Good Numbers, Bad Numbers

In politics, as in work and life generally, I’m a longtime fan of getting the right numbers, getting the numbers right, and understanding what they tell us and what they don’t. My recent essay, Water Bills, Fees, and Our Politics, applied that to local politics.

It also left me thinking that some illustrative, more general examples might be useful or at least fun. They’re not all from politics, let alone the current local election cycle.

Using Numbers Wrong

Let’s warm up with a softball.

The other day, I saw something like this floating around the Internet (I’m paraphrasing): “An orchestra consisting of 80 musicians can play a Beethoven symphony in 30 minutes. How many minutes would it take an orchestra of 120 musicians to play the same symphony?”

orchestra

If you don’t think about the situation, you might just make a calculation and say 20 minutes. Your math would be right, but your answer would be wrong. A moment’s consideration will reveal the obvious: the number of minutes will be approximately the same, no matter what size the orchestra. It’s not like asking how many more Toyota Tundras you can make if you have three identical, adequately staffed and supplied Tundra factories instead of two.

Water Bills, Fees, and Our Politics

One thing I’ve learned to watch for in candidates for local and national offices is how good they are at doing the math and connecting the dots. When I hear a candidate who knows what the numbers mean and what they don’t mean, and who understands and can explain causes and effects, I know I’ve found one who deserves my careful attention and likely my vote.

It’s not so much a question of native intelligence or college degrees, or of being articulate and clever. All these things can help – or hurt. It’s that I know she’ll do her homework on complex issues, if elected, because she’s already doing it. I know he’ll reason carefully in difficult matters, because he’s already doing it.

Water Bills, Water Bills Everywhere

In my small city, American Fork, Utah, water bills are a sore subject and have been for several election cycles. They’re mentioned in virtually every debate, and over the years we’ve seen the full range of responses, from the shallow and the knee-jerk to the well-reasoned and historically aware.

dripping faucet

Proofreading and Politics in Draper

Here’s a headline from yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune: “Draper to hire independent investigator to review councilwoman’s e-mails.”

Hmm. Sounds serious.

Here’s the story’s first paragraph: “The Draper City Council has authorized the city attorney to hire outside counsel to determine whether Councilwoman Michele Weeks violated any ethics rules or laws when she used a city employee to proofread emails unrelated to her official duties.”

They had me until I read the word “proofread.”

Draper City Councilwoman Michele Weeks
Draper City Councilwoman Michele Weeks

Now What? (Electoral Afterthoughts)

I can’t say it was my favorite birthday ever, or even a particularly good one, but it was an interesting evening. And long.

If you prefer to skip my due diligence — my recap of the races on my ballot and my predictions for them — and scroll down to the heading “Now What?” below, I won’t be hurt. Actually, I won’t even know.

Presidential Race

As I write this, it’s unclear what the final electoral vote totals will be in the presidential race. They say a few races are still too close to call: New Hampshire (probably Clinton), Michigan (probably Trump), Minnesota (probably Clinton), and Arizona (probably Trump). The present totals without these states are 279 for Mr. Trump and 218 for Mrs. Clinton. A win is 270 or better, a majority. If the four states I named go as I indicated, he’ll finish with 306, and she with 232. It’s a resounding victory for Mr. Trump, even though the popular vote totals at the moment seem to have him up by only one-fifth of a percentage point. (See my notes on the Electoral College.)

The Electoral College and the Vote

This post is not about candidates or races. I’m not telling you how to vote or why. I’ve already done all I intend to do of that.

Instead, this is something relevant but more general, something to think about while we await results — and briefly, something to do once we know them, whatever they prove to be.

The Vote

Be sure to vote today, if you didn’t vote early – and not to, if you did. (The Chicago exception is noted.) Besides tending to moderate the outcomes, a high turnout among living, registered voters is one of the best ways to ensure that the living outvote the dead, the legal outvote the illegal, and the real outvote the fabricated – if you worry about those things at all.

I believe there is an implied, inalienable voter’s right to be reasonably confident that conscientious measures are in place (a) to facilitate voting by everyone who is eligible to vote and wishes to, and (b) to protect the integrity of the vote from various forms of fraud, intimidation, and other activities which would corrupt it.

The Raw, Verbose Appendix to My Notes on the Presidential Election

If the title wasn’t enough of a warning, here’s one more: These notes are fairly raw, in places less than fully formed, haphazardly organized, and generally undocumented by links to data or other materials. They’re part of my thought process as a voter in the 2016 presidential election. Make of them what you will.

If you’re looking for my traditional voter’s guide, follow that link. All of this material was drafted for it but cut, so it wouldn’t be completely out of control.

Fragmentary General Thoughts

The anti-McMullin crowd, which keeps saying we don’t know enough about him and he’s not qualified, is glossing over the fact that we know a great deal about Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, including that they are profoundly unqualified.

I believe in a God of miracles. One way or another, we’re going to need a few. I think that, through Tuesday, we should pray for the voters. After that, we should pray for the winner. The less we want to do that, the more we need to.

David’s Handy Little Election Guide

Here’s my arguably handy, definitely idiosyncratic election guide for the 2016 general election. I considered posting it earlier for once, for the benefit (or at least bemusement) of early voters like myself, but Life Beyond the Blog (LBB) got in the way. Again.

I’ll tell you how I voted (or didn’t) in each race on my ballot, and I’ll tell you more or less briefly why. In some local or state matters, I’ll offer some detailed information along with my opinions. To the extent that the names and races on our respective ballots overlap, I hope my thoughts will at least be interesting. Or slightly and intermittently amusing. Or vexing. Or whatever works for you.

Notes and Thoughts on the Third Presidential Debate

It’s been nearly two weeks since I watched the third presidential debate live, and I’m only now finding time to clean up my notes and post them here. I apologize for the delay, but there’s something you should know.

A lot of fetid water has passed under the bridge since then, but the third debate is not old news. In terms of substance it’s probably the high point of the campaign. As we end the month of Icktober on the calendar but not in spirit, this is the debate you should watch — if you think our politics ought to be about policy; if you long for a bygone day when a presidential campaign wasn’t mostly about sleaze, thuggery, boorishness, and corruption; or if you want to compare the actions of the eventual winner to his or her declarations during the campaign.

I won’t offer a comprehensive summary of the debate; it’s simple enough to watch the whole thing on YouTube or at least read a complete transcript. (I recommend watching it, if you have 90 minutes.) I will try to give you the flavor of it, and I have a few thoughts on what was said.

Had Enough of Politics?

Have you had enough of politics, at least for this election season?

We’re only halfway through Icktober, if you know what I mean. Or would Sicktober be a better name for it?

First of all, if you’ve had enough, I’m not sure why you’re here. But welcome anyway, and please stay as long as you like.

Second, here’s a fun, apolitical meme.

Notes on the Vice Presidential Debate

Prior to the vice presidential debate on Tuesday evening, I could not have picked Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) or Governor Mike Pence (R-Indiana) out of a lineup. Nor would I have recognized their voices. I had heard of both, but knew only generally where they land on the political spectrum and how they carry themselves.

2016 VP debate
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), left, and Gov. Mike Pence (R-Indiana).

This is in sharp contrast to the candidates at the top of their tickets. I’ve been watching Hillary Clinton for 26 years or so, and trying not to watch Donald Trump for about that long.

Speaking of the presidential nominees . . .

If Sen. Kaine had not had to defend Mrs. Clinton’s indefensible character and record, and if Gov. Pence had not had to defend Mr. Trump’s countless indefensible words and dubious acts, the debate might have been more substantive, in terms of policy. Even so, it was better than the first presidential debate. And since I’m polishing this post after the second presidential debate (notes on that are next), I’ll say, this vice presidential debate is still the debate I recommend that you watch — if you think you should see a debate but your tolerance for the despicable is nearly spent, and if you want some coherent talk about policy from both sides.