Really not worth archiving. Really.

Copyright © 2005 Frank Lynch.



Me: Frank Lynch

(Current commentary)

These are my mundane daily ramblings.
For something less spontaneous, I maintain The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page (over 1,800 Johnson quotes), with a weekly essay springing from one of Johnson's quotations.


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Thursday, September 29, 2005:

K-Lo's mythology. Maybe mythology is overly sophisticated, maybe Kathryn Jean Lopez is really in the kind of simplistic world of "Goodnight, Moon." It seems she takes polarization as a given, and that rationality (or leadership) is an impossibility. It is assumed, she figures, that Democrats would have roundly voted, en bloc, against Roberts. That must be the underlying presumption of this post:


As has been discussed in Bench Memos, though we've known for awhile John Roberts would be confirmed, it's no small thing that this supposed "extremist" "Neanderthal" has been confirmed. Not in Ginsburg numbers--and there is little doubt she is an extremist. But even in this insanely heated partisan Senate, he got 78 votes. It's a real victory for the Bush administration. And if my good feelings about John Roberts are right, so I think it's a victory for America.

Putting aside the typos (I know, it's petty to even lead with that, slap me down), why is confirmation of a nominee a "real victory for the Bush adminstration"? It's not like he was as controversial as many of the other nominees who have come up in the last 20 years. Another Ginsburg smoked pot. Some nominees (for other positions) have had problems with the nannies they've hired. It's not like the Bush administration overcame incredible resistence. No victories here; if it's a victory in K-Lo's mind, she must be suffering from the soft bigotry of low expectations. And if she exercises that upon the leader of her party, well, then maybe she needs either a new leader or a new party.
Link | | | 10:36 PM | Home

No matter how you feel about John Roberts... There's something endearing, very "1066 and All That" about this headline from the BBC Web site:

US confirms Roberts as top judge

"Top judge," like "Top Nation." Of course, if you've read "1066 and All That," you know that after World War I, when Britain was no longer "top nation" and the U.S. became "top nation," history came to a.

Let's hope that's not the case here, eh?
Link | | | 9:44 PM | Home

Wednesday, September 28, 2005:

Choices. Somebody's gotta make 'em:

Disaster experts said that even with perfect planning and management, the 5,700 Louisiana National Guard troops available were far too few.

"What do you expect of 5,700 soldiers when so much of a state is destroyed?" said James Jay Carafano, who studies emergency response at the Heritage Foundation. "If we want the military to close the 72-hour gap in responding to natural disasters, we'll have to come up with a new model."

Would that new model include putting constraints on how many members of the guard are sent abroad? Hmmm?
Link | | | 9:41 PM | Home

...and of course, Tom Delay's statement. You know what it was by now — his indictment was politically motivated, blah blah blah. And the conservative pundits over at Fox claim the DA is partisan, in spite of all the Democrats he's prosecuted.

You see, the Republicans really do want justice. They just won't believe it's truly here until there are no more Democrats left in office; only then will they be sure that the truth is not liberally biased.

Won't you please help them out? Work to defeat a Democrat today!
Link | | | 8:42 PM | Home

No respect for law enforcement. Not Rich Lowry necessarily, but in an email he published without any comment regarding today's indictment of Tom Delay:

We really need to hammer home that no "federal case" has been made and there is no suggestion that federal laws....or even rules.....were broken in this matter. Just as with the hurricane response, there is a world of difference between the professionalism of those involved in the federal and state processes. These are stupid things for DeLay's lawyer to argue --they should focus on his case, not the politics -- but the GOP nationally needs to be doing all it can to show that this really is all about politics.

So there you have it: because the indictment was brought on a local level, the GOP should question its validity merely because it is an indictment on a local level. Therefore, all local indictments are to be questioned merely because they are local indictments.

Are we to infer from this that there should be less respect for local authorities, and greater benefit of the doubt for the criminals who are convicted by the local authorities as a result?

Should the GOP pursue this emailer's recommendation, it would erode the respect for everything else the prosecutor in this case might brng up. After all, he is just some country bumpkin.

The funny thing here is that Tom "I am the Federal Government" Delay is, by implication, supposed to be so very professional.

So Rich, come clean, since you didn't say anything: do you support undermining the respect for local authorities?
Link | | | 8:02 PM | Home

Truth and the calamities of war. My latest essay relating a Samuel Johnson quote to everyday life is up here.
Link | | | 8:20 AM | Home

Tuesday, September 27, 2005:

A homework assignment for the New York Times. Here's how an article today begins, concerning the impact of the new bankruptcy laws on victims of Katrina:

When Congress agreed this spring to tighten the bankruptcy laws and crack down on consumers who took on debt irresponsibly, no one had the victims of Hurricane Katrina in mind.

But four weeks after New Orleans flooded and tens of thousands of other residents of the Gulf Coast also lost their homes and livelihoods, a stricter new personal bankruptcy law scheduled to take effect on Oct. 17 is likely to deliver another blow to those dislocated by the storm.

But later, the article continues:

But House Republicans, who fought off a proposed amendment that would have made bankruptcy filings easier for victims of natural disasters, said there was no reason to carve out a broad exemption just because of the storm.

So what was it that they weren't thinking about? The actual name of the hurricane? What kind of cover is the New York Times trying to provide the House Republicans with the article's lede? "No one had the victims of Hurricane Katrina in mind." That couldn't be further from the truth:

When the Judiciary Committee considered the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act earlier this year, Ms. Jackson Lee offered an amendment to protect the victims of natural disaster like those now devastated by Hurricane Katrina. While the amendment was defeated on a party line vote without any debate, we hope that in light of recent events our colleagues will recognize the importance of protecting our most financially vulnerable Americans. (Emphasis mine.)

You know, the New York Times is such a liberal rag.
Link | | | 8:38 PM | Home

Sunday, September 25, 2005:

Judging from past performance. Juan Cole, who is, Jonah, face it, an expert — now argues for withdrawal from Iraq. I don't want to misrepresent his argument, so I encourage you to click and read it, and tell me if I've gotten it wrong. Be patient as you read it, though, because Cole uses a painful rhetorical technique which really isn't suited for the impatient style of reading on the web. But get past the several arguments for withdrawal that he says are wrong, and you get to why he thinks we should. My impression is that his argument for withdrawal is based on past and current practices, not potential. For example, he talks about how soldiers have degraded themselves, how there isn't a mission, and so on. These arguments are what I alluded to in the post below, too much attention being paid to "sunk costs." I don't deny the reality that Cole sees, but I argue against the underlying illogic of "thus it has been, and thus it shall ever be." Like I said below, there are hurdles to believing a change will come in how we manage the war: Rumsfeld won't change, and the current Republican leadership are unlikely to admit their screw-up. But there are many politicians who aren't as embedded in this tar baby: and yes, getting out of Iraq itself is a tar baby, but there's room to change the way things are done in Iraq, making the process itself less of a tar baby.

In short, it doesn't have to be this way. Arguments that we need to get out are based on an assumption that it does.

So, let's give the Republican moderates — the RINOs, as the Right Wing extremists call them — a chance to exert themselves and display statesmanship and leadership and stop the madness as we currently know it. And if they do nothing, then I'll talk about withdrawal. I'm just not convinced yet that the majority party is mindless and/or so incpacitated. Yet.

(Hat tip to Steve Soto at the Left Coaster.)
Link | | | 11:09 PM | Home

Abhorring a vacuum in Iraq. Under the guise of "then all they'll have to do is wait us out," the President has not only avoided a timeline for withdrawal in Iraq but also avoided any schedule for progress. Reasonable people might look at the lack of a plan and conclude that we're going to be in Iraq forever; yet to do so would be to present the same false choice that Bush et al presented the world with in 2003: that giving the inspectors "more time" meant that Saddam Hussein would continue in power forever. We knew those weren't the only choices in 2003; are there other choices now?

Much of the concern over accelerated withdrawal is rooted in the idea that Iraq is basically at a point of civil war, and our presence may be the only factor stopping it coming full boil; we naturally hate death, and even though we've already caused a lot of innocent deaths from civilians, those deaths are — I regret to use an accounting phrase when it comes to human lives — "sunk costs." If you're unfamiliar with the term, it means you don't look at past expenses as wasteful and let your repulsion guide your actions, nor do you look at the past value which they've produced and let that "investment" guide your future plans. That is, your future plans shouldn't be guided by what's already happened, but by what's likely to happen in the future. True, sometimes the past is an indicator, but it's wrongheaded to adopt a perspective like "look how much we've already spent, we can't cut bait now." This is one of Bush's more recent rationales for continuing involvement: that to leave would not do honor to all those who have already died.

This is not an easy issue to grapple with (and if you read Billmon's post on how his sentiments have migrated away from vacuum and civil war fear to accelerated withdrawal, you'll get a sense of the pain a thinking person can go through when seriously confronting it; his sense is that he should have joined in yesterday's protests). You can even hear it at Horsefeathers: as early as February 2003, one of that blog's co-owners, Yale Kramer, wrote (emphases mine):


The last thing we should do right now is begin to fall for our own propaganda. For the purposes of getting him out of the picture we have painted Saddam as an irredeemable despotic monster. Actually, from the point of view of ordinary Iraqi Joes he has made Iraq politically stable, taken back their oil resources which were charmed away from them by the crafty Europeans, given them a sense of pride in the strength of their country, and - - until the US laid an oil embargo on Iraq - - given them a pretty good economic life. He has constructed important projects like power grids and dams. From the point of view of the average Iraqi it doesn't matter that there are no Shi'ia in the Ba'ath Party. Who cares? So a few thousand Kurds got killed up north somewhere, they're a lot of trouble anyway. What do you mean freedom, I have my freedom, all the freedom I need. Freedom of the press? We've got our TV, what are you talking about? Two parties? What do we need two parties for? One is enough.

There are two ways to go in a post-Saddam Iraq, the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is to keep our focus on the reason for invading Iraq in the first place - - to destroy Iraq's WMD programs and weapons for good. This will not be easy and may take as long as two years. This is and should remain our primary military and political aim. It is doable and other politically desirable goals may not be doable. Win the war, destroy the weapons, leave. Relatively simple and we will have acquitted ourselves honorably. If in the two years it takes to do the job, we can supervise and administer the reconstruction of some of the infrastructure of Iraq at their expense fine, icing on the cake.

Then there's the hard way. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has begun to hear the siren song of nation building: "The nation of Iraq, with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom."

Now, regular readers know I like to point to Horsefeathers as an outpost of extremism, although I generally point to posts by Stephen Rittenberg in doing so, not Yale Kramer. (This may be the first time I've quoted Kramer, actually.) But presumably there is as much anguish over the human costs among conservatives as there is among liberals; liberals have no monopoly on compassion, they may just be better at integrating it into their political philosophy (or less effective at partitioning, take your pick). In fact, it could be that conservatives' anguish is greater, if it implies unresolved approach-avoid cognitive dissonance.

Now, as for the question I implied paragraphs ago before I'd cast my extensive view from China to Peru, I don't think we need to pursue either perpetual involvement or accelerated withdrawal. What we do need to pursue, however, is accelerated progress. Unfortunately the current Republican leadership (which controls the Presidency and both houses of the Congress) aren't likely to show the wisdom to pursue it. Think about it: we don't need to think hard about Bush, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has shown at the very least the lack of wisdom to sell stock in his family business shortly before its earnings were released; the earnings were disappointing, and he avoided a huge financial hit as a result. In all honesty, he shouldn't have been buying or selling his family stock. That's all there is to it. In addition, it looks like he may have pulled a bill dealing with prisoner abuse while having information that there was more negative information still to come out. And Speaker of the House Denny Hastert? Hastert told us early on that he intended to represent the majority of his party, not the majority of the House, and would block any majority-supported bill that was against the wishes of the majority of his party. And Tom Delay? See "Bush."

The Republicans could conceivably change this mess if the "RINOs" start to exert themselves. John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe — you know the list. They may not speak for the majority of active and vocal Republicans, but it could well be that their more moderate positions resonate with a broader group. And as the President's approval ratings sink and sink and sink further, it would seem that more and more of the country is distancing itself from Bush, and may be even more open to an alternative message.

The problem with this approach is that you have to ask yourself about the likelihood that this "middle way" might be pursued by Republican moderates. My own feeling is that the likelihood is low; yet humanity has the capacity to surprise, and if moderate members of the Republican party make themselves heard (as opposed to the idiots wearing the purple bandages in Madison Square Garden last year), these senators might be moved.

If they don't move, it's more fuel for my position that the Republicans have given up all claim to being the Daddy Party. The Democrats could fill the breach, but the midterms are too far away to change the direction in Iraq any time soon.
Link | | | 11:53 AM | Home

Saturday, September 24, 2005:

A kinder, gentler country? I confess I know little about the First Lady's politics — although when she's spoken she's spoken with a voice that's distinctly different from her husband's. She's articulate, and has sometimes veered from the line. Over at The Left Coaster, Steve Soto reads the fine print in a Washington Post article and notes that Laura Bush may have trimmed her husband's sails. I'm willing to experiment with this and see how this turns out; it won't be the first time a wife has exercised her privilege to change a husband's direction, and since it hasn't been going well for the last five years...
Link | | | 11:40 AM | Home

The White House STILL doesn't get it right? Yesterday, I noted that Bush isn't really caught in a lose-lose situation regarding how he reacts to hurricanes, in spite of what the good folks at National Review Online would have you believe. This morning I woke to the news that Bush was not going to Texas to be in the storm afterall:

President Bush canceled plans to visit with emergency workers and officials in Texas, citing the storm's shifting path and a desire not to impede preparations, but he still intended to monitor the storm's progress from a military facility in Colorado instead of Washington.

Hurray, I'm thinking, maybe they get. How foolish I was, I now see (sorry, no RSS link yet, for now you have to register), (via AMERICAblog): it's not because they re-thought whether or not Bush would be in the way, but that the storm wasn't exciting enough where he was going to be, and the visuals weren't right. Can't they just dress him up in a flight suit with a codpiece?
Link | | | 11:28 AM | Home

Got Tivo? Know what you've got? Tivo appears to be leaning towards automatically erasing the shows you've recorded after a certain date passes. I don't think it defeats the purpose of those who are merely recording in order to time shift, but since some people have been buying units with bigger and bigger hard drives, they must know that a significant portion of their market is archiving; and therefore, Tivo has been playing a lot of them for suckers all the while it's been selling the bigger units.
Link | | | 11:02 AM | Home

Friday, September 23, 2005:

Bush can't win? Nah, he just refuses to. Over at National Review Online, there was this:

Bush Can't Win

After President Bush briefed reporters on his intention to visit the area affected by Hurricane Rita as soon as possible, one reporter yelled, "Sir, what good can you do going down to the hurricane zone? Might you get in the way?"

Bush, who had already started walking away, turned around:

BUSH: We're going to make sure we're not in the way of the operations. What I am going to do is observe the relationship between the state and local government.

Then a reporter (possibly the same one) yelled, "Well, critics are saying this is an overcompensation for the response to Katrina."

This is why it's impossible to have an intelligent debate about Bush's response to the hurricanes. The press hates him and blames him no matter what he does.

Now, you know the idea about false choices? National Review has presented itself with a false choice; Katrina was too little early, followed by too much too late; with Rita, Bush continues to go overboard. In National Review's eyes Bush "can't win" because they can't conceive of any other options (such as a middle way). Like, Bush didn't need to be in New Orleans the morning Katrina hit, but it sure would have been nice if he'd had Cheney doing his road trips to present McCain the birthday cake and talk up the prescription drug program. Bush can win by staying on top of it; he doesn't need to be there on the frontlines. If he puts the right people in place, making the right moves, then Bush wins.

Bush can win, he and his staff just haven't figure it out. And when they don't? Aw, blame it on the press, of course.

And speaking of the press, here's what Rich Lowry wrote on NRO's group blog, The Corner: "As [Bush] continues to try to make up for the Katrina response..."
Link | | | 6:50 PM | Home

Rumblings. From today's Washington Post:

Congressional Democrats, signaling plans to become more assertive about Iraq, yesterday asked the director of national intelligence to brief senators on conditions there, including whether the conflict has strengthened Islamic terrorists rather than weakened them.

Perhaps thought leadership is a positive step towards majority leadership.
Link | | | 7:57 AM | Home

Thursday, September 22, 2005:

I may have a new hero. Ever heard of Giuseppi Petrosino? Neither had I, until recently. In lower Manhattan there's a small triangular, asphalt covered "park" labeled "Lieutenant Petrosino Park." I googled his name, and it turns out this guy was the real thing, with the Right Stuff coming out his ears. He was the first Italian-American detective on the NYPD, and fought hard against an Italian mob called the Black Hand; according to a city web page, he and his department cut crime against Italian Americans in half, and helped deport 500 crooks. In 1909, he was murdered in Palermo while conducting an investigation, and remains the only member of the force killed in the line of duty outside the U.S. Yeah, there was a funeral here in New York, and it says 200,000 attended it. Bernie Kerik, are you humbled? Martin Scorcese, are you reading?
Link | | | 8:30 PM | Home

How much does the war in Iraq cost? Do you know? Guess what: neither does the Pentagon.
Link | | | 8:12 AM | Home

It takes a Katrina, unfortunately, to make America pay genuine attention to the plight of the poor; and even here, it's not a general awareness of the plight of the poor, but reserved for those who have been hit by Katrina. But the forgotten fact is that under Bush, the percentage of Americans in poverty has risen year after year: 2001 under Bush was higher than 2000 under Clinton; 2002 higher than 2001, 2003 higher than 2002, and 2004 higher than 2003. The growth in the economy which Bush has trumpeted has not been broad, and while some in the middle class have benefitted some, those who have benefitted the most come from the wealthier classes. Yet, this didn't stop Bush from proposing a budget with cuts in important programs like food stamps.

There is genuinely good reason to pay attention to the victims of Katrina, but not to the exclusion of other poor. Katrina's effects are going to be with us for a long time, and we need to make sure that the plight of the poor in general improves, not just those hurt by Katrina.
Link | | | 8:01 AM | Home

Wednesday, September 21, 2005:

Fun with the English language (White House edition). I really hope that the national press corps will push back against what Scottie said today, and not just ignore what he said but actively point out how the White House is spinning:

Well, in terms of Katrina, that was a storm that was unprecedented in size and scope and devastation...

First, and foremost, Katrina may have been unprecedented in terms of devastation, but I don't think that's true regarding the size or scope. Remember, Katrina was a category 4 hurricane, not a category 5 hurricane. Read about Andrew and its intensity before you start talking about Katrina as "unprecedented."

What are the unprecedented aspects of Katrina? Well, the fact that New Orleans was in her path, and that the potential devastation from a hurricane of her strength upon New Orleans had long been predicted and apparently had long gone ignored.

McClellan has chosen the word "unprecedented," avoiding the word "unanticipated." He knows that "unpredicted" would not be true; "unprecedented" allows him a bit more wiggle room, and helps the White House avoid blame. Katrina was anticipated; McClellan wants to move the goal posts, and make you believe that foresight is irrelevant, therefore their not exercising it shouldn't be held against them.
Link | | | 9:20 PM | Home

Why I love living in Brooklyn, Part 1. Well, I guess you can figure a lot from the photos I take, but in terms of the first reason I'll list — and it's only today's reason, not the biggest — the fish markets in Manhattan's Chinatown are on the way home. That's always the case for me, working in midtown, and stepping out of the subway system to buy shrimp and fried tofu for tonight's dinner was a welcome break from a long trip home after a meeting near the George Washington Bridge. Unless you work in the Financial District, Manhattan's China Town is not on your way home for other borough residents. And you can get off at Canal or Grand, make a quick purchase, and easily be back on your way. (I sauteed them in butter, garlic, pepper flakes, and rosemary, since you asked.)
Link | | | 8:52 PM | Home

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