The book won two of France’s most important literary prizes, but Gates make it abundantly clear why “it’s hard to trust that the author knows what he’s doing”—and calls the book “less a moral challenge than a sheer test of endurance.”

Sinners: All of the Washington economic reporters who missed the news in last week’s piece on 60 Minutes, narrated by Scott Pelley and produced by Henry Schuster. The story was about what happens when the FDIC takes over a bank that fails, but this was the news in it: Sheila Bair, the chair of the FDIC, and the only sensible financial official from the Bush administration, said Congress should start thinking about limiting the size of American banks. Here is the relevant exchange:

‘“And going forward, I think we need to really review the size of these institutions and whether we should do something about that, frankly,’ said Bair. Bair surprised Pelley when she suggested that maybe the mega banks, those bailed out by taxpayers, shouldn’t be allowed to exist in the future. ‘I think that may be something that Congress needs to think about,’ she said.

“‘Actually limit how big a bank can be?’ Pelley asked.

‘“Yeah. Well, you know, I think taxpayers rightfully should ask that if an institution has become so large that there is no alternative except for the taxpayers to provide support, should we allow so many institutions to exceed that kind of threshold,’ she explained.

‘“The idea would be that no bank would grow so large that it posed a systemic risk to the economy,’ Pelley said.

‘“Systemic risk, that’s right,’ Bair agreed.”

Winners: Lesley Stahl and Shari Finkelstein. The unreliability of eyewitness testimony is the oldest story in the criminal justice world, but CBS’s Stahl and producer Finkelstein still managed to make it new and dramatic with a double-length 60 Minutes segment about Ronald Cotton, who was wrongly accused of rape and spent eleven years in prison after Jennifer Thompson misidentified him as her attacker. After Cotton was released, he forgave his accuser. Then the two of them became close friends and even co-authored a book together, called Picking Cotton. A heartbreaking tale of injustice and redemption.

Ends today: If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of
10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

 

Charles Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis and 1968 in America. He has been media editor for Newsweek, a member of the metro staff of The New York Times, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the press and book publishing. To learn more, visit charleskaiser.com.