Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sacramento will drop Howard Stern

Yesterday, October 25, Howard revealed on his show the plan that Infinity Broadcasting has for replacing Howard when he leaves terrestrial radio mid-December. There will be a regional split with David Lee Roth (yes, the former Van Halen frontman) handling most of Stern's east coast affiliates and Adam Corolla of Loveline and Man Show fame handling most of the west coast.

A couple of related links: Businessweek; NYTimes

Unfortunately for many of the music DJs on Stern's WXRK home in New York, Infinity will also be making a format change to primarily talk. To add insult to injury, those DJs only found out about this change by listening to Stern's show yesterday. Here in Sacramento the Stern affiliate 93.7 KHWD began running radio ads yesterday announcing it will be changing to the "Jack" format, which is an automated DJ-free system that apparently plays 80's and 90's music. The switch will occur after December 16, Stern's last live broadcast day. They appear to have already begun with the music because the things they've been playing are not typical of the station which is primarily alternative and rock. The Sacramento station's web site is pretty pathetic about the change: one line of text in the left margin that says "Welcome to Jack FM." I'm not sure how the change will affect our local Sacramento DJs, but it can't be good.

I'll be making the switch to Sirius satellite radio by the end of the year. Primarily it's for Stern, but also it's for the creativity, music, news and other services satellite radio provides and makes available without the limitations of the reception of local airwaves. The state of terrestrial radio and the FCC are the topic of another post, so for now, I will rest.

UPDATE, 11/6: the Sacramento station's web site, link above, has been updated but is just a splash page with an "under construction" message and suitably corporate logo. I've been trying to find an archived copy of the old pathetic Jack FM announcement on that site, but so far no luck.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Convert RSS feeds to an HTML link

Just found a cool and free web-based utility that will convert RSS feeds to a URL that you can then add to your web site without any scripting on your part. Once there, select "Option 1" and follow the instructions.

I found it as a result of wanting to display my recent Halo 2 stats like Major Nelson does in the right-hand margin of his blog near the bottom. This utility doesn't break out the stats all pretty like Nelson's, but when you click on the link it shows the same information. Also, once at the stats you can click on any individual game and you will be taken to Bungie's site for all of the info about that particular game.

The link to my stats is in the right-hand margin over there above my list of links. Maybe public accountability will drive me to play more and improve my skills.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Federal disaster response readiness?

The fallout from hurricane Katrina has made me wonder whether federal agencies of the United States have focused too tightly on a military response to a terrorist attack at the expense of preparedness for more immediate and predictable concerns like natural disasters.

It appears clear to me that "Brownie," the former head of FEMA, coordinated that agency's response to Katrina poorly, to put it mildly, but beyond that there has to be more than one man to blame for the lack of a coordinated response to that tragedy.

In the immediate aftermath of Katrina quite a bit of discussion went around about the Posse Comitatus Act which, briefly, is a federal law that prohibits the US military from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States "except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress..." However, there are exceptions to this law that allow military participation in certain circumstances. According to an article written by William Banks, Director of the Institute for National Security and Counter Terrorism:

The law itself simply states a presumption against military involvement in law enforcement, not a rule. The actual rules provide sufficient authority for any catastrophic contingency, from hurricanes to terrorist attacks with weapons of mass destruction. That is not to say that the availability of troops will abate such a crisis. Moreover, the PCA [Posse Comitatus Act] presumption applies to enforcing the laws, not to providing relief personnel and supplies, equipment, or even medical triage.
So what was the problem? Why wasn't the authority to use military troops for just this type of situation exercised? A lot had to do with a lack of foresight and poor communication between local government and federal government, but bringing FEMA under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the resulting confusion also played a large role.

After September 11, 2001 we became so focused on being able to handle a terrorist attack that almost everything else was put on the back burner. The DHS was created to presumably help relieve the failure of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to communicate and share information with each other regarding potential terrorist activity.

A clearer case of irony couldn't flow from the pen of Shakespeare himself.

I don't think communication and sharing, at least in a useful sense, are a result of layering bureaucracies on top of one another. The resulting red tape between FEMA and DHS must be mind-boggling.

I wonder if confusion related to military assistance was exacerbated by the Posse Comitatus Act and the fact that a civilian disaster response agency was under the control of DHS, which seemed primarily concerned with terrorist activity.

Lack of funding was a problem. With FEMA under the DHS and all focus on preventing the next terrorist attack, funding for FEMA was cut to provide more money for "homeland security," which apparently came to be defined solely as an overt attack by foreign aggressors. Not to mention funding cuts for the Army Corps of Engineers, which has a division that, along with five other districts, is responsible for water management in and around New Orleans.

A summary of these funding blunders is here.

FEMA needs more autonomy and cannot depend on funding leftovers from DHS. Lines of communication must be clearly defined so a federal response can be timely. And those with the power to make these decisions must be aware of the extent of their powers and the competency to know how to exercise them.