Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Am I the only one who finds Ron Paul's strategy creepy?

First the TL;DR version of this video: The Paul campaign dismisses elections as "beauty contests" and is extremely proud and smug about their ability to game the system. They hope to score the nomination, not by convincing a majority of people that Ron Paul is the best man for the job, but by taking advantage of loopholes in the way the election is organized. They envision a scenario where they can "win" a lot of states even while technically losing badly in the elections of those same states.

Longer version: This dude, who enters the video at around the 6:30 mark, is Doug Wead, senior adviser to the Ron Paul campaign. You may have noticed that Ron Paul is still in the race despite the fact that he hasn't won an election in a single state, and polls don't show him as the likely winner of any future state.

In this and a previous interview with Maddow, Wead proudly explains their strategy, which somehow involves "winning" in delegate states despite not actually winning the popular vote in any single state. Now the mechanics of electoral politics are complicated and honestly kind of boring, so I'm probably going to explain this wrong in some way. But the gist of it seems to be something like this. In some states, delegates are awarded proportionally to the number of votes they get, rather than "winner take all" for the state's popular election.

So the idea is: let's say for the sake of argument, Maine is allowed 13 delegates to the national Republican Convention. But the state election yields a pool of more than 13 delegates -- let's say 200 -- and they will then choose from among those delegates. So let's say maybe Rick Santorum won the election and gets 100 delegates, Romney comes in second with 80 delegates, and Ron Paul gets just 15 because he's not actually that popular among Republicans. The other 5 can be Stephen Colbert write-ins, I guess.

But in the Paul camp's mind, rather than wasting time on actually winning the vote, their best plan is to somehow badger the state party into letting only Ron Paul delegates go to the convention. That means that, in this example, Maine picks 13 delegates, and all of them are Ron Paul delegates even though they won only a small fraction of the vote, and all 185 not-Paul delegates are left out in the cold.

In the video, Doug Wead constantly grins and chortles over the pure genius of this plan, while Rachel looks sort of goggle-eyed and asks questions along the lines of, "Isn't that sort of ignoring who the people actually want to elect?" Wead repeatedly, over and over again, dismisses the actual voting process as "A beauty contest."

Now maybe he's right, that the system the Republican party uses is hopelessly corrupt, and that makes it possible to game the system in this way, and the Paul campaign is perfectly within their rights to take advantage of this and maybe even win.

But what I'm hearing from Wead is total contempt for elections as a means of picking a candidate. Look, I personally think the entire slate of Republican candidates is abysmal and would hate to have any of them win the presidency, Paul included. But this sort of blanket dismissal of elections as a beauty contest indicates what sounds like a much deeper hostility towards democracy as a whole.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Birther fail... again

It seems that last week a "birther" case, brought by professional loony and Zsa-Zsa Gabor impersonator Orly Taitz, was legally dumped. In the ruling (see PDF), Judge Malihi stated, yet again, that Barack Obama is in fact a U.S. citizen. The birther case was so bad that they lost even though neither Obama nor a lawyer representing Obama wasted their time showing up.

Needless to say, the right wing blogosphere is going nuts over this, to the point where searching Google News for "Malihi" will mostly bring up hysteria-laden headlines like "Georgia Judge Michael Malihi is a cowardly traitor."

Though much more low key, this article by "the Conservative voice of Arizona" manages to hit all the silly points after starting off with a reasonable summary of the facts.

"Using Malihi’s analysis, anyone born in the United States is a natural born citizen. In other words, according to Malihi, children born within the United States to illegal aliens, tourists and/or terrorists are natural born citizens and are, therefore, eligible to become President of the United States."

Well, um, yes. It's kind of established legal precedent already, I thought. Hey, you know what I could do? I could look it up!

All the original Constitution said about the birth issue was, "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

The Fourteenth Amendment, though, says: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

And then the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 1898, that a man born in the United States to two citizens of China, was a legal citizen of the United States, based on the Fourteenth amendment. Stupid old activist judges in the 19th century.

In other words, this isn't controversial law, and hasn't been for well over a hundred years.

But hey, nothing our friends at the right wing rag can't obfuscate with an analogy to a faulty syllogism.

"Malihi’s conclusion is more analogous to saying: All dogs are mammals and all cats are mammals and therefore, all cats are dogs."

Noooooo... What Malihi said was:

  1. All people born in the United States are citizens.
  2. Obama is a person born in the United States.
  3. Therefore Obama is a citizen.
  4. Dumbass.

I'm paraphrasing a bit, but as far as I can remember my logic classes, that is a valid Modus Ponens. Especially the last part.