Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

27 December, 2005

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

cross-posted from the Big Orange Site

I just finished reading COBear's excellent piece connecting the dots concerning the New York Times' shocking inability to report news vital to the healthy functioning of our democracy. In the comments, sara seattle chimes in with this comment decrying the influence of corporations on both or governmental and media institutions. Her comment got the hamster on the wheel in my head.

University of California - Santa Cruz sociologist Bill Domhoff writes of "corporate interlock" in his book Who Rules America? (a must read for any Kossack looking for a critical examination of the rich and powerful in the United States). Simply put, a cursory examination of the Times Board of Directors reveals the entry point into a web of networks that provide the context for the newspaper's editorial decisions.

Presented below is the bio info for 9 of the 14 people who comprise the Board of Directors for the New York Times - note the other institutions with which these directors are affiliated (warning: this is a long list - there is more analysis after the quoted material):
  • John F. Akers
    Mr. Akers served as chairman of the board and CEO of International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) from 1986 until his retirement in 1993, completing a 33-year career at the company.

    Mr. Akers also serves on the boards of W.R. Grace & Co., Hallmark Cards, Inc., PepsiCo, Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc.

  • Brenda C. Barnes
    Ms. Barnes has served as president and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Corp. since February 2005, and a director since July 2004, when she joined Sara Lee Corp. as president and chief operating officer.

    Previously, Ms. Barnes was a consultant and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and North Central College.

    She is also a director on the board of Staples, Inc. In addition, Ms. Barnes serves as a chairman of the board of trustees of Augustana College and is on the advisory board and steering committee for the Center for Executive Women, Northwestern University.

    Ms. Barnes served as president and chief executive officer of Pepsi-Cola North America from 1996 until she retired in 1997. During her more than 22 years with Pepsi-Cola and its parent company, PepsiCo, she held a wide range of senior executive positions in general management, manufacturing, sales, marketing, and corporate operations.

    She began her career with PepsiCo as a business manager for Wilson Sporting Goods in 1976; became vice president, marketing for Frito-Lay in 1981; group vice president, marketing for Pepsi-Cola in 1984; president of Pepsi-Cola South/West in the early 90s; chief operating officer of Pepsi-Cola North America in 1993, and chief executive officer in 1996.

    From November 1999 until March 2000, Ms. Barnes was Interim President and Chief Operating Officer of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

  • Raul E. Cesan
    Mr. Cesan is the founder and has served as the managing partner of the investment firm, Commercial Worldwide LLC since 2001.

    Previously, Mr. Cesan served as president and chief operating officer of the Schering-Plough Corporation from 1998 until 2001, culminating a 24-year career at the company.

    He joined Schering-Plough, which is engaged in the discovery, development, manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceutical and health care products worldwide, in 1977 as director of finance and administration for the company's Latin American region. He subsequently held positions of increasing responsibility, including president of operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and was appointed president of Schering-Plough International in 1988. In 1992, he became president of Schering Laboratories, the U.S. pharmaceutical marketing arm, and in 1994, became president of Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals.

    Mr. Cesan also serves on the board of Flamel Technologies S.A., a French company.

  • William E. Kennard
    Mr. Kennard joined The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, in May 2001 as a managing director in the global telecommunications and media group. Before joining The Carlyle Group, Mr. Kennard served as Chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from November 1997 to January 2001.

    Mr. Kennard served as the FCC's general counsel from December 1993 to November 1997. Before serving in the government, Mr. Kennard was a partner and a member of the board of directors of the law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand.

    Mr. Kennard is also a member of the board of directors of Nextel Communications, Inc. and Dex Media, Inc.

  • James M. Kilts
    Mr. Kilts has served as president of The Gillette Company since 2003 and as chairman and chief executive officer since 2001.

    He is also a director on the boards of The May Department Store and MetLife, Inc. In addition, Mr. Kilts serves on the International Advisory Board of Citigroup.

    Previously, he served as president and chief executive officer of Nabisco Holdings Corporation from 1998 until 2000.

    Mr. Kilts served as Executive Vice President, Worldwide Food from 1995 until to 1997 and President of Kraft USA, Oscar Mayer from 1989 until 1995, culminating a 23-year career at Philip Morris Companies. During his tenure with Philip Morris, he held a wide range of executive positions in business development, consumer products and strategy development.

  • David E. Liddle
    Since 2000, Dr. Liddle has been a partner at U.S. Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. Between 1992 and 1999, he served as president of Interval Research Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based laboratory and incubator for new businesses focusing on broadband, consumer devices, interaction design and advanced technologies.

    Previously, Dr. Liddle founded Metaphor Computer Systems in 1982 and served as its president and CEO. He has also held executive positions at Xerox Corporation and IBM.

  • Ellen R. Marram
    Ms. Marram has served as a managing director of North Castle Partners, LLC. since 2000.

    From 1999 until 2000, Ms. Marram was president and chief executive officer of efdex Inc. (the Electronic Food & Drink Exchange), an Internet-based commodities exchange for the food and beverage industry.

    Ms. Marram, who left the Tropicana Beverage Group in 1998 after it was sold by The Seagram Company Ltd., had served as its president and chief executive officer from 1997 to 1998. She joined the company in 1993 as group president. Previously, she served as president and chief executive officer of the Nabisco Biscuit Company, the largest operating unit of Nabisco, Inc. Prior to joining Standard Brands Incorporated in 1977, which later merged with Nabisco, she worked with Johnson & Johnson and Lever Brothers.

    Ms. Marram also serves on the board of directors of the Ford Motor Company and Eli Lilly and Company.

  • Henry B. Schacht
    Mr. Schacht has been a managing director and senior advisor at Warburg Pincus LLC since 1999 (on unpaid leave from 2000 to 2004).

    Previously, Mr. Schacht served as senior advisor of Lucent Technologies Inc. He was the first chairman and CEO of Lucent when it was spun-off from the AT&T Corporation in 1996 until his retirement from Lucent in 1998. He returned to Lucent in October 2000 and served as chairman until February 2003 and senior advisor unil 2004.

    Previously, Mr. Schacht served as chairman and CEO of Cummins Engine Company, Inc., retiring in 1995 after 31 years.

    Mr. Schacht also serves on the boards of Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America), Johnson & Johnson and Lucent Technologies Inc.

  • Doreen A. Toben
    Ms. Toben has served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Verizon Communications, Inc. since 2002 and is responsible for its finance and strategic planning efforts. Previously, she was senior vice president and chief financial officer with responsibility for finance and strategic planning for Verizon's Telecom Group.


    Ms. Toben is a 30-year telecommunications veteran. She began her career at AT&T Corp and over the years held various of positions of increasing responsibility primarily in treasury, strategic planning and finance both there, and beginning in 1984 at Bell Atlantic Inc. Her later positions at Bell Atlantic included vice president and chief financial officer, Bell Atlantic-New Jersey in 1993; vice president, finance and controller in 1995; vice president and chief financial officer, Telecom/Network in 1997, and vice president and controller in 1999.

    Ms. Toben joined the National Advisory Board of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. on June 30, 2003. She is also a director on the boards of Citymeals-on-Wheels, Lincoln Center, and Verizon Wireless.


Okaaaay.

The Carlyle Group. Big Pharma. Insurance. Venture Capital. These people are THE rich and THE powerful. "The haves and the have-mores," as certain humble public servants would have it. Bush calls them "his base."

Returning to the work of Bill Domhoff: it's clear that the American elite - the upper-upper class, or top 1% of the population - work closely together at the top of the core economic institutions, with individuals holding positions in multiple corporate and/or governmental hierarchies. If we were to expand our examination beyond the NYT's Board of Directors and inspect their executive staff, as well as those of other corporate hierarchies, we'd soon come across familiar names. That keep re-occurring. Repeatedly. The amount of overlap in these corporate and governmental structures is truly staggering. "Corporate interlock" indeed.

Now, let me caution you against jumping to the conclusion that the NYT Board of Directors is putting direct pressure on the editorial staff to avoid stories that are detrimental to their interests. Without inside knowledge of the relationship between the boardroom and the newsroom we can make no claims, and with the exception of Arthur Sulzburger (who straddles the two worlds), I think you'd find little in the way of overt displays of power.

However, Domhoff points out that the people who sit on these elite Boards are not only business associates. They are also neighbors. They join the same yacht clubs. They sit in adjacent pews at the same church. Their kids attend the same elite prep schools. Their spouses sit together on the boards of local and national charities. They have standing tee times at the country's most exclusive golf clubs. They meet at policy boards to formulate proposals for legislation that will be beneficial for their respective industries. If we were to use Marxian language, we would say these people comprise a definite social class, a highly organized social class at that with concrete interests, and the ability to protect and maintain them.

It may be easy to dismiss this as some sort of conspiracy theory, where a small, insular part of the population is actively working to keep the rest of the population down. Let me debunk that in two ways.

First, a conspiracy implies some that it is a secret plan, that once exposed to the light of day, their nefarious plans would be foiled. The degree of interconnection between our government and corporate elites is done out in the open. It's in the list of corporate board members. Or in the NYT's society page. Or the Social Register. It's on the signature page of the pronouncements of industry policy boards. The back channels through which power in this country flows are readily visible for the looking.

Second, what Domhoff documents is a powerful synthesis between institutional and personal interests. A certain policy isn't just good for Citicorp, it's also good for Senator X's acquaintance Mr. Y, board member and large shareholder of Citicorp - their sons play football together at St. Albans.

Coming back around to COBear's original post, if you want to understand the editorial decisions of the Times, look who Sulzburger, the paper's publisher is hanging out with. Look at who's in his golfing foursome. Who is he lunching with. Whose party is he going to next week?

Chances are it'll just be with a few of his close friends - who just happen to be at the very center of power in the United States. The story concerning the Times isn't just about a plot to see Bush re-elected. It's about protecting the prerogatives of an insular class of society - the very top of the pyramid. And I think what we may now be seeing are signs that this top 1% of the population now believes that Bush may be detrimental to their prerogatives.

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