Traffic flow

English: Traffic congestion at Freeway 405, ne...

English: Traffic congestion at Freeway 405, near Santa Monica and LAX, Los Angeles, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have just returned to Saint George from our annual visit with our son in Ventura, California for the Thanksgiving holiday. I visited him in August for a week’s vacation in June Lake. Between the August and the November visits, I noticed a striking change in the way Los Angeles freeway traffic is presented to TV viewers, and I was very impressed. Freeways are now shown as thin colored, parallel lines that flow in two directions, mimicking traffic flow. Normal traffic flow is green, congested flow is yellow and stop-and-go traffic is red. It is possible to see at a glance how traffic is moving in an area in which the viewer is interested. I usually avoid LA whenever possible, but I could easily see the usual rush hour traffic patterns where traffic was slowed by major interchanges. I assume that the length of the red sections were directly linked to the severity of traffic congestion. I was very impressed at how readily information can be conveyed by the imaginative use of maps and graphic symbols.

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Dream car

1991 Lotus Elan, my dream car. I first saw this car in the flesh at the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show and I fell in love with it. The car at the show was this shade of yellow and this may be the same exact car. Only 550 cars were imported in model year 1991 and only a few in yellow. Most of the cars imported were a lovely shade of red, a few were British racing green, some white, very few in a beautiful Pacific blue and rarest of them all, black. The car retailed for $40,000 new and sells for $15,000 to $20,000 now depending upon mileage and condition. If I could afford it, I would buy this car today.

Lotus Elan M100, 1991, Federal (USA) Version

Lotus Elan M100, 1991, Federal (USA) Version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had the good fortune to test drive this car in great condition in Prescott, Arizona. The car was owned by a retired LA police officer and had been purchased new by a vice president of General Motors when GM owned Lotus. Then it was priced at $16,500 and came with about a foot of documentation including parts and shop manuals. The car was British racing green and was a blast to drive. Elan means passion or enthusiasm or stylish elegance, and the Lotus Elan is all of them. It gets great gas mileage and possesses a four-cylinder Isuzu engine for parts availability.

When my wife and I married in 1976, we owned a 1976 Corvette. Driving that car was like being launched from a giant slingshot. Pressing the accelerator at a stoplight when it changed to green was to be shot out of a cannon. Moments later, the other cars at the light would dwindle to toys in the rear view mirror. We traded that car for 1977 Ferrari 308-GTB. Driving that car was an entirely different experience. It was like being strapped into a rocket sled used to test rocket engines in the 1950s. Rockets gain momentum initially very slowly and then they just disappear because the acceleration is so great. The Ferrari was slow out of the gate, but then when the engine approached 4000 rpm, it just went.

The Corvette we owned was an automatic transmission, while the Ferrari was a manual and the Lotus is also a manual transmission. If asked to describe these cars in one word each, I would describe the Corvette as exhilarating, the Ferrari as serious and the Lotus as fun.

The Bradley Effect

Tom Bradley

Tom Bradley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I voted for Tom Bradley for governor of California in 1982, the year the Bradley Effect was born and named. I had voted for Ronald Reagan twice before and I would vote for Reagan again in 1984. I was a conservative Republican at the time, but I was impressed with Tom Bradley, the man. He had been a LA police officer and then he was a LA city councilman. In Santa Barbara, we watched the LA news and Bradley appeared most evenings on TV. He was quietly impressive. I voted for him and the polls said that he would win. I was greatly disappointed when he lost. The Bradley Effect lives on in American politics. In November, we will discover just how strong a force it is.

P. S. Today June 15, 2012, on the TV show Hardball, there is a discussion of a doctoral thesis done at Harvard that concluded that the Bradley Effect in the 2008 election was between 3 and 5%. This was based on Google searches for racially motivated web sites by prospective voters. My own unscientific conclusion was Barack’s vote total was 5 to 10% lower than it should have been.

The Bradley effect

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

Image via Wikipedia

Here in very red state Utah, two people were heard discussing current events. When the discussion turned to the recent death of bin Laden, one person stated that she didn’t believe anything that Obama said. The other person agreed. That exchange started me thinking about what informs their opinions. Where do they get their information and why do they reach the conclusions they do?

My wife works in a local office, and she tells me that staff meetings are frequently preceded by criticism of Barack by the participants waiting for the meeting to begin. Before my recent retirement, I worked at a local hospital with mostly much younger co-workers. We didn’t discuss politics often, but when we did, most seemed impervious to argument.

When I seek the news on TV, I flip from MSNBC on the left to CNN in the center to Fox on the right in an effort to escape the ubiquitous commercials. Here in Southern Utah, CNN is labeled the Communist News Network. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are both popular here. The local branch of Barnes and Noble features many titles “authored” by Glenn Beck.

The local newspaper features mostly conservative guest columns. The same day my neighbors were discussing the death of bin Laden, there was a column in the paper authored by Michelle Malkin entitled, “The fog of the fog.” In that article, she criticized the White House for the apparent confusion in the release of the details of the raid that killed bin Laden. I have read, with difficulty, two of her books that criticize Barack Obama and his administration. It is hard to believe that any person or group of people in government could be so evil or incompetent.

In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain ran a mistake-ridden campaign, and the economy was lurching toward a possible Great Depression 2. It was not surprising that Barack won under those circumstances, and barring a bad economy, I expect that he will be victorious in 2012. The election should not be close, but a high unemployment rate may make it closer than it would be otherwise. Barack won handily in 2008, but the margin of victory was 5 to 10 points less than I had expected, and I attribute that to a lingering Bradley effect in some parts of America.

When I moved to Southern California in 1965, I started watching the local news on TV and that news concentrated on Los Angeles. Tom Bradley was a member of the Los Angeles City Council after a career with the Los Angeles Police Department. I was highly impressed with Tom Bradley. In my seventy years, I have been highly impressed with only three politicians before Barack Obama, each from a different party, Barry Goldwater, Tom Bradley and Ralph Nader.

In my younger days, I voted the straight Republican ticket. When Tom Bradley decided to run for governor of California, I decided to vote for him, since he was the better candidate. Apparently many others agreed with me; the polls showed him winning. However, when the votes were counted, he had lost to George Deukmejian, a largely unknown candidate from Long Beach. Deukmejian served two four-year terms and then returned to relative obscurity. Bradley continued serving as Mayor of Los Angeles for a total of 20 mostly successful years.

Although Barack Obama is our first African-American president, the Bradley effect still exists in parts of America. It is very hard not to attribute some of the local hostility to him to the Bradley effect. The balance of opposition to him and his policies can be either philosophical or due to mis-information. The media available to and chosen by local residents is neither fair nor balanced.