Sunday, January 31, 2016

No Boundaries For 3D Printing?

Presenting the first 3D-printed car.  That's right.  Car.  Bigger than amazing.

No Need For A "Border Wall"

They're not coming, they're going.  They've gotten the message.  When will the rest of us get the real message:  that we need immigrants?

You Can't Mock Elizabeth Warren!

One of many things I like about her:  she gives as good as she gets.  Here's an example.

A Big Step In The Right (Green) Direction

Half of all power plants built last year were "green." Amazing.

Let Them Eat Vouchers

That's what the GOP has to say to veterans, who overwhelmingly just want more doctors.  And veterans aren't happy about it.  You want more doctors?  Frankly, vote for Democrats.  It's the only way you'll get them.

And Yet Another Indictment Of "Third Way" Politics

Honestly, not much for me to disagree with here.  How about you?

Did The Clinton Years Create A "Lost Generation" Of Democrats?

Perhaps so.  Read this for a compelling argument in support of that thesis.

Way To Go, BDC!

They're giving the old Mayfair Theater a chance to live.

Six Practical Reasons To Save Old Buildings

From the experts at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Elizabeth Drew Is Right

Bush could have done something that might have stopped 9/11.  And didn't.

Give It Back To Marvel, Fox

If Marvel can take a C-list character (albeit a favorite of mine) like "Ant-Man" and turn it into a hit, think of what it could do with "Fantastic Four" if they could get the rights back from Fox.  Lord knows Fox doesn't know what to do with them.

America's First Offshore Wind Farm

Take a look.

Ben Carson Thinks He Knows What The Bible Says About Taxes

He's wrong, of course.  This helps to explain why.  But both Carson and the Slate author should take a look at this.

I Agree, Nicole

We should indeed have rebuilt the Twin Towers.  In many ways, it would have been the best revenge.

Can't Believe I'm Typing This, But You're Right, Rand Paul

And not extremely right, either, when it comes to Palestinian refugees.

Another New York Classic Being Saved

This time, a modern one:  the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport.

New York, It's About Time!

Older buildings are becoming the hottest residential properties in the Big Apple.

Republicans, Do You Want To Help The Self-Employed?

Then help immigrants.

The Value Of Trademark Protection

You may think that you don't need it for your business, but you might want to think again after you take a look at this.

This Is Why We Need More Research On Gun Use

It actually makes a difference.  Take a look.

The Tea Party May Not Be As Crazy As We Thought

Kelly Ayotte says yes to Obama's Clean Power Plan.  Who would have thought it?

Think Raising Taxes On The 1% Wouldn't Make A Difference?

Think again.

Crowdfunding for Not-For-Profits?

It may make a difference for some organizations, according to the Clyde Fitch Report.

Speaking Of Historic Theaters ...

... here's one in New York that is 100 years old and, happily, in no danger of being moved.  Bravo!

Why The Palace Theater Should NOT Be Moved

Just when you think you can breath a sigh of relief about the future of Broadway's historic theaters--and, for that matter, rejoice in the futures of one about to rejoin the theater community, while another gets a non-profit company for a full-time tenant and a restoration to boot--the ingenuity of New York real estate developers strikes again.

Ever heard of an entire theater building effectively put on an elevator, jacked up off the ground, and having retail space inserted underneath it, while its entrance is moved around the corner to a side street for the benefit of access to said retail space?  Probably not before, but now you have. Yes, the Palace Theater, the legendary home of vaudeville, Judy Garland concerts and Broadway musicals, is essentially going to be uprooted from its historic site and pushed up 29 feet into the air, so that retail space can be inserted underneath it.  Moreover, what was left of its historic entrance (which was not much) will be gone forever.  Instead, the entrance will be pushed around the corner to 47th Street.

Why?  Dollars, dollars, dollars.  The value of the land underneath the Palace is now worth more as retail space than it is as theater space.  The theater itself is landmarked, so it can't be destroyed (and, allegedly, will be "restored" as part of this crazy scheme).  But it apparently can be pushed up into the air; the NYC Landmarks Commission has signed off on this.  It won't actually go forward until the Palace's current tenant, "An American In Paris," ends its current run, which may take a few years. But, other than that, it's a done deal.

We are, of course, reliably assured that all of this is technically feasible, and that the landmarked theater stage house and auditorium won't be harmed in any way.  After all, something similar was done with the former Empire Theater on 42nd Street, when it was put on rollers and moved down the block to accommodate a larger development on its former site.  The Empire survived its trip; why should we fear for the future of the Palace?

Well, for one thing, the Empire didn't (to borrow a line from "Wicked") defy gravity, as the Palace is expected to do now.  If something goes wrong, what happens to "100 years of vaudeville history"? Who will pick up the pieces? For that matter, will the pieces be picked up?  Will it even be possible to even repair or remove any damage safely and economically, given the fact that, as of several decades ago, the theater was essentially encased inside a newer, modern hotel?

It seems like an awful lot of risk, expense and stress to go through simply to create more retail space in a city that is already filled with "For Rent" signs on existing retail spaces.  New York generally is in a period where a handful of superwealthy people are able to jack up the price of everything, but not successfully occupy all of it because there simply aren't enough of them to do so. That's why so much of what does get sold or leased goes to overseas owners or tenants.  As a result, no one else can afford to live in New York, because all of the developers and landlords are trying to strike it rich with a shrinking pool of Midases.

Beyond that, there's the question of history.  As I've said before, historic theaters are historic not just because of their architecture, but also because cultural history was made on those sites. Change the site, and you damage the integrity of the historic location, at the very least.  I would argue that you obliterate it altogether.

It appears too late to stop this sacrilege.  All we can do is hope and pray that no other Broadway landlord is looking for "basement rights."

Here's How We Need To "Try" On Guns, Mr. Kristoff

A little over a month ago, after the San Bernardino shootings, I made a point of saving this column by Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times.  Apart from the fact that he says almost all that needs to be said about what America needs to do about the gun nightmare in its midst, what struck me about the column was something that, in one sense, was even sadder.

Kristoff's new urgency about taking action on guns stands in stark contrast to a column he wrote many years ago, in which he urged Democrats to drop all efforts at promoting gun control and refocus their political energies on issues where they stood a greater chance of making political progress.  Sadly, he is now forced to see, as are we all, the consequences of ignoring a danger because of the "political feasibility" of  ignoring it.

If an issue is important enough, if the consequences of not addressing it become a matter of life and death, then there is never a better or more urgent time to address it than now.  And, in the wake of the epidemic of gun violence that is gripping our nation, that fact has never been more obvious, or more tragic.  The blood of these victims, and the damaged lives of the survivors, are both on everyone who thought that there was a more expedient time to address the issue.

And yet, in one sense, Kristoff had a point and, sadly, he may still have it, given the current partisan configuration in Washington.  Mirroring the racial animus of its voters in response to the presidency of Barack Obama, the Republicans who control many of the state governments have unleashed a tidal wave of laws that make owning and using a gun easier than owning and driving a car.  And their colleagues in Congress would no doubt do the same, without Obama's opposition.  If they get a Republican in the White House to work with next year, there's no knowing when or where the floodgates of gun violence will shut.  Or, for that matter, even if they will.

So, how do we act now, while acknowledging that the political process is screaming "Halt!"?  Sadly, there seems to me to be only one way.

It may be hard to remember for some, but Ronald Reagan's advocacy for gun control laws, which Kristoff references in his column, was rooted in his experience with the Black Panthers and other similar organizations during his time as Governor of California.  In his view, there were no private militia rights, or even rights of self-defense, for African-Americans living in poor neighborhoods who felt that the police treated them as criminals simply because of the color of their skin.  No, there was just the need for "law and order," and the need to maintain it by making sure that guns didn't fall into the hands of the "wrong people."

America' birth was compromised by the issue of race, and nowhere (as I've said before) has that been more evident than with reference to the issue of guns.  Guns have been used historically to suppress African-Americans.  Guns are being used today for exactly the same purpose.  There is a grotesque imbalance of power, and only one way to redress it.  The African-American community must arm itself--lawfully, and for defensive purposes only.  The other side only understands the language of bullets.  There is a need for the victims to become fluent in that language.

Only then will there be a real incentive for "gun rights" advocates to sue for peace.  And only then will they be ready to accept the terms that need to be imposed, the ones that will help to ensure a fair, free, and safe society for all.

Public Employee Unions In A Nation of Free-Riders

You might have hoped that the Supreme Court would have, by now, run out of opportunities to destroy the rights of average Americans.  On the strength of this case that is currently before the Court, among others, you would be wrong.

The case in question, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, was brought by a group of California public school teachers who, having enjoyed the considerable benefits of belonging to a union that protected and promoted their rights in the workplace, felt that it was "unfair" for that union to advocate policies with which they disagreed.  They are, in fact, not even members of the union. What they specifically object to is the fact that, as non-union members enjoying the benefits of unionized membership, they are required to pay an "agency fee" to the union, and the proceeds from this fee are subsequently used for the advocacy to which they object.

As is indicated in the linked article (as well as this one published by, the Court's Republican majority appears ready to rule in the teachers' favor and, in the process of doing so, overturn 40 years of precedent on the subject.  This appears to be completely consistent with Chief Justice John Roberts' "balls and strikes" view of his job:  call balls on precedents he likes (see;  the Citizens United case and its relationship to Buckley v. Valeo), and strikes on ones he doesn't (the current case).  Stare decisis, on this Court, is very much in the eye of the beholder.

But, for me at least, it is impossible to escape the hypocrisy of the teachers, and other similar efforts to enjoy the benefits of progressive policies and institutions without bothering to shouldering any of the costs of paying for them.  It is no different from the modern attitude toward taxation and welfare-state benefits.  Let someone else pay for my Medicare, my Social Security, and so on.  Because this is America.  What's mine is mine, and therefore someone else should pay for it.  That is the degraded shadow of what once was considered to be American exceptionalism, the frontier perspective that we all have the right to protect the lives we built in the wilderness.

Except that there is no frontier, and their is no wilderness.  Not any more.  We live in a modern, integrated economy, where everyone is inherently interdependent on everyone else.  My spending is your income, and vice versa.  Your public benefits are also my public benefits.  They would not exist without contributions from all of us, and all of us have the right to benefit from them if needed.  In fact, we all benefit from them anyway, because of the extent to which they improve the quality of life for all of us.

If the teachers in question truly want to be free of the alleged "burden" on their public speech, why teach in a unionized workplace?  Why not teach in private schools, or work as private tutors?  For that matter, why not organize and set up their own schools, free of associations with people and ideas they don't like?  No laws prevent them from doing this.  They only thing stopping them is their lust to do well without shouldering any of the burden for helping everyone to do well.

The teachers in Frederichs are no different, sadly, from the majority of Americans.  Like the members of that majority, the teachers are simply free-riders, trying to maximize their own personal advantages at the expense of the power of others to express their own views and win better lives for themselves in the process.  This stems from the modern conservative view that no one can take care of you like you can take care of yourself.  That view, which will no doubt become even more powerful after the Court's seemingly inevitable ruling in favor of the teachers,

It's a far cry from the patriotism of liberals like myself, who still respect the need to work with others with whom we disagree.  And this after our tax dollars were used to pay for a war based on a lie.  We love America even when we disagree with many of its people and policies.  On the other hand, if Americans like the Frederichs teachers have their way in all things, one is forced to wonder whether, one day, there will be an America left.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hoarding For Power

I was fascinated by this recent New York Times Magazine piece.  Not because of its brilliance, but more because of its lack thereof, and the reason behind that lack.  It goes out of its way to ignore the most obvious aspect about the current state of relations between business and politics.  One would think that the nature of that state would be obvious to even the most simple-minded observer.  But, as it turns out, for its own reasons, the Times pays well to writer who obscure important facts.

If you haven't taken the time to click on the link and read the article (and if you haven't, I don't mind), I'll boil its essence down for you quickly.  The author comments at some length (more than is needed) about the unprecedented hoarding of cash by American corporations.  He then goes on at even greater length about potential reasons for that hoarding, and systematically shoots all of them down.  Finally, he concludes that corporations, with their infinite wisdom (and limited liability if their wisdom is wrong) must surely know that some great big beautiful tomorrow is around the corner, and that the pace of change nowadays is so great that corporations must hoard in order to take full advantage of that tomorrow.

We are now more than a full generation away from Ronald Reagan's presidency, with all of its failures in plain view to see.  And yet, as this article demonstrates, Morning-in-America-style hogwash is still very much a going concern, even to the supposedly socialistic New York Times (and just ask any of the many people its laid off to pay for its shiny new headquarters how "socialistic" it really is).  Oh, if only we trusted corporations more.  Then, they'd have the chance to show all of us, once and for all, what they could really do.

As those of us who remember the 2008 meltdown that put Barack Obama in the White House would say, boy, would they ever.

And, as it turns out, even the Times can't be counted on to stay on message.  The day before the Magazine piece came out, the paper published this, completely and effectively eviscerating the thesis it subsequently laid out the next day.  No, as it turns out, there probably isn't going to be a great big beautiful tomorrow.  Just an endless nightmare of declining income, rising debt, and the latest craze for the latest Internet-related gadget.

So, let's return to the question posed by the Magazine writer:  Why?

I think the answer lies, to some extent, in an admission within the article that deserved more attention than the writer chose to give it.  To wit:  "If the companies spent their savings, rather than hoarding them, the economy would instantly grow, and we would most likely see more jobs with better pay." (Emphasis added.)

That is precisely what modern corporations do not want:  a rising cost of labor.  Today's captains of industry don't make their money by innovating, by working and struggling to find The Next Big Thing.  They making it by squeezing the bottom line, over and over again.  Just ask any worker who has lost his or her job to a new technology, or a cheaper country, or both.  It's easier this way. Easier, that is, for those who are squeezing, and not for those who are being squeezed.

And this squeezing has another advantage:  freeing up cash that can be used, in a post-Citizens United world, to buy out and hollow out the government.  Powerless workers, powerless government. If you want business to stay in power, it's an unbeatable combination.

Which only leaves this question:  why does a supposedly liberal news outlet like the Times go out of its way to obscure so obvious a point?  Is it because it's a corporation first, and a "news outlet" second?  Does that mean, moreover, that its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination actually validates the criticisms of her by Bernie Sanders' supporters?

I'm a Hillary supporter, but I have to wonder.  Which is why I hope that Sanders stays in the race, at least for a while.  But, for all of her corporatism, and that of the Times, I still believe the lesser of two evils is still less evil.  Which is why I pray that Bernie's supporters don't stay home in November.

Is It Worth It To Boycott The So-White Oscars?

Well, I think that it depends on what you mean by "worth it."

You have to start with the question of whether the absence of African-Americans from the acting nominations for this years Academy Awards is something that's worthy of public protest.  As a professional actor myself, and having never been nominated (and not likely, nearing the age of 60, to be so nominated), I will admit that I'm somewhat skeptical about whether any of us should care, for two reasons.

First, awards are almost always political, and especially when the awards are meant to honor achievement in the arts, where achievement is always highly subjective.  "Lawrence of Arabia" beat out "To Kill a Mockingbird" for the Best Picture Oscar in 1962.  They're both great movies, among my personal favorites.  Is there any really rational way to say that one was better than the other? Beyond that, the Oscars' main value is their connection to the early days of motion pictures, when the industry and its products were easier to glamorize in a less media-saturated world. Nobody really idolizes actors anymore, which is why awards shows generally are in a downward ratings spiral.

But, I digress.  The current Oscars controversy touches on the state of race relations in a soon-to-be post-Obama America.  After nearly eight years of experiencing its first African-American presidency, is life in America better for the only group of its citizens whose ancestors came to this country as property, not people?  And, in an age where the film industry is more of an international industry than ever before, does the process for the industry's most recognizable awards reflect the diversity implied by that international character?

Sadly, I have to admit that the answer to the second question is decidedly no.  And, as a consequence, I think it's completely fair to say that the answer to the first question is more likely than not to be no. Of course, that "more likely than not" gets replaced by certainty when you look at aspects of American life other than films, such as gun violence.

In that sense, boycotting the Oscars has value, because the boycotts start a conversation that we clearly need to have.  And, if the media is a reliable guide (and, in this case, I think that it is), that conversation is already well begun, although not without a few missteps.  Michael Caine's comments pain me the most, because I hold him in very high regard as an actor who makes almost any film better just by being in it.  I'd like to think that he has a blindness to his level of white-male privilege that can be corrected.  I have no explanation for Charlotte Rampling, however.  Even though she has since retracted her inflammatory remarks, you'd think that someone who hasn't been in the public eye for three decades would be grateful enough for the attention she's getting now that she wouldn't go out of her way to poke fingers in the eyes of people she's never met.  Makes me wonder whether or not her next project is going to be called "The White Porter."

Perhaps not surprisingly, more positive thoughts are being contributed by African-American members of the film industry.  Take Viola Davis, for example.  As she so recently stated, it's not a question of who gets recognized for today's films, but rather a question of what films get made today. It's tragic that this is even an issue, because so much of American history is African-American history.  There are any number of great stories that are not told, and one could begin anywhere to start remedying their absence among American movies.  How about, for example, a major biopic about Frederick Douglass?  There have been a few TV movies about him.  But why not a major Hollywood epic?  Why can't that be Steven Spielberg's next big historical project?  Why does it always have to be the independent film industry that comes up with projects like this?

Ultimately, what I hope is that all of us, whether in or out of the film industry, takes the advice of Will Smith.  Because all of us are in this great thing called Life together.  It would be helpful, it would be much more than that, if our entertainment reflected that fact.

Sorry, Karol Marcowitz, But Movie Stars Who Fly Private Jets Are Not Climate Hypocrites

Ho hum.  Here we go again.  Yet another lazy commentary by another lazy journalist about how no one should ever take the issue of climate change seriously, because the movie stars that talk about it fly (gasp!) in private jets!

(Cue non-dramatic dramatic music.)

Okay, okay, okay.  You want to set up the straw-person argument, Karol Marcowitz or whoever the hell you are?  Fine.  I'm happy to knock it down.

Let's start with the obvious reason as to why said movie stars fly in private jets.  It's not simply because they can, nor is it necessarily for convenience.  Movie stars, like other people in the public eye, tend to attract a lot of attention.  Some of that is pleasant, some of it is merely annoying.  But some of it, believe it or not, is downright dangerous.

Just ask John Lennon.  Or Rebecca Schaeffer.  Oh, that's right, you can't.  They're dead, in no small part because they made the mistake of thinking that they had a right to privacy, and someone with a gun decided otherwise.  Oh, but that lead to anti-stalking laws, you say, so that shouldn't make a difference.  Well, anti-stalking laws don't count for a lot in a world where the concept of "gun rights" has gone so far over the edge that the whole notion of self-defense, once a well-structured legal concept, has devolved to the level of an old 1960s slogan:  "If it feels good, do it."  One might argue with greater reason that profitable oil companies shouldn't get government subsidies and then use "capitalism" as an argument in favor of those subsidies.  Think the Post will ever run that one?

But this particular Post piece is just chock-full of laziness.  It brings up the eerie spectre of Al Gore's "energy-hogging" house, despite the fact that this myth has been thoroughly debunked.  It claims that the public doesn't care about global warming, when polls reach exactly the opposite conclusion. It deliberately overlooks the fact that science, which has made tremendous progress in the area of alternative energy, is on its way to solving the jet-fuel problem.  Touch this piece where you will, and you will find its "facts" and its conclusions to be false.

And, as I have just shown, easily and demonstrably false.  And yet, this piece and its clones, both past and future, show up in the media again and again and again.  Why?  It seems to me that there are only two possible answers.

First, that folks in conservative media are lazy.  There may be some truth to that; they've certainly got enough money that they have a sizable disincentive to work.  But I think there's more to it that that. After all, the people they work for certainly aren't lazy.  Rather, they are hard at work protecting the moneyed interests that give the modern conservative movement and its press agents the money in the first place.  And a tremendous amount of that money comes from the extraction industries, particularly legacy energy:  petroleum, coal and natural gas.  They hate the idea that climate change, the problem they have unquestionably created, might become a real public concern, and that alternative energy would offer the public (golly gosh!) an alternative as a solution to that problem.

And no one should feel sorry for these poor extraction folks.  They could have invested in alternatives.  They could have led the way, and made money doing it.  But it was easier for them to believe that things would never change.  And easier for them to pay politicians to promote that "no change" message.

Except that things have changed, and will continue to do so.  Except at the money-losing ($100 million a year and counting) New York Post, which is propped up by money-making industries like (gasp!) Hollywood!

Just ask your boss, Mr. Murdock, Ms. Marcowitz.  And pray that those private jets keep flying.  Your job, such as it is, may depend on it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Today's Republicans Can Only Agree On One Thing: They Know What They DON'T Like

For some time, it's been no secret that the so-called Republican "establishment"--by which is traditionally meant policy moderates (and, believe it or not, once upon a time even included liberals, mirabile dictu)--loathes its party's current front-runner for its 2016 presidential nomination, Donald Trump.  It's no secret as to why:  they loathe him for the same reason that his followers love him. Throwing dog whistles out the window, Trump has given voice to all of the racist instincts that has held together the Republican "base" (a doubly appropriate word) for the past several decades.  And his supporters couldn't be happier that he has done so.  Ironically, Trump has completed the process begun by Barack Obama's election: the exposure of the party of Lincoln transformed into the party of George Wallace.

But, of course, since the regrettable ascension of Ronald Reagan, movement conservatives have become the true Republican "establishment."  Don't let lazy mainstream media reporting to the contrary deceive you:  Rockefeller Republicanism is as dead as its namesake (R.I.P., Rocky, and be thankful you can't see what your party has become).  Nowhere is this more obvious than this denunciation by 22 pillars of the Republican--er, "movement conservative"--establishment of Trump, his candidacy, and the rationale behind it.

It's difficult to suppress the urge to laugh at the pretentiousness of the comments made by the Anti-Trump 22.  They actually believe, in the face of mountains of facts, that they are the leaders of a philosophical movement that has transformed American life for the better, and that Trump is somehow in danger of undermining that philosophy and destroying that movement.  Or so they say.

But, if they really believe those things, why don't they suggest an alternative candidate?  Or an alternative campaign strategy?  Why is all of their energy focused on attempting to dump Trump?

For one very simple reason:  they don't have an alternative.

The 2008 collapse of the financial markets, combined with the disastrous war in Iraq and the shift in public opinion on so-called "social issues," destroyed any factual predicate for so-called "movement conservatism."  We can't cut taxes and balance the budget.  We can't let financial regulation become a case of the fox guarding the hen house.  We can't let evangelical Christians impose their version of Sharia law on the rest of us.  And we can't muscle democracy onto a population that has absolutely no idea of how it is supposed to work.

And all of that means, in a democracy, that the alternatives to these failed ideas should be given a fair chance to succeed.  Unfortunately, "movement conservatism" and its political handmaiden, the GOP, has, in the past seven years, been devoted to one thing, and one thing only:  making sure that the alternatives have no chance at all.  Everything that they done and said during that time has been for one reason, and for one reason only:  to prevent Barack Obama from having a successful presidency. As it turns out, they've even been inept at that.

But never, during that time, have they come up with any alternative vision for solving the country's problems.  Never, for a highly conspicuous example, have they ever come up with a conservative vision of health care reform.  Could it be because the Affordable Care Act, which they have creatively labeled "Obamacare," was a conservative vision of health care reform, developed by a right-wing think tank, endorsed by a Republican House Speaker, and implemented by a Republican governor who was also his party's 2012 presidential nominee?  Could it be that they never thought a Democrat would embrace such an approach--until, of course, he did?

Today's GOP and today's "movement conservatism" isn't about ideas.  It's about power, and the best way to hold onto it.  And, as it turns out, they can't even agree about that; the NR piece led to being shunned (at least for now) by the Republican National Committee.  For that matter, even movement conservatives can't even agree among themselves.  But all of this is purely a disagreement about tactics, not philosophy.  Anti-Obamaism is the only philosophy NR, "movement conservatives," or the RNC have.

In politics, you can't beat something with nothing.  The Democrats have a largely successful eight-year presidency on which to build a successful 2016 campaign.  The Republicans and their followers can only do their best to pretend that it hasn't been successful at all, and that their ideas deserve to be tried again and again, in the hope that you'll never blame those ideas for not working.

The choice, as always, is yours.

There Are No Words, Except Perhaps These Three: Resign, Governor Snyder

Rick Snyder, the Republican Governor of Michigan, was, once upon a time, regarded by Those Who Are Supposed To Be Experts On Such Things as serious presidential timber, a potential member of what is supposedly the finest crop of GOP White House candidates ever assembled in a single election year.  Curiously, despite that fact, he took a pass on joining this year's crop.  Lest you think this may have been a act of modestly on his part, one word should dispel that thought, or should at least make you think that he was trying to avoid a PR and human disaster:  Flint, a nightmare in which the scope of the disaster is only outweighed by the duplicity behind it.

How did this happen?  Because constitutional government was thrown out the window, that's how.

Twice (because the first attempt was repealed by citizen initiative), Governor Snyder signed into law a bill that allowed him to appoint emergency managers of state subdivisions that are accountable, not to the people under their authority, but to the state--and, ultimately, to Governor Snyder.  The individuals, with a limited amount of review by state government, have the power to make financial decisions that are ostensibly designed to assist Michigan cities and counties in preventing insolvency. However, they can do this without input from the elected officials of those cities and counties, or even from the people who elected those officials in the first place.

One assumes that this is yet another misbegotten Republican attempt to introduce private sector "efficiency" into government.  No doubt that is how the concept was sold by Snyder.  But it has nothing to do with efficient or cost-effective delivery of public services, with the final say given by the people who receive those services.  That's called democratic government.  Having those decisions overridden by appointed "managers" whose sole mantra is cost control can only be called "autocratic" government--if it can be called government at all.  Despotism might be a better word for it.

Good political leaders focus on balancing a concern with the bottom line with a refusal to satisfy it at the near-total expense of public needs.  And there is no more basic public need than the need for abundant, clean water--the substance that makes up the majority of our body chemistry.  Flint's public manager, in what was at best a misbegotten effort to save money and was perhaps at worst a deliberate attempt to sacrifice the health of a largely African-American city to promote the political fortunes of Rick Snyder and his party.

So much for that promotion.  Even Snyder's acknowledgement that Flint's disaster is his Katrina doesn't help him navigate the political consequences; after all, as Flint's most famous native, Michael Moore has pointed out, "Bush didn't cause the hurricane."   If Snyder had an ounce of human decency in his psyche, he would understand that Flint demonstrates a complete forfeiture of the public trust he was given as governor, and resign.  And that resignation should come with no immunity or prophylactic, Nixon-style pardon protecting either him or anyone else from criminal or civil liability.

I sincerely doubt that Governor Snyder has that level of decency.  The mere conception of the emergency manager program demonstrates that.  Certainly, the mismanagement of Detroit under this system is a testament to that.  Not only has Detroit suffered through its own water crisis, but its schools are every bit as toxic as Flint.

At the very least, the program should demonstrate to everyone that, when it comes to government, Republicans aren't opposed to "big" government.  They're opposed to representative government. They're opposed to accountable government.  And, above all, they are opposed to government that is concerned about anything, even public safety, that might threaten their grip on power.  Don't think that the GOP is going to learn anything from Flint's suffering; if you can really delude yourself into believing that, take a look at this, and see if that delusion is still possible.  And shame on you if it is.

And, the next time any Michigan Republican tries to blame its woes on public employees and their pensions, consider this.  It's not enough to undo the damage Snyder and his cronies have done in Flint, Detroit, and other parts of Michigan.  But, hopefully, it should give you some idea of who you should really trust in the Wolverine State.