09 January 2008

Stupid Newsies

I just read an opinion piece from an Indiana high school teacher in which he claims,
because of my own ignorance about national politics, I feel eminently qualified to offer some opinions."
Geez, no wonder my college students come out of high school knowing jack shit.

But the guy also said,
I know as much about national politics as I do global economics. Both subjects have their own gaggle of experts, and they don’t seem to know much, either.
Now this is pure stupidity, too, but I know where it's coming from. The fact is, there are experts in global economics, and they do know what they're talking about--this guy just doesn't know who they are. The same is true of experts in national politics. So who is he really referring to? I think it's the talking heads who dominate the political chat shows, most of whom are like high school students, not knowing Jack Shit.

For example, here's the repeated theme from the New Hampshire Primary--"Clinton, coming off a disappointing third-place finish in Iowa, rebounded to first place...", or "Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire Democratic primary, overcoming a third-place finish in Iowa"

OK, for the newsie who's brain has been overheated by too much time in front of a blow dryer, let's clarify this.

  1. John Edwards had 30%, Hillary Clinton had 29%. That's called a statistical dead-heat, or a virtual tie for second. A tie for second place ain't that devestating folks.
  2. According to CNN, Obama won 16 delegates in Iowa, Edwards won 14, and Clinton won 15! It might seem counterintuitive that Clinton could get more delegates than Edwards, with less of the vote, but here's how it can work: Assume a state with 5 equal size precincts: Candidate A wins 3 precincts with 51% of the vote in each, while candidate B wins 2 precincts with 90% of the vote each. If you just total up all the votes from the state, B appears to have won, but because the delegates are selected from precincts, B has actually lost. In the end, it's not what percentage of the vote any candidate gets, but how many delegates, and on that scorecard, Obama, Clinton, and Edwards finished in a virtual tie for first.
  3. There's no reason to think that New Hampshire voters take their cues from Iowa voters. To listen to the media tell it, everyone except Obama might as well have given up after Iowa. Like this already obsolete jewell from teh L.A. Times, "The results were a serious setback for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton." Hell, why bother with the whole primary schedule? Let's just let that 10 or 20% of Iowans dedicated enough to participate in the caucus choose the parties' nominees.

So just because the talking heads chatter about national politics, and just because someone is introduced as the network's political analyst, that doesn't mean they're actually an expert--they just play one on TV.

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