Monday, September 24, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

If you consider how many hours they actually work -- for us -- how much do they make per hour?

This is priceless. But don't get me wrong, this isn't about Democrats or Republicans -- I am confident that most people on both sides of the aisle are the exact same. What this is about is how horrific our lawmakers are these days. This goes right alongside the "Series of Tubes" speech -- by a Republican -- for direct examples of politicians vehemently supporting legislation that potentially has a profound effect on our lives without understanding some of the basic concepts concerning what is to be regulated in said legislation. With all the money we pay our politicians to represent us, you think they could afford to spend at least a few minutes learning the basics of whatever legislation they're going to talk about. Which happens to be one of the most important parts of their job. This is especially appalling when they spend so much time working for their own interests -- like getting re-elected. What are we paying them for if not to even understand the laws they are making? I'm afraid that nothing will change until the average voter pays more attention to these sorts of things and votes accordingly. If politicians' chances of getting re-elected had more to do with their job performance than speaking engagements and television commercials then maybe they would accomplish something that would make them worthy of the dignitary status they enjoy at aforementioned engagements.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stupid Polls

There is a headline on Google news today that states "Majority Expect US Will 'Lose' in Iraq." This seems like a fairly useless piece of information to me. The majority of Americans are not military strategists. Nor do they have any qualifications that would give their judgement on the situation in Iraq any merit. In fact, the majority of Americans are uninformed and apathetic and form their opinions only on what they hear on the morning/evening news or see in newspaper headlines. So, an equal but easier and cheaper to measure statistic would be, "Majority of News Stories Indicate US Will 'Lose' in Iraq."

The Iraq statistic has at least some meaning since public opinion actually matters in a country's decision and willingness to wage and continue war. I saw a laughable statistic the other day, I don't remember the exact headline but it said that the majority of Americans believed that politics played at least some role in the attorney firing "scandal." The majority of Americans have very little facts about said affair and even less knowledge about what is acceptable or scandalous therein. Again, the story may as well have read "Majority of News Stories Implicate Inappropriate Politics in Attorney Firings."

I've talked about this before, but it still baffles me. What is it about statistics that we, as a country, find so interesting? Is it that they're easily digested and have an air of legitimacy because they require some research and math to create? Or is it just the news agencies finding a cheap way to scare up a story when they don't have one? And do the news agencies not see the irony in polling people about opinions mostly formed based on the stories published by the very same news agencies? Or are they secretly mocking the American people? Or are they geniuses and killing two birds with one stone by polling to see how effective their stories are and then playing the findings off as a relevant statistic to make another story?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Lots of Money

Whoa, am I posting again? I guess so.

I just have a quick question: what would happen if a presidential candidate donated their tens of millions of dollars to feeding hungry children, or curing AIDS, or developing alternative fuel sources even, rather than spending it on campainging? Do you think that the American people, and probably more importantly the media, would laud such an act of generosity enough to make it anywhere near as powerful as traditional campaigning? Or would it just spell the end of their hopes in this whoever-spends-the-most-money-wins political system we have today? It just seems like a really poor way to spend so much money. If the American people could elect a president without so much hype it seems like we'd have a lot more money to spend on a lot better things.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Congressmen as Presidential Candidates

Get off my back, I'm busy these days.

In the history of the U.S. 15 senators have become president. Only two -- Harding and Truman -- moved straight from the senate to the White House. And JFK is the only other to do it with less than 2 years between. Here's the link. So, its unusual for a senator to become president and the odds of a sitting senator becoming president are extremely low. 1 in 24.5, to be exact. That's pretty bad odds. There have been 17 presidents who were members of the House of Representatives. Most of those were senators or governors after being representatives, before becoming president. Only one, Garfield, went straight from the House to the White House. So why do congressmen keep getting nominations in presidential elections? Kerry, of course, is still a senator. Dole was a senator when he was nominated. Kucinich was and still is a member of the House. In the upcoming elections some of the big names being mentioned are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain -- all are sitting senators. In honor of google allowing me to do so, I've compiled a spreadsheet of presidents and offices they've held -- only considering senator, representative, governor, and mayor -- here. Here are some interesting facts:
  • No mayor has become president without being a governor -- this means odds are completely against Rudi, in this statistic, as much as I like him.
  • 4 presidents held only the office of representative
  • 6 presidents held none of these offices
  • 3 presidents have held only the office of senator
  • 9 presidents were only senators or were senator and representative
  • 20 presidents were governors -- counting governor of territories/possessions. 17 otherwise
  • 11 presidents only held the office of governor or governor and mayor
  • Andrew Johnson is the only president to hold all four offices
So, it would seem that the best way to be president is to be a governor. It is historically impossible to become president only holding the office of mayor (or not being a white man, but that's tangential, I suppose) (Rudi Giulianni). The least likely candidate that still has a shot is only a senator (John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama). It is only slightly more likely that someone who was only a representative can become a president (sorry, Dennis). It is more likely that someone who has held none of these offices would become president as someone who is just a representative or senator, and as likely as someone who was both (John McCain). It is almost impossible for a sitting congressman to become president (Hillary, Barack, McCain, Kucinich). So, given these facts why do parties continue to nominate sitting congressmen? I guess eventually you beat the odds. However, as I mentioned earlier no one who is not a white man has won the president. The big names right now on the Dem side besides Edwards are not only sitting senators, but one is not a man and one is not white (I'll let you sort out which is which), that ought to sound some alarms at Dem headquarters -- trying to beat the odds in one category is courageous, trying to beat several statistics is daunting, at best. History is, of course, in the making. However, if I'm trying to win an election for my party I would definitely take the past into account, not just popular opinion. Of course, this is a very limited scope statistic, but I feel it is a fairly relevant one.

So, will I vote for Rudi in the primary? Now I'm not sure... maybe I'll have to throw in with Romney. With this statistic, Edwards is the best candidate that I've mentioned on the Dem side -- do they have any governors talking about running? And I don't see Edwards beating Obama or Clinton. I guess it will be an interesting race, and its still early, so maybe we'll see a governor appear for the Dems later on, a-la Bill Clinton.