Redstone’s Vote: What Would Viacom Do?

Sumner Redstone, CEO of Viacom, the parent company of CBS, told the Wall Street Journal that he’s backing George W. Bush for president.

“I look at the election from what’s good for Viacom. I vote for what’s good for Viacom….from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on.”

Redstone has previously described himself as a liberal Democrat. He has been a reliable source of contributions to Democratic candidates and even co-chaired Edmund Muskie’s presidential campaign in 1972.

So why the conversion?

Hard-boiled cynics might point out that CBS is embroiled in the RatherGate fake memo debacle and this political rebirth is an attempt at penitance. As I am only soft-to-medium boiled myself, I will only allude to what the hard-boiled cynics might say. The more significant revelation is that Mr. Redstone is confessing to giving his vote away to the corporate institution that he controls.

The right to vote in this country is the citizen’s opportunity to to have an impact on the nature and direction of the government. The most basic principle of democracy is that the voter has the ability to make decisions about government that are in the voter’s and/or the public’s interest. If corporations were meant to have a vote in these matters, the Constitution, or a subsequent amendment, would have granted it (perhaps I shouldn’t give them any ideas).

This is important because of the inherent differences in the interests of citizens and the interests of corporations. While the public interest may be broadly diverse ideologically, it remains within boundaries that affect lifestyle, welfare and culture. These include personal and community concerns such as family, healthcare, education, security, even morality. On the other hand, corporate interests are neither broad nor diverse nor even ideological. They have only one agenda: to return value to shareholders. That’s a perfectly good agenda to be discussed and voted upon in the boardroom (although it wouldn’t hurt to introduce some morality there as well). But it is wholly inappropriate for that standard to be applied to the civic duty we engage in when voting.

Mr. Redstone has done a disservice to his fellow citizens by allowing his most selfish and mercinary impulses to overpower his common sense and patriotism. I would hope he has second thoughts about his vote and his public announcments of support. He can still choose to act on what’s best for America as a whole and not on what’s best for the congregation of Viacom shareholders.

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The Official Debate Rules Handbook

  • The candidates may not ask each other direct questions.
  • The candidates shall not address each other with proposed pledges.
  • The candidates will refrain from acknowledging that anyone else is in the room.

  • Prior to the debate, each candidate must submit any paper, pens and/or pencils to the Commission staff.
  • Prior to the debate, audience members will be asked to submit their questions in writing to the moderator.
  • Prior to the debate, the FBI will conduct background investigations on all participants to affirm appropriate loyalty to The Leader.

  • The candidates shall enter the stage upon a verbal cue from the moderator.
  • The candidates shall proceed to center stage and shake hands.
  • The candidates shall take their postions behind  their podiums.
  • The candidates shall do the hokey-pokey and turn themselves around, because that is what its all about.

  • The Oct 8 debate will be conducted in an audience participation (“town hall”) format.
  • If an audience member attempts to participate in the debate…the moderator shall instruct the audience to refrain from any participation.
  • If any audience member poses a question materially different from the one submitted, the commission shall cut off the microphone, cover his/her head with a bag and administer a shock to the genitals.

  • Each candidate may move about in a pre-designated area.
  • At no time shall either candidate move from their designated area behind their respective podiums.
  • The pre-designated areas of the candidates may not overlap.
  • Allemande left and do-si-do, dixie twirl and away you go.

  • The parties agree that they will not issue any challenges for additional debates.
  • The parties agree that they will not appear at any other debate.
  • The parties agree that they will pretend that these are actually debates.

  • If a candidate exceeds the permitted time for comment, the moderator shall interrupt by stating, “I am sorry, your time is up.”
  • If a candidate exceeds the highest deficit in history, presides over a loss of 2 million jobs, and engages in an elective war that makes the nation less safe, the moderator shall interrupt by stating, “I am sorry, your time is up.”

Still Unreported: The Pay-off in Bush Air Guard Fix

Greg Palast, our man in London, continues to be the zealous over-achiever repeatedly scooping his countrymen in the U.S. In this article he adds new substance to the controversy surrounding Bush’s alledged stint in the Texas national Guard.


A Zeal For Secrecy

Bill Moyers, in a speech before the Society of Professional Journalists, offerred his much-heralded insight into the obsession for secrecy of modern government. Some highlights:

  • President Bush’s chief of staff ordered a review that lead to 6,000 documents being pulled from government Web sites.
  • The Department of Defense banned photos of military caskets being returned to the United States.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney kept his energy task force records secret “to hide the influence of Kenneth Lay, Enron and other energy moguls.”
  • The CIA asks a new question during its standard employer polygraph exam: “Do you have friends in the media?”
  • “There have been more than 1,200 presumably terrorist-related arrests,” Moyers said, “and 750 people deported, and no one outside the government knows their names or how many court docket entries have been erased or never entered.”
  • Secret federal court hearings have been held without any public record of when or where, or who was tried.
  • When the American Civil Liberties Union challenged provisions of the Patriot Act, it was prohibited from telling anyone about it.
  • The Washington Post reported that in recent years, judicial committees acting in secret stripped information nearly 600 times from reports intended to alert the public to conflicts of interest involving federal judges.

“By pillaging and plundering our peace of mind, they hoped to panic us into abandoning those unique freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of the press – that constitute the ability of democracy to self-correct and turn the ship of state before it hits the iceberg.” The greatest moments in the history of the press, Moyers said, “came not when journalists made common cause with the state, but when they stood fearlessly independent of it.”

And what is surely to become a classic quote held in reverence by principled journalists everywhere:

Moyers said, “…what’s important for the journalist is not how close you are to power but how close you are to reality.”


Ashcroft: 0 for 5,000

David Cole writes for The Nation that the Justice Department’s war on domestic terrorism is pitifully unproductive.

On September 2 a federal judge in Detroit threw out the only jury conviction the Justice Department has obtained on a terrorism charge since 9/11. In October 2001, shortly after the men were initially arrested, Attorney General John Ashcroft heralded the case in a national press conference as evidence of the success of his anti-terror campaign.

With the dismissal of these charges, there has not been a single conviction on terrorism in the U.S.


Blogs Take Lead Role In CBS Memo Furor

It was bound to happen. The media is doing such a bad job of investigating, analyzing, and delivering the news, that even Investor’s Business Daily is touting the oft-maligned blogosphere for their journalistic prowess.

In the same way the market sifts and analyzes information stocks far better than any individual investor or institution ever could, the blogosphere weeds out the chaff and develops and hones analysis and facts at, well, Internet speed.

For a medium that has become synonymous with incredulity, this is a big step. It was not long ago (I think, yesterday), that if you told someone you got your facts from the Internet you would be subjected to a heavy sigh and severe rolling of the eyes. Now the same source is being hailed as CBS’ fact checker.

We have to be careful here. Obviously I would like to promote the concept that accurate and insightful information is available in the blog community. But this community is no more accurate today than it was yesterday, and discretion is still the watchword. Now that the value and power of Internet punditry is being recognized, it is important that this recognition is served up to the deserving and not dished out indiscriminately. There are still alot of antennae-heads out there. This is, however, a step in the right direction. The mainstream media has got to watch it’s back. There’s a new sheriff in town.

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Cheney – Fear Mongrel

Vice-President Dick Cheney is warning Americans that if they “make the wrong choice” this November it will result in more terrorist attacks. This shockingly transparent attempt at fear-mongering does nothing to advance the campaign dialogue and, in fact, insults all Americans by suggesting that they cannot make a free decision without assuming responsibility for catastrophe if they are wrong. And, of course, there is only one “wrong.”

Cheney is not foreign to making such over-the-top allegations. He is, perhaps, the most strident purveyor of the universally rejected theory that Saddam and bin Laden were collaborators. He also frequently says that…

“Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness.”

This view always prompts me to ask myself just what he means. Is he saying that in September 2001, with the Bush administration in office for 9 months, the terrorists perceived weakness and were, thus, invited to attack?

The sad thing is that, while I may ask myself these questions, no one in the media is asking them of the vice-president or the administration he serves.


Future Unclear For 527 Ads As 60-Day Window Arrives

AdWeek is reporting that the environment for election ads may be altering course.

…due to the 60-day window, all ads must now be financed using “hard” money and be subject to party- and candidate-ad rules, including claiming responsibility for the message in the creative–or face further restrictions.

The 527s have been a persistent peculiarity in recent weeks. Surrogates on both sides of the political spectrum have used them to whack their opponenent. This has not, however, been conducted with moral equivalency on each side. Joshuah Bearman of the LA Weekly writes:

Contrary to the dogma of J[ournalism] schools across the country, there are not always two sides to a story. Balance is often necessary and indispensable, but there are times when the media might have to…mediate a bunch of information and make a judgment. And in those instances, presenting contrasting information as if it’s equally important is, in fact, the false representation…..don’t quote people who are lying just to have “both sides” represented.

However, the attempts by Bush, and to a lesser extent, Kerry, to do away with 527s is a bit disconcerting. There are ever fewer outlets for political speech, particularly speech that eminates from the grassroots. Certainly many of the 527s are not grassroots outfits, but they have the potential to be. The more enlightened approach would be to tinker with the statute so that it promotes citizen participation and disallows the sponsoship of vested interests.


Variety: Media Congloms Muzzling Dissent

Now even the pre-eminent mouthpiece for the entertainment industry is awash in the revelation that the media is virtually incapable of tolerating dissenting views. This is particularly true when those views are contrary to the interests of their corporate owners.

From the article:

Not only were hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in New York dismissed or downplayed last week by the media … but the parent companies of the media are becoming increasingly reluctant to go out on a limb about anything controversial.

The mainstream press acheived lows embarrassing even for them. With reports of demonstrator attendance as high as 500,000, there was still precious little coverage of substance. While they did liberally cover some of the goofy charactors that show up at these events (in a transparent effort to trivialize the entire protest community), they managed to avoid entirely the thousands of protesters that participated in the March on the Media. It may be too much to expect that they would cover events critical of themselves, but their negligence extends to anything that generates a hint of controversy.


The Simple Life

The Simple Life

Coming this Fall on Fox

They’re rich. They’re sexy. They’re totally OUT-OF-CONTROL!

Be sure not to miss any of the outrageous antics as Jenna and Barbara try to fit in with the common folk. It’s a laugh riot that will leave you in stitches.

Next week’s episode: The Bush twins invade Iraq. Performing their patriotic duty, the girls enlist in the Air Force and, like their father, spend more time in the hot tub than in uniform. As daddy taught them, “If we don’t party over there they’ll bring the party here. And then we’ll have to clean up afterwards”

Only on FOX
[and on Crass Commerce]