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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

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

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

N.Y. Post: 'GOP'S SHOCK "TERROR" ATTACK: MAILING TARGETS OBAMA'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wall Street Journal: 'Recession Fears Pummel Futures'

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

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

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

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

Journalist's sentence still makes no sense

It's not just newspapers that are dying; it's newspaper reporters — and not the old, crusty variety. Here's just another reason not to go to J-school: A student journalist in Afghanistan was sentenced to death for blasphemy. And this is under the "good guys" — the Karzai regime, which we're supporting to the tune of billions of dollars.

kambakhsh240.jpgBut the good news is that the sentence of Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh (left) has now been reduced to only 20 years in prison.

What did this 24-year-old student do? The Guardian (U.K.) explains:

[Kambakhsh] was studying journalism at Balkh University in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and writing for local newspapers when he was arrested in October 2007.

Prosecutors alleged that Kambakhsh disrupted classes by asking questions about women's rights under Islam. They said he illegally distributed an article that suggested the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.

In January this year, a lower court in Mazar-i-Sharif sentenced Kambakhsh to death after a trial that took place without a lawyer to represent him. . . .

After Kambaksh was sentenced to death in January, Muslim clerics welcomed the decision and there were public demonstrations against him.

In the West, the decision was seen as showing Afghanistan's slide towards an ultra-conservative view on religious and individual freedoms.

Again the reminder: This is taking place not under the Taliban but under the Taliban's foes, the puppet regime we're propping up.

This is what U.S. troops over there are fighting and dying to preserve and protect: the right of a repressive government to execute people for asking questions about women's rights.

Couldn't Karzai's increasingly conservative regime at least hold off on the executions or imprisonment of "blasphemous" people until we finally leave Afghanistan?

Daily Flog: Poland to the rescue, homicidal geezer school-bus driver, China imports gold, Georgia imports Rice, more abuse (ho-hum) of Iraqis

Running down the press:

Times: 'U.S. and Poland Set Missile Deal'

Refusing to take off their Cold War monocles, Thom Shanker and Nicholas Kulish ignore the hilarity of Condi Rice going to Georgia to simmer things down. Instead, they try to get poetic on our asses:

The deal reflected growing alarm in countries like Poland, once a conquered Soviet client state, about a newly rich and powerful Russia’s intentions in its former cold war sphere of power. In fact, negotiations dragged on for 18 months — but were completed only as old memories and new fears surfaced in recent days.

The funniest line in this super-self-consciously serious piece:

Polish officials said the agreement would strengthen the mutual commitment of the United States to defend Poland, and vice versa.

Vice versa . . . Poland defending the U.S. . . . let's see . . . oh, yeah, maybe we could get Poland to step in on behalf of Williamsburg's Poles to try to stop Manhattan developers from wrecking the Brooklyn enclave's waterfront.

Solidarność with the hipsters!

See FAIR's fresh dissection of media blubber: "Georgia/Russia Conflict Forced Into Cold War Frame."


McClatchy: 'U.S. 'no' to intervention leaves Russia in control of Georgia'

One of the best U.S. sources of world news — and probably the liveliest — the McClatchy D.C. Bureau (the old Knight-Ridder operation) is a solid site. For the full flavor of the good reporting and breezy writing, try this from Nancy A. Youssef, Tom Lasseter, and Dave Montgomery:

American officials on Thursday ended speculation that the U.S. military might come to the rescue of Georgia’s beleaguered government, confirming Russia's virtual takeover of the former Soviet republic and heralding Moscow's reemergence as the dominant power in eastern Europe.

"I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation. Is that clear enough?" Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters in his first public comments since the crisis began Aug. 7.

"The empire strikes back," said Ariel Cohen, a Russia expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Gates' comments came just 24 hours after President Bush dramatically announced in a televised White House appearance that American military aircraft and ships would be dispatched to carry humanitarian aid to Georgia and that the U.S. was expecting unfettered access to Georgia' ports and airports.

But Bush apparently had spoken out of turn, before Turkey, which by treaty controls access to the Black Sea, had agreed, and on Thursday, Pentagon officials said they doubted that U.S. naval vessels would be dispatched.


Slate: 'Conventional Nonsense: Making the case for a press boycott of the national political conventions'

Jack Shafer notes the foregone conclusions of these non-events. Amen.


Post: 'HILLARY PUSHES WAY ONTO STAGE'

The tab's institutional contempt for Hillary pays off in this case, because she really did push her way onto the DNC stage. Not that this is big news. But how many more shots at Hillary does the Post have left? And she is such an easy target.


Christian Science Monitor: 'Mexican citizens asked to fight crime'

Sara Miller Llana's story notes:

[I]f Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has his way, a new corps of 300,000 residents will become watchdogs of sorts — monitoring and turning in police officials who operate outside the law.

The Times reports on the same story — citizens outraged that corrupt cops are even aiding and abetting kidnappings of children — but of course it takes the establishment side, not even noting Ebrard's call for a citizen corps.

Can you imagine a crew of 300,000 New Yorkers regularly keeping tabs on the NYPD? The Times sniffs, Don't even mention it. And its story sez:

Given the involvement of some wayward officers in the kidnapping trade, it is easy to see why victims’ relatives look outside police forces in trying to bring such nightmares to an end.

But Luis Cárdenas Palomino, director of intelligence for the federal police, says that private negotiators do not have the same experience as his veteran agents, who he says have been catching more kidnappers and freeing more victims in recent years.

No wonder that, here in NYC, the Times, with its institutionalized obeisance to authority, doesn't hold the NYPD's feet to the fire.


Post: 'TRAGIC MOM'S BABY IS SAVED'

A runaway school bus crushes pregnant NYPD traffic agent Donnette Sanz, "but a superhuman effort by 30 strangers who lifted the vehicle off her body miraculously saved her baby before she died."

Word pictures of the bus driver with his head in his hands — ""The light turned red, and I couldn't stop . . . I tried to miss her. I tried to go behind her, but she stopped and moved back, and I hit her."

Oh, by the way, we find out only at the end of this weeper that the 72-year-old driver hasn't had a license in 40 years and that his record includes "a gun bust and arrests for driving on a suspended license, grand larceny, menacing and aggravated harassment."

And he was driving a school bus — a school bus!

Most absurd quote of the day:

Mayor Bloomberg, who went to St. Barnabas to comfort [her] relatives, said, "I hope that as this child grows up, he comes to understand that his mother gave her life in service to our city, and we are forever grateful."

The Daily News account is lamer, but it does include this quote from Bloomberg:

"It is a terrible poignancy that Donnette's son's birthday will now coincide with the day his mother died."

Give Bloomberg a break. George W. Bush couldn't have connected those dots.


Post: ' "WRONG MAN" FREED AFTER 14 YRS.: BAILED OUT ON "BAD RAP" IN QNS. SLAY'

Great quote garnered by Ikimulisa Livingston:

Kareem Bellamy stepped out of Queens Supreme Court to the open arms of relatives and cheers from his relentless law team, which spent nearly four years working to get him freed.

"I hope I don't get struck by lightning," he joked in the midst of a thunderstorm. "I can't believe I'm really walking out."


Times: 'Bomber Kills 18 on Shiite Pilgrimage in Iraq'

Obsessed with Georgia, the Times editors are now consigning Iraq news to a roundup — you know, like those small-town-newspaper city council stories that always include "in other business" items.

Today's example is yet another suicide bombing. In other business, the Times adds:

And at Camp Bucca, an American military base in southern Iraq, six sailors who were working as prison guards in Iraq are facing courts-martial on charges of abusing detainees, the United States Navy said in a statement on Thursday.

Only two other brief grafs, both far down the story, about this abuse. No mention of exactly what kind of abuse is alleged or that Camp Bucca is the largest U.S. prison in Iraq, housing a staggering 18,000 Iraqis, probably none of whom have been to trial.

At least the BBC saw fit to present a separate story on this.

But the U.S. establishment press has consistently underplayed jail abuse, except when it reaches the high embarrassment level of Abu Ghraib. Remember the proud "Murderous Maniacs" at Camp Mercury near Fallujah, the U.S. soldiers who beat up prisoners for sport? If you don't, see yesterday's Daily Flog.


Post: 'TRAP PLAY TARGETS GIANTS; "SEX-TORTION PLOT" VS. COACH COUGHLIN'

Feds yesterday busted a birdbrained Philadelphia man for allegedly trying to blackmail Giants Coach Tom Coughlin with false allegations of extramarital flings with two women.

Stop right there, unless you want to walk around all day with images swirling in your brain of this aging coach naked and having sex.


Post: 'DEM'S KILLER WENT "POST-IT" '

Hed of the day, lovingly applied to a wire story:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The man who fatally shot the chairman of the state Democratic Party after he lost his job had a Post-it note at home with the victim's last name and phone number along with 14 guns, antidepressants and a last will and testament, according to court documents.


Wall Street Journal: 'World Economy Shows New Strain'

If you can tear yourself away from Olympic water polo for a second, remember that China is losing the gold-medal battle but is raking in the gold anyway.

The WSJ reports, in other business:

The global economy -- which had long remained resilient despite U.S. weakness -- is now slowing significantly, with Europe offering the latest evidence of trouble. . . .

With the European growth report, four of the world's five biggest economies -- the U.S., the euro zone, Japan and the U.K. -- are now flirting with recession.

China, the world's fourth-largest economy, is still expanding strongly, as are India and other large developing economies. . . .

The global weakness marks a sharp reversal of expectations for many corporations and investors, who at the year's outset had predicted that major economies would remain largely insulated from America's woes.

The Journal almost always leavens its dense reporting with a human touch (not on its inhumane editorial pages, but in news stories), and even this piece has a good morsel:

British consumers are hunkering down. "The cost of living has rocketed," says Gareth Lucas, 34 years old. He works part time at a hospital in Swansea, south Wales. With fuel costs so high, Mr. Lucas tries to fit more tasks into each car trip and no longer treats himself to cappuccino at a nearby café.

At night, to make extra cash, Mr. Lucas does gigs as a stand-up comedian -- but increasingly he performs to smaller audiences. "People just aren't going out anymore," he says.


Wall Street Journal: 'Data Raise Questions On Role of Speculators'

Suspicions confirmed: The oil market is being driven by scumbag speculators, not the "free market." The WSJ puts it into perspective:

Data emerging on players in the commodities markets show that speculators are a larger piece of the oil market than previously known, a development enlivening an already tense election-year debate about traders' influence.

Last month, the main U.S. regulator of commodities trading, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, reclassified a large unidentified oil trader as a "noncommercial" speculator.

The move changed many analysts' perceptions of the oil market from a more diversified marketplace to one with a heavier-than-thought concentration of financial players who punt on big bets.

This is a fascinating developing story — let alone a probable explanation of why gas costs so much — if only the rest of the press would take the topic seriously.

Here's the politics of it:

The . . . questions about the reliability and transparency of data in this market are feeding into efforts by Congress to impose restrictions on energy trading. Four Democratic senators on Thursday called for an internal CFTC inspector-general investigation into the timing of a July 22 release of a report led by the agency. That report concluded speculators weren't "systematically" driving oil prices. Oil prices soared until mid-July before beginning a decline.

In recent months, legislators in Congress have demanded insight about the distinction as they try to answer concerns of constituents, from companies to consumers, about what has contributed to the high price of gasoline and other fuels.



Daily Flog: Warning to whitey, desired streetcars, soiled Lennon, two Georgias, Target practice

Running down the press:

Daily News: 'First look at wife of John Lennon slayer in decades - she says let me be'

Jesus Christ! I'd forgotten that Mark David Chapman was such a sicko/twisted Lennon wannabe that he had also married a woman of Japanese descent.


Post: 'ARK. ASSASSIN GUNS DOWN TOP CLINTON ALLY'

Congratulations to the Post for not only mentioning in the second paragraph that the shooter had just been fired from a Target store but also for showing the maturity not to hammer into readers that grim irony, as I am immaturely doing right now.


Post: 'COLOR BY NUMBERS: MAC GAINS MORE WHITES VS. OBAMA'

Good story, better head. The fourth graf is key:

McCain has closed the gap by padding his lead among whites, Southerners and white evangelical Christians.

At least that should make the rest of us whites feel better — that we're not quite as bad at acting on our institutionalized, internalized racist impulses.

Being upfront about race is something that much of the media is not doing. Witness this CNN story:

"McCain, Obama to address 'values voters' "

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama plan to appear together Saturday at a minister-moderated forum held in a church as thousands of evangelicals plan to gather in the nation's capital to pressure both men move further to the right on social issues.

"Values voters" my shiny metal ass. The rest of us also vote our "values." These are white conservative Christians (99 percent of them), so call them that in the headlines. Christ, there are even political parties in Europe that use "Christian" in their names.


Newsday: 'Revealed: Julia Child was a U.S. spy in World War II'

This AP story is old news, but it does remind us why she seemed to have such mixed feelings about turkey.


Post: 'BRETT FEELIN' UP THE CREAK'

Clever hed on this:

The 38-year-old Favre - who turns 39 in October - had his fifth practice yesterday morning for the New York Jets, but he admitted his arm wasn't exactly feeling lively.

Brett Favre is one pro athlete who talks like a real person, unlike the platitudinous Derek Jeter, for example, or the former Giant blowhard Jeremy Shockey or the guarded-beyond-all-reason, high-paid choker Alex Rodriguez. Favre sez:

"I didn't throw the ball very well this morning, underthrew some throws. No pain, but I'm 38 years old. It's got to be fatigued a little bit. . . . I felt 38 today, I'm not going to lie to you."

In his case, he probably won't. A rare celebrity.


Times: 'In a Generation, Minorities May Be the U.S. Majority'

Warning to whitey: Your reign as The Man will end sooner than predicted. Sam Roberts reports:

The census calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Four years ago, officials had projected the shift would come in 2050.

The British press doesn't whitewash this news with P.C. tentativeness. The BBC's lede, for example:

White people of European descent will no longer make up a majority of the US population by the year 2042 - eight years sooner than previous estimates.

The big change is among Hispanics and Asians whose share of the population is set to double to 30% and 9%.

The Times more subtly emits a red-alert tone:

“No other country has experienced such rapid racial and ethnic change,” said Mark Mather, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization in Washington.

Unless you're talking about the Cherokee Nation. In that previous monumental conflict in Georgia (even before Sherman's march), Andrew Jackson ethnically cleansed the Cherokees, herding them to the Ozarks along the Trail of Tears and replacing them with slaves and ballcap-wearing, NASCAR-loving rednecks.

Anyway, the Times just loves trend stories, and here's a trend in the Times itself: Just last week (as I noted on August 7), the paper blared "'Minorities Often a Majority of the Population Under 20' "

Next topic for the Times: How do we protect the Upper West Side from these Visigoths?


Human Rights Watch: 'High Toll from Attacks on Populated Areas'

Yes, NYC-based Human Rights Watch has an open bias as a Goody Two-Shoes, but also does some great reporting — unlike its better-known but stodgy fellow NGO Amnesty International — so why not include it in "the press"?

Mainstream international papers, like the Guardian (U.K.), have no problem giving HRW full credit when it breaks news stories. This morning the Guardian's Mark Tran notes:

Human Rights Watch provides the first independent confirmation that Georgian villages in South Ossetia have been looted and burned.

HRW is somewhat schizoid as a news source, because it always follows its great nuggets of news with predictable appeals to officials to stop the madness. For example, today it reports:

Forces on both sides in the conflict between Georgia and Russia appear to have killed and injured civilians through indiscriminate attacks, respectively, on the towns of Gori and Tskhinvali, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch expressed its deep concern over the apparently indiscriminate nature of the attacks that have taken such a toll on civilians.

Memo to HRW: Lose the second sentence, please, because your news reporting speaks for itself and you're clouding the impact of that reporting with that squishy, predictable statement of "deep concern." (I guess HRW feels it has to do that, but I ignore such statements of concern — who could disagree with such sentiments? — and take its reporting seriously. Keep reading this item and you'll see why.)

U.S. papers refuse to include HRW and like groups in their press club, but the Internet dissolves that separation because HRW's reports are as freely and directly available as news from other sources.

You may have forgotten — and the mainstream press has done nothing to help you remember — that HRW broke one of the most grim and explosive stories (so far) from the Iraq War.

Back in September 2005, HRW revealed that U.S. troops at Camp Mercury, outside Fallujah, proudly called themselves "Murderous Maniacs" as they tortured and beat up hapless Iraqi prisoners merely for sport — and in a highly sexualized way that was worse than at Abu Ghraib. As I wrote back then:

In a shocking new report, soldiers of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne reveal that they or their fellow soldiers routinely beat, tortured, stripped, humiliated, and starved Iraqi prisoners in 2003 and 2004 at a base near Fallujah, often breaking bones, either at the request of superiors or just to let off steam.

HRW wasn't guessing, nor was it chiding from its Fifth Avenue offices. It waded right in and talked to U.S. troops about it. From its own report, "Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division":

The accounts here suggest that the mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military is even more widespread than has been acknowledged to date, including among troops belonging to some of the best trained, most decorated, and highly respected units in the U.S. Army. They describe in vivid terms abusive interrogation techniques ordered by Military Intelligence personnel and known to superior officers. . . .

The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief for soldiers.

Soldiers said they felt welcome to come to the PUC [Prisoner Under Control] tent on their off-hours to "Fuck a PUC" or "Smoke a PUC." "Fucking a PUC" referred to beating a detainee, while "Smoking a PUC" referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.

Three years later, HRW has made its own march into Georgia. So keep tabs on its reporting. For that matter, keep checking the Guardian's Georgia page.


NY Observer: 'Penguin Group Wins Rights to Steinbeck Novels'

Minor note on a major author, especially compared with Tony Ortega's unique yarn about Steinbeck and Mexican-American farmworkers in today's Voice: "John Steinbeck's Ghosts."


Times: 'Ruling Is a Victory for Supporters of Free Software'

John Markoff's piece about a court ruling in favor of open-source software is a little confusing, but the upshot is that a major pothole has been patched on our major transportation artery, the information highway.


Times: 'Conflict Narrows Oil Options for West'

In other transportation news: Good piece by Jad Mouawad about our latest loss in the centuries-old Great Game in Central Asia, and bad news for us SUV owners:

[E]nergy experts say that the hostilities between Russia and Georgia could threaten American plans to gain access to more of Central Asia’s energy resources at a time when booming demand in Asia and tight supplies helped push the price of oil to record highs.


Times: 'Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future'

Yet another transportation story.

Unfortunately, the Times blows this story by just briefly noting that cities and even small towns across the country had functioning streetcar lines until the mid 1950s, and not mentioning at all that it was the automobile lobby that killed them as it pressured pols to build the Interstate Highway System.

I don't blanch at this new development because when I was a kid in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I depended on the kindness of streetcars. Public transit is a blessing, no matter how much my fellow straphangers grouse about the MTA and Long Island Rail Road.


Post: 'BIZMAN HAD A "LOT" OF NERVE'

Carolyn Salazar's lede is right to the point:

An enterprising squatter transformed a vacant Brooklyn lot into a thriving million-dollar business — an illegal parking lot and chop shop, prosecutors said yesterday.

Whereas powerful pol Shelly Silver is squatting like Jabba the Hutt on a vacant lot on the Lower East Side, as the Voice's Tom Robbins reports.


Daily News: 'Gloomy Gotti trip to Sunshine State'

The latest installment of news about the fading Italian-American Gangster Era. John Marzulli reports:

Junior is on the move. John A. (Junior) Gotti, aka Bureau of Prisons inmate 00632-748, began his journey to Tampa Wednesday to be arraigned on racketeering and murder charges.

Who gives a shit?


Daily News: 'Elizabeth Edwards stayed with cheating husband John for children's sake'

A perfect example of how the Daily News almost always lags behind the Post in tabloidian terms. The lede:

An anguished Elizabeth Edwards decided to stay with her cheating husband because she is dying and worried about their two young children, her closest friend says.

Only five tabloidian buzzers: "anguished," "cheating," "dying, "worried," and "closest friend." Yesterday, I noted eight in a Post Edwards lede.

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

Running down the press:

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

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

'Judge's house shot up'

'Queens mom lured to her death'


Post: 'EDWARDS SCANDAL'S NEW TRYST'

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

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

Cogito argot sum.


Post: 'TOP OF THE WORLD: PHELPS SETS RECORD FOR CAREER GOLDS'

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

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

So stop writing you don't.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Post: 'PHELPS' PIG SECRET: HE'S BOY GORGE'

Clemente Lisi's lede:

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

Next stop: Coney Island's royal gorge.


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

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

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

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

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

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

'Georgian villages burned and looted as Russian tanks advance'

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

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

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


Times: 'Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks'

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

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

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

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


Times: 'Study Tallies Corporations Not Paying Income Tax'

Boring hed, fascinating story:

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


Post: 'HUGE TIX HIKE BEANS MET FANS'

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

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

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


Post: 'SON OF A GLITCH! MTA IS OUT 74G'

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

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

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

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


Times: 'Mechanism for Credit Is Still Stuck'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It worked.

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