There are good reasons the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission should block Comcast’s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The merger will concentrate too much market power in the hands of one company, creating a telecommunications colossus the likes of which the country has not seen since 1984 when the government forced the breakup of the original AT&T telephone monopoly.Dan Gorenstein:
The combined company would provide cable-TV service to nearly 30 percent of American homes and high-speed Internet service to nearly 40 percent. Even without this merger and the proposed AT&T-DirecTV deal, the telecommunications industry has limited competition, especially in the critical market for high-speed Internet service, or broadband, where consumer choice usually means picking between the local cable or phone company.
Comcast is going to war in its pursuit to merge with Time Warner Cable. The telecom giant has reportedly bought up lobbyists at 40 different firms around Washington.More on the day's top stories below the fold.
There's a simple way you could describe Comcast's strategy: have an unlimited budget and then exceed it. The Sunlight Foundation’s Bill Allison says the nation’s capital eats it up.
“You know Washington is the kind of girl that always falls for the dozen of flowers sent three or four times a day,” he says.
By the looks of it, Comcast’s got all the florists on speed-dial. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the company spent nearly $20 million dollars lobbying the federal government last year, putting it in the top 10, and it is on track to be there again this year.
Next up, the topic of gun violence. Joe Nocera looks at Michael Waldman's new book on the Second Amendment:
Three days after the publication of Michael Waldman’s new book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a killing spree, stabbing three people and then shooting another eight, killing four of them, including himself. This was only the latest mass shooting in recent memory, going back to Columbine.Meanwhile, over at The Los Angeles Times, Renee Binder urges the state to adopt a violence restraining order:
In his rigorous, scholarly, but accessible book, Waldman notes such horrific events but doesn’t dwell on them. He is after something else. He wants to understand how it came to be that the Second Amendment, long assumed to mean one thing, has come to mean something else entirely. To put it another way: Why are we, as a society, willing to put up with mass shootings as the price we must pay for the right to carry a gun? [...] Virtually every reference to “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” — the second part of the Second Amendment — was in reference to military defense. Waldman notes the House debate over the Second Amendment in the summer of 1789: “Twelve congressmen joined the debate. None mentioned a private right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting or for any purpose other than joining the militia.”
[M]ore can be done at the state level to ensure that individuals who are temporarily dangerous do not have immediate access to firearms. Specifically, California can create a Gun Violence Restraining Order, a mechanism that would allow those closest to a troubled individual to act when there are warning signs or indications that that person is at risk for violence.Karen Klein:
During the last year, I have worked as part of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, which is made up of mental health and public health researchers, practitioners and advocates. [...]
Instituting a Gun Violence Restraining Order in California would allow for specific interventions during critical times. In the case of the Isla Vista tragedy, the gunman's mother had voiced concerns that brought sheriff's deputies to her son's apartment in late April. As that shows far too well, family members often know best when a loved one is in crisis, and in most cases want to help them. But that takes time, and having easy access to a gun — or multiple guns, in the Isla Vista case — during a potentially dangerous period increases an individual's ability to do harm.
One of the many disturbing elements of the Isla Vista killings is the mirror it holds up -- a distorted mirror, but a mirror nonetheless -- to the less admirable aspects of Southern California society. For all his demented way of viewing societal interaction, Elliot Rodger’s twisted values reflected many of the priorities that too many people find important in a region where the presence of the entertainment and celebrity industry has brought materialism and physical beauty into the daily limelight. [...]Finally, on the topic of VA reform, Suzanne Gordon writes that privatization would absolutely be the wrong move:
But we are fooling ourselves if we look no further than the simplest (and yes, true) terms: Sick guy + too many guns = mass deaths. The thoughts and obsessions that drove Rodger to horrific deeds reflect twisted values that too many people share. These values don’t usually result in horrifying deaths, but they do demean people and glorify shallow goals. Those who aren’t part of the cool group feel left out and less than. This is not to remotely excuse Rodger, but we learn more about ourselves and our society if we acknowledge the similarities in our thoughts and his, as well as the differences.
FIRST IT was Social Security, then Medicare and Medicaid, and then the public health care option under Obamacare. Now, in the wake of recent allegations that veterans hospitals put patients on secret wait lists, Republicans are calling for the privatization of the Veterans Health Administration, the nation’s largest public health care system which provides cost-effective and high quality care to 6.2 million veterans.
It is of course unacceptable if patients suffered as a result of any delays. But regardless of what went wrong at any VA facility, turning veterans over to private sector insurers and for-profit hospitals is not the solution. [...]
Because the VA is a public entity, its facilities actually display greater accountability — and more transparency to patients and their families — than private health care systems. When veterans have a VA-related beef — or in-house whistle-blowers a tale to tell — they are quick to notify their elected representatives. Such complaints regularly trigger individual constituent service queries from members of Congress or, as is the case today, oversight hearings by House and Senate committees. (Good luck triggering a similar rapid response to patient or staff complaints in the private sector.)