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Saturday, March 29, 2008
FCC No. 9

It has not been the best of times for FCC Chairman Kevin "Pincher" Martin Congress dons rubber glove, prepares probe of FCC chairman. First there was Rep. Dingell's (D. MI) little request; for virtually all paper-work the FCC has produced in the last 10 years. The FCC's own data on consumer complaints system is so chaotic as to cast all doubt on any attempt to ensure net neutrality FCC living in the dark ages; a threat to net neutrality aims. Then there was a strange story that some staffers were going to wear black to work one day as part of a silent protest of his chairmanship FCC insider: This place is hell; silent protest planned. Now with a brief press release illustration that even Fox doesn't care what they think:  Fox to FCC: your analysts' sexual fantasies not our problem. Not that the FCC really wanted to be moral content cops to begin with. Others wanted that for them. Its nice to be feared, but if you growl and they don't flinch what then?

There has been some good news, the auction to sell off the VHF spectrum space being vacated by television was successfully completed. Raised more money than they figured it was going to. Additionally since analog channels were spaced out fairly widely there is considerable "WhiteSpace" spectrum to be allocated and put to first use as well. These were the gaps between allocated analog channels of vhf broadcast. Google seems to have an idea of a national wide broadband cell phone service in this space White space (telecommunications) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Soon though the FCC may find itself between a rock and a hard place on the matter of the Sirus - XM merger. The Department of Justice has decided that the absolute monopoly in satellite radio this would create is; however, not anti-competitive, leaving  intact another display for the museum of free market antiquaries. The general line of reasoning, the same used for local market media merger, is to count all possible allied human activities as being substitutively competitive, or to count every possible way of delivering a glob of entertainment to your door step as competing. Content diffusion or medium diffusion as competition. Of the three major dailies Justice Dept. Approves XM-Sirius Radio Merger - I saw covering this Justice Dept. Approves XM Merger With Sirius - New York Times only the WSJ seems to have actually bought this arguement.  XM, Sirius Move Closer To Improbable Merger - : "The combined company will face stiff competition from traditional broadcasters, iPods, mobile phones and other emerging ways for consumers to access music and other programming. Still, the Justice Department's approval marks a big step forward..."  It is as though in the 1890's railroad barons told the government: "what are there no mules, no horses, no donkey dog or cat carts? We can envision vast fleets of rats from New York City yoked together and pulling (something like) a ten-car train down to Philadelphia, and back, every day. The chill thought of that kind of competition will keep us honest, trust us." Seriously though the idea of routinely regarding any activity in an given economic sector as having conceivably occurred against another is aggravated nonsense. It is a softening of the edges of a concept that collapse the category. Major League Baseball may decide it competes against cinema, hiking footwear, or kayaks; things to do on a week-end after all. But that is not a rational to allow it to form a corporate cartel with the NFL, NBA, PGA etc. to fight this.

Anti-Trust: the government isn't even trying anymore.

Another matter that seems to have dropped off the map, although it is not likely it has, is the final arrangements of royalty schedule that SoundExchange was trying to levy on behalf of the RIAA. That after some initial public and congressional attention things became murky, is not really mysterious. Public policy is increasingly becoming a war of attrition against the public. In-transparency or opacity disguises intent and eliminates judgement.

The issues surround this were actually treated in a Washington Post feature last Sunday Name That Tune-In: Who Will Emerge as The Future of Radio? - Mostly it dealt with what it termed "next radio" all the internet and digital solutions precipitated on the death of terrestrial radio and the urgency of keeping people paying somehow for recorded music. Mostly the article pointed up the least common denominator banality of music services like Pandora. These services attempt to discover what you and people with exactly your tastes like and then give you just that, What you get sounds what like you've got. Marc Fischer, the author, in a deft moment allows a twenty-something proponent to state that the days of mass culture and pop groups like the Beatles are over. Before noting the decided top-forty tendencies of some of these services. None of these so far is "next radio" and to reiterate my biases I believe the strategy is to keep any of these start-ups from becoming too successful until existing industry players can figure it out and occupy that space themselves. Latter in the week Diane Rehm (NPR) built a show around that article with a handful of guests including Fischer WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio - The Diane Rehm Show for Thursday March 27, 2008 . The concept of iPod fatigue is interesting; the notion that a digitized and ubiquitous music collection even of very large proportions will eventually become overly familiar and drive people back to something like radio. Of course I also believe that if it appears music culture needs a next radio it is because radio was rarely done well over the last 30 years. I like the idea of a service that would allow me for a nominal fee to listen to (as opposed to buy and store such as iTunes) or share a given song or playlist, but these would be songs I knew of already. I've long since thrown in with free form radio. Radio where the flow of music is not predictable nor often familiar, but is intentional and an implicit argument emerges from the segues.

A minor irony, as part of initiatives designed to boost small local radio, WFMU, my favored radio station, which I listen on the internet when I do, is being allowed to build a repeater in Manhattan across the Hudson river from their original base. Without increasing their transmitting wattage at all they could double their terrestrial reach. Moves like that which cost the FCC nothing can often be the difference whether a community radio station with bills to pay can remain viable or not. LPFM has its uses to the FCC; making up-market consolidation more palatable. It's an acceptable bargain to the low numbers side.

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Friday, March 21, 2008
Beijing Olympics

There are increasing media indications that any organization with any kind of grievance against the Chinese government in Beijing, is going to use this year's Olympic games to press home their concerns The Olympics are the perfect place for a protest. - By Anne Applebaum - Slate Magazine. They will disrupt, interrupt and replace the message and news of the day with their own. They will not stand beside the scoreboard with their bill of particulars. Their passion will dictate they throw the scoreboard over and settle their own scores.

I do not know what to make of this now obvious inevitability. I imagine the soapbox of Olympic attention must seem an enormous and delectably high podium. Broad and lonely boards, crying out for viewpoints of integrity to be shouted from them. China is a very large nation. It is a rather repressive nation. No especial offense is meant by that, with a read-through of the speeches and public comments of the leadership you will hear them say that themselves, as a point of pride. It is a nation that generates stark winners and losers. Leaving the unsettled latter adrift in its wake. Tibet is one of the aggrieved, they are not even voluntarily part of the Chinese nation, run as a internal colony, an imperial dumping ground. The Tibetan people have been around for thousands of years diffused beyond the borders of the administrative unit China would mark out for them. Tibet; additionaly, has the Dalai Lama; a noble spiritual gravitas-weighted reminder of the claim that Tibet is a God defined independent nation. Or at least an autonomous region. "Free Tibet" is a celebrated cause world wide, no less an inspiration to its own people.

On this account and for what other affairs that can get organized well enough fast enough the Beijing Olympics will be fought. Fought through campaigns for public opinion. This is fine, PR is the world's Lingua Franca. Propaganda the only real mode of intentional communication between those without personal connections. Between states and publics. Corporate's and publics. Between publics. Among this debate I have begun to hear calls for the pinnacle statement that could be made for such an event. That the US and other nations should boycott the Beijing Olympics. I disagree. So far these calls are coming mostly from the left and will probably be ignored. It will become a concern if they spread to that distempered land where the neo-Wilsonians meet the neo-conservatives.

They remind me of the calls mostly from the right that we boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow 1980 Summer Olympics boycott - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which we did by order of the President Carter. The Russians had invaded Afghanistan. There could be no thought of play, it was decided, and there was none. Four years later a communist-and-alientated-nation block boycotted the summer games in Los Angeles, in turnabout fashion 1984 Summer Olympics boycott - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (no-one missed them). The PRC being only recently in the Olympics stayed away from Moscow but came to Los Angeles. Most of the wailing and bemoaning on that occasion came from the right, over what black and godless heart would stoop to spoiling games come to Ronnie's own promised land. The question was examined in several books following this Power, politics, and the Olympic Games [] and consensus to emphasis the neutral internationalism of the games seem to gain, but that may only have been interregnum Olympic turnaround : how the Olympic Games stepped back from the brink of extinction to become the world's best known brand [] .

I think it is a mistake also to say that that these are Beijing's Olympics. The Olympics belong to the Olympics. To the set of athletes participating most of all. To the International Consortium and Bureaucracy that organizes them. Beyond that to the Olympic ideal of international non-pecuniary athletic competition which forces a path however indistinct on even the Olympic committee Sally Jenkins - IOC Needs to Step In Or Perhaps Move On - The host nation stands to gain great prestige and honor if they can bring about successful games, but faces great risks to the same if they cannot, and enormous costs. If their society and the culture which forms it, can be only just so open only so natural (not showing the seams and gunmetal beneath). If their industry and wealth can provision the Potlatch feast. If the air of their cities can be clean enough for men and women to run and jump at the highest human ability.

The Olympics at end posits and asks whether or not we believe there is even the mere idea of pan human endeavor, of recognizable human excellence. If there is a plane of humanity call it human being which sits above the localized and angry strife of everyday fear and worry from which all things emanate. Something we witness and create together which admits universal aspiration universal acclaim. If we carry the burden of all our concerns with us at all times even to the games, and insist that we turn our backs from the gathering for their sake, then we deny this and deny at the same moment the possibility that any claim or concern we have can ever be seen by all as beautiful, rightful or just. For we have just denied that part of our world.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008
Citizen Spitzer or keeping up with the Johns'

Like many I took a moment last week to speculate on New York governor Eliot Spitzer's behavior and mores if not his rationality. I'm not ready to institutionalize that level of hypocrisy in governance yet, so that he had to give up the job and leave public life in disgrace is not troubling for me. He painted his own exit - stage left. What I liked particularly, though, was that periphery of press commentary that looked to Spitzer's behavior to discovery what rational or societal mechanisms lay behind them, because, gee I love that kind of talk.

A Diane Rehm segment the other day on modern day public apologies touched on and underscored the quality of the non apology he gave. It suffices to say he has not hit the introspective stage of this "greek tragedy" yet. We are shy of Oedipus' arrival at Colonius, left examining behavior in only non moral dimensions. Mostly this centered on what it means to pay nearly $5,000+ for 'services rendered'. Oddly it seems to be mostly male commentators dwelling on this. It would be easy to see this as gambling behavior. Deliberate courting of risk, thrill-seeking. Like dropping five large on the outcome of an undistinguished back nine of a county golf course. It seems like conspicuous consumption - in its deliberateness - in its ostentationess. It is difficult to conceive how conspicuous such behavior was intended to be. I consider the possibility here of an interior dialogue that would fulfill the role of envious inspecting peers. I might suggest further such narratives may not be that unusual in the scarcely rational decision making of economic man. Celebratory behavior is what some suggested. That this was something that Spitzer allowed himself to signal, to himself, that he had arrived, that he was a player. In this view the rewards were all the sweeter for their expensiveness, exclusivity and risk, the appearence of ignoring an apparent inevitable.

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post wrote that in economic theory these things are called Positional Goods Harold Meyerson - What $5,500 an Hour Buys - Goods that rely on their relation to other things, what properties or facets that attach to them. Their exclusivity, Their hidden forbidden nature. Moreover, Spitzer's treats seemed to fall into a related category that of Veblen Goods. Goods for which the demand curve is inversely inelastic to price. The more costly the higher the demand. Here though you cant't deny the intrinsic value - because that would be a Giffen Good, a whole other category. Washington Post columnist Shankar Vedantam weighed in with a modest article on the notion the price-placebo effect which concerns the ability of price alone to raise estimation of a good Shankar Vedantam - Eliot Spitzer and the Price-Placebo Effect - (I read recently some where else a description of a study where arbitrary figures - the last two digits of your social security number - can establish bounding valuation for entire ranges of goods). It is useful for economics to have idiot transgressing politicians and an Internet bordello to illustrate these concepts.

But (to quote) "Beyond all this good lies the terror the grip of the mercenary hand." To me what this really illustrates is the meaning of money. Minor differences in medium degrees of wealth simply serve distinguish among the leisure classes. We are expected to focus on our material comfort. We are told we are all living like the richest of previous times, living in the style that properly is the provence of Kings. Why then question the distribution of providence? True wealth, living as a king has only ever meant one thing: to have subjects abject at your feet. To have power over others lives. Over their well-being and choices. Over and outside of their possibilities and being. This is the eternal meaning of wealth. The aspirational classes merely wrestle over mid-tempo demarcations and strive to be tools. The desire for this more escaping wealth is a malady embedded in the material, but beyond any particular material, relational to other souls.

What elites have to fear is other elites. Elites are insulated from ordinary rules and trouble. They do not fall unless enemies they have manufactured among the powerful tip them to the mob. All this is no more than tempest in a teapot. A theatre in which celebrity is the usual echo or shadow.

A observation (via Laura Rozen's War and Piece) made by Jack M. Balkin in the web log he maintains, The Spitzer Case and the National Surveillance State - Balkinization, that the newly created rules for financial transaction observations under the Patriot act were leveraged against Eliot Spitzer. This as he argues point out the potential danger of such surveillance being continually refined, extended in scope and narrowed in focus until it can be used to target anyone and anything. Protected from observation of its decision process, out of reach of any meaningful oversight, by its National Security status. The only outcome of the confluence of such degrees of power and secrecy is immediate even instantaneous malfeasance corruption and criminality. You damage more than you protect.

The defensive and entranced nature of the security state into which the United States is descending looks towards a coming class of supremely empowered elites who will place themselves with deliberate care at the head of technological and particularly informational apexes, out of which they will declare a protected property. We glide smoothly towards a gilded era of mass society police state.

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Friday, March 7, 2008
Tupolev Honey

I had this post mostly drafted out on Saturday, at which point I thought I had this topic boxed. Today's events (Tuesday 11 Mar 08) had me adding a couple of sentences to the last part.

A picture named Tu95_Close.jpgIn the news again the other week were Bears in the Air U.S. Carrier Intercepts Russian Bombers - The Lede - Breaking News - New York Times Blog. Russkies and their pesky aircraft Tupolev - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Flying over our ships. Sky falls, cold war returns U.S. military weighing if Russia in Cold War pose | International | Reuters. I was puzzled; I thought this story had been dealt with months earlier. It turns out the Russians having practiced their out-of-area flights were now keen to recreate in full an intercept flyover of western naval vessels from cold war days Russian Bear bombers fly over the Atlantic | International | Reuters. A picture named Tu95Bear_F-4prt.jpgFor some reason this seemed to surprise people. What did they think this was leading towards? At least it gives me a chance to put up more pictures of the USS Ranger's encounter with TU-95's in 1979. Plus sometimes they came at you with not with Bears but with Badgers (Tu-16) illustrated by this picture from either from RVAH-7's deployment on the Kitty Hawk the previous year or a previous intercept of the USS Ranger.A picture named TU16Badger-F4.jpg

The question (if we must dwell on it): is Mr. Putin creating dynamic tension, or creating the appearance of tension for his own purposes  Putin threatens to aim missiles at Ukraine | To some extent this is simply more appearance than any military reality. But whoever said that appearance counts for nothing? There is a reality forming behind this, that the world is emerging out of a brief unipolar moment that may have been no more than a misunderstanding of events.

The real cold war was full of small but genuinely tense moments such as our (CV 61) encounter with a KA 25A picture named KA25_CV61.jpg helicopter off of a Kresta II in the Pacific in 1979 (somewhere off Korea If I remember). This KA 25, while its Soviet cruiser, was transiting by us, repeatedly circled the USS Ranger flying along side while the carrier engaged in flight operations. Passing across the bow just as we tried to launch planes necessitating last second cancellations of  catapult firings. That Russian helo crew had some balls. The incident lasted about a half hour and easily could have ended quite badly. A picture named Kresta_II.jpg

The US Navy has been engaged in recent small provocations of its own. Consider the SM-3 anti missile test. against the NRO's nonfunctioning satellite. Small beer really. The Government/military saw their opening and took it. A short lived press bubble followed  Navy Will Attempt to Down Spy Satellite. It was a test of a sea based system a portion of the oft ridiculed star wars initiative. It should be pointed out it is an Anti Ballistic missile-system Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia not anti-satellite system, although at one time there was a treaty limiting the former. US test took place at half the distance into space as a recent Chinese test, 100 to 150 miles vs 300 miles. The Chinese test then left a debris cloud in orbit which will have to be tracked for the next 50 years. Debris from the US test will burn up within a few weeks.
US must have been very sure of a positive outcome, and comfortable with the inevitability of our arms race moving out off this world into space, in the wake of this demonstration Missile Defense Future May Turn on Success of Mission to Destroy Satellite - New York Times.

The U S Navy's real provocation, perhaps, is simply having independent minded officers like Centcom commander Admiral Fallon. Via Metafilter Admiral Fallon | MetaFilter, I became aware of an Esquire profile by Tom Barnett last week The Man Between War and Peace. It seemed frankly a little excessive, but Petraeus attracts a lot of press, with only marginal complaints so why not. Thomas Barnett is the same person who wrote a fairly popular book a few years ago The Pentagon's new map : war and peace in the twenty-first century and who had an good TED presentation as well soon after Thomas Barnett draws a new map for peace. He has always been reasonably level headed which only accentuates the curious tone of the article and some of its particular passages (which are well illustrated elsewhere see TPM or War and Piece or Foreign Policies Web log.) The reaction to the article came swiftly and harshly beginning with Tom Ricks piece in the Washington Post on Thursday Commander Rejects Article of Praise - Nothing in all this detracts from a significant point in Barnetts' article when Adm. Fallon observed about his public statements and the regional leaders these statements are directed at: "I don't want to get them too spun up. Washington interprets this as all aimed at them." This administration will always interpret everything as being about them; because their essential stance to the world is narcissist and paranoid.

There have been rumors about the Admiral: that he is in an antagonistic relation with General Petraeus, with the President. That he may not believe war is always the first and best solution to any international resistance. Not by any stretch the same as not believing in the Navy's mission. His observation that Iranian naval threat in the Persian gulf can be swept aside when/if the time comes needs to be set alongside a couple of caveats. The Admiral is with little doubt correct that the over all the formal force capacity of the Iran naval and air-force could substantively reduced with a short campaign. A campaign that might certainly begin with an attack on Iran's nuclear capacity. There are some who think that this may go the other way around - a campaign against sea-war like activity by the revolutionary guard culminating in an attack on Iran's nuclear program. After that while sophisticated guided missiles might prove a lingering threat to shipping, An Iranian campaign of rockets would not. Nor is it likely that a campaign against the US Navy could be built upon explosive laden speed boats. Asymmetric warfare against gulf commerce, in general, is where it falls from there. It remains unclear whether such tactics could be extended to cover a large body of water, how much it would cost the U S to keep things on a even keel. Or whether we might be drawn into a further land war in Iran to prevent this potential chaos. In the formulation that in well-tempered diplomacy everybody must be allowed their turn the Admiral took a dim view of Iran's revolutionary guards posturing which he regarded as being juvenile and out of turn.  Adm. Fallon and his staff may have had solid and well thought out ideas on this. He may have had a clear and experienced eye for diplomacy and responsibility that placed him in the first rank of his peers, but that counts for little these days. His sense of his own mind, his concerns, expertise and experience were too much for the fragile egos in Washington. Fallon Resigns as Mideast Military Chief, Gates Says - It wasn't enough in the end to keep him in the job BBC NEWS | Middle East | US Mid-East commander steps down. He seems to have felt it was desired that he leave the service alltogether Top U.S. Commander in Mideast to Retire Early - New York Times

A picture named RA5cVigilanteWater.jpgAdmiral William Fallon was at one point many years ago  a RA5C Vigilante pilot. So I will put up a Vigi picture to close out on. I always liked this picture and it seems very appropriate now. This appears to be a plane from the squadron I was in, RVAH-7.
The paint scheme is for a USS Forrestal deployment. Which I think (before my time) was in 1975.

I haven't saluted a soul in over twenty-five years - the enduring glory of civilian life, but I'd salute Admiral Fallon if he came by.

[post script: I was going to name this post Uncle Tupolev, but I decided against dragging unecessarily vague Jeff Tweedy references into things when I had a Van decent Morrison pun also available.]

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

I have a WFMU bumper sticker by Mark Newgarden. This is it here (below). I don't know where I got it. I don't know how long I've had it. Possibly since it was new in 1989. I only know I've had it longer than I have been acquainted with WFMU which has only been the past few years. I see now it was a sign of destiny. The kind that lurks in vaguely labeled folders inside filing cabinets. WFMU Newgarden bumper sticker

 I made a initial version of this image by holding it up to my MacBook's camera, but that returned a reversed picture. Tells a better story, I thought, but who would care about a radio station called UMFW? Plus it was out of focus. So I did a proper scan on workplace equipment. WFMU is a radio station in New Jersey across from New York City formerly a college station (it outlived its college), it operates now as a freeform radio co-op.

 As it happens WFMU is in the midst of their annual fund raising Marathon. This one marking their 50th anniversary as a broadcast station. They aim to raise a million dollars. They are the main radio station I listen to, internet streaming makes this advance of civilization possible. Given that my workday hours affixing barcodes to library books and linking item records to MARC bibliography records wash over me, like a flat gray rainstorm, I regard this stream of being, WFMU, amidst nothingness as the crucial dialogue of the day.

 To be fair I also listen to WZBC up in Boston: John Straub's show, Pip, Bricklane Beats  (three hours of Banglore hip hop). I've been listening to ZBC since I was in high school - so very far back in a former century They played that new band Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers. Hep stuff. As well I listen occaisionaly to WAMU which is DC's Diane Rehm - Terry Gross outlet. WAMU's motto these days is: 'It might sound like we're all talk, but we got an HD channel that's fulla bluegrass and another that channels the BBC.' In all this the critical point is the same, but in its audacity WFMU stands alone.

 I listened to the first week of the marathon and ponied up my pledge. Not a cause so much as service rendered. The Vikings of Jersey City, Willie and the poor boys.  I filled out the handy on-line form and hit the button; watching the spinning beach ball of death (Mac OS) whirl my money into the ether. Giving is painful I thought. Quite extraordinarily painful. It burns, it seres, it mortifies. The vast number of 20oz mountain dews lost, dance in teasing scintillation before my eyes. They mock me.

Here at this pass I recalled a conversation with my friend Tran the day before. I had been telling her about an article I had seen in the Washington Post about singer from Falls Church Virginia, Thao Nguyen. Who leads a indie folk band. When Thao put out her first record Like the Linen on Kill Rockstars it was just her. That one is on iTunes. Now there is the band with a name: The Get Down Stay Down Band. They as well as naming themselves have relocated to California (I think you have to be a lawyer to really like DC much). They call their new record "We Brave Bee Stings and all."  I suppose, I considered, if they can brave bee stings - and all (possibly they were actually "parasitic wasps of the pallisades"); I can part with a little cash for good radio. And just there in that moment all pain vanished.

11:08:14 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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