Snow in Southern California

I have often traveled coast to coast.  Sometimes there is snow in the Los Angeles area mountains.  IF we were warming, it would be gone.  It isn’t gone…

http://ktla.com/2015/02/28/winter-storm-to-bring-snow-rain-cold-to-southern-california-this-weekend/

Hopefully this will clear in the next week or so…

Winter Storm to Bring Snow, Rain, Cold to Southern California This Weekend
Posted 6:33 AM, February 28, 2015, by Tracy Bloom, Erin Myers, Steve Kuzj and Chris Wolfe, Updated at 02:21am, March 1, 2015
[…]

A winter storm watch was in effect for the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura counties starting Saturday afternoon. It was scheduled to expire early Monday.

Snow levels were expected to drop to between 4,500 and 5,000 feet in mountain areas before falling to 3,500 to 4,000 feet on Sunday, the weather service reported. The Grapevine and Highway 14 could see a light dusting of snow as a result, forecasters said.

Up to 8 inches of snow was expected to fall above elevations of 4,000 feet, while more than a foot was expected in mountain areas above 6,500 feet.

As a result of the winter weather, motorists were being warned of potentially icy and snow-packed mountain roads and highways. Possible hail accumulation was another factor that could make roadways slick.

With the sleepy sun and lower UV has come lower snow levels and lower atomspheric height. IMHO this is the major method of solar impact on weather.

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Posted in News Related | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

OTRA – Expect Brevity

I’m going to be On The Road Again, for a while. Expect things to be sparse and terse.

I’ll still be checking in, but any postings will be fewer and shorter.

Why? Because I’m moving into the spare room of my Florida Friend and the Chromebox doesn’t have a screen. I’ve been using the second TV in my rental cottage here in Florida, and it does not move with me. So no big screen, no large keyboard, no fast typing rate (the Note notepad has significant key lag as it spends time looking up word fragments in the dictionary instead of just taking the keystrokes; so my usually very fast touch typing becomes slow as “almost hunt and peck” as I have to wait for each keystroke to be processed… maybe I’ll look for a way to turn off word lookup…)

As of now, everything is packed and I’m just cleaning up the place (floors vacuumed, hard surfaces wiped, linoleum and ceramic surfaces scrubbed). Only thing left is the Chromebox, so this is the last you will hear from it for “a while”.

My longer term plans are a lot more murky. At least one trip to California in the next few weeks (sometime) to deliver a load of stuff (amazing how much accumulates in a couple of years) including several boxes of stuff the spouse accumulated. Turns out that shippers use something they call “Dimensional Weight” to decide what to charge you. That means that a box with “fluffys” in it like a pillow and a couple of special Disney Lion Towels can easily cost you $50 to ship, even if it weighs about 10 lbs or less. Adding it all up, the spousal boxes cover the cost of gasoline to drive them back in the Banana Boat (wagon that is yellow…).

But my ultimate “residence” is very much up in the air. I’m looking for work on both coasts, with a bit of emphasis on Florida ( I really like it here… ); but where the opportunity arises is where I’ll end up. Time will tell as I “drift on the wind”. For now, I’m keeping the Florida address and legal residency along with a car in Florida (and leaving a lot of MY stuff in the friends spare room, to which I will return after playing delivery boy and take a bit of time in California). It can be interesting being “bi coastal”…

So, with that, expect to see queues serviced and postings (if short) made as I find a Starbucks or other WiFi hotspot, have the tablet ready to go, and feel like dealing with the minimal keyboard.

Life’s an adventure, and I’m off to roll the dice again! Cheers!

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Posted in Human Interest | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Carping Comment – Seriousoly

It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a “Carping Comment”. Most folks figured out fairly quickly that I didn’t “Do” that whole ‘insult for effect’ or snark and snipe scene. That being polite was THE most important thing I look for, and anyone’s actual political or otherwise opinions are not even on my filter radar.

But some folks are slower learners than others. And for a few, snark and snide, insult and bate are all they have. Going, always, for the cheap snicker, never for the content. Looking for the “angle” to exploit, with typical Troll tactics, is just what they want. (Things like asking snide questions that take only a second or two to type, but where the ‘defense’ takes a 1/2 hour or 2.) Well, we’ve got another one of those.

From “Serioso” on https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/does-obama-love-america/

My answer to that sort of “Carping Comment” is to go ahead and answer it, but instead of the usual “20 seconds of snark consumes an hour to respond” so they ‘win’ angle, to use it instead as an abject lesson of what Carping Comments do wrong and why they often sit in the “Moderation queue” for a long time, or sometimes are just ignored. Since they contribute nothing, and are clearly aimed at emotional hurt and time suckage. Instead, I make a posting out of them “for educational purposes”.

For those wondering, I’ve now got a grand total of 17 in the ‘pending moderation’ queue for such issues. The oldest dates from May 2010 (and I’ve still not seen reason to deal with it…) so I make that about 3 or 4 / year. Not exactly a big load. And yes, I ought to have dealt with the others. But life has priorities, and shoveling Dreck or dealing with Snark is not high on the list.

But Serioso is different from most. Usually has some clue, even if a ways misplaced, and generally trainable (can stay polite for about a year at a time before backsliding into snark land), and often there are some worthwhile points to be looked over. So usually his stuff just gets a fairly rapid response and goes on through. Some other times, not so much.

With that lead in, here is the Carping Comment in the entirety, then I’ll break bits out to “answer”:

It amuses me to think that if you were my pupil and I your teacher I’d have to give your effort here a C at best. No mention of any actual facts! For example, what was the maximum marginal tax rate when JFK managed to get lower rates through Congress? What rate was agreed to? What is the maximum marginal tax rate under Obama? And, by the way, what was the rate of Federal tax as a percentage of GDP under Kennedy? How does that compare with today’s?

You can rant about today’s socialist state all you want, but the numbers say the USA was a far more egalitarian country back in the 1960s. I’m afraid you’ve been seduced by propaganda. Perhaps you’ve been spending too much time watching Fox ‘News’?

OK, the analysis, IMHO:

“It amuses me to think that if you were my pupil and I your teacher I’d have to give your effort here a C at best. No mention of any actual facts!”

So right out the gate we get a “faint damning”. Just the way to make someone feel appreciated and be nice…

(yes, I’m free to /snark; in return in Carping Comments land).

Then a jab at “no facts”. Completely missing that this is an opinion piece. What I said:

So we have yet another “Does So!” vs “Does Not!” over something that is artificial slime and at most a useless distraction from everything that matters. (Thanks again, Saul A…. /sarc;)

So what’s the truth, IMHO?

Obama does NOT love the America of our history, that has existed up until his election, and that most of the USA does love. Obama DOES love the America of his dreams, as he sees it could be after his “Fundamental Transformation” to its character is completed.

I “toss rocks” at Saul Alinsky in a clearly labeled /sarc; comment, aimed at the fact that we have as a society degraded into constant insult and attack, IMHO largely due to the large number of folks following his “Rules For Radicals” that encourages such impolite and attack oriented strategy in social discourse. I then, clearly, state that I’m giving my opinion. (Note to Serioso: IMHO means In My Humble OPINION. Make a note of it, or I’ll have to give you a D in listening skills…)

So his complaint is that I’m not giving the facts he wants in a statement of my OPINION.

So how can one possibly answer that in just a few seconds without giving Troll Food to the Troll behaviours?

OK, well move on…

He then makes a half assed attempt at an argument, but all of it in the form of question. A very common Troll tactic; designed to consume LOTS of your time while never actually stating a position that needs to be defended. Implying a position, but never actually taking one. Tossing question hand grenades, then running.

We’ll skip that for now, but come back in a moment. Lets skip on down to the close for the closing snark.

“I’m afraid you’ve been seduced by propaganda. Perhaps you’ve been spending too much time watching Fox ‘News’?”

An “insult to the person” with asserting that I’m weak willed and subject to swallowing propaganda. Never mind that a few dozen times I’ve pointed out that “insults to the person” are to be avoided, and many times directly told Serioso that (under various pseudonyms he’s used over the years).

But, to the point: No, I have not been “seduced by propaganda”. My positions are entirely my own and I spend a great deal of time and effort working out the reality behind what is presented in the swill that constitutes “the media” on any given day.

As has been said many times here, and Serioso knows, I read / browse widely. From Russia Today to Aljazera (who both are often more unbiased on some things than the US or UK press – just watch out for their favorite personal biases) to BBC and a few dozen others. (The Indian news sources are often interesting, and I quoted one recently on that posting about Mars: https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/weather-change-on-planets-in-sync-with-earth/ had http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/mars-orbiter-sends-pictures-of-dust-storm-activities-on-the-red-planet-672615 in it. Hardly the stuff of someone stuck on one news feed…)

But, to the particulars… I’d stated:

I think this is largely a tempest in a teapot, but I’m going to stick an oar in the water anyway.

CNN and the Loony Side Of Left are doing their usual character assassination on Rudy Giuliani. FOX is all over the way the Lame Stream Press has tried to use this to “frame” Scott Walker as either out of touch, or gutless (unwilling to comment), or a closet believer that Obama has the claimed faults.

So first off, I clearly stated I think the whole thing is highly over rated (“tempest in a tea pot”) and that it was not really very important. Again, hardly the stuff of one who is “seduced” by propaganda or otherwise… But Serioso has a D- behavior in reading skills and comprehension (and since I do teach college, I feel it’s OK to give a grade. I also teach English As A Second Language now, so feel qualified to comment on reading comprehension… ) Then I go on to, GASP!, reference CNN first. I then (double GASP!) point out that FOX is mostly doing a mud toss at other news media (who likely deserve it at this point) but without my endorsement of the report. Simply saying “this is what they are doing” is not endorsement. Setting the stage is what it is called. Showing the two sides POV and how they contrast.

Now, in fairness, Serioso can’t make out that in this sentence “CNN and the Loony Side Of Left” are two different subjects. CNN is the news program, and the LSOL are some of their guests / interviewees. CNN often shows folks they don’t endorse, so it is NOT an assertion that CNN is the “Loony Side Of Left”, only that on many other forums, and from some of the folks CNN has shown, they are BOTH doing a character assasination on Rudy. (Maybe that D- reading comprehension needs to be lower… if I have to explain this…) That FOX is largely just doing a knee jerk “Is Not!” in being “all over it” is not an endorsement of them, either. I repeat, again, here, my evaluation of ALL of them, including CNN and FOX:

“So we have yet another “Does So!” vs “Does Not!” over something that is artificial slime and at most a useless distraction from everything that matters.”

A slam on both of them for doing stupid “does so vs does not” non-journalism. What I called “artificial slime” and a “distraction from everything that matters”.

How that gets turned into an endorsement of Fox is a bit beyond me. But the “insult, question and run” Troll Tactics don’t need to make sense, they just need to sow confusion and consume time and effort. And that is why I generally suppress such things.

Finally, to the one specific in the “insult and run”:

“spending too much time watching Fox ‘News’?”

I must agree with putting news in quotes. I find it terribly annoying that they are largely opinion and only a little bit of news (and that news largely only during east coast normal business hours). For that reason, I watch far more CNN than I do Fox. Yes, it’s true. Once you have heard Hannity repeatedly talking over his “guests” and raising a ruckus, and once you’ve spent 20 minutes trying to understand what anyone is saying on some of the other shows (where they have 5 guests and the host all shouting at the same time) it “gets old quick”. O’Reilly is a bit better in that he keeps things orderly and you can actually hear both sides, but it only takes a little time to figure out what his rant of the day is about. So I’ll “drop in”, figure out the topic du jour, and then often move on. And, given my current cable feed, that means to CNN. (Though I often come back for The Five for their fairly orderly discussions between sides with humor, and if I see Juan Williams on a segment hang out to find out his views as he has a fair perspective.)

I miss my BBC and Al Jazeera news feeds. As it is now, I only get them via the computer instead of from the TV, but that will change before too long. Heck, I even used to drop in on pMSNBC to see what the latest rant from the Loony Side Of Left was, but they are not available much now either…

So no, I’m not “spending too much time watching Fox”, I’m spending too much time watching CNN as they have actual news (like they cut in for real breaking news events around the world) and give me at least a little of what I used to get from The BBC and Al Jazeera. (Russia Today not so much – I have to get them via computer too. Though lately I’ve been watching Brazlian news as I was teaching Brazilian kids…)

But that bit of “at Fox” snark takes far longer to “answer” than to toss the question, so it becomes Carping Comment fodder.

The rest of that posting was, largely, my synopsis of a few decades (about 5 now) of watching our economic and political systems. It is largely the product of my own observations, and did not come from some other source, so no, no links. Now, back at the specifics about that:

For example, what was the maximum marginal tax rate when JFK managed to get lower rates through Congress? What rate was agreed to? What is the maximum marginal tax rate under Obama? And, by the way, what was the rate of Federal tax as a percentage of GDP under Kennedy? How does that compare with today’s?

You can rant about today’s socialist state all you want, but the numbers say the USA was a far more egalitarian country back in the 1960s.

Really comes in two parts. The last line makes a bald assertion that America today is more “egalitarian” than it was in the 1960’s. Now were did THAT come from? Did I assert that the 1960s were MORE egalitarian? Did I assert ANYTHING about “egalitarian”? Have I ever even stated an opinion about “egalitarian”? It’s not very high on my list of things to think about.

In short, this comes down to a Bald Assertion ( I note in passing that no evidence was given by Serioso for this assertion, while he tosses insult at me for not having evidence for my opinion ) that “more egalitarian” is better and that (somehow unclear) I must be against it and something I said must have been supportive of a less egalitarian world. Finally, in some even more unclear way, this is supposedly connected to Socialism. An economic system that is not particularly egalitarian either – look at how well ‘party leaders’ made out in various Socialist Paradise countries & don’t forget that Lang Type and “3rd Way” governments like Italian Fascism of W.W.II are also Socialist and the “Crony Capitalism” of them is hardly “egalitarian”. So just to make it perfectly clear:

I am personally in favor of an egalitarian world, but one that is egalitarian in opportunities and not in government mandated outcomes. This favor of egalitarian opportunities is largely the reason I’m against most forms of Socialism, as they want, IMHO, to largely make folks equal in poverty and oppression of choice. I’m much more in favor of Libertarian and Classical Liberal ideals, as the allow anyone to rise to greatness. (See the long list of “from the garage to $Millionaire” stories in American history). BTW, I’m largely in that same boat. Dad & Mom arrived in California in a beat up old Ford with about $10 in the pocket just after W.W.II. Everything else has been “up from nothing” because of equality of opportunity. Now, I see those opportunities being squashed at every turn by Central Authority of a Socialist bent and feel sorrow for the young war vet of today trying to do the same thing. Oh, BTW, they had 2 young children in the car when they arrived too…

As per my assertion that the present form of government in the USA is Socialist: Well, it is. That’s not a rant, that’s just an observation of the status of things. I’m a trained Economist and we have a marginally Lange Type Socialism. That moment came when GM was prevented from the normal bankruptcy resolution (that does NOT mean the end of GM, only the end of GM Managers and Stockholders as the bond holders take over and decide what to do with THEIR ownership) and the government took over an ownership position. We have a Social Welfare state, with government mandated health care and massive government payments of all sorts of “transfer payments” to folks. Obama is clearly more enamored of a full on Marxist economy, but Lange Type is about as far as he can reach at the moment. Government control of industry, but indirectly via massive regulation. Oh, and don’t forget the “wet kiss” to labor in the form of a large grant of new GM stock. Right out of the Socialism 101 playbook.

Now, once again, just to make my personal position abundantly clear (since some folks have low reading comprehension scores…) I’m not a free markets uber alles capitalist. It “has issues”. Monopoly practices is one (actually more like dozens, but…) along with the tendency for massive wealth to corrupt governments and buy special treatment. I’m just not seeing any risk of that breaking out any time soon. The “Mixed Economy” of the ’60s wasn’t really all that bad, IMHO, especially compared with the Robber Barons of the 1800s. (Yes, their were some – please don’t rant at me that they did not exist. Go read the history of Standard Oil and the Rockefellers instead. They are the reason we have anti-trust laws today.) In fact, my major reason for complaint about our current form of Socialism Lite is that it is subject to the same kind of Crony Capitalism and “Wealth For The Well Connected Businesses” as was the Italian Fascists, the National State Socialists, and all the others who have tried it. It is LESS egalitarian and LESS free.

“3rd Way Socialism” depends on concentration of power (and through that, wealth) in the hands of a small number of businesses that are easier for the Government to regulate. It is MUCH easier to get the 10 Too Big To Fail bankers in a room and threaten them than to try that with 10,000 bankers in local banks.

I’m 100% in favor of Absolute Minimum But Extant Government Regulation. Largely just forbidding (and Policing) monopoly and oligopoly practices and various other “unfair” practices. That would include, BTW, many labor union practices once they get monopoly power in the labor market in a sector. (Look at the absolutely outrageous wages paid to dock workers on the West Coast, largely because they can hold $Trillions of trade hostage. Last I looked, and that was a couple of decades back, folks were paid about $150,000 / year for doing simple driving / loading type jobs).

But again, you see that even a minimal answer takes way longer than to lob the snark question…

Then Serioso wants to go into some kind of argument about marginal tax rates. Why is completely left absent, and what he thinks is the “correct” state is also absent. Missing, too, is the fact that the Fed tax take has been roughly constant at about 18% regardless of tax RATES. Laffer Curve seems to not be in his wheel house. But I lived through that time. The top rates were far more crushing than now, so folks found all sorts of ways to not pay them. Now there are fewer dodges, but the net take is about the same. In all cases we’re on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve, and a cut in tax take would stimulate the moribund economic growth we have now ( about 2%, maybe, but we have bogus inflation numbers that likely make that a real 0% growth rate).

All of this from my “thumbnail” reprise of Economic History in the USA:

The simple fact is that the America of our constitution died some time ago. I remember it, in a hazy kind of way, from the ’50s with a few echos holding on into the ’60s ( even John F. Kennedy believed in things like lower taxes to increase prosperity ); but even that is a faded version post Progressive Era. The ’70s and ’80s had ongoing erosion of that America but with a brief resurgence under Reagan, and by the late ’90s we were in the full embrace of “Progressive” views. (Hillary once said she was not a “Liberal” but a “Progressive”…) Those progressive and socialist views are antithetical to the fundamental nature of the America of our Constitution. No two ways about it.

Note that the ENTIRE reference to Kennedy is a recognition that he understood we were on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve, and did something about it, and it worked. Compare that to our present government that is constantly whining for “More Taxes” and not recognizing that we are way past the top of the Laffer Curve. None of this, BTW, has anything to do with me, what I want, or what I would advocate. It is simply a direct observation of the extant reality that we’ve spent far more time on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve than on the right side, and if you are raking in 18% or so at The Federal level, that’s it. No more is available. All you do from that point on with more tax RATES and more regulations and more hidden, special, or indirect taxes is squash economic production and lower the available taxable wealth to steal. So it’s a stupid game to play. Yet both the Democrats and Republicans would rather choose WHO gets screwed than stop the screwage and get more tax revenues. Sigh.

(It’s not a hypothetical either. When we’ve cut tax rates, tax revenues go up. Clear historical evidence that we’re on the downhill side of the Laffer Curve.)

So yes, Serioso, Under Kennedy top marginal tax rates were higher than now. No, that doesn’t change anything. No, raising them will NOT give more Federal tax revenue, nor will it make the world more “egalitarian”. We’ve run all those ‘experiments’ before and the result is less tax take, weaker economies, fewer jobs, and more wealth disparity. The reason is dirt simple: If I’m worth $Billions like Gates or worth $Millions like Hillary, I hire a herd of tax lawyers and found my personal charities and trusts; then legally put all the money out of reach. If I work for a living, I’m out of a job and can’t hire a lawyer because folks are not founding companies to build things, they are too busy fighting legal battles with the government. (Again, not hypotheticals. This is what has happened in the past. I was alive then and remember seeing it. A few times.) I don’t have to LIKE it to know that it just IS what it is.

None of which has much of anything to do with the original posting, that mostly just was pointing out that JFK understood the Laffer Curve as did Ronald Reagan, but neither the Democrats or Republicans of today seem to have a clue that unless and until government is shrunk, and by a fair amount, they will be forced to tax more than can be supported and be squashing economic prosperity (thus curtailing what any of them can do for whatever political goal).

Government does not create, it consumes, and once consumption is too high, there’s a big drop in production; and that means ALL parties of ALL political stripes end up with less bucks to steal. (Lest anyone wonder about our present massive spending and that being larger, so how can what I’m saying make sense: Remember that we are borrowing about $Trillion of it a year AND we are stealth taxing via inflation at the same time. In no case are we able to tax enough to support our present government size. Simply not possible. And no amount of government borrowing can stimulate that sucked dry body of the economy enough to make it rise from the death bed full of blood and vigor again. The only solution is take the damn leaches off of it and give it time to heal itself.)

I note in passing that on the financial channel (CNBC) there was a fair amount of talk about how with “60% of the GDP” being “the consumer” long term outlook was not good for the USA. I’ve not validated that number, but IF it is true, we have way more consumption than production going on. That’s a formula for collapse.

So it just doesn’t matter what the marginal rates were under Kennedy (up around 60% for many but most around 40%, with near 90% for the very rich, IIRC. Looking at ; this link that looks about right). Present marginal top rate is somewhere around 35%, not that it matters. Various countries have found that about a 10% tax rate generates the most total revenue. Anything beyond about 20% just gets you into the land of ever more lawyers and ever less tax revenue. Why one would want to argue that we need to do more tax rate increases that won’t work, and have been shown repeatedly to not work, and increase inequality while not working; well, that’s very unclear to me. Simply put, until the government cuts total taxation AND sees a real drop in total revenues, they are on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve. By Definition. Sorry, nothing I can do about that. Yes, there are dozens of examples world wide showing this, and showing that the rate needs to be in the low double digits to be near the peak of the curve. Not particularly relevant to my OPINION piece that states Obama is a bit daft on taxation, though.

In Conclusion

Oh, and one more minor point. Per the USA being more “egalitarian” back in the ’60s. Um, maybe more equal in poverty, but not more well off. I got my first vaccinations at the Farm Labor Camp a couple of miles out of town (provided by the county for ‘free’) because we could not pay a doctor. There were thousands of folks who lived out of their cars and drove from town to town harvesting crops. You have no idea how abject poverty looks if you have not seen that. “Grapes Of Wrath” level of poverty. I’ve watched the “bottom rung” of our country rise from so poor a dirt sandwich looked good to the point where “the poor” have color TVs and subsidized housing and more food than my parents dreamed of. (Rationing in W.W.II England was not a rich diet and nobody got obese on it. My Mum told me about it, and about saving farthings until they could buy one lump of coal to heat their home, at least for a few hours out of the week.).

We are so far away from real poverty these days that obesity is an “epidemic”. Yeah, that’s really unequal…

Yes, we now have folks like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Maurice Strong and more who are all incredibly wealthy. Oh, and they are also largely benefactors of the “Friends Of Government” 3rd Way Socialism racket. So tell you what, as soon as you have THEM getting off that gravy train (and Algore and all the NSF grant fed AGW sycophants and…) have their snout out of the 3rd Way Money Laundry, then maybe we can make a dent in whatever “inequality” exists today.

Until then, this son of a dirt farmer and a waitress who has had to work for every dollar he’s ever spent will thank you very much to keep your socialist snouts out of my hard earned money.

Oh, and presently unemployed and looking for my next job. Hopefully before the next crop of bills is due. So no, not a member of the Rich Upper Crust. More the “Middle America” making ends meet class. That same middle class that has barely clawed out of the bottom rung and has seen far too often the Progressive Limousine American-Liberals wanting to push us back down into it via taxation in the name of ‘equality’ for everyone else but them…

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Posted in Carping Comments | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Leonard Nimoy Passes

Just a quick notice for anyone who has missed it.

Leonard Nimoy, aka Mr. Spock, is dead. He died today from “complications of emphysema”.

I’m sure you can find lots of news coverage. I’m going to be mourning for a while…

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Posted in Human Interest | 5 Comments

Net Neutrality Thumbnail

OK, there’s been a lot of news lately about a proposed government regulation of the internet and the issue of “net neutrality”. All sorts of talking heads are saying all sorts of silly things.

If we do have net neutrality, it will be the end of the internet as we know it.
If we do NOT have net neutrality, it will be the end of the internet as we know it.
If we have net neutrality, costs will skyrocket, or not.

Fox News even had a ‘security expert’ on claiming it would cause all sorts of security problems as government regulation would cause old software to be used and suppress carriers from upgrading their networks, and cause a more complex network. (A bit off the mark, IMHO, though it sounded good to the anchor…)

So what’s the real dope, in a thumbnail?

Historically we have always had “net neutrality”. That just means that a carrier just carries packets and does not care what is in them, or where they come from. Rather like your phone calls, who you call and what you say is up to you. This is a good thing for a giant list of reasons, but not the least of which is that we (meaning me) don’t need anyone looking inside my packets and deciding what I ought to be doing, or how much of it, or with whom.

In a few cases, there have been attempts to not be ‘neutral’. Comcast, for one, completely banned bittorrent traffic at one point. Yes, it is often used to share “peer to peer” music or other things that are not in the public domain and in a way that is counter to some country law or another. It is also critical for all sorts of software sharing among those of us who do computer support for a living. Nothing like being in a hotel in BumFrack Walloon and needing to download a patched version of software for a client and finding out the hotel is blocking bittorrent… (so you have to resort to ‘other means’). Similarly, there have been attempts to block The Onion Network, and a few other things. But, by and large, the net has been mostly ‘neutral’ (China excepted…)

So why NOW is there a row over it? Simple. Netflix.

Comcast was pissed because folks were using the cable network to watch Netflix instead of the limited, controlled, paid content from Comcast. They wanted a cut of the action and did not want the competition. They, rightly, claimed that they built their network, so ought not to be subsidizing the competition. They wrongly argued that they were not being paid for their network and Netflix ought to pay up. (Their customers paid for internet access; not for occasional access throttled to some places with extortion money paid…)

The basic problem is this: Providers of premises connections (your Internet Connection) sell you a fantasy. They say you have bought, say, a 10 Mb connection. (That is, 10 million bits per second) And it is, but only in small bursts and if your neighbors are not using what THEY bought too. So they sold you a size ten pipe, but it connects together 100 of them (that ought to be a 1000 sized pipe) into a 100 sized pipe, since most of the time most folks won’t be using all that speed they bought. (Compare this to wireless that is sold by the total MegaBytes per month, not the speed alone). Then folks decided to actually use what they had bought. Often at the same time, to watch Netflix movies.

Now, in my book, if I bought a size 10 pipe, then I ought to be able to use my size 10 pipe for a size 10 flow of information all day every day. That, frankly, is the nub of the problem. They sold me a size 10 pipe, but figured I’d only use a size 1 pipe most of the time and most of my neighbors and me would only use that 10 size for short bursts once in a while.

So both Comcast and AT&T would love to be able to say to Netflix: You pay us a bundle of that money you are getting or we will cut your service to our customers down to a crawl. The problem with that, of course, is that Netflix is paying THEIR service provider for a full sized pipe to carry all their traffic; and you, the customer, are paying AT&T, Comcast, or your service provider for a pipe big enough to carry Netflix to you any time you want. You both bought nice big fat services and expect them to work, as advertised and sold. The problem being that your carrier didn’t expect you to actually use what they sold you.

Now, the twist. AT&T and other carriers have decided they want to be in the television delivery business. So they also want the monopoly pricing power to make sure the competition costs more than their product costs. Why let Netflix come into your home for $10 / month when they want to sell a product for $100 / month? They would really like to stick it to Netflix enough to get the Netflix price up to $100 /month too.

So who’s right?

IMHO the ‘root problem’ was the carrier decision to build a backbone that was no where near enough capacity to run everything at high speeds, then to sell peak performance not actual average. It is that marketing decision to build for low average, but sell peak, that was the basic lie in the design.

Why do we need the government involved? Well, really, we don’t. Folks can easily change providers if the one they have gets in their grill too much. But most folks want to think someone else can just fix it for you. And, in some cases, it really is the case that government needs a bit of involvement. (At my house, I have only wires from AT&T on the pole. I can buy my service from several ISPs (internet service providers) but the wires from the telco to my home are owned by AT&T and they can and will play with the service level as they see fit for their own purposes).

Is the fix worse than the disease?

We’ll see, but I think it will be. All we really need is a simple requirement to be ‘net neutral’ and leave everything else alone. What we will get is that as soon as it is a ‘regulated industry’ we will be ground into the dirt with massive regulations. They only ever grow, and will become oppressive over time, subject to capture by the oligopoly players (i.e. AT&&T, Comcast, etc.) and never keeping up with innovation; stifling it instead.

To the extent more intrusive things like “deep packet inspection” and QOS protocols (Quality Of Service) are implemented on networks and used to throttle some providers over others, or block some traffic and protocols, we will do ever more what folks in places like China do today. Encrypted tunnels. Clandestine data paths. Hidden ‘dark nets’. Just like the bittorrent protocol mutated to get past various attempts to prevent it.

Maybe that’s a good thing, as that means ever more traffic will be hidden from prying eyes. But it is also annoying, disruptive, and far less efficient in network use. Oh Well.

IMHO, the ‘best’ solution would be simply to require the common carriers (who are already under FCC regulation) to be net neutral providers of service, and let increased prices for premises service reflect the greater build out of the backbone for ever higher service usage. Leave the internet that flows on top of their services completely alone.

Essentially, have them build what they ought to have built, a full speed backbone, and charge accordingly. I’d also have them authorized to sell a ‘by the Mbyte’ service for folks who do not intend to use things like Netflix and just do low volume usage but with a guaranteed peak rate. (That is, a legacy type network with peak greater than average by a large amount, but with a guarantee of service rate with limits on volume to match average usage to the build structure). That way folks who just check email once a week pay for just that, and those who watch Netflix 10 hours a day, buy a full speed pipe (what is advertised today, but not delivered to all) and pay for that unlimited access.

We already have all sorts of ‘tiers’ of service (companies pay a lot more than private persons, with various speed and volume levels) so having a bit more honesty about what you are buying at retail is not a big burden.

It’s just that those providers don’t want to admit they sold what can not be delivered (full advertised speed to all customers) and they would like to have alternative video providers by the short hairs as that gives them a grip on the competition that they would like to suppress.

Unfortunately, that is not what we will get from government declaring they regulate the internet. We will get volumes of red tape, expense, and ever more reduction of what we can do with our liberty, and ever more ‘inspection’ of our traffic (as if NSA sucking it all up was not enough…).

As people respond with more protected packet types, do not be surprised to find things like VPNs and encrypted traffic forced through protocols and methods that leave it wide open to government (and perhaps telco) snooping. (The end game of that is some kind of steganographic hidden network inside what looks like normal traffic so the snoops can think they are watching, but not seeing the bittorent inside that B&W movie from 1950…)

I would be most happy with a “Common Carriers must be network neutral” and nothing else, I’m quite certain that once Government gets a nose in the tent, it will bring in the whole camel of expense, snooping, and more. Likely, that’s the reason for the “controversy”; to enable that action “for the greater good”…

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