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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Poll imposition II

I read a news article this morning that said every major political poll shows Republicans will pick up significant numbers of seats in the U.S. House and Senate this fall.

The same polls, the article stated, have found Americans hold a dimmer view of Republicans than of Democrats.



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Poll imposition

When debating politics with a friend of mine who is — shall we say? — across the aisle from me, I often cite major polls in trying to make a point.

But this morning, my faith in polls is more or less shot.

A couple of days before New York's Republican gubernatorial primary, the Siena College Poll, long respected as an accurate gauge of statewide political sentiment, had former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio and Buffalo developer Carl Paladino in a virtual dead heat. (Lazio was ahead by 1 point in the poll, which is considered statistically insignificant.)

But with virtually all the votes in Tuesday's race now counted, Paladino is the winner by a whopping 24 points — 62 percent to 38 percent.

How could Siena have been so wrong? Missing the result by a few points, even 10, would be one thing. But Seina missed by 25 POINTS!

That being the case, I don't see much sense in paying attention to any major poll — Gallup, Harris, Pew, Quinnipiac, et. al.. — between now and Election Day.

You want to know how the Nov. 2 elections will play out? I'd suggest you wake up the morning of Nov. 3 and check the results.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Reaching new heights

So I finally ventured out onto the Walkway Over the Hudson on Sunday— no small task for a guy who has a fear of heights.

Actually, I handled being 212 feet above the Hudson River fairly well. The metal railings mitigate the sense of being so high up, and my wife (pictured at right, with me) and son and I walked primarily down the middle of the Walkway, rather than close to either side, so most of what I was seeing was a broad view of my surroundings, rather than the dramatic distance to the water below. That helped a lot.

My reaction to the overall experience, though, was mixed. The view from the Walkway is all it's cracked up to be, but I was surprised at how bare-bones the whole thing is. There isn't so much as a bench along the 1.28-mile crossing, let alone vendors on the bridge or anything else to make the walk more than just a walk. (Trash cans would be a good idea, too.) And I was unpleasantly surprised to learn bicyclists are allowed to share the Walkway with pedestrians. The Walkway is only 14 feet across, and on a day like Sunday, when the place was teeming with visitors, the prospect of someone on two wheels running into someone on two feet seemed high. It didn't happen, to the best of my knowledge, but why allow the risk?

Would I recommend a trip to the Walkway to people haven't been there yet? Sure. It's free, and it's a nice way to spend part of a day. But I'd feel obligated to tell them it wasn't quite what I expected.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Last words on Earl

Reaction on Cape Cod to the overhyped and underwhelming Hurricane/Tropical Storm Earl, according to The Associated Press and the Boston Globe:

Red Cross worker Harry Watlin: "Everybody was ready for something big to happen. But when it came, most of us hardly even noticed."

Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency: "It wasn't even a really bad rainstorm."

Norm Frazee, resort company employee: "That was just normal 'winter' weather. We get winds like that almost every day in the winter."

Shelley McThomas, visitor from Kansas City, Mo.: "Earl petered out. I'm disappointed with Earl, like so many men in my life."

Missing from the above list of quotes, of course, is any weather forecaster saying "We got it wrong."


Earl was a washout

According to weather forecasts broadcast late Thursday, Earl was supposed to still be a Category 2 hurricane (sustained winds of 96-110 mph) after nightfall Friday and hit Cape Cod directly.

According to reality, Earl was downgraded to a tropical storm, with winds of 70 mph, at 11 p.m. Friday and was centered so far east of Cape Cod that the famed southeastern arm of Massachusetts got winds no stronger than 35 mph.

But The Weather Channel, having devoted so much money and manpower to covering Earl, continued to insist late Friday that the storm was a very big — and very dangerous — deal. News flash, folks: It wasn't. It was a summer rainstorm. Nothing more.

I said it in my last post, and I'll say it again: Why are TV weather forecasters so incapable of saying "We got it wrong"?

But TV doesn't bear all of the blame. At least one newspaper — the ridiculous New York Post — should be ashamed of itself, too. The Earl story that appeared in Friday's Post focused on the storm's threat to eastern Long Island and began with the following sentence: "Hamptonites thought they would be preparing for the end of the summer — instead, they are preparing for the end of the world." Good Lord!

For the record, Earl missed Long Island altogether.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Rain! Wind! THE END IS NEAR!!!

Why are weather forecasters so incapable of saying "We got it wrong"?

Despite all the ominous prognostications, Hurricane Earl weakened more than expected by the time it drew even with North Carolina, missed the state's Outer Banks by nearly 100 miles and now appears likely to pass considerably east of Long Island and Cape Cod.

But the facts be damned. The Weather Channel and the various cable news outlets have committed tons of time, money and manpower to covering this storm, and they're gonna make it seem like the Armageddon is at hand even if it isn't.

When all is said and done, eastern North Carolina, eastern Long Island and Cape Cod will have gotten moderate amounts of rain, a bit of flooding, some gusty winds and perhaps scattered power outages — in other words, the same things most places in the country get every time a summer thunderstorm rolls through.

And no amount of hyperventilating by raincoat-clad TV reporters standing on beaches will change that reality.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Excellent ... NOT!

I think the Woodstock Film Festival is a wonderful thing.

It brings to the public movies that otherwise might never be seen, and it gives its namesake town and the surrounding area a great deal of positive exposure.

But about those awards ...

An "Excellence in Acting" honor for Keanu Reeves? Seriously?The wonderful Danny Glover and Edie Falco also are attending this year's festival, and the 2010 "Excellence in Acting" award is going to Keanu Reeves? Good Lord!

Reeves probably is among the five worst actors in Hollywood today — alongside the equally unwatchable Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell and Matthew McConaughey — and nothing he has done on the big screen can be considered excellent.


Earl the swirl

I sure hope Hurricane Earl hits something as it makes its way along the East Coast in the coming days. If it doesn't — which is looking more and more likely — a whole lot of TV networks will have have wasted a whole lot of money covering a whole lot of nothing.