The NAB: Old technology, lousy content, national security?
Aug 29th, 2010 by scaredpoet

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is a lobbying group that caters to something that hasn’t been relevant in many people’s lives for years: terrestrial, FM radio. And there’s a really good reason why FM radio hasn’t been relevant to lots of people for a good long time: FM radio sucks.

The NAB is of course aware that people aren’t listening much to FM radio these days, and they want to do something about it.  Of course, a common sense thing would be to improve the content that FM radio stations provide: like, say, good music from artists people actually want to listen to.  But common sense doesn’t seem to be something that the NAB has a lot of.  So instead, they’d rather do something else: force phone manufacturers to embed FM receivers in all cell phones and mobile devices, in the hopes that people will be compelled to listen to their crappy content. To do this, they’ve gone to Congress:

...mid-way in the article was something which really caught my attention. Part of the “deal”—and like all things political, it is a deal—would require that all cell phone handsets must have an FM-radio function built in. Wait a second, I thought . . . whether implemented as a separate IC, or added to an existing RF/mixed-signal chipset, it will add cost, power consumption, antenna-design issues, and more to the handset design. And all for what purpose, exactly? To force people to listen the FM band? Yeah, right, that will do it, absolutely.

One of the arguments behind this mandate is the tried-and-true, instill-fear argument that every desperate party turns to: national security and public safety.  The argument goes that people will need to turn to FM radios in the event of a serious crisis or national emergency.  Makes sense, right?

But the public safety argument is merely a red herring.  This isn’t about public safety in the least. The NAB is trying to legislate the foisting of old technology on electronics vendors in the vain hope that it will compel people to listen to FM stations, without their constituency having to make any effort to draw listeners back to them.

But even if those folks at the NAB really were compassionate, well-meaning souls who just want to make sure everyone stays safe and informed, where should this type of nanny-state legislation stop? How about we pass laws that require every US resident to subscribe to a minimum level of cable TV service, since over-the-air or satellite TV might be subject to weather conditions or transmitter failures due to terrorists attacks, and new video technologies like FiOS and UVerse are simply too new? How about we also mandate that every household subscribe to copper POTS wireline phone service (again, Fiber is “too new” and untested) and connect rotary corded phones to that service?

What those fine, well-meaning (I’m sure) folks at the NAB don’t understand is, people like me aren’t listening to FM not because we don’t have FM radios, but because the stations we can receive on those radios provide us with no reason to listen. Perhaps if they innovated, and provided compelling programming, and didn’t play the same 6 songs over and over between 20+ minutes of a commercials per hour, their audience numbers would grow.

What’s worse, most of these FM radio stations no longer have news departments of their own, having sacrificed them as cost-saving measures, in the (quite ironic) belief that people won’t want to listen to the news all the time. As such, most FM stations are not equipped to provide news and information on their own in a serious crisis or emergency. In fact, during past crises, since September 11 on, many have tended to cut over to the audio of CNN or similar news feeds. So… what’s the point? A potential listener like me could just go to CNN to get the video that goes with the audio.

There are of course, pure news stations on terrestrial radio, but the majority of them are on the AM band, and so, such stations would still not be accessible to mobile phone users with their required-by-law FM receivers.  So much for that.

There are entities like satellite radio, online broadcasting stations and online music stores that don’t mandate by law that everyone be forced to own equipment capable of receiving their content, and yet they do just fine. The NAB could learn from their example.

Legislative grandstanding makes for “Sh*tty” TV
Apr 27th, 2010 by scaredpoet

A while back I ranted about the complete and utter usefulness of senate and congressional hearings, and how they just end up being a dog & pony show for polticians to try and look good to the public as they grill the Bad Guys in testimony, while in fact doing absolutely nothing of real use.

Well, they’re still grandstanding. As if we haven’t figured it out by now, after 2+ years of a crappy economy, the Senate is just now “getting to the bottom of” that Big Bad Financial Scandal. In particular, the Goldman Sachs thing.

My prediction: Next week, the Senate will open hearings on indecency and profane language on cable news networks. Because today during that Goldman Sachs Senate hearing, this went out over the airwaves, uttered by a senator. Into people’s homes, into workplaces and offices, in waiting rooms and airports, and certainly within earshot of children…


No, I’m no prude. The profanities spill out of my mouth so often that sailors blush. But these lawmakers are the same people who get all in a huff over indecency in the media now and then. Shouldn’t they practice what they preach? We certainly could’ve gotten the gist of the message without the “s” bomb landing on TV at least 5 times in less than two minutes.

That was a shitty thing for Carl Levin to do, if you ask me.

Just sayin’...

Bad Economic Cliché #3: Congressional Soapboxing
Mar 26th, 2009 by scaredpoet

I’ve seen congress huff and puff over the aftermath of 9/11, the Enron crisis, the Basbeball Steroid scandal, and now this new Economic Mess. There’s one thing I’ve learned from watching these things: Damn, these congressional windbags can talk!

Ostensibly and nominally, a congressional hearing is “the principal formal method by which committees collect and analyze information in the early stages of legislative policymaking.” Presumably, this means that lawmakers are supposed to obtain testimony so that they can be informed about the issue at hand and take some kind of action. So, why the hell are these pompous asses talking so damned much?

C-SPAN brought the television camera into congress, and they believed they were doing the citizens of the US a favor by casting sunlight onto the machinations of government and letting us all see how it works. Unfortunately, it also means that some of our elected officials are using the same medium to grandstand, expound, rant and show off their bellicosity, wondering aloud with their ill-informed opinions, and showing off their feathers like the ugly old turkeys they are. They also use these opportunities badger and berate witnesses, cashing in on public anger and fostering demagoguery, having already formed their own opinions and judgements about the people who are presumably there to help them form those opinions and action plans.

It’s a waste of time. Nothing new has been exposed from these hearings that haven’t already been made known via the numerous media outlets that are picking at shreds of information on these scandals 24/7. Frankly, I’m disgusted, and I don’t know who to be more mad at: the AIG execs who got huge bonuses, or the old codgers we’re paying $151 per hour EACH to sit there and flap their gums and get nothing done.


Bad Economic Cliché #2: “So who’s gonna bail ME out?”
Mar 25th, 2009 by scaredpoet

bailout shirt

I gnash whenever people in one breath rant and rail against government bailouts made to some of these companies, and then demand to know where their handout is. You wanna know where your bailout is? It’s very simple: You need to bail yourself out. And in a way, if you’re a taxpayer, you kinda already are.

Bailout packages and financial assistance to banks aren’t happening just because the government enjoys throwing money at these entities. Bailouts are occurring because the perceived, predicated consequences of NOT doing a bailout are far worse and farther-reaching. If you drive a car, any car, you will be affected in a major way if GM goes bankrupt. Their bankruptcy means the risk of bankruptcy for supplier companies that make major components for both American and “foreign” cars, and the very least, it means that parts for cars – whether you’re repairing your existing heap or buying a new model – will be harder to find and more expensive to buy, assuming they’re still being made at all. And if you bought an American car within the last three to five years, then don’t expect a bankrupt GM or Chrysler to fix your car under warranty if something happens.

Some “experts” and pundits seem to disagree with this… a lot of them are the same talking heads who thought subprime mortgages were an excellent idea back in the day. When the fact remains that no one’s going to want to make parts that they aren’t sure they’re going to be paid for, a basic fundamental truth is exposed: driving – or even taking the bus – to work every day is going to be a little harder to do all of a sudden.


What about banks? Certain banks are perceived as “too big to fail.” Media pundits want to sell the idea the the public that “too big to fail” means catastrophic repercussions through the banking system will occur of a Bank of America or Citibank ends up going under. And there’s a very good reason for this: our government promised they would insure common citizens against bank failures, and yet allowed these banks to get rather large to be sanely insurable.

You see, banks “work” on a simple principle: people are supposed to put money in banks because they’re supposed to be safe places to keep your cash. There’s just one problem with this principle: when word gets around (true or not) that maybe a certain bank isn’t so safe after all, people start to panic, and that panic can sometimes ensure that a bank that would not have otherwise failed ends up failing.

To help offset this potential for panic, the US government got in the middle of the situation and said “don’t worry! If a bank were ever to fail, we’ll make sure you get your cash.” And for decades now, this has been good enough.

This concept is just fine when banks are of a certain size. A few million in assets in this bank, a billion or two in that bank, and FDIC insurance looks quite viable. But over time, certain banks have started to get really big. Combine that with the fact that the exsting smaller banks are failing at a fast rate, with 18 already gone this year, totalling $17 billion ins costs since the start of the crisis, and I have to wonder a bit. If a bank with $2.88 trillion in assets fails, will the FDIC really be able to insure most of people’s deposits? I suspect that if the government weren’t able to absorb such a big one, we’d wake up and see lots of suddenly-nonexistent checking and savings accounts. By contrast, a few hundred billion spent now is a real bargain, sadly enough, when you consider the potential consequences.

So, where’s your bailout? It’s simple. If you happen to have money in the bank this very moment, you’ve already been bailed out at least once. And if you drive a car or ride a bus to work, you better HOPE the car companies get a bailout soon enough so you can continue enjoying that freedom with minimal interruption. In the meantime, feel proud that you still have cash of some sort, and that your savings, however large or small it might be, hasn’t been wiped out. Money is still money. Life is challenging, but it goes on. And people in the US aren’t lining up outside of grocery stores with wheelbarrows, bringing zillions of dollars to buy a single loaf of bread.

Zimbabwean Dollar

Our society, banal as it is, continues. There lies your stinkin’ bailout. I suggest you shut up and try to enjoy it.

Bad Economic Cliché #1: “In this Economy…”
Mar 24th, 2009 by scaredpoet

  • “In this economy, I can’t possibly think about buying that!”

  • “Not in this economy!!”
  • In this economy...

    This cliché, by far, just tears at my soul, and I have to look hard within myself not to strangle the person who utters it. I’m sure you’ve hard it zillions of times, too. It’s the cookie-cutter scapegoat response people have for turning into Panicky Petes and pinching every penny beyond the pale of reason. It’s uttered by accountants and bureaucrats who are stalling decisions and canceling projects that might actually help preserve or create jobs if allowed to work itself out. And it’s also used as a poor excuse by people for even the stupidest, most irresponsible decisions.

    Apparently, I’m not the only one who hates this phrase, and hates the people who actively use it as a petty excuse for everything they do or don’t do. The economy is a problem, but it shouldn’t be a scapegoat. Ironically, there’s a very could chance we could all get out of this mess if people took simple steps to stop worrying about “this economy” and started working towards the “next” one. This is really the bottom line: the stock market, the value of subprime loans, the price of oil, all of these things have little to do with actual market forces anymore, and a LOT to do with merely how much people think these things are worth. We thought ourselves into a recession. And if we keep thinking in recession-mode, it’ll just be harder to get out of it.

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