Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 12:17 am

Odds and ends for 1/25

Enron may be dead, but its ghost continues to mess with us: “White House and Congressional Democratic leaders say they now believe that they have the 60 votes needed to block a filibuster of Mr. Bernanke’s reappointment.” … “… strategy on the Bernanke confirmation was being led by former Enron lobbyist Linda Robertson, who is viewed as an effective advocate for the banking chief on Capitol Hill.” But don’t worry — the president’s going on TV Wednesday night to assure us he feels our pain.

Heckuva job, Bernanke: The Fed is required by law  (12 U.S.C. § 225a) to manage monetary policy so as to create jobs for as many people as possible. True story. It also is required to report semiannually on what steps it has taken to comply with this and other requirements. What did its most recent report say about creating jobs? Not bloody much. So explain to me again why this guy should get another four years in the job.

You can pay me now or pay me (a lot more) later: Cutting early-childhood programs hurts jobs now, costs society more later, research shows. My experience covering politics leads me to believe that the kind of people who oppose this sort of spending are not, in general, the type who tend to be convinced by science/research, but, what the hell, I’ll post it anyway.

Yo, Pat, it wasn’t the devil who cursed Haiti. It was Thomas Jefferson. (h/t: Jill)

How could we help Haiti long-term? Cancel its debt, for one thing.

If anything more progressive than the Senate health-care bill is politically dangerous for Democrats, then why is the guy charged with getting Democrats elected to Congress telling Obama and the Senate to shove it?: Maybe because he has seen this polling. Retiring Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., on the other hand, clearly has not.

Memo to HuffPo: Your games are no fun when you let the irony-impaired play. (h/t: Beau)

Holy crap: December existing-home sales, expected to be down 10% (or, per Goldman, 15% at worst), were in fact down 16.7% from November, the biggest one-month decline in history.

Speaking of real estate, the biggest real-estate transaction in history has gone into default. Corollary: Apparently it’s OK for real-estate giant Tishman Speyer to walk away from its debts, but don’t try this with your underwater home, kids.

Prisoner’s dilemma, in that everyone who doesn’t work for Goldman Sachs is kind of a prisoner of everyone who does: Goldman Sachs’s chief bull, Jim O’Neill, has gotten somewhat ursine. So does that mean that they know the economy’s going to get worse because they’re running it, or does it mean they want us to think they think it’s getting worse so that they can bet on improvements, engineer those improvements, and win? Decisions, decisions.

Priorities in a post-peak-oil reality, from James Kunstler: “The money that went into propping up the automobile companies could have been used to rebuild the entire railroad system between Boston and the Great Lakes, and the capital squandered on AIG and its offshoot claimants could have rebuilt everything else the rest of the way to Seattle. Is it really so hard to imagine what history requires of you?”

Classifying information to cover up a crime is, itself, a crime. So it makes me very curious to know not only what about the New York Fed’s plans to bail out AIG was kept secret from the SEC on “national-security” grounds, but also why that was done.

Health-care reform: a pictorial timeline (w/generous dollops of snark).

Shorter Michael Barone: How DARE we let the people who actually know what they’re doing decide things? Bonus Stoopid: He talks about knowing how to “manipulate words” like it’s a BAD thing.

We are a polarized nation, and because that’s the case, anyone hoping to prevail in an off-year election probably needs to forget about trying to appeal to the “broad middle” because there ain’t one.

Question for Sen. Bill Nelson: What, exactly, does “the left” control? Because it sure ain’t the White House, Congress or the Supreme Court.

Memo to Andrew Breitbart: Insisting that your questions are serious is no substitute for asking serious questions.

Memo to Harold Ford: Hell, no, we’re not going to cut taxes for you and your rich friends. In fact, jackhole, you’re lucky this country does not tax Stoopid. Hey, do me a favor, dude: PLEASE run for Senate from New York with that platform. I could do with a laugh.

The stimulus saved 1.2 million jobs, but the government needs to do even more, according to a USA Today survey of 50 economists.

They say hope is not a plan, but apparently, for the Obama administration (shorter WaPo), hope was a plan. Oy.

Which is more of a plan than Congressional Democrats have on finance reform.

If you’re going to believe Hitler was a leftist, then you also have to believe … Oh, the places you’ll go!

How to steal a trillion (and a half): John Hussman explains how it’s done.

Pity the rich and their oh, so difficult lives.

Prince Charles is part switchblade. Almost literally.

Thursday, December 31, 2009 12:36 am

Your tax dollars at work. Sigh.

As previously noted, for all that $8 billion a year we’re spending on the Transportation Security Administration, the only two things we’ve done since 9/11 that have made flying markedly safer from hijacking are securing cockpit doors and instructing passengers to fight back. Everything else is just shoveling tax money out the back door to about three private-sector companies.

Which, naturally, didn’t stop the TSA from coming with a whole new top-secret list of super-duper security procedures, which a couple of travel bloggers, Steven Frischling and Christopher Elliott, immediately published.

Now, I suppose one can argue that the bloggers shouldn’t have done it, and I will.

But the TSA’s first response — subpoenaing the bloggers to try to find their source — suggests that the TSA is far more about protecting somebody’s federally financed joyride than it is about balancing the complex issues involved with protecting air travelers in a free country from hijackers.

And that, my friends, is a part of the larger issue of classified records that has cropped up as the president has pledged to accelerate declassification of a lot of government records that either should have been declassified a long time ago or else never should have been classified in the first place. (Coincidentally, I got into an argument tonight on this very subject on Facebook.)

It is hard for people who don’t work a lot with public records to grasp just how widespread is the practice of withholding records from the public just because making them public would embarrass one or more government officials. (Dick Cheney, I’m talking to your Daily-Show-defense-offering self.) I did this stuff day in and day out for 25 years with records from all levels of government, from the city of Greensboro right on up to the Army, FAA and FBI. It was staggering 1) how many government officials don’t even know the open-records laws that are supposed to guide their work (I should’ve moonlighted as a compliance consultant for the governments I covered; I could’ve gotten rich. Kidding.); 2) how many of those who do know just don’t give a damn; and 3) how many of the illegally withheld records we eventually got, only to find that there clearly was no justification, from a national security standpoint or otherwise, for their having been withheld in the first place.

What’s even more entertaining is that classifying a federal document to try to cover up evidence of a crime is itself a crime. Despite the long litany of crimes committed by the government over the past decade, many involving records that were at one point classified [**COUGH** John Yoo **COUGH**], when’s the last time you heard of anyone being prosecuted for that? Yeah, I thought so.

Because here’s the thing. In a free country, the people, not the government, need to be the ones to decide what stays secret. And in this country’s history, the people have actually done a pretty good job.

Even journalists, whom the Rush Limbaughs of the world like to portray as unpatriotic, don’t want U.S. service members to get hurt unnecessarily. Toward that end, they sit on sensitive information all the time, and not just at the national level or in other countries, either. For example, here in Greensboro during the first Gulf War, the N&R learned that a key component of the Patriot anti-missile system was being manufactured by a local company but did not publish that information until being assured that publication would not jeopardize anyone.

I hope the ACLU takes the bloggers’ case, countersues the crap out of the TSA for abuse of process and wins a ton of money, because, dammit, somebody, somewhere has to stand up for common sense and I’m not going to be the one stupid enough to argue that a pair of bloggers have more of an obligation in this regard than does the federal government.

UPDATE: The TSA subpoenas have been dropped, although a number of other troubling questions about the agency’s behavior toward the two bloggers remain. Quasi-relatedly, Republican congresscritters need to remember that the biggest threat to national security isn’t journalists. Sometimes it’s … Republican congresscritters. Republican congresscritters who are the senior Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, in fact.

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