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.
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.
I generally think that culture is to be encouraged; it's kind of cool to be able to drop a line from Ulysses about Irish antisemitism without needing to cast knowing winks around (yeah, right, like you're actually going to encounter anyone who didn't bail out on the first eight pages without knowing in advance). But it seems as if not all culture should be encouraged. As in this guy who, for reasons as yet undetermined, tried to go into a Congressional office building with a loaded gun in his bag.
I will seriously give this schlump the benefit of the doubt, and presume that he was not there to actually change the status of one of his bullets; I kinda think people with agendas generally work through the logistics better. So let's assume this guy was naive. I'm good with that. What kind of culture leads you to think no one would stop you from walking into a Congressional office building with a loaded gun? Well, a gun culture of course. And maybe even a Second Amendment interpretation which suggests, that since Congress shall pass no law and all that, that what's legal in your hometown would be perfectly fine in a Congressional office building.
Now, that having been said, there's something potentially cool about this. The SCOTUS recently struck down the buffer zone surrounding abortion clinics, while they maintain their own (SFAIK the abortion buffer zone decision didn't address their own buffer zone and claim they were special). This was discussed on Bill Moyers in the last fortnight, and I wondered if anyone would violate the SCOTUS buffer zone and create a parallel test case. In a way, this guy (in my idealized world) might be making himself a test case...
How often have we heard politicians complain that an effort was "small bore" and thus not worth making? And then follow up by suggesting no other, more efficacious action, or contribution to such an effort? That's basically the position Chris Christie took when he recently vetoed a gun control bill in New Jersey. It's really sad when someone is dismissive of an action and offers nothing better as an alternative; imagine what he could do if he came out in favor of those "smart guns" that won't fire if they're not held by their owner? The idea is marvelous; heck, I'd buy one of them. But mum's the word among all those hoping to avoid the spotlight of the NRA.
So Christie visited Connecticut yesterday on a fund raiser, and families and friends of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre gathered to protest. Regrettably they could only make their presence known, and couldn't get close to Christie. But somehow the man needs to be shown to be the weasel that he is, and not just on gun control. The way he promised to raid pensions only a little to balance the budget a couple years ago in order to make a deal, and then took his flock of sheep back to the commons again (raiding the pensions) is despicable. (Sorry for resorting to the law of the commons allusion, multiple trips to the buffet line is more precise, but it seems we're banned from connecting Christie to anything relating to food and appetites.)
So there's this new app called Poncho which moves beyond telling you the likelihood of precipitation, it tells you whether you should pack an umbrella. That alone isn't a big deal to me, perhaps you (like me) have developed a personal "chance of rain" threshold for umbrellas (mine is 30%, but if my sole umbrella weren't a commuter's umbrella and I had a portfolio of umbrellas I might have a response curve for when to pack each).
I don't think Poncho is there yet (from what's in the article), but in my world Poncho would be HAL, and I'd have told him what I was wearing each day, let Him know whether I was hot or cold etc., and he would not only tell me about the outerwear but whether I should wear a foulard tie or one of my Miles Davis's. So up your game, Poncho.
That damned feckless Obama and his impotent foreign policy.
The two or three wingnuts who have realized that health care reform is not Obama's Waterloo (and that would exclude Jim DeMint, who last I heard was not doing so well in snake oil sales in spite of his podium change) have been harping on Obama's foreign policy (or lack thereof as they see it), and have felt envigored by that silly poll which asked easily-manipulated, fried brains to identify the WORST! PRESIDENT! of all time.
McClatchy reports that the CIA is adding an extension to its wink-wink know what I mean, know what I mean "secret"facility in a Kurd-controlled area ($), and I kind of think it's not a new deck. The article also goes on to say that Kurd leaders and Baghdad are headed towards an "irrevocable split." I have to admit, I always liked that idea anyway, as it made more sense than the forced boundaries made after WWI (oh hell, just take out a ruler and put in some herky-jerky corners). Biden was an early proponent of this (and I still think he's a lot smarter than Gates, and that it was too bad that in 2008 he and Dodd split the brainiac votes). The hurdle was always what to do with the oil revenue that the country as a whole had been sharing.
If it does split, I hope they do it more intelligently than the way they split Northern Ireland and the Republic: there are some counties in the north that were more Catholic than counties which wound up being in the Republic, and vice versa. If you're going to try to separate groups that don't seem to get along, don't strand a bunch of them.
We saw them open up for We Were Promised Jetpacks a few months ago, and I drove a spike into my brain to remember to look for the at-that-time-unreleased CD, for fear that a mere mental note wouldn't be sufficiently resonant. Kind of like how a post-it note saying "don't mention that yellow cake bit" won't adhere to the monitor plastic. Anyway, there are all sorts of official videos on YouTube in addition to this bare bones performance (which was like what we heard at Webster Hall), their CD is finally out, and I ordered it immediately. Not just because I expect it's going to be very good, but because there's this spike in my cranium...
I never did like the huge speaking fees which Hillary Clinton was able to command, and when I saw her reaping them at insitutions of higher learning I wondered what class in higher learning those college administrators had missed.
But now Chelsea is commanding high fees? Something seems woefully out of whack squared here. Sure, I get that the moneys go to the foundation and not to Chelsea, but this, to me, seems like a back-handed way of currying favor. I'm sorry, it just does.
Until this morning's installment of "Up w/ Steve Kornacki" I was unaware of Obama's pushback against Boehner's half-baked "suit" against Obama's executive orders. I was aware of what Boehner had done, and I was pretty convinced it was nothing more than kabuki, since it wasn't going to make its way through the courts any time soon, Boehner might not have standing, and it didn't really seem like any decision would provide guidance which would deter an aggressive president in the future. And I know it didn't satisfy conservatives like NRO's Andrew McCarthy, who is promoting his book on why Obama should be impeached (why not go all the way and help my sales? kind of thing).
So that's all the background I knew when we went over to the television set and turned the rotary dial to 356 for MSNBC, and Kornacki began a segment of something like 5 topics in 10 minutes (very different from the prior landlord, who once spent all two hours on Israel.
The whole colloquial nature of Obama's tone is riveting, like an interjection of "Can we get real?" I've done it too in writing; you follow a carefully crafted, antiseptic sentence with serious words, with a jarring bit of slang or profanity. (Charles Pierce is good at this.) But one of the panelists also noted how the pitch of Obama's voice went up an octave (another shrewd bit of oratory, if planned).
"Hate" is a strong word, our mothers say, but I really hate Dick Cheney. Today one of my colleagues came to me to share a Dick Cheney anecdote, where Cheney was on Meet The Press and cited a NYT article about Iraq as an argument for why Saddam Hussein was a problem, when it was the WH that had leaked the info for the NYT article, and because the WH wasn't identified as the source, Cheney could act like it was an independent confirmation. (Seriously; as if the NYT had better intel than the US government.)
I knew the details of course, but perhaps I was having a bad day (?) and I cranked out my full litany of Cheney and Iraq. The two key portions were...
Where Cheney was on MTP in March of 2003 and charged Iraq with WMD. And his statements were picked up in all the publications that the WH reads. And how it took until a September MTP appearance for him to correct the record under Tim Russert's fig leaf ("you misspoke"), when, if it were really true that this were not what the WH wanted to convey, could have been done before the invasion. But nooooooo....
The whole "Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague's airport" thing. Russert was described as being a bulldog of an interviewer, but he really bought crap hook line and sinker. Cheney had been told by the CIA that there was nothing to support the supposed meeting of Atta and Iraqi intel in Prague. And there were credit card charges that suggested Atta wasn't there. In spite of CIA telling him this was unfounded, Cheney told Russert that, with respect to this, "The truth is, we just don't know." Cheney was told otherwise, but if he didn't know, he was refusing to be informed.
Saying "can't we send Cheney off the Island?" is too glib. This man is evil, and he deserves to be spat upon by everyone he meets. And he has the gall to question Obama?
So you probably won't be surprised if my choice for Governor Most Resembling Nosferatu doesn't get a lot of kudos from me, what with his having embarked on blockheaded moves like making welfare recipients go through humiliating urine tests. So you've been warned, if you were unaware. Recently his gubernatorial opponent, Charlie Crist, started running ads about Scott's company having defrauded the government, getting heavily fined for having done so, and pointing out that Scott pled the Fifth 75 times. It was a conflated charge, Politifact Florida decreed, because the 5th Amendment pleas occurred in an unrelated case, and Scott didn't want to give the Feds free evidence. Still, they rated it "mostly true," because Rick Scott had pled the Fifth 75 times.
That was ancient history, like, three days ago. Fast forward to today: Scott has released an ad over Crist's failure, so far, to release his 2013 taxes. Crist says they're on their way, but the Scott ad asks "What's he hiding?"
Indeed. Like I said, Crist says they're on the way... but only his, not his wife's. "She's not running for office."
Wait, it gets better. The Republicans are insisting that Crist's wife release her financials (even as they call Crist a millionaire, when Scott's net worth far surpasses Crist's).
If the neocons and hawks hadn't screwed up, "I told you so's" wouldn't be seen as "victory laps."
Because there would be no need: there would have been no invasion. Among the many galling things about the invasion and its not needing to have happened was the reaction to the inspectors asking for more time; "more time" was cast as no deadline, that each extension would lead to another. Well, the inspectors weren't asking for "forever," and giving them more time just might have stopped the invasion. And avoided the embarrassment of the Duelfer Report.
But they refused to listen, and now that the Guaranteed To Fall House of Cards is fulfilling its destiny, some on the Right are smarting not only at having been totally wrong, but also about having truth being used as an obstacle to reinvigorating the Glorious Enterprise. For instance, David French at NRO Corner.
French is wrong right after his first copy and paste, where he writes: "Rarely have so many people felt so cocky about leaving a genocidal dictator in place." It's as if he's forgotten the opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, that it was not a just war. Or, a post-invasion opinion from Human Rights Watch.... Read the whole thing, but it concludes, "In sum, the invasion of Iraq failed to meet the test for a humanitarian intervention." (One of the major reasons was that it appeared Saddam Hussein's genocide was long behind him, and that war would not prevent further genocide. I was always [still am] disappointed that it came out after invasion, since Bush was invoking Human Rights Watch's name in arguing for war, but my larger point is that in restrospectively criticizing the neocons, conscious of HRW's post-invasion position, we are not expressing tolerance of genocide.)
In the very next sentence, French writes, "Rarely have so many people felt so sure about the completely unprovable and speculative claim that this hostile genocidal dictator's next eleven years in power would have been better for America than the decision to depose him." Seriously? We go to war on speculation, and over whether it's in AMERICA's interests to willfully attack a country which had done us no wrong? My God, we don't attack Zanzibar because it's in our best interests to create a spice colony. We need a higher justification than speculation about the next eleven years and whether it's in "our best interests." We were not at risk, and French ignores this.
Third sentence: "And rarely have these same people been so cocky about working so hard to ensure the failure of the course of action they opposed, then crowed about their success even as they blamed their ideological opponents for the resulting human toll." Read that? He's arguing that the Left worked hard "to ensure the failure" of the Iraq invasion. Because, you know, he's sitting on a trove of secret documents that the Left was replacing warheads with cans of Reddi Whip.
Continue, if you want. But seriously, we're not doing victory laps. We didn't want this to happen. These are pissed laps, not victory laps.
I'm kind of sure it's a pretty well known fact, but there's a Democrat running the White House. Similarly well known is the GOP's dissatisfaction with this fact, as well as their decision that rather than do anything productive, they'll be obstructive. This is fundamental to their blockheaded pursuit of pseudoscandals which they can't let go of, to the point of working the nothing-burger edges of stuff like lost emails, getting worked up to the point where Paul Ryan lost it in a heharing yesterday. Totally, treating the IRS commissioner like a 5th grader. Ryan was in no mood to listen, or he might actually have understood why the emails weren't there. (Let's remember: Ryan is often thoguht of as a smart man; yet he refuses to take the time to think about this.
Fortunately, the WH is attentive, learns, and understand the history of what happens when you accede too willingly to demands for an independent prosecutor. They've nixed one over the IRS. Given the mountain ranges of documents which have been turned over to Congress to date, and the lack of anything substantive that didn't have exculpatory counterarguments, it's highly unlikely that anything else is going to come up. But the GOP wants to control the agenda, and so they don't want Obama to be able to accomplish anything else before January 19, 2017. You just know there are countdown calendars out there. Type... Type... click... aaaaaaaaaaah.
There are a lot of fish in the barrel for those of you equipped with a "Blame Iraq On Bush" bazooka. Seriously, the amount of "not our fault" from the right wing over the implosion in Iraq is as thick as molasses, and as fast as Niagara Falls. You can't outrun it, and it will smother you. And the neocons, if you didn't see on Media Matters or on your own Tee Vee, were the darlings of Sunday talk. Oh dear, what should our inadequate President do, and no "how do you sleep?"
I'm really trying to avoid going down that easily refuted rabbit hole, but it should be blatantly obvious to anyone with a brain that Iraq was a flaming turd left on Obama's doorstep by the merry, irresponsible pranksters (along with the horrid economy, but there I grant those pranksters a shield of stupidity rather than the "screw 'em all" behavior they showed with respect to Iraq).
I'm just getting warmed up, but really don't want to get overheated, got some Pynchon to enjoy. (Happy Bloomsday to you, btw.)
Obviously the people who were behind thoughtlessly unleashing Pandora's Box in a devil-may-care moment of capriciousness aren't going to talk about that part, but so far as I know no one in the press has mentioned how those suspects were happy to point to changes in the Middle East (and Europe? Ukraine?) were unanticipated, sweet outcomes of Dubya's forthrightness in upsetting the apple cart in Iraq. Apples! Rolling In The Streets! Egypt! Libya! All because Bush rolled the dice!
So far as I know I have not been asked to be a consultant on the George W. Bush Presidential Library. But I do look forward to seeing the Bush Ripple Effect Wing. And I hope there will be a spittoon nearby.
I think that's just fine; they do a lot of good work there and they deserve the remuneration. You may remember also that under the former owners, Knight-Ridder, the DC bureau was one of the few skeptics about the Bush case for invading Iraq. For which we should be, forever, knee-jerk grateful.
What this means for you, here, is that unless you pony up and subscribe my links to them won't do you much good. That may be nothing, as it doesn't look like many of you click through for more detail as it is. But if you do click through, you're going to have to consider subscribing. For me it was an obvious yes; YMMV.
GM recalling 3 million more. Obvously they're being responsible, and while it's better late than never, it really should have been earlier.
I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall, to know how much of this is saving lives vs. saving the brand. The marketer in me really wonders what the early discussions were like: even if they didn't care about the deaths, they should have worried about the brand.
You find an apple on the grass and ask, what tree did it roll from?
So: Andrew Cuomo. If you were reading here in the last month or so, a few of my very irregular posts talked about him not really being as progressive as one might expect from the Cuomo brand name. And you'd have read about how his getting the gubernatorial nomination from the Working Families Party was in serious doubt, thanks to his inexplicable moves to the center (as in, saying he wasn't that interested in Democrats controlling NY's legislature... e.g., Republicans would be just as good so far as he was concerned... six of one and all that).
Hawks are special people, aren't they? When Obama followed the plans laid out by George W. Bush on drawing down forces in Iraq, he (Obama) somehow got blamed. If I recall correctly, the downward slope of the withdrawal would have been slower if the Iraqis had acceded to our negotiating points that our soldiers would be less vulnerable to prosecution while there, but seeing as how the Iraqis insisted on acting like a sovereign nation we started booking flights through Expedia.
And now it's obvious that the government which Bush installed isn't really sustainable without our support. And now that it's being overrun by extremists, Obama is again to blame. Because he didn't stop Bush from creating a house of cards, and it's five years into Obama's presidency, and won't he ever stop acting like there was history before he came into office...
But isn't Never President John McCain the coolest? Given the opportunity for a closed, classified briefing on the situation in Iraq, The Hill reports...
McCain left the closed-door briefing after only a matter of minutes, telling reporters the security situation in Iraq "is the greatest threat since the Cold War."
Now, I'm not sure if it's too amped up to describe "the greatest threat since the Cold War" an existentialist threat or not, although that whole mutually assured destruction thing in each bloc's picnic basket wasn't something we wanted too close to the grill. But if it's so damned threatening, I don't think anything but diarrhea or incontinence should make you leave a meeting like that in a matter of minutes. OK, food poisoning. Or an alert on your smartphone that they put out a fresh bowl of cocktail pretzels at the McCann's (I don't think that chain of bars is in Washington, actually, and I don't think it's even here in NY any longer either, now that I think about it).
So what crushing need pressed McCain to leave this briefing? A briefing which might have actually given him a clue to what's going on? Well, we don't know much beyond the fact that he chose to speak to the press about the situation he would have been briefed on had he had the patience to be briefed on it.
I don't think of myself as a very original thinker on politics, and I doubt I'm the first to say what I'm about to say (especially at this hour), but one of the silliest things John McCain said while campaigning against Obama in 2008 was that with him we'd get a "steady hand on the tiller." Time quickly showed that was a farce (he was taking the side of Georgia against Russia, when Georgia was really the aggravant, not Russia), and now, here, he'd rather bloviate than learn. Can someone please tell me, again, why he's on the Sunday shows so often?
Should anyone ever finally resolve, to the world's agreement, who the greatest guitarist of all time is/was, I'm pretty sure it won't be Albert King. But you don't need to be the absolute best in order to be appreciated, King is just really good. The interesting thing about his playing, if you can't tell, isn't that he's left-handed: it's that he just flipped the guitar over without restringing it -- the thinner, higher-pitched strings are on the "wrong" side of the neck, and his fingers have to extend further to play the higher-pitched strings. For a guitarist like Tal Farlow (whose hands could eclipse your monitor, were he alive) that wouldn't be such a big deal (and in addition to the size of his hands, beboppers didn't really play a single note long enough to bend a string). I don't think Albert King's fingers were as long as Farlow's.
In the back and forth over the deal to obtain the release of Bowe Bergdahl, NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan noted that one of the Grey Lady's articles deliberately mentioned that interviews with disgruntled platoon members had been set up by Republican strategists; and the article's writer added that the platoon members had been coached and used the same words: "I don't want to get into the politics of this, but..." And if you'd seen Jon Stewart last week, you'd have seen him point out the crazies on Fox.
Do governors need a new yardstick on job creation?
Earlier this week I was trying to figure out if there was something new to be said about how bad Rick Scott is at being a governor, and I happened across a PolitiFact article on how much blame Charlie Crist deserves for lost Florida jobs and how much credit Rick Scott deserves. The PolitiFact bit (not worth distracting you with by providing a link) said pretty much what a reasonable article should, that job losses and increases in a given state have to be put in a national context, and that Florida suffered because so many of its jobs were in housing and construction.
In reading the article it occurred to me that job creation is a too-superficial yardstick for measuring a state's growth and resilience to economic contractions (and burst bubbles). Perhaps governors should not only work to grow jobs, but to grow jobs in diverse industries, thus making a state's economy more resilient to downturns.
I'm not going to venture into unsupported discussions of where Florida went wrong, or Pittsburgh and its dependence on steel... but it seems pretty clear to me that you shouldn't risk your state's economic health by relying, unconservatively, on a specific industry.
So don't give governors credit on the basis of number of jobs created; see where the jobs are first.