Monday, December 31, 2007

Iowa 2008 predictions

Starting the presidential election process with the Iowa caucuses is one of the silliest and saddest comments on American democracy. It's a horribly undemocratic and unrepresentative process as I detail in this BMG comment. But there's no way to alter the process so soon (I was about to say it is what it is, but that is apparently passé) so we may as well all try to mind-read these people.

Republican Primary:
1. Huckabee
2. Romney
3. McCain
4. Paul

You can't argue with sky-wizard affinity, and Huckabee's embrace of the most popular sky-wizard in this country gives him what money can't buy -- a first place finish. Romney is cruising to second based because he has everything going for him that money can buy.

As for third place, it's a bit of a toss-up between McCain and Paul. Giuliani is fading fast, and Thompson never really woke up and ran a race. Paul's support is geographically diffuse and very involved, the two key elements to caucus night victory. I really want to believe that he could score third, but you can't argue with momentum. Undecideds are breaking for McCain at a stunning rate, and that I think will push him into third.

Democratic Primary:
1. Clinton
2. Edwards
3. Obama
4. Richardson
5. Biden
6. Dodd

Clinton and Edwards will be essentially tied. She has the largest body of paid staff in state, and Edwards has a lot of unpaid but savvy locals. Given the diffuse nature of this farce, that will come in handy. It feels that Obama is fading fast in the face of reminders of how complex and demanding the job of the presidency is, and he's showing his true colors by reacting with a GOP attack on Edwards being a nasty horrible trial lawyers. If I thought he had a sense of shame, I'd say he should be ashamed of himself.

As for numbers 4-6, the results out of Iowa will be tremendously underrepresentative of their actual level of support because of the caucus mechanics. That said, I expect Dodd and Richardson to stick around through New Hampshire (then both drop out), and Biden to hang on until Super Tuesday.

All predictions guaranteed wrong or your money back.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Because I think it's funny...

...and because I desperately don't want to see Obama as our nominee, here's an excellent remix/edit of a couple Obama ads:

PS: Corrente brilliantly lays out the fallacies of Obama's appeal. One snippet:

Obama presents himself as post-partisan, but partisan politics are needed. The "food fight," obviously a partisan food fight, is purest Equivalation. The Democrats didn’t break the world record for filibusters when they were in the minority; but the Republicans just did....And last I checked, Democrats were allowing anybody to come to their election rallies, but Bush was screening his to make sure only Republicans attended. This is the Conservative Movement in action. Sure, there’s a "food fight," but most of the food that’s in the air is coming from one side of the cafeteria!

So why on earth would Obama think that "tearing down" the Conservative Movement and "lifting this country up" are opposites? They’re the same!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Interesting People: James Traficant

How quickly we forget those wily on-the-take elected officials once the prison door is slammed. Corrupt populist princes such as "Buddy" Cianci and "Duke" Cunningham are the carnies of American democracy, colorful in nickname, style, past, and eventually, docket. But nobody holds a candle to the charmingly corrupt, entertaining James Traficant.

Traficant spent 17 years as the Democratic Congressman of the 17th district in Ohio. He always did have an air of corruption about him, but managed to evade conviction for many years (even becoming the only person thus far to beat a federal racketeering/RICO charge while defending himself.) Sadly, the toupéed one's luck ran out, and in 2002 Mr. Traficant was convicted of accepting bribes and sentenced to eight years. As with Bill Jefferson, the corrupt representative from Louisiana re-elected after investigators found $90,000 in his freezer (seriously, the freezer? If I'm hiding 90K, bloody sure it won't be that easy to find), toward the end Traficant had uncomfortable relations with party elders. These leaders were wary of being associated with this corrupt Congressman, so they generally kept their distance. Traficant responded by voting for a Republican for Speaker of the House. Also similar to Jefferson, Traficant didn't let legal problems keep him from running for office. Unbowed by pressure, Traficant would be re-elected to his seat despite public knowledge of investigations. His style extended to running for re-election while in prison as an Independent, after his conviction. Traficant finished third, with 15% of the vote.

Most memorable, however, were Traficant's brilliantly madcap speeches during "floor time", when representatives bloviate in front of an empty chamber and C-SPAN cameras for the folks back home. Some of his best lines, taken from the delightful Free James Traficant website:

"Mr. Speaker, baseball will eliminate two teams. Some surprise. Tickets average 50 bucks. A program is $10; popcorn, $5; parking, $20. A hot dog and a beer cost about $10 to $12 at most stadiums. Beam me up. The umpire said, "Play ball," not "monopoly."...I yield back what is left of America's great pastime after the greatest World Series perhaps in our history."

"Now if that is not enough to find coal in your athletic supporter, check this out: A school board in Georgia removed the word "Christmas" from their school calendar because the ACLU threatened to sue. Beam me up. If this is religious freedom, I am a fashion model for GQ...Mr. Speaker, I yield back the fact that Christmas is not about a jolly old fat man. Christmas is about the birth of Christ."

In a court hearing: "I want you to disregard all the opposing counsel has said. I think they're delusionary. I think they've had something funny for lunch in their meal, I think they should be handcuffed, chained to a fence and flogged, and all of their hearsay evidence should be thrown the hell out. And if they lie again, I'm going to go over there and kick them in the crotch. Thank you very much."

I was originally thinking of doing a post on charmingly corrupt Republican Congresspeople. Unfortunately, "charm" and "Republican Congressperson" are two terms that have no business in the same sentence, and a post on plain Republican corruption in Congress would take much too much time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Memoriam: Miss Benazir Bhutto

As the world knows, Miss Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after a campaign rally in what might be generously described as suspicious circumstances. She was in the process of running for Prime Minister as the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, an election she was very likely to win. Her pedigree in corruption was as lengthy as most leaders in the area, but the courage to stand up to despots from General Zia to General Musharraf is to be admired, and the mental toughness to succeed as a woman in a Muslim country is also worthy of respect. Miss Bhutto chose to risk her own well-being and safety for the sake of ending Musharraf's rule, and gave the highest price for the chance to restore some measure of democracy to her homeland. Without her, Pakistan's future seems dim.

While there is a need to look at what will happen next, to question why this happened and where we go from here, the dignity and hope this lady represented must be remembered. Nations only get a couple moral leaders of courage on the scale of Suu Kyi or RFK, and Pakistan just lost one of theirs.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Educational triage under No Child Left Behind

As part of my ongoing explanation of life in the Brave New World of education, I thought I'd expound on the notion of what I call "educational triage" -- the exercise of taking the students barely missing the MCAS, and focusing on them. These students, often called "bubble kids", receive a disproportionate amount of time in professional development, curriculum meetings, and department analyses.

You see, under the MCAS, a student can receive four scores: Advanced, Proficient (both passing), Needs Improvement, and Failing. The cut-off for "Proficient" is a score of 240.

Schools are ranked, tested, rewarded, punished, and in general judged by the proportion of students who are "proficient or better". That's it. No bonus points for advanced, no comparison of who's failing badly, and who's failing miserably. Many times have I seen a kid scoring "failing" essentially abandoned as a lost cause for the school. Here's an example to clarify:

StudentInitial ScoreSecond Score
Passing = 240+

Under nearly every way that the bureaucracies of Massachusetts and the United States assess schools, the only improvement there that counts is that of Alex. An improvement 4 times as dramatic by Ming or Khaled means nothing. Zero. I've seen disastrous empirical analyses of scores by people who supposedly know better, because only "proficient" students were counted, and ignored those scoring "advanced" ignored, resulting in severe underscoring of districts. (Nothing earns you the contempt of a curriculum specialist more than asking "what about students who score advanced?")

Because getting a student from barely surviving to flourishing gets you nothing under this system, just as helping a student get from unable to write their name to almost passing is viewed officially as a waste of time, we do triage. Students are prioritized. Wanna guess which ones?

Right. The Alexes of the world get all the attention and coaching. I'm aware of classes tailored to these students, wherein the Khaleds and Mings of the class are essentially left to their own devices. The Alexes within a grade are identified, and targeted on an almost daily basis. Hopefully Ming doesn't drool on herself, and Khaled doesn't get so bored he starts disrupting the class. "Successful" schools are those that abandon their supposed mission to get Alex where s/he has to go.

This is another aspect of our system. Everything from funding cuts and state takeovers to rewards and publicity depends on turning "Needs Improvement" into "Proficient", and it's sweet to turn an occasional "Failing" into "Proficient".

In the Age of Accountability, these are the only students districts are truly accountable it's a small wonder that these are the only students many districts are truly interested in.

*I've taken over a dozen education courses in almost as many forms, and I've yet to meet an education instructor/professor/facilitator who doesn't rely exclusively on names of Western European origin for their examples -- everyone is Billy or Sally. I've had classes focus on integration in the classroom, and never heard mention of any name that isn't straight out of Germany or England. Hence, I try to use non-Western names in my racial stereotyping is meant or implied.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Santa: Democrat or Republican?

A retread from last year at BlueMassGroup:

In the spirit of the season, I'm going to pose the yearly question,and sketch out the exhibits -- is Santa a Republican or a Democrat?
I'll mention some of the more compelling evidence for either side below.

Exhibits for Santa as Republican:

* Wears red.
* Overweight -- clearly lives a comfortable lifestyle.
* Expects gifts (milk and cookies) for doing his job.
* Focuses almost exclusively on Christians.
* Comfortable judging people.
* Relies on exploitative labor.
* Prefers bio-unfriendly wrapping paper.
* Also enjoys decorations centered around a slowly dying tree.
* Lives in the far north (His home may be in Canada, Alaska, or Russia. All subject to conservative government.
* Great marketing.
* White male, likely Christian (just going with the odds here).
* Strongly consumerist.
* Apparent access to lots of coal.

Exhibits for Santa as Democrat:

* Gives people things. Often when not deserved.
* Believes in magic.
* Lead agent of a conspiracy to suck the religion out of Christmas.
* Grants wishes.
* Workaholic.
* Overlooks Rudolph's differences and makes him part of the team.
* Uses bio-fueled transport.
* Possibly unemployed.
* Many appearances in TV and movies -- works in entertainment.

# Has a happy marriage.
# Hangs out in malls, enjoys talking with children.
# Has facial hair.
# Jolly.
# Competent at his job.

So what say you -- and what's your evidence?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Guess the failure

So check it.

There's this guy, he's a rising political star in the state Democratic Party. He's a member of a visible minority who's looking to break barriers and become the first non-white elected governor of the state. His first campaign burns red-hot, and his inspiring personal story is a great launching pad. He came up from the poor and become a leader, and boy could he connect with people on the trail.

Mystery Guy becomes governor of his state by winning well over 50% of the vote, and has an enthusiastic cadre of supporters. The future is rosy, as the visionary is in charge. Almost immediately, the Gov starts getting national exposure, and is talked up. What's his limit? For all the rosy talk of the true believers and the hype machine, there's a problem. Turns out he makes some poor choices, and believe it or not for all the talk he's a pretty conservative Democrat. Makes curious choices on tough policy issues. He alienates many supporters, and...

Who do you think I'm talking about? Deval Patrick?

The answer is here (for more on the story, click here. It's up to you how far the parallels go.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Belgium Held Hostage: Resolved?

I have in the past posted some thoughts on the, um, situation in Belgium. Previous posts explain why Belgium hasn't had a federal government in nearly 200 days.

Today, I'll talk about the way out...sort of.

The "solution" is to punt. Current "outgoing" prime minister Guy Verhofstadt will remain PM until March 23rd, at which point presumptive PM Yves Leterme will take over. Mind you, possible coalition partners are starting to realize that this "plan" doesn't resolve their objection to Yves Leterme as Prime Minister, rather it delays their reckoning. In the article linked to, one Flemish party leader states in what I imagine is a "hey...wait a minute..." voice that there is no such thing as an interim government.

And that's the good news.

The bad news? Belgians are starting to parallel the break-up of Czechoslovakia in an important way. After the "Velvet Revolution" whereby Czechoslovakia became truly independent from the USSR/Russia, the country slowly and amicably broke into the two countries that exist today, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This break-up was actually driven by the top (rare for nationalist problems), and the elites' inabilities to work together eventually filtered down to the people of the country, who slowly came to agree with the idea of separation.

Well, this may be happening here. Belgians' greatest expression of nationalism has been over the transfer of massive funds from the Dutch-speaking Flemish to the French-speaking Walloons. This is economic regionalization, common around the world (happens in the US and Canada as well), but now Belgium is experiencing divisions over language. In addition to dislike for Yves Leterme for his ignorance of Walloon culture, now it's leaking into beauty pageants. This lovely French-speaking contestant at the "Miss Belgium" pageant is whistled and booed for her ignorance of Dutch. Such a thing would be unheard of three years ago:

In the developed world, division over language use and knowledge is the most pernicious and intractable symptom of a real problem, and we are seeing it here.

Posting will be light...baking

One of the essential Christmas activities is baking.

I won't give away too many secrets, but I will say the best new recipe to come to my attention this season has been the Chris Dodd family cookie recipe at Yankee Magazine (though I tend to add 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of cloves, rather than the full teaspoon of cloves recommended in the recipe).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why Smart Children Shouldn't Go to Public School I

One of my hugest, hugest pet peeves is the way that gifted and talented children are utterly ignored and robbed in the public education system. In what I expect will be an ongoing series of posts on this subject, I want to detail the extent to which our nation's policymakers have turned their backs on those young Americans with the greatest potential.

My first post will be a short list of straight numbers from a local school. These are authentic and confirmed, but I am not ready to reveal the source. In a given (and typical grade), here is the breakdown for the focus of the staff:

Staff description# personnel
"Regular ed" (all students) teachers12
"Regular ed" aides/assistants0
"Special ed" (learning disability) teachers3
"Special ed" aides/assistants)4
Gifted teachers/aides/assistants0

So these special ed students, who make up about 15% of the student population at this grade, have devoted to them over one third of the staff, including all aides and assistants.

Looking at the duty breakdown of the personnel, we get these numbers:
Ratio of regular ed students to devoted staff: 18 to 1
Ratio of special ed students to devoted staff: 5 to 1
Proportion of gifted students to devoted staff: ?? to 0

Gifted students get zero. This is a typical layout, and in later editions I will describe the laws -- and their selective interpretation -- that lead to such a situation. But the situation is this in a sentence: gifted students get zero.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interesting People: Pope Benedict IX

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHow does one pick just one Pope to focus on? You have Alexander VI, the "Borgia Pope" who was installed in 1492 and fathered four children while leader of the church. You have Pius IX, whose hand-picked prime minister was fatally stabbed in public, before angry pro-democracy protesters trapped Pius in his offices until he caved in to their demands. That doesn't even get into the crunchy legends such as Pope Joan. But for today, let's focus on Benedict IX.

What can you expect when a kid becomes Pope? Not much, even if that person becomes pope three times. Some tales have him becoming Pope at 20, others at...12. Actually, to put a finer point on it, the Catholic Encyclopedia calls him a "disgrace to the Chair of Peter. Well!

Benedict became Pope in 1032, when many Catholics were recovering from the letdown of not being Raptured/killed with the return of Jesus. At this time, the Papacy was basically a minor kingship, replete with its own troops and lands, so unsurprisingly the Chair was the subject of a great deal of maneuvering. Four years into Papacy -- about the time kids here get their learner's permits -- he was driven out of Rome by an angry mob. A friendly king re-seated Benedict, and a mob drove him off a second time.

And he came back. Decided he didn't like it, so his archpriest paid him a large sum of money to buy the Papacy from him, and became Pope Gregory VI. What was life like under Benedict IX. Accusations of homosexuality and even beastiality never went away, and he was excommunicated for simony ( selling holy offices). One future pope named him "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest" and another named him "devoted to pleasure" according to the future Pope Victor III and then abbot.

So apparently, no matter what the current pope does, he won't even be the worst Benedict in history...

Obama's Momentum: Dead

Hillary Clinton is the New England Patriots of the presidential campaign cycle -- just awesomely awesome in awesomeness. Not that I like her, and she's not in my top three, but she knows how to run a campaign. And she just took Obama's best shot, and this is the brick wall he hit:

Indeed, Obama, [Clinton's] chief rival, inspired our imaginations. But it was Clinton who inspired our confidence. Each time we met, she impressed us with her knowledge and her competence.

The times demand results. We believe as president she’ll do what she’s always done in her life: Throw herself into the job and work hard. We believe Hillary Rodham Clinton can do great things for our country.

That is from the Des Moines Register the single most important endorsement in Iowa, and possibly the primary process. They hit up Edwards in 2004 (and abandoned him this time around!), which probably got him his second place finish in Iowa. What's odd about this is the Reg's history of endorsing candidates further back in the field, such as John Edwards in 2004 and Paul Simon in 1992. In both cases, the endorsement had a measurable affect. This ain't the Ragtime Daily, whose endorsements do nothing but stroke editors' egos. Iowans care about the Reg's endorsements.

And punch two in the ol' 1-2 is a first-ever endorsement from Congressman Leonard Boswell of Des Moines, the first caucus endorsement of his 28-year political career. The less-than-articulate Boswell said "She sees the need...You listen to what she's said and what she's done and what her experience factor is -- she gets things done so I'm endorsing. My family's endorsing with enthusiasm because we want to win and we've got to pull on the best experience we possibly can."

Seriously, people, do you want to be standing between Hillary and the presidency? That's why I fear for the next few months of Obama's campaign. This is a glimpse of what's comin'.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Blogging Project Runway #5: Fat women gone skinny

Oooh...a challenge with real people! I love these, because it punctures the insular world where designers make ugly clothes for models, and everyone pretends that the result i beautiful. A challenge where people like what they like, not what they "should" like.

And, right on cure Christian announces "omigod, I'm gonna die". Maybe he's got that phrase copyrighted or something (though it is worth noting that he's cocky with the camera, but appropriately docile and humble before the judges, so he ain't stupid). And Victorya coming like a b-tch. Nice to see the pigeonholing is well underway with the contestants.

Sucks that Jack had to leave, but Chris is awesome. Glad he's back.
I also love the times when Tim Gunn walks into the design room with a "what the hhhhe..... is going on here?" look on his face.

I think Kevin should have won, and clearly he did, too. Ah well -- only one victory counts in this show.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stars and Stripes American Food!

This is an idea that dawns on me every time I go out for "Chinese" food. I think it could go really far...

I want to go to Guangzhou and open up a "Stars and Stripes American Food". All of the front-room staff will ideally be ex-pat Americans. The walls will be filled with posters of cowboys on the plain, lighthouses on rocky shores, and palm trees. Takeout containers will be little suitcases with the Statue of Liberty on them. The menu will be in English and Chinese (and the English will say different things). Crazy drinks served in containers shaped like the heads from Mount Rushmore. Calendars will be sold with the Western zodiac on them. Remain open during all Chinese holidays.

But here's the catch -- serve only traditional Chinese food that your customers ordinarily eat -- little meat, lots of corn, rice, vegetables, etc. If needs must, add some ketchup or mustard to make it seem "real American". However, because everything is dressed up in the worst caricature of Americanism, it will become a niche restaurant and enormously popular.

Within a year, there'd by a Stars and Stripes American Food in every decent-sized village on the coast.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Weekend What-if: The Pilgrims don't make it

The Mayflower landed at Plymouth. There was a Rock involved. We learn that in second grade, if not earlier. Her sister ship the Speedwell didn't. We learn and forget that in second grade. What if the Mayflower similarly doesn't arrive in Plymouth? What then?

This gets to one of the great debates in history that will never truly resolve: is history shaped more by great individuals ("great men" theory), or are those individuals spit up by longer historical trends that are nigh irresistible by small groups ("longue durée" theory)? Through much of time until the 1940s/50s, "great men" was all the rage, then a typical academic overcompensation threatened to erase all traces of individual achievement -- particularly by white men -- in history.

My previous what-if makes clear my sympathies for the "great man" approach. Personally, I think that paths to power and influence are opened up by historical trends, but certain individuals take advantage of them, others don't. The world didn't stop on a dime when Churchill took over for Chamberlin; one was up to the job and the other wasn't. For every Tamerlane or Mansa Musa we hear about, there are a dozen wannabes who never get that far.

Free Image Hosting at
However, this is not one of those cases. The Europeans were coming to the Americas. and the Brits to this part. The British were not going to be stopped by a failure of some religious nuts, anymore than the failure of Roanoke stopped them. Plymouth had a great natural harbor, and native populations who were welcoming at first. Had the Pilgrims not made it, another group would have soon enough. And while some small differences would have occurred, in the sweep of history they wouldn't have mattered.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThey don't have monuments or even a nice theme park, but in the end Massachusetts was settled due to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As everything from Hudson Bay to India, it was a commercial venture that brought Europeans to Massachusetts, and those attractors -- natural harbor, friendly natives, workable conditions -- are independent of the Pilgrims' fate. Remember that there was a fishers' colony on Cape Ann in 1624, and that Mass. Bay was a going concern by 1629. Though they don't have the publicity that the Pilgrims do, Mass. Bay was ultimately more successful and was mated with Plymouth on and off again in 1643, 1686, and 1691, eventually uniting with it permanently.

So what changes if the Pilgrims never get out of England? Southeastern Massachusetts fills up more slowly. Nobody ever learns the name Squanto. Is SE Mass a British colony within 50 years? You betcha.

Blogging Project Runway #4

Well, nice to see that we're back to a reasonable challenge, one that I find interesting: turning old trends into something worth looking at again. I liked neon. That was cool.

Christian really greats on me. It's hilarious to see someone with thick-framed glasses and a butchered haircut denouncing old trends. Ten years from now, his current appearance will be as outdated as mustard-colored kitchen appliances. Live by the trend, die by the trend (personally, I stick with the tried-and-true tshirt and jeans). And every week we're greeted with him whining "Oh my God, I'm gonna die." Yes Christian, you are going to die, as are we all.

Raumi again stands out as a phlegmatic personality who seems to have some awareness of reality outside the fashion world, while Victoria is shaping up nicely as this season's b-tch. I wouldn't say Raumi is officially my favorite yet, but he's getting there.

I have no idea what makes collections consistent or not. None whatsoever. I can't disagree with the winner, though I will miss Kevin. He was the only overweight guy on the show,.

Interesting peek at next week's thing. I'm hoping it's fashion for seriously overweight people. Or perhaps Iraq War vets (that would be a feel-good tie-in).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Why enjoy labor rights when you can implement bad policy?

So rich boy Paul Grogan has decided to buy himself a public policy. This week he announced almost a million dollars of bribe money was available to any school wishing to become a pilot school. What's a "pilot school"? Well it's a "school" in the tradition of public education about as much as is a group of fish. Pilot "schools" get to ignore any hard-won union regulations, treat staff like crap and shovel on more responsibilities, ignore the bizarro public policy requirements such as NCLB (you get to set your own graduation requirements), bypass nearly all district policies and decisions, and restructure away from a democratically elected school board.

So, Adrian Walker asks in the tone of the willfully ignorant, does the "union" not rush at the bait. (Of course, he means "groups of teachers democratically voting against such schemes", but Walker doesn't have the honesty to call it what it is.) The Boston Globe is annoyed at these "obstructionist" unions that have been creating an "ongoing struggle" to implement these gorgeous laboratories in amateur adventures in education. So let's see: pilot schools get to treat their workers however they like, firing, punishing, transferring, and manipulating staff at will while amping up their demands on staff with no warning. Who wouldn't take that deal?

Of course there need to be a lot of changes. But why rejecting bad public policy Strange, by the way, that we never see a pilot "school" that actually protects the academic integrity and personal rights of its workers, and just tries it without NCLB. It's almost as if school privatization reform advocates don't want to find out what happens when you get to teach children, rather than teach to a test. It's a false choice we're given: NCLB, or glorified temps as teachers.

NB: I don't like my local or national union (state chapter seems okay for the main part). But expecting me to give up any hard-won protections on my job just to fulfill Richie Rich's policy fantasy only makes sense if you know nothing about education.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Iowa Caucus: Failing International Standards for Democracy

According to the standards of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the Iowa Caucuses of the Democratic Party likely lead to distorted results that may prejudice voters.

You see, for a candidate to receive any support that counts in a Democratic caucus in Iowa, s/he must be "viable". "Viable" means that 15% of the voters at the caucus support that candidate. So, if 28 of 200 voters at a particular precinct supported Chris Dodd, it doesn't count. In such an example, it doesn't matter if you have zero or 28 supporters, it comes out the same way.

The OSCE of course does not comment on the Iowa caucuses, but they have talked about high thresholds before:

The electoral system contains an unusually high threshold of 10% of the vote to achieve … representation … This leads to distortions, and concerns were expressed … that it unfairly prejudices [certain voters].


(I have excised the subject-specific notes, which concern the Turkish electoral system. The full quote is "The electoral system contains an unusually high threshold of 10% of the vote to achieve party representation in parliament. This leads to distortions, and concerns were expressed to the OSCE/ODIHR NAM that it unfairly prejudices Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin.")

While the Council of Europe has not ruled that this high threshold is inherently an obstacle to free and fair election, the fact remains that such high thresholds are not particularly democratic. The OSCE knows this...why can't the Democrats of Iowa figure it out?