Friday, May 06, 2005

Absence Of Malice

It’s been tough for me to keep up with what’s going on lately. It’s required all my spare time just trying to keep up with the Michael Jackson trial. I mean there’s the real news about the real trial on all the broadcast and cable networks and there’s all those real-life re-enactments courtesy of E! News Presentations.

This distraction has caused me to miss the monumental struggle going on in Lafayette Louisiana over the municipal Fiber to the Premises plan. And it’s been hard for me to get up to speed given that Cox and BellSouth are rolling out some creative new tactics.

Backed by the Louisiana Cable Telecommunications Association, the cable and phone folks have been able to get a Democratic State Senator, Sharon Weston Broome, to introduce legislation that forces a city to hold a referendum to get citizen approval before they can build municipal FTTP. Now that’s nothing new, that’s straight out of the playbook. But what is new is language in the bill that would suspend operator obligations to provide PEG access, I-Nets, system re-build demands and other monetary requirements if the municipality does build its own plant. The suspension of obligations would remain in force until the local government has spent as much on these obligations as the commercial providers have paid in the previous decade.

I can’t be sure if that is straight up blackmail or legislative genius. And I have a huge urge to call up Senator Broome and ask her how she sleeps at night.

But I am reminded not to “attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity." Like the phone poll of Lafayette residents that was conducted by a marketing firm out of Florida just this week.

One of the things that “dumbfounded” resident Debbey Ryan was the pollster’s claim that the municipal system could ration TV just like water.

“They said that if the government controls the cable TV that you may not be able to watch TV except on Monday, Wednesday and Friday ‘cause they could ration your TV watching.”

Now I think I am a smart woman and I’ve been around the political block a couple of times, but never, not even on my best day could I have thought that one up! That is a talking-point that would make any K-Street lobbyist proud.

Of course Cox was dodgy when questioned by reporters and Gary Cassard, the Veep of operations in Lafayette claimed that his company had no direct part in planning the questions of the poll. And the BellSouth guy, John Williams said the poll did not originate out of his office in Lafayette. He even went on to give his phone number for anyone who wanted to call him and talk about it. The number is 261-2800, you’ll have to look up the area code yourself.

Malice v. Stupidity. Malice v. Stupidity. My vote is for Stupidity. You spend thousands of dollars to hire a marketing firm to conduct a poll for you and you don’t even know what the questions will be? And you convince yourself that anyone is going to buy that you didn’t know?

Thank goodness the residents of Lafayette are not the rubes Cox and BellSouth have taken them for. But it’s easy to understand the lack of judgment demonstrated by Cox and their buddy BellSouth. These are the same media companies who actually believe the majority of the American people want all Michael Jackson all the time.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Talking Trash

Every once in a blue moon I come up with a great idea. Here’s one I’ve given quite a bit of thought to and am convinced it will work.

The “federalization” of trash pick up.

Follow me on this. See when I lived in Los Angeles County we paid for a private company to do our trash pick up. It was great. You could put a refrigerator out on the curb and they would haul it away just like your kitchen trash. Recycle was put out on the same day as regular trash and it too would just magically disappear.

Then I moved out here to Maryland to this fancy-schmancy planned community and experienced the agony of a complex set of rules regulating the trash. Mondays are my pick up day. I am allowed two containers of regular household trash. They will not take my trash if I have thrown in things like a car battery or an empty paint can and they certainly won’t let me put an old couch out on the curb. There’s a whole other day for recycle and yard waste and the rules on that are also quite strict.

The recycle has to be separated between metal, paper, glass and plastic. Containers with yard waste cannot weigh more than fifty pounds and they cannot contain lots of dirt. Branches and sticks must be no more than four feet long and must be bundled and tied. Again, no toxins are allowed such as empty Ortho weed killer containers.

I think this unfair discrepancy between how things were done in Los Angeles County and how things are done out here has got to end! Therefore the time has come to federalize all trash pick up in order to alleviate the burden on residents for this complicated mish-mash of local regulation that treats trash differently depending on which coast you’re living on.

My preference would be for the national regulations to be the same as the L.A. County ones, a lot looser with no real limitations. Local communities would not be allowed to pre-empt the federal system regardless of their supposed “reasons” for attempting to do so. The federal government would collect the trash money every year along with the income tax and then distribute the money back down through the states and from the states back down to the local government. Or better yet not distribute the money back down the pipeline at all, just create a whole new Department of Trash that hires the thousands of trash guys needed, sort of like the Transportation Safety Administration screeners at the airport.

And if there ends up being some problems, we could create a national hotline for people to call to report them and somehow or another get resolution.

I am much encouraged that this could work especially after reading about the Baby Bells promoting the idea of a national franchise in hearings on the Hill the other day. A national franchise for the Bell boys in which they agree to pay the federal government the franchise fee and provide the locals with access channels is an idea whose time has come. I mean aren’t you a wee bit curious about what that would look like and how swell that would work? And I am chomping at the bit to get that Needs Assessment contract, with that kind of thing I could just go ahead and retire.

It’s like the trash thing, why should the requirements for L.A. County be any different than the requirements for Howard County Maryland? Of course LA didn’t have to be concerned about the environmental needs of the Chesapeake Bay from land-fill and storm drain run off but Howard County makes way too many demands on the residents.

I can relate to the Bells on this. It’s way too cumbersome to have to take local concerns into account when all you want to do is just be able to put out your trash.

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