The Humble Inventor

Keep this in mind as you watch the charades over net neutrality:

Of course, public mention of the existence of successful public enterprise is verboten in this market totalitarian society. So, even the rebels restrain themselves from it, as they fawn over feeble, 11th-hour less-than-half measures.

Liberalism and the Internet

old car photo So, in a display of a very slight drying of the wet noodle he has for a backbone, Zerobama now — after being careful not to mention the topic during the recent The Bi-Annual Election Show — “asks” that the FCC classify internet service provision as a common carrier. Of course, not only is this an “ask,” but Prez Z specifically also says the FCC should, despite the proposed new (but long overdue) classification, continue “forbearing from rate regulation.” “Forbearing from rate regulation,” of course, means renouncing price controls.

The unregulated regime of corporate capitalist-dominated internet service provision in the United States imposes an indefensibly but predictably slow and expensive internet infrastructure. Yet, even if the FCC were to ignore its corporate masters and grant Zerobama’s humble request, he asks that they do so only if they render themselves unable to use the main benefit of common carrier designation — price control!

Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service wastes away in the desert, dabbing at its shrinking, rusty thimbleful of water droplets. Imagine what the corporate profit ranchers would do to prevent us from upholding the U.S. Constitution and allowing the USPS to deliver the modern mail at the lowest possible cost and with the best modern technical standards.

Of course, liberals have always favored regulation over public enterprise, for the all-too-obvious reason.

Red States

needle The U.S. South is some piece of work. But, for some unfathomable reason, it now seems to be home to sparks of actual progress and civilization. Public enterprise has happened there in a couple of meaningful ways.

Lafayette, Louisiana has fought off lawsuits and built itself its own communications infrastructure.

Now, it seems that Somerset, Kentucky is about to start operating its own gas stations.

Another Subsidy

horses Ad Age has a column in which a figure named Benjamin Duchek, “the principal of Socialgence and a former Army artillery officer,” argues that the military radically under-charges its marketing partners for use of its brands and images. “Why,” wonders Duchek,

do the government and its marketers give troops away at a ridiculously low price to any sporting organization or beer company that wants to parade them as a prop for an event? In 2012, the National Football League donated $800,000 to three military-related non-profits as part of a Veterans Day Salute to Service. That amount is nothing but a rounding error on the billions that the league brings in throughout the year. Yet it gives the league carte blanche to integrate armed forces branding into its website, TV broadcasts and apparel.

Quite so. The military could almost certainly insist on a much better deal than that, and its restraint in not doing so is, as Duchek argues, a subsidy from the public sector to big business marketing endeavors.

Of course, what Duchek misses is that it’s equally true that the military probably gets back at least as much as it concedes. Soldiers are certainly exploited laborers, but radically under-charging for military marketing services is not without benefit to the Pentagon, which is, after all, the entity making the call. In return for the near-free use of the “our heroes” and “support our troops” brands/tropes, the military receives free exposure for these crucial ideologies among a huge, highly suggestible, and important audience. All of which makes the next Pentagon budget and the next war that much safer.

Of course, one of the major target audiences for all the soldier-worship is the next batch of grunts. Judging by the inability of ex-soldiers like Duchek to perceive the systemic nature of their situation and labors, the in-kind marketing symbiosis seems to be working rather well, despite the extreme puniness of the purported benefits to the little people.

Micro-Cosmos

science-equals-money So, to much fanfare, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is remaking Carl Sagan’s astronomy-and-a-bit-of-science TV show. Is television any way to learn science? Did Sagan’s Cosmos really turn anybody on who wasn’t already turned on, or about to be turned on? Is, as the Babysitter-in-Chief would have it, a passion for truth and bold thinking about new problems and limits really part of our national character at this point? Is it even tolerated, let alone promoted, by anybody in power?

Whatever your answers to these questions may be, ponder the more elementary fact that Tyson’s show is commercial, while Sagan’s was public. Hence, you have to wonder how much Tyson truly embodies his mentor’s spirit. Before giving up on PBS (not that it is anything like truly public), Tyson might have gone back and pondered the fact that Sagan fought an extended legal battle to prevent Apple from using his name to sell its products.

In any event, thanks to its commercialization, the first institutional task of the new Cosmos is greenwashing. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss some of the details of what things like “the Chrysler Brand” gain from such campaigns. We’ll also keep notes on how the sponsors impose limits on what makes it into Tyson’s scripts. Don’t expect much fearless talk about the main tasks of science at this point in human history.

The Fruits of Unrestrained Capitalism

Crawford book A worthy read about one of the many boondoggles that inhere in corporate capitalist normalcy. The basic facts include:

[Cable companies] are extracting enormous rents, enormous profits, from what Americans perceive to be a basic service. And the competitive argument they make is a complete canard. If you tried to swap out your wireless connection or use your wireless connection instead of a cable connection for let’s say, watching online video — so the average user of a wired high-speed Internet connection uses 50 gigabytes of data a month — if you tried to do that over a mobile wireless device you’d be spending $500 a month. That’s because you may get wireless at about the same speeds, but [there are] very low capacity caps, data caps, on the usage of that connection. So it’s not a substitute; it’s a complement. We love mobile wireless services. It’s never going to take the place of a wire.

What’s even more disturbing is that in other countries — I’ve visited both Seoul and Stockholm recently — they take these services for granted. For about $25 a month they’re getting gigabits symmetrical service, which is 100 times faster than the very fastest connection available in the United States and for a 17th of the price. It really is astonishing what’s going on in America. Americans aren’t quite aware of it because we don’t look beyond our borders, but we’re falling way behind in the pack of developed nations when it comes to high-speed Internet access, capacity and prices.

We “don’t” look beyond our borders, of course, for the self-same reason we “permit” our overclass to do what they do to us: The mass media, including what passes for journalism, are part of the same monopoly that uses the internet and other publicly-invented technologies as a profit ranch. The relevant comparisons are simply forbidden.