Monday, February 27, 2006

The Three State Solution

Cactus Wren has commented on the suggestion that a possible strategy for solving the Iraq problem might be what is known as the "three state solution." It seemed easier to reply here.

Dear Cactus Wren,

I am no expert, but what follows may help. A comprehensive history of Iraq is available here. The following quotation is taken from the section of that history devoted to the British Mandate after WW I:

"The merging of the three provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra into one political entity and the creation of a nation out of the diverse religious and ethnic elements inhabiting these lands was accomplished after World War I. Action undertaken by the British military authorities during the war and the upsurge of nationalism after the war helped determine the shape of the new Iraqi state and the course of events during the postwar years, until Iraq finally emerged as an independent political entity in 1932." More here

The modern nation state of Iraq is largely an artificial creation serving first British and then US geopolitical goals. As we have seen, in the absence of the Saddam government, it is on the verge of sectarian warfare.

As Leslie Gelb has written in the NY Times: “The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.”
The Gelb article, originally published in 2003 is available here.

CD8/Iraq: The Devil In The Details

Iraq is like the weather, everyone talks about it but no one is specific about what to do about it.

Candidate Latas: Yet in 3 years, they (we) have trained only one out of 15 battalions of Iraqi soldiers to defend their own country. Something isn't right about that. It is time for us to leave Iraq to the Iraqi people.

Candidate Weiss: The Shi’ites, the Sunnis and the Kurds must continue their negotiations to create their new government. If those factions believe the U.S. military will stay indefinitely, they will lack the motivation to stabilize their own country.

Candidate Giffords: Arizonans were given false evidence for invading Iraq but our troops deserve gratitude for doing a tough job under perilous conditions. We need to quickly build international cooperation so the Iraqi people can govern themselves effectively. My priority is to bring our troops home safe and soon.

Candidate Shacter: We need to plan and execute a speedy withdrawal from Iraq; staying the course is not an option. The US should coordinate planning and assist in a multi-national rebuilding Iraq.


Everyone wants to get out. We were suckered into the war in the first place and it has been a ruinous expense. If “staying the course” is not an option exactly what course is it that we shouldn’t stay?

Shacter and Giffords clearly want to stay one course, that of building multi national cooperation towards a re-built and self-governing Iraq. Weiss and Latas seem to be saying either that we should get out now or at some date in the near future. No mention is made about re-building.

I’m skeptical about our success in getting multi-national cooperation in pulling our chestnuts out of the fire, but pulling out and letting the Iraqis kill one another until they have it sorted out doesn’t seem like a good idea, either.

It’s interesting that none of the candidates are proposing a three-state solution based on agreements to share oil revenues.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

State Legislative Races: The Key to Control of Congress

Does anyone know if the Democrats have candidates contesting every seat in the Arizona legislature in 2006? Many of us have been riveted on the CD 8 race, and other Congressional races where the Democrats look to have a chance of recapturing control of the House of Representatives. However, state legislature races are crucial, too.

If Democrats don’t control state houses before the next census the risk is that conservative legislatures, which will control redistricting, will “hammer” the process, gerrymandering so many safe Republican seats that they will control national politics for the next 25 years.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Arizona CD 8: Latas Letter Writers…

…earn a great review for Gabrielle Giffords.

Man, I love the little ironies of politics. One of the interesting strategies of the Latas campaign has been its concentration on letter writing. Well, I suppose that may be its only strategy beyond appearances by the candidate himself. The campaign hasn’t been shy about writing to individual editors or reporters complaining about coverage of their candidate, either.

That letter writing has had an unintended consequence. It’s gotten some attention all right, but in the form of a long column by Billie Stanton praising Giffords. It appears on line today in the Tucson Citizen.

Stanton (pic above) comments, in part:

A letter in last week's Tucson Weekly snipes: "If Giffords inherits Jim Kolbe's office the same way she inherited her dad's tire shops . . . " Reality check: Giffords left a great gig with Price Waterhouse in New York when her ailing father asked her to come home and take the helm of his business.

He stepped down and she stepped in. Where I come from, that's called being a good daughter.

Besides, as president and CEO (never owner) of El Campo Tire Inc. from 1996 till 2000, when the family sold the business, Giffords kicked butt.

That was no surprise.

The Fulbright scholar already had worked as a binational business development planner for San Diego Dialogue. At Price Waterhouse, she had been an associate for regional economic development.

Let’s see now. Great business experience, excellent record in the Arizona legislature, and endorsed by three major unions. Who’d want her to represent us in Congress?

Three Arizona Unions Endorse Giffords

The Giffords campaign announced its endorsement by three Arizona Labor Unions today: The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Arizona State Council of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Games Actors Play

We are deep into rehearsals for the Rogue Theatre’s production of James Joyce’s “The Dead,” which will open March 23rd. When the cast gathered for a first reading I have to admit that I was excited to have a part in the show, but relieved that my handful of lines wouldn’t tax my increasingly leaky memory or challenge my ability to acquire a reasonably accurate Irish accent.

I conveniently forgot that I was a member of an ensemble theatre, that every one of the 17-member cast would be on stage all night, and in character whether speaking or not. Oh, yes, we’d be dancing, too, and miming an entire holiday banquet, and constructing our characters out of back stories that Joyce has not always provided.

All this requires focus and attention, which is why our director, Cynthia Meier, has us play games. In one of these we stand in a circle while she calls a name and throws that actor a ball. That actor, in turn, throws to someone else until each of us is throwing to one person and catching from another. Once the pattern is established Cynthia adds balls to the mix until finally ten balls are sailing around the circle. You focus. You pay attention.

The real challenge begins when the director starts by “throwing” a color and each of us in turn throws a different color to someone around the circle. Once that pattern is established she throws a different word, perhaps an animal name, to a different person. After that a third and fourth pattern is established…countries, rock bands.

Finally she starts the whole sequence going at once until we are “throwing” colors, animals, countries and rock bands at one another.Why you ask? Because doing this show is like having to rub your stomach and pat your head. The actors are always on, and here is always something to focus on, to pay attention to, to react to…even if you don’t have a line.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A DCCPAC for Arizona?

I thought the following comment to the previous post was of enough interest to put up here:

“DCCPAC has been working state-by-state and in conjunction with November Victory to organize independent "chapters and affiliates" in each state. After the 2004 election candidates in Illinois and Michigan met to discuss what happened in their respective states and what actions to take. We need to replicate those meetings nationwide.

“We require that a quorum of the candidates in each state meet.

“We require that a chapter of non-candidates that support their Democratic challengers organize and make funding and support recommendations.

“For more details contact me at

“Tim Bagwell, Ph.D. IL-19, '04

Candidates or their campaigns may contact Dr. Bagwell directly.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

November Victory Follow-Up

I spent nearly an hour on the phone yesterday with Cynthia Pooler, the originator of the November Victory listserve. Ms Pooler has devoted the past two years and what she describes as “her heart and soul” to the project of reclaiming Congress for the Democrats. She believes that the secret to doing this is better support of our grass roots candidates

November Victory is intended to be a source of support for those candidates who, Ms Pooler says, often feel isolated and alone—struggling with finances and frequently ignored by the party leadership. It is because their exchanges are sometimes quite personal that she restricts membership in the list to candidates.

It is this failure of support for the grass roots that she believes is responsible for the party’s poor showing and she has a name for them that seems to me to sum up perfectly one of the failures of party leadership. She calls them
Disposable Candidates.

What she has in mind, I believe, is the following situation. A candidate runs in a district almost as a “forlorn hope” because he or she simply believes the incumbent can’t go unchallenged. Then an almost miracle occurs…no, not a win, but a loss by a small margin that indicates the incumbent is vulnerable. When the challenger tries again two years later he or she is cast aside…”after all he lost last time”…or disposed of as nothing more than the past’s sacrificial goat.

If I have misread Ms Pooler, I’m sure she’ll comment here. Do look at this related web site, DCCPAC.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Listserve For Candidates

An interesting e-mail is being sent to Democratic Congressional candidates across the country. It originates from an organization identified in its e-mail as UnitedDems at (I presume that’s short for United Democrats.)

It’s an invitation to join a Listserve called November Victory, an internet discussion group for Democratic Congressional candidates. The stated purpose of the listserve is to “share ideas, strategies, and support” with other ’06 Congressional candidates. The author of the letter, it was signed by Cynthia Pooler, also included two telephone numbers with a 518 (NY) area code.

Ms Pooler describes the dialogue as “intense and inspiring.”

I wrote her and asked if it were possible for anyone to sign up and read the exchanges. She replied that the listserve was only for Congressional Candidates. Her phone numbers were real and I left a message on both of them, explaining that I was interested in her project. Haven’t heard back from her yet.

I think it’s a shame that future constituents can’t read the discussions, but I wonder how many primary opponents are going to share “strategies and ideas” with one another? Still, I think this is a good idea and could be a useful undertaking after the primaries.

Of course candidates might then prefer to reserve their energies for exchanges with voters in their districts.

Any ideas?

CD8- Weiss Robo-Calling

At first I was excited. Wow, a personal call from a candidate! Oh, Poop—not a personal call at all, the chipper voice was a recording: Press 1 if you would like to donate; press 2 if you would like to volunteer; press 3 if you would like to donate and volunteer.

I waited for “Press 4 if you would like to leave a message.” No joy, I’m afraid. Stupidly, I hung up without pressing a button so I don’t know what would have happened. Has anyone out there actually pressed one of Weiss’s buttons?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Role of the Democratic Party

A few years ago a really nice guy named Bill Minette was chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party. I was in the party office one day when we began to get phone calls from local high school students following up on a school assignment.

Their question: “What is the purpose of the Democratic Party?” Sometimes the question was phrased in terms of “goals” or “program.” Volunteers answering these questions were sorely tempted to discourse at length on the platform, accomplishments, and programs of the party.

Not Bill. He cut to the heart of the matter with a single short sentence: “The purpose of the Democratic Party is to get Democrats elected.”

Underlying that political dictum was the assumption that despite the differences that might separate one Democrat from another those differences were never so great as the differences that separate Democrats from Republicans, and that the nation would be better served by the former than the latter.

It seems to me that in finally coming down for one or another CD 8 candidate that assumption is worth remembering. And when we get exercised by what we perceive as “interference” by the national party (and I agree that the Hackett move was really ill-advised) we might remember Bill Minette’s explanation of the role of the party.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Paul Hackett Out of Ohio Race

An AP story reports:

Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, a Bush administration critic who had been recruited by top Democrats to run for U.S. Senate, said Tuesday he was reluctantly dropping his campaign and declared his political career over.

''My donor base and host base on both coasts was contacted by elected officials and asked to stop giving,'' Hackett told The Associated Press on Tuesday. ''The original promise to me from Schumer was that I would have no financial concerns. It went from that to Senator Schumer actually working against my ability to raise money.''

Schumer, a New York Democrat who heads the party's Senate campaign committee, was not immediately available for comment.

And from Reuters:

Hackett said he was under heavy party pressure to end his Senate race and clear the way for Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown to face vulnerable Republican incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine in November.

``I made this decision reluctantly, only after repeated requests by party leaders, as well as behind the scenes machinations that were intended to hurt my campaign,'' Hackett said in a statement.

And from the NY Times:

"It boils down to who we think can pull the most votes in November against DeWine," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "And in Ohio, Brown's name is golden. It's just that simple."

And My View:

A mind-boggling f***-up by the Democratic party leadership. The primary campaign should have been left to the Democratic voters of Ohio. If Brown’s name really was “golden” he’d have won. But if Paul Hackett carried the day money would not have been a problem. I don’t really believe that Democratic money sources would have left him twisting in the breeze.

Bad smell here.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Salon Blogs

I started blogging with the Salon Blogs and Radio Userland. It was my introduction to blogs and blogging and to one of the most literate blogging communities out in the blogosphere.

Although the blogs had widely different subject matters you could tell from the comments that readers were not limiting themselves to their own particular interests, but enjoying the pleasant company of different ideas and passions.

Salon is winding it’s blog sponsorship out of existence. Many of the Salon bloggers had already moved to other platforms while staying connected to Salon Blogs. With Salon Blogs going out of existence it began to look as if the Salon blog community would fade away.

But there is life after death after all. A Salon meta-blog has been formed and there you can find many of my old friends. I invite you to take a look. (click)

And on a purely housekeeping note: I’ve added a link in the blogroll to a special interest section of The Data Port: The Data Port/Motorcycles

Political Blogs…Who Cares?

The question implies the heresy that perhaps no one cares; that perhaps blogger punditry has no real impact outside the blogosphere. I think the heresy merits some thought.

Of course we bloggers care. We read one another’s blogs, argue, debate, and use them like a Wailing Wall to vent our political angers and anxieties. For the most part we self-segregate, conservatives reading like-minded blogs while progressives hunker down in their own progressive compounds.

I have no idea how many political blogs there are out there but I suspect there are far fewer than we suppose, given the size of the universe of blogs. Ten thousand? More? Fewer?

One of my favorite bloggers…Rayne, of Rayne Today, commented a few days ago that her dear husband, whose life is organized around a job, caring for his family, and all the obligations of daily life sometimes finds it difficult to understand her political passions and concerns. He gets his news as he may, in bits and snippets, from CNN and the evening news.

He is not immersed in politcal news the way Rayne and other politcal bloggers are. What we write probably has no influence on his politcal action. I suspect he represents the majority of voters.

Let’s have your questions, complaints, and criticisms.

CD 8 Matters

A comment to a previous post asks about Jeff Latas’ fund raising. The campaign has raised about ten grand according to Open Secrets, the web site for the Center For Responsive Politics.

Latas is organizing an aggressive grass roots campaign. The campaign is launching a fund raising effort called “50/2000” which aims to raise fifty dollars from each of two thousand donors. Even if only partially successful that would be enough to take him through the primary.

If he wins the primary money will flow in torrents in the battle to lock down the seat for the Democrats.

Meanwhile, on the Giffords/Weiss front, the rumor gnomes report that Weiss is calling avowed Giffords supporters with a hard sell pitch to switch. It seems that Giffords might win the primary but that “because of her record” she “can’t win in the general.”

Weiss has it backwards. Giffords position as a centrist Democrat makes her slightly less palatable to the Democratic left, which is attracted to the Latas campaign in the primary. But CD 8 has independents and pissed-off Republicans who will welcome her in the general election.

Just a question: Is Latas being underestimated? Only polling will tell, but he doesn’t have enough money to poll and the others won’t say. Could he fly in under the radar?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Arizona CD 8 Open Thread: What Shall We Do About Iraq?

The title tells the tale. Let's hear from all political partisans of whatever stripe exactly what you want the man or woman we elect to Congress to do about Iraq.

On your marks, get set, go.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Now That’s Funny

Just in case you haven’t had a look at the controversial cartoons that have outraged some in the Muslim world you can see them here. Slate has a roundup of Muslim responses to the cartoons.

The teachings of The Prophet are being used by some Muslim fundamentalists to justify explosive political action that is not uniformly endorsed by all Muslims. Once engaged in politics it’s not surprising that the activists become the object of one of the West’s distinctive political weapons…the political cartoon.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Miss Patty Goes Negative

In the nicest possible way, of course. With all the corruption amongst the professional politicians in Washington she wonders if we should be sending another professional politician there. Now let’s see, who could she have in mind?

Patty, m’love, isn’t the job of professional politician the one you’re applying for? Better watch out…your corruption is just around the corner. A sly edging toward political rough and tumble this early in your campaign suggests that you are already out of ideas.

I’ve always been puzzled by the objection to politicians on the grounds that they are professionals; that is, on the grounds that in addition to a back ground and experience in public service, they get paid… like doctors or lawyers or firefighters.

When our house is on fire, or when we need legal services, or when we need our giblets attended to, professionals are what we want. We don’t hunt around for someone with no background in fire fighting, medicine or law just because of an occasional case of corruption, malpractice or incompetence in those professions.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

End Of An Era

A story in this morning’s Arizona Daily Star reports that after 150 years Western Union is out of the telegram business. The telegraph was the miracle communication device of my childhood, the e-mail and instant message we depended on when crucial information had to be sent quickly, often to places where there were no telephones.

For one summer during WWII I was a Western Union messenger in Chicago. For the most part I delivered stacks of telegrams to business offices just off Michigan Avenue, but once in a while my job took me to a nearby neighborhood of small apartments and boarding houses.

On those occasions I might be carrying a “starred message,” handed to me by mistake rather than to one of the adult messengers. It was a terrible experience because those messages announced that the blue-starred service flag hanging in the window would be turning to gold. (Telegrams were the way the government sent death notices and missing-in-action-notices were sent to next of kin.)

Little wonder that the appearance of a Western Union messenger on the door step was the cause of fear and anxiety.