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Is Rupert in trouble?  Real trouble?

Is Rupert in trouble? Real trouble?

by digby

Michael Wolfe, the man who literally wrote the book on Rupert Murdoch on the eavesdropping scandal.From what he says it's a much tighter case than I realized:

In sum: It is now well-documented that employees of Murdoch’s News of the World British tabloid eavesdropped on the voice mail messages of practically anybody who was anybody in Britain for the better part of the last 10 years—the most recent revelations put Kate Middleton and Tony Blair on this list—including, undoubtedly, some of the people who went to the News Corp. party. Although this might not have seemed like much of a crime while it was being committed by myriad News Corp. reporters, and sanctioned by their bosses—just hacks being hacks—it has since transmuted into a profound breach of the civil trust. And to date, each next domino in the inquest has fallen.

The informed speculation in U.K. media and political circles is about which present and former members of the top circle of News Corp. management in London will next be frog marched in front of a tribunal. In addition to company chief Rebekah Wade Brooks (who herself appears to have been hacked by reporters) and her predecessor Les Hinton, who now runs The Wall Street Journal<, this might naturally include Rupert’s son, James, who approved the early settlements in the case—settlements so large they could only reasonably be hush-money payoffs.

And yet the company’s largely American shareholder base remains somehow unaware or in denial about what’s happening. News Corp. faces its greatest peril since it almost went bankrupt in the early ’90s, and yet the share price holds.

This is partly because of the Rupert effect. Shareholders invest in the company as a bet on Murdoch himself. He has been in many a tight squeeze before, and part of his value is that he gets out of them. And it is partly because the U.S. media is disinclined to pursue Murdoch or to spend much time on foreign business news (in the past, The Wall Street Journal was the one paper that might be counted on to cover such stories).

First, they did it. Boy, did they do it. And then they tried to cover it up. Oh, and it turns out they documented it, too. And then there is the hard-core, bedrock, long-oppressed, anti-Murdoch faction in the U.K., suddenly armed with a mighty weapon: a scandal, into its third year, that drips out week after week. There doesn’t seem like any going back to an invulnerable Rupert.

From his lips...

I think there's more to the American news blackout than that, however. American media companies just don't go after each other. When the politicians get angry or their bombastic pundits go after one another, the big boys circle the wagons. It's very clubby and impenetrable. I don't think it's an accident at all that nobody's talking about this in the American media. They are all afraid of breaking the compact.


Joe Mathews = Mickey Kaus

For a while, a bunch of liberals in California seemed to have a hard on for Joe Mathews due to his work on California Crackup. But it's time to end that love affair. It seems that Mathews is intent on claiming the role of Mickey Kaus as the world's biggest concern troll. (Of course, Mickey will wait until he's 75 to retire because that's what he thinks is good for everyone else.)
The best I can figure is that Mathews feels that he needs to attack unions and Democrats in order to get "credibility." You know, centrism, bipartisanism, all of that good stuff that the press loves but everyone else hates.

Last fall, he fell down the rabbit hole with the L.A. Times's crusade to blame teachers for the problems in education with its ridiculous lynchmobish publication of teacher scores and then accused a University of Colorado study of being nothing but a piece of union propaganda (remember: in the concern troll world, unions are corrupt, but billionaires' philanthropies poo smells like roses, and corporations are totally on the up-and-up all the time).

So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he penned this editorial that blames our budget woes on teachers' unions. You see:

Which is why it's unfair that Republicans get so much blame for protecting the two-thirds vote requirement for taxes.

This brand of tired "pox on both your houses" nonsense is how the GOP constantly escapes with its hide after every disaster they bring about. You see, it's not the two-thirds threshold for raising taxes that matters. Heck no! It's the teachers' unions and their hypocritical love of Prop 98 that's doing it.

Joe: could it be that public education is the biggest expense because it's something that virtually everyone uses? or is that just a coincidence?

And, also, Joe: how many times has each Democrat in the California Legislature voted to suspend Prop 98 over the last several years? What's that you say? They all have every time? And how many Republicans have voted to raise taxes? Wait, say again? The absolute minimum to do anything?

Yes. It's ridiculous. But it's what it takes to make your name in the "liberal media" these days.


Japan speeding ahead with 500km/h Maglev train

Traveling the 515 km (320 miles) from Tokyo to Osaka by Shinkansen bullet train currently requires 2 hours and 25 minutes (and costs a small fortune, too). Come 2045, travel between Japan's two largest metro areas will take just over one hour, following the launch of the country's longest maglev track, which just received construction approval from Tokyo. The nine trillion yen project (approximately $112 billion) was first proposed in the 1970s, but was tabled indefinitely due to its astronomical costs, most of which stem from an extensive network of tunnels that will represent 60 percent of the route. You'll be able to get your Japanese Maglev fix beginning in 2027, when the Central Japan Railway launches its high-speed route between Tokyo and Nagoya. One notable neighbor to the west is already operating its own maglev train. China's Shanghai Transrapid has been blasting riders to Pudong airport since 2004, and once achieved a top speed of 501km/h (311 mph). The country is also constructing a 1000km/h vacuum-based train that it plans to launch within the next few years.

Japan speeding ahead with 500km/h Maglev train originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 20 Jun 2011 21:42:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Woolsey to Make Announcement Next Week

Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey has long been rumored to be a possible retirement.  No matter how the lines are drawn, the Marin-Sonoma centered seat will be a safe Democratic seat.  She criticized the draft maps for removing Santa Rosa from the Marin-Sonoma based district that she represents.  In fact, she was really the most outspoken elected official on the maps.  The criticism rose a few eyebrows.

So, with that speculation running high, I got a little message in my inbox today:


Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma), joined by Rep. Barbara Lee and friends and
family, will make an announcement at her home next Monday.

TIME: Monday, June 27, 2011 3:00pm

We'll keep you updated with more details next week.  Rep. Woolsey has always been an outstanding champion of progressive goals. If she does choose to retire, we must hope for a leader with dedication as strong as hers.


Bachman’s right about Obama wanting to end Medicare? Who knew?

Wow, I have to say that this actually stuns me a bit. Discussing Bachman's rather clever new meme about Obama wanting to destroy Medicare, Ezra Klein explains that she's right:

If Republicans can make their peace with the Affordable Care Act and help figure out how to make the Affordable Care Act's exchanges work to control costs and improve quality, it'd be natural to eventually migrate Medicaid and Medicare into the system. Liberals would like that because it'd mean better care for Medicaid beneficiaries and less fragmentation in the health-care system. Conservatives would like it because it'd break the two largest single-payer health-care systems in America and turn their beneficiaries into consumers. But the implementation and success of the Affordable Care Act is a necessary precondition to any compromise of this sort. You can't transform Medicaid and Medicare until you've proven that what you're transforming them into is better. Only the Affordable Care Act has the potential to do that.

So Bachmann is perhaps right to say that the president is moving us towards a day when ObamaCare -- or, to put it more neutrally, "premium support" -- might come to Medicare. He's seeing whether it works in the private health-care market first and, if it does, there's little doubt that the political pressure to extend it to other groups will be intense. The question is why Bachmann and her party are doing so much to stand in his way? The corollary to Bachmann's accusation that the president has a realistic plan to privatize Medicare is that the Republicans, for all their sound and fury over the Ryan budget, don't.

Golly, it sounds like just everybody's on the same page, it's only a matter of working out some of the minor details. But put me down as one liberal who would not be happy about this because it would mean "better care for Medicaid recipients" (always the big gun to our empathetic little hearts) or that it would lead to less "fragmentation." (You know what really would lead to less fragmentation? Medicare for all.)

Indeed, I was hoping (probably vainly) that the Affordable Care Act was the opening act in reforms that would lead eventually to some form of universal, nationalized health care plan that wasn't based on for-profit insurance companies taking a piece of the action at all. After all, that was what we liberals were assured would happen eventually by policy wonks who were exceedingly annoyed whenever anyone raised the possibility that this might not be the best way to go about it.

Truthfully, this would be the opposite of what I'd hoped for and that most liberals hoped for. I certainly do not want elderly people thrust into a health care system where they have to navigate profit making insurance companies, no matter how well "it works" on a macro level or how much "support" they get for their premiums.(And there is ample reason to doubt that it will work for such a sick population anyway.) It honestly never occurred to me that the administration and the promoters of this health care reform were actually designing it with that in mind.

One thing's for sure. Bachman's on to something. I knew her comments had a perverse sort of logic, but it never occurred to me that she was right on the merits. Live and learn.


The last word (for now) on shale gas [Class M]

Debating the merits and dangers of fracking shale gas has become a major obession of those who worry about energy and the climate. Yale's e360's latest contribution comes in the form a forum that includes a wide variety of perspectives pro and con.

For me, the wisest observation, and the one that really trumps all others, comes from Kevin Anderson, who directs the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research's energy program:

... the only responsible action with regard to shale gas, or any "new" unconventional fossil fuel, is to keep it in the ground -- at least until there is a meaningful global emissions cap forcing substitution. In the absence of such an emissions cap, and in our energy hungry world, shale gas will only be combusted in addition to coal -- not as a substitution, as many analysts have naively suggested.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


Vote Suppression: the long strategy

Mother Jones reports on the the Republican vote suppression efforts going on around the country. I'm glad that attention is being paid but I hope that people don't get the impression that this is new. It's a very, very long standing conservative strategy with a huge amount of institutional support. The reason they are going for it now is because the Supreme Court gave them cover with the Indiana ID law and they have recently taken over a bunch of state legislatures.

Just as they are going hard after the public employee unions and abortion rights, vote suppression is one of their long held agenda items that they are opportunistically trying to pass while they have the opening.

For a primer on just how long this has been going on,this post is a place to start. Or just google Operation Eagle Eye.


Monday Funday WE WON Day! [Starts With A Bang]

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -Sylvia Plath
A few weeks ago, I told you about a science writing contest going on over at 3 Quarks Daily, open to all areas of science writing.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of my posts made the finals. Well, this morning, I woke up to find that the winners were announced! Without further ado, who were they?


Top Quark (First prize): my former scibling, SciCurious, for her article, Serotonin and Sexual Preference: Is It Really That Simple? This was a well-deserved win for SciCurious, as guest judge Lisa Randall had the following to say:
My first choice is Scientific American's guest blog, ">Serotonin and Sexual Preference: Is It Really That Simple? SciCurious took on the issue of why scientific studies can be technically well-designed yet demonstrate something entirely different from what the authors claim. This piece was actually good science in itself--science that the authors themselves, not to mention some of the media, failed to properly understand. From the perspective of considering all possible theories that would account for the results and recognizing the complexity of the brain, which can be only addressed in small pieces by such simple mouse studies, this piece was excellent. My hope is that such blogs will temper the overblown claims that biological studies often report based on limited evidence.


Strange Quark (Second Prize): Anne Jefferson, for her article, Levees and the illusion of flood control. This was easily one of the best posts about the environment that I've ever read on the internet, and I'm very pleased for Anne that she won this prize. Lisa Randall had this to say:

I very much liked Anne Jefferson's piece in Highly Allochthonous, Levees and the Illusion of Flood Control, which is my second choice. I was a little hesitant in that there is less science per se than some of the other blogs, but I have to say that I learned a lot. It was interesting hearing about both someone's personal experience and more in-depth investigations into the subject. Differentiating the vantage points of people in a well-developed community, people more spread out along a river, and those of us nowhere nearby who just want things to be stabilized was good and thoughtful reporting. Also the recognition that levees are only one part of the issue--but one worth understanding.

Variations in the fine-structure constant.png

Charm Quark (Third Prize): There was a tie! Between Sean Carroll's very fine article, The Fine Structure Constant is Probably Constant, and another article,

File-Hubble ultra deep field high rez edit1.jpeg

this blog's own Where is Everybody? (Thanks for the nomination and the votes, everyone!) Lisa Randall had this to say:

For third place I am going to defer a little. Physics is my field--particle physics and some cosmology in particular--and I am wary about letting that color my view. But both Starts With A Bang's Where Is Everybody? and Cosmic Variance's The Fine Structure Constant is Probably Constant did a good job of explaining slightly more esoteric phenomena. My colleague Sean Carroll took on the challenge of elucidating the nature of a field and minimizing potential energy for such a field. Explaining the unintuitive notion of a field in understandable terms was something he did admirably. Ethan Siegel took on the challenge of simplifying probability estimates without sacrificing the nature of the enterprise or suppressing the uncertainties involved. What was so great about the latter exercise was that it allowed you to see how science can yield valuable insights, even when there are uncertainties, and how good predictions often require more than a single input piece of information. And he didn't shy away from numbers--albeit nice round ones that most people will understand. In both these respects I'm also going to give a shout-out to the non-nominated blog, The Reference Frame. I don't always agree with everything he says but Luboš Motl does a tremendous job of bringing a wide variety of physics topics to the public.

This award is a great honor, and I thank Lisa Randall, everyone over at 3 Quarks Daily, and -- of course -- all of you for inspiring me to write as I do.

If you haven't, yet, you should take this opportunity to check out all of the finalists, which I've included below.

Incidentally, all four of the winners are now on twitter, and you can follow Sci, Anne, Sean, and me, too, where you can get all of your Starts With A Bang posts in the form of a haiku. (Because why not?)

And once again, congratulations to all of the nominees, and to everyone else doing what they can to help inform the world about how -- to the best of our knowledge -- it really works.

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


Today’s falsehood:  Correlation Implies/Does Not Imply Causality [Greg Laden’s Blog]

As is the case with all of the Falsehoods in the Falsehoods series, one can never really be sure what the falsehood may actually be. In this case, there are two falsehoods: 1) When we see a statistical correlation between two measurements or observations, we can not assume that there is a causal link from one to the other. This is the way the statement "Correlation does not imply causality" or some similar version of that aphorism generally means, and this is an admonishment we often hear; and 2) When we see a statistical correlation between two measurements or observations, there probably is a causal link in there somewhere, even when we hear the admonishment "Correlation does not imply causality" from someone, usually on the Internet. To put a finer point on this: What do you think people mean when they say "Correlation does not equal causality?" or, perhaps more importantly, what do you think that statement invokes in other people's minds?

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


Expert witness: Breitbart on blackmail

Here's some deep civic concern for you:

"I tend to think all these guys that behave this way are putting themselves in positions to be blackmailed," Breitbart said when asked about Vitter. "When you put yourself into an elected position and you're going to, like, do the things that you don't want the public to find out about, but then when you do it, you're going to be exorted, you're going to be blackmailed. It pisses me off."

He ought to know. The primary blackmailer in American politics right now is none other than Andrew Breitbart. Recall:

"I'm doing this to save his family" Breitbart says about his decision not to post a photo that the site describes as "extremely graphic, and leaves nothing to the imagination."

"I would like an apology from him... This was his political strategy -- to accuse me of hacking," Breitbart says.

"I'm trying to do the decent thing here and not release the photo."

How about this one:

“I know how politics works,” Breitbart said. “I know how the politics of personal destruction works. I know how the private detectives work. Don’t go after Meagan (presumably Meagan Broussard, the woman interviewed by Hannity). Don’t go after the other girls and I’m paying attention. And that’s all I can say.”

Or this one:

"Are you saying, Andrew, that there are more tapes?” Hannity asked, playing straight man because he already knew there were more.

“Oh, my goodness, there are,” Breitbart said. “Not only are there more tapes, it’s not just ACORN. (Hannity could be heard delightedly saying “Wow!” in the background). And this message is to Attorney General Holder. I want you to know that we have more tapes. It’s not just ACORN and we’re gonna hold out until the next election cycle or else if you want to do a clean investigation, we will give you the rest of what we have. We will comply with you, we will give you the documentation we have from countless ACORN whistleblowers who want to come forward but are fearful of this organization and the retribution that they fear, that this is a dangerous organization.
Here's another example of what's becoming increasingly clear is a systematic program to dismantle the institutional left:

Last month, scores of public officials across Los Angeles County opened their mail to find nearly identical requests for information: Members of the Los Angeles City Council and the county Board of Supervisors, the Community Redevelopment Agency and Community College District Board of Trustees, the city of Long Beach and untold others were asked to produce records relating to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. It was the first blow, silently delivered, in what could be a nasty fight, of a sort that is becoming increasingly common in American and California politics.

LAANE, as it's known, is an 18-year-old advocacy organization that seeks to fashion and influence public policy relating to jobs, the environment and community development. The group, widely perceived as having a strong liberal slant, has a staff of 45 people and an annual budget of $4 million, and it is headed by a shrewd executive director, Madeline Janis. Housed in a tiny suite of offices just west of downtown (LAANE rents the space from the union UNITE-HERE), its modest quarters give little evidence of its impact, which is profound. In project after project -- from winning passage of the city's Living Wage Ordinance to revamping the way the Los Angeles port handles truck traffic to reimagining the region's approach to recycling -- LAANE has shown itself to be one of Southern California's most potent political organizations.

That has made it plenty of enemies, and one of them is now quietly but unmistakably striking back. The group that filed the requests for information under the California Public Records Act is called MB Public Affairs, a Sacramento-based operation that specializes in "opposition research," the art of ferreting out dirt on one's enemies. MB Public Affairs is headed by Mark Bogetich, a garrulous operative known to his friends as "Bogey," who has helped a number of Republican candidates neutralize their opponents...

When MB Public Affairs filed more than 50 public records requests for information on LAANE, it was not a casual act. It was almost certainly intended to find something damaging, and Interesting:

South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson thinks the GOP budget -- and in particular its call to phase out Medicare and replace it with a marketplace for private insurance -- is a total disaster. He's saying that Republicans, including members in his sphere of influence like Rep. Allen West (R-FL), should back away from it.

In an email to fellow Tea Partiers last week, obtained by The Palm Beach Post, Wilkinson called the GOP plan a "public policy nightmare" that could trigger "huge Democratic wins in 2012," and prompt Republicans to blame the Tea Party for their losses.

"Republicans will lose if they support the Ryan Medicare plan. Americans do not support the [Paul] Ryan plan," he wrote. "Expect the GOP to then blame the Tea Party for losses."

That would certainly be a blessing. It wouldn't solve all of our problems --- some of the worst of them have to do with elite failure. But it would push the Republicans back from the edge and force them reevaluate their extremism. They got a big, unfortunate boost in 2010 when they should have been retrenching but if they can be strongly repudiated in 2012, the party will be likely to do some introspection and recalibrate.

As I said, it won't solve the central problem, but it will take one of the major dangerous consequences of them off the table for a while which might give us some breathing room.


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