This is a very important step, and hopefully something like these proposals will go forward. As with the collusive accounting practices that were a major part of the Enron scandal, the principal-agent problems with the ratings agencies are indeed severe — it’s not just that the ratings agencies have their own independent interests, but that those interests are intertwined with the companies they were allegedly scrutinizing. Which means stronger regulation is essential. (And speaking of corporate “free speech,” I’m amused by the recently rejected argument that the First Amendment immunizes credit agencies from being sued for deceptive ratings. Does the First Amendment mean that laws against perjury are illegal too?)
Archive for September, 2009
The Yankees may not use the greatest
pitcher athlete in Yankee known human history in their post-season rotation? If they remember his countless great starts — why, who can forget that masterful outing when he gave up only 4 runs in 5 2/3 innings, he certainly celebrated like he just pitched a shutout in Game 7 of the World Series, and surely that counts for something — I’m sure they’ll reconsider.
An interesting article by Jess Bravin about Sotomayor’s recent oral argument queries about whether treating corporations as the equivalent of persons for constitutional purposes:
But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong — and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.
Judges “created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons,” she said. “There could be an argument made that that was the court’s error to start with…[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics.”
After a confirmation process that revealed little of her legal philosophy, the remark offered an early hint of the direction Justice Sotomayor might want to take the court.
“Progressives who think that corporations already have an unduly large influence on policy in the United States have to feel reassured that this was one of [her] first questions,” said Douglas Kendall, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.
It does seem possible that while Sotomayor might be a Breyeresque wet on civil liberties issues, she may also bring an economic liberalism that really has no representation on the current Court.
The rest of the article is very much worth reading, with good background information about Santa Clara County. What’s striking is how cursory the arguments in favor of the very important concept of corporate personhood were, although the constitutional text is silent either way and it’s certainly not obvious that it follows from the classical liberal principles that animated the rights in question.
Which given the current polling context, is not news that Labour need. While in the early summer I speculated that Labour still had a chance for a hung parliament, especially with the replacement of Gordon Brown with Alan Johnson, now that looks highly unlikely.
It’s always difficult to figure out what’s going on from news reports regarding a criminal investigation, but this story raises a lot of questions.
First, why isn’t Zazi being charged under one of several very broadly-worded federal anti-terrorism statutes? If, as the FBI asserts, Zazi admitted attending courses “at an al-Qaeda training facility in the FATA (tribal) region of Pakistan” and that “he received instruction from al-Qaeda operatives on subjects such as weapons and explosives,” those are very serious crimes — far more serious than giving false statements to investigators.
Second, the crime with which Zazi, his father, and the NYC informant have been charged with is essentially a form of obstruction of justice. But the federal statute that supposedly criminalizes this conduct is a textbook example of a law that’s subject to abuse by overzealous prosecutors. Obstruction of justice at its core involves acts like witness tampering, intimidation, and the like. But a catch-all provision in the statute allows making false statements to an investigator to be treated as a free-standing crime.
Note that when they agreed to submit to questioning none of these people were under oath, or had been charged with anything. The “crime” they have supposedly committed is that of giving inaccurate statements to investigators. Meanwhile the investigators are free to lie with impunity to the people they interview.
Third, this kind of case appears to illustrate how easily civil libertarian and due process concerns can get tossed out the window when the magic word “terrorism” is invoked. From what’s been reported there appears to be no solid evidence of an actual plot of any sort, or the existence of real weapons, or indeed anything beyond some suspicious movements and conversations. This probably explains why the suspects haven’t been charged with any crime other than that of failing to cooperate appropriately with their interrogators. (Note too the absurdly transparent pretext that Zazi’s rental car was stopped by the NYPD as part of a “random drug stop.”).
Now of course it’s always possible that Zazi is part of an actual Al Qaeda cell of some sort, as opposed to say a clownish amateur who hasn’t done enough to be charged with a real crime. But then he ought to be charged with one.
Some people evidently had too much time on their hands:
Donald Rumsfeld had to be talked out of editing his own entry on Wikipedia, which he referred to as “Wika-wakka.” He was a Drudge Report reader and used to watch YouTube clips that made fun of his press conference performances.
Good thing there’s not a “Rate My Defense Secretary” site. Rummy totally would have given himself a chili pepper.
Rumsfeld’s Wika-wakaa page, incidentally, has already been updated to include this important news.
I obviously agree with Ed Kilgore’s point that voting for cloture should be the minimal acceptable standard for being a Democratic caucus member in good standing, but I think this is an especially important point:
Since 60 votes are required to “invoke cloture” and proceed to a vote, the White House strategy on health reform has oscillated between efforts to pull a few Senate Republicans across the line (shoring up “centrist” Democrats as a byproduct) to get to 60, and schemes to use budget reconciliation procedures, which prohibit filibusters.
This latter possibility has aroused dire threats of Armageddon from conservatives, most notably from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who said use of reconciliation for health reform would be “suicidal,” and would “permanently alienate independents.” Brooks cleverly conflated public misgivings about health reform with support for a filibuster, and equated a simple majority vote with an effort to “ram health care through” Congress. There is zero evidence at this point that voters are versed in the intricacies of Senate procedure, or cherish the right of 41 senators to dictate national policy.
The idea that because David Broder considers it important to adhere to whatever ad hoc procedural obstruction the Republicans have come up with means that the public cares about this stuff is absurd.
Holy crap. Not only did we not break Oregon State’s hallowed PAC-10 record of futility, thanks to Idaho (for whom one of my future brothers-in-law works for), but on the heels of the 16-13 upset of USC, Washington is in the rather unlikely position of being back in the national top-25.
It’s kind of sad to see how much Kaus still has invested, and attempting to tar Elizabeth Edwards for the sins of her husband is especially unseemly, but I’ll say this: if Edwards fathering an out-of-wedlock child means that we can be rid of Mudcat “The Future of the Democratic Party is in Mississippi” Saunders,* it won’t have been a total loss for the Democratic Party. Alas, I’m sure the rule that no Democratic conultant shoud be without huge paydays irrespective of their track record will hold up…