Archives for: October 2012
The failures of government during the Katrina disaster were manifest. There was no lack of precedent. It doesn't take a rabid partisan to recognize the contrast between the multiple failures of federal disaster relief during successive Republican administrations and effectiveness during Democratic presidencies. Surely it cannot be entirely a matter of personality.
We can achieve a certain sympathy for public officials trapped by their own policies. A philosophy that says government can only be a problem does not provide an ideal organizing principle for an agency that saves lives. Some of the public demonstrations of calloused disregard for human suffering could be seen as the inevitable result of disorganization and unpreparedness.
FEMA had been a shining star during the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton had pretty much brought it to life. But the incoming Bush administration had a famed low regard for all things Clinton. From food and drug regulation to warnings about al Qaeda, Clinton preoccupations were regarded with amused dismissal by ascendent conservatives. A special unit of the FBI had been established to analyze recent actions of terrorists, anticipating possible points of attack. It was disbanded with derision. The FBI was not a "Federal Bureau of Analysis."
FEMA was no exception to the more general dismissive view. It was relegated as the final staffing point for political loyalists needing employment. Competence was not a consideration.
The appointee as the new head of the agency was a poster child for the new approach. The previous high point in the career of Michael Brown was his tenure as Judges and Stewards Commissioner of the Arabian Horse Association. He was commended for his strict enforcement of rules regarding equine surgery.
In his new job leading an agency assigned the task of human rescue, he was a lost soul. If he had simply been in over his head, sympathy for his helplessness would be an easy assignment. But of everyone involved with the tragedy of Katrina, he is perhaps the hardest one for whom to find any mitigation. Email correspondence later revealed a pattern that went beyond startling into the realm of shock. He leaps from the pages of any dictionary under the heading of sociopath.
He worried endlessly, agonizing over priority decisions. He sent urgent messages to those he trusted for critical advice. What shirt should he wear to his next television appearance? Should he button the cuffs? Or should he roll up the sleeves?
As those interviews shared television screens with pictures of the New Orleans Superdome, the makeshift shelter of last resort for those who escaped raging waters, he begged for insight on what he should do about the next crisis: What restaurant would be a suitable dining place for someone of his rank?
It was a Nero heroism at the burning of Rome. If Brown had possessed a violin, he would have been fiddling at the edge of the flooding. The magnitude of the tragedy was all that kept Brownie's performance from becoming a comedy routine. There is little humor to be found in death through careless neglect.
He resigned month later, and we can hope that God will bestow on him a blessing for leaving so soon.
Michael Brown is not beyond learning from his experience. He is a wiser man, educated by the harsh and bitter trials of the past. He offers his perspective as Sandy pounds the Northeast regions. He tries to be gentle in his criticism of President Obama. But it is clear to him that the leader of the Republic is off to a bad start.
The President went into action as the storm gathered its astonishing force and approached populated areas. Obama held press conferences and launched efforts of assistance as state and local officials braced. He was on the telephone to offer assurances of continuous help. His directives within the executive branch were clear. Agencies were to cut red tape. Paperwork and technicalities would not stop the saving of human life.
Michael Brown explained to the Denver Westword Press how the President is doing it all wrong.
Obama, says Brown, has been moving too fast.
Eighty six months can be forever in the consciousness of the American public. Daily life crowds out memories.
But even over time, we still remember those things whose effects persist. We remember the financial crisis because good people still hurt. We remember the invasions because combat heroes are still in harm's way.
We also remember the horrific events. Emblazoned on our minds will forever be the September attacks on American buildings filled with people.
And we remember, from eighty four months ago, the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. The icons persist, refusing to fade. Those terrible pictures of floating bodies, the temporary shelter of a dome that became an ongoing hell for those who waited and waited for help. An agency that could not overcome its own red tape. The I-can-see-my-house photo of President Bush looking out from Air Force One. The HeckavaJobBrownie moments, from the birthday party for John McCain while adults and children died, to Condi Rice shopping for shoes. And Brownie himself, the Horse Show manager turned disaster relief disaster. When his email messages were later revealed, they showed a mind preoccupied with his choice of cufflinks as he readied for television interviews.
What is forgotten is the oscillating nature of FEMA since its formulation in the late 1970s. It seemed like a shining example of federal accomplishment at first. Disparate agencies and bureaus were pulled together, combined into a single unified rescue force. But during the Reagan and Bush administrations, FEMA became the destination of do-nothing retirees. Like an ambassadorship to some quiet tropical paradise, it was a patronage reward for countless contributors and out-of-office pols.
In 1992, the final full year of the Presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida like a sledge hammer. FEMA, sluggish with political cronies, searched in vain for its tail. The beleaguered local management director for one county became briefly famous for her on air frustration. "Where in HELL is the cavalry?" It wasn't the first instance of an agency that seemed the victim of bureaucratic arteriosclerosis. When Hurricane Hugo had pounded South Carolina three years before, FEMA couldn't get out of its own way.
When Bill Clinton took over, FEMA was a favorite target of his wonkish obsession with policy. He appointed James Lee Witt to direct the agency. By the time the two got through with it, layers of obstructionist management had been removed and the patronage part of FEMA had been replaced with professionals. Hundreds of local disasters were handled quickly and effectively. The 1997 Red River flood in Minnesota and South Dakota was a sort of acid test, and FEMA established a sterling reputation. Praise came from every direction.
But President George W. Bush let it all go. Katrina was just the icing on Senator McCain's birthday cake.
President Obama is getting high marks for now as Sandy, the Super Storm accused of excessive steroid use, begins to vent Republican-like rage on the upper east coast. GOP officials join in praising FEMA and the Commander in Chief.
If you see a bit of a pattern, it seems to me to be no accident. It is not a matter of competence as much as philosophy. Putting rabidly anti-government people in charge of government is useful only to the extent that government is not useful. It is akin to hiring a PETA activist, a militant vegetarian, to cook a steak. You simply cannot expect a happy ending.
Mitt Romney is a candidate who lusts after loopholes, even as Bain Capital lusts after the pensions of unsuspecting workers. While President Obama is in the White House Situation Room checking with local officials on disaster survival efforts, Governor Romney deals with the disaster from a different perspective. He is trying hard to escape his earlier stands. FEMA? He never wanted to abolish FEMA. He loves FEMA. He merely wants FEMA to fully utilize the resources of state and county experts who know the local terrain. That's all.
Last year, in a CNN debate with fellow severe conservatives, Governor Romney was asked about what agencies should be cut. How about FEMA? His answer began this way:
"Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut -- we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing"
His philosophical flight was interrupted with a request for specifics. "Including disaster relief, though?"
He replied, "We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids." Well, that answered that.
The transcript is thoughtfully published by CNN.
Today the Romney campaign insists he was not advocating any degradation of disaster relief. He merely wanted a prudent reliance on local expertise. "As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA." Well, silly us for getting him all wrong.
Mitt Romney struggles toward a political center that, for him, is its own strange terrain. He has dwelled for a very long time in a country in which New Orleans circa 2005 is the rescue model of choice. It is a conservative land of every man for himself, every woman for herself, every child left to fend.
When a natural disaster calls for every hand on deck, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, like government itself, is in good hands. For the present.
Chrysler managers may have been surprised when they read news accounts of a Mitt Romney campaign appearance in Defiance, Ohio. Apparently, Governor Romney had gotten word of an impending corporate move even corporate officials didn't know about.
I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China. I will fight for every good job in America, I'm going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it's fair, America will win.
- - Mitt Romney, October 25, 2012
So, that same day, Chrysler put out a clarification, pretty much repeating what they had been saying all along. No Jobs would be moved to China from the United States.
In fact, the company had already announced that 1,100 new jobs would be added in the United States, just to build more Jeep Grand Cherokees.
They were happy about increasing world demand for Jeep SUVs. They sensed some opportunities to sell more in China. So, on the possibility that more SUVs could be sold in China, the company was looking into how to put a Jeep factory in China in order to build those new SUVs.
The Chrysler statement seemed to express some frustration with those "unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments."
So was it a lie?
Well, it was a falsehood. But a lie, to be a lie, pretty much has to be intentional. At least that's the way most folks look at it. For example, Stephanie Cutter, on behalf of the Obama campaign, passed on information to the press about the tragic deaths of an American ambassador and diplomatic workers in Benghazi, as it came from US intelligence sources. The main thrust of that information was wrong. So she told a falsehood. Was it a lie?
Even Presidential candidates can get their facts wrong from time to time. A stray comment about automobile production could be based on sloppy staff work. And you only have to look at Mitt Romney's foreign trip to see that his staff can have unfortunate experiences with factual fidelity.
Mitt Romney may have been handed a staff summary of a poorly written article appearing in the usually top notch Bloomberg Press. It starts off referring to a revival of Jeep production that had been closed down in China. One subsidiary of Chrysler "plans to return Jeep output to China" and "may eventually make all of its models in that country"
Only a few paragraphs later does the article mention that Chrysler itself is expanding and expanding and expanding production in the United States. After discussion of targets for sales of half a million vehicles outside the United States, and a more than tripling of production, comes this: "Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China."
Okay, so if a staffer had just looked at the headline, "Fiat Says Jeep Output May Return to China as Demand Rises" and scanned the first few sentences, the Governor could have been handed a note saying that Jeep was moving everything to China. Pretty scary news that he would want to relay to his audience.
And if we're going to say Stephanie Cutter wasn't lying when she passed on information as she got it, can we cut Governor Romney some slack for prematurely reacting to false information passed on to him by his staff?
I mean, Chrysler quickly issued a press release correcting Governor Romney, although with some pointed comments about fantasies. Countless news programs reported that Romney was wrong, wrong. So no harm, no foul, and most important, no lie.
There is no lie if the falsehood is unintentional, regardless of the corporation's irritation with the Romney misstatement.
On Saturday, after the false Romney statement, after the Chrysler public statement, after the news reports. Now comes a campaign advertisement paid for by the Romney campaign, now being run on television in Ohio:
Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.
It ends with "I'm Mitt Romney. And I approved this message."
Okay, I give up. It's a deliberate lie.
Just throw it on that huge pile over there.
Introduction, Traditional Service,
9:00 AM, October 28, 2012
St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Florissant, MO
Our Creator sees within us a hardcore value
that is greater than we ourselves can see.
It is an inner worth shared by each child of God.
Every human soul, every spirit, is precious.
All good gifts come from God.
Every gift is a sign of human worth.
When we give, we embrace that value.
We allow ourselves to be God’s pathway.
We are grateful for our part in God’s plan.
We receive, and praise God for each blessing.
We give, and praise God for each opportunity.
And always, always, we praise God,
from whom all blessings flow.
Found on Line:
"All Good Gifts"
by Natalie Sleeth
Hawthorn Memorial Methodist Church
It starts with yard signs being stolen. Conservative James Wigderson dismisses the annoying prank. But it gradually builds from minor vandalism into a full blown rant about hyperbolic Democrats who are McCarthyites, who are led by those who would be rude to kind and gentle Vice Presidential candidates in televised debates, and who allow the national debt to explode all over the universe. Local vandalism to local politicians, to national rudeness, to bankrupting what had once been a proud Republic. The domino like emotional buildup makes it worth a read.
It seems a research group has compiled several government studies to document how climate change is impacting geographic regions of the United States. The CATO institute is preparing a rebuttal. Mother Jones magazine got hold of a draft copy. Not hard: it's on-line.
The rebuttal is a bit sly. It copies the cover design of the original report, mimics the writing and table of contents, and is titled "Addendum:" followed by the name of the original. Except this piece claims that "observed impacts of climate change have little national significance." Mother Jones calls it a rip-off and says the obvious intent is to muddy the waters.
Thoughtful conservative Julian Sanchez is a fellow at the CATO institute. So I suppose it is understandable that he departs from his usual analytical style and publishes his own attack on Mother Jones because the magazine's "implication is that Cato is trying to perpetrate some kind of sinister hoax." He is shocked at the implication of dishonesty.
Actually the implication seems pretty much an explicit accusation. And yeah, it is a hoax. Julian's defense of CATO is mostly that the name of the CATO Institute is on that cover and that the draft is available on-line. No attempt to confuse casual readers here, folks. Move along peacefully now.
Jack Jodell at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST reveals who he likes for President. Although he doesn't put it this way, his argument is essentially the reasoning we have advanced at Fair and UNbalanced. Even though President Obama has not cured cancer, Jack is not persuaded to vote for Cancer.
The Heathen Republican examines the proposition that Democratic Presidents have abused Constitutional liberties more severely than Republicans. It is a serious and worthy topic, which Heathen addresses by means of an arithmetic comparison of the number of executive orders issued by each set of administrations. As may be suspected, I find the reasoning less than compelling. It is a little like arguing that I am a more reckless driver than my neighbor because there are more miles on my odometer.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame does a bit of hoisting on petards. He notes how one video host describes prevailing Republican views on rape and abortion, using their own descriptions and attack ads from recent history.
marindenver at Rumproast notes with some shock a move by Republican legislators to deal harshly with any rape victim who decides to give birth but then needs financial assistance in supporting the rapist's child. Pro-Life is to be imposed, not supported.
Erin Nanasi at Mad Mike's America examines the Republican concept of gradations of rape. The idea is that rape is not a clearly defined horrible crime. It is a continuum going from a forcible horror to a sort of gray area of male/female misunderstanding.
During the final Presidential debate, it occurred to me that Governor Romney's campaign had been reduced to promising that his policies would be the same as those in place now, only better. He would be President Obama, except on steroids: a sort of bionic Obama. At News Corpse Mark explores the idea with some bemusement, reviewing the me-too policy point by point.
Chuck Thinks Right takes two disparate comments by Chris Matthews about the Presidential debates, "I don’t think he understands the Constitution of the United States" and "He’s the President of the United States. You don’t say, ‘you’ll get your chance," and concludes that Matthews believes any challenge to President Obama is unconstitutional. These folks will breitbart at the drop of a hat.
Ryan at Secular Ethics considers the history that Governor Romney has pointed out of President Obama apologizing for America and discovers that there is far less apology in that history than the Republican candidate has suggested.
Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot analyzes what Intrade and others say about the probabilities in the next election and contemplates the future strategic military use of bayonets during a possible Romney administration.
T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, suggests members of what he is certain will be a Romney administration cabinet. I especially like his suggestion for one department: "Perry has a long history involved with agriculture..."
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster explains how to access what had been a live broadcast on changing political culture through independent voting.
I usually feel a sort of resurgence after worship services. Our pastor speaks on a wide variety of subjects, applying scripture and faith in often creative and insightful ways. But he becomes animated, passionate when he even tangentially touches on human worth. You are worth it, he seems always to be reinforcing.
I spoke with him briefly about it last night. I was dropping some materials off for Sunday service and we happened upon each other. I told him that I felt the emphasis was a little different with him. The message I hear between the words from many mainstream churches is kind of a downer. God loves you in spite of the fact that you are a miserable insignificant little wretch.
The contrasting emphasis I hear on most Sundays from our preacher, even if it is not explicit, is that you have within you a hardcore worth that even you cannot see. God sees in you an irreducible value that cannot be touched by anything you say or do. You are worthwhile, you are valued. And there is nothing you can do about it.
I suppose each pastor has a basic theme to his message, born of personal experience and inclination. The previous pastor dealt a lot with healing. He was uplifting in a different way. He touched a different chord.
What troubles many people of faith is the problem of evil in the world. In my case, the barrier was always the evil I could perceive within myself. I spoke once with a preacher in the Washington, DC, area about that. He was a leader within a more conservative part of the faith. Yes, he said thoughtfully, that's what troubles me, evil in the world and evil in myself.
The pastor here, the previous pastor, the one whose emphasis was on healing, sometimes confronted such issues directly. One traditional answer to evil has been that we do not know why God allows suffering to happen, evil to triumph, even if temporarily. But we must have faith that there is a reason. After all, Jesus himself suffered and died as a part of God's plan. Well, okay I suppose.
But the pastor back then was not ready to agree with that. He spoke a bit of free will, then he made what to me was a startling challenge to conventional faith. I don't believe, he said, that God wanted Jesus to be crucified.
The implication I got was that the tragic suffering was, at least in part, a willingness to pay a price in respect for freedom to make a choice.
When it comes to the theological question of evil in the world, my way of dealing is not to deal, at least not with the question. I don't engage enough, but when I do engage, the situation itself is enough to preoccupy me. It isn't a decision or a conscious approach. My focus, when I think about it, is more on what I should do in response to what I see and experience. God's reasons, being incomprehensible to me, are left for another day. Not exactly chicken salad. But not really what is left in the barnyard as chickens roost. Maybe somewhere between.
Many conservatives are pretty happy with God's-will-be-done theology. That old-time religion is good enough for them. Especially those who have gotten forward toward prosperity. You don't have to have an actual disdain for those who bear the brunt in life. You don't have to maintain, as do some, that those who are crushed down by life's burdens lack the moral character to rise up. The will of God theology may afflict the afflicted. But it serves to comfort the comfortable. We can bask in the rewards as God bestows blessings on the deserving: we, of course, being among the deserving.
Recent debate remarks by Richard Mourdock, Republican Senate candidate from Indiana, were a bit startling, but they were not unconventional within a certain conservative strain of Christian thought. He confesses to having struggled with the question evil. His answer carried a sort of finality to it. Doubts erased, certainty come to life in some I-came-to-realize epiphany about the tragedy of rape.
I just struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize: Life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
He later protested that his words had been twisted out their intended meaning. It was not rape that God had willed. It was, rather, pregnancy.
The outrage that followed represents the political problem for Republicans as theological pondering, troubling questions of private faith, become public policy.
When a religious discussion is held about the point at which human life begins, absurdities are examined with a sort of dispassionate disconnect. Life, being a continuum with very few clearly marked points, is not so easily defined. Religious folk can, and some do, envision life as beginning even earlier than conception. That is why any form of birth control can be a matter of troubled conscience.
But societal practicality, actual legal effect, need not intrude on a pin and angel question, even an important one, when it does not go beyond a private decision.
But when a legislative decision is made about the point at which human life begins, practicalities become horrifyingly real. If sperm-meets-egg is the point at which a human life is regarded as fully formed, abortion becomes criminal. Each miscarriage is a potential case of manslaughter. In vitro involves murder, and many forms of contraception are a holocaust. If an egg fails to meet the wall of a uterus, a human being has died. For every birth, dozens of such deaths come naturally. Keeping one of those dozens from reaching that wall becomes an unconscionable killing. Every sexually active woman becomes suspect.
Just how far the law must go in protecting the sanctity of life is a question of how far we can compromise with an absolute. Will there be exceptions? Life of the mother? Rape? Incest?
Even those exceptions carry a legislated price. In Pennsylvania, a law has been introduced dealing with rape. A victim who actually does submit to Richard Mourdock's form of severe conservatism, and later applies for state aid to help care for a child after giving birth, must prove to the satisfaction of skeptical authorities that she was actually raped.
When important theologically based ethics acquire the brutal force of law, the nature of society and equality are changed. Women, under law, are to be regarded as subordinate to decisions made by others on behalf of a single celled cytoblast. After all, someone has to make decisions for those not yet capable of defending their own rights.
Might as well be your local conservative activist.
In response to Burr Deming's Mitt Romney's Managed Bankruptcy
Regardless of the claim that "GM is alive (though it is charity-funded life support)," the difference between Obama's Detroit bankruptcy idea and Romney's Detroit bankruptcy idea is that Obama's paid off the UAW (a Democratic special interest) by flouting hundreds of years of bankruptcy law to put the UAW ahead of other secured creditors. Cronyism over rule of law. Gotta love it. And Democrats are keen on citing fascism as a rightwing phenomenon...the Dems' whole Detroit scheme epitomizes fascism.
- "ned", October 14, 2012
Yep, we need the federal government still picking winners and losers in our free market society. GM was foolish in succumbing to union demands time and time again so that GM was no longer competitive with many of their automobiles. A managed bankruptcy to reorganize and remove that debt is what a regular business would have to do. President Obama though thought is best to ignore the assets that were by LAW owed to the bondholders and instead gave much of that to the unions.
So we ultimately have the federal government taking over a private business, fire its executives, put its own government-picked CEO who had no auto-manufacturing knowledge in charge, tell what the salaries of those executives would be, dictate what cars would be produced (bye bye Pontiac, Hummer, Oldsmobile, and Saturn!), and mandate the shut-down of many dealerships often seemingly based on their political affiliations. Yep, Ned is right. Marxism/Fascism seems to be alive and well in the Democratic Party.
In addition to his generous contributions here, T. Paine writes for his own site where, in a warm atmosphere of congenial conservatism, Hummers hum, Oldsmobiles are forever young, Saturns have a familiar ring, and Pontiacs will always mean excitement.
Please visit Saving Common Sense.
The scene is from one of last year's Dilbert cartoons by Scott Adams:
The pointy haired boss announces that, as a cost cutting measure, free sodas will no longer be provided by the company. Dilbert tells him that there is no free soda. Never has been. Pointy Hair argues. Sure there is. In fact, I've been getting a daily soda from the refrigerator for a long time.
Asok, one of the employees, can't contain himself. He yells out that he's been bringing soda to work each day for years and it always disappears before he can have it for lunch. Pointy Hair looks at him for a moment. "Why didn't you just have one of the free ones?"
The unexamined assumption that resources are available for others is an easy one to make. When Mitt Romney made a speech to college kids about the tough job market, urging them to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities a free society offers, he spoke briefly about entrepreneurship. Don't just wait for society to hand you a job. Sometimes you have to create your own way. If you see a need that the market is not meeting, that represents potential business success. Gather up your resources and start your own business.
Take a shot, go for it. Take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.
Only someone born to wealth would take it for granted that middle class kids, if their financial portfolios could not withstand a new and sudden investment burden, could just just fall back on their folks for a loan or two of a few tens of thousands of dollars.
An unspoken premise is often the strongest. Mitt Romney is hardly alone in on-the-fly assumptions. Three years ago, a Missouri Republican legislator suggested that cutting off breakfast programs for little kids wouldn't hurt anyone. Families would just need to cut back a little, eat out at restaurants one or two fewer times each month. "Laid off parents could adapt by preparing more home cooked meals rather than going out to eat." Marie Antoinette lost her head over let-them-eat-cake humor that she probably never actually said. Today, Antoinette type statements are often spoken in dead-pan sincerity.
Many auto workers in Michigan and Ohio see Mitt Romney as ill-informed and uncaring, a Marie Antoinette who sees massive layoffs as no more than a Bain type business cost. His public advocacy of bankruptcy of major auto manufacturers was startling at the time. Those wondering if an end to employment was hours away had to have seen him as an enthusiast on the other side of their battle for survival.
Mitt Romney and his advocates see his views as misrepresented. A careful reading of one opinion piece published in the New York Times as Detroit was about to go under does support a more moderate view than Mitt himself represented to conservatives during primary season. He did favor the sort of restructuring that bankruptcy could afford. As he points out, he did not advocate liquidation. After bankruptcy, and before the sale of assets and the closing of plants, he foresaw a window of opportunity.
As Mr. Romney presented it, investors would no longer hold back in investing and revitalizing auto manufacturers if, at that propitious moment, the federal government were to step in. The assistance he envisioned was not direct financial aid. It would have been some form of carefully nuanced federal guarantee of private investment.
A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.
Instead, Mr. Obama used some of the funds being transferred to and from financial entities at the time to directly restructure and save the industry. He demanded that top executives resign. He put others on notice that no easy time was ahead for them. Pressure would be on them to perform. If they didn't meet rigid profit goals, there was no shortage of executives to replace them. And the entire proposition took the form of loans at substantial interest. The federal government is now making a profit on the deal.
The Romney approach would have relied on private investment. After all, with federal guarantees in place, what investor would have failed to go for a no-lose proposition? The answer, as it happens, is that no investor could have passed the Romney test.
At the time, every private source of investment had dried up. Financial houses were selling off assets like crazy in order to survive another day. The In-Your-Mattress savings program was the opportunity of choice for anyone with a little left over for next week's struggle for existence. A long term investment, any long term investment, even one guaranteed to include Mitt Romney's elevator garage in return, was out of the question for anyone. Financial geniuses at the time were running for their lives.
Mitt Romney's managed bankruptcy program, the one he still stubbornly clings to in here's-what-they-should-have-done retrospect, was the investment equivalent of our Missouri Republican urging those in poverty to dine out less frequently. It was financial guidance by Marie Antoinette. It was the assembly line version of Mitt Romney's speech to college kids.
He was telling an auto industry that was days from extinction that everything would be fine if it would just borrow from its parents.
Free soda, anyone?
Every year for nearly four decades, Nikon has received hundreds of entries in its Small World microscope photography contest. Every year, the images are more amazing, and this year's winners -- selected from nearly 2,000 submissions -- are undoubtedly the best yet.
Super-close-ups of garlic, snail fossils, stinging nettle, bat embryos, bone cancer and a ladybug are among the top images this year. The first place winner (above) shows the blood-brain barrier in a living zebrafish embryo, which Nikon believes is the first image ever to show the formation of this barrier in a live animal.
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When Edward Brooke was elected to the United States Senate by the people of Massachusetts He was the first African American elected to the Senate by actual people, rather than a state legislature. For a long time, he was the only black Senator in the 20th Century. Carole Moseley Braun of Illinois came next, in 1993.
After he was elected to fill Senator Ted Kennedy's seat, Senator Scott Brown quickly became the most popular Republican in Massachusetts since Edward Brooke. He's still pretty popular, but in the last few weeks maybe a little less than before.
The pressures of campaigning can provoke most anyone into behaving in a way that can impress folks with a negative image. A candidate can look like a jerk with almost any misstep.
And Scott Brown has managed to fall into his own sad pool of quicksand.
A run of bad luck began as Brown researchers discovered what they thought was a bit of a scandal about Senator Brown's Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren became well known as a policy expert who started the idea of a consumer protection agency to fight the ripping off of ordinary people by corporations who like to use fine print and fast shuffles to gain an advantage. Fighting huge corporations for the individual consumer made her pretty popular.
She also can turn a phrase. She made a famous presentation to a small group that became Youtube-viral overnight. Her basic message was that if you become very successful in America, you owe part of your success to teachers, role models, a free society, and the sort of backing that society gives: roads, police, and other forms of protection. And you owe it to the next generation to leave a similar foundation for success.
She made the issue easy to understand.
So you had a popular Republican up against a popular Democrat in very Democratic Massachusetts.
The scandal the Brown staffers discovered had to do with Native Americans. Ms. Warren has been a professor at Harvard University Harvard. At one point, she listed on a questionnaire that she has ancestry that includes Native Americans. Her heritage qualified her as a Cherokee. Harvard listed her as such, but later said that heritage was never mentioned during the process of appointment.
Still, some folks in Massachusetts are a little suspicious of successful minorities, maybe not as much as in some other parts of the country, but perhaps enough to tilt an election. Scott Brown kind of went overboard in attacking her family background. She had listed herself as a minority, he said, when clearly she was not. Making an explicit accusation that she was an affirmative action professor was kind of harsh. Setting himself up as a racial arbiter became kind of silly with each repetition. Clearly she was not Cherokee?
It turned out the damage was a lot less to her than anyone thought it might. Folks pretty much accepted that she was in fact, at least partly Cherokee, and that she had never tried to benefit from that fact.
Still the attacks went on, apparently in the hope that charge would gather some force with time and repetition. When Brown staffers publicly tried to disrupt a Warren rally with war whoops and gestures simulating tomahawk chops, the attack began to work against Brown, not against Warren. The head of the Cherokee nation publicly criticized Brown for not reining in his staff.
Brown began to look as if white resentment was his main campaign theme.
Then another scandal came up. Years ago, Elizabeth Warren had successfully pushed for a settlement in an asbestos illness case. Victims of illnesses caused by the careless use of asbestos had been about to sue. The case was settled out of court, and victims got a substantial restitution. Those who accepted did so on one condition, they had to agree not to sue separately.
Scott Brown publicly accused Warren of exploiting the victims, working with giant corporate interests to restrict payments to those who were hurt. Warren put the victims on television. They were furious at the accusation Brown was making. It was plain they regarded Elizabeth Warren as a hero.
What looked like a promising set of scandals turned into a bad hair month for Senator Brown. Almost anyone could be forgiven for a little private grousing. A guy from the neighborhood might have one or two at a local bar and begin piping up about how those people on television are probably just paid actors, hired to pretend they were victims helped by Warren. Unfortunately, Senator Brown did his grousing in public.
A lot of them are paid. We hear that maybe they pay actors. Listen, you can get surrogates and go out and say your thing. We have regular people in our commercials. No one is paid. They are regular folks that reach out to us and say she is full of it.
The those-people-are-just-actors stance pretty much exploded in his face.
One victim spoke quietly, his words were gentle. And the effect was a minor earthquake.
“Let Scott Brown tell me to my face that I am nothing but a paid actor, and I'll set him straight on what it was like to watch my father suffocate to death,” John English said.
A widow talked about her husband having died of mesothelioma from working at a shipyard filled with asbestos. She described her distress at the Brown accusation. Others also protested the Brown comments. They were not actors. They were not pretend people reading from scripts. "He's attacking people who lost loved ones to asbestos poisoning," said one on television, "just because we stepped forward to tell the truth about Elizabeth Warren."
What's a candidate to do? Brown apologized.
Still, the effect can't be a net positive for the Senator.
The image is iconic, playing into a larger Republican problem. The impression is one of disconnect. Those who are affected by what they do in government seem to some politicians to be little more than images on a screen, not to be regarded as real people. The hurt that is caused by legislative actions just doesn't strike some lawmakers as real.
Those people on television, those struggling their way up, are not paid actors. They may as well be.
For many months, Mitt Romney has seemed to me to be the alarming candidate on foreign policy: Pointlessly tough talking with the lives of others, a bellicose sounding wing tipped cowboy.
But last night was different. I know he will be criticized for excessive me-too-ism. But as I see it, Governor Romney made the strongest case possible, a more compelling case than I would have imagined, for replacing a strong and capable incumbent and taking office next year as Barack Obama's Vice President.
Interesting that Romney brought up the trade deficit with China.
What I find interesting is that the deficit has shrunk to its lowest since 2005. Hmmm...