Inspection- Of Monopoly, Mike’s Mistake and Parents vs. the State

So much has happened since I started this edition of Inspection that I felt compelled to comment on three topics…

Monopoly

I have been a Sirius Satellite Radio customer for several years now. I’m somewhat, somewhat not, satisfied with the service. Some of the decisions of their programmers make regular commercial radio programmers look smart. Imagine this: you’re handed an opportunity to do everything FM was supposed to do like…

1. Play odd cuts from known acts.

2. Play new and struggling acts.

3. Have exotic programming, like real DJs allowed to play music as if it isn’t grown on some top 40 chart tree…

4. …or fantasy talk radio like one host in Atlanta during the 90s. He would address national issues through role playing with his audience.

While Sirius has at least tried, XM would have none of that. I remember their CEO disparaging their competition once saying that they would make sure their programming was as mainstream and non-offensive as possible. “Just like FM only without the commercials,” is a quote I remember from the interview.

Goodie. Don’t we have enough of that already? I swear these guys think the only reason consumers would pay for what advertising provides them for free is a lack of commercials. Actually, I find creative commercials can be quite entertaining. I can even imagine a “commercial channel” where they play really whacked out ads. Instead XM offers what is already pitiful, weak, programming non-stop. Sometimes it’s a little like being locked in a room for eternity with Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I’ve Got Love in My Tummy, locked on repeat.

Sirius is a tad better. They don’t provide a channel with funny commercials, but they do have the Gay channel: Out Q, Howard Stern… as much as I don’t care for his style it is unique… but they also interrupt channels for sports all the time… (I pay them to screw me out of streams I’ve paid for, essentially.) … and take some of their most popular channels, like The Bridge which featured singer-songwriters, and turn it into a 24 hour Bruce Springsteen stream; just to give one example out of far too many. Even if I could understand that nasal drone of his, or liked his songs, I’d still wonder why they insist on pirating their own popular channel for the sake of the few who might be interested in being able listen to that damn drone 24/7. But the programming trend at Sirius is headed in the opposite direction with the Elvis stream: another non-favorite of mine, the Rolling Stones stream and the soon to be released Minnie Riperton stream where all they do is play that hideous high note over, and over, and over…

(Yes, I am kidding: kind of.)

But when it comes to their regular channels they simply mimic XM. If you expect to hear some odd cut from your favorite group: forget it. It’s not even great top 40. I’m amazed that when they play Chicago, for instance, it seems their collection is limited to two or three hits. Forget hearing whole album sides, or comparing different versions of the same songs by different artists, or playing several songs of the same theme or feel right after each other: some of the many things my audiences loved when I was in radio, but anal program directors hated. Satellite radio, XM or Sirius, is mostly wasting a wonderful opportunity for being inventive, creative and getting listeners actually excited about radio again. FM kind of did that to AM, which is why, until Limbaugh, AM was like a lingering, terminal cancer patient. Of course Limbaugh simply gave us all another kind of cancer, but that discussion is probably best saved for another edition of Inspection entitled: “An Ego Bigger and More Lethal Than All the Depleted Uranium in Iraq.”
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Now the Justice Department has decided it’s OK for them to merge. Here is their argument…

“Although the two companies operate the only satellite radio firms in the US market, the Justice Department said there is ‘a lack of competition between the parties in important segments, even without the merger, and that consumers may still choose ‘alternative services.'”

“…there is ‘a lack of competition between the parties in important segments even without the merger?'” What kind of logic is that? Let’s test this logic this out a few times…

“There’s already a lack of morality; so encouraging even less of it won’t really make a difference.”

“There’s already prisoner abuse; so allowing more won’t make a difference.”

And to add a business twist to our discussion…

“Blackwater has already been caught several times killing indiscriminately; so let’s give them more guns, more power and less oversight.”

If I didn’t know better I’d insist George Bush runs the Justice Department.

Wait a cotton pickin second… um, never mind.

The second part of the statement… (“…consumers may still choose ‘alternative services.”) …reminds me of the pro-merger arguments made by Alex Bennett on his Sirius talk show. To claim that “there are alternatives” is absolute garbage. The whole point behind satellite radio is to be unique and offer a product that terrestrial radio simply can’t produce, or at least produce well without advertisers and partisans barnstorming the studios and getting the FCC all hot and bothered. Henceforth, while the medium may be similar, it is not the same. Yet I’ve heard Alex argue that this argument is correct because “they’re all entertainment venues.” Sure they are. So therefore should we allow all the magazine companies, all the CD labels, all the sports venues: essentially everything else “entertainment” swallow each other and become one? Well, they are “entertainment” aren’t they? You’d still have Sirius/XM to be the alternative, wouldn’t you?

Another argument I’ve heard is that someone else can go into the biz. OK, look in my back pocket. Hmmm… the cost of shooting up a satellites (you have to have more than one), microphones, paying hosts, getting all the music needed, develop, make and sell all the software and hardware customers will need to get the steams, setting up studios and connections between those who host from other locations and from the studios… gee, not quite enough in my wallet. Anyone else got enough? Maybe we can go in together?

That was the short list, I’m sure.

That same argument can be used to excuse all the car manufacturers condensing into one, all the stores becoming WalMart, or maybe even most the business world being owned by Yamaha. After all, they damn near make everything already. The world could be owned by Yamaha and WalMart. At least the wars might be more interesting, as Walmart greeters armed with AK-47s storm the plants that build pianos so they can build as well as sell.

“Welcome to WalMart! Wait, I think you work for Yammie!” (Greeter turns red when he discovers he hastily pulled the AK-47 like water gun from toys where managers hid the arsenal in case of corporate invasion.)

Also, without another satellite company to compete with, anyone else think it’s also quite probable that my subscription rate is about to skyrocket?

Monopoly should remain a game: not a government approved activity. Competition is healthy. Encouraging less through such rulings is going in the opposite direction.

Why is it after eight years of Bush I’m not even slightly surprised?

Mike’s Mistake

I record Mike Malloy’s program on Sirius Left. Hey, give me a break: I’m in my fifties; and the older I get the more like Dad I become… sun: up, sun down: I’m zonked. Seems to run in the family from discussions I’ve had with relatives.

As of late I’ve cringed because Mike’s gotten into Hillary bashing. I feel the same when I hear hosts doing Barack bashing. No matter how much you may dislike and mistrust either: this gets us no where except closer to four more years of the same hideous theology based autocracy we’ve been burdened with for eight long years. Sometimes I feel like the teacher who says, “I don’t care who started it first, or who you think is being meaner, just stop it, stop it!!!

After slipping last night’s tape into my boombox yesterday I started chuckling and shaking my head. Then I played it for my wife. A story from The Observer Dispatch out of Utica, NY, had become part of the previous night’s show. You know: the program I unfortunately forgot to record? Mike was apologizing for his mistake the night before. It wasn’t just his mistake: apparently Alternet, Democratic Underground and other left leaning sites had picked up, and royally screwed up, the same story. A former Clinton pastor: Rev. William Procanick, had molested a seven year old girl.

The problem… he’s from Clinton, NY: a town named after New Yorks first governor: George Clinton. My sister-in-law is from Clinton, I lived in nearby Utica, NY for a while in college. I returned and lived there for a year after college because I had met my wife who was from the area. We also lived there briefly after we were married.

Yes, Clinton, NY, so there was no connection to either Bill or Hillary.

I consider this rather sad evidence of just how eager partisans are: and the media is, to inflate this game of gotcha. I have no doubt that contributing to some of this, if not a lot, are those also eager to make sure the next president is not a Democrat. I have no illusions that Republican activists are simply sitting by and letting it happen. That really would be foolish. But this really isn’t a pro-anyone; anti-anyone or any party, screed. It’s an anti-the current form of insanity that has gripped the nation rant.

Thank you Mike, for apologizing.

Now, can we please talk issues and stop this nonsense?

Please?

Parents vs. the State

By now you’ve heard that eleven year old Madeline Neumann died because her parents believed in using prayer instead of treating diabetes. Children were removed from the home after she died and I’m sure: more than just “likely,” charges are pending. There’s no indication that there was any malice, intentional abuse, or that the child disagreed and sought treatment, or that there was even the slightest lack of love in this case. In fact: just the opposite. They sincerely were doing what they thought was right.

I’m probably going to get hate mail over this one, but I really have a problem here. I suppose it goes back to my position on abortion. I sincerely feel: no matter how misguided, that when it comes to giving birth… or not, and then how you raise them; between individuals or state control I will almost always choose the individual over the State. The older the child gets the more what the child wants, or needs, should be considered… and the less autocratic-like the decisions of the parents for that child should be.

I know this is counter-intuitive to how it really is. Everyone loves a baby, but the five year old is often ignored or considered a nuisance. The more children get into their teens, the more parents often wonder how this cute little baby actually turned into something so obnoxious… you know, a being with a mind of its own?

Frankly, I think society has it absolutely backwards.

But back to Madeline and her parents…

I understand the desire, the rage, the supposed need to punish the parents. What good it might do, anyone with common sense will wonder. It won’t stop people from being intentionally ignorant. Instead of making people think twice it will make them hate the State more, and feel justice is only for those with beliefs approved by the state. I’m sure the worst, and most meaningful, punishment possible is exactly what has happened: the death of their child… and let’s not dismiss social pressure and bad press. It’s almost impossible to remain insular from such things.

I care. I care a lot. Perhaps asking them to have more sane relatives raise the rest of their children is the best we can do: with absolute, at any time, visiting rights. Even then: I cringe.

One should wonder, if society ever turns the other way, and your children get ripped from you because you when you had them inoculated one had a unexpected reaction and died… all because society says you should have used prayer instead… would you then understand that there’s more going on here than just two misguided parents and their right to believe what ever they want: and raise them that way?

When you give the State such powers you may save a child or two… for now. But some time, some day, the State very easily could wind up killing millions. It’s not like societies never change over time. Maybe they’ll order you to raise them so that they have to ask some Saints for help instead of being treated for diabetes, or demand that their Aztec-like hearts be ripped out as they’re sacrificed to some Sun God. Individuals can do great damage: it’s true. But that’s insignificant compared to the power of the State. Today the State may be benevolent.

Tomorrow?

Who knows?

-30-

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over thirty years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.