12 April 2007

Morning Impressions

As I mailed my income tax extension form this morning at the post office, a woman in line in front of me, obviously not of African origins, mailed a letter to Rwanda. I'm sure that the letter carried quite a story, but I'm content that it be a private one (despite the fact that the Bush Administration claims a right to open all private mail sent abroad).

Hearing of the bombing in the Iraqi parliament cafeteria brought to mind Guy Fawkes. He failed to bomb the British parliament, a failure celebrated each year there. What if, as in Iraq, Guy Fawkes had succeeded? It is an ill omen for Iraqi democracy.

The blog-advertiser axis has bitten Ann Coulter, and it has bitten Don Imus. The prudish right was one of the first to use the strategy of complaining to advertisers to cause the traditional media to be squeamish about sex. The anti-defamation league followed suit to go after anti-Semitic media. Now, the left has set its eyes on hateful bigots, and has the power to act with the newly unifying and organizing force of the blogs (the conservative blogosphere isn't to be ignored either -- John McCain is offering them the exclusive access that used to be reserved for evangelical Christian religious leaders in the GOP).

The traditional media is in a squeeze. The path to ratings is paved with niche audiences, while the path to sales demands that businesses offend almost no one. The Nielson audience size equals value model no longer works in an era where one audience feels free to be offended by offerings aimed at another audience. Niche marketing that offends others doesn't work for products that must appeal to non-niche audiences. I suspect that the result will be even more bland mass media, accompanied by increasingly selective subscriber driven media. Satellite radio, with a commercial free format, doesn't have to worry about advertiser pressure on content, so it can afford to push the envelope. Broadcast media, HD or not, can't.

I'll alert you to the comment from a Campbell support in my post on her. It doesn't change my mind, but it deserves a read.

Before filing the income tax extension, I had to do some back of napkin calculations to figure out what I owed. It isn't wise or good form to discuss the exact numbers, but suffice it to say that the federal income tax is not a great concern for the vast majority of Americans. My federal income tax bill is a drop in the bucket compared to my FICA taxes, or my combined state and local tax burden. At risk of undermining my own self-interests, the tax code is very kind, too kind, to married couples with a two incomes, one spouse who makes a lot more than the other, and a couple of kids.

And, finally, WTF is Bush thinking in trying to prevent Congress from securing testimony by subpeona from federal prison inmates, something it has been doing for decades? Isn't it bad enough for him to insist on a right to have government officials lie of the record to members of Congress and to tap their phones? When did the lobby in favor of Congressional ignorance get so strong? Bush can win an occassional battle with Congress, but going head to head with it on institutional perogatives is a good way to get himself bipartisan opposition. In the most recent case it wasn't even a scandal investigation (so far as we knew before the administration squaked). It was simply a routine attempt to figure out how tax cheats do their business so that Congress can prevent it. Was this a pre-emptive strike to prevent testimony from the next wave of Republican convicted felons like Scooter Libby?

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