Vol. 4 No. 4

November, 2004

So, how did you like Ralph, our new site intern?

He has shown up the last three issues.

Ralph will appear in future editions as events warrant.



THE REAL NEWS * * * * *


Have you noticed that the Presidential candidates are marching their armies of lawyers into the alleged Battleground States like U.S. Grant did against Robt. E. Lee in Northern Virginia? This election is not about policies, the future of the country, or you as an average American voter's quality of life . . . it is only about WINNING. The Democrats are so anxious to get the White House back they are lining up voter intimidation and electioneering lawsuits two weeks before Election Day. The two main political parties are so power drunk that they will do everything and anything to stay in power. Stories of voter fraud, under the guise of taxpayer paid voter registration and education drives, are so rampant that the news media refuses to cover the stories. States Attorneys, many are political appointees or elected officials, steer clear from fighting the system of abuse that gives them their own little clout base. At stake is the division of a trillion dollars of taxpayer's money to friends, families, perks and the other special skims called government programs.

Those constitutionally challenged incumbents were hell-bent on getting America wired for electronic voting to replace the Floridian hanging chad episode of disgusting democracy reality television. Great. Simple touch screens, big boldface lettering, everyone can deal with that, right? Except those who examined the technology behind the e-voting mantra. The real problem is that the electronic voting machines have no paper trail. There is no way to double check who voted. Under the old check and balance system, there are registration cards, sign-in sheets, physical numbered ballots, and a counter that runs the ballot totals. If there is a challenge, you recount the votes. To certify, the election officials go out and physically canvas their precinct to determine the accuracy of their results. If a candidate wants to challenge the result, there are the physical evidence to do so.

But the glory of the electronic voting booth is that the only record is a bunch of ones and zeros that can be manipulated by incumbents, or hackers, or both. You are aware at work that your computer freezes and the hard drive crashes you are screwed. In the voting booth, there are no real back-ups: because of privacy concerns, the data lost could be lost forever. How would you want to know your district vote was lost in cyberspace? How convenient would it be for fraud to rear its electronic head by deleting areas where your opponent is strong. Instead of stuffing ballot boxes with paper, a person could punch in more votes into the machine without being held accountable.

The two major parties have made it almost impossible for a third party candidate to get the same ballot access, the same media attention, and the same financial contributions to make a difference. Most election judges are affiliated with the two major parties. Just as Bush and Kerry camps have unceremoniously gave the other candidate certain states in exchange for concentrating the battle in a handful of swing states to save time, effort and money, why could that incumbent professionalism contaminate the polling place.

With the major parties putting the average eligible voter into a state of non-stop apathy, this election will be another civic exercise where less than fifty percent of the eligible voters will actually cast a ballot. That makes the zombie special interest voting blocs more powerful to the politician.

Absentee balloting began in October in Florida using the new system. Within minutes, there were problems with the machines, and cries of FOUL!! Maybe this is the precursor of where this election will be decided . . . in the federal courts. If voters get the impression that the new system is not reliable, and their vote can be hijacked, or the system is rigged against their independent judgment, then that is the biggest indictment against the current political system.

I can easily predict that this Presidential Election will wind up in the federal courts in at least two states: Colorado, which wants to unilaterally change the Electoral College to split the state's electors prorata based on the final vote tally instead of the winner-take-all requirement; and Pennsylvania, where the state is operating with at least five different voting methods and a large bloc of closely contested Electoral Votes that the winner needs in order to turn the key on the White House in January.

I can also predict that the advocates of e-voting will have more problems than the time tested conventional voting booths in use across the country. Suspicion is already against the new system so every flaw, glitch, or breakdown will be magnified by the conspiracy theorists and public interest groups.

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Howard Stern signs a satellite radio deal worth $500 million. Major league baseball grants its radio broadcast rights to the Stern rival for $650 million. The infants of the broadcasting era are printing money like there is no tomorrow. These huge deals make headlines, but is this another billion dollar Internet start-up napkin business plan?

The evolution of communication is rather simple. First, the physical gesture, most likely a caveman's fist to face. Second, verbal words, most likely grunts after a caveman has put fist to face. Third, the written symbol, like the cave painting drawings which turned into other shapes we today call letters. The convergence of verbal grunts and writing symbols led to the student's nightmare of spelling, grammar and literacy. Fourth, interpersonal communication learns to travel across wires, over telegraph lines. Fifth, the interpersonal communication turns to mass communication as it gets broadcast over the public airwaves, first on radio then on television. Many radio show formats migrated to the new television medium; television then created its own new formats which begot the looser cable television programming through a fat wire into the modern household. For the most part, people paid for the one-to-one communication of the phone system. Then cable changed that perception of free radio and television broadcasting (which relied upon advertising dollars for revenue). People bought into cable to get programs and movies they could not get on free network television. One could call it luxury television. Now, the satellite radio programmers want you to pay $9 month to subscribe to their various channels of free or partially free radio shows.

Most people should have the common sense perversion against paying for something that they can get for free. Notwithstanding the odd notion that people pay their bank a large fee to get their own money out from their account at the ATM machine, most people listen to the radio a few hours at most during the day, usually trapped in their car in rush hour. People can be nickeled and dimed to death as they watch their paycheck shrink as each year passes by through higher taxes, inflation, and increasing user fees. $108 equates to a week's groceries or a year of satellite radio.

Satellite radio sold their customers on the notion that their channels were commercial free. The massive consolidation of radio stations into the hands of two major players has lead to the cross-advertising overkill at the local level as well as mushy crap station formats that neither inspire or inform the listener. But satellite radio had a problem, not enough subscribers, to be free, so alit of stations turned to advertising as a major source of revenue. Stern's new sat-boss claims Stern only needs to convert one million of his fifteen million fan base to subscriptions in order for Stern's $100 million contract to work.

Will it work? That is the real question. If deregulation of the radio stations concentrated power of all major metro markets into the hands of a few FCC fearing operators, what will it take before the satellite titans to cow-tow to pressures of special interests groups in order to tone down their programming in order to sell out to get more revenue? Remember, a decade or more, the idea of a worldwide satellite, one number, personal cell-phones were to be the answer to the hardline telephone area code bottlenecks. But the satellite phone died an awful death in cold, dark space. We are still stuck with the mercy of dead zone cell towers.

American car manufacturers were the inspiration for the sat operators. Management has decided that just selling a new car to a customer is not enough . . . income. It is one shot deal for Detroit, unless the company finances the car and gets interest (but that got lost with the zero interest rate deals that never seem to go away). The car companies want to think of a car sale as a corporate annuity. Their customer should continue to pay for the privilege of owning that vehicle. GM's On-Star communication system, built into new vehicles and sold as a safety feature, is a form of an annuity for GM. The On-Star experiment led to the installation of satellite radio receivers (probably under a split fee arrangement) would be another annuity income stream. Building in a cellphone or alternative phone system into a vehicle would be another potential annuity stream. Building in a video-on-demand feature for those flip down LCD DVD screens could be another potential annuity stream.

But people are mobile creatures. We do not live in our cars, unless we become down on our luck, lose a job, can't pay for a house (so how can one afford at that low point subscription communication services?). People will carry an iPod loaded with their own music, or a portable radio blaring their tunes, before investing as much into an anchor weight satellite radio receiver. But XM just announced that it is developing a personal walkman style satellite radio receiver to overcome the disadvantage it has over conventional radio transmissions.

The experiment will continue to run its course until Wall Street's frenzy of raising cheap stock cash on the promise of future profits dries up. There are only so many quarters an executive can song and dance his way through the minefield of questions about the lack of profitability before the investment brokers turn. Some companies never make a profit. Some companies are geared not to make a profit, but to have a grand exit strategy where a suitor will overpay current shareholders for the illusion of future profits from the next great technology thing.

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Film at 11, that is 11 film roll canisters on the kitchen counter. Eleven undeveloped rolls of film that are visible at a quick glance. There are probably more, in the car, in the camera, or in a jacket pocket.

As a trained photojournalist in the day where bulk black and white film stock meant that you could power wind through a hundred frames to find that one SHOT worthy of the printed page. Or more likely for the eye of the nightly managing editor who would either yawn or take it for the white space coverage issue that was pressing the deadline.

So the rut is the rut. I take pictures to the Walgreens 1-Hour photolab in the morning, and pick them up on the way home. The good pics get scanned on the flatbed for further use or manipulation in Photoshop. When I mean good pics I mean the duplicate that some family member has not bogarted during the last family event. Good pics also means the scanworthy for integration into a web page or publication, but actually those are rarer these days.

Yes, it would be easier to have a digital camera. Point, click and see the end result instantly. But part of the aura of the Old Way is that as a photographer you wait for the pictures to develop, like opening a present, to find that you have captured THE SHOT. Photogs are always looking for the Shot.

Not the Zabruder type of Shot.

The Shot is the perfect composition of the situation. The one in a roll capture of the essence of the storyline, the event, the moment in time.

In the overloaded image ladened daily routine, photographs are the only means to catalog medium to long term memory. The amount of information that is attempted to be crammed below the human skull is daunting. We forget more than we remember. We are finite machines that have an internal urge to remember the past. Probably to not repeat something bad, like when the caveman drew the Mammoths crushing the hunters, he was telling his descendants to remember his battle with the beasts. The one that crushed his limbs, made him spit up blood, and ruin his life. Go through a stack of old family photo albums without the family historian to put the names to the faces, the places to the events, and you would be lost in a cave without some context. Maybe it is the context that photographs give us that inspires us to document our lives.

Maybe it is the fact that photography is one of the most consumer friendly and early COOL technologies that the public accepted as it own. Anyone could point and click a Brownie. Kodak did all the work. One did not have to get dressed up to go to the portrait studio anymore. The camera was portable. It was recording what you wanted recorded. It made your friends and family frozen in time.

And you don't need extra technology to enjoy them. They are tangible. Physically compact and portable. You don't need a CD player or computer to view them. You can pass them around a room. They are easy to care for.

So is it Time to go digital? Or continue to counter-rebel like a crazy old man walking back and forth across the nursing home day room like a caged zoo lion?

We will have to see; Film at 11.

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