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September 29, 2014

Officiating significantly sways NFL games

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:18 PM

The Chicago vs. Green Bay game this week (9/28/14 Week 4, 2014 Season) was one of the most aggravating I’ve ever seen. Primarily, it was due to injuries to Chicago’s defense and the officiating. The officiating was atrocious. Below is a breakdown of all the penalties and other bad calls with a somewhat objective scoring system. Of course it’s ultimately subjective for the QS, but the scores of 0 and 3 are pretty objective. Anyway, by my calculations, Chicago ended with a bad call index against of 39 to Green Bay’s 8. By this I mean Chicago was almost 5 times more affected by bad calls than Green Bay. Or you could say that Chicago had about 13 calls (or cumulative calls) against them that were potentially game changing/possession changing/score changing and Green Bay had 3. Factoring in the 3 turnovers Chicago did have, that’s still 13 to 6. In a game with zero punts by either team (only the second time in NFL history that has occurred in a game!), it’s remarkably easy to see that the officials significantly swayed the game, even ignoring things like home crowd, momentum, confidence, and other soft intangibles.

For reference, I also calculated scores for the Minnesota vs. Atlanta game since I watched that too and it seemed like a typical game with a few bad calls, but mostly clean. That score was Minnesota 3 and Atlanta 12. That’s 1 bad call for Minnesota, and 4 for Atlanta. Fairly close and the game was pretty well called. Though I cannot backup the claim that this game was average, if we pretend it is, then Chicago had almost twice as many bad calls go against them than Minnesota, Atlanta, and Green Bay combined. Remember, these are weighted, so they count bad calls, not just penalties.

To prove to Green Bay fans that this is not entirely prejudiced, I checked out how the scores looked for that infamous Seattle vs. Green Bay game in 2012 with the replacement refs and the hideously blown call to end the game and give Seattle the win. Even without weighting that call heavier than normal (there’s an argument to be made that it was a doubly bad call since it should have been pass interference against the offense and it’s very questionable that the offensive player actually caught the touchdown), Green Bay still racked up 45 bad call points against to Seattle’s 24. In that game it was so bad back and forth the NFL immediately settled with the regular refs so they could return from the lockout.

So Green Bay fans, take your win, but remember it can always go against you. And please don’t ever talk about that Seattle game again – just think about how it made you feel and you’ll know how the rest of the NFL felt about calls that went Brett Favre’s way.



Penalty Affect Score Breakdown:

PAS = 0: outcome did not affect the game at all (penalty was denied, half ended, etc)

PAS = 1: outcome did not alter possession, downs, etc (penalty just added on, e.g., illegal touching on punt, adds 5 yards, but doesn’t change possession, doesn’t force rekick)

PAS = 2: outcome changed circumstances of possessions, downs, etc (2nd and 4, offsides penalty gives offense first down)

PAS = 3: outcome drastically changed circumstances of possessions, downs, etc (pass interference on 2nd down or later, automatic first downs on 3rd down, etc)


Questionable-ness Score Breakdown:

QS = 0 if it was the correct call

QS = 1 if fans for the team affected reasonably disagree with call/too close to call

QS = 2 if fans for team not affected are willing to agree it was somewhat questionable

QS = 3 if the call was blatantly wrong

(Lawyer scoring = 0 if proved beyond a reasonable doubt; = 1 if proved by preponderance of evidence; = 2 if proven wrong by preponderance of evidence; = 3 if proven wrong beyond a reasonable doubt)


1st Quarter:

GB 10:04 Penalty on GB – Illegal Use of Hands after Cutler scrambled for first down. PAS = 1. QS: 3

CHI 9:32 Penalty CHI – Illegal Substitution. PAS = 0. QS = 0

GB 0:45 Penalty on GB – Unnecessary Roughness after Cutler scrambled for first down. PAS = 1. QS = 2


2nd Quarter:

GB 15:00 Penalty on GB – Pass Interference. PAS = 3. QS = 0.

CHI 11:26 Penalty on CHI – Unnecessary Roughness. PAS = 3. QS = 3.

GB 6:44 Penalty on GB – Illegal Substitution. PAS = 1. QS = 0.

GB 1:10 Penalty on GB – Holding. PAS = 3. QS = 0.

CHI 0:09 Penalty on CHI – Unnecessary Roughness. PAS = 1. QS = 3.

CHI 0:09 Replay Upheld. PAS = 3. QS = 3.


3rd Quarter:

CHI 12:56 Penalty on CHI – 12 On-Field. PAS 1. QS = 0.

GB 12:55 Penalty on GB – Holding. PAS = 1. QS = 0

GB 11:49 Penalty on GB – Holding. PAS = 3. QS = 0.


4th Quarter

CHI 15:00 Penalty on CHI – Holding. PAS = 3. QS = 3.

CHI 12:06 Interception by GB. PAS = 3. QS = 3.

GB 6:58 Penalty on GB – Holding. PAS = 3. QS = 1.

GB 6:05 Penalty on GB – Holding. PAS = 1. QS = 0.



CHI – 0*0 = 0

GB – 1*3 + 1*2 = 5



CHI – 3*3 + 1*3 + 3*3 = 21

GB – 3*0 + 1*0 + 3*0 = 0



CHI – 1*0 = 0

GB – 1*0 + 3*0 = 0



CHI – 3*3 + 3*3 = 18

GB – 3*1 + 1*0 = 3



CHI – 39

GB – 8






1st Quarter:

ATL 14:13 Penalty on ATL – Holding, declined. PAS = 0. QS = 0.


2nd Quarter:

MIN 14:15 Penalty on MIN – Illegal Contact. PAS = 2 (unclear if Ryan made the line to gain). QS = 1.

MIN 11:14 Penalty on MIN – Illegal Use of Hands, declined. PAS = 0. QS = 0.

ATL 11:02 Penalty on ATL – Holding. PAS = 1. QS = 0.

ATL 10:41 Penalty on ATL – Unnecessary Roughness. PAS = 1. QS = 2.

ATL 0:27 Touchdown MIN, but play reversed. PAS = 3. Original QS = 3, Replay QS = 0.


3rd Quarter:

MIN 14:53 Penalty on MIN – False Start. PAS = 1. QS = 0.

MIN 6:49 Penalty on Min – False Start. PAS = 1. QS = 0.

ATL 5:03 Penalty on ATL – Holding. PAS = 3. QS = 2.

MIN 4:40 Penalty on MIN – Holding. PAS = 1. QS = 1.

MIN 2:50 Penalty on MIN – Holding. PAS = 1. QS = 0.


4th Quarter:

ATL 14:37 Penalty on ATL – Holding, declined. PAS = 0. QS = 0.

ATL 8:36 Penalty on ATL – Holding. PAS = 1. QS = 0.

MIN 4:24 Penalty on MIN – False Start. PAS = 1. QS = 0.

ATL 3:38 Penalty on ATL – Pass Interference. PAS = 2. QS = 2.



MIN – 0

ATL – 0*0 = 0



MIN – 2*1 + 0*0 = 2

ATL – 1*0 + 1*2 + 3*0(3) = 2



MIN – 1*0 + 1*0 + 1*1 + 1*0 = 1

ATL – 3*2 = 6



MIN – 1*0 = 0

ATL – 0*0 + 1*0 + 2*2 = 4



MIN – 3

ATL – 12



2012 Week 3:

GB vs. SEA


SEA – 1*0 + 1*0 + 1*0 + 3*2 + 0*0 + 1*0 + 3*0 + 2*1 + 3*0 + 0*0 + 0*0 + 3*1 + 3*3 + 3*1 + 1*0 + 1*1

GB – 2*1 + 1*0 + 1*0 + 0*0 + 3*2 + 1*0 + 1*1 + 3*3 + 3*1 + 3*3 + 3*2 + 3*3

SEA – 24

GB – 45



January 22, 2014

Book Reviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:33 PM

On the occasion of my 30th birthday, here are my 10 favorite books that I have read in my 20s:

I couldn’t pare it down any more without losing too many good books that I wanted to mention. They’re not in an order, but are arranged by type. Not all of these books are new, but I read them all within the last five years (along with dozens of other books). These descriptions do not often involve explaining the plot, which you can easily obtain by clicking the link. Instead, these reasons of mine are all about what drew me in and captivated me about the books. They are the spectacular and the sublime, the agony and the joy, the small moments that turn your mind inside out, the rushing forth of understanding at a twist, the times that I got goosebumps.


A note about my 20s – from 22 to 25, I was in law school, which means I read very few things that didn’t have a legal caption on them. As such, all of these books are from the last five years. From 20-25, I read (and highly recommend) The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Princess Bride, and every original story about the legend of King Arthur, with very little else of note.


Historical Fiction – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Why? – The premise is interesting. The main character, Ursula, dies again and again, only to restart her life sometime before whatever last fatal decision or occurrence caused her to die. I kept reading to find out if she remembered anything from her past lives, and how she would integrate that knowledge in her current one. It took me out of myself long enough to start to evaluate the question – of what purpose is life? Similar to Groundhog Day, except not at all, because it is never as clear what Ursula should be doing with her life as it is for Bill Murray.  Should she look for love? Have a child? Try to stop WWII? Dedicate herself to work? The writing is also fantastic in the book. The author does an unbelievable job starting with nothing but a shell of a character, and as she lives each life, building on who she is, to become a complete person. In this way it doesn’t feel like Ursula gets to start over each time, but instead like she is living a series of completed lives until she can find her true path.


YA Dystopian Science Fiction – Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

Why? – Well, dystopian Chicago is awesome. And unlike some other YA books (looking at you Harry Potter and Hunger Games), the action starts immediately. There’s no waiting around until the end for people to die. Allegiant, the final book in the series was my favorite. To quote, “…in an attack, surviving is an accident. It doesn’t take skill to stand in a place where no bullets find you, or to fire into the dark and hit a man you didn’t see. It is all luck.” Allegiant has one of the best, most adult relationships I have ever read. The emotional complexity and understanding between the characters is as intense and real as anything I’ve read since Dick and Nicole Driver from Tender Is the Night. Also, once you read Divergent, you’ll want to read the other two, so they all go together.


“Urban Fantasy” (It’s in quotes because it’s a stupid genre name.) – Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Why? – I’ve always enjoyed books that took the biblical stories and used them as a jumping off point (similar to what the Iliad does with Greek gods). This series starts with that as a premise, takes it by the balls and lights it on fire. It’s told from the point of view of someone always late to information which makes for a fun read. Plus he’s nearly indestructible and hangs out with a really cool cast of supporting characters who are his friends, but often don’t like him. Stark, the main character, walks out of a cemetery, alive, after having spent 11 years in hell. He tries not to kill people unless they really piss him off, but after killing so many demons, sometimes it’s hard to remember to check his violent tendencies. So take all that, and then add in that it’s funny, and you have a winner.


YA Fantasy – Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Why? – I always had the feeling that something else was going on in this book that the main characters were missing. They live in Prague, and the story does a nice job detailing the city. Also, Karou, the main character, collects teeth for a monster behind a magic door. It’s weird and none of the characters have any moral high ground, kind of like in real life.


Detective Noir Science Fiction – Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Why? – The main character, Takeshi Kovacs (rhymes with catch), is a former member of the Envoy Corps, a fighter trained to perfect discipline in mind. Which is good, because he wakes up in a new body and is hired to figure out why a super-rich guy would choose to kill himself in an age where it is possible to live forever. It’s a dark story, everyone lies, and Kovacs gets beat up a lot, but it’s also a brilliant future with body switching, new moral implications, and humanity spread out across multiple worlds. Some of the sub-plots were really fascinating such as really old people choosing to basically hibernate until important family events and Catholics refusing to re-sleeve (be put in a new body) because they believe that the soul does not transfer. That was an interesting take on the sanctity of life argument.


Classic Fiction – Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Why? – So it goes. I listened to this as an audiobook, read by Ethan Hawke. I don’t care if you like him or his movies, his quiet cadence throughout felt like he was bleeding out this book instead of simply reading it. It was an intense experience and one of the greatest books I have ever heard. I want to say a million things about this book, but here is my best one line. This book does not let you breathe.


Science Fiction – The Unincorporated Man by Dani + Eytan Kollin

Why? – This book has so many creative themes and questions that I love it and I am willing to overlook the simple writing, mind numbingly bad sequels, and one-dimensional characters. But it asks profound questions such as the following. If AI ever develops the ability to think, will it bother to tell us? Could we get to a point in the future where technology gets so fast and good that we don’t even notice that it is sentient? What if everyone was incorporated from birth like a company? The premise to the book is that each person born is given a set of shares in themselves. The government takes 5% of your shares at birth and 20% are given to your parents. You keep the remaining 75%. You sell it to pay for school, and then whoever has a majority can pick what job you take. Your goal is to buy back a majority of your shares so you can choose your destiny. Is it perfect? Definitely not. But is it preferable to taxes, student loan debt, and a crappy economy? Maybe. The main character is cryogenically frozen in our time because he has terminal cancer, and he wakes up hundreds of years in the future where nanobots can find the cancer and kill it. The utopia (or dystopia depending on whether you think incorporating people amounts to slavery) comes to a head because the man that wakes up was born in a time where he was not incorporated and he eventually sues for the right to remain so. I also loved that all the incorporated characters take it as a given that he will incorporate as soon as it is convenient and they are all stunned when he balks.


Dystopian Science Fiction – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Why? – This is like a video game super hero fantasy book (being good at video games being the super power of the hero). I really liked the description of the hero’s home as well as the basic fairness rules put in place for the game. My favorite part of the book though was that I listened to it as an audiobook and it was read by Wil Wheaton. He was so enthusiastic about everything you could tell he was really enjoying himself performing it. This book is ideal for anyone who enjoyed playing games at arcades back in the day and always had a stack of quarters ready to go hidden somewhere in their bedroom. In my head, this book takes place in the world of The Unincorporated Man between when the protagonist is frozen and when he wakes up, which added a lot of elements to the story for me.


Historical Science Fiction – Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Why? – It’s called historical sci-fi, but it’s more like alternate reality sci-fi. It involves math convents, which really sells it right there to me. The world persecutes pure mathematical thought, so leading mathematicians retreat into convents as a way of escaping the world. The idea of a peaceful convent life merged with pure pursuit of math and logic is quite appealing, especially since they are able to be self-sufficient and avoid religion and wars. I found the brief philosophical struggle between the protagonist and his engineer sister (maybe cousin, I don’t remember exactly) who opted to stay in the world as an engineer because the world needed her to be quite interesting. It reminded me of the struggle between Dagny Taggert and John Galt. My favorite idea to come out of this book was the punishment the math monks had to endure. They had two choices, leave the convent or do a certain number of chapters in the Book. The Book is full of logic puzzles in reverse. It is illogic puzzles. Basically an early chapter would require you to memorize a mathematical system where 1+1=3 and other things don’t make sense. Then the elders would quiz you once you thought you were ready. It was torture to the monks because they had to fill their brains with wasteful knowledge, and it was a true deterrent for them. There’s a fantastic plot too, but you can read about that anywhere.


Classic Science Fiction – Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov

Why? – And lastly it comes down to this. This is a seven book series, but two are prequels. I read them in the order they were written, which I recommend. That means the order is: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, Foundation’s Edge, Foundation and Earth, Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation. Setting the prequels aside, as they are more biographical and move much slower through time than the other five, each of these books has a great twist ending. It is also really fun to read these and to put yourself in each character’s position, trying to figure out how much they know, which groups they are tied to, and what their motivations are. After one chapter of the very first Foundation book, I knew I was going to want to read all seven. My experience reading this series was like a movie buff seeing Star Wars for the first time or a musician hearing Beethoven’s 9th for the first time, or a foodie’s first taste of perfectly cooked steak. Same as those experiences, I knew all the science fiction I had read owed some small part to this series, and that Asimov had laid a wonderful groundwork (ha, I almost used the word foundation, but that would be too obvious) for all that was to come. It wasn’t the first sci-fi series or the best I’ve read, but it is monumental. My best analogy is still Star Wars. Imagine if you never saw that movie, but remembered all the cultural references to it. Then when you finally watched it, you would simultaneously experience all those subtle nods to the original from TV, movies, books, and even everyday conversations. Like a flood of consciousness, your brain would be making connections faster than you could even comprehend them. This is what it was like for me to read Foundation.



Honorable mentions –

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (science fiction)

Why? – Spectacular dual story about WWII and a present day treasure hunt. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about Alan Turing and WWII code breaking without jumping into a biography, read this book.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (war science fiction)

Why? – Traveling close to the speed of light causes time to go slower for you than it does for objects not moving close to the speed of light, relatively speaking. Therefore, if you travel on a ship to a faraway planet to fight in a war and you go close to the speed of light to get there and back, the Earth you return to will not contain a single person who was alive when you left. That will tend to mess you up.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman (non-fiction)

Why? – There are so many implications in this book of how little we have control over our own brains, it was fascinating.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (science fiction set in Bangkok)

Why? – I started this book before I went to Thailand, and finished it on the way home from Thailand. Not coincidentally, I thought the first half of the book was eh, and the second half spectacular.

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago by Gary Krist (non-fiction)

Why? – Because Chicago has always been a city of scoundrels, and I often wonder if there will ever be a time when it is not. This book is a statement of why non-fiction history about Chicago doesn’t need to be trumped up with fiction about a serial killer a la The Devil in the White City (which I did also enjoy).


November 21, 2012

Puerto Rico Votes, Everyone Fails at Statistics

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:48 PM

The election results in Puerto Rico were very interesting since a monumental question was asked at the ballot: whether to attempt to change the official relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. Currently, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States (or a territory appurtenant if you like big words used by the Supreme Court). Being in this sort of relationship is kind of like dating someone without telling your friends about it. Puerto Rico and the United States are seeing each other, but it’s not official because they didn’t put it on Facebook yet.

That’s the background, but not the interesting part. When Puerto Rico asked its citizens to vote on a non-binding referendum, they chose a format that makes finding results difficult. Let’s start with the questions (dual language referendum pdf here:

1. Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status? (Yes or No)

2. Regardless of your selection in the first question, please mark which of the following non-territorial options you would prefer. (only vote for one – Statehood, Independence, Sovereign Free Associated State)

I think most of these options are fairly easy to understand except the last one – Sovereign Free Associated State would mean that Puerto Rico would continue to have some sort of territorial or associated agreement with the United States, but that they’d start from scratch and work out a new agreement. It is similar to the current status, but would allow Puerto Rico to theoretically retain more autonomy. I would like to put aside the issues of this being a non-binding referendum and ignore the issue of what the United States federal government might think of all of this.

The first question starts out fine. It seems to be a simple yes or no, I can get behind that. However, one could vote No and have ideas for the future of the territory diametrically opposed to another voter also voting No. How? Well, if you vote Yes, it is clear that you would like Puerto Rico to continue to be a territory, and that’s that. If you vote No, you might be voting No to say, “no, get us out of this U.S. protectorate stuff, I want independence!” (or what I will call the Freedom vote). Voting no could also mean, “no, let’s get this party started, I want statehood!” (the Franchise vote – representation and the ability to vote in Presidential elections). So far, if the Yes vote wins, it is clear that the majority of the people would like to continue to have a territory. But if the No vote wins, we’re not sure what the public wants.

So of course the No vote won.

Now it gets pretty complicated. I’m going to use all statistics from the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico and not bother citing anything. I’m also going to round percentages to make it easier to deal with the math (not for my sake, I love math, this is for your sake). Given those two statements, if you want to check my math, rounding, or elections results, go here, but it’s in Spanish:

There were 1,776k votes (a pleasant coincidence when discussing liberty and secession), and of those 54% voted No and 46% voted Yes to the first question. Of those, a whopping 26% left the next question blank and 1% of the ballots were invalid. Since none of those votes count as anything for the second question, I’m grouping them together as 27% Abstain. Those who did vote on the second question came out as 45% for Statehood, 24% for Sovereign Free Associated State (Associate), and 4% for Independence. I think this is easier to express as individual votes instead of percentages and I will present the numbers in the thousands. For instance, 959,136 people voted No to the first question, which I will represent as 960. The results are as follows:


Yes = 817, No = 960

Statehood = 824, Associate = 450, Independence = 45, Abstain = 500

You will notice that more people abstained than voted for Association or Independence. To further complicate matters, the Governor-elect of Puerto Rico stated in his official results summary letter to President Obama that Abstain votes were votes for the “continuation of the present form of territorial status” (see: This means that the Governor-elect assumes that every Abstain vote was counted in the Yes votes already. Since 500 abstained, that means, according to the Governor-elect at least, that only 317 people who voted Yes then went on to vote on the second question. This is absurd assumption flying in the face of statistics number one (AAFFS1). If the vast majority of those voting Yes chose Abstain on the second question, why did the other 317 bother? Can you assume that no one who voted No was incompetent and failed to vote on the second question? The second question specifically says to disregard your answer to question 1! I can rattle off reasons why someone who voted No abstained on question two – voter was conflicted on question 2 but clear on question 1, voter was not happy with any answers on question 2 (maybe he or she wanted a constitutional monarchy or instituted socialism or the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders to run the government), voter forgot to vote on question 2, voter was confused and thought that by voting No, he or she automatically picked Statehood, or Independence, or voter was afraid of the government knowing he or she wanted Independence or Statehood, or voter didn’t want to lie to his wife who strongly supported Statehood but he secretly preferred Association. There are also many reasons that a Yes voter would vote on the second question. If the Yes vote lost, what then? That Yes voter would want to pick the next best option (I assume that is why they bothered to ask the first question anyway). So it is a fallacy to assume that all Abstain votes also voted Yes.

The next problem is assuming that there is a spectrum here and that voters are rationally voting along the spectrum. It seems logical to group Association, Yes, and Statehood votes together to suggest that Independence is not preferred. However, that’s not necessarily correct and brings us to AAFFS2. The assumption is that those who voted Yes (Territory) or Association or Statehood would all prefer any of those to Independence. This assumption is how someone can throw away the idea that Puerto Ricans might prefer independence to another choice. Imagine if the question were structured as this: Territory or Independence? or Association or Independence? or Statehood or Independence? The ideas behind complete incorporation in the United States as a State or continued associated status are not always congruent. Association may allow for a significant autonomy, similar to Independence. Territorial status also allows for a degree of autonomy related to taxes, most significantly. Under this idea, you could group all votes for Yes, Associate, or Independence together and discount some portion of Statehood votes to No voters, all of a sudden it looks like the majority of Puerto Ricans would prefer not to be a State. It is truly impossible to group any of these voters together. Of course it would be a fallacy to say that Puerto Ricans favored not becoming a State, but that would result in less flashy headlines, so I haven’t seen that yet in the media. As I said earlier, if the majority voted Yes to question 1, I would be satisfied that the majority of Puerto Ricans wanted to keep the status quo, end of debate. But the No vote carried, and further inspection is necessary.

At this point I would like to say how they could have structured this issue – one question (with one subquestion on one answer), separated into many different subparts. Assuming they wanted to offer the same five choices (Independence, Statehood, Territory, Association, Abstain), they could do it and obtain the desired results with this phrasing:

What relationship would you like between Puerto Rico and the United States:
Statehood, Independence, or Territory (status quo)/Association.

If you selected Territory (status quo)/Association, would you prefer the status quo, or a new negotiated Association?

This phrasing would allow a clear answer to the three real choices in this decision and you could really see what people prefer. It still suffers from the plurality issue (the best way would be to ask each possibility against the other and then tally the results – Statehood or Independence? Territory or Independence? Statehood or Territory?).

The Territory/Association issue is AAFFS3. This is a false flag question and I believe it does nothing but confuse the issue. If they had limited question 2 to only those that voted No and only asked, do you want Statehood or Independence, and then Statehood took more votes than those voting Yes in question 1, you could say the majority of Puerto Ricans wanted Statehood (the same could be said about Independence). But the Association is so close to the Territory, it is possible that people voted No so that they could vote for the Association but that if that option was removed, they would vote for the Territory.

This problem could not be solved by limiting question 2 to just those that voted No for the same reasons stated above for why people could vote No or Yes. It probably would be worse, in fact because then you would have no information about those who did vote Yes. The issue here is that they didn’t keep track (or perhaps they simply failed to report) how the second question breaks down with the association of the first question. If it truly was that everyone who voted Statehood also voted No, then more Puerto Ricans would have voted Statehood than Territory and you would have a “majority”. I put that in quotes because you don’t actually have a majority either way. Only 46% of those voting on the first question voted for Statehood on the second question. You can manipulate that all you want, it is not a majority. If you are ok with deciding these major nation-wide issues on plurality, then you have more of an argument, but it is still limited.

If you read this far, congratulations, now you get to see the links to how messed up the media’s reporting is:

Fox News: – reporting that 65% voted for Statehood which is just a complete fabrication.

Cnn: – with a headline that says “Puerto Ricans favor statehood for first time” which is a total lie.

Huffington Post – also, please don’t click this link, the video auto-plays and that’s irritating on a scale of Snookie discussing politics with a Kardashian:

Another Fox News: – it’s right there in the URL which is an incorrect statement.

Really you could use any of the following headlines you want and support it with statistics from this vote. “Puerto Ricans favor status quo”, “Puerto Ricans want an Association or Territory”, “Puerto Ricans still holding out hope for Independence”, “Puerto Ricans are undecided on future”, “Puerto Ricans denounce United States government”. It’s rather silly.
I think I have spent enough time dissecting this issue but if you would like more, please leave a comment. My summary would be that Puerto Rico held an important vote and decided nothing. The only thing that is clear is that Puerto Ricans marginally favor some sort of change and their government let them down. And don’t believe the media or the government when they are attempting to interpret data and use statistics, always look at the source yourself.

I should say they probably favor change – some people might have voted No knowing that they could vote on question two but would otherwise have voted Yes, and misunderstanding that they could vote Yes and still vote on question two.

February 27, 2012

Responses to my SOPA/PIPA inquiry…

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:53 PM

First, Senator Klobuchar (emphasis mine, some spaces removed):

January 20, 2012
Dear Mr. Cobia:

Thank you for contacting me about the Protect IP Act. I appreciate hearing from you and especially appreciate hearing the concerns you have raised.

On January 20th, 2012, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced an indefinite postponement of the scheduled Senate vote on the Protect IP Act. As Congress continues to consider this issue, please know that I will work to make sure your concerns are addressed.

The internet has dramatically altered the manner in which we communicate, conduct business, seek entertainment and find information. It is vital to ensure that online innovation and openness are preserved so the American people can continue to freely to express themselves and pursue personal and economic endeavors over the internet.

It is also important that foreign criminals not be allowed to steal the property of others without consequence. The pirating of intellectual property is not a victimless crime. Rather, it threatens the jobs and livelihoods of millions of middle class American workers and businesses. However, we must seek ways to protect people from online piracy, particularly foreign piracy, without limiting web-based innovation or a free exchange of ideas. 

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. One of the most important parts of my job is listening to what the people of Minnesota have to say to me. I am here in our nation’s capital to do the public’s business and to serve the people of our state. I hope you will contact me again about matters of concern to you.

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

So basically, one paragraph that has any relevance to what I said.  First a factual summary then a lip-service paragraph to how great the internet is. Basically typical political fluff. Fine. Then the one relevant paragraph which betrays that the good Senator does not understand the bill she was oh-so-close to signing, does not understand the internet, and does not understand any of the points I made in my email. So it was a generic email response, which is fine, just unsatisfactory. But the part that still drives me crazy is that she does not understand that the bill was far from an effective means for doing what she says it will in that highlighted passage.

First off though, the transition statement is a non-sequitur. The fact that “foreign criminals [should] not be allowed to steal the property of others” has nothing to do with how great the internet is. In fact, standing alone, it has nothing to do with the internet at all. As Barney says, “That’s like saying ‘how can an ant lift fifty times its body weight, but root beer floats are still delicious?’ Are the two even related?” The answer here is yes only if you think that in order to stop online piracy you must destroy part of the internet’s greatness! Which is of course ridiculous and sadly what all these politicians “think”. (Read as: “are told to pretend to think”)

The pirating of Intellectual Property is a sliding scale of victimhood. But that’s an entire treatise of material too long for this post.

That last sentence is perfect. If she said that and nothing else in the email, I would be happy. However, it is nothing more than a truism without any hope for original ideas, progress, or legitimacy.

I will update on what Senator Frankin sent me back next. But that email was so awful I need to take a few breaths before I dive into it.

January 18, 2012

The Abominable Protect IP Act

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:22 PM

Below is the e-mail/letter that I sent to Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Franken. With Rep. Keith Ellison already speaking out against the House version (SOPA), I thought I would try to do what I could to speak out against the PIPA. Also, the fact that these Bills exist at all are testimony to the complete and utter ineptitude of the EFF (see my first post). I really thought the DMCA was bad enough! Even IP rights holders should be against the DMCA/SOPA/PIPA – they are all ineffectual, overwrought, and dangerous.

Better get ready for a splintered internet.


I write to you to urge you to vote against the Protect IP Act and to consider persuading your fellow Senators to similarly vote against it. I am a lawyer in your district, and I graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2009. I have grave concerns about both the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the Act as proposed.

In 2008, I wrote an article titled: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Takedown Notice Procedure: Misuses, Abuses, and Shortcomings of the Process (which can be found here: I am familiar with the relevant laws currently in place, and the Protect IP Act would add no additional protection for IP holders. It would unnecessarily burden websites, businesses, and your constituents. This law also has the possibility for major unintended consequences. The Act is a threat to American autonomy and dominance (a splintered internet is a very likely result). The Act will also severely damage the fundamentals of Democracy, Justice, and Liberty.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to hear how the DMCA could be amended to acheive all of the stated goals of the Protect IP Act without any of the nasty side effects.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. To state it plainly: If you vote for this Act, I will vote against you in your next election and encourage everyone I know to do the same. This is that important of an issue.

Jeffrey Cobia

July 13, 2011

Failure in Government

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:08 PM

I never thought I would see a day come that I would feel so let down by every level of government. Probably I never thought about the possibility because it seems very likely the more that I do think about it. But this letdown is particularly demoralizing because it is a personal, societal, and professional letdown. To be fair and honest, the government usually lets me down. But the current system wide failure is haunting in a way I cannot remember ever feeling. What is it that is bothering me? Federal failure, state ineptitude, and city ignorance.

Let’s start with the easiest one – city ignorance. As you may or may not know, I ran for city council in Minneapolis in 2009. My Ward included about half of North Minneapolis. If you’re not from here, that’s where the tornado hit the hardest a few months ago. But trust me, North Minneapolis had plenty of problems before the tornado. I’ll admit to being partially biased about the lack of attention paid to North Minneapolis since I was a candidate there, but seriously? Try a google image search for North Minneapolis. The first five images I get are a street corner, a dead body, graffiti, two foreclosed homes, and a dense map of foreclosures in the area. This area has the highest foreclosure rate in the twin cities, the highest murder rate in the twin cities, the most devastating natural disaster in the twin cities and it pretty much gets ignored by the city council. I will further admit my bias that I think the current city council member, Diane Hofstede (the incumbent that I lost to in the 2009 election), does not do enough for this area. But here, check out her website and judge it for yourself –

Again though, this is only part of the city’s problem. I live in another less dangerous neighborhood now, but despite the rather large Gunshot Identifier 3000 or whatever this is called – (which I honestly find very cool) sitting on my corner, there are still random shootings mere feet away – But don’t worry because – “Palmer says that no one in custody in connection with the case, nor any of the other shootings that night.” It’s alright, we don’t really solve murders here.

To pile it on:

1. The streets here are atrocious. Potholes are practically sinkholes. And the best part is we are paying for the privilege of failed streets –

2. I love how Minneapolis Government is exactly like “Minnesota Nice” – cover up the ugly spots, say something nice, then brutally gossip behind the backs of the public. In this case, homelessness –

3. Finally, in this city part, the dumbest proposed legislation of the year – (good idea except that the only reason people go out in uptown is for the outdoor patios… so that makes it a what? bad idea?) Hush, hush, don’t worry about the killing, the shooting, the random violence, don’t worry about the theft, the robbery, the embezzlement, don’t worry about the failing businesses, the homeless, the unemployed, for there are noise violations to create and enforce.

And the real problem with city ignorance is it does not just come from politicians but also exists in citizens. Do you know the voter turn out for the 2009 election when I ran? 9% city-wide. In a city of around 380,000 people, that’s 34,200 or so people. Dividing that by the roughly equal (although by no means fairly drawn) 13 wards, my election came down to a total of 2,600 people. Voter apathy makes sense to me -2009 was the year after one of the most charged elections in my lifetime. There were no major ballot issues other than city council and mayor. And people do not know what the city council does anyway (which is entirely the city council’s fault). And so I am stuck, along with the rest of Minneapolis, with a monopoly that is nothing more than a poor excuse for a city council. I want to add one more interesting fact. Only 34,000 or so people voted. If 10,000 more voted, that would be 44,000. If all 10,000 voted the same way, that would be just shy of a quarter of the voters. There are around 10,000 Somali refugees living in Minneapolis. That does not count the second generation folks either. How interesting would it be to see a refugee community completely sway an entire city election?

I’ll work on the State and Federal failures and get back to you with more.

June 20, 2011

A Defense of Intellectual Property part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:08 PM

I’ll keep talking about this until I run out of things to say. The first post was largely about copyrights. This post is more about IP laws in general. Future topics will include patents, trademarks, trade secrets, bloated IP laws v. the fundamental concept of IP, and game theory as related to IP works.

For now, let me talk about the second clause of the statement from the following blog post comment: “Even if you were to concede that economic benefits flow from IP protections (and I would argue that, empirically, they do not), it is indefensible as imposed by government onto a society that has not freely chosen it.” (And here’s the blog link again

Society chose IP laws – getting rid of IP laws at this point without substitution of a general libertarian framework or additional IP protections would crush the economy and be unfair to those who have built a life around IP work. IP laws are a fundamental part of the Constitution. Consider the many many many inventions that would remain trade secrets instead of patents if no protection was available. In seventeen years, patents expire. Now I am not ruling out getting rid of ridiculous IP laws or that the market can’t find a solution, but I do know that many corporations would collapse instantaneously if patent rights were revoked. Maybe you want to see all healthcare corporations, mechanical defense manufacturers, electronic companies, and every other physical producer of anything fail overnight, but I think the system is too tied to patent laws to ever be rid of them without rewriting the Constitution.

So what if we replaced it with a libertarian system completely devoid of copyright? It would work like this: a record company sells a CD; a person buys the CD; person uploads the CD to the internet; record company carpetbombs any user, uploader, downloader, hoster, or third party application provider with a DoS attack (; record company buys out all third party application providers, internet providers, and distribution avenues. I’m pretty fine with that, but DoS attacks are illegal right now.

Anyway, this is not a completely well thought out argument, but it’s not difficult to see all the issues that could come from cutting off IP laws in general.

A Defense of Intellectual Property part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:55 PM


Other blog posts

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:53 PM

If anyone is interested, I will have very specific blog posts up on the following website:

These will focus on HIPAA, electronic data retention, legal requirements, costs, and anything else particularly interesting to me about health care laws.

I’ll still post random stuff here.

June 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:18 PM

This Day in Future History

September 16, 2019:
It is an unforgettable scene. In what would otherwise be a sadly common standoff between the DEA and armed drug dealers, the arrival of local law enforcement adds increasing intensity to the situation. Sheriff Alvarez calmly steps out of her squad vehicle and kindly requests a DEA agent armed to the teeth to leave or face arrest for false imprisonment.

The tension in that moment was as strong as the cables on the recently finished Lower Bay Bridge. What sparked that brave police sheriff to step into a federal drug siege? The drug of choice for these dealers – marijuana. Since the general legalization of marijuana use in California in 2012, this scene was bound to happen. But it took a California Governor-turned-Presidential Candidate squaring off with the incumbent President and a general election only a month away for an old-school State versus Federal government standoff.

The governor recently ordered all state police to protect citizens from “unlawful” arrests by federal agents for any marijuana charge. To further complicate matters, each side of this tussle had a valid warrant ordering the other to back down. The DEA agents had a federal warrant, the sheriff had a state judge signed warrant. Supremacy Clause and federalism questions lead to a lengthy discussion between all involved. The thick air was finally broken by the drug dealers (or small business owners according to California code) voluntarily lowering weapons and agreeing to be taken into custody by the federal agents.

While this may happen again, it is bound to be a precedent setting case when it comes to trial. One man arrested swore he would take his fight to the California Supreme Court. Thankfully this episode ended peacefully, but there is no telling what might occur if there is no peaceful remedy next time.

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