National Billion-tainment

It means you can buy part of a broadcasting network, to add to your cable monopoly.

In a joint statement announcing the agreementBrian L. Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast, said the deal was “a perfect fit for Comcast and will allow us to become a leader in the development and distribution of multiplatform ‘anytime, anywhere’ media that American consumers are demanding.” The deal’s genesis lies in frequent flirtations over the last several years between Comcast and General Electric, although serious talks began in March. For Comcast, the purchase is the realization of its long-held ambition to be a major producer of television shows and movies.

I love that part: making it appear as if the viewing public is demanding oligopolistic cornering of entertainment creation and delivery mechanisms only to satisfy our never-ending pursuit of more viewing options. It’s reminiscent of the way the (late) Big Three had to, just had to, start making and selling all those massive SUV’s darn-it because the American public demanded it.

Look for incredible new innovations like bum-fighting and more award-creating reality shows designed to fit snugly into the headrest of your recliner.

The pathetic part is the added window-dressing to the courtship to come – the anti-trust hearings to make damn well certain the deal passes “regulatory muster,” whatever that could mean in this business country. Really, who is trying to make what case? Comcast already is the No. 1 cable provider; in January 2008, a Republican Chairman of the FCC was trying to get the country out of cable Guantanamo, but the industry trade group was having none of that.

“There is an agenda from a Republican chairman that is anti-free market and anti-competitive,” said Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunication Association. “It is disturbing.”

In the world of made-up names, we won’t improve on his. Are we getting to the point where even the word ‘disturbing’ qualifies as Orwellian? How long before Orwellian is Orw- uh oh.

The only, I mean the only salve to this whole thing: the precedent it follows.

Paving Our Fate

Or cementing, if you like. An American Business Community that was way late on the short-sighted-ness of sprawl, commercial real estate and exotic financial instruments (but big on INNOVATION!) is now working to defeat healthcare reform legislation because it will… slow down the climate change legislation juggernaut. Synergy!

Corporate front groups and large business trade associations are funneling their resources into defeating health reform. Even though health reform will lower costs for small businesses and boost worker productivity economy-wide, it appears that corporate entities influenced by major polluters are hoping that the defeat of health care legislation will slow President Obama’s agenda and derail their true enemy: clean energy reform.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which is largely backed by the coal industry, candidly revealed this strategy in a letter released today to Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Robert Byrd (D-WV). The Chamber of Commerce demanded that the senators use “their clout and seniority” to obstruct the health reform debate until cap and trade legislation is taken off the table and the EPA is barred from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted, Rockefeller has already rejected a similar proposal of blocking health reform unless the EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal permits. The coal lobby has also pressured West Virginia state legislators to pass resolutions opposing clean energy reform.

I’m kind of even bored with my own impulses toward snark on this, and maybe that’s a good sign. It’s simply not amusing, the way in which major financial interests in this country align their loyalties with short term infringements on their power instead of taking a longer view toward sustainable, if lower, profitability. That is the trade-off they choose to see. But it’s not a trade. It’s a fail. They appear wiling to sacrifice both for neither, as though activating some kind of compass in their Solomonic wisdom survival pack. But you have to wonder, the survival of exactly what?

Plus, in what kind of country is the true enemy clean energy reform? Explain your answer.


This story about a single nutrient that turned early humans into civilized man, but which has been – thanks to to the industrialization of agriculture – systematically stripped from our diets over the last half century, has too many other parallels to let pass without noting.

Omega-3 molecules are a by-product of the happy meeting of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide in the chloroplasts of terrestrial plants and marine algae. Not long ago, these fatty acids were an inescapable component of our diet. Back in the early 1900s—long before the arrival of bovine growth hormone and patented transgenic seeds–American family farms were perfect factories for producing omega-3s. Bucolic, sun-drenched pastures supported a complex array of grasses, and cattle used their sensitive tongues to pick and choose the ripest patches of clover, millet, and sweet grass; their rumens then turned the cellulose that humans can’t digest into foods that we can: milk, butter, cheese, and, eventually, beef, all of them rich in omega-3s. Cattle used to spend four to five carefree years grazing on grass, but now they are fattened on grain in feedlots and reach slaughter weight in about a year, all the while pumped full of antibiotics to fight off the diseases caused by the close quarters of factory farms.

When critics talk about so-called Frankenfoods and the insidiousness of genetically-modified organisms in our food supply, they’re not necessarily being Luddites or anti-biotechnology, even if that’s how large agricultural concerns define certain prohibitions on what they want to do. Any particular prohibition amounts to an utter and complete infringement of their rights to do whatever they want in the service of maximizing yields and profits. It’s much the same concept by which the insurance industry construes any steps to improve the healthcare system as socialized medicine – change one element to the way we do business and you’ll ruin the whole thing. I think that’s why the term ‘laissez faire’ has stuck in our business culture – it’s a euphemism for doing whatever you want – only you don’t have to say that and can hide behind a french idiom.

Because we’re always going to be finding out things like this, that were perpetrated unintentionally to dire effect at the behest of some enterprise(s) to maximize profits and which require mammoth efforts to even attempt to undo.

Maybe Il y devrait etre une nouvelle devise de puissance publique?


One of the difficult things about any transition to a different model, whether in realms economic, social, political and especially one that overlaps all of these, is the extent to which assumptions based on business-as-usual are allowed travel in tact. We continue to hold fast to many assumptions, all the while slapping on all sorts of various goals for decreasing carbon footprints and lower emissions. It’s quite insane, by a traditional definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

This article about partnering industrial polluters with large landowners holds a few barely-opened pistachios about this transition and the kinds of changes in thinking that are required to begin living toward different ends.

The idea is to nurture food- and fiber-producing activities that are more climate-friendly. Over time, Collins says by phone from Washington, “Where we go from here will alter the discussion of how the country thinks about natural resources.”

The program will be similar to payments farmers currently receive to rest their land in order to preserve the soil, restoration of wetlands along rivers by municipalities to promote water quality and flood control,  and “biodiversity banks” in which landholders that affect habitat for endangered species are required to provide equal or greater amount of habitat elsewhere.

Bringing in a large, extraordinarily-tentacled and therefore quite sluggish bureaucracy like USDA alters the implications for how the policy will evolve. Once agriculture departments at colleges and universities begin to alter the way they think and teach on conservation and allocation of natural resources, especially with an abstract concept (ecology) becoming hopefully less abstracted as it gets integrated into curricula and policy outlooks, forecasts and long term models, then the beginning of the transition will be in sight. You factor out the ideology by attaching valuation on an objective plane, as seeing natural resources and related commodities as having greater value when considered as part of a larger whole. Sustainable then becomes a requirement instead of merely a goal.

Lest we forget, this is all in the service of not waking to that day when, as best summed up by the lyrics of a fourteenth-generation Indian killer, ” you can’t find an answer so you pray for a reason.”