackwater do a good job of establishing and enforcing the Rule of Law in Iraq and treating Iraqi citizens well–the government, I think rightly, is looking at more closely and tightly REGULATING such private security forces).

Do US citiznes want some sense of striving together for a common national purpose–or do we want to view the United States as just one large chamber of commerce, devoid of any other concerns besides transacting business?

If we view the United States as consisting of a “People”–we might consider that due to bounded rationality, the People can use always some protection from highly sophisticated and often well-financed private actors –and isnt’ the US is here to serve the People to a degree–such that where there are huge asymmetries of information, power, and experience out there (most US citizens aren’t highly educated, sophisticated experts in finance, politics, and law, and aren’t able to afford lawyers and other experts to guide their transactions and decisions)–the US can and does do the People a service by regulating the marketplace to make sure that people won’t get ripped off wholesale by unscrupulous private actors, to make sure that people can have some base expectation of Rule of Law, to establish faith in the economy and marketplace versus fraud and unsafe products and chaos.

Which isn’t to say that the government should hold every citizen’s hand, but rather that a base degree of government regulation and oversight in the interests of US citizens can be a good thing, where US citizens face information asymmetries and collective action problems and high transaction costs in a manner such that it’s sometimes more efficient overall to have the government make and enforce laws and standards and perform investigations and due diligence to keep citizens from being ripped off. If the government’s role isn’t to protect its citizens to a degree, what is a government for? Why bother having a nation at all, and not just make the US an office park?

A Catastrophe Foretold (NY Times)

So why was nothing done to avert the subprime fiasco?…

The answer is ideology.

In a paper presented just before his death, Mr. Gramlich wrote that “the subprime market was the Wild West. Over half the mortgage loans were made by independent lenders without any federal supervision.” What he didn’t mention was that this was the way the laissez-faire ideologues ruling Washington — a group that very much included Mr. Greenspan — wanted it. They were and are men who believe that government is always the problem, never the solution, that regulation is always a bad thing.

Unfortunately, assertions that unregulated financial markets would take care of themselves have proved as wrong as claims that deregulation would reduce electricity prices.

As Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, put it in a recent op-ed article in The Boston Globe, the surge of subprime lending was a sort of “natural experiment” testing the theories of those who favor radical deregulation of financial markets. And the lessons, as Mr. Frank said, are clear: “To the extent that the system did work, it is because of prudential regulation and oversight. Where it was absent, the result was tragedy.”

I mean, US citizens obviously believe in regulation, because they regulate their families, communities, etc. They don’t let their kids just run completely wild, they regulate them. The government is just a proxy for the US citizenry working together–US citizens deciding things should be one way or not, enforcing laws to establish minimum levels of organization, decency, efficiency, etc. So to always rail against government regulation in favor of “market forces” seems to me to be basically giving up on the notion of the government as an extension of the will of US citizens, and giving up on the idea of the US as a cohesive union of the US citizenry. Why be a nation when we can all just be independent rational actors who only deal with each other in transactions for financial gain, and don’t care to have any broader associations or goals as a nation? We could rebrand the US as the Non-united Non-states of Independent Rational Actors.