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From the monthly archives: May 2010

So as we all know, our dear friend Gherald has a dim view of government’s ability to do anything useful.

I’d be interested to know what everyone (including Gherald of course) thinks about this little bit of interesting broadband news:
According to one of its biggest boosters, community-owned fiber networks open a door that “has remained shut due to the sleight-of-hand antics of many private telecom companies who talk the game of broadband but only offer embarrassing low levels of capability.”

But communities considering such a buildout need to know what they’re in for: lawsuits.

Lafayette, Louisiana has one of the largest and most successful fiber deployments in the country. Right now, residents can pick up a 50Mbps symmetrical connection for only $57.95 a month. In most cases, the prices are at least 20 percent less than phone and cable companies, and every subscriber gets 100Mbps access within the city’s network. Street-level deployment should be complete by July 2010, nine months ahead of schedule.

The city didn’t want to get into the ISP game. It first went to the local telephone company (BellSouth, now AT&T) and the local cable operator (Cox Communications) and asked if either company would be willing to deploy a fiber-to-the-home network within Lafayette. Both refused to do so, “stating that Lafayette was too small of a market to make such a large investment.”

The city decided to build a next-generation network itself. Shortly after the city started a market survey to see if the community was actually interested in the service, “BellSouth orchestrated legislation which, while self-styled as a ‘fairness’ bill, would have effectively prohibited any local government in Louisiana from offering telecommunications services.

As the city moved forward, opposition mounted. Even after the new law was passed, the incumbents went after Lafayette. The first lawsuit, from BellSouth, demanded a local referendum. Lafayette complied, secured the endorsement of the local Republicans, the local Democrats, and the local Chamber of Commerce, then won over the local paper. The referendum passed with 62 percent of the vote.

Once this was done, the city tried to raise money by issuing tax-exempt municipal bonds. The incumbents sued over the bonds. Lafayette first won, then lost on appeal and had to rework its offering.

It was then sued by two local citizens. The case went all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court, where the Chief Justice “asked the plaintiffs’ attorney if they were being paid by the telephone company.”

The Supreme Court eventually sided with the city 7-0 on the revised bond issue.

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Gherald has sparked a very interesting discussion in his latest post: “Individualism and Collectivism“. It is a continuation of a conversation we all had back in an earlier post of mine.

This is exactly the kind of respectful, intelligent and informed debate that I was hoping to foster here at Library Grape when I started it.
If you’re interested, please jump over to Gherald’s post and let us know what you think.

This is relevant to my interests.

Ten days ago we had a long discussion in comments with Rupert, myself, and Metavirus, which ended up touching on principles of individual freedom. My basic thesis was that the left and the right are amenable to such principles in one sphere—personal or economic—but are unprincipled in selectively refusing to apply these same principles in another sphere.

This is in contrast with we libertarians, who are of course divinely perfect wholly-principled individualists.

Today I came across the above playlist, which does an able job of presenting my view with a nice Australian accent. Oi Oi Oi!

I look forward to comments and any disagreements you may have with this framing of the debate.

Disclaimer update: Though I like this video, I do not endorse other views from G. Edward Griffin or his Freedom Force International. They are wackos, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

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Consider this:

We still can’t know what the final price-tag for the bailout — by which we mean not just the Treasury’s TARP program for banks, but also the efforts to prop up Fannie and Freddie and the automakers, and additional spending programs by the Federal Reserve — will come out to. But it now seems clear that that $700 billion figure cited as the cost of the TARP alone was way too high.
Pro Publica records that of $536.3 billion that the Treasury has dispersed to date on the TARP and the programs to rescue Fannie and Freddie, $216.8 billion has already been returned, either through banks paying the money back, or through dividends generated. That still leaves $319.5 billion outstanding, but most estimates are that as the health of the financial sector continues to improve, much of that figure too will return to the government’s coffers. Indeed, last month, the Treasury Department offered an estimate of its own. The TARP program will end costing about $117 billion, Tim Geithner forecast. Help for Fannie and Freddie will likely add about $85 billion more. But those losses will be partially offset by expected gains of $115 billion from the Fed’s programs. That comes out to a final cost to taxpayers of $87 billion.

In one illustration of how things are going lately, Treasury announced late last month that it planned to sell off its shares of Citigroup, likely turning a profit. It bought the shares for $3.25 a piece, and they’re now valued at about $4.60.

Geithner may have reason to paint a rosy picture, and some observers say his tally left out some of the bailout’s more indirect costs. The Congressional Budget Office last year put the cost at $250 billion. But as a price for preventing the human misery that a full-scale economic collapse would have caused, even that number might be a bargain.

It always amazes me that most people think the bailout money contained in TARP was just flushed down the toilet.
Face it, people, the lion’s share of the money will be PAID (OR EARNED) BACK!

Another gem in the fine tradition of hard-hitting investigative journalism (as seen today in the elevator on my way to work):

In other news:

  • Blue-ribbon panel finds that the Earth revolves around the Sun
  • Ground-breaking study concludes “The sky is blue.”
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Hooray for the new Loch Ness Monster graph:

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Yglesias again:

My colleagues Matt Duss, Peter Juul, and Brian Kaplan have a memo out in which they try to tally up the full cost of Iraq—human, financial, and strategic—and discover that the price was very, very, very high.

I think this is important because I’ve developed a concern in the wake of the “surge” and the Obama administration’s embrace of counterinsurgency and General David Petraeus that some kind of cross-party conventional wisdom is going to emerge that Iraq was a tough fight with a couple of bad years, but ultimately a reasonable policy decision that worked out well enough. It wasn’t and it didn’t.

Again, the link is here. Never forget.

I don’t have a broader point, except maybe to note that Yglesias—perhaps the best, but certainly the most prolific of progressive bloggers—ought to be read regularly (feed URL).

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