Friday, June 15, 2018

Harvard, Admissions and Athletes

The NY Times reports:

In its admissions process, Harvard scores applicants in five categories — “academic,” “extracurricular,” “athletic,” “personal” and “overall.” They are ranked from 1 to 6, with 1 being the best.

 Interesting. Let's examine these:

1. Academic: This is a weighted number of GPA if such exists, class ranking, again is it exists, and SAT or equivalent scores. The weighting is often based on what type of secondary school one went to. Thus if it were Exeter I suspect one would have a strong position whereas if it we Robert Wagner HS on Staten Island you may be somewhere down the pile.

2. Extracurricular: Curing AIDS in Uganda perhaps could get you a few points as would be having been elected as a State Senator, Democrat of course.  In the old days a VP on the Student Council would work but today when everyone gets a prize one wonders how this works.

3. Athletics: Now here is a real quiz. People fall into three categories. No sports at all, perhaps most Nobel Prize winners fall in this collection, team sports, the prep school winners are here as are large public schools, and the individual sports. The latter is where we get entrepreneurs. I did boxing and was a lifeguard, both required individual singular performance, and in boxing it was real time. So how does Harvard weight these?

4. Personal: Oh yeah, try to do this one folks. MIT used to have alumni do interviews but they disbanded this. I did it for 25 years and saw a large swath of students, and a few, who were accepted despite my concerns, all left before graduation. That personal contact is important but, well it is personal.

5. Overall: Just what this means I cannot tell despite a few readings. The selection used to be based on Faculty reviews, now there is a politically correct admissions committee. Thus the applicant must play to their biases rather than the facts.

It will be interesting to see how this litigation ends.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What If?

Ars Technica has an article on the proposed tunnels connecting O'Hare to downtown Chicago. They note:

The Boring Company has released details about its proposed system already—it calls the system a "Loop," as in a modified version of the "Hyperloop" idea. (This means there will be a Loop to The Loop—very cute, Chicago.) Unlike the Hyperloop idea, the tunnels will not be depressurized. The company has stated that its electric pods would travel at 125-150 miles per hour. The city of Chicago's press release confirmed that The Boring Company has proposed vehicles that will travel faster than 100 miles per hour.

 Nice idea bu:

1. What if there is a breakdown
2. What if there is a burst water pipe flooding the tunnel
3. What if there is a health emergency
4. What if there is an earthquake
5. What if there is a broken gas line
6. etc

Namely these claustrophobic tubes that are reminiscent of birth canals are not like New York subways, with multiple entry and exit locations where emergency facilities can be brought to bear. This may be a great idea if it works all the time, but we know that such is not the case. There does not seem to be any discussion of these issues.

There seem to be only two points of entry, the beginning and the end. That is a long way to go without any problems. Just look at the DC Metro.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Battle of the Distribution Channels

It appears that Comcast is trying to get the Fox content for its distribution channel. As the NY Times reports:

Comcast announced an offer worth $65 billion for the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s businesses on Wednesday, setting up a showdown with the Walt Disney Company for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. The all-cash bid by Comcast, the largest cable company in the United States, came a day after a federal judge approved a merger between AT&T and Time Warner. Comcast executives had awaited the decision in that case before mounting their bid for 21st Century Fox.

What does this prove? Content without a customer is worthless. A customer with no content is equally worthless. Distribution gives customers access. But customers are fickle and want all sorts of stuff. Also customers are getting rather sick of paying for stuff they do now want or outright despise, like ESPN for some customers. Thus this is a tricky move.

The customer does not want bundles any longer, the know the CATV scams all too well. Average CATV rates have doubled in eight years. Nothing changed, just the price. The cable converter is priced at about $15 per month per converter and it is a relic. There is no option even though the FCC allows it. Then again we ask; what FCC, at least under current management.

The game here between Comcast and AT&T is interesting. AT&T has the better connection via 5G, if and only if they understand what they have. Somehow they seem clueless. Cable is a dying technology. Also Cable is hated by its customer base and it seems Comcast is at the top of this list. 

Then again there is Verizon, same 5G asset, but their brain trust bought AoL and Yahoo, two apparent boat anchors. Thus the game is between Comcast and old technology and AT&T and a winning technology is they can understand what they have. 

This will be an interesting play.


The Telegraph has a telling piece, especially explaining why we Irish have this, well let's call it our attitude, towards the English. The author is one Annabel Fenwick Elliott, a Dickensian name if ever there was one, who says it is her "right" to assault the customer sitting behind her by leaning her seat back no matter what. Yes assault, look up the term fair madam, it is in English Common Law. So are the remedies.

Now what specifically sets one off? The following:

Not only do I keep my seat reclined on every flight, in every situation, with the sole exception of meal times, but I slyly push that button - ever so gently - as soon as the plane takes off so that it tilts back with the force of the ascent, rather than wait until we’ve reached altitude, in a motion which feels less abrupt. Again, until now, this to me was just common sense and in fairness, not once have I ever been called out on it....“But I’m tall!” I hear you cry. “My knees are already crushed!” Being tall is an advantage in some situations (reaching things, attracting a mate) and a disadvantage in others (public transport, shopping for jeans). The average height of a man in the UK in 5ft 9in, a woman is 5ft 3in. If you happen to be taller, this is not your fault, but equally it is not my problem, not on a plane where all the seats are the same size.

 Well it is your fault now. You have just expressed intent, and element of English Law, mens rea if you will for those still properly educated. And one wonders why there is a general distaste for the English. Other than their occupying lands not their own for centuries, and in turn oppressing the local folks, the law they developed does have a double edge.

Oh, by the way, I am 6' 3" and have long legs which lock immediately upon sitting. And also Ms Fenwick-Elliot-Dunstable-Wentworth-Buckingham-whatever, my solicitors are not that friendly. See ya!

You Want a Phone; Black and Rotary Dial

The AT&T Time Warner merger presents a set of interesting questions, many of which the Court in its wisdom or lack thereof failed to address. Two things happened this week, and they are closely related. First this merger which I shall comment on and second the FCC destruction of common carriage. They are tightly related.

To use a well used phrase, we are in an information society. There are providers of this "information" and there are channels for its distribution. Typically in the US we have at times tried to keep them separate. The Judge Greene MFJ actually mandated that, for the Judge there saw the power of owning both.

For if you owned the distribution channel and you owned one of the arguably many sources of "information" then you could leverage out your competitors and control what the consumer sees. The FCC rule now mandates that.

McLuhan said the Medium was the Message but he meant that if one controlled the medium, namely the channel and content, you controlled what people saw as "truth". You had the ultimate tool for propaganda.

Do the antitrust laws allow for this type of control? I would argue not but the Judge in this case seems not to agree.

Thus the most serious threat to an open democratic society is the ownership of content and distribution. The old decision to break apart movie theaters and movie makers in the 1940s saw that. Apparently the current Judge disagrees.

A key point is also the development of 5G. My fear is that AT&T is reverting to its old ways, really old ways. A brief tale from the past may be worth telling. Fred Kappel was CEO of AT&T in the 60s. Fred was there when Bell Labs/Western Electric developed the Electronic Switching System No 1, No 1 ESS. Now this was kind of electronic but still had many mechanical parts. A large piece of the costs of telephones was maintenance and the old mechanical switches required lots of this, Fred wanted a fully electronic system. Here the battle began. The powers to be were adamant on slow change because the Bell System made its money, profit, based upon a return on investment, and the more costly the plant the more profit. You see profit in the phone company was not revenue less expenses, its was a percent return on capital plant, and the more inefficient you were the more you made.

So how does this relate to AT&T today? Simple, now that they own content they must get a return. How to do that? Simple, slow roll 5G, allow no new content entrants via wireless, and go back to a black rotary dial phone! Thanks Judge.

You see, the objective of the Antitrust laws is to protect competition, namely the consumer's ability to choose, NOT protect the competitors. Protecting competition means simply allowing for a multiplicity of competitors, not vertical and horizontal merging.  Any third year law student looking at Antitrust Law should understand that. How was this point missed in this case?

Finally, one could consider the following analogy:

1. ATT owns the dominant trucking company in the US with an exclusive government franchise (the wireless licenses ATT got "free" decades ago, yes free, and they block any competition)

2. The US govt has given ATT trucking the right to not have to carry anyone else's produce (the FCC elimination of net neutrality)

3. ATT buy McDonald's, local stores and their "production" facilities (read Time-Warner)

4. You go out to buy food and all you can now get is McDonald's (read ATT) since no other vendor can get their goods shipped in.

That is the analogy. They own the distribution channel which is a substantial barrier to entry and now can "supply" whatever they want.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Wow, I see Someone Listened!

Yep, we went from 200Kbps to 116,000Kbps, almost a 1,000 fold increase, and the IP addressed changed as well! It will be interesting to see what AT&T does with their new found love!

One should remember, the asset is the wireless license. There are just a few and 5G will blow fiber out of the water, despite what lawyers think. Content is real tricky. Look at the mess Verizon has with its media stuff, AoL and Yahoo.

The revenue will become more selective buys and less eyeballs. With a 5G data driven approach one can subscribe to what they want. Unless of course your carrier owns the content they want you to see! So did the Court err? Think about it.