Archive | November, 2012
I might have strep throat. I’ll see the doctor in the morning, but since I feel as if I got hit by a truck, blogging will be minimal until I’m feeling better. Thanks.
Verizon, which has ruthlessly tried to destroy its competition, is now claiming itself exempt from government regulation.
Susan Crawford, a former Obama science, technology and innovation policy staffer, has written a rather stunning piece for Bloomberg.com on why we can’t really count on cell phones in an emergency. I was reading about this a few weeks ago, and an expat who now lives in China described how after an earthquake or flood, portable towers are immediately moved into the area and, he said, the service was better than ever.
But more importantly, the phone companies want to claim free speech rights that will exempt them from any kind of government oversight. Business is now the state religion here:
The problem? The companies that provide them had successfully resisted Federal Communications Commission calls to make emergency preparations, leaving New Yorkers to rely on the carriers’ voluntary efforts.
We have so far heard few details about why the companies made the particular business choices they did on backup power and what the consequences of those choices were, because the FCC has been blocked from asking – even though about a third of people rely on mobile service as their only voice-communications connection.
Americans might assume that the U.S. government exercises enough authority over communications networks to ensure that they are responsibly run, reliable and available to all at reasonable rates. In reality, after a decade of steady deregulation, during which communications companies asserted that new wires required new rules, the companies are in charge of themselves.
What’s more, those that sell network connections in the U.S. are trying to claim a constitutional right to operate without any federal oversight.
At the moment, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) is attempting to legally bar Congress and the FCC from exerting any authority over its networks, claiming that the First Amendment protects the company’s “editorial discretion.” (I am among a large group of current and former government officials who this week filed a brief opposing that startling argument.)
The sweeping economic and social implications of Verizon’s assertions are deeply troubling. High-speed Internet has become vital to communications in the U.S. Yet Verizon wants network operators to possess the same free-speech rights that newspaper publishers have to control the contents of their editorial pages. This could preclude Congress from making any law that inhibits a company’s business choices, whether to inflict harm on a competitor or to suppress or ignore points of view of which it disapproves. Verizon certainly has the constitutional right to make this argument. The country needs to understand, however, that what it’s asking for is to privilege its own speech over that of more than 300 million Americans.
Because any communications company’s job is to transmit speech, not to determine its content, the court should decide that Verizon is not, in a legal sense, a “speaker.”
This particular lawsuit is just one push in a longer effort by Verizon and the other high-speed Internet-access providers to get immunity from oversight. AT&T Inc., just last week, filed a petition with the FCC seeking wholesale deregulation of its wires. According to Harold Feld of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, this would make the company immune to all laws promoting consumer protection, competition and universal affordable communications. California became the most recent of more than 20 states to eliminate its authority over digital networks.
California became the most recent of more than 20 states to eliminate its authority over digital networks.
And consider why the FCC now is unable even to ask communications companies about their contingency plans for responding to a loss of power caused by a hurricane or other natural disaster. Five years ago the FCC, responding to findings that communications companies had supplied too little backup power during and after Hurricane Katrina, moved to adopt rules requiring the companies to have emergency energy sources. In response, the companies sued, claiming that the commission had no authority over them. Before that case could be resolved, the George W. Bush administration’s Office of Management and Budget determined that such rules would require the companies to incur undue costs to gather the needed information, and the commission withdrew its effort altogether.
My beloved friend died of brain cancer last Tuesday. I’d been trying to reach her for months; no one would answer the phone. I assumed she was in hospice care and didn’t want anyone to see her, since she’d told me she wasn’t thrilled about the possible dementia. By the time I found out (on Facebook), it was after the funeral. Another old friend who attended told me the church was “packed.” Well, of course it was. Eunice was smart, witty and talented. She was always volunteering for things, always putting everyone else first. She was an incredibly gifted artist, but put it on hold to raise her kids. She just sparkled. And God, did she have that Irish gift of gab! (Also for holding grudges, which I loved about her.)
She was always trying to talk me into running, like she did. “Eun, I’m a Libra,” I told her. “We don’t run. We lounge.”
The youngest was settled in college, and Eun was finally on her way to her first painting trip when she had a grand mal seizure on the plane. That’s when she was diagnosed. “Ironic, huh?” She told me she’d known something was off for the previous year, “but I thought I was going crazy, so I didn’t want to tell anybody.”
She had a wild side that I suspect most people in her suburban life never saw. She used to be a waitress at Frog, which was then the cutting edge of the Philadelphia restaurant scene. It closed down after Eunice tried to organize a union. Hah!
She was really something, our Eunie. I miss her something fierce.
I don’t think any of us are all that surprised, but it might help to sign one of the petitions out there:
Not even two weeks have passed since Democrat Elizabeth Warren rode a wave of grassroots support to victory in the US Senate race in Massachusetts, ousting Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Senator-elect Warren has not yet hired her staff. She has not yet moved into her Senate office. But the banking industry is already taking aim at her, scurrying to curb her future clout on Capitol Hill.
Lobbyists and trade groups for Wall Street and other major banking players are pressuring lawmakers to deny Warren a seat on the powerful Senate banking committee. With the impending departures of Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Democrats have two spots to fill on the committee before the 113th Congress gavels in next year. Warren has yet said whether she wants to serve on the committee. But she would be a natural: she’s a bankruptcy law expert, she served as Congress’ lead watchdog overseeing the $700 billion bank bailout from 2008 to 2010, and she conceived of and helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
But the big banks are not fans of Warren, and their representatives in Washington have her in their crosshairs. Aides to two senators on the banking committee tell Mother Jones the industry has already moved to block Warren from joining the committee, which is charged with drafting legislation regulating much of the financial industry. “Downtown”—shorthand for Washington’s lobbying corridor—”has been going nuts” to keep her off the committee, another Senate aide says.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a banking committee member, has been angling to get Warren on the committee, “but there are many bank lobbyists pushing to keep her off,” a top Democratic Senate aide told Politico’s Morning Money tipsheet. But the aide added, “If she really wants banking, it will be very tough politically to keep her off.”
Several banking trade groups—including the American Bankers Association, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, and the Mortgage Bankers Association—declined or didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Warren also declined to comment.
The poorest city in America is right across the bridge from Philadelphia, and the politicians are trying to blow up the police department – including their pensions.
Now, I’m not all that fond of cops, but I wouldn’t want to do their job, either. And to screw long-time cops out of their pensions to make Chris Christie happy, well, it’s just not right.