The Times Profiles One of Its Own

Reading Time: 3 minutes The New York Times published a glowing profile yesterday of Steven Rattner, Obama’s lead adviser on the car-industry rescue. It’s so laudatory, in fact, that the reader is left wondering why someone of Rattner’s elite stature and stunning qualifications would accept a job that is clearly so beneath him—save perhaps his exceedingly noble commitment to Read More

Socially Unconscious

Reading Time: 2 minutes Are you one of those who tries to buy the offbeat brands, because they’re made by small, locally-owned, family businesses, and tend to use more wholesome ingredients than the giant manufacturers? As someone who makes an effort in that regard, I sometimes wonder whether the companies are indeed the delightful anachronisms they present themselves as. Read More

Did Geithner Aid and Abet Citigroup?

Reading Time: 3 minutes The Washington Post, in conjunction with ProPublica, published a long investigative piece today on Timothy Geithner’s tenure as head of the New York Federal Reserve. The article particularly focuses on his oversight of Citigroup, the largest bank under the New York Fed’s authority and the recent recipient of $45 billion in TARP money. Under the Read More

The Tycoon

Reading Time: 1 minute Here’s a passionate tirade about the damage done to journalism by media tycoon Conrad Black and other greedy, marauding owners. Black went to prison for criminal fraud in looting his properties, but, typically, is unrepentant and finding even that stint simply another chapter of a charmed life. Black, a member of the British House of Read More

Gold Rush for Lobbyists

Reading Time: 1 minute Reform may be in the air, but the Sunlight Foundation has a new report noting that nearly 1,700 new clients have signed up with lobbying firms in DC in the first quarter of 2009. Sunlight describes their initial findings as a “first pass” at scrutinizing a database of lobbying registrations. Of particular interest: Our first Read More

Leahy's Truth Commission Hits the Skids

Reading Time: 3 minutes Those of you following the prosecution trail will be interested to know that Patrick Leahy’s Truth Commission is a no-go. I was in a meeting with Leahy and 4 other Vermonters on Monday when he broke the news to us. We had asked for the meeting to learn why he supported a Truth Commission over Read More

Comforting the Comfortable

Reading Time: 1 minute Every so often, mainstream journalists indulge us with stunning self-revelatory comments about themselves and their cohort. Consider Evan Thomas’s profile of Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in the latest Newsweek. Thomas writes: If you are of the establishment persuasion (and I am), reading Krugman makes you uneasy. You hope he’s wrong, Read More

Extracting the Truth

Reading Time: 3 minutes In an era when the public is demanding accountability, how accountable is the intelligence sphere? Employing hundreds of thousands and spending hundreds of billions each year, it essentially answers to no one. Even the people’s representatives tasked with riding herd, the congressional intelligence committees, have nearly always been kept in the dark, sworn to silence, Read More

More Leaks

Reading Time: 2 minutes In Not So Secret After All? (March 18), I pondered the spate of leaks on seemingly sensitive military and foreign policy matters. Well, here comes more. In the New York Times of March 28, we have in the lead story a full-blown leak-a-thon: President Obama’s plan to widen United States involvement in Afghanistan came after Read More

Of Bonuses and Shelters

Reading Time: 1 minute Stories about homelessness and the spread of tent cities abound. It has always been difficult to get an accurate number on how many people are without shelter, but homelessness groups have estimated that on a given night in one of the worst months of a typical recent year, that figure might near 800,000. Say it Read More

Meet Lloyd Blankfein

Reading Time: 3 minutes The Wall Street Journal has disclosed that Lloyd Blankfein was present at the meetings with Tim Geithner and Hank Paulson when the decision was made to bail out AIG, which had sold credit default swaps to Goldman Sachs on which AIG was unable to make good.  Goldman’s stock had plummeted to 35, wiping out vast Read More

Etymology as Journalism

Reading Time: 2 minutes Phraseology is fundamental to today’s political battles. Lobbyists, political strategists, corporate PR reps, and even academics expend an extraordinary amount of thought and money on framing issues with just the right label. Expressions like “bridge to nowhere” simply don’t arise from ordinary discourse. Consequently, journalists have to become etymologists to cover politics adequately.  Anytime they hear Read More

Truth or Reconciliation?

Reading Time: 3 minutes They are really coming. Official investigations of the George W. Bush administration are on the way. Karl Rove and Harriet Miers have just agreed to limited testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which is looking into the seemingly politically-motivated firings of seven U.S. Attorneys. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Patrick Leahy, his senate counterpart, Read More

It's the Culture, Stupid

Reading Time: 1 minute Character is fate, the Romans learned, and biography is history. They’re also the essence of today’s headlines. As serious journalists tackle our Great Crash, they should begin by digging deep beneath the perfunctory clip-file profiles of the major players — from White House, Treasury and Fed to Congress to counting-house suites — to connect the dots of lives lived Read More

Not So Secret After All?

Reading Time: 2 minutes Maybe I am imagining things, but in recent days, I have noticed a spate of articles in the New York Times and elsewhere in which government and military officials are falling all over themselves to spill the beans. On Wednesday, March 24, sources told the paper about plans to hit the Taliban in a new Read More

Railroading Good Government

Reading Time: 2 minutes The panic over government getting directly involved in running companies that can’t survive without federal support may be misguided. New York Times business reporter Louis Uchitelle makes this point, noting that As General Motors and Chrysler struggle to remain solvent, the railroad bailout of a generation ago could offer a template to the Obama administration Read More

By What Name Shall Ye Know Them?

Reading Time: 3 minutes Journalists tend to lean on simplified words and phrases to explain complex topics to a general audience.  Too often, though, they don’t consider whether their language is ideologically loaded or favors certain interests over others. Consider, for example, the ways used to describe the mortgage-backed securities at the root of the financial crisis.  The most Read More

Preventive Reporting

Reading Time: 1 minute Because I spend most of my waking hours reporting and writing about wrongful convictions across the United States, I am acutely aware when another one becomes public knowledge. Almost every day, I learn about yet another instance of an individual convicted of a crime he or she did not commit, and an eventual exoneration. Frequently, Read More

A News Drought

Reading Time: 1 minute USA Today reports that The first two months of 2009 are the driest start of any year since the USA began keeping records over a century ago, leading to severe drought in Texas, dipping reservoir levels in Florida and a surge in wildfires across the nation. With the risk to human survival that climate change Read More

Autocritique?

Reading Time: 1 minute I was reading a profile in the New York Times arts pages, about the novelist Zoe Heller: The idea for the novel came from a news article about scientists who thought they had found a gene that might be responsible for people’s beliefs, Ms. Heller explained. Regardless of whether it exists, she saw “the belief Read More