Thursday, September 16, 2004

If you see Greensboro Police officer David Hoyle around town, be sure to tell him congratulations...and thanks.

Hoyle is retiring at the end of this month after almost 30 years on the force. He's been downtown longer than I have, and that's saying something.

The sense of community on South Elm Street is really helped by the friendly and highly-visible police presence. Hoyle has been a part of that community, as it took shape and now as it is taking off.


2:43:41 PM    comment []

"I can't believe the way the News & Record has covered the Fortress Re scandal," writes John Hammer in an as-yet-unposted column in today's Rhino.

Ah, nice gesture, Johnny. A relentless critic of the daily paper admits to his surpise that the N&R has done great work on this fascinating story.

After all, the N&R has written more than two dozen articles on Fortress Re and its mysterious owners. Margaret Banks has explained with clarity and depth the complicated reinsurance business. The staggering fraud verdict was front-page news in February, and the huge settlement was front-page news this summer, as was Jim Schlosser's investigative profile of Kenny Kornfeld.

This is one of the most complex subjects I've covered in 20 years as a business journalist. Along with an important early article on Fortress in the Wall Street Journal and (I hope) the piece Lisa and I did for Forbes, the N&R's thorough work creates a useful and detailed public record.

So, good on Hammer for expressing his surprise and...oh.



Hammer: "The N&R makes it seem that the owners of Fortress Re did not do anything wrong."

Right. Like this front-page article from December 20, 2003: "The panel said Fortress Re, through owners Maurice Sabbah and Kenneth Kornfeld of Greensboro, engaged in fraud and 'wilful and deliberate misconduct' and 'knowingly misrepresented facts' when conducting business with Sompo, according to court documents."

Or this front-page article from July 22: "Two Greensboro businessmen and their now-defunct reinsurance company will pay more than $400 settle a billion-dollar fraud case...hand over cash, antiques, luxury vacation homes and commercial property...(Sabbah) didn't have the lawful ability to gift those assets," said Hawkins, a partner with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in New York City."

Hammer's only specific citation from the thousands of words and 30-odd stories by the N&R is of "a recent article," which would seem to be yet another front-pager from August 22. I noted that day that the unapologetic quotes from Sabbah's camp were distasteful, but then again this is from the same article: "The settlement came seven months after an arbitration panel awarded the Japanese companies $1.12 billion, saying the men and their company engaged in fraud and 'willful and deliberate misconduct.' It was one of the largest fraud awards in American history."

Hammer does have an interesting question about the lack of interest in the case by the State of North Carolina. Of course, he didn't pick up the phone and call the Attorney General to find out what's going on, much less refer to any of the three articles published about state regulation by the News & Record.

Yeah, some of the newspaper coverage we get around here is truly unbelievable.

2:39:47 PM    comment []

N&R: "Democrat Erskine Bowles, bracing for TV advertising against him, has urged Republican foe Richard Burr to forgo any 'negative' commercials during the final stretch of their race for the U.S. Senate.

The Burr campaign declined, saying Bowles' record has to be challenged somewhere."

9:52:55 AM    comment []

Who lost Iraq?

This is the question John Kerry needs to be asking.

Let's judge Bush on the execution of the war for Iraq. Forget WMD -- smart people on both sides of the aisle believed that threat was real. The fact is we went in. How has that been going, W?

Salon: "The question should not be: Would the world be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power? The politically responsible question, instead, is: Has the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq made the world and the U.S. safer than before?"

A hostile commenter at this site suggests I should stop whining and come up with some ideas on how to run things better. This is what I managed to reply:

Don't rush to invade Iraq, it wasn't involved in 9/11...oh, too late.

Well,if you do invade, understand that you will not be greeted as liberators, and prepare for a long war...shoot, we forgot that one.

OK, at least send enough troops to pacify the country...Oh. Shoot.

Then for damn sure don't disband the Iraqi army---crap.

So all of those blunders have been made already?

Well, at least we can work with the coalition of countries who flocked to our side after 9/11 and....

I think I'm out of ideas...No, wait, I have more:

Don't sacrifice whatever goodwill we do have by abusing the hell out of prisoners under our control. What? Damn.

OK, last one: find local allies who are really on our side, and who are popular with Iraqis, not some loathed and slippery character like Chalabi...Oh.

Alright...I really don't know what to do. The Bush folks seem to me to have screwed up in numerous and easily identifiable ways. That's why they need to be replaced.

Now there's an idea.

Ah, but what about the good news? Well, a lot of it supposedly involved reconstruction efforts.  Economist: "(T)the continued insurgency and a spate of kidnappings and executions have halted many such projects...So, on Tuesday, the State Department announced a plan to divert around $3 billion of the money from infrastructure projects towards reinforcing Iraq’s security."

The Wall Street Journal quotes Republican Senator Chuck Hagel saying the situation is "now in the zone of dangerous."

The Dem's big problem, as the Economist says: "Mr Kerry has so far failed to convince American voters that he could do any better."

9:42:50 AM    comment []

Rush Limbaugh took seriously an ironic prediction of Bush-induced mass suicide in Joe Killian's UNC-Greensboro newspaper column, and ranted about it on air yesterday. Killian provides some stats on the resulting commotion:

Number of hits at yesterday alone: 3,888.

Nasty comments from dittoheads and other assorted wingnuts: 14

Letters to the editor regarding this week's column: 7

Number of Killian/Hitler comparisons: 1

Number of Killian/Terrorist comparisons: 3

Number of pleas for me to commit suicide right now: 4

8:56:57 AM    comment []

David Remnick in The New Yorker gives a chilling sketch of what's going on in Russia."Putin is an increasingly autocratic leader. And yet he has no choice but to go after (Chechen terrorist leader) Basayev."
WSJ (unposted):Basayev started out as a "Communist Youth member and a romantic."
"Radical Islam has mutated into something akin to communism in the past - a convenient, off-the-shelf ideology that can clothe complex local conflicts that few would care about otherwise."

8:39:32 AM    comment []

A madeleine moment*: this post at Monkeytime shows me a painting by e.e. cummings, and for the first time in many years I think of a book my sister and I had as little kids, a children's book by e.e. cummings, and although I can't picture a page of it I immediately think "elephant," and a quick Googling turns up this book:

At Amazon I used the look-inside-the-book feature. Flipped to the first illustrated page. Oh, yeah, that guy.
I wonder if my sister remembers that book.
*That's a Proustian madeleine, not a Bemelmans Madeline, although given the subject of children's books I guess it works either way.

8:29:33 AM    comment []