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Didn't Do It, Don't Care, Won't Work

Wednesday, May. 17, 2006 12:48 AM

The I Didn't Do It Department, #1:

Defense lawyers for Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling claimed in their closing argument that neither Lay or Skilling broke the law, but are only guilty of bad business judgment.

Well, gosh, I guess we have to let them go.

Prosecutors have built their case on Lay and Skilling lying to investors to cover up their creative accounting. And that is a crime.

On the other hand, if Enron's dynamic duo is guilty of bad business judgment, then it kind of puts the kibosh on the 'we didn't know' routine that Ken Lay has tried to sell.


The I Didn't Do It Department, #2:

Both BellSouth and Verizon now claim that they did not provide the NSA with local phone records.

However, it's unclear as to whether MCI, which was acquired by Verizon in January, had ever done or continues to do so. And even Verizon's denial was curiously specific, covering, "... from the time of the 9/11 attacks until just four months ago."

AT&T continues to neither confirm nor deny allegations on the basis that it's a national security issue, and that it would cooperate with law enforcement agencies (which the NSA is not) only when they had a court order.

Verizon also claimed that phone companies do not make records of local calls because pricing structures do not bill per call for local service. Unfortunately, that just doesn't make sense, because the switch has to be thrown somewhere.


The Non-Story Story Department, #1:

The Pentagon has released video of American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the building on 9/11. The video was released only because a legal activist group, Judicial Watch, filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Pentagon had denied earlier requests due to the 'ongoing investigation' of Zacarais Moussaoui, who can't make up his mind as to whether or not he was actually involved.

While Judicial Watch hopes the release will put an end to conspiracy theorists' claims that it was a missile or something else, I wouldn't be surprised if claims continue that the imagery is faked, as such claims were made after the initial release of limited frames from the complete sequence.


The Non-Story Story Department, #2:

White House Press Whipping Boy Tony Snow made his debut this morning, and uttered two words he probably shouldn't have.

Tar baby.

Or, to be more specific, "I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the (NSA) program - the alleged program - the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny."

So naturally, some folks in the blogosphere are crying foul, pointing out the racist connotations of the term, which go beyond the Uncle Remus tale.

I won't go so far as to join them, but neither will I give Snow a free pass. It was an insensitive thing to say at best. Perhaps the derisive humor that may paper the walls at FOX News isn't appropriate for the daily briefing.


The Didn't I Already Say That Department:

An opinion piece in the New York Times, entitled The N.S.A.'s Math Problem, talks about the practicality of large-scale data mining in regards to the NSA's alleged numbers game.

Jonathan David Farley, a science fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, points out that the perceived 'hub' the person with the most connections may not be the most important person after all. When a scientist analyzed e-mail traffic among Enron employees before the company's collapse, the 'obvious' central player was Ken Lay's secretary.

Farley also points out that we're all connected in some way. Sociologist Stanley Milgram's 1960's study gave rise to the 'six degrees of separation' theory, which most people know as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. (Incidentally, I have a Bacon Number of 3, and those of you reading this have a Bacon Number of 4.)

For example, President Bush is linked to Osama bin Laden via a company he ran in the 1970's a company that was partly financed by the American representative for one of Osama's brothers. On the other hand, Unabombed Ted Kaczynski was a recluse with very few contacts.

So I'm not just blowing smoke when I heap scorn on the 'magic intercept' theory behind the Bush Administration's illegal wiretap program. It's not only illegal, it's likely to be woefully ineffective in stopping terrorism.



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