10 June 2011

first polls for the 2012 election!

Obviously these are not the first polls, but it's interesting to see what the field looks like right now, even before the Republicans have figured out which candidate they want to run the country. My guess about who that would be is: it will be an old white guy! But that's hardly surprising given the Tea Party and its predilection for wanting to vote in people who look like them.

Assigning states to blue, undecided, or red is based upon wikipedia's statewide polling results. If a state has been confused, I put it as undecided. If it is consistently or nearly consistently Democrat, it's blue. If it's consistently or nearly consistently Republican, it's red. Here's what the country would do if given an election today.

That's 254 electoral votes for Obama, 92 for a Republican, and 84 votes still under debate. Note that:
1) this leaves out 108 votes from states which apparently have not been polled yet (no polling in Indiana??? How weird)
2) Obama is still almost winning just from these votes.
3) None of the confirmed states look different than the 2008 election results.
4) All of the 'undecided' states, except Florida, went for McCain in 2008.

If we assume that "2012 is going to be a repeat of 2008" and give unpolled states to the party that won them in 2008, the map looks like this.
That's 324 for Obama, 130 for Republican, and 84 for undecided. This is a map in which Obama was won, no matter which way the undecided states go.
Of course, if the election is a complete re-do of the 2008 results, then Obama wins 359 and Republican gets 179. This is a 6-vote difference from 2008 because of census-created changes in electoral vote distribution. Unlike 2000 and 2004, it looks like 6 electoral votes will not make much of a difference in 2012. Take that, Supreme Court and your ability to decide elections!

But who knows; lots of things bad or good for Obama or the Republicans could happen between now and 2012. But at current it looks like Obama's chances for re-election are pretty good.

07 June 2011

House Apportionment Winners and Losers

Historical Oddity
Since 1913, the US has mostly kept the same number of US Representatives: 435. This is in spite of the addition of two more states and the more-than-tripling of the population since 1913. If you think this is funny, think if the US had continued representative democracy at the same rate as in the 1790s, where every 30,000 people had one congressman. We would need a room that could fit 10,000 voting people. C-SPAN would need a lot more cameras.

Easiest Math Ever
As the 2010 census concluded that there were about 308 million Americans, each of those 435 representatives represents about 708,000 Americans. In order to figure out how many of these 435 Representatives are apportioned to each state, take the state's population and divide it by 708,000 people. Then round this number up or down to its closest integer. That's it, you're done.

Actually that's not entirely true, as three states (starting in 2013) get the benefit of x+1 Reps in spite of only having x.49 population. Washington, Minnesota, and Rhode Island? Congratulations, you get to be slightly more influential for a decade than math would suggest.

Oddly enough, North Carolina is 20,000 people shy of acquiring the same bonus, so with x.46 population, they get x Reps. And Missouri? Well. Missouri has almost 700,000 more people than Minnesota, and almost 700,000 fewer people than Washington. As Minnesota has 8 Reps, and Washington has 10, then it makes sense that Missouri should have 9. Which is why they have 8.

Bottom Line
Missouri always get screwed.

AGW denial: is it curable?

The Spread of the Disease
A primary difficulty in discussing how to mitigate the future damage of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is the intense disagreement on whether such a thing as AGW even exists in the first place. If we flip back 15 years ago, this disagreement did not exist, and people on either the left or right in the US were both equally certain about the reality of AGW.

The cause of this departure in opinions is pretty easy to figure out: money and attention were given to people who cast doubt, and soon a debate was occurring where none existed before. What was a scientific question (are humans heating the planet) with an easy and verified answer (yes) became, over a decade's time, a partisan arguing point. Until it stops being a litmus test, the rather boring question of "Is there AGW?" will be argued, when the more important question of "How can AGW be mitigated?" will be avoided until it's potentially too late to do a thing about it.
Is there hope for moving past this impasse? Or is the continued easy existence of human civilization going to be thrown away because of our simple need to argue?

Why the Disease Spread
Consensus already existed within the scientific community, so the vital job of scientists who preferred human civilization to continue (this is, at last count, all of us) was to build up consensus within the public. This was difficult for us because we assumed that the public wants us to give them facts. This assumption only works some of the time because some of the public in no way trusts us. Humans, except when pretending to be Vulcans, only accept facts when they are given by people we are willing to believe in the first place.

People don't believe in creationism because they haven't seen a fossil or haven't been told that we share the majority of our genome with chimps. They believe it because they have been told, by people they trust and believe, that scientists be lying. These politicians, pundits, and religious leaders went one step further in their misinformation campaign and tied political and economic ideas that no one likes (carbon offets and the entire lunacy of carbon trading) to the science of climatology, in order to increase polarization. If that didn't work, well, paint Al Gore as being a hypocrite and suddenly they have created another AGW denier.

The Way Forward
The very politicians, pundits, and religious leaders who nowadays see it as their goal to fight against environmental concerns have to become a minority within conservative thinking. The way to do such a thing is to use things besides scientific fact to argue for the reality (and importance of combating) AGW. One useful route is to wrap the argument in a manner in which the Founding Fathers would approve, as is shown here: argue that American government exists to serve the common good and that keeping the planet in the same climate does such a thing. Another positive trend is religious leaders such as the Pope presenting AGW mitigation as a moral choice.

Its possible to change the public debate to a more fruitful one, but facts alone will not cause this change. We need to appeal to the whole human brain, and to the brains of the whole of humanity, in order to stop talking and start doing.