The Washington Post: An American Story

Dear Friend and Reader:

Just hours before the Leo New Moon, the owners of The Washington Post announced that they had sold the paper to Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of

While everyone said they were shocked, The Post had been struggling, and seeking a buyer, for a while. Nobody could be that surprised that the money to buy the paper came from the industry that has all but swallowed print media — the Internet.

The historical development that The Washington Post helped create — the resignation of Richard Nixon, after 18 months of relentless coverage of Watergate by Woodward and Bernstein.

The Post, founded in 1877, went through a succession of owners before it was purchased at a bankruptcy auction in 1933 by financier Eugene Meyer during the Great Depression.

Meyer had served as chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1930-1933, and then served as the first president of the World Bank Group — that is, the World Bank. So the 80-year history of Meyer-Graham control of the paper begins with an investment by someone who could legitimately be called part of the global elite.

What is interesting is that the paper became one of the liberal bastions of American journalism, and was sometimes referred to as “Pravda on the Potomac.” FBI big boss J. Edgar Hoover said he never read the thing, because it reminded him of Worker’s World, a socialist newspaper.

Meyer restored the paper to vitality and served as its publisher until 1946, when he was appointed as president of the World Bank. He passed the reins to his son-in-law, Philip Graham. He was a striking and charismatic figure inside the Beltway, and a successful businessman, expanding the newspaper’s holdings vastly. And he was a symbol of the new young elite of the early 1960s, the Camelot era.

As he grew older, however, Graham developed mental illness. In her memoir, his widow Katharine Graham said that her husband drank heavily and lapsed into periods of depression, and also suffered severe manic episodes. He was in and out of mental hospitals. During one hospital stay in August 1963, he convinced his doctors to let him take a break. He went home and shot himself with a .28-gauge shotgun.

Katharine Graham, member of the global elite who did not act like one. Photo courtesy of The Washington Post.

His suicide cast a pall over the capital that was still looming like storm clouds on the day that John F. Kennedy was shot just three months later. Two of Washington’s most dynamic socialites were dead.

Katharine Graham was not an extrovert or anyone with the inherent desire to lead a company, much less be in a position of national authority. But she overcame her anxieties and, with trust in the paper’s editors, she led the newspaper through its most important phase in the early 1970s.

She had the guts to incur the wrath of Richard Nixon, and published the Pentagon Papers in 1971 — the leaked documents proving that the Vietnam War was constructed on false pretenses by the U.S. government. The New York Timeswas the first to publish articles based on the Pentagon Papers, but The Post’s coverage was considered just as meaningful.

Nixon sued both The Times and The Post, attempting to block publication of articles about the leaked documents — in advance, known as prior restraint — but in neither case would the courts allow the censorship to take place. The judge who got The Post’s case refused to sign an injunction.

The Times’ case made it to the Supreme Court, where Justice Hugo Black famously wrote, “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.”

From left to right, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and their editor, Ben Bradlee, in The Washington Post’s newsroom.

If The Times outshined the Post on its coverage of the Pentagon Papers, the Post more than made up for it in its coverage of the Watergate scandal. Though the story is credited to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as well as executive editor Benjamin Bradlee, it was Katharine Graham who, behind the scenes, made sure that the story stayed in the paper. It’s easy for the top leadership of a company to balk at something like going after such a powerful figure as Nixon, but she had the courage to go forward.

John Mitchell, Nixon’s attorney general, famously warned Bernstein that “Katie Graham’s gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that’s published.” In the end, of course, it was Nixon’s tit that got caught in the wringer of reality.

While we are on the topic of Watergate, it’s worth adding one point. This was not the story of a “second rate burglary,” as Nixon apologists still like to say. The arrests for the break-in unraveled a vast conspiracy starting in the brain of Richard Nixon, extending into the FBI, the IRS, and the manipulation of the 1972 Democratic primary and the general election. It was a web of evil so wide, few would think it safe to believe it was real, much less to do something about it.

To me, the story of The Washington Post as we know it is the story of an American family going through what so many families go through, which is dealing with human reality in the midst of running a very challenging business. But when I think of The Post I think of Katharine Graham’s steadfastness and courage in leading the newspaper through many, many dangerous moments, and having the guts to do what few publishers would do today. She did this rising above the grief of losing her beloved husband to suicide, one of the most painful scenarios that a survivor can go through.

Girl reads news of the Moon landing in The Washington Post in 1969. Viral image.

Her family’s ownership had its roots in the elite governing powers of the country and indeed the world, but she did not act that way. She did what she thought was right, at potentially enormous peril to herself, her company and her fortune.

Now the paper has been purchased by Jeff Bezos, one of the wealthiest men on Earth. He was someone who had a vision of what the Internet could be. He pitched the idea for to the hedge fund where he was working, and when they passed on the idea, he quit and started the company himself.

In founding Amazon, Bezos took advantage of a new ruling that said that companies did not have to charge sales tax in states where they did not have a physical presence. He turned an online bookstore into an online shopping mall and eventually into one of the most powerful data management companies in the world.

It’s also one that is involved with the shadow U.S. government. The company was recently awarded a $600 million contract to build a secure cloud storage facility for the CIA. ­It was Amazon, if you recall, had kicked WikiLeaks off of its servers when Julian Assange was a focus in the news — it’s now clear where Bezos’ real loyalty was.

Amazon has the same spotty record as just about any other multinational company. One glaring example of its treatment of workers comes out of a facility in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

The Morning Call newspaper reported in 2011, “Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said.”

“Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions? Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?” Bezos speaks to Princeton’s class of 2010. Photo:

Instead of putting air conditioning in the facility, “During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress,” continuing, “An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an ‘unsafe environment’ after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems. The doctor’s report was echoed by warehouse workers who also complained to regulators, including a security guard who reported seeing pregnant employees suffering in the heat.”

We don’t really know what Bezos’ plans for the newspaper are; we do know that he predicted the end of printed newspapers within 20 years, except maybe a few specimens for select clients of posh hotels — kind of like the endangered species dinner. It doesn’t look like The Washington Post is going to be Pravda on the Potomac. But that is just an educated guess.


Weekly Horoscope for Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, #961| By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — If you have the sensation that you’re slowly working your way toward some emotional edge, but you don’t know where it is, I would say that’s about right. The larger experience is that you keep reaching one challenge, passing over or through it, and then another, and you may be wondering when you are going to reach the actual brink. It may involve your sense of safety, your patience, your tolerance of a domestic situation, or some factor that’s been making you angry. Beneath all of these various experiences or feelings is something much deeper, which is the desire to cut loose. By that I mean, really cut loose and be as wild and as passionate as you feel inside. The story of our society is the story of keeping that particular set of desires in check. It works, for a while, but it has a lot of frustrating and negative effects. One of them is that you might feel like an animal with a wild streak who is on a chain or in a cage, and you want more than anything to break free. If so, congratulations — and keep going.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You seem to be coming apart and putting yourself back together on a daily basis. I would offer a hint that there is one piece to the puzzle that you’re missing, and you might want to focus on finding that before you do another disassemble/reassemble. Or said another way, stop and consider what the missing piece might be. I can offer you a couple of clues. It seems to involve a love affair, described by your ruling planet Venus transiting your solar 5th house. That in turn describes a situation where you long for a sense of purity and may be taking out your frustrations on yourself in the form of perfectionism. You may have the sense of being on your own; where there was so recently a sense of contact and movement, there may be the sensation of nothing left to reach for. I am sure you’ll be glad to hear that this is a temporary experience. You’re working out the results of a stage of growth, and within a week or so, a whole new field of reality opens up. Till then, take it easy on yourself.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You may feel like you’re getting out of the water after having soaked too long, going up onto the beach and having the urge to go back into the water. You may feel restless, with the sense of being hemmed in to some confine you cannot see but you can feel. What is that space? It looks like the necessity to be mature, or to collect yourself and not be so scattered. Astrologically these translate to getting clear on how you feel about yourself. To that end, I suggest you clearly identify the various questions you may have, and the conditions you may be placing on having a peaceful relationship with yourself. This is not about assembling the parts as much as it is about asking yourself the right question. If you find yourself playing with your mind as if it’s a puzzle or a set of Tinker Toys, I suggest you pause and reflect. This thing I’m calling the right question will arrive with the feeling of inner leverage and give you the sensation that you can maneuver in the world.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — There seems to be a pattern that’s been in your life for months. You may not be able to discern whether it’s an emotional pattern or a mental one; in truth it’s at the place where the two realities meet — what you may think of as the mind-body nexus. Current planetary movements are helping you shift the dynamic, whatever it may be, but there are ways that you can help the process along. One way is by increasing your physical activity. Don’t sit at your desk for long; get up at least twice an hour and move around. Get outside. Remember the sport you used to love the most and try some of that again. (Speaking as a Cancer rising, I have a date with the local batting range soon.) Seemingly on another frequency entirely but not really, invest some energy into writing. By that I mean bold written expression. Do your best to skip over the ‘form’ thing and go right for the gutsy core of what you want to express, in all its pathos, passion and curiosity.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Mercury has just ingressed your sign, which may be arriving with the sensation of the lights coming on after a long trek through the dark. Or described another way, you may have the feeling that a trove of knowledge that you’ve earned and accumulated is finally catching up to your awareness, kind of like you knew it all, and now you’re discovering that you did. You will need this knowledge in the coming days. If you find yourself facing a challenge, particularly one centered on your household or family, the key is to remember what you know. Another key is to remember that you have not just allies but supporters — you just need to recognize who is and who is not one of those. If you’re a woman, I suggest you notice the mother-daughter dynamics in your environment, including in your own family and those of others. If you’re a man, tune into this dimension in the women who are around you. This seems to be at the heart of the matter, and the core theme is learning to be flexible — more flexible than mom.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — I suggest you proceed with caution, for example, as if you’re piloting a boat and you’re unsure how deep the water is. Slow down and stay close to the center of the channel. Put someone up on the bow to keep watch, because there might be random objects floating in the water. The most significant thing you must pay attention to is your own state of mind. Make sure that you do what requires alertness (driving a car, juggling chain saws, getting acquainted with a new person) with full attention. If you notice that your attention is lapsing, take a pause, a nap, a walk or get a good night’s sleep. One advantage you have is that information will be coming to you from non-ordinary sources, including what seem like psychic impressions, dreams and synchronicities. To sum up, you have a need for more awareness, and you also have more kinds of awareness to draw upon. As you do this, you may run into something, an idea, experience or obstacle that seems to violate your intuition. I strongly suggest that you not override what your ‘extra’ senses are telling you. But at that point, stop and collect evidence.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — You seem to be lost in the sauce of your own life. It’s as if you have gone missing from yourself, or as if you’ve replaced your presence in your own life with an idea about who you are. It’s kind of like you’ve invented yourself into an avatar, though it’s a pretty convincing one. That process may get a little jolt over the next few days, and you’ll be awakened into the reality that something more is possible. It may be that someone tries to get your attention with an action or a statement. It may be that you encounter a person or experience that compels you to bring more of yourself into the exchange. You may decide spontaneously to wake up from a slumber of self-denial. Whatever form the reality check takes, I would count it as a positive development and good practice. Venus, your ruling planet, is heading for your sign. Currently it’s in Virgo and arrives in Libra on Aug. 16. That begins a whole new phase of life experience — one that will require you to be fully present in your own reality every day, all the time.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “If Men are so wicked as we now see them with Religion what would they be if without it?” I meditate on this quotation often, which comes from a letter commenting on a book someone sent Franklin about why we would be better off without worship, prayer and the “guards and guides” provided by religion. He urged the writer to burn the manuscript before anyone else could see it, and told the author he was spitting into the wind and thus into his own face. While I think that old Ben was right about most things, and a generous, lusty guy, I find his point of view puzzling. For instance, didn’t he notice that religion so often drives people to misery, self-doubt and inner division? He spent a lot of time in Europe and he had to know of the blood-soaked battlefields, including one in Germany where 22,000 “Christians” slaughtered one another in a single day. But hey, even Ben couldn’t see everything. I suggest you look closely at all your notions of religion, of God, of Goddess, of sin, of sacrifice and of whether pleasure is appropriate in the eyes of the Universe.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You seem to be invested in an obsession of some kind. The question, however, is whether this is a self-obsession or whether it’s really about someone else. Another related question is, is this a sexual thing or isn’t it? If it is, it has a curiously asexual quality, though you might want to check whether that’s some kind of defense mechanism. You could also inquire with yourself if you’re trying to figure out if the scenario meets the approval of someone important in your life, such as your father. That wrinkle, or some kind of father figure, may be casting a kind of weirdness over the situation. I would offer, though, that just because something is a little strange doesn’t make it wrong, unnecessary or unhealthy. In fact, the slightly off-pitch flavor may be the point of interest or intrigue. While you’re sorting through this, I suggest you notice any way in which you’re holding back your passion, commitment or energy fearing that you might not be approved of, if you were to let go into the person and/or the feelings involved.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Over the next few days, you’ll need to iron out the details of a commitment that is finally showing some promise. Though you may be feeling enthusiastic about this, the details are significant. Be conscious that what seems off to a great start may arrive at an obstacle of some kind, which is your clue to get a new overview, then get busy with the subtle points. In this whole matter, your flexibility will count for a lot. Said another way, you hold a lot of power, particularly in your ability to say yes or no to just about anything. It will help to recognize when you are and are not willing to bend, compromise and look for a work-around. One potential sticking point is how you think you’re perceived by your friends, the community and whatever you define as the ‘public’. Is there some issue of image involved here? Are you concerned about being seen as something you’re not, or revealed for something that you are? If that is a factor, it would be better if it was a conscious one, rather than a covert one.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Mercury is stirring up the need for a conversation about sex, or rather, many of them. There’s just one little problem: sex is the one thing that everyone is an expert on, hardly anyone has read a book about and that few people have the courage (or the vocabulary) to discuss. It’s commonly avoided; that’s not a shock. Then there are numerous taboos thrown over the topic, as well as not just the acceptability of lying about it but also a kind of urgency to do so. This is, however, the area of existence that wants more than any other to be invited into the light of day. It’s likely to be the stuck point in one or more of your partnerships, though if you follow the threads, you’ll discover that may go deeper. For example, you might recognize that you simply must come to terms with this subject in its many forms. These include sex for fun, for healing, for reproduction, sexual health and, finally, the financial value you put on your favors. Everyone has a price. What is yours, and more to the point, why?

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — You may finally be able to tackle a problem that has been elusive for months on end. It would seem, from the look of your solar chart, that you already know what this is about, but that you haven’t come up with the words to describe it, or the ideas to consider it tangibly. As you bring your intuitive impressions into form, you will gain power over your situation. As you develop the language to speak about it clearly, including to yourself, it will seem to hold far less power over you. If at any point you notice the thought form that what you’re dealing with is something intractable, something that just won’t budge, remember — this is just an idea, it’s not a reality. If you think of it as a reality, you will be unlikely to do anything about it. If you remember that it’s a concept, it will seem to be much more flexible. One thing to remember is that all concepts come from the past. I suggest you figure out where this one came from, and take an inventory of the many alternative possibilities that you have.

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