Gary Ackerman's blast at SEC? Just theatrics from AIPAC loyalist who once took cash from Bernie Madoff.

Yeah, yeah, blah, blah: Ackerman at last shows interest in the SEC's operations.

MADOFF WATCHCongressman Gary Ackerman's rip-snorting attack on the SEC for not catching Bernie Madoff's scam is good entertainment, but it's only bluster to impress his constituents who got took.

Still, it's not a bad dog-and-pony show from a congressman who used to take campaign contributions from Madoff, as federal records show.

Despite his spot as vice-chair of a subcommittee overseeing the SEC (which presupposes that he had an interest in Wall Street's functioning before he assumed that post), Ackerman showed practically no interest in the SEC's operations until the current Wall Street meltdown.

An examination of bills sponsored by the longtime but relatively low-ranking congressman reveals few measures relating to the SEC. Actually, I could find only one or two, and they were recent. (Please, Gary, correct me if I'm wrong.)

Who should really care what these House members say to the SEC? They're just posturing. The real can of whup-ass was opened yesterday by whistleblower Harry Markopolos.

Ackerman's own blistering attack on the sitting-duck SEC officials is easily explained: The congressman represents parts of Queens and Long Island, but he also represents conservative Jews across the country and in Israel as one of Jewish-hawk lobby AIPAC's most ardent loyalists. Madoff's scam deeply cut into that constituency of Ackerman's. Shouting "Shonda!" at the SEC should keep him in good stead with those folks.

He may not have been too active on the SEC front until recently, but Ackerman has over the years introduced a slew of bills at the behest of AIPAC and even the Israeli government.

Not to mention the fact (which I'll mention again) that, back in the '90s, Madoff himself (also a Democrat and ardent supporter of Israel's government) gave Ackerman $1,200 in campaign donations.

Known as a social-issues liberal but a firm friend of Israel's hawks, Ackerman did Israel's and AIPAC's bidding last May, as Ira Glunts noted last summer:

Ordinarily, the American Israel Policy Action Committee (AIPAC) has an influence on U.S. foreign policy which goes unchallenged. In the case of the current House resolution, H. Con. Res. 362, despite the intense pressure exerted by AIPAC, some members of the United States House of Representatives who initially were about to rubber stamp this reckless non-binding resolution promoted by the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, are having a change of heart. After receiving many thousands of messages which pointed out that the resolution could be interpreted as Congressional authorization for military action against Iran, some legislators began expressing their own reservations.

On May 19, 2008, a 12-member House delegation led by House Speaker Pelosi met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. At that lunch meeting, Olmert proposed that a naval blockade be imposed on Iran in order to stop its uranium enrichment program. Present at this meeting were: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, and AIPAC loyalists Reps. Nita Lowey and Gary Ackerman. Three days after this meeting, Mr. Ackerman introduced the resolution H. Con. Res. 362 in the House....

Many people, already alarmed by U.S. and Israeli saber-rattling, were startled at the aggressive tone of the AIPAC resolution. They reacted especially adversely to the clause prohibiting imports of refined petroleum which appeared to demand a blockade. Even if a blockade did not materialize, passage of the resolution could be understood by the Bush administration as a Congressional authorization for the use of force against Iran.

At the very least, passage of H. Con. Res. 362 would indicate a lack of Congressional resolve to prevent the U.S. from expanding America's Middle East war to Iran. This is especially worrisome in light of the fact that, as Seymour Hersh has written in The New Yorker, a Congressional delegation led by Nancy Pelosi has already authorized 400 million dollars for covert operations in Iran aimed at arming dissident groups and subverting Iranian nuclear sites.

Ackerman's middling career in Congress has been dominated by his continual introduction of measures aggressively favorable to Israel. See the Jewish Daily Forward for a 2006 account of Ackerman's power as an extension of AIPAC in Congress. Too bad he wasn't focused more on the SEC back then.

U.S. to GM CEO: Take a hike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving on ...


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

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

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

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

Atlantic: 'Behind Mumbai'

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

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

New Yorker: 'Risk Factors' (George Packer)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McClatchy: 'Closing Guantanamo a minefield of critical steps'

McClatchy: 'Obama criticizes Bush response to housing foreclosures'

Washington Post: 'Tribune May File for Bankruptcy'

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

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

Plastic explosive: P.C. police hunt down 'Osama bin Lego'

BrickArmsWhile real people are being blown up all over the world, religious leaders are taking up arms against little Lego terrorists.

The crusade against BrickArms's tiny terror toy is all the rage in the Brit tabloids. Naturally, one of Rupert Murdoch's papers, the Sun, has the best headline: "Osama bin Lego."

But no news outlet is as consistently droll as the Brit techie Register, which for this story blares:

"Lego terrorist threatens democracy: Religious leaders slam 'Toy Taliban'"

Religious leaders have united to express their dismay at a custom range of Lego figures — including a "Toy Taliban" armed to the teeth with C96 broomhandle Mauser pistol, AK Assault Rifle and M67 frag grenades.

The offending terrorist — made by US firm BrickArms — didn't much impress Mohammed Shaffiq, of Muslim organisation The Ramadhan Foundation, who slammed the toy as "absolutely disgusting".

He told the Sun: "It is glorifying terrorism — the makers should be ashamed. We should be coming together to unite against terrorism, but how is that possible when children are playing with toys like this?"

The Register story adds:

Parents who feel uneasy about their kids reenacting exciting moments in recent Afghan history might consider buying their offspring an SS major instead.

Everything is "disgusting" to Shaffiq. Remember those Danish cartoons? "Disgusting," Shaffiq said in March 2007. Or The Jewel of Medina? "I am disgusted at the novel," Shaffiq said in November 2008.

Meanwhile, BrickArms, a family business in Redmond, Washington, is molding plastic and young minds. Check out Will Chapman's charming history of his small company.

GOP pulls out all stops, shows love for Hillary

Hillary%20Republican%20Obama240.jpg Last month the Republican Jewish Coalition angered co-religionists and even some fellow Republicans with a mudslingin' "push poll" that tried to plant a link in voters' brains between Barack Obama and that nefarious trio of Pat Buchanan, Iran, and Palestinians.

Now, with the election only a few days away, the GOP Jews are so desperate that they're openly showing love to Hillary Clinton in a last-minute ad campaign aimed at showing that Obama is a soul brother to Iranian crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The ad (shown above) is running in the Jewish Daily Forward and probably elsewhere.

Last month's GOP gaming of Obama was less of a shock than its new campaign of praising Hillary. But it was much more devious. The Forward's Brett Lieberman reported on September 18:

[T]he Republican Jewish Coalition is mounting an unusually aggressive campaign that has drawn criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans.

Obama supporters led a September 16 protest outside a Manhattan calling center, where pollsters asked 750 Jewish households in the battlegrounds of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and New Jersey whether several negative statements about Obama changed their attitude toward the Democratic presidential candidate. The RJC, which sponsored the poll, said it was researching Jewish public opinion. Critics say it amounted to a "push poll" that is sometimes used to spread untruths about a candidate.

If you're uncertain how such "push polls" work, the story continues with a good explanation:

According to the Web site, Jewish Democratic groups, and others who documented the calls, those surveyed were asked whether their vote would be affected if they learned, for instance, that Obama had given money to the PLO or if they learned that the leader of Hamas hoped for Obama's victory.

Respondents were asked about how they would react to other "ifs": if Obama's political advisors are "pro-Palestinian," if Obama once said "the Palestinians have suffered the most," if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad endorsed Obama, or if former President Jimmy Carter's anti-Israel national security advisor is one of his foreign policy advisors.

"I'm sure that a part of this is to be provocative so that you can raise these issues, and without your fingerprints on it, raise doubts," said Norm Ornstein, a political expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "Those questions are certainly much more push-poll questions than traditional questions."

On October 23, the Forward reported that angry Obama aides pulled out of any event featuring the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The Republican Jews' fanatical embrace of identity politics plays well with American Jews in Israel.

But not so much with Jews who live in the U.S. Most of whom are more liberal and moderate than the right-wing leaders of most major U.S. Jewish organizations. The Voice of America reports that the American Jewish Committee's national survey late last month showed Obama leading John McCain 57 percent to 30 percent.

That's not as strong a showing as most Democrats have made in past AJC surveys, but what do you want from me?

Daily Flog: Economy, Iraq missions accomplished, Bush finally tries Afghanistan rescue

bush-and-barney240.jpgIt turns out that Hurricane Katrina — at least the Bush regime's late reaction to it — wasn't a once-in-a-century event.

After the administration let the economy and various wars veer out of control, the administration is wading into Wall Street to rescue bankers and thinking about rescuing homeowners. Now it's even considering negotiating to rescue our troops from Afghanistan.

What's next? A withdrawal from Iraq?

The Afghanistan situation is so serious that as the Wall Street Journal reports ("U.S. Mulls Talks With Taliban in Bid to Quell Afghan Unrest"):

The U.S. is actively considering talks with elements of the Taliban, the armed Islamist group that once ruled Afghanistan and sheltered al Qaeda, in a major policy shift that would have been unthinkable a few months ago.

But until late summer 2001, the Bush regime was muddling along in a generally uncontroversial way when the unthinkable (not to the regime) happened on 9/11. That tragedy unleashed the Bush regime on the world. So far, his administration has wrecked Iraq, made a bad situation in Afghanistan worse, and presided over a historic Wall Street crash that threatens the entire world economy.

That's three exhibits right there for the new George W. Bush Presidential Libary being erected in Dallas. It would be nice if the libary put those three exhibits in the same hall, next to the Pet Goat Reading Room, which would display the August 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing with the same kind of reverence that real libraries afford the U.S. Constitution.

Bush's job as president is almost finished; there are no more worlds to conquer us. Unless, as Mike Bloomberg has done in New York City, Bush's handlers try to undemocratically erase term limits so he can serve a third term.

Is there a groundswell for abolishing presidential term limits? While you're being pinned to the ground by current events, listen for one. . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER: 'Hell Freezes Over: White House Drug Czar Backs Decriminalization'

Wall Street Journal: 'Rescue Plan Faces Delays In Hiring Asset Managers'

BBC: 'NATO's Afghan forces "hit limit" '

CNN: 'Global stocks rebound'

Wall Street Journal: 'Crisis Deals New Blow to Japan: Country's Top Bank in Capital Shortfall; Stocks at '82 Levels'

New York: 'Stimulus in Pinstripes: Why the Yankees will renounce their smart, sustainable team-building strategy and start spending like drunken lunatics again.'

Wall Street Journal: 'Post-Enron Crackdown Comes Up Woefully Short'
". . . Today's financial crisis has shown what a real debacle looks like. And it has made clear that executives' duties to public companies have, if anything, been loosened, not reinforced. What is worse, the post-Enron crackdown appears not only to have failed to stop flagrant corporate risk-taking, but to have lulled Washington to sleep."

Reuters: 'Skinheads held over plot to kill Obama'

Slate: 'Countdown to the Obama Rapture: Watch as the press corps battles its performance anxiety!' (Jack Shafer)
". . . if Obama wins, these scribes know that they'll be facing the toughest assignment of their careers. They've all oversubscribed to the notion that Obama's candidacy is momentous, without parallel, and earth-shattering, so they can't file garden-variety pieces about the 'winds of change' blowing through Washington."


N.Y. Jewish Week: 'New Tactics By Settlers Worrying Authorities'

Slate: 'How Bad Are Electronic Voting Machines?'

McClatchy: 'McCain pushed regulators for land swap, despite pledge'

N.Y. Times: 'The Drug Czar’s Report Card: F'

Slate: 'Middle-Aged Feminists Longing for Their Father's Money'

N.Y. Times: 'Rice Visits Mexico for a Meeting About Its Drug War'

Slate: 'Registering Doubt: If we can nationalize banks, why not our election process?'

Dawn (Pakistan): 'Barbaric killing of teenager unfolds'
". . . was first thrown before hungry dogs and when she was mauled by them and in the jaws of death, she was riddled with bullets."

N.Y. Daily News: 'Ma charged in vicious mop-handle slay of 11-year-old daughter'

L.A. Times: 'McCain was frank, garrulous and accessible -- and then he wasn't'

Guardian (U.K.): 'The cost of the crash: $2,800,000,000,000'


Human Rights Watch: 'Confessions of a former Guantanamo prosecutor'

McClatchy: 'As clock ticks, U.S. letting thousands of Iraqi prisoners go'

N.Y. Times: 'Can I Get an Arrgh?'

BuzzFlash: 'Memo to Palin: Fruit Fly Researchers Receive Nobel Prize for Medicine for Advancing the Understanding of Birth Defects in Humans'

Slate: 'Texts You Can Believe In: Forget robo-calls -- Obama's text messages are this campaign's secret weapon'

McClatchy: 'Slowing British economy could send immigrants home'

Guardian (U.K.): 'BP smashes forecasts as profits soar 148 percent'
"Oil giant BP has reaped the benefits of this summer's record oil prices, smashing all forecasts with a 148 percent rise in third-quarter profits. The figures are likely to spark fresh protests from motorists and businesses that have been hit hard by higher petrol prices."

RadioAustralia: 'China tries to kick start housing sector'

BBC: 'Arctic ice thickness "plummets" '

Wall Street Journal: 'Some Newspapers Shed Unprofitable Readers'

Wall Street Journal: 'Another Favorite Trade Bites the Dust'

N.Y. Times: 'Fractures in Iraq City as Kurds and Baghdad Vie'

Scotsman: 'Transcript of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross's phone calls to Andrew Sachs'


Bloomberg: 'Volkswagen Overtakes Exxon as Most Valuable Company'


Daily Flog: Race colored; Wall Street red-faced; Bloomberg white-knighted; future black

We crown New York's mayor, but first . . .


CNN: 'Race could play big role in election, poll suggests'

McClatchy: 'Poll: Most Americans think U.S. is losing war on terrorism'

New York: 'The Rage of the Previously Rich'


New Yorker: 'Sarah Palin is my kind of gal'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Historian questions 'Bling Bandit' medal claims'

Jurist: 'Second Circuit rules government must release photos of Iraqi, Afghan prisoners'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Rikers brass axed before big scandal'

New York: 'The Great Shakeout: Good-bye, Masters of the Universe. Hello, Ron Hermance of Paramus, New Jersey'

Bloomberg: 'Oil Falls as Stock Losses Signal Concern Over U.S. Bailout Plan'

Financial Times (U.K.): 'Fears emerge over $700bn rescue'

McClatchy: 'Democrats battling to add restrictions to $700 billion bailout'


McClatchy: 'Can you trust a Wall Street veteran with a Wall Street bailout?'

Financial Times: 'New York to regulate credit derivatives'

Running down the press:

You'd think that after watching The '08 That Ate New York the press would stop bowing and scraping at the feet of billionaires. (See Jon Friedman's "Wall Street Coverage Makes Me Cringe.")

But the Daily News insists on anointing a rich guy who has yet to display one iota of sympathy for, or understanding of, those of us less fortunate to bail us out of this mess created by rich guys.

The paper's City Hall reporter, Erin Einhorn, cranked out a clueless puff piece Monday, "Warren Buffett: Let's hire Mayor Bloomberg to save the economy."

That's one reporter who's sure to get first crack at the City Hall press releases.

Einhorn didn't include even one dissenting voice to puncture this trial balloon. (She did call Henry Paulson — as if he would say anything substantive about it.)

Tucked in up high in her piece is a link to a Daily News editorial ("Run, Mike, Run") pleading with Bloomberg to run for a third term as mayor. The paper reasons that he's done such a great job and has such supposed business acumen that he needs to remain our leader so he can pull us out of this chasm.

If he has such vast business knowledge, why didn't he, as mayor, use his connections to the Wall Street execs to try to halt their march toward oblivion?

Bloomberg made his billions selling financial software to Wall Street — number-crunching software and hardware that gave Merrill Lynch (one of his early partners) and others the tools to create increasingly sophisticated ways of playing the market.

How do you think they figured out how to create such now-discredited instruments as credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations?

If any mayor should be able to spot dangerous trends on Wall Street, it's the guy who made his billions furnishing info to Wall Street during its boom-bust-boom-bust cycles.

So why didn't he? I dunno, ask his chauffeur. Why didn't Bloomberg use his bully pulpit to bully his pals into at least tempering their greed lest it bury themselves (temporarily) and the rest of us (for generations)?

Instead of trying to rein in Wall Street, Bloomberg as mayor has chosen to rein in the city's smallest businessmen: those scruffy street vendors and their ilk.

His performance as the mayor who has been overseer of Wall Street qualifies him to be either the country's or the city's financial savior?

At least Warren Buffett has an excuse for touting Bloomberg: It's true that Buffett is maybe more compassionate than the average rich guy. (See my June 2007 story, "Even a Caveman Can Do the Math," about Buffett attacking greed.) But he wouldn't want to see anyone with a built-in animus toward Wall Street's basic functioning step in as a czar. And Bloomberg definitely has no animus toward Wall Street's profit-taking practices.

The Daily News has no excuse. Oh, wait, the paper does have an excuse: It's owned by rich real estate guy Mort Zuckerman, whose fortune is based on leasing office space to financial wizards in America's big cities.

These huzzahs for Bloomberg remind me of how Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was treated by his acolytes (before his Oregon-based empire dissolved in chaos). The '80s guru, you may recall (and as I witnessed first-hand as a reporter), used to drive his Rolls-Royces slowly through his yuppie followers while they showered flowers, song, and pledges of obedience on the bhagwan ("blessed one").

And we want to do the same with Wall Street's blessed bagman?

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: 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 8/7/08: Hamdan acquitted but papers dance around it; the best anthrax stories; Mary-Kate isn't talking; there's a war in Afghanistan

Running down the press:

Times: 'Panel Convicts Bin Laden Driver in Split Verdict'

William Glaberson's story is particularly lame, failing to note until way down on the jump that Salim Hamdan, one of several drivers for Osama bin Laden, was not a war criminal in the first place:

The two-week trial included references by both sides to the Nuremberg trials.

Prosecutors, eager to shore up the image of the commissions here, presented a video that included graphic images of Qaeda terror attacks and their victims that they titled “The Al Qaeda Plan,” in reference to “The Nazi Plan,” a film shown at Nuremberg to document the Holocaust.

The defense noted that Hitler’s driver, Erich Kempka, was not prosecuted as a war criminal at Nuremberg.

In fact, Hamdan was acquitted on the only charges that amounted to "war crimes." A stunning defeat for the Bush regime.

You'll have a hard time finding the best coverage of the Hamdan trial. That's because it was an oral report yesterday by veteran newsman Fred Graham on Court TV. Graham was one of the few U.S. newspeople who actually covered the trial at Guantánamo.

Solidly in the mainstream, Graham rose above it, describing Hamdan throughout his thoughtful, articulate coverage as a "very low-level driver" and emphasizing that he was hardly a figure whose alleged acts rose to the level of "war crimes."

Even the Washington Post — consistently more reliable than the Times for national and international coverage — didn't rise to Graham's level, fouling up its headline and story:

'Hamdan Guilty of Terror Support: Former Bin Laden Driver Acquitted Of Aiding Attacks'

A military jury on Wednesday found a former driver for Osama bin Laden guilty of supporting terrorism but not of conspiring in terrorist attacks, handing the Bush administration a partial victory in the first U.S. war crimes trial in a half a century.

The hed should have been turned around, leading with the acquittal, and the story's no better. But you're still better off reading the WashPost's version, which includes this pretty high:

Deputy defense counsel Michael Berrigan called the trial a "travesty" but said the defense team "is not at all unhappy with the results."

Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who attended the trial as one of several human rights observers, ridiculed the administration for inaugurating the military system on "a marginal figure."

As for the tabs' coverage of Hamdan, well, just count on them (as I noted earlier this morning) for news about the other guy known for his drives: Brett Favre.

Times: 'In E-Mail, Hints of Delusions'

Bruce E. Ivins went to work each day in a high-security federal laboratory where he handled some of the world’s deadliest substances. But more than a year before the 2001 anthrax attacks, the scientist admitted to himself that he was losing his grasp on reality.

“Paranoid man works with deadly anthrax!!!” he wrote in one e-mail message in July 2000, predicting what a National Enquirer headline might read if he agreed to participate in a study on his work.

“I wish I could control the thoughts in my mind,” he added a month later in another message to a colleague. “It’s hard enough sometimes controlling my behavior. When I am being eaten alive inside, I always try to put on a good front here at work and at home, so I don’t spread the pestilence.”

Well, the guy was self-aware. As for delusional e-mails, I've received a ton of them and have even written a few. It's unfortunate, of course, that Ivins didn't stick to just writing e-mails, at least if the FBI is to be believed.


Now this is the way to promo the anthrax story:

Twisted scientist Bruce Ivins was the sole person responsible for killing five people with a rash of anthrax mailings that terrorized Americans after the 9/11 attacks, federal authorities declared yesterday, as they released hundreds of pages of . . .

Wall Street Journal: 'FBI Paints Chilling Portrait Of Anthrax-Attack Suspect'

Today's most complete collection of anthrax coverage, starting with the start of the main piece, which is hands-down the most concise and soberly best-written handling of all the main angles:

In a series of court documents that were at turns chilling and bizarre, federal investigators said U.S. Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins misled government agents investigating the 2001 anthrax mailings, sent emails with language closely matching the handwritten letters sent to victims and had access to the strain of anthrax used in the crime.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says the evidence, including hundreds of pages of unsealed documents, proves that Dr. Ivins was the sole person responsible for the 2001 anthrax mailings. Many of the documents contain previously unknown details and shed fresh light on the seven-year investigation, one of the most complex and controversial undertaken by federal law enforcement.

Much of the evidence is circumstantial and was criticized sharply by some scientists and former colleagues, suggesting that this long-running saga is far from over. Dr. Ivins's lawyer denies the charges.

Dr. Ivins, one of the world's foremost anthrax experts, emerged as the central figure in the anthrax probe last week. He committed suicide on July 29 after federal prosecutors informed him they intended to charge him in the attacks that killed five people and injured 17. Investigators haven't found a suicide note.

See Ivins's e-mails here.

Daily News: 'Heath Ledger probe closed, Mary-Kate Olsen doesn't have to talk'

And we don't have to listen to her.


A former NYPD detective is under investigation by the FBI for his alleged role in a mob hit ordered by John "Junior" Gotti and is expected to face federal charges, the Post has learned.

Besides ratting out his boyhood pal Gotti, mob turncoat John Alite fingered retired cop Phil Baroni, 56 for being in a getaway car and helping dispose of the body of coke pusher George Grosso, a source said. Grosso was shot in the back of the head on Dec. 20, 1988. At the time, Baroni was getting a generous disability pension from the NYPD.

"[They] just took him out of the car and dumped him on the side of the road" in Flushing Meadow Park, the source said.

Can't wait for the movie? Read the story.

Daily News: 'The Scattered Dutchman'

David Krajicek's story is a few days old, but that doesn't matter because it zooms in on an event that's 100 years old. It's the kind of piece that daily papers don't usually do, let alone write so well. Krajicek starts it out:

It was the summer of 1897, and pieces of Willie Guldensuppe began bobbing up in the East River.

His upper torso and arms were found by boys playing on the E. 11th St. docks. The lower torso was fished from the water in Harlem. The legs found their way to the backwaters of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Each section was neatly wrapped in distinctive oilcloth - a flower design of red and gold, like a homemaker might use for a tablecloth - and bound with window-shade cord.

Coroners unwrapped the packages and pieced together the body, lacking only a head and a 4-inch square of skin cut from the chest.

The human jigsaw puzzle was soon identified as Guldensuppe, a German - stout as an anvil - who worked as a masseur at the Murray Hill Turkish Baths on E. 42nd St.

Makes you want to keep reading.

Times: '500: Deadly U.S. Milestone in Afghan War'

Back to the grim future of 2008: This death story contains the paper's "Quotation of the Day" (for God's sake, loosen up and call it a "quote" instead of "quotation"):

"People have forgotten. There's a real war going on. People are dying all the time in Afghanistan." — DAVID ROUGLE, whose brother, Staff Sgt. Larry I. Rougle, was killed in a Taliban attack.

That "quotation," or at least the idea behind it, should have been worked into the paper's Hamdan story — while the U.S. is conducting a show trial (yes, kinda fair, and yes, the Bush regime lost it), there's a war going on.

And speaking of war crimes, the U.S. committed a crime of war years ago by shifting its focus away from Afghanistan so it could unjustifiably invade Iraq.

Times: 'Iraqis Fail to Agree on Provincial Election Law'

Touted electronically by the paper as its top "World" story, it's not.

Times: 'China’s Leaders Are Resilient in Face of Change'

Skip the first few grafs and see this:

But if the Olympics have presented unmistakable challenges and crises, the Communist Party has proved resilient. Public appetite for reform has not waned, but the short-term byproduct of the Olympics has been a surge in Chinese patriotism that bolstered the party against international criticism after its crackdown on Tibetan protesters in March and the controversy over the international Olympic torch relay.

Economic and social change is so rapid in China that the Communist Party is sometimes depicted as an overwhelmed caretaker. But in the seven years since Beijing was awarded the Games, the party has adapted and navigated its way forward, loosening its grip on elements of society even as it crushes or co-opts threats to its hold on political power.

The party has absorbed entrepreneurs, urban professionals and university students into an elite class that is invested in the political status quo, if not necessarily enthralled with it. Private capitalists may be symbols of a changing China. But the party has also clung tenaciously to the most profitable pillar industries and the financial system, and it is not always easy to distinguish the biggest private companies from their state-run counterparts in China’s hybrid economy.

"Unmistakable challenges"? That's a dull understatement.

"Not always easy to distinguish the biggest private companies from their state-run counterparts"? You can't.

Think Halliburton as the profit-making arm of the Pentagon in the early days of the Iraq Debacle, and you get the picture.

Times: 'Little Pieces of Politics, Some Obscure, Lure Collectors'

Really? I did not know that.

Times: 'Minorities Often a Majority of the Population Under 20'

Sam Roberts's lede, relying on the hackneyed phrase "tipping point":

Foreshadowing the nation’s changing makeup, one in four American counties have passed or are approaching the tipping point where black, Hispanic and Asian children constitute a majority of the under-20 population, according to analyses of census figures released Thursday.

Racial and ethnic minorities now account for 43 percent of Americans under 20. Among people of all ages, minorities make up at least 40 percent of the population in more than one in six of the nation’s 3,141 counties.

The latest population changes by race, ethnicity and age, as of July 1, 2007, were generally marginal compared with the year before. But they confirm the breadth of the nation’s diversity, and suggest that minorities — now about a third of the population — might constitute a majority of all Americans even sooner than projected by census demographers, in 2050.

A colored country. It's a good thing for Jesse Helms that he finally died.

Times: 'Bush to Urge China to Improve Human Rights'

On the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing, President Bush said that he had “deep concerns” about basic freedoms in China and criticized the detention of dissidents and believers, even as he praised the extraordinary gains China has made since he first visited more than three decades ago, according to remarks released by the White House on Wednesday.

That, and $5 million, will buy you a cup of coffee in Zimbabwe (where inflation is over 1 million percent).

Bush has "deep concerns" about basic freedoms. Please. Do us a favor and just add this phrase: "constantly criticized at home by human-rights organizations."

That wouldn't be editorializing but simply adding context or perspective, and it would be fair to Bush.

Wall Street Journal: 'Bush Conveys Concerns About Fate of China Dissidents'

Much better and more rational angle about Bush than the Times's less-specific, buy-into-Bush-bullshit version. James Hookway's lede:

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed his concern about the fate of political dissidents in China and his determination to bring an end to the "tyranny" of the military regime in Myanmar a day before he is expected to attend the opening of the Olympic Games in China.

Times: 'Freddie Mac’s Big Loss Dims Hopes of Turnaround'

The gloom over the nation’s housing market deepened on Wednesday as Freddie Mac, the big mortgage finance company, reported a gaping quarterly loss and predicted that home prices would fall further than previously projected.

The announcement disappointed those hoping that the housing market might be bottoming out and heightened worries that the government could be forced to rescue Freddie Mac and the other mortgage finance giant, Fannie Mae. The news also signaled that mortgage rates were likely to rise.

For some background on Freddie Mac that you're unlikely to see anywhere else, take a look at my colleague Wayne Barrett's new piece, "How Andrew Cuomo Gave Birth to the Crisis at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

At last, detailed reporting on a New York politician who's fucking us instead of fucking hookers.

Times: 'State Board Lets Ciprianis Keep Their Liquor Licenses'

Continuing its hard-hitting coverage of NYC's rich snoots (see yesterday's Daily Flog), the paper sez:

The verdict is in: Patrons of the Cipriani family’s empire of opulent restaurants and catering halls across Manhattan will not have do without their favorite cocktail when they order the calamari risotto or Venetian calf’s liver.

Huzzah, my good man! Muffy won't have to bring her 40s wid her.

Times: 'China’s Gold Rush'

Matthew Forney's lame op-ed piece contrasting what China and U.S. do with their athletes is promo'ed this way:

In China, sports schools now train thousands of professional athletes with Olympic gold as the ultimate goal.

Yes, unlike in the U.S., where colleges train thousands of professional football and basketball players (while giving them free rides and other perks) with just gold as the ultimate goal.

Post: 'Mess for Success'

Danica Lo chides fashion-faux-pas New Yorkers with her "pet peeve don'ts," introducing it this way:

Summer is steaming up offices all over the city - and we're not talking temperatures.

Lately, exposed cleavage, pastel bra straps, the odd half-moon and plenty of toes have been popping up for air all over town. Dressing professionally in 85-degree-plus weather is never easy, and with heat and humidity a daily battle now for weeks on end, so much of the city's office populace has thrown in the towel - as well as the jacket, the cardigan, the pump and, well, any office-appropriate apparel you can name.

Since reinterpreting dress code is a major no-no in many corporate offices, it's the business-casual class that is committing the most serious faux pas this season.

Reinterpret this. I haven't worn socks since May. Danica, you put a sock on it.

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

Running down the press:


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

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

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

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

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

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

As if that weren't enough:

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

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

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

Those damn Iraqis. We oughta just invade their country.

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


The lede sez:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Times: 'Texas Executes Mexican Despite Objections'

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

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

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


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

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

Times: 'Where the Race Now Begins at Kindergarten'

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

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

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


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

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

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

Times: 'Guantánamo Bay Judge Admits Possible Error'

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Times: 'Accusations of Sex Abuse Trail Doctor'

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

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

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

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