Why Did AT&T Get Left Off The Cable Investigation List — A Very Boring Answer.

While killing time waiting for the Nov 4 meeting to start FCC Chair Kevin Martin discussed the recently opened investigation into cable pricing. To the surprise of those who conceive of Martin as simply having a “vendetta” against cable, the list of companies getting notices about the investigation included Verizon. OTOH, it did not include AT&T. Needless to say, the “Martin can do no good because he is EEEEVVVVVIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!” crowd hit on this as proof that Martin is merely doing the bidding of his telco masters (Verizon having been added to the investigation merely for protective coloring).

Well, I’ve given my views on Kevin Martin repeatedly. As I have said time and again, I may disagree with him a lot, but I don’t think he is an industry shill. He does what he thinks is right and the devil with the consequences. While this has its disadvantages, notably his managing to piss off the other four Commissioners and thus secure for himself a series of policy set backs and rack up a record of number of votes actually lost by the Chairman, it does mean I tend to look for an explanation that goes beyond “Martin is a bastard 24/7 and therefore this is part of an evil plot.”

Here, I think the non-AT&T conspiracy theory answer is fairly straightforward. It has to do with the particular practice the FCC is investigating — forcing customers to migrate to digital. As AT&T does not seem to be behaving in the same way as the named cable operators that got letters from the Enforcement Bureau, they are not being investigated.

OTOH, even if the FCC does find evidence of deceptive advertising practices or anticompetitive conduct, it may lack authority to act.

Thoughts below . . . .

Continue reading

The Deadest Generation

Most folks I know are pretty cranky lately. They cite the economy, or the wars. But I don’t think we’re being honest. My generation is dead. We did die before we got old. But we only know it on a subconscious level, and that makes us cranky.

Our last hurrah and last attempt to change the world was in the late ’90’s with the Internet Boom – although that was largely driven by the next generation. Now we’re just running on Cialis. It’s the only thing we care about anymore, or which gets a rise out of us. Dead.

I work at the University of Wisconsin, which had been a hot-bed of violent youth revolution in the ’60’s. Now, when a part time instructor named Barrett raises questions about 911, the university threatens his job. (Even as Syd Barret passes quietly away.)

John just wrote a great blog about serious and enduring issues that will have meaning long after 911 is a footnote, but even he doesn’t wants to talk about 911. Who wants to be thought of as a weirdo? Don’t say such things! I hope interest rates don’t get much higher. Have you tried Flomax?

Surely, the idea that 19 losers wreaked all this havoc, orchestrated by a guy in a cave in Afghanistan, is the looniest conspiracy theory of all time! Imagine a US government that thinks nothing of breaking into the personal files of its domestic political opposition, breaking the law to destroy its bureaucratic opposition, waging war without reason, spying on its own citizens, ignoring treaties, and “temporarily” but indefinitely closing the Whitehouse press office. This is reality, and we’re not outraged? Dead. Now, I can’t imagine that such a government could have deliberately orchestrated 911, but mostly because I think they’re too incompetent to have pulled it off. (Hey, I want to keep my university job!) I don’t know what the reality is. Either of the two opposing conspiracy theories is equally depressing. But I think that folks of my generation are old enough to sense bullshit when we hear it, and we know at some level that we’re up to our eyes in it from all sides. I believe that the recognition that we don’t truly care enough to act on this – or even discuss it – is what’s got us so down. If you’ve still got a pulse, I encourage you to Google on the 911 conspiracy videos.

Tales of The Sausage Factory: CBS caves again for Bush

For those of you haven’t followed, Bush and the Republican leadership fought off an broad attempt by Congress to roll back the national television ownership cap to 35%. The compromise was to freeze the limit at 39%, which means that Viacom (parent of CBS) and News Corp. (parent of Fox) don’t have to sell off any stations. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) says that CBS has paid the administration back for this favor by refusing to sell time to an anti-bush ad on the Superbowl.

Continue reading

Mark Lombardi, fallen artist of the conspiracy-obsessed

Next time my bizniz takes me to San Francisco I’m going to make a pilgrimage to see the works


Mark Lombardi
, the self-murdered artist/martyr of the conspiracy-obsessed.

I only recently learned of Lombardi’s work. Evidently he had been a minor artist with a small cult following until September 11, and since then he’s become, so far as I can tell, a minor artist with a large, fanatical and growing cult following.

His preoccupations closely parrallel mine– we both subscribe to Ishmael Reed’s notion that history is the story of warfare among secret societies. But whereas I tend to think obsessively about technology and write stories, Lombardi thought obsessively about money and power and drew pictures.

I should point out that when I say “minor artist” I mean no slight. This fellow’s work absolutely captivates me, and if I don’t manage to see it in San Francisco I’ll drive to Iowa, if I have to, to see it in person.

Continue reading