Let’s Talk About It

God must have wanted the mariner to write about this post’s subject: the influence of communication. Within eight hours, the mariner had the following experiences:

He spoke with a friend at a street fair who raised the subject of life before the telegraph; a while later, he spoke with another friend who questioned how the smart phone is warping our culture; mariner’s wife found an old book about email at the book sale and brought it home to read[1]; later in the evening, CSPAN’s interview program, After Word, interviewed Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times about his new book, Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?

Let’s talk about it.

The telegraph provided a leap forward in a person’s ability to communicate coast to coast across the US more or less immediately. That was the change agent – speed. Before the telegraph, time and current events were a guessing game. Sometimes it took more than six months to deliver mail between President Polk and Sacramento, California. It was quite expensive. Commerce certainly benefitted with the telegraph and the US economy leaped forward, too. After the Civil War, communication was expedited by the railroads, telegraph and a decade or two later, automobiles.

But what really changed was the culture. Mariner frequently uses the example of an individual who wanted to escape bad fortune, criminal activity or simply a dissatisfying life by leaving one town to start life over again in a town fifty miles away. Change one’s name and a new life is born. In many rural areas, the railroad arrived before the telegraph. Put the two together and postal service became a functional advancement along with new financial liaisons that exposed different towns to one another; one could no longer depend on leaving a former life behind. What changed was a culture based, in the strictest sense, on local rules and values – a tribe-based culture. With trains, automobiles and telegraph, local idiosyncrasies were exposed to collaborative associations with other tribal identities. Local newspapers from other towns and cities were read as the post office followed the telegraph around the country. The one-town tribe evolved into a county tribe; eventually county tribes evolved into regional tribes usually linked to a large city. Small, completely independent tribes have disappeared except in places where population is scant like the mountainous states in the west. Tribes began to appear within mega-cities based on economic class and skin color. These smaller tribes have begun to protest this inequality; again, we are in the midst of tribal redefinition.

Anthropologists have identified primates as a family that prefers small groups, or tribes, as the most comfortable grouping. Homo sapiens will find a tribe somewhere if only a neighborhood, an extended family or a poker game.

Play a memory game: How many icons of tribes can you name? Mariner will offer four obvious ones: churches, United Steelworkers, NFL teams and Greek societies like Pi Delta Ci.

Because of telecommunications, tribes are no longer tied to locations or territories. Further, communication of values is so efficient one can belong to many tribes simultaneously.

We will discuss smart phones in a later post.

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Vector Analysis Update


538.com (Nate Silver). Nate says all the events of the last week made various polls jump around a little but overall, the odds remain at 69% for Hillary and 31% for Donald, an exchange of 2 points toward Donald.

Electoral College – A vote cast today would have Hillary winning 274 to 258; 270 to win.

Battleground States – Trend has Donald gaining. The 11 state polling averages:

Colorado          46 to 35 Hillary

Florida            44.4 to 44.4 TIED

Iowa               40.6 to 42.4 Donald

Michigan          41.4 to 34.6 Hillary

Nevada            43.8 to 42.4 Donald

New Hampshire 43.6 to 36.4 Hillary

North Carolina   45.2 to 43.6 Hillary

Ohio                  42.8 to 44.2 Donald

Pennsylvania     48.2 to 39.8 Hillary

Virginia             46.8 to 37.8 Hillary

Wisconsin         45.2 to 38.8 Hillary

Down Ballot Races – The common attitude of most sources is “Win the White House, win the Senate.” The House remains Republican.

Local Papers and Magazines – Reader’s choice.

The overall balance of the vectors has not changed much except to note Donald has gained in some battleground states. Still, sitting 9 points behind Hillary in Pennsylvania, Donald cannot make 270 points in the Electoral College.


If a reader is looking for interesting television, that is, mostly analytical and creative shows, Bloomberg Television dedicates much of Saturday afternoon to similar shows.

Ancient Mariner



[1] The Tyranny of Email, John Freeman, Simon and Shuster, 2009.

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