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Flip a Coin - A Recovering Physicist's Apology

About Flip a Coin

Previous Entry Flip a Coin Nov. 3rd, 2008 @ 08:16 pm Next Entry
Okay, I know I'm a zealot, but I'm a zealot for the data. I partisan for the analysis. I'm a water carrier for the statistics. I'm a datacrat, and I'm proud of it! The Devil's in the Details, but God is in the Data.

So do this. Take out a coin. Think of anything you hate about Bush, and flip that coin. Heads Obama voted with the President, Tails he voted against. It is really that simple. Obama has voted with President Bush 40-50% of the time (proof here and here). These are not just simple parliamentary votes, this is stuff like the Bush Doctrine, FISA, handgun rights.

This is and has to be a change election. But ask yourself -- I mean this! -- flip that damn coin a few times calling out things that matter to you:

Do we have the right to invade other countries unprovoked? [FLIP]

Does the government have the right to listen to your phone conversations? [FLIP]

Do we need campaign finance/lobbyist reform? [FLIP]

Do gays and lesbians deserve equal rights under the law or are they separate but equal? [FLIP]

Should we further tare down the wall between our government and religion by extending faith based initiatives? [FLIP]

Should we use "clean call" and "limited" off-shore drilling? [FLIP]

Is Justice Scalia right on gun control? [FLIP]

Is Justice Scalia right on the death penalty? [FLIP]

Iraq? [FLIP]

And so on...



Now these are all things Obama AGREES with BUSH on. The coin flip can only improve his record on these issues. Kind of drives home the point, huh? This is the data, and because we know how often Obama votes with the President you can effectively plan out the Obama Presidency in the privacy of your own home with the coin.

The coin is the only change here. Vote for real Change in the form of some third party candidate that best fits your beliefs, not change™ that is at best a coin flip. That is not the change we need, or the change we deserve.

I'll make a deal with all of the Obama supporters out there, if 40-50% deviation from President Bush is "change enough" then I ask you to do this. Take out that coin one last time. Now ask the coin, "Should I vote for Obama?" and flip it, heads you do, tails you don't. Obama supporters claim they are bringing change. They also claim that McCain is the same thing as Bush, which means Obama agrees with McCain 50% of the time. So if 50% chance of change is good enough for you, should it not also be a good enough chance for you to decide your vote? If 50% chance of change, is good enough to run the country, flip the coin, put your vote where your ideology is (where your "good enough" is) -- heads you vote for Obama, tails you vote for a third party candidate.

[FLIP]
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From:djstomp
Date:November 4th, 2008 04:20 am (UTC)
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I can't agree with this at all. No third-party candidate can possibly win this critical election. We had a chance to remove the Republican Party from power in 2004, and we failed. The consequences have been dire. We can't afford to fail again.

I'm not trying to change your vote, but I have to reject with the basis of your argument. The people who want things to change are the ones who are not voting for McCain. If half of them voted for a third party candidate, McCain would win. I must decline your deal.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:November 4th, 2008 11:24 am (UTC)
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It isn't about winning and loosing, it is about change. Things are not going to change under Obama, or, more precisely, things will change no better than the flip of a coin. That is unacceptable to me.

As long as the Democrats can "count" on your vote with no strings attached -- as long as they can yell "change" and offer none and you'll vote for them -- nothing will ever be done. I don't want the government listening to my phone calls, I don't want the United States in Iraq, I believe that gay/lesbian rights are the social crisis of our time.

Unless the democrats understand, clearly and precisely, that they actually have to earn my vote by forwarding my agenda rather than being able to spit in my face, stomp on my rights, and laugh about it with their lobbyist masters, things will not change. Not under an Obama, a Bush, or a McCain Administration.

By declining my coin flip deal, apparently the chance of 50% change is not enough for you either.
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From:djstomp
Date:November 4th, 2008 12:39 pm (UTC)
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No, it is about winning and losing. Things are not going to change under Ralph Nader because he isn't going to get elected, period. There's nothing you or I can do about that.

50% change may be unacceptable to you, but 0% change is unacceptable to me, so I'm voting on that basis.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:November 4th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)
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The Democrats need to be snapped from their stupor somehow, I've called and written letters. I've supported Kucinich. The last thing I can do is vote. If that is what it takes for them to wake up, that is what it takes. They need to be Democrats again. By blindly voting for someone who goes against your views on so many issues -- who votes with Bush 50% of the time -- you are enabling the monopoly of power. You are telling them, trample my rights, trample my gay/lesbian friends' rights, trample the Constitution, vote 50% of the time with the most anti-American president in history, stand for things that sicken and appall me to the core, BECAUSE I'll still vote for you!

If 0% change is unacceptable, at what point do you break? At what point do have the Picard moment and shout, "They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far and no further!" For crying out loud, the government likely listened to you call your parents, your sister, you friends while you were in Japan. They eavesdropped on you for no other reason than they could, and Barrack Obama thinks that's not only okay but it's a real crackerjack idea that we should keep doing. I'm not a one issue voter, but how in the world can you support someone that eavesdropped on you? Obama supports the Bush Doctrine and says we will go into Pakistan, we will go into Syria if the "threat" is there -- even McCain thinks that's crazy. Obama is to the right of John "Bomb-Bomb-Bomb, Bomb-Bomb Iran" McCain in regards to the Bush Doctrine! At what point has it gone too far, at what point do we realize that both parties have failed us in such an epic and unforgivable way that to vote for even 50% deviation is still a validation of 50% their unforgivable madness?

I'm not being flippant. I'm seriously asking, where is the breaking point? For me it is has been crossed, and if I have to "throw my vote away" to prove my point, so be it, the line must be drawn here. This far and no further.
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From:djstomp
Date:November 4th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)
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Now is not the time to snap the Democrats from their stupor. Now is the time to get the power out of the neocon-coopted batshit crazy Republican Party's hands before they run the country into the ground. That's all.

I am not "blindly" voting for anyone. I voted for Obama today because we would be more screwed under McCain. It's not worth proving a point at that cost.

I don't look at this in terms of a breaking point. I'm a pragmatist. I choose the best of the viable options. If it was a choice between 0% improvement or 10% improvement I would be obligated to choose the 10%. You can't change the world in a day.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:November 4th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
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Okay, then let's look at this pragmatically. How has the whole "elect them now, hold them to account later" plan been working out so far? Do you like what the Democratic Congress has and has not done with the country? Even on votes requiring a straight up or down majority? Realistically speaking, how are we supposed to elect people that either claim to and then do not or simply do not represent our beliefs outright and then bemoan, "HOLD MY BELIEFS SACRED!"?

There will always be boogiemen. Neo-cons are scary as hell, but they are going to be scary as hell next election too, and the election after that, and the election after that. If you are voting out of fear of the them you will never vote FOR a candidate. The Dems will never be woken up, because the boogiemen might get into power. And with respect, statistically now is the perfect time to vote for Nader. The Dems will increase their lead in both houses of Congress and, statistically, divided governments legislate to the middle, so even with McCain in office he will not be able push through a crazy Neo-con agenda(assuming he wants to given his voting record pre-post courting the base). Unless (of course) you don't trust the Dems to stand up for what they should believe in and would let a McCain presidency run rough shot over them. In which case the notion that you can elect a group now and hold them to account later fails outright.

I know it will not happen over night. I know Nader will not win this election. But I believe in the long run voting for people like Nader/Green Party will tip the scales back towards rationality. Your view of pragmatism fails in this case because it lacks a long term strategy. If you are always voting for which candidate is better at that instance there is no guarantee that the overall quality of the candidates will improve over time. For example, Clinton (decent) to Gore (bad) to Kerry (worst). Where I would say that I am also a pragmatist in that I take the long view that it isn't so much about the two guys running right now (because both of whom kind of suck) it is about next time and the time after that. I want the quality of my candidates to IMPROVE, even if that means that there are immediate consequences. Change, even from worse to better, is not always easy.
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From:djstomp
Date:November 4th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
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You keep taking what I say about this election and projecting it to all elections, as though I'm arguing for ALWAYS voting Democratic. I don't think that's fair.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:November 4th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
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I don't see how your voting strategy will not output a democratic vote in nearly all elections (certainly on the federal level). It seems to me for the immediate future the Dems will always be better than the Reps (however marginally). Because you vote for who is better at that moment in that race, it seems you will always be locked into voting for the Dem. because they are slightly better than Republicans. Also you seem to consider the electability of a president as a quality of measuring how "good" a candidate they are. Considering that dems are better than reps and that there will likely not be a highly electable third party candidate anytime soon, I do not understand under what circumstances based on this philosophy that you could vote for anyone but the democrat.
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From:djstomp
Date:November 5th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
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This whole time, I've been talking about voting for Obama in this election to get the Republicans out of executive power now. This isn't an overarching strategy. It's simply my conclusion that the country and the world will continue to get worse if Republican "leadership" continues. We can't take it forever. It has to stop at some point; I suggest now.

In no way is this meant to apply to all elections. Neocons are not lurking boogeymen - they are in power now and ruining the world. In the future, maybe the Republican party will swing away from neoconservatism. That would be great. Right now, I don't care. Pragmatism requires balancing long-term and short-term concerns, and there won't necessarily be a long term if we don't dig ourselves out of the mess we're in in the short term.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:November 5th, 2008 01:20 am (UTC)
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Okay, fair enough. I get it now. Then let's talk about right now.

McCain has voted with the President:
95% of the time this year (while courting the crazy base vote)
77 of the time in 2005
67% of the time in 2001 (link above)

I cannot forgive McCain for scrambling to the Right (just as I cannot forgive Obama for doing the same), but I am not completely convinced McCain would continue to kowtow to them if in office. His record suggests he may be using them because he needs them. PERHAPS NOT. Regardless, combined with the fact that the Dems will control Congress, McCain's ability to govern from the far right will be greatly limited. I'm not saying McCain would be better than Obama (he wouldn't), but I'm not necessarily convinced of the premise that Neocons would be large and in charge based solely on McCain in the executive branch.

Also keep in mind the perceived pottery barn rule. If the economy continues to fall (which it may regardless of McCain or Obama's plans -- because it is that broken) the ownership of the "fall" will be laid at the feet of the ruling party. That might not be fair (depending on if the Reps or Dems are in office at the time), but that tends to be the way it is. So if the Democrats are elected in a tsunami and they can't fix this (and I honestly believe they might not be able to) there may be such a huge backlash against the party in 2012 that the Republicans are right back in. Voting for the Democrats now may due more to set back the party in the very next election. That might be too long term, but it is something to consider.

Yes, Obama would be better than McCain, but I believe "throwing my vote away" for Nader would be better than either. I agree with you when you say that pragmatism requires balancing long and short term goals, the problem is I don't think Obama leads us out of the pit in (enough of?) a meaningful way, so the only thing I can do is help position a candidate that will be able to get us out of this mess. When neither guy can get it done in the present, I can only try and setup an optimized future.
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From:whoishe
Date:November 4th, 2008 04:42 am (UTC)
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Why not... it's not like voting for a third-party candidate ever ruined the world or anything... oh... wait...

Eight years of Bush. That's what the last third-party candidate got us. But, hey, it's not like Gore would've been any better, huh?

Voting for a third-party candidate is voting for Change That Will Never Happen. Which, by the way, is the same as voting for the status quo. Some radicalism.

I'll make a deal with you. Take out your coin. Ask it, "should I vote for a third-party candidate?" Flip it. Then throw the coin away, because that's exactly what you'll be doing with your vote if you vote for a third-party candidate in this election. Then come on back to reality, and vote for Obama.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:November 4th, 2008 12:39 pm (UTC)
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If you have the stomach for it, rewatch the 2nd debate between Gore and Bush, where Gore says, "Ohhh I agreeee with gobernor Buuush" something like 42 times. Remember that 2000 Gore was not the sexy awesome Al Gore of today, he was a tool and a chump. The man was an idiot, remember when they asked him his favorite ice cream and he froze fearing he would alienate cookies 'n' cream fans? Pathetic. It is not Ralph Nader's fault that Gore LOST HIS HOME STATE of Tennessee. How hard is it to loose your home state? You show up, tell an amusing anecdote about eating roadkill and playing in a jug band, and go home. Gore NEVER campaigned in his own state, NOT ONCE. He NEVER allowed Clinton to campaign in Arkansas (where he was still wildly popular). The notion that Nader "cost" Gore the election is patently and statistically absurd. Gore cost Gore the election.

But let us assume for a moment that Nader DID cost Gore the election. Why then have the Democrats failed to court the Nader vote? We don't ask for anything out of the question - corporate accountability, our 4th Amendment rights, justice for all, end to the Patriot Act. Yet the Democrats don't come knocking on our door, they don't forward our agenda. One would think that a little strange since we (and apparently we alone) have the power to topple such mighty figures as then sitting VP Al Gore who was presiding over the best US economy ever. You'd think Dems would be a little more concerned with the all powerful Nader voters. And yet...

Also consider that Nader is never allowed to debate, which, again, is mystifying. To be allowed into the debates you have to be considered "significant" I'd say that, being the "spoiler of 2000", makes you pretty significant. And yet...

Why it's almost as if the Democratic leadership don't actually believe the line about Nader costing Gore the election!

Democrats cannot have it both ways. Nader cannot be "too marginalized to debate" YET "cost Al Gore the election". Nader voters cannot be "not worth the time to forward their agenda" YET "cost Al Gore the election".

As long as my voice is never heard, my rights will never change. As long as my vote can be "counted" on blindly, willingly, cheerfully, I will never get my 4th Amendment Rights back, we will continue the Bush Doctrine, Patriot Act, death penalty, the Imperial Presidency, and the privatizing wealth but socializing risk. The fact is I'd rather "throw my vote away" on Ralph Nader than vote for half a Bush, but if 50% Bush is "good enough" for you then throw your vote away on Obama.
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From:superpastelgirl
Date:November 4th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
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I understand and respect your point of view. If people happily settle for less than all of what they want, there is no pressure to make those with power give them what they want. Yet, if we refuse to ever compromise, then we get nothing. There is the trade off. Every single decision we make throughout our lifetimes is a trade-off, from the most arbitrary to the most important. If you are a crab who eats snails, you have to decide "do I eat this small snail which is right in front of me, or do I keep looking for a snail which is bigger and the more ideal meal for me?" Most liberals have looked at the trade-off between sacrificing some of our ideals in order to have some of them fulfilled (like reproductive freedom, for instance, or having a time line to get out of Iraq, or health care reform), and decided that we are willing to compromise. We will eat the small snail instead of starving for the next four years, even if that means we've destroyed our chances of finding any better snails. But some crabs wont settle. Sometimes, if the snails are small enough, this is the better foraging strategy. But not right now. 50% is still a lot of the time.
Also, I voted for Obama because I believe in his power as an icon. We need to end divisiveness in this country, and he HAS undeniable unifying power. Some of the greatest leaders were only great because they could get people who disagreed to work together towards a common goal. Whether I agree with him or not (which luckily I mostly do) he is the only candidate who has any hope of doing this. He has made people who don't normally care start to give a shit. His ability to do that is why he has a chance of leading us in a new direction (even if it's only a 50% change from the direction we are traveling, that's still like walking North instead of East and it will definitely take you somewhere else), and why I'm really hoping he will be president-elect at the end of the day.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:November 4th, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
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I can understand compromise and I support it. I also understand trade-offs. But, at the same time, as much as minutia can be exchanged and debated, certain core principles cannot. To do so violates the notion of human rights. I believe very strongly in the notion of unalienable rights. I - not as a US citizen, but as a human being - have the unalienable right to never suffer the indignity of an unreasonable search. That right comes not from my government, but from god, evolution, the nature of the universe, the collective goodness of the human spirit whatever you want to call it. That inalienable right cannot be bartered with, it must simply exist. It cannot be compromised, even if I wanted to. Because the right is not "mine" to give out, it is intrinsic to the universe. It is not a personal motto, it is a law of nature as concrete as F=ma. And as long as we entertain the idea that it is morally justifiable that our government can trample our inalienable rights, we run the risk of loosing personhood. And any that would trample that right, are wicked. I do not mean that in the cartoonish way that I often state these things on my blog, nor do I imply some form of intended malice on the part of the trampler, but make no mistake about it, to move against inalienable rights is a wicked thing. Any that support what was done (and continues to be done) under FISA is wicked.

I hear what you are saying about compromise, there is a place for that -- whether we should get our troops out of Iraq in 16 days to 16 years is something that can be compromised on. But the basic core of the argument, that we should bring our troops home is not something that should be played with, compromised with, ceded. I did not vote for Obama because I disagree with his policies (there is room for debate there), I voted against him because he treads upon my rights and my idiology and (in essence) my very personhood. Every person has the right to marry whom they choose. Every person has the right to not be eavesdropped upon. No country has the right to invade another because it is "scared". These are not things that CAN be compromised, these are absolute truths. This isn't should I eat the big snail or the little snail, it's do snails exist at all?

As for his icon status, I agree and truly hope that the horrible and deeply shameful attacks that McCain and Palin have put out, bolstered by their echo machine, and hate filled crowds have not so poisoned the well that none can take a drink. I hope that he is a unifying figure, but based on some of the irrational and vile hatred I hear from people about Obama, I fear for his personal safety and his ability to unify.
From:ext_81739
Date:November 6th, 2008 08:38 am (UTC)

conflation

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Andrew, don't you think you're oversimplifying the significance of individual congressional votes? Specifically, I find faulty your apparent premise that voting for a bill entails agreement with everything in said bill. Besides which, are there not plenty of mundane votes that aren't terribly significant? Votes where it is barely more than coincidence that Bush supported them? As a Texan I'll be the first to assert that Bush is either dastardly or an idiot or both, but he's not such evil incarnate that every bill he favors is purely corrosive to our country. I certainly don't disupute that Obama's voting record has its nicks and tarnishes and areas wanting, but that hardly equates to "agrees with Bush on 50% of issues".

I had hoped to find a similar analysis for others, for comparison, but I appear to have failed. Regardless, one data point (or two, with McCain) isn't terribly useful. What are Kucinich's figures, or Hagel, or Snowe, or Clinton?
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From:biggrumpy
Date:November 7th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC)

Re: conflation

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McCain voting with Bush 90-95% of the time thing has been used by the Obama campaign constantly (particularly in the swing state of Ohio) to justify that McCain is virtually identical to Bush. So, yeah, I should have made it explicitly clear, by the Obama camps reasoning, Obama is 50% Bush.

I also realize the Senate passes some pretty frivolous stuff and that voting with Bush does not necessarily equate to thinking like Bush (just as contained within the 5% votes that McCain voted a different way may encompass all the important legislation where everything else might have been silly up or down votes on the deliciousness of cake). By showing Obama's pretty scary record, I hoped to show that he has agreed with the President on some pretty fundamentally anti-American things and has voted "with Bush" not on bills proclaiming the cuteness of kittens, but on Fourth Amendment rights.
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