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Obama’s Lost Glitter, Florida Selling, Michelle Bachmann’s Migraines: The Live Wire

| August 8, 2011

(© Anne Mortensen)

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Today’s Live Wire: Quick Links

Obama’s Lost Glitter

Diminished. (White House)

There’s been a spate of reassessments on Barack Obama, none flattering, many from liberals, starting with a long, 3,200-word piece by Drew Westen, a professor of psychology at Emory and the author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, on the front page of the Times Sunday Review. Obama, Westen argues, simply failed to seize the moment the way two previous Roosevelts did, when the nation needed it most: “The president is fond of referring to “the arc of history,” paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But with his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time — he has broken that arc and has likely bent it backward for at least a generation. […] IN contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century. He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it. But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.

“The truly decisive move that broke the arc of history was his handling of the stimulus. The public was desperate for a leader who would speak with confidence, and they were ready to follow wherever the president led. Yet instead of indicting the economic policies and principles that had just eliminated eight million jobs, in the most damaging of the tic-like gestures of compromise that have become the hallmark of his presidency — and against the advice of multiple Nobel-Prize-winning economists — he backed away from his advisers who proposed a big stimulus, and then diluted it with tax cuts that had already been shown to be inert. The result, as predicted in advance, was a half-stimulus that half-stimulated the economy. That, in turn, led the White House to feel rightly unappreciated for having saved the country from another Great Depression but in the unenviable position of having to argue a counterfactual — that something terrible might have happened had it not half-acted.” The full piece.

Several additional, similar pieces have been piling up:

Flagler Schools Say Thanks for Graduate One Evening

The turnout at Flagler Beach's Wicline Center on Aug. 4. (© FlaglerLive)

From the Flagler County School District’s Sabrina Crosby: “Thank you to our parents, children, and community who turned out in mass for the Parent Information Station sessions at 9 locations throughout our community. We are still counting, but we had well over 1,000 parents and students across the district to attend these sessions. Information was provided on attendance, graduation requirements, promotion information, as well as applications for free and reduced lunch, and school backpacks. A major emphasis of the presentation was the importance of parent involvement. Research from the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) & Harvard Family Research Project 2010, indicates when parents are involved, children have higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates, better school attendance, increased motivation and better self-esteem. In addition, the data verifies that regardless of the family socioeconomic status, family participation in education doubles the academic success of all students. Parental and community involvement is very vital because it contributes to students’ attitudes about the importance of education. The Parent Information Stations proved to be a great beginning for the “Graduate One” initiative. A special thanks to the many, many people who planned and worked to make this happen. With all of us working together, Flagler County will have ALL students graduating. We can meet 100% Graduation and continue to be an A+ school district.”

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Foreigners Buying Florida Real Estate

From the Associated Press: “Offshore investors are flocking to Florida’s distressed real estate prices as major companies with ties to Hong Kong, Spain, Argentina and Malaysia are snapping up properties sensing the local market has bottomed. […] Stephan Gietl of Austria and his partner Fernando Levy-Hara, of Argentina, have purchased 307 South Florida condo units for $40 million, since 2009. The duo has sold most of the units, mainly to international investors. Levy-Hara says the units yield between 5 and 6 percent profit per year after maintenance fees and property taxes. […] As Americans worry about the economy and debt ceiling, international investors still perceive the U.S. as “the most reliable country in the world,” said Andrew Hellinger, chief executive of Coral Gables-based Hellinger & Penabad. […] In May, Malaysia-based Genting Group paid $236 million for the Miami Herald’s headquarters. Genting, which also owns 50 percent of Norwegian Cruise Lines, plans to build nearly 7 million square feet of hotel, convention and restaurant space. Genting executives cited Florida’s growing population, budding Miami tourism and a likely nonstop flight from Asia to Miami International Airport as motivating the deal.” The full story.

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Remembering Nagasaki

“Results Are Called Good.” That was, amazingly, one of the smaller headlines beliow the big one on the front page of The New York Times on Aug. 9, 1945, the of the drop of the second atomic bomb on Japan, that one on Nagasaki–twin acts of mass terrorism on a scale, and with an efficiency, never before or since seen, with the exception of the allied aerial bombings with conventional bombs of German cities in 1944 and 1945, and the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945. The words “good results” were attributed to crew members of the B-29 that dropped the bomb. “The second use of the new and terrifying secret weapon which wiped out more than 60 percent of the city of Hiroshima and, according to Japanese radio, killed nearly every resident of that town, occurred at noon today, Japanese time. The target today was an important industrial and shipping area with a population of about 235,000.” The Nagasaki bombing always plays second string to Hiroshima, unfortunately, though it killed close to 80,000 people. This is from the BBC:

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Should You Argue On the Internet?

From the folks at Rosscott, Inc; click on the image for larger view:

click on the image for larger view

Michelle Bachmann’s Migraines

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Honor and Fair Play in Homer’s Illiad

From the Harvard University Extension School’s Faculty Insights, Harvard classicist Gregory Nagy talks about the siege of Troy and the Illiad.

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UF, Party School Blues

From the Alligator: “UF took a dive in rankings that will simultaneously please administrators and leave students disgusted. On Monday, the Princeton Review Annual College Ranking was released in “The Best 376 Colleges: 2012 Edition,” ranking UF at No. 9 on a list of the nation’s top 20 party schools. In 2008, UF was named the No. 1 party school in the nation by the Princeton Review College Ranking. Two years later, it dropped to No. 7. Now, in the 2012 edition, UF is halfway down the list at No. 9, with rival school FSU rising to the No. 8 spot. But this is one win UF administration is willing to let them have.[…] According to GatorWell’s Student Health Surveys, about 10 percent of UF students have never consumed alcohol, and 70 percent testified to consuming fewer than four drinks while socializing. Shaw pointed out that while UF students estimated 55.5 percent of the student population to be habitual party-goers, only 32 percent of students answered that they consume five or more drinks in a social setting, or engaging in “risky behavior.” […] Five years ago, UF President Bernie Machen instituted the UF Community Alcohol Coalition, and since then, every rate that UF tracks – DUI rates, alcohol related conduct violations and transports to the hospital for alcohol – has gone down. She said she also believes the recent Medical Amnesty policy, which allows intoxicated individuals and the person who sought out medical assistance to go unpunished, has encouraged students to be more responsible and make good choices.” The full story.

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Survival Journalism

Newspaper Death Watch reviews Newsonomics, the book by Ken Doctor on the changing nature of journalism and journalists: “Journalists hate to talk about the economics of their profession, which is why this is such a valuable book. Doctor proceeds from the assumption that the newspaper industry as we have known it is an irreversible decline and that only a handful of national dailies will exist in a few years. There’s no reason to belabor that point, and he doesn’t.

Instead, he devotes the rest of the book to the much more important discussion of how journalism can be reinvented and deliver value in an economically sustainable model. His perspective is both optimistic and uplifting. Doctor sees the end of the vertically integrated news organization as creating opportunities for focused and nimble ventures to emerge that can indeed deliver quality journalism and pay their reporters a living wage. Competition will raise quality standards and ultimately deliver a better product. We have to go through an ugly deconstruction process in order to get there, but Doctor sees bright light at the end of the tunnel.

A lot of journalists are uncomfortable with Doctor’s views because they fear the loss of the comfortable salaries and modest output demands they have long enjoyed. Well, welcome to the new world. Jobs are going away and journalism is becoming a business of self-employed contractors. Journalists with initiative, innovation and skill will be able to make a better living working for multiple masters than they could have made working for media companies. News organizations will be under pressure to be more responsive to their readers’ demands, but Doctor does not believe this will result in the “dumbing down” of news. Tiered models will emerge that deliver high-quality journalism to those who are willing to pay a modest amount for it.”

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A Few Good Links

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