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September 13th, 2004


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04:48 am
Interesting note on elections in the latest Dr. Dobbs Journal (a programming magazine) of all things.

The article in question is about simulating elections with agents which is mildly interesting. Some of the data that came out the other end is roughly similar to what folks find in every day life.

The interesting part was an analysis of electoral college voting from 1960-2000 showing which states have traditionally been Republican, Democratic, or swing. Only a few states (New York, Minnesota, and Massachusetts IIRC) were Democratic the entire time. Most of the other states were Republican.

It reminds me of what a friend said. He's from South Africa and mentioned in passing that he's surprised about how conservative the US actually is vs. how conservative Americans think they are. It could be a Northern California byproduct, but according to him, we're much more conservative than we think we are.

All this happened to dovetail nicely with a few other thoughts on the way back from San Jose this evening which centered on the recent discussions between level_head and I. He's pro-Bush. Despite that, he's also someone who I consider to be an intelligent person.

It occurred to me that a lot of the divisions are defined basic assumptions. He believes, for example, that the war on Iraq was a just war. I believe that while the cause is just, the timing was wrong and the steps taken have led to unnecessary bloodshed and weakened international relations.

Lots of liberals would argue that the war was a baldfaced move by the administration to feed Haliburton and get Iraq's oil. I'm a little too trusting of mankind to believe that the war was simply to throw contracts at Haliburton.

Lots of liberals would also point out that we haven't found any WMDs in Iraq during our invasion. They may also point out some of the misinformation (e.g. the aluminum tubes, the mobile bioterrorism lab, &c). Apparently the authenticity of those claims is questionable in the eyes of level_head. I haven't seen precisely why he believes that and the research I've done through the major news outlets hasn't turned up any trace of it. I'm not quite willing to believe that the liberal media's succeeded in covering up all that info.

Of course, I also don't think Hussein's actions were those of a man with nothing to hide. There's a lot of desert out there. Who knows what we'd find if American troops weren't too busy ducking bullets to carefully comb every inch?

He also believes that Kerry will (perhaps unwittingly) be lighter on 'the war on terror' than Bush, although I haven't heard why yet.

The simple answer to all this of course is that real life isn't a simple black and white issue. There are fuzzy values of truth to some things which one side will determine as true and the other as false at times. Both sides are just as guilty of that. We humans like to simplify and those simplifications can often appear as a slight to the doctrine of the other side because we don't acknowledge something that might have a bit of truth to it. It's vitally important to be aware of this. Especially when an election is near with political adverts appearing virtually everywhere.

It's important to add as a endnote that even in this brief analysis, I've gone with my judgements about what is true based on the evidence I'm aware of. Let's not forget that the press often doesn't cover the whole of a story (cf. Hearst and the sinking of the Maine).


To most of us here in Northern California, the feeling that Bush should be impeached is as common as the air we breathe. In most of the nation, that's not the case. To those who are perhaps a bit nearer to moderate, Bush is really that hero who landed on the aircraft carrier and has delivered us from evil.

Just try for a moment to understand that impression. For the conservatives, take a moment to understand the impression that Bush is an unintelligent person who has ridden into the White House on privilege and that it shows in his policy.

As for me, I'm merely here to pick on both sides ; )

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:relsqui
Date:September 13th, 2004 11:44 am (UTC)
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It's funny that you (or your friend) should mention the idea that America is more conservative than we think we are--Michael Moore said the exact opposite on the Daily Show not long ago. I remember being somewhat surprised when he suggested there actually is a liberal majority, but... he wasn't quite clear on the next bit, about why they're not voting that way.

Personally, I agree with you, and it wouldn't shock me if he's suffering from the same tunnel vision as I have (not having left Northern California for any significant portion of my life). In Berkeley the only issue that people really seem to argue about is affirmative action; anything more clearly liberal/conservative is just preached to the choir about. There are more Nader bumper stickers than Bush, hands down. (Which really annoys me--I thought we'd all figured out by now that voting for Nader is a good way to keep Bush in office.)

In that environment it's hard to realize that anyone besides rich unethical bigots would vote Republican. That's actually why I'm really pleased to know people whose opinions I respect who don't fit that stereotype. It gets me thinking... which makes it all more complicated, but enh, life is complicated.

As for me, I'm merely here to pick on both sides ; )

Ha, hear hear. Me, I mostly stay out of it, pleading ignorance to all the information I'd want before trying to argue seriously with anyone about it. Also because, as you put slightly differently, it's greatly an opinion issue. This is who we want running the country, that's who you want. It's nice that we get to choose, although a shame it's only between two people.
[User Picture]
From:level_head
Date:September 13th, 2004 02:25 pm (UTC)
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I must disagree, to a certain extent, about the "opinion issue".
The opinions are there, of course, but they are the result of personal experience and a stream of information coming in. To the extent that this information is false and misleading, the opinions thus formed are also on improper underpinnings.

I don't watch TV, nor really pay that much attention to mainstream media anymore, other than as an alert that something interesting is going on. From there, I read many sources to distill what we really know, and what each of the sources wants us to think. Some are good at subjugating bias. Some are good at disguising bias. And some are quite blatant about it.

But, if one is patient, the real information is out there. It is alarming how much the 9/11 Commission Report differs from the synopses that appear in newspaper headlines. I read the whole thing, and re-read portions as necessary. I read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also radically spun for newspaper headlines. The Senate Intelligence Report debunking Joe Wilson. The Congressional criminal investigation into John Kerry and Bill Clinton campaigns. The Hans Blix reports. The David Kay reports. The UN reports on tracking Iraq's weapons as they've moved through Europe.

I read English language translations of newspapers in Malaysia, I followed Iraq's official state website frequently for years, I look at reports from Pravda and from North Korea. And I listen to Pacifica Radio and other socialist/liberal news sources, and chuckle at the newsperson's name: "Shirley Jihad".

And I have seen arguments from mainstream media that -- to a person familiar with the underlying facts -- come off exactly like Jack Chick's tracts on creationism. They could only convince someone already inclined to believe -- but enough of this stuff produces a population inclined to believe. It should be anathema to your ideals to be spoon-fed misinformation.

I don't originate good information, but I try to point people toward it.

===|==============/ Level Head

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