- Booz Allen tickemastered America's public lands: An arms dealer makes millions on junk fees from National Parks visitors.
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Booz Allen tickemastered America's public lands (permalink)
Ticketmaster's spectacular failure to competently sell tickets to Taylor Swift's first concert tour in five years has revived scrutiny of the ticketing/venue/promotion/management monopoly created by Ticketmaster's merger with Live Nation, especially the "junk fees" the company sucks out of fans' pockets:
What's a junk fee? It's all the crap that Ticketmaster tacks onto the cost of your ticket, like a "convenience fee" for using a credit card. Once all these fees are assessed, 78% of the price of some tickets is just fees.
Junk fees aren't limited to Ticketmaster, they're everywhere: "resort fees" at hotels, bag and seat-selection fees on airlines, $35 fees for bounced checks, and on and on. Wherever a company has pricing power – because they're the only game in town, or because you're desperate – they rip you off with fees:
Take cable TV. The cable operators have divided up the USA like the Pope dividing up the New World, carefully demarcating each company's exclusive territory and ensuring that cable companies never compete with one another. That's why cable is such a dumpster-fire of junk fees – Comcast just jacked up its nonsense "broadcast fee" to $27/month:
OK, fine – turn off the TV and get out there and touch grass! America's system of national parks and public lands are the jewels in the country's crown, a remnant of those long-ago days when government could and did do stuff for the American public, an art that (to hear conservatives tell) is now lost to the ages along with the secrets of the pyramids.
Just navigate to Recreation.gov, which consolidates permitting and entry for 13 federal agencies and…
…pay your junk fees.
Want to pay your $7 to hike the prized Coyote Buttes North at Arizona's Vermilion Cliffs National Monument? Sure, just pay a $9 "lottery application fee." Even by junk fee standards, this is a very junky fee – it's not a fee for paying a fee, it's a fee for the chance to pay a fee.
Only 4-10% of lottery entrants get a permit (Coyote Buttes is a very fragile ecosystem and entrance is severely limited), which means that Recreation.gov's rake from this junk fee is about 1,000% of what it actually makes on hiking permits.
Well, at least that money is going to Coyote Buttes, right? Preserving the petroglyphs and the dinosaur tracks and whatnot?
Nope. The Bureau of Land Management gets the $7 entry fee from the 64 daily hikers who are lucky enough to visit Coyote Buttes. The $14,400 in lottery fees that the day's hopeful hikers pay to Recreation.gov for a shot at a permit all go to a giant military contractor: Booz Allen.
I know. What. The. Actual. Fuck. On his BIG newsletter, Matt Stoller explains how a beltway bandit like Booz Allen became the Ticketmaster of America's public lands. The deal started in 2017, when Booz got the contract to build Recreation.gov "at no cost to the federal government."
Booz Allen didn't promise to run a government website out of an abundance of patriotic zeal. Like all public private Partnership contractors, they wanted to figure out how to scoop of gigantic amounts of public money without any public accountability:
Booz Allen now gets to run America's public lands like its own corporate fiefdom. At the outset of its deal, it was able to set its own prices for fees unilaterally – that is, it could simply announce that, say, everyone who wanted to visit Mount Whitney would pay a $6 fee (16,000 applicants, 5,300 of them successful, $100,000 in junk fees for Booz).
But then Thomas Kotab, an "avid hiker," sued the BLM for the $2 junk fee tacked on top of the reservation system for Red Rock Canyon. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (the law that allows federal agencies to charge for access to public lands) requires that agencies hold a notice-and-comment for each of these fees. The $2 fee didn't go through this procedure.
Kotab won…sort of. The court upheld his challenge, requiring that Booz's public lands junk fees go through public notice. But Booz didn't refund the $2 it had illegally collected from the people it ripped off to visit Red Rock Canyon – and it figured out how to neuter the notice and comment system.
Here's how that works: the federal agencies that Booz ticketmasters each have a Resource Advisory Council, which the agencies stack with their own cronies, who then rubber-stamp whatever the agency wants to do. RACs pretend to be accountable to the public, but boy is the pretense thin:
So now, when Booz wants to tack a junk fee onto a public space, it gets the relevant agency to do a notice-and-comment for the fee, and the RAC files comments saying that this is a great idea, and the agency throws away all the public comments that say otherwise, and voila, Booz gets another junk fee.
All of this is incredibly frustrating, not just another example of corporate looting of the public's purse – a huge barrier to our public lands. The idea that the military industrial complex has ticketmastered Teddy Roosevelt's public parks should shock our consciences.
But there's something we can do about this! The part of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act that authorizes agencies to assess fees runs out in Oct 2023, and when Congress renews it, they could add an amendment to block Booz's junk fees.
Or, as Stoller notes, "Biden, through his anti-junk fee initiative could simply assert through the White House Competition Council to the 13 different agencies that they end Booz Allen’s practice of charging these kinds of fees."
Hey look at this (permalink)
- Movetodon, the best Twitter-to-Mastodon migration tool yet https://www.movetodon.org/ (h/t Waxy)
The Financial Times has been printing an obvious error on its “Market Data” page for 18 months and nobody else seems to have noticed https://mako.cc/copyrighteous/the-financial-times-has-been-printing-an-obvious-error-on-its-market-data-page-for-18-months-and-nobody-else-seems-to-have-noticed
PSA: Do Not Use Services That Hate The Internet https://www.jwz.org/blog/2022/11/psa-do-not-use-services-that-hate-the-internet/
This day in history (permalink)
#15yrsago Magazine subscription cards are a pack of lies https://longtail.typepad.com/the_long_tail/2007/11/when-is-my-indu.html
#10yrsago Danish entrepreneur helps people with autism get jobs that require focus, attention to detail https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/magazine/the-autism-advantage.html
#10yrsago TechDirt schools a copyfraudster who tried to censor a critical post with copyright threats https://www.techdirt.com/2012/11/29/open-letter-to-human-synergistics-international-response-to-your-accusation-that-techdirt-is-infringing/
#10yrsago California pot decriminalization correlated to lowest youth crime rate in recorded history https://www.alternet.org/2012/11/marijuana-decriminalization-drops-youth-crime-rates-stunning-20-one-year/
#10yrsago New FCC rules will let a single company own a town’s ISP, newspapers, 2 TV stations and 8 radio stations https://act.freepress.net/sign/murdoch_powergrab/
#10yrsago Staples to get in-store 3D printers https://web.archive.org/web/20121223123420/http://www.mcortechnologies.com/mcor-technologies-and-staples-division-launch-3d-printing-service/
#5yrsago Christmas is under attack: vandals steal Satanic Temple’s tree-topper from San Jose’s Christmas in the Park event https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Christmas-tree-San-Jose-Satanic-Temple-mask-stolen-12390435.php#photo-14618216
#5yrsago Republicans destroyed Oklahoma with billionaire/corporate tax cuts and got killed in the following election https://theintercept.com/2017/11/30/oklahoma-special-election-budget-cuts/
#5yrsagoGuillotine watch: The executives who bankrupted Toys R Us this year want $16M-$32M in bonuses for their performance https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2017/11/29/toys-r-us-bankruptcy-trustee-blasts-executive-bonus-plan/907641001/
#5yrsago San Francisco Board of Supervisors rules that if you’re rich enough to own a private sidewalk, you don’t have to worry about overdue taxes https://www.njherald.com/story/news/weird-news/2017/11/28/rich-san-francisco-homeowners-get/3525507007/
#5yrsago The Credible Hulk: Ajit Pai thinks you only care about Net Neutrality because Mark Ruffalo told you to https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/11/ajit-pai-blames-cher-and-hulk-actor-for-ginning-up-net-neutrality-support/
- The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE
A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE
A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED
A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED
Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.
Latest podcast: Sound Money https://craphound.com/news/2022/09/11/sound-money/
- Conversation with Tim Wu, Informed/Knight Foundation (Miami), Nov 30
Chokepoint Capitalism: A Conversation/Northeastern University (Boston/webcast), Dec 5
Library Learning Experience/American Library Association (New Orleans), Jan 27-30
Chokepoint Capitalism: Can It Be Defeated? (UCL Faculty of Laws), Feb 1
Australian Digital Alliance Copyright Forum (Canberra), Feb 17
Antitrust, Regulation and the Political Economy (Brussels), Mar 2
- If This Goes On
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- "Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023
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