Totally Random – January 2017

Here is the blank page, start writing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 60 Comments

Donald J Trump – January, 2017

Your open thread to discuss the new President

Posted in American Politics, Trump 2017 | 44 Comments

Radio Tidbits – January 2017

What is new in the Radio Biz. Post what you know.

Posted in Radio Biz | 82 Comments

FCC Red Lighting

WNBN-AM in Meridian Mississippi has a problem, and so does the FCC.

Forfeiture Order

This document is somewhat garbled – it might be postscript or PDF format. The story described in the forfeiture order begins in 2007, when the FCC gets a complaint that WNBN-AM appears to not be reducing power at sunset. This can cause the AM station to skip off the ionosphere and interfere with many radio stations. Almost everything the FCC does is reactive, in response to a complaint. They rarely initiate investigations on their own. Complainer might have been another radio station, or might have been a DXer, a hobbyist who listens to AM radio stations at a long distance away and would be angry at this violation of the rules.

So the FCC investigator turns on his equipment from the office in Louisiana and hears the station loud and clear after sunset. Sometimes people make mistakes, so you like to see a pattern of failing to power down the transmitter. So the investigator listens for a second night for a longer period of time. The transmitter should have gone to low power at 5:15 PM but was still blasting away at 8:30 PM. Daylight saving time could explain a one hour screwup but not three hours. Looking more closely, he also realizes that the radio signal is not coming from the correct latitude and longitude.

So the investigator decides it is time to visit the radio station in person and see what the hell is going on. He meets with the owner and is able to get the relevant facts. The procedure the station is using is that the owner manually turns down the transmitter power at 9 PM, regardless of what time the sun is setting. The second issue is the transmitter location. The owner admits that the station is not transmitting from Its licensed location as the original plans fell through, so he built the tower at a different location, and just never got around to telling the FCC.

So the owner was hit with a “forfeiture order”, which is as close as the FCC has to any kind of ability to police anything. The language asserts that the station owner should make a “voluntary contribution” to the US treasury – or else! It would appear that the owner ignored the demand for money, and just kept on doing what he was doing. The only real sanction the FCC has is they will refuse to renew the license at the appropriate time. They can’t padlock the station, remove the equipment or anything like that. Some states have given the FCC state jurisdiction for pirate stations so that the sheriff can come out and do something, but in most states the FCC is powerless unless they can prove an imminent danger like interfering with airplane navigation. Annoying a DXer is not enough.

So in 2012, the license was up for renewal. The FCC threw out the “red light” rule, which means that if the FCC issued a demand for a “voluntary contribution” and you did not cough up the cash, they will refuse to renew the license until you do. So what if your license expires and you keep on broadcasting? Well, if the FCC thinks you might eventually pay, they can issue another forfeiture order for an unauthorized transmitter signal. So you keep broadcasting and the FCC keeps issuing uncollectible, unenforceable forfeiture orders. This little dance goes on until the owner dies or the bank forecloses. Pretty much everyone knows the entire radio station is worth less than the amount of the accrued forfeiture orders, but the FCC has no interest in taking over the radio station to operate it. So maybe the license gets deleted, maybe another party comes along and pays the fine to get the license, or it just sits in a limbo indefinitely. Deleting a license does not turn off the transmitter.

The FCC has been closing down its regional enforcement offices recently as being too expensive, which means the chance of an FCC inspector going out to a radio station in person is beginning to approach zero.

Happy MLK Junior day, and in Mississippi a happy Robert E Lee birthday to y’all.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Chinese Hacking Attempt

This web server can’t be accessed from China. This attack is what is called an SQL injection attack, putting extra “stuff” at the end to try to trick the coding to cough up information from the database, like user emails and hashed passwords and structures of the other tables

Alibaba is now blocked.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Improved Poll Editing

When you create a poll, you have the ability to alter the poll after the fact. This becomes more important if you allow other users to suggest answers.

While I have the ability to overrule you, the poll is basically yours to police.

You always had the ability to edit your own polls – they have an edit link in the browse all polls list, now you can do the most common things right in the poll.

CharlotteNC just created a poll without any magic powers so I can be sure what you will see. While I was typing the blog post, someone took the hint and suggested an answer.

Clicking Delete (Fred is a jerk!) will delete the answer and any vote that had been cast for that answer. If someone suggests a new answer (the smell of ‘money’), people other than the submitter will not see the answer until you approve it, or you have the option to discard the answer or reject the answer.

If you want to correct the spelling of an answer, or change the way the answers sort, you need to pull up the full editor and do it there. Below the poll, there is a link to open the editor or to disable the poll.

Normally, if you chose the option to not show people the results unless they have voted, there is no button to show the results – but that does not apply to you as the author of the poll.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

This website is now “secure”

A few months ago, I posted information about Apple ios 10 blocking access to websites without a secure connection, if you wanted to tell a website your GPS location. I use that capability in the “show me radio/TV stations near me” thingy up above. The browser will only tell the server your location if you click OK to disclosing your location to the server. You never know – I might show up someday and steal all your 25-year supply of gourmet macaroni and cheese. If that doesn’t scare you, you can assume the risk that I am actually a spy for Russia and/or the illuminati.

So now you can access the near me thing in Secure mode (https:). You might get a warning telling you that the security certificate for the server is self-signed – meaning that no government agency has vouched for me because I did not provide them with my private encryption key, birth certifucate, DNA sample and biometric data. You either trust me or you don’t.

If you prefer, you can do everything on the website in the secure mode just by adding the S after http. I will add a link to the menus to make that easier, but I have no plans to require you to use secure connections. Older browsers may not work correctly. If the NSA wants to look at your favorite radio stations list, they have too much time and money on their hands

Posted in About the Guide | 22 Comments

Massaquoi Kotay is dead

Mr. Kotay was a leader in the Liberian community in Charlotte.

You might be thinking – wasn’t Liberia a country set up so that liberated American slaves could return to Africa?

We need to find a way to blame this on Donald J Trump.

This was the 5th murder in Charlotte in 2017. The 2016 total was 66.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Plan your next vacation in San Escobar

I think this may be related to the United States moving tanks (of potable water) to Poland’s border with Russia


If you don’t want to travel to the western hemisphere, you could always visit Freedonia

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Progress in Kenya

The locomotives from China have just been unloaded from ships

Barack Obama could make a railroad run on time

Look at any of the men in the video pretending to work and compare their facial features to Barack Obama. Now look at a picture of Frank Marshall Davis.

Game, Set, Match.

Note that the man running the steel mill is Indian. Kenya is not going to make serious progress with everything being outsourced from Asia, but building of a university System from basically nothing is not a trivial thing. The legacy of British colonial rule still lives on, only the players have changed.

Uganda begins construction following a Memorandum of Understanding allowing Uganda to run its trains over the Kenyan SGR

Posted in Barack Obama, China | 9 Comments

Obama to expel legal Cuban immigrants

I am surprised that this did not happen sooner – with Barack Obama withdrawing many of the sanctions against Cuba, it is hard to justify continuing automatic refugee status for Cubans that come to the United States.

It does put Donald Trump in a box – how do you argue that Cuban immigrants arriving without permission and crossing the border are good but Mexicans are bad. Maybe Mexico should become communist, then we can make all Mexican illegals out to be heroes for coming here.

Posted in Barack Obama, Trump 2017 | 2 Comments

Pyrrhonian skepticism

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times sat down with Peter Thiel, the gay billionaire from Silicon Valley who spoke to the RNC convention, with a clear message to the room to get used to the idea of gay Republicans. It should have ameliorated the angst in the gay community that Donald Trump was a homophobe who is going to round them up in extermination camps, but it didn’t. The same irrational phobia affects large swaths of the Jewish community, even with President Obama actively trying to harm Israel, while Trump proudly shows off his Jewish granddaughter. Trump’s selection for ambassador to Israel supports moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and supports the Israel building additional housing on the West Bank. I don’t know how much it will take for people to wake up about who the enemy is and is not.

It is an interesting story to read as Maureen tries to probe for a weakness and finds none. I think by the end she was in love ❤️ and ready to have his children. Maureen is widely read among the people who think the only news worth reading is in the New York Times. It is clear from her prior articles that she is quite confused about the society she lives in and the expectations people have of her. If she comes around to the point of view saying “relax, everything will be OK”, that will be a major shift in the potential of the Trump administration to do things and wind down the toxic media attitude towards Republicans.

Posted in Trump 2017 | 5 Comments

The next project

The FCC databases were built for a specific purpose in 1979 – to perpetuate a manual paper process that went back to at least 1922 – before the FCC was created in 1934.

The data is organized based on the premise that the paper documents related to an application are sitting in a folder in a filing cabinet in FCC headquarters or in a warehouse. Once the processing of an application was complete, there was no further need for the folder or its contents unless some subsequent issue came up.

While the electronic data has been collected since 1979, it is spread over multiple computer systems and the search tools have serious limitations for connecting the dots. The FCC is chronically understaffed and is hampered by the poor access to the data, which is highly redundant and full of inconsistencies.

Further complicating things is that broadcast licenses (AM, FM, TV) are only a small part of what the FCC does. It also licenses amateur radio operators, airplane and airport communications, satellites, cell phone towers, public service (fire, police, pagers, taxis, hospitals) and private business systems (electric utilities, railroads, package delivery services, appliance repair vans, etc.)

There is a recurring theme that the FCC has this instinct that it needs to combine all of the data from all the different unrelated systems into the perfect one big huge “Universal” license database. Of course, federal government and military radios are not publicly licensed and not disclosed to the public – and not accessible by citizens. National Security, of course.

Being able to easily combine and track the parties on all apps has been very useful to track down the people responsible for radio stations with little or no internet visibility.

The most valuable application type is the biennial ownership report that all broadcast licensees are required to file every two years, and updates when there is a material change to the ownership, like the sale of a station, death of an owner, etc… license renewals currently happen every 8 years in most cases.

Among the other data in the report is the name and address of the legal entity that owns the station license and the name and address and percentage of ownership, and relationships among the owners (husband/wife, father/daughter, brother/sister, etc). Also, if the owner owns more than one radio station, a list of radio stations is submitted to comply with reporting of ownership caps.

While the ownership reports are online, they must be accessed very slowly one at a tine, and the output is 95% “noise” – legalese to be printed on the application back when it was an actual paper document. Seeing the history of the ownership of a station license is at best tedious. Google does not index this information (yet!), even though it is public information. There is no right to be anonymous if you hold a broadcast license. That’s why private equity firms exist!

If you like to watch Sausage being made, here is the work in process. It will improve over time. This example is a station in Las Vegas, New Mexico that may be derelict. It may exist, but just playing a satellite feed 24 hrs a day. I can’t tell unless I was there.


The FCC has not yet learned of a thing called UPPER and lower case. Almost all data is stored ENTIRELY IN UPPER CASE. That was common in the 1970s when data entry was done on 80 column Hollerith cards on keypunches. Using lower case wasted keypunch time. I’m undoing that, but it leaves artifacts like “Llc” where the code isn’t smart enough to know LLC should stay in all caps. Note that before 2009, name and address was stored as one big long string, which is pretty useless to a computer. Breaking it apart into its pieces is not trivial – not impossible, just harder than it looks. That’s on the todo list.

I’m not particularly picking on this station – it happened to be the one that inspired me to proceed. The owners are proud of their lineage, having lived in the area of Las Vegas NM prior to statehood. Las Vegas, New Mexico has an extremely interesting history. The Baca family bought the station in 2009.

In 2014, they got a somewhat unusual visit from an FCC inspector, who discovered the station’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) tests had not been performed nor relayed to other stations for the past 4 months. The FCC takes this totally pointless system very seriously; along with failure to maintain a public inspection file – that literally nobody other than an FCC inspector has ever asked to see in the history of the FCC. Both rules are used to punish an owner for some other reason where the FCC has no jurisdiction – or because some competing radio station complains, or some local politician wasn’t paid off, or the crabby neighbor next door wants the station transmitter to be torn down to not give them autism and cancer and interfere with their tinfoil hat. The FCC then issues a fine (sort of) that they can use later to refuse to renew the license.

Posted in About the Guide, Volunteer | 1 Comment