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August 12, 2004

The Official Silflay Hraka 2004 Electoral College Results Prediction

George Bush - 304 total votes
John Kerry - 234 total votes

What this prediction is not based on;

A reasoned analysis of the habits of the American voter, an in-depth knowledge of state and local politics, an understanding of the candidates' positions on the issues of the day, or any familiarity whatsoever with current political theory.

What this prediction is based on;

The idea that fat people are more likely to vote Republican, together with a presumably innumerate analysis of obsolete data. Hey, it's a political prediction. There's no convention that says such a thing should be based on logic--indeed, from my experience it's more normal for political predictions to be based on nothing at all.

The Official Silflay Hraka 2004 Electoral College Results Prediction, hereinafter referred to as OSHECRP (pronounced "oh, she crap"), grew from a shallow perusal of this article detailing the struggle of the average Tennesean, Tenessean, redneck Gator bait with weight.

Tennessee ranks in the Top 10 nationally in obesity and overweight residents, according to the American Obesity Association.

As they say in the media business, "Well, duh." I was about to leave the story and surf onwards when a vague curiosity enveloped me. If the "Sure, I'll Volunteer for Thirds" state was only in the top ten of America's fattest states, which states were ranked higher? One might think this data could be found in a handy, media-friendly format at the American Obesity Association* website, but one would be wrong. State data there is alphabetically sorted rather than by the percentage of the adult population apt to purchase the jumbo Blizzard when visiting their local Dairy Queen. No wonder a Top Ten list of America's fattest states doesn't appear in the Seattle Pi Article above. It's like the AOA expects reporters to look at a raw data and draw their own conclusions! That's no way to run a media campaign, people. It would also help if there was data from a more current date than 2001. That's like, so three years ago.

Fortunately I am not a reporter. I know how to work a spreadsheet. Also, as you'll see, I am perfectly content to draw conclusions about 2004 based on 2001 data.

But enough about me--for now. Here's a list of the Top 10 Fattest States and their mottos, courtesy of the professional worriers of the AOA and my discovery of some free time here at work.

1. Mississippi - "We eat babies."
2. West Virginia - "Climb a mountain? Are you insane?"
3. Michigan - "Quit hogging the damn cheese tray, Eunice!"
4. Kentucky - "Where the bourbon goes straight to your hips."
5. Indiana - "We were number four, but Bobby Knight moved to Texas!"
6. Texas - "We were number seven, but Bobby Knight moved here!"
7. Alabama - "Sorghum dipped bacon capitol of the world!"
8. Louisiana - "Suck the heads, Eat the tails, Drink the beer, Eat Mayo directly from the jar!"
9. Tennessee - "Rocky Top? Don't you mean Rocky Road?"
10. Missouri - "Gateway to carbs!"

A list of all the states and their relative obesity can be seen on this spreadsheet. Pay attention to it, as most of the conclusions below are based on it. Free no-prize for those who can poke holes in the math within!

Now, the keen political minds in the Hraka audience, by which I mean all of you, of course, will have noticed something interesting about the list of states above--specifically that only one of them, Michigan--gave its electoral votes to Al Gore in the election of 2000. All the rest voted for George Bush. In fact, George Bush won a stunning two-thirds (164) of the electoral votes available from states where more than 20% of the population was considered obese. The remaining third (79), went to Al Gore.

The thinner a state's population was in 2000, the better Gore did, electoral wise. Almost as many 2000 electoral votes (242) were available from states with 17 to 19.9% fatties as were from states above the 20% level (243). Gore won 60% of those votes (146), and 79% (41) of the votes from states with a less than 17% obese population.

Apply the 2000 percentages and the 2001 obesity levels to the 2004 electoral college, and voila, Bush gets over 300 electoral votes. Yes, it's just one data point, not nearly enough to hang a scientific analysis on, but this isn't a scientific analysis, it's a political one. Like I pointed out above, there's no need for it to have a basis in reality. Besides, and I'm speaking to the Democrats here, now....Somewhere deep down in your heart, didn't you suspect that fat people, those McDonald’s eating resource gluttons, were more likely to vote Republican in the first place?

The bad news for John Kerry is that Americans are just getting fatter. In 2000 only twenty-three states had populations above the 20% limit. In 2001 twenty-nine had reached that fatty nirvana. Presumably that number has only gotten higher in the three years since--meaning that the electoral prediction above, bad as it is for Kerry, is actually a conservative one.

* The president of the American Obesity Association is...wait for it...Dr. Richard Atkinson. Atkinson. Atkin's son. Get it? Huh, huh? Get it? It's obviously a front for the anti-carbite conspiracy!

Posted by Bigwig at August 12, 2004 03:26 PM | TrackBack
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I knew the Lord gave you good brains for some reason. Of course, I didn't think this was the reason! This is some of the best stupid thinking I ever read.

Posted by: Yomama at August 12, 2004 08:43 PM

Wow- you manage to insult my home state and my political affiliation at the same time- nice twofer :)

Posted by: Kevin at August 13, 2004 09:58 AM

After two family reunions in Gulfport, I can personally vouch for the fact that Mississippi is indeed the fattest state in the nation. It was a personally held opinion of mine soon after entering the state. I'd say the average weight must be right around 280 pounds.

As to reasons why? 7 out of every 10 restaurants is an all-you-can-eat buffet and they fry absolutely everything. Tomatoes? Fried and green. Pickles? Yep, fry them too.

Combine that with almost extreme levels of poverty in some areas and you get lots of really fat people.

Posted by: Kehaar at August 13, 2004 10:17 AM

I'm not sure how accurate this would be, but it makes about as much sense as any other system and Bush wins anyway, so hey, I'll believe it!

Posted by: Captain Holly at August 13, 2004 03:31 PM

What does poverty have to do with it? If you have little to no money, wouldn't that mean you have less to spend on food and thus less to eat? I agree with the fried food comment. Man, do I love me some fried food! I just think poverty is used as an excuse for too many things these days. Damn those Dems!!

Posted by: Mason at August 13, 2004 03:35 PM

The impoverished are more likely to have poor healthcare (and poor health), and they are less likely to have the resources to spend on getting fit and healthy. It's the rich folks that can afford to do things like join the gym, eat somewhere besides fast food restaurants, etc. Po' folks can't worry about all that. They're too busy just trying to survive.

Posted by: Kehaar at August 13, 2004 05:05 PM

> The impoverished are more likely to have poor healthcare (and poor health), and they are less likely to have the resources to spend on getting fit and healthy.

Huh? What do we call the people who do physical labor and don't have enough money for food? They're not fat.

> eat somewhere besides fast food restaurants, etc. Po' folks can't worry about all that.

Poor people can't eat at home? (You really have to have poor shopping skills if eating at home is cheaper than eating at McDonalds.)

It's only the US where "poor" people are fat, have TVs, cars, cell phones, and so on. Everywhere else, those folks would be considered middle class or better.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at August 14, 2004 12:21 PM

Andy, I think you have a truly narrow and uninformed view of what it means to be truly impoverished versus "poor". Really impoverished people don't have all the amenities you suggest and they certainly aren't living high off the hog. Sounds like the response of someone who's never really had to deal with poverty or even been close to it.

Not that I have ever been truly impoverished either, but I think if you took the time to read some of the studies that are out there, you might take a different view.

Posted by: Kehaar at August 16, 2004 10:47 AM

> Really impoverished people don't have all the amenities you suggest and they certainly aren't living high off the hog.

Yes, there are poor people who don't have stuff.

However, we're talking about folks who have enough resources to get fat, folks who got that way by actually eating high off the hog. By "not US" standards, those folks aren't poor, even if they don't have some things that middle America finds essential.

If you can afford to eat fast food, you can afford to eat healthy.

At worst, you just can't afford to eat out. Maybe that's "poverty", but if your obesity is due to eating out poorly, it's not poverty that's causing your obesity.

Yes, there are "not fat" diets that cost more than "fat" diets, but there are also "not fat" diets that cost less than "fat" diets.

> Sounds like the response of someone who's never really had to deal with poverty or even been close to it.

Better get that mind-reader fixed. (This is not the first time Kehaar has tried that line. Has he been right yet?) I've been a migrant farm worker, as has my Father (who has had it way worse than I have). (My mother hasn't.)

> you took the time to read some of the studies

If these studies made the mistakes that Kehaar made above, why should I bother?

Or rather, I have read some of them. Guess where my list of items came from....

I find it rather disingenuous to talk about "poor" people and ignore what they actually have. (It's also rather counter-productive if actually you're interested in helping said poor people. However, it's a good idea if you're just looking for a political axe.)

However, that's just my opinion.

It's a fact that poverty doesn't cause fat. Fat people spend money on food that they could spend elsewhere, a CHOICE which would make them less fat.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at August 16, 2004 11:44 AM

What he said! Seriously, I am sure it is a combination of things (and poverty may play a small part of it). I guess I hear so many "blanket" excuses (poverty, racism, etc)these days for various social issues. Personal responsibilty and choice also contribute greatly to these problems, obesity included. Eating healthy and exercising regularly are the keys. I'd be more inclined to agree that perhaps a lower level of education plays a factor in obesity. Although, how smart do you have to be to figure out you are overweight and perhaps a change in lifestyle is needed. That being said, I'm college educated, above poverty level and about 30 pounds overweight. Complete access to good healthcare hasn't made a difference. I am just lazy and don't choose to exercise regularly. Something I am sure to regret later down to road.

Posted by: Mason at August 16, 2004 03:41 PM

Okay, I'll give you that level of education also plays a roll in obesity...but I'll also state that most poor or impoverished people are also more poorly educated. Because they are impoverished, maybe? Maybe they are impoverished because they are poorly educated?

And rather than just making blanket statements, I'll use sources:

The article has some nice links. Mostly it's British-centric, but I expect the truth holds in the U.S. as well.


"This is not rocket science. Poor health is a well-known feature of deprivation. Mothers are not daft and they do know fat and crisps are bad for children but they can't afford the alternative."

"Obesity is linked to social class, being more common among those in the routine or semi-routine occupational groups than the managerial and professional groups. The link is stronger among women. In 2001, 30 per cent of women in routine occupations were classified as obese compared with 16 per cent in higher managerial and professional occupations."

"… social origins may have a long term impact on obesity. Whether this operates through the early establishment of behavioural patterns, such as diet and exercise, or through metabolic changes associated with early deprivation, is still to be determined."

If you study income elasticity of demand, you'll find that as income increases, consumption of fast food decreases and consumption of things like fish (a relatively healthy food, if not fried) increases. It all comes down to basic economics. The more money you have, the more choices you have.

Yes, you can have people with resources who don't make healthy choices, but at least you have the choices. Those at the bottom end of the economic spectrum may have choices as well, but they are more limited. Combine that with limited education and limited health care and you're more likely to have obesity.

And btw, on this, I'm right.

Posted by: Kehaar at August 16, 2004 04:16 PM

Andy, I've been informed by BigWig that you aren't who I thought you were. I may have been more rude to you now and in the past based on a false assumption that you were this f^ing a$$ that I knew through BigWig.

So, I apologize for some of the more acerbic commentary that might've come your way as a result of the mistaken identity.

BUT...I'm still right. :)

Posted by: Kehaar at August 16, 2004 05:00 PM

Beers still good for you though, right? Please say yes! :) I can see your side of things. I just think that there are many more factors at work. For example, the effect that processing has on our food. I thought about my Grandfather (Depression era). Poorer than dirt. Anything he ate came from the farm. Pork, beef, vegatables, etc. Totally raw and unprocessed. Never was obese a day in his life although he ate like a horse and much of it was fried. However, he also worked his arse off everyday and walked everywhere he went until late 20's. At my dog's first vet visit, the vet told me that if you overfeed him as a puppy, it would kick in the "fat" genes and he'd have a weight problem his whole life. I suspect the same is true for humans. Perhaps we can pick this back up on the sands of Ocracoke. Although I'd prefer to just drink a cold one with you!!

Posted by: Mason at August 16, 2004 05:26 PM

> Mothers are not daft and they do know fat and crisps are bad for children but they can't afford the alternative.

They can't afford things that cost LESS than what they're buying?

Don't believe me?

Go to a grocery store. Compare the prices in the convenience food section to those in the produce section. Compare the "meaty" convenience foods to the least expensive cuts in the raw meat section. (This is the smallest ratio, on the order of 2x.) If you want to see a huge ratio for protein, compare convenience meat to beans. Heck - compare potato-based snacks to raw potatoes.

The only way to eat badly for little money is to buy nothing but lard and butter. You can't eat cheaply on the convenience aisle.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at August 16, 2004 08:13 PM

The only true thing quoted is "The more money you have, the more choices you have." and that doesn't support the conclusion as one can eat healthy for less than it costs to eat badly. That's true even though one can spend more to eat healthy than to eat badly.

> If you study income elasticity of demand, you'll find that as income increases, consumption of fast food decreases and consumption of things like fish (a relatively healthy food, if not fried) increases. It all comes down to basic economics.

Except that it doesn't, as fast food is NOT the cheapest alternative. It's merely cheaper than other "eat out" meals.

It's also untrue that processed food is the cheapest alternative, as a trip to the local grocery store proves.

Yes, lower income people tend to buy more crap food, but that's not because they can't afford healthy foods. They could buy healthy food for less than they're paying for said crap; they could eat better for less - they chose not to.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at August 16, 2004 08:26 PM
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