Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Golf Gate

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Listen up, I’m not going to get all bent out of shape over what we’re apparently now referring to as “Golfgate.”

The background: President Obama hopped a plane (actually, Air Force One, but “hopping a plane” makes it sound a lot more casual, which is what I think he was intending, a casual weekend where he could chill out away from the limelight) down to Florida for a long weekend of golf while Michelle and the kids went out west to go skiing.

The President’s team kept the press away from what was essentially a private golf course, and hence were unable to take any pictures of his swing the entire weekend.

Then, out of nowhere, Golf Channel correspondent Tim Rosaforte Tweets the following: “The President is arriving at The Floridian range. Awaiting is Tiger Woods and club owner Jim Crane. Historic day in golf. Their first round.”

Tiger Woods was in the house, and he was going to play golf with President Obama!

I’m sure the rest of the world yawned, but in the world of golf, this was a pretty big deal.

Looking at the tick tock, this was 7:52 AM EST.

By the time the evening news rolled around, the media were trying to make it a big deal that they hadn’t been invited to the Tiger/Obama foursome, missing the point that that would have turned the foursome into an eightysome, which can be quite disturbing on the golf course.

And still most of the rest of the country yawned.

But in the golf world, we wanted more details.  Lots of them.  Rosaforte, get your — out on that golf course and tell us what’s going on!

What kind of clubs does the president play with? Did Tiger give any tips to the Prez to improve his game?  If so, what???  Did he treat the rules with some casualness, as apparently did President Clinton, or did he play it straight and take no mulligans or without kicking any balls out of the rough?

This is the leader of the free world, man, we want to know what his game is like, how he swings the club, how accurate he is on the approach!

Tiger kept his lips sealed until yesterday when, I guess, he’d already arrived out west for the Accenture Match Play Championship. During an interview, he finally gave it up: The President, he said, has a good short game (chipping and putting), and that if he kept it up (after he left the Presidency) he’d be “a pretty good stick.”

Whoa…well, a good short game, that’s always a good thing, of course.  I aspire to a better short game myself, and many of we amateurs do.

But Tiger left out sooo much one can’t help but be distracted by the absence of any commentary about the President’s driving off the tee or his play from the fairways.

Is he long off the tee? Is he a complete disaster with some crazy left hook? What??! And what about his irons? Mid-irons can tell you a lot about one’s game? Both about their ball flight and tolerance for risk, never mind their course management skills.   Course management equals strategy equals possible insight into what he might do about Iran’s nuclear situation!

And what about the pace of play?  Does he time himself racing around the course like the former Presidents Bush, playing as if on deadline (which I could never understand…isn’t it kind of the point in playing golf to take your time and relax???), or did he play at a pace such that he might get threatened by Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for hovering too long over his putts??

Nothing.

I suspect Tiger may be holding out more of the details because someday, after finishing the chase after Nicklaus’ record for the most majors, he is going to write a book about his experience playing golf with “Mr. President.”

I guess we’ll just have to hurry up and wait — kind of like the White House press corps.

Written by turbotodd

February 20, 2013 at 3:31 pm

The Vindication Of Nate Silver

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I was all set to write a closer examination of statistician and blogger Nate Silver’s most recent election predictions, a ramp up to during which he was lambasted by a garden variety of mostly conservative voices for either being politically biased, or establishing his predictions on a loose set of statistical shingles.

Only to be informed that one of my esteemed colleagues, David Pittman, had already written such a compendium post.  So hey, why reinvent the Big Data prediction wheel?

Here’s a link to David’s fine post, which I encourage you to check out if you want to get a sense of how electoral predictions provide an excellent object lesson for the state of Big Data analysis. (David’s post also includes the on-camera interview that Scott Laningham and I conducted with Nate Silver just prior to his excellent keynote before the gathered IBM Information On Demand 2012 crowd.)

I’m also incorporating a handful of other stories I have run across that I think do a good job of helping people better understand the inflection point for data-driven forecasting that Silver’s recent endeavor represents, along with its broader impact in media and punditry.

They are as follows:

 “Nate Silver’s Big Data Lessons for the Enterprise”

 “What Nate Silver’s success says about the 4th and 5th estates”

“Election 2012: Has Nate Silver destroyed punditry?” 

Nate Silver After the Election: The Verdict

As Forbes reporter wrote in his own post about Silver’s predictions, “the modelers are here to stay.”

Moving forward, I expect we’ll inevitably see an increased capability for organizations everywhere to adopt Silver’s methodical, Bayesian analytical strategies…and well beyond the political realm.

Your Right To Vote

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This is a (mostly) business-oriented blog, with some side trips to the world of golf once and again, so I don’t like to stray too far into the wilds of politics.

But this being election day here in the United States, I did want to take a moment and share a few thoughts about our politics and the political system here in the United States.

It would be very easy to have watched this most recent U.S. presidential campaign and be completely jaded. The amount of money spent this go around has been entirely obscene, and at the end of a summer and fall of massive television media spending, we’re about right back to where we started out in June in terms of the polls, when all that local TV advertising sprung forth.

And, here we are, on election day, with all that money having been spent, and examining most polls, national or otherwise, only to find that we’re likely in a toss up race.

Which is the point at which I wish to say a big “Thank you” to our Founding Fathers.

In “The Federalist Papers,” authors Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the following (this dispatch, in particular, is from Federalist 1):

It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.

With over two and a quarter centuries now of peaceful U.S. presidential elections and subsequent smooth transitions of power, I believe we can answer Hamilton et al. yes, it was a question left to the Americans, and we have answered it proudly and loudly — with the Founders’ guidance and the wisdom of the early political structures they recommended for the country, of course.

Implicit in the idea of having a choice, and allowing the people to make that choice in a free and fair election, is the notion that one set of ideas has more appeal to one than another.

Therefore, in making a choice, one has to favor one set of ideals more than another.

But the genius of the Founding Fathers was that they took us one step further. Yes, we all get to make a choice and vote for the candidate whom we think would make the best president.

But all the power was not vested in that single branch of government, the executive.  Instead, in our U.S. Constitution, the founders explicitly constructed a means by which we could have three counter-balancing branches of government, each with checks and balances against the other, and in the case of the legislative, where we the people also had a vote.

Think of it as a triangle, with the overbearing weight of one branch being countered by the combined strength of the other two branches.

Though many might complain this system makes it very difficult to accomplish the people’s business, one might just as well say that that’s precisely the point, that an endeavor worth pursuing has to be a very good idea supported by the majority of the people and upheld by all branches of the government to be fully enacted.

So whether you’re a small government conservative, a big government liberal, or even a minimalist government libertarian, there’s something in our system to accommodate most free thinking people.

I spent last evening watching the National Geographic channel’s “The War in Afghanistan,” which provided a very compelling visual history of the past decade’s war in that country.

What was amazing to me throughout the war there was the willfullness and commitment of young American soldiers in often impossible situations and in constant peril and personal danger, running towards the bullets and RPGs, rarely away from them.

Just think about that for a moment and let that thought really sink in. Our soldiers running towards the bullets.  Doesn’t seem to me like a rational thing to do.

You might not like the candidates you have to select from today.  You might not like the seemingly neverending process  and ongoing media coverage and hype.

You might not even like those newfangled electronic voting machines.

But I would ask you to forget all of that “noise” for a moment, and instead think about all those American soldiers who, over the past 236 years have been willing to put their lives on the line or, worse, give up their lives entirely, so you can spin that dial or fill in that oval on that ballot.

If such brave men and women thought such a system was willing to fight and die for, it’s hardly asking much of we “citizens” to give a little consideration to the politics and process and show up at the polls. In fact, we ought to consider it more of a privilege than many of us do.

Though I have my candidate in this election, I struggled through the process myself and deliberated greatly before making my selection in early voting. But no matter the outcome this evening, I will be a happy and grateful American.

People fight every single day, year after year, to come from around the world with the hopes and aspiration of living in our great country.  Our soldiers willfully run towards the bullets in battle.

Both of these things should be powerful reminders to those of us who are natural born citizens just how good we have it, and how we should never, ever take our precious freedoms for granted, including the right to vote.

Now, go spin that lever or turn that dial or fill in that oval.  It’s the least you can do for your country.

Written by turbotodd

November 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Live @ Information On Demand 2012: A Q&A With Nate Silver On The Promise Of Prediction

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Day 3 at Information On Demand 2012.

The suggestion to “Think Big” continued, so Scott Laningham and I sat down very early this morning with Nate Silver, blogger and author of the now New York Times bestseller, “The Signal and the Noise” (You can read the review of the book in the Times here).

Nate, who is a youngish 34, has become our leading statistician through his innovative analyses of political polling, but made his original name by building a widely acclaimed baseball statistical analysis system called “PECOTA.”

Today, Nate runs the award-winning political website FiveThirtyEight.com, which is now published in The New York Times and which has made Nate the public face of statistical analysis and political forecasting.

In his book, the full title of which is “The Signal and The Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t,” Silver explores how data-based predictions underpin a growing sector of critical fields, from political polling to weather forecasting to the stock market to chess to the war on terror.

In the book, Nate poses some key questions, including what kind of predictions can we trust, and are the “predicters” using reliable methods? Also, what sorts of things can, and cannot, be predicted?

In our conversation in the greenroom just prior to his keynote at Information On Demand 2012 earlier today, Scott and I probed along a number of these vectors, asking Nate about the importance of prediction in Big Data, statistical influence on sports and player predictions (a la “Moneyball”), how large organizations can improve their predictive capabilities, and much more.

It was a refreshing and eye-opening interview, and I hope you enjoy watching it as much as Scott and I enjoyed conducting it!

Big Bird’s Social Media Job Search

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Poor Big Bird.

Through no fault of his own, he becomes the punching bag of the Republican party during last night’s presidential debate, which by all counts have suggested provided a big “W” in the Romney column.

I grew up with Big Bird.  I know Big Bird well.  Big Bird is a friend of mine.

Please don’t kill Big Bird.

If it weren’t for Big Bird, I might never have learned to read.  Which means I might also have never learned to write.

Which means I couldn’t bring you these blog posts on such a regular basis.

I guess I could draw stick figures and post them here, but I don’t think they would be nearly as interesting.

What interested me about the debate, beyond the substance (sic? was there any substance, or just an amalgamation of statistics thrown about?), was the social media response.

Of course, on Twitter, the debate Twitterstream flew by so quickly, I was having flashbacks to the Arab Spring.

In fact, according to Beth Fouhy writing for the Huffington Post, Twitter announced after the debate it had been the most tweeted event in U.S. political history.

Heaven help us.

There were apparently 11.1 million Tweets — this brings it in behind the most recent Grammy Awards, MTV’s Video Music Awards, and the Super Bowl.

I’ll leave aside for the moment the fact that our first and probably most important presidential debate in years trails the MTV Video Music Awards in terms of Tweetability.  Along that road lies the fall of empires and such.

What was most troubling to me was that comments from the social media echo chamber seemed to be pretty much that, an echo.

Mind you, I don’t expect an Alexis de Tocqueville treatise on democracy from my social media compadres, but an original, insightful thought or comment about the substance of the debate might be good every once in a while.

But no.  We got @FiredBigBird (Update: We had @FiredBigBird.  His Twitter account has apparently been suspended.  Poor Big Bird can’t get a break!)

Of which there are now were over 27,000 followers.  I am not ashamed to admit this fact, because it’s my job to keep up with such social media trends.

What’s your excuse???

I’ve been on Twitter since 2007 — I was even part of that original crowd at SXSW Interactive using Twitter that first year to plan lunch and escape boring conference sessions.  I had no clue someday I’d be following Big Bird on Twitter concerned for his future employment!

Yeah, I’m a little jealous.  I’ve been laboring in the Twitter trenches for years, and I’ve eked out just over 2,000 followers on some serious and substantive issues concerning our planet, technology, business, politics, and, yes, golf!

So, like our Republican candidate, I’ve decided to come out swinging.  Enough of this Turbo Twitter Travesty.

I’m about to get bold.

I’m going big and I’m going wide.

I’m going to take on the visage of one of the Sesame Street characters, because that’s clearly the only way anyone can get any real attention in this joint.

So I’m posting a poll below, and you, the audience, get to vote for the Sesame Street character that best personifies me “Turboness.”

Vote early, and vote often.  If it works for America, by God, it can work for my blog!

As for Sesame Street’s funding options…well, Big Bird has to earn his way just like the rest of us.

If he can’t make it on TV, there’s always Broadway, or off-Broadway…or, well, I’m sure there’s a football team somewhere in America that would take him on as their mascot.

Just don’t ask him to Tweet too often…those velvet Big Bird hands don’t do so well on the iPhone keyboard.

Written by turbotodd

October 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm

CNBC: Texas’ Is the 2012 “Top State For Business”

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I turned on CNBC this afternoon to catch up on business news just in time to see Texas governor Rick Perry doing a standup interview over at the University of Texas to celebrate Texas’ being chosen for the third time in the past several years as the “America’s Top State for Business.”

According to CNBC’s Scott Cohn, Texas “racked up an impressive 1,604 points out of a possible 2,500,” and had top-10 finishes in “six of our 10 categories of competitiveness.”

Texas has never finished below second place since CNBC started the study in 2007.

This year’s categories, developed in concert with the National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness, included the following: “Cost of Doing Business,” “Workforce,” “Quality of Life,” “Infrastructure and Transportation,” “Economy,” “Education,” “Technology and Innovation,” “Business Friendliness,” “Access to Capital,” and “Cost of Living.”

Diving deeper into the results, Texas has the nation’s best “Infrastructure” and improved to second place for “Technology and Innovation,” and boasts the third lowest “Cost of Living.”

On the downside, Texas came in 26th in “Education” and 35th of “Quality of Life,” apparently getting dinged for less available health care and higher property and sales taxes.

Obviously, this is very exciting news here in Austin and across the state of Texas, especially considering the vast diversification we’ve seen of the Texas economy over the past decade.  When I was growing up in Texas, energy and oil dominated the economy, but we’ve seen massive investments and innovations in more diverse fields these past 20 years, including high tech, telecommunications, biotechnology and life sciences, health care, and many more, all in a business-friendly (read: less regulation and taxes) climate.

But we’ve still got some work to do, I would submit.

If you’re a person of little means, whatever else you do, don’t get sick here.  Texas is not expected to expand Medicaid or establish a health insurance exchange, according to another recent announcement by Governor Perry, and only 31 percent of physicians in Texas accepted Medicaid patients in 2011, according to the Texas Medical Association and as reported in the Texas Tribune.

So, congrats to the great state of Texas…I’m really glad to hear we’re doing a great job of taking care of business…but clearly there’s some work yet to be done in taking better care of our people!

Apple Developer Con Starts Today

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Apple fan boys everywhere unite. Today begins the Apple 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference, an event which typically unleashes at least a few interesting tidbits and announcements from Appleville.

Apple Insider’s reporting that new part numbers on the Apple website are suggesting at least a minor refresh of the Macintosh lineup.

PC World concurs, and also suggests refreshes for iOS and OS X, and hints at new features for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

The iOS 6 talk suggests deeper Facebook integration, and the possibility of Google Maps getting the boot in favor of “Apple’s homegrown mapping solution.”

Perhaps that will help Mitt Romney to find his way to Pennsylvania Avenue, like so many virtual bread crumbs?

Romney’s campaign announced Friday that will be taking his campaign to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch nationwide using Apple’s iAd, which makes him the first politico to advertise through the service.

Will the tech- and social-savvy Obama campaign dare allow itself to be out-Appled by the Romney camp??

Only time, and a few million PAC dollars, will tell.

Written by turbotodd

June 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm

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