Daily Flog: Future heads toward a sharp loss; robot monkeys mesmerized by TV

money-crushed175.jpgThe only market in New York City still functioning is the farmers' market in Union Square — at least it'd better be when I stop by later this morning to buy something from Apple Mary.

Wall Street? Don't even go there. Yesterday was its worst day since 1987 or 1937 or 1934, or 1642, depending on which panic-stricken "expert" you listen to.

Things continue to be "unprecedented" — a word that, as I've noted, pops up everywhere but unfortunately is not overused. What could be scarier than that? The Wall Street Journal trumpets one of its excellent stories this morning this way:

"U.S. Weighs Backing All Bank Deposits"

U.S. officials are discussing temporarily backing all U.S. bank deposits if economic conditions continue to worsen, a move that would mark another unprecedented step.

Depression? How about psychosis? Everywhere but in China, which stands to take over the world economy a lot sooner than expected. Only there are government officials able to step back and watch while Wall Street burns down and the fire spreads elsewhere. See McClatchy's 'China sits out global crisis, focusing on own growth.'

Here? Nothing but panic in the financial markets, and the shit's already rolling downhill. Return to America's best newspaper chain and see McClatchy's Kevin G. Hall: 'American heartland is suffering from Wall Street's woes.'

As for people who have to wear ties every day, the Washington Post's "Fears of Recession Deepen Rout: Stock Decline Sweeps Through All U.S. Sectors and Pummels Asian Markets," is stuffed full of paragraphs like this one:

"I've never seen a panic like this," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's. "I've seen stock market drops, but not an overall panic."

Don't go farther south into lower Manhattan than the Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill in the Village, where you can see the mysterious artist Banksy's exhibit of robotic pet hot dogs.

Read the N.Y. Times piece "Where Fish Sticks Swim Free and Chicken Nuggets Self-Dip," if you want, but stop by for what might be the most pertinent image: a robot rhesus monkey sitting with headphones on, mesmerized by a TV screen. He's supposed to be watching porn, but he's probably watching the BBC.

Glickenhaus160.jpgPerhaps the person who has the best perspective on the situation is Seth Glickenhaus, who was around during the Great Depression's inception. At 94, he's still picking stocks for his investment firm.

Exactly two years ago today, Barron's Sandra Ward extracted this overall analysis — mostly accurate — from Glickenhaus (read it at seekingalpha.com):

He's negative on the economy, citing: 1) High oil prices. 2) High insurance costs. 3) People holding adjustable-rate mortgages about to be hit with big increases. 4) Housing market decline. 5) Huge income disparity.
• "We are clearly at the end of [interest] rate increases."
• Companies are better managed today, and adjust to problems faster.
• Federal spending is dismally distorted toward military; talk of deficit reduction is absurd.
• War spending takes money away from constructive parts of market.
• He thinks the public is fed-up with Bush. • Oil might hit $200—in 2200!
• Japan and Europe will stagnate; India and China will continue to grow.
• He's more worried about deflation than inflation.

OK, so companies aren't better managed and they aren't adjusting faster. But Glickenhaus makes you think: You want to end the war in Iraq? Maybe we'll be too broke and will have to bring our troops home. Maybe when they get back here, they'll have to defend D.C. against a new Bonus Army. Maybe they'll want to stay over there rather than return to the U.S. only to find their families sitting on the curb after losing their homes. No, they'll surely want to get out of Iraq, even if it means they'll have to go on guard duty at banks here.

Only slightly less fearful than Iraq is the global panic, because there aren't any more poorhouses for us to go to. Go back to yesterday's news and read "Fear Trumps Greed as Market Woes Paralyze Economies," in which Bloomberg's Matthew Benjamin and Michael McKee deftly parse the psychology of the horrorshow "feedback loop" (as the BBC and others call it):

Investors are in the grip of a panic that psychologists and historians say isn't necessarily rational and may intensify. They aren't buying stocks, and more importantly, suddenly afraid they won't be repaid, they aren't making loans by buying bonds. Banks have also tightened credit.

"People are driven by images of the best and worst that can happen," says George Loewenstein, a professor of psychology and economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "The image of the worst is much more vivid in their minds right now." . . .

Normally, a little fear is a good thing, economists say. For decades after the 1930s, memories of the Great Depression tempered optimism and kept asset bubbles from growing too large.

Today's fears, however, have reached an intensity that magnifies every additional piece of information and creates a vicious circle, according to Hersh Shefrin, professor of behavioral finance at Santa Clara University in California.

There's plenty more in this adroit story:

Charles Geisst, a finance professor at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York, sees a parallel to 1932, with credit markets bad and the stock market falling just ahead of the presidential election that put Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House.

"But I'm not sure anyone is FDR this time," says Geisst, author of Wall Street: a History, who puts the possibility of another Great Depression at 50 percent. "I don't think either candidate has a clue what they're dealing with here. This is more than a political problem that's going to blow over."

So who should take a stab at trying to be the new FDR? Loudmouth stock expert Jim Cramer, as glib in print as he is on TV, opts for Barack Obama over John McCain. In his recent New York piece "Wall Street, Fall 2009," Cramer writes:

What will New York look like a year from now? The answer: bad and probably worse, and perhaps downright catastrophic. Three degrees of awful.

The first step was passing the bank-bailout legislation. Now that it's done — and if it didn't get done we would have been looking at a guaranteed economic collapse — the critical issue will be presidential leadership.

And while any president will be an improvement over the current one, there is a growing belief on Wall Street that Barack Obama has the capacity to lead us out of this wilderness while John McCain does not.

I'll go a step further: Obama is a recession. McCain is a depression.

That may well be, but America is a depression, not a recession.

Before the newspaper industry tanks and while I still have my computer, I've typed these headlines . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

OpenSecrets.org: 'Wall Street's Favorite Candidates'

Slate: 'Who Died and Made Bloomberg King of New York?'

N.Y. Post: ' "PEOPLE HAVE LOST ALL FAITH': 678-PT. DOW FALL PUTS YEAR'S LOSS NEAR 40 PERCENT'

Wall Street Journal: 'Futures Head Toward Sharp Losses'

N.Y. Daily News: 'With stock market falling, advice on what to do about 401(k)'

Wall Street Journal: 'U.S. Weighs Backing Bank Debt'

Wall Street Journal: 'At Morgan Stanley, Outlook Darkens; Stock Tumbles 26 Percent'

CNN: 'Smoke detected at Japanese nuclear plant'

Wall Street Journal: 'Finland's Martti Ahtisaari Wins Nobel Peace Prize'

N.Y. Post: 'PRAYING FOR ALMIGHTY $$'

Guardian (U.K.): 'Markets crash: How panic spread around the globe'

Wall Street Journal: 'Economists Expect Crisis to Deepen'

Guardian (U.K.): 'Huge bonuses for City high flyers will be hard to rein in'

CongressDaily: 'Senator urges suspension of Iraq publicity contracts'

Wall Street Journal: 'McCain Campaign Is at Odds Over Negative Attacks' Scope'

Wall Street Journal: 'AIG Increases Borrowings While Racing to Sell Assets'

China Digital Times: 'China Says it Won't Torture Guantanamo Detainees'

Detroit News: 'College students face barriers to voting'

N.Y. Times: 'States' Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal'

N.Y. Post: 'BAGHDAD GOES BOOM - IN STOX'

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

Running down the press:

Post: 'New York Shock Exchange'

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

Not only awful but an awesome sight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too late, of course.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Speaking of cement and death . . .

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

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


Daily News: 'The Milkman and His Wife'

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Daily Flog: McCain's speech; bikes and bloomers; three jeers for Giuliani

Running down the press:

I know I sound like a broken record by constantly flaying the New York Times for its political coverage, but it's the paper of record that is broken. And because the Times has such influence — particularly in other newsrooms — one can't help but parse the paper.

And nothing personal against Adam Nagourney (it's strictly business), but he's more of a recorder than a reporter, unlike the many fine front-line people on the Times staff. And his prose is amateur. I'm not the editor who chooses to rely on Nagourney for front-page political stories, so don't shoot the messenger.

OK, go ahead and shoot me. But before you lock and load, see this morning's coverage of John McCain's convention speech.

Nagourney's lede:

Senator John McCain accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday with a pledge to move the nation beyond “partisan rancor” and narrow self-interest in a speech in which he markedly toned down the blistering attacks on Senator Barack Obama that had filled the first nights of his convention.

Standing in the center of an arena here, surrounded by thousands of Republican delegates, Mr. McCain firmly signaled that he intended to seize the mantle of change Mr. Obama claimed in his own unlikely bid for his party’s nomination.

Now here's the Wall Street Journal's lede, proving that two heads (Jerry Seib and Laura Meckler) are less turgid than one:

Sen. John McCain claimed the Republican party nomination he has sought for almost a decade by pledging to rise above Washington's acrimony as president and strike a new tone by reaching across partisan divides.

The pledge, in a speech delivered to the closing night of his party's national convention here, was designed to help him launch the fall campaign by reclaiming the image of an agent of change in a year when voters are clamoring for one -- and at a time when his image as a maverick has been questioned.

Similar, but at least Seib and Meckler chose to detach themselves from simply recording McCain's comments by noting that the "pledge . . . was designed to help him launch the fall campaign." And they threw in some perspective by noting that McCain's "maverick" image is under fire.

Up high, in the fifth graf, they added this bit of interpretation:

To some extent, the success that Sen. McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has had in galvanizing the party's base here this week liberated Sen. McCain to reach beyond those voters to Democrats and independents in his own speech. Despite Sen. McCain's own calls for political peace, Gov. Palin and other speakers Wednesday night pressed a sustained attack against Democrats.

Yes, an explanation for McCain's relatively conciliatory and bridge-building words.

Nagourney does some interpreting, but he submerges it under his predictable recounting. He waits until the 12th graf to note:

Mr. McCain faced the challenge on Thursday of pivoting from making an appeal to Republican base voters to reaching out to the larger general election audience watching him. Accordingly, there were relatively few mentions of divisive social issues as he returned to the way he has historically presented himself: as an iconoclast willing to challenge his own party. That image was shaken this year as he as appeared to adjust some positions in navigating the primaries.

No mention of how the other Republicans' attacks freed McCain to sound like the Great Conciliator.

And on down in the story, Nagourney, as usual, gives McCain free publicity by saying straight out that his "strength as a candidate is his national-security experience and expertise." A good reporter would say that McCain says or claims that those are his strengths, instead of stating as fact what the candidate claims.

I'm so pedantic.

A dose of the Post is indicated, so moving on . . .


Post: 'TEACHER VANISH MYSTERY'

Don't you just love that terse, verb-less hed? The story is ominous:

A Harlem teacher has mysteriously disappeared - leaving behind her keys, wallet and ID - just days before the first day of school.

Hannah Upp, 23, a beautiful Bryn Mawr College graduate and a teaching fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Academy, has not been seen since Friday, according to worried friends and family who said she was eagerly awaiting the start of the new school year.


Post: 'TERROR-STRIP DEMO? UH, FAT CHANCE'

Not the usual blubber you'd find in staid papers, and so un-P.C. Picking a courtroom moment that other papers might not have even reported, let alone led with, Jennifer Fermino writes:

The lawyer for an MIT-educated terror suspect, describing herself as a "63-year-old fat woman," yesterday made a judge an offer he found easy to refuse — a strip-search demonstration. . . .

[Lawyer Elizabeth] Fink described her client [Aafia Siddiqui] as "incredibly damaged" - before leaping off her seat and attempting to show how prisoners have to squat and cough during a strip search.

"I can't really do this because I'm a 63-year-old fat woman," she apologized.

The judge said, "I think I know what a strip search is."

In addition to the search being uncomfortable, Fink claims the America-basher is too modest to strip for the guards because of her Muslim beliefs.

But the judge said the search, which is supposed to happen every time Siddiqui leaves her isolated cell, was the prison rule.


Daily News: 'Bashed bicyclist beats rap'

Good piece, starting with:

All charges will be dropped Friday against a bicyclist who was body slammed by a Manhattan cop in a shocking incident caught on YouTube, sources close to the case said.

Biker Christopher Long, 29, also will announce plans to sue the city over the unprovoked bashing in Times Square during a Critical Mass bike ride July 25.

The NYPD and prosecutors are still investigating rookie cop Patrick Pogan, 22, who was stripped of his gun and placed on desk duty after the video surfaced.


Daily News: 'Deutsche disgrace: Butts, beer found despite fire regulations'

Here's a story that won't make the cover of Cigar Aficionado:

A year after the deadly Deutsche Bank inferno - sparked by a tossed cigarette - inspectors have found evidence that workers are smoking and drinking inside the troubled tower.


New Yorker: 'Party Faithful: Can the Democrats get a foothold on the religious vote?'

Oh, the perils of working on a weekly. The mag's Philip Gourevitch talked with Palin a couple of weeks ago and now publishes his piece, which really is kind of a softball, but how was he to know back then that she would be chosen? And the mag's Peter J. Boyer, meanwhile, was working on a story about how the GOP's grip on evangelical voters might be slipping. How was he to know that the GOP would take care of that problem? At least Boyer managed to jam in the party's heaven-sent veep pick, probably past the mag's deadline, down low in his story:

McCain thrilled his conservative base further with the selection of the fervently Christian Governor Sarah Palin, of Alaska, as his Vice-Presidential nominee. (“A home run,” [Ralph] Reed declared to the Times, and [James] Dobson called the choice “outstanding.”)

Worth reading anyway.


Huffington Post: 'Sebelius Accuses Palin Of Deceiving Voters'

Lame headline but good precursor by Seth Colter Walls of what the Democrats will do more and more of: release Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius to hound the much more lightweight Palin.


McClatchy: 'Community organizers protest mocking by GOP speakers'

Always with the sharp angles, McClatchy nabs this one. William Douglas's story is datelined St. Paul, but it zooms in on New Yorkers:

New York resident Elana Shneyer said she watched with anger and anguish as her former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and Sarah Palin mocked Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer, reducing the job to little more than a punch line in their convention speeches.

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities," Palin said in her convention speech.

Giuliani took a jab at Obama earlier Wednesday evening, saying that his community organizing work might be "the first problem of his resume." . . .

Other community organizers across the country bristled at Giuliani's and Palin's speeches, saying that they showed little respect for organizers and little knowledge of the contributions of community organizers in the civil rights and women's movements.

And once again we see what kind of shameless hypocrite Rudy Giuliani is for now sneering at community activists — he's even more of a lying hypocrite than most other pols:

"We're the Rodney Dangerfields," said Richard Green, the director of Brooklyn, N.Y., Crown Heights Youth Collective. "Crime goes down, drug use goes down, and we never get credit for our work. After all, community organizers don't do real work, they don't have any real expenses, and they're not real people."

Green, however, remembers getting a public pat on the back for his work from Giuliani.

In his book Leadership, Giuliani praised Green for working with City Hall and Jewish community organizers for keeping the 1994 Brooklyn West Indian-American Day Parade, which ran through a racially torn Crown Heights neighborhood.

This is a better story than the Daily News's version, 'Community groups hammer Rudy Giuliani & slam Sarah Palin.'

But in attempting to get the other side of his story, Michael Saul does accidentally reveal the presence of one of the main gurus for "compassionate conservative" George W. Bush in the Empire State Building:

Marvin Olasky, a former informal adviser to President Bush and the provost at Christian-oriented King's College, located in the Empire State Building, said community organizing is "somewhat of a euphemism for leftist change." It's different from faith-based groups, he said.

"If folks in the community organizing movement are astonished that a conservative criticizes that, then they don't understand America," he said. "Anyone who is indignant about it is either uniformed or faking indignation."

Last I knew, Olasky — a former Commie Jew who crossed over to the other extreme and became a hardline conservative Christian (see my February 2005 item) — was a journalism professor in Texas. I didn't realize that this fervent evangelical has returned to his East Coast roots to convert Godless New Yorkers from a perch in a skyscraper that reaches into Heaven.

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.

Obama and the Race Card

New York mag's new clump of articles, under the rubric "Race: The Impossible Conversation (But Here Goes . . .)," finally drags the elephant in the living room into full view.

I wrote last Friday, referring to the press's tap dance around the issue, that "it's the race, stupid," but John Heilemann doesn't dance around in the lead piece, "The Color-Coded Campaign: Why isn't Obama doing better in the polls? The answer no one wants to hear."

Here's a morsel:

Call me crazy, but isn't it possible, just possible, that Obama's lead is being inhibited by the fact that he is, you know, black? "Of course it is," says another prominent Republican operative. "It's the thing that nobody wants to talk about, but it's obviously a huge factor."

The desire to ignore the elephant in the room is easy to understand, but Obama will not have that luxury. With the Jeremiah Wright fiasco, Obama was stripped of his post-racial image, transformed in the eyes of many whites from a candidate who happened to be black into a black candidate. And now he faces a Republican machine intent on blackening him further still.

Heilemann adds:

Obama has to make the country comfortable with the most unusual profile of any person ever to come within spitting distance of occupying the White House—while at the same time preventing the election from becoming a race consumed by race.

Part of the package is Patricia J. Williams's fluent "Talking About Not Talking About Race." I'd quibble with this "post-racial" thing that she and Heilemann bandy about. But that's not an egregious fault. Williams uses sociology (though not, thankfully, the worst of sociologists' jargon) to write about the "race card," particularly the unspoken one:

This is a complicated monkey wrench in our supposedly post-race society. On the one hand, everyone knows that race matters to a greater or lesser degree; on the other, few of us want to admit it. Indeed, race is the one topic that's probably even more taboo in polite company than sex.

Yet in the absence of fact or frank conversation, grown people get buried in the kind of whispered fear, fantasy, and ignorant mistake that a 5-year-old makes when explaining how icky it was when Daddy got Mommy pregnant using the garden hose and a large bowl of avocados.

Is this misinformation really so different from when Fox News and Karl Rove fill in the blanks of those awkward silences with images of the perpetually pantyless Paris Hilton rocking the foundations of our civilization on the same stage as Barack Hussein Osama, oops, I mean Obama. This is racial pornography that exploits the barely suppressed caverns of imagined horrors that have haunted us since D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation.

For a magazine that's been particularly ditzy and lame lately, this is a good package — just about as good as the one that fearful white males probably think Obama has.

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