Friday, February 27, 2015

If you like your ISP you can keep your ISP..............yup!

With the seizing of regulatory power over the Internet by the FCC yesterday, America has received the promise that the white knights over there in the guv-ment are a gonna tame the evil corporate Cable Company beasts and save us all from massive unfairness.

They will do so by turning these wild savage corporate beasts into nice tame and friendly little "public utilities". How has that EVER worked out to the advantage of consumers. Right now, if my ISP jacks around with me and gives me crappy service, I just go buy my service elsewhere. Let the free market sort it out. Haven't we learned from hard experience that the more the feds try to run things, the less competition there will is, the worse the service and the slower they become at solving problems. And innovation just disappears. When phone service was regulated about the only innovation we had during the first 80 years or so was automatic dial-up and push button phones that imitated rotary phones so we wouldn't have to do that dialing thing. Mobile phones required a limo-sized vehicle to carry them around in, huge deposits and year-long waiting lists. Long distance calls could easily run five to six dollars a minute. When the giant government regulation supported phone company was deregulated, long distance rates dropped to 10 cents a minute in practically no time, you could carry a mobile phone in your pocket and customer service reps began to treat you with respect.

The one great thing central planners hate is too many different utility companies to regulate. When we deregulated the electricity delivery system and provided consumers with choices, the prices dropped quickly. All sorts of cool electricity plans were offered that saved us all money.

Why, by all the chocolate fondue fountains in Hollywood, do we want to regulate an industry that's already mostly deregulated. This cannot end well.

If the FCC wants to help, then investigate the ISPs that do all this evil stuff to consumers that you say they do on a case by case basis. The FCC needs no authority to do that. Any citizen could conduct such an investigation if they wanted to do the detective work. If they want to make these guys quit screwing customers, let the FCC give them a consumer rating index where they can mark their scores down for jerking customers around. For those that pinch off bandwidth, let everybody know it and give them a bad consumer service rating. When my bandwidth dropped during the evenings, I complained to Centurylink DSL. Next thing I know they boosted my badwidth by more than 50%. It still runs slower when all my neighbors are streaming NCIS at the same time as me, but I'm hearing from Centurylink that the company is investing in more fiber and if we're patient, we'll like the results. I'm willing to be patient in exchange for the promise of innovation.

This whole thing is a case of the feds offering to fix a temperary problem with a permanent regulatory solution that freezes the problem in place with a half-ass solution. The issue is that there is only so much bandwidth. If the ISPs don't have some freedom to juggle customers around a bit, the whole thing is going to lock up. You can't change the amount of existing bandwidth by merely passins a regulation that says give everybody the same bandwidth. To do that the ISPs would have to cut everyone back. There's only so much bandwidth. Unlike the president, real world Internet Service Providers can't crap bandwidth unicorns on command - at least not ones that will do anybody any good. 

If you don't let the ISP's juggle customer access speeds on the fly, you're just going to have to slow everyone down so that nobody is getting what they need. You can't tell an ISP provider, just to spend more money on fixing the problem without giving them a way to pay for it. All it means is that they cut other services and reduce everyone's bandwidth so that we're all equal, even if that means we're all stuck with inadequate bandwidth.

"So, just let them be satisfied with less of those nasty evil profits," say the manic-progressives on the picket lines. Just tell that to the stockholders and watch the Dow drop like a stone. And before you diss Verizon and Comcasts stockholders, you might want to check. You might just be one of those stockholders through your retirement plan, bank savings, money market accounts or savings accounts and not even know it.

Regulation is a sledgehammer tool and everything it touches is a spike to be smacked down. The providers are working hard to fix the problem you're talking about. Let's not tie the hands of the mechanic who is trying to fix our car. Do you want a temporary fix so you can drive while the right parts are coming or shall we all just sit in the garage and wait for the parts to arrive someday if the regulators don't decide that unless every car in the garage also gets the same part, the mechanic can't fix your individual car. After all, it wouldn't be the others if you had a newer carburetor than theirs.

Many non-cable ISP's, especially the independent ones are working to make wireless so good that you'll no longer need cable. There's talk of setting a geo-syncronous satellite overhead and beaming the Internet to you that way. When I don't have to pay $3000 to have a stupid cable run 500 yards to my house, I'm going with that ISP and Comcast be damned.

The cable companies are trying to figure out how to survive in a rapidly changing market. Consumers like me are sticking up antennas and plugging them into a hub that lets me switch between on-air stations, my computer's Internet connection, Hulu, Netflix, The Classic Movies streaming site, Youtube, Amazon Prime, two DVD players, a VCR and a hard drive full of movies I downloaded from Amazon. I'm happier than a dead pig in the sunshine and the cable TV guys get nada. I dont' think Net Neutrality bothers them at all. The cable companies would rather be public utilities. Their business gets protected that way and they don't have to work as hard to keep up with technology.

The straw man argument about changing bandwidth, unfortunately, convinces people that we need to regulate. The problem is consumers think if you subscribe to 12mbs, the ISP should deliver 12mbps 24/7. The problem is that the company doesn't have enough bandwidth for that. At some times of day it drops to 4mbps for an hour or two simply because lots more people are using the Internet. I just shift my tasks that demand a lot of bandwidth to times when the net isn't so busy. I can live with that while Centurylink builds out its bandwidth in my neighborhood. We all share the Internet. You deal with some issues when you're building something that's never been done before.

I'm working on the AI voice for a device that acts as a computer companion and helps run your house. It has what they are calling an "emotion" chip. It will attempt to recognize your facial expressions and speech patterns and learn to respond to you appropriately. It's hugely complicated and it isn't happening fast enough for some of the company's investors who heard "emotion chip" and assumed we could find one in some scientist's abandoned laboratory, stick it in Data and have him weeping or telling jokes in a couple of minutes.

Our gains are made in fits and starts, just like the incredible gains we've made on the Internet. Regulating in the way the FCC wants to regulate merely stultifies development. The Internet has thrived because it is flexible. Plenty of attempts to add new capabilities or create new capacity have failed miserably and been abandoned. The current spate of heads-up display devices that pull stuff off the Internet and flash it in front of your face is a case in point. Some looks promising. Some is just intrusive and stupid. It will sort itself unless the FCC decides it needs to "fix" heads up display technology through regulation and then *poof* innovation ceases.

Let the industry sort itself out. In the meantime, at least yesterday, if we didn't like your ISP provider you could change your ISP provider.

© 2015 by Tom King

Thursday, February 12, 2015

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate - Pick Yer Pundit

One of the anti-vaccine crowd the other day claimed that measles died out naturally, not because of vaccines. Said we never really did need vaccines, This Jenny McCarthy true-believer apparently doesn't watch the news anymore.  Measles never died out. We''re in the middle of an epidemic right now and whooping cough is back this year too. The epidemic is running loose in two places - illegal immigrant communities and upper class white liberal neighborhoods where hand-wringing moms, who watch Jenny McCarthy as their primary source of medical information, have opted not to vaccinate their kids.

I'm just wondering.  Even if some kids do react badly to vaccines, and I'm not saying they don't, do we stop giving vaccines at all (for those of you who are "against" vaccines) and roll the dice with childhood diseases? Do these people truly advocating that instead of vaccinating to prevent disease, that we turn "Big Pharma" (the conspiracy theorist's bugaboo in all this) loose to develops "other ways" to handle childhood diseases as some of them seem to be suggesting.

Or should we we go back to "natural" methods like gathering roots in the woods and boiling them in our pewter caldrons (the kind you buy in Diagon Alley). If you remember, that never worked out so well back when that was all we had.. Ask yourself, "Do we stop vaccinating in order to save a handful of kids from autism and go back to losing thousands of kids every year when the epidemics sweep through our schools." You guys have a short, short memory. I agree that everything that could be done, should be done and it is being done. There hasn't been thimeresol (with mercury in it) in children's vaccines since the 90s and the conspiracy crowd is still fluttering about it. There is some Thimeresol in flu vaccines, but those are ENTIRELY VOLUNTARY.

Also, remember this. Thanks to vaccines tens of thousands of children who might have died from so-called "childhood diseases" grew up to live and reproduce. Whatever genetic weaknesses they had that might have led them to succumb to a childhood disease is passed along to the next generation. I wonder if this spread of the propensity to die from a genetic disease is why some kids are now so compromised they are reacting even to the weakened disease in the vaccines?

So now you have a new problem. Do we take the eugenics approach advocated by early progressive socialists (and apparently by not so early progressive socialists) and let the "weak" be weeded out by nature's through disease to strengthen the human race? That seems to me what people are saying when they tell you childhood diseases aren't so bad and ought to run loose again. I wonder how many of those children who developed autism will survive the full up diseases?

Notice that the terrible reactions to vaccines being reported among a small group of kids didn't start happening till childhood disease epidemics stopped running through our schools every year thanks to vaccines. It sounds horrible to me to suggest we ought to let measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, diptheria and all the rest of the childhood diseases run loose again. We used to have to have ten kids per family in order to insure that even half of them survived childhood diseases and made it to adulthood. Many of the kids, culled from the human herd by Mother Nature, died from pneumonia and secondary infections. Given the nasty strains of those secondary infections that are running loose right now (think MRSA), are we going to be risking an even higher death rate once this new epidemic of childhood disease gets rolling.

One thing I have noticed, though is that the anti-vaccine rhetoric is strongest among political progressives and out there libertarians. Please beware my friends. Your compatriots have a history of not telling the entire truth. The point of my post is that who are you going to trust. It's funny how people who seem perfectly rational are willing to dismiss Dr. Carson as "in the medical profession" as though that taints him somehow.

I trust people in the medical profession waaaaaaaay more than I do the ragtag collection of witchdoctors and snake oil salesmen who are out there busily pumping up the anti-medical, anti-pharmacology hysteria.

I am very much against going back to the good old days before vaccines.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Free Market Solution to the Immigration Problem

The nation is tearing itself apart over the issue of immigration. We all know that many who swim the Rio Grande are coming here to escape grinding poverty and the terrors of the drug wars. As Americans we can sympathize. But several million people swimming the Rio Grande every year makes for a real problem for our economy, our culture and our safety. The good illegals don't come alone. Within their numbers are a lot of really terrible people. So why are we so reluctant to do something to stem the tide? Certainly what our government allows our border patrol to do is woefully inadequate. In fact, our reluctance to enforce our borders may downright encourage the problem by making any consequences negligible. Humans are really good at making the risk vs. rewards calculation.

The problem comes down to a dysfunctional economic system that provides incentives, not only for illegals to cross the border, but for employers to encourage it. Employers who have menial labor jobs to offer don't want to pay a lot of money. The less they pay, the more they make. They are, after all, competing against third world countries that use underpaid menial labor to do the same things. So the menial labor employers create work camps (in Texas we call them colonias - colonies of illegal alients). Employers send pickups every morning to the colonias to load up workers and take them to the fields. The wives and children remain home where the kids are picked up for school in buses and the wives barter things purchasable with food stamps for rides to town in the back of pickups to town to buy groceries. These shopping trips can cost
anywhere from $50 - $100 per trip. The colonias are frequently in isolated areas, have little or no running water, sewerage or trash pickup. Health care is non-existent and conditions are miserable. Once there, you remain there; to poor to escape.

This "system" works well for the employers, but creates a kind of slavery for the illegal aliens trapped in it, living hand to mouth and unable to get ahead. Trapped by the "system" and the language barrier, exploited and abused, these folks are the victims of the unwillingness of government to close the borders and to arrest the employers who exploit these refugees. The whole mess is tolerated by everyone because, bad as it is, it's at least a solution to the problem and keeps all those people from starving en masse.

"Round 'em up," you say. Well, the problem with that is that if you began rounding these people up and shipping them back home you'd create a tragedy that would make the "Trail of Tears" look like a Sunday picnic with millions dumped back into countries that can't handle the sudden influx of their own expatriate citizens. 

The only solution to the problem is to CLOSE THE BORDERS TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.  Do it now. Make it stick.

Notice I said illegal immigration. Leave in place the proper kind of immigration. For that matter, we could even add a little humanitarian immigration without doing damage to our economy, but whatever happens we need to install a spigot or we're going to drown with it the way the flood is rising. Once that is done, we could let the free market system begin to take hold and clean up the problem naturally. As the unlimited supply of new, ignorant and easily exploited workers dries up, employers will be forced to compete against each other for the dwindiling supply of laborers. When it gets harder to find laborers, employers will have to up the wages they pay to attract them. As that happens, the laborers begin to buy cars, homes and to save money, reducing the would-be slaveowner's power over them. It would have to be a long process and like it or not, the only humane way to do it would be to create a guest worker program for those already here. As Americans we do not want to effectively murder millions of human beings, whose only crime was wanting a better life, by tossing them back into the horrors they tried to escape back in their home countries. Of course, there are criminals among them and I have no qualms about catapulting them back to Mexico or wherever they came from, but there are some cruelties Americans will not inflict on their fellow man.

Let's face it. Closing the borders is the first priority. Without that, the free market system cannot correct the problem and progressive meddling sure as hell hasn't fixed the problem; only exacerbated it. Feeding the problem with food stamps and subsidies only encourages exploitative employers to continue doing what they are doing. Actually it encourages them to do less than they are currently doing because the government is taking care of it now so they no longer have to.

You want to round somebody up, round up the exploiters who make money off the misery of illegal immigration. Send them to Mexico. We don't care that they don't come from there. It would be worth it to get these parasites out of the United States. We ended slavery more than a century ago. Let's not have a revival of it in the new millenium.

© 2014 by Tom King