Nel's New Day

April 11, 2015

A Saturday Roundup

A few stories from the alternative press:

What do you do if you hold a protest and no one shows up? The Tea Party of Miami hires protesters—in this case a demonstration against restoring 46,000 acres used for sugar land back into the Everglades. The up to 40 actors pretending to be demonstrators got paid $75 per hour, five times what Tea Partiers refused to allow for a minimum wage. The job description:

“Details: Basically to stand behind fence, holding banners or signs that will be provided. Clothing is almost anything!! Use common sense and don’t wear ‘club’ outfits or gym clothes. Just wardrobe for a Political Rally…We will pay CASH of $75 at end of shoot.”

Not bad work if you can get it. The actors ended their gig by lighting fake money on fire in a barbeque.

Republicans commonly preen themselves as the party of Abraham Lincoln, but the conservative Washington Post disagrees. According to Harold Meyerson, the GOP is closer to the party of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, than Lincoln:

“After the [Civil War] ended, the South held on to a general animosity and hatred of African-Americans. No longer able to enslave them, southerners found other ways to oppress them.

“Indeed, today’s Republican Party support voter suppression efforts that are primarily aimed at minority voters to keep themselves in power. And with the backing of many corporations, the GOP has fought relentlessly to kill minimum wage laws and regulations that protect workers, while strangling labor unions that stand up for workers’ rights….

“Even today, one of America’s most fundamental problems is that the alliance between the current form of Southern labor and the current form of New York finance is with us still. The five states that have no minimum wage laws of their own are in the South: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Southern-based corporations such as Wal-Mart are among the leading opponents of workers’ right to organize, and as Wal-Mart has expanded into the North and West, so have the “right-to-work” statutes of Southern states been enacted by Republican governments in the Midwest….

“Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.”

Sounds like the Grand Old Party of Republicans to me.

What’s the easiest way to kill a bill that might help people? Declare it Sharia law, like the Republicans have done in Idaho. That’s how GOP legislatures voted down a child support collection bill to bring the state in line with federal child support enforcement rules by using the federal government’s system for tracking and enforcing child support payments. The bill failed in committee by 9-8 because two Republicans “feared the bill could force Idaho to enforce child-support rulings made under Islamic law or foreign tribunals.” One of the Republicans admitted that nothing in the law had any religious language that would make it Islamic but falsely claimed that both France and Belgium recognized Sharia law. Thanks to GOP idiocy, Idaho loses $46 million in federal child support aid and parents lose child support.

All the Republicans and too many Democrats in Congress are considering a war against Iran and again ignoring the U.S. public. Over half registered voters in the country want a nuclear deal with Iran with only 34 percent opposing the tentative deal that has been struck. The 65 percent of the country that wants no congressional action until the deal is finalized have a lot more sense than the legislators. Another survey from the Huffington Post shows that 57 percent versus 38 percent of participants agree with supporting the Iran nuclear deal.

Has hell frozen over? Or is this a joke? Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) wants Hillary Clinton as president because of her experience. He continues to heap more praise on her:

 “She was a good senator. She worked across the aisle. She kept her word. She became knowledgeable about a lot of issues while she was a senator. So she did that job well.”

Maybe he’s one Republican who’s tired of being in the party of Jefferson Davis.

What might make an anti-vaxxer change her mind? Tara and Gavin Hills (Kanata, Canada) reversed their opinion after their seven children ages ten years to ten months got sick—really sick. Tara had thought of whooping cough as an “historical oddity” until both her kids got the disease. Before vaccines were available, up to 10,000 people died in the United States of whooping cough every year. The number went down to 30 before recently starting to rise again. All seven of the Hills’ children are currently quarantined.

One reason you might not want to see a Time Warner merger with Comcast if you subscribe to Time Warner. A Comcast customer tried to cancel his cable after his house burned down, but Comcast refused for week. Someone might say that Comcast through the customer was just saying something crazy to get cable cancelled. Not true. In desperation, Jimmy Ware’s daughter finally said, “Your choice, disconnect the service or send someone out to fix the cable, because it’s not working.” She reported that the Comcast guy said, . “That doesn’t make sense because the house burned down.” Unfortunately, Time Warner’s scores on customer service are as bad as Comcast’s.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) plans to kick off his campaign for president by sell a chance to win tickets to his campaign kickoff for $3.05. We’ll see how his first week goes.

U.S. Senator Paul speaks with Fox News Channel host Hannity during interview after he confirmed his candidacy for president in Louisville

I’ll finish with a Rand Paul story. [Photo by Reuters/John Sommers Ii] Because of his negative treatment of Kelly Evans and Samantha Guthrie, I wondered if he had problems with only women. Not so. In an interview for The Guardian, Paul Lewis asked him how he planned to appeal to both center and right-wing voters because Paul’s political positions change so frequently. The presidential candidate replied, “Your premise is incorrect. I’m sure I could walk into a white evangelical church in Iowa and give the exact same speech and get the exact same response.” Lewis brought up a Washington Post poll and asked Paul about the specifics. Paul walked out, and Lewis said:

“So we got our interview cut off. Maybe it was because I was about to push him on the specifics…all the lights are off in fact. We’re being told to go.”

In an attempt at damage control, the Paul campaign tweeted later that Paul didn’t “walk out” because the interview was over. Washington Post claimed that Paul didn’t “walk out” because he had agreed to just one more question and Lewis asked a second “last question.” Paul’s campaign team had agreed to an interview lasting between six and eight minutes; Paul ended the exchange after four minutes and 50 seconds. No matter which answer is right, Paul still fails to look “presidential.”

Note: The Rand Paul Flip-flops, for sale for $20, have been renamed the Rand Paul Sandals. No joke!

March 4, 2015

Net Neutrality: What Democracy Looks Like

Filed under: Net neutrality — trp2011 @ 8:06 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

A miracle happened last week. After big broadband providers flooded the media threatening huge problems caused by net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission voted to reclassify broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Their action will keep broadband providers from blocking or slowing traffic on the Internet. The fight isn’t over because the same providers will pour millions into lobbying Congress for laws to eliminate equal access to the Internet. At this time, they may not be successful, considering the dysfunctional nature of a Congress that almost sent the DHS into shutdown. The Fox network made its usual outrageously false comments. Read at your own risk.

What big business broadband providers wanted was the right to collect payment from Web businesses for delivering content with higher speed and quality. Open Internet advocates said that the providers shouldn’t be able to manipulate traffic in a way that smacks of blackmail. New rules reclassify broadband Internet services from an “information service” to a “telecommunications service.” The change holds companies such as Comcast and AT&T to the higher and necessary standard of operating in the public interest.

As a fact sheet from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler states, “For the first time the Commission would have authority to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary” if it finds that interconnection deals between internet service providers and content providers fail to meet Title II’s “just and reasonable” standard. Under the new FCC definition of high-speed broadband, 82 percent of consumers in the nation have one or fewer options of high speed internet providers. No competition meets no free market advantage for the consumer who is charged unreasonable rates, receives bad service, or suffers from “fast lane” deals that make some parts of the internet more accessible than others. Free online speech is another advantage of the FCC ruling: everyone’s voice can be heard regardless of economic status.

The potential of the FCC change is amazing. State regulations can no longer limit local internet services; for example, cities that petition the FCC can provide high speed internet to their residents. As such, the FCC overturned laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that prevent local governments from expanding services in Chattanooga and Wilson (NC). Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) have already filed legislation to overturn the FCC’s municipal broadband ruling.

The rules ban Internet providers from blocking or slowing down services such as Netflix and from speeding up traffic even in exchange for money. Wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, which provide Internet service to tens of millions of smartphones and tablets are included in the regulation. Sprint, one of the four major wireless providers, “commends the FCC for its hard work in arriving at a thoughtful, measured approach on this important issue.” Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper wrote, “It is important to draw the distinction between regulation of the Internet, and regulation of carriers. The FCC’s order will disallow carriers from discriminating against sources of traffic that their customers choose to access via the Internet. This is common carriage at its core, and as a carrier, I am supportive of being regulated as a common carrier by the FCC.”

On the other hand, Verizon is so furious about the FCC decision that the company issued its protest in Morse code, guaranteeing that almost no one could read its statement without going to a PDF of its arguments against net neutrality.

Verizon_Morse_Code (1)

Verizon is partly to blame for the FCC ruling because it sued to overturn much weaker rules passed in 2010, leading to today’s ruling. Other providers are blaming Verizon for its action.

The FCC made no changes to consumer services or any additional fees. That is the reason for the FCC ruling–to keep the Internet functioning as it is now. The FCC was very cautious in its ruling—no regulation of “unbundling, tariffs, or other forms of rate regulation.” That means people in the United States will continue to pay far more than most other countries for their Internet access.

Net neutrality doesn’t stop big business from making big money. If the FCC approves Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast will control over half the U.S. cable and Internet market with 63 percent of U.S. consumers having only one choice of broadband provider. Generating $68 billion in 2014, Comcast owns NBC and Universal pictures, has consolidated internet, cable television and phone services, and made huge profits from investing in fiber optic cables and buy smaller providers. In that way, the company has successfully increased consumer monthly charges, including jacked-up prices for faster speeds, as shown in “Time Warner Cable’s 97 Percent Profit Margin on High-Speed Internet Service Exposed.”

Because FCC has not issue exact language about the change, specifics won’t be made public for weeks. That’s when providers will begin taking legal action against the FCC rules and lobby sympathetic conservative legislators for votes to supersede the regulations. House and Senate Republicans have already invited providers for a meeting in their plan to remove broadband from classification as a utility service.

Marvin Ammori wrote about the victory of the people in the FCC decision:

“The vote is already touted as among the biggest public interest victories in history and arguably the biggest Internet freedom victory ever. ‘Ever’ means: this victory is even bigger than the victory over the Stop Online Piracy Act in 2012, a copyright bill that could have censored our favorite websites but went down in flames when Wikipedia, reddit, Google and others joined in an Internet-wide blackout for one day.”

Popular victories like today’s are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a group that supports net neutrality. This miracle came from a grassroots effort in opposition to big money from big business. People camped out in front of the FCC and picketed FCC Chair Tom Wheeler’s home. Almost 4 million people left comments on the FCC website, at one point crashing it. In return, providers donated heavily to civil rights organizations to bring them in line with big business. With Comcast and Verizon trustees on its board and $2 million in donations during 2012 and 2013, the Urban League widely publicized Comcast’s arguments against net neutrality. The response was a coalition of almost 100 other civil rights organizations such as Color of Change and Hispanic Media Coalition calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband.

As Craig Aaron wrote, “This is what democracy looks like.”

February 18, 2014

Stop Cable Monopolies; Keep Net-Neutrality

Once upon a time, having television transmission meant having three networks—sometimes four—that appeared on a small screen because of two pieces of metal, or “rabbit ears,” sticking up from the TV. Some people got the image through an artistic metal sculpture on the roof. No matter what, it was free for viewers. In 1976, however, Ted Turner figured out how to make money through his own network, and since then, the number of these has geometrically expanded. Now almost everyone with television pays cable providers for networks chosen by these providers.

Although the United States outlaws corporate monopolies and mergers that block competition, cable providers have that monopoly. Almost all rural areas have no choice of provider; people who want television take whatever is offered.

The largest provider and majority owner of NBC and MSNBC, is Comcast. It’s also the largest media company in the world. In 2013, it took in $64.67 billion, generating $13.6 billion in operating income and $7.1 billion in net profits. Comcast is about to get much larger by buying the second biggest provider, Time Warner Cable, for $45 billion. Millions of people in the United States buy access to the World Wide Web through these two companies, about to become just one.

As Thom Hartmann commented, regarding the proposed merger and last month’s court decision striking down net-neutrality rules, “American consumers could get screwed.”

To keep companies like Comcast and Time Warner from slowing or charging for access to specific websites, the FCC tried to establish “net-neutrality” rules. Without these rules, basic internet service could be $29.95 per month, but accessing any websites would cost more by “packaging” websites just like cable providers do with TV channels.

cost net neutrality

A merger of Comcast and Time Warner would negatively impact service and cost for not only television and the internet but also telephones. The corporations’ bandwidth is already better than the phone company DSL lines except where other providers have installed fiber lines, a process that has come to a halt. Om Malik, founder of the GigaOm technology news company, wrote that cable consolidation in this century “is all about broadband,” which has high profit margins and doesn’t have to deal with Hollywood.

The primary advantage of a monopoly is to “drive up costs and reduce choices for consumers,” which is what Jodie Griffin, senior staff attorney of consumer rights group Public Knowledge, said Comcast will most likely do. She added that the power of the new company would make it a “gatekeeper” capable of “throttling competition.”

When Comcast took over NBC Universal in 2011, it promised a commitment to net neutrality, at least until the end of 2017. Yet it began to slow the speed of Universal’s competitor Netflix below speeds on other internet service providers. Comcast also refused to put Bloomberg Television with its own finance channel CNBC in its cable lineup.

Competition is supposed to bring prices down. The bundling “triple-play” plan of telephone, internet, and telephone starts at $30 dollars per month in Switzerland. Unlimited broadband in Britain starts at $25 per month. For televisions built since 2008, a digital television service called Freeview that provides more than sixty television channels, about thirty radio channels, and about a dozen streaming Internet channels is just that—free to view.

A few facts about Comcast which is the “worst company” list with Time Warner:

  • Comcast overpromises while it underdelivers, yet CEO Brian Roberts blames the customers for complaining.
  • Business media like the fact that Comcast is a monopoly. Forbes praised the company for succeeding “by providing less customer service.”
  • Comcast’s predatory pricing will most likely become worse. The company’s monthly costs is already four times more than companies in Europe before it announced a $1.50 “broadcast TV fee” this year. Because Comcast owns NBC, the company can charge double for its content, such as the coverage of the Olympics. The fee will provide viewers more commercials, especially during reruns of old TV series.
  • Comcast has a well-known contempt for customers. For example, the company has earned additional billions because it disables fast-forwarding through commercials and refuses Netflix access to the best-quality video streaming.
  • Comcast is planning “capped broadband,” charging people by how much data goes into their homes. This allows them to raise prices in “uncompetitive” rural media markets.
  • Comcast blames its users for predatory pricing by saying that “most people” don’t use that much data. The company claims that sneaking in usage caps is the “fairest” way to ensure that data hogs don’t use up all the internet.
  • Comcast falsely claims that people in the United States don’t want faster broadband. The far cheaper European monthly packages, for example France’s cost of between 20 to 40 percent cost of that in the United States, are ten times faster download and 20 times faster upload than broadband in the U.S. East Asia is also far superior to that in the U.S.
  • Comcast also claims that its customers don’t want alternatives, saying that Google’s $30 per month offer of one-gigabit per second connection on a fiber-optic line isn’t necessary. Comcast caps data which stops the speed boost that Google could offer.

The proposed merger and net neutrality means that all data—internet, television, and phone—going into the home is controlled by one company that has a history of playing favorites. The Federal Communications and the Department of Justice will make the decision, and the cable industry has far more clout than We the People. After the FCC approved Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal, Comcast hired FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have also vacationed at Comcast CEO Roberts’ Martha Vineyard home.

We need to keep protesting the illegal merger in an attempt to keep the huge corporations from enriching the few at the expense of the many. Tim Fernholz is optimistic—at least this time around:

“Consider that Comcast won’t have to pay a break-up fee to Time Warner if the deal fails. It’s unusual for a deal of this magnitude to lack such insurance, which the orchestrators say is a sign of confidence. But a simpler explanation may be that they fear the deal will fail, and don’t want to be on the hook for the loss.”

We need to stop both the mergers of the monopolies and the end to net-neutrality.

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: