I can't hear you -- you're breaking up: I found your piece "Call to Patriotism" (Matt Smith, Nov. 7) on the structural separation of Pac Bell intriguing, but I felt compelled to point out some facts that you might want to consider before leading the troops into battle against the phone company.
Patriotism in this day and age is a lot of things, but weakening the nation's communications infrastructure it is not. Breaking up the phone company into wholesale and retail divisions would cost California consumers a substantial amount of money on their phone bills. Such a move would decrease service quality in nearly 90 percent of the state. Anyone who lives outside the state's major metro areas could expect static on the line and longer waits for new service.
My firm conducted extensive studies on what would happen if the incumbent phone company was broken up. The results of that research aren't pretty. The network or wholesale company would stop investing in residential and rural areas and only focus on highly competitive markets.
Structural separation will only create a host of resellers offering numerous, but nearly identical, service packages that provide little benefit to consumers. Innovation will slow to a crawl and over time the vast majority of the communications network will sink into disrepair.
If you are really interested in doing something patriotic and stimulating the economy, encourage your readers to support open markets for broadband services. By leveling the playing field for high-speed Internet access providers, we can encourage a renewed interest in thousands of companies that are dependent on fast and cheap access to the Web and all that it offers.
Robert A. Saunders
Eastern Management Group
Actually, we'd like birds a lot better if we had covered parking: I'm writing to let you know how much I enjoyed the article you wrote about birds and Luis Baptista ("Songs of Science," Night Crawler, Nov. 7). I loved your use of the language and enjoyed your skill at storytelling. It is so wonderful to live around animals and birds. Thank you for dedicating a long, sweet, and amusing article about those winged creatures and a special man who dedicated his life to them.
Black and white issues: I knew I would have to first inspect the limited body of images, which notably were of "black" icons or text, before I became inflamed by the accompanying article on Travis Somerville ("Southern Discomfort," Oct. 24). Give [writer] Mark Athitakis some credit, he at least made some attempt to apply critical analysis and perspective to this otherwise liberal, backslapping article on an artist that, though truly gifted, is far from genius.
It's obvious to compare Somerville's work to Kara Walker, David McGee, and Michael Ray Charles. Perhaps a better comparison would be to Elvis, Vanilla Ice, or even Howard Stern in his choice and appropriation of subject matter.
Perhaps one could have made a more balanced assessment of this artist if SF Weekly would have included his images of Sherman, Lee, or Jimmy Swaggart, but you chose not to. To give Travis Somerville, Mark Athitakis, and all them great white folks in that mansion the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure they have "black friends." But could they at least have invited the black guard who sits in that 4-by-4-foot booth, guarding the Navy yard and its artist colony from the hording natives camped just outside? Or maybe just bring him down some grapes and crackers with a swash of pâté.
We do have a cute gumption, don't we: I applaud your stance. I admire your gumption. I respect your position ("Osama Was Here," Matt Smith, Oct. 17, which criticized President Bush and his anti-terrorism policies). It's amazing, no, stunning, how easily the people of this country have been hoodwinked. Bush's personality did not change overnight. His catering to the right did not disappear. Surely people can see this? Surely they can see that this situation has offered a perfect opportunity to support him and his militarily-oriented cronies in their efforts toward violence?
Wayne De Jager
You're welcome. But just between us, you should probably fear the terrorists too: Every time someone dares to stand up for his convictions and speak out it gives me a ray of hope that maybe our country will survive this latest attack. I am filled with fear not of any terrorist but of the so-called leaders of this country. Thank you for your courage in putting into words what so many of us are feeling.