Debt Crisis Local and National

Tom Sgouros explains it…

Let’s be real, after the Clinton surplus, we have a deficit because George W. Bush chose to prosecute two wars without paying for them, allowing our soldiers and their families to be the only ones to sacrifice for war. He also proposed and saw passed a Medicare drug benefit that predominantly benefited drug companies, and cut taxes by a tremendous amount long after it was clear that the other policies were going to cause the annual deficit to balloon. He squandered that surplus with the able assistance of a Republican-controlled House and Senate. He did it with the help of some Democrats, of course, but they weren’t in control of any branch of the government.

Sgouros doesn’t let RI off the hook either, or our politicians. If you want to know why RI is worse off than MA, read the rest here.

Australia Halts Murdoch Monopoly

If we’re lucky, future historians will look back on this time as a turning point…

Scandal stricken News Corp suffered a fresh setback today when Australian Competition Commission said that its $2.7 billion takeover bid of Austar raised “significant” monopoly issues and delayed decision on it till September.

The takeover bid by Foxtel, part owned by Murdoch’s News Corp would have given the company an almost undisputed sway in pay TV operations in Australia.

The delay in takeover bid was a second setback to Murdoch’s News Corp within weeks as the company had to abandon its plans to take full control of the the money spinner London based Satellite Broadcaster, BSkyB.

The Australian Competition Commission ruled that the merger of Foxtel and Austar, its major rival in Australia was likely to lead to “substantial lessening of competition in the pay TV market”.

“The proposed merger would therefore effectively create a monopoly subscription television provider across Australia”, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ reported quoting a statement issued by the Commission.

We’ll see in September if the Australians can resist their multinational native son.

Smell Test

I upset my family sometimes by my casual attitude in the kitchen. Expiration dates are only a suggestion, I believe. Being old, I remember when there were no expiration dates and you just guessed, and my grandparents got by with an icebox. If the ice melted you just had to wing it. I took microbiology, and my philosophy is–that’s why you cook the food. When I had a baby I was fanatically vigilant– but now it’s adults and we can fend for ourselves.

That’s what I say, but I’m often the only one who will eat my cooking. Hey, more for me.

I do apply the smell test, and if doesn’t smell right I chuck it.

There’s no smell test for antibiotic residues, or for radioactivity. Some Japanese found out they had fed contaminated beef to their children before the government responded and pulled the meat from supermarkets.

But it’s all good, no danger to the public, don’t worry. Japan Times has a reassuring explanation. Does this pass the smell test?

If I eat something doubtful from my fridge, I’ll know fairly soon if it was good. The risks are short term and clear. Having radioactive Cesium in your body for a few months is a nuclear experiment on the population. The history of exposed populations– Hiroshima, Nevada, Chernobyl– is not reassuring. ‘No immediate risk’ is still the mantra. The Japanese public has a right to be concerned.

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.