Before I watch Survivor…

I briefly want to mention a few “do the math” things that I think have been misrepresented or ignored by the mainstream media. Sorry if this is sloppy; I've had a week off from writing!

“Bush won, get over it”

A lot of people, Democrat and Republican, seem to have the opinion that Kerry backed off, so we should just walk away from the election and not ask too many questions about whether it was rigged or otherwise inaccurate.

Here's what we know (just for starters): Some regions counted backward or inverted votes (more), granted extra votes to Bush (more), added thousands of voters and cooked the surrounding records (more), had huge numbers of provisional ballots (more), and generally had statistically anomalous results (more). While the fact that the majority of these “errors” worked in favor of Bush should be deeply troubling, without raising the specter of a coup, what these errors show us is disturbing: the margin of error on vote counts was very high, possibly in the realm of 10-15% nationally.

What the above means, in the clearest of terms, is that the margin of error on this election is far greater than the actual margin between the two candidates. Meaning that even without fraud, the results are not meaningful and Bush did not win. Neither did Kerry. You'd have as much luck saying who won as you would flipping a coin in the dark and announcing the winner without ever seeing that coin land.

“Stupid red states”

First of all, the margin that separated red and blue in nearly every state was far larger than the above margin of error (see above). More importantly though, the margins were so close in almost all regions that calling a state red (or blue) is effectively bigotry, making hugely incorrect characterizations because of a very slim statistical difference. Maybe 1% more “red staters” voted Bush than the “blue staters” did — and that's far from a declarative statement in its wishy-washiness. The political makeup of Americans is delineated by education and related issues far more so than geography, which makes up such a slim demographic difference to be almost meaningless (more).

“Terrorism is not linked to poverty”

I've been seeing this study tossed around lately talking about how the poorest countries aren't terrorist nations, claiming to debunk the theory that poverty is related to terrorism (thus green-lighting economically destructive policy). Various people have drawn various conclusions, but they're drawing those conclusions on cooked data, since GDP per capita, which the study uses as its primary measure of poverty, is wholly inaccurate.

Let me explain. If Rachel has 401 apples (lots!), Nefarious has one apple, Jon has one apple, and I have one apple (not very many!), then together we have 404 apples. The “average” person in my family owns 101 apples (seems pretty good?), and as a statistic that is true. However, what that statistic doesn't show is that one very wealthy person has 401 apples, and the poor minions have but one a piece.

GDP is the same kind of average — in developing nations that have Western construction and mining and oil companies working there a la Halliburton, a small number of people become incredibly wealthy, while the remaining population gets far poorer, but average wealth increases, even though the standard of living for the majority has gone down (“majority” and “average” are not the same word). It's that wealth gap and the problems that come with it that cause terrorism, so yes, terrorism is in fact related to poverty (more), and a poor nation with a growing GDP is exactly where one should expect terrorism.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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