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The Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz:

Less than a month after announcing its plan to abandon U.S. protection of the open Internet in 2015, the White House has stepped back from the abyss. Following objections by Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican senators, and critical congressional hearings, the administration now says the change won’t happen for years, if ever.

“We can extend the contract for up to four years,” Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling told Congress last week, referring to the agreement under which the U.S. retains ultimate control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann. If the administration makes good on that reassurance, it would punt the decision to 2019 and the next president.

Mr. Strickling originally linked the end of U.S. control to the September 2015 expiration date of the current Icann agreement. He backtracked at a Hudson Institute conference last week: “We did not intend that to be a deadline after which ‘bad things’ would happen. There has been some misapprehension that we were trying to impose a deadline on this process. We weren’t.” Fadi Chehade, Icann’s CEO, agreed. “There is no deadline,” he said. “The U.S. has many years on the contract.”

In an interview, Mr. Chehade assured me that he understands why supporters of the open Internet want the U.S. to retain its oversight role, which keeps countries like Russia and China from meddling. “I’m worried, too,” he said. “There’s no question that governments like power and certain governments will always try to take control of the Internet, so we will have to be careful.”

The Commerce Department tasked Icann to come up with a plan to invite authoritarian governments to participate while still keeping the Internet open. This is likely impossible—and wholly unnecessary. Nongovernmental “multi-stakeholders,” such as engineers, networking companies and technology associations, now run the Internet smoothly. They are free to do so because the U.S. retains ultimate control over Internet domains, blocking authoritarian regimes from censoring or otherwise limiting the Internet outside their own countries.

The Obama administration proposal would have treated other governments as equal stakeholders, turning the concept of private-sector self-governance on its head. Robert McDowell, a former commissioner at the Federal Communication Commission, pointed out at the Hudson Institute event that “‘multi-stakeholder’ historically has meant no government,” not many governments.

Mr. Strickling tried to deflect criticism in his testimony: “No one has yet to explain to me the mechanism by which any of these individual governments could somehow seize control of the Internet as a whole.” The senior State Department official involved in Internet governance, Daniel Sepulveda, similarly claimed at the Hudson Institute: “Governments can no more take over Icann than Google can take over Icann.”

These are false assurances. Steve DelBianco of the NetChoice trade association gave this example in congressional testimony: Under Icann rules, a majority of governments can simply vote to end the current consensus approach and switch to majority voting. China and Iran are already lobbying for this change. Russia, China and other governments switched to majority voting to outfox the U.S. at a conference of the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency, in 2012. Mr. Sepulveda called that an “anomaly,” but the result was an 89-55 vote for a treaty giving U.N. legitimacy to governments cutting off the open Internet in their countries. This division of the Internet into open and closed networks goes into effect next year.

The Obama administration somehow thinks sacrificing U.S. control of Icann will satisfy regimes eager further to undermine the open Internet. Mr. Strickling argues: “Taking this action is the best measure to prevent authoritarian regimes from expanding their restrictive policies beyond their borders.” The opposite is true. Granting these countries access to Icann and the root zone filenames and addresses on the Internet would give them the potential to close off the global Internet, including for Americans, by deciding rules for how all websites anywhere must operate. …

If Mr. Obama still thinks giving up U.S. protection of the open Internet and its multi-stakeholder community is such a great idea, he should ask Congress to vote on it. He won’t, because there is zero chance that an Abandon the Internet Act would ever pass.

Categories: US business, US politics | Leave a comment

Presty the DJ for April 21

The number one British single today in 1958:

The number one single today in 1962:

The number one album today in 1973 was Alice Cooper’s “Billion Dollar Babies”:

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27 years, one day and 168,194 hamburgers ago

On Easter Sunday, April 19, 1987, fans of the Texas Rangers got to watch to see if their team could give the Milwaukee Brewers their first loss of the year.

Fans of the Brewers had to listen on the radio, since in those days the Brewers never put home games on TV.

After the Brewers followed Easter ham dinners by winning their 12th consecutive game, George Webb restaurants followed three days later by giving away 168,194 hamburgers, keeping a 40-year-old promise of free hamburgers for a 12-game winning streak by the (American Association) Brewers, (National League) Braves or (American, then National League) Brewers.

Categories: History, Sports | Leave a comment

Presty the DJ for April 20

The number one single today in 1957:

Today in 1959, Goldband Records released a single that had been recorded two years earlier by an 11-year-old girl named Dolly Parton.

“Puppy Love” didn’t chart for Parton, but it did for other acts, including Paul Anka and Donny Osmond. And Parton had a pretty good career anyway.

The number one single today in 1974:

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Presty the DJ for April 19

Today in 1967, the four Beatles signed a contract to stay together as a group for a decade.

The group broke up three years later.

The number one British single today in 1970 came from that year’s Eurovision winner, a one-hit wonder:

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What today is

Episcopal churches (and possibly others) hold an all-night vigil between the end of the Maundy Thursday Mass and the Good Friday service, or noon, to make up for Jesus Christ’s disciples failing to keep awake before Christ’s arrest early on Good Friday.

Last night, I read through the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, specifically the church’s Catechism, which begins thusly:

Q. What are we by nature?

A. We are part of God’s creation, made in the image of God.

Q. What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

A. It means that we are free to make choices: to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God.

Q. Why then do we live apart from God and out of harmony with creation?

A. From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choices.

Q. Why do we not use our freedom as we should?

A. Because we rebel against God, and we put ourselves in the place of God.

Q. What help is there for us?

A. Our help is in God.

That seemed appropriate today. The same God that created life of every kind gave us free will. The bad things that happen in our world are the result of our collective bad decisions, including bad things that happen to good people, to quote a book title.

Categories: Culture | Leave a comment

Pinch-pontificating

Every so often in this line of work, you go to work thinking you’re going to do a certain number of things, and then you don’t because something else intervenes.

During the last week, for instance, I announced a baseball game and a softball game that, when I woke up that morning, I had no idea I was going to announce. Brewers announcer Bob Uecker said once that during his playing career he was never thrown out of a game, but he was thrown into a couple without advance notice. So we have that in common, I guess.

That is a long-winded way of saying that today shortly after 8 a.m., I will be on Wisconsin Public Radio for the Joy Cardin Show Week in Review. That wasn’t on my schedule 24 hours ago, but now it is.

Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network can be heard on WHA (970 AM) in Madison, WLBL (930 AM) in Auburndale, WHID (88.1 FM) in Green Bay, WHWC (88.3 FM) in Menomonie, WRFW (88.7 FM) in River Falls, WEPS (88.9 FM) in Elgin, Ill., WHAA (89.1 FM) in Adams, WHBM (90.3 FM) in Park Falls, WHLA (90.3 FM) in La Crosse, WRST (90.3 FM) in Oshkosh, WHAD (90.7 FM) in Delafield, W215AQ (90.9 FM) in Middleton, KUWS (91.3 FM) in Superior, WHHI (91.3 FM) in Highland, WSHS (91.7 FM) in Sheboygan, WHDI (91.9 FM) in Sister Bay, WLBL (91.9 FM) in Wausau, W275AF (102.9 FM) in Ashland, W300BM (107.9 FM) in Madison, and of course online at www.wpr.org.

 

Categories: media | Leave a comment

Presty the DJ for April 18

Today in 1964, the Beatles appeared on the BBC’s “Morecambe and Wise”:

The Beatles had the number one single on both sides of the Atlantic that day:

The number one British single today in 1972 wasn’t exactly a one-hit wonder, but it wasn’t a traditional hit either:

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A new shot for the Bucks

You had to see this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lead coming:

In what civic leaders and elected officials called a game-changer and a new era for Milwaukee, former Sen. Herb Kohl announced the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks to two New York hedge-fund investors for $550 million, and said he and the new ownership team each will commit $100 million toward a new, multipurpose arena.

The team’s sale had been rumored for weeks, but what was not known until now was how much money for a new arena would be offered by Kohl, a lifelong philanthropist, and the new owners, who were introduced Wednesday afternoon at the BMO Harris Bradley Center as Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens.

“This is a major step forward in my goal in keeping the Bucks here,” said Kohl, who bought the Bucks for $18 million in 1985 and has owned the team for 29 years.

The $550 million sale figure stunned many who follow sports transactions and must have brought smiles to the faces of NBA executives, given Milwaukee’s small-market status.

In January, Forbes magazine, which compiles valuations of professional sports teams, said the Bucks were the least valued team in the National Basketball Association at $405 million.

Nearly a year ago, the Sacramento Kings, in a larger market, were sold for $535 million.

Marc Marotta, chairman of the BMO Harris Bradley Center board of directors, heralded the news that Kohl had committed $100 million and Lasry and Edens had offered to provide at least $100 million more toward a new facility.

“This announcement provided new momentum for the project,” Marotta said. “This is a huge, huge commitment for our city and the state of Wisconsin. It will present opportunities obviously for the future. … and it will help our community for years and years and decades to come.”

Lasry told a large gathering at the Bradley Center that he and Edens “want to build a great team and a beautiful arena.”

“We are looking forward to the experience of being an owner,” Edens said. “We have a big vision for the Bucks,” adding that fans deserve a winning team.

“For Wes and I it really is a dream come true,” said Lasry, who said he and his partner hoped to bring a championship to the city in the next five to 10 years.

Edens is the co-founder of the Fortress Investment Group LLC, based in New York, and a self-described basketball fan. According to federal Securities & Exchange Commission documents, the firm has $61.8 billion in assets under management. He is a graduate of Oregon State University.

Lasry is the chairman, CEO and co-founder of Avenue Capital Group. As of March 31, the firm had $13.6 billion in assets under management. Lasry is a native of Morocco who moved to the United States. He is a graduate of Clark University and holds a law degree from New York Law School.

Lasry ranks as one of the wealthiest Americans in the country, according to Forbes magazine. The magazine reported in 2013 that he had a net worth of $1.5 billion, good for a ranking of 352 on the list of the wealthiest 400 Americans.

The first thought that comes to mind is that this is proof positive that Wisconsin needs more millionaires and billionaires — you know, the evil 1 percent. Without Herb Kohler, there are no world-class golf courses in the state of Wisconsin, and no national-class golf tournaments being played in Wisconsin. Without Kohl, the Bucks would be in Sacramento, or Kansas City, or Seattle. Apparently Wisconsin has to import its billionaires — Lasry and Edens, and before them, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.

The second thought is that this the second time I’ve been (happily) proven wrong about the future of a state pro sports franchise. In 1996, I predicted that the Brewers would become the Carolina Distillers or perhaps the Mexico City Cerveceros after they left over the state’s inability to finance a new stadium. Eighteen years later, the Brewers play in Miller Park, which includes a retractable roof, perhaps the best $100 million that has ever been spent on a building in this state’s history.

I predicted that the Bucks were heading to Seattle because I thought it highly unlikely that Herb Kohl would find a megabucks owner to take the Bucks off his hands, yet keep them in Wisconsin. (In 2003, Michael Jordan reportedly was part of an ownership group that wanted to buy the Bucks, but move them closer to Chicago. Kohl vetoed the deal.) It appears, barring a last-second disaster, that Kohl will accomplish his goal.

The next step is to get a new arena for the Bucks, for which Kohl is pledging $100 million and Lasry and Edens are pledging $100 million. Michael Hunt asserts:

Edens and Lasry did not become billionaires on bad business decisions, so their long-term commitment to Milwaukee with their team hinges on shovels going into the ground in the next year or so. This is not an or-else situation, but it’s clear the Bucks cannot stay without a new building.

The NBA genuinely wants continued representation in Milwaukee, but the league is putting pressure on the franchise to get an arena deal done. Large-market owners are only willing to support their small-market brethren with revenue sharing to a certain extent.

So now it becomes a matter of trust that the extraordinary financial commitments by Kohl and the new owners toward the building won’t languish on the table in another unseemly political fight.

But you know this town. The Bradley Center was paid for with a $90 million check more than a quarter-century ago and still the thing almost didn’t get built while obstructionists argued about where it should be placed. It would seem like a half-price arena would be palatable to even the most skeptical, but this is a place that nearly rejected a freebie.

It also becomes a matter of trust that community leaders and politicians come up with ways to find more private money and make the sales pitch palatable and progressive. One way would be for Edens and Lasry to add local investors, a real possibility.

Another would be to join forces with the Wisconsin Center and make the arena part of the downtown entertainment infrastructure with further development, because in the end this is more about extending this city’s cultural reach than sustaining a basketball team. …

Pretty soon they’re going to have to come together to get this right, because not since the Pettit family’s unprecedented gift has this city been presented with such an opportunity to grow, prosper and remain in an exclusive club in which membership is limited to 30 worldwide.

Before Wednesday, the chance to build a modern arena and keep the franchise seemed like a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer. It’s not a slam-dunk yet, but it is a contested layup, so close to happening that it’s OK to feel that the longtime angst over this issue has run into a solid pick.

I’m not sure whether the next step comes before or after the arena, but it is as important. The new owners need to almost start over with the Bucks. (Save the colors — green was to symbolize the Packers, and red was to symbolize the Badgers.) Forget about the arena for a moment — the Bucks have been so bad for so long that you can easily denote the glory eras of the franchise:
  • 1970-74: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Dandridge and (by trade) Oscar Robertson. Milwaukee’s only NBA title, and a thrilling 1974 Finals loss.
  • Late ’70s-late ’80s: Don Nelson as coach, Sidney Moncrief and Marques Johnson by draft, past-their-prime-but-still-effective Bob Lanier and Jack Sikma by trade. The Bucks were the fourth best team in the NBA; unfortunately two of the top three, Boston and Philadelphia, inevitably ended Bucks seasons.
  • 2001: George Karl as coach, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson and Ray Allen by draft, Sam Cassell and sixth-man Tim Thomas by trade. A seven-game loss in the Eastern Conference finals to the 76ers.

Other than a few additional playoff berths (four of five Karl’s successors, Terry Porter, Terry Stotts, Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan, got one playoff berth each), that’s been it. Since the Bucks have been in existence since 1968, you’ll note there’s more gory than glory in those periods, particularly in the 1990s. It’s remarkable that according to always-accurate Wikipedia, the Bucks actually have won 51 percent of their games in their history, including this season’s 15-win slaughter.

The Bucks’ problem is a simultaneous lack of talent and charisma. There is literally nothing compelling about the Bucks (including players with any kind of Wisconsin connection, even to sit on the bench), unless you think tanking games to possibly get the NBA’s number one draft pick is fun viewing. In part because of that, and in part because of failure to promote the Bucks outside Milwaukee, few people outside the 414 and 262 area codes could care less about the Bucks. And that’s a problem when you have 41 games times 18,000 seats to fill. (And to no one’s surprise, the Bucks didn’t fill the seats very well — they were dead last in per-game attendance, at 13,487 fans (some of whom probably dressed as empty seats) per game, and third from the bottom in percentage of home seats sold. They were also fourth from the bottom in road average attendance, which means that fans of other NBA teams knew the Bucks sucked too. Put it together, and the Bucks were the least viewed team in the NBA this year.)

The Bucks have problems similar to small-market teams in all major pro sports leagues not named NFL. The NBA’s salary cap, you”ll note, is not effective enough to prevent the Bulls’ dynasty in the 1990s, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant wave, or, now, the Heat from dominating the league. The Bucks do not have the ability to write a check to acquire a player to undo previous bad player decisions. Similar to the Brewers, the Bucks’ margin of error is considerably smaller than bigger-market NBA teams, so they have to build from within and make the right player decisions — including whether to let someone go because he’s become unaffordable — nearly all the time.

The Bucks’ best teams were the early ’70s teams because of their two hall-of-fame players, Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson. The Bucks’ second-best teams were the next group because of their coach, Nelson, who outcoached his opponent nearly every night whether or not the Bucks won. I’d say that’s how the Bucks should approach things — find the next iteration of Nelson, Karl, Pat Riley or Phil Jackson – but Kohl thought he was doing that with Mike Dunleavy, who had coached the Lakers to the NBA Finals. Dunleavy was a useful player with the Bucks, but a trainwreck of a coach with the Bucks.

Pro sports teams not only need to have a successful product; they need to have an entertaining product. Stadiums quite obviously are designed today to extract the maximum amount of money possible from fans’ wallets. That is one of the two major failings of the Bradley Center, which is what you’d expect from an arena designed in 1988. The other Bradley Center problem is terrible sight lines for basketball, which is what you’d expect for a stadium designed for hockey in days when it appeared as though the NHL might locate a franchise in Milwaukee. The Bradley Center was a gift from Jane Pettit, who owned the Milwaukee Admirals at the time, and so the Bradley Center was designed for hockey, even though the Bucks have always drawn more for more games than the Admirals. (If the Bucks were simply to rebuild the Kohl Center in Milwaukee, that wouldn’t be the worst thing to do.)

The Bradley Center’s capacity of 18,717 isn’t the issue, even though it’s in the bottom third of NBA arenas sizewise. (The Milwaukee Arena, which the Bradley Center replaced, seated just 11,000, which made it one of the smallest arenas. But the Arena, or MECCA, was packed nearly every night because of the quality of the team at the time.)

Beyond where you watch the game, there is the issue of what you watch and where you watch or listen when you’re not at the game. Teams either have to be entertaining or successful, and preferably both, though Wisconsin football and basketball observers know that fans will put up with boring play if the result is a win at the end of the game.

As for those not at the game, the Bucks’ lack of following outside Milwaukee is analogous to the Brewers before Miller Park opened. There’s no issue with a basketball arena of whether the game will be played, though the issue of your getting to the game in bad weather is part of the endless joys of living in Wisconsin. Until Fox Sports Wisconsin and its predecessor, Midwest Sports Channel, came on the air, Bucks road games were only on TV until the postseason. The Chicago Cubs, whose following is wildly disproportional to their historic success (my grandparents weren’t even alive the last time the Cubs won a World Series) due to their home games having been on TV for  decades, and the Packers prove you have to get the game to the fans whether or not they’re at the game.

And speaking of which … Bucks announcers Ted Davis (radio) and Jim Paschke (Fox Sports Wisconsin) deserve credit for having to sit through some awful basketball, but neither remind anyone of Hall of Fame announcers Chick Hearn, or Marv Albert, or Joe Tait, or Johnny “Havlicek stole the ball!” Most, or Hot Rod Hundley, or even the best NBA announcers of today, like Ralph Lawler of the Clippers. And certainly not the incomparable, indescribable Eddie Doucette.

The issue is not whether Davis is competent, or whether his predecessor, Howard David, was; they certainly are. The issue is that, at least on the occasions I’ve heard Davis, the seeming lack of caring about the result of the game. Whether announcers like it or not, the standard announcing style of the Midwest isn’t Vin Scully-style neutrality. (Hiring Wayne Larrivee, who formerly announced Bulls games, would be a fine decision. As Badger fans heard during the NCAA Final Four Teamcast, Larrivee wants the team for which he’s announcing to win, without being Ken “Hawk” Harrelson about it.)

It’s easy to say that the Bucks need more owner money, because they do (Forbes magazine rated the Bucks as the lowest-value franchise in the NBA), but that’s not the only thing they need, and that’s not sufficient by itself. The Bucks need to produce more money by themselves, and they need to spend it more effectively than they have under most of Kohl’s tenure as owner. The Bucks aren’t going to become a big-market franchise, and you can say what you want about the farce that is the NBA’s salary cap, but money doesn’t do much good if it’s not spent on the right people and in the right places.

 

Categories: Sports, Wisconsin business | Leave a comment

A bridge from politics to music

Readers of this blog know that I usually divert away from politics on weekends.

This is Thursday, not Friday, but after reading the Skeptical Libertarian I thought I’d bridge the gap:

Many of my professional musician/artist friends tend to lean left when it comes to economics. They will talk about how a business isn’t a person and how money isn’t speech etc. This all while enjoying the luxuries of a fairly unregulated enterprise where their creativity isn’t stifled.

So for fun I thought about what it would be like if starting a band was like starting a small business:

1. First you have to find practice space. You better make sure the practice space is commercially zoned. This will greatly increase the value of the property thus inflating the rent to about 3-4 times more than what it costs to rent a non-commercial property of that size

2. Get a band license. These typically run about 60,000 dollars and are limited.

To get one, first you have to apply. Then you have to post in public your intention of purchasing a band license, allowing neighbors to anonymously object to said purchase. After that you have to go to a zoning hearing with your neighbors and state your case. This includes what type of band, when you will be playing and the type of music.

The zoning board and the community agree that heavy metal is not good for the neighborhood and that if you want a band it can only have three members and it has to be country.

3. Once your band license is approved and purchased, it’s time for each member of the band to get certified in music safety. This costs $100 dollars a member and must be retaken every two years. Once you receive it, it must be displayed at by your band at all times.

4. Now your band is required by law to purchase various types of insurance. This costs thousands of dollars a year.

5. Once this is done, now you have to be approved by the band inspector.

He tells that you can only use Ernie Ball guitar strings and they have to be replaced every two months and that every band member must wear safety gloves when they play. You also have to buy these items from state sanctioned distributers and you cannot purchase over state lines.

6. You also learn that you may be liable for any damages done by individuals to either themselves or others, as a result of experiencing your music.

7. Every band member must be over 18 and be an American citizen or possess a work vista. All their information must also be submitted to the Department of Homeland Security.

The skeptic’s readers made helpful additions:

And that every product they sell must be certified as safe and appropriate by a Government agency according to regulations written by unaccountable bureaucrats opposed to the music industry in general… and since corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech, the band gets no say whatsoever in what those regulations say or how they affect the final product.

Also, if they don’t support corporate speech, try this: Local musicians can’t form a co-op and go to the city, county or state government to ask for relief, or contribute to the campaign of a politician whose platform includes reforming the music laws. They’d each have to do it only as individuals. Even a band would not be allowed to support a candidate, since a band is a business. Campaigning on stage would be a gift-in-kind…

Musicians also lean to the left because many of them work gigs for cash and pay next to nothing in taxes, while also being able to benefit from a variety of “safety net” type welfare programs because on paper, they’re poor.

 

Categories: Music, US politics | 1 Comment

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