Category Archives: politics

Election Fraud? Nope, just bad math

My old ScienceBlogs friend Mike Dunford has been tweeting his way through the latest lawsuit that’s attempting to overturn the results of our presidential election. The lawsuit is an amazingly shoddy piece of work. But one bit of it stuck out to me, because it falls into my area. Part of their argument tries to make the case that, based on "mathematical analysis", the reported vote counts couldn’t possibly make any sense.

The attached affidavit of Eric Quinell, Ph.D. ("Dr. Quinell Report) analyzez the extraordinary increase in turnout from 2016 to 2020 in a relatively small subset of townships and precincts outside of Detroit in Wayne County and Oakland county, and more importantly how nearly 100% or more of all "new" voters from 2016 to 2020 voted for Biden. See Exh. 102. Using publicly available information from Wayne County andOakland County, Dr. Quinell found that for the votes received up to the 2016 turnout levels, the 2020 vote Democrat vs Republican two-ways distributions (i.e. excluding third parties) tracked the 2016 Democrat vs. Republican distribution very closely…

This is very bad statistical analysis – it’s doing something which is absolutely never correct, which is guaranteed to produce a result that looks odd, and then pretending that the fact that you deliberately did something that will produce a certain result means that there’s something weird going on.

Let’s just make up a scenario with some numbers up to demonstrate. Let’s imagine a voting district in Cosine city. Cosine city has 1 million residents that are registered to vote.

In the 2016 election, let’s say that the election was dominated by two parties: the Radians, and the Degrees. The radians won 52% of the vote, and the Degrees won 48%. The voter turnout was low – just 45%.

Now, 2020 comes, and it’s a rematch of the Radians and the Degrees. But this time, the turnout was 50% of registered votes. The Degrees won, with 51% of the vote.

So let’s break that down into numbers for the two elections:

  • In 2016:
    • A total of 450,000 voters actually cast ballots.
    • The Radians got 234,000 votes.
    • The Degrees got 216,000 votes.
  • In 2020:
    • A total of 500,000 voters actually cast ballots.</li>
    • The Radians got 245,000 votes.</li>
    • The Degrees got 255,000 votes.</li>

Let’s do what Dr. Quinell did. Let’s look at the 2020 election numbers, and take out 450,000 votes which match the distribution from 2016. What we’re left with is:

  • 11,000 new votes for the Radians, and
  • 39,000 new votes for the Degrees.

There was a 3 percent shift in the vote, combined with an increase in voter turnout. Neither of those is unusual or radically surprising. But when you extract things in a statistically invalid way, we end up with a result that in a voting district which the vote for the two parties usually varies by no more than 4%, the "new votes" in this election went nearly 4:1 for one party.

If we reduced the increase in voter turnout, that ratio becomes significant worse. If the election turnout was 46%, then the numbers would be 460,000 total votes; 225,400 for the Radians and 234,600 for the Degrees. With Dr. Quinell’s analysis, that would give us: -9,000 votes for the Radians, and +18,000 votes for the Degrees. Or since negative votes don’t make sense, we can just stop at 225,400, and say that all of the remaining votes, every single new vote beyond what the Radians won last time, was taken by the Degrees. Clearly impossible, it must be fraud!

So what’s the problem here? What caused this reasonable result to suddenly look incredibly unlikely?

The votes are one big pool of numbers. You don’t know which data points came from which voters. You don’t know which voters are new versus old. What happened here is that the bozo doing the analysis baked in an invalid assumption. He assumed that all of the voters who voted in 2016 voted the same way in 2020.

"For the votes received up to the turnout level" isn’t something that’s actually measurable in the data. It’s an assertion of something without evidence. You can’t break out subgroups within a population, unless the subgroups were actually deliberately and carefully measured when the data was gathered. And in the case of an election, the data that he’s purportedly analyzing doesn’t actually contain the information needed to separate out that group.

You can’t do that. Or rather you can, but the results are, at best, meaningless.

Yes all men

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know about the horrible events of last friday. A misogynistic creep killed a bunch of people, because he believed that women owed him sex and affection, because in his own opinion, he was a terrific guy, an absolute prince. But they didn’t give him what he deserved, and so, he decided to punish them for their “crimes”, and went off on a killing spree.

Seven dead people and a dozen injured ones later, people started reacting. Many women, quite appropriately, pointed out the misogynistic venom of this guy, and how common it is among men. And predictably, tons of men got annoyed at that, and replied saying “Not all men are like that”, and therefore, not all men are responsible.


Yes, we are responsible. We live in this culture. We sit here, day after day, watching this shit, and doing nothing. Because we maintain that we aren’t guilty. Women on the internet are regularly threatened for the crime of speaking, and we sit by and watch, without doing or saying anything about it.

We are part of the problem, because, for the most part, we don’t care. We aren’t the targets of the abuse. We aren’t the ones who can’t walk down the street without getting harassed. We aren’t the ones who can’t speak without being threatened. And so we just don’t care.

When a man like this guy goes out and murders people because of his hatred of women, our main concern isn’t how common people like him are. It’s not how many women are threatened by people like him, or how many women are actually killed by people like him. It’s about how unfair it is that women talk about the kind of hatred they face from men, without making a specific exception for guys like us. What we worry about isn’t the threats they face – it’s how their reaction to being threatened with actual violence hurts our poor, precious feelings.

Yes, it’s all men who are responsible. Let’s face it: we live in a culture where we are the dominant group. If we got together, stood up, and said “We’re not going to tolerate this shit anymore” – if even a decent-sized minority of us were willing to stand up and say it – the hateful assholes would be driven underground. If we stood up and said “No”, and made sure that any shit-headed bigoted woman-hater actually paid some price in standing in our communities, the threats would end.

If we acknowledged that the violent hatred of women was not just a sickness; that a threat to women is a real threat to other human beings that was serious; that those threats are crimes. That the everyday threats against women are more serious that the threats of terrorism that we’ve used to justify war. If we did that, we’d have to admit that we need to do something about it.

But we don’t. We sit and watch, and downplay the threats. We say that they’re not really serious, that’s just how people act on the internet. We say that the threats don’t matter – those fragile women just need to “man up”, and grow thicker skins. And when women die – as they do every day – we just say it was a crazy person, there’s nothing we can do about it.

3000 people died in a terrorist attack 13 years ago. We were so horrified by it that we started two wars, and virtually rewrote our entire legal system, because it was such a horrible, terrifying threat! We needed to do something to protect ourselves from the terrorists!

The men who threaten women are terrorists too. They’re working from exactly the same motivations: the use of fear to control behavior. Men who threaten women are making threats to force women to behave the way they want them to.

We’re willing to make insane sacrifices to protect ourselves from the threats of terrorists. But we’re not willing to sacrifice anything to protect women from other men.

Until that’s not true anymore – until we stand up and say “Enough!”, and make the behavior truly unacceptable – then we are guilty. All of us.

Obama Campaign Lies with Bad Math

This post is a bit of a change of pace for me.

As you all know, when it comes to politics, I’m a hardcore lefty liberal type. And lots of annoying people like to claim that the reason I write more critical posts about right-wing politicians than left-wing ones is because I’m hopelessly biased. I definitely do end up writing more posts critical of RW than LW politicians, but I believe that that’s because in modern day america, the right wing has completely lost touch with reality. They’re just far more likely to regurgitate long-disproven lies, or to use specious, unsupportable, or just plain pig-ignorant reasoning.

But a reader sent me a copy of a recent fund-raising letter from the Obama campaign, and it’s pissed me right off. I probably actually received a copy of it myself, but I’ve got my spam filters set to throw away anything from the Obama campaign, so I didn’t see it until it was pointed out to me.

When it comes to bad math, in my opinion, there are two main kinds. There’s ignorant bad math, and there’s dishonest bad math. In the former, the people pushing it don’t understand what they’re talking about. They’re saying something that they actually believe. It’s hopelessly wrong, and if they made any effort to learn something about what they’re babbling about, they’d see how wrong they are. In the latter kind, the people pushing it are deliberately trying to deceive their readers/listeners. They know that they’re doing something wrong, and they’re hoping that you are stupid enough to not catch on.

The latter kind of bad math is far worse than the former.

And this Obama campaign fundraising letter is very firmly in the latter camp.

I’m not going to post the entire thing, and I’m not going to provide a link. That would be giving them publicity for this despicable, dishonest effort, which is exactly what they want, and I will not reward them for this.

The letter starts by complaining about a Romney campaign fundraiser, saying:

It may not take the Romney camp very long to get to a million — they announced today that just 9 percent of their money comes from donors giving less than $200.

Take note of the fundamental point there. Of the money collected, 9% came from small donors.

Then they attempt to contrast themselves against Romney:

Our campaign is different. It’s about bringing people together to protect the progress we’ve made and make a lot more in a second term. And 98 percent of the donations people like you make to this campaign are $250 or less.

The main point: of the people donating, 98% were small donors.

You’re supposed to look at that, and say “90% of the donors to Romney are big-money people, but just 2% of the donors to Obama are.”

But they’re not comparing the same thing. One is a percentage of money, and the other is a percentage of people. Let’s take a quick look at an example, to show how this works.

Suppose we’ve got just ten donors. They gave 200, 200, 200, 100, 100, 100, 50, 50, 50, and 1,000,000 dollars, respectively. Obviously, 90% (9 out of 10) donors gave $200 or less. And if you work it out, more than 99% of the money came from donations of $1,000,000 or more.

What does the Obama campaigns actual donor distribution look like? I don’t know. But I’d guess that it’s actually pretty similar to the Romney campaign. Politics in America is, very much, a rich persons sport. Both campaigns are absolutely relying on huge donations from people with lots and lots of money. The Obama campaign wants to trick us into believing that they’re different. But all they’re doing is proving that they’re not. They’re lying to us, and hoping that we’re too stupid to notice.

(There’s another level of dishonesty there, but it’s far more trivial. In the Romney campaign figure, they talk about the percentage of donotions smaller than $200; for the Obama campaign figure, they use $250. Why? Probably because they wanted a number for the Romney campaign where they could say that more than 90% came from big donors. And hell, once they were lying, what’s another lie?)

Sarah Palin and the Blood Libel

Ok, so this is another off-topic rant, but I’ve got to say something or my head will explode.

After the events of this past weekend, Sarah Palin has come up for a lot
of criticism for her target map from the last election. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, her website published a map with congresspeople who had voted for the healthcare reform bill like Congresswoman Giffords marked with a rifle sight.

So today, she decided to defend herself, by saying:

Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

No, Ms. Palin. That is not reprehensible. What is reprehensible is using a historic excuse for antisemitic violence as a defense against your words and your actions having had any role in the attempted murder of a Jewish congresswoman.

What we have here is a very vocally Christian politician, who
marked a Jewish congressperson with a gunsight. Said Jewish congresswoman was shot in the head and nearly killed. And Sarah Palin
has the chutzpah to talk about blood libel?

Let’s recall, for a moment, what the blood libel is. Blood libel isn’t an accusation that you’re responsible for violence. It’s a very specific accusation, made by Christians, that Jews murder christian children in order to obtain christian blood, which is used to make Passover Matzah.

From Wikipedia:

Blood libel (also blood accusation) refers to a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, almost always Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays. Historically, these claims have–alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration–been a major theme in European persecution of Jews.

The libels typically allege that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos for Passover. The accusations often assert that the blood of Christian children is especially coveted, and historically blood libel claims have often been made to account for otherwise unexplained deaths of children. In some cases, the alleged victim of human sacrifice has become venerated as a martyr, a holy figure around whom a martyr cult might arise. A few of these have been even canonized as saints.

In general, the libel alleged something like this: a child, normally a boy who had not yet reached puberty, was kidnapped or sometimes bought and taken to a hidden place (the house of a prominent member of the Jewish community, a synagogue, a cellar, etc.) where he would be kept hidden until the time of his death. Preparations for the sacrifice included the gathering of attendees from near and far and constructing or readying the instruments of torture and execution.

At the time of the sacrifice (usually night), the crowd would gather at the place of execution (in some accounts the synagogue itself) and engage in a mock tribunal to try the child. The boy would be presented to the tribunal naked and tied (sometimes gagged) at the judge’s order. He would eventually be condemned to death. Many forms of torture would be inflicted during the boy’s “trial”, including some of those actually used by the Inquisition on suspects of heresy. Some of the alleged tortures were mutilation (including circumcision), piercing with needles, punching, slapping, strangulation, strappado and whipping, while being insulted and mocked throughout.

In the end, the half-dead boy would be crowned with thorns and tied or nailed to a wooden cross. The cross would be raised and the blood dripping from the boy’s wounds, particularly those on his hands, feet, and genitals, would be caught in bowls or glasses. Finally, the boy would be killed with a thrust through the heart from a spear, sword, or dagger. His dead body would be removed from the cross and concealed or disposed of, but in some instances rituals of black magic would be performed on it. The earlier stories describe only the torture and agony of the victim and suggest that the child’s death was the sole purpose of the ritual. Over time and as the libel proliferated, the focus shifted to the supposed need to collect the victim’s blood for mystical purposes.

The story of William of Norwich (d. 1144) is the first case of alleged ritual murder that led to widespread persecutions. It does not mention the collection of William’s blood nor of any ritual purpose to the alleged ritual murder. In the story of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln (d. 1255) it was said that after the boy was dead, his body was removed from the cross and laid on a table. His belly was cut open and his entrails removed for some occult purpose, such as a divination ritual. In the story of Simon of Trent (d. 1475) it was highly stressed how the boy was held over a large bowl so all his blood could be collected.

According to Walter Laqueur, “Altogether, there have been about 150 recorded cases of blood libel (not to mention thousands of rumors) that resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews throughout history, most of them in the Middle Ages… In almost every case, Jews were murdered, sometimes by a mob, sometimes following torture and a trial.”

Blood libel is a very specific, disgraceful, malicious, and horrific accusation against Jews. It is an accusation that Jews, as a part of our religion, are murderers and cannibals. That we steal children from righteous christian communities, murder them, drain their blood, and then eat it as part of our religious rituals.

This isn’t just ancient history. The blood libel has been around since the middle ages, but it has persisted all the way to the present. My own ancestors fled their homes in Russia to avoid a pogrom – the supposed cause of which was to protect the christian children from being murdered for Passover matzah. It’s still around today: among other examples, in 2005, a group of members of the Russian parliament put forward a proposed law banning all Jewish organizations, because Jewish practices are inhumane, and extend to ritual murder”.

Sarah Palin clearly has no clue of what “blood libel” means. That’s a disgrace in itself; anyone who’s even moderately educated about politics and religion – like, say, a christian politician who wants to be the president of the US – should know what it means. But Sarah? No, she’s downright proud of her ignorant cluelessness.

What’s worse is the way that she’s expressing that cluelessness.

She’s trying to avoid taking any responsibility for the shooting. That’s
fine – she isn’t responsible for the shooting. But the way that she’s doing it is by falsely presenting herself as the victim in this situation. And to make matters worse, she’s doing that by cluelessly presenting herself as the victim of a historic anti-semitic
slur that falsely accuses Jews of being murderers. She’s trying to distance herself from the attempted murder of a Jewish woman by presenting herself as the victim of an anti-Jewish slur.

I can’t help but look at this as a Jew. She’s exploiting our history of repression, our history of being falsely accused, tortured, and murdered in the name of a lie. My family – my great grandfathers – had to leave their homes, and come to this county with nothing but the clothes on their backs – because if they hadn’t, their families would have been murdered in the name of the blood libel. My maternal great-grandfather, who I actually knew when I was a child, was a wealthy tailor in Russia. When he arrived in the US in 1905 with his wife and three children, they had – literally – one nickel, plus the clothes that they were wearing. My paternal grandfather came by himself, without even the nickel. And the people who he left behind died – some in the pogroms he was fleeing; the rest in the holocaust. The things that have happened to me can’t compare – but even in modern America, I’ve had run-ins with the blood libel. I lived in Ohio for four years as a kid, and as a second grader, I had people asking me where we got the blood for our Matzah.

The blood libel isn’t a joke. It’s a big piece of history, which has been the cause of horrific violence. It’s one of the causes of the holocaust. It’s one of the causes of the murderous pograms in Russia. It’s one of the causes of numerous rampages and murders throughout the middle ages in Europe. And it’s used today as a political bludgeon against Israel and the Jewish people.

And Sarah Palin wants to claim that people pointing out that she’d drawn crosshairs on the district of a woman who was shot in the head – a Jewish woman who was shot in the head – is blood libel.

She should be ashamed of herself. But she isn’t. She’ll never even come close to understanding why what she did is so wrong. And she, and her followers, will never even care. Because she’s a pathetic, stupid, small-minded, pig-ignorant, amoral, narcissistic twat – and that’s exactly what her followers like about her.

I am a racist

(Unfortunately, this post has been linked to by a white supremacist site. Instead of providing a forum for their foulness, I’m shutting down comments on this post.)

Unfortunately, I lost the link that inspired this. But I recently saw a post by a conservative about “reclaiming” the word racist. It went on to list a collection of reasons why he was a racist. The gist of it was that all of us dirty liberals were the real racists – because there’s no possible reason for us to support things like affirmative action, welfare, etc., unless we really, deep down, believe that minorities – particularly blacks – are stupid animals incapable of taking care of themselves.

It’s typical bullshit. So I’m responding in my own way. Because, you see, I am a racist. I’m not proud of that fact – but growing up in a deeply racist and sexist culture, you can’t avoid absorbing racist and sexist messages and attitudes into your worldview. And the blogger who inspired this is, like me, a member of the privileged elite. The difference between us is that I at least try to notice the effects of my privilege. I don’t support social justice programs like affirmative action, welfare, and job training because I think that poor black people need help because they’re less smart than me: I think that people like me have unfair advantages that we rarely appreciate, and that everyone deserves the same advantages that I’ve been lucky enough to receive. But however idealistic I am, however commited I am to social justice, the fact remains: I am, to my shame, a racist.

  1. I am a racist – because I never noticed all of the unearned privileges that are given to me until someone pointed them out.
  2. I am a racist – because even after learning about the unearned privileges
    that I recieve, I still don’t notice them.
  3. I am a racist, because I have grown up in a culture that, at every turn, teaches
    me that to be white is to be better, and smarter, and I have absorbed that lesson.
  4. I am a racist, because I instinctively react to members of minorities with fear.
  5. I am a racist, because I live in a sunset town.
  6. I am a racist, because I believe that I deserve the success I
    have, even though I know people who are more smart, capable, and
    talented than I am never had the chances that I did to
    be successful, because of the color of their skin.
  7. I am a racist – because I am a white man who has directly benefited from
    the unfair preferences that have been directed towards me all of my life.
  8. I am a racist – because every day, I benefit from the denial of
    basic privileges to other people.
  9. I am a racist, because I do not notice the things that are denied to people
    who are different from me.
  10. I am a racist, because I do not notice the advantages that I have over
  11. I am a racist, because even when I do manage to notice what is denied
    to people of different races and backgrounds, I don’t speak up.

The point of this isn’t just to do a sort of “walk of shame”. The
point is that I am an incredibly lucky person, who has benefited from
all sorts of things – from where I was born, to the color of my skin,
to the background of my parents, to my gender. I have recieved, and
continue to receive benefits because of those, and many other factors
that have nothing to do with my own merit. And except for
very rare occasions, that goes unremarked, unnoticed.

People like me think of ourselves as the default – as “normal”
people. We consider the incredible advantages that we receive to
be normal, unremarkable. We don’t notice just how much we benefit
from that assumption of our own normality – the benefits we
receive fade into invisibility. We don’t even notice that they exist. And
then when someone who doesn’t get those benefits
has trouble, we naturally blame them for not being as successful as we

The underlying theme of people like the jerk who inspired this
post is: “I made it by myself, without any help. So
they should be able to make it by themselves, without any
help either.”

But that’s bullshit, because none of us “made it by ourselves”. We’re
the beneficiaries of the system we live in.

I grew up in a wealthy town in NJ. We didn’t consider ourselves
wealthy – but by comparison to lots of other people, we really were.
I went to a very good school system. We complained about it a lot:
the textbooks were too old; the equipment in the science labs were too
beaten up; the classes were too easy, and so on.

When I was in college, I got to teach a summer program for top
students from schools in Newark, Camden, and Jersey City. And I
discovered that my students went to schools where they didn’t have to
worry about their books being too old – because they didn’t
have any books. I mean that literally: in their english
classes, they didn’t have books, because their schools had
never been able to buy new books since it opened – and the
books had long since fallen apart. They didn’t complain about the
lousy lab equipment – because their schools had never had
science labs at all. How could people coming from schools like that
possibly hope to compete with students from a school like
mine? I didn’t admitted to college over people from their schools because
I was smarter. I got admitted into college over people from their
schools because I was richer and whiter.

And when my students went to the campus bookstore to buy
basic supplies like paper and pencils, the people who worked there
followed them around the store – because what would a
bunch of poor black kids be doing in a bookstore if they weren’t
there to rob it?

I write this math blog for fun. How did I get the background to do
it? I come from a highly educated family. They taught me to read
before I even started preschool. I’d learned about statistics from my
father when I was in third grade. I learned about algebra in sixth
grade, even though my school didn’t teach it until 8th or 9th. I
learned calculus in my freshman year in high school – even though my
school didn’t teach it until a senior year AP class. I was learning this stuff
long before the school taught it to me; and my parents made sure that
they bought a house in a very expensive school district where there would
be things like AP classes. My parents paid for me to go to college – which gave
me the time to take courses not just because I needed them to graduate,
but because they covered things that I wanted to learn, just for fun.

How could a person from a family that just managed to scrape by,
who lived in a school system that couldn’t afford textbooks for the
basic classes, much less the AP classes, how could they compete with
me? It’s damned close to impossible. Not because they’re any less
smart, or any less talented. But because I’ve had an absolutely
uncountable number of advantages. Every day of my life, I’ve been
given benefits which helped make it possible for me to become who and
what I am. I’m here partially because I’ve worked damned hard
to get here. But that work, by itself, wouldn’t have gotten me to where I am,
without luck and privilege.

People like me need to remember that. We didn’t earn what we have
all by ourselves. We may have earned part of it – but only
part. An awful lot of what we have is built on privilege: on the advantages
that we’ve been given because of race, gender, wealth, and family.

Miscellaneous Post-Election Tidbits

Sorry about the abrupt end to the liveblogging last night; Firefox crashed, and CoverItLive wouldn’t let me log back in as the moderator.

Anyway, it’s a good day to be a liberal. As you all know by now, it was Obama in an absolute landslide. He won by a huge margin in the electoral vote, and by a good margin in the popular vote.

The Democrats also kicked Elizabeth Dole and John Sununu out of the senate, which is wonderful. But they didn’t take enough seats to get
past a filibuster in the Senate. This means that we can expect to see a really dramatic level of obstructionism from the remaining Republicans in the senate. And based on various comments that he made, I think we can count on Holy Joe Lieberman to join in with the right-wingers in blocking the Senate from getting anything done.

There are a few interesting things that I wanted to comment on.

Continue reading

New Hampshire Primary Votes, Election Fraud, and Recounts

After last week’s New Hampshire primaries, I’ve gotten a lot of email requesting my take on the uproar surrounding recounts and voting machines.

For those who haven’t heard, there’s been some chatter
about cheating in the election.
In polls leading up to the election, Barack Obama was
leading by a large margin. But he ended up losing the election to Hillary Clinton by a couple
of percentage points. The argument about fraud centers on the fact that there are two voting
methods used in NH: electronic optical scan machines, and hand-counted paper ballots. In the
districts that used paper ballots, the vote results tended to look more like the poll results –
significant lead for Obama. In districts that used optical scan, the results were strongly in
favor of Clinton. This discrepancy, combined with the pre-election polls, have led some people
to suspect that the Clinton campaign somehow cheated.

So, my take? It doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with the results, but we should do an audited recount anyway.

Continue reading

Censorship == They Won't Work For Me For Free!

Sorry, but as a software guy, I just couldn’t resist mocking the sheer insane
hypocrisy of this.

There’s a right-wing political site out there, called RedState
is serious far-right – constantly bemoaning the nanny-state, the culture of entitlement,
the virtues of personal responsibility, and so on. According to RedState, Social Security
is bad – people should save for their own retirements, not rely on the government to take care of them. Socialized medicine must be avoided at all costs: people should pay for their
own medical insurance, not expect the state to do it for them. And so on.

So, RedState initially set up their state on Scoop. If you don’t know, Scoop is
some software brewed up for a geek-news and discussion site called Kuro5shin. Scoop
is a free software, implemented in Perl, and distributed under that manifesto of
right-wing entepreneurship, the GNU Public License. (For those not in the know, I’m
being sarcastic here. While it’s generally silly to try to attribute political attributes to software licenses, I think it would be reasonable to say that if you characterized open-source licenses in terms of the political spectrum, the GPL would be solidly in the socialist area.)

After running for a while, Scoop wasn’t up to the load. So they switched to
another free package, called Drupal. Drupal is, like Scoop, free, and distributed under the GPL. But Drupal didn’t have as many features as Scoop, which frustrated
the RedState guys. So what does a good, responsible, self-sufficient, entrepreneurial
organization like RedState do when the free software that they’re using isn’t up to the job
that they want it to do?

Naturally: They whine about how no one will fix it for them for free, and how
the unwillingness of people to do free work for them is just a totally unfair
attempt by those nasty rotten liberals to censor them:

The bad news: our liberal “friends” – you know, the ones who believe so strongly in free speech and open debate – have done what they can to prevent us from making these improvements, so that our influence will be minimized just as we head into the 2008 presidential primary season.

No, our Blue State buddies haven’t succeeded in stopping us from improving our website. But they’ve made it more difficult and more expensive – which is why I’m coming to you for help.

Let me explain …

You see, when we started RedState in May of 2004, we used a website program called Scoop — the same program a lot of similar sites on the left used. But, as the number of visitors to our site grew, Scoop kept crashing on us.

If we’d been a liberal website, we would have been able to fix the problem quickly and relatively cheaply. The online left loves Scoop. Unfortunately, there weren’t really any conservative Scoop developers out there to help us. We kept crashing and were out of money. We had to close down or take drastic action.

Well, we didn’t close down. We ditched Scoop and moved to the best alternative at the time, a program called Drupal. But, in accomplishing the switch, budget constraints forced us to sacrifice some popular site features in order to alleviate the strain on our overused servers.

Needless to say, we always regarded those “downgrades” as temporary, and we hoped to restore the eliminated features – and to add new and even better ones – as soon as we could afford to.

Unfortunately, we still can’t afford to. But we’re convinced that America can afford even less to have us operating at anything less than our absolute peak potential during the coming presidential election season.

So we’ve decided to move ahead with our upgrades without delay, and despite not having the cash on hand – hoping and praying that readers like you will help us make up the shortfall with a generous donation.

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Math: Progressive or Reactionary?

A reader sent me a link to this, thinking that it would be of interest to me, and he was absolutely right. I actually needed to let it sit overnight before writing anything because it made me so angry.

I’ve come to realize that probably one reason I struggled with algebra,
geometry, was that it seemed to me that these were basically
reactionary academic disciplines, useful for designing weaponry or
potentially repressive computer technology, but not with any obvious
humanistic or social positive uses.

If I’m wrong about this, I’d appreciate it if people could show me how this
discipline can have progressive uses.

I also feel this could be useful in developing better ways of teaching
higher mathematics if such uses could be found.

Leaving aside the incredible irony of an alleged “progressive” participating in a discussion with a community of people he would never
have been able to reach without the products of that “reactionary” discipline, I have one basic response to this kind of babble.

Math is.

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Law vs. Thuggery: The Execution of Saddam

The big news over the last couple of days has been the execution of Saddam Hussein. I
want to put in my own two cents about it. It’s not math, but it does at least involve a bit of logic.
I wish I could remember who first said this, but I really don’t know. But the important thing,
in a moral sense, about the whole mess with Saddam is that he was a thug. A vicious,
bloodthirsty, sadistic, evil thug who believed that *power* justified itself. *He* was the
strongest thug in Iraq; therefore, according to his own worldview, he got to do whatever he
wanted until someone stronger came along. Rape, torture, murder were all perfectly acceptable
to him – he had the power to do it, therefore he was *allowed* to do it.
We, Americans, claim to not believe in that calculus of power. We claim to believe in
the idea of *law*: a set of fundamental rules that transcend the individual humans who are in positions of power, that limit them and their actions. No matter who you are, no matter how strong you are, no matter how many guns or bombs or soldiers you have, there are some things
that you simple *are not* allowed to do.
And that’s where the problem with the execution of Saddam comes in.
Did he get what any objective observer would call a fair trial? No. The justification
we keep hearing is *”we know he was guilty”*. But that’s not the point: if we really believe in the rule of law, then *even if the accused is obviously, undeniably, unquestionably guilty*, we have to give them a full and fair trial, with the right to hear the evidence against them, confront their accusers, and present their own defense. Not because they *deserve* it – but because **we** require it. The laws, the fundamental rules that
make us different from thugs like Saddam, say that we must do it; if we ignore our laws,
even in the case of an outrageously evil person like Saddam, then we *validate* the things he did, the way he acted.
After the trial is over, and a sentence is selected, the way that the sentence is carried
out is also dictated by laws. Even in the case of a death sentence, there are rules that
must be followed about how the condemned criminal is treated, and about how and when his
execution must be performed.
Under pressure from the American government, the Iraqi government executed Saddam *in violation of their laws concerning executions*. In the execution chamber, being led to his death, the guards spit at him and cursed at him. Witnesses were allowed to bring in cellphone video cameras and tape his execution, and take souvenir photos of his dead body. His execution
was illegal under the law of the land, and it was carried out with the same kind of
spectacle as the executions that he commanded when he was in charge.
Saddam himself summed it up well. On the way to his execution, he said “I am a militant and I have no fear for myself. I have spent my life in jihad and fighting aggression. Anyone who takes this route should not be afraid.” He spent his life as a thug ruling because he had the power to do it. Now we came along, and we were stronger than him. So by his own standards, his own rules, he did nothing wrong. He wasn’t being *punished*; he was simply being killed
because his opponents were stronger than he was. He knew it; everyone who sees the
video of reads the news reports about his execution will know it. He was killed by
a mob of thugs.
We *could* have done something different. We could have given him a fair and open trial,
with all of the charges against him clearly set out, enumerated, and presented with evidence. We could have allowed him to try to defend himself and justify his actions. We could have seen a genuine, fair conviction of him on the basis of public, open evidence. If (as one would expect), the fair trial ended with the sentence of death, we could have executed him in accordance with the law, with the dignity that he denied to his victims, but which is *required* by law.
We could have shown that we were different from him. But we didn’t. In the end, we and the Iraqi government we created acted as a gang of thugs. We allowed Saddam Hussein to die secure in the knowledge that his view of power was correct, and that he was justified in doing
all of the evil things that he did in his life. We *betrayed* everything we claim to stand for, everything we claim to believe, and everything we claimed that this war was meant to bring to the people of Iraq.
It’s a crime. Literally.