Monday, March 24, 2008

XM And Sirius Finally Allowed To Merge by the DoJ!

This is probably not on the radar screens of many people, but it's an interesting story on a few different levels. The Department of Justice has approved the merger after over a year of doing apparently not much of anything (the Exxon-Mobil merger was approved much quicker).

I've been a Sirius subscriber since August 2006, and I love the programming. I chose it over XM for two reasons: Howard Stern and the NFL! I've come to sometimes enjoy Bubba the Love Sponge as well, though the guy is a total hillbilly. It would be nice if you could get the programming for both of them in one package for those that are into baseball (XM only), and football (Sirius only). They both also have different specialty music channels. Sirius for instance has a Sinatra channel and a Springsteen channel.

There are a couple interesting side stories to this. First, the National Association of Broadcasters, the NAB, is dead-set against the merger. This is the group that represents traditional radio. They say the merger would be anti-competitive. They of course have a vested interest in this deal because since both Sirius and XM are losing money, and if they are not allowed to merge, they might both go under. This would be great for free radio of course, since they would again own the radio airwaves. They recently had a big banner on their headquarters in DC against the merger that I believe said "XM + Sirius = Monopoly". Of course, it's OK with them that a few companies, including ClearChannel, own most of the radio stations in the US. They even hired good old John Ashcroft to help make their case after XM turned him down (remember him, the one who put a drape over a naked statue?). I guess Ashcroft doesn't particularly have any convictions on this subject.

Speaking of the religious right, the other undercurrent to this story is that despite the DoJ ruling, the deal now has to be approved by the FCC. Yes, they probably would approve the merger, but they could approve it with conditions, and it has been suggested in some circles that that the FCC may try to put restrictions on content. Then Howard Stern and many of the other channels could be thrown right back into the "what is OK and not OK" hell that any "edgy" show on free radio is in these days. Let's hope that doesn't happen, since most adults like our entertainment uncensored, and we like to have choices.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eliot Spitzer And My "Alternate Win Condition" Theory

I was thinking about the Spitzer incident, and what drives people to do what they do (right after I was admiring how hot the escort was). Before I get into all of that, I first want to say that I think that his personal life has nothing to do with his fitness for office, but that I feel bad for his family. As a public figure, he needed to understand beforehand that the chances of this coming back to burn him and his family were high, and it was a bad move. Also, as a crusader against this sort of thing, it puts him into a situation where he immediately looks like a huge hypocrite. Anyway, that has already all been said by others.

My own theory about this has some parallels with gaming. In life, people have all kinds of goals and interests. In the case of many people, varied sexual experiences with attractive members of the opposite sex are of course high on the list of goals. (Let's leave the marriage part out for this explanation. It's important to the story, but irrelevant for my theory.) There are many ways to accomplish that goal, and combinations within those methods. You can be very mentally adept and charming. That scores lots of points. You can be famous. This opens a lot of options, because people are naturally attracted to fame. You can be physically attractive. This one is a no-brainer. Pure physical attraction can make people overlook a lot of flaws. Some of these things feed into each other, and one can lead to having another, but sometimes you will fall short, no matter what. So what if you don't have the right combination of those things to attract the kind of woman that you want to have sex with? You need an "alternate win condition"! For Spitzer, it was money. For the price that these escorts were charging, you need to have a LOT of it, and most of these women, certainly his most famous one, were beautiful and could more or less name their price. This is the one way that he did not have to go through the normal "courtship" sort of system to get a girl of the quality that he wanted.

For an analogy, imagine a first-person shooter video game where it's all about killing these monsters to win the game. There are lots of them, and they're really tough to beat. If you're good at the game, you kill the monsters, you win, and you get something really great in the end. For some reason though, in this game, if you can just avoid being killed by the monsters for many hours, you can also win! It's considered sort of a "cheap" victory by the purists of the game, but if the goal is to win, and if to you the fun is simply to get the reward at the end, then that is when you go for the alternate win condition. That is what Spitzer did. Was it worth the embarrassment? Only he knows.