Baby’s Got Legs

It’s hard at the moment to contain my giddiness with the events of the week. I have to literally suppress excitement in order to keep in tow the details of a viral story about the Icarus-like fall of British tabloid News of the World, a tentacle of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire. Here we are, days after the partial solar eclipse in Cancer in another ‘pinch me’ moment in 21st century history: Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp — the corporate father of Fox News – is in deep trouble.

News of the World’s staff illegally hacked thousands of private voice mails of ordinary people, heads of state and the royal family. It obstructed justice by deletion of millions of emails corroborating the hacking. The publication routinely bribed police and other officials to obtain access to voicemails and private medical information on the UK’s former Labour Party Prime Minister while he was still in office. Collusion may have been involved between News of the World and members of the British government – particularly British Prime Minister David Cameron – to turn the tide in an election solely for the financial gain of News Corp. How big can this monster get?  Well, the story has ‘legs’, a media term meaning a news story that has momentum beyond a 24-hour news cycle. And these legs are big — very, very big – with implications reaching right into the halls of Parliament and Congress.

In America, James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, could also face the possibility of being prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — the law designed to stamp out bad corporate behavior, which carries severe financial penalties for those found guilty. On Monday, after this series of revelations appeared over the weekend, the news day closed on an item about a group of investors from News Corp’s Board of Directors filing lawsuit in Delaware against Murdoch for running his mega-news conglomerate like “his own private fiefdom with little or no effective oversight from the board.” As of this writing today, News Corp has withdrawn its bid for BSkyB, a satellite television network, once a golden fleece for Murdoch, whose sole ownership he sought for years. He now has to deal with international political and legal scrutiny for News Corp’s actions committed over the years on behalf of their years-long attempt to purchase BSkyB.

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About Fe Bongolan

Fe Bongolan is a writer, dramaturge and actor living in Berkeley, California. Along with her Planet Waves column "Fe-911," Fe performs with Cultural Odyssey's "The Medea Project -- Theater for Incarcerated Women," which produces work empowering the voices of incarcerated women, ex-offenders, women with HIV-AIDS and young girls. A long-time Planet Waves fan and an employee in the public sector off and on for 30 years, she describes herself a "mystical public servant." When it comes to politics, she loves reading between the lines.
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20 Responses to Baby’s Got Legs

  1. downwiththem says:

    Fe, I am so excited about this and many other “wake-up” calls being instituted on the Internet. So for the PTB…a little quote from Star Trek-The Next Generation….as the Borg so aptly put it, “Resistance is futile”!

  2. Fe Bongolan says:

    BREAKING: I am happily wrong – FBI to look into allegations of hacking into 9-11 families voicemails by NewsCorp. DOJ to issue statement later today.

  3. Fe Bongolan says:

    Brendan:

    DOJ will still have to wait, even with FCPA, for Parliament to conduct hearings and proceed to trial. The Bribery laws in the UK are very strict with large fines and jail, depending on the type of offense — whether it was summary or under indictment, with indictment the heavier, more calamitous charge and punishment.

    The SEC would also have a say if Newscorp did pay bribes, how those bribes were reported in their accounting. If they were hidden or disguised, which more than likely they were, there would be fines to pay at $1,000 per transaction. With the allegations, that $4m right there. Who knows how much, how far?

    But first the Brits have to conduct their inquiry and determine whether it goes to trial. After that, if we are courageous enough, we get involved in the dissection.

  4. Brendan says:

    Fe –

    Excellent article! Maybe it’s time Eliot redeemed his public self, and was made a special prosecutor? As I recall, Wall Street used to live in terror of him, now might be a good moment for him to step in.

    He’s right about the DOJ too: when is Helder going to say and/or do something? The RICO law (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act) might also be applied as well, which allows for the seizure of all assets. If they are found to have used blackmail as a routine method to keep victims quiet and under control, then it certainly applies. Keith Olbermann said as much last night when talking about his tenure at Fox Sports.

    While Fox does own some TV stations whose licenses can be pulled, what actually matters more are their ‘earthsites,’ the satellite stations that distribute their programming across the nation and the world. Those take FCC licenses, you bet, and without them there would be no Fox News whatsoever. The FCC takes a very dim view of their license holders participating in any form of criminal activity; I know of licenses being stripped from amateur radio operators like myself for criminal actions that did not involve the license at all. Any felonious criminal act does it, it’s a very broad brush as written.

  5. Fe Bongolan says:

    Brendan:

    From Mr. Spitzer himself -

    Prosecute News Corp.
    The U.S. government should go after Murdoch’s media company for its corrupt practices and revoke its TV licenses if it’s found guilty.
    By Eliot Spitzer

    Updated Tuesday, July 12, 2011, at 4:09 PM ET

    Bribery, illegal wiretapping, interference in a murder investigation, political blackmail, and rampant disregard for both the truth and basic decency. The behavior of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in Britain has shocked even his closest allies and cynical British journalists. The Murdoch empire is falling apart—criminal behavior and disregard for basic ethics having permeated its highest ranks. News Corp. executives’ claims of a full and thorough investigation and that there were only a few bad apples have been exposed as feeble and false. The pseudo-investigations conducted by Scotland Yard are likewise proving to be corrupt and unreliable. Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government is running for cover, but it cannot escape the untoward relationship that it had with Murdoch.

    First, it is hard to believe that the misbehavior in Murdoch’s media empire stopped at the water’s edge. Given the frequency with which he shuttled his senior executives and editors across the various oceans—Pacific as well as Atlantic—it is unlikely that the shoddy ethics were limited to Great Britain.

    Much more importantly, the facts already pretty well established in Britain indicate violations of American law, in particular a law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

    The Justice Department has been going out of its way to undertake FCPA prosecutions and investigations in recent years, and the News Corp. case presents a pretty simple test for Attorney General Eric Holder: If the department fails to open an immediate investigation into News Corp.’s violations of the FCPA, there will have been a major breach of enforcement at Justice. Having failed to pursue Wall Street with any apparent vigor, this is an opportunity for the Justice Department to show it can flex its muscles at the right moment. While one must always be cautious in seeking government investigation of the media for the obvious First Amendment concerns, this is not actually an investigation of the media, but an investigation of criminal acts undertaken by those masquerading as members of the media.

    What is the FCPA? Enacted after the scandals of the 1970s in which American corporations were bribing overseas officials in order to secure business deals, the FCPA was an effort to bring some baseline of ethics to international business. It prohibits any American company or citizen from paying or offering to pay—directly or indirectly—a foreign official, foreign political figure, or candidate for the purpose of influencing that person in any decision relating to his official duties, including inducing that person to act in violation of his or her lawful duty. Very importantly, even if all such acts occur overseas, the American company and citizen will still be held liable here. So acts in Britain by British citizens working on behalf of News Corp. create liability for News Corp., an American business incorporated in Delaware and listed on American financial exchanges.

    The rampant violations of British law alleged—payments to cops to influence ongoing investigations and the hacking of phones—are sufficient predicates for the Justice Department to investigate. Indeed, the facts as they are emerging are a case study for why the FCPA was enacted. We do not want companies whose headquarters are here—as News Corp.’s is—or that are listed on our financial exchanges—as News Corp. is—polluting the waters of international commerce with illegal behavior. (News Corp. shareholders are also rising against the company, with a huge lawsuit filed Monday in Delaware by three institutional investors claiming that company executives failed to act quickly enough to stop the phone hacking.)

    The other reason to investigate here is that there is serious doubt that this matter can be investigated properly in Great Britain. Scotland Yard is already implicated, as is Cameron’s government. DoJ can and should fill the void.

    If DoJ does investigate and if a court were to find News Corp. liable, the penalties should extend beyond the traditional monetary fine. News Corp. should also have its FCC licenses revoked. Licensure and relicensure by the FCC require that the licensee abide by the law and serve the public interest. News Corp. appears to have blatantly violated this basic standard. Its licenses should be pulled.

  6. Amanda Painter Amanda Painter says:

    and in debt ceiling news, obama warns cantor, “don’t call my bluff!”

    ooh — he’s sounding like a wild west sheriff finally! i think we need one.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/13/obama-debt-ceiling-meeting_n_897834.html?ref=fb&src=sp

  7. Fe Bongolan says:

    Brendan:

    Thanks for the clarification on the FCPA. I’ve been seeing bits and blurbs on it while researching this story — but this story has been moving so fast that gelling it into a full picture with theme was a task, so I passed over the accountability trail on FCPA.

    As for Rebekah Brooks, she and David Cameron are neighbors and friends. I think she is his cover and as long as Cameron is in office, she is safe, at least for now. She basically helped him into office with News Corp’s support — they needed 100% of BSkyB — no questions asked, and Gordon Brown was not going to allow it to be easy for them. So Brown and the Labour Party incurred Murdoch wrath, making room for Cameron.

  8. Brendan says:

    Fe – I think the FCPA falls under DOJ/FBI jurisdiction, as it appears to have been amended to cover government officials as well, and not just business practices. As I’ve read, James Murdoch would be held responsible for the actions of the NewsCrap minions in the UK. The new WSJ editor (Hinton, I think) could also be charged under FCPA, since he was an accessory to it. Rebekah Brooks might not be, since she’s never worked over here and technically is head of the main UK-only uber-minion, News International. No one the BBC has talked to can figure out why she hasn’t been sacrificed to Mammon yet, and Rupert seems willing to protect her at all costs. What’s the quid pro quo there?

  9. bkoehler says:

    Ahh Fe,

    For an ‘airy broad, you sure do light my fire!
    be

  10. Fe Bongolan says:

    be:

    It feels as though the stars have aligned for Murdoch in the UK, and it ain’t pretty. His ASC is Cap, so he’s getting put through the cultural Cuisinart. Such is the pity to be felt with the most microscopic of violins.

    brendan:

    Funny you should mention this. While driving back from class tonight, I was wondering what crimes would Newscrack be accused of here?

    I think what comes up front is the hacking into voice mails of surviving families of the 9-11 victims. This is 3,000-plus individual lawsuits waiting to happen. When Peter King (R-Idiot-NY) demands a hearing in Congress on what Murdoch has done, the shit must really reek.

    PS – My sporadic PW appearance was due to the surgery my sister had three weeks ago, which really does take hold of one’s inner creative spiral, followed immediately after with my too short vacation up north to mountain country a little ways from the Russian River.

    But all is well. We have a major political scandal of epic global proportions poking up like a geyser — and just when you thought this was going to be a cruel, dull summer and the wells had gone dry — all you had was sex scandals and massive economic meltdown in the US and Western Europe. Time to keep the powder dry.

    Ahh Pluto. Ahh Uranus.

    As for the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, there will first need to be Congressional hearings–which to me seems a little like a grand jury inquiry. More than likely this could get referred to the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) for investigation.

    As I mentioned to Len below, this situation may take up the entirety of Pluto in Capricorn in court, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. If we can get Murdoch into the stockades, the trial and appeals could, IF COVERED RIGHT, be the undercurrent for the era of big business and government getting their asses scrutinized, or busted free with impunity, letting the masses seethe. If the Murdochs messed with the sacred cow of 9-11, the very icon they used to wield against anyone who dared challenge the Bush Administration, they deserve their asses handed back to them, skin crispy and flesh well done.

  11. Brendan says:

    The weekly Fe Fix is here, the Fe Fix is here!!!

    And yes, Fe, another brilliant piece. I too am hopeful about the demise of NewsCrap, but there are a lot of bridges that have to be crossed first. I’m waiting for insiders to start spilling the beans about Fox, once legal/judicial pressure is brought to bear. Saving one’s skin from jail is an important motivator in this situation.

    The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act may take away the top people, what happens then?

  12. bkoehler says:

    Bravo Fe! Your fury makes for very powerful writing and the pen is mightier than the sword; just ask Mr. Murdoch. He is the Medusa of the english language and when his head is cut off, other evils will no doubt continue to appear. One wonders what set him on his path of spreading lies and contributing to the dumbing down of America. Only when people have been educated enough to recognize that their most base consciousness is being tempted by this kind of slime will Medusa’s power be defused.

    But we are in that time now. Oh most assuredly Pluto knows scum when he sees it, but it is Uranus in Aries who gives us the courage and the consciousness to boldly go where no one has gone before. I think too that Chiron has had a “hand” in bringing the pain of the Murdoch regime’s skulduggery to light. In the natal chart of News of the World (Oct 1, 1843), Chiron is at 26 Leo 26 and trine the north node at 27 Sagittarius 07 rx, where the Galactic Core/Center is right now. God and the Universe DO work in mysterious ways!!!

    See this chart and that of NewsCorp at http://astrotabletalk.blogspot.com/
    be

  13. Lea Burning River says:

    dark mary–thanks for the links–i’m on it

    Fe, stellar, dear Star.

    “If you’re an American and you care about politics, it’s hard to shake off a sense of disbelief hearing this news. When you’ve watched your country ride to ruin on a steady diet of lies from Murdoch’s Fox News, America’s tabloid network, news about any fall of a Murdoch operation is like hearing Dracula is dead. You need to take every bit of info with a grain of salt, and have a stake ready in your jacket just in case.”

    My stake is ready, but the hand holding it has my fingers crossed.
    HUGS To All.

  14. awordedgewise awordedgewise says:

    Fe, you totally rock – ‘n’roll too. Fox has never been “news” has it.

    Len, you crack me up; McBeth, Murdock – sort of sound alike even… “Can’t get it off”….toast to that when the cork comes out.

  15. Len Wallick Len Wallick says:

    darkmary,
    Thank you. Done and did both of them. Looking at Mr. Murcoch’s photos i can’t help but think that if i had his kind of money i would do something so as NOT to look like the Emperor from Star Wars. Or maybe he’s like Lady Macbeth and he can’t get it off.

  16. darkmary says:

    Just a couple of the petitions urging Congress to investigate Murdoch’s activities in the U.S.:

    http://act2.freepress.net/sign/investigate_murdoch/
    http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/investigate_news_corp/

  17. Fe,

    This is one of the best things I have ever read. Full stop.

    And I’m with Len in being not quite ready to pop a Pholian cask in celebration however, the keg is here and we have the cork in sight. Pluto and his party animal pals are getting ready to bring down the house and get this shindig rolling!
    Yes, Baby has legs… beautiful, powerful, Centaur legs with fabulous fetlocks! Now she needs to tear up the track and leave everyone who has been feasting on misery, eating dust!

    Thank you for this astonishingly precise and powerful piece of writing. Between this and Eric’s podcast, and all the other incredible contributions this week here in PW, the sails are set and fully powered up. Glad to be onboard with such awesome navigators who know how to steer by the stars!

    You all rock!

  18. Len Wallick Len Wallick says:

    Ah yes, the wheels of justice move as slowly as Pluto (with just as many retrogrades) when the perp is wealthy.

  19. Fe Bongolan says:

    Len:

    That means we need to push those Senate investigations by Rockefeller, Lautenberg, Boxer and Menendez as much as possible. And fix the system so that no one party benefits. That means a strengthening of the First Amendment and review of the FCC Act of 1934 and 1996.

    If this does go to American court it could be an ongoing legal battle for as long as Pluto is in Cap, and will probably go to the SCOTUS before its all over.

    I can’t see any other cake mix like this one that governs so many elements ruled by the sign of the Goat. Governments and big business in bed — finally under scrutiny. If anything, the trials of News Corp (whose own Fox Network was born during the start of Pluto in Cap) are arriving right on time.

  20. Len Wallick Len Wallick says:

    Fe,
    Thank you. i doubt that any other journalist, anywhere has pulled together the facts and laid out the consequences as forcefully and convincingly as you have. The main thing that would threaten the legs of this story is motivation. Competing media conglomerates will have reason to bring us the story (and Mr. Murdoch’s downfall) only as long as they stand to profit from his losses. There are very few like you, even recognizing the pervasive criminal enterprise that News Corp is, much less speaking to it. That’s why i’m not giddy about this so far. The competition is no better than News Corp and there are very few like you who would get to the root of the matter and pull it out of the ground.

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