New job

Six months ago I started working at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital as an orderly (spongebaths and bedpans). Since then I have been made 'Unit Coordinator' (low level management), 'Audiology Technologist', and, my favorite, 'Neurodiagnostic Technician'. A year ago I was stacking tuna in the freeze hold of a fishing vessel in the middle of the Pacific. Damn.

movin out

so I'm moving up to northern, I mean way northern california. Unincorporated Fort Bragg, more like Inglenook (pop'n 300). I got myself a truck and I'm gonna be livin the easy life at 33625 Simpson Road, Ft. Bragg - puttin additions onto the house I'm staying in and workin part time at a spa in Mendocino handing out towels, checking bromide levels, and recommending the different masseurs. Not too shabby.

Gimmie a ring on the unlikely event you're in the area and I'll room, board, feed, and get you discounts at the spa (i'm anticipating being lonely up there).

Here's to country living!

Well, the robber barrons are back. Hearst would be proud...

San Jose Mercury News:

Posted on Sun, Jun. 01, 2003
FCC's Powell must be held to his word
By Dan Gillmor
Mercury News Technology Columnist

Monday, barring an 11th-hour change of bureaucratic heart, the Federal Communications Commission will give a gaggle of powerful corporations a gift of enormous value. The three Republican commissioners will outvote two Democrats in easing long-standing rules designed to prevent a few companies from controlling too much of the media we read, hear and view.

The question is not whether the FCC vote can be stopped, though a draft plan may be tweaked a bit at the edges. The Republican majority, led by President Bush's handpicked chairman, Michael Powell, appear determined to proceed despite opposition from what may be the most ideologically diverse group ever assembled.

To be fair, the commission is under pressure from the courts, which have interpreted current law in a way that almost requires more media consolidation. Congress, once again, has failed to step up to an issue of paramount national importance.

Assuming the fix is in, let's ask a different question: Where do we go from here?

We, the people, need to understand what's happening, and why. Then we need to get angry. We need to get organized, and take the fight back to the halls of power.

And we need to call Powell's bluff. He's reassuring everyone that our fears are groundless, but now he has to back his lofty words with genuine action.

By itself, the FCC's support of further media consolidation could have been relatively harmless. It's not totally removing limits on what one company can own in a given community or nationwide, after all, just making the limits less stringent.

We could even view the FCC's move, as Powell has suggested, in the context of a media scene that is getting more diverse, at least at the edges. Information technology makes it easier and cheaper to create art and journalism. And the Internet gives creators potentially global reach. Nice theory, anyway.

But we have to look at the FCC's latest policy move in two additional contexts. First, consider the recent spate of mergers and acquisitions by the biggest players, to the point where the five giants now control the vast majority of commercial media in America. Diversity in viewpoints is a business tactic to these companies, to be used if profitable and discarded if not.

The shameful lack of coverage of this issue, especially by the broadcasters and media conglomerates that stand to gain the most, is a red flag. When media giants are asked to cover issues where they have such an enormous stake in the outcome -- particularly when coverage might inflame the general public to the point where it demanded a different outcome -- they do what is best for the bottom line.

The second context in which we must see the FCC's action involves the future of the Internet itself. The promise of the Net is in its nature, a medium in which we can create and disseminate news, art and other ``content,'' not just consume it.

It's not alarmist, given the plain-as-day trajectory of policies -- including the FCC's own recent actions -- to suggest that the Net's promise is in jeopardy. A few giant media and telecommunications companies could well grasp full control of the Net.

Earlier this year, the FCC gave U.S. regional phone companies the right to control access to their high-speed data pipes. This basically mirrored earlier policies allowing the cable companies, which also created networks by getting government-granted monopolies, to refuse to share access to their lines.

In other words, U.S. high-speed data access will soon be under the thumb of two of the most anti-competitive industries around.

I doubt they'd dare to stamp out speech they don't like. But they could turn their systems into what industry people call ``walled gardens,'' where the content they provide gets preferential treatment and where they discriminate against material they don't control.

This is not idle speculation. Cisco Systems, the company that sells the gear used to direct Internet traffic around the Internet, is happily offering telecommunications companies the tools to create these walled gardens.

Will Congress step in? Doubtful, unless we force the issue ourselves. The broadcasters, who are among the winners in this new arrangement, hold a club over the lawmakers: airtime during election campaigns. That clout led Congress a few years ago to give the broadcasters airwaves worth tens of billions of dollars, without any public-interest requirements in return.

Powell's FCC could prove its good intentions by following through on a direction the chairman has favored in speeches and the commission's staff has touted in policy papers: It could free up more of the airwaves for high-speed data, creating a way around the phone and cable monopolies.

If Powell is serious about reform -- about ensuring a vibrant and diverse media -- he'll push ahead with spectrum reform. If he's just a puppet of the media and communications oligarchy, he won't. It's that simple.

You can help him move in the right direction. E-mail him at or call the FCC at (888) 225-5322. And call your elected officials in Washington, at (202) 224-3121, and tell them you want more media diversity and more choices for your communications and information.

Or you can just sit back and watch TV, and be happy with what the oligarchs feed you.