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A sheep, on a hill

If my memory serves me correctly this was on a road to Edinburgh from England, before we got to Abbotsford (Sir Walter Scott's home). I'm guessing the A7. Scotland, Europe.
Ten years ago.


 

 

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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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Simple ballot, momentous choice.

The ballot for tomorrow's referendum in Scotland, regarding severing itself from the UK, is sweetly simple. There are two boxes, and you mark one. I doubt there will be any usability problems like we had with the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County in 2000 which gave Bush the Presidency and changed the world (sorry, Teresa, I'm sure you meant well, and I don't hold it against you). It's a simple form, but not an easy choice.

Remember how Danny Glover dies in Witness? Suffocated, in that grain silo? That's kind of what people in Ohio go through every four years, and I presume the Scots have experienced the same. Only this choice is a helluva lot more momentous than our quadrennial presidential choice. Few peoples have such an opportunity for such self-destiny. I don't presume to know what's best for them, and I'm taken aback at how many outsiders presume to know. But it's a difficult decision, and it's full of practicality and emotion. I hope everyone who votes votes with careful consideration, and I wish them well one way or another.

As an aside before I post this, we should note that this hugely significant change takes only a simple majority. And each person's vote counts just as much as any other's. Think about what it takes here in the US to get a bill of far less consequence through the Senate; think about the barriers we have to amending the Constitution. Think about our Electoral College and how it not only biases small states, but minimizes the importance of voters in "safe" states. Democracy's lab is in Scotland, not here.

Link | Comments | 8:50 PM
 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Commerce takes a stand against the NFL.

A bunch of NFL sponsors including Anheuser-Busch have put the NFL on notice that the organization really has to get its act together. It's the Rice thing, it's the Peterson thing, and something in me also wonders if the concussions aren't a concern too. From a cold business perspective a brand is an asset, and I'm not sure what companies would want their brand images besmirched by its associations. And at the same time, it might be more than a business issue: it could well be that companies are trying, actively, to do the right thing. It certainly wouldn't be the first time: Chick-fil-a wasn't open on Sundays.

And there's a certain power in the purse, waiting to be leveraged. This spring, Guinness withdrew its sponsorship of the Manhattan St. Patrick's Day Parade over the Ancient Order of Hibernians' long-time exclusion of gay Irish groups with banners which proclaimed their identity; and voila, earlier this month it was announced that that barrier was coming down (to the chagrin of the Catholic League, we should point out).

Now, about the name of that NFL team in Washington DC...

Link | Comments | 7:29 PM
 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

So Andrew Cuomo's armor took a significant dent.

You might have heard that we had a primary election in New York last Tuesday, and in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, challenger Zephyr Teachout took 34% of the vote (a historic high against an incumbent going back to the establishment of primaries in 1970), limiting Cuomo to 62%. Laughably, Cuomo derided the significance of her achievement, crediting her totals to self-interest... as if no unions were thinking about their own interests when they endorsed Cuomo... Or as if Bill de Blasio wasn't weighed down by political considerations when he endorsed Cuomo, and warned NYC pols against endorsing Teachout. Or, of course, as if I wasn't thinking about her clear advantages over Cuomo.

The truth is that Teachout offered a lot over Cuomo, far beyond the anti-corruption message which initially spurred interest in her, coinciding with the revelations of what was behind Cuomo's disbanding of his anti-corruption Moreland Commission. Cuomo said he disbanded it because he was content with changes he was getting through the legislature, but it is odd that it happened shortly after one of his staffers thought the commission was getting too close to a company which Cuomo had hired.

I had a sad moment on Wednesday evening; I was attending a session on graphics and communication of information at the New York Times, led by NYT graphics editor Matthew Ericson, hosted by the NYC chapter of AAPOR. He'd shown some interesting data breakouts, such as a demographic comparison of New Orleans wards which were or were not flooded by Katrina. Towards the end as the event lost structure and went into dialog, and havig seen the map of counties which Teachout took (many in the eastern part of upstate) I asked if they'd done any geographically-based analysis of the prior night's election results. All they'd done so far as I could tell was a county-by-county vote tally. Ericson basically said that they hadn't because the election just "wasn't that interesting." Which I thought was odd (and still do) given the amount of coverage which the Times gave to Cuomo's churlish behavior and Teachout's ongoing optimisim; not to mention the strength of her anti-fracking position, definitely relevant to upstate NY.

Anyway, Teachout was on MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki yesterday, and in case you couldn't tune in...

Link | Comments | 12:11 PM
 

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's up to the Scots, and everyone else should have something better to think about.

In ten days, you've probably heard, Scots get to vote on a binding referendum to divorce themselves out of the UK. I follow a Scot or two on Twitter, and I'm not surprised at all to see them tweet about it. And I'm not at all surprised to log on to The Scotsman and see it discussed there.

I guess I'm also not so very surprised to see the English go all Motown, but really, it's of far more concern to the Scots than it is to the English. (And for your English context, twas Johnson himself who warned an Irishman, "Do not make a union with us, Sir. We should unite with you, only to rob you. We should have robbed the Scotch, if they had had any thing of which we could have robbed them.")

Outside of the Scots, I don't understand the intense opinions of the English (I mean, really, if it's so beneficial for the Scots to be with you, and they're so dependent on you, aren;t you better off if they leave?). Now we cue Digby.

Link | Comments | 10:19 PM
 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Oklahomans always wanted more beachfront property anyway.

Doubtless you'll be shocked, shocked to learn that scientists have found that the water levels in the antarctic are increasing more rapidly than expected, and you know the drill.

I wouldn't look for any statement of alarm from Jim Inhofe.

Link | Comments | 12:36 PM
 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Surprisingly, old questions persist.

A trip on the Wayback Machine to two and a half years ago:

Inspired by a bit of snark from Atrios, I remembered this old debate, but was mistaken about who was arguing to arm the rebels. Clearly now that we have ISIS/L, Slaughter's point that we should selectively arm the good rebels remains questionable.

Link | Comments | 6:21 PM
 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"We don't have a strategy yet."

Not overly thrilled that this comment of Obama's is getting so much attention. (It's not just being mentioned, it's the lede.) Honestly? I don't think they should have a strategy yet; I'm guessing they have a number of competing strategies and haven't settled yet on one that deserves the definitive article "a."

Because as soon as he says he has a strategy, you know what the next question's going to be ("Can you tell us...") and then he goes into negotiating-with-himself mode. You don't put it out there. It also doesn't hurt if Putin underestimates Obama, IMB.

Link | Comments | 7:15 PM
 

Monday, August 25, 2014

So much for the Lady MacBeth defense.

Maybe it's because I'm a news junkie, but it's my personal feeling that the the trial of former VA governor Bob McDonnell on bribery is the most tawdry, most sensational court case since Amy and Joey. Talk about people removing their brains from their skulls and skipping down the wrong path: I mean, really. And last week, when McDonnell tried to foist it all on his wife? Brilliant, if we're talking about Gatsby and people willfully diving on a sword. Bravo, round of applause!

Umm, maybe that "out, Spot" defense won't work out:

A stream of text messages between Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Williams also seemed to undercut the former governor's contention that it was his wife who had provided Mr. Williams's entree to his office. On July 3, 2012, Mr. Williams texted the governor about a clinical trial of Anatabloc, adding, "if you need cash let me know. Let's go golfing and sailing" at Mr. Williams's house on Cape Cod.

I don't think this is going to end well for the former governor and his wife, but in fairness I haven't been in the courtroom for the full time. But if I were going to speculate, I'd say that at this point they're not aiming for acquittal so much as a reality show on Bravo.

(And it's here where I do a nostalgic sniff for the Bravo which was a fine arts channel, Janus films and all that.)

Link | Comments | 9:25 PM


People die when I travel, so I can't travel.

Saturday morning before heading off, I read that Jean Redpath had died. A folk singer from Scotland, and a frequent guest on Prairie Home Companion, I'm sure I had about 15 of her CDs.

And so now I return, to hear we lost Frans Bruggen, who was a recorder superstar. And yes, I had many of his. (He also was a big part of the early insrument revival, leading an orchestra,

Travel isn't worth it.

NYT obits for Redpath and Bruggen.

Link | Comments | 7:12 PM
 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Some sweetness before your pre-weekend blow out.

It's a sweet song, ain't it? I guess it was written by the guitarist in the striped shirt, stage left right, John Douglas of the Trashcan Sinatras (brother of the band's drummer, and whose singer is the brother of Eddie Reader). The world needs room for lovely.

Link | Comments | 7:43 PM
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The burden of the Black President.

Over at McClatchy DC, Lesley Clark writes about dissatisfaction among some that Obama isn't taking a more visible approach to the racial issues which have been brought to the forefront by Ferguson. Clark (apparently a female Lesley, based on her Twitter profile, if you're looking for a clarifying pronoun) may or may not be dealing with a straw man, but she's pretty clear on the Preznit's bona fides:

"I understand the feeling of many people, that as an African-American president they want to hear from him," [Sherilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund] said. "But we have heard from him, you have the deployment of the resources to ensure that justice is done."

Those reminders need to be made. And we all also need to be reminded of the artificially higher expectations placed on a President of color. I'm sure you remember 2008 when people like Instapundit would react to some item in the press, some stupid thing done by a black guy that got people killed, with "If Obama is serious about being President, he's going to have to talk about..." I get that Ferguson is different, but to put a bully pulpit especially on Obama means that you're kind of giving a free pass to white politicians who might facilely remain silent. Obama bears no greater burden than any President who came before him.

Link | Comments | 7:54 PM
 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

More on Zephyr Teachout...

She spent some time with Gothamist the other day, and said a lot that down-staters can relate to, especially over mass transit. She also gave a little attention to upstate concerns over fracking, but I personally would like her to talk about jobs upstate too. Not that jobs is specifically an upstate isse (unemployment is worse in Brooklyn [Kings County] and the Bronx than anywhere else in the state), but everyone is always concerned about jobs because unemployment is higher than it should be. So I think it would make sense for her to start talking not just about Cuomo and his moneyed interests, but "the people" vs. Cuomo's moneyed interests.

In marketing we call this turning a feature into a benefit -- taking the abstract feature and making it concrete. In the same fashion, I don't think it's enough to simply complain about Cuomo not debating; it should be framed as Cuomo robbing the people of their votes by not letting them see how the two of them (Cuomo and Teachout) contrast on the issues.

Link | Comments | 6:13 PM
 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I get Andrew Cuomo.

He's actually pretty easy to understand. It comes down to this: 1, he's not Mario; 2, he's not Ted Cruz. Beyond that, he's hard to understand. It was great that he pushed marriage equality through in the NYS legislature, and not only consumed political capital in doing so, but got some Republicans to do the same. The gun laws (in the wake of Sandy Hook Elementary) were not as difficult, but so few politicians did anything elsewhere we have to give Andrew Cuomo credit there.

(Inhale, pause; exhale.) Cuomo (from here on in this means Andrew, not Mario) failed to capitalize on election gains to create a Democratic Party-led legislature, and actually said he didn't care; and he also screwed up opportunities to make the replacement Tappan Zee Bridge (a very expensive project) more friendly to transit. (It's a pretty congested bridge if you've ever been on it, and merely adding more car lanes is a short term fix.) Then there was his campaigning against big money in politics, then heading to the trough. And last month, the NYT write-up on the background behind his suspension of his own anti-corruption panel, the Moreland Commission, when his aides saw the panel nearing agencies employed by Cuomo.

So he's up for reelection this year, and is not unopposed in the primary. In fact, while the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party typically automatically align on the nominee, this year the latter hesitated to anoint Cuomo, and a significant faction preferred his oponent Zephyr Teachout (a Fordham Law Professor with lots of brains, articulate, progressive, charismatic, and energetic). Eventually Cuomo went to confession and said that for his penance he promised to be a good Democrat, and won the Working Families Party nomination. Which was good for him, because it lessens the questions about him.

Teachout, however, did not say uncle. The two of us tweeted back and forth, with me wondering if her goal was to move Cuomo left, as Edwards did with Clinton and Obama in 2008. Teachout tweeted back: "I am in this to win." And so she declared herself a determined opponent. (That's kind of when I repurposed a Benjamin or two, so there's your disclosure statement if you wanted one.)

What's an incumbent Governor to do? Why, of course(!) you sue to get her kicked off the ballot over whether or not she fulfills residency requirements, and huff and puff about nation of laws. Okay, fine. That was last week.

But yesterday, a judge ruled that the Cuomo attorneys had not brought sufficient proof that Teachout wasn't a resident for the last five years. And so she stays on th ballot.

What's an incumbent Governor to do? Prepare for debates of course, since it's the people's election and an informed populace is the backbone of democracy. Oh, wait, what was I thinking... The Cuomo camp wants to appeal the judge's ruling.

If you got a spare dime, read the issue stances and then maybe forego the large fries...

Link | Comments | 7:37 PM
 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Nobody goes there anymore, it's too popular.

The way Yogi said it was it was "too crowded," but this was a case where it was genuinely too popular... Last night we tried to go to the last show in the Celebrate Brooklyn series of free outdoor performances in Prospect Park, and last night it was St. Vincent. And wow, did we underestimate how many people would want to go. Here's a YouTube video of the line we were in, and a commenter says this was only one of the two lines.

We couldn't get in; by the time the line had snaked and snaked, the only thing you could do was sit outside the fenced-in area, and the sound was too muffled to enjoy the music itself (trees, barriers, tent canvas). But Dr. Shrill got in, so they must have been letting in the rabble.

Celebrate Brooklyn events are frequent in the summer, so it makes sense that they're not set up for the large areas of the park, it would be crushing and I think that it would wrongly limit broader use of Prosepct Park. Still, how does anyone understand that the show they want to see is going to be be incredibly popular? We overheard that the lines for this show started forming at 3:30 PM; and it explains the question which one of the two Johns of TMBG once asked a Celebrate Brooklyn audience: "It's a free concert; why are you outside the fence?" The answer of course is that sometimes you can't get inside the fence, and you bail or listen to the muffled sound.

Link | Comments | 7:10 PM


Reince Priebus's silly thinking.

Over at The Playpen, Joel Gehrke combined letters into a post speculating whether or not Reince Priebus has decided to come down on the side of Scott Walker over Rand Paul:

"Do you want to know why my buddy Scott Walker is so popular?" [Priebus] continued. "Because he did something really simple. He made a simple promise and he kept it. What a novel idea, that you would make a promise, you would get elected, and then you would go govern like you campaigned."

Well, that is a great idea, and it would be fabulous if that were what Scott Walker had actually done. But as we know, once Walker was elected he implemented a right wing, anti-public servant campaign which was not part of his campaign. So I don't know what they smoke up in Wisconsin, but Reince seems to have a very unique stash.

What other hooks, lines, and sinkers did Gehrke typey type type?

Priebus also touted Walker to reporters at CPAC in March. "We've become a party that has a hard time losing midterms but a hard time winning presidentials," Priebus said, citing Mitt Romney's defeat in Wisconsin despite receiving a near-record number of votes in the state. "He pretty much got killed. And four months earlier, Scott Walker pretty much killed his opponent, but did it with 600,000 fewer votes. So why is that? What's going on? And I have to tell you, I think it has to do with No. 1, who do you want to have a beer with on the ballot, and No. 2, who is turning out low-propensity voters and how do you change that."

Preibus shows some awareness that midterm elections have lower turn out than Presidential, but also doesn't acknowledge that 2010 was especially good for Republicans. The GOP got people like this guy elected and were able to defeat this one. It's not to Walker's credit that he crushed his opponent, all things considered. In other words, I wouldn't give Reince a very high score, and if he endorsed me I'd run. Away.

Link | Comments | 9:02 AM
 

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