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Wandering Eye: Congress weakens Dodd-Frank, the oedipal drama of Silver Jews frontman David Berman, and more

Wandering Eye

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration manager from Maryland, Patricia Littleton, learned the hard way yesterday what not to do with a government-issued credit card: buy school and craft supplies. She's now charged in federal court with theft of government property for using the card to buy "backpacks, pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, glitter pencils and pens, magnets and decorations, folders, glue, scissors, and children's items at an Office Max store" in Hagerstown on Aug. 4, 2012, according to court documents. Now, more than two years later, she's facing a charge that carries maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It's unclear from the case record why an outcome short of the expense and anguish of a federal criminal case—such as having Littleton simply reimburse the government for the low-cost items—wasn't reached. (Van Smith)

Meanwhile, in Congress: Big banks are weakening the Dodd-Frank law, an already-mild remedy for the excessive risk-taking that crashed the world's economy six years ago, reports Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times. The name of the bill to allow banks to hold on to risky securities two years longer than the law currently allows is "The Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act." Always look for signs of "regulatory burden" when assessing the aims of plutocrat-controlled lawmakers—which basically means all of them. If it's not some big flag-waving title, the bill will supposedly be for "technical changes," Morgenson reports. This has been going on for half a decade with this bill, of course—and three or four decades at least, overall. "Still," Morgenson writes, ever the innocent, "it is remarkable to watch the same financial institutions that almost wrecked our nation's economy work to heighten risks in the system." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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Ava Kofman published a fascinating piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books about the relationship between David and Rick Berman—a father and son pairing she compares to that between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. David was the frontman for, and mastermind behind, the uber-low-fi band The Silver Jews, which rarely toured and broke up after a final show in a cave in Tennessee in 2009. He is a brilliant lyricist and poet—his book "Actual Air" is a classic—who rather publicly battled crack addiction and attempted suicide. Rick, his father, has been called "Dr. Evil" and is something like the main character of the film "Thank You For Smoking," a spin doctor who has "made the public 'think twice' about whether obesity, oil spills, smoking, drunk driving, and deadly chemicals are as lethal as they are made out to be." Kofman's story details not only the oedipal drama between father and son, but their vastly divergent—and yet equally masterful—uses of language. (Baynard Woods)

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