aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, April 30, 2006
A paltry and transparent effort
Thankfully we see through the tomfoolery:
The Senate Republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to ease the burden of high gasoline prices is eliciting more scorn than gratitude from the very people it was intended to help.
Aides for several Republican senators reported a surge of calls and e-mail messages from constituents ridiculing the rebate as a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in November.
Gladwell on Viswanathan
Malcolm Gladwell on Kaavya Viswanathan’s pummeling “by a hundred angry columnists, pundits and bloggers:”
Can someone tell me why? This is teen-literature. It’s genre fiction. These are novels based on novels based on novels, in which every convention of character and plot has been trotted out a thousand times before. If i wrote a detective story, set in 1930’s Los Angeles, about a cynical, hard-bitten private eye, with a drop dead gorgeous secretary and a series of lonely housewife clients, would anyone bat an eye? Of course not. It may be a stolen premise. But we accept that within the category of genre fiction a certain amount of borrowing of themes and plots and ideas is acceptable--even laudable. I buy lots of spy novels, not because they diverge from the spy novel model, but because they conform to it. I want my spy to have a troubled home life, and an inpenetrable gaze and to be handy with a revolver. But once we have conceded that in genre fiction its okay to borrow themes, why do we get so upset when genre novelists borrow something a good deal less substantial--namely phrases and sentences? Surely an idea is more consequential than a sentence.
I’ve quoted Gladwell’s New Yorker piece, Something Borrowed: Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?, time and time again; I agree completely with his argument. His reading of “actual passages” in this case leads him to conclude, “Calling this plagiarism is the equivalent of crying ‘copy’ in a crowded Kinkos.” The ones I read were somewhat more ambiguous.
I am inclined to think she was nothing more than a cog in the machine that produced this book, and that a half-million dollar contract to produce teen-lit genre fiction from a 19 year old college student has a distorting and deleterious effect on self-esteem. It just might lead a person to feel they have to be more than they reasonably can be.
85 MPG II
One answer is gas prices. The LATimes reports on another:
Most Republicans, constrained by an ideological resistance to federal regulation, have always opposed tougher mandates. But achieving better fuel economy was once a passion of Democrats. In 1990, 42 of the Senate’s 55 Democrats - about three-fourths - voted to require automakers to reach 40 mpg by 2001. That bill drew 57 votes overall, but failed amid opposition from President George H.W. Bush and a Republican-led filibuster. [...]
Under pressure from the auto companies and auto workers, Democrats have retreated ever since. President Clinton didn’t seriously try to raise fuel economy standards. Last year, a proposal from Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) to require a 40-mpg average for cars by 2016 drew just 28 votes; only about half of the Senate’s 44 Democrats voted yes. Those voting no included every Senate Democrat considering a 2008 presidential bid.
Via Kevin Drum:
Idiots. Mileage standards work. If we had passed that bill in 1990, oil consumption in the United States would probably be 10% lower than it is today at virtually no cost to the economy and no inconvenience to consumers. That’s a savings of about two billion barrels of oil a year - and there are other things we could do to double that number with only modest pain.
(And ANWR? If Republicans were willing to act like grownups on the efficiency side, I’d say we should just open the damn thing up. It won’t make a lot of difference, but at the same time, it also won’t cause very much damage.)
Of course, the best time to have done those things was ten years ago. But the second best time is right now. It’s not too late to grow up.
Australian choreographer, Czech star, in Texas court
This hardly interests me but I’m going to the Czech Republic in 10 days so expect to see increasing references here in the coming days to anything Czech:
WITNESSES will testify that renowned Australian choreographer Stanton Welch made a series of unwanted homosexual overtures to one of his principal dancers at the Houston Ballet, the dancer’s lawyer has revealed.
The openly gay Welch and the Houston Ballet are embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal after being sued by 27-year-old rising Czech star Zdenek Konvalina, who bears a resemblance to, and has been compared with, the legendary Rudolph Nureyev.
“A number of specific incidents took place over a period of time, some of which were witnessed by other members (of the troupe) whose testimony we have,” Konvalina’s lawyer Ed Hennessy told The Weekend Australian.
“These were verbal overtures which Zdenek made very clear were unwelcome but they continued.”
Houston Ballet president Jay Jones, who stands by the company’s artistic director and vowed to vigorously fight Konvalina’s sexual harassment lawsuit, has intimated that Konvalina’s agent, Eddy Toussaint—himself a former prominent dancer and choreographer—only introduced the sexual harassment allegations during contract negotiations for his Czech client.
Gay dancers??? Oh my!
Straight and gay instances of harassment are exactly the same and should be treated similarly. I know there’s a problem (and that the “casting couch” is both real and alive and well) but, generally speaking, the courts aren’t well equipped to deal with it.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Ninja to ATF: Say you’re sorry!
As is somewhat fitting for a modern-day ninja, Jeremiah Ransom is not seeking revenge against his enemies with Katana blades or throwing stars. Instead he had his lawyer mail them a letter demanding a formal apology.
It’s the latest step in the increasingly strange story surrounding Ransom, a sophomore at the University of Georgia, who gained national headlines two weeks ago when he was roughed up by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms after going to the dining hall in a ninja costume (see ”University Ninja Ambushed By Feds On Way To Dining Hall”).
At the time of the incident, in which ATF agents pinned him to the ground and searched him for weapons in broad daylight, Ransom said he was considering legal action. But while a lawsuit remains an option, his attorney said the whole thing can be rectified if the ATF will just say it’s sorry.
Praying to lower gas prices
WASHINGTON, April 26 (UPI)—A U.S. Christian group has grown tired of escalating gasoline prices and is set to stage a national prayer rally to lower the numbers at the pumps.
Various Christian clergy from around the country will convene around a Washington, D.C., gas station Thursday at noon to pray. For those who can’t attend, a live Internet site and toll-free prayer line have been established.
In a release, the Pray Live group said many people are “overlooking the power of prayer when it comes to resolving this energy crisis.”
They usually pray and worship inside the confines of their own church, asking God for his wisdom and intervention. But today they took their prayers across the street from a gas station in the nation’s capital and asked God to lower the rising gasoline prices that have hit the wallets of Americans all across the country. [...]
The prayer service was organized by PrayLive, a group that bills itself as a 24-hour prayer line and e-church. The group brought together ministers from the Washington, D.C., area as well as concerned citizens. They say they’re sick of the rising gas prices and believe it’s time to ask God to step in.
Destabilizing the Episcopal Church
Gays News Blog points to former Washington Post and New York Times reporter James Naughton writing in the newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC:
When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets next month in Columbus, Ohio, a small network of theologically conservative organizations will be on hand to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face serious consequences. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion.
Millions of dollars contributed by a handful of donors have allowed a small network of theologically conservative individuals and organizations to mount a global campaign that has destabilized the Episcopal Church and may break up the Anglican Communion.
The donors include five secular foundations that have contributed heavily to politically conservative advocacy groups, publications and think tanks, and one individual, savings and loan heir Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., who has given millions of dollars to conservative causes and candidates.
Contributions from Ahmanson and the Bradley, Coors, Olin, Scaife and Smith-Richardson family foundations have frequently accounted for more than half of the operating budgets of the American Anglican Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, according to an examination of forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service and an analysis of statements made by both donors and recipients.
The AAC and the IRD have worked together in opposing the Episcopal Church’s consecration of a gay bishop with a male partner, its practice of ordaining non-celibate homosexuals to the priesthood, and its willingness to permit the blessing of same-sex relationships. Their campaign has entailed extensive international travel, heavily subsidized conferences and the employment of a professional staff and consultants to coordinate and publicize their efforts.
Most recently the groups have organized several of their international allies to pressure the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to remove the Episcopal Church from the Communion, and to replace it with a significantly smaller and more conservative Church that would be headed by bishops with longstanding ties to the AAC. READ ON
Paey v Limbaugh
Paey, a wheelchair-bound car-crash victim, was prosecuted in the same state, Florida, for the same use of prescription painkillers, as Limbaugh but with starkly different outcomes. Paey’s serving a mandatory 25 year sentence. Limbaugh gets off scot-free.
Why didn’t Paey take a plea deal? I quote from one of the three columns John Tierney has written on his imprisonment:
Scott Andringa, the prosecutor in the case, acknowledged that the 25-year mandatory penalty was harsh, but he said Mr. Paey was to blame for refusing a plea bargain that would have kept him out of jail.
Mr. Paey said he had refused the deal partly out of principle—‘’I didn’t want to plead guilty to something that I didn’t do’’—and partly because he feared he’d be in pain the rest of his life because doctors would be afraid to write prescriptions for anyone with a drug conviction.
If you think that sounds paranoid, you haven’t talked to other chronic-pain patients who’ve become victims of the government campaigns against prescription drugs. Whether these efforts have done any good is debatable (and a topic for another column), but the harm is clear to the millions of patients who aren’t getting enough medicine for their pain.
Paey now gets from the prison the same quantity and quality of pain medication he was arrested for. Here’s a roundup of news reports on Richard Paey and the War on Pain Patients.
Can we expect Limbaugh to speak out against the victimization of patients and doctors by a law enforcement apparatus that refuses to see pain killers as medicinal relief from suffering, preferring instead to arrest sufferers as criminal narcotics traffickers? Don’t hold your breath.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Limbaugh cops a plea
Now that’s a drug deal he won’t be ranting on the radio about:
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-radio host, was charged yesterday with prescription drug fraud and turned himself in to Florida authorities as part of a deal to resolve a lengthy inquiry into whether he improperly obtained painkillers. [...]
As part of the agreement, which Mr. Black said would be filed with the court on Monday, the charge would be dropped in 18 months if Mr. Limbaugh continued to undergo treatment for drug addiction.
Mr. Limbaugh is also required to refrain from breaking the law during the 18-month period, pay $30,000 to Florida officials to offset the cost of the investigation and pay $30 a month for the cost of supervision, Mr. Black said.
Chump change for the man who “before his own problems with painkillers surfaced...had regularly told listeners that drug users should be jailed.”
I’d like to see the poor everyday Joe get treated that way instead of just this one pampered loudmouth rightwing hypocrite celebrity. But, oh, right, this is crime-fighting America.
Do you detect a little bitterness there? Because of my hearing loss, everyone (read: my mother!) mentions his to me. Mine is from a totally different cause, not self-induced through drug abuse (mom!).
Everyone also mentions his cochlear implants. I note that he could afford them (piddling fines not withstanding), while insurance won’t pay for one for me unless I’m totally deaf in both ears.
SEE ALSO: Holly on the happy-face mug shot; I can agree with James on what should be legal; and a TPM Reader says “Don’t get bamboozled. In criminal cases we don’t call them ‘settlement agreements.’ They are plea bargains… Oh, and the money being paid is called a fine. Black can call it reimbursement, but that’s BS.”
THE WOMAN who might be Chicago’s most-read political writer doesn’t have an office. On most days Georgia Logothetis, 23, is either at home in the same Rogers Park three-flat where she lives with her parents or at DePaul University’s downtown campus. About four or five times a day, taking a break from constitutional law homework or prepping for a mootcourt trial, she’ll type a righteously indignant rant clobbering the Republican Party on Iraq, warrantless spying, and the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Then she’ll post it, under the screen name Georgia10, on the front page of liberal blog Daily Kos (dailykos.com), which gets between 400,000 and 800,000 unique visitors daily.
Ads work, warnings don’t
CELEBREX may increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke that can lead to death. It should not be used right before or after certain heart surgeries.
Serious skin reactions or stomach and intestine problems, such as bleeding and ulcers, can occur without warning and may cause death. [Emphasis in original]
Patients taking aspirin and the elderly are at increased risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers. [...]
People with aspirin-sensitive asthma or allergic reactions due to aspirin or other arthritis medicines or certain drugs called sulfonamides should not take CELEBREX.
Prescription CELEBREX should be used exactly as prescribed at the lowest dose possible and for the shortest time needed.
If I were king, I’d ban prescription drug advertising aimed at consumers:
As it resumes ads for the controversial medicine, Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug maker, is offering consumers a decidedly mixed message. But 16 months after the company stopped advertising Celebrex over concerns about its heart risks, Pfizer has returned to the consumer ad market in hopes of reviving sales of the drug, which plunged last year during the ad moratorium.
The new campaign in magazines has raised the ire of consumer groups, who say that Celebrex is so dangerous that Pfizer should stop selling it, not encourage patients to use it. The campaign is more evidence of the drug industry’s dependence on consumer advertising to prop up sales, said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, a frequent critic of drug makers.
Celebrex’s safer-for-the-stomach benefit has never been proved, and without advertising its sales were fell by half.
Hasbro’s Monopoly made the NYTimes, but it feels gimicky to me. Swell, we get to vote. I can’t say I much care.
Create a 30-second ad, in any style (live action or animated,) that brings Firefox to life for the millions of Web users who have yet to discover Firefox and the better Web experience it delivers.
Mozilla seeks to expand awareness of Firefox among a broader audience for Web browsers: mainstream consumers who may have little knowledge of the value proposition for Firefox. To help increase awareness of Firefox among this target audience, Mozilla would like to produce a high-quality, innovative 30-second ad that introduces Firefox to mainstream Web users.
In line with its history and orientation, Mozilla is opening up the creation of its initial advertising creative to film/TV/advertising/multimedia professionals, students and aspiring pros as part of the Firefox Flicks Ad Contest.
View, rate and email the flicks by my post popular, most recent, or most viewed. Download or comment on them and link to or embed them in your website…
LATER: CALL ME OUT OF TOUCH! I find out and post about Firefox Flicks the day after the winners are announced. Or maybe they do need better PR.
Hasbro’s Monopoly Here & Now
Even old-world companies are jumping on the social-networking bandwagon. Toy maker Hasbro is allowing the public to decide what the next version of Monopoly will look like.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Kudos to Kraft
99% of stockholders affirm Kraft will support the Gay games in Chicago:
A shareholder proposal to end Kraft Foods’ support of the 2006 Gay Games VII was overwhelmingly rejected by the food company and its investors at its annual stockholders’ meeting yesterday.
It’s a rare occasion when a marketing sponsorship can take the stage at a shareholder meeting. But Kraft’s decision to support the eight-day event in Chicago this July with a $25,000 donation rankled Kraft stockholder Dr. Marcella Meyer of Chicago, who proposed in a proxy statement that Kraft “disassociate itself” from the Gay Games themselves and any other future activities supporting homosexual activities and lifestyle.
Kraft Foods, CEO Roger K. Deromedi, 3 Lakes Dr., Northfield, IL 60093
Phone: 847-646-2000, Fax: 847-646-6005
TOLL FREE: 1-800-323-0768
Megan McCafferty’s an author with class
“In the case of Kaavya Viswanathan’s plagiarizing of my novels ‘Sloppy Firsts’ and ‘Second Helpings,’ “ she said, “I wish to inform all of the parties involved that I am not seeking restitution in any form.
“The past few weeks have been very difficult, and I am most grateful to my readers for offering continual support, and for reminding me what Jessica Darling means to both them and to me. In my career, I am, first and foremost, a writer. So I look forward to getting back to work and moving on, and hope Ms. Viswanathan can, too.”
We’ve got some catching up to do to our friends up north…
Cory tells us that Michael says, “A group of geeks, lawyers, academics, policy experts, geographers, and librarians have joined together from across Canada to fight the evils of Crown Copyright (a Canadian thing) and proprietary formats. We’re fighting to get access to our civic data - from high-res maps to minutes of city meeting.”
1. To encourage all levels of governments (county, municipal, provincial, federal) to make civic data and information available to citizens without restrictions, at no cost, and in useable open formats.
2. To encourage the development of citizen projects using civic data and information
The CMCC is united under three key principles:
Suing Our Fans is Destructive and Hypocritical
Artists do not want to sue music fans. The labels have been suing our fans against artists’ will, and laws enabling these suits cannot be justified in artists’ names
Digital Locks are Risky and Counterproductive
Artists do not support using digital locks to increase the labels’ control over the distribution, use and enjoyment of music or laws that prohibit circumvention of such technological measures. Consumers should be able to transfer the music they buy to other formats under a right of fair use, without having to pay twice.
Cultural Policy Should Support Actual Canadian Artists
The vast majority of new Canadian music is not promoted by major labels, which focus mostly on foreign artists. The government should use other policy tools to support actual Canadian artists and a thriving musical and cultural scene.
LATER: Meanwhile in France, a proposal to balance the legal protection of anti-user technology with the public interest has been hijacked by entertainment companies and now promises to be one of the worst DRM laws in the world.
Who’s their PR firm? They were just quoted on Good Morning America - “an unscientific poll” (why do newspeople do that?) - and they’re also featured on Blogma for their (cool) color-coded map that tracks gasoline price levels.
Neil Young’s “Impeach the President” lyrics
Neil Young’s new album, “Living with War,” is an incendiary, moving, totally American document of peaceful protest that is going to make a lot of people crazy one way or another. [...]
Here, for the first time, the lyrics to Neil Young’s “Let’s Impeach the President”:
Let’s impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door
He’s the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war
Let’s impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones
What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government’s protection
Or was someone just not home that day?
Let’s impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected
Thank god he’s racking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There’s lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean
...that Abraham Lincoln was the last president brought down by a popular entertainer… So why do pop stars return again and again to the political, despite the risk of ridicule, misunderstanding, artistic failure, and ineffectuality? The answer may be found in that old joke about why dogs lick their balls: because they can. Alas, political pop is usually just as productive as the activity at the center of that joke.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Medicare prescription drug plan fix
Progress. But nowhere near perfection.
A big bad glaring hole in the Medicare prescription drug program was a bizarre provision that allowed plans to drop medications during the course of the year as long as they gave 60 days notice. That’s changed:
The Bush administration issued a new policy on Wednesday that protects Medicare beneficiaries against the sudden loss of coverage for drugs they are taking under the prescription drug program.
Under the policy, insurers can still change their lists of covered drugs, known as formularies. But if they drop any drugs or impose new restrictions, they must exempt beneficiaries who are now taking those drugs.
Dr. Mark B. McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, summarized the policy this way: “In general, a plan cannot change your coverage for the drugs you are using during the year. The stability of drug formularies is extremely important for many of our beneficiaries.”
Stability? This only means that now when the insurance company drops the drug you’re covered for the remainder of the year before you have to go through the arduous process of changing plans.
Policing teachers, more costs than benefits
I come from a family full of teachers. I believe there are two kinds of teachers accused of (or vulnerable to) accusations of sex abuse: guilty ones and good ones. So I was interested to find this in Salon today:
Administrators and school boards, spooked by a spate of high-profile school sex scandals and fearful of lawsuits, have begun cracking down on student-teacher relationships, despite charges from critics that they are succumbing to unwarranted sexual hysteria. This new censoriousness may protect students from inappropriate behavior, although the question of whether abuse itself is on the rise is hotly disputed. Many teachers and educational advocates worry that such changes also prevent teachers from reaching out to students—and ultimately create a stifling climate that gets in the way of engaged education. [...]
The cumulative result of the scandals—and the fear they have inspired—has been to discourage teachers from meeting with students alone or behind closed doors, having personal conversations, interacting with students off campus or offering them a ride in their cars, or engaging in any kind of physical contact—whether it be a maternal hug or a handshake.
Fear fueled by our own prurient fascination?
[T]here is an element to education, especially at the high school level and beyond, that at its best, is fundamentally intimate. When we talk about teachers who “make a difference,” they are usually not the people who barricade themselves behind their desks, and something essential is lost when all personal contact between teachers and students is ruled off-limits. The cases that make the news are black and white. But the dilemma lies in the gray areas where parents and educators face a collision of two positive imperatives, between the desire to protect their children from a small risk of sexual abuse and the desire to allow great teachers to do their jobs well. Isn’t it possible that a completely risk-free education—like a risk-free life—is also a mediocre one? [...]
As a veteran teacher, [professor of English literature and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut and editor of “The Erotics of Instruction,” a collection of essays about the role of desire and attraction in education Gina] Barreca is puzzled by the public’s frenzied reaction to teacher-student intimacy. “I want to know why all of a sudden we are so hysterical about this, what does this new concern reflect?” she asks. “Because these impulses have been there since Socrates! So this sudden focus on it really seems to be a deflection of a larger series of fears.”
Indeed, in a way that’s all too familiar, it’s hard to distinguish America’s fear of its youth being sexually abused from its prurient fascination with the subject. The headlines announce: ”Sextracurricular Perv-Teach Crisis,” “Sex Education With Hands-on Training” and “Hottie Pedophiles Deserve Prison Time, Too.” Tabloids and cable channels obsess over female teachers who prey on young boys: Mary Kay Letourneau, Christina Gallagher, Sandra Beth Geisel, Emily Morris and the rest of their ilk. And in a flourish reminiscent of pulp novels and pornos, this March, when former Florida middle school teacher and tabloid staple Debra Lafave was dismissed from charges of sexual abuse, Fox News accompanied its report with a photograph depicting Lafave stripped to her underwear, astride a motorcycle. In our hunt for inappropriate teacher-student liaisons, it seems terror has become mixed up with titillation.
Where/who is the Jane Jacobs of our time?
Jane Jacobs, the writer and thinker who brought penetrating eyes and ingenious insight to the sidewalk ballet of her own Greenwich Village street and came up with a book that challenged and changed the way people view cities, died today in Toronto, where she lived. She was 89.
She died at a Toronto hospital, said a distant cousin, Lucia Jacobs, who gave no specific cause of death.
In her book “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” written in 1961, Ms. Jacobs’s enormous achievement was to transcend her own withering critique of 20th-century urban planning and propose radically new principles for rebuilding cities. At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs’s prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism - in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a jumping, joyous urban jumble.
On NPR last night Robert Caro explained how she beat Robert Moses.
Today’s equivalent of the urban battles of the 60s is the internet/telecom/copyright fight. Just as communities lost every battle before the Lower Manhattan Expressway, we’ve been losing every battle to date.
We need today a Jane Jacobs-like figure who can inspire and mobilize us in that arena as effectively as Jane did in the urban arena. I like to believe we’ve just begun to fight.
Double parking, a religious freedom?
Pesky sacrilegious neighbors’ complaints about blocked streets are blocking religious freedom?
In the nation’s capital, where parking is scarce, churchgoers say plans to crack down on double-parking infringe on their religious rights.
Worshipers held a rally Sunday afternoon urging officials to let them continue a practice that has long been overlooked.
The D.C. Department of Transportation was planning to hand out warning tickets this weekend and real tickets starting in July, but officials now say they’ll review the enforcement program.
Cars have commonly been double-parked near DC churches on Sundays for decades, but police had largely ignored the practice until neighbors complained.
I have to note that my thoughtful Christian friends here would rue this misuse of the religious rights claim precisely because it gives secular liberals like me something to point to.
Sex toy ban in Georgia?
I’ve been seeing lots of bloggers post about the proposed sex toy ban in South Carolina, including this one from Wired’s Sex Drive Daily:
South Carolina’s legislature is considering banning the sale of sex toys in the state. If it does, it joins Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas in the desperate attempt to control what consenting adults do sexually.
There’s a ban in Georgia??? I don’t think so. Or if there is it’s not enforced.
This billboard in our little town uses the euphemistic “adult novelties.” Don’t you just love the ironic juxtaposition with the billboard beneath it?
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Podcasting Broadcasting & RCA-casting
When I worked in Public Access Television I believed that it could be a return to the conception of broadcasting that held sway at its birth: television as an educational instrument; television as a way to foster a more responsive government; television as a tool for the ordinary citizen; and television as a means to a more democratic culture.
Sterne says he doesn’t like the term podcasting and argues that it should rightfully be called broadcasting, while what we have come to believe is broadcasting should be called RCA Casting because it is a centrally controlled corporate model (founded and propounded by RCA) that explicitly excludes anyone who was not professional. Like podcasting today…
In the early days of radio it was dominated by amateurs and… hobbyists and it was somewhat chaotic. People did what they wanted… There were different names for radio in this early period - wireless telephony, wireless telegraphy, radio telephony and so on and so forth. But between about 1922 and 1934 RCA’s model of broadcasting gets defined as the natural model for radio… Receiving only sets...became the dominant form of radio that people acquired purchased and encountered in their every day lives. The other thing is that amateur broadcasters were edged out by stations that had larger transmitters and by regulators that gave most of the spectrum to professional broadcasters. So in other words, whereas in 1925, professional broadcasters might shut down in a city on Tuesday night for amateur night… by 1929 that didn’t happen anymore.
Listen to the talk, very interesting. His appears to be a message of cautious optimism for the future of citizen produced media via whatever name podcasting will eventually come to be known as. He’s confident it won’t be podcasting:
Can the name be changed? Yes and it probably will be if history is any indication. Podcasting is a year old. Let’s talk about other media techniques when they were a year old… Radio didn’t become radio until the 1920s, actually quite late. People called it wireless for some time. So will it stay podcasting, no, not necessarily. And one of the reasons it’s important for me to come to a podcasting conference and call it broadcasting is maybe some podcasters will go back and start calling it broadcasting. And say all we’re doing is broadcasting on the Internet and we have the same rights and should have the same legitimacy as the people who previously held the monopoly on the term.
Community TV: The canary in the coalmine?
The DMCA is going from bad to worse (a draft of the bill is now available). Congress is about to give away the Internet by abolishing net neutrality. And I have a special personal disappointment with the news, via Jeff Chester’s piece in The Nation, that Congress is poised to kill community TV:
Congress is about to strike a blow that would eliminate the last remaining policy insuring local oversight of communications companies. A GOP-led effort on behalf of the telephone lobby (principally Verizon and AT&T), also backed by many Democrats, is about to toss in the dustbin the longstanding policy enabling cities or counties to negotiate a “franchise” agreement with companies that provide cable TV service. A key House committee is poised to pass legislation that would strip away the rights of communities to have any say in how phone and cable networks serve them in the digital era. [...]
Little has been written in the mainstream press about what the potential loss of cable franchising will mean. More than thirty years ago in The Nation, Ralph Lee Smith wrote the visionary “The Wired Nation.” Even back then, activists recognized cable TV’s ability to serve as a “community communications” system (they even used the word “broadband” back then). Cable was supposed to be an alternative to mainstream commercial television. There would be many local channels, addressing the needs of education, civic participation, free speech and the arts. Cable systems and programming channels would be owned and operated by people of color, potentially ameliorating what was--and still is--a communications industry dominated by white males and largely programmed to their interests. The cable lobby adopted much of this rhetoric as companies vied to secure lucrative deals with cities. We will be your “community medium,” they declared, promising to deliver PEG and an endless array of local services. But once these giants, whose successors today include companies such as Time Warner and Comcast, won the franchise, they used their political power--at City Hall and in Washington, DC--to break most of their promises. The cable lobby assembled a powerful political machine, including key Democratic leaders, and was able to win national legislation in 1984 that largely freed them to operate as national programming services.
I left Public Access Television as a career in 1999. I watch podcasting and vlogging develop today through the lense of that experience. I see precisely the dynamic - the energy, the creativity, the hope and optimism, the promise and potential - that I saw in the early 80s as I began my career in community media.
I see, too, that the “powerful political machine” built by the telecom giants is stronger than ever, and operating in a DC environment even more susceptible to its influence. I like to think that because the technology has gotten cheaper and easier to use, and because the architecture of the internet (as it stands today), there’s some hope that this technology of choice may survive and thrive.
It’s time for progressives to take a stand against the broadband banditry of Congress and the cable-telecom cartel. Any Internet-era telecommunications legislation should insure local control, provide low-income Americans with residential Internet service, protect online privacy, and keep the Internet open and free from the control of big cable and phone companies. Such legislation should also help develop a noncommercial digital commons designed to promote civil society (as opposed to the madcap commercialism that will run rampant on the broadband networks). In that way, we can honor the vision--and the political work--of activists in decades past who strove for a democratically run “community communications” system.
I certainly agree. I’m just not seeing how we get from here to there. The death of Community Television looks to me to be an inevitability. And hardly a good omen.