Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Thoughts on Election Day, 2012

The day has finally arrived.  A day of reckoning for a president who has, at best, a mixed record.  A day of reckoning for a candidate who, at best, has provided a mixed argument for why he could do better.

One is going to prevail; I suspect it is going to be President Obama, though stranger things have happened.  As a mathematician, I tend to be swayed by data and numbers, and find Nate Silver's 538 Blog to be pretty convincing.

Four years ago, I voted for Barack Obama.  Mainly because I did not like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also because he seemed to be a different sort of candidate.  One who said the right things - offering optimism that things would be better if he were elected, not fear that things would be worse if he weren't.

My very first "blog" post here was a reaction to the the election; I read through it today.  In summary, my thoughts came down to this:

I agree with Barack Obama that there should not be a Blue or a Red America. To that end, I also reject that there are ethnic "winners" (and therefore, by necessity, ethnic "losers"). It's up to him, and not talking heads with little to recommend them beyond good hair (e.g., Anderson Cooper) to decide that America, and not splinter groups, have won. 
And I guess that is part of the change I am hoping for.

In part, because Mr Obama has failed to deliver on this change, I have voted for his opponent this year.  However, it is not my goal or desire to tell people at this point how to vote.  By now, most have heard the arguments, and have made up their minds.

I only would make the following suggestion.

Whether your candidate wins or whether he loses, we simply have to remember that our political opponents are not our enemies.  In the end, we are all in this together.

I disagree with the Democrats, largely.  But I do not believe that they are evil.  They are just wrong.

They don't want to wreck the country.  Their vision to making it better is just different from mine.

This has been a very nasty campaign in which both candidates and, more to the point, their proxies have said and written terrible accusations about the other.  I guess that's the nature of winner-take-all-politics.

I reject the idea that Barack Obama is a secret communist who wants to destroy our capitalist system, subjugate us to sinister, supra-national powers, or hates success, however you want to define it.

I reject the idea that Mitt Romney is a heartless villain who wants to starve poor people, toss the elderly and weak into a lake, or hates women.

Your political opponents are largely your neighbours, your colleagues, and dare I say it, your friends.  And thus, when we wake up tomorrow and your "team" won or your "team" lost, let's try to remember that fact.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Reflections on Sandy

Let's Give Three Cheers....

Today, for the first time in nearly a week, the sun is shining here in central New Jersey.

"Sandy" is gone; the buzz of saws cutting felled trees surrounds.  Everywhere, water is receding, things are drying, and we're slowly returning to normal.

Our family was blessed - aside from a couple of decorative trees in our yard that succumbed, and the nuisance of power loss for a day or so - we came through relatively unscathed.  No one hurt.  No property destroyed.  Not a drop of water in the basement to be seen.

Others were not so fortunate.

It's of course an election year, so our country has spent the better part of a year arguing about one per cent, 47 per cent, big government, responsibility.  

Personally, I've been a big critic of the Democratic party model - high taxes; support of entrenched public unions; big government.  I remain firm that the model offered by the president and his party is the wrong one, fundamentally.

But I'm not, and never have been, in the camp that says that the "private sector" does everything better than the public one.  I like to consider myself a pragmatist, sceptical about the centralisation of power, but open to arguments and empirical evidence.

The hurricane that has destroyed large parts of my state I think illustrates pretty well that there is a legitimate role for our federal government, and that there are just some things that are too big, too complex, to be left to the states or the private sector.

Sometimes, "big government" may be the right answer.

I also think it's worth taking a second to acknowledge and say "thank you" for public and private sector workers who set aside their own interests and families to take care of the rest of us.  

All Monday evening, as the storm hammered our town, I could see out my window flashing red and blue lights - police officers and firemen (in our town, a volunteer fire department made of residents from various walks of life).  

These people all have families.  They all have homes.  They were out in harm's way, not at home with their loved ones to steady the home front; out there to help keep us safe.  Police, especially, take a lot of criticism, and seldom get the thanks they deserve for a difficult, necessary job.  When you're in real trouble, and you ring 9-11, you don't get Kim Kardashian or Kanye West or any other intellectual flat-liner to come.  

You get a man in a blue uniform whose function in life is to serve and protect - not to amuse.

Police are government workers.

Tuesday morning, crews were out working in the continuing wind and rain to restore power and other infrastructure.  They were in the elements, not at home fixing their own homes or pumping water out of their own basements.  They were not with their families to calm frightened children.

These folks work for the "evil" power companies who make our modern lives and comforts possible.

Today is the first of November, and my property taxes are due.  These are assuredly *not* low, and I would love to have more of our money remain in our bank and not in government coffers.  But we pay taxes for a reason. 

We will rebuild.  We will recover.  

This is because we look out for each other, sure.  We all stand together.  But it's also due to the dedication of people we largely don't think about most days, or worse, complain about on others.

Thanks, guys.  We'll leave the light on tonight for you.