Monday, June 30, 2008


The British Constitution

Cranmer writes that the hereditary peers in the House of Lords voted against the Treaty of Lisbon by a large margin (50 to 14), and it only passed because of the numerous other peers. The BBC says that the Lords voted against a referendum by 280 to 218.

If the House of Lords had voted against the measure, and the Labor government had gone to the country by setting a new election for the Commons, almost surely the Tories would have won the election. Thus, it seems this is a case in which the old hereditary lords would have enable popular opinion to win through.

In America, if Congress voted to delegate some of its power to a different elected assembly, the courts would rule the bill unconstitutional. (It has allowed Congress to delegate rule-making power to the executive branch (e.g. the EPA) and to independent commissions (e.g. the FTC), but that is different.)

Surely there must be some similar constitutional principle in Britain. Maybe it does not apply here because Britain can withdraw from the EU, so this is just like joining the WTC and agreeing not to set tariffs. Suppose, though, that Parliament voted to delegate all its power to a single person. If that person made a law, would the British courts administer that law, or would they refuse to issue penalties based on it?

That example is like the creation of the Vichy government in 1940. The French legislature by a massive majority (something like all but 3 legislators) freely delegated its authority to General Petain, amidst general recognition of its own incompetence. I don't know how the French courts responded.

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Friday, June 27, 2008


France's Europe Minister Is an Anti-American Nut

Cranmer tells us that:
According to France's Europe Minister, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the intervention of certain neocons ‘played a significant role in the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty’. In Le Monde (via EUobserver), M. Jouyet said: ‘Europe has powerful enemies on the other side of the Atlantic, gifted with considerable financial means. The role of American neo-conservatives was very important in the victory of the “No”.’
This sounded so weird that I checked the original inLe Monde :
Une analyse étayée par le secrétaire d'Etat aux affaires européennes, Jean-Pierre Jouyet : "L'Europe a des ennemis puissants de l'autre côté de l'Atlantique, dotés de moyens financiers considérables. Le rôle des néoconservateurs américains a été très important dans la victoire du non."
The translation is accurate.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008


Pivotal Voting

I was talking with Bernie Groffman just now and thought I'd make a record of the simple example of why apparent voting strength is not real voting strength. Suppose we have a committee on which Spain gets 50 votes, France gets 50 votes, and Andorra gets 1 vote. All have equal voting power, in fact. A winning coalition needs 2 and only 2 of the countries, and it doesn't matter which two.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Ratio Variables in Regressions

I was reading Gibbs and Firebaugh (Criminology, 1990) on ratio variables in regressions. Suppose you regress Arrests/Crime on Crimes/population using city-by-city data, and in fact there is no causal connection. Will they be negative correlated anyway, since CRIMES is in both variables?

No, so long as all relevant control variables are in the regression. Here is a way to see it. Suppose we regress 1/Crime on Crimes/Population. Suppose too, that Crime and Crimes/Population are uncorrelated--- that bigger cities do not have a higher crime rate. Then 1/Crime and Crimes/Population will be uncorrelated.

If, of course, bigger cities do have higher crime rates, then 1/Crime and Crimes/Population will be correlated, but if we suspect that to be true, then in our original regression we should have regressed Arrests/Crime on not only Crimes/Population but on the control variable Crimes.

There is some issue of measurement error-- of false correlation arising if Crime has measurement error. Then we are regressing Arrests/(Crime+Error) on (Crime+Error)/Population. I think if we use (Crime +Error) as a control variable that will fix the problem, though.

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Monday, June 23, 2008


Henry VIII's Divorce: The Real Story

It is sometimes sneeringly said that the Church of England was founded because Henry VIII wanted a divorce and the Pope would not give it to him. That is the true story that lay under the surface (or, going further, perhaps the true story is that Henry VIII wanted a divorce from Emperor Charles's aunt, and the Emperor objected). The principle at issue, however, seems not to have been divorce, but whether the Church trumped the Bible, exactly the principle that split other Protestants from Rome. Here's what seems to be the story. I'd have to do library research to find if it is correct, however--- web sources are frustratingly vague.

The heir to the English throne, Arthur Tudor, married Catherine of Aragon but died some months later. His brother, the future Henry VIII, wanted to marry the widow. Church law, however, forbade a man to marry his brother's widow, based (somewhat dubiously) on a verse from Leviticus. Henry applied to the Pope for permission to break the rule, and the Pope granted that permission.

The issue was whether the Pope had the authority to grant Henry permission to break divine law.

The Papacy said Yes. Henry said No. Henry submitted the question to various university faculties, and many of them, including ones in France and Italy, agreed with him. The one Protestant university that I've read of him consulting, Marburg, replied that Henry was correct on that narrow issue, but wrong on whether his marriage was invalid, because the underlying church law was wrong.

Update (June 26): I found the key book, Edward Foxe's 1531 The determinations of the moste famous and mooste excellent vniuersities of Italy and Fraunce, that it is so vnlefull for a man to marie his brothers wyfe, that the pope hath no power to dispence therewith. I've posted it at It's out of copyright, and I think merely scanning it in doesn't count as adding enough to copyright it. It says right at the start:

NOt longe syns there were put forth vnto vs the college of doctours regent{is} of the vniuersitie of Orlea~ce, these .ij. questions, that folowe. The fyrste, whether it be leful by the lawe of god for the brother to take to wyfe that woma~ / whom his brother hath lefte. The seco~de, and if this be forbydden by the lawe of god / whether this prohibition of the lawe of god maye be remytted by the pope his dispensation
Not long since there were put forth unto us, the college of doctors regent of the University of Orleans, these ii questions that follow. The first: whether it be lawful by the law of God for the brother to take to wife that woman whom his brother hath left. The second: and if this be forbidden by the law of God whether this prohibition of the law of God may be remitted by the Pope his dispensation.

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Maps of Global Warming

Here is a neat NASA make-your-own map site for global warming. You choose an averaging period--- say 2000-2008--- and see how it compares with another period--- say, 1950-1960, for a given month. Note that th e base period such as 1950-1980 is during the global cooling period.



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Thursday, June 19, 2008



From my latex notes at

This is tricky in Latex, because while you can define new counters, I can't see how you would attach their values to labels. The \label command can only be used in environments that have their own counters (such as \begin{equation}), and you can't fool those environments into adding to a counter without having them print the value on the printed page somewhere. So I used Tex programming, like this. I create a new counter named \fignum and then attach it to a label called \1f, \2f, and so forth, advancing the counter in between. I used \edef rather than \def because \edef inserts the value at the particular time, while \def would repeat the command \number\fignum each time \1f was written.



\advance\fignum by 1


Example: Figure \1f says this. The second part of it, Figure \1fa, says something different. Figures \2f and \2f-a say something still different.

This is plain Tex, not Latex.

You need to write backslash-1-f rather than backslash-f-1. I'm not sure why-- it must be that the number gets interpreted as doing something special to the definition rather than being part of the name.

You have to remember to put your definitions earlier in the document than when you use the term defined. You could put them all the start, actually, but then you might forget to re-order them when you change the order of the diagrams.

I think you can advance the fignum variable by a negative number if you want to.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Carbon Dioxide and Global Warming

This 2007 article on global warming and carbon dioxide looks interesting. It talks about lots of things, including plant use of carbon dioxide.

It has seemed to me that the strongest evidence for a linke between carbon dioxide and warming was the higher amount of warming in cold dry regions. Such regions have less water vapor, so the same absolute increase in carbon dioxide would generate more of a marginal greenhouse effect. I thought of a problem with that, though. If warming in general-- for some other reason such as sunspots-- occurred, then there would be an increase in water vapor, and *that* increase would have more effect in cold dry regions.



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Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Some Literary Words and Phrases

Here are two phrases I came across recently:

"Augustan redundancy in writing"

"adjectives are noun hungry"

From come some literary terms:

Anaphora: A repetition device wherein the same expression (word or words) is repeated at the beginning of two or more lines, clauses, or sentences. "When Jamie saw him throw the baby, saw Van throw the little baby, saw Van throw his little sister Nin, then they moved.

Litotes: this is when you understate an idea in order to convey the opposite idea. This is normally done through the use of a negative negative before one of the words in order to express a strong affirmative.

Metonymy: Like synecdoche, this term refers to figurative language that uses particular words to represent something else with which they are associated. Metonymy is when one term is substituted for another term with which it is closely associated ("crown" or "sceptre" stands duty for "monarch").

Trope: Any of several types of diversion from the literal to the figurative. The so-called "four master tropes" are irony, metaphor, metonymy, and synecdoche) A few new ones have recently been invented: see aegis, catachresis, kenosis, perruque. cf figures of speech.

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Monday, June 16, 2008


An Indiana Spanking Case

The Indiana Supreme Court, as described by Prof. E.Volokh, have just ruled that it is ok to discipline your child. The decision was 4 to 1. But lower courts had upheld a criminal conviction for battery! I hope the prosecutor and judge in that county get unseated.

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Cambridge v. Patten

Justia has the complete collection of documents for Cambridge v. Patten, the case where Cambridge and Oxford's presses are suing Georgia State for copyright infringement. I've read the complaint. Georgia State lets professors post readings for their students, and gives them very liberal Fair Use guidelines. The presses are objecting even to single chapters being posted that way. Some interesting bits:

1. The presses are suing university administrators personally, as well as the organization.

2. The presses are not asking for any damages, just costs. The main thing they want is declaratory relief and an injunction.

I think the presses should win by law, though the law is very bad.

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Are the Tories Helping Gordon Brown?

A prominent Tory MP recently resigned to re-fight his election in protest against an extension of the 28-day imprisonment-without-cause rule to 42 days. That in itself doesn't make sense to me (his party already opposes the change, 28 vs. 42 seems to miss the point of suspending habeas corpus anyway, ... ), but TV pundits were saying that his party leader must be angry with him for shifting news attention away from Prime Minister Brown's unsteady position within the Labor Party.

I wonder whether the motivation might not be just that. Perhaps the Tories like Brown being at the head of Labor and are helping him out. The very oddity of the Tory resignation helps distract attention from Brown and allows the public mood to improve for him.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Two Game Theory Terms

From Wikipedia (my boldfacing):
A game in game theory is considered a potential game if the incentive of all players to change their strategy can be expressed in one global function, the potential function. The concept was proposed by Dov Monderer and Lloyd Shapley. Games can be either ordinal or cardinal potential games. In cardinal games, the difference in individual payoffs for each player from individually changing one's strategy ceteris paribus has to have the same value as the difference in values for the potential function. In ordinal games, only the signs of the differences have to be the same.
A game is a common interest game if it has a unique payoff-dominant outcome. Thus, a pure coordination game is not a common interest game, but ranked coordination is.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Male and Female Majors at Yale

Dan Gelerntner at Yale has a weblog post listing the most male and the most female majors at Yale. It's interesting that Music makes the male list, and history of science and cognitive science make the female list.

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Bibtex and Miktex: A bibliography program

I'm not sure if this is worth using or not. Here's how it works with Miktex.

1. For your file myfile.tex, construct a bibliography database file
myfile.bib with a bunch of entries like this, which do not not have to
be in alphabetical order:

  author = {Hotelling, Harold},
  journal = {Economic Journal},
  month = {mar},
  number = {153},
  pages = {41--57},
  publisher = {Royal Economic Society},
  title = {Stability in Competition},
  volume = {39},
  year = {1929}

You can do this from Google Scholar by going to Scholar Preferences and
checking off towards the bottom that you want a Bibtex-format link.
After you set your prferences,  Import into BibTeX will be a link  fror
each item a   Google Scholar search turns up.

2. Pick a style file such as econometrica.bst.  Put that file and the
myfile.bib file into the same directory as myfile.tex.

3. Wherever you want the references in myfile.tex, insert the commands

\bibliographystyle{econometrica} %needs  econometrica.bst file in folder
 \bibliography{myfile} %needs myfile.bib file in folder


 The nocite command makes sure that all the entries in the myfile.bib
file get put into the references. Otherwise, only the ones cited using
bibtex commands get put in. The bibtex citing commands are just extra
commands to remember and make reading latex input files harder, so I
don't think I'll use them.

4. Change the name of myfile.tex to plain myfile.

5. Run myfile  through pdflatex.  That will create myfile.aux.

6. Run myfile through bibtex. That will use myfile.aux and
econometrica.bst and myfile.bib to create myfile.blg, a log file, and
also myfile.bbl, the bibliography formatted nicely.

7. Run myfile through pdflatex again.
My files of latex tips, including this one, is at



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Nicotine Prevents Senility?

From Wikipedia:
With regard to neurological diseases, a large body of evidence suggests that the risks of Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease might be twice as high for non-smokers than for smokers.[26] Many such papers regarding Alzheimer's disease[27] and Parkinson's Disease[28] have been published.

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Monday, June 9, 2008


The Seven Noachic Laws

From Roeber's article about German Jews in early America:
For Jews, the commands given to Noah and his sons after their rescue from the deluge were revealed truth and laid down a clear set of requirements: to establish a society based on laws; to prohibit idolatry; to prohibit blasphemy; to prevent the careless taking of human life; not to tolerate adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality; to prevent robbery; to avoid eating the limb torn from a living animal. These seven basic laws, applicable only to the people of the Covenant, had become the focus of a written tradition by the second century of the Common Era. The body of writings (the Tosefta) that commented on Noachic law began gradually to extend the applicability of the Noachic commands.3 Much later--not before the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries--Jewish commentators who followed Maimonides firmly maintained that gentiles also had to observe these laws. Maimonides believed that this was so not because humans could reason themselves toward the right conclusions, but rather because revelation at Sinai had codified them into the Decalogue. Maimonides assumed that non-Jewish access to the universal truths expressed here brought obligation in its train.

His footnote is useless. Other sources point me to Maimonides's Mishneh Torah, which is not in English on the Web. See also the useful though opinioned "Comments Concerning the Noachide Law, the Mosaic Law, Judaism and Christianity",

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Josephus on Sodomy and Abortion

At the time of Josephus, Jewish law abhorred homosexuality, of course. It also seems to have treated abortion as murder (Against Apion, 2.25)

But, then, what are our laws about marriage? That law owns no other mixture of sexes but that which nature hath appointed, of a man with his wife, and that this be used only for the procreation of children. But it abhors the mixture of a male with a male; and if any one do that, death is its punishment. ... The law, moreover, enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing human kind; if any one, therefore, proceeds to such fornication or murder, he cannot be clean.

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Friday, June 6, 2008


Mutual Insurance Companies

From comes a useful article:

Over 200 mutual life insurance companies have demutualized since 1930. At the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century numerous large mutuals such as Prudential, MetLife, John Hancock, Mutual of New York, Manufacturers Life, Sun Life, Principal, and Phoenix Mutual decided to demutualize and return to policyowners all the profits they had accumulated as mutual life insurers. Policyowners were awarded cash, stock and policy credits exceeding $100 billion in a wave of demutualizations, which have been regarded as socially desirable.

Other large mutual life insurance companies decided to not return their accumulated profits to policyowners. The boards of directors of these other companies, which include Northwestern Mutual, Massachusetts Mutual, New York Life, Pacific Life, Penn Mutual, Guardian Life, Minnesota Life, Ohio National Life, National Life of Vermont, Union Central Life, Acacia Life, and Ameritas Life decided to either remain mutual or they decided to form mutual insurance holding companies. In either case, policyowners were awarded nothing. At the end of 2006 there were less than 80 mutual life insurers in the United States whose continued existence as mutuals rests largely on the financial ignorance of their policyowners....

A mutual holding company is a hybrid concept, part stock company and part mutual company. Technically, the members still own over 50% of the company as a whole. Because of this, they are generally not significantly compensated for what would otherwise be viewed as loss of property. (This is also why many jurisdictions, including Canada,[1] disallow the formation of MHCs.) The core participants are isolated into a special segement of the company, still viewed as "mutual". The rest is a stock company. This part of the business might be publicly traded, or held as a wholly owned subsidiary until such time that the organization should choose to go public.

Mutual holding companies are not allowed in New York where attempts by mutual insurance to pass permissible legislation failed. Opponents of mutual insurance holding companies referred to the establishment of mutual holding companies in New York as “Legalized Theft.”

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Weitzman's Gamma Discounting

I was just thinking about the article "Gamma Discounting", Martin L. Weitzman The American Economic Review, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 260-271. Weitzman has a model in which you are unsure of the proper discount rate, and concludes that your discount rate should become small in far future periods. He says the intuition has to do with compound interest. He uses the gamma function for your prior. I think a numerical example works better, though I'm not sure if this is what he's getting at-- he says that using continuous compounding you don't get his result.

Anyway, here's the simple idea. Suppose we don't know whether the interest rate will be 2% or 4%, and these have equal probability. We will get a benefit of $1 in 100 years. What is it worth in present value?

If the interest rate is 2%, the value is about $.13. If the interest rate is 4% the value is about $.02. The expected value is therefore about $.07. But if the interest rate were a known 3%, the expected value would be about $.05. Thus, our ignorance results in less discounting.

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Homosexuality in Ancient Laws

I was browsing through a website of ancient laws, and found evidence that the view of homosexuality as a moral offense was not confined to the Bible: The Code of the Assura, c. 1075 BCE (Assyria)

I.20. If a man have intercourse with his brother-in-arms, they shall turn him into a eunuch.

AVESTA: Vendidad: FARGARD 8. Funerals and purification, unlawful sex (Zoroastrian)

26. O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One! If a man, by force, commits the unnatural sin [sodomy], what is the penalty that he shall pay?

Ahura Mazda answered: 'Eight hundred stripes with the Aspahe-astra, eight hundred stripes with the Sraosho-charana.'

27. O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One! If a man voluntarily commits the unnatural sin, what is the penalty for it? What is the atonement for it? What is the cleansing from it?

Ahura Mazda answered: 'For that deed there is nothing that can pay, nothing that can atone, nothing that can cleanse from it; it is a trespass for which there is no atonement, for ever and ever.'

2833. When is it so?

'It is so if the sinner be a professor of the Religion of Mazda, or one who has been taught in it.

'But if he be not a professor of the Religion of Mazda, nor one who has been taught in it, then his sin is taken from him, if he makes confession of the Religion of Mazda and resolves never to commit again such forbidden deeds.

29. 'The Religion of Mazda indeed, O Spitama Zarathushtra! takes away from him who makes confession of it the bonds of his sin; it takes away (the sin of) breach of trust; it takes away (the sin of) murdering one of the faithful; it takes away (the sin of) burying a corpse; it takes away (the sin of) deeds for which there is no atonement; it takes away the worst sin of usury; it takes away any sin that may be sinned.

30. In the same way the Religion of Mazda, O Spitama Zarathushtra! cleanses the faithful from every evil thought, word, and deed, as a swift-rushing mighty wind cleanses the plain.

'So let all the deeds he doeth be henceforth good, O Zarathushtra! a full atonement for his sin is effected by means of the Religion of Mazda.'

31. O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One! Who is the man that is a Daeva? Who is he that is a worshipper of the Daevas? that is a male paramour of the Daevas? that is a female paramour of the Daevas? that is a wife to the Daeva34? that is as bad as a Daeva: that is in his whole being a Daeva? Who is he that is a Daeva before he dies, and becomes one of the unseen Daevas after death?

32. Ahura Mazda answered: 'The man that lies with mankind as man lies with womankind, or as woman lies with mankind, is the man that is a Daeva; this one is the man that is a worshipper of the Daevas, that is a male paramour of the Daevas, that is a female paramour of the Daevas, that is a wife to the Daeva; this is the man that is as bad as a Daeva, that is in his whole being a Daeva; this is the man that is a Daeva before he dies, and becomes one of the unseen Daevas after death: so is he, whether he has lain with mankind as mankind, or as womankind.'...

The Laws of Manu, c. 1500 BCE (India)

369. A damsel who pollutes (another) damsel must be fined two hundred (panas), pay the double of her (nuptial) fee, and receive ten (lashes with a) rod.

370. But a woman who pollutes a damsel shall instantly have (her head) shaved or two fingers cut off, and be made to ride (through the town) on a donkey.

The Laws of Manu, c. 1500 BCE

68. Giving pain to a Brahmana (by a blow), smelling at things which ought not to be smelt at, or at spirituous liquor, cheating, and an unnatural offence with a man, are declared to cause the loss of caste (Gatibhramsa)...

174. A man who has committed a bestial crime, or an unnatural crime with a female, or has had intercourse in water, or with a menstruating woman, shall perform a Samtapana Krikkhra.

175. A twice-born man who commits an unnatural offence with a male, or has intercourse with a female in a cart drawn by oxen, in water, or in the day-time, shall bathe, dressed in his clothes.

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Charity Giving by Prominent American Liberal Politicians

This American Spectator article, "Liberal Scrooges" by Peter Schweitzer, is amazing. It relates the tiny amounts that Obama, Ted Kennedy, Kerry, Andrew Cuomo, Gore, Reich, Jesse Jackson, and Franklin Roosevelt gave to charity, and the much larger fractions of income by Reagan, both Bushes, and Cheney (though the emphasis is on the liberals).

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Monday, June 2, 2008


The Popular Vote: Obama or Hillary?

Back to that question of who has more of the popular vote, Obama or Hillary: Realclearpolitics, has the following table:

Popular Vote
The top heading "Popular Vote Total" is the popular vote excluding Michigan. The third and fourth lines include Michigan, unmodified. The fifth and sixth lines include Michigan, but with 100% of the Uncommitted vote going to Obama.

The second, fourth, and sixth lines include estimates of the popular votes in the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington.

But as Talkleft points out, there is still another wrinkle to the definition of "popular vote": states which have both caucuses and primaries, where the caucus determines who gets the delegates, but the primary has more voters expressing a preference for a candidate. Nebraska, Idaho, and Washington both had primaries as well as caucuses. It seems reasonable to include them if we are measuring popular votes cast either literally or to see which candidate has more support among voters.

Including them helps Hillary and hurts Obama. I use numbers from Talkleft.

Nebraska had a primary in May, as well as its earlier caucuses which actually chose the delegates (see here for a news story).

Nebraska had 38 thousand caucus votes and 95 thousand votes in its May primary. In the caucuses, Obama beat Hillary 68% to 32%, 26 to 12 thousand, a 14 thousand margin. In the primary, Obama beat Hillary 49.4% to 46.6%, 47 to 44, a 3 thousand margin. Replacing caucus with primary results adds 11 thousand to Hillary's total popular vote.

Washington had 238 thousand caucus votes and 691 thousand votes in its February primary (on which, see here). In the caucuses, Obama beat Hillary 67% to 31%, 159 to 74 thousand, an 85 thousand margin. In the primary, Obama beat Hillary 51% to 45%, 352 to 311 thousand, a 41 thousand margin. Replacing caucus with primary results adds 44 thousand to Hillary's total popular vote.

In Idaho, Obama had a 13 thousand vote lead in the caucuses, but only 8 thousand in the primary. Replacing the Washington and Nebraska and Idaho caucus results with primary results thus helps Hillary by 60 thousand votes. The spreads in RealClearPolitics's 6 categories change to Clinton +36 thousand
Obama +74
Clinton +363
Clinton +2538
Clinton +125
Clinton +16

Thus, the only definition of these, once Nebraska and Washington popular votes are included, by which Obama wins is if we exclude the Michigan primary and include estimates from the 4 caucus states.

Of course, all of these vote totals are very close, as are the delegate totals. Their main importance in my opinion is as a gauge of how much each candidate appeals to voters, and really we should weight the later primaries more heavily in measuring that. For someone who believes in "count every vote", though, the popular vote is crucial, more important perhaps than the vote allocated by the rules.

Speaking of the rules, the Democratic National Committee ruling today puzzles me. It seems blatantly illegal. The DNC has said that delegates from Michigan and Florida will only get 1/2 vote each. That's fine--- those states broke the rules. But it is also allocating the Uncommitted vote in Michigan to Obama, giving him the delegates based on that. Since the voters voted for Uncommitted, not Obama, how can those delegates possibly be committed to vote for Obama? The same result could have been achieved by picking allowing the Obama camp to pick the delegates but leaving them formally uncommitted, but why wasn't that done? Or *is* that how it was done?

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