Lying Media Bastards

December 29, 2005

LMB Radio 12-29-05

LMB Radio 12-29-05

Sort of a mild “2005 in review”, both musically and newsically. Plus,

- Uzbek torture
- Abramoff scandal
- easily manipulated journalists
- Americans believing less stupid shit
- selling the news name
- NYC transit strike results
- Ahmad Chalabi: big loser

And some of my favorite songs that I ran across this year (not all created this year), Probot, Fuzzy Math, Franz Ferdinand, Simple Fears, Damian Marley, the Legendary KO, Hot Karl, Bright Eyes, “Lazy Sunday”, Ghost Mice, Silversun Pickups, the Slackers, Edan, Sleater-Kinney, and more.

Posted by Jake on December 29, 2005 11:53 pm

Disciplined Doublethink

Back in October, Washington Post reporters Susan Schmidt and James Grimaldi wrote an article about shady lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Abramoff is finally facing legal action, and it looks like he will cut a deal which could finger many of his [mostly Republican] pals in Congress). At one point, they mention the relationship between Abramoff and Rep. Tom DeLay:

[Rep. Robert] Ney and Abramoff, whom DeLay once described as “one of my closest and dearest friends,” crossed paths as early as 1996.

Today, Schmidt and Grimaldi wrote another article about Ambramoff, with this passage to describe the Abramoff/DeLay relationship:

DeLay, a Christian conservative, did not quite know what to make of Abramoff, who wore a beard and a yarmulke. They forged political ties, but the two men never became personally close, according to associates of both men.

My first thought after reading all that was to look more closely at the first quote. It is worded badly, so that it’s hard to tell if the “dear close friend” is supposed to be Ney or Abramoff. And if you look at the context, most of that portion of the article is about Ney. So maybe there was no contradiction, maybe DeLay was talking about Ney, not Abramoff. So I dug around and tried to find the original DeLay quote. And sure enough:

“When one of my closest and dearest friends, Jack Abramoff, your most able representative in Washington, D.C., invited me to the islands, I wanted to see firsthand the free-market success and the progress and reform you have made.”
- Tom DeLay, New Year’s 1997/1998, Marianas Islands

So… what the hell? After two and a half months, two professional journalists write two sets of facts that totally contradict each other. Okay, we can nitpick: maybe DeLay was lying or exaggerating when he called Abramoff a friend. Or maybe the “associates of both men” were lying. But in each case, the reporters used the “facts” to try to make a point about the closeness (or distance) of the two men. Which means that the reporters are essentially changing their story, that the men aren’t good friends like they’d said before, just business associates. Why would they do such a thing?

I’ve got two theories.

1) The reporters made a legitimate mistake in their reporting in their first story, and are now reporting the truth (though, without printing a correction or retraction).
2) DeLay is trying to distance himself from Ambramoff in case he takes a fall, and the journalists are going along with this new spin.

My money’s on #2.

[via Atrios]

Posted by Jake on December 29, 2005 9:23 am

December 28, 2005

Turkish Fulcrum

Long before the Iraq war even started, one of my top concerns about the US invasion was Turkey.

Turkey has been fighting/brutalizing its Kurdish population for decades, fearing that they would break away and join with Kurdish enclaves in Iraq (and possibly Iran) to form an independent Kurdish state. So I’ve long been fearful that the more power and autonomy displayed by the Kurds of northern Iraq, the more likely it would be that Turkey would invade the region in hopes of keeping Turkish Kurds crushed (not that I was in favor of the oppressive status quo. It was just that before the war, the pro-invasion folks acted as though only good things could come from this, I kept trying to point out the potential for, y’know, cataclysm).

But recently I’ve been re-thinking this. Turkey is a US ally, Turkey is a member of NATO, Turkey is attempting to join the EU. Surely these Western powers would hate to see this Turk-Kurd war, and would bring all their influence to bear to stop it, right? The Turkish government might then concede to this pressure, or to balance one interest against another. Maybe this war was not inevitable.

But a commenter on Steve Gilliard’s site apparently visited Turkey over the summer, and spoke with a number of Turks about just this question.

First, when I asked what they thought Turkey would do if a Kurdish state were created.
Answer: Turkey would invade it immediately. I then asked what would happen if the US backed the Kurds. Answer: Then we would fight the Americans and it would be a very, very brutal war.

I asked why the issue was so important. Answer: A Kurdistan would destabilize the Kurdish portion of Turkey, which would jeopardize Turkey’s control over the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

They added that water is Turkey’s most valuable resource. One even said: “Iraq has oil, but we have water. The oil will run out, but the water will not. Besides, you can’t drink oil, anyway.”

I asked about how a Turkish invasion would affect their EU bid. Answer: Who cares? They will never let us join, anyway. I asked about how an invasion would affect relations with the US.

Answer: You Americans are our friends and greatest ally, but we cannot sacrifice our country for that friendship.

So it looks like there’s still room for despair.

Sigh.

Posted by Jake on December 28, 2005 10:18 pm

The Best and Worst of the Best and Worst

Many publications do year-end sum-ups, praising, insulting and commemorating the 12 months that took place since their last year-end summary. I toyed with the idea of doing one myself, but found a number of “best&worst’s” that were high quality, discussing the politics and media of 2005, and I decided to just weed through them and link to the good ones instead. There may be more to come, as the year ain’t over yet, so if I find more, I’ll post links to them as well.

2005 Media Follies!- the folks at Seattle alt-biweekly Eat the State have released their restrospecticus, focusing on the “most overhyped” and “most underreported” stories of the year. If you just read one 2005 look-back, I’d say go for this one.

Announcing the P.U.-litzer Prizes for 2005- Media Beat columnist Norman Solomon releases his list of the worst examples of journalism of the year. Accompanied by my yearly plea that Norman Solomon choose a new name for his list.

The News About the News: More Media Decline in 2005- journalist and media analyst Danny Schecter outlines
what he sees as the top trends in media for the year. Part of you probably knew all of them in advance, but its helpful to see them combined and synthesized together.

Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005- this one is less media-oriented than the others, a list of PR, spin, misinformation and propaganda about Iraq and the US occupation, but Middle East expert Juan Cole. [note: the link above keeps crashing, so you can see a repost of that list here]

Most outrageous statements of 2005- Media Matters for America has compiled a list of idiotic, offensive, and ridiculous quotes from some of the nation’s most popular right-wing nutjobs. Racist screeds, accusations of treason, calls for murder and assassination, sexist insults, homophobic attacks, jingoistic blather, its all here.

The First Annual Kippie Awards- blogger The Poor Man compiles this list of “awards” for crazed right-wing pundits and politicians, with categories like “Chickenhawk of the Year”, “Bush Fluffer of the Year” and “Crybaby of the Year”. A fun anti-conservative romp.

More year-end articles as I find them.

Posted by Jake on December 28, 2005 11:08 am

December 24, 2005

Antidote

As y’all know, the articles on this site are often kinda downers: cynical analyses of appalling revelations of global impact, lightened only by the odd bit of sarcasm and tuneful podcast goodness.

So to counteract all this depressing stuff, I offer this counterbalance.

Once your pessimism rises to poisonous levels, you can fight it by exposing yourself to the concentrated-till-toxic levels of fuzzy adorableness at Cute Overload.

LMB: fulfilling all your mental health needs.

Posted by Jake on December 24, 2005 5:35 pm

Reading Safety

Turns out the story I wrote about earlier this week about the kid getting visited by homeland security for checking out Mao Tse-Tung’s book is bullshit. The kid wasn’t visited by federal agents, and it sounds like he never even checked out the book in question. Jerkass.

I apologize for spreading the false info.

Posted by Jake on December 24, 2005 3:19 pm

December 23, 2005

Fox Carolina Luvs Da Nazis

Last month, local TV station WHNS, Fox Carolina aired a story about the White Supremacist website stormfront.org (sorry, not gonna link to it). Stormfront claims to be non-racist, just about “white pride”, but as always, the merest scratch reveals the hate just beneath the surface, with easy links to the KKK, American Nazi Party, and National Alliance.

While local news stations often run stories like this with a lurid, sensationalist “it’s a bad crazy world out there” slant, they didn’t use that angle here. It’s a puff piece, really, like a press release written by the site/org itself. It is described as a website concerned about the future of white people, and it’s not till the piece is mostly over that they casually mention that one of stormfront’s founders is a former Klan member. A quick look around their site shows plenty of racist comments about African-Americans and Jews (the founder of stormfront also hosts the unsettlingly-named website “Jew Watch”), so one would expect that sort of stuff to pop up in the news article. But it doesn’t. It’s really pretty shocking to see a mainstream news station send such an open love letter to a not-very-secretly racist group.

Some bloggers are leaping on the fact that the reporter behind this story posted on the stormfront messageboard, but I don’t find that too damning. If you were a reporter trying to investigate a certain group, it would make plenty of sense to join a messageboard for that group to read about them and contact them, even if you found them repellant. If the reporter was an active member of the boards for a long time prior to this story, then I’d be suspicious.

What I find creepy is that liberal org Think Progress contacted the reporter to ask why she didn’t include any criticism of stormfront, and she told them that she did the story exactly as she was told to and that officials at the network were very pleased with her coverage.

Posted by Jake on December 23, 2005 11:24 am

NYC Transit Strike

So the Transit Workers Union strike in NYC is over, but what happened? I’m hearing some folks call it a victory and others a failure, but they haven’t released any details of the union-management deal, so no one can really say. Actually, it sounds as though the union and management are still negotiating and therefore there are no deals to report. But when a union is on strike, one of their only bargaining chips is coming back to work, and the TWU has given that one up (although I suppose they can always call up the “now we’re going back on strike” chip, it would just be harder to re-start the strike after ending it once). So I don’t know how this is gonna turn out.

Posted by Jake on December 23, 2005 11:02 am

December 22, 2005

LMB Radio 12-22-05

LMB Radio 12-22-05

Verbal talking discussion regarding:

- the NYC transit strike
- anti-union media
- bipolar newscasting
- intelligent design
- (I wish I had mentioned this in relation to intelligent design)
- singing wookies (yes, again)
- Karen Hughes, Undersecretary of Incompetent Foreign Propaganda
- the president is peeking through your window
- shockingly, police infiltration of peace and gay rights groups fails to defeat Islamic terrorism
- dirty politicians and media “balance”
- Bill Hicks, woo!
- and more. Probably.

Musically, we’ve got the Sex Pistols, Zero 7, Nirvana, Cadence Weapon, Dropkick Murphys, Richard Reagh, Erykah Badu, Autolux, Sneaker Pimps, Alkaline Trio, Prince, 1905, Kanye West, Calavera, and more.

Posted by Jake on December 22, 2005 11:24 pm

December 21, 2005

Chomsky’d

Tom: He’s gonna Chomsky us, I just know it.
Jake: “Chomsky us”? What do you mean?
Tom: You know Chomsky’s interview style. You ask him a question, then he spends the first few minutes of his answer correcting your question. He did that to me last time I interviewed him, and I’m sure he’s going to do it again.

So for the Noam Chomsky radio interview we did Monday, I made a chart as the fellas were talking:

Chomsky’d

Tom- 2
Serj - 2
Jake- 1

I didn’t actually participate in the interview, but Tom did read one of my questions to Chomsky verbatim, which he then Chomsky’d. I blamed myself for sloppy wording, so gave both Tom and myself a point for that. Although after listening to the recording again, I don’t think his complaint was with the wording specifically, so maybe that shouldn’t count.

Anyway.

People have asked me if Chomsky covered any new ground in this interview. I’m not sure that he did, but he did make two points that resonated with me.

1) Lately, I’ve been wondering how the seemingly bright, educated folks of the American press corps bought into White House lies that led up to the invasion of Iraq. I mean, it wasn’t rocket science, a lot of the facts just didn’t add up. Yet like 90% of American journalists wrote about this nonsense with a straight face and gave it all credibility.

Chomsky saw the problem as much broader and deeper than that. Not only did the media take BushCo. seriously, a huge swath of society took Bush seriously. Well, not exactly took Bush seriously, but understood on a deep level that pointing out that the war was really about oil, would get you billed as a conspiracy theorist, that except in certain circles, it was not acceptable to express the obvious.

He then went on to explain the next “obvious” point, that the US government was actually opposed to democracy in Iraq. He did this by analyzing the most likely outcome of an actual democratic Iraq: most of the world’s oil controlled by Shiite theocracies. With this interpretation, we cannot expect the US to ever leave Iraq until the country’s oil reserves are in the hands of US allies, or until other circumstances force them to retreat.

2) Chomsky claims that America has a long history of being far too afraid of things than they have any justification to be. For example, Saddam Hussein. “He’s hated around the world, but no one’s afraid of him. Not even Kuwait. But thanks to the propaganda campaign in the media, Americans were literally afraid that Saddam Hussein was going to come kill them” (rough paraphrase).

Anyhow, I believe our interview will air January 13, and you can hear the whole thing then.

Posted by Jake on December 21, 2005 11:56 pm

December 19, 2005

Yaar Aid

Thanks to everybody who came to the 1069 fundraiser this weekend. Me, Lotus, No Face and Trashcandy properly rocked the joint, beer was consumed, underwear was bought and sold, art was raffled, balls were sunk into corner pockets, pirate radio was commended, and hopefully no fire marshalls were telephoned.

I’m hoping that RASD can get a regular party night gig going at some local bar/club/coffeehouse/venue where we can spin/click songs and set rumps a-shakin’ till the early morn.

Posted by Jake on December 19, 2005 11:29 pm

December 18, 2005

Hate the Game

Just finished watching the complicated British crime movie Layer Cake, and it’s got me thinking.

The narrator/protagonist opens the film with a monologue about the drug business:

Always remember that one day all this drug monkey business will be legal. They won’t leave it to people like me… not when they finally figure out how much money is to be made - not millions, fucking billions. Recreational drugs PLC - giving the people what they want.

He acts as though the drug trade is simply the most lucrative financial venture there is, and I started wondering why big corporate bigwigs, the ones who obviously want wealth and power, are working selling tires and toothpaste and TV programs when they could be selling drugs. First I thought that maybe it was the danger involved. I mean, corporations break the law all the time, but rarely does anyone do jail time. If you’re a bigtime drug-dealer, you’d be much more likely to visit jail if caught, and there’s the added risk of death by competitor.

I pondered some more. Perhaps this fictional narrator is wrong, and the drug trade is not the world’s finest source of income. Which leads me to the fundamental question, Where Is The Money? If you want to make as much money as humanly possible, how do you go about it? Drugs? Guns? Investing? Stock market? Banking? Dictatorship? Cronyism?

The main rule of capitalism is to get as much as you can while giving away as little as possible. Which means that the best deal you can get is a gift, or theft (although theft does carry the risk of prison). So it seems that the biggest moneymaker is some sort of arrangement where people just give you money, or where your theft is not illegal (i.e. rigging the laws themselves).

Still, no concrete answers there. What do you think? Where’s The Money?

No, I don’t ask because I’m looking for a career change, thanks. Just exercising my worldview and seeing how it looks from some new angles.

Posted by Jake on December 18, 2005 10:41 pm

Spy Hunter

I’ve been surprised at the fallout of the recent “Bush says the NSA can spy on Americans” revelation. Honestly, I think that most Americans would be less upset about it if the media were a bit louder about the “only on international phone calls” aspect of the spying. I mean, most Americans never leave the country, let alone make good friends overseas and need to call them. “Why do you need friends from other countries, anyway? You think you’re too good for American friends? Let’s get em!”

Anyhow.

In my article about this, I repeated the NYT’s claims that Bush’s spy plan was balanced on the head of the legalistic pin that terrorism suspects in the US can somehow be considered “agents of a foreign power”, which does not violate the Foreign Intelligence Secrets Act. However I have since learned that the head of that pin does not exist, and the spy plan is pretty clearly illegal.

To get technical on you, ยง 1802 of this law says that this type of secret wiretapping can only be conducted on “foreign powers”, not “agents of a foreign power.” Secondly, this section pretty clearly excludes “international terrorists” from the list of who these secret wiretaps can be used on.

Ergo the president signed an order that broke the law.

This doesn’t mean that the NSA is forbidden from eavesdropping on the phone calls of terrorism suspects, it just means that they have to get a warrant to do so. As I understand it, they don’t even have to go to a regular judge to get these warrants, they go to a special foreign intelligence court that sets the bar very low to justify a warrant. That’s what’s so galling about all this, that this administration doesn’t just want a lot of power, it doesn’t just want overwhelming power, it wants unlimited power.

Posted by Jake on December 18, 2005 10:20 pm

Your Tax Dollars at Work

[update]

The student who is the subject of this story is now saying that he made it all up, and was never visited by federal agents. Sounds like he didn’t even check out the book in question. Jerkass.

[/update]

Agents’ visit chills UMass Dartmouth senior

College student checks out copy of original Peking version of Mao Tse-Tung’s “Little Red Book” for a paper about Communism. Student is visited by Homeland Security agents who tell him that that book is on a “watch list.”

Watch list? This is how the government is trying to keep me safe, by seeing what books people check out? By seeing what books you and I check out? I work in a library. Am I the frontline in the war on terror? Scary fucking thought.

And is there a Maoist terror group that’s targetting the country that I’m not aware of?

But that story is just a pinprick compared to the sucking chestwound of this next article:

America Kidnapped Me
You might have heard of Khaled El-Masri. He’s a German citizen who was captured by Macedonian police, transferred to the CIA, sent to a secret prison in Afghanistan, held for five months with no evidence or trials, and then released, the German government told not to say anything about it. Well this article is written by El-Masri, a personal account of his story. It sounds like the only reason that he’s free and alive today is because of his 37-day hunger strike that almost killed him.

Posted by Jake on December 18, 2005 6:18 pm

December 16, 2005

For Torture Before He Was Against It

Oh that flip-flopping Bush. First he says that he’ll veto any legislation that bans torture. Now he supports it! He’s so flip-floppy and wimpy and nuanced and French.

Actually, I’m just amused at how desperate it is. Congress voted in favor of the terror ban in such high numbers that even if Bush did veto the bill, they could override it. So now that it’ll pass no matter what, Bush is holding photo ops with John McCain and saying shit like “We’ve been happy to work with him to achieve a common objective, and that is to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture.” You’ve been working against McCain for weeks, you ass!

It does sound like efforts are underway to ammend this bill that would allow “coercive” interrogation methods (i.e. torture), and that would allow the government to hold detainees forever and deny them access to courts. Not sure if those ammendments will get through. But even if they don’t, I remain confident that the US will continue torturing its prisoners, just a lot more secretively than they have been lately.

Posted by Jake on December 16, 2005 8:50 am

December 15, 2005

Collabo-Riffic

If you make a phone call to someone in another country the NSA can listen in without getting a warrant. They still need a warrant if you’re calling someone domestically, but if its international, you’re fair game. Legally, this is a huge change, as the NSA has been barred from spying on Americans in-country for decades.

I’m no lawyer, but as I understand it, the president signed this back in 2002, and it’s legality hinges on the idea that the president can authorize searches of “foreign powers and their agents.” So if the NSA spies on you, they can claim that they thought you were an “agent of a foreign power” and it’s all good.

Just as interesting as this new spy-on-Americans power, is this quote from the article above:

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

The NY Times had a scoop on an increase in government snooping power, and sat on it for a whole year cuz the government asked them to. And then, when the government told them “don’t print these parts”, the NYT obeyed. Score 1 for those muckraking, junkyard dogs of the press!

Posted by Jake on December 15, 2005 11:46 pm

LMB Radio 12-15-05

LMB Radio 12-15-05

Topics discussed in a mumbley manner:

- pirate radio partee
- George W. Bush: fucking prick
- George W. Bubbleboy?
- the three hands of law (paper, principle and reality)
- new anti-immigrant laws
- the WTO and the theft of water
- Bing meets Bowie
- the government are treacherous liars. Duh.

Music includes Heart, Radiohead, Mos Def, Report Suspicious Behavior, the Pixies, Chow Nasty, GZA, Los Lobos, Arcade Fire, Metallica, Manu Chao, Old Crow Medicine Show, Public Enemy, Nouvelle Vague, Smoosh, Bikini Kill, Ministry, and more.

Posted by Jake on December 15, 2005 11:09 pm

December 14, 2005

Ask Chomsky

The Axis of Justice Radio Network, a radio show I produce, will be recording an interview with Noam Chomsky this Monday afternoon. If you have any questions you’d like him to answer, post them in comments or email me, and I’ll see if we can’t sneak them in.

Posted by Jake on December 14, 2005 12:29 pm

December 13, 2005

WTO Pics

Damn. You’ve gotta check out these photos of the anti-WTO protests in Hong Kong.

Shockingly, it seems that local media are focusing on scary predictions of protester violence, and neglecting to mention why they’re actually protesting.

Wait, not shockingly.

Posted by Jake on December 13, 2005 10:15 am

Paarrrrgh-ty

This Saturday, my internet radio homies are throwing a party at a local bar to raise money for local pirate radio station 106.9 FM. Us DJs will be playing and streaming live, you can do bar things, buy RadioActive SD stuff, I think there will be raffles of some kind, good times.

Sparky’s
1521 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92102
Saturday, December 17th, 8pm

Viva las pirate radio ninjas!

Posted by Jake on December 13, 2005 12:40 am

Signpost

I set up a MySpace page for my radio show. Not a big thing, just seemed like a simple way to advertise. But it does have a cool pic of a cat playing with turntables, and links to some other cool bands, radio shows, and radio projects.

Posted by Jake on December 13, 2005 12:39 am

December 12, 2005

Ballots and Gunpowder

Thank goodness Iraq is holding their parliamentary election this Thursday (December 15). Then everything will be okay.

I would suggest that the US was going to rig the election to get its supporters into the legislature, but the US seems currently unable to control anything outside of their fortified compounds in Baghdad, so manipulating an entire national election seems outside their capabilities for now.

It looks like this election, which will elect members of the new Iraqi parliament, will go much as the spring elections went– with Iraq largely becoming a Shi’ite theocracy. I can’t wrap my head around the idea of voting to have religious restrictions put upon your thoughts and actions, but there you go.

Possibly most relevant to the future of Iraq is this “pact of honor” signed by many of the major political players in Iraq right now. It has 14 demands, including that the US draw up a timetable for withdrawal, that the occupying troops lose their legal immunity, that Iraq refuse to establish relations with Israel, and to put the breaks on the whole “federalism” idea in Iraq.

While it’s possible that this document is just a gimmick to drum up sympathetic votes, it seems to me that this is the barrel that the US is staring down. How can Bush keep talking about democracy and not pulling out when the Iraqi voters have elected for the US to get out? Not sure how that one’s gonna work out.

Posted by Jake on December 12, 2005 11:39 pm

December 11, 2005

Unicorns, Leprechauns and Federal Laws

One of the honchos of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the Bush administration for violating his First Amendment rights. Airlines are told by the government that passengers have to show ID to fly on an airplane, but this fellow thinks you shouldn’t have to.

Normally, I wouldn’t care about such a case. But it has a chilling Kafka twist to it.

The government won’t confirm or deny if there is such a law.

Basically, it sounds as though there is some presidential directive which tells airlines that they have to do this, but you and I are not allowed to see it. It’s so secret that apparently the government not only won’t admit that it exists, they won’t even deny that it exists.

“How do we know there’s an order?” Judge Thomas Nelson asked. “Because you said there was?”

Replied Joshua Waldman, a staff attorney for the Department of Justice: “We couldn’t confirm or deny the existence of an order.”

Well, at the end of the day they sort of admit it exists.

The Justice Department has said it could identify the secret law under seal, which would be available to the 9th Circuit but not necessarily Gilmore’s lawyers. But any public description would not be permitted, the department said.

So the judges can see the law, but the guy doing the suing can’t.

Yeah, so we’re headlong into the era of secret laws.

Skit #1
Policeman: You’re under arrest.
You: What? What did I do wrong?
Policeman: You’re wearing blue shoes on a Saturday. That’s against the law.
You: I didn’t know that was against the law!
Policeman: Yeah, most people don’t. It’s a secret law. Get in the car please.
You: Fuck!

Skit #2
Policeman: You’re under arrest.
You: What? What did I do wrong?
Policeman: I can’t tell you that.
You: What? You’re arresting me and you can’t tell me what for?
Policeman: Yes. You may or may not have broken a law that may or may not exist. Get in the car please.
You: Fuck!

Posted by Jake on December 11, 2005 4:24 pm

Dollar Democracy

One form of progressive activism that has come to prominence in the past decade has been “shareholder activism”, where people concerned with the practices of a certain corporation buy shares of stock in that company so that they can try to ger resolutions passed by fellow shareholders to curtail such practices. It’s legal, it works within the system to hopefully establish long-term change (although it’s not always polite. I think it often ends up with arguments, rude dismissals, loud voices, and CEOs yelling “guards, seize them!”).

Well, it looks like even this form of “change the system from within” activism is being chopped away (although I don’t know how effective it was in the first place).

Dave Sirota references a recent Financial Times article (which, sadly, you can’t read without a subscription), but gives us this quote:

U.S. companies, alarmed by the number of activist investors on the prowl, are hiring surveillance firms to find out who their shareholders are and which ones might cause trouble.

Legally, stockholders own corporations. If there are 100 shares and 100 shareholders, then each shareholder is 1/100th owner of that corporation. Shareholders allegedly make decisions about their company in votes where each share owned is equal to one ballot. Now apparently the CEOs– employees of the shareholders– are looking for ways to undermine some of the shareholders. But I suppose that’s just natural evolution: if the majority of the shareholders want profits uber alles, and a few other shareholders are getting in the way of that, then the corporate board could see it as part of their job to “eliminate” that thorny minority.

Unfortunately, without the rest of that article, I can’t tell what sort of actions (if any) that these corporate boards are taking once identifying their “troublemakers.”

“Sure we’re criminals. We’ve always been criminals. We have to be criminals.”
- Batman, “The Dark Knight Returns”

Posted by Jake on December 11, 2005 10:12 am

Cracking Up

In the past year, we’ve seen many divisions and conflicts pop up among the American right-wing: fanatic Christians vs. less-fanatic Christians; fiscal conservatives vs. imperialists; pro-war Republicans vs. pragmatic Republicans. I don’t know that any of these will result in ideological shifts or breaks with the Party, but they’re interesting, and showcase the wingnut fringe involved (Matt Stoller recently wrote an intriguing piece about this as a difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, that Democrats try like hell to distance themselves from the extremists in their party, while the Republicans welcome them).

But this latest fight amuses me, the right-wing media watchdog group Accuracy In Media (AIM)*, is attacking the Fox News Channel (based upon allegations from progressive journalist Danny Schecter, no less).

AIM tells us that Schecter tells us that Saudi billionaire, Rupert Murdoch pal, and News Corp shareholder Al-waleed bin Talal has been publicly saying that when Fox News was referring to the recent riots in France as “Muslim riots”, that Talal called up Murdoch to complain. Talal then claims that Fox News changed their coverage based upon his friendship with Murdoch. AIM is therefore calling for a “full inquiry”.

Of course, such things would not be above Murdoch. Despite his political ideology, he rarely lets hypocrisy get in the way of a buck, as is best evidence by censoring his own media products so as not to offend the Chinese government.

Not a big thing, but when America’s right-wing media watchdog accuses America’s most popular right-wing media source of not being right-wing enough, well, smirks are on the house.

[via Crooks and Liars]


*not to be confused with the left-wing Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, FAIR. It’s a little tragic that the groups have such similar names.

Posted by Jake on December 11, 2005 9:41 am

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