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Conservatives Can’t Identify Journalism, Confuse It With Doxxing

People usually frame Trump’s war on the press as if it’s just him making Soviet-style “enemy of the people” declarations against the media. But Trump gets plenty of help in belittling the mainstream press from conservative media — and not just by them parroting his punch lines, either.

One great example of this occurred last week when reporters asked for information about the jurors assigned to the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Conservatives accused the journalists of trying to sway the jurors into ruling for a conviction against Manafort, who is charged with eighteen counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts.

Jurors started deliberating Wednesday. Surprisingly, considering how mobbed up Manafort (and indeed the whole Trump apparatus) is, they have not been sequestered, meaning it’s probably likely that jurors have heard President Trump lobby on behalf of his old friend. (“It’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort,” Trump told the press, an endorsement that Manafort’s defense lawyer said he appreciated.)

We may never find out what jurors thought or heard during deliberations once the trial ends. Judge T.S. Ellis III has blocked the release of any information that might get them identified by the press. Requesting access to juror info is a common reporter gambit — used, for example, after the Bill Cosby trial — to get the sort of juror quotes you read in high-level, post-trial reports. The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC, Politico, and BuzzFeed all petitioned the court together to obtain the jurors’ names and addresses and other currently unavailable Manafort trial information, citing precedent that jury information should be revealed “absent extraordinary circumstances such as ‘realistic threats of violence or jury corruption.’ ”

But, Judge Ellis said there had been threats — to him. Ellis revealed he was under the protection of U.S. marshals, and said he feared for the jurors’ “peace and safety,” which led him to refuse the request.

Seems pretty straightforward. But conservatives — who did not know, or did not care to know — that this was standard journalistic practice told readers that reporters wanted to know the jurors’ names, not to write stories, but so they could “dox” them to coerce a conviction of Manafort on behalf of the Democrats.

At the Federalist, Bre Payton attacked what she described as CNN’s “long history of doxxing threats and harassment” and said “publicly outing the names and home addresses of jurors is considered ethically questionable” — as if it had been established that CNN, or anyone else, planned to do that to the Manafort jury.

Payton cited two pieces of evidence for her claim: CNN’s 2017 attempt to expose the person who posted a viral clip of Trump beating up a guy who had a CNN logo covering his head, and the network’s February 2018 contentious interview with Florine Gruen Goldfarb, a Florida Trump supporter whose Team Trump Broward Facebook page, according to CNN, listed events “promoted and encouraged by Russian trolls.” (Goldfarb’s responses in an interview with CNN regarding the possibility that Russians hacked into her group’s Facebook account were maladroit; she said accusations of Russian involvement were just a “cover-up” for “the shooting that was done at the high school.” At the time, conservative media portrayed her as an innocent victim of a “reporter ambush” who was “receiving threats on social media,” thus proving she had been “doxxed” rather than her merely having agreed to be interviewed.)

Payton’s accusations gave the brethren some talking points. “CNN Accused of Intimidating Paul Manafort Jury,” claimed John Nolte at Breitbart. Nolte called the request by CNN and the “six other far-left media outlets…disturbing and almost unprecedented.”

Nolte seemed to take Payton’s word that CNN planned to publish the jurors’ names and addresses without their consent. As evidence Nolte cited how CNN, during its 2013 coverage of the trial of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin briefly showed a police document onscreen that showed Zimmerman’s Social Security number. Apparently this had been done in error, and yet Nolte nonetheless portrayed it as proof of CNN’s “desperation for a conviction in that case.” (He didn’t say how Zimmerman’s Social Security number would have helped the prosecution.)

Nolte suggested something similar was happening with Manafort: “What many see here, and not without precedent,” he wrote, “is yet another attempt by the media, most especially CNN, to bully and intimidate private, everyday citizens into convicting Manafort.… Jurors are almost certain to learn that these powerful anti-Trump outlets are hunting them down.”

“CNN and Other Leftist Outlets Accused of Planning to Smear Manafort Jury,” said Cillian Zeal at the Conservative Tribune. “CNN’s request to the court looks less like an act of journalists seeking information than it does the groundwork of a plan to attack the Manafort jury if it comes back with a verdict the media doesn’t like.… It’s doxxing, plain and simple.”

Perhaps aware that all but the most credulous wingnut readers would find this argument unconvincing, some conservative commentators clung to plausible, just-asking, others-accuse deniability, but some couldn’t restrain themselves.

“Was The Media Trying To Dox And Intimidate Jurors At Paul Manafort’s Trial?” riddle-me-this’d RedState. But after a few paragraphs it lost its cool: “This seems like a raw attempt at jury tampering. Like these news organizations were telling the jurors ‘we know where you live and if you f*** this up we’ve got you.’ ”

“Judge Ellis in Manafort Case Denies Dox-Factory CNN’s Demand for Juror Information,” brayed Ace of Spades, “Says He Himself Has Been Threatened, and The Jurors Would Be As Well.” Then Spades added, “Of course. That was the point. Also the point? Letting the jurors know that the media is very interested in digging up their identities, and will keep on trying.”

“Perhaps [the jurors] have seen the videos of Trump administration officials harassed in restaurants, businesses protested and boycotted for expressing pro-Trump sentiment, and street attacks by Antifa,” mused William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. “While a Not Guilty verdict for Manafort would not in fact be a ‘pro-Trump’ gesture, there is little doubt it would be perceived that way by the anti-Trump resistance.”

“Why do you suppose seven news organizations — all liberal, presumably — wanted to know who the jurors are and where they live?” asked John Hinderaker at Power Line. To contact them for interviews? Wrong! “They are worried that the jury, having heard the evidence, may not render the ‘right’ verdict, i.e., the one that helps the Democratic Party,” declared Hinderaker. “So they want to know who the jurors are so they can apply pressure on them through mob action, newspaper denunciations, online harassment and so on. This is how today’s Democratic Party operates.”

“Wow. So now they’ve gotten into the jury-tampering business,” marveled Monica Showalter at American Thinker. “They’re more interested in who the jury is than the trial itself.” Showalter compared the press to “Jean-Paul Marat, one of the French Revolution’s bloodthirstiest leftists (this is where we get the term ‘leftist’),” and added, “Oh, and note that this request takes place in the city of Alexandria, Virginia, home of shotgun political violence against Republican House leader Steve Scalise, who was nearly killed by aimed gunfire in a leftist assassination attempt while on a baseball field. You can bet the jury knows about that one.” It all adds up!

“Suing to doxx jurors was more threatening than simply doing it,” tweeted actor-turned-troll James Woods. “It’s like the mafia leaving a dead fish on your windshield.”

“And you can bet that the minute this information becomes publicly available, CNN will rush to broadcast it [sic] every single American — including the deranged ones — it can reach,” said Vivek Saxena at BizPac Review.

Yeah, that’s how journalists operate. They claim they’re “reporting news,” but they’re really passing on orders to kill. It’s easy to understand why conservatives think this way. They themselves admit that right-wing media outlets don’t do a lot of reporting, and most are simply content to chest-pound on behalf of Donald Trump. So would they even recognize what journalism is? Under such circumstances it would make sense if they came to consider journalism in the same way they consider creative endeavors: as vaguely disreputable dark arts practiced only by their enemies, to be beaten back with slander and propaganda.

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CNN and Time Magazine Suspend Fareed Zakaria for Plagiarism

In journalism school, plagiarism is equivalent to life without parole: it is the bane of any writer’s existence and an automatic halt on one’s professional reputation. We are told over and over and over again to source everything, make sure all of your facts line up and that we’ll be outcasted from the journalistic community if we dare even think of the word ‘plagiarism.’ For more information, check out “Shattered Glass,” the tale of the Rise and Fall of The New Republic‘s Stephen Glass, who fabricated entire articles for a quick shot at fame.

So here’s a little story that has unfolded over the past few days. You might know Fareed Zakaria – the Indian-American journalist had a column in Newsweek for over a decade and soon became editor-at-large for Time. Soon enough, he was on the tellie with a CNN show called Fareed Zakaria GPS, a weekly summary of international and domestic news from the writer himself.

In this month’s issue of Time Magazine, Zakaria wrote a column about gun laws in the face of the shootings in Aurora and Oak Creek. NRANews.com began to note way-too-coincidental similarities between his article and a work in the New Yorker‘s April issue by the journalist Jill Lapore. The group passed on the observation to NewsBusters, a media watchdog group. As the pressure mounted on Zakaria, he was forced to make a statement.

And he did: he might’ve plagiarized a bit.

As Dylan Byers of Politico points out, the two paragraphs are almost inseparable. And, not gonna lie, it is literally a textbook example of the misdeed.

Here’s Lapore’s work from the New Yorker:

As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.

And, now, for comparison, enter Zakaria’s column in Time:

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

Well, a chain reaction naturally followed the admission. Time has suspended Zakaria for a month, pending the review of his other work (when it rains, sometimes it pours). Once CNN heard this, it also indefinitely suspended Zakaria from airing his weekly broadcast. Both organizations argue that the world broke their respective ethical rules, let alone the foundations of the journalism world.

It is unseen for now what will happen to Zakaria in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, as we mentioned before, plagiarism is a permanent stamp on a career, disabling many journalists from coming back into the game.

So, listen kids, if you want to become a journalist, thou shalt not steal… other people’s sources without crediting them.

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Anthony Bourdain to Host Cooking Show on ABC with Nigella Lawson

When we said Anthony Bourdain was everywhere, we didn’t really think he’d actually be on everywhere. Last time we reported that he’s switching from the Travel Channel to CNN. Today, we bring word that he will be hosting a cooking reality show on ABC with Nigella Lawson.

ABC recently put up a casting call for the show:

“Do you sizzle in the kitchen and have a passion for food? If so, we’re offering you a life changing opportunity! We are looking for professional chefs, home cooks, and foodies from all walks of life.

Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson have teamed up with Producer Kinetic Content for a brand new cooking show for ABC that will pit America’s most skilled cooks against one another in a show unlike any other. ”

We’re not sure what to expect, but Bourdain did confirm the news to Eater last night: “It’s true. I will be hosting a competitive reality series for ABC. I’m particularly looking forward to working with Nigella–who’s a friend from way back… More to come later.”

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Anthony Bourdain Joins CNN to Host New Weekend Program

Anthony Bourdain is moving over to CNN from the Travel Channel to be the host of a new weekend program that will expand the network’s coverage on food and travel.

Bourdain will still be managed by Zero Point Zero Production, who has been working with Bourdain for over a decade. According to a CNN press release, the show is slated to launch early in 2013 and will be shot on location. It will air domestically on Sundays in prime time with repeat airings on Saturday nights.

Bourdain will also be offering commentary on other CNN programs and platforms and “providing insights into current events and debates around food and health and other cultural conversations.”

According to Media Bistro, Bourdain will be exclusive to CNN when the new show launches. Travel Channel will either have to cancel or find a new host for “No Reservations” at that time.

The man is literally going everywhere.

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Newt Gingrich Is Still Pretending To Run For President — And He’s Bringing His “Campaign” To New York

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is still pretending that he’s running for president, and will be “campaigning” in New York next week — which is hilarious for a number of reasons.

For starters, he has literally no chance of winning the Republican nomination — he currently has only 136 delegates, and already has said he realizes Mitt Romney (with his 666 delegates) will be the nominee. Secondly, New York hasn’t played a significant role in a Republican primary in more than three decades, so of all the places he could pretend to campaign next week, the Empire State should be one of the last.

As we’ve been reporting for about two weeks, Gingrich will be in town
on April 19, to attend the New York State Republican Party’s Annual
Dinner. But that won’t be his only stop — he reportedly plans to
“campaign” in New York in the days following the dinner.

A source in the know told the Voice last week that Gingrich actually planned on holding campaign events in New York — despite his campaign, at this point, being a waste of Gingrich’s time and his supporters’ money.

A Gingrich campaign spokesman confirmed our tip to the Albany Times Union (the Gingrich campaign did not respond to our request for confirmation last week).

From the Times Union:

“The campaign is what the campaign is. We’re limited by funds,” Stephen Luftschein, Gingrich’s volunteer coordinator in New York, told me by phone. But he said there will be “a couple of events in the Buffalo-Rochester area.”

Upstate, as Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s
Center for Politics, told us last week, is where Rick Santorum stood to
win a few delegates — 26, Sabato predicted — from the state’s
Conservative voters who question whether Romney’s far enough to the
right. Many of those delegates could go to Gingrich (who claims he’s the
last Conservative standing“), but it still would have literally no impact on the outcome of the primary.

So why would Gingrich continue to chug along? Sabato says it’s an
attempt to gain a little clout within the party. If that’s the case, it
seems like an odd way to go about it considering his campaign is
creeping into the humiliation zone. Others (Fox News, in particular)
think he’s trying to land a gig with CNN.

Whatever reason Gingrich has for waging on with his hopeless
campaign, one things is certain: he will not be the Republican nominee
for president.

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Daily Flog: Future heads toward a sharp loss; robot monkeys mesmerized by TV

The only market in New York City still functioning is the farmers’ market in Union Square — at least it’d better be when I stop by later this morning to buy something from Apple Mary.

Wall Street? Don’t even go there. Yesterday was its worst day since 1987 or 1937 or 1934, or 1642, depending on which panic-stricken “expert” you listen to.

Things continue to be “unprecedented” — a word that, as I’ve noted, pops up everywhere but unfortunately is not overused. What could be scarier than that? The Wall Street Journal trumpets one of its excellent stories this morning this way:

“U.S. Weighs Backing All Bank Deposits”

U.S. officials are discussing temporarily backing all U.S. bank deposits if economic conditions continue to worsen, a move that would mark another unprecedented step.

Depression? How about psychosis? Everywhere but in China, which stands to take over the world economy a lot sooner than expected. Only there are government officials able to step back and watch while Wall Street burns down and the fire spreads elsewhere. See McClatchy’s ‘China sits out global crisis, focusing on own growth.’

Here? Nothing but panic in the financial markets, and the shit’s already rolling downhill. Return to America’s best newspaper chain and see McClatchy’s Kevin G. Hall: ‘American heartland is suffering from Wall Street’s woes.’

As for people who have to wear ties every day, the Washington Post‘s “Fears of Recession Deepen Rout: Stock Decline Sweeps Through All U.S. Sectors and Pummels Asian Markets,” is stuffed full of paragraphs like this one:

“I’ve never seen a panic like this,” said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s. “I’ve seen stock market drops, but not an overall panic.”

Don’t go farther south into lower Manhattan than the Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill in the Village, where you can see the mysterious artist Banksy‘s exhibit of robotic pet hot dogs.

Read the N.Y. Times piece “Where Fish Sticks Swim Free and Chicken Nuggets Self-Dip,” if you want, but stop by for what might be the most pertinent image: a robot rhesus monkey sitting with headphones on, mesmerized by a TV screen. He’s supposed to be watching porn, but he’s probably watching the BBC.

Perhaps the person who has the best perspective on the situation is Seth Glickenhaus, who was around during the Great Depression’s inception. At 94, he’s still picking stocks for his investment firm.

Exactly two years ago today, Barron‘s Sandra Ward extracted this overall analysis — mostly accurate — from Glickenhaus (read it at seekingalpha.com):

He’s negative on the economy, citing: 1) High oil prices. 2) High insurance costs. 3) People holding adjustable-rate mortgages about to be hit with big increases. 4) Housing market decline. 5) Huge income disparity.
• “We are clearly at the end of [interest] rate increases.”
• Companies are better managed today, and adjust to problems faster.
• Federal spending is dismally distorted toward military; talk of deficit reduction is absurd.
• War spending takes money away from constructive parts of market.
• He thinks the public is fed-up with Bush. • Oil might hit $200—in 2200!
• Japan and Europe will stagnate; India and China will continue to grow.
• He’s more worried about deflation than inflation.

OK, so companies aren’t better managed and they aren’t adjusting faster. But Glickenhaus makes you think: You want to end the war in Iraq? Maybe we’ll be too broke and will have to bring our troops home. Maybe when they get back here, they’ll have to defend D.C. against a new Bonus Army. Maybe they’ll want to stay over there rather than return to the U.S. only to find their families sitting on the curb after losing their homes. No, they’ll surely want to get out of Iraq, even if it means they’ll have to go on guard duty at banks here.

Only slightly less fearful than Iraq is the global panic, because there aren’t any more poorhouses for us to go to. Go back to yesterday’s news and read “Fear Trumps Greed as Market Woes Paralyze Economies,” in which Bloomberg’s Matthew Benjamin and Michael McKee deftly parse the psychology of the horrorshow “feedback loop” (as the BBC and others call it):

Investors are in the grip of a panic that psychologists and historians say isn’t necessarily rational and may intensify. They aren’t buying stocks, and more importantly, suddenly afraid they won’t be repaid, they aren’t making loans by buying bonds. Banks have also tightened credit.

“People are driven by images of the best and worst that can happen,” says George Loewenstein, a professor of psychology and economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “The image of the worst is much more vivid in their minds right now.” . . .

Normally, a little fear is a good thing, economists say. For decades after the 1930s, memories of the Great Depression tempered optimism and kept asset bubbles from growing too large.

Today’s fears, however, have reached an intensity that magnifies every additional piece of information and creates a vicious circle, according to Hersh Shefrin, professor of behavioral finance at Santa Clara University in California.

There’s plenty more in this adroit story:

Charles Geisst, a finance professor at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York, sees a parallel to 1932, with credit markets bad and the stock market falling just ahead of the presidential election that put Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House.

“But I’m not sure anyone is FDR this time,” says Geisst, author of Wall Street: a History, who puts the possibility of another Great Depression at 50 percent. “I don’t think either candidate has a clue what they’re dealing with here. This is more than a political problem that’s going to blow over.”

So who should take a stab at trying to be the new FDR? Loudmouth stock expert Jim Cramer, as glib in print as he is on TV, opts for Barack Obama over John McCain. In his recent New York piece “Wall Street, Fall 2009,” Cramer writes:

What will New York look like a year from now? The answer: bad and probably worse, and perhaps downright catastrophic. Three degrees of awful.

The first step was passing the bank-bailout legislation. Now that it’s done — and if it didn’t get done we would have been looking at a guaranteed economic collapse — the critical issue will be presidential leadership.

And while any president will be an improvement over the current one, there is a growing belief on Wall Street that Barack Obama has the capacity to lead us out of this wilderness while John McCain does not.

I’ll go a step further: Obama is a recession. McCain is a depression.

That may well be, but America is a depression, not a recession.

Before the newspaper industry tanks and while I still have my computer, I’ve typed these headlines . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

OpenSecrets.org: ‘Wall Street’s Favorite Candidates’

Slate: ‘Who Died and Made Bloomberg King of New York?’

N.Y. Post: ‘ “PEOPLE HAVE LOST ALL FAITH’: 678-PT. DOW FALL PUTS YEAR’S LOSS NEAR 40 PERCENT’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Futures Head Toward Sharp Losses’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘With stock market falling, advice on what to do about 401(k)’

Wall Street Journal: ‘U.S. Weighs Backing Bank Debt’

Wall Street Journal: ‘At Morgan Stanley, Outlook Darkens; Stock Tumbles 26 Percent’

CNN: ‘Smoke detected at Japanese nuclear plant’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Finland’s Martti Ahtisaari Wins Nobel Peace Prize’

N.Y. Post: ‘PRAYING FOR ALMIGHTY $$’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Markets crash: How panic spread around the globe’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Economists Expect Crisis to Deepen’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Huge bonuses for City high flyers will be hard to rein in’

CongressDaily: ‘Senator urges suspension of Iraq publicity contracts’

Wall Street Journal: ‘McCain Campaign Is at Odds Over Negative Attacks’ Scope’

Wall Street Journal: ‘AIG Increases Borrowings While Racing to Sell Assets’

China Digital Times: ‘China Says it Won’t Torture Guantanamo Detainees’

Detroit News: ‘College students face barriers to voting’

N.Y. Times: ‘States’ Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal’

N.Y. Post: ‘BAGHDAD GOES BOOM – IN STOX’

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Daily Flog: Deep inside AIG — the profits of doom

Startling data about past money-making on AIG’s misery, but first . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

L.A. Times: ‘Move over, Al Gore: John McCain invented the BlackBerry’

IRIN: ‘SOMALIA: “When you are hungry you will eat anything that does not eat you” ‘

CNN: ‘Oil rallies as Wall Street gets a lifeline’

Salon: ‘Sarah Palin’s wasteful ways’

Slate: ‘Fannie Mae and the Vast Bipartisan Conspiracy’

N.Y. Post: ‘Rich Uncle: Feds “Buy” Insurance Giant AIG in $85B Rescue’

N.Y. Post: ‘Mets’ Division Lead Goes Up in Choke in D.C.’

N.Y. Post: ‘Barbra At Her Woozy Best’

Slate: Hitchens: ‘Pakistan is the problem: and Barack Obama seems to be the only candidate willing to face it’

Onion: ‘Palin Unveils 9/11 Firefighter Cousin, Reformed Lesbian Niece, Naturalized Mexican Half Brother’


On the heels of yesterday’s stunning bailout (N.Y. Times story) of giant insurer American International Group, you’ll be reading stories about how the billionaire status of its former CEO (and still major shareholder) Maurice “Hank” Greenberg has taken a beating because of the recent precipitous drop in AIG’s stock price.

Like yesterday’s laughable New York Post story by James Covert:

As the company he built teeters on the brink, former American International Group boss Hank Greenberg can’t insure his own financial health.

The 83-year-old billionaire, who left AIG in 2005 amid an accounting scandal, has lost more than $6 billion in the past week, and is on the verge of losing his billionaire status altogether as AIG shares continue their free-fall.

Save your sympathy. What you’re unlikely to read is that Greenberg, a pal of Henry Kissinger‘s, already bailed himself out before the Fed bailed out AIG. By the way, Greenberg didn’t just “leave” AIG’s boardroom “amid” a scandal. He was forced out and then was formally accused of fraud by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. (See CNN’s May 2005 story for details.)

I know it’s hackneyed to say “profits of doom,” but it is what it is. (Oops, I did it again.)

This is how the other half of 1 percent of the richest Americans live:

SEC records reveal an incredible (only to us commoners) string of transactions since Greenberg’s ouster in which he and his personally controlled entities realized hundreds of millions of dollars from selling their AIG stock.

Let’s assume that Hammerin’ Hank didn’t know that his company’s bubble was about to burst.

AIG is still (or was still, until you bought it) Greenberg’s company despite his being forced out of the CEO job in 2005 because of alleged shenanigans for which he’s still under investigation by the SEC and New York’s current attorney general. It’s still his company because he still controls the biggest chunk of shares in AIG, which is the world’s biggest insurer.

As of July 15, 2008, three years after his ouster, one of Greenberg’s other companies, his privately owned Starr International, still held 228 million shares of AIG. So it looks as if he really has taken a beating to his multibillionaire status. For instance, at 9:12 this morning, AIG’s share price had fallen to $2.17. Last year at this time it was trading at about $70 a share.

But ever since his ouster, he and Starr have been selling gigantic chunks of shares for astounding proceeds, upwards of $20 million a day — day after day during some months.

Now, I’m not saying that this is unusual behavior on Wall Street. In fact, this kind of schmuckery is the norm, but it’s almost never pointed out in mainstream news outlets.

Here’s a timeline that you probably won’t see elsewhere in the initial coverage of your latest bailout of rich people and their companies:

June 2007: AIG sues ex-CEO Greenberg and Greenberg’s ex-CFO for $1 billion in damages “stemming from accounting troubles” on Hammerin’ Hank’s watch. MarketWatch’s Peg Brickley writes at the time:

[The complaint] was filed in a lawsuit started in Delaware’s Court of Chancery by AIG shareholders angered at the high cost of dealing with regulatory probes of sham transactions, financial restatements and securities class actions, who felt AIG executives should be held to account.

August 2007: AIG calls its exposure to subprime debt “minimal.”

September 2007: Greenberg and his Starr International continue their immense sell-off of AIG stock, which is still priced at $66 or $67 a share.

The following figures are from SEC filings for Greenberg’s transactions, through Starr, of AIG’s shares. (See Yahoo’s compilation.) They’re listed by day, shares of AIG owned by Greenberg’s Starr International and sold to stupid investors, and sale proceeds — I call them profits because Greenberg had paid either comparatively little or nothing to acquire those shares):

Sept. 4: 400,000 AIG shares sold, $26.4 million profit.

Sept. 5: 900 shares sold, $59,000 profit

Sept. 18: 400,000 shares sold, $26.6 million profit

Sept. 19: 800,000 shares sold, $53.9 million profit

Sept. 20: 300,000 shares sold, $20.1 million profit

Sept. 21: 300,000 shares sold, $20.1 million profit

Sept. 24: 275,400 shares sold, $18.5 million profit

Sept. 25: 324,600 shares sold, $21.8 million profit

Sept. 26: 300,000 shares sold, $20.1 million profit

Sept. 27: 300,000 shares sold, $20.2 million profit

Sept. 28: 300,000 shares sold, $20.2 million profit

Total for just that month? Close to a quarter of a billion dollars. (And that doesn’t even count Greenberg’s proceeds on his own sales of AIG stock. I’d give you those figures but my calculator overheated.)

October 17, 2007: Starr’s profit-taking on AIG shares suddenly stops, according to the Yahoo compilation of SEC figures, only two weeks before AIG is about to reveal its third-quarter financials to the rest of Wall Street.

November 2007: Commentators are already turning really sour on AIG’s stock, in part because of AIG’s secrecy. At the same time, AIG management insists that things are hunky-dory despite its insuring the companies that are ensnared in the mortgage crisis.

For instance, TV loudmouth Jim Cramer, who often refers to himself in the third person, writes on the afternoon of November 7, 2007, a Wednesday:

Don’t buy AIG, Jim Cramer said Wednesday on CNBC’s Stop Trading! segment. . . .

Cramer said the stock . . . can’t be bought ahead of Wednesday evening’s earnings report because investors don’t know how big the losses are going to be on AIG’s portfolios of subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations and the like. What’s worse, Cramer added, is that there’s no reason to believe investors will have any more clarity after tonight’s report.

And what is AIG’s report that night? The AP’s Madlen Read tells us the next day, on November 8, 2007:

The world’s largest insurer may not have invested as much in mortgage-backed assets as the world’s biggest banks, but American International Group Inc.’s exposure to the rocky credit and housing markets was enough to dampen its third-quarter profit.

Losses in AIG’s investment portfolio, credit-swap portfolio and mortgage-insurance business added up to about $1.4 billion, and caused net income to fall by 27 percent compared with last year’s third quarter.

Back in August, AIG called exposure to subprime debt “minimal.” On Wednesday, it maintained that despite some losses due to mortgage-backed bonds, its exposure to the debt remains “high quality,” with “substantial protection.” . . .

Shares fell $1.70, or 2.9 percent, to $56.20 in after-hours trading when the report was released. They had plunged almost 7 percent to close at $57.90 in regular trading Wednesday.

December 13, 2007: Jim Cramer isn’t buying AIG’s line — or its stock. He writes:

AIG . . . has been adamant that it hasn’t been affected by the recent slew of bad loans, but to say it is not enough. [T]he company needs to show it by disclosing its information.

December 20, 2007: Hank Greenberg himself exercises his options to acquire 3.7 million shares of AIG. The same day, his Starr International entity disposes of 4.8 million shares of AIG in a non-open-market transaction.

September 16, 2008: Wall Street finally has enough information on AIG. The government panics and bails out the company, saying it has to do it to prevent a global financial collapse.

If you own shares of AIG that you bought at $70 per and are now worth $2 per and want to sell them, you might try calling Hank Greenberg. He may still have enough cash to bail you out.

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Whitewashing the bad econ news

New figures for 2007 are grim, no matter how the press is reporting them.

Pay no nevermind to the stream of new stories bringing glimmers of good news about how Americans are faring in the last stages of the Bush Era.

The facts and figures for 2007 about who’s living in poverty and who doesn’t have health insurance and whose wages have shrunk are coursing through the Web right now, courtesy of the Census Bureau.

And these factoids are being misplayed left and right. Practically all of the media are simply rewriting the Census Bureau’s press release.

You have to go straight to people who cut through the bullshit — and that includes the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Catholic Charities USA — if you want the straight scoop.

First, let’s note, as most of the current stories de-emphasize — that almost 40 million Americans are living in poverty. That doesn’t include the millions who are simply poor. As I noted on August 18, the federal poverty line is absurdly low.

As for the misplaying and downplaying of gloomy figures in today’s coverage (which you’ll see splashed across the media tonight and tomorrow), you’ll have to plow through my fairly lengthy explanation with examples (sorry about that), but this is what I mean:

Judging by the AP account — which no doubt will be picked up by practically every other media outlet in the U.S. — the Census Bureau’s latest figures for 2007 seem like fairly good news. Here’s the AP:

The Census Bureau reports that the number of people lacking health insurance dropped by more than 1 million in 2007, the first annual decline since the Bush administration took office.

The nation’s poverty rate held steady at 12.5 percent, not statistically different from the 12.3 percent in 2006. That meant there were 37.3 million people living in poverty in 2007.

The statistics released Tuesday do not take into account the consequences of the economic downturn that began late last year.

Census says 45.7 million people — 15.3 percent of the population — were uninsured in 2007. That’s down from 47 million in 2006.

The median — or midpoint — household income rose slightly to $50,200, marking the third consecutive annual increase.

As I write, the New York Times hasn’t deigned to post anything yet. But the L.A. Times already has this:

‘Health insurance coverage in U.S. rises’

The number of people in the United States without health insurance fell to 45.7 million in 2007 from 47 million a year earlier, primarily because of an expansion in government-provided coverage for children, the U.S. Census Bureau said today.

Real median household income climbed for a third year in 2007, up 1.3% to $50,233, according to the annual census report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, the U.S. poverty rate remained statistically unchanged at 12.5% in 2007, with 37.3 million living in poverty, up from 36.5 million a year earlier.

The rate of people without health insurance declined to 15.3% in 2007, down from 15.8% a year earlier. Census officials attributed the unexpected dip to the rise in the number of children, particularly poor children, receiving government-sponsored health coverage.

“This is the main reason for the fall in the uninsured rate for children and for the fall in the overall uninsured rate,” said David Johnson, a census official. “The fall in private insurance was similar to recent years. That fall was offset by the rise in government insurance.”

A little better, though the headline is misleading because private insurance has actually fallen.

In any case, here’s the real story — from the CBPP’s Robert Greenstein:

Despite modest improvements in overall median income and health insurance coverage, the new Census data are disquieting. Though 2007 was the sixth (and likely the final) year of an economic expansion, poverty was significantly higher, the median income of non-elderly households significantly lower, and the number and percentage of Americans who are uninsured substantially greater than in 2001 — even though the economy was in recession that year.

This is unprecedented. Never before on record has poverty been higher and median income for working-age households lower at the end of a multi-year economic expansion than at the beginning. The new data add to the mounting evidence that the gains from the 2001-2007 expansion were concentrated among high-income Americans.

Greenstein continues with a shrewd analysis that the standard media outlets simply won’t ever do with such facts and figs:

Compared to 2006, overall median household income edged up 1.3 percent in 2007. Median income for “working age” households — those headed by someone under 65 — remained statistically unchanged, however, and the number (although not the percentage) of Americans living in poverty increased by 816,000 people to 37.3 million.

In addition, the number of children living in poverty jumped by 500,000 to 13.3 million, and the child poverty rate climbed from 17.4 percent in 2006 to 18.0 percent in 2007. There was some welcome news on child health insurance – the number of children lacking health insurance declined in 2007, but it remained 400,000 above the number of children who lacked insurance three years earlier, in 2004.

Greenstein’s analysis continues with worse news on a broader front:

The data for 2007 are of particular concern given that the economy is now in a slowdown, and poverty is almost certainly higher now — and incomes lower — than in 2007. The 2007 levels — already disappointing because they are worse than those for the 2001 recession — are likely to constitute a high-water mark for the next few years. This suggests that significant pain may lie ahead for many Americans.

The number and percentage of Americans who are uninsured also are likely to rise in 2008, and probably in 2009 as well given widespread forecasts that unemployment is likely to continue rising at least through the first part of that year. The numbers of uninsured parents and children are likely to grow as employers lay off more workers and states consider cuts in their Medicaid programs to help balance their budgets during the economic slowdown. Congress and the President can help cushion this blow — and avert cuts in Medicaid that further swell the ranks of the uninsured — by temporarily boosting federal support for state Medicaid programs as they did during the last downturn. Policymakers also could reconsider children’s health legislation. The nation missed an excellent opportunity to make major progress in reducing the number of uninsured children when President Bush twice vetoed legislation last year that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would result in 4 million uninsured children gaining coverage.

More broadly, the next President and Congress should consider setting a national goal to reduce poverty and acting upon it, as former Prime Minister Tony Blair did in the United Kingdom. A number of charitable organizations and poverty experts have called for establishing a national goal to cut poverty in half over the coming decade.

Pretty good, and the CBPP gives you a link to the figures themselves.

Also good at plucking the right stats from those figures, Catholic Charities USA picks some that count:

Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, issued the following statement regarding new statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau that show 800,000 more people are living in poverty in the United States:

“It is unacceptable that in a nation that is as prosperous as ours that 37.3 million people, including 13.3 million children, continue to live in poverty. This increase indicates that reducing poverty is not a priority for this nation.”

 

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Daily Flog: Terror and prayers in Denver, dead fish at a NY nuke, rent becomes a nationwide hit

Running down the press:

Times: ‘G.O.P. Tries to Upstage Democrats’

Stop the servers! Atop the front page is this hard-hitting piece by Jim Rutenberg about how the Elephants are breaking “new ground” by trying to trample the Donkeys’ un-sexy show. The paper that thinks it’s the historical record once again ignores history:

The opposition party once more or less ceded the stage to the convening party during its convention, under the assumption that breaking into the news coverage would be next to impossible. Over the past few presidential election cycles, as Washington became more bitterly partisan, that began to disintegrate, helped along by a proliferation of ravenous new media outlets that created growing opportunities to spread negative messages.

This is not new ground; the paper doesn’t even mention that shortly before the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC, the nation’s security guard, Tom Ridge, raised the terror alert level to red in NYC, Newark, and D.C.

As I noted at the time (“The Attack Starts,” August 2, 2004), Howard Dean opined a “political motivation for terror alert,” as CNN put it, and he was shelled for it.

This morning’s story by Rutenberg is a non-story. He quotes GOP political operatives about how pleased they are that their political-operative work is working. And that’s it.

On a side note, Ridge’s warning actually was prescient: He included a specific note of worry that Citigroup’s NYC headquarters could be destroyed. Four years later, Citigroup’s subprime performance — massive firings and a stock-market plummet — is indeed a disaster site. Self-imposed.


Post: ‘TED GETS PARTY STARTED’

The Demo-hating Murdoch rag gets it right with a good lede on the Kennedy saga that all the papers covered:

Sen. Ted Kennedy brought the Democratic faithful to cheers and tears last night as he emerged from a summer of treatment for brain cancer to vow that he’ll be in Washington when a new president is sworn in.

Much more interesting than the Times version.

And the Post splashes a story about actual monkey-wrenching: the sore-loser Clintons‘ determination to upstage Obama (“ANGER AT HILL’S DEM PARTY FOULS”).

That’s more of a threat to the Democrats than the GOP’s attempts — if you don’t count the free publicity that Rutenberg gave the Republicans.

Hillary and Bill are unlikely to even budge the needle of the grace-o-meter this week.


Post: ‘FISH-KILLING INDIAN PT. RULED AN ECO-DANGER’

In actual terror news, the tab gives good play — which the Times wouldn’t do for a wire-service story — to Jim Fitzgerald‘s AP piece:

The huge numbers of fish sucked to their death by the cooling system at the Indian Point nuclear plant prove that the system harms the Hudson River environment, a state official has ruled.

Post: ‘DRUGLORD OF MANY FACES’

Here’s a gangster moniker we haven’t heard before:

An alleged drug kingpin who repeatedly disfigured his face through plastic surgery to evade arrest was arraigned in Brooklyn yesterday on charges of murder, drug trafficking and money laundering.

Juan Carlos “Lollipop” Ramirez Abadia, 45, an alleged leader of the notorious Norte Valle coke cartel who was extradited from Brazil on Friday, pleaded not guilty before federal Magistrate James Orenstein.

But the paper’s most e-mailed story this morning? Some real news from Saturday:

‘ONE-LEGGED HOOKER SLAIN’

A one-legged hooker was killed in Brooklyn after a john hit her over the head, causing her to fall backwards out of her wheelchair and slam her skull against the wall, cops said yesterday.


Daily News: ‘Michelle Obama: My husband shares same beliefs you have’

Oh, brother. The Denver convention’s non-news gets off to a great start:

Declaring her husband will be an “extraordinary President,” Michelle Obama delivered a heartstring-tugging speech on Monday night about the values and compassion behind Barack Obama‘s drive for the White House.

Speaking of monkey-wrenching the Dems, the following item made the home page of Google News last night:

‘McCain and Jay Leno Joke About His Age’

And you wonder why news orgs all over the world clamber to land a precious spot on Google’s home page for news. That frenzied pandering by news org overseers is more of a threat to journalism than the increasingly useless printing presses that papers are stuck with.

The L.A. Times is one of those huge daily ailies, but at least it proclaims in a subhead that the Dems are seriously targeting McCain‘s turkey neck:

On opening night, the party’s double-edged agenda is to tug at the heart and to go for McCain’s jugular.

Good thing that Leno‘s show is taped early. By the time it aired, the elderly GOP nominee’s innards were struggling to digest his early-bird meal and he was probably already in bed.

Still sleepless with worry, however, were millions of other Americans. Another piece in this morning’s L.A. Times:

‘Foreclosures ensnare low-income renters’

Wrongly slapping on an anecdotal lede about a renter named Ruth Cordoba, the paper tells an interesting story once you get past that:

The collapse of home mortgage lending, which according to U.S. Housing Secretary Steve Preston may lead to 2.5 million foreclosure filings nationwide this year, sent shock waves up the income strata — from home buyers who took out subprime loans they couldn’t pay, through banks that couldn’t cover their losses on those loans, and onto high-end investors who had bought the banks’ bad loans.

Now the mortgage crisis is radiating downward and cracking the already fragile finances of people like Cordoba. There are more than 300,000 households getting Section 8 assistance in California, and their median income is $14,428, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

State and federal officials are unable to say how many Section 8 renters have been affected by the wave of foreclosures sweeping the country, but local housing authorities say the number is significant — and growing.

Good thing there aren’t many low-income renters here in New York City.


Start booking those tickets to Europe. From this morning’s BBC:

‘Dollar increases against the euro’

The dollar has climbed back towards a six-month high against the euro, as continuing fears about the European economy hit the single currency.

Ahead of a key German survey of business sentiment due out later on Tuesday, the dollar strengthened to $1.4717 against the euro.

Against the pound, the dollar was trading at $1.8468, just below a two-year high versus sterling.

The latest German survey may show more signs of a possible European recession.


Bad memories for those Denver conventioneers whose last names aren’t Clinton. Drizzling on the parade — Denver typically experiences showers just about every summer afternoon — is Slate‘s Jack Shafer:

What Kind of Plagiarist Is Joe Biden? The unusually creepy kind.

Joe Biden‘s return as a vice-presidential candidate signals forgiveness—at least from Barack Obama — for having plagiarized a leading British politician during Biden’s campaign for the Democratic Party’s 1988 presidential nomination.

The Biden episode merits revisiting because as acts of plagiarism go, it was spectacular, and because it points to other dicey chapters in his life.


Red alert! Red alert! And this is no joke. From the Washington Post‘s front page:

‘Governing Coalition Collapses in Pakistan’

Pakistan’s ruling coalition broke apart Monday amid a political battle over the presidency, paralyzing the U.S.-backed government at a time when Taliban insurgents here and in neighboring Afghanistan appear to be gaining ground.

Don’t look for this on the Times‘s front page.


While the Times and others talk about how the Obamas and Ted Kennedy are rousing the faithful, Drudge points to an actual faith-based story out of Denver by the AP’s Eric Gorski:

At the first official event Sunday of the Democratic National Convention, a choir belted out a gospel song and was followed by a rabbi reciting a Torah reading about forgiveness and the future.

Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun who wrote Dead Man Walking, assailed the death penalty and the use of torture.

Young Muslim women in headscarves sat near older African-American women in their finest Sunday hats.

Four years ago, such a scene would have been unthinkable at a Democratic National Convention. In 2004, there was one interfaith lunch at the Democratic gala in Boston.

But that same year, “values voters” helped re-elect President Bush, giving Democrats of faith the opening they needed to make party leaders listen to them.


As usual, the smart, sober news source that is McClatchy’s web wire service gets serious about real news at the convention, reporting Monday:

Can Hillary Clinton persuade her followers to back Obama?

Sen. Hillary Clinton takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday, a potentially pivotal moment that could help determine whether the party unifies behind Sen. Barack Obama or continues to harbor divisions that might help Republican Sen. John McCain take the White House. . . .

About half of Clinton’s supporters are still not sold on Obama, polls show, with some leaning his way and others saying flat out they’ll vote for McCain.

McCain rushed out a new ad featuring a Clinton supporter saying she’d now vote for the Republican.

Giving equal time, McClatchy also carries this important tidbit, via the Miami Herald, about an always pivotal state where GOP operative Kathleen Harris chest-bumped the Dems in 2000:

Bad news for GOP? Fla.’s Hispanic voters no longer Cuban

After the seemingly obligatory anecdotal, “human-interest” lede, Casey Woods writes:

According to numbers from the Democratic polling firm Bendixen and Associates, 44 percent of the state’s 1.1 million Hispanic voters hail from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other Latin American countries — slightly more than the Cubans, at 40 percent. In 2000, non-Cuban voters represented 19 percent of the Hispanic vote, Bendixen polling shows.

Hispanic Democrats also now outnumber Hispanic Republicans in Florida, making what had long been a relatively predictable voter population for politicians much more fluid.

 

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Daily Flog: Warning to whitey, desired streetcars, soiled Lennon, two Georgias, Target practice

Running down the press:

Daily News: ‘First look at wife of John Lennon slayer in decades – she says let me be’

Jesus Christ! I’d forgotten that Mark David Chapman was such a sicko/twisted Lennon wannabe that he had also married a woman of Japanese descent.


Post: ‘ARK. ASSASSIN GUNS DOWN TOP CLINTON ALLY’

Congratulations to the Post for not only mentioning in the second paragraph that the shooter had just been fired from a Target store but also for showing the maturity not to hammer into readers that grim irony, as I am immaturely doing right now.


Post: ‘COLOR BY NUMBERS: MAC GAINS MORE WHITES VS. OBAMA’

Good story, better head. The fourth graf is key:

McCain has closed the gap by padding his lead among whites, Southerners and white evangelical Christians.

At least that should make the rest of us whites feel better — that we’re not quite as bad at acting on our institutionalized, internalized racist impulses.

Being upfront about race is something that much of the media is not doing. Witness this CNN story:

“McCain, Obama to address ‘values voters’ “

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama plan to appear together Saturday at a minister-moderated forum held in a church as thousands of evangelicals plan to gather in the nation’s capital to pressure both men move further to the right on social issues.

“Values voters” my shiny metal ass. The rest of us also vote our “values.” These are white conservative Christians (99 percent of them), so call them that in the headlines. Christ, there are even political parties in Europe that use “Christian” in their names.


Newsday: ‘Revealed: Julia Child was a U.S. spy in World War II’

This AP story is old news, but it does remind us why she seemed to have such mixed feelings about turkey.


Post: ‘BRETT FEELIN’ UP THE CREAK’

Clever hed on this:

The 38-year-old Favre – who turns 39 in October – had his fifth practice yesterday morning for the New York Jets, but he admitted his arm wasn’t exactly feeling lively.

Brett Favre is one pro athlete who talks like a real person, unlike the platitudinous Derek Jeter, for example, or the former Giant blowhard Jeremy Shockey or the guarded-beyond-all-reason, high-paid choker Alex Rodriguez. Favre sez:

“I didn’t throw the ball very well this morning, underthrew some throws. No pain, but I’m 38 years old. It’s got to be fatigued a little bit. . . . I felt 38 today, I’m not going to lie to you.”

In his case, he probably won’t. A rare celebrity.


Times: ‘In a Generation, Minorities May Be the U.S. Majority’

Warning to whitey: Your reign as The Man will end sooner than predicted. Sam Roberts reports:

The census calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Four years ago, officials had projected the shift would come in 2050.

The British press doesn’t whitewash this news with P.C. tentativeness. The BBC’s lede, for example:

White people of European descent will no longer make up a majority of the US population by the year 2042 – eight years sooner than previous estimates.

The big change is among Hispanics and Asians whose share of the population is set to double to 30% and 9%.

The Times more subtly emits a red-alert tone:

“No other country has experienced such rapid racial and ethnic change,” said Mark Mather, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization in Washington.

Unless you’re talking about the Cherokee Nation. In that previous monumental conflict in Georgia (even before Sherman’s march), Andrew Jackson ethnically cleansed the Cherokees, herding them to the Ozarks along the Trail of Tears and replacing them with slaves and ballcap-wearing, NASCAR-loving rednecks.

Anyway, the Times just loves trend stories, and here’s a trend in the Times itself: Just last week (as I noted on August 7), the paper blared “‘Minorities Often a Majority of the Population Under 20’ “

Next topic for the Times: How do we protect the Upper West Side from these Visigoths?


Human Rights Watch: ‘High Toll from Attacks on Populated Areas’

Yes, NYC-based Human Rights Watch has an open bias as a Goody Two-Shoes, but also does some great reporting — unlike its better-known but stodgy fellow NGO Amnesty International — so why not include it in “the press”?

Mainstream international papers, like the Guardian (U.K.), have no problem giving HRW full credit when it breaks news stories. This morning the Guardian‘s Mark Tran notes:

Human Rights Watch provides the first independent confirmation that Georgian villages in South Ossetia have been looted and burned.

HRW is somewhat schizoid as a news source, because it always follows its great nuggets of news with predictable appeals to officials to stop the madness. For example, today it reports:

Forces on both sides in the conflict between Georgia and Russia appear to have killed and injured civilians through indiscriminate attacks, respectively, on the towns of Gori and Tskhinvali, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch expressed its deep concern over the apparently indiscriminate nature of the attacks that have taken such a toll on civilians.

Memo to HRW: Lose the second sentence, please, because your news reporting speaks for itself and you’re clouding the impact of that reporting with that squishy, predictable statement of “deep concern.” (I guess HRW feels it has to do that, but I ignore such statements of concern — who could disagree with such sentiments? — and take its reporting seriously. Keep reading this item and you’ll see why.)

U.S. papers refuse to include HRW and like groups in their press club, but the Internet dissolves that separation because HRW’s reports are as freely and directly available as news from other sources.

You may have forgotten — and the mainstream press has done nothing to help you remember — that HRW broke one of the most grim and explosive stories (so far) from the Iraq War.

Back in September 2005, HRW revealed that U.S. troops at Camp Mercury, outside Fallujah, proudly called themselves “Murderous Maniacs” as they tortured and beat up hapless Iraqi prisoners merely for sport — and in a highly sexualized way that was worse than at Abu Ghraib. As I wrote back then:

In a shocking new report, soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne reveal that they or their fellow soldiers routinely beat, tortured, stripped, humiliated, and starved Iraqi prisoners in 2003 and 2004 at a base near Fallujah, often breaking bones, either at the request of superiors or just to let off steam.

HRW wasn’t guessing, nor was it chiding from its Fifth Avenue offices. It waded right in and talked to U.S. troops about it. From its own report, “Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division”:

The accounts here suggest that the mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military is even more widespread than has been acknowledged to date, including among troops belonging to some of the best trained, most decorated, and highly respected units in the U.S. Army. They describe in vivid terms abusive interrogation techniques ordered by Military Intelligence personnel and known to superior officers. . . .

The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief for soldiers.

Soldiers said they felt welcome to come to the PUC [Prisoner Under Control] tent on their off-hours to “Fuck a PUC” or “Smoke a PUC.” “Fucking a PUC” referred to beating a detainee, while “Smoking a PUC” referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.

Three years later, HRW has made its own march into Georgia. So keep tabs on its reporting. For that matter, keep checking the Guardian‘s Georgia page.


NY Observer: ‘Penguin Group Wins Rights to Steinbeck Novels’

Minor note on a major author, especially compared with Tony Ortega‘s unique yarn about Steinbeck and Mexican-American farmworkers in today’s Voice: “John Steinbeck’s Ghosts.”


Times: ‘Ruling Is a Victory for Supporters of Free Software’

John Markoff‘s piece about a court ruling in favor of open-source software is a little confusing, but the upshot is that a major pothole has been patched on our major transportation artery, the information highway.


Times: ‘Conflict Narrows Oil Options for West’

In other transportation news: Good piece by Jad Mouawad about our latest loss in the centuries-old Great Game in Central Asia, and bad news for us SUV owners:

[E]nergy experts say that the hostilities between Russia and Georgia could threaten American plans to gain access to more of Central Asia’s energy resources at a time when booming demand in Asia and tight supplies helped push the price of oil to record highs.

Times: ‘Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future’

Yet another transportation story.

Unfortunately, the Times blows this story by just briefly noting that cities and even small towns across the country had functioning streetcar lines until the mid 1950s, and not mentioning at all that it was the automobile lobby that killed them as it pressured pols to build the Interstate Highway System.

I don’t blanch at this new development because when I was a kid in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I depended on the kindness of streetcars. Public transit is a blessing, no matter how much my fellow straphangers grouse about the MTA and Long Island Rail Road.


Post: ‘BIZMAN HAD A “LOT” OF NERVE’

Carolyn Salazar‘s lede is right to the point:

An enterprising squatter transformed a vacant Brooklyn lot into a thriving million-dollar business — an illegal parking lot and chop shop, prosecutors said yesterday.

Whereas powerful pol Shelly Silver is squatting like Jabba the Hutt on a vacant lot on the Lower East Side, as the Voice‘s Tom Robbins reports.


Daily News: ‘Gloomy Gotti trip to Sunshine State’

The latest installment of news about the fading Italian-American Gangster Era. John Marzulli reports:

Junior is on the move.

John A. (Junior) Gotti, aka Bureau of Prisons inmate 00632-748, began his journey to Tampa Wednesday to be arraigned on racketeering and murder charges.

Who gives a shit?


Daily News: ‘Elizabeth Edwards stayed with cheating husband John for children’s sake’

A perfect example of how the Daily News almost always lags behind the Post in tabloidian terms. The lede:

An anguished Elizabeth Edwards decided to stay with her cheating husband because she is dying and worried about their two young children, her closest friend says.

Only five tabloidian buzzers: “anguished,” “cheating,” “dying, “worried,” and “closest friend.” Yesterday, I noted eight in a Post Edwards lede.