The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'villainy'
The latest dispatches from what may be the Fall of the House of Murdoch: the weekend edition of the Guardian has a piece from Marina Hyde, a former Murdoch employee, about the toxic culture of corruption and patronage that permeated the leaden decades of the Murdocracy:
What a country we do live in. My apologies for repeating sentiments voiced in this column many times – as a recovering Murdoch employee, my sponsor insists I share thrice-weekly – but this is a land where a change in prime ministers constitutes the mere shuffling of Rupert's junior personnel. Anyone in doubt as to exactly how dirty a little secret Murdoch has always been is reminded that despite Margaret Thatcher being so close that they repeatedly Christmassed together at Chequers, she does not once even mention him in her memoirs. Not once! Like Voldemort, he must not be named.
[H]istorians assessing this period will find even cabinet papers infinitely less revealing than guest lists. Within the placements of cosy parties in the Cotswolds lie many unpalatable answers. Perhaps they will ask themselves why tragedy-stricken Gordon Brown felt he had to invite a clutch of tabloid editors to the funeral of his baby daughter. If they find that conundrum too ghastly to contemplate, they might question quite why Brown asked the then Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn to his wedding. Fear, presumably. It certainly isn't Richard's charm.The Guardian also has a piece on fault lines within the Murdoch family. Meanwhile, Channel 4 has an illuminating diagram of the network of social ties around Rebekah Brooks, the former News Of The World chief on whose watch the phone hacking is alleged to have happened. Or, as Meg Pickard put it: Rumours have it that email and USB ports have been disabled in the News Of The World offices, presumably to ensure that any of the staff who are being cut loose don't take any incriminating evidence with them.) Not that News will be without a Sunday tabloid; the company registered the domain sunonsunday.co.uk on the day that the scandal broke, and had been meaning to consolidate their titles for a while; the scandal may have just forced their hand.
However, all that may not be enough; Murdoch's bid for BSkyB seems to be in serious trouble, and James Murdoch may face criminal charges on both sides of the Atlantic (the US authorities come down hard on US-listed corporations bribing police officers, as is alleged to have happened, and tend to prosecute the executives).
News International, the British arm of Murdoch’s media empire, “has always worked on the principle of omertà: ‘Do not say anything to anybody outside the family, and we will look after you,’ ” notes a former Murdoch editor who knows the system well. “Now they are hanging people out to dry. The moment you do that, the omertà is gone, and people are going to talk. It looks like a circular firing squad.”And more from Keith Olbermann.
So it looks like the dam has broken and News Corp.'s troubles are just beginning. Though it may be premature to write Murdoch off just yet. He undoubtedly has numerous favours to call in and arms to twist, and there are many nights before any inquiry can take place.
Yesterday's revelations of the ghoulish new lows that Murdoch's tabloid hacks have sunk to, and the promise that deleting messages from a murdered schoolgirl's phone may not have been the worst, seem to have ignited a crisis in Britain's political establishment. This morning, it emerged that News Of The World have been intercepting the voicemail messages of the families of victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombing, like some sorts of grief vampires. Meanwhile, advertisers including Ford, Orange/T-Mobile and npower have started boycotting the News Of The World.
The forces of the Wapping Pact, the alliance forged by Thatcher and Murdoch in the 1980s, and renewed by every prime minister since, have dug their heels in. Murdoch has spoken out in defence of Rebekah Brooks, his CEO, on whose watch the "phone hacking" occurred, and David Cameron, Emperor Murdoch's viceroy at Number 10, has ruled out reversing the government's decision to allow News Corp. to buy the 61% of BSkyB it doesn't own. Other parliamentarians, however, have managed to get an extraordinary parliamentary session called over the incidents, with all parties laying into the Wapping Pact:
Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative, said the Murdoch empire had become too powerful: "We have seen, I would say, systemic abuse of almost unprecedented power. There is nothing noble in what these newspapers have been doing. Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman, he's possibly even a genius, but his organisation has grown too powerful and has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament to our shame."Cameron is also under pressure to call a public inquiry into the incident. Which he might end up doing, though there will be a lot of pressure to keep the terms as narrow as possible and to ensure that it does not cause too much embarrassment for his masters. Meanwhile, the public outrage builds up; 38 Degrees' petition has over 70,000 signatures, and Avaaz' one (albeit a global one) has, at time of posting, 374,170. Both petitions are due in on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Independent's Matthew Norman writes that this may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to finally break Murdoch's corrupting grip on the British political system:
When Margaret Thatcher made her Faustian pact with Mr Murdoch in the 1980s, granting him his every heart's desire in return for his unwavering slavish support, she hastened the creation of the monster we see revealed in all its gruesome hideosity today. In general terms, she gifted him the preposterous media market share he expertly parlayed into a stranglehold over the political elite. In a country without a written constitution, bereft of checks and balances and devoid of oversight, the levers of power are there to be seized by the most ruthless buccaneer in town. This he did with wonted dark genius, coaxing and cajoling, bullying and bribing, to inculcate the near universally received wisdom that without his approval, no party can be elected or prosper in power for long. Once Thatcher had established the precedent of obeisance, it was rigidly and cringingly adhered to thereafter by Mr Tony Blair, the successor but one she begat, and now by his self-styled heir David Cameron.
Specifically, meanwhile, she politicised the police by using them as a political truncheon at Wapping as with the simultaneous miners' strike. In so doing, she placed them in Mr Murdoch's pocket, where they have snugly remained ever since.
It would take cross-party unity on a scale seldom witnessed outside time of war, with all three leaders agreeing that this, finally, is the moment to take up Vince Cable's rallying cry and go to war with Murdoch to break his dominion. A full independent inquiry into News Corp's internal workings should be as automatic as one into the Met's scandalous collusion by lethargy. So, needless to add, should an instant reversal of the green light on the BSkyB deal. It beggars all belief that the take-over might still be permitted. It will be a staggering, transcendent disgrace, after this, if it is.Could the year of the Arab Spring have brought a belated British Spring, during which a more subtle regime falls from power?
Meanwhile, echoes of the scandal are being felt as far as Australia, where it may threaten a Murdoch-led consortium's bid for a contract to operate a national TV broadcasting network.
In 2002, Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler was abducted and murdered. Her family believed for six months that she was alive, on the basis that her voicemail messages were being deleted (and presumably listened to). It has turned out that staff from News Of The World, a Murdoch tabloid, had gotten into her voicemail and were deleting her messages, in order to free up space for more messages and keep the story profitably on the boil:
Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the paper intervened – and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it.
The deletion of the messages also caused difficulties for the police by confusing the picture when they had few leads to pursue. It also potentially destroyed valuable evidence.The editor of the NotW at the time was Rebekah Brooks, who now is Murdoch's CEO in the UK; the deputy editor, Andy Coulsdon, was, until January, Prime Minister David Cameron's media advisor.
In other, unrelated, news, the UK government has approved Murdoch's bid to take over the remainder of cable-TV operation BSkyB. There is a petition against it here.
Did you know that, if you shoot any video with a modern digital video camera and attempt to utilise it commercially, the holders of the video encoder patents are entitled to royalties on each copy made? This is why, for instance, all digital video cameras, up to the highest-end HD ones, are licensed only for non-commercial use; commercial users need to negotiate with a shadowy private consortium named MPEG-LA:
I was first made aware of such a restriction when someone mentioned that in a forum, about the Canon 7D dSLR. I thought it didn't apply to me, since I had bought the double-the-price, professional (or at least prosumer), Canon 5D Mark II. But looking at its license agreement last night (page 241), I found out that even my $3000 camera comes with such a basic license. So, I downloaded the manual for the Canon 1D Mark IV, which costs $5000, and where Canon consistently used the word "professional" and "video" on the same sentence on their press release for that camera. Nope! Same restriction: you can only use your professional video dSLR camera (professional, according to Canon's press release), for non-professional reasons. And going even further, I found that even their truly professional video camcorder, the $8000 Canon XL-H1A that uses mpeg2, also comes with the exact same restriction. You can only use your professional camera for non-commercial purposes. For any other purpose, you must get a license from MPEG-LA and pay them royalties for each copy sold.Even worse: uploading video shot with one of those cameras in a free codec doesn't help, because exporting it to the free codec violates the licensing terms, and also it's not unlikely that all modern codecs fall foul of MPEG-LA's patents.
And that's how an artistic culture can ROT. By creating the circumstances where making art, in a way that doesn't get in your way, is illegal. Only big corporations would be able to even grab a camera and shoot. And if only big corporations can shoot video that they can share (for free or for money), then we end up with what Creative Commons' founder, Larry Lessig, keeps saying: a READ-ONLY CULTURE.
This just in:
Irish Dutch rock'n'roll businessman and globe-trotting "environmentalist" Saint Bono is a colossal hypocrite:
Perhaps appropriately, the tour’s carbon footprint can also be measured in space terms, with their colossal emissions of up to 65,000 tonnes of CO2 enough to fly Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr from earth to the planet Mars — and back.
The band’s vast emissions are dozens of times bigger than Madonna’s carbon footprint on her 2006 world tour, despite her extravagant demands and 250 staff. She produced 1,635 tonnes in air transport.
"The reps are very aggressive - there are three or four companies, and they come in every two weeks or so," he says. "Their main aim is to recommend their product. Sometimes they bring gifts - Nestlé brought me a big cake at new year. Some companies give things like pens and notebooks, with their brand name on them. They try very hard - even though they know I am not interested, that I always recommend breastfeeding, still they come."
According to Save the Children's report, infant mortality in Bangladesh alone could be cut by almost a third - saving the lives of 314 children every day - if breastfeeding rates were improved. Globally, the organisation believes, 3,800 lives could be saved each day. Given that world leaders are committed to cutting infant mortality by two thirds by 2015 as one of the Millennium Development Goals, protecting and promoting breastfeeding is almost certainly the biggest single thing that could be done to better child survival rates. But the formula companies, despite the international code, continue to undermine campaigners' efforts.
Halliburton, the US military/engineering contracting firm which made billions from contracts to "rebuild Iraq", which were supplied without bidding (a state of affairs which apparently had nothing to do with them having been headed by US Vice President Dick Cheney), and which has since become a byword for corporate villainy at its most sinister, is now moving its headquarters from Texas to Dubai, apparently to pay less tax on the US taxpayers' money that's funnelled into its gaping maw.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-N.H., called the company's move "corporate greed at its worst." He added, "This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years. At the same time they'll be avoiding U.S. taxes, I'm sure they won't stop insisting on taking their profits in cold hard U.S. cash."Perhaps, after the next election or two, when they indict Cheney for bathing in human blood or whatever, he can flee to Dubai and live there in splendid exile as well?
Britain's professional recording artists are so angry about their copyrights expiring after 50 years that some even rose from the dead to sign a recording-industry petition for copyright term extension:
If you read the list, you'll see that at least some of these artists are apparently dead (e.g. Lonnie Donegan, died 4th November 2002; Freddie Garrity, died 20th May 2006). I take it the ability of these dead authors to sign a petition asking for their copyright terms to be extended can only mean that even after death, term extension continues to inspire.
(via Boing Boing)
Chilean free-market reformer General Pinochet is dead. Former British PM Margaret Thatcher is greatly saddened. Meanwhile, left-wing troublemakers such as Geoffrey Robertson QC and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture are unhappy that he'll never face justice for the 3,000 people who were killed or "disappeared" and the numerous others tortured as part of his reforms.
What News Corp. doesn't want you to know about MySpace. It turns out that the grass-roots indie-hipster youth web sensation is actually nothing of the sort, but actually the product of a shady spam/adware company:
The whole site is, in essence, a marketing tool that everyone who registers has access to. Users constantly receive spam-like messages from said bands, business, and individuals looking to add more "friends" (and therefore more potential fans, consumers, or witnesses) to their online identity. A testament to this strange new social paradigm is the phrase "Thanks for the Add," a nicety offered when one MySpace user adds another as a friend. Best yet, to use the site, members must log in, causing them to inadvertently view advertisements, and then read their messages on a page with even more advertisements. In the world of MySpace, Spam is earth, air, fire, and water.
3. Tom Anderson did NOT create MySpace. Most users don't know that Tom Anderson (pictured) is more of a PR scheme than anything else--the mascot designed to give a friendlier feel to a site created by a marketing company known for viral entertainment websites, pop-up advertising, spam, spyware, and adware. As MySpace's popularity grew, the MySpace team moved to create a false PR story that would best reflect the ideals and tastes of its growing demographic. They wanted to prevent the revelation that a Spam 1.0 company had launched the site, and created the impression that Tom Anderson created the site, and the lie worked. According to Anderson, the bulk of his initial contribution is as follows: "I am as anti-social as they come, and I've already got 20 people to sign up."Which goes some way towards explaining the numerous irritating, spammy, user-hostile design decisions all over MySpace. If this article is true, then being acquired by Murdoch may have even made MySpace less evil.
Apparently, one of the US-imposed laws in Iraq gives multinational agribusiness a monopoly on seeds. It is illegal for Iraqi farmers to save seeds from their crops, and the only seeds they can buy are genetically-engineered ones from Monsanto and such. Which should keep the profits flowing healthily back to Head Office.