Sunday :: Jul 31, 2005

Why Does Texas Hate The United States?

by pessimist

Texas owes the United States for just about everything. Ever since American emigres helped to foment a rebellion against the Mexican government of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, other American citizens have regularly come to the aid of Texas without so much as a demand for a quid pro quo. During this 1836 rebellion, American volunteers, many from Tennessee (including former US Congressman Davy Crockett) went to Texas to aid the Texian rebels with little more than the expectation that they would get to fight a little bit. Their efforts helped to create the Republic of Texas, not that they get much of the credit compared to 'real' Texans.

Then, after Texans decided that being their own nation wasn't up to their liking, the United States Congress voted to allow Texas to join the Union in 1845 - just in time for the nation to get caught up in a border dispute with Mexico (that was instigated by Texan encroachment of Mexican territory) to ensure that US forces would be in place to block any attempt by Santa Ana to reclaim Texas during the transition from a sovereign nation to a state.

And just how did Texas thank the US government for this rescue? By joining the Confederacy in The Rebellion of 1861!

And it's all been downhill ever since!

There has to be something wrong with a state that has to brag about its bigness every chance it gets, especially when their dominance of any specific area of income generation allows them to exploit the very people who made them what they are. Maybe Texans should look up some of the other definitions of bigness and note that not all of them refer to physical dimentions. There is also generosity, and there is integrity. Such petty insecurity leaves them open to a reassessment of their status, for as Alaskans love to remind Texans, if Alaska were to split in two, Texas would beomce only the Third Largest State!

But I digress.

Perhaps jealous of California's Gold Rush wealth, Texas ensured that control of the fledgling petroleum business would lie within their grasp once other sources of oil around the country tapped out. This wealth flooding into an admittedly low-income region (at the turn of the last century) created a nouveau-riche Wild Westerner with morals to match, who had the ability to interfere with rivals in a way that the famous Colt Peacemaker could never provide.

The political sponsors of many Texans took advantage of this wealth to carve out entire empires for themselves, most notably during the days of WWII when such then-small-scale construction contractors as the Brown Brothers (an ancestor of Halliburton) reminded such pet congressmen as Lyndon Johnson that past campaign favors had a repayment due date and were payable in Federal construction contracts.

Such contractors continued to invoke these past favors during the Cold War, 'earning' construction bids for foreign installations all over the world. They would have had billions of $1 incentives to oppose anyone who interfered with this business, and real Texans know better than the rest of us what such opposition can mean in terms of action on the part of the aggrieved. Certainly, people like Lyndon Johnson and John Connolly would have known, as would wannbe Texan George H. W. Bush, whose Cuban connections owed him favors for the three ships Bush companies supplied to the invasion fiasco later known as the Bay of Pigs. President John Kennedy had interfered with Texas business, and we all know what happened to him.

With a real Texan tall in the saddle, the real rustling of the United States' assets now began in earnest. Texas firms pressured their representatives for many lucrative things, including the construction of the NASA control center in Houston instead of in Florida, and for many defense contracts to supply the Vietnam War. But with Nixon's fall and the exhaustion of civilian support for Vietnam, the Texas money men were in need of a new means of generating vast profits.

Enter foreign oil.

Texas companies, while not exclusively involved, tended to dominate foreign oil operations, and attempted to make the same kind of deals with foreign politicians that they did with the ones back home. But somehow, the world doesn't necessarily see things the same way Texans do, and many misunderstandings occured, some of which had to be settled through the agency of the US government coming to the rescue of 'beleagured' Texans. A good case in point was Kuwait, whose oil operations were the reason for the Gulf War. It helped a great deal that a captive politician named George H. W. Bush was already in the White House, ready to do the bidding of those Texan money masters who put him into so many positions of authority and influence where he could serve faithfully as directed: the UN, the CIA, etc. He was good for Texas business.

After the masssive mess created by Saddam's retreating forces was cleaned up, once again the great Texas appetite for Federal contracts was being unsatisfied. But Bush 41 lost both the support of the American people and the White House to Bill Clinton, and the Texans had to ensure that they didn't lose control again. Their wealth had grown so much that they were wealthier than most of the world's nations, and yet they had less control and influence than the poorest of these. This would never do!

These Texans joined, then dominated, the efforts of many non-Texans like Richard Mellon Scaife in subverting the will and the vote of the American people, and in controlling the activities of the Congress until such time as total control could be established. In the meantime, corporate strategists plotted the neutralization of any possible opposition to these moves, in particular the purchase for subversion of the media so that it could never again harm the conservative cause of controlling events for the benefit of Texas business, as it once did to Richard Nixon's ambitions.

We all know where that led. I don't think that I need to go through the events of 2000 to the present, many of which have been covered so well by the other Left Coaster bloggers in my absense.

What's that? You didn't even notice I was gone?

Bad for me, but good for the blog!

Regular readers may have noticed that I haven't posted much in July. Thanks to the machinations of a certain Texas corporation, SBC, my DSL connection mysteriously vanished, and I have had to rely upon borrowed access of many friends to get it reestablished again.

I have to tell you - there is nothing worse than attempting to discuss (via chat) the details of the problem with tech support (in India) over a dial-up line!

But I digress.

I once had PacBell DSL service, but SBC bought up PacBell - and my DSL service. Through their poor tech support and worse service, I decided that I'd had enough, and went to another ISP. It turns out that this other ISP buys access through yet another company, who in turn buys their access direct from SBC. Thus, no one company is making the sort of money that SBC would like to see come in directly to them alone. The fact that these other companies are in existance, and are interfereing with a Texas company's business, isn't a good thing for SBC. But with the legal instructions in place, one does what any honorable Texan would do when out numbered - cheat. "If you can't beat 'em, you aren't cheatin' good enough!" has to be the motto.

And we wondered where King George got it from!

You didn't think I was going to let him off the hook, did you?

But I digress.

One way such a situation could be exploited would be to 'accidently' disrupt the service of the customers of the squatters - such as the two companies I have to go through just to get online through SBC equipment. The 'poor service' these customers would get would force them back into the SBC corral, where they could be SBC branded and ownership claimed yet again.

From what the field tech who tested my line told me, SBC isn't alone in these sudden interruptions of service to those who aren't paying SBC directly for the privelege of using SBC DSL lines forced open to competitors through legal means. Verizon seems to be at it as well.

But I digress. I must be a bit out of practice or something!

[Note to self: Digression excessive.]

There's a telecommunication range war a' brewin', and Texas' SBC intends to get it all away from Comcast, among many others like Verizon:

SBC and Comcast want it all
Telecom giants in race to offer phone, Net, TV combo deal

Nine years ago, SBC and Comcast were two corporate giants that dominated largely separate realms. Today, the two are on a collision course of epic proportions. Aided by rapid technological advances, the telecom giants are racing to become "triple threats," offering television, high-speed Internet access and phone services. In the process, they are blurring boundaries.

Consumer advocates are alarmed at the potential for a duopoly and the possibility the two giants might push up prices once they've established their market positions and back off from head-to-head competition. Both companies insist that won't be the case.

Sure - and I have a deregulated California Power Generation Station to sell you!

For the time being, SBC appears willing to rely on pricing to woo new customers. Many analysts see SBC's surprise move to cut DSL prices to $14.95 a month for the first year as a preemptive strike against Comcast in attempt to maintain and increase its share of the emerging high-speed Internet market. "DSL is a very retentive product," said Frank Mona, executive director of consumer marketing for SBC California. "We really believe that being aggressive with pricing, we're offering a robust product. It's a way to provide solutions that customers are asking for and keeps the customers with us long term."

Agression isn't limited to pricing - it can also be applied to the comptetition, as SBC is seeking advantage in Texas, Oklahoma, and California.

In Texas, SBC is seeking to establish a de facto monopoly through the passage of Texas Senate Bill 21, which, according to SBC competitors, limits competition and local regulation. The Texas Public Interest Research Group has this to say about it:

There's a better way to rein in cable industry in Texas
But letting new players like SBC neglect local needs not it

While the Legislature continues to very publicly fail to deliver on school finance reform, they are quietly moving forward on a rewrite of Texas telecommunications laws that likely will mean higher phone, Internet and tax bills, more discrimination for poor and rural areas and less local control for many Texas families.

Cable companies have been abusing their power and are taking customers and municipalities for a ride. From the time the federal government deregulated cable rates in 1996, customers throughout Texas and the nation have found their cable bills skyrocketing. The three largest cable providers (Time Warner, Comcast and Charter), now control more than 50 percent of the cable market, and their monopoly has allowed them to reap enormous profits from the families they service, with rates rising three times faster than inflation. Now big phone companies like SBC want to get in on the racket. They plan to offer television and video services, but they want to avoid having to meet those pesky local needs.

A better solution would be to give the state the right to stop price gouging by cable and telecommunications companies. We can lower prices by letting consumers choose just those channels they want, called a la carte pricing. And we can increase competition by requiring cable companies to provide competitors, or overbuilders, with access to their networks for fair market prices, as we currently do with telephone and electric lines. Doing so would provide immediate relief for the majority of customers and provide protections for smaller, more innovative and more customer-centric cable and video competitors to enter and thrive in the market. This would also create a truly competitive landscape, one where multiple providers can flourish, rather than be crushed by the entry of another monopolistic player.

In Oklahoma, the Corporation Commission prepares to rule on SBC deregulation:

SBC, formerly known as Southwestern Bell, has encouraged employees, retirees and other supporters to encourage the commission to approve the deregulation proposal, SBC spokesman Andy Morgan said.

SBC's largest competitor in Oklahoma, Cox Communications Inc., has countered with 30-second TV ads featuring Dave Bialis, vice president and region manager for Cox in Oklahoma, opposing the plan. Cox spokeswoman Kym Koch-Thompson said deregulation will lead to "higher prices in the rural areas and perhaps lower prices for a while in the urban areas until they can put the competition out of business."

Pet Oklahoma media outlets weigh in on the issue - on SBC's side:

Unshackling SBC

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Friday essentially approved SBC’s request to have most of its state phone services removed from price regulation. For the past five years, SBC has worked under an agreement in which its services were placed in “baskets” and regulated according to the level of competition established for each basket. Opponents of a change, particularly Cox Communications, argued that SBC already enjoys a tremendous advantage over competitors because it owns most of the land lines in the state.

We’ll know in time whether removing some of the regulatory shackles from SBC will create a behemoth that squashes competitors and customers alike, as opponents of the move have warned. If it approves the new rules, as expected, the commission can always go back and amend them if SBC begins to run roughshod. We don’t believe that will be necessary. Instead, we expect SBC will operate in good faith and that, in the end, consumers will benefit.

Sure they will:

Telephone provider to be exempt from most price controls

State regulators decided Thursday that SBC Communications, Oklahoma’s largest telephone service provider, should be exempt from most price controls. The order gives SBC greater flexibility to set new prices for local phone service, but still maintains some price controls for SBC. Price hikes in rural areas would be limited to no more than $2 per month, or $24 in a one-year period.

That would almost double my costs if that rule were to apply in Southern California, which will soon have to deal with that issue now that California State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said SBC Communications Inc.'s proposed $16-billion purchase of AT&T Corp. was unlikely to harm competition for most products in an advisory opinion filed Friday.

Bur fear not, Left Coasters! Thanks to the time-honored Texan practice of buying government officials to do their bidding, this very situation will soon come knocking on your own doors, thanks to Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens and his plan to loosen phone company regulations, and Arizona Republican Senator John McCain and Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign sponsoring a bill to prevent local control over national providers.

Isn't 'State's Rights' a local control issue? But then, hypocrisy's real first name is 'Republican' anyway, as demonstrated by the contention by McCain's staff that "he will continue to back his own measure, introduced last June with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), that gives municipalities the right to build, own and operate their own networks."

Wouldn't do to piss off the Blue States before you win the White House, now would it John? But is it wise to also piss off Senator Ensign - someone who has influential friends with lots of those green pieces of paper you are going to need for your presidential bid? Harken to his words to these folks:

"We need to get investment dollars flowing," Ensign told reporters. "Wall Street likes clear, understandable rules that minimize litigation and uncertainty."

And what better way to provide that than to implement it via the law? Ensign's bill seems to be doing the job:

SBC Communications upgraded to "outperform"

Analyst Frank G Louthan of Raymond James upgrades SBC Communications Inc. from "underperform" to "outperform," while raising his estimates for the company. The target price is set to $26. In a research note published on July 22, the analyst mentions that the company's margins have been boosted in the recent past by reduced marketing and infrastructure costs and improved operations.

Oh? This next piece doesn't sound like 'improved operations' to me!

3,000 SBC customers without phones till Monday

An estimated 3,000 customers of SBC Communications in southwest Houston and Bellaire are likely to be without telephone service until Monday because of an accident, a spokeswoman for the phone company said today. A contractor boring for a sewer line in central Bellaire cut through three of SBC's cables and damaged two others at about 3:45 p.m. Thursday, said SBC spokeswoman Katie Ramsey "We have received 768 actual customer reports of people being without service, but we estimate that there may be as many as 3,000 people whose service has been interrupted," Ramsey said.

Because SBC must replace the cut cables, Ramsey said "We are working around the clock" to get service back to southwest Houston customers by Monday morning. Ramsey said some customers who initially called to report that their service was out were told that the telephone company wouldn't be able to repair the damage until July 28. "Some of the customers who called may have heard July 28, because it is such a severe outage," Ramsey said. "We are hoping for Monday night."

But we all know that the customer is NOT the thing most important to corporate executives. They still don't protect customers from phishing. Instead, they focus on financial reports such as these:

SBC's Aggressive Pricing Moves

Banc of America Securities said SBC Communications led the Bells in aggressive pricing last quarter. During the quarter, SBC expanded its strategy of preemptively lowering prices ahead of cable’s full-blown market entry into voice, the research firm said. SBC lowered its unlimited voice offer to $40 in April and continued this pricing trend with a 23% DSL price cut to just $15 for new subscriptions. "SBC appears willing to sacrifice legacy profitability for an apparent confidence in the future optionality of the business," Banc of America said.

Such as killing off the service of subscribers to other companies through their own hardware?

'Future optionality' my dead DSL link!

The only 'future optionality' that companies like SBC care about are those options by which they can limit choice and increase profitability through monopoly practices.

And by 'happy' coincidence, they can also assist their political pets by keeping opposition pundits off the Web through 'accidents'.

That's how they deal with things down there in Texas.


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