There Goes the Neighborhood

The EU has decided to put a lid on the cost of phone calls.

The European Parliament has approved new telecommunications rules that will cap prices of intra-EU phone calls….

And those Parliamentarians are proud of themselves for this.  MEP Constanze Krehl, who speaks for the German Social Democratic Party on matters related to telecommunications:

It was high time to cap the sometimes outrageous prices for international calls in the EU[.]

Just like rent controls, though, this will serve only to stifle maintenance and improvement.  Quality will lag and eventually go outright downhill as the cost of providing the service eats more and more into the revenue—now maxed out—gained from providing it.

A Thought on Amazon’s Choices

Amazon.com has made its selection (-s, plural as it turns out) for its alternate corporate headquarters: Arlington County, VA’s Crystal City and New York’s Long Island City, with a booby consolation prize—or a scrap bone—tossed to Nashville, TN.

I have a couple of thoughts about this.

San Antonio, in Texas, had misgivings and declined to play Amazon’s game.

“Blindly giving away the farm isn’t our style,” wrote San Antonio officials in an open letter to Mr Bezos.

Others openly groveled and kissed the ground on which Amazon officials walked when those worthies deigned visit.

Censorship

The ramp-up in political spending across Facebook’s social networks, which also include Instagram, is breathtaking: In 2014, digital ad spending was 1% of all political ad spending. Now it’s 22%, or about $1.9 billion, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Facebook says that politicians have spent nearly $300 million in the US on Facebook ads since May.

And

Politicians who want to reach the same voters their competitors are reaching on Facebook have little choice but to go there, too.

Which helps explain why Facebook was so willing to censor conservative political ads.

Right Answer, Wrong Dissent

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling favorable to the State’s charter schools last Thursday.  The question before the court was whether those charter schools were violating the State’s constitution by receiving funding from the State’s lottery facilities.  Writing for the court, Justice Mary Yu wrote in plain words,

Charter schools are not rendered unconstitutional just because they do not operate identically to common school[.]

She expanded on that in addressing the plaintiffs’ argument that the charter schools lacked voter control, holding that, as The Seattle Times paraphrased her,

Trade and the People’s Republic of China

The Wall Street Journal wrote in its Thursday edition that the US was “refusing” to resume trade negotiations with the PRC until the latter made a formal offer to us.  That’s a bit of a misnomer, though, since there’s nothing about which to negotiate until the PRC makes an offer.  Absent that, any discussion about trade would be just idle musings over an afternoon tea, a whiling away of some time between more important things.

A couple of other things jumped out at me in that article, too.

A Health Care Coverage Step

Alexander Acosta, Steven Mnuchin, and Alex Azar, respectively Secretaries of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services, are in the process of offering one.  They’re putting together a rule that would expand HRAs, Health Reimbursement Arrangements.  These are plans that allow employers to reimburse employees for certain qualified health expenses.  Their expansion consists of two parts:

  • permit[ting] employers to offer HRAs to reimburse employees for health insurance purchased in the individual market—allowing employers to provide a contribution as significant as they would have made for the premiums of a traditional employer-sponsored plan.

Carbon Dioxide and Bias at the EPA

Cass Sunstein thinks there’s bias in the Trump EPA in the way the agency handles CO2.  He’s right, but not in the way he thinks.

The only way to solve the climate-change problem, and to prevent massive harm in the US, is for all the world’s big emitters [of CO2] to agree to take account of the global damage.

There’s the heart of the political concern and a demonstration of Sunstein’s bias.

Carbon’s role in the environment is its contribution to acid rain through its role as a constituent of CO2. That problem has been solved, years ago.

Pharma and Drug Prices

The Trump administration has proposed a rule that would require companies advertising drugs to provide the list prices of those drugs in their advertising—including their television advertising.  Big Pharma is opposed, and wants instead to be left to voluntarily provide pricing information by having links in their advertising that would guide folks to a separate Web site.

I sympathize with Big Pharma on this. Government regulation already is out of hand; the Trump administration is reducing that, and this is an unnecessary addition.

There is an alternative.

In Other Parts of the World….

A man in Austria was shocked to be handed a bill from a debt collection agency for €10,365 ($12,000) after misplacing his hotel key….

After all,

the key was a skeleton key for the entire building, and now the owner is claiming all of the hotel’s intricate locks must be replaced.

So—a hotel is careless of its security setup, and that makes its customers responsible for any potential breach.

Hmm….

Free Trade in North America

With a Mexico-US trade agreement in nominally in hand (our two nations’ legislatures have ratify it, and our own Progressive-Democrats in the Senate are already saying #NO, #RESIST, and too many Republicans are acquiescing, though), Mexico wants Canada to join the agreement.  Mexico’s President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, after speaking with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

There is still time to achieve a trilateral agreement[.]

And

We hope they reach that understanding so that it will be a trilateral agreement.