World View: Labor Unions Shut Down Greece for 48 Hours in Anti-Austerity Strike

This morning's key headlines from

  • Labor unions shut down Greece for 48 hours in anti-austerity strike
  • Seven more Syrian generals defect to Turkey
  • The Butterfly Effect and the presidential election

Labor unions shut down Greece for 48 hours in anti-austerity strike

An elderly man marches with protesters in front of the Greek parliament on Tuesday (AFP)
An elderly man marches with protesters in front of the Greek parliament on Tuesday (AFP)

Greece's trade unions launched a general strike and nationwide protests on Tuesday against a new package of austerity measures that are being demanded by European leaders as a condition for Greece to receive its next bailout payment, in time to avoid going bankrupt in mid-November. Hundreds of thousands of people marched across the country, creating a major political crisis for prime minister Antonis Samaras, who must get agreement on these austerity cuts by the weekend. There have been numerous defections from Samaras' governing coalition, but at latest count, the austerity bill is expected to receive 160 out of 300 votes, enough to win passage. AP and Spiegel

Seven more Syrian generals defect to Turkey

Seven generals in the army of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad defected to Turkey on Tuesday, along with their families. This brings the total number of Syrian generals in Turkey to 42. There are now 111,890 Syrian refugees living in Turkey in 14 refugee camps built along the Syrian border, where they are fed three meals a day, and where health, security, financial access, communication, social activity, and educational needs are addressed. Today's Zaman (Ankara)

The Butterfly Effect and the presidential election

As I'm writing this, early on Tuesday evening ET, it's not yet known who won the presidential election, but I've heard several pundits say that last week Romney had a great deal of momentum that was stopped and partially reversed by hurricane Sandy. This means that if Obama wins, then it will be at least partially due to the weather.

Most readers will have heard of the "Butterfly Effect" in Chaos Theory, which says that a butterfly flapping its wings in China might cause a chain reaction that turns into a hurricane in North America. So if Obama does win, then we might speculate whether Obama can credit his victory to some Chinese butterfly - the Butterfly Effect.

This is a charming way of looking at it, but it's quite significant from the point of view of Generational Dynamics forecasting. (See "Generational Dynamics forecasting methodology")

Long-time readers may have noticed that there have been thousands of predictions on my web site, but never predictions about the results of an election. That's because Chaos Theory tells us that it's impossible to predict the results of an election with any certainty, because of the Butterfly Effect. The tiniest event -- a gaffe during a speech, a traffic accident, a sex scandal, or a butterfly flapping its wings -- can change the election results, and prove the predictions wrong.

Generational Dynamics forecasting distinguishes between "trend events" and "chaotic events." Trend events are those determined by large masses of people, entire generations of people, based on long-term irreversible trends. Chaotic events are those that can change direction rapidly, as the result of a tiny unforeseen accident. That's why generational forecasting theory carefully distinguishes between chaotic and trend events, and makes predictions only on the latter. Besides election results, other examples of chaotic events are next month's weather and next month's stock prices. Trying to predict chaotic events may be fun, but you'll probably be wrong half the time. And I always like to point out that it's easy to get a million predictions right -- just make two million predictions.

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