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
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.
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.")
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%.
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?
The news that Alan Rickman died hit me like a carefully aimed sling laden with a coconut, coming on the heels of Bowie's death and Kevin Drum's alerting us to his mortality. I have the utmost respect for both Bowie and Drum, but I'm feeling the Rickman loss far more, and I'm not sure why. I know that, for one thing, I really didn't get into Bowie's music that much, in spite of all the smiles I get listening to a song like Beauty and the Beast. And as for Kevin, part of it is because 1, he's not dead yet, and 2, reading him is always kind of a cerebral exprerience. Even with the cat blogging and his loss of Domino? Inkblot? to the coyote.
As for Rickman, I think he had the opportunity, as an actor who was offered and chose diverse roles, to explore a wider range of human behavior (even when playing a depressed little robot in Hitchhiker's Guide). In an interview Bowie once said that all of his songs basically come down to three themes, and I don't think Rickman was under that constraint, being tasked and or challenged to make characters like Snape or Eamonn De Valera become credible on the screen. Of course, Dev WAS a real person; but Rickman had to make a historic figure many didn't know come alive.
It's a challenge for me, as a fan, to separate the person from his ability to do his job really well. People who worked with him have expressed all sorts of kind thoughts about him as a person and his attention to his craft. As for me, all I saw was what I saw on the screen; and I don't think I'll ever see anything as riveting as the laundry scene in Truly, Madly, Deeply where he, as a ghost, is describing the parents in the park who encounter a plague plaque remembering a dead child, and how on reading it they quickly remember their love for their own child and rush to hug them tightly.
(Sadly, Truly, Madly, Deeply isn't widely available any longer. A couple years ago a used copy would cost about $100 on Amazon, and today they are well over $250 for Region 2 copies.)
You know the one, with the chimes, as our dreamer dreams of walking up to the gallows? Well, the highest elected official in the State of New Jersey must be feeling the same way about the idea that he's achieved his political apex, because he sure does seem to be in flopping on the deck mode.
And, lest my Berlioz reference didn't ring a bell...
(If you missed Lenny live, I can tell you where to find him in Green-Wood.)
How dare you try to be more popular than I, Mayor De Blasio?
I've written here before about Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, who sometimes acts like he's a Democrat. Seriously, sometimes he does. I think I can find an example... somewhere... oh darn, it's not close at hand, it must be one of the internal hard drives that decided to go on strike in the past fortnight. But I'm pretty sure he's done Democrat-y things. Oh yes, here... and I point to these sincerely, bringing marriage equality to the state (persuading Republicans to jeapordize their careers in the process) and also. significantly, acheiving stronger gun safety laws in the wake of Sandy Hook. Those really are significant.
Either Cuomo has an image problem or those examples are about it, because it sure seems as if he spends a lot of time acting like the anti-progressive. In his campaign for reelection he of course spent most of his time hiding from Teachout, and ever since Bill De Blasio got elected mayor of NYC he seems to have been exerting his authority or picking an argument at every opportunity, be it tax plans to fund pre-K, charter schools, and traffic cams. Heck, IIRC he even abandoned his calm face with De Blasio over Ebola to act all scared and panicky a day later with Christie.
It really does seem as if he's obsessed with picking fights with De Blasio. The latest is over his superficially humanitarian mandate that homeless people be put (dragged) into shelters when the temperature drops below freezing (as it will tonight). It is admirable that you care about their well being, but it's pretty well known that you can't mandate anyone to go anywhere. Law enforcement might be empowered to hold someone back from diving off a bridge, or to pull someone back from running into a burning building, or to put up yellow "Do Not Cross" tape. But their authority to say "you must go here" really doesn't exist.
Cuomo is the former New York State D.A. and I kinda think he understands the limits of the law. It's pretty clear (to me) he's hoping to get away with this charade just long enough to add to De Blasio's difficulties with the increased homelessness problem in NYC.
And why? Because Cuomo is, at heart, a very small man.
Oh, not just in the way they say we're testing the posting software, we're testing a lot more. The refurbished PC I bought a year and a half ago decided it wanted to live in Green-Wood Cemetery, and commenced a multiple internal hard drive failure. I swear to you all, the cost of replacing a CPU is nothing compared to the cost of the software (as OSs change and won't play with your prior versions) and the time it takes you to figure out what software you can salvage, and all the passwords you never wrote down for web sites, but instead were relying on cookies.
It's not just a switch from Windows 7 to 10, it's also having to temporarily deal with IE instead of Opera, and importing the bookmarks etc.
BREAKING! There were other demagogues before Trump.
Daniel O'Connell, the Great Liberator:
"People used to say to me," he once said, "'O'Connell, you will never get anything so long as you are so violent.' What did I do? I became more violent and I succeeded."
Quoted in "Ireland: The Politics of Enmity, 1789-2006" (Oxford), Paul Bew
Trump's popularity rouses cognitive dissonance in me; my brain says that any of the three Democratic candidates could take him in the finals with one arm tied behind their back. Any one of them. And from that the brain says, cool, let them nominate Trump, we'll beat him.
On the other side of the cognitive dissonance is the recognition that sometimes an inferior candidate really gets the election. 2000 isn't such ancient history that we can chuckle it up.
My sources confirm that those who are wildly speculating are wildly speculating. That having been said, let's introduce some critical thinking. Not to suggest that Farook and Malik weren't terrorists and didn't have a shitload of harm in mind, but to argue that we think twice about the confidence of the authorities (whether or not they stand around and boast, etc.). Is it unfair to remind that this is a case of a lifetime? I have no doubt that the agents involved are upstanding individuals. This writer is not so unfair as to suggest comparisons to Deputy Sheriff Fife (nah gonna do it), but there are some aspects of the communications which want more scrutiny.
So here, where target practice is considered evidence that the attack was planned...
"That target practice in one occasion happened within days of this event," he said.
You know how this works, right? Let's say you have a five day a week job. Let's say once a week you go out to the range. If you do it regularly, EVERYTHING is within days of the event. Not saying it isn't true, but if I were trying to impress the press (who, admittedly are easily impressed) I woldn't have said that the attack was within days of practice, but that practice sessions had accelerated or become more frequent. This harkens back to Ashcroft and his trumpeting of the arrest of Jose Padilla. Get better material for your monologue, OK?
While the authorities (who blackmailed the sergeant of arms into leaving his post) have a pretty good story regarding the trail of evidence and history, I'm not sure if they aren't elavating the newlyweds in terms of their caginess. That will remain to be seen, but why would they target such a close circle of people, if not out of convenience? Soft targets are soft targets, but this seems like something as convenient as a Tupperware party. When we talk about homegrown terrorism, did we ever think it would be so domestic as a merchant with a glue gun? I myself thought that the terrorist manifesto would have wanted a more signficant target than those of a reasonably immediate circle.
UNLESS (wildly speculating) their wicked plan all the time (Yes!) was to sow distrust among everyone in Amurrica about the Moozlims in their midst! (Yes!! That's the plan!! That's the ticket!!)
No one in his right mind, aware of this scheme, would propagate it. That is, unless you're a candidate campaigning on the ignorance of the populace. Fortunately no such candidate is taking advantage of this opportunity.
In other news, Trump says he wants to bar all Muslims from entering the country, and has suggested an Internet disruption. Did you see "Four Lions," where one of the inept terrorists thinks he can blow up the Internet by destroying a laptop?
THIS JUST IN: My sources confirm that those who are wildly speculating are wildly speculating.
I shudder to admit it, but there's a certain accuracy to a point Powerline's John Hinderaker has made about both sides of the political divide rushing to group a mass murder with the other side, and skeptical when assigned to "theirs." But with respect to the recent shootings in Colorado and California, there are some finer points where he's offbase. But where he's really off base is in pointing to the Left's complaints about the vitriol in anti-abortion speech, and how he speculates how the Left would use a double standard regarding speech about the Koch Brothers. Primarily he's off because so far as we know there haven't been any attempts to kill the Koch brothers or shoot up their companies' facilities.
Where he's completely wrong though is in using this to distract from the real issue: we don't have a demagogue problem; we don't have an extreme speech problem; we have a gun problem. Yes, we also have a mental health problem which, if remedied, might have averted some of the deaths. And it should be solved. But this isn't an either/or situation, and we can do both. The guns used in San Bernardino were acquired legally, so it's not an issue of better enforcement of existing laws; we need to rethink the kinds of guns which are available for purchase as well as treating the mentally ill. After Dear shot up the Planned Parenthood in Colorado, Hinderaker defended existing gun laws by noting that terrorists don't seem to have a problem acquiring guns. Maybe they'd still be able to acquire assault weapons, but why not make it more difficult? As I said and you know, the AR's used in San Bernardino and at Sandy Hook were acquired legally.
Let's stop that. Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
First, the passwords, expressed with all sincerity. What happened in Paris on Friday was horrible, unquestionably horrible. But the people of Beirut are right to wonder why Paris events evoked such a response, compared to what happened to them just a day before. There IS an imbalance, and I have a few ideas as to why that occurs. First, there's the "over there" phenomenon here in America, where we still relish the separation of oceans (and sometimes ignore Joseph Kennedy's non-intervention stance on Hitler). There's also the fact that more of our media (as well as us) have visited Paris than Beirut. (Remember the SNL skit where Eddie Murphy, playing Jesse Jackson was asked what he thought about Beirut? "Hank Aaron a better hitter, man.") Third, in addition to the greater love for Paris because of familiarity, there's also the "huh? Beirut? Not on my radar at all" element. We just don't empathize.
And it's not just those of us on the left: who among the Republicans seemed to give a whit about what happened in Beirut? We are walking around with blinders. To move past the John Donne line everyone quotes, we are all pieces of the firmament.
Hats off to France for their rapid response in sending the bombers into Syria. No complaints here.
But it's not as if I don't have complaints. Friday evening Newt tweeted that he wished the French were armed and could take their attackers down; but since something like 90 people died in a crowded, dark theater, you have to question the wisdom of return fire in a situation like that. I suspect that far more than 90 would have died there.
Another complaint I have is over the RW interpretation of what Obama said on Thursday regarding whether ISIS was "contained." It was pretty clear to me that Obama was talking about containment within a specific geography, an interpretation which others have shared. But the opportunity for political points didn't stop people like Carly Fiorina from foaming. The rabid desire for a rapid response rules: there is no political advantage in ceding rationality to Obama, so just go for the throat and hope that no one you hope to court reads anything beyond your release. And in deference to some of you I won't mention RW posts I've read in the RW janitors' locker rooms.
My reactions to last night's debate will have to wait.
If I understand Eric Bolling correctly, he's talking like Cliff on "Cheers."
There was this episode of Cheers where bar regular Cliff expressed his lack of concern over alcohol (beer) killing brain cells, in that it was like a culling of the herd by jackals killing the weak stragglers and making the remaining herd stronger on average. Cliff concluded that by drinking beer it made his brain stronger, if I recall correctly. I do not believe I am making this up.
His 1979 recording of the Bach cello suites was the best. Mind blowingly transformational. There are a bunch of inexpensive boxed collections of his recordings you can buy; the first set has both his 1979 set and a later one from the 90's.
Far be it from me to imagine for a moment that Reince Prebus cares a whit about what I think or my suggestions as to how they could go about separating the "major" league candidates from the minor league ones, especially since I don't even watch the Republican debates, but it's pretty obvious to me that the GOP is prolonging the silliness of the debates by their partnership with media outlets who want debates and the failure to take simple steps.
Of course we have to acknowledge that so long as the candidates don't actually literally claw each others' faces out the GOP benefits from all the free exposure. They get the media attention and as has been noted, can punch Clinton and the media without challenge. It's only to the GOP's detriment when the candidates provide sound bites to the future Democratic Party Nominee, or if some pundit who reaches independents persuasively points to their whiny, out-of-tune violins about the media not asking them sweet questions.
But here's something which the GOP could do to instantly make their debates more focused.
Build a web site that has space for all the candidates, and all the issues, in a grid.
Make it mandatory to each candidate: if you want to be on the stage, you have to fill in your position on each issue. (The GOP has the luxury of determining the issues, thus keeping the topics away from questions like who should be on the Ten.)
Once the web site is built, you randomly select registered GOP voters (or likely ones, it doesn't matter for this discussion) and do a forced exposure survey. You could have the respondents look at the whole field and rank their favorites, or you could have them look at a randomly selected subset of the bunch. Or pairs at a time. The point is, cut to the chase through a mechanism that takes "name recognition" out of play, and gives more equal footing to the Kasichs versus the Cruzs.
Tally the results as appropriate to the data collection, come up with perhaps five (or however many Reince chooses) and put them on the main stage. Send the chaff off to cut ribbons for mall openings or something. It's bound to be a better winnowing than any first-choice telephone poll which is based on uninformed opinion.