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?

The Great Recession and Inequality
November 06, 2009

Amid the dark clouds of the Great Recession, more than a few people have identified a possible silver lining--reduced inequality in America. Job losses on Wall Street, and talk of reining in executive pay and raising taxes on the wealthy, suggest at least a temporary end to rapid growth of salaries at the highest end of the market--a trend which produced the highest share of income on record for the nation’s top 10 percent of families in 2007. But this is short-term thinking at best.

Today At TNR (October 24, 2009)
October 24, 2009

The T.E. Lawrence of Afghanistan: Rory Stewart Takes on McChrystal by Jason Zengerle Returning to the Hotel Warhol Loved So Much. PLUS: A Great American Road Trip. by Stanley Kauffmann Love in the Time of Dictators: Gabriel García Márquez's Romance with Power, by Enrique Krauze Should We Send More Troops to Afghanistan? When? And What Should They Do? Insights From TNR’s Extensive War Coverage. by Barron YoungSmith Kirchick Vs. Khimm: Should Gay Groups Engage With Republicans?

Can Limits on Executive Pay Solve the Too Big To Fail Problem?
October 23, 2009

On Wednesday, Dan Tarullo, a governor of the Federal Reserve and distinguished law school professor, dismissed breaking up big banks as “more a provocative idea than a proposal” and instead put almost all his eggs in the “creation by Congress of a special resolution procedure for systemically important financial firms.” He stressed: “We are hopeful that Congress will, in its legislative response to the crisis, include a resolution mechanism and an extension of regulation to all systemically important financial institutions” (full speech). This put him strikingly at odds with Mervyn King, gove

The Pay Czar Strikes
October 22, 2009

So it really does sound like Ken Feinberg is on the right track. I like the idea of cutting cash salaries to under $500,000 for top executives and shifting compensation toward long-term stock grants, which the Journal says wouldn't be touch-able for at least four years (with the possible exception of companies that pay back their bailout money early). One question: What happens to the stock if the executive leaves the firm sooner? According to the Journal, Feinberg wants the long-term grants to start this year.

Last Standish
October 21, 2009

Standish, Michigan It's two p.m. on a workday, and the casino parking lot is completely full. Hundreds of people have come for the $20 gambling coupons offered to those willing to donate blood. Turnout for the drive was "above and beyond" expectations, says Frank Cloutier, a spokesman for the Saginaw Chippewa Indians, who run the 800-slot complex. The nurses are already turning people away two hours before closing, and they will soon run out of blood bags. "We get free money!" one woman tells me, clutching her coupon as her friends nod in agreement.

The Behind the Scenes Feud Between 'The Washington Post' and 'The New York Times'
October 17, 2009

Today's New York Times includes a "post-script" to the paper's Sept.12 piece that reported on the resignation of Charles Pelton, the former Washington Post executive at the center of the salon-gate controversy. In July, Politico broke news that the Post planned to host private dinners at the home of Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth, where corporate sponsors could mingle with Post journalists and senior Obama administration officials and policy-makers in an off-the-record setting. In the original Sept.

Against Transparency
October 09, 2009

I. In 2006, the Sunlight Foundation launched a campaign to get members of Congress to post their daily calendars on the Internet. "The Punch-Clock Campaign" collected pledges from ninety-two candidates for Congress, and one of them was elected. I remember when the project was described to me by one of its developers. She assumed that I would be struck by its brilliance. I was not. It seemed to me that there were too many legitimate reasons why someone might not want his or her "daily official work schedule" available to anyone with an Internet connection. Still, I didn’t challenge her.

Truther Consequences
October 07, 2009

Alex Jones is a husky man with short sandy hair, weary eyes, baby cheeks, and the kind of deep, gravelly voice made for horror-movie trailers. And it’s horror he has in mind. "Your New World Order will fall!" he screams through a megaphone at the shiny façade of a nondescript office building. "Humanity will defeat you!" A syndicated radio host, filmmaker, and all-around countercultural icon based in Austin, Texas, Jones has long been one of the country’s most significant purveyors of paranoia.

The Pay Czar Is Making Sense
October 06, 2009

I was pretty dubious that Ken Feinberg, the administration pay czar, would have much effect on Wall Street compensation--even at the handful of TARP basket-cases (AIG, GM, BofA, Citi, etc.) where you'd expect the administration to have leverage. In weaker moments, I even imagined Feinberg as a kind of a fig leaf, whose very existence confirmed that the White House didn't think there was much to be done about executive pay.