Cardinal calls Gaza ‘concentration camp’ — lit up by white phosphorus, observers say

Al Jazeera report on white phosphorus in Gaza.

As Chico Marx said, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

That’s easy when it comes to Gaza. The Jewish state’s brutal use of white phosphorus — alleged over the weekend by observers on the ground dispatched by NYC-based Human Rights Watch — is lighting up the landscape.

However, most of the U.S. press (a notable recent exception is Newsweek) has its usual blind spot when it comes to Israel’s war on Gaza. As the Daily News noted late last week in “‘Concentration camp’ Gaza stirs fire”:

Relations between the Holy Land and the Holy See were tense Thursday night after a leading Vatican cardinal compared the besieged Gaza Strip to a concentration camp.

“Defenseless populations are always the ones who pay,” Renato Cardinal Martino told the Italian daily Il Sussidiario. “Conditions in Gaza increasingly resemble a big concentration camp.”

That drew a furious denunciation from Israeli officials, who said the comment was “based on Hamas propaganda.”

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the son of Holocaust survivors, called on the Pope to apologize to Israel.

Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, defended his comments.

“They can say what they want, but the situation in Gaza is horrible,” he told the newspaper La Repubblica.

Confirming that is Human Rights Watch, whose observers belie Hikind’s claim that the brutality in Gaza is propaganda.

In fact, it’s even worse than the cardinal says, according to HRW.

You question the watchdog group’s credibility? HRW broke several major stories of U.S. atrocities in Iraq — including the horrific tale of the American soldiers in Fallujah who proudly called themselves the “Murderous Maniacs” and admitted to kicking the shit out of Iraqis just for the fun of it. (See my September 2005 item “U.S. Soldiers Reveal New Torture Tales.”)

Now, here’s what HRW says about what’s going on:

On January 9 and 10, 2009, Human Rights Watch researchers in Israel observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area.

Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an “obscurant” (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.

“White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch.

If the Nazis had had white phosphorus — the 21st century version of napalm — they would have used it against the Jews.

Now for less bad news…


N.Y. Times: ‘Adding to Recession’s Pain, Thousands to Lose Jobless Benefits’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Retail Bankruptcy Wave Expected’

N.Y. Times: ‘Storm Sinks Indonesian Ferry, 250 Feared Dead’

Bloomberg: ‘U.S. Consumers Keep Autos Longer, Shun Showrooms as Cuts in Payrolls Mount’

Drivers rattled by the worst U.S. labor market since World War II are hanging on to old autos longer instead of buying new models, threatening to crimp sales again in 2009 after demand plummeted to a 16-year low.


N.Y. Post: ‘Sex, Drugs & Death at Luxe Hotel’

A Long Island banana mogul at the center of a deadly sex romp at a tony Midtown hotel lives a double life – married suburban dad and…

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Plans To Keep Estate Tax’

Obama and congressional leaders plan to move soon to block the estate tax from disappearing in 2010.

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Signals His Reluctance to Look Into Bush Policies’

Barack Obama indicated that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping.

N.Y. Times: ‘Democrats Look for Ways to Undo Late Bush Administration Rules’

Harper’s: ‘The $10 trillion hangover:
Paying the price for eight years of Bush’ (Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes)


Wall Street Journal: ‘New Playing Field In Electric Car Push’

Fewer barriers in electric-car production have leveled the playing field for newcomers hoping to compete against established car makers.


Mayor Bloomberg’s crackdown on motorists who abuse official parking placards has snared a slew of detectives and investigators who work for the city’s prosecutors, the Post has learned…

N.Y. Times: ‘In Emphasis on Economy, Obama Looks to History’

Harper’s: ‘A Farewell to Dick Cheney’

Dick Cheney is the man that James Madison was warning us about.

Harper’s: ‘Harper’s Index: A retrospective of the Bush era’

Bloomberg: Paulson Bailout Fails to Give Taxpayers Buffett’s Terms With Goldman Sachs

Henry Paulson‘s bank bailouts, done under “great stress” during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, failed to win for U.S. taxpayers what Warren Buffett received for his shareholders by investing in Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The Treasury secretary made 174 purchases of banks’ preferred shares that include warrants to buy stock at a later date. While he invested $10 billion in Goldman Sachs in October, twice as much as Buffett did the month before, Paulson gained certificates worth one-fourth as much as the billionaire, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Goldman Sachs terms were repeated in most of the other bank bailouts.

Salon: ‘Bill Moyers on Israel/Gaza’ (Glenn Greenwald)

N.Y. Times: ‘Citi Is Urged to Replace Chairman’

Regulators are pressing Citigroup to shake up its board and replace its chairman in an effort to restore confidence in the beleaguered bank.

Newsweek: ‘If Obama is Serious: He should get tough with Israel’ (Aaron David Miller)


Gov. Paterson joined an estimated 10,000 Israel supporters in Midtown yesterday to proclaim the Gaza offensive an act of self-defense. “We recognize the right of the state of Israel to…

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Eyeless in Israel’

N.Y. Times: ‘Few in U.S. See Jazeera’s Coverage of Gaza War’

Tel Aviv-based journalist Lisa Goldman takes the Israeli press to task over its coverage of the Gaza campaign. “For the most part, Gaza as a place inhabited by human beings has been ignored,” she writes of Israeli media coverage.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Timeline: The Gaza Strip, From Disengagement to Operation Cast Lead’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Israel hints at end of Gaza operations’

Israeli leaders hinted Sunday the Gaza assault might soon wind down, even as thousands of fresh reservists joined the battle and infantry units pushed toward the crowded heart of Gaza City.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Analysis: Ceasefire hinges on Egypt closing smuggling routes’

The Nation: ‘Can Labor Revive the American Dream?’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed: Hasidic Singer, Subject of Rabbinic Ban, Tries Again’

Hasidic singing sensation Lipa Schmeltzer was set to perform last March before a crowd of thousands at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater in New York. The concert, a charity fundraiser, was billed as “The Big Event.”

Then, less than three weeks before the concert date, 33 ultra-Orthodox rabbis — including some of the community’s most prominent figures — issued an edict banning attendance. The event, they warned, was likely to cause “ribaldry and lightheadedness.”

Deferring to the rabbis, organizers promptly canceled the concert. The ban, however, roiled the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, world, sparking an unusual public outcry in a community known for its scrupulous obedience to rabbinic authority.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘What Happens to Gaza When the Fighting Stops?’

Nation: ‘Moral Blindness on Gaza’ (Robert Scheer)

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Fact or Fiction?: The Story of the Fake Holocaust Memoir’

A children’s book based on Herman Rosenblat‘s Holocaust love story, which was recently exposed as a hoax, was pulled from bookstores. The East Village Mamele explains the scandal to her daughter.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘ABC’s hidden cameras unveil anti-immigrant prejudice’

Investment News: ‘Morgan Stanley, Citi in retail merger talks’

Nation: ‘Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction’ (Naomi Klein)

To end the bloody occupation, Israel must be the target of the same kind of global movement that finally ended apartheid in South Africa.

Nation: ‘Toward Peace in Gaza’

Investment News: ‘Rubin retires from Citi’

Nation: ‘Caroline and Me’ (Katha Pollitt)

Caroline Kennedy would like to be a senator. I don’t blame her. So would I!

Especially if Governor Paterson could just waft me into office, and I didn’t have to, um, you know, campaign. I’ll bet some parts of the job are really fun, and it’s public service, which is so uplifting. You think I’m joking, but every argument that has been advanced for Kennedy is just as true for me. She’s a mother, a writer, a person with no electoral experience or, so far as we know, longstanding interest in acquiring any–me too! She has more kids; I’ve written more books–I’d say it averages out.

Nation: ‘Obama Anoints Kaine, Praises (And Snubs?) Dean’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Big shakeup at fatal psych ward’

Fox News: ‘”Victims” of Madoff Scandal Do Math, Realize They Profited’

From Fox News: “Hundreds and maybe thousands of investors in Madoff’s funds have been withdrawing money from their accounts for many years. In many cases, those investors have withdrawn far more than their principal investment.” And more:

“I had a call yesterday from a guy who said, ‘I’ve taken out more money then I originally put in, but I still had $1 million left with Madoff. Should I file a $1 million claim?'” said Steven Caruso, a New York attorney specializing in securities and investment fraud.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Madoff vics: Let him rot in jail’

Madoff’s victims say it’s outrageous that he has been allowed to serve house arrest in his cushy East Side pad.

N.Y. Times: ‘Eight Years of Madoffs’ (Frank Rich)

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Prosecutors Push Back Deadline’

Federal prosecutors bought more time to focus on their investigation of Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion fraud scheme after they reached a deal with Mr. Madoff’s lawyers to delay the deadline to bring an indictment in the criminal case against him.

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had faced a deadline Monday to convince a grand jury to indict the New York money manager on fraud charges or show at a public court hearing that there was “probable cause” to arrest him, but Mr. Madoff’s lawyers agreed Friday to give the government until mid-February to do so.

Delaying any indictment gives prosecutors time to investigate Mr. Madoff and others without having to prepare for trial, or negotiate a deal in which he agrees to plead guilty to certain charges in exchange for a lower prison sentence, says Anthony Barkow, a former federal prosecutor.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘AJCongress Crippled by Madoff Scandal’

Telegraph: ‘”Hellishly hot” sauce dedicated to Bernard Madoff’

Wall Street Journal: ‘New Ponzi Case Pursued’

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil charges against a Pennsylvania man accused of running a $50 million Ponzi scheme since at least February 1995.

Gothamist: ‘Bernie’s Weekend at Home, Before Judge’s Decision’

N.Y. Times: ‘GMAC Chairman With Ties to Madoff Steps Down’

Gawker: ‘Marc Rich Lost “Insignificant” Millions to Madoff’

N.Y. Times: ‘New Description of Timing on Madoff’s Confession’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Brother, at Arm’s Length?: Peter Was No. 2 and Close to Bernard; Investigators Now Scrutinizing Role’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Bernie Madoff’s bagman had everything to lose’

J. Ezra Merkin, former chairman of national lender GMAC, crashes to earth as the second biggest conduit for Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Funds of Funds & Madoff: “Like Presiding Over the Long-Term Funeral”‘

Advanced Trading: ‘Fund-of-Hedge Funds Lacked Technology to Avoid Madoff Losses’

Investment News: ‘Madoff scam hurts Mackenzie Financial’ ‘Activist Gunning For Yeshiva Board’

A hedge fund is campaigning to fire the board of Yeshiva University because of its investment with Bernard Madoff. ‘Commentary From Our Publisher: Bernie, We Hardly Knew Ya’ ‘Merkin Liquidation Stymied By NYU’ ‘Woman Tied to Madoff in Hiding’


‘Times’ declares war on news, gets right in your grille — for a change

The Times as Jimmy Cagney and the reader as Mae Clarke. It’s about time.

A banner day for the New York Times.

Newspapers that don’t go out for blood are worthless. The Times often should be itself flayed because it so often doesn’t take full advantage of its tremendous resources and usually undeserved clout and instead exudes arrogance and condescension.

This morning, however, its reporters slapped on their fedoras and got the goods, and their editors snapped out of it, rolled up their Brooks Brothers sleeves, and laid it on us.

Like Jimmy Cagney shoving a grapefruit into Mae Clarke‘s face in The Public Enemy (1931), Ethan Bronner‘s “U.N. and Red Cross Add to Outcry on Gaza War” calls a war a war and shoves the details into your face during your breakfast before you have time to take your first sip of coffee:

“International aid groups lashed out at Israel on Thursday over the war in Gaza, saying that access to civilians in need is poor, relief workers are being hurt and killed, and Israel is woefully neglecting its obligations to Palestinians who are trapped, some among rotting corpses in a nightmarish landscape of deprivation”.

You can see that Bronner’s piece doesn’t fiddle around with the paper’s usual stiff, officious lede followed by some boring, pseudo-analytical claptrap about how something affects decision-makers.

Bronner’s second paragraph is the kind of thing you usually see as the lede of such a story:

“The United Nations declared a suspension of its aid operations after one of its drivers was killed and two others were wounded despite driving United Nations-flagged vehicles and coordinating their movements with the Israeli military. The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called for an investigation by Israel for a second time in a week after the more than 40 deaths near a United Nations school from Israeli tank fire on Tuesday”.

The paper’s still not up to speed on the fact that many Jews, both here and in Israel (particularly in Israel), are angrily opposed to the war on Gaza.

The peace movement among Jews gets prominent play in the vibrant Israeli press and in other outlets around the world. But not in the U.S. media.

However, you can always go to New York’s own Forward, thank G-d, where the indefatigable Nathan Guttman‘s “Peace Groups Lose First Major Gaza Challenge On Capitol Hill: Attempts by Activists To Shape Resolution Come Up Short” opens a window on news that most of the rest of the U.S. press routinely ignores.

Enough of the negative stuff about negative stuff: The Times does deserve another kudos or two or three: Another example of today’s fired-up Times is a Paris dispatch from veteran Alan Cowell, “Gaza Children Found With Mothers’ Corpses”:

“The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it had discovered “shocking” scenes — including small children next to their mothers’ corpses — when its representatives gained access for the first time to parts of Gaza battered by Israeli shelling. It accused Israel of failing to meet obligations to care for the wounded in areas of combat”.

Years ago, Cowell did a bang-up job writing such pieces day after day for the Times from apartheid-era South Africa. Now he’s filing stuff about apartheid-era Israel.

Even the paper’s editorial page this morning took off its kid gloves, dismissed its manservants and maids, and unleashed a sneer or two at its fellow Establishment members. Labeling the confirmation hearing for the new Secretary of Health and Human Services a “cuddly welcome for Mr. Daschle,” the editorial board climbed down from the pedestal it has built for itself and started punching at the incoming Obama regime:

“…The hearing before a Senate health committee was mostly a love-fest as senators from both parties expressed admiration for their former Senate colleague….

Unfortunately, the hearing did not tell us much at all about how the incoming Obama administration intends to pay for its emerging health care programs or how, for all of his smoothness at the hearing, Mr. Daschle will deal with the very real and very big differences his team has with Republicans on this and other vital issues.

Instead, the senators avoided asking such tough questions, and Mr. Daschle bent over backward to reassure Republicans that he would not try to ram anything too unpalatable down their throats….”

A welcome dose of cynicism instead of the expected deadly dull civility and caution.

Yes, there are still some nits to pick in the Times, but this morning the paper emits a louder buzz than usual.

Tally-ho! Release the hounds! The paper usually acts more like C. Montgomery Burns hounding the beleaguered folk in Springfield. This morning, it’s dogging a newspaper’s proper targets.

While you’re wiping the grapefruit off your face, click on these items, front-loaded this morning only with other Times pieces, most of which have surprisingly hard-hitting, newsy ledes…


N.Y. Times: ‘Latinos Recall Pattern of Attacks Before Long Island Killing’

N.Y. Times: ‘Senate Allies Fault Obama on Stimulus’

N.Y. Times: ‘As His Inmates Grew Thinner, a Sheriff’s Wallet Grew Fatter’

N.Y. Times: ‘Fatal Avalanches Rattle Ski Country in the West’

N.Y. Times: ‘Bill Easing Unionizing Is Under Heavy Attack’

N.Y. Times: ‘Nationwide Inquiry on Bids for Municipal Bonds’

“The federal investigation that prompted Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico to withdraw his nomination as commerce secretary offers a rare glimpse into a long-simmering investigation of possible bid-rigging, tax evasion and other wrongdoing throughout the municipal bond business.

Three federal agencies and a loose consortium of state attorneys general have for several years been gathering evidence of what appears to be collusion among the banks and other companies that have helped state and local governments take approximately $400 billion worth of municipal notes and bonds to market each year”.

N.Y. Times: ‘For BlackBerry, Obama’s Devotion Is Priceless’

Bloomberg: ‘Excrement, Insulation, Bike Paths Trim CO2 Emissions in Cities’

Wall Street Journal: ‘A Wolfe in Regulator’s Clothing: Drug Industry Critic Joins the FDA’


Bloomberg: ‘Brokers Disdain Toaster Salesmen in Bank America’s Merrill Deal’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Business Warms to Obama, but Frictions Loom on Climate’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Gotti hit man dips his foe in acid, but loves mommy’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Wall Street Is Big Donor to Inauguration’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Brooklyn Nets Arena cutbacks? Bruce Ratner scales back plans; Star architect Frank Gehry may go’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Lehman Brothers Plans Private-Equity Spinoff’



Wall Street Journal: ‘Bailout Pact Of GM, U.S. Would Block A UAW Strike’

Bloomberg: ‘London Boom Time Bill Comes Due as Bankers Buy Coffee on Credit’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘I snapped & whacked her: Chilling confession in Linda Stein slay aired’



Wall Street Journal: ‘Hedge-Fund Middlemen Get Pinched’



Wall Street Journal: ‘Chevron Warns of Hefty Drop in Earnings’

Bloomberg: ‘Billion-Dollar U.S. Verdicts Vanish After Appeals, New Rulings’


Bloomberg: ‘Obama Must Tackle Fannie, Freddie’s Federal Ties’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Panel Steps Up Criticism of Treasury Over TARP’

Bloomberg: ‘Al-Jazeera Said to Mull Bid for English Soccer’s Mideast Rights’

Bloomberg: ‘Madoff’s Three-Bedroom Riviera Retreat Belied Ponzi Scheme Role’

Bloomberg: ‘Merkin Intimidated Co-Op Board While Building Funds Madoff Lost’


Bloomberg: ‘Uma Thurman No Help to Arpad Busson in Madoff Fraud’s Nightmare’

Wall Street Journal: ‘U.S.: Madoff Had $173 Million in Checks’

Bloomberg: ‘Madoff Con Hits Boston, Home to Victim Shapiro, Ponzi’


Drop a ball on Times Square! Drop a bomb on Gaza!

An agitprop video from the Israeli government. See the Forward‘s “YouTube Yanks Israeli Army Videos.”

Who would have guessed that, with the end of the disastrous Bush regime in sight, we would have been so gloomy on New Year’s Eve 2008?

You’d think this would be a time of celebration, or at least some happy whistling to ourselves as we sweep out Dick Cheney‘s accumulated droppings from the past eight years.

But the dropping’s not done, and the deepest suffering is yet to come, as the fallout from Wall Street’s wreckage turns from flurries tonight on Times Square into a blizzard next year throughout the country.

It figures that Arctic temps are swooping in to make this an especially cold night in the city.

Global warning: It’s hot in the Middle East, where bombs are dropping on Gaza (with Mayor Mike Bloomberg‘s support). And, to put it mildly, it’s intemperate elsewhere: Aside from the numerous places like the auto junkyard in Detroit, builders and contractors will soon be dropping even those skilled workers who never drop tools. At this rate, things will be so bad by next Christmas that even Jesus‘s dad wouldn’t be able to get a carpentry gig.

The shakes aren’t typically a warning sign of an onrushing depression, but everybody’s got them, especially bosses. The city’s dropping Snapple from its vending machines, and one of Mike Bloomberg‘s aides is dropping his feverish P.R. campaign to give Princess Caroline Kennedy
the vacant Senate seat. (See the Post‘s “MIKE’S AIDE COOLING HIS CAROLINE PUSH.”

A whole lotta droppin’ goin’ on. As usual, few of those who are dropping the ball aren’t themselves getting dropped.

And then there are those millions of Americans who wish that Bernie Madoff would simply drop dead. If it does happen, I hope it’s on my watch.

Now it turns out, as the Madoff yarn keeps unraveling, that his outrageous behavior is dearly costing a slew of organizations like Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First (see this Bloomberg list), in addition to the big and small charities we already knew about.

So, Happy New Year to civil libertarians everywhere!

Madoff’s not the only source of grief. Many journalists are being dropped every day — prompting a jeremiad (in both senses of the word) for Nat Hentoff, a modern-day Jeremiah who I’m pretty sure was a contemporary of the prophet himself. (For Hentoff, I’ll drop an IBM Selectric typeball tonight in Times Square; it’s the most I can do.)

Whatever you drop, hang onto your laptop. You need it to click on these stories …


Bloomberg: ‘Americans Under 70 May Find 2008 Was Their Least Favorite Year’

N.Y. Times: ‘Glamour Still Rules, but With Fewer Debutantes’

Subtle signs of the recession were on display at the
International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria.


Crain’s New York Business: ‘Foreclosure suit filed against developers’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Gaza Strip invasion is right thing to do, Mike Bloomberg says’

N.Y. Times: ‘No Mug? Drug Makers Cut Out Goodies for Doctors’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Even With Aid, Groups Scramble To Cope With Post-Madoff Mess’


Crain’s New York Business: ‘Big projects mask declines in construction spending’

N.Y. Times: ‘Village Voice Lays Off Nat Hentoff and 2 Others’


N.Y. Times: ‘After Unofficial Tally, Senator Trails Rival in Minnesota Race’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Yeshiva revises Madoff losses to just $14.5M’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Bernie Burns Bacon: Actors Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick among Bernie Madoff victims’

N.Y. Times: ‘SAT Changes Policy, Opening Rift With Colleges’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘YouTube Yanks Israeli Army Videos’

YouTube has removed videos that the Israeli army posted as part of a public relations effort to rally world opinion behind its operation in Gaza.

On December 29, the IDF began posting videos of its aerial strikes. The rationale was that it wanted to support the claim that it is not targeting civilians, but rather Hamas targets — especially rockets destined for Israel.

N.Y. Times: ‘Madoff Spotlight Turns to Role of Offshore Funds’


You go, Equinox! A Manhattan judge has let the gym chain off the hook in a lawsuit over an infamous spin class that went bad when one spinner attacked another for grunting and yelling things …

Bloomberg: ‘Macy’s, New York Times Haunted by Debt Loads From Ill-Timed Stock Buybacks’

Macy’s Inc., Gannett Co. and New York Times Co.’s attempts to prop up their stocks with debt- funded buybacks have left them saddled with higher borrowing costs as they work to pay off loans.


Bloomberg: ‘Texaco Toxic Past Haunts Chevron as Judgment Looms’

N.Y. Times: ‘In 2009, Economy Will Depend on Unlocking Credit’

N.Y. Times: ‘Ad Agencies Fashion Their Own Horn, and Toot It’

N.Y. Times: ‘Still Paging Mr. Salinger’

N.Y. Times: ‘As Another Memoir Is Faked, Trust Suffers’

N.Y. Times: ‘Films Reach Theaters a Drib Here, Drab There’

Bloomberg: ‘Dollar Heads for Biggest Annual Drop Against Yen in Two Decades’



Brett Favre just the last bailout to fail New York City. Next star in East? Caroline Kennedy.

Well, just another bailout that didn’t work. Brett Favre was supposed to save the New York Jets, which would have made the city’s sports fans happy, though not as happy as those Wall Streeters in their stadium skyboxes.

But in the middle of a boom — the Jets were 8-3 and seemed a cinch for the NFL playoffs — Favre imploded and the team collapsed.

Hubris pays off. And then it doesn’t.

Take it from me, America, you know you’re headed for a major depression when even the usual distractions stop working.

But as the late Albert Ellis used to say to us neurotics hurtling toward a great depression: Separate your irrational thoughts from your rational ones. It’s not your fault, America, that the games that took your mind off real-world or self-induced worries no longer keep you from sliding into full-blown anhedonia.

Play the following Ellis tape, instead of the one currently in your brain:

As the blunt Ellis would have pointed out, “Fuck what other people think! Get rational about it! Get over it! Stop your whining! Work at it!” (And yes, he used such language, even at age 90, in his memorable Friday night cheapo public sessions on the Upper East Side.)

Speaking of depression and games: Greed — not the usual greed but the excessive type — did in the Jets the way excessive greed did in Wall Street. The Jets suddenly collapsed and their already-shaky hopes for the playoffs dissolved.

Both NYC teams in the NFL playoffs? No joy.

Who’s the next candidate to save the city? Caroline Kennedy. Big news this weekend, at least according to the Daily News, which snagged an interview with the princess. Ooooh, a scoop.

The headline? “Caroline Kennedy tells Daily News: I wouldn’t be beholden to anybody.”

True, she wouldn’t be beholden to her strong supporter Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The story?:

“I’m really coming into this as somebody who isn’t, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party,” Kennedy told the Daily News Saturday during a wide-ranging interview.

True, she’s not part of the system. In fact, she’s a dilettante who would be getting a high office solely because of her name.

Further proof that Caroline Kennedy is telling the truth when she says she “isn’t, you know, part of the system”: As the Daily News reported December 19, she doesn’t even vote:

Caroline Kennedy wants to be the next senator from New York, but her voting record is already spotty, the Daily News has found.

City Board of Elections records show Kennedy has failed to vote in many elections since she registered in the city in 1988 – including votes for the Senate seat she hopes to fill and numerous Democratic faceoffs for mayor.

“It doesn’t speak to a deep-felt commitment to the electoral process,” Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio said when told of Kennedy’s ballot breakdowns.

JFK’s legacy? Caroline is a legacy, the way a rich, disinterested playboy like George W. Bush got into Yale not on his own merits but because his politician daddy, George H.W. Bush, went to Yale and Junior was what the school considered a “legacy.”

And people like the Bushes are opposed to affirmative action? What do think the collegiate system of “legacies” is? It’s affirmative action for rich white people.

Here’s a real legacy: After thousands of years of fighting over land, the death dance between Arabs and Jews has come to what media outlets are calling the “bloodiest hit” by Israel in 60 years: “HELL FIRE RAINS ON GAZA.”

At least you’re just fighting for your job, not your survival. You think things are bad? Think about those little girls in Kurdistan who are being routinely circumcised.

That’s an old story in much of the world. More bad news that’s more immediate …


The Age (Australia): ‘Israel: We will not stop’ [VIDEO]

Bloomberg: ‘Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data’

Register (U.K.): ‘Walmart’s Jesus Phone no better, no worse: Save two bucks!’

N.Y. Post: ‘Dump ’em: Losers Mangini, Favre must go’

The Age (Australia): ‘More children reported dead in latest Gaza strikes’

Register (U.K.): ‘Crash survivor Twitters from burning plane (false): Geek micro-blogged from safety’

N.Y. Daily News: ’15-year-old girl arrested in brutal Bronx stabbing’


N.Y. Times: ‘Suicide Bombs Kill 20 in Afghanistan’

ABC: ‘Many Questions Left in Bush Scandals’

Register (U.K.): ‘Giant US air travel data suck fails own privacy tests, but gets cleared anyway’

Reuters: ‘SCENARIOS: Assessing risks of India, Pakistan confrontation’

Washington Post: ‘Blagojevich on the Way Out, Says Illinois’ No. 2′

Wall Street Journal: ‘Latin American Investors Quiet on Madoff Losses’

Wealthy investors in Latin America appear to be among big losers in the Ponzi scheme allegedly orchestrated by Bernard Madoff.

N.Y. Times: ‘Veterans of ’90s Bailout Hope for Profits in New One’

Register (U.K.): ‘101 uses for a former merchant banker’

N.Y. Times: ‘Murders by Black Teenagers Rise, Bucking a Trend’

Wall Street Journal: ‘The Weekend That
Wall Street Died’

The financial crisis that began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers marked sharp change by Wall Street bosses from banding together to every man for himself.

N.Y. Times: ‘Romance and Recovery in Quake-Devastated Area’

Washington Post: ‘An Experiment in Mastering Risk’

System created to lock in profits and operate in regulation gaps eventually reduces AIG to ruins.



A Thousand and One Arabian Nightmares

Saudi King Abdullah’s message of peace in NYC leaves his subjects back home in pieces.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia played New York City for a sucker yesterday with his homily about peace and mercy.

Even in a city that thrives on chutzpah, Abdullah’s lovefest publicity stunt has no equal.

The king was so polite right from the start of his speech yesterday at the U.N. Peace Through Dialogue meeting:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, His Excellency the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Your Excellency the Secretary-General of the United Nations:

“Peace and the mercy and blessings of God be with you.”

And now a word from the U.S. State Department’s March 11, 2008, human-rights report on the peace and mercy during 2007 in the Saudi Arabia of King Abdullah:

• Violence against women and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity were common. Limitations on the rights of foreign workers remained a severe problem.

• [Ministry of Interior] officials were responsible for most alleged incidents of physical abuse and torture of prisoners, including beatings, lashings, and suspension from bars by handcuffs.

• During the year according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the press reported 153 beheadings of individuals who were convicted of murder, narcotics-related offenses, and armed robbery, as well as of rape, sorcery and adultery.

Sorry, King Abdullah, were you saying something about “instruments to cause misery”?

“In the presence of this gathering of international leaders and representatives and members of the General Assembly — the conscience of the United Nations — and in front of the whole world, we state with a unified voice that religions through which Almighty God sought to bring happiness to mankind should not be turned into instruments to cause misery.

“Human beings were created as equals and partners on this planet; either they live together in peace and harmony, or they will inevitably be consumed by the flames of misunderstanding, malice and hatred.”

No wonder it’s so hot in Saudi Arabia. All those flames of misunderstanding. According to the State Department report on 2007 events:

• On May 23, religious police allegedly beat to death 28-year-old Suleiman al-Huraisi who was detained for the possession and sale of alcohol. After a three-month investigation, MOI officials charged two members of the religious police. On November 28, a court citing lack of evidence acquitted them.

• On June 1, a member of the religious police reportedly arrested Ahmad al-Bulawi in Tabuk on suspicion of being in “illegal seclusion” with an unrelated woman. An autopsy revealed he had been beaten on his face before dying at the religious police center. On July 30, the Tabuk General Investigation and Prosecution Authority ruled that the arresting authorities, members of the religious police and a security guard, were not guilty of any wrongdoing.

• During the week of August 5, a Bangladeshi man died in Medina while in the custody of the religious police. They arrested him for allegedly washing a car while he should have been attending prayers. The head of the religious police, Ibrahim al-Gaith, claimed that the man had fainted and that there were no signs of assault. At year’s end the case was pending with the Shari’a court of Medina.

If washing your car is a sin punishable by death then I’ll live forever. But that’s another story. Sorry, King, I was preoccupied. What were you saying?

“Dear Friends: Throughout history, preoccupation with differences between the followers of religions and cultures has engendered intolerance, causing devastating wars and considerable bloodshed without any sound logical or ideological justification.

“It is high time for us to learn from the harsh lessons of the past and concur on the ethics and ideals in which we all believe. Matters on which we differ will be decided by our Omniscient Creator on the Day of Judgment.

“Every tragedy suffered in today’s world is ultimately a result of the abandonment of the paramount principle enunciated by all religions and cultures: The roots of all global crises can be found in human denial of the eternal principle of justice.”

If there is an Allah, he’ll remember for eternity this episode cited in the State Department report:

In March 2006 in Qatif, seven men found a woman and her male companion together in a car and gang-raped them both.

The perpetrators were sentenced to between eight months and five years in prison and between 80 and 1,000 lashes. The same court also sentenced the woman and her ex-boyfriend to 90 lashes for being unmarried and alone in a car with an unmarried person of the opposite sex at the time of the incident.

On November 14, after her lawyer requested a review of the case, the Higher Court of Justice sent the case back to the Qatif General Court which increased the woman’s sentence from 90 lashes to 200 lashes and six months in prison and increased the perpetrators sentences to between two and nine years each.

The court also suspended her lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, for “insulting the Supreme Judicial Council and disobeying the rules and regulations,” reportedly for his efforts to publicize the woman’s case. The court confiscated al-Lahem’s license and asked him to appear before a disciplinary session at the Judicial Investigation Department of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

On November 24, the MOJ issued a statement “clarifying” the role of the two victims who “exposed” themselves to the crime because of their behavior. The statement stated that because the victims were alone in the car, they had violated Shari’a and were thus liable for punishment. On December 17, King Abdullah pardoned both victims, citing his authority to overrule judgments not specifically prescribed by Islamic legal code.

Now that’s what I call tolerance, King. Fill me in:

“Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of every religion and every civilization. They would not have appeared except for the absence of the principle of tolerance. The alienation and the sense of loss which affects the lives of many of or young, leading them to drugs and crime, became widespread due to the dissolution of family bonds that Almighty God intended to be firm and strong.

“Our dialogue, conducted in a constructive manner, should, by the grace of God, revive and reinstate these lofty ideals among peoples and nations. No doubt, God willing, this will constitute a glorious triumph of what is most noble over what is most evil in human beings and will grant mankind hope of a future in which justice, security and a decent life will prevail over injustice, fear and poverty.”

The State Department report does agree, King Abdullah, that your minions are constantly searching for evil:

During [2007], the religious police harassed and detained citizens and foreigners of both sexes.

[In 2006, Saudi officials] received numerous complaints of beatings, humiliation, confiscation of personal property and unnecessary body searches and the use of coercion to sign confessions. . . .

The government and/or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; however, several individuals died after beatings that took place while in the custody of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), also known as the religious police or Mutawwa’in. . . .

The government also punished persons for various offenses with amputations for theft, and lashings, including for alcohol-related offenses or for being alone in the company of an unrelated person of the opposite sex. In contrast to previous years, there were no reports of lashings in the women’s prisons.

I cut you off, King Abdullah. Were you saying something about a hand?

“We will continue what we have commenced, extending our hand to all those advocating peace, justice and tolerance.

“In conclusion, I would like to remind all of you, and myself, of the words of the Holy Qur’an:

” ‘O Mankind! We have created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that ye may know each other. Very, the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.’ “

Or, self-righteous. Whatever.


Daily Flog: Obama installs Rahm to boot up Congress

Obama‘s got his Luca Brasi, so what’s the problem?

The president-elect’s choice of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff sparked criticism of “partisanship.”

As we slide deeper into a recession, Emanuel had better be partisan if he wants to get anything done as Obama’s hit man. Emanuel is a shrewd — though entirely predictable — choice for Obama.

Though I hate to quote party flacks, Paul Begala has the best description. As the New York Post says this morning, Begala has described Emanuel as “cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache”:

Over the last 15 years, the hot-tempered Chicago congressman has been one of the Democratic Party’s most formidable brawlers, a political force of nature known for tabletop tirades and unabashed fund-raising.

At least Emanuel’s not a direct-mail, ideological dirty trickster like George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.

And unlike Bush’s putative chiefs of staff (Andy Card and Josh Bolten), Emanuel comes to the job as an experienced and powerful congressman. Think of a Luca Brasi who’s also a smart bagman. Think of a hemorrhoid that can also twist your arms.

The criticism from Republicans doesn’t mean anything; they’re merely the disloyal opposition. Partisanship? It’s the Democrats in Congress who have more to fear as Emanuel works to keep them in line with Obama’s agenda.

OK, so Don Corleone‘s Luca Brasi wound up sleeping with the fishes pretty early on. Expect Obama’s enforcer to last longer and to produce plenty of sleepless nights among Capitol Hill’s Democrats.

Just be glad that you’re not cowering in your office dreading that next phone call from Rahm Emanuel. Obama may be as cool as the other side of the pillow, but Emanuel is no comforter.

Assuming the new chief of staff doesn’t have your number, you can relax and click . . .


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Yanks caught stealin’ from taxpayers again’ (Juan Gonzalez)


New York: ‘Can The Daily Show Survive the Barack Obama Presidency?’

“It’s no secret that plenty of satirical outlets — Saturday Night Live, the Onion, late-night talk shows — have had trouble finding good Obama jokes. But we’re not forecasting their doom. The Daily Show is unique, though, in its audience and in its comedic approach, and we’re very worried that an Obama presidency might send Jon Stewart‘s show speedily on the road to obsolescence. . . .

“If President Obama’s administration is the love-in that progressives hope it will be, we think it’s awfully unlikely Stewart’s heart will be in Obama-bashing. The guy teared up at eleven on Election Night! Not that we didn’t, but still. . . .

“That the real highlight of Election Night was Stephen Colbert‘s begging a cockatoo to slit his throat suggests that the balance of power on the Stewart-Colbert axis might have shifted. We can see a future in which The Colbert Report becomes Comedy Central’s late-night star, mixing Dadaist whimsy with legitimate critique of the Obama administration.”

Register (U.K.): ‘US Air Force online ad theme: “Horror Meets Comedy” ‘

“In a move which you simply couldn’t make up, the US Air Force has announced that it will partner with Microsoft to advertise itself on the Xbox under the banner ‘Horror Meets Comedy.’ The deal will see the USAF sponsoring a series of short films for viewing on the Xbox Live online portal.”

Register (U.K.): ‘US admiral wants “pain-ray” guns for Gulf fleet’

“A US admiral has called for American warships operating in the Middle East to be equipped with microwave ‘pain ray’ cannons to avoid using overwhelming lethal force.”

Register (U.K.): ‘Palin didn’t know Africa is a continent, McCain aides say — Needed work on North America too’

Sarah Palin raised a few eyebrows within the John McCain campaign because she didn’t realize that Africa is a continent, according to aides whispering with a shamelessly right-wing news outlet.

“McCain aides told Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron there was “great concern” within the campaign that Palin ‘lacked a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate, a vice president, and a heartbeat away from the presidency.’

“Yes, knowledgeability.”

Washington Post: ‘Emanuel to Be Chief of Staff’

“The selection of the fellow Illinois Democrat, a close Obama friend who embraces a sharp-edged approach to politics, could signal a rapid succession of appointments. Obama is expected to announce in the coming days that he will place two senior campaign aides, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, in key roles.

“Those early staffing decisions, coupled with reports that a number of prominent and established people are under consideration for Cabinet roles, suggests that Obama is focused more on projecting a reassuring image of continuity and competence than of quickly bringing wholesale change to a nation facing two wars and a severe economic downturn.”

Washington Post: ‘Iraqis Demand Withdrawal Date’

“Officials insist on departure time for U.S. forces, demand troops be subject to Iraq legal jurisdiction.”

N.Y. Times: ‘Retailers Report a Sales Collapse’

Market Watch: ‘Europe stocks blasted on day of steep rate cuts’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Hedge Fund Selling Puts New Stress on Market’

New Yorker: ‘Melting into Air: Before the financial system went bust, it went postmodern’

“The story of David Einhorn and Allied Capital is an example of a moneyman who believed, with absolute certainty, that he was in the right, who said so, and who then watched the world fail to react to his inarguable demonstration of his own rightness . . .”


N.Y. Times: ‘Tolerance Over Race Can Spread, Studies Find’

N.Y. Times: ‘On Concerns Over Gun Control, Gun Sales Are Up’

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Victory Alters the Tenor of Iraqi Politics’

N.Y. Times: ‘Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question’

“TBILISI, Georgia — Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

“Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.

“The accounts are neither fully conclusive nor broad enough to settle the many lingering disputes over blame in a war that hardened relations between the Kremlin and the West.

“But they raise questions about the accuracy and honesty of Georgia’s insistence that its shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, was a precise operation. Georgia has variously defended the shelling as necessary to stop heavy Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages, bring order to the region or counter a Russian invasion.”

Register (U.K.): ‘North Korea photoshops stroke from Kim Jong Il: Pixelated communist chief in shadow snafu’

“North Korea has released a new pic of chairman Kim Jong Il, hoping to show the world that the communist despot/self-professed internet expert is alive and well and healthy enough to actually appear in public. But this may be a case of communist photoshopaganda.”


Daily Flog: Wall Street’s little piggies don’t want to go mark-to-market; meanwhile, more huffing and puffing

The Senate grabbed hold of the Cash for Crash bill and finally came up with a workable version — one that may work for the Wall Street crapshooters but likely not for the rest of us, who are simply loaded dice in the palms of their hands.

Part of the complex maneuverings supposedly aimed at keeping the country from sliding into Great Depression II revolves around “mark-to-market accounting” of the assets that Wall Streeters have played with to the point of, literally, no return.

Yeah, like you, I have only a hazy understanding of this. Those who are financially alliterate are welcome to read this morning’s New York Post story “PIGGY POLS IN HOG HEAVEN WITH PORK-PACKED PACT.” Daphne Retter’s funny, funky take brings a little light to an otherwise dark day of journalism:

Here, little piggies!

Congressional deal-brokers yesterday slopped a mess of pork into the $700 billion financial rescue bill passed by the Senate last night — including a tax break for makers of kids’ wooden arrows — in a bid to lure reluctant lawmakers into voting for the package

Stuffed into the 451-page bill are more than $1.7 billion worth of targeted tax breaks to be doled out for a sty full of eyebrow-raising purposes over the next decade.

More to the point of your financial future and such no-longer-arcane topics as mark-to-market accounting, lower your eyebrows, peer through this morning’s financial fog and try to grab for this guidepost: Bankers and conservative Republicans (including former anti-populace populist Newt Gingrich) favor the abandonment of mark-to-market accounting rules. To which auditors, big investors, and consumer groups reply, “Are you out of your friggin’ minds?”

Think of it like the nursery rhyme that goes, “This little piggy went to market . . .”, and add some huffing and puffing by wolves that may eventually knock down millions of American homes.

In the present case, these little piggies went to mark-to-market, and now they want to remove that accounting rule so they can instantly wipe out their losses on the books and resume playing their Neverland gambling games with our money.

In essence, the new Senate version of the bailout bill would let Wall Streeters lie even more about the value of the assets they’re trading and set us up for a rerun of the Enron scandal.

That should help things.

Or maybe the financial system is so fouled up and so wedded to its inherently corrupt trading instruments and practices that abandoning mark-to-market accounting really would help restart the credit markets and protect you from foreclosure.


And where has Wall Street’s mayor, Mike Bloomberg, been in all this? I pointed to Bloomberg’s culpability on September 23, and now the New York Times is dipping its toe into the topic. The Times, of course, is making excuses for him. See this morning’s “Mayor’s Stewardship Is Mixed, Fiscal Experts Say.”

Enough on Bloomberg and more on the important mark-to-market piece of the corporate-bailout bill below, but first . . .


Wall Street Journal: ‘Fed Considers Rate Cut as Recession Fears Mount’

Slate: ‘How to Debate a Girl, and Win’ (Dahlia Lithwick)

BBC: ‘Tanzania disco stampede kills 19’

N.Y. Times: ‘Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way’

Jurist: ‘Ohio to proceed with absentee voting after courts rule on registration requirements’

N.Y. Times: ‘Surveillance of Skype Messages Found in China’


N.Y. Times: ‘Studios Sue to Bar a DVD Copying Program’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Bombs Hit Shiite Worshippers in Baghdad’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Analyzing the “Twelve Tribes of Politics” ‘

McClatchy: ‘What’s in that Senate bill? Something for everyone.’

Agence France Presse: ‘Enron-era accounting reforms blamed in financial crisis’

Far Eastern Economic Review: ‘The Great Crash of China’

Back to the dust-up over the new bailout bill’s endorsement, in effect, of abandoning mark-to-market accounting:

Over at, John R. Simpson issues a fire-and-brimstone warning: “New ‘bailout’ tactic would let fat cats cook books.”

Stirring the pot, today’s Wall Street Journal story “Momentum Gathers to Ease Mark-to-Market Accounting Rule” explains things pretty well. Elizabeth Williamson and Kara Scannell craft a succinct lede:

The banking industry and a band of lawmakers have used the scramble to salvage the financial-markets rescue plan to give new life to an industry push to avoid billions in further write-downs with the stroke of a regulatory pen.

It would just further cloud matters for me to try to paraphrase this, so here’s how Williamson and Scannell lay it out:

A proposal contained in the revised financial-rescue bill the Senate considered Wednesday reaffirms the Securities and Exchange Commission’s existing authority to suspend “mark-to-market” accounting. The language was meant to send a message to the agency to re-evaluate the issue.

The practice, adopted in the aftermath of the savings-and-loan collapse in the 1980s, pegs the value of assets to their current market price, rather than the price paid for them. Banks have complained the strict application of mark-to-market rules has forced them to write down billions of dollars worth of mortgage-related securities, intensifying the squeeze in the credit markets.

Critics of the proposed changes to the “mark to market” rules say gains created by easing the rules would be illusory and would delay resolving genuine doubts about the value of mortgage assets that has caused the recent crisis in confidence.

As Bloomberg’s Jesse Westbrook reported Tuesday, conservative Republicans might very well have supported the House version of the bailout bill if the SEC had suspended mark-market accounting rules.

For background, see “Auditors Resist Effort To Change Mark-to-Market,” in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, in which Judith Burns wrote:

U.S. accounting firms, which had been silent on the $700 billion financial-rescue package rejected by the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, are opposing congressional efforts to scrap mark-to-market accounting rules. . . .

Some House members advocate scrapping mark-to-market accounting altogether as a way to help lenders holding mortgage loans and securities whose value have fallen sharply. Consumer groups have balked at the idea, and accounting firms are about to jump in as well, fearing such a change could deceive investors about the value of troubled loans and mortgage-backed assets.

Let the staggeringly diverse gaggle of opponents of abandoning mark-to-market accounting speak for themselves. This is what they told the WSJ‘s Burns and Bloomberg’s Westbrook:

“It’s just bad for investors,” said Beth Brooke, global vice chair at Ernst & Young LLP, in Washington, D.C. “Suspending mark-to-market accounting, in essence, suspends reality.”

“It’s absolute idiocy,” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America. “Allowing companies to lie to investors and lie to themselves is not the solution to the problem, it is the problem.”

“Suspending the mark-to-market prices is the most irresponsible thing to do,” said Diane Garnick, who helps oversee more than $500 billion as an investment strategist at Invesco Ltd. in New York. “Accounting does not make corporate earnings or balance sheets more volatile. Accounting just increases the
transparency of volatility in earnings.”

Still unclear? In NPR’s “Senate OKs Bailout Package, House to Vote Friday,” Dina Temple-Raston tries to explain:

Although senators approved the bailout plan, lawmakers aren’t out of the woods yet. Conservative Republican members of the House are still calling for some sort of mandatory insurance program that financial firms would be required to buy, but it is unclear how the program would work.

They have also asked for the Securities and Exchange Commission to suspend mark-to-market accounting rules and instead require bank regulators to assess the real value of troubled assets.

Mark-to-market accounting essentially allows Wall Street firms to value (or “mark”) the assets in their portfolio based on current market prices. The problem, critics say, is that under that accounting rule, sliding home prices affect not just the value of mortgages that are defaulting but of all mortgages — and therefore, of all mortgage-backed securities.

That, in turn, affects how much capital firms are required to have on hand to cover their debt exposure. And to raise that capital, firms end up having to sell other assets — which drives the price of those assets down, too. In other words, they say, mark-to-market accounting can lead to a downward spiral.

House Democrats have been opposed to both a change in mark-to-market accounting rules and to the insurance provision. It is unclear how they will work out those differences or how much the House will tinker with the bill when they get it. That said, the sense on the Hill is that everyone wants to get the vote behind them, key lawmakers say.

That’s reassuring that our lawmakers — like pro athletes and philandering pols — want to pull out the hackneyed reasoning to say that all they want to do is get their past mistakes “behind them.” In real time, however, the train is still hurtling down the track toward us.


Daily Flog: The Wall Street bear, the Capitol Hill bull; Kucinich irrelevant but his bailout plan isn’t

Running down the press:

Face it: Capitol Hill’s bailout schemes are Marxist. The only question is which Marx: Groucho or Karl?

House Finance Committee Chairman Barney Frank opts for the former.

His tragicomic analysis last weekend came in a Wall Street Journal story that is one of the finest pieces of journalism yet on the bailout maneuverings. Read the September 29 story for free on The Australian site; here’s the key passage, which you may have seen but bears repeating:

Democrat Senator Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the Finance Committee, became frustrated that Mr Paulson appeared to be arguing for softer language on the executive-pay rules, arguing that executives at these companies shouldn’t be handsomely paid.

“Let’s not get emotional,” Mr Paulson responded, according to someone in the room.

Mr Paulson also objected to language that would give a new oversight board power to control how the new program would be run. “All we’re talking about is having Groucho, Harpo, and Chico watching over Zeppo,” said Rep. Frank, before Democrats backed off.

By the time the meeting ended around 5.30pm in Washington, lawmakers were breaking up into smaller working groups. Sandwiches and pizza were delivered later in the evening. Many lawmakers continued grazing on a big bowl of pistachios in Speaker Pelosi’s office.

Nuts to them.

The best bailout plan so far may be the one pushed by Dennis Kucinich, whose House floor speech calling for a real bailout for the doomed majority of Americans was cut off by the Democratic leadership.

Kucinich’s clever plan is aimed at protecting millions of Americans after — no matter what manner of bailout Congress approves — the shit inevitably rolls downhill from Wall Street.

See “Kucinich: Bailout Must Protect Home Ownership” — on his own site because even the press belittles Kucinich and other little guys — for his letter to Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank and backup material from an Emory University prof. And see his full September 30 statement, reproduced in the tiny Cleveland Leader.

Kucinich is this century’s H. Ross Perot — but unlike Perot, Kucinich has a social conscience.

Speaking of those who don’t: What the “free-market” advocates won’t face is that their 21st century corporate-welfare plan is also straight from Karl Marx.

As Martin Masse of Toronto’s National Post business page noted on September 29 in ‘Bailout marks Karl Marx’s comeback: Marx’s Proposal Number Five seems to be the leading motivation for those backing the Wall Street bailout’:

In his Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, Karl Marx proposed 10 measures to be implemented after the proletariat takes power, with the aim of centralizing all instruments of production in the hands of the state. Proposal Number Five was to bring about the “centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.”

If he were to rise from the dead today, Marx might be delighted to discover that most economists and financial commentators, including many who claim to favour the free market, agree with him.

Indeed, analysts at the Heritage and Cato Institute, and commentators in the Wall Street Journal . . . have made declarations in favour of the massive “injection of liquidities” engineered by central banks in recent months, the government takeover of giant financial institutions, as well as the still stalled US$700-billion bailout package. Some of the same voices were calling for similar interventions following the burst of the dot-com bubble in 2001.

Hail, Freedonia!

But that jingoistic pledge of allegiance to the “Land of the Spree, and the Home of the Knave” that Groucho ran into the ground in the Depression-era Duck Soup (1933) won’t help the average American hang onto the commune he or she bought with an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Angry voters deluged Congress earlier this week when details of the first corporate-welfare bailout were revealed — see this morning’s New York Times story “Labeled as a Bailout, Plan Was Hard to Sell to a Skeptical Public.”

Now the market has staged a revival and a revised bill faces a vote later today in the Senate, but the pols — only a few weeks from the election — wised up, refusing to reveal its details until shortly before the vote.

We no doubt will eventually be trampled by Wall Street’s raging bulls — once the bailout bill restores their dominion over the bears — but things could always be worse. As the Times reports this morning in “Stampede in India Kills at Least 147”:

A religious festival in northern India turned into a horrific deadly crush on Tuesday as thousands of Hindu pilgrims stampeded at a temple shrine, piling into one another on a treacherous walkway slick with spilled coconut milk. Officials said at least 147 people, mostly men, suffocated.

Television showed dead pilgrims strewn on the narrow walkway near the Chamunda Devi temple, at the southern edge of the 15th-century Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, in the western state of Rajasthan. It was the second deadly religious tragedy in the past few months in India, where pilgrim stampedes are not uncommon. The victims were suffocated as they rushed down a narrow path from the temple 150 yards above, officials said.

Tuesday was the first day of a nine-day festival called Navratra that celebrates nine incarnations of the Hindu mother goddess Durga. Between 2,000 and 3,000 pilgrims were present when the stampede began about 6 a.m.

Don’t cry over spilled coconut milk; today’s another day. While you try to steer clear of Wall Street’s latest incarnation of a corporate-welfare bill, have another triple-shot espresso and take a break for some browsing . . .


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Murders send city crime rate upwards’

Scotsman: ‘Teenager in £7 million lottery win toasts luck with beans’

AP: ‘Pentagon announces 2009 deployments to Iraq’

BBC: ‘Iraq remains “locked in conflict” ‘

Washington Post: ‘Bush’s Warnings of Danger Are No Longer as Powerful’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Third term, Mayor Bloomberg? That’s rich!’

Slate: ‘The Black President: A 1926 Brazilian sci-fi novel predicts a U.S. election determined by race and gender’

Scotsman: ‘How predicted empty hives would mean end of the world’

N.Y. Times: ‘Bloomberg Said to Seek Third-Term Bid’

Register (U.K.): ‘Movie giants sue RealNetworks over DVD copying software’

BBC: ‘US drone “kills six” in Pakistan’

Jurist: ‘Ex-CIA official pleads guilty to wire fraud in defense contract corruption case’

Washington Post: ‘Those Up for Reelection Have Explaining to Do’

BBC: ‘Bail-out hope sends shares higher’

Register (U.K.): ‘Boffins dreaming of white Xmas at Martian North Pole’

Register (U.K.): ‘Elvis has left the border: ePassport faking guide unleashed’

Register (U.K.): ‘Secret Service camera bought on eBay’

Register (U.K.): ‘Nasty web bug descends on world’s most popular sites’

St. Petersburg Times (Fla.): ‘Outcry raised over voter ID law’

Jurist: ‘US Senate approves expiration of moratorium on offshore oil drilling’

BBC: ‘Canada PM faces plagiarism claim’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘911 call led to loopy Heather Locklear arrest’

nineMSN (Australia): ‘Wealthy investors hoard bullion’

Slate: ‘Your DVD Player Sleeps With the Fishes’



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.