Showing posts with label Roger Brickner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roger Brickner. Show all posts

Monday, November 5, 2012

Storm Aftermath and the Election

Hurricane Sandy left destruction in its wake, underscoring the fragility of our coastlines and infrastructure.   More on that, and its connection with the upcoming election later, but first a follow up on my last post which was filled with anxiety and speculation about Sandy's potential impact on our friends in Connecticut, our boat club, and our boat. It's mostly bad news but a fortuitous wind change from the east to the south just before the peak high tide during the storm made the difference between disaster and catastrophe.  It meant that the water level in the parking lot where our club’s boats are on the hard for the winter was "only" about 4-1/2 feet vs., potentially, 5-6.  As for my own boat, which has a draft of 3-3/4 feet and was blocked about a foot off the ground, the peak tide slightly lifted it, enough for it to shift off of its keel stands, but settling onto three of the four boat stands that hold the hard chine of the hull.  These stands are mainly for stability, not to support the entire weight of the boat, the keel stands doing the heavy support.  So, in a sense, my boat is hanging in mid air right now by those boat stands.  This might put strain on the hull, but my older, heavily built boat should come through as long as it can be reblocked successfully.  A crane has been brought in to remove damaged boats so, hopefully, the travel lift can get to those that need reblocking such as mine.

Unfortunately, many other boats in the yard were damaged or totaled.  Boats were strewn all over Water Street of South Norwalk.  And where we used to live across the Norwalk River on Sylvester Court, boats were on the street as well. 

This is but a microcosm of the coast above south Jersey where the storm came ashore, with places like Staten Island which is as low lying, and directly exposed to the east, taking a direct hit. And now they say there may be a Nor'easter in the cards for later this week which will just exacerbate misery and increase the potential for more damage.  We can only hope for the best.

Hurricanes seem to follow me wherever I might be, sometimes the same storm threatening us both in Florida and Connecticut.  The first hurricane I had to deal with in my life of any significance was Hurricane Carol in 1954.  My parents usually rented a cottage in Sag Harbor towards the end of each summer for a couple of weeks, a block from the Peconic Bay. Carol drove us out of our rental, and although a block away from the Bay, water was half way up the first floor.

Then in 1985 Hurricane Gloria came to call on Connecticut and although only a Cat. 1, the winds were from the southeast, driving water and tremendous wave action up the Norwalk River where we had a smaller boat at the time  – at a different marina than where we are now -- and between the heaving of the docks and the wind, boats broke free, another boat's bow pulpit plowed through the hull into our v-berth, but above the waterline so at least it didn't sink.

I anxiously watched Hurricane Bob form in 1991 as we were spending a two weeks summer vacation at Block Island.  A couple of days out from the storm a direct hit seemed unavoidable, so unlike some friends who decided to "ride it out" I packed up the boat and ran back to Norwalk, safe enough from the effects of the storm.  Boats were strewn all of the shores of Block Island although my friend, John, who tied his boat in a spider web maze of lines between the fixed docks of Payne’s, thankfully escaped relatively unscathed.

The next memorable hurricane was a terrifying one, Floyd which hit in September 1999.  We had just bought our home in Florida that prior June and Ann was living in the house, while I lived on the boat in Connecticut, finishing out my job there until the end of that year (we had already sold our home in CT).  Satellite imagery made Floyd look like the storm of the century, and it did grow to a Cat. 4, huge in size, heading directly at Florida, causing massive evacuations on the coast.  The traffic north was colossal.  I was terrified for my wife who was in the house alone (but with our dog at the time, Treat), and although it was completely shuttered, everyone was screaming evacuate north!  It seemed to me, amateur meteorologist extraordinaire, that while the storm had the potential to hit us head on in the North Palm Beach area, it was highly unlikely it would turn south or even have much of an impact far south of us, so while I95 and the Turnpike were clogged with cars going north, Ann and I decided it best for her to go south to a friend's home, inland, about 40 miles to the south which turned out to be the right decision.

With hindsight, she could have stayed put in our home as the storm took a sharp right hand turn up the coast and ironically had more of an impact on me living on our boat in Norwalk, CT.  I had to strip the enclosure and remove everything from the decks, tie off the boat with double lines and springs, put out extra fenders, etc., but I stayed on the boat through the storm and as it was not a direct hit, I merely rocked and rolled, and was fine. Tides never even approached the levels of Sandy.

2004 was another lousy hurricane year with both Hurricane Francis and Hurricane Jeanne striking Florida only some twenty miles north of us, and causing some minor damage to our home, although it was completely shuttered (mostly a roof tiles missing and plantings ruined).  We were not in Florida for Francis but had the pleasure of dealing with the aftermath of Jeanne with no power for days. Luckily, our cousins owned a condo south of us so we occupied that while waiting for power.  And let's not forget Hurricane Ivan that same year which dumped enormous amounts of rain, but was less of a wind event where we are.

Then there was 2005's Hurricane Wilma which we rode out in our home, all shuttered up again, a storm that was coming from the west and, therefore, Florida folklore would have you believe would be merely a minor inconvenience.  Unfortunately, the eye went over our house and as the storm emerged over the Atlantic the back end picked up significant strength, probably even a Cat. 2 or 3 at one point.  Our home was groaning in the wind, the sliding glass doors, although behind heavy steel shutters, bowing in and out just from the storm’s barometric pressure change. Wilma also knocked out power but, luckily, it turned cool, not the usual tropical air mass behind the storm, and living for days without power was even a little fun, cooking on sterno stoves, flash lights to read by, my piano a constant companion.

Finally, last year we dealt with Hurricane Irene, having to shutter up our house while living on the boat, expecting the worst for our home, which the storm completely missed, while we had to evacuate the boat! 

Florida, although very vulnerable, deals with hurricanes better than the northeast, especially one like Sandy that was both a hurricane and a Nor'easter rolled into one, bringing in a cold air mass in its wake.  It's one thing not to have power, and it’s another to also have no heat in the cold.  Also, gas stations here are required to have generators to pump gas and that is now a problem in the northeast with no such requirements. That will change in the future, I'm sure.

And here is the connection to politics. Mayor Bloomberg has it right to endorse President Obama even for no other reason than his stance and record on global warming.  Most scientists are in agreement that hydrocarbon emissions are responsible, not merely some grand cyclical weather factor.  Can this be reversed short term?  Of course not.  But it is an issue that has even greater consequences than our debt, and it is more difficult to solve than our man made fiscal crisis.

Watching the rise of the tide as Hurricane Sandy past by Florida, my neighbor, who has lived on our waterway for fifty years, remarked that during those years he has witnessed higher high tides and higher low tides until, finally, reaching the top of our sea wall during Sandy, submerging both my docks.  It took days for it to recede, long after the storm was battering the northeast.  Yes, this is merely anecdotal evidence, but even our short thirteen year stay here seems to confirm the observation.  How can we deny the existence of what we have wrought and the need to address this terrible problem? How will not only Congress, but world governments agree upon global warming mitigation priorities?

This brings me to the importance of this election.  It has been the most bitter election campaign in my memory, not surprising given the polarization and subsequent action calcification of our government.  It also is the consequence of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision which opened the flood gates to Super PACs funded by corporations, wealthy individuals and special interest groups.  This has led to the pollution of the airways, endless robot-calls and an inundation of direct mail.  In one week alone, these flyers pictured here were sent to us.

Imagine the billions of dollars wasted on these brainwashing attempts.  Why do we permit political advertising at all?  There must be other alternatives.  But I guess they work, just judging by the letters to the editor I read in the Palm Beach Post. Many simply regurgitate the sputum of those ads.  It is an amazing circular process, garbage in, garbage out, and then making such important decisions on highly emotionally charged accusations and innuendoes.

We voted early, the lines unbelievably lengthy.  There are several proposed amendments to the Florida State Constitution and the ballot is several pages long. GOP controlled Florida had made the decision to make advance voting a much shorter period than voters had in 2008.   I can imagine how the lines will be tomorrow..

As to the outcome, here is an unscientific survey conducted by my grade advisor from high school, Roger Brickner (yes, we are still in touch more than fifty years later).  Politics has been his avocation since HE went to high school, and he has accurately predicted presidential election outcomes since he incorrectly picking Dewey in 1948.   He has an email following of similar-minded friends and he canvassed  their predictions for this election and, based on that approach, Obama will win both the popular vote (by 2.1%) and the electoral college (289 to 249). 

Intrade, the popular prediction platform, where you can "bet" on a winner, most recently has the probability of an Obama win at about 65%.
At to my own "prediction," I think the anti-Obama vitriol runs deep, and that has been effectively harvested by his opponents.  For that reason, and using the anecdotal evidence of the ubiquitous Romney / West signs lining our own road, I think the popular vote will be closer than 2.1%, with the distinct possibility of Obama losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College. But trying to quantify it is just guesswork.

PS: Last minute email from Roger (his own prediction, not the average of his email followers):
I forgot to give the grand summary... Guess I was so glad to complete all the states and all the elections!

President    electoral votes OBAMA 290   ROMNEY 248
                    popular vote OBAMA 51% ROMNEY 48% OTHERS 1%

The Senate will be Dem 53, Rep. 45  Too close 2 (one held  by a Rep., one held by a Dem.)
 The House will be Rep. 235  Dem  200

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Bet is on Roger's Version

And by "Roger's Version" I'm not referring to one of my favorite Updike novels but my high school grade advisor and teacher, with whom I am in contact for reasons explained here.

Roger Brickner was passionate about politics when I participated in the mock political convention he staged the year I graduated in 1960, on the eve of Kennedy's election. Remarkably, now 51 years later, he is still passionate and his political analysis has been prescient, better I think than the political analysts we are exposed to on the battle between Fox and MSNBC. Survey research is a highly statistical discipline but the results can be problematic due to methodological flaws, question bias, and socially desirable responses, people trying to put themselves in a favorable light when answering questions (vs. what they do in the voting booth). I prefer the old fashion educated opinion, and they don't get much better on the topic of politics -- or as enthusiastic -- than Roger's broadcast emails during an election year. I have his permission to bring them to light in my blog from time to time and here is his latest one on the upcoming Republican primaries in January....

Dear Friends:

What a difference those two weeks were in terms of the Republican race for a nominee. It is getting down to a battle between Gingrich and Romney, but with Paul holding in there tenaciously in third place. All the others on a national basis will be in single digits when it comes time to vote in just one month's time. These others could exceed once in a while their single digit status. Bachmann in Iowa and Huntsman in NH for instance.

In this discussion I will confine myself to the primaries and caucus scheduled for January.

IOWA CAUCUS Jan 3 These votes will be divided proportionally... I believe a 15% threshold is required to get ANY delegates. the Iowa caucus is a whole afternoon and evening event (ordeal?... read only the dedicated hang in there). I am not ready to give exact percentages yet, but I see the following order GINGRICH, closely followed by ROMNEY, then PAUL, but PAUL will probably fall short of 15%. Therefore I would expect GINGRICH to win a majority of the 28 delegates. This will be a good boost for his challenge to Romney.

NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY Jan 10 these votes will be divided proportionally with a 15% threshold to get ANY delegates. I now see the order as ROMNEY by a wide margin. GINGRICH second and PAUL third. Coming in a respectable fourth is HUNTSMAN, but I would doubt he would reach the 15% threshold . With just 12 delegates (such a fuss NH makes over so few delegates) I would expect the results to show ROMNEY 8 delegates, GINGRICH 2 delegates and PAUL 2 delegates.


ROMNEY 19, GINGRICH 19, PAUL 2. Close race !!

SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY Jan 21 These delegates will be winner take all. I see GINGRICH winning by at least 10 points, thus gathering all 25 delegates.



FLORIDA PRIMARY Jan 31 These delegates are winner take all,. I see GINGRICH beating ROMNEY by wide margin. It will be a very bad night for ROMNEY. All 50 delegates will go to the Georgian neighbor GINGRICH.



It will be imperative for ROMNEY to bounce back in the four caucus states of NEVADA, MAINE, COLORADO and MINNESOTA between Feb. 4-7. There are no SOUTHERN states here and ROMNEY must do well to get the balance of delegates more even. I will be looking into these states in the next two weeks and will be able to comment better at that time on whether ROMNEY can keep in the race. One note, the really big northern states of NEW YORK (Apr 24) NEW JERSEY (June 5) PENNSYLVANIA (Apr 24) OHIO (June 12) MICHIGAN (Feb. 28) ILLINOIS (Mar 20) and CALIFORNIA (June 5) seem to be in ROMNEY's column so the decisive delegate numbers may not be known until quite late. Watch MICHIGAN on Feb 28 and ILLINOIS on Mar. 20 as a clue to how these other big northern states will swing.

There is still the chance that for the first time since 1948 the nomination for the Rep. nominee might go beyond the first ballot. A long shot, but an exciting possibility.

THIRD PARTIES? I could see BACHMANN get into it if ROMNEY became the nominee. I'm sure she would get less than 5% of the vote, but it would hurt ROMNEY. PAUL keeps saying he will not run a third party, but he has done it before and may do it again. He would be worth 5-10% of the vote. Because of his war stance he could hurt OBAMA the most. All this is just speculation, but not outside of the possible this election cycle.

I continue to believe that OBAMA will beat GINGRICH by a margin greater than he won in 2008. A ROMNEY candidacy would be a very close race, perhaps a narrow victory for him and if not OBAMA would do less well than he did in 2008 against MC CAIN But we have 11 months before we will know better.


Here is Roger's updated forecast dated Dec. 26...

Dear friends:

I trust you have all had a very Merry Christmas this Holiday season. I enjoyed an excellent meal with a schoolboy friend of 65 years in NYC.

The shifting sands of elective politics continue to rearrange the landscape. I will look at the first three contests.

IOWA The latest "flavor of the month" is beginning to slip. Between Newt Gingrich's mouth and his poor organizational support ( failed to get on VA ballot) is catching up with him in the eyes of the voters. This shows in my latest estimate for the Iowa caucus on Jan 3. My expectations:

1 ROMNEY (20-25%) 8 delegates
2 PAUL (20-25%) 8 delegates
3 GINGRICH (15-20%) 6 delegates
4 PERRY (15-20%) 6 delegates
5 BACHMAN ( 5-10%)
6 SANTORUM ( 5-10%)
7 HUNTSMAN (5-10%)

Three weeks ago, before the decline in Gingrich became apparent, I had him leading, but he has fallen back to third place now. Paul, certainly not the flavor for ANY month will give Romney a good race for first place. I have to say that Santorum is likely to quit when, after traveling to every Iowa county, he will only draw single digits. Same for Bachman, but she may, inexplicably, hold on for a while, though I do not see her getting into double digits anywhere.

Next comes my state of NEW HAMPSHIRE on Jan 10. My prediction made on Dec 3 still seems to hold except I expect Gingrich to fall back to third place, while, once again Paul moves up at his expense.

1 ROMNEY (35-40%) 6 delegates
2 PAUL (15-20%) 3 delegates
3 GINGRICH (15-20%) 3 delegates
4 HUNTSMAN (10-15%)
The rest that are still in the race should get in the low single digits.


SOUTH CAROLINA votes on Jan. 21. If GINGRICH can't do well here he never will.

1 GINGRICH (30-35%) 11 delegates
2 ROMNEY (25-30%) 9 delegates
3 PAUL (15-20% 5 delegates
4 BACHMAN ( 5-10%) if she is still in the race
5 PERRY ( 5-10%)

This is the least certain of my predictions as events will have a lot to do with the results of this event still 4 weeks away. Unless Gingrich wins by more than just a few points here I would expect him to do less and less, including FLORIDA which will come up ten days later. Perry, also should be looking weak in a southern state like SC. Does this leave the non-ROMNEY candidate to be the eccentric RON PAUL?? How fascinating that would be.

Finally, the president and the Democrats in the dysfunctional Congress came up winners over the NO NO NO crowd who focus on OBAMA rather than on issues they espouse. When will they learn? Are they trying hard to lose the HOUSE OF REPS?? More on these after the Reps. decide on who will be their standard bearer.

Have a Happy New Year!! Roger

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Happened and What Will the Future Bring?

The question relates to the midterm elections and the answer comes via the oblique route of my 50th high school reunion. In the summer I was invited to the reunion but unfortunately I would not be able to attend.

My "old" classmate, Eileen, who did a yeoman's job organizing the reunion was disappointed (as was I), but told me that our grade advisor from those by-gone years, Mr. Brickner would be there. I was delighted to hear his name again and to learn he was well. She said she would be meeting with him to finalize plans and she was still having difficulty addressing him as "Roger" rather than Mr. Brickner. I know what she meant. Our class had tremendous respect for Roger Brickner. And, for me, he was not only my advisor, but an important mentor (probably unknown to him). My first three years in high school were mostly wasted opportunities, but when I had Mr. Brickner for Honor Economics, all that changed. I wrote to Eileen that “he is one of the few teachers I so clearly remember as being encouraging of my dormant academic abilities and I would love to be able to be in touch with him to thank him.”

Ellen passed on the information and one day I received a phone call. It was Mr. Brickner, animated and enthusiastic, exactly as I remembered him from fifty years ago. I had the opportunity to personally thank him for being such a supportive teacher and asked him whether he still wore his trademark bow tie (no). We exchanged email addresses.

Suddenly I began to receive broadcast emails from him about the, then, upcoming midterm elections, detailed analyses covering the house, senate, and gubernatorial races, state by state, projecting winners and the reasons why. I was stunned by the scope of his knowledge and asked whether he worked professionally in this area after teaching. He wrote back, "My interest in politics is an enthusiastic avocation. I began to predict presidential elections as a teenager and since I thought Dewey would win in 1948 I have been lucky to pick every winner since that time. The key is understanding where the American people are each fall of a presidential year." Now I understood why he was the champion of mock political conventions in our high school. I participated in the one for 1960 and as I recall placed Margaret Chase Smith, the Senator from Maine, in nomination for the Presidency, which put me way ahead of the times (imagine, a woman President!).

His predictions were remarkably accurate, nailing almost all the races, and reading his forecasts was a better use of time than watching the network "calls" of the election. As the projections of all the major networks -- ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NBC -- rely on the same exit poll information gathered by National Election Pool (NEP), their calls and analysis can be dully redundant. It was a breath of fresh air to read Roger's coverage and projections, all well before the exit polls gathered by NEP were distributed to the networks. After the election he sent a daily email dissecting the house, senate, and gubernatorial results. On November 9 he did an omnibus summary, musing about the possibilities for 2012, which I publish in its entirety as a valuable guest entry:


Dear Friends:

First and foremost, the election just concluded (with still a few undecided races) WAS truly a remarkable one. It tore down past records. The Republicans now have more state legislators than they have had since 1928. They have seized control of the House to a greater extent than they have had since 1946. Hardly a record, they added six seats in the Senate, remaining behind by a 53-47 margin. In number of governors they are very close to their all time highs of the 1970's and 1980's.

What caused this surge to the Republicans? The public never accepted the assurances of the President and the Congressional leaders that the Medical Care measure was in their interests. They were appalled by the dealings in congress and the twisting of arms. Standard behavior in Congress, but not appreciated by the public. But if the Medical Care bill hurt, it was the inability of the Administration to lower significantly unemployment. There also was the feeling that nothing was being done to limit the power and the machinations of Wall Street and Big Business. Not spoken about in the campaign I believe it was an underlying factor. It not only united the left with the populist tea party right, but it activated the latter while depressing the former.

The president himself was a substantial factor. Not that he did not achieve Congressional measures he fought for, but that he seemed not to be able to communicate to the public easily. He was viewed as being "an educated elitist" who was not comfortable with ordinary people. A bit like Adlai Stevenson.

Losses in key areas were devastating. He lost 21% of the over 65 voters, who voted in a greater proportion than in 2008. On the other end the under 30's held in their support BUT far fewer got out to vote. White men, white women, less educated all shifted strongly to the Republicans. Blacks remained loyal to the Dems. Their proportion of the vote dropped however.

The tea party played a role in the 2010 election... it helped both the Republicans and the Democrats and it hurt both as well.. It is a dynamic loosely knit group of individuals motivated by a desire to change the way government has been going of late. It is quite the populist movement, hardly a sophisticated bloc of traditional activists tightly organized. It has had the effect of bringing out voters. It has encouraged participation of voters, particularly in Republican primaries, challenging both Conservative and Moderate party standards. In three cases it achieved the nomination of tea party types in areas where the general electorate not inclined to support them. They undoubtedly caused the Repubs. Senate seats in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada. Had the standard candidates run in these states the Senate would be 50-50. If Lieberman ( I-CT) or very conservative Ben Nelson ( D-NE) had switched to vote to organize for the Republicans it would be a different story. Tea party has surely hurt the Repubs. in these three states. The Dems. can see this as a ray of hope for them. However, the Republicans undoubtedly were invigorated by the support of many in the tea party. Perhaps now that they have a half dozen tea party Senators and perhaps 40-50 House members they will understand the process of politics more than their exuberant backers. Indeed, I see this Repub. bloc as I did the Blue Dog Dems in the last Congress. Many of the Blue Dogs lost as readers of these letters expected. Many of the tea party winners come from these Blue Dog CDs.

The tea party may become involved in the populist cause of punishing the greed on Wall Street and be joined by the left wing pseudo socialists in the President's party. Perhaps this unlikely coalition will be an interesting development of tea party influence. Keep watch for this.

As the lame duck Congress meets later this month, I shall return to the issues and the wisdom of how much a lame duck Congress should attempt especially after a watershed election.

What is in this election to help us understand the 2012 election? History tells us that presidents bounce back after major defeats in Congress after their first two years... TRUMAN, EISENHOWER, REAGAN, CLINTON. All were two term presidents (Truman less only 80+ days). Does this apply to Obama?? History says it may well. But, just to play the game of IF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WERE HELD TODAY WOULD YOU VOTE FOR OBAMA OR FOR ROMNEY? My guess is that would be an extremely close election with perhaps 1% separating the two. Electoral vote? Obama 271, Romney 267. that would see Obama losing four major states VA, NC, FL, OH. It would be a nail biting election. BUT the election is NOT now, it is in NOV 2012.

A POSSIBILITY for 2012 is for third party(s) may become significant. It would really shake things up. A centrist party a la Bloomberg or a frustrated Tea Party on the right could mess up anyone getting a majority of the electoral votes. If that happened then the House votes by delegation for one of the top 3 candidates popular vote. If that were to happen in 2012, the Repubs. would make the decision for they are in control of 33 state delegations and only 26 votes are needed. So given that reality, it would seem a Tea party third party is the more likely. A centrist party would have to win a majority of the votes for it to win, and if it ran and did not, the Repubs. would again be able to vote themselves in. THIS IS ALL CONSTITUTIONAL OK??

Time to take a break, Roger