AT&T: Money for Nothing

AT&T, Verizon and other Internet service providers (ISP) bombard us with advertising touting their fast download speeds. (Upload speeds, not so much.) The boasting always comes with an asterisk, though. The fine print gives reasons and circumstances when they might not deliver the speed we think we’re paying for.

The Federal Communications Commission has a plan, and funding, to upgrade Internet service in rural areas where consumers receive less attention from ISPs than in more densely-populated areas. Subsidizing services to rural America is historically in the purview of the federal government, as in delivery of mail and electricity. The F.C.C. has $20 billion to spend over ten years for areas underserved by ISPs. The money for this “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” comes from fees on telephone bills.

AT&T thinks this is a great idea. They’re ready to take the money. But they don’t like the part about providing faster download and upload speeds. USTelecom, the lobbying organization for AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon and others, argues that it’s too hard to provide the speeds required and it would cost them too much. They say that higher speeds, particularly upload speeds don’t make all that much difference anyway. They want the federal money without making significant network upgrades.

(The USTelecom public web site is full of innocuous prattle about their wanting the best for everyone but it’s very light on details.)

Oddly enough, groups representing small ISPs are exhorting the F.C.C. not to lower the download/upload requirements. The Fiber Broadband Association, which represents equipment vendors, ISPs, and others also is urging the F.C.C. to not lower the standards required for federal funds. The small guys apparently see it as an opportunity for them; the big guys contend they should get the money, well, because they should get it.

The Good That Bugs Do

It can be disheartening to go out to your carefully-tended garden to find that bugs have been feasting on your organically-grown produce. The chewed-up leaves might cause anger to rise up and make you begin to question whether chemical insecticides are really so bad.

Take heart! Those bug bites are a good thing.

Scientists at Texas A & M University tell us that a bug chomping on leaves triggers a defensive response in organic fruit or vegetables. The stress created by the injury causes the plants to increase production of antioxidant compounds. The antioxidants make the produce more beneficial for you to eat.

“In our study we proved that wounding leaves in plants like those caused by insects produce healthier organic fruit,” said a researcher.

Just thought you would like to know.

The Lawyers Always Win

“The civil service is under greater assault than at any time since reforms of the eighteen-eighties.”

Fiona Hill, a coal miner’s daughter from northern England, earned master’s and PhD degrees in history from Harvard University. She became a U.S. citizen in 2002. Hill worked in the research department at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and as a national intelligence analyst for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council. She was was an intelligence analyst under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Early in 2017 the current occupant of the White House appointed Dr. Hill to the National Security Council as Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs. She served in that position until she resigned in July, 2019.

Responding to a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, Fiona Hill testified for ten hours in a closed-door hearing on October 14, 2019 as part of the impeachment inquiry. She testified publicly before the same body on November 21, 2019. For her trouble, she received insults from the president, death threats from his supporters and six-figure bills from attorneys. Those who supposedly know estimate her legal fees at somewhere between four hundred and five hundred thousand dollars.

Other State Department career employees who provided such riveting testimony during the House impeachment hearings face similar lawyers’ fees.

The State Department announced that it will provide relief to its employees. The Department will cover attorney’s fees of $300 per hour up to 120 hours a month – $36,000.

Partners at top firms experienced in these matters charge up to $1,200 per hour, “associates” $800 or so. When one needs to engage a team of lawyers, well, it gets expensive.

The American Foreign Service Association, the union representing State Department employees, has set up a legal-defense fund. So far a bit more than $250,000 has been donated. Some public-spirited attorneys from both political parties are working for reduced fees and, in some cases pro bono. The lead lawyer for Marie Yovanovitch, former Ambassador to Ukraine, said, “Unless you’re a full-time public-interest lawyer, you get only a few chances to take cases that you strongly believe in. I took the case because this is why I went to law school.”

Water, In All the Wrong Places

You start the dishwasher, expecting an explosion. Instead, you get “like four drops of water.” You hear the toilet flush ten times, “Ten times right… Not me, of course. Not me. But you. Him.”

You’re probably thinking, What’s the deal with water?

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Tina Hits the Wall of Sound

“Ike Turner is one of the most dehumanized figures in rock history.”

“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” has been well-received by reviewers since opening on Broadway in October, 2019. Critics have especially praised Adrienne Warren in the title role. Warren reprises her performance in the London West End production that opened April, 2018.

A major musical number in the first act is “River Deep – Mountain High,” recreating on stage a Phil Spector production from 1966.

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Keeping Up with the President

“It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?” — Ronald Reagan

You thought no president would be lazier than our fortieth? Even George W. Bush (43) spent much of his time clearing brush and driving a pickup truck around his Crawford Texas ranch.

There’s a quick and easy way to keep abreast of what the current occupant of the White House is doing. The web site posts the president’s rigorous schedule, updated daily. For example, here is his very busy Friday, January 17, 2020.

11:00 am The President participates in the visit of the 2019 College Football National Champions: Louisiana State University Tigers

2:30 pm The President and First Lady depart the White House

5:25 pm The President and First Lady arrive at Mar-a-Lago

6:30 pm The President participates in a roundtable with supporters (closed to press)

7:00 pm The President delivers remarks at a joint finance committee dinner (closed to press)

Fun fact: Condominiums in Trump-branded buildings on average sell for 18.2% less per square foot compared to similar units in the same ZIP code.