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Monday: The Thot Plickens

Jaguar earlobes, wolf nipple chips, get'em while their hot!

Lot’s of juicy tidbits going on in the News International scandal (did I hear Milliegate?).

In no particular order:

Scotland Yard’s second in command, John Yates has resigned.

Sean Hoare, the former News of the World reporter who spilled the beans on the hacking has been found dead.  The death is not ruled suspicious, yet, but maybe Scotland Yard doesn’t have time to investigate it thoroughly, what with just about everyone in the police and their brother somehow involved in the scandal.

Rebekah Brooks resigned over the weekend and lo and behold!  Her computer and business papers were dumped in a trash bin by her husband.  I’m sure he was just helping her clean up her office crap.  I have a garage full of office flotsam and jetsom.  But unlike Rebekah, I didn’t take any incriminating work home with me.  Next time, chuck the bloody thing in the river, not the dumpster.

The Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial defending its parent company.  This one will go down in history as the most pathetic “Well, everybody does it but we get blamed for everything we do” set of lame ass excuses ever to grace the editorial page.  It’s a doozy.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, President Obama, John Boehner and Eric Cantor met again over the weekend to figure out how the respective parties could screw the middle class and pin the blame on the other party.  No agreement was reached.  Enough, already.  This is not a game of stratego.  There are real people, real countries at stake here.  Raise the debt ceiling and quit f^&*ing around.

You know, I’ll bet we wouldn’t even be discussing this debt ceiling thing if the Milliegate had broken about 6 weeks ago.  Is there a connection between the obsessive focus on the deficit at the expense of the unemployed and Murdoch’s evil empire?

Damn straight there is.

Note to commenters: The words Sarah, Palin and any combination thereof are trigger words that will get your comment relegated to the moderation bin.  The comment will be released when I get around to determining whether or not you are pushing Palin on us.  This afternoon, I found *12* such comments in the moderation bin and have released only a few.  Don’t get me wrong.  We don’t have anything against her personally but she doesn’t share our political philosophy and we’re sick and tired of having to explain this to Palin supporters.  If she’s your kind of gal, you might be more comfortable commenting elsewhere.  This is non-negotiable.  To paraphrase Douglas Adams, “The internet is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to internet.”  It is difficult to be censored in the blogosphere so we encourage you Palin supporters to find your voice and speak up- vigorously- somewhere else.  Ditto for the Ron Paul supporters and their novel-length manifestos.

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Holy Hemiola! Rupert Murdoch practically owned the British media

He's an American. How embarrassing.

This is insane.

The latest person to resign under fire in connection with the News of the World phone hacking scandal  was the head of the Metropolitan Police.  That would have been like Rudy Giuliani’s chief of police, Bernard Kerik, who was snogging some tart in the free digs near the World Trade Center.  Sir Paul Stephenson (well, there goes that courtesy title) was the recipient of a rather posh spa vacation after he hired a News International guy as a PR adviser.

But what really shocks me is the number of high profile newspapers Murdoch’s organization owned.  Check out this graphic for the web of connections.  He also had a significant but not controlling interest in British Sky Broadcasting, the media company he was on the verge of acquiring full out when the scandal broke. I’m amazed that any other news organization was able to function with News Corp slouching around the UK like some gigantic cave troll with a mace.

(BTW, Brits, you are going to have to come up with a catchy word and stick “-gate” on the end of it if you want this scandal to be memorable.  Hacking-gate?  I dunno.  Work on it.)

Well, this explains a lot.  Britain is also undergoing what seems to be an unnecessary economic contraction brought on by some severe austerity measures.  Paul Krugman has had several posts on the subject.  England is also laying off a large number of R&D professionals. (pfizer in 2011, others in 2010)   I don’t know what kind of protections labor has in Britain these days but it doesn’t look as strong as it does in France and Germany.  It seems to be a theme in countries where Murdoch’s organization has a lot of pull.  England is notorious for being crazy about child abductions.  Neighbors can’t even babysit for each other without a permit and a background check.  It was the first company to jump into war with us in Afghanistan and Iraq.  And it seems to be doing its best to erase Keynesian economics from our collective memory during the latest recession/depression.

It looks like politicians and other officials have been living in fear of exposure for some time now.  They don’t dare take Murdoch on.  He’s got the goods on anyone who starts to make trouble.

Hmmm, why does that sound so familiar?  This editorial by Jackie Ashley in The Guardian could have been written over here with a few choice substitutions:

This is not – and should never be seen as – a “Westminster village” issue. A wide range of ownership will mean a wider range of ideas being taken seriously in the national media, a better conversation. It will end a form of politics in which a tiny cluster of top politicians and media people (and police, and business leaders) “count” and most MPs are irrelevant followers. We should get better decisions on tax, welfare, immigration and the bread-and-butter issues.

For those who don’t know, or haven’t believed in, the tradition of tight, anti-democratic collusion in this country, all I can say is that it has been visible, close-up, since I started reporting politics in the 1980s. There were always in-groups, small parties and dinners for proprietors, cabinet ministers and perhaps the odd political editor, which the rest of us heard about but never got near. Up to a point it has always gone on. Churchill and Beaverbrook, Labour and Maxwell.

Yet it has worsened. Margaret Thatcher was greatly helped by the support of the Murdoch papers, who behaved disgracefully towards Neil Kinnock. But Murdoch and Thatcher were instinctive ideological soulmates and it was clear who was the senior partner. The idea of Thatcher paying court to Murdoch was absurd. It was the other way around.

The rot set in with John Major’s hapless attempts to stay in favour with Murdoch and Tony Blair’s shameless political flirting to win him over. Ideology was no longer relevant. Blair’s team regarded Murdoch’s support with an almost mystical awe. That’s when Murdoch’s summer parties became the most desired places to be seen.

Cameron merely picked up the strategy and pushed it further. It seemed risk-free. He comes from the world of PR and personal contacts, high-fiving Matthew Freud, hugging Rebekah and bringing Coulson into his inner office too. Who was in whose pocket?

We have been sleepwalking into a Berlusconied Britain, a post-democratic state of winks and nods. Suddenly there is a chance to break the spell. It won’t last for ever, and it needs brave, decisive action by MPs. A stronger democracy – whose authority comes from election, not from money? Too much to hope for. But actually, today, it isn’t.

Tuesday: Hack this

Would you sell an American citizenship to this man?

The phone hacking scandal in Britain is getting pretty hairy.  It turns out that investigators for Scotland Yard who were looking into reports of phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp outlets were in turn phone hacked (NYTimes, limited free articles):

The disclosure, based on interviews with current and former officials, raises the question of whether senior investigators feared that if they aggressively investigated, The News of the World would punish them with splashy articles about their private lives. Some of their secrets, tabloid-ready, eventually emerged in other news outlets.

Those damaging allegations, about two of the senior officers’ private lives, involved charges that one had padded his expense reports and was involved in extramarital affairs and that the other used frequent flier miles accrued on the job for personal vacations.

“If it is true that police officers knew their phones had been hacked, it is a serious matter that requires immediate investigation,” said John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which investigated phone hacking. “It would be shocking.”

The lead police investigator on the phone-hacking case, Andy Hayman, left the Metropolitan Police in December 2007 after questions were raised in the news media about business expenses he had filed and the nature of his relationship with a woman who worked for theIndependent Police Complaints Commission.

At the time, Channel 4 News reported details of 400 text messages and phone calls that Mr. Hayman had sent to her.

400 text messages.  Holy Hemiola.  Someone must have been bored out of their gourd sifting through all that minutiae:

Him: Where R U?

Her: At Macy’s

Him: I can’t find the remote

Her: It’s on top of the bookcase

Him: My wife is out for the afternoon.  Where should I meet you?

Her: Ahem, I’ve decided NOT to go out this afternoon.  How about we meet in the kitchen -over my knife?

Remember when we thought that someone had the goods on the Democrats in the past 11 years?  Maybe we weren’t just imagining it.

Meanwhile, Murdoch’s deal to buy up the controlling shares in BSkyB has been put on hold for a few months and his shareholders are shocked, SHOCKED that such shenanigans could be happening right underneath Rupert’s nose.  They’re filing a lawsuit to get to the bottom of it:

Among the lawsuit’s complaints: the company’s purchase of Elisabeth Murodoch’s Shine Group has harmed the shareholder value; the board as it is comprised has numerous conflicts of interest; and the phone-hacking scandal has hurt the company’s reputation and investor value.

{{snort!}}

You’ve GOT to be kidding.  When Fox was bailing out Bill O’Reilly because he was phone sexing one of his producers and Glenn Beck became a raving lunatic, the shareholders were pretty OK with the company’s reputation.  Fox News has made a name for itself as being fast and loose with the truth (perfectly legal, so saith the courts) and fellating Bush administration officials on a regular basis.  So, why the big deal NO

There’s more stunning hypocrisy:

The egregious conduct triggering this stunning turn of events was not limited to reporters.  Former News Of The World employees involved in the phone hacking have indicated that at least two editors-in-chief of the paper were aware of and condoned the hacking in order to obtain news stories that would  drive readership.

Rebekah Brooks (“Brooks”), a very close friend of Murdoch and his family who has repeatedly been promoted by Murdoch (most recently to the position of Chief Executive Officer of News International), and Andy Coulson (“Coulson”), a Murdoch political ally and a close friend of Brooks who became an aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron, both were editor-in chief of the paper while the illegal hacking was on-going and have been linked to explicit knowledge of the practice.  Coulson, in fact, has been arrested on suspicion of phone hacking and making payments to police and faces criminal indictment for his conduct.

These revelations should not have taken years to uncover and stop. These revelations show a culture run amuck within News Corp and a Board that provides no effective review or oversight.

Oh, I don’t know, Fox has been extremely effective in undermining the social safety net and standard of living of hundreds of millions of people in North America, Britain and Iraq.  Chaos and lack of oversight appear to be key factors in the success of News Corps winning management style.  Let’s not forget it owns the Wall Street Journal and it’s compassionately conservative editorial page.

And what kind of culture has been damaged?  The kind that stops at nothing to ram ultra conservative ideology and farfetched conspiracy theories down the throats of unsuspecting senior citizens and treats the working class like a bunch of parasites?  Or is it the culture that hour after hour, day after day, terrifies its viewers with stories of abductions and child abuse and murders of innocent young white girls to the point where every adult, male or female, is a potential pedophile?  Or is News Corps culture the kind that stampedes the governments of two nations into a stupid and costly war in Iraq?  Where were the shareholders back then?  Having their pedicures in the back of the limo on the tedious drive to Hamptons?

Rupert Murdoch sounds like an authoritarian sociopath to me and from what I can tell, he’s been one for a long time.  I’m guessing that the shareholders *liked* the ruthless bastard just as he was as long as the stock prices of insurance companies, the security industry, armaments dealers and mercenary merchants were increasing. It’s only now that Britain is turning on him that the shareholders find his company distasteful and his culture uncouth.  What I want to know is who these snobs are that brought us to the brink of global economic catastrophe over the financial system deregulation and the ongoing debt ceiling debacle and now think they can slither away unscathed.  Names, I want names.

I predict this scandal is going to spread and have already cornered the market in popcorn.  Where, Oh, Where, will the Republicans go for sympathetic, soft ball interviews?  Ok, I mean *other* than the rest of the American news media?  And can we get a list of the politicians that have shown up on Fox the most?  Or is this just a ruse by the shareholders to ditch Murdoch, make it look like the cesspool is being cleaned up and then party on under new management?

Butter, please.  Lots of it.