Today's Papers

Obama Hurries Toward Solutions

Today’s front pages herald the Obama administration’s sweeping new measures to contain the financial crisis. The Washington Postleads with the Treasury Department’s formation of a government body called the “Public Investment Corp.” that will purchase approximately $1 trillion in so-called toxic assets. The New York Timesleads with a call for increased oversight likely to come this week as part of a “sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation.” That plan will seek a broad new role for the Federal Reserve in overseeing large companies. The Los Angeles Timesleads with “one of the deadliest police shootings in California history,” a routine traffic stop that eventually led to three officers being shot and killed yesterday in Oakland, Calif. The suspect, previously convicted for assault with a deadly weapon, was gunned down by SWAT officers two hours after the initial shootings.

The Treasury is pressing ahead with plans to buy up the $1 trillion worth of toxic assets still burdening the economy, the WP reports, though details of the new corporation that will do the purchasing are not finalized. The body will include private investors and the Federal Reserve, but the government will be sticking its neck out farthest, committing $75 billion to $100 billion from the original $700 billion rescue package. The administration says its goal is to “pursue compensation reform that addresses public outrage while maintaining stability in the financial system.”

Prodded by this week’s wave of outrage over bonuses paid to AIG executives, the Obama administration is also hurrying along its long-discussed plans to increase oversight of executive pay. Details are still under debate, the NYT reports, but the planned regulation might be presented in place of further legislation and will apply even to companies currently not receiving federal bailout money. The administration hopes to have the plan written up before an April G20 meeting, where improving corporate oversight is expected to be a hot topic.

Officials say the CIA’s most expensive targeted killing program since Vietnam has been a success, according to a front-page LAT story. Predator missile strikes in Pakistan, dramatically increased since August of last year, have “taken such a toll on Al Qaeda that militants have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust.” The Bush administration decided in August 2008 to stop asking the Pakistani government for permission before launching missile strikes, leading to a nearly 400 percent increase in strikes from the previous two years combined. The Obama administration plans to continue the intensified offensive despite civilian casualities and protests from the Pakistani government.

Closer to home, the Obama administration is dispatching federal agents and equipment to the U.S.-Mexico border, the WP off-lead reports. The materials will assist Mexican president Felipe Calderón in his war against the vicious drug cartels benefiting from a steady stream of weapons and cash flowing across the border from the United States. License-plate readers, scales to weigh vehicles, and surveillance equipment will be headed to the border, and government officials are discussing ways to increase intelligence-sharing and military cooperation with Mexico.

The LAT fronts a less bloody war between self-promoting Hollywood events planner Brian Quintana and his celebrity patrons, many of whom he accuses of shocking—sometimes criminal—behavior. “If he is to be believed, actress Stefanie Powers sexually assaulted him, socialite Paris Hilton tried to wreck him professionally and movie producer Jon Peters solicited him to commit murder.” Quintana, who claims connections to dozens of A-list celebrities, has been in and out of court with almost as many. The stars all scornfully dismiss him as another one of the parasitic Hollywood opportunists who make their lives miserable.

Sideways, a 2004 movie about two buddies on a wine-tasting road trip through California, will be uncorked in Japan, the NYT reports. It’sthe latest in a series of films being remade by American production companies eager to expand their reach into foreign markets. Sideways is an unlikely choice for a Japanese audience, but producers are rerouting the road trip to more recognizable California locations and plugging local wines with up-close shots of signs and labels. Alexander Payne, who directed the Oscar-nominated original, has given the new version his blessing.

A NYT essay attempts to unpack “political distractions,” those bits of news, “seemingly side issues,” that whip up national anger in matter of hours. The AIG bonuses are “small change” compared with hundreds of billions of dollars already spent on misbehaving financial institutions, but the outrage that exploded virtually overnight could end up derailing parts of Obama’s agenda. Political distractions are often manufactured by the opposition, but “the ones that pose the greatest political danger are those that seem to erupt spontaneously, crossing political boundaries by putting a president at odds with his own party.”

An essay in the WP warns against the European social model, which the author says removes the human spirit from the stuff of life. Jobs are protected, wealth distributed, and recreation assured, but “human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.” Social policy based on that premise makes for an environment “inimical to human flourishing.”