not worth archiving.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
In a world that isn't doing enough to
slow the pain and destruction of AIDS in Africa, a study has
shown that a simple daily vitamin can have a
significant impact in extending life and making death less
painful for women who are infected with HIV. The key
problem, to my thinking, is that since vitamins are no
substitute for the appropriate medicine, providing vitamins might
work to salve the consciences of those who could probably do far
more than provide just vitamins.
Picking on media "bias" to influence the
election. A card player knows that if the dealer is fair, the
hand he's been dealt is fair. It may not be fortunate, but it's
fair. And a card player who is the dealer, even if he
fixed the deck, has still less to complain about. But
Republicans, who not only control all three branches of the
Federal government — and got us into Iraq — so
dislike the current state of affairs that when the media covers
the world realistically, they claim bias. And
they'll use this claim to try and swing the election. But
even anonymous White House insiders know that it's not bias.
(Read it. It's a cynical game.)
How many stories are there like this?
I presume that newspaper offices don't put all their stories
about all the detainees in a wire-caged drum and spin it around
to randomly draw what they'll write about. But even if you assume
a bias that they want to focus on justice gone awry, how many are
like this one? And does it matter if it's more than one? More
than five? Twenty? How many does it take for you to care?
Be careful how you read this improvement... High school graduation rates are higher this year than last year, which is good news. But don't credit the current administration: the population the census bureau checked for having a HS diploma is those who are aged 25 or older. Most of these people were not in high school during President Bush's term. The increase is small compared to last year, but welcome:
So, those who were 25 last year would have been 18 in 1996.
This is a Clinton-era improvement. Maybe some
finished their degrees late, during the Bush years, but I bet
that won't explain the uptick.
How Grover Norquist remembers that children are the future. The battle for school vouchers suffered a defeat in Colorado yesterday, with the state supreme court striking down a voucher program. Diane Carman at the Denver Post regrets the entire voucher effort: not just the principle behind it, but also that battling misguided vouchers efforts drains administrators' attention for making genuine improvements.
Now, I'm no fan of the No Child Left Behind act because of its failure to help schools succeed. But good ol' Grover Norquist has a special take on the voucher battle...
Carman's chief regret is clearly the poor quality schools, and
she hates politicians arguing for vouchers when there are far
bigger solutions — like funding textbooks. And Grover
Norquist is just plain despicable.
A small increase in real wages in May
0.2%, after you consider a May inflation figure of 0.5%
— is heartening in the sense that it's in the right
direction. I'll feel better, though, when I learn that the income
increase is broad-based, and not concentrated among the upper
tiers. Because expenses like food and energy certainly aren't
concentrated among the wealthy.
"Watch stocks for the best leading election indicator." That's National Review columnist Larry Kudlow's conclusion regarding recent events and Bush's popularity, that eventually the sunshine in Iraq will lead to ever-greater stock prices, and thereby drown out all the other negative news of late. Bush's cheering section certainly has room to be concerned: the latest New York Times/CBS News poll results show Bush's job approval ratings are at the lowest point of his term. "The poll found Americans stiffening their opposition to the Iraq war, worried that the invasion could invite domestic terrorist attacks and skeptical about whether the White House has been fully truthful about the war or about abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison." These results are not a blip: they follow in the footsteps of other polling conducted by the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, each of which showed declining support for Bush.
Certainly, the economy has a great impact on how people vote, but I'm not sure it makes much sense to point to stock prices. I suspect Kudlow overstated some factors when he wrote
Trouble is, bad news from Iraq has drowned out good news from the economy. As a result, last year's spectacular stock-market rally generated by Bush's base constituency an investor class of 95 million shareholders who are eternally grateful for tax cuts on dividends, capital gains, and personal income, and who cast two out of every three votes in the last two election cycles have lost some of the reelection faith as the stock market stalled during the first-half of this year.
For one thing, it doesn't seem as if he's clear on causes of re-election faith. Is the loss due to Iraq? Falling stock prices? Or has he suggested, rather, that Iraq drives stock prices which drive re-election faith? He's not clear. Secondly, while the "investor class" may include 95 million shareholders under some definitions, far fewer than 95 million received any significant benefit from dividend tax relief. Investments in 401Ks represent the bulk of the holdings for most shareholders, and those people received no relief on this count; their dividends feed back into the account, and there are no taxes on them until withdrawal, at which point the withdrawals are considered ordinary income. To refer to all 95 million as being part of an "investor class" is marketing at best, class warfare at worst: it plays to the aspirational goals of many, many people who are still (let's face it) working class, and tries to leverage class for political ends.
There is a lot of bad news for Bush, and Kudlow's
labeling the economy as "booming" sounds like trickery to me,
since Q1 growth in GDP was just downgraded from 4.4% to 3.9%,
lower than the growth for the previous quarter. Voters will have
to be sadly ignorant of how their tax decreases have shifted debt
burdens onto their children, or will have to feel good about it
when they realize it.
Guilty as charged. Microsoft's
Internet Explorer is continually shown to have security flaws,
although that "continual showing" may be due to its being the big
dog in the pound, targeted by the many. BusinessWeek has yet
another column on why you're better off with another browser, and
how it's easy to switch. (It really is.) To be
honest with you, I've been using Opera for years, and not just
because it's low profile. Before I went broadband, I liked the
ability to turn images off easily, through a click on the tool
bar, which made my surfing go so much quicker. And the
cookie control is great, too. Love it, and I pay for it. (Of
course, I'm the kind of guy who paid for his own copy of PKZIP, too.)
Today's changing of the guard in Iraq
is more significant than the toppling of a statue, but something
else to see is what Spencer Ackerman noticed: a source for
Bush's belief of "long standing ties" between Iraq and al Qaeda
seems to be
recanting on his statements.
Isn't it telling that the Bush administration wants McCain, Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and Giuliani as prime-timers for the convention? They're the three Republicans least in sync with the Bush administration. McCain is as close to a dissident as you can find. And Arnold keeps Bush at arm's length. A more representative selection would be: Santorum, DeLay, Ashcroft. And then you see why the Bushies won't let them hog the limelight. Too much honesty could wreck the campaign.
"Punitive" liberalism. In this week's Weekly Standard James Piereson works into a eulogy of Ronald Reagan through the context of liberalism which was overly harsh on American history. The phenomenon — which he describes as a "bizarre doctrine" — includes a highlighting of the flawed past (slavery, misdeeds with Native Americans, oppression of minorities and women, the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and so on). The phenomenon, as he characterizes it, doesn't stop there:
This is a dangerous notion: it claims that people were so focused on the negative that no positives could exist in their minds. It is as if to say, the world would be better off if the United States had never existed. From this behavior which he identifies (and may only be imagining, since he provides no specific examples of individuals who present such an eclipsed perspective) he launches into an indictment of progressive efforts of the last 30 years.
The punitive aspects of this doctrine were made especially plain in debates over the liberals' favored policies. If one asked whether it was really fair to impose employment quotas for women and minorities, one often heard the answer, "White men imposed quotas on us, and now we're going to do the same to them!" Was busing of school children really an effective means of improving educational opportunities for blacks? A parallel answer was often given: "Whites bused blacks to enforce segregation, and now they deserve to get a taste of their own medicine!" Do we really strengthen our own security by undercutting allied governments in the name of human rights, particularly when they are replaced by openly hostile regimes (as in Iran and Nicaragua)? "This"--the answer was--"is the price we have to pay for coddling dictators." And so it went. Whenever the arguments were pressed, one discovered a punitive motive behind most of their policies.
This is plainly absurd: the goal of affirmative action was never to punish, but to enforce sharing. Piereson seems to have forgotten the founding principles of our country: that we see ourselves as a moral nation, where all men are created equal. If he sees it as punitive, perhaps it's because he doesn't want to share. Perhaps he needs to learn that he's not special, and others have been held back needlessly, wrongly.
Wanting to achieve progress through constructive criticism is
not the new phenomenon which Piereson would have us think. A
Samuel Johnson quotation is appropriate here, and one which he
should post on his bulletin board: "It is unpleasing to represent
our affairs to our own disadvantage; yet it is necessary to shew
the evils which we desire to be removed." (It comes from his
Introduction to the Political State of Great
It is advantageous to an authour, that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck only at one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends.
In all probability the White House increased the celebrity of
Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies when they gave it all the
attention they could, something like a half dozen interviews or
so in the week after it was launched. And Michael Moore? Well, he
reactionary furor for its box office success this weekend.
I'm not sure what the best response should have been
— maybe this was a no-win situation — but if your
press people are providing copy for the news, it only makes the
articles longer. And your words are open to more analysis, and so
More violence in the Middle East. I'm
not there, and can only pass on these links...
Five Israelis were wounded as a result of a blast near an
Israeli outpost; and Israel is said to have fired a missile into the Gaza strip, presumably
in retaliation. I'm sure these stories are developing; I don't
usually follow these developments on a minute by minute basis, so
if they are of especial concern to you, you'll do better
If you saw Fahrenheit 9/11 this
weekend and want to know about its accuracy, the Center for
American Progress has a good analysis. By the way, Michael Moore was on Al
Franken's show the other day, and I was glad to hear him stress
some points about Bush's time at Booker Elementary School on 9/11
which hadn't been receiving emphasis: one, Bush was at the school
until 9:30 in the morning, and two, since it was a
well-publicized event, the entire time he was there the school
could have been at risk: he should have left ASAP. (I stressed
that most recently here.)
There was also sycophancy from Cavuto over Cheney's profanity
to Senator Leahy: "You sounded like me in one of my staff
meetings." As if it's appropriate to talk like that. Those guys
at Fox: just one of the boys.
How not to package a DVD. I saw 50 First Dates with my daughter the other day, and I
have to tell you I was pleasantly surprised. I expected a washout
remake of Groundhog Day, and while comparisons are inevitable,
I found it sufficiently unique to enjoy it as a sweet romantic
comedy. But I have a huge problem with how the DVD was
packaged. A key plot element is shown at the opening menu, before
you hit "play," and it tells you about an important solution to
Drew Barrymore's character's problem. Just like that, if you
already know what her plight is, you know what solution they will
use. Pitiful. (Another problem I had was that when Adam Sandler's
character gets his big idea for the solution, Adam Sandler is
completely dispassionate. No enthusiasm or energy whatsoever.)
But aside from that I loved it, and needed to talk about very
little with my daughter afterwards.
There's a little bit of a brouhaha
going on about the sequential reviews of Bill Clinton's My Life at the New York Times; the first
review (by a staff reviewer) was famously negative, the second (by
author Larry McMurtry) was positive. Some have interpreted the
second one as an effort to kowtow to Clinton. Famous arts
reviewer Terry Teachout (who knows a thing or two about
freelancing) has come to the Times' defense, saying the two
reviews were probably assigned independently. Yet, Teachout
notes, some still bristle over McMurtry's attempts to soften the
unfavorable comparisons to Grant's memoirs, and interpret that as
a reference to the first Times' review, meaning McMurtry's review
was a response to the first. I wasn't aware the first review
mentioned Grant when I discussed how common the comparisons were
in this post a couple nights ago,
where I showed there were apparently over 500 instances of it. I
included those thoughts in an email to Teachout, which he
appended to his post ("MORE: A reader writes..."). There are
actually comparisons to Grant the same day that the
Times' first review came out, so it's very possible that
McMurtry had more in mind than just the first Times review when
he mentioned the Grant comparisons.
We really have to get our Guantanamo act together. No more important ally than Great Britain right now, correct? And you'll remember that when we sent a handful of Guantanamo detainees home to the UK, Great Britain saw no justification for holding them and immediately released them? (A bad indication of our standards, if'n you ask me.) Well, it looks like we continue to test the UK's patience over Guantanamo.
More contacts, still no collaboration. Today's New York Times discusses a document which outlines overtures Baghdad made to Bin Laden in the 1990's, in the interest of eroding support for the Saudi royal family. But for all its inkage, any honest reader would have to see that it falls short of providing any evidence of collaboration.
"All of my best friends are Republicans," Mr. Iacocca said as he introduced Mr. Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, for a speech on technology at San Jose State University, "and they ask me, 'Are you crazy or something? Why are you doing this?' I tell them the world is changing, our country is changing, and we need a leader who will understand that change taking place."
A little deflation of the economic "boom." Q1 2004 growth in US GDP had been reported at 4.4%, but it's been revised down to 3.9%, putting it at lower than the 4.1% currently being reported for Q2. Inflation figures were also revised, up.
Is it really "vital" to maintain this perspective? I mean, the long-term average is a comparison of all times, good and bad. Current growth rates are against a lower base, and coming out of a downtime it should be easier to exceed the long term average, always, just as a function of the math. (It's kind of like shaving a couple strokes off your golf handicap is easier when you start to bear down, and much harder once you've already done that.)
They sure know how to squander. Take a look at Bush: campaigned as "a uniter, not a divider." He had a country united and practically completely behind him following 9/11. Then, after properly hitting the Taliban in Afghanistan, chose to invade Iraq for a lot of reasons which so far seem unfounded. (Even if WMDs were moved into neighboring countries, no real evidence has been produced, so far as I know.) So he pretty much squandered that unity. And now, in Iraq: not only were we not really greeted with sweets and flowers (I blame him for gullibility on that count) but the greeting us as liberators, if it existed, is certainly no longer true, given the recent negative polls in Iraq and the bombings today.
Body counts. The spree of bombings in Iraq today are just plain horrible: I'm inclined to think that we have given the Iraqi people a significant opportunity as a result of our dethroning Saddam Hussein, but the way in which various elements in Iraq are reacting to the opportunity should give anyone pause to question that belief. I think it's overly simplistic to say these deaths today wouldn't have happened if we hadn't arrived on the scene: many would argue that if these deaths wouldn't have occurred, an equal or greater number would have had Saddam stayed in power. I won't be so glib as to leave it with a simple "who knows?" and then turn my thoughts to baseball, but Human Rights Watch (which detailed all the deaths which provided Bush the human rights argument) said they didn't think the war was just because abuses weren't happening so badly recently. So I don't know.
But I will say that whether or not Saddam Hussein would
have killed more innocent Iraqis than we've seen die, there is
not getting around the fact that if you take the Bush war as a
given, the toll of human lives has been needlessly deadly thanks
to the poor planning of Bush et al. It didn't need to be this
bad. We may have sent in enough troops to fight the war, but
because we alienated so much of the international community in
the run-up, the initiative didn't have an adequate second wave of
staffing (of the right sort) for the post-war. Today's
deaths are due, first, to the insurgents, but due secondly
to the Bush administration's accumulated arrogance.
Laura Bush is W's secret weapon? This profile at CBS is very nice, and describes some of the disagreements she's had with her husband, but is clear about her reticence in sharing her opinions with the President. I'm sure she's a perfectly likeable person. But...
Find me anyone whose Bush-Kerry preference is changed
by exposure to the First Lady. And then tell them that the
President says — jokingly, admit it — that the best
reason to re-elect him is to get her back. And if they
still prefer Bush, ask them if he didn't sound a little
like Bill Clinton's "buy one, get one free." See if they bite,
and let me know. This is just inane reporting.
Reading the tea leaves. I always
used to love the aftermath of the USSR's May Day parades, where
close analysis would be given to who was next to whom in the
reviewing stands, for clues to whose star was on the rise or
wane. (I have no idea if anyone ever went back and checked the
characterizations for their accuracy.) An analogous process is
being done in today's Los Angeles
Times, wherein the various recipients of Bush's Presidential
Medals of Freedom are given close scrutiny for the various
political constituencies Bush might be trying to appeal to. It's
an interesting idea, I admit, that the awards list might be
politically motivated for an election year, but to completely
sell me on the proposition I'd have wanted the reporter to
compare this year's recipients to last year's, demonstrate
differences, and explain them to me politically.