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

Guest Post: Molly Hogan – “We Need Them As Much As They Need Us”

Molly Hogan

Nine years ago, my husband Brady and I were living in a small but cozy apartment in Salt Lake City. We were pregnant with our first child, going to school for our bachelor’s degrees, and working full-time. After crunching the numbers again and again, we realized that I would still need to work once the baby was born.

I’d always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, so I began to look for jobs that would allow me to work from home. After a lot of searching we found an apartment manager position just a couple of blocks away. We went to check it out.

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.)

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.

I Declare Amnesty (No, Not That Amnesty)

We’ve entered the post-Labor Day season, during which, by tradition, many voters will begin taking our presidential race seriously.

Meanwhile, many of us have already been paying attention, and we like what we see far less than usual. We’re doing things like leaving our political parties and wondering if our deluded country isn’t worth our political exertions any more.

It’s time for me to make an announcement.

My friends, I am neither God nor the government, so I don’t expect you to think this is earthshaking, but . . .

I hereby grant you amnesty.

Perhaps I should explain.

To Whom and for What?

Yes, amnesty.

To all of you.

No, not for everything you may have done lately. For example, some of you primary voters got us a choice between Trump and Clinton. I’m not presently offering amnesty for that.

Today’s amnesty is mostly preemptive. It’s for your vote or lack thereof in the presidential race this November — and for any reasons, opinions, or gut feelings you may have or offer in support of that vote (or nonvote).

Why I’m No Longer a Republican

The “what” is in my title. Here’s the “why.”

It may help if I explain why I was a Republican in the first place — officially for one-third of a century, and unofficially for several years before that.

Reagan and Me

I conducted my first political poll before the 1976 Republican presidential primary in Idaho. I was in fifth grade. As went my poll of voters’ children, so went the actual vote in my adopted home state: former California Governor Ronald Reagan won by a huge margin over incumbent President Gerald Ford. Ford went on to win the nomination, then lost to Democrat and former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Reagan was elected president in 1980 and reelected in 1984.

Even in 1976 I was aware that the GOP didn’t really want Ronald Reagan. He was too conservative for the party establishment. As we saw then and more strikingly in 1980, much of the rank and file felt differently.

Ronald Reagan
Photo courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library.

Two Reluctant Farewells

It’s a sad week for American Fork. We lost two icons — one you probably know, another you might not.

Happily, they didn’t die. One retired, and the other resigned to pursue other opportunities.

Both have been public employees. Both have distinguished themselves in their professions. I have had the honor of knowing and working with both.

Yesterday, after 30 years as American Fork High School’s Director of Bands, Mr. John Miller conducted his last performance in that position, when the AFHS Wind Symphony played at commencement. Much praise has been heaped on him this year, whether he liked it or not, and he deserves all of it.

Wednesday was Chief Lance Call‘s last day at the head of the American Fork Police Department, after ten superb, understated years. He leaves more quietly, deserving but not wanting a lot more praise than he’ll get.

The two are very much alike. Both prefer to stand back and let others — staff or students — shine. Both have my gratitude and my admiration.

Toward a Diagnosis of Our Politics

Trump Sanders Clinton

I’ve said for years that President Obama — the quasi-monarchical head of a selectively but systematically lawless regime — is more of a symptom than the disease. I think the same of Donald Trump. I don’t mean Donald Trump the person; I mean Donald Trump the Republican front runner. Donald Trump of reality television (pardon the oxymoron). Donald Trump the foul-mouthed verbal bully. Donald Trump, the least convincing conservative impersonator we’ve seen at the head of the pack in a long time. (Rabid right-wingers will insert their own snide Mitt Romney joke here, I suspect. But he would have been a great president, even if he’s not conservative enough for you and you and you and you and maybe me.)

Meanwhile, with a less partisan Department of Justice the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton, would probably be facing — and in fact may yet face — federal indictment on many counts of knowingly treating classified and secret materials with all the seriousness due to recipes published in the food section of last week’s Sunday Times. And she’s losing states to Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist whose appeal crosses demographic lines, but is particularly strong among young adults who have not yet been required by curriculum or circumstances to learn how the world works.

The symmetry here is that millions of voters are so hostile to establishment candidates on both sides of the aisle that they are voting for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. It is a remarkable time in our politics, though not a particularly encouraging time.

There are some very smart people (among many others) thinking and writing about this. Here I’ll offer some highlights from the best recent explanations I’ve seen. Peggy Noonan looms large here; she’s a perennial favorite of mine. I’ll also throw in some George Will, some Charles Krauthammer, some (American-turned-Brit) Janey Daley, a bit of Mark Steyn (an Aussie), and even some David Brooks (who sometimes plays a conservative on television but must, in general, be embraced with particular caution).

In each case I am excerpting longer essays or columns which you should read in their entirety. I offer the excerpts as much to persuade you of that as to offer an explanation of the Trump/Sanders phenomenon here. (Note: The fact that I have called the phenomenon after its most prominent current symptoms does not mean they are the only symptoms, or that the disease is not rampant at other levels of government. We’ve been fighting it locally in my city, American Fork, Utah, for some time in our own quirky way.)