Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

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Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby Jeff » Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:42 pm

Not Amazon; Jeff Bezos personally.

This is all still a shock. But we can surmise that the Graham family, longtime proud guardians of the WaPo legacy, saw a golden opportunity to take the money and run. (The paper confirms that the Graham family hired an investment bank to shop the paper around.) The Wall Street Journal sold six years ago for $5 billion; the WaPo is selling for 1/20th of that. That's the direction the newspaper business is headed. It is becoming a boutique business for extremely rich people — a way for them to luxuriate in the prestige, and cultural respect, and political influence that newspapers still command, to some extent. How this shit will turn out is anyone's guess.

Update: As WaPo reporters begin considering the conflicts of interest that will come along with having Bezos as their boss, here is a special one for the paper's vaunted national security desk: Amazon recently landed a $600 million contract to build an entire cloud computing system for the CIA. The company is reportedly staffing up on engineers with top secret clearance. Does Jeff Bezos have top secret clearance? That would be something that the Washington Post might want to think about, considering how much reporting their journalists have done on the topic. A huge CIA contractor is now Dana Priest's boss. Think about that. ... 1033049827

I don't think the observation running a paper is a "boutique business for extremely rich people" calls for a newsie crying EXTREE! EXTREE!, but I was shocked the WaPo came And this latest conflict of interest makes an noteworthy addition to its pile.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby JackRiddler » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:30 pm

More like the CIA money coming to rescue the CIA paper?
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The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby Jeff » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:52 pm

Jack Riddler, right again.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby justdrew » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:59 pm

another media beat item about to hit the real:

In July 2010 international leaders of the Unification Church issued a letter protesting the direction the Times was taking and urging closer ties between it and the church.[39] In August 2010, a deal was made to sell the Times to a group more closely related to the church. Editor-in-chief Sam Dealey said that this was a welcome development among the Times' staff.[40] On November 2, 2010, Rev. Moon and a group of former Washington Times editors purchased the paper from News World Communications for $1. This ended a bitter feud within the Moon family that had been threatening to shut down the paper completely.[41] In March 2011 the Times announced that some former staffers would be rehired and that the paper would bring back its sports, metro and life sections.[42] In June 2011 Ed Kelley, formerly of The Oklahoman, was hired as editor overseeing both news and opinion content.[43]

In March 2013 it was announced that Herring Broadcasting will join with the Washington Times to create a new cable news network that is projected to begin broadcasting in the Summer of 2013; the new network will be called One America News.

One America News Network is a cable news channel based in San Diego, California owned and operated by Herring Broadcasting. It was launched on July 4, 2013, but is currently only available on select cable carriers. It is a joint project between Herring and The Washington Times.[1] The network plans to offer newscasts from a neutral political perspective although prime-time talk shows will be produced with a "center-right" audience in mind

so it's letters could be :

OANN pronounced "Onan"
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:22 pm

10,000 year clock project gets mountain, $42M from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, music from Brian Eno

Geek-Cetera By Jennifer Bergen Jun. 27, 2011 2:17 pm
‘Let’s face it; a lot of people in this world are shortsighted. When warned about the future dangers caused by global warning, many people think so what? I’ve got a hundred years on this earth at most and then the next generation can deal with it? Our civilization has historically had a problem with planning ahead. For instance, when we realized that many computers were only programmed to use two numbers to denote a year, as in 12/31/99, many people were worried about the Y2K crisis that was supposed to crash computers worldwide when the year switched from 1999 to 2000.

One man, however, decided that it’s important to look forward. Computer scientist, designer, and inventor Danny Hillis came up with an idea in 1989 to design a clock that would keep time for the next 10,000 years. No one can predict what the world will be like 10,000 years from now. In fact, there’s a good chance our civilization could be extinct by then. However, according to the Long Now Foundation, started by Hillis in 1996 to support the project, most civilizations last about 10,000 years.
The Long Now Foundation wants people to think in the perspective of a person living 1,000 years. It focuses on what your actions now can do for the future. Hillis’ goal for the clock is to inspire long-term thinking and would act as an artifact, a reminder of generations past.

The clock will be built into a mountain and will tower at about 200 feet. A project like this obviously isn’t cheap, but Hillis and team have some good support, specifically from Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos who has given $42 million to the project. Bezos didn’t just give the project a boatload of money; he’s also giving it a mountain to build in. According to a website Bezos recently launched called, Bezos has been helping Hillis with the project for the past six years,
Hillis will be building the clock on Bezos’ land in western Texas. It’s the first of what the Long Now Foundation hopes to be many millennial clocks that will be built around the world. A second site has already been purchased in Nevada for the second clock.

Hillis said in 1996 that he wanted to build a clock that ticks once a year with a century hand that advances once every 100 years, and a cuckoo that comes out on the millennium. Hillis and his team built a working 8-foot-tall prototype that was completed on New Year’s Eve 1999. At midnight, the clock chimed twice to start the new millennium. It now sits at the London Science Museum.
The 200-foot clock, however, won’t be as easily viewable. Reaching the clock will start with a several-hour-long car ride from the airport. It will require a day’s hike on rugged terrain to reach the entrance, which is almost 2,000 feet above the desert floor. The entrance has a jade door rimmed in stainless steel and a second steel door behind it that act as an airlock to keep dust and wild animals away. The tunnel is pitch black and is a few hundred feet long. At the end of the tunnel you’ll find a 500-foot-long vertical tunnel about 12 feet in diameter with a continuous spiral staircase.
The stairs are literally carved out of the rock by a special 2.5-ton stone-slicing robot invented specifically for the project. You can see the stone-slicer in action in the video below. The robot will incrementally make its way down to the bottom of the floor as it carves out a few stairs a day.

Obviously, designing and building a clock that can last 10,000 years takes a lot of thought. Hillis decided desert terrains like that of West Texas and Nevada were best since there isn’t much of a temperature fluctuation as in other parts of the country. There’s not a lot of rain, and there’s never any issue of frost, both of which could cause the clock to rust. The primary materials used in the clock are marine grade 316 stainless steel, titanium, and dry running ceramic ball bearings.
The clock actually needs two to three people to wind it. However, it also runs off of solar power, so it can technically never have a visitor and still tick away. It can also run for 100 years without solar power. So, granted we lose our sun, the clock could work a century without it before it needs humans to wind it up.
To conserve energy, the clock doesn’t show the time unless someone prompts it. Otherwise, the visitor will see the time of the last visitor. This is pretty neat, in a way, since you can see the last time a person had visited the clock, which could be days or decades.

The clock uses 20 huge horizontal gears called Geneva wheels (pictured at right), which are 8 feet in diameter and weigh 1,000 pounds each. This mechanical computer calculates the over 3.5 million different melodies that the chimes will ring. The father of ambient music, Brian Eno, composed the never-repeating melody generator that rings the clock’s chimes, making each visit to the clock 100-percent unique. There are 10 huge chimes that are optimized for the acoustics of the shaft space. Eno is also the creator of Bloom, an iPhone app that creates randomized ambient music that also never repeats itself. Each user’s experience is unique and no two users will ever create the same sound, much like how the clock’s chimes will work.
Inside the tunnel are also five room-sized ‘anniversary chambers,” one for the one-year, 10-year, 100-year, 1,000-year, and 10,000 anniversaries. The first will feature a special orrery, which is a mechanical solar system model, that will be activated by the clock one year after it launches. The team is still deciding what to do for the 10-year anniversary. As for the other three, they’re leaving that up to future generations.

Jeff Bezos Explains Why He's Building a 10,000 Year Clock

NOV 30, 2012
Jeff Bezos has already revolutionized the way we shop, now he wants to change the way we think about time.

Earlier this year, news broke that the Amazon founder and CEO has invested at least $42 million in a project to build a 10,000 year clock deep in the mountains near one of his homes in West Texas. The clock would play a different sound to celebrate the passing of each year for the next 10 millennia.

During a wide-ranging interview at the Amazon Web Services conference on Thursday, Bezos offered a thought-provoking explanation about why he's interested in this particular project and how it works.

"The clock is a symbol for long-term thinking," he said in the interview. "If we think long-term, we can accomplish things that we couldn't otherwise accomplish." As an example, he noted that asking someone to solve world hunger in five years might sound preposterous, but doing so in 100 years might not. "All we've done there is change the time horizon, we didn't change the challenge. Time horizons matter. They matter a lot."

Bezos continued: "We humans are getting awfully sophisticated in technological ways and have a lot of potential to be very dangerous to ourselves, and it seems to me that we as a species will have to start thinking longer term. This is a symbol, I think symbols can be very powerful."

The clock itself will have five "anniversary chambers," which Bezos describes as being like "the cuckoo on a clock." The first of these chambers will go off every year, the second every 10 years and so on until the fifth chamber, which goes off just once after 10,000 years have passed.

"We're only planning to build the animations for the first and second chambers," Bezos said. "We figure our future generations can worry about the third, fourth and fifth chambers."

Bezos, who invests in other futuristic projects including his private space company Blue Origin, noted that the clock is being "carved out inside of a mountain," which takes a kind of "pilgrimage" to get to. However, he said when the project is finally completed, "we'll let people come and tour the clock."

Hopefully, we don't have to wait 10,000 years for that to happen.

The discussion about the 10,000 year clock starts at the 32:00 mark in the video below:

The Birth of the Long Now Foundation - Brian Eno
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby coffin_dodger » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:44 pm

10,000 year clock project gets mountain, $42M from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, music from Brian Eno

Something that showcases our mastery of manufacturing, that demonstrates our level of precision, our understanding of the importance of time and the level of technical competentcy required to produce a machine that will work faultlessly for 10,000 years.

Yikes, that sounds a bit like they're building a testament to our civilization's prowess for whatever comes after us.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:48 pm


Roxy Music Do the Strand....with Brian Eno

Long Now Foundation

About Long Now

The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996* to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today's accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby justdrew » Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:01 pm

coffin_dodger » 05 Aug 2013 18:44 wrote:
10,000 year clock project gets mountain, $42M from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, music from Brian Eno

Something that showcases our mastery of manufacturing, that demonstrates our level of precision, our understanding of the importance of time and the level of technical competentcy required to produce a machine that will work faultlessly for 10,000 years.

Yikes, that sounds a bit like they're building a testament to our civilization's prowess for whatever comes after us.

The old civilization has already collapsed sometime in the last 100 years or so. We insufficiently realize that the new one has only just started. Initial conditions can be highly influential in the ongoing evolution of a complex system. We are ALL initial conditions.

I think The Clock is just lovely.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby Karmamatterz » Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:41 pm

The Boston Globe was sold only for a fraction of the $1.1 billion that the NY Times paid for it. $70 million? That's chump change. At least the Red Sox can't bitch about poor reporting ever again.

It's time to double down and re-invest, or take the money and run. The newspaper industry is shrinking very fast, online revenue is a joke and cannot sustain any newsroom that takes itself seriously.

Maybe Jeff CIA Bezos will provide some fresh air to the stagnant smell that has existed at the WAPO for years. But considering the pathetic job the Post has done as an example of good journalism maybe we shouldn't care. It's a rag that has always kissed the ass of the military and White House. They deserve a slow death to their business.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby slimmouse » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:52 am


Maybe Jeff CIA Bezos will provide some fresh air to the stagnant smell that has existed at the WAPO for years. But considering the pathetic job the Post has done as an example of good journalism maybe we shouldn't care. It's a rag that has always kissed the ass of the military and White House. They deserve a slow death to their business.

Lets hope the terminal nature of WAPO relfects the way we are going, despite all of our money ( labour) that they pump into in to try and prop it up.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:02 am

WikiLeaks website pulled by Amazon after US political pressure

Site hosting leaked US embassy cables is ousted from American servers as senator calls for boycott of WikiLeaks by companies

Ewen MacAskill in Washington
The Guardian, Wednesday 1 December 2010

The US struck its first blow against WikiLeaks after pulled the plug on hosting the whistleblowing website in reaction to heavy political pressure.

The company announced it was cutting WikiLeaks off yesterday only 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's committee on homeland security.

WikiLeaks expressed disappointment with Amazon, and insisted it was a breach of freedom of speech as enshrined in the US constitution's first amendment. The organisation, in a message sent via Twitter, said if Amazon was "so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books."

While freedom of speech is a sensitive issue in the US, scope for a full-blown row is limited, given that Democrats and Republicans will largely applaud Amazon's move. Previously a fully fledged Democrat, Lieberman won re-election to the Senate in 2006 as an independent; his status is that of an independent, albeit with continued close associations with the Democratic party's Senate contingent.

The question is whether he was acting on his own or pressed to do so by the Obama administration, and how much pressure was applied to Amazon.

Although there are echoes of the censorship row between Google and China earlier this year, constitutional lawyers insisted it was not a first amendment issue because Amazon is a private company, free to make its own decisions.

The WikiLeaks main website and a sub-site devoted to the diplomatic documents were unavailable from the US and Europe yesterday, as Amazon servers refused to acknowledge requests for data. WikiLeaks switched to a host in Sweden.

Lieberman said: "[Amazon's] decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material. I call on any other company or organisation that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them."

The department of homeland security confirmed Amazon's move, referring journalists to Lieberman's statement.

Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supports internet freedom, said it was not a violation of the first amendment but was nevertheless disappointing. "This certainly implicates first amendment rights to the extent that web hosts may, based on direct or informal pressure, limit the materials the American public has a first amendment right to access," Bankston told the website Talking Points Memo.

The development came amid angry and polarised political opinion in America over WikiLeaks, with some conservatives calling for the organisation's founder, Julian Assange, to be executed as a spy.

The fury building up among rightwingers in the US, ranging from the potential Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to conservative blogsites such as Red State, contrasted with a measured response from the Obama administration. The White House, the state department and the Pentagon continued to denounce the leaks, describing them as "despicable". But senior administration officials, with a sense of weary resignation, also called on people to put the leaks into context and insisted they had not done serious damage to US relations.

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, shrugged aside as "ridiculous" a call by Assange, interviewed by Time magazine, via Skype from an undisclosed location, for the resignation of the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, over an order to spy on the United Nations. "I'm not entirely sure why we care about the opinion of one guy with one website," Gibbs said. "Our foreign policy and the interests of this country are far stronger than his one website."

John Kerry, the Democratic head of the Senate foreign relations committee, on Sunday denounced the leaks but he sounded more sanguine at an event in Washington on Tuesday night. He said there was a "silver lining" in that it was now clear where everyone stood on Iran. "Things that I have heard from the mouths of King Abdullah [of Saudi Arabia] and Hosni Mubarak [Egyptian president] and others are now quite public," Kerry said. He went on to say there was a "consensus on Iran".

But others, particularly rightwingers, are seeking retribution, with Assange as the prime target. Legal experts in the US were divided over whether the US could successfully prosecute Assange under the 1917 espionage act. Sceptics said the US protections for journalists would make such a prosecution difficult and also cited pragmatic issues, such as the difficulty of extraditing Assange, an Australian.

Huckabee, who was among the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and is likely to stand again in 2012, told the Politico website: "Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty."

His later comments suggest he had in mind Bradley Manning, the US private in Iraq who is suspected of leaking the information and is under arrest in Virginia, rather than Assange.

Typical of attacks on Assange is a blog by lexington_concord on Red State, a popular rightwing site, in which the writers says Assange is a spy.

"Under the traditional rules of engagement he is thus subject to summary execution and my preferred course of action would [be] for Assange to find a small calibre round in the back of his head."

• This article was amended on 2 December 2010. The original said: Joe Lieberman, though an independent, is a former Republican who switched to the Democrats last year. This has been corrected.

How Lieberman Got Amazon To Drop Wikileaks
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)

Rachel Slajda December 1, 2010, 5:56 PM 48840

Early this week, after hacker attacks on its site, Wikileaks moved its operation, including all those diplomatic cables, to the greener pastures of’s cloud servers. But today, it was down again and mid-afternoon we found out the reason: Amazon had axed Wikileaks from its servers.

The announcement came from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Lieberman said in a statement that Amazon’s “decision to cut off Wikileaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies Wikileaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material.”

Committee staff had seen news reports yesterday that Wikileaks was being hosted on Amazon’s servers, a committee spokeswoman told TPM. The service, we should note, is self-serve; as with services like YouTube, the company does not screen or pre-approve the content posted on its servers.

Staffers then, according to the spokeswoman, Leslie Phillips, called Amazon to ask about it, and left questions with a press secretary including, “Are there plans to take the site down?”

Amazon called them back this morning to say they had kicked Wikileaks off, Phillips said. Amazon said the site had violated unspecified terms of use.

Amazon has not responded to requests for comment. Its terms of acceptable use include a ban on illegal activities (it’s not yet clear whether Wikileaks has broken any laws) and content “that may be harmful to our users, operations, or reputation.” It also prohibits using Amazon’s servers “to violate the security or integrity of any network, computer or communications system,” although Wikileaks obviously obtained the cables long before hopping on Amazon’s servers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that advocates for Internet freedom of speech by defending court cases, said the axing certainly doesn’t violate the First Amendment. But it is, according to senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston, “disappointing.”

“This certainly implicates First Amendment rights to the extent that web hosts may, based on direct or informal pressure, limit the materials the American public has a First Amendment right to access,” Bankston told TPM.

Wikileaks is reportedly back on servers based in Sweden. Lieberman, in his statement today, called on “any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them.”

Phillips said Lieberman has no plans to reach out to other web-hosting services that may host Wikileaks, and has not contacted the Swedish government to discuss servers in its country.

“Sen. Lieberman hopes that the Amazon case will send the message to other companies that might host Wikileaks that it would be irresponsible to host the site,” she said.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:52 am

Why WPost’s Hiatt Should Be Fired
August 6, 2013
From the Archive: The purchase of the Washington Post by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos gives the newspaper a chance to shed its neocon ideology and get back to sound journalism. But that will require a housecleaning of top editors and columnists who turned the Post into the neocons’ flagship, like Fred Hiatt, Robert Parry wrote in March 2013.

By Robert Parry (Originally published on March 19, 2013)

What is perhaps most remarkable about the tenth anniversary of President George W. Bush’s war of aggression in Iraq is that almost no one who aided and abetted that catastrophic and illegal decision has been held accountable in any meaningful way.

That applies to Bush and his senior advisers who haven’t spent a single day inside a jail cell; it applies to Official Washington’s well-funded think tanks where neoconservatives still dominate; and it applies to the national news media where journalists and pundits who lost jobs for disseminating pro-war propaganda can be counted on one finger (Judith Miller of the New York Times).

Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.
Yet, arguably the most egregious example of the news media failing to exact serious accountability for getting this major historical event wrong is the case of Fred Hiatt, who was the editorial-page editor of the Washington Post when it served as drum major for the invade-Iraq parade and who still holds the same prestigious position ten years later.

How is that possible? I’ve seen senior news executives dissect the work of honest journalists searching for minor flaws in articles to justify destroying their careers (i.e. what the San Jose Mercury News did to Gary Webb over his courageous reporting on Nicaraguan Contra-cocaine trafficking in the 1990s).

So how could Hiatt still have the same important job at the Washington Post after being catastrophically wrong about the justifications for going to war – and after smearing war critics who tried to expose some of Bush’s lies to the American people? How could the U.S. news media be so upside-down in its principles that honest journalists get fly-specked and fired, while dishonest ones get life-time job security?

The short answer, I suppose, is that Hiatt was just doing what the Graham family, which still controls the newspaper, wanted done. From my days at Newsweek, which was then part of the Washington Post Company, I had seen this drift toward neoconservatism at the highest editorial ranks, the well-dressed and well-bred men preferred by publisher Katharine Graham and her son Donald.

But how arrogant can one ruling-class family be? And what does it say about future international crises that the Washington Post remains a highly influential newspaper in the nation’s capital? Shouldn’t the Post, at minimum, have demonstrated some commitment to journalistic integrity by shaking up its editorial page after the truth about the Iraq War deceptions became painfully apparent?

Bashing Gore

If the system were working as it should — in the months before the Iraq invasion – you might have expected the Post to have encouraged a healthy debate that reflected diverse opinions from experts in the fields of government, diplomacy, academia, the military and the broader American public. War, after all, is not a trivial matter.

Instead, the Post’s editorial section served as a pro-war bulletin board, posting neoconservative manifestos attesting to the wisdom of invading Iraq and tacking up harsh indictments of Americans who dissented from Bush’s war plans.

Post readers often learned about voices of dissent only by reading Post columnists denouncing the dissenters, a scene reminiscent of a totalitarian society where dissidents never get space to express their opinions but are still excoriated in the official media.

For instance, on Sept. 23, 2002, when former Vice President Al Gore gave a speech criticizing Bush’s “preemptive war” doctrine and Bush’s push for the Iraq invasion, Gore’s talk got scant media coverage, but still elicited a round of Gore-bashing on the TV talk shows and on the Post’s Op-Ed page.

Post columnist Michael Kelly called Gore’s speech “dishonest, cheap, low” before labeling it “wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible.” [Washington Post, Sept. 25, 2002] Post columnist Charles Krauthammer added that the speech was “a series of cheap shots strung together without logic or coherence.” [Washington Post, Sept. 27, 2002]

While the Post’s wrongheadedness on the Iraq War extended into its news pages – with the rare skeptical article either buried or spiked – Hiatt’s editorial section was like a chorus with virtually every columnist singing from the same pro-invasion song book and Hiatt’s editorials serving as lead vocalist.

A study by Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin noted, “The [Post] editorials during December [2002] and January [2003] numbered nine, and all were hawkish.” [American Prospect, April 1, 2003]

The Post’s martial harmony reached its crescendo after Secretary of State Colin Powell made his bogus presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, accusing Iraq of hiding vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

The next day, Hiatt’s lead editorial hailed Powell’s evidence as “irrefutable” and chastised any remaining skeptics. “It is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction,” the editorial said. Hiatt’s judgment was echoed across the Post’s Op-Ed page, with Post columnists from Right to Left singing the same note of misguided consensus.

‘Flat Fact’

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19-20, 2003, and months of fruitless searching for the promised WMD caches, Hiatt finally acknowledged that the Post should have been more circumspect in its confident claims about the WMD.

“If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Saddam Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction,” Hiatt said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. “If that’s not true, it would have been better not to say it.” [CJR, March/April 2004] Yes, that is a common principle of journalism, that if something isn’t real, we’re not supposed to confidently declare that it is.

But Hiatt’s supposed remorse didn’t stop him and the Post editorial page from continuing its single-minded support for the Iraq War. Hiatt was especially hostile when evidence emerged that revealed how thoroughly he and his colleagues had been gulled.

In June 2005, for instance, the Washington Post decided to ignore the release of the “Downing Street Memo” in the British press. The “memo” – actually minutes of a meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his national security team on July 23, 2002 – recounted the words of MI6 chief Richard Dearlove who had just returned from discussions with his intelligence counterparts in Washington.

“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,” Dearlove said.

Though the Downing Street Memo amounted to a smoking gun regarding how Bush had set his goal first – overthrowing Saddam Hussein – and then searched for a sellable rationalization, the Post’s senior editors deemed the document unworthy to share with their readers.

Only after thousands of Post readers complained did the newspaper deign to give its reasoning. On June 15, 2005, the Post’s lead editorial asserted that “the memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration’s prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002.”

But Hiatt was simply wrong in that assertion. Looking back to 2002 and early 2003, it would be hard to find any commentary in the Post or any other mainstream U.S. news outlet calling Bush’s actions fraudulent, which is what the “Downing Street Memo” and other British evidence revealed Bush’s actions to be.

The British documents also proved that much of the pre-war debate inside the U.S. and British governments was how best to manipulate public opinion by playing games with the intelligence.

Further, official documents of this nature are almost always regarded as front-page news, even if they confirm long-held suspicions. By Hiatt’s and the Post’s reasoning, the Pentagon Papers wouldn’t have been news since some people had previously alleged that U.S. officials had lied about the Vietnam War.

The War on Wilson

While the overall performance of the Post’s editorial page during the Iraq War was one of the most shameful examples of journalistic malfeasance in modern U.S. history, arguably the ugliest part was the Post’s years-long assault on former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Rarely have two patriotic American citizens been as shabbily treated by a major U.S. newspaper as the Wilsons were at the hands of Fred Hiatt and the Post. Joe Wilson, in particular, was endlessly derided for his courageous decision to challenge one of President Bush’s most flagrantly false claims about Iraq, i.e. that it had sought yellowcake uranium from Niger.

In early 2002, Wilson was recruited by the CIA to look into what later turned out to be a forged document indicating Iraq’s possible yellowcake purchase in Niger. The document had aroused Vice President Dick Cheney’s interest.

Having served in Africa, Wilson accepted the CIA’s assignment and returned with a conclusion that Iraq had almost surely not obtained any uranium from Niger, an assessment shared by other U.S. officials who checked out the story. However, the bogus allegation was not so easily quashed.

Wilson was stunned when Bush included the Niger allegations in his State of the Union Address in January 2003. Initially, Wilson began alerting a few journalists about the discredited claim while trying to keep his name out of the newspapers. However, in July 2003, with the U.S. military coming up empty in its WMD search of Iraq, Wilson penned an Op-Ed article for the New York Times describing what he didn’t find in Africa and saying the White House had “twisted” pre-war intelligence.

Though Wilson’s article focused on his own investigation, it represented the first time an inside Washington player had gone public with evidence regarding the Bush administration’s fraudulent case for war. Thus, Wilson became a major target for retribution from the White House and particularly Cheney’s office.

The Plame Leak

As part of the campaign to destroy Wilson’s credibility, senior Bush administration officials leaked to journalists that Wilson’s wife worked in the CIA office that had dispatched him to Niger, a suggestion that the trip might have been some kind of junket. When right-wing columnist Robert Novak published Plame’s covert identity in the Washington Post’s Op-Ed section, Plame’s CIA career was destroyed.

However, instead of showing any remorse for the harm his editorial section had done, Hiatt simply enlisted in the Bush administration’s war against Wilson, promoting every anti-Wilson talking point that the White House could dream up. The Post’s assault on Wilson went on for years.

For instance, in a Sept. 1, 2006, editorial, Hiatt accused Wilson of lying when he had claimed the White House had leaked his wife’s name. The context of Hiatt’s broadside was the disclosure that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the first administration official to tell Novak that Plame was a CIA officer and had played a small role in Wilson’s Niger trip.

Because Armitage was considered a reluctant supporter of the Iraq War, the Post editorial jumped to the conclusion that “it follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House – that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity – is untrue.”

But does it lead to that conclusion? Just because Armitage may have been the first to share the classified information with Novak didn’t mean that there was no parallel White House operation to peddle Plame’s identity to reporters. In fact, evidence uncovered by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who examined the Plame leak, supported a conclusion that White House officials, under the direction of Vice President Cheney and including Cheney aide Lewis Libby and Bush political adviser Karl Rove, approached a number of reporters with this information.

Indeed, Rove appears to have confirmed Plame’s identity for Novak and leaked the information to Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper. Meanwhile, Libby, who was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges in the case, had pitched the information to the New York Times’ Judith Miller. The Post’s editorial acknowledged that Libby and other White House officials were not “blameless,” since they allegedly released Plame’s identity while “trying to discredit Mr. Wilson.” But the Post reserved its harshest condemnation for Wilson.

“It now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame’s CIA career is Mr. Wilson,” the editorial said. “Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming – falsely, as it turned out – that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials.

“He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush’s closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It’s unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.”

Way Off Base

The Post’s editorial, however, was at best an argumentative smear and most likely a willful lie. By then, the evidence was clear that Wilson, along with other government investigators, had debunked the reports of Iraq acquiring yellowcake in Niger and that those findings did circulate to senior levels, explaining why CIA Director George Tenet struck the yellowcake claims from other Bush speeches.

The Post’s accusation about Wilson “falsely” claiming to have debunked the yellowcake reports apparently was based on Wilson’s inclusion in his report of speculation from one Niger official who suspected that Iraq might have been interested in buying yellowcake, although the Iraqi officials never mentioned yellowcake and made no effort to buy any. This irrelevant point had become a centerpiece of Republican attacks on Wilson and was recycled by the Post.

Plus, contrary to the Post’s assertion that Wilson “ought to have expected” that the White House and Novak would zero in on Wilson’s wife, a reasonable expectation in a normal world would have been just the opposite. Even amid the ugly partisanship of today’s Washington, it was shocking to many longtime observers of government that any administration official or an experienced journalist would disclose the name of a covert CIA officer for such a flimsy reason as trying to discredit her husband.

Hiatt also bought into the Republican argument that Plame really wasn’t “covert” at all – and thus there was nothing wrong in exposing her counter-proliferation work for the CIA. The Post was among the U.S. media outlets that gave a podium for right-wing lawyer Victoria Toensing to make this bogus argument in defense of Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Libby.

On Feb. 18, 2007, as jurors were about to begin deliberations in Libby’s case, the Post ran a prominent Outlook article by Toensing, who had been buzzing around the TV pundit shows decrying Libby’s prosecution. In the Post article, she wrote that “Plame was not covert. She worked at CIA headquarters and had not been stationed abroad within five years of the date of Novak’s column.”

Though it might not have been clear to a reader, Toensing was hanging her claim about Plame not being “covert” on a contention that Plame didn’t meet the coverage standards of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Toensing’s claim was legalistic at best since it obscured the larger point that Plame was working undercover in a classified CIA position and was running agents abroad whose safety would be put at risk by an unauthorized disclosure of Plame’s identity.

But Toensing, who promoted herself as an author of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, wasn’t even right about the legal details. The law doesn’t require that a CIA officer be “stationed” abroad in the preceding five years; it simply refers to an officer who “has served within the last five years outside the United States.”

That would cover someone who – while based in the United States – went abroad on official CIA business, as Plame testified under oath in a congressional hearing that she had done within the five-year period.

Bizarre Testimony

Toensing, who appeared as a Republican witness at the same congressional hearing on March 16, 2007, was asked about her bald assertion that “Plame was not covert.”

“Not under the law,” Toensing responded. “I’m giving you the legal interpretation under the law and I helped draft the law. The person is supposed to reside outside the United States.” But that’s not what the law says, either. It says “served” abroad, not “reside.”

When asked whether she had spoken to the CIA or Plame about Plame’s covert status, Toensing said, “I didn’t talk to Ms. Plame or the CIA. I can just tell you what’s required under the law. They can call anybody anything they want to do in the halls” of the CIA.

In other words, Toensing had no idea about the facts of the matter; she didn’t know how often Plame might have traveled abroad in the five years before her exposure; Toensing didn’t even get the language of the statute correct.

At the hearing, Toensing was reduced to looking like a quibbling kook who missed the forest of damage – done to U.S. national security, to Plame and possibly to the lives of foreign agents – for the trees of how a definition in a law was phrased, and then getting that wrong, too.

After watching Toensing’s bizarre testimony, one had to wonder why the Post would have granted her space on the widely read Outlook section’s front page to issue what she called “indictments” of Joe Wilson, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and others who had played a role in exposing the White House hand behind the Plame leak.

Despite Toensing’s high-profile smear of Wilson and Fitzgerald, Libby still was convicted of four felony counts. In response to the conviction, the Post reacted with another dose of its false history of the Plame case and a final insult directed at Wilson, declaring that he “will be remembered as a blowhard.”

With Plame’s CIA career destroyed and Wilson’s reputation battered by Hiatt and his Post colleagues, the Wilsons moved away from Washington. Their ordeal was later recounted in the 2010 movie, “Fair Game,” starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. Though Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison, his sentence was commuted by President Bush to eliminate any jail time.

The other costs from the Iraq War included 4,486 U.S. soldiers dead along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The final price tag for U.S. taxpayers is estimated to exceed $1 trillion.

Iraq today remains a violently divided society where the Shiite and Sunni communities are deeply estranged and where the former Sunni authoritarian regime has been replaced by an authoritarian Shiite regime. Whereas Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was considered a bulwark against Iran, the current Iraqi government is an ally of Iran.

Except for some retirements and deaths (including Michael Kelly who died in a vehicle crash in Iraq), the editorial pages of the Washington Post and the roster of star columnists remain remarkably similar to what they were a decade ago. Fred Hiatt is still the editor in charge.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Aug 21, 2013 8:06 pm

Amazon Received $600 Million CIA Computer Cloud Contract: Surveillance Shopping?

It would make a good front page Washington Post story to learn a bit about the more than a half of a billion dollars that the CIA is going to pay Amazon to develop a spook computer cloud. (For those who don't follow computer technology, "clouds" are the next stage in digital data storage.)

According to the website "Quartz," "Amazon is staffing up for its $600 million cloud for spooks":

You can now add “spymaster” to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s various titles. On Friday June 14, a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report elaborated on previous reports that Amazon had won a $600 million contract to build a “private cloud” for the CIA. (The GAO report was generated when IBM, which had been competing for the contract, protested that it had lost unfairly.)

More than half a billion dollars will buy you a lot of cloud computing, and now, according to postings on Amazon’s own jobs site, the company is staffing up to meet the demand the new contract will require. Specifically, Amazon is looking for engineers who already have a “Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearance, or are willing to go through the elaborate screening process required to get it. TS/SCI is the highest security clearance offered by the US government, and getting it requires having your background thoroughly vetted.

BuzzFlash at Truthout found out about the contract through Heidi Boghosian, author of the just released "Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance. (You can obtain the book, which is the Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week by clicking here.) When it comes to exponentially advancing blending of corporate media and the government, the $600 million Amazon CIA contract does not portend well for the future of transparent coverage in the Washington Post under Bezos.

Just look at the two key players in spying on democracy in Boghosian's book title: government surveillance and corporate power. In Bezos's purchase of the Washington Post, you have the critical mass combination. And that's not to mention the potential for combining intelligence surveillance, customer buying habits and marketing information, and news preferences.

It may also be mere coincidence that both the CIA and Amazon are both investing in a quantum computer company, D-Wave. But given the financial interlinking of media, corporations and government, one can argue that Amazon and the CIA have grown quite chummy when it comes to the bottom line.

Those who argue that Bezos is socially progressive on issues such as gay marriage and therefore will be a positive influence on the Post forget that President Obama is socially progressive, but as far as Wall Street, low paying jobs (such as the ones Bezos has helped usher in in his warehouses that has Obama highlighted), and spying on American citizens is more or less a continuation -- if not expansion -- of Bush's policies.

Let's see, recently Bezos paid $250 million for the Washington Post (and some other of its affiliated properties); Amazon earlier this year (beating out IBM, who is still contesting the awarding of the CIA contract to Amazon) received a $600 million contract from the CIA (and holds other government IT contracts including possibly one with the NSA).

Hmmm, not that we are saying that there is any direct relationship here, but somehow it seems more than an even bet that the Washington Post won't be a transparent lens when it comes to surveillance and espionage under Bezos's ownership.
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Re: Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Postby JackRiddler » Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:24 am

Should have posted this here more than a week ago, as I did on my FB page:

Amazon has a $600 million contract with CIA. Jeff Bezos personally is in a quantum computing joint venture with In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture arm. The Post has had a long relationship with CIA, going back to "Mockingbird" days. For many years, reporter Walter Pincus has served as the CIA's mouthpiece in the press. The acquisition of the Post by Bezos was announced suddenly, without public indications beforehand.

Various other facts covered by the following Democracy Now! report also make it look like the CIA paper is being rescued by CIA-friendly money. And this is not even the worst thing one might say of - one of the primary destroyers of 500 years of book culture. ... _new_owner

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
How The Washington Post’s New Owner Aided the CIA, Blocked WikiLeaks & Decimated the Book Industry

The Washington Post announced on Monday the paper had been sold to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million. Bezos, one of the world’s wealthiest men, now controls one of the most powerful newspapers in the country. Some critics of the sale have cited Bezos’ close ties to the U.S. government. In 2010, Amazon pulled the plug on hosting the WikiLeaks website under heavy political pressure. Earlier this year, Amazon inked a $600 million cloud-computing deal with the CIA. Independent booksellers and publishers have also long complained about Amazon’s business practices. We host a roundtable on the history of Amazon and the future of the newspaper industry. "Monopoly newspapers, especially The Washington Post in the nation’s capital, while it might not be a commercially viable undertaking, it still has tremendous political power," says Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press. "What we have is a plaything for these billionaires that they can then use aggressively to promote their own politics." Media critic Jeff Cohen notes that while The Washington Post notably published reports on Watergate and the Pentagon Papers decades ago, he thinks concerns that Bezos will ruin its journalistic tradition is unfounded, saying that in recent years, "The Washington Post has really been the newspaper of the bipartisan consensus." We also speak to Dennis Johnson, publisher of Melville House. "Amazon is a company that feels no pain. They’ve, as far as I can tell, never made money. … So, when you see him taking over The Washington Post and you wonder is he going to be able to monetize it, is he going to make it profitable, he probably doesn’t care," Johnson says.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today’s show with a roundtable discussion about the sale of one of the nation’s leading newspapers to one of the world’s richest men. On Monday, The Washington Post announced the paper had been purchased by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Bezos will pay $250 million for the paper and a number of other publications—less than 1 percent of his wealth, which is estimated at more than $28 billion. Bezos is a friend of Donald Graham, chief executive of The Washington Post Company, whose family has owned the newspaper for eight decades.

Bezos said management of The Washington Post newspaper will remain the same, but it’s unclear what changes might be coming. Last year, Bezos was quoted in an interview with the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung saying, quote, "There is one thing I’m certain about: There won’t be printed newspapers in 20 years. Maybe as luxury items in some hotels that want to offer them as an extravagant service. Printed papers won’t be normal in 20 years."

AMY GOODMAN: Critics of the sale have cited Bezos’s close ties to the U.S. government. In 2010, Amazon pulled the plug on hosting the WikiLeaks website under heavy political pressure. Earlier this year, Amazon inked a $600 million cloud-computing deal with the CIA.

For more, we’re joined by three guests. In Madison, Wisconsin, Bob McChesney is with us, co-founder of Free Press, author of several books on media and politics, including his Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy. You can read the first chapter at our website, He also recently co-authored with John Nichols Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America.

Joining us via Democracy Now! video stream, Jeff Cohen, director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he’s also a journalism professor. He is founder of the media watch group FAIR, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

And here in New York City, Dennis Johnson is with us, co-founder and co-publisher of the book publisher Melville House. He recently wrote an article called "The Obama Business Plan: Be Like Amazon."

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Bob, McChesney, why don’t we begin with you in Madison, Wisconsin? Your response to the news that has rocked the industry, that Jeff Bezos is the new owner of The Washington Post?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, I think what’s important is to have a structural understanding and context for this purchase, because the real story, the back story, is that the value of The Washington Post, like all other news media in this country, has plummeted in the last five or 10 years to maybe one-tenth, one-fiftieth of what it was in the late 1990s, and at this point they aren’t wise commercial investments. As the blip you had at the top of the show said, Amy, commercial journalism no longer is profitable. That’s why investors are jumping ship.

But they still have great political value, monopoly newspapers, especially The Washington Post, in the nation’s capital. It might not be a commercially viable undertaking, but it still has tremendous political power. And I think when we understand it that way, that’s the appeal of these remaining legacy monopoly newspapers, like the _Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, to wealthy people, is that it won’t make them money in the short term on that exact investment, but it gives them great political power to advance their political agenda, which, in the case of someone like Jeff Bezos, could give him a great deal of money down the road.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Jeff Cohen, could you respond to the sale of The Washington Post Company to Jeff Bezos and respond also to what Bob McChesney said about how the value of The Washington Post has been declining for several consecutive years, and talk about why Jeff Bezos might have made this purchase?

JEFF COHEN: Well, I think that when Jeff Bezos, in that older quote, talks about it being a luxury item—printed newspapers—I’ve got a good feeling, a good sense, that Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post will not remain a luxury item around Capitol Hill. It may go online heavily, but it’s going to stay there at Capitol Hill, because Bezos, I think, wants that kind of influence in the nation’s capital.

And I’ve been reading all this about Bezos’ politics, which of course is important when you’re a singular owner of a paper as influential as The Washington Post, a paper that actually urged us to get into the invasion of Iraq about a decade ago. But Bezos is like a lot of corporate executives: He’s liberal on social policy—he gave money to the pro-gay-marriage initiative—but he’s very conservative on economic policies that affect the corporation that made him wealthy and powerful. So, we learn about Bezos that he’s donated money to the initiative in the state of Washington—big money—that was trying to institute a tax, an income tax, on the top 1 percent of people in the state of Washington. It was supported by Bill Gates of Microsoft and Bill Gates’s dad. But Bezos was one of the billionaires that put money in to try to stop that. He’s conservative on labor policy, and we know what a bad labor policy Amazon has.

And the most important thing is, the biggest issue facing American journalism in the last month or so has been the surveillance state and these corporations that profit from the surveillance state, because 70 percent of the intelligence agency’s budgets, that come from the taxpayers, is delivered to private contractors. And as you guys mentioned, Amazon just brought down a huge CIA contract to provide cloud services. And we know that that’s not the only one. They want more contracts.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Dennis Johnson of Melville House, why, as a publisher—what are your feelings about Amazon? And then your thoughts about Amazon buying, or Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, my feelings as a publisher are the same as my feelings as an American. This is a—this is a very tough company to deal with, a company that has developed a whole new model for the marketplace of ideas. I mean, something to remember that maybe contributes to what the previous two speakers are talking about is that, you know, Amazon has, since its inception, been a company that, one, has avoided tax payments, or collecting sales tax, in not only the United States but across the world, and, two—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that.

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, they are, as a retailer, required to collect sales taxes for everything sold on their website. They have not done that, since its inception. In fact, Bezos originally tried to start the company and found it in an Indian reservation, because he believed it would be a sovereign nation and he wouldn’t have to collect any taxes. He founded the company in Seattle because he felt it would do the company the least harm for sales, for having to not collect taxes in the rest of the country.

So, you know, it was kind of a sham the other day when President Obama went down to speak at the warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which was a warehouse that Amazon opened only because they cut a deal with the state to not collect taxes for yet another year. They have never paid taxes in Tennessee to date, and they’re not going to for another year or two, but they promise to employ 2,000 people. Those are the jobs that Obama was celebrating. And, you know, this is a very damaging policy for a company to have, obviously. They’re also being contested in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe for similar policies.

The other thing to remember about Amazon is it’s a company that feels no pain. They’ve, as far as I can tell, never made money. Their quarterly statements are consistently sales are up—they’re astronomical numbers; they made $15.7 million last quarter alone—but their losses are up every quarter, as well. It’s a phenomenal track record, where—and, you know, in the retail market, how do you compete with that? How—in the book business, how does Barnes & Noble, how do the little indie booksellers compete with a company that can consistently lose money like that? Well, they can’t. They just can’t. So, when you see him taking over The Washington Post and you wonder is he going to be able to monetize it, is he going to make it profitable, he probably doesn’t care. That’s obviously not what it’s about. His business is to not operate as if they intend to make a profit.

AMY GOODMAN: But he did make $28 billion—I mean, he’s got $28 billion.

DENNIS JOHNSON: Personally. Sure, he’s a wealthy man, one of the most wealthy men in the country, if not the world. But the company, quarter after quarter after quarter, does not post a profit.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, in his letter to employees after he bought The Washington Post, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos seemed to try to address any potential conflict of interest, saying, quote, "The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners." But many people have pointed out that Amazon ranks among the biggest spenders for high-technology companies seeking to influence the federal government. Dennis Johnson, could you talk about some of that, the politics of what Amazon’s lobbying efforts have been and how this is likely, if at all, to influence what appears in The Post under Bezos?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, sure. Coming strictly from the book business, I mean, this is a very transparent move to have made. This is a man who has growing interests in Washington. I mean, look, we just concluded the Department of Justice prosecution of the book industry, a shocking case that seems to fly in the face of what we know about antitrust law in this country. And it was a case that most in the book business feel was orchestrated by Amazon, and indeed Amazon did file the initial complaints that started that case. Well, they won. And when they won, most in the book industry saw this as—you know, we thought Amazon was a monopoly, to begin with; now we feel like, well, it’s a government-sanctioned monopoly. Then what happens? Just days after that decision comes down, the president of the United States goes to their warehouse to slap them on the back and say, "Good job." This is a company that obviously—and this is—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, now that we have this new information, do you think President Obama knew he was buying The Washington Post when he went down last week? Even many of the reporters of The Washington Post who have been interviewed over the last few days, everyone seemed shocked.

DENNIS JOHNSON: Yeah, it was a really well-kept secret, but at the same time other reports are saying that it was probably cut about a month ago.

AMY GOODMAN: And given how much information the NSA gathers on us all, it would be hard to believe the president didn’t know.

DENNIS JOHNSON: I have a feeling—

AMY GOODMAN: You don’t think Jeff Bezos never mentioned this in a phone call or an email?

DENNIS JOHNSON: No, I have—who knows? I take it the president knew. But, you know, looking just at what happened, the president was down there lauding a company that he says is going to really boost the middle class, and really these are $11-an-hour jobs on average. They don’t meet the living wage of that part of the country. They were bought via tax avoidance. This is the—this is the president’s job policy?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to this discussion. Dennis Johnson is with us. He is a publisher; the publishing house is Melville House. Robert McChesney is with us, co-founder of Free Press. And Jeff Cohen, Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, a journalism professor and author. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We have a roundtable discussion on Jeff Bezos, the owner of, the founder and chief executive, buying The Washington Post. Dennis Johnson is with us of Melville House; Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press; and Jeff Cohen, journalism professor and head of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College.

I wanted to read from an article about Jeff Bezos written by Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. She wrote, quote, "How will he react—especially after Amazon’s recent clinching of a $600m contract to provide cloud services to the CIA—to the flow of stories from his own publication on the NSA and its covert pact with the tech industry to trace our every move? How will he like his Amazon workplace practices scrutinised by his own paper? How will he like being in a world where the greatest measure of success is to irritate, damage or, at best, remove a president and other public officials?" Interesting questions, Jeff Cohen.

JEFF COHEN: Oh, I think these are all good questions. I think one thing that’s missing is a discussion of the hallowed traditions, the hallowed journalistic traditions of The Washington Post. I mean, any media consumer who’s been looking at the bevy of articles in the last day and a half has heard about this—you know, "What’s going to happen to The Washington Post’s journalistic tradition—the paper of Watergate—or, the paper that exposed Watergate and published the Pentagon Papers?" I think any serious and very, you know, diligent news consumer is going to realize that the incidents like Watergate conspiracy and the Pentagon Papers, that was 40 years ago, and the hallowed tradition of The Washington Post that we’re worried Bezos is going to ruin—and, again, it may get worse, it may not; most likely it’ll continue—but that hallowed tradition, for 40 years, The Washington Post has really been a newspaper of the bipartisan consensus. And items like or invasions like Iraq could hardly have happened without the editorial pages headed by a sort of a hawk, Fred Hiatt, who’s still in power today, and Fred Hiatt’s editorial pages of The Washington Post has, in a five-month period before the Iraq invasion, more than two dozen editorials urging on that invasion. Skeptics of the invasion were mercilessly savaged in the editorial pages and the op-ed pages, but they weren’t allowed to speak for themselves. And so, when I hear people talk about The Washington Post under the Graham family, the paper of Watergate, it reminds me of people who would look at today’s Barack Obama and say he’s a community organizer embedded with the poor in Chicago. The Watergate Washington Post was decades ago. The Washington Post we should be thinking about in the last 10, 12 years has been a very important instrument of U.S. intervention, imperial foreign policy, at the hands of the editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, just on what you’re saying, just to read part of the Washington Post editorial from February 2003 that ran the day after Colin Powell’s Iraq presentation to the United Nations, under the headline, "Irrefutable," it read, in part, "It is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Powell left no room to argue seriously that Iraq has accepted the Security Council’s offer of a 'final opportunity' to disarm." The headline, again, "Irrefutable."

JEFF COHEN: And on the Washington Post op-ed page in the next two days, every op-ed columnist, from, you know, one baby step to the left of center to the far right, was endorsing Colin Powell’s speech and endorsing the invasion of Iraq. And that’s been par for the course over there for the last 10, 20 years.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, you also mentioned the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. And Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, of course the most famous reporters in the history of The Washington Post, say they’re optimistic about the paper’s sale to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Woodward said, quote, "If there’s somebody who can succeed, it’s Bezos. He’s the innovator, he’s got the money and the patience, so we’ll see. I think in some ways, this may be the _Post_’s last chance to survive, at least in some form of what it was." Bernstein also said he had high hopes for Bezos, saying he, quote, "seems to me exactly the kind of inventive and innovative choice needed to bring about a recommitment to great journalism on the scale many of us have been hoping for—while employing all the applicable tools and best sensibilities of a new era and the old." Jeff Cohen, could you respond to that?

JEFF COHEN: Yeah. You know, he might be innovative, and he does have deep pockets, and if I was a journalist at The Washington Post, I’d want someone with deep pockets, as opposed to the Graham family, which has been bleeding money. But the reality is, when we have, as you pointed out earlier, one of the big issues is the surveillance state, and Amazon, the company that has made this individual so wealthy, is so embedded with the surveillance state, I’d be very concerned. And as for Bob Woodward, again, 40 years ago he unraveled a conspiracy and brought down a president. In the last 10, 12 years, he’s been very, very cozy with American presidents, whether Republican or Democrat.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Bob McChesney, your response?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, I think that the absurdity is that we’re reduced to the point where journalism is dying in this country as an undertaking supported by commercial enterprise, and we’re reduced with these monopoly franchises to hopefully get a good billionaire, relative to the Koch brothers, for example. But we should stand back and understand how ridiculous the situation is, that we’re reduced to this pathetic state of affairs, because we really actually need real journalism. We need journalism that tells us about war plans, that tells us about the NSA, long before it becomes too late or deep into the game. And we’re not getting that now, and there’s no reason to think the current system is going to give us that. It’s incredibly corrupt.

It’s worth noting that we have a system like the one we have now a hundred years ago in the United States. If you were to look at American journalism in between 1900 and 1915, it had grown incredibly concentrated except in our very largest cities. There were huge empires, and the Hearsts, the Pulitzers, the Scrippses—the bosses of that era—used their power to actively and aggressively promote their politics, their generally right-wing, anti-labor politics. And it was a result of that period that there was a great crisis of journalism that led to the creation of professional journalism, the idea that the editorial content should not be influenced directly by the owners and the advertisers. And we’re going back to that era, except for we’re doing it without any resources, and there’s even less accountability, far less, than there was then. There’s—you know, in those days, there were four, five, six, eight major daily newspapers in each of our great cities, like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago. Today we don’t have anything like that.

What we have is a plaything for these billionaires that they can then use aggressively to promote their own politics. And when we talk about promoting your own politics, we’ve got to understand, it’s not like Jeff Bezos has to march into a newsroom and say, "Cover this. Don’t cover that." It rarely works that way. That happens once a decade. You basically set an organizational culture, and smart journalists who want to survive internalize the values, and those that don’t internalize the values get out of the way.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, Bob McChesney, Koch Industries, of course—and we’ve been talking about this for a while—interested in acquiring Tribune’s big regional titles, which include Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune_, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel. I mean, this is what you have these days. You have the Koch brothers. You also have Warren Buffett, right? What was it? Last year, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought 28 daily newspapers for something like $344 million. This is how it operates in the United States right now. And so, then compare Jeff Bezos to the Grahams, who have owned this newspaper for decades.

ROBERT McCHESNEY: You’re right, and we’re looking at a situation where we have these owners who are making these investments now, like the Koch brothers, and it’s—

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, I should say Bloomberg. You cannot forget our mayor in New York City—


AMY GOODMAN: Bloomberg News, one of the world’s largest news and media companies, employing 2,300—2,300 professionals in 146 bureaus around the world, and, I’m sure, employs many more people than that.

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Yeah. In Dollarocracy, John Nichols and I outline people like the Koch brothers and Shelly Adelson and a whole host of CEOs and billionaires that most Americans don’t now, because they aren’t seeking publicity, who are spending hundreds of—tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars to buy elections, oftentimes anonymously and surreptitiously through dark money. Well, if you look at that closely, it makes perfect sense they’d want to start buying up newspapers as a political investment, because they’re so cheap now, and you can dominate the discussion to have it frame the issues your way, talk about what you think is important. It’s a very wise political investment. And for people concerned with democratic theory, democratic governance, it’s antithetical to what this country needs to be for the constitutional system to work. When the news media, the Fourth Estate, a pillar of our constitutional system, becomes a plaything for billionaires and there’s no accountability, our government—our governing system can’t work effectively as something except a plaything for the rich.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dennis Johnson, you’ve spoken about some of your concerns with Amazon as a company—its labor practices, tax evasion and so on. So could you say what you think Bezos’s interests will be now in this position and how Amazon—what’s been happening at Amazon might influence that?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, his position, as regards buying The Post, seems fairly transparent. I mean, there’s pending legislation he’s concerned with in Washington regarding collection of sales tax. He is being—Amazon is being talked about more and more openly as a monopoly in the wake of the DOJ decision. Is something going to be done about this?

AMY GOODMAN: The DOJ decision being?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Being the recently concluded case we mentioned a moment ago, the prosecution of Apple and the five of the six major publishers for supposed price fixing. Really what they were trying to do was just create—find a way to stop Amazon from severe discounting, which has really disrupted the marketplace. So, you know, it’s going to be very handy for him to have a newspaper in Washington, D.C., particularly this newspaper. It seems pretty transparent that way.

AMY GOODMAN: How has Amazon affected you as a publisher at Melville House?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, Amazon really controls the marketplace. You know, my publishing company has existed just about the same period of time that Amazon has, and we’ve watched it happen. They get current—from Melville House’s point of view, we are an activist press, but we’re also a fairly kind of normal trade press doing fiction, poetry, a wide variety of books. They are 90 percent of our digital business. They’re at least 30, maybe more, percent of our overall business. This is—

AMY GOODMAN: So do they make you more money?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Do they make us money? How do you mean?

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning, are you selling more books because you have this global marketplace?

DENNIS JOHNSON: I wouldn’t say our total business is up, no, at all. In fact, in the recession, I’d say it’s down. They’ve depressed the marketplace. Their—because of their rise and their kind of ruthless tactics, they’ve put out of business a lot of the retail market, which is—which is a problem for them, as well. I mean, there’s a phenomenon known as "showrooming," where people actually need to see the book in a bookstore before they decide to buy it. It influences Amazon’s sales, even its e-book sales. So they’re—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And you even said that it’s—Amazon has, quote, "devalued the concept of what a book is, and turned it into a widget."

DENNIS JOHNSON: Yeah. This is maybe my biggest concern about them. You know, we’re not talking about the business of widgets when you’re talking about books, nor newspapers. You’re talking about the culture of ideas. You’re talking about making art. You’re talking about speaking truth to power. Amazon has, pretty successfully over the course of its 18-year history, turned the concept of the book into a thing that has a set value: No matter what the book is, it’s only worth $9.99. And this has nothing to do with the content of the book, and that’s a dangerous idea to have in the marketplace of ideas.

AMY GOODMAN: But why not make books affordable?

DENNIS JOHNSON: If you ask me or you ask anyone in publishing, we’ll tell you, books are underpriced as it is. It’s always been a low-margin business. It’s not—I don’t know anybody that got into the book business, before Amazon, to make money. They got in it to fight the good fight, because they love literature. And that’s part of the problem. The people in the book business are lovers; they’re not fighters. They just—you know, they want to read. It’s mainly why they got into the business. They’re not used to these really aggressive bottom-line guys like Jeff Bezos, who was a former hedge fund manager, getting into the business strictly to make money. Then you see a marketplace that gets constricted, becomes about just the selling of best-sellers, and it becomes more and more difficult for little publishers like me to sell books about politics, to sell books about ideas and art.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob McChesney, I wanted to go to this issue of WikiLeaks that we mentioned before, because you talk about it in your book. In 2010, the WikiLeaks website was temporarily shut down when Amazon dropped it from its servers just 24 hours after being asked to do so by former Senator Joe Lieberman. You know, people may not realize this, but Amazon runs massive global servers that people can pay for, and that’s what WikiLeaks was doing. In a post to its Twitter account, WikiLeaks said, "If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books." Well, last year, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange referred to the incident during an interview on Democracy Now! when he discussed it along with the impact of credit card companies’ blockade of donations to WikiLeaks.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Since the blockade was erected in December 2010, WikiLeaks has lost 95 percent of the donations that were attempted to be transferred to us over that period. So, that is over $50 million. Now, fortunately, our 5 percent of $50 million is still not nothing, and so the organization can continue. But as I said in that press conference, our rightful and natural growth, our ability to publish as much as we would like, our ability to defend ourselves and our sources, has been diminished by that blockade.

Now, the United States government has looked into the blockade in January of 2011 and formally found that there is no lawful reason to erect a U.S. financial embargo against WikiLeaks. So what has happened here is that—and this came out in the commission documents that we published yesterday—is that Senator Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King pressured at the very least MasterCard and Amazon, but perhaps others, including Visa, as well, pressured those organizations to erect an extrajudicial blockade that they were not able to successfully erect through the Legislature or through a formal administrative process.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Bob McChesney, if you could talk about that and Bezos’s relationship with the CIA? We talked about the $600 million cloud deal. Also, Forbes said a year ago, "commercial quantum computing company D-Wave announced [that] it had closed a $30 million equity funding round. The primary investors ... were In-Q-Tel, which invests in technology on behalf of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and Bezos Expeditions, which is Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos’ private investment firm. ... So far D-Wave [had] only sold one of its $10 million systems to Lockheed Martin." If you could make sense of all of this, Bob McChesney, from WikiLeaks to the CIA?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: When the WikiLeaks scandal broke and I was doing my research for Digital Disconnect, I actually did some research on this. And I consulted people I knew fairly high up in the State Department off the record, and they said that they did not have to put pressure on Wiki—excuse me, on Amazon for that to happen, that Amazon was more than willing to cooperate. It was not a difficult sell, and there was no real pressure on them. They sort of leapt to the front of that parade of getting rid of WikiLeaks and removing it from the server.

And I think it really points to the issue you’re getting at, which this all suggests, which is that the large Internet giant monopolies, starting with, at the top of the list, Amazon, but really including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, right on down the list, they all have an extraordinarily cozy relationship with the national security state, with the military, the intelligence community. It’s a harmonious relationship. It’s mutually beneficial for both of them. They interact at the highest levels. And we’ve created this military-digital complex of sorts. And Jeff Bezos is at the top of that. It is something that—as President Eisenhower said in his famous farewell address, that we need to discuss the military-industrial complex, that it’s the reigning issue of our era, he said in 1961. And it remains the remaining issue, but now it has a digital complexion.

And I think this is an issue we have to discuss: How much power is in unaccountable monopolies? And these companies are really unaccountable to the government. You look at Obama running around trying to be on good terms with the companies. And now they control the news media directly, some of them, like Bezos. You don’t have to—if we stood outside the United States and Americans saw another country in this situation, we would instantly deride the country as not being remotely close to being on the democratic grid. It’s in our own country. I think we should be looking at it in the same lens.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Bob McChesney, very quickly, before we wrap, could you talk about alternative models of newspaper ownership?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, I think the—a lesson that’s clear from this is that we’ve had the illusion that journalism is a commercially viable undertaking for the last hundred years in the United States, and that was because advertising provided between 50 and 100 percent of all the revenues to support commercial journalism, and it made it very profitable throughout the 20th century, especially monopoly markets, which most of them gravitated toward. But now journalism has gone digital, and it’s turning to smart advertising. It no longer provides revenue for content for journalism, and that’s never going to come back. We’re not going to have commercial journalism.

And I think we have to then go back to the beginning of the republic. What did we do the first hundred years, before there was advertising in any significant levels for journalism? Well, what we had then to make sure there was a popular press was enormous postal and printing subsidies. We wouldn’t have had an Abolitionist press without it. We wouldn’t have had a daily press serving the masses without those postal subsidies, which effectively made newspaper distribution at that time all but free for these papers, nominal. And we’ve got to think in those terms again. If we look at the most democratic countries in the world, ranked by The Economist magazine, they all spend inordinate amounts of money supporting public and community media, supporting multiple newspapers and newsrooms in communities. They make a strong public investment in nonprofit, noncommercial journalism—independent nonprofit, noncommercial journalism. And that’s how you solve the problem. That’s a discussion that we’re eventually going to have to have in this country, the sooner the better.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you all for being with us—a very interesting discussion. And we urge people to tweet it around, to post it on your Facebook pages. The transcript will be up, and you can watch the audio and video. I want to thank Bob McChesney, co-founder of Free Press; Dennis Johnson, who is the publisher at Melville House; and, as well, Jeff Cohen, director of Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and a journalism professor there.

This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we speak with Mac McClelland. She wrote a piece called "I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave." Stay with us.

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