Board to Death
November 10, 2009

To the frustration of many a cabinet secretary, the Obama administration is a little behind on its appointments. At this point—with only five weeks to go before the Senate breaks for recess—a little over half of the 514 positions that need filling have been filled. Some jobs are really important: The nominee for the Office of Legal Counsel has been held up for months. Obama’s choice for a USAID director came down just today. U.S. attorney nominations have slowed to a crawl. Other jobs?

Should We Care About the "Big" in "Too Big To Fail"?
November 10, 2009

Oftentimes when you debate a skeptic of structural reform on Wall Street, the skeptic will say something like: "Why are you so worked up about 'too big to fail'? Lehman was far from the biggest bank on Wall Street, but it caused plenty of damage." If anything, "too-interconnected-to-fail" is the real issue, they'll say--implying that this makes addressing the problem utterly futile, since severing interconnections is a lot harder than limiting bank size. In my experience, this can temporarily wrong-foot you long enough for the other person to seize the rhetorical advantage.

Today in "Too Big To Fail": More Shrinkage Momentum
November 10, 2009

Very interesting development on the "too big to fail" front today: The Journal reports that Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter is planning an amendment to the systemic risk bill currently before the House Financial Services committee. The amendment would partly revive certain New Deal-era restrictions on banks:  Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D., Colo.) is working on a separate amendment that would allow bank regulators to impose restrictions prohibiting certain companies from operating both a commercial bank and an investment bank if capital reserves fall below a certain level.

Today's Contest
November 10, 2009

When I clicked on Amazon this morning to find out about a book, I was informed that a book was about to appear that was tailor-made for my tastes: Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin. When I clicked on the button to “fix this recommendation,” I was informed that Amazon had recommended Palin’s book because I had once purchased Sanford Horwitt’s excellent biography of Saul Alinsky. OK, here is today’s contest: Sarah Palin is to Saul Alinsky as what or who is to what or who. You fill in the blanks. I spent ten minutes trying to do so, and gave up.  

Have Yourself a Nutty Little Christmas
November 09, 2009

How's this for terrifying? I just noticed that No. 1 on the NYT's list of best-selling children's books is "The Christmas Sweater," adapted by Chris Schoebinger from the story by Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck speaking to today's youth. God, I miss the days of "The O'Reilly Factor For Kids."  

Moments of Truth for Obama
November 09, 2009

I agree with Jason, it simply looks as though we're not getting anywhere with Tehran. This means Obama will have to make two momentous choices in the coming weeks. First, how many troops will he send to Afghanistan? Second, how long will he indulge Iranian stalling tactics before moving to a push for strict sanctions. On the Afghanistan decision, it appear that Obama is headed towards something on the order of 30,000+ troops. On Saturday the New York Times called this a "middle option." That's based on reports that Stanley McChrystal's request included an option for 80,000 more troops.

The Abortion Amendment: Could Obama Have Done More?
November 09, 2009

At the American Prospect and Feministing, Ann Friedman reminds us that the significance of the Stupak amendment goes way beyond the funding of abortion services for people who happen to buy coverage through the new insurance exchanges: On some level, I don't care about the nitty-gritty details of this amendment. This isn't just about how the money is allocated or what workarounds exist. This has me so incredibly infuriated because it further segregates abortion as something different, off the menu of regular health care.

Budapest, The Berlin Wall, and Iran: What Obama Does Not Grasp
November 08, 2009

It is just about 30 years since the wall around Iran went up. And it is a few days away from fully 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down. The Berliner Mauer had been up for more than a quarter century, and its surface facing east, grim gray, was a metaphor for life in the German Democratic Republic. On its western face graffiti evoked the freer spirit of the half-city whose heart had nonetheless been broken by the Soviet goose step that divided it. And the Cold War was won on the very day the authorities of the D.D.R.

A Lesson From Fort Hood: Great Moments in "Psychologically Disturbed" Gunmen Committing Mass Murder
November 08, 2009

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books.To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports. When John Wilkes Booth opened fire on President Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre in April 1865, the media was puzzled.

Abortion Rights Opponents Get Their Day--and Maybe Their Way
November 07, 2009

Opponents of abortion rights won a significant political victory last night, making it more likely that millions of American women will no longer be able to purchase insurance that covers abortion services. At issue is what happens inside the new insurance exchanges, through which small businesses and people purchasing coverage on their own would shop for insurance. People purchasing coverage through the exchanges would be eligible for subsidies if their household incomes were below four times the poverty level.