The art of drawing congressional districts to benefit one party or another goes back to the earliest days of the republic. Detailed census and election data have made it even easier to construct electorates with an all-but-guaranteed political leaning. You can usually spot a gerrymandered district by its wacky boundaries. Or you can use this formula (PDF), developed by John Mackenzie, a professor of resource economics and geographic information systems at the University of Delaware:
G = gP/A
G: gerrymandering score
g: the district's boundary length, minus natural boundaries (like coastlines and rivers)
P: the district's total perimeter
A: the district's area
Election Day is still a few weeks away, but the 2010 campaign season has already produced plenty of memorable—or at least unforgettable—political ads. We called a couple of veterans of the campaign advertising wars for their opinions of a few selected ads from earlier this year, plus their thoughts on what makes for a great political spot. Bill Hillsman is the head of North Woods Advertising and the creator of campaign ads for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, and Texas troubadour-turned-gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman. Fred Davis is the head of Strategic Perception Inc. and has filmed ads for the Bush-Cheney campaign and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); he's also the brains behind what may be this season's most famous spot so far, California Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina's "Demon Sheep" ad. Roll tape:
1) "GATHER YOUR ARMIES" - Rick Barber (R, Alabama congressional candidate):
Bill Hillsman: They try to be more Hollywood than they can really pull off. There are some shots that are nice, but most of it is just kind of dark and confusing. I think it is very difficult for people to get what the candidate is really talking about. By the end of the thing I didn't know who he was, I didn't know what he was running for. I just knew that he was in favor of revolution. Voters these days are not going to sit through 60 seconds or more of something to try to figure something out unless it's awfully, awfully, awfully interesting.
What kind of sick mind dreamt up the idea for "Telephone," Lady Gaga's 9-minute video potpourri of prison homoeroticism, shameless product placement, and incisive commentary on cell phone reception? A mind that's been brainwashed by the CIA (Or Freemasons. Or Satanists. Or whatever nefarious organization has the capability to plot world domination and come up with a crazy idea like cigarette sunglasses.)—that's who. Yes, it's time for another installment of Conspiracy Watch, our ongoing collection of wonderfully weird (and totally whack) conspiracy theories.
THE CONSPIRACY: Behind the catchy singles and outrageous getups, Lady Gaga is the pawn in an elaborate Illuminati plot. Looking beyond the surface of her lyrics, videos, and fashion reveals a trove of secret messages and symbols promoting Freemasonry, satanic rituals, and CIA brainwashing. For example, her "Paparazzi" video is a metaphor for how "reeducation by the occult elite" can turn you into a killer robot. Instead of being a savvy image maven, Gaga may be unaware of what she's doing, since her "robotic and slightly degenerate persona embodies all the 'symptoms' of a mind control victim."
THE CONSPIRACY THEORIST: The anonymous keeper of the website Vigilant Citizen, an enthusiastic Canadian symbologist and music producer who has been exposing and analyzing the "transhumanist and police state agenda in pop music," including the work of Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, and Rihanna. He confesses that he likes most of the music he deconstructs: "If people have to go through the trouble of incorporating hidden messages in songs, they will certainly pick sure hits, performed by charismatic artists. If those messages were in crappy songs, they would have no effect at all, rendering them useless."
MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH: A superstar clotheshorse who is unwittingly the tool of an evil yet very silly conspiracy...wait, isn't that the plot of Zoolander?
Kookiness Rating: (1=maybe they're on to something, 5=break out the tinfoil hat!)
As "mosque mania" seizes the nation, what's a peaceful Muslim who wants to set up a house of worship or community center to do? Perhaps this handy map can help prevent any future controversies over where you can publicly assert your Islamic identity. Some restrictions may apply. (Full-size image here.)