Arnold Schwarzenegger's coded F-bomb in veto


Tim says: "Governator Arnold hides a colorful response in a carefully worded veto."

Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Aaron McLear, insisted Tuesday it was simply a "weird coincidence."
Can a statistician gives us the odds of this happening, please?

Did Schwarzenegger drop 4-letter bomb in veto?


  1. “Can a statistician gives us the odds of this happening, please?”

    The odds of any past event happening are always One ;)

  2. Taking Occam’s Razor to it, the simpler explanation is definitely coincidence. I mean, can you imagine Arnold sitting there in his office trying to compose a message and make the letters line up right on the margin?

    1. I mean, can you imagine Arnold sitting there in his office trying to compose a message and make the letters line up right on the margin?

      Actually, yes. He does have quite a sense of humor.

    2. Considering that Arnold has called these same people “girly men” in public I have no problem imagining him sending them a coded “Fuck You” in private, especially if he thought he had plausible deniability.

    3. No, I think Occam’s Razor would determine that it’s much more likely someone would deliberately line the letters up like that than they would randomly align that way.

  3. Back ‘o the envelope calculation: assuming every gubernatorial communication had seven lines, separated into a group of 4 and 3, the probability that it would spell the phrase shown is 5.519648 x 10^-12.

    Since most communications are not in this format, this is probably an over estimate. In short, it is not a chance event.

  4. I don’t comment on the merits of this veto. However, IMHO, putting secret messages in legislative communications is TEH AWESOME. Not quite as cool as a Masonic riddle in invisible ink on the back of the Declaration of Independence, as in National Treasure, but still cool.

    I’m a taxpayer in the state of California, and more of this would totally be a worthwhile use of my tax dollars.

    1. Cool, I will have to agree, as a resident
      of California,the more Arnold can do these types
      of hidden ninja messages, the more I will like the State.
      like it a lot!

  5. Remember the “Arnold is numero uno” clip?

    I can imagine the guy late at night bong in hand giggling insanely while composing this missive.

    “Zat’ll teech zem!”

  6. actually, if you read from the first line, it’s not “FUCK YOU,” it’s “I FUCK YOU.” He’s just being sweet.

    1. And going up one more line, it says TI FUCK YOU. Why bring Texas Instruments into this whole mess?

      To put a spin on it like Douglas Adams, it would have been amusing to have it spell out “FUCK YOV”.

  7. Actually, if you read from the very first line to the last, it’s “TI Fuck Yousa.” I’m not sure what that means, but I believe it involves calculators and Jar-Jar.

  8. Apparently AB 1176 had something to do with giving money to the Port of San Francisco. It would have expanded “the Port’s infrastructure financing powers, by enabling the Port’s infrastructure financing district to capture 90% of the growth in property taxes from Port revitalization efforts in the Pier 70 area.” See

    I suspect Arnold’s message was a part of a bigger continuing issue than this particular bill, especially considering that right now, California’s finances are a complete wreck.

  9. Looking at it a different way, the probability that seven letters, randomly chosen, will spell “Fuck you” is about 1/182, or 0.5%. For comparison, you have approximately the same chance of rolling a one 30 times in a row on a fair die.

    I’d estimate the probability is probably even a little lower, considering that several of those letters are probably not among the most common word-starters in the English language.

    1. I suspect Chris’s calculation is better than mine, taking letter frequency into account. I’d guess mine would be an upper limit on how likely such a thing could be under ideal circumstances, i.e., all 26 letters have an equal chance of occurring in each spot.

  10. “overwhelmingly deserve” is kind of a strange way to phrase that last line. overwhelmingly support or something like that would seem more “normal.”

  11. Coincidence, my ass. The message is too oddly worded. It’s obvious to me that the language was carefully finessed to make the letters line up that way. I have to hand it to the author, it’s well done, but it’s hardly a coincidence.

  12. It occurred to me that this would be an awful lot of effort to expect a politician to go to, just to veto a bill, even if he does have a sense of humor.

    Then I remembered this thing was probably written to his specifications by one of his speechwriters.

  13. The vetoed bill was written by San Francisco legislator Ammianato who had recently told the governor to “kiss my gay ass” when he showed up, uninvited, at a democratic party event.

    It’s straight spite.

    And a sign of how seriously Schwarzenegger takes his responsibilities.

  14. I’m going with accident- everyone knows that “kicks the can down the alley” is just the loose translation of an Austrian slang term meaning “performs certain acts of an obscene nature upon a close relative.”

  15. @Machineintheghost:

    According to the newspaper article linked above, the bill in question was sponsored by a legislator who has a particularly contentious relationship with Schwarzenegger. So, it looks like the letter was intended (assuming it’s not a coincidence) as a message to that particular guy.

  16. It’s meaningless to discuss the probability of a past event occurring, no matter how appealing it sounds. The odds of any randomly selected paper containing “FUCK YOU” in the margin are probably very low, but the odds that some piece of paper, given hundreds of years of human correspondence, will contain something wacky in the margin are probably quite high.

    Say your neighbour wins the lottery. The odds of any particular person winning the lottery are very low, so you could decide that it was probably rigged in his favour. On the other hand, the odds of someone (in general) winning the lottery are very high — it happens all the time — so you could just as easily come to the conclusion that it was a chance event. After the fact, you can tailor your assumptions however you want in order to get whichever answer you prefer, so it’s considered to be fallacious reasoning.

    This is the reason why studies conducted on data that have already been gathered are not thought to provide compelling evidence.

    1. You just explained the answer to the only thing I ever cared about in my useless statistics class. Where were you 16 years ago? Why am I still wondering about this 16 years later?

    2. Actually, you can’t use data to prove a hypothesis that you used to form the hypothesis: it’s circular because of Bayes Theorem. In order for it to be legitimate, the hypothesis must be tried on a new set of data or one that was embargoed from the first.

  17. Not taking case into account, the probability that the first letters of seven consecutive lines of text would spell a given expletive are 26^7:1. That’s 8,031,810,176:1, when you do the math.

    Winning the New York Lottery, by contrast, is only 25,827,165:1

  18. Initial letter frequencies do differ quite a bit from overall letter frequencies. From a 1975 initial letter frequency list I found in an old crypto textbook, the odds are .042, .014, .047, .002, .008, .071, and .014 respectively. Assuming two paragraphs, one four lines and one three lines, and assuming that 1 in 10 words starts with a capital letter (ignoring the first line in each paragraph, which are always capital), I get odds of: 1/3,853,061,151,781 or 2.59534E-13

    For some perspective to I Like Cake’s argument, every man woman and child on the planet would have to veto almost 400 bills in this format before the odds of it happening to anyone reach even 50%. To get 90% odds, everyone would have to veto over 1,250 bills in this format.

  19. Looking at it a different way, the probability that seven letters, randomly chosen, will spell “Fuck you” is about 1/182, or 0.5%.

    Whoa, time to go back to that statistics textbook. Even without taking into account letter frequencies, the chances of this happening are (1/26) (1/26) (1/26) (1/26) (1/26) (1/26) (1/26), i.e., 26^-7, which is about 1.245e-10, or, as The Tim said, about 1 in 8 billion. Much, much less likely than one in 182.

  20. Mojave, for the exact same reason that you’ve never won the lottery. Assuming a lottery uses numbers 1-50, there would have to be more than 10,000,000,000 lottery drawings worldwide for the odds of it having happened to be 50%. You need more than 35,000,000,000 drawings to make the odds of it having happened 90%. Yes, it’s just as likely as any other combo, but there are billions of other combos that have never come up either.

    That said, there ARE plenty of interesting and improbable lottery results that have happened, like the Pick 3 lotto in New York drawing 9-1-1 on September 11, 2002.

  21. While we’re on the topic of statistics, how come 1,2,3,4,5,6 NEVER seems to come up in any lottery, even though we always hear that those numbers have the same odds as the other combinations?

    Because there are tens of millions of possible combinations. Have you seen the results of tens of millions of lottery drawings? Regardless, yes, any given set of six number is just as likely to come up as any other specific set of six numbers. Take, for example, 17,22,23,30,34,41. That looks more plausible, but has it ever actually come up? Probably not. It just looks more like something you’re used to seen, because out of all the tens of millions of ways to pick 6 numbers from the first 49, nearly all of them look like random hodgepodges.

  22. Actually, it’s Tom Ammiano.

    Aleister Crowley, using a pseudonym, had a seemingly religious poem published by a British newspaper. Here’s what the first letter of each line spelled out: “The Virgin Mary fills my heart with desire / But arseholes set my prick on fire.”

  23. The ~1/185 billion probability is right for “fuck you” based on letter probabilities, but I Like Cake is also right. You would have to figure out the probability of ANY meaningful message, then factor in the number of correspondences without messages, etc. Basically impossible to determine.

    Personally, I think it was probably intentional, but I can’t quantify it. The “Bible Code” or Nostradamus “predictions” this is not.

  24. I don’t think statistics is going to answer it. It happened, therefor the statistics are useless, high or low.

    A better examination would be the *design* of the letter. What kind of letter-spacing and kerning would you need to make that happen and make it look natural?

    That’s the real test of whether it was intentional.

    1. I don’t think statistics is going to answer it. It happened, therefor the statistics are useless, high or low.

      I don’t think that’s the right way of looking at it. If I flip a coin and it lands on heads, there’s not much you can say, because we know that there’s a good chance of that happening. But if I flip a coin 10,000 times and it lands on heads each time, you can use statistics to show that the probability of something fishy going on (like my cheating) are very high.

      Scientists use statistics all the time to say “How likely is it that X occurred by chance?” If it’s very unlikely, then the assumption is that X did not occur by chance.

      1. the coin flip we are about to do is random, and random samples sample randomly.

        but every recorded sequence of X flips is 100% equally possible!

        Writing a letter is design it has purpose. many of you are trying to “test” a random event by suggesting its design was random, But writing a letter is NOT random.

        you will have to calculate the odds of designing this letter with all the possible ways people would notice. “F off” “screw you” “suck it” etc. EVERYTHING. including all the ways Arnie could and would write this (number of sentences, paragraphs) then contrast to all the ways he could write the letter without phrases like that.

        as for using “Kicks the can”, doesn’t matter. it neither proves nor disproves. people who have favorite phrases and they will use them in and out of context, with or WITHOUT another purpose.

        all completely “UN”possible to test this.

        in any regard i don’t believe its an accident at all.. but Belief and Facts are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS!

        BTW the answers was already stated PLENTY of times. Hypothesis FIRST than you observe the data. If you use the same data to both form and prove a Hypothesis you have 100% Junk-science.

  25. I attempted to filter a Google search to try to find instances of the phrase “kicks the can down the alley” that weren’t related to this topic. I have only been able to find one.

  26. Getting initial letter frequencies is a good start, but it would need to broken down further into initial letter frequencies for first words of sentences for the F and Y, and then looking separately at word-length for the remaining letters. “unnecessary” and “overwhelmingly” are more likely to begin a new line because their long length would cause word-wrapping.

    You could go even further and see if the sentence structure and grammatical rules play a role in the probability of certain words to appear more/less frequently at the beginning of new lines.

  27. Geez, I can’t believe this is the
    only time this has happened!

    Any politicial figure who
    has spent any time in office has
    no doubt created hundreds
    of documents that could be read
    like this. Why, you could probably
    dig up examples almost anywhere.

    1. neat use of
      inconsistent language
      could cause
      everyone to see

      one thing or
      nothing in the speech
      even me.

  28. I know he’s conservative, but damn, he’s awesome in so many ways. And he’s about as liberal as a conservative can get. If I were able, I’d be tempted to vote for him, especially if the liberal candidate sucked.

  29. The uncomfortable diction reminds me of the backs of Mad magazines, where one folds the page over to reveal the secret picture and text.

  30. Technically, it says:

    T I F*CK YOU S A

    So I think he was telling TI to go F himself, in kind of an East LA style.

  31. Intended or not, it’s on target. Ammiano’s a dork for his “gay ass” remark – and for his smug, self-righteous letter to the Chronicle defending it. He just said it to be cute.

    1. You think Ahnuld had the right to crash a Democratic fundraiser? Why is egregious behavior like that OK if you’re a Republican, but calling him on it is some kind of outrage?

      They should have just had security escort him out…with maybe a perp walk for the cameras. He’s such a shithead.

      1. “Spokesman Aaron McLear confirmed the governor took the mic at the San Francisco Democratic Party Central Committee’s Onward to Victory Gala Fund Raiser at the Fairmont Hotel Wednesday. But he had a good excuse — Willie Brown asked him to.”

        Not uninvited. Not egregious. Get your facts straight. Ammiano’s an asshat. He is now and he was as a member of the monkeys-at-a-salad-bar SF Board of Supes.

  32. Whether the obviously intentional message was funny or not, it is emblematic of this clown’s failed leadership that he would veto a non-controversial bill that passed both houses of the legislature without opposition in order to get a personal swipe in at a political enemy. It’s especially ridiculous coming from someone who has spent a great deal of time complaining about California’s ineffective politics. Look in the mirror much?

  33. If anyone comes across any other “random” occurrences like this in formal docs I’d love to see them.

  34. I think you really should be looking at the probability of ‘something like’ this happening – we would be just as excited if there was some other message there.

    That would make it a lot less unlikely.

    But, given the odd phrasing and the external evidence, Ima go with deliberate.

  35. All these statistics make my brain go numb. What are the odds that this actor would veto a bill for personal reasons rather than political ones?

    You have to bring their past exchanges into the story for this to make any sense at all.

  36. For what it’s worth… if you type those exact words into Word 2003, using the default “Times New Roman” 12pt, with the default margins, it does line up like that.

    So you don’t have to do any typography tricks. It’s all in the prose, baby.

  37. Regardless of what the odds are of this happening randomly, the odd are not zero. Therefore the odds are that it will happen at some point, some where. Nothing you can do can predict when it will occur. Simply because the odds are slim does not mean that it cannot happen tomorrow, or 10,000 years from. Or, for that matter, that it will not happen twice in a row.

    Nothing is assured in odds, either way. To believe otherwise is a gambler’s fallacy.

  38. I think the obvious first question is, “is this a real letter or something someone on the interwebz made up for kicks and giggles?” Until I see an actual post from the Governator on official letterhead and until his staff officially, on the record, states that he actually sent it, I’m going with the latter.

  39. well, bluntly the odds are simply astronomical. once you have the F, if we pretend there is only a 1 in 10 chance of choosing each additional letter, that is still 1 in 10^6, or 1 in 100,000 chance.

    the other side is left arguing that it is like a million monkeys typing at a million typewriters. yeah, possible, but come on.

    But, btw, if you look at the original pdf, the credited author of it was mnaple, which is probably his spokesman, Mike Naple.

  40. Hollywood players have innovated infinite ways of saying “Fuck You” to people higher up the food chain without explicitly saying “Fuck You” to them. I betcha if you Google around, this is one of the techniques.

  41. If he did do it on purpose, he has just proven himself the coolest motherfucker to ever hold office.

  42. Ahnuld is a useless fucking airhead, and this just shows what a loser he is.

    It says something not very encouraging about the electorate in California that they keep putting him back in office. But then a majority of them also voted for Prop h8, so I guess “the majority of the California electorate are assholes” goes without saying.

  43. I may not agree with his politics, but he’s always had a sense of humor. I’m willing to buy the idea that it was intentional.

    Certainly far more likely than random fluke.

  44. What are the odds of a human being ending up capable of having multiple careers as world class bodybuilder, movie actor, and politician through simple Darwinian selection and mutation? Pretty low. But it happens.

    Statistics doesn’t help us in sleuthing this out; perhaps one of those grammar-analysis computer programs would be useful to compare the writing style of this note with other veto notes.

  45. Ok. It is actually:

    T I FUCK YOU S A – or

    Tom, I FUCK YOU, Signed Arnold

    That said, he is Austrian and English is not his first language, so I’d expect the language to be a bit odd.

  46. I’m more interested in the odds of this being caught, unless the people who “noticed” it first were tipped off by the guilty party.

    My guess is that an Ahhhhnold staffer did this on purpose, sent it out, then smirked about it to his officemates, one of whom called up his drinking buddy across the aisle and said, “Hey, check out the first letter of each line in the note we just sent your boss.” Then that guy dragged the note out of his junk mail pile, saw the FUCK YOU, laughed, and then put on his outraged face and called a reporter to say “ZOMG I M OUTRAGED.”

  47. I have no doubt it was intentional. Either way, Schwarzenegger is an asshole. If a guy robs you at gunpoint but tells you a funny joke at the same time, does it diminish the fact you were robbed at gunpoint?

  48. Amazing.
    Somehow, the governor of one of the world’s largest economies
    seems to think indulging in some petty slap fight is the best way to
    handle a collapsing economy and an unemployment rate of 12%.
    “Only in California” is the best way to describe this.
    Leadership from our “Kindergarten Governor” is focused more on
    enhancing his ego rather than keeping our schools, public health
    services and state parks from falling apart.

  49. Not only does it spell out the insult, but also the F and the Y are the only capitalized letters in the column, and occur at the beginnings of those respective words as you would expect.

  50. I never voted for Arnold and really wanted him to leave Office… but now, wow! a new found respect for the guy.. He’s got my vote for sure.

  51. Given 7 letters picked in the right order is a 1 / 26^7 chance which is about 1 in 8 * 10^9.

    However, that’s not the actual probability. There are many governors and mayors and each of them has a chance at this happening. Moreover, most letters have a lot more than 7 lines. In fact in this one we have at least one line above (the one starting with “I”) and so the probability is even higher.

    We also would notice if it formed many similar phrases. For example, if it had been “screw you” we’d notice also.

    So it isn’t clear what the correct probability to estimate is.

  52. Things like this
    have prompted me to
    immigrate to a different
    state. I was born and raised in California, and it’s
    my favorite place in the world, but with
    asshole politicians who feel the
    need to pull stunts like this and
    who do things like, oh, say, veto gay marriage
    and fuck up the economy, I didn’t feel the need to
    stick around. I’ve
    immigrated to Austin, TX
    now. As long as I don’t venture into the rest of
    Texas, everything’s great. I could actually find
    work! The economy isn’t
    in shambles! I’ll go back to CA one day, but
    not until I can afford to live there – hopefully
    some time in the relatively near future.

  53. I’ve done this! Did it on a final exam in high school, in fact. Read down the left margin, the first letters read “Fuck you mrs flaherty”.
    It was a particularly easy essay question so I spent most of the time generating circumlocutions and finding synonyms to get it to work.

  54. Like anybody else could do a better job governing the collective headcase that is California. Throw Arnold out, and you’ll be lucky if the next governor isn’t just as ineffective.

  55. Now someone’s going to have to go through all his previous messages to the CA legislature looking for the secretly-encoded “GET IN DA CHOPPA!”

  56. You guys are going about this all the wrong way around. Obviously the chances of this happening are 100 percent – otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about it.
    It’s just like the emergence of intelligent life.

  57. I suspect it was partially intentional, he wrote the reply, spotted the key letters and then revised the missive to spell out what he really wanted to say :)

  58. re: anonymous 91

    NPR’s All Things Considered asked a professor from Gaucher College in Baltimore who specializes in cryptology what the odds of the “coded” message show up randomly. The odds were somewhere the neighborhood of 5 in 1 trillion or in lotto-speak, 1 in 200 billion.

  59. When you calculate the odds of this happening you really can’t just calculate the odds of spelling ‘fuck you’. To do it properly you would have to calculate the odds of spelling ‘fuck you’ or ‘skrew’ you’ or any other such phrase you can imagine. Its like when you play hold’em and the flop comes up a couple times in a row with something kinda weird like all of one color or paired or something and people talk about how low the odds of that happening are. Sure the odds of that specific thing happening are low, but the odds of ‘something weird’ coming up are really not that low if you consider how many different things people would see as ‘weird’.

  60. I’m surprised none of the statisticians have included the fact that the paragraph splits at the end and beginning of each word. That’s got to decrease the odds of this being a chance occurrence.

  61. I give a rat’s ass about prapabilities and HOPE it was deliberate.
    Me being 43 and definitly not a fan of republicans, I’ve seen to many politishanigans wiggeling around, I love him beeing ‘grounded’ and straight in this case…
    I definitly prefer somebody with a clear statement that I oppose over political correct mumblings from likeminded…

  62. Its incredible how can such a simple thing into a XKDC like discussion on semantics statisticians.

    If he did it, its awesome. And if it´s just a coincidence its double awesome.

  63. If that is a photograph/scan of a actual letter then, it probably was done intentionally.

    However if the response was ‘electronic’ and you could drag the frame around and cause word wrap in arbitrary places then it was not done intentionally.

    Need more information.

    (Given the Governor’s proclivity for foul language it certainly makes sense that it was done on purpose.)

  64. Basically, as I
    understand probablity, the
    likelihood of a series of first
    letters of words that
    start lines of text in a paragraph
    has of spelling an offensive or
    inappropriate word or phrase is approximately one in
    ten to the tenth. Or, between 13! and 14

  65. I don’t think it is a coincidence but I don’t think it is anything more than a joke. May be not a good joke but a joke nerveless to release the stress of the function.

    May be he thought that nobody will notice.

  66. Yesterday I wrote a letter, too. And, can you believe it, the first letter of each line spelled out “jioerpas jmopawergfnu awe”.

    The odds of this happening were approximately 8 billion to one.

  67. Searching the governor’s website, I found 19 instances in which he used some form of “kick the can down the road/alley.” It’s actually one of his favorite pieces of schtick in lecturing others about all the ways they’re letting down the people of Collie-fornia.

  68. There is no TI or SA at the end. It is supposed to be read as:

    To the member of the California State Assembly:

    I am returning Assembly Bill 1176 without my signature.



    Arnold Schwarzenegger

  69. ummmm….he has writers….Some of these word choices are not obvious ones and seem to be made to fit the desired effect.

    1. But-
      The first letters spell out ‘Tifuck yousa,’ not ‘fuck you!’
      I call shenanigans.

      Perhaps Jar Jar Binks has found employment as a writer for Governor Schwarzenegger?

  70. Should we believe Arnold? He of mild intelligence. I for one think yes. The govenor is a busy man. By the time he gets finished his regular work I truly doubt that we would have time for much else. Long days like that. Ongoing emails. Besides he has better things to worry about

  71. Coincidence, yeah sure. Just like it’s a coincidence that there happens to be exactly 7 lines in the letter. Gained alot of respect for arnolds candor, and justthe flamboyant literary ability displayed here. Of ourse he did it on purpose.

  72. I think it is more likely that an Arnie speechwriter or staff member rearranged words or phrases to make them align to say this. I mean come on…”kicks the can down the alley”…really??

  73. Arnold has used “kick the can” for the past year in every press conference that describes the CA Legislature’s lack of action on the budget. Don’t believe me just check this out:

    That being said, why was “Health Care” not “Health Care reform”? Because it would push the next line too far. That’s way. Any time you try to make change in government, it’s called “____ Reform.” See the right hand column here for proof (Prison Reform, Water Reform, and Health Care Reform):

  74. Awesome! I do not live in California but it is what all governors and the President of the United States should consider. Force the State and Federal Legislature to fix our real issues and stop worrying about all lobbists issues. Have some Integrity and start worrying about the needs of the US citizens.

  75. Before you ask yourself did he do it, ask yourself, is he that smart…

    I’m just saying… he was Conan, afterall!

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