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Popular Vote Nonsense…

[ 0 ] April 24, 2008 |

Jerome Armstrong:

But, rather than be content with calling out a math error, Markos has to up the ante audacious to demand we “count the count the Michigan “uncommitted” votes for Obama”. Ah, well, John Edwards was still in the race at the time and was surely in the same boat, having also pulled his name off the ballot in Michigan. At least Markos isn’t calling for Texans that caucused to have their votes counted twice, or that Puerto Rico votes won’t count… yet.

No one but Obama is to blame for his having no votes in Michigan. His campaign came up with the gambit to take his name off the ballot in MI to score cheap points in IA, and his campaign took the lead in convincing Edwards and Richardson to follow along and remove their names from the MI ballot to try and force Clinton to follow suit (my sources are from top people in the Edwards campaign). it didn’t work, Clinton took the hit of the political stunt and kept her name on the ballot in Michigan.

Here’s the thing; however you construct the “popular vote” it certainly has no binding legal force. To the extent it matters at all, it’s a moral argument; the superdelegates, the theory goes, should vote for the candidate who receives the most votes, as the distribution of pledged delegates has anti-democratic elements. Scott has critiqued this argument (pointing out that the structure of the competition affects strategy, and thus that if the candidates had known that the artificial construction called the “popular vote” would be important, they would have campaigned differently) but, frankly, the superdelegates can use whatever measure they want to decide between the candidates. For the reasons Scott suggests, and because there are several different popular vote counts, I think that assessing the race on popular vote is pretty stupid, but whatever.

The point, though is that in making what is essentially a moral rather than a procedural argument, you can’t invoke a procedural decision in order to exclude some substantial number of votes. Note that this isn’t such a problem with the pledged delegate total; the pledged delegate number is procedurally meaningful, and as such the various procedural rules and decisions associated with its tabulation matter. But Jerome here is, essentially, making the moral argument that Clinton should get the nod because she’s more popular, which requires pretending that no one in Detroit, for crying out loud, would prefer Obama to Clinton.

For my own part I continue to think that both the Florida and Michigan contests were shams, and should be treated as such. I don’t really want to revisit that argument, but it’s tangential to this point in any case; when making a moral argument, it’s absurd to resort to procedural shuffling in order to make your case. Another way of putting this is that I can see why people who work for Hillary Clinton would make this case, but just because they’re going to make the case doesn’t mean we have to believe it (note that I’m not claiming Jerome is on the Clinton payroll; I think he’s a bad analyst, but that’s not the same as being bought and paid for).

…Via jdkbrown, fantastic analysis here.

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[ 9 ] April 24, 2008 |

To follow up our recent threads, Megan has an invaluable summary of the evidence.

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History Lesson

[ 0 ] April 23, 2008 |

Rodger at the Duck has some thoughts about the Pennsylvania primary:

Pennsylvania [in 1980] didn’t stop the inevitability of front-runner Reagan capturing the Republican nomination. Like Reagan, Obama has sometimes won the delegate count even when he lost the popular vote: Nevada and Texas may be joined by PA.

Pennsylvania was an unfortunate speedbump for the frontrunner, but it did not seriously slow the campaign. Will 2008 be like 1980?

I suspect so, but I also suspect the comparisons end there. We shouldn’t forget that Ted Kennedy wound up defeating Carter that same day, as well as in several subsequent primaries before trying to have Carter’s delegates released at the party’s convention in New York. Making matters worse, of course, was that in the general election Reagan had the luxury of facing a candidate who actually was (as Rodger puts it) an “unpopular president brought down by economic insecurity and foreign policy disaster” — instead of a candidate whom the corporate media are bound to portray fallaciously as an intra-party alternative to the least popular president in modern American history. It’s beside the point that McCain won’t actually be offering much of an alternative on significant issues like the Iraq war or the Bush economy; the dominant narrative in the general election will center on what kind of “fresh start” voters will be seeking.

Meantime, I’ve decided the campaign will be a rousing success so long as it doesn’t resemble my favorite campaign in North American political history, the 1838 run for the presidency of Texas. In late June of that year, James Collinsworth — one of the republic’s founders who had served (simultaneously) as Secretary of State, as Supreme Court Justice, as Attorney General and as Senator — ended a week-long bender by jumping into Galveston Bay. Two days earlier, his friend Peter William Grayson — also a candidate for the republic’s highest office — had killed himself in Tennessee after a woman humiliated him by deflecting his marriage proposal. Running a campaign that was suddenly unopposed, Mirabeau Lamar predictably coasted to victory. Though Lamar would go on to die of natural causes two decades later, his brother Lucius — a judge in Georgia’s superior court, had killed himself on Independence Day 1834 after realizing he’d condemned an innocent man to die.

Anything short of that, and I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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It Should Come as No Surprise

[ 33 ] April 23, 2008 |

Given all the press recently about the U.S. incarceration rate — which now tops 1 in every 100 adults — it should come as no surprise that the US leads the world in both total number of incarcerees and the per capita incarceration rate. As Liptak puts it, our prison population dwarfs that of other countries. A dubious distinction if I ever heard one.

From Liptak’s article in today’s NYT:

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes.)

San Marino, with a population of about 30,000, is at the end of the long list of 218 countries compiled by the center. It has a single prisoner.

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England’s rate is 151; Germany’s is 88; and Japan’s is 63. The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.

As Liptak notes there are several reasons underlying this disparity: punitive American drug laws, the greater availability of guns in the U.S. (our murder rate is much higher than our peer nations’), and good ol’ American racism.

And other countries see our ballooned prison population as yet another reason to disdain rather than respect America today. Those other countries have their share of prison problems, too, but they just don’t compare to ours:

Still, it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes American prison policy. Indeed, the mere number of sentences imposed here would not place the United States at the top of the incarceration lists. If lists were compiled based on annual admissions to prison per capita, several European countries would outpace the United States. But American prison stays are much longer, so the total incarceration rate is higher.

Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, according to Mr. Mauer, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.

Many specialists dismissed race as an important distinguishing factor in the American prison rate. It is true that blacks are much more likely to be imprisoned than other groups in the United States, but that is not a particularly distinctive phenomenon. Minorities in Canada, Britain and Australia are also disproportionately represented in those nation’s prisons, and the ratios are similar to or larger than those in the United States.

Still, “tough on crime” prison advocates in the US maintain that our system works in reducing crime. As with the claims of any socialized medicine folks, our neighbors to the north may prove them wrong:

“The simple truth is that imprisonment works,” wrote Kent Scheidegger and Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in The Stanford Law and Policy Review. “Locking up criminals for longer periods reduces the level of crime. The benefits of doing so far offset the costs.”

There is a counterexample, however, to the north. “Rises and falls in Canada’s crime rate have closely paralleled America’s for 40 years,” Mr. Tonry wrote last year. “But its imprisonment rate has remained stable.”

So, as I ask at the end of virtually every post on prisons, the question is this: if prisons are an ineffective resource drain, why do we still love them so much?

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Waste of Space

[ 8 ] April 23, 2008 |

You will be shocked to learn that Maureen Dowd’s column today says that a male Democratic candidate is really a woman, and a female Democratic candidate is really a man/castrating bitch. And this crackpot nonsense is expressed entirely through witless cliches only Camille Paglia or Ann Althouse could find clever. (Note: this post may be applied to all past and future Maureen Dowd columns about Democrats.)

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Another reason to love xkcd

[ 0 ] April 23, 2008 |

I continue to think this comic is written by a woman contrary to what its own author claims.

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Penn Primary

[ 16 ] April 23, 2008 |

I don’t have much to add, and watched about as much coverage as Ezra, because the result is clear: Obama remains a near-lock, and Clinton’s not going to drop out after a 10-point win. I would like to second what should be an obvious point from Isaac Chotiner: claims that Obama “has to” start winning or seriously cutting into Clinton’s core constituencies in upcoming states are silly. He already has a majority coalition for the primary, and as far as the general election poor people and older women aren’t going to suddenly turn into a Republican constituency.

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Give Us This Much

[ 9 ] April 23, 2008 |

Hey, at least unlike certain cities I could name, my old hometown was certainly devoid of rioting!

(I really shouldn’t joke about this, since I was in Montreal for the Gucci Riot following the Habs winning in ’93, which came a few block from my apartment; fortunately, I was one of roughly 14 people at the 12-inning Expos game that night, so they were over by the time I got home…)

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Ace in the Hole

[ 10 ] April 23, 2008 |


Ang Lee speaks out against proposed Tory legislation that would deny the usual Canadian tax credits to “films and videos deemed offensive to the public.” (In fairness, if it would have stopped Lost and Delirious from being made it would prove that even social conservatism has its upside.) More important tonight, however, is that he can serve as a good luck charm, as he shows good judgments about both Western Canadian cities and hockey teams:

Lee captivated his audience with his friendly, unassuming demeanour.

His next movie, he disclosed, is “a comedy about the sixties,” but he would also love to make a film one day in Vancouver.

“I think this is the most beautiful city in the world …. I hope it’s a hockey movie. I want to make a movie where Canadians win, not always Americans,” said Lee, who became a fan of the Calgary Flames during the filming of Brokeback Mountain.

Hopefully Game 7 will be a little more suspenseful than tonight’s primary. (For some reason, I’m guessing some LG&M readers care more about the latter, so this can serve as a Primary Open Thread.)

…ugh, this fiasco has been much more The Hulk than The Ice Storm…

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Things That Are Cool.

[ 10 ] April 23, 2008 |

Add this one to the list: going to the Supreme Court to watch oral argument for a case you worked on. I can now attest that it’s pretty damn cool. And also, quite an odd experience to find myself nodding along with Scalia and thinking Ginsburg is on the wrong track.

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In-the-Tank Hack of the Day

[ 7 ] April 22, 2008 |

Mr. Richard Cohen, ladies and gentlemen!

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Why Vaccination Matters

[ 0 ] April 22, 2008 |

I was going to link to this (via Angry Professor) even before Obama brung the stupid.

The baby was 9 months old, his birth weight was 8 lbs 5 ounces. At six months he weighed just shy of 20 pounds. Today he weighed 15 pounds – he was a skeleton and he was dying.

Mom had brought him in after treatment by his naturopath had failed. Constant coughing had made it impossible for him to take in adequate nutrition and starvation, coupled with a raging bacterial pneumonia were conspiring to shortly end his very short life.

We worked feverishly. Intubation, IV boluses, major antibiotics, vasopressors. All futile.

At 9:03 pm, after 30 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation we pronounced him dead.

This boy had pertussis. His mother choose not to vaccinate him. I won’t enter that debate. Anyone who has ever watched a child die or become permanently disabled from a preventable illness supports vaccination.

The lesson to all this is that “teach the controversy” and “reasonable people can disagree” mantras need only apply to issues that are genuinely controversial or to disagreements that include two camps of people who actually possess reason.

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