Why is network TV still *so* awful while the rest (cable, streaming) gets better and better?

Actually, I don’t even agree with that headline up top.

Yes, streaming allows me to find entertainment worth watching. In a sense, because the whole WWWeb offers the best creative possibilities in the world. It’s a lot of work to sort out the cream from the crap; but, I take the time to do it every month, every few weeks.

Frankly, I feel that cable has dribbled away to the same bottom-feeding level of mediocrity that networks continue to offer the great American public. That’s an echo from the past for me. I moved my creative brain in with the hipsters of the 50’s and 60’s – seeing exactly the same level of crap telecommunications we face, now. The only difference is the range and breadth of useless crap offered has grown. 60 years later. There’s obviously enough money to be made from mediocrity to feed American consumers what they’re used to, what they believe to be “the best in the world”. That common American delusion.

Streaming allows me the 2 hours or so I allocate every evening for TV entertainment. We still have a number of talented writers, producers, directors, actors. They make our movies – which often approach greatness. Not all, of course. But, a healthy sample. They produce seasonal – and standalone – productions for television. They’re relatively easy to add to the mix I keep track of to watch. But, basic cable TV programing is no better than OTA crap…IMHO, nowadays.

I have to subscribe to at least a “basic” package to have cable access to the Web. I chose one with lots of channels. 60 or 70. Excepting a movie or series I find somewhere on the Web … excepting the few channels carrying foreign or domestic “football” [what my fellow Americans call “soccer”] … I watch 4 channels: CNN news, MSNBC news, CBS news, BloombergTV news. They’re on and off over the day. The last thing I check out before turning off the TV and moving to my study to finish the day online. After I’ve watched a movie or a series of choice … found online from the search function on APPLETV+, AMAZONTV+, bits and pieces from a few others. For the 2 hours or so I allocate.

Yup. Been here before. Up, down or sideways, it’s the same as it ever was.

Ed Campbell

Why is Congress clueless about tech? Beancounters killed the committee!

When the draft version of a federal encryption bill got leaked this month, the verdict in the tech community was unanimous. Critics called it ludicrous and technically illiterate — and these were the kinder assessments of the “Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016,” proposed legislation authored by the offices of Senators Diane Feinstein and Richard Burr.

The encryption issue is complex and the stakes are high, as evidenced by the recent battle between Apple and the FBI. Many other technology issues that the country is grappling with these days are just as complex, controversial, and critical—witness the debates over law enforcement’s use of stingrays to track mobile phones or the growing concerns around drones, self-driving cars, and 3-D printing. Yet decisions about these technical issues are being handled by luddite lawmakers who sometimes boast about not owning a cell phone or never having sent an email…

This wasn’t always the case. US lawmakers once had a body of independent technical and scientific experts at their disposal who were the envy of other nations: the Office of Technology Assessment. That is, until the OTA got axed unceremoniously two decades ago in a round of budget cuts.

Now, when lawmakers most need independent experts to guide them through the morass of technical details in our increasingly connected world, they have to rely on the often-biased advice of witnesses at committee hearings — sometimes chosen simply for their geographical proximity to Washington DC or a lawmaker’s home district.

Ashkan Soltani, who recently served as chief technologist to the Federal Trade Commission, says it’s important to have experts who are not lobbyists or activists with an ax to grind and do not represent companies that stand to profit from the decisions lawmakers make. Tech and science geeks, he says, can “basically be an encyclopedia for how things work, and can really help policymakers get to a good outcome,” he told WIRED. “We had that in the OTA and that went away, and I think that was a huge mistake.”…

The lack of tech expertise on Capitol Hill has never been more glaring than in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. Revelations about the NSA’s extensive spying programs made it obvious that lawmakers who conducted oversight of these programs lacked the ability to comprehend the level of surveillance modern intelligence agencies can do with the sophisticated technologies available to them today. As a result, many politicians briefed on the surveillance programs were unable to pose the right questions about the NSA’s controversial bulk collection of phone records and email metadata. After the secret phone records program was exposed in 2013, President Obama insisted that “every member of Congress” had been briefed on it. But these were legal briefings “to explain the law” relevant to the program. Lawmakers didn’t understand the extensive surveillance the government could do simply by mining the metadata around the calls that people make to one another—data that can reveal a lot about a person’s activity and the people with whom they associate.

“Most members of Congress don’t know enough about science and technology to know what questions to ask, and so they don’t know what answers they’re missing,” former Congressman Rush Holt told WIRED.

RTFA for a big chunk of useful history. Useful, that is, to folks interested in understanding the ill-founded results of incompetence in office.

There isn’t any likelihood of OTA being reinstated as long as Tea Party Republicans and Blue Dog Dems campaign for re-election by answering questions about climate change, sexual identity, pollution and poisoned water with a canned statement starting with “I’m not a scientist…”