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Ezra Klein: May 2, 2010 - May 8, 2010

Reconciliation

How was my day? Well, Desmond Lachman walked me through Greece's financial crisis, Al Franken walked me through his rating agency reform and I looked at how employment can grow even as the unemployment rate rises. Here's what I didn't...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 6:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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More on the Crash of 2:54 p.m.

Still curious as to how the Dow plummeted by 1,000 points in a matter of minutes yesterday? A big part of the answer appears to be that various automated trading programs, high-frequency trading technologies and assorted other innovations meant to...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 4:14 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Al Franken: The rating agencies had 'a reason to be stupid'

Sen. Al Franken's mostly kept a low-profile in the Senate. But he's recently announced his intention to bring a major amendment reshaping the rating agency business to the financial-regulation bill. Joining him as co-sponsors are Sens. Bill Nelson and Chuck...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 3:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Explaining financial regulation, Interviews  
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Blogging and blurting

Jeffrey Goldberg quotes a rabbi friend of his who worries that "the Internet puts a premium on speed. To blog is to blurt. Quick, you got an email, so respond. If you were responding in a letter, you might take...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 3:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
 
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Are vegetables the next pork belly?

This video from the James Beard awards gives a lot more credence to the haute vegetarian movement: Look, I love me some vegetables and I'm ecstatic to hear fancy chefs saying they're going to get the star treatment, but these...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 2:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Food  
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'Greece is like Bear Stearns. But there's a few Lehmans out there.'

With markets tanking yesterday in part on fears over Greece's economic state and people starting to utter the words "financial crisis" again, I called Desmond Lachman to get an overview of the situation. Lachman is a resident fellow at...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 1:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Interviews  
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Lunch break

Mario Batali sits down with Jon Stewart. The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cMario Bataliwww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 12:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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The weird relationship between 'Audit the Fed' and breaking up the banks

As the FinReg process has pushed forward, controversy has centered around two amendments: Bernie Sanders's proposal to audit the Federal Reserve and a proposal by Sherrod Brown (pictured) and Ted Kaufman to break up large banks. Grouping the two of...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 12:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Some thoughts on newsweeklies

As a Newsweek contributor, I'm saddened to hear that the magazine is up for sale. But like Felix Salmon, I think there's good reason to believe it will be bought: It's a major brand, with a global subscription base approaching...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 11:21 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
Categories:  Journalism  
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When bad economic news is good news

The unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent in April. But the economy added 290,000 jobs that month, which is a pretty good gain. On the face of it, that seems odd: Why would the unemployment rate rise while the...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 10:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (64)
 
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Secret holds are not the problem (but the Democrats would like to make them the problem)

I've never been able to get a straight answer on why, exactly, senators should be able to place anonymous holds on nominees. I can see the arguments for holds themselves: They allow senators to express strong opposition and, from a...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 9:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (33)
Categories:  Senate  
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Wonkbook: The Crash of 2:54pm; health care and health-care repeal both unpopular; Iron Man 2!

Remember that time the Dow dropped 1,000 points in, like, a minute? Yeah. Me too. And so does Wall Street. But now we're left with a whodunnit. Was it Greece? A computer glitch? Iron Man 2? And did you...

By Ezra Klein  | May 7, 2010; 7:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Gotta run a bit early today, so no links. But I'll be on “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann tonight in the first segment. We'll be talking about Senate holds....

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 6:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Dick Durbin: Let my nominees go!

The Senate confirmation process has bogged down. Sometimes, the delay is public, as when Richard Shelby placed a hold on all nominees. Sometimes, the delay is opaque, as in the case of secret holds. But the outcome has been...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 4:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Interviews  
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Why did the Dow just lose 1,000 points?

Here's a comforting answer: No one knows. But everyone is freaked out. Peter McKay offers context: The Dow went into freefall, tumbling through 10,000, before dropping as much as 998 points, or 9.2%. The biggest closing point drop in...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 4:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (37)
Categories:  Economy, Financial Crisis  
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Senate to vote on breaking up the banks and auditing the Fed

Most people tend to think that the question with an amendment is whether it'll get 60 votes. But often the question is whether it'll be allowed to come up for a vote. This is particularly true for popular amendments that...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 4:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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Like a civics textbook come to life

The Senate is currently considering Richard Shelby's amendment to move the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from the Federal Reserve to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., substantially weakening it along the way. Annie Lowrey reports on how the debate is playing...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 3:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Explaining FinReg: The rating agencies

Imagine a school with three teachers. But this isn't a public school. It's a private school testing out an innovative new funding system: The kids write the tests, fill them out and then pay the teachers to grade them....

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 3:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Explaining financial regulation  
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Lunch break

How to make chocolate:...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 12:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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When bad economic news is good news

Productivity growth slowed from more than 6 percent during the final three quarters of 2009 to 3.6 percent during the first quarter of 2010. Generally, you want productivity growth to be as high as possible, but this is actually good...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 12:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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How the filibuster destroys accountability

Rep. David Obey's retirement letter -- like Evan Bayh's before him -- is a remarkable document. There's a lot going on in there, but I'd just point out this passage, which is eloquently enraged on the difficulties the filibuster creates...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 12:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
Categories:  Senate  
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Tom Toles gets a look at the Democratic playbook

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 10:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Should we 'Audit the Fed'?

Right now, the Government Accounting Office is supposed to keep an eye on the Federal Reserve. But there's a lot the GAO simply isn't allowed to see. As Sudeep Reddy explained, "the GAO can't review most of the Fed's...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 9:46 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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Should you have to pay for restaurant reservations?

Bram Cohen makes the case for a new system: The restaurant continues to charge the same amounts it does currently, with the same menu, but there's a 'seating fee' for sitting down which might be charged if the restaurant sells...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 9:26 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
 
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Wonkbook: FinReg deal; Obey tired of explaining the Senate; Republicans take on Fannie and Freddie

Agenda House: Ready for the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010? Hope so, as the House is voting on it this morning. Meanwhile, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is holding a hearing on 'The Foundations...

By Ezra Klein  | May 6, 2010; 7:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Today I wrote up a primer on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, felt gloomy about the global economy, and wondered whether Wall Street has the standing to accuse others of economic illiteracy. Here's what I didn't get to: 1) This...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 7:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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Republicans and Democrats continue to agree on FinReg

You expect a hard-fought compromise between two polarized parties on a high-profile issue to involve difficult concessions and serious changes. But the deal that Richard Shelby and Chris Dodd struck on the too-big-to-fail section of the financial-regulation bill doesn't...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 6:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Scrutiny for the Super Fed

As Matt Yglesias says, the erosion of the Federal Reserve's vaunted independence has to do with the fact that the Federal Reserve isn't majestically presiding over an endless boom anymore. Poor performance invites more aggressive oversight. But I'd add that...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 6:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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The foreclosure crisis and Faisal Shahzad

I thought I said pretty explicitly that speculating about why a terrorist commits a terrorist act is a mug's game, but in case there's actual confusion (as opposed to a lazy preference for missing the point when it's politically inconvenient)...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 5:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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Explaining FinReg: Fannie and Freddie

The right way to think about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is to think about the widespread availability -- at least before the crisis -- of 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages with no prepayment penalty. That is not a financial product that...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 5:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Explaining financial regulation  
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Too much tail risk

The consensus, as I understand it, is that the Greece bailout might work -- but probably won't. That shouldn't matter that much, as Greece isn't that big: 3 percent of the Eurozone's GDP, and a much smaller percentage of...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 2:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
Categories:  Financial Crisis  
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The man who knew too much

I think John Thune's explanation of Bob Corker's occasional heterodoxies is what they call a "Kinsley gaffe": "I think he’s a guy who’s willing to get down into the weeds," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who is No. 4...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 2:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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Lunch break

Even before the BP oil spill, the oceans were in pretty rough shape....

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 12:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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You don't need to win primaries for them to work

Ruth Marcus's column arguing that Arizona's "Clean Elections" law gave rise to the state's immigration law by making it easier for populist candidates to fund themselves and for the extremist wing of the Republican Party to primary and wipe out...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 11:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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A theory of bloggers and the MSM

Greg Sargent was hired by the Washington Post/Newsweek International company to produce and write for a new Web venture called Who Runs Gov. The idea was Wikipedia-for-politics, but to keep people coming to the site, Sargent was brought on board...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 10:35 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Journalism  
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iPad memory

Here's what I don't understand about the iPad: How can the memory on it possibly be sufficient? The maximum-memory model has 64 gigabytes of storage. I don't have a particularly large music library, but I'm over 30 gigabytes on...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 10:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (31)
 
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Chuck Grassley's odd accounting

I highlighted this exchange in Wonkbook, but yesterday's back-and-forth between Timothy Geithner and Chuck Grassley was really weird. Geithner was appearing before the Finance Committee to explain the administration's plan for recouping the TARP money by imposing a 10-year tax...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 10:06 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Budget  
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Is J.P. Morgan's James Glassman a double agent?

Last week's hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations "exposed an unnerving ignorance of fundamental principles of market economics by folks who have a hand in remapping rules of finance that will be with us for a while," writes...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 9:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Wonkbook: Oil spill hurting climate bill; Dodd/Shelby near deal; Geithner sells bank tax

Agenda. House: The big bill in the lower chamber is Haiti Economic Lift Act. They're also moving a bunch of resolutions, including my favorite: "Supporting the goals and ideals of National Train Day." Over in Committeeland, the Joint Economic...

By Ezra Klein  | May 5, 2010; 7:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (26)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Today I wondered whether Obama's reaction to the oil spill shows a lack of commitment to climate-change legislation, argued about the true cost of oil, and talked up non-vegetarian, meatless cuisine. Here's what I didn't get to: 1) BP's green...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 6:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Why aren't Fannie and Freddie in FinReg?

One of the right's talking points on financial reform is that it needs to include major reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That seemed fair enough to me, at least until I started working on a Fannie Mae...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 5:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Financial Regulation, Housing Crisis  
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In defense of a moratorium on offshore oil drilling

Dan Gatti, an environmental policy analyst at Environment America, writes in to dispute Lisa Margonelli's argument that we should shy away from a domestic moratorium on offshore drilling because it'll push oil production to areas of the world where spills...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 4:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Climate Change, Energy  
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Did a climate bill just get less likely?

One of the big questions about the Deepwater oil spill is whether it makes a climate bill more or less likely. In the days after the accident, I sounded out Senate staff on this and they were exactly as...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 3:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Brooks's policy rules

“The influence of politics and policy,” David Brooks writes, “is usually swamped by the influence of culture, ethnicity, psychology and a dozen other factors.” True enough. This is why it's hard, for instance, to dramatically improve the outcomes for impoverished...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 3:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
 
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The economic crisis meets terrorism

Annie Lowrey catches something unexpected: The arrested subject of last weekend’s Times Square bomb plot is a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure. Here's MSNBC: [Faisal Shahzad] defaulted on a $200,000 mortgage on his Connecticut home and the Shelton property...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 2:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (35)
 
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Lunch break

Speaking of delicious food that happens to be meatless, here's Mario Batali making a ricotta frittata....

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 1:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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There will never be much vegetarian food. But there might be food without meat.

Since it's about lunchtime, it seems like a good moment to talk about Jay Rayner's piece on haute vegetarian cuisine. First, I need to make something clear, as these discussions often confuse people: I'm not a vegetarian. I limit...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 12:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (30)
Categories:  Food  
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The cost of oil and its competitors

One other way to think about the cost of oil is to recognize what is and isn't in the price of oil. So mega-spills like the Deepwater spill or the spills that happen in other countries are not in...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 11:23 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Climate Change, Energy  
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Why isn't Obama talking about climate change?

I've been thinking a lot about David Roberts's argument that the administration's response to the Deepwater oil spill shows it's not committed to pushing energy legislation this year. "If he was looking for an opportunity to drive home the...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 11:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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The BP oil spill is not alone

For some context on the BP oil spill, I highly recommend this analysis from John Broder and Tom Zeller: The Deepwater Horizon blowout is not unprecedented, nor is it yet among the worst oil accidents in history. ... The ruptured...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 9:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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Looking for the FinReg amendments?

Have at 'em....

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 9:06 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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The administration's FinReg scorecard

As I mention in Wonkbook, my colleague Brady Dennis has a great story this morning limning lobbyist concerns that financial regulation is turning against them. He quotes Sam Geduldig, a financial lobbyist and former Republican staffer, saying, "You've got an...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 9:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Wonkbook: Lobbyists feel FinReg going against them; Americans support racial profiling of Hispanics; Obama's corporate balancing act

The Agenda. House: Happy House hearts science day! They've got resolutions honoring the National Science Foundation, the need for our kids to know math and science, the 50th anniversary of lasers and satellites, and the 400th anniversary of the...

By Ezra Klein  | May 4, 2010; 7:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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Reconciliation

Today was the first edition of Wonkbook, my new policy newsletter. Subscribe and you'll have it in your inbox by 8:15 every morning. 1) Taxpayers will be on the hook for the BP spill. 2) Mark Bittman's new blog. 3)...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 6:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Fairness and Wall Street

During the 1980s and 1990s, economists in a variety of countries conducted a series of experiments that shocked their profession. The experiments were called "ultimatum bargaining games," and they were very simple: One person was given a pot of money...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 5:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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Legislating so your children can get elected

Ron Brownstein explains why the Arizona immigration law is bad for the Republican Party: In a nation that is more than one-third minority, nearly 90 percent of McCain's votes in the 2008 presidential election came from whites. That exclusionary posture...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 5:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
 
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Want to read a transript of Wall Street's regulators failing?

This transcript of Alan Greenspan trying to convince the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors to dismiss the obvious anomalies on the rent-to-price ratio graph (pictured) is a remarkable document. The SEC's case against Goldman Sachs might be more media-friendly,...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 4:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Tom Toles is worth a thousand words

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 4:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Was the economy of the '90s really so bad?

One of the constant refrains in the debate over regulating derivatives is that if we do anything to tamp down on this massive market for customizable derivatives that are built-to-order by the five largest banks, we'll do some terrible...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 3:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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'Every gallon of gasoline contains a tremendous amount of risk we don't account for'

Lisa Margonelli is the director of the New America Foundation's energy program and author of “Oil On the Brain: Petroleum's Long Strange Trip to Your Tank.” Her New York Times op-ed on the cost of an offshore drilling moratorium caught...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 3:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Climate Change, Interviews  
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Amazon memories

Megan McArdle passes along a fun-sounding meme: "go to your Amazon orders page, and see what the very first thing you ordered from Amazon was." My solo Amazon account was opened in 2002, and befitting my somewhat crunchier orientation...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 3:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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Lunch break

How to design a lecture that will go viral on the Internet....

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 1:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Can Greece be more like California?

Over at VoxEU, Jacques Melitz, a professor of economics at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a CEPR Research Fellow, argues that the Greece problem is, to a large extent, all in the EU's head. In particular, he says, the...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 12:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Economy  
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Thinking ahead on the oil spill

New America's Lisa Margonelli has a great piece in the New York Times thinking ahead to the likely consequences of the likely consequences of the oil spill. The obvious next step, she says, is a moratorium on offshore drilling....

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 11:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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More bling for Post food section

Congratulations are in order to Joe Yonan, Bonnie Benwick, Jane Black and Leigh Lambert. They're the team behind The Washington Post's food section, and last night, they won the James Beard award for best food section in the country. So...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 10:46 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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The economic consequences of the oil disaster

Annie Lowrey -- who really, really hates oysters -- found an investor analysis from David Kotok of Cumberland Investors investigating the likely economic consequences of the oil spill. Here's the best-case scenario: Containment chambers are put in place and they...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 9:59 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (30)
Categories:  Economy  
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Few like Blanche Lincoln's derivatives proposal

Blanche Lincoln's derivatives proposal was expected to be a weak compromise that would water down the bill and arouse progressive opposition. Bill Halter, her opponent in the Democratic primary, was previewing his attack on the issue before Lincoln had even...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 9:17 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Wonkbook: Oil spill worsens; Greece gets bailed out; Sheila Bair vs. Blanche Lincoln

Morning, wonks. And welcome to the first edition of Wonkbook! Let's get started. The Agenda. House: Not much going on. The body will meet, but isn't planning on getting anything done. They will, however, be announcing a Tuesday forum...

By Ezra Klein  | May 3, 2010; 7:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Wonkbook  
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