Feeling prolific today…

A combination of not much going on at work today and, oh, I don’t know, a general sense of well-being makes me feel like posting stuff today. So, here’s one of my typical meandering mish-mash posts.

Yesterday a Federal Judge declared the [tag]FCC[/tag]’s new obscenity rules “arbitrary.” Well duh. The FCC has never been anything other than arbitrary. My broadcasting professor in college used to refer to them as the “Federal Confusion Commission” because their rules were so byzantine and so far opposite from useful and also because they never seem to grasp what their true mandate is – to manage the broadcast frequency spectrum on behalf of its owners, the citizens of the United States. The FCC never acts as if we own the airwaves. They act, rather unsurprisingly for a bureaucracy, as if they own the airwaves and manage them for the benefit of the government.

Anyway, since the FCC is arbitrary and operates counter to their mandate I figure I ought to be an FCC commissioner. Seems like fun. Seriously, what could be more fun that being the leader of a powerful and arbitrary bureaucracy? I even know what the first new rule I’d propose would be – any broadcast outlet whose news programs devote so much as 10 seconds of airtime to reporting on the life and times of [tag]Paris Hilton[/tag], [tag]Lyndsey Lohan[/tag] or any other useless, talentless celebrity will be fined $500,000 for each second of airtime consumed by such reporting. The proceeds from these fines will be funneled directly into vocational training programs for people whose lives genuinely contribute to the well-being of their community.

I hate to admit it, but I was really happy when I heard that Paris was going to be spending time in the big house, for the simple reason that I expected this turn of events to wipe her, at least temporarily, from the consciousness of the nation. How wrong I was. She reported to the pokey and spent a grand total of a portion of one day incarcerated. She’s been transferred to home custody because – you may want to sit down for this one – she refused to eat the food in prison. The authorities said this was a modification in her sentence for medical reasons. Wow. What a wonderful justice system we have in this state. I’m relatively certain refusing to eat prison slop isn’t going to get any non-celebrity inmates remanded to home custody.

If anyone had any doubt that being rich and/or famous got you totally different treatment in life, well that’s pretty much been wiped out now.

Equally stupid is the new “feature” on [tag]Google Maps[/tag] called [tag]Street View[/tag]. If you haven’t tried it yet, well then you’re getting more work done than I am. Street View allows you to zoom in on a street-level photo on most city maps in Google’s database. The idea was probably to aid in navigation. You could not only get directions to some new place you’d never been, but see pictures of the place from street-level so that you’d recognize it when you got there.

The problem is, there are people out and about on the street who probably weren’t expecting to have their pictures taken for others to view on the web. Still, that’s a minor problem. The real trouble comes from there being entirely too many folks with nothing better to do than look for people in compromising positions on Street View and then post their photos to their blogs. [tag]Drudge Report[/tag] posted this one this morning that clearly shows some poor fashion-challenged woman getting into her truck prominently displaying her fishtail.

Look, this may be a serious case of the pot calling the kettle black, but I think some people need to get themselves real jobs. Too much free time is making us all behave like ninnies. If we were all a lot busier doing meaningful things with our lives we’d spend a lot less time paying attention to celebutants and their dreadful behavior (never mind there being no such thing as a person who is merely famous for being famous in the first place), or scouring the interweb for stupid crap to fill in the time gaps we all try to fill in every day.

It’s not just us Americans who have too much time to spend getting our collective panties in a twist over trivial crap.  People all over the UK are currently in a lather over – again, you may need to brace yourself for this – an ugly logo for the [tag]2012 London Olympic Games[/tag].  I’ll repeat that.  The nation is wringing its hands over a logo for a sporting event.

Folks, need I remind you there’s a war going on?  There are major political and social issues demanding our attention?  Hell, even fussing over the price of gasoline makes more sense than worrying about any of this nonsense.

Ok, so maybe I’m being too harsh.  The simplest answer to why people have so much time on their hands to expend on nonsense is that there are simply too many people.  Too many laborers and not enough actual labor to do.  Nothing less than some horrid plague is going to change this state of affairs, so maybe I just need to give some advice about trivial and unimportant things that are ok to waste your time with.

  1. Performance enhancing drug use in sports
    Ultimately, who cares.  My personal perspective is that instead of calling this “cheating” and trying to punish people for doing it, just accept it as the natural outcome of all the advances in medical technology we now live with.  Instead of punishing athletes for using performance enhancing drugs just require full disclosure.  You don’t get kicked out of your sport for using, only for not fully disclosing what you’re using.  This might have the ultimate result of reducing the use of this junk.  Once young athletes see enough cyclists, runners, football players and baseball players list the drugs they take and simultaneously not play better than their peers they might understand that there really aren’t any shortcuts to athletic excellence and that a lack of talent cannot be compensated for with chemicals.
  2. The price of gasoline
    Are gas prices high?  Yup.  Are they too high?  I’m not sure about that.  If you’re going to insist on living in a capitalist society in which market forces determine prices you’re going to have to accept that scarce commodities that are in great demand are going to command high prices.  Instead of being mad at the oil companies for charging more money than you want to pay for gas maybe some considered thought about this situation will lead people to understand that we are, in fact, running out of fossil fuels.  Some worrying about that might spur people to change their behavior or at least demand that our political leaders at least try to do something to prevent the inevitable drying up of the world’s oil reserves from bringing civilization to collapse.
  3. Drug prices
    The price of most pharmaceuticals has gotten to be very, very high, and our dependence upon them increases every year.  Sure, health care costs are out of line in general and a suspicion that insurance companies are making rather higher profits than are morally acceptable would probably be supported the facts derived from any serious investigation of the situation, but the HMO’s are not lying when they say the pharma companies are screwing us in the backside without lube.  Two things are contributing to this – patent law and the natural decline in easy big advances in technology.  To the first, US patent law grants patents for a limit of 25 years.  It takes between 10 and 15 years to get a patented compound from the lab to the pharmacy shelf, which means that patent holders (pharma companies) have to try to recoup their research and development investment on new drugs in about ten years.  Sometimes the only way they can do this is by charging a ton of money for their drugs.  The second issue, the decline in WOW research breakthroughs, contributes to the first.  Inventing aspirin was easy.  Inventing something better that does the same thing is damned hard.  Technology advances in the present day are more likely to be incremental than blockbusters (you can only invent the light bulb once).  Because drug makers have so little time to generate profits from their developments there is a big incentive to try to develop new drugs, and often what’s new isn’t much (if at all) better than what it is supposed to replace.  It might not be a bad idea to modify patent law so that patent holders of certain types of patents can hold on to them for a bit longer – say 50 years instead of 25.  This would also have the side benefit of letting pharma companies take more time to evaluate the safety of new drugs before they put them on the market.
  4. The fate of commercial television
    Commercial TV is in trouble.  Other types of media, particularly this here interweb, are occupying a bigger and bigger chunk of time in our lives.  Plus with the massive variety of channels available through satellite and cable when people do sit down to watch the tube they aren’t gravitating to the handful of networks they used to, but are instead spread out all over the place.  The business model of commercial TV is also threatened by DVR’s like Tivo.  If large numbers of viewers are skipping commercials then advertisers are going to be reluctant to spend the kinds of money they have traditionally spent that fed the networks and allowed them to pay for relatively high quality programming.  Personally, if TV went away altogether about the only thing I’d truly miss would be baseball games.  Sure, I like Heroes, Family Guy and Battlestar Galactica (which, to be fair, is only on cable), but if they went away I’d barely miss them.  But the broadcast networks used to be the one thing we all had in common here in the US of A.  We all watched the same shows, and you knew your coworker and classmate social and political orientation pretty well just by asking them which network newscast they typically watched (I was a Dan Rather & the CBS Evening News viewer with Walter Cronkite before him).  Now we’re all fragmented.  This is, I suspect, part of the reason we’re finding it more difficult to get along with one another in this country today than 20 years ago.

Ok, ultimately that list isn’t filled with much that’s actually trivial.  The last one maybe.  But still, much better stuff to concern yourself with than the whereabouts and foibles of Paris Hilton.

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