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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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Anti-Clinton Sexism

[ 49 ] February 8, 2008 |

A valuable roundup. It’s easy to understand why this kind of stuff pushes people into Clinton’s camp.

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Late Contribution on the Liberal Label

[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

My hostility to the “liberal” label and consequent preference for “progressive”, in spite of the problems of the latter, stems almost entirely from several years of experience in teaching introductory Political Theory and International Relations at the college level. Most everybody here knows that “liberal” as used in reference to American politics bears only a very tenuous relation to how “Liberal” is used in Political Theory and in International Relations, but it can be bloody difficult convincing eighteen year old undergrads that there’s a difference.

The convenience element is important to me, but so is the precision of language part. Conservatives and liberals in America, with a few exception either way, are both part of a larger Liberal project, and they share (at least publicly) a set of Liberal assumptions about political order, process, etc. Confining the liberal tag to what amounts to the left liberals in American discourse (even if the “right” liberals are most enthusiastic about that ghetto-ization), has always struck me as an inaccurate use of the term. “Progressive” isn’t ideal for a variety of reasons, but I think the progressive vs. conservative distinction better captures actual political conflict in the US than the liberal vs. conservative dichotomy.

But then, I’m just an ivory tower egghead, etc. etc.

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[ 10 ] February 8, 2008 |

Via Yglesias, Rodger Payne gives some solid reasons for preferring Obama to Clinton on Cuba policy:

Last summer, however, Obama wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald calling for the US to ease up on some aspects of the economic embargo toward Cuba…Obama has also voted twice to cut off funding for TV Marti.

After Obama’s op-ed, however, Hillary Clinton’s campaign attacked it.

As US Cuba policy amounts to 47 years of utter stupidity (and counting!) anything sensible is quite welcome, and Obama seems to be talking more sense than Clinton. Payne suggests that Clinton’s position here is simply rhetorical, and that the distance between the two candidates is probably small. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far; the problem with US Cuba policy is, essentially, a rhetorical one, and thus holding to the same rhetoric while shifting policy in a sensible direction on the margins doesn’t actually do much. Whatever progress the first Clinton administration made in Cuba-US relations was lost during the Bush administration, in no small part because the rhetorical frame (starve Cuba until Castro gives up) remained unchanged.

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GOP VP II: The Supply Sidening

[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

Hair Club For Growth President Pat Toomey suggests some running mates for McCain; the first few seem plausible. However, I would strongly urge McCain to go with the boundless charisma and highly popular non-crackpotery of Phil Gramm or Steve Forbes. (Maybe Gramm and Giuliani could run as a two-headed vice presidential candidate representing the most embarrassing presidential runs in living memory.)

Toomey’s editorial is also available in video format.

“Hey. I’m Pat Toomey. I’m not putting my name on the line for a fiscal policy that doesn’t work.”

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