Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘scandal’

The Stupid Party

Posted by Richard on April 27, 2007

The Washington Post reported the other day that an aide to Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) called U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton's office just six weeks before Alberto Gonzales terminated Charlton. The aide was seeking information about a federal investigation into a land deal involving the congressman's former business partner, and in accordance with Justice Dept. rules, Charlton notified his superiors of the potentially improper contact from Renzi's office. Captain Ed took a dim view of yet another Gonzales misstep (emphasis added):

First, we should point out that Charlton's removal did not end the investigation. The FBI raided Renzi's home last week, and Renzi stepped down from his committee assignments as a result. If he corrupted his office and sold out his constituents, it does not appear that Charlton's termination has kept that from coming to light.

That being said, this makes the entire process of terminations look even more suspect. At the least, it shows political stupidity on a scale so grand as to be almost unbelievable. Who in their right mind would fire a federal prosecutor who just had improper contact from the Congressman he's investigating — especially in the days after a Democratic takeover of Congress? That call should have alerted anyone with any sort of political antennae that firing Charlton would set off all sorts of red flags if that call came to light.

The Stupid Party has certainly been living up to that disparaging appellation lately, and Alberto Gonzales has worked harder than almost anyone to ensure that it does so. If I were inclined toward conspiracy theories, I'd be very suspicious of people like Gonzales. Could the GOP have been infiltrated with sleeper agents who, like the Manchurian Candidate, can be activated at opportune times to do great harm to the party with their apparent cluelessness, corruption, or ineptitude?

Of course not, I remind myself. Remember Occam's Razor. The facts can be adequately explained by stupidity alone. But, hey, it might make a pretty good novel and movie!  

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Anatomy of a smear

Posted by Richard on April 18, 2007

I haven't followed the so-called Wolfowitz scandal at all, barely noticing various stories and posts referring to it. About all I knew was that World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz stood accused of some kind of ethical lapse or corrupt act, and that various people were calling for his resignation, imprisonment, beheading, or something. I didn't think it was terribly interesting. I was wrong.

Monday's Wall Street Journal editorial told me all I needed to know about the case, which is clearly a vicious attempt to destroy an innocent man:

The World Bank released its files in the case of President Paul Wolfowitz's ethics on Friday, and what a revealing download it is. On the evidence in these 109 pages, it is clearer than ever that this flap is a political hit based on highly selective leaks to a willfully gullible press corps.

Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz's anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.

The documents tell a very different story–one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren't trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start. Bear with us as we report the details, because this is a case study in the lack of accountability at these international satrapies.

Read the rest. It's really a fascinating story of how unscrupulous scoundrels can trap and nearly destroy a man by turning his own openness, decency, and desire to do the right thing against him. Especially when they're aided and abetted by a hostile press corps. I hope Wolfowitz hangs tough.

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Essjay scandal

Posted by Richard on March 6, 2007

I like Wikipedia, use it, and consider it a valuable online resource. But I’ve always remained aware of its limitations and appropriately (IMHO) cautious about relying solely on it as a source of information. I’m not as skeptical as some people — such as this contributor to the Techwr-l list:

Did you really say Wikipedia? 😉 It’s like a classroom without a teacher… fun, but no authority.
— Johan Hiemstra

I think that was a bit harsh. Funny, but harsh. But Hiemstra’s skepticism is certainly vindicated by stories like this one:

In a blink, the wisdom of the crowd became the fury of the crowd. In the last few days, contributors to Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, have turned against one of their own who was found to have created an elaborate false identity.

Under the name Essjay, the contributor edited thousands of Wikipedia articles and was once one of the few people with the authority to deal with vandalism and to arbitrate disputes between authors.

To the Wikipedia world, Essjay was a tenured professor of religion at a private university with expertise in canon law, according to his user profile. But in fact, Essjay is a 24-year-old named Ryan Jordan, who attended a number of colleges in Kentucky and lives outside Louisville.

Mr. Jordan contended that he resorted to a fictional persona to protect himself from bad actors who might be angered by his administrative role at Wikipedia. (He did not respond to an e-mail message, nor to messages conveyed by the Wikipedia office.)

The Essjay episode underlines some of the perils of collaborative efforts like Wikipedia that rely on many contributors acting in good faith, often anonymously and through self-designated user names. But it also shows how the transparency of the Wikipedia process — all editing of entries is marked and saved — allows readers to react to suspected fraud.

Nothing better illustrates the flip side — the transparency and its benefits — than this Wikipedia entry about the scandal. Note, however, that the entry is itself embroiled in controversy. Interesting idea, this Wikipedia.

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