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New York’s Whitest

Keeping the Melting Pot on the Back Burner 

Last month New York City agreed to add 126 blacks, 167 Hispanics, and one Asian, along with 306 whites, to its ap­proximately 30,000-member police force. For the first time, minority police appoint­ments reflected New York’s ethnic re­alities — and the principle that all are equal in as well as under the law.

There is a general impression that we have Mayor Koch to thank for that: for his graceful yieldling, despite his high if con­tradictory principles, to a federal court­-ordered hiring quota for cops; yielding, that is, for the year or more it will take him to appeal it. As the reason for his good losership, Koch cited our urgent need for more cops to prevent imminent bloodshed, Miami-style.

But this was the very same reason he gave federal Judge Robert L. Carter back in December when Koch insisted the city couldn’t change its hiring policy for cops. No matter that Judge Carter had found (not for the first time) that this policy was discriminatory and therefore illegal.

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It was this attitude on the part of the city that led to the quota in the first place — and to Judge Carter’s charge that the city not only discriminated against its racial minorities, but did so deliberately.

Carter based his conclusion on court records stretching back over nearly a dec­ade of litigation, in an uphill and contin­uing struggle by the city’s black and His­panic cops to reconcile the letter and the spirit of anti-discrimination law.

The record shows:

  • The city’s Police Department and its Personnel Department knew as far back as 1969 that exams discriminated by race;
  • They knew by 1971 that such dis­crimination had nothing to do with the requirements of the job or ability to perform it;
  • Individual officials unable to act on that knowledge invited and encouraged the ongoing lawsuit by the minority cops,­ back in 1972;
  • Nonetheless the city chose to fight the case, and even now claims it has never discriminated against minority cops;
  • Throughout the course of subsequent litigation, the city continued to test and hire and fire without making any substantial changes in the system.

A decade later, minorities, now nearly half the city’s population, were still only 10 per cent of a police force whose most pressing task is to combat a rise in crime that is polarizing communities along ra­cial lines. Yet Koch in 1980 continues to fight an affirmative-action quota for blacks and Hispanics — a quota he en­dorsed two years ago for policewomen and, more recently, for city construction contractors from poverty neighborhoods. As if affirmative action was not a right but an act of charity.

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Carter’s view that the city dis­criminated with intent — not intent to do wrong, but intent not to do right — pre­vailed (along with his one-in-three quota) for seven months, from January of this year until last July. At that time, federal appellate Judge Jon Newman decided the city hadn’t erred on purpose, though it had erred, and the quota (reduced to one-­in-four) would stay in force.

Newman’s revision was hailed by the Koch administration as a “vindication,” and by the media as a breath of sanity and common sense (as though the perception of injustice were de facto a neurosis). Such a view of events and of Koch, who as mayor must take the rap not only for his own actions but for that of the city as a continuous entity, says a great deal about this moment in the recent history of Amer­ican civil rights.

Forget the editorial rejoicing over the arrival of our long-awaited troops; forget the staged spectacle of mayoral blessing upon the union of black and white in uniform; forget our (false) sense of satis­faction at a problem finally solved.

Look at the record and remember that this is supposedly an enlightened era, and we are supposedly an enlightened city. And then remember what is supposed to happen to people who forget history.

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•••

In 1967, following a wave of racial violence, the federal Kerner Commission began looking at the low numbers of blacks and Hispanics in police departments across the country. Cities began to respond to the problem. In 1968, minority appointments to the New York City Police Department almost doubled: by 1970, when a job freeze halted all hirings, some 1400 minority officers had been hired, or 18.4 per cent of all appointments to the force between 1968 and 1970. And still the 29,500 member police department was, as the department itself observed, 90.8 per cent “lily white.”

This problem did not go unnoticed by the Lindsay administration. In August 1969, the city Department of Personnel released its two-year study of a previous civil service exam for the entry level posi­tion of patrolman.Comparing test-takers of similar employment, education, and family background, Personnel found that only “the ethnic factor” — race — affected exam scores. That finding prompted the department to investigate its most recent exams. The results would not be ready for four years, but eventually they and other studies supported the 1969 speculation of the personnel department: that greater numbers of blacks and Hispanics could have made perfectly fine cops but never got past the front door “because of below passing test grades which may have been unrelated to actual job performance.” (My emphasis.)

With this speculation, the anonymous drafters of the personnel study unwittingly hit upon the crux of a matter that still confuses many people — who ask, some­times pointedly, exactly how something “neutral” like a civil service test does discriminate racially.

The answer is not simply that we don’t know, but — as the personnel investigators foresaw — that it doesn’t matter just how racial bias is “built in” to an exam if the exam itself is irrelevant to the job.

This is the conclusion the U. S. Supreme Court reached in a landmark 1971 decision. In Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the court ruled that if minorities can prove a seemingly “neutral” job requirement or test has a racial bias, then that job re­quirement or test is illegal unless the em­ployer, in turn, can prove it is “job-related.”

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Proof that a test is biased is a straight-forward matter of statistics. Evidence that it is “job-related” (or that the employer genuinely tried to make it so) is more complex. But at minimum the employer is expected to be able to describe in simple English exactly what the job is (the writ­ten job analysis). And obviously, a positive relationship between an employ­ee’s test score and his or her on-the-job­performance would be helpful to the de­fendant-employer.

No such relationship was discovered when, in the fall of 1971, the personnel bureau within the police department re­leased its own study. Minority patrolmen, it noted, were promoted to detective slots a — promotion based on job performance­ — at a higher rate than their white col­leagues. Yet when it came to promotions of equal rank that required civil service ex­ams, minority patrolmen did poorly. In short, there clearly was no connection be­tween a minority cop’s on-the-job performance and the civil service test for promotion. Here was a strong suggestion that this would hold true for the hiring tests as well, which ought to have alerted top brass to the need for a written job analysis.

But as of March 3, 1972, Peter Smith Ring, special assistant to the commanding officer of the personnel bureau, was forced to warn the police commissioner:

There appears to be general agreement that existing testing, and our own past recruitment efforts, are the major roadblocks to adequate minority rep­resentation … I have deep reserva­tions about both efforts as they presently stand … it is impossible to develop a new test until we undertake a job analysis for the rank of pa­trolmen … To the best of my knowledge this is not being done … we have little time to lose.

In fact, the department had no time at, all. On that same day, black and Hispanic officers represented by the Guardian As­sociation and the Hispanic Society sued the city.

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•••

The Guardians’ case did not catch its defendants, the city’s police and personnel departments, unawares. Behind the scenes, high-level city officials had not only acknowledged (if only to each other) that the department’s practices were dis­criminatory; they had already tried, and failed, to correct the problem.

The day the Guardians brought suit, the police department’s legal division delivered the fruits of its research on “the possibility that a significant legal trend may be developing” of anti-discrimination challenges to police departments.

The report, circulated in draft form before its official release, contrasted cur­rent laws with all the department knew of its recruitment and promotion practices and concluded they “are vulnerable to litigation charging discrimination. This Department and the Department of Personnel will be hard pressed to show job-relatedness … Such a suit … will have a good chance of success.”

The department did more than antici­pate the suit — it invited it. In 1971, an informal committee began meeting, com­posed of Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy, Deputy Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward, representatives of Mayor John Lindsay, and Personnel Director Harry Bonstein. Ward later testified to “an agreement pretty much all around the table, that something was wrong with our testing process … All parties agreed to that except Harry Bronstein. He was clear­ly opposed to changing the system.”

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Director Bronstein had been kicked up­stairs to his desk from a key spot in Lindsay’s budget burea, where he was know in that inflationary era as “The Abominable No-Man”. Says a former Lindsay administrator: “Bronstein was bright, he could have done anything, but he was a Depression baby. He wound up in civil service because that’s all there was.” In his official capacity, Bronstein appeared to his colleagues to be acting out of personal spite.

Whatever the reasons for it, Bronstein’s resistance was not overruled by the mayor.

Ward, Murphy, and representatives of the mayor met again, Ward said under oath, “and it was pretty much the con­clusion of the people then in that room that the problem was with the Depart­ment of Personnel … A strategy was then designed and devised to deal with the problem …” That strategy, as Ward testified, was to approach the NAACP. He said police and personnel were aware “that I had spoken to the NAACP Legal Defe1;1se Fund and asked them to bring an action both against the Department of Personnel and the Police …”

Today Ward is Koch’s commissioner of corrections. Through a spokesman, he says he may not comment, “but he stands on his testimony.” The staff attorney from the NAACP with whom Ward spoke, Eliz­abeth DuBois Bartholet, now of Harvard Law School, confirms it. The NAACP worked with the pro bond law firm that handled the suit; the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund was later brought in as well.

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•••

But instead of using the suit to force the desired change in its policy, the ad­ministration chose to fight it. The enormous contrast between the city’s private actions and its public posture may be explained in part by Lindsay’s presidential ambitions, and by the rules of the game of politics: a public admission of racial guilt by city leaders, at a time when race relations were especially volatile and when moreover the police department was already under fire following the Knapp Commissions’s exposure of another kind of police corruption, would have predictably unpleasant consequences for the Lindsay administration. If any consideration other than this obvious political one entered into the city’s turnabout, today — eight years later — the matter is still under wraps. Jay Kriegel, who in 1972 was Lindsay’s liaison to the police department, claims total memory loss on this issue and is unwilling to have his memory jogged.

The Guardians challenged the use of seven exams given between 1968 and 1970 (the date of the last exam before the hiring freeze took effect), including the ones the city knew were discriminatory. Yet the first step of the city’s defense was to ask for still another study. Since the hiring lid was on, the Guardians agreed to postpone trial while this study, by the Rand In­stitute, was undertaken.

But before the results were in (they would, again, confirm the Guardians’ posi­tion) the lid was lifted, and the city­ — using familiar threats of civil unrest­ — proceeded swiftly to hire according to eligibility lists based on scores from the challenged exams.

The Guardians tried to halt the hirings, but the court waited so long before re­sponding that the issue became moot; then, for that reason, it denied their injunction request.

The lawsuit, however, had forced the city to hire all those applicants who’d passed the challenged exams, including the low-scoring minorities who would oth­erwise have been bypassed by the holding of a new exam. Thus both the Guardians and the lame duck Lindsay adminis­tration were content for the moment to leave matters in legal limbo.

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But then the Beame administration began and with it, the fiscal crisis: Despite expressions of concerns from city Human Rights Commissioner Eleanor Holmes Norton and from Mayor Abe Beame himself about the effect of civil service “separation policies” upon the last-hired minority workers, in 1975 22 per cent of all Hispanic cops and 18 per cent of all back ones were let go, compared to only 9.8 per cent of the white force.

Uncertainty in the press about whether more cops would be fired or rehired made it urgent for the Guardians to halt further job actions and seek adjusted seniority for those minorities hired later than they would have been but for poor scores on the biased exams. The Guardians renewed their case in 1976.

At the trial that year, the city insisted the exams were valid, job-related ones, although it was still unable to produce a written job analysis. It also tried to poke holes in the by now overwhelming mass of statistical evidence (much of it collected by the city itself) of discrimination — in short, to deny the facts.

Finally, in its ugliest move, the city argued that it had never discriminated because Title VII, the part of the Civil Rights Act that bans job discrimination, didn’t apply to cities until March 1972 (just three weeks after the Guardians’ suit was first filed). Since all the recent hirings and layoffs were based on exams given before 1972, the city claimed they weren’t discriminatory.

This reasoning, set side by side with the evidence above that the city knew long before 1972 that it was discriminating due to race, was rejected by Judge Carter — ­first in March 1977 and again in February 1979 (Carter was required by the appellate court to reconsider in light of a then-recent Supreme Court decision that appeared to lend weight to the city’s argument).

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At this point, enter Mayor Koch.

Faced with Carter’s reaffirmation that the 1968-70 exams were biased and that the city was wrong to use them, Koch could have decided to drop the line he’d inherited from Beame and move to settle with the Guardians in good faith. He was not dealing, after all, with the kind of “radical,” “revolutionary” black politi­cians he claims to abhor, but with a group of hard-working, dues-paying family men who wished for nothing more than the means to be among those middle-class, law-abiding citizens Koch considers his constituency.

Koch chose instead to apeal. He lost that appeal before Appellate Judge Thom­as Meskill, in a decision that was totally ignored by the press, last July 25. The city is appealing and this time so are the Guardians, because Judge Meskill has re­duced by about 700 the number of minor­ity officers who could receive retroactive seniority in, compensation for the city’s actions.

Koch had had another opportunity to turn over a new leaf in the fall of 1978 when, true to his campaign pledge to hire more cops, his administration made plans for a new patrolman’s eligibility exam, from which 4000 officers were to be hired over the course of his administration. Yet Koch failed to ensure that the lessons of the past were respected. Though changes were made in the test-preparation process, they seem to have been executed in a spirit of indifference to its impact on the lives of real people — and with a carelessness that could only be from stupidity or arrogance.

The facts support at minimum the Guardians’ claim that the new exam was biased. Of those who passed the exam, held in June 1979, 15.4 per cent were minorities, though they formed at least 30.9 per cent of all test-takers; in contrast 66.6 per cent were white, though whites were only 53.8 per cent of the total. (A number of applicants declined to identify themselves by race.) The statistical dis­parity, the courts agree, is too great to be by chance.

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The Guardians filed their complaint last October. But in November, the month of the trial, the city went ahead and hired using the contested exam. Of the 415 ap­pointees, all but 45 were white. And even as Judge Carter mulled over his decision, the city announced a second group to be hired in January 1980: of a total of 380, only 38 would be minority officers.

The city’s expressed determination to use the challenged exam even after Carter personally informed its lawyers in Decem­ber that in his forthcoming opinion he would declare it illegal, forced Carter to issue his written opinion just hours after the last hearing on the case. Very likely the city’s uncooperative attitude, right down to the wire, helped settle any linger­ing doubts Judge Carter may have had about its good intentions.

Intentions were not legally at issue. The city hadn’t been charged with deliberate discrimination, because that — like rape before the corroboration law was repealed — is almost impossible to prove. But the question of good faith creeps in the back door when one must assess the credibility of a witness on matters of great complexi­ty; and Carter, unlike the Appellate court, has been dealing with the city on this issue for years.

His ruling, on January 11, found “that Examination No. 8155 was designed either with a deliberate intention to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics or with reck­less disregard of whether the test would have that effect.” And he ordered the hiring quota.

Of course, as we know, the city ap­pealed. Judge Newman of the federal ap­peals court was inclined to give the city the benefit of the doubt in matters of faith, but when it came to matters of fact he could only conclude the exam was illegal. He modified, but nonetheless upheld, the hiring quota.

Without that so-called “drastic” reme­dy, the number of black and Hispanic cops in New York City — after a decade of of­ficial affirmative action and litigation — ­would still be only 10 per cent.

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•••

Why?

At each stage of these events, the mayor — Lindsay, Beame, and finally Koch — had two options: to make peace; or to accept the legalisms that propped up the city’s resistance, along with the prac­tical obstacles that he would otherwise have to struggle to overcome.

Like Lindsay, like Beame, Koch chose the latter course. Since he has bought it, Koch now must defend — along with the present — the past.

Why didn’t the city buck the civil ser­vice system? “Put yourself in the position of the police commissioner,” says one of Koch’s attorneys who is handling the case. “In the back of his mind are 29,500 white police officers, breathing down his neck.”

Why didn’t — why doesn’t — the city of­fer a settlement? “Where were we going to get the money for that? Do you have any idea how much that retroactive seniority would cost? There’s backpay, there’s pen­sion contributions … We can’t even total it up; we’ve tried.”

Yes, money is tight. Yes, the PBA, to which, in bitter irony, the minority officers must pay dues, has filed briefs against the Guardians in this case. (The PBA has also successfully fought efforts to bring quali­fied minority youths into the department under an internship program.)

But these aren’t reasons for the city’s stand, they’re excuses. The city lays the blame for the status quo on the status quo, a tautology that becomes more suspect when we look at what other cities have accomplished. Detroit, for one, has a vol­untary affirmative action quota for its police, one it was willing to go to bat for when white cops attacked it in court.

So have Tampa, Seattle, and Sacra­mento County. Closer to home, Syracuse, when its voluntary plan came under at­tack, worked out a settlement with the state Civil Service Commission; there is no reason why New York City could not do likewise. The long list of local govern­ments that have reached settlements in the past year rather than fight suits brought by the U. S. Justice Department (a “friend of the court” on behalf of the Guardians in this case) includes Cincin­nati, Fort Lauderdale, and the Ohio State Police.

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And New York, of course, is willing to promise hiring quotas to its policewomen. The consent agreement between the de­partment and the Policewomen’s Endow­ment Association in April 1978 pledges the department “will in good faith use its best efforts to have women comprise 10 per cent of the entry level police officer positions within five years of the date of this agree­ment. To achieve this goal the Police De­partment will use its best efforts to have women comprise a minimum of 30 per cent of the officers hired to the Police Department during the aforesaid five-year peri­od.”

Finally, only one explanation for the city’s intransigence remains. When I pressed Koch’s attorneys to explain why the city didn’t just bow to the inevitability of justice, they said — as Koch has said, in different words, before them — “But we haven’t done anything wrong.”

“You know, I used to be glad whenever I saw a black cop,” a friend of mine said not long ago, “and I used to think it was because I was so unbiased, because it confirmed my political beliefs.

“Then I realized that wasn’t it at all. I was happy to see a black man in uniform because that meant he was one less I had to worry about.”

I heard these words with a jolt of self­-recognition. My friend and I are white, we think of ourselves as decent and progressive. But there is more than one variety of racism.

So it is, speculates one of his adminis­trators, with Ed Koch. The mayor seems to see himself as he likes to see himself: he knows he means well. Trust him. And meanwhile, like the rest of us, he is trav­eling the path of least resistance, and we know where that leads — not despite, but because of “good intentions.” ❖

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Daily Flog: The Dow of panic; stocks and bondage; U.S. snatches gold

The rest of the world rushes to Wall Street to try to clean up the vomit and wipe Hank Greenberg‘s brow, but first . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Gulf News (Dubai): ‘Traffic violators pardoned if they offer body organs’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Worst Crisis Since ’30s, With No End Yet in Sight’

N.Y. Times: ‘Administration Trying for Spy Satellites Again’

N.Y. Post: ‘CONDOMS MAKE NYC RUBBER LAND’

CNBC: ‘Morgan Stanley Is in Talks with China for Fresh Funds’

L.A. Times: ‘Insurgents in Afghanistan show strength, sophistication’

China Daily: ‘3 Chinese banks hold $297m in Lehman debt – report’

SmashHits.com: ‘Speeding bus kills 14 in India’

MarketWatch: ‘Media’s Wimpy Wall Street Coverage’

Forum 18: ‘BELARUS: Orthodox complain of KGB intimidation at village funeral’


Running down the press:

As other countries’ banks join hands, sing “Kumbaya,” and try to bail out our financial system (WSJ: “Central Banks Take Coordinated Action”), don’t you worry about us New Yorkers. We’re going to bounce back.

We’re still No. 1 in the stuff that counts. Take a look at David Seifman‘s piece in this morning’s N.Y. Post:

New York City ranks as the undisputed condom capital of the nation.

The Mayor’s Management Report, issued yesterday, showed that the Health Department gave away 39,070,000 male condoms to community groups in fiscal 2008, which ended on June 30.

That’s enough for every man, woman and child in the city six times over.

Sadly, few of them went to investment bankers and lawyers, ensuring that we’ll continue to be overpopulated with both species and thus always in danger of future Wall Street meltdowns.

The actual truth is that Wall Street hasn’t been dominant for quite some time. In fact, many of its denizens are downright submissive, as the Daily News tells us:

‘Tribeca S&M palace raided; owner, ‘Domina’ held on prostitution raps’

A Manhattan S&M club that billed itself as the “Leading House of Domination in NYC” was put out of business Wednesday after the NYPD busted its manager and seized its business records.

The ladies at the Walker St. club, Rapture, all had “extensive and rigorous” training in the art of bondage, and customers of the Tribeca dungeon were whipped and poked by professionals, its advertising claimed.

Give me those goddamn whips, and I’ll show you how to flay the backsides of those downtown bankers.


Financial Times (U.K.): ‘Housing data reinforce threat to US growth’

And a bottom of th’ mornin’ to you from London:

New housing starts fell to their lowest level in 17 years last month, sharply worse than expected, signalling the still deepening threat from the housing market to US economic growth.

Daniel Pimlott‘s story notes that this may not be such bad news for the long run:

The fall in starts is likely to further detract from US economic growth in the third quarter. But economists also believe that slowing construction of new homes is a necessary precondition to the stabilisation of the housing market and the financial system. A huge inventory of new and previously owned homes for sale is dragging down prices.

Well, that’s good: One way out of this crisis is for the price of houses to stay too high to afford. And there’s more of the same kind of supposedly good news:

The poor housing starts came as other indicators in the mortgage markets suggested a better outlook ahead.

Applications for mortgages jumped 33.4 per cent in the week ending September 12 in response to a fall in mortgage rates after the US government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported.

The rise in applications was driven by a 88 per cent jump in attempts to refinance – the largest weekly increase since the beginning of 2001 – as home owners rushed to take advantage of lower rates.

Yes, more money for the mortgage bankers and investment houses to play with. That’s the kind of thing it will take to lift us out of this crisis. No joke, it really is.


N.Y. Post: ‘PEDAL TO THE METALS: FLIGHT TO SAFETY BOOSTS GOLD, SILVER & OIL’

Paul Tharp‘s solid story early this morning notes:

Fearful investors armed themselves with safe cash, gold and oil to fight back a possible trading rout looming today over Wall Street.

Gold shot up $70 an ounce in the biggest one-day jump in a decade. Lending effectively shut down between US and European banks as a key lending-rate spread surged to an all-time high to break the record close after Black Monday in 1987.

Tharp recognizes that the rise in oil prices is a really slippery slope:

Oil jumped $6 a barrel here to $97.16 as investors scrambled for safety, pushing crude back onto its dangerous upward trajectory.

McClatchy: ‘Pakistan reportedly opens fire on U.S. forces in tribal area’

The only thing that may re-fill the wallets of Wall Street’s bankers is another full-scale war from which to profit. They may get their wish, if things don’t calm down a little in South Asia:

Pakistani troops opened fire Monday on U.S. forces who were trying to enter the country’s lawless tribal area, local officials said, marking a dangerous further deterioration in relations between the allies in the war on terrorism.

Both armies — and the Pentagon — denied that the reported incident had occurred, but local security officials and tribesmen in South Waziristan told McClatchy that two American helicopters had entered Pakistani airspace in the early hours and were forced to retreat when they came under fire.


Sex and money — is there anything else? How about sex, money, and movies? Turn to the Post‘s Page Six for, among other gossip, “NAUGHTY PRODUCT PLUGS”:

George Clooney has sparked a sex-toy craze. In the Coen brothers’ film Burn After Reading, Clooney plays a sex addict who totes along marital aids, including two items called “The Liberator Ramp” and “The Silky,” both of which are sold in stores. Avn.com reports sales of both are on the rise thanks to the movie. Says one retailer: “Small mentions of adult products in mainstream media can have an outsized effect on sales.”

BBC: ‘India drug firm turns to Giuliani’

Too rich. Our ex-mayor is now trying to help people acquire drugs:

Indian drug firm Ranbaxy has hired ex-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as an adviser, the company says.

The move comes a day after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the import of more than 30 generic drugs made by the drug firm.

 

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

Running down the press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What rhymes with “puck”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more bit of unintentional humor from Nagourney:

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

Can’t wait to read that dissertation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

More from Bloomberg:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Followed right on its heels by this:

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

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

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

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

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Daily Flog: Obama, Duchovny get their freak on; New York’s finest bank robber

Running down the press:

Forty-five years after Martin Luther King Jr. revealed his dream, Barack Obama becomes king for a day.

Now that is change.

Crowned by the Democratic Party, Obama spoke last night of the “promise” of America. Wearing a crown of thorns, King said way back in 1963 (full text):

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

And last night in Denver those little black children and little white children, now adults, did hold hands to cheer a black man’s nomination for president. And they weren’t just from Alabama.

Remarkable.

Too bad the daily press hasn’t changed. As political campaigns get more and more clever, the big papers don’t.

Here’s a small, but telling, example from this morning’s New York Times lead story. It reminds me that I have a dream that Adam Nagourney will no longer cover political campaigns. His co-bylined story notes:

Mr. McCain marked the occasion of the speech by releasing a television advertisement in which, looking into the camera, he paid tribute to Mr. Obama and his accomplishment. “How perfect that your nomination would come on this historic day,” Mr. McCain said. “Tomorrow, we’ll be back at it. But tonight, Senator, job well done.”

The advertisement stood in stark contrast to a summer of slashing attacks on Mr. Obama by Mr. McCain that apparently contributed to the tightening of this race. And the softer tone did not last; Mr. Obama was still on the stage, watching the fireworks, when Mr. McCain’s campaign issued a statement attacking him.

“Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama,” said Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Mr. McCain.

The GOP campaign strategy worked, thanks to the Times.

Very gracious of McCain to release that TV ad, notwithstanding his surprisingly insincere visage and the soppy background music. A sound move, too, because at the same time McCain gets the paper of broken record to rip Obama through the device of quoting some minion named Tucker Bounds.

What you do as a journalist — what most journalists don’t do — is simply not directly quote campaign flacks when they’re just flacking you. What they say on the record is almost always not news; it’s advertising.

Now, if McCain were to say what Bounds said, that’s a quote you should use, juxtaposing it with the TV ad.

But the McCain campaign no doubt knew that the Times, in its establishment way, would have no qualms letting McCain speak out of one side of the mouth and one of his flacks speak out of the other. Through some mistaken notion of journalistic “balance,” that allowed McCain to come off as 100 percent gracious.

My own policy as a reporter was to not quote spokesmen or flacks when they’re not making news and to avoid using their names in those cases so that they don’t get mistaken as people who count.

Don’t let the surrogates birth the pols’ ugly babies. If the candidate wants to say something like what Bounds said, quote him or her. Otherwise, don’t use it. You’re just playing into the campaigns’ hands. You’re writing your story for them, for your sources’ interests, not for your readers or their interests.

Stepping down from the soapbox, I’ll note that the other major part of Nagourney’s unintentional flackery on behalf of the McCain campaign was this line of analysis:

The [McCain] advertisement stood in stark contrast to a summer of slashing attacks on Mr. Obama by Mr. McCain that apparently contributed to the tightening of this race.

Race has had nothing to do with the “tightening,” right? In the world of reporters’ egos, it’s the “slashing attacks” they report that are making a difference.


We’re still waiting for McCain to reveal his veep choice.

Will it be a woman? Will it be a black woman? Will it be Condi Rice? No.

Will it be Tim Pawlenty? The Democrats should hope so.

Will it be Dick Cheney? Certainly not, but I hope so. I’m just being selfish because we’re not quite finished slapping him upside the head for the troubles he’s brought down on our heads.


Daily News: ‘ “Bling Bandit” is ex-NYPD detective; allegedly knocked off 9 area banks’

Helluva yarn on its face, but the paper fell on its face. The lede:

The “Bling Bandit” who knocked off seven banks on Long Island and two in Queens is a hero ex-cop worshiped in the NYPD for 33 years of undercover and detective work, police sources said.

Retired NYPD Detective Athelston Kelson, 59, surrendered with his lawyer Thursday in Queens on charges of robbing banks at gunpoint while wearing flashy rings and a gold watch that could make a rapper drool, sources said.

Fascinating story. And the best copout for crime that we’ve heard in a while:

Kelson was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer shortly after he retired in 2005, and sources said his spree may have been an attempt to commit suicide by cop.

Liver and onions.

But don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good excuse. The Post‘s version of Kelson’s probable motivation for his alleged crime spree is more believable:

Bette Kelson, the suspect’s estranged wife, reached at her home in Columbia, SC, was shocked, but said their three-year divorce proceedings were coming to an end — with financial consequences for him.

Asked if he was in need of money, she said, “I’m sure he is, because the court just awarded me . . . oh, I can’t talk about it.”

She said the first caper came about the time the judgment came down.


Post: ‘STAR IN SEX REHAB’

The paper’s best headline writers must be on vacation. This juicy little wire story about David Duchovny‘s alleged sex addiction merited at least something referring to “The Sex Files.”

The Daily News‘s more lengthy story at least tried to do something with the lede:

Maybe it should have been called “The XXX-Files.”

David Duchovny, who plays a randy writer in the Showtime series “Californication,” is in a rehab center for sex addiction.

On the other hand, the News didn’t have provide much evidence that Duchovny’s supposed addiction was in any way destructive:

Duchovny gave no details of his addiction, but fans got a taste of the actor’s sex life last month during a press tour when he revealed that he and Tea got very steamy in a sauna during a getaway weekend in Vancouver.

“We were just all over each other – the sauna wasn’t going to stop me,” said Duchovny, “and I recovered pretty quickly.”

Tea, however, passed out.

Oh, so the guy had steamy sex with his wife. He couldn’t take his hands off the mother of his children. That must really be tearing apart his marriage and his life.


Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Frames Campaign As Vote on Economy, Bush’

Yes, a boring headline. But if you want to get past last night’s hype, a very solid story co-authored by veteran sober reporter Jerry Seib (whose embryonic journalism work I used to grade when I was a grad assistant for the late, great John Bremner at the University of Kansas). Seib’s lede graf:

With his party’s nomination in hand, Sen. Barack Obama launched a historic general-election campaign by promising a middle-class economic renewal and tying his Republican opponent tightly to the record of the current president.

Then two strong grafs smoothly quoting Obama, followed by this, which I’ll quote at length because, although it’s not particularly new, it cuts through the hype, as I noted, and sums up things — unlike Nagourney’s lame piece mentioned above — in vivid black and white:

Voters who identify themselves as Democrats in polls are more numerous than they have been in years, and the party’s voter registrations have soared during the vigorous primary campaign. Democrats enjoy a rare advantage over Republicans in campaign cash.

Yet at best, Sen. Obama is only marginally ahead of Republican standard-bearer Sen. John McCain in national polls. To change that on Election Day in just over two months, he has to win over more working-class white voters and turn out all those young voters who say they are for him. In the eyes of many in his party, he also must shed some of the cool facade that makes some voters see him as aloof. And he must zero in on the key handful of normally Republican red states he can turn Democratic blue. The campaign is heading straight from the convention to a tour of battleground states, starting Friday with Pennsylvania.

One of his biggest challenges is to make mainstream voters comfortable with the idea of him as president despite his unconventional personal story — son of a white mother and black father from Africa, raised in Hawaii and Indonesia — and his modest level of experience in Washington. Far from shying away from his unusual biography, Sen. Obama, in his remarks, brandished it as a sign that he has an unusual appreciation for the promise of America.

I’ve not been a big fan of Seib’s column-writing in recent years, but as a news reporter, he’s excellent. You get an A from me, Jerry, but more importantly, even the tough Bremner would have also given you high marks.

On the other hand, Bremner would pick up the phone and scold me. That’s what he used to do, and I miss it.


Times: ‘Putin Suggests U.S. Provocation in Georgia Clash’

Clifford J. Levy produces an interesting angle of the Caucasoid freakoid mess, but it’s crippled by a ponderous lede:

As Russia struggled to rally international support for its military action in Georgia, Vladimir V. Putin, the country’s paramount leader, lashed out at the United States on Thursday, contending that the White House may have orchestrated the conflict to benefit one of the candidates in the American presidential election.

What’s worse is that this stiffly written piece doesn’t even name the “candidate” — as if we didn’t know — until the fifth graf:

Mr. Putin did not specify which candidate he had in mind, but there was no doubt that he was referring to Senator John McCain, the Republican. Mr. McCain is loathed in the Kremlin because he has a close relationship with Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and has called for imposing stiff penalties on Russia, including throwing it out of the Group of 8 industrialized nations.

Loosen up, Cliff. But good job of getting Putin’s middle initial in the story.

 

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Daily Flog: Poland to the rescue, homicidal geezer school-bus driver, China imports gold, Georgia imports Rice, more abuse (ho-hum) of Iraqis

Running down the press:

Times: ‘U.S. and Poland Set Missile Deal’

Refusing to take off their Cold War monocles, Thom Shanker and Nicholas Kulish ignore the hilarity of Condi Rice going to Georgia to simmer things down. Instead, they try to get poetic on our asses:

The deal reflected growing alarm in countries like Poland, once a conquered Soviet client state, about a newly rich and powerful Russia’s intentions in its former cold war sphere of power. In fact, negotiations dragged on for 18 months — but were completed only as old memories and new fears surfaced in recent days.

The funniest line in this super-self-consciously serious piece:

Polish officials said the agreement would strengthen the mutual commitment of the United States to defend Poland, and vice versa.

Vice versa . . . Poland defending the U.S. . . . let’s see . . . oh, yeah, maybe we could get Poland to step in on behalf of Williamsburg’s Poles to try to stop Manhattan developers from wrecking the Brooklyn enclave’s waterfront.

Solidarność with the hipsters!

See FAIR’s fresh dissection of media blubber: “Georgia/Russia Conflict Forced Into Cold War Frame.”


McClatchy: ‘U.S. ‘no’ to intervention leaves Russia in control of Georgia’

One of the best U.S. sources of world news — and probably the liveliest — the McClatchy D.C. Bureau (the old Knight-Ridder operation) is a solid site. For the full flavor of the good reporting and breezy writing, try this from Nancy A. Youssef, Tom Lasseter, and Dave Montgomery:

American officials on Thursday ended speculation that the U.S. military might come to the rescue of Georgia’s beleaguered government, confirming Russia’s virtual takeover of the former Soviet republic and heralding Moscow’s reemergence as the dominant power in eastern Europe.

“I don’t see any prospect for the use of military force by the United States in this situation. Is that clear enough?” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters in his first public comments since the crisis began Aug. 7.

“The empire strikes back,” said Ariel Cohen, a Russia expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Gates’ comments came just 24 hours after President Bush dramatically announced in a televised White House appearance that American military aircraft and ships would be dispatched to carry humanitarian aid to Georgia and that the U.S. was expecting unfettered access to Georgia’ ports and airports.

But Bush apparently had spoken out of turn, before Turkey, which by treaty controls access to the Black Sea, had agreed, and on Thursday, Pentagon officials said they doubted that U.S. naval vessels would be dispatched.


Slate: ‘Conventional Nonsense: Making the case for a press boycott of the national political conventions’

Jack Shafer notes the foregone conclusions of these non-events. Amen.


Post: ‘HILLARY PUSHES WAY ONTO STAGE’

The tab’s institutional contempt for Hillary pays off in this case, because she really did push her way onto the DNC stage. Not that this is big news. But how many more shots at Hillary does the Post have left? And she is such an easy target.


Christian Science Monitor: ‘Mexican citizens asked to fight crime’

Sara Miller Llana‘s story notes:

[I]f Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has his way, a new corps of 300,000 residents will become watchdogs of sorts — monitoring and turning in police officials who operate outside the law.

The Times reports on the same story — citizens outraged that corrupt cops are even aiding and abetting kidnappings of children — but of course it takes the establishment side, not even noting Ebrard’s call for a citizen corps.

Can you imagine a crew of 300,000 New Yorkers regularly keeping tabs on the NYPD? The Times sniffs, Don’t even mention it. And its story sez:

Given the involvement of some wayward officers in the kidnapping trade, it is easy to see why victims’ relatives look outside police forces in trying to bring such nightmares to an end.

But Luis Cárdenas Palomino, director of intelligence for the federal police, says that private negotiators do not have the same experience as his veteran agents, who he says have been catching more kidnappers and freeing more victims in recent years.

No wonder that, here in NYC, the Times, with its institutionalized obeisance to authority, doesn’t hold the NYPD’s feet to the fire.


Post: ‘TRAGIC MOM’S BABY IS SAVED’

A runaway school bus crushes pregnant NYPD traffic agent Donnette Sanz, “but a superhuman effort by 30 strangers who lifted the vehicle off her body miraculously saved her baby before she died.”

Word pictures of the bus driver with his head in his hands — “”The light turned red, and I couldn’t stop . . . I tried to miss her. I tried to go behind her, but she stopped and moved back, and I hit her.”

Oh, by the way, we find out only at the end of this weeper that the 72-year-old driver hasn’t had a license in 40 years and that his record includes “a gun bust and arrests for driving on a suspended license, grand larceny, menacing and aggravated harassment.”

And he was driving a school bus — a school bus!

Most absurd quote of the day:

Mayor Bloomberg, who went to St. Barnabas to comfort [her] relatives, said, “I hope that as this child grows up, he comes to understand that his mother gave her life in service to our city, and we are forever grateful.”

The Daily News account is lamer, but it does include this quote from Bloomberg:

“It is a terrible poignancy that Donnette’s son’s birthday will now coincide with the day his mother died.”

Give Bloomberg a break. George W. Bush couldn’t have connected those dots.


Post: ‘ “WRONG MAN” FREED AFTER 14 YRS.: BAILED OUT ON “BAD RAP” IN QNS. SLAY’

Great quote garnered by Ikimulisa Livingston:

Kareem Bellamy stepped out of Queens Supreme Court to the open arms of relatives and cheers from his relentless law team, which spent nearly four years working to get him freed.

“I hope I don’t get struck by lightning,” he joked in the midst of a thunderstorm. “I can’t believe I’m really walking out.”


Times: ‘Bomber Kills 18 on Shiite Pilgrimage in Iraq’

Obsessed with Georgia, the Times editors are now consigning Iraq news to a roundup — you know, like those small-town-newspaper city council stories that always include “in other business” items.

Today’s example is yet another suicide bombing. In other business, the Times adds:

And at Camp Bucca, an American military base in southern Iraq, six sailors who were working as prison guards in Iraq are facing courts-martial on charges of abusing detainees, the United States Navy said in a statement on Thursday.

Only two other brief grafs, both far down the story, about this abuse. No mention of exactly what kind of abuse is alleged or that Camp Bucca is the largest U.S. prison in Iraq, housing a staggering 18,000 Iraqis, probably none of whom have been to trial.

At least the BBC saw fit to present a separate story on this.

But the U.S. establishment press has consistently underplayed jail abuse, except when it reaches the high embarrassment level of Abu Ghraib. Remember the proud “Murderous Maniacs” at Camp Mercury near Fallujah, the U.S. soldiers who beat up prisoners for sport? If you don’t, see yesterday’s Daily Flog.


Post: ‘TRAP PLAY TARGETS GIANTS; “SEX-TORTION PLOT” VS. COACH COUGHLIN’

Feds yesterday busted a birdbrained Philadelphia man for allegedly trying to blackmail Giants Coach Tom Coughlin with false allegations of extramarital flings with two women.

Stop right there, unless you want to walk around all day with images swirling in your brain of this aging coach naked and having sex.


Post: ‘DEM’S KILLER WENT “POST-IT” ‘

Hed of the day, lovingly applied to a wire story:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The man who fatally shot the chairman of the state Democratic Party after he lost his job had a Post-it note at home with the victim’s last name and phone number along with 14 guns, antidepressants and a last will and testament, according to court documents.

Wall Street Journal: ‘World Economy Shows New Strain’

If you can tear yourself away from Olympic water polo for a second, remember that China is losing the gold-medal battle but is raking in the gold anyway.

The WSJ reports, in other business:

The global economy — which had long remained resilient despite U.S. weakness — is now slowing significantly, with Europe offering the latest evidence of trouble. . . .

With the European growth report, four of the world’s five biggest economies — the U.S., the euro zone, Japan and the U.K. — are now flirting with recession.

China, the world’s fourth-largest economy, is still expanding strongly, as are India and other large developing economies. . . .

The global weakness marks a sharp reversal of expectations for many corporations and investors, who at the year’s outset had predicted that major economies would remain largely insulated from America’s woes.

The Journal almost always leavens its dense reporting with a human touch (not on its inhumane editorial pages, but in news stories), and even this piece has a good morsel:

British consumers are hunkering down. “The cost of living has rocketed,” says Gareth Lucas, 34 years old. He works part time at a hospital in Swansea, south Wales. With fuel costs so high, Mr. Lucas tries to fit more tasks into each car trip and no longer treats himself to cappuccino at a nearby café.

At night, to make extra cash, Mr. Lucas does gigs as a stand-up comedian — but increasingly he performs to smaller audiences. “People just aren’t going out anymore,” he says.


Wall Street Journal: ‘Data Raise Questions On Role of Speculators’

Suspicions confirmed: The oil market is being driven by scumbag speculators, not the “free market.” The WSJ puts it into perspective:

Data emerging on players in the commodities markets show that speculators are a larger piece of the oil market than previously known, a development enlivening an already tense election-year debate about traders’ influence.

Last month, the main U.S. regulator of commodities trading, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, reclassified a large unidentified oil trader as a “noncommercial” speculator.

The move changed many analysts’ perceptions of the oil market from a more diversified marketplace to one with a heavier-than-thought concentration of financial players who punt on big bets.

This is a fascinating developing story — let alone a probable explanation of why gas costs so much — if only the rest of the press would take the topic seriously.

Here’s the politics of it:

The . . . questions about the reliability and transparency of data in this market are feeding into efforts by Congress to impose restrictions on energy trading. Four Democratic senators on Thursday called for an internal CFTC inspector-general investigation into the timing of a July 22 release of a report led by the agency. That report concluded speculators weren’t “systematically” driving oil prices. Oil prices soared until mid-July before beginning a decline.

In recent months, legislators in Congress have demanded insight about the distinction as they try to answer concerns of constituents, from companies to consumers, about what has contributed to the high price of gasoline and other fuels.

 

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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.

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Daily Flog: Crime, kvetching, corporate looting –and tanks for nothing, ‘Times’

Running down the press:

Daily News: ‘Cops: Psycho girlfriend tortures and slices up boyfriend in Brooklyn flat’

Great crime day in the News. Check these out, too:

‘Judge’s house shot up’

‘Queens mom lured to her death’


Post: ‘EDWARDS SCANDAL’S NEW TRYST’

Though Dan Mangan mistakenly assumes that needle-dick politicians are even capable of steaming up mirrors, he efficiently essays an effective presentation of these tabloidian buzz words: “disgraced,” “secretly,” “steamy,” “affair,” “confessing,” “infidelity,” “cancer-stricken,” and “explosive”:

Disgraced ex-presidential candidate John Edwards secretly rekindled his steamy affair with his campaign videographer after confessing his infidelity to his cancer-stricken wife, according to an explosive new report.

Cogito argot sum.


Post: ‘TOP OF THE WORLD: PHELPS SETS RECORD FOR CAREER GOLDS’

Yet another breathless, confessional dispatch from Beijing by Mike Vaccaro, a big-city-tabloid version of a small-town-broadsheet hack sportswriter (note the absence of true tabloidian buzz words):

That’s it. The thesaurus is exhausted. The dictionary has just declared bankruptcy. With Michael Phelps, all the fitting adjectives have been used and re-used and worn down to the nub: amazing, astounding, astonishing, remarkable. Incredible, unbelievable, implausible, inconceivable.

So stop writing you don’t.

You’ll want a better lede and a better read, so check out the reliable Filip Bondy in the Daily News:

‘More gold and another day at the office for Michael Phelps’

Two more golds, two more world records, four Olympic immortals surpassed. Just another day at the office with leaky goggles, and Michael Phelps won’t even file for overtime.

Phelps’ journey has become so routine and so spectacular at the same time, you get confused sometimes about whether to get excited (yes, you should). Phelps himself doesn’t seem particularly overjoyed very often, unless he has relay teammates or fellow medalists standing around him to share the glory.


Daily News: ‘Grief for Council pols over car perks’

Classic local-news reportage, courtesy of Lisa L. Colangelo. It’s one thing to have a free parking spot in downtown Dubuque. It’s another to have one in New York City.

While all Council members receive parking placards from the DOT that allow them to park in many restricted areas and even avoid paying the meter, four have their own private parking spots on city streets.

Despite Dick Cheney, a unilateral strike on Iran’s nuke sites — and the resulting radioactive clouds circling the planet — now seem less and less likely.

Despite practically no mention in the U.S. press of this developing story during the past two months, we can read that no-nukes-is-good-news story this morning.

See Aluf Benn‘s “U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for Iran strike” in today’s Haaretz. Benn notes:

U.S. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen both visited here in June and, according to the Washington Post, told senior Israeli defense officials that Iran is still far from obtaining nuclear weapons, and that an attack on Iran would undermine American interests. Therefore, they said, the U.S. would not allow Israeli planes to overfly Iraq en route to Iran. . . .

These private messages were accompanied by a series of leaks from the Pentagon that Israel interpreted as attempts to thwart any possibility of an attack on Iran. For instance, the Americans revealed details of a major Israel Air Force exercise in the Mediterranean; they also said they doubted Israel had adequate intelligence about Iran’s nuclear facilities. In addition, Mullen spoke out publicly against an attack on Iran.

Two weeks ago, [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak visited Washington for talks with his American counterpart, Robert Gates, and Vice President Richard Cheney. Both conversations focused on Iran, but the two Americans presented conflicting views: Gates vehemently opposes an attack on Iran, while Cheney is the administration’s leading hawk.

If piece-lover Paul Wolfowitz and dual-loyalist Doug Feith were still at the Pentagon, we might be instead planning end-of-the-world parties.


Forward: ‘Greatest Jewish Olympian Sulks Over Losing the Champion Spotlight’

Dan Levin of the city’s venerable Jewish daily that is the consistently best source of news in the U.S. about the formidable Jewish-establishment lobby — though it’s not as good a paper as New York City’s now-defunct Yiddischer Amerikaner Volks-Kalender, which my ancestor Alexander Harkavy edited a century ago — noted this yesterday, before this morning’s splish-splash everywhere about Michael Phelps:

Usually it’s Jewish mothers who boast and brag about their children’s accomplishments. A big ego on a nice Jewish boy, however, is rather unbecoming. . . .

[Mark] Spitz, who is possibly the greatest living Jewish sports legend, has been pouting over the fact that he wasn’t officially invited to the Beijing Olympics.

“I never got invited. You don’t go to the Olympics just to say, I am going to go. Especially because of who I am,” Spitz, 58, told AFP [Agence France Presse]. “I am going to sit there and watch Michael Phelps break my record anonymously? That’s almost demeaning to me. It is not almost — it is.”

That’s right, Spitz, stay in the shallow end.


Post: ‘PHELPS’ PIG SECRET: HE’S BOY GORGE’

Clemente Lisi‘s lede:

Swimming sensation Michael Phelps has an Olympic recipe for success — and it involves eating a staggering 12,000 calories a day.

Next stop: Coney Island’s royal gorge.


Times: ‘Russia, in Accord With Georgians, Sets Withdrawal’

You’d think that with all the practice over the past five years the Times would learn to cover a war, but no, the paper always insists — like the paper of record it thinks it still is — on going with what the top officials say and do.

Like this morning’s story, which is careful to include the Russkie president’s middle initial but misses the point of what’s really going in Georgia:

The presidents of Georgia and Russia agreed early Wednesday morning on a framework that could end the war that flared up here five days ago, after Russia reasserted its traditional dominance of the region.

Declaring that “the aggressor has been punished,” President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia announced early Tuesday that Russia would stop its campaign. Russian airstrikes continued during the day, however, and antagonisms seethed on both sides.

“Antagonisms seethed on both sides”? Typical of the Times to meticulously quote “world leaders” while being cautious and vague about real events. Read this morning’s dispatch in the Guardian (U.K.):

‘Georgian villages burned and looted as Russian tanks advance’

Villages in Georgia were being burned and looted as Russian tanks followed by “irregulars” advanced from the breakaway province of South Ossetia, eyewitnesses said today.

“People are fleeing, there is a mood of absolute panic. The idea there is a ceasefire is ridiculous,” Luke Harding, the Guardian’s correspondent, said.

Russia denied any advance, however Georgian authorities claimed that about 50 tanks and armoured vehicles were near the strategically important town of Gori.


Times: ‘Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks’

Now this is a great job by the Times. John Darnton‘s lede:

Weeks before bombs started falling on Georgia, a security researcher in suburban Massachusetts was watching an attack against the country in cyberspace.

Jose Nazario of Arbor Networks in Lexington noticed a stream of data directed at Georgian government sites containing the message: “win+love+in+Rusia.”

Other Internet experts in the United States said the attacks against Georgia’s Internet infrastructure began as early as July 20, with coordinated barrages of millions of requests —known as distributed denial of service, or D.D.O.S., attacks — that overloaded and effectively shut down Georgian servers.


Times: ‘Study Tallies Corporations Not Paying Income Tax’

Boring hed, fascinating story:

Two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Post: ‘HUGE TIX HIKE BEANS MET FANS’

Hasani Gittens forces down our gullet some news that makes us hurl:

No wonder it’s named after a bank – Met fans are going to have to open up their safe-deposit boxes to afford seats at Citi Field next season. The choicest seats will cost $495 – a 79 percent increase.

This will be especially bitter for those Mets fans who are among the tens of thousands laid off by Citigroup.


Post: ‘SON OF A GLITCH! MTA IS OUT 74G’

Love the hed, but the story itself is somewhat of a slog:

Regular straphangers took the MTA for a $74,000 ride by accident – in addition to the $800,000 authorities say a trio of scammers bilked from the agency.

A suspected software glitch allowed people to buy MetroCards and commuter railroad tickets without being charged – the same error authorities believe Christopher Clemente, 37, Lisa Foster Jordan, 37, and Cary Grant, 40, allegedly exploited in order to peddle hundreds of thousands of dollars in rides since 2005.

Cary Grant? What a shame. He was such a hero in North by Northwest.


Times: ‘Mechanism for Credit Is Still Stuck’

A year after financial tremors first shook Wall Street, a crucial artery of modern money management remains broken. And until that conduit is fixed or replaced, analysts say borrowers will see interest rates continue to rise even as availability worsens for home mortgages, student loans, auto loans and commercial mortgages.

The conduit, the market for securitization, through which mortgages and other debts are packaged and sold as securities, has become sclerotic and almost totally dependent on government support. The problems, intensified by bond investors who have grown leery of these instruments, have been a drag on the economy and have persisted despite the exercise of extraordinary regulatory powers by policy makers.

It’s the Times that’s sclerotic, and it’s a lack of regulation that caused this problem in the first place.

“Crucial artery of modern money management” — what a riot!

You wouldn’t know it from this story, which treats mortgage securitization as something that practically sprang from the Founding Fathers’ loins, but it’s actually a devious diversion scheme that really got cooking in Wall Street’s ’80s heyday and that Wall Street has fought hard to keep unregulated.

It’s more like a shunt that drains our mortgage payments directly into the pockets of Wall Streeters without even giving a taste to the millions of Americans who give them the ante to play with. What a scam.

I wrote about this back in June 2000 (“In the Land of Milk and Money”) during the Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio. One of the key figures behind Lazio was Lewis Ranieri, and I noted:

Ranieri created — yes, personally created — the multitrillion-dollar trading market on collateralized mortgage bonds, made possible by the Reagan era’s relaxation of trading rules and his lobbying of Congress to establish federal agencies like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae to make mortgage-bond trading more lucrative. [See Wayne Barrett‘s recent “Andy’s Kids” for the current crisis revolving around Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.]

Ranieri ranks with junk-bond king Michael Milken among “the most influential financiers of the 1980s,” according to Edward Chancellor‘s highly respected book Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation.

Journalist Michael Lewis, a former bond trader for Salomon Brothers, where Ranieri was once the biggest of what were called the “Big Swinging Dick” traders, wrote in the best-seller Liar’s Poker that Ranieri and Milken were “the great bond missionaries of the 1980s,” crisscrossing the country, trying to persuade institutional investors to buy mortgage securities.

It worked.

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Daily Flog: Edwards, faux Rockefeller both screwed; Olympic preening; a gated NYC; Bush’s pardons list; defense of high gas prices

Running down the press:

Post: ‘ROCKE-FAUX-LER WED JUST TO GET GREEN CARD’

We’ve entered the rococo phase of headline-writing about Clark Rockefeller. More importantly, this guy is really in Deutsch now. Waste your time on the Post story if you want, but for details of the creepy murder case that may involve this weak-chinned schnook, go back to yesterday afternoon’s Post or to this morning’s mundane AP story: “LA authorities: ‘Rockefeller’ is wanted German.”

Better still, see this morning’s BBC story, “Child-snatch suspect is ‘wanted.’ “


Daily News: ‘Enquire-ing minds want to know who fed Edwards tips’

Along with “Who’s the daddy?” one big unanswered question in the John Edwards affair is: Who ratted him out to the National Enquirer?

Rielle Hunter‘s younger sister, Melissa, could not be reached Monday, but she earlier told ABC News that Hunter is “a good and honest person” who had nothing to do with tipping reporters to her secret Beverly Hills rendezvous with Edwards.

A non-story about a semi-non-story. Let yourself go, if you want. It’s slightly less unhealthy than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.


Daily News: ‘Fiends armed with badge of shame’

Good story from cops reporter Alison Gendar:

It’s the dis-honor roll.

Accused murderer Darryl Littlejohn. Gunpoint robber Israel Suarez. Molester Darryl Rich.

Those are just some of the criminals who graduated from a bounty hunter school accused of aiding and abetting felons by putting fake NYPD and federal badges in their hands.

Students of U.S. Recovery Bureau schools paid $860 to learn how to wield a baton and subdue “fugitives” with pepper spray and cuffs.


Los Angeles Times: ‘Michael Phelps’ victory dance is innate, scientists say’

The best Olympics piece so far:

Chimps do it. Gorillas do it. Michael Phelps does it too.”Chimps do it. Gorillas do it. Michael Phelps does it too.

The exuberant dance of victory — arms thrust toward the sky and chest puffed out at a defeated opponent — turns out to be an instinctive trait of all primates — humans included, according to research released Monday. . . .

This display of human pride and exuberance — witnessed by millions when swimmer Phelps and teammates won the men’s 400-meter freestyle relay for the U.S. on Sunday — closely resembles the dominance displays of chimps and monkeys, which also feature outstretched arms and exaggerated postures, researchers said.

The animal world is filled with inflated displays of superiority, noted Daniel M.T. Fessler, a UCLA anthropologist not involved in the research.


Newsday: ‘A reminder of New York’s GOP convention 4 years ago’

Weak headline, good story that actually applies historical context to a current event. More of a reminder than a scoop. Apparently unafraid to piss off those big bad NYPD officials, Rocco Parascandola plucks this one back from the memory hole:

The now infamous video footage that recently captured an NYPD rookie cop shoulder-checking a bicyclist to the ground during a Critical Mass bike rally recalls the prominence played by video footage at the Republican National Convention four years ago.

Largely because of videos that surfaced that sometimes differed with police accounts during those protests, the police department has paid out more than $1.6 million in damages won by those who sued the city.

At that rate, with 576 more suits pending, it could pay out $12 million more.

It’s been four summers since the convention, four summers since Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called it the NYPD’s “finest hour.” Most of the 1,806 people arrested probably would disagree, and 1,555 of them have had their cases dismissed or adjourned to be dismissed later as long as they stayed out of trouble.


Times: ‘Police Want Tight Security Zone at Ground Zero’

Via Charles V. Bagli‘s story:

Planners seeking to rebuild the World Trade Center have always envisioned that the 16-acre site would have a vibrant streetscape with distinctive buildings, shops and cultural institutions lining a newly restored street grid. From the destruction of Sept. 11, 2001, a new neighborhood teeming with life would be born.

But now, the Police Department’s latest security proposal entails heavy restrictions.

According to a 36-page presentation given by top-ranking police officials in recent months, the entire area would be placed within a security zone, in which only specially screened taxis, limousines and cars would be allowed through “sally ports,” or barriers staffed by police officers, constructed at each of five entry points.

Disheartening, but is anybody really surprised by this?

Even if there had never been a 9/11, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who purchased the mayoral job, would support making this gloriously disordered city a gated community. And the NYPD, the most massive and powerful police bureaucracy in the country, loves the idea of hiring more troops for these security zones.

Everybody’s happy.

By the way, Bloomberg adds, put out that cigarette.


New Yorker: ‘Changing Lanes’

Elizabeth Kolbert‘s piece blasts McCain for swerving away from integrity. That’s not such a big deal for any candidate, but her story’s intriguing because it defends high gas prices. An excerpt:

If the hard truth is that the federal government can’t do much to lower gas prices, the really hard truth is that it shouldn’t try to. With just five per cent of the world’s population, America accounts for twenty-five per cent of its oil use. This disproportionate consumption is one of the main reasons that the United States—until this year, when China overtook it—was the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. (Every barrel of oil burned adds roughly a thousand pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.) No matter how many warnings about the consequences were issued—by NASA, by the United Nations, by Al Gore, by the Pope—Americans seemed unfazed. Even as the Arctic ice cap visibly melted away, they bought bigger and bigger cars and drove them more and more miles.

The impact of rising fuel prices, by contrast, has been swift and appreciable. According to the latest figures from the Federal Highway Administration, during the first five months of this year Americans drove thirty billion fewer miles than they did during the same period last year. This marks the first time in a generation that vehicle miles in this country have edged downward.


Slate: ‘The Afterlife for Scientologists: What will happen to Isaac Hayes’ legendary soul?’

Nina Shen Rastogi‘s “Explainer” confirms that, according to Scientology officials, Chef‘s soul will be “born again into the flesh of another body.”

Dibs!


NY Observer: ‘What’s Doctoroff Saying to City? It’s a Secret’

Nice dig by Eliot Brown on his attempted dig for info:

Ever since he left the city for Bloomberg LP in January, there’s a fair bit of chatter among government and real estate types about former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff‘s continued role in the Bloomberg administration — just how much does he say to current city officials, and what is he saying?

The answer to those questions, it turns out, is not public information.


NY Observer: ‘Rangel on Immigration, Bad Guys’

Azi Paybarah points out a Charlie Rangel video performance in which the vet congressman does some shrewd truth-telling:

Rangel references the law enforcement agents and officials who arrest undocumented workers, saying that those sheriffs and mayors are “bad guys” who work in “little towns around the country.”

“All they want to do is arrest somebody and get on TV,” Rangel said, adding that the local economies rely heavily on the immigrants.

“They’re working against their interests,” he said. “It’s almost like a slaveholder saying, ‘Get rid of the slave, but we want them to work.”


Times: ‘Cost-Cutting in New York and London, a Boom in India’

Heather Timmons‘s story notes:

Wall Street’s losses are fast becoming India’s gain. After outsourcing much of their back-office work to India, banks are now exporting data-intensive jobs from higher up the food chain to cities that cost less than New York, London and Hong Kong, either at their own offices or to third parties.

Yeah, it’s a “food chain.” Ridiculously overused metaphor, but interesting story for what it accidentally reveals about corporate jargon and, more importantly, what passes for “entry-level” jobs on Wall Street:

Bank executives call this shift “knowledge process outsourcing,” “off-shoring” or “high-value outsourcing.” . . .

The jobs most affected so far are those with grueling hours, traditionally done by fresh-faced business school graduates — research associates and junior bankers on deal-making teams — paid in the low to mid six figures.

Cost-cutting in New York and London has already been brutal thus far this year, and there is more to come in the next few months. New York City financial firms expect to hand out some $18 billion less in pay and benefits this year than 2007, the largest one-year drop ever. Over all, United States banks will cut 200,000 employees by 2009, the banking consultancy Celent said in April.

B-school grads stepping into six-figure jobs. You don’t have to be a radical to note with grim humor the astounding inequity of wages on Wall Street for bullshit money-moving jobs vs. wages for the rest of us around the country who do more vital work (myself not included).

If Wall Street is smart (and recent events don’t support that), it will start pouring more money into the McCain campaign, because there’s no doubt that Barack Obama is less sympathetic to those six-figure B-school grads and more in tune with the rest of us.

Whether Obama would actually do anything about this inequity is another matter altogether, but there would be zero chance of such change under McCain.


Los Angeles Times: ‘Kuwait royal family member sentenced to death’

The story about royal drug trafficker Talal Nasser al Sabah, now sentenced to death, notes:

Now everyone is watching to see whether the authorities will follow through on the ruling by the independent-minded judiciary or grant Talal the immunity considered a right by royal families throughout the gulf region.

“The people of Kuwait are impressed with the independence of the judiciary and trust, in general, its rulings,” said Naser Sane, a Kuwaiti lawmaker. “In other Arab gulf nations, you don’t see a court sentencing in this way a member of a ruling family.”

In other words, if he’s executed, it will be a step toward democracy. Only in the Middle East — and the U.S.

Actually, the best move for this guy would be to flee to the U.S. Yes, we have the death penalty, but George W. Bush could add him to his list of pardons for the end of his term.

You can be sure that this president, despite his having been the hangingest governor in U.S. history, will have an extremely interesting list of pardons. That list probably includes convicted spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard and a host of financiopathological miscreants.


Wall Street Journal: ‘McCain Bristles Over Russia’s “Aggression” ‘

Careful, old guy, don’t get yourself aggravated. The Journal — worth the piddling online-subscription money for its superior news stories and analyses — recognizes that McCain’s bluster, which it calls “an increasingly hard line against Russia over its military operations in Georgia,” is a ploy to separate himself from Obama by focusing on foreign policy.

But it also points out that McCain has always been a hardliner:

Sen. McCain’s comments were consistent with his long-held, stance against Russia, including his calls to have the country ejected from the G8, the Group of Seven leading nations plus Russia. The senator has taken a relatively hard line on many foreign policy issues, including supporting further sanctions on — and possible military action against — Iran and a no-negotiating policy toward North Korea.

Monday’s tough rhetoric reflects a strategy by the McCain campaign to keep Georgia and foreign policy, which is seen as the senator’s strength, at the forefront of the debate.

Shrewd strategy. This provides an out for white voters in thrall to the Mandingo Complex but unwilling to say it aloud: They can tell themselves that it’s not a racial thing, that they really do prefer McCain because of his foreign-policy stances — ignoring his bellicose stance on the Iraq Debacle, with which they don’t agree.

They can tell themselves that McCain has much more foreign policy experience, even though most of his experience was as a prisoner of war.

White voters can’t say it’s race — that would be impolite or it would be speaking ill of themselves. (For more on that, see what I pointed out yesterday: New York magazine’s package on the color-coded campaign.)

Some of this internal thought process is conscious; some of it takes place in the subconscious. Whatever the case, this presidential race is about race. Bear with me while I remind you of this about a thousand more times before November.

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Daily Flog 8/5/08: Death of a smart Alek, crime by kids, mad scientists, veep intrigue, close shaves, kosher giraffes

Running down the press:

Daily News: ‘Crime by kids soars – blame the iPhone’

Don’t ever trust crime stats touted at NYPD press conferences, especially by a pinch-faced commissioner hungering to be mayor someday, but . . .:

Muggers are getting younger — and the iPhone is to blame.

Kids ages 11 to 19 make up a growing proportion of the crooks arrested this year for theft, fueled in part by a lust for the snazzy new phones, police said.

“The explosive popularity of these devices has also made them inviting targets for thefts. Teens are commonly the culprits as well as the victims,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Juveniles accounted for 29% of the 7,340 robbery arrests and 27% of the 4,566 grand larceny busts this year, an 8% jump in each category compared to this time last year, police said.

Electronics – mostly iPhones, iPods and Sidekicks – were the stolen booty in 20% of the robbery arrests and 12% of the grand larceny arrests.


Post: DR. ANTHRAX WAS KREEPY KAPPA LOVER: HE FIXATED ON SORORITY NEAR ‘THE’ NJ MAILBOX

Love the angle, and the Post and everyone else has posthumously convicted him, so what the hell:

The mad scientist suspected of orchestrating the deadly 2001 anthrax-letter spree was obsessed with a prestigious sorority that keeps an office just 300 feet from a Princeton, NJ, mailbox where the poisonous missives were dropped.

Bruce Ivins‘ creepy fixation on Kappa Kappa Gamma may explain why he chose that spot – some 200 miles from his Frederick, Md., home and workplace – to mail the seven anthrax- laced letters that killed five people, sickened 17 and petrified a nation still reeling from the 9/11 terror attacks.

Ivins was obsessed with KKG going back to his college days at the University of Cincinnati, when he apparently was spurned by a woman in the Columbus-based sorority, US officials told The Associated Press – and the fixation never waned in the decades after he left with a Ph.D. in microbiology.

If you can’t go Greek, go geek.


Daily News: ‘Goats penetrate fence at heavily guarded base of Verrazano Bridge’

Obvious but fun:

Watch out for these weapons of grass destruction.

New Yorker: ‘Deep In the Woods’

The best seven-year-old story today — and the best high ground amid the flood of lame stories about Russia “saying farewell” to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — is this reprise of editor David Remnick‘s August 2001 Letter from Moscow. This isn’t from the lede, because the New Yorker doesn’t deal in traditional nut grafs, but it does indicate that many people said their farewells to the gulag-bred polemicist years ago:

When [Boris] Yeltsin left office, on the eve of 2000, Solzhenitsyn was furious that the new President, Vladimir Putin, had granted his predecessor immunity from prosecution. Solzhenitsyn declared that Yeltsin “along with another one or two hundred people must be brought to book.”

By now, Solzhenitsyn had managed to alienate almost everyone. The Communists despised him, of course, and the hard-line Russian nationalists, who had once hoped he would be their standard-bearer, found him too liberal. The liberals, who looked west for their models, could not take seriously Solzhenitsyn’s derisory view of the West as a trove of useless materialism and a wasteland of spiritual emptiness. Nor could they abide conservative positions such as his support for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

When Solzhenitsyn first arrived in Moscow, his name was invoked as a possible successor to Yeltsin. This was always a fantasy, but it did indicate his enormous prestige. And yet with time, and with Solzhenitsyn’s weekly exposure on television, the majority of the public soured on him or grew indifferent. His television appearances were cancelled. He fell in the political ratings and then disappeared from them. He began to appear less and less in public. But still he continued to write. I was able to obtain, through his sons Ignat, a concert pianist and conductor in Philadelphia, and Stephan, an urban-planning and environmental consultant in Boston, an advance copy of the first volume of “Two Hundred Years Together” and made plans to pay him a visit on the outer edge of the capital.

As it happened, I arrived in Moscow just after George W. Bush had met with Putin in Slovenia. . . .

You probably can’t tell from the above excerpt, but nobody (including Hunter Thompson) wrote better first-person journalism since A.J. Liebling‘s The Earl of Louisiana (1961) than Remnick’s Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (1993). Even if that turns out to be Remnick’s high-water mark (and it probably will, because now he’s an editor), what a high. Just about anything Remnick has written about Russia — not boxing, but Russia — is worth reading today. Even if, like this piece, it’s seven years old.


New York Observer: ‘VP Speculation Is Much Ado About Something’

A wonkish and pretty thorough history lesson from Steve Kornacki, including this:

A VP candidate whose selection captures the country’s interest (in a positive way) and who performs skillfully in the fall debate can dramatically improve the public’s instinctive, knee-jerk impression of the presidential candidate with whom he or she is running – making it much more likely that voters will view that presidential candidate favorably when they consider “the issues.”

A terrific example of this is 2000. On the Republican side, [Dick] Cheney brought Bush a week’s worth of favorable press about the wisdom he, an inexperienced and untested governor, had displayed in tapping such a wise and seasoned foreign policy master and his “gravitas.” Cheney followed that up with a surprisingly strong and humorous showing in his VP debate with [Joe] Lieberman. It’s impossible to quantify the effect Cheney had, and you certainly can’t pinpoint it to one state or region. But his presence, and the press he received, almost certainly made many voters more receptive to Bush and his message.


Times: ‘An Olympic Stadium Worth Remembering’

The Times promo’ed this review of Beijing’s National Stadium with classic Gray-Lady-with-pince-nez phrasing:

The National Stadium reaffirms architecture’s civilizing role in a nation that is struggling to forge a new identity out of a maelstrom of inner conflict.

Would you click to read more? Too bad, because Nicolai Ouroussoff‘s piece is considerably less pretentious (what isn’t?) and starts out pretty damned well:

Given the astounding expectations piled upon the National Stadium, I’m surprised it hasn’t collapsed under the strain.

More than 90,000 spectators will stream through its gates on Friday for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games; billions are expected to watch the fireworks on television. At the center of it all is this dazzling stadium, which is said to embody everything from China’s muscle-flexing nationalism to a newfound cultural sophistication.


Times: ‘Aux Barricades! France and the Jews’

Roger Cohen‘s op-ed piece adds a schmear of smut — the phrase “shaved Jewess” — to the Times. For the full flavor of a story practically ignored by the isolationist U.S. press, here are the first several grafs:

It’s not quite the Dreyfus Affair, at least not yet. But France is divided again over power and the Jews.

While the United States has been debating the New Yorker‘s caricature of Barack Obama as a Muslim, France has gone off the deep end over a brief item in the country’s leading satirical magazine portraying the relationship between President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s fast-rising son, Jean, and his Jewish fiancée.

The offending piece in Charlie Hebdo, a pillar of the left-libertarian media establishment, was penned last month by a 79-year-old columnist-cartoonist who goes by the name of Bob Siné. He described the plans — since denied — of Jean Sarkozy, 21, to convert to Judaism before marrying Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, an heiress to the fortune of the Darty electrical goods retailing chain.

“He’ll go far in life, this little fellow!” Siné wrote of Sarkozy Jr.

He added, in a separate item on whether Muslims should abandon their traditions, that: “Honestly, between a Muslim in a chador and a shaved Jewess, my choice is made!”

Nobody paid attention for a week: Siné is a notorious provocateur whose strong pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist views have in the past crossed the line into anti-Semitism. I’d say he’s far from alone in that among a certain French left.

But this is the summer, news is slow, and since a journalist at the weekly Le Nouvel Observateur denounced the article as “anti-Semitic” on July 8, France has worked itself into a fit of high intellectual dudgeon.


Forward: ‘Ad Hoc Outreach Effort May Hinder McCain’s Bid for Communal Vote’

From just about the only paper that covers establishment Jews’ financial and political clout, some fascinating nuggets about not only McCain‘s campaign strategies but also Obama‘s and Bush Jr.‘s. And unlike the blather from the mainstream press, these nuggets aren’t first mined from the eager mouths of each campaign’s flacks and “advisers.” Anthony Weiss‘s July 31 lede:

In a year when polls suggest that Senator John McCain is positioned to garner more Jewish votes than any Republican candidate in the past two decades, his campaign is attempting to woo Jewish voters with a small, decentralized operation that critics are charging has no single address.

In contrast to the corporate discipline of George W. Bush in 2004 and the well-staffed ground operation of Democratic opponent Senator Barack Obama, McCain is counting on an ad hoc, almost informal approach to reaching Jewish voters. To date, the McCain campaign’s Jewish outreach has been conducted through a combination of political donors and campaign surrogates that campaign insiders defend as reflecting sensitivity to needs on the ground.

And here’s the context:

Some Republican Jewish insiders have criticized this approach, arguing that it has led to competing centers of influence and no clear lines of authority or communication. These critics point out that at this point in the 2004 campaign, the Bush campaign had dispatched Jewish outreach teams to several states, organized multiple fundraisers and was well into the planning stage for a Jewish leadership event at the Republican convention.

McCain’s defenders respond that the senator is simply running a different campaign, reflecting both the aftermath of a chaotic primary season and McCain’s own management style.

The debate comes in a year when a number of observers have suggested that McCain is uniquely well positioned to reach Jewish voters. Recent polls released by Gallup and by the left-leaning lobbying organization J Street both showed McCain running well for a Republican candidate, polling 29% and 32%, respectively. Supporters cite McCain’s long record on Israel-related issues and national security, and McCain faces, in Barack Obama, a candidate who has struggled to define a positive image for himself in the Jewish community, particularly on issues related to Israel. Jewish voters could be especially significant in a number of potential swing states, particularly Pennsylvania and Florida.

But McCain’s Jewish outreach also must go up against a formidable Obama operation that has had a staff member serving as a Jewish liaison for more than a year and began building a national grass-roots operation during the primary season.


Forward: ‘Giraffe Milk Is Kosher’

Stanley Siegelman‘s Siegelmania column milchs this item for all it’s worth. An Israeli rabbi declared that a giraffe “has all signs of a ritually pure animal, and the milk that forms curds strengthened that.” Siegelman’s resulting doggerel starts: “Imagine milking a giraffe! …” Or, put another way:

Oysmelkn ken men a zhiraf?
Der moyekh zogt tsu unz: S’iz tough!
Di hoykhenish iz a problem,
Der nopl iz vayt avek (ahem!)

Di milkh iz yetst derklert nit treyf,
Der rebbe zogt der sheid iz safe.
A curd farmogt es — gantz O.K.!
Shray nit “gevald,” shray nit “oy whey“!


Post: ‘CITY LEAVING FERRY VICTIM FOR DEAD; LEGAL BID TO “STIFF” HIM’

Stefanie Cohen‘s hot-blooded take on a typically cold-blooded legal maneuver:

In a heartless legal maneuver, city lawyers say they shouldn’t have to shell out too much cash to a man who was paralyzed from the neck down in the Staten Island Ferry crash because he’s not going to live that long anyway, according to court papers.

James McMillan Jr., 44, has only 16 more years to live, according to a doctor hired by the city, and the lawyers hope a jury uses that number to determine what his payout should be, the papers show.

McMillan’s lawyer, Evan Torgan, says his client, if properly cared for, could live much longer than that.

“The city paralyzed him, and now they’re saying that he is going to die young because of the damage they caused,” Torgan said. “They’re turning a personal-injury case into a wrongful-death case.”

An epidemiologist hired by the city, Michael DeVivo, wrote in court filings, “The injury has reduced Mr. McMillan’s current life expectancy by 13.8 years or 46 percent.”


Post: ‘NOT GUILTY IN CULT ATTACK; SHOCKING VERDICT FOR SI HIPPIE’

Apparently it’s open season on cult leaders. That’s really too bad. It’s also too bad that the story interjects predictable reaction quotes too high. Skip from the first graf . . .:

In a stunning verdict, a jury cleared ex-hippie Rebekah Johnson of all charges in the attempted murder of a Staten Island cult leader who was ambushed outside his home and shot six times as he begged for his life.

. . . to these grafs:

The jury rejected prosecutors’ claims that an obsessed Johnson targeted Jeff Gross in May 2006 after he repeatedly booted her from the Ganas commune and rebuffed her demands for millions of dollars.

It was unclear whether the jurors cleared Johnson because they didn’t think she fired the shots or because they believed she was the victim of cult brainwashing.

They made a hurried departure from the courthouse, declining to speak to reporters.


Post: ‘EMBEZZLER LED ‘JOHN DOUGH’ LIFE’

Good, all-purpose hed for a story on a lamster wannabe:

He thought his port-a-potty scam would leave him flush with cash. Instead, it got him thrown in the can.

An accountant for Tishman Construction will be indisposed in prison for the next seven years after pleading guilty yesterday to embezzling $2.8 million.

He altered checks payable to Mr. John, a company that deals in portable bathrooms, and made them payable to himself – Mr. John Hoeffner. . . .

Prosecutors said the suddenly-wealthy Hoeffner then blew hundreds of thousands of dollars on a girlfriend in Cali, Colombia.

 

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Daily Flog 8/1/08: Bush aides, Williamsburg hipsters under attack!

Running down the press:

Times: ‘Judge Rules Bush Advisers Can’t Ignore Subpoenas

Looks as though George W. Bush — the hangingest governor in U.S. history — will have even more miscreants to pardon this December.


Post: ‘FUR-CLOSURE: FAT CAT PUSS-‘N’-BOOTED OVER MORTGAGE WOES’

The Post gets serious and covers the recession:

New TV-star kitty “Princess Chunk” is not a stray — but just another victim of the cat-astrophic mortgage crisis.

The original owner of the country’s most famous fat cat said she gave up the tubby tabby — which, by the way, turns out to be a boy — only after she lost her home to creditors.


Adbusters [Via Rag Blog (updated)]: ‘Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization’

You know, like, duck and cover, NYC hipsters! Douglas Haddow‘s cover story in the new issue of the culture jammers’ Vancouver-based mag starts:

We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality.

Key excerpt from the article in the anti-affluenza mag:

Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.

See the video of Adbusters founder Kalle Lasn — probably the most influential Estonian on the planet — being interviewed by CNN in 2006 about the dangers of shopping. Read the November 2007 Times story about Adbusters’ annual “Buy Nothing Day.”

Fast forward to today: Williamsburg is now under red alert!


Times: ‘More Arrows Seen Pointing to a Recession’

We’ve had those arrows in our heads for quite a while, but now it’s official because the Times says so. Put Grandpa aboard the Model-T, Tom Joad!


Times: ‘Couch Mouse to Mr. Mighty by Pills Alone’
Lively phrases in a Times hed! Too bad the most-boring-heds-in-town Timespeople didn’t tweak it to “Couch Mouse to Mighty Mouse by Pills Alone.” Story sez:

Research on mice suggests that pills could trick the muscles into thinking they have been exercising.

Post: ‘JERK TOOK BIG BUCKS INSTEAD OF CUSTODY’

Finally, a soberquet for Clark Rockefeller — “jerk” is a sedate and relatively hard-newsy word for this mousy Clark Went character, compared with the Post‘s previous “Rockefooler”-type monikers. The lede:

The mysterious phony Rockefeller who kidnapped his daughter off a Boston street was paid a “significant” amount of money from his ex-wife to disappear — and gave up custody of the girl without a fight, a source familiar with the settlement told the Post yesterday.

The Green Bay Packers have made a similar offer to Brett Favre if he’ll just give up custody of the QB job.


Post: ‘SCHNOOK, I WANT SNOOKS!: MOM BEGS ‘KIDNAP’ MOCKEFELLER TO RETURN DAUGHTER’

On the other hand … the Post hasn’t lost its touch on its other piece about this monumentally unimportant story.

You won’t see “schnook” in any Des Moines Register headline about, say, the Rubashkins. Only in New York, kids, only in New York.


Post: ‘CHARLIE DUCKS SLAP IN APARTMENT FLAP’

Ezra Pound would’ve liked how the scansion turned out in this hed for the BFD Charlie Rangel “scandal.”


Post: ‘ “DRAGGED” OUT OF ROCK CTR.’

The lede:

That’s no way to treat a lady.

Two dozen drag queens say they were tossed out of Rockefeller Center because of their flamboyant outfits.

“They told us we couldn’t take pictures there – in Rockefeller Center. We said there were a lot of other people taking pictures, but they told us we couldn’t,” said one of the cross cross-dressers, who asked to be identified by his show name, Indiana Jones.

Better first sentence would’ve been: “That’s no way to treat New York City’s royalty.”

Hassling New Yorkers because they’re too flamboyant? What are we, Des Moines? If the queens had been smoking, Bloomberg would’ve probably had them thrown into jail.


Daily News: ‘Harlem man nabbed for poison rant on YouTube’

Nice lede:

A deranged Manhattan pothead set off panic by posting Internet videos claiming he got Gerber employees to poison millions of bottles of baby food, federal prosecutors say.

But where’s the link to the rant itself?! Not in the Daily News story, as far as I can tell. Here‘s a video about the rant.

Don’t worry, you couch tubers: YouTube’s “Farting in Public” videographer hasn’t been punished.


Daily News: ‘LA chief Bratton: Pap laws “farce” with Britney “behaving” ‘

The lede of the latest story featuring former NYPD cop Bill Bratton:

Fed-up celebs are snapping back at aggressive paparazzi with calls for tougher laws — but L.A.’s top cop says things have calmed down since Britney Spears “started wearing clothes.”

Hey, celebs, there’s no such thing for you as bad publicity. Stop with the pap smears.