Christopher Caen: A mathematical system to ease electoral choices 

Like the thawing of the snowpack in the Sierras, they flooded down from printing presses around the state and fluttered into our mailboxes en masse this week. And as people headed to their front doors, garages and mailboxes to retrieve the little dears, the same thought popped into everyone's head: "Good grief, another election?"

Yes, it only seems like we are running down to the polls every week. In reality, it is only every other week, so I really don't know what you are complaining about. And how could you miss it? Right now, you can't open a newspaper, watch television or listen to the radio without hearing the strident mudslinging that signals it's time to put on the poncho and head out to vote.

Does this year seem especially muddy to you? The election season started well enough with earnest messages and happy, smiling families. Then, it went off the proverbial cliff and wound up right back where we expected it: smack dab in the briar patch. So, what to do as we leaf through the voter manual this weekend and try to make sense of the arguments, opponent's arguments and rebuttal to the opponent's arguments to the first argument of the second rebuttal and what were we talking about again?

However, fear not dear reader, for salvation is at hand. Here at The Examiner building on the corner of First and Mish, our scientists have been hard at work in the basement devising a mathematical system as practical as it isefficient in making your electoral decisions. After millions of man months crunching numbers, our servers have finally belched forth the equation that will tell you which candidate, proposition and ordinance to vote for.

Take a candidate, for example. First, take the number of negative television ads and subtract that from the number of positive ads where the candidate actually makes a stand on an issue. Usually this latter number is zero, so just go with the number of negative ads. Then, multiply that by the number of pets and/or family members that appear in those ads. Subtract the number of times the person earnestly pounds on a podium. Subtract 50 points if another politician appears in the ad. Add five points if a nurse/teacher/fireman appears in the ad. However, if the small type below that person is so long as to be readable only to eagles, owls and other flying critters, then subtract 100 points.

Back to the negative ads. Subtract 10 points for every newspaper quote more than five years old (you will be surprised). Now off to the positive ads. Found them? No? Sorry about that, we are still fine-tuning the algorithm. Well, a quick review then. Subtract the number of trees and/or sunrises by the number of times the word "together" is used and add that to the number of times "working" is used. Then subtract the numerical value of the colors used in the ad and multiply by the per-plate amount of their last fundraiser. Take your piece of paper you are working on and crumple it up. Instead, add to the count the amount this politician gave to charity on their tax return last year.

Subtract the number of direct mail pieces you have received by the number of times you have immediately tossed them into recycling bin. Nice to know all those trees didn't die in vain. If you hosted a get-together for the candidate at your house, add 10 points. If they helped themselves to the food in your refrigerator, add 20 points. If they drank directly from themilk carton, subtract 100. If they greet you by shaking your hand while simultaneously grabbing your shoulder or arm in an affectionate fashion, subtract all points and kick them out.

Home stretch! Take the running count and add to it the number of times you have seen them at a sporting event. If they throw out the first pitch they get 20 points. However, if they throw a curveball they lose 50; a politician throwing a curveball is redundant. Did they get noticed at the last Green Day concert? Thirty points. Unless they were caught dancing, and then they lose 72. Nobody wants to see these people dance. Divide the count by the number of times you hear "bipartisan compromise" and subtract the weight of their SUV.

There, you are done. Now you have the number that is the definitive algorithmic representation of the race. Of course, we have no idea what the number means, but our computers are working on that, too. But this is still completely relevant. After all, having the answer before you understand the question is the very basis of American politics. Have a great weekend and remember, no matter how much mud is slung over the next four days, you have their numbers. I just hope they don't have ours.

E-mail him at ccaen@examiner.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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