State GOP chair Tony Sutton’s faulty logic

“Something doesn’t smell right when you take control of the state house; you take control of the state senate; you win in the 8th Congressional District, and yet, somehow we don’t win the governor’s race.”

—Minnesota Republican Party chairman Tony Sutton*

I was planning to avoid much commentary on this year’s election, but I’m even more of a math/logic nerd than I am a liberal/progressive, and while I can (almost) shut my mouth about the Tea Party movement, I can’t let this glaringly erroneous logic go uncorrected.

First, Sutton makes two unfounded assumptions:

1. Supporters of Republican state house and senate candidates couldn’t possibly — possibly! — also vote for Mark Dayton.

2. Those same supporters of Republican state house and senate candidates couldn’t possibly — possibly!!!! — vote for Independence Party candidate Tom Horner for governor rather than Tom Emmer.

Let’s just talk math. Let’s go with that unfounded assumption that anyone who voted for a Republican for the state house would also necessarily vote for Tom Emmer, and anyone who voted for a Democrat for the state house would likewise necessarily vote for Mark Dayton. We’ll ignore the state senate and third-party candidates for now.

Let’s assume three house districts, each with 10,000 voters. And let’s assume the vote breakdown went something like this:

District GOP House DFL House Tom Emmer Mark Dayton
District 1 5,500 (55%) 4,500 (45%) 5,500 (55%) 4,500 (45%)
District 2 5,100 (51%) 4,900 (49%) 5,100 (51%) 4,900 (49%)
District 3 1,500 (15%) 8,500 (85%) 1,500 (15%) 8,500 (85%)
Statewide Total 12,100 (40.3%) 17,900 (59.7%)

In this scenario, the GOP house candidates narrowly won districts 1 and 2, while the DFL house candidate overwhelmingly won district 3. Still, the GOP outnumbers the DFL in this fictional 3-seat house by 2 to 1. And yet, the citizens in these three districts, all voting straight party tickets, handed Mark Dayton a decisive 59.7% majority victory in the statewide governor’s race.

This is fictional, simplified, and exaggerated, but it proves my point. And yes, I do believe that there’s some accuracy to this kind of breakdown. There are a few “deep red” districts in the state and a few very “deep blue” ones (mostly in the metro area), but most are fairly close to the middle.

In the actual vote, for instance, let’s compare two counties with roughly equal populations: St. Louis (home of Duluth) and Olmsted (home of Rochester). In St. Louis County, Mark Dayton received 61.8% of the vote; Tom Emmer, 28.6%. In Olmsted County, Tom Emmer received 45.9% of the vote; Mark Dayton 37.9%. So Mark Dayton “won” St. Louis County and Tom Emmer “won” Olmsted County. But saying either candidate “won” a particular county is irrelevant; this is a statewide office, and statewide totals are all that matters.

All it takes is a few districts with a very high proportion of Democrats to Republicans, and a lack of correspondingly skewed districts to compensate, and it’s quite easy, even imagining all voters voting a straight party ticket, to arrive at a scenario where the Republicans score a decisive takeover of the state legislature while still electing a Democratic governor (a statewide office).

UoP’s Greatest Hits

In the spirit of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” I will refrain from writing about last night’s midterm election results, except to say, “Don’t blame Minneapolis.” Also, to quote Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, “If you survive, please come again.” The next two years will either prove or disprove the merits of the Tea Party movement, and if we’re lucky we’ll still be around in two years to start cleaning up the mess.

OK, I knew I couldn’t avoid saying something snarky about it, but that’s it. No more. Let’s move on to something fun… ME! I’m taking a look back at the top 10 posts on Underdog of Perfection, based on the number of hits they’ve received according to WordPress stats. Without further ado… I present the all-time top 10 Underdog of Perfection posts to date.

OK, just a little further ado: here’s a chart of my hit count over the past month.

And now the list…

10. Mechanically-separated chicken or soft serve ice cream? You be the judge.

January 17, 2009 — When the gross picture of mechanically-separated chicken exploded as a full-fledged meme last month, as part of a factually challenged story hyping the dangers of the stuff (come on… you don’t need to make up stuff like “bathed in ammonia”; the truth is bad enough), I immediately recognized the picture as one I had seen about a year before. As I recalled, I had seen it on next to a strawberry soft serve. I had forgotten that I had created that “totally looks like” image, which apparently is no longer available on that site, but is still on mine. Hence, traffic!

9. Best Google Doodle yet

June 6, 2009 — Ah, that would be the Tetris Google Doodle. But I suspect that every time there’s a new Google Doodle, someone googles “Best Google Doodle yet” and finds this post. Traffic!

8. Honda Fit iPod controls: when something is worse than nothing

August 23, 2009 — Rants are always good for some hits, especially when it’s something other people are annoyed by too. The fact is, the Honda Fit iPod controls suck, and Honda doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, so I suspect as each model year is introduced, this post will generate more… traffic!

7. Migrating from CakePHP 1.2 to 1.3: My Story (Part One of… Possibly More than One)

May 16, 2010 — Writing about technical issues surrounding web development is one of the ostensible purposes of this blog, especially since I went freelance, so it’s gratifying to see my fellow developers relying on me for information, on those rare occasions when I actually have some to share. Thanks for the traffic! (I really didn’t set out to end each of these with the word “traffic” but it seems now that I am destined to do so. Um… traffic.)

6. This is what I wanted all along

October 27, 2010 — Being just a week old, this may be the fastest ascension of any post I’ve written to date. I suspect a lot of that has to do with the timeliness of the topic, but given the vague and keyword-free title (take that, SEO strategists!), the most logical explanation for its popularity is surely the conscious effort I made to promote it. Near the end of the post I make reference to the review of the MacBook Air by Jason Snell for Macworld. I also tweeted an announcement of the post, and stuck in an @jsnell, both in honest appreciation of his review, but also in the somewhat crass hope that he would retweet it. Which he (and several others, most notably Michael Gartenberg) did. Boom! Traffic!

5. Brooks Brothers: what’s up with the sheep?

July 25, 2007 — I’m glad some of these “random observation” posts are generating traffic. I believe I’ve spent a grand total of less than 5 minutes of my life inside Brooks Brothers stores, but I’ve pondered their bizarre logo for much longer, and the fact that others have too has brought my blog significant traffic.

4. Why does Safari 4 Beta take SOOOOO LOOOONG to start up? Am I the only one having this problem?

March 1, 2009 — I kind of wish some of these posts would stay buried. Three of the top four all-time posts on my blog are related to issues with Apple products, specifically, issues with early releases and/or beta software. People continue to visit these posts long after they’ve become irrelevant. Seriously, Safari 4 Beta? It’s currently up to version 5.0.2! Please, this post needs no more traffic!

3. Dog inequality in Walt Disney’s world

November 18, 2008 — And then there are posts like this one. Awesome. I love the fact that this has resonated with so many people. Goofy + Pluto = Traffic.

2. Solution for the iPhone Facebook problem

June 8, 2009 — Here’s another post pertaining to early software, and one that’s way past its sell-by date. Here, from an SEO perspective, we have an interesting case study: a keyword-laden but still generic title. What iPhone Facebook problem? The post was referring to the dilemma of iPhone users who were stuck with the then-crappy iPhone Facebook app or the then-crappy iPhone-optimized Facebook mobile site. The best option at the time, in my opinion, was the non-iPhone mobile site, but Facebook had a redirect built into that site that would automatically take iPhone users to the inferior iPhone mobile site. I found a way around that, and shared it in the post.

This is not really relevant anymore, but now any time there is any kind of problem with iPhones and Facebook, this post sees a surge in traffic.

1. Disabling the pinch-zoom feature on the new MacBook

March 9, 2009 — I’m always a bit annoyed when I look at my stats and see this post near (or at) the top. To me it’s a long-dead issue, but apparently not. I just showed this solution to SLP yesterday, so the problem still persists, and whenever I get a new Mac or reinstall my software, I have to remember to go in and deal with this again.

I don’t know whether or not I’m in the minority of Mac users here, though I suspect not, but I do not like the multitouch features of the MacBook trackpad. The only one I use is two-finger scrolling. That’s nice, but the rest are just an unwanted nuisance. I forget they even exist until I trigger them accidentally when I’m trying to do something else. Then I have to dig into System Preferences again and turn them off. Apple may love multitouch, and it’s great on iOS devices, but clearly there’s some distaste for it on the Mac, which for me means traffic.

P.S. You may notice a logical inconsistency here: the rankings in this list — specifically, the placement within the rankings of #10 and #6 — don’t jibe with the chart I showed at the top. That’s because most of the traffic driven to my site in the wake of the mechanically-separated chicken meme went to the home page, for whatever reason, not directly to the post. In which case those visitors would have completely missed the mark. In short, it’s a failure both for Google and WordPress Stats. Great job!

There’s an easily misinterpreted map for that

I’ve been meaning to write about Verizon’s “There’s a map for that” commercials since I first saw them, but now that AT&T is suing, this seems like a good time to remedy my oversight.

The issue AT&T has with the maps in this commercial is, in my opinion, a legitimate one: Verizon’s entire network is 3G, so the gaps on the red map really are gaps. But AT&T maintains a large 2G (EDGE) network, in addition to its rather spotty 3G network. So the white parts of the AT&T map don’t necessarily represent dead zones for AT&T customers.

But there’s another issue with this map, and it’s the same problem I have with election result maps: the U.S. population is not evenly distributed across the physical landscape. It certainly looks bad that AT&T offers no 3G service anywhere in the four-state region of Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. But the collective population of those states is under 3 million — representing about 1% of the total U.S. population — distributed over 393,000 square miles — representing 10.4% of total U.S. land area. That’s less people than in the St. Cloud/Twin Cities/Rochester blob of blue across east-central Minnesota in the map, and it’s far less than the over 4 million people in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn — an area under 100 square miles.

So, as I’ve said before while studying election maps, the colored areas don’t really tell the true story. Maybe AT&T has a lot of gaps in its map, but there aren’t very many people in those gaps, either.

Now, this is not to go too far in defense of AT&T in this situation. I haven’t had any significant problems with AT&T’s 3G coverage in Minneapolis (although I have noticed my iPhone occasionally dropping down to the EDGE network — a situation that reminds me of Mitch Hedberg’s joke about escalators), but as the Engadget article notes, there are apparently major problems with their network in the most densely-populated areas of the country — San Francisco and New York.

Perhaps the most interesting thing for me in this article, though, is the following claim from AT&T:

Verizon’s misleading advertising tactics appear to be a response to AT&T’s strong leadership in smartphones. We have twice the number of smartphone customers… and we’ve beaten them two quarters in a row on net post-paid subscribers. We also had lower churn — a sign that customers are quite happy with the service they receive.

It’s no secret that much of AT&T’s recent success, especially where smartphones are concerned, is due solely to the iPhone. And it’s also no secret that it’s the iPhone hardware/software combo, not AT&T’s service, that iPhone owners are overwhelmingly satisfied with. Consider AT&T’s exclusive rights to the iPhone, and that pretty much negates any value in AT&T’s claim to customer satisfaction.

Were we really once so easily amazed?

Technology has come a long way since the ’80s. I remember this commercial. I don’t remember it seeming so utterly stupid. Maybe that’s because I was only about 10 when it originally aired. Or maybe it’s because back then this was cutting-edge.

All I know is, the phrase “sneaker phone” sounds way more natural to me than it should. I guess this commercial embedded itself in my subconscious all those years ago, permanently tainting my worldview.

Source: Merlin Mann

Update: 1991? Holy crap. Yeah, I didn’t watch it far enough when I first posted this to hear the voice-over guy say, in a semi-lewd tone, “the revealing 1991 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue” (cue whistles). Since that comes out in February (or so I’m told), that would mean this commercial is most likely from 1990 or very early 1991, meaning I was 16 when it aired. You’d think by then I’d have been old enough, or at least jaded adolescent enough, to see how utterly stupid it was. Maybe.