Not enough room at the top, sorry. Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Europe.
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.
Last October we took an architectural bike tour through Rotterdam (with rented bikes), and I had the misfortune of riding over small bits of glass. Small, but big enough to puncture the tube, forcing the guide to take corrective action. He had some sort of foam which goes into the tube through the valve and is supposed to find the hole from the inside and seal it. He had two single-treatment cannisters, but the two of them in sequence were not enough, and my bike became unusable and had to be locked along the way to be collected later. A couple had to double on their bike in order for the group to continue to progress. And I felt guilty.
Part of his normal tour was a planned stop at a converted factory which had become a small food court of local food vendors, plus a book store (I've posted a few shots). On this occasion he said he felt bad about the delays in our progress due to the puncture and on this occasion would be buying everyone coffee.
When we reached the place, I went up to him and said, "I want to pay for the coffee, I feel guilty." And he said, "No, it's not you're fault!" And I responded, "Yeah, but we invaded Iraq." And we laughed. And he said, "Well, if you're going to try and pay for your country's mistakes by buying coffee, you'll be very poor if Trump gets elected."
"Trump's not going to get elected," I said.
I need to find that guy. I owe him serious coffee.
Not sure it does much help to riff off Paine's "These are the times which try men's souls," but that is the state I feel I am in. A XKCD offers a little bit of consolation, but obviously I wish we didn't need any consolation.
We are going to be in for some rough times. Putting aside for a moment the behavior of the President Elect and his repellent cabinet choices -- and I do not do that blithely -- there are something like a hundred federal judicial positions which are open. You could be in the position where you look for silver linings in the behavior of former judges who didn't play to "type" (for instance, a judge nominated by a Republican president stood in the way of GOP efforts to block Terry Schaivo's husband's effort to end her life support -- so maybe it won't be that bad. But at the same time I've been reading Jane Mayer's "Dark Money," and the conservative foundations have been doing what they can to indoctrinate the up-and-comers with seminars at pricey resorts (a morning of exposure, shall we say, followed by great golf they couldn't afford otherwise).
We have some choices to make. Really only one, actually, so far as I can tell. The choice is how to respond. We can cower and give up (this is also called "acquiesce," or tip your hat that they won [they didn't, they won in the Electoral College, which matters for the WH, but doesn't really express popular sentiment], say "elections have consequences," and treat what happens as their due. Or, we can look for ways to actively fight back, to not let everything in the forest burn. Obamacare could well be toast, but then again it might not: "repeal" is the easy part, "replace" will be far more difficult. The GOP may not hold Town Halls like the ones which provided all the stirring visuals in 2009 of that woman whining "I want my country ba-ack," but that doesn't mean there are no other ways to be visual.
Do you remember Zuccotti Park? A bunch of people, angered over economic inequality, coalesced and took it over, to argue about the disparity. It was called "Occupy Wall Street." CNN's Erin Burnett quickly dismissed it on her show (mocked it, actually). Remember? It grew into a huge movement, and it changed the dialog. Conservatives like NRO's Jonah Goldberg tried to put it away by talking about Occupy My Couch, but ultimately this was a display of how little they understood.
There was also this little frolic called "Black Lives Matter." It riveted America, and made it aware of the differences in how people of color are treated in this country. And The New Jim Crow sold plenty of copies.
And there was this liberal senator from Vermont who challenged Clinton from the left, and actually got her to adopt more liberal positions as her campaign progressed.
All of these efforts and movements, while they didn't deliver the White House, garnered attention and shifted public opinion. They need to continue. They need to continue being public. You need to participate.
I'm now going to provide you with the lyrics to my favorite song for the last 40 years, Todd Rundgren's "Just One Victory," from his 1973 album "A Wizard / A True Star." I think the copyright is 1973, Earmark Music. You cannot understand me without knowing how I feel about this song.
We've been waiting, we've been waiting so long.
We've been waiting, we've been waiting so long.
We've been waiting for the sun to rise and shine,
Shining still, to show us the way.
Can you hear me, the sound of my voice
I am here to tell you I have made my choice.
I've been listening to what's been going down
There's just too much talk and gossip going 'round.
You may think that I'm a fool, but I know the answer
Words become a tool, anyone can use them
Take the golden rule, as the best example
Eyes that have seen will know what I mean
The time has come to take the bull by the horns
We've been so downhearted, we've been so forlorn
We get weak and we want to give in
But we still need each other if we want to win.
(Against that there is a repeating cheerleader chorus, in counterpoint):
Hold that line, baby hold that line
Get up, boys, and hit 'em one more time
We may be losing now but we can't stop tryin'
So hold that line, baby, hold that line.
If you don't know what to do about a world of trouble
You can pull it through if you need to and if
You believe it's true, it will surely happen
Shining still, to give us the will
Bright as the day, to show us the way
We need just one victory and we're on our way
Prayin' for it all day and fightin' for it all night
Give us just one victory, it will be all right.
We may feel about to fall but we go down fighting
You will hear the call if you only listen
Underneath it all we are here together shining still, to show us the way.
Somehow, someday section repeats, along with the cheerleader chorus in background.
Volition, backbone, perseverence. These will all help. Given the SCOTUS appointees which are likely to happen, and all the judgeships, this is truly a time to think of our children and grandchildren.
No offense to the families of all who died on September 11, but this morning felt worse to me than 9/12. On 9/12 I was confident of a way forward, and knew that war and retribution can be quickly engaged in. I knew that the destruction of the prior day would be quickly avenged. (Of course, I didn't have any idea it would be used as leverage to invade an uninvolved country, but there you go, those were innocent times.) However, with Trump's victory and the Senate still in GOP hands, the Republicans now hold all three branches of government; and changes to SCOTUS have a way of lasting generations. The Republicans aren't being slow to seize the day: Speaker Ryan is claiming Trump has a mandate in spite of the fact that Clinton won the popular vote. If Trump received a mandate, what did Clinton recieve? Only a consolation prize?
I'm not sure how soon we will see starker evidence of how polarized this country has become: that in spite of how reviled Clinton is, people would still choose Trump over her. A man who mocked the disability of a disabled journalist; a man who denegrated women and beat his chest about his ability to violate them at will; a man who wanted to block out adherents of one of the world's largest religions; a man who twisted the truth at every opportunity, flipflopped at will, encouraged the Putin to hack Clinton, encouraged violence at his rallies, mocked McCain for having been captured in war. Imagine the voter who chose all that over Clinton.
You know something? Trump told us himself but we didn't listen. He said he thought he could walk out on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and it wouldn't cost him a vote.
So this year we were able to go to Europe, and we wisely went to Leiden to visit long time friends and meet their sons, and wanting a second destination after that we chose Budapest. I have to tell you that it was an eye opener for me; I had no idea that it was such a target for invading armies, retakings, and so on. That was prior to the 20th Century. In the 20th Century it went from being a monarchy to being under Nazi control, then Soviet control, and then with the fall of the Soviet Union, a democracy. Hungary has only been a democracy for about 25 years; it's not a young country, but the mantle of democracy is new to it, and the people we spoke to seemed to approach their nation with a freshness, a less "taking for granted-ness," if you will.
We were only Budapest tourists, and I have to remind myself that the people we spoke to may not be representative of others at large. But I felt as if there was a pride in what their country has become, and that's worth applause, because they've been through a lot.
Other random observations:
You can generally get by in Budapest without knowing Hungarian. The people in the restaurants and shops seemed to know "trade English," that is, the English that relates to serving you or whatever. If you want to be friendly and broaden the topic to discuss the weather, you'll quickly find language barriers.
We were lost at one point in the outskirts, and when Ab began a question for directions with "Do you speak English?" the gentleman replied "Of course I do" and then gave us wrong directions. He needs to get out more and understand that 1, not everyone in Budapest does, 2, he doesn't have a tatoo on his forehead saying "Ask me English language questions," and 3, his directions aren't always accurate.
Streets in Budapest are occasionally laid out in a grid, but not always. They are more like London, and main thoroughfares are diagonal and curve. And their names change every eight blocks or so, and I don't know if this is in order to squeeze in honoring major statesmen, but it is confusing. You'll need an app to help you navigate, and a data plan too.
Navigational difficulties (if you don't have a data plan) are increased due to the fact that a given individual honored with a street name can be honored with all sorts of streets, lanes, plazas, terraces and so on after them. It is difficult to escape the feeling of "didn't we just pass that?"
The city was unnecesarily opaque to us. It was a couple days into our four-day stay that it occurred to me to look for a map app, and quickly found a very useful one which included maps of two of the three main transit maps (subway and tram, but not bus). We would have gotten more out of the city had we downloaded it at the start.
All things considered Budapest is a relatively inexpensive destination. But maybe that's how I feel as a New Yorker? That being said, we were told it was less expensive than destinations like Copenhagen (another contender for our second city after Leiden).
We had four days there, in addition to bookend travel days. They were unseasonably cold, with rain on two of the four days. But we still enjoyed ourselves, and took advantage of the diverse offerings: national museums, a House of Parliament tour, an evening cruise on the Danube with brilliantly lit buildings, Roman ruins, a historic cemetery, street meanderings, great food and pilanki. Aside from the weather it was fairly perfect, but hindered by our lack of a data plan and smart phone navigation. If you're planning Europe travel, consider Budapest as an add on.
Remember that abysmal poll question asking who you'd rather have a beer with? Bush or Gore? It was a silly question supposed to imply Presidential capacity (even setting aside the fact that Bush was an abstaining drinker). And I don't mean to gloss over the difference between a beer-mate and a President of the United States.
But perhaps you'll allow me this crazy extension? Who would you rather have over for Thanksgiving dinner, Clinton or Trump?
In my opinion, Trump is the epitomization of the Crazy Uncle. Your choice might depend on 1, whether or not you want a Crazy Uncle at Thanksgiving, and 2, whether or not you already have a Crazy Uncle for the chair.
But wow, day after day it seems as if Trump's been looking at casting calls in Variety for the Crazy Uncle, and saying to himself "Trust me, I can do this."
I just don't know where it's going to stop, or how it will end.
Trump's call out to Russia, to show whatever emails they might have scooped off of Hillary Clinton's serverrs, is of course unprecedented. He didn't actually say they should go in and see what they could find; but then again, Dubya never exactly used the exact word imminent. Communication is a function of interpretation, and Bristol-Myers was was put in the penalty box for leaving people with the impression that Listerine could prevent colds, even though they only led you to connect the dots and didn't actually say it.
If I wanted to put this in the most generous terms possible, I still can't imagine it in a positive light.Assume for a moment that he actually did not ask Russia to now hack her servers. Is he asking Russia to take a fresh review of any thing they might have found? Is he asking Russia to actually be a force in our elections?
Neither of them are good. And the concept of a President appreciative of the graciousness of Putin in getting him elected is reprehensible. If there's a stronger word, I'd like to know it and use it. A President like that would have questionable loyalties. It's really time for the GOP to disavow their candidate. (As if that's going to happen, since they need down ticket votes; they will put Trump in every sexy negligee on the planet.)
Cuomo takes advantage of a distracted public again.
The tradition of the late Friday document dump is well known and often used. But a skilled politician who really wants do something without attracting notice knows that people are especially less attentive on Saturday mornings in Summer. And if you have the opportunity to do it before a three day weekend in Summer, why who would pass that up? Certainly not the current governor of the great state of New York.
On Friday, NYS released a report (three months late) on the progress of the taxpayer-funded Start Up New York jobs program, showing that the program had created 408 jobs to date. Four hunnert and eight. That's against "tens of millions of dollars" promoting it, and $1.19 million in tax benefits (although the companies receiving the benefits have invested $13 million in the NYS economy).
I'd like to point out that there's a lot of actual journalism going on in the NYT piece: it notes the timing of the release, hiding key figures in footnotes, and the obfuscation of results. They clearly went soft on Cuomo during the primary against Zephyr Teachout.
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.)
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.