October 17, 2015

A possible Biden campaign strategy after #DemDebate: Obama

In an inside baseball letter from Joe Biden to Dem bigwigs, telling them to give him just a bit more time, Joe Biden appeared to lay out his main strategy:

Ride Obama's coattails. That and the "optimism" angle appear to both be directly lifted from watching the first debate.

Serious debate analysis that wasn't there to fluff Hillary Clinton noted how all five candidates tied themselves to Obama to some degree. Clinton was surely No. 1, followed closely by Martin O'Malley, with Bernie Sanders a somewhat distant third.

The optimism?

Biden seems to have that as a natural temperament. Clinton may have it to some degree, but she's long ago locked it up, and I don't think Sanders really has it.

Biden would still have a huge uphill sled, and need to find some "his own man" ideas, but, some of those, he'll already have.

His "push" of Dear Leader on gay marriage and his "big fucking deal" on Obamacare will surely both get mention. And, Obama already gave Biden his blessing, and hinted about a possible endorsement. It won't be Clinton, if both are in the race. Not that I see. Have you heard Dear Leader utter one word about her email imbroglio?

Otherwise, yesterday, Obama continued to walk a tightrope between the two. But, that's with Biden not (yet) in the race. In additional video at that link, insiders say that Biden is not worried about his "legacy" if he runs and loses.

I still think that, after Tuesday's debate, he's more likely to sit out than jump in, but time — just another couple of weeks' worth at most — will tell. Other than that general thought, from my gut and intuition, no way I'm offering percentages.

It should be noted that, if Biden doesn't run, and a GOPer wins the 2016 general, Biden 2020 would be older than Sanders 2016, which is old indeed.


October 16, 2015

#RaiseYourVoice — it's #BlogActionDay

This is an update and extension of a previous post, when friend Perry commented about this in a group email, and I thought, what the heck. (For his post on this year's theme, go here, where he talks about Obama now re-entering the "endless war" arena with his decision to keep troops and airbases in Afghanistan.)

So, I joined Blog Action Day.

The first hashtag is the theme this year.

As a newspaper editor, I won't say that blogging, or new media in general, has replaced traditional media but, whether conducted by members of the traditional media or others, it is an important adjunct. Perry does good work on Houston City Council and Harris County issues, and it's not all "just" links to and analysis of Houston Chronicle and other media coverage, for example. It's his take on mayoral debates, etc., from his own attendance.

I've used this blog, at one place, as an adjunct to my newspaper, to get a couple of "leakers" to talk about serious problems with a school district bond issue. I've used it elsewhere to take a more hardnosed stance on some issues than I felt I could comfortably do there.

So, the voice is needed.

And, it's a voice that, even in the democratic "West," let alone elsewhere, needs to be encouraged. And, in a variety of subjects.

Politics, culture, environmental issues, philosophy, sociology all need a variety of thoughtful, articulate voices. At the same time, it needs less in the way of irrational, fear-mongering ones.

Per the theme, issues important to me include:
1. Environmentalism, including defending climate change science;
2. Secularism, defending it both against anti-First Amendment attacks from the Religious Right in the US and also defending it against the caricatures generated by New Atheism;
3. Reforming US politics, especially getting outside the two-party Republican/Democrat box;
4. Philosophy and speculative thought;
5. The arts and their need in modern society;
6. Futurism that isn't, in some way, shape or form, whether by New Ageism or salvific technologism like Ray Kurzweil, pie in the sky.
And ...
7. Being a deliberate contrarian, part of a budding Neo-Cynicism program of mine. The online world, and the world in general, needs more of this. Some modern-day Ambrose Bierce types, or similar.

What ideas matter to you? Have you blogged about them?

Do you think that, in the era of Facebook, blogging is dead? Actually, given Mark Zuckerberg's high-dollar connections to the tech-neoliberal world, blogging is more needed than ever with Facebook.

Canadian election thoughts on the #NDP from #JoeyBats

Yes, this message comes to your from Jose Bautista! In driving in Ryan Goins and Josh Donaldson with his mighty three-run homer to win the Division Series for the Blue Jays over the Texas Rangers,  he hit the most important homer in Toronto history since Joe Carter and his 1993 World Series-ending walk-off against Mitch Williams.

So, Joey Bats earns the right to be a Photoshopped spokesman for Canada's New Democratic Party.

That said, let's get to our seriousness, which starts with the latest polling.

How the HELL did the NDP fall from first, with a lead of almost 7 percentage points less than two months ago, to third, 6.5 points behind the second-place Conservatives?

First, the Conservatives were in second then, and their polling has traveled in a narrow band.

So, while some Canadian friends say that this is fallout from the Alberta election and Conservative scaremongering over Rachel Notley's provincial win, I disagree.

This is clearly a Liberal-Conservative issue. And, it's perhaps an issue of Americanization of Canadian politics.

As I see it, the surge is primarily due to pretty boy Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who's got about one-quarter of his dad's depth and sells about as much snake oil as his American semi-namesake, quack Kevin Trudeau.

But, it's also about the NDP. Whether NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was running not to lose, or too focused on Conservatives, or what, after that late August lead, he's the party leader, and he's the one whose more responsible than anybody, even in a parliamentary system, for fumbling that lead away.

Maybe Mulcair can pull it out. Even though he's struggling to hold his own riding, primarily over the bigotry of the Bloc Québécois over the niqab issue.

Jack Layton is surely missed. But his valedictory letter is now four years old, and it looks like the NDP will likely squander victory.

Unless progressive-minded Canadians, like some of my friends, follow Joey Bats' advice. And Bautista gets to replace Jonathan Goldsmith as The Most Interesting Man in the World.

#Antisemitism and #FeelTheBern: A needed refudiation of an apparent #ConspiracyTheory

Bernie Sanders, victim of anti-Semitism
or victim of some of his own backers?
Via some Twitter friends of Doug Henwood (who I follow) and Corey Robin (who I do not), this seems like some big new theme — speculation, hints, etc., that at least some of the opposition to Bernie Sanders is driven by anti-Semitism.

Of course, I'm not saying that particular persons ARE doing this for their own political wedge.

However, I'm going to say right up front that THEY COULD BE.

It would be so tempting to call all that neoliberal, establishmentarian, inside-the-Beltway opposition to Sanders anti-Semitic and paint with a big black brush Sanders' opponents, wouldn't it?

First of all, Sanders isn't the first major, "legitimate" Jewish presidential candidate.

Barry Goldwater was, by ethnicity, though not religion. Joe Lieberman was the second, by ethnic Jewishness, and the first, by religious Judaism. And, while Lieberman didn't have a stereotypical New York City accent, whether Jewish or not, he was religiously observant as a Jew, which Sanders isn't. (And Goldwater, having grown up in Arizona, didn't have such an accent at all.)

Speaking of that, claiming this:
Is itself indulging in the idea that that is anti-Semitic stereotyping, by the person first Tweeting it, and fostering such thought, by the person passing it on.

Ted Rall's newest cartoon somewhat ties in with this issue.
Anything CAN BE a stereotype, and if I want to, I can shift it from a geographic origin stereotype (or other stereotype) to an ethnic one (in the case of ethnic Jewishness, like African-Americans), or in religious observance (in the case of religious Judaism, like Islam).

Or, I can say that cranky might be an age-related stereotype, or perhaps, a more legitimate age-related generalization, since Sanders is the oldest Democratic candidate, and if elected, will be older than when Reagan started his second term!

Here's another from the same person:
Maybe CNN thinks Bernie's a stereotypical Italian?

Or a stereotypical New Yorker, now transplanted a bit further north?

I do.

As for Ms. Dean, she thought my Italian comment was "just silly."

I told her it was less silly than "potentially fueling a potentially budding conspiracy theory."

And, that's exactly what the likes of her are doing.

Which is why I'm disturbed by the likes of Doug Henwood and Corey Robin, who know better, uncritically retweeting such nonsense.

And, while I disagree with part of this Facebook post, because I do think Sanders "won" what we now call a "debate" (it's a glorified joint press conference), I agree with large parts of it, namely, that Sanders' candidacy is highly Internet-driven, and in some ways, pretty insular.

As for whether or not Hillary Clinton called someone a fucking Jew bastard (I'm sure she did; like Jonah Goldberg [mark your calendars, I agree with a wingnut on something] her temper and vocabulary of that sort are legendary), that still doesn't mean there's an anti-Semitic cabal brewing. (That said, Jonah's laughable for calling Alan Dershowitz the poster child for anti-Semitism. Inside baseball?)

That said, the original NYT article? It's 15 years old!

What IS brewing is my growing less enthusiastic for him, the more I see more followers of him promote such nuttery.

As for Jodi Dean, again? I never claimed that all of the opposition to Sanders was anti-Semitism. I just claimed that (excluding non-realistic opposition, with possible anti-Semitism, by a nutbar Dallas Republican, and similar) none of the opposition to Sanders is driven by anti-Semitism.

Per comments below, one could see this Tweet:
As reflecting a Poe, tis true.

Or setting one up.

If it had been the first Tweet I, or the Twitterverse in general, had seen rather than the fifth or tenth, and not even the first response back to me.

If you're dumb enough to play badly with Twitter for a candidate probably even less likely than Hillary Clinton to be ranked high on "sense of humor," don't blame people like me for seeing it seriously. I say "people like me" because I'm sure I'm not alone.

Update: It's not a Poe, per a new blog post by Dean responding to mine. It's stone cold serious. Liza Featherstone, you first need to talk to Jodi. Second, if it is a Poe in your mind, you need to stipulate in any further comments here that that's your personal opinion only, and not that of other people from that Twitter thread.

That said, I'm going to do a bit of petard-hoisting on Dean, and through her, on Featherstone. If it's OK to think that privilege, structure, etc., is a bar to Sanders, and was a bar or potential one to Obama, it's a double standard to laugh whenever Hillary Clinton talks about being a woman is a bar, or potential one, to her.

Period and end of story.

Otherwise, my response to Dean about her comment about CNN stands in spades. If you want to even begin to read anti-Semitism into CNN commenting on Sanders' level of emotions, gestures, etc., you're at least skating close to the thin ice of conspiracy theories.

Beyond that, I hadn't previously known Henwood to be the type of person to uncritically pass on blogs, etc., that talked about "privilege" and "patriarchy." Robin, from my interactions with him, it's not as surprising, but it's still somewhat surprising.

Otherwise, I'm glad for the blog hits. As someone who'll vote Sanders in the Dem primary, but still vote Green in the general, and sees him with a fair set of his own flaws, which include personality issues, more ardent Sanders supporters can either get a clue about those personality issues (and see if he'll change) or else cruise along.

(And, if any readers unfamiliar with me think I'm a Clintonista or whatever, wrong. I scored Sanders as winning the first debate.)

Update, Oct. 27 — Having already written one follow-up on this nonsense: If the Bern-Boosters keep up the claims that talking about Sanders speech volume in an underhanded anti-Semitic trope, I'm going to keep writing blog posts kicking you in the nads.

October 15, 2015

One thing I REALLY hate about California

Not having been here on a vacation in four years, maybe I didn't notice it as much before. Or maybe Texas, and other states, have gotten better about it since then.

Here's the details on what really pisses me off.

Texas, and most states, at every exit on an interstate or other major freeway, after the green-backed "exit" sign, will have a blue-backed sign listing service available at that exit, as in "gas, fuel, lodging," "gas, fuel," or even the "no services."

California? It's spotty. For instance, at the north end of Santa Barbara on US 101, a sign said "services available next 9 exits" without individual exit details.

But, that's a small part of the problem. Normally, most states, at each exit, have individual placards for brand names of services at that exit, like McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc., for food, Shell, Mobil, etc., for gas.

Not California.

I don't know if the Cal Legislature passed a law allowing home-rule cities to block such placards (I saw a couple, but only in unincorporated areas or small towns), or (doorknob help me for sounding like Rick Perry or Greg Abbott, the past and current Texas governors) maybe it is part of an "anti-business climate" in the still, at times, Tarnished Brass State.

Whatever the reason for this, it is anti-business. And, in the case of late-night travelers looking not just for food, but specifically for fast food, it's a PITA indeed. It's a PITA to drive past an exit and see a Jack in the Box sign in the rearview mirror, a sign that, for various reasons, could't be seen before the exit.

And, given that not all fast-food places, even on freeways, stay open that late, knowing individual fast food places is important.

This is more than a bad-for-business or similar issue, too.

It's a highway safety issue.

Drivers rubbernecking to try to find fast-food restaurants at 11 p.m. is never a good idea, especially if they're out-of-region, let alone out-of-state, tourists.

Speaking of, California?

You could learn one other highway safety issue from Texas.

Except in mountainous areas, where it's more understandable, ditch the separate semi speed limits.

Here in Texas, it was shown, before we got rid of them, to actually add to traffic flow problems.

If it's an air-quality issue, make your diesel even cleaner. But get rid of the speed limit split.

===

And, yes, this is a sign of the apocalypse, to have Texas getting multiple things more right than California.

October 14, 2015

First #DemDebate: Grades, winners and losers, including the #MSM

Winners on the right, and others (less the MSM establishment) on the left.
First, I'm going to call a clear loser, as a member of the Fourth Estate myself.

And, that's the number of mainstream media saying Hillary Clinton won the debate, and usually saying so strongly. From Robert Garrett at the Snooze to Amy Chozick at the Old Gray Lady, MSM pundits who are already political writers and denizens of either state or national capitals, and therefore meet the acid test of "insiders," are the ones plumping for Clinton.

The Hill is another insider, looking for a cheap-shot reason to undercut Sanders. And finding it.

If this, on Sanders, from The Hill:
Clinton clearly gained the upper hand over him at times. “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people,” Sanders said at one point, near the start of the debate. But Clinton shot back, “We are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America.”

Is serious analysis, then my left butt cheek is qualified to be POTUS. Sadly, other MSM folks seem to agree with The Hill.

Check your biases. Or don't check them, and keep writing biased coverage.

It's not just online polls that anybody can crash, though the enthusiasm of Sanders poll-crashers itself arguably says something. It's not just Twitter, though we do have that. It's focus groups, post-debate focused polling and more.

Speaking of online polls, vote in mine at top right.

Chozick is a known Clinton hack. And, I'm now taking Garrett as a demonstrated "insider/establishmentarian" hack, with Clinton being the insider/establishmentarian du jour. (And, he works for a hack paper that has its head up the Komen Foundation's ass for the month of October, but that's another story entirely. I think.)

Chozick claims Clinton had a "dominant" performance. In what alternative universe? She then says Sanders had "forceful challenges" to Clinton's "agility."

Otherwise, from Chuck Todd on, the pundit class were in a rush to prove their post-debate idiocy.

So, those "inside the Beltway," or "inside the Mopac," if they're from Texas? Discount them. Chattering classes.

Is it true that Bernie needs to up his style and the quality of his rhetorical speaking? Yes. If, as rumored, he stubbornly refuses to do debate prep, he needs to change his mind, or else find progressive voters like this one further discounting him.

But, Hillary Clinton only "won" the debate if you're an establishmentarian wanting her to have won. Friend Perry thinks she won anyway because Bernie didn't overcome stereotypes, but, I'll politely disagree.

And, with that said ...

==

Winners and losers among the candidates?

Bernie wins the most. All four non-Clinton candidates got "exposure" to the general public for the first time. The public had probably heard the most about Sanders, therefore he had the most to win — if he didn't blow it.

Losers? Jim Webb made clear that he's simply not a presidential candidate for the modern Democratic Party.

Grades?

First, nobody gets an A, or even an A-minus.

Sanders: B-plus. While I don't vote on "charisma," he still needs to improve his political interaction persona. CNN notes that having to share the stage, rather than a campaign rally, may put a regular dent in his style. And, his answer on gun control, while right about rural states, still isn't convincing. Lots of rural state Congressman and Senators voted FOR the Brady Bill.

Plus side? Had the best closing of any of the five.

That said, he ain't winning ANYTHING in the future if more of his followers start indulging conspiracy theories.

Clinton: B-minus. Not too defensive. Could still have lightened up more. Wall Street-related answers were laughably unbelievable. Managed to not have too many arrows stick too deeply, though.

O'Malley: B-minus. Didn't look totally like an empty suit, but did look somewhat that way, per my snarky pre-debate guide. At times, more of a panderer than Clinton, though. Failed to knock his closing statement out of the park, though.

Chafee: C-minus. Looked competent. (Until near the end.) Failed to explain why, as a former Republican, he had anything special to offer. His "my Dad had just died" on Glass-Steagal sounded almost as bad as Jeb Bush's "stuff happened," or as Clinton's "I'd tell them to cut it out" during the debate earlier. (You could have abstained, Lincoln. Duh.)

Webb: F. He did live up to being the saltine I called him earlier. Or to being Bob Dole as a candidate.

Joe Biden, in absentia: D. Neither Clinton nor O'Malley screwed up badly enough to boost his case as an establishmentarian alternative to Clinton. That said, he's still nosing around, complete with debate-based potential strategy.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: D. The Democratic National Committee chairwoman did nothing pre- or post-debate to tamp down thoughts that she's a quiet Clintonista.

==

Clinton's emails? Not a "winner," in the way most people think, if they listened to post-debate interviews. In his interview, Sanders said "there's a process ... for looking at her emails." In other words, while perhaps decrying Trey Goudy, he was NOT saying there's zero fire behind the smoke. And, he otherwise "won" by having the most memorable comment of the night.
Now, can he build on it? And, does he need better debate prep, as No More Mr. Nice Blog says?

Semi-loser? Anderson Cooper. His asking Jim Webb if Sanders' conscientious objector status had disqualified him to be commander in chief of the military showed some establishmentarian warhawk biases on Cooper's part.

And, being Hillary's mouthpiece on the issue of free college for Trump's kids, which I've already addressed on this blog, is another fail.

And, he arguably "did Hillary a solid" by the way he handled the Black Lives Matter issue.

October 13, 2015

Your first 2016 campaign #DemDebate guide

I've already given you my under-the-bus, snarky take on tonight's first Democratic presidential debate. (If you've not read it yet, start there, as I'll allude to it a bit here.)

Now, courtesy of this good analysis by MSNBC, here's my real take on the debate tonight. It's going to be by candidate, in terms of who's got what to win or lose, how they should try to do that, and my guesstimate as to what they'll actually do.

Hillary Clinton: I'm going to disagree with MSNBC, and Chuck Todd in particular, who's probably the one who said she needs to be the policy wonk. Nooo ... she needs to be the "lighten up" person, like Hillary impersonator Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live:



She needs to be that above all else, someone lightened up, and not the buttoned down, let out no information Hillary Clinton of record. Will she be? Probably not. She'll probably, like a bad football coach, be playing this debate in "not to lose" mode rather than "win" mode.

(And, if you want a debate drinking game, could shots for "Benghazi" be it?)

Bernie Sanders: It's arguable that Clinton has the most not to lose, or the most to lose, and that's why she'll play in that mode. Sanders has the most to win. Horse-race media reporting has ignored everybody else on the list. At the same time, he's got almost as much to lose.

His booming popularity bubble could be burst if the curmudgeonly cute Sanders of shorter sound bites is the curmudgeonly uncute Sanders of an entire debate. He's got even more to lose if he goes beyond curmudgeonly to grumpy, let alone explosive, old man as the oldest person in the debate. As for most to win? He's got the chance to show that he's got substance behind his ideas, and that he can be someone who's at least halfway charming, and an effective national-level retail politician.

Whether by repeated use of the actual word "socialist" or something else, he also needs to defang that. I think he'll be more successful than unsuccessful. He's already started on it; now, in a non-geeky, non-curmudgeonly way, he needs to connect this with clear public polling support for socialist ideas.

(If you want another debate drinking game, shots for "socialist" is it!)

Martin O'Malley: He's probably got the second-most to win. Every day that Joe Biden doesn't enter the race, especially if it's another day that Clinton has a new drip, drip, drip on either her emails or political flip-flopping, is another day for O'Malley to gain ground as an "establishment" alternative to Clinton. However, until Biden officially rules out a run (if he does), O'Malley remains on tenterhooks, unable to get traction.

His goal is to show that he's more than just an empty neoliberal suit, appealing to the establishment as more a "win" rather than "not lose" candidate than Clinton, and progressive enough, even if faintly so, to have a bit of appeal to Sanders backers, especially if Sanders stumbles.

Jim Webb: His goal is to both convince social liberals that they need to take his outreach to Southern and Midwestern non-urban whites seriously, and to convince them that he's not flying a flag of convenience on recent conversion to some social liberal positions. He's got little to lose, but I suspect he'll be unsuccessful. Sanders, though not Southern Scotch-Irish, has a more convincing political viewpoint and metaphysics behind his own outreach to those folks, and I think Webb's conversion isn't that deep.

Lincoln Chafee: His goal is to convince a few people that he's a horse for the course, and deserves consideration as an alternative to both Clinton AND O'Malley. He's got as little to lose and as much to win as Webb.

Joe Biden, in absentia: He's got a lot to win, if Clinton stumbles. That's especially true if Sanders comes out in full-on "get off my lawn you kids" mode. Should Clinton not stumble too badly, and especially should O'Malley obliquely call out Biden for his no-show, he loses. Otherwise, while he missed my Labor Day deadline, if he wants to run, he's got some hard calendar dates in early primary states looming.

The public: The public has a lot to win if Sanders does well. It has something to win, even, if Clinton does well. We, especially we liberal voters, have a lot to lose if both of them stumble. We also lose by not having the Full Monty of JoePa Biden, humor, potential gaffes and all.

(That said, the public wins also if Sanders defangs not just the word "socialist," but the ideas enough to help Dr. Jill Stein or whomever is the 2016 Green Party nominee.)

Elbow-throwing: On a 1-10 scale, I expect 3.5 elbows. Candidates will be more about staking out their own positions this time. But, because the Dems have fewer debates, depending on how this one goes, the second one will have plenty of sharp elbows.

New #GMO ideas, even GMO #organic, could make #Frankenfood fearers' heads spin

I don't want anti-GMOers' heads to spin, though.

I just want them to rationally reconsider their irrational opposition to any and all GMOs in any way, shape or form.

So, I present for their thoughtful consideration two possible breakthroughs in the world of GMO crops.

The first is the possibility of GMO organic food.

The second is the potential for GMOs to reduce, maybe even eliminate, a fear of many modern parents, by a GMO peanut that won't trigger allergies.

On GMO organic food, this would certainly address a major issue of not just blanket anti-GMOers, but others who think today's Big Ag needs more overhauling. If GMOs let us have organic farming with better output than today's typical organic farm, or more adaptable than today's organics to rapidly varying weather, who wouldn't want that?

That said, "GMO" is actually a fairly narrow area, if one uses it technically. That first length, which is an in-depth story for rational, thoughtful reading, talks about things like marker-assisted breeding, which aren't conventional hybridization but aren't GMOs, either. A fair amount of the story threads in an interview with a husband-wife team of an organic farmer and a geneticist. A couple who just happen to have written a book about all this and more:
In Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food, Ronald and Adamchak argue that genetic engineering can help “develop biologically-oriented, sophisticated, and elegant approaches to address agricultural problems” and that “to maximize the benefit of GE [genetically engineered] plants, they would best be integrated into an organic farming system.”

That paragraph then goes on to note what I said earlier about organic farming being less environmentally stressful. It then focuses on the idea of something specific, like organic farming of Bt crops.

Sadly, it's currently "illegal" to use GMOs on a certified organic farm. But, as the story notes, originally it was OK.

This shows the power of lobbyists on labels; if the likes of the New York Times' Eric Lipton wants to write about lobbyists in agriculture, maybe he should tackle this one next. (Since neither he nor his paper's ombudsman has followed up on the complaints about his article about GMO lobbyists, though, I'm not holding my breath.)

The article’s author notes GMOs aren’t a panacea. He also notes that GMOs aren’t a one size fits all — and that “conventional” crops aren’t either. He proceeds from there:
For another perspective, I called up Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, which seeks to reduce the “negative environmental and social impacts of farming.” I asked him whether there is a space for GMOs in the kind of farming he promotes. “Yes and no,” he said. “I think there’s no uniform answer with regard to GMOs. We tend to lump them all together. Each needs to be considered on its own individual merits.”
Per the story, those merits include things like potentially rescuing orange trees from citrus blight. 

The second story talks how the magic of CRISPR - Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — is already being used in an attempt to "edit out" allergy-triggering genes from peanuts, something that's already been attempted, and failed so far, with older breeding technologies.

#RaiseYourVoice in blogging for #BAD15

Friend Perry commented about this in a group email, and I thought, what the heck.

So, I joined Blog Action Day, per the second hashtag, which is short for Blog Action Day 2015.

The first hashtag is the theme this year.

As a newspaper editor, I won't say that blogging, or new media in general, has replaced traditional media but, whether conducted by members of the traditional media or others, it is an important adjunct.

And, it's a voice that, even in the democratic "West," let alone elsewhere, needs to be encouraged. And, in a variety of subjects.

Politics, culture, environmental issues, philosophy, sociology all need a variety of thoughtful, articulate voices. At the same time, it needs less in the way of irrational, fear-mongering ones.

Per the theme, issues important to me include:
1. Environmentalism, including defending climate change science;
2. Secularism, defending it both against anti-First Amendment attacks from the Religious Right in the US and also defending it against the caricatures generated by New Atheism;
3. Reforming US politics, especially getting outside the two-party Republican/Democrat box;
4. Philosophy and speculative thought;
5. The arts and their need in modern society;
6. Futurism that isn't, in some way, shape or form, whether by New Ageism or salvific technologism like Ray Kurzweil, pie in the sky.

What ideas matter to you?

Your Democratic debate guide, the under the bus version

This should be a goodie.

Hillary Clinton can call Bernie Sanders a gun nut (because he is), Sanders can call Clinton a Trans-Pacific Partnership hypocrite (because she is, as Perry details) and if Joe Biden doesn't officially enter the race by then, Beau Biden's last tears can sit in a jar on stage (since they told Joe to run).

Cynical? Me? Noooo.

Not because Hillary Clinton has more campaign positions than Bill had sexual positions.

Not because Bernie Sanders not only IS a gun nut, but he's actually a Democrat who's a selective war hawk and more. (Or "less," to riff on Ted Rall, as I did).

Not because the Democratic rogues gallery is so geriatric that if Biden runs, he still wouldn't be the oldest candidate.

Not when other Dem possibilities are weak tea, indeed. And that includes the Al Gore weak tea.

To complete the debate lineup, we'll have an empty suit named Martin O'Malley, a saltine named Jim Webb, preferably the traditional version (think about it, on both parts of that), and a man looking like Lincoln Chafee who, unfortunately, will be Lincoln Chafee. (Al Gore will be backstage with a massage therapist.)

And your debate drinking game?

Shots for either "Benghazi" or "socialist, as I note in my more serious guide as well.

October 12, 2015

#Cardinals have another avoidable teh suck against the Cubs

Yadi Molina: Not 100%,
let alone 100% of old
In Game 2 of this year's NL Central half of the Division Series, as already noted, the MLB managerial cuteness runner-up Mike Matheny (Brad Ausmus was the big winner) flubbed his starting lineup with the person on the mound, pitching a flu-buggy Jaime Garcia instead of Lance Lynn. (No, given his relative youth, etc., and arm concerns still this year, I would NOT have moved Michael Wacha up a start.)

Speaking of, Wacha got shelled in Game 3. And, there's a sidebar issue.

Yadier Molina has had his second straight pedestrian year on offense. And, he's also had his second straight year of an injured thumb ligament. There's been ongoing speculation, coming into the Division Series, of how far short of 100 percent he might be, setting aside that 2014-15 have shown that his 100 percent ain't what it was a few years ago.

Well, having Brandon Moss pinch-hit in the sixth inning did get Jake Arrieta out of the game, even if he was a bit shaky in that frame before hitting Moss with a pitch.

Nonetheless, this shows that Matheny (and general manager John Mozeliak) aren't fooling anybody. Remember how Mo tried to fool the public with Shelby Miller in 2013, keeping him on the postseason roster even though he never pitched an inning? If you've forgotten, this will refresh your memory, from the 2013 Division Series. Or this, from the 2013 LCS. Or this, after the LCS. Or this, at the start of the World Series? Or this, after the WS, as to why, per the team's alleged reason, they actually did hold him out (an alleged reason I see as a lie itself).

(Update: Matheny recognizes he's not fooling anybody; Molina is a scratch for Game 4.)

Problem No. 2 is that the Cards' backup catcher is Tony Cruz. He's not a huge drop-off defensively from Yadi, though he is somewhat. He IS a pretty big offensive drop-off, though, even from the 2014-15 Molina. In fact, it's arguable that at age 28 and him actually regressing this year, he's not an MLB player. Certainly, in arbitration, the Cards shouldn't offer more than his current salary.

Even without the two thumb injuries, Yadi might still be struggling, relative to his past few years, offensively. And in turn, that's arguably because Matheny had been playing him too often in the regular season. However, in another turn, that's arguably because he had Tony Cruz backing up Yadi.

That said, for the same price Mo paid in free agency this offseason for Mark Reynolds, he could have paid a year ago for Brayan Peña, who wound up as the Reds' starting catcher after Devin Mesoraco went on the shelf for the year.

Plus, since Peña can play first base as well as catcher, Mo never would have signed Reynolds this year.

Remember that, Cards fans, next time someone talks about Mozeliak's genius.

As for managerial skills, I certainly wouldn't rank Matheny higher than Boston scribe Nick Cafardo's ninth. And, while Mo is somewhat better, I don't think he's top five. (I will credit him, assuming it was him, for having Stephen Piscotty learn first base down at Memphis. The Cards might already have been swept, had they not had him in Game 1.)

The bigger point, again, though, is that the team is fooling nobody with Molina's health level. And, sadly, it's stuck with Tony Cruz as the only option.

Folks, remember that, if Mo doesn't stick a crowbar into the Cards' offseason spending wallet, especially since it's been fattened with a new TV contract.

And, capping a comeback falling short, Adam Wainwright showed he isn't god almighty, even with his drawing Christian fish symbols on the Cardinals mound last year, then having Matheny et al lie about it and claim it was a tribute to Stan Musial.

As for Matheny in general? Hey, Cards fans, since he got to the World Series in his second year, and has made the playoffs all four years, we're stuck with him as a manager until and unless either Mo drops dead of a heart attack or Matheny gets caught peeing on the Musial statue.

GOP Speaker's race a replay of GOP prez race if Bill Flores is in

Bill Flores: Grade A
wingnut, egotist, more,
all from the back bench
If Rep. Bill Flores ("my" Congresscritter in my previous residence, swapped for the even more idiotic Louie Gohmert, aka Gohmert Pyle) is running for Speaker, then yeah, we are just like the GOP presidential race. Not only do we have wingnuts and nutbars, we've got second-rate backbench ones now in the mix.

I've blogged about Flores before, including his undercutting Wacoans' efforts to get the Columbian mammoth site made a national monument, then glory-hogging when Obama used the Antiquities Act to make it so.

Beyond that, I've also called him out for telling outright lies. Mammoth-sized lies, if we count his Waco-related ones.

Well, now, he's running for Speaker.

And, based on that mammoth-sized brouhaha, his staff Twittermeister has blocked me. (Which is OK. I emailed him this, too.)

I told him that, per the old "snowball in hell" cliche, he stood about a mammoth's chance in Waco of being elected Speaker.

And, you know what? Besides this election, like the presidential contest, being an effort at Republicans out-wingnutting each other, it's become a vanity contest. Flores is in his third term. Yes, the man's been in Congress less than 5 full years and thinks he's qualified to be Speaker.

Bill Flores has as much chance of being elected Speaker as George Pataki or Rick Santorum do of being elected president.

Sadly, and weirdly, the Waco Trib, talking about his "measured, often thoughtful" background, knows a different Bill Flores than I do.

TX Progressives talk Bernie vs. Hillary, Susan Hawk, Columbus, constitutional amendments

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready for some real Presidential candidates to take the stage and have some debates, as noted by yours truly (look for more tomorrow), as he and others also think about holidays and postseason baseball, as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff examined two polls of the Houston Mayor's race and HERO referendum.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos shared an article she read in the Houston Chronicle.  It seems that a certain group is determined to white wash U.S. and Texas history. The Texas Textbook Fiasco.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme objects to police chiefs wanting to stir up trouble with 'in your face' declarations of their religion which is the opposite of community policing.  Police are hired by the public to promote the general welfare, not the chief's animus to diversity.

Socratic Gadfly takes a Washington Post columnist to the woodshed for using tortured logic to claim Hillary is actually more progressive than Bernie..

Ahead of the first Democratic candidates debate, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs heard the Clinton machine finally rumbling to life.  He also listened to more dripping about her email, and mused on her policy pronouncements regarding the TPP and Glass-Steagall.

At the 4th anniversary of Occupy Houston, Neil at All People Have Value recalled the accomplishments of the Occupy protests. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

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

D Magazine has an in-depth look at the troubled story of Dallas County DA Susan Hawk, though it, the Dallas Observer and others still have key unasked questions, like if alcohol has also been a problem, what's up with that allegedly incriminating photo, and what else might be behind it and Hawk's marital history.

Paradise in Hell ponders redistricting.

Austin On Your Feet documents the problems of homelessness.

Kevin Barton argues against state Proposition 7, one of the constitutional amendments that will be on your November ballot. (Yours truly agrees and will have a review of all seven eventually.

Jenny Dial Creech shares what it's like to be a female sportswriter.

The TSTA Blog wishes there was a STAAR test for legislators.

The Texas Election Law Blog analyzes the seven constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

Egoberto Willies has an interview with retired Congresscritter Barney Frank, who's all in on Hillary.

Let's not have #ColumbusDay OR #IndigenousPeoplesDay

I personally view the trend of seemingly politically correct cities replacing the former with the latter.

First, as we push back the date of first human migration to the Americas, it's clear that it came in multiple waves.

Therefore, the first "indigenous people" were either assimilated or killed off by later migrants. Yes, said later migrants didn't have Columbus' and other Europeans' advantages of "Guns, Germs and Steel," but, they still killed off predecessors in some cases. The story, the actual truth, about Kennewick Man is a good illustration.

Other pre-Columbian myths, per the likes of "1491," also aren't quite so true. (Charles Mann shoots down a few post-Columbian myths in "1493."

The ancient Americas weren't a pristine ecological Eden, for example. Fire and other tools were used to extensively manage lands, to help drive and capture deer and other game, and more. That's apart from the times when American Indians were being environmentally wasteful or leaving trash laying around themselves.

Columbus and post-Columbians enslaving Indians? They enslaved each other both before and after 1492.

Deliberate genocide? No, not by Columbus. As far as claims by others, like Ward Churchill, they've been almost entirely refuted. Churchill himself has told those whoppers as part of a whole pack of PC lies about American Indians vs. Euro-Americans. Nor was European Christianity a cause of genocide; yes, padres as well as soldiers overworked Indians even after the Spanish Crown put an end to their enslavement; I shot that down as part of shooting down a broader bit of Gnu Atheist nonsense that religion was in general genocidal. (Besides, per the below, it's not always and only Western monotheism that can be religiously troubling.)

The Columbian Contact, because of the "germs" part of Diamond's book, was tragedy-laden from the start. And, there were a number of individual bad actors. But, it wasn't a systemic genocide. And, because issues of intent aren't always clear, and sometimes didn't exist, I prefer not to use the word "genocide." There's a difference between manslaughter and murder, even if the manslaughter is somewhat voluntary, and definitely if it's not. The same should apply to genocide, establishing it as mass murder for particular religious, ethnic, or similar reasons, rather than mass manslaughters.

As for the seven or eight, or innumerated, myths about Columbus? Not all of the refudiations of the myths are themselves correct. And, the refudiations that depend on Howard Zinn depend on Zinn at his non-academic worst, although he did have a fair amount correct.

Tackling some of this, off that list of eight.
1. Yes, Columbus did that
2. Not true, unless you're parochial enough to be using "America" for the "United States." Columbus was on mainland South America in his third voyage. If you are that parochial, then you've got a PC petard hoisting. If you're restricting yourself to his first voyage, why did you say "not ever"? More on Columbus' voyages from Wiki.
3. No, Columbus' own language showed he did not portray natives badly, at least not initially, other than the cannibals allegation
4. Not all of Columbus' men were; blanket statements aren't accepted here. And, that some, some Indians were rapists and murderers, too.
5. Columbus' original slaving action was for slave resale, not for gold miners. And, he certainly didn't kill 250,000 for gold. Disease, etc., along with overwork did that, but Columbus didn't kill 250,000.
6/7 True. Again, Indians did
8. Pardoned, but not restored to all pre-arrest rights, which led to his sons later legally battling the Spanish throne.

Otherwise? Cannibalism, infanticide and whatever else you want to name: Europeans, Asians and Africans from the Old World, and Amerinds from the New, committed them all alike. Rape? Murder? Ditto. So, even if some of Columbus' men were some of these things, so were some indigenous peoples. And, try as much as some PC types will, it still appears that syphilis was an import from the New World to the Old, not the other way around.

Dogs of war had been used by Europeans against other Europeans. (And, occasionally, Asians against other Asians.) Spaniards, in places like the Battle of Toro, cut each others' hands off.

Even in early contact days, while the Caribbean natives were largely peaceful, that wasn't true elsewhere. Don't forget that Cortes' conquest of Mexico was helped by vassals of the Aztecs revolting against them. (Aztecs who committed living human sacrifices by ripping still-beating hearts out of people's chests.)

I "get" that this isn't about Columbus, but about Euro-Americans, and for some, Christianity, in the New World. But, again, this wasn't a genocide. Also, there's been plenty of non-European "bad actors," and non-Christian ones. Think Stalin and Hitler among the non-Christian ones. (Uninformed comments about "Stalin went to seminary" will not be posted.) Think Jinggis Khan, Mao, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and many others on the former. Or, American Indians not named.

Speaking of, for the alleged barbarity of Christianity as a religion vs. Native American "spirituality" and alleged nobility?

Go stick skewers under your breast muscles while getting someone else to lacerate your skin. Have that other person tie the skewers to the top of a pole outside in the summer. Then, go dance the Sun Dance until you pass out and the skewers rip through your body. Or self-sacrifice your own heart to the gods of the Aztecs.

Then get back to me about the nobility of American Indian "spirituality," OK?

If you're a PC liberal, or just someone trying to think globally while accepting the muddled reality of humanity, instead of Indigeneous Peoples' Day OR Columbus Day, push for Oct. 24 to be a U.S. holiday.

In case you're drawing a blank? United Nations Day.

We can kill Columbus Day, NOT replace it with a PC alternative, get some PC liberals to think outside America and decommercialize Halloween, all in one fell swoop.

Or, if that's too much, do like Latin American countries on Columbus Day and have something like "La Raza Day," celebrating the good, the bad and the ugly of both cultures, since both had all of that, and both exchanged all three with the other.

Anyway, this "Columbus" = "devil" nonsense is a good exemplar of why I call myself a skeptical left-liberal. Columbus wasn't perfect. He wasn't close. It's arguable as to how much more bad than good he was, whether in specific dealings with Indians, his gubernatorial abilities, his relations with the Spanish crown, or his actual navigation skills aside, his broader sailing mindset.

But, he wasn't the devil. And, while the original Caribbean contact natives were generally peaceful, indigenous Americans in general weren't angels. And, I don't want to replace one set of myths with another.

October 11, 2015

#Cardinals manager Matheny hits a new low in teh stupidz

Jaime Garcia:
Too flu-buggy
to have started?
Ignore the error by Kolten Wong. Ignore Jaime Garcia's own error.

Instead, let's look at the starting lineup error of stupidity of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny for Game 2 against the Cubs.

Jaime Garcia had a stomach bug, and told Matheny about it pre-game. Matheny still started him. And, in the second inning, in part with those two errors, had reason to regret it.

That said, Matheny compounded his error in pre-game, when he had planned Game 4 starter Lance Lynn tabbed as his first relief option if Garcia was iffy.

So, per the box score, Garcia burns two innings and 45 pitches. His being unknown to the Cubs this year would have "kept" until Game 4; he could have flipped with Lynn. Or he could have pushed to Game 3, and had Michael Wacha throw Game 4.

Now, especially given Garcia's known arm fragility, the Game 4 start is up in the air, I guess.

Lynn threw just one inning, and 24 pitches. I guess that's not too much more than a normal between-starts bullpen session. Maybe he can still go Game 4.

Others have whispered about turning a "miracle" into miracle of miracles and starting Adam Wainwright in Game 4. I see that as highly unlikely, and so do the Cards, the P-D says; starting Game 1 starter John Lackey on short rest would be more likely.

And, no, I'm not joking. Lackey threw just 86 pitches in Game 1. He could reasonably give 5 innings in Game 4, leaving Waino as an early relief bridge option.

And, once again, as with his nearly-fired Tigers counterpart Brad Ausmus, Matheny has once again shown that managerial cuteness and managerial brains aren't always in the same package.

As for actual skills, I certainly wouldn't rank Matheny higher than Boston scribe Nick Cafardo's ninth.