Daily Flog: Settling for violence in Israel, settling for Palin over here

Good thing the U.S. and Britain passed those anti-terror laws a few years ago, because now they're coming in handy.

Predictably, those laws, many of them not only foolish but dangerous to rights, are now being applied to situations far removed from the so-called war on terror. In "Divided we stand: The ugly side of international banking," the Economist notes:

The collapse of the banking system in Iceland — a country that was recently listed as a spoof auction item on eBay — led the British government to make novel use of anti-terror laws to freeze Icelandic assets. It and the Dutch government have ended up lending money to Iceland so that their citizens can retrieve money from Landsbanki, one of the country’s nationalised banks.

Now if the U.S. would just use its own anti-terror laws to sweep all the bankers off Wall Street — they're our "persons of interest" these days.

Speaking of getting rid of Muslims, the hardening of the Jewish colonists' stance in Israel adds yet another threat to some sort of peace in the Middle East, despite the dovish words of various Israeli pols.

Of course, that hardline stance by extremist Jews was greatly aided during the Bush regime by the presence in the Pentagon of now-departed Doug Feith and other fanatical dual-disloyalists.

Another Economist story brings us up to date on the Arab-Jew death dance in a way that you won't read in the U.S. press. See "Settlers against a settlement," which describes the worsening situation and begins:

The policy proclaimed by young Jewish settler-militants on the West Bank is called "Price Tag." Whenever the Israeli army tries to dismantle settler outposts — even individual caravans or huts — that have not been authorised by the Israeli authorities, the militants retaliate violently. Not necessarily in the same place; they may hit Palestinians or soldiers somewhere else. They stone cars, smash windows, burn olive trees and fields. They attack villagers and shepherds, and tangle with the army and police.

Their aim is to persuade Israelis that no further forcible dismantlement of Jewish settlements is possible. When Ariel Sharon was prime minister, he did it once, in 2005, in the Gaza Strip and northern bits of the West Bank, evacuating 21 settlements, against little hard resistance. When Ehud Olmert, who succeeded him, demolished nine buildings at Amona, in 2006, thousands resisted. Now passive resistance is bolstered by physical retaliation.

You wouldn't know it to read the U.S. press, but there's a sizable peace movement among Jews in Israel and even over here. Check in with Americans for Peace Now, and you'll see.

Something else you maybe haven't read is Jane Mayer's inside look in the New Yorker at exactly how John McCain's campaign picked Sarah Palin. Here's a clue: Though Palin trumpets her being a Beltway outsider, it was her courting of insiders that did it. Hmmm . . . maybe she's a savvy politician after all. No. Anyway, see the reliable Mayer's story.

Meanwhile . . .


N.Y. Times: 'More Alzheimer’s Risk for Hispanics, Studies Suggest'

New Yorker: 'Undecided' (David Sedaris)

BBC: 'Rich and poor gap "narrows" in UK'

BBC: ' "More inequality" in rich nations'

New Yorker: 'The Insiders: How John McCain came to pick Sarah Palin' (Jane Mayer)


Economist (U.K.): 'The hind legs off a donkey: Who is the most long-winded presidential candidate?'

Washington Post: 'Black Turnout Could Decide House Races: Obama Poised to Help 10 White Democrats'

Economist (U.K.): 'More than Obama: Democrats could dominate Congress after the elections'

N.Y. Daily News: ' "Innocent little girl" is shot in back'


China Digital Times: 'Farewell to My "Reporter" Career'

Washington Post: '3 Agencies Vie for Oversight of Swaps Market'


BBC: 'Western diet "raises heart risk" '

China Digital Times: 'After Toy Factory Closure, Blame Game Begins'

Jurist: 'US seeking extended sentence for Guantanamo detainee Hamdan'

Jurist: 'Trial begins for Fort Dix plot suspects'

N.Y. Times: 'Signs of Easing Credit and Stimulus Talk Lift Wall Street'

N.Y. Times: 'In Bush Stronghold [North Carolina], Obama Pulls Even With McCain'

N.Y. Times: 'U.S. Is Said to Be Urging New Mergers in Banking'

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

Running down the press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Yorker: 'Let It Rain'

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

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


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

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

NY Observer: 'Palin and the Charlie Gibson Strategy'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Flog: 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 . . .


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.


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:


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."


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.

Daily Flog: Hamdan and yeggs, bodegas, gay couplings, Putin's march through Georgia, food on fine China

Running down the press:

Washington Post: 'Bin Laden Driver Gets 5½ Years; U.S. Sought 30'

Don't even bother with William Glaberson's weak and watery New York Times story. The WashPost's Jerry Markon and Josh White tell it like it is: a "stunning rebuke to prosecutors."

The only thing that seems out of whack about Salim Hamdan's sentence is that his 5½ -year term is shorter than the eight years we're serving as punk bitches under Bush and Cheney.

Is that fair? Give the guy a couple of more years.

In any case, one of many reasons that the WashPost story is superior — smooth, organized writing is another — is this passage, which can only be inferred from slogging through the stiff, cautious Times piece:

Hamdan's trial by the first U.S. military commission since World War II was viewed as a test case of a system that the administration has been pushing, despite fierce opposition and repeated delays, since just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The result -- a mixed verdict and an extraordinarily light sentence -- could raise questions about the administration's strategy of taking high-profile terrorism trials out of civilian courts and bringing them before the military.

The jury's decision could also be used by the administration, however, to counter allegations that the tribunals are unfair because the rules give great latitude to prosecutors.

Although Hamdan by most accounts was a minor figure -- even the judge called him "a small player" -- the military commissions to come will try the alleged perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks and other terrorist acts. It is unclear what the decision might mean for other cases.

For legal beagles, see Jurist for background links.

New York Observer: 'Does McCain Have a Chance in an Election About the Economy?'

Wrong-headed stuff from Jennifer Rubin:

Democrats are frustrated and Republicans are amazed: Barack Obama is not running away with the presidential race.

This is the presidential election, we have been told, that a Democrat can’t lose. The economy is in decline, with unemployment on the rise, President Bush’s approval ratings in the basement and virtually everyone convinced that America is “on the wrong track.” But the race remains tight, at least according to the polls.

The story's so careful to be color-blind when we know that America isn't so let's not act as if it were.

America still has a Negro in the woodpile. If Obama were white, he'd be crushing McCain right now.

This year's presidential race? It's the race, stupid.


C'mon, headline writers, get it together. That's almost as lame as today's hed in the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Packers, Favre begin a new era."

Be thankful that you're not stuck in Green Bay, where the cheese is redolent but the sportswriting stinks:

Green Bay Packers fans surely were stunned and some appalled when they saw Brett Favre holding up his signature No. 4 jersey for the cameras Thursday in Cleveland, but for the New York Jets and not for the Packers franchise he’s come to embody over the past 16 years.

Close the gates. Favre's the last immigrant from Green Bay allowed in our city.


I'm serious about closing the gates. We've got a bunch of religious nuts out there trying to bust up our gay pals' wedding plans:

It's not his call to make — and Gov. Paterson "sidestepped the democratic process" by ordering state agencies to recognize out-of-state gay marriages, a Christian legal group argued yesterday. "It's undisputed that marriage is with a man and a woman," Brian Raum, a lawyer for the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, told Bronx Supreme Court Judge Lucy Billings, using a standard dictionary definition in the complicated case.


Talk about taking a bite out of crime! For two years, a Brooklyn thug sat in an Oregon jail awaiting trial for a coldblooded murder, and all the fat felon could think about was food - a bucket of greasy chicken, a mouthful of lasagna, a slice of...

See the mug. The guy doesn't look chewish.


I detect a theme here.

Slate: 'On the Front Lines of the Global Food Crisis'

More food for thought: Up close and personal, a Punjab to the stomach.

Los Angeles Times: 'The New York bodega fights for its life'

Now I'm sure there's a theme.

Just yesterday (see the 8/7 Daily Flog), the New York Times told us about the rich snoots' crisis of not being able to drink at their high-priced places.

For the rest of us, Erika Hayasaki steps all the way back to California this morning to put perspective on our bodega crisis:

Across the city, a food crisis is unfolding in low-income neighborhoods, as one-third of New York's supermarkets have closed over the last five years, according to a recent city report. Most New Yorkers don't own cars; having a nearby store is important when grocery shopping means traveling by foot, cab or subway. Well-to-do residents who don't live near a supermarket can pay extra to order groceries online and have them delivered; poor residents must turn to the closest bodegas.

"The sales have been down for the last nine months," said Jose Fernandez, president of the Bodega Assn. of the United States, which claims membership of 7,800 of New York's 11,400 bodegas. A weakening economy and rising rents and food prices have forced many to close, he said; the number of bodegas in New York has decreased by nearly 1000 from two years ago, according to his organization's most recent tally.

For decades, bodegas -- the crowded corner stores started by Puerto Rican and Dominican entrepreneurs in the 1960s and 1970s -- have textured the backdrop of New York. The Spanish word comes from bodeguita, a general store in Latin America, and has come to refer to such New York shops owned by people of all ethnic backgrounds.

In the last decade, many Latino longtime shop owners have left to open bodegas in places like Pennsylvania, Rhode Island or Connecticut, or moved on to bigger businesses, passing their shops to other immigrant groups, including Koreans, Middle Easterners and the newest wave of Latino immigrants, Mexicans.

Guardian (U.K.): 'Georgia and Russia edge towards war over South Ossetia'

Cold Warriors are creaming in their jeans because someone is finally bombing Stalin's hometown. And it's Russia that's doing it!

This is some serious stuff going on the Caucasus, and naturally it's mostly ignored by the U.S. press, though the Times does report: "Fiercest Fighting in Years Near Georgian Border."

You want to know what's going on, this is from the Guardian:

Russia and Georgia edged towards war today after Vladimir Putin threatened retaliation for the killing of its peacekeepers and civilians during a Georgian military assault to regain control of rebel South Ossetia.

The Russian prime minister vowed to protect his citizens after Georgia launched an all-out bombardment of separatists in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, last night, a few hours after apparently agreeing to a ceasefire.

Russian forces including tanks and heavy weapons were concentrating on their side of the border with South Ossetia, the Associated Press reported.

The Georgian military said it would hold a three-hour ceasefire for civilians to leave the region.

Earlier, Georgian troops exchanged fire with convoys carrying volunteer fighters over the border to support the separatists. Planes, tanks and artillery bombed the city.

Georgia said several Russian SU-24 jets entered Georgian airspace and bombed two locations, south of the Ossetian enclave, including Gori, the birthplace of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Russia has denied the bombing.

Slate: 'Broken Windows: Farhad Manjoo takes readers' questions about Microsoft's sly new PR campaign for Vista.'

The daily newsprint press ignores at its own peril this kind of hybrid reporting on important topics.

What if you were forced to buy an SUV right now? That's what Bill Gates is trying to make you do by shoving Vista onto your mother-friggin'-board.

This Slate item is 21st century consumer news.

Slate: 'The Anthrax Truth Movement: The Web searches for holes in the FBI's latest lone-gunman theory'

Farhad Manjoo (yes, him again) calls it right:

The FBI's cartload of paper is unlikely to settle the case. Like 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination, the anthrax attack bears the hallmarks of a tragedy destined to spawn innumerable alternative theories: It's an event of world-changing consequence with a murky official narrative that can be construed, depending on your view of the government, as either pretty sensible or unbelievably bizarre. The FBI has outlined a classic "lone gunman" case.

Daily News: 'The 10 loudest political statements in Olympics history'

Mildly interesting after this intriguing David Hinckley lede:

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have spent a combined $11 million on advertising time on the NBC telecasts and cablecasts of the Olympic Games that formally open Friday in Beijing.

Because it's unusual for Presidential candidates to buy national television advertising time anywhere — it hasn't happened in a general election since Bob Dole bought one spot in 1996 — some viewers may be mildly surprised to see political messages popping up between a Greco-Roman wrestling match and the 400-meter semifinals.

New York Review of Books: 'China: Humiliation & the Olympics'

You want to try to understand China? No, let me put it another way, as a direct order: You want to try to understand China.

That's for the sake of your future and your children's future in a world in which China's burgeoning consumer class is elbowing the U.S. consumer class out of the way.

Avert your eyes from the glare of endless promos, ads, and Olympics coverage and read Orville Schell's piece.

And speaking of food, check out Schell's Modern Meat, his 1984 exposé of factory farming. You'll have to search out a printed copy. But that's OK. It's better to wait until after lunch to read this brilliant reporting on the meatpacking industry.

Daily Flog 8/5/08: Death of a smart Alek, crime by kids, mad scientists, veep intrigue, close shaves, kosher giraffes

Running down the press:

Daily News: 'Crime by kids soars - blame the iPhone'

Don't ever trust crime stats touted at NYPD press conferences, especially by a pinch-faced commissioner hungering to be mayor someday, but . . .:

Muggers are getting younger — and the iPhone is to blame.

Kids ages 11 to 19 make up a growing proportion of the crooks arrested this year for theft, fueled in part by a lust for the snazzy new phones, police said.

"The explosive popularity of these devices has also made them inviting targets for thefts. Teens are commonly the culprits as well as the victims," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Juveniles accounted for 29% of the 7,340 robbery arrests and 27% of the 4,566 grand larceny busts this year, an 8% jump in each category compared to this time last year, police said.

Electronics - mostly iPhones, iPods and Sidekicks - were the stolen booty in 20% of the robbery arrests and 12% of the grand larceny arrests.


Love the angle, and the Post and everyone else has posthumously convicted him, so what the hell:

The mad scientist suspected of orchestrating the deadly 2001 anthrax-letter spree was obsessed with a prestigious sorority that keeps an office just 300 feet from a Princeton, NJ, mailbox where the poisonous missives were dropped. Bruce Ivins' creepy fixation on Kappa Kappa Gamma may explain why he chose that spot - some 200 miles from his Frederick, Md., home and workplace - to mail the seven anthrax- laced letters that killed five people, sickened 17 and petrified a nation still reeling from the 9/11 terror attacks.

Ivins was obsessed with KKG going back to his college days at the University of Cincinnati, when he apparently was spurned by a woman in the Columbus-based sorority, US officials told The Associated Press - and the fixation never waned in the decades after he left with a Ph.D. in microbiology.

If you can't go Greek, go geek.

Daily News: 'Goats penetrate fence at heavily guarded base of Verrazano Bridge'

Obvious but fun:

Watch out for these weapons of grass destruction.

New Yorker: 'Deep In the Woods'

The best seven-year-old story today — and the best high ground amid the flood of lame stories about Russia "saying farewell" to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — is this reprise of editor David Remnick's August 2001 Letter from Moscow. This isn't from the lede, because the New Yorker doesn't deal in traditional nut grafs, but it does indicate that many people said their farewells to the gulag-bred polemicist years ago:

When [Boris] Yeltsin left office, on the eve of 2000, Solzhenitsyn was furious that the new President, Vladimir Putin, had granted his predecessor immunity from prosecution. Solzhenitsyn declared that Yeltsin "along with another one or two hundred people must be brought to book."

By now, Solzhenitsyn had managed to alienate almost everyone. The Communists despised him, of course, and the hard-line Russian nationalists, who had once hoped he would be their standard-bearer, found him too liberal. The liberals, who looked west for their models, could not take seriously Solzhenitsyn's derisory view of the West as a trove of useless materialism and a wasteland of spiritual emptiness. Nor could they abide conservative positions such as his support for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

When Solzhenitsyn first arrived in Moscow, his name was invoked as a possible successor to Yeltsin. This was always a fantasy, but it did indicate his enormous prestige. And yet with time, and with Solzhenitsyn's weekly exposure on television, the majority of the public soured on him or grew indifferent. His television appearances were cancelled. He fell in the political ratings and then disappeared from them. He began to appear less and less in public. But still he continued to write. I was able to obtain, through his sons Ignat, a concert pianist and conductor in Philadelphia, and Stephan, an urban-planning and environmental consultant in Boston, an advance copy of the first volume of "Two Hundred Years Together" and made plans to pay him a visit on the outer edge of the capital.

As it happened, I arrived in Moscow just after George W. Bush had met with Putin in Slovenia. . . .

You probably can't tell from the above excerpt, but nobody (including Hunter Thompson) wrote better first-person journalism since A.J. Liebling's The Earl of Louisiana (1961) than Remnick's Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (1993). Even if that turns out to be Remnick's high-water mark (and it probably will, because now he's an editor), what a high. Just about anything Remnick has written about Russia — not boxing, but Russia — is worth reading today. Even if, like this piece, it's seven years old.

New York Observer: 'VP Speculation Is Much Ado About Something'

A wonkish and pretty thorough history lesson from Steve Kornacki, including this:

A VP candidate whose selection captures the country's interest (in a positive way) and who performs skillfully in the fall debate can dramatically improve the public's instinctive, knee-jerk impression of the presidential candidate with whom he or she is running – making it much more likely that voters will view that presidential candidate favorably when they consider "the issues."

A terrific example of this is 2000. On the Republican side, [Dick] Cheney brought Bush a week's worth of favorable press about the wisdom he, an inexperienced and untested governor, had displayed in tapping such a wise and seasoned foreign policy master and his "gravitas." Cheney followed that up with a surprisingly strong and humorous showing in his VP debate with [Joe] Lieberman. It's impossible to quantify the effect Cheney had, and you certainly can't pinpoint it to one state or region. But his presence, and the press he received, almost certainly made many voters more receptive to Bush and his message.

Times: 'An Olympic Stadium Worth Remembering'

The Times promo'ed this review of Beijing's National Stadium with classic Gray-Lady-with-pince-nez phrasing:

The National Stadium reaffirms architecture's civilizing role in a nation that is struggling to forge a new identity out of a maelstrom of inner conflict.

Would you click to read more? Too bad, because Nicolai Ouroussoff's piece is considerably less pretentious (what isn't?) and starts out pretty damned well:

Given the astounding expectations piled upon the National Stadium, I'm surprised it hasn't collapsed under the strain.

More than 90,000 spectators will stream through its gates on Friday for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games; billions are expected to watch the fireworks on television. At the center of it all is this dazzling stadium, which is said to embody everything from China's muscle-flexing nationalism to a newfound cultural sophistication.

Times: 'Aux Barricades! France and the Jews'

Roger Cohen's op-ed piece adds a schmear of smut — the phrase "shaved Jewess" — to the Times. For the full flavor of a story practically ignored by the isolationist U.S. press, here are the first several grafs:

It's not quite the Dreyfus Affair, at least not yet. But France is divided again over power and the Jews.

While the United States has been debating the New Yorker's caricature of Barack Obama as a Muslim, France has gone off the deep end over a brief item in the country's leading satirical magazine portraying the relationship between President Nicolas Sarkozy's fast-rising son, Jean, and his Jewish fiancée.

The offending piece in Charlie Hebdo, a pillar of the left-libertarian media establishment, was penned last month by a 79-year-old columnist-cartoonist who goes by the name of Bob Siné. He described the plans — since denied — of Jean Sarkozy, 21, to convert to Judaism before marrying Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, an heiress to the fortune of the Darty electrical goods retailing chain.

"He'll go far in life, this little fellow!" Siné wrote of Sarkozy Jr.

He added, in a separate item on whether Muslims should abandon their traditions, that: "Honestly, between a Muslim in a chador and a shaved Jewess, my choice is made!"

Nobody paid attention for a week: Siné is a notorious provocateur whose strong pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist views have in the past crossed the line into anti-Semitism. I'd say he's far from alone in that among a certain French left.

But this is the summer, news is slow, and since a journalist at the weekly Le Nouvel Observateur denounced the article as "anti-Semitic" on July 8, France has worked itself into a fit of high intellectual dudgeon.

Forward: 'Ad Hoc Outreach Effort May Hinder McCain's Bid for Communal Vote'

From just about the only paper that covers establishment Jews' financial and political clout, some fascinating nuggets about not only McCain's campaign strategies but also Obama's and Bush Jr.'s. And unlike the blather from the mainstream press, these nuggets aren't first mined from the eager mouths of each campaign's flacks and "advisers." Anthony Weiss's July 31 lede:

In a year when polls suggest that Senator John McCain is positioned to garner more Jewish votes than any Republican candidate in the past two decades, his campaign is attempting to woo Jewish voters with a small, decentralized operation that critics are charging has no single address.

In contrast to the corporate discipline of George W. Bush in 2004 and the well-staffed ground operation of Democratic opponent Senator Barack Obama, McCain is counting on an ad hoc, almost informal approach to reaching Jewish voters. To date, the McCain campaign's Jewish outreach has been conducted through a combination of political donors and campaign surrogates that campaign insiders defend as reflecting sensitivity to needs on the ground.

And here's the context:

Some Republican Jewish insiders have criticized this approach, arguing that it has led to competing centers of influence and no clear lines of authority or communication. These critics point out that at this point in the 2004 campaign, the Bush campaign had dispatched Jewish outreach teams to several states, organized multiple fundraisers and was well into the planning stage for a Jewish leadership event at the Republican convention.

McCain's defenders respond that the senator is simply running a different campaign, reflecting both the aftermath of a chaotic primary season and McCain's own management style.

The debate comes in a year when a number of observers have suggested that McCain is uniquely well positioned to reach Jewish voters. Recent polls released by Gallup and by the left-leaning lobbying organization J Street both showed McCain running well for a Republican candidate, polling 29% and 32%, respectively. Supporters cite McCain's long record on Israel-related issues and national security, and McCain faces, in Barack Obama, a candidate who has struggled to define a positive image for himself in the Jewish community, particularly on issues related to Israel. Jewish voters could be especially significant in a number of potential swing states, particularly Pennsylvania and Florida.

But McCain's Jewish outreach also must go up against a formidable Obama operation that has had a staff member serving as a Jewish liaison for more than a year and began building a national grass-roots operation during the primary season.

Forward: 'Giraffe Milk Is Kosher'

Stanley Siegelman's Siegelmania column milchs this item for all it's worth. An Israeli rabbi declared that a giraffe "has all signs of a ritually pure animal, and the milk that forms curds strengthened that." Siegelman's resulting doggerel starts: "Imagine milking a giraffe! ..." Or, put another way:

Oysmelkn ken men a zhiraf?
Der moyekh zogt tsu unz: S'iz tough!
Di hoykhenish iz a problem,
Der nopl iz vayt avek (ahem!)

Di milkh iz yetst derklert nit treyf,
Der rebbe zogt der sheid iz safe.
A curd farmogt es — gantz O.K.!
Shray nit "gevald," shray nit "oy whey"!


Stefanie Cohen's hot-blooded take on a typically cold-blooded legal maneuver:

In a heartless legal maneuver, city lawyers say they shouldn't have to shell out too much cash to a man who was paralyzed from the neck down in the Staten Island Ferry crash because he's not going to live that long anyway, according to court papers.

James McMillan Jr., 44, has only 16 more years to live, according to a doctor hired by the city, and the lawyers hope a jury uses that number to determine what his payout should be, the papers show.

McMillan's lawyer, Evan Torgan, says his client, if properly cared for, could live much longer than that.

"The city paralyzed him, and now they're saying that he is going to die young because of the damage they caused," Torgan said. "They're turning a personal-injury case into a wrongful-death case."

An epidemiologist hired by the city, Michael DeVivo, wrote in court filings, "The injury has reduced Mr. McMillan's current life expectancy by 13.8 years or 46 percent."


Apparently it's open season on cult leaders. That's really too bad. It's also too bad that the story interjects predictable reaction quotes too high. Skip from the first graf . . .:

In a stunning verdict, a jury cleared ex-hippie Rebekah Johnson of all charges in the attempted murder of a Staten Island cult leader who was ambushed outside his home and shot six times as he begged for his life.
. . . to these grafs:

The jury rejected prosecutors' claims that an obsessed Johnson targeted Jeff Gross in May 2006 after he repeatedly booted her from the Ganas commune and rebuffed her demands for millions of dollars.

It was unclear whether the jurors cleared Johnson because they didn't think she fired the shots or because they believed she was the victim of cult brainwashing.

They made a hurried departure from the courthouse, declining to speak to reporters.


Good, all-purpose hed for a story on a lamster wannabe:

He thought his port-a-potty scam would leave him flush with cash. Instead, it got him thrown in the can.

An accountant for Tishman Construction will be indisposed in prison for the next seven years after pleading guilty yesterday to embezzling $2.8 million.

He altered checks payable to Mr. John, a company that deals in portable bathrooms, and made them payable to himself - Mr. John Hoeffner. . . .

Prosecutors said the suddenly-wealthy Hoeffner then blew hundreds of thousands of dollars on a girlfriend in Cali, Colombia.

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