Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, December 27, 2012 1:02 pm

How the NFL just got on my sh*t list; or, America: NOT a meritocracy

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 1:02 pm
Tags: , ,

I understand that the Panthers are 6-9, already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and now playing only for pride. I get that. (Indeed, if you don’t know me, you may have no idea just how painfully I get it.)

But among the team’s few bright spots this year has been Luke Kuechly, this year’s first-round draft pick. Projected as an outside linebacker, he began playing in the middle — the spot he played in college — after an early, season-ending injury to starter Jon Beason.

And all he has done in that spot is lead the league in tackles.

Players are chosen to the Pro Bowl by fans, coaches and players themselves, each group’s votes counting an equal amount. I can understand the fans being ignorant of who, exactly, is leading the league in tackles. I can even understand fans being “homers,” people who vote only for players on their home team. And, of course, I understand that the Charlotte market is nowhere near as big as the New York or Washington or Boston or Houston or Dallas markets. But coaches are going to know the stats for sure, and the players probably will as well. So: really? Really? The guy who leads the league in tackles doesn’t get to the Pro Bowl?

Someone please explain this to me: How does a guy who leads the league in tackles not make it to the Pro Bowl?

Just to put this in perspective, absent serious off-field problems, would any guy who led the league in TD passes, rushing yards, receiving yards or field goals NOT be named to the Pro Bowl?

Yeah. I thought not.

Friday, December 21, 2012 12:01 am

Today’s forecast

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 12:01 am

IMG_3227

Stay safe.

(image h/t Balloon Juice)

Thursday, December 20, 2012 8:40 pm

Good idea, Mayan edition

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:40 pm

ABL at Balloon Juice, back before the last time the world ended:

Why don’t we send all the right-wing, gay-hating, forced birthing, family values hypocrites—you know, the people who don’t deserve it—right on up with Jesus.  Then for the genuinely Rapturable, can’t we have them stay here, but, like, give them extra bacon on their sandwiches and free HBO?

I’d be good with that.

Sunday, December 16, 2012 3:00 am

Happy birthday, Ludwig

Filed under: Fun,Salute! — Lex @ 3:00 am
Tags:

Beethoven is (probably) 242 years old today.

Oh, and this, kids, is how you do a flash mob.

Friday, December 14, 2012 7:55 pm

On today’s Connecticut massacre; or, PARTS of the Constitution are a suicide pact

Commenter Kurt Weldon at Pierce’s place:

When the Patriot Act was thumbing its nose at the First Amendment, we were told “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” And yet, when the Second Amendment is discussed, the Constitution is very much a suicide pact. The First Amendment is phrased as an absolute. We treat [it] as conditional. The Second is phrased conditionally. We treat it as an absolute.

Words matter, and history’s greatest clusterflocks are, to a one, tagged with the shattered remains of people who believed otherwise, the destruction not distinguishing in many cases between the merely ignorant and the guilty as sin. Are we really going to continue to treat as rational actors the kinds of public figures who argue, in effect, that if we give each kindergartner her own Glock, this crap won’t ever happen again?

However, lest I be accused of looking at the world only through shit-colored glasses, let me pass on, via commenter Patrick Myers on the same thread linked above, an observation — and, perhaps, instructions for you if you’re wondering what to tell your kids about what happened today — from Fred Rogers. Yeah, that Fred Rogers:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

Among those helpers today were cops, firefighters and public school teachers — the same cops, firefighters and public school teachers the Republican Party and its sponsors, the Koch Brothers and ALEC, have been demonizing so loudly and publicly for so long. Bad as today was, but for some of those teachers it could have been far worse.

My aunt is a retired public school teacher in Connecticut. Her older daughter’s husband is one today.

No, I don’t believe in banning individual gun ownership. But I also don’t believe for a goddamn second that the American people currently constitute a well-regulated militia, and anyone who claims otherwise, including a majority of the current Supreme Court, apparently, is batshit insane. I believe in the Constitution, but I have never signed a suicide pact and I don’t know another soul in America who has. Maybe I just need to get out more.

Welcome to the jungle, baby. You’re gonna die.

You know, sometimes I wish evolution actually weren’t a thing:

We’ve got your disease.

Thursday, December 13, 2012 7:11 pm

Ahh. Order is restored in the intellectual-property court. Plus, we got to fire a bright 24-year-old and keep your drugs expensive. Cool!

Back around Thanksgiving, I wrote about Derek Khanna, a 24-year-old staffer for the House Republican Study Committee who had the unmitigated gall to point that American intellectual property law is not the cognitive nirvana that a lot of Republicans like to think it is. (I, myself, have long referred to American IP law as “where creativity goes to die™.”)

Before the weekend was out, the report had been retracted, ostensibly because it had not been subjected to “adequate review.” (Insert your own euphemism here.) And not long afterward, Khanna was fired.

The Washington Examiner elaborates:

The reason [for the retraction], according to two Republicans within the RSC: angry objections from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, whose district abuts Nashville, Tenn. [Nashville is home to the country-music industry, for those of y'all not from around here -- Lex.] In winning a fifth term earlier in the month, Blackburn received more money from the music industry than any other Republican congressional candidate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The American Conservative helpfully notes:

Needless to say, members weighing in on staffing decisions is very unusual. Also, Blackburn isn’t just on the industry’s take. Her chief of staff is a former RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] lobbyist.

The Examiner’s Timothy P. Carney summarizes the sad hypocrisy of the GOP in all matters IP:

Republicans are surprisingly close to the entertainment industry. For instance, Mitch Glazier, as a Republican House Judiciary Committee staffer in the late 1990s, played a key role in drafting GOP bills expanding copyright before cashing out to the industry. He now runs the [RIAA], a $4 million-a-year lobby operation that fights for more government protection of record labels.

So Republican politicians, with their sensitivities to K Street and their general pro-big-business tendencies, are not eager to roll back the extraordinary government protection for Hollywood and Nashville. But free-market think tanks and writers are banging the drum.

Jerry Brito, a scholar at the Mercatus Center, has just published “Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess,” an entire book of essays critiquing current copyright law from a free-market perspective, and the Cato Institute is hosting a panel on the book Thursday.

Brito’s incisive book tells tale after tale of government kowtowing to copyright holders. An egregious example is Mickey Mouse. “Each time the copyright … was about to expire, and the happy rodent was about to become a shared cultural icon like Santa Claus, Hamlet, and Uncle Sam, Congress has extended the copyright term,” Brito explains.

This is not at all what the founders had in mind when they authorized Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. … “

Retroactively extending the copyright on a work produced long ago cannot promote useful arts and sciences. It just enriches the copyright holder and denies access to everyone else — which is exactly the point, if you’re an industry lobbyist.

Once again, big business is aligned with big government and against open competition. So far, the party of free markets is on the wrong side.

But let’s say you’ve never written a book or composed a country song or created a bankable cartoon character like Mickey Mouse. Why should you care?

Simple. Do you use any kind of non-generic prescription drug or medication? If so, the odds are good that because of this same legal structure, you’re paying more for it than you need to be and than a free market would require. That fact, in turn, contributes enormously to the fact that the U.S. pays far more per capita for health care than do other advanced countries. And that fact — not Social Security, not Medicare, not Medicaid, not welfare — is one of the biggest reasons why we have the deficits that we have.

(h/t: Fred)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 6:49 pm

Sen. John McCain gets something right. Seriously.

Filed under: Evil,Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 6:49 pm
Tags: ,

McCain is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is expected to approve on Thursday a 6,000-page report on the Bush administration’s torture program. And McCain wants that report made public. His reasoning is that we didn’t get any useful information out of the torture program, in particular not any information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. To me, that’s threading the needle a little too finely; the damn thing should be public because it’s about torture, hello? It should be made public because it’s about crimes committed by our government, not because of the utility, or lack thereof, of those crimes. But McCain, who hasn’t done much right lately, is, to his credit, on the right side of both morality and history on this one. I just hope his committee colleagues agree with him.

Friday, December 7, 2012 6:35 am

Now it can be told: Elizabeth McIntosh’s Pearl Harbor story, 71 years late

Filed under: Journalism,Salute! — Lex @ 6:35 am
Tags: , ,

On Dec. 7, 1941, Elizabeth McIntosh was a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin when the Japanese bombs began falling at Pearl Harbor. A week later, she wrote a story aimed at Hawaii’s women, to help them understand what had happened and what they could do. It was graphic. Her editor killed it. Today The Washington Post publishes it for the first time.

McIntosh went on to serve in the Office of Strategic Services and its offspring, the CIA. She’s still alive and well at 97.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 7:29 pm

Brian Moynihan can say only one thing to keep himself out of prison, and it’s a lie.

This one’s for my friends and family in Charlotte.

Brian Moynihan is the CEO of Bank of America. Last May, unbeknownst to most of us, he was deposed by lawyers for insurance companies suing Bank of America and Countrywide, the “mortgage” company that BofA acquired. The insurance companies lost a metric shit-ton of money because Countrywide spent years originating a boatload of mortgages to anyone with a pulse, mortgages that were doomed to fail, and then packaged and sold them as AAA-grade bonds, which were even more attractive investments at the time because MBIA and other prominent companies had insured them.

When BofA acquired Countrywide, for no small amount of money despite the company’s obvious worthlessness at that point, Moynihan famously promised to make good on all his company’s new acquisition’s misdeeds, a promise that, if kept, could render BofA so much more insolvent that even the government wouldn’t be able to ignore it any longer. And I haven’t kept close track, so this may all be over and done with, but Moynihan also may have legal problems with BofA stockholders who have claimed they weren’t fully informed of  Countrywide’s problems at the time of the acquisition, as securities law requires.

Anyway, this little Q&A between MBIA lawyers and Moynihan  runs on to 223 pages, and if we are to take its protagonist at his word — a dangerous thing to do, as we shall see in a moment — then he not only has no business serving as the CEO of anything more important than watching moss grow, he also desperately needs full-time dementia care. (And having had friends and relatives with Alizheimer’s, I don’t throw that metaphor out  lightly.)

Moynihan essentially had three choices in answering these questions. He could tell the truth and, in all likelihood, admit under oath to securities fraud, conspiracy and a host of other crimes. Or he could lie and say these things did not happen on his watch when they manifestly did, and face perjury charges. Or he could say he didn’t recall. (I suppose he had a fourth possibility, taking the Fifth Amendment, but a quick scan suggests he either didn’t do that or else did it very obliquely.)

Well, to absolutely no one’s surprise, Brian the Job Creator chose Door No. 3. At the moment, if you Google the phrase “great amnesiacs of history” in quotes, you get no hits. I suspect that’s about to change, as Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone comments:

If you’re a court junkie, or have the misfortune (as some of us poor reporters do) of being forced professionally to spend a lot of time reading legal documents, the just-released Moynihan deposition in MBIA v. Bank of America, Countrywide, and a Buttload of Other Shameless Mortgage Fraudsters will go down as one of the great Nixonian-stonewalling efforts ever, and one of the more entertaining reads of the year.

In this long-awaited interrogation – Bank of America has been fighting to keep Moynihan from being deposed in this case for some time – Moynihan does a full Star Trek special, boldly going where no deponent has ever gone before, breaking out the “I don’t recall” line more often and perhaps more ridiculously than was previously thought possible. Moynihan seems to remember his own name, and perhaps his current job title, but beyond that, he’ll have to get back to you. …

Taibbi’s account alone is both hilarious and outrageous. Now that the semester is over, I can’t wait to read the actual deposition. (Hey, it’s how I roll.)

In the deposition, attorney Peter Calamari of Quinn Emmanuel, representing MBIA, attempts to ask Moynihan a series of questions about what exactly Bank of America knew about Countrywide’s operations at various points in time.

Early on, he asks Moynihan if he remembers the B of A audit committee discussing Countrywide. Moynihan says he “doesn’t recall any specific discussion of it.”

He’s asked again: In the broadest conceivable sense, do you recall ever attending an audit committee meeting where the word Countrywide or any aspect of the Countrywide transaction was ever discussed? Moynihan: I don’t recall.

Calamari counters: It’s a multi-billion dollar acquisition, was it not?

Moynihan: Yes, it was.

[Q:] Well, isn’t that the kind of thing you would talk about?

Moynihan: not necessarily . . .

This goes on and on for a while, with the Bank of America CEO continually insisting he doesn’t remember ever talking about Countrywide at these meetings, that you’d have to “get the minutes.” Incredulous, Calamari, a little sarcastically, finally asks Moynihan if he would say he has a good memory.

“I would – I could remember things, yes,” Moynihan deadpans. “I have a good memory.”

Calamari presses on, eventually asking him about the state of Countrywide when Moynihan became the CEO, leading to the following remarkable exchange, in which the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world claims not to know anything about the most significant acquisition in the bank’s history (emphasis mine):

Q: By January 1st, 2010, when you became the CEO of Bank Of America, CFC – and  I’m using the initials CFC, Countrywide Financial Corporation – itself was no longer engaged in any revenue-producing activities; is that right?

Moynihan: I wouldn’t be the best person to ask about that because I don’t know.

There are no sound effects in the transcript, but you can almost hear an audible gasp at this response. Calamari presses Moynihan on his answer.

“Sir,” he says, “you were CEO of Bank Of America in January, 2010, but you don’t know what Countrywide Financial Corporation was doing at that time?”

In an impressive display of balls, Moynihan essentially replies that Bank of America is a big company, and it’s unrealistic to ask the CEO to know about all of its parts, even the ones that are multi-billion-dollar suckholes about which the firm has been engaged in nearly constant litigation from the moment it acquired the company.

“We have several thousand legal entities,” is how Moynihan puts it. “Exactly what subsidiary took place [sic] is not what you do as the CEO. That is [sic] other people’s jobs to make sure.”

The exasperated MBIA lawyer tries again: If it’s true that Moynihan somehow managed to not know anything about the bank’s most important and most problematic subsidiary when he became CEO, well, did he ever make an effort to correct that ignorance?  “Do you ever come to learn what CFC was doing?” is how the question is posed.

“I’m not sure that I recall exactly what CFC was doing versus other parts,” Moynihan sagely concludes.

The deposition rolls on like this for 223 agonizing pages. The entire time, the Bank of America CEO presents himself as a Being There-esque cipher who was placed in charge of a Too-Big-To-Fail global banking giant by some kind of historical accident beyond his control, and appears to know little to nothing at all about the business he is running.

In the end, Moynihan even doubles back on his “we’ll pay for the things Countrywide did” quote. Asked if he said that to a Bloomberg reporter, Moynihan says he doesn’t remember that either, though he guesses the reporter got it right.

Well, he’s asked, assuming he did say it, does the quote accurately reflect Moynihan’s opinion?

“It is what it is,” Moynihan says philosophically.

There’s nothing surprising about any of this – it’s natural that a Bank of America executive would do everything he could to deny responsibility for Countrywide’s messes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. By about the thirtieth “I don’t recall,” I was laughing out loud.

It’s also more than a little infuriating. In the pre-crash years, Countrywide was the biggest, loudest, most obvious fraud in a marketplace full of them …

One of the biggest indictments you can level against U.S. news media is that U.S. financiers were engaging in this level of world-historical theft, fraud and conspiracy right out in the open for a decade and more, and yet no one of consequence has done any hard time for it.

If we are to take Moynihan at his word, the only way you could have been more delusional and out of touch than he was to have believed on election night that Mitt Romney was going to win big. But as the deposition makes clear, taking Brian Moynihan at his word  would make a box of rocks look like a Davidson valedictorian.

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