Thursday, April 14, 2005

You call this a democracy?

How can anyone honestly defend the electoral college? Truly, it boggles my mind.

I happened upon this post in one of my rare readings of Instapundit and it struck me as so bizarre. "God bless the Electoral College"? Honestly?

At the very least, I'm not convinced it solves any logistical problems. As we saw in 2000, even a clear (if relatively small) popular vote victory can turn into a recount nightmare when one state is tied. And we all know from basic stats that the larger the sample size, the smaller the margin of error. So instead of 50 relatively small samples, we get one huge sample where the election would have to be much closer (percentage-wise) to trigger a re-count. (If I'm wrong about my statistical theory, somebody please let me know.

But that's besides the main point, which is the patently undemocratic nature of the electoral college. We all know it the facts: Because electoral votes are allocated for each senator and representative, the votes of people in smaller state count more than those of us from larger states. And because most states allocate their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, candidates only campaign in a few key "battleground" states and most us know that our votes, essentially, don't count.

But of course, because of the extremely high (for better and for worse) barriers to amending our constitution, including the approval of 75% of states, this is sure to never change.

Just like the absurdly undemocratic senate, where the 626,000 people of Alaska have a voice equal to the 34 million people of California in one of our two legislative bodies. Honestly sometimes I think the biggest states in the country should secede, not because of the blue state / red state thing, but because we're so underrepresented in the federal government.

As Hendrik Hertzberg recently pointed out in The New Yorker, "When the new Congress convenes in January, [the Senate's] fifty-five Republicans will be there on account of the votes of 57.6 million people, while the forty-four Democrats and one independent will be there on account of the votes of 59.6 million people."

The red state / blue state issue is relevant here, though. States with smaller populations (and, to the point, no big cities) are more likely to be Republican. And they get disproportionately high representation in the Senate and Electoral College. Is our right-leaning government even representative of the people? Or is it an artifical creation of our undemocratic electoral system that gives people from smaller states a much bigger say?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Xeni rocks

Xeni Jardin is an old colleague from my Digital Coast Reporter days and still a friend. She's one of the coolest people I've ever known and is well on her way to moving from a top member of the digerati to a big league star, as she very much deserves.
Check out this fascinating profile of her from today's LA Times. You'll feel ahead of the curve.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Lost is losing me

The backstory plots on Lost keep getting more and more absurd. I don't know if it's because the writers can't make the plots come together when they only have 1/3 of the show, or if they're just slipping or what. But they keep being "dramatic" while not actually making any sense.

A few weeks ago, we found out Sawyer killed a guy in Australia who he thought had murdered his mother (the orinal guy named Sawyer). But it turned out it was just a random guy who owed gambling debts. Of course Sawyer felt awful and it was a dramatic moment. But in order to buy it, we have to believe that if you want someone dead in Australia, the most efficient way to do it is convince someone in the US that he's the guy who killed your mother. You wouldn't want to, ummmm, just hire a hitman in Australia or something. The dude is 50 and owns a shrimp truck. He wouldn't be tough to kill.

Then last week (as I discovered on TiVO tonight), we find out another tragedy from Locke's life: his long lost father engaged him in an elaborate trick to get him to donate his kidney. Locke finds this out when he wakes up in the hospital and Dad is already gone. Two points:
-I don't know alot about kidney transplants, but is there a compatibility issue where it's important (or at least very helpful) that the donor be related to you? If so, they should have explained that. If not, this makes no sense.
-If you go through all the trouble of reeling in your long lost son to get his kidney, including spending many weekends hunting with him, why do you leave him at the hospital and ruin his life? That's both unnecessarily cruel and inefficient. Just stay at the hospital, be nice to the guy, the stop hunting with him or tell him you don't want to hang out anymore or something. And how do you even work such a scenario exactly? Have the nurses revive you early and rush you out? Once you think about this, the whole fucking plot falls apart.
-Oh, and third thing. Locke's Dad, who's very rich, has his own personal guard outside his gate. I understand this guard is extremely useful for dramatic purposes. In Locke's conversations with him, we find out Dad initially pretended to not want to see him, later find out they have hunted together for many weeks, then find out Dad doesn't want to see him. But honestly, have you ever known one individual rich person who had their own private guard outside their gate. I have never ever heard of that. Gated communiteis have guards. But rich people always just have a locked gate with a camera and a speaker.

I think I still like Lost because many of the characters are really well created and it's a great scenario. But the backstories are getting really lame. And I'm starting to get pissed at the X-Files esque plot that drops little hints every few episodes that only seem to make the story more confusing. I'm just not that patient. I need well crafted shows like "Veronica Mars" that start the season with questions and then actually give us answers.