Friday, October 28, 2011

The Ranked Choice Voting Game

This November, voters in Portland, Maine will elect their new mayor using a ranked-choice ballot. Voters will be able to rank as many as 15 candidates in their order of preference.

The ranked choice system will provide a lot of advantages over traditional elections, where you can only choose one candidate. No longer will we have to worry about the "spoiler effect" of third-party candidates: now, we can vote for Ralph Nader AND Al Gore.

Nevertheless, with fifteen candidates (and up to fifteen possible rankings to choose), the novelty of the ranked choice system is causing some confusion for local voters. It's difficult to explain the dynamics of a ranked-choice election in prose, and some attempts have been downright misleading.

So (and I'm puffing my chest out as I write this, because this represents my first substantial foray into practical programming) I've written a Ranked Choice Election simulation game to let people experience firsthand how a ranked choice election will work.

Fill out up to 50 different ballots as though they were coming from different voters. The program will then run through the Instant Runoff counting process, sequentially eliminating last-place contenders and explaining the process of reallocating the ballots along the way, until one winner crosses the crucial 50% threshold.

It may not look like much, but I spent many, many hours working on this over the summer and fall, so please consider leaving a tip if you find it useful (or, click often on our fossil fuel propagandist advertisers). I've tried my best to debug it across various browsers but it'll work best on Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, and don't bother if you're on a phone.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Fundraising Drive!

After publishing the last post, which attempted to line my pockets at the expense of the dirty coal industries and their duplicitous PR efforts, my ad revenues spiked by $15 in a day - a nice little sum from my good friends at America's filthy fuel industries.

This seems like a promising way for folks to support this blog in a small way. Thanks, readers!

However, a number of you reported seeing only ads for solar panels, or hydraulic pipes. You're welcome to click those ads if you're interested in them, but I'm really trying to vindictively leverage the desperate advertising efforts of the coal and oil industries against them. Making money on advertising is one thing, but making money at the expense of the Corporate Enemies of Life on Earth is much better.

So I'm trying another tack. Google will also give me commissions if you click on ads from searches that originate here on this blog. Searches give you much more control over what kinds of ads you might see, which in turn gives you better choices among propaganda efforts you can drain financially, $2 or $3 at a time, through the simple click of a mouse.

So, for instance, if you were to search in the box below for "clean coal america's power", and click on the ad for the Pro-Asthma-and-Lung-Cancer advocacy group, then the coal industry would generously sacrifice a couple bucks to me for giving them the opportunity to make their case to you. I'm pretty confident that they won't fool you, so give it a try:

Or say you'd like to get back at Chevron for the $20 you sent to Chevron the last time you filled up your gas tank. Just try searching for "oil safe energy technology", click the ad that pops up on the top of the results, and repeat 8-9 times:
Or learn all about how fracking for natural gas is definitely not poisoning water supplies or raising greenhouse gas emissions by searching here for "safe natural gas fracking safe" (wink, wink):
If enough of you click on Coal and Oil propaganda ads to extract $100 from their PR budgets into my pockets, then I will personally buy a round of beers at Awful Annie's for any of you who care to join me in Portland. It'd be nice to meet more readers in person, and nicer still to drink at the coal and oil companies' expense.

Thanks again to our advertisers!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Coal: (undermining) America's Power

Here's a funny thing. If I write a blog post about coal, the medieval energy technology that gives us cancer and bakes our atmosphere to the point of incurring massive extinctions, etcetera, you will probably see, at the very end of the post, some kind of ad that promotes "Fossil Fuels Part of a Cleaner Energy Future" or some such B.S. that anyone who reads this isn't going to fall for.

However. If you were to click on those ads, and submit your eyes to Clean Coal America's Power facts about keeping energy cheap and old-fashioned, the funny thing is that you'd then be forcing the Fossil Fuels and Clean Coal public relations machines to spend some of their money on me, who hosts this advertising space, and on Google, which places those ads and also invests the revenue into efforts to make fossil fuel industries obsolete through clean tech venture capital investments.

I think that this is kind of a delicious irony. So please support our advertisers, below and at right, and learn all about how CLEAN and AMERICAN it is for us to take a deep hit of coal and mainline its juices into our nation's sclerotic arteries of commerce.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Economist Rends A Hole In the Very Fabric of the Space-Time-Economic Continuum

There's an old joke about the economist who walks over the $20 bill on the sidewalk without picking it up because, if the $20 were really there, someone else would have already picked it up, so therefore, the $20 bill does not really exist, Q.E.D.

Here's a more detailed explanation of the joke if you don't get it, but don't worry too much about it, as it is not funny. Instead of calling it a joke it might be better to call it a basic illustration of the Efficient Market Hypothesis, one of the cornerstones of classical economics.

Just like classical economics itself, the Efficient Market Hypothesis is really more of a gross oversimplification that makes messy economics easier for the dimwitted than something you'd actually want to apply to real life, lest you end up denying the existence of free money lying on the ground. Nevertheless, some poor saps do take it seriously.

One of the places I've seen the Efficient Market Hypothesis occasionally spouted as a real-world Theory is in the Economist, where you'll still find, every now and then, a journalist whose undergraduate econ coursework resurfaces in ill-advised editorializing on behalf of Classical economic silliness.

So, here's a question for the remaining acolytes of Milton Friedman who remain at large in the newsroom of my favorite weekly newspaper:

SIR - Please explain how these two separate subscription offers came to be delivered to the exact same address (mine) on the exact same day from your enterprise, which, like all enterprises, must be classically efficient?

Because, SIR, to me it looks as though The Economist has simultaneously entreated me to buy the same product for $51 or $69 - my choice. Which is kind like finding an unexpected $18 in my mailbox.

And yet, according to the Efficient Market Hypothesis, that $18 couldn't possibly exist there because if it did, The Economist would have picked it up and pocketed it before the ink was even dry on the mailing label, and saved itself the postage to boot. Or, conversely, if it actually wanted me to have the $18, it would have saved itself the trouble of sending me the second mailing, right?

It would appear that The Economist has inadvertently created a dangerous paradox - A PARADOX THAT MAY WELL THREATEN THE VERY FABRIC OF THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM. I hope they'll stop diddling around with the Euro crisis long enough to address this urgent matter.

Footnote: It's funny how the "BEST RATE" renewal offer kind of pales next to the less-impressive-sounding "RETURNING SUBSCRIBER DISCOUNT". Economist subscribers, take note: it pays to let your subscriptions lapse, and make them beg to take you back.