Monday, May 24, 2010

This and That on the Media

Having studied Journalism I find it interesting to view it from afar. Speaking from experience, it is difficult to critique a profession when you are a part of it. When you are a part of the machine, it is harder to separate yourself from it. You tend to come up with excuses for certain actions or behaviors. When you are a part of the machine, you do have a perspective that outsiders do not have, but it rarely gives you the type of objective viewpoint that is needed.

I bring this up because I have seen some interesting things with the main street media (MSM). On a national level, we can see that they are starting to turn on the Obama administration. Don't fool yourself and think they are going to start espousing the ideals of the Tea Party or that they have become converts to fiscal responsibility. No. The MSM is still going to go after Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and such. But, they are now going after Obama and his minions because they are not being served the way they expected. Obama ran on an open government and led them to believe the press would have access like never before. That is not happening. Instead, they are seeing a president that is refusing to answer questions, a White House PRess Secretary that gets flippant if you dare question a policy decision or question administrations thought process, a bullying Chief of Staff and nonsensical policies. As I said back in January (article HERE) and before that October (article HERE) the media is biting the hand that fed it. The media, especially the national media, is a vindictive bunch who will sell their grandmother for a story that could win them a Pulitzer Prize. It is no great surprise that the MSM is going after Obama now.

That is why I had to chuckle when I saw this on DrudgeReport
And now, according to Breitbart TV, the WHPress Secretary, Robert Gibbs, is privately chastising reporters for going after the administration on the BP oil spill.

This all will not last, though. As the elections get nearer, the administration will reach out to the national MSM and do what it can to make them happy in hopes of using the MSM to sway public opinion in favor of Democrats. Obama and team know there are going to be losses and they know they need the press to help sway opinion.

My prediction is this - Barring any further scandal, the press will have a field day over a good part of the summer on the BP-Gulf Coast crisis. Many will compare it to Katrina with talk of it being called Obama's Katrina moment. Late this summer, after vacations and primaries, the administration will start to make nice with the press. Obama will probably do some one on one interviews and may well have a press conference or two. This will lead to the press and non-Fox News pundits, starting to speak highly of the president and his administration. They will try and take off the toxic image he currently has so that he can help with the November campaigns.

Possible Game Changer - All bets are off if Dick Morris is right and someone starts sniffing around and finds something with Joe Sestak's claim that he was offered a position in the administration if he did not run. IF this gets any legs, this will last a long time and could be big. Remember, the press will do anything for a Pulitzer and most papers and national news need ratings.

On the local front, I once again look at the St. Louis Post Dispatch and just shake my head in wonder. This paper bewilders me, yet I really should not be surprised as this is how they have been since I can remember.

All indications are that the Post is willing to let Russ Carnahan go down in defeat. While they are not actively pursuing Russ as much as some of our local bloggers and radio personalities, they are running stories that do not put Russ in a great light. That said, I find it interesting that they have not done anything on Lacy Clay. Lacy has a person within his own party running against him and a search on of Candice Britton yields no results.

If you do a similar search for Martin D. Baker, you will find 1 story from 2008. If you do a search on Robyn Hamlin, you will find press releases that her campaign has sent out. That is it. No stories or profiles on mentions of any of these candidates.

Add to that, why is it that myself and other bloggers are the only ones doing any reporting on Lacy and his associations with the Rent to Own groups as well as the large campaign payments to his sister. I know times are tough, but the Post could at least follow up to some of these stories much like they did the with Bob McCarty's story on Celeste Finkenbine. You can find the Post's version of the story HERE.

What is it about Lacy that the post is not willing to go after him. Is it a race thing? Is the Post worried about claims of racism if they legitimately go after him? That is the only thing I can think of. If that is the case, it is a sad state of affairs for our town and our only daily print newspaper.

What are your thoughts and/or predictions?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Big Government Via the FCC

The FCC now wants to make the Internet a public utility. Interesting. The same thing that the president so effectively used to get himself elected and now is coming back to haung him. Now that he is President Obama and not candidate Obama, those working under him want to now change it so that it can be regulated by the US Government. Never mind that a US Court of Appeals struck down Net Neutrality. For those of you who do not know about Net Neutrality, it can best be shortly defined as

Regulations that would allow federal officials to determine how internet service providers could manage the networks they built and own, ostensibly in the “public interest.”

For more detailed information, you can go HERE.

Since the FCC did not get its way, it has now decided that it wants to make the Internet a public utility. They want to do this using the Title 2 of the 1934 Communications Act. This title was originally created to handle monopoly based telecommunications companies and force them to open up their networks to competition as well as regulate pricing. For more information, you can go HERE. In the past, the FCC was able to control the Internet providers using Title 1 of the 1934 Communications Act. You can review Title 1 HERE.

So what is the difference you may be asking. It is huge. Title 1 gives the FCC the right to intervene when necessary. Title 2 mandates the FCC regulate internet service providers. With this type of power, the FCC could force net neutrality regulations, they could tax internet services under the Universal Service Fund and even regulating Internet pricing.

Historically speaking, public utility regulation restricts entry into an environment and regulates prices to prevent firms from charging excessive prices. It’s typically used in situations where competition is believed to be impossible. Think of the classic Ma Bell (click HERE if you are not old enough to know what this reference means). Sometimes it is also used in situations where pre-existing policy decisions have created monopolies that aren’t going to go away very soon. Note, soon is a relative term.

Broadband access is in no way monopoly. We no longer live in the time where you have to purchase your Internet access through one of a few companies like AOL or Prodigy. While locally in St. Louis, many people purchase their Internet through either AT&T or Charter, you are not required to purchase it through them, you can also purchase it through a wireless company like Sprint or one of many resellers that offer equal to or discounted prices.

While ISP’s are aplenty, the network backbone is essentially an oligopoly. As defined by an oligopoly is:

When a particular market is controlled by a small group of firms.

The network backbones are maintained by large telecommunication firms like AT&T, Quest, Verizon, Comcast, etc. These carriers are the ones who have laid and maintain the lines. For the small business or residential customer, they basically sell portal access to their backbones. Midsized and larger companies are a different story. Due to the nature of their business, some businesses must align directly with the telecommunications/backbone companies rather than going through a reseller due to the volume of data they will be using. For these companies the prices are dependent upon the total network traffic. These companies would then work directly with one of the backbone companies like a AT&T or Quest.

Basically put, if I am a large company and I need a lot of data, I will purchase access to the Internet that will give me plenty of bandwidth to meet my needs. That purchase may have some limitations on total data where I have to pay a penalty if I exceed the total size during a monthly, quarterly or even yearly period.

Contrary to the perception by some, oligopoly is not synonymous with “evil.” Although both monopoly and oligopoly end in “-opoly,” that doesn’t mean they are the same. Broadband providers do not charge monopoly prices. In fact, the competition to the consumer has probably had the opposite effect and driven costs down even further. Just look locally, AT&T offers a bundle discounts to residential customers and Charter does the same. Charter offers higher speeds for lower prices and AT&T matches. For business, these larger companies are all competing for these high priced contracts. While their prices may be similar they compete by offering additional services, equipment, etc.

This is not a bad thing. Residential customers, who for the most part are using a low volume of broadband, compared to companies, get the benefit of lower prices via competition. These large companies are dealing with the companies that own and maintain that line. If there are problems, there are guarantees that the providers will have the line up and running in a certain length of time, otherwise they have to pay the customer back. The larger backbone companies, while their prices may be similar, are competing on their services. There is nothing wrong with this style and companies have been doing it this way for years.

Once again, historically speaking, there is hard evidence that surface from economic literature on public utility regulation. Just about every time the federal government has tried to impose public utility regulation on an oligopoly, it has ended up enforcing a cartel. This is what happened in the past with railroads, trucking, airlines, and brokerage firms. There are a few times federal price regulation did not enforce cartels for oligopolies or competitive industries. In those cases, it usually created shortages — most notably gasoline and natural gas in the 1970s.

History shows that there is nothing that is working fine that the government cannot screw up when it gets involved. In this case, the Internet providers and backbone is working fine. Sure, we all want higher speeds and it would be great if more people in outlying areas could get easier access to the Internet but that is not something the government can fix. Should the government get involved, it will force these companies to lay cable and give high speed access to those in outlying areas and do so at either a loss or at the cost of those in larger cities. The same is true for corporations. Should net neutrality be enacted, the government will force these backbones to charge a flat fee, equally to companies no matter if they consume a large amount of bandwidth or not.

If this type of government control is to go forward, let it do so through Congress. Using the FCC to sidestep legislative and judicial authority reeks of Chicago style thuggery. Of course, should we expect anything less from the Barack Obama – Rahm Emanual style of politics which is currently in play in Washington?

Now, let’s bring this all together. Recently during the commencement speech at Hampton University in Virginia, President Obama had these two gems.

With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all…to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. ..Even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience with that myself.

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations; information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment. All of this…is putting new pressures on our democracy.
When the President of the United States is saying things like this and his FCC Chairman is trying to control the Internet, it is no wonder that people start becoming a little paranoid.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Arizona Immigration Bill

OK, I have been sitting on this one for awhile. When it came out, I wrote a whole column on it and decided to sit on it. Why? I wanted to see what the response would be. Let's just say I was not surprised. People all over the place are running around screaming that this is an attack on civil liberties, it is anti-Hispanic, etc. Here's the rub, this law does nothing but reiterate the federal law. In other words, there will not be people asking to see your papers as you try and get on a commuter train like Nazi Germany.

The left are once again overreacting to a law that HAD to be made. The federal government was not taking action. Instead both the Bush and Obama administration want to look the other way. There are some who just want to grant them amnesty because it is easier and a good way to buy votes. Any time someone wants to really do something about it people the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton go on the warpath claiming it is Jim Crowe law, etc.

Think about this for a second. Michigan has a high Middle Eastern population. Some of them are here legally and some illegally. The state legislature comes out and says that we are having too many issues and cannot afford to offer free health care to the illegals. In addition, they are taking jobs for lower than standard living wages, which are keeping legal residents from obtaining these jobs. So, if this law was passed, do you think there would be as much of a stir up? Sure, the ACLU would be out there protesting this as would some of the hard core liberals, but do you think people would be talking about boycotting visits to the state of Michigan? Do you think that people would be trying to get the NFL or MLB to not hold major sports activities there? Of course not. Because in this example I am talking about people who are from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc.

The only reason Democrats and the MSM are making such a big deal about this is because Arizona's issues are with Hispanics. The Hispanic population is the fastest growing population in the US. The culture of the Hispanic community is one that tends to have the same ideals as those of many moderate and conservative Republicans. Hispanics tend to be religious, have a strong sense of both nuclear and extended family and have a sense of pride in their work and performance at work. What we are seeing here is the Democrats and the MSM lap dogs attempting to sway and eventually indoctrinate the Hispanic community into voting Democrat. No more, no less.

Will there be bad cops who take advantage of this new law to harass Hispanics. Yes. Believe me, though, that happens now anyway. There will always be bad cops. Just as there will always be good cops who will follow the law and sometimes take the extra steps to make sure justice prevails on the correct side.

The Arizona immigration law is needed and just. Let the liberals wine and cry, but at the end of the day it will remain law and other states will be doing the same thing. Hell, you know you are in trouble when Caffferty is slamming you.