As Comcast deal fails, broadband monopolies remain

Critics of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal made convincing arguments that it would be bad for consumers, and for the media companies that want to deliver stuff to consumers on the Internet…Astonishingly, Washington listened.

But in the end, killing the Comcast* deal just maintains the status quo. And when it comes to broadband Internet in the U.S., the status quo is pretty lousy: Most people who want high-speed access are stuck with a single provider, with no incentive to provide better speeds, quality or service.

A U.S. Department of Commerce report, produced a few months ago, lays it out clearly. If you define “broadband” as speeds of 25 megabits per second, as federal regulators want to do, only 37 percent of the population has any choice at all when it comes to providers. And most of that group is looking at a duopoly, likely split up between a cable TV company and a telco. Only 9 percent of the country has real choice — 3 options or more…

My family, my community, has only the monopoly of Comcast for a choice. They guarantee me 1 megabit more than the FCC minimum standard of 25mbps. All charges in, I pay almost $80/month. Not so incidentally, I get that through a “deal” which saves me a couple buck$ – and ComCrap then counts us as a cable TV customer as part of their nationwide lie about also providing that service to families in addition to internet access.

I don’t even have their crap TV box plugged in.

…An unintended consequence of the Comcast bid is that it pushed regulators to adopt net neutrality rules, making it harder — at least for now — for the monopolists and dupolists that control our broadband to abuse that control. But that doesn’t mean they’ll work hard to improve service, or their speed, or lower prices.

Peter Kafka concludes that Google’s here-and-there niche installations of Internet fibre are the last best chance we have for affordable, truly fast broadband.

It’s hard to imagine Google actually pushing Fiber through America, and creating real competition city by city. But it’s harder to imagine any other solution. And we need something.

I dunno. FDR made rural electrification work for Americans. Perhaps, if some election in the vaguely distant future gets us a progressive president and a Congress with backbone – simultaneously – we might stand a chance.

Subsidized birth control = 40% decrease in Colorado teen pregnancy

A Colorado programme that offers free birth control to teenagers has dramatically reduced the rate of teenage pregnancy. But the nature of the scheme’s funding – a large anonymous donation – leaves it unclear whether it could work on a broader scale…

That opening paragraph is a non sequitur. The source of funding isn’t relevant at all. What was done with the contribution is about a qualitative effect on the lives of young women.

In 2008, an anonymous donor made a $23 million five-year commitment to provide long-term contraception such as intrauterine devices or implants for teenagers who needed them, for free or at very low cost.

The state’s health department rolled out the programme, called the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, through clinics that were already offering family planning services…

When Greta Klinger, the director of the programme, got the first results back about how the initiative was working, she and others were stunned.

“The demographer whom I worked with on the analysis of the data kept coming into my office and saying, ‘Look at this, I’ve never seen this before.'” Klingler says…”It’s really incredible. From the public health perspective, it’s pretty rare to have a programme that produces such dramatic results.”

The US birth rate for teenagers is decreasing across the country, but Colorado has seen a quicker drop – between 2008-12, it jumped from 29th-lowest teen birth rate in the nation to the 19th lowest.

Not everyone is happy. There is fierce opposition to the idea of offering birth control to teenagers from groups like Colorado Right to Life…

I’ll not waste space in this post on spooky arguments leftover from centuries of ignorance. Suffice it to say the arguments from opponents range from fear and hatred of evolution and science to instructions from an invisible old white guy in the sky.

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World Happiness Report focuses on six key factors


As heads of state get ready for the United Nations General Assembly in two weeks, the second World Happiness Report further strengthens the case that well-being is a critical component of economic and social development…The Report is available here.

The landmark Report, authored by leading experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis, and national statistics, describes how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations. The Report is edited by John F. Helliwell…Lord Richard Layard…and Jeffrey D. Sachs…

The first World Happiness Report, released in 2012 ahead of the UN high-level meeting on Happiness and Well-being, drew international attention as a landmark first survey of the state of global happiness. This new Report goes further. It delves in more detail into the analysis of global happiness data, examining trends over time and breaking down each country’s score into its component parts, so that citizens and policy makers can understand their country’s ranking. It also draws connections to other major initiatives to measure well-being…

“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” said Professor Jeffery Sachs. “More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development…”

The 2013 report identifies the countries with the highest levels of happiness in the 2010-2012 surveys:

1. Denmark
2. Norway
3. Switzerland
4. Netherlands
5. Sweden
6. Canada

The Report also demonstrates the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. The Report suggests, therefore, that well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.

For more information, visit

Join the Uterati – fight back against Republican censorship!

In Florida, “uterus” is a dirty word. A member of the state house of representatives drew a reprimand when he complained that while Republicans want to repeal rules and regulations on corporations, they are all hot to impose rules and regulations on individuals. Women, for example. The rightwingers who control both the house and the senate in Florida have introduced 18 bills to restrict abortion.

Representative Scott Randolph, a Democrat from Orlando, said that his wife had decided the only way to protect her rights was to, as he put it, “incorporate her uterus”. Maybe then the business sycophants of the Republican party would stop trying to micromanage it with laws circumscribing reproductive freedom. Speaker Dean Cannon said he was shocked – shocked! – at such language on the house floor, deeming it a breach of “decorum”. Stephanie Kunkel, Planned Parenthood’s Florida director, rolled her eyes: “If the speaker can’t bear to hear or say the word ‘uterus’, he shouldn’t be legislating it.” Newspaper columnists amused themselves concocting acceptable euphemisms: Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post suggests “baby garage”.

And that’s pretty much how Republicans see women – as a place to park a kid till he’s ready to pop out and go to Sunday School and learn that sex is filthy. Republican-controlled legislatures across the US are hell-bent on stopping women from exercising control over their own bodies. Florida is one of 13 states that would require women to have an ultrasound – which they would have to pay for – before terminating a pregnancy. In Indiana, Texas, Kentucky and four other states, a woman would be forced to look at the foetus. Doctors would have to describe to her, in great detail, the foetus and its physical functions. After all this, she would still have to cool her heels for several days before being permitted to actually have the abortion…

In Texas, where they’re trying to restrict RU-486, the “morning after pill”, the legislature also threatened to cut funding for low-income contraception programmes on the logic that birth control among the poor leads to increased abortion rates. That’s bad and stupid, but not as bad and stupid as what’s going on in Louisiana where Representative John LaBruzzo has introduced a bill to outlaw all abortions – no exceptions, even where the life of the mother is at risk – and charge doctors who perform abortions with “foeticide”. On 26 April, Mother Jones reported that LaBruzzo would also like to make criminals of women who have abortions, but that he may remove that provision in his bill, making it easier to pass.

As Gloria Steinem said, so many years ago: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

I’ve been following the serious attack on freedom of choice by Republikans – about right for self-titled Libertarians. Plus the absurd assault on language by Florida Republicans. You should RTFA in the Guardian for the best precis of what’s going on. Both the criminal and laughable elements of the tale.

As is customary, most of the news-as-media-and-entertainment crowd who own American journalism have paid little attention to the political struggle and fear possible retaliation by Republicans and their Kool Aid Party brown shirts. So, there has been little coverage of the uterati event. Though it would fit nicely in with their dedication to column inches about stupidity like birthers and other racist camouflage.

Irish general election set to result in Fine Gael/Labour coalition

Enda Kenny campaigning in Donegal

Irish people are voting on Friday in what is arguably the most important general election in the republic’s history.

The electorate of more than 2 million will be sending representatives of a new government back to Brussels early next month to renegotiate the terms of the international bailout package that gave Ireland more than €80bn.

Enda Kenny, leader of the main opposition party, Fine Gael, is almost certain to be elected taoiseach and is already planning to travel next week to Brussels to meet his counterparts in the European People’s party bloc.

The meeting will pave the way for an EU finance summit later in March during which a number of debt-stricken countries, including Ireland, will attempt to persuade fellow Europeans to lower the interest payments on the loans.

Up until the final day of campaigning, Kenny and his party have been resisting all calls to reveal who they will share power with after the election. Kenny has also declined to give advice to Fine Gael voters as to where they should place their second, third, fourth and other preferences. Ireland elects its 166 members of the Irish parliament on the single transferable vote system in 43 multi-member constituencies…

Despite a surge in support, Fine Gael is unlikely to reach the magic figure of 83 seats that would allow the party to govern with an overall majority. Over recent days, relationships have been improving between Fine Gael and the Irish Labour party, Kenny’s most likely coalition partners.

Labour has complained of last-minute dirty tricks directed at the party by the Catholic right. Anti-abortion pressure groups have covered lamp-posts along O’Connell Street, Dublin’s major thoroughfare, with stickers claiming: “A vote for Labour is a vote for abortion.” Labour is the only one of the major Dail parties to take a pro-choice stance on abortion, which is still illegal in Ireland…

Despite several unresolved disagreements between Fine Gael and Labour – not least over the issue of abortion – most commentators and bookmakers seem to think the two parties are most likely to form the next coalition with a 30-plus majority in the Dail.

When you have an international theme following 14th Century ideology, you needn’t wonder at the consistency of reactionary political tactics. Whether you’re in Kansas or Dublin the game’s the same even if the name isn’t.

Taking away women’s rights to choice are a pretty consistent piece of that ideology – along with opposition to practices as modern, say, as the 19th Century – like contraception.

10-year-old’s pregnancy fuels Mexican abortion debate

A pregnant 10-year-old, allegedly raped by her stepfather, has become the latest lightning rod in the country’s heated abortion debate.

The girl’s stepfather has been arrested. But advocates on both sides of the issue say their battle is just beginning.

“This girl is much more than an isolated case,” said Adriana Ortiz-Ortega, a researcher at Mexico’s National Autonomous University who has written two books on abortion in Mexico, “and there is much more influence now from conservative groups that are trying to prevent the legalization of abortion.”

Abortion is legal in Mexico’s capital city, but prohibited or significantly restricted in most of the country’s states. The girl’s home state of Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan peninsula, allows abortion in cases of rape during the first 90 days of the pregnancy. But the 10-year-old girl is at 17½ weeks, nearly a month past that limit…

State Attorney General Francisco Alor Quezada said he did not know whether officials had told the girl she had the option of pursuing an abortion, and he did not know how far the girl was into her pregnancy when her mother reported the assault to authorities last month…

The Roman Catholic Church vocally opposes abortion in Mexico, and the topic has long been controversial there. The debate has been particularly heated since 2007, when the nation’s more liberal capital city approved a law legalizing abortion during the first three months of pregnancy with no restrictions. That decision was challenged and ultimately upheld by the country’s Supreme Court in 2008.

We have the Party of NO. Mexico has the Church of NO.

I hope no one here is laboring under the delusion that either provides anything useful to life and reason in the 21st Century.