Politico: “Comcast-Time Warner Pay $132,000 to ‘Honor’ FCC Commissioner, With Merger Pending”

Who would ever imagine that two of the biggest telecommunications companies in North America, both of which have effective monopolies on broadband Internet provision, would go out of their way to throw a lavish party at which an FCC commissioner would be honored?

This does not create or present any conflict of interest. No sir, none whatsoever.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the governmental body bound with the duty of regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, one of the Clinton-era laws aimed at deregulation of the converging telecommunications and broadcasting markets, paved the way for increased media consolidation, which was proceeding at an already pitched pace.

The FCC board of commissioners is in charge of reviewing major proposed mergers of media companies such as Comcast Corporation and and Time Warner, Inc. Their up-or-down vote approves or puts the kibosh on mergers such as this.

Just to review, Comcast now owns NBCUniversal, which gives it the NBC television network and all its holdings, plus Spanish language cable channel Telemundo, Universal Pictures film studio, and Universal Parks & Resorts. They also have some little online startup called Hulu. (We’ll have to see if anything comes of this whole “streaming video” nonsense.)

The other partner in the corporate dance, Time Warner, owns Turner Broadcasting System (CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, etc.), and this little film studio called Warner Bros. They also have a small magazine publishing empire, but those apparently don’t get read as much anymore.

These two companies, which in total have around $100 billion in annual revenue, want to merge. That would put more media (cable Internet subscribers, TV channels, magazines, web sites, etc.) in the hands of a smaller number of owners. The net effect is to reduce the variety and scope of media, which is taken in by a great many, while driving further profits that only a few will see. This is consistent with the industry trends. Just like airline consolidation, media consolidation has seen the landscape go to there being 50 owners of major media outlets in 1993, to just five in 2014. That’s a drastic reduction within the recent scope of history. (See above, Telecommunications Act of 1996.)

That in and of itself shouldn’t be too surprising. And perhaps it’s not that surprising that the two international media conglomerates would go out of their way to lavish praise upon one FCC commissioner — particularly when the proposed merger is about to be before the FCC for its consideration.

According to Politico:

“Comcast and Time Warner Cable are sponsoring a dinner honoring FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at a time when the agency is weighing whether to approve a multibillion-dollar merger between the two companies.

“Comcast will pay $110,000 to be a top-level “presenting sponsor” at the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s annual dinner in September, at which Clyburn is receiving the “diversity advocate” award, according to a foundation spokeswoman. Time Warner Cable paid $22,000 in May to the foundation for the same event, according to a Senate lobbying disclosure filed at the end of last month. The foundation supports diversity in the cable industry.”

(h/t Reader Supported News)

Are you shocked? I’m shocked. Round up twice the number of usual suspects!

Just so long as they’re not FCC commissioners.

By the way: It may seem that this is something that we mere mortals cannot affect. After all, these companies with bazillions of dollars of revenue, they’re too big for us to affect, right? Comcast-Time Warner and network neutrality are beyond your pay grade, right? No, not at all. To find out how you can help, check out freepress.net, home of Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund. According to their site, “Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund do not support or oppose any candidate for public office. We are nonpartisan organizations fighting to save the free and open Internet, curb runaway media consolidation, protect press freedom, and ensure diverse voices are represented in our media.”

You CAN make a difference. Let’s do it!


Supervisor Haas Celebrates Construction Project; “East Layton Washboard” Now a Smooth Ride

See the press release right here!

This is perhaps the biggest thing I have ever done for the public’s benefit. This road is on the north side of General Mitchell International Airport,  and traveled by over 70,000 people each month. It’s one of the gateways to Milwaukee. And you no longer have to worry about having your car’s suspension (or your own tooth) knocked out when you drive on it.

I am working with the Milwaukee County DOT (MCDOT), WisDOT,  and Gateway to Milwaukee on making it even better. Stay tuned!

What if black holes aren’t black, but grey?…

I’ve never been aware of any call for consideration of theoretical physics in the realm of local government. But it was a topic that I  had a fringe interest in back in my youth, before I realized you have to have a mastery of calculus to actually do anything with it. Likewise, my past dabbling in computer technology marketing (calculus not required, thank you very much) brought me close to some folks at the online British IT rag The Register. That’s where I found this article about Professor Stephen Hawking‘s latest musing on the nature of black holes.

Professor Hawking has been grappling with the idea that black holes aren’t quite as static as we’d imagined them. The classic, suited-for-TV-and-movies model, was that black holes are a dark point of super-nothingness that once you get too close to, it’s the end of days (and time). That model is rebuffed by astronomical evidence. As we’ve found lately, black holes are surrounded by a giant electro-magnetic haze that’s generated by the quantum warping of matter. Such features are readily visible to the Hubble Space Telescope. (I wonder, what if a black hole is out in space, away from matter. Does it still have an EM cloud about it?)

Hawking’s latest argument is that black holes do not have an event horizon, which in the classic model was the gravitational line that once matter crosses, it’s forever trapped in the black hole’s clutches. According to The Register, Hawking thinks it’s an ” ‘apparent horizon’ made up of space-time that’s fluctuating too wildly to have a fixed boundary as such – leading to a grey hole, if you will, instead.” While the term “grey hole” loses a lot of the mystery and intrigue that the term “black hole” evokes, it’s good to have the model evolve.
Coming back to Earth, here’s Pink Floyd in 1968 playing “Astronomy Domine.” Enjoy.

I just don’t get wearable tech. At least not yet.

Call a sign of growing old. Call it a sign of a growing curmudgeonly nature. Call it what you will—I don’t understand this push for so-called wearable technology. What I’m really saying is, I don’t understand the value that this will add. How will it be sufficiently better than what tablets and smartphones can give us, and how will it be better enough to make us want to add it to our repertoire of devices? Especially when these super-powerful and super-portable devices already cost us quite enough time and capital.

The spate of media coverage of the CES show that I saw today on MacRumors.com — having been largely unaware that it was happening at all — got me thinking about this. Obviously the push toward this wearable paradigm is nothing new; the aforementioned Mac rumors site has a whole section on the much-rumored iWatch. But I’ve still got some questions about it.

One reason I’ve always liked Apple products is that they integrate a lot of features and abilities, and then get out of your way, allowing you to get on with your life. Sometimes you do need to be able to more deeply interact, but the vast majority of people do not. That’s the value-add of Apple products. Especially if you’re in the ”Apple ecosystem,” everything works quite nicely together. That means you don’t mind the lock-in to the Apple ecosystem and the constraints of DRM and higher price tags that come with it. As someone who bleeds in six colors, it’s hard to object to that. (He says as he dictates to his iPhone…)

Come to think of it, a smart watch with voice recognition capability that is able to sync with the free* services I do use maybe helpful. But I still have to be convinced. Again, what is the value in adding another expensive toy that may break or be lost?

This goes to show that I am not in the bleeding edge 1% of technological adopters. But as a Mac user since 1987, I’ve hardly been one at all. Let me think back to the wide plethora of games and entertainment titles we had on the Mac in the 1990s… Yeah. Not so much. (Note that at least one person apparently disagrees with that. And admittedly, things did start to get better after Marathon. If you’ve never heard of it, a company called Bungie created Marathon. It was descended from Pathways Into Darkness, and was the progenitor of a little game called Halo.)

So, technologists, what is the value-add? That’s what I would like to know.

* Mostly free, anyhow. What’s truly free? Aye, little, if anything. Google makes kajillions off of advertising. Microsoft made theirs out of licensing and buying (and copying) other people’s ideas. Apple found success in hardware that was inexorably linked to its software. Et cetera and so on. Linux is more mostly free than any other system, but even the hardware it runs on costs something, even if it has free BIOS and bootloaders and runs a truly free GNU/Linux. It’s a bitter cycle.

Announcing my 2014 County Budget Town Hall

So here’s the official announcement of my budget town hall for my constituents to tell me what’s on their minds.

Neighbors Invited to Share Input on Milwaukee County’s 2014 Budget

Milwaukee County Supervisor Jason Haas will hold a town hall meeting on October 30 at the Humboldt Park Pavilion. District 14 residents are encouraged to attend and express their views on the County’s 2014 Budget, including the proposed pool closures and the MCTS bus contract award. 

The meeting will be held on:

Wednesday, October 30 at 6:30 p.m.
Humboldt Park Pavilion
3000 South Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207