Friday, March 07, 2008

BTW, Obama's Still Winning.

Well, there's no question that Tuesday night's results were a little disappointing, as Obama "lost" the Ohio and Texas primaries, though not the TX caucuses. It's disappointing mostly because it gives the Clinton campaign and the media the opportunity to exaggerate the significance of these "victories" and to give her an excuse not to exit the race. I use quotations because Obama more than held his own in terms of the net delegate accumulation on a night when a huge fraction of the remaining electable delegates were up for grabs, in states that Clinton was supposed to win. It's now all but impossible for her to overcome Obama's lead in electable delegates, so she'll have to lobby for revotes in FL/MI, to convince superdelegates to vote against their constituencies, and she'll have to play even dirtier and more fear mongerish than she already has.

Not the way we wanted the next few months to play out leading up to the convention. But, Obama is still in a good position to get the nomination. DailyKos did such a good job laying out his path to victory, that I'm going to rip it off completely and post it below (lame bloggetiquette, but hey, it's Friday, and I'm busy). Keep your chins up, Obamaniacs!

Because Barack Obama failed to dispatch Hillary Clinton Tuesday, some in the traditional media are flipping out with talk about how this throws the nomination up in the air, how things are different, "Democrats in disarray" and plenty of other idiocies. Obama and his camp are surely deeply disappointed they didn't defeat Hillary Clinton in the Texas or Ohio primaries. Had Obama won one or both, there would have been calls for Clinton to step aside and let Obama focus on beating John McCain.

Clinton won't step aside now, and few if any "party elders" will ask her to between now and the PA primary on April 22nd. However, her path to the nomination isn't any easier today than it was on Monday. In fact, if you view it like a boxing match, Clinton had been losing round after round on points all through February. Tuesday, in terms of the entire nomination battle, she didn't win as much as rally for a draw for that round. Pundits and her campaign are touting it as a win, but with a net gain of between 5 and 10 delegates, she made up no real ground. Thus, she lost an opportunity to narrow the gap, and now very little chance of securing the nomination. Furthermore, with the certification of votes in California, there appears to have been a net swing of 8 delegates in favor of Obama, thus wiping out her already modest gains from Tuesday.

There are some scenarios that could lead to a Clinton nomination; I'll deal with those in the next post. For now, here's what Obama needs to do to secure the nomination.

Remember the math. If Obama and Clinton split the remaining pledged delegates, Obama would only need 35% of the unpledged delegates (aka superdelegates) who haven't announced a preference, but Clinton would need 65% of the remaining superdelegates. Since Super Tuesday, Clinton has actually lost a net of one superdelegate according to the AP. During the same time, Obama added 53.

Downplay Pennsylvania (and West Virginia and Kentucky): Before the Potomac primary, I wrote that something to watch was how the candidates did west of I-81 in the mountains of western Virginia and Maryland:

First, the bad news for Obama supporters. He's likely to have a rough time in Appalachia. As I discussed yesterday before the polls closed, his performance in far western Maryland and in the mountains of Virginia west of I-81 would be a good indication of how he may perform in southeastern Ohio (and in the later contests in West Virginia and Kentucky). Obama was slaughtered in these counties. In western Maryland and the Virginia counties west of I-81 Clinton won by margins of 2-1 or better. In Buchanan county, in the far southwest part of the state on the WV border, Obama only pulled in 9% of the vote.

Sure enough, on Tuesday Clinton romped in Southern and Eastern Ohio. Other than the counties of Hamilton (Cincinnati) and Athens (Ohio University), Clinton won huge margins in every county that bordered Kentucky, West Virginia or Pennsylvania; in Scioto County, she pulled in 81%. The results from Virginia, Maryland and Ohio demonstrate that the voters of Appalachia are just not inclined to vote for Obama over Clinton, so Obama's chances of winning Pennsylvania, Kentucky or West Virginia are small.

Winning Pennsylvania, where it's a closed primary and Governor Ed Rendell has a good political machine devoted to winning the state for Clinton, will be tough for Obama. And winning it probably won't get rid of Clinton at this point. His chance at the knock out blow was Tuesday. He didn't knock her out. Now he has to wear her down.

Rack up big margins in the states he wins Of the states yet to be contested, only Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky look like natural strongholds for Clinton. Obama will probably win Wyoming, Mississippi, Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota. Even if Clinton wins Guam and Puerto Rico, he will have added to his pledged delegate lead and there will be more stories about Obama wins than Clinton wins. But he can extend his lead even more by winning with big margins and gaining extra delegates.

Continue to Raise More Money than Clinton: It should be easy for him to maintain his fundraising advantage. Assuming he does, he will be able to outspend Clinton, and it will be the kind of metric that the remaining superdelegates will look at in assessing who's better to have at the top of the ticket in November.

Tighten up the surrogate operation: Surrogates who talk to dodgy foreign publications like The Scotsman and call Hillary Clinton a monster, or surrogates who go on television unable to cite any of Obama's accomplishments may not do irreparable harm to the campaign. They don't help, however, and the best that can be said is that they miss opportunities to help their candidate.

Show he's tough, can take a shot and deliver one: One of the lasting (and legitimate) questions is whether Obama will be able to weather the attacks of the Republicans. He's never been challenged in a general election. He needs to assuage any concerns superdelegates might have about his toughness and resolve.

He also needs to take the fight to Clinton. She's been on the offensive for a couple weeks. Her ability to exploit the NAFTA controversy certainly cost Obama votes in Ohio. He needs to now take the gloves off and take the fight to Clinton. He's doing that in Mississippi, using Clinton's dismissal of the state against her. He will probably need to do that more, especially by hitting at her main theme, her experience.

Don't fight against Michigan and Florida: Don't get in to a fight against new contests in Michigan or Florida. Clinton probably can't gain enough delegates even if she won both states to make much of a difference in the overall delegate count. Nevertheless, it's probably not in Obama's immediate self-interest to have a new vote. However, he can't be seen as working against seating the two delegations. Therefore, in objecting to seating the delegations under the proportions of their unsanctioned votes in January, he should simply fall back on the DNC rules, but say if both states want to have DNC-approved contests, he'd support them. Make Clinton go through the contortions of justifying the unsanctioned votes as the basis for going against the DNC rules and seating the MI and FL delegations. Take the high road.

Don't Make any big blunders: Clinton's strategy at this point relies on hanging around and hoping she can force Obama in to enough blunders that he explodes or the superdelegates have enough doubts that they turn to her to prevent disaster in November. If Obama doesn't make any big blunders, the odds that her strategy will work are about nil.

That's an approach for Obama to secure the nomination. He would end the primary period short of the 2,025 delegates needed to lock up the nomination, but we've known for some time that nobody would get enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination before the convention. But if Obama holds or adds to his current delegate lead between now and the end of the primaries, Clinton won't have have any way to get the nomination. Any appeal to seat the MI and FL delegates would probably fail (because the Credentials committee will be weighted in Obama's favor, and Chairman Howard Dean will be able to appoint additional people who will presumably back him up in enforcing the rules). She will be behind in pledged delegates, Obama could overtake her narrowing lead in unpledged delegates, and she will be out of time. With no way to overtake him, she will be forced to concede the nomination to Obama.

There are unknowns, and he would have been much better off having dispatched Clinton on Tuesday. But provided he continues what he's been doing, sharpens and tightens up his campaign and his contrasts with Clinton, and doesn't screw up, he should be the nominee.


Dewy24 said...

I agree with all of your points except when you said you were busy.

Dan said...

I'm so busy that I've budgeted to pay you $5.25 an hour to help me with my page revisions. I'll expect you here at 9 AM tomorrow.

Dewy24 said...

I won't work for a penny less than $5.00.

Dan said...

You're a master negotiator.

Anonymous said...

Dan said...

wait. clarification please. Did you just anonymously post a link to a user driven website as some sort of legitimate point?

akboognish said...

Although I'm not sure what the point is of the link, the fact that it's a "user-driven website" does not make it illegitimate. I don't know where your antipathy for Wikipedia comes from, VTK. For referencing factual matters like "What was the McGovern Commission" it's probably the best resource on the web. The only problems (and they are extremely rare) are in editorializing and interpretation, and these are easy to identify.

In this instance, Anonymous posted the link as if it made some point, presumably in response to your post. Perhaps he/she thinks it supports the Kos's math argument? I don't know but it's sufficiently unclear that I'd say that it failed. But that doesn't mean that because it is a Wikipedia site it failed. In fact, based on my knowledge gleaned from other, supposedly legitimate sources (mainstream media), it's completely accurate.

Your questioning the legitimacy of the use of a "user-driven website" to make a point strikes me as an ad hominem attack on Wikipedia. Check out this
for a good definition of that word.

akboognish said...

By the way, nice photoshopping!

Dan said...

Frankly, I'm a little perplexed as to why you've chosen to be such an ardent defender of Wikipedia. Do you have stock in the company or something? You point out that the "only problems" with it are in "editorializing and interpretation". That there are any problems with it is the problem insomuchas it is being used by many as their primary reference source. Have we become that lazy people? It's the internet. Can we not look a little harder, spend that extra 30 seconds to cite a more direct source than wikipedia? The mindless submission at the altar of wikipedia as the purveyor of fingertip omniscience is a little much to take.

As far as "anon"'s quote and the suggested ad hominem nature of my response goes, I had 3 issues with the comment, all of which contributed to my irritation with it:

1. It was posted anonymously and without additional comment
2. It was of questionable point - what about the commission responded, counterpointed, or supported, what part of my post or my criticism of the superdelegate process?
3. It was lazily snagged from a site that I have issues with, in a manner which is stylistically distasteful to me as far as VTK discourse goes.

So, all 3 of those points contributed to my objection to the comment. Linking to wikipedia without and substantive context, anonymously, is, well it's just cheesy. I expect more from my commenters. Let's make the pie higher.

akboognish said...

I agree that linking to anything, without comment or at the minimum obvious context, is cheesy and unbecoming of a VTK commenter. So too, perhaps, is commenting anonymously, although I think the long tradition of anonymous speech in this country (the Federalist papers, for instance) is something to be defended.

But your criticisms of Wikipedia are what are perplexing--not my defense of it. I think the web itself was one of the greatest equalizers in access to speech since the printing press. But, just as with every other type of speech, it is not enough to be able to speak--you have to be able to be heard. And when you have a whole host of structural and economic forces getting in the way of speaking and hearing, you have constraints and limits on speach. But Wikipedia is an incredibly democratic mechanism for giving a platform to millions of voices that might not have any other way of being heard. It is often the very first thing that pops up on a Google (or other) search, which would never happen if you just wrote an article and posted it on the web. The fact that it's on Wikipedia enables a level of access that is almost impossible otherwise.

It comes with some restraints, of course: others can edit and comment on your speech. It might not stay up for long. It's supposed to be "neutral," whatever that means. And it's not always "right," since there is no barrier to posting.

But that last thing seems to be your only problem with it: it suffers from the potential of being wrong. I think that this potential is a) overblown, b) easily spotted, c) no different than any other source.

This last point is the most important. Every single source of information anywhere is merely and only a point of information that has been and needs to be interpreted by people. All encyclopedias, dictionaries, photos, texts, dissertations, peer-reviewed published papers, etc..., have been run through at least one person's head and need to run through more for them to have any meaning. I don't see why or how Wikipedia is any different, other than that the usual codes that we rely on for "accuracy" have been changed. Instead of a professional editor, the editing task has been democratized and the masses edit instead. Instead of a professional writer, the masses write. I've got no problem for this in terms of what we conventionally think of as neutral facts, and think that it is an unbelievably useful tool for all of us. For those facts that require more interpretation or opinion, I might consult Wikipedia, look to see what the sources are, and look to see what the debate is like. You can learn more faster there than you can almost anywhere else on the web.

Wake up and smell the revolution, brother!

Dan said...

Spare me the egalitarian, subjectivist polemic, dude. I think you know that I'm not suggesting that there is such a thing as objective truth in other "legitimate" information sources (dictionaries, encyclopedias, newspapers, etc). Don't try to paint that as my position. But the absence of objectivity in "legitimate sources" does not mean that all "other" sources are exempt from having a rigorous process of information verification. You clearly think that wikipedia is more than sufficiently vetted and capable in its info verification. I clearly do not think so. I'm not saying it doesn't have a place, but when people quote it as a legitimate source in an argument to me, I think they're lazy and might have dubious information. It's all well and good that wik is an "incredible democratic mechanism" and that it enables access that would be otherwise impossible, as you point out, but that says nothing about the validity of any of its content. Your dismissal of the apparently minimally regrettable fact that it's "not always 'right'" is ridiculous in the context of judging the legitimacy of a reference source. If someone quotes a fucking reference source, they are implicitly suggesting that I should be swayed by what they present to me because it is "right". It's not an op-ed situation. If I'm an elitist for wanting people to use sources that are more likelier than others to be "right" if they are trying to prove me "wrong", then I'm an elitist. Fuck the masses. I'll take the professional editor, and I'll take her/him with a grain of salt. As do you when you use those sources. And here's the larger point: you and I and many of the VTKids are educated or intelligent enough to question all sources and were we to make an argument with anything substantial on the line, we'd consult multiple sources and cross-consider the data. But just as most people have always considered there to be some sort of objective truth standard to "legitimate sources", people are relying on wikipedia as a purveyor of objective truth. Your point that the other sources suffer from subjectivity does not override the fact that there is a matter of degrees here. The stakes are higher for a professional editor or writer, so they will more thoroughly vet their "facts". If the masses get it wrong, there are no consequences. As a result, this masses-driven reference source suffers from more inaccuracies than other sources. And not just in editorial or interpretation issues, as you previously suggested. There are factual inaccuracies. I have a respected friend who looked up a financial term on wikipedia in preparation for a meeting and was presented with two different explanations on wik. Both were completely wrong. I don't have the time to research this fully (I don't really have the time for this argument (I'm on final deadline for BCSDDB), but you know I can't resist a good row), but I'm sure there are tons of examples of factual errors. Sure, there are errors in other reference sources, but there is a standard that those sources and editors and writers are held accountable for.

I agree that the web is a great social equalizer, but that doesn't blind me to the inadequacies of wikipedia as an uber-reference-source.

Wake up and fortify the cannon walls if you want the revolution to last, brother!

Lastly, re anon posting: I'm actually cool with it for the most part. Not everyone wants to put their name out there on a statement (or their character persona, in the case of most vtk commenters). I'm for the free speech of anon blog commenting. I just won't allow what I consider to be offensive crap (racist/homophobic/sexist/etc) in this forum and I generally discourage anon posting that is irrelevant or isn't posted with sufficient context/explanation. I suspect that this anon poster was a supporter of Clinton or Obama who was searching the internet for discussions on the campaign and semi-spamming this information. Which is lame.

akboognish said...

I actually agree with most of your assessment of the situation and see that we're arguing slightly different things. You're arguing that Wikipedia should not be an uber-source, a validation of an argument because of what it is. I agree with that and am not arguing that. What I am saying is that you've attacked the use of Wikipedia in VTK for its own sake, without attacking the substance of whatever the Wikipedia entry was used to support. That's pretty much an ad hominem attack: attacking the proponent of a position and by doing so avoiding addressing the substance of the position.

My point is that just because somebody uses Wikipedia it does not mean that the person is lazy. There are a lot of things, like the definition of "ad hominem attack," that really don't require a careful analysis of several sources. And citing a reference source is not, as you allege, implicitly suggesting that whatever is cited is "right"--it's providing the source for a proposition or an alleged fact so that others can more easily verify it.

So it makes no sense, when somebody cites to Wikipedia, to reflexively attack what they say by attacking their use of Wikipedia. If what they say is wrong, then by all means, go after them and go after their source. And if that's ever me, I sure want to make sure I have other sources and that I never alleged that Wikipedia was "objective truth" or whatever. It was, and always is, just a source, like any other that I might use.

As for the remaining points in your response, I basically agree with the differences between professionally edited works and Wikipedia, although for the reasons I talked about above I rather like that Wikipedia exists. The vast vast majority of the information on Wikipedia is noncontroversial and accurate. It's often a great starting point for research and for many facts (the more mundane ones like the definition of ad hominem or baseball stats) it's a great primary source (which, it should be noted, is usually internally sourced, too, so you can follow the links to whatever the author used and do your own verification). If you see it used in one of these debates, which are not white papers submitted to Congress or Supreme Court briefs, you should think about why it was used. If it's cited to support a fact that you disagree with or that you don't believe, than by all means challenge the source. Find your own source and prove that the Wikipedia entry is wrong and the person using it will have egg on their face and you'll have won the argument. But attacking the use of a Wikipedia entry just because it's Wikipedia, without discussing the substance of the proposition, that just doesn't support your position. In turn, yes, folks should not rely entirely on Wikipedia or take its word as TRUTH. Those who do are fools.

Good luck on the final edits!

Dan said...

"you've attacked the use of Wikipedia in VTK for its own sake, without attacking the substance of whatever the Wikipedia entry was used to support. That's pretty much an ad hominem attack: attacking the proponent of a position and by doing so avoiding addressing the substance of the position."

What was the substance of the position? There was no clear substance of the position, or if there was, it was not clear to me (or you, based on your initial comment). I wasn't attacking the proponent of a position to avoid addressing the substance of the position; I was attacking the proponent for not proposing a clear position of substance. My slagging of anon's use of wikipedia was one of 3 criticisms. I would have criticized the uncontexted comment (and I only criticized it because i took it (perhaps wrongly) as a challenging statement) regardless of the source. Your problem with my response is not that it was an ad hominem attack; it's that I took a dig at wikipedia which you didn't think was relevant to my challenge. Wikipedia's not the proponent. Anon is. I don't like people dropping poorly thought out, unsubstantiated, or otherwise insufficient statements in the VTK comment section and leaving the burden of proof on me or any other VTKids to sort out.

citing a reference source is not, as you allege, implicitly suggesting that whatever is cited is "right"--it's providing the source for a proposition or an alleged fact so that others can more easily verify it.

- there was no proposition
- it's not my job to verify something that hasn't even been proposed.
- it's even less of my job to follow additional source links of of the original (in this case, wik) source to verify something that hasn't been proposed.

It's irresponsible and lazy. The debates in this forum aren't on the same level as the fancy white papers used in Congress or submitted to the Supreme Court. I like to think I hold my readership to a higher standard. I challenge my readers: dare to comment in a substantive and complete manner that does not drop the burden of proof, the burden of researching secondary source links off your initial link, to your esteemed debate opponent.

akboognish said...

I absolutely agree in the context of Anon's post--it was irresponsible and lazy. It was an empty cite with no context and no purpose. But that the cite was to Wikipedia was irrelevant. Attacking him for using Wikipedia diverted you from the main points that you just made above.

The reason I pounced on this, of course, is because we've had this debate before. I can't quite remember what it was but I think it was over baseball stats. You criticized me for citing to Wikipedia without ever challenging my facts. That was a clearer ad hominem attack than Anon's was. And that's what I'm getting at--don't dis people for citing to Wikipedia unless what they cite is wrong. This dude cited to a page that is factually accurate and informative. It's also irrelevant and not probative. But that's not Wikipedia's fault, it's Anon's fault.

Dan said...

We seem to have a fundamental discrepancy in cynicism here. I distrust wikipedia, so if I feel like it's something that I need to verify further, I will follow the source links on the bottom. If it is not something that I feel like I need to verify further (e.g. something that has no apparent relevance to my argument), then I feel like it is lame that someone is forcing me to verify their argument rather than linking to the source that I wouldn't feel the need to verify. The point is that I always feel like I need to get secondary verification with wikipedia. Consequently, it irritates me when people cite wik in arguments/discussions/whatever with me because it makes me feel like they are trying to bury me in paperwork, so to speak. They don't feel the need to cite the sources that wik is citing; they can just look up whatever in wik and assume it is correct and if I'm distrustful of their source, then the burden on me is to prove it wrong. Furthermore, the burden of being unreasonable is on me for criticizing a site that everyone uses as their main reference. That is lame. That's why I included it in my triple criticism of anon. The burden was totally left on the reader (me): who are you? what's your point? what's the original source of your link? lame, lame, lame.

akboognish said...

Your deep cynicism regarding Wikipedia is unfortunate. I cite to it because it's often the clearest, most direct compendium of various facts. Baseball stats, historical references, biographical references, geography, etc... I don't use it as a main source necessarily, but I often use it as a first source, and then make a judgment call in deciding if I should dig deeper or not. If what I'm citing has clear potential for interpretation, I don't use it. If what I'm citing is more factual in nature, and most importantly, some person (or my lawsuit) will not live or die on my cite (since I acknowledge that democracy is messy sometimes), then I'll stop there and not dig deeper.

For example: in some argument one person says that the other person is just like Nabokov's Humbert Humbert, and the other person wants to know who that is. So, instead of going to a library and reading all of Nabokov's books, you type in Nabokov and maybe Humbert Humbert into Wikipedia and you learn he's the older dude in Lolita. I don't see what's so controversial or suspect about that kind of information resource. Some Nabokov-obsessed person sat down and wrote that all out, in what is actually a well-written and pretty extensive discussion about Nabokov. I read it and learn the fact which for whatever reason is relevant in my discussion.

Most of my experience with Wikipedia is less literary, though. When I have to deal with an area of law that I'm not familiar with and for which I don't have any treatises, I often check out Wikipedia first to get the overall gestalt and the cites to the major relevant cases. If I were to type in "fair use" into Lexis, I'd get a million cases and would not know just by looking at them which were the most important or the best starting points to learn what the law is. And reading cases is a tough way to learn the context behind the words, historical or political or whatever. But check out Wikipedia's section on fair use and you get a really good intro to the topic, including some basic cites and some major cases. I can then go to those code sections and those cases and start my more in-depth research if I want. For an arm-chair discussion, though, jeez--you don't need much more than what's on that page. It's thorough and very accurate (and I've done the research on it).

Now, situations like you're describing, where people cite to Wikipedia to prove their point because they believe it to be the end-all arbiter of truth, all would agree that that doesn't cut it. But I can't imagine that that happens that often. It's not what happened in the two instances I can recall on this blog--in both instances the Wikipedia entry was linked for reference, not for proof. I did it with the baseball stats (Wikipedia didn't state my argument that the Red Sox were superior or that the Yankees sucked, or whatever, but it did have a bunch of stats that I believed supported my argument, collected in a convenient manner and readable format, with secondary citations in case anybody wanted them), and Anon did it (admittedly without context) with the McGovern Commission thing. If he/she had said "Yeah, Kos is right--there's no way there will be resolution because of way the delegate selection process is set up. Oddly, the current system was started in response to the stealing of the election by Humphrey, who didn't have (any?) victories in the primaries but was awarded the nomination anyway. So they assigned a commission to come up with a new system. It was headed by George McGovern who then used the system he had set up to secure the nomination in 1972" and then linked to the Wikipedia cite for the McGovern Commission, that would be completely legitimate. We can all go to the cite and check out what the McGovern Commission is if we want to (which is a totally noncontroversial entry, by the way). I think it's extremely helpful for exactly the kind of thing that goes on on this blog--a lot of debating about shit between folks with various levels of knowledge about various topics. Wikipedia does a good job of getting folks up to speed and providing some factual basis to ground debates and discussions.

In both instances, you ignored the argument itself and attacked the use of Wikipedia. In fairness, there was no argument or explanation in Anon's post, and you pointed that out, but I said it before and I'll keep saying it, his/her use of Wikipedia was not per se lazy. His/her citing to a website without any context, with no explanation: that was lazy. But the fact that it was Wikipedia is irrelevant. Your calling him/her out on it was very close to the clear ad hominem attack that you launched against my citing to Wikipedia for baseball stats.

Now hopefully those links work...

Dan said...

It's becoming clear that your whole agenda here is to extend this debate (and possibly reopen that debate that I worked so hard to put to rest) to give yourself more opportunities to write "ad hominem attack". You just like writing that. Go ahead, write it again.

Lest I be accused of yet another ad hominem attack in this comment, let me stipulate that I believe I made my point clear and I have nothing more to add. I'm not going to restate my objection.

akboognish said...

Actually, my whole agenda was to bring this back around to the fact that Manny is a more valuable player in the post season than A-Rod.

Dan said...

That's an ad hominem attack on A-Rod.