A Math Problem for Howard Dean

Here’s a little math problem: Train A leaves its station in New York heading west for Denver, Colorado. Shortly thereafter, Train B leaves a station in Chicago, also heading for Denver. Train A has 144 cars and travels at 70 miles per hour; Train B has 163 cars but only travels at 65 miles per hour. If both trains are scheduled to arrive in Denver at the exact same time, will either train survive the impending collision, and if so, will either have the ability to continue on the single track that heads toward Washington, D.C.?


Without even knowing exact mass or the resulting momentum, I think it’s obvious that there are no winners here.


But just in case there are, there is a follow up question for extra credit. If Train C leaves Minneapolis-St. Paul headed east, which engineer from the original question can beat Train C to the Washington station, given that they must now pull all 307 cars, yet might lose some of the locomotives that helped pull the original loads?


Seriously, I’m not all that young anymore and for the life of me I can’t remember another national election that boasted so many potentially disgruntled voters. There are huge groups of conservatives turned off by the Republican choice of John McCain, and just as many groups of voting blocks that may become equally disgruntled if either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama gain the Democratic nomination.


If Las Vegas takes wagers on this election like they do with the Super Bowl, at this point, everyone is probably listed as a long shot, and the only easy money on the board would be to bet the “under” for voter turnout.


I’m not really attached to any of these candidates so far, so maybe it’s easy for me to say, but I honestly don’t know how any of them plan on winning the hearts and votes of any kind of a majority of the voters.


While McCain certainly has his own problems of credibility, the thing that’s turned this election year upside down in my mind is how the race for the Democratic nomination has turned into a reality TV show cross between American Idol and Survivor, with each candidate participating in embarrassing stunts and shameless performances hoping to become some sort of pop culture immunity idol. I hear them spew lots of flowery speech and see them shake every hand and kiss every baby, but I’m no longer sure if they’re trying to sell me prosperity or a new Buick. At this rate I expect to see giant inflatable animals on the roofs of polling stations, and hear offers for a free toaster oven with every new voter registration.

Since this process began I’ve seen many ads and a multitude of speeches that all talk about the importance of electing a president who extols honor, wisdom, honesty, intelligence, perseverance, and just about every other noble trait. It’s funny that they never mention dignity, because in my opinion that’s the first casualty of most of the people who run for public office. According to Dictionary.com, dignity is defined as, "bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation."

Sure, they all dress nicely, stand up straight, and speak clearly, but almost every chance they get, they do everything they can to prove their similarity to the “common man”. They’ll go bowling, do shots, hang out in donut shops, and pander to every politically correct stereotype in a thinly veiled effort to get your vote of approval.


But to me, this only hurts their case. I don’t want a president that’s like me, I want a president that’s better than me. Thanks for caring, but I think I’m a little more concerned with your ability to balance the budget than whether or not you’ll look like an idiot throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game. If these candidates actually had an “appreciation of the gravity of the situation”, this election would seem more like college finals week than spring break.

Yes, some of the blame lies with the media--they beat each other silly trying to get the best footage of this political beauty pageant--but even more of the blame falls on us. The media is only a reflection of the people it serves. They make money based on their ability to show us what we want to see. Unfortunately, what we want to see isn’t always what we need to see.

Read More on Perspective
Volume 4, Issue 9, Posted 7:57 AM, 04.19.2008