Monday, April 29, 2013

"Get Big Money Out of Politics!" -- Only one way to do that...but you won't like it

A friend comments on a story about a corrupt state Attorney General:

Yet another example of why we need to get big money out of politics.

Wrong, of course. My reply:

Getting money out of politics cannot ever happen. An entity with the power the government has to make or break you, to side with you against your competitors or the other way around, to make rules that hurt you or help you, to send you to jail or outlaw your most profitable product, to tax you into oblivion, to demonize you to justify whatever is popular to do to you -- people will spend as much money as they must to control an entity like that. For better or worse.

And they will. And you can say "No, don't spend money to defend yourself" and those are empty words. Worse, you can say "No, don't spend money to seize this power for your own benefit!" and It Is obviously To Laugh. And tell the good not to take power to do good because that power is dangerous; and feel their resentment.

The Founders figured out there is one and only one way to reduce the incentive of the ambitious to seize the power of government - and that is to greatly limit the power of that government. Both the power to do evil, and the power to do good - for they are the same thing, just in different hands. In my hands, good; in your hands--not so much.

The ambitious will scheme into the night and you will not long suppress them. Those of good intentions will complain of limited government power to do good -- not able to acknowledge that power does not come with that kind of restriction in the long run. There is no such thing as "You are authorized to use power to Do Good."

But no... Let's by all means have an all-powerful government that is not limited in the good it can do, but only limited in the misuse of power. Yes, let's do that.

Wake me when you figure out how.

Meanwhile, mercy upon our descendants.


Mac McCarthy

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fun with the Comcast Beast

Wasted half an hour on the phone with Comcast (wasted first ten minutes trying to find their phone number on their site) attempting without success to reduce service to save on my monthly bill.

I have "triple play' which combines TV, internet, and landline in one bill - which has grown to $175 a month over the past year or so. Once again I am reminded how well Comcast organizes its pricing structure to discourage exactly what I was trying to do.

Last year I reduced my internet speed to save money; the standard service is around 12mbps; the *only* lesser option is 1mbps, for which I save about ten bucks. One, or 12 - cute, huh? (Of course, Comcast's internet people can't help themselves: The speed has risen over the past year to 3mbps.) Happily I found that I can tolerate this speed just fine, since I don't watch high-bandwidth shows on my computer anyway, nor do Skyping.

So i called thinking to cut back on the TV side -- research shows that dropping down to the basic package drops off all the channels you most like, such as AMC and the housing shows my wife likes -- so I figured to cut back on HD, since we hardly ever use it (not sports fans) and would not miss it. Turns out that the DVR, which we do like, works on the HD package *only* -- drop to the "classic" (non-HD) service and bye-bye DVR. 

Also discovered that their DVR will indeed show on the other TV using a wireless gadget that should have been installed last year when I got the DVR but the tech didn't install, and nobody told me about. To have the tech come up and hook it up right will cost me -- $50. No, since it was their mistake, they'll discount that to $35. Nice.

Several "how about this package combo?" discussions later, all of which result in getting more service for just a bit more money, I gave up. It is not possible to reduce these costs. I suspect if I cancelled the phone element of the triple play, the remaining double--play items would add up to -- $175 a month.

I get my cell service from AT&T; I think I need to drop by and see if they can do anything for me. I suspect I will get the same treatment from them too, but the prospect of poking Comcast in the eye is hard to resist. I've been a happy Comcast customer for more than a decade (and its predecessors for another decade before that) but I can no longer afford it. One advantage of AT&T in my case is that I could presumably just drop my landline altogether, since I get my cell service from AT&T. (Last year I threatened Comcast with switching to AT&T and got a temporary fifteen dollar a month discount.)

Any of you have experience with AT&T's internet and TV service? Is it bad or tolerable, and is it just as gouging as Comcast?

Mac McCarthy