Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I stand corrected. Ouch.

In a response to an earlier post about NY Times delegate count, LTG wrote,

The NYTimes count is not pledged delegates only. It includes superdelegates! I actually added up the NYTimes columns and came to this result.
When I wrote my response (and several argumentative follow-up comments) I failed to check the NYTimes totals. I should have. I assumed their explanation was accurate, when it said,
"The New York Times counts only delegates that have been officially selected and are bound by their preferences."
Nowhere do they explain that they include superdelegates in their reported totals, nor do they provide separate breakdowns. I notice that the NYTimes has now added an explicit line showing the superdelegate totals, although their "explanation" such as it is remains misleading. Color me chagrined and disappointed.

Thank you, LTG, for resolving this matter.


Dr. Strangelove said...

I deleted a sentence from my post. In the original version, I said I had considered an alternative title for my post, "Physicist bloviates, Political Scientist actually runs the numbers." However, it was suggested to me privately that my proposed alternative title was an insult to political scientists.

That was never my intention, not at all. I did not mean to imply that political scientists usually bloviate. I was trying to eat humble pie.

I suggested that title only a slightly humorous way to admit that, in the previous post where I went on and on about the NY Times delegate count, I had implicitly accused LTG and RbR of bloviating, while I had smugly assumed I had the facts on my side and had run all the numbers. But in fact, it turned out it was quite the other way around. I was trying to concede that I had been arrogant, not merely mistaken. I am sorry.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Well, you did mean to suggest (or at least you obviously thought) that was somehow "ironic" that a political scientist would do the math concerning social science data rather than a physicist. That's the insult. Particularly where the matter is simple arithmetic. It's worth thinking about what prejudices you hold in the 'hard' sciences about the application of the scientific method by those in other fields.

I think it's also worth wondering why you too easily believed that you had outsmarted the entire Fourth Estate and discovered a 100+ delegate lead that nobody else had and some sort of secret pro-Obama conspiracy.

My lawyer training teaches me to be extremely skeptical that I have outsmarted anyone who has more time and money at stake than I do. Whenever a younger associate tells me that the other side missed something really big, I find that 9 times out of 10 that's not the case. I have had to beat that habit out of myself, particularly where opposing counsel is dim as toast. Similarly, when someone tells me they've figured out some "sure thing" in the stock market, I wonder why they believe they have outwitted Goldman Sachs. Extraordinary claims, a scientist-hero once said, require extraordinary evidence.

In fact, the bottom line is that the NYTimes is deliberately using misleading data to produce a pro-HRC result (it has endorsed its home senator, btw). I say 'misleading' because the reading public will likely conclude that a delegate total of 912-741 implies that Obama is "behind" and will need to win votes from the remaining 2300-odd totally undetermined delegates. In fact, about 400 of those "extra" delegates are practically determined already by the process, while 350 of the delegates the NYTimes presents as "hard pledged" are actually subject to change at a whim (except for Hillary's husband, I imagine, who gets a vote as a superdelegate).

All this being said, I'm not interested in feeding you additional crow. Particularly as I will no doubt be in for a helping myself one of these days.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I apologize. I was arrogant in my last post--and in the subsequent comments--and I am embarrassed about all that. That's all I was trying to say in this present post. I got caught up in the moment, probably because I just wanted Hillary to be ahead. So I didn't do the obvious thing that anyone would have done: add up the numbers myself. I should have known better. (For god's sake, I ran delegate count and voting scenarios on spreadsheets for two hours trying to figure out what had happened, but never once did I simply total up the delegates myself. How dumb can you get?)

I was trying to be funny and self-deprecating about it. I did not mean to imply it was noteworthy that a political scientist would run the numbers. I was merely contrasting my bad behavior with your good behavior. Maybe I should have just written "Dr. S bloviates while LTG..." instead of using our professions as stand-ins. Probably shouldn't have tried to be funny at all. My only purpose in apologizing so publicly was to say I was sorry, to help clear my conscience a bit.

Dr. Strangelove said...

btw, I have sent a short, polite letter of complaint to the New York Times editorial board for the manner in which they (mis)represent the delegate count. Not that I expect any response.

Raised By Republicans said...

"I have sent a short, polite letter of complaint to the New York Times editorial board for the manner in which they (mis)represent the delegate count."

Go get 'em Dr. S!

Dr. Strangelove said...

The NY Times explanation page now reads, "Except for its count of superdelegates, explained below, The New York Times counts only delegates that have been officially selected and are bound by their preferences."

I'd like to think my letter had something to do with that :-)