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A large bronze statue of DeWitt Clinton, over his grave.

DeWitt Clinton died before Green-Wood Cemetery was established, but later re-interred here. Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. Also 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.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cliven Bundy and "The Negro."

Well, I was totally taken by surprise; when I read that free-loading, take-the-money-and-run, "oh please don't enforce the law on me" Cliven Bundy had said that he "want[ed] to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," I mistakenly, in my own head, thought that there was an underlining of "the Negro," as in, the way you represent a book title in print: underlined, or in italics, and that he was actually in the middle of his observations on W. E. B. Dubois's book, The Negro. And I was thinking, wow, my respect for this guy grows every day; not only doing entrepreneurial research for his planned book (Running Out On The Check For Dummies), he also has broad interests, and is a broad-minded person.

Perhaps you learned earlier than I that I was mistaken. Severely:

"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

Quite honestly, at 8:30 PM I'm not sure what I can add to a monologue which invites such easy mockery. My lazy attempt, if I bothered, would evoke the pastoral banjos and cheerful songs of the slave cabins, the broken families of people who were treated as if they were chattel, and how much we've lost since then.

Twelve hours into the cycle on this, I think the only thing I should rightly do at this point is to send you here.

Link | Comments | 8:59 PM
 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Regarding Thomas Jefferson.

So I've been reading a book by Garry Wills called "Henry Adams and the Making of America." I've had a peripheral interest in this Adams for a long time, and that led me to this. The interest was based on a variety of speckles that never quite made a constellation (and each speckle was never as bright as a star). One of them was that somewhere I'd read that The Education had some influence on Pynchon, or one of his books. Another was that Adams wrote a big book in appreciation of Chartres, (one of those early books from the Library of America). And on top of that there was all that Adams lineage.

I downloaded the Wills book because I thought it might be a great introduction to Henry Adams, but what it seems more to be is an examination of the administrations of Jefferson and Madison, through the lens of Henry Adams; it's more an intro to Adams's characterization of their administrations in his History.

The introduction was really phenomenal and human; it kind of punctured what we know about his great grandmother Abigail -- who turned out to be kind of shrewish and elitist towards the woman who married John Quincy, because she didn't come from an accepted Yankee family. Seriously, I'm not sure you should read this entire book, but the introduction was very illuminating.

But as I finish the section on Jefferson's eight years in the White House, one thing that really comes through is a certain degree of bumbling performance by TJ -- some of it so inept as to be insulting as well as misguided. Here's an example of an inept insult: Britain's ambassador to the US arrives to present his credentials, and is appropriately attired; TJ plays Mr. Rustic and greets him in slippers and a robe. (No mention of him demonstrating his spittoon skills; perhaps I am merely trying to say "oh well, it could have been worse.") On top of that, insulting seating arrangements that shun the ambassador's wife. Giving the Queen an iPod and some DVDs really pales in comparison.

Some of the other ineptitudes? TJ failed to support Toussaint Louverture in the uprising against the French, in an effort to sidle up to Napoleon, and made a similar mistake years later when Napoleon wanted to crush the French Spanish. And why? In an effort to get Florida, a fulfillment of a willful misinterpretation of prior agreements. TJ had two great opportunities to stand for liberty and blew it. (Unimportant side note, we visited our first au pair in France many years ago, and she took us to the castle-prison were Toussaint Louverture was held captive and died.)

But here's one which I really think crystallizes it all, among many candidates. TJ inherited the presidency from John Adams, a Federalist. As John Adams went out, he made judicial apointments which encumbered TJ, and TJ could not get overturned. Smarting from that, TJ over corrected, and in 1808 decided to not do anything similar to his successor. The degree to which you consider that honorable might depend on whether you consider your adminsitration having to end as a rebuke, and how you view a presidential term. So Jefferson decided against pressing his projects after the November 1808 election, in which James Madison defeated Charles Pinckney. Madison wouldn't be inaugurated until March (in those days) and far be it from TJ to put a yoke on Madison.

Madison was in TJ's administration, and had served loyally. TJ decided he didn't want to "encumber" someone in his candidate with his positions, and for five months sat on his hands.

Personally I think this is worse than Sarah Palin deciding to leave the Alaska governorship after less than a half term; Alaskans had a path -- with Palin's resignation, there would be a new governor in place after she went around picking flowers. The US, under Jefferson? Not so much. But I hear he played the violin well. Quite honestly, I never dreamed I'd ever be able to find a single POTUS to whom Palin would compare favorably, but yes, I did. The scales have fallen off my eyes. (insert "You betcha" wink right here).

Link | Comments | 10:52 PM
 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

You want to take away my gusto?

If it were avilable, I'd have led off with a clip of that famous Schlitz commercial, showing a consumer who's protective about his brand. Alleve runs similar ads where they follow (or seem to follow) loyal customers (or actors portraying loyal customers) who are asked to use a competitor's analgesic for a single day.

So, this is why I bring an old ad slogan up. One of the issues that Democrats perennially face is that as the "intelligent" party, their nuanced positions are said to not fit on a bumper sticker. John Kerry's famous "I was actually against the war before I was for it" was an intelligent position, but not an intelligent thing to say. (Frankly, I never really understood why the Dems didn't pump out "There are no WMDs" bumper stickers, but I digress. That's going to happen.)

Well, it's looking more and more like Democrats are going to have their bumper sticker: "Hands off my health insurance, GOP!" ("You want to take away my health care ?" won't work because of the vagueness of the "you.")

Gallup currently estimates that 12 million are now insured thanks to Obamacare. That's of course a poll result and not an official government figure, but whatever it is it's probably big enough that there's political might in positioning the GOP as the Bad Guy. Put up clips of Alan Grayson talking about 45,000 people dying annually for lack of health insurance. Put out some ads with people talking abuot what ACA has done for them. And then close out with "The GOP wants to take this away, and has voted to do this 45 times [whatever the number] instead of making it the best it can be for you and your family. Or spending time improving the economy." (Maybe I'm wrong on the last part; simpler might be better.)

More on this? Reuters/Ipsos have an online poll result that says Americans prefer Democrats' approach to healthcare over Republicans': "nearly a third" to 18%. And it's an improvement for the Democrats since February. (Not sure it's a "statistically significant" improvement, they use the word "uptick," so it's probably unwise to say a trend that may or may not really exist will continue. There are statistical issues [instead of "margin of error" the phrase used is "a 'credibility interval' of 4 percentage points. I won't take you down into the rabbt warren of what that means, but if you insist, from AAPOR] as well as rules about assuming the sun will continue to rise in the East.)

Honestly, the ads write themselves. A soundtrack splitting between Johann Strauss's "Blue Danube" and the opening of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," and roll the words on the screen:

  • You can now get health insurance, and not worry about pre-existing conditions. The GOP wants to stop you.
  • You son or daughter can now stay on your insurance plan until they're 25. Those are tough years for someone starting out. The GOP wants to stop your son or daughter from doing that.
  • You can now move to a better job, or switch jobs, and not worry about pre-existing conditions. The GOP wants you to hang on in a job you don't like.
  • Pregnant? That's a pre-existing condition. But it doesn't matter now. The GOP wants to put you back at the mercy of the insurance companies.

Rarely have the Democrats had so many eager fish waiting in their barrel. Come on, gang.

Link | Comments | 9:01 PM
 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A pretty stunning internal figure in latest Gallup health care poll.

Gallup released a new set of poll results on Obamacare yesterday, and a lot of the results are pretty much as you'd expect; more diapprove than approve (54-43), with a small uptick in approval since the last reading (40 -> 43).

What struck me as interesting is the drop in the last month of those who think that in the long run Obamacare will make things worse for their families, from 40% down to 32%. That in itself is a large drop. What's even more stunning is how that varies by party affiliation; among Republicans that dropped from 72% to 51%. That doesn't put it in the positive territory, obviously, but that's a decrease of almost a third. That drop is because many decided that rather than making their lives worse, it won't have much difference. So while there will certainly be some diehards whose minds will never change, many are just calming down.

Obamacare may not be the GOP's Golden Ticket to future success.

Link | Comments | 9:47 AM
 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Goodbye, J&R.

J&R, a major downtown Manhattan retailer, shuttered its brick and mortar doors yesterday, ostensibly to revamp itself and rise from its ashes. Remaining storefront employees were bid adieu, and while they have a web site that still offers much, it stopped offering impulse items like CDs and DVDs many weeks ago. And access in the store became limited and frustrating before Christmas: they closed access to the floor that had classical and jazz CDs (a couple weeks before Christmas!) and set up their DVD/Blu-ray aisles in the most annoying arrangement of dead-end aisles with no outlets at both ends or midway. It was like someone took everything they knew about retail and deliberately 86'd it.

I always believed in the brick and mortar experience, and still do. The people who worked in the classical department knew their stuff, and offered solid advice for a wide range of sophistication. On a number of occasions they saved me money, by steering me away from boxed sets that were merely repackaged (not remastered) and in no way superior to the same recordings I already had; and they (and their wonderful racks) helped expose me to composers I'd never have heard about through the collaborative filtering models at Amazon.

On Saturday I went into their camera department to buy a point & shoot camera for my wife, who's now in Europe. It had to be simple and easy; and ideally it would also be a camera I'd be happy to have, as I expected to inherit it after she returned. The guy in the camera department was enthusiastic and knew his stock really well, and did a great job in finding me a Canon that fit the bill.

I can't find these people to thank them, or give them a letter of recommendation, but they each did their jobs really well. Amazon doesn't do that. (Amazon could, through online chat, but Amazon is about moving product, not servicing the buyer in the moment through personal interaction.)

Until recently, I always enjoyed going to J&R in the 30-plus years I've been here. I know what it used to be, and I know how hard they fought to survive after nine-lem, and Sandy, but they came back after each. Perhaps they will come back after this; there are ways they could -- with more in-store promotional appearances (something they excelled at, and doesn't happen on Amazon, or at Best Buy or the iTunes store). I hope they do. And I hope their recently laid-off employees all land safely.

Link | Comments | 9:12 PM
 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Frustrating, yes, but it's in our own best interests.

As much as I'd like to see all the gorey details of "Bridgegate" out for all to see in the bright noonday sun, I think it's a good thing that a judge ruled that the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of two Christie underlings should be upheld and they don't have to turn over documents sought in the investigation. Importantly, though, the judge's decision emphasized this: "The fundamental problem with the subpoenas is that they are overbroad." This is a wonderful ruling that protects us all; if you want to see how important a restriction like this is, in deterring a manic prosecutor, look no further than Ken Starr and his "go wherever, whenever you want" mandate; the liberty gave his locomotive all the coal it needed when his train tracks ran out. [Ahem. Kill your darlings. -- Editor.]

If you will allow me to speculate? I think that the underlings' firm refusal on the subpoenas is a far better vindication of Chris Christie than that self-commissioned "investigation." When Christie fired her and denied all advance knowledge of the GWB lane closures, he basically had her drawn and quartered, and put her skull on the gates of the city. (Sorry for the graphic description, but since so many buses travel over the GWB it was really hard work to avoid describing her as being put on the asphalt in front of an oncoming NJT bus.) In my view, if Kelly or Stepien had the goods on Christie, they wouldn't have opened themselves up to such huge legal expenses on principle and would have found a way to short circuit this process. But I acknowledge that it's also a possibility that their legal fees are being paid for by outsiders. Like I said at the beginning of the paragraph, this is speculation.

SFAIK it's not a crime to run a dysfucntional group where bullying was the norm. We just may never get to learn all the details of the atmosphere in Trenton until the books come out.

Link | Comments | 8:40 PM
 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Will lies eclipse the truth on pay fairness?

We're all old enough to remember that one of Obama's first actions (nine days into his tyrranical presidency) was to sign the Lily Ledbetter Act, which changed the way the statute of limitations on wage discrimination is set. Democrats are adding equal pay to their litany of positions which they hope will make voters see them as substantially superior to Republicans, and increase midterm turnout.

Republicans are having none of it. Not only will none, ever (SFAIK), say that the Ledbetter Act helped limit ongoing injustices, they bring out all sorts of "yeah, buts" about how pay wouldn't be different if women didn't get pregnant and become Moms.

Further, they sometimes claim that the Democratic push is more about elections than policy. McConnell did that recently. The same tactic was tried this morning by Kirsten Kukowski, RNC press secretary, on MSNBC's Morning Joe. All electioneering, she said. Well, Steve Benen recalls a different history:

Democrats first brought up the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2010 -- when "they controlled the House, they controlled the Senate, they controlled the White House." It passed the House, despite opposition from 97% of House Republicans.

It then went to the Senate, and when it came to the floor in 2010, it had 58 votes, which wasn't enough to overcome a Republican filibuster. Here’s the roll call -- the bill received exactly zero GOP votes.

Dems tried again in 2012, but again couldn't overcome Republican opposition.

The RNC's Kukowski said Democrats didn't pursue this when they were in the majority, but that's plainly wrong. She suggested the Paycheck Fairness Act is only "creeping up" for "messaging" reasons, but in practice, Dems have pushed the legislation in three consecutive Congresses. Each effort fell short because of the GOP.

By all rights, everyone in America should have equal, easy access to the truth of what happened on any matter which isn't genuinely an issue of national security. (Okay, that's sweeping; industrial secrets are allowed, and anything that happens in a marriage and so on, but you know what I mean.) But that easy access to the truth is at risk, thanks to last week's SCOTUS ruling on campaign donation limits and its evil uncle, Citizens United. We have an FEC which can't respond to false political advertising quickly enough to shut down the lies. And not only do television stations not have fact checkers readily at hand, it's not in their interest to do so, as John Nichols and Robert McChesney wrote last year in their book Dollarocracy. And now, we cite Twain: "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

This is the danger: spending from the Koch brothers' organizations dwarf everything else. John Hinderaker tried to pooh pooh concerns over their spending by saying it was less than Americans spend on pizza, but I'm pretty sure he didn't share this chart from the Nation's Lee Fang with his readers:

Of course, this isn't the only conservative cause which benefits from hiding the truth. Just compare the attention which Obamacare "horror stories" have received, vs. the deflation of them; or all the people who've really significantly benefited from it. The Right Wing has long said it doesn't practice "identity politics," but they clearly do, they just carve up the population in different ways.

The GOP could actually get away with all their lies, thanks to the SCOTUS and the absence of immediate counterarguments. Not sure the truth is going to get the opportunity to set us free.

Link | Comments | 8:48 PM
 

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