By JEFF VRABEL
Sure, you're thinking, things are bad right now. Your 401(k) will lose several thousand dollars by the time you're done reading this, and America is glued in two dismal wars. Cheap-looking strip-mall developments are reproducing all over Bluffton like Spears children, and every time you drive on U.S. 278 there's a delightful new stoplight for your enjoyment. Hurricanes are growing stronger, thousands of sponge-brained jokers still think Obama's a Muslim, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" is a hit and the general national mood is dour, black and blour, which is a word I just made up because we don't really have many words that can effectively describe how lousy things are.
But amid all this turmoil, there's one group that's having a pretty darned good month: the record industry.
You may remember The Record Industry as the comical supervillains who charged $18.99 for Limp Bizkit CDs for about 20 years before people realized you could get music online either by paying more reasonable rates or not at all, which is how many of them started doing it.
Needless to say, that caused the heads of The Record Industry and Don Henley to retreat into their sanctums, which are only accessible by passing through rivers of the undead, to figure out solutions to the problem, which involved suing 11-year-olds, giving hilarious speeches at the Grammys and making everyone hate them more, which they do, in force: The Record Industry currently enjoys the kind of approval ratings you might expect if you stapled Dick Cheney to the reunited New Kids on the Block, duct-taped them all to the Senate and glued them to Lindsay Lohan's dad.
The problem, of course, has nothing to do with the changing marketplace or the discovery that artists can get music to fans in other avenues besides relying on slimy-haired 24-year-olds named Tork whose main job involves finding 50 people who look and sound like Taylor Swift each year.
No, the problem, of course, is Pirates - nefarious, doughy Pirates who must be stopped so badly that this month President Bush signed into law a bill that created a cabinet-level czar to address piracy issues. It's hard to tell who stands to gain more by this: the still-damp residents of New Orleans or the nine million American children without health care. (Actually, the slot came down to two positions: either a Piracy Czar, or a Czar For Making Sure We Never Have To Bail Out Unrepentant Hope-Sucking Tycoons With $700 Billion Again. Turns out Piracy won. Go figure.)
The delightfully named Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act was pushed by your friends in the MPAA and RIAA, the folks responsible for telling you what's good for you (the former) and battling daily with Apple to make you pay their preferred price for a "Womanizer" MP3, which is $35.99 (the latter). It's especially important for the movie industry, which in recent years has had barely enough money to pay actors to star in massive comic-book films.
Yes, yes, I know, stealing is bad, we all went to third grade, (except the people who still think Obama is a Muslim). Lots of things are bad, but surprisingly few of them have lobbies strong enough to require government intervention. But if you think this is a problem that requires immediate attention today, right now, this month, this year, please put down your stock portfolio, your orders, your tuition statement or your credit card bill and raise your hand. Not you, Britney.