Tom cries 'Uncle'! Daschle's exit an embarrassing end to Obama's embarrassing decision to pick him

Obama tells a surprisingly blunt Katie Couric, "I messed up."

PRESS CLIPS Tom Daschle's quick exit from the health-care Cabinet job is just proof that he was a poor choice for the job.

If the guy can't get it together enough to wipe his nose clean after rubbing it against the rear of society schmuckettes like Catherine Reynolds, then he's not the person to tackle the extraordinarily tricky job of cleaning up the health-care mess.

He should just return to his destiny: playing off his former job in Congress to lobby his former Congress pals on behalf of rich clients. (See Muckety's quick read on Daschle's ties to Reynolds.)

Daschle wasn't a notable senator in the first place, despite his high post in the Democratic Party heirarchy. Teddy Kennedy or Paul Wellstone he wasn't.

Barack Obama did take responsibility for the Daschle embarrassment and did admit that he, the president, screwed up, but it was Daschle who screwed up his own nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

All he had to do was come clean to Obama or Obama's vetters, and this wouldn't have happened. Actually, he could have just paid his taxes in the first place. But hubris isn't exclusive to Wall Street bankers or pro athletes. Former senators often think that they, too, are above the law or the law's consequences.

Obama's screw-up came when he picked Daschle in the first place — unless Obama wanted a weak-sister guy like Daschle in there. All of this leaves murky the question of what exactly the Obama regime has in mind for health care.

The last time a Democratic administration came to power, Bill Clinton turned the health-care issue over to Hillary Clinton, who, true to her conservative roots, immediately reneged on her vow to supporters and advisers to consider a national health-care plan. Instead, she relied on the inherently corrupt health-care industry — not the doctors, but the insurers — and any hope of a cleaner, fairer, more inclusive national health-care plan that wouldn't be controlled by the middlemen (the insurers) was doomed. (Click here for my February 2005 rant about this; you'll have to scroll down a little ways to get to it.)

In any case, good-bye, Daschle. Don't let the revolving door hit you on your way into and out of government offices.

The rest of you, however, are welcome to stay right here and click on the following items...


CBS: 'Bailed-Out Bank Nixes Lavish Vegas Junket: After Outcry From Capitol Hill, Wells Fargo, Which Got $25B In Taxpayer Money, Calls Off Gathering'

CBS: 'MySpace Boots 90,000 Sex Offenders: N.C. Attorney General Demands That Much Larger Facebook Follow Suit'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Obama puts salary cap on bailout businesses'

President Obama will announce a crackdown on Wall Street fat cats on Wednesday, setting a $500,000 cap on executive compensation for companies getting taxpayer bailouts, a senior administration official said Tuesday night.


Wall Street Journal: 'Obama on Defense as Daschle Withdraws'

...One of President Barack Obama's closest political confidants and early mentors, Mr. Daschle had been tapped to spearhead the effort to overhaul the nation's health-care system. But concerns arising from Mr. Daschle's failure to pay more than $100,000 in taxes on time, coupled with tax problems involving two other cabinet nominees, threatened both the administration's health-care agenda and the credibility of Mr. Obama's pledge to raise the ethical standards of Washington.

Mr. Daschle's sudden withdrawal came two weeks to the day after Mr. Obama took office, and 24 hours after the president told reporters that he "absolutely" stood by his nominee. The abrupt move stands to potentially dent the reputation for steadiness and managerial prowess that the 47-year-old president had cultivated over a smoothly run campaign and a transition to power that boasted of a swift vetting and nomination of top aides.

Brooklyn Paper: 'Macy's to Brooklyn workers: You're safe for now'

N.Y. Times: 'Despite Vow, Target of Immigrant Raids Shifted'

Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening -- criminals and terrorism suspects.

Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either.

Bloomberg: 'Obama to Limit Executive Pay at Companies Getting Aid'

President Barack Obama will announce today that he's imposing a cap of $500,000 on the compensation of top executives at companies that receive significant federal assistance in the future, responding to a public outcry over Wall Street excess.

Any additional compensation will be in restricted stock that won't vest until taxpayers have been paid back, according to an administration official, who requested anonymity. The rules will force greater transparency on the use of corporate jets, office renovations and holiday parties as well as golden parachutes offered to executives when they leave companies.

Bloomberg: '"Failed" Wall Street Means Biggest Rules Rewrite Since 1930s'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Blago's sideshow visits Late Show'

If David Letterman is the typical juror, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich should get ready for prison food.


N.Y. Daily News: 'Tax would be curtains, Broadway tells Gov'

N.Y. Times: 'In Shattered Gaza Town, Roots of Seething Split' (Ethan Bronner)

The fighting in El Atatra tells the story of Israel's offensive, with each side giving a very different version of events.

Wall Street Journal: 'Stimulus Brings Out City Wish Lists'

Most cities want stimulus funds for roads and sewers. But others are using a kitchen-sink strategy, asking for neon signs or a frisbee golf course.

Wall Street Journal: 'Plans Emerge for New Troop Deployments to Afghanistan'

Senior U.S. commanders are finalizing plans to send tens of thousands of reinforcements to Afghanistan's main opium-producing region and its porous border with Pakistan, moves that will form the core of President Barack Obama's emerging Afghan war strategy....

Virtually none of the new troops heading to Afghanistan will go to Kabul or other major Afghan cities. By contrast, when the Bush administration dispatched 30,000 new troops to Iraq as part of the so-called surge, the bulk of the new forces went to Baghdad....

The deployments, part of a planned doubling of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, are almost certain to spark heavier casualties and push the war squarely onto the public agenda. "I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be [more U.S. casualties]," Vice President Joe Biden said on CBS Sunday. "There will be an uptick."

N.Y. Daily News: 'Man with pigeons in his pants gets nabbed at airport'


Bloomberg: 'Clean-Coal Debate Pits Al Gore's Group Against Obama, Peabody'

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and his Alliance for Climate Protection say clean-coal technology is a fantasy.

Peabody Energy Corp., the biggest U.S. coal producer, says another prominent Democrat has pledged to make the technology a reality: President Barack Obama.

The Gore-Obama split illustrates a growing debate in the U.S. as the new president attempts to deliver on his promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the country 80 percent by 2050. Depending on who's speaking, coal is either the villain or part of the solution.

N.Y. Times: 'As Iraqis Tally Votes, Former Leader Re-emerges'

Ayad Allawi, the first prime minister selected after the Americans handed power back to Iraqis in June 2004, has made a comeback in the provincial elections, unofficial preliminary returns indicate, setting himself up as a potential rival to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

Wall Street Journal: 'Time Warner Falls Into the Red'


New Yorker: 'Another Country: James Baldwin's flight from America'

Bloomberg: 'Cohen's Hedge Fund Taxes Can't Fix Connecticut's Fallen Revenue'

Connecticut, the wealthiest U.S. state with per capita income of $54,117 in 2007, has profited from its proximity to Wall Street since rail lines from the city reached north to Fairfield County more than a century ago. According to Forbes magazine, the state's richest residents now are hedge fund managers including Steven Cohen and Paul Tudor Jones, who live and work in and around Greenwich. Cohen earned $900 million in 2007 while Jones made $300 million, according to Institutional Investor magazine's Alpha publication.

Bloomberg: 'Fortunoff Shuts Manhattan Store Amid Liquidator Talks'


Wall Street Journal: 'Iran's Report of Satellite Launch Stirs U.S. Concern'

Bloomberg: 'Citigroup Leads Hybrid Bond Drop on Bailout Concern'


Wall Street Journal: 'Ticketmaster Is Near Deal With Live Nation'

Ticketmaster and Live Nation are close to an all-stock merger to form the world's dominant concert promotion, ticketing and artist-management company.

Wall Street Journal: 'Detroit Reels as Auto Sales Skid'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Dissed as kid, Spitz pimp cries'


A one-man crime wave from Massachusetts road-tripped it to Columbia University every weekend for the past two months -- stealing wallets from gymnasium lockers and a dozen laptops, the Post has learned.

Wall Street Journal: 'Border-Fence Project Hits a Snag'


N.Y. Daily News: 'Witness paints Mafia's image by the numbahs'

'Markopolos Blasts SEC for "Financial Illiteracy"'

MADOFF WATCHFrom the Wall Street Journal:

Fraud investigator Harry Markopolos blamed the Securities and Exchange Commission's "financial illiteracy" for failing to heed his warnings about money manager Bernard Madoff.

Mr. Markopolos had warned the SEC for nearly a decade that Mr. Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme. Mr. Markopolos is set to testify before a House committee Wednesday, and 311 pages of his written testimony became public Tuesday evening.

N.Y. Times: 'Witness on Madoff Tells of Fear for Safety'

House Committee on Financial Services: 'Assessing the Madoff Ponzi Scheme and Regulatory Failures' (Today's hearing, featuring Markopolos and government officials)

U.S. to GM CEO: Take a hike

PRESS CLIPSBefore Congress finally bails out the Big Three automakers, GM CEO Rick Wagoner may bail.

Actually, that's not correct. Wagoner is about to be thrown out of the car.

Wait, that's not exactly right, either. It's not his fellow passengers from Detroit who are pushing him out, it's people on the outside dragging him from the stalled vehicle.

As the Wall Street Journal reports in "Outside Pressure Grows for GM to Oust Wagoner":

General Motors Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner is coming under increasing pressure from outside the company to resign as part of any broad bailout of the auto maker by the federal government.

On Sunday, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), a supporter of emergency loans for Detroit, suggested Mr. Wagoner should go if the government follows through and provides billions of dollars to help the auto giant restructure and return to profitability.

"I think you've got to consider new leadership," the senator said on the CBS talk show Face The Nation. A Dodd aide said later the senator's demand for change would not be a "condition written into the" rescue package coming together on Capitol Hill, and draft legislation prepared by top Democrats doesn't make that explicit requirement. But Mr. Dodd's displeasure was clear. "If you're going to restructure, you've got to bring in a new team to do this," he said. "I think [Mr. Wagoner] has to move on."

Meanwhile, one of the country's biggest media corpses, the Tribune Co., is about to file for bankruptcy.

Moving on ...


Agence France Presse: 'Pakistan arrests 15 over Mumbai attacks'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Puppies save three-year-old boy lost in freezing Virginia woods'

Wall Street Journal: 'Prime Mumbai Terror Suspect Arrested in Pakistani Raid'

Houston Chronicle: 'Barbara Walters rounds up the most fascinating people'

Atlantic: 'Behind Mumbai'

... It is clearly possible that the terror rampage had its origins outside India, aimed as they were at international rather than Hindu targets. But in a least one sense it doesn't matter. For the attacks will aggravate a growing fault line between Hindus and Muslims within India itself.

India is home to 154 million Muslims, the third largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan. Tolerable inter-communal relations are the sine qua non of Indian stability and ascendancy. India has more to lose from extremist Islam than arguably any other country in the world.

New Yorker: 'Risk Factors' (George Packer)

A legacy of the Bush Administration is that America can no longer sweep in and impose a solution on a crisis. The answers for Pakistan lie largely in its own hands ...

Wall Street Journal: 'Outside Pressure Grows for GM to Oust Wagoner'


Wall Street Journal: 'Thain Spars With Board Over Bonus at Merrill'

Merrill Lynch & Co. chief John Thain has suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million, but the battered securities firm's compensation committee is resisting his request, according to people familiar with the situation. ...

The difference of opinion between Mr. Thain and directors who hired him just a year ago is part of the bigger debate about compensation practices at Wall Street firms. Many blame Wall Street for fueling the credit crisis that dragged the U.S. economy into recession, and the giant paychecks that are routine at many Wall Street firms have received deepening criticism as the government extends aid to banks and securities firms.

Financial Times (U.K.): 'Video gaming defies retail gloom'

The video game industry appears to be alone in bucking a retail recession as consumers turn to fitness workouts, musical jam sessions and fantasy worlds to take their minds off the credit crunch.

Microsoft has reported November as its biggest sales month in Europe for the Xbox 360 console - sales rose 124 per cent on a year ago. In the US it announced its best Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with sales up 25 per cent on the year.

US industry sales are up 25 per cent so far this year, according to the NPD research firm. Game sales in October rose 35 per cent on 2007's total. The rises are in spite of a strong 2007.

McClatchy: 'How Obama will govern: Strong team will test his skills'

Washington Post: 'Democrats Working on New Plan for Auto Aid'

Legislation would give automakers at least $15B in emergency loans early next week; Dodd says GM chairman Richard Wagoner "has to move on."

McClatchy: 'Mystery phone call put Pakistan and India on the brink of war'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Veterans praise President-elect Barack Obama's decision to hire Eric Shinseki'

McClatchy: 'Closing Guantanamo a minefield of critical steps'

McClatchy: 'Obama criticizes Bush response to housing foreclosures'

Washington Post: 'Tribune May File for Bankruptcy'

Media giant Tribune Co., saddled with billions in debt since it became a privately held company last year, has hired bankruptcy advisers, according to its flagship newspaper, the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago-based company owns a coast-to-coast empire with television stations and newspapers in most of the nation's largest cities. Its holdings include the Los Angeles Times; cable television super-station WGN in Chicago; the Baltimore Sun; and WDCW-50 in Washington, the CW affiliate. The company even owns the Chicago Cubs.

Lemon aid: Please bail out Edsel!

1958 Edsel

Who cares that the Edsel's grille looked as if it were sucking a lemon?


In a piece dripping with acid of the citric variety, this morning's Daily News showcases some of Detroit's best blunders.

"Crash & Burn: Detroit's Biggest Lemons of All Time" offers a photo tour of the Edsel and 14 other relics, just to prepare you for the continuing sob stories by the people who now run the relics that are called Ford, Chrysler, and GM.

The Daily News list is clever and not as predictable as you'd think, because it includes Detroit disasters from all eras, including the Aveo and the Prowler.

But here's the problem: The Pinto and Chevette, for example, were clunky, and the Corvair was stylish but dangerous, but the Edsel was only stupid. Compared with today's bland vehicles, the Edsel was not clunky. In fact, let me get behind the wheel of the '58 model pictured above.

Ford may go bankrupt, but the Edsel must live on. In fact, if Ford does go under, its relics will only get more valuable. For the first time, even the Pinto would appreciate in value.

You might want to shop around for one of these lemons. When they foreclose on your house, at least you'll have a car to sleep in.

While I go out to beg spare change for gas money for these ancient Detroit guzzlers, stick to your keyboard and click ...


Register (U.K.): 'Tell Santa to bring more assault rifles: America tools up for the inauguration'

Guardian (U.K.): 'Rice tells Islamabad US expects "robust" response to Mumbai attacks'

US secretary of state arrives in Pakistan hoping to ameliorate growing tensions with retribution-seeking India.

N.Y. Times: 'Mumbai Attack Is Test for Pakistan on Curbing Militants'

BBC: 'Italy Confronts Puppy Smugglers' (video)

Italy has launched a campaign calling for a Europe-wide effort to stamp out the illegal trafficking of dogs and other pet animals.

The credit crunch has given an added incentive for smugglers to import expensive breeds, which remain in high demand.

N.Y. Times: 'A Rush Into Refinancing as Mortgage Rates Fall'

Wall Street Journal: 'U.S. Makes a House Call'

Register (U.K.): 'Human rights court rules UK DNA grab illegal'


National Post (Canada): 'Crossing the blue line: The NHL relishes bloody noses, but won't tolerate Sean Avery's mouth'

BBC: 'Australia MPs "face breath tests"'

Politicians in an Australian state could be breathalysed before voting after reports of bad behaviour by MPs.

In the latest incident, New South Wales MP Andrew Fraser resigned from his frontbench role after shoving a female MP after attending a Christmas party.

In September, state police minister Matt Brown resigned after allegedly dancing in his underpants at a drunken party in his parliamentary office.

Several MPs have now backed a proposal to supply breath test kits.


A retired NYPD cop attended the 20th reunion of his Brooklyn Catholic school — and later told cops he was shocked to find a teacher who had sexually abused him still working at the school.

Philip Repaci, 38, broke his 23-year silence to file charges.

Register (U.K.): 'Windows patching abysmal, and getting worse'

Fewer than one in 50 Windows PCs are fully patched, according to stats from users of Secunia's new patching tool, which suggest surfers are becoming even more slipshod with applying patches over the last year.

N.Y. Daily News: 'Police may throw flag on team'

The Giants knew Plaxico Burress shot himself minutes after it happened — but the team didn't report the incident for 8 hours.

Reuters: 'US must halt spread of nuclear, bio weapons -- Biden'

Financial Times (U.K.): 'Alarm raised on threat of mass assault'

Terrorist organisations would succeed in using weapons of mass destruction within five years unless the world community "acts decisively", according to a congressionally mandated commission set up to scrutinise WMD after the September 11 attacks.

"It is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013," according to the report, released yesterday by the commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism.

Washington Post: 'Napolitano Calls Fighting Terror "Top Priority" '

Council on Foreign Relations: 'The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal'

Washington Post: 'Treasury Weighs Action on Mortgage Rates: Intervention Would Aim to Buoy the Housing Market by Forcing Down the Cost of Loans'

Register (U.K.): '"Faith-based" investment firm fingers holiday's most sinful games: Holy @&$#'

Washington Post: 'UAW Offers Detroit Concessions'

With Senate hearing on bailout set this morning, union retreats on health care, jobs bank.

Agence France Presse: 'Intelligence bodies rush to avoid Mumbai blame: experts'

India's intelligence agencies have descended into "civil war" following the Mumbai attacks that exposed the country's vulnerability to terrorism, analysts and experts said.

The country's various security bodies have long refused to communicate and now blame each other for failing to act on information that could have thwarted the terror strikes, they said.

A week after the attacks, and amid mounting public anger, reports are emerging that intelligence agencies knew India's financial capital may be targeted by extremists.

The Hindu (India): 'Ex-Pakistan Army officers, ISI trained Mumbai attackers: NYT'

BBC: 'Huge cut in UK interest rates'

The Bank of England has cut interest rates by one percentage point from 3 percent to 2 percent, their lowest level since 1951.

Washington Post: 'Obama Policymakers Turn to Campaign Tools: Network of Supporters Tapped on Health-Care Issues'

Barack Obama's incoming administration has begun to draw on the high-tech organizational tools that helped get him elected to lay the groundwork for an attempt to restructure the U.S. health-care system.

Former senator Thomas A. Daschle, Obama's point person on health care, launched an effort to create political momentum yesterday in a conference call with 1,000 invited supporters culled from 10,000 who had expressed interest in health issues, promising it would be the first of many opportunities for Americans to weigh in.

The health-care mobilization taking shape before Obama even takes office will include online videos, blogs and e-mail alerts as well as traditional public forums. Already, several thousand people have posted comments on health on the Obama transition Web site.

AP: 'Fla. congresswoman accidentally hangs up on Obama'

When a man sounding remarkably like President-elect Barack Obama called a Florida congresswoman Wednesday, she assumed it was a crank call.

So Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen hung up. But, the Miami Herald reports, this was no prank.

"I thought it was one of the radio stations in South Florida playing an incredible, elaborate, terrific prank on me," Ros-Lehtinen told the newspaper. "They got Fidel Castro to go along. They've gotten Hugo Chavez and others to fall for their tricks. I said, 'Oh, no, I won't be punked.'"

BBC: 'France unveils huge stimulus plan'

Register (U.K.): 'Berlusconi plans to use G8 presidency to "regulate the internet"'

Is Hillary ineligible for her new job? Of course she is.

Hillary in high school yearbook

First things first: Yes, Hillary Clinton is ineligible for her new job as Secretary of State.

She's no diplomat, she's a hawk, she's more of a celeb than a savvy pol, and for crying out loud, her own party even rejected her as a presidential candidate — we've made all those arguments (here, here, and here) and Barack Obama refused to listen.

Ineligible? Yes. But not for the reasons now conjured up by the nattering nabobs of Judicial Watch.

Rather than having to look at Judicial Watch's self-proclaimed "announcement" of Hillary's ineligibility, read the CBS story "Is Hillary Ineligible for Cabinet?":

A conservative watchdog group called Judicial Watch is arguing that thanks to a Constitutional clause known as the "Emoluments Clause," Hillary Clinton cannot legally become secretary of state until her Senate term expires in 2013.

Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution says this: "No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time." ...

Judicial Watch's argument, then, is that because President Bush signed legislation increasing the salary (or Emoluments) of the secretary of state in January 2008 - while Clinton was in the Senate - she cannot, by virtue of this clause, be appointed to the office during her elected term.

You'll remember this Clinton-hating "watchdog" as the outfit that tried to turn Whitewater into Watergate.

Note to Judicial Watch: Take your emoluments (and some emollients) and stick your argument where the sun don't shine.

This cockamamie stab at Hillary from the vast right-wing conspiracy is sure to win her some undeserved sympathy.

Not from me, of course.

State secret: Is it Secretary's Day for Hillary?

Obama-NEXT-logo.jpgWill Barack Obama really hire Hillary Clinton to take dictation? Is he that into tragedy?

The view at Foggy Bottom is still murky. But it always has been. The low-lying D.C. neighborhood first earned that moniker because of fog and industrial smoke. Then the high-lying State Department HQ moved in, and the nickname gained even more credibility.

So just imagine Hillary Clinton ensconced in Foggy Bottom. She'll never be in Obama's inner circle, and she'll always be a pretender to his throne, so why should he name her and give her control of a huge part of the national machinery? She and her staff would be nothing if not passive-aggressive in their dealings with Obama's crew. Why would he want more smoke blown at him from Foggy Bottom?

Internal dissent is one thing. As a lifelong practitioner, I'm all for it. But it's something else altogether to hire a supremely self-aggrandizing pol who constantly works to undercut your authority and is your chief rival in the party and who would try to impose her own agenda — just for the sake of its not being yours, that it would be hers. You've worked with people like that, haven't you? That wouldn't seem to be the kind of drama that Obama desires.

He doesn't strike me as a King Lear. So why would he want to hire the wife of our former King Leer?

Maybe it's all a charade by him and his crew to allow her to save face — she'll finally say thanks for the gracious "offer" but her country needs her more in the Senate or some such B.S. like that.

Or maybe it's Hillary's crew that keeps spreading the word that she's in line for the job, and Obama's crew has shrewdly decided to just let them keep doing it if that's what it takes for Hillary to save face and for the party to keep from fracturing.

Don't forget: The country is officially in a recession, and an increasingly poorer and more fed-up populace already spells trouble for the Democrats for the mid-term elections in 2010. Even Jesus couldn't pull us out of this economic disaster by then, so you know that Congressional Democrats are already nervous about their new "mandate" for "change."

In any case, the newest immigrant to D.C. is both more intriguing than Clinton and less full of intrigue — at least from Obama's perspective. She's Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who's lined up to be the Homeland Security chief.

Janet be nimble. Check out the quick take on her in Phoenix New Times, which gave her a "Best Politician" award in 2006:

Janet Napolitano's the hands-down champion when it comes to political maneuvering around here. The mere fact that a woman who comes across as this butch can get elected governor and, before that, attorney general in Arizona (of all places) is testament to her political IQ. Plus, she's a bleedin' Democrat!

Somehow she's been able to avoid all the hot-button issues, or make us think she cares hugely about them without really doing much, and now the pollsters have declared her unbeatable . . .

Seems like a shrewd move by the Obama team: A female governor from a border state where immigration is a hot issue is now in charge of protecting the nation from terror.

And it could be a lot worse. Maybe a Republican would have chosen her exact opposite, the cartoonish Phoenix-based sheriff Joe Arpaio, for the job. For those who don't know, Arpaio is the notoriously hardline, publicity-grabbing Maricopa County lawman who runs what he proudly proclaims as the toughest jail system in the country. Being cruel to Mexicans and other people of color comes naturally to him.

In real life, Arpaio is a cross between Deputy Dawg and Barney Fife, without either of those characters' loveability. Arpaio was nothing but an ex-DEA-flunky crank when he used to pester reporters in Phoenix in the '80s — before Arizonans mystifyingly gave him a gun.

Remember Bernie Kerik, who had his five minutes in the D.C. sun as George W. Bush's putative Homeland Security czar? Joe Arpaio makes Bernie Kerik seem like Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As far as we know, controversy is not Janet Napolitano's middle name.

Judging by the way she skirts around things, she won't make waves. She's even more colorless than Tom Ridge, and she'll carry out whatever task Rahm Emanuel gives her.

Here's your task: Click on these . . .



N.Y. Daily News: 'Dog takes car for run and crashes into L.I. shop'

N.Y. Times: 'After Losses, Pensions Ask For a Change'
"Some of the nation’s biggest companies want Congress to roll back rules requiring them to put more money into pension funds."

N.Y. Daily News: 'Team Obama thinks Hillary Clinton's people to blame for State speculation'

Register (U.K.): 'Google tells the world how to talk: Received Pronunciation not received, Scots scotched'

N.Y. Times: 'Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing'

L.A. Times: 'Antiwar groups fear Barack Obama may create hawkish Cabinet'

Register (U.K.): 'German bawdy house offers free entry for life: Willing punters queue for promotional brothel tattoo'

Washington Post: 'Stocks Slump As Signs Point To Harder Times: Key Indicators Suggest Deep Recession'

MarketWatch: 'Saudi Prince boosting Citi stake to 5 Percent'

Bloomberg: 'Alwaleed Buys Citigroup Stock as Loss Exceeds Buffett'

Washington Post: 'Auto Execs Fly Corporate Jets to D.C., Tin Cups in Hand' (Dana Milbank)

N.Y. Daily News: 'Fine to quadruple amputee — in days'
"She went to an ER suffering from what she thought was just a kidney stone, but a medical nightmare left her a quadruple amputee. Tabitha Mullings claims doctors failed to diagnose an infection that has literally eaten her alive."

N.Y. Times: 'New York Police Fight With U.S. on Surveillance'

N.Y. Times: 'Web Sites Wage Holiday Price Wars'

Washington Post: 'Let the Guy Smoke: Obama Is Probably Fibbing About Giving Up Cigarettes. That's Okay.' (Michael Kinsley)

Register (U.K.): 'Homework late? Blame Russian hackers: Teachers wise up to tech-based yarns'

N.Y. Times: 'Discussions With Clintons as Obama Creates Team'

L.A. Times: 'L.A. councilman seeks to protect celebrities from paparazzi'

L.A. Times: 'Prop. 8 gay marriage ban goes to Calif. Supreme Court'

L.A. Times: 'World grapples with pirate problem'

Register (U.K.): 'Filesharing ambulance chasers get into the gay smut racket'

Daily Flog: Tally woe! Fears on voting machinery, machinations

In the final countdown to the presidential election, many Americans may actually hit zero, thanks to predicted failures of new voting machinery and rules.

This just leaves the curtain of the voting booth open for the machinations of GOP operative Hans von Spakovsky and his ilk.

Not only anti-Democratic but also anti-democratic, Von Spakovsky used to be on the Federal Election Commission, but he kept pissing in the voter pool and was finally forced out.

That doesn't mean he's not actively practicing voter fraud while railing against it. See Rolling Stone's new piece by Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast, "Block the Vote."

For more Hans brinkmanship, see my late 2007 stories "The GOP's Hounding of Voters" and "Hans Off Our Elections!"

And don't forget fixer Karl Rove, who's now larval in the Fox News cocoon. Tell me he's not about to weave some webs to trap voters.

Even without those two goniffs, big problems loom for the quadrennial attempt at democracy. It's so scary that even the British are on the side of the colonists. They're running around our countryside with warnings of none if by land, zero if by sea. Today's Guardian (U.K.) plays it up big, in "Ballot debacle predicted for November 4":

A "perfect storm" could be building for US election day on November 4 because of a combination of sky-high voter interest, new ballot machines and a shortage of poll staff, the independent Pew group warned yesterday.

The Washington-based group set out a long series of problems still facing the US despite reforms aimed at avoiding a repeat of the 2000 and 2004 debacles.

Extracted from the report (PDF) at Pew's, here's a lengthy passage — lengthy because it's important:

[Voters] will encounter an election system that, while significantly changed since 2000, is in many respects no less settled after nearly eight years of debate and change.

Many of the old machines, laws and procedures that were blamed for the problems in 2000 are gone. But new machines, laws and procedures have themselves raised questions that continue to fuel controversy and concern as November approaches. Yet the biggest challenge in 2008 may not be changes to the system but the potentially record number of voters prepared to use it.

For nearly eight years, policymakers, election officials, and advocates have upgraded the plumbing of the nation’s election system — replacing some sections while patching and plugging others — all in the hope of keeping Americans and their votes flowing smoothly.

In two weeks, however, voters will crank the pressure sky high.

An open seat for the White House, fueled by deep partisan, geographic, race and class divisions on issues at home and abroad, is about to result in a likely record number of voters turning out to vote on (and increasingly before) Election Day.

The question is no longer exclusively "will the system work?" Rather, it is "can the system handle the load?"

Nevertheless, vote early and vote often. And all you college grads out there: You might as well go to the polls because the job of democracy may be the only one available. From this morning's Wall Street Journal:

"For '09 Grads, Job Prospects Take a Dive"

College seniors may have more trouble landing a job next spring than recent graduates, as employers trim their hiring outlooks in response to the slowing economy and financial-sector turmoil.

Employers plan to hire just 1.3% more graduates in 2009 than they hired this year, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

That's the weakest outlook in six years and reflects a sharp recent downturn. Just two months ago, a survey by the same group projected a 6.1% increase in hiring.

Wi-Fi it. Go ahead and order another triple-shot frappucino, go back to your table, and see if anything clicks . . .


AP: 'US airstrike kills 9 Afghan soldiers at checkpoint'

N.Y. Daily News: 'RNC spends thousands on dresses, make-up for Sarah Palin & family'


Guardian (U.K.): 'Pound tumbles as Bank head cries recession'

Wall Street Journal: 'Joe the Plumber and GOP "Authenticity": It's hard to reach out to workers while cracking down on unions' (Thomas Frank)

N.Y. Times: 'Some Cut Back on Prescription Drugs in Sour Economy'

Guardian (U.K.): 'Cyber-attack theory as al-Qaida websites close'

Wall Street Journal: 'Gay Marriage in Peril in California'

Wall Street Journal: 'U.S. to Ask Analysts if Lehman Misled'

Wall Street Journal: 'Recession Fears Pummel Futures'

Wall Street Journal: 'Obama Opens Double-Digit Lead: New Poll Shows McCain Ceding Ground on Taxes, Values; Palin Loses Shine'

Wall Street Journal: 'Iran, Qatar, Russia Form Gas Alliance'

Wall Street Journal: 'McClatchy's Advertising Woes Mount'

Wall Street Journal: 'Network Audience Keeps Eroding: Upswing in Delayed Viewing on DVRs Isn't Likely to Offset Prime-Time Declines'

Daily Flog: Settling for violence in Israel, settling for Palin over here

Good thing the U.S. and Britain passed those anti-terror laws a few years ago, because now they're coming in handy.

Predictably, those laws, many of them not only foolish but dangerous to rights, are now being applied to situations far removed from the so-called war on terror. In "Divided we stand: The ugly side of international banking," the Economist notes:

The collapse of the banking system in Iceland — a country that was recently listed as a spoof auction item on eBay — led the British government to make novel use of anti-terror laws to freeze Icelandic assets. It and the Dutch government have ended up lending money to Iceland so that their citizens can retrieve money from Landsbanki, one of the country’s nationalised banks.

Now if the U.S. would just use its own anti-terror laws to sweep all the bankers off Wall Street — they're our "persons of interest" these days.

Speaking of getting rid of Muslims, the hardening of the Jewish colonists' stance in Israel adds yet another threat to some sort of peace in the Middle East, despite the dovish words of various Israeli pols.

Of course, that hardline stance by extremist Jews was greatly aided during the Bush regime by the presence in the Pentagon of now-departed Doug Feith and other fanatical dual-disloyalists.

Another Economist story brings us up to date on the Arab-Jew death dance in a way that you won't read in the U.S. press. See "Settlers against a settlement," which describes the worsening situation and begins:

The policy proclaimed by young Jewish settler-militants on the West Bank is called "Price Tag." Whenever the Israeli army tries to dismantle settler outposts — even individual caravans or huts — that have not been authorised by the Israeli authorities, the militants retaliate violently. Not necessarily in the same place; they may hit Palestinians or soldiers somewhere else. They stone cars, smash windows, burn olive trees and fields. They attack villagers and shepherds, and tangle with the army and police.

Their aim is to persuade Israelis that no further forcible dismantlement of Jewish settlements is possible. When Ariel Sharon was prime minister, he did it once, in 2005, in the Gaza Strip and northern bits of the West Bank, evacuating 21 settlements, against little hard resistance. When Ehud Olmert, who succeeded him, demolished nine buildings at Amona, in 2006, thousands resisted. Now passive resistance is bolstered by physical retaliation.

You wouldn't know it to read the U.S. press, but there's a sizable peace movement among Jews in Israel and even over here. Check in with Americans for Peace Now, and you'll see.

Something else you maybe haven't read is Jane Mayer's inside look in the New Yorker at exactly how John McCain's campaign picked Sarah Palin. Here's a clue: Though Palin trumpets her being a Beltway outsider, it was her courting of insiders that did it. Hmmm . . . maybe she's a savvy politician after all. No. Anyway, see the reliable Mayer's story.

Meanwhile . . .


N.Y. Times: 'More Alzheimer’s Risk for Hispanics, Studies Suggest'

New Yorker: 'Undecided' (David Sedaris)

BBC: 'Rich and poor gap "narrows" in UK'

BBC: ' "More inequality" in rich nations'

New Yorker: 'The Insiders: How John McCain came to pick Sarah Palin' (Jane Mayer)


Economist (U.K.): 'The hind legs off a donkey: Who is the most long-winded presidential candidate?'

Washington Post: 'Black Turnout Could Decide House Races: Obama Poised to Help 10 White Democrats'

Economist (U.K.): 'More than Obama: Democrats could dominate Congress after the elections'

N.Y. Daily News: ' "Innocent little girl" is shot in back'


China Digital Times: 'Farewell to My "Reporter" Career'

Washington Post: '3 Agencies Vie for Oversight of Swaps Market'


BBC: 'Western diet "raises heart risk" '

China Digital Times: 'After Toy Factory Closure, Blame Game Begins'

Jurist: 'US seeking extended sentence for Guantanamo detainee Hamdan'

Jurist: 'Trial begins for Fort Dix plot suspects'

N.Y. Times: 'Signs of Easing Credit and Stimulus Talk Lift Wall Street'

N.Y. Times: 'In Bush Stronghold [North Carolina], Obama Pulls Even With McCain'

N.Y. Times: 'U.S. Is Said to Be Urging New Mergers in Banking'

Daily Flog: Birth of a notion opens in St. Paul; oil price plummets, along with GOP veep's rep; everybody's Google-eyed

Sarah Palin's heroines Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. AnthonyRunning down the press:

Hurricane Gustav didn't exactly spare New Orleans, but Topical Storm Bristol didn't exactly spare St. Paul, either.

Instead of a candidate snagging a berth, we have a birth snagging a candidate.

The news set the GOP's female delegates (left) all atwitter in St. Paul.

For more on the subject, see, among many examples of course, the flashy and the dull. Or the simply solid, like McClatchy's "Absence of Bush and Cheney cheers Republican delegates."

That's a headline that's eight years too late.

Back to the Sarah Palin beat, where the New York Post splashes: "PALIN TEEN HAS BABY ON BOARD: DADDY A HS HOCKEY KID."

What rhymes with "puck"?

You won't find out in yesterday's sober, but serviceable, New York Times piece, "Palin Daughter’s Pregnancy Interrupts Script."

Don't bother with today's Times story from the poor GOP's point of view by former White House pet Elizabeth Bumiller ("Disclosures on Palin Raise Questions on Vetting Process") and Adam Nagourney's "In Political Realm, ‘Family Problem’ Emerges as Test."

Regarding the former, Bumiller isn't much of an expert on stories about the GOP's vetting, though she's previously covered the topic.

I pointed out her work in December 2004, when the topic had been how the GOP earlier blew its vetting of Bernie Kerik for the job of Homeland Security czar. Referring to AG-nominee-at-the-time Alberto Gonzales's heckuva job on Kerik, I noted:

If you believe the . . . New York Times [in a story written by Bumiller], Bush's nominee as attorney general conducted "hours of confrontational interviews" with Kerik, to make sure none of the little Napoleon's cream filling had spilled into places it shouldn't have.

The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller pins her tale to an unnamed "government official." I hesitate to believe it only because Bumiller also describes the White House as "normally careful." I think she means "normally careful" only in vetting potential nominees, which means that the White House is careful about whom it trusts and picks? Uh-huh.

In her same story, she points out that the White House was careless in dispensing top-security information after 9/11: Kerik, while still the NYPD commissioner, was put on the list even though he neglected to fill out the basic form to start the security-check process. I wouldn't call that "normally careful." If Bumiller means "normally careful" in general — no, she can't mean that.

For God's sakes, she doesn't even mention this previously bad GOP vetting of Kerik in today's story about the GOP's currently bad vetting of Palin.

In the latter piece today in the Times— which is labeled a "news analysis," though that must be an inside joke in the Times newsroom — Nagourney settles this Palin situation for all of us by determining that Unwed Mother is one storm that has already passed, at least for now. He knows that because that's what the GOP delegates say:

For at least the time being, Gov. Sarah Palin appears to have survived the initial test after the disclosure that her unmarried teenage daughter was pregnant. Republican delegates rallied around her on Monday, saying the disclosure would not threaten her hopes of being Senator John McCain’s running mate.

We'll see whether she will continue to be the veep nominee or whether, like her daughter's boyfriend should have, she pulls out. It would be a no-brainer for her to say that she can't campaign because she "needs to be with her family" at a time of crisis.

At this point, Nagourney analyzes, the Palins' unimmaculate birth news is an "unwanted distraction" for the GOP and, despite Hurricane Gustav, the Palin pregnancy "dominated discussion among delegates." I did not know that.

One more bit of unintentional humor from Nagourney:

In many ways, how the country will react to the pregnancy of Ms. Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is more a sociological question than a political one.

Can't wait to read that dissertation.

You're better off going overseas for a better story emblazoned with one of the better headlines. This comes from Melbourne's big daily, The Age: "Republicans take rain check." The Aussie paper's Anne Davis notes in a news story that actually includes analysis:

One political positive is that Mr Bush will no longer speak, saving Senator McCain from a potentially damaging association with the unpopular President. He will also avoid direct comparisons with the Democratic convention last week as the storm means the Republicans have cause for a more sober event.

However, an event that was too anaemic could undercut Senator McCain's ability to launch his campaign and his running mate. Republican officials were working on ways to turn their planned parties into fund-raisers and capitalise on the convention theme: "Country first".

While the GOP convention curtailed its busy, meaningless business out of fear that the cheers of delegates would seem crass, Republican women pored over new developments about veep nominee Palin's unwed daughter mama, Bristol.

Named after a bay (a too-popular fishing spot, apparently), Bristol not only entered the national scene but also prompted an addition to the U.S. slang lexicon: Some people would call Bristol a "baby mama," but now Republicans can use their own term: "infant's mother by intelligent design."

The feminists for life whom I know would object to the theft of their name by the anti-abortion group Feminists for Life, of which Palin is a member. But she's consistent: The group is opposed to all abortions, including cases of rape, incest, birth defects, and the preservation of a mother's health or life — and, yes, even in the case of a pregnancy of an unwed high school kid whose mother is a Republican vice presidential candidate.

Palin would probably withdraw except that Joe Lieberman would be the natural choice for McCain, and the country is more likely to accept a shockingly inexperienced hockey mom of an unwed mother on the national ticket than an experienced East Coast Jew. (Even most of us Jews wouldn't be ready for Lieberman.)

The really big news, and it is probably more political than sociological, is Google's launch of a browser called Chrome.

Let's hope it batters Internet Explorer but doesn't swamp Firefox.

Considering that Google, unlike Microsoft, is already an web-advertising giant, this is pretty scary news. Chrome will no doubt market the hell out of users, tailoring the links and news that it determines we "need."

In other news more important than crude jokes about the pregnancy of a political candidate's daughter, crude oil is at about $105 a barrel — and people are happy about it. Bloomberg notes:

Crude oil for October delivery fell as low as $105.46 a barrel, down 8.7 percent from the close of Aug. 29 on the New York Mercantile Exchange and the lowest since April 4.

More from Bloomberg:

"The absence of serious structural damage from Gustav when the market was braced for the worst has caused prices to turn decisively downwards," said Christopher Bellew, a senior broker at Bache Commodities Ltd. in London. "As technical selling takes hold, it looks likely we'll breach $100."

Memo to Adam Nagourney: Now this guy sounds more like a sociologist than a politician.

Can't resist turning back to Palin. One of the best stories focused on something above the waist: earmarks. In "Palin's Small Alaska Town Secured Big Federal Funds," the Washington Post's Paul Kane reports:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group.

Taking off on stats analyzed by Taxpayers for Common Sense, this reporter apparently went and found the analysis instead of relying on the watchdog's press release on Palin, which I don't think it issued. But he gave the watchdog group credit anyway, which is most un-Times-like. Then Kane puts in the political (unsociological) perspective high in his piece:

In introducing Palin as his running mate on Friday, Sen. John McCain cast her as a compatriot in his battle against wasteful federal spending. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, hailed Palin as a politician "with an outstanding reputation for standing up to special interests and entrenched bureaucracies -- someone who has fought against corruption and the failed policies of the past, someone who's stopped government from wasting taxpayers' money."

McCain's crusade against earmarks -- federal spending sought by members of Congress to benefit specific projects -- has been a hallmark of his campaign. He has said earmarks are wasteful and are often inserted into bills with little oversight, sometimes by a single powerful lawmaker.

Followed right on its heels by this:

As mayor of Wasilla, however, Palin oversaw the hiring of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh, an Anchorage-based law firm with close ties to Alaska's most senior Republicans: Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, who was indicted in July on charges of accepting illegal gifts. The Wasilla account was handled by the former chief of staff to Stevens, Steven W. Silver, who is a partner in the firm.

Palin was elected mayor of Wasilla in 1996 on a campaign theme of "a time for change." According to a review of congressional spending by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, Wasilla did not receive any federal earmarks in the first few years of Palin's tenure.

Senate records show that Silver's firm began working for Palin in early 2000, just as federal money began flowing.

Bet you never thought you'd care about what goes on in Wasilla, Alaska. Don't shoot the messengers — although in Alaska you're free to shoot just about anything, as NRA member Palin proudly knows. The question: What happens when people shoot back at her?

Daily Flog: Crime, kvetching, corporate looting --and tanks for nothing, 'Times'

Running down the press:

Daily News: 'Cops: Psycho girlfriend tortures and slices up boyfriend in Brooklyn flat'

Great crime day in the News. Check these out, too:

'Judge's house shot up'

'Queens mom lured to her death'


Though Dan Mangan mistakenly assumes that needle-dick politicians are even capable of steaming up mirrors, he efficiently essays an effective presentation of these tabloidian buzz words: "disgraced," "secretly," "steamy," "affair," "confessing," "infidelity," "cancer-stricken," and "explosive":

Disgraced ex-presidential candidate John Edwards secretly rekindled his steamy affair with his campaign videographer after confessing his infidelity to his cancer-stricken wife, according to an explosive new report.

Cogito argot sum.


Yet another breathless, confessional dispatch from Beijing by Mike Vaccaro, a big-city-tabloid version of a small-town-broadsheet hack sportswriter (note the absence of true tabloidian buzz words):

That's it. The thesaurus is exhausted. The dictionary has just declared bankruptcy. With Michael Phelps, all the fitting adjectives have been used and re-used and worn down to the nub: amazing, astounding, astonishing, remarkable. Incredible, unbelievable, implausible, inconceivable.

So stop writing you don't.

You'll want a better lede and a better read, so check out the reliable Filip Bondy in the Daily News:

'More gold and another day at the office for Michael Phelps'

Two more golds, two more world records, four Olympic immortals surpassed. Just another day at the office with leaky goggles, and Michael Phelps won't even file for overtime.

Phelps' journey has become so routine and so spectacular at the same time, you get confused sometimes about whether to get excited (yes, you should). Phelps himself doesn't seem particularly overjoyed very often, unless he has relay teammates or fellow medalists standing around him to share the glory.

Daily News: 'Grief for Council pols over car perks'

Classic local-news reportage, courtesy of Lisa L. Colangelo. It's one thing to have a free parking spot in downtown Dubuque. It's another to have one in New York City.

While all Council members receive parking placards from the DOT that allow them to park in many restricted areas and even avoid paying the meter, four have their own private parking spots on city streets.

Despite Dick Cheney, a unilateral strike on Iran's nuke sites — and the resulting radioactive clouds circling the planet — now seem less and less likely.

Despite practically no mention in the U.S. press of this developing story during the past two months, we can read that no-nukes-is-good-news story this morning.

See Aluf Benn's "U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for Iran strike" in today's Haaretz. Benn notes:

U.S. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen both visited here in June and, according to the Washington Post, told senior Israeli defense officials that Iran is still far from obtaining nuclear weapons, and that an attack on Iran would undermine American interests. Therefore, they said, the U.S. would not allow Israeli planes to overfly Iraq en route to Iran. . . .

These private messages were accompanied by a series of leaks from the Pentagon that Israel interpreted as attempts to thwart any possibility of an attack on Iran. For instance, the Americans revealed details of a major Israel Air Force exercise in the Mediterranean; they also said they doubted Israel had adequate intelligence about Iran's nuclear facilities. In addition, Mullen spoke out publicly against an attack on Iran.

Two weeks ago, [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak visited Washington for talks with his American counterpart, Robert Gates, and Vice President Richard Cheney. Both conversations focused on Iran, but the two Americans presented conflicting views: Gates vehemently opposes an attack on Iran, while Cheney is the administration's leading hawk.

If piece-lover Paul Wolfowitz and dual-loyalist Doug Feith were still at the Pentagon, we might be instead planning end-of-the-world parties.

Forward: 'Greatest Jewish Olympian Sulks Over Losing the Champion Spotlight'

Dan Levin of the city's venerable Jewish daily that is the consistently best source of news in the U.S. about the formidable Jewish-establishment lobby — though it's not as good a paper as New York City's now-defunct Yiddischer Amerikaner Volks-Kalender, which my ancestor Alexander Harkavy edited a century ago — noted this yesterday, before this morning's splish-splash everywhere about Michael Phelps:

Usually it's Jewish mothers who boast and brag about their children's accomplishments. A big ego on a nice Jewish boy, however, is rather unbecoming. . . .

[Mark] Spitz, who is possibly the greatest living Jewish sports legend, has been pouting over the fact that he wasn't officially invited to the Beijing Olympics.

"I never got invited. You don't go to the Olympics just to say, I am going to go. Especially because of who I am," Spitz, 58, told AFP [Agence France Presse]. "I am going to sit there and watch Michael Phelps break my record anonymously? That's almost demeaning to me. It is not almost — it is."

That's right, Spitz, stay in the shallow end.


Clemente Lisi's lede:

Swimming sensation Michael Phelps has an Olympic recipe for success — and it involves eating a staggering 12,000 calories a day.

Next stop: Coney Island's royal gorge.

Times: 'Russia, in Accord With Georgians, Sets Withdrawal'

You'd think that with all the practice over the past five years the Times would learn to cover a war, but no, the paper always insists — like the paper of record it thinks it still is — on going with what the top officials say and do.

Like this morning's story, which is careful to include the Russkie president's middle initial but misses the point of what's really going in Georgia:

The presidents of Georgia and Russia agreed early Wednesday morning on a framework that could end the war that flared up here five days ago, after Russia reasserted its traditional dominance of the region.

Declaring that "the aggressor has been punished," President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia announced early Tuesday that Russia would stop its campaign. Russian airstrikes continued during the day, however, and antagonisms seethed on both sides.

"Antagonisms seethed on both sides"? Typical of the Times to meticulously quote "world leaders" while being cautious and vague about real events. Read this morning's dispatch in the Guardian (U.K.):

'Georgian villages burned and looted as Russian tanks advance'

Villages in Georgia were being burned and looted as Russian tanks followed by "irregulars" advanced from the breakaway province of South Ossetia, eyewitnesses said today.

"People are fleeing, there is a mood of absolute panic. The idea there is a ceasefire is ridiculous," Luke Harding, the Guardian's correspondent, said.

Russia denied any advance, however Georgian authorities claimed that about 50 tanks and armoured vehicles were near the strategically important town of Gori.

Times: 'Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks'

Now this is a great job by the Times. John Darnton's lede:

Weeks before bombs started falling on Georgia, a security researcher in suburban Massachusetts was watching an attack against the country in cyberspace.

Jose Nazario of Arbor Networks in Lexington noticed a stream of data directed at Georgian government sites containing the message: "win+love+in+Rusia."

Other Internet experts in the United States said the attacks against Georgia's Internet infrastructure began as early as July 20, with coordinated barrages of millions of requests —known as distributed denial of service, or D.D.O.S., attacks — that overloaded and effectively shut down Georgian servers.

Times: 'Study Tallies Corporations Not Paying Income Tax'

Boring hed, fascinating story:

Two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.


Hasani Gittens forces down our gullet some news that makes us hurl:

No wonder it's named after a bank - Met fans are going to have to open up their safe-deposit boxes to afford seats at Citi Field next season. The choicest seats will cost $495 - a 79 percent increase.

This will be especially bitter for those Mets fans who are among the tens of thousands laid off by Citigroup.


Love the hed, but the story itself is somewhat of a slog:

Regular straphangers took the MTA for a $74,000 ride by accident - in addition to the $800,000 authorities say a trio of scammers bilked from the agency.

A suspected software glitch allowed people to buy MetroCards and commuter railroad tickets without being charged - the same error authorities believe Christopher Clemente, 37, Lisa Foster Jordan, 37, and Cary Grant, 40, allegedly exploited in order to peddle hundreds of thousands of dollars in rides since 2005.

Cary Grant? What a shame. He was such a hero in North by Northwest.

Times: 'Mechanism for Credit Is Still Stuck'

A year after financial tremors first shook Wall Street, a crucial artery of modern money management remains broken. And until that conduit is fixed or replaced, analysts say borrowers will see interest rates continue to rise even as availability worsens for home mortgages, student loans, auto loans and commercial mortgages.

The conduit, the market for securitization, through which mortgages and other debts are packaged and sold as securities, has become sclerotic and almost totally dependent on government support. The problems, intensified by bond investors who have grown leery of these instruments, have been a drag on the economy and have persisted despite the exercise of extraordinary regulatory powers by policy makers.

It's the Times that's sclerotic, and it's a lack of regulation that caused this problem in the first place.

"Crucial artery of modern money management" — what a riot!

You wouldn't know it from this story, which treats mortgage securitization as something that practically sprang from the Founding Fathers' loins, but it's actually a devious diversion scheme that really got cooking in Wall Street's '80s heyday and that Wall Street has fought hard to keep unregulated.

It's more like a shunt that drains our mortgage payments directly into the pockets of Wall Streeters without even giving a taste to the millions of Americans who give them the ante to play with. What a scam.

I wrote about this back in June 2000 ("In the Land of Milk and Money") during the Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio. One of the key figures behind Lazio was Lewis Ranieri, and I noted:

Ranieri created — yes, personally created — the multitrillion-dollar trading market on collateralized mortgage bonds, made possible by the Reagan era's relaxation of trading rules and his lobbying of Congress to establish federal agencies like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae to make mortgage-bond trading more lucrative. [See Wayne Barrett's recent "Andy's Kids" for the current crisis revolving around Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.]

Ranieri ranks with junk-bond king Michael Milken among "the most influential financiers of the 1980s," according to Edward Chancellor's highly respected book Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation.

Journalist Michael Lewis, a former bond trader for Salomon Brothers, where Ranieri was once the biggest of what were called the "Big Swinging Dick" traders, wrote in the best-seller Liar's Poker that Ranieri and Milken were "the great bond missionaries of the 1980s," crisscrossing the country, trying to persuade institutional investors to buy mortgage securities.

It worked.

Daily Flog 8/6/08: Idiot SI sibs, the skinny on Obama, and finally a good reason to invade Iraq

Running down the press:


Attention, immigrants: If you can prove that you understand this headline, you pass the New York City citizenship test. If you need help, here's Kyle Murphy's lede:

Days after a New Jersey mayor trashed Staten Island, two brothers from the borough were busted for trashing his town — and shoving one of its cops, officials said.

Times: 'As Iraq Surplus Rises, Little Goes Into Rebuilding'

Based on a GAO report spurred by indefatigable Michigan senator Carl Levin, James Glanz and Campbell Robertson write:

Soaring oil prices will leave the Iraqi government with a cumulative budget surplus of as much as $79 billion by year’s end, according to an American federal oversight agency. But Iraq has spent only a minute fraction of that on reconstruction costs, which are now largely borne by the United States.

The unspent windfall, which covers surpluses from oil sales since 2005, appears likely to reinforce growing debate about the approximately $48 billion in American taxpayer money devoted to rebuilding Iraq since the American-led invasion.

As if that weren't enough:

In one comparison, the United States has spent $23.2 billion in the critical areas of security, oil, electricity and water since the 2003 invasion, the report said. But from 2005 through April 2008, Iraq has spent just $3.9 billion on similar services.

Over all, the report from the Government Accountability Office estimates, Iraqi oil revenue from 2005 through the end of this year will amount to at least $156 billion. And in an odd financial twist, a large amount of the surplus money is sitting in an American bank in New York — nearly $10 billion at the end of 2007, with more expected this year, when the accountability office estimates a skyrocketing surplus.

Too bad the Times is so hidebound, parochial, and old-school newspaperish that it won't include a link to the National Priorities Project's Cost of War page, which breaks down the tab to U.S. taxpayers at $341.4 million a day and the running total, as I write, as $543,045,201,657. Oops, make that $543,045,394,187.

Those damn Iraqis. We oughta just invade their country.

Daily News: 'Doped-up teen kills couple in Queens wreck: cops'


The lede sez:

A troubled teen who got behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz high on marijuana sped through a red light into a busy Queens intersection Tuesday, slamming into another car and killing a husband and wife, police sources said.

Actually, the kid wasn't "doped-up" enough, but the story doesn't reveal that until the 11th graf:

Mali Chubashvili said her son refused to take prescribed anti-psychotic medication. Exasperated, Chubashvili said she asked family friend Michael Mosehl to watch the teen two days ago.

But early yesterday, Jacob Chubashvili snuck off with the keys to Mosehl's Mercedes and sped off on a joyride, cops said.

Marijuana caused this tragedy? If he'd smoked another blunt, he probably wouldn't have been able to even get into the car.

Times: 'Town in China Returns to Normal a Day After a Bold Attack'

Yeah, "normal." Edward Wong's folo on Monday's violence in far-western China ignores recent and ongoing history. The U.S. press swallows the propaganda of China's rulers and calls this "terrorism," but that depends on how you look at it.

China's government is pushing its dominant Han Chinese into historically Uighur territory. So this is like calling the American Indians "terrorists" when the U.S. government encouraged white settlers to push West in the first three centuries of our country's existence. Terror is terror; it's frightening and disgusting. "Terrorist" depends on your point of reference.

There are millions of Uighurs, so what's "normal" for this huge occupied area? The world's most self-prestigious paper needed to background this piece at least a little for its readers' sake. And when the Times doesn't do this, then most of the rest of the lapdog U.S. press, which take their cue from the Times, doesn't bother to do it either, which is why we need to keep ragging on the paper to do its job. And the paper could have done it by checking other mainstream-journo sources and throwing in a paragraph.

For instance, see Terry McCarthy's 1997 story on Time mag's website and from one paragraph you may understand why there was such a brutal attack yesterday in you-never-heard-of-before Kashgar:

An oasis in the desert where China, Central Asia and India converge, Kashgar has been fought over for centuries, and has grown accustomed to seeing invaders come and go. At the turn of this century it was the Russians and the British who used Kashgar as a base to spy on each other from their grand consulates in the town center. Now China is the overlord, but the rhythms of life for the local Uighurs owe as little to the Han ways as they do to the British or Russians before them: the mosques are full on Fridays, the script is Arabic, people eat bread instead of rice and older women cover their faces entirely when they walk the streets.

For some great right-now photos of China's Far West turbulence, go to The Opposite End of China.

Times: 'Texas Executes Mexican Despite Objections'

You don't have to be a foe of the death penalty to throw this context into the story — which the Times didn't:

Of the top five bloodthirsty countries in the world, the U.S. is fifth and last. And that's the end of the good news from the humaneness perspective. The four other countries are (in order of state-sanctioned bloodthirstiness) China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

Note that, of the top five, the U.S. is the only Western country, the only one close to being a democracy, the only "Christian nation," and the country with the most Toyota-sales-event TV ads.


There was really no reason to abbreviate "anthrax," but somehow it's just right for this hed. Chuck Bennett's ripped-from-a-'40s-teletype lede:

The intense pressure tactics that the FBI allegedly used against a suspected killer anthrax scientist included trying to bribe his son with $2.5 million to turn on him and showing his frightened daughter photos of dead victims.

Times: 'Where the Race Now Begins at Kindergarten'

Winnie Hu reports on a really sad story for really small kids who belong to a really tiny percentage of New York's population that can afford non-parochial private schooling:

[W]ith the recent boom in the city’s under-5 set, the competition for kindergarten places can rival that of Ivy League admission.

Thank God the city's public schools are in great shape, as my colleague Nat Hentoff points out.


Mob scion John "Junior" Gotti was whacked yesterday with a new federal indictment for allegedly orchestrating three vengeful mob hits — including one carried out with help from a retired NYPD detective — and running a massive cocaine operation.

"Whacked" is such a cool word. It's sure to outlive the fading era of the Italian-American gangsters.

That's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly word business.

Times: 'Guantánamo Bay Judge Admits Possible Error'

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — As the military panel at the trial of a former driver for Osama bin Laden deliberated for a full day Tuesday without reaching a verdict, the presiding military judge said he might have given the members incorrect legal instructions about how the international law of war is to be applied here.

“I may well have instructed the members erroneously,” said the judge, Capt. Keith J. Allred of the Navy, during one of several sessions called outside the hearing of the six-member panel of senior military officers who are considering war-crimes charges against the driver, Salim Hamdan.

Wait a minute. You mean the "international law of war" is even supposed to be "applied"? Have you checked with George W. Bush's handlers? Or with Alberto Gonzales?


Misleading use of the word "lovefest," which has come to mean only one thing in the Spitzer sex lexicon — unless the ex-governor has a previously unrevealed kink involving "kid gloves":

ALBANY - More than 8,500 pages of Dirty Tricks Scandal documents released yesterday by the Albany district attorney reveal kid-gloves treatment for then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and little interest in aggressively pursuing criminal charges against any of his aides.

Slate: 'When "Skinny" Means "Black": The weirdest new criticism of Obama' Tim Noah's piece isn't a P.C. piece; it's about a Wall Street Journal may-or-may-not-have-been-a hit piece:

In the Aug. 1 Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick asked, "[C]ould Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability?" Most Americans, Chozick points out, aren't skinny. Fully 66 percent of all citizens who've reached voting age are overweight, and 32 percent are obese. To be thin is to be different physically. Not that there's anything wrong, mind you, with being a skinny person. But would you want your sister to marry one? Would you want a whole family of skinny people to move in next-door? "I won't vote for any beanpole guy," an "unnamed Clinton supporter" wrote on a Yahoo politics message board. My point is that any discussion of Obama's "skinniness" and its impact on the typical American voter can't avoid being interpreted as a coded discussion of race.

Even though Noah neglected to mention Fat Albert or Biggie Smalls, it's still interesting.

Times: 'Accusations of Sex Abuse Trail Doctor'

Leslie Kaufman gingerly backs into this explosive tale of celebrity pediatrician Melvin D. Levine's having faced years of sexual-abuse allegations. You have to wait until the middle of the sixth graf to read this:

Many defenders argue that Dr. Levine could not have worked at the pinnacle of his profession for so long if the accusations were true.

There have been, however, other complaints dating back 20 years.

Yes, we can't imagine highly respected people such as doctors or priests behaving in such a criminal way and then being defended by their defenders.