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

Running down the press:

Post: 'HOLY SOW! BAM'S LIPSTICK BUNGLE: TAKES A PIG AND A POKE AT PALIN'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poke the pig at your own peril.


Post: 'RANGEL HAS A BAD CHAIR DAY'

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

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

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

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


Post: 'DAVE AND MIKE PUT TAX HIKES ON TABLE'

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


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

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

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


Post: 'BEATLE GAL PAL'S EX IN MAYOR RUN'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great quote!

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

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


Wall Street Journal: 'Lehman Faces Mounting Pressures'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Times: 'A New Voice From Within'

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

Running down the press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BBC explains things better than most:

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

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

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

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


Post: 'NYPD (BIG) BLUE FLAP: COMMISH IN COMMERCIAL THAT HAILS IBM'

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

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

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

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

Why would Kelly do this? Weiss notes:

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

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

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

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


Post: 'HAMPTONS HOLY WAR'

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Flog: Alaska or bust; GOP fights off depression; shrinking lobsters

Running down the press:

As expected, Bristol mire was highly profitable this morning:

Daily News: 'Bristol Palin's pregnancy was an open secret back home'

Good adjectival application, except for the usual fuckin' bowdlerizing:

Doe-eyed Bristol Palin, 17, and ruggedly handsome Levi Johnston, an 18-year-old self-described "f---in' redneck," have been dating a year, locals in Wasilla, Alaska, told the Daily News.


Der Spiegel: 'McCain's Bush-Style Campaign Worries the Center'

Before you settle in for yet another day of Jerry Springer-style Palin family drama, go to Germany for some other news about the Republicans:

McCain's popularity has long rested on his being a man of the center. The media liked him for his openness. Now, though, McCain has hired a number of former Bush advisors, and his campaign is swerving to the right.

On Tuesday evening in St. Paul, it almost seemed as though the Republicans didn't want to see the end of the Bush era. Just before 7:30 p.m., applause began rippling through the XCel Center. In the Fox News studio, just under the arena's rafters, President George W. Bush's former chief strategist Karl Rove had sat down for an interview. One row of delegates after another stood up, turned toward Rove and waved excitedly. Rove waved graciously back.

And the German site doesn't neglect der kinder mutter; it simply treats it as political news:

[T]he choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's vice presidential candidate was one which came as a surprise to the Republicans -- and a not entirely pleasant one for moderates within the party. Since then, it has become clear just how spontaneous the decision was. The last two days have been dominated by coverage of Palin's pregnant, unmarried 17-year-old daughter, her lack of experience and her extremely conservative views on environmental issues.

Indeed, the choice of the ultra-conservative governor of Alaska seems little more than a poorly disguised gambit to get the religious right behind McCain. It is a clear signal that two other possibilities that had been considered by McCain -- the former Democrat Joe Lieberman and the ex-head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge -- were unacceptable due to their pro-choice positions.

Straight shooting from the Germans that cuts through the bullshit over here: "poorly disguised gambit to get the religious right behind McCain."

Yes, the Palin choice smells like a Rovian maneuver. Wonder if we'll ever find out whether he was the one behind it.


Daily News: 'Killer smiled as he bragged to dad about chilling student murder'

The morning's best creepshow stuff:

A drifter who spent time in a psych ward confessed Tuesday to killing a Pace University student found with a cord around his neck and a plastic bag shoved down his throat, police sources said.

Jeromie Cancel, 22, brutalized 19-year-old Kevin Pravia, sat near the honor student's corpse to watch the horror movie Saw and then bragged about the murder to his father, the sources said. Asked why he did it as he was marched out of the 10th Precinct stationhouse Tuesday night, Cancel shouted, "Because I wanted to. You got a problem with that?"

Nope, no problem, Jeromie. Listen, have a good day. Gotta run now.


Times: 'City Feels the Economic Pinch, but It’s Only a Pinch, So Far'

Doing its best to attach a smiley face to the situation, the paper dispatched Patrick McGeehan to find people who don't think the economy is rapidly sinking. In a city this big, you're bound to find some, and in a story that smacks of small-town reporting, he did:

Across the city, owners of independent businesses agree that the city is in the throes of an economic downturn. Consumers are feeling pinched, they say, credit is harder to come by, and higher food and fuel costs are eating into profits.

To a surprising degree, though, many say they are not feeling deep pain from the slowdown — at least not yet. Many say they have had to reduce prices, but their sales are holding steady or are down only slightly. Others say they are moving ahead with plans to expand or open new branches, stormy economic forecasts notwithstanding.

Vague bullshit that's mostly stiff-upper-lip quotes from merchants and which includes zero from, say, the tens of thousands of people who have been laid off or fired. "To a surprising degree"? Not backed up.

The problem for readers: If you just read the headline, you're being misled. But then if you go on and read the story, you're wasting your time with boring misinformation. Misled or bored — you decide.

For a more realistic look at the economy — even for those of us who don't dine at hoity-toity restaurants — turn to the food section for Frank Bruni's 'As Belts Tighten, Lobsters Shrink and Bar Menus Grow.' That's a real story with real information about how we're being fricasseed.


Daily News: 'Online bookies taking bets on whether Sarah Palin will get dumped'

Already tired of the Republicans and their catering to the Good Book evangelicals? Go to Ireland:

The online bookies Intrade are taking bets on whether a string of embarrassing revelations will force GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin to withdraw from John McCain's ticket.

The market opened at 3% that Palin would be cut and then climbed as high as 18% before settling down to 11.6% at the end of the day.

Intrade chief executive John Delaney, based in Ireland, said he had no reservations about starting the Palin market.

"[Was it] a political decision for us? No. We list markets that are relevant to people, that people have a passionate interest in," he told Reuters.

I wrote about Intrade's political market in May 2007 ("Wolfie's Stock Soars"). Now you can keep track of Palin here.

By the way, as the story doesn't note, Obama appears to be the favorite over McCain, according to the Irish site's punters.


Post: 'THIS IS NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY: GOPERS STAND UP FOR SARAH'

Tired old headline style, not to mention the mixed-metaphoric lede:

John McCain, Fred Thompson and former Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman galloped to the defense of embattled Sarah Palin yesterday, trying to shield her from attacks that she's not veep material, as well as from the firestorm over her pregnant teenage daughter.

Fred Thompson's name makes the first paragraph of your Palin story, you gotta problem.


Post: 'LINGERIE IS TOTALLY HOT: COPS'

Great head, supported by a cute lede:

Two thousand bras equaled one bust.

A Queens man was arrested yesterday on charges of selling $80,000 worth of hot Victoria's Secret brassieres on eBay.


L.A. Times: 'Palin hubbub leads Republican delegates to target "liberal media" '

James Rainey, the paper's "On the Media" reporter, paints a dramatic picture:

Delegates to the Republican National Convention whirled in their seats en masse and called out from the floor: "Tell the truth! Tell the truth!"

The chants and finger-wagging were directed toward the sky boxes. Their target: the television networks and the rest of the "liberal mainstream media."

Then he continues with what has to be the worst idea for a lede in the history of political-convention coverage:

It happened 20 years ago, as the GOP gathered in New Orleans, Times political writer Mark Z. Barabak recalled this week.

Huh? He's interviewing one of his colleagues? About something that happened 20 years ago? Rainey continues:

But the scene could have come from the convention floor Tuesday in St. Paul, where the Republican faithful began working out once again on a favorite punching bag.

Yes, it could have, but it didn't.

In fact, another mediocre West Coast paper snared an anecdote that really did happen in St. Paul. Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times trolled the convention floor asking about George W. Bush and came up with this:

One delegate told me he couldn't answer because he simply hadn't given Bush any thought lately. I pressed him: He's still the president, isn't he?

He started to say something, then stopped. He insisted he couldn't be quoted by name.

Then he took my reporter's notebook and wrote across it: "Worst president ever."


Times (U.K.): 'Obama support hits 50 per cent as Republicans look to Palin speech'

Rupert Murdoch's London paper is your better choice than Murdoch's New York City paper — or any other NYC paper — if you want political news. If you want to put the Palin news in perspective, here's part of how the Brit paper's Hannah Strange portrays it:

Mrs Palin has been holed up at her suite at the Hilton Minneapolis since Sunday night, as Mr McCain’s top advisers brief her on the nominee’s policy positions, national issues and how to introduce herself to an audience of millions.

The Alaska governor is sure of a rapturous welcome from the Republican convention, where delegates have rallied to her defence following the news that her daughter Bristol is having a baby with her boyfriend-turned-fiance.

As a staunch social conservative and lifetime member of the NRA, her selection sent the party’s powerful social and evangelical conservative base into peals of delight.

But her speech must win over a far tougher crowd – an America that hardly knows her and has been bewildered by a series of dubious revelations – from her past membership of the fringe Alaska Independence Party to an audio recording of her laughing while a campaign opponent was called a "bitch", "cancer", and mocked for her weight.

Yo, bitch, you ain't all that. "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!"

Daily Flog: Kicking the habit but blindly drunk, hounded by Afghans, woofed at by Hillary

Running down the press:

To the dismay of headline buffs, the New York Post let a good one slip away this morning. Buried in its canned Weird But True roundup is the news that Italian priest Antonio Rungi planned a beauty contest for nuns, "Miss Sister 2008," but canceled it under pressure.

And this isn't a separate splash in the Post?

The tab decided to focus on the other beauty content, the one in Denver, where it managed to get in a well-justified shot at Hillary:

HILL: 'BARACK'S MY CANDIDATE'; BUT HEAPS MORE PRAISE ON HER BACKERS THAN ON HIM

Brendan Scott and Maggie Haberman crafted a solid lede:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton last night declared that former rival Barack Obama "is my candidate" and urged her backers to let go, lay down their swords and vote for him over John McCain.

But while throwing her political weight behind her one-time foe, Clinton said little that boosted Obama's personal story, political résumé — nor did she defend him against GOP attacks that he's unqualified for office.

Good piece, but the Post didn't have to kick its headline habit by practically ignoring the beauty contest for nuns.

Christ, it merited separate pieces in outlets around the world — even in the government-controlled Kazinform in Kazakhstan.

The Calgary Sun headlined it "Sisters' Pageant Just Nun-Sense," and the Daily Mash in the U.K. proclaimed, "Nun Lovers Devastated" before veering off into its usual satire by "quoting" Rungi:

"I wanted to reflect the inner beauty of my holy sisters. But if you just want to look at nuns' tits then I suggest you try the Jesuits."

Even the mostly moribund Chicago Sun-Times found space amid its Demo convention news to weigh in with "Beauty Contest Doesn't Have Prayer."

Isn't it big news when a priest is obsessed with female beauty?


Salon: 'We drive as we live'

Kevin Berger had the good sense to hitch a ride on NYC's mad streets and expressways with Brooklyn's Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do. (See Vanderbilt's blog.)

Reporting from the front (seat), Berger weaves:

"You have to be careful here," [Vanderbilt] says. "People come blazing out of the Battery Tunnel with an E-Z Pass and don't stop for you."

"I notice you didn't signal," I say.

"It's New York drivers. It's one thing I've observed from living here: They will not slow down. It's almost like you're taunting them. I was told in Boston that signaling is revealing your intentions to the enemy. It's the same here. You're better off not signaling."


Times: 'Clinton Delivers Emphatic Plea for Unity'

Ridiculously lame headline that doesn't even back up the story's angle, which is surprisingly heady, at least in the second graf. Unfortunately, even there, Patrick Healy and his editors made sure that the syntax was typically stiff and stilted:

With her husband looking on tenderly and her supporters watching with tears in their eyes, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton deferred her own dreams on Tuesday night and delivered an emphatic plea at the Democratic National Convention to unite behind her rival, Senator Barack Obama, no matter what ill will lingered.

Mrs. Clinton, who was once certain that she would win the Democratic nomination this year, also took steps on Tuesday — deliberate steps, aides said — to keep the door open to a future bid for the presidency. She rallied supporters in her speech, and, at an earlier event with 3,000 women, described her passion about her own campaign. And her aides limited input on the speech from Obama advisers, while seeking advice from her former strategist, Mark Penn, a loathed figure in the Obama camp.


Times: 'Taliban Gain New Foothold in Afghan City After Attack'

Too bad that Carlotta Gall's important story from Kandahar has a feature-y lede on such a good hard-news piece. The significance of a Taliban jail break in June starts in her third and fourth grafs, and you have to give the Times credit for surprisingly using such adjectives as "spectacular" and "catastrophic" in the same sentence:

The prison break, on June 13, was a spectacular propaganda coup for the Taliban not only in freeing their comrades and flaunting their strength, but also in exposing the catastrophic weakness of the Afghan government, its army and the police, as well as the international forces trying to secure Kandahar.

In the weeks since the prison break, security has further deteriorated in this southern Afghan city, once the de facto capital of the Taliban, that has become a renewed front line in the battle against the radical Islamist movement. The failure of the American-backed Afghan government to protect Kandahar has rippled across the rest of the country and complicated the task of NATO forces, which have suffered more deaths here this year than at any time since the 2001 invasion.

Why she didn't lede with the fourth graf is beyond her editors. And that contributed, no doubt, to the soft headline on a story carrying ominous news about what may turn out to be a watershed moment in the worsening Afghan War.


Times: 'A Decline in Uninsured Is Reported for 2007'

As predicted in yesterday's Press Clips, the big dailies mostly limped home in the race to report the bad economic news eructated by the Census Bureau.

But there was some good nagging. Go straight to Steven Pearlstein's column in the Washington Post. He cuts through the bullshit:

Hey, good news on the income front: The Census Bureau reported yesterday that median earnings for full-time male workers rose by $1,653 last year, to $45,113, after adjusting for inflation.

Another year like that, and maybe the typical male worker will finally catch up to where he was in 1973.

The Times's Ian Urbina focused almost solely on the health-insurance angle of the stats.

The WashPost's news story, by Michael A. Fletcher, takes another angle, the poverty rate.

But Urbina's focus on the health-insurance figures is at least serviceable because he throws in the big caveats very high. (Disclosure: I've edited Urbina's work and respect it.)

And Urbina got some good context that dampens the supposedly good news about the number of uninsured Americans:

Health-care experts and advocates for the poor said the report also presented an outdated picture regarding health insurance. The rate of people without health insurance declined to 15.3 percent in 2007, from 15.8 percent a year earlier.

“In 2007, at least 26 states made efforts to expand coverage, but as the economy has turned downward so have state efforts,” said Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Ms. Rowland added that insurance premiums had risen faster than wages and inflation, causing more people to seek insurance from public programs.


Daily Scotsman: 'Young Scots risk losing their sight in bid to get blind drunk'

The best story of the day, and it's too bad that the big U.S. papers ignored it.

The Times, for instance, limited its Scotland coverage this morning to "the Royal Bank of Scotland announced on Wednesday it appointed a trio of non-executive directors in effort to address weaknesses on its board."

Fascinating. Now here's the interesting news out of Edinburgh, courtesy of Craig Brown:

With one of the highest rates of binge drinking among teenagers, Scotland already has an unenviable reputation with alcohol. But now experts are warning about a new trend among young people that is aimed at speeding up the process of getting drunk – pouring shots of alcohol directly into their eyes.

Known as "one-in-the-eye", it involves using shot glasses in a manner similar to that of eye-wash.

Despite the risk of blindness, users hope that by absorbing the alcohol via the membranes of the eye, it will enter the bloodstream more quickly and have a stronger effect when it reaches the brain.

Brown's piece continues with a taste of history of this, like, totally insane practice, dude:

Originating in the bars of holiday resorts on the continent, the dangerous fad has caught on in university bars and nightclubs, despite potentially catastrophic consequences.

One leading doctor warned those who indulge in the craze are seriously endangering their sight.

Expect more hipsters than usual staggering around Williamsburg's streets.


Daily News: 'Hillary Clinton leaves no room to doubt support for Barack Obama'

Talk about going blind:

Playing the role of healer, an impassioned Hillary Clinton delivered the most dramatic speech of her storied life Tuesday night - even if it wasn't the one she wanted to give.

Moving forcefully but gracefully to tamp down the enduring bitterness over her tough primary battle with Barack Obama, Clinton unequivocally beseeched her Democratic supporters to follow her lead and vote for the Illinois senator in November.

Ludicrous, though you can't help but perversely love the 19th century feel of "unequivocally beseeched."

Fill the inkwell and fetch the carriage, my good man! I warrant there's no dearth of speechifying to report to the citizenry!

Whitewashing the bad econ news

New figures for 2007 are grim, no matter how the press is reporting them.

Pay no nevermind to the stream of new stories bringing glimmers of good news about how Americans are faring in the last stages of the Bush Era.

The facts and figures for 2007 about who's living in poverty and who doesn't have health insurance and whose wages have shrunk are coursing through the Web right now, courtesy of the Census Bureau.

And these factoids are being misplayed left and right. Practically all of the media are simply rewriting the Census Bureau's press release.

You have to go straight to people who cut through the bullshit — and that includes the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Catholic Charities USA — if you want the straight scoop.

First, let's note, as most of the current stories de-emphasize — that almost 40 million Americans are living in poverty. That doesn't include the millions who are simply poor. As I noted on August 18, the federal poverty line is absurdly low.

As for the misplaying and downplaying of gloomy figures in today's coverage (which you'll see splashed across the media tonight and tomorrow), you'll have to plow through my fairly lengthy explanation with examples (sorry about that), but this is what I mean:

Judging by the AP account — which no doubt will be picked up by practically every other media outlet in the U.S. — the Census Bureau's latest figures for 2007 seem like fairly good news. Here's the AP:

The Census Bureau reports that the number of people lacking health insurance dropped by more than 1 million in 2007, the first annual decline since the Bush administration took office.

The nation's poverty rate held steady at 12.5 percent, not statistically different from the 12.3 percent in 2006. That meant there were 37.3 million people living in poverty in 2007.

The statistics released Tuesday do not take into account the consequences of the economic downturn that began late last year.

Census says 45.7 million people — 15.3 percent of the population — were uninsured in 2007. That's down from 47 million in 2006.

The median — or midpoint — household income rose slightly to $50,200, marking the third consecutive annual increase.

As I write, the New York Times hasn't deigned to post anything yet. But the L.A. Times already has this:

'Health insurance coverage in U.S. rises'

The number of people in the United States without health insurance fell to 45.7 million in 2007 from 47 million a year earlier, primarily because of an expansion in government-provided coverage for children, the U.S. Census Bureau said today.

Real median household income climbed for a third year in 2007, up 1.3% to $50,233, according to the annual census report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, the U.S. poverty rate remained statistically unchanged at 12.5% in 2007, with 37.3 million living in poverty, up from 36.5 million a year earlier.

The rate of people without health insurance declined to 15.3% in 2007, down from 15.8% a year earlier. Census officials attributed the unexpected dip to the rise in the number of children, particularly poor children, receiving government-sponsored health coverage.

"This is the main reason for the fall in the uninsured rate for children and for the fall in the overall uninsured rate," said David Johnson, a census official. "The fall in private insurance was similar to recent years. That fall was offset by the rise in government insurance."

A little better, though the headline is misleading because private insurance has actually fallen.

In any case, here's the real story — from the CBPP's Robert Greenstein:

Despite modest improvements in overall median income and health insurance coverage, the new Census data are disquieting. Though 2007 was the sixth (and likely the final) year of an economic expansion, poverty was significantly higher, the median income of non-elderly households significantly lower, and the number and percentage of Americans who are uninsured substantially greater than in 2001 — even though the economy was in recession that year.

This is unprecedented. Never before on record has poverty been higher and median income for working-age households lower at the end of a multi-year economic expansion than at the beginning. The new data add to the mounting evidence that the gains from the 2001-2007 expansion were concentrated among high-income Americans.

Greenstein continues with a shrewd analysis that the standard media outlets simply won't ever do with such facts and figs:

Compared to 2006, overall median household income edged up 1.3 percent in 2007. Median income for “working age” households — those headed by someone under 65 — remained statistically unchanged, however, and the number (although not the percentage) of Americans living in poverty increased by 816,000 people to 37.3 million.

In addition, the number of children living in poverty jumped by 500,000 to 13.3 million, and the child poverty rate climbed from 17.4 percent in 2006 to 18.0 percent in 2007. There was some welcome news on child health insurance – the number of children lacking health insurance declined in 2007, but it remained 400,000 above the number of children who lacked insurance three years earlier, in 2004.

Greenstein's analysis continues with worse news on a broader front:

The data for 2007 are of particular concern given that the economy is now in a slowdown, and poverty is almost certainly higher now — and incomes lower — than in 2007. The 2007 levels — already disappointing because they are worse than those for the 2001 recession — are likely to constitute a high-water mark for the next few years. This suggests that significant pain may lie ahead for many Americans.

The number and percentage of Americans who are uninsured also are likely to rise in 2008, and probably in 2009 as well given widespread forecasts that unemployment is likely to continue rising at least through the first part of that year. The numbers of uninsured parents and children are likely to grow as employers lay off more workers and states consider cuts in their Medicaid programs to help balance their budgets during the economic slowdown. Congress and the President can help cushion this blow — and avert cuts in Medicaid that further swell the ranks of the uninsured — by temporarily boosting federal support for state Medicaid programs as they did during the last downturn. Policymakers also could reconsider children’s health legislation. The nation missed an excellent opportunity to make major progress in reducing the number of uninsured children when President Bush twice vetoed legislation last year that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would result in 4 million uninsured children gaining coverage.

More broadly, the next President and Congress should consider setting a national goal to reduce poverty and acting upon it, as former Prime Minister Tony Blair did in the United Kingdom. A number of charitable organizations and poverty experts have called for establishing a national goal to cut poverty in half over the coming decade.

Pretty good, and the CBPP gives you a link to the figures themselves.

Also good at plucking the right stats from those figures, Catholic Charities USA picks some that count:

Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, issued the following statement regarding new statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau that show 800,000 more people are living in poverty in the United States:

"It is unacceptable that in a nation that is as prosperous as ours that 37.3 million people, including 13.3 million children, continue to live in poverty. This increase indicates that reducing poverty is not a priority for this nation."



Daily Flog: Terror and prayers in Denver, dead fish at a NY nuke, rent becomes a nationwide hit

Running down the press:

Times: 'G.O.P. Tries to Upstage Democrats'

Stop the servers! Atop the front page is this hard-hitting piece by Jim Rutenberg about how the Elephants are breaking "new ground" by trying to trample the Donkeys' un-sexy show. The paper that thinks it's the historical record once again ignores history:

The opposition party once more or less ceded the stage to the convening party during its convention, under the assumption that breaking into the news coverage would be next to impossible. Over the past few presidential election cycles, as Washington became more bitterly partisan, that began to disintegrate, helped along by a proliferation of ravenous new media outlets that created growing opportunities to spread negative messages.

This is not new ground; the paper doesn't even mention that shortly before the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC, the nation's security guard, Tom Ridge, raised the terror alert level to red in NYC, Newark, and D.C.

As I noted at the time ("The Attack Starts," August 2, 2004), Howard Dean opined a "political motivation for terror alert," as CNN put it, and he was shelled for it.

This morning's story by Rutenberg is a non-story. He quotes GOP political operatives about how pleased they are that their political-operative work is working. And that's it.

On a side note, Ridge's warning actually was prescient: He included a specific note of worry that Citigroup's NYC headquarters could be destroyed. Four years later, Citigroup's subprime performance — massive firings and a stock-market plummet — is indeed a disaster site. Self-imposed.


Post: 'TED GETS PARTY STARTED'

The Demo-hating Murdoch rag gets it right with a good lede on the Kennedy saga that all the papers covered:

Sen. Ted Kennedy brought the Democratic faithful to cheers and tears last night as he emerged from a summer of treatment for brain cancer to vow that he'll be in Washington when a new president is sworn in.

Much more interesting than the Times version.

And the Post splashes a story about actual monkey-wrenching: the sore-loser Clintons' determination to upstage Obama ("ANGER AT HILL'S DEM PARTY FOULS").

That's more of a threat to the Democrats than the GOP's attempts — if you don't count the free publicity that Rutenberg gave the Republicans.

Hillary and Bill are unlikely to even budge the needle of the grace-o-meter this week.


Post: 'FISH-KILLING INDIAN PT. RULED AN ECO-DANGER'

In actual terror news, the tab gives good play — which the Times wouldn't do for a wire-service story — to Jim Fitzgerald's AP piece:

The huge numbers of fish sucked to their death by the cooling system at the Indian Point nuclear plant prove that the system harms the Hudson River environment, a state official has ruled.


Post: 'DRUGLORD OF MANY FACES'

Here's a gangster moniker we haven't heard before:

An alleged drug kingpin who repeatedly disfigured his face through plastic surgery to evade arrest was arraigned in Brooklyn yesterday on charges of murder, drug trafficking and money laundering.

Juan Carlos "Lollipop" Ramirez Abadia, 45, an alleged leader of the notorious Norte Valle coke cartel who was extradited from Brazil on Friday, pleaded not guilty before federal Magistrate James Orenstein.

But the paper's most e-mailed story this morning? Some real news from Saturday:

'ONE-LEGGED HOOKER SLAIN'

A one-legged hooker was killed in Brooklyn after a john hit her over the head, causing her to fall backwards out of her wheelchair and slam her skull against the wall, cops said yesterday.


Daily News: 'Michelle Obama: My husband shares same beliefs you have'

Oh, brother. The Denver convention's non-news gets off to a great start:

Declaring her husband will be an "extraordinary President," Michelle Obama delivered a heartstring-tugging speech on Monday night about the values and compassion behind Barack Obama's drive for the White House.


Speaking of monkey-wrenching the Dems, the following item made the home page of Google News last night: 'McCain and Jay Leno Joke About His Age'

And you wonder why news orgs all over the world clamber to land a precious spot on Google's home page for news. That frenzied pandering by news org overseers is more of a threat to journalism than the increasingly useless printing presses that papers are stuck with.

The L.A. Times is one of those huge daily ailies, but at least it proclaims in a subhead that the Dems are seriously targeting McCain's turkey neck:

On opening night, the party's double-edged agenda is to tug at the heart and to go for McCain's jugular.

Good thing that Leno's show is taped early. By the time it aired, the elderly GOP nominee's innards were struggling to digest his early-bird meal and he was probably already in bed.

Still sleepless with worry, however, were millions of other Americans. Another piece in this morning's L.A. Times:

Wrongly slapping on an anecdotal lede about a renter named Ruth Cordoba, the paper tells an interesting story once you get past that:

The collapse of home mortgage lending, which according to U.S. Housing Secretary Steve Preston may lead to 2.5 million foreclosure filings nationwide this year, sent shock waves up the income strata -- from home buyers who took out subprime loans they couldn't pay, through banks that couldn't cover their losses on those loans, and onto high-end investors who had bought the banks' bad loans.

Now the mortgage crisis is radiating downward and cracking the already fragile finances of people like Cordoba. There are more than 300,000 households getting Section 8 assistance in California, and their median income is $14,428, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

State and federal officials are unable to say how many Section 8 renters have been affected by the wave of foreclosures sweeping the country, but local housing authorities say the number is significant -- and growing.

Good thing there aren't many low-income renters here in New York City.


Start booking those tickets to Europe. From this morning's BBC:

'Dollar increases against the euro'

The dollar has climbed back towards a six-month high against the euro, as continuing fears about the European economy hit the single currency.

Ahead of a key German survey of business sentiment due out later on Tuesday, the dollar strengthened to $1.4717 against the euro.

Against the pound, the dollar was trading at $1.8468, just below a two-year high versus sterling.

The latest German survey may show more signs of a possible European recession.


Bad memories for those Denver conventioneers whose last names aren't Clinton. Drizzling on the parade — Denver typically experiences showers just about every summer afternoon — is Slate's Jack Shafer:

What Kind of Plagiarist Is Joe Biden? The unusually creepy kind.

Joe Biden's return as a vice-presidential candidate signals forgiveness—at least from Barack Obama — for having plagiarized a leading British politician during Biden's campaign for the Democratic Party's 1988 presidential nomination.

The Biden episode merits revisiting because as acts of plagiarism go, it was spectacular, and because it points to other dicey chapters in his life.


Red alert! Red alert! And this is no joke. From the Washington Post's front page:

'Governing Coalition Collapses in Pakistan'

Pakistan's ruling coalition broke apart Monday amid a political battle over the presidency, paralyzing the U.S.-backed government at a time when Taliban insurgents here and in neighboring Afghanistan appear to be gaining ground.

Don't look for this on the Times's front page.


While the Times and others talk about how the Obamas and Ted Kennedy are rousing the faithful, Drudge points to an actual faith-based story out of Denver by the AP's Eric Gorski:

At the first official event Sunday of the Democratic National Convention, a choir belted out a gospel song and was followed by a rabbi reciting a Torah reading about forgiveness and the future.

Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun who wrote Dead Man Walking, assailed the death penalty and the use of torture.

Young Muslim women in headscarves sat near older African-American women in their finest Sunday hats.

Four years ago, such a scene would have been unthinkable at a Democratic National Convention. In 2004, there was one interfaith lunch at the Democratic gala in Boston.

But that same year, "values voters" helped re-elect President Bush, giving Democrats of faith the opening they needed to make party leaders listen to them.


As usual, the smart, sober news source that is McClatchy's web wire service gets serious about real news at the convention, reporting Monday:

Can Hillary Clinton persuade her followers to back Obama?

Sen. Hillary Clinton takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday, a potentially pivotal moment that could help determine whether the party unifies behind Sen. Barack Obama or continues to harbor divisions that might help Republican Sen. John McCain take the White House. . . .

About half of Clinton's supporters are still not sold on Obama, polls show, with some leaning his way and others saying flat out they'll vote for McCain.

McCain rushed out a new ad featuring a Clinton supporter saying she'd now vote for the Republican.

Giving equal time, McClatchy also carries this important tidbit, via the Miami Herald, about an always pivotal state where GOP operative Kathleen Harris chest-bumped the Dems in 2000:

Bad news for GOP? Fla.'s Hispanic voters no longer Cuban

After the seemingly obligatory anecdotal, "human-interest" lede, Casey Woods writes:

According to numbers from the Democratic polling firm Bendixen and Associates, 44 percent of the state's 1.1 million Hispanic voters hail from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other Latin American countries — slightly more than the Cubans, at 40 percent. In 2000, non-Cuban voters represented 19 percent of the Hispanic vote, Bendixen polling shows.

Hispanic Democrats also now outnumber Hispanic Republicans in Florida, making what had long been a relatively predictable voter population for politicians much more fluid.



Daily Flog: Games -- Nuclear, Political, and/or Olympic

(Roy Edroso of Runnin' Scared here. Even gadflies have to rest their wings sometimes, so Ward Harkavy is on vacation and I'm filling in as best I can for a few days. )

New York Times: "In Nuclear Net’s Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals"

Switzerland has destroyed evidence pertaining to a "family of Swiss engineers suspected of helping smuggle nuclear technology to Libya and Iran." But our Government isn't upset about it -- it's pleased, because the CIA had been secretly working with the same family to feed damaged nuclear provender to the same countries. While the Democrats have been pushing for worldwide nuclear inspection and controls for years, Republicans seems to prefer handling things with cloak-and-dagger operations. Your call as to which approach is less likely to get us blown up.


Washington Post: " Experience Is Double-Edged Sword for The Ticket"

The Republicans think Joe Biden is a liability to the Democratic ticket. The VP candidate-designate and Obama have disagreed on some issues, particularly the war in Iraq, so the McCain campaign expects "a debate between Joe Biden and Barack Obama about whether Barack Obama has the judgment and experience to lead." Biden cannot be expected to agree, and we recall another Vice-Presidential candidate who called his future boss a practitioner of "voodoo economics," but hey, it got Republican spin on the front page of the WashPost. Not that that's hard.


Los Angeles Times: "Beijing's Olympic Triumph"

The 2008 Olympics "were a triumph for a people and a government determined to show their skill and confidence, as both athletes and organizers, to a world that once treated China as a weak, servile nation." And nothing spoiled the party: the protest pens were quiet, since the Chinese Government failed to license any protests for them, and anyone who tried to mount an unlicensed demo was swiftly arrested. Now some Chinese hope, per the Toronto Globe and Mail, that their country can "solve its economic and social problems, especially inflation, the slumping stock market and the environment." If they do, it won't be because citizens of the People's Republic, or of anywhere else, have anything to say about. Nor would we expect it to. And that's China's real triumph.

Daily Flog: Obama in PA, Stevens in DC, Lieberman in WSJ, Russians in GA (non-US)

(Roy Edroso of Runnin' Scared here. Even gadflies have to rest their wings sometimes, so Ward Harkavy is on vacation and I'm filling in as best I can for a few days. )

New York Times: "Rural Swath of Big State Tests Obama"

Those bitter Pennsylvanians are once again hauled out by the allegedly Obama-worshipping Times. Though "Labor operatives line up behind Mr. Obama, and about a third of the 35 white voters who were interviewed leaned toward him," the Clinton voters are thought to be not entirely on board, so it's all in the hands of the guys who think Obama refused to shake hands with the troops.


Washington Post: "Judge Won't Move Trial For Stevens To Alaska"

The fixer from the 49th State will have to stand trial (for failing to disclose receipt of gifts) in Washington instead of Alaska, where citizens have sent him to the Senate seven times. On the bright side, everyone in DC, from judges to jurors, knows how the game is played. The downside is that Stevens has been playing it for a long time and some people may think it's time he lost one.


Wall Street Journal: "Lieberman Agonistes"

This editorial suggests the Senator from Connecticut bothers Democrats because he's an apostate, and Republicans (the kind who write to the Journal, anyway) because he's a liberal. The reliably pro-Republican paper naturally admires Lieberman for bolting the Democrats, and suggests this will bring out his conservative instincts under a McCain Administration, but while Lieberman would "be a better vice president than many oft-mooted Republicans," the Journal prefers McCain keep him on the down-low lest the rubes revolt.


Los Angeles Times: "Russia to Keep Soldiers in Georgia."

Rather than wait till Friday's announced pullout to reveal how far they're willing to go, Russia signals that it intends to continue looking after its South Ossetian interests from the Georgian side, with some troops remaining "just outside the Georgian city of Gori." The nationalistic argument plays well inside Russia, but not with the U.S., which is "attempting to dispatch several military vessels" to the Georgian coast.

Daily Flog: Campaign's rich laughs; Bolt beats Phelps; fatal wounds to Musharraf, John Galt, Georgia, and a boxer

Running down the press:

Gross overplaying of the Phelps story all over the press — "his cellphone is blowing up . . . the hottest commodity in China right now was made in the USA," ESPN breathlessly "reports" this morning.

No matter all the hubbub about Michael Phelps and his eight gold medals — he's great, even though some of them were earned with the collaboration of others, and all of them were predicted — here's the fact:

Usain Bolt: Fastest person on Earth. Unexpected, and in the most basic, fundamental athletic competition.

Next to him, Phelps is just another pretty gill.

I love to swim, and luckily I live by the ocean. But any kid who's ever run around a playground (and that's just about every kid on the planet who's physically able to) can appreciate what Usain Bolt did, despite the fact that he's a Jamaican, not a jingoized American athlete.

Simon Turnbull says it best, in the Independent (U.K.):

For 9.69 seconds, this 6ft 5in Jamaican phenomenon had taken off and touched speeds no human had ever before reached without technological assistance.

We're assuming (and hoping) that Bolt is not on on a speed-inducing drug (or drug-induced speed).

And so what if he coasted and boasted to the finish line? What winning kid on the playground hasn't?


Times: 'U.S. Watched as a Squabble Turned Into a Showdown'

The paper promo'd it this way:

The U.S. seemed to have missed -- or gambled it could manage -- the depth of Russia's anger and the resolve of Georgia's leader to provoke the Russians.

In other words, George W. Bush can say, as he said in Iraq in May 2003: "Mission accomplished."


Times: 'In Areas Under Russian Control, Limits for Western Media'

Russian authorities have given Western journalists little or no access to villages that have been looted and burned in Russian-controlled areas of South Ossetia and northern Georgia, making a full public accounting of the aftermath of the violence here all but impossible.

Would it be asking too much — and I guess it was — to at least mention the severe limits the Bush regime likewise placed on Western journalists covering the Iraq War who weren't embedded?

Not asking for a mention of the phony agitprop that the Bush regime sometimes tried to get away with (I broke one of those stories, in October 2005).

Just one tiny mention of the Bush regime's censorship of press coverage in Iraq.


Post: 'SLAIN BOXER'S 'DANCE' OF DEATH'

Nice job by Joe Mollica on a very brief piece:

Dancing to blaring music from his hours-old car stereo sparked the murder of rising South Bronx boxer Ronney "Venezuela" Vargas, his grieving older brother said yesterday.


Post: 'SHELTER IS. REHAB STORM'

A proposal to open a luxury drug and alcohol rehab center on the grounds of a historic East End inn has enraged area residents, who fear the chi-chi cleanup camp will spoil their island's tranquility.

The owners of the Ram's Head Inn, overlooking Coecles Bay on tony Shelter Island, have agreed to lease their 18-room colonial building to an entrepreneur who hopes to have the sober school up and running in November.

"Sober school," right. I stayed there several years ago, when it was a well-appointed, but dying and empty, hotel, and the place was as creepy as the manse in The Shining.

Maybe it would scare these rich addicts straight.


Post: 'DA TIGHTENS NOOSE IN DEUTSCHE PROBE: GRAND JURY WEIGHS RAPS VS. CONTRACTOR'

A self-proclaimed "exclusive" on the 9/11 reconstruction-in-progress building:

One year after two firefighters died in a ferocious inferno at the former Deutsche Bank building, a grand jury has been eyeing evidence of racketeering and money laundering against the contractors in charge of the structure, The Post has learned.

Among the issues being probed is that officials from John Galt Corp., which was subcontracted by Bovis Lend Lease to raze the tower, laundered millions of dollars through various shell companies, sources said yesterday.

One angle the story doesn't address: Who are the principals of this corporation that's being probed?

More to the point: Who is John Galt? Waiting for Dagny Taggart's folo.


Daily News: 'Safety warnings were ignored before Deutsche Bank fire'

Not too exclusively, this story has more detail, noting:

Inspectors hired to look for safety failings warned a dozen times that John Galt, the company decontaminating and demolishing the tower, did not have enough safety managers to watch for blowtorch sparks.

Wait till Dagny Taggart finds John Galt. You'll really see some sparks.


L.A. Times: 'Who's rich? McCain and Obama have very different definitions'

Some rich campaign laughs, some of them at McCain's expense, in Greg Miller's extremely interesting piece this morning.

Obama: "I would argue that if you are making more than $250,000, then you are in the top 3, 4 percent of this country. You are doing well."

McCain: "I think if you're just talking about income, how about $5 million?" He added that he knew "that comment will be distorted"; his campaign later insisted that he was joking.

What a knee-slapper.

Seriously, some of the quotes in the story are funny.

No doubt Miller's editors insisted on the tired old dictum of making him get quotes from "experts," but the ones he dug up are doozies:

Rand economist James P. Smith: "To be fair to both of them, 'rich' is an adjective. Economic science is not going to tell you that 'this' is the cutoff point."

Americans are laughing all the way to the food bank.

Not mentioned in Miller's story — I'm not being critical of him — is the "economic science". From the Census Bureau in August 2007, some "cutoff points":

There were 36.5 million people in poverty in 2006, not statistically different from 2005. The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 44.8 million (15.3 percent) in 2005 to 47 million (15.8 percent) in 2006.

And what's the official cutoff of "poverty"?

As defined by the Office of Management and Budget and updated for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2006 was $20,614; for a family of three, $16,079; for a family of two, $13,167; and for unrelated individuals, $10,294.

Agence France Presse analyzed those stats this way:

The number of poor out of the total US population of 302 million was equivalent to the entire state of California — paradoxically one of the richest states — one-and-a-half times the population of Malaysia or nearly everyone in the central European nation of Poland living in poverty.

Not trying to be funny, I wrote in September 2004, during that particularly abysmal presidential campaign:

As NYU professor Ed Wolff has pointed out, the richest 1 percent of American households own 38 percent of all wealth. And as the Center for Responsive Politics notes, fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of the U.S. population gave 83 percent of all campaign contributions over $200 for the 2002 midterm congressional elections.

But let's get back to the Census Bureau's economic science: An American family of four making $25,000 a year is not officially in poverty. But here's the good news: They don't have health insurance, so they don't have to spend any of their money on it.

That's also not in Miller's story. But his other piece of rich humor from an "expert":

Len Burman of the research org Tax Policy Center, noting that 95 percent of people "think they are middle class": "I guess it says something nice about America that rich people don't want to act like they're better than anybody else and poor people don't like complaining about how tough it is to pay their bills."

Of course it's possible that rich people who aren't super-duper rich are just being jealous while they're relentlessly striving to want to join up with the super-duper rich. Nice.

And, poor people don't like complaining about their plight? What do you think their dinner-table conversation is like — when they have enough food to have dinner?


Washington Post: 'Across the Northeast, GOP's Hold Lessens: Party's Decline Could Worsen as More Areas Lean Democratic'

The D.C. paper's Ben Pershing does a recon of my state and reports back:

As recently as 1998, 13 of New York's 31 House districts were represented by Republicans. Today, just six of 29 seats are in the GOP column (the state lost two seats after the 2000 census), and four of those six are in danger of falling to Democrats in November.


Washington Post: 'Musharraf to Resign as President of Pakistan'

Candace Rondeaux (I've worked with her, and she's good) quotes the ex-strongman's speech with a straight face. Because this is ostensibly a news story, she probably wasn't allowed to analyze those three sentences, so I will:

"I am leaving with the satisfaction [delusional] that whatever I could do for this country I did it with integrity [no]. I am a human too [maybe]. I could have made mistakes [not only could, but did] but I believe that the people will forgive me [no]."


Post: 'HOMING IN ON PROFITS: INVESTOR SEES NICE MARGINS ON BULK REO BUYS'

One foreign government is eagerly swooping down to make a killing on our foreclosure crisis.

But which country is it? (Actually, which government is it this time?) The story refers to a "sovereign" — see this definition — and Terri Buhl writes this press-release-sounding piece:

"If investors want to make sizeable returns they have to know their market, buy at the right price, and have a solid exit strategy," says one mortgage consultant hired by a real estate broker working for a foreign investor. The investor, a sovereign fund, is believed to have $29 billion available to purchase some of the 750,000 or so bank-owned, or REO (real-estate owned), homes in the US.

While the sovereign fund - along with hedge funds, Wall Street banks and private investors - expects to profit handsomely from snatching up these REO properties, the deals now beginning to take place around the country will also benefit the public at large and the markets by cleaning up banks' balance sheets, unclogging the lending pipeline and getting folks back into affordable homes.

Back into affordable homes? Now that's funny.

At least the Post regularly has more business news than any other NYC daily (aside from the Wall Street Journal, and not counting the New York Times's constipated, usually uninteresting bulk).

For those who don't know, a "sovereign" investor is a government-controlled entity — think Dubai's investment companies, which are actually the UAE's government, which is gobbling up NYC properties.

But, again, which country is the one in this Post story? And does John Galt live there?

Daily Flog: Edwards, faux Rockefeller both screwed; Olympic preening; a gated NYC; Bush's pardons list; defense of high gas prices

Running down the press:

Post: 'ROCKE-FAUX-LER WED JUST TO GET GREEN CARD'

We've entered the rococo phase of headline-writing about Clark Rockefeller. More importantly, this guy is really in Deutsch now. Waste your time on the Post story if you want, but for details of the creepy murder case that may involve this weak-chinned schnook, go back to yesterday afternoon's Post or to this morning's mundane AP story: "LA authorities: 'Rockefeller' is wanted German."

Better still, see this morning's BBC story, "Child-snatch suspect is 'wanted.' "


Daily News: 'Enquire-ing minds want to know who fed Edwards tips'

Along with "Who's the daddy?" one big unanswered question in the John Edwards affair is: Who ratted him out to the National Enquirer?

Rielle Hunter's younger sister, Melissa, could not be reached Monday, but she earlier told ABC News that Hunter is "a good and honest person" who had nothing to do with tipping reporters to her secret Beverly Hills rendezvous with Edwards.

A non-story about a semi-non-story. Let yourself go, if you want. It's slightly less unhealthy than a pint of Ben & Jerry's.


Daily News: 'Fiends armed with badge of shame'

Good story from cops reporter Alison Gendar:

It's the dis-honor roll.

Accused murderer Darryl Littlejohn. Gunpoint robber Israel Suarez. Molester Darryl Rich.

Those are just some of the criminals who graduated from a bounty hunter school accused of aiding and abetting felons by putting fake NYPD and federal badges in their hands.

Students of U.S. Recovery Bureau schools paid $860 to learn how to wield a baton and subdue "fugitives" with pepper spray and cuffs.


Los Angeles Times: 'Michael Phelps' victory dance is innate, scientists say'

The best Olympics piece so far:

Chimps do it. Gorillas do it. Michael Phelps does it too."Chimps do it. Gorillas do it. Michael Phelps does it too.

The exuberant dance of victory -- arms thrust toward the sky and chest puffed out at a defeated opponent -- turns out to be an instinctive trait of all primates -- humans included, according to research released Monday. . . .

This display of human pride and exuberance -- witnessed by millions when swimmer Phelps and teammates won the men's 400-meter freestyle relay for the U.S. on Sunday -- closely resembles the dominance displays of chimps and monkeys, which also feature outstretched arms and exaggerated postures, researchers said.

The animal world is filled with inflated displays of superiority, noted Daniel M.T. Fessler, a UCLA anthropologist not involved in the research.


Newsday: 'A reminder of New York's GOP convention 4 years ago'

Weak headline, good story that actually applies historical context to a current event. More of a reminder than a scoop. Apparently unafraid to piss off those big bad NYPD officials, Rocco Parascandola plucks this one back from the memory hole:

The now infamous video footage that recently captured an NYPD rookie cop shoulder-checking a bicyclist to the ground during a Critical Mass bike rally recalls the prominence played by video footage at the Republican National Convention four years ago.

Largely because of videos that surfaced that sometimes differed with police accounts during those protests, the police department has paid out more than $1.6 million in damages won by those who sued the city.

At that rate, with 576 more suits pending, it could pay out $12 million more.

It's been four summers since the convention, four summers since Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called it the NYPD's "finest hour." Most of the 1,806 people arrested probably would disagree, and 1,555 of them have had their cases dismissed or adjourned to be dismissed later as long as they stayed out of trouble.


Times: 'Police Want Tight Security Zone at Ground Zero'

Via Charles V. Bagli's story:

Planners seeking to rebuild the World Trade Center have always envisioned that the 16-acre site would have a vibrant streetscape with distinctive buildings, shops and cultural institutions lining a newly restored street grid. From the destruction of Sept. 11, 2001, a new neighborhood teeming with life would be born.

But now, the Police Department's latest security proposal entails heavy restrictions.

According to a 36-page presentation given by top-ranking police officials in recent months, the entire area would be placed within a security zone, in which only specially screened taxis, limousines and cars would be allowed through "sally ports,” or barriers staffed by police officers, constructed at each of five entry points.

Disheartening, but is anybody really surprised by this?

Even if there had never been a 9/11, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who purchased the mayoral job, would support making this gloriously disordered city a gated community. And the NYPD, the most massive and powerful police bureaucracy in the country, loves the idea of hiring more troops for these security zones.

Everybody's happy.

By the way, Bloomberg adds, put out that cigarette.


New Yorker: 'Changing Lanes'

Elizabeth Kolbert's piece blasts McCain for swerving away from integrity. That's not such a big deal for any candidate, but her story's intriguing because it defends high gas prices. An excerpt:

If the hard truth is that the federal government can't do much to lower gas prices, the really hard truth is that it shouldn't try to. With just five per cent of the world's population, America accounts for twenty-five per cent of its oil use. This disproportionate consumption is one of the main reasons that the United States—until this year, when China overtook it—was the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. (Every barrel of oil burned adds roughly a thousand pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.) No matter how many warnings about the consequences were issued—by NASA, by the United Nations, by Al Gore, by the Pope—Americans seemed unfazed. Even as the Arctic ice cap visibly melted away, they bought bigger and bigger cars and drove them more and more miles.

The impact of rising fuel prices, by contrast, has been swift and appreciable. According to the latest figures from the Federal Highway Administration, during the first five months of this year Americans drove thirty billion fewer miles than they did during the same period last year. This marks the first time in a generation that vehicle miles in this country have edged downward.


Slate: 'The Afterlife for Scientologists: What will happen to Isaac Hayes' legendary soul?'

Nina Shen Rastogi's "Explainer" confirms that, according to Scientology officials, Chef's soul will be "born again into the flesh of another body."

Dibs!


NY Observer: 'What's Doctoroff Saying to City? It's a Secret'

Nice dig by Eliot Brown on his attempted dig for info:

Ever since he left the city for Bloomberg LP in January, there's a fair bit of chatter among government and real estate types about former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's continued role in the Bloomberg administration — just how much does he say to current city officials, and what is he saying?

The answer to those questions, it turns out, is not public information.


NY Observer: 'Rangel on Immigration, Bad Guys'

Azi Paybarah points out a Charlie Rangel video performance in which the vet congressman does some shrewd truth-telling:

Rangel references the law enforcement agents and officials who arrest undocumented workers, saying that those sheriffs and mayors are "bad guys" who work in "little towns around the country."

"All they want to do is arrest somebody and get on TV,” Rangel said, adding that the local economies rely heavily on the immigrants.

"They're working against their interests," he said. "It's almost like a slaveholder saying, 'Get rid of the slave, but we want them to work.”


Times: 'Cost-Cutting in New York and London, a Boom in India'

Heather Timmons's story notes:

Wall Street's losses are fast becoming India's gain. After outsourcing much of their back-office work to India, banks are now exporting data-intensive jobs from higher up the food chain to cities that cost less than New York, London and Hong Kong, either at their own offices or to third parties.

Yeah, it's a "food chain." Ridiculously overused metaphor, but interesting story for what it accidentally reveals about corporate jargon and, more importantly, what passes for "entry-level" jobs on Wall Street:

Bank executives call this shift "knowledge process outsourcing,” "off-shoring” or "high-value outsourcing.” . . .

The jobs most affected so far are those with grueling hours, traditionally done by fresh-faced business school graduates — research associates and junior bankers on deal-making teams — paid in the low to mid six figures.

Cost-cutting in New York and London has already been brutal thus far this year, and there is more to come in the next few months. New York City financial firms expect to hand out some $18 billion less in pay and benefits this year than 2007, the largest one-year drop ever. Over all, United States banks will cut 200,000 employees by 2009, the banking consultancy Celent said in April.

B-school grads stepping into six-figure jobs. You don't have to be a radical to note with grim humor the astounding inequity of wages on Wall Street for bullshit money-moving jobs vs. wages for the rest of us around the country who do more vital work (myself not included).

If Wall Street is smart (and recent events don't support that), it will start pouring more money into the McCain campaign, because there's no doubt that Barack Obama is less sympathetic to those six-figure B-school grads and more in tune with the rest of us.

Whether Obama would actually do anything about this inequity is another matter altogether, but there would be zero chance of such change under McCain.


Los Angeles Times: 'Kuwait royal family member sentenced to death'

The story about royal drug trafficker Talal Nasser al Sabah, now sentenced to death, notes:

Now everyone is watching to see whether the authorities will follow through on the ruling by the independent-minded judiciary or grant Talal the immunity considered a right by royal families throughout the gulf region.

"The people of Kuwait are impressed with the independence of the judiciary and trust, in general, its rulings," said Naser Sane, a Kuwaiti lawmaker. "In other Arab gulf nations, you don't see a court sentencing in this way a member of a ruling family."

In other words, if he's executed, it will be a step toward democracy. Only in the Middle East — and the U.S.

Actually, the best move for this guy would be to flee to the U.S. Yes, we have the death penalty, but George W. Bush could add him to his list of pardons for the end of his term.

You can be sure that this president, despite his having been the hangingest governor in U.S. history, will have an extremely interesting list of pardons. That list probably includes convicted spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard and a host of financiopathological miscreants.


Wall Street Journal: 'McCain Bristles Over Russia's "Aggression" '

Careful, old guy, don't get yourself aggravated. The Journal — worth the piddling online-subscription money for its superior news stories and analyses — recognizes that McCain's bluster, which it calls "an increasingly hard line against Russia over its military operations in Georgia," is a ploy to separate himself from Obama by focusing on foreign policy.

But it also points out that McCain has always been a hardliner:

Sen. McCain's comments were consistent with his long-held, stance against Russia, including his calls to have the country ejected from the G8, the Group of Seven leading nations plus Russia. The senator has taken a relatively hard line on many foreign policy issues, including supporting further sanctions on -- and possible military action against -- Iran and a no-negotiating policy toward North Korea.

Monday's tough rhetoric reflects a strategy by the McCain campaign to keep Georgia and foreign policy, which is seen as the senator's strength, at the forefront of the debate.

Shrewd strategy. This provides an out for white voters in thrall to the Mandingo Complex but unwilling to say it aloud: They can tell themselves that it's not a racial thing, that they really do prefer McCain because of his foreign-policy stances — ignoring his bellicose stance on the Iraq Debacle, with which they don't agree.

They can tell themselves that McCain has much more foreign policy experience, even though most of his experience was as a prisoner of war.

White voters can't say it's race — that would be impolite or it would be speaking ill of themselves. (For more on that, see what I pointed out yesterday: New York magazine's package on the color-coded campaign.)

Some of this internal thought process is conscious; some of it takes place in the subconscious. Whatever the case, this presidential race is about race. Bear with me while I remind you of this about a thousand more times before November.

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