Tales of the Sausage Factory

Sixth Circuit Upholds FCC on LFA Limits: A Bad Decision and A Sad Day for Localism, With Possible Silver Lining for Ancillary Authority and Leased Access.

The Sixth Circuit has denied the Petitions for Review filed by local franchise authorities (LFAs) and PEG programmers challenging the FCC’s December 2006 Order limiting the ability of LFA’s to negotiate with telco video overbuilders. (You can read a copy of the decision here.)

I am rather disappointed with the decision, as readers might imagine. Not only do I think limiting the authority of LFA’s to protect their residents is a phenomenally bad idea, I think the court takes a very expansive view of FCC authority over LFAs given the legislative history and the statute in question.

On the other hand, the decision potentially provides a substantial boost both the FCC’s ancillary authority and to its leased access reform order, currently pending before the Sixth Circuit. While I find this rather cold and uncertain comfort at the moment, it’s the best I can do in the face of what has become an utter rout for LFAs and PEG programmers. God willing, a future FCC will conduct the inquiry into strengthening PEG programming Commissioners Adelstein and Copps have repeatedly urged.

Some further analysis of the decision and what it might mean below…

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Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Going to California With…

I like to think I’m particularly adaptable on those occasions when I happen to recognize that I need to be, but I perpetually feel inadequate in recognizing when the rules of the universe have changed. That’s a pretty significant skill to be lacking when you’re trying to invent the future.

So it is with even more than the usual range of emotions that I have come to “sell” our home in Wisconsin and will finally be moving to California. I am told that this is an extraordinary accomplishment, but I’ve “adapted” so much, the celebration has a Pyrrhic cast.

The US housing market has all but ceased to exist as a functioning market with any sort of liquidity. In my neighborhood, there should statistically be about one home sale each week. Ours was the seventh in the previous eight months, and I think all of those were the previous calendar year. The issue seems to be that every sale is contingent on having the buyers sell their home, which isn’t happening, so the whole country is waiting for one big circle jerk. Many housing industry folks are claiming that prices have not fallen much, but that’s disingenuous – the average selling price nationally and in most areas hasn’t fallen much only because the average home size continues to rise. The average price per square foot of any particular existing fixed-size house is dropping like a stone in a still pond. (Areas that do not see average housing sizes grow have indeed been seeing a big drop in average selling price.) And with bankers knowing this and knowing that several hundred of their ilk are being carted off by the FBI – no I’m not making this up – they’re not making a lot of bridge loans that would allow folks to buy one house before they sell the next.

So here’s what we did:

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Posted in Inventing the Future, Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Woof! Arf! Bark! Bark! Arf! Woof! Woof! Woof!

For the record, I believe the presidential election was stolen by Katherine Harris & the Supreme Court in 2000, and by Kenneth Blackwell & Diebold, Inc, in 2004. I believe that they will try to steal it again in 2008.

Scientists at CERN say they “probably” won’t create a black hole and destroy the world in their new particle collider.

Gee, after the FISA deal I feel especially great about the plans of the US Air Force to take over the Internet and Outer Space. With insane Christianists and dispensationalists in charge of the Air Force and eager to hasten Jesus to bring on Armageddon, they may be able to achieve what the CERN scientists cannot.

I believe there is a 50/50 probability that the 9/11 attacks were either false-flag, or that some Saudis knew about them and dropped broad hints that Cheney chose not to pick up.

If you extrapolate Moore’s law out only a few centuries, you get computers as dense and as hot as neutron stars. What kind of information processing would a computer like that be doing? Beats me. This is why I am not a pure atheist. Are the stars we see in the sky just God talking to himself in God language? Maybe, who knows.

Posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly | Tagged , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Iowa Broadcasters to FCC: “We Do Localism! All It took Was A 500 Year Flood.”

One has to admire the utterly ruthless and meticulous way in which broadcasters will move swiftly to exploit absolutely any possible set of circumstances for their regulatory advantage. Case in point, this letter from Sue Toma, Executive Director of the Iowa Broadcaster’s Association to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, touting their involvement in their communities during the recent terrible flooding.

Mind you, I am glad that Iowa broadcasters can get it together to do their job during a 500 year flood. And it is the job of trade associations to tout the good its members do — even when it is the sort of thing we expect them to do. And certainly Iowa broadcasters should be praised for stepping up to the plate when needed and recognized for playing their part — along with the other community businesses and volunteers from around the country who, unlike the broadccasters, are not under a legal obligation to provide service to the local community. But of course, for the broadcasters, that is not enough. As usual, the broadcasters behave rather like spoiled 6 year old children who expect bribes to do their homework or their chores. Hence inclusion of this little zinger at the end:

I can’t help but note that the Iowa floods come at a time when well meaning but misguided activists are questioning broadcasters’ commitment to localism. My response: Spend time in Iowa, and see first-hand how local and radio and TV stations are serving our communities during the worst flooding in a century. Iowa broadcasters have once again proven their exemplary commitment to the communities that we serve, without the need for more mandates, paperwork and unnecessary regulation.

In other words, that stations actually do their jobs in a once in a century crisis gets them off the hook for the remaining 99 years, 11 months. To which I can only say, giving proper credit and appreciate to stations doing the work they are supposed to do, “get real.” The real test of localism isn’t just how you do in a crisis and that somehow gives you a free pass on the rest of the license period. The real test of localism is how you serve your local community on a daily basis. That broadcasters refuse even to list what programming they show and what they think their viewers get out of the programming choices — whether news, or entertainment, or exposure to local culture and matters of local interest — should raise serious questions about whether broadcasters take their role as stewards of a public license held in trust for the local community seriously.

I recognize that leveraging responses to natural disasters for regulatory goodies is a hallowed tradition among broadcasters, so I’m not offended at the Iowa Broadcaster’s Association rushing to send this letter as soon as their laptops dried out. But because broadcasters get a lot of mileage out of their so called commitment to localism — such as cable must carry, the right to play music without paying performance royalties, and a rule against satellite radio providing local content that might compete — someone needs to call them on this. You can’t get the benefits of being a licensee with a duty to serve your local community without shouldering the responsibilities as well. So just as my son doesn’t get out of doing his chores just because he did his homework — even if he got an A — broadcasters don’t get excused from serving their community every regular day just because they came through during a flood or some other epic crisis. Kudos for doing a good job on this one, but it’s still your job and you’re supposed to do it well.

And, given that nearly 1 million people took the time to tell the FCC during its localism proceeding that they thought local broadcasters were doing a lousy job serving their local community (I make no claims as to Iowa, that’s national), it doesn’t seem out of line for the FCC to require you to actually tell the FCC how your programming serves the local community as required by your license and to make that documentation publicly available, a requirement broadcasters have gone to court to resist.

Finally, I can’t help but note that low power FM stations (that full power broadcasters fight tooth and nail to keep off the air) have likewise done amazing coverage of the flood and heroic service to their local communities — while still managing to produce local content and serve their communities on a regular basis. If they can pull their weight while still more than complying withe the “mandates, paperwork, and unnecessary regulations” that ensure they serve their local communities, I think the rest of the broadcast community in Iowa can do so as well. And ought to.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Media Ownership, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Last MAP Innovation '08 Panel Wed. Jun 25.

A shameless plug for my employer, Media Access Project (MAP).

As I have written before, MAP has decided to hold a series of events to try to get folks in Silicon Valley to care about Washington policy. Now, we are going to bring some of that back to D.C. On June 25 (this Wed.), MAP will have the last of its Innovation ’08 panels right here in Washington D.C. We have been fortunate enough to get representatives from both the Obama campaign and the McCAin campaign to come and chat about “what we learned while outside Washington — hint, they don’t think we understand their issues.” While fora around the candidates and their surrogates certainly abound here in D.C. at the moment, I feel confident that our unique MAP perspective will make this a grilling policy dialog and discussion to remember.

And, for those who want to understand what makes these MAP fora critically kick ass, you can get video of the first Innovation ’08 forum on DVD from MAP’s website

Details on Wednesday, Jun 25 10 a.m. event at the D.C. Office Dickstein, Shapiro below . . . .

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Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Rather Trivial In the Scheme of Things, But Trivial Is What The News Has Become.

In the journalists who act like the stereotypical blogger rather than the bloggers that rise to level of journalists, I cannot help but include this little piece by Ted Hearn over at Multichannel News. It is perhaps no surprise that reporters for trade magazines beholden to cable television have been, to put it politely, less than pleased with Kevin Martin. But there is a difference between general unfavorable coverage that upholds journalistic standards and the sort of gratuitous nastiness that is supposed to be the purview of the blogosphere and the editorial pages. Or there used to be. And when Hearn compounds this by missing the opportunity for a more interesting story to focus on the little Martin-zingers, I just gotta wonder if I should consider myself a journalist after all.

Hearn’s story is about a Korean journalist miffed at Martin having a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, at the OECD Ministerial Meeting. Hearn’s opening, that “Fifty-five years of peace on the Korean peninsula suffered a minor setback last week after Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin landed in Seoul for a two-day ministerial session of the 30-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,” can be dismissed as comic overstatement for humor. It’s the little zinger at the end that has me shaking my head in wry amusement wondering if Hearn has been taking lessons recently from Rita Skeeter.

The whole thing would hardly be worth a raised eyebrow but for how it illustrates a more serious issue that Hearn muffed. As anyone who follows international news in even a cursory way knows, U.S. – S. Korea relations have been in a bit of a tailspin over the decision of S. Korean Pres. Lee Myung-Bak to lift restrictions on importation of U.S. beef (‘Said Myung-Bak: “We have assurances that the U.S. guarantees the safety of it beef.” Sadly, the U.S. Ambassador was suffering from salmonella from some U.S. tomatoes and could not respond to a request for a quote . . .’) That a reporter was miffed over Martin’s conduct is a potential barometer for the touchiness of U.S.-Korean relationships and whether the beef business will spill over into cable or tech concerns, and whether the trivial conduct of U.S. officials may have impact for American interests.

Such a story would have been timely and important, but would have required some actual work and reporting. So much easier to simply take what someone else has done and editorialize around it. You know, like this thing you’re reading here. Except this is a blog that I write in my spare time without the pretension of pretending to be a journalist. Although given this story and last week’s MSM hack job on Kozinski, I’m starting to rethink calling myself a journalist. Judging from what I’m seeing, what I do isn’t really that different.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

MONARCHY RESTORATION ACT PASSES IN US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES!

NANCY PELOSI JOINS REPUBLICANS IN 293-PERSON CURTSEY TO KING GEORGE

BARACK OBAMA ISSUES PRESS RELEASE PROMISING TO BE “KINDER, GENTLER MONARCH” WHEN HE ASCENDS TO THRONE

HARRY REID GOES FISHING ON LAKE TAHOE, SAYING HAIL MARYS

The horrible FISA bill passed yesterday, despite heroic rear-guard action by our own Harold Feld. Nancy Pelosi, the best-looking Republican grandma in the People’s Chamber (who also happens to be the Democratic Speaker of the House, go figure) led the charge. Obama was invisible before the vote and issued a watery piece-of-shit press release afterwards. Harry Reid said some empty nonsense.

Congressman Delahunt, who represents me (among others), voted against. Go Bill Delahunt. (Maybe the 3,342,985 calls I made to his office over the last few months gave him the encouragement he needed, but the action was his alone.)

Well, so, immediately after the roll call was published I went down to the Tisbury Town Hall, into the Town Clerk’s office. There, I made damn good an’ sure I’ve got nothing to do with the Democratic Party. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me 4,345,395 times, shame on me. I told said clerk, “I want to change my registration,” and she said, “Yeah, and I know why.”

I don’t know how it is where you live, but in my little home town, a DemocraticPartyectomy takes less than a minute. I highly recommend the procedure. It does wonders for one’s blood pressure.

After the jump: Democrats–monarchists or fascists: which one of these?

UPDATE: I edited this post for clarity. My points are probably still unclear, but I wanted to be up front about my revisions.

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Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Final FISA Sellout and My One Last Desperate Push for Sanity

The capacity of the Democratic Leadership to destroy the party will never cease to amaze me. In 2006 the Dems ran to take over Congress on a platform that included, among other things, ending illegal wiretaps on Americans. Now, the same Democrats propose to grant immunity to the telcos who cooperated with the Administration on a theory that — and I kid you not — if we don’t immunize the telcos for breaking the law this time, they might not break the law for us next time. Alternatively, some argue we should not “punish” companies whose only crime was that they cared so deeply about the safety and security of the United States that they “stepped up to the plate” when the President asked them to break the law and spy on people for their own good. Of course, these same selfless, patriotic, noble companies refused to implement judicially authorized wiretaps because the DoJ neglected to pay the fees. But it appears that Republicans, and now a sufficient number of Democrats, understand that we cannot expect patriotism to extend to things that actually cost megacorporations money. You can read this shameful betrayal of everything the Democrats pledged in ’06 here, with EFF’s analysis here.

What makes this more astounding is that there is not a single, rational reason for the Democrats to do this, and every reason not to do it. The Republicans tried to scare monger and make this an issue for them. That tactic failed miserably. You may recall how back last winter when the Republicans pulled out all the usual stops about how this was about national security and blah blah blah. No one bought it. The magic deadlines lapsed and nothing happened.

So either the Democratic Leadership continues to suffer from a pre-11/06 mentality, or they think they can continue to abuse their active base and collect corporate contributions as well. After all, the thinking goes, it’s not like the mainstream electorate cares about this and its not like the netroots are going to vote Republican. So why not treat them the way we’ve treated unions, African Americans, and unions over the years? i.e., talk tough, but cave when it counts because we know there are no consequences for it.

I’ve already made my impassioned plea based on the ideal of the Rule of Law. Now, in a last desperate effort, I shall make my plea based on practicality and — in what is apprently the universal language of party leadership — cash.

Democrats, meet me below . . . .

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Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Noble Cause update: “Kick their ass and take their gas”

The courageous Cindy Sheehan famously asked the coward George W. Bush to tell her what was the “Noble Cause” for which her son Casey had given his life as a soldier in Baghdad. Bush was too cowardly to answer, of course, but over on Eschaton, Atrios the dog-barker has a pithy little post that pretty nearly sums it up, and addresses Harold’s question about citizen and “real” journalism at the same time.

So we’ll spend a hell of a lot of money and lose a lot of lives presiding over an occupation and using our military to provide security for the private security which will be guarding the commercial interests involved in oil extraction.

And since it’s against Village etiquette to suggest that we we are engaged in an imperial colonial adventure, it will be almost impossible to debate the merits of our policies in Iraq or even have a vaguely honest discussion about what those policies are.

Like Atrios, I don’t think the war was about oil alone. It was about Bush’s vanity and sociopathy, the Cheney/Cheney cabal’s lust for war and conquest for the sake of war and conquest, the Cheney/Cheney cabal’s lust for war profits, and the Cheney/Cheney cabal’s hatred of the constitution and the idea of demoncracy. It was fueled by the infantile jingoism of a lazy and kitsch-loving populace and a reasonable admixture of patriotic altruism on the part of some of the troops.

But now it’s about the oil, mostly. And Bush’s vanity, and the Cheney/Cheney-cabal lust for war profits. But mostly it’s about the oil. Possession of which satisfies all the other subgoals.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The UK Broadband Infrastructure And the Debate We Should Be Having.

This article from the London Times is useful both for its substance and for what it says about the sorry state of the debate in the U.S. While the U.K. has much higher available penetration and speed than the U.S., it is considered rather pokey and slow for Europe. As the article observes, the problem is that private companies don’t want to invest in upgrades of infrastructure.

More below . . .

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)
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