Friday, May 6, 2016

The Gotthelf Paradox

Monday, May 2, 2016
As I have written before, I expect William Franklin Harrison to be the 48th president of the United States, or soon thereafter (June 15, 2014, August 27, 2014, May 1, 2015, August 31, 2015).  Therefore, I was pleased to be in the company of the prospective First Family at the Mets game yesterday.  Since William is 15, childless and unmarried, his entourage consisted solely of his mother and father.  

Keeping with this humble spirit, we traveled to and from the ballpark on the #7 train, with our fellow Americans, and sat in modest seats exposed to the afternoon's chill and off-and-on drizzle.  While the Mets lost, ending their eight-game winning streak, I felt that I helped lay another brick in the wall of American history.  Additionally, the First Family treated me to two Nathan’s hot dogs and the Mets gave me a present.

Oh, joy!  The New York Times today has a feature article on fat, relieving me of any residual guilt about my weight.  Rex Stout's fictional detective Nero Wolfe was described as carrying one-seventh of a ton.  My load has been steadily one-eighth of a ton for a decade or more, and that's really natural according to the newspaper.

A study of contestants on "The Biggest Loser," a reality television show that rewards major weight loss, demonstrates that most participants regained some or all of their weight, because their metabolisms did not adjust to their new weight.  Metabolisms became even slower, and the pounds kept piling back on. "It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight."  So, don't blame me and give me a cookie.  

La Dinastia, 145 West 72nd Street, is one of the few remaining examples of a culinary trend that emerged from international politics.  In 1960, when Fidel Castro took control of Cuba, foreign tourism, an example of bourgeois exploitation, was effectively eliminated.  The grand hotels that appealed to rich Yanquis were mostly converted to public housing and the staff dispersed.  It seems that many of the leading chefs were Chinese and they headed for New York and Miami, opening Cuban-Chinese restaurants ("Comida China y Criolla" as La Caridad 78 Restaurant, 2199 Broadway, promotes).  

La Dinastia's full menu is divided into a Latin food section and a Chinese food section.  The "Chef's Suggestions" posits Serrucho Ajillo alongside General Tso's Chicken.  At lunch, 18 specials are offered including rice (white or yellow) and beans (black or red), ranging from $8.50 to $10.  I had "Fried Chicken Crackling" ($8.50), their highly-reputed fried chicken on the bone.  It was a generous portion of chicken, with an even more generous portion of rice and beans.  The chicken was good, not great, as some over-eager on-line reviewers proclaimed.  It needed some spicing up, although hot sauce was on every table.  

Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, a national chain, serves my favorite fried chicken, whether regular or spicy, even if there is often more of that crunchy outside than meat inside.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016
It has been 50 years since I systematically studied the formal literature of political science.  However, I have remained interested in American politics and political behavior.  Somewhere along the way I formulated the Gotthelf Paradox.  It may well have been addressed under another name in doctoral dissertations or monographs, but, as I remain blissfully ignorant of competitive voices, I will offer it here.

The Gotthelf Paradox simply holds that generally voter participation is inversely proportional to the political distance between the voter and the elective office.  In other words, voter turnout declines as you move from presidential elections to statewide contests to local races.  An excellent example was reported in a Citizen's Union report on New York State voting, published in 2015.  "Among the NYC voters who turned out for the 2008 presidential election, less that 17% turned out in each borough for the 2011 municipal elections."    
Particular New York characteristics may exaggerate the Gotthelf Paradox, such as, difficult registration requirements and odd-numbered year voting, but the pattern is found throughout the land.  The 2014 California general election, including the governor, all other top state officers, all members of the State Assembly, half the members of the State Senate and the entire House of Representatives delegation, had a turnout 30% lower than the 2012 presidential election.
Alabama had a 72.4 % turnout in the 2012 presidential election and a 41% turnout in 2014, with the governor up for reelection.  Kansas saw a decline of almost 16% between the 2012 presidential election and the 2014 general election, including races for governor, senator and state and congressional legislators. 
If I had the time and energy to dredge up statistics on more races, I am certain that the strength of the Gotthelf Paradox would be solidly demonstrated, and I venture a guess that it is not a recent phenomenon.  However, serious grant money will be needed for me to finish this work.  After all, I am retired.
But, why do I label it Paradox, not Theorem, Postulate, or Conjecture?  Simply, Americans in and out of office blather about the virtues of small or limited government.  Yet, they ignore the mathematics that puts the paradox in the Gotthelf Paradox.  A vote in a small constituency, such as, for a seat on the city council or a local school board, should be far more potent than in a statewide or national election.  And, the machinations of local government are more likely to have an immediate effect on a citizen's safety, comfort and welfare.  
So, while Tip O'Neill, former Speaker of the House, famously declared that all politics is local, our voters are more attracted to the glamour of the grand stage even as they pretend to be devoted to community theater.
I shop at Fairway Market, 2131 Broadway, the original location, six sometimes seven days a week, so the news today of its bankruptcy was upsetting.   However, it seems that "my" store will remain open as the financial mess is sorted out.  The story here, similar to the 2008 economic crisis, is the product of the new breed of wiseguys, the MBAs who ultimately can't add 2 + 2.  In the past, the term wiseguy applied to nogoodniks who used muscle to exploit honest people and enterprises.   Now, we are victimized by soulless creatures wielding spreadsheets.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
I went to the Mets game again today.  It seems that I can’t get enough of sitting outside in chilly, wet weather.  While the Mets did not give me any wearing apparel, they rewarded me with a victory and an unsolicited upgrade of the high in the sky seats that Amy C. and I held to excellent field level seats.  We moved from section 514 to section 124, skipping over the 400s, the 300s and the 200s.  Then, when the temperature dropped further, we went into an empty private suite behind home plate on our own initiative.  As the great philosopher Sophie Tucker said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor.  Rich is better.”

Thursday, May 5, 2106
I had the pleasure of walking around Greenwich Village with Robina Rafferty, a dear friend of a dear friend, formerly head of a major London charity devoted to providing affordable housing.  We met in 2014 in London and I was delighted to learn that she was visiting New York for a few days.  We started in Sheridan Square, opposite the original location of the Village Voice and the Stonewall Inn, the incubator of the Gay Liberation Movement.  We covered much of the surrounding area, with houses going back to the early 1800s and others that sheltered an assortment of the great and near-great and me, in the past.  

We had lunch at John’s of Bleecker Street (“No Slices”), 278 Bleecker Street, serving quintessential New York pizza since 1929.  In spite of her dignified demeanor, Robina showed her true mettle and suggested that we top our pizza with black olives, anchovies and pepperoni.  She also tasted for the first time and enjoyed root beer, which I found hard to define when asked.

As we parted, she gave me two tins of chocolate cookies from Fortnum & Mason, the Zabar’s of Piccadilly.  What a woman!

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