Hard News by Russell Brown


Crash and Contempt

The yardstick that brought home to me the magnitude of the Lehman Brothers collapse was actually contained in the August Vanity Fair story about the failure of another investment bank, Bear Stearns. In Bryan Burrough's story, Lehman is the potential suitor or saviour, the prim, prudent counterpart to the wild Bear.

Even a couple of months ago, it was unthinkable that Lehman Brothers could follow Bear down the gurgler. Now, it seems that nothing is so unthinkable, the Fed has no more money for bailouts -- and the markets are behaving accordingly.

Ours included.

In a post headed Ron Paul was Right, Andrew Sullivan says:

What we are dealing with in detail I am not professionally qualified to discuss (I'm not Sarah Palin, I know my limits.) But what we are dealing with in the grand scheme of things seems pretty simple. The US has been living beyond its means. The US has been spending and borrowing as if its economy were fiscally secure; and the demand for more and more from below combined with signals of total laxity from the top has led to a massive over-reach in terms of personal and public debt. In the end, gravity and reality count, whatever the Bush-Cheney propagandists want to insist.

Like the invasion of Iraq, for which the US is still paying; like the massive Bush tax cuts, which were never matched by cuts in spending but combined with massive increases in spending; the home-ownership-as-speculation bubble eventually hit the reality this country's leadership has for so long denied.

Or, as one of our readers put it overnight:

Conservatives rejoice in their idiotic cultural politics while the institutions that comprise American power are diminished and eclipsed.

I'm down the with Sullivan-Ranapia doctrine. Could these people get over their culture war and their novelty VP candidate and start acting like old-fashioned conservatives? Their chump champions have been wandering in the wilderness for eight years and the world is a bit scared.

Meanwhile, there were interesting statements as Fairfax Media and Dom Post editor Tim Pankhurst faced contempt charges over the reporting of the contents of the affidavit that police presented in order to gain the search warrants used in last year's "terror raids". We could already strongly suppose that the copy of the affidavit leaked online in November came from one of the accused, Jamie Lockett. And yesterday the solicitor-general all but declared that Lockett was the source of the copies received by the Dom Post, its reporter Phil Kitchin, TV3 and the herald on Sunday.

I think this needs reiterating: the document was not leaked by police, but given to the news media by one of the defendants.

This speaks to the way that the more conventional activist types caught up in the police investigation almost immediately began distancing themselves from Lockett: he was hard to line up with the high-minded image of themselves the others were looking to project.

I understand that these people all have a right to a fair trial, and that right was clearly endangered by the publication of evidence that would be inadmissible in the arms charges they have wound up facing. But the defendants and their supporters were also making extraordinary claims on their own behalf, and with no evidence to be publicly presented until next year (a judge this month suppressed all reporting of depositions hearings) the issue of the public's right to know is not inconsequential, especially in a case which will straddle an election in which several

parties have taken strong positions on the matter.

If Pankhurst and his employer are not successful in their defence, it would worry me if the court were to apply a very harsh penalty.

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