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Copyright © 2009 Frank Lynch.

 

 

Me: Frank Lynch

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Coincidence? Doubtful. Today's attack at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington is a stark reminder that, while the vast majority of us are normal law abiding people, there is a tiny sliver of us who are extremists and not content with the "mere" workings of laws and law enforcement. The murder of Dr. Tiller a couple weeks ago was a pretty good example in and of itself.

Sadly, a draft report from the DHS warned that right-wing extremists were out and about. In no way shape or form did the draft report indict all conservatives, but wing-nuts sought to dismiss it by inferring political motives, ignoring the fact that there had been a similar report about leftist extremists.

I've occasionally been asked why I bother to read Powerline and post on their forum. My answer has always been an outgrowth of the "the answer to speech is more speech" argument. They're not going to go away if you don't engage them, and the Internet is a particularly useful tool for allowing people to spend more and more time with like-minded people, not testing their opinions in a real town hall, reinforce their opinions, and ultimately grow more and more extreme.

I don't think I'm a very powerful force, by the way, and the less so now that Powerline has changed it's forum. (My comments aren't getting through; apparently they don't think I "add" to their disussions.) But one has to try. (And by the way, if you're not reading Orcinus you really should be.)
Link | | | 10:48 PM | Home
 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Such sexist vituperation." One of the wise bloggers at Powerline is complaining about David Letterman's latest riffing on Sarah Palin, concluding "it's hard to imagine such sexist vituperation being heaped on any other American politician." Hard, that is, until you Google the phrase, with quotes, "because Janet Reno is her father." That was John McCain's answer to his own riddle as to why Chelsea Clinton is "so ugly." And this was back in 1998, when she was 17 or 18. Unelected. Not a politician. To say nothing of the comment targeting Janet Reno, also.

Sure. Hard to imagine. That sure must be some wild rice they smoke up in Minnesota.
Link | | | 11:08 PM | Home
 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Let's call the whole thing off. Just a golf drive or so from here, there were a few blocks worth of open rail yards, auto repair businesses, and three or four story apartment buildings. There was also a large concrete building which formerly housed Ward's Bakery, and there was also this horrible wreck of a green building which was a favorite target of graffiti artists (the "Underberg" building which gave its name to the first sectio of Jonathan Lethem's "Fortress of Solitude"). Developer Bruce Ratner had this complex plan to redevelop the area involving delicately coordinated motions: eminent domain demolitions; wooing politicians; hiring Frank Gehry to design a shimmery complex which would tower above the otherwise tallest building in Brooklyn, right nearby; ensuring that the complex included a basketball arena, so he could buy the New Jersey Nets and use them to whet the local appetites; include low income housing; beating other projectors who had other ideas; overcoming local opposition with concerns about the height of the project; and so on, and so on.

State bonds were of course part of the deal, and while no one but sentimental photobloggers really regretted the demolition of the Underberg building, it didn't make sense to tear down Ward's Bakery (it could have been converted into housing). But then the economy tanked, capital froze up, and Ratner found himself in a predicament: to use the bonds, he had to be further along than he was, but the lack of other capital was a problem.

So what did he do? He jettisoned Gehry's design for something far more, uh, pedestrian. It's not like there was unanimous approval of the project to begin with, but what we're getting now is about as attractive as a big box store:

A colossal, spiritless box, it would fit more comfortably in a cornfield than at one of the busiest intersections of a vibrant metropolis. Its low-budget, no-frills design embodies the crass, bottom-line mentality that puts personal profit above the public good. If it is ever built, it will create a black hole in the heart of a vital neighborhood.

But what's most offensive about the design is the message it sends to New Yorkers. Architecture, we are being told, is something decorative and expendable, a luxury we can afford only in good times, or if we happen to be very rich. What's most important is to build, no matter how thoughtless or dehumanizing the results. It is the kind of logic that kills cities -- and that has been poisoning this one for decades.

This is horrible, really: to have active businesses kicked out, people uprooted, and useful buildings demolished for something that looks like it was just pulled off the shelf. Mind you, Gehry's original design was too tall. And the Ward Bakery is already gone. But this seems like the ex-wife in Richard Russo's "Empire Falls" must have felt when she learned that her new husband wasn't really prematurely grey. He was... old! And she was too credulous to not be suckered in. This deal was done all wrong: Ratner should have had his capital upfront before he was allowed to do any demolition at all.
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ed Whelan is AWEsome. I bet he was really pumped up after identifying an anonymous blogger. Completely gratuitously: it had nothing to do with the content of his post or solidity of his arguments. Just 'cos he felt like doing it.

This really furthers the arguments, Ed. And you can add "petty" to the "special skills" section of your resume.

(The "outed" Publius commented here.)
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

This just in: some people haven't been maintaining their blogs. Statistics from Technorati say 95% of the 13 million they track haven't been updated in the last four months. One of the chief reasons for abandonment is the loneliness and lack of reinforcement from too little traffic.

In Adventurer No. 115, Johnson wrote about the imbalance between the number of books being published and the supply of readers (and their time) to read them; he knew there would eventually be a shake out in the market, targeting what he saw as the publishers' seeming "conspiracy for the elimination of paper."

Good for those who've abandoned their blogs and found other ways to spend their time. As for me, I'll be back tomorrow; but I do have a book on Vanderbilt waiting for me.
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Friday, June 5, 2009

Steve Nelson. Be the first on your block to see this one. And wonder how you saw it so early!

I've had a CD of his for over 15 years, and could never figure out why everyone's not talking about him.
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

OBL ♥ GWB. A new tape, reputed to be from OBL, was released today, in which he attempts to undermine Obama's visit to the Mideast.

"Obama's election is just about the worst thing that could have happened to these guys," said Tom Sanderson, a terrorism expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "They knew right away that his election undermined a key part of their argument that the U.S. was anti-Islamic, that the U.S. was racist."

It couldn't be clearer, at this point, that when OBL sent out that tape just before the 2004 presidential election, that he knew Bush was good for his business. Obama? Not so much. Hating us is probably a harder sell, and when OBL cites the crackdown on extremists in Pakistan, that may work to excite the extremists, but more moderate influences could be a buffer now.
Link | | | 9:06 PM | Home


Half pint.

From a member of the faculty of Circle in the Square Theater School.
Link | | | 8:51 PM | Home


My advice to Israel. Next time, get it in writing.

JERUSALEM — Senior Israeli officials accused President Obama on Wednesday of failing to acknowledge what they called clear understandings with the Bush administration that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines while still publicly claiming to honor a settlement "freeze."

...

The Israeli officials said that repeated discussions with Bush officials starting in late 2002 resulted in agreement that housing could be built within the boundaries of certain settlement blocks as long as no new land was expropriated, no special economic incentives were offered to move to settlements, and no new settlements were built. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity so that they could discuss an issue of such controversy between the two governments.

When Israel signed on to the so-called road map for a two-state solution in 2003, with a provision that says its government "freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)," the officials said, it was after a detailed discussion with Bush officials that laid out those explicit exceptions.

"Not everything is written down," one of the officials said.

First, one of the reasons you need a deal with our country in writing is because we are a republic, and with changes in administrations agreements can change. (That's one of the reasons treaties need to be ratified by Congress.)

Another reason, sadly, relates to Bush. Bush carefully parsed his words. He once said that there were no plans to invade Iraq on his desk (they were in his desk, or a filing cabinet); Bush is the guy who frequently conflated Iraq with 9/11, and then six months after the invasion said there was no evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks; Bush was the guy who ducked behind the phrase "British Intelligence has learned" in his 2003 State of the Union address.

So, yeah: get it in writing next time. And make sure your lawyers have gone over all the words very carefully. (Especially when you're dealing with an under the table deal!)
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Monday, June 1, 2009

eMusic "reformulates." Coming right after a post where I told you about the risks associated with reformulating a product and ticking off the regular users, I now get to follow up with changes at the music download site eMusic. eMusic's pricing structure was different from iTunes, and its catalog and "mission" was designed to help you discover off-the-beaten track bands.

Unlike iTunes, at about a dollar per song or $10 per album, eMusic was set up on a subscription; the cost per track was on a sliding scale, with the cost decreasing in the higher increments. For $20 per month, I was getting 75 downloads. And at this relatively low price, I felt freer to experiment with artists that were new to me, like Califone and Calexico and Fluttr Effect and the Slip. Indie bands I'd have been reluctant to try otherwise. As well as roots musicians like Eck Robertson. It kept this 50-some listener's music collection more alive.

Well, they've gone and "improved" it. They're getting access to the Sony catalog for material which is over two years old. Whoop-de-doo: once something has become overplayed and stale eMusic will have it. As if I needed to experiment with Billy Joel and the Boss. But this might be of some benefit to others, so maybe it will help them acquire new customers.

But the pricing is going up at the same time. I'll soon be paying almost twice what I was paying before. It's less than iTunes, but still, I figure I'll be half as willing to experiment now. And that, for me, was the whole ballgame.
Link | | | 9:09 PM | Home
 

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