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Monday, March 19, 2012

New Column in Daily Campus: Include all Candidates in Presidential Debates

My first Daily Campus column was published today. It is about including all candidates in the election debates. For legal reasons I cannot reprint it here, but you can view it here or view a PDF of the paper here and turn to page 4.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rick Santorum's Religious Hypocrisy

One of the few commendable opinions Rick Santorum has expressed this campaign is his criticism of Iran’s religious legal system. Santorum is entirely justified in criticizing Iran for imposing Islamic shariah law on its people. However, Santorum is both wrong and hypocritical for attempting to do the same with Christianity in America.

During the August 11th debate in Iowa, Santorum criticized Iran for “trampling on the rights of women [and] … gays”. However, it is unclear why Santorum is upset about this unless he wants a monopoly on it. Santorum cites Christian law for his opposition gay marriage, contraception, and abortion. Isn’t this combining religion and government? Yes, Santorum is doing the exact same thing he is accusing Iran of. It is no more acceptable with Christianity than it is with Islam.

Nobody is forcing Santorum to become a homosexual or use contraception. Any efforts to do so would be forcibly imposing one’s morals on another. As Santorum says about Iran, this is wrong. However, if a Santorum administration prevents loving same-sex couples from marrying or outlaws abortion, this would be imposing religious moral law on a secular nation.

While Santorum’s comments on Iran are commendable, he should take the same position with his own policy and not impose religious law on everybody in America. Just because Santorum is a religious Catholic doesn’t mean that everybody in America is. Imposing Biblical Law on an entire nation is just as wrong as doing the same thing with shariah law. If Santorum is to be taken seriously, he needs to hold his policies to the same standards as other countries’. If not, we will soon be executing virgin women who do not cry out upon being raped.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Baracketology" - Is Obama Biased Towards Teams from Swing States?

Today, we will look at a slightly esoteric topic - Baracketology. Some of you might know President Obama made his NCAA Tournament picks on ESPN this morning. You can view them here. However, his picks may show a bias towards teams in swing states. Is this a coincidence? You can decide.

Barack Obama makes his picks
on SportsCenter.
Two of Obama's Final Four picks - the Missouri Tigers and UNC Tar Heels - come from states that were each decided by less than 0.5% in 2008. Additionally, both schools have fan bases that are highly concentrated in those states. Could Obama be appealing to those voters? It seems silly that voters would choose who to vote for based on Tournament predictions, but we've seen some pretty strange reasons. My 7th grade social studies teacher Mr. Bowdren once referred to the voters who "go into the voting booth, say 'I had eggs for breakfast this morning' and decide to vote Republican". So voters can be stupid like that. Additionally, sports fans are passionate about their teams and may be offended if the President picks against them. It also may indicate a lack of confidence in the state.

Perhaps this is overthinking it, but look at Obama's third Final Four team - Ohio State. Ohio is one of the key Swing States in this election. He also has the Buckeyes beating Florida State in the Sweet 16. The Seminoles come from another big swing state.

Only Kentucky makes Obama's Final Four from a non-swing state. Obama could have picked Duke out of that region, but UNC was already covering North Carolina. Other than that, the only high seed from a swing state is Indiana (#4). If Obama really wanted to get serious, he could have picked Duke, but this makes it slightly less obvious.

Is Obama just picking the Rams
because Virginia is a swing state?
However, the Wildcats' regional is notable for two upsets. First, Obama's biggest first round upset is #12 Virginia Commonwealth over #5 Wichita State. The Republicans are expected to easily win Kansas, but Virginia will be a swing state. Additionally, most of the Rams' fans live in Virginia. Could Obama be trying to win over Virginia residents? The President also picked Xavier (of Cincinnati, Ohio) over Notre Dame. Notre Dame may play their home games in a swing state, but their fan base is more national. Also, the Irish fans are overwhelmingly Catholic, which is not a group Obama plans on doing well with. Needless to say, he is more focused on winning the votes of Ohioans than Catholics. In this regional, Indiana and Duke represent swing states in the Sweet 16.

In the East Regional, three of Obama's four Sweet 16 teams are from swing states - the aforementioned Buckeyes and Seminoles, and the University of Wisconsin. Again, most of the Badgers fans live in Wisconsin.

Is North Carolina's "swing"
status a motivation for Obama
to advance the Wolfpack
to the Sweet 16? Perhaps.
In the Midwest, we see another interesting trend. The only underseed (9 or lower) Obama has in the Sweet 16 is #11 North Carolina State. Obviously, the Wolfpack play their home games in North Carolina, and once again, most of their fans live in North Carolina. Could this be a subtle ploy? Obama also has Michigan in the Sweet 16, along with UNC as well as Kansas. Obama does have Purdue (Indiana) knocking off St. Mary's (California) in a first round upset, once again, one where a team from a swing state beats a team from a non-swing state. And again, the swing state team has most of their fans in their home state.

In the West regional, there simply aren't many swing state teams. But both Elite Eight teams, Michigan State and Missouri, come from swing states. And it is the Tigers, from the far closer swing state, who advance to the Final Four. The only First Round Upset Obama has here is Virginia over Florida. These teams are both from swing states, surprisingly.

Overall, in terms of first round upsets (by seeding), Obama picked six of them. Four of them involve a team from a swing state beating either a team from a non-swing state or a team that is unlikely to have many fans who are consdering voting Democrat (Notre Dame). One (Virginia over Florida) involves two swing-state teams, and one (West Virginia over Gonzaga) involves two teams not from swing states.

This is the last "Baracketology" before the election. If Obama is trying to appeal to swing-state voters, this is certainly an interesting way to do it. But looking at his predictions, it seems entirely possible that this is what he is trying to do. I'm not saying he is, I'm just saying it's possible.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why a vote for Gary Johnson is not "wasted"

A vote for the Libertarian Party
is an important vote this November.
All evidence at this point seems to point to former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson winning the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. But some people I have spoken to said they will not vote for Johnson in the general election because he is "not viable". However, this is simply not true, and even if it were true, such an excuse would not be acceptable.

As of now, Johnson is polling at 9% against Obama and Romney. He needs 15% to get into the debates, so with a little more support, he can promote Libertarianism on a national stage. This would be a tremendous victory for the LP in its own right. Furthermore, if the Libertarian Party gets 5% of the vote nationwide, the FEC will give it approximately $90 million dollars. This would be a tremendous sum of money going forward. Even if Johnson can't win the election, this is reason enough to vote for him.

However, if enough people pay attention to Libertarianism, Johnson does have a chance of winning this November. 68% of Americans are considering voting for a third party. If even half of those vote for Johnson, that's over a third of the popular vote. Since Johnson's support has come roughly evenly from Romney and Obama's camps, it is feasible he will win a good number of electoral votes. To those who say that he won't get that much - in 1992, 39% of Americans were considering a third party candidate, and 19% ended up supporting Ross Perot. That is approximately half. Couldn't Johnson do the same thing? It's entirely feasible.

It's a long way to November. For that matter, it's a long way to the Libertarian Party's convention in Las Vegas in May. But one thing is for sure - a vote for Gary Johnson is not a wasted vote.

Exciting News! Now working for the Daily Campus

I have some exciting news.... I recently got a job writing commentary for the Daily Campus, UConn's newspaper. I'll still write blog posts here, and I will post links to all my articles. So look for those sometime in the near future, probably next week.

This is very exciting for me as I will be able to present my views to a wider audience. I am definitely looking forward to it.