Thursday, September 27, 2007

Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones

Today, I so desire not to rant. I would prefer to have a nice, genteel discourse. That is my preference; however, I can’t seem to get everyone else to cooperate.

The term for it is “Self Licking Ice Cream Cone.” Not my invention by any means, but a favorite phrase of my dear sweet husband. He also calls the newscasters “Blow Dries,” but that is for another day.

That Self Licking Ice Cream Cone stood up at the Emmy’s and claimed HE had invented democratic discourse on television by lending his name to a thing called “Current T.V.” Course that same Cone claimed many years ago HE had invented the Internet. Meanwhile the wheels go round and round and the Cone licks itself because it can, regardless of how many “carbon credits” that may cost. And has anyone with a shred of honesty looked at the offerings of Current T.V.? That is not “Democratic” discourse, that is “Here is Our Point of View Discourse.”

But real people, who know, understand that there is only one democratic discourse outlet to be found anywhere on television and that is a thing-a-ma-bob we call Public access television. Its counterpart may very well be Low Power FM on the radio side of things. And real people understand that Mr. Ice Cream Cone did not invent this idea or phenomena and take umbrage at his suggestion and wonder, really do wonder, where the heck THEIR EMMY IS AFTER ALL THESE FRICKIN YEARS?

And they, suffer in silence. Meanwhile Cone gets a statuette and headlines.

And meanwhile, they shut the lights on “Speak Up Tampa Bay,” the Public access television channel in in Hillsborough County, Florida, because they are hicks and because they can. This “cut’ follows years and years of fundamentalist right wing attempts by a one Rhonda Storms, a county commissioner who also led the campaign against “lap-dancing.” Never mind that we got kids who are failing in schools or old people who are dying because they can’t afford the air-conditioning in the summer. “We Got Trouble Here in River City! It starts with an L and ends with a P and it spells Lap Dancing!” Oh the shame of it all!

And never question me about the cat-fight I got into with Ms. Storms, it wasn’t pretty and if only I had been face to face with that lovely individual, there would have been something flying, and it wouldn't have been mine.

The budget cut that eliminated Speak Up Tampa Bay’s funding from the County was necessary to balance the $4 billion budget. That all important $355,000 of Public access television money that was cut was less than a 16th of one percent of the total budget. Meanwhile, our esteemed colleagues in Hillsborough County will be doubling spending on the Tampa Bay Sports Commission to $900,000 (the group promotes amateur athletic events in Hillsborough County—like what “cricket” and “lawn bowling”?) and spending $1.5-million on replacing all the televisions in luxury suites with high-definition models in time for the 2009 Super Bowl. It is tragic that the Marriott and the Hilton can’t afford the digital transition for their luxury suites, I mean a schmoo room during January costs $350 per night, what could a luxury suite command? $1,500 or $2,000? But no, I agree with the County Council, august representatives that they are…let the taxpayers eat it.

Hillsborough County must have the Speak Up Tamp Bay money for amateur Sports and the Super Bowl…because the Blue Ray Devil Buccaneers are gonna do it up big in 2009. Talk about Self Licking Ice Cream Cones.

Then you got Indiana. Ah, Comcast sends a letter and that is the end of the story. But as I read it, a one Amy Hansen, poor company dear writes, and I quote:

“While the state statute ensures that channel capacity will be provided for access channels in existence on January 1, 2006, there is no requirement to continue to provide personnel, studios or equipment.”

Ergo…Comcast will shut down any studios and Public access operations beginning September 28 to the towns of Hammond, Portage and Mishawaka, Indiana.

Not so fast Cowboys…here’s the text of the law…

(2) requires a provider described in section 21(a) of this chapter to provide PEG channel capacity, facilities, or financial support under a local franchise issued to the provider by the unit before July 1, 2006, regardless of whether the provider elects to:
(A) continue the local franchise under section 21(b)(1) of this chapter; or
(B) terminate the local franchise under section 21(b)(2) of this chapter and continue providing video service in the unit under a certificate issued under this chapter.

Boy howdy, Amy, go back to yer bosses because I think indeed you do need to provide personnel, studios or equipment, if it existed in the franchise, which it probably did and I’m thinking (like in Brookline Massachusetts) Comcast just waltzing away from an obligation doesn’t negate the obligation. Yee Haw!

At least Comcast, unlike Hillsborough County or Al Gore, wasn’t trying to divert Public access funds to support to non-existent amateur sports teams or multi-national hotel chains for HDTV set ups or claim they invented democratic discourse on television. Comcast is just trying to weasel out wherever they can, especially in those small jurisdictions who may not know any better and especially in Indiana where the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission is completely Ignoramus Non-Gratis on video franchising. Even now…two years into the game.

Then it does get better methinks.

The National Reproductive Rights and Abortion League (NARAL) or National Abortion Rights and Reproductive League or NARAL Pro-Choice America or whatever the heck that acronym has evolved into these days (don’t get me started, I couldn’t find the explanation anywhere on their website), was denied the ability to send a text message to their members about an important piece of legislation on the Verizon network.

You know, you’ve seen the commercial. A young woman goes to college, she has her phone but more than that, she has a WHOLE NETWORK following her around, keeping her safe and warm and assuring her parents it is A-Okay for her to be on her own. Very close to a Hallmark moment. We're all feeling really good…but wait! There’s more! Should that same college co-ed want to get text messages regarding reproductive rights and actions she might take to secure the same…there they all are…that loving network, wagging their fingers “Oh no, no, no!”

Then the Network goose steps toward our co-ed and says “Nein, Nein, Verboten!”

Funny how when that story hit the news and women across this country began reacting, Verizon quickly switched position. They claimed “that the incident was the result of "dusty internal policy.” Whoo Hoo darlin’, dating back to when? 1215 A.D.?

So I cannot rant, I have no strength to even rave any longer…I am weak from shock after shock after shock. I would characterize my condition as bewildered. And more than anything else, I wonder…do those Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones ever look in the mirror and come to the realization they have a finite shelf life? Or are they simply distracted by all the Self-Licking that goes on?

P.S. To all my peeps in Philly...Wow! Can't believe it! Finally after all these years, Public access $1.9 or so in capital funding, city gave you a library building, and will be paying your utilities, and $500k or so for operating per year...I feel like I have just give great! To all you...Inja, George, Gretjen, Rachel and EVERYBODY IN PHILLY...geesh...I wanna cry I am so proud of you all and all the hard work you have done over the years...ok, I am crying...You Philly people are so inspirational (go Indianapolis!) so many years and you just kept on, I have never, NEVER seen a group of local activists so amazing regardless of the issue I have worked (pro-choice, church-state separation, access). You guys blow me away! So when will you start the workshops? How to do a movement and how to succeed? Love to you! Bunnie

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