Is it possible that Mitt Romney is an ALIEN? (Just asking the question.) From MAD TV in the '90's, h/t Tim M.
And please read John Amato's earlier post on blog ads and fundraising here. It's a real eye-opener.
Open thread below...
It was the smirk that did it.
We are used to the politicization of tragedies. It is unseemly, and it is often condemned, but it is also commonplace enough, so when Mitt Romney launched into a political attack against the president almost concurrent to the actual violence it was perhaps vile in timing, but otherwise not all that surprising. Likewise, Mitt Romney's bizarre assertion that the Obama administration "sympathized" with the attackers, based apparently on statements condemning religious intolerance issued from the U.S. diplomats in the middle of those attacks, is also not particularly out of character for him; he has premised his entire foreign policy on the notion that Obama engaged in an entirely fictional "apology tour", while his surrogates wonder aloud if the president is American enough?or "Anglo-Saxon" enough?to truly be devoted to American interests. (I mean that, by the way: if Mitt Romney has any actual foreign policy idea other than the declaration that Obama is too nice to other countries, and we need to be meaner to them, whether "them" refers to Russia, China, or anywhere else, I have yet to hear him competently elucidate it.)
So yes, Mr. Romney is a political panderer, an avid devotee of attack politics, and a fantastical liar. These are all known qualities. It was the smirk, though, that turned things. The smirk before, during and after discussing an attack in which American diplomats were killed, a rancid little twitch of a smirk that flickered in and out as he talked about murders, or rather not about murders, but how they would affect him, personally, and his own ambitions. The smirk seemed to make the inner thoughts of the man quite clear: Today was going to be a good day for Mitt Romney. The murder of diplomats was not quite enough to prevent him from condemning the statements of their fellow diplomats before and during the attacks upon them; an attack on an American compound overseas was not in and of itself seen as reason to at least delay verbal abuse of those diplomats for even a scant day, if there was opportunity to be had in not doing so.
One does not smirk when discussing a horrific act. No matter how much you feel the act may benefit you personally, presuming you are the sort of monster that thinks such things, one does not smirk when discussing acts of murder and violence. Even if you have the emotional capacity of a gnat, even if your own ambitions are so great that you cannot help it, one does not smirk. Not, at the very least, when the event is fresh, and the repercussions of the act still unknown, and the possibility of further violence still unclear. Even if you are indeed an outright monster, there ought to be no inner glee visible on your face as you stand before the nation to discuss how a set of still-fresh murders proves your own worth. That was the part where Mr. Romney turned from being a deplorable politician to being a repulsive human being. It is not worth condemning him, or demanding apologies from him, or even making fun of him; that one damn smirk told too long a story. Here is someone whose ambition outshines their empathy. Here is a person who, in times of stress, is first to probe whether it is exploitable to his advantage. Here is a person who focuses on such things to such a degree that he cannot even fully pretend to hide it.
I often considered Mitt Romney awkward. I seldom, though, ascribed it to outright malevolence. His gentle insults of the commoner classes he interacts with on the campaign trail were lighthearted enough, though certainly most of them had a healthy dose of mean as their seed. I considered him a hollow man, mostly, an empty fake, a man obsessed with personal ambitions, a man who could offer no clear vision for the country other than that he and his economic class ought to be given more of it. That damned smirk, though. That smirk spoke to a political heart no bigger than a cinder. That was a malevolent smirk. That was the smirk of a true son of a bitch, a crooked man, a man that even a political crook like Richard Nixon would find it hard to find common cause with.
This is not a man who will ever "rise above it all". He will always remain the all that other, better people have to rise above. This is not a man who has any thoughts of how to lead America via his own strength; his only proven strength is in the condemnations of others. When he ignored United States troops at war in his acceptance speech, it was cold enough; to explain later that it was obviously because they were not as important as his other thin points was much worse; to even have Americans overseas attacked, and to have that still not apparently leave a mark, is a shocking thing even in politics. Even our worst flag-waving bastards learn to hide their sociopathies better, when seeking office. Most of them, anyway.
He is a frequent and unrepentant liar. That should have already caused the nation and press and yes, even better heads in his own party to scorn him, though for some miserable reason it apparently does not. He is apparently devoid of both empathy and common sense; also not good traits for a supposed leader. But that damn smirk. There is no circumstance in which I want to wake up in the morning to a national tragedy only to watch the leader of the nation smirk about it, apparently imagining in his head how he can best gain advantage from it. Goddamn it, no. That is too much and then some. That is disqualifying.
Over the decades we have survived the leadership of stupid men, and of criminal men. We have survived carpet-bombings of substanceless rhetoric, we have inched our way forward through blizzards of of lies, we have pretended to be outraged about sex and pretended to not be outraged at misinformation; we are a hardy lot, apparently. I would hope, though, that we are still not so desperate as to look for leadership from someone who cannot even let a man's blood dry before scrawling his own name in it.
I could stomach Mitt as vapid charlatan. As a smirking, malevolent, outright bastard of a man, though, I am pleased to say that I am still a decent enough person to feel no sympathy for that. No, Richard Milhous Gantry here has got to go.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010:
Before political analysts start assigning blame and credit for victory and defeat in the 2010 elections, the first thing they should do is read about Brendan Nyhan?s excellent "tactical fallacy" concept. In short, the tactical fallacy states that the broader political climate is the primary factor in the outcome of elections, and tactical decisions about messaging, deployment of resources, organizing efforts, and ideological positioning are secondary. A good follow-up on Nyhan?s piece is Ezra Klein?s "It?s Always the Economy, Stupid." Klein?s piece has much the same thrust as Nyhan?s, but puts some persuasive numbers behind it.
The Tactical Fallacy is a refutation of the all too common "Great Man" theory of recent political history. The "Great Man" genre goes like this: Candidate, Consultant, or Party Leader X made a genius decision about messaging, deployment of resources or ideological positioning that was almost wholly responsible for winning. By contrast, Candidate, Consultant, or Party Leader Y made an idiotic decision about messaging, deployment of resources or ideological positioning that was almost wholly responsible for defeat. In this view, elections are ultimately about the genius and idiocy of a handful of people playing a game of Stratego.
In this article, I am going to look at a second common mistake in assigning blame or credit for electoral outcomes, similar to the Tactical Fallacy. I call it the "Ubiquitous Political Junkie Fallacy." This concept, (which I originally described as a fantasy) is the assumption the people who decide elections?swing voters and unlikely voters?know legislative policy minutia like the back of their hands. It further assumes that swing voters and unlikely voters vote?or don?t?based upon the difference between public policy that was enacted and their abstract, desired policies.
Daily Kos Radio was all about Romney's astonishing response to the overseas events in Egypt and Libya. In other news: Tea Party freshmen wrestle with having to vote to keep the government funded; Del. Bob Marshall (R) of Virginia is quoted saying disabled kids are "God's punishment" to women for prior abortions, and; the charitable Romneys fight tooth and nail to prevent a hospice from opening in their neighborhood. (Property values, dontcha know!) Listen on Stitcher here:
Let?s ?set the wayback? for the benefit of Willard Mitt Romney, OK (answering this); here is his response to the British burning Washington during the War of 1812...
?Well, this is what happens when President Jefferson and Secretary of War Madison apologize to the British and let them 'impress' members of our Navy for their own.? (Read this to find out that Jefferson and Madison did no such thing).Here is Romney?s response to the commencement of The Civil War in 1861...
?I?m shocked that a Republican president would allow the Army of the Potomac to commence fire in a southern state in an effort to illegally seize federal property.? (Read here to learn that the South fired first at Fort Sumter).Here is Romney?s response to the assassination of President James Garfield in 1881...
?This is a sad day for our country, but it?s not hard to see how passions can be inflamed when a president fails to reach out to formerly secessionist elements, to the point where someone acts lawlessly.? (Read here to learn, among other things, that Garfield?s assassin, Charles Guiteau, wanted an ambassadorship from Garfield, believing that he was responsible for the election of our 20th president, with Guiteau not giving a damn about the South in the Civil War, though the state of Guiteau?s mental faculties was definitely an open question).And finally, here is Romney responding to the World War I veterans of the Bonus March of 1932...
?It sickens me that insurgent, liberal elements have led some in our military to seek a government handout when we can least afford it.? (Read here to learn that the World War I veterans marching on Washington sought compensation due to them since they could not find work during the Great Depression; in accordance with a 1924 law, they were not due to receive their money until 1945...the law was eventually changed in 1936 so they could receive their payments early).No, I don?t suppose all of this is particularly clever on my part. However, I?m trying to come up with new ways to express my disgust with Romney, having exhausted all the old ones, so please bear with me on this (maybe he was better off actually ignoring foreign policy, and kudos to Chuck Todd and Lawrence O?Donnell for holding him accountable ? there is indeed a historical context in which presidents have to act, a fact that utterly escapes the former Massachusetts governor)...
What a news day we've had![...]
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Title: Sky HighArtist: Ben Folds Five
Happy Birthday to my old friend and traveling companion Ben Folds! Here's a track (and a non-official, but quite moving video) from the newly reformed Ben Folds Five. The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, their first album in 13 years, will be out on Sept. 18th. Check it.
Map of U.S. television markets (dishuser.org)While it's too premature to start declaring the presidential race finished, that cake is smelling a little more baked each day. With that in mind, a young man's fancies turn increasingly toward thoughts of down-ballot races, and the importance of preserving our Senate majority and eating into the Republican edge in the House. Given the many options there, though, that raises the question of where to contribute.
Daily Kos's endorsements, like the Speaker Pelosi Project, are a great place to start. There are a number of potential angles to consider in where to contribute, though, and another consideration is how "efficient" a contribution is likely to be... in other words, how effectively will our netroots dollars be spent? While we don't have a way of knowing whether or not a campaign will make good strategic decisions, one thing we can evaluate is whether the media markets where a race will take place are good buys.
Think of it this way: a $100 contribution gets stretched a lot further in a race with a cheap media market, where there are few eyeballs to reach, than in a race with expensive markets. In, say, Wyoming, that $100 might actually buy you an airing or multiple airings of an ad; in New York, your investment would buy you the tiniest fraction of an ad. Your 'investment' is a lot likelier to pay dividends -- in the form of more viewers, and hopefully more changed minds -- in the cheaper market. In other words, in a cheaper market, you can exert a lot more leverage.
You'll probably notice, looking at the chart below, that there's a strong relationship between the population of a state and the cost of advertising there. That's because, quite logically, the more viewers are in a market, the more it costs to buy ad space there. However, the efficiency question is complicated by the question of 'wasted eyeballs,' being forced to pay to advertise to people for whom the ad isn't relevant. Many media markets cross state lines, and that means that a campaign buying ads in those markets is paying for eyeballs that can't vote in that election.
It's not a huge issue in the presidential race, since even when ads bleed over from swing states into non-swing states, everyone is still voting in the same election. It's a much bigger issue in Senate races, though (and even worse in House races, where in the biggest metropolitan areas, a contested district may be one of dozens). Consider, for instance, the Virginia Senate race, where the largest percentage of the state's voters live in the Washington DC market, one of the nation's most populous and expensive markets... but in order to advertise there, that means spending millions of dollars to beat residents of Maryland and the District of Columbia (and, for that matter, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) over the head with your irrelevant ads. As you can see below, the wasted-eyeball phenomenon is even worse in the states that border New York City.
Information about how much it costs to advertise in a particular district isn't public and difficult to come by, but we've obtained some rough data from Democratic media-buying sources. (Don't use these figures to engage in your own media buying; these are slightly outdated numbers, and there's also a disparity in the amounts charged to various clients. Candidates, for instance, pay a different rate than third-party groups like the national committees or Super PACs, who wind up paying considerably more. I'm merely giving you these numbers to give you a sense of the magnitude of the difference between cheap markets and expensive markets. The overall ratio is what you should be focused on.)
The amount of money given for each race is the amount to run a full flight of ads. In media-buying jargon, that would be the amount needed to ensure that an ad airs 10 times in outlets that will get it to 100% of the intended audience. For the statewide races, the given markets don't necessarily blanket the entire state, but are simply media buyers' "recommended" markets (which tend to exclude markets that cover less than, say, 10% of the state's population). A campaign that's feeling particularly stingy (or engaged in some skillful microtargeting) could choose to avoid certain markets and save money, or if they're especially flush, they could also choose to advertise in markets beyond the "recommended" parameters. (For instance, Florida's Bill Nelson might choose to put some money into the Dothan, Alabama market in addition to the 10 other recommended markets, just to make sure the Panhandle gets completely blanketed.)
Here is the Senate chart; the closer to the top a race is, the more "efficient" a pick it is...
As you can see, by far the best advertising deal among all the nation's remotely-competitive Senate races is North Dakota. It's one of the least populous states, and it doesn't have much of a wasted-eyeball factor either (the Fargo market does extend many miles into Minnesota, but those are pretty empty miles). Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp is our candidate there, as we try to hold the open seat left by Kent Conrad's retirement, and a contribution to her goes about 57 times further than a contribution to New Jersey's Bob Menendez. (As far as advertising goes, at least; contributions certainly pay for GOTV, advertising in other media, and simple organization. But broadcast TV is very much the largest expense for a campaign in a competitive statewide race.) And at the end of the day, Heitkamp would be one more Senator, worth exactly as much as Menendez toward a majority.
Of course, ideology matters too, not just the business of getting to a majority. While Heitkamp and Montana's Jon Tester are some of the most "efficient" picks (and great campaigners), their more moderate profiles may not appeal to all netroots donors. Nevertheless, there are some very progressive options at the bargain end of the scale, most notably Mazie Hirono and Martin Heinrich in the open seats in Hawaii and New Mexico, respectively. Both Hirono and Heinrich are part of Daily Kos's Upgrade the Senate program.
There's much more discussion over the fold...
I'm not sure what's up with this. But earlier this evening the Times ran a story entitled "Behind Romney's Decision to Attack Obama on Libya." The byline was David Sanger and Ashley Parker. The big news out of the story was that Romney himself had[...]
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AP paints a devastating portrait of a man, Mitt Romney, who jumped the gun, didn't care that he was wrong, and whose staff was giddy that Americans were under attack abroad - while Americans saw death, Team Romney smelled "opportunity."In Washington, Republican foreign policy veterans called Romney's initial statement premature and rushed, with limited facts and an incomplete understanding of...
Eduardo Porter attempted to take the air out of one of the few carbon mitigation programs the Obama Administration has been able to approve, the increase in fuel economy standards. Porter's perspective is basically that increased gas taxes make more[...]
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Finders Weepers: Early Bain Disputes Cast New Light on Its Business
by Jesse Eisinger ProPublica, Sept. 11, 2012
It was one of the "quickest big hits in Wall Street history," as the Wall Street Journal put it at the time.
In 1996, an investment group including Bain Capital, the firm then run by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, sold the consumer credit information business Experian to a British retailer, making a $500 million profit. Bain and the other investors who reaped that windfall had closed the acquisition a mere seven weeks earlier, stunning the investing world.
Another party was stunned by the deal, but for a different reason. James McCall Springer believed that he had brought the idea to buy Experian to Bain in the first place.
Springer sued to get what he contended was his rightful finder's fee, eventually settling. And he wasn't the only one. At least three other parties had similar legal disputes with Bain during the early 1990s, when Romney led the company, raising questions of how rough-and-tumble the company could be. The suits also shed light on how Bain actually operated, complicating one of the main narratives Bain, the Romney campaign, and many commentators have used to describe the private equity firm.
The Romney campaign declined to respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits. Bain did not respond to a request for comment. And, of course, disputes about finder's fees are not uncommon; large sums are at stake for little work, a situation ripe for claims of aggrandized roles.
Most accounts of Bain characterize the firm as full of hard-working young men who sought to find troubled companies, invest in them and turn them around. Romney's presidential campaign website says that "under his leadership, Bain Capital helped to launch or rebuild over one hundred companies." Romney campaigns have embraced his reputation as a turnaround artist, as he has run on his private equity record and his overhaul of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He even titled his 2004 book "Turnaround," a memoir and account of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
But as the disputes illuminate, the reality of Bain's business in the early years is more complicated.
Often, Bain wasn't finding companies on its own. Finders and middlemen were more common in the early days of private equity than they are now. Smaller firms would seek out acquisition targets and bring them to the big buyout firms.
More significantly, Romney's firm wasn't always looking for startups or troubled companies that it could turn around.
Private equity companies conduct a variety of transactions other than buying startups with growth potential or troubled firms ripe for a turnaround. Some seek out family-run operations under the theory that those typically have a lot of fat to cut. Some like "roll-ups," buying up a bunch of small operations in one industry and combining them into a powerhouse with economies of scale. Firms buy divisions of large corporations that are trying to streamline their operations. Some acquisitions fit more than one of these descriptions. The constant is debt, and plenty of it. Private equity firms use such borrowed money to maximize their gains.
The Romney campaign says Bain did various types of deals. And it celebrates that Bain helped launch or rebuild some American corporate stalwarts, like Staples, Bright Horizons and Sports Authority.
Yet in addition, under Romney's tenure, Bain often sought out solid businesses that didn't need to be turned around. The reason: Such companies could operate under the burden of the enormous debt that Bain would layer on them.
"They always told us day one: They wanted profitable companies that are doing OK, and they pay what they needed to pay," says Phillip Roman, who heads up an eponymous mergers and acquisitions firm that was involved in a legal dispute with Bain in the 1990s similar to McCall Springer's. "There are companies that like turnarounds," referring to other private equity firms. "That's another business" from the one Bain was in.
Bain in the 1990s was "doing more [of] the usual leveraged buyout: Buy with a lot of debt, try to increase earnings and sell as soon as possible," says Ludovic Phalippou, an expert on private equity at the University of Oxford in England. The firm was seeking "mature companies with high cash flow," he says, with sufficiently stable earnings "to be able to leverage a lot."
Financial data on many of Bain's acquisitions are not available, since they were private transactions. But there are several examples of companies that Bain took over that were established and seem to have had enough revenue to support leverage. Bain and another firm bought what they would name Masland Holdings, a maker of automobile carpeting and insulation, from Burlington Industries in 1991. Masland had $305 million in sales that year, according to Dun & Bradstreet. The firms took it public in 1993. Duane Reade was a successful family-run business with revenue of $225 million when Bain bought it in 1992, according to the Wall Street Journal, and sold it five years later.
Early on, in 1986, Bain formed Accuride to purchase the wheel-making division of Firestone Tire & Rubber, with some executives from the company. Bain structured the deal to have 40-to-1 leverage, according to the Los Angeles Times, meaning Bain and its co-investors put an enormous amount of debt on Accuride for every dollar they invested. Accuride had sales of $215 million in its fiscal 1986, according to the Wall Street Journal. Accuride was sold within a year and a half, earning Bain more than 20 times its original investment, according to the Times. (Bain revamped production and restructured executive compensation at the company, according to a case study by a Bain partner, cited by the Boston Globe.)
"I didn't want to invest in start-ups where the success of the enterprise depended upon something that was out of our control," Romney was quoted as saying in the Boston Globe in 2007.
The Wall Street Journal found that many of the businesses Bain bought went bust, even when Bain reaped big financial wins. The paper analyzed 77 businesses Bain invested in while Mr. Romney led the firm from its 1984 start until early 1999, finding that 22 percent either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested. An additional 8 percent ran into so much trouble that all of the money Bain invested was lost. But overall, the hits more than made up for the losses, and Bain recorded 50 percent to 80 percent annual gains in the period, the paper found.
For a private equity firm, choosing the right company to buy is critical, which is where firms such as McCall Springer came in.
In February 1996, Springer, who runs a small investment firm in Los Angeles, woke up to press accounts that Bain and another Boston-based private-equity company, Thomas H. Lee & Co., were in talks to acquire the business that today is known as Experian. Alarmed, he fired off a letter to Adam Kirsch, a managing director of Bain Capital. "As you are aware," Springer wrote on Feb. 9, 1996, his firm "brought each of you the idea and reasons for acquiring TRW ISS/REDI," as Experian was then called.
"We provided you detailed business and strategic plans, company organization and cost structures, management tendencies and requirements, competitive and customer market investigations, emerging market opportunities, new or improved product and service opportunities," Springer wrote in a letter that is an exhibit in a legal fight from that time.
Springer followed up that on Feb. 12, with a second letter to top officials of Bain and Thomas H. Lee. The top addressee: Mitt Romney.
Springer reminded Bain, as well as others involved in the deal, that McCall Springer had written agreements with each party, which he claimed acknowledged that Springer had brought the idea to them a couple of years earlier.
Instead of paying up, Bain brought legal action against McCall Springer. Romney's private equity firm sought a declaratory judgment, a legal strategy to seek a quick resolution of a matter, often in a jurisdiction of your choosing. McCall Springer countersued, alleging it was owed equity and management rights in the deal and seeking punitive damages. In the end, Bain entered into an undisclosed settlement.
During the period that Mitt Romney was actively running Bain during the 1990s, Bain had at least three other legal disputes that were similar to the fight with McCall Springer. In each case, a party claimed it was owed money for having brought Bain an idea for an acquisition. When Bain carried out the acquisition, the firm didn't pay the contractually obligated fee, according to the claims.
Bain fought each in court, arguing that the agreements it had with the parties didn't cover the specific circumstances of the deals.
The Experian deal was a headline grabbing success for Bain, which was formed in 1984. Great Universal Stores, the British retailer, agreed in November 1996 to buy Experian for $1.7 billion. Bain and Thomas H. Lee had agreed to pay just over $1 billion in February, but had only closed the deal in September.
Private equity firms often claim that they develop companies, helping them to grow more quickly and professionally. The added value that the private equity owners contributed to Experian in a mere seven weeks, however, was minimal.
Bain and Thomas H. Lee turned their $100 million investments into $300 million each, a spectacular return in such a short period. (The rest of the profit went to other investors, including Experian management and TRW for its remaining stake.)
Eventually, Bain settled with Springer. Brokers and finders learned to craft their agreements more stringently, they say. "If you don't have a really good agreement, you will be eviscerated in some shape or form," a person familiar with the dispute says.
Phillip Roman had a similar dispute with Bain in the early 1990s.
In September 1994, Phillip Roman & Co. took Bain to court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, filing a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. Roman claimed Bain had failed to pay it a finder's fee of $4.3 million for Bain's takeover of Weider Health and Fitness, a health food and fitness equipment business.
The M&A firm claimed in its suit that it had signed an agreement with Bain in 1990 and brought Weider to the attention of Bain partner Geoffrey Rehnert in January 1993. Bain eventually bought Weider for $390 million. The problem for Roman was that Bain had thrown it over for another finder firm, according to the complaint.
The firms settled the case in December of the same year.
Asked if he felt angry with Bain about the dispute, he said: "At that moment I did. Everybody feels that way when they think they've been screwed."
But his firm worked with Bain subsequently on deals and received fees without issue. Today, "I have no ill feeling at all, not even close," he says.
Roman added that he had great respect for Bain and its high standards. The companies the firm bought "had to be like nuns," he said.
In a third case, in November 1992, John Ewing, who had a firm called J.G. Ewing & Associates, approached Bain to pitch it an acquisition of the engineering and design firm Professional Service Industries, Inc. The two sides made an agreement with each other.
Shortly after, PSI's parent hired the investment bank PaineWebber to auction off the company.
About a year later, Bain bought PSI, but didn't pay Ewing. Ewing read about the pending deal in the newspaper. His lawyer contacted Bain, arguing that the firm wouldn't have known about the company if Ewing hadn't introduced it to the private equity firm, and pointing out that the parties had an agreement with each other.
Bain partner Rehnert wrote to John Ewing, saying it wouldn't pay the fee. Bain is "not willing to pay a fee to a broker when an investment bank has been engaged to conduct an auction since bringing such a deal to our attention creates no value," the Bain partner wrote to Ewing, according to a letter from Ewing's lawyer to Bain.
Bain sued Ewing in U.S District Court in Massachusetts, seeking declaratory judgment. Ewing countersued for $1.4 million. The case was dismissed voluntarily in February 1995, an outcome that generally indicates the parties settled.
In the final instance, the son of the owner of Anthony Crane, a crane company that Bain took over, claimed that he had brought Bain information that another crane company was willing to sell itself to Bain. He claimed a finder's fee, which Bain disputed. That case too appears to have been settled.
Paul Kiel contributed to this story.