The Answer Is: Because It's a Free Country, You Idiot!

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The question?

"You can always turn the television off and, of course, block the channels you don't want[….] But why should you have to?"

That's the head of the FCC, Kevin Martin, yammering in front of the Senate yesterday on the subject of "decency" on cable and satellite TV and radio. More here. Martin favors "a la carte" pricing of cable channels, on the theory that less objectionable material would come into the very households paying for such content. Given that he also favors extending federal content regulation to cable and satellite, we should recognize his support for a la carte pricing for what it is: an attempt to limit what consumers can watch and listen to.

God forbid Smellivision ever happens–because you know the FCC will be in favor of blocking adult smells too.

[Hat tip: Michael Chernysh]

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  1. If he doesn’t like what’s on TV, why not use his agency budget to produce TV spots that he thinks send the right message?

    You know, like we do in Iraq.

  2. i would *love* to pare down the 500 channels i receive to the 20 or so i actually watch – and get a rebate on my cable bill too. can anyone believe there was actually a time when we welcomed the 500-channel future?? (yes, yes, more choices and all that… but why are 450 of my choices crap?)

    oh, and kevin martin is a dick.

  3. I’m a proponent of a la carte pricing, too. But, c’mon… Jesus H. Christ!!!

  4. Yeah, I was listening to these hearings on the radio yesterday… It was like listening to a comedy sketch.

    I still don’t get the big deal here. While I can understand “indecency” concerns, it really isn’t that hard to manage the TV in ones own home. I’m 32 now, and growing up in NoVa we had a key that went into the cable box. My parents locked most channels and programs (like Skin-a-Max and, more humorously “Threes Company”) and we had to let them know what programs we wanted to watch. Nowadays, it seems the technology has moved way past the “key” into ratings and the V-chip.

    In addition to “protecting” me from “evil” programming, the biggest side benefit was that I almost never watched TV… so I don’t even have cable today.

  5. I hope this guy wasn’t watching Nip/Tuck last night…

  6. Oh, and I’m all for a la carte pricing too (the ultimate in choice)… I would love to sign-up for cable if I could pick only about 10 channels but some of the ideas I heard yesterday were just complete idiocy.

  7. But it’s so hard to get up off the cushy couch to turn off the TV or to change channels. Maybe the government should issue… let’s see… clickers?

  8. Uhh, where do I sign up to block adult smells?

  9. I interned a few years ago for a telecom that was offering TV. They offered 4 different groups of cable. Sports (ESPN, FOXSports), Family(Disney, Cartoons,Nickalodean), Entertainment(Comedy Central, MTV), and Movies (USA, TNT, TBS)

    All your other channels were scattered into these 4 sections. If you got 3 of them, the 4th was free. I think they changed this because they saw that they were losing money. The problem is that ESPN costs them like $5 a household while the Home Shopping Network is like 25 cents.

  10. The Answer Is: Because It’s a Free Country

    You still fucking believe this? How adorable. You’re awfully naive for a guy who wears that much leather.

    Vent: I am fed up with my bank for various reasons and so today I tried to do the proper Libertarian thing: take my business elsewhere by opening an account in a new bank. But I cannot, thanks to the goddamned PATRIOT Act; it is illegal to open a new bank account unless you have TWO forms of government-issued photo ID, and I have only one. I am forbidden by law to transfer money from Bank A to Bank B until I get a passport. (Or if I had a major credit card, which I do not. But y’all know how near-fucking-impossible it would be for a terrorist to get hold of a major credit card, don’t you?)

    And I am sure you all feel a hell of a lot safer knowing I’m stuck with my old bank. Free country, my ass.

    Oh, and on topic: even if they shove through a la carte pricing it won’t fucking matter, because then people like Kevin Martin will complain that they have to pay for a whole entire channel when they only want to watch half the shows on it.

  11. I tried to do the proper Libertarian thing: take my business elsewhere by opening an account in a new bank.

    Try your mattress… the Patriot Act doesn’t apply. I actually have a friend who shunned the banking world recently for his M1/M2 accounts.(But, he has a credit card so it might be hard to be your own bank without one).

  12. Most apt post heading ever!

  13. The Answer Is: Because It’s a Free Country, You Idiot!

    Now, now. There is a difference between being a “libertarian” and a “libertine.” Just because we have free speech doesn’t mean we should use it.

  14. K. Toishi–

    I have a bit too much to feel comfortable sticking my money in a mattress. But of course, when I DO manage to switch banks that will result in Government Interference Number Two: I have considerably more than the ten-thousand-dollar minimum for which the bank must report any transactions to the IRS. And knowing my luck, the numbfuck idiots in charge of our national Security Theater will reach the conclusion that my money came from Bin Laden, because you know female atheists with Jewish last names make up the fucking backbone of al-Qaeda. Really.

  15. Sturgeons law, Rhywun. 90%of everything is crap.

    Jenn,

    I’m inclined to agree with you. The a la Carte system won’t satisfy people who deem it unacceptable for anyone to view what they find objectionable. Even if it was instituted(the cable/sattelite companies will never stand for it), It would only be a matter of time before certain channels would be “too dangerous” to purchase.

  16. Um, why does his position on applying indecency statutes to cable mean that a la carte proposals are an effort at censorship? Wouldn’t a la carte offerings weaken the case for censorship, by making the importation of naughy programming into the home more clearly voluntary?

  17. K. Toishi — it’s getting harder to get away with that. More and more companies are refusing to issue paychecks any way but via direct deposit.

  18. Jennifer,

    That’s really not the half of it. The Banking Secrecy Act makes banks into proxy arms of the government by providing them the legal authority to spy on your account for the purpose of identifying “suspicious” transactions. Its not new of course, the law has been evolving since 1970, though the PATRIOT Act did make some fairly draconian changes to the law.

  19. I have a bit too much to feel comfortable sticking my money in a mattress.

    Do “Money Market” accounts have to comply with this rule? I’ve only ever opened Money Market accounts by mail. I recently started using my Money Market account as a checking account since I only write about two checks a month – rent and credit card (so I meet the minimum $250 check amount). But, again, without a credit card, it is kind of hard to get away from the traditional world of checking/savings accounts. I’m sure there is no way to get around it unless you either (a) get a passport, or (b) enroll in a community college class and get a student ID… both of which, entail a financial committment.

  20. Maybe, when Kevin Martin succeeds in forcing cable companies to offer a la carte programming, he can them go after the Quaker Oatmeal company? Because it’s bullshit that when I buy their multi-flavor packs, I am forced to buy their apple cinnamon oatmeal even when I don’t like it.

  21. Jennifer, your banking troubles are obviously an obvious market failure. I propose that more government interference would solve this problem.

  22. Jennifer, does Quaker Oatmeal operate with a government-guarnateed local monopoly in the Nutmeg State?

    And, more importantly, does smoking nutmeg really get you stoned?

  23. Wouldn’t a la carte offerings weaken the case for censorship, by making the importation of naughy programming into the home more clearly voluntary?

    I think a la carte offerings would take some of the steam out of the evangelical/censorship crowd, but the question becomes, “Is a la carte pricing something that should be driven by regulatory fiat or market forces?” I know plenty of free-market types who are willing to give in on this one just to get the evangelicals to “clam up.” Ends, means… toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.

    I’d personally rather see a la carte pricing come from the cable/telco/satellite companies themselves… which I think would get rid of some pretty lackluster channels who are in business only because they get bundled with ESPN and the like.

  24. Jennifer: We bankers don’t like that craptacluar “Know Your Customer” crap any more than the customers do. What’s worse is that WE are responsible for enforcement, if one of our customers is laundering money (an absurdly broad crime if ever there was one) and we don’t catch it, we get fined/shut down. If we don’t report “suspicious activity” we get fined/shut down. If our guys out in the lobby don’t ask little old ladies for two forms of ID, again with the fining and the shutting down. And don’t even get me started on the BSA, or how damnably crazy it is that the UCC contains law on the size and location of check endorsements.

    mediageek: I will cut you for that. Even if it was sarcastic. Because somebody out there actually believes it.

  25. Um, why does his position on applying indecency statutes to cable mean that a la carte proposals are an effort at censorship?

    I don’t think it does, joe. But I doubt Mr. Martin’s plan is an either “a la carte pricing”, or “expansion of indecency standards to cable” choice. It is likely that he intends both, which is strange considering that people would have greater to not order channels with what they feel is questionable material.

    But not all that strange when you consider the groups clamoring for all this regulation. It’s never about them being able to choose not to do something, it’s about prevent other from choosing to do something.

    Jenn,

    I’ll trade you my plain packets of oatmeal for your apple cinnamon.

  26. Maybe, when Kevin Martin succeeds in forcing cable companies to offer a la carte programming, he can them go after the Quaker Oatmeal company? Because it’s bullshit that when I buy their multi-flavor packs, I am forced to buy their apple cinnamon oatmeal even when I don’t like it.

    Literally, laughing out loud…

  27. . . . a government-guarnateed local monopoly . . .

    This is, of course, a big part of the problem. Just imagine if a competing company offering only family-friendly fare was available to consumers in each market.

  28. David,

    I’m all for complaining about applying broadcast indecency standards to cable and sat. That’s censorship.

    Telling companies who operate as regulated monopolies that they can’t restrict their captive audience’s choice as much as they’d like to isn’t censorship.

  29. Phil, yeah, I agree. But that’s not really on the table.

    Nor is depicting a la carte rules as censorship going to get us there.

  30. does Quaker Oatmeal operate with a government-guarnateed local monopoly in the Nutmeg State?

    In a world with satellite tv, this argument no longer passes my smell test.

  31. Hak: The BSA has been evolving since the 70s, it’s true, but it doesn’t give banks the authority to spy so much as legally mandate that we must spy. Otherwise it’s a world of OCC-induced pain.

    Jennifer: That report is a Currency Transaction Report (CTR), Form 4789. That’s different from a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), which the bank only needs to file if a crime has been committed or it suspects a crime has been committed. Those go to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the Treasury Department (FinCEN). Failure to file either can subject the bank and its officers to civil monetary penalties, and possibly criminal charges.

  32. MP, that’s a fair argument.

    Still, even in a world of Poland Spring bottles, I still think the city has the right to require a certain level of service from the Water Commission.

  33. K. Toishi,

    The Banking Secrecy Act applies to numerous entities, including the futures markets, investment advisors, etc.

    mediageek,

    Obviously.

    Timothy,

    What’s worse is that WE are responsible for enforcement, if one of our customers is laundering money (an absurdly broad crime if ever there was one) and we don’t catch it, we get fined/shut down.

    Like I wrote above, you’ve become proxy arms of the governemnt.

    …or how damnably crazy it is that the UCC contains law on the size and location of check endorsements.

    Yeah, when read that in Commercial Law we found that very funny.

  34. Timothy,

    Yeah, yours is a fairer representation of how you are being screwed.

  35. Jennifer, does Quaker Oatmeal operate with a government-guaranteed local monopoly in the Nutmeg State. . . . Telling companies who operate as regulated monopolies that they can’t restrict their captive audience’s choice as much as they’d like to isn’t censorship.

    So dump the stupid government regulation. I can possibly see the point of regulating things in the actual public good–food or electricity–but television is a damned luxury, just like professional sports, and the government has no damned business getting involved with either one.

    As to censorship, for the enforced-a la carte crowd, the complaint is that the cable companies are doijg the OPPOSITE of censorship–making me go through the trouble of rejecting the apple cinnamon oatmeal, when I want government to ensure it’s not included in any purchased packages to begin with.

  36. With a name like “Commonsewer” wanting to block human smells!?
    Don’t you appreciate the bouquet of human pheromones?
    How about that lingering aftertaste?

  37. Hak: The UCC at least has the advantage of having been adopted by states individually to make interstate banking easier. But, yeah, when the guys in Treasury Management told me about the endorsement thing, I had to look it up before I’d believe them.

  38. In a world with satellite tv, this argument no longer passes my smell test.

    I would agree SATV dilutes this argument somewhat, but not totally. I’ve never been much for the argument that having one company offer one technology (CATV) in competition with one company offering another technology (SATV) is perfect competition. The two are not perfect substitutes. (Especially since I think SATV is total crap).

    This has been one of the arguments that broadband Internet is sufficiently competitive. That is, you have the option of DSL and cable Internet. But, DSL (for my purposes) is a superior technology and I am still stuck with one carrier (who offers the inferior ADSL technology, instead of SDSL). So, while competition is improving, until you have multiple carriers offering the same technology, I’m not sure the markets are sufficiently competitive.

  39. Timothy,

    As far as uniform codes go the UCC is one of the best.

  40. I thought this might be appropriate:

    I work for an investment bank. I have dealt with code written by stock exchanges. I have seen how the computer systems that store your money are run. If I ever make a fortune, I will store it in gold bullion under my bed.

    –Matthew Crosby

    A safe in the apartment is looking better and better. It’s not like the bank pays me anything substantially above inflation anyway.

    You know what my latest gripe with banks is? (Only recently discovered because I almost never need these -) You must have an account to get a cashier’s check. Why? I give you money; you write check! You can’t possibly be worried that the check will bounce, because it’s your check! You can’t possibly be out the money, because I just gave you the cash! Why the hell can’t it be that simple? But no, they refuse to take your cash; they must withdraw it from your account. And there’s an extortionate fee on top of it, of course, like $10 for the $60 cashier’s check I needed.

  41. K. Toishi,

    It may be that the best solution though is a monopoly.

  42. Not fair, Nick, as others have pointed out. Maybe the gov’t shouldn’t tell cable companies how to bundle channels any more than they should tell Crayola how to bundle crayons, but at least I can throw away fuzzy wuzzy brown and never have to see it again.

    I’m not sure how this will help consumers other than those prudes who can’t help but slow down when they accidentally click by some soft porn on FX.

    My guess: everyone who bundles his/her 10 or 20 favorite channels will probably have to pay the same price they’re used to paying now if not more. Those would be, after all, the expensive channels.

    Out of curiosity…what would you all keep?

  43. Oh, and my other pet peeve about broadband Internet is the requirement (at least in my community) that I have to buy the underlying basic technology to get broadband Internet(neither of which I want). With DSL, I have to purchase the voice line (even though there is no technological need for it) and with cable Internet, I have to purchase CATV (which I have no need for)…

    I’m in complaining mode today…

  44. The argument that you shouldn’t have to be bothered to make the effort to not watch the stuff you don’t want to see is such crap I can’t believe it’s even been put forward. That it’s been put out there by the head of the FCC is appalling and frightening.

    And even if they instituted ala-carte cable the same stupid argument could apply. Why should you be bothered to have to not pay for channels that have dirty stuff on them. Just prohibit broadcasting anything racier than “The Wiggles” and no one will have to be bothered with making a choice. Of course those ten channels that show “Law and Order” and “CSI” 24/7 will be out of business but at least we wont be bothered.

    Between the F’n Communication Commission and the F’n Election Commission the Right to Free Speech seems to be in pretty sorry shape these days.

  45. JD–

    Go to the Post Office and buy a money order; it’s something like ninety cents for an amount up to five or six hundred bucks. I do money orders when I buy stuff on eBay; they don’t check your ID or anything.

    Timothy, I’m guessing that, when I DO manage to open the account at the new bank, it wouldn’t do me any good to transfer the money from my old bank in $9,000 increments rather than all at once?

  46. That is, you have the option of DSL and cable Internet. But, DSL (for my purposes) is a superior technology

    Other than for cost reasons, I’ve never heard anyone state that DSL is superior to Cable.

    And I agree with you and joe. The contract between the cable companies and the local municipalities means that the municipalities have some oversight responsibility. But what is more irksome here is that the FCC does not have any legitimate role in this relationship.

  47. What’s interesting about the Know-Your-Customer rules is that they were rejected by EVERYONE–advocates, banks, even some government regulators (non-law enforcement, of course) when the Clinton Administration tried to push them through back in the 90s. However, 9/11 gave the Bush Administration and the law enforcement agencies another shot, and, via the USA Patriot Act, KYC rules are now the order of the day. Along with the expansion of the Bank Secrecy Act and OFAC reporting.

    Frankly, I have never felt as threatened by the provisions of USA Patriot that you usually hear about as I do by the enhancing of the BSA and the idea that law enforcement can force private individuals and companies to play cop. And pay through the nose for the honor, incidentally.

    As for ala carte cable, what’s the point? More and more of the people I know are getting TV shows on DVD and watching them that way. And that’s just the beginning. On demand is the future. Try to regulate that under Pacifica principles, FCC!

  48. The real question is how many of those 500 channels would be killed off by a la carte ?
    Would the Game Show Network even be on if it weren’t in a package block with (for example) ESPN ?
    As much as I like the idea, I fear that it may mean the end of SCCA run off coverage….

  49. Jennifer, you don’t have a drivers license and social security card? In most states you can get a concealed handgun license.

    Oh, I forgot. Down here in Texas showing a CHL for ID doesn’t cause clerks to vapor-lock, the way it does up in those NE cities. 😉

    JD, my bank (Wells Fargo) also charges for a “cashier’s check” but because I have an account they’ll write me a “personal money order” without charging. And take cash for it.

  50. Jennifer, banks must report customers who appear to be “structuring” cash transactions to avoid the $10,000 threshold. Of course, the focus is really on that magic number, so I don’t know how well such “structured” transactions are tracked.

  51. “Why should you be bothered to have to not pay for channels that have dirty stuff on them.”

    Because “not paying” doesn’t require you to do anything, or cost you anything, while having to receive channels you don’t want both costs you ,and compels you to have to put up with something you don’t want.

    Not really a parellel there, old bean.

  52. Telling companies who operate as regulated monopolies that they can’t restrict their captive audience’s choice as much as they’d like to isn’t censorship.

    Technically speaking, you’re correct. But consider: if you pass a law that does not directly have a particular effect but everyone knows its sole purpose is to have that effect, how is it to be judged? A lot of abortion restrictions kind of fall into this area. Parental notification isn’t really an attempt to take away young women’s access to abortion, is it joe? Or do you apply different standards to that?

    I would agree with you that if one accepts the authority of the government to regulate cable companies in such areas, one cannot cry censorship when the government uses its authority as a sideways effort to get people to watch less porn. Of course, since none of us here ever accepted the government’s authority to do that in the first place, unlike someone I know….

  53. Because “not paying” doesn’t require you to do anything, or cost you anything, while having to receive channels you don’t want both costs you ,and compels you to have to put up with something you don’t want.

    So you’re saying that one role of the government is to ensure that when you purchase luxuries like cable television service, you should not have to put up with things you don’t want?

  54. I would keep:
    – the original networks (CBS, NBC, etc.)
    – TBS, TNT, Sci-Fi, Game Show, Comedy Central, FX, TV-Land, BBC America, Turner Classic movies, Discovery and a couple others
    – I would ditch all sports, shopping, religious, and news channels.

    I think I would save money.

  55. I am agnostic
    why should I have to chance channels when
    christian spout off

  56. “Other than for cost reasons, I’ve never heard anyone state that DSL is superior to Cable.”

    For me, it is the fact that DSL is my own “network.” I have a line that ties in straight to the telco’s central office (CO). With cable, you are on a shared network within your neighborhood. As more people join that network, the bandwidth (and security) decreases. When I was a first adopter on a cable network, the speed was great. But, as more folks in the neighborhood joined, the speed slowed dramatically and my security was compromised far more often than on my DSL. Alternatively, my DSL speeds and security have been far more stable than when I was on cable.

    I also have more of a need for fast upload speeds as opposed to download speeds. So, when I had access to SDSL, I was in heaven. But, in my community, the cable company restricts upload speeds and the telco only offers ADSL…

    Some of these problems can be addressed by the local company but straight up, I’d argue DSL (for my own purposes) is far superior than cable… especially when I have access to SDSL. Of course, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), which I am currently using at a friends house is pretty damn nifty.

  57. So you’re saying that one role of the government is to ensure that when you purchase luxuries like cable television service, you should not have to put up with things you don’t want?

    Of course! The government has to be responsible for things it enforces monopolies on.

    *cough* Just don’t ask about why governments have to enforce monopolies on cable TV or poke at the idea of ending those monopolies.

  58. why should I have to chance channels when
    christian spout off

    Hmm. Could we put that offer on the table? No sex and violence on TV if we get rid of all religion and politics on TV? 🙂

  59. Jennifer, I haven’t dealt with the nitty gritty of CTRs in a while, but I seem to recall that CTR is only triggered by cash, money orders, bank drafts, etc. If you were to open an account at a new bank via a check written against your account at another bank, I don’t think that would be reported. Unless you’re suspicious in some way 🙂 The idea is that your previous bank would’ve had the opportunity to deal with your reportable cash transactions, if any.

    I did a quick check and ran across Fact Sheet 31: Customer Identification Programs for Financial Transactions at Privacyrights.org.

  60. fiber-to-the-home (FTTH)

    I mentioned that to my wife the other day and she just rolled her eyes.

  61. As more people join that network, the bandwidth (and security) decreases.

    Yeah, I bought that argument too, when I first tried DSL 3 or 4 years ago. What a joke. Nothing but constant breakdowns and calls to Verizon to come repair their goddamn telephone lines. My download speeds have only increased over the years since I switched to cable.

    But your point about upload speeds is certainly valid.

  62. “Because it’s bullshit that when I buy their multi-flavor packs, I am forced to buy their apple cinnamon oatmeal even when I don’t like it.”

    “Jennifer, your banking troubles are obviously an obvious market failure. I propose that more government interference would solve this problem.”

    You smugfucks need to go back to Analogy 101.

    Cable companies are a GOVERNMENT-REGULATED MONOPOLY. I can start up my own snack company and sell to pretty much the whole country easier than I could set up a cable competitor for just ONE metropolitan area.

    Deregulate cable all you want. But it ain’t gonna make it easier or more practical to lay thousands upon thousands of miles of cable.

  63. Just don’t ask about why governments have to enforce monopolies on cable TV or poke at the idea of ending those monopolies.

    I don’t see any way of getting around granting “monopoly” status to the maintainers of the “last mile” infrastructure. (I have monopoly in quotes because it is a monopoly over the particular infrastructure type. Since content can be pushed over multiple lines (even electric companies are in the Internet game), “monopoly” is rarely descriptive enough of the issue anymore.)

  64. Jennifer: Doing so in $9,000 increments might work out, but you’ll have to do it in multiple days, and I’d wait more than a few, and use different branches/officers.

    The CTR must be filled out for customers who transfer more than $10,000 in a single day, but I think bank officers can fill one out whenever they like, and bank policies vary depending on the bank. Some banks, typically the larger ones, are much more paranoid about the regulators. Depending on bank-size there’s a different amount of over sight from the OCC. You might end up with a SAR if you transfer $9,000 a day every day for a month, or something, because “suspicious” is so broad and banks are so afraid of the IRS, the SEC, the Fed, the OCC, and whatever other regulators come down the pipe that they’ll often file SARs at the slightest provocation, as failing to do so in the event of a crime has terrible consequences.

  65. My god…Newton Minow lives!

    (And no, that’s not a good thing…)

  66. “But not all that strange when you consider the groups clamoring for all this regulation. It’s never about them being able to choose not to do something, it’s about prevent other from choosing to do something.”

    No, it’s actually BOTH, and the most effective tactic against them, you know, if you actually want to WIN, would be judicious use of wedge issues which can pry those two groups apart.

    Like a-la-carte pricing.

    But it’s better to be pure and let the greater evil win, of course. What am I thinking.

  67. Pro Libertate: Oddly, as was reported in Reason Kerry actually wrote most of the KYC rules. I’m way too lazy to find the link, but I think that’s funny. Nice to know that every politician wants to take our freedom.

  68. Yeah, I bought that argument too, when I first tried DSL 3 or 4 years ago. What a joke. Nothing but constant breakdowns and calls to Verizon to come repair their goddamn telephone lines.

    Totally true for Verizon… a horrible company. When I had SDSL, I had NorthPoint. A solid company built on the back of some pretty questionable regulatory policies… but big-bad Verizon and the rest of Ma Bell took them down.

    Here’s an interesting question, which I used to believe but am not so sure now (and it ties into some posts above). Is regulation justified when deregulating a former government monopoly. I am thinking of the Telecom Act of 1996, which brought lots of (unsustainable) competitors into the market. It put some pretty stringent regulatory requirements on the former monopolies to encourage competition… Ma Bell did, after all, get 100+ years of guaranteed market access. Talk amongst yourselves…

  69. At risk of sounding like an obsessive poster, I think negotiable instruments are subject to CTRs. From my pre-PATRIOT, which is oddly the newest edition, banking text book provided by the ABA:

    The [BSA] regulations also direct that banks keep records on certain loans, transfer funds, certificates of deposit, deposit accounts, checks, drafts, and other transactions in excess of $10,000. Banks are also required to keep records on cashier’s checks, traveler’s checks, and money orders purchased with more than $3,000 in currency.

  70. Deregulate cable all you want. But it ain’t gonna make it easier or more practical to lay thousands upon thousands of miles of cable.

    This still doesn’t answer the question of whether it’s the government’s business to make sure people are able to get luxuries, which is all cable television is. And in the case of demanding cable companies change their current system, it’s also government ensuring people can get luxuries AND dictate their terms over the provider.

  71. “Jennifer, your banking troubles are obviously an obvious market failure. I propose that more government interference would solve this problem.”

    You smugfucks need to go back to Analogy 101.

    Remember, folks. The only alternative to more government interference is the exact, precise amount we have now.

  72. But it’s better to be pure and let the greater evil win, of course. What am I thinking.

    M1EK,

    I don’t expect to “win” as such. I expect that the FCC will do whatever it pleases, Congress will do what it pleases, and that those who want things banned will prevail to the point where it doesn’t affect network, cable, and satellite profits.

  73. Timothy, I think that that may not be a conflict at all. Record keeping is a different animal than actual reporting. Like I said before, I’m not into this the way I once was, but I’m pretty sure regular checks don’t automatically trigger CTR. Of course, you can get reported anyhow if you’re “suspicious”. Or “creepy”.

  74. Libertate: You’re likely right, I’m only tangentially involved with this stuff. Sarb-Ox is the major albatross around my neck.

  75. Ah, Sarbanes-Oxley. Another well-written and well-considered law. Like, say, the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996.

    I have a new Constitutional amendment to propose: Congress shall make no law.

  76. I think they should pass a law saying that m&m’s have to be sold in single color packs…..my daughter shouldn’t have to be subjected to yellow m&m’s, and I’m too busy to keep them away from her.

  77. They should pass a law saying m&m’s have to be sold in single color packs. I don’t want my daughter exposed to yellow m&m’s…..and I don’t have time to seperate them myself.

  78. Jennifer, “So you’re saying that one role of the government is to ensure that when you purchase luxuries like cable television service, you should not have to put up with things you don’t want?”

    I’ll spell it out more clearly for you: since the government-monopoly system is not subject to market correction, the government has a responsibility to compel the beneficiary of the monopoly to operate more like a competitor in a free market. In this case, that means providing greater choice via a la carte, vs. no-substitutions-package, channel selection.

    Yes, I’m sure you can make the argument that it would be better if there actually were competing cable companies. That’s not on the table. This refusal to deal with actual choices, and hold out for the magic pony that shits Hershey’s Kisses, is why people don’t take libertarians seriously.

  79. joe,
    Are you saying the all of the satellite providers aren’t competitors?

  80. Joe,
    Oh right. Because the ?nefarious actions of the state justify further nefarious actions of the state? is so much more appealing.

  81. smalls,

    I gotta plead ignorance there. Like I said above, that’s a fair point. Like a rock, I stand firm in my maybe.

  82. is why people don’t take libertarians seriously

    really joe. You need to stop extrapolating any single commentor’s viewpoint into the entirety of the libertarian universe. This type of categorization is why people don’t take liberals seriously.

  83. Warren,

    He who pays the piper calls the tune. Yes, setting conditions in the public interest, as a condition of receiving benefits from the government, is a hell of a lot better than granting those benefits, and allowing the beneficiary to operate without regards to the public interest.

  84. joe,
    I commend you on your unwavering uncertainty.

  85. Yes, setting conditions in the public interest

    Ah, but there is the rub. Cui bono?

  86. “Parental notification isn’t really an attempt to take away young women’s access to abortion, is it joe?”

    I don’t know, Fyo. Parental notification is generally required for any serious, non-emergency medical procedures done on a minor. Not just abortion. Everything. Is all of this notification designed to prevent minors from accessing healthcare, or are some other values present in the mix as well?

  87. Warren,

    Most of joe’s arguments boil down to circular reasoning.

  88. Are you saying the all of the satellite providers aren’t competitors?

    As alluded to above, cable and satellite are not perfect substitutes. Just to start with, in many places, your HOA or lease may not even allow you to put up a dish.

  89. Jennifer,

    I know it’s none of my business, but are you really keeping that much money in a plain old bank account? At the very least, you can 3.5% with a money market.

  90. Dave W.,

    As the parent is responsible for the welfare of the child it makes sense for the parent to be the primary decisionmaker. They are also the primary individual involved in paying for any care given.

  91. joe,
    No it isn’t. Your so called “public interest” is just another way of saying “special interest I approve of”. Getting rid of the government preferences truly is the only acceptable course of action.

    Jennifer,
    Excellent posts today 🙂 You have redeemed yourself from yesterday’s madness.

  92. I know tat Hak. I just have fun trying to get Fyo and/or Joe to acknowledge this. To my mind, the parallel runs like this:

    Parental notification for abortion is basically a good idea for the same reason that other medical parental notification is a good idea. However, parental notification is open to abuse in the abortion context, and some allowances should probably be made in the law of partental notification for abortion.

    Similarly, a la carte pricing is a fine idea, but open to abuse, also. Again, a scheme could probably be worked out so that a la carte pricing is not a backdoor to First Amendment violations. However we need people who are on-board with a la carte pricing (eg, not Matt) and somebody who acknowledges the potential for abuse (eg, not Joe) to write the rules in this area. A good lawyer could do it because she is trained in writing procedural checks and balances.

  93. Jennifer,

    From personal experience I know that if you cash a cheque to start an account, and that cheque is worth more than $3000, the bank is required by law to hold it for something like 5 business days. Just a heads up.

    – Josh, comically British speller

  94. This is a good idea for all the wrong reasons. I’d love to pick individual channels or at least a group of like channels. Why should I have to pay for foreign language TV, the victim channel (AKA Lifetime), or the 24 hour poker channel (aka ESPN2) if I never watch them. Other types of entertainment are going in this direction (i.e. iPod). So why not cable TV? If I ran a cable TV company, I’d do it for the business reasons bt not for any reason given by the FCC.

  95. Your so called “public interest” is just another way of saying “special interest I approve of”.

    I thought it was “special interest the majority approved of”?

  96. Again, a scheme could probably be worked out so that a la carte pricing is not a backdoor to First Amendment violations.

    How would it be? I consider requiring a la carte pricing to be an unwarranted interference, but I don’t see the First Amendment aspect.

  97. Meister,

    Lifetime, television for women who hate men.

  98. I wouldn’t say hate. It’s for women who acknowledge that, ultimately, it’s always a man’s fault. 😉

  99. Dave W.,

    Thanks. I really haven’t been in tune with your ongoing debate with joe I guess.

    MP,

    The term “public interest” is one of those words people try to hide behind so that their motives aren’t revealed.

  100. Jennifer: I have both, but the SS card doesn’t have a photo. To open a new bank account these days (I learned today) you need either two government-issued photo IDs, or one government-issued photo ID plus a major credit card.

    Amazing. Visa/MC/et al issuing government-approved ID cards. And they’re starting to put your photo on them.

    I remember when there wasn’t a photo on my driver’s license or military ID. And my old social security card still has the “not to be used for ID” notice.

  101. Um, why does his position on applying indecency statutes to cable mean that a la carte proposals are an effort at censorship? Wouldn’t a la carte offerings weaken the case for censorship, by making the importation of naughy programming into the home more clearly voluntary?

    Weaken, yes. Eliminate, no. Putting stuff on voluntary CABLE in the first place weakened their argument, but eventually the dogs started barking again.

  102. I am forbidden by law to transfer money from Bank A to Bank B until I get a passport.

    Really? Even cynical old me is shocked. You have got to be kidding.

    And I thought it sucked 25 years ago that you couldn’t open a checking account at Wells Fartgo without a DL and a credit card.

  103. Smalls, it is the GREEN M&M’s that you want to keep your daughter away from, man. The GREEN ones.

  104. You can and often will get reported to the IRS if you buy a big-ticket car (like a Ferrari or one of those 150 grand MBZ’s) even if you DON’T pay for it with a stack of hundred dollar bills.

  105. Pro, cumulative (structured) currency transactions are regularly reported.

    Under the pre-09-11 law they could also be reported but the incidence was not as great as now. In the past I have seen IRS tag people for audit for currency transactions (withdrawls and deposits) that were way under the 10,000.00 limit.

    The depositor is really at the mercy of every do-gooder bank teller on a power trip with a chip on his/her shoulder.

  106. Since I hardly have time to read all the posts today, much less the all the comments, this may have already been discussed, and if so I apologize. One thing I’d like to see is the separation of infrastructure and content providers. You could have some regulated monopoly franchise (or, as access to a data pipeline becomes almost as important as access to a street, perhaps in some places even the city – heaven forefend!) run a high-bandwidth connection, like a fiber optics line, to your home which you could access for a fee. But with today’s technology there is simply no reason for that franchise to include the right to sell content over those lines; that should be a competitive market. If it were, we would certainly see some providers selling a la carte channels while others would sell package deals, presumably more tailored to individual tastes. Whether it’s internet, TV, or phone (and more and more, what’s the difference?) there is really no justification for content provider monopolies. Such a system would eliminate any rationale (to the extent some claim there is any to begin with) for FCC content regulation.

  107. Dave W,

    I just have fun trying to get Fyo and/or Joe to acknowledge this.

    Likewise, I was only bringing up the abortion angle to point out certain parellels to joe with issues where I strongly suspect he would be more suspicious of motives and more inclined to read between the lines, as it were. (There’s probably even better examples, but that’s the best I could manage.) He hasn’t yet taken up the challenge, although it appears he has stopped harping on his quibble that ordering a la carte pricing is not a free speech violation, so maybe that’s his way of conceding my point. 🙂

  108. smugfucks

    How does one fuck smugly?

    I imagine that would be really annoying.

  109. Lifetime, television

    Just remember that “Lifetime” stands for Life Is Full of Evil — That Is, Men’s Evil.

    It has also been described as: “Lifetime. Television for women. By women. About women. …getting beat up by men.”

  110. Well, another question is, how much of one’s cable bill is spent on programming, and how much is spent on the equipment and personnel necessary to deliver it. If the latter eats up more of your bill than the former, an a la carte option might not save you much anyway.

  111. I think I may have finally made my (sweet, kind, loving, but) fundy Christian mom think for a minute – she is, predictably, fully behind any get-all-that-smut-off-the-air attempts, and she would agree with Martin that decent Americans shouldn’t have to actually change the channel to avoid having their eyes burned out by the sight of boobies or the sounds of profanity, but – when I ask her – what is the difference between the government saying that certain content should not be on TV because it might offend people like you, and the same government saying that certain topics (Jesus as your hero, the Bible, prayers, whatever) can’t be discussed in school and certain icons (mangers, crosses) can’t be displayed in public places because that might offend other people? You think one is a great idea, and the other is a terrible idea, so do you honestly, sincerely, seriously think that the government should devote itself to suppressing content that offends only you and others who believe like you? Do you, Stubby’s Mom, think you and your fellow believers should be the only people in America who aren’t to be offended by anything they see or hear on TV or radio?

    No, she doesn’t seriously think that…because, contrary to what a lot of people would love to think, she isn’t actually a caricature of other peoples’ preconceived notions of what every Christian fundamentalist must be like. She’s an educated, well intentioned, nice old lady who doesn’t always stop to think through completely some of her positions. I think I got her to thinking about it…I have to be careful, of course, not to come off sounding all condescending and know it all, of course, because I’m only 42 so what the hell do I really know.

  112. just trying to help, I get higher than 3.5% with my plain old checking account. Ditto on the plain old savings account.

    Then again, they’re at internet banks, so maybe they don’t count as “plain old”. You can find several reputable online banks with rates in the 4% range. ING, Presidential, Emigrant, etc.

  113. I ask her – what is the difference between the government saying that certain content should not be on TV because it might offend people like you, and the same government saying that certain topics (Jesus as your hero, the Bible, prayers, whatever) can’t be discussed in school and certain icons (mangers, crosses) can’t be displayed in public places because that might offend other people?

    GOOD ON YOU!!

  114. To be fair to Commissioner Martin, the more I parse his statement, I don’t see evidence that he believes the FCC should promulgate rules requiring a la carte pricing. Rather, he was saying that contrary to a previous FCC report, a la carte pricing is not economically infeasible. I can’t recall his actual oral statement which is sometimes different but I think he was just raising the issue. At the same time, his original quote remains absurd.

  115. And my old social security card still has the “not to be used for ID” notice.

    Awww, isn’t that quaint.

    I seem to have lost mine sometime in the last 2 or 3 years. I hope that’s not an issue at some point.

  116. How does one smugfuck? Presumably with a smile on your face.

  117. How does one smugfuck? Presumably with a smile on your face.

    I would think it’s more likely a smirk.

  118. stubby,
    You gave a really good snapshot of how people really are. We often lose sight of that among ourselves here on H&R.

  119. “How does one smugfuck? Presumably with a smile on your face.”

    “I would think it’s more likely a smirk.”

    That’s about what I was thinking.

    And afterward, you’d say condescendingly, “That was almost as good for me as it was for you.”

  120. You think one is a great idea, and the other is a terrible idea, so do you honestly, sincerely, seriously think that the government should devote itself to suppressing content that offends only you and others who believe like you? Do you, Stubby’s Mom, think you and your fellow believers should be the only people in America who aren’t to be offended by anything they see or hear on TV or radio?

    The problem is that a lot of people believe exactly that. My brother-in-law, for example. Christian broadcasting, school prayer, things like that, shouldn’t be banned, because they’re good, and pornography and such should be banned, because it’s bad. Same thing happened in my ethics class last semester; when I asked if people would be okay if the government banned all religious programming because people were offended, or because it came up with bad statistics that “proved” that religion is harmful, I was accused of being anti-Christian (which is funny because I’m planning on the priesthood after college). People often, but not always, don’t see any disconnect in wanting to ban X because they don’t like it, but allowing Y because they do. I’m very glad your mom isn’t among them, and I’m sure that the vast majority of evangelicals aren’t among them either, but enough of them are that it’s next to impossible to argue with them.

  121. fyodor, the server ate my comment twice. Here goes.

    Parental notification laws actually to impose a burden on a young woman seeking to have an abortion. They increase the pressure, and possibly the harm, to her, and they add a layer of bureaucratic hoops to the process.

    You haven’t provided even a theoretical mechanism by which increasing consumer choice through a la carte service selection can lead to censorship. But, to be fair, this is because there isn’t really one. So no, this is not much of a parallel.

  122. BTW, it’s good to know who does not believe it the existence of the public interest. It makes it easier to know whose arguments can be skipped in a discussion of how best to promote that interest.

  123. joe,

    Until you can define what the “public interest” is (besides merely claiming that it is whatever the government says that it is), then there is no reason to pay attention to any comments you make about the “public interest.” When you start prattling on about the subject we know that you’ve gone into crazy aunt in the basement mode.

  124. You haven’t provided even a theoretical mechanism by which increasing consumer choice through a la carte service selection can lead to censorship. But, to be fair, this is because there isn’t really one.

    That’s true, joe. But do you think that the people who want censorship of cable channels really care whether such channels are ala carte or part of a basic package?

    I don’t, because I’ve seen their attitudes on things like HBO and PPV Porn(things people must special order), CDs and Books at Walmart, Videos at Blockbuster, etc. It’s never enough to for them to have to actively choose to see something, the choice itself must be eliminated.

  125. David, I agree that they don’t care. But so what? Should we have stripped the language about sex discrimination out of the Civil Rights Act because of its proponents’ sleazy motivation?

    If some idiot State Senator wants to fund projects to build sidewalks near schools because he gets into his head that it will somehow restrict abortion, I wouldn’t care. I’d support the bill, because sidewalks near schools are a good thing, and they don’t restrict abortion, regardless of Senator Idiot’s motivations.

  126. I do worry about the idea that ala carte pricing might lead to the failure of a lot of smaller-audience cable channels.

  127. That’s an interesting point. I would think that, since the cable companies pay the same amount for the programming, and since it doesn’t cost them any more to deliver more of the programming they’ve already paid for, they’d go out of their way to promote lots of different smaller channels, and give people plenty of opportunity to learn that they like HGTV of the Game Show Channel.

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