SocraticGadfly: 2/14/16 - 2/21/16

February 19, 2016

All hail the cult of Apple, again, and its #hypocrisy, again

Photograph by Ashley Gilbertson for Bloomberg Businessweek
I've worked professionally on Macs for 20 years. And yes, back in the Stone Age, they made computing so much easier.

That said, Steve Jobs was not a genius. Nor is Tim Cook after him. And neither of them were or are civil libertarians.

Nor is Tim Cook that concerned about privacy. Let's remember that, at one time, the iPhone and iPad were designed to spy on their users. As CEO of the Eye-company, he's concerned about corporate branding and profits from a company that has become a caricature of its own 1984 ad:

So, in the current hullaballoo about how brave Cook is for resisting the FBI's request that Apple write a jailbreak program to open the iPhone of alleged terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, remember this:

Apple is selling a phone, not civil liberties, as Lawfare Blog notes.

Actually, I'd go beyond that. Apple is selling you an Eye-cult.

I agree that the Eff Bee Eye is overstepping. However, Tim Cook is turd-polishing at the same time.

At the same time, Lawfare Blog is from Brookings. Brookings by its own admission is NOT a "liberal" think tank, whatever that word even means today. And, it's staking out the "left-neoliberal" version of support for the Deep State.

Between snark and skepticism, I've blogged plenty about the Cult of Apple.

That includes
Of course, the cult of Apple is ultimately the cult of Steve Jobs. Jobs got lucky that he listened to an underling about the iPod, which kicked off Apple's whole Eye-line. Jobs himself originally planned to make it Mac-only, like iTunes software before, like everything else before that.

But, many are so unskeptical about him.

Which is why I love that my Steve Jobs jokes blog post, fortuitously spun off a blog post written on the day he died, is still my most viewed one.

More skepticism about Jobs includes:
The Silicon Valley world is all backing Apple now. This is again, where Persian philosopher Idries Shah is right — there's never just two sides to an issue, and clearly here. The FBI is wrong, AND Apple is hypocritical.


Update on the actual situation, which makes both Apple and San Bernardino County look worse.

The county has access to, but failed to install, software that would have unlocked the phone. Or, if Farook had thumbprint technology recognition installed, the Eff Bee Eye could have done it. The former makes the county look bad. The former, and somewhat the latter, belies Apple's "protect your data" claims.

February 18, 2016

Cell phones and polling for #FeelTheBern

With the Nevada caucuses just two days ahead on the Democratic side, we move from Iowa and New Hampshire to a minority-heavy state, especially on the Democratic side — despite the lies of the Clinton campaign about this.

Beyond the obvious minority levels, the Census Bureau reminds us that, unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada is also slightly younger than the national average. We know that cord-cutting is a lot more common among younger age cohorts. And, among the poorer.

Finally, we know that Sanders supporters trend younger.

The age gap, for all we know, may be the biggest in a presidential campaign since Clean Gene McCarthy in 1968, or at least since McGovern in 1972.

For a few years now, there's been discussion of what pollsters are, or are not, doing to address the cord-cutter issue in general.

Pew said last year that it would add to the percentage of cellphones in its research survey calling. However, that's research surveying, not presidential preference polling.

Pollsters admit that the cord-cutting issue, especially when combined with demographic issues of it being more common among those statistically less likely to vote, and the added mix of additional polling costs to call cellphones, lead to a conundrum.

We'll see how the latest version of the conundrum shakes out on Saturday and in days ahead.

World War I's causes

With us near the midpoint of the centennial of World War I, per a couple of the newest books I've read on the issue, this is a matter for serious discussion.

A good starting point is The July Crisis. I've got it as a 5-star, though I may go back and change that again. Its biggest selling point is that it is ONLY about the events from the June 28, 1914 assassination of Franz Ferdinand to the start of World War I, hence the book's name.

July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914 by T.G. Otte
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A gripping account of the march to WWI, yet not quite perfect

A very, very good overview of the July Crisis. Not a tremendous amount of new information about any one individual, but enough new here, and a good dovetailing of all the intersecting story lines, to make this a worthy five-star book.

Key new points for me were above all the "second blank check" from Jagow to Vienna. After that, playing up Tschirschky's having cone native, looking at Lichnowsky's efforts to sincerely prevent war, while Germany and Prussia in particular claimed HE had gone native, and, at a lesser level, how "accepting" Franz Joseph was of a push to war were all important.

Per a couple of commenters, could ha have delved more into Serbia, and its knowledge of the Black Hand, specifically what Pasic might have known and what warning he might have given Vienna? Yes. He probably could have played up Hartwig's responsibility more, too.

Ideally, I'd 4.5 star this book. Unfortunately, Goodreads still won't give us half stars.

View all my reviews

In reality, though, one should start earlier, about 525 years earlier, with Serbia getting destroyed by the Ottomans at the Battle of Kosovo. And a book by this name does just that.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A clear lining out of how Serbian "martyrdom" has 700 years of history behind it. And, from there, the vectors are traced to Serbian thuggery, starting 100 years ago in the two Balkan Wars.

Don't let the shortness of the review fool you. This is not a 4.5-star book; it's a full 5-star, all the way.

Follow that, and counterbalance "The July Crisis," with this book.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Simply fantastic book about the run-up to World War I.

Things I learned include:
1. The Triple Entente, especially from the British angle, was not exclusively an anti-German grouping, and was "unstable" at times up close to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
2. Even more than I knew before, the governmental organization of the Dual Monarchy was rickety. (I knew that many ministries were dual, but until reading this book, did not realize it had dual prime ministers, which was part of the delay of formulating its response to Serbia.)
3. The idea of sole war guilt for Germany is ridiculous, given that Russia had given as much a blank check to Serbia as Germany did to Austria.
4. The Serb history of thuggery makes me want to believe in "cultural DNA."
5. British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey made a number of quasi-guarantees to France that he never told the Cabinet about, let alone Liberals as a body.

That's just a sampling of a great book.

From there, go to a good overview of the War.

Adam Hochschild had relatives who fought on both sides. He also doesn't get bogged down in too much detail.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A unique telling of World War I in Great Britain.

I knew that Bertrand Russell had been arrested as a conscientious objector, but knew little else about the movement in Britain in general. This book gives excellent insight into how strong the movement was, considering the degree of opprobrium it faced.

Hochschild starts well in advance of the war, so as to set up the social background for this, including disputes over the "rightness" of actions in the Boer War, the suffragette movement in Britain, its splintering, along with trade unionism's splintering, over the war, and more.

Two most fascinating takeaways? Sir John French's sister was one of Britain's leading pacifists.

And .. in 1915 ... war on a full year ... Britain was so desperate for high-quality optics, primarily for binoculars, and knew that Zeiss was "it," for that, had British reps meet German counterparts in Switzerland and work out a deal, in exchange for rubber for Germany from British colonies. Most papers have been destroyed, so we don't know how long this lasted.

World War II trade by American companies with Germany, for the first few months of the war, has been documented. But, I had never heard anything about this before. 

Then, get a good overview of the war.

Here's a 50-year-old classic that's still not dated:

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A classic, a classic, that I have reread many times. While Taylor was an American, his physiognomic description of many of the main players in the lead-up to the War, through its end, like Apis, Ludendorff and others, give this book a very British/European style, while adding to the fun of reading it.

There are also books NOT to read.

One is by Max Hastings, who for all of his greatness on WWII is a hack writer on WWI.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
American readers: Take this British book with a grain of salt.

Why? Because while Max Hastings is very good on military tactical issues, and solid on strategic ones in the first shifting of his pen from World War II to World War I, he's close to being all wet on geopolitical issues related to the start of the war.

First, the good.

Hastings gives more detailed coverage to the Eastern Front at the start of the war than do many WWI intros, which often talk about the battles of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes, and nothing else.

Hastings also covers how the Russians rolled back the Austrians in Galicia.

And, even more exposing the dry rot of the Hapsburg Empire, how Serbia, the cause of the war, also rolled back the Hapsburgs' two different early fall and late fall 1914 invasions.

On the Western Front, he rightly faults Joffre's Plan 17 and has little good to say about Sir John French as the BEF commander. And, he notes how Moltke had weakened the original Schlieffen Plan even before the start of the war, how he weakened it further with Tannenberg worries, and how he had a nervous collapse before the two sides made their race to the Channel. He also notes that the French army, outside of things such as the rouge pantaloons, was not that much worse than the German, and how some German commanders, like Kluck and Bulow, as well as the royal commanders, were either too old (them) or not fully competent for general reasons (some of the royals).

On larger strategic issues, he raises the issue of whether the Schlieffen Plan could even succeed with a pre-mechanized army. I say, just possible. The Germans would have needed to have more fodder ready for horses, and definitely more replacement boots for troops. If this AND an unaltered Schlieffen plan had been in place, the Germans might just have pulled it off.

The one thing Hastings gets right on geopolitics is wondering why Germany didn't do a better PR job on the international law violations of Britain's blockade by extension later in the war.


Now the bad, and why this book gets just three stars.

Hastings subscribes to the traditional German war guilt idea on the cause of the war, and from that, seeks to build a legal-type case for British intervention.

First, on a "balance of powers" issue, you don't have to have German war guilt as a primary cause, or even No. 2 after simple balance of powers issues. Britain's early 1700s intervention in the War of the Spanish Succession, for example, didn't go looking for "war guilt."

Second, related to that, is that his attempt to "pin the collar" on Germany is just wrong.

Hastings engages with Christopher Clark's excellent new book, "The Sleepwalkers," but only to reject it, and Clark's labeling of Serbia as a "rogue state."

I'll go one better than Clark, myself. I rarely use the term "cultural DNA," but with Serbia, having read books about the original battle of Kosovo and its aftermath, and seen the 1990s ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, I make an exception. "Rogue state" might be a bit mild; "semi-failed state" might be even better.

Third, and related to that, Hastings talks about the would-be violations of international law that were in Austria's ultimatum to Serbia. True, but it had less such violations than NATO's 1990s ultimatum to Serbia. This issue got mention online at about the time Hastings' book was headed to press. Surely, he could have addressed it in the prologue, within modern book publishing time frames. And, he chose not to.

Fourth, near the end, Hastings adds in what I can only call a "British imperialism whopper." In the last chapter, an epilogue though not officially titled as such, he claims the US contributed "little militarily" to World War I.

True in 1917; not true in 1918, where the US had 1 million troops on the Western Front by early July and 2 million by the end of the war. Yes, the US was using Allied artillery and some other munitions and weapons; it was cheaper than shipping them, since an unoccupied France could make them onsite. At the same time, the US had been supplying warhorses for Britain and France from the start of the war.

The increasing American flood of men spurred the desperation behind Ludendorff's Kaiserschlact, and the expected continuation of that into 1919 led to Ludendorff's collapse in October 1918.

Beyond that, at St. Michel and elsewhere, American troops contributed significantly to the Hundred Days Offense that rolled back German gains from spring 1918.

Without American intervention, Germany still couldn't have won the war. It might have been able to keep Austria propped up, and keep from losing, though.

In addition to justifying British entry, despite his dismissal of American military contributions, I have the feeling that Hastings is trying to sell American readers on the worthiness of American intervention.

Well, there, he's plain wrong.

It's true that a German Mitteleuropa, while certainly nowhere near as bad as Nazism, wouldn't have been ideal. But, it would have been much less a problem for the US than for Britain. And, if achieved only at the price of Austro-Hungarian collapse, might not have been worth that much anyway.

In any case, I've always said that we should have protested the British blockade by extension, on international law grounds, just as much as German submarine zones, then followed George Washington's warning against entangling alliances and let the Entente and Central Powers beat each other senseless.

Hastings' "war guilt" and seeming British imperialism get this book knocked down from 4-plus stars to 3. His whopper about American intervention costs it another star to fall to 2.

Even worse is Scott Berg's bio of Woodrow Wilson, a truly godawful writing.

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
At the end of this book, Scott Berg describes what propelled him to undertake this biography. He says he had read a number of biographies, and none of them captured Wilson's essence.

Well, now we can add one more to that list.

Berg has written, but not quite crafted, a tome that is clearly hagiographic, and in being such, also clearly lacks analysis and depth, despite some 750 pages of body text.

I found myself by the end of the first chapter questioning Berg's claims about the depth of Wilson's support for women's suffrage, and simply shaking my head at Berg's conceit that Wilson alleged wrestled all his life with issues of race.

And, it is on that subject, throughout the book, that Berg's hagiography is most apparent. While mentioning that Wilson grew up in the South, and that his father was briefly a Confederate Army chaplain, he nowhere explicitly talks about his father owning slaves.

He does mention that his Presidential cabinet was almost all Southerners, most of them unreconstructed, but doesn't mention how unreconstructed they were.

He tries to downplay Wilson's official segregation of Washington. And fails.

On women's suffrage, the proper analytical dots aren't connected. He doesn't ask if Wilson's refusal to support woman's suffrage on the federal level isn't due to his worry that this would make his failure to support black suffrage on the federal level — black suffrage already in the 15th Amendment — all the more hypocritical.

There's plenty of evidence Wilson was a racist by enlightened standards of his day, let alone ours. No, Scott Berg, not nearly every white person made "darkie" jokes, thought blacks were lazy, etc. And never did Wilson seriously "wrestle" with issues of race.

But, the lack of analysis doesn't stop there.

Wilson believed, overtly, he had been directly called to his office by god in a way no other president afterward did until George W. Bush. Berg, despite giving each chapter of his book a Biblical title like "Sinai" or "Gethsamane" (titles eyebrow-raising in and of themselves) never asks how this affected Wilson's domestic record. And, even when connecting it to World War I and Versailles and the League of Nations, he still doesn't go into a lot of detail.

Given that Wilson's religious background was not like Bush's, but was a traditional Calvinism theoretically including double predestination, unlike Bush's psycho-therapeutic evangelical Protestantism, I certainly would, and do, wonder: After the Senate defeat of the League, rather than pour out ire at Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, etc., did Wilson just once, for a moment, wonder if this meant he had been negatively predestined on this issue? Berg never asks.

More to the point, and also related to Wilson's belief he had been messianically chosen — why was Wilson such a "hater"? And, it's more than in modern social media buzzspeak. Once he started hating somebody, he kept on hating them. He cut his successor as Princeton president and Col. House, among others, permanently out of his loop after he started hating them. Berg doesn't take a look at the "why" of this at all.

And, the hagiography, combined with errors of omission, also doesn't stop there.

Berg almost totally glosses over Wilson's massive amount of interventionism in Central America. Oh, sure, several pages are devoted to Mexico. But the Caribbean? A couple of mentions, no more than a paragraph's worth.

He nowhere wrestles with the reality of Wilson's quote: "I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men."

His discussion of the formation of the Federal Reserve is superficial. As part of that superficiality, Berg doesn't ask whether the Federal Reserve, as a solution to U.S. banking needs, really was that progressive. (The 2008 meltdown and the actions, or non-actions, of the New York Federal Reserve tell us "no.")

But, the hagiography is just warming up!

On page 328, he claims that Wilson's 1913 record of accomplishments, including the Federal Reserve, Clayton Anti-Trust Act, creation of the Federal Trade Commission, a new tariff and other things, was the greatest legislative outburst since the foundation of the Republic!


I'll take Lincoln's 1862 over that — Homestead Act, Morrill Act for land-grant colleges, transcontinental railroad legislation, first and second Confiscation Acts that were slowly setting the country on the road to emancipation in the Civil War, and the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation itself.

Wouldn't you?

But, we haven't gotten to the outright errors of fact yet! There's several related to World War 1.

First, no, Japan was NOT "forced" to declare war because of its treaty with Great Britain. Rather, said treaty gave Japan the legal cover to declare war and not be an aggressor. How Berg got this wrong is totally beyond me, and frankly, I don't even want to try to figure it out.

Second, on page 395, the torpedoing of the Sussex, as a ship traveling between two belligerents and not a belligerent and a neutral, had nothing to do with the United States needing to consider entering the war.

Which now leads us from errors of fact back to hagiography.

Berg talks about his hero worship of Walter Bagehot (along with William Gladstone), and his wanting to graft British parliamentary government onto the American tripartate system.

He never asks how this might have made Wilson un-neutral not just in heart, but how his heart expressed itself, from the start of the war. (Author Walter Karp details how it did.) For example, why did Wilson never protest Britain's blockade by extension, just as illegal under international law as the German submarine zones?

The Bagehot issue leads us back to analysis of Wilson as public policy intellectual. Why, if these ideas are so brilliant, have none of them been adopted? Even LBJ, for all his effort to be like a prime minister in some ways, didn't go that far.

Was it in part, in the early years after Wilson's presidency, the fact that he was seen as such a hater? Had that alone made these ideas that toxic?

We're not done with the errors of fact yet, though!

Why, if Wilson wanted "no part" of invading Russia, was the U.S. in Russia as long as all the other Western countries? Actually, Wilson overrode the Department of War to approve the Archangel campaign. That said, Berg also gets issues of Polish involvement, Versailles and post-Versailles (it was a Polish nationalist fight) and Japanese involvement wrong, too. Add to that something not strictly a factual error, like calling the Czech Legion "freedom fighters," and you can see how bad this section of the book is.

As for his coverage of Versailles? Margaret MacMillan's "Paris 1919" is far better.

The only interesting thing to the good is Berg covering Wilson's health and his apparently suffering several mini-strokes during Versailles and after, up to his major stroke in Pueblo. But, given that Wikipedia notes Wilson's first stroke may have been in 1895, I'm sure any good bio of Wilson does similar.

I had planned on two-starring this book when I started writing my review from my notes. But I can't. It's that bad, and needs a serious one-star review.

If one wants a truly skeptical, critical take on Wilson, go here:

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I never totally bought into the myth that Woodrow Wilson did everything he could to keep us out of war. But, before reading this book, on the recommendation of an Amazon commenter to another review of mine, I didn't realize that, instead, he did everything he could to drag us into that war, and was doing that long before he was successful.

That said, my eyes were actually even more opened as to the Machiavellian character of William McKinley. Far from circumstances forcing us into war with Spain over Cuba, he was pushing that angle as soon as he was inaugurated. AND, already then, looking at the Philippines as well. Karp argues it's precisely that, and related things, that led him to appoint TR as assistant secretary of the navy.

And, since Wilson couldn't have pulled off his degree of international meddling without McKinley doing it before him, McKinley is worse in some ways.

That said, Karp's contrarian take digs deep. He also notes that Wilson was far from being a progressive, including on the allegedly progressive creation of the Federal Reserve.

The one thing I found missing, if you will, is that I would have liked even more background from Karp on his take on the populist movement/People's Party. 

OK, all of this sets the table for that header.

If we're going to apportion blame for WWI, let's say, while ignoring Gavrilo Princip as the proximate cause: 
1. Apis, 22.5 percent; 
2. Berchtold + Hötzendorf, 17.5 percent; 
3. Austro-Hungarian Schlamperei, 15 percent; 
4. The Serbian government's partial knowledge of the Black Hand, etc., 15 percent; 
5. German pseudoconstitutionality, 15 percent; 
6. Wilhelm II, 7.5 percent; 
7. Nicholas II, 7.5 percent;
8. Sir Edward Grey, British foreign minister, for not accepting that he was as devious at times as he actually was, and for not making a guarantee of neutrality to Germany if it directly avowed it would not invade Belgium; 10 percent
9. Maurice Paleologue, 5 percent; 
10. Sergei Sazonov, 5 percent; 
11. The failure of the old, tottering "Concert of Europe" to rein in Serbia before this, 5 percent.
12. Nicholas de Hartwig, Russia's ambassador to Serbia, 5 percent;
13. Admiral Tirpitz, for pushing a naval arms race Germany never could win, while probably knowing that, 5 percent;
14. Pan-Slavism, 5 percent
15. Russian "rot" after the Russo-Japanese War, 5 percent.
16. Moltke the Younger, 5 percent.

Yes, that's 150 percent. WWI was "overdetermined."

And, I haven't even added another 10 percent, after the war started, for Wilson's pseudo-neutrality.

February 17, 2016

The overrated cult of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: #hypocrisy?

First, Justice Ginsburg is just a liberal, not a left-liberal, and even that is in terms of Overton Window framing.

Second, upon the death of Antonin Scalia and the faux mourning in which I refused to engage, everybody Inside the Beltway, and outside worshipers at the Cult of Ruth, talked about the sweet friendship of them going to the opera.

Really? If "Lulu" were ever in DC, would she have invited him to that? Not to mention the opera about the life of Harvey Milk. I kind of doubt it. There's a whole list of LGBT-related musicals that I guess would have been off limits. No "Cabaret," "Victor/Victoria" and others.

Put another way, if Nino had lived 450 years ago, he might have been Pope Pius IV, ordering Michelangelo's nudes to be painted over. If he had invited a fellow time-warped Ginsburg to see the adulterated paintings, would she have gone along?

Per a Facebook discussion, a Clintonista said, maybe this is why our parents told us not to mix politics or religion into social settings. That may be true, but nobody put a gun to Ginsburg's head and told her she had to go to the opera with a bigot. (And besides Lulu's lesbian, the go-to choice for me, I can probably pick other operas that would offend Nino's proprieties, were he honest about applying them to the arts.) Beyond that? Yes, shut up and be quiet was "Leave It to Beaver" era. I may, in red-state ruraldom, not zip open my mouth at the office too much, but I don't have to go beyond a "necessary" level of extra-office socializing with others with whom I have very little in common on major issues.

But Ginsburg didn't have to live a compartmentalized life like that at all. She made a free choice.

All the "touting" of Ginsburg means is that she chose to enjoy artistic events with a rank bigot. Hardly a matter for praise, unless she's trying to rack up kudos for a mitzvah.

Three years later, The Nation does its own callout. Speaking of Scalia, the piece notes she did a cave to him on part of Bush v Gore.

She has called San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the National Anthem "dumb and disrespectful."
Of the athletes, Ginsburg said, "if they want to be stupid, there's no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there's no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that."
I'd actually call her take on the issue, as well as on flag burning — which Hillary Clinton wanted to selectively criminalize even after the SCOTUS said it was constitutional — "dumb and disrespectful." Disrespectful to Black Lives Matter. Disrespectful to the spirit of the First Amendment while giving lip service to its letter. Disrespectful to a minority when a member of an oft-oppressed minority herself. (If another Jew failed to stand for the National Anthem after we refused to, say, bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz in late 1944, or after we turned away the MS St. Louis in 1939, would she have called that "dumb and disrespectful"?

Update, Feb. 15, 2019: Her new biographer calls her a "centrist" within liberal federal judges of the last generation. Calls her that more than once. And I agree.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A LifeRuth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent look at Ginsburg's professional, from her early New York City formative experiences, through college and struggling against women's quotas and stereotypes which first set her on the career of women's advocacy, to her work with the ACLU while a Rutgers professor, then moving to Columbia, and finally, nominated to the DC Circuit, then many years later to the Supreme Court.

De Hart personalizes Ginsburg the person, not just the judge and justice. She does explain more about her interesting relationship with Antonin Scalia, and how it included not just opera, but some mutual love for at least part of the work of judicial argumentation. (I still find the degree of investment in the friendship interesting.)

De Hart is also honest about Ginsburg moving to the center during her time on the D.C. Circuit. In fact, she uses the word "centrist" regularly.

She also does a good job of analyzing Ginsburg's work on many pivotal Supreme Court cases, as well as her take on Roe and other cases of women's rights and reproductive freedoms before she joined the court.

In this, I agree with Ginsburg's critics. It is true that Roe, and Griswold before it, did not have the tightest of argumentation. It's also true that an equity argument in addition to a privacy argument would have been great in Roe. But, it just wasn't "available" on legal precedent or close to it at that time. And, of course, Griswold was not about male-female equity but just privacy.

I also will agree with a few critics that this is relatively little about her personal life, definitely relatively little about her adult personal life. But, Ginsburg chose what she wanted to discuss in interviews.

View all my reviews

February 16, 2016

Small-town, small-county campaigning

I'm part of a group of Texas progressive bloggers, as you can see from the regular Monday posts here.

But, I'm different than about all of them in one way. The majority are in Houston. One or two are in the Metromess. One is down in the Valley. They're all in at least mid-sized if not larger metropolitan areas.

As for me? I'm out in true ruraldom, at the top of Deep East Texas. And, political campaigns are a bit different here.

First, the Red State sweep has completed its work. Every candidate for county or sub-county offices here, for the first time ever, has an "R" as his or her last initial.

(Professionally, I think it's dumb that people in small counties put that stock in this, almost as dumb as Texas, and every other state in the nation to the best of my knowledge, electing sheriffs.  But, it ain't in my power to change.)

Speaking of ...

Second, it's primarily about local issues. Despite some people thinking the wrong last initial makes you Satan's spawn, hence all local candidates here having the same last initial, local drug concerns and other things have little to do with Austin and almost zero to do with Washington. Any state grants are likely to be awarded here purely on merit, not political issues, and most federal grants will pass through the nonpartisan regional council of governments.

Third, while big-city politics is in part about the personal, it's more that way here.

Fourth, presentation styles differ.

Like, if you're running for constable, you have to wear a cowboy hat. Period. Our incumbent sheriff wore his, too. Related? Except for the district judge candidates, wearing some sort of blazer, but with no tie and with casual slacks, even jeans, is as dressy as you want to get.

Being "just folks" in how you speak to people is important, too. That's why that "uniform" of jeans and cowboy hat is important. For some candidates, a mouth full of tobacco may be an additional part of the image.

Fifth, if you think rumor and gossip drive national politics, you have no idea.

Facebook and other social media have probably done more to fuel "community" level versions of this, too, than they have national level versions. But, it was always there.

Sixth, it can often be "all about family."

The small towns and and small counties that are rumored to be so warm to outsiders often aren't so much, once one goes below surface-level activities. It's about how long you've lived there and "who your family are." (What church, if any, you attend may well pop up at some point too.)

February 15, 2016

TX Progressives look forward to state primary

The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds you to get out and vote in the 2016 primary as it brings you this week's roundup, with early voting starting on Tuesday.

Off the Kuff published interviews with three candidates vying to reclaim HD144 for the Democrats.

Libby Shaw contributing to Daily Kos warns Republican governance can be deadly. Literally  a turning point in the last Democratic presidential candidates debate, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the details.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled that Texas Republicans are giving $.5M taxpayer dollars to help Blue Bell after they spent years delivering deadly listeria to its customers.

SocraticGadfly asked that we not have any unseemly faux mourning over the death of Nino Scalia.

Texas Sharon calls for an end to fracking on public lands.

Neil Aquino takes a look at the cold on the Ohio.


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

Lone Star Ma focused on the 7th of the United Nations' new Sustainable Development Goals: Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

D Magazine asks whose fault it is when a pedestrian gets hit by a car.

Better Texas Blog reviews the proposed rules to qualify for a high-quality pre-kindergarten grant.

Doyen Oyeniyi searches in vain for an actual "sanctuary city".

The Dallas Observer does not like the way its Mayor talked about the now-banned Exxxotica convention.

Keep Austin Wonky examined how City Council can use the 2016 presidential election to enhance Austinís mobility.

The Dallas Observer slaps the city of Dallas' hand over the Exxxotica convention.

The Houston Press calls foul on the state labeling two immigrant holding centers as childcare centers.

Egoberto Willies wonders why ESPN is afraid an NBA player will tell Americans the truth about Canada.

Finally, the TPA congratulates the Rivard Report for achieving its goal of becoming a non-profit.

#FeelTheBern starts western wildfires, and urban ones

People cheer as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a rally at the Denver Convention Center, on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Denver. (Photo: Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

As Common Dreams notes, Sanders drew 18,000 in Denver on Saturday night on his way to Nevada.

In Nevada?


And, these observations from Jon Ralston, the dean of Nevada political coverage.
1. Clinton's nervous enough about Nevada to have cancelled a Florida appearance among other things.
2. Harry Reid, the man who got Dems to move up the Nevada caucus date because of its ethnic diversity, is upset about Clinton's lies about Nevada being "white" like Iowa and New Hampshire

And, the Nevada Democratic Party ain't Iowa's. It's pushing back hard against the Clintonite "white Nevada" claims.


The urban wildfires?

Even as Rep. John Lewis has had to walk back his claim that "I didn't see Bernie Sanders" at any civil rights events, the mainstream black political establishment is being outflanked elsewhere. As that same Common Dreams piece notes:
Those coming out to challenge the idea that Clinton would be a better choice than Sanders included legendary artist and activists like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte; former NAACP head Ben Jealous; prominent black intellectuals like Michelle Alexander, Cornel West, and Adolph Reed Jr.; prominent Ohio Democrat Nina Turner; both co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Reps. Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva; and Erica Garner, whose father Eric Garner became a household name for many black Americans after video footage showed him being choked to death by a police officer in New York in 2014.

 If you don't want to read, then listen:

And, keep reading below that.

February 14, 2016

#GOPDebate: Rapid reactions to South Carolina

Some quick takes on the latest round of GOP nuttery, with ABC having a good wrapup of the best zingers, whether connected to reality or not.

Biggest winner? John Kasich. He seemed moderate, not only on personality, but other than being wrong about replacing Nino Scalia, on the use of facts rather than denigration of them. Of course, this is soft bigotry of low expectations to appear moderate on the personal side at any event including Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, or moderate on having half a foot in the reality-based community compared to most Republicans, but it is what it is. And, I'm saying this not from any reality-based community perspective myself, but from a hypothetical GOP Establishment POV.

Biggest loser? Donald Trump. Whether South Carolina Republicans love the Bush family name that much, love endless war that much, or think that "support our veterans" extends to continuing to believe lies about Iraq, I don't know. Other than that, going back to the reality-based community, Trump, even by GOP standards, is the most detached from that, from thinking that Mexico can be made to pay for a border wall to thinking 100-year-old grannies are ripping off Social Security.

That said, the boos? The South Carolina GOP packed the debate hall with GOP establishmentarians. As the Wisconsin Democratic Party did on Thursday; in fact, I think that crowd was even more packed as pro-Clinton than Greenville was as anti-Trump. So, yeah, some of the boos may have been "canned" boos. All of them? I doubt it.

Second-biggest loser? Ben Carson. America's.First.Black.Pharaoh.™ gave no reason for him to continue in the race. Half the time, he came off as like #RobotRubio on Quaaludes.

Third-biggest loser? Even by the soft bigotry of low expectations, reality was mugged.

Second-biggest winner? Jeb! Bush. Again, another soft bigotry of low expectations measurement. He actually punched back against Trump at times. Given that he has Huckleberry J. Butchmeup backing him in the Palmetto State, as well as daddykins, mommykins and Dear Brother coming there this week, he became a winner by default for the reasons above that Trump was the biggest loser. Bush also had a partial foot in reality, being the only candidate to give an honest answer about replacing Scalia.

Third-biggest winner? Democrats, who will surely see the GOP race becoming even more muddled, not less muddled, after this. (I await post-debate polling in South Carolina to see how much Trump slumps.)

Let's call it a draw: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, arguing about who's more of a real fake Hispanic.

Other than that, setting aside the "reality" loser and "Democrats" winner?

Rubio was the third-biggest winner. Not a lot there, but he at least didn't look like #RobotRubio.

Third-biggest loser? Cruz. Got the liar tag hung on him. And, fortunately for Trump, it was Cruz who "belled the cat' on Trump on abortion. Interestingly, other GOP candidates basically hung Cruz out to dry on that issue, with no backup support for him.