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Required Reading

4:10 PM, Jul 28, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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4) From the Washington Post, "Unfinished Business at Freddie and Fannie" by Lawrence Summers

The former treasury secretary and erstwhile president of the World's Greatest University takes dead aim at the rescue plan that has "saved" Fannie and Freddie, at least for the moment:

No one should suppose, however, that the issue is satisfactorily resolved, even for the short term. Emergency legislation was necessary because market participants were unwilling to buy Fannie and Freddie's debt; investors doubted that the government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, were healthy enough to repay it and did not draw sufficient reassurance from the implicit guarantee of federal support. If their debt proves easier to place now, it is only because this guarantee has been strengthened, not because anything has changed at the GSEs.

This, to put it mildly, is a highly problematic posture for policy. While I strongly supported the Federal Reserve's policy response to the crisis at Bear Stearns, because it was necessary to avoid systemic risk, it is easy to sympathize with those who fear that bailouts inhibit market discipline. Consider how much more problematic the Bear Stearns response would have been had policymakers signaled their commitment to back the company's liabilities without limit; left management in place with no change in the business model; and allowed dividends to be paid and shareholders to keep going with hope for a better tomorrow. Yet all these elements are present in the cases of Fannie and Freddie.

Some people think Fannie and Freddie are an election issue. Those people couldn't be more wrong. Fannie and Freddie are a bipartisan disgrace, and even for the handful of Republicans like Richard Shelby and Jim DeMint who find themselves on the side of the angels here, the issue is too complex to make any real political hay. All in all, the Fannie and Freddie debacle is a dispiriting case study in how our present leadership class isn't up its responsibilities.

5) From the Boston Globe, "Slugger's Act Has Grown Very Tiresome" by Dan Shaughnessy

For eight years, weary Red Sox fans have put up with Manny Ramirez's shtick. The guy can hit, but he's arguably the most frustrating player in the history of the Red Sox franchise. Now that Manny is getting older and his production is slipping, his antics are becoming increasingly untenable. At the end of last week, Ramirez sidelined himself with a fantasy knee injury. The injury just happened to coincide with Manny publicly expressing his frustration over his contract status. Writes Shaughnessy:

The Sox spanked him publicly Friday. For the first time. Outraged he would quit on them at the start of the Yankee series, they let him dangle in the breeze for all the world to see. Convinced he was lying about his right knee, they sent him for an MRI on both knees (in case Manny suddenly tried to claim it was the left knee). Then they made sure we all knew the MRIs were clean - getting word out before the end of the game. Late Friday, the club told him he'd be suspended if he refused to play Saturday - a sanction the Players Association would have grieved and won…

It looks like these are the final days of Manny Ramírez in a Red Sox uniform. He said it himself. Enough is enough. He's tired of us and we're tired of him.

Manny is an enormous irritant - no question. But one of the reasons the Red Sox have been so successful in recent years is they've looked to maximize a player's strengths while overlooking or at least managing his weaknesses. Manny's style is an affront to every Red Sox fan who thinks a guy who gets paid $20 million a year should care about his job. Not everyone can hustle like Pete Rose did, but for that kind of money the Red Sox should at least get a modicum of professionalism in return.

But don't look for the Sox to cut off their nose to spite their face. They need Manny's production if they're going to win their third title in five years. This will be Manny's final year in Boston. The Sox won't spend $20 million next year on an aging slugger/clubhouse headache. But someday from a distance, the Manny Ramirez era will look like a beautiful thing. He may be the biggest pain the neck ever, but he's also one of the best hitters ever. Sadly, there's no substitute for talent. Happily, the preceding won't come as news to the Red sox savvy management team.

Elevating oratory!