Archive for the 'Politics' Category

How to rig an election

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

If I worked for Diebold and wanted to help republicans win, I wouldn't do something easily detectable like changing 2% of votes to be for my candidate or making some machines break down at 5pm to give the the working class a difficult time. Instead, I would work harder on usability for machines going to friendly districts.

With this scheme, blame for any election-tipping would mostly go to "user error" rather than poor design. Even better, the voters who committed the errors will mostly be democrats, which will make democrats look dumb once again.

Make butter, not guns!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2005

I saw a UCSD student wearing a "Make cows, not war!" shirt from Cowparade Prague. It made me think of the phrase "guns and butter" from economics.

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah

Thursday, December 23rd, 2004

The LA Times had an article about the war between "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays": This Season, Greetings Are at Issue. The article was followed by commentary, an editorial, and letters.

Virgin Mobile picked the right year for its "Chrismahanukwanzakah" ad campaign.

Winning an election with 22% of the popular vote

Monday, November 1st, 2004

A presidential candidate could be elected with as a little as 21.8% of the popular vote by getting just over 50% of the votes in DC and each of 39 small states. This is true even when everyone votes and there are only two candidates. In other words, a candidate could lose with 78.2% of the popular vote by getting just under 50% in small states and 100% in large states.

The optimal set of states to take (the one that lets a candidate win with the smallest popular vote) is not the N states with the smallest population. It's also not the N states with the smallest value for (population/electors), which would be optimal if you could get exactly 270 electoral votes that way.

The optimal solution happens to get exactly 270 electoral votes. In this solution, the winner takes DC, the 37 smallest states, the 39th smallest state, and the 40th smallest state. (The winner takes Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.)

Read on for my assumptions and algorithm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Political Halloween costumes

Friday, October 15th, 2004

Some ideas for political Halloween costumes:

Update 2004-10-30: Other people came up with funnier ideas for political Halloween costumes and illustrated them:

Foreign policy debate mistakes

Monday, October 4th, 2004

Some of Bush's mistakes:

0:06:10 "Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?" "No, I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm going to win."
0:07:55 "The enemy understands a free Iraq will be a major defeat in their ideology of hatred. That's why they're fighting so vociferously."
0:14:20 "Of course we're after Saddam Hussein -- I mean bin Laden."
0:15:44 Bush tries to pound on the podium.
0:30:57 "What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland?"
0:32:37 "Well, actually, he forgot Poland."
0:40:25 "Let me finish" (who was interrupting him?)
0:42:20 "You know, it's hard work to try to love her as best as I can"
0:45:35 Bush interrupts Kerry. Lehrer lets Bush respond, but Bush pauses for five seconds and then babbles about mixed messages.
0:52:00 In response to a question about Iraq: "the enemy attacked us, Jim". (Kerry called him on it.)
1:10:35 "You cannot lead if you send mexed missages." (How are the Capitol Steps going to make fun of this spoonerism?)
1:11:55 Referring to his daughters: "I'm trying to put a leash on them." (Kerry called him on it: "Well, I know. I've learned not to do that.")
several times Being the president is hard work.

Some of Kerry's mistakes:

0:37:00 "United States, the America and Great Britain"
0:57:15 "Global test". (Bush called him on it.)
0:58:00 "Iran and Iraq are now more dangerous -- Iran and North Korea are now more dangerous."

The times refer to the Washington Post's Real stream, which I watched using Real Alternative and Gebest's Media Player Classic. Political Animal: Clip Contest, commenters on Daily Kos, and caught some mistakes I might have missed otherwise. I copied some quotes from the MSNBC/FDCH transcript of the debate.

A math joke involving Clinton

Sunday, July 25th, 2004

Steven Pinker, Listening Between the Lines:

In his grand jury testimony, Mr. Clinton expounded on the semantics of the present tense ("It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is") and of the words "alone," "cause" and, most notoriously, "sex."

Clinton's rebuttal to the Starr report:

Literally true statements cannot be the basis for a perjury prosecution, even if a witness intends to mislead the questioner. Likewise, answers to an inherently ambiguous question cannot constitute perjury.

A joke:

Have you ever touched Paula Jones or Monica Lewinsky?

It depends on your definition of "or".

Kerry beats Bush in Google

Saturday, July 24th, 2004

Kerry has an impressive PageRank 8 while Bush only has PageRank 7, like me. (Via curious on IRC.)

Kerry also beats Bush in a search for kerry | bush and even in a search for president.