Friday, February 14, 2014

Liberals, Conservatives Wary of Time Warner and Comcast Merger

What could bring conservatives and liberal-leftists to, if not arm in arm cooperation, at least shouting distance agreement?  The impending merger between Time Warner and Comcast, the cable company currently ruling the NBC empire of networks.

Media Research Center's Newsbusters, a conservative media watchdog site, sounded the tocsin this week.  It warned readers that the combination of two cable giants could bring competitive benefit to Comcast's prize NBC products.  These would wield "even more influence."

Senator Al Franken, a former media figure in the employee of NBC during his years on Saturday Night Live, wrote to the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, and Federal Communications Commission. Franken related his "serious reservations" about the merger.  He went on to say " Unfortunately, a handful of cable companies dominate the market, leaving customers with little choice but to pay high bills for often unsatisfactory service."

Gizmodo related larger concerns.  With cable dwindling, the size of the new conglomerate could control broadband access, since internet relies on the same wiring to get into the house.  In the short term, a near monopoly in the cable market (Gizmodo compared it to Coca Cola buying Pepsi-Cola) could enforce bad deals on not only cable channels like The Weather Channel, but also the major networks.  Fearing loss of market when television viewership as a whole is down, networks and channels could possibly be bent to the will of the new company much more easily.

Or this could be another case of Time Warner hitching itself to a fading star.

Back in what seems like a generation ago, there was once a company called AOL Time Warner.  Time Warner endeavored to combine with the most prominent name in internet providers, raising fears of media monopoly.  No one could speculate the impact of a single company across a spectrum of media.  Certainly almost no one guessed that AOL was on the verge not of omnipotence, but irrelevance. 

History may not repeat itself exactly in this case.  But the history of monopolies in a free market shows a pattern.  Monopolies, unless backed by government favor or power as in the example of the 1770s British East India company, are inherently unstable.  They act sluggishly, only innovate slowly, and usually either shrink or break apart due to pressures from competition.  

Monopolies rely on what worked in the past while ignoring the future.  IBM was fated to lose technological dominance the day it ignored Bill Gates.  Comcast's dominance of cable may be akin to a hypothetical carriage monopoly in 1900.  They may win today and be a footnote tomorrow.  

Advances in technology are the biggest enemy of monopoly and market dominance.  Giant companies fear the change that smaller companies embrace and drive. The many technological alternatives to cable render fears of a monopoly moot.  AT&T once dominated the long distance telephone market.  Had Congress not broken AT&T up in the 1980s, the internet and cell phones would have undermined their market control. Time Warner itself struggles to figure out how to make sure profits on some of its traditional holdings.  

After all, in the 21st century, Bleacher Report is worth more than the Washington Post.  It's a new day.

Conservatives worry about the possible outsized influence on media and politics of their MSNBC nemesis.  Liberals and leftists fear the old bogeyman of monopoly, this time in media form.  At the end of the day, even if this merger goes through, history shows that there will be sound and fury.  But market mechanics remain.  Consumers will demand to be satisfied, or they will turn to satellite television, the internet, or some other source even more than they do now.

In the cable TV market, the cable companies do not rule the consumer.  Increasingly, they will face the fact that they must serve the market or disappear.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Politico Has Bad News For Rahall, Other House Candidates

"There is no question that Democratic donors are shifting toward the Senate in 2014," Democrat megadonor and Nancy Pelosi friend Joe Cotchett told Politico.

Democratic donors may likely chalk up the House of Representatives as unwinnable and concentrate on keeping the Senate in their hands.

With noted congressional prognosticator Larry Sabato now rating the WV 03 race a tossup, diminishing Democratic support could help cost Nick Rahall the seat he has held for decades.

Putting Communism's Stranglehold on Cuba In Perspective

More evidence that Marxism doesn't work.

In the past two years, Cuban president Raul Castro has introduced over 300 changes to the totalitarian command economy.  These actions indicate that even the country's leadership knows that Communism is destructive to an economy and its people.

How destructive?

American Enterprise Institute released a state gross domestic product map.  This map was unique in that it listed the country closest to each states output.  Cuba's economy was closest to that of West Virginia.

The Mountain State ranked 49th in the nation in some measures of GDP in 2012, yet tremendously outperformed Cuba.  West Virginia's 1.8 million people live in an area with less than half the land area of Cuba and less than 10 percent of the population.

Were Cuba a US state, a chasm would separate it from the per capita productivity of all other states.

Leftists avoid the issue of Fidel Castro's brutal treatment of political dissidents and Che Guavara's murderous terrorism, while praising selected parts of his system.

The current Cuban regime's moves mirror Vladimir Lenin's 1921 New Economic Policy.  Lenin liberalized the Soviet Communist system just enough to keep it afloat, but did little to expand true opportunities for the industrious.

A free Cuba holds tremendous potential.  Cuban refugees flourished in the American business community, particularly in Florida.  Immigrants and their children have emerged as important leaders at the state and national level.  Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio represent their constituents ably in the United States Senate.  West Virginia's Alex Mooney may well succeed Shelley Moore Capito as 2nd District Representative should he win the GOP nomination there.

Certainly the same tradition that produced such success stories in the United States can revive under the warm sun of liberty, once it is restored to that country.

That means that Cuba should not be overly praised or rewarded for simply trying to keep their totalitarian system afloat with piecemeal changes.  Only a full revolution of liberty deserves praise and support.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Growth in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle Comes From Virginia Prosperity and Maryland Folly

Despite the economic slowdown, despite the persistent problems of state tax and regulation policy, West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle continues to see strong growth.

Two factors contribute to the growth. One is spillover from Virginia's business friendly system. Multiple outlets consistently rank Virginia as the friendliest state for business growth.  The cluster of Northern Virginia counties within 90 minutes of Washington DC saw the most spectacular development. According to the State Journal Winchester, mere miles from Hampshire County, rocketed from 134 to 41 on the best performing cities list.

Winchester, population of near 30,000, and other growing cities along the Interstate 81 corridor, are technically suburbs of Washington.  Those who can afford to do so are streaming through the gaps and over the mountains into West Virginia, colonizing exurbs.  

Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands counties are benefiting from Virginia's prosperity.

Other counties reap from the folly of their northern neighbor, Maryland.

Maryland's anti-business policies and crackdown on personal liberty drive people south of the Potomac.   According to US Census Bureau statistics, West Virginia counties bordering Maryland tend to have population and jobs growth.  The Maryland counties have either losses or growth that lags behind their cross river brethren in the Mountain State.  

Either way, Eastern Panhandle representatives need to keep pushing Charleston to reform regulatory and tax laws to continue the growth.  Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire, Hardy, Pendleton, Mineral, and Grant counties are poised to reap the benefits.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pornography as a Symptom of the Decline of Masculinity?

National Review today published a powerful indictment of the fate of masculinity.  It lay buried at the end of a lengthy description of a pornography convention coupled with analysis of what this means for culture.  In its own right, the piece bore deep into social questions often left untouched and introduced readers to an entire subculture.  But should Kevin Williamson use this as another yet another obituary on the fate of the American Man?

"The future is female."  Williamson laments.  He sees marriage evaporating.  Many others see the academic driven opportunities as more appropriate for females than males.Williamson's words seem to echo another thinker's fear about what modern times might do to the modern man.

"A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack of either desire or of power to strive after great things" has afflicted American men, according to one writer. He worries that parents have taught their boys "that ease, that peace, is to be the first consideration."  America, should it continue along this path will "rot by inches in ignoble ease within our borders."

Hopefully the writing gave it away.  This was not a modern assessment of the masculine.  Almost 115 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt warned the nation.  It, and especially its men, threatened to soften.  And this only two generations removed from the great national test of the Civil War.

Roosevelt feared that the ease brought by modern wonders of his time might soften men, dulling their ambition and work ethic.

Obviously it did not.  Great decades lay ahead.  The free society that encouraged Roosevelt's narrow social circle to pursue ease and comfort spurred others to make their own fortunes.  Surrounded by dandies, Roosevelt at the time did not see the big picture.  A nation full of men and women willing to fight for fortune and success.

Williamson describes the general stereotype of the youngest generation of adult men.  And stereotypes rarely pop into existence without some small basis of reality.  But narrow views and the worries of older men about the generation that is to replace them may limit the picture.

The youngest adult generation has grown up in a country with broken schools and no guarantees.  College does not guarantee a spot in IBM management school.  It guarantees only debt for most. And even that in exchange for a curriculum high on social engineering and declining relevance or even intellectual stimulation.

 Nothing that has happened in this century has inspired any faith that government can handle any problem.  The youth have less faith in government than almost any group born and raised in the last hundred years.

Less reliance on the government and Big Business must translate into more reliance on self.  Even as government seeks to supplant parents and institutions of faith with itself, it reveals its base incompetence.  If you're going to do something right, you have to do it yourself.

On top of that is the core of this generation, not college kids living in their mom's basements, but tens of thousands of men who have served their country on the other side of the world.  They bring work ethic, toughness, and perspective beyond anything learned in a classroom.

Fundamentally, things do not change.  Men worth marrying will be married, as will many who are not.  Ambition to do better in life will remain, so long as individuals may rationally hope that their efforts can lead to it.  The older generation always worries about the younger.

In actuality, the 21st century should be a revival for masculinekind.  So many in the last few decades dropped axes, trowels, and hammers to pursue corporate dreams that there is a perpetual shortage of people who have these skills.  The idea that physical labor is beneath people has opened crucial opportunities. Not many women can build a stone or a brick wall.  Men will always have a natural advantage in the realm of physical labor.  The skilled craftsman who can handle physical labor has never been in more demand.  In some parts of the country, one with experience and a good reputation can name his price.

Why go to college when you can make money and build a business right away?  Parents must realize that college is not what it was, nor does it guarantee what it once did.  Encourage entrepreneurship when you can.

And encourage pursuit of the noble and profitable.