Weekend Reading, November 6-8
November 06, 2009

--Jill Lepore on murders and American history --Mark Bowden on the line between internet dirty-talk and internet sexual predation --Jenny Diski on Roman Polanski and rape --If all this is too grim, check out James Poniewozik's short essay on the media's centrist bias --And, finally, one Yankee fan who is not very happy

Another Step Closer to Breaking Up the Banks?
November 05, 2009

A banking industry lobbyist I spoke with this evening alerts me to a fascinating development in the House Financial Services Committee: Pennsylvania Rep. Paul Kanjorski is about to introduce an amendment to the systemic risk bill moving through the committee (see my discussion here and here) that would give regulators the power to break up too-big-to-fail firms. The details are a little unclear--as it stands, the current bill would give the Fed some vague powers in this vein. But the soon-to-be Kanjorski amendment appears to go much further, and the banks are freaking out about it.

‘With Them or With Us’
November 05, 2009

Almost three decades ago, a group of radical Islamist students, dressed in army fatigues or covered in scarves and black chadors, forced their way into the American embassy in Tehran. According to some accounts, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then a student at a second-tier technical college in Tehran, was invited to join the hostage takers. He declined, saying he would join only if they would also occupy the Soviet embassy in Tehran.

Would UAW Wage Concessions Have Been Good for Louisville?
November 05, 2009

Just after Ford Motor Company announced third-quarter profits of nearly $1 billion, its UAW-represented workers rejected a package of concessions including a wage freeze for newly hired workers and a no-strike pledge when the current contract expires in 2011. The concessions would have put Ford’s labor costs on par with those that GM and Chrysler obtained earlier this year. Those concessions, in turn, brought the companies’ wages and benefits down to the levels of the (non-union) Japanese manufacturers with plants here.

GOP Health Care Plan: Even Worse Than You Are Hearing
November 05, 2009

From the moment the the Republican leadership released its alternative approach to health care reform, critics (including me) pointed out that it was unlikely to make a dent in the number of people without insurance. On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office came out with its preliminary estimates of what the bill will do. And, sure enough, the critics were right. Overall, ten years into implementation, the plan would not significantly change the number of people with health insurance.

Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman To The Rescue?
November 04, 2009

So what's going on with the Senate climate bill? Kate Sheppard has the rundown of all the latest dips and dives. The two main developments are a) the Kerry-Boxer cap-and-trade bill is still, very slowly, tunneling its way through the various committees, but it's been bogged down by the fact that Republicans have boycotted the mark-up process in the EPW committee and are demanding further economic analyses of the bill; and b) John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Republican Lindsey Graham are now hashing out their own, parallel, proposal for a bipartisan climate bill.

On Predicting the Future
November 04, 2009

I don't want to get too Noam-y here, but I love Dave Leonhardt's new column raising--if not quite endorsing--the possibility that current economic pessimism is overstated, and that another boom could be hiding around the corner. In particular I find this compelling: When Bill Clinton convened a conference in the dark economic days after his 1992 election, some of the country’s top economists flew to Little Rock, Ark., to share their vision for the future. As Rahm Emanuel, now the White House chief of staff, likes to point out, they didn’t spend much time talking about the Internet.

Feds Pony Up Toward Great Lakes Water ‘Magic’
November 04, 2009

If your image of Milwaukee is largely derived from Laverne and Shirley re-runs, think again.

V: Tea Party TV
November 04, 2009

I didn’t watch much television as a kid. But when the miniseries “V” came out in 1983, when I was eleven years old, it was event television for the entire family. The sci-fi series used an alien invasion of Earth under friendly guise as a metaphor for fascism. Rather than Jews, the aliens targeted scientists (whose knowledge made them dangerous) as scapegoats. By the standards of early 1980s television, which were quite low, “V” was gripping drama. Last night, ABC aired the pilot episode of a remake of “V.” I had to watch. The episode was so-so.

Buffett Bets Big On Coal
November 03, 2009

One of the big business stories today was that Warren Buffett is planning to buy Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which boasts one of the largest freight-rail networks in the country. Buffett told reporters that the move was "an all-in wager on the economic future of the United States." That's certainly encouraging. But there's also a less-noticed energy angle here. Specifically, the BNSF railway serves a lot of coal fields in the West, including Wyoming's vast Powder River Basin, and hauls enough coal on its routes to supply about 10 percent of the electricity in the United States.