Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, October 11, 2019 7:36 pm

End of an era: Shepard Smith quits Fox News #ShepSmith

I wonder to what extent Bill Barr’s recent meeting with Murdoch influenced Smith’s thinking. That said, he has been a small ray of sanity at an otherwise diseased news outlet for a long time. Put another way, journalistically speaking, he has served his time in hell. I admire his decision and wish him all the best in the future.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 9:22 pm

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas, Wall Street Journal edition

Not even the Wall Street Journal is immune:

 

One of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior European executives has resigned following Guardian inquiries about a circulation scam at News Corporation’s flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal. The Guardian found evidence that the Journal had been channelling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal’s true circulation.The bizarre scheme included a formal, written contract in which the Journal persuaded one company to co-operate by agreeing to publish articles that promoted its activities, a move which led some staff to accuse the paper’s management of violating journalistic ethics and jeopardising its treasured reputation for editorial quality.

Whocouldaknowed?

As you’ll recall, earlier this summer some members of the Bancroft family, which had owned the Journal’s corporate parent, Dow Jones, expressed regret about having sold the property to Murdoch’s News Corp. after learning about Murdoch’s operation’s wiretapping and other crimes. They can go to hell. It was obvious to anyone with half a brain that Murdoch was a criminal, and they got more for the property than the market really should have dictated, so I don’t want to hear them whine.

An apology from them for turning over a crown jewel of American journalism to a common thug, and screwing their employees and readers and advertisers, would be nice. But then so would a pony, and I ain’t counting on that, either.

Thursday, July 21, 2011 8:08 pm

News of the world

Looks as if James Murdoch may have committed perjury earlier this week:

Tom Crone and Colin Myler were well aware that the statement they were about to make could prove fatal to James Murdoch.

When the Guardian pointed out in the wake of his parliamentary testimony that Murdoch’s son had sought to blame them for concealment, one friend of the two men said: “To contradict James will be as good as coming out and calling him a liar.”

Myler and Crone, the News of the World‘s then editor and News International‘s top newspaper lawyer, both of whom have lost their jobs in the wake of the phone-hacking affair, subsequently spent the day debating what to do.

If their statement of Thursday night is correct, Rupert’s son will have proved to have misled parliament. He will also have destroyed the Murdoch family’s last line of defence against the scandal – that they knew nothing, and had been betrayed by those underlings they trusted.

Myler and Crone are, in effect, accusing James Murdoch of being part of the cover-up, one in which the company’s executives vainly twisted and turned to conceal the truth about phone hacking and blame it on a single “rogue reporter”.

James Murdoch’s crucial claim to the committee was that he had personally agreed to a massive payout, of £700,000 to hacking victim Gordon Taylor, in ignorance of the true facts. He said Crone and Myler had told him the payout was legally necessary.

The Labour MP Tom Watson, one of the affair’s most persistent investigators, extracted from Murdoch towards the end of the committee session what was to prove an explosive claim.

He claimed that Crone and Myler had concealed from him the crucial piece of evidence in the case – that an email had come to light with a voicemail hacking transcript, marked “for Neville”, ie Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World chief reporter.

The existence of this email, if made public, would explode the “rogue reporter” defence and begin to implicate the rest of the NoW newsroom. It was – and is – the smoking gun in the whole hacking case.

Rupert may yet skate, but his son and his “like-a-daughter,” Rebekah Brooks (already charged in the case), may not be free before he shuffles off his mortal coil slime.

UPDATE: Watson says he is referring James Murdoch’s testimony to the police for a criminal investigation.

(h/t: DougJ at Balloon Juice)

Monday, July 18, 2011 11:03 pm

Did he fall or was he pushed?

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 11:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

The primary whistleblower in all the legal trouble in which Rupert Murdoch, his current and former minions and a couple of Britain’s former top cops now find themselves was found dead, or “found dead,” today:

If I had a fiver for every hack and distant acquaintance who has told me over the last year what a nice bloke Sean Hoare was, I’d be a wealthy man – even given the state our currency is in.

I never met him. He only came to my attention at all because of his confession to the New York Times about endemic phone-hacking within Newscorp in general, and under the stewardship of  Andy Coulson in particular. I remember very well that the venom with which Murdoch set a gaggle of legals on the NYT at the time made my nose for a scandal twitch. To be honest, I rather suspect that without Sean Hoare, the full Hackgate depravity might never have come out. Sean Hoare was a good man who did something – and he should be remembered for that.

Coulson, predictably, fired him. His version of the event is that Hoare was a hopeless office drunk and marching powder addict. What Handy Andy omits to mention is that it was he and others in the Newscorp cesspool who encouraged this essentially decent man to get coked up with celebs, the better to find out what skeletons rested uneasily in their mental cupboards.

Others close to the action have told me in the past that Hoare made his unease known to Newscorp management, and that the firing on the basis of drink and drugs was a cynical insurance against anything he might later say. It proved to be wise insurance. …

Hoare eventually got himself clean, but the guilt about what he’d done drove him back to his best friend the bottle. He was found dead at his home today, and details so far are scant. The police say that there is no evidence of foul play. How sad it is that nobody in Britain will believe them.

Or outside Britain, for that matter — and it’s not sad; it’s merely logical. Given what we have learned so far about the behavior of Murdoch and his minions, the idea that they might have a critic whacked — “And, Louie?” “Yeah, boss?” “Make it look like an accident.” — doesn’t seem at all implausible.

 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 7:15 pm

What the magnate overheard

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 7:15 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Although criminal wiretapping issues apparently have been circling around Rupert Murdoch’s News International properties for at least five years, they didn’t really break the edge of my radar until the bit came out last week about News International hacking the voicemail of 13-year-old Milly Dowler in such a way as to have both given her family false hope that the murder victim (for so she turned out to be) was still alive and bolloxed up the investigation into her slaying.

Right about then, my friend David emailed me about the case. I took a gander and thought to blog about it but also realized that 1) I’d need some time to get up to speed and 2) stuff was starting to happen very, very fast. Just hours after David got in touch, news broke that Murdoch would be shutting down his 168-year-old News of the World Sunday paper, ostensibly the seat of the scandal and unquestionably his most profitable property.

My cynical response to that action is that in all likelihood quite a few people working at News of the World are utterly law-abiding and now find themselves jobless through no fault of their own.  Moreover, I would be hugely surprised if any directly probative evidence surfaces that connects Murdoch himself — or even his son, James — to the commission of any crime, be it hacking voice mail, paying private investigators to do so, bribing cops to do so or even bribing cops to tap the phones of those involved in investigating the very hacking at the root of all this, all crimes that have been at least credibly alleged and in some cases admitted.

If this were America, closing NotW would probably suffice, the possibility that 9/11 victims’ families may have had their phones hacked notwithstanding. Certainly, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell aren’t going to be asking for hearings, let alone holding them, even though Murdoch owns both the New York Post (which, remember, had an interesting connection to the Elliot Spitzer case) and The Wall Street Journal, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., is ever on the lookout for any obstacle to U.S. corporations’ violating the law with impunity. (News International’s parent, News Corp., is a publicly traded company in the U.S.) Unfortunately for Murdoch, however, the Brits are still capable of a right bit of outrage when the high and mighty start cutting corners, particularly in a case with all the ghoulish implications of the Dowler killing. Someone, probably someone close to him and maybe more than one such person, is going to have to take the fall.

But who will that be?

One likely candidate is Andy Coulson, a former NotW editor and also former communications director for British Prime Minister David Cameron. The BBC reports that News has given investigators emails showing that Coulson ordered payment of bribes to police officers when he was editor at NotN.

Another is Les Hinton, another former NotW editor and current publisher of The Wall Street Journal. Seems ol’ Les not only oversaw hacking, he may well have engaged in a cover-up, leading an “investigation” that James Murdoch now acknowledges “wrongly maintained that these issues were confined to one reporter.”

If the allegations are correct, both men (and many other people besides) belong in prison, certainly. But there’s yet another actor out there.

That would be Rebekah Brooks, News International’s chief executive. She was NotW editor when Milly Dowler’s voice mail was hacked. Of more interest to those hoping for a bit of schadenfreude vis-a-vis Rupert Murdoch is that she is variously described as Murdoch’s fifth daughter and one of his favorite people on the planet. It is not inconceivable that she is also in this up to her eyeballs.

Since ancient times, bards have noted the intense grief that comes with burying one’s children. If the accounts are correct, Murdoch would sooner throw his blood son to the wolves than his “fifth daughter,” but the wolves may get her despite anything he can do. And if she and Murdoch are as close as everyone says, it is highly improbable that she would roll over on him. More likely she would take her lumps in prison on a bribery or wiretapping charge, knowing that Murdoch’s money and gratitude, if not the aging man himself, would be awaiting her upon her release.

In an imperfect world, the misery he would suffer during her prosecution and confinement might be as close to justice as we get. Of course, it’s still not enough. The fact of the matter, as anyone who has spent a lot of time in the working world knows, is that executives set the tone for their companies. Not a soul above the level of night cops reporter would have hacked voice mail or paid off a cop if News International’s atmosphere hadn’t at least tacitly encouraged that behavior.

UPDATE: DougJ at Balloon Juice proposes a nifty thought experiment:

… imagine that Wikileaks had hacked into an abducted child’s voicemail and deleted some of the messages. Suppose that [Wikileaks founder Julian] Assange claimed that he had no idea this had happened, that he was on vacation that week. What do you think the reaction would be from establishment media?

If Wikileaks somehow became a huge company and Assange a billionaire, this would be all different of course. Murdoch’s techniques are condoned in many quarters simply because when a Galtian overlord does it … that means it is not illegal.

Just ask Jim Sensenbrenner.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 6:15 am

From “Too big to fail” to “Too big to tell”

Apparently, officers and directors of publicly traded companies are no longer required to disclose material information to shareholders. At least, that would be a logical inference on the basis of an exchange between NewsCorp.’s Rupert Murdoch and Firedoglake contributor “spocko” during a stockholders’ conference call.

Spocko pointed out that with 81 advertisers have dumped Glenn Beck’s show after a boycott campaign organized by Color of Change, it appears that the show is attracting only minimal advertising and house ads (i.e., ads for other NewsCorp. properties). So how long, he asked, can we reasonably expect NewsCorp. to continue subsidizing Beck? Murdoch’s response:

“It’s not subsidizing the show at all. And it’s giving a terrific kick off to the whole evening schedule. It has plenty of advertising, and those advertisers you talk about, I don’t think there is anything like that number, but if there were they are on other shows.”

Let’s parse that.

  • “It (i.e., NewsCorp) is not subsidizing the show at all.” If the show is running house ads that it could sell to outside advertisers, and it appears to be, then, yes, it is in fact subsidizing the show.
  • “It’s giving a terrific kickoff to the whole evening schedule.” This response goes to viewership, not advertisers, and, while quite likely true, is therefore irrelevant to the question.
  • “It has plenty of advertising …” Oh, sure, all the slots are filled — but are they filled with outside advertisers providing real revenue? Even a cursory glance suggests not, the odd advertisement for gold notwithstanding.
  • ” … and those advertisers you talk about, I don’t think there is anything like that number …” Yup, there are, in fact, 81 advertisers who have dropped the show. I don’t know about NewsCorp., but here in the real world, my cold, hard, documented facts beat your clinical case of denial.
  • “… but if there were they are on other shows.” I presume by that he means other NewsCorp. shows — in other words, that there’s no net loss of revenue to the parent company. Maybe; maybe not. May we see evidence that all 81 advertisers who have dropped Beck are advertising on other NewsCorp. shows and spending a net total equivalent to what they were spending before the boycott?

Yeah, I’m not holding my breath, either.

Hey, Rupert, you can lie to reporters all you like. But when you lie to stockholders, sometimes the government takes an interest. Just sayin’.

And why couldn’t “real” reporters ask this same question? Why’d it have to be a DFH blogger who pointed out the elephant in the room whose new clothes are, at best, highly transparent (and not in a good way)?

Friday, January 22, 2010 8:21 pm

Odds and ends for 1/22

Double dip: There were 482,000 new unemployment claims for the week ending 1/16, which was 36,000 more than the previous week and 42,000 more than expected. Worse, new emergency unemployment claims, for those who’ve exhausted regular benefits, were up 652,364 to 5,654,544. If this is a green shoot, it’s the kind of green you see when things are rotting.

Theft of a lifetime: The chief strategist for a major international bank accuses the U.S. and U.K. central banks of conspiring to steal wealth from their respective countries’ middle classes. It’s actually a little more complicated than that, but only a little.

Risky business: President Obama has proposed ending proprietary trading by bank holding companies to reduce the level of risk in the market and, therefore, the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out more banks, something Paul Volcker supports. Banks have protested that this is unnecessary on the grounds that prop trading really isn’t a big part of their business (Goldman Sachs puts its prop-trade revenue at 10% of the total). However, observes Zero Hedge with a nice little chart, “the market begs to differ.” Goldman’s own analysis suggests that while prop trading accounts for perhaps 10% of Bank of America’s revenues, because of prop trading’s high margins it accounts for up to 45% of BAC’s earnings. If that’s true, BAC stock, which is supposed to double in price by the end of 2011, could fall 50% instead.

Related: Real conservatives like Obama’s proposal. American “conservatives,” however, not so much.

So, will Goldman Sachs stop being a bank holding company so that it can continue its proprietary trading?: Probably, although it’s kind of in a pickle because currently it has almost 21 billion reasons not to.

Best health-care reform political analysis. Ever: I don’t think it’s correct on the substance, but whether it is or not, I just love the pretty words: “The only path to national health care reform is to pass the Senate bill. Unless Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership can herd three distinct groups of cats — the Blue Dogs, the Stupak coat-hanger crowd and the progressives — HCR is going down in flames, quite possibly for another generation. This is where we’re at. It sucks. It also blows, a seemingly self-canceling phenomenon that is only witnessed in the rarest, most [rear-end]-tasting conditions. And we are witnessing such conditions this very day — a perfect storm of sucking and blowing. That said, if passing the Senate bill verbatim is a once-in-a-lifetime Suckicane meeting a Category 5 Blowphoon head-on, then NOT PASSING ANYTHING AT ALL takes us into the Bruckheimer-Emmerich territory of summer blockbuster-class suckstinction-level blowvents.”

Quote of the day, from Matt Taibbi, on the prop-trading restrictions: “Obviously this is good news, but what I find irritating about it is that the government only starts listening to its voters once the more corrupt option turns out to be untenable.” Yo, Matt, that ain’t true only about banking, either.

The New York Fed and AIG: A timeline, by Bloomberg. Nice.

People thought Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t ruin the Wall Street Journal. People were wrong, although the author concedes the problem is a bit more nuanced than he first claimed.

So if Glenn Beck isn’t talking about going after progressives through the political process, then what’s he talking about? Because when you say you’re going after your political opponents like the Israelis went after Eichmann, you probably know your audience understands that what awaited Eichmann was a gallows.

Barney Frank may actually have a good idea: Blowing up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and creating a new system of housing finance. F&F didn’t cause as much of the current housing-bubble crisis as most of their critics claim, but they did contribute, oh, yes, they did.

And they say this like it’s a bad thing: ABC thinks there may not be enough votes in Congress to reconfirm Ben Bernanke. Let’s hope they’re right. Bernanke is a big reason we’re in as much trouble as we are right now.

They’re the Christian Taliban, they’re stone (no pun intended) killers, and they’re based in Newark: Yeah, that’s right: Read about the connections between the PrayforNewark social-action group, the bill in Uganda to execute gays, and the Dominionist movement in the U.S. These are scary people.

If this had been my daughter, the lawsuit would’ve been filed before the sun went down: TSA employee plants bag of white powder in college student’s carry-on luggage. Plenty of witnesses — who were afraid to speak up. Excellent! Just what you want when you’re trying to prevent terrorism — people who see something hinky but are afraid to speak up for fear of being arrested!

Apparently they can use lasers to zap away fat!: Which sounds cool, and I am so on board (assuming I can find the money) … just as soon as they figure out where the fat goes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:57 pm

Odds and ends for 1/14

First, the important stuff: Links where you can contribute to Haiti earthquake relief:

Oxfam
American Red Cross
AmeriCares
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders

As in most other major disasters, the main thing these organizations need right now is money.* Their experts will know how best to spend it, what’s needed where, etc. In other words, right at the moment, rounding up clothing or canned food or bandages or what-have-you, although certainly well-intentioned, is less helpful than giving these groups the resources to do what they know best how to do. As they identify particular needs, they’ll publicize them.

Anything you can give will help. And please give something. The suffering there is already horrendous, and it will quickly get even worse than most of us can possibly imagine.

*Unless you have a helicopter.

OK, then …

HUNGRY vampire squid: Goldman Sachs didn’t get just 100 cents on the dollar on its exposure to AIG, courtesy of the taxpayers. No, by reselling its AIG credit-default obligations while knowing the taxpayers were going to bail out AIG, but before that info became public, it effectively got more. About $1.2 billion more.

Which is a big part of the problem: Pat Robertson is far more important than you will ever be.

Remember, she reads every newspaper, too: Glenn Beck: Who’s your favorite Founding Father? Sarah Palin: All of ’em.

Which dinosaur?: A shark described as “dinosaur-sized” attacked and apparently ate a swimmer Tuesday off Cape Town, South Africa. But they didn’t say whether they meant this dinosaur or this one.

Lighter backpacks: Obviously, colleges are going to switch to electronic textbooks to save students money. That move now has a deadline in California: 2020, which seems a bit far off considering that almost two-thirds of the roughly 13,000 textbook titles published by the six largest U.S. publishers already are available electronically.

“If you are watching this video, then I have been murdered by the president of Guatemala hit men I hired myself”: A UN commission concludes that the “assassination” of a lawyer, alleged in a posthumous video to have been ordered by Guatemala’s president, actually was arranged by the lawyer himself in an attempt to destabilize the government. Dude, if you wanted him out, why not just run against him?

You know that scene in “Waterworld” where Kevin Costner drinks his own pee?: The astronauts are feeling his pain.

China vs. Google: Is it really China vs. the U.S.? And was this hack attack, if not a cyber-Pearl Harbor, at the least a dangerous breach of national security?

Senate health-care bill: “A teacher tax, not a Cadillac tax.”

Related: Who needs Republicans when the unions are just as willing to screw the middle class?

Um, ‘cuz they’re, I don’t know, WHORES?!?: Retiring Republican Rep. John Shadegg, asked whether he supports a public option: “Well, you could better defend a public option than you could defend compelling me to buy a product from the people that have created the problem. America’s health insurance industry has wanted this bill and the individual mandate from the get go. That’s their idea. Their idea is, ‘Look, our product is so lousy that lots of people don’t buy it. So we need the government to force people to buy our product.’ And stunningly, that’s what the Congress appears to be going along with. Why would they do that?”

Except it wasn’t hindsight, jackass: I could’ve told you this on Jan. 20 and saved everyone a lot of time: Harry Reid has just now figured out that Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, was never going to vote for health-care reform.

AIG tick-tock: Firedoglake, which has published valuable analysis on such issues as torture and the Scooter Libby case by means of creating documented timelines, applies the technique to the federal government’s bailout of AIG (and its use of AIG to indirectly bail out Goldman Sachs), working with a cache of e-mails obtained and posted online by The New York Times. FDL cautions that it ain’t complete, and I haven’t even begun reading it yet, but if you’re interested in the subject, this is sure to be a valuable resource.

Speaking of torture: The brother of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates is caught on videotape torturing and attempting to murder a guy he thought had screwed him in a business deal, but the court let him off anyway after he claimed he was too whacked on medication to know what he was doing. I’ll just say he must have been pretty damn whacked to run over a guy repeatedly without actually quite managing to, you know, kill him.

SCOTUS vs. the U.S.: As I suggested on Monday, the Supreme Court isn’t going to sign off on anything that could be a basis for its having to allow itself to be televised someday. Jackasses. Go ahead and keep talking about how this court’s majority is so strict-constructionist and all, but speak up: I’m going to have trouble hearing you over my own laughter.

Allegany County, Maryland, needs more alligators: Andy says so, and he’s there so he should know.

The Internet — the greatest collection of knowledge in history: How can I make my chicken taste just like the junk they serve at school?

Rupert Murdoch: plagiarist.

Teddy Pendergrass: RIP.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:07 pm

Odds and ends for 12/23

Psych! That $45 million in bonuses that AIG executives promised earlier this year to return? Ain’t happening.

Climate-change treaty murder mystery solved: It was China in Copenhagen with an attitude, but at least one witness survived. China’s playing a dangerous game: The average elevation of Shanghai (pop. 20 million) is only 13 feet above sea level.

House to Senate: Oh, no, you di’nt!: Three House Democratic leaders, including the Rules Committee chairwoman, who gets to decide what does and does not constitute an acceptable conference bill, are saying they won’t sign off on anything without a public option. Wellnow. This is about to get interesting.

Republicans are still riding the crazy train: Now they’re complaining that the health-care bill’s death panels can’t be abolished even if the rest of the bill is repealed. There’s a flaw in that logic, but I can’t quite put my finger on it….

Republicans are still riding the crazy train, cont.: Not content to lie, Sarah Palin is now lying about her lie.

Out of the frying pan …: Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama’s 5th Congressional District switched parties from Democrat to Republican this week. I speculated on Facebook and elsewhere that he’d get primaried by a more-conservative-than-thou candidate next year, not realizing that there already are three other Republicans in that race. That oughta be entertaining. For those of you keeping score at home, the primary is 6/1/10 and a runoff, if needed, will be 7/13/10.

This is not a trick question: What could bring liberal Firedoglake blogger Jane Hamsher and drown-government-in-a-bathtub conservative Grover Norquist together? The idea that Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, during his service on the Freddie Mac board in 2000-01, may have violated his fiduciary obligations, then used his subsequent election to Congress and current role to prevent any investigation. They want Emanuel to quit, they want a criminal investigation before the 10-year statute of limitation kicks, and they want to prevent the showering of almost $1 trillion on Freddie, which currently lacks an inspector general and other appropriate oversight. Presented with that information, so do I. Here’s a petition you can sign.

A multi-voice oral history of Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of Dow Jones, produced by GQ, comes off as more circular firing squad. Nobody, but nobody, ends up looking good, and only former managing editor Marcus Brauchli comes close.

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