Maybe It’s Not All Johnson’s Fault?

By Anthony | February 12th, 2008 | 8:41 am

Greensboro Politics has posted an interview with Greensboro City Manager Mitch Johnson. One part jumped out at me (emphasis added):

Ryan: Does City Hall have a communications problem?

Mitchell: “Um…. Well, Um… I think based on, based on what’s…. I would say yes. We have not been effective getting a message out and communicating the environment in which we have to work. We constantly hear that we could release information but I also hear from attorneys that I respect that without going through the proper process that it could be breaking the law. You have to understand that if I go against clear advice from a lawyer and in fact I end up breaking the law then I become personally liable.”

Now, I think that Johnson has done a pretty poor job at handling many aspects of the Wray fiasco. But this is a valid point, to an extent. What makes it even more interesting are some revelations from a recent post at The Conservative Alternative, where Sam Spagnola describes events at last night’s town forum with Greensboro Mayor Yvonne Johnson.

Spagnola points out that the forum was moderated by Marsh Prause, an attorney from Smith Moore, the lawfirm that represents the City on recent documents requests that he, Roch Smith Jr. and Joe Guarino are getting the run around on. He goes on to describe what happened when he submitted a question about the RMA report:

I handed my question to the lady who was accepting such things, and I watched as she walked it up to Prause. I watched him read it with a somewhat puzzled look. I watched him put the card down on the table next to him along with the other questions.

We waited and waited. Finally, there was ten minutes left and Prause said that there was enough time to answer all of the questions that had been submitted. Great, I thought. Maybe I’m not getting snowed.

But I was wrong. Eight and one half minutes later, Prause declared that all of the questions submitted had been answered. Cara and I and a few others said “no they haven’t”, but Prause ended the meeting anyway.

So extremely pissed off at apparently being lied to, I immediately approached Prause as people began milling around and told him “you said you asked all of the questions that had been submitted, but you didn’t ask mine.” He said something to the effect that he did ask all of the questions. I said “No, you didn’t. I asked a specific question about the RMA, and you didn’t ask it. I know you received it because I watched them hand it to you and I watched you read it.” He again said something along the lines of having categorized the questions and again saying he asked them all.

If Mitch is indeed following the advice of city lawyers, this makes me wonder if the root of much of the Wray/RMA circus is due to an overprotective legal team. If we could go back two or three years, and replace them with lawyers who don’t try to obstruct the release of documents by pulling stunts like claiming Gardner-Garrity applies when it really doesn’t, would we prevent many of the issues we’ve seen?

Maybe Mitch’s first order of business should be to start getting some second opinions in the legal realm.

If Mitch Johnson Were President

By Anthony | February 10th, 2008 | 8:14 pm

Great quote from Sam Spagnola over at David Hoggard’s blog:

Our government and system of justice puts the burden of proof on the government, not the accused. If Johnson has a case, it is up to him to prove it. Wray doesn’t have to prove his innocence, although I believe for the most part that he has.

A resolute society holds the government accountable.

True and inspiring words. However, I can’t help wishing that some of these same folks who are (rightly) demanding transparency and accountability from our local government would hold our federal government to the same standard.

The Better to Track You With, My Dear

By Anthony | February 5th, 2008 | 8:32 am

The FBI would like to get to know you a little bit better:

The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world’s largest computer database of peoples’ physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.

Millions of fingerprints are already kept on file by the FBI. This data ostensibly comes from criminal records. However under this new program, known as “Next Generation Identification”, the biometrics of many law-abiding citizens will end up stored indefinitely in FBI databases.

More than 55 percent of the search requests now are made for background checks on civilians in sensitive positions in the federal government, and jobs that involve children and the elderly, [Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division] said. Currently those prints are destroyed or returned when the checks are completed. But the FBI is planning a “rap-back” service, under which employers could ask the FBI to keep employees’ fingerprints in the database, subject to state privacy laws, so that if that employees are ever arrested or charged with a crime, the employers would be notified.

There seems to be a pattern here, of our government collecting more and more information on innocent people in the name of “protecting us”. As before, I’m sure there will be apologists who claim that “you don’t have anything to worry about if you aren’t a terrorist”, but this should be a disturbing trend to anyone who says they favor a limited federal government. As we saw in the 60s and 70s pre-FISA, civil servants and politicians are not immune to the temptation to use governmental power for their own personal benefit.

Once we have the technology to reliably gather biometrics passively, from a distance, the situation gets even worse. At that point, there doesn’t even need to be an actual abuse of the system for it to affect us. As Hale Boggs was quoted in the Church Committee report, “Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of action for men in public life can be compromised quite as effectively by the fear of surveillance as by the fact of surveillance.”

Cartoon: The Hard Part

By Anthony | February 4th, 2008 | 12:38 am

Cartoon: Cartoon: The Hard Part

Cartoon: Not So Wonderful

By Anthony | December 17th, 2007 | 10:22 pm

Cartoon: Not So Wonderful

Cartoon: The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

By Anthony | December 5th, 2007 | 12:51 am

Cartoon: The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

A little sports related humor this week.

I’d also like to apologize for the recent neglect of my bloggerly duties – a few side projects and a very busy end-of-the-year have precluded regular updates here, but I’ll be back.

Cartoon: Hagan in the Race

By Anthony | November 12th, 2007 | 1:33 am

Cartoon: Hagan in the Race

Cartoon: A Little Loophole

By Anthony | October 29th, 2007 | 1:00 am

Cartoon: A Little Loophole

Site Maintenance

By Anthony | October 26th, 2007 | 9:12 pm

I’m going to be moving Plead the First to a new server this weekend, beginning tonight, so commenting may be disabled, and access to the site may be a bit dicey at times. If you have problems, try again later. Need to contact me and it can’t wait? Try the email address over in the sidebar, or use my contact form over at One-Button Mouse. Thanks!

Update: Looks like everything went ok with moving files and data. Now to update DNS entries…

“The Genocide of Southern Culture”

By Anthony | October 24th, 2007 | 1:52 pm

A letter writer in today’s News and Record compares the sale of Mexican flag license plates with genocide:

Now I ask, why is the N.C. license plate office allowed to sell a plate with a flag of a foreign country but not a Confederate flag plate? … This is just another example of the increasing genocide of Southern culture and ultimately of the Southern people.

I think there may be a slight misunderstanding here as to the meaning of the word “genocide”.