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More From the Church Newsletter

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 1:31 PM EST

If you're the New York Times and you need a new columnist who'll cover foreign policy, you obviously want William Kristol. After all, he's the guy who said just before the war began, "we'll be vindicated when we find the weapons of mass destruction and liberate the people of Iraq."

Likewise, if you're the Washington Post and need a long piece for last Sunday's paper about the onrushing economic crunch, you obviously want Kevin Hassett. After all, he wrote Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market.

I think the NY Times and Washington Post are much more comprehensible if you just think of them as the church newsletters for a peculiar religion. Of course the church elders choose writers who believe in transubstantiation.

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My, What Rotten Teeth Poor People Have: The Hidden Health Care Crisis and The Dems

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 1:03 PM EST

On my deathbed, I will contend that the Clintons got a bad rap on their failed 1994 attempt at health care reform. An excellent piece in The American Prospect (hat tip: Washington Monthly) agrees and argues that this time, the Dems can pull it off. Here's (partially) why:

Help Save Manassas (Some Cash to Expel "Illegals")

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 1:00 PM EST

outfront-southern-inhospitality-320x259.jpg

In the November/December issue of Mother Jones, I wrote of how Virginia political blogger Greg Letiecq and Help Save Manassas, a grassroots anti-immigration organization he founded to combat the presence of "illegals" in Virginia's Prince William County, had helped to draft a series of nativist measures targeting the growing multitudes of illegal day laborers that have followed in the wake of the region's building boom. Having passed a vague motion last July to curtail "public benefits" to illegal immigrants, the county's Republican-led Board of Supervisors waited until October to detail the services that would be denied: substance-abuse counseling, homeless assistance, and elderly care programs. The proposed measures also provided local police with expanded powers to check immigration status during traffic stops.

But now that it's time for the county to put its money where its mouth is, problems are beginning to surface. A new report by the Board of Supervisors' staff has found that implementing the anti-immigration measures may be more expensive than simply allowing things to continue as they are. For one, state rules may prohibit the county from denying certain public services. For another, so few people use the services under consideration that auditing them would only increase their expense.

Another Solid Example of Campaign Journalism: BHO vs. HRC on Voting Records

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 12:47 PM EST

clinton_obama_130_140.gif Continuing our effort to encourage good campaign journalism by praising those who take the time to do it well (don't worry—we slam those who do it poorly), we point you to the Guardian, which has done an excellent job of parsing the very small differences between Clinton's and Obama's voting records. To give you a sample...

Obama voted to ban cluster bombs, "which explode and scatter thousands of tiny weapons over a vast area." Perhaps because cluster bombs were used unapologetically by Israel in its short war with Lebanon, and perhaps because banning such bombs would limit a commander's options, Clinton voted to keep them.

Obama voted to rewrite the immigration law banning supporters of terrorism from gaining entry into the United States, in order to ensure that legitimate refugees were not being kept out. Clinton opposed such a rewrite.

Clinton voted for a measure that would allow law enforcement officials to seize citizens' firearms if they saw fit after a national emergency. Obama voted to let people keep their guns. It was Obama's single "pro-gun" vote in the Senate.

Clinton voted against the confirmation of Bush's interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who had a 1% lifetime score on environmental policy from the League of Conservation Voters. Obama voted for confirmation.

There are some others as well. As you can see, these are minor differences. They are overshadowed by many, many more moments of agreement, which tells you that either the two candidates are very similar ideologically, or that they are simply party-line Democrats most of the time. I continue to argue that it is entirely legitimate for the press to report on how the candidates' experiences, character, and approach to government differ, even though such reporting would not be "on the issues."

The MSM Trying to get in Obama's Head

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 12:43 PM EST

Greg Sargent, over at TPM, catches the MSM red-handed not only reducing our most important decision to mere a mere horserace, but also trying to slip roid-rage drugs into it. (Sargent also apologizes for buying it at first when the piece ran yesterday and piling on).

Seems a reporter kept trying to bait Obama into going off on Bill Clinton ("Is he getting in your head? Why don't you answer the question?," etc.). When Joe Cool kept his cool and ABC didn't get the news it was trying to create, they created it anyway, National Enquirer-style. Check out their use of words like "the Senator shot back," "said angrily," and so on, and then check out the video of the actual encounter at TPM.

Right about now would be a good time for a reporter—oh say that one—to get fired. It's shameful. And, man, does Obama have class.

A New Twist in the Wall Street Panic

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 12:35 PM EST

There's another disaster just over the horizon in the panicked financial markets. It concerns monoline insurance companies, which guarantee bonds for municipalities. (In other words, they will pay interest on the bonds if towns or cities default.) At the turn of this century, these companies expanded into providing insurance for certain other types of debt instruments, including CDOs (collateralized debt obligations), which can include subprime mortgages.

"Of the $2.4-trillion worth of insurance coverage these companies provide, approximately $125-billion is tied to the faltering home market, according to industry estimates," reports the Globe and Mail. Since the big banks including Citigroup and Merrill Lynch try to shield themselves against subprime exposure through this type of insurance, the financial community is suddenly beginning to think monolines could turn out to be time bombs. As it stands, the banks themselves have written down $100 billion tied to CDOs. Under this kind of pressure, can the monolines hold up? Financial credit analyst Nigel Myer told the paper that even yesterday's rate cut by the Federal Reserve won't "get us out of the mortgage mess" or "solve the monoline problem." And earlier this week, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's chief executive, told the Financial Times: "If one of these entities doesn't make it...the secondary effect...I think could be pretty terrible."

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Schwarzkopf Endorses McCain: Let's Forget About the Iraq War

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 11:30 AM EST

A press release from McCain HQ:

ARLINGTON, VA — Today, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army (Ret.) issued the following statement endorsing John McCain for President of the United States:
"Senator John McCain has served our country with honor in war and in peace. He has demonstrated the type of courageous leadership our country sorely needs at this time. For that reason, he has my complete support."

A January 28, 2003 article from The Washington Post:

TAMPA — Norman Schwarzkopf wants to give peace a chance.
The general who commanded U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War says he hasn't seen enough evidence to convince him that his old comrades Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz are correct in moving toward a new war now. He thinks U.N. inspections are still the proper course to follow. He's worried about the cockiness of the U.S. war plan, and even more by the potential human and financial costs of occupying Iraq....

Suffer the Children, Embrace the Moms: Female Genital Mutilation

| Tue Jan. 22, 2008 10:18 PM EST

Maybe the way to make female genital mutilation matter to the West is to take it out of the African (i.e. savage) context. Did you know that Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims? That 96% of girls there are circumcised, many not even a year old?

There's a slide show at the NY Times link (from which the below is excerpted). Check out the slide number 4, a nine month old whose eyes are saucered, after the 'procedure,' with horror I'd say.

Inside a Female-Circumcision Ceremony. When a girl is taken — usually by her mother — to a free circumcision event held each spring in Bandung, Indonesia, she is handed over to a small group of women who, swiftly and yet with apparent affection, cut off a small piece of her genitals. Sponsored by the Assalaam Foundation, an Islamic educational and social-services organization, circumcisions take place in a prayer center or an emptied-out elementary-school classroom where desks are pushed together and covered with sheets and a pillow to serve as makeshift beds. The procedure takes several minutes. There is little blood involved. Afterward, the girl's genital area is swabbed with the antiseptic Betadine. She is then helped back into her underwear and returned to a waiting area, where she's given a small, celebratory gift — some fruit or a donated piece of clothing — and offered a cup of milk for refreshment. She has now joined a quiet majority in Indonesia, where, according to a 2003 study by the Population Council, an international research group, 96 percent of families surveyed reported that their daughters had undergone some form of circumcision by the time they reached 14.

Hold Grudges Much? Misuse Power to Settle Them? Meet, Rudy Giuliani

| Tue Jan. 22, 2008 9:45 PM EST

rudy-giuliani-80s.jpg NY Times:

Rudolph W. Giuliani likens himself to a boxer who never takes a punch without swinging back. As mayor, he made the vengeful roundhouse an instrument of government, clipping anyone who crossed him.
In August 1997, James Schillaci, a rough-hewn chauffeur from the Bronx, dialed Mayor Giuliani's radio program on WABC-AM to complain about a red-light sting run by the police near the Bronx Zoo. When the call yielded no results, Mr. Schillaci turned to The Daily News, which then ran a photo of the red light and this front page headline: "GOTCHA!"
That morning, police officers appeared on Mr. Schillaci's doorstep. What are you going to do, Mr. Schillaci asked, arrest me? He was joking, but the officers were not.
They slapped on handcuffs and took him to court on a 13-year-old traffic warrant. A judge threw out the charge. A police spokeswoman later read Mr. Schillaci's decades-old criminal rap sheet to a reporter for The Daily News, a move of questionable legality because the state restricts how such information is released. She said, falsely, that he had been convicted of sodomy.

It gets worse.

The Mortgage Crisis and our Pending Economic Collapse: Whose Fault, Who Gets Paid Twice?

Tue Jan. 22, 2008 9:08 PM EST

I'm ambivalent, trending towards punitive, towards all the supposedly hapless folks who bought ridiculously overpriced homes at dumb-ass rates that have our economy reeling from the mortgage crisis. I rent, I hate renting, and I deleted, unread, all the "no money down, fifty cents a month...for awhile" mortgage email calls, fliers, and emails I received. Too good to be true? You betcha. Yet, all the Dem candidates are weeping crocodile tears and promising to help these foolish folks who 'bought' homes they couldn't possibly afford without dealing crack and not the sensible ones like me who are still waiting for homes we can actually afford. Where's their plan for us?

I hate predatory lending and its focus on the usual suspects but c'mon! A bubble payment two years down the road twice the FULL value of the overpriced house? Who's zoomin' who? Part of me says "you made your bed, now move it back to your mama's house," part of me says, indict and jail the brokers and loan officers. Well, now we stand on the brink of recession partly due to it and—guess what—the lawsuits against the brokers and real estate agents have begun.