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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.

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.

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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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Word blogging...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"You lie."

Senator John McCain goes on the record: he's never seen anything as despicable.

Link | Comments | 6:04 PM

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy birthday, Wolfie.

I'm really not fond of the "big" Mozart pieces, but in smaller forces I think he's great, and this is one of my favorites. So like a chamber ensemble. I don't throw around "divine," but this is up there.

Link | Comments | 7:40 PM

April 1 came early this year. Except it didn't.

Indiana's Governor wants to create a state-run news outlet, and by "state-run," that means funded by tax dollars.

A lot of states and agencies are into the transparency thing, and make use of the Internet to serve their citizens and help them navigate services, provide meeting minutes, etc. But this seems like an effort geared towards journalists, especially the lazy ones who want to be spoonfed. It's one thing to have a press conference and invite questions, but to package the news for them?

Perhaps I'm overreacting; perhaps it's no different from what's already happening with the stenographer journalism we see elsewhere. I just hope that Indianans will see it as a separate line item, in the interest of transparency.

Link | Comments | 7:15 PM

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Does your company have an evacuation plan in place?

There was a shooting today at a Home Depot in Manhattan, with two employees dead, one the alleged shooter. There aren't enough details available for me to go into a long-winded blog post, but there was one which perked me up:

At the time of the shooting, there were 70 employees in the store, the police said, and in the aftermath, dozens of them huddled in a parking lot across 23rd Street. Most stood shivering in the cold without coats, just their shirtsleeves and bright orange Home Depot aprons protecting them against the cold. A man in one of those aprons walked through the crowd with the day’s schedule in his hand, trying to account for everyone who was supposed to be at work that day.

This resonated with me because it reads as if this Home Depot location had an evacuation plan in place: employees were told to assemble at the parking lot across 23rd street, and some manager had a list of who was supposed to report that day and took role. Although I think it's an astonishingly basic procedure these days, I know better than to take it for granted. If you know my 9/11 story you know I never went into the American Express tower across the street from the WTC's that morning; on 9/12 (maybe the afternoon of 9/11?) I got a phone call from one of the managers in the group, checking that I had a pulse.

Every company needs these kinds of things in place; in place and disseminated, they can't reside in the top manager who gets the "what do I do now?" call. If you run a company, make sure it's all in place. If you don't run the company, ask up. You and your colleagues' lives depend on it.

(If you don't know my 9/11 story, my wife and I alternated showing up a little late on mornings, after dropping our daughter off at school. That was my morning, and it was pretty obvious by 9:10 that I shouldn't go in.)

Link | Comments | 6:44 PM

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gee, I hope this works out better than de-Baathification.

So you might have heard that the Speaker of the New York Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was indicted and arrested for corruption, accused of "accepting" $3.8 million in bribes and kickbacks. We (me and the cat, my editor) presume his innonence, but there are a lot of interesting aspects to this story. For one, the suspiciousness of Silver not reporting significant amounts of income, as required; the income he earned while working at a law firm whose specialty wasn't anything he was familiar with; why anyone might do this and not expect to be caught; but lastly and mostly that the Feds' investigation picked up steam after Governor Cuomo disbanded his anti-corruption Moreland Commission, and the Feds took over all the files.

Cuomo's sloth in rooting out corruption was one of the reasons Zephyr Teachout decided to primary him, and his closing of the Moreland Commission was one of her big talking points. (As well as fracking, which also helped her get the unprecedented, phenomenally high 35% vote count in the primary.) So the Times (and Teachout, naturally) are calling for Silver to resign, without having been convicted.

I have mixed feelings here. It's not quite the Louisiana "Vote For the Crook" bumper sticker, but it's in that direction. I do not want corruption in Albany, truly, or I would not have sent Teachout the campaign donation I did. But at the same time I'm not going to be pleased if a power vacuum creates new corruptions and darker forces. As one of the dealers said in a NYT article (not sure which article), "Sheldon was the devil we knew."

I want this to go well. I really do.

Link | Comments | 7:08 PM

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another sign of an improving economy?

So figures from Hollywood report an astonishing $90 million opening weekend for "American Sniper;" that's twice as much as the prior record for a January opening weekend. Here's what caught my eye, though: add up the revenue from the top 12 movies of the weekend, compare it to last year's, and year-over-year increase is 19%. Maybe last year's Top 12 were turkeys, or already stale. But something got people to open up their wallets this weekend.

Link | Comments | 10:25 AM

Friday, January 16, 2015

Message to the NYPD: your churlish brethren ticked us off.

Polling results show the voting public disapproved of the turned backs and work slowdowns. That's not just the public, it's the voting public. I hope it gives your better cops room to speak out and show some cracks in the solidarity.

Link | Comments | 12:54 PM

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

And now that I'm back from the 94th Annual Transportation Research Board conference...

Not ready to return to our regular programming yet, although I confess there's plenty of post-ready material, so automatic I'd swear one of our long-dead guinea pigs could crank out something on the concept of Mitt Romney running again in 2016.

(That whole album is great; if you don't have it, do yourself a favor and buy it.)

But as for the conference, this was my first trip; although before this I was a co-authour on a report we did on motivating support for transit, this year I was the primary author of a report on a project we did on truck drivers and how they log their hours of service. So I went down to answer any difficult questions requiring detailed responses, in support of our prime contractor's presentation (Gene Bergoffen, MaineWay Services). In addition, we (my boss and I) leveraged the data collection experiences into a presentation to a subcommittee that focuses on freight surveys.

So that's why I was there. And now I'll describe what it was like, and the handful of sessions I was able to attend. The conference is attended by over 12,000 people who work in transportation. And you have to understand that this isn't just buses and cars, it's rail, light rail, subways, freight trains, ferries, container ships, ports, semis... the whole gamut from the present, as well as future-looking perspectives on automated transit (driverless cars, etc.). I did not see a session on We Were Promised Jetpacks, regrettably. They talk about all sorts of industry-specific topics, they really drill down: what many would consider arcana (the erosive vulnerability of various pavement types), but all those specific under-the-hood topics add up to making you not notice how wonderful your world is.

The conference took over both buildings of DC's Walter E. Johnson Conference Center, as well as the adjoining Marriott, with discussion rooms not just up from street level, but three or four floors below. (Cue the Overture to Tannheuser, I guess.) And in any given block of sessions there must have been huuuuundreds, four blocks during the day and some at night.

So that's my overture to pointing out that there's no way I could give you any thing close to a representative sample of everything that went on. For a bunch of reasons: a few of my available blocks were taken up by my project on the truck drivers; there's no way I'm going to do a random sampling of the sessions that were offered (we have to focus); and lastly it continues tomorrow, and I'm not there.

So what did I see? I was really thrilled to see so many people dedicated, passionate about their fields and how they saw it contributing to our greater understanding and the benefit of the "people." Sometimes it came out in the sharing of the learnings from a database of a senior citizen's rider program; or the arts programs associated with transit stations in LA and here in NYC; or the improved transit time from setting it up so that people could board buses at all doors rather than just the fron the front; or the trends in fatalities associated with trucks, and how they've blossomed in North Dakota (away from the highways but close to the relatively new oil fields).

And I heard presenters and questioners from both sides of the "aisle," not D-R, necessarily, but system board members being open about how they can't afford more ridership because of their limited capacity; trucking industry people trying to get truck drivers to drive at night (easing local congestion) vs. concerns regarding drivers' attention at night; as well as speculative commentary on why these kids today don't want to be truck drivers, thus limiting the number of big rigs on the highways.

I generally sat on my hands in the sessions I went to, but I did ask a question in a session on improving customer experience. Two presenters discussed art in stations (LA and NYC). The presenter on NYC's station art focused on integrating the local neighborhood and maps into station design. She spent considerable time on Smith and 9th in Brooklyn, and showed how lucite (?) displays showed the neighborhood you'd have seen if you'd been there in the past. (I simplify.) In the Q&A I pointed out that the renovations done at Smith & 9th were done on a decrepit station, well overdue for some love. And I asked, "how often do you go beyond stations already marked for renovations? How often do you look at New Lots [a poor, tough neighborhood in Brooklyn]?" She pretty much whoomped me side a head: "Funny you should mention New Lots, next week I'm..." (wamp wamp)

Link | Comments | 10:54 PM

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Is there no recognition that the NYPD's poor behavior is visible, obvious?

Okay, so you've heard that our very popularly-elected Mayor Bill De Blasio has come under fire from some members of the NYPD for, in the wake of a Staten Island grand jury's failure to hand down an indictment over the death-by-strangling of Eric Garner, to have shared how he and his wife have cautioned their mixed race son to be careful in dealing with the police. And how, after two idle policemen were murdered in Bed-Stuy by a malicious, aimless drifter, members of the police force have physically turned their backs to De Blasio (at the hospital the night of the shoootings, and then at each of their funerals). With others hiring planes to fly banners castigating the mayor.

Tonight the Times is running an op-ed piece from a retired policeman who says it comes down to not being shown sufficient respect. Before I launch into my vehement arguments on that, let me do a little overture: the voters' alternative to De Blasio was Joe Lhota, who ingraciously referred to the police working for the Port Authority as "mall cops". It's not like Lhota's comment made the NYPD feel as if they inhabited an elevated rung: Lhota was being a jerk, and apologized later. But had he won, he'd have had baggage every bit as overstuffed as De Blasio's: De Blasio had campaigned on eliminating stop and frisk. I'm not sure why the police actually liked that policy, since it led to so few arrests; shouldn't it have been apparent even to them?

Now, as for the op-ed. I get that the force doesn't like being characterized as racist, and for them that's a lack of respect. But it's not like the "bad" cops have brands on their foreheads which will tell Dante how to behave. It's not like the proportion of bad cops is known, or known to be a sliver. And it's not as if the good, responsible cops are visibly shunning the bad, or complaining about their behavior. It's like Russian Roulette: if you had 75 unlabeled cans of food, and you knew one of them would kill you, wouldn't you be cautious about any can you opened? And maybe wish you'd gone to McDonald's?

There's nothing wrong with what the mayor said; a person of color would be wise to be careful until such time as the conditions I just laid out were achieved. The cops who are protesting are identifying too much with each other, and have no idea how they are perceived.

Link | Comments | 9:46 PM

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

As big as this is, not sure it's enough.

So there's this oil company called "Shell." You probably haven't heard of them unless you read Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, because aside from being a side theme, they're nobodies, a Mom and Pop shop of no importance, like that other one, You Bet Your Sweet Bippy, or something.

Well, you might also have heard that they had some serious spills in the Niger Delta. And they were awful, and they were serously toxic. Shell is ponying up at last, to the tune of $84 million (US). I wish I was in a better position to judge the equity of this; on the one hand I don't think the communities were thriving by first world standards, but if there was a potential for growth and rising beyond their situation at the time, do you compensate them for what they were then, or is there some recognition of longer term losses?

The spills here -- and the avoidance of accountability, similar to what we saw with Bippy in the Gulf -- are stark warnings about the risks associated with the Keystone Pipeline and the aquifer through which it runs. The Shell oil spillse happened in 2008 and 2009, and it's only now that there's a tilt towards resolution. Should we be led to believe that the people behind the Keystone pipeline will be more eager to make restitution? Why do I have the feeling that they'll never raise it with their Saturday confessors, much less adhere to a prescribed penance more serious than a couple Rosaries?

Link | Comments | 8:16 PM

Monday, January 5, 2015

"Fame is a shuttlecock," said you-know-who.

And I wouldn't mind it at all if someone in the White House press corps asked Josh Earnest about Representative Steve Scalise every day. I happen to think there's not much here besides the stupidity of an opportunistic rising politician, but this was an unforced error the Republicans didn't need. The CW I've heard is that the GOP wanted a Southerner in leadership, and that's why he's not sandwiched between asphalt and a bus yet. You'd think they could find another Southerner, though, without resorting to the likes of Louie Gohmert. (Gohmert may not be interested, as it seems he wants Boehner's gavel.)

Link | Comments | 8:06 PM

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Burning Bridget Cleary.

Found this through Bands In Town's listings of bands similar to those I track for local shows.

Link | Comments | 6:27 PM

Lindsey Graham pledges allegiance to Netanyahu.

And the Right has been afraid of us throwing away our sovereignty to the U.N.?

Link | Comments | 3:51 PM

Andrew Cuomo hits the right notes.

From the credit where credit is due department... Governor Cuomo interrupted his mourning for his dad yesterday by attending the wake of Wenjian Liu, one of the two police officers murdered as they sat in their cruiser two weeks ago in Bed-Stuy. While there, Cuomo spoke about the need to "move to a phase of healing in this city." In doing so, he talked of the daily possibility that an officer won't come home, and the pain and anguish which Liu's family and his partner's family have gone through.

But he also talked about the similar pains felt by Eric Garner's family. The importance of mentioning Garner's family can't be understated, as it reminds us of the inherent similarities, that all are suffering, and asking us to realize the pain they are all feeling.

This had to come from Cuomo, as he is seen as the anti-De Blasio. I don't think De Blasio was wrong for speaking of the care which Dante should take when dealing with the police: it's not as if the cops who are racist have a brand on their forehead to cue the person of color whether he'd dealing with a good cop or one of "them." A person of color has to be careful with all cops, and not just the white ones.

Today at Liu's funeral, a large group of our "finest" again turned their back as De Blasio spoke, contrary to warnings from Bratton and a request from Liu's widow. A core, churlish group has not gotten the message.

Link | Comments | 3:25 PM

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Excuse me, how do I get to Mecca from here?

So there's this scene in "Four Lions" where one of the less informed of the underinformed Brit-Pak wannabe terrorists is now in Pakistan, to train for terrorism, and doesn't understand that while in London he should direct himself to pray to the east, that no longer applies once he is east of Mecca.

The sound on this clip is pretty bad, and it's out of context, but here you go. (Don't let this stop you from watching the movie.)

I only bring this up because you're bored, I'm bored, it's a holiday weekend, and there was this item in the Paper of Record, regarding an alleged terrorist, who'd did before trial here in NYC:

"who, after Mr. Ruqai died, turned his body in a northeast direction, to face Mecca."

OK, so now I have to give the NYT kudos and thorns. First, yes, they originally suggested that Mecca was northeast of NYC, and if you click through they've amended that. That's true. Second, they saw the error of their ways. Good for them. But in the shifting sands of writing for the Internet they chose to correct the "northeast" reference silently, with no mention (as if they'd misspelled "their."). First, this ticks me off to no end because on a slow news weekend I can't even find dog-bites-Area Man stories. Second, (and it's really first) there is no correction on the current page where the stupidity is openly confessed. It really should be confessed.

I actually spent some time on this. I'm glad the NYT realized it was wrong, but really? Is no one watching anything?

Link | Comments | 8:20 PM

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mario Cuomo on immigration and equality.

At the Abraham Lincoln Association Banquet, Springfield, IL, February 12, 1986. Excerpt.

Many battles have been won. The embrace of our unity has been gradually but inexorably expanded.

But Lincoln's work is not yet done.

A century after Lincoln preached his answer of equality and mutual respect, some discrimination—of class or race or sex or ethnicity—as a bar to full participation in America still remains.

Unpleasant reminders of less enlightened times linger. Sometimes they are heard in whispers. At other times they are loud enough to capture the attention of the American people.

I have had my own encounter with this question, and I have spoken of it.

Like millions of others, I am priveleged to be a first-generation American. My mother and father came to this country more than sixty years ago with nothing but their hopes. Without education, skills, or wealth.

Through the opportunity given them here to lift themselves through hard work, they were able to raise a family. My mother has lived to see her youngest child become chief executive of one of the greatest states in the greatest nation in the only world we know.

Like millions of other children of immigrants, I know the strength that immigrants can bring. I know the richness of a society that allows us a whole new culture without requiring us to surrender the one our parents were born to. I know the miraculous power of this place that helps people rise up from poverty to security, and even affluence, in the course of a single lifetime. With generations of other children of immigrants, I know about equality and opportunity and unity in a special way.

And I know how, from time to time, all this beauty can be challenged by the misguided children of the Know-Nothings, by the shortsighted and the unkind, by contempt that masks itself as humor, by all the casual or conscious bigotry that must keep the American people vigilant.

We heard such voices again recently saying things like: "Italians ae not politically popular."

"Catholics will have a problem."

"He has an ethnic problem."

An ethnic problem.

We hear the word again. "Wop."

"We oftentimes refer to people of Italian descent as 'Wops,'" said one public figure, unabashedly.

Now, given the unbroken string of opportunity and good fortune provided me by this country, I might simply have ignored these references. I could easily have let the words pass as inconsequential, especially remembering Lincoln, himself the object of scorn and ridicule. But the words took on significance because they were heard far beyond my home or my block or even my state. Because they were heard by others who remembered times of their own when words stung and menaced them and their people.

And becuase they raised a question about our system of fundamental American values that Lincoln helped construct and died for. Is it true? Are there really so many who have never heard Lincoln's voice, or the sweet sound of reason and fairness? So many who do not understand the beauty and power of this place, that they could make of the tint of your skin or the sex you were born to or the vowels of your name an impediment to progress in this, the land of opportunity?

From More Than Words: The Speeches of Mario Cuomo; St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Link | Comments | 11:00 AM

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