First, go read RLMiller's diary on the two state budget initiatives that Californians consider in this election. Or, you can just take my word for it that the first one, Prop 25, is good, and the second one, Prop 26, is bad.
You need convincing, but you still withstand the allure of the brilliant diary linked above? OK: Prop 25 would give California a majority vote budget -- and a possible return to fiscal sanity. Prop 26 would mean that we'd not only need a 2/3 vote of both houses of legislature (plus the Governor's signature or a veto override) to raise taxes, but we'd also need it to raise fees. In Grover Norquist's terms, Prop 26 fills the bathtub to drown the state government.
But numbers are so confusing. How do we get the message out to voters?
How about with this fraction: 25/26?
Come with me back to elementary school math for an explanation.
Some of you may want to take a deep breath before reading about basic math, and some of you may need to put yourself in restraints. Take your time.
OK, see if you remember this. A positive fraction can be less than, equal to, or greater than 1. We understand fractions that are less than 1. We even understand fractions that are equal to 1, although they are rather boring in most circumstances. But fractions that are greater than 1? Seven-sixths of a cake? Ten-thirds of a trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara? Fifty-seven-thirteenths of your wages? "No," the young mind cries out: "NO!"
And so we have a term for these beasts that ought to, in normal life circumstances, be reduced to mixed numbers like 1 and 1/6, that don't frighten the horses. We call them improper fractions. Fractions that are less than or equal to 1, by contrast, are called proper fractions.
Now you need to know something about Props 25 and 26: both may lose, but only one may win. Because they address the same subject matter, only the one that gets more votes can win if they both receive over 293/586 (oh, OK, 1/2) of the vote.
And that is why -- if you read RLMiller's diary -- nasty energy companies are putting a lot of money into "No on 25 / Yes on 26." They want to make sure that 26 ends up over 25. But that would be 26/25 -- and that's improper!
25/26, by contrast, is entirely proper! I don't recommend that those of you who are already sweating at the above should try to compute it into a decimal -- as some joker in comments will no doubt do, possibly me -- but you can see easily that it's proper!
So here's a pitch to help voters remember how to vote:
"Twenty-five over twenty-six is proper; twenty-six over twenty-five is improper."
Or, in numerals, which is the button I'd like to buy:
--- is proper
--- is improper
Now some of you may say, "this is hardly the stuff of which a diary ought to be made!" And you may not buy my excuse that I have to go to a DFA meeting soon to pitch people to volunteer for Brown. So to you, I say:
(1) I've made you think about Props 25 and 26, and
(2) I may have gotten some of you to read RLMiller's diary
and both of those are entirely proper!