Sheila Bair is a Bull Moose
in the China shop of the Obama administration's economic team, suggests
July 6-July 13 New Yorker as it examines internal tensions over
regulatory reform in "The Contrarian."
Ryan Lizza profiles the boss
of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a Republican moderate
from Kansas and Bush administration holdover who "has become an unlikely
hero to economic liberals, who see her as the counterweight to the more
Wall Street-centric view often ascribed to Timothy Geithner, the Treasury
Bair's basic ideology is
traced to the activist Republicanism of William Allen White, a turn
of the 20th century Kansas newspaper owner who later helped
found the Progressive Party with Teddy Roosevelt. Bair was notable in
sending out yellow flashing lights about the subprime mortgage mess
during the Bush years and is now a bit chagrined over Treasury Secretary
Tim Geithner's core regulatory proposal, namely vesting in the Federal
Reserve the power to take over big financial firms deemed to pose a
big risk, rather than giving the FDIC a central role.
"I think it's a starting
point," she says to Lizza, choosing her words quite carefully. "I
don't know if 'disappointed' is the right word." Hmmmm. Sounds
like unenthused might be appropriate.
This is a good piece, though
one that doesn't really touch on criticisms of Bair, such as the inadequate
FDIC risk models prior to the mortgage mess or to the possibility that
all we've really done is expand the bailout prospects of big firms
and offered no guarantee or systems to vastly improve the government's
Meanwhile, Bair is getting
a vivid personal reminder of the troubles in the economy, and specifically
in the housing market, even in the bucolic enfolds of western Massachusetts.
The Wall Street Journal just reported that she and her husband yanked
their 14-room colonial in Amherst, Mass., off the market. They initially
had it up for $795,000, and then cut the price by $100,000. Even proximity
to Dickinson House, the poet Emily's home across the street, hasn't
been sufficient lure.
---Newsweek's later deadline allows it to front Michael Jackson's
passing on its regular issue, while Time, which moved up a few days,
is left with Franklin Roosevelt on its cover ("What Barack Obama Can
Learn from FDR") but does match its competitor via a special issue on
Jackson, hitting the streets Monday. Here's Quincy Jones in Newsweek
on his first collaboration with Jackson, producing the album Off the
Wall amid significant record company qualms that Jones was suitable:
Michael was so shy, he'd sit down
and sing behind the couch with his back to me while I sat with my hands
over my eyes--and the lights off. We tried all kinds of tricks to help
with his artistic growth, like dropping keys just a minor third to give
him flexibility and a more mature range, and adding more than a few
tempo changes. I also tried to steer him to songs with more depth, some
of them about real relationships--we weren't going to make it with
ballads to rodents. Seth Riggs, a leading vocal coach, gave him vigorous
warm-up exercises to expand his top and bottom range--which I desperately
needed to get the vocal drama going. We approached that record like
we were going into battle. Off the Wall would sell 10 million
copies, but anyone who tells you that they knew it was going to be a
big hit is an out-and-out liar. We had no idea it was going to be as
successful as it was, but we were thrilled. Michael had moved from the
realm of bubblegum pop and planted his flag squarely in the heart of
the musical pulse of the 80s.
---July 13 Forbes sets
up Monday's sentencing of Bernard Madoff with a reminder that recent
white-collar fraud sentences have been rather stiff. "A spate of 20-
and 30-year terms shows a new fervor for example-setting from the bench.
For many middle-age convicts that's a life term." Oh, there's
an unrelated, fun tale on sports franchises going the jingle route in
"Tune in To The Game." It notes that the long-running "corporate
ditties" have been the Chiquita Banana song (1944-1999), the Mr. Clean
jingle from Procter & Gamble (1957-2008) and, still going strong,
the Oscar Meyer Wiener jingle (1963).
---July-August Mother Jones'
"Totally Wasted" cover package is a depressingly persuasive case
for our utter historic futility with a "war on drugs," mostly focusing
on the mess of dealing with the Mexican drug trade. A profile of the
dangers posed to a Mexican journalist covering the trade is revealing
enough but there's far more, with looks at the increasingly fragmented
nature of the cartels, the possibility that buying off Mexican cops
will morph into buying off border agents, and a nifty chronology of
America's drug history (there's a great 1983 TV Guide cover, promoting
Nancy Reagan's appearance on Diff'rent Strokes to push her
"Just Say N" campaign).
---July 2 New York Review
of Books is worth Arnold Relman's "The Health Reform We Need
& Are Not Getting." Relman, a Harvard professor emeritus and former
longtime editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, reviews Healthcare,
Guaranteed: A Simple, Secure Solution for America by Ezekiel Emanuel,
older brother of President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm, and an advisor
to the Office of Management and Budget.
Relman argues that the Obama
thrust doesn't address the catalysts of rising costs and proposes
"nothing likely to have much effect on them." Relman contends that
Obama and Ezekiel Emanuel simply don't attack the private health insurance
model and the fee-for-service payment system, which in his mind creates
incentives for continuously increasing medical costs. And even while
agreeing with some of Emanuel's analysis, especially in attempting
to reform the existing insurance system, Relman flatly disagrees with
the notion it should be supplanted by government-overseen competition
among private, for-profit insurers. He's convinced one needs a universal
insurance program run by the government and funded by taxes but that
such won't happen soon, meaning "things will have to get still worse
before major reform becomes politically possible."
---July House Beautiful
swears that, "It's a new day for beanbags," or at least beanbag
chairs, a staple (I can attest) of 1960s and early 1970s college dorm
rooms. Well, they might fit with some of the suggestions included it
this "small space issue," with lots of counsel for those without
a lot of room.
---June 29 Sports Illustrated
profiles Joe Mauer, a local boy who's making very, very good as the
star catcher for the Minnesota Twins and generating speculation that,
perhaps, he might make a run at batting .400 this year (it's not been
done since Ted Williams in 1941). In an age of big egos and ethical
disarray, Mauer is a sort of humble anti-A-rod. If Minnesotans voted,
Al Franken and Norm Coleman partisans would surely agree on that, even
if Mauer surely won't be at .400 at season's end.