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Category: Politics

“Powered By Reason”

I’ll admit it: when you pop up an ad on my Twitter feed telling me about a debate platform powered by reason, the only thing I see is a hazy red cloud of danger surrounding the words “debate” and “reason.” I blame Gamergate and the alt-right for implanting this reflex deep within my soul. Why are you avoiding my attempts to rationally discuss your inferiority?

But I will rise above my bias and check it out… oh god.

Yes, that’s the problem. Not all claims are created equal; demanding that we put equal time into attacking the argument that oceans would flow away if the Earth were round is a bad idea. The quality of a debate is in part determined by the quality of the claims made during that debate.

Kialo tries to mitigate this by allowing users to vote on each statement’s impact, but that means the displayed validity of points is determined by who can turn out their side the best. Obvious flaws are obvious. More subtly, this concept accepts the assumption that all claims are worth engaging with. Consider the (decade-old!) concept of the social denial of service attack.

2017 Campaigns 1 of 5: The Golden Pyramid

Nights Black Agents campaigns are built using a diagram which represents the classic conspiratorial pyramid structure. It’s called a Conspyramid. The mastermind squats at the top, with minions at various levels beneath. PCs discover the fringes of the conspiracy, and work their way up as the campaign goes on.

The following diagram is a satire. Who would believe that Peter Thiel is secretly influencing 4chan, or that Steve Bannon controls Breitbart News?

Texas State Legislature

Our Texas State Senator is Kirk Watson, in Senate District 14. It’s a ridiculously Democratic district covering most of Austin. At a quick glance he doesn’t look incredibly progressive, nor terribly conservative — I’d guess he’s reasonably middle of the road for the Democratic Party. Health care is a big issue for him, as is the economy. He’ll be running against Guy Fielder on the Republican side. There’s a Guy Fielder in the area who’s been a high tech executive for quite a while — worked at Compaq, etc. — so I’d guess it’s him. No Guy Fielder campaign Web site yet.

Our State Representative is Elliott Naishtat (House page here) in House District 49. The House page is more informative than the single-post blog, but the single-post blog is kind of charming. He’s from Queens, moved to Austin after coming here as part of AmeriCorps, and appears to be very feisty. This is another safe Democratic seat and nobody filed to run in the Republican primary; there are also no Libertarian candidates. Or Green candidates, as far as I can tell.


As the Republican primary season wears on, there’s a lot of discussion of delegate math. Jed Lewison of Daily Kos keeps making arguments based on raw percentages — Romney now has to win 48.4% of the remaining delegates available to reach the convention with the nomination in hand. I think he’s just doing propaganda, though, because he’s making the implicit assumption that delegate apportions are simple. So I took the delegate count from Real Clear Politics and made a super-stupid, basic spreadsheet.

I assumed that Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich would split the remaining primaries and caucuses with 30% of the vote each; I gave Ron Paul 10% of each state. Pause for outrage, yes, I know. If you split delegates, 30/30/30/10, Romney doesn’t get over the hump. But then I went back and gave Romney all of the delegates from the winner take all states: Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Maryland, Washington DC, Delaware, California, New Jersey, and Utah. Utah should be pretty easy for him. Most of the other states ought to be easy Romney victories. Wisconsin is coming up soon; at 42 delegates, it’s a big prize and Santorum’s leading by a big margin there. Romney needs to take all the winner take all states to get to the delegate threshold. On the other hand, if he just misses Wisconsin, I bet there are enough unpledged delegates out there to push him over the top. Without Wisconsin, he’d be at 1152 delegates — with it, he’d be at 1110.

So OK, that’s kind of a rough road. Then I redid the numbers, assuming Gingrich drops and gets all his delegates to vote for Santorum. I gave 66% of Gingrich’s future support to Santorum, and 33% to Romney, which I think is a pretty reasonable estimate. In this model, Romney winds up with more delegates (1246) and he can afford to lose Wisconsin. Note that this scenario also works if you think Romney can pull in a mere 40% of the popular vote the rest of the way, even with both Gingrich and Santorum in the race.

Oh, wait, lemme fiddle with the model some more… OK. If Romney can get 34% of the delegates from proportionally allocated states the rest of the way, and win all the winner take all states except Wisconsin, he still winds up with enough delegates to win the nomination outright. He won 39% of the available delegates yesterday, so he made progress towards his goal. Romney’s right to think he can slowly push his way over the finish line. Lewison’s wrong; it wasn’t a setback. Also, Gingrich is not going to drop out because it would kill his ability to be any kind of a kingmaker at the convention.

Edit: this blog is a real professional doing the same kind of math, but much much better.

Texas Ten

Redistricting has made Texas politics a bit of a mess this year. For the moment, we live in TX-10, with a Republican incumbent. There was a reasonably strong Democratic candidate planning to run, but he pulled out due to some unfavorable redraws of the map. For our reference, two Democrats filed for the primary: Tawana Cadien and William Miller, Jr. I can’t find anything on the latter. Cadien was a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and has been reasonably busy in local Democratic politics for a couple of years. There’s a William J. Miller who contributed a fair bit of money to various candidates in the 2010 elections, but the middle initial is wrong. Neither of them have campaign Web sites up for this cycle, so I don’t expect either of them are really plausible opponents, alas.

More posts under the “2012 texas elections” tag as I continue to figure out local politics.

But If It’s Us!

The current schadenfreude election race — if you’re a Democrat — is the NY-23 House race. You’ve got a moderate Republican, a Democrat, and a third party social conservative. Doug Hoffman, the social conservative, is getting lots of national attention: endorsements from Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and so on. It is symptomatic of the split in the Republican Party. Cue Daily Kos smugness.

It is oddly reminiscent of the doomful prognostication regarding the Lamont/Lieberman primary in 2006. Daily Kos did a couple of retrospects of that smuggitude recently. Alas for those who would learn from history, no parallels were drawn between the two elections.

Peace Out

Apparently everyone already knew the Nobel Peace Prize was going to be used as a way to increase someone’s influence. Reuters had the story two days ago. Not that anyone was paying attention.

Wanted – a peace maker or rights activist engaged in a current conflict whose influence would benefit greatly from winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

That is who Norway’s Nobel Committee will choose for 2009 Peace Prize laureate if, as experts expect, it returns closer to Alfred Nobel’s notion of peace. Past prizes went to climate campaigners, life-long diplomats and grass-roots economists.

Nobel’s will doesn’t exactly allow for this. The prize goes “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” I could get snarky and say he deserves it for preventing McCain from becoming President, but I’m not sure I feel quite that snarky about McCain.

On the other hand, I probably do feel that snarky about Palin. The world’s a safer place without her in the Executive Branch. Hey, good work, Obama.