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A Bad Week For Rupert Murdoch

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We all know how this awful week began.  For Rupert Murdoch, one of his prized investments — Sarah Palin — had become the subject of heated debate.  Murdoch’s News Corp publishes her ghost-written books and Palin works for News Corp’s Fox News as a contributor.  While a team of doctors in Tucson heroically scrambled to save the life of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a team of spin doctors at Fox News scrambled to save the political life of Sarah Palin.  At this point, I defer to an excellent piece written by Glynnis MacNicol of The Business Insider:

It is clear that Palin spent the last few days testing the waters and leaving the heavy lifting of the defending her to the folks at Fox News, most notably Glenn Beck.

As Ms. MacNicol explained, Palin returned to her Facebook page on January 12:

In equally typical fashion, Palin offered little introspection into her role in the political dialogue of the past year and laid the blame directly at the feet of the media, whom she accused of “blood libel.”

As MacNicol and many other commentators pointed out, this choice of words exemplified yet another classic Palin mistake.  Palin’s gaffe drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and it gave her critics yet another opportunity to emphasize that Palin has been in over her head with her attempts to establish a national leadership identity.  The Hill quoted what Representative James Clyburn had to say about Palin’s latest misstep:

“You know, Sarah Palin just can’t seem to get it, on any front. I think she’s an attractive person, she is articulate,” Clyburn said on the Bill Press radio show. “But I think intellectually, she seems not to be able to understand what’s going on here.”

While Rupert Murdoch’s investment in Sarah Palin was obviously deteriorating and becoming an embarrassment for his Fox News organization, things were headed in a more catastrophic direction in his Australian homeland.  The intense flooding that had been ongoing for the past several weeks was being attributed to climate change.  A report from Reuters began with this statement:

Climate change has likely intensified the monsoon rains that have triggered record floods in Australia’s Queensland state, scientists said on Wednesday, with several months of heavy rain and storms still to come.

Although Murdoch now personally admits that climate change poses a serious environmental threat, his News Corp subsidiaries have an established track record of denying that any such threat exists.

An article from the Treehugger website provided details about how badly conditions had deteriorated in Queensland:

When 75% of Queensland is disaster declared due to flooding, that is a huge area, roughly equivalent to two Texas’s or the entirety of South Africa.  On the 31st of December Reuters was saying flood water was “covering an area bigger than France and Germany combined, inundating 22 towns and stranding 200,000 people.”  This is a continually unfolding natural disaster, of which the financial bill alone was projected to reach $5 billion AUD, and that was before the flash flooding of the past day or so.

*   *   *

Australia is a rich, industrialised ‘First World’ country.  But it’s third most populous state, Queensland, is currently coping with floods which have already decimated food crops, livestock, road and rail infrastructure, mining and so on.  The impacts of which will flow on (pardon the pun) to effect most every Australian. Already some particular fruits have all but disappeared from commercial markets.

If all that weren’t bad enough, what must have been the most chilling news for Rupert Murdoch came from Julian Assange of Wikileaks.  Ian Burrell of The Independent provided this report:

A year that has begun badly for Rupert Murdoch grew a little worse yesterday after the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, claimed to be in possession of secret documents damaging to the media mogul and his News Corp empire.

Mr Assange told John Pilger in the New Statesman he had withheld a cache of confidential US government cables and files relating to Mr Murdoch’s business as “insurance”.  He has claimed that his life is in danger if he is extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault.

*   *   *

Mr Assange indicated that he had paperwork which could be hurtful to News Corp.  “There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and News Corp.”

Assange does lots of talking about documents he is holding as “insurance”.  Nevertheless, many commentators have mentioned the possibility all this boasting could amount to nothing more than a bluffing strategy.

In addition to discussing the Wikileaks threat, the Independent article provided us with the perspective of a former Murdoch associate on the possibility that Rupert might not be too happy with the way things are going at Fox News:

In a further broadside yesterday, one of Mr Murdoch’s former henchmen, Andrew Neil, publicly questioned whether the world’s most powerful media figure retained his grip over his organisation.

*   *   *

“My own view is [Fox] is out of control,” Neil told Richard Bacon yesterday on BBC Radio 5 Live.  “I think Rupert Murdoch has lost control of it. I know from sources he’s not happy with a lot that appears on it and I think he’s lost over the Glenn Becks and the O’Reillys,” said Mr Neil.

“[Murdoch] is uncomfortable with Glenn Beck and various other positions they take and some of the things they say.”  Neil, who fell out with Mr Murdoch in the early Nineties, claimed he had “very good sources at the heart of News Corp”.

If there is any truth to Andrew Neil’s revelations, it will be very interesting to see if Mr. Murdoch makes any changes at Fox News, due to his reported concerns.  Either way, 2011 could turn out to be a very important year for Rupert Murdoch.


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The GOP Is Losing Centrists

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March 23, 2010

David Frum’s Sunday afternoon blog posting, “Waterloo” has been receiving praise for its painfully accurate diagnosis of what ails (or should I say, “Ailes”) the Republican Party.  Among his important points were these:

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

*   *   *

The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government.  Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination.  When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests.  What he omitted to say — but what is equally true — is that he also wants Republicans to fail.  If Republicans succeed — if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry.  And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry.  Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio.  For them, it’s mission accomplished.  For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right:  ours.

On the following evening, Frum appeared on ABC’s Nightline with Terry Moran and this exchange took place:

Moran:   “It sounds like you’re saying that the Glenn Becks, the Rush Limbaughs, hijacked the Republican party and drove it to a defeat?”

Frum:   “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.  And this balance here has been completely reversed.  The thing that sustains a strong Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican party.”

During the days leading up to the vote on the healthcare bill, the rallying tea party activists exhibited the behavior of a lynch mob.  Their rhetoric was curiously extreme and anyone with a neutral point of view on the issue had to wonder what was pushing those people to the edge.   Following up on Frum’s thesis, Thomas Frank of The Wall Street Journal seemed to have the right idea:

It is tempting to understand the tea party movement as a distant relative of the lowest form of televangelism, with its preposterous moral certainty, its weird faith in markets, its constant profiteering, and, of course, its gullible audiences.

Tea partiers fancy themselves a movement without leaders, but this is only true in the sense that, say, the nation’s Miley Cyrus fan clubs don’t have a central leader.  They don’t need one — they have Miley Cyrus herself.  And the tea partiers, for their part, have Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the various personalities of Fox News, whose exploits were mentioned frequently from the speaker’s platform on Saturday.  But it was only after I watched an online video of Capitol Hill protesters earnestly instructing one another in what sounded like Mr. Beck’s trademark theory of progressivism that I understood:  This is protest as a form of fandom.

These are TV citizens, regurgitating TV history lessons, and engaged in a TV crusade.  They seem to care little for the give and take of the legislative process.  What seems to make sense to them is the logic of entertainment, the ever-escalating outrage of reality TV.

But maybe, one of these days, the nation is going to change the channel.

That change of the channel is exactly what the Republicans need to worry about.  Karl Rove’s trademark strategy of pandering to the so-called “base” of the party failed in 2006 and it failed again in 2008.  Nevertheless the GOP continues with a tone-deaf strategy, focused on the manipulated emotions of the tea partiers.

As I observed when I started this blog two years ago, a decision by John McCain to continue pandering to the televangelist lobby after winning the Republican Presidential nomination, would make absolutely no sense.  McCain now finds himself struggling against an ultra-conservative tea partier for the Republican nomination to retain his Senate seat.  He has again chosen to pander to the base and in the process, he has painted himself into a corner — boosting the chances for victory by the Democratic nominee in November.

The Republicans just don’t get it.  John “BronzeGel” Boehner’s decision to ally himself with the banking lobbyists has given another black eye to the Republican Party.   Although the voting public has become increasingly educated and incensed about the bank bailouts as a form of “lemon socialism” BronzeGel decided to give a pep talk to the American Bankers Association, advising them:

“Don’t let those little punk staffers take advantage of you and stand up for yourselves.”

Who is going to stand up for the taxpayers (and their children) who have been forced to support the welfare queens of Wall Street?  Certainly not the Republicans.  BronzeGel Boehner has promised to fight a protracted battle against financial reform.  In the process, he and his party are throwing the centrist voters (and the educated conservatives) under the bus.  What a brilliant strategy!



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Let The Games Begin!

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August 25, 2008

It seems ironic to be saying this upon the closing of the Summer Olympics.  The Democratic and Republican Conventions run through back-to-back weeks, with Labor Day Weekend in the middle.  As the Democratic Party’s show begins, there is a healthy bit of attention focused on those disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton and how they plan to entertain us for the next week.  Of course, nearly all of them are women.  Their rallying call is to decry the sexually-harassing coverage of Hillary’s candidacy.  (The bulk of it was provided by the right-wing media, such as: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.)  I saw one of Hillary’s die-hard  supporters on one of the news-related talk shows last week.  Her point that Obama “can’t close the deal” was a flashback to the Primary season rhetoric, exhibiting some sexual double-entendre, usually indicative of the commentator’s own sexual issues.  As I pondered this, I began to wonder whether some of these outraged women might have experienced some workplace-related gender harassment or bias, themselves.  Taking action on their own behalf to assert such a claim before the EEOC or in court, could result in retaliatory discharge from employment.  Although actionable, such illegal employer conduct is conveniently facilitated during a recession with a poor job market.  I began to wonder to what extent Hillary Clinton became a hero for those women with workplace-related gender bias experiences and to what extent that issue had become an emotional motivator in the Democratic nomination race.

It appears as though Obama may have a way to win the support of some of these voters.  Perhaps by acknowledging that this was indeed a close nomination race, with an obvious element of sexist harassment directed against Hillary Clinton from certain quarters and that we can understand the indignation of those people who fought so hard in the Clinton campaign.  Accordingly, some pro-active remedial steps could be taken by Barack as the nominee.  I began to envision Obama healing this rift in the party with his acceptance speech:

We all saw how Hillary Clinton was sexually harassed and degraded by some in the right-wing media such as the Fox News, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh during the Primaries.  By the way:  What is Rush Limbaugh doing — sexually harassing someone, when he’s sitting there with that long, tube-like, golden microphone up against his mouth?  We need to ask a psychologist to explain that golden, phallic microphone up against Rush Limbaugh’s mouth.  Did you ever see that thing?  He’s talking on the public airwaves.  The use of those airwaves is licensed by the FCC.  That’s why people can’t say curse words on the public airwaves like they can on cable.  If people can’t say curse words on the airwaves, then they shouldn’t be able to sexually harass female politicians or political spouses, especially during election campaigns.  This is why, if elected President, I will introduce my Presidential Initiative for Gender Harassment Sanctions – or:  PIGHS.  If someone starts up with the kind of nasty talk we heard from Rush Limbaugh about Hillary Clinton or even Elizabeth Edwards, the FCC will fine any broadcast radio station or TV station airing this offensive conduct.

I wouldn’t expect this strategy to win over every disgruntled Clinton supporter for the Obama – Biden ticket, although it could have an effect.  There is always the possibility that some of those vocal, anti-Obama, pro-Clinton die-hards might just close the curtain of the voting booth, realize that no one else is looking  …  and vote for Obama – Biden.

In the mean time, we have the real Democratic Convention ahead of us  … with some entertaining fights and at least two interesting speeches.  The McCain camp is promising some good “attack” ads for the commercial breaks.  The Olympics may be over … but the most important games that will control our society’s well-being for the next four years are going on right now.  Don’t let yourself get “played”.

A McCain – Edwards Ticket

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August 11, 2008

As mid-August approaches, the Hillarologists are preparing to descend upon Denver to vent their spleens at the Democratic Convention.  We’ve seen videos of them at backyard parties, cheering for their fallen hero, and shouting out for … uhh … catharsis?  As their hearts filled with rage, visions of sexists danced in their heads:  the usual big-mouths who weren’t used to restraining themselves while making on-air comments.  Most of the liberally-inclined men I know, couldn’t understand the charges of sexism in media coverage of the Presidential campaign, as alleged by Clinton’s supporters.  That’s because these men don’t watch Fox News or the likes of Glenn Beck.  Had they watched Keith Olbermann’s Countdown program a while back, they would have been treated to a sampling of some ugly, sexist remarks, as rebroadcast to an audience who, for the most part, tended to avoid the White House echo chamber.

Suddenly, Hillary’s female activists have a big distraction.  John Edwards (age 55) has now admitted to having an affair with a dilettante filmmaker named Rielle Hunter (age 44).  Edwards has admitted to having the affair that began after his wife, Elizabeth (now age 58), had been diagnosed with cancer.  To the Hillarologists, the Edwards caper sounded all too familiar.  It was yet another case of “throw your first wife under the bus” syndrome, with the added feature of doing so while she is in the throes of a medical crisis.  The Clinton supporters must have been reminded of a similar situation involving another candidate in the 2008 Presidential campaign:  John McCain.

Sharon Churcher provided an informative history of McCain’s first marriage in the June 8 issue of Britain’s Daily Mail.  Her article described how McCain (who turns 72 at the end of this month) married the sexy swimwear model named Carol Shepp in 1965.  Carol is only two years younger than John.  Carol had been previously married to one of McCain’s Annapolis classmates, by whom she had two sons: Douglas and Andrew.  When McCain married Carol, he adopted her sons.  During the Christmas season of 1969, while McCain was a prisoner in Viet Nam, Carol was driving to a friend’s house and experienced a horrible automobile accident.  A few hours after the accident, she was found next to the wreckage of her car, having been thrown through the windshield.  Churcher’s article went on to point out that after McCain’s release from the “Hanoi Hilton” and upon his reunion with Carol in 1973, he first learned of Carol’s injuries.  She was no longer the tall model he remembered.  Her doctors “had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone in her legs, taking with it her tall, willowy figure” as Churcher explained.

The Daily Mail article mentioned a man named Ted Sampley, who fought with the Special Forces in Viet Nam.  Mr Sampley was quoted as saying:

“When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.”

“Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better.”

The article included the following quote from Carol about McCain’s reason for leaving her:

My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens … it just does.

The disgruntled Hillarologists must be aware of the pattern here: opportunistic male politician strays from his first wife after she sustains a physical setback.  The 2008 Presidential campaign brought us two candidates with the same modus operandi.  The fact that they are from different parties shouldn’t exclude John Edwards as a running mate for John McCain.  After all, non-Republican Joe “The Tool” Lieberman has been vying for that spot for over a year.