Tag Archives: politics

How to Fix America Part 1: Election and Campaign Reform

It’s becoming apparent to me that if we ever want to fix the many serious problems of this nation, we must elect the President and Congress in a more fair and inclusive way where they actually represent their constituents.  The following is a list of what I think are common-sense solutions that would fix federal campaigns and elections so that these elected officials might actually be capable of doing the job that we sent them to do.  Please share.

  1. Election day must be a federal holiday.  All states must allow same-day voter registration.
    Every citizen should be encouraged and able to vote.
  2. No state may hold a party primary earlier than four months before federal elections.
    End the constant campaigning.
  3. All candidates for federal election may take only public financing and individual donations no more than $1000 per candidate per election.
    No more bought politicians.
  4. Congress will have term limits.  Senators may serve no more than three full terms (18 years).  Representatives may serve no more than five full terms (ten years).
    End the reigns of career politicians.
  5. Presidents are elected by popular vote, not Electoral College.
    No more elections decided by swing states.
  6. Congressional redistricting must be done by an impartial computer algorithm that only takes population into account and not demographics. or
    End gerrymandering.

† Requires federal law ‡ Requires laws in all states ♦ Requires constitutional amendment

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged | Leave a comment

Snake crunches more numbers

(Any excuse to make a spreadsheet.)

Since the election is over (as predicted, Obama landslide–yes, I am a happy snake) and I’m now lacking my daily dose of poll data, I’ve turned to crunching other data to support my statistical addiction. Obviously, the first data I looked at was the final election results so I could update my “blue shift” map. Naturally, this led to an examination of the differences between my previous map (from the last blog post), which used predictions based on polls, and the final results. The map this data produced basically only shows where polls were over- and understating support for a candidate. While I was at it (and because it was trivial to drop new data into my SVG generator program), I generated maps for the 2004 and 2008 final presidential election results. All four maps follow–click for the full image, obviously.

The aspect that jumps out the most in the first image (Blue Shift) is how Arkansas is the only state shifting decidedly more Republican; Louisiana and some other adjacent states are also slightly more red or neutral. As I alluded to last time, it appears that the demographics in these states are such that: A. there was profound white prejudice/misinformation against Obama and B. there wasn’t enough black/minority support to overcome this.

The poll performance map is even more interesting. Immediately, North Dakota and Wyoming stand out as performing way better for McCain than expected–I’m going to attribute these two to the limited number of polls. It’s also likely that Rhode Island, Vermont, and Hawaii fall into that same category except in the Democratic direction. Arkansas, as previously discussed, also under-performed prominently for Obama. But I think the biggest conclusion we can draw from this map can be seen if we look at the bigger picture. The Southeast and Central states are all mostly under-performers for Obama, while the western states over-performed (in general). Perhaps, when they get in the polling booth, rural westerners are generally more open-minded and less bigoted (and thus more accepting of a black president) than rural southerners? It could also say something about the turnout regionally. More information is required before we can make a decisive conclusion, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

It occurs to me that the maps aren’t particularly useful for seeing specific results. I considered rectifying that at one point but decided that the purpose of the maps was mainly to compare states to each other, which the maps do quite well. However, if you want to see the data I used, I uploaded the spreadsheet here (Excel 2002 format).

More recently, I’ve been studying the visitor demographics for my site–pondering my precarious IE support and wishing IE6 would just go away already. Though sadly, the data suggests that IE6 usage will persist. It’s like the herpes of web development. Anyways, I collected the data using this site’s raw logs, counting only distinct IPs for a particular browser (i.e. multiple hits are filtered out). Then, I made some pretty charts in Excel to show off the results. Nothing is really surprising here, but… it’s interesting nonetheless. 😉 Charts below.

As a status update, I’ve been working on my Deus Ex guide again and… yes… it’s almost complete 😮 . And I’ve only had to play DX what must be 12 times over 7 years to write it! I’m not complaining, though. Really, it feels like the definitive guide to Deus Ex on the internet and I’m quite proud. Look for an updated GameFAQs version soon.

Also, I’m working on a massive overhaul of the SnakeByte content system which will feature tabviews (emulated with clever HTML, DOM, JavaScript, and CSS, of course), more images, changelog support, and even some AJAX. It’s about 75% complete as of this post, with expected completion before the end of the year.

Posted in Website | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

SnakeByte Studios Endorses Obama-Biden

The election will surely be a landslide for the Democrats with this crucial endorsement!

But seriously, I’ve been behind Obama since the primaries. My decision is based on his keen intellect, technological prowess, and inspirational charisma (and you know, the fact that I’m a Democrat). I often wonder how anyone in my field can even support McCain, who can barely use a computer, versus the young, ambitious, and intellectual spirit of most programmers that is embodied in Barack Obama.

I normally wouldn’t discuss politics on my website and have continually shaken off the urge to do so recently, but the fast yet seemingly endless approach of the presidential election has gotten me so excited that I’ve turned into a political junkie over the past few months. Every morning, I scour the web for hot political news; every evening, I’m fixed to MSNBC’s line-up; and every waking hour, I’m watching for new poll data. It’s gotten so bad, that I’m starting to do programs and spreadsheets with election data.

Friday, I randomly decided to start crunching numbers on the differences in spread between the 2004 election and 2008 election predictions. I grabbed the predictions with a Regex on Pollster.com‘s fine poll trend data and the results from the Federal Election Commission for 2004 and mashed them together in Excel to get the spreads. Then, I got the crazy idea of seeing the data visually. So from there, I made a VB.Net script to take the data and decide what color to make a state (with the typical Blue equals more Democratic and Red equals more Republican) by adjusting hue, saturation, and luminance. Unfortunately, the linear hue equation made the map mostly purple, which didn’t convey the key point that the country is turning Democratic this cycle. So I switched to a logarithmic hue equation that would keep the purples towards the very center. For any interested, here’s the code I used to find the colors. (Where “x” is positive for more Democratic and negative for more Republican.)

Dim MaxDemHue As Integer = 147 'hue when input is MaxShift in the democratic direction
Dim MaxRepHue As Integer = 255 'hue when input is MaxShift in the republican direction
Dim MaxSat As Integer = 255 'saturation when input is MaxShift
Dim MinSat As Integer = 160 'saturation when input is 0
Dim MaxLum As Integer = 92 'luminance when input is MaxShift
Dim MinLum As Integer = 207 'luminance when input is 0
Dim CenterHue As Integer = ((MaxRepHue - MaxDemHue) / 2) + MaxDemHue 'hue when input is 0
Dim MaxShift As Integer = 40 'the max spread in either direction

Dim HueShift As Double = ((MaxShift * 0.262) * Math.Log(Math.Abs(x))) + 3.9138
If HueShift > 0 Then HueShift = 0 'possible that it could go negative with log
hsl.H = CenterHue - (Math.Sign(x) * HueShift)
hsl.S = ((Math.Abs(x) / MaxShift) * (MaxSat - MinSat)) + MinSat
hsl.L = ((Math.Abs(x) / MaxShift) * (MaxLum - MinLum)) + MinLum

Initially, I manually put the state colors into an image. This proved to be a bit time-consuming, so I moved to a vector art format called SVG that, because it’s merely XML, can be changed programmatically. With each state shape having a unique ID, I can just XPath to it in code and Regex change the color. Now the results.

Looking at the map, it seems quite clear that indeed the majority of the country is trending Democratic this year. Most of the states are 5 to 10% more for Obama than they were for Kerry. There are some notable exceptions, though. The northeastern states are surprisingly not much more Democratic (or even more Republican in the case of Massachusetts and Rhode Island); I’m guessing this is because they already turned out very strongly for Kerry last election. Similar to Mass. is Arizona, where McCain has the home-team advantage. That leaves Tennessee and Arkansas as the only other states not trending more Democratic, which may be explained by racial factors and population demographics.

Just for the hell of it, I also plugged the raw prediction data into my script to produce a map with a bit more information than the standard electoral ones you see floating around.

news273I’ve worked on the new version of Cursor Lock recently and a release is eminent (hope I didn’t say that last time I mentioned Cursor Lock). A new installer is already made and all the known bugs are fixed, so there’s just the matter of documentation left. If I can peel myself away from the polls, I’ll hopefully have the new release done before November 4th.

Posted in Programming | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment