The Charity of Lobbyists

Reading Time: 2 minutes USA Today published a thorough investigation of the donations lobbyists pour into the favorite non-profits of Congressmen to gain influence and buy face time at charity events. Only since 2007, when congressional ethics rules were changed, has such beneficence had to be reported. The article shows that the reform didn’t come soon enough, since the Read More

Moral Hazard, Fed Style

Reading Time: 2 minutes How exactly did the Federal Reserve gain the emergency authority to loan more than $1 trillion of taxpayer money to the banks secretly and without oversight? The Washington Post explains today in a long investigative piece by Binyamin Appelbaum and Neil Irwin. As it turns out, Sen. Chris Dodd slipped the necessary language into an Read More

A Muppet In President Obama's Court

Reading Time: 2 minutes Sonia Sotomayor is not the only recent Obama appointment. She may be the most significant pick, but she is hardly the most intriguing. To wit, I direct your attention to a short Associated Press item, which appeared in papers including the New York Times, about some of President Obama’s recent ambassadorial appointments: President Obama has Read More

The Way of the Warrior: Media Coverage of Gen. McChrystal

Reading Time: 4 minutes On May 12, 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates selected Gen. Stanley McChrystal to head our “Af-Pak” military operations. Though the selection was widely praised, two unsettling issues have dogged McChrystal’s ascent to the top of the military hierarchy. First, he participated in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s mysterious “friendly-fire” death in Afghanistan. Second, as reported Read More

Obama’s Appointee Scorecard: Look #2

Reading Time: 2 minutes The other day, I wrote about the need to study the qualifications of presidential appointees. I noted how Obama’s choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, unlike Bush’s guy, Michael Brown, actually had decades of experience in precisely this area. However, before we start assuming that Obama only appoints people based on credentials, Read More

Obama’s Appointee Scorecard: Look #1

Reading Time: < 1 minute One thing the media ought to do on a regular basis is provide updates on the quality of appointees a president makes. Irrespective of political philosophy, most of us can agree that people should be appointed to positions for which they appear qualified. And they should not be hired for positions where their experience runs Read More

Interrogating Congress

Reading Time: < 1 minute Recently, I raised some questions about the reports that Democratic members of Congress had been aware of CIA interrogation methods. Now, members of Congress themselves are suggesting that the CIA put out the information about the briefings in order to pass the buck. There are crucial questions we should be asking about the CIA, about Read More

Tortured Rationalizations

Reading Time: 2 minutes In an opinion piece, the Wall Street Journal convincingly argues that top Democrats in Congress have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths in criticizing Bush Administration policy on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs), also known as torture. These days, Speaker Pelosi insists she heard and saw no evil. “We were not — I Read More

A Precursor to Revolution?

Reading Time: < 1 minute Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative journalist and tax expert David Cay Johnston recently gave a provocative interview to the Vermont independent weekly Seven Days. In it, he reveals that he once wanted to become a homicide detective for the LAPD (a dream more common among investigative journalists than you might think) and that, despite his railing against the Read More

Leakaholics Anonymous

Reading Time: < 1 minute Apparently, I am not alone in being troubled by current large-media practices in reference to leaked material and unnamed sources. You can see what I had to say previously here and here, when I focused on the New York Times. Now comes Slate’s Today’s Papers column to note some similar problems at the Washington Post Read More

Gold Rush for Lobbyists

Reading Time: < 1 minute Reform may be in the air, but the Sunlight Foundation has a new report noting that nearly 1,700 new clients have signed up with lobbying firms in DC in the first quarter of 2009. Sunlight describes their initial findings as a “first pass” at scrutinizing a database of lobbying registrations. Of particular interest: Our first Read More

Leahy's Truth Commission Hits the Skids

Reading Time: 3 minutes Those of you following the prosecution trail will be interested to know that Patrick Leahy’s Truth Commission is a no-go. I was in a meeting with Leahy and 4 other Vermonters on Monday when he broke the news to us. We had asked for the meeting to learn why he supported a Truth Commission over Read More

Extracting the Truth

Reading Time: 3 minutes In an era when the public is demanding accountability, how accountable is the intelligence sphere? Employing hundreds of thousands and spending hundreds of billions each year, it essentially answers to no one. Even the people’s representatives tasked with riding herd, the congressional intelligence committees, have nearly always been kept in the dark, sworn to silence, Read More

More Leaks

Reading Time: 2 minutes In Not So Secret After All? (March 18), I pondered the spate of leaks on seemingly sensitive military and foreign policy matters. Well, here comes more. In the New York Times of March 28, we have in the lead story a full-blown leak-a-thon: President Obama’s plan to widen United States involvement in Afghanistan came after Read More

Truth or Reconciliation?

Reading Time: 3 minutes They are really coming. Official investigations of the George W. Bush administration are on the way. Karl Rove and Harriet Miers have just agreed to limited testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which is looking into the seemingly politically-motivated firings of seven U.S. Attorneys. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Patrick Leahy, his senate counterpart, Read More

It's the Culture, Stupid

Reading Time: < 1 minute Character is fate, the Romans learned, and biography is history. They’re also the essence of today’s headlines. As serious journalists tackle our Great Crash, they should begin by digging deep beneath the perfunctory clip-file profiles of the major players — from White House, Treasury and Fed to Congress to counting-house suites — to connect the dots of lives lived Read More

Not So Secret After All?

Reading Time: 2 minutes Maybe I am imagining things, but in recent days, I have noticed a spate of articles in the New York Times and elsewhere in which government and military officials are falling all over themselves to spill the beans. On Wednesday, March 24, sources told the paper about plans to hit the Taliban in a new Read More