Briefly on the First Amendment

The First Amendment is a license from government that allows citizens to opine on the actions of government without fear of some punitive action in response.
 
Underscore, license. It is revocable. Somewhere, a brilliant government lawyer has already written a brief in support of such a revocation should that action become necessary.
 
The First Amendment is nothing to worship or flaunt as sacred and inviolable. Just because you or your pappy put on a uniform and fired a few rounds on a battlefield in the name of that right doesn’t give it anymore substance. The mere fact that government gave it to you should be a red flag, because they can yank it away from you just as fast.
 
The real issue, as in any other right, especially human or civil rights, is why people believe they need the permission or blessing of a relatively small group of individuals to speak or simply to be? Giving any artificial entity the right to regulate what should be natural is the most disturbing idea of all.
Posted in American society, democracy, free speech, government, human rights, libertarianism, liberty, media, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Using broadband to create a data trade

Proponents of connecting more people to the internet via a high-speed connection should consider the, “and …what else?” response from consumers who have not yet taken the broadband plunge. The violation of data privacy these consumers hear about may be an impediment to connecting to cyberspace so there has to be some benefit offsetting this fear.

I’ve talked in the past about consumers being able to enter the data market and offer their data for some type of compensation. Well, we’ve all heard the saying, “There’s an app for that.” In an article for Forbes, Juan Mitchell describes the data mining services of digi.me. digi.me allows consumers to aggregate their online data from multiple platforms including social media and store the aggregated data on to a device of their choice. The consumer then has the ability to make that data available to third parties for some type of compensation.

I like the idea because it gives consumers economic empowerment, especially in an emerging “Internet of Me” world.

First, by providing consumers the ability to trade data, consumers have an incentive to try high-speed broadband to connect to the internet and use these data mining apps.

Second, it provides broadband access providers with another demographic to consider when deciding where to deploy facilities, in this case a demographic made up of burgeoning data entrepreneurs.

Finally, information traders and acquirers have another tool for determining the price point for someone’s data. Not only is an acquirer getting accurate data from a consumer, they are getting a better sense of the data’s value as they eventually have to bid for the data as opposed to getting data from a third party that may have obtained data while violating a privacy policy.

A product that gives the individual consumer this type of economic empowerment is a positive in my book.

Posted in apps, big data, broadband, data brokers, e-commerce, Internet, Political Economy, wireless | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A better media model in the era of Trump

Watching news has become increasingly painful for the past two decades, with the demand for aspirin increasing exponentially, it seems, over the past three and a half months. At Mr Trump’s press conference last Thursday, he railed against the media’s alleged misrepresentation of his administration’s first thirty days. His less than artful dropping of phrases and words like, “I’m here to address the people”, “fake news”, and “bigly” was geared toward the base and served as a preamble to his campaign style rally in Melbourne, Florida the following day.

Mr Trump is using the media the way government is expected to use the media: as government’s mouthpiece. If a reporter isn’t getting a scoop from one of her contacts over lunch or at a conference, they are sitting next to a fact machine ready to copy edit and regurgitate the releases of a government agency communications office. Boring stuff. The writers getting the most play are the ones who can get some good hearsay and gossip thrown their way and spin a good yarn that in the end leaves the media consumer with no more valuable information at the end of the story as they had at the beginning.

It’s no wonder the media consumer is tired of the media and Mr Trump has masterfully tapped into this distrust. Only 32% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, according to one Gallup poll.  Lara Setrakian provided three ways to fix the media, including news built on deep-domain knowledge; a news industry pledge to “do no harm”; and embrace complexity because stories and solutions are not simplistic.

I disagree with Ms Setrakian. A news article should not provide any solutions because providing solutions means the risk of the journalist imparting some of their biased wisdom and viewpoints onto the media consumer. News should provide a summary of decisions an agency is expected to take or a summary of the action an agency took. It’s summaries should direct the media consumer directly to the underlying source of the summary so that the media consumer can do their own further analysis.

In other words, the media consumer should approach her consumption of news with empowerment. The media consumer should take on the responsibility of learning how to analyze the events around her so that she can make decisions that support her best interests without being subjected to an overly filtered news environment.

I have lessened my consumption of the mainstream fare over the last three months, instead focusing on announcements or decisions made by an agency or analyzing financial and economic data on my own. This is the ideal way to avoid the chances of fake news entering your timelines. I acknowledge that not everyone may have the technical skills to draw conclusions on what an agency action may mean. This is where the information provider should make available their subject matter experts to provide a technical, generalist explanation for a news item.

This is what your cable or newspaper subscription should be paying for; expert analysis that provides in-depth clarification of an event. You shouldn’t pay for Sean Hannity or Joy Ann Reid’s baseless blithering.

Posted in American society, democracy, Donald Trump, journalism, media, Political Economy, society | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The impermanence of the black American community

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines community as:

“Any group living in the same area or having interests, work, etc.in common; the general public; a sharing in common.”

The recent exchange between President Donald Trump and journalist April Ryan during a recent press conference, where Ms Ryan asked about Mr Trump’s plans for the inner city pique my interest about what “black community” actually means. Even though the specific topic was the inner city, since the term is code for black community I started pondering not only how this community could be helped, but also the existential question, is there one in the first place?

Anyone visiting the West End Atlanta would argue that, at least on the surface, the West End is a black community sharing in common race and a slave heritage. It also shares high unemployment, low income, and a disproportionate number of churches, fast food restaurants, barbershops, and hair salons.

The group also shares the threat of impermanence. Gentrification is progressively attacking the very commonality upon which the black community is built; the sharing of race and the history that acts as a platform for its current descendants of African slaves. As the population has its majority status reduced by a combination of blacks moving to lower rent areas and whites moving into refurbished homes, the black community is being transformed into a caramel community.

Mr Trump may be oblivious to this transformation. I would find such a state of oblivion unbelievable given that Mr Trump, as a real estate developer, should have his fingers on the pulse of the changing fabric of the inner city. I would also note that while the term, “inner city” is code for black community, as a unit of analysis for any policy action, any capital flowing to the “inner city” as a result of public policy may pass blacks along the way as the money flows in and blacks move out.

Another irony is that, if additional capital flows into inner cities as a result of some government action, the economic activity generated may drive up prices over the immediate run for black, low income residents that choose to tough it out and not move. Eventually the new economic activity stimulated by capital inflows will destroy what’s left of a community whose only shared commonality is race, slavery, and the hey days of the civil rights movement.

What policy action should black communities take if they are to take advantage of new capital while maintaining their commonality?

The first step should be to generate capital from internal sources, i.e., family, friends, churches, etc. Members of the community should be the first to have skin in the game of community development. Not only should they bear the risks, but should also reap the dividends, capital gains, and other returns.

The second step is to take those pooled resources and invest in going concerns that are owned by community-investors and targeted to businesses that address consumer needs and demands. Ownership of capital and businesses is necessary for wealth creation in the black community. An increased capacity and opportunity to create wealth will incentivize black residents to remain in black communities.

The third step is to reinvest the residuals from black-owned going concerns back into the community. Reinvestment leads to growth.

Finally, the black community should control as many natural resources as possible which would lead to lower costs for energy and food. Black communities should invest in licenses that allow access to the airwaves or spectrum in order to own and operate radio and television stations. Controlling media and messages about a community is necessary to a community’s health.

Black communities should also invest in farmland and other agricultural suppliers, transporting food products at lower costs to grocery stores and restaurants owned by entrepreneurs in the community.

Finally, black communities need to explore renewable energy sources like solar and wind where such sources increase energy security via reduced energy rates. Community and rooftop solar, while still relatively low in overall energy generation penetration, show promise. Reducing upfront costs for rooftop solar is still a challenge.

I don’t expect Donald Trump to have anywhere near as detailed a plan as my admittedly sketchy outline, but the black community risks its further demise if it doesn’t come up with its own plan of action with ownership and self-determination at its core.

Posted in American society, black American, capital, Donald Trump, free markets, gentrification, government, libertarianism, Political Economy, poverty, race, renewable energy, society, solar, spectrum | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

It’s the evolution that matters

You must continually evolve into your true essence; consistently chipping away at the clay and clutter that surrounds it. This is true minimalism.

Ironically, when you find that core essence, your mind will open to greater opportunities through which to express your essence. The pursuit of balance and wholeness becomes increasingly irrelevant. It is the evolution, the journey that matters.

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So far Trump is winning the political marketing war

No. Donald Trump is not popular, but the bundle of political twigs has packaged for his constituents has more traction than the political packages being put together by Democrats.

Mr Trump has, so far via a slew of executive orders, been making good on campaign promises. For example, on 3 February, Mr Trump issued an executive order espousing seven core principles for regulating the United States’ financial system. This executive order allows Mr Trump to argue that he has attempted to remove restraints on U.S. productivity and growth.

Another executive order, issued 30 January, requires that for every new regulation issued by an agency, that agency should identify two rules for elimination. In addition, new regulations should be “prudently managed” by the budget process. Again, another example of Mr Trump keeping his promises to his constituents.

An executive order issued 9 February requires that federal laws be enforced to protect federal, state, and local law enforcement officers from acts of violence. During his campaign, Mr Trump expressed his position that “blue lives matter.” By his executive order, Mr Trump wants his constituents to feel assured that legislative initiatives would be pursued that enhance, strengthen, or increase punishment of violent acts against law enforcement officers.

Last night’s resignation of former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, has put a dent in Mr Trump’s political market share. Mr Trump promised the electorate that he would run a foreign policy superior to the foreign policy initiatives of his predecessor. His administration will be spending the next few weeks explaining how Mr Trump could not have known that his national security adviser conversed with the Russian government without his knowledge.

At a minimum, it says something very negative about how a businessman known for his hands on management style could commit such an oversight. Democrats will pounce on this issue and I also expect them to use the media to apply pressure on the Congressional Republicans to initiate hearings on the matter.

Will the “fear and scandal” package developed and distributed by Democrats find any buyers? Among those who already dislike the President, yes, the package will sell, but it won’t collect any additional political revenue. In order to profit from the scandal, Democrats may have to connect the Administration’s mistake to real or perceived global harm and so far I don’t see any major global harm. The Administration hopes to negotiate with Russia the further coordination of activities to combat ISIS, but I don’t see those attempts be dampened simply because the benefits of coordinating a resolution of Syria’s ISIS problem outweighs the poor judgment of Michael Flynn.

Mr Trump still has an edge in the political marketing war, but he has a lot of work to do in order to keep it.

Posted in American society, democracy, Democrats, Donald Trump, Republicans, Russia, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Communications networks as platforms for individuality. Politicians should take note

It’s interesting how disconnectedly connected society is becoming with technology. It still trips me out how two people can walk or drive together with their noses stuck in an iPhone.  It is the great thing about broadband. High-speed access to the internet means connecting with hundreds or thousands of people across the street or across the globe while maintaining a non-intrusive physical distance.

The technology can be used to piece together your favorite types of music without having to do what we old heads did back in the day: buying whole albums on wax and suffering through an artist’s less than inspired songs before hearing our favorites. Or allowing radio stations to determine what we were going to hear. With this command over content choice and a set of earbuds to block out the rest of the world, we are easily creating our own spaces.

Young people appear to be taking the ability to disconnect from the norm to how they live their political lives. A recent article in The Economist describes how fewer young people in rich countries are turning out to vote. They are increasingly disconnected from the “better of two evils” platform their electoral systems may be offering. As a group they have a preference for putting together their own choices and creating their own world as we discussed earlier. They don’t spend the time connecting to politicians the way older generations do, and a politician has to have the ability to create a brand and communicate that brand effectively to young voters in order to get their attention.

Most politicians haven’t gotten this yet, although one could argue that Mr Trump has and ironically has used broadband and social media to promote his brand. Hillary Clinton never figured out the branding or the social media connectivity issue and paid for that mistake in the polls.

Providers of communications networks are in a great position to take advantage of this change in attitude. T-Mobile and Sprint understand how important branding is because the need to stand out when you are the number three and four wireless carrier in the industry, creating a recognizable brand is crucial. The carriers know that whether an 18 year old wants to be absorbed in their own little world by running music access apps or someone selling items online wants their type “A” personality extended to as many consumers as possible, the networks are there to serve them.

Politicians could take a chapter from a wireless carrier’s playbook.

 

Posted in American society, broadband, democracy, Donald Trump, Internet, social networks, society, T-Mobile, technology, two-party system | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Low approval rating and U.S. being “not so innocent” gives Trump centrist opportunity

Donald Trump has a low approval rating. According to data cited by Time, 53% of Americans disapprove of how the 45th president is doing his job while 44% give him the thumbs up.

Comments made last weekend about similarities between the United States and Russia may not have endeared him to many Americans either. In an interview with Fox News, Mr Trump reminded interviewer Bill O’Reilly that both Russia and the United States have “lots of killers” and asked Mr O’Reilly whether he thought the United States was ” so innocent.”

The GOP immediately distanced themselves from Mr Trump’s statements. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, derided Mr Trump for attempting to draw equivalency between a Vladimir Putin-led Russia and the United States, calling out Mr Putin as a “thug.”

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, thought it was “bizarre” of the President to equate the United States and Russia and that Mr Trump’s comments were a gift for Russia’s propaganda machine.

What we may be seeing here is Mr Trump’s clumsy attempts at using triangulation. The term was coined by Dick Morris, a former consultant to former president Bill Clinton.

“Morris described triangulation in an interview on Frontline in 2000: ‘Take the best from each party’s agenda, and come to a solution somewhere above the positions of each party. So from the left, take the idea that we need day care and food supplements for people on welfare. From the right, take the idea that they have to work for a living, and that there are time limits. But discard the nonsense of the left, which is that there shouldn’t be work requirements; and the nonsense of the right, which is you should punish single mothers. Get rid of the garbage of each position, that the people didn’t believe in; take the best from each position; and move up to a third way. And that became a triangle, which was triangulation.’ ”

In Mr Trump’s case, the nonsense he seeks to discard is more like a bunch of identical “so whats” shared by both parties. Both sides think America is exceptional (so what), and both sides believe Mr Putin is an ex-KGB agent thug (so what). What Mr Trump finds to be more important is to identify Putin and Russia’s self-interest and negotiate some type of coordination between the two countries that leads to some prolonged, least violent stalemate in Syria.

Technically, the move looks like triangulation because Mr Trump has positioned himself between both parties, but in reality, this is just pushing both parties into a corner with instructions to be quiet and behave. I suspect that Mr Trump will attempt more of these tactics over the next four years.

Posted in Democrats, Donald Trump, GOP, Russia, Uncategorized, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is it time for the Democratic version of the Tea Party?

CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s April 2009 rant regarding proposed stimulus spending by the Obama administration contributed to the birth of the Tea Party, that fringe element of the Republican Party that advocated for less government interference in the markets, reduced government spending, and reduced taxes. While the movement did not create any legislative success, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure since the movement was able to persuade some members of Congress to advocate for the movement’s position on spending and taxes.

Could the Democratic Party benefit from such a movement? The past two weeks have seen Congressional Democrats voice concerns espoused by protesters during a number of marches and protests. Concerns have ranged from reproductive rights to immigration to civil rights to repealing the Affordable Care Act.  These concerns, however, were not the concerns of the voters that supported Donald Trump in November 2016.

Lower and middle income white voters expressed feelings of economic disenfranchisement and that civil rights initiatives worked against them. Loss of manufacturing jobs in the Rust Belt added fuel to the feelings of economic disenfranchisement. Also, some Trump supporters like the idea of a president dedicated to growing the economy without redistributing wealth.

These are the voters that Hillary Clinton did not reach in 2016 and if the Democrats want to do well in the midterms, they will have to craft political packages to win these voters over. So far there is no indication that Democrats intend to address, legislatively at least, the concerns that drove rural voters to come out for Trump. My review of 200 (12.1%) pieces of legislation filed in the House during the 115th Congress indicates that no Democrats have filed any legislation addressing the concerns that drove Mr Trump’s supporters. It is still early but Democrats don’t appear to eager to knock on the doors of people living in the “Flyover States.”

 

Posted in American society, democracy, Democrats, Economy, Election2016, government, Political Economy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Pai’s focus on local government bottlenecks to #broadband is spot on

Today, Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced the formation of a broadband deployment advisory committee. The committee will advise the Commission on public policy that encourages additional broadband deployment.  One of those roadblocks to deployment identified in Chairman Pai’s is the regulatory roadblock that local governments put in the way of broadband providers. I think Chairman Pai’s analysis is spot on and I base my conclusion on my work experience in local government.

If an upstart broadband provider wants to enter a market and provide alternative video and broadband services in a market where there is a dominant video provider, franchise application fees may impose an exorbitant burden on the new entrant and discourage further efforts to enter the market. Even if the new entrant has the financial wherewithal, the local government may require the new entrant to provide connectivity between all of the local government’s agency offices or porvide a number of video channels for government or public use, channels that otherwise could be used to earn revenue.

Along with pole attachments and rights-of-way management, I hope Chairman Pai’s committee addresses the bottlenecks that local government erect and that new entrants find hard to navigate.

Posted in broadband, cable, Federal Communications Commission, video | Tagged , , | Leave a comment