Winners & Sinners: From Obama to Brisbane
Lisa Sotto, Arthur Brisbane
Walfrido Martinez, Zach Wahls
Winner: Barack Hussein Obama, whose decision to instruct his Attorney General to stop defending crucial provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act is quite simply the most important presidential act in support of equal rights for gay people ever. Combined with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Obama has now undone the two worst things Bill Clinton did to gay people during his presidency. And with this splendid act, Obama has also displayed exactly the kind of political courage that all of us have been waiting for since the day he was inaugurated.
One of the cases challenging DOMA was brought with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and the New York Civil Liberties Union. ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said the president had “propelled gay rights into the 21st century, where it belongs. Our government finally recognizes what we knew 14 years ago — that the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ is a gross violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection before the law.”
Sinners: John Woods, Richard Wyatt Jr. and Robert Quanckenboss (talk about onomatopoeia!), all members of the law firm of Hunton & Williams, which so far has maintained a stony silence in the face of allegations that it asked various security firms to suggest ways to undermine the supporters of WikiLeaks and the opponents of the Chamber of Commerce.
VelvetRevolution.us and StopTheChamber.com have now filed a complaint with the Washington, D.C. Bar Association seeking the disbarment of Woods, Wyatt and Quackenboss because of e-mails suggesting they may have advocated domestic spying, cyber stalking, spear phishing, cyber attacks, and theft.
As Forbes.com reported “Earlier this month, a trove of emails hacked from the servers of security firm HBGary Federal by the loose hacker group Anonymous revealed that Hunton & Williams had asked HBGary Federal and two other security firms to put together a proposal to address Bank of America’s fear that WikiLeaks would release leaked documents from the bank sometime early this year.”
The spectacular irony here is that all of the ammunition in the new complaint comes from e-mails stolen by Anonymous from the account of Aaron Burr, an executive of HBGary, after Burr boasted of his ability to penetrate Anonymous and identify its leaders.
As its website trumpets, Hunton & Williams is a huge multi-national firm, with “1,000 attorneys in 18 offices.”
The other huge irony which FCP has not seen in any of the coverage of this burgeoning scandal is the fact that “for the fourth consecutive time, Hunton & Williams LLP was named the top firm for privacy by Computerworld in its 2010 report on “Best Privacy Advisers.”
FCP queried Hunton managing partner Walfrido Martinez, and its privacy expert partner, Lisa Sotto, on how they thought these allegations might affect its status as “best privacy” advisor.
So far, no response to FCP’s e-mails.
The other thing lacking so far in all of the coverage is a major take-out on the rest of the activities of this sprawling firm–and how these grave allegations are affecting its attempts to recruit new lawyers.
Sinner: New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane, for practicing exactly the kind of shoddy journalism he is supposedly paid to criticize. Brisbane was outraged that the Times identified Stephen B. Burke, the new chief executive of NBC Universal, as an “Irish Catholic.”
Brisbane reported that “Raymond G. McGuire, a reader in New York City, found “Irish Catholic” to be a “jarring” reference and that “Mr. McGuire recalled growing up in New York City from the 1940s to 1960s, ‘when its Catholic residents universally understood that the N.Y. Times was vaguely hostile to institutionalized Catholicism and deployed reporters and columnists who had little understanding of the daily lives of the city’s Catholic residents, or of the rich culture Catholics of Irish ancestry enjoyed during those years. I thought those days were past.’”
Unfortunately, Brisbane took this single reader’s allegation as gospel, without bothering to investigate whether it had any genuine connection to the truth. If Brisbane had taken this most elemental journalistic step of checking the reader’s allegation, he would have learned that the somewhat-embarrassed-to-be-somewhat-Jewish owners of The New York Times had, for decades, been famously fawning in their coverage of insitutionalized Catholicismu in the news pages of the newspaper–especially from the ‘40’s through the ‘60’s.
And as late as 1995 the paper assigned an Irish Catholic reporter to write a hugely favorable profile of John Cardinal O’Connor, the hugely controversial head of the New York Catholic Church.
Winner: Russ Buettner, for a superb piece of investigative reporting in the New York Times about how court documents that were supposed to have been kept secret described how Fox News chairman Roger Ailes may have counseled former Murdoch publishing honcho Judith Regan to lie to federal investigators who were vetting Bernard B. Kerik for the job of homeland security secretary. As Buettner points out, “The dispute involves a cast of well-known and outsize personalities” including several “New Yorkers who have had spectacular career meltdowns.”
Winner: Zach Wahls, an engineering student at the University of Iowa, raised by two women, who gave a brilliant speech, humiliating Iowa legislators determined to overturn the decision of the Iowa Supreme court which legalized gay marriage. “You are voting for the first time in the history of our state to codify discrimination in our constitution” Wahls declared. “My family isn’t really so different from any other Iowan family.” For the rest of Wahls’ brilliant indictment of prejudice, go here.
And if you missed the other best piece of oratory of 2011, watch Barack Obama’s speech after the Tuscon massacre (below) Although it was one of the defining moments of his presidency, neither NBC Nightly News nor ABC’s World News bothered to devote a whole story to the speech the night after it was delivered.