Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Last Call For A Company Of Record

The reaper of technology eventually comes for all companies, and those who can't stay ahead of the scythe get cut down sooner or later.

Columbia House – the mail-order music and movie membership club known for selling multiple CDs (eight, for example) for a penny – just couldn’t make it work in the digital age: Its owner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York on Monday, according to Rolling Stone.

In the ‘90s, Columbia House was highly popular and brought in profits of $1.4 billion in 1996. But by 2010, the company had backed out of the music business, unable to compete against MP3s and streaming sites and focusing instead on DVD sales. 
By 2014, revenue had fallen to $17 million. And while the Columbia House membership is still 110,000 strong, about $63 million is owed to over 250 creditors, Rolling Stone says.

“This decline is directly attributable to a confluence of market factors that substantially altered the manner in which consumers purchase and listen to music, as well as the way consumers purchase and watch movies and television series at home,” Glenn Langberg, director of Columbia House's parent company, wrote in court documents, according to The Wall Street Journal.

And no, I never had a Columbia House subscription, although when I was younger, Dad got a bunch of CDs from them and then canceled his subscription early to keep the CDs.  The people who didn't read the fine print, well, they had to pay for those CDs, often those they didn't want, every month. Think of it as Netflix or GameFly, only for music.  Just goes to show you that a billion dollar empire can turn into a multi-million dollar mess the next day.  Progress is a harsh mistress, and there are always going to be losers as well as winners.

Executive Indecision On Gitmo

In the past, President Obama has proposed closing Gitmo only to run into the long knives of Democrats who refuse to let him actually do the job.  This time, Lame Duck Outta F*cks Obama(tm) is trying to use the executive branch to get the job done, and wouldn't you know it, the Justice Department is now saying "Wait a minute here..."

A renewed push by the White House to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been bogged down by an internal disagreement over its most controversial provision — where to house detainees who will be brought to the United States for trial or indefinite detention, according to U.S. officials. 
The White House had intended to provide lawmakers with a new road map for shuttering the facility — a top priority for President Obama’s remaining time in office — before lawmakers went on their August recess. 
As part of the plan, the administration had considered sending some of the 116 detainees remaining at the prison to either a top-security prison in Illinois or a naval facility in Charleston, S.C. 
But during a recent video teleconference among top administration officials, Scott Ferber, senior counsel to the deputy attorney general, said the Justice Department could not support the use of the federal prison in Thomson, Ill., according to the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. 
Ferber said the Justice Department had made a public commitment in 2012 when it purchased the facility from the state of Illinois that it would not relocate detainees to Thomson. Then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “We will not move people from Guantanamo, regardless of the state of the law, to Thomson. That is my pledge as attorney general.” 
Holder’s commitment, made during sworn testimony, was apparently overlooked by officials when the most recent plan was drawn up. 
Thomson is no longer being considered, and the White House is again looking at other federal facilities, officials said. 
“Funding for Thomson prison was approved based on the understanding that no detainees from Guantanamo would be held there, and therefore, Thomson is not part of those discussions,” a senior administration official said. 
The last-minute dispute is another sign of the many difficulties plaguing the White House’s attempt to make good on Obama’s promise to close the military detention facility before he leaves office in 2017.

So the first and obvious choice for relocation of Gitmo detainees is 100% out of the picture.  That leaves the Naval Brig at Charleston, something that I don't think Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston area Representative Mark "Appalachian Trail" Sanford, or Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott are going to actually support this in any way.

Gitmo detainees are the ultimate NIMBY problem, and putting them in a red state will probably cause packs of crazed Islamophobes to show up with rocket launchers and storm the place anyway, not to mention the endless screaming about "OBAMA'S TERROR ATTACK ON AMERICA" headlines during the 2016 election.

So unless another blue state steps up and does the job, this still isn't happening, no matter how much Gitmo needs to be closed.

The Clinton College Conundrum

Hillary Clinton's new plan this week to invest in higher education and tackle student loan debt is ambitious, bold, and comprehensive.

It also has zero chance whatsoever of becoming law.

At the heart of the plan, dubbed the New College Compact, is an incentive program that would provide money to states that guarantee "no-loan" tuition at four-year public universities and community colleges. States that enroll a high number of low- and middle-income students would receive more money, as would those that work with schools to reduce living expenses. Because Pell grants, a form of federal aid for students from families making less than $60,000, are not included in the no-debt calculation, Clinton anticipates lower income students could use that money to cover books, as well as room and board. 
Although Clinton doesn't mention the word "free" in her proposal, the basic foundation is the same as legislation Sanders introduced in May that would eliminate tuition at four-year public colleges through federal investment. But instead of taxing Wall Street transactions as Sanders has proposed, Clinton would close tax loopholes to pay for her plan.

A senior Clinton campaign official said the candidate would reinstitute Ronald Reagan-era cuts on itemized tax deductions for high-income families. The $350 billion would cover all facets of the far-reaching proposal over 10 years. More than half of the total would be used to increase state investment in higher education, a third would cover the cost of lowering the interest rates on student loans and the rest would support the other initiatives. 
To improve the nation's 60 percent college graduation rate, Clinton would offer grants to schools that invest in child care, emergency financial aid and other interventions to boost completion. Students entering college are older and have more family responsibilities than those a generation ago, yet many institutions have been slow to respond to their needs. Investing in on-campus support systems could help, as could Clinton's proposal to allow federal student aid to be used for online career training programs offering badges or certificates, rather than degrees. 
Among the many policy proposals included in the compact are ideas that liberal and conservative lawmakers have agreed on, including simplifying the application for financial aid and consolidating student loan repayment plans. Clinton is also backing a controversial bipartisan proposal to have colleges pay a portion of the debt when students default on school loans, and planning to use the proceeds to pay for some of her initiatives.

This is an amazing reform of our higher education system to make it affordable and effective for a new generation.

And every single Republican will work to destroy the plan, so unless the white paper on this includes a detailed plan to get Democrats elected at the state level to reverse gerrymandering, so that Dems can win back the House and get 60 solid votes in the Senate, not one single Clinton initiative will ever become law under her administration.

It's up to her to articulate her plan to win back Congress.

Same goes for Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, or you're just wasting my time and my vote.


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