First Coffee for October 7, 2005

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee for October 7, 2005

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is the album Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today by Slobberbone, a band First CoffeeSM heard about by reading Stephen King’s playlist on iTunes. Favorite song so far: “Lazy Guy.”

More customer feedback on Ever since First CoffeeSM posted about what terrible customer service provides there’s been a stream of commiserating posts from people who never received orders or received wrong orders, and how made it perfectly plain they couldn’t care less. Here’s the latest:

“First Coffee, I will add my words to this issue. My son ordered a book from them on 9/9/05, they sent info saying it shipped on 9/14/05, it is now 10/6/05 and it is (you guessed it) still not here.

“I cannot e-mail them directly, the messages either bounce or no reply. The web site has a place for specifics on the delayed order, then kicks you out if you put anything in that field. I am at a loss as to how to even contact them. I will be informing Amazon of these issues and will not be ordering from caiman ever again.”

First CoffeeSM has never had anyone write in and say “hey,’s a great company, I ordered from them and got what I ordered on time and in good shape,” or anyone say “I had a customer service issue with, they were helpful and resolved it for me quickly.” Here’s hoping will wake up and do the right thing by their customers.

Yesterday in a staff and press briefing on Capitol Hill, an outfit called the Coalition for a Smart Digital TV Transition, representing what its officials claim is “a far-reaching alliance of labor, rural, religious and minority groups aligned in their desire to bring about a fair and rational DTV transition,” called on Congress to carefully consider the ramifications of three unresolved issues as work on pending DTV bills continues.

(Note to self: Bone up on the DTV bill.)

These issues, according to the coalition, include compensation for set-top boxes, authorization for multicast must carry, and funding for consumer education and outreach. Evidently – this is a dogfight First CoffeeSM’s coming in late on, not quite up to speed on which dog is which and whose bone it was first and all that – the coalition also “rebutted the cable industry’s attack on the constitutionality” of multicast must carry.

(Note to self: Find out what “multicast must carry” is. Seems to be a bone of contention here.)

“Unless steps are taken to provide compensation for the purchase of the set-top converter boxes required to convert a digital signal back to an analog signal, plain old television sets will not work,” charges Linda Golodner, President, National Consumers League. “Consumers who do not subscribe to cable, or cannot afford a digital receiver or a set-top converter box, will have a special New Year’s present on December 31, 2008 – snow on their television.”

Multicast must carry enables free, over-the-air local television stations to deliver local news and weather, foreign language and other “quality programming” – their phrase – to viewers, the coalition says, warning that “over-the-air news, weather and other multicast channels will not be sustained without must carry.”

(Note to self: Maybe “Gimme Back My Dog” is really the song of the album.)

“Inclusion of multicast must carry language in final bills will prevent cable from stripping out valuable multicast programming and will ensure that elderly, rural and minority residents will not be deprived of access to vital information,” said Larry Mitchell, spokesman for the Alliance for Rural Television. (“ART,” get it?)

The heart of the matter seems to be the coalition’s contention that when the final transition to digital television is complete, nearly 73 million television sets will become obsolete overnight, “unless steps are taken to provide compensation for the purchase of the set-top converter boxes required to convert a digital signal back to an analog signal that traditional television sets can receive.”

So what they want is the government to subsidize everyone’s migration to new technology. First CoffeeSM certainly hopes these aren’t the same people protesting higher government taxes.

(Note to self: Sure would’ve been nice if the government had “provided compensation” for the first CD player you ever bought. And tossed in the Highway 61 Revisited CD while they were at it.)

“Rural residents, minorities and elderly Americans will be disenfranchised and disproportionately affected if these issues are not addressed,” thundered Manuel Mirabal, Chair of the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership.

Coalition members (listed below, it’s quite the assortment) were “pleased,” officials report, “to see comments by United States Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) in press reports today, indicating that he hopes to move bills addressing these and other critical DTV transition issues by the end of this month.”

(Note to self: Wasn’t Stevens that Alaskan porkbarreler who larded the $200-odd million Bridge To Nowhere in the last federal budget? And they couldn’t toss a CD player and a few CDs your way?)

Coalition members represented at the briefing include the National Consumers League, Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 1890’s Council of Presidents (Huh? They either mean the Council of 1890 Presidents, the association of presidents and chancellors from land-grant universities or Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison have a dog in this fight), Religious Voices in Broadcasting.

It also includes our old friend ART, The Alliance for Rural Television, which is a heck of an alliance, as it includes (draws deep breath) the American Corn Growers Association, the National Farmers Organization, the National Farmers Union, the National Grange, the Soybean Producers of America, Women Involved in Farm Economics, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, American Agriculture Movement, and the National Association of Farmer Elected Committees.

Well. Unless those high-end combines have TV in the cab these days or there’s not as much to do in the evenings around the farm as there used to be, it makes about as much sense to First CoffeeSM to have those organizations concerned about the issue of digital TV as it does to imagine that Chester A. Arthur cares. “Mission creep,” anyone?

(Note to self: “Pinball Song” is pretty good. Might we have to listen to the CD again to determine a winner? We might. Maybe a next-generation CD player’s called for here, see if the National Farmers Union can get you one.)

Maybe this kind of logrolling goes on all the time in Washington, where professional corn grower and soybean producer political activists can’t be seen to be without a Worthwhile Cause to Fight For and Solicit Donations to cover their Efforts, not to mention Mortgages and SUVs so they latch onto a passing dispute over digital TV technology. Maybe it’s not really the content, but the form that matters after a certain point, y’know? Maybe any protest is as good as any other one as long as TV cameras show up.

Maybe, after a certain point, it’s simply Us vs. Them and you fight ‘em on any grounds you can dream up – “Hey, let’s get Them to pay for Our new digital TV!” Or maybe they just need to look busy, attend briefings, write letters, wine ‘n’ dine second-term congressmen who still get googly-eyed and suddenly reasonable over the sight of a $7,500 check to a re-election fund on the table at a D.C. power restaurant. Maybe that’s just How Things Are Done at a certain level.

But just like when it comes to VoIP and E-9-1-1, it’s a terrible way to determine technology policy.

(Note to self: No it wasn’t Stevens, it was Congressman Young. But Stevens wasn’t exactly falling all over himself to save taxpayers $200 million on a worthless project.)

(Note to self: “Placemat Blues?” Great song. Maybe this’ll take a few more spins.)

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