Monthly Archives: July, 2011

Cooling Centers

Providence and Woonsocket have opened libraries, pools and water parks for anyone who needs to cool down.

Weather.com predicts a high of 97. Still and humid besides.

If you are able to postpone any of your driving, consider it a public service. Likewise yardwork and chores. I’m trying to get my visits done early because my car is gonna be hot.

RIPTA says buses are free today, and has a list of all the precautions to take to avoid heat sickness.

We’re used to snow days, how about taking a sun day when it’s like this?

Murdoch’s Australian Media Empire

That power corrupts is old news. A big public show with some bad apples in jail, followed by business as usual is the easiest way out. News Corp shares are up, so stockholders must feel reassured that nothing will really change.

Murdoch got his start in Australia, and some politicians there are asking the important question. From Voice of America news…

The scandal has prompted a broader debate here about media ownership and regulation.

The Australian Greens are questioning News Limited’s domination of the domestic newspaper industry and want an official investigation into its operations. The party’s leader Senator Bob Brown says too much power lies in too few hands.

“We have the most concentrated newspaper ownership of any similar democracy and that means that two thirds of the metropolitan newspapers [and] two thirds of the suburban newspapers are owned by the Murdoch Empire,” said Brown. ” And it does not allow for the plurality of views that is healthy for a modern democracy.

These are the questions we should be asking here. Does a democracy need an emperor? Can a free press thrive when a monopoly increases its control year by year?

REPLY: Over at Buzzflash, CwV had this to say-

#1 We are not, technically, as concentrated as Australia, mediawise. There are seven corporations that account for something like 85% of American Media. That figure is a little misleading because in great expanses of this country, your media choices are limited so that sometimes, you can’t even find all seven Majors, and there’s nothing else in between, try to find local radio on a road trip anywhere between the Smokies and the Rockies.
Seven companies sounds like it should be a competitive environment, no monopoly here, right? Wrong. The Corporate line that all these media giants toe is so strict and so similar, it might as well be coming from one office. And it’s so far Right that Keith Olbermann is too radically Leftist for the “Liberal” MSNBC.
What’s needed (and I hope this will be the outcome of the collapse of FUX) is that 1) News Bureaus should be sheered off of the corporations that currently own them, 2)the rule about owning multiple media outlets in any given market must be reapplied and strengthened and 3) a preference for local ownership/programming should be built into the license process to encourage local media companies growth, limiting the dominance of the BigFoots.
The Supremes ruled that “News” media can lie without punishment and they have indicated that an attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine will not fly. It’s clear that regulating the content of Media is not a viable (or desirable) path. It makes more sense, tactically, to go after the corporate structure that concentrates that power in too few hands, regardless of their political bent.

Thanks CwV, I especially like #3 on your list. Rhode Island has some great local programming, from all sides of the issues. Long may it wave.

New App Measures News Bias

I wonder how Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network news would rate on this? A new app takes the labor out of counting word use on network news. From Reuters, today…

Ever wanted to know how biased Fox News and CNN really are? A new OS X app called News Mapper helps you to find out by making the program of both cable news networks real-time searchable. Users can, for example, search for uses of politically charged vocabulary like Obamacare or mentions of embattled media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the app displays the frequency with which each word was mentioned in a graph that gets updated in real time as the news coverage continues.

Users can then click on the time line and browse small snippets of transcripts from each network, revealing the context in which a word was used. News Mapper even generates tag clouds for the most commonly mentioned words on CNN and Fox News.

Bias is quantifiable, this app will appeal to news junkies and generate many colorful charts and graphs to illuminate blogs. Cool.

But where is it? I found News Map which is colorful and looks like fun. I’ll have to find a kid to explain all this to me.

Brooks’ Hair Sends Tangled Message

I bust my brain writing insightful and original commentary, and except for you few loyal readers I get hardly any hits– until this week. I wrote that Rebekah Brooks has really good hair and I’m off the charts (compared to my average, that is.)

I take hair very seriously, so I noticed right away that Brooks has hair any sane woman would envy. I hope she gets to style it in jail with a cheap plastic comb for the next several years but that’s unlikely.

Robin Givhan at the Daily Beast decodes the secret subliminal message in Rebekah Brooks’ unrestrained flaming red locks.

Defiance, and a refusal to go corporate. Good camouflage for the ultimate corporate tool.

Another timely distract was a pie-throwing fool, slapped down by Rupert Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng– AKA Tiger Wife. Check out Wendi Deng on Wikipedia. She had a history of hostile takeover of a long-term marriage before supplanting Murdoch’s second wife of thirty-two years. Ain’t love grand.

I don’t think the pie incident was orchestrated. If I saw someone throw something at an old guy, I’d smack them too. Murdoch’s still evil. And stupid, malicious stunts like that only gain him sympathy.

The whole performance has been good for business…

Shares in News Corporation have recovered ground after Rupert and James Murdoch’s appearance in front of a committee of British MPs.

News Corp shares closed up 5.5% in New York and rose 5.1% in Sydney.

They seem confident that the public will have forgotten in fifteen minutes, and that’s probably a safe assumption.

The deeper question is not whether a family or corporation will engage in corruption. The answer is always, ‘yes’. Entropy is a law of nature.

The deeper question is whether a free press can survive in political systems that allow a ‘media empire’ such as News Corp to dominate, acquire and brand all the diverse news outlets. The collaboration between News Corp and politicians, the reciprocity and tinkering with the law are the scandal behind the scandal. But it’s hard, and also depressing to untangle the lies and manipulations. Easier to understand and be outraged by the phone hacking of a murdered child. A flaming red distraction from the greater harm.

Too Funny

This post from Jill at Feministe.

Follow her link, but not at work if you don’t want to be caught laughing out loud.

Murdoch Lawyers-Up in the USA

News Corp is getting ready for a powerful defense in the US…

Rupert Murdoch is assembling a team of US lawyers with expertise in fighting large federal criminal cases, suggesting he is readying himself for a bitter legal battle in America as a result of the phone-hacking scandal.

At the centre of the team is Brendan Sullivan, one of America’s most experienced lawyers, who over 40 years in litigation has acquired a reputation for taking on difficult and sensitive cases. He represented Oliver North, the US marine corps officer, in congressional hearings over the Iran-Contra affair.

At the time of the hearings in 1987, Sullivan was described by the Washington Post as “the legal equivalent of nuclear war”. A fellow lawyer said: “He asks no quarter and gives no quarter.”

Sullivan describes himself as a specialist in “high-profile criminal litigation”, whose typical clients include major companies involved in “criminal investigations, litigation or government regulatory matters”. He is the author of Techniques for Dealing with Pending Criminal Charges or Criminal Investigations.

Reuters says the 9/11 phone hacking allegations are not based on much, and News Corp insiders say nothing was happening here that compares to the scandal in Great Britain.

Is ‘high-profile criminal litigation’ likely some time in the future?

One of the most damaging aspects of the case in Britain is the incestuous relationship between Murdoch’s media and British government. Two high ranking officers at Scotland Yard have already resigned and Parliament is holding a special session. No one questions that Fox News has a bias, and Fox is a major venue for Republican presidential hopefuls. Have they gone beyond reporting the news to manipulating the news? Is that what News Corp expects to defend?

A point of mild local pride, Brendan Sullivan was born in Providence.

Murdoch Whistleblower Found Dead

Not suspicious. Sean Hoare was known to be a drug user. But there is a back story…

As a showbusiness reporter, he had lived what he was happy to call a privileged life. But the reality had ruined his physical health: “I was paid to go out and take drugs with rock stars – get drunk with them, take pills with them, take cocaine with them. It was so competitive. You are going to go beyond the call of duty. You are going to do things that no sane man would do. You’re in a machine.”

While it was happening, he loved it. He came from a working-class background of solid Arsenal supporters, always voted Labour, defined himself specifically as a “clause IV” socialist who still believed in public ownership of the means of production. But, working as a reporter, he suddenly found himself up to his elbows in drugs and delirium.

Reporter and whistleblower in life, now he is the story. What next?

Already major political players are being put to shame by their reciprocal relationships with their yellow press. John Yates is the second high- ranking officer in Scotland Yard to resign over the scandal. Read it here. It’s so intertwined that you need graphics to track the connections between the Murdoch media corps, the British police and the British government.

The Plot Thickens

Today’s New York Times reports that Murdoch News of the World lieutenant Rebekah Brooks has been arrested.

A police statement did not identify her by name but said a 43-year-old woman had been detained for questioning by officers investigating both the phone-hacking scandal and payments made to corrupt police officers. A News International official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Ms. Brooks had been arrested.

Britain’s Press Association news agency said she was arrested by appointment at a London police station at approximately midday and remains in custody.

Hacking, bribery and maybe some blackmail? The Darth Vader of Murdoch’s Media Empire might have to defend her paper’s tactics in getting the story cheap and dirty.

I don’t think a corporation is a person, or a conglomeration is a family– though they like to describe themselves that way. Fox News is showing a kind of family loyalty by soft-peddling this story. If they share the corporate culture of News of the World then Fox deserves a closer look.

UPDATE: The London Chief of Police has resigned for doing nothing wrong except hiring a former executive from News of the World to guard the henhouse do publicity for the force..

Murdoch Culture of Fear

The News is now the story. Today’s Reuters has a special report on the cynical, money-grubbing burn-out work culture at News of the World. Rebekah Brooks created a macho organization where reporters competed for the sleaziest sources…

“We used to talk to career criminals all the time. They were our sources,” says another former reporter from the paper who also worked for Murdoch’s daily tabloid, the Sun. “It was a macho thing: ‘My contact is scummier than your contact.’ It was a case of: ‘Mine’s a murderer!’ On the plus side, we always had a resident pet nutter around in case anything went wrong.”

And does this sound like extortion?

“It was a ridiculously cynical approach to news,” says Peter Burden, author of the 2008 book “News of the World? Fake Sheikhs & Royal Trappings.” “They just thought: here are these endless people that Joe Public are interested in because of ‘Big Brother’, and they thought they could do what the hell they liked with them and they raided them rotten, them and their families.”

Editors would then often use damaging stories as bargaining chips, trading them for future access to public figures or to build relationships with stars. Often, the paper would drop the story they had altogether and publish something more sympathetic.

“It would be things like: ‘We know you were sleeping with your secretary but we’ll keep it out of the paper if you give us the story about how you were given away as a child,” said the long-term freelancer.

“They used to call stories ‘levers’,” said the general news reporter.

If the News approach was applied to politicians, and if this culture extended to the US holdings that include Fox News, things are going to get really interesting on this side. Already Les Hinton, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, has had to resign. What next?

WHAT’S NEXT: A look at Murdoch’s political money trail. With the Citizens United decision clearing the way for more corporate money in politics, this deserves investigation.

Debt Limit

I listen to the radio while I’m driving from house to house, and I often hear callers compare the national debt to household debt. You don’t borrow more money when you already owe, you cut expenses.

Very common-sense for a household, but what would you say about a family that makes some of its children sleep in the garage and eat Spam while others live in a penthouse and go on European vacations? And the family cuts costs by taking away the Spam and feeding the garage kids cat food? And the roof is leaking but the family won’t fix it because they don’t want to borrow more money? Or stop buying cars for the penthouse kids?

What would you say? Call DCYF! That’s what you’d say!

Grow up, Congress. If we really are in a crisis it’s not fair to cut health, education and infrastructure to give more tax cuts to the rich. We’re being trickled on for sure, but it ain’t liquid gold.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 971 other followers