'Dr. Evil' takes on ACORN

Beneath the "voter fraud" campaign lies Rick Berman.

Rick Berman is notorious for fighting against the minimum wage and on behalf of those who make and sell high-fat, sugary foods. The only dangerous food in his eyes is ACORN, which he and his operatives call "rotten" and "a bad seed."

Secondhand smoke is a non-issue to Berman. He's too busy blowing smoke. Berman is one of the main forces pushing the issue of "voter fraud" by portraying ACORN as the biggest threat to democracy since Communism.

Click for 60 Minutes segment on BermanWhy most of the press isn't dragging out his behind-the-scenes connections to the anti-ACORN "voter-fraud" campaign is beyond me — a 60 Minutes segment on him last year by Morley Safer pointed out that Berman is known even among fellow flacks as "Dr. Evil" (video, transcript). How fitting that CBS's photo of Berman (left) shows him in the pose that Mike Meyers's "Dr. Evil" made famous in the Austin Powers movies.

Berman's Dr. Evil isn't as zany. Safer noted that Berman's proud of his self-described duty to "shoot the messenger."

Berman usually stays behind the scenes, but just yesterday he snookered the Oregonian, a major Northwest paper, into running his "guest opinion." Why newspapers just blithely run pieces written by P.R. people is beyond me. Anyway, under the headline "Rotten ACORN: A sordid history of more than voter registration fraud," Berman (or one of his staff) writes:

ACORN, a group with a checkered past is finally getting the bad name it deserves. ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, is a behemoth in the voter registration world that masquerades as a non-partisan community organizing group.

Its practice of registering phony names for voting purposes has just begun to attract national headlines and FBI investigators this fall, but ACORN's sordid history of fraud and partisan electioneering dates back to its founding in Arkansas in the 1970s.

Also, keep in mind that if you run across the slick site RottenAcorn.com, it's operated by Berman — a fact you can discover only if you peel back a few layers. From the site:

ACORN Is A Bad Seed
Something’s rotten in the state of New Mexico, and Ohio, and Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and Florida . . .
ACORN says it is a community group, but it is really a multi-million-dollar, multinational conglomerate.

Berman's name isn't openly attached to RottenAcorn.com. The site's sponsor is the Employment Policies Institute. Neither Berman's name nor that of his firm, Berman & Company, appears on the website of the "institute."

But according to IRS records, the "institute" is a non-profit that operates from Berman's office and produces a profit of a million bucks a year for Berman and his company.

More on that in a minute. First, here's what others have said about Berman's work as a high-paid lobbyist for big-ticket industries and businesses:

SourceWatch's rundown:

Berman & Co., a Washington, DC public affairs firm owned by lobbyist Rick Berman, represents the tobacco industry as well as hotels, beer distributors, taverns, and restaurant chains. Berman & Co. lobbies for companies such as Cracker Barrel, Hooters, International House of Pancakes, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Steak & Ale, TGI Friday's, Uno's Restaurants, and Wendy's. It also operates a network of several front groups, web sites, and think tanks that work to keep wages low for restaurants and to block legislation on food safety, secondhand cigarette smoke, and drunk driving.

Berman told a trade magazine for restaurant chains: "In effect, our work is restricted to and focused on issues that affect shareholder value. These big issues include labor costs as they relate to health insurance and the minimum wage. . . . Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger. Given the activists' plans to alarm beyond all reason, we've got to attack their credibility as spokespersons. . . . We always have a knife in our teeth."

60 Minutes 2007 segment "Meet Rick Berman, A.K.A. 'Dr. Evil' ":

"In the end, Berman says it's all about 'shooting the messenger.'

" 'Shooting the messenger means getting people to understand that this messenger is not as credible as their name would suggest,' Berman says.

While those tactics have made him rich and powerful, they have also made him mightily unpopular. Even in a mudslinging city like Washington, it’s difficult to find someone who provokes as much venom as Rick Berman.

" 'He’s a one-man goon squad for any company that’s willing to hire him,' says Dr. Michael Jacobson, who heads the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a healthy food advocacy group. Jacobson has been the point man in the 'food wars' for decades."

Berman is accomplished at "creating a political action group that tries to mislead voters, in part by pretending to be an aggrieved grass-roots movement" (Willamette Week, May 28, 2008):

Last Thursday, May 22, a roguish outfit calling itself the Employee Freedom Action Committee ran full-page ads . . . in the Oregonian and Eugene Register-Guard to begin the post-election assault on Jeff Merkley, who two days earlier won the Democratic contest to challenge U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). . . .

Washington, D.C.-based Employee Freedom is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which means it does not need to disclose its funding sources. The group is headquartered in the office of D.C. lobbyist Richard Berman, who has a history of setting up groups for the tobacco and booze industries, as well as anti-union employers.

Now, back to the Berman's Employment Policies Institute. The 2006 tax return for its foundation shows that Berman, as executive director, worked an average of 14 hours a week and was paid $5,000.

Pretty damn selfless. And Berman & Company, of which he owns 100 percent, spent one hour a week as the institute's management company. Berman's company, however, got paid. It took home almost $700,000 in compensation and more than $300,000 in health benefits and deferred compensation, according to tax records.

The institute itself works 24/7. The 2006 tax records show that it spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertisements with circulation leaders Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, and Metro Networks (which buys broadcast time). Those are just the top four media outlets on which Berman's outfit spent money.

And what were the accomplishments of his nonprofit "institute"? The tax records say:

"Published information in approximately 77 media outreach campaigns (including 39 press releases and 10 opinion editorials) on issues that affect entry-level employment. Also distributed 28 letters to the editor regarding the same. Media outreach also resulted in 18 television appearances and 20 radio programs."

Berman's empire, according to IRS records, also includes the FirstJobs Institute, which produces "public-service" ads and more than a million coasters a year. From the tax records:


While Sarah Palin sneers at Barack Obama's links to evil community activists like ACORN, Rick Berman puts business money where her mouth is.

Daily Flog: America's King Henry; money bailout for Wall Street but no bailout from Mets' bullpen

Please recall what Mr. Dooley said a century ago: "Trust everybody, but cut the cards." Especially when people like Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are wheeling and dealing.

Under the bailout, we won't need to appoint Mike Bloomberg our economic czar. (He'll be free to change NYC's law and remain our mayor.)

Paulson would no longer be just another Cabinet member. He would become King Henry.

That's not hyperbole if you believe that bullshit walks while money talks. Your money. Which he would use, at his discretion (not yours or your elected officials') to bail out his Wall Street pals. As the N.Y. Post puts it: "YOUR $700 BIL TO THE RESCUE."

Paulson's control over your money would be unprecedented. In "Treasury Would Emerge With Vast New Power," the N.Y. Times's Floyd Norris writes:

Rarely if ever has one man had such broad authority to spend government money as he sees fit, with no rules requiring him to seek out the lowest possible price for assets being purchased.

You become the Belgian Congo, and he becomes your King Leopold, controlling your financial resources. Instead of keeping the loot, he'll hand it off to bankers; hopefully he won't cut off your hands.

Who elected this guy? Under the bill, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs can auction off assets, or he can just simply set prices. Every pension fund, bank, broker, pol will have to kiss his butt. Weak "oversight" panels would supposedly keep an eye on him, but that wouldn't amount to much control over Paulson's power. Norris adds:

Mr. Paulson can choose to buy from any financial institution that does business in the United States, or from pension funds, with wide discretion over what he will buy and how much he will pay. Under most circumstances, banks owned by foreign governments are not eligible for the money, but under some conditions, the secretary can choose to bail out foreign central banks.

Leave aside regime frontman George W. Bush's brief public P.R. appearance early this morning on the White House lawn. It was supposed to soothe bankers and traders and big investors, but it didn't calm any of them, based on early action in the markets this morning.

What will matter to them is what Paulson says and will do. He's about to become the most powerful man in America. No exaggeration. Just follow the money — and the guy who will control it.

What really went on in the private meetings that resulted in a bailout plan that would give the unelected Paulson more direct power over the nation's money than FDR had during Depression I?

Which leads to this question: Are Dick Cheney and Bush as paranoid and vain as Richard Nixon? Please say yes.

Then we'd have videotape of at least some of those private meetings Paulson conducted to hammer out the Cash for Crash bill. Maybe we'd even have video of Paulson going down on Nancy Pelosi in the White House to plead for a bailout of his Wall Street pals.

It probably wouldn't be the first time that Hank Paulson has been secretly taped in the White House. Before launching his career as an investment banker, Paulson was an aide to John Ehrlichman during Watergate. He's certainly familiar with private meetings in the White House about how to bail out an administration. Maybe he even sat in on some of those famous meetings of the coverup conspirators more than 30 years ago.

To refresh your memory, here's a snippet from the momentous July 16, 1973, Watergate hearing:

SAMUEL DASH, Watergate Committee Chief Counsel: If either Mr. Dean, Mr. Haldeman, Mr. Ehrlichman, Mr. Colson had particular meetings in the Oval Office with the president on any particular dates that have been testified before this committee, there would be a tape recording with the president of that full conversation, would there not?

ALEXANDER BUTTERFIELD, former Nixon aide: Yes, sir.

Mr. DASH: So if one were, therefore, to reconstruct the conversations at any particular date, what would be the best way to reconstruct those conversations, Mr. Butterfield, in the President's Oval Office?

Mr. BUTTERFIELD: Well, in the obvious manner, Mr. Dash — to obtain the tape and play it.

Play it again, Sam.

But first . . .


Scotsman (U.K.): 'Judgment day for world economy'


Telegraph (U.K.): 'Belief in God "really can relieve pain" '

Register (U.K.): ' "I can see dinosaurs from my back porch": Palin-tology and the threat to science teaching'

IAN (Indo-Asian News Service): 'Attack against Christians will not be tolerated: Dikshit'

N.Y. Times: 'Holiday Bombings Kill 27 in Baghdad'

Slate: 'Death of the Wall Street Jerkface'

McClatchy: 'Anger at bailout turns on fat salaries for Wall Street execs'

Register (U.K.): 'How an Italian judge made the internet illegal'

McClatchy: 'Rescue package aside, economy faces deep challenges'


Slate: 'Tie Goes to Obama: Neither candidate won a clear victory'

Telegraph (U.K.): 'Miriam Margolyes' lesbian confession gave her mother a stroke'

Jurist: 'Pastors challenge US ban on political campaign activity by tax-exempt groups'

Bloomberg: 'European Lenders Get Bailouts as U.S. Crisis Spreads'

Wall Street Journal: 'Lehman's Demise Triggered Cash Crunch Around Globe'

McClatchy: 'Bailout plan faces a tough vote in Congress today'

Telegraph (U.K.): 'US warship challenges Somalia pirates'

Daily Flog: White House on its knees, the rest of us on our backs, Wall Street zipping up

We feel the bankers' pain.

Running down the press:

A surprisingly lively New York Times lede this morning:

[Yesterday] began with an agreement that Washington hoped would end the financial crisis that has gripped the nation. It dissolved into a verbal brawl in the Cabinet Room of the White House, urgent warnings from the president and pleas from a Treasury secretary who knelt before the House speaker and appealed for her support.

"If money isn't loosened up, this sucker could go down," President Bush declared Thursday as he watched the $700 billion bailout package fall apart before his eyes, according to one person in the room.

Not since the Clinton Administration has it been widely reported that people were on their knees in the White House and that a president talked about a sucker going down.

And this time it's a Treasury secretary on his knees, not just an intern. This is some serious shit.

Or not. McClatchy's Kevin G. Hall, who constantly snoops for fresh angles and comes up with solid material, writes in "Is the bailout needed? Many economists say 'no' ":

"It's more hype than real risk," said James K. Galbraith, a University of Texas economist and son of the late economic historian John Kenneth Galbraith. "A nasty recession is possible, but the bailout will not cure that. So it's mainly relevant to the financial industry."

The Paulson plan will get some bad assets off the balance sheets of troubled Wall Street institutions and commercial banks. That may help thaw the lending freeze.

But it wouldn't reduce the crush of homes in or near foreclosure, said Simon Johnson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That's a problem that will surely grow worse if the U.S. economy enters recession, leading to greater job losses, which feed a vicious downward spiral of even more foreclosures and defaults on car loans and credit-card debt.

What? A story in the national press about the plight of the rest of us? How dare he!

John McCain's own September surprise isn't working out too well, as another McClatchy story points out. In "McCain gets blamed for angry end to Bush's bailout meeting," David Lightman and Margaret Talev write:

"What this looked like to me was a rescue plan for John McCain," said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd of the Republican objections.

His reference was to McCain's eleventh-hour intervention in the negotiations, when he declared he was suspending his campaign and postponing Friday night's debate with Democrat Barack Obama to help negotiate a bailout plan.

Democrats think that Republicans were backing away from a compromise many of them agreed to earlier Thursday — without McCain's involvement — in order to give McCain time to play a role and perhaps appear as a rescuer.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he believed the breakdown was simply an effort to allow McCain to miss Friday night's scheduled debate with Obama. . . .

Republicans, in contrast, said their reservations on the bailout plan were principled. The plan, they said, had too much government involvement in private industry and too high potential liabilities for taxpayers.

Yes, "principled." Buy or sell? Sell.

No question that the month has been tough on McCain, but just think about those poor mid-level banker types on Wall Street, which is just a little more than a stone's throw from my office. (If I had an arm like Rocky Colavito's and a bag of stones, I'd take the subway down there and start hurling, instead of just hurling over my latest bank statement.)

Anyway, in "Big banks delay decisions on bonuses," the Financial Times (U.K.) reports on the plight of British bankers' bonuses, which depend on how U.S. firms decide their own bonuses:

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are delaying their decisions about year-end bonuses as they struggle with the financial crisis.

The US investment banks have traditionally set the bar for European and American competitors because their fiscal years end earlier. But the two, which have been forced to seek regulated retail bank status, are putting off their October meetings on bonuses until they have greater clarity about the fourth quarter.

[B]anks have warned that bonus pools will be cut sharply and that top performers will get the bulk of the money. "A falling tide lowers all boats but some people will end up above the river on stilts," said one bank executive.

Well, we appreciate that news from the other side of the pond that at least we won't all drown. I'm certainly looking forward to my own bonus. I hope those bananas at the Astor Place kiosk are still only 35 cents apiece.

And here's a September surprise, again courtesy of the FT, whose Cash for Crash coverage rocks and is free for the viewing. In "Hedge fund chief warns on wrongdoing," Gillian Tett and James Mackintosh report a frank admission from a financial-world insider:

Investigators and regulators are likely to uncover significant evidence of wrongdoing when they examine the records of some of the financial companies that have failed, a leading short-selling hedge fund manager claimed.

Jim Chanos, head of Kynikos Associates, believes that some of the public statements that emerged from some of the best-known financial groups could have been seriously misleading.

"I do think that what we are going to find out, when regulators and law enforcement people get into some of these firms which have failed, was that . . . the statements which people were making were materially misleading, if not criminal," he said in a video interview on FT.com. "It is going to shock people...the extent of the deception to the market."

Chanos is of course saying this as a defense of short-selling, setting up the argument you'll hear in the coming years that there's a big difference between conniving and illegal conniving.

And here's something else in this FT story that comes as absolutely no surprise:

Lawyers in both the US and London are considering lawsuits, many of which are likely to revolve around the extent to which bank executives knew about risks in their businesses.

Weary of skipping around the web? Do some one-site shopping this morning. Here's a clump of readable FT stories that you could skim through and try to choke down over your third cup of coffee — remember to take small bites and chew thoroughly unless you want to spit up hairballs later in the day:

'US "will lose financial superpower status" '
'Church accused over short selling'
'WaMu seized and sold to JP Morgan'
'Flight from Morgan Stanley brokerage'
'Nomura offers bonuses to Lehman staff'
'CVS is added to ban list on short selling'

At least one of my Voice colleagues is staying focused on the presidential race: See Lynn Yaeger's "How I'm Contributing to McCain's Campaign Suspension."

And now . . .


N.Y. Times: 'In Storm's Aftermath, Cow Roundups in Southeast Texas'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Shoplifter turns in Brooklyn rapist'

Washington Post: 'Health Insurance Costs to Spike an Average 8 Percent'

Slate: 'Things Fall Apart'

BBC: 'Arming the Taleban'

Washington Post: 'U.S. Has Achieved "Victory" in Iraq, Palin Tells Couric'

Haaretz: 'Jewish terrorists tried to murder left-wing professor'

Washington Post: 'Away from Wall Street, Economists Question Basis of Paulson's Plan'

IRIN: 'Charity coffers face credit crunch'

Washington Post: 'Carbon Is Building Up in Atmosphere Faster Than Predicted'

Haaretz: 'Peres: U.S. has no choice but to save world from Ahmadinejad'

Washington Post: 'Negotiations Falter on Financial Bailout Package'


Washington Post: 'Debate Remains In Limbo'

L.A. Times: 'Palin talks to Couric — and if she's lucky, few are listening'

Baltimore Sun: 'McCain hints debate appearance "possible" '

Financial Times: 'Ex-Merrill chief considers hedge-fund return'

Jurist: 'US military commissions prosecutor resigns due to "ethical qualms" '

N.Y. Times: 'Pakistani and American Troops Exchange Fire'

Daily Blog: Shock and awe; you just lost at Monopoly; Al Jazeera talks to a Jewish banker

Running down the press:

Post: 'New York Shock Exchange'

Years ago in Phoenix, a huge, top-heavy, out-of-control cement-pumping truck crushed four lanes of cars at a stoplight on a busy street.

Not only awful but an awesome sight.

The same kind of feeling you get watching the out-of-control Wall Street schnooks flattening us.

Shock and awe, and we gave Wall Street its weapons of mass destruction.

Naturally, the Wall Street Journal has extensive coverage, but try the "Crisis on Wall Street" collection of stories at London's Financial Times.

That said, Eric Lenkowitz's lede in this morning's Post is a suitable on-the-scene report:

The epic collapse of Wall Street titan Lehman Brothers, combined with the virtual demise of Merrill Lynch and fears for the world's largest insurance company, sent stocks into a frenzied freefall yesterday as Wall Street grappled with financial chaos not seen since the Great Depression.

And what injuries did we onlookers suffer? Another Post story, this posted at 4 a.m., provides some answers: "NY WILL TAKE $1B HIT: GOV."

Yeah, but what about us? What about, for instance, the state and city pension funds? Further down, the story notes:

City Comptroller William Thompson assured current and former city workers that their pensions are in good standing because only a "minuscule percentage" of the money is invested in Lehman stock.

We'll see about that, because the fallout from Wall Street's greed will be long-lasting. The numbers are scary:

On Sept. 2, the first day of trading this month, shares of Lehman stock held by the city were valued at $32.2 million. They were worth $420,000 yesterday, when the stock closed at 21 cents.

The state's $154 billion pension fund owns about 5 million shares of Lehman common stock.

Jim Fuchs, a spokesman for State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, said losses from Lehman could total about $400 million.

Lehman shares held by the state were worth about $80.6 million at the start of September and were valued at $1.05 million yesterday.

The New York State Teachers $100 billion pension also held an estimated 2.2 million Lehman shares. Officials didn't return repeated calls about the fund's potential losses.

The teachers' pension shares were worth about $36 million at the start of this month and about $462,000 yesterday.

Set aside those worries for a minute so you can read an excellent story that helps explain why this happened: David Lightman's "Wall Street crisis is culmination of 28 years of deregulation." The McClatchy piece is stark from the start:

No one cog in the federal government's machine of financial regulation let down the country by failing to prevent the latest shakeout on Wall Street. The entire system did.

After a "shit happens" explanation from the Milken Institute (an org set up by former Wall Street junk-bond goniff Michael Milken) — "They just haven't done a particularly good job" — Lightman extracts a great quote from someone who brings this crisis down to our level:

Kathleen Day, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer-oriented research group, explained the regulatory lapses more starkly: "The job of regulators is that when the party's in full swing, make sure the partygoers drink responsibly," she said. "Instead, they let everyone drink as much as they wanted and then handed them the car keys."

Sardonic, and then Lightman gets right to it. Not trusting that people will read down into his story, I hand you this long backgrounder passage:

Analysts and politicians are raising serious questions about the nation's financial regulatory system, which dates to the New Deal era.

On Monday, one Wall Street bank, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection and another, Merrill Lynch, sought comfort by selling itself to Bank of America for $50 billion. Earlier this year, the government helped enable the sale of faltering investment bank Bear Stearns to J.P. Morgan Chase, and more recently took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Such troubles were supposed to have been prevented, or at least mitigated, by regulatory systems that the nation began to put in place after the banking system collapsed at the start of the Great Depression.

Many banks at the time were badly wounded by their personal and financial ties to securities trading. The 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, and later the 1956 Bank Holding Company Act, mandated the separation of banks, insurance companies and securities firms.

Those and many other federal laws stabilized the banking and securities markets, but by the 1970s, a stumbling U.S. economy led to a change in America's political-economic values. Ronald Reagan led a movement that came to power in 1980 proclaiming faith in free markets and mistrust of government. That conservative philosophy has dominated America for the past 28 years.

Even after taxpayers had to rescue deregulated savings and loans, or S&Ls, with a $200 billion bailout in the late 1980s, the push to loosen regulation paused only briefly.

In 1999, President Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act, which tore down Glass-Steagall's reforms by removing the walls separating banks, securities firms and insurers.

Under President Clinton and his successor, the government became eager to promote home ownership. Interest rates were low, the market grew for loans to borrowers with weak credit and private-sector mortgage bonds boomed. About 38 percent of those bonds were backed by subprime loans. They are at the root of today's financial crisis.

Just this past July 25, the Wall Street Journal laid out some of that history:

'Amid Turmoil, U.S. Turns Away From Decades of Deregulation'

The housing and financial crisis convulsing the U.S. is powering a new wave of government regulation of business and the economy.

Federal and state governments alike are increasingly hands-on in their effort to deal with failing businesses, plunging house prices, worthless mortgages and soaring energy prices. The steps add up to a major challenge to the movement toward deregulation that has defined American governance for much of the past quarter-century since the "Reagan Revolution" of the early 1980s. In fact, some proponents today of a bigger oversight role for government are Republican heirs to the legacy of President Reagan.

Too late, of course.

I mentioned Glass-Steagall in a February 2005 item, but stupidly I buried it in a general rant about Bush and the war. Here's the relevant passage:

I'll get back to Iraq in a minute, but don't tell me about Bill Clinton: He not only promoted NAFTA globalization without insisting on protection of workers and union rights, but he also helped re-create monopolies by embracing the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (the FDR Era law that had prohibited banks from merging with securities firms), and by signing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which further deregulated phone companies and allowed even more mergers. It's their monopoly game, and they're the ones on Park Place. You're stuck on Baltic Avenue, at best, and your children will be renting, not buying.

Back to the present: There's much more meat in Lightman's McClatchy piece today, so check it out.

Al Jazeera: 'Markets devastated in Lehman's wake'

By the way, don't assume that this major Muslim medium is knee-jerk anti-Jewish. Or, maybe you can assume that.

Its coverage this morning includes a humane perspective about "the average American" that many U.S. outlets don't match. And the perspective is from a guy who's obviously Jewish:

Israel Adelman, a Fordham Financials trader on Wall Street, told Al Jazeera that "people in upper government don't understand what the average American is going through".

"The customer is very squeezed right now, houses are worth nothing, people are up to their ears with credit cards debt," he said, describing the situation as a "confidence crisis".

"We've been making a lot of money from cheap money . . . we are the pinnacle of greed . . . we're going to pay for it all the way through next year. The bleeding is going to haemorrhage."

Of course, the other way to look at this quote is that Al Jazeera's millions of anti-Jewish readers in Arab countries get to have their prejudices confirmed by hearing a Jewish banker say, "We are the pinnacle of greed."

Wonder if Adelman realized how his observation about greed — accurate but applicable also to Wall Street's non-Jews — would be used.

Wonder if Al Jazeera called an obviously Jewish banker just for that purpose.

Wonder if Adelman will tell Al Jazeera the next time it calls, "No comment."

Daily News: 'Presidential race heads into final 50 days with Obama, McCain even'

At the other end of the scale of sophisticated agitprop this morning, Thomas DeFrank's lede:

John McCain has the mo, Barack Obama doesn't, Sarah Palin is a hotter commodity than they or Joe Biden combined — and no sane expert knows the winner.

Really. No insane expert knows, either. And no sane expert would brainlessly declare who's a "hotter commodity."

If you want something of substance about Palin — and also a good read — check out Steve Coll's piece in the latest New Yorker. In "The Get," Coll (a former Washington Post managing editor who penned the scintillating Afghan War book Ghost Wars and kicked ass on the Pat Tillman story four years ago), notes:

Palin's answers to [Charlie] Gibson's questions made it clear that all the briefings and all the cramming that she could absorb in two weeks were not enough to endow her with what her résumé so plainly indicated that she lacked: sufficient exposure to national-security issues to serve as President, should she be required to do so.

She confirmed that she has never been abroad, apart from visits to Canada and Mexico, and a recent trip "that changed my life" to Kuwait and Germany, where she met American soldiers. She also said that she has never had occasion to meet a foreign head of state. She added, a little defensively, "If you go back in history and if you ask that question of many Vice-Presidents, they may have the same answer."

Perhaps she was thinking of the antebellum period. Since the dawn of the atomic age, of the thirty-one other Vice-Presidential candidates nominated by both major political parties, perhaps only Spiro Agnew, a governor of Maryland, had comparably scant exposure to the world beyond the United States at the time of his selection. However, Agnew did earn a Bronze Star during military service in France and Germany during the Second World War. (His Vice-Presidency ended with his resignation, in 1973—something to do with bribery payments, handed over in brown paper bags.)

Coll does give the Ashley Banfield lookalike her due, though Palin's positive attributes still don't justify her being a veep nominee — let alone the fact that she's not as smart as Banfield:

Palin is a natural orator, and in television interviews granted before she became a nominee for national office she came across as relaxed, funny, and self-possessed. In the ABC sessions, she told Gibson that when McCain invited her to join his ticket, "I didn't hesitate. . . . You can't blink. . . . I didn't blink." Palin leaned forward, radiating nervous energy. Gibson, with his large frame, sonorous voice, and reading glasses perched low on his nose, loomed over his subject, presenting an unfortunate image of male professorial condescension as he ticked through foreign-policy issues that he clearly knew better than Palin did. Even so, the Governor's anxious-sounding answers to his questions produced more than enough awkward moments to justify McCain's decision to hold her back for study hall.

Daily News: 'Bronx man hacks up ex, hides remains'

Speaking of cement and death . . .

A Bronx man confessed Sunday to hacking his ex-girlfriend into pieces and entombing her remains under layers of cement in New Jersey, police sources said.

Julio Flores, 32, even called the family of Jaritza Calderone, 28, to tell them they'd never see her again.

Daily News: 'The Milkman and His Wife'

Wish David Krajicek were writing today's crime stories. In the paper's continuing "The Justice Story" series on archival events, here's his lede on an 1886 case:

Elizabeth Singer jostled her 14-year-old son awake with awful news.

"Johnny, get up," she said. "Your father is killed."

She guided the boy into her bedroom so he could have a look.

New York: 'If McCain and Obama Can't Tap Into the Economy Message Today, They'll Never Do It'

Chris Rovzar's Daily Intel post yesterday is still well worth reading, in part because of the many links he provides to statements and stances by Obama and McCain.

Over at the Washington Post this morning ("Economy Becomes New Proving Ground For McCain, Obama"), Dan Balz and Robert Barnes provide a play-by-play of the candidates' latest reactions.

Daily Flog: Wall Street's broken brokers go for broke; McCain's lie is buried by meltdown news

Running down the press:

After carving themselves another Ground Zero in Manhattan (without the actual deaths), Wall Street's bankers are frantically rebuilding.

Their jobs — and your jobs — are at stake.

I'm not trying to disrespect the 9/11 tragedy or minimize that day's deaths. But the New York Times's headline this morning does use a physical-space metaphor for a fiscal-space collapse: "Bids to Halt Crisis Reshape Wall St. Landscape."

Loading their aging cannons with adjectives and even a colorful verb, the Times team crafts this lede:

In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself on Sunday to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, said it would seek bankruptcy protection and hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer.

The humbling moves, which reshape the landscape of American finance, mark the latest chapter in a tumultuous year in which once-proud financial institutions have been brought to their knees as a result of hundreds of billions of dollars in losses because of bad mortgage finance and real estate investments.

For my lack of money, I'll take the Wall Street Journal's tighter lede, headlined "Crisis on Wall Street as Lehman Totters, Merrill Is Sold, AIG Seeks to Raise Cash":

The American financial system was shaken to its core on Sunday. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said it would file for bankruptcy protection, and Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed to be sold to Bank of America Corp.

What about our mortgages and our shaky grip on our jobs and our real estate? I guess news about the impact of Wall Street's meltdown on us will just have to wait.

Anyway, at least the Times's third and fourth grafs give us a glimpse of the stress felt by those poor Wall Street bankers:

But even as the fates of Lehman and Merrill hung in the balance, another crisis loomed as the insurance giant American International Group appeared to teeter. Staggered by losses stemming from the credit crisis, A.I.G. sought a $40 billion lifeline from the Federal Reserve, without which the company may have only days to survive.

The stunning series of events culminated a weekend of frantic around-the-clock negotiations, as Wall Street bankers huddled in meetings at the behest of Bush administration officials to try to avoid a downward spiral in the markets stemming from a crisis of confidence.

Meanwhile, the New York Post couldn't resist punning (who canned?) the scary threat to Wall Street's fairy-tale profit-taking: ' "DOOMED" LEHMAN NOW BROS. GRIM'

But you won't go wrong this morning if you stick to the Post (which, after all, is the WSJ's sister Murdoch paper). At least the Post's Mark DeCambre mentions us commoners in its lede:

In one of the biggest financial disasters in Wall Street history, investment-banking powerhouse Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy early this morning after the feds refused to put taxpayers on the hook for a bailout.

And the Post mentions our jobs in its third graf, followed by a quick review of the tragedy by Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan (see the website run by Rand's own followers):

Former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan described the financial hurricane that has swept away Lehman, Merrill Lynch, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Bear Stearns as "a once-in-a-century event" that can still take down other firms. Mayor Bloomberg put off a trip to San Francisco to help deal with the crisis, since New York City collects a disproportionate share of its revenues from the financial sector.

DeCambre is clearly the city's best journo this morning. His sidebar "Thain Plays It Sane" (that's his editors' headline, so don't blame him) is seriously excellent, and he plays that tune in only seven grafs. On this historically frightening day, I'm stealing the whole thing for you:

Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain might be the shrewdest man on Wall Street.

In engineering the sale of his firm to Bank of America for $44 million, Thain avoided the calamity that befell Lehman Brothers, which was poised to be liquidated after failing to find a buyer.

A conservative executive known on Wall Street as "I, Robot," from his days as CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, Thain pushed to strike a deal with the encouragement of Federal Reserve officials rather than see his storied investment franchise placed in a shaky market's cross hairs.

He took over Merrill Lynch in December from Stanley O'Neal, who had racked up tens of billions in losses on funky mortgage-related debt. A former Goldman honcho, Thain came with an impressive pedigree, and many assumed he would try to gussy up Merrill for an eventual sale.

Unlike Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld, however, Thain opted to take a big balance-sheet hit now rather than wait for the market to recover. That resulted in Merrill's shopping $30.6 billion in mortgage securities at pennies on the dollar to private-equity investor Lone Star and its stake in media company Bloomberg LP. [Yes, that's Mayor Mike Bloomberg's company.]

But after back-to-back weekends featuring the Federal Reserve bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the certain liquidation of Lehman, finding a bigger partner became unavoidable.

It's too early to determine Thain's next move, but he's believed to have political aspirations.

A fine analysis and he even followed Post style by using the word "funky" and squeezing "honcho," "pedigree," and "gussy" into the same sentence.

I'm not faulting him, but DeCambre didn't mention some relevant background concerning O'Neal. Four long years ago, on July 7, 2004, I noted, under the subhead "For Bush, Black Is Beautiful, if by 'Black' You Mean Stan O'Neal":

Merrill Lynch CEO E. Stanley O'Neal, the most prominent black Wall Streeter, set an all-time fundraising record for Bush by writing a letter in June 2003 to Merrill's senior execs, asking them to contribute.

As the Washington Post's Thomas B. Edsall and Jonathan Weisman pointed out [in May 2004], that letter generated $279,750 in less than three weeks' time, a record for such a short period.

Stan O'Neal is one of nine Wall Street "Rangers" — the super fundraisers of the Bush campaign, the Post noted. And the Bush regime has done right by Wall Street with tax cuts on investments, capital gains, corporations, and estates.

Go back and read the May 24, 2004, Washington Post story I mentioned above. Just its headline gives you some good background on the current slide toward a depression: "Wall Street Firms Funnel Millions to Bush: Finance Sector Produces Surge of Cash to President Who Cut Taxes on Dividends, Gains."

Back to the New York Post: DeCambre's not the only person on Wall Street who pulled an all-nighter, but he's one of the few whose stock is rising. In an item posted at 4:02 a.m., he strikes yet again with another brief but pungent morsel, "GOV'T FORCING GIANT TO SWALLOW BITTER PILL". His lede:

The feds have decided that it's time for Wall Street to take its medicine after years of wracking up big returns and then sticking it to the taxpayer when things go sour.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner signaled the end of public-funded bailouts last night by letting Lehman Brothers collapse rather than enticing a buyer with a big check to cover its losses.

The Wall Street meltdown is bad timing for the Democrats — not to mention the grim future an Obama Administration would have to deal with. After all the puff pieces on Sarah Palin were widely disseminated in the first blush of her unvetted selection, now some real news is unfolding about her shenanigans — and a blatant lie from John McCain — and yet it's buried beneath the meltdown.

For example, the Wall Street Journal's intriguing piece this morning that got pushed back to page A5:

'Palin Sought Millions in Earmarks'

Last week, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain said his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, hadn't sought earmarks or special-interest spending from Congress, presenting her as a fiscal conservative. But state records show Gov. Palin has asked U.S. taxpayers to fund $453 million in specific Alaska projects over the past two years.

And the story gets better:

Sen. McCain has made the battle against earmarks and wasteful spending a centerpiece of his campaign. He has never sought earmarks for his state of Arizona and vows to veto pork-barrel spending bills that come to his desk as president, saying these projects should go through normal budget review. And he derides the argument that states often make: that they're funding important projects.

"If they're worthy projects they can be authorized and appropriated in a New York minute," he explained on his campaign bus earlier this year, before Gov. Palin joined the ticket. "If they're worthy projects I know they'd be funded."

During an appearance Friday on ABC's The View, Sen. McCain said Gov. Palin shared his views, and hasn't sought congressional earmarks. "Not as governor she hasn't," he said.

In fact, in the current fiscal year, she is seeking $197 million for 31 projects, the records show. In the prior year, her first year in office, she sought $256 million for dozens more projects ranging from research on rockfish and harbor-seal genetics to rural sanitation and obesity prevention.

In other news, people were killed in a commuter train crash in L.A. (which didn't even have commuter trains until a few years ago), we're still losing the war in Afghanistan, stuff is happening in Zimbabwe, and, as the New York Post reports in a preview of a September 18 event, "Britney look-alikes show 'pieces' of the famous pop tart."

Daily Flog: 'Holy $#!+, Batman!'; dolor rises as Ike, Palin, Lehman bluster through

Running down the press:

The dolor rose sharply yesterday on desultory, predictable trading of bullshit between Charlie Gibson and Sarah Palin.

As Palin recited her ABC, Hurricane Ike threatened — even the New York Post pushes aside its gossip this morning to warn, "'CERTAIN DEATH': HURRICANE IKE LOOMS AS TEXAS CATASTROPHE."

The news is even worse in the financial world.

You'll be darning your socks if the U.S. economy doesn't stop its slide into a recession and instead falls all the way into a depression.

The best review of that tragedy, which you will forced to take personally, is in today's Wall Street Journal, under the bland headline "Credit Crisis Strains Government's Options."

The story is anything but bland. As Jon Hilsenrath, David Enrich, and David Solomon write:

A year into a credit crisis that started with troubled mortgages to sketchy borrowers, the financial system is reeling once again, casting a pall over a widening array of financial institutions just days after history-making efforts by policy makers to contain the problem.

With the share prices of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. and other financial firms on a roller coaster, the crisis could be entering a critical stage.

The Federal Reserve has already slashed interest rates to counteract a deepening credit freeze and instituted its broadest expansion of lending facilities since the Great Depression to keep financial markets functioning. Over the weekend, the nation's two main mortgage finance firms -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- were placed under government control.

This is not a reality show we're talking about. This is actuality.

On down in the analysis, the WSJ trio hint of a possible future in which private-equity moneybags will be taking over our banking system and will operate it with even less regulation than now exists. They note that even foreign governments are starting to shy away from plunging their money into faltering U.S. institutions — they're already too heavily invested in them. The story continues:

Private-equity firms face different hurdles [in plunging their billions into "rescues" that will make them billions more]. If they own too much of an institution that accepts deposits, they would open themselves to federal regulation as bank-holding companies. The rules limit them to less than 25% of the voting stock of a regulated depository institution.

Since April's large cash infusions into Washington Mutual Inc. and National City Corp., private-equity firms -- with some $450 billion in untapped funds, according to London-based data provider Preqin -- haven't made any major investments in capital-starved banks.

Executives from such firms as Carlyle Group and Blackstone Group have been using the credit crunch to lobby the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Reserve to allow them to own bigger stakes of financial firms without having to face regulation.

You think you're in the grip of ruthless bosses now? Just wait.


Lame head, but the inimitable Darah Gregorian comes through again (this time sharing a byline with Rebecca Rosenberg):

Holy $#!+, Batman!

DC Comics is asking stores around the country to destroy tens of thousands of copies of a new Batman comic book because of a printing error that revealed a slew of obscenities.

"Text every friend you've got, s- - -heads," Batgirl tells a group of incredibly foulmouthed, drug-dealing thugs in "All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder" No. 10.

"Sell your poison somewhere else. This here arcade belongs to the f- - -ing Batgirl."

The S- and F-words were supposed to be blacked out, but two shades of black were used, and the expletives are clearly legible, as are the thugs' A- and F-words - and even a number of C-bombs.

Times: 'In First Big Interview, Palin Says, "I’m Ready" ’

Well, at least this controversy is over. Can there be any doubt now that Sarah Palin is more than qualified to be vice president? After all, she says she is. From Jim Rutenberg's press release:

“I’m ready,” Ms. Palin answered without any hesitation in an interview with ABC News on Thursday, saying she had felt no doubt about accepting Senator John McCain’s offer to run as his vice-presidential nominee.

You want the real scoop-sifting, go to Slate's Jack Shafer, who crafted the best-angled lede:

Without being smarmy about it or unfurling gotcha questions, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson demonstrated that he knows volumes more about national security and foreign policy than does Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Laura Meckler's piece in the WSJ is also worth a read.

And McClatchy's Mark Washburn points out that no veep candidate has ever been so carefully shielded by her handlers:

No other nominee in memory for such high national office has spent a week under a "no interview" blanket, including such news-making vice-presidential candidates as Geraldine Ferraro and Dan Quayle.

That's almost as scary as the radically inexperienced Palin herself.

Unless you've been raped. Palin's home-state critics, including former governor Tony Knowles, are on the offensive, as McClatchy's George Bryson reports in the Anchorage Daily News:

Knowles broke new ground while answering a reporter's question on whether Wasilla forced rape victims to pay for their own forensic tests when Palin was mayor.

True, Knowles said.

Eight years ago, complaints about charging rape victims for medical exams in Wasilla prompted the Alaska Legislature to pass a bill -- signed into law by Knowles -- that banned the practice statewide.

"There was one town in Alaska that was charging victims for this, and that was Wasilla," Knowles said.


Douglas Montero's story is a new twist on welfare moms:

Hundreds of workers at the city's embattled child-welfare agency are worrying about their own welfare as they face the possibility of layoffs stemming from a plan to overhaul the way it protects kids, sources told The Post yesterday.

The plan, called "Improved Outcomes for Children," is expected to dismantle an entire division of 600 workers, which could mean layoffs for 200 to 400 employees who cannot be absorbed within the Administration for Children's Services or the other city agencies, officials said.

Washington Post: 'Palin Links Iraq to Sept. 11 In Talk to Troops in Alaska'

Anne E. Kornblut provides some truly unscripted material on Palin — her piece combines a Palin campaign appearance with the troops with the ABC interview:

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska, Sept. 11 -- Gov. Sarah Palin linked the war in Iraq with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, telling an Iraq-bound brigade of soldiers that included her son that they would "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans."

The idea that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaeda plan the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a view once promoted by Bush administration officials, has since been rejected even by the president himself. But it is widely agreed that militants allied with al-Qaeda have taken root in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.

Smartly, Kornblut didn't inflict the "I'm ready" bullshit on readers until the ninth graf.

Slate: "80 Over 80: The most powerful octogenarians in America"

Part of a sprawling Geezer Issue. You'll have plenty of time to have someone read it to you before you catch today's early-bird meal.

Daily Flog: Remembering the 9/11, Bush disasters; waiting for Lehman's final collapse

Running down the press:

You'll be deluged all day with stories about Ground Zero, where Barack Obama and John McCain will duke it out in the tragic death cage.

As the BBC notes with a straight face:

In a joint statement from the campaigns announcing their decision to visit Ground Zero together, the two men vowed to come together "as Americans" and suspend their political campaigns for 24 hours.

Yes, no politicking going on there.

Google News: 'Lipstick politics: The big diversion'

In a hopeful sign for fans of artificial intelligence, the algorithms show a glimmer of irony this morning.

At one point, the above headline (from the Chicago Tribune's Swamp blog in D.C.) zoomed to the top of the page, the lede item of 2,233 lipstick/pig/Palin/Obama related items.

The irony? News orgs and everyone else hunger so much for a spot on the Google News page that they will think this story continues to be important and thus will stay diverted.

Meanwhile, on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, the Bush regime is now diverting troops from Iraq to Afghanistan — troops it never should have diverted in 2003 from Afghanistan to Iraq.

As for the Tribune story itself? Mark Silva's item is lame:

Like "lipstick on a pig," the hot new debate of the presidential campaign has sparked one stunning distraction. And, as anyone knows, lipstick smears.

Me and everyone else used that pun yesterday.

CBS: 'Poll: Most Say U.S. Prepared For Attacks'

The rest of this meaningless poll (which gets weight because news orgs give it weight) notes, in part:

Americans give some credit to the Bush administration for making the country safer. Fifty percent say the administration's policies have improved the country’s safety, about the same rating as they have given the White House for the last two years. Twenty-one percent say the administration's policies have made the country less safe, and 23 percent say they have had no effect.

President Bush's approval rating is now at 29 percent, slightly above the low of 25 percent reached this past summer. His approval has not climbed above 30 percent since April 2007.

I guess this means that there won't be a sudden push to abolish term limits (like the trend the Times spotted) for presidents. Talk about worries lessening: Bush is unlikely to ever again win the presidency.

McClatchy: '9/11 seven years later: U.S. 'safe,' South Asia in turmoil'

In one of the better 9/11 stories this morning, Jonathan S. Landay and Saeed Shah remind us that there's a big ol' planet outside the U.S. borders:

Taking their cue from Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen's assessment yesterday — "I am not convinced we are winning it in Afghanistan" — they run with it:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Seven years after 9/11, al Qaida and its allies are gaining ground across the region where the plot was hatched, staging their most lethal attacks yet against NATO forces and posing a growing threat to the U.S.-backed governments in Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan.

While there have been no new strikes on the U.S. homeland, the Islamic insurrection inspired by Osama bin Laden has claimed thousands of casualties and displaced tens of thousands of people and shows no sign of slackening in the face of history's most powerful military alliance.

The insurgency now stretches from Afghanistan's border with Iran through the southern half of the country. The Taliban now are able to interdict three of the four major highways that connect Kabul, the capital, to the rest of the country.

Daily News: 'Remember towering spirit in 9/11 aftermath'

Tendentious and predictable, courtesy of super-self-serious columnist Michael Daly:

The obligation to honor the murdered innocents neither begins nor ends with a quick visit to Ground Zero, whether you are Barack Obama, John McCain or anybody else.

The obligation has been with us from the day of the attack and for a brief time we lived up to it: remembering we were all in it together, no matter where we were born, no matter who we voted for, no matter what we did for a living or how much we earned.

Emma Lazarus he ain't.

New York Review of Books: 'The Battle for a Country's Soul'

Forget about today's coverage. On this 9/11, the best reflection — one with real meat — remains Jane Mayer's think piece in the NYRB's previous issue:

Seven years after al-Qaeda's attacks on America, as the Bush administration slips into history, it is clear that what began on September 11, 2001, as a battle for America's security became, and continues to be, a battle for the country's soul.

In looking back, one of the most remarkable features of this struggle is that almost from the start, and at almost every turn along the way, the Bush administration was warned that whatever the short-term benefits of its extralegal approach to fighting terrorism, it would have tragically destructive long-term consequences both for the rule of law and America's interests in the world.

These warnings came not just from political opponents, but also from experienced allies, including the British Intelligence Service, the experts in the traditionally conservative military and the FBI, and, perhaps most surprisingly, from a series of loyal Republican lawyers inside the administration itself.

The number of patriotic critics inside the administration and out who threw themselves into trying to head off what they saw as a terrible departure from America's ideals, often at an enormous price to their own careers, is both humbling and reassuring.

One more passage from Mayer's look back, which is every bit as patriotic and stirring as the feeble attempts by Daly and others — and without the schmaltz and jingoism:

Instead of heeding this well-intentioned dissent, however, the Bush administration invoked the fear flowing from the attacks on September 11 to institute a policy of deliberate cruelty that would have been unthinkable on September 10.

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and a small handful of trusted advisers sought and obtained dubious legal opinions enabling them to circumvent American laws and traditions.

In the name of protecting national security, the executive branch sanctioned coerced confessions, extrajudicial detention, and other violations of individuals' liberties that had been prohibited since the country's founding. They turned the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel into a political instrument, which they used to expand their own executive power at the expense of long-standing checks and balances.

Times: 'Pressure Builds as Lehman Faces Mounting Losses'

As it usually does, the paper of record takes the angle of the pressure on the suffering bank instead of the broader, more logical angle of the pressure of the bank's looming collapse on the rest of the world's economy. The Times lede:

The trouble at Lehman Brothers is rapidly becoming a race against time for the struggling Wall Street bank.

Lehman’s fortunes dwindled further on Wednesday as the firm, staggered by the biggest loss in its 158-year history, fought to regain confidence among investors.

You have to go overseas to get to the real news: what impact this collapse is having on the rest of the planet outside Lehman's Seventh Avenue HQ. Try this one from the Financial Times in London: "Lehman survival strategy fails to lift markets."

Daily News: 'Biden blunder: Joe says maybe Hillary Clinton would make better VP'

Joe Biden is already giving us an example of how he just can't keep his big yap shut — even when he's responding to praise.

No one wants a veep who's not confident in himself or herself, but Biden just couldn't let a compliment pass.

"Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America - let's get that straight," Biden said testily after a voter said he was "very pleased" that Democratic nominee Barack Obama had chosen him instead of Clinton.

"She is qualified to be President of the United States of America, she's easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America and, quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me," the Delaware senator added forcefully. "I mean that sincerely, she is first- rate."

OK, OK, we get the point: You're trying to pander to women to counter the presence of a woman on the GOP ticket.

Shut the fuck up already with the "I'm not worthy" bit. How will you try to show, in this popularity contest, that Sarah Palin's not worthy if you say that about yourself? Suitors — successful ones — don't act that way.

And notice that Biden even said it "testily" instead of graciously. The guy is more competent than he sounds, but you wouldn't know it. Trouble is brewing for the Demo ticket, because it's sound, not substance, that bites.


Good one from Fred Dicker and his colleagues:

In an unprecedented sting that brought an undercover FBI agent onto the state Capitol floor, a veteran Democratic assemblyman from Queens was busted yesterday for allegedly taking $500,000 in bribes, prosecutors announced.

Anthony Seminerio, 73, who has represented South Ozone Park since 1978 and often boasted he was "John Gotti's assemblyman," was charged with running a secret consulting firm through which he pocketed the cash in return for peddling influence in Albany.

An FBI agent going undercover on the Capitol floor. Send that man to Congress!

Daily Flog: Smears and schmears; meltdowns on Wall Street and in the Arctic

Running down the press:


This'll teach Barack Obama to stick a fork in the other white meat:

Barack Obama stuck his foot in his mouth yesterday when he said "you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig"- which the angry McCain campaign immediately denounced as an out-of-bounds attack on running mate Sarah Palin.

The U.S. has made at least some progress: Only 60 years ago, he would have been lynched for talking like that about a white gal.

Obama wasn't directly referring to Palin as a pig — he was talking about the GOP's braying about how it stands for "change." But as the L.A. Times notes, his using that simile on the heels of Palin's "lipstick" comment — not to mention the mentioning of the sensitive word "pig" anywhere even near a female candidate — left him wide open.

Palin presents a potentially big problem for the Democrats. With only a short time before the election, how are they going to reveal her as a know-nothing, religious-right wingnut? Etiquette, unfortunately, precludes them from simply laughing at her. Joe Biden is a hard-working pragmatic pol, but his tight little smile and penchant for chattering on and on aren't made for TV. Besides, the Republicans know that any hard attack on Palin will only stir up the anti-intellectual reverse snobbery that gave two full terms to such an uninterested-in-issues moron as George W. Bush.

In some ways, Palin is more dangerous than Bush. Both are proud of not being brainy, and that's clearly no handicap these days — them East Coast big shots aren't going to tell us how to run our country. But she has the zeal of her extremely conservative convictions, like any number of other anti-Darwinists whose presence on the planet actually proves their own point that humans haven't evolved.

Poke the pig at your own peril.


Charlie's provocative musing about reinstating the draft? Now there's a draft afoot to oust him from his powerful job:

Embattled Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel is facing possible ouster from his powerful committee chairmanship as he scrambles to file new tax returns in a desperate bid to hold on to his job.

The amended returns will reflect years of income he never bothered reporting from renting out his beachfront Caribbean villa, his lawyer said yesterday.

House Republicans yesterday pushed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to dump Rangel as head of the Ways & Means Committee, which writes the nation's tax laws.


The last thing you want to hear is moaning from the state and city governments about their budget problems. What this and every other story doesn't tell you is that there's plenty of money in Manhattan; it's just being diverted, with little or no regulation, into the pockets of the Wall Streeters who churn money from your mortgage payments, bank fees, and pension funds to their own benefit.

Times: 'Across Country, New Challenges to Term Limits'

Good puff for Mike Bloomberg's attempt make himself into NYC's version of Turkmenbashi and other presidents-for-life:

A decade after communities around the country adopted term limits to force entrenched politicians from office, at least two dozen local governments are suffering from a case of buyer’s remorse, with legislative bodies from New York City to Tacoma, Wash., trying to overturn or tweak the laws.


Free advertising from David Seifman for a former stooge of the fabled Nassau County GOP machine:

Add another name to the list of mayoral contenders - Republican Bruce Blakeman, whose estranged wife is hot and heavy with Paul McCartney.

After months of sounding out would-be supporters and pondering his chances in this overwhelmingly Democratic city, Blakeman told The Post yesterday: "I am going to be running for mayor."

Here's more from the press release that poses as a story:

A 52-year-old former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, Blakeman said he intends to follow in the mold of both Mayor Bloomberg and his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, and to build upon their accomplishments.

"I think there's a real desire for continuity," said Blakeman.

Great quote!

Blakeman was one of the top officials spawned by the Nassau GOP, which was long controlled by Al D'Amato and responsible for George Pataki's ill reign. Until only a few years ago, the Nassau GOP (headquartered, fittingly, in a former bank building) was the most hilariously crooked local political machine in the country that was still controlling a sizeable population.

That background — not even a sanitized version — isn't in Seifman's story.

Wall Street Journal: 'Lehman Faces Mounting Pressures'

The head may not mean too much, but the story contains a frightening description of the U.S. economy:

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. came under mounting pressure Tuesday after hopes faded for an investment deal with a Korean bank, helping to trigger a 45% fall in the firm's shares.

Lehman's troubles mark the latest installment in the worst financial-system crunch in decades, coming just two days after the U.S. government announced its plan to take over the two giants of the mortgage business. U.S. stocks fell Tuesday, giving back gains that had greeted the weekend bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Yes, "the worst financial-system crunch in decades."

Forget that Toyota "sales event." If you really want a smokin' deal, bring your checkbook to Lehman's HQ at 745 Seventh Avenue — it's a closeout, clearance, fire sale! As the Financial Times (U.K.) notes this morning:

The bank said it would spin off the majority of its commercial real estate assets into a public company by the first quarter of next year, a move which will vastly reducing its exposure to the troubled sector.

It also intends to sell a majority interest in its asset management division.

Any second now, Lehman will be changing its corporate history, which now describes the company as "an innovator in global finance."

Soon to be a major non-player in global finance, Lehman does have a fascinating history. The Lehman boys immigrated from Europe and founded their company in 1850 in Montgomery, Alabama. The company made its fortune trading cotton in that slave-based economy.

Now, 150 years later, the whole cotton-pickin' conglomerate is about to go under.

Jewish Daily Forward: 'First Criminal Charges Filed Against Agriprocessors Owners'

The only NYC paper to cover the hell out of the slaughterhouse jive in Iowa — one of the most interesting immigration stories unfolding anywhere in the U.S. — is the Forward. Nathaniel Popper continues his fine coverage:

The first criminal charges were filed against the owners of the country’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, Agriprocessors, in connection with a May immigration raid at the plant.

The Iowa attorney general filed more than 9,000 separate child labor charges against the company, its human resources managers and members of the family that owns the plant, including Aaron Rubashkin, CEO of the company, and Sholom Rubashkin, who had overseen operations at its Postville, Iowa, slaughterhouse.

In the immediate aftermath of the charges, the leading kosher certifier in the United States, the Orthodox Union, said it would suspend its certification of Agriprocessors unless the company finds new management within a few weeks.

The Forward doesn't just cover the Jewish angle of this mess — it also explores the exploitation of slaughterhouse workers. Sticking close to home, the paper wades into the labor practices of another big Kosher processor operating right here in NYC. Popper's September 4 piece, "Workers Speak Out at Nation’s New Leading Kosher Producer," is a detailed feature that starts:

Luis Molina lost part of his middle finger to a 2,000-pound food mixer while working at what is now the country’s largest producer of kosher beef, Alle Processing.

Molina, 23, said that the accident, which happened when a fellow employee flipped a power switch, was not a surprise, given that he and others on his team had not received safety training. But he also said that what’s happened since then has added insult to injury.

The company, which operates a plant in Queens, stopped his pay the same hour he got injured, he said, leaving him in the lurch financially. Then, he continued, when he went into the office to talk to his supervisor, he was told that when he returned to work he would be suspended for four weeks without pay, because he used the machine improperly. After three years with the company, Molina said even this was not unexpected.

“They love suspending people there for any little thing,” Molina said while recuperating at his home in Brooklyn as his two children ran around him. “Two weeks, three weeks, they think it’s a joke ’cause they got that little power.”

Jewish Daily Forward: 'With White House at Stake, Ultra-Orthodox Work To Get Out the Vote — in Israel'

More praise for the Forward, which is the only NYC paper to consistently cover (and without doses of political correctness) right-wing Jews' political maneuvering. This one's about the black hats — the Haredi, the most ultra-Orthodox of Orthodox Jews — seeing McCain as the guy with the white hat:

As the American presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain heads into its final stretch, a group of leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel is preparing to release a statement that urges the country’s American expatriates to exercise their voting rights in November by casting absentee ballots.

The statement comes on the heels of a visit to Israel by Haredi lobbyist Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, who is the director of government affairs at Agudath Israel of America, a leading Haredi advocacy organization. Kalish spent a week in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak early this month, meeting with rabbis to request their help in mobilizing Americans living in Israel to register and vote.

Imagine the consternation in the U.S. press if some overseas imam controlling mosques over there and in the U.S. injected himself into our presidential campaign. Anyway, Nathan Jeffay's story gets past the bullshit and right to the heart of matters:

“Every vote cast from Eretz Yisrael comes from someone concerned for the safety and security of people living there, and this will be understood in Washington,” Kalish told the Forward. Aaron Spetner, a Jerusalem-based Agudath Israel activist who is heading the campaign, added that “if thousands of voter registration forms are coming in from Israel, it makes us powerful in Washington — with the president, senators and congressmen.”

There are an estimated 200,000 Americans living in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Only 35,000 are currently registered to vote.

Several experts contacted by the Forward voiced skepticism, however, at the organizers’ claim of nonpartisanship, pointing to conservative leanings among Haredi voters. “While I can’t be sure, Haredim are much more right-wing and want to show McCain that they are capable of delivering the goods,” said Bar-Ilan University sociologist Menachem Friedman, an expert in Haredi culture.

Political activists were more direct. “You would have trouble convincing me that this is not done in support for McCain by people who favor McCain,” said Gershon Baskin, founder and CEO of the dovish Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.

Times: 'A New Voice From Within'

Michael Kimmelman's lede strikes just the right note of condescension:

The name Thomas P. Campbell probably won’t ring many bells with the public. Inside the Metropolitan Museum, though, the news of his ascension to director is likely to be greeted by many colleagues with pleasure and relief.

McClatchy: 'Federal deficit soars, but McCain, Obama offer no answers'

Somehow managing to provide news with interpretation and also flaying both presidential candidates, David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall hold the smears and hold the schmears. Instead they write:

Just weeks before the government's fiscal year ends Sept. 30, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday projected a near-record federal budget deficit of $407 billion, sharply higher than White House projections six weeks ago and more than double last year's figure.

Mammoth federal-budget deficits feed inflation, make America dependent on foreign lenders, cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments on the growing national debt and drain capital savings from more productive investments.

The widening gap between what the government spends and the revenue it brings in is sure to weigh on the next president and impede his efforts to spend on new or larger programs or to cut taxes.

Yet John McCain and Barack Obama show few signs that they're ready to take tough steps to curb deficits, according to budget analysts.

McClatchy: 'Low levels of Arctic sea ice signal global warming's advance'

One great thing about global warming: We don't have to worry about destroying the Arctic ice by drilling into it because it's already gone. Renee Schoof explains:

This year will see the second-biggest loss on record of Arctic sea ice — a sign that the area of ice coverage is shrinking at a pace faster than once expected.

The trend also suggests that global warming is likely to increase, polar bear habitat will decline and previously icebound areas could be opened to oil and gas exploration.

Daily Flog: 'No one convicted!'; nationwide search for Obama's mojo; McCain wallows in blood of Christ

Running down the press:

Daily News: 'Hubby of cheating prisoner psychologist says wife is 'ideal citizen'

What's better news, especially on the brink of a depression, than reading about the mortification of a Wall Street investment banker? John Marzulli writes:

A Wall Street investment banker married to a former prison psychologist accused of having an affair with a reputed Bloods gang member is standing by his cheating wife.

Joshua Spitz, a vice president at Lehman Brothers, is begging a federal judge to show mercy to his disgraced wife, Magdalena Sanchez, who is facing up to six months in jail for lying to investigators about the illicit sex romps in her office at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

In a letter to Federal Judge Allyne Ross, he writes that Sanchez "was the perfect picture portrait of an ideal citizen."

In explaining her "loss of judgment," Spitz said his wife was grieving over the death of her brother and that he was unavailable to her due to working long hours at the office.

Or maybe Spitz is so forgiving because, like Spitzer, he likes to picture others having sex.

This story is of national importance: The economy's so bad that even the wives of investment bankers are finally going down.

New Yorker: 'Let It Rain'

Clever hed, once you start reading Hendrik "Rick" Hertzberg's provocative piece about John McCain's use of the blood of Christ to try to wash away his previous sinning against the religious right. The mag's promo helps draw you in:

With the selection of Sarah Palin, McCain completes the job of defusing the enmity (and forgoing the honor) he earned in 2000, when he condemned Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as “agents of intolerance” . . .


Don't blame reporter Brendan Scott for the ludicrous photoshopped Sheldon-Silver-as-Dracula photo accompanying this piece. The Post editors were simply trying to make a feast out of a story that was nothing but a morsel:

As Sheldon Silver and other legislators prepared to do battle in today's primaries, Gov. Paterson yesterday called state lawmakers political Draculas - "bloodsuckers" who tell constituents one thing by day before going back to their wicked ways when the sun goes down.

NY Observer: 'Palin and the Charlie Gibson Strategy'

While we wait to see whether Sarah Palin will become either the next vice president of the United States or the next spokeswoman for LensCrafters (see Adweek), Steve Kornacki has an interesting take about the involvement of another lightweight, Charlie Gibson, in this heavyweight decision. Kornacki's first three (long) grafs:

In theory, Charlie Gibson has the power to expose Sarah Palin as the fantastically uninformed foreign policy thinker that most Democrats — and, if primed with a healthy dose of truth serum, probably more than a few Republicans—believe her to be.

The ABC newsman, who scored the first of what will surely be scant few major media sit-downs with John McCain’s running mate, could very easily do what a mischievous Boston television reporter did to George W. Bush in 1999 and spring a pop quiz on the unseasoned politician, measuring her knowledge (or lack thereof) of some elementary facts about global hotspots.

There’s no shortage of possible questions that could be asked, and while the ethics and relevancy of playing gotcha would be debated endlessly after the fact, the sight of Mrs. Palin flailing to answer such a basic question — or even providing an incorrect response — would instantly and powerfully drive home to millions of voters the Democrats’ contention that a person who has been governor of Alaska for 20 months (and, before that, mayor of a town with fewer people than the average Arena Football League game attracts) is frighteningly ill-prepared to assume the presidency of the United States.

Times: 'No One Convicted of Terror Plot to Bomb Planes'

In a shocking development, the Times conjured up the best headline of the morning — even if it didn't match the story's namby-pamby lede. Just think about the above headline. Think about it, as the first thing you see over your morning Diet Coke. But you can't tell what the hell's up when you read the lede graf by John F. Burns and Elaine Sciolino:

LONDON — A lengthy trial centering on what Scotland Yard called a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners ended Monday when the jury convicted three of eight defendants of conspiracy to commit murder.

Huh? Then you read the next two grafs and you understand why there was a seemingly no-news headline when you first spotted it:

But the jury failed to reach verdicts on the more serious charge of a conspiracy to have suicide bombers detonate soft-drink bottles filled with liquid explosives aboard seven airliners headed for the United States and Canada.

The failure to obtain convictions on the plane-bombing charge was a blow to counterterrorism officials in London and Washington, who had described the scheme as potentially the most devastating act of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago this week. British and American experts had said that the plot had all the signs of an operation by Al Qaeda, and that it was conceived and organized in Pakistan.

Just think: If the Cheney-Bush-Rumsfeld troika hadn't diverted U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2002 in order to unjustifiably invade Iraq in 2003 — and if practically all Democrats except now-dead Paul Wellstone hadn't gone along with that scheme — those troops might very well have captured Osama bin Laden or other Al Qaeda bigwigs who actually did carry out a terror plot involving planes.

Instead, almost exactly seven years after 9/11 we have a headline that banners, "No one convicted!"

Daily News: 'It ain't over till the polls close, but Obama needs to get his mojo back'

I'll read any story labeled "analysis" that contains the word "ain't." Though all this poll talk is generally only news because it leads to self-fulfilling prophecies, Thomas DeFrank does pretty well:

Not that long ago, John McCain was toast. Is he now suddenly unstoppable?

That's what some breathless Republicans - and even a few jittery Democrats - whispered Monday after new polls showed McCain has vaulted past Barack Obama and leads by as much as 10 points among likely voters.

It's time to take a very deep breath. The only thing right about conventional wisdom is that every four years, it's usually wrong. Ask President Henry Clay, President Dewey, President Muskie, President Romney (George, not Mitt) or President Hillary.

Times: 'Rescue of Mortgage Giants Displays Paulson’s Clout'

Once again, as on yesterday, you're better off reading McClatchy's Kevin G. Hall, because the Times's Sheryl Gay Stolberg, pursuing the great-man theory of history-making that's typical for her paper, ledes with:

President Bush may be the nation’s first M.B.A. president, but when Mr. Bush and a small coterie of advisers met in the Oval Office last week to complete their plan to rescue the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, there was no question who was in charge.

First mistake: Future historians might conclude that George W. Bush was smart, or his MBA wouldn't have been mentioned. As if Bush could even conceive of or carry out a bailout plan, regardless of his business degree.

Then Stolberg again ignores reality by making the Fannie/Freddie bailout seem like another unilateral U.S. move (like the Iraq invasion) by blindly extending her great-man approach of writing instant history:

It was Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. who first proposed the idea of a government conservatorship, and broached it with Mr. Bush while the president was at his ranch in Crawford, Tex. It was Mr. Paulson who set the guiding principles for the subsequent deal; Mr. Bush endorsed them, a departure from usual White House practice, in which the president articulates principles for his underlings to follow.

It was Mr. Paulson who, in that Oval Office meeting, plotted the weekend introduction of the plan so as not to rattle financial markets. And it was Mr. Paulson, not the president, who met with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives on Saturday to deliver the unpleasant news that they were now out of jobs.

Just in case you don't believe her, she gets confirmation from one of Bush's flacks:

“He was all the way in the driver’s seat, and that was where the president wanted him,” said Tony Fratto, Mr. Bush’s deputy press secretary, adding, “The sentiment was, ‘You’re in charge, and I hope it works.’ ”

McClatchy's Hall gets it right, and the following excerpt (his first five grafs), though necessarily lengthy, should explain who really has clout (hint: it ain't Paulson):

When Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced the weekend seizure of mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he cited the need to stabilize nervous financial markets and bolster the slumping housing market.

What he didn't say publicly is that foreigners, among other big institutional investors, had lost confidence in one of the most vital and plain-vanilla U.S. investments. In a sense, they were losing confidence in the world's largest economy, and he needed to reverse matters.

"That's the unstated objective," said Vincent Reinhart, a former chief economist of the Federal Reserve's rate-setting Open Market Committee.

That underscores how interdependent U.S. finance has become with the global marketplace. Although they underwrote much of America's growth in the early 19th century, in more recent times foreigners hadn't been large holders of U.S. agency debt until about 1999, and the trend grew through much of President Bush's term in parallel with the nation's housing boom.

Foreigners hold an estimated 20 percent of Fannie and Freddie debt, commonly called agency debt. Since that debt is backed by U.S. mortgages, keeping foreigners buying this debt is vital if the housing market is to recover.

Note, especially, the last two grafs cited above. If Joseph H. "Joe" Blow had been Treasury secretary, he would have had to take the same step. If the Bush regime hadn't brainlessly let the economy tumble out of control and thus heedlessly allow foreign governments to continue seizing control of our record-setting debt, we might not be in such a pickle. There goes that great-man theory of history.

Also note that the first person Hall quotes is a real person, not an Administration flack.

The Wall Street Journal, which always works hard to produce realistic business news — its target audience demands the straight scoop on how fellow goniffs are making out — has even more detail that makes Paulson out to be more of just another re-actor than an actor.

After noting that investors' "relief" (yesterday's report from the ER) has turned into "cheers" (today's health news), the paper reports:

[N]ew details emerged of the pressures that led up to Treasury's plan to take the reins of the troubled companies. In the weeks before the government's intervention, nervous foreign finance officials barraged Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve officials to find out what was happening with the mortgage giants, according to people familiar with the matter.

Among those expressing concern were Asian investors, including the Chinese, say two people familiar with the matter. Foreign banks' concerns were among the factors that helped prompt the government's move on Sunday to take over Fannie and Freddie, these people say.

Daily Flog: Bailing out the planet's investors; a swift boot to Olbermann

Running down the press:

Great news for Wall Streeters this morning! The public's going to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it's only going to cost you $100 billion or so, and you (and perhaps the Democrats) will be taking on an additional $6 trillion in debt.

When blacks were recently freed slaves and not presidential candidates, this financial system was referred to as sharecropping and owing your soul to the company store.

But the average American in the 21st century will be doing global investors a big favor, as the Wall Street Journal reports, amid the news of booming stock markets around the globe:

The bailout of "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has reduced the risk of a spiraling U.S. mortgage crisis and therefore has made the world a safer place for global investors," said the foreign exchange strategy team at Commerzbank.

Ah, the world's a safer place. Bloomberg notes the huge gains for European banks, and the Times humanizes the frightening event by anthropomorphizing:

Investors around the world breathed a sigh of relief Monday after the U.S. government took over and backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, assuring a continued flow of credit through America’s wounded mortgage system.

In other bailout news, MSNBC bailed out of news coverage of the presidential campaign by pulling the anchor chairs out from beneath Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews.

The cynic and yeller, respectively, added too much color to a campaign that already includes a black candidate. Republicans were enraged at Olbermann's sneering at Sarah Palin.

Brian Stelter at the Times broke the news yesterday, noting:

When the vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin lamented media bias during her speech, attendees of the Republican convention loudly chanted “N-B-C.”

MSNBC's bailout was great news for Fox, whose screaming TV talking heads paved the way for MSNBC's attempt to grab a liberal audience by doing kinda the same thing.

Fox now stands alone, and its sister Murdoch property, the Post, celebrated by bannering its official endorsement of John McCain for president. There's a shocker, but that "enthusiastically urges" opinion is expected to have no effect on the paper's news coverage of the race.

The Post's Page Six — "Chris & Keith 'Left' Out" —has more on MSNBC's swift-boot maneuver, in addition to the gossip page's daily scoop about Britney Spears again being pissed off about too much publicity (this time it's about her mom's book).

Regarding the bailout of the less shapely Fannie, which Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson portrayed as a positive move for taxpayers that may even result in gains for them as well, today's New York Sun chips in with the most interesting take, editorializing that the move was, in effect, the nationalizing of the companies:

Imagine if the Bush administration, having decided that gasoline prices are too high, decided to nationalize ExxonMobil.

So if Paulson is wrong, the downside of that tighter regulation of, say, an oil company, as the Sun's analogy has it, would be . . .?

If you really want to cut through the bullshit, go to the BBC, which reports that the bailout staves off a "'30s style depression" in the U.S. Or see McClatchy, whose Kevin G. Hall had the guts to point out way high, in his fifth graf, that the seizure is akin to bankruptcy proceedings:

Fannie and Freddie will continue to operate as normal but under conservatorship, a process similar to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, where a business is allowed to restructure its operations.

The words "depression," "bankruptcy," and "Chapter 11" didn't make their way into the Times's main story.

The BBC explains things better than most:

The move is intended to keep the two companies afloat, amid fears that either could go bankrupt as borrowers default on their home loans.

Together, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae own or guarantee about $5.3 trillion (£3 trillion) of mortgages.

But they have made a combined loss of about $14bn in the past year and officials were worried that they would no longer be able to continue functioning if such losses continued.

Banks around the world are highly exposed to the two companies and therefore, given the febrile state of markets across the world, it had become dangerous for doubts to persist about whether they were viable and would be able to keep up the payments on their massive liabilities, says the BBC's business editor Robert Peston.


Veteran crimebuster Murray Weiss took time out to watch some golf on TV and produced this interesting piece:

For the first time, the city's police commissioner has appeared in a television commercial that helps burnish the image of a major company that does business with the NYPD.

During the recent British Open golf tournament, tens of millions of viewers were treated to a polished, two-minute ad produced and paid for by IBM, a k a "Big Blue."

The spot featured Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly - along with an IBM executive - extolling state-of-the-art technology used by the NYPD's "Real Time Crime Center" to help quickly solve crimes.

Why would Kelly do this? Weiss notes:

Government watchdog groups voiced concerns about the commercialization of a public agency, noting the corporate behemoth reaps untold benefits from the reputations of Kelly and the NYPD.

"It is appropriate for the public to question why a public agency would lend their endorsement to a private company," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York, adding that it's "surprising that the police commissioner would personally appear."

Present and former city officials polled by the Post could not recall another time when a sitting commissioner and their agency were used in a similar fashion. Kelly was not paid for his appearance.

Weiss doesn't mention it, but Kelly was paid plenty — in free publicity should he decide to run for mayor.


The infidel Selim Algar's fine coverage of a Jew vs. Jew battle:

Tensions over the proposed creation of a symbolic Orthodox Jewish boundary in a tony Long Island hamlet boiled over yesterday at a raucous meeting in Westhampton Beach.

Organized by a group called Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv, the rowdy morning gathering of more than 250 people pitted Reform Jews against Orthodox Jews.

Clearly, Westhampton is more of an Irv or Sid hamlet than a Tony one.

L.A. Times: 'Sarah Palin's leadership style has admirers and critics'

A chickenshit cop-out headline on a pretty good story whose subhead foreshadows the meat of a real tale that, unfortunately, also steps gingerly into the debate over her lack of qualifications: "Some who have worked with the Alaska governor say her bold approach is lacking in follow-through, and that she punishes those who dare say 'no.' "

Der Spiegel: 'Trouble in the North Caucasus: Russia’s Restless Muslim Republics'

Ignored by papers on this side of the Atlantic is the troublemaking of McCain, who isn't even the U.S. president yet.

If you think that the Georgia-Russia war is bad news, a spread into full-scale conflict involving big bad Russia and the other crazy Caucasoid republics would be even worse, and guess who's lighting the match? The German site reports:

In response to Russia’s recognition of the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, US presidential candidate John McCain said that after Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Western countries ought to think about "the independence of the North Caucasus and Chechnya.” That would definitely be pouring oil on the fire.

And we don't have the oil to spare, unless Palin and McCain tap Alaska's big butt.

Oh, yes, frequent flyer-by-the-seat-of-his-pants McCain, please thrust us into Chechnya. Talk about Vietnam all over again. How about sending some "advisers" over there? Then it would be the entire U.S., not just McCain, held hostage by an unwinnable war.

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