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.

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.

Thursday, June 18, 2009 8:56 pm

Yeah, it’s almost EXACTLY like that …

I don’t know much about Rep. Pete Hoekstra, but this Twitter message of his doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in his analytical abilities.

Apparently I’m not the only one.

And, via Facebook, my friend Carroll comments: “Feeling Pete Hoekstra’s pain. I used a neti pot this a.m., which is JUST LIKE waterboarding yourself.”

And, wow, this didn’t take long.

UPDATE: John Culberson also boards the Stoopid Train.

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