Really not worth archiving.




Me: Frank Lynch

(Current commentary)

These are my mundane daily ramblings.
For something less spontaneous, I maintain The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page (over 1,700 Johnson quotes), with a weekly essay springing from one of Johnson's quotations.

Born 1957, raised in Florida, moved to New York area in 1982; now live in Brooklyn.
Married, with one kid unit.
Former marketing research professional. Now drawing no salary, but working on a book.




December 24, 2003:

Merry Christmas to you! And God bless you, everyone. (Or, enjoy the holiday of your choice!) See you next year.
Link 4:44 PM

There's something about the way my religious education failed to give adequate attention to the Old Testament, I think, which prevented me from understanding the full value of Christmas. Sure, I heard the whole nativity story, and the birth of John the Baptist, and how wonderful it all was, but in the Catholic mass your exposure to scripture itself is basically a reading from one of the Gospels and an epistle.

Without a firm grounding in the Old Testament — one going beyond Genesis and Moses — I'd had no idea about the destruction of the temple, the years of the Babylonian exile, and so on, and had no idea of the horrendous history which the Israelites had gone through, and the hopefulness which the idea of a Messiah must have meant. Today we're all familiar with the long drought which Chicago Cubs fans have gone through, and how excited they were at the prospect of making it to this year's World Series, and the enthusiasm which was in their voices as they spoke of their hopes. How much greater must have been the longing for the Messiah?
Link 4:44 PM

Anger stops us from seeing clearly. Andrew Sullivan has had a long-running feud with the New York Times (and I'd still like someone who complains about the Times to identify a better alternative). Earlier this week Sullivan complained about a piece in the Times which criticized journalists who were receiving money from Hollinger while writing about it; he basically considered it hypocritical for the Times to write such a story when one of its own columnists, Paul Krugman, had once accepted money from Enron before writing critically about it. Sullivan wrote:

Hmmm. The New York Times runs a big story on the journalistic friends of Conrad Black, media mogul in ethical rapids. They detail how some leading conservatives have been paid handsomely on Black's "advisory boards" while not disclosing their payments. Who does that remind you of? Two years ago, it was revealed that Enron - yes, Enron - had been lavishing huge sums on friendly journalists, including the New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman. The NYT - despite devoting enormous resources to the Enron story - deliberately ignored the journalism angle. Krugman still hasn't disclosed the tens of thousands of thinly-veiled bribes he got from Enron, while he postures absurdly as a foe of the powerful. The New York Times never ran a stand-alone story about the affair, despite the fact that the majority of the journalists coopted by Enron were on the right. They cannot now say that this was a non-story. They have treated the Black friendships and "payments" as a real story. The disparate treatment is yet another example of how the NYT under Howell Raines wasn't just biased and slightly nuts. It was corrupt.

Notice Sullivan's description of Krugman ("including the New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman"): from the way he wrote, it's difficult to tell that Krugman received the money prior to joining the Times, and severed the relationship before joining the Grey Lady. Krugman has mentioned this in his columns, and I think Sullivan is aware of that, because in an email to me he said Krugman never offered more than a "vague" description of what he did for Enron. Well, let's look at what Krugman wrote in a January 25, 2002 column:

A bizarre thing happened to me over the past week: Conservative newspapers and columnists made a concerted effort to portray me as a guilty party in the Enron scandal. Why? Because in 1999, before coming to The New York Times, I was briefly paid to serve on an Enron advisory board.

Never mind that, scrupulously following the Times conflict of interest rules, I resigned from that board as soon as I agreed to write for this newspaper -- making me much more fastidious than, say, William Kristol, who served on that same board while editing The Weekly Standard. Never mind that I disclosed that past connection a year ago, the first time I wrote about Enron in this column -- and also disclosed it the one time I mentioned Enron before, in a Fortune column. Never mind that the compensation I received per day was actually somewhat less than other companies were paying me at the time for speeches on world economic issues.

Nothing particularly "vague" there, if you ask me.

Note also that Sullivan is not distinguishing between journalists who wrote about Holliger while getting money from Holliger (the point of the Times article) and Krugman's writing about Enron after the payments end. There is also the difference that the journalists the Times mentioned were writing favorably about Hollinger, and Krugman was writing negatively about Enron. Giving Sullivan the best imaginable benefit of the doubt that I can, perhaps his complaint might be that Krugman was down on Enron because he was no longer getting money from Enron? Yet it's unlikely that Krugman would have held the loss of income against Enron, since his position at the Times required he eliminate the conflict of interest.

Lastly, as pointed out in a comment on Atrios's blog, Krugman has dealt with this extensively on his own web site, even providing the dollar figures which Andrew Sullivan seems to want so badly.
Link 4:06 PM

A death in the Royal Family.
Link 1:08 PM

December 22, 2003:

A simple case of Microsoft malice. In an earlier post, I noted that Opera users who visit's web site (MSNBC is a joint venture between Microsoft and MSNBC) don't have full access to the site. And MSNBC emailed to say they don't feel like coding their site with Opera in mind (few people use it). However, the site looks fine in Opera if you just reset the browser to identify itself as IE instead of Opera. So I think Microsoft is just trying to cold shoulder Opera users.
Link 7:47 PM

This is very funny... Sometimes a review at Amazon will give me pause to think, and to better understand a reviewer's frame of mind, I'll look at other reviews he/she has written. Just to get context: see if I agree with other reviews they wrote, see if the number of stars vary, and so on. Here's one reviewer, though, who is incredibly consistent across his (her?) reviews. The text of each review is the same!

For all eighteen reviews, the text is as follows:

I truly enjoyed reading this It's a rarity these days to find an author capable of such good storytelling. The story is well written and very engaging, and despite the fact that it lost some momentum in the middle, I found myself eagerly turning pages to find out what would happen next. All in all, though this is not quite a perfect novel, it comes close.

Some people...
Update: Since this was written, the reviewer has started varying his language. Someone also pointed out to me that all the reviews he wrote with the same language were written on the same day. By the way, my Amazon reviews are here.
Link 11:12 AM

December 21, 2003:

It cut through me like a knife. Yesterday Ab and I saw In America, Jim Sheridan's tale of a family of Irish immigrants in New York of the 1990's. Wow, I think I cried in the first 5 minutes over the optimism when they hit NYC with the Lovin' Spoonful's "Do You Believe In Magic?" blaring on the soundtrack. It captured all the optimism and excitement I felt when I came here in 1982. Quickly the mood shifted, and I was filled with a constant sense of foreboding as they moved into a rundown apartment building filled with various forms of riffraff, and one constantly screaming neighbor. There were so many parts where I felt, uh oh, this is not going to work out, but the family muddled through, and there were several points where I cried buckets. The sister playing the 10 and 6 year old daughters were great, and the older sister's character showed such emotional depth, understanding her parents' grief all too well. Apparently 90% of the story is true. You should really put this on your list, it's a great alternative to the Middle Earth war movie.
Link 5:36 PM

A repeat of the same rhetorical shortcoming. InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds comments on the shortcomings of the maiden voyage column of the New York Times' "people's editor" (i.e., ombudsperson) Daniel Okrent:

Interestingly, I think it's because my expectations for Okrent are so low, while the readers' are high. I want to see some sign of progress at the Times, while they want to see actual, honest and competent journalism, and they want to see Okrent take the Times to task the way a blogger would, when it fails to deliver.

I think the readers are right, and that I've been expecting too little.

That's where the post ends. So, if the journalism of the Times doesn't even show a sign of competency, perhaps someone could tell us about a newspaper which is consistently, day after day, better? Nah, they never do.
Link 5:22 PM

December 19, 2003:

"The Prisoner" went to Hollywood. I just finished watching the Steve Martin movie Bowfinger — I'd seen it in the theater and loved it, but tonight it was on a DVD — and recognized a significant connection with the old television show The Prisoner. Bowfinger is all about a low-budget deception performed on an action star, putting him in a movie without him knowing it. In the process, the action star's predisposition to paranoia is fed. Well, much of The Prisoner was also a low budget production, and the plot revolved around deception and paranoia etc. And, Bernie Williams was heavily involved in both projects. CONNECTIONS!
Link 11:21 PM

Sometimes you see a few words in blogs which have just a hint of vanity attached to them, and in the light of day they sound kind of funny. For instance, Eugene Volokh apparently couldn't post on the Jose Padilla decision as quickly as he thought he was expected to. His post leads with the following:

I'm several hours late to this -- an eternity in Internet time -- because I was out in New Haven giving a talk on my Crime-Facilitating Speech paper. Still, here are a few thoughts about this...

His legal opinions are interesting, and feel free to read them, but I'd rather focus on the offhand sentiment that the world, now operating on Internet time, was worse off for not having his opinions sooner. So much so, that he actually provided an explanation for his tardiness. Blogs are no contract of course: it's not like there's a financial obligation to rush an opinion out; if speed of posting increases traffic, well, traffic is nice for an ego, but it doesn't pay bills. And maybe the world could do with less speed once in a while. (The Jose Padilla case, by the way, is an example of an instance where blogs certainly did not get effective attention on an issue.)

Eugene Volokh is certainly not alone in speaking to an audience of "fans," many have done it. Earlier this week, Andrew Sullivan did something slightly different. Responding to a post in an Iraqi blog where the poster expressed gratitude "to the coalition forces and all the honest people who helped in that great operation," Sullivan took it upon himself to say "you're welcome." Beyond posting on his web log and the occasional column, I'm not sure what Sullivan did, and I think he was a bit fast to offer the welcome.

All this reminds me of something Samuel Johnson once wrote in his Life of Pope, regarding an instance when Pope threatened to withdraw, in a fit of pique: "The man who threatens the world is always ridiculous; for the world can easily go on without him, and in a short time will cease to miss him."
Link 8:55 AM

John Cunningham has died. A great Celtic fiddler, he was a longtime member of Silly Wizard. He was also a member of Relativity, and his solo album Fair Warning remains one of my favorite Celtic records. So young, 46.
Link 8:19 AM

December 17, 2003:

Was Sep 11 preventable? Former governor Thomas Kean, who heads the government's 9/11 commission thinks so. Is this why the Republicans want to have their presidential convention in New York, just days before the third anniversary of Sep 11?
Link 10:50 PM

It's so hard to find good soldiers these days. Even when they're computer-generated. The Montreal Gazette ran a story about a problem with the animated army for "The Return of the King": programmed to battle for themselves, they all thought it wise to desert instead of fighting the orcs. THAT would have been interesting: "Run away! Run away!"
Link 9:05 PM

There are very few people who are seen as being as "All American" as John Glenn, the former astronaut and senator from Ohio. So, you could expect that people might do a double-take when they learn what he just said on CNN: we're no safer in America with Saddam Hussein captured.

BLITZER: Senator Glenn, while I have you, I remember interviewing you many times where you were in the U.S. Senate, a member of the Armed Services Committee, a member of the Intelligence Committee. In terms of the war on terrorism, is the American public safer today now that Saddam Hussein has been captured?

GLENN: The American public? Well, I'd be hard pressed to say that, that the American public. I didn't see Saddam Hussein as being quite the danger that some other people did.

His neighbors were not really afraid of what he was doing over there. We haven't found any weapons of mass destruction yet. I'm glad we have him. He was a bad man, there's no doubt about that.

But as far as, do I feel safer because he's been captured? Well, I'm glad he was captured. But do I feel safer? No, I guess I don't feel that much safer.

When presidential candidate Howard Dean said this on Monday, he came under intense criticism from a competitor, Joe Lieberman:

"He thinks we're not safer by removing a homicidal maniac," Lieberman said in a speech. "The fact is that Governor Dean has made a series of dubious judgments and irresponsible statements in this campaign that together signal that he would take us back to the days when we Democrats were not trusted to defend our security."

Lieberman may get mileage out of criticizing Howard Dean, but it's difficult to do the same against John Glenn.
Link 1:25 PM; updated with quotations from transcript at 1:58 PM

Not very smart retailing... Yesterday I was in Macy's (in Herald Square) for some Christmas shopping, and coincidentally everything in the store was 40% off. So after a purchase for my wife I went up to the floor that has all the tree trimming items, thinking of the garland we intended to string across an arch in the dining room.

Now think about this: practically everything in the tree trimming department is around $10, so naturally they want you to buy many items; but you can't hold that many items in your hands, and I'm already laden down with a large bag. Due to the clumsiness of the situation I was thinking at that point I could only buy two items, because there are no shopping baskets anywhere on the floor. None. All these gorgeous items, 40% off, I am ready to spend, and don't think I'll buy more than two. Someone behind a register said I could use a wicker display basket that was missing one of its handles, and that worked, and I loaded up, spending a good $60 beyond the original $12 I would have spent with no basket.

After I paid for my items and mentioned this to a manager, I was shown a rack of smallish shopping bags by a cash register — nowhere near the place where anyone would realize they needed one — and told that was what the store supplies customers with. But with them at the point of pay rather than by the displays, who would know? How many people would have bought more if they had shopping baskets? I repeat, I spent five times more because I found a basket. You put shopping baskets closer to where people are thinking about gathering items, and this will boost sales.
Link 8:32 AM

December 16, 2003:

The capture of Saddam Hussein is apparently one of those news events where the supply of information and wisdom just cannot sate the enthusiasms of the US public. Beyond the two basic stories (how did it happen? what is likely to happen next? and the resulting stories such as commentary from President Bush and Democratic Presidential candidates) there is very little really that matters. But still, the news audience wants more, and so various people try to fill the void.

For instance, this morning's Washington Post has an article on why Saddam Hussein's pit was called a spider hole; Slate questions the wisdom of naming the operation "Red Dawn," after a movie where an American resistance fought off an invasion (the reverse of what's going on in Iraq); and blogger Andrew Sullivan continues to keep track of quotations which don't meet his criteria of sufficient chest beating.

What I don't see anyone discussing is how much of the prior speculation has turned out to be off-base. Speculation which was cranked out largely to fill time and keep an audience, more than because of any authoritative information. For instance, last April ABC (US) covered the plastic surgery angle, that Hussein might escape thanks to an altered appearance. CNN also reported that an Iraqi had claimed to have performed plastic surgery on Hussein. (In retrospect, it's an odd idea — if he resurfaced with an altered appearance, how would he have convinced his followers it was really him? What if one of his 'doubles' had been found in the meantime, and foisted off as the original? Would we then have an Iraqi version of the Prisoner episode The Schizoid Man?) And in June, there was speculation that Hussein and his then-alive sons had fled to Syria. (Perhaps they did and then returned?)

News organizations were not making this up out of thin air, so much as taking tiny scraps of information, and running to cover it in the effort to be more knowledgeable and win or retain readers.

I very much doubt that anyone will do a serious review of the news stories which didn't pan out. That's too bad, because it would be instructive to the media and to us. Not all information is reliable, as seasoned intelligence professionals know. The press's process of floating stories on skimpy evidence is all too reminiscent of the intelligence management leading up to war, with biased reports making their way to the Administration.
Link 11:31 AM

December 15, 2003:

It gets more embarrassing. In the post below, I talked about difficulties with's home page, and speculated they were having infrastructure problems... Well, according to a press release, they've redesigned their web site. Nothing described in the press release compares to the screen shot below. It looks as if something went wrong, and it was too late to recall the press release.
Link 12:03 PM

I think there's a problem with's home page. It's been this way for at least 12 hours; one wonders if the demand for news just outstripped their servers' ability to deliver. (Their regular home page is quite heavy, full of images.) No one likes when something like this happens, I assure you!

Update (Dec 15 2003, 8:42 PM): The page I saw was due to the browser I was using, Opera. Visitors to the site who use IE see a proper site. In the past, Microsoft has designed pages which seemed to deliberately deliver something inferior to people who don't use Internet Explorer. This looks like another instance: it's not that the page doesn't load properly, it's a completely different page. And it doesn't have to be this way. I guess they do like it when this happens.
Link 11:10 AM

Yahoo! explains how the water drains at the equator. I admit, I was surprised by the answer... We know that it drains in different directions depending on the hemisphere, but many have asked what it does on the equator. My answer would have been that the equator is merely a concept, that there is no physical equator any more than someone who is exactly six feet tall (a point on a line is infinitely small and beyond measure). But it turns out that the answer is different.
Link 9:44 AM

December 14, 2003:

Unquestionably a good thing. One can argue into eternity whether or not invading Iraq was morally justified, but given where we were, capturing Saddam Hussein and bringing him to justice is a good outcome. For now, let's be happy with that.
Link 10:42 AM

December 13, 2003:

The Vincent Van Gogh auction I referred to in an earlier post has been delayed, while its authenticity is checked further. (Is it me, or don't you do that in advance?)
Link 3:51 PM

December 11, 2003:

The New York Times came in for more criticism, this time from InstaPundit over what he saw as inadequate coverage of the protests in Iraq. About the single paragraph which the Times gave it, he wrote:

This kind of ass-covering ("See! We covered it!") is almost worse than not covering it at all. Pathetic.

Well, two things.

One, isn't this similar to what many conservatives say Bush did in his State of the Union speech, where they claim he said the threat from Iraq wasn't imminent? Did conservatives complain about that "ass-covering"?

Two, as I mentioned in another post, complaints about the New York Times need to be put into context, that there is no other newspaper in the country which is consistently better. Even on the issue of the protests in Baghdad, the conservatives' Washington Times is silent.
Link 3:45 PM

Yesterday's protests in Baghdad seemed to be a success, according to this blogger. Still, the opening paragraph is revealing:

The rallies today proved to be a major success. I didn't expect anything even close to this. It was probably the largest demonstration in Baghdad for months. It wasn't just against terrorism. It was against Arab media, against the interference of neighbouring countries, against dictatorships, against Wahhabism, against oppression, and of course against the Ba'ath and Saddam.

Why? Because conservatives frequently complained that antiwar demonstrations here in the US and abroad weren't really anti-war so much as anti-Bush, because they saw some signs which showed that side of some protesters' anger. I didn't doubt that anti-war protests were mostly anti-war, and I don't doubt that these Baghdad protests were mostly anti-terrorism. It just makes no sense to miss the forest for the trees.
Link 1:17 PM

Van Goghs! Getcher fresh Van Goghs heeeere! So someone wisely speculated 1,500 euros in a flea market, and it turns out to be a Van Gogh. Expected to fetch around 3 million Euros in an auction Saturday. (Why didn't we hit more flea markets when we went to Europe this summer?)
Link 12:38 PM

Wanting to have it both ways will ultimately catch up with you; men are advised to never have two girlfriends in the room at the same time. We learn these fairly early, don't we? Apparently not the Bush administration. While the Pentagon was issuing a memo banning Germany, France, and Russia from bidding on Iraqi reconstruction projects, the President was on the phone asking them to forgive Iraq's debts. "White House officials were fuming about the timing and the tone of the Pentagon's directive, even while conceding that they had approved the Pentagon policy of limiting contracts to 63 countries that have given the United States political or military aid in Iraq."

Of course, this isn't the first time they've tried something like this. To the chagrin of many Republicans, this administration has not been fiscally conservative; and, instead of supporting freer markets, the administration imposed those steel tariffs which wound up costing more jobs in steel-using industries than it saved in steel-production companies.
Link 12:10 PM

Listening skills. This is from yesterday's White House Press Briefing, given by Press Secretary Scott McClellan:

Q Can you tell -- good afternoon to you, too. Can you tell us why the Coalition Provisional Authority has told the Iraqi Health Ministry to stop counting civilian casualties in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of that specific -- you might want to check with the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Q Can I check something else with you, too? Paul Bremer has said that no high ranking Baath Party members will hold positions of power in Iraq. Yet, in the oil city of Karbula, the chief of police is a former high ranking Baath Party official. And I'm just wondering, does that contrast with what Paul Bremer had said? Are you aware that this Baath Party official is in charge of the police department?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think there's some specific criteria that is spelled out about who can be involved, and you might want to direct those questions to the Coalition Provisional Authority. They provide briefings.

Q The Coalition Provisional Authority -- they won't talk about this particular issue. So I'm wondering, asking the White House.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that they're the ones that are overseeing those efforts, and about specific questions within the country, that they'll be the ones in the best position to address that --

Q They have been asked that question --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- but there are some specific criteria I think that they have spelled out for being involved in those efforts.

Q They have been asked that question; they refuse to talk about it, which is why I'm asking you.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll see what else I can find out about it, but I think you ought to direct that question to them.

Perhaps the reporter wasn't clear that the Coalition Authority had already been asked?
Link 8:45 AM

December 9, 2003:

Christmas is coming, and we need to remember all the pleasant people we've met, all the wonderful things they've done for us, and all the wonderful things we still need to do for them. And the picture here is one of them: THANK YOU! (Both she who made the ornament and she for whom it was made...)
Link 21:45

Gore made an important point this morning when endorsing Howard Dean, one which went beyond a consideration of Dean's strengths. That is, Gore talked about the "catastrophic mistake" of the Iraq invasion in terms of its distraction from the war on terror. Gore reminded the audience of press and Dean supporters that it was Osama Bin Laden who attacked the US on September 11, not Saddam Hussein; and while he acknowledged that the world was better off with Hussein out of power, there was an implicit frustration that Bin Laden remains free.

This hearkens back to a speech Gore made in September 2002, regarding shifting our focus away from Afghanistan and onto Iraq:

"Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another," Gore said during a 55-minute speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. "We are perfectly capable of staying the course in our war against Osama bin Laden" while simultaneously building an international coalition against the Iraqi president.

In fact, it's become apparent that the war in Iraq has made the situation considerably worse for the U.S., if you think about it. The money to support our troops in Iraq has to come from somewhere, and so we have to look at other budgetary decisions which have been made. First responders are woefully underfunded, and our ports are largely unprotected. So that much is clear. As for Afghanistan itself, the Taliban is not exactly rolling over and playing dead, and Bin Laden is still free. While I think our troops are doing a great job, and I don't support a premature withdrawal from Iraq, I have to acknowledge the hornet's nest we're in and the unfinished business elsewhere.

The President has famously said that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. It seems to me that it is largely through our doing that this is the case. Before the war, CIA Director George Tenet warned that Iraq was more likely to use chemical weapons in response to an invasion, rather than spontaneously; and in October a New York Times article pointed out that "a large number of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles that were part of the arsenal of Saddam Hussein" can't be located.
Link 10:10 AM

December 8, 2003:

Instapundit writes:

THE USE OF THE PHRASE "I FEEL" as a substitute for "I think" has always bothered me. Apparently, I'm not the only one who's bothered by it.

So: is "bothered by it" a substitute for saying "I think it's wrong"?

I am not at all happy that Al Gore is about to endorse Howard Dean. It has nothing to do with what I think of Gore or Dean, so much as its potential impact on making Dean the presumptive nominee. Because there haven't been any votes cast yet, and won't be any until 2004, in a sense Gore is trying to sway all the voters before they've had a chance to express an independent opinion. I feel as if it stifles voters' willingness to think for themselves — Gore makes their choice easier — and I see that as important to democracy.

Here in New York the Democratic primary happens so late in the season, most of the candidates have already withdrawn by that stage, so it's not like it ruins my personal voting opportunities. But I remember that I dearly wanted to vote for Gore in 1988, and he barely lasted long enough to make it to New York. All I'm trying to say, is, democracy is better served by better choices, and I don't think we'll be served well by a premature winnowing of the Democratic field.

Learning by example. Regrettably, when pundits and conservative bloggers pick on the New York Times for its supposed liberal bias, the chief method of correction is to complain about how they got it wrong. Rarely, if ever, does someone point to a better news outlet than the New York Times. That context is lost all too often. So, without further ado, let's engage in a little reminder of what our options are.

Today's New York Times covered an incident where a police officer wounded another police officer while trying to stop a murder suspect who was brandishing a sword. The Times headline read, Firing on Murder Suspect, Officer Also Hits Partner.

The New York Daily News covered the story a little differently, and their headline was, er..., uh... Well, you can see the cover on the right...

The New York Post headline was more sedate, calling out Bloody Sword Slaying.

Now, see, if the Times and the Post had any journalistic sense, they'd have run that wonderful cover that the Daily News ran, if'n you ask me.

December 7, 2003:

I'm fairly surprised by Florida poll results which show that the vast majority of Florida voters do not support the way the legislature and the governor intervened in the Terry Schiavo case. (You may remember that Schiavo is the person who is on life support without a living will, whose husband's decision to remove her from support was stopped by a quick law.) The Miami Herald writes:

By nearly three to one, registered voters across religious, party and gender lines told pollsters they disagree with the intervention. While [Governor Jeb] Bush and GOP legislators acted at the request of Terri Schiavo's parents to keep their daughter alive by overruling the wishes of her husband and a court, an overwhelming number of the poll's respondents believe that a spouse should determine whether an incapacitated person without a living will should be taken off life support.

"The governor is clearly in the wrong in terms of public opinion," said Democratic pollster Rob Schroth, who conducted the poll for The Herald and the St. Petersburg Times with a Republican pollster, Kellyanne Conway.

I'm just stunned that the margin is so strong. It suggests a state government that is fairly out of touch with its constituents, if you ask me.

December 6, 2003:

What's all this I hear about the latest search engine phenomenon? Well, you can read about it here, and it has to do with the first result which pops up when you search Google on the term miserable failure.

Today we are putting up our tree. We usually have an artificial tree — even though the city parks department will mulch your natural tree, we have no way to get it to the park, so we go for the convenience of an artificial one. This year we replaced an old tree which was at least 12 years old, and the model we bought has the lights built in, much to my wife's relief. Unfortunately, a wire got snipped last night while we were unpacking it, and so this morning it's off to the hardware store to buy a suitably small wire nut. There is, of course, all sorts of snow on the ground, so it won't be a walk in the park.

Obituary: Jeff Brown, the creator of Flat Stanley, has died at age 77. I had no idea the series was this old, but it was created back in 1964.

December 5, 2003:

Happy St. Nick's Day, everyone!

It's December 5, the feast of St. Nicholas, the source for many of the Santa Claus legends. (Santa Claus does exist, kids...) But for many people it's cause for a separate celebration, so that Jesus can have his due on December 25. So, for those of you taking note, have a happy!

Correction: The Feast Day of St. Nicholas is December 6, not December 5. I regret the error, and apologize to those who received their packages a day early.

December 4, 2003:

When is a story not a story? The American Prospect's Nick Confessore has pretty well nailed a couple non-stories over Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Iraq. Who cares if he held up a display turkey? And who cares if pilot radio transmission's accounts were a bit off?

December 3, 2003:

Is Bush "hatred" rooted in liberals' refusal to grasp "truth"? A guest editorial at National Review Online (seen through Horsefeathers) suggests that hatred for Bush is unique and unprecedented; that current rationale for hating Bush is inadequate (either based on emotions, or perceptions that he is "far right"); that liberalism is flawed because it cannot conceive of something as evil as terrorism; and that Bush threatens liberalism by calling terrorists evil. That, in a nutshell, is his argument, and I recommend you read the whole piece.

Adam Wolfson has asked some important questions, which question the value of liberalism and Bush dissatisfaction. So let's look at some of his points.

  • Bush hatred is unique and unprecedented. Wolfson wrote, "Every president has his detractors, of course. If he did not there would be reason to wonder whether he was doing his job. But Bush hatred does seem to be sui generis." Wolfson proceeds to discount any claims that Clinton hatred was as strong or worse, by claiming that there was never an anti-Clinton movement or candidate; that Clinton's policies and rhetoric were middle-of-the road; and that the condescension which Reagan faced was nothing like the "white-hot lather" Howard Dean sends towards Bush.

    Wolfson's analysis, I'm afraid, is too narrow. On its face, it suggests that reactions only count while Presidents are in office, and it ignores vituperation which can grow after a President leaves. For instance, when former President Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year, there was outrage. CNN Crossfire co-host Bob Novak, for example, said "I don't know which is most obnoxious to me, Jimmy Carter getting the Nobel Peace Prize or Bill Clinton getting a million dollars for a speech." These are not exactly measured words, and fairly white-hot lather, don't you think? Former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan discounted Carter's arguments against invading Iraq as a need for attention (and therefore to be disregarded). Carter is regularly a flashpoint for Conservative criticism: James Taranto recently mentioned "more mush from the wimp" and "the worst Democratic president since James Buchanan" — the latter is relatively mild, the former is pointless, and if we accept the latter (I'll point out) then a lot of Bush criticism is also acceptable. The point in bringing up Carter is that Bush is serving at the same time that Carter is receiving scrutiny, and the tone may just be a function of how columnists write these days.

    Now, as for Clinton hatred, and Wolfson's claim that it wasn't as bad as Bush hatred, this is easily dispensed with. Wolfson anchors his argument by suggesting that there was never an anti-Clinton candidate, and points to Bob Dole's 1996 candidacy. Dole's run is an interesting choice, because it pre-dates the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Who can forget that in 2000 George W. Bush repeatedly identified himself as the candidate who would restore honor and dignity to the White House? Does anyone really think that George Bush was referring to Richard Nixon? And as for Wolfson's claim that there was never an anti-Clinton movement, he would do well to sit down with Sidney Blumenthal's The Clinton Wars, which outlines the Arkansas Project, and its efforts to derail Clinton's presidency almost from the start.

    As for the degree of hatred (is Bush antipathy greater than Clinton hatred?), I think not. People can sometimes forget the industry which sprung up on the basis of Clinton hatred, fueling books like William Bennett's The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals, or Barbara Olson's The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House, or Regnery titles such as Year of the Rat: How Bill Clinton Compromised U.S. Security for Chinese Cash. (Regnery seems to be an anti-Clinton mill: search on the word Clinton at a list of their recent titles, and you'll see what I mean. Regnery, of course, is funded by Richard Mellon Scaife.)

  • Bush Hatred is unjustified. Wolfson outlines current anti-Bush arguments (both emotional and political) thus:

    Liberals have given many justifications for their righteous anger: He "stole" the 2000 election; he's too Texan, too Christian, just too dumb; he struts and talks like a yokel. Others complain bitterly of his "far-right" policies: His support for a ban on partial-birth abortion, his opposition to human cloning and gay marriage, and his tax cuts and faith-based initiatives. And, of course, there's the war in Iraq always the war in Iraq.

    These explanations no doubt have something to do with why the Left despises Bush. But there is more...

    Before finishing Wolfson's statement, let's point out a lot of other argument's which Wolfson omits both in what he just wrote and what he follows with. (Let's also note that Jimmy Carter is just as Christian as George Bush, and is just as Southern; yet no one has ever suggested that this is the basis for antipathy towards Carter, which means that there might be reasons someone doesn't like Carter and might also be reasons someone doesn't like Bush.)

    Some of the unmentioned arguments against Bush run like this:

    • Playing with the truth. Bush heads an administration which regularly exaggerates at least, if not out of downright deceit then out of little respect for the truth. (See my post from May 30. Since then, it's also been revealed that the EPA was pressured by the White House to prematurely bless the air around Ground Zero in the days following September 11.) All of this doesn't come directly from the President's mouth, but as Commander in Chief it is his responsibility to set the tone.
    • Failure to perform on promises. Bush won praise for a statement in his 2003 State of the Union address indicating greater support of AIDS relief in Africa. And yet, it's been pointed out that the money still isn't flowing.
    • Failure to live up to conservative policies through actions like the steel tariffs, which apparently cost US jobs instead of preserving them. The implication of his failure is that he is very different from the man he campaigned as, and is, in a sense, cheating those who voted for him.

    It would be easy to make the list above longer, but the point is that there are very rational reasons to be dissatisfied with Bush, and failure to understand all the reasons can send a pundit searching for completely different theories about the underpinnings of "Bush Hatred" too quickly. Which is just what Wolfson proceeds to do...

  • Bush is hated because he threatens liberalism by pronouncing terrorists as evil. Wolfson writes,
    But there is more to their hatred than is generally understood — something more fundamental is at work. Almost all modern liberal thought begins with the bedrock assumption that humans are basically good. Within this moral horizon something such as terrorism cannot really exist, except as a manifestation of injustice, or unfairness, or lack of decent social services. Whether knowingly or not Bush has directly challenged this core liberal belief — and for this he is not easily forgiven.

    Wolfson is arguing that liberals cannot conceive of something so evil as terrorism, as a result liberals are unwilling to confront it, and cannot tolerate anyone who challenges their world view. Rubbish, of course. Liberals may start from a position that everyone is basically born good, but few really believe that men cannot go astray or become corrupted, or that society can coexist with unrehabilitated criminals. Wolfson's argument ignores how many liberals agree that we must confront terrorism, only differing from the President on the method. (As such, Wolfson's argument is as erroneous as the RNC television commercial which twisted Democrats' positions on Iraq.)

In my view, Wolfson's analysis is shallow and unnecessary: there are perfectly good reasons why some people hate President Bush, based on a hard analysis of his performance as president, and not because a they've been bitten by a frothing racoon. And because Wolfson's argument is so off the point, and so well read, I think it's destructive. Conservatives will be better off trying to advance their programs and point of views if they understand liberals, but Wolfson has only obscured the perspective.

December 1, 2003:

Lodging Republican Convention delegates in a cruise ship in the Hudson River, rather than integrating them more into NYC life, would be a dumb move, I think, and so do some Republicans, according to the New York Times. But apparently it's not a new idea: the St. Petersburg Times reported Republicans were looking at cruise ships over a year ago.

Would a confrontation wherein 54 Iraqis are killed be considered a major combat operation?

Do inefficiency and diversity have non- economic benefits worth paying for? A recent article in Fast Company on Wal-Mart (seen through The Opposite of Escape) mentions that Wal-Mart (and perhaps others) are forcing manufacturers to create megasized, underpriced packages of their products which ultimately erode the value of their brands. At the same time, the cost pressures which result from a loss in brand equity send jobs overseas. Wal-Mart's impact on the small Mom & Pop stores is fairly well known, but this is a new angle. Efficiency is supposed to work better for everyone in a perfect, frictionless world, but without opportunities for those who lose their jobs, the hit is significant.

Today's New York Times reports on the death of small towns:

"You don't have young people taking over the farms, and you don't have businesses staying," Mr. Bailey of the Center for Rural Affairs said. "Even the parents are telling the kids to get out. There is very little to keep many of these towns going."

Small towns and small stores are kind of like biodiversity: they are a hedge against the risks associated with putting all your hopes on the big cities or the major merchants. What happens when real estate prices in the big cities become too expensive to allow workers to live, yet there is no longer infrastructure in small towns which allows you to retreat? And who would ask anyone to stay in their small town, if their dream is to live in the big city? George Bailey was held in Bedford Falls to keep his father's business alive; what incentive do others have?

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