Broadband Bandits

Great journalism has finally uncovered evidence that a lack of competition for Internet access has led to price gouging by AT&T, Verizon, Qwest (dba Century Link?) Comcast (xfinity? Really, Comcast?) and the rest of the oligopolists.

This came from the New York Times? Chicago Tribune? Boston Globe? Fox News?

Please. U.S. Media was neutered a decade ago. The story was published by… the British Broadcasting  Corporation. Read it here.

But the report on which the story was based is homegrown, and was produced by the New America Foundation. See the report here. While you still can, before those who control your access to your radio waves and monitor your information requests for profit, and the NSA, prevent you from doing so.

And, apparently, while charging you more than three times for slower Internet than what  those in other nations pay for the privilege. 

No, I am not joking.

By the way, Verizon reported a third-quarter (that’s three months) profit of $2.2 billion in October. AT&T, the second-largest American carrier after Verizon, reported profit of $3.8 billion in the third quarter, up from $3.6 billion  a year ago.

We need to stop the damage these monsters are doing to our America, with the aid of their paid flacks in Washington D.C.

Rep. Greg Walden, have you scurried yet to set up your golden parachute to the telecoms or pharmaceutical industries, or some lobbying firm they hire? Or is it just “understood” wink, wink, nod, nod, that they owe you sooo much?

Freeing the free markets

The weird thing is, I believe in the “free market.” I believe that removing consequences for bad behavior encourages that behavior. I don’t believe “inequality” per se, is a bad thing, as long as we ensure opportunity. In short, I am a conservative.

From about 1965.

Of course government is inefficient. The sky is blue. But government’s role is not to be efficient. Government needs to be the referee, mark the playing field, protect free markets and provide services under the law that we would not entrust to our neighbors without guidelines, or that need to be done to avoid loss of our humanity.

But we don’t have “free markets,” we have market manipulation by oligopolists who collude with corrupt politicians and fight transparency.

The only folks facing consequences are the poor—the leaders of Goldman Sachs, ATT, and Pfizer don’t face consequences for their greed, regardless of the damage they do to our country.

Ownership of our money by big banks has caused irreparable harm, first in the Great Depression, which was followed by bank laws, then in the Great Recession that followed repeal of those same laws. Some of those working in the largest banks hurt far more people than John Dillinger. Increase capital requirements, so they face the consequences of their failure, or break ’em up, so if they fail, it is shareholders and not farmers and teachers and gas station workers who are out of a job.

There should be vigorous price competition between cell phone networks. No, there’s not. We need to make sure that no one company or four companies can grab all of our radio spectrum, nor limit our choice of phones, nor throttle in any way our access to the Internet. The ‘Net is now too important, and every citizen should have a wide-open pipe, buying what they want, paying for what they use.

There should be vigorous market competition in the drug industry. It should be illegal for one company to pay another, in collusion, to keep generics off the market. Patent law should be changed so that new generics are available much, much more quickly. Consumers should have the right to buy their drugs from wherever they please. Drug prices, and hospital equipment prices, should be published, not hidden. The market needs information to operate efficiently.

Corporations are not people. If a corporation has broken the law, someone in that corporation did the breaking. They should do time if they did harm. It’s not just marijuana users who are a threat to society. In fact, I don’t think pot smokers are any threat at all, and we should leave them alone to face the consequences of their behavior.

But maybe that’s just me, being a conservative.

Scream

If ATT, Verizon, Comcast, XFinity (really, Qwest?) had the tools to “sniff” the content of emails, blog posts, news articles, as they were posted to the internet, it would be their legal obligation to minimize access to criticism. It would be a violation of their fiduciary responsibility not to do whatever is legal to preserve their reputations and protect their business plans. Whatever is legal.

But as far as the Internet goes, the law sits about ten generations behind the technology, and the social consequences, of this whole new paradigm of human interaction. Of course these companies, which collude with the National Security Agency, know the content of our communication. The Oligopolists of Communication are about two generations ahead, technologically and legally. They write the laws and then get lickspittle congressmen, like Oregon’s Greg Walden, to introduce them.

Using words like  “freedom” and “progress” and “market” and “innovation,” and bribes in the form of campaign contribtuions, they keep at bay the only force, the definition of “what’s legal,” that could reign in their slurping and sucking and hoarding of the life blood of our librerty: information.

You have no privacy. You have no rights. You have no power. They have won, and if you oppose them, you will be rendered either deaf, or mute. We have no mouth, and we must scream.

The Reading

The reading was a bust, by standard measure. Two couples, one of whom are good friends (one are? implied plural? Lazy, lazy…), my girlfriend, some folks who dropped by. Rebecca Singer, owner of Dudley’s was so graciously apologetic: “Fall Festival, a beautiful day to be outside, hard to find parking,” etc. I wanted to apologize to her.

Somehow, I am not devastated. My reaction like that I had with the “friend of a friend who knows somebody,” who was surprised when I told him I  still believed in the value of “Chalice,” despite rejection by agents and publishers. To that, I add a nearly empty book store on a beautiful Fall Sunday.

Have an impact on me? Of course. A bit of the doldrums, wind absent from my sails. Plus a fever on Monday, full on wet-sniffle-snuffle-hacking-cough cold on Tuesday, slow recovery on Wednesday.

And then, there was today. Someone I don’t know, but know of, posted a comment on this blog stating her gratitude for “Chalice.” Someone squarely in the demographic I felt would receive what I was trying to communicate.

That one comment made more of a difference to me than an empty book store, rejection by agents and publishers.

Because I wrote “Chalice” for her. And her friends. Those she went to college with, or hung out with in high school, who are inspired by her passions, wherever those take her. Chalice is not for everyone. But she and her brothers and sisters are out there. She is the one who makes the effort worthwhile, the rejections bearable. She is my audience, she is the one I was trying to reach.

A breeze is picking up, sails inhale, losing slack. We have a video of the reading, which will be posted sometime soon. A book club may take up the book, I’ve been asked if I would speak to them (of course). Sales inch upward.

Off we go.

See you at Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe

We are getting some traction on “Chalice,” and thank Dudley’s for their enthusiasm. Stop by on Sunday at 2 p.m. for the reading (look upstairs if we’re not downstairs), and 25% off on coffee. It’s a very cool book store.

Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe
“This Friday is Friday Art Walk PLUS Fall Festival. We are privileged to have Kelly Riley & The Range Benders playing their amazing set of Americana, Blues & Folk with attitude!! Originals, traditionals & a few surprises! 6.30pm. ALSO, on Sunday October 6th we will be having a signing and reading by Erik Dolson of his new book “Chalice”. Erik is a local author and I promise the book is fabulous! All drinks and treats will be 25% off from 2 to 4pm.”

Reading canceled

The local book store in my home town has canceled my reading. They’d received an email from a woman who said the book was about her. They got three phone calls from the woman’s friends. The owner admitted that not one of those who complained had read the book, but he just didn’t feel comfortable promoting it at this time.

Now questions will be asked. Now the book will be perceived as being about this woman, and I won’t have the chance to explain that it is a work of fiction based upon conversations with countless people over decades, woven together to create a novel hopefully rewarding to read.

So much for art. For meaningful discussion. For relevance.

I had just written another reader, “The book is fiction, a story constructed of bits and pieces, yes, some you will recognize… but it was constructed, and therefore a fiction, to build a theme that I hope is universal; that relative standards are no standards at all if driven by fear, irrational hope or selfishness… how we find morality within ourselves… that faith is required to leap the abyss… how losing everything can be redemption… how what we seek is connection.”

These are the topics I was prepared to discuss at the reading. And what it is like to create, why a story has parts and arc, what it is like publishing a novel, how hard it is to know something, and someone, whether objectivity is even possible, how all of us live in a world of our own creation. And why I chose an optical illusion for the central metaphor.

Now the discussion has become about something else, about something it was never about in the first place. Which, I suppose, is what it is about, in a way.

Turn it off, Part II

I have renamed my “cell phone.” It is now my “Link.” Not just because it links me to the world via communication and information. But also because it is one link in the chain that binds me to their intent.

Cell phones, Internet. Visa Cards. All this noise about the NSA and cell phones: Does anyone really believe, once they have spent four minutes thinking about it, that the NSA has not compromised your (easily revoked) VISA card, your Master’sCard? In exchange for the ability of card companies to condition you into spending more than your limits, or missing payments, so they can charge rates that once were considered usury?

Is anyone so naive to think that VISA, MasterCard, AMEX and the rest don’t slurp your data? And share what they learn with the NSA, and their corporate “partners” (i.e., those willing to purchase the info)? Read the fine print.

Have you ever bought a gift card? Have you received one that represents a corporate “refund” (talking about you, T-Mobile)? Did you know your “money” on that card can evaporate? Read the fine print. And then realize that a percentage of those cards never get redeemed.

Where did that money go?

When in hell did banks take ownership of our money? Our transactions? And how do they get to rent it back to us at discounted value? It’s too late to do anything about it, because they own too many political waterboys like Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, and many others, but it’s good to think about once in a while. Next time you buy something, ask if there’s a cash discount equal to the highest rate your retailer pays for you to use the credit card.

If only for an hour, turn it off. Use cash for your next transaction, at least while you can. They won’t know where you are for that period of time. Until they get the cameras up, or satellites start recognizing cars and addresses… oh, crap. Drones. Too late.

It won’t be long  before there is no “money.”  It’s good for you, it’ll help you keep track of all your expenses. And it’s good for them, they won’t have to pay to print all those $5, $10, $20 and $100 bills. Or keep track of them.

Or lose track of you.

Turn it off.

Turn off the Security-Technology Complex

On January 17, 1961, when President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address, he warned the country about the “military-industrial complex.”

Acknowledging the need for a strong military during the Cold War (Eisenhower was a five-star general leading troops in World War II and Supreme Commander of allied forces in Europe), he cautioned against the loss of liberty if Congress, the military, and industry colluded to hijack the public interest (emphasis mine):

“Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It’s been nearly three generations since that speech. During that time, we have unwittingly initiated the greatest experiments in the history of our species on what it means to be mankind, and society. Television. Cell phones. The internet.

But Eisenhower’s warning is not only relevant today, it is more important than ever before. The phrase “military-industrial complex” sounds nearly quaint. But its spawn, the “security-technology complex,” is not only alive but very active, very aware of itself, and very sophisticated in its manipulation of information and abuse of power.

It’s not just politics, or the illusions of freedom. Hiding behind false facades built of threats and promises, they analyze what you buy, what you read, what you drive, where you live and where you go. They use sophisticated tools to learn what you think, then tailor information you receive to create perceived threats and solutions that serve their interests, not yours.

They manage you. They herd you behind fences of fear, corral you with a tight focus on “message,” follow you and quickly respond if you get out of line. They feast on the heart of what our founding fathers worked so hard to achieve.

It may be too late, but there is one response they can’t control.

Turn it off.

A “Shoe”

Kunicki discovered a water leak before racing even began and had a DNS (did not start), Edelstein blew a rear end in the morning session, which he had to replace before we went out at 2:50 and had a DNF (did not finish). So two of the fastest drivers on the grid had to start at the back of the pack when the afternoon race started.

Rick Stark was on the pole, Randy Dunphy next to him, John Goodman and I were third and fourth, with Kallberg behind me. When the green flag came down, monster V-8s howled down the straight, through Turn 1 and into the wide sweeper, Turn 2, nicknamed “Big Indy.” Kallberg moved by me as I moved past Goodman.

Stark and Dunphy, fighting for the lead, had contact. Dunphy’s red Falcon went into a slow spin in the middle of traffic. Somehow, we all avoided him, and his job then became cutting through the rest of the pack along with Kunicki and Edelstein.

It’s easy to build a Corvette into a competitive race car, half the work is alrady done. It is harder to do a Camaro, and much, much harder to do a Falcon. But Dunphy and his mechanic have a very fast Falcon that consistently places near the top of the field, despite the fact that it is essentialy a brick.

Watching Dunphy come through Turn 9, whether from a race car behind him or from the stands, is breathtaking. The car lurches and hops and moves the very outside. I’ve always been afraid the loose gravel and dirt on the outside of that turn would grab him.

Like in the first race this morning. He didn’t miss a beat as he raised a cloud of dust.

“It was out there for 50 feet or so, but I just rode it out,” Randy said to his mechanic, or something similar. I got it second hand, and it was noisy when I heard it.

“Ride it out.” At 100, maybe 110 miles an hour, in a turn, “riding it out” is not the first thing one feels like doing. But doing anything else is far, far worse. It used to be said of Porsches that you never, ever, “lift,” or take your foot off the gas in a turn. That is a recipe for a spin.

So is touching your brakes when half of them are on hard pavement, the other half in loose dirt. That is the number one cause of fatal accidents on the highway, and it would have put Randy nose first into the concrete wall in front of the stands. So, he “rode it out.”

Randy is quiet in that sometimes intense way of Viet Nam Vets, willing to take responsibility (he wondered aloud if he had caused the contact, until reassured by others he did not) and very reluctant to blame, he usually wears a smile. He drives well, is very predictable, and in our sport, that means a lot.

“He’s a real ‘shoe.’ If people knew what it takes to drive that car that fast, they would be amazed,” said his mechanic.

A “shoe,” in our world, is someone who wears a racing shoe to do the best that can be done with whatever he has, does it very well, does it better than most.

Randy didn’t win the race this afternoon. I finally got past Rick Stark, who has been driving the wheels off his small block Corvette in this event, and I took first. But my vote for “Shoe,” of this weekend in Seattle, goes to Randy Dunphy in his red Ford Falcon.