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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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Caroline Kennedy in the Senate? Gag me with a silver spoon.

America’s royal family, the Kennedys. But Caroline Kennedy for the Senate? First we had to put off with Hillary Clinton, the nouveau riche of politics, suddenly becoming senator in the nation’s second most populous state.

The wife of a president landed her magic carpet and Vuitton bags in a fancy suburb north of the city and was practically appointed to the Senate — when Rudy Giuliani dropped out, she got to face a candidate who was so weak that you’ve already forgotten his name.

Sitting somewhat obediently in our civics classes, we were told that people invented this country, at least in part, because they were tired of monarchies. Doesn’t look as if we’re that tired of kings and queens and princesses.

So now we’re going to replace Hillary Clinton with Caroline Kennedy? And we’re not even going to elect Kennedy; we’re going to appoint her?

At least Hillary Clinton went through the electoral process. However, don’t tell me about Hillary’s brains and savvy. She’s been a mediocre senator, far less skilled at both arm-twisting and hard-won-consensus politics than the likes of Chuck Schumer, Chuck Hegel, and Chuck Grassley or battle-worthy non-Chucks like Dick Lugar, Barbara Boxer, Bob Dole (not his wife, Libby), even that schmuck Joe Lieberman — you name ’em.

Excepting a few celeb pols like Ted Kennedy (who’s been busy and serious for three decades since Chappaquidick drowned his chances for the presidency), look past the Clintons and Kennedys and you’ll see a better breed of American political family entering the Senate, a family whose bent comes closer to “public service” and “common good” than practically all others. (Notwithstanding Jackie Kennedy Onassis‘s truly noble and lasting achievement: She used her celebrity to lead the successful fight to save wondrous Grand Central Station from destruction.)

You want a political family that deserves royal-like admiration without fawning? Try the Udalls, whom I wrote about yesterday. After Stew and Mo worked their asses off in the House and Interior Department, now we have their sons Mark and Tom, who traded on more than their last names during their climb up Capitol Hill to claim Senate seats next month.

Now don’t turn the Udalls into celebrities. Read about your usual celebs — including the Kennedys and Clintons — worship them and envy them if you want, be amused and/or disgusted by them, but don’t elect them or appoint them to run your lives because they’re celebrities. Camelot? I’ll take Spamalot — without Clay Aiken, thanks. No more American idols, please.

Other items on a (relatively) slow (so far) news day …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Ticketed while giving out gifts’

Santa’s naughty list just got a bit longer after an overzealous parking agent slapped him with a summons.

N.Y. Post: ‘FIRETRUCK HIT HURTS 30’

A firetruck racing to a car blaze collided with a city bus as it crossed a Brooklyn intersection yesterday, cops said.

Thirty people were taken to a hospital, including six firefighters, the bus driver and a pedestrian hit by debris.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Caroline Kennedy can lock in Senate seat by saying she’ll run in 2010’

N.Y. Post: ‘BARBIE’S FOR THE BIRDS

A scary new version of Barbie is taking wing. For $40 a pop, grown-up collectors of the iconic Mattel doll can have their favorite blonde, packaged in a box and viciously pecked by birds…

Times (U.K.): ‘Fed stuns the world with rate cut to “virtually zero”‘

US rates were cut to a historic low as America resorted to drastic action in its battle to stave off recession and deflation.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Fairfield Group Forced to Confront Its Madoff Ties’

Walter Noel built the perfect global marketing machine for Bernard Madoff: Four sons-in-law with connections among the wealthy in Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Milan, London and Geneva, who brought socialite flair and few demanding questions for Mr. Madoff.

For 19 years, the pairing worked. Mr. Noel’s firm, Fairfield Greenwich Group, raked in assets from clients clamoring for access to Mr. Madoff. Fairfield, in turn, handed over that money to Mr. Madoff.

Now, the Noel clan is facing the reality that years of face-to-face meetings with Mr. Madoff as well as daily confirmation reports helped Mr. Madoff allegedly carry out a global fraud. In recent days, the Noel family has converged in New York to figure out how to explain its role to friends and investors, people familiar with the matter say.

N.Y. Post: ‘SICK WORLD OF “BABY HITLER”: NAZI-NAMING PARENTS IN NJ’

All he’s asking for is a little tolerance, says the father of 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘N.Y. sounds off on iTax plans’

A proposed tax on online downloads isn’t music to the ears of iPod-using New Yorkers. Many people who get songs off the Web gave the proposal a big thumbs down Tuesday.

N.Y. Times: ‘Bush Prepares Crisis Briefings to Aid Obama’

International Herald Tribune: ‘Prison for nuke engineer who took software to Iran’

Prosecutors said [Mohammad Reza] Alavi likely wanted to use the software to boost his chances for a job in the Iranian nuclear industry. Access to protected American software would have made him especially valuable, they said. …

Alavi wanted to move back to Iran because his wife found living in the U.S. difficult. He said he took the software with him because he was proud he had helped design it. He said he showed the software only to his family, and then only for a few minutes.

Reuters: ‘Madoff fraud could burn early pullouts’

Disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff’s suspected $50 billion (33 billion pound) fraud scheme looks set to burn even those who pulled their investments out long before the scandal rippled into the global financial system.

Such investors may have counted themselves fortunate, withdrawing their money years ago to buy a house or to pay for a daughter’s education, and may have even sighed with relief because they ended ties with Madoff long before the scandal erupted late last week.

But they, too, could face trouble, lawyers say. Because of a legal concept known as “fraudulent conveyance,” they could be forced to return their profits and even some of their initial investments to help offset losses incurred by others entangled in the long-running Ponzi scheme.

Reuters: ‘Iraq shoe-thrower inspires Bush-bashing Web game’

The game, which has been circulated by email, gives players 30 seconds to try to hit Bush with a brown shoe as many times as possible, with the score appearing in the top left hand corner of the screen. …

On-target shots are met with a message of congratulations: “Shoes have successfully hit President Bush in his face. Well done!”

AP: ‘NY gov proposes tax on drinks, downloaded music’

One of the proposed hikes is a so-called “iPod tax,” which would tax the sale of downloaded music and other “digitally delivered entertainment services” by 4 percent.

There also would be higher taxes on gas, taxi rides, cable and satellite TV service, cigars, beer, movie and sports tickets, and health spa visits, to name a few items.

N.Y. Times: ‘Fixing Interior’

Mr. Bush’s Interior Department, driven largely by Vice President Dick Cheney‘s drill-here, drill-now energy strategy, has aggressively issued new leases and drilling permits in areas that not only deserve to be left alone but that also, even if fully exploited, would add only marginally to the nation’s energy supply.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘SEC: We blew it’

The SEC confessed it blew many chances to uncover Bernie Madoff’s fraud.

Chicago Sun-Times: ‘Who’s next for Obama’s basketball dream team?’

Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan is a longtime hoops buddy of Obama’s who played pro ball in Australia.

“I just want to dispel one rumor before I take questions: I did not select Arne because he’s one of the best basketball players I know,” Obama said to laughter Tuesday. “Although I will say that I think we are putting together the best basketball-playing Cabinet in American history.”

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Team Has Forged Another Link With Clintons’

It’s official. The old Clinton gang really is back together again. Answering the phones these days for the co-chairman of President-elect Barack Obama‘s transition, John D. Podesta, is none other than Betty Currie. …

Since leaving the White House, Ms. Currie, 69, has shied from publicity and kept a low profile in Hollywood, Md., where she lives with her husband, Bob, and Socks, the presidential cat, which she took with her after Mr. Clinton left office. …

U.S. News & World Report has reported that Socks, now 19, has cancer.

Washington Post: ‘A Longer Race to Run’

President-elect Barack Obama is within days of completing his cabinet appointments. Although criticism persists about the appropriate number of women, southerners, Latinos, Ivy Leaguers and Clintonites, Obama is on course to finish his cabinet appointment process in record time. …

Obama is almost certainly going to set a second record, this one for the number of nominees for lower appointees submitted in the first ten days of his administration, and possibly in his first 100 days. George W. Bush will be hard to beat¿ — he owns the record for nominations submitted to Congress in the first 100 days. But Obama’s team is already hard at work lining up names for deputy secretaries, under secretaries, assistant secretaries and administrators.

 

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Is Hillary ineligible for her new job? Of course she is.

First things first: Yes, Hillary Clinton is ineligible for her new job as Secretary of State.

She’s no diplomat, she’s a hawk, she’s more of a celeb than a savvy pol, and for crying out loud, her own party even rejected her as a presidential candidate — we’ve made all those arguments (here, here, and here) and Barack Obama refused to listen.

Ineligible? Yes. But not for the reasons now conjured up by the nattering nabobs of Judicial Watch.

Rather than having to look at Judicial Watch’s self-proclaimed “announcement” of Hillary’s ineligibility, read the CBS story “Is Hillary Ineligible for Cabinet?”:

A conservative watchdog group called Judicial Watch is arguing that thanks to a Constitutional clause known as the “Emoluments Clause,” Hillary Clinton cannot legally become secretary of state until her Senate term expires in 2013.

Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution says this: “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time.” …

Judicial Watch’s argument, then, is that because President Bush signed legislation increasing the salary (or Emoluments) of the secretary of state in January 2008 – while Clinton was in the Senate – she cannot, by virtue of this clause, be appointed to the office during her elected term.

You’ll remember this Clinton-hating “watchdog” as the outfit that tried to turn Whitewater into Watergate.

Note to Judicial Watch: Take your emoluments (and some emollients) and stick your argument where the sun don’t shine.

This cockamamie stab at Hillary from the vast right-wing conspiracy is sure to win her some undeserved sympathy.

Not from me, of course.

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Hillary? Watch Obama like a hawk.

And you thought that Hillary Clinton was the political season’s upset loser and that the upset winner, Barack Obama, promised “change.”

You were wrong. Reneging on his promise of change, Obama may turn out to be the only fresh face in his administration. He is expected to bail out Clinton by naming her today as his Secretary of State.

It wasn’t that many years ago that Clinton was appointed chief diplomat of Wal-Mart, thanks only to her possessing the celebrity of being a governor’s wife.

During the chain’s march toward becoming the world’s largest corporation, she carried the message of low, low prices to small towns throughout America’s heartland. Not to mention — she didn’t — that she was a Democratic governor’s wife representing the world’s largest union-buster. (See my May 2000 story, “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.”)

Now, unless all the signs are wrong, she’ll be the chief diplomat of a country with low, low esteem. Maybe it isn’t so bad to have a celebrity in the post to try to restore our international rep, but as some outlets point out, Clinton and the other expected foreign-policy appointments are all more hawkish than Obama.

And many of them are much more experienced and/or skillful at actual diplomacy and/or negotiation. Maybe no diplomat will be able to step into the Mumbai rubble and tiptoe through the still dangerous minefield that is India and Pakistan. Clinton doesn’t have the chops to strike deals, as her record on health care and other issues prove. She was good at such “constituent services” as making sure that potholes are fixed. Big deal.

She doesn’t have much of a track record of skillful negotiating from her years as First Lady and senator. One can only hope that Clinton surrounds herself with some real diplomats and just focuses on being the chief U.S. spokesmodel.

There’s little doubt that we are now officially a celebrity culture. Gone are the days when colorless types like Warren Christopher can move into Foggy Bottom or when little-known wonks like Condoleezza Rice can use the job to attain celebrity. Now it’s celebrity first, then the job.

Not that I’m telling you anything new, but if you still don’t think we’re a celebrity culture, ask the New Yorkers who started lining up yesterday to watch gun-crazy football player Plaxico Burress‘s perp walk, also scheduled for today. (It is a pretty interesting tale.)

Clinton is perhaps the first celebrity to get the State post, which is usually a stepping stone to the presidency, not a reward for losing. (See the list.)

Now she’ll be third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind Joe Biden and the Senate president pro tem Robert Byrd, who at 91 is so decrepit that he has to be wheeled around the Capitol. [Correction: Actually, Hillary would be fourth, behind Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and then Byrd. The order of succession is vice president, then House speaker, then Senate president pro tem, then secretary of State. Thanks to reader “Bob” for pointing this out.]

Good thing the Democrats have control of the Senate. Otherwise, convicted felon pro pen Ted Stevens would still be president pro tem.

As for Hillary’s new job, don’t blame me. I tried to stop her with this and that.

Moving on to the this and that of the here and now …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Wall Street Journal: ‘India Security Faulted as Survivors Tell of Terror’

Washington Post: ‘Obama Poised to Name Hillary Clinton to State Post’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Hillary Clinton passed on Appropriations chair to become Obama’s Secretary of State’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Captured Terrorist: Mumbai Attackers Had Orders To Kill Israelis’

The Age (Australia): ‘Experts not certain al-Qaeda to blame’

BBC: ‘How Mumbai attacks unfolded’

McClatchy: ‘With economy souring, illegal immigrants going home’

BBC: ‘Pakistanis wary of Mumbai claims’

N.Y. Times: ‘One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex’

N.Y. Times: ‘A Handpicked Obama Team for a Shift in Foreign Policy’

Barack Obama’s national security team includes two veteran cold warriors and a political rival whose records are all more hawkish than that of the new president.

Salon: ‘Sympathy for Charles Graner’

No one from the Bush administration has been held accountable for torture. But the guard from Abu Ghraib prison is still behind bars, and his family wants to know why.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Chabad Grieves for Emissaries Killed in Mumbai’

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It’s not a wonderful life

Because my money’s in Citibank, which is now on the verge of going under, I feel like going down there and joining the panicky crowd to demand my money back.

I’ll yell and shake my fist and insist on an explanation why my bank is going down the tubes despite the fees I pay for everything. And the ATM will just stare back at me, like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There is no George Bailey reminding me how my bank deserves my trust.

There’s only Henry Paulson — who gave Citibank $25 billion in bailout money before the bank’s current crisis — telling me and everyone else who’s not a Wall Street big cigar, “Tough luck.”

It’s not a wonderful life. And I’m not Saudi Prince Alwaleed.

And the U.S. is not No. 1 — at least for much longer.

For the latest details on how the U.S. meltdown is, like, bumming out the world, see this morning’s Washington Post story “Financial System Suffers Relapse: Shattering Lull, Fears of Deep Recession Roil Markets.”

The one place where commerce is on the upswing is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Henry Waxman upended longtime chairman John Dingell. See my item yesterday, and read this morning’s WashPost perspective-filled story, in which Paul Kane writes:

If beleaguered U.S. automakers did not have enough problems, Michigan Rep. John D. Dingell, their greatest congressional champion, was dethroned yesterday as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, an advocate of stiff measures against global warming.

This is the first big muscle-flexing by the Obama team — it shows that he has the power to keep his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill in line. There’s no doubt it signals real change and reform, because that’s Waxman’s history. But does the Waxman victory really signal Barack Obama‘s environmentalism or is it payback?

During the Democratic primary, Dingell cast his lot with Hillary Clinton, while his superdelegate wife, GM lobbyist Debbie Dingell, supported Obama.

Who did Waxman cast his lot with? As the Australian outlet ABC pointed out in June, in an extensive interview with Waxman on its Lateline show:

[B]efore the primaries were over, Mr Waxman endorsed Barack Obama for his party’s presidential nomination, a significant boost for the black Senator who needs to bolster his vote among the Jewish community. In his endorsement, Congressman Waxman said Senator Obama has the experience, judgment and integrity to bring real reform to Washington.

Not speaking of real reform, the Washington Post reports this morning in an oh-by-the-way fashion:

Meanwhile, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) is on track to be nominated for the job of secretary of state after Thanksgiving, transition aides said.

Guess Obama just can’t resist leftovers.

If your hopes of “change” were high, that news is the stuff of deflation.

And speaking of throwing away hard-earned capital: While you ponder how safe my money — and I suppose yours, too, if you want to be selfish about it — is in Saudibank (er, Citibank) . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: ‘STRAPHANGERS IN FOR A BUMPY RIDE: ‘SEVERE’ FARE HIKES, SERVICE CUTS SET. ONLY A BAILOUT CAN SPARE US: MTA.’

Times (U.K.): ‘Recession stalks the world’s economies’

hecklerspray.com: ‘Remember The Spitzer Whore? What Does She Think About Stuff?’

Ashley Dupré is now so famous that she’s got her own episode of 20/20 coming up where she gets to reveal that she doesn’t feel responsible for Eliot Spitzer‘s resignation, the emotions she experienced as the scandal unfolded and the way that she feels ‘connected’ to Eliot Spitzer’s wife — which we think might be code for crabs or syphilis or something, though we couldn’t say for certain. . . .

But what of the future? Well, even though she’s so famous that she could probably live quite comfortably on a handful of blowjobs a year now, in the interview Ashley Dupré reveals that she has actually quit whoring to concentrate on establishing her singing career full-time.

ABC (Australia): ‘Henry Waxman joins Lateline

Washington Post: ‘Kafka of the Cubicle: Japanese Cartoonist Chronicles the Indignities Endured by Young, Dutiful, Sad Office Drones’

N.Y. Post: ‘TEENS’ HATE SPREE LED TO MURDER: DA’

A gang of racist Long Island teens went on a “cowardly” weeklong mission of hate, striking innocent Hispanics with their fists and BB gun pellets before they fatally stabbed an Ecuadorian immigrant on his way to a watch a movie with a friend, officials claimed yesterday.

Times (U.K.): ‘Citigroup meets to consider rescue options’

BBC: ‘US global dominance “set to wane” ‘

US economic, military and political dominance is likely to decline over the next two decades, according to a new US intelligence report on global trends.

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) predicts China, India and Russia will increasingly challenge US influence.

It also says the dollar may no longer be the world’s major currency, and food and water shortages will fuel conflict.

Washington Post: ‘Obama Team Springs Leaks’

Reuters: ‘Thousands protest in Iraq against U.S. troops pact’

Washington Post: ‘Video Game Technology Gives Veterans New Lease on Life’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Queens jail guards face assault rap’

Washington Post: ‘Falling Prices Raise a New Fear: Deflation’

Slate: ‘Obama’s White House, Clinton’s Team: Who’s (loyal to) who in the Obama administration — an interactive chart’

Slate: ‘How To Read the Quran: A new translation captures the confusion’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Inspector in crane disaster snubs deal’

 

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State secret: Is it Secretary’s Day for Hillary?

Will Barack Obama really hire Hillary Clinton to take dictation? Is he that into tragedy?

The view at Foggy Bottom is still murky. But it always has been. The low-lying D.C. neighborhood first earned that moniker because of fog and industrial smoke. Then the high-lying State Department HQ moved in, and the nickname gained even more credibility.

So just imagine Hillary Clinton ensconced in Foggy Bottom. She’ll never be in Obama’s inner circle, and she’ll always be a pretender to his throne, so why should he name her and give her control of a huge part of the national machinery? She and her staff would be nothing if not passive-aggressive in their dealings with Obama’s crew. Why would he want more smoke blown at him from Foggy Bottom?

Internal dissent is one thing. As a lifelong practitioner, I’m all for it. But it’s something else altogether to hire a supremely self-aggrandizing pol who constantly works to undercut your authority and is your chief rival in the party and who would try to impose her own agenda — just for the sake of its not being yours, that it would be hers. You’ve worked with people like that, haven’t you? That wouldn’t seem to be the kind of drama that Obama desires.

He doesn’t strike me as a King Lear. So why would he want to hire the wife of our former King Leer?

Maybe it’s all a charade by him and his crew to allow her to save face — she’ll finally say thanks for the gracious “offer” but her country needs her more in the Senate or some such B.S. like that.

Or maybe it’s Hillary’s crew that keeps spreading the word that she’s in line for the job, and Obama’s crew has shrewdly decided to just let them keep doing it if that’s what it takes for Hillary to save face and for the party to keep from fracturing.

Don’t forget: The country is officially in a recession, and an increasingly poorer and more fed-up populace already spells trouble for the Democrats for the mid-term elections in 2010. Even Jesus couldn’t pull us out of this economic disaster by then, so you know that Congressional Democrats are already nervous about their new “mandate” for “change.”

In any case, the newest immigrant to D.C. is both more intriguing than Clinton and less full of intrigue — at least from Obama’s perspective. She’s Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who’s lined up to be the Homeland Security chief.

Janet be nimble. Check out the quick take on her in Phoenix New Times, which gave her a “Best Politician” award in 2006:

Janet Napolitano’s the hands-down champion when it comes to political maneuvering around here. The mere fact that a woman who comes across as this butch can get elected governor and, before that, attorney general in Arizona (of all places) is testament to her political IQ. Plus, she’s a bleedin’ Democrat!

Somehow she’s been able to avoid all the hot-button issues, or make us think she cares hugely about them without really doing much, and now the pollsters have declared her unbeatable . . .

Seems like a shrewd move by the Obama team: A female governor from a border state where immigration is a hot issue is now in charge of protecting the nation from terror.

And it could be a lot worse. Maybe a Republican would have chosen her exact opposite, the cartoonish Phoenix-based sheriff Joe Arpaio, for the job. For those who don’t know, Arpaio is the notoriously hardline, publicity-grabbing Maricopa County lawman who runs what he proudly proclaims as the toughest jail system in the country. Being cruel to Mexicans and other people of color comes naturally to him.

In real life, Arpaio is a cross between Deputy Dawg and Barney Fife, without either of those characters’ loveability. Arpaio was nothing but an ex-DEA-flunky crank when he used to pester reporters in Phoenix in the ’80s — before Arizonans mystifyingly gave him a gun.

Remember Bernie Kerik, who had his five minutes in the D.C. sun as George W. Bush‘s putative Homeland Security czar? Joe Arpaio makes Bernie Kerik seem like Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As far as we know, controversy is not Janet Napolitano’s middle name.

Judging by the way she skirts around things, she won’t make waves. She’s even more colorless than Tom Ridge, and she’ll carry out whatever task Rahm Emanuel gives her.

Here’s your task: Click on these . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: ‘TRAGIC FIRE AT PET SHOP’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Dog takes car for run and crashes into L.I. shop’

N.Y. Times: ‘After Losses, Pensions Ask For a Change’

“Some of the nation’s biggest companies want Congress to roll back rules requiring them to put more money into pension funds.”

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Team Obama thinks Hillary Clinton’s people to blame for State speculation’

Register (U.K.): ‘Google tells the world how to talk: Received Pronunciation not received, Scots scotched’

N.Y. Times: ‘Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing’

L.A. Times: ‘Antiwar groups fear Barack Obama may create hawkish Cabinet’

Register (U.K.): ‘German bawdy house offers free entry for life: Willing punters queue for promotional brothel tattoo’

Washington Post: ‘Stocks Slump As Signs Point To Harder Times: Key Indicators Suggest Deep Recession’

MarketWatch: ‘Saudi Prince boosting Citi stake to 5 Percent’

Bloomberg: ‘Alwaleed Buys Citigroup Stock as Loss Exceeds Buffett’

Washington Post: ‘Auto Execs Fly Corporate Jets to D.C., Tin Cups in Hand’ (Dana Milbank)

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Fine to quadruple amputee — in days’

“She went to an ER suffering from what she thought was just a kidney stone, but a medical nightmare left her a quadruple amputee. Tabitha Mullings claims doctors failed to diagnose an infection that has literally eaten her alive.”

N.Y. Times: ‘New York Police Fight With U.S. on Surveillance’

N.Y. Times: ‘Web Sites Wage Holiday Price Wars’

Washington Post: ‘Let the Guy Smoke: Obama Is Probably Fibbing About Giving Up Cigarettes. That’s Okay.’ (Michael Kinsley)

Register (U.K.): ‘Homework late? Blame Russian hackers: Teachers wise up to tech-based yarns’

N.Y. Times: ‘Discussions With Clintons as Obama Creates Team’

L.A. Times: ‘L.A. councilman seeks to protect celebrities from paparazzi’

L.A. Times: ‘Prop. 8 gay marriage ban goes to Calif. Supreme Court’

L.A. Times: ‘World grapples with pirate problem’

Register (U.K.): ‘Filesharing ambulance chasers get into the gay smut racket’

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Putting Hillary Clinton in her place — and that doesn’t mean the State Department

Keep hiring those Clinton administration veterans, Obama. The more of them you hire, the less likely that Hillary Clinton will be named Secretary of State.

If Barack Obama does appoint her Secretary of State, he would no longer be the agent of “change.” He would just be small change.

It’s Obama’s dime, but maybe he’s simply protecting his party base and trying to assuage Congressional Democrats by making nice with her. This allows Hillary to save face — which is the most important thing in the world to her, anyway — by now accepting another post in the new administration, perhaps ambassador to the U.N.

And making it seem that it’s solely her decision to not become Secretary of State.

Maybe Obama has already filled his quota of Clinton vets, and there’s simply no room for Hillary. Unlikely.

More likely: Obama and his troops are simply playing the public and press by strongly intimating that Hillary will get the job while at the same time spreading the word that hubby Bill’s unsavory post-presidential globe-trotting would disqualify her from the post.

It could be America’s good fortune that Bill Clinton has been such a smarmy international greed hog since he left the White House. This morning’s New York Times story, “Many Dealings of Bill Clinton Under Review,” smacks of a clever game of “leaks” by Obama’s crew to the establishment press:

Mr. Clinton’s postpresidential life as a globe-trotting philanthropist, business consultant and speech-giver poses the highest hurdle for Mrs. Clinton to overcome if President-elect Barack Obama chooses to nominate her as secretary of state, according to aides of the Clintons and Mr. Obama.

The Obama transition team is focused on the wide array of Mr. Clinton’s postpresidential activities, some details of which have not been made public. This list includes the identity of most of the donors to his foundation, the source of some of his speaking fees — he has earned as much as $425,000 for a one-hour speech — and his work for the billionaire investor Ronald W. Burkle.

Propping up that suspicion of the Obama gang’s sophisticated game-playing is that the future chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has in fact been always closer to Obama than to the Clintons.

Emanuel’s close friendship with David Axelrod (a close friend of Obama’s) matters more than Emanuel’s previous ties to the Clinton Administration. Emanuel is Obama’s guy, not the Clintons’ guy.

And at least at the U.N., Hillary’s shortcomings as a diplomat wouldn’t matter too much, because she wouldn’t be the person in charge of setting foreign policy.

Putting her at the U.N. would keep her out of D.C. and let her keep a New York base. In D.C., she would be overwhelmed in importance by Obama’s Chicago-based gang. And she wouldn’t be hovering around D.C. as a publicity- and power-seeking distraction to Obama.

On the East River, she would be the No. 1 tugboat captain. And her celebrity could even be a boon at the U.N., where the top officials from each country focus mainly on schmoozefests while U.N. bureaucrats work hard at the actual and important tasks of trying to peacekeep and feed people and issue global warnings about global warming.

Even with all her weaknesses, Hillary’s presence at the U.N. could help repair relations with the rest of the world because she would be following such Bush regime schnooks as John Bolton (who is opposed to the very existence of the U.N.) and John Negroponte, former destabilizer of Latin America way back in earlier GOP administrations.

Even someone as querulous as I am would be an improvement over either of them.

“Change” does not include putting Hillary Clinton in charge of the vast machinery of the powerful State Department. Another Clinton schmuckfest is not what the voters wanted.

And why would Obama appoint his chief rival in the party to such a powerful post, unless he’s merely keeping his seat warm for a future Hillary stab at the presidency?

That seems highly unlikely. After all, he won the presidency by scooting past the Democratic Party’s anointed candidate and seizing the nomination. What does he really owe the party except to keep peace within it so that he can get his legislative agenda through?

In other words, now is not the time for him to piss off Democrats in Congress.

Doesn’t make sense to make Hillary the Secretary of State. OK, OK, maybe I don’t make sense either. But I’m not the person who has vowed to “change” things. I never promised you a new Rose Garden.

Foreclosing on this one-way conversation and moving on . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Slate: ‘Obama’s New Toy: Snazzy new technology isn’t enough to bring transparency to the White House’

Haaretz: ‘Israeli official: U.S. can halt Iran nuclear program with dialogue’

McClatchy: ‘Eco-urinals’ problem: they’re complicated (and they stink)’

Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president and the world financial crisis present an opportunity to halt the Iranian nuclear drive through diplomacy, Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin said Monday.

Iran, for example, has been stung by lower global oil prices in recent months.

Bloomberg: ‘U.S. Auto Chiefs Renew Aid Push With Passage in Doubt’

McClatchy: ‘Company that bungled Baghdad embassy repeats in Gabon’

Haaretz: ‘Killing of crime boss Alperon seen as “earthquake” for Israel underworld’

Haaretz: ‘Study: Israeli bank not obliged to return cash to Holocaust victims’ heirs’

McClatchy: ‘Gasoline prices have plunged. So why is no one cheering?’

Slate: ‘The Subprime Good Guys: These mortgage lenders loan to poor people, strengthen communities, and are still making a profit. How do they do it?

Slate: ‘Five Million Dead and Counting: The disaster in Congo is all the more tragic because it was utterly avoidable’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Hires More Clinton White House Veterans’

N.Y. Post: ‘GRANNY BEATER A BEAST: DA’

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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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GOP pulls out all stops, shows love for Hillary

Last month the Republican Jewish Coalition angered co-religionists and even some fellow Republicans with a mudslingin’ “push poll” that tried to plant a link in voters’ brains between Barack Obama and that nefarious trio of Pat Buchanan, Iran, and Palestinians.

Now, with the election only a few days away, the GOP Jews are so desperate that they’re openly showing love to Hillary Clinton in a last-minute ad campaign aimed at showing that Obama is a soul brother to Iranian crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The ad (shown above) is running in the Jewish Daily Forward and probably elsewhere.

Last month’s GOP gaming of Obama was less of a shock than its new campaign of praising Hillary. But it was much more devious. The Forward‘s Brett Lieberman reported on September 18:

[T]he Republican Jewish Coalition is mounting an unusually aggressive campaign that has drawn criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans.

Obama supporters led a September 16 protest outside a Manhattan calling center, where pollsters asked 750 Jewish households in the battlegrounds of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and New Jersey whether several negative statements about Obama changed their attitude toward the Democratic presidential candidate. The RJC, which sponsored the poll, said it was researching Jewish public opinion. Critics say it amounted to a “push poll” that is sometimes used to spread untruths about a candidate.

If you’re uncertain how such “push polls” work, the story continues with a good explanation:

According to the Web site Politico.com, Jewish Democratic groups, and others who documented the calls, those surveyed were asked whether their vote would be affected if they learned, for instance, that Obama had given money to the PLO or if they learned that the leader of Hamas hoped for Obama’s victory.

Respondents were asked about how they would react to other “ifs”: if Obama’s political advisors are “pro-Palestinian,” if Obama once said “the Palestinians have suffered the most,” if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad endorsed Obama, or if former President Jimmy Carter‘s anti-Israel national security advisor is one of his foreign policy advisors.

“I’m sure that a part of this is to be provocative so that you can raise these issues, and without your fingerprints on it, raise doubts,” said Norm Ornstein, a political expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “Those questions are certainly much more push-poll questions than traditional questions.”

On October 23, the Forward reported that angry Obama aides pulled out of any event featuring the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The Republican Jews’ fanatical embrace of identity politics plays well with American Jews in Israel.

But not so much with Jews who live in the U.S. Most of whom are more liberal and moderate than the right-wing leaders of most major U.S. Jewish organizations. The Voice of America reports that the American Jewish Committee’s national survey late last month showed Obama leading John McCain 57 percent to 30 percent.

That’s not as strong a showing as most Democrats have made in past AJC surveys, but what do you want from me?

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Daily Flog: Remembering the 9/11, Bush disasters; waiting for Lehman’s final collapse

Running down the press:

You’ll be deluged all day with stories about Ground Zero, where Barack Obama and John McCain will duke it out in the tragic death cage.

As the BBC notes with a straight face:

In a joint statement from the campaigns announcing their decision to visit Ground Zero together, the two men vowed to come together “as Americans” and suspend their political campaigns for 24 hours.

Yes, no politicking going on there.


Google News: ‘Lipstick politics: The big diversion’

In a hopeful sign for fans of artificial intelligence, the algorithms show a glimmer of irony this morning.

At one point, the above headline (from the Chicago Tribune‘s Swamp blog in D.C.) zoomed to the top of the page, the lede item of 2,233 lipstick/pig/Palin/Obama related items.

The irony? News orgs and everyone else hunger so much for a spot on the Google News page that they will think this story continues to be important and thus will stay diverted.

Meanwhile, on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, the Bush regime is now diverting troops from Iraq to Afghanistan — troops it never should have diverted in 2003 from Afghanistan to Iraq.

As for the Tribune story itself? Mark Silva‘s item is lame:

Like “lipstick on a pig,” the hot new debate of the presidential campaign has sparked one stunning distraction. And, as anyone knows, lipstick smears.

Me and everyone else used that pun yesterday.


CBS: ‘Poll: Most Say U.S. Prepared For Attacks’

The rest of this meaningless poll (which gets weight because news orgs give it weight) notes, in part:

Americans give some credit to the Bush administration for making the country safer. Fifty percent say the administration’s policies have improved the country’s safety, about the same rating as they have given the White House for the last two years. Twenty-one percent say the administration’s policies have made the country less safe, and 23 percent say they have had no effect.

President Bush’s approval rating is now at 29 percent, slightly above the low of 25 percent reached this past summer. His approval has not climbed above 30 percent since April 2007.

I guess this means that there won’t be a sudden push to abolish term limits (like the trend the Times spotted) for presidents. Talk about worries lessening: Bush is unlikely to ever again win the presidency.


McClatchy: ‘9/11 seven years later: U.S. ‘safe,’ South Asia in turmoil’

In one of the better 9/11 stories this morning, Jonathan S. Landay and Saeed Shah remind us that there’s a big ol’ planet outside the U.S. borders:

Taking their cue from Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen‘s assessment yesterday — “I am not convinced we are winning it in Afghanistan” — they run with it:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Seven years after 9/11, al Qaida and its allies are gaining ground across the region where the plot was hatched, staging their most lethal attacks yet against NATO forces and posing a growing threat to the U.S.-backed governments in Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan.

While there have been no new strikes on the U.S. homeland, the Islamic insurrection inspired by Osama bin Laden has claimed thousands of casualties and displaced tens of thousands of people and shows no sign of slackening in the face of history’s most powerful military alliance.

The insurgency now stretches from Afghanistan’s border with Iran through the southern half of the country. The Taliban now are able to interdict three of the four major highways that connect Kabul, the capital, to the rest of the country.


Daily News: ‘Remember towering spirit in 9/11 aftermath’

Tendentious and predictable, courtesy of super-self-serious columnist Michael Daly:

The obligation to honor the murdered innocents neither begins nor ends with a quick visit to Ground Zero, whether you are Barack Obama, John McCain or anybody else.

The obligation has been with us from the day of the attack and for a brief time we lived up to it: remembering we were all in it together, no matter where we were born, no matter who we voted for, no matter what we did for a living or how much we earned.

Emma Lazarus he ain’t.


New York Review of Books: ‘The Battle for a Country’s Soul’

Forget about today’s coverage. On this 9/11, the best reflection — one with real meat — remains Jane Mayer‘s think piece in the NYRB‘s previous issue:

Seven years after al-Qaeda’s attacks on America, as the Bush administration slips into history, it is clear that what began on September 11, 2001, as a battle for America’s security became, and continues to be, a battle for the country’s soul.

In looking back, one of the most remarkable features of this struggle is that almost from the start, and at almost every turn along the way, the Bush administration was warned that whatever the short-term benefits of its extralegal approach to fighting terrorism, it would have tragically destructive long-term consequences both for the rule of law and America’s interests in the world.

These warnings came not just from political opponents, but also from experienced allies, including the British Intelligence Service, the experts in the traditionally conservative military and the FBI, and, perhaps most surprisingly, from a series of loyal Republican lawyers inside the administration itself.

The number of patriotic critics inside the administration and out who threw themselves into trying to head off what they saw as a terrible departure from America’s ideals, often at an enormous price to their own careers, is both humbling and reassuring.

One more passage from Mayer’s look back, which is every bit as patriotic and stirring as the feeble attempts by Daly and others — and without the schmaltz and jingoism:

Instead of heeding this well-intentioned dissent, however, the Bush administration invoked the fear flowing from the attacks on September 11 to institute a policy of deliberate cruelty that would have been unthinkable on September 10.

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and a small handful of trusted advisers sought and obtained dubious legal opinions enabling them to circumvent American laws and traditions.

In the name of protecting national security, the executive branch sanctioned coerced confessions, extrajudicial detention, and other violations of individuals’ liberties that had been prohibited since the country’s founding. They turned the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel into a political instrument, which they used to expand their own executive power at the expense of long-standing checks and balances.


Times: ‘Pressure Builds as Lehman Faces Mounting Losses’

As it usually does, the paper of record takes the angle of the pressure on the suffering bank instead of the broader, more logical angle of the pressure of the bank’s looming collapse on the rest of the world’s economy. The Times lede:

The trouble at Lehman Brothers is rapidly becoming a race against time for the struggling Wall Street bank.

Lehman’s fortunes dwindled further on Wednesday as the firm, staggered by the biggest loss in its 158-year history, fought to regain confidence among investors.

You have to go overseas to get to the real news: what impact this collapse is having on the rest of the planet outside Lehman’s Seventh Avenue HQ. Try this one from the Financial Times in London: “Lehman survival strategy fails to lift markets.”


Daily News: ‘Biden blunder: Joe says maybe Hillary Clinton would make better VP’

Joe Biden is already giving us an example of how he just can’t keep his big yap shut — even when he’s responding to praise.

No one wants a veep who’s not confident in himself or herself, but Biden just couldn’t let a compliment pass.

Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America – let’s get that straight,” Biden said testily after a voter said he was “very pleased” that Democratic nominee Barack Obama had chosen him instead of Clinton.

“She is qualified to be President of the United States of America, she’s easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America and, quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me,” the Delaware senator added forcefully. “I mean that sincerely, she is first- rate.”

OK, OK, we get the point: You’re trying to pander to women to counter the presence of a woman on the GOP ticket.

Shut the fuck up already with the “I’m not worthy” bit. How will you try to show, in this popularity contest, that Sarah Palin‘s not worthy if you say that about yourself? Suitors — successful ones — don’t act that way.

And notice that Biden even said it “testily” instead of graciously. The guy is more competent than he sounds, but you wouldn’t know it. Trouble is brewing for the Demo ticket, because it’s sound, not substance, that bites.


Post: ‘QNS. POL CAUGHT IN STING: FBI NABS “$500,000 GRAFT” ASSEMBLYMAN’

Good one from Fred Dicker and his colleagues:

In an unprecedented sting that brought an undercover FBI agent onto the state Capitol floor, a veteran Democratic assemblyman from Queens was busted yesterday for allegedly taking $500,000 in bribes, prosecutors announced.

Anthony Seminerio, 73, who has represented South Ozone Park since 1978 and often boasted he was “John Gotti’s assemblyman,” was charged with running a secret consulting firm through which he pocketed the cash in return for peddling influence in Albany.

An FBI agent going undercover on the Capitol floor. Send that man to Congress!