September 14, 2013

Time for 32-team #MLB? I say yes!

ESPN's Jim Caple has a good post lamenting how year-round interleague baseball is a problem with wild-card races running up to the end of the year.

As Example No. 1, he cites the Tampa Bay Rays, who will play the rest of their schedule entirely within the American League. Given the DH/no-DH difference between the leagues, this is a serious issue.

Plus, I've never been a big fan of interleague play in general, let alone year-round interleague play.

That said, the 14-team vs. 16-team leagues before this year were an issue.

So, let's address that!

Caple wants expansion to 32 teams. And, I'm down with it.

He suggests Montreal as one team. Good choice. The Expos weren't that bad, fiscally, until their last pre-Washington owner. Guy named Jeff Loria. 

You know him as the latest vulture owner of the Miami Marlins.

Plus, former Expos great Warren Cromartie has a project and organization up and running, trying to bring MLB back to the city.

Caple suggested Brooklyn as a second team. Well, sorry, Jim. No Brooklyn Superbas or Robins could capture the long-lost history of the Dodgers before they moved. And the Mets and Yankees simply won't allow it.

Pacific Northwest native Caple didn't list Portland as his No. 2 team, Per a Twitter exchange, this is why:
Problem with Portland is it could sap attendance from Mariners and result in 2 weak teams.
Is that realistic? As I tweeted back, before the Sonics moved to OKC, both they and the TrailBlazers drew fine in the NBA.

It's the largest metro area in the U.S. without an MLB team (slightly bigger than St. Louis and Baltimore, and certainly bigger than Pittsburgh), and has a good fan support history in the Pacific Coast League. Besides that, Seattle is 180 miles away and also has the Tacoma/Olympia metro area. If it's really that dependent on Portland-area fans, it's got other issues.

If you go by metro area size, Sacramento is next, and they're not getting a team with two Bay Area teams. Charlotte's the next, and pro sports have been iffy there. Next is Salt Lake City and I don't see it as a baseball team. Plus, it's at enough altitude you have some Coors Field-type issues, and I can't see MLB liking that. Next is Columbus, Ohio. Nope. Not with Reds and Indians. Next yet is Indianapolis, which is the next reasonable MLB spot after Portland in my book. After that, to jog few the next few slots, no, San Antonio and Vegas aren't MLB towns, from what I see, either. Nor Austin. So, it's either Portland or Indy, with Portland definitely running ahead from where I sit. (At the same time, whether more fan and civic leaders' fault, or owners and minor leagues' fault, Portland has bounced in and out of minor league team location, per Wikipedia.)

(Update, May 18, 2014: Jesse Spector at Sporting News has been the latest to raise the 32-team idea, but Vegas as one of the two is just wrong. Vegas has shown no indication it's a major pro sports town, let alone a major-league baseball town, and we've had two mistakes in Florida already. Craig Calcaterra, in his linking, agrees on no Vegas.)

Anyway, that covers that.

Then, here's how this plays out in terms of alignment and scheduling.

We could have either four four-team divisions per league, or two eight-team divisions. 

I have four playoff teams either way, with allowing both wild cards to come from the same division with eight-team divisions.

Here's how the scheduling would work.

Eight-team divisions
1. Three games against each team in one division from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against each team in the other division in your league = 64 games.
3. Eleven games against four teams in your division and ten games against the other three = 74 games and you're at 162.

Four-team divisions, option 1
1. Three games against each team in two divisions from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against each team in the other three divisions in your league = 96 games.
3. Fourteen games against the teams in your division = 42 games and you're at 162.

Four-team divisions, option 2
1. Three games against each team in two divisions from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against eight teams in the other divisions in your league and nine against four teams = 102 games.
3. Twelve games against the teams in your division = 36 games and you're at 162.

In any of these cases, two 12-game sets of interleague games, say mid-May and end of July, takes care of that. The rest of the season is in-league baseball, with scheduling somewhat slanted toward one division, but not overly so. 

Next, should we use this as an opportunity for further realignment? Cardinals and Royals in the same league? Reds and Indians? Or not? 

And, if you want more playoffs, I'm agin you, but if you have to, then have four-division leagues with six playoff teams, not five. In other words, the NFL.

Make first round 2-of-3, not a 1-game play-in, but cut second round back to 3-of-5. For doorknob's sake, don't become any more like the NBA or NHL. 

==

On the other hand, we could go back to 28 teams with contraction. Various alternatives have been offered in the past; the most logical current one would be killing both Florida teams. Joe Maddon, and Rays management, would easily find new landing spots. That said, speaking of management, if MLB did this, it should ban Loria from future ownership possibilities. Here's the latest on why Bud Selig should bar him.

And, while you're here, my poll is still open on whom Eric Byrnes' alleged roider might be.

Syria: An overview of the issues

Update, Sept. 18: The UN investigation seems to tie the attacks to senior officers of President Bashar Assad. Whether they were following orders or not may still not be final, but the linked New York Times story indicates the answer is yes.

That said, per the oft-cited piece by William Polk at the Atlantic? His "cui bono" was, and still is, a good question. And, if part of why he wrote that piece was pushback, given America's generally poor history of regime change in the Middle East, the neocons leading the charge again on this one and Obama not having a Syria exit plan, the shoot-first warmongers can still look themselves in the mirror.

See my new blog post that looks at details of the UN preliminary report here.

Now, back to the original blog post.

First, I cannot repeat too much that we don't know for sure that it was Syrian President Bashar Assad that initiated the sarin attacks of last month. There's all sorts of other agents, from rogue generals through the leading "secular" opposition and more, who would arguably profit more than Assad from a sarin attack.

That's why, as I stressed, we should ask the "cui bono" question — who would benefit most from the use of chemical weapons?

We should also ask who would benefit most from pushing for war against Syria, especially as the neoconservatives who led us into Iraq lead the charge on this one, too.

That's why it scares me that Dear Leader, President Barack Obama himself, is sounding more like George W. Bush by the day, almost, on this issue. That said, per the first link, he's arguably also sounding more and more like himself on domestic policy, boxing himself in a crack then arguing against himself, like on the sequester and the Bush Obama tax cuts.

That's why it shouldn't be surprising that he has no exit plan for Syria; heck, it's arguable he doesn't have a game plan, period. That's why I said NO to boots on the ground when Democrats started talking it up already this spring.

That, in turn, is why nobody, nobody, nobody, should be playing politics with Syria. That's whether it's Rush Limbaugh and the radical right trying to poke another stick in Obama's eye, the bipartisan foreign policy establishment trying to look "muscular," the neocons mentioned above, Obamiacs determined to run Dear Leader up the flagpole and salute him no matter what, or more. American military lives should never be held hostage to politics. As I said in another post, some left-liberals shouldn't use past foreign policy failures of the U.S. to try to justify a reflexive anti-Americanism, though, either.

Speaking of anti-Americanism? I don't relish the idea of Vlad the Impaler, Russian President Vladimir Putin, being a massive hypocrite while pretending to defend ideas of peace. But, as I noted, he's one of two men in the world who have a realistic chance of reining us in, and the other is not Pope Francis. (John Paul II couldn't reign in Bush, either; Stalin wasn't all wrong.)

===

To sum up:

Per my "boots on the ground" post, concerns about Syria have been around for months. We shouldn't rush into any military action now without knowing who did this, who would benefit from this, who would benefit from botched or inadequate military action by us, what Team Obama expects as a realistic, non-neocon driven result, and more.

It's unpresidential for Obama to tell the American public any less in a real speech.

September 13, 2013

Obama still doesn't have a Syria exit plan

Update, Sept. 18: The UN investigation seems to tie the attacks to senior officers of President Bashar Assad. Whether they were following orders or not may still not be final, but the linked New York Times story indicates the answer is yes.

That said, per the oft-cited piece by William Polk at the Atlantic? His "cui bono" was, and still is, a good question. And, if part of why he wrote that piece was pushback, given America's generally poor history of regime change in the Middle East, the neocons leading the charge again on this one and Obama not having a Syria exit plan, which is the theme of this particular blog post, the shoot-first warmongers can still look themselves in the mirror.

Now, back to the original blog post.

For the sake of argument, I'm going to assume President Barack Obama (and the neoconservative fellow travelers, whichever way you cut who's in the lead on the fellow traveling) is right about the sarin attacks in Syria.

I'm going to assume they were all done by President Bashar Assad.

OK?

Are a few cruise missiles going to stop this? Probably not, not even if they kill him.

The rogue generals who I suspect as the most likely sarin users will simply take over.

Then what? If they didn't use sarin before, they surely will now, if they feel threatened by us.

So, do we use enough cruise missiles, plus bombs, to obliterate Assad's army, or the great majority of it?

Gee, at that point, the Syria we're allegedly trying to protect for democracy will hardly exist.

Let's give Obama and the neocons further benefit of the doubt, though. Let's say they can take out Assad AND his generals relatively "cleanly."

What then?

The Free Syrian Army? Thugs that are Assad rogue generals who went even more rogue and deserted? Thugs that make the post-Morsi army in Egypt look civilized?

And, our small modicum of CIA-trained freedom fighters aside, how do we guarantee the Free Syrian Army takes over?

Beyond that, as William Polk noted in his excellent Atlantic article, getting Assad out of the picture by no means guarantees the end of the civil war.

Don't doubt for a moment that Iran directly, and indirectly via Hezbollah, will exploit this just as much as in Iraq. They'll send whatever arms they can to the Shi'ite rebels.

What about the Kurds? Would the Kurdish Workers' Party from Turkey try to stir up Syrian Kurds just to cause more trouble for Ankara?

And we haven't mentioned al-Qaeda aligned Sunni groups.

The only way the US can guarantee the Free Syrian Army takes over is with ...

Wait for it ...

Boots on the ground.

Dear Leader has conveniently failed to mention that.

The neocons, along with Don Rumsfeld, claimed that massive boots on the ground wouldn't be needed in Iraq. And we saw how well that went.

In short, right now, this kind of sounds like one of those "dumb wars" that soon-to-be senatorial candidate Barack Obama spoke about in 2002.

So, why is Syria not a dumb war, unlike Iraq? Just substitute "Bashar Assad" for "Saddam Hussein" in this speech that ... er ... "some guy" made in Chicago in 2002, per that link above:
That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. 

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
Hear the petard winching up?

Are there certain principles worth fighting for? Definitely. But, again, you don't fight for them with "dumb wars." 

I'm not sure how much of the problem with "let's attack Assad" folks is idealism untempered by Realpolitik and how much of it is Obamiacs writing blank checks.

My anecdotal guesstimate says, even being generous to Dear Leader's faithful, is that it's 60 percent "running Obama up the flagpole" and 40 percent untempered, misguided idealism. A less generous estimate says that its 80-85 percent blind cheerleading. (And that's yet another reason I'm not a registered Democrat. Politics is neither a Beltway-covered horse race nor a fandom football game.)

That then said, going by my less generous estimate? If attacking Syria is not a dumb war, its one of those duplicitous wars that the neocons and Bush led us to in Iraq, or ....

It's a simply unorganized clusterfuck waiting to happen. In other words, a more confused Iraq, or a smaller Afghanistan.

Speaking of ... yes, we did, with the Iraqis, start the process of rounding up their chemical weapons years ago. But, that was after the original Gulf War. Maybe most our boots were no longer on the ground, but they had just been there, we had a no-fly zone in place, and other controls. It's not the same as today's Syria.

It's one thing for Obama to try to justify this "police action." It's a whole nother thing for him to explain how it will work.

And, replacing Assad with somebody better will only happen with boots on the ground, and not the boots of 50 or 100 Syrian "freedom fighters."

Texas Dems should be circumspect about "blue state" assumptions

Note: This post will be semi-regularly updated, per relevant new news stories or blog posts about Battleground Texas and related issues. That includes talking about what's realistic, as well as not, about turning Texas more blue, if not actually blue, in the shorter term as well as longer term. New thoughts are generally added at the bottom of the post. 

And welcome to anybody referred here by P. Diddle, Eye on Williamson or other bloggers from the Texas Progressive Alliance.

Why do I make the statement I do in the header?

It's because Battleground Texas' ideas, and especially the meta-idea of how it thinks this will all be relatively natural, and relatively easy, based on Hispanic ethnic demographics, aren't nearly as solidly grounded as Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, many BT leaders and other top state Democrats seem to believe.

And, also "Kos" himself. Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, has joined some of his crack-smoking minions in saying demographics point to Texas turning blue. Kos doubled down on this a week later. (No wonder other "Kossacks" write stupidity about redistricting.)

But, he, Battleground Texas, and Hinojosa are all wet, all of them, from where I stand.

(And, given my previous experience with Daily Kos, if not Markos in person, being essentially banned, by having my account suspended, for being too progressive and too Green, leads me to say, on things like this, if he thinks it's a great idea, it's probably not.)

Why? Snark aside, why are all these folks all wet?

In a phrase, younger Hispanics are more Protestant. And more religiously active in their belief.

In a second phrase, detailed below, Texas Hispanics, counting only known US citizens, have abysmal turnout compared to national Hispanic voting rates, not to mention US voting rates in general.

In a third phrase, even changing that won't fix everything. That's also detailed below.

In a fourth phrase, even fixing some other things leaves yet other things to be fixed. Also detailed below.

Anyway, here's the skinny.

Texas blue by 2030?

The Texas Democratic Party holds strongly that, by 2030, it can make Texas "blue," and at least threaten that already by 2020.

Well, there's a couple of problems with that.

Problem 1: Demographics within Hispanic demographics

Beyond what I just hinted at, there's the old "One white voter equals two black voters or three Hispanics." Now, with black turnout nationally nearly equaling white in 2012, the first part of that equation, even with allowance for its hyperbole, is pretty much spent.

The second part? Still a fair degree of truth.

Then, there's that pesky fact that young Hispanics are Protestant in far greater numbers than viejos and viejas.

And Protestants, especially more religious ones, are more likely to be politically conservative than Catholics.

In 2004, even with allowances for W's inroads among Latinos in general, Latino Protestants split 2-1 in his favor.

Yes, all across Texas, plenty a St. Joseph's Catholic Church is doing a Spanish-language Mass, or expanding what it already offers.

But, in even more places, Iglesia Evangelista de Bautista is springing up like bluebonnets.

So, Gilberto Hinojosa, just because "usted habla Español" doesn't mean that fellow linguists are going to pull the "D" at the voting booth. With many of the evangelical Protestants, you'll have to soft-sell or step around some social issues, like abortion. Maybe that's part of why Hispanic turnout is low right now?

You might say, but what if those young Protestants are no more religious than their Catholic parents or grandparents?

Well, they ARE. The Gallup poll covers that, too.

So, "blue Texas"? Color me a bit more skeptical. Also color me skeptical of the Texas Democratic Party thinking this can happen without some heavy lifting.

Also, as Texas blogger Charles Kuffner notes, Texas Hispanics vote more Republican (though still definitely tilting Democratic) than in the nation as a whole. Not huge, but it was a 5-percentage-point difference in Romney's election. More food for BG thought.

And, reflecting my above thought? Nationally, at least, Gallup tells us that while GOP-leaning Hispanic numbers are the same across age demographics, younger Hispanics are less likely to identify as Democratic leaning and more likely to call themselves independents.

Burnt Orange Report also weighs in. It notes that Shrub did decently among Hispanics, that Obama was once a hardcore deporter of illegals, and so, Democrats shouldn't count on a a Hispanic surge before it hatches.

Problem 2: Hispanic vote turnout

You see, it's true that on turnout, the old story of 1 Anglo = 2 African-Americans = 3 Hispanics is no longer true. At least not for black voters, who surpassed whites nationally in percentage of turnout last year.

Hispanics, though? They still trailed by a fair degree.

Texas Hispanics? They were an additional 10 percentage points behind the national average. Nationally, 48 percent of eligible Hispanics voted. In Texas, just 38 percent. And, no, this isn't an "illegals" issue; the graphs are all based on Hispanics who are U.S. citizens. So, Gilberto? Before relying on demographic assumptions that are undercut by other demographics within your ethnic group, you might want to first get your ethnic group to actually show up at the polls.

And, Thomas B. Edsall says that even getting Hispanic vote and registration rates up to national averages, with a presumed break of 71 percent Democrat, still leaves the Democrats and folks like Battleground Texas looking way up, way way up. Indeed, even if Hispanics voted in Texas at the same rate as all races voted nationally, Mitt Romney STILL would have beaten Barack Obama in Texas by 800,000 votes. In short, with reasonable Hispanic turnout, Texas might not be as red as Oklahoma, but it would still be as red as, say, Kentucky.

Meanwhile, a nutbar at Daily Kos claims Edsall says that Battleground Texas has Greg Abbott quaking. Other than Abbott's over-the-top comment that Edsall quoted, he said no such thing, just wingnut hyperbole in the quote.

It's amazing how delusional a lot of Kossacks are on these "Democrats right or wrong" type issues. Of course, when your Fearless Leader believes there's secret libruls in the CIA, that explains a lot.

Related to that, another Kossack engaged in mental masturbation that, if Texans just somehow controlled the State Lege and Governor's Mansion, Texas would have a 20-16 Democrat edge in Congresscritters. Besides the stupidity and unreality of the hypothetical, even in reality, there's reasons that wouldn't have happened, on the redistricting, etc., as I blogged here.

Problem 3: It ain't just the Hispanics, in more detail:

Per a great Texas Observer story from last year on voter turnout, voting rates in general are problematic.
Texas is consistently in the bottom five states for voter turnout. In the 2010 election, about 41 percent of eligible voters turned out nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Texas, 32 percent did. That means Rick Perry was elected to his third full term by just 17 percent of the state’s eligible voters.

Among Hispanics, these rates are even lower. The national Latino voting rate was close to 50 percent in 2008. But in Texas that year, just 38 percent of Latinos turned out to vote. In California, 57 percent of Latinos went to the polls.

In 2008, Latinos accounted for almost 40 percent of the eligible voters in Texas, but cast only 12 percent of the votes. In Harris County, fewer than a quarter of eligible Latinos—citizens over 18 whether they’re registered to vote or not—decided to vote. Among working-class Latinos, turnout was in the low teens.
The story notes that many Hispanics think higher level Texas Democratic Party officials only care about them at vote time. It's all about selling the party message better. The story notes that, if something like Obamacare is presented the right way, a lot of Hispanics "get it" in ways they originally didn't.

Of course, these types of problems are all organizational, structural and not new. John Sharp's pushing of Tony Sanchez in 2002 without adequately "vetting" him (or maybe not caring) and TDP's leadership's acceptance of him, ditto, ditto, speaks to that in part. So, too, does the fact that some Texas Dems were willing to give an arms-length embrace to either Kinky (all hat, no liberal cattle) Friedman or "grumpy grandman" Carole Rylander in 2006, before Chris Bell stepped up (relatively speaking).

No wonder, per this Texas Public Radio piece which linked the Observer one, that many Hispanics, and I'm sure many non-Hispanics, feel some degree of apathy.

Problem 4: Other issues, part 1

The biggest other issue is that, as the Texas Democratic Party has lost turf, it's — to be blunt — fielded crappy candidates for major, statewide offices.

Last three governor's races? Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell and Bill White? An apolitical Hispanic who had given the GOP big bucks, somebody with little name reputation and little platform beyond honesty, and a neolib who had an inept campaign while, I guess, hoping for all those magic Hispanics. (Don't forget Gary Mauro in 1998, advised by many not to challenge Shrub.)

We could call the last three candidates Mr. Republican, Tony Sanchez in 2002; Mr. Snooze, Chris Bell, in 2006; Mr. Vacuous, Bill White, in 2010. So, if San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's already a no-show for 2014, who will Dems run for governor? If it's Wendy Davis, we could have Tony Sanchez, part 2.

Recent US Senate races? Ted Cruz faced a Democratic retread in Paul Sadler. Rick Noriega was OK against John Cornyn in 2008, if not fantastic, and still lost by more than 12 percentage points.

Whose going to run against Cornyn next year? Against either Perry or Abbott for gov? No state House members have name recognition; no state Senate Dems from Dallas or Houston have balls (or much more name recognition). And, no Democratic non-politician has uttered a peep.

Also at issue is something I've thought about for some time. Other than Ron Kirk taking the plunge against Cornyn in 2002, no other black Democrat has run for statewide office. Period. When Wallace Jefferson has run for, and won, multiple elections to the Texas Supreme Court, that's kind of pathetic.

But, I know the reason why. A lot of black Democratic state senators are comfy with their current little powers and domains and crumbs of respect from the GOP side of the aisle. Well, if Jerry Patterson or Todd Staples, let alone Dan Patrick, replace Dudley Dewless as Lite Guv, that will likely change.

And, speaking of Bill White, as I noted in a comment, remembering how so many Texas Democratic leaders were talking up his chances so much, don't be claiming that because I don't have a poly-sci degree, I can't do campaign and political analysis, although I'm delighted that his post has caught the attention of at least one of you. (I hear your gored ox bellowing. And wonder how well you've done with Hispanic voter turnout on particular campaigns.)

This issue didn't happen overnight, either. Texas Monthly's July 2013 cover story analyzes how Texas Democrats got to this point.

Related to all this, it's clear, as San Antonio's alt-weekly spells out in detail, that Texas Democrats need to get white women to vote for their candidates

Problem 5: Other issues, part 2

Williamson County Democrats — eager, but no takers?
Battleground Texas photo via Daily Kos
Moving on. Other than relying on Hispanic ethnic growth, and theoretically getting a Julian Castro to run, and sooner rather than later, what is Hinojosa doing to recruit among migratory growth, primarily but not solely white, from other states? Do Republicans from California know just how wingnut the Texas GOP is?

He ought to be emailing a link to the PBS Frontline episode about the State Board of Education to every move-in from another state for whom he gets an email address. He ought to be talking about education in general to any transplants with children.

I mean, look at the photo here, from this other new post by Kos himself about the Texas GOP countering Battleground  Texas and how earthshaking this allegedly is.

Despite all the talk about Hispanic demographics, those volunteers all look Anglo to me, with the possible exception of the lady furthest right. In a county that's 20 percent Hispanic, which means that county Democratic numbers (if voting turnout were better) would be 30 percent Democratic or more.

And, despite all those volunteers, and allowing for it to be a posed PR shot, there's still nobody signing up for anything!

Otherwise, Hinojosa has kind of a "party hack" reputation among many who know.

Meanwhile, per The American Prospect, let's look at Battleground Texas. And the uphill sledding it has to do.

Executive Director Jenn Brown may have done well with African-American voters in Ohio, but black votes ain't the issue. Good luck, especially since she is in part working with Texans who have previous political experience — Texans who (per TAP) can't even get half the state's Hispanics registered!
Democrats can’t simply start knocking on doors in neighborhoods that have long been shunned, asking for votes and expecting results. The Latino Decisions election-eve poll showed the depths of Texas Democrats’ dysfunction: Only 25 percent of Texas Latinos had been contacted by a campaign, a political party, or a community organization of any kind—compared with 59 percent in Colorado, 51 percent in Nevada, and 48 percent in New Mexico.
That's abysmal, Hefe Hinojosa and other Texas Democratic Party leaders, Hispanic and non-Hispanic alike.

Second, per Abby Rapoport at TAP, dating back to Shrub, Texas Republicans have, in general, been better at Hispanic outreach than the national GOP. And, having a Hispanic U.S. Senator now will help.

Third, Rapoport buys into the same mindset as Texas Dems, that Abbott et al are doing nothing but giving Battleground Texas free PR. Well, GOP state Chairman Steve Munisteri may be doing that, but Abbott and other elected officials are instead throwing red meat to constituents. Any free PR for Battleground Texas is simply a spandrel.

Fourth, in claiming GOP supremacy in Texas is relatively new, compared to other Southern states, well, not quite so. John Tower was first elected to the Senate back in 1962. And, both Senators have been GOP for two decades now. That's earlier than some other Southern states could say. Ditto for when Texas, versus other Southern states, first elected a GOP governor.

Fifth, she really doesn't know Texas politics if she says:
In 2002, Democrats ran what they thought was a “dream team”—wealthy businessman Tony Sanchez for governor and Ron Kirk, an African American who’d been elected mayor in Dallas, for U.S. senator.
She ignores that Mr. Republican's GOP donations were becoming a matter of public knowledge by the time he was nominated. She also ignores that John Sharp, the machinator behind this, was already moving further right.

And, she also ignores that the nomination of Sanchez, for his bucks, rather than a mainline Hispanic Democrat, showed that already then, the Democratic "bench" (and ideas) were pretty much bankrupt.

Now, on the plus side, she gets Brown to admit that this is a long-term effort. And that it has to be. And that, for right now, however long "right now" is, BT won't do any statewide efforts.

And that Harris County, compared to Dallas County, has been a, well, a miserable failure on trying to go blue. And, that's with blacks and Hispanics actually being a little bit larger percentage of the population in Harris County.

PDiddle crunches various analysis and suggests that Democrats might find even more fruitful fields in trying to boost the women's vote.

So, let's crunch the electoral projections and kind of wrap things up.

This all means I do not expect, barring a fluke, a Texas Democrat to win statewide office before 2020.

Other than that, I don't totally expect a Texas Democrat to win a statewide race before 2030. Along with Texas Dems overrating any demographic advantage, the party's had basically horrible candidates for statewide races. And a leadership that's semi-inept, if not fully so. And that takes a while to turn around.

That's why it's laughable that yet another Democratic blogger insists that the promised land will be reached, and fairly quickly. Meanwhile, though, let's hope that GOP operative Matt Mackowiak is not listened to by the likes of Hinojosa. Shorter Mackowiak: Dems need to run a Bill White type for gov. Whether Battleground Texas is an Obama-organized vehicle for Castro, as Mackowiak claims, is another, albeit interesting, issue.

Yes, per this blog, the GOP also has a Hispanic problem. Maybe that's part of why, metaphorically, one white vote often still equals three Hispanic ones. Young, active Protestant Hispanics don't feel very much at home in either party and so don't vote. And that blog shows that identification as Democrats falls among young Hispanics, even if there's no rise in identification as Republicans.

Jobsanger says:
Some in the GOP think if they just pass some watered down immigration bill, then Hispanics will flock to their banner. I think that is ludicrous. It is going to take a lot more. They are going to have to start treating Hispanic citizens as equals, and undocumented immigrants as humans worthy of some respect. The problem the GOP has is that the teabaggers, who control the GOP in many states, simply are not ready to do that. Until they are ready to change their attitude, the GOP is going to have trouble wooing Hispanics. 
True that.

But, per my comment above, Texas Democrats are going to have to acknowledge that many younger Hispanics are pro-life, socially conservative in general, and often strongly anti-gay. In short, Texas Democrats need to accept that they probably need to simply write off at least one-fifth, probably one-quarter, maybe even one-third of Hispanics under the age of 35 today as ever being or becoming reliable regular Democratic voters.

Period. End of story. ¿Comprendes, Señor Hinojosa?

Actually, not the end of story.

Meanwhile, I say this not because I enjoy Texas Democrats continuing to lose.

Rather, I want them to win, but to do the groundwork of building a good foundation, and of getting good, non-neoliberal candidates. In other words, Texas Democrats, like national ones, need to stop being neoliberals, need to start recognizing that many disaffected (including this Green-leaner) are tired of the neoliberal parade, and want and deserve better.

And, per Peter Beinart, if they want to do that, rather than chasing Hispanics, Democrats both in Texas and nationally should chase younger voters. (If not, maybe like me, more of them will become independent left-liberals.)

And, speaking of ....

I issue a challenge to the true believers

Let's look at this issue per the various subheaders of this blog post.

First, why is Texas' Hispanic voting rate 10 percentage points below the national average? Can that gap be closed, and how quickly? What do you think it will take?

Per that Texas Observer story, and a recent municipal election in Flower Mound, part of what it will "take" is likely more lawsuits over either gerrymandered local government districts, or the lack of single-member voting entirely. (Think about that, you white Austinites who tout the liberality of your own city.)

Second, since, per Tom Edsall, that alone will be nowhere near enough, what does Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party need to do to recruit more white voters, whether native/semi-native, or recent moves from elsewhere in the country? Has either BG or TDP made specific statements to that end or indicated they have a strategy?

Third, name me some names for non-crappy candidates in future elections. Related to that, tell me more specifically why black Democrats, say black state senators like Royce West and Rodney Ellis, refuse to consider running for statewide offices?

Fourth, other than hype/hoopla, even though BG is brand new, are you satisfied so far, not just with what you hear, but, per Jenn Brown, being told to can the hoopla and dig in for a long-term, and incremental-step, grind? Hinojosa is semi-new but not brand new as TDP chair, and he's nowhere near new as a politico. Are you satisfied with his work? With him being party chair?

Meanwhile ...

Is Wendy Davis the answer?

Who wouldn't love her filibuster? Especially with all the livestreaming making David Dewhurst look idiotic and bullying in real time?

That said, for people urging her to run for governor in 2014? Slate has a good analysis of that. It would be an uphill slog. But, not totally so. She's now got name recognition to leverage, especially if TDP gets Obama-smart with online outreach, simply using things like the best video snippets of Davis'.

Beyond that, she's unquestionably more dynamic than either White or Bell, presumably more liberal overall than White, and certainly more liberal than Sanchez was.

And, meeting with the head of the Democratic Governors' Association certainly fuels the fires and speculation.

At the same time, her rising star power doesn't change any of the basic issues mentioned above to any significant degree.

Political scientist Cal Jillson stresses that in this story (subscription needed, but quote via Off the Kuff):
Jillson warns Democrats not to be swept away by “Wendy-mania.”

“The events of the past week have certainly amped up the energy in Texas politics, but the changes required to turn Texas purple, let alone blue, will still be a decade or more in coming,” Jillson said.

Indeed, a Houston Chronicle analysis of election data from 2000 to 2012 found that demographic shifts toward an ever-increasing minority population will only take Democrats so far. The study, conducted last November, found that if current demographic and voting trends continue, Texas will become a politically competitive state in 2020 and a true toss-up in 2024.
Well put. The Texas Tribune has a similar take.

And, Kuff pours a bit more cold water of reality on Davis' chances against both Perry and Abbott. (Interestingly, she's the only by-name Democratic possible who polls better against Abbott than Perry. Abbott crushes Perry in most Dem-hypothetical matchups. That's probably more reason Perry's July 8 "exciting news" announcement is not about running for re-election as governor.)

(Update, July 23: Kuff has now gone Murray Wiedenbaum, and found "Rosie Scenario." He also gave me an early morning laugh by using "Bill White" and "good candidate" in the same sentence.)

Would that it were different. Davis is more dynamic than either Bill White or Chris Bell, certainly a real Dem unlike Tony Sanchez (and more liberal than White), and has shown she can win over independent voters.

Speaking of ...

People who tout Davis' state senate results ignore that even if her district tilts Republican, it's still suburban Republican. In the less Austinized portions of the Hill Country, in the Piney Woods, in West Texas, that means bupkis. Sorry, folks but true.

NPR nails this with a map of Obama's 2012 performance in Texas. In short: He didn't win anything that wasn't majorly urban or majorly Hispanic. Now, I'm not expecting Davis, or whomever, to win, or even try to win, a small county in the Panhandle. But, she, or whomever, does have to be more competitive in an exurban place like Ellis County, southeast of Dallas. Or in smaller but not insignificant, cities like Wichita Falls, Abilene or Tyler.

And that means a targeted effort to recruit recent transplants to Texas.

That NPR piece is part of a larger series on changing demographics (and other issues) and how they relate to Texas' political future. And, one of the pieces there offers a caution for both parties.

In Texas' biggest urban areas, above all Houston, followed by Dallas, the old ethnic triad of black/white/Hispanic is less and less true anymore. People who know Houston know about its huge Vietnamese population, and large numbers of other southeast Asians. They may be aware of the Indians and Pakistanis employed in greater Dallas' telecom corridor, but fewer may know of the strong Korean presence in Dallas.

These minorities may tilt Democratic, but likely not to the same degree as blacks and Hispanics, and with fewer historical reasons (i.e., civil rights issues) of doing so. They may, like evangelically religious blacks, have some issues with gay rights. They may have other concerns that blacks and Hispanics don't. And, they may, like Hispanics, not always turn out strongly at the polls, though State Rep. Hubert Vo's elections might argue against that.

Anyway, at the state rep. and state senate level, that means more targeted campaigning.

Update, Aug. 30: The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze, in a greatly snarky piece, wonders why, if BG Texas is so interested in Hispanic votes, it is so in love with a white woman? He also refers a NYT piece that notes that both other Texas white women and Hispanics are more conservative than her on abortion.

Of course, Schutze is writing this not even as a muck-raker, but more as a pot-stirrer. Suburban and urban white women in Texas probably track pretty close to her, while rural white women certainly don't. Duh. Jim, she's not looking for rural white women for votes.

That said, it does raise a larger issue. If the time isn't right this year for either of the Castro bros to run for statewide office, when will it be? No theoretically Democratic Hispanic has done that since Sanchez. Ditto for an African-American candidate. Since Ron Kirk's 2002 "dream team" run against John Cornyn, no black Democrat (had to specify Democrat, since we have Texas Supreme Court Justice Jefferson, successfully, and Mr. Bow Tie Williams, unsuccessfully, on the GOP side since then) has run statewide.

Part of the answer, of course, is that racism is still out there. Part of it is that black state senators like their power bases.

Finally, in terms of her electoral politics, if you want real change on issues other than abortion, Davis likely is not the answer. Nor is NAFTA-loving Julian Castro.

Why do I write all this?

I tilt Green, after all, as regular readers know.

That said, I'd still vote for the right Democrat over a Republican. (I voted for Bell for governor in 2006.)

It's because I've seen a decade and a half, now, of state-level Democratic laziness, both mental and physical, mixed with denialism.

And, I don't want Democratic leaders to trot out another Hispanic just because he's Hispanic, or just because he's Hispanic with dinero. The failure to adequately vet Sanchez was and is inexcusable. (And, as we say "adios, mofo" to Rick Perry, that's a reminder that the man he beat for lieutenant governor, John Sharp, is arguably the mofo lite of the Democratic party. Adios to you, too. And, any Dems like you still around? If Battleground Texas can't say adios to your ideas, at least, then I'll keep saying adios to Democratic candidates.

I don't want Dems to nominate a technocratic neoliberal like Bill White, either, another lurch to the right.

And, per 2006, I don't want Democrats to be so lazy as to think GOP infighting will help them out, even as no actual candidate steps to the plate. I don't want Democrats to be so intellectually lazy as to think Kinky Friedman is an actual liberal.

In short, I want to make sure the Democratic Party gets protected from its own past history.

The first time was tragedy, the second time farce, setting aside the noble immolation of Bell.

I don't want illusions about Davis' chances, and I don't want her encouraged to be a state-level neolib. The third time, after tragedy and farce, will be nausea.

Another reason to write this is supplied by Texas Tribune, which says Democrats need to define a message better, then learn how to sell it better.

September 12, 2013

#Syria, #sarin and the #neocons

Frederick, Kimberly Kagan in Iraq.
ISW website via Wikipedia
Update, Sept. 18: The UN investigation seems to tie the attacks to senior officers of President Bashar Assad. Whether they were following orders or not may still not be final, but the linked New York Times story indicates the answer is yes.

That said, per the oft-cited piece by William Polk at the Atlantic? His "cui bono" was, and still is, a good question. And, if part of why he wrote that piece was pushback, given America's generally poor history of regime change in the Middle East, the neocons leading the charge again on this one and Obama not having a Syria exit plan, the shoot-first warmongers can still look themselves in the mirror.

Now, back to the original blog post.

The Nation is halfway right about alleged Syrian expert Elizabeth O'Bagy. It is a wag the dog, to some degree.

Whether from The Nation or elsewhere, though, it's not the deal that she has a "fake Ph.D." O'Bagy is actually in a Ph.D. program at a recognized university. She just hasn't defended her dissertation.

Yes, it's a degree of fakery. However, it shouldn't lead people to believe she's not an alleged expert on Syria.

Let's get to that "alleged."

The real issue is the one Greg Mitchell missed, and it's the issue of the neoconservatives trying to play Barack Obama like George W. Bush. Kimberly Kagan, the founder of the Institute for the Study of War, is part of the neocon wing of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. She is Fred Kagan's wife, Donald Kagan's daughter in law and Robert Kagan's sister in law.

I mean, the Kagans are the FFN — the First Family of Neoconservatives, quite arguably.

For Greg Mitchell to not have drilled down that far is kind of sad.

That said, as I said on another blog post, that's why Wilsonian interventionism among modern American liberals who aren't left-liberals is just a foreign policy version of neoliberalism. Or, if you will, it's the left wing of neoconservativism.  Proof of the bipartisan nature of this is found in things like Victoria Nuland being married to Donald Kagan.

And, this shouldn't be surprising. Syria was and is next on the target list for the Project for a New American Century, after Iran, Iraq and Libya. 

And, as Peter Beinart notes, AIPAC has been beating the drums for Syria action, too.
“The civilized world cannot tolerate the use of these barbaric weapons” because “[t]his is a critical moment when America must also send a forceful message of resolve to Iran and Hezbollah.” It is a “momentous vote,” a “critical decision” that if not enacted could “greatly endanger our country’s security and interests and those of our regional allies.”
Just like invading Iraq sent a message to Iran?

The piece is well worth a read; on my pondering the "cui bono," or who benefits question about who would gain from the sarin attack, we should also ponder who gains, or hopes to, from an attack on Assad. We should also wonder who gains from pushing for such an attack.
Theories on the high profile of the AIPAC effort range from sheer hubris, to a desire to showcase its power and/or its support for the strikes, to a simple miscalculation. Most likely, AIPAC decided that the risks of a public intervention (getting members’ backs up, opening themselves up to “the-Jews-want-war-again” accusations, turning their failure to get the yes vote out into a public spectacle) were simply worth the benefits.  
Beinart notes that most mainstream Jewish lobbying groups have taken the same position, and same tactics.

And, judging by comments on right-wing magazines, the neocon ground troops are out in full force.

Now, none of this is to say we shouldn't intervene in Syria.

But, it adds to the issue of making very sure we have the right people "targeted" for any military action, first.

Second, it means making sure we have the right follow-up and exit strategy.

Obamiacs like to deride Bush's Iraq adventure on both counts, the second count being that Sunni militants whom we befriended as part of the Anbar Awakening figured they could simply outwait us, until we ended the "surge" beloved of PNAC folks and then drew down even more troops after that.

And this, in turn, gets back to Obama sounding a lot like Bush on Syria. Let's add, for good measure, the fact that Slick Willie was at least halfway in bed with the neocons from 1998 on. That's another reason I don't vote for Democratic presidents, and consider myself some sort of left-liberal, at least in American terms.

I'm sure a lot of Democratic rank-and-file don't like to hear that. Well, sorry, but ... that's your problem. I can't think of any other way to put it.

#Putin, #Syria, #Realpolitik, blind pigs and American exceptionalism

Update, Sept. 18: The UN investigation seems to tie the attacks to senior officers of President Bashar Assad. Whether they were following orders or not may still not be final, but the linked New York Times story indicates the answer is yes.

That said, per the oft-cited piece by William Polk at the Atlantic? His "cui bono" was, and still is, a good question. And, if part of why he wrote that piece was pushback, given America's generally poor history of regime change in the Middle East, the neocons leading the charge again on this one and Obama not having a Syria exit plan, the shoot-first warmongers can still look themselves in the mirror.

Now, back to the original blog post.

I certainly don't agree with everything Vlad the Impaler, aka Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, wrote in an op-ed that's in the New York Times and The Guardian.

Let's just say that blind, or self-delusional, or self-inflating, pigs can still find acorns, even multiple ones.

Yes, his invocation of the pope as part of the reason to oppose strikes on Syria is funny. His discussion of how the "Big 5" permanent members of the UN Security Council got absolute veto powers conveniently overlooks the fact that his predecessor leader and country, Joe Stalin of the USSR, pushed for that.

Even more laughable is his worries that America is too randomly attacking other countries. That said, most of the worst against Chechnya happened under Boris Yeltsin, not Putin, who just uses natural-gas based economic blackmail.

And, his claim that "God created us equal" is massive hypocrisy, when he clearly believes gay people aren't equal.

All those caveats aside, there's two important points he makes.

The first is about realpolitik. If John Kerry is going to consult The Phantom of the Chilean Opera, Henry Kissinger, the alleged master of realpolitik, then he should listen to Putin:
Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough al-Qaida fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations.
This gets back to the whole, broader issue of nation-building, and how US presidents, US governments, and the US bipartisan foreign policy establishment continues to think it can create democracies out of nothing, pick "winners" and "losers" in this process (to riff on libertarians), and force this down countries' throats.

That, in turn, gets to the other issue, of American exceptionalism, and how we think "we know better" because ...

We're America, fuck yeah (apologies for the "French," and for much more of it in the video.)


That's the best version of that video, by the way, in my opinion.

Anyway, despite all my previous caveats, Putin's last paragraph is spot on about this. The "Assad did it" fanatics, besides re-asking, "do we know who did it," need to read Putin on American exceptionalism:
"My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States' policy is "what makes America different. It's what makes us exceptional". It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."
Throwing out my previous caveats, plus the new one of Putin buttering up Obama, the American exceptionalism warnings are well taken.

Basically, this whole excursus and debate on Obama's stance toward Syria in part reflects how liberals and left-liberals in America split on seeing American foreign policy, as I see it. And, I proudly stand accused of being some sort of left-liberal on this issue. Most American liberals on foreign policy? Wilsonian interventionism, when preached by liberals rather than neoconservatives, is the foreign policy equivalent of neoliberalism.

I am in no way saying Putin's perfect. That said, as far as surrender/punish, again, punish who? Remember Iraq, where Hussein kept telling us, I don't have any WMDs, and ... he didn't? Here, it could be rogue generals, or al Qaeda groups. That's why, again, we have to have a reasonably surety of who did it. Then, if it's not Assad, but rogue generals, the Free Syrian Army, or Al Nusra, we have to have a reasonable game plan for what all our steps are.

I don't think Obama has a game plan for anybody but Assad, and that's part of what scares me. We were lucky, so far, to muddle through Libya, ignoring the Islamicists attacking our spook shack in Benghazi. Syria's far more complicated as well as more dangerous.

And, to restrain America, there's only two people in the world who have a chance of doing that.

Contra Putin, Pope Francis is not the other one besides him. It's Xi Jinping, president of China. Actually, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has enough weight in NATO to be somewhat of an anchor weight, though not enough to stop him.

If some people don't like that, well, sorry.

I'd rather have America ask more questions first, before shooting, if we want to riff on an old cops joke.

September 11, 2013

Does Wendy Davis have a Tony Sanchez problem?

What looked like a halo, per Jim Schutze, after her filibuster, could become
a spotlight for Wendy Davis if she decides to run for governor and the state
GOP turns up the heat on her political past — Marina Lewis/Texas Tribune
Or more than one?

Like voting in a GOP primary as recently as 2006? Like giving money to a GOP candidate that same year?

Via Jim Schutze, that's exactly what she did, among other things, according to the Texas Tribune. The story's nearly two weeks old, but it still has items worth noting, at least to me, and perhaps to you. Worth noting to me because I wasn't aware of all of this until now:
In 2007, Ms. Davis set her sights on the Texas Senate. When her name popped up, though, many wondered what party Ms. Davis belonged to. She had voted in Republican primaries in 1996, 1998 and 2006, and Ms. Davis had also given at least $1,500 to United States Representative Kay Granger, a Fort Worth Republican, campaign finance records show. 

“When I first put my hat in the ring, several very tried-and-true and loyal Democratic activists from our community said, “What? She’s not a Democrat. She’s a Republican,’ ” Ms. Davis recalled. “I took that as a compliment, you know, that people didn’t necessarily know what my ideology might be because I wasn’t driven by that.” 
Note that 2006 was the most recent election before she decided to run. Note also her non-ideology comments.

And, look further at the story for other things.

Texas Dems, be careful.

You could be nominating nothing other than a better-looking Bill White, if that's a better analogy, or a less painful one, than Tony Sanchez.

And, the Texas Democratic Party, Davis herself, and individual Democrats who are Davis fanboys or fangirls, per Schutze, had better be prepared for the GOP bombardment on these and other issues. And, there's other issues listed in the story. Like her potential legal conflicts of interest, detailed in another Tribune story.

One or the other, either the neoliberalism at the state level, for lack of a better term, or apparent, and in part of the cases, I think, actual legal conflicts of interest would be dicey. Both?

Uhh, to put it this way, right now, I don't think I'd vote for her in a general unless she showed herself to be more ideological on more issues than abortion, at least.

At the same time, in a piece comparing her to former Dallas mayor Laura Miller, Schutze says that being too ideological on that one issue could actually hinder her crossover vote appeal. And, per what I've blogged as a warning to Texas Democrats not to lean too much on a possibly slender read of Hispanic demographics, I think he's right.

I want to know what she thinks about organized labor issues, about environmental issues, about how to adequately fund education and other state services, and how to honestly sell that, just as a starter. Given the amount of money she has gotten in the past from members of the oil-soaked Bass family, the environmental issue is an important one. Yes, she fought for better mineral lease deals for Fort Worth minorities on gas fracking, but what's she think about the environmental problems of fracking in general, for example?

At the same time, while the voting information, the Bass money, and the legal connections are all real and documented by the Trib, on Schutze's own stuff, you have to remember he's even more of a contrarian, and a more willful one, than I am.

But, I'm going to go back to the Tony Sanchez analogy.

Let's say Davis were not currently a state senator.

Instead, let's say her law firm also managed the hypothetical Sid Bass Charitable Trust and the Bass Family Foundation.

Let's say that she had voted in the GOP primary in 2012. And given money to Kay Granger. (More on this below.)

Then, let's say, as a private citizen with deep pockets connections to both Republicans and Democrats, she organizes a rally against the abortion restrictions bill at the Capitol.

Some Democrats note that she's friends with other Democrats as well as Republicans and that she's made campaign contributions to Democrats. They don't originally notice that she voted GOP in the most recent primary, but they eventually find out.

Would you be that gung-ho about her candidacy?

Per PDiddie's comment below, I was in Dallas in 2008, and had enough local politics to follow on that side of the Metromess, including the mayor pro tem of Cedar Hill, where I newspapered at the time, already announcing plans to seek the GOP nomination for Dallas County Judge. Between that, and fracking issues entering that part of Dallas County, I wasn't playing close attention to details of fracking in Tarrant County or the rise of Wendy Davis.

So, maybe the Democratic Party is that desperate. That said, partisan Democrats, beyond the abortion filibuster, can you name one significant liberal accomplishment of Davis in the state senate?

Per Joshuaism, my one great-grandfather used to do that deliberate crossing of party lines in primaries for just that reason. But, per the bits I knew about Davis before, what the Trib story added, and what PDiddie added, that would be a very generous interpretation of Davis' voting motives, in light of everything else.

Just as big a question might be:

"Dear Wendy Davis: When you decided to run for the Texas Senate, given your past history, why did you run as a Democrat rather than a Republican?"

Meanwhile, a University of Houston political science claims that Davis may just have a shot. Off the Kuff and Brains and Eggs report generally favorably, but I'm still somewhat in the Jim Schutze camp on thinking a strong pro-choice stance could actually drive away suburban white women swing voters, at least if it's far and away the top talking point.. Even if GOP misogyny is on the rise, a lot of GOP-leaning suburban white women are still comfortable enough with it that Davis will still have an uphill row to hoe unless she develops a platform on other issues. Like education, which is ripe for the picking.

On the other hand, both Schutze and I could be wrong. Kuff cites a UT political scientist, James Henson, with this:
One reason to think that suburban women might be part of an electoral solution for the Democrats: They haven’t been swept up in the conservative ideological surge personified by the Tea Party. Between October 2010 and June 2013, conservative identification decreased from 49 percent to 38 percent among these women.  ...

But opposition to her is far from unanimous among women, in part because suburban women are some of the biggest supporters of abortion rights in the Texas electorate: 45 percent think that abortion should be allowed in all circumstances as a matter of personal choice. This is a big gap compared with 38 percent of all Texas women and 36 percent of Texans generally — and only 13 percent of Republicans of both genders.
On the third hand, that last graph shows just how purplish sububs of the Texas Triangle's main cities have become. Note that Henson doesn't sort out suburban white women, suburban GOP leaners or anybody else. Still seems a thinnish reed.

Back to one thing in parentheses up above.

And, that's the campaign contribution TO Granger. Dems taking money from GOP-leaning individuals or companies is one thing, though bad enough. A would-be Democrat giving money TO a Republican? Whole nother matter. And, this was a Congresscritter, not a county commissioner or something.

And, while Granger isn't a tea partier, she's definitely, for today's House GOP, a middle-of-the-road conservative. Her Wikipedia page notes that she touts this, and was touting it already back in 2003, apparently, thus removing any "she's changed" excuse from Davis.

Another way to put this is that Granger's never faced a serious tea party primary-ing, neither in 2010 or 2012.

Rather than foreshadowing a consensus seeker or aisle-crosser, it makes her look like a conservative Democrat at worst, or a neoliberal at best, or someone two footsteps to the left of Granger, but not any more.. It also makers her look, just as does our Neoliberal-in-Chief, like Just.Another.Politician.™

Now, Granger is pro-choice. That's the only reason I can figure Davis cut her a check. But, that makes my other concern even starker — that Davis is only that liberal on one liberal-libertarian issue, abortion. I'm not a single-issue voter, and as I've said elsewhere, though reproductive choice, both in and of itself and as a marker for larger issues of sexual equality and more, is important, it's not the No. 1 issue on my book. (Income equality would be, followed by income and job security, followed by environmentalism in general and global warming in particular.)

In fact, the Granger support issue, and the likely reason why, is sticking in my craw enough I may do a separate blog post just about this if Davis' Oct. answer is "yes."

==

I also didn't realize that Julian Castro had a NAFTA problem, among other things, too.
A Democrat, Castro is a pragmatist, sometimes unpredictably so. He supports free trade, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, advocates an energy policy that includes fossil fuels, believes in balanced budgets and refers to David Souter as his ideal Supreme Court justice. Like a large plurality of his fellow San Antonians, Castro is a Roman Catholic, but he was the first San Antonio mayor to be grand marshal when he marched in the annual gay rights parade, and he is pro-choice.
Like a typical Clintonian neoliberal — safely liberal-to-libertarian on a hot button social issue or two, and that's it.

Per Peter Beinart, if he's right, when will Democrats start listening to younger, more liberal voices?

Playing politics with warmongering in Syria is always wrong

Update, Sept. 18: The UN investigation seems to tie the attacks to senior officers of President Bashar Assad. Whether they were following orders or not may still not be final, but the linked New York Times story indicates the answer is yes.

That said, per the oft-cited piece by William Polk at the Atlantic? His "cui bono" was, and still is, a good question. And, if part of why he wrote that piece was pushback, given America's generally poor history of regime change in the Middle East, the neocons leading the charge again on this one and Obama not having a Syria exit plan, the shoot-first warmongers can still look themselves in the mirror.

Now, back to the original blog post.

A day after President Obama's speech about giving time and a chance to the Russian idea of trying to round up Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical weapons, we can reflect a bit on how this speech, and everything running up to it, is being politicized by wingnuts, the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, Obamiacs and other in between.

First is the radical right, with at least some factions claiming Obama planned the Damascus sarin attacks. (That's despite the "sarin" allegedly found in Turkey turning out to be antifreeze, per the reports of British blogger Brown Moses, who is becoming the go-to guy on Syrian weaponry issues and more for all mainstream media.) And, lest you think this is a fringe thought within the right-wing fringe, wrong. Moonbat Pam Gellar linked to the above; that's where I saw it.

From there, it's jumped to Rush Limbaugh and every other winger looking for a new excuse to justify ramping up the hatred of Obama.

It's bad enough to have irrational hatred of Obama because he has a funny-sounding last name, an Arabic-sounding middle name and ... oh, maybe because he's an African-American, in general. But to do so while also playing politics with the possibility of American military action is making innocent lives stand hostage.

That said, the possibility that said wingers are getting played like a cheap fiddle by Assad is about the only thing that Foreign Policy magazine gets right when it called Assad's claims not to have done it unbelievable

Really? I guess this pillar of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment didn't even ask around within the Beltway. Or else, it ignored I guess it ignored Anthony Cordesman, a pillar of said establishment himself:
Neither Kerry’s remarks nor the unclassified version of the U.S. intelligence he referenced explained how the U.S. reached a tally of 1,429, including 426 children. The only attribution was “a preliminary government assessment.”
Anthony Cordesman, a former senior defense official who’s now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, took aim at the death toll discrepancies in an essay published (on Aug. 25).
He criticized Kerry as being “sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number” of 1,429, and noted that the number didn’t agree with either the British assessment of “at least 350 fatalities” or other Syrian opposition sources, namely the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and "tens" of rebel fighters, and has demanded that Kerry provide the names of the victims included in the U.S. tally.

“President Obama was then forced to round off the number at ‘well over 1,000 people’ – creating a mix of contradictions over the most basic facts,” Cordesman wrote. He added that the blunder was reminiscent of “the mistakes the U.S. made in preparing Secretary (Colin) Powell’s speech to the U.N. on Iraq in 2003.”
As usual, McClatchy, far more than other mainstream media, cuts through the bullshit of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. That's why, even more than I've said before, we'd be stupid to go to war.

Or, Foreign Policy ignored German intelligence, whose findings are reprinted by McClatchy from German weekly paper Bild im Sonntag.
The report in Bild am Sonntag, which is a widely read and influential national Sunday newspaper, reported that the head of the German Foreign Intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler, last week told a select group of German lawmakers that intercepted communications had convinced German intelligence officials that Assad did not order or approve what is believed to be a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people in Damascus’ eastern suburbs. ...

The newspaper’s article said that on numerous occasions in recent months, the German intelligence ship named Oker, which is off the Syrian coast, has intercepted communications indicating that field officers have contacted the Syrian presidential palace seeking permission to use chemical weapons and have been turned down.

The article added that German intelligence does not believe Assad sanctioned the alleged attack on August 21.
So, it's plausible that some generals took action into their own hands.

If so, an attack on Assad destabilizes Syria even more, while increasing the possibility Assad might be replaced by folks even worse.

Oops!

The administration rejects such theories under this idea:
“The material was used in the eastern suburbs of Damascus that have been controlled by the opposition for some time,” (White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough) said. “It was delivered by rockets, rockets that we know the Assad regime has, and we have no indication that the opposition has.”
That proves nothing.

We know that Syria's chemical weapons resources are, for the most part, mobile, and for the most part loosely controlled. It would be easy for rogue officers to do this.

Or, if you believe the Free Syrian Army or another rebel group is behind this, it would be possible for it to attack its own people. Or given that rebel forces aren't unified, for a jihadi Sunni group like the Al-Nusra Front to have attacked other rebels, eliminating opposition within the rebel movement as well as making Assad look bad. After all, Iran reportedly told the US that these folks had chemical weapons. That said, backing Shi'ite rebels in some way, Iran has reason to make such claims whether they're truthful or not.

If much of our vaunted bipartisan foreign policy establishment is too stupid, too myopically warmongering, or otherwise inhibited from considering these possibilities, America's worse off than even I think in some ways.

And by that, I mean both its failure to consider the idea that somebody besides Assad did this, and the idea that intervening in Syria against Assad if somebody besides Assad did it could make Syria even worse.

But, a good chunk of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment appears to have coalesced around the idea of intervention, facts be damned. That includes, per William Polk, the fact that, recently, Assad appears to have stemmed, if not partially turned, the rebel tide. If he's winning, it would be stupid to use chemical weapons. And, if German intelligence is right, that's part of why he told his generals no.

That failure of brainpower is just like that alleged inside-the-Beltway political master, Ezra Klein, and presumably, other members of the Brat Pack inside-the-Beltway commentariat (they're not journalists) when he claims Dear Leader is at another brilliant game of 11-dimensional chess and has no intention of anything warlike. Klein's now doubled down on teh suck-up, acting like this is the outcome Dear Leader wanted. Only problem? As I've blogged before, Obama usually gets his hat handed to him when Ezra, Matty Y and the rest of the Brat Pack Smart Set claim he's playing 11-dimensional chess. This time, it will be others than the GOP in Congress holding said hat, possibly.

Because, while I like the Russian idea, I'm still skeptical of the chances of it being realized. And if, per the latest claims, it's been talked about for months, why didn't either we or the Russians or both of us get closer to a deal sooner.

And, just as the likes of Rusty Limbaugh hold American lives hostage by playing politics over this issue, so do Klein and the rest of the Brat Pack when they tout Dear Leader's brilliance.

That includes the question of whether the idea of getting Syria to agree to a chemical weapons roundup and quarantine was the Russians bailing John Kerry out on an off-the-cuff comment or whether, as Huff Post claims, it's a deliberate idea that was on the burner for some time.

Also on that Huff Puff piece, Fineman, in claiming Zionists like AIPAC are leery of a missile strike, also ignores that they'd like ... er, boot on the ground!? instead.

Beyond all this, although the UN hasn't weighed in yet with its determinations on the chemical weapons attack, as far as general thuggery, it says they're all pretty much alike. That's yet another reason to be very wary about who we attack as well as why, and what results we expect.

The bottom line, though, is whether it's Rusty Limbaugh and Pam Gellar for one reason, Foreign Policy for another, or Ezra Klein for a third, all of those who are playing politics off this situation are little more than vultures.





That's the bottom line to remember, before John Kerry or anybody else on Team Obama gets to sounding so much like Bushies that soon we hear a chemical weapons equivalent of Condoleezza Rice's "smoking gun ... mushroom cloud." (Of course, they're taking their talking points from those of Dear Leader, so, who knows what will happen next.)

But, that leads us to the question of: Who did it? As Aum Shinrikyo showed in Tokyo, sarin is  relatively easy to produce and weaponize/distribute.

There's essentially six possible answers, the way I see it, with thoughts on motive.

1. Bashar Assad, though in The Atlantic, William Polk, after raising the "cui bono" question (right up there with the "follow the money" warning as two of the most important things to know when pulling on strings), said that Assad doesn't benefit. Why? He's been rolling back the rebels the last few weeks without chemical weapons.

2. The Syrian military, without an explicit order from Assad, as German intelligence reportedly thinks. In hindsight, I kind of berate myself for not thinking of this earlier as a theoretical option, if nothing else. Maybe, as some of them thought when he took over from his dad, some generals, or below them, some colonels and majors, think Assad fils isn't tough enough. Answer? They destabilize Syria further then mount a coup when he doesn't respond.

Now, I'm going to sort out various groups of rebels who could have done this.

3. "Secularists" like the Free Syrian Army. Given that they're the ones in US good graces, they arguably have the most to gain from US intervention if Assad is starting to turn things around versus all the rebels as a lump.

4. Kurdish nationalists. Theoretically possible. Given that the Kurdish Workers' Party, the PKK, has announced it has stopped its withdrawal from Turkey, Kurds in Syria might have a lot to gain. The Turkish economy is slipping again and Iraq looks like it could still possibly disintegrate, leaving Iraqi Kurds some choices.

5. Shi'ite rebels, presumably getting help from Hezbollah or directly from Iran. A variety of winners here. Hezbollah might hope it sucks Israel into sending ground troops into Syria, or otherwise bollixing things up. Iran could use a chemical weapons threat as a bargaining chip on economic sanctions against it.

6. Al-Qaeda type rebels. Name recognition for people that are largely "wannabes."

As for who would have had the ability to either produce or acquire chemical weapons?

1. We know the Assad government has them.

2. Army officers reportedly have indicated that control of said weapons might not be that tight, so No. 2 is viable.

3. "Secularists" might include disgruntled former civil servants. If the Army officers are right about loose control, theft is possible.

4. The PKK might have made sarin. Would it have already used it against Turkey at some point if it had, though? That might be a "tell" against it.

5. I don't know about Hezbollah, but an Iranian stockpile of sarin is certainly possible.

6. Not likely unless by theft, I'd say. That said, Iran reportedly told the US that these folks had chemical weapons. The same story notes that the Turks allegedly found sarin in "jihadi" rebels' homes in May.

That said, most of the possible players have at least some benefit from using chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, if it WAS Assad, or rogue generals, it looks like the Russkies are going to try to remove Dear Leader's excuse for warmaking. Yes, technically, John Kerry made the statement in what is being called an "offhand comment."

That said, looking at it below, no offhand comment. It's warmongering with a definite timetable, and a relatively short one, attached. And, if it wasn't Assad, or his generals, who did this, Mr. Heinz 57 Varieties (of Neoliberalism) could wind up being Just.Another.Bushie.™:
Lavrov's comments came after Secretary of State John Kerry suggested earlier in the day that if Syria gave up its chemical weapons by the end of the week an attack could be avoided. 

"He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow a full and total accounting," Kerry told reporters during a press conference in London with his British counterpart. 
Oy. Again, where did we hear these words before? And, if Kerry says "we know you have more than that"? Again, where did we hear that before? Good thing sarin doesn't come in aluminum tubes.

Of course, he's just agreeing with the boss:
(Obama) said that “if we don’t maintain and move forward with a credible threat of military pressure, I do not think we will actually get the kind of agreement I would like to see.”
Wait, wait? Aren't we supposed to "negotiate with our enemies," or is that 2008 campaign statement now inoperable.

No, we're not. I present your Warmonger in Chief:
“The U.S. does not do pinpricks,” (Obama) said in the NBC interview. “Our military is the greatest the world has ever known. And when we take even limited strikes, it has an impact on a country like Syria.”
Wow. The O-bots would crap their pants if Bush had said this.

Now? Per Ezra Klein, below, this is11-dimensional chess brilliance.

Meanwhile, Syria has accepted the proposal. Well, sort of. The foreign minister and prime minister has, but Assad himself hasn't yet commented. And, France is looking to put more teeth into the proposal.

So, if Obama still wants to warmonger, what straw does he grasp at next? (And, if this was rogue generals, Assad has good reason for accepting the idea, and making at least half an effort on following through.)

Anyway, contra Team Obama's blathering, we don't actually know who the hell did this. (More on that below.) 

Beyond that, even the death count is disputed.
Neither Kerry’s remarks nor the unclassified version of the U.S. intelligence he referenced explained how the U.S. reached a tally of 1,429, including 426 children. The only attribution was “a preliminary government assessment.”
Anthony Cordesman, a former senior defense official who’s now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, took aim at the death toll discrepancies in an essay published Sunday.
He criticized Kerry as being “sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number” of 1,429, and noted that the number didn’t agree with either the British assessment of “at least 350 fatalities” or other Syrian opposition sources, namely the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and "tens" of rebel fighters, and has demanded that Kerry provide the names of the victims included in the U.S. tally.

“President Obama was then forced to round off the number at ‘well over 1,000 people’ – creating a mix of contradictions over the most basic facts,” Cordesman wrote. He added that the blunder was reminiscent of “the mistakes the U.S. made in preparing Secretary (Colin) Powell’s speech to the U.N. on Iraq in 2003.”
As usual, McClatchy, far more than other mainstream media, cuts through the bullshit of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. That's why, even more than I've said before, we'd be stupid to go to war.

You'd also be stupid to believe that alleged inside-the-Beltway political master, Ezra Klein, when he claims Dear Leader is at another brilliant game of 11-dimensional chess and has no intention of anything warlike. Klein's now doubled down on teh suck-up, acting like this is the outcome Dear Leader wanted. Only problem? As I've blogged before, Obama usually gets his hat handed to him when Ezra, Matty Y and the rest of the Brat Pack Smart Set claim he's playing 11-dimensional chess. This time, it will be others than the GOP in Congress holding said hat, possibly.

Besides, the more Dear Leader pushes, the more one like me gets cynical about other moves. Like this six-month waiver on not importing oil from Iran for some EU members for being "good sanctions kids." Is this done to give them a bit of economic boost for getting on board with Syria? 

At least Ezra's better than the wingnuts, who claim Obama planned this. Though the idea that the Free Syrian Army did this, if you take away the anti-Obama conspiracy theory, is plausible. That, in turn, is better than the Religious Right's Amen corner for the neocons, at least the nuttier of them,  starting the Gog, Magog and End Times talk about Syria, per this YouTube video

But, I did my analyzing, and didn't make my wager, or offer odds.

I'll now address that.

1. Assad? 15 percent chance.

2. Assad's generals as mavericks? 40 percent.

3. Free Syrian Army? 25 percent 

4. Kurds? 5 percent.

5. Shi'ites? 5 percent.

6. Al Qaeda? 10 percent. 

I swapped the original percentages on the last two after reading the Iran warning story above. Folks like the Al-Nusra Front would "gain" by provoking the US into a "martyr-creating" response. I have since updated the odds to reflect some of "joshuaism" in his third comment.

Those odds should show you just how much I see just how convoluted this situation is. So should the fact that I just changed them.

That said, how much of a gap is there, really, between Assad's generals, if they are that maverick, and Assad's former generals running the Free Syrian Army? Given that the Free Syrian Army opposes the Russian proposal, one could argue that it has a vested interest in keeping a pipeline open to loosely guarded chemical weapons, and that the gaps about the same as Team Obama's "before" and "after" Kerry's comment stance.

Sadly, it seems that people who should know better are at least uncritically buying the "Assad did it" line, if not Ezra's line. 

I wish people who say "Assad did it" would admit the possibility, and the not totally unreasonable possibility, that others did it.

Even if you triple my probability of Assad doing that, that's still just 37.5 percent, or 3-in-8, odds that he did. And, none of you have answered Polk, as extended by me, on "cui bono" if Assad was starting to gain the upper hand in conventional fighting.

That said, per the third comment below, I'd buy 60 percent odds of rogue generals doing it. 

Update, Sept. 10: The warmongers are monging tonight, in light of Obama's speech. On NPR just now, Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations, was claiming out of thin air that Assad has crossed Obama's red line a dozen times since he made that statement a year ago.

Foreign Policy mag has its mind made up, calling Assad's claims not to have done it unbelievable. And, it goes on to claim that this has all brainwashed right-wingers into trumpeting Assad's claims.

Really? Anthony Cordesman's a winger?