Mar 11, 2008

Hillary's path to the nomination

So how can Hillary win? These are the scenarios I can think of in order of best outcome to worst.

  • She can win more pledged delegates. Based on current polling that path will close on the May 20th primaries in Oregon and Kentucky.
  • Next up is Obama implodes ala Vitter, Craig or Spitzer. This is what super delegates are for.
  • Now we're in dodgy territory. This is the "will of the voters" argument. Popular votes, primary votes and primary popular votes. In addition to this being a hard argument to sell, the numbers don't back it up.
  • An even worse variation on "the will of the voters" is only counting voters if they live in big states or in blue states. Discounting voters based on ideology or geography.
  • Lastly there's super delegate arm twisting.
The downside is that in addition to being in the order of best to worst outcomes, they're also in order from least to most plausible. Clinton is working to win this cycle - not to be veep and not to run again in 2012 (she'll never win a caucus again). So the Clinton campaign is actively pursuing all of these strategies. Update: Another take on this.

Mar 9, 2008

Obama's 2002 speech

Obama supporters deliver his October, 2002 speech. One week later, the House and Senate (including Senators Clinton and McCain) voted to authorise the war in Iraq.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

If that's inexperience, I hope he's as inexperienced today as he was in 2002.

Mar 8, 2008

Paths to the nomination

An article on DailyKos covers how Obama can win the nomination. I'll update this with the follow up article on Clinton's path.

Mar 6, 2008

How to ask for help

How to ask for help online. This actually seems a bit wiser than a previous suggestion.

Mar 5, 2008

More election questions

Two more questions:

1. Why does texas have a ballot vote (primary) and a caucus (public voting???)?

2. What's the path to the democratic nom being confirmed? (e.g. how many primaries are left, what's the idiot's quick guide to these 'superdelegates')

Apparently they call it the "Texas two-step" in Texas. One of the guys who helped create it explains it.

For the super-delegates a bunch of people have gotten together to track them using MediaWiki. Their site is at and it looks like their research will matter more and more since neither candidate has a realistic possibility of getting the correct number of pledged delegates. is a good site for poll watching and some good thoughts on the nomination process. Last night's wrap up post covered a lot of issues.

Election question

As the Democratic Presidential nomination battle drags on, more people are paying attention. For two decades or more, the nomination was decided pretty quickly and people tuning in now don't understand the rules. Plus I live in Ireland and the US election system is by definition foreign to most of my friends here. So I'll try to answer questions as best I know them starting with:

According to the beeb, Hilary has 16 states and 1391 delegates. Barack has 24 states and 1477 delegates. So what counts more, the number of states or the total number of deleages? And what exactly is a delegate?
There's a convention in August to choose the Democratic presidential candidate. Each state[0] right now is coming up with the delegates they'll be sending to that convention - the number of delegates each state sends is in proportion to its population. Most of those delegates are elected - they're called pledged delegates. They are chosen based on which candidate they pledge to support. About 20% of delegates are super delegates. They are state party chairs, Democratic House and Senate members and other higher office holders. They're all elected; they've won their position through an election. But they are not elected to vote for a specific candidate at the convention. Each delegate - pledged and super - has a vote[1] and there are around ~4,000 delegates. So to win the nomination you need to get over ~2,000 delegate votes. All delegates are free agents once the convention starts. On the first vote pledged delegates usually vote who they're elected to vote for, but if a nominee isn't chosen on the first vote they can vote for whoever they want. So, your question: delegates matter; states do not. But delegate counts are all approximate right now. Not normally an issue, but in a close election it's a huge issue. For instance any accurate count of Obama's pledged delegate count should end in .5 - he won 5 Dems Abroad delegates last month. Many news organisations are opaque in their delegate counts - merging who they think super delegates will vote for with pledged delegate totals. And pledged delegate totals are not final either - the Iowa caucus which was the first step in this process finalises it's delegation to the convention on March 15th. Kevin [0] the 50 actual states; US territories like Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico; Washington DC and lastly Democrats Abroad. [1] Not all delegates get a single vote. Democrats Abroad delegates get half a vote. I think we're it though. And the half vote isn't done to be mean - we only have 11 votes and it's a way to give more folks overseas a chance to participate.

Feb 9, 2008

Feb 6, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year in Balbriggan.

Obama's got MO!

Like literally, he got MO. He also seems to have momentum - we'll see how he does over the next few weeks. Then it's on to... Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania will matter in a presidential primary?

Feb 5, 2008

Primary Day final

A victory pint in The Hamlet.

Primary Day #9

Obama voters appeal to all ages.

Primary Day #8

RTE setting up. The journalist for RTE, Ailbhe Conneely, is the only one who wouldn't give me a preference. She's staying objective.

Primary Day #7

The photographers in action.

Primary Day #6

UCD students for Hillary.

Primary Day #5

The press invades. I've been polling them and they seem to be for Hillary.

Primary Day #4

Voters in action!

Primary Day #3

DCU is here interviewing voters and volunteers. By the way Americans should make sure to register for the general election at There are also Congressional and Senate primaries for some races. In particular Illinois and Maryland voters should look into whether they can vote for Donna Edwards or Mark Pera (you'd need to rush on this one - that's today!).

Primary Day #2 (press gaggle)

The press is visiting. Brian from the press association in the foreground. So far none of them will say who they'd vote for.

Primary Day #1

Morning at the Irish polling station.

Feb 4, 2008

Obama-mania and Super Tuesday

So in about 12 hours I'll be casting my Democratic Primary vote in the Democrats Abroad Primary. So who to vote for? In the end this is the candidate I find inspiring (note, that's from his speech after he lost New Hampshire). I'm cynical enough not to fully believe, but I have hope. Lots of big name endorsements for Obama recently, but this one is interesting. I'll be volunteering at the DA Ireland polling station tomorrow at O'Neill's Pub on Suffolk St. in Dublin.


Good game, bad result (for this Pats fan). But for those of us overseas who missed the ads the Superbowl is famous for, fear not. CNN has them up and their own ratings for them.

Jan 31, 2008

View from the morning commute

An early train and the Sun is coming up - a sure sign that winter is ending!

Jan 28, 2008

Sebelius to endorse Obama

I've had this secret desire for an Obama/Sebelius ticket for 2008 for several months. As Governor of Kansas, Sebelius has been very successful in moving Kansas in a sane direction. So news that she's likely to endorse Obama just after she gives the national Democratic response to Bush's State of the Union speech sounds pretty awesome to me.

Jan 27, 2008

End of Empire

A long article in the NY Times Magazine on the end of American Hegemony. It covers the top rising powers in the world and how America could constructively participate (as opposed to how it has been doing so far this century).

The numbers on South Carolina

The Democratic Primary in SC is over and Obama won as expected. More interesting is who voted for him. The following posts cover the beginnings of the post-election analysis:

There are positive signs. More voters for the Dems than the GOP (though the weather was better for the Dem primary). Obama got more votes than the top two GOP candidates combined and Hillary was only barely beaten by McCain. Obama continues to draw out youth voters. I'm leaning towards Obama and as usual his speech was inspiring. He was also endorsed by JFK's daughter in a well-written NY Times Op-Ed.
I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.
We'll see if he can pull it off. He's won every primary so far - at least in terms of delegates - but in reality he has an uphill road to the nomination as the diary at openleft above pointed out.

Jan 21, 2008

Who votes for a fascist?

Ornicus points out an interesting article in a 1941 edition of Harper's magazine. A reminder that 1930/40s Germany can be repeated elsewhere.

Jan 19, 2008

Chasing email tails

In the news, the Irish Justice Department is going to implement an EU Directive for storing and saving email transaction information (not the emails themselves, just things like to/from/when, etc). Many people argue against this based on privacy issues. And that's a very valid issue. However there's another flaw that rarely gets covered: it won't work. I'd argue it's actually damaging to real security. I'm an Irish resident but I suspect very few of my online communications are logged under this directive. Some of my email is handled by a server in the States (and accessed via an encrypted channel) and I communicate with many friends via IRC frequently via an encrypted channel (and only one server is based in Ireland). With very little effort I could ensure that all of my online communications would be done via encrypted channels, outside of Ireland and in a way that can't be traced. In addition I could do it in a way that wouldn't arouse suspicion - using protocols that any computer professional might use in the course of their job. If I can think of that then surely anyone having discussions they wouldn't want the government to know would take advantage of these methods and more. So the vast majority of this information being stored is of people the government has no interest in. Like 99.999999% of it will be useless information that will need to be stored and sifted through to find anything of interest. And what will be found - the fact that Alice mailed Bob on Tuesday? And it's email so you can't even really prove that it was Alice who sent the mail. That's a lot of effort for the tiniest of facts. Worse still, far too many people will think this issue is solved. There are times when the government has a valid reason to gather information on suspects. Expending all this effort to gather useless information (and to ensure compliance) means we won't be expanding as much effort trying to find important information (and to find out how criminals are really communicating).

Jan 15, 2008

House Prices

As Atrios points out, house prices will settle down to something the average house buyer can afford. Obviously another option is for salaries to rise to afford the average house! Unsurprisingly as a homeowner I vote for that option!

Michigan Primary

Today is the Michigan primary. Unlike the previous two, this will essentially be a Republican-only primary as Hillary Clinton is the only candidate on the ballot for the Democratic primary. Amusingly, this has caused a Democrats for Mitt movement. Last year various states moved their primary election dates up in a bid to hold theirs before the Iowa and New Hampshire contests - which is why the primary elections are so early this year. Eventually the national Democratic Party threatened to not seat delegates from states doing this: a threat they've carried out for Michigan and Florida. What will actually happen is anyone's guess, but that's why only Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat on the ballot in Michigan. Meanwhile more partisan Democrats are encouraging Democrats to cross party lines and vote for Mitt. They're legally allowed to do that since Michigan has an open primary. And for some reason people outside America think our system is weird...

US Senate Races

So it seems there are 35 Senate races this year. Wikipedia has a nice breakdown of the 2008 Senate races. 2006 was a good year for Democrats in Congress. Democrats made gains in the Senate even though they had more seats to defend. This year Republicans have more seats to defend and their national Senate re-election committee is way behind the Democrats in fund-raising .

Jan 14, 2008

"I'm just a Bill"

With all the interest in the current US Presidential election, it's important to remember what it's all about. Thanks to this FCC policy most Americans of my generation learned a bit about their country from Schoolhouse Rock - this video being one of the better known: The presidential election is one of around 450 Federal offices up for election (and technically the presidency isn't even one of them). All 414 seats in the House (plus some non-voting seats in the House) and around 33 seats in the Senate are up for grabs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Jan 13, 2008


On Thursday a train derailed on the train line I take. Irish Rail had to shut down the line this weekend to repair it which is understandable. Supposedly my annual rail ticket is good on busses this weekend but instead I was given this form in triplicate to claim a refund. Stellar customer service. Update: To be fair to Irish Rail they say the following in a notice on their site:

Dundalk/Drogheda and Dublin Services: No Northbound/Southbound Commuter services will operate on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th January.

Dublin Bus and Bus √Čireann will honour rail tickets on both days.

The REAL Ireland Caucus (er, Primary)

Damien Mulley mentions a site called the Ireland Caucus where Irish people can vote for the next US President. While I think it's an interesting idea, it's a shame he didn't mention that there will be an actual primary (for the first time it won't be a caucus) on February 5th through the 12th for US citizens in Ireland. There's a long explanation how to vote here, but the summary is this:

Our primary will be held from the 5th to the 12th of February. The polling station will be set up at O'Neill's Pub on Suffolk Street from about 10am until late. Other than that though if people cannot make it in person, internet and fax voting will be available. Anybody who votes will have to be a member of Democrats Abroad Ireland by January 31st just so we can verify them.
Make sure you register at Democrats Abroad by the 31st and make sure to vote! Remember to register for the general election in November here - this will also allow you to vote in state's Senate and Congressional primaries later this year.

Public sector pay

So the benchmarking report on public sector pay is out in Ireland. It recommends no increase for most jobs pointing out that pension benefits alone are worth 12%. The usual suspects are gleeful and fair enough, benefits have value. However the raises that are given nearly all go to the high end. I don't have figures for all the roles, but elected ministers appear to be well paid. Did pension calculations go into their salaries - do Ministers get negative pensions? Personally I think that pay for lower level civil servants is way too low. And the idea that the civil service should shrink in times of population growth and increased economic activity boggles the mind. But regardless it's pretty obvious that there's one set of compensation rules for those higher up in the civil service and another for those lower down the ladder.