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BECAUSE HANGING WAS TOO GOOD FOR HIM? Scammer who made 96 million robocalls should pay $120M fine, FCC says.

REGULATORY COSTS, PART DEUX: Axios’ Kim Hart reporting that payphones (remember them?) are so few and far between that the cost of regulation outweighs revenue:

“Cincinnati Bell asked the FCC last month for a waiver to exempt it from filing the annual audits tracking pay phone transactions. According to FCC filings, the cost of Cincinnati Bell’s audit is now about five times the amount of revenue it makes from its pay phones. Sprint also asked for a waiver.”

Most bureaucracies (particularly the FCC) are loathe to waive jurisdiction or oversight, but let’s see what happens.

 

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NO. RNC Lobbying FCC for a New Way to Annoy us With ‘Ringless’ Voicemail Ads.

Now there’s possibly a new way to annoy us being reviewed by the FCC. The Republican National Committee is pushing the agency to adopt a new technology that would allow telemarketers to leave prerecorded messages on our voicemail without the phone ever ringing, Recode reports. We would simply get a notification that a voicemail was received, mixed in, of course, with more important voicemails.

Current laws prohibit calls by telemarketers if the recipient has signed up on the do not call registry. While many ignore it, most reputable organizations and companies abide by the rules. But, apparently, they feel left out from the right to annoy us. So they want to use this new technology that avoids ringing. Their logic is that this should be legal because if the phone never rings, it’s not a call. As a result, they are now petitioning the FCC to allow this new form of messaging. They argue that they shouldn’t need our permission to auto-dial our mobile voicemail inboxes directly to leave an advertising message.

As you can imagine, this effort has drawn strong opposition from consumer groups such as the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC).

Clearly, Republicans are no longer interested in winning votes from people who have phones.

FASTER, PLEASE: FCC Begins Rolling Back Obama’s Net Neutrality Rule.

THE MASK SLIPS: Net Neutrality Supporters Want to ‘Ban Drudge.’

Alt-left advocates for net neutrality, who say they want a “free and open internet,” want to ban the Drudge Report.

Members of the alt-left who have been tied to violent protests in the past picketed outside the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday in protest of Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to reverse net neutrality rules. The FCC will vote to undue the Obama era Title II rule that classified Internet service providers as utilities, subjecting them to more federal regulation.

Protesters covering their faces held signs that read “Ban Drudge,” with a no symbol over the Drudge Report, the highly trafficked news website run by Matt Drudge. Other protesters held signs to ban other news websites, including Breitbart and InfoWars.

If you’re covering your face while demanding censorship, you’re a fascist.

STUART BROTMAN: Net neutrality 2.0: Perspectives on FCC regulation of internet service providers.

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: Eugene Volokh Unpacks Still More Constitutional Illiteracy From Howard Dean.

DESPITE ALL THE TALK, TRUMP HASN’T DONE A TINY FRACTION OF WHAT FDR DID: FDR’s War Against the Press.

Like Trump, he feuded with the mainstream media; like Trump, he used a new medium as a direct pipeline to the people. He also used the government’s machinery to suppress unfavorable coverage, a fate we hope to avoid in the age of Trump. . . .

In the 1936 election, Roosevelt claimed that 85 percent of the newspapers were against him. In the standard work on the subject, historian Graham J. White finds that the actual percentage was much lower and the print press generally gave FDR balanced news coverage, but most editorialists and columnists were indeed opposed to the administration. Convinced that the media were out to get him, Roosevelt warned in 1938 that “our newspapers cannot be edited in the interests of the general public, from the counting room. And I wish we could have a national symposium on that question, particularly in relation to the freedom of the press. How many bogies are conjured up by invoking that greatly overworked phrase?”

Roosevelt’s relationship with radio was warmer. The key distinction was that broadcasters operated in an entirely different political context: Thanks to federal rules and administrators, they had to tread much more lightly than newspapers did. At its inception in 1934, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reduced the license renewal period for stations from three years to only six months. Meanwhile, Roosevelt tapped Herbert L. Pettey as secretary of the FCC (and its predecessor, the Federal Radio Commission). Pettey had overseen radio for Roosevelt in the 1932 campaign. After his appointment, he worked in tandem with the Democratic National Committee to handle “radio matters” with both the networks and local stations.

It did not take long for broadcasters to get the message. NBC, for example, announced that it was limiting broadcasts “contrary to the policies of the United States government.” CBS Vice President Henry A. Bellows said that “no broadcast would be permitted over the Columbia Broadcasting System that in any way was critical of any policy of the Administration.” He elaborated “that the Columbia system was at the disposal of President Roosevelt and his administration and they would permit no broadcast that did not have his approval.” Local station owners and network executives alike took it for granted, as Editor and Publisher observed, that each station had “to dance to Government tunes because it is under Government license.” . . .

Even as he was securing domination of the ether, Roosevelt worked hard to neutralize criticism from the print media. Here he used a combination of manipulation and intimidation. By 1935, the famous Roosevelt charm was much less of a guarantee of success, and his press conferences became increasingly orchestrated. Like Trump, he singled out some reporters who wanted to ask questions and ignored others. Writing for The Washington Post in 1938, Harlan Miller commented that Roosevelt only answered questions which enabled him to “utter an oral editorial.…He selects only those on which he can ring the bell.”

He also gave special access to pro-administration outlets, such as J. David Stern’s Philadelphia Record and Marshall Field’s Chicago Sun. Another Field publication, PM, was probably the closest facsimile to a New Deal Breitbart. In both editorials and news reports, PM repeatedly demonized FDR’s enemies, often comparing them to fascists. These pro–New Deal outlets had a special entrée to top administration officials, who gave them valuable scoops. The collaboration went both ways. In 1942, Field brought an antitrust complaint against the much less Roosevelt-friendly Associated Press.
The Black Committee

Roosevelt’s intimidation efforts reached their apogee in the hands of the Special Senate Committee on Lobbying. The president indirectly recruited Sen. Hugo L. Black (D–Ala.), a zealous and effective New Deal loyalist, as chair. The committee’s original mission was to probe the opposition campaign to the “death sentence” in the Public Utility Holding Company Bill, a provision that would have allowed, under certain circumstances, the dissolution of utility holding companies. The Black Committee gained traction with the public when it brought to light evidence that some lobbyists had concocted thousands of “fake telegrams” sent to Congress to protest the bill. Smelling blood, Black expanded the investigation into a general probe of anti–New Deal voices, including journalists.

The Treasury granted Black access to tax returns dating back to 1925 of such critics as David Lawrence of the United States News. Then he moved to obtain his targets’ private telegrams, demanding that telegraph companies let the committee search copies of all incoming and outgoing telegrams for the first nine months of 1935. When Western Union refused on privacy grounds, the FCC, at Black’s urging, ordered it to comply.

Over a nearly three-month period at the end of 1935, FCC and Black Committee staffers searched great stacks of telegrams in Western Union’s D.C. office. Operating with virtually no restriction, they read the communications of sundry lobbyists, newspaper publishers, and conservative political activists as well as every member of Congress.

Sounds more like Obama than Trump.

Related (From Ed): And then there was that time in 1942, when FDR gave a New York Daily News journalist whose reporting he disagreed with a Nazi Iron Cross medal.

DEREGULATION: FCC Chief Ajit Pai Develops Plans to Roll Back Net Neutrality Rules.

The multistep plan that is emerging appears aimed at eventually shifting oversight for net neutrality to the FTC, which has long overseen most internet-related business, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Under federal law, the FTC lost much of its oversight of broadband providers when the FCC adopted its net neutrality policy, because the FCC rules reclassified broadband providers as common carriers subject to the agency’s oversight.

Mr. Pai’s plans likely would reverse that reclassification eventually, so the FTC again would have jurisdiction over the telecommunications carriers. To preserve the basic tenets of net neutrality, the plans would require broadband providers to pledge to abide by net neutrality principles such as no blocking or paid prioritization of internet traffic. That would allow the FTC to go after violators for deceptive or unfair trade practices.

tl;dr? It’s complicated.

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FROM THE NETWORK THAT BROUGHT YOU RATHERGATE: CBS’s Ted Koppel views Sean Hannity and “all these opinion shows” as “bad for America:”

“You have attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts,” said Koppel to Hannity.

“That’s sad, Ted,” said Hannity to Koppel. “You’re selling the American people short,” he added, describing Americans as broadly able to discern between facts and opinions.

Koppel described the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine – a former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy mandating news media broadcasters’ coverage of “controversial issues” be fair per the FCC’s opinion – as facilitating the creation of “two separate worlds” of politics via the ascendance of Rush Limbaugh.

Advocates for the Fairness Doctrine described the federal government’s control of political and partisan editorializing among news media broadcasters as serving “the public interest.” They credited the Fairness Doctrine with allowing Americans a “reasonable opportunity [to consume] the presentation of contrasting viewpoints.” “The right of the viewing and listening public to suitable access to the marketplace of ideas,” they added, “justifies restrictions on the rights of broadcasters [to determine their own editorial perspectives].”

Wow, somebody tell Koppel that in addition to broadcast television and terrestrial radio, there’s this new-fangled communications medium called the Internet as well, with [CUE SAGAN VOICE] Billions and Billions of Websites to match the worldviews and tones of a diverse multicultural readership. Why, it’s as if there’s more to journalism in the 21st century than just three commercial networks, a couple of big city newspapers and radio these days! Someone alert Ted!

Fortunately in response, “Dana Loesch Takes No Prisoners in Fox and Friends Interview (Video):”

On Ted Koppel’s comment that Sean Hannity is “bad for America”…

“He’s the last person on Earth to accuse someone of being bad for America simply because they are offering opinion. This is the problem with so much of legacy media. This is why you see New Media come up. People are tired of these anchors and reporters giving their opinion as unfettered fact and acting as though there is no bias on their part at all whatsoever.”

The difference between Dana Loesch and Ted Koppel, according to Ms. Loesch? She’s being honest about her bias. She admits she is biased towards the “constitution and natural rights”, thus all of her opinions are seen through that prism. If only we could get those in Big Media to understand this one simple thing, it would improve their credibility almost immediately.

It’s pretty tough to be a spokesman for a channel that made its bones with Walter Cronkite warbling on about Barry Goldwater being a crypto-Nazi and global cooling, his successor cooking the books with Rathergate, and his successor reading Christmas poems to beg for Obamacare (and then having a Rathergate of her own after she left the network) and still claim – in 2017! – to a proponent of “objective” journalism.

AUSTRALIA WILL SOON BE WITHIN RANGE OF NORTH KOREAN NUKES: From The Australian:

In South Korea last month, US General Vincent K. Brooks, commander of UN and US forces in the country, stood in front of ­Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and ­delivered some sobering news.

The general told her North Korea, led by the maniacal Kim Jong-un, had developed its rocket technology to the point that Australia would soon be within range of a nuclear strike.

“The assessment was that North Korea … was now at a point of advanced technology when it came to ballistic missiles that were capable of carrying a single nuclear warhead, that it was an increasing security risk not only to the Korean peninsula but also to our region, including Australia,” Bishop told The Australian.

US and Australian intelligence had long warned that North Korea was getting close to being able to launch a nuclear-armed intercontinental missile capable of reaching the US or Australia, but no one had spelt out this new reality as bluntly as Brooks.

“It was the first time I had heard it in such stark terms,” ­Bishop says.

“It is deeply concerning that North Korea has been able to take the opportunity to advance its capability.”

Glory be. We are where we are. North Korea extended the range of its ballistic missiles on Obama’s watch. Now art of the deal meets art of war.

HMM: Senate votes to kill FCC’s broadband privacy rules.

The Senate’s 50-48 vote Thursday on a resolution of disapproval would roll back Federal Communications Commission rules requiring broadband providers to receive opt-in customer permission to share sensitive personal information, including web-browsing history, geolocation, and financial details with third parties. The FCC approved the regulations just five months ago.

Thursday’s vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans voting to kill the FCC’s privacy rules and Democrats voting to keep them.

[ Further reading: How the new age of antivirus software will protect your PC ]
The Senate’s resolution, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, would allow broadband providers to collect and sell a “gold mine of data” about customers, said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat.

“Your mobile broadband provider knows how you move about your day through information about your geolocation and internet activity through your mobile device,” he said. The Senate resolution “will take consumers out of this driver’s seat and place the collection and use of their information behind a veil of secrecy.”

But critics of the rules say they are expensive to ISPs and subject them to tough privacy regulations not imposed on web-based companies like Google and Facebook.

You can choose not to use Facebook or Google, but there’s no escaping having to use an ISP.

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WHO CAN ARGUE WITH SCIENCE? Hundreds of scientists urge Trump to withdraw from U.N. climate-change agency.

More than 300 scientists have urged President Trump to withdraw from the U.N.’s climate change agency, warning that its push to curtail carbon dioxide threatens to exacerbate poverty without improving the environment.

In a Thursday letter to the president, MIT professor emeritus Richard Lindzen called on the United States and other nations to “change course on an outdated international agreement that targets minor greenhouse gases,” starting with carbon dioxide.

“Since 2009, the US and other governments have undertaken actions with respect to global climate that are not scientifically justified and that already have, and will continue to cause serious social and economic harm — with no environmental benefits,” said Mr. Lindzen, a prominent atmospheric physicist.

Signers of the attached petition include the U.S. and international atmospheric scientists, meteorologists, physicists, professors and others taking issue with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC], which was formed in 1992 to combat “dangerous” climate change.

The 2016 Paris climate accord, which sets nonbinding emissions goals for nations, was drawn up under the auspices of the UNFCCC.

“Observations since the UNFCCC was written 25 years ago show that warming from increased atmospheric CO2 will be benign — much less than initial model predictions,” says the petition.

I guess the science is settled. You don’t want to be anti-science, do you?

INSTAPUNDIT READERS WEIGH IN ON TRUMP’S H.R. MCMASTER PICK FOR NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Reader T.J. Linzy writes:

I served with HR McMaster in 2/2 ACR in the first gulf war. He was the E Troop commander; I was a F Troop platoon leader. For your readers who may not know him very well, I would like them to know that this long time Instapundit reader thinks this might be President Trump’s best appointment yet.

HR is is highly intelligent, courageous, and one of the best human beings I have ever known. His integrity, wide-ranging knowledge, and willingness to take the fight to the enemy will dove-tail perfectly with GEN Mattis, IMHO.

Our old, famed unit, the 2d Cavalry (known as the Ghosts of Patton’s Army in WWII), has produced several USA leaders recently, including Mike Powell (Colin Powell’s son and ex-FCC chairman), Doug Lute, US Rep to NATO, and Mike Pompeo, current CIA Director. All were Lieutenants, Captains or Majors in 2CAV in the late 80s and early 90s.

Plus, from another reader:

With President Trump selecting LTG HR McMaster to be the next National Security Advisor, we will no doubt be hearing a lot about the Battle of 73 Easting in the Gulf War. Captain McMaster was in the middle of what may be “the last great tank battle” when his Troop and one other destroyed a brigade of Iraqi tanks. History channel featured it in their series “Greatest Tank Battles” and it is a must watch; I imagine they will replay it soon because of this appointment.

I wanted to add a couple thoughts as I served under him and while I didn’t interact much with him personally, it was clear that McMaster may be the smartest man I have ever met – I went to an “elite” northeast academy and an Ivy – and nobody I know can hold a candle to his ability to learn every side and nuance of almost every conflict around the globe. While at Fort Benning, I was selected by my commander to head up the International Military Student Office where roughly 1000 foreign officers and non-commissioned officers from nearly 100 allied nations attend US Army courses. McMaster was the commanding general at the time of the Maneuver Center of Excellence (combined Infantry and Armor schools) and since it was a somewhat sensitive posting, I had to meet him personally. He was very knowledgeable of what my job would entail and made sure I understood, but he also knew about my entire career up to that point; this is impressive as he had hundreds of captains under him, but not exactly rare as it is a common characteristic of leaders effective enough to make flag rank.

What impressed me the most about him was his interaction with the international students. One of the courses that the international students attended was the captains’ career course and I had 7 cycles of 25-30 students in each ranging in rank from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Colonel. At the end of each class, MG McMaster would have a lunch with them where he would open the floor to any and all questions. These students came from every part of the world, and McMaster was able to answer nearly every question with stunning detail and understanding of the entire geopolitical ramifications behind each situation. In fact, only once did I every hear him say “I am not entirely familiar with that situation…” if I remember correctly, it revolved around a (relatively) new narcotics conflict in Suriname, but he then still answered the question by being able to draw upon knowledge he had in narcotics trafficking conflicts in other parts of South America, and the overall political climate in Suriname. The most challenging questions came from the Pakistanis of the class and while they sometimes became heated, he would approach the student after and speak personally to ensure that while they may not like what he said, they understood that he felt he had to answer them honestly – there was never hard feelings and always mutual respect from both him and the student. Every single student I spoke to afterward was blown away by how McMaster addressed their question and appreciated how much he understood about the problems in their home countries.

These Q&A sessions were scheduled for an hour and almost always went much longer as he was willing and eager to interact with those students whom he told would be “the future leaders of our allies” Imagine being a Lieutenant from a small nation being given this kid of respect and deference by a 2-star general of the US Army! These lunches were not mandatory but he did them anyway because the foreign students sent to study in the US are those officers whose nations predict will be their future senior leaders, quite possibly even some heads of state; McMaster understood to his core that the impressions he made then would affect US foreign relations 10, 20, 30 years into the future.

McMaster is a speed reader and I believe he also has a photographic memory. He was able to have an expansive grasp of the political ramifications on almost every live conflict in the world and it wasn’t even his job at the time to know them – his job was to train Infantry and Armor officers, but he knew that adding this aspect to his own education and the educations of those studying under him would make them better. This man is a perfect fit for the job of NSA and hopefully he will not meet the same resistance that so many current appointees encounter.

TJ Buttrick, CPT, US Army (retired)

And I don’t want to share details without permission, but a former student of mine who served with McMaster was saying similar things on Facebook.

WELL, GOOD: FCC’s new chairman no fan of net neutrality.

“Net neutrality” forbids pricing bandwidth by its value, which is how shortages are created.

JOSE CABRANES: If colleges keep killing academic freedom, civilization will die, too. “Recent attempts to shame professors for unpopular views and to curtail the due process rights of those accused of misconduct are cause for alarm. Especially when academic freedom is endangered at places such as Yale — long celebrated as a leader on freedom of expression — we know that the erosion of academic freedom has become a national problem.”

YES. Is it time for progressives to stop venerating FDR?

FCC NEWS: Trump appointee to FCC could put the brakes on Wheeler cyber initiatives.

One of the chief architects of cybersecurity policy during the Obama years — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler — last week announced he will leave the FCC on Jan. 20, clearing the way for a Donald Trump appointee who may put the brakes on a couple of cyber initiatives that have roiled industry.

Wheeler is a one-time telecom executive whose cyber and other policies at the FCC often put him at odds with his former industry.

President-elect Trump will choose the next FCC chairman, and Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican appointee, is frequently mentioned in telecom circles as a possible candidate.

That would be a welcome move to many in the industry, as Pai, an amiable former Verizon executive and FCC staffer, opposed some of Wheeler’s actions on cyber as going beyond the commission’s statutory authority to set requirements in this area.

I like Ajit Pai. Here’s one reason why.

CHANGE: FCC chairman to step down, handing GOP majority.

Ideally, the FCC would be stripped down to little more than a clearing house for the sale and allocation of useful radio frequencies.

PAYBACK’S A… YOU KNOW: The Most Potent Federal Regulatory Agency Will Answer Solely to Donald Trump.

The [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] was unaccountable to Congress and the president—but not the courts.

A federal appeals court ruling in October changed the fundamental structure of the CFPB and will allow future presidents to have direct control over the agency that has direct control over wide swaths of the country’s banking and financial sectors. Regulatory agencies headed by a single executive must be directly accountable to the president, the court observed, while independent agencies authorized by Congress—like the SEC and the FCC—must have a multi-member commission at the helm.

Practically, that means that Trump might be able to replace the director of the CFPB, Richard Cordray, before his term officially ends in 2018.

More importantly, it means Trump will be able to use the CFPB’s powers for his own ends, if he wants, because the person who gets to determine whether a banking practice is unfair, deceptive, or abusive will now serve at the whims of the president.

In other words, nothing changes on January 20.

Obligatory:

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DEREGULATION: Will Trump Abolish the FCC? “Most of the original motivations for having an FCC have gone away.”

AMBITION: SpaceX just asked permission to launch 4,425 satellites — more than currently orbit Earth.

After we took a look at SpaceX’s FCC application, though, it seems these won’t be your typical telecommunications satellites.

Each satellite in SpaceX’s planned constellation will weigh about 850 lbs (386 kg) and be roughly the size of a MINI Cooper car. They will orbit at altitudes ranging from 715 miles (1,150 km) to 790 miles (1,275 km).

From this lofty vantage point, SpaceX says each satellite could cover an ellipse about 1,300 miles (2,120 km) wide. That’s about the distance from Maine to the Florida panhandle.

“The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional users worldwide,” SpaceX wrote in its application.

That isn’t just a whole lot of satellites; that’s likely to be a whole lot of short-lived satellites. I hope SpaceX has a plan for cleaning up their mess.

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ROBO-CALLS IN GENERAL ARE OUT OF CONTROL: Student debt collectors want to robo-call your cellphone, but FCC says not so fast.

I want a system that charges people a dollar to call me if they’re not on my whitelist.

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I DUNNO, CAN WE SHRINK THE INFLUENCE OF POLITICS ON THE FCC? Could the FCC Shrink the Influence of Money in Politics?

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SO NO MORE SQUEEZING THE MELONS: This groundbreaking technology will soon let us see exactly what’s in our food.

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FCC COMMISSIONER: Colleges Endangering Free Speech.

Ajit Pai, the son of immigrants from India, grew up in Parsons, a city of 10,000 in rural Kansas, before going to Harvard University and the University of Chicago for law school. His parents came to the United States with “about $10 in their pockets, a willingness to work very hard, and a belief in the American Dream.” . . .

It seems to me that something is changing in American society, and particularly on college campuses. There’s the old saying that I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it. That kind of ethos is increasingly rare.

That poses a special danger to a country that cherishes First Amendment speech, freedom of expression, even freedom of association. I think it’s dangerous, frankly, that we don’t see more often people espousing the First Amendment view that we should have a robust marketplace of ideas where everybody should be willing and able to participate.

Largely what we’re seeing, especially on college campuses, is that if my view is in the majority and I don’t agree with your view, then I have the right to shout you down, disrupt your events, or otherwise suppress your ability to get your voice heard.

That’s something, I think, that poses a danger to what I call the culture of the First Amendment. The text of the First Amendment is enshrined in our Constitution, but there are certain cultural values that undergird the amendment that are critical for its protections to have actual meaning. If that culture starts to wither away, then so too will the freedom that it supports.

Well, when President Trump starts going after anti-Americans, suddenly academia will re-appreciate the virtues of free speech. And that’s why the President should probably always be a white male Republican — because that’s what it takes to make the rest of the establishment appreciate the Bill of Rights.

THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE VIDEOFREEX FROM MARS. We now take for granted YouTube’s ability to birth DIY performers who eventually acquire large followings and of course, video cameras built into smart phones and tablets have become ubiquitous. But just as DARPA was crafting the notion of an interconnected network of computers in the late 1960s, portable DIY video technology was also being birthed during that period, as authors Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad write near the beginning of their 1985 book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. Without Sony’s invention, “It’s possible that the underground [comedy movement, which SNL creator Lorne Michaels tapped into for his first stars and writers] might have bypassed television altogether had it not been for the Sony Corporation’s introduction in the late 1960s of portable video cameras and recorders that were affordable by the public at large:”

That technology spawned a movement known as guerrilla television, which was populated by hundreds of long-hairs carrying Porta-Pak units, nascent auteurs who’d previously had no access to the mechanisms of television production and who set out to invent their own kind of programs. One such guerrilla remembers showing up with his partner at the house of a famous Hollywood writer, hoping to tell him some of their ideas. They were laden with gear, their hair hung well past their shoulders, and they wore fatigue jackets and pants. The memory of the Manson murders was still strong at the time, and the writer’s wife, answering the door and seeing the equipment they were carrying, thought it was some kind of machine gun and ran screaming back inside.

In his latest film review at NRO, Armond White explores the Videofreex, one of the leftwing underground groups producing guerrilla television in the years that preceded SNL, the subject of a new documentary Here Come the Videofreex:

Entitlement is quite different from “Civil Rights,” and Here Come the Videofreex helps us understand how the two things became closely linked and then were tied in with the self-satisfaction of media domination. Directors Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin observe those Sixties youth who felt that through the then-new video technology they could more accurately address the proletariat — a sense of righteous free expression like the social networking of cell phones, Twitter, and innumerable blogs. They were eventually crushed by corporate media’s ultimate indifference. CBS sacked the Videofreex but let them keep the “worthless” technology, which led to the Videofreex’ brief pirate TV enterprise.

It’s amazing to see this all laid out in an indie documentary while we currently contend with the bewildering, flip-flopping propaganda of MSNBC, Fox Cable News, and the shamelessly pandering CNN — all 21st-century videofreaks with small regard for reporting or objectivity. Their “news” cycles merely exploit American politics.

Co-director Raskin had worked on the 2013 Our Nixon, the most compassionate of all Watergate documentaries, which most reviewers misunderstood — seemingly deliberately. Today’s media politics all result from class privilege: Millionaire newsreaders follow the dictates of their behind-the-scenes tycoon bosses (broadcasters committed to the status quo and partisan politricks). They’re determined to influence the voting and polling patterns of viewers and readers. This is what the now-aged provocateurs of Here Come the Videofreex teach us. Parry Teasdale, Davidson Gigliotti, Skip Blumberg, Chuck Kennedy, Carol Vontobel, Ann Woodward, Bart Friedman, and others recall their pasts without guile, even as they lament their inability to fully “democratize” the U.S. media.

And note this: “When a veteran hippie mused, ‘Turning people on to video was like turning them on to grass,’ it seems stunningly naïve. It’s also au courant.”

Which dovetails well with an encomium to a man who also seemed to singlehandedly craft his own culture during the early 1970s, David Bowie. As Nick Gillespie writes in the latest issue of Reason, “David Bowie Was a Time Traveler from Our Hyper-Personalized Future — The star who made it cool to be a freak,” though a very different “freak” from the Videofreex, needless to say:

In 1987, he returned to West Berlin, where he had made an exceptional set of records in the late 1970s, including several with his muse and protégé Iggy Pop. There he played a concert so loud it could be heard in communist East Berlin. The Internet abounds with footage from the show, which is capped by an absolutely brilliant version of “Heroes,” his ballad of doomed lovers who literally meet in the shadow of the Berlin Wall to steal a moment (“I can remember standing by the wall, and the guns shot above our heads”).

Just days after the concert, President Ronald Reagan also performed in Berlin, delivering one of his most memorable lines: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Who’s to say that the example of Bowie, who personified not only the freedom of expression but the sybaritic desire that the Communists had unsuccessfully tried to stamp out, wasn’t as important to the Wall’s destruction as the arms race? The day after his death, the German government tweeted, “Good-bye, David Bowie…Thank you for helping to bring down the #wall.”

Bowie was exceptionally well-read (his list of 100 favorite books ranges from Madame Bovary to The Gnostic Gospels) and was renowned for his knowledge of blues, folk, jazz, and experimental music. (He introduced U.S. audiences to the German avant garde perfomer Klaus Nomi on Saturday Night Live, of all venues.) Yet only fools look to celebrities and artists—especially rock stars—for moral instruction and political programs. We’re wiser to seek artists for inspiration and ideas on how we might expand our own horizons and think about our own possibilities.

It’s in this sense that Bowie was a time traveler from our own future, where we all feel more comfortable not just being who we are but in trying out different things to see whom we might want to become. Certainly, an entire species of performer, from U2 to Madonna to Lady Gaga to Jay-Z (who sampled “Fame” in his 2001 track “Takeover”) were influenced by him.

And unlike many rock stars, Bowie created continuity with earlier forms of popular music, not only by covering various old songs (“Wild Is the Wind” is a memorable instance) but by incongruously appearing with Bing Crosby on der Bingle’s 1977 Merrie Olde Christmas TV Special, which gave birth to Crosby and Bowie’s enduringly beautiful and strange duet of “Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy.”

Back in 2007, I wrote a piece for the Rand-themed New Individualist magazine titled “Welcome to My.Culture — How Emerging Technologies Allow Anyone to Create His Own Culture.” (Somehow, when the piece went to the Web, the subhead replaced the editor’s original title from the print edition, unfortunately):

Through television, newspapers, radio, and advertising, the mass culture of the twentieth century created easily understandable points of reference for virtually everyone. Often, these were low and crude and coarse. But everyone knew who Ralph Cramden was. Who Batman was. Who Vince Lombardi was. You might not have known who Gene Roddenberry was, but you knew that NBC had a show starring a guy with pointed ears.

Today, however, we’re looking at that shared culture in the rearview mirror, and with mixed emotions. In fact, we’re witnessing the death throes of mass culture. It’s being replaced, not by the elder President Bush’s “thousand points of light,” but by a thousand fractured micro-cultures, each of which knows only a little bit about what’s going on in the next micro-culture thriving on the website next door.

As James Lileks of Lileks.com and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Buzz.mn told me a couple of years ago: “Take a basically divided populace—the old red and blue paradigm—and then shove that through a prism which splinters it into millions of different individual demographics, each of which have their own music channel, their own website, their own Blogosphere, their own porn preferences delivered daily by email solicitations. I mean, it’s hard to say whether or not there will eventually be a common culture for which we can have sport, other than making fun of the fact that we really lack a common culture.”

This trend has both good and bad aspects. But before we turn our attention to that—and what it may bode for our future—it might be useful first to review how we got here.

Though I have no doubt that I’ll be repulsed by their reactionary socialist-anarchist message, I’m looking forward to seeing the Videofreex documentary, at least when it comes to Amazon Prime or Netflix. Decades before YouTube, iPhones and GoPros, their taking advantage of the first portable video technology was itself the real revolution (a textbook example of McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” aphorism). Gillespie makes a very good case that Bowie was a similar sort of revolutionary — and the recording studio technology he (and his frequent producers Tony Visconti and Nile Rodgers) mastered is similarly now available inside of a reasonably-equipped PC. And as old media continues to be an even vaster version of the vast wasteland that JFK’s FCC Chairman Newton Minnow infamously described, making your own culture as an alternative seems more important than ever. Think of it as the Nockian Remnant with iPhones.

FREEDOM MARCHES ON: West Virginia lawmakers eliminate permits for concealed carry guns.

IT’S NOT “SLIPPING AWAY,” IT’S BEING DELIBERATELY EXTINGUISHED BY POWER-HUNGRY ASSHOLES: FCC commissioner: U.S. tradition of free expression slipping away.

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DON’T WORRY, CORNELL IS HERE TO TEACH YOU HOW TO BE “INCLUSIVE” WITH YOUR “HOLIDAY DECORATIONS”: Just in time for the holidays, Cornell University’s Department of Environmental Health & Safety recently issued “guidelines” about holiday decorations.

Among its list of decorations “that are NOT Consistent with Either University Assembly Guidelines or the University’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness”: a bizarre variety of Christian and Jewish symbols, including “crosses” and the “Star of David,” as well as secular “holiday” items, including mistletoe and “stars at the top of trees.”

So Cornell, would you mind explaining how a Star of David is either offensive to your university’s values, or a “holiday decoration” for that matter?

Read more about it over at The Torch.

THEY’LL DO FOR IT WHAT THEY’VE DONE FOR HEALTHCARE, IF THEY’RE ALLOWED: Congressional Q&A: Feds finding ways to grab control of Internet.

Since the Federal Communications Commission passed Title II regulations reclassifying Internet service providers as common utility companies in February, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has been at the forefront of the fight to reverse them. Critics say the rule change represents an overreach by the FCC, erodes consumer protection and curtails free speech rights.

If a federal court takes action, there may be no need for a congressional solution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is set to hear oral arguments against the rules on Dec. 4. Blackburn has led a coalition of 22 lawmakers in filing an amicus brief supporting appellants in the case, arguing that Congress never granted the FCC the statutory authority to reclassify an industry on its own.

This should play out like MCI v. AT&T, but the courts have been AWOL a lot on administrative overreach.

CNN FAILS TO GRASP SOCIAL MEDIA, suspending reporter Elise Labott for two weeks for editorializing “House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish,” in a tweet, Ed Morrissey writes:

A two-week suspension isn’t going to convince anyone that CNN reporters (or any reporters) are robots without their own biases and opinions. If anything, it’s better for consumers to have those out in the open. Media bias was obvious long before Elise Labott hit Twitter, and suspending her over this tweet isn’t going to convince anyone that it’s been cured, at CNN or anywhere else.

In fact, that is one of the merits of social-media interaction — so that consumers can interact with and get to know reporters. CNN obviously values that promotional value, or they’d order Labott and other reporters off of Twitter and Facebook altogether. If reporters do nothing but tweet headlines, there would be no value to their engagement at all; CNN tweets headlines all day long, and people can find links there if that’s all they want.

CNN is apparently still clinging to the notion of “objectivity” like one of the legendary stories of Japanese soldiers stranded on desert islands and still claiming allegiance to the emperor long after the war had ended. “Objectivity” was a fable the MSM needed to promote during the early days of the original national broadcast networks, first radio in the 1920s, and TV after World War II, to convince the American public — and the FCC — that it was delivering a neutral product that appealed to the largest possible audience. (A premise the MSM regularly broke with impunity, of course.) Building a national broadcasting network was staggeringly expensive, which is why for decades TV channel choices were so limited; today, anyone can start a Website with just a few clicks of a computer mouse.

In the 1980s, CNN broke the big three TV networks’ logjam on the news. Perhaps its current management might join the rest of us in the 21st century someday.

Of course, Labbott’s suspension raises another question for CNN viewers: if the network is going to continue to pretend to be “objective,” then why do all their reporters’ Kinsley-esque gaffes keep occurring from the left?

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE: Hilton is the latest hotel suspected of blocking customers’ personal Wi-Fi.

It always seemed improbable that Marriott was the only one. Last year the hotel chain paid $600,000 to America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to settle a complaint that it had blocked customers’ personal wireless modems and hotspots at “at least one” of its hotels, forcing customers to sign up for expensive in-house internet access instead. Now Hilton has found itself in hot water over the same charge. In August 2014, the FCC received a complaint from a customer alleging that the Hilton hotel in Anaheim, California, was also blocking visitors’ Wi-Fi hot spots unless they paid $500 to access the hotel’s own wireless service. The FCC says it has also received similar complaints involving other Hilton properties. . . .

Other than Marriott and Hilton, two other firms have been charged in connection with blocking guests’ Wi-Fi. In August 2015, Smart City Holdings, a telecoms firm, was fined $750,000 for blocking hotspots at several convention centres across America where it was providing internet access. The commission recently also said it intended to fine M.C. Dean, a technology firm, $718,000 “for apparent Wi-Fi blocking at the Baltimore Convention Centre”.

More power to the FCC’s elbow. After Marriott was caught, it lobbied for a change in the law that would allow it to interfere with its guests’ connections. Fortunately it backed down in the face of widespread incredulity.

Don’t mess with my personal wi-fi.

ON THE UPSIDE, THIS OUTDATED DOCTRINE WEAKENS TRADITIONAL MEDIA RELATIVE TO NEW MEDIA: The Donald On ‘SNL’: Equal Time Isn’t Needed; The FCC rule was meant to foster debate, but today is more likely to chill it.

The Radio Act of 1927 created the equal-time doctrine when airtime was a scarce commodity, so important for electoral success that federal regulation was deemed the only way to protect the public interest.

Lawmakers’ intention was to foster debate. But in practice the doctrine often has the opposite effect. In 1952, for example, the criteria to qualify under the equal-time doctrine were so broad that they covered presidential candidates from 16 minor political parties. That meant stations could not give time to Democrats or Republicans without potentially providing the same amount of time to candidates from the Socialist Party or the Prohibition Party. As a result, broadcasters shied away from political candidates.

Congress noticed, and by 1959 it had adopted exceptions to the doctrine. Among them, “bona fide news” broadcasts or documentaries wouldn’t trigger equal-time obligations.

At first the FCC maintained that political debates would still trigger equal-time requirements. To ensure that the Nixon-Kennedy debates could be broadcast without worry that stations would be forced to trot out every also-ran, Congress temporarily suspended the doctrine in 1960. The FCC would later “revise” its equal-time interpretation and conclude that political debates were “bona fide news events.”

Over the years the FCC has continued to broaden exceptions to allow political candidates more leeway. Candidate appearances on “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson or “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert have also been categorized as bona fide news events.

Perhaps the GOP should start demanding stricter enforcement. . . .

WELL, NOW WE KNOW WHERE TRUMP STANDS ON THE FIRST AMENDMENT: “And if the tweets don’t work, he’ll threaten to sue critics or stick the FCC on them for daring to criticize him on TV,” Betsy Newmark writes in the midst of a lengthy roundup of the day’s events. “Just the temperament we want in a president. Rich Lowry said that Carly Fiorina ‘cut [Trump’s] balls off with the precision of a surgeon’ and then tweeted that Fox News owes him an apology for using ‘such foul language on TV’ and the FCC should fine him for saying ‘balls’ on TV. And this is the guy whose big appeal is that he doesn’t try to be all politically correct. Lowry ridicules Trump’s thin skin….How typical that Donald Trump wants to and thinks it’s possible to censor political speech on cable TV. Just more proof that he’s a true liberal pretending to be a conservative.”

Related: Trump turns to the government for help — again.

FCC COMMISSIONER: FREE CONTENT MIGHT VIOLATE AGENCY’S ‘INTERNET CONDUCT STANDARD.’

It’s reassuring to see an agency that dates back to the first term of FDR and the days of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on AM radio keeping an eye on the Internet considering how equally limited the bandwidth is there.

GOODBYE, TWISTED PAIR: FCC Sets Rules for Copper Phase Out. “Critics have charged that phone companies are allowing their old copper networks to decay to force customers to shift to fiber service. But some 37 million households—many of them headed by elderly people—remain on legacy copper, commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted at the hearing. Other holdouts live in rural areas that lack cellular and broadband service. Some prefer copper connections because they are independent of local power lines, and offer better 911 emergency service.”

Yes.

FREUDIAN SLIP: CNN’S TOOBIN ADMITS ‘WE’ CELEBRATE GAY RIGHTS VICTORIES BEFORE WALKING IT BACK.

All of the media kabuki about being “objective” dates back to a philosophy from the days of the first national radio networks 90 years ago. As I wrote several years ago in the New Individualist magazine, with the birth of mass media, journalists had to convince the public (and the FCC) that they were “objective,” since they were increasingly the only game in town until media began becoming democratized once again and as Alvin Toffler would say, “demassified,” via talk radio, Fox News, the Internet, and the birth of the Blogosphere.

In the 21st century, nobody buys the notion about journalists being objective, and news outlets and their spokesmen such as CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin would be far better off if they started being honest with their customers, and openly declaring their allegiances.

TENURE’S DEMISE BEGINS?: A Wisconsin state legislative committee approved a measure that would, if ultimately enacted, cut $250 million from the University of Wisconsin over two years, and eliminate state laws guaranteeing tenure.  The $250 million cut can be absorbed with little effect by eliminating the unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. As for the tenure reforms:

The elimination of tenure protections was first suggested by [Gov. Scott] Walker back in February, but was considered a longshot proposal. The Joint Finance Committee, however, is tremendously influential, and its decision to send the rollback to the floor of the legislature is seen as making passage much more likely.

By itself, the measure wouldn’t end tenure, but it would remove the current protections it has under state law and allow universities to set their own policies on the matter. In response, current UW system president Ray Cross said the school’s board of regents will act to enshrine tenure as university policy in a meeting later this week.

More details:

In addition to removing tenure from state law, the budget committee called to make it easier for tenured faculty to be fired or laid off. One provision eliminates current law requiring that tenured faculty only be removed for just cause and only after due notice and hearing. Another provision gives Regents authority to lay off any employee, including tenured faculty, if budget circumstances call for it. Seniority protections would go away, although seniority would be one factor considered in who loses jobs.

Darling stated that Wisconsin is the only state that has job protections for tenured faculty written into statutes, which Radomski said was a point of pride for many faculty and a reason faculty find System campuses a desirable place despite comparatively low salaries. The GOP motion calls for the Board of Regents to determine whether to have tenure and what it would entail.

UW faculty are fighting mad. I have mixed feelings about this, and it’s not because I have tenure (which I do).  Undoubtedly, tenure inherently creates some “dead wood”–faculty that slack off and lose interest in their jobs once they know they have a presumptive job for life.  And it would be nice to have a higher education system that reflects a real world ethos of rewarding excellence and punishing lethargy–among faculty, staff and administrators.

On the other hand, the original justification for tenure in higher education (and notice that this emphatically does not apply to lower education, where elementary, middle school and high school teachers do not undertake scholarship as part of their job) is that the job does generally require and involve scholarship, and sometimes that scholarship is politically controversial. Tenure was designed to ensure that scholars could feel free to express their views, without fear of retribution based on viewpoint discrimination. And frankly, it’s conservative professors who need this protection the most, as they are inherently swimming in a sea of progressive colleagues/deans/administrators/sharks who would be tempted to “punish” conservative scholarly viewpoints and activities. These concerns potentially could be allayed with robust statutory protections against viewpoint discrimination, but this would encourage expensive litigation whenever a faculty member is fired. Whether these costs would outweigh the benefits isn’t as clear as it may seem initially.

In any event, the Wisconsin legislature’s proposal represents a thoughtful beginning to an important discussion about what tenure means, and when it is needed (if ever).

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SADLY, IT’S NOT JUST DEMOCRATS LIKE DAVID BOREN WHO ENGAGE IN CONSTUTITIONAL DUMBASSERY: Texas Bill Would Make Recording Police Illegal.

A bill introduced to the Texas House of Representatives would make it illegal for private citizens to record police within 25 feet.

House Bill 2918, introduced by Texas Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) on Tuesday, would make the offense a misdemeanor. Citizens who are armed would not be permitted to record police activity within 100 feet of an officer, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Only representatives of radio or TV organizations that hold an FCC license, newspapers and magazines would have the right to record police.

Not only is this a First Amendment violation, but there’s also a due process right to record the police.

JOHN FUND: Comrades for Net Neutrality: The powers behind the FCC’s muscling of the Internet. “Our job is to make media reform part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism.”

ROBERT MCDOWELL: Overturn The FCC’s Power Grab.

Thursday marked the largest government intervention into the Internet ecosphere in American history. By equating the dynamic 21st century Internet to the telephone system of 1934, the Federal Communications Commission has thrust powerful but antiquated utility-style regulations onto the U.S. tech economy. . . .

The FCC’s power grab discards the bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework laid out during the Clinton administration. That hands-off approach made the Net the greatest deregulatory success story of all time.

History teaches us that utility-style regulation raises costs to consumers, reduces investment and innovation, and creates uncertainty due to the politics-driven nature of “mother may I innovate” government mandates. Regulation only grows. Now the Internet cannot escape that fate.

The ultimate result of more government encroachment will be something akin to the sagging European Internet market, where investment in broadband infrastructure is only one-fourth of America’s due to heavy-handed regulations. Even worse, this new power grab could trigger expanded intergovernmental powers over the Web through existing telecom treaties, jeopardizing Internet freedom.

What many in Silicon Valley don’t understand is that, according to the Supreme Court’s 2005 Brand X decision, nearly any “tech” company that builds a telecom-style network to deliver its content and apps has the potential to be captured by the FCC’s new rules. If the agency tries to exempt some companies but not others, it will be choosing the politically favored over everyone else.

Well, that’s the whole point of this exercise, one suspects. I mean, isn’t it always?

FCC COMMISSIONER MIKE O’RIELLY ON THE “NET NEUTRALITY” RULES: “When you see this document, it’s worse than you imagine.”

I dunno, I can imagine an awful lot. But we know it’s awful because they kept it secret before they enacted it. More:

The historic vote was cheered by internet activists, President Barack Obama and many in the tech community. However, few people have seen the actual orders. On Friday the FCC was finalising its documentation for publication – it it is not expected to release the orders until next week at the very earliest.

Pai said the new rules would mean “permission-less innovation is a thing of the past”. The new rules will ban broadband providers from creating fast lanes for some or slowing the traffic of others for commercial reasons. They will also give the FCC the power to police conduct by broadband providers on a case-by-case basis.

Internet service providers will not be allowed to “unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage” consumers’ access to content and services.

O’Rielly said this would mean that any company looking to start a new service would have to seek permission ahead of time. He said anybody looking for new business opportunities in the document would be best off becoming a “telecoms lawyer.”

So at least there’s an upside!

FIRST THE FCC, NOW THIS: Obama to ban bullets by executive action, threatens top-selling AR-15 rifle. No, this isn’t somebody’s paranoid fantasy. At least, it isn’t somebody’s fantasy.

“UNINTENDED” CONSEQUENCE: Google warns FCC plan could help ISPs charge senders of Web traffic.

EXPIRATION DATE, REACHED: Senator Obama: ‘Irresponsible’ For FCC To Vote On Rules Unreleased To The Public. That Senator Obama seemed like a sensible fellow. Too bad he’s not President now.

GORDON CROVITZ: The Great Internet Power Grab: We’ve come a long way from Steve Jobs as ‘phone phreak’ to Tom Wheeler as ruler of the Internet.

The era of open innovation can be dated to 1971, when teenager Steve Jobs and his engineer friend Steve Wozniak became “phone phreaks.” They sold kits to create routing tones spoofing government-regulated phones into making free long-distance calls. Evading the absurdly high prices that federal regulators set for AT&T calls felt like civil disobedience. The same spirit of disruptive innovation led them to found Apple.

Last week Washington abandoned open innovation when the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission yielded to President Obama ’s demands and moved to regulate the freewheeling Internet under the same laws that applied to the Ma Bell monopoly. Unless these reactionary regulations are stopped, they spell the end of the permissionless innovation that built today’s Internet.

Until now, anyone could launch new websites, apps and mobile devices without having to lobby a regulator for permission. That was thanks to a Clinton-era bipartisan consensus that the Internet shouldn’t be treated as a public utility. Congress and the White House under both parties kept the FCC from applying the hoary regulations that micromanaged the phone system, which would have frozen innovation online.

Last week’s announcement from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler rejects 20 years of open innovation by submitting the Internet to Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Once Mr. Wheeler and the commission’s Democratic majority vote this month to apply Title II, the regulations will give them staggering control. Any Internet “charges” and “practices” that the bureaucrats find “unjust or unreasonable is declared to be unlawful.”

This is an open invitation to entrenched companies challenged by new technologies.

Hey, “permissionless innovation” may make the country rich, but it’s hell on people who buy and sell permissions for a living.

Related: Colorado Regulator Going After Unregulated Yoga Instructors Works For Regulated State Chain.

OF COURSE IT DOES: The FCC’s Big Internet Power Grab Comes Directly From the White House: Tom Wheeler’s Title II net neutrality push is the result of an “unusual, secretive” push from the administration. The Internet is a threat to them. Thus, they must control it.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? The FCC Will Make The Internet A Public Utility. Hey, nothing says “forward-looking and dynamic” like “regulated utility,” amirite?

WAIT, I THOUGHT THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HATED BIG BUSINESS: Ending Welfare for Telecom Giants: The FCC’s spectrum auction brought in nearly $45 billion. Why were some big bidders using taxpayer dollars?

What is astonishing about the manipulation of the bidding process is how cavalier the parties are. The two Dish-related companies—Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless—didn’t exist until a few months before the auction, and each reported to the FCC that it was a “very small business,” as neither had any gross revenues. Yet together the two companies magically managed to place bids more than seven times those of spectrum-hungry T-Mobile . They claim to be small so they can qualify for federal money to cover 25% of the cost of a bid that suggests they have incredibly deep pockets. . . .

Plays like these shut out genuine small entrepreneurs. The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 30 that Stephen Wilkus, who worked for 27 years as an engineer at Alcatel Lucent , quit his job a year ago to bid in the auction. He set up a partnership whose investors included a few family members with controlling interests in other companies. As a result, lawyers told him he wouldn’t qualify for small business credits. With some understatement, the article concludes that Mr. Wilkus was “irked to see entities related to [Dish co-founder and Board Chairman Charlie] Ergen, a billionaire, obtain that same credit.” We don’t blame him.

The FCC’s rules are a labyrinth that only a lawyer could love. Even if everything was done by the book, why are the FCC’s rules set up this way? Does it make sense to milk taxpayers to benefit corporate behemoths? Should the FCC allow companies that don’t need the help to claim billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded discounts? Is it fair to deny designated-entity benefits to entrepreneurs who do need help entering the wireless business? We’d say no on each point.

It’s as if the whole thing is designed to protect existing companies donors from competition.

VIDEO: THE NEW FCC INTERNET REGULATION PROGRAM.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Wait! What? FCC ponders plan to route U.S. 911 calls through Russian satellites.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: Marriott plans to block personal wifi hotspots.

Marriott is fighting for its right to block personal or mobile Wi-Fi hotspots—and claims that it’s for our own good.

The hotel chain and some others have a petition before the FCC to amend or clarify the rules that cover interference for unlicensed spectrum bands. They hope to gain the right to use network-management tools to quash Wi-Fi networks on their premises that they don’t approve of. In its view, this is necessary to ensure customer security and to protect children.

The petition, filed in August and strewn with technical mistakes, has received a number of formally filed comments from large organizations in recent weeks. If Marriott’s petition were to succeed, we’d likely see hotels that charge guests and convention centers that charge exhibitors flipping switches to shut down any Wi-Fi not operated by the venue. The American hotel industry’s trade group is a co-filer of the petition, and Hilton submitted a comment in support: this isn’t just Marriott talking. . . .

Earlier in 2014, the FCC fined Marriott for jamming guests, exhibitors, and others’ Wi-Fi networks at the Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville. The hotel chain agreed to pay the FCC $600,000 in fines and create a compliance plan, with regularly filed updates, for all its properties.

I want to control my own connections. I don’t want Marriott to be able to shut off my personal hotspot and force me onto their own network.

JOSH BLACKMAN: The Constitutional Limits Of Prosecutorial Discretion. Also, Prosecutorial Discretion With Rubber Stamps.

Josh’s discussion also reminds me of MCI V. AT&T, 512 U.S. 218 (1994), in which the Supreme Court held that the FCC couldn’t stretch a statutory provision allowing it to “modify” tariff requirements into a general rule eliminating the need for most of the industry to file tariffs at all. That seems fairly analogous to what Obama is doing with immigration, and possibly a better fit than Heckler v. Chaney.

On the contra side, though, there’s the case I always bring up when people suggest that executive power has exploded in recent years, U.S. v. Spawr Optical. (Also discussed here.) Spawr is a Court of Appeals case, not a Supreme Court case, and turned on some particularly sweeping statutory delegations, but still. . . .

Meanwhile, some thoughts from Ilya Somin.

I also think that if the Supreme Court wants to hear this in a hurry, it can. If it takes it in the ordinary course of business, we’ll probably see a decision in June of 2016. Could Obama — already seen as passively aggressively undermining Hillary in other ways — have put a long-range torpedo into the water that will explode around the time of the Democratic Convention?

RICHARD EPSTEIN: Hands Off The Web. “The AT&T decision to hold back on its investment is the canary down the coal mine. Preemptive rate regulation will not do anything other than retard the huge expansion of the Internet that has taken place under current legal regimes. Government regulation of the Internet can, and should, wait until some specific abuse materializes down the road, as might well be the case. Right now, the President and the FCC could do the public great service by sitting quietly on the sidelines.” Insufficient opportunities for graft in sideline-sitting.

TO BE FAIR, THEY’RE NOT MEANT TO BE GOOD IDEAS, THEY’RE MEANT TO CONSOLIDATE POWER: Net Neutrality—and Obama’s Scheme for the Internet—Are Lousy Ideas.

Meanwhile, here’s my FCC testimony on this subject from five years ago.

UM: Obama: Government Should Regulate Internet to Keep it Free. “So President Obama has announced that the Internet should be regulated as a public utility. He’s asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify internet service providers (ISPs) from “information services” under Title I as telecommunications providers under Title II regulatory guidelines. This is all being done in the name of ‘Net Neutrality,’ keeping the Internet free and open, prohibiting ‘fast lanes’ for certain services and sites, making sure no legal content is blocked, and all other horribles that…have failed to materialize in the absence of increased federal regulation.”

It’s about control. Because everything he does is about control.

FCC COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI: The government wants to study ‘social pollution’ on Twitter.

Named “Truthy,” after a term coined by TV host Stephen Colbert, the project claims to use a “sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex network models” to distinguish between memes that arise in an “organic manner” and those that are manipulated into being.

But there’s much more to the story. Focusing in particular on political speech, Truthy keeps track of which Twitter accounts are using hashtags such as #teaparty and #dems. It estimates users’ “partisanship.” It invites feedback on whether specific Twitter users, such as the Drudge Report, are “truthy” or “spamming.” And it evaluates whether accounts are expressing “positive” or “negative” sentiments toward other users or memes.

The Truthy team says this research could be used to “mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate.”

Hmm. A government-funded initiative is going to “assist in the preservation of open debate” by monitoring social media for “subversive propaganda” and combating what it considers to be “the diffusion of false and misleading ideas”? The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel.

The NSF has already poured nearly $1 million into Truthy. To what end? Why is the federal government spending so much money on the study of your Twitter habits?

Some possible hints as to Truthy’s real motives emerge in a 2012 paper by the project’s leaders, in which they wrote ominously of a “highly-active, densely-interconnected constituency of right-leaning users using [Twitter] to further their political views.”

Tar. Feathers.

MARRIOTT BUSTED FOR jamming customers’ portable hotspots to force them onto expensive hotel wifi.

SPYING: Feds to study illegal use of spy gear.

The Federal Communications Commission has established a task force to study reported misuse of surveillance technology that can intercept cellular signals to locate people, monitor their calls and send malicious software to their phones.

The powerful technology — called an IMSI catcher, though also referred to by the trade name “Stingray” — is produced by several major surveillance companies and widely used by police and intelligence services around the world.

The FCC, in response to questions from U.S. Rep. Alan M. Grayson (D-Fla.), plans to study the extent to which criminal gangs and foreign intelligence services are using the devices against Americans. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in a letter dated this month, said the commission had authority over the surveillance technology and had established a “task force to combat the illicit and unauthorized use of IMSI catchers.”

The task forces’s mission, Wheeler wrote, “is to develop concrete solutions to protect the cellular network systemically from similar unlawful intrusions and interceptions.”

I’d like something that protected me from spying by my government. We used to have something called the Constitution for that.