Do Bellweathers Exist?

On Nate Silver’s election live blog, he points out “In every presidential election since 1960, the candidate who prevailed in Florida’s Hillsborough County, home to Tampa, has also prevailed in Florida”

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Can Elections Be Fair?

Imagine the United States had only three states, Texas, California and Florida. Suppose each of these states sent 10 delegates to the electoral college. Suppose, also, that each of these states is a swing state – the polls show 50% support for either candidate, so the result depends on tiny swings within each state.

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First Presidential Debate

Here’s a summary of what Obama and Romney said on education during the first Presidential debate. I first posted this information as a sequence of tweets.

It supports what I wrote earlier – educators should vote Democrat this election, because Obama has a vision of education building a core of strength into the USA, but Romney gives education little thought.

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Should Educators Vote Democrat Or Republican?

Some time ago, I got statements from Team Obama and Team Romney about their policies on education. In each case, I received what is no doubt a pre-drafted response on a standard policy issue – with Mitt Romney’s website, this was obvious, but with Barack Obama’s website the response came in the form of a letter addressing the issue.

Both potential 2013 presidents pointed to their record on education – Barack Obama pointed to policies he has enacted as President, in spite of an obstructionist congress. Mitt Romney pointed to his record as Governor of Massachusetts.

So, based on their responses and comments they’ve made in the campaign, how should you choose? If you are a single-issue voter for whom education is the key, who should you vote for?

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Mitt Romney’s Education Policy

Several months ago, I wrote to all potential 2013 Presidents and inquired about their views on education. The only reply I received was from Barack Obama.

However, Mitt Romney’s website allows me to receive pre-prepared emails on certain policy issues. So, I entered my email address, hit “send”, and quickly got his canned response. Since the other Republican candidates had dropped out of the race by then (or didn’t, but can’t win anyway), I didn’t bother pursuing the matter further with them.

I’ll comment further on the replies received from Obama and Romney soon, but for now, here’s what Team Romney had to say on education.

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Barack Obama’s Education Policy

A while ago, I sent an email to all the people who might be president in 2013. In it, I asked :

  • What is the most important thing you would do, as president, to ensure America’s future prosperity?
  • Relative to this, how important to America’s future prosperity is the goal of ensuring all children have access to affordable education?
  • What plans, if any, do you have to ensure that all Americans have affordable access to high-quality education?

Today, the first reply came in – from Barack Obama. No reply yet from any of the Republican candidates, though I suppose there’s only one that matters now.

I’ve reproduced Barack Obama’s letter below. I’ll comment further when I get a reply from Mitt Romney, or when I’m convinced I’m not going to get one.

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No More Money for British Maths

The EPSRC, or “Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council” is the body in the UK that decides what kinds of research in the physical sciences will get government grant money. Grant money is needed for advanced research in mathematics for the following reasons :

  • This kind of research produces amazing benefits down the track, however
  • The benefits come too slowly for the private sector to be interested in funding research

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The Math of Voting

The Math Of Voting
The Math Of Voting

The House of Representatives in the United States Congress is responsible for creating laws that, if they get through the Senate and the President, become, well, law. the House has 435 members. The British House of Commons has 650 lawmakers. Even the Australian House of Representatives has 150 members.

 

Democratic countries deliberately choose to have their laws created by large groups of people. The idea is that special interest groups will not be able to have too much influence on the passage of laws, and so the government will truly be a government representative of the people.

Is it possible, then, that an entire democratic country could be run by as few as two individuals? Let’s see what the math says…

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Science Education And Political Choices

At lunch the other day, there were some magazines on the table. I picked one up, turned to a random page, and a particular phrase caught my eye – in essence, the writer was saying that they don’t believe we should give scientists a blank check, and a carte blanche to do whatever research takes their fancy. He seemed to imply that some scientists say that we should. I don’t know if any scientists actually do say that, however, it raises an important question. Who, ideally, should decide what scientists should work on, and how much money they should get?
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