Posts Tagged ‘Election’

Letter From New York November 11, 2012

November 12, 2012

Or, as it seems to me…

It’s a Sunday night and I am in Seattle, where I came to attend a surprise birthday party for a friend of mine, Jerry May.  I’ve known Jerry for a long time and we’d actually fallen out of touch but found each other again through the wonders of the LinkedIn.  We caught up when I was in Seattle six months ago. His fiancé then sent me an email that she was throwing a surprise birthday party for him and I came.  He’s a stand up guy.  Stood up for me once.  So I thought I’d show up for him.

Turned out they were punking the guests; it wasn’t a surprise birthday party but a surprise wedding.  Jerry and Gail got married in front of a hundred staggered guests.  They’d been planning this for months.  Standing there, I was really glad I had made the effort to come.

I spent part of today walking around Seattle, a city I have visited frequently in my life, passing places and restaurants that I’ve been before, feeling a sense of history, the history of my own life.

This has been a historical time.  Barack Obama was re-elected, much to my personal relief.  I watched the returns with friends at a restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where there was early tension in the air as the early returns went to Romney.  Then the tide began to turn and tension turned to relief as the electoral tide went to Obama.  When CNN declared him the victor the restaurant erupted in applause.

It was an election held amidst the residue of Hurricane Sandy, an event that might have helped Obama.  Republicans were incensed that Chris Christie, Republican Governor of New Jersey, embraced Obama and was embraced by him.  Christie came across well in all of this – a Governor who put partisan politics away when it came down to what was necessary for his state and has faced criticism for it.

But it is quite probable nothing could change the outcome.  Serious pollsters, math geeks in fact, had been predicting for weeks that Obama would win based on their reading of the runes of the polls.  They crawled over the numbers and came up with one answer:  Obama wins.

The number crunching math nerd Nate Silver, a blogger connected to the New York Times, predicted Obama’s win or loss correctly in 50 of 50 states nearly a week before the election.  He is not the only such math nerd political analyst who has so surprised pundits by their accuracy that some are saying we are moving into a new phase of political prediction.  They poured over poll numbers, ran them through computer simulations and out came a statistical avalanche of information that proved so correct on the Presidential level that it has left some traditional pollsters shell shocked.

Reading and hearing about them caused me to think of Hari Seldon, the great psycho-historian of the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov, one of the great science fiction classics to which I return time and again for the wicked pleasure it gives me in reading them.  Psychohistory, a creation of the mind of Asimov, posits that the behavior of humans could be predicated statistically, with pretty great accuracy.  Hello Nate Silver, perhaps our first real psycho-historian…

Personally, I find it both fascinating and, like some of the traditional pollsters, a little unsettling.  If these guys keep it up for the next few election cycles a lot of the pleasure of the political process will be taken out of elections.  We’ll know the outcome of our behavior before we have committed the action.  Sounds like science fiction, right?  Well, it should because it is.  But it’s the reality in which we’re all living right now. 

Wow.

 

A Tale of Two Towns, A Tale of Two Worlds

June 19, 2009

A Tale of Two Towns, A Tale of Two Worlds
June 18, 2009
An interesting week…

When I started writing this I was filled with images from my college-like road trip with several friends as we attempted to get home last Friday night when service was halted due to a rockslide on the tracks. My desire to sleep in my own bed was visceral and shared by my companions also wanted to be at hom. Four hyper-responsible adults became young adults again, momentarily celebrating the joy of being on the road. We laughed, exchanged stories, commiserated and celebrated ourselves while sharing wine and food as we were being driven north. It was a remarkable moment incorporating youth and adulthood. I cannot completely share its wonder with words. Finally we all reached home and hearth and I slipped into the welcoming arms of Morpheus.

The following day was centered on the Flag Day Parade that consumed Warren Street [think Main Street] in Hudson; Flag Day is Hudson’s 4th of July – the parade went on for two hours with every volunteer fire department, school marching band, etc. making its way down the street to the riverfront. It was a celebration of small town America, of a way of life that seems slipping away.

A column in the NY Times mused on how Hudson’s Parade was perhaps no longer a town celebration but a show for the upscale newcomers. I don’t agree with that – Hudson is an interesting mixture. The town’s inhabitants and newcomers are mingling together and there is an interesting community evolving. Beyond Warren Street the earthy grittiness of tough town Hudson still exists, a town once best known for its brothels – not the antique stores that have recently made it famous.

While we were celebrating Flag Day, across the world a drama was beginning to play out – Iran was holding elections. We were celebrating the adoption of the flag, our symbol for all that we feel America stands. Going into the Iranian elections there was a sense of buoyancy. The generally unpopular Ahmadinejad looked to be toppled by a rival, Mousavi, in the June 12 election.

Iran and the world seemed giddy at the chance for change. When results were announced Ahmadinejad was said to have won by a landslide.

Iran is a young country; a majority of the population is under thirty. That majority, largely supporting Mousavi, did not take the announcement well, smelling a rat in the ballot box. The protests have now been going on for four days and look like they will be continuing – the marches continued today to mourn those who have died. The protests have taken on the mantle of something larger. Internally and externally, the protests are being carefully watched to determine if this might not be a brewing revolution.

Thirty years ago youthful Iranians brought down the pro-Western and much despised Shah. Now youthful Iranians are chafing under the rule of the Islamic Republic of Iran and were pinning their hopes on Mousavi. All polls pointed toward his winning. Against them the landslide nature of Ahmadinejad’s victory did not seem plausible, hence the beginning of the protests.

To the surprise of ruling elders, efforts to suppress the protests have been outmaneuvered by the use of Twitter. Yes, Twitter. While the current rulers are curtailing access of regular reporters, young Iranians are using their mobile phones to “twitter” out pictures and short commentaries that are now being followed breathlessly around the world. Major news organizations are closely scrutinizing the photographs to make sure they are real and most seem to be.

Social networking tool, Twitter, is being used by Iranians to coordinate the actions and disseminate information when normal outlets have been closed to them. So significant is the role of Twitter in this series of events that what is going on in Iran is beginning to be called “the Twitter Revolution.”

Twitter is helping Iranians move toward a day when they can have a Flag Day for themselves, hopefully to celebrate the same kinds of freedoms we honor on our Flag Day. One of their flags colors is green; it’s become the color of protest. I will wear some green in solidarity today.