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A professor guest of Rachel Maddow’s tonight was reviewing the latest polls on preference for potential Republican candidates. She posited that part of the reason that little known Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, tied for second place was that his name might be confused or transmoglorified into McCAIN by some respondents. How does a black businessman get confused with a career white politician? The interviewee supposed that such a name confusion, if that is possible, might account for a 2% swing in Cain’s favor in the poll, putting him into double digits.

If there is a grain of potential truth to that theorem, I propose that all polling be herewith banned. How ridiculous is that kind of use or interpretation of polling results?

Of course, as long as no one has ever voted for a judge because they liked the sound or ethnicity of his or her name, one can be deservedly outraged. But the truth is, who the hell gets polled? I’ve been retired and near the phone for more than 11 years, and I don’t think I’ve yet been the receiver of a political poll. Whomever they are asking, they must be the same people they poll over and over, and do these people take it seriously? If they think Mr. Cain is the second best the Republicans can do for President of the U.S. those people being polled must be in receipt of information I don’t have access to.

I’m not saying that Mr. Cain may not have some very enlightened views on contemporary issues. What I’m saying is that he is unknown and untested, and polling results like this suggest that polling is full of crap. Thus my invocation to “Abandon All Polls — the Ship of State is Sinking!.”

If the professor’s view that name confusion is giving Cain an uptick among potential voters, I may take back my long-held belief that the Electoral College system of picking our Presidents by savvy electors rather than by popular vote (as is the case still in the U.S.) is an obsolete and dangerous system after all. NOT!

One capability I find missing on the internet, at least in a form as easy to access as Facebook, is a similar time-shift communication device that would be based upon spoken language and not written messages. I miss hearing the actual voices of my friends and correspondents. Yes, we could call one another on the phone or Skype, but that’s real-time, and does not provide the advantage of time-shifted correspondence, that I can listen to whenever it is convenient.

Rosabeth Moss Kantor, the former Harvard Business Review editor, has a thoughtful article regarding what the internet has NOT changed in society, based upon her attendance at an internet conference sponsored by France before the recent G8 meeting there. My idea for a voice-based Facebook employs at least one of the principles she espouses — that the internet must retain the human touch.

In the comments section of her article, which reflects on how the internet has empowered the individual (the Arab Spring), one writer also cautions that increased controls of the internet (for example, stricter copyrights for music), could gradually eat away at the freedom of communication the internet enables. He posits that this erosion of freedom could reflect the desires of government for information control, and prevention of future Wikileaks-style embarrassments. Good point.

Ms. Kantor’s article does indeed get one thinking about role of the internet — this sort of second planet — on human communication, in commerce, education, and social interaction in general. Here’s a link to the article:

May 2011

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