Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, February 7, 2010 12:27 am

Odds and ends for 2/6

New York’s attorney general comes down hard on Ken Lewis and Joseph Price in a civil lawsuit, alleging that the Bank of America CEO and CFO misled not only the bank’s shareholders but also their own board, the company’s lawyers and the public as to the amount of water Merrill Lynch was taking on when BAC acquired it — an amount sufficient to have taken BAC down too without a taxpayer bailout. While we wonder why Lewis and Price remain unindicted comes news that Lewis’s attorneys intend to call Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke to testify in his defense. If my 401k and kids’ college funds weren’t so devastated, I’d be buying popcorn.

The United States attorney general comes down hard on Mitch “WATB” McConnell and other Republicans who think there’s any sort of basis in fact or law for trying the Underpants Bomber anywhere but U.S. District Court. Read the whole thing; it is full of Win.

If he legally changed his name to “Enormous Genitals,”* do you think it would help?: Pakistani career diplomat Akbar Zeb has been rejected by Saudi Arabia as ambassador to that country because his name translates into Arabic as “biggest d**k.” You laugh, but the United Arab Emirates rejected him earlier for the same reason. (h/t: Fred)

*Movie reference:

UPDATE: Fred says we missed a chance by not including this, and I agree:

Shredding the Constitution. Again: The U.S. government was surveilling an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, for months and months and never came up with any basis for indicting him. And yet, somehow, he ends up on an assassination list, in apparent violation of at least three different amendments to the Constitution. Someone want to explain to me how this works?

Fritz Kraemer: the biggest warmonger you’ve never heard of.

How good are you at assessing risk — in particular the risk that what you think about a particular subject might be wrong? You can take a test here to find out. The higher your score (perfect is 100), the more willing you are to consider the possibility that what you think you know is actually wrong. I scored 93, which probably comes as a surprise to everyone who considers me dogmatic. It doesn’t surprise me for two reasons: 1) In 25 years of journalism, you learn to do your homework. So on stuff that I was confident I was right on, I was confident for a reason, and I didn’t hedge my bets, so to speak, during the test. 2) In 25 years of journalism, you also learn not to lean too hard on stuff of which you’re not confident, because the consequences can be much worse than just getting a fact wrong. They can include getting fired and sued. So on questions where I wasn’t certain, particularly those containing multiple factual assertions, I usually chose the “just have no freakin’ idea” option and didn’t feel any shame about doing it.

Tom Tancredo thinks we need a “civic literacy test” that people must pass to be able to vote. So Eli says, OK, fine, let’s get some answers to these questions.

Obama’s ugly budget would look even uglier if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac liabilities — which, since Christmas Eve, have been potentially unlimited — had been on budget. But, in a trick Bloomberg calls “worthy of Enron,” they were left off.

Multiple personalities; or, IOKIYAR: Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who went all “Pulp Fiction” on Nancy Pelosi months ago for accusing the CIA of lying to Congress, is accusing the CIA of lying to Congress.

What is the Obama Justice Department hiding, and why are Senate Democrats helping them?: Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to head Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel should have been approved months ago; instead, it’s “hung up.” Again. For reasons that make sense only if you believe that Obama doesn’t really want her but also doesn’t want to take the PR hit for pulling her nomination. Memo: Dumping all over your friends is a real good way to get your base fired up to turn out in a challenging midterm election. Not.

How Republicans are trying to recruit more women: “Women sometimes need a little more handholding, or they need their friends to help them make a decision,” Republican National Committee co-chair Jan Larimer said. Ooooo-kay.

Given how often someone tries to repeal important parts of the Bill of Rights, I’m not entirely certain that such Senate traditions as filibusters and the hold should end. But I think we can safely say that when one senator — in this case, Richard Shelby of Alabama, whom no one will ever accuse of sentience — can put at least 70 presidential nominations on hold just because he’s not getting the pork he wants, it really is time to rethink some things. It’s also worth remembering that 1) the pork Shelby is seeking is 10x as much as Ben Nelson got for signing on to the health-care reform bill and 2) Shelby tried to kill GM and Chrystler bailouts because foreign auto makers have plants in his state. This isn’t about the good of the nation; this is about Shelby doing things because he can. But the national media appear to agree that IOKIYAR.

In light of the impending Super Bowl, a few words on the football players about whom almost nothing good is ever said. One reason I like Dan Dierdorff as a football announcer is that, having been an O-lineman, he’s conscious of what they do and how often it makes a big, big difference that most announcers never even pick up on.

Republicans can’t work with Democrats because they want Obama impeached, believe he’s a socialist, think he was born outside the U.S. and therefore is ineligible to be president, aren’t sure if he wants the terrorists to win, think it’s at least possible ACORN stole the 2008 election, consider Sarah Palin more qualified to be president than Obama, don’t want sex education taught in public schools and do want Biblical creationism taught in public schools. But the media think our biggest political problem is that Democrats aren’t sufficiently bipartisan. Sigh.

I’m beginning to understand why Tennessee fans hate Lane Kiffin: He has secured a verbal commitment from a quarterback who’s currently in seventh grade.

Former HP CEO and current Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has unleashed sheer madness in the form of a campaign ad that runs for 3.5 minutes and includes everything from a totally bass-ackwards metaphor to some poor schlub crawling on all fours in a sheep suit. I know it’s California, but still:

One of Jason Linkins’ commenters tips us to the artistic inspiration for the ad:

I want to see this movie. The California election, not so much.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009 11:26 pm

Ken Lewis: Hasta la vista, baby

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis is retiring. Or “retiring.” Take your pick.

It is a measure of the debasement of American journalism that the man can be due $53 million in retirement payouts and CNN can say he “doesn’t have a golden parachute” (it relies on the bank’s own, very attenuated definition of the term).

Questions of criminality aside for the moment, Lewis was a lousy fiduciary, by any measure at all and by the only one that matters. “Lewis took a bank in good shape into the credit crunch – and steered it into a position of needing a $45bn bailout,” England’s Guardian writes. And even CNN acknowledges that “people who bought the stock when he took the reins in 2001 are underwater on their investments.”

Lewis will now have both means and leisure with which to prepare his defense. We can only hope that that defense will include rolling over on then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for their roles in forcing the BofA takeover of Merrill Lynch on undisclosed terms that royally screwed the bank’s stockholders. But because we live in an Era of Diminished Expectations, I confess I’d be deliriously happy even if all that were to happen was that Lewis and a few members of his board and BofA’s lawyers spent even a few years in Club Fed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 6:29 am

And speaking of BofA …

… televangelist Jim Bakker got 45 years in federal prison* for personally stealing $3.7 million, which is less than 1/1000th of what appears to have been stolen from investors in the BofA/Merrill buyout.

*The sentence later was reduced by a federal appeals court because the sentencing judge had the unmitigated gall to suggest that some real Christians might be upset at the notion of theft by a fake one. I’m sure there’s a basis in case law for a ruling like that, but if there is I ain’t ever come across it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:42 pm

Dang. If I’d known the service was this good, I’d’ve ordered a pony, too.

I suggested a couple of weeks ago that it might be a real good idea if Bank of America execs and/or the company’s lawyers were held responsible as individuals over how much info they withheld from BoA shareholders about what the Merrill Lynch takeover was going to do to their investments.

Wow. Someone listened:

The New York Attorney General’s office is preparing charges against several high-ranking Bank of America executives over the bank’s alleged failure to disclose details about its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office is likely to file civil charges against the executives over their role in failing to alert shareholders to mounting losses as well as accelerated bonus payments at Merrill, said the person, who requested anonymity …

Honestly, I’m a layman and neither a banker nor a lawyer, but it’ s hard for me to see how there isn’t a basis for criminal charges as well. Therefore, I choose, for now, to comfort myself with the notion that civil charges are a necessary first step toward that outcome. Would the real lawyers please give me 30 or so minutes to enjoy this idea before you pour cold water on it in the comments? Many thanks.

UPDATE: Uh-oh, kids, grab your popcorn — it’s subpoena time! Let’s settle in for a snug, cozy period of embarrassing revelations and/or Fifth-taking, shall we? And let us, at least for now, maintain the tiny hope that the people who end up getting socked for this aren’t the investors.

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