Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 14, 2014
Mr. President: This week Comcast, which is fast becoming a monolith, purchased
Time-Warner Cable. Comcast claims the deal does not reduce competition because
the two companies serve different areas of the country. (In another decade, the
argument was used by oil giants claiming the gas stations of purchased companies
did not overlap with the buyer's). For Comcast, Time-Warner brings with it the very
important New York, Los Angeles and Dallas markets. Is not size by itself power?
We are already suffering the effects of the concentration of power: Access to the
internet is the fastest with fiber-optic cable all the way to the house. In this country,
only Verizon offers it. Speed governs the quality of the viewing experience. More
importantly, it opens up possibilities for other enterpreneurial ideas. Thus the next
Google or the next Facebook is more likely to germinate in South Korea or Sweden or
elsewhere such connections are widely and cheaply available -- many times cheaper
than our antiquated service.
Fiber-optic cable is many times faster than the coaxial used by Comcast and other
cable companies, which in turn is faster than AT&T's DSL. Why is DSL slow?
Because the signal suffers a traffic jam in the last few local miles which uses copper
cable, and the local telephone company does not want to make the large investment
needed to replace urban copper networks. So there we are: our system of laws,
governance and regulating bodies have failed the public in the biggest step to the
A similar concentration of power has destroyed the independence of media. The five
major corporations controlling our media these days are beholden to the government
for their broadcasting licenses and the government and Congress are increasingly
falling under the sway of their corporate contributors including the banks, which
caused our recent great recession by first lobbying successfully for the removal of
regulations barring commercial banks from risky trading on their own account, and
then with ultimate gall -- lobbying for taxpayer relief under the so-called too-big-to-fail
Too big to fail maybe, but never to big to be taken over by the taxpayers bailing them
out and retaining the option of privatizing them later at a profit. But then ordinary
taxpayers don't have a lobby and little clout in Congress.
So whither our democracy?