The End of Choice...

NPR and everyone else, please stop lying to us. And please stop reading corporate press releases to us and calling them news. This morning, NPR took a stab at covering the proposed AT&T-DirecTV merger that was officially announced this weekend.

Take a listen…

NPR is completely wrong. This has nothing to do with AT&T or DirecTV "surviving." They're both big, profitable companies, and if the industry is changing they can change to adapt to it. Which by the way, both are already doing. What this is REALLY about is monopoly. Just like the Comcast-Time Warner merger, and Sprint's plans to try to take over T-Mobil, this AT&T-DirecTV move is all about MONOPOLY.

These mergers and acquisitions are about corporations getting so large that they dominate an industry, and limit your choices to a very, very small number of companies - which then all suddenly start raising prices and increasing profits. This is about screwing the consumer. And this is all because in 1982 Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

It's amazing how much things have changed since then. Back in the 1970s, Richard Nixon saw that AT&T's monopoly on telephone service was stifling innovation and jacking up prices to consumers. He initiated a breakup of AT&T that ended during the Carter Administration, breaking AT&T into 7 regional carriers, known as the “Baby Bells,” and spinning off their R&D arm as Lucent Technologies.

But then came Reagan and the “Baby Bells” began to re-consolidate. And so did everybody else in the industry. Now, we're all paying twice, three times, sometimes ten times what people in countries that enforce anti-trust laws like France and Germany pay.

If the media had any interest in telling the true story, they'd say, "AT&T is trying to further cement their control over the choices you have for telephone and internet service, and grab a part of your choices about TV, by buying DirecTV. If they're successful, expect your prices to go up while your choices go down, just as has happened pretty much every other time an industry has succumbed to this sort of monopolistic behavior."

But they won't tell you that, because they're nearly monopolies themselves. NPR has a lock on - and government subsidy for - radio stations all across the nation. And the big TV networks and the big cable companies won't tell you what's really up with AT&T becoming more and more of a monopoly because they're all playing the same game themselves.

But it’s not just telecom and media companies that are growing into virtual monopolies. Right now, there are 10 giant corporations that control, either directly or indirectly, virtually every consumer product we buy. Kraft, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Unilever, and Johnson and Johnson together have a stranglehold on the American consumer.

Meanwhile, in the retail industry, Wal-Mart and Target, along with big box stores The Home Depot and Best Buy, control major portions of America’s retail industry. You can basically pick any industry in America, and see the monopolistic characteristics in it.

That’s why we should pass a law - a new version of the Sherman Act - that says, explicitly, that whenever a company reaches a point where they have more than a certain percentage of a marketplace - say, 10 or 15 percent - then they can't grow any larger in that domain. They have to leave room for startups, innovators, and competitors.

There was a time in America when nearly every business in every Main Street or strip mall was locally owned by local families. They paid well, they took care of their employees, and they had great customer service. The anti-trust laws kept the big boys at bay for over a century. There was even a TV show that ran from 1960 until 1964 titled Route 66, in which Martin Milner and George Maharis visited town after town on their way from coast to coast.

Every town was different, every restaurant and hotel unique, and those differences from place to place provided an unending series of interesting plots for the TV series. America worked back then because we enforced the anti-trust laws. It’s time to start again, and even expand them and add some teeth to them. No more “too big to fail” banks or anything else.

Let’s get back to core American values and rebuild the nation’s small business sector. Only then will we see innovation and competition return to America.


Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

The public schools have been starved to death! And then you assholes blame public schools for not measuring up. Makes me fucking crazy. It's all part of the Master Plan to PRIVATIZE EVERYTHING! Gone are the days when each and every child is guaranteed an education, regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of mental and/or physical health. Any child judged to be too much of a "problem" is simply discarded. If that isn't "screwing someone over for life", I don't know what is. It sucks no matter how you slice it or dice it, Matt. Shit wrapped in gift paper, tied with a little bow, is still shit.

Nobody's advocating handing out "ribbons" to "everyone". You are constantly twisting the meaning of our statements.

This is just like the Tea Party infiltrating Congress, filling congressional seats with all these empty suits hellbent on bringing our government to a screeching halt, running this country right into the ditch, then declaring that government is "evil", that government "can't do anything right" and let's have the private sector do it all instead! It's called fascism.

This whole privatizing agenda makes me sick.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

Thom, I just got around to listening to that NPR clip about that AT&T/DirecTV merger. And I'm with you; I tend to be very distrustful of any news clip that attempts to shed a positive light on something like this, the next phase of media consolidation. Just more of the same old corporate bullshit. Here's a classic example illustrating why I've lost interest in NPR. They ain't what they used to be.

Between that and privatized schools and for-profit healthcare ad nauseam, we're all screwed.

Thank you Thom, for calling it what it is. - Aliceinwonderland

ChicagoMatt 8 years 27 weeks ago

Here's an interesting article with statistics for public school districts in the Chicago area. Don't let the word "republican" in the link distract you:

It shows what I've already said - Even compared to other public school districts, Chicago public schools spend about $3,000 more per student per year, and still have miserable results. How can you say underfunded schools are the cause of the problem, when schools with less funding still do better? Perhaps there are other issues to consider.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 27 weeks ago

Matt, this discussion is OVER. I'm not buying what you're selling. The word "republican" in that link tells me all I need to know. Have a nice day teaching your well-heeled, privileged, cherry-picked pupils! - AIW

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 27 weeks ago

Chi Matt -- Thank you for specifically, personally answering my questions in a reply a few blogs back. However, the one question I wanted answered the most you didn't answer. A related question, to the one I want answered the most, is about the metric you use. Can I assume, when you say home schooling, your school, and schools in which teachers are paid less do better, the metric used is the results of a standardrized test? The problem I find with that metric is, the only meaningful measure of education, IMO, is how much you improve the student. Unless you track the improvement from test to test, one cannot determine any measure of improvement. The LA school district tried to overcome this shortcoming in the standard metric by using a criterion called Value Added testing. One key result of using this new metric, that I remember, is that one of the schools that was doing the best via the standardrized testing metric wound up near the bottom. So, my question I want answered the most is "has a value added metric been applied to any of the schools you use as examples to measure how well they are doing"?

With regards to your 20 minutes to make a reply, I know the feeling. Often I think I have made quick reply until I look at my watch. Often, an hour has passed. For this short reply, it was even more than an hour.

ChicagoMatt 8 years 27 weeks ago

I am only vaguely familiar with value-added testing. But what I have read of it makes it seem like a mathematical trick that school districts are using to make themselves look better on paper, while not actually producing better results in real life. Can't blame them - schools can actually be closed and teachers fired if they don't meet certain criteria under "No Child Left Behind". Every now and then you hear about a group of teachers who get caught changing student's answers on standardized tests, to protect their own jobs. Again, can't really blame them. They can only do so much with what they are given. It is unrealistic to think that EVERY student can do algebra, read Shakespeare, etc...

So, my question I want answered the most is "has a value added metric been applied to any of the schools you use as examples to measure how well they are doing"?

No. We are specifically told to NOT teach to any standardized test. The students take it one morning in March, and that's it. The only instruction I give them for the test is how to fill in a bubble. And yet, they still rank in the 80-ish percentile when compared to students around the nation who take the same tests. The public school students down the street usually hoover around the 50-ish percentile. Those teachers can lose their jobs over that, which is not right.

When I think about value-added testing for awhile, I realize it's kind of liek the school districts are giving up, throwing their hands in the air, and saying, "these kids will NEVER break though the 80th percentile, so let's just change the way we look at the same numbers to make ourselves look better."

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 27 weeks ago

Chi Matt -- I also know very little about value added testing. However, I thought the teachers union in LA stopped it because the value added testing revealed that the powerful members in the union were not doing so well. They, having power in the unions, were able to cherry pick their assignments. That the unions called it a trick one could understand. If one wants to call an education process better, I think has to have some measure of how much the improvement in the students can be shown. Do you have any suggestions?

ChicagoMatt 8 years 27 weeks ago

Yes, actually. My suggestion would be to get rid of most standardized testing. Because they are really testing the teachers, not the students. I think evaluations should be based on a combination of things, like principal observations, parent feedback, etc... I'd go with maybe one standardized test every two years.

Interesting fact: Principals can "code out" student's standardized test scores if they have a reason to. If a student is in special ed, or willfully answered everything incorrectly, the principal can mark a box on that student's sheet that tells the test people "don't count this towards our class average". Some schools with high special ed enrollment (learning disabilities is the usual catch-all term for "struggling" students) can code-out up to 50% of the tests, which inflates their average and makes them look better than they are.

Also, if a student is absent during the test AND the make-up day, which can and does happen a lot, that student's scores are automatically coded-out, even if they do end up doing the test at a later date.

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