Me: Frank Lynch. These are my daily rants, mostly political. For something less spontaneous, I maintain The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page (over 1,800 Johnson quotes), perhaps your best online resource for insight into his thinking.
DISCLOSURE: I work for Abt SRBI. We do polling, public policy research, surveys, etc. My opinions should not be construed as representing those of my employer.
first: frankplynch at gmail dot com; now delete the 'a' in my name
Bio: Born 1957, raised in Florida, moved to New York area in 1982; now live in Brooklyn. Married, with one daughter. I work in marketing research for Abt SRBI. My opinions should not be construed as representing those of my employer.
My copy came in the mail, through a PledgeMusic pledge. Copies on Amazon (US) are pretty expensive ($28). Amazon.co.uk sells it for 12 pounds, which is less, so invite a Brit friend to visit you and bring it with them.
Thanks again to John Douglas of the Trashcans for calling him out a year or so ago.
The questions and answers in today's SCOTUS hearing over Texas's banning of the Confederate States' War Flag from its affinity license plates sure went in interesting directions. The state takes the position that affinity plates don't represent individuals' speech, but government speech, and Texas has the right to be selective. Ginsberg pointed to one affinity plate for a fast food chain and questioned whether that was really government speech. LOTS of discussion about slippery slopes if the ban were overridden (would swastika designs need to be allowed? yes, says the plaintiff; would Al Qaeda messages need to be allowed? yes, says the plaintiff).
One interesting speculation was whether Texas might have to ban all affinity plates in order to keep some out, should SCOTUS rule that Texas could not be selective. And that possibility got me to thinking about some reactions to mandates to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples: the decision to not issue any marriage licenses to anyone. It's kind of an odd parallel, but it's definitely there. And justice Breyer basically asked why the plaintiffs couldn't be happy just putting their affinity on a bumper sticker, and not an actual license plate.
I do wonder if the justices have been swishing the marriage equality implications around, and whether this influenced some of their questions.
You've heard, I guess, that Senator Ted Cruz is supposedly going to announce tomorrow that he's running for the 2016 GOP nomination for the Presidency, right? Thought you had.
If you are inclined to think that his small chances of winning should deny him press coverage, I think I'd prefer he get plenty of coverage. As well as an open discussion of his ideas, and be taken seriously. In all honesty it's only through genuine discussions of the candidates' beliefs, past political history, and likely future behavior that voters can form a decent opinion. It would be great if the press stopped dismissing outlier candidates in terms of their small chances of winning; and if they stopped talking about the horse race leaders as being inevitable (as if that was sufficient narrative).
I really think we'd be better off if more of America got a clear view of all the candidates.
Bibi's 11th hour Hail Mary pass (yes, I know) to get himself reelected (no Palestinian state, a reversal from 2009) was a shock in and of itself. And now that he got his turnout and votes, to do a double reverse? ("Double reverse" is a football term, as is "Hail Mary pass"; football is a game played with a ball referred to as "pig skin.") Bibi's gymnastics are the kind of attempts you see on mats at the Olympics, only at the Olympics the practiced athletes pull them off.
I really wanted to call this cynical move unprecedented. But I can't, because we have President George W. Bush's September 2003 statement that "we never said Iraq was behind 9/11." So. I can't call it unprecedented. But it's still horrid, and abominable. Hat tip to you, Bibi: Hell has found a special place for you, too.
I'm wrapping up Martin Dyckman's very good book on Reubin Askew, Reubin O'D. Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics. I have to tell you, we should all be grateful for university presses: Askew is pretty peripheral to most people's lives, and the details within the book are thus arcane to a political biography of a governor from 40 years ago, and a book like this is not made for the Today Show. So I'm very grateful to the UF Press. But as long as you're going to write about Askew (or decide to read about him), it's all fitting. Askew is not Lincoln or FDR. But he was a very fine governor, and a great progressive. There's no question but that if the 1970's Reubin Askew were here now with the same frame of mind you'd label him a social issues conservative, but I think you'd like a lot of the rest.
To repeat, from this distance you're welcome to have ambivalent feelings about him (I do). Among what I see as accomplishments...
He was able to get voters to approve a corporate income tax to help the state's coffers. (And he invested considerable capital in doing so.)
He had a no-holds-barred attitude towards corrupt members of the legislature and the judiciary. And saw they were ushered out, and argued for impeachments rather than resignations so they couldn't draw pensions.
He freed Pitts and Lee. (This was a singular moment in my teen years.)
He nominated the first African-American to Florida's Supreme Court.
He pushed to make MLK's birthday a holiday.
He pushed through environmental reforms, protecting Florida's natural environment. (His predecessor, Claude Kirk, also excelled at that.)
Lastly, he estblished new standards for open government, referred to as Florida's "Sunshine" laws.
We can't limit ourselves to judging him by his accomplishments, and should also recognize other efforts he made which weren't successful, such as government reforms with respect to Florida's cabinet structure and its power. (The governor didn't pick his cabinet, they were pretty much foisted on him on a non-elective basis and basically repepresented another branch of government.)
And then on the other hand there are the areas where he displayed his social conservatism, yet showing a moral consistency as he did so. I don't know if we would consider him a Right To Lifer these days, but he did favor a second medical opinion for late term abortions, said he wouldn't want a gay in his administration (and repeated that post-Governor, in Senate confirmation hearings for the U.S. Trade Represenative (a cabinet level position), and was against lowering the drinking age to 18. On that last point, he ultimately decided against a veto in the belief that the 18-20's would behave responsibly.
Dyckman holds back and is not judgmental on a strategic call which Askew made over casino gambling. There was a push for casino gambling in Miami Beach, and Askew was against it; he didn't frame his opposition in terms of the sin of gambling so much as everything else it would open Floridians up to (prostitution, corruption, etc.) and how it wouldn't be limited to Miami, that it would eventually creep through the entire state. Casino gambling was on a voter referendum, and Askew didn't merely want to defeat it, he wanted to crush it so that it wouldn't come up again. Politically, that presented a problem because there were eight other referendums that were worth passing, and "no" confusion wound up hurting every other positive referendum (casino gambling was obliterated). Many of the others were so close to passage. But Dyckman quotes one savvy observer as saying that once you've riled up enough no-sayers to come to the polls the Ten Commandments wouldn't pass.
I think I've covered the high points, but I haven't really talked about the environment (the snickering cigar smoking back door ya da da ya da da's). There's some great stuff in there, with hidden bill sponsors, deals and so on. It's arcane for your daily life, and I think you'd get a lot out of reading this inside baseball description of Florida politics. On the other hand, want to watch me make sausage?
The NCAA brackets are out, and I'm presuming my Gators aren't in them; I'd be disappointed in the NCAA if they were, because it would devalue so many other teams as well as the years in which my Gators legitimately earned slots. The announcement of the brackets has an odd, sentimental resonance for me; it will make sense once I explain it, but I've never really cared that much about basketball (college or pro). On the pro level, my sole soul connection is that Zoe was born the weekend of the NBA finals; so the NBA was part of the wallpaper. On the college level, yes, the Gators have a championship or two (I honestly can't remember if it isn't the football team that has two).
But when I worked in London briefly in 1990, I knew it was a brief stint, and one foot had not freed itself from the US. I had enjoyed conversations with co-workers there where I got to explain American culture (such as our geographic panhandles, and what the "Who's On First" bit was in "Rainman" and the significance of Raymond's monotone). But there was something where I'd had enough, and I needed the old sod.
I knew the brackets were out, and I don't think I was surprised that they weren't printed, in full, in The Times or The Independent. But I have a firm memory of traipsing around half of London in search of a copy of USA Today, which I was confident (accurately) would have the brackets. I wasn't confident I could find them in the IHT. There was no Web back then, remember. And although I have no idea at this distance who might have been in contention, I hunted and plodded and walked and hiked. I can't even remember now if I even found a copy. But it was one of those things which reaffirmed to me that I hadn't left the US. And every time the brackets cone out, I remember 1990.