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I just read the Friday article on Comcast in Wall Street Journal.  It was a combination piece discussing Comcast opposition to net neutrality and the Comcast proposed acquisition of TimeWarner (WarTime as I call it).

Naturally, the WSJ conflated many points and took a strictly pro-business perspective on the issues.

Leaving the net neutrality topic aside for now, the discussion of the proposed acquisition made me think a bit.  The WSJ rehashed the Comcast talking point "the two companies do not compete in any market".  This reminded me of John D. Rockefeller and how he built the Standard Oil monopoly to eventually control 90+% of oil in the United States.  

He did not do it through buying all the oil wells.  Standard Oil became the dominating monopoly by controlling the railroads, pipelines and refining.  Back then, if you had an oil well, or 100 oil wells, then you had to pay Standard Oil and the price for your oil was set by Standard Oil.

So, Standard Oil "did not compete in any market" with other oil producers either.  It did not need to.

Thus it is with Comcast.  If it acquires WarTime and takes control of the Internet "pipes and railroads" to 40% of the US market, including all the major cities, then it won't need to control other content companies.

So, will our corporate sock puppet regulators allow the acquisition to proceed?

My magic 8 ball says:  "Signs point to Yes"

Poll

Would a Comcast/TimeWarner combine control Internet content?

85%18 votes
9%2 votes
4%1 votes

| 21 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

Wed Jan 21, 2015 at 12:15 PM PST

why less for settle?

by yragentman

The trend to settle for settlements is a debasement of the justice system.  The Department of Justice, State Attorneys General and various police departments, etc. have all adopted the policy of "settlement" for various cases where laws are violated.

Often these settlements allow the defendant to not admit guilt and in all, or nearly all, the instances no individuals are punished in any way.

I am not familiar with the history of this policy but I am aware that the Sherman Antitrust act specifically include personal liability - in the form of a felony offense - as a key deterrent part of the law.  This was done knowing that without personal liability, the corporate shield would allow, even encourage, individuals to violate the law with impunity.

Somehow, this has been abandoned.  Today the Department of Justice is quite content to "settle" for fines against corporations and letting the individuals responsible for the violations go anonymous and free.  The DoJ typically does not even require the corporation to admit it is guilty of violations of the law.

A few examples:
Jan 21 (Reuters) - Credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's will pay $77 million in an unprecedented settlement with U.S. and state regulators who accused S&P of misleading investors about its rating system in 2011 and 2012.
http://www.reuters.com/...

July 2 (Reuters) - A federal judge has approved HSBC Holdings Plc's (HSBA.L)HBC.N record $1.92 billion settlement with federal and state investigators of charges that it flouted rules designed to stop money laundering and thwart transactions with countries under U.S. sanctions.
http://www.reuters.com/...

Nov 19 (CNN)  JPMorgan has agreed to a $13 billion settlement over mortgage-backed securities sold ahead of the financial crisis, officials announced Tuesday.
The Justice Department called the agreement "the largest settlement with a single entity in American history."
http://money.cnn.com/...

Nov 17 (ABC) US Cities (and Taxpayers) Paying Millions in Police Misconduct Settlements
http://abcnews.go.com/...

Apr 17 (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp.’s Countrywide unit agreed to pay $500 million to settle a lawsuit over billions of dollars in residential mortgage-backed securities that were downgraded to junk.
http://www.bloomberg.com/...

Sept 2 (Reuters) - Halliburton Co (HAL.N), North America's top oilfield services provider, said it reached a $1.1 billion settlement for a majority of claims related to its role in BP Plc's (BP.L) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
http://www.reuters.com/...

Jan 9 (Wash Post) Halliburton, the huge oil services company in Houston, said yesterday that it has agreed to pay $559 million to settle corruption charges with the U.S. government linked to its former subsidiary KBR.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

and the list goes on and on and on.

These "settlements" are not just for financial crimes - they include violations that resulted in serious injury and death.  Still, the justice system thinks it is acceptable to "settle" for cash.

In most of the cases, the Department of Justice makes a major point of the dollar amount of the settlement.  It promotes it as if it is a great achievement for government to take in big dollars in fines and settlements.

Somehow, the Department of Justice and the justice system in general - right down to local courts and district attorneys - have forgotten that their primary function is to uphold the law and to prevent and deter individuals from violating it.

When they "settle" the message for the violators is very clear:  full speed ahead.  Pay the fine, it is only a fraction of the net.

The same goes true for the most egregious criminal acts in history - namely the Bush junta lying to launch a war in Iraq and adopting torture and rendition as official US policy.  Yet, one Pelosi's first acts as Speaker was to take impeachment "off the table" and one of Obama's was to direct the DoJ to not even investigate - "look forward, not backward".

This policy of settling is an explanation for why the violations continue and seem to be increasing.  And should anyone expect it to be different?  This is what we have to look forward to - endless violations of the law with individual impunity.

It was not always so.   In 1907 the American Tobacco Company was indicted in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. In 1908 when the Department of Justice filed suit against the company, sixty-five companies and twenty-nine individuals were named in the suit.  
http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Even today, there are still some low level cases where individuals are punished
http://www.ussc.gov/...

But the big fish swim free.

Maybe some other KOSsack has done some reseach on the history of this trend.

Discuss

Tue Dec 09, 2014 at 06:18 PM PST

Torture - Now and Then

by yragentman

Then:
1947 In the aftermath of World War II, Japanese officer Yukio Asano is charged by a US war crimes tribunal for torturing a US civilian. Asano had used the technique of “waterboarding” on the prisoner.

Result:  Asano is convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

1968 US Soldier Convicted of waterboarding North Vietnamese prisoner. The US Army initiates an investigation.

Result:  the soldier is court-martialed and convicted of torturing a prisoner.

http://www.historycommons.org/...

Now:
The C.I.A.’s interrogation techniques were more brutal and employed more extensively than the agency portrayed.

Result:  promotions, retirement to punditville, receive deluxe pension from US Government.   Thanks Mr. Obama.

Poll

Should Obama have investigated and indicted Bush war criminals?

77%14 votes
11%2 votes
11%2 votes

| 18 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

Fri Sep 19, 2014 at 06:25 AM PDT

Isolated, unrelated NFL bad actors?

by yragentman

With all the coverage of the rash of players with domestic and child abuse, it is curious to not see any discussion of underlying causes.

It is similar to the coverage of radical Islamists - all analysis and coverage is focused strictly on the threat and the individual response.  There is never much discussion of what is the underlying cause and complaints.  

Could it be that a multibillion dollar industry that is based on aggressive physical assaults where players are paid millions to increase their body size, speed and power is fundamentally a breeding ground for abuse?

Performance enhancing drugs are known to increase aggressive behavior.  Maybe the domestic abuse problem is not just isolated bad actors but endemic to the industry.  The players are paid to abuse themselves up to and including permanent brain damage.  The incentives to abuse performance enhancing drugs are huge.

It can be no surprise that this same population has much higher tendency to domestic abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, etc.

https://www.youtube.com/...

Discuss

Fri Sep 19, 2014 at 06:13 AM PDT

take that you virus

by yragentman

The US foreign policy has fully devolved into a "one size fits all" approach.   Anywhere there is a problem - Send in the military!

Obama responds to a serious public health problem in west Africa by sending 3,000 army troops.  Not the essential aid money that the UN and others have requested.  Not more doctors.  Not a fast tracked ZMAP vaccine.

Just troops.  Troops who are primarily trained as killers.

He is very willing to commit another $10B a year to military action in Iraq but the $1B requested to fight Ebola?   Not so much.  

So what is going to  happen when US troops contract Ebola?  Well, bring them home for VA treatment of course.  What could go wrong?

Take that you pesky virus!!

Discuss

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 11:32 AM PDT

DailyFerguson?

by yragentman

Clearly, the police state actions in Ferguson are a major story - not limited to Feguson, St. Louis, or even MO.  Militarization of police is a national issue, for sure.

But, seriously, All Ferguson All the time is too much.  There are other issues, even more important issues.

The non-stop coverage and focus on brutal, illegal etc. police action in one St. Louis suburb is blinding us to everything else.

Even a cursory list of what is being missed includes:

Climate change
Ukraine
Mid-term elections
Fukashima  (yes it is still "leaking" thousands of tons of radiation into the ocean)
ISIS advances in Iraq
Israel invasion of Gaza
Detroit
NSA
DoJ whistleblower campaign
John Woo getting honored by Univ of California,
TransPacificTrade Pact
etc etc

I repeat, I am not downplaying the police state and the racial aspects of it, but there are other issues just as important if not more so going on.

One of the points of Shock Doctrine was how emotional issues can blind the public to actions that have long reaching consequences.

Just saying . . .

Discuss

Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 08:53 AM PST

Obama's real challenge

by yragentman

Here I go with another opinion.

Obama should make his highest priority for the remainder of his term - convert Roger Ailes.

Using the power of the Presidency, Obama should do a LBJ and set up private, personal, one-on-ones with Ailes.  Turn on the charm, vision, charisma up to 11.  If he can win over Ailes by reaching out, then the power of Fox News machine could be turned to good.

The appeal should be on a personal - Ailes could be richer and more powerful by championing progressive ideas of conservation, equality and fairness since as a uniter he could reach an even bigger audience, and altruistic -the planet and environment are clearly heading for a disaster - saving the whales means saving Ailes, his family and his legacy, wars really are destructive to everyone involved and the inequality of wealth is not sustainable - eventually the numbers revolt.  When the military and police realize they are the 99% (as they did in Egypt) change will come fast.

It is clear by now that the "us versus them" politics is a bankrupt way for society to exist.  

I know it will not be easy.  But it would be a monumental achievement right up Obama's alley of self perception as a uniter.  After that, he can turn his  attention to the Kochs.

Either win them over, or whack them.  One.

Just sayin '  2 years and counting . . .  

Discuss

I am sure this has been considered - and probably dismissed as tinfoil hatism.

One possible reason why Obama et. al. can't take legitimate steps to stop NSA abuses is that there are things that they know that he does not want to be disclosed.  This goes for Feinstein, Clinton, Cheney, et. al.

Knowing that the NSA can and has been dragnetting all,  ALL, communications for years it is fairly easy to see scenarios where an newly elected President could discover that everything he has ever said, everyone he has ever talked to is known.

This seems to me the biggest threat from the NSA.  Institutional power that is beyond the control of any elected public servant.

All good intentions and objectives could be quickly co-opted by this type of institutional power.

Just sayin. . .

Discuss

Sat Nov 23, 2013 at 12:59 PM PST

ACA caught in the web

by yragentman

From my perspective, the biggest issue with the ACA was the reliance on and over emphasis of the web interface.  Creating a web frontend to a system with so many complex backend interfaces was fraught with peril.

Of course, the web access is essential.  This is the 21st Century, after all.

However, a parallel system of good old 20th century paper forms should have been prepared as well.  There are plenty of citizens - particularly older ones and poorer ones - that do not have the luxury or familiarity with a whiz bang high speed wi-fi enabled gizmo.  

Putting so many eggs in the web site basket, left the project exposed to an enormous technical and public relations risk.   Easy enough in hindsight, of course.

But in my opinion, it is very similar to electronic voting.  What is the rush?  Why do these critical processes have to be done in a femtosecond?  It is more important to be reliable, accurate and traceable than it is to be fast.

With voting, why not take a few days or even a week to count the ballots?  The results are literally life and death.   The same with ACA coverage.   What is the rush?

Postcards could have been put in every postoffice.  Citizens could fill one out to register for ACA - not necessarily select their plan but to get into the system.  Then actual sign ups for coverage could have been done via navigators, by phone, by mail-in form or even, yes, the intertubes.

Oh well, what's done is done.  It will be ironed out and work well enough.  After all, there are still huge profits to be made in the health insurance racket - especially when the government is requiring every citizen to be a customer.  The insurance industry is cancelling and undermining ACA not to get rid of it, but to get rid of some of the oversight.

Meanwhile, we are left to dream of a national health system and continue to be jealous of every other civilized country.

Thanks - Mittens.

Poll

ACA or Medicare4All?

0%0 votes
93%14 votes
6%1 votes

| 15 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 11:10 AM PST

LAX Reactions

by yragentman

Of course, the reactions to the TSA shooting at LAX are focused on two things:   1) the shooter was an anti-government crazy  2) the TSA employee was a good, decent family man

I have yet to see any coverage that discusses and examines what possible conditions or policies or rhetoric might influence unstable individuals from loading up a gun and going out to shoot TSA employees.

No analysis about what TSA posture and activities are that might result in frustrated, desperate people to react with violence.  No discussion about how TSA probings, thefts, arbitrary searches are in conflict with the 4th Amendment (and possibly 1st amendment right to assemble).

No discussion of the extremely limited security value of TSA checkpoints - even by TSA own analysis.

No discussion how TSA checkpoints might actually reduce security by concentrating several plane loads of people in one small area where they are vulnerable to attack.

No examining how the Tea Baggers and their vitriolic media mouthpieces hold forth daily, hourly with anti-government rhetoric - calling for armed resistance etc.

Just "the TSA employee was a family man just doing his job and was killed by a crazy person".

The lack of reflection and introspection and serious consideration of what motivates attacks almost certainly ensures the attacks will continue.  The as the response to the 911 attacks was myoptic and counter productive - Attack the attackers.  Declare war on a tactic.  They hate us for our freedom!

Never consider what policies could be motivating the attacks.  Never address the underlying causes.  The answer apparently is :  More police, more military, more killing.  Kill the killers who are killing for those who were killed.

We are so far past the looking glass that the Hatter has retired to paint puppies and the King of Hearts is collecting every email searching for some tarts.

tweedle

Discuss

Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 08:35 AM PDT

Tar Sands, Baby

by yragentman

Percolating in the background, obscured by shutdown hostage shenanigans and gloating over rebublican civil strife, remains the Keystone Pipline and tar sands money pits.

Tell, KOSites, has anyone learned on the topic heard of any proposals to build refineries on the tar sands beachs of Canada and they export the value added products?  That would avoid piping of the heavy bituminum sludges that are impossible to clean up after inevitable leaks, breaks and spews.

Of course, refining tar sands in northern Canada has plenty of environmental disaster potential.  And burning the refined products will be a huge CO2 problem.   but seriously, with the demand and the dollars in play, there is very little chance that politicians up north or down here will have the will or the power to stop it.

Maybe piping the lighter, refined products has been considered?

Just wondering -  I am not saying I back this idea.  Better to let the bituminum lie, sez I.

Discuss

Fri Oct 11, 2013 at 06:04 PM PDT

How about recall Rebubs?

by yragentman

Any KOSites know what it would take to start re-call drives to get some of the problematic tea baggers out of the House?

I realize re-calls are always a long shot, but with the right billionaire backing it worked in California.   And Gray Davis was more popular than some of these baggers -

like Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota - places where the shutdown is really happening.

Are there any progressive billionaires that could put some zest into recalls?

Are there any election rules that block recalls?

Poll

Return Tea Baggers to Sender?

60%9 votes
26%4 votes
13%2 votes

| 15 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss
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