Voices in the wilderness: Bill Moyers and Simon Johnson take on 'American oligarchs'

Lost in the babble about the Wall Street rubble was last week's provocative piece on Bill Moyers Journal. Beyond its hackneyed title, "Following the Money," it gets to the heart of the global financial meltdown (video, transcript).

Last night's Frontline episode, "Inside the Meltdown," was an interesting recap about last fall's crash, but it didn't make a point that we hadn't heard before, and it focused on the agony felt by Hank Paulson. Moyers's February 13 chat with economist Simon Johnson, also on PBS, got far less press but delivered much more meat.

Johnson's point: Bailing out the banks by yielding to ex-banker Paulson's pals, is actually bailing out America's oligarchs, and it's a bad idea. A better idea? Bust 'em up. >>MORE

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Bush makes Iraqis want to hurl

PRESS CLIPSAs various felonious and/or dumb-ass pols and athletes would say, let's try to get that sandalous incident in Baghdad behind us:

George W. Bush got the boot Sunday in Iraq.

(Chorus) Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah.

If the shoe hits, wear it.


No matter what size the shoes were, they're too big for Bush to fill.


Just the presence of Bush makes you want to hurl.


OK, that's enough for now. See my item yesterday for more (and for photos and a video link).

I'm even more embarrassed that, along with most others, I ignored the fact that of course Barack Obama's shark, Rahm Emanuel, had dealt with Illinois Governor Rod "Obama is a Motherfucker" Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy.

Obama was certainly careful not to ignore it, when he said last Thursday, "I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I am confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat."

Deals, no, Dealings, yes. Nothing nefarious about having to deal with the guy who has the power to name someone to Obama's Senate seat. It would be shocking if Emanuel hadn't talked with Blago about it.

Speaking of throwing shoes, that's too good for Bernie Madoff. He needs to be beaten like a red-headed stepchild.

But the real whippings should be reserved for those banks, institutional investors, and already rich machers from Palm Beach to Beverly Hills to London to Geneva to New York who invested with the guy.

Here's the SEC complaint against Madoff.

But where was the SEC a decade ago? As the Wall Street Journal reported last week:

An executive in the securities industry, Harry Markopolos, contacted the SEC's Boston office in May 1999, urging regulators to investigate Mr. Madoff. Mr. Markopolos continued to pursue his accusations over the past nine years, he said in an interview on Thursday, and according to documents he sent to the SEC that were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

"Bernie Madoff's returns aren't real and if they are real, then they would almost certainly have been generated by front-running customer order flow from the broker-dealer arm of Madoff Investment Securities LLC," Mr. Markopolos wrote to the SEC in November 2005.

Finally, a hero on Wall Street.

But don't blame only the SEC. Wall Streeters and the pols in their pockets have for years tried to de-fang the SEC by reducing its funding and luring away top regulators with higher-paying jobs and having them lobby their old pals.

A steady drumbeat of "Deregulate, deregulate" was all you heard from Wall Street for decades. This is what happens when you don't regulate.

While you figure out how protect your millions from scamsters like Madoff ...


Agence France Presse: 'Alwaleed still leads Arab tycoons despite losses'

Wall Street Journal: 'Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web'

Google has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content.


Times (U.K.): 'Bush says he saw "sole" of Iraqi shoe attacker'

Throwing shoes is particularly insulting in the Middle East — a crowd of Iraqis used their shoes to whack a toppled statue of Saddam Hussein after the 2003 invasion — and [Muntazer] al-Zaidi was today hailed as a hero across the region while colleagues called for his release. ...

His television station, Al-Baghdadia, repeatedly aired pleas for his release today while showing footage of explosions and playing background music that denounced the US presence in Iraq. ...

Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the influential London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote on the newspaper's website that the incident was "a proper goodbye for a war criminal".

Abdel-Sattar Qassem, a political science professor at An Najah University in the West Bank town of Nablus, added: "This great Arab shoe sums up the history of the criminal Bush, who is responsible for the loss of lives of hundreds of thousands of Islamic sons and who remained arrogant, spiteful and mean-spirited until the last moment of his term."

Guardian (U.K.): 'George Bush: US will not walk away from Afghanistan'

Agence France Presse: 'Lebanese send more money home in 2008, but crisis may slow remittances'

Wall Street Journal: 'Emanuel, Blagojevich Aides Discussed Senate Seat: After Election, Obama Team Relayed List of Acceptable Candidates; No Evidence There Was Any Illegal Quid Pro Quo'


Wall Street Journal: 'Losses in Madoff Case Spread'

... In the wealthy Florida enclave of Palm Beach, four multimillion-dollar condos at Two Breakers Row, a peach-colored complex just north of the landmark Breakers hotel, on Friday and Saturday were put up for sale by owners who had invested with Mr. Madoff, said Nadine House, a prominent local real-estate agent.

Agence France Presse: 'Journalist hurls shoes at 'dog' Bush during surprise Iraq visit'

Washington Post: 'Bush Defends Iraq War During a Farewell Visit: Iraqi Journalist Hurls Two Shoes at Bush During Press Conference With Al-Maliki'

Wall Street Journal: 'SEC Had Chances for Years to Expose Madoff's Alleged Ponzi Scheme'

Economist (U.K.): 'Ponzi squared: Just when Wall Street needs it least, Bernie Madoff's pyramid scheme takes financial fraud to new lows'

Followers of the past year and a half's financial misadventures have become inured to bucketfuls of red ink. Even so, the potential losses from the scam perpetrated by Bernie Madoff, a Wall Street veteran, are jaw-dropping.

The $17 billion of investors' funds that his firm supposedly held earlier this year have all but evaporated and the hole could be as big as $50 billion. That would make it the biggest financial fraud in history.

Scotsman (U.K.): 'Banks braced for Madoff impact' (Martin Flanagan)

Great Dr Strangelove-type name for an alleged corporate fraudster of the highest echelon, isn't it? "Madoff." ...

It will certainly vindicate those who believed the next big domino waiting to fall in the banking game after sub-prime would be banks playing footsie, even indirectly, with hedge funds.

Moving over for Henry Waxman

In happier days, John Dingell dunks donuts with Rahm Emanuel.

Finally, some of this change we've been hearing about: Henry Waxman has ousted John Dingell as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Waxman is said to be on board Barack Obama's express train to somewhere, and in this far-reaching and powerful House post he'll have plenty of opportunity to prove he's something more than just a really good watchdog.

Dingell, an old-school Democrat from Michigan who has done a lot of huffin' and puffin' for nothin' for the past few decades on Energy and Commerce, finally got so senior that even the cherished seniority system couldn't save him.

The guy is 81, after all, and he's the longest-serving House member in history — and by default one of its most powerful current members.

Dingell's practically royalty. He succeeded his dad, John Sr., in 1955 after Pop served 22 years in the job.

Yes, he deserves kudos for honking his horn all these years, but he's in the slow lane. His wife, Debbie (who was born the year he was elected to Congress), was a lobbyist for soon-to-be-bankrupt GM, and Dingell hasn't exactly been known as a crusader against Detroit automakers.

(Semi-humorous aside: Back in 1992, Debbie Dingell recalled for Time how she was able to switch jobs at GM from lobbyist to something else so she and John could try to avoid conflict of interest allegations. She said back then, "Fortunately, GM is large enough that I could change jobs." Unfortunately for GM's current employees, the whole damn company's about to shrink into nothingness.)

Now for Waxman: He's the Democrats' true Beverly Hills cop. Yes, the people in his district walk around with cashmere sweaters draped around their well-toned shoulders, but Waxman is a scruffy little ill-mannered terrier the way he pokes his snout into the government's dark recesses and barks warnings.

The California congressman has been either the ranking member or chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee for years, and it's not his fault that there's been little of either during that time. Time after time the guy's probes have revealed chicanery that the rest of Congress has chosen to ignore.

I've written about the guy's heroic investigations numerous times. Try this item, about U.S. corruption in Iraq.

Obama won't have to tell the energetic Waxman to get busy. The question is whether Waxman is as good at finessing good deals as he is at sniffing out the bad ones.

Henry Paulson ends bailouts, saying, 'Mission accomplished!'

... while Rahm Emanuel reads Wall Street CEOs the riot act

Across the nation, Americans are celebrating the end of the Wall Street War. The big bankers are saved!

No more bailouts, says Henry Paulson.

In "Has the worst of financial crisis passed? Paulson says yes," McClatchy's Kevin G. Hall writes this morning:

Taking care not to declare victory, the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the secretary of the treasury told Congress on Tuesday that the unprecedented rescue efforts over the past eight weeks appear to have prevented the collapse of financial markets and returned them to a semblance of normalcy.

Yes, if by "normalcy" you mean astounding numbers of foreclosures, massive budget cuts in every state from South Dakota to South Carolina, layoffs of hundreds of thousands of people, outrageously high mortgage payments still due on houses that are suddenly worth nothing.

In essence, Paulson really did declare victory. Now, who exactly is going to make Wall Street safe for democracy?

Listening to Paulson announce the end of the Great Bailout of '08 is like listening to George W. Bush on May 1, 2003, when he declared, "Mission accomplished!"

One difference: Bush was in his cute little military playsuit, and Paulson was wearing his normal coat and tie.

One similarity: More Americans have suffered in Iraq since Bush declared victory, and more Americans will be suffering here in the States since Paulson's hailing of a return to normalcy.

One big difference: In Iraq, the government at least tried to stop suicide bombers or hunted down their colleagues afterwards.

Over here, it was the investment bankers who blew up Wall Street, and the federal government stepped in to hand over billions of dollars to help those suicide bombers who survived.

Paulson patched the potholes on Wall Street — mission accomplished. What about the collateral damage? Helpless civilians in Iraq, helpless civilians here in the States.

Not only are Americans losing their homes at record rates, but the collateral damage from Wall Street's suicidal behavior is immense. States and cities have drastically slashed budgets, which means that vital public services like education, health, and mass transit are of course the first to go. Who's fraggin' whom?

Contrary to what Paulson says, the war is not over, despite the fact that Wall Street is pulling out jobs from under us.

One sign that the conflict isn't over is that for the first time in decades, an emissary of a U.S. president came to Wall Street and read CEOs the riot act. Straight up, Rahm Emanuel called on them to support — gasp! — universal health care.

What is he, some sort of Commie?

In "Emanuel Sets a Challenge," the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman writes:

Since the president-elect named Mr. Emanuel his chief of staff, the famously voluble Chicago congressman has limited his public appearances and strained to stay out of the news. But on Tuesday night, he was combative with a business audience.

He was asked his views on the push by labor unions to allow workplaces to be organized with the signing of cards attesting to union support rather than a secret ballot. Mr. Emanuel declined to say whether the White House would support the legislation, but he said the unions are addressing the concerns of a middle class that has seen U.S. median income slide over the past eight years, while health care, energy and education costs have soared.

He said business leaders should help find solutions to the middle-class squeeze or face a revolt. "We need a strategy as a country to make sure they have an opportunity to move up that ladder," he said. . . .

He stressed that the new administration would "throw long and deep," taking advantage of the economic crisis to push wholesale changes in health care, taxes, financial re-regulation and energy. "The American people in two successive elections have voted for change, and change cannot be allowed to die on the doorsteps of Washington," Mr. Emanuel said.

True, Emanuel also left the big cigars with a we're-all-in-this-together message:

"I want you to know, I've got your back," he told them. "I'll feel better knowing that you've got my back."

You can only hope that Emanuel, said to be a ruthless operative, was simply channeling the similarly ruthless Michael Corleone's words to Frankie Five Angels, "Keep your friends close — and your enemies closer."

If Emanuel's true to his words of praise for unions looking out for the middle class while businessmen aren't, then these CEOs had better watch their own backs.

If there's no CEO currently within your reach, take a stab at these stories . . .


N.Y. Times: 'For More of Mexico’s Wealthy, Cost of Living Includes Guards'

Jewish Daily Forward: 'Yid Vid: Natalie Portman and Rashida Jones Address the Economic Crisis'

A Glimpse of the World (Howard W. French): 'Obama and Africa: The Change We Have Been Waiting For?'

[A] new war looms in the Congo, a place where unbeknown to most Americans the United States has played a critical and mostly disastrous role since independence from Belgium in 1960. According to respectable international estimates some four million people have died in the Congo as a result of wars there since 1996, the greatest toll anywhere since World War II.

There is a powerful argument to be made that this disaster, along with the Rwandan genocide that preceded it, is Bill Clinton’s most important foreign policy legacy, and an Obama policy toward Africa run by many of the same people and carrying forward Clinton era thinking would be a sign of disdain for the continent and its problems.

McClatchy: 'Why not let Detroit's Big Three go bankrupt?'

N.Y. Daily News: 'MTA's in fast lane for big hike'

Express bus riders are looking at $7.50 per trip, up from $5, under the plan being released by the MTA tomorrow, according to sources.

"What, are they insane?" Liz Salsbury said as she boarded an express bus to Queens in midtown Tuesday.

McClatchy: 'America could get its first black attorney general'

Wall Street Journal: 'Emanuel Sets a Challenge'

President-elect Barack Obama's incoming White House chief of staff challenged chief executives and other business leaders Tuesday night to join the new administration in a push for universal health care, saying incremental increases in coverage won't be acceptable.

McClatchy: 'Taxpayers will pay for Gonzales' private attorney'

McClatchy: 'Under Iraq troop pact, U.S. can't leave any forces behind'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Court clerk indicted in mortgage scam'

McClatchy: 'Has the worst of financial crisis passed? Paulson says yes.'

Washington Post: 'Why Clinton Can't Decide'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Ex-Clinton deputy Holder hailed as "smart" and "fair" guy'

N.Y. Times: 'Holder Seen as Justice Choice as Obama Forms Team'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Teachers rule again: School jobs steady as others decline'

Wall Street Journal: 'Top Traders Still Expect the Cash: Wall Street CEOs Are Giving Up Pay, but Hotshots Are Another Story'

Daily Flog: Democrats go shopping for GM; Obama storms White House

After decades in which every day was Christmas for U.S. automakers, they're now looking for the biggest gift of all: a huge bailout from the federal government.

As if they haven't been bailed out before with a steady stream of federal money. This morning's New York Times story by Jackie Calmes does not tell it all. She writes:

Mr. Bush has drawn his line at the automakers' doors, having already been forced to shelve the free-market principles of his Republican Party to bail out the financial industry over the past two months. But Republicans say he would acquiesce in aid to automakers in return for Congress’s ratification of the Colombia pact and pending trade agreements with Panama and South Korea.

"Free-market principles"? No mention in the Times story of the highways we built at the automakers' insistence.

The auto industry has long depended on corporate welfare, including the Interstate Highway System, launched by the Eisenhower Administration in 1956. Ninety percent of the cost of interstate highways is paid for with federal funds, on the backs of drivers' gasoline taxes. We needed all that gasoline because Detroit marketed those big and beautiful — and gas-guzzling — cars to us, while sneering for decades at the more economical models produced by Japanese and German automakers.

Automakers lobbied the White House and Congress 50 years ago to build those highways, which doomed intercity railroad passenger service, not to mention intracity trolleys and streetcars, and which led to the fungal growth of strip malls, which simply hastened white flight to the suburbs, which doomed inner cities by leaving it to poor people to pay the high price of cities' infrastructure and school systems.

While we built highways for their vehicles, the automakers were more than willing to see mass-transit systems wither — systems that cities are now having to restore or build from scratch.

Back in the '50s, the British looked at urban congestion and saw too many cars. We looked at urban congestion and saw not enough roads. That's the analysis by Professor Peter Norton in his 1996 study "Fighting Traffic: U.S. Transportation Policy and Urban Congestion, 1955-1970."

New president Barack Obama and other Democrats favor the bailout of Detroit, and at this point they have little choice. This is typical of the decisions that the Obama Administration will have to make: It will have to continue the corporate welfare that made our country's corporations strong. You can only hope that the rest of us get a taste of this largesse, for which we're footing the bill.

Bush's handlers, of course, want a tradeoff: Yes, the current regime will bail out Detroit if the Democrats agree to a free-trade agreement with Colombia.

Obama enforcer Rahm Emanuel has already signaled opposition to that tradeoff.

But don't we already have free trade with Colombia? Its narcotrafficantes send us cocaine, which we convert to crack and sell to poor people, and then we send them cash. That's how a free market operates, unless the government intervenes.

Will GM survive the year? It says it needs its Christmas present early. And not just a shiny red truck, Uncle Santa. It wants the money to keep building the truck.

Just say maybe to the bailout, and then read on . . .


Salon: 'The elusive Team Obama'
"It's proving difficult to peer inside Obama's still tightly closed Cabinet. But so far his presidential transition has looked deliberate and impressive."

ZDNet Asia: 'Italy charges Google officials over taunting video'

N.Y. Times: 'Obama Asks Bush to Provide Help for Automakers'

Guardian (U.K.): 'Palin hopes God will "show her the door" to the White House'

AP: 'Catholic bishops re-examining message after vote'
"U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, meeting a week after the election, are re-examining how they explain church teaching after President-elect Obama, who supports abortion rights, won a majority of Catholic votes.

"During the campaign, many bishops had spoken out on abortion more forcefully than they had in 2004, telling Catholic politicians and voters that abortion should be the most important consideration in setting policy and deciding which candidate to back.

"Yet, according to exit polls, 54 percent of Catholics chose Obama, who is Protestant, and Vice President-elect Biden, who is Catholic. Biden also thinks abortion should be legal.

"Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, of New York City, said that chairmen of the bishops' national committees met privately Monday morning to begin looking at the issue. A public discussion was set for Tuesday afternoon, the final open session of the bishops' fall meeting."

Reuters: 'Diarrhea bacteria common in hospitals: survey'

Slate: 'You Are Now Friends With Barack Obama: Will the White House Web site work as a social network?'

Wall Street Journal: 'AmEx Plans To Become Bank Firm'


Daily Star (Lebanon): 'Baghdad bombing claims 28, including several schoolgirls'

BBC: 'Pakistan militants seize Humvees'

Daily Star (Lebanon): 'Massive Chinese stimulus package brings investors back to markets: But bad news still flowing from France, Italy and Japan'


Daily Star (Lebanon): 'Olmert repeats call for pullout from occupied Arab land'

Bloomberg: 'Revised AIG Terms Begin Treasury Transfusions to "Zombie" Firms'

McClatchy: 'Baghdad street sweepers clear bodies after bombings'

BBC: 'Obama and the rest of the world'
"Long before Americans went to the polls, the world had already chosen Barack Obama as the next president of the United States."

Daily Star (Lebanon): 'Israel cuts off fuel supplies to energy-starved Gaza'

Daily Star (Lebanon): 'Problems at Kuwait's Gulf Bank 'totally under control'
"The central bank of Kuwait said on Monday the crisis at the Gulf Bank, which incurred losses from derivatives deals, is 'totally under control.' Shares in Kuwait's second largest lender remain suspended on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange for a third week following the losses, estimated by local media at around $1 billion."

Daily Star (Lebanon): 'UN workshop urges Lebanese journalists to try being objective'
"Journalists working for Lebanon's highly politicized media outlets met in Beirut on Monday for a United Nations-backed workshop designed to encourage the objective reporting of conflict. Lebanon's media has been criticized in the past for its biased and confessional nature, which has seen news outlets lend their overt support to feuding political factions rather than offer an objective appraisal of events in the country."

Washington Post: 'Earbuds May be Hazardous to Your Heart'

McClatchy: 'Europe expects to flex its muscle at financial summit'

Wall Street Journal: 'Crying Wolf About the 'Big One' Hasn't Worked, So Let's Party: Geologists Try a Light Touch and Sign Up Millions for an Earthquake Drill in L.A.'

Wall Street Journal: 'Citi to Modify Terms for U.S. Mortgages'

Wall Street Journal: 'Goldman Hits 5½-Year Low Over Worries About Profits'

McClatchy: 'Rivalry breaks out over Congress' top energy spot'

Washington Post: 'Fannie, AIG Struggle After Federal Takeover'

Daily Flog: Obama installs Rahm to boot up Congress

Obama's got his Luca Brasi, so what's the problem?

The president-elect's choice of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff sparked criticism of "partisanship."

As we slide deeper into a recession, Emanuel had better be partisan if he wants to get anything done as Obama's hit man. Emanuel is a shrewd — though entirely predictable — choice for Obama.

Though I hate to quote party flacks, Paul Begala has the best description. As the New York Post says this morning, Begala has described Emanuel as "cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache":

Over the last 15 years, the hot-tempered Chicago congressman has been one of the Democratic Party's most formidable brawlers, a political force of nature known for tabletop tirades and unabashed fund-raising.

At least Emanuel's not a direct-mail, ideological dirty trickster like George W. Bush's deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.

And unlike Bush's putative chiefs of staff (Andy Card and Josh Bolten), Emanuel comes to the job as an experienced and powerful congressman. Think of a Luca Brasi who's also a smart bagman. Think of a hemorrhoid that can also twist your arms.

The criticism from Republicans doesn't mean anything; they're merely the disloyal opposition. Partisanship? It's the Democrats in Congress who have more to fear as Emanuel works to keep them in line with Obama's agenda.

OK, so Don Corleone's Luca Brasi wound up sleeping with the fishes pretty early on. Expect Obama's enforcer to last longer and to produce plenty of sleepless nights among Capitol Hill's Democrats.

Just be glad that you're not cowering in your office dreading that next phone call from Rahm Emanuel. Obama may be as cool as the other side of the pillow, but Emanuel is no comforter.

Assuming the new chief of staff doesn't have your number, you can relax and click . . .


N.Y. Daily News: 'Yanks caught stealin' from taxpayers again' (Juan Gonzalez)


New York: 'Can The Daily Show Survive the Barack Obama Presidency?'
"It's no secret that plenty of satirical outlets — Saturday Night Live, the Onion, late-night talk shows — have had trouble finding good Obama jokes. But we're not forecasting their doom. The Daily Show is unique, though, in its audience and in its comedic approach, and we're very worried that an Obama presidency might send Jon Stewart's show speedily on the road to obsolescence. . . .

"If President Obama's administration is the love-in that progressives hope it will be, we think it's awfully unlikely Stewart's heart will be in Obama-bashing. The guy teared up at eleven on Election Night! Not that we didn't, but still. . . .

"That the real highlight of Election Night was Stephen Colbert's begging a cockatoo to slit his throat suggests that the balance of power on the Stewart-Colbert axis might have shifted. We can see a future in which The Colbert Report becomes Comedy Central's late-night star, mixing Dadaist whimsy with legitimate critique of the Obama administration."

Register (U.K.): 'US Air Force online ad theme: "Horror Meets Comedy" '
"In a move which you simply couldn't make up, the US Air Force has announced that it will partner with Microsoft to advertise itself on the Xbox under the banner 'Horror Meets Comedy.' The deal will see the USAF sponsoring a series of short films for viewing on the Xbox Live online portal."

Register (U.K.): 'US admiral wants "pain-ray" guns for Gulf fleet'
"A US admiral has called for American warships operating in the Middle East to be equipped with microwave 'pain ray' cannons to avoid using overwhelming lethal force."

Register (U.K.): 'Palin didn't know Africa is a continent, McCain aides say — Needed work on North America too'
"Sarah Palin raised a few eyebrows within the John McCain campaign because she didn't realize that Africa is a continent, according to aides whispering with a shamelessly right-wing news outlet.

"McCain aides told Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron there was "great concern" within the campaign that Palin 'lacked a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate, a vice president, and a heartbeat away from the presidency.'

"Yes, knowledgeability."

Washington Post: 'Emanuel to Be Chief of Staff'
"The selection of the fellow Illinois Democrat, a close Obama friend who embraces a sharp-edged approach to politics, could signal a rapid succession of appointments. Obama is expected to announce in the coming days that he will place two senior campaign aides, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, in key roles.

"Those early staffing decisions, coupled with reports that a number of prominent and established people are under consideration for Cabinet roles, suggests that Obama is focused more on projecting a reassuring image of continuity and competence than of quickly bringing wholesale change to a nation facing two wars and a severe economic downturn."

Washington Post: 'Iraqis Demand Withdrawal Date'
"Officials insist on departure time for U.S. forces, demand troops be subject to Iraq legal jurisdiction."

N.Y. Times: 'Retailers Report a Sales Collapse'

Market Watch: 'Europe stocks blasted on day of steep rate cuts'

Wall Street Journal: 'Hedge Fund Selling Puts New Stress on Market'

New Yorker: 'Melting into Air: Before the financial system went bust, it went postmodern'
"The story of David Einhorn and Allied Capital is an example of a moneyman who believed, with absolute certainty, that he was in the right, who said so, and who then watched the world fail to react to his inarguable demonstration of his own rightness . . ."


N.Y. Times: 'Tolerance Over Race Can Spread, Studies Find'

N.Y. Times: 'On Concerns Over Gun Control, Gun Sales Are Up'

N.Y. Times: 'Obama Victory Alters the Tenor of Iraqi Politics'

N.Y. Times: 'Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question'
"TBILISI, Georgia — Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

"Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.

"The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West.

"But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion."

Register (U.K.): 'North Korea photoshops stroke from Kim Jong Il: Pixelated communist chief in shadow snafu'
"North Korea has released a new pic of chairman Kim Jong Il, hoping to show the world that the communist despot/self-professed internet expert is alive and well and healthy enough to actually appear in public. But this may be a case of communist photoshopaganda."

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