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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.

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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.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

ISIS threatens the West, and so NOW it's Game On.

First, the passwords, expressed with all sincerity. What happened in Paris on Friday was horrible, unquestionably horrible. But the people of Beirut are right to wonder why Paris events evoked such a response, compared to what happened to them just a day before. There IS an imbalance, and I have a few ideas as to why that occurs. First, there's the "over there" phenomenon here in America, where we still relish the separation of oceans (and sometimes ignore Joseph Kennedy's non-intervention stance on Hitler). There's also the fact that more of our media (as well as us) have visited Paris than Beirut. (Remember the SNL skit where Eddie Murphy, playing Jesse Jackson was asked what he thought about Beirut? "Hank Aaron a better hitter, man.") Third, in addition to the greater love for Paris because of familiarity, there's also the "huh? Beirut? Not on my radar at all" element. We just don't empathize.

And it's not just those of us on the left: who among the Republicans seemed to give a whit about what happened in Beirut? We are walking around with blinders. To move past the John Donne line everyone quotes, we are all pieces of the firmament.

Hats off to France for their rapid response in sending the bombers into Syria. No complaints here.

But it's not as if I don't have complaints. Friday evening Newt tweeted that he wished the French were armed and could take their attackers down; but since something like 90 people died in a crowded, dark theater, you have to question the wisdom of return fire in a situation like that. I suspect that far more than 90 would have died there.

Another complaint I have is over the RW interpretation of what Obama said on Thursday regarding whether ISIS was "contained." It was pretty clear to me that Obama was talking about containment within a specific geography, an interpretation which others have shared. But the opportunity for political points didn't stop people like Carly Fiorina from foaming. The rabid desire for a rapid response rules: there is no political advantage in ceding rationality to Obama, so just go for the throat and hope that no one you hope to court reads anything beyond your release. And in deference to some of you I won't mention RW posts I've read in the RW janitors' locker rooms.

My reactions to last night's debate will have to wait.

Link | Comments | 7:12 PM

Thursday, November 12, 2015

If I understand Eric Bolling correctly, he's talking like Cliff on "Cheers."

There was this episode of Cheers where bar regular Cliff expressed his lack of concern over alcohol (beer) killing brain cells, in that it was like a culling of the herd by jackals killing the weak stragglers and making the remaining herd stronger on average. Cliff concluded that by drinking beer it made his brain stronger, if I recall correctly. I do not believe I am making this up.

And so, his Ericness on why deportation is good for Latinos.

Link | Comments | 11:06 PM

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Anner Bylsma is the best.

Don't take my word for it.

His 1979 recording of the Bach cello suites was the best. Mind blowingly transformational. There are a bunch of inexpensive boxed collections of his recordings you can buy; the first set has both his 1979 set and a later one from the 90's.

Link | Comments | 11:12 PM

Weeding out the clown car.

Far be it from me to imagine for a moment that Reince Prebus cares a whit about what I think or my suggestions as to how they could go about separating the "major" league candidates from the minor league ones, especially since I don't even watch the Republican debates, but it's pretty obvious to me that the GOP is prolonging the silliness of the debates by their partnership with media outlets who want debates and the failure to take simple steps.

Of course we have to acknowledge that so long as the candidates don't actually literally claw each others' faces out the GOP benefits from all the free exposure. They get the media attention and as has been noted, can punch Clinton and the media without challenge. It's only to the GOP's detriment when the candidates provide sound bites to the future Democratic Party Nominee, or if some pundit who reaches independents persuasively points to their whiny, out-of-tune violins about the media not asking them sweet questions.

But here's something which the GOP could do to instantly make their debates more focused.

  1. Build a web site that has space for all the candidates, and all the issues, in a grid.
  2. Make it mandatory to each candidate: if you want to be on the stage, you have to fill in your position on each issue. (The GOP has the luxury of determining the issues, thus keeping the topics away from questions like who should be on the Ten.)
  3. Once the web site is built, you randomly select registered GOP voters (or likely ones, it doesn't matter for this discussion) and do a forced exposure survey. You could have the respondents look at the whole field and rank their favorites, or you could have them look at a randomly selected subset of the bunch. Or pairs at a time. The point is, cut to the chase through a mechanism that takes "name recognition" out of play, and gives more equal footing to the Kasichs versus the Cruzs.
  4. Tally the results as appropriate to the data collection, come up with perhaps five (or however many Reince chooses) and put them on the main stage. Send the chaff off to cut ribbons for mall openings or something. It's bound to be a better winnowing than any first-choice telephone poll which is based on uninformed opinion.

Not difficult. It will work.

Link | Comments | 10:58 PM

Monday, October 26, 2015

A wonderful move, unforeseen.

Practically all public universities fly their state flag. But you can now count the University of Mississippi among those that won't:

The University of Mississippi has stopped flying the state's flag on its campus because it features the Confederate battle emblem.

Mississippi students had urged for the removal of the flag from campus because of its associations with slavery.

The university chancellor ordered the flag to be lowered and said it was being sent to the archives.

No protest from me.

Link | Comments | 6:49 PM

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Quick thoughts on the first Democratic Debate.

Schedules here prevented me from seeing the last half hour or so, but here are my immediate impressions.

  • Clinton: I actually thought she underperformed, and came across as cardboard and practiced. I think she knew her answers and didn't waffle, which was good, but I doubt she won anyone over.
  • Sanders: Gun control was the vulnerability I knew it would be, and I think he'd do well to get his points of agreement out more quickly, and how much of an advance they are over the current status. I also thought his response to O'Malley on the political practicalities of pursuing gun control, while a good riposte, opens himself up to an argument on the political realities on economic inequality. It's not like the GOP is going to hold hands with us on that. His best moment may have been when he supported Clinton on the emails.
  • O'Malley: O'Malley may have had the best night in terms of seizing an opportunity. I think most viewers had only a vague notion of who he is and what he might stand for, and he improved on that. I also think he did well with the confidence in which he answered questions on Baltimore policing. (Let's see how those answers hold up in th fact checks.)
  • Chafee: If O'Malley seized a moment, Chafee showed how not to. He's going to need a better answer on his Glass-Steagall vote than "it was my first vote." If he gets the question again he should flat out call it a rookie mistake and find a rookie mistake some Hall of Famer made, to mention in defense. The fact that the vote was 95-0 90-5 isn't as much help as he believes.
  • Webb: I think Webb has more to offer than Chafee, and while he got a little more time than Chafee did, I think he wasted it with stale rhetoric which was coldly delivered. Like a recitation of the resume rather than responding in the moment. I thought he did OK with his list of foreign policy failures, but invading Iraq is a gimme, and he could have amplified that one by mentioning de-Baathification before moving on to others.

Other thoughts not organized around the candidates:

  • My thoughts on competence surrounding the vote to authorize the Iraq invasion have evolved over time. I am more forgiving of those who voted to invade while still crediting those who voted against. We know now from the John Judis and Spencer Ackerman piece that very few people in the Senate knew as much as Bob Graham did (chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee), and the Bush Administration refused to release more information to the broader Senate. By and large they were all voting from ignorance or shaded releases; while they could have asked the same questions which Knight-Ridder was asking, I think there's a natural inclination to believe the intelligence you've been given. So I don't hold the Iraq vote against Clinton. (And, if Chafee is going to hide behind a 95-0 90-5 vote on Glass-Steagal he needs to allow Clinton the same consideration.)
  • Granted that I missed the last half hour or so, was anyone asked what they thought Obama's greatest accomplishment was? Was North Korea discussed at all? Was the Iran deal discussed any more?
  • In the coming days O'Malley, Webb, and Chafee have some serious work to do to maximize any momentum they have coming off last night.

And so to work.

Link | Comments | 7:14 AM

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Trey Gowdy has mentioned Hillary Clinton ZERO times in his Benghazi hearings. Zero.

Link | Comments | 11:16 AM

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Never underestimate vision.

So we went to Maine last week. A couple days had splendid weather, a couple were grey, and one, Wednesday was full of torrential rains. Knowing Wednesday's weather in advance, we chose to drive up to Bangor (it seems to be pronounced Bang Gore) for a museum. The museum we chose was the Cole Land Transportation Museum, and I have to tell you this up front: while we used incessant rain as the spur, you should go even if the weather is fine your whole stay. Basically it's a huge hangar (I don't know the square footage, sorry) with all sorts of land vehicles (snow plows, fire trucks, train cars, classic automobiles, delivery wagons, baby strollers, bicycles, freight trucks, snow mobiles, and so on) as well as an entire train station office. It's quite the unique museum.

The museum is the 25 year old brainchild of Galen Cole, whose dad started a freight company a loong time ago, and pioneered plowing the snow from Maine's roads. Galen took over the family business, and late in his career realized that transportation was worth a museum. So he built a hangar and called out to the public to contribute old vehicles they had laying around; volunteers restored them and other volunteers added accoutrments to help make them all come alive. Volunteers serve as docents. It's crowdsourcing at its finest.

Galen Cole is a decorated WWII vet, and the grounds surrounding the museum have memorials to veterans (due to the heavy rains we did not see them), and there's a strong amount of attention to vets and the military; many of the docents are vets. He also is a big believer in education: the museum hosts school visits, and one of the videos in the museum reminds kids how lucky they are to get schooling, and how they need to take advantage of it. By chance he was there, on one of his random visits to his project, approached us and engaged us, and the man is completely with it (age 90).

There is something special about local museums; I still have fond memories of the Chemung County Museum we visited in Elmira, and if you can't get to Maine or Elmira, I strongly recommend you review the guide books for wherever it is you're going and seek them out.

Link | Comments | 7:31 PM

Running Up That Hill.

Wye Oak covers Kate Bush.

This was one of their encores on the tour we saw.

Link | Comments | 6:46 PM

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fortunate Son.

I have complete confidence in your ability to find the CCR song on the Internet if you don't already have a copy, but a couple notes with respect to it and Donald Trump. Vox had an item this week where they demonstrated that if he'd gotten an equal split of his dad's estate and just put it in index funds and twiddled his thumbs he'd be in better financial shape than he is now. (There is room to quibble; the analysis not only assumes son Donald received a "fair share" of the $200 million estate, but also that none of it went to charity. It's possible that was signficant.)

The other point has to do with the lyric that "when the tax man comes, the house looks like a rummage sale," that is, a poor act for the auditor. When Trump listed his assets in his campaign filings, he listed a golf course in Westchester as having a value north of $50 million. Uh, oh, property taxes are coming up, and Trump's people want to reduce the assessed market value from $13.5 million to $1.36 million, a 90% drop from its previous valuation and a splinter compared to the $50 million plus Trump claimed when he wanted to impress.

Link | Comments | 9:51 AM

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Britain proud to proclaim it's no longer Top Nation?

Allow me to cite Burke's efforts on tolerance towards the Colonies (that was us, then) as a point that while he, himself, was not stubborn, the monarchy and most of Parliament were. Somehow the Ministers never got the word that there was a famous error in a spreadsheet, and are digging their heels in on the whole austerity thing, rather than listen to Keynes, their homeboy.

Austerity is such a 'my precious' that it seems to even be threatening The Proms.

(Your answer to "what are the Proms?" is here.)

The Proms are a fabulous cultural institution. There's certainly nothing like it here, and every visiting orchestra understands they have to put their game face on and do their best. (I remember a trip to the UK about ten years ago, when we trained up to Edinburgh, got into our hotel, and happily saw an incredible performance of Shostakovich's 5th. What a fabulous treat.)

Don't be a putz, Cameron; don't defund the Proms. That would be so, uh, so Kansas.

Link | Comments | 7:24 PM

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hamilton (the Musical).

First, we should all acknowledge that there's something "Springtime For Hitler"-ish about a musical conceived on the life and death of Alexander Hamilton. AND I'm sure if you Googled for articles on this musical you'd find I'm not the first to mention this. The hilarity of The Producers was of course that SfH's creators never wanted it to succeed as anything more than fraud. As you know, it failed, and succeeded. And "Hamilton" is quite a success.

We saw it last night, with tickets that had been bought many months ago on the basis of the buzz and our connection to an institution named after Hamilton. It's damned pricey, and if I'd been part of the decision I'd have vetoed it.

Good thing I was not consulted, because it's damned good. So much of what has been said about it has described it as being our first hip-hop musical, and while I'm not inclined to do any research to refute that, and I accept it, hip-hop just isn't a form I like that much; consequently I anticipated an evening like the rap (get it?) on Wagner, 45 minutes of dullness until you get to something really grand. Not the case here at all; the hip-hop often is like the recitative in an opera, but actual "songs" come quickly. And they are inventive. And frequently funny. And not just the songs themselves, but also the rap, as in a couplet before a duel (not "the" duel), exploring whether or not the duel was truly called for:

"Your behavior has been ruinous."
"Okay, we're doin' this."

I mean, what's not to love with moments like that?

On top of that, they've managed to lay in an incredible amount of history in the two and a half hours (or so) of the show, using the Greek chorus technique (sometimes delivered by Aaron Burr, played by Leslie Odom Jr. [who you might recognize from CBS's Person of Interest, where he was in a dozen episodes in Season 3]), and when Burr calls out the many highlights of Hamilton's career it not only advances the Hamilton story but also positions Burr as being amazed over his, to Burr, inexplicable, astonishing success.

Like I said, they pack in an incredible amount of history... Hamilton being an immigrant, his efforts to become a general in the American army, his ambivalence between the woman he married and her sister, the Federalist papers, the creation of the Federal banking system, and whether or not to take sides in a war between England and France. On these latter two, arguments between Jefferon and Hamilton, it's a rap battle, well employed.

I just had a fabulous time, and haven't talked about 25% of the things I'd like to. My deepest regret is that the price of tickets presents a barrier, and I wish more could see it (especially since it's hip-hop). Long before the movie version of "Into the Woods" existed, some company made an original cast DVD of it. I hope that will be the case with this, it's really so wonderful.

Link | Comments | 6:48 PM

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bernie Sanders and immigration.

I get what Sanders is saying, that lax immigration policies could lead to an oversupply in the labor force and suppress wages. But I also get what John McCain said years ago, that a lot of the work which is done is back-breaking farm labor which not-recently-arrived Americans aren't willing to do. I think it's wrong to point to farm labor as defining the whole range, though: there are a good number of coders coming in, too, and that enables the tech companies to pay less.

One of the problems I see, however, is that without a reasonable policy there's going to be an underground economy supported by low wage immigrant labor, reducing the price point for wages. Doesn't have to be in the mani-pedi industry; it could be in the car wash, it could be in your restaurant. YOU don't know the status of the people who bus your table. And if they're undocumented and want to stay under cover, it's not like they're going to call out labor abuses.

UPDATE: This is what I mean about exploitation.

Link | Comments | 6:52 PM

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's next? Boy Scout kerchief slide contest?

Will we ever hit a point of Peak GOP Childishness?

Billionaire Donald Trump may be leading in the polls for the GOP presidential primary, but former Texas Governor Rick Perry knows how he can beat his rival candidate. Asked about Trumpís critique of his candidacy, Perry challenged Trump to a pull-up contest.

I get it, the debate format won't accept the also-runs who aren't in the top 10, and they're all working be number 10. But seriously: Chin ups? Are we going to soon hear whose daddy can beat up whose?

I very much doubt that Reince would listen to me, but the format is all wrong. The GOP should create a web site showing all the candidates' answers and positions on 10-20 questions and issues. Allow the visitors to whittle down, select specific comparisons just like Consumer Reports does. It's not difficult.

Does the GOP really want this ridiculous circular firing squad?

Link | Comments | 9:11 PM

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Marco Rubio disqualifies himself for the presidency.

Rubio disqualified himself for the Oval Office today, during Secretary of State John Kerry's appearance on the Iran nuclear deal. (Weird thing is, it was the second time in a week in which he'd disqualified himself. The first time was when he'd said Trump's McCain insult disqualified Trump for the Oval Office, not having said anything like that over Trump's comments on undocumented Mexican immigrants.) So today:

Many of the criticisms had a hit-and-run quality.

For example, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee and is running for president, derided the agreement before the members and departed promptly.

As in, he didn't stick around to hear what Kerry had to say. He oafishly grandstanded and then split. No presidential qualities there, Senator.

Link | Comments | 8:32 PM

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