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Dumped via Facebook? Probably. Hooked up by stimulus bill? Maybe.

While you’re waiting for the stimulus bill to hook you back up:

It’s not you, it’s my social-networking. Further confirmation in this morning’s Daily News of something that thousands of you already know: Facebook’s great for dumping a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse. Catey Hill notes:

A new poll finds that 48 percent of people under 21 and 18 percent of people ages 22-30 dumped a loved one via a social networking site like Facebook, the Daily Mail reported.

Note the generation gap. If dumping via the net had been so popular with people over 21 back in 2004, maybe the electorate would have broken up with George W. Bush. One major problem: Facebook didn’t even exist in 2004.

Need a car? Go to Dubai. From “Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down,” in the Times:

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The government says the real number is much lower. But the stories contain at least a grain of truth: jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai — once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East — looking like a ghost town.

Duh. Here’s something that our government just can’t admit. From the Wall Street Journal‘s “Latin American Panel Calls U.S. Drug War a Failure”:

As drug violence engulfs Mexico, a blue-ribbon panel blasted the U.S.-led drug war as a failure that is pushing Latin America to the breaking point.

“The available evidence indicates that the war on drugs is a failed war,” said former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in a conference call with reporters from Rio de Janeiro. “We have to move from this approach to another one.”

The commission, headed by Mr. Cardoso and former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and César Gaviria of Colombia, says Latin American governments as well as the U.S. must break what they say is a policy “taboo” and re-examine U.S.-inspired antidrugs efforts. The panel recommends that governments consider measures including decriminalizing the use of marijuana….

The three former presidents who head the commission are political conservatives who have confronted in their home countries the violence and corruption that accompany drug trafficking.

Other stuff…

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama’s Battle on Stimulus Shows Threats to His Agenda’

Village Voice: ‘Tolling Bridges, Taxing Rich, Chaining City Workers to Desks Among City’s Budget Options’

Seeking Alpha: ‘Another Round of Farcical Congressional Hearings’

CNET: ‘Facebook valuation “shocker” another reason to be skeptical of media hype’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Hints of Stability Emerge in Fragile Financial System’

Even as job losses mount and profits plunge, some glimmers of stabilization are emerging in global markets.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Bud Selig fumes, weighs punishment for Alex Rodriguez’s steroid use’

Seeking Alpha: ‘What About Federal Gift Cards?’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Homebuyers Go Green to Cut Bills’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Mother cries “tears of happiness” after baby’s life-saving brain surgery’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Israeli Uncertainty Buys Obama Time’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Pakistan Sees Terror Role’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Animated Catharsis’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Lupica: Time for Jets officials to follow Brett Favre’s lead and head for retirement’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Sirius Talks To Liberty To Fend Off Ergen Effort’

Seeking Alpha: ‘Glimmers of Hope Amid Market Doom and Gloom’

Wall Street Journal: ‘A Baby, Please. Blond, Freckles — Hold the Colic: Laboratory Techniques That Screen for Diseases in Embryos Are Now Being Offered to Create Designer Children’

N.Y. Post: ‘GANDHI GLASSES GO UNDER GAVEL’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Bloomberg puts city unions on notice: Ante up for health care or face layoffs’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Foreclosures Ease as Lenders Await U.S. Plan to Aid Borrowers’

Seeking Alpha: ‘Four Myths About the Obama / Geithner Plan’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘How you can get financing for a car’

N.Y. Times: ‘Pakistan Backtracks on Link to Mumbai Attacks’

Wall Street Journal: ‘China Says Its Banks Won’t Bid for AIG Unit’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Gillibrand meet in Washington’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Economy to Receive Less Support in Short Term’

Wall Street Journal: ‘More Tech Start-Ups Call It Quits’

N.Y. Post: ‘QNS. KID IN BUS ORDEAL’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Dumped via a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace? New poll finds you’re not alone’

N.Y. Times: ‘Crime Ring Accused of 82 Fraudulent Home Sales’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Bharara Seen as U.S. Attorney Pick’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Add a billion to N.Y. budget woes’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Karl Rove: Obama’s Legislative Victory Comes at High Cost — Republicans did well to oppose the spending bill’

N.Y. Post: ‘BLACK SUNDAY VERDICT SECRET’

CBS News: ‘Barry Schweid: Israel’s Tilt Right An Obstacle For Obama’

N.Y. Post: ‘CAR-DRAG HORROR ALONG 3 HIGHWAYS’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘A-Rod crawls back to Cynthia, and Madonna’s not happy’

N.Y. Times: ‘A Hollywood Sequel for Michigan Workers’

N.Y. Post: ‘BOOST FOR CITY TEACHERS, COPS’

N.Y. Times: ‘Uncovering the Perks of Albany’s Fallen G.O.P.’

N.Y. Times: ‘The Recession Takes Down a Yacht Club’

N.Y. Post: ‘ALOMAR: EX OFF BASE’

N.Y. Times: ‘Queens Driver Unknowingly Drags a Body Nearly 20 Miles’

N.Y. Post: ‘TAIL OF JUSTICE IN DOG KILLING’

N.Y. Times: ‘An Officer Is Accused of Beating a Suspect’

N.Y. Post: ‘MRS. MADOFF IN $15M GRAB’

N.Y. Times: ‘Police Say Shooting of Brooklyn Man, 18, Was Justified’

N.Y. Post: ‘ANDY TAKES SLY POKE AT PATERSON’

N.Y. Times: ‘Her Time Short, a Brooklyn Woman Exerts a Passion to Paint’

Wall Street Journal: “Fed Faces Constraints In Market-Revival Role”

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Tom cries ‘Uncle’! Daschle’s exit an embarrassing end to Obama’s embarrassing decision to pick him

Tom Daschle‘s quick exit from the health-care Cabinet job is just proof that he was a poor choice for the job.

If the guy can’t get it together enough to wipe his nose clean after rubbing it against the rear of society schmuckettes like Catherine Reynolds, then he’s not the person to tackle the extraordinarily tricky job of cleaning up the health-care mess.

He should just return to his destiny: playing off his former job in Congress to lobby his former Congress pals on behalf of rich clients.

Daschle wasn’t a notable senator in the first place, despite his high post in the Democratic Party heirarchy. Teddy Kennedy or Paul Wellstone he wasn’t.

Barack Obama did take responsibility for the Daschle embarrassment and did admit that he, the president, screwed up, but it was Daschle who screwed up his own nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

All he had to do was come clean to Obama or Obama’s vetters, and this wouldn’t have happened. Actually, he could have just paid his taxes in the first place. But hubris isn’t exclusive to Wall Street bankers or pro athletes. Former senators often think that they, too, are above the law or the law’s consequences.

Obama’s screw-up came when he picked Daschle in the first place — unless Obama wanted a weak-sister guy like Daschle in there. All of this leaves murky the question of what exactly the Obama regime has in mind for health care.

The last time a Democratic administration came to power, Bill Clinton turned the health-care issue over to Hillary Clinton, who, true to her conservative roots, immediately reneged on her vow to supporters and advisers to consider a national health-care plan. Instead, she relied on the inherently corrupt health-care industry — not the doctors, but the insurers — and any hope of a cleaner, fairer, more inclusive national health-care plan that wouldn’t be controlled by the middlemen (the insurers) was doomed. (Click here for my February 2005 rant about this; you’ll have to scroll down a little ways to get to it.)

In any case, good-bye, Daschle. Don’t let the revolving door hit you on your way into and out of government offices.

The rest of you, however, are welcome to stay right here and click on the following items…

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

CBS: ‘Bailed-Out Bank Nixes Lavish Vegas Junket: After Outcry From Capitol Hill, Wells Fargo, Which Got $25B In Taxpayer Money, Calls Off Gathering’

CBS: ‘MySpace Boots 90,000 Sex Offenders: N.C. Attorney General Demands That Much Larger Facebook Follow Suit’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Obama puts salary cap on bailout businesses’

President Obama will announce a crackdown on Wall Street fat cats on Wednesday, setting a $500,000 cap on executive compensation for companies getting taxpayer bailouts, a senior administration official said Tuesday night.

N.Y. Post: ‘VANISH CO-ED COMES CLEAN’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama on Defense as Daschle Withdraws’

…One of President Barack Obama’s closest political confidants and early mentors, Mr. Daschle had been tapped to spearhead the effort to overhaul the nation’s health-care system. But concerns arising from Mr. Daschle’s failure to pay more than $100,000 in taxes on time, coupled with tax problems involving two other cabinet nominees, threatened both the administration’s health-care agenda and the credibility of Mr. Obama’s pledge to raise the ethical standards of Washington.

Mr. Daschle’s sudden withdrawal came two weeks to the day after Mr. Obama took office, and 24 hours after the president told reporters that he “absolutely” stood by his nominee. The abrupt move stands to potentially dent the reputation for steadiness and managerial prowess that the 47-year-old president had cultivated over a smoothly run campaign and a transition to power that boasted of a swift vetting and nomination of top aides.

Brooklyn Paper: ‘Macy’s to Brooklyn workers: You’re safe for now’

N.Y. Times: ‘Despite Vow, Target of Immigrant Raids Shifted’

Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening — criminals and terrorism suspects.

Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either.

NBC News: ‘Obama to Limit Executive Pay at Companies Getting Aid’

President Barack Obama will announce today that he’s imposing a cap of $500,000 on the compensation of top executives at companies that receive significant federal assistance in the future, responding to a public outcry over Wall Street excess.

Any additional compensation will be in restricted stock that won’t vest until taxpayers have been paid back, according to an administration official, who requested anonymity. The rules will force greater transparency on the use of corporate jets, office renovations and holiday parties as well as golden parachutes offered to executives when they leave companies.

Bloomberg: ‘”Failed” Wall Street Means Biggest Rules Rewrite Since 1930s’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Blago’s sideshow visits Late Show

If David Letterman is the typical juror, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich should get ready for prison food.

N.Y. Post: ‘PROTESTERS CRASH BASH TO BOO BLOOMY’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Tax would be curtains, Broadway tells Gov’

N.Y. Times: ‘In Shattered Gaza Town, Roots of Seething Split’ (Ethan Bronner)

The fighting in El Atatra tells the story of Israel’s offensive, with each side giving a very different version of events.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Stimulus Brings Out City Wish Lists’

Most cities want stimulus funds for roads and sewers. But others are using a kitchen-sink strategy, asking for neon signs or a frisbee golf course.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Plans Emerge for New Troop Deployments to Afghanistan’

Senior U.S. commanders are finalizing plans to send tens of thousands of reinforcements to Afghanistan’s main opium-producing region and its porous border with Pakistan, moves that will form the core of President Barack Obama’s emerging Afghan war strategy….

Virtually none of the new troops heading to Afghanistan will go to Kabul or other major Afghan cities. By contrast, when the Bush administration dispatched 30,000 new troops to Iraq as part of the so-called surge, the bulk of the new forces went to Baghdad….

The deployments, part of a planned doubling of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, are almost certain to spark heavier casualties and push the war squarely onto the public agenda. “I hate to say it, but yes, I think there will be [more U.S. casualties],” Vice President Joe Biden said on CBS Sunday. “There will be an uptick.”

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Man with pigeons in his pants gets nabbed at airport’

N.Y. Post: ‘BRUTAL BRONX THUG CAUGHT IN THE ACT’

Bloomberg: ‘Clean-Coal Debate Pits Al Gore’s Group Against Obama, Peabody’

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and his Alliance for Climate Protection say clean-coal technology is a fantasy.

Peabody Energy Corp., the biggest U.S. coal producer, says another prominent Democrat has pledged to make the technology a reality: President Barack Obama.

The Gore-Obama split illustrates a growing debate in the U.S. as the new president attempts to deliver on his promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the country 80 percent by 2050. Depending on who’s speaking, coal is either the villain or part of the solution.

N.Y. Times: ‘As Iraqis Tally Votes, Former Leader Re-emerges’

Ayad Allawi, the first prime minister selected after the Americans handed power back to Iraqis in June 2004, has made a comeback in the provincial elections, unofficial preliminary returns indicate, setting himself up as a potential rival to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Time Warner Falls Into the Red’

N.Y. Post: ‘MILLIONAIRES TOLD TO BITE SILVER TAX BULLET’

New Yorker: ‘Another Country: James Baldwin’s flight from America’

Bloomberg: ‘Cohen’s Hedge Fund Taxes Can’t Fix Connecticut’s Fallen Revenue’

Connecticut, the wealthiest U.S. state with per capita income of $54,117 in 2007, has profited from its proximity to Wall Street since rail lines from the city reached north to Fairfield County more than a century ago. According to Forbes magazine, the state’s richest residents now are hedge fund managers including Steven Cohen and Paul Tudor Jones, who live and work in and around Greenwich. Cohen earned $900 million in 2007 while Jones made $300 million, according to Institutional Investor magazine’s Alpha publication.

Newsday: ‘Fortunoff Shutters NYC Store, Stoking Bankruptcy Rumors’

N.Y. Post: ‘EYE’M NOT SORRY: GUY WHO BLIND-SIDED DAVE DEFENDS AD SLAM’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Iran’s Report of Satellite Launch Stirs U.S. Concern’

N.Y. Post: ‘JUDGE: GAY SPOUSE GETS ESTATE’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Ticketmaster Is Near Deal With Live Nation’

Ticketmaster and Live Nation are close to an all-stock merger to form the world’s dominant concert promotion, ticketing and artist-management company.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Detroit Reels as Auto Sales Skid’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Dissed as kid, Spitz pimp cries’

N.Y. Post: ‘COLUMBIA “THIEF” BUST’

A one-man crime wave from Massachusetts road-tripped it to Columbia University every weekend for the past two months — stealing wallets from gymnasium lockers and a dozen laptops, the Post has learned.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Border-Fence Project Hits a Snag’

N.Y. Post: ‘SHUTTERING NEWS FOR BRANDEIS HS’


‘Markopolos Blasts SEC for “Financial Illiteracy”‘

From the Wall Street Journal:

Fraud investigator Harry Markopolos blamed the Securities and Exchange Commission’s “financial illiteracy” for failing to heed his warnings about money manager Bernard Madoff.

Mr. Markopolos had warned the SEC for nearly a decade that Mr. Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme. Mr. Markopolos is set to testify before a House committee Wednesday, and 311 pages of his written testimony became public Tuesday evening.

N.Y. Times: ‘Witness on Madoff Tells of Fear for Safety’

House Committee on Financial Services: ‘Assessing the Madoff Ponzi Scheme and Regulatory Failures’ (Today’s hearing, featuring Markopolos and government officials)

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Americans start acting responsibly, sending country deeper into depression

Your own private Idaho.


When you can no longer afford even a night out in Boise, Idaho, your country’s in deep financial trouble.

In a clever immorality tale about 21st century capitalism, the Wall Street Journal tells us this morning that people in the Intermountain West are having to give up meet and potatoes. Like many other families throughout the country, the average-American Capp and Muir families have had to stop spending and start saving.

No more nights out in downtown Boise. The Capps now have to stick close to their suburban home. But — the bad news keeps piling up — they’ve had to sacrifice cable TV! And they have teenagers in the house! (Memo to the parents: If you can’t afford to put meat on the table, at least serve your kids Robot Chicken.)

Kelly Evans‘s story, “Hard-Hit Families Finally Start Saving, Aggravating Nation’s Economic Woes,” fascinates, not only because it’s a detailed yet smooth human-interest yarn, but also because it points out the financial perversity spreading through the land because of Wall Street’s meltdown.

Don’t feel sorry for these hinterland families. The fact that they’re desperately trying to save their money, instead of going into more debt, spells doom for the rest of us. By trying to extricate themselves from their own mess, they’re just making it worse for all of us…and for themselves. Screwy, huh? Here’s the explanation, per Evans’s story:

As layoffs and store closures grip Boise, these two local families hope their newfound frugality will see them through the economic downturn. But this same thriftiness, embraced by families across the U.S., is also a major reason the downturn may not soon end. Americans, fresh off a decadeslong buying spree, are finally saving more and spending less — just as the economy needs their dollars the most.

Usually, frugality is good for individuals and for the economy. Savings serve as a reservoir of capital that can be used to finance investment, which helps raise a nation’s standard of living. But in a recession, increased saving — or its flip side, decreased spending — can exacerbate the economy’s woes. It’s what economists call the “paradox of thrift.”

It’s more like a “Cash-22.” I mean, you finally start acting responsibly, saving money instead of piling up even more outrageous credit-card debt and purchasing gizmos and gewgaws that relentless advertising has brainwashed you into lusting after, and that’s bad for you, your family, and the country? More from Evans:

U.S. household debt, which has been growing steadily since the Federal Reserve began tracking it in 1952, declined for the first time in the third quarter of 2008. In the same quarter, U.S. consumer spending growth declined for the first time in 17 years.

That has resulted in a rise in the personal saving rate, which the government calculates as the difference between earnings and expenditures. In recent years, as Americans spent more than they earned, the personal saving rate dipped below zero. Economists now expect the rate to rebound to 3% to 5%, or even higher, in 2009, among the sharpest reversals since World War II.

The truth is that our economy demands that you continue acting like suckers by trying to live beyond your means. And when you stop being a sucker — like when you’re laid off and you don’t have a choice because you have to start saving your money to pay your bills and plan for the hard times — then you’re blamed for not being a good citizen.

Oh well, Wall Street’s worse-than-usual greed may have caused this problem, but we New Yorkers can be part of the solution. Bailouts of Wall Street haven’t worked, so why not try to rescue some other downtowns?

Road trip to Boise!

Now that you know that the real goniffs are yourselves instead of people like Bernie Madoff, you’re free to click on the following news items…

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Times: ‘Death Toll Mounts in Gaza Offensive’

As European diplomats sought a cease-fire, Israeli troops poured into Gaza City, expelling residents and shooting militants. Meanwhile, Israeli troops suffered casualties from so-called “friendly fire.”

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Binge drinking raises HIV risk, report says’

New Yorkers who consume five or more drinks in one sitting face increased risk of HIV and other STDs, according to a new study from the city Department of Health.

N.Y. Post: ‘MODEL SNARED IN UGLY WEB: FIGHTING GOOGLE OVER “SKANK” BLOG’

FOX News: ‘U.S. Embassy in Iraq Largest, Most Expensive Ever’

N.Y. Times: ‘Ex-Detainee of U.S. Describes a 6-Year Ordeal’

Though never charged with a crime, Muhammad Saad Iqbal spent six years in American custody, during which he says he was secretly taken to Egypt and tortured.

Editor & Publisher: ‘Daily Show Returns — As Alan Colmes Becomes Stephen Colbert’s Co-Host’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘New poll sez Caroline is unsweetened’

Caroline Kennedy’s popularity has plunged as her push to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate hit rough patches, a new poll finds.

N.Y. Post: ‘CAR-NAGE! DECEMBER AUTO SALES CRASH & BURN’

Editor & Publisher: ‘Ann Coulter Kicked Off NBC’s Today Show

Editor & Publisher: ‘Locked Out: Israel STILL Keeping Foreign Reporters from Gaza War Zone’

N.Y. Post: ‘EL LOCO CHOKE-O: LEFTY HALTS OIL AID OVER MONEY WOES’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Hard-Hit Families Finally Start Saving, Aggravating Nation’s Economic Woes’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Analysis: Third stage will be war’s hardest test’

The hard part of Israel’s war against Hamas lies ahead — and the public’s willingness to fight on will determine its course.

N.Y. Times: ‘Toyota to Shut Factories for 11 Days’

N.Y. Post: ‘ARAB FLIER GETS 240G OVER SHIRT BAN’

A JetBlue passenger who was forced to cover up a T-shirt that read, “We will not be silent” in Arabic and English before boarding a cross-country flight won a $240,000 settlement from…

N.Y. Times: ‘Panetta Chosen as C.I.A. Chief in Surprise Step’

N.Y. Times: ‘Rent Reprieve for a Fixture on the Upper West Side’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘2 NY mortgage firms agree to restitution’

HCI Mortgage and Consumer One Mortgage will pay $665,000 for charging black and Hispanic borrowers higher…

N.Y. Post: ‘ALBANY POLS STILL SUCK’


Bloomberg: ‘Madoff Investor Awaits “Imbecile” or “Dupe” Verdict’

Patrick Littaye, 69, [co-founder of Access International Advisors,] invested all of his own money with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC last year, enticed by the firm’s positive returns as other hedge funds slumped. His error was compounded because he borrowed money to increase the return on his investment, leaving him with $4 million in personal debts, Littaye said in telephone interviews from Jan. 2 through Jan. 4. He declined to specify the amount he had lost.

“I’m going to sell everything I have and start over,” Littaye said from Brussels, adding that he planned to subsist on his French social security payments. “For Access, we’ll go to our investors over the next couple of weeks and we’ll see what they think of us.”

Littaye’s partner, Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, chose a different course. The 65-year-old co-founder and chief executive officer of Access was found dead Dec. 23 at his office in New York. Villehuchet killed himself after it became clear he wouldn’t be able to recover the funds he and his clients invested with Madoff…

N.Y. Times: ‘Bid to Revoke Madoff’s Bail Cites His Gifts’

Bernard L. Madoff tried to hide at least $1 million in assets from investigators, prosecutors told a judge.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘The city’s star crook: Fed entourage protects Madoff’

Bloomberg: ‘Madoff Sons Reported Jewelry Violations to U.S., Lawyer Says’

The sons of Bernard Madoff, who is accused of orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme, told prosecutors last week that their father violated a court-ordered asset freeze by mailing them jewelry, watches and other items, his lawyer said.

Time: ‘The Ponzi Scheme in Every Hedge Fund’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Madoff’s victims number 8,000 — and counting’

In a further sign of the sheer enormity of Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, on Monday a count-appointed trustee announced it had mailed claim forms to 8,000 former customers–an irate army of investors that is still only a fraction of the total number who may have been defrauded.

Bloomberg: ‘Bard College Had Losses of $3 Million Tied to Madoff’

Reuters: ‘New York University sues fund exec over Madoff’

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We’re saved! Yankees bail out New York City!

Don’t worry if you’ve been laid off, your kid’s school has closed, your neighborhood’s community center has had to shut down, your bank (revitalized by your tax money) is pestering you to turn over your home, the prices of booze and cigarettes have gone up again, subway fares are soaring, you couldn’t afford to buy more than lumps of coal for your Christmas stocking, Bernie Madoff stole your gelt.

Taking the sting out of that: The Yanks signed Mark Texeira for $180 million in guaranteed money.

The local rags reported the great news as breathlessly as any hometown hack hinterlands newspaper would. From the Daily News:

In bagging free agents Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett, the Yankees have committed a guaranteed $423.5 million to those three contracts at a cost that will average $62 million a year. …

Teixeira’s contract pays him $22.5 million a year and includes a $5 million signing bonus as well as a no-trade clause. Together with Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter, the Yankees have the four highest-paid players in baseball.

Rodriguez will make $32 million this year and (for now) gets to fuck Madonna.

You — and ordinary New Yorkers like you — helped make it all possible with hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies and free land. Take some pride in that. Even if you can’t afford tickets to the games. Give yourself a pat on the back.

You also made New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon happy; the Mets got public money for their new stadium, making it possible for them to afford their new players.

But Wilpon wasn’t as lucky as Alex Rodriguez. Fred got fucked, but it was Bernie Madoff who turned the trick and it cost Fred $500 million.

Aside from that, more good news for the rich people you subsidize: If you’re one of those people who rents from city slumlord Isaac Toussie, raise a toast to him: George W. Bush just granted him a pardon.

Put a bucket under those drips and click on these …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Washington Post: ‘The Dispirit of Christmas Present’

It’s beginning to look a not like Christmas, everywhere you don’t go.

Slate: ‘Bogus Trend of the Week: Booming Evangelical Attendance’

A Gallup editor punctures a religion bubble at the New York Times. …

Ordinarily when the Times traffics in a trend story, it indemnifies itself by quoting a skeptic on the other side of the issue or it tosses off a “to be sure” paragraph noting the weakness of its anecdotal evidence. Not here. Given this leap of faith, let’s hope the Times isn’t looking into the existence of Santa Claus. Imagine the headline: “Despite Naysayers, Hundreds of Millions Believe in St. Nick.”

McClatchy: ‘Salmon-tracking network upends some sacred cows’

Slate: ‘Blago’s Legal Eagles’

They’re the guys who defended R. Kelly. Can they get the Illinois governor off the hook, too?

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Scheme
Takes New Toll’

A sharper picture is emerging about the investigation into the alleged fraud by Madoff, how it evolved to ensnare bigger clients and how long it went on. …

Earliest suspicions now date back to ’91.

Slate: ‘Cheney Fought the Law. Cheney Won.’

N.Y. Post: ‘EX-BROKER FACES “HEDGE HOG” RAP’

A former securities broker was charged yesterday with helping disgraced lawyer Marc Dreier trick hedge-fund managers into making more than $380 million in bogus investments, authorities said.

Kosta Kovachev, who lost his broker’s license after being implicated in a time-share Ponzi scheme, is accused of impersonating various real-estate execs as part of Dreier’s elaborate scam to sell hedge funds phony promissory notes, according to the feds.

Kovachev, 57, and Dreier reportedly sneaked into the Manhattan offices of Solow Realty to meet with hedge-fund representatives in October. During that meeting, Kovachev pretended to be the company’s controller, according to a Manhattan federal court complaint.

L.A. Times: ‘Chinese seek to pull cats from the menu’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama, Two Aides Questioned in Probe’

N.Y. Post: ‘PITY PONZI-POOR PENNEY’

Washington Post: ‘SEC Chair Defends His Restraint’

Christopher Cox says agency’s measured response to crisis has been his greatest contribution.

N.Y. Post: ‘CITY BIGS FACE DEUTSCHE GRILL’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Suicide not a shock to other Madoff victims’

Washington Post: ‘Madoff Investor Found Dead in Office’

Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet was found sitting at his desk at about 8 a.m. with both wrists slashed … A box cutter was found on the floor along with a bottle of sleeping pills on his desk. No suicide note was found. …

His fund enlisted intermediaries with links to the cream of Europe’s high society to garner clients.

Among them was Philippe Junot, a French businessman and friend who is the former husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco.

De la Villehuchet, the former chairman and chief executive of Credit Lyonnais Securities, also was known as a keen sailor who regularly participated in regattas and was a member of the New York Yacht Club.

N.Y. Post: ‘GOOD, BAD AND UGLY IN CITY CRIME STATS’

American Forces Press Service: ‘Commander in Chief Recalls His “Great Days”‘

McClatchy: ‘California will see clout increase at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue’

N.Y. Post: ‘SHEL SHOCKER: BEWARE CAROLINE, HE WARNS GOV’

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday strongly suggested that Gov. Paterson reject Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s replacement – because she might be more loyal to Mayor Bloomberg than to the governor.

McClatchy: ‘Flaunting, sales of luxury goods down’

BBC: ‘Cocoa prices hit a 23-year-high’

… Cocoa traded in the US has also been rising, although not as strongly because of the strength of the dollar.

BBC: ‘Dung souvenir based on holy phrase’

BBC: ‘Sopranos actor cleared of murder’

BBC: ‘NY Times admits to fake letter’

Washington Post: ‘Shoe-Thrower Is Called Defiant’

Telegraph (U.K.): ‘Pope says humanity needs “saving” from homosexuality’

N.Y. Times: ‘Betrayed by Madoff, school adds lesson’

Jurist: ‘Russia upper house gives final approval to presidential term extension amendments’

Jurist: ‘Australia government lifts control order on ex-Guantanamo detainee Hicks’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Animal rights activists still target lab’

Four guilty of six-year campaign against companies
linked to Huntingdon Life Sciences knowledge

L.A. Times: ‘Afghanistan’s President Karzai laments coalition use of “thugs”‘

The leader of Afghanistan faults U.S.-led forces, saying they have hired warlords who have then been sent to mistreat ordinary Afghans.

 

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Happy holidays: Madoffs shop, Gov. Paterson gallivants

Only three shopping days ’til Depression. But no need to hurry as in years past because you may have already been laid off, so have that second cup of coffee before you head off to longingly press your noses against those store windows.

If you still have a job, it probably won’t matter if you take off from work (because you’re probably not going to have your job much longer anyway) to grab that new bauble for your spouse (because diamonds are forever).

Let’s face it: You’re fucked. (No really, Xmas season is the peak time of mating.)

Anyway, this could be your last chance to get that plasma TV. Next year you could be at the blood bank cashing in your plasma just to put food on the table.

This morning’s best headline is the New York Post‘s “DEATH-LEAP SUV GAL WAS BOOZY: BAR BOSS.” And the most heart-warming Xmas story also comes from the Post: yesterday’s joyous shopping spree by one of Bernie Madoff‘s sons. The Post was on the scene:

Bernard Madoff’s investors have lost everything, but his son and daughter-in-law seemed without a care in the world yesterday as they dashed around SoHo on a holiday shopping spree.

Andrew Madoff, 42, who worked with brother Mark at their dad’s now-failed financial firm, still drives around in a BMW SUV to do his holiday shopping, loading up with purchases from J.Crew, Longchamp, Kidrobot and other tony stores in SoHo.

Andrew and wife Deborah, 41, who live on the Upper East Side, also shopped at American Eagle and a high-end lamp store, and checked out the windows at Vera Wang.

No word on whether the couple also went shopping for a shiny, new Ponzi to give to their dad. Take us for a ride, Bernie!

Already going for a spin at our expense is Governor David Paterson, who went to Iraq to “spread holiday cheer” to the troops, as the Daily News reports.

WTF is he doing in Iraq!? He has no say on decisions concerning the war. Some government is paying for that trip. The Daily News sez:

Paterson, joined by Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn, Queens) and Steve Israel (D-L.I.), arrived in Iraq with Yankees and Mets baseball caps for the soldiers.

He said he came to thank them for their service but wound up being “overwhelmed” by their appreciation in return.

It’s bad enough that the two congressmen are over there for no practical purpose. But while tens of thousands of New Yorkers and other Americans are standing on line for the first time to collect food stamps and other dwindling social services, Paterson’s collecting good wishes from the troops? We know that pols live for applause, but WTF!?

Stranded, we point and click to these items …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: ‘MADOFF’S SON IN SHOPPING GALL: POSH-GIFT SPREE AMID $UFFERING’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Obama probe clears top aide Rahm Emanuel of too much Blago blabbing’

McClatchy: ‘Stimulus plan could be mother of all “Christmas tree” bills’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Stars of David: A-listers do Chanukah’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Investors Lose Faith, Pull Record Amounts’

Rank-and-file investors, who likely account for half or more of all U.S. stock holdings, are losing faith in stocks just as in past, long market downturns. Investors withdrew an estimated $72 billion from stock funds overall in October.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Stampede for “Bush shoe” creates 100 new jobs’

Ramazan Baydan, owner of the Istanbul-based Baydan Shoe Company, has been swamped with orders from across the world, after insisting that his company produced the black leather shoes which the Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi threw at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad last Sunday.

Baydan has recruited an extra 100 staff to meet orders for 300,000 pairs of Model 271 – more than four times the shoe’s normal annual sale – following an outpouring of support for Zaidi’s act, which was intended as a protest, but led to his arrest by Iraqi security forces.

Times (U.K.): ‘Gordon Brown puts millions on table to save car maker Jaguar Land Rover’

BBC: ‘Windows XP allowed to live again’

N.Y. Post: ‘”ID-THEFT CELL SCAM” HITS COPS IN B’KLYN’

Maybe it wasn’t the “Finest” idea. Two identity thieves ripped off cops at a Brooklyn station house after they got hold of a 15-year-old personnel roster and used the information …

Wall Street Journal: ‘The Presidential Pickup Game’

With the naming of ‘the best basketball-playing cabinet in American history,’ hoops madness is hitting Washington. But don’t count out the bowling lobby.

Wall Street Journal: ‘U.S. Developers Seek
Their Own Bailout’

Big property developers are asking to be included in a new $200 billion loan program as a surge in commercial mortgages comes due.

The Age (Australia): ‘Japanese protest against Google Street View’

A group of Japanese journalists, professors and lawyers demanded Friday that the US Internet search giant Google scrap its “Street View” service in Japan, saying it violates people’s privacy. … The service was expanded to 12 major cities in Japan in August and six cities in France in October. …

The Google Japanese unit earlier said it was blurring the faces of people seen in Street View scenes by special technology and that it would delete the pictures of people and buildings upon request.

Japan has stricter protections on privacy in public than in the United States, with Japanese able to stop their pictures from being used against their will.

Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service: ‘Election 2008: Arab World Views’

“When you talk to Arabs they talk about the American media, they say American media is synonymous with Fox.

“Well, no, American media is not synonymous with Fox. And great things are published by the American media. Great things are published by the American media. The American media covered the Shabra and Shatila massacres in a more dignified professional way than all the Arab media put together. Make no mistake.”

Times (U.K.): ‘FBI diverts anti-terror agents to Bernard Madoff $50 billion swindle’

Washington Times: ‘Bush, Cheney comforted troops privately: Met with thousands of war injured, kin out of spotlight’

Times (U.K.): ‘Three near-invisible drawings discovered on back of Da Vinci masterpiece’ [VIDEO]

Wall Street Journal: ‘Mortgage Applications Surge on Falling Rates’

Times (U.K.): ‘Bad for investors, good for lawyers: Grandchildren of Madoff investors will still be suing grandchildren of hedge fund managers in fifty years’

Washington Post: ‘Cheney Defends His Tenure, Administration’s Actions’ [TRANSCRIPT]

Vice President Cheney offered an unabashed defense of the Bush administration’s claims of broad executive powers today, mocking criticism from Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and saying the president “doesn’t have to check with anybody” before launching a nuclear attack.

AP: ‘AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs’

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals. …

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Sunday Mail (U.K.): ‘Fury as bust bank flies 100 branch managers to New York on junket’

CRISIS-HIT bank HBOS came under attack yesterday after rewarding 100 branch managers with an all-expenses paid trip to New York.

The four-day holiday – which includes tickets for their partners and spending money – comes weeks after taxpayers bailed out the bank with £11.5 billion.

The managers are being rewarded for hitting performance targets – in a year that ended with the bank facing collapse.

 

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American kids’ college plans face auto-destruct

While Detroit’s Big Three automakers are crawling up Capitol Hill once again to plead for a bailout, American families hoping to send their kids to college got more bad news.

Actually, the families just got confirmation of the brutal fact that it’s becoming impossible for them to pay for college.

Basing its story, like other outlets, on the newly released “Measuring Up,” the annual “report card” from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the New York Times grossly understated the situation this morning, especially with its headline: “College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.”

Hey, it already is. “No child left behind”? I don’t think so. The real news is that the crisis is getting even worse — or “worser,” if you can’t afford to get the fine education I got in a small town decades ago.

How bad is it for today’s families? The Times story notes:

Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.

That’s the problem, but here are the consequences:

“If we go on this way for another 25 years, we won’t have an affordable system of higher education,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonpartisan organization that promotes access to higher education.

“When we come out of the recession,” Mr. Callan added, “we’re really going to be in jeopardy, because the educational gap between our work force and the rest of the world will make it very hard to be competitive. Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”

If your kids are able to read down into the story, they’ll find some news that may even make them feel sympathy for you. Even the Times calls it “stark”:

Last year, the net cost at a four-year public university amounted to 28 percent of the median family income, while a four-year private university cost 76 percent of the median family income.

By the way, you can’t flee to another state where higher education is more affordable. Every state but California got an F in the study — and the only reason California didn’t is that it has a more extensive community-college system.

What does this all mean? Well, this morning, a BBC anchor noted that when Detroit’s automakers pleaded last week for a bailout, they “got sent away with a flea in their ear.”

Your kids may not be educated enough to even look up that idiom, let alone understand what Yale professor Robert Shiller said in reply to the anchor’s question about whether Detroit should be bailed out. “There could be a degree in histrionics in this,” Shiller told the BBC. (See and hear Shiller in one of his many interviews by the foreign press.)

The grim news about paying for college is unfortunately not clouded by histrionics. You could look it up: Read the “Measuring Up” report. If you have to, explain it to your kids. Maybe they’ll take to the streets in protest. For a bailout of a situation that’s not of their own making.

In other business …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

McClatchy: ‘Military contractor in Iraq holds foreign workers in warehouses’

About 1,000 Asian men hired by a Kuwaiti subcontractor to the U.S. military have been confined as virtual prisoners in windowless warehouses near the Baghdad airport, many for as long as three months. Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor to KBR, the Texas-based former subsidiary of Halliburton, hired the men for contracts that fell through.

Washington Post: ‘Technology Used as Tactical Tool’

Mumbai attackers used GPS units and satellite maps to plan and carry out assault.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Big Three Seek $34 Billion Bailout’

Detroit’s Big Three presented turnaround plans to Congress that indicate both GM and Chrysler could collapse by the end of December unless they get billions of dollars in emergency loans.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Shalom, Kiosk Christmas Shoppers’

Amid a grim holiday season, mall shoppers are being besieged by a determined crop of salespeople: young Israelis who man mobile carts and have a no-holds-barred selling style.

N.Y. Times: ‘Contrite Over Misstep, Auto Chiefs Take to Road’

McClatchy: ‘Pelosi says Congress won’t let Big 3 carmakers go bankrupt’

International Herald Tribune: ‘U.S. Treasury’s lead role on China in doubt’

When Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. leaves office next month, Washington will lose its No. 1 China hand. Paulson, who spent years cultivating Chinese leaders as a Wall Street banker, has spearheaded U.S. policy toward Beijing since 2006.

That raises some big questions, including who will pick up Paulson’s baton in the administration of Barack Obama, and whether the Treasury Department will continue to be the lead agency in steering a relationship increasingly defined by the yawning trade gap between China and the United States.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Goldman Considers Online Bank’

Goldman is weighing the launch of an Internet banking operation in an effort to broaden funding sources.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Paulson Debates Second Infusion: Hostile Lawmakers, Competing Bailout Demands and GAO Criticism Pose Dilemma’

… Mr. Paulson’s dilemma was thrown into relief Tuesday by a report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which criticized the Treasury Department’s handling of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Jones Urges Broad Afghanistan Approach’

James Jones, President-elect Barack Obama’s new national security adviser, said a U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan will work only if other changes take hold there, including a strengthening of the judiciary and national police force.

In an interview Tuesday, the retired Marine Corps general said Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge to move as many as 10,000 U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan must mesh with a concentrated international effort to bolster government and eradicate the vast heroin trade.

“You can always put more troops into Afghanistan,” he said. “But if that’s all you do, you will just be prolonging the problem.” …

For his part, Gen. Jones tends toward the sober and methodical. He said he has “every reason to believe” the team can work together. “We have a serious boatload of problems facing us and the only way out of it is for us all to pull on the same oar,” he said. Gen. Jones’s friends say that despite 40 years in the Marines Corps, his conversations are profanity-free. The general has a penchant for words like “holistic” and “embryonic.”

Wall Street Journal: ‘Gates Seeks Congress’s Help in Closing Guantanamo’

Mr. Gates, who will remain in his post in the Obama administration, was one of the first senior members of the Bush cabinet to push publicly for the Guantanamo prison’s closure, but his calls largely fell on deaf ears.

N.Y. Times: ‘College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.’

Tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, while median family income rose 147 percent.

Newsday: ‘New York one of 49 states panned on college costs’

An independent report on American higher education flunks all but one state when it comes to affordability, an embarrassing verdict that immediately drew fire from Gov. David A. Paterson as an incomplete assessment of the state’s college costs and financial aid. …

In New York, the average cost of attending a public four-year college stayed the same between 1999-2000 and 2007-08: 27 percent of a family’s income. Nationally, the average cost rose from 20 percent to 28 percent during the same period, the report found.

Houston Chronicle: ‘College report is warning for Texas’

Texas families spend 26 percent of income for one year at a four-year public college, even after financial aid. …

Rising tuition and the failure to enroll more young people in college threaten the Texas economy, according to a new report.

The National Center on Public Policy and Higher Education, in a report to be released today, found that high tuition is one of the biggest barriers to higher education in Texas and elsewhere.

Texas and 48 other states received an F for college affordability on a report card issued by the center. Only California earned a passing grade for the price of a college education, and then only because the state’s community colleges are relatively inexpensive.

Washington Post: ‘Closet Centrist: In Obama’s Cabinet, the Audacity of Moderation’ (Michael Gerson, former Bush speechwriter)

… Obama’s appointments reveal not just moderation but maturity — magnanimity to past opponents, a concern for continuity in a time of war and economic crisis, a self-confidence that allows him to fill gaps in his own experience with outsize personalities, and a serious commitment to incarnate his rhetoric of unity.

All the normal caveats apply. It is still early. Obama is benefiting from being the only player on the stage — all his pretensions of moderation could be quickly undermined by a liberal Congress, unhinged by its expanded majority. And Obama’s social liberalism could still turn Washington into a culture-war battlefield.

But honesty requires this recognition: So far, Barack Obama shows the instincts and ambitions of a large political figure. …

Second, Obama’s appointments reveal something important about current Bush policies. Though Obama’s campaign savaged the administration as incompetent and radical, Obama’s personnel decisions have effectively ratified Bush’s defense and economic approaches during the past few years.

 

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Putting it diplomatically: No on Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State? She would make Condi Rice seem like Ben Franklin.

Even in the most charitable light, Hillary’s diplomatic skills are dim and dimmer. Never in her career has she built a consensus with her own hands or successfully worked out a major deal. She’s even left a host of former allies — like children’s advocate Marion Wright Edelman — disaffected and angry with her after they realized that she stood for nothing but herself.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a politician doing that. Except when you consider that politician as a diplomat.

Not every pol can be an international diplomat. George W. Bush himself is the prime example. And though some political operatives can do it, Bush’s handlers proved what a disaster that could be when they sent hardline polemicist John Bolton to the U.N. — one of the most ludicrous appointments in the history of U.S. diplomacy, because Bolton was an avowed foe of the very existence of the U.N.

Hillary is no polemicist. But she’s no diplomat.

She isn’t even a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Chuck Hegel is. So is Dick Lugar. Either of those serious, sober, centrist Republicans would be better choices for Obama, who himself was on the committee (as was Joe Biden).

The buzz about Obama’s possible selection of Hillary smacks of little more than backdoor campaigning by her own people.

We’re sorry that she’s bored with her job as New York’s junior senator. And we know that she’ll be mortified at having to continue being the state’s junior senator, because Chuck Schumer, the other N.Y. senator, is now one of the most powerful Democrats in D.C. — Chuck is chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and also controls the campaign treasure chest for fellow Democrats. Schumer won’t be relinquishing his power for at least the next four years, unless the GOP seizes control of the Senate in 2010.

Give it up, Hillary. Go back to the Senate and do some work. You’re a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Do us a favor. Try to beat some of our swords into ploughshares.

Or if you just want to sulk, at least browse these items . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Wall Street Journal: ‘Citi to Cut More Jobs,
Raise Rates on Its Plastic’

“Citigroup is embarking on another huge round of layoffs and is raising interest rates on millions of credit-card customers.”

AllAfrica.com: ‘Kenya: What the Global Left Can Learn From Obama’s Victory’

Washington Post: ‘Free the GOP: The Party Won’t Win Back the Middle as Long As It’s Hostage to Social Fundamentalists’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘After Jail, Agriprocessors Workers Face a Difficult Journey: Left With No Support, Unable To Go Home, They Talk for the First Time About Ordeal’

Washington Post: ‘FDIC Details Plan To Alter Mortgages: Treasury Opposes Using Bailout Funds For Proposal to Ease Monthly Payments’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Jennifer Aniston finally talks about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’

N.Y. Times: ‘Chances Dwindle on Bailout Plan for Automakers’

Philadelphia Daily News: ‘What’s so funny about Obama? Comedians and musicians struggle to find material’

Reuters: ‘Fewer jokes in Obama White House? Comedians wonder’

Onion: ‘International Con Man Barack Obama Leaves U.S. With $85 Million In Campaign Fundraising’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Man swinging chair shot and killed by police officer in Coney Island’

N.Y. Post: ‘B’KLYN OFFICER SLAYS LUNATIC’

Washington Post: ‘Confessed Police Killer Lionized by Thousands in China: Crime Seen as Blow Against Oppression’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Mr. Bush, come tell the ghosts in Queens your financial plan’

Washington Post: ‘In a First, Astronomers Report Viewing Planets of Other Suns’

New Yorker: ‘The Joshua Generation: Race and the campaign of Barack Obama’ (David Remnick)

Washington Post: ‘CIA Director: Iraq Not Main Front in War on Terror’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Treasury Draws Fire for Shift in Rescue’

“Lawmakers assailed Paulson over his handling of shifting TARP’s focus, and raised questions about Treasury’s plans for rescue funds.”

Salon: ‘Merkel surprised at warnings against regulation’

Onion: ‘Majority Of Americans Never Use Physical Education After High School’

Wall Street Journal: ‘MGM Mirage CEO to Resign Amid Questions About MBA’

Washington Post: ‘Transition Team Chock Full of Bundlers: Public Interest Advocates Fret About the Appearance’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Black, Jewish Vote for Obama May Signal a Renewed Tie: But the Historic Allies Still Disagree on Many Issues’

Salon: ‘Awaiting Obama’s top lieutenants’

“Will it be Chuck Hagel, or even Hillary Clinton, for secretary of state? Will Bob Gates stay at the Pentagon? Obama’s national security team remains mostly top secret.”

Politico: ‘Obama gets the Clinton band back together’

New Yorker: ‘Emanuel In Full’

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Iraq is yesterday’s news

Yesterday’s news in Iraq:

October 21: “The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Justin A. Saint, 22, of Albertville, Ala., died Oct. 15 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the Special Troops Battalion, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C. The incident is under investigation.” (DOD)

October 21: “The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Heath K. Pickard, 21, of Palestine, Texas, died Oct. 16 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when he received indirect fire in Baquaba, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.” (DOD)

October 21: “In a bid to alleviate the suffering of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in tent camps, the local authorities have built a makeshift camp in western Baghdad to house 150 families in wooden caravans.” (IRIN)

Iraq Body Count: “Tuesday 21 October: 26 Dead”

Baghdad: 1 body found.

Jurf al-Sakhr: 15 killed in attack on two tribes.

Shirqat: Gunmen kill oil refinery director.

Diyala: 5 in minibus killed by US forces.

Mandili: car bomb kills 3.

Mosul: 1 body found. (Iraq Body Count)

“FACTBOX: Security Developments in Iraq, Oct 21

“Following are security developments in Iraq at 1600 GMT on Tuesday.”

• BAGHDAD – A salvo of seven mortars struck Saidiya neighbourhood of southern Baghdad, wounding five people, police said.

• BAGHDAD – One dead body was discovered in Baghdad, police said.

• MOSUL – Police said they found one unidentified dead body with gunshot wounds to the head and chest in the northern city of Mosul.

• BAGHDAD – Iraqi army troops found a large cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives in an industrial area of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, said Qassim Moussawi, government spokesman for security in the capital.

• LATIFIYA – Nine decomposed bodies were found on Monday in Latifiya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. The victims had been buried for more than a year.

• BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb near an army checkpoint wounded one Iraqi soldier and three electricity workers in Palestine street in northeastern Baghdad, police said. (JAVNO — Croatia)

DOD Casualty Report:
U.S. military casualties during combat operations (March 19, 2003 to April 30, 2003): 139

U.S. military casualties “post combat ops” (May 1, 2003 to present): 4,038 (DOD Casualty Report)

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Grim before the storm

A snapshot of working America was not a pretty picture even before the Wall Street crash.

 

Adapted from Despotism (1946)

Before the recession/depression even hits, average Americans are worse off in many ways than average people in most other major industrialized countries.

So there’s reason for great concern about how we would fare under a drastically worsening economy.

I mentioned earlier today that there’s a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, The State of Working America 2008/2009, that would justify your getting a bailout from the U.S. Treasury.

Not socialism (which is what the banks are getting) and not welfare (which is what other corporations have been getting and are getting even more of).

How about just some sound social-welfare policies?

In sum, most Americans are relatively worse off in many ways than people in 19 other industrialized powerhouse countries (Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland).

Here are some factoids from the report:

Per capita income: Norway first, U.S. second.

Income inequality: U.S. first (meaning worst) “Despite the relatively high median income in the United States, inequality in the United States is so severe that low-income households in the United States are actually worse off than low-income households in all but four peer countries.”

Overall poverty rate: U.S. highest.

Child poverty rate: U.S. highest.

Elderly poverty rate: U.S. third-highest.

Leisure time: U.S. last. “The average full-time U.S. worker, at 46.7 weeks per year, works more than the average worker in any peer countries, and about one month more than the overall average, which is 42.6 weeks.”

Maternity leave: “The United States [ranks] last among its peer countries in generosity of mandated maternity leave benefits.”

Child care: The United States spent $1,803 per child, which was less than a fourth of what was spent in Denmark, less than a third of what was spent in Norway and Sweden, less than half of what was spent in Finland and France, and well below spending in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

More from this report in future posts.

 

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Daily Flog: Panic spreads to McCain; White House meeting will solve everything; the world sneers

You can’t spell “down” without “Dow.”

The only good thing about this morning’s scheduled meltdown meeting of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and John McCain is that it confirms that Bush will not be president for much longer — he’s actually hosting his successors in the White House.

Otherwise, what the hell are these guys doing? This is not democracy.

Neither Obama nor McCain has won the presidency yet, and Bush is the lame duck. Even if Bush were capable, it’s not in our interest for the three of them to reach a consensus unless it’s conducted in a democratic process as a publicly hashed-out and argued bit of horse-trading (I’m not talking about a debate). Even then it wouldn’t be democratic because we haven’t elected any of these three guys to lead the country starting in January 2009.

Besides, you can hardly call this a meeting of the minds if one of the participants is Bush. The mindless, careless, disinterested front man hasn’t been running the country — Dick Cheney has, with the help of three guys formerly on our payroll: Karl Rove, Don Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz.

Democracy is what’s going on in Congress right now: messy, contentious, and often ugly, with alliances shifting and factions of Democrats and Republicans forming with each other and dissolving, instead of a strictly bipartisan war in which Republicans march in lockstep at the White House’s bidding.

Democracy is also messy, ugly episodes like the Bonus Army, the economy-ravaged, broke World War I vets who camped out in protest in D.C. and clashed with the Army in 1932, during Depression I.

Is a Wall Street Executive Bonus army forming? Or is the government worried about the broke-ass rest of us descending on D.C.? The Register (U.K.) reports this morning, based on an Army Times story: “US Army unit deployed to home front: Nonlethal force for civil unrest.” (For background on the grim 1932 clash, see NPR’s 2005 video and story “Soldier Against Soldier: The Story of the Bonus Army.”)

Still, there may be no need to rush into a massive bailout — as Press Clips reader John McGowan argues in a detailed comment attached to my Tuesday item “Krauts Sour on Wall Street Bailout.”

Don’t pay much attention to Bush’s speech last night. He doesn’t know shit about the economy — even with his daddy’s help he couldn’t make it in the oil bidness, and he became the Texas Rangers’ owner without investing hardly any money at all. (The real owners brought him in so they could pimp for a new stadium at public expense, a previous example of his pimping for corporate welfare).

Now, he’s performing as the front man for the GOP/Wall Street types who hunger for a quick dose of corporate welfare at our expense through a plan that would throw the rest of us onto the welfare rolls.

Yes, there is definitely pressure on the U.S. from other countries to be quick about a bailout plan (“Overnight Markets,” Financial Times).

Although maybe there’s not as much pressure from other countries as Hank Paulson and crew would have us believe: See this morning’s Washington Post story “U.S. Appeals Abroad Fall Flat as Leaders See No Crisis at Home.”

Still, there’s no doubt that something does have to be done quickly, but maybe it doesn’t have to be an entire, massive bailout right this second. Aren’t there more intermediate steps that could calm things down without putting the average American in deeper hock for the unimaginable future?

But in this country, there’s always such a rush by lobbyists that all important issues can’t be fully hashed out. Remember that during the hubbub leading to the disastrous October 2002 Iraq war resolution, debate was sharply curtailed on the orders of the White House and the GOP leaders who controlled Congress.

And after the unjustified invasion, Democrats like Henry Waxman and Byron Dorgan were prevented from conducting hearings on how the Cheney-Rumsfeld regime was conducting the war. (See my April 2005 item “Fix Your Corrupt Regime” for details.)

Just one of many examples: In February 2005, Waxman pushed for a hearing on allegations of “waste, fraud and abuse
in U.S. Government Contracting in Iraq.” He was rebuffed and had to hold an unofficial hearing that, even though it revealed fascinating and major corruption including actual bundles of cash, had no official standing and, as a result, garnered little press coverage.

And now there’s a real danger of another invasion: the possibility of a GOP-engineered October Surprise involving Pakistan that could scare voters into sticking with the Republicans and electing McCain. Scott Horton laid that out in Harper’s the other day.

For guidance, however, look to the markets — the one stock exchange that hasn’t yet melted down and isn’t asking for a bailout: Intrade Prediction Market, where the current action on John Delaney‘s sophisticated and clever operation shows that the betting favors Obama.

I wrote about Intrade during the Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby meltdowns, but because our site is screwed up you may not be able to find those items. So here they are:

“Wolfowitz Out? Bet On It.” (May 7, 2007)
“Wolfie’s Stock Soars” (May 8, 2007)
” ‘You’re a Criminal!’ “ (June 6, 2007)

And now here’s a collection of today’s links from all over . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

McClatchy: ‘Election officials telling college students they can’t vote’

BBC: ‘US rivals in economy crisis talks’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Naked man falls to his death after Tasered by cops in Brooklyn standoff’

Slate: ‘Is Paulson’s bailout bill unconstitutional?’

Dawn (Pakistan): ‘We’re in a state of war: Asif’

N.Y. Times: ‘Bush Aides Linked to Talks on Interrogations’

N.Y. Post: ‘WALL STREET WHIZZES LOOK TO HEAD WEST’

BBC: ‘What would financial Armageddon look like?’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘This loss to Brewers could strand Mets in October’

N.Y. Post: ‘PLAY TRIPPER: PAUL’S GAL SKIPS MTA VOTE FOR HIS ISRAEL JAUNT’

BBC: ‘Q&A: US $700bn bail-out plan’

BBC: ‘Japan offers solution to financial crisis’

Financial Times: ‘Bail-out fears hit credit markets’

Financial Times: ‘Banking after the bail-out’

Financial Times: ‘Bail-out cost ‘impossible’ to estimate’

AME Info (Dubai): ‘Jordan poised to enter nuclear age’