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Raised texture on a corner, for pedestrian traction.

Not sure what to call these, except "sidewalk grips." They're in the sidewalk at corners all over our city, to make crossing at corners easier. Obviously I had some harsh light today. Gowanus, Brooklyn.

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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I won Week 46.

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 23, 2014

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Er, Lindsey Graham:

"I think the [Benghazi] report is full of crap," Graham told Gloria Borger on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.


Graham, who has maintained a critical voice in the Benghazi controversy over the past two years, says it's "garbage" that the report finds no members of the Obama administration lied to cover up what happened in Benghazi.

"That's a bunch of garbage," Graham said. "That's a complete bunch of garbage."

This is now the seventh report to come out on Benghazi, and this one, like the others before it concluded that there was nothing to see, move on. Yet Graham refuses to bow to consensus; he must think he's some kind of Galileo making now-accepted claims about the orbits of the planets. I don't know what he thinks he is, really, but Galielo had a scientific argument. A lot of more appropriate similarities occur to me. Ahab chasing a whale. Queeg.chasing strawberries. Quixote taking on windmills.

Graham might have seen himself as Burke, taking on Hastings, righting a huge wrong. Burke chewed up a lot of political capital doing so. Graham seems to have used his pursuit to his advantage, however, and he clearly doesn't like have the rug pulled out from under him.

He deserves it.

Link | Comments | 4:27 PM

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Julie London, "Cry Me A River."

For so many years the only version I knew was Joe Cocker's.

Link | Comments | 8:23 PM

Gambit not taken.

A gambit is not just a maneuver, it's a specific kind of chess maneuver in which you make one of your pieces vulnerable, by putting it in a risky spot, in the hope that your opponent will take it and open up territory (or something more valuable) to you.

A sufficient number of Democrats decided to block a vote on the Keystone Pipeline, thus not giving Senator Mary Landrieu any additional support for her January run-off. Voting for Keystone would have been a bad idea, and doing it to save Landrieu would have been throwing more good money after bad.

Now I honestly think it's up to Harry Reid and Schumer and Obama to twist the arms of every Democrat they know who might be palatable to Louisiana to get out there and campaign for her. Jim Webb. Bob Graham. Bill Nelson. Get them all out there.

(PS, the gambit metaphor is thin, but the point was to make it clear that it's an exchange.)

Link | Comments | 7:39 PM

News from last week you didn't see. (Probably.)

From The Hill:

A new report [pdf] from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) paves the way for truck drivers to use electronic logging devices to record their hours behind the wheel.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's plan to monitor truck drivers' hours electronically was struck down in federal court in 2011, because of concerns that trucking companies would use this information to pressure them into driving longer hours.

But the report shows this is not a concern for most truck drivers, even though "there are still some drivers who feel that electronic logging devices limit their independence and give management too much insight into their days," according to the FMCSA.

Why do you care? I dunno, you might not. But I'm the lead author of that report. And I won't say anything more here, except to say that if you want more, here are some Google news search results, or read the actual report (PDF).

Link | Comments | 7:06 PM

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Still on the Carbon Leaf high.

I guess I'm going to have to show up for work tomorrow with my feet on the ground and be business-like and come down from the wonderful show they put on at City Winery the other night. I'm going to have to cross my arms, or stand arms-akimbo and scowl at somebody. But they were so good. And they also played a song I tweeted in a request a week in advance, seeing as how 1) it's a helluva tune, and 2) Veteran's Day was that week.

They'd tweeted back that they'd do what they could. So many of their songs are upbeat (and this is not), it's a challenge to work something like it in, but they positioned it well in the show's arc. And they didn't phone it in, either; I don't know how often they play it, but it was over 7 minutes in an hour 45 set.

The War Was In Color, from a different show...

PS, the singer is an extra in "Lincoln," a member of the House, look hard, he sometimes has a healthy beard.

Link | Comments | 7:00 PM

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So let's just shame them.

After the election and the October jobs report came out, Boehner correctly pointed to a stagnation in wages, and I posted about corporations sitting on cash. There's a great post on this over at Naked Capitalism; embedded in it is a chart you should put on your smartphone for those Thanksgiving conversations where too many want to blame Obama for all the troubles we're experiencing. The fact is that corporations have an opportunity to be more aggressive in their markets, invest, grow themesleves, and improve their longterm prospects.

But they're not. The GOP has laid a trap; if you simply show a chart like that, there's a risk of being accused of engaging in class warfare. But there's a couple ways of avoiding that. First, you point to the blue line, to show how companies are passing up on opportunities to grow themselves. Second, as you do that you slily say "not even looking at the red line, which shows that employee wages have tanked relative to GNP, let's just look at the blue line. We can talk about the red line if you really want, but I want to focus on the blue line. Why are they sitting on all that cash when they could be investing for the longterm?"

And leave it at that. Let your listener shame them in their own mind.

Link | Comments | 10:20 AM

Carbon Leaf.

We saw them last night at City Winery, our third time. Excellent set, and it seemed like they'd done a little tinkering to refresh some of their obligatory songs. Here's one of their "hits," with clever video by a Dr. Who fan.

Link | Comments | 10:04 AM

Thursday, November 13, 2014

More sunshine coming.

I hope someone writes a good biography of Reubin Askew (maybe one exists already and it never occurred to me until now to wish for one?) but there are two things he did as the governor of Florida which I will never forget. One, he freed Pitts and Lee, two wrongfully convicted men on death row. Two, he pushed for government in the sunshine:

In every political role, Askew argued for transparency in government. He tried three times to get the legislature to pass a bill requiring financial disclosure by public officials. When they did not, he used a provision of the 1968 constitution, collecting sufficient signatures to put the measure on the ballot in 1976. The voters passed the "Sunshine Amendment" by 78%, the first time the constitution was amended due to citizen action. It calls for full financial disclosure by public officials and candidates, a ban on gifts to legislators, and prohibits former officials from lobbying for two years after leaving office.

(As an aside, I'm two-thirds through Zephyr Teachout's book on Corruption, and there's a lot in that paragraph from Wikipedia which is ringing my bell.)

Now, if all you think about when you see "Florida" and "swamp" in a sentence is a Gator football game, you might want to know that in spite of Askew's crusade, there are still some muddied issues associated with Florida politics. (Duh.) Such as the redistricting which made for some (as you would expect) pretty odd maps. And direct conversations between legislative staff working on the redistricting and outside operatives. But a judge has ordered a consultant to open the books.

Link | Comments | 8:18 PM

Monday, November 10, 2014

A banjo in the Ebola Ward just will not do.

So they've decided to discharge Dr. Craig Spencer.

Kidding aside (he had, however, requested his banjo), I'm sure it was a harrowing experience for him. And I'm glad he didn't succumb, and I'm glad ignorance didn't overwhelm the city. (Although some of the people at the hospital were subjected to prejudice.)

Hey Governor Cuomo, how's all that fraidy-cat stuff working out?

Link | Comments | 7:49 PM

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Get creeped out.

One of the great pieces of classical music, sung by one of the greats. We had tickets to hear him some 20 years ago, but he cancelled over some throat issue. Hell, we'd have been happy to hear him sing The Bear Went Over The Mountain.

Link | Comments | 9:23 PM


There were TWO Presidents named "Harrison." Neither was a Beatle. We regret the error.

Link | Comments | 8:18 PM

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Suddenly it's not up to capitalism?

The jobs report yesterday was encouarging: more jobs, and less unemployment due to more jobs rather than people exiting the job market. Boehner was correct to complain about stagnating wages, but his sudden recognition of good news now that the GOP is in command of Congress is in stark contrast to comments when the Democrats led the Senate.

Yes, wages are stagnant. And one of the reasons for that is that companies aren't being very generous with their employees, preferring to shovel money to the CEO or the stock price. Of course, there's no way to force companies to change that direction, and far be it from Boehner and McConnell to shame companies into doing so.

Boehner says there are new jobs bills on the way. But that shouldn't be necessary, with companies sitting on so much cash. Just shame them, Boehner; your probable ideas (more tax cuts) are not going to provoke companies to raise wages: too much of that benefit will go to upper management and stock holders, and will not stimulate the economy more than a whit.

Link | Comments | 10:06 AM

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dad stories.

This weekend I visited the folks, and Dad was in a recounting mood. And he told me about the funeral of the neighbor across the street, who was basically Jack Nicklaus's business manager. (Finer precision will interrupt the story momentum.) Anyway, my Dad was a pall bearer along with Jack Nicklaus. After Larry's coffin had been borne out of the church and into the waiting hearse, my Mom told my Dad that he should collect the programs which some had left behind in the pews.

"Why?", asked he.

"Because this is the only time in your life when you'll be listed ahead of Jack Nicklaus."

Link | Comments | 10:31 PM

You look like you need some Ron Sexsmith.

Link | Comments | 9:09 PM

We need to get government off the back of bidnesses.

Because no American company would ever do this:

[I]nstead of alerting federal safety regulators to the possible danger [from the airbags spewing debris], Takata executives discounted the results, and ordered the lab technicians to delete the testing data from their computers and dispose of the airbag inflaters in the trash, they said.

A post about something like this would, in most circumstances, be the kind of post which the surviving cat could write in between visits to the box and with as little thought. But as we move to The New Congress, we have to remind ourselves about how the regulatory environment could well change. I kind of have the feeling that the Republicans are so focused on regulatory reform and tort reform that our welfare is conceivably at risk. Although its pretty clear that the IRS wasn't maliciously targeting conservative-leaning groups and was only using a heuristic to work more efficiently, the incoming class is bound to want to tie the hands of government oversight. Don't believe me? Remember that crash on the New Jersey Turnpike which sent Tracy Morgan to the hospital and killed someone in his troupe? Remember that? Just days before that crash, Susan Collins (R, Maine) pushed an amendment to ease the driver fatigue regulations. (An important footnote here; the amendment passed the committee, and could not have done so without some support from Democrats on the committee. Plus, the regulation does not consider fatigue for hours when drivers aren't signed in.) My larger point is that Republicans seem less concerned with the general welfare at large than they are with the benefits of robust regulations which protect the quality of our food, keep lead out of children's toys, and so on. I fear we're headed for the Wild West.

(Not your average disclosure: I recently completed a research project for the FMCSA on electronic logging devices.)

Link | Comments | 9:03 PM

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

So, that happened.

Besides the totality of the Republican wave yesterday, which left few survivors, I think the result which surprises me most is Sam Brownback getting reelected. He'd basically played with the debts of generations of Kansans with the huge tax reductions which did not grow the local economy, did not have an elastic effect on tax revenues, and left the state reeling in deficits. And yet, he was reelected. All I can figure is that the outside spending which supported Pat Roberts and brought so many Roberts-supporting voters to the polls meant that many arrived supporting Brownback by default; that is, Brownback rode on Roberts's coattails.

The polling industry is going to have to do some mea culpas and post mortems over this election; all the polls underestimated the strength of the Republican wave. I'm not in the group at Abt SRBI which does the polling, so I'm not privvy to the discussions at our company or at any others. I know that in 2012 a lot of polling companies underestimated Obama's strength because their models and parameters for defining a likely voter were off; I can't help but wonder if there wasn't some over-compensation going on in 2014 for the mistakes made in 2012. Just speculation on my part. No one's writing that story yet.

Link | Comments | 8:26 PM

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Waiting for the End of the World.

I have no intention to stay up all night for results from Alaska. But with respect to potential runoff states Georgia and Louisiana, elections and government would be a lot more efficient if they re-shaped the ballot process so voters ranked their choices instead of just picking one candidate. The concept isn't that difficult to ecxplain to voters; ask them to rank vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, and then once you take one away you know which of the remaining two they prefer.

Beyond that, I think that the choice process would actually be better if every state had a 50 percent requirement and coupled it with an instant runoff format. Why? Because to me it seems it would allow everyone to vote with their conscience. Practicality is the hurdle to true ballot box expression. Let practicality show itself on the second choices.

(And as for me, and my NY Gubernatorial vote, I wrote in Teachout and Wu. Gamesmanship allowed me to spit on Cuomo.)

Link | Comments | 9:25 PM

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