Clay Risen

The Shrinking of Lyndon Johnson
February 09, 2014

This Civil Rights Act is turning 50. It turns out its champion wasn’t the arm-twisting, indomitable genius of Robert Caro’s imagination.

Politico Gets It Right
March 26, 2009

I've railed on Politico for being too business-friendly in the past, so it's incumbent onme to point out when they're on the right track. This morning Eamon Javers writes up a brilliant, scathing critique of the Administration's new regulatory plan, essentially arguing that it's just low-hanging fruit and fails to deliver the sort of thorough reform the system needs.

Toxic Avengers
March 26, 2009

With anticipation of Geithner's plan buoying the stock market indices, one would expect to see a similar effect in the ABX index, which tracks subprime mortgage-backed securities. But, as the Financial Times reports this morning, there's actually been very little movement on the ABX, a bad sign for Geithner: But the plan's modest impact on toxic asset prices ...

John Hope Franklin
March 25, 2009

John Hope Franklin, one of America's leading historians and a pioneer among African-American academics, has died. Among his many, many great books, I highly recommend his last, Mirror to America, a memoir focusing on his struggle against campus segregation, both as a student and a professor. --Clay Risen P.S.: It occured to me as I was walking home that Franklin was also among the last of the heroic generation of mid-century liberal historians, among them C. Vann Woodward, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Richard Hofstadter, and Daniel Boorstin (who grew up near Franklin in Tulsa, Okla.).

Martin Wolf Goes Bearish On Geithner
March 25, 2009

I'm not the first person on this blog to recommend the FT's Martin Wolf as a must-read financial columnist. He's the best, in my opinion, if only because he a) gets apparently as much space as he wants and b) has a uniquely non-US perspective, a critical point of view in a crisis that is only partly about the American economy.

Schadenfreude, Anyone?
March 24, 2009

For anyone interested in a little Treasury Department psychodrama, tune in tomorrow morning for a live webcast of an interview between Tim Geithner and Evercore Partners' Roger Altman at the Council on Foreign Relations. Historians of the Clinton era will remember Altman as the Bentsen deputy Treasury secretary who fell on his sword in the early days of the Whitewater scandal; he went on to make bank on Wall Street but has forever been trying to find his way back to 15th and G.

Obama's Walk-back On Wall Street-hatin'
March 24, 2009

The Wall Street Journal has a thorough dissection of the Obama Administration's recent walk-back from its aggressive anti-Wall Street stance. Now, part of me wants to throttle the guy who said this--"The Obama folks don't even like us"--and scream "Are you kidding!?! Did you listen to a word Geithner said yesterday? We're giving you billions in free money!" But then I compose myself and realize that, to be fair, these are guys who lived through eight years of Bush, preceded by eight years of Clinton, preceded get the point. They're used to being coddled, even in a recession.

Meet The New Plan, Same As The Old Plan
March 23, 2009

Paul Krugman nails what I think is at the heart of so many observers' despair over Obama's PPIP plan: The likely cost to taxpayers aside, there's something strange going on here. By my count, this is the third time Obama administration officials have floated a scheme that is essentially a rehash of the Paulson plan, each time adding a new set of bells and whistles and claiming that they're doing something completely different. This is starting to look obsessive. Or cataclysmic. After six months of watching the economy implode, the best thing the new administration can come up with is ...

Foxes Guarding The Henhouse?
March 23, 2009

Count me among the extremely skeptical regarding Obama's bank plan. This line, from Timothy Geithner's Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning, stuck out in particular: Third, private-sector purchasers will establish the value of the loans and securities purchased under the program, which will protect the government from overpaying for these assets. The plan is to set up an auction, in which investors use large chunks of government money to bid up the price of mortgage-backed securities. I'm no expert, but two problems seem readily apparent.

What Would Mcnulty Do?
March 22, 2009

Fans of The Wire know that large sections of Baltimore's urban core are filled with boarded-up rowhouses. They've been an intractable problem since the city emptied out in the 1970s, so now the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts is asking for creative recommendations. Download this stock image, alter it however you like, and upload it to Flickr. You can see the results here. Oh, and for a neat article about other efforts to reimagine vacant urban space, click here. --Clay Risen