The guts of Tuesday's testimony by Rupert Murdoch was his assertion
that his employees, not the man himself, were responsible for the
extensive phone-hacking and apparent payoffs to police officers.
"Do you accept that ultimately you are responsible for this whole fiasco?" UK lawmaker Jim Sheridan asked.
"No," Murdoch answered.
"You're not responsible? Who is responsible?" Sheridan said.
"The people that I trusted to run [the tabloid], and then maybe the people that they trusted."
response to questions about whether he was culpable of "willful
blindness" or ignoring "knowledge that you could have had and should
have had," he said: "We were not ever guilty of that."
Murdoch may or may not be found to have approved or condoned the gamey, apparently illegal practices of News of the World -- and
possibly of his other UK newspapers housed under News International,
which was headed at various relevant times by his longtime friend Les
Hinton and his much admired protégé, Rebekah Brooks. The facts on those
questions will be developed by a rehabilitated police investigation and
by the inquiry, with subpoena power, which a senior UK judge will
But what is clear is that he failed to
clean up his UK news operation six years ago, when the phone of Prince
Williams was hacked and a News of the World reporter and an
outside private investigator were jailed. This failure of the leader of
the company makes him directly responsible for "this whole fiasco,"
because proper action six years ago would have exposed problems in News
International, led to company sanctions of responsible individuals,
caused a prohibition on improper acts accompanied by an enforced code of
journalistic conduct, and prompted leadership from the top to change
the culture of those news organizations.
Here is my chain of thought on Murdoch's responsibility.
the events became public, it is inconceivable that Rupert Murdoch was
not well aware of the instance of illegal hacking of the heir to the
throne and of the criminal sanctions imposed on a reporter in his own
newspaper. (It isn't every day that one of your reporters is guilty of a
There is an iron rule of corporate
crisis management for top leaders: "It is our problem the moment we hear
about it." Having heard about "it" (the royal hacking and the criminal
disposition), the leader of the corporation should have made sure that
he actually learned the causes of the individual case, whether those
causes were systematic, how many others in the organization were
involved, how people would be disciplined, and how systems and culture
would be changed.
For a CEO (and board of
directors) who really wanted those questions answered, he would have
made sure that there was an independent internal investigator of stature
who could blow through bureaucratic and self-protective obfuscation to
find the truth. The structure, process, and personnel of such an inquiry
were issues that should have been handled at the top of News Corp.,
with the CEO making clear to all that he wanted all the facts on the
Although the News Corp CEO would not,
of course, be involved in the actual inquiry, he would have insisted on
regular reports on how the facts were being developed and then on the
appropriate actions that flowed from those facts.
seems quite clear now that Rupert Murdoch and his feckless board took
none of those steps. In this deeply important sense, Rupert Murdoch is
clearly responsible for the conflagration inside News Corp, contrary to
his attempt yesterday to avoid accountability.
course, there was a sham internal investigation, led by News
International execs and handled by regular outside counsel, which
concluded that there were only acts of one rogue reporter. But it is
now clear that significant amounts of material indicating widespread
hacking were ignored, and that there were improper
relationships--including possible bribes and threats -- with investigating
police that led to a stunted official inquiry.
both James Murdoch and his father acknowledged prior to their
appearance before the Parliamentary committee that News Corp had failed
determine what had been happening in their own organization. According
to James, the now-defunct News of the World and its immediate
corporate parent, News International, had failed to get to the bottom of
"repeated wrong-doing that occurred" and "wrongly maintained that that
these issues were confined to one reporter." Rupert Murdoch said in his
first full page ad last week, " We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing
that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the
individuals affected. We regret not acting faster to sort things out."
How about responsibility for a failure to heed the warning sign of a
reporter guilty of a crime and treat the disease before it metastasized.
As a leader, Rupert Murdoch's statement that he is "not responsible" is not just craven. It is wrong.
Ben Heineman Jr. is is a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and at the Harvard Law School's Program on Corporate Governance. He is the author of High Performance With High Integrity.
Americans are optimistic about the communities they live in—but not their nation. Why?
I have been alive for a long time. I remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy, when I was a 10th-grader, and then watching with my family through the grim following days as newscasters said that something had changed forever. The next dozen years were nearly nonstop trauma for the country. More assassinations. Riots in most major cities. All the pain and waste and tragedy of the Vietnam War, and then the public sense of heading into the utterly unknown as, for the first time ever, a president was forced to resign. Americans of my children’s generation can remember the modern wave of shocks and dislocations that started but did not end with the 9/11 attacks.
Through all this time, I have been personally and professionally, and increasingly, an American optimist. The long years I have spent living and working outside the United States have not simply made me more aware of my own strong identity as an American. They have also sharpened my appreciation for the practical ramifications of the American idea. For me this is the belief that through its cycle of struggle and renewal, the United States is in a continual process of becoming a better version of itself. What I have seen directly over the past decade, roughly half in China and much of the rest in reporting trips around the United States, has reinforced my sense that our current era has been another one of painful but remarkable reinvention, in which the United States is doing more than most other societies to position itself, despite technological and economic challenges, for a new era of prosperity, opportunity, and hope.
Unless he divests himself of his business holdings, the president-elect could violate constitutional rules meant to guard against corruption.
With the recent news that two Republican electors are refusing to vote for Donald Trump, we have been inundated with inquiries asking whether other electors should decline to select Trump because of a particular constitutional issue. It’s one we worked on when we were advising Presidents Bush and Obama, respectively: the Emoluments Clause.
Every elector must search his or her own conscience, but after a blizzard of reporting on the president-elect’s foreign business relations in recent days, it appears that Trump will be in violation of this clause of the Constitution from the moment he takes office—and the plan for his business that he hinted at on Twitter last week does not solve the problem.
Why the ingrained expectation that women should desire to become parents is unhealthy
In 2008, Nebraska decriminalized child abandonment. The move was part of a "safe haven" law designed to address increased rates of infanticide in the state. Like other safe-haven laws, parents in Nebraska who felt unprepared to care for their babies could drop them off in a designated location without fear of arrest and prosecution. But legislators made a major logistical error: They failed to implement an age limitation for dropped-off children.
Within just weeks of the law passing, parents started dropping off their kids. But here's the rub: None of them were infants. A couple of months in, 36 children had been left in state hospitals and police stations. Twenty-two of the children were over 13 years old. A 51-year-old grandmother dropped off a 12-year-old boy. One father dropped off his entire family -- nine children from ages one to 17. Others drove from neighboring states to drop off their children once they heard that they could abandon them without repercussion.
Strangling public-sector unions in Wisconsin has shrunk teachers’ pay and benefits. Who’s next?
Back in 2009, Rick Erickson was happy with his job as a teacher in one of the state’s northernmost school districts on the shores of Lake Superior. He made $35,770 a year teaching chemistry and physics, which wasn’t a lot of money, but then again, he received stellar healthcare and pension benefits, and could talk honestly with administrators about what he needed as a teacher every two years when his union sat down with the school district in collective bargaining sessions.
Then, five years ago, Wisconsin passed Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, which dramatically limited the ability of teachers and other public employees to bargain with employers on wages, benefits, and working conditions. After Act 10,Erickson saw his take-home pay drop dramatically: He now makes $30,650. His wife is a teacher, too, and together they make 11 percent less than they did before Act 10. The local union he once led no longer exists, and so he can’t bargain with the school district for things like prep time and sick days. He pays more for health care and his pension, and he says both he and his wife may now not be able to retire until they are much older than they had planned.
The same part of the brain that allows us to step into the shoes of others also helps us restrain ourselves.
You’ve likely seen the video before: a stream of kids, confronted with a single, alluring marshmallow. If they can resist eating it for 15 minutes, they’ll get two. Some do. Others cave almost immediately.
This “Marshmallow Test,” first conducted in the 1960s, perfectly illustrates the ongoing war between impulsivity and self-control. The kids have to tamp down their immediate desires and focus on long-term goals—an ability that correlates with their later health, wealth, and academic success, and that is supposedly controlled by the front part of the brain. But a new study by Alexander Soutschek at the University of Zurich suggests that self-control is also influenced by another brain region—and one that casts this ability in a different light.
SNL parodied the president-elect’s impulsive tweeting last weekend, and he responded by tweeting about it.
Saturday Night Live has been on television for nearly 42 years, and in that time, it has mocked seven presidents, with an eighth, Donald Trump, now firmly in its sights. The show’s satire is essentially part of the political scenery; at best, a president might knowingly reference it as a sign of self-awareness. Chevy Chase, in his portrayal of Gerald Ford, mocked the president as clumsy and accident-prone. President Ford did not respond by publicly demonstrating his grace and poise, obeying the old maxim about not protesting too much.
Playing Trump on last weekend’s show, Alec Baldwin mocked the president-elect’s impulse control in a sketch that saw him retweeting random high-school students during a national security briefing. The real Trump was not pleased. “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live - unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad,” he tweeted at 12:13 a.m., about halfway through the episode. The irony couldn’t have been more plain: In response to a sketch mocking his propensity for impulsive tweeting, the president-elect ... impulsively tweeted about it. Satire in the age of Trump has already been difficult for Saturday Night Live, but it seems increasingly caught in a feedback loop: Any ridiculous heightening of his behavior is doomed to instant irrelevance by Trump’s reaction to it.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
To many white Trump voters, the problem wasn’t her economic stance, but the larger vision—a multi-ethnic social democracy—that it was a part of.
Perhaps the clearest takeaway from the November election for many liberals is that Hillary Clinton lost because she ignored the working class.
In the days after her shocking loss, Democrats complained that Clinton had no jobs agenda. A widely shared essay in The Nationblamed Clinton's "neoliberalism" for abandoning the voters who swung the election. “I come from the white working class,” Bernie Sanders said on CBS This Morning, “and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from.”
But here is the troubling reality for civically minded liberals looking to justify their preferred strategies: Hillary Clinton talked about the working class, middle class jobs, and the dignity of work constantly. And she still lost.
Areas of the country Trump won by large margins are particularly vulnerable to the environmental devastation wrought by climate change.
On the heels of President-elect Donald Trump’s meeting this Monday with environmentalist and former vice president Al Gore, 97 percent of the world’s scientists might have breathed (just a little) easier. Here was a signal—however tentative—that the incoming president was at least interested in hearing the views of those who consider climate change to be a looming threat, and who would prefer the United States do something about it. The meeting, as my colleague Robinson Meyer writes, was arranged by the first daughter, Ivanka Trump. Presumably, it is part of a reported effort to make climate change “one of her signature issues” in a bid to win over “liberals disgusted and depressed with the tone and tenor of the new leader of the free world.”
In the four weeks since the election, which seem like four centuries, Donald Trump has dominated the news and done real strategic and economic damage with his stream of intemperate tweets. For a reckoning of the chaos that his tweets about Taiwan and China have already induced, please see these Atlantic items: by Uri Friedman with Shen Dengli, by David Graham, by Chris Bodenner, and by Isaac Stone Fish, with links to many other analyses. The harm he petulantly inflicted today on Boeing, a company that is perennially the United States’s leading exporter and one of its most important high-tech manufacturing employers and standard-setters, is only the latest and most flagrant illustration.