February 12, 2016

Backfire on poking Putin with a sharp stick — Seven Days in May?

This piece squares VERY much with news 1 month ago that, when Martin Dempsey was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, DIA undercut Dear Leader on Syria, Russia. It also explains how warhawks in State contributed to the Ukraine semi-coup and more, as well as how the sarin attacks were NOT by the government of Assad, something the U.S. has tacitly, but not formally, admitted. There's a time when Realpolitik is actually a good thing, not a bad one.

Former Colin Powell consigliere Larry Wilkerson confirms all this, calling both Ukraine and Syria proxy wars by the "Deep State" of American empire.

Yes, does Putin have a lot of bad behavior? Of course.

Have we poked him repeatedly and strongly with a sharp stick? Absolutely, beginning with both sides of the bipartisan warhawk establishment wanting to bring Georgia into NATO.

This is yet another reason I will NOT vote for Hillary Clinton. Oh, and the Schmuck Talk Express, John McCain, was just as devious and stupid on this if not worse. (The nation of Georgia was just as stupid, arguably, for believing the U.S. would actually do something to help it after it provoked Russia into war.)

It's also why I think there's a left-liberal case for Realpolitik of some sort. And, that needs to be noted, because some left-liberals, in decrying the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, may risk a left-liberal version of Wilsonianism in its place.

This all said, I mentioned a piece one month ago.

The venerable Seymour Hersh detailed how, during the time period mentioned above, the Defense Intelligence Administration deliberately undercut Obama's foreign policy in Syria by moving closer to the Assad regime and, by extension, Russia, going as far as to leak intelligence to Russia via Turkey.

This is (the information, not Sy's writing) the "good," the bad, and the ugly, all in one. It's good in that the DIA, as combined with the first piece, kept Dear Leader from a possible missile launch against Assad, let alone the possibility of putting boots on the ground in Syria. That "good" is in scare quotes because it's a very relative good and was brought about in very scary ways.

It's bad in that this was some sort of "Seven Days in May" situation. Brass hats and scrambled eggs should never be running our policy. Per Clemenceau, if war is too important to be left to generals, that goes in spades for anything contingent to it.



And, back to the first link. Anybody who knows anything knows that Victoria Nuland is a neocon "piece of work," married to Robert Kagan of the neocon family of even bigger pieces of work.

Who knows, given the second link, how much Dear Leader even is aware of some of this until after it happens? And, whether he is or is not, things like this are why, even should Bernie Sanders get the Democratic nod, I'll likely still vote Green. He's not a neocon, but he's not outside the box of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, either. I said last week that MSNBC missed some real foreign policy questions, to the left of Sanders as well as Clinton.

And, Dear Leader didn't have to appoint her to an assistant secretary of state position. (It's political, not civil service.)

That, and the fact that Bernie's still inside the two-party/bipartisan foreign policy establishment box, is the ugly. On issue after issue, Dear Leader's been even more of Beltway president on foreign policy than domestic policy. Sanders is basically Beltway bipartisanship-lite.

This is all "the ugly."

And, it has fallout, like turning Syria into a football, having Russia highly distrust us there, so that even a temporary cease-fire there becomes a tussle.

#DemDebate: Rapid reactions on lack of true foreign policy questions

Overall grades?

Sanders a B+, Clinton a C.

Domestic policy? Sanders an A-, Clinton a B-.

Foreign policy? Sanders gets a B-, Clinton a C-.

Strategery and presentation? Sanders B+, Clinton B.

1. Domestic policy

Clinton, on domestic policy, managed to not get grilled on how she has supported private prisons, re minority quality of life and living standards. But, on the super-PAC issue, Judy Woodruff hit her right between the eyes with that "horns of a dilemma" question about why, if it's wrong for GOP candidates to get all that PAC money, much of it from financiers, it's not wrong for her. And, even less than her ability to answer Wall Street-related questions in previous debates, was she able to answer this.

Otherwise, her attempt to look "tough" on Wall Street? As Mark Shields of PBS News Hour put it afterward, that's like trying to look more anti-busing than George Wallace on busing — while debating him.

She did try to tangle and obfuscate some domestic issues, like immigration, in bureaucratic or Senate voting snares. However, for someone who thinks ISIS is infiltrating all of our computers, she must think that none of us have Google.

Missing? As it has been from all Democratic debates — reproductive choice issues. Sanders might be a hair more liberal than her. He's certainly more so on gay rights, though she tried to make things look different at the end.

2. Foreign policy

Sanders did score some very good points related to Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately, while talking about coups, he didn't talk about the 2009 coup/semi-coup in Honduras that occurred during Clinton's watch as Secretary of State — a change of government that was manipulated by her and her boss, Dear Leader. Nor, per a blog post that's going up this afternoon, did he talk about how we repeatedly sandbagged and kneecapped Russia, from the semi-coup in Ukraine two years ago to prodding Georgia into war against Russia (strongly backed by Clinton as well as lots of GOPers) before that.

(And, I wonder how many Millennials are googling Henry Kissinger?)

Lawrence Korb, former director of national security studies at the Council for Foreign Relations, claims that Sanders is a lot more "serious" on foreign policy than Clinton paints him. Unfortunately as underscored by the piece running in a site like Politico, that's not necessarily a selling point for Sanders in my book. (But it does refudiate Hillary Clinton's "we don't know who you're talking to on foreign policy claim.)

Of course, Sanders had a big whiff at the start of the second hour, in the lead-in question about whether he would cut any federal programs. Sure, he talked about "auditing" the Defense Department (no mention as to whether that would include auditing the cost to build F-35 planes that Bernie wants in Vermont), but he whiffed on giving a straight answer like:
I will cut the Department of Defense and the CIA.
How hard is that to say?

Unfortunately, besides no questions on Honduras, and both candidates getting Russia wrong, we had nothing (are you surprised) about Israel/Palestine. We also had nothing about foreign aid, and little about trade (which is surprising). I blogged about the foreign policy questions missing from the previous debate, and with only one more on the Dems' schedule for now, don't expect that to change. It's issues like these that will be key to me to seeing if Sanders, should he beat odds and gets nominated, has any chance of swaying me away from Dr. Jill Stein or whomever the Greens nominate, as I've already blogged. At least he didn't talk about "crushing" ISIS, unlike a week ago. More weirdly yet, no North Korea questions.

Clinton, smartly here, waved the experience flag. Knowing about things like Honduras and Russia, I rate her lower than much of the MSM world probably does.

On the "presentation" side, I agree with David Brooks, among others, that Sanders picked up more steam as the debate went further on. That said, I think focusing on Clinton's "low blow" (and it was at least as much of one as the "artful smear" she alleged he's done) rattled him somewhat during his close, and interrupted his momentum.

That said, Sanders showed even more a sense of humor than he did a week ago in New Hampshire.

The audience was from a university, but, in the second half of the debate, Clinton got more cheers a fair amount of the time. Dunno if that was because more tickets were sold to the general public, or if it was a higher percentage of minority students than at UNH last week and they still don't back Sanders, or what.

Or else, per Clinton wrapping herself in the flag of Obama, and Milwaukee neighboring Chicago, they're naive about Dear Leader.

February 11, 2016

2016 vs 2008: Two GOPers vs one Dem

As the GOP primaries continue to play out, I can't help but look at Havana Ted Cruz and Marco Polo (Rubio) and compare them to Dear Leader eight years ago.

Surely both, a couple of years ago, looked at Obama's rise to fame, as a Wunderkind, and said, "I can do that."

Of course, they made a couple of incorrect simplifying assumptions, or oversights, or something, that meant they were wrong.

First, neither of them were "anointed" at the 2012 GOP convention, unlike Obama at the 2004 Democratic confab. Obama was deliberately eyeballed by John Kerry for his keynote spot.

Second, whether it matters positively in the GOP primaries, or negatively in the general, if one of them is nominated, while both are technically Hispanic minorities, both are really whiter shades of pale in that regard.

Rubio, at least, like Obama, had pre-Senate elective office experience. Cruz, before his Senate run (and the luck of the delayed 2012 primary) had never before ran for, let alone been elected to, public office. With the luck of a low-turnout primary in a highly red state, he didn't face a real challenge in getting that Senate seat.

Looking ahead, to the rest of this campaign and beyond?

If Rubio can't rebound from his New Hampshire implosion (and per old Florida friends and pundits, his Robot Rubio is a long-standing problem), his larger political career is toast. Bill Nelson is up for re-election for Florida's other Senate seat in 2018, but I don't see Rubio beating him if he tries. Rick Scott is term-limited as governor at the same election, but I can't see Rubio winning that statewide office either, assuming that Robot Rubio picks back up again.

Cruz? If he isn't elected, he can run for the Senate again in 2018. However, if not nominated, or more, nominated but not elected, I expect he'll get a massive amount of Senate shunning in the future, primarily from his own party — even more than now. He could run for governor in 2018, in a steel cage death match against Greg Abbott, but realistically, that's not an option.

Frankly, him pulling a Sarah Palin wouldn't totally surprise me.

That said, it does make one wonder what would have happened to Dear Leader, had he not been elected in 2008. He might have tried running again in 2012, had Clinton lost to McCain. Otherwise, he probably would have left a light, almost invisible, mark in the Senate.

February 10, 2016

On to Nevada/South Carolina

Not a lot to say on the Democratic side, other than warning about repeated spinning, even the #WarOnSanders, to ramp up, if but subtly, in days ahead.

Bernie crushed Clinton, including having a double-digit margin of victory among women; in fact, he won every demographic except senior citizens and the rich. That includes winning among Democrats, not just independents. So much for Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, Rebecca Traister, Katha Pollit and many other gender-feminist types playing the solidarity/token card. Yet, I'm sure we'll have part of the MSM spinning on even that. (On cue, post-NH, Pollit is doubling down on stupid, and doubling down on Steinem.)

What next? That rumored staff shake-up for Chez Clinton is surely coming up, along with more spin from John Podesta to deny that's what happened.

In a quick turnaround (Debbie Wasserman Schultz trying to hide Clinton's loss?) the next Democratic debate is already on Thursday, and not in Las Vegas, for the Democratic caucus there, but Milwaukee, for some bizarro-world DNC reason.

Dems caucus there on Saturday, Feb. 20, then primary in South Carolina a week later.

Real Clear Politics has no fresh polling in Nevada. In South Carolina, Clinton has a big lead, but already in the last month, Sanders has gained about 10 percentage points and Clinton's lost the same. Old Nevada polls (as in late 2015), without trendlines, show a 20-point gap, but that was before some Hispanic Democrats started to #FeelTheBern out in the desert.

Finally, a bit of bizarro world on Facebook. (It was on the stream of a person who normally posts as "public," so I can blog about it.

A young black Clinton supporter commented on the thread of a person, a Facebook friend of mine and of his, though this Clinton supporter is not a friend of mine, about, well, this:

As a black man I have this to say: Black people have themselves to thank for going to prison due to drug use. Black people tend to heavily concentrate themselves in areas where drug use is high. This is a fact. Police will go to areas where drug use is highest. This means that more black people are going to be going to jail for drugs. Nobody is making black people do drugs.

I said that national drug rates were even by ethnicity. When that didn't satisfy him, I said that he was ignoring largely white "hillbilly heroin" in Appalachia and meth in the Midwest and South, as well as national drug use statistics. I added the line about Clinton and her "superpredators" in the 1990s doing more damage to minority communities than drugs themselves. I also rhetorically asked if blacks chose to cluster themselves that way.

As Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow," puts it, Clinton doesn't deserve black votes, but many African-Americans? "It seems we're eager to get played again," Alexander says.

Part of the damning story is not just the incarcerations themselves, but how the Clintons (sic, if she's the campaign manager of their team) made it harder to get jobs or into college after prison, as Alexander shows they did.

Riffing on a famous, perhaps somewhat stereotyping, yet certainly with grains of truth, phrase about "self-hating Jews," I almost said the same to him. I didn't, but I was tempted. It's true, and no, sir, ignorance is no excuse in this case, especially if you're using a picture of Clinton as your Facebook icon.

Especially since he has images of Bill Nye and other theoretical symbols of skepticism. 


I did poke him with a sharp stick in another way, telling him that of New Hampshire Dems who said honesty was important, 91 percent went to Sanders. Maybe he's poor, and that's the self-loathing? I'm trying to still be charitable.

At the same time, Sanders voted for the 1994 crime bill too.

Moving on .... 

The GOP? Other than Trump doing better than my expectations, it did about as I figured.

Since, for it, South Carolina comes before Nevada, Trump doesn't get a lot of immediate bounce. His supporter's P-bomb might have been OK in the Granite State, but I have a feeling it will come back to hurt him in the Palmetto State.

Related? He's going to get the cat-belling on his past pro-choice stance. And, about all the candidates have incentive to do that, now. Given that he surprised many, including me, with the depth of his support, he's a targeted man, now, and this is the issue for South Carolina.

The next GOP debate is at 8 p.m. Central on Saturday, Feb. 13, in Greenville, South Carolina. Trump is currently leading in polls, but I can't believe that's going to stand up.

Kasich, with his surprising second-place finish (surprising in its margin) may do his best to stay above the fray. Kasich also, for New Hampshire voters, seemed the best "establishment" alternative. But Marco (Rubio) Polo, after his New Hampshire cratering, has no choice but to go on the attack.

Jeb!, if he's smart, rides in Rubio's wake with some "me-too" shots. He and Kasich will probably get most of the Christie backers, though some could go Trump.

On the other hand, the three, plus Cruz, may play Alphonse-and-Gaston with each other, each waiting for the other to draw Cruz's ire. The debate is being hosted by CBS, so there's no Faux News type angle to play to the Religious Right and do the candidates' dirty work on Trump for them.

Overall, New Hampshire was glass half-empty, glass half-full for Bush. He finished ahead of Rubio, with enough incentive to stay in through the Florida primary in mid-March, if nothing else. On the other hand, he couldn't quite catch Cruz, which would have given him a real boost.

Christie, by his words Tuesday night, sounds like he'll withdraw. And he has.

I'm also assuming Fiorina and Carson have the brains to drop out. She has; no word yet from America's First Black Pharaoh.

The GOP primaries in South Carolina on Feb. 20, then caucuses in Nevada just three days later. That too could hurt Trump. His sprawling populism probably plays halfway well out there, but the short turnaround might not.

February 09, 2016

What to watch for in the #NHPrimary

First, the Democrats.

No. 1 with not just one bullet, but several? Mainstream media spinning against Sanders. Pseudo-data analysts Nate Silver Biggus Dickus and Sam Wang are already claiming Sanders "has to" win big to get momentum for Nevada and South Carolina. They ignore that his polling among African-Americans is already on the upswing, that he got the endorsement of former NAACP head Ben Jealous and that superdelegates aren't bound to anybody.

(Brains believes I'm too optimistic on Democratic superdelegates. I noted back to him that my angle is they "may" shift somewhat to Sanders. It's not a "will." No, I'm not that naive. I added that this is just part of another medium-small blogger's efforts at, to use a hoops analogy, working the refs. And there's two sets of refs here — the Democratic establishment where the supers are, and the MSM.)

Spinning against Sanders? Indeed, I Tweeted last night that #SpinningAgainstSanders needed to be a hashtag through Wednesday morning. Better yet, per this hard-hitting Jacobin piece, might be #WarAgainstSanders.

This hatchet job by Paul Starr of The American Prospect is the latest. It trots out the tired old "Sanders raised no money for other Dems last year," as one line. Well, considering he didn't even announce his presidential candidacy until mid year, that's irrelevant.

Another irrelevance is that Sanders' version of single-payer has zero co-pays or anything else.

Hey, Paul, this is one of the biggest complains I have against Dear Leader. On Obamacare, on the stimulus package for the Great Recession and many other things, he has negotiated away the compromise in public, in advance, on issue after issue.

If Sanders gets elected, I'm sure he'll negotiate compromises for getting true single-payer coverage as part of the political process.

That relates to No. 2, which is a carry-over from last Friday's Democratic debate. How hard will Sanders hit back against the Democratic Establishment and Clinton Empire? As I noted in my blogging about that debate, his calls for the Iowa Democratic Party to audit or recount raw vote numbers were less than full-throated, and his dander was less than fully up after Clinton accused him of an "artful smear."

The Jacobin piece raises some of these very issues. Friend Brains also raises the issue of whether Bernie isn't greasing the skids to have that happy dance at the Democratic National Convention, with an appropriate submission before that.

If he doesn't win by eleventy-seven points, seeing how Sanders fights the MSM spin is itself going to be a "tell."

Sanders needs to claim anything over 10-12 points as a "big win" and specifically cite the "War on Sanders," plus crossover voting if it hurt him, as part of that.

Finally, are rumors of a Clinton staff shake-up true? If so, how deep of a shake-up? Her performance in New Hampshire will tell. As for John Podesta's "zero truth" claim, ain't buying that one at all. Politico, meanwhile, has updated its original piece.

==

Second, the Republicans.

I'm still seeing Trump as winning, though I think the polls may be shooting high, as in Iowa, and he could well finish below 25 percent. If Cruz and Rubio both finish below 20, but Bush and Kasich both are above 10 percent, this race gets more interesting, as it keeps all of them on life support. If Christie comes in above 10 percent, then it really gets fun.

Looking at Real Clear Politics' latest polling aggregate, especially if The Donald is overpolling, this is all very possible.

Probably the GOP's worst nightmare wold be Trump winning, but not breaking 25 percent, with Cruz and Rubio functionally tied for second and both below 20 percent, followed by Bush and Kasich both above 10 percent. That said, some polling indicates one or both of them could finish ahead of both Cruz and Rubio.

Why do I say that?

Trump would be able to claim a win, and some sort of crossover popularity. Cruz would look weak anong non-RR Republicans. Rubio would look weak for not building on alleged Iowa momentum, and not setting himself apart as THE "establishment alternative" to Cruz and Trump. Bush would get enough of a boost to guarantee staying in until Super Tuesday, and probably past that (see below). And Kasich would get just enough boost to not be written off.

As for the likelihood of this? I still Trump's support is thin, though I don't think the P-bomb will severely hurt him.


I mean, per the video above, Trump's core audience actually eats it up.

More likely to hurt Trump? Per Charles Pierce, someday, more and more of his backers are going to realize that they're "them" and not "us" and never will be "us" in the money-fueled world of Trump.

Meanwhile, back to videoland

This 2013 video may be a portent of the future for "Robot Rubio."



 Robot Rubio malfunctioned again on Monday and Cruz is just not a good fit for New Hampshire.

That leaves the door open for Bush, Kasich and even Christie. (Which is why I don't get Squirrel Hair sticking it out, even given the time crunch of Kentucky's GOP caucus. And, is he so weak in his home state he couldn't get that pushed later?)

And, this door is open even if Trump does break 25 percent, because of Robot Rubio's malfunction.

Up next on the GOP primary calendar?

South Carolina is hard-core Religious Right and should favor Cruz. But, will his apology for the Ben Carson shenanigans stand? Or will he start looking slippery? And, is Rubio the fallback Religious Right candidate, or whom?

Nevada? The populist-to-libertarian portion could go strong for Trump. Hispanics might tilt Rubio, then Bush.

That leads to Super Tuesday. A number of GOP states have 15 percent vote cutoffs to get delegates. I expect that Christie's going to miss enough that, even if he's around until here, he's gone afterward. A few are winner-take-all past a certain threshold, including Texas, with a 50-percent threshold.

That's not happening. "Gang up on Cruz" will make sure he doesn't get favorite-son winnings here.

After that, March 15 becomes big. Florida is a Bush-Rubio death match. Well, it's a certain death match for Jeb, if he's still around. Midwestern Missouri and Illinois will be likely targets for Kasich, if he's still in (possible?) and Christie (very unlikely.) Trump will probably stir things up in Florida, but otherwise target those Midwestern states plus Ohio. Cruz will probably target Florida plus North Carolina.

==

Third, the crossovers.

Do Dems or Dem-leaners go over to vote for Republicans? If so, how big a tide and for whom? The same applies to GOP leaners. This could add to volatility. At the same time, we shouldn't read too much into the "independent voter" idea.

And, with Trump and Sanders, especially, I don't think polling can well address this.

==

Updates:

1. Sanders and Kasich have won the legendary Dixville Notch

February 08, 2016

TX Progressives looks forward to primaries

The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds everyone that early voting for the primaries begins next week as they bring you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff published interviews with three of the candidates who hope to succeed Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the Legislature.

Libby Shaw contributing to Daily Kos canít decide whether the junior U.S. Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, more closely resembles former Senator Joe McCarthy or President Tricky Dick Nixon in his campaign tactics. The Texas Blues: Everything is Bigger Especially the Tricksters and Their Sleazy Tricks.

Socratic Gadfly, while liking many things about last Thursday's Democratic debate, regretted the missing foreign policy questions that likely won't get asked in ANY "mainstream media" debate.

"What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss?" asked PDiddie at Brains and Eggs of a prominent national political blogger.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to know that South Texas people are waiting for clean water, too.

Nonsequiteuse has run away to join the circus. Or, gone to New Hampshire to meet the candidates.

Neil All People Have Value said we are not always best represented by people who resemble us in some superficial manner. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Egberto Willies has video of David Cobb from Move to Amend at Kingwood College.


================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Scott Braddock reports on the latest attempt to move the Texas GOP even further to the right.

Glen Maxey dropped by Juanita's to give an update on how the Democratic effort to get absentee ballots out to people is going.

The Lunch Tray notes that Ted Cruz wants your kids to eat more French fries.

OutSmart salutes 10 black LGBT leaders in Houston.

Mary Flood calls for an end to judicial candidates spamming requests for favorable votes in the Houston Bar Association poll.

BOR implores us to support Rep. Jessica Farrar against her notoriously hateful non-Democrat primary opponent.

Grits for Breakfast discusses the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.