Daily Flog 8/6/08: Idiot SI sibs, the skinny on Obama, and finally a good reason to invade Iraq


Running down the press:


Attention, immigrants: If you can prove that you understand this headline, you pass the New York City citizenship test. If you need help, here’s Kyle Murphy‘s lede:

Days after a New Jersey mayor trashed Staten Island, two brothers from the borough were busted for trashing his town — and shoving one of its cops, officials said.

Times: ‘As Iraq Surplus Rises, Little Goes Into Rebuilding’

Based on a GAO report spurred by indefatigable Michigan senator Carl Levin, James Glanz and Campbell Robertson write:

Soaring oil prices will leave the Iraqi government with a cumulative budget surplus of as much as $79 billion by year’s end, according to an American federal oversight agency. But Iraq has spent only a minute fraction of that on reconstruction costs, which are now largely borne by the United States.

The unspent windfall, which covers surpluses from oil sales since 2005, appears likely to reinforce growing debate about the approximately $48 billion in American taxpayer money devoted to rebuilding Iraq since the American-led invasion.

As if that weren’t enough:

In one comparison, the United States has spent $23.2 billion in the critical areas of security, oil, electricity and water since the 2003 invasion, the report said. But from 2005 through April 2008, Iraq has spent just $3.9 billion on similar services.

Over all, the report from the Government Accountability Office estimates, Iraqi oil revenue from 2005 through the end of this year will amount to at least $156 billion. And in an odd financial twist, a large amount of the surplus money is sitting in an American bank in New York — nearly $10 billion at the end of 2007, with more expected this year, when the accountability office estimates a skyrocketing surplus.

Too bad the Times is so hidebound, parochial, and old-school newspaperish that it won’t include a link to the National Priorities Project’s Cost of War page, which breaks down the tab to U.S. taxpayers at $341.4 million a day and the running total, as I write, as $543,045,201,657. Oops, make that $543,045,394,187.

Those damn Iraqis. We oughta just invade their country.

Daily News: ‘Doped-up teen kills couple in Queens wreck: cops’


The lede sez:

A troubled teen who got behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz high on marijuana sped through a red light into a busy Queens intersection Tuesday, slamming into another car and killing a husband and wife, police sources said.

Actually, the kid wasn’t “doped-up” enough, but the story doesn’t reveal that until the 11th graf:

Mali Chubashvili said her son refused to take prescribed anti-psychotic medication. Exasperated, Chubashvili said she asked family friend Michael Mosehl to watch the teen two days ago.

But early yesterday, Jacob Chubashvili snuck off with the keys to Mosehl’s Mercedes and sped off on a joyride, cops said.

Marijuana caused this tragedy? If he’d smoked another blunt, he probably wouldn’t have been able to even get into the car.

Times: ‘Town in China Returns to Normal a Day After a Bold Attack’

Yeah, “normal.” Edward Wong‘s folo on Monday’s violence in far-western China ignores recent and ongoing history. The U.S. press swallows the propaganda of China’s rulers and calls this “terrorism,” but that depends on how you look at it.

China’s government is pushing its dominant Han Chinese into historically Uighur territory. So this is like calling the American Indians “terrorists” when the U.S. government encouraged white settlers to push West in the first three centuries of our country’s existence. Terror is terror; it’s frightening and disgusting. “Terrorist” depends on your point of reference.

There are millions of Uighurs, so what’s “normal” for this huge occupied area? The world’s most self-prestigious paper needed to background this piece at least a little for its readers’ sake. And when the Times doesn’t do this, then most of the rest of the lapdog U.S. press, which take their cue from the Times, doesn’t bother to do it either, which is why we need to keep ragging on the paper to do its job. And the paper could have done it by checking other mainstream-journo sources and throwing in a paragraph.

For instance, see Terry McCarthy‘s 1997 story on Time mag’s website and from one paragraph you may understand why there was such a brutal attack yesterday in you-never-heard-of-before Kashgar:

An oasis in the desert where China, Central Asia and India converge, Kashgar has been fought over for centuries, and has grown accustomed to seeing invaders come and go. At the turn of this century it was the Russians and the British who used Kashgar as a base to spy on each other from their grand consulates in the town center. Now China is the overlord, but the rhythms of life for the local Uighurs owe as little to the Han ways as they do to the British or Russians before them: the mosques are full on Fridays, the script is Arabic, people eat bread instead of rice and older women cover their faces entirely when they walk the streets.

For some great right-now photos of China’s Far West turbulence, go to The Opposite End of China.

Times: ‘Texas Executes Mexican Despite Objections’

You don’t have to be a foe of the death penalty to throw this context into the story — which the Times didn’t:

Of the top five bloodthirsty countries in the world, the U.S. is fifth and last. And that’s the end of the good news from the humaneness perspective. The four other countries are (in order of state-sanctioned bloodthirstiness) China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

Note that, of the top five, the U.S. is the only Western country, the only one close to being a democracy, the only “Christian nation,” and the country with the most Toyota-sales-event TV ads.


There was really no reason to abbreviate “anthrax,” but somehow it’s just right for this hed.

Chuck Bennett‘s ripped-from-a-’40s-teletype lede:

The intense pressure tactics that the FBI allegedly used against a suspected killer anthrax scientist included trying to bribe his son with $2.5 million to turn on him and showing his frightened daughter photos of dead victims.

Times: ‘Where the Race Now Begins at Kindergarten’

Winnie Hu reports on a really sad story for really small kids who belong to a really tiny percentage of New York’s population that can afford non-parochial private schooling:

[W]ith the recent boom in the city’s under-5 set, the competition for kindergarten places can rival that of Ivy League admission.

Thank God the city’s public schools are in great shape, as my colleague Nat Hentoff points out.


Mob scion John “Junior” Gotti was whacked yesterday with a new federal indictment for allegedly orchestrating three vengeful mob hits — including one carried out with help from a retired NYPD detective — and running a massive cocaine operation.

“Whacked” is such a cool word. It’s sure to outlive the fading era of the Italian-American gangsters.

That’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly word business.

Times: ‘Guantánamo Bay Judge Admits Possible Error’

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — As the military panel at the trial of a former driver for Osama bin Laden deliberated for a full day Tuesday without reaching a verdict, the presiding military judge said he might have given the members incorrect legal instructions about how the international law of war is to be applied here.

“I may well have instructed the members erroneously,” said the judge, Capt. Keith J. Allred of the Navy, during one of several sessions called outside the hearing of the six-member panel of senior military officers who are considering war-crimes charges against the driver, Salim Hamdan.

Wait a minute. You mean the “international law of war” is even supposed to be “applied”? Have you checked with George W. Bush‘s handlers? Or with Alberto Gonzales?


Misleading use of the word “lovefest,” which has come to mean only one thing in the Spitzer sex lexicon — unless the ex-governor has a previously unrevealed kink involving “kid gloves”:

ALBANY – More than 8,500 pages of Dirty Tricks Scandal documents released yesterday by the Albany district attorney reveal kid-gloves treatment for then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and little interest in aggressively pursuing criminal charges against any of his aides.

Slate: ‘When “Skinny” Means “Black”: The weirdest new criticism of Obama’

Tim Noah‘s piece isn’t a P.C. piece; it’s about a Wall Street Journal may-or-may-not-have-been-a hit piece:

In the Aug. 1 Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick asked, “[C]ould Sen. Obama‘s skinniness be a liability?” Most Americans, Chozick points out, aren’t skinny. Fully 66 percent of all citizens who’ve reached voting age are overweight, and 32 percent are obese. To be thin is to be different physically. Not that there’s anything wrong, mind you, with being a skinny person. But would you want your sister to marry one? Would you want a whole family of skinny people to move in next-door? “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy,” an “unnamed Clinton supporter” wrote on a Yahoo politics message board. My point is that any discussion of Obama’s “skinniness” and its impact on the typical American voter can’t avoid being interpreted as a coded discussion of race.

Even though Noah neglected to mention Fat Albert or Biggie Smalls, it’s still interesting.

Times: ‘Accusations of Sex Abuse Trail Doctor’

Leslie Kaufman gingerly backs into this explosive tale of celebrity pediatrician Melvin D. Levine‘s having faced years of sexual-abuse allegations. You have to wait until the middle of the sixth graf to read this:

Many defenders argue that Dr. Levine could not have worked at the pinnacle of his profession for so long if the accusations were true.

There have been, however, other complaints dating back 20 years.

Yes, we can’t imagine highly respected people such as doctors or priests behaving in such a criminal way and then being defended by their defenders.