Today's Blogs

Ma Bell, Resurrected?

Bloggers are perusing a massive telecom merger that would mostly reconstitute “Ma” Bell; they’re also recovering from the Oscars and pontificating about a former Taliban spokesman enrolled at Yale.

Ma Bell, resurrected? AT&T is purchasing BellSouth for $67 billion. Many believe that the move would essentially recreate “Ma” Bell, the telecom monopoly that the government broke up in 1984. Even though the industry is more complex now, with the Internet, cell phones, and cable, some bloggers are alarmed.

IT blog Datamation’s Mike Pastore opines, “If a company like AT&T is gobbling up telecom companies at an astounding rate, and companies like Qwest and Verizon have to keep up, you’d think VoIP players like Vonage and SunRocket are going to look appetizing to someone. If that happens, there will be even less competition out there. Then it starts looking like 1982 all over again.”

But Mostly Common Sense Re: Networks’ Paul Callahan, a wireless networking guru, dismisses the merger as “delusional;” he argues that Verizon has superior coverage, and cable companies like Comcast “have proven they can deliver voice and data as well as video content.” Until AT&T surmounts these issues, the deal “is nothing more than two old boys slapping each other on the back.”

On ZDNet, techblogger Russell Shaw extensively analyzes the deal and notes that it probably won’t be held up by the administration. Although FCC nominee Robert McDowell has previously opposed the merger, Shaw concludes that the current merger-friendly administration won’t brook any opposition from him: “[T]hink of Robert McDowell as the ‘Samuel Alito’ of telecommunications- inspected and selected.”

The Agonist’s liberal Sean-Paul Kelley cautions against AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre: “Last time he said people that expected a free ride were nuts. This time he sounds more diplomatic, yet has a lot more power … See, that’s what happens when you have a monopoly. You can force people to pay for your service.” Kelley also links to this primer explaining why consumers should resent any extra charges that telecoms impose upon Internet content providers.

And on the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s blog, libertarian Adam Thierer predicts, “Thanks to [AT&T]’s imperial ambitions, both telco and cable operators are now going to face an ambitious new regulatory regime for their broadband offerings. Welcome to the world of common carriage regulation for the Internet!”

Read more about the AT&T and BellSouth merger.

Oscars: The 78th Annual Academy Awards aired last night. Bloggers are weighing in on everything from host Jon Stewart’s performance to why Brokeback Mountain didn’t win best picture.

On Reason’s blog Hit and Run, Jesse Walker hails Jon Stewart “for repeatedly poking a pin in the pretensions of the Hollywood crowd. As the night wore on, the audience seemed to warm to him – and he, in return, seemed to exude more and more contempt.” But Californian Phammer1967 claims that Stewart was “smarmy, way too proud of himself and stiff as a board.”

“[E]ven with John Stewart hosting, I heard very little politics. I think somebody thought a lot about how to avoid offending ordinary Americans, whom they need to keep going to the movies, when they had a political host and so many heavily political or politicized movies among the nominees,” remarks law professor Ann Althouse. Musing about why Crash won over Brokeback Mountain, she suggests, “maybe the voters really did think it was a good idea to express their social consciousness in the anti-racism mode rather than the anti-homophobia mode, because America’s caught up on the proposition that racism is wrong.”

And Slate’s Mickey Kaus, who has been dissing Brokeback for weeks, writes at Kausfiles that maybe the film didn’t win because it wasn’t very good. Taking issue with the Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan, who claims that Brokeback didn’t win because Hollywood is homophobic, Kaus insists, “If the problem is really that Academy members let their fears win out over their better judgment–which I don’t buy–isn’t it more likely that the fears were not the Academy members own unspoken homophobic fears but fears of what their audience would think if they gave first prize to Brokeback?”

Read more about the Oscars; click here to read Slate’s coverage; read media-rag Gawker’s guide to Oscar live blogs. Watch bunnies re-enact Brokeback Mountain in 30 seconds.

From Taliban to Bulldog: The New York Times Magazine recently profiled Rahmatullah Hashemi, a Yale student who formerly served as the Taliban’s chief spokesman abroad. In today’s Wall Street Journal, John Fund, who condemns Yale’s decision to admit him, describes interviewing Hashemi in 2001 and writes, “[H]e willingly and cheerfully served an evil regime in a manner that would have made Goebbels proud.”

Many conservatives join Fund in bad-mouthing Yale. Captain’s Quarters’ Ed Morrissey points out, “[L]et’s remember that while Yale opens its doors and arms to a man who belonged to a government that would chop the fingers off of women who dared to paint their nails and forbade the flying of kites, it still refuses to allow the military to recruit and for the ROTC to train on its campus.” Philosopher Hampton Stephens writes that true liberalism “is therefore impotent in the face of intellectual challenges from truly dangerous ideologues, such as the Taliban, who, whatever else you might say about them, unlike today’s Ivy Leaguers, very assuredly have the courage of their convictions.”

But some have more qualified responses. In Misadventures of a Not-So-Intrepid Development Practitioner Vasco Pyjama, an NGO employee in Afghanistan, links to an interview with Hashemi and writes, “The interview, I found, was strangely comforting. That a man so previously demonised is shown to be human, vulnerable and reasonable.” Zaneirani’s Sheema Kalbasi, an Iranian expat writes, “To those of you at Yale (or out there!) Do you want to support me… finish my studies at Yale? I speak as many languages as Rahmatullah does! …I will cover my hair, do belly dancing or jump like a kangaroo …if I could get a signed check to pay for my full tuition at Yale!” And in an extremely thoughtful post, Neo-Neocon, a former Democrat, argues, “But if one accepts Rahmatullah’s story at face value, or even as an approximation of the truth, one has to believe that change is possible, especially in the young.”

Read more about the Taliban at Yale.

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