Wall Street's bonus army pulls bank robbery; Al Jazeera's Josh Rushing joins his U.S. mates in Afghanistan

In "Taliban resurgence pushes troops to change tack," Al Jazeera's Josh Rushing joins U.S. troops on the frontline in Afghanistan. Watch this and then ask yourself: Why isn't this as freely available on your cable as CNN or Fox News? And yes, you've heard Rushing's name; he's the former Marine flack during the Iraq invasion who was featured in the documentary Control Room and then defied the Pentagon by talking about his experiences with Al Jazeera. Now he works for Al Jazeera.


PRESS CLIPS Unlike Wall Street's short-sellers, I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but capitalism is not dead, despite the moaning and groaning from Davos to D.C.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that the global economy will come to "a virtual halt." No, not yet and not for everybody. For evidence, see "What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses" in the Times:

Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.

That was the sixth-largest haul on record, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State comptroller.

While the payouts paled next to the riches of recent years, Wall Street workers still took home about as much as they did in 2004, when the Dow Jones industrial average was flying above 10,000, on its way to a record high.

On the other hand, you can say that capitalism is in trouble, judging by the surprisingly cynical, lively tone of Ben White's above story.

In fact, this is one of the rare moments when a Times story is sharper and more skeptical than the tabloids' stories on the same topic. Compare this morning's Daily News story: "City takes hit as Wall St. bonuses cut." Or the Post's: "WALL STREET BONUSES DROP TO LOWEST IN 30 YEARS."

Yes, the fact that the bonuses sharply fell indicates trouble on Wall Street. But the main thing it indicates is that the bonuses in past years have been staggeringly unconscionable and are now falling back to being merely unconscionable.

In any case, Barack Obama, the nation's first Kenyan-Kansan president, has already used his bully pulpit to preach social responsibility and rail against greed. Looks as if he might have to summon these Wall Street gangsters to the basketball court and posterize them. You know, add them to his In-Your-Facebook.

And you can just ignore the caterwauling by Capitol Hill's Republicans about Obama's stimulus plan. Even the Wall Street Journal reports that corporate types look favorably on Obama's package.

For those of us accident victims bleeding after being run over on Wall Street or gasping for breath at the foot of Capitol Hill, that stimulus package can't come too soon. The depression is finally hitting home: I almost dropped my laptop when I heard that profits earned by my Sony baby daddy dropped by 95 percent. Poor little laptop overheats as it is.

If yours still works (and if you're reading this, it is), click on these items...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: 'MTA BOARD FARES BADLY AT HEARING'

Members of the MTA board were called "callous" and "oppressors" at a fare hearing in Brooklyn last night that drew nearly 500 people.

Wall Street Journal: 'Continuing Jobless Claims Hit Record'

N.Y. Times: 'What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses'

Despite crippling losses in 2008, employees at financial companies in New York collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.

N.Y. Post: 'DEAD LETTER DAY IS LOOMING: POSTAL SERVICE LICKED BY $6B DEFICIT, LOOKS TO SLASH DELIVERIES'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Mobster put body in acid, then gave boss the finger -- in soup'

N.Y. Post: 'CONEY ISLAND'S ROCKET SPARED'

Astroland Park's popular Rocket won't be blasting out of Coney Island after all. City officials confirmed yesterday that the park's longtime operator, the Albert family, has donated...

N.Y. Times: 'House Passes Stimulus Plan Despite G.O.P. Opposition'

Without a single Republican vote, President Obama won House approval for an $819 billion economic plan as Democrats sought to temper their own differences.

Wall Street Journal: 'U.S. Moves to Aid Credit Unions'

Bloomberg: 'Gore Says Stimulus Package's Investments Will Help Combat Global Warming'

N.Y. Post: 'DA: #!@ ATT'Y $CAMMED SICK MORGY CURSIN' MAD OVER LOST MILLIONS'

It takes a special kind of thief to get Morgy this mad. Manhattan's gentlemanly district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, yesterday needed a pair of profanities to describe a big-shot...

N.Y. Times: 'Youth Charged With More Attacks on Latinos'

The seven defendants in the deadly assault on Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, are accused of assaulting or attempting to assault a total of eight other Latino men.

N.Y. Post: '"BIZ BILK" GAL WANTS LOOT BACK FROM FEDS'

The wealthy Upper West Side woman charged with bilking $80 million from Fortune 500 firms is complaining that she can't live without her Rolex, Warhol and MontBlancs...

Bloomberg: 'Mitchell's Firm Lobbied For Dubai's Ruler to Help Quash Camel Jockey Suit'

George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special Middle East troubleshooter, was chairman of a law firm that was paid about $8 million representing Dubai's ruler in connection with a child-trafficking lawsuit.

CBS: 'CIA Officer In Algeria Accused Of Rape'

N.Y. Times: 'Backers of Mayoral School Control Face Resistance'

N.Y. Post: 'BEEF AT GAY INSULT: VEGETARIAN SUES'

N.Y. Daily News: '15,000 school jobs may go: Klein'

N.Y. Times: 'Friends, Until I Delete You'

As your circle of friends on Facebook widens, you may wonder if there's an etiquette to "defriending" someone, just in case.

FOX: 'Curvy Kim Kardashian Thinks Curvy Jessica Simpson "Looks Hot"'

N.Y. Times: 'On Iraq, Obama Faces Hard Choices'

In redefining the nation's mission in Iraq, President Obama must decide between abandoning a campaign promise and risking a rupture with the military.

Wall Street Journal: 'Chinese Premier Blames Recession on U.S. Actions'

CBS: 'LA Cardinal Subject Of Federal Probe'

N.Y. Times: 'Stimulus Package's Components Vary in Speed and Efficiency'

The impact of the $819 billion economic stimulus package will be felt within weeks once the final version becomes law, but estimating its effectiveness is far more complex.

N.Y. Times: 'After the War on Terror' (Roger Cohen)

In his first White House televised interview, with the Al Arabiya news network, President Obama buried the lead: The war on terror is over.

N.Y. Times: 'Blagojevich to End Boycott of His Own Trial'

N.Y. Times: 'White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code'

N.Y. Times: 'Musicians Hear Heaven in Tully Hall's New Sound'


'JPMorgan Exited Madoff-Linked Funds Last Fall'

MADOFF WATCHFrom the Times:

...the bank suddenly began pulling its millions out of [funds that invested with Madoff] in early autumn, months before Mr. Madoff was arrested, according to accounts from Europe and New York that were subsequently confirmed by the bank. The bank did not notify investors of its move, and several of them are furious that it protected itself but left them holding notes that the bank itself now says are probably worthless.

N.Y. Post: 'MADOFF: I'M WEAKENED AT BERNIE'S'

He's "The Prisoner of Park Avenue."

Bernie Madoff is whining to anyone who'll listen that he's being held captive in his palatial penthouse and unable to traipse around the Big Apple as he did before being busted for running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, a source familiar with the scam artist told the Post.

"I'm a prisoner in my own house!" Madoff fumed. "I can't go anywhere! I'm stuck here all day!"...

In recent days, The Post has learned, private contractors have been moving at the request of federal authorities to install wiretaps on Madoff's apartment phones and computers.

"If he surfs the Web or makes a call, it's going to be tracked," a source said.

NY1: 'Queens Warehouse May Be Linked To Madoff Scheme'

Bloomberg: 'Madoff's Tactics Date to 1960s When Father-in-Law Was Recruiter'

Bloomberg: 'Ex-Madoff Worker Objects to $58,000 Bill for Boss's Mercedes'

Wall Street Journal: 'Painting the Scene of Madoff's Operation'

Forbes: 'Wells Fargo becomes the first major U.S. bank to report Madoff-related loan losses'

CNBC: 'Accused Swindler Cosmo Owed Thousands to Mob'

Where's the news? Obama's whitehouse.gov is transparent -- but not in a good way.

Check out this smarmy explanation by the Obama White House's tech crew of its new website. PRESS CLIPS

Barack Obama's version of the official presidential website, whitehouse.gov, is deeply troubling and downright scary.

So far, it's nothing more than puffery. Even under the Bush-Cheney regime, the site included not only the expected puffery but also easy-to-access news and transcripts and schedules and photos — a record of the presidency, even with George W. Bush's malaprops.

I've e-mailed the site, but have received no response. Seeking explanations elsewhere, I see that the Atlantic's Megan McArdle noted earlier this week:

You'll be pleased to know that the new site is very smart looking. Unfortunately, that sleekness has been achieved by tucking even more of that unsightly information out of the way, where it won't mar the vista.

Just where it's tucked away is unclear. The fact that it's tucked away is more than annoying; it's a creepy display of propagandizing.

It's refreshing to have a brother in the White House. But Americans didn't elect a Big Brother.

Maybe there's another site that has that basic, necessary presidential info on Obama's White House. There had better be, or all his talk about "transparency" will truly be transparent.

Memo to Obama: Spare me the site's touted "blog" and give us the damn news and info.

Moving on from the government of record to the paper of record: The New York Times is ignoring not only other papers, as usual, but is showing a bald display of excessive ass-kissing of its new sugar daddy, Mexican robber baron Carlos Slim.

Freely admitting that I'm even whinier than usual, I'll point out that it's typical of the New York Times to pretend that other media outlets don't exist: Today's piece "Correction Officers Accused of Letting Inmates Run Rikers Island Jail" is heart-rending in its saga of brutality, but my colleague Graham Rayman broke the scandal long ago in his slew of "Rikers Island Fight Club" stories.

On the other hand, the Times isn't even promoting its own past stories. The paper's radically altered coverage of its impending bailout by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim shows that the paper knows where its bread is buttered.

Back in August 2007, Eduardo Porter wrote in the Times, under the headline "Mexico's Plutocracy Thrives on Robber-Baron Concessions":

Like many a robber baron -- or Russian oligarch, or Enron executive -- Mr. Slim calls to mind the words of Honoré de Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime." Mr. Slim's sin, if not technically criminal, is like that of Rockefeller, the sin of the monopolist.

The very next month, September 2007, the robber baron started purchasing shares in the Times. [CORRECTION: Actually, Slim didn't start purchasing Times shares until September 2008. Thanks to reader Karl Werner-Bailey (see his comment below) for catching my error. My apologies. My careless error tarnishes, not demolishes, my point, but I have to face the facts that I'm having a bad day.]

Two months later, in December 2007, the paper's ball sack had already ascended out of view — suddenly Carlos Slim was no longer a "robber baron." In "A New Breed of Billionaire," Landon Thomas Jr. wrote:

The global wealth boom has created a new breed of billionaire in once-destitute countries, and a number of them are using their wealth to push for social changes....

Carlos Slim Helú, the telecommunications entrepreneur in Mexico who is worth more than $50 billion, has pledged billions of dollars to his two foundations that will aid health and education.

In May 2008, the Times revealed in an out-and-out puff piece that Slim isn't another reclusive robber baron but is rather a "shy" guy. From the paper's "When Shakira Calls, Even the Shy Appear":

The Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim Helú does not seem to like appearing in public, but he apparently could not resist an invitation from the Colombian pop star Shakira and about a dozen other Latin music stars.

Fast-forward to January 2009, and Carlos Slim is no longer so shy, but he's even more philanthropic: He's about to bail out the financially ailing Times itself, as Andrew Sorkin's "Billionaire Seeks Deal in Times Co." noted:

Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican billionaire, is near a deal to invest about $250 million in The New York Times Company, helping to shore up the publishing company's struggling finances...

Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Slim, who already owns 6.4 percent of the Times Company, would invest $250 million in the form of 10-year notes with warrants that are convertible into common shares, these people said.

As part of Mr. Slim's investment, which resembles a loan, he is expected to get a special annual dividend, perhaps as high as 10 percent or more on this investment, these people said.

The January 16 Times story, which didn't mention its own earlier portrayal of Slim as a "robber baron" (though other media outlets regularly still mention that critics call him that) admitted that the paper intended to keep the deal hush-hush:

It is unclear what motivated Mr. Slim's investment, first reported by the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. He approached the Times Company in November, people briefed on the discussions said, offering to make a sizable investment. He never sought a governance role and did not express interest in influencing the company's operations, these people said. The talks were intended to be private.

Yeah, the billionaire "seeks deal in Times Co." It's the Times that was desperate for a deal.

You're unlikely to see the paper refer to him as a "robber baron" or "monopolist" these days.

While I place a call to the admirable Mr. Slim to get my own bailout, click on these items...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Wall Street Journal: 'Obama to Lift Family-Planning "Gag Rule"'

Obama will restore U.S. funding for family-planning groups, but chose not to act on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

N.Y. Post: 'TOTS CRUSHED TO DEATH'

A delivery van jumped the curb on a bustling Chinatown street yesterday and plowed through a group of preschoolers as they strolled single file holding a walking rope while returning from a library - killing two of the youngsters and critically injuring another. The freak accident occurred at around 11:30 a.m., when the driver of the gray van...

N.Y. Daily News: 'New York runs out of money to pay jobless claims'

Wall Street Journal: 'Cable Rates, Phone Costs Negotiable'

...Under intense pressure from Wall Street to keep subscribers as the economy sags and competition intensifies, many carriers are bent on retaining customers even if it means offering big price breaks.

N.Y. Post: 'SEX RAP FOR BX. HS DEAN'

The dean of discipline at Cardinal Hayes HS has been arrested for allegedly fondling a 19-year-old student in his office, where he purportedly said, "I love you . . . I can take you someplace...

Law enforcement sources said the 25-year Hayes employee took the young man out of a class Jan. 13, and brought him to his office, where he allegedly unzipped the student's pants and began fondling him.

N.Y. Times: 'Worm Infects Millions of Computers Worldwide'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Miss World finalist has hands, feet amputated'

Wall Street Journal: 'Some Firms Boost Boss's Pension'

Some major companies are boosting the value of top executives' retirement plans by using a generous formula when converting a pension into a single payment. The practice can increase a pension's value by 10 percent to 40 percent.

Wall Street Journal: 'New York Attorney General Scrutinizes Merrill Lynch Bonuses' (Heidi N. Moore)

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating Merrill Lynch's eleventh-hour bonus payments....Merrill Lynch executives, led by John Thain, accelerated bonuses to employees before Bank of America could interfere with the payouts...

Cuomo has taken issue with Thain's actions before. Late last year, he criticized Thain's request for a $10 million bonus as "shocking" and wrote a letter of protest to Merrill Lynch's directors....

N.Y. Daily News: 'Guards plead not guilty in "nightmare" Rikers beatings'

N.Y. Post: 'Chute-For-Brains Jumper Ducks Jail'

N.Y. Post: '$TUPOR-GATE: PROBE OF SPITZER A WASTE'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Caroline's bid a disaster from the start'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Cry for help unanswered for relative of Gaza victims' (Juan Gonzalez)

Wall Street Journal: 'Thain Ousted in Clash at BofA'

John Thain agreed to step down from a top job at Bank of America after CEO Kenneth Lewis asked the former Merrill chief to resign.

N.Y. Post: 'MIKE RIPS "LAYOFF" BUDGET'

Mayor Bloomberg blasted Gov. Paterson's $121 billion budget proposal as "unfair" and "outrageous" yesterday, and said its cuts would result in tax hikes and...

Wall Street Journal: 'Demand For Reverse Mortgages Climbs'

As the credit crisis has worsened, more seniors have turned to federally insured reverse mortgages to tap home equity and, in some cases, to prevent foreclosure.

While still a very small share of the borrowing market, demand for these mortgages climbed in 2008 as credit tightened and retirement savings plunged. The market is expected to grow significantly as loan amounts increase and baby boomers with inadequate savings tap their home equity to fund retirement. Consumer groups, however, warn that fees are high and the cash sometimes is misused.

N.Y. Post: 'HITTING A "RAW" NERVE: SUSHI CHEF "SLASH RAGE"'

Here's one guy you wouldn't want to face on Iron Chef! A hot-blooded sushi chef got so mad during a road-rage incident on Staten Island Wednesday that he whipped out his...

Wall Street Journal: 'Fed to Focus on Rates, Loans'

Federal Reserve officials are likely next week to stick closely to their approach for handling the financial crisis, despite internal divisions about some of their tactics.

Wall Street Journal: 'Britain Enters Recession'

N.Y. Post: 'THE SCOOP ON WORST US FOOD'

Wall Street Journal: 'Firms Lobby as They Get TARP Cash'

N.Y. Post: 'I'M PLANE INSANE, SUICIDE SCAMMER WHINES TO POST'

Wall Street Journal: 'U.S. Raids Contractors Aided by Murtha'

Federal agents raided two small Pennsylvania defense contractors that were given millions of dollars in federal funding by Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the defense appropriations committee and one of the most powerful men in Congress.

Wall Street Journal: 'Times Co. Nears Deal On Building'

New York Times Co. is nearing a deal to sell a portion of its Midtown Manhattan headquarters in the latest of a string of recent efforts to reduce its debt load....

Times Co. has $1.1 billion in debt and $46 million in cash and a substantial amount of debt maturing over the next couple of years. With print advertising declines accelerating across all newspapers, Times Co. has been forced to consider a number of options to free up cash.

The company in November cut its dividend by 75% and is trying to sell its stake in the company that owns the Boston Red Sox and the team's Fenway Park. Earlier this week Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim agreed to invest $250 million in the company in return for senior unsecured notes with detachable warrants convertible into common stock.

N.Y. Post: 'LEGEND OF LEDGER LIVES ON: JOKER AT TOP OF OSCAR DECK AFTER NOMINATION ON SAD ANNIVERSARY'

Wall Street Journal: 'Troubles Mount for Chrysler, Fiat'

Chrysler and Fiat both showed signs of trouble days after announcing an alliance. Fiat said its debt soared and Chrysler disclosed costly sales incentives.

N.Y. Post: 'CROCKEFELLER EYES 5-YEAR DEAL'


'Probers Work Backward on Madoff'

MADOFF WATCHFrom the Wall Street Journal:

The unusual nature of Madoff's alleged massive fraud is complicating the SEC's investigation.

FOX News: 'Report: Larry King the Latest Big Loser in Bernie Madoff Scandal'

Bloomberg: 'Madoff Shows Banks Must Become Whistleblowers'

Caroline Kennedy and 'Daily News' columnist Michael Daly: The princess and the pea-brain

PRESS CLIPS Michael Daly's column has to be a put-on. If it's not, then give him an "F" for fatuous.

In "Let's make Caroline Kennedy our special envoy to Washington," the self-serious Daily News scribe fights back his tears about Caroline Kennedy's withdrawal from the Senate appointment race and opines:

Maybe our mayor can now make her a kind of special city envoy to Washington in these difficult times ahead.

She will still have a deep connection with our new President, one of whose daughters now sleeps in Caroline's old room at the White House.

Christ, at least make sure she votes a few times before we make her our "ambassador."

I'm not attacking the Kennedys or rich people. Ever since Chappaquidick, Teddy Kennedy has worked hard in the trenches as a senator. And Jackie O took on big cultural battles, leading the successful fight to save and restore Grand Central Station.

Now we have a huge crisis on our hands. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers are being fired, and basic social services are being slashed, feeding a downward spiral.

There are a million fires that need to be put out — and I don't mean the problems faced by Carnegie Hall, which is slashing its schedule and budget. Yes, that's a shame, but stay away from that "cause," Princess Caroline.

Do some public service before you're anointed as our ambassador. If you have celebrity capital (and you do), then start spending it to help goad other rich New Yorkers (and there are still plenty of them) into helping their increasingly desperate fellow residents.

Do something noblesse before we oblige you.

As for Daly, one of his readers, hjo4, said it best in a cranky 7 a.m. post:

Special Envoy give me a break there are thousands of New Yorkers without the Kennedy name or connections who commit themselves to New York and NewYorkers whether it be our children in education, mentoring or being a role model or be it our Senior citizens they do this from their heart, they are the "unsung heroes" perhaps if you want to appoint a "Special Envoy" I suggest you turn an eye to one of those citizens I'm sick of people making those whose family fortunes was made questionably and off the backs of others still receive special treatment. Turn to the average Joe who does good deeds from their heart Those are the special envoys we need.

For news of other deeds, click on these items...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Bloomberg: 'Palestinians Sift Gaza's Rubble After Shelling for Pieces of Former Lives'

N.Y. Post: 'OBAMA A MAN OF ACTION ON DAY 1: JUGGLES MIDEAST CALLS, FREEZES STAFF PAY AND TOUGHENS ETHICS RULES'

Wall Street Journal: 'Obama Freezes Top Staff Pay'

President Barack Obama, on a busy first full day in office, announced a wage freeze for top White House staff, waded into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and prepared to issue executive orders Thursday -- including one to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year.

He also issued the strictest rules to date on lobbying activities for members of the administration and met with his national security team to begin the process of withdrawing troops from Iraq.

In an unusual moment that was not part of his team's extensive planning for day one, Mr. Obama also retook the oath of office. That came after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and then Mr. Obama, spoke one of the words out of order during the swearing in on Tuesday.

N.Y. Daily News: 'After 24 hours, change is real'

On his first full day, President Obama kept campaign promises by going after Gitmo and toughening ethics standards.

N.Y. Post: 'CAROLINE'S KAPUT'

N.Y. Daily News: 'HIL SEAT BLUES'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Let's make Caroline Kennedy our special envoy to Washington'

N.Y. Post: 'SHOT DOGS IN GUN NUT'S APT'

Bloomberg: 'Avril Lavigne, Radiohead Shift to YouTube as Illegal Downloading Persists'

Musicians and managers are turning to BlackBerry phones and YouTube videos to solve a problem that just won't go away: illegal downloads of digital tracks.

Crain's New York Business: 'Carnegie Hall shrinks schedule, slashes budget'

The landmark arts venue announced Wednesday that it will cut its upcoming schedule by 10% and slash its budget by $4 million.

Vanity Fair: 'Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House'

N.Y. Daily News: 'MTA kickback susp eyed for shredding evidence'

Bloomberg: 'Obama Needs "Yes We Can" From Overseas to Help Lead World Out of Recession'

The U.S. led the global economy into its worst recession in at least a quarter century. Now the rest of the world is looking to Barack Obama to lead the way out. The trouble is, even the incoming commander-in-chief of the biggest economy can't do it alone.

N.Y. Post: 'SON OF "SCAM" IN YACHT "PLOT"'

N.Y. Post: 'KIDDIE CROOK AND SIBS IN SI HORROR HOUSE: COPS'

Vanity Fair: 'The Ultimate Bubble?'

Bloomberg: 'Nokia, Intel Slump Hammers Israeli Economy as Cease-Fire Curbs Rocket Risk'

N.Y. Post: 'ATLANTIC YARDS LOOKS TO $LASH TRANSIT UPGRADE'

Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project is in such financial upheaval that the developer is now trying to cut back on much-needed transit improvements, which he promised in exchange for approval for...

Wall Street Journal: 'China Fourth-Quarter GDP Confirms a Major Slowdown'

Harper's: 'Did Bush's Terrorist Surveillance Program Really Focus on American Journalists?'

Wall Street Journal: 'Nationalization Fears Grow as U.K. Banks Struggle'

Wall Street Journal: 'What if Uncle Sam Takes Over Your Bank?'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Mother of little Adolf: No abuse here'

A Jersey mom who gave her three children Nazi-friendly names says she lost custody after being wrongly accused of abuse.

Wall Street Journal: 'Parsons Named Citi Chairman'

Wall Street Journal: 'Crisis Q&A: What "Bank Nationalization" Means For You'

Wall Street Journal: 'Obama Inauguration Sets Record for Private Jets'

Wall Street Journal: 'EBay's Growth Stalls as Shoppers Pull Back'

Wall Street Journal: 'Even in Test Form, Windows 7 Leaves Vista in the Dust' (Walter S. Mossberg)

...In my tests, even the beta version of Windows 7 was dramatically faster than Vista at such tasks as starting up the computer, waking it from sleep and launching programs.

And this speed boost wasn't only apparent in the preconfigured machine from Microsoft, but on my own Sony, which had been a dog using Vista, even after I tried to streamline its software. Of course, these speed gains may be compromised by the computer makers, if they add lots of junky software to the machines. Windows 7 is also likely to run well on much more modest hardware configurations than Vista needed....

Compatibility with hardware and software, which was a problem in Vista, seems far better in Windows 7 -- even in the beta. I tried a wide variety of hardware, including printers, Web cams, external hard disks and cameras, and nearly all worked fine.

I also successfully installed and used popular programs from Microsoft's rivals, such as Mozilla Firefox, Adobe Reader, Apple's iTunes, and Google's Picasa. All worked properly, even though none was designed for Windows 7.

Wall Street Journal: 'More Than X Marks the Spot'

A scholar studying graffiti culture watches for cops, invents a 'tag' and wields a spray can himself.

Crain's New York Business: 'Hudson Yards could be in jeopardy'

If negotiations fall through between the MTA and the Related Cos., the project may never be built.


'Madoff's Chosen People -- What Can and Can't Be Said Out Loud'

MADOFF WATCHIn a provocative HuffPost piece, Larry Gellman writes:

...My fellow Jews love to write and talk about how horrible Madoff is and how much damage he has done to the Jewish people. Some have even compared him to Hitler which is scary because it means that money has become so important today that someone who steals money and swindles people is comparable to a person who engineered the murder of six million people....

Reuters: 'Columbia says it lost $3 million tied to Madoff'

CNBC: 'Former Madoff Accountant Claims He Is a Victim Too'

Bloomberg: 'Santander's Madoff Sales Mean "Catastrophe" for Teacher, Vendor'

Banco Santander SA sold Bernard Madoff investments to a teacher and a street vendor, not just to wealthy private banking clients in Spain and Latin America.

Branch managers channeled customers with money from property sales or inheritances to private banking salespeople, lawyers for the investors said.

Bloomberg: 'Madoff Clients May Recoup More Losses Through Taxes Than Suits'

Bloomberg: 'Madoff Scandal May Lead to New Rules on Adviser Accountability'

Daily Flog: Race colored; Wall Street red-faced; Bloomberg white-knighted; future black

We crown New York's mayor, but first . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

CNN: 'Race could play big role in election, poll suggests'

McClatchy: 'Poll: Most Americans think U.S. is losing war on terrorism'

New York: 'The Rage of the Previously Rich'

N.Y. Post: 'ATT'Y TAKES A SWIPE AT CAT KILLER'

New Yorker: 'Sarah Palin is my kind of gal'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Historian questions 'Bling Bandit' medal claims'

Jurist: 'Second Circuit rules government must release photos of Iraqi, Afghan prisoners'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Rikers brass axed before big scandal'

New York: 'The Great Shakeout: Good-bye, Masters of the Universe. Hello, Ron Hermance of Paramus, New Jersey'

Bloomberg: 'Oil Falls as Stock Losses Signal Concern Over U.S. Bailout Plan'

Financial Times (U.K.): 'Fears emerge over $700bn rescue'

McClatchy: 'Democrats battling to add restrictions to $700 billion bailout'

N.Y. Post: ' "SHORT" ATTACK MAY SPUR HEDGE FUNDS TO SUE'

McClatchy: 'Can you trust a Wall Street veteran with a Wall Street bailout?'

Financial Times: 'New York to regulate credit derivatives'


Running down the press:

You'd think that after watching The '08 That Ate New York the press would stop bowing and scraping at the feet of billionaires. (See Jon Friedman's "Wall Street Coverage Makes Me Cringe.")

But the Daily News insists on anointing a rich guy who has yet to display one iota of sympathy for, or understanding of, those of us less fortunate to bail us out of this mess created by rich guys.

The paper's City Hall reporter, Erin Einhorn, cranked out a clueless puff piece Monday, "Warren Buffett: Let's hire Mayor Bloomberg to save the economy."

That's one reporter who's sure to get first crack at the City Hall press releases.

Einhorn didn't include even one dissenting voice to puncture this trial balloon. (She did call Henry Paulson — as if he would say anything substantive about it.)

Tucked in up high in her piece is a link to a Daily News editorial ("Run, Mike, Run") pleading with Bloomberg to run for a third term as mayor. The paper reasons that he's done such a great job and has such supposed business acumen that he needs to remain our leader so he can pull us out of this chasm.

If he has such vast business knowledge, why didn't he, as mayor, use his connections to the Wall Street execs to try to halt their march toward oblivion?

Bloomberg made his billions selling financial software to Wall Street — number-crunching software and hardware that gave Merrill Lynch (one of his early partners) and others the tools to create increasingly sophisticated ways of playing the market.

How do you think they figured out how to create such now-discredited instruments as credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations?

If any mayor should be able to spot dangerous trends on Wall Street, it's the guy who made his billions furnishing info to Wall Street during its boom-bust-boom-bust cycles.

So why didn't he? I dunno, ask his chauffeur. Why didn't Bloomberg use his bully pulpit to bully his pals into at least tempering their greed lest it bury themselves (temporarily) and the rest of us (for generations)?

Instead of trying to rein in Wall Street, Bloomberg as mayor has chosen to rein in the city's smallest businessmen: those scruffy street vendors and their ilk.

His performance as the mayor who has been overseer of Wall Street qualifies him to be either the country's or the city's financial savior?

At least Warren Buffett has an excuse for touting Bloomberg: It's true that Buffett is maybe more compassionate than the average rich guy. (See my June 2007 story, "Even a Caveman Can Do the Math," about Buffett attacking greed.) But he wouldn't want to see anyone with a built-in animus toward Wall Street's basic functioning step in as a czar. And Bloomberg definitely has no animus toward Wall Street's profit-taking practices.

The Daily News has no excuse. Oh, wait, the paper does have an excuse: It's owned by rich real estate guy Mort Zuckerman, whose fortune is based on leasing office space to financial wizards in America's big cities.

These huzzahs for Bloomberg remind me of how Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was treated by his acolytes (before his Oregon-based empire dissolved in chaos). The '80s guru, you may recall (and as I witnessed first-hand as a reporter), used to drive his Rolls-Royces slowly through his yuppie followers while they showered flowers, song, and pledges of obedience on the bhagwan ("blessed one").

And we want to do the same with Wall Street's blessed bagman?

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” . . .


Post: 'GOV GOES FOR JUGULAR AGAINST "DRACULA" POLS'

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.



Is there an "H" in Sarah?

Just checking.

Colleague Zach Baron points me to one story from the U.S. press that at least called bullshit after yesterday's faith-in-Palin-based revival meeting hosted by God-pandering John McCain. It's "Attacks, praise stretch truth at GOP convention," from the Associated Press's Jim Kuhnhenn. Among the facts checked regarding Sarah Palin and the performance of her and her touters:

MCCAIN: "She's been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply ... She's responsible for 20 percent of the nation's energy supply. I'm entertained by the comparison and I hope we can keep making that comparison that running a political campaign is somehow comparable to being the executive of the largest state in America," he said in an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson.

THE FACTS: McCain's phrasing exaggerates both claims. Palin is governor of a state that ranks second nationally in crude oil production, but she's no more "responsible" for that resource than President Bush was when he was governor of Texas, another oil-producing state. In fact, her primary power is the ability to tax oil, which she did in concert with the Alaska Legislature. And where Alaska is the largest state in America, McCain could as easily have called it the 47th largest state — by population.

While we're at it, the pesky NYC org FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), has already done its damnedest to round up examples of the U.S. press's annoying penchant for referring to McCain as a "maverick." In "Maverick No Matter What: McCain's VP pick just reinforces media storyline," FAIR points out, he's called a maverick no matter what he does. Even when he's not being a maverick, which is 99.8 percent of the time.

If it's bathroom humor you want, go to the Daily Show. Jon Stewart did some great fact-checking last night (full episode) on Bill O'Reilly and Karl Rove, and a funny bit about Foghorn Leghorn (Fred Thompson) and Droopy Dog (Joe Lieberman). But John Oliver's report from the Larry Craig Memorial Bathroom takes the urinal cake.

Daily Flog: Birth of a notion opens in St. Paul; oil price plummets, along with GOP veep's rep; everybody's Google-eyed

Sarah Palin's heroines Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. AnthonyRunning down the press:

Hurricane Gustav didn't exactly spare New Orleans, but Topical Storm Bristol didn't exactly spare St. Paul, either.

Instead of a candidate snagging a berth, we have a birth snagging a candidate.

The news set the GOP's female delegates (left) all atwitter in St. Paul.

For more on the subject, see, among many examples of course, the flashy and the dull. Or the simply solid, like McClatchy's "Absence of Bush and Cheney cheers Republican delegates."

That's a headline that's eight years too late.

Back to the Sarah Palin beat, where the New York Post splashes: "PALIN TEEN HAS BABY ON BOARD: DADDY A HS HOCKEY KID."

What rhymes with "puck"?

You won't find out in yesterday's sober, but serviceable, New York Times piece, "Palin Daughter’s Pregnancy Interrupts Script."

Don't bother with today's Times story from the poor GOP's point of view by former White House pet Elizabeth Bumiller ("Disclosures on Palin Raise Questions on Vetting Process") and Adam Nagourney's "In Political Realm, ‘Family Problem’ Emerges as Test."

Regarding the former, Bumiller isn't much of an expert on stories about the GOP's vetting, though she's previously covered the topic.

I pointed out her work in December 2004, when the topic had been how the GOP earlier blew its vetting of Bernie Kerik for the job of Homeland Security czar. Referring to AG-nominee-at-the-time Alberto Gonzales's heckuva job on Kerik, I noted:

If you believe the . . . New York Times [in a story written by Bumiller], Bush's nominee as attorney general conducted "hours of confrontational interviews" with Kerik, to make sure none of the little Napoleon's cream filling had spilled into places it shouldn't have.

The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller pins her tale to an unnamed "government official." I hesitate to believe it only because Bumiller also describes the White House as "normally careful." I think she means "normally careful" only in vetting potential nominees, which means that the White House is careful about whom it trusts and picks? Uh-huh.

In her same story, she points out that the White House was careless in dispensing top-security information after 9/11: Kerik, while still the NYPD commissioner, was put on the list even though he neglected to fill out the basic form to start the security-check process. I wouldn't call that "normally careful." If Bumiller means "normally careful" in general — no, she can't mean that.

For God's sakes, she doesn't even mention this previously bad GOP vetting of Kerik in today's story about the GOP's currently bad vetting of Palin.

In the latter piece today in the Times— which is labeled a "news analysis," though that must be an inside joke in the Times newsroom — Nagourney settles this Palin situation for all of us by determining that Unwed Mother is one storm that has already passed, at least for now. He knows that because that's what the GOP delegates say:

For at least the time being, Gov. Sarah Palin appears to have survived the initial test after the disclosure that her unmarried teenage daughter was pregnant. Republican delegates rallied around her on Monday, saying the disclosure would not threaten her hopes of being Senator John McCain’s running mate.

We'll see whether she will continue to be the veep nominee or whether, like her daughter's boyfriend should have, she pulls out. It would be a no-brainer for her to say that she can't campaign because she "needs to be with her family" at a time of crisis.

At this point, Nagourney analyzes, the Palins' unimmaculate birth news is an "unwanted distraction" for the GOP and, despite Hurricane Gustav, the Palin pregnancy "dominated discussion among delegates." I did not know that.

One more bit of unintentional humor from Nagourney:

In many ways, how the country will react to the pregnancy of Ms. Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is more a sociological question than a political one.

Can't wait to read that dissertation.

You're better off going overseas for a better story emblazoned with one of the better headlines. This comes from Melbourne's big daily, The Age: "Republicans take rain check." The Aussie paper's Anne Davis notes in a news story that actually includes analysis:

One political positive is that Mr Bush will no longer speak, saving Senator McCain from a potentially damaging association with the unpopular President. He will also avoid direct comparisons with the Democratic convention last week as the storm means the Republicans have cause for a more sober event.

However, an event that was too anaemic could undercut Senator McCain's ability to launch his campaign and his running mate. Republican officials were working on ways to turn their planned parties into fund-raisers and capitalise on the convention theme: "Country first".

While the GOP convention curtailed its busy, meaningless business out of fear that the cheers of delegates would seem crass, Republican women pored over new developments about veep nominee Palin's unwed daughter mama, Bristol.

Named after a bay (a too-popular fishing spot, apparently), Bristol not only entered the national scene but also prompted an addition to the U.S. slang lexicon: Some people would call Bristol a "baby mama," but now Republicans can use their own term: "infant's mother by intelligent design."

The feminists for life whom I know would object to the theft of their name by the anti-abortion group Feminists for Life, of which Palin is a member. But she's consistent: The group is opposed to all abortions, including cases of rape, incest, birth defects, and the preservation of a mother's health or life — and, yes, even in the case of a pregnancy of an unwed high school kid whose mother is a Republican vice presidential candidate.

Palin would probably withdraw except that Joe Lieberman would be the natural choice for McCain, and the country is more likely to accept a shockingly inexperienced hockey mom of an unwed mother on the national ticket than an experienced East Coast Jew. (Even most of us Jews wouldn't be ready for Lieberman.)


The really big news, and it is probably more political than sociological, is Google's launch of a browser called Chrome.

Let's hope it batters Internet Explorer but doesn't swamp Firefox.

Considering that Google, unlike Microsoft, is already an web-advertising giant, this is pretty scary news. Chrome will no doubt market the hell out of users, tailoring the links and news that it determines we "need."


In other news more important than crude jokes about the pregnancy of a political candidate's daughter, crude oil is at about $105 a barrel — and people are happy about it. Bloomberg notes:

Crude oil for October delivery fell as low as $105.46 a barrel, down 8.7 percent from the close of Aug. 29 on the New York Mercantile Exchange and the lowest since April 4.

More from Bloomberg:

"The absence of serious structural damage from Gustav when the market was braced for the worst has caused prices to turn decisively downwards," said Christopher Bellew, a senior broker at Bache Commodities Ltd. in London. "As technical selling takes hold, it looks likely we'll breach $100."

Memo to Adam Nagourney: Now this guy sounds more like a sociologist than a politician.


Can't resist turning back to Palin. One of the best stories focused on something above the waist: earmarks. In "Palin's Small Alaska Town Secured Big Federal Funds," the Washington Post's Paul Kane reports:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group.

Taking off on stats analyzed by Taxpayers for Common Sense, this reporter apparently went and found the analysis instead of relying on the watchdog's press release on Palin, which I don't think it issued. But he gave the watchdog group credit anyway, which is most un-Times-like. Then Kane puts in the political (unsociological) perspective high in his piece:

In introducing Palin as his running mate on Friday, Sen. John McCain cast her as a compatriot in his battle against wasteful federal spending. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, hailed Palin as a politician "with an outstanding reputation for standing up to special interests and entrenched bureaucracies -- someone who has fought against corruption and the failed policies of the past, someone who's stopped government from wasting taxpayers' money."

McCain's crusade against earmarks -- federal spending sought by members of Congress to benefit specific projects -- has been a hallmark of his campaign. He has said earmarks are wasteful and are often inserted into bills with little oversight, sometimes by a single powerful lawmaker.

Followed right on its heels by this:

As mayor of Wasilla, however, Palin oversaw the hiring of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh, an Anchorage-based law firm with close ties to Alaska's most senior Republicans: Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, who was indicted in July on charges of accepting illegal gifts. The Wasilla account was handled by the former chief of staff to Stevens, Steven W. Silver, who is a partner in the firm.

Palin was elected mayor of Wasilla in 1996 on a campaign theme of "a time for change." According to a review of congressional spending by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, Wasilla did not receive any federal earmarks in the first few years of Palin's tenure.

Senate records show that Silver's firm began working for Palin in early 2000, just as federal money began flowing.

Bet you never thought you'd care about what goes on in Wasilla, Alaska. Don't shoot the messengers — although in Alaska you're free to shoot just about anything, as NRA member Palin proudly knows. The question: What happens when people shoot back at her?

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

Running down the press:

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

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

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

Next to him, Phelps is just another pretty gill.

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

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

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

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

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


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

The paper promo'd it this way:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Nice job by Joe Mollica on a very brief piece:

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


Post: 'SHELTER IS. REHAB STORM'

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

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

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

Maybe it would scare these rich addicts straight.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What a knee-slapper.

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

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

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

Americans are laughing all the way to the food bank.

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

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

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

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

Agence France Presse analyzed those stats this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Back into affordable homes? Now that's funny.

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

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

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

Exclusive! 'Bush Overstated Evidence on Iraq'

In wake of new Senate report, Dubya's chances for a third term are thought to be nil.

Five years in the making, a Senate committee report has concluded that George W. Bush and his administration constructed their public case for the invasion of Iraq on exaggerations and lies.

Who could have guessed that? As the New York Times reported this morning:

A long-delayed Senate committee report endorsed by Democrats and some Republicans concluded that President Bush and his aides built the public case for war against Iraq by exaggerating available intelligence and by ignoring disagreements among spy agencies about Iraq’s weapons programs and Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda.

See the report here. And check out the latest Iraq War casualty figures here (4,000 U.S. soldiers dead and nearly 30,000 wounded.)

As the Times notes:

The 170-page report accuses Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials of repeatedly overstating the Iraqi threat in the emotional aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

I don't know about you, but I'm shocked and awed that our government officials would do such a thing.

The Times reporters Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane failed to get comment from former colleague Judy Miller about her pre-war coverage of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Maybe they're saving that for a book deal.

They also went easy on the pre-war pro-war Democrats by saving this for the last:

In a detailed minority report, four of those Republicans accused Democrats of hypocrisy and of cherry picking, namely by refusing to include misleading public statements by top Democrats like . . . Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jay Rockefeller.

As an example, they pointed to an October 2002 speech by Mr. Rockefeller, who declared to his Senate colleagues that he had arrived at the “inescapable conclusion that the threat posed to America by Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is so serious that despite the risks, and we should not minimize the risks, we must authorize the president to take the necessary steps to deal with the threat.”

The report about the Bush administration’s public statements offers some new details about the intelligence information that was available to policy makers as they built a case for war. For instance, in September 2002 Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the Iraq problem cannot be solved by airstrikes alone,” because Iraqi chemical and biological weapons were so deeply buried that they could not be penetrated by American bombs.

Two months later, however, the National Intelligence Council wrote an assessment for Mr. Rumsfeld concluding that the Iraqi underground weapons facilities identified by the intelligence agencies “are vulnerable to conventional, precision-guided, penetrating munitions because they are not deeply buried.”

On Thursday, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democratic member of the intelligence committee, said that Congress had never been told about the National Intelligence Council’s assessment.

The detailed Senate report is unlikely to have any impact on the 2004 election.

Newsday to Line Dolans' Bird Cage

Another paper falls to journalism know-nothings.

cletus-burns-newsday395.jpg

Jim Dolan makes Rupert Murdoch seem like Jesus H. Christ. And that's why Cablevision's apparently successful attempt to swallow up Newsday is making us gag.

Blessed with the huge cash flow of a monopoly cable company (thanks only to cities long ago giving up a public utility to private companies), the Dolan family has enough gelt to spend $650 million to buy the behemoth Long Island newspaper. For a while, it looked as though Murdoch was going to land the whale, but call me Ishmael if the Dolans didn't sink their hooks in deeper.

No matter that the Dolans (Jim's rich daddy is Chuck) have no experience in the news business — Cablevision's News 12 operation doesn't count. At least Murdoch knows the business. When he owned the Voice years ago, he was too smart to turn it into a right-wing rag. The Dolans will further blandify Newsday.

Wall Street's not exactly enthusiastic about the match, which makes about as much sense as the Dolan-owned New York Knicks spending a fortune to hire as coach Mike D'Antoni, who can't coach defense and inherits a roster ill-suited to his run-and-gun style.

Jim Dolan is the slack-jawed yokel who has screwed up the Knicks with his meddling into things he doesn't know about. His only experience with journalism is to squelch it. Colleagues have reminded me that the Knicks' policy toward reporters is unusually repressive and controlling.

When there's bad news brewing in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, Jim Dolan and crew make sure to clamp down hard to keep any of it from leaking out. Sure, every company does that, even newspaper companies, but the Knicks' operation is particularly harsh toward journalists.

Yes, these are the hard-hitting, courageous people we want running our newspapers.

You have to feel sorry for Newsday editor John Mancini (whom I used to work for at a now-defunct paper) and the other fine journalists who still have jobs there. That's because the Dolans' operations are relentlessly mediocre.

As a I said before, Wall Street's not particularly gung-ho. A story earlier this month in Newsday noted:

Louis Ureneck, chairman of the journalism department at Boston University, said bringing Newsday reporting into the mix at Cablevision's news channel certainly will add appeal, but he added, "The question is how do they monetize the strategy? Is there enough here to justify the kind of price they're offering?"

Wall Street doesn't appear to think so.

"The company needs to stick to its core business and not go out on entrepreneurial pursuits that are far away from its core expertise," said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at Pali Research in Manhattan.

David Joyce, who tracks Cablevision for Miller Taback & Co. in Manhattan, said he thinks Newsday is better-matched to Murdoch and his News Corp.

"Murdoch knows newspapers," Joyce said. "The Dolan family does not."

No matter. The newspaper business may be ailing, as its owners all over America keep moaning, but the New York Times pointed out yesterday that Newsday produced more than $80 million last year in profits on $500 million in revenue.

The Dolans will now have two cash cows, even if one of them is relatively sickly from eating too much newsprint.

The question is: What changed aging Chuck Dolan's mind? As Newsday's own Thomas Maier wrote Saturday:

Over the years, Charles Dolan, the billionaire founder of Cablevision Systems Corp., always seemed a bit coy when asked about the possibility that one day he might own Newsday.

"I have often thought it," Dolan told Newsday in 2006. "I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do, but I've also been smart enough not to try it."

Son Jim apparently isn't smart enough. But that's no surprise.

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