evergreens winter wallpaper, the intertubes get tighter, justice denied

Why Comcast/NBCU merger matters

As Morgan once said of railroads, “The American public seems to be unwilling to admit . . . that it has a choice between regulated legal agreements and unregulated extralegal agreements.  We should have cast away more than 50 years ago the impossible doctrine of protection of the public by railway competition.”  In the cable world, we are deep into unregulated extralegal agreements, and competition is not going to rescue us.

In 2011, as the telcos continue to sink, we’re going to need to confront this natural monopoly problem head-on.  How do we ensure a nationwide, affordable, better-than-all-the-competition high-speed Internet service that is characterized by BOTH high fixed costs and increasing returns to society?  How did we confront our need for electricity?

Well, that’s the question for later.  In the meantime, the FCC and the DOJ have to decide what to do with this merger.  What does Comcast get from the addition of NBCU programming?

* As a programmer, Comcast can raise the costs of both its infrastructure rivals (small cablecos) and potential online video competitors (eg, Netflix), making it even less likely that any of them will attempt to compete. And, of course, it can raise consumers’ cable bills.  This is all to the good for the other large cable distributors and programmers – they’re happy.
* Comcast will have a strong interest in making its extraordinarily popular NBCU cable channels (CNBC, USA) even more must-have – and so it will use its tiering/channeling/bundling power to avoid any competition from independent programmers riding over its distribution network
* By tying “free” access to its online TV Everywhere service (made newly powerful through the addition of NBCU content) to a cable subscription, and by charging a premium for “breaking the bundle” to allow consumers to have “naked” Internet access, Comcast will be able to make it very difficult for independent providers of online video (so-called OTT video) to survive – it won’t appear cost-effective to consumers to cut the cord, and they’ll think of online video as being “free”
* Comcast can squeeze satellite providers, who can only sell video, by making access to its broadband services very expensive (in addition to driving up the programming costs of the satellite companies).  No one wants just video these days.

For better or worse Crawford is a business and communications wonk. It does not  have to – this is a done deal so let’s say it did not have to be this way. Federal regulators at the Congressional and executive level could just say no. The FCC is actually supposed to insure there is competition and no so no one  holds a monopoly or a strangle hold on access to content. Sure Hollywood does that to some degree – tightly relating content distribution. Just imagine a not great situation getting worse. Imagine Comcast throttling down your individual pipes because you are mostly interested in reading the net or downloading the occasional song. You’ll pay into the pool that makes everything available, but be a second class internet user. Crawford may have missed an angle. Those on a budget might actually save the DSL providers like AT&T. They might have to download a movie rather than watch it in real-time, but that is just another inconvenience among many working class Americans have learned to  grin and adapt to. Corporate America also has extraordinary influence on shaping our culture. Not all of it bad, but imagine living in the non-stop commercial world in the movie version of The Minority Report. The Comcast -NBC deal is not quite that bad, but is another step closer toward having a captive audience. Shaping both tastes and priorities is a little more insidious than just selling you the latest new and improved deodorant. Those with kids can probably keenly appreciate what I mean. Adults are not immune to the gotta have that, be parta that mentality. Texting is all about having the latest information for many people – being part of the information-entertainment loop is a bigger part of some people’s lives than they are ready to admit or are too ready to admit. Kids clamoring for whatever they saw on TV is that desire not tempered by adult constraints like budgets and time.

evergreens winter landscape wallpaper


Why is Germany in better shape than us and some other European economies. The Right, for obvious political reasons( see tea stains) wants everyone to think it is because they tightened their belt and enacted a massive austerity program. Translation – Germany did not have a stimulus package likes ours. They did not have a housing bubble to deal with for one thing – you know where the U.S. economy lost three trillion dollars in wealth. Germany also has a kind of built-in plan to deal with the economic havoc recessions wreak on the working class – Aided by Safety Nets, Europe Resists Stimulus Push

Last month Frank Koppe gathered together all 50 of his employees at Koppe-Apparatebau for coffee, cake and the kind of bad news that has lately become all too familiar. He told them the small company’s business, designing and manufacturing custom equipment for industrial plants, had been sliced nearly in half.

But rather than resorting to layoffs, Mr. Koppe asked half his employees to come in every other week. The government would make up roughly two-thirds of their lost wages out of a fund filled in good times through payroll deductions and company contributions.

The program — known as “Kurzarbeit,” which translates as “short work” — and others like it lie at the heart of a heated debate that has erupted on the eve of next week’s Group of 20 meeting of industrialized and developing nations and the European Union, creating a rift between the Obama administration and European governments.

[  ]…The German Federal Labor Office projects that it will spend some $2.85 billion this year for more than a quarter of a million people who end up on Kurzarbeit. In comparison, the agency doled out around $270 million last year, as the financial crisis first began to bite, and roughly $135 million in both 2006 and 2007.

That is a relatively small amount of money compared with the $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress, but the Kurzarbeit program’s defenders in the German government say it is carefully calibrated to keep people on the payrolls, where shared burdens mean an efficient deployment of resources.

In forum after forum the accusations of Marxism tied with to outrage over social safety net programs fly as fast and hard as lizard brained mouth breathers can type with their cap-locks. Where does this fetishist infatuation with suffering come from. Maybe that WASPish Calvinist love of suffering as penance for our sins. Life could not only be easier for the average American, but cost less in the long run. And it’s not like anyone is going to take whatever they earned or lucked into in this life with them when they take their final leave. Not to be a Obama apologist, but I think he and his staff realize this cultural obstentance. Thus they have tried to restore the status quo rather than make the large scale structural changes he is heatedly accused of doing.


rain drops on shop window wallpaper


There are a few ingredients which go into having a successful democracy and preserving individual liberty. Those who guessed the most important thing is free markets are only fractionally correct. Without justice, democratic republics and their free markets would soon spiral into chaos like sports without umpires and referees. Nearly One In Nine Federal Judgeships Are Now Vacant

The Senate adjourned earlier this week, even though it confirmed only half of the 38 judicial nominees awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. And the overwhelming majority of the blocked nominees cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee without a single negative vote.

This failure to confirm even many of the most uncontroversial nominees is the culmination of a concerted GOP strategy to delay as many of President Obama’s judges as much as possible, and it leaves Obama with fewer judges confirmed than any recent president:

The Senate’s failure to even hold a vote on these nominees leaves the federal judiciary with record vacancies — approximately one in nine federal judgeships are now vacant.

Notably, three of these vacancies are on just one court. Of the four active judgeships on the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, three are presently vacant, leaving the court’s chief judge as its only active member. Two of President Obama’s nominees to this court, James Shadid and Sue Myerscough, were unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee for this excessively overburdened court. Yet none of Obama’s nominees to the Central District of Illinois received a vote in the 111th Congress.

This failure to confirm anyone to this Illinois court may be the most reckless legacy of the right’s obstruction of Obama’s judges, but it isn’t even the most absurd. One of the president’s blocked nominees, District of Oregon nominee Marco Hernandez, was previously nominated for the exact same job by President George W. Bush. Somehow, now that he’s an Obama nominee, the GOP has suddenly decided to throw up roadblocks before his confirmation.

Republicans – in their latest gimmick and substanceless messaging are going to start citing the part of the Constitution which authorizes new legislation. You know, because every piece of legislation they have signed into law the last fifty years was unconstitutional. Better late than never. maybe a few will actually read the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and Supreme Court precedents starting with John Marshall. I am curious to see where or what they cite as the constitutional power to prevent judicial appointees from even coming to a democratic vote in the Senate.