My newspaper column is round-up of recent stories, including the tax-day Tea Parties and Time-Warner's tiered-pricing plan.
Tea Parties and Tiered Pricing
By Edward Cone
News & Record
I went to the Tea Party protest in downtown Greensboro on Tax Day, and it made me think.
Some of my thoughts were critical. I was aware, for example, of the political maneuvering and media hype that made the national Tea Party movement somewhat less grass-rooted than it claimed to be. I wondered how a speaker could claim to represent a silent majority while standing in a county that went heavily for Barack Obama, and describing a country where an actual majority seems reasonably happy with Obama's policies so far. And I worried that our schools are not doing a good job of explaining the concept of "taxation without representation," which is not the same thing as disliking your duly elected representatives.
But mostly I thought, huh, I get it. A lot of people are concerned about deficits and government spending (I'm one of them, although I believe we don't have much choice at this point). A lot of people feel disconnected from the government that is supposed to work for them and wonder why their own hard work doesn't seem to be worth much anymore. A lot of people think less government is better government.
A bunch of those people got together in a public space and exercised their right to say so. Good for them. The sarcasm dripped on them by the comedy-industrial complex seemed a bit excessive to me. Americans are too quick these days to assume bad faith, to write off anyone with a different point of view instead of reaching out to them. Obama and other Democrats would be wise to show these folks some respect, to listen to them and talk to them, even if they end up agreeing to disagree.
Time Warner backlash
Time Warner Cable's climb-down on its bad Internet pricing plan came just days after my column on the subject ran in this newspaper. This is known in the trade as a "coincidence," but I was still very happy about it.
Time Warner seemed unprepared for the backlash among its customers and the media, much less the response from politicians like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Eric Massa, who leaned hard on the company. North Carolina politicians were less visible, with Kay Hagan making a belated statement and others absent altogether, but they'll get another chance: Tiered pricing is not going away.
We need our elected officials at all levels of government to stay on the case. More competition, better consumer protections, and no singling out of Greensboro as a guinea-pig market should be priorities. Oh, and legislation now under consideration in Raleigh, which would ban municipal broadband networks, should be shot down as quickly as possible.
The comedy of politics
Speaking of taxation without representation, it looks like Minnesota will finally get a second U.S. senator. "Saturday Night Live" alumnus and Bill O'Reilly bete noire Al Franken is reported to be hiring staff as pressure grows on his opponent in last November's election, Norm Coleman, to give up on a race everyone else understands to be over.
It's a case of life imitating art, with the art being the scene at the end of "Animal House" where we learn that Bluto grows up to become a senator.
The debate about torture
I was grateful to a commenter at my Web site who came out and said he supported water boarding as a deterrent to terrorists. I don't think he's right -- terrorists seem to use our treatment of prisoners as a recruiting tool, and it's hard to deter someone who is willing or even eager to die -- but it was a relief to drop the pretense that water boarding a guy 183 times was about interrogating him.
The recently released CIA memos should spark a lot of debate in this country about who we are and what we expect from our government in terms of both actions and accountability. We need to prevent terrorist attacks, but we also need to maintain some standards of behavior, even when we're dealing with bad guys. And we still have a lot to learn about what our government did in our names.
Once more for the Heels
I managed to work a reference to UNC's national championship basketball team into my previous column. That mention was integral to setup of the broadband issue; this time, I'm just bringing up the Tar Heel victory to see how many weeks in a row I can do it.
© News & Record 2009