Media

Shelved in fiction: ‘Henry Paulson and the Toxic Assets’

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The Daily Flog: Bailing on the bailout; chips take dip; we’re running low on spam.

You can’t blame reporters for not getting the scoop on bailout czar Henry Paulson‘s latest moves.

Paulson himself doesn’t know from one minute to the next. We know it’s a crisis, but is he reacting quickly to changing events or is he just panicky and scrambling?

The vaunted Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) — the bailout that Congress wrestled with and finally approved — is now more trouble than it’s worth, as the New York Times and others report.

Paulson says the government won’t go ahead as planned with the key bailout provisions that Congress approved: the purchase of Wall Street firms’ junk assets.

So, the plan for spending the $700 billion is scrapped. But Paulson’s going to put that money somewhere. And he’s the appointee of one of America’s most all-time unpopular presidents (recent polls say that).

We just had a monumental election, but right in the middle of this miserable reign delay, Paulson’s rolling back the TARP. Who’s on first?

It’s not just Paulson. These days, any good news is accompanied by sour news, no matter what sector you’re talking about. Example: There’s a sharp decrease in junk mail since a major spam gang was captured, the BBC reports. At the same time, however, Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, further shook Wall Street with news that revenue (because of less demand for chips worldwide) is sharply down.

Never in the past 60 years have Americans had less confidence in a president, according to surveys, yet it’s Bush’s guy who is making moves — or not making moves — right and left.

This is the lame-duckiest of all lame-duck presidential situations. And we have two more months of Paulson trying to figure out how to bail out his Wall Street pals.

So ignore the grossly misleading headline on the main Times story this morning: “U.S. Shifts Focus in Credit Bailout to the Consumer.”

It’s not the “consumer” but the credit card companies and the like that would get direct boosts, in hopes of prying money loose from private investors to get the credit markets rolling again.

Any sympathy you might feel for Paulson’s task is tempered by the fact that it was he and his fellow investment bankers whose bad decisions got the financial world into this mess in the first place.

One thing Paulson is absolutely sure about: The time’s still not right for average Americans to be bailed out, despite the tone of the Times headline. As the Times notes in the last half — the meatiest half — of its story this morning:

Mr. Paulson also made it clear he did not want to use bailout money to refinance the mortgages of homeowners who are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Democratic lawmakers and the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila C. Bair, have been calling for the Treasury to spend $40 billion in a broad mortgage refinancing program.

While he flails around looking for ways to spend $700 billion on everyone but you . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

McClatchy: ‘Blackwater likely to be fined millions in Iraq weapons case’

AP: ‘Gay activists rally outside Mormon temple in NYC’

Bloomberg: ‘German Economy Enters Worst Recession in 12 Years’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Germany slides into recession’

Germany officially slid into recession today according to economic data showing that Europe’s largest economy shrank in the last quarter.

The Federal Statistics Office said GDP contracted 0.5% in the third quarter, following a 0.4% drop in the second, which corresponds to the official definition of a technical recession — two consecutive reductions in GDP.

The third-quarter contraction was much worse than expected. Analysts had predicted around 0.1%, but the slump in world trade has hit Germany, the world’s leading exporter, more severely than expected.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Obama’s message to the world: we will act quickly on climate change’

China Media Project (Hong Kong): ‘ “Guilt by blog” and the trouble with China’s universities’

As the internet has grown rapidly in China in recent years, there has been an attendant upsurge in cases where ordinary citizens, or “netizens,” are arrested, jailed or otherwise punished for things they dared to write.

The latest case to have Web users up in arms involves the alleged sacking of a substitute professor at Hubei University for Nationalities after the teacher wrote an entry on his personal weblog criticizing the school’s anniversary celebrations.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Murder charge after woman dies at Ku Klux Klan-style initiation’

Register (U.K.): ‘Batman sues Batman over Batman’

The mayor of Batman, Turkey, is suing Warner Bros. and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan for using the Cape Crusader’s name without the city’s permission.

Variety reports Huseyin Kalkan, mayor of the predominantly Kurdish town located in the Batman province of Turkey on the Batman River, is preparing to file a series of charges against Nolan and Warner Bros. for royalties from the blockbuster film.

“There is only one Batman in the world,” Kalkan said. “The American producers used the name of our city without informing us.”

He also hopes to pin a number of unsolved murders along with the town’s female suicide rate on the psychological impact the film’s success had on Batman residence, the publication said. (Why so serious?)

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Half-white is an insult: The debate over how black Obama is obscures the racial reconciliation his election represents’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Paulson abandons plans to buy up America’s toxic mortgage assets’

L.A. Times: ‘Angrier response to Prop. 8 steps up’

Time: ‘The Obama Transition: What Will Change Look Like’

N.Y. Times: ‘U.S. Shifts Focus in Credit Bailout to the Consumer’

L.A. Times: ‘Congress isn’t waiting for Obama’

“Lawmakers are unveiling plans to expand health coverage and curb global warming. And Democratic leaders have called a lame-duck session next week to discuss an auto industry bailout.”

The Age (Australia): ‘G20 leaders must wait for Obama meeting’

L.A. Times: ‘Suicide bomber hits American military convoy in Afghanistan’

Bloomberg: ‘Asian Stocks Tumble, Extend Global Rout, on U.S. Treasury Shift’

BBC: ‘Spam plummets as gang leaves net’

N.Y. Post: ‘PAULA FANATIC SUIC”IDOL”: OBSESSED SHOW REJECT KILLS HERSELF OUTSIDE ABDUL’S LA MANSION’

A two-time loser on American Idol who was obsessed with Paula Abdul — and was mercilessly ripped by judges after a 2005 tryout — died in an apparent suicide outside the star’s LA mansion, officials said yesterday.

Scotsman (U.K.): ‘Happy birthday, Nessie – the legend lives on’

SWATHED in mist, the grainy image depicts the brooding water of Loch Ness and captures the exact moment the Nessie legend was born.

It is 75 years since the mysterious shape was first photographed and more than 1,000 people have been spurred on by the iconic picture, claiming to have caught a glimpse of the world’s most elusive monster.

Register (U.K.): ‘DHS robotic airport missile-patrol plan to be shelved: Droid dazzler overwatch ploy too pricey’

N.Y. Times: ‘Bush, Out of Office, Could Oppose Inquiries’

Register (U.K.): ‘GooFlu searches for sickness: Google tells you when to get sick’

BBC: ‘Colombians riot over pyramid scam’

Register (U.K.): ‘Mankind to detect alien life “by 2025” ‘

China Media Project (Hong Kong): ‘Taxi strikes in China highlight changing press controls’