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Everything Is Good For McCain!

[ 33 ] February 10, 2008 |

Yglesias points out the problems with Ambinder’s claim that “Obama cannot win the states where the majority of Democrats reside”: i.e. it’s a more tendentious way of saying that “Clinton won California,” which I don’t think entitles her to the nomination in itself. But Ambinder goes on to make a straightforwardly illogical assertion:

John McCain’s advisers are probably thinking: woe unto the Democratic nominee who refuses to organize; woe unto the Democratic nominee who appeals to activists perfectly and regular Democrats kinda sorta.

The idea that Obama’s greater appeal to independents and purple-state swing voters makes him a less formidable general election candidate is simply bizarre. Given that the Dems would win New York and California with a Mark Slaughter/Jani Lane ticket, a candidate very well-liked among Democrats isn’t remotely vulnerable there even if primary voters in those states marginally prefer another strong candidate. Meanwhile, his greater appeal to independents and ability to mobilize lower-turnout groups (like young people) has the potential to put states into play that Clinton (who seems strongest in states where the Dems are already a mortal lock) can’t –indeed, this why I think polls showing Obama to be a much stronger opponent for McCain are almost certainly right. (Indeed, I think they understate Obama’s advantage; piling up larger majorities in solidly blue states doesn’t help the Dems in the electoral college.) In theory, it’s possible that the candidate who’s a little stronger in red states would be much more conservative, but in this case that’s not true (which is why Obama has in fact won several blue liberal states, including one in Clinton’s backyard.) For that matter, I’m also not sure why Clinton not spending resources in caucuses she doesn’t think she can win hurts her general election chances, but I always forget that everything is always good for McCain.

To follow-up on Rob’s state-by-state counts, they seem about right. My reasons for thinking that Clinton should still be favored are that 1)The demographics that make Obama a better candidate in the general make Clinton better in the primaries: her older, more female base is more certain to turn out, which makes it harder for Obama to get upsets, and 2)if the delegate count is very close, Clinton has to be favored among the superdelegates. In addition to Wisconsin, to put this beyond the reach of the superdelegates I think Obama needs to pick off one of the big three. Ohio seems like the most likely spot to pick off a state Clinton is expected to win, but a string of victories (Maine tonight would help with the narrative) could create a dynamic that puts the less demographically favorable Texas and Pennsylvania into play.

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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House Nikloting

[ 4 ] February 10, 2008 |

Niklot, born sometime in the late 11th century, was a chieftain of the Obotrites, a confederacy of Slavic pagan tribes living along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. The Obotrites and various other northern Slavic tribes were collectively referred to as the Wends. From the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire onward, the Obotrites played an important role in Germanic affairs. The Obotrites also successfully resisted Danish efforts to establish hegemony over the Baltic region.

The German Emperors consistently sought to expand into Wendish territory, and the Wends just as consistently resisted the Germans. In the eleventh century, the growing power of the papacy, among other things, allowed Western Christendom to focus its efforts on doing battle against the infidel, wherever that infidel might be found. This led most notably to a combined Frankish-German invasion of the Holy Land, but also lent ideological purpose to ongoing struggles between Christians and non-Christians in Iberia and the Baltic region. After twenty years of heavy fighting, the Wendish Crusade was launched in 1147, designed to permanently bring Christianity to the Baltic region, and incidentally to expand the lands and power of the Germanic princes. The initial campaign did not succeed, as Niklot successfully resisted a siege of his fortress and ended up buying the Crusaders off. In 1160, however, another campaign managed to catch and kill Niklot, and to disperse the lands of his tribe amongst Saxon lords.

Niklot, however, was survived by a son named Pribislav. After a bitter four year guerrilla campaign that captured or destroyed several Saxon fortresses, Pribislav was restored to power as the Prince of Mecklenburg. Along the way, he had converted to Christianity, and in 1172 he made a pilgrimage along with Henry the Lion to Jerusalem. One of his sons would later participate in the Fifth Crusade. Crusading in the Baltic region would continue at least until the 1386 conversion of Lithuania to Catholicism.

Over time, the rulers of Mecklenburg (they became Dukes in 1347), shed their Slavic origins in favor of German forms. Albert of Mecklenburg ruled Sweden from 1364 until 1389, and for five years ruled both countries with unified title. House Mecklenburg also had some claim to the throne of Norway. The state of Mecklenburg was divided in the 17th and 18th centuries to create Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In 1815 the Dukes of Mecklenburg became the Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg, having endured French control for a time. The establishment of the German Empire in 1871 limited but did not eliminate the power of the Grand Dukes, especially in local matters. The Mecklenburgs remained socially and technologically somewhat behind the rest of Germany into the twentieth century.

In Mecklenburg as in the rest of Germany, monarchy did not survive World War I. The Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz committed suicide without issue in 1918, leaving his cousin as the only potential heir. Unfortunately, his cousin had decided in 1914 to join the Russian Army, and renounced any claim to the throne. Just to make sure, the state of Mecklenburg paid Charles Michael (the cousin in question) five million marks in 1921 to further renounce the throne. The Mecklenburg-Schwerin line survived until 2001, when its last heir died and the title Duke of Mecklenburg (arguably) devolved upon Georg Friedrich of House Hohenzollern. The other current claimant of the ducal title is one Georg Borwin, who is related in complicated fashion to the line of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and who has put forward (with the extinction of the elder Schwerin line) a claim to both Mecklenburgs. Prospects for a return to the throne seem grim. The potential claimants have made no political effort to assert their claims, and hopes for the re-establishment of monarchy in Germany appear quite low. Also, Duke Georg Borwin has displayed little inclination to pursue an actual restoration, either to the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg or to the thrones of Norway or Sweden. On the upside, however, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (r. 1948-1996) was a member of House Mecklenburg, and the family remains sufficiently involved in European royal circles to hope for similar such developments in the future.

Trivia: What royal family was deposed in 1960, only to be restored in 2001?

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Wow, Conservatives Really Do Hate McCain

[ 0 ] February 10, 2008 |

Yes, it’s over, but it’s still pretty remarkable that McCain is going to get swept tonight by Mike Huckabee.

On the other side, the Maine caucus tomorrow should be fascinating; Obama absolutely crushed Clinton tonight, and I have to wonder whether it’s going to have an effect on the election tomorrow. If Obama wins Maine, then I think he’s a clear favorite for the nomination, both for momentum reasons and because the delegate advantage is going to start piling up, especially if the victories on Tuesday are as decisive as expected.

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At least she didn’t mention onion rings

[ 0 ] February 9, 2008 |

Saith Ann Althouse [no link, but you know where to find her]:

Really, how bad is it to say “pimped out”? Is it “nappy-headed hos” bad? Did anyone think Shuster was literally calling Chelsea a whore or even making any reference to her womanly virtue? “Pimped out” is a common colloquialism these days. According to the Urban Dictionary, which gives a good read on how young people use words, the connotations having to do with exaggerated fashion and style predominate.

Even if the clear associations with prostitution remain, we often make figurative references to prostitution in speech, and the cause of feminism is not served by requiring special limitations when we’re talking about women. We ought to be able to call a female publicity hound a “media whore.”

Oh, absolutely. Like Ann Althouse, I too look forward to the day when “common colloquialisms” used by “young people” at last supplant the awkward, artificial, and unfairly restricting discourse of the professional news media. If, for instance, Brit Hume were to go ahead and describe Mike Huckabee as a “douchebag,” that would also be perfectly unproblematic, since Urban Dictionary tells us that a douchebag is merely “an individual who has an over-inflated sense of self worth, compounded by a low level of intellegence, behaving ridiculously in front of colleagues with no sense of how moronic he appears.” (Alternately, we learn that the term also refers to “a student or instructor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.”)

As well, I’m sure that one day soon, Ann Althouse will be there to defend Joe Klein when he describes Obama’s supporters as having given him a “rusty trombone.” After all, we often make figurative references to simultaneous hand/rim jobs in speech, and the cause of polymorphous sexuality is not served by requiring special limitations when we’re talking about presidential candidates.

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Wild Guesses on a Saturday Afternoon

[ 26 ] February 9, 2008 |

Scott and Matt’s rather under-analyzed prediction of a Clinton victory pushed me to make a quick and dirty assessment of my own.

Here are the states I expect Obama to win:
North Carolina
South Dakota

Here are the states I expect Clinton to win:
Rhode Island
West Virginia
Puerto Rico

And here are the states I have no idea about:

Further assuming that the winner of a state takes 55% of that states delegates (again, quick and dirty, but not terribly far off), this results in…. almost exactly a dead heat.

Now, a dead heat as to be counted as a Clinton advantage, as she’s doing better among superdelegates and the Florida-Michigan situation has yet to be resolved. Based on that, I’d probably have to very tentatively agree with Matt and Scott. The next step, though, is to identify any states that I’ve placed in the wrong category, or any good reasons to place the remaining four in one category or the other. I think that Wisconsin looms large in this analysis; the last I read Clinton had a nine point advantage….. although as John mentions below, the Wisconsin poll is an ARG poll, and consequently is suspect. I’m not sure that there’s a way for Clinton to win if she doesn’t take Wisconsin.

…upon the advice of the comments section shifted Oregon into Obama column. It’s a primary in a state with no African-Americans, but he did well enough in Washington to merit the call. With that and the size of the victories today, Obama comes in about 35 delegates ahead with the above state calls.

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The Shuster Suspension

[ 0 ] February 9, 2008 |

I have mixed feelings on the suspension of David Shuster:

  • To state the obvious, Shuster’s comments were sexist, unless you can point me to some example of Shuster discussing Mitt Romney or John McCain “pimping out” their children because they’re active in their father’s campaign. The double standard here is pretty obvious.
  • As many people have said, though, in the context of MSNBC’s endless misogynist attacks in Clinton, it’s far from obvious why this comment in particular — objectionable but mild compared to the works of Chris Matthews passim — earned a suspension.
  • Having said that, even an arbitrary suspension suggests that there may be at least some attenuation of standards of political discourse in which major pundits and television bingo callers can say absolutely anything about the Clintons in general and make nakedly sexist attacks on Clinton specifically. With Clinton likely to win the nomination, Democrats have to be aware of this, and be prepared to fight back. This is a good sign, although whether it’s an isolated incident or will portend some return to sanity in the way Hillary Clinton is discussed on air remains to be seen.
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Whiskey! Democracy! Patriarchal Torture!

[ 0 ] February 9, 2008 |

Ugh. Remember when installing an Islamist quasi-state in Iraq was defended as a boon to the interests of Iraqi women (oddly enough, usually by people otherwise hostile to women’s rights?) That still depresses and infuriates me too. [via Thers.]

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Nebraska Nixes Ol’ Sparky

[ 0 ] February 9, 2008 |

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled today that execution by electrocution is unconstitutional because it is cruel and unusual punishment.
The court’s logic seems pretty sound to me:

“We recognize the temptation to make the prisoner suffer, just as the prisoner made an innocent victim suffer,” Justice Connolly wrote. “But it is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it. Condemned prisoners must not be tortured to death, regardless of their crimes.”

Interestingly, the court relied wholly on its state constitution, so the U.S. Supreme Court will not have jurisdiction to review the decision…

State legislators can (and likely will) seek other execution procedures.

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Alaska to Polar Bears: Drop Dead

[ 10 ] February 8, 2008 |

It’s been nothing short of infuriating to watch Alaska’s resistance (sub.) to the possible (though unlikely) listing of polar bears as a “threatened” species. The state has exactly zero polar bear researchers on its staff at the Department of Fish and Game, and it’s devoted most of its time and resources to claiming that there aren’t enough data to justify invoking the Endangered Species Act on behalf of the bears. Rather than carry out actual population surveys of their own, they’ve turned to professional skeptics: The state’s case, for example, has relied quite significantly on the work of J. Scott Armstrong, a marketing professor from Penn’s Wharton School who makes his living by insisting that forecasters who don’t adhere to his method are destined to be wrong.

The confrontation has a familiar look and sound.

Gov. Sarah Palin is leading the state’s fight. In an op-ed column in The New York Times earlier this month, she said there is “insufficient evidence” to justify such a listing — an opinion she said was based on “a comprehensive review” of the science by state wildlife officials.

With limited peer-reviewed science available that concludes the bears are doing fine, however, the state devotes most of its space to challenging everyone else’s work.

That pits [deputy commissioner of Fish and Game Ken] Taylor and his staff — and several national consultants from the warming-is-overblown camp — against polar bear biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and leading international authorities in the World Conservation Union’s Polar Bear Specialist Group, not to mention the climatologists of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Studies by those scientists contend that Alaska’s polar bear populations are already showing signs of stress and decline linked to summer melting of their ice habitat. Ice shrinkage models suggest that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be gone by the year 2050. Scientists now say the Arctic ice may be melting even faster than that.

In addition to claiming a scarcity of data on polar bear populations, the state’s position so far has been to insist — and I’m not kidding here — that global warming might not actually result in Arctic ice-shelf depletion, and they’ve suggested as well that polar bears might simply adapt better to living on land. This latter hypothesis should remind us of Jonah Goldberg’s Katrina-week suggestion that people hunkered down in the Superdome might do well to stockpile weapons, “grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents.” (Interestingly, that infamous entry appears to have been scrubbed from The Corner’s archives.)

In the end, of course, Palin’s administration is lobbying against the listing for a number of reasons, all of which have something to do with future oil and gas exploration in the state. With that in mind — and if indeed the polar bears manage to forsake the ice shelves for year-round subsistence on land — I suppose they’ll have plenty of humans to eat once they run out of caribou.

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Here’s My Question…

[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

This is pretty funny, but it raises the same question in my mind now that was in place on Tuesday: How did Clinton get so badly outplayed in the western caucus states? With due apologies to Paul, it really doesn’t seem like the Obama people were so over the top competent that they could have won so cleanly unless the Clinton people dropped the ball. I recall reading somewhere that Obama had opened offices in some states while Clinton hadn’t. As Nevada shows us, Clinton can be competitive in a western caucus state when she wants to be.

So what happened? Did Clinton just decide to focus money and organization on the big primary states? If so, this really strikes me as terrible strategy. It seems that the money and effort spent getting from 57% to 58% in New York would be quite a bit more than that necessary to go from 30% to 40% in Utah. New York surely has more delegates, but delegates are cheaper to buy (so to speak) in Utah than New York.

Am I missing something?

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Not Confused…

[ 8 ] February 8, 2008 |

SecDef Gates:

“I worry that for many Europeans the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are confused,” Mr. Gates said as he flew here to deliver an address at an international security conference.

“I think that they combine the two,” he added. “Many of them, I think, have a problem with our involvement in Iraq and project that to Afghanistan, and do not understand the very different — for them — the very different kind of threat.”

It’s not that they’re confused, or that they don’t understand, Bob; it’s that Iraq casts a shadow over the legitimacy of everything the United States does. It’s that support for the United States in Afghanistan inevitably means support for the US in Iraq; Europeans worry that any resources they devote to Afghanistan will be responded to by an increased US commitment to Iraq.

On some level I sympathize with Gates, and I do think that some European countries could and should do more in Afghanistan. But the problem isn’t primarily that Europeans are stupid and confused. Rather, it’s Iraq, and that’s entirely a problem of our own making.

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Friday Skiing Blogging

[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

Today started at 4:30 AM in my NYC apartment. I’m now out west somewhere, ready for 2.5 days of skiing. I’ll be blogging when I can but…for this weekend, the snow rules.

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