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A tombstone in a National Cemetery.

Cypress Hills National Cemetery. Brooklyn, New York. Filed in Cemeteries.



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

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Leslie won week 16.

Bio: Born 1957, raised in Florida, moved to New York area in 1982; now live in Brooklyn. I work in marketing research for Abt SRBI. My opinions should not be construed as representing those of my employer.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Was "The New South" just marketing hype?

It might only have been due to the fact that I was at work that I didn't do a full "What: Huh?" over a 7-1 ruling the SCOTUS issued today, over the obvious exclusion of blacks from a jury in Georgia. (To be clear, SCOTUS ruled the jury selection was unfair; and you should read the article to see the extent of how serious and blatant it was.) And I'm like, this made it all the way up to the Supreme Court? This wasn't obvious from the get go?

I've never really felt like I was in the diaspora; I chose to leave the South. But I have some close friends who are still there, and whenever they ask me when I'm coming back to visit, I'm total Henry David Thoreau, asking Waldo why he hasn't left yet. But not really, because I know they are fine people, and no region can afford to be without fine people.

But seriously: the NC bathroom bill, the personhood amendments, Rick Scott, the Oklahoma bill making it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion. (Just make the law less vague and I might sign it, the governor said. Oh, she also said it was unlikely to withstand a Constitutional challenge [good], but it's not like she said it was wrong and stoopid.)

Ah, the New South. Hustlin' round Atlanta in them alligator shoes.

(Yes, I know the narrator has a legitimate point about racism in the north. But the narrator is using that as a salve.)

Link | Comments | 7:43 PM

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


This was a very, very good thing for Donald Trump to say about the election of the new mayor of London, a Muslim he might let in:

"I was happy to see that," Mr. Trump said of Mr. Khanís election. "I think itís a very good thing, and I hope he does a very good job because frankly that would be very, very good."

The man is never at a loss for words. In fact, he knows lots of them. Tons. Very good tons. like, totally very good tons of very goodness.

Link | Comments | 10:30 PM

Monday, May 9, 2016

How not to report science?

Not sure if you saw John Oliver last night, but his weekly rant was about problems with how scientific experiments are conducted (too few replication studies to confirm results, as it's not newsworthy or underfunded; too small sample sizes; relies on tests with mice) how it's reported in press releases (over simplified or dramatized), and how it's chewed out by popular journalists (no examination of the viability of the methodology, just running with a tidbit which will generate eyeballs).

I can personally relate to some of what Oliver points to (my thesis advisor wanted me to delve into my data to find some stray way of reducing the error term and increasing the statistical significance of my results from 90%, good enough for my degree, to 95%, good enough for publcation, ooh baby). But I'd also love to know what proportion of the published results really deserve his mockery. I'm sure the number is high, but the number of studies in the journals etc and research experiments where this doesn't happen is probably also very high.

From my own, singular experience (singular meaning I have zero degrees of freedom, that being n minus one, where n equals one) we did not gussy up our findings on our study of truck drivers and harassment a bit. Not only did we fail to reject the null hypothesis (which says OK we found a difference -- we said we didn't) we also did what we could to make sure a difference wasn't hidden by other factors.

Further, the trucking industry publications reported our non-results dutifully, directly quoting our major conclusion that we didn't see anything substantial. None of them did anything to contradict what we'd written, even though there was a section of the report on the study's limitations.

Link | Comments | 10:00 PM

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Recipe time? You good with this?

We interrupt our normal blogging to be more specific about what I cooked tonight, because I posted it on Twitter and there was considerable curiosity.

I don't have a name for it, but it was basically chicken in a fusion of Mexican and Indian spices. It was cooked on the fly, but the ingredients were basically this:

  • A pound of skinless boneless chicken breast, cut up into inch sized cubes
  • Oil to brown the chicken in, and pepper to grind as it browns
  • Two dried pulla chiles
  • A few TB of jarred tomato sauce
  • A few TB of curry powder
  • A few TB of unsweetened cocoa powder

I don't think I have much to explain besides what to do with the chiles. I warmed them in a small skillet, then I sliced them open and discarded the seeds. Then I reconstituted them in a little boiling water. After pouring the water on them and letting them sit for ten minutes or so, I put them in a mini food processor which was a total fail, but did not stop me from forging ahead.

So it's pretty obvious from here.

  1. Put on the latest from the Trashcan Sinatras. Oh, you don't have it yet? OK, preorder it. Put something else on.
  2. Heat up a skillet and the oil, brown your chicken in it as best you can (a lot of chicken can't really be browned, as it's been pumped with fluid) and grind pepper on it as you do.
  3. Mirable dictu, add everything else, and check for taste. Doctor as you choose. Try to make sure you have both the Mexican and Indian spices present.
  4. Check your email; at this point Amazon should have sent you confirmation on your order of the latest Trashcan Sinatras album.

Here's why you need the upcoming release from the Trashcan Sinatras:

Link | Comments | 10:30 PM

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hey now, Hey now, Don't dream it's over...

Today's New York primary will be a reality check for some Bernie Sanders supporters; for others, the arrival of the inevitable result of a story built on "if and then, if"; for some others still, die hards, Japanese WW2 warriors away from the news, found holding out in the jungle of a stray island in the 1960s, it will mean nothing for months to come.

I am a Sanders supporter, and have given money to his campaign, and have accepted that there are some pipe dreams to some of his propositions; but I've balanced them with the idea that if we can afford to get into huge debt over a war of capricious choice, reducing the cost of college tuition and improving health care is a far more worthy goal. Clinton's "now, now, let's be practical" has too often sounded to me like someone arguing against the Abolitionists. Let's not be impatient! Maybe, instead of going all the way to Philadelphia for a weekend, we could have a perfectly good time in Trenton? TRENTON WE CAN DO!!

I don't think it's over for the Sanders campaign, but as for New York it's telling that he's already in Pennsylvania. His counterargument to pessimistic polls has been his outperformance in Michigan; but on the night of the Michigan results, Clinton had moved on to another state. How telling is it that Sanders is in Pennsylvania as we speak? I honestly don't know, but for some reason I think he, too, had already decamped from Michigan that night. Maybe, being from Vermont, he had decided the trees were actually not just the right height? (Nyuk. nyuk.)

I suppose it's possible that Sanders can pull a rabbit out of his hat, that a belated effort like a court hearing (heard today!) to make New York's Democratic primary an open primary might go its way, or that yesterday's suit against the DNC about Clinton fundraising, might fall his way. Not likely, but as possible as a stray observation on the normal curve. As much as Sanders supporters need to get a grip, Clinton supporters also are going to need to grapple with current poll results which show Sanders trailing by a mere 2 percentage points against Clinton, among Democrats.

Before giving way to the Crowded House song alluded to above, let me say that I am thrilled that Sanders was able to move Clinton left this year in ways I thought weren't possible. In 2008, Edwards had that effect on Clinton and Obama, but that was a situation when they each had strong competition from the other. At the beginning of this campaign I honestly felt that Sanders would be nothing more than a gnat, easily ignored. But he chipped away and he chipped away, and the vociferousness of his supporters made his positions something to be reckoned with.

And now, one of the best songs of the '80s, for your pleasure.

Link | Comments | 7:27 PM

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Extending the stupid to its logical conclusions...

Yesterday Atrios picked up a fear-of-bias which might occur in a television show, that HBO's upcoming dramatization of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill confrontation might not be sufficiently "balanced".

And so I got to thinking, seeing as HBO is presenting one production company's point of view, whether or not our cultural history has been remiss in the past, leading us to not fully understand the beautiful potential understandings.

For instance, Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle." When workers lost their fingers in the slaughterhouses, isn't it just possible that those fingers found their way into a meat grinder, or a stew, providing nourishment to some hungry person? Isn't it possible that the owners of the aforementioned slaughterhouses might have given their paper boy a tip now and then? Sinclair is silent on this, and I think that's bias.

And furthermore, Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments." When Charlton Heston ("Moses," on this occasion) parts the Red Sea, why isn't there a chyron on the bottom of the screen alerting us to whether or not scientists think this might actually have happened, or being a matter of faith, is outside the bounds of science, and the "extras" on the DVD have all sorts of panel discussions debating matters such as these.

Balance everywhere!! Our world must not admit points of view!!

Link | Comments | 9:03 PM

Monday, April 11, 2016

First they came for the Socialist-ishes.

Lamentably, Andrea Peyser at the New York Post has appointed herself as the Hogwarts Sorting Cap, of a sort. But this is a pretty nasty sort: because if you don't adhere to HER concept of being a Jew, you're not really a Jew, you're merely Jew-ISH.

My heart goes out to her; what a thankless task, to have to inform you Jews of what real Jews are. (cf: No True Scotsman.)

Link | Comments | 8:57 PM

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Stupid must be in season all of a sudden.

I probably don't need to spend many keystrokes on Sanders's questioning the Presidential qualifications of Secretary Clinton and the implications for November if Democrats don't vote; but what on Earth was the head of G.E. thinking?

In all that's been written about the Daily News's interview with Sanders, his comments on G.E.'s tax stategies has gotten little attention. Immelt only fed fires that would have gone out in a day or so.

Link | Comments | 7:45 PM

Monday, April 4, 2016

The unborn "person."

At the core of every fight against "personhood" referendums is language: whether or not a fetus is a person. Clinton forgot.

Link | Comments | 8:14 PM

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Yabada dabada dabada dabada dah dah.

When I was in college they pointed to "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" to illustrate compound time.

Link | Comments | 8:18 PM

The profits in reanalyzing Trump's success.

Belatedly the punditocracy are focusing on explaining how it happened that Trump rose to the level he has, with some recognizing how they abetted it, some citing other forces, and no one really highlighting the journalists (if there were any) who said "Can we just stop covering this charlatan?" rather than giving him additional outreach to the disaffected as they chattered about his comments on Mexicans, Muslims, John McCain, and so on. If nothing else, it makes them feel like at times of Penance they have a soul; I happen to prefer souls in action in the present, like the NYT exposure of labor and wage practices in nail salons.

I do believe the media is a significant culprit here, but please recall in the paragraph above I used the word "disaffected." I think it's in the right direction, but it may not capture it all. To briefly address "disaffected," I kind of think there was a segment of the US population (sorry to say) that kind of liked the pictures out of Aby Graibh; who related to Rush Limbaugh's "haven't you ever heard of 'letting off steam'?" defense; who long for the days when they felt in charge. As in, we want our country back. I just think it gives too much credit to Trump to suggest he created this group; rather, I think he tapped into it.

Here's where I see it, coming from my background in marketing research (and admitting that when all you have is a hammer...). For at least 50 years the marketing industry has been talking about a concept called "market segmentation." You find a portion of the market that you think you can do better with, and you focus on them; you don't go after the larger herd, you just aim to do very well with your segment. (If that's not enough, you come up with another brand or product or positioning to address other segments.) To this outside observer, we had Trump going after a large, disaffected chunk of the Republicans (not the majority), figuring he could toast other outsiders, and leaving the rest for a dozen establishment Republicans. Gillmore didn't stand a chance (ha ha), but neither did others who just couldn't get above the clutter.

But you know something else? Compare this to 2008, the last time a President was being forced out by term limits, and look at how deep the Democratic bench was: Obama and Clinton, of course, but also Biden, Dodd, Edwards, Richardson. (I'd forgotten about Richardson, but he was also a statesman of considerable import.) There was a lot of enthusiasm for that bench. I don't think the 2016 GOP field was nearly as strong: they were all limping from the start.

Deep thoughts aside, should we be that surprised Trump has done as well as he has?

Link | Comments | 7:56 PM

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Perhaps Jim Gilmore is the GOP's last hope.

I don't know if it was some weird kind of butterfly ballot thing at work, but apparently there was a mysterious reversal in the GOP tallies regarding Trump and Jim "#stillstanding" Gilmore. Whether or not there's any validity to the questions; whether or not the results can be overturned; whether or not there's some kind of conspeeracy to make the people at Infowars start squinting their eyes as some theatrical cue that they are, actualy, trying to think real hard (slow down, they're thinking!), it's just the kind of thing which might, properly played, take the Donald out of the news cycle for maybe eight minutes.

And then, after an eight minute breather, that pause might enable the press and the voters to have a more anchored perspective about Trump when next confronted with the meat powder. Kind of like, you know, when you've been reading Hagar the Horrible for years, enjoying it, and then move to NYC and only read the New York Times (which doesn't print the funnies), and then somehow reencounter Hagar and Tank McNamara and all the others and you ask yourself, "I really liked this stuff?"

Perhaps what we need is deprivation. We certainly don't need the scolding of people like Joe Scarborough, who enabled Trump's rise; and while John Oliver's 22 minutes on Sunday night would have seemed to have been thorough Mark Twainly entertaining, it too may have no true effect beyond making us laugh at Trump's supporters. Trump may have been very right when he joked that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single voter.

I'm not sure what hasn't been tried at this point. Certainly the list of misbehaviors which were considered "too far" has grown to be as long as Pynchon's description of what's on Tyrone Slothrop's desk. (If that reference didn't hit, please accept the Catalog Aria as a replacement.)

No, I say, let's try the hiatus approach. Let's focus for a moment on how Jim Gilmore was robbed. Robbed I tell you. (My people are looking into it, and frankly they're shocked by what they're finding out. Big stuff. HUUge.) And then, in glorious fashion, the country will revisit Donald Trump with the perspective of Paul, and put childish ways behind them.

And maybe John Anderson will win.

Link | Comments | 7:50 PM

Monday, February 22, 2016

We don't need no voodoo economics.

I really loved this band. This song, not so much.

Link | Comments | 7:39 PM

A walk through Brooklyn's Chinatown.

I last walked through Brooklyn's Chinatown over four years ago and came away with very few pictures; it was a good cultural walk, but not very rewarding for photography. It runs for about 20 blocks on Eighth Avenue, south of Green-Wood Cemetery, and it's a perfectly fine, functional, commercial strip, with all the usual storefronts you might expect to make life livable. And I'm sure the surrounding blocks have perfectly fine places to live.

But I thought I would force myself through it again yesterday as a drill in how to rethink photography, or something. Force myself to look at everything, if you will. I had no idea that I'd be walking through their celebration of Lunar New Year (which happened two weeks ago) and the onslaught of confetti from poppers and the six gajillion empty cans of "Crazy String" littering the street.

Aside from the color, I didn't see much I'd like to photograph again. But there were two very impressive fish markets, with a greater variety of species than I see at my usuals in Manhattan's Chinatown. I was impressed to see a couple whole swordfish for sale, as well as what might have been an entire king crab. (Actually, it looked larger than what I'm seeing on the Internet.) These might merely have been there because of the holiday, I don't know. But they also had these big bundles of razor clams for sale, and I've been interested in trying those again.

Perhaps the best part was when I bought some fresh ginger. I approached a sidewalk produce cart selling ginger, chinese cabbage, snow peas, etc., and everyone but me was Asian. I picked out my piece of ginger, and the guy behind the stand was anxious to serve me, what with my little piece of ginger. "Boss: you!" and I handed him my pathetically small selection, which he dutifully weighed, and reported as "Twenty cents."

"Twenty cents!," I said. "That much? Highway robbery!" All enjoyed, repeating "highway robbery" to themselves.

That was definitely the best part of the walk. The frenzy of colors could only go so far, but that small exchange was a good thing.

Link | Comments | 7:23 PM

When smart people say wrong things...

They're still wrong:

Joe Biden in 1992: Bush better not pick a Supreme Court nominee before the election

Well, this is awkward.

C-SPAN has resurfaced video of a floor speech delivered by then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Biden on June 25, 1992. In it, Biden explicitly calls on then-President George H.W. Bush to not nominate anyone to fill whatever Supreme Court vacancies should arise between then and the presidential election in November, and suggests that if Bush did put forth a nominee, the Judiciary Committee might not hold hearings.

Sure, it makes Biden look inconsistent. But it doesn't make McConnell look right.

And besides, I thought the conservative line on Biden was that he was a plagiarist and probably didn't even deserve his law degree. How does this help their argument, when their argument is wrong?

Link | Comments | 5:57 PM

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Support your local garage band.

Because, like, sometimes those garages are cold. And they count in in German.

(I hope you weren't looking for me to try to say something original about the slam down between the Pontiff and the Donald. In a better world I'd research whether or not our history is full of anti-immigrant reactions to anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, and so on, but not tonight.)

Link | Comments | 10:15 PM

Monday, February 15, 2016

We advise you to go away. You have our consent.

Kind of amazes me that the GOP senators aren't even feigning a "wait and see" attitude over Obama's nomination, that it's straight out "no matter who it is, we'll block it." Advise and consent is their constitutional responsibility.

Link | Comments | 5:03 PM

Sunday, January 31, 2016

So here's the deal with this blog on life support.

There are three factors causing the slow down in posting here. I thought I'd tell you what they are, in case you think I've moved into major hybernation.

  • Photographs: You may have noticed that the photographs are being posted less frequently, and often they are dated. The issue is threefold. First, I honestly don't know of any locations in NYC with the subject matter that interests me that I haven't been to before, and it's challenging to see a cement factory with freh eyes. Second, it seems too often that when I make the effort to revisit and see with new eyes, the subject matter is gone and replaced with some in-construction high rise. It's demoralizing. Third, hardware issues referred to below prevent me from getting photos off my camera.
  • Politics: The supply of people writing about politics on the Internet has exploded compared to four years ago. Too often I don't think I have anything to say which hasn't been said, and the best I could do is just post links and a side remark, and be some kind of Brooklyn Atrios. I suppose that might be useful in so far as we see different things, but I'm not sure the world can use that.
  • Computer hardware: I've had an ongoing, wallet-eating, oxygen-comsuming computer problem for over a month which has taken away so much time and energy. I'll put the details in the comments if you really want to know, but it's been maddening.

Not saying uncle, not by any stretch. Just saying don't conclude I don't care about anything any more, don't think I don't care about this little hole in the wall, just trying to explain. As always, I recommend putting the RSS feed into your news reader. (The URL is at that little orange rectangle in the left margin that says "XML.")

Link | Comments | 5:30 PM

Sunday, January 24, 2016

If nothing else, Trump knows his audience.

So yesterday in Iowa Trump proclaimed he could murder someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote. I'm glad to say that all the reactions I read were not vitriolic, OMG reponses; it's as if a certain degree of jadedness has set in, with few taking him seriously, or others understanding the concept of hyperbole. But it's clear to me that while you're not supposed to wink too blatantly, Trump was just characterizing his opinion of the steadfastness of his supporters. For example, take a look at the chart below from Pew. It breaks out Republican voters into columns according to which GOP candidates they think would make an acceptable president. The columns are ordered left to right by acceptability.

The first column shows the Republican voters who think Trump would be a good or great President, and what percent of them think rivals would be. So, among the 56% of Republican voters who think Trump would be good or great, 61% also think Cruz would be good or great, 48% think Rubio would be, and so on. The second column does the same among those who think Cruz would be a good or great president.

Now, take any contender's row, and read across the columns. They all fare worse among Trump's supporters than they do among others' supposrters. Meaning, Trump's supporters are less willing to think anyone else is acceptable (compared to other candidates' supporters.)

This is what I mean by Trump knowing his audience: they are less willing to jump ship. (It's also part of the predicament which the GOP faces. Should Trump not win the nomination, turnout is vulnerable; and should he not win the nomination and do an independent run, he'll likely take away a lot of votes from the GOP nominee.)

But the thing is, Trump is not the first person to openly talk about the audience so knowingly. Lennon caused a backlash when he said the Beatles were more popular than the Beatles Jesus. And it wasn't very much appreciated when OBL's tape came out just before the 2004 election touting about how he gets Bush to overreact; according to Ron Suskind [The One Percent Solution] the analysts figured OBL's tape would be a gift to Bush, who as we know beat Kerry).

FURTHER THOUGHTS, January 26. I first saw this chart on Twitter, and the whoever it was who Tweeted it led with something like "majority of those in Trump camp think Cruz would be great or good as President." And it got me to thinking about all the overlaps and potential perceptual maps you could create off a matrix like this. And then the point I raised above, that Trump supporters are less compromising than other candidates' supporters. In doing that I skipped right over a pretty important finding, related to that row at the top in grey font. And that row -- the percentage of Republicans and Republican leaning voters who consider any of the candidates potentially great or good Presidents -- those percentages are really small. As I discuss these percentages, keep the denominator in mind: these are the percentages among Republicans and Republican leaners, not the general pop. Trump's only at 56%, and Cruz is only at 53%. All the rest are under 50%. Not very encouraging for Republicans if you think ahead to the general. I'll have to go back to the original source and see if any candidate, in either party, among the general voters, is over 50%.

Link | Comments | 11:15 AM

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Courting the Crazies.

Congratulations to Donald J. Trump for receiving the endorsement of Sarah L. Palin for the Republican nomination for President.

It could help him in Iowa, as well as unidentified communities where Jabberwocky is a sacred text. (There are some, seriously, but I expect their prominence is higher in college dorms.)

I hope Trump milks this endorsement like a calf at an udder. It would make him vulnerable not just to Clinton and Sanders but to every Democratic wannabe nominee. I just don't see how it's defendable, and to proudly proclaim it? I mean, isn't there a plumber named Joe available for the meet and greet?

Link | Comments | 10:57 PM

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