Where’s the news? Obama’s is transparent — but not in a good way.


Check out this smarmy explanation by the Obama White House’s tech crew of its new website.

Barack Obama‘s version of the official presidential website,, is deeply troubling and downright scary.

So far, it’s nothing more than puffery. Even under the Bush-Cheney regime, the site included not only the expected puffery but also easy-to-access news and transcripts and schedules and photos — a record of the presidency, even with George W. Bush‘s malaprops.

I’ve e-mailed the site, but have received no response. Seeking explanations elsewhere, I see that the Atlantic‘s Megan McArdle noted earlier this week:

You’ll be pleased to know that the new site is very smart looking. Unfortunately, that sleekness has been achieved by tucking even more of that unsightly information out of the way, where it won’t mar the vista.

Just where it’s tucked away is unclear. The fact that it’s tucked away is more than annoying; it’s a creepy display of propagandizing.

It’s refreshing to have a brother in the White House. But Americans didn’t elect a Big Brother.

Maybe there’s another site that has that basic, necessary presidential info on Obama’s White House. There had better be, or all his talk about “transparency” will truly be transparent.

Memo to Obama: Spare me the site’s touted “blog” and give us the damn news and info.

Moving on from the government of record to the paper of record: The New York Times is ignoring not only other papers, as usual, but is showing a bald display of excessive ass-kissing of its new sugar daddy, Mexican robber baron Carlos Slim.

Freely admitting that I’m even whinier than usual, I’ll point out that it’s typical of the New York Times to pretend that other media outlets don’t exist: Today’s piece “Correction Officers Accused of Letting Inmates Run Rikers Island Jail” is heart-rending in its saga of brutality, but my colleague Graham Rayman broke the scandal long ago in his slew of “Rikers Island Fight Club” stories.

On the other hand, the Times isn’t even promoting its own past stories. The paper’s radically altered coverage of its impending bailout by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim shows that the paper knows where its bread is buttered.

Back in August 2007, Eduardo Porter wrote in the Times, under the headline “Mexico’s Plutocracy Thrives on Robber-Baron Concessions”:

Like many a robber baron — or Russian oligarch, or Enron executive — Mr. Slim calls to mind the words of Honoré de Balzac: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” Mr. Slim’s sin, if not technically criminal, is like that of Rockefeller, the sin of the monopolist.

The very next month, September 2007, the robber baron started purchasing shares in the Times. [CORRECTION: Actually, Slim didn’t start purchasing Times shares until September 2008. Thanks to reader Karl Werner-Bailey (see his comment below) for catching my error. My apologies. My careless error tarnishes, not demolishes, my point, but I have to face the facts that I’m having a bad day.]

Two months later, in December 2007, the paper’s ball sack had already ascended out of view — suddenly Carlos Slim was no longer a “robber baron.” In “A New Breed of Billionaire,” Landon Thomas Jr. wrote:

The global wealth boom has created a new breed of billionaire in once-destitute countries, and a number of them are using their wealth to push for social changes….

Carlos Slim Helú, the telecommunications entrepreneur in Mexico who is worth more than $50 billion, has pledged billions of dollars to his two foundations that will aid health and education.

In May 2008, the Times revealed in an out-and-out puff piece that Slim isn’t another reclusive robber baron but is rather a “shy” guy. From the paper’s “When Shakira Calls, Even the Shy Appear”:

The Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim Helú does not seem to like appearing in public, but he apparently could not resist an invitation from the Colombian pop star Shakira and about a dozen other Latin music stars.

Fast-forward to January 2009, and Carlos Slim is no longer so shy, but he’s even more philanthropic: He’s about to bail out the financially ailing Times itself, as Andrew Sorkin‘s “Billionaire Seeks Deal in Times Co.” noted:

Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican billionaire, is near a deal to invest about $250 million in The New York Times Company, helping to shore up the publishing company’s struggling finances…

Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Slim, who already owns 6.4 percent of the Times Company, would invest $250 million in the form of 10-year notes with warrants that are convertible into common shares, these people said.

As part of Mr. Slim’s investment, which resembles a loan, he is expected to get a special annual dividend, perhaps as high as 10 percent or more on this investment, these people said.

The January 16 Times story, which didn’t mention its own earlier portrayal of Slim as a “robber baron” (though other media outlets regularly still mention that critics call him that) admitted that the paper intended to keep the deal hush-hush:

It is unclear what motivated Mr. Slim’s investment, first reported by the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. He approached the Times Company in November, people briefed on the discussions said, offering to make a sizable investment. He never sought a governance role and did not express interest in influencing the company’s operations, these people said. The talks were intended to be private.

Yeah, the billionaire “seeks deal in Times Co.” It’s the Times that was desperate for a deal.

You’re unlikely to see the paper refer to him as a “robber baron” or “monopolist” these days.

While I place a call to the admirable Mr. Slim to get my own bailout, click on these items…


Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama to Lift Family-Planning “Gag Rule”‘

Obama will restore U.S. funding for family-planning groups, but chose not to act on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.


A delivery van jumped the curb on a bustling Chinatown street yesterday and plowed through a group of preschoolers as they strolled single file holding a walking rope while returning from a library – killing two of the youngsters and critically injuring another. The freak accident occurred at around 11:30 a.m., when the driver of the gray van…

N.Y. Daily News: ‘New York runs out of money to pay jobless claims’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Cable Rates, Phone Costs Negotiable’

…Under intense pressure from Wall Street to keep subscribers as the economy sags and competition intensifies, many carriers are bent on retaining customers even if it means offering big price breaks.


The dean of discipline at Cardinal Hayes HS has been arrested for allegedly fondling a 19-year-old student in his office, where he purportedly said, “I love you . . . I can take you someplace…

Law enforcement sources said the 25-year Hayes employee took the young man out of a class Jan. 13, and brought him to his office, where he allegedly unzipped the student’s pants and began fondling him.

N.Y. Times: ‘Worm Infects Millions of Computers Worldwide’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Miss World finalist has hands, feet amputated’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Some Firms Boost Boss’s Pension’

Some major companies are boosting the value of top executives’ retirement plans by using a generous formula when converting a pension into a single payment. The practice can increase a pension’s value by 10 percent to 40 percent.

Wall Street Journal: ‘New York Attorney General Scrutinizes Merrill Lynch Bonuses’ (Heidi N. Moore)

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating Merrill Lynch’s eleventh-hour bonus payments….Merrill Lynch executives, led by John Thain, accelerated bonuses to employees before Bank of America could interfere with the payouts…

Cuomo has taken issue with Thain’s actions before. Late last year, he criticized Thain’s request for a $10 million bonus as “shocking” and wrote a letter of protest to Merrill Lynch’s directors….

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Guards plead not guilty in “nightmare” Rikers beatings’

N.Y. Post: ‘Chute-For-Brains Jumper Ducks Jail’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Caroline’s bid a disaster from the start’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Cry for help unanswered for relative of Gaza victims’ (Juan Gonzalez)

Wall Street Journal: ‘Thain Ousted in
Clash at BofA’

John Thain agreed to step down from a top job at Bank of America after CEO Kenneth Lewis asked the former Merrill chief to resign.


Mayor Bloomberg blasted Gov. Paterson’s $121 billion budget proposal as “unfair” and “outrageous” yesterday, and said its cuts would result in tax hikes and…

Wall Street Journal: ‘Demand For Reverse Mortgages Climbs’

As the credit crisis has worsened, more seniors have turned to federally insured reverse mortgages to tap home equity and, in some cases, to prevent foreclosure.

While still a very small share of the borrowing market, demand for these mortgages climbed in 2008 as credit tightened and retirement savings plunged. The market is expected to grow significantly as loan amounts increase and baby boomers with inadequate savings tap their home equity to fund retirement. Consumer groups, however, warn that fees are high and the cash sometimes is misused.


Here’s one guy you wouldn’t want to face on Iron Chef! A hot-blooded sushi chef got so mad during a road-rage incident on Staten Island Wednesday that he whipped out his…

Wall Street Journal: ‘Fed to Focus
on Rates, Loans’

Federal Reserve officials are likely next week to stick closely to their approach for handling the financial crisis, despite internal divisions about some of their tactics.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Britain Enters Recession’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Firms Lobby as They Get TARP Cash’


Wall Street Journal: ‘U.S. Raids Contractors Aided by Murtha’

Federal agents raided two small Pennsylvania defense contractors that were given millions of dollars in federal funding by Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the defense appropriations committee and one of the most powerful men in Congress.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Times Co. Nears Deal On Building’

New York Times Co. is nearing a deal to sell a portion of its Midtown Manhattan headquarters in the latest of a string of recent efforts to reduce its debt load….

Times Co. has $1.1 billion in debt and $46 million in cash and a substantial amount of debt maturing over the next couple of years. With print advertising declines accelerating across all newspapers, Times Co. has been forced to consider a number of options to free up cash.

The company in November cut its dividend by 75% and is trying to sell its stake in the company that owns the Boston Red Sox and the team’s Fenway Park. Earlier this week Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim agreed to invest $250 million in the company in return for senior unsecured notes with detachable warrants convertible into common stock.


Wall Street Journal: ‘Troubles Mount for Chrysler, Fiat’

Chrysler and Fiat both showed signs of trouble days after announcing an alliance. Fiat said its debt soared and Chrysler disclosed costly sales incentives.


‘Probers Work Backward on Madoff’

From the Wall Street Journal:

The unusual nature of Madoff’s alleged massive fraud is complicating the SEC’s investigation.

FOX News: ‘Report: Larry King the Latest Big Loser in Bernie Madoff Scandal’

Bloomberg: ‘Madoff Shows Banks Must Become Whistleblowers’