Real Time with Bill Maher, 2/14/14

Stop the Comcast-TimeWarner merger. Sign the petition:

Need More Convincing?

Paul Krugman asks, in his New York Times article yesterday, “So let me ask two questions about the proposed deal. First, why would we even think about letting it go through? Second, when and why did we stop worrying about monopoly power?”

He goes on to make the following points:

On the first question, broadband Internet and cable TV are already highly concentrated industries, with a handful of corporations accounting for most of the customers. Once upon a time antitrust authorities, looking at this situation, would probably have been trying to cut Comcast down to size. Letting it expand would have been unthinkable.

In fact, a number of experts — like Susan Crawford of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, whose recent book “Captive Audience” bears directly on this case — have argued that the power of giant telecommunication companies has stifled innovation, putting the United States increasingly behind other advanced countries.

And there are good reasons to believe that this isn’t a story about just telecommunications, that monopoly power has become a significant drag on the U.S. economy as a whole.

There used to be a bipartisan consensus in favor of tough antitrust enforcement. During the Reagan years, however, antitrust policy went into eclipse, and ever since measures of monopoly power, like the extent to which sales in any given industry are concentrated in the hands of a few big companies, have been rising fast.

Moreover, there’s good reason to believe that monopoly is itself a barrier to innovation. Ms. Crawford argues persuasively that the unchecked power of telecom giants has removed incentives for progress: why upgrade your network or provide better services when your customers have nowhere to go?

And the same phenomenon may be playing an important role in holding back the economy as a whole. One puzzle about recent U.S. experience has been the disconnect between profits and investment. Profits are at a record high as a share of G.D.P., yet corporations aren’t reinvesting their returns in their businesses. Instead, they’re buying back shares, or accumulating huge piles of cash.

In addition to the overarching macroeconomic implications of this merger, there are also, at the most basic individual level, the adverse aspects for us consumers, such as data caps, courtesy of Comcast.

If you like cable, this should matter to you.

If you are a consumer, this should matter to you.

And guess what… We’re all consumers. None of us are exempt.

Let’s not forget to utilize our majority voice via our consumer power. After all, we are the 99 percent, right?

Stop corporate monopolies—which are bad for the economy & bad for us consumers.

Sign the petition







The Magnificent Seven, by The Clash

(a.k.a. “the only band that matters”)

This song is from the album Sandinista!, the title referring to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, with its catalogue number, ‘FSLN1’, referring to the abbreviation of the party’s Spanish name, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional.

One of my Cal professors once said they made this album as lengthy as they did— it contains 36 songs, effectively containing 3 albums in 1— because they wanted it to be an album for the working class (i.e. an album for those that probably didn’t have a lot of money to use on leisurely expenses such as music), and they aimed to piss off their record label (which they indeed accomplished, selling what could have been 3 separate albums for the mere price of 1—What record company wouldn’t be miffed?!) According to Rolling Stone magazine, “The triple-LP package was a deliberately anti-commercial gesture. It sold for less than most double albums, and Columbia took the loss profits out of the group’s royalties and tour support funds.”

This album was:

– Recorded in Jamaica, London, and New York.

– Released in 1980.

– Voted album of the year by the Village Voice.

– And contained the first ever UK rap record, The Magnificent Seven.

The Magnificent Seven was inspired by the growing hip-hop scene in the U.S. and Joe Strummer actually wrote the words on the spot. One of my most favorite lyrics (probably of all time) besides “Italian mobster shoots a lobster,” is “Vacuum cleaner sucks up budgie!,” which apparently came from an actual news headline in England around the time this was recorded. Read more about these *MAGNIFICENT* lyrics here.



Don’t you ever stop
Long enough to start
Take your car out of that gear

Don’t you ever stop
Long enough to start
Get your car out of that gear

Ring! Ring! It’s 7:00 A.M.!
Move y’self to go again
Cold water in the face
Brings you back to this awful place
Knuckle merchants and you bankers, too

Must get up an’ learn those rules
Weather man and the crazy chief
One says sun and one says sleet
A.M., the F.M. the P.M. too
Churning out that boogaloo
Gets you up and gets you out
But how long can you keep it up?
Gimme Honda, Gimme Sony
So cheap and real phony
Hong Kong dollars and Indian cents
English pounds and Eskimo pence

You lot! What?
Don’t stop! Give it all you got!
You lot! What?
Don’t stop! Yeah!

Working for a rise, better my station
Take my baby to sophistication
She’s seen the ads, she thinks it’s nice
Better work hard – I seen the price
Never mind that it’s time for the bus
We got to work – an’ you’re one of us
Clocks go slow in a place of work
Minutes drag and the hours jerk

“When can I tell ’em wot I do?
In a second, maaan…oright Chuck!”

Wave bub-bub-bub-bye to the boss
It’s our profit, it’s his loss
But anyway lunch bells ring
Take one hour and do your thanng!

What do we have for entertainment?
Cops kickin’ Gypsies on the pavement
Now the news – snap to attention!
The lunar landing of the dentist convention
Italian mobster shoots a lobster
Seafood restaurant gets out of hand
A car in the fridge
Or a fridge in the car?
Like cowboys do – in T.V. land

You lot! What? Don’t stop. Huh?

So get back to work an’ sweat some more
The sun will sink an’ we’ll get out the door
It’s no good for man to work in cages
Hits the town, he drinks his wages
You’re frettin’, you’re sweatin’
But did you notice you ain’t gettin’?
Don’t you ever stop long enough to start?
To take your car outta that gear
Don’t you ever stop long enough to start?
To get your car outta that gear
Karlo Marx and Fredrich Engels
Came to the checkout at the 7-11
Marx was skint – but he had sense
Engels lent him the necessary pence

What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!

Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi
Went to the park to check on the game
But they was murdered by the other team
Who went on to win 50-nil
You can be true, you can be false
You be given the same reward
Socrates and Milhous Nixon
Both went the same way – through the kitchen
Plato the Greek or Rin Tin Tin
Who’s more famous to the billion millions?
News Flash: Vacuum Cleaner Sucks Up Budgie






A Shout Out to the SAHM on Mother’s Day

A while ago I liked this page on Facebook called the “Rabid Feminist.”

Until one day they put up a guest post from someone stating how SAHMs (that’s “Stay-At-Home-Mom,” in case you weren’t hip to the acronym) were undermining the goals of, and strides made by, feminism. Apparently, in the eyes of whoever wrote the piece, and the moderator of this site, if you were a SAHM you were by definition not a feminist, and furthermore holding all of women’s lib back, negating much of the gains made by feminism— because you decided to be a SAHM.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I quickly looked to the comments below.

Relief! All of the comments were ones of anger, upset, and disappointment.

I myself posted something to the effect of: “Shame on you for trying to shame any woman that chooses to be a SAHM. Not only can being a SAHM be one of the most profound feminist acts of all, but to disparage any woman for making that choice is what is really anti-feminist.”

Yes, I am a “Strident Feminist” as Caitlin Moran would say, but that most certainly does not mean looking down on any woman just because she decides to be a stay-at-home-mother. That is a decision made by her, and/or an agreement decided upon by her and her partner, end of story. And hell, much love and power to those women! We all know that whether working outside the home or not, being a mother is a full-time job, but the way I see it, being a SAHM could encapsulate a very philosophical, free-thinking, creativity-inspiring, radical foundation for thinking and learning. One of my teachers once said that the Ancient Greeks—those great minds of the past (who stole most of their good ideas from the Middle East and Africa, according to him)— didn’t learn by sitting in a classroom in which all of learning was broken up into separate disciplines, but rather, they just had conversations (*ahem Socratic method*). This makes me think of all the things—concepts, ideas, ways of thinking and seeing, etc.—that could transpire between mother and child in a SAHM situation. What a classroom! Not to mention eschewing one’s place within the whole capitalist scheme of the workforce could be seen as a radical/ feminist move in itself, too.

Lastly, I would like to share that a while ago a SAHM friend of mine took me out for coffee, paying for both of us, and when I later told a male friend, “Oh, I met up with so-and-so this morning and she bought me breakfast, how nice, la la la….,” he responded,

“Well, her husband bought you coffee. She doesn’t work, so it wasn’t her that bought it.” I said, “OH SHE WORKS ALRIGHT. She just doesn’t have a “traditional” capitalist job, getting paid by a corporation like what you’re thinking… but OH… SHE WORKS. And SHE EARNED THAT MONEY and she bought me my coffee!”

So hopefully that clears the air on what at least one feminist thinks about the SAHM. (But we all know I’m not the only one)

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, mother-in-laws, single fathers, stepmothers, mothers-to-be, foster mothers, male-mothers, and anyone else doing the work of “mothering” out there. I’m a fan of your work.

A note on Capitalism, Consumerism, and all of this Monsanto Business…

consumer power

This week Facebook, Twitter, and the like were all abuzz with slactivism regarding the Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and the validity of Prop 8 (passed in CA, 2008).

And then of course, by the end of the week there was the more subtle wave of, “Meanwhile, the Monsanto Protection Act was passed,” floating just beneath the radar.

The thing that’s been getting to me about this is….

We live in a capitalist society (hopefully I am not shocking anyone with that info) and I am- yes, even as a “radical” feminist- okay with that. I am not anti-capitalism. But I do think it merits social safety nets. After all, I’m a homeowner- I own property and I am damn proud of that fact, and moreover super stoked that my husband and I (together, as a team- we could not have accomplished it otherwise) accomplished this achievement just before we each turned 30. However, that does not mean that I am okay with predatory lending and bad mortgages being handed out. Now I’m no economist, but I am a feminist and I do care about stuff and things, so naturally this is just one of those aspects of life which I believe it to be both my personal, as well as political, responsibility to know a little bit about. I happen to have this crazy notion that it’s my right, my privilege, and ultimately, my responsibility as a citizen- i.e. a private individual as well as member of public society- to be at least a little bit well-informed on some social issues and politics.

While our capitalist structure does, unfortunately, allow for the existence of things such as lobbyists, it is also fueled by and founded on, above all else, the consumer. At the base of our capitalist pyramid is us- the workers, the 99%, the consumers. And there is, indeed, such a thing as consumer power. Just look at the rise of the organic food industry over the past decade, or the rise of “Fair Trade,” and other forms of socially conscious consumerism. Seeing all the posts and articles about Monsanto over the past week has resulted in a recurring thought of mine:

What if Monsanto didn’t have any customers? What if they had no consumer base…?

Imagine if we all grew our own produce and/or only bought from vendors at farmers’ markets (or other individuals or small businesses) that we trusted?

I understand that Monsanto’s customer base is not directly us, the general public, but rather the farming community and farmers themselves, and this does indeed complicate my proposition; But if the basic principles of economics are still in operation then there is still room for change. As long as there is supply and demand, there is still consumer power.

We can always put our money where our mouths are.