Monday, March 11, 2002

This morning's entertainment: an interview of Massachusetts Senator Kerry by the news department of one of our local NPR outlets. Aside from a pro forma question about the war, and another about the rumors of a presidential run (which he belittled without, so far as I could tell, denying), it was mostly about energy policy.

Kerry is working with John McCain to get more reasonable gas mileage standards into upcoming legislation, and he was scathing in describing some of the lobbying that he's up against --- arguments that, for instance, "you can't farm with a subcompact". Never mind that tractors and heavy trucks are both already exempted from all requirements in the bill he's trying to push. But more than that, he regards this lobbying as symptomatic of the pathology of American campaign finance, which lets lobbyists connected to donors get a hearing for any argument or proposal, no matter how ridiculous.

Kerry has been broadly supportive of initiatives such as the SSSCA, Fritz Hollings' bill which would give the entertainment industry the power to dictate standards to the consumer and electronics industries. The entertainment megacorps say that they need that kind of power to save themselves from the danger of Napster-style internet file sharing. How bad is it? When Napster was in its heyday, record sales boomed; when it was shut down, record industry revenues went with it. Perhaps Napster was actually promoting their wares better than the monopolized, homogenized radio industry, of which more anon. But the record industry has a large say in what gets played on the increasingly payola-ridden airwaves --- it's what they bought time for. So, it could just reflect the extent to which the endless parade of teen groups they're serving up is not what the customers want. Perhaps the record execs simply need to find a business more suited to their talents --- like farming with subcompacts.


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