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?