Merrill

What's next for Navy's SEAL Team Six?

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Park Here

The High Line New York City Millennium Park Chicago Citygarden St. Louis A common plaint of contemporary social criticism is that American society has become more an archipelago than a nation, increasingly balkanized into ethnic, class, faith, and interest groups whose members rarely interact meaningfully with people whose affiliations they do not in large measure share. The pervasiveness of this phenomenon of American selfaggregation can be debated, but its existence is pretty plain.

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Chinamen

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History By Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton, 354 pp., $26.95)  Even in our fading half-life of cultural memory, the notion may endure that 1925 was a good moment for American literature. In that year, we were given Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. Hemingway was writing The Sun Also Rises.

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Chinamen

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History By Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton, 354 pp., $26.95)  Even in our fading half-life of cultural memory, the notion may endure that 1925 was a good moment for American literature. In that year, we were given Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. Hemingway was writing The Sun Also Rises.

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Before I answer that question, let me recommend Mike Grunwald's excellent cover story for the Person of the Year issue. It's a great introduction to Bernanke for readers who aren't economics or finance nerds, but you'll find it compelling even if you are such a person. I especially agree with Grunwald's verdict on Bernanke as crisis-manager: None of this was pretty, and reasonable people can disagree about the judgment calls. The Fed is supposed to lend only against safe collateral; the Bear and AIG deals clearly crossed the Rubicon into risk.

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Today's big financial story is the TARP inspector general report criticizing the New York Fed for not negotiating a better deal with all the banks--like Goldman and Merrill Lynch--whose mortgage-backed securities AIG had effectively insured, and to whom it owed big money once the market melted down.

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Worth Reading

Should the FDIC tap banks or taxpayers for needed funds? WaPo: the FHA's reserves will soon drop below required levels. Megan McArdle puts chances of healthcare bill passing at 75%. Could criminal charges be filed in probe of BofA-Merrill deal? NYT banking reporter Eric Dash's view on problems with Wall St. pay. Reviews of business and economics news apps for the iPhone.

The big story yesterday (and into today) was that Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke basically forced Bank of America to go ahead with its merger with Merrill even after BofA realized it would be on the hook for over $15 billion in Merrill losses. The two officials also seem to have pressured BofA CEO Ken Lewis to keep quiet about the losses (or at least gave him the strong impression it was in his interest to do so) so that his shareholders wouldn't torpedo the deal.

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Officer Politics

Merrill "Tony" McPeak doesn't like George W. Bush. But it's more than that. McPeak has contempt for the president, which he freely expresses. Speaking from his home in Oregon, the John Kerry partisan describes Bush in terms usually employed by the likes of MoveOn.org. "Not even his best friends would accuse this president of having ideas," McPeak says. Mild stuff in the age of Michael Moore. Except that McPeak's first name is General. The former Air Force chief of staff is not the only general describing the president in such vivid terms.

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More Than Zero

For those of us who believe that architecture is an unfailingly accurate mirror of a society's values, the current state of the proposed redevelopment of Ground Zero offers the most graphic evidence of how little things have changed in this country since September 11, 2001. This is not due, of course, to a lack of attempted involvement by the public in general or the architectural profession in particular.

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