Romney wants to turn back the clock in Michigan


On the eve of Tuesday's Michigan primary, Republican presidential hopefuls made an obligatory stop at the Auto Show in Detroit. While they all lamented the fragile state of Michigan's economy—a declining auto industry and the U.S. mortgage crisis have combined to give Michigan the nation's highest unemployment rate at 7.4 percent—two leading candidates advanced starkly different strategies for solving the state's economic woes.

McCain took the tough-love approach. Referring to auto-industry jobs lost in recent years, he asked:

Does anyone think they're coming back?" he told reporters. "There's going to be a lot of new jobs. Anyone who thinks the old jobs are coming back is either naive or not being straight with the people of Michigan and America. There's going to be a flood of new jobs because of this green technology."

In other words, Michigan will be saved by investing in new technology. Mitt Romney, however, fell back on a familiar tactic: Blame the foreigners. "I do not believe that the transportation sector of our economy has to be ceded to other nations," he told the crowd.

Mitt may be fighting the proverbial last war here. There's a reason the Detroit Auto Show is now known as the North American International Auto Show: The U.S. auto industry is already a composite of U.S.- and foreign-owned companies. By last year, foreign car manufacturers accounted for nearly half of all U.S. auto sales.

The Level Field Institute, an organization formed by retired GM, Ford, and Chrysler employees to encourage U.S. citizens to "buy American," reports that roughly 30 percent of U.S. autoworkers now work for foreign companies. How does Romney propose to protect these roughly 83,000 U.S. jobs (pdf) and rescue a drowning industry at the same time? By standing athwart the tide of globalization and yelling "stop"? Somehow, I don't think that's going to work.


Putin pouts over pooh-poohing of Vladimir "puting"

Click here for a look back at some of the moments that have defined Putin's presidency.

A TV reporter in Vladimir, Russia, has been charged with "insulting a public figure" for some seemingly innocent wordplay involving President Vladimir Putin's last name. The putative violation occurred when the journalist, Sergei Golovinov, referred to local supporters of the president as Putinisty (Putinists) and to a meeting of these supporters as a puting, which is a play on miting, the Russian word for demonstration. A local State Duma deputy heard the broadcast, and Golovinov is now facing a fine of up to $1,600 or one year of forced labor.

Golovinov and his employer are a bit baffled by the charges, since both neologisms are used frequently in the Russian media. A chapter in one tell-all Kremlin memoir, for instance, is titled "Light Puting." Back when they used to get along better, George W. Bush would refer to his Russian counterpart as "Pootie-Poot," which should probably merit a year in Siberia at least.

Things are unlikely to improve much on this front after Russians wish Putin schastlivogo puti (bon voyage) and welcome his anointed successor, Dmitry Medvedev. Medved is the Russian word for bear. As if that weren't bad enough, the phrase "Preved medved" ("Hi, bear" in Russian Internet-speak) had taken on a life of its own as a Russian Internet meme before Medvedev was even announced (Best I can tell, it's sort of the Russian equivalent of LOLcats.) The joke police might have their hands full with this guy.