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The Potential Value of Antitrust

[ 89 ] March 17, 2014 |

I was recently dismissive of the Democratic Party’s record on antitrust, and in doing so I was unfair; the Obama administration’s record is actually quite good, and a major improvement from its predecessor.  Perhaps the most important antitrust action was stopping the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, which appears to have been a major win for consumers:

A rash of consumer-friendliness has broken out across the mobile data industry. Over the last year, the four major carriers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile — have cut prices and offered greater flexibility in how they sell their voice, text and broadband services. The industry could be on the verge of an all-out price war.

Who is responsible for this blessed state of affairs?

Credit must go to the United States government.

In 2011, officials at the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department moved to block AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile. That kept the struggling, fourth-place carrier alive as an independent firm. And it led John J. Legere, T-Mobile’s flamboyant, foul-mouthed chief executive, to brand his company the “uncarrier,” and inaugurate a string of measures that have turned every accepted practice in the mobile business on its head.

T-Mobile’s resurgence, and the effect it has had on the larger market for cellular service, may hold important lessons for regulators who will soon sit in judgment over the latest enormous broadband proposal, Comcast’s deal to gobble up Time Warner Cable.

Kentucky Has a Kansas Problem. No, Not That One.

[ 26 ] March 16, 2014 |

I draw considerable inspiration in those moments when my alma mater outseeds my employer in the NCAA Tournament Bracket.  Remember the LGM Tournament Challenge:

League: Lawyers, Guns and Money

Password: zevon

Rules, Shmules — Did He Suck Up to the Media?

[ 192 ] March 16, 2014 |

Bill Madden is very upset that the greatest player of the last 40 years showed up at Giants spring training.  (If A-Rod is like Whitey Bulger, is Bonds Jeffrey Dahmer?  Pol Pot? Hopefully Madden will address this important question soon.)   He puts his anti-steroids fanaticism in perspective with a comparison to former sportswriter idol Pete Rose:

And, with one year to go in his commissionership, Selig is not about to lift Rose’s ban, in spite of the renewed debate as to which is the more serious crime against baseball, gambling or out-and-out cheating with performance-enhancing drugs, which has made a mockery of the game’s records. It has been pointed out that baseball’s cardinal rule against gambling is all-encompassing and that there is a big difference between fixing a World Series — as the permanently banned 1919 White Sox did — and betting on your own team to win, as Rose did as manager of the Reds from 1984-89.

To deal with the second part first, even assuming arguendo that Rose’s baseball-related gambling involved only betting on his own team, when you’re talking about a manager that’s not actually a defense.  Betting on your own team to win as a manager poses a rather obvious threat to the integrity of the game. (“Jose Rijo — looking good in the bullpen!  You can throw 180 pitches today, right?”)  Sure, what he did was less serious than fixing a World Series, but it merited a lifetime ban for good reason. On the first point, allow me to settle this “debate” quickly:

So, this is an easy one; Roses committed actual crimes against baseball and Bonds did not, making the question of whose crimes were worse moot. The fact that Rose was an “ambassador” for the game — i.e. in terms of eliciting unspeakably irritating fawning from the media he was the Derek Jeter of his era — is neither here nor there, and nor am I the slightest bit interested in the long-standing grudge many sportswriters have against Bonds. Rose was clearly a PED user, although he used the kind of PEDs anti-PED hysterics find acceptable because LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE GLORIOUS BROOKLYN DODGERS THE ONLY TEAM ANYONE HAS EVER CARED ABOUT EVER.

And, by the way, how confident are we that Rose, who as the Dowd Report made clear was closely associated with steroid dealers and played until he was 45 in order to break one of baseball’s most Sacred Records, wasn’t a steroid user? Fortunately for Rose, he broke the Sacred Record of a far better player who was also a crude racist rather than one of Madden’s boyhood idols, so he doesn’t think to ask the question. (Speaking of which, this is a favorite non-sequitur of Rose apologists — “But Ty Cobb is in the Hall of Fame, and he was a racist!” As soon as someone can point to a contemporaneous American League rule against being a fairly typical white guy born in Georgia in 1886, this point will actually be relevant.)

I fear that this could be a sign of a new particularly virulent strain of anti-PED fanaticism — crossing it with blubbering nostalgia for Charlie Hustle. Ugh.

Go OC!

[ 8 ] March 16, 2014 |

Congrats to the Oregon City Pioneers, who defeated South Medford last night to win the 6A Oregon Girl’s Basketball Championship. This is the twelfth championship for the team since 1992, and the first since 2009.

More On Malaysia 370

[ 101 ] March 15, 2014 |

I assume many of you are already reading Fallows, but if not and you’re interested in the subject his work is essential.

Update [pc]:

Per USA Today:

The homes of both the pilot and the co-pilot were searched on Saturday, and a flight simulator belonging to pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 59, is being examined, Hishammuddin said. Authorities are also investigating the engineers who worked on the plane.

The South China Morning Post reported Sunday that Zaharie has close ties with Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was recently sentenced to prison on a charge of sodomy, which the opposition has appealed. Speaking to USA TODAY, a close friend of Zaharie’s, Peter Chong, said Zaharie does support the opposition but that the reports that he may have had a role in diverting the plane were “not true.”

“He is a political activist, yes. And yes, he was in court for Anwar’s trial and he is our strong supporter, but that does not make him a terrorist,” said Chong.

The NYT is now reporting that the pilot had a normal conversation with ATC after the plane’s data transmission system was turned off.

FDL Book Salon

[ 17 ] March 15, 2014 |

Reminder: I’m doing an FDL Book Salon this afternoon at 5pm, EDT.  Here is my intro to the political aspects of the argument made in Grounded. Hope to see everyone there!

The Texas Non-Miracle

[ 182 ] March 15, 2014 |

Three salient takeaways from Phillip Longman’s excellent piece explaining why Texas is not the model for economic development that Republicans would like to think it is:

  • Economic growth in Texas has been relatively rapid, but it has been driven almost entirely by 1)immigration (not migration from other states) and 2)the oil and gas boom.
  • Per capita income in Texas has been lagging well behind a variety of states with better and more humane governance, including Maryland, Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts.
  • For the ordinary person, Texas is not a low-tax state.  To make up for the lack of income tax, Texas imposes high regressive sales and property taxes.  (The conflation of “income taxes” with “taxes” is truly one of the great accomplishments of dishonest conservative rhetoric, making it all the way to Harvard Yard.)

The bottom line:

No wonder then, that the flow of Americans moving to Texas is so modest. The state may offer low housing prices compared to California and an unemployment rate below the national average, but it also has low rates of economic mobility, minimal public services, and, unless you are rich, taxes that are as high or higher than most anywhere else in America. And worse, despite all the oil money sloshing around, Texas is no longer gaining on the richest states in its per capita income, but rather getting comparatively poorer and poorer.

Republicans: Concerned with Big Gubmnet and Scary Mexicans. Democrats: Concerned with Equity and Maybe Not Destroying the World

[ 142 ] March 15, 2014 |

The first thing I noticed when reading this Gallup poll of what concerns Americans is how low environmental issues and climate change are on the list. The second thing I noticed is how Republicans are concerned primarily with resentment and fear while Democrats are concerned with equity and a fair shake for people. And at least more concerned with the greatest problem facing the world in the 21st century, if not concerned enough.


[ 132 ] March 15, 2014 |

Ever more bizarre…

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia announced on Saturday afternoon that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 left its planned route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing as the result of deliberate action by someone aboard.

Mr. Najib also said that search efforts in the South China Sea had been ended, and that technical experts now believed that the aircraft could have ended up anywhere in one of two zones — one as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia, and the other crossing the southern Indian Ocean.

That conclusion was based on a final signal from the plane picked up on satellite at 8:11 a.m. on March 8, nearly seven hours after ground control lost contact with the jet, he said.

There have been a few comments around the internets to the effect “How, with all of our military hardware, could we possibly have lost an entire plane?”  The answers are relatively straightforward.  First, most of what we know about a given aircraft’s position and direction comes from information supplied by the plane itself.  When position monitoring devices are disabled by the crew or by malfunction, we lose most of the data we have access to.  Second, “active” radar monitoring is, especially at sea and in relatively underdeveloped areas, far more sparse than you’d expect.  We don’t have a series of radar picket ships or floating radar stations monitoring every expanse of sea, and unless radar-operating warships have some reason to track a civilian airliner, they generally don’t pay much attention in any case.

Still, this has moved firmly into realms of “weird” and “disconcerting.”

But What Was That Rape Victim Wearing?

[ 82 ] March 14, 2014 |

It’s a stupid question, and whether intentionally or not asking it is rape apologia.

Rush Limbaugh Needs that Children’s Book Award. Will You Help Him?

[ 94 ] March 14, 2014 |

I don’t need to read any of these children’s books to know Rush Limbaugh deserves the Children’s Choice Book Award for his no doubt outstanding magnum opus, “Rush Revere and The Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans.” I think you know you need to force your children to “choose” this book for America and white pride.

Where Is That Partisan Convergence I’ve Been Hearing About?

[ 136 ] March 14, 2014 |

Yesterday, the Senate finally reached a deal to extend unemployment benefits (with the extension applied retroactively.) Whew. Since the parties are now essentially indistinguishably neoliberal on economic policy, I assume getting this through the House will just be a formality:

House conservatives moved quickly Thursday to condemn an agreement struck by a bipartisan group of 10 senators to retroactively restore for 5 months emergency unemployment insurance that expired in December.

The proposal from senators representing some of the most economically distraught states would be paid for through changes to single-employer pension plans and extending fees on U.S. customs users through 2024. The extension would not be restored for the tiny fraction of millionaires who receive unemployment insurance. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I), who led the negotiations with Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), called it a “bipartisan breakthrough.”

But the reaction from

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influential House conservatives who had yet to hear of the plan ranged from skeptical to outright opposition, suggesting the bill will struggle to get beyond the Senate.

This is the problem with today’s spineless, increasingly conservative Democratic Party in a nutshell. Barack Obama could have invented a time machine, gone back to the constitutional convention, proposed a counter-proposal to the Virginia Plan that created a unicameral parliament apportioned by population while also including a national ban on slavery, rammed it right down the throats of the constitutional convention, returned to 2014, and quickly moved the Unemployment Benefits and Single Payer Health Care Act through the House of Representatives. I mean, I’m not saying this plan was guaranteed to work, but we’ll never know because he Didn’t. Even. Try.

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