Transportation

Clint Eastwood and Chrysler upset the ‘Hope America Fails’ Republicans

It was a Super Bowl ad that told a super-truth about the revival of the American auto industry because of the successful policies of President Obama. No doubt Ron Paul can dig up some Austrian economists to disagree, Mitt Romney can say he would have preferred his approach of massive layoffs and a wave of bankruptcy filings throughout the auto sectors, and Newt Gingrich can claim it was about black people on food stamps.

In my last column, “A tale of two Romneys,” I suggested that George Romney, a great governor and auto-industry CEO, would have supported President Obama's successful policy and deplored the vulture-capitalist alternative offered by his son, Mitt.

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TSA lack of respect

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." — Lord Acton, 1887

Have you traveled by air recently? Have you been one of the many lucky enough to be groped by the Transportation Security Administration? Every week there is a report of some TSA agent at some airport in what I still like to believe is our great nation clearly overstepping boundaries, and every subsequent report is worse than the last.

There is one story that has gotten a lot of publicity recently, and rightly so. Apparently a 95-year-old leukemia patient on her way to an assisted-living facility required further screening because there was something "wet" in her diaper. Something wet? In a diaper!? Heavens, no!

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Government Motors a historic liberal triumph

Remember when, from CNBC to Rush Limbaugh, the chant from the right was how evil the General Motors policy was? They called it Government Motors. They called it socialism. They called it liberal big government.

And then: They gobbled IPO shares in the new GM stock. They applauded GM sales and earnings. They praised the new jobs GM created. They appeared on CNBC to discuss the great GM comeback.

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Chris Christie out, Jon Huntsman Jr. in

Cowboy movies are making a big comeback. We spent 40-some years in the sky with Han Solo, Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Ripley; now we come back to Earth and to the epic journey we were born to: the journey West, starring Fess Parker and John Wayne. In that regard, the excellent new Coen Brothers movie, “True Grit,” might be considered a reenactment. Like all reenactments, it is a return to original principles. Make no mistake: The journey across the Western desert is as essential a transformation to American consciousness as the pilgrim’s progress was to Plymouth Rock. Possibly why Jon Huntsman Jr., former governor of Utah, causes such a stir. He has made that journey on our behalf. Maybe he is the one, the one who would bring us forward with him. Bad news for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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Continental-United merger: The (fewer) ups and downs

About that proposed Continental-United Airlines merger: My latest struggles as a passenger on another airline, American, offer evidence that while the players are congratulating themselves for their humongous financial deal, we need to make sure this really isn't another raw deal for the passengers.

American is not up there at the top of my favorites right now. Going to Miami last week, I got in 11 hours late. Coming back, eight hours. In both cases, the reasons were mechanical breakdowns, which raises questions, in my mind, about the quality of maintenance and/or the condition of the fleet.

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A dangerous and deadly problem at Toyota

Congress has finally worked itself into a full-throated frenzy over the recent series of recalls by the world’s No. 1 auto producer.

I use the word “finally” because any time Americans are dying as a result of businesses cutting corners, it’s our government’s job to step in quickly and address the problem.

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The Southeastern Toyota bullies: Should you buy a car from these people?

Let's be blunt. One hundred and seventy-three Toyota dealers in the United States are plainly, simply un-American. They are the members of an association that covers five Southeastern states, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina, that have decided to pull their advertising from ABC affiliates in their coverage area. Why? Because ABC news has been giving what they've determined to be "excessive stories on the Toyota issues.” As I said, un-American.

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Sell Clunkers at Auction to Low-Income Workers

Thirteen years ago, living in Durham, N.C., when my wife was starting grad school, we finally ditched the family car, a great light-green Buick station wagon. It had been the last “last year’s model” in Alexandria, Va., where we bought it cheap after our first son was born and we needed something a little bigger than the Subaru. It gave flawless service for a dozen years and over 200,000 miles and had hauled sheep, chickens and a total, at one point, of 43 animals, including multiples of dogs and cats and the four young’uns.

There was a program then to give or sell old cars cheap to the poor on government support. And possession of an old car like that was supposed to be considered tangible evidence that you qualified for support. We sold it to someone in the neighborhood and I saw it driving by long after, a triumph of American vision and innovation that just wouldn’t die.
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Finding Canada: A Fast Train Across North America

Tom Friedman has some good ideas. He wants us to wake up, reboot, get going. He’s been at it for months, years, now. We need his energy, his maturity and his perspective.

In a column this week he talks about riding a state-of-the-art fast train across China, then arriving home to the wasteland of Penn Station in New York and heading south on the broken trail to D.C.

We need fast trains and new cars. But to get these new things, we need a fresh start. And instead of looking north to south, from New York to D.C., we might have better luck looking east to west; traveling, like Frasier, from Boston to Seattle. We could make new friends across the way in Canada.
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