On Thursday, I posted a Spine calling attention to two elements of the current discussion on the disintegration of the mortgage markets and the stock markets. The first was the article in TNR by Joshua Rosner about the culpability of the ratings agencies who'd given AAA marks to funds and companies that were about to go bust. My second subject may look like a side-item, but it isn't. The fact that Moody's had collapsed from $76 to $46 on Thursday is a sign that investors know what this largest of the raters is: a big fraud.

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Trivial, Gratuitous...

...but still kinda funny. AP: President Bush had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at the Sydney Opera House. He'd only reached the third sentence of Friday's speech to business leaders, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, when he committed his first gaffe. "Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit," Bush said to Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Oops. That would be APEC, the annual meeting of leaders from 21 Pacific Rim nations, not OPEC, the cartel of 12 major oil producers. Bush quickly corrected himself.

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Why The Hate, Fred?

I realize Fred isn't putting much stock in the early primary contests, but is it really such a good idea to aggressively give the finger to New Hampshire voters by skipping last night's debate in such a high-profile manner? Months ago, New Hampshire GOP chairman Fergus Cullen (great name, eh?) was sharing with me his displeasure at Fred's reported plans to run an above-the-snow campaign.

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Via email, a couple of interesting reactions to my post about Hillary and experience. Here's one from someone on Capitol Hill who supports Obama: You touch on an issue that most folks have ignored to date. Hillary is billing herself as the candidate of experience, yet she has served in public office for only six months more than John Edwards and four years more than Barack Obama (less when you count his time in the IL legislature).

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Forget Iraq, terrorism, and the rickety credit market. This is turning out to be the best year in a while for political sex scandals--certainly the best since 9/11 supposedly focused our leaders on less tawdry pursuits. It's enough to make Gary Condit's head spin: Only eight months old, 2007 has already featured a Washington madam, a cruising senator, a cuckolded campaign manager, and a home-wrecking TV reporter. And while other sorts of recent governmental improprieties have had a decidedly Republican cast, booty calls appear relatively bipartisan.

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Until Proven Innocent is a book I have not read. But anything that Abigail Thernstrom has ever told me to read expands my knowledge and stretches my mind. She reviews the volume in this morning's Wall Street Journal.This book, written by Stuart Taylor Jr., perhaps the most trusted legal reporter in the country, and KC Johnson, an irreverent but scrupulous American historian, deals with the Duke scandal. No, not the endemic one.

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The Washington Post follows up on yesterday's piece by Jeffrey Rosen in the New York Times Magazine with a sneak preview of its own of Jack Goldsmith's book about his tenure at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. The Post article goes even further than Rosen in depicting the ridiculous bureaucratic political posturing Goldsmith had to engage in to make sure his legal opinions would stick: Goldsmith learned to be a tough interagency player during his tumultuous nine-month stint at the OLC.

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Hillary Clinton unveiled a new advertisement today, which you can find below. Its thrust is "change," but the new theme of her campaign is a mashup of "change" and "experience." As HRC said in New Hampshire this weekend: "'Change' is just a word without the strength and experience to make it happen. And I know some people think you have to choose between change and experience. Well, with me you don't have to choose." So far this "experience" theme seems to be keeping Hillary in the lead over Barack Obama. But what does she really mean when she talks about "experience"?

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All The World's A Stage

Say what you will about the underlying substance, Bush's trip to Iraq was expert stagecraft. The White House knew two things about this week's news cycle: One, that the media would be starved for things to cover after a holiday weekend--ensuring that Bush's visit would get massive play. And two, that this week truly begins a critical battle with congressional Democrats over how the surge (and therefore the proper response to it) is framed and explained for the public. The Bush team's plan worked like a charm. Democrats will straggle into D.C.

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Fa(rah)natic

This is rich. Joseph Farah, founder and editor of one of the internet's most popular conservative websites, WorldNetDaily, will moderate the GOP "Values Voter Presidential Debate" on September 17th.

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