FCC Thinks You Should Pay for How Much Internet You Use

FCC Boss: You Should Pay for Internet By How Much You Use [POLL]. Source: mashable.com

As of May 22, 2012, 69% said “It’s price gouging”; 14% said “It’s a free market, event if I don’t like it” and 14% said “Depends on the price.”

I said:

This sounds like the best way to shut down free market and small business and lower-than-middle income consumers. The Internet is my livelihood and my entertainment. I can’t live without it and I can’t live with higher prices.

I can understand higher prices for more bandwidth limits, but a per byte charge will change my life for the worse.

I hope internet companies lobby/fight this. Like Neal Bloome says, would you pay $200 per YouTube video? How about $50 to play Mafia Wars for 1 day on Facebook? No? Well Mr. Genachowski doesn’t care, but I hope Mr. Zuckerberg cares or Mr. Kamangar cares.

The Day the Internet Went Dark

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a move that heightens the growing tension between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, Wikipedia and other websites went dark Wednesday in protest of two congressional proposals intended to thwart the online piracy of copyrighted movies and TV programs. Source: Protest exposes Silicon Valley-Hollywood rivalry – Yahoo! News.

SOPA Getting Makeover But Still Alive #stopSOPA

I wrote the following on the PopVOX website.

I oppose H.R. 3261: Stop Online Piracy Act because…it will punish every Internet consumer. First, everyone should know that the Internet removed barriers to both legitimate and illegitimate business around the globe. Second, America is a large part of the global economy and the Internet. If Hollywood or US pharmacies want to fight piracy and fraud they need to do that on their own terms and not punish the global economy. I can sympathize that they loose billions, but every industry looses to global competition – that is a consequence of globalization. America can no longer put up barriers to global commerce.

There is a link at the bottom of the Huffington Post article, “SOPA, PIPA Headed For Major Makeover“, that goes to PopVOX.

Aging Air Traffic Control UPDATED

Thirty years ago today air traffic control was changed forever.

On August 3, 1981 nearly 13,000 of the 17,500 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) walked off the job, hoping to disrupt the nation’s transportation system to the extent that the federal government would accede to its demands for higher wages, a shorter work week, and better retirement benefits.  At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden that same day, President Reagan responded with a stern ultimatum: The strikers were to return to work within 48 hours or face termination.  As federal employees the controllers were violating the no-strike clause of their employment contracts. Source: http://eightiesclub.tripod.com/id296.htm

Fast forward to 2011 and we face a crisis. More than half of the replacement controllers are due to retire because of mandatory retirement rules. There is a mandatory retirement age of 56 for controllers who manage air traffic. And the minimum age (now) is 30. Do the math and all of the controllers they hired in 1981 were forced to retire by 2007. They made some exceptions and they replaced several controllers early, but the fact is we’re in desperate need of more air traffic controllers.

UPDATE
I find it a little ironic that this year the FAA ran out of money and furloughed 4,000 workers. Today the FAA got funding to re-open. They were loosing an estimated $30 million per day of airline ticket taxes.

Since authorization for FAA funding expired in late July, the agency has also been unable to collect federal taxes on airline tickets — leading to a revenue loss of approximately $30 million a day. If the dispute had continued until Congress returned in September, the federal government would have lost over $1 billion in revenue. Source: Senate passes bill ending partial FAA shutdown – CNN.com.

Sad days for Texas education, public services

This practice is reverberating around the country. As good as  Texas is, as well as it weathered the recession, public services are not immune to budget cuts.

The Texas Education Agency is laying off 178 employees this week as part of budget cuts ordered by the state Legislature. via KBTX  Texas Education Agency to Lay Off 178 Employees.

The Texas Legislature had to cut something, unfortunately education was a big looser when the budget was finalized.

Media is reporting many local job cuts. College Station is cutting 27 positions. Bryan is cutting 20 jobs. Texas A&M already cut more than 150 jobs and more may be on the way.

“This Legislature will go down in the history books as the worst for public education in a generation,” said Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio. “Now it’s time for legislators to go home and explain to their communities why they voted for or against these historic education cuts. via The Three Way Attack on Texas Public Education; Part One: Fiscal Responsibility « Education in Texas.

The Hammer Falls on Texas Budget

So, we knew it was going to be bad before we elected this legislature, and here it is, the hammer driving the first nail in the coffin that is the Texas budget.

Public schools, college students, Medicaid hammered in Texas House budget plan

AUSTIN – Texas would slash support for public schools, cut at least 60,000 college students from financial aid and decrease Medicaid fees by 10 percent to doctors, nursing homes and hospitals under a budget plan that House leaders unveiled late Tuesday. Source: Dallas Morning News

Mark these words…

No taxes would be increased, as GOP leaders have pledged. Nor would the state tap any of $9.4 billion in the state’s rainy-day fund.

I’ll hold on to that quote so I can pull it out when cigarette taxes or gas taxes go up.

This article goes on to articulate cut after cut. Legislators have until May to finalize the bi-annual budget, and I think it’s going to be a very lean 2012-13. Don’t forget we have to pay forward the debt of 2010-11. Those cuts are still being felt. Also, remember we are in a supermajority so there is a 99% chance of passing whatever lands in the budget.

Texas House Republican Supermajority [UPDATED]

The Republicans will have a “supermajority” in the Texas House when the new session starts January 11, 2011 (01/11/11).

The new Republican House members are expected to give the GOP 101 seats in the lower chamber in the 2011 Legislature, a number that will allow the party to exercise power not seen in the House since the early 1980s, when the Democrats had more than 100 of the 150 seats.

With a supermajority, House Republicans will be able to conduct business and approve constitutional amendments without Democratic support.

Soruce: Dallas Morning News | Second Democrat in Texas House announces switch to GOP.

What does this mean for the Texas Constitution or the bi-annual, balanced budget in Texas? It means the Republicans have carte blanche to amend the Constitution, raise taxes and slash the budget.

This is a perfect storm. The Democrats lost the majority of the U.S. Congress which means few things will change in the next two years. (Although the Senate just pasted legislation extending tax-cuts and unemployment benefits.) I expect Texas taxes will go up and the budget (jobs) to be cut. Then, in 2013, the trend will continue at the federal level.

I just wrote about La Niña and the drought Texas faces from that. Now it appears we are headed for an economic drought as well. I wonder if there is a connection?

UPDATE:

How will the federal tax cuts affect you? As promised the next 24 months (or two tax seasons) will remain at current levels. This may sound like an early Christmas present or simply a good thing, but look closer, it reads like the fine print of a credit-card offer: no interest ’till 2013. By then we may be out of the “economic ENSO cycle”, but be prepared to pay more for this tax cut than we would have originally. On the flip side, Obama probably doesn’t care too much because in 24 months he’ll be packing his things.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Now that Congress has passed the Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2010, it will be sent to President Obama for his signature. And taxpayers will have some certainty about their tax situation, if only for the next 24 months. Source: CNN.com | Tax cut deal: How it affects you

Smokers Hit With Fees On Health Insurance

A survey done by Hewitt Associates reveals that the trend is growing. Nearly half of 600 large U.S. employers around the country either do, or plan to penalize employees who engage in unhealthy behavior.

Pat Mione is an insurance expert in Houston. She says the idea behind turning up the heat on smokers is simple.

“From a claims perspective, if you can get people to get healthier, you will have an impact on premiums, on claims — and that’s the driver,” Mione said. Source: Smokers Get Hit with Extra Fee on Health Insurance.

This is bull! They’ve done this in the past and I guess they’re still trying; anything to squeeze a buck out of customers. It makes me mad that it’s smoking – ’cause it’s not like we don’t have enough “sin taxes” – but the principle stinks. The article had another quote that said, “you know after you open up the floodgates, where do you stop at?” Exactly!

Another quote makes my argument even stronger. “Since smoking is considered a behavior and not a medical condition, companies don’t have to butt out.” By this logic insurance companies can rape customers for just living. Life is a behavior, or a choice, if you will. It’s optional. You don’t have to live. Do you breathe? Well smog in the air kills people everyday. Do you drive a car? You are contributing to the smog not to mention the danger of accidents. Do you bike to work? Then you are a hazzard to the people that are making smog; that’s “unhealthy behavior.” Where does it end?

UPS vs FedEx (again)

UPDATE 9/24/2010: See Hutchison’s reply letter.

In 1997, the Teamsters strike crippled UPS. This time FedEx is using the buzzword “brown bailout”, and they’ve launched a massive (viral) campaign aimed at stopping legislation that would affect them. UPS has a counterstrike called “FedEx drivers aren’t pilots.”

It appears that UPS wants Congress to amend the Railway Labor Act (RLA) which limits unions from striking and crippling interstate commerce. FedEx thinks this will severely affect their business thereby giving UPS an edge – the bailout.

In contrast, National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows unions to form more easily. The Teamsters have used the NLRA to unionize the majority of UPS workers.

FedEx along with UPS and the Post Office (USPS) probably control 90 – 95% of package delivery in America. Both FedEx and UPS utilize airplanes to transport packages, and both use trucks to transport packages. FedEx is about 80% airline while UPS is about 20% airline. The USPS uses both of them; they are FedEx’s biggest customer. Needless to say, neither FedEx nor UPS are hurting for business. Looks like an oligopoly to me.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 has already passed the House and is waiting for a vote in the Senate. A similar bill died in the Senate two years ago.

Like most things involving Congress there’s more to this bill and meets the eye. It was originally meant to improve the infrastructure of our aging air transportation and control systems, but then non-aviation groups (Teamsters) got involved.

It’s complicated for an outsider like me looking at this situation, but the yeas and nays will tell the story.

Supporters
United Postal Service
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
National Business Aviation Association
Air Line Pilots Association
Regional Airline Association
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
Airports Council International
Air Transport Association of America
Transport Workers Union of America
General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Rockwell Collins

Opponents
FedEx

These two have been fighting for years. FedEx has always dominated the air – they are an airline – and UPS rules the ground. Every so often one will venture to closely to the other’s turf and a battle erupts. The fine line this time is airline personnel versus non-airline personnel. UPS (more so the Teamsters) wants non-airline personnel covered by the NLRA.

This time – if the bill passes – there will be a ripple effect in our (weak) economy. FedEx will probably lay people off (before they unionize and can’t be laid off ), and they will buy fewer airplanes. That equates to billions of dollars taken out of the US economy all because a union wants the right to strike.

Personally, I agree with the original RLA. I think if you are part of an oligopoly you should be subject to the RLA; neither UPS nor FedEx (nor the USPS) should have a union that can stop deliveries. On the other hand I don’t like unions because they hurt the many for the sake of the few. For example, the UAW, along with foreign competition and oil prises in the 1970’s, doomed auto makers and all of their ancillary businesses. American auto makers never really recovered, and America makes fewer quality cars today then any time since Ford rolled out the first Model-T.

Letters to Congress

What follows are letters that brownbailout.com will email on your behalf. It chose my representatives based on zip code.

Subject: Opposition to the “Brown Bailout”

Required text to House (Chet Edwards):

As one of your constituents, I’m writing to ask you to oppose legislation that could harm our nation’s express delivery system by increasing costs, lowering reliability and threatening jobs in the industry and all businesses that depend on overnight delivery.

Language inserted into the House version of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009, which passed in the House last May, will dramatically change how FedEx Express is regulated. The language favors only one company, UPS, and was designed to bail them out of a tough business situation.

Unlike the bailouts to shore up the nation’s financial system, paid for by tax dollars, this “Brown Bailout” will force us all to pay more in order to get less, while putting jobs at risk. This is not what our government should be doing to lower unemployment and put Americans back to work.

I also object to the secretive manner in which this bailout is being pushed through Congress without hearings or public debate on this particular issue. UPS, the only company that benefits, has been forcing its employees to write letters in support of the bailout, according to the Washington Post (“UPS Employees Say They Were Forced to Lobby against FedEx,” Aug. 7, 2009), and that just isn’t fair.

Businesses and individuals across America rely on an express delivery system that is dependable and affordable for medicines, equipment and other essential goods. Prices have never been lower, service has never been better, and access to global markets has never been greater. Congress should not put jobs at risk trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the FAA Reauthorization bill last year. Please oppose the “Brown Bailout” if the FAA bill comes back to the House for a vote this year.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Required text to Senate (John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchison):

As one of your constituents, I’m writing to ask you to oppose legislation that could harm our nation’s express delivery system by increasing costs, lowering reliability and threatening jobs in the industry and in all businesses that depend on overnight delivery.

While I support the FAA Reauthorization bill that will modernize our air traffic control system and bring much-needed funding for airport improvement projects across the country, it should not pass with an extraneous labor provision that puts one company’s interest ahead of public interest.

Language inserted into the House version of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009, which passed the House last May, would dramatically change how FedEx Express is regulated. The language favors only one company, UPS, at the expense of FedEx and its customers, and was designed to bail UPS out of a tough business situation. The Senate version of the bill, which passed 93-0, does not include this provision.

Unlike the bailouts to shore up the nation’s financial system, this “Brown Bailout” will force us all to pay more in order to get less, while putting jobs at risk. The government should be doing exactly the opposite to help lower unemployment and put Americans back to work.

Businesses and individuals across America rely on an express delivery system that is dependable and affordable for medicines, equipment and other essential goods. Prices have never been lower, service has never been better, and access to global markets has never been greater. Congress should not put jobs at risk trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

The current competitive environment is good for our economy. Please preserve our competitive shipping industry by rejecting the House version of the FAA bill when it comes up for a vote in the Senate. Instead, pass a final bill without this anti-competitive bailout.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hutchison’s Reply

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me regarding FedEx Corp.’s labor regulations. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

When the Railway Labor Act (RLA) was originally enacted in 1926, “express companies” such as the Federal Express airline were considered a vital part of the nation’s transportation system, and their employees were included in the bill’s coverage. The RLA was amended in 1936 to include all air carriers. Federal Express later expanded its operations to integrate a full service cargo operation, and is now known as FedEx Express. Only FedEx Express, the highly integrated air and ground operations that began as “Federal Express,” is subject to the RLA. The other ground-based FedEx Corp. subsidiaries, including FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight, are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). A provision was included in the house-passed version of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill to require FedEx to be fully governed by the NLRA rather than the Railway Labor Act

The Railway Labor Act was designed to prevent strikes from disrupting transportation services. Unlike other industries where the right of employees to strike is guaranteed by statute, uninterrupted services provided by air and rail carriers are essential to the health and the economy of the nation. For that reason, the RLA includes a highly regulated collective bargaining process with numerous safeguards that must be exhausted before a strike can legally occur.

Collective bargaining agreements do not expire under the RLA, but instead become amendable and continue in effect while bargaining is underway. The parties must engage in direct negotiations, followed by mediation conducted by the National Mediation Board. If no agreement can be reached, the Board gives the parties the opportunity to resolve the dispute through arbitration, and, if arbitration is rejected, a 30-day cooling off period begins. At the conclusion of the 30-day cooling off period, the President is authorized, when an important interest is at stake, to create an Emergency Board to consider the dispute and recommend an appropriate resolution. Only if all of these procedures fail to produce an agreement are options such as strikes and lock-outs available to the parties.

Proponents of the House FAA Reauthorization language contend the NLRA would better serve FedEx Express employees by providing greater opportunity to organize, engage in collective bargaining, and take part in strikes and other forms of concerted activity in support of their demands. However, FedEx Express contends that if it were subject to the NLRA process, multiple unions would be able to represent different groups of workers by location and by function, even in the same cities. FedEx would be required to navigate multiple sets of rules trying to connect its local truck drivers to its aviation operation, potentially disrupting airline operations in the very way the RLA seeks to avoid.

As Conferencing of the House and Senate passed FAA Reauthorization bills moves forward, I will keep your views on this issue in mind. I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is important to you.

Sincerely,
Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
202-224-5922 (tel)
202-224-0776 (fax)
http://hutchison.senate.gov

PLEASE DO NOT REPLY to this message as this mailbox is only for the delivery of outbound messages, and is not monitored for replies. Due to the volume of mail Senator Hutchison receives, she requests that all email messages be sent through the contact form found on her website at http://hutchison.senate.gov/contact.cfm .

If you would like more information about issues pending before the Senate, please visit the Senator’s website at http://hutchison.senate.gov . You will find articles, floor statements, and press releases, along with her weekly column and monthly television show on current events. You can also sign up to receive Senator Hutchison’s weekly e-newsletter.

Thank you.

Who’s to blame for $4 gas

The next time you are at a hosed-robber – I mean the gas pump – do a gut check. The Energy Information Administration has the numbers that will make you sick long before the fumes will.

Who’s to blame for $4 gas

Prices have surged over the past four years – and there’s a bunch of reasons why.

By Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1999 gasoline sold for 90 cents a gallon. How’d we get from there to $4 a gallon?

There is no short answer – many things happened, and together they formed a chain of events from cheap gas to $100 tankfuls.

2004: Demand pressure

One of the most common reasons cited for the price jump is supply and demand – we are using more oil, which accounts for 70% of the price of gas, and finding less of it.

Why we are finding less oil and using more of it is partly a result of the low prices during the 1990s. Those low prices – partly caused by low gas taxes in the U.S. compared to other developed nations – both encouraged rapid consumption domestically (think SUVs) and underinvestment in new production by the world’s oil companies.

By the time 2004 rolled around – and developing economies around the globe roared to life – the world was left in a pinch.

“Our demand has skyrocketed, but our ability to supply that demand has stagnated,” said Stephen Schork, publisher of the industry newsletter The Schork Report. Gasoline prices topped $2 a gallon for the first time ever in May of 2004, “and we’ve been off to the races since then,” said Schork.

As demand grew and the supply of oil remained relatively flat, the difference between the amount of oil the world could produce and the amount it consumed narrowed. That meant a supply disruption from one place in the world could not be easily covered with spare oil from another part.

2005: The storm

This was illustrated in September 2005, when Hurricane Katrina knocked out a significant chunk of U.S. refining and gasoline prices spiked above $3 a gallon for the first time ever.

“It exposed how little surplus refining capacity we have in the U.S.,” said James Crandell, an energy analyst at Lehman Brothers.

A new refinery hasn’t been built in the United States in three decades, although capacity at existing refineries has been expanded.

2006: Hot tempers

The lack of spare supply has kept other geopolitical events in the forefront for the last few years. Iran and the spat over its nuclear program dominated the news in early 2006, and combined with Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the summer of that year to cause another spike in gas prices to over $3 a gallon.

Geopolitical events need not be shooting wars to attract attention. Analysts say general resource nationalism since 2004 is partly responsible for high oil prices.

In the past few years, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez have all become more bellicose on the world stage – in some cases, seeking a bigger share of the profit from foreign oil firms or threatening to cut off oil supplies if attacked.

Some say the Bush administration’s provocation of Iran and Venezuela, coupled with a botched occupation of oil-exporting Iraq, has contributed to the geopolitical tension. But defenders say that, in the long run, the administration’s actions will eventually lead to a more democratic – and thus stable – global supply.

2007: Tight supplies

New supplies of oil from non-OPEC countries were supposed to come online in 2007 and ease some of these supply bottlenecks. But problems in Kazakhstan and Russia – as well as sweeping drilling bans in the United States – mean global consumption is growing twice as fast as non-OPEC production.

Analysts say OPEC, which hold two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves but sees a global economy humming along despite $130 oil, has little incentive to increase production.

2008: Speculators swarm

Strong demand, tight supplies and a volatile marketplace have attracted the interest of investors – the last main contributor to high prices.

“The speculator has seized upon this opportunity,” said Schork. “They have recognized there is something fundamentally flawed in this market.”

Since 2003, the number of oil contracts exchanged on the NYMEX has more than doubled, said Schork.

Money flowing into oil – and commodities in general – has been especially sharp over the last 6 months as investors look for good returns amid falling stock prices and an inflation hedge against a falling dollar.

That’s helped push oil prices to nearly $130 a barrel and gasoline to an average of nearly $3.80 a gallon – smashing previous records even when adjusting for inflation.

Why do you think gas prices are so high? Post a comment.

Whether this investor influx into the oil market is justified is matter of debate. Some see high oil prices as necessary to boost supply and limit demand.

“You can’t just point the finger at speculators,” Michael Haigh, head of U.S. commodities research at the investment bank Société Générale, recently told CNNMoney.com “Fundamentally, the markets are where they are supposed to be.”

Others are less certain.

“The fundamental picture to us doesn’t justify the price,” said Lehman’s Crandell. “It’s kind of suggestive of a bubble.”

Are you feeling the pinch of high gas prices? Tell us how gas prices are affecting you and what you’re doing to cope. Send us your photos and videos, or email us to share your story.