SocraticGadfly

September 16, 2021

So, are the Taliban really undisputed masters of Afghanistan now?

At Counterpunch, that certainly seems to be the opinion of Patrick Cockburn. He semi-sneered at the idea that ISIS-K and the Taliban were separate entities, even though the animosity between parent ISIS and the Taliban has been well known for years. For real insight about the Greater Middle East, you should start with James Dorsey. Dorsey wrote precisely about this same issue on the same date.

To some degree, Cockburn and Dorsey have different focuses. Patrick, like his brother, the late Alexander Cockburn, is in part trying to flog the U.S. bipartisan foreign policy establishment, and when the backside of the establishment is presented any tool becomes a whip, while Dorsey is focused on the Greater Middle East on its own terms. That said, for all the reflexive anti-Americanism both Cockburns show at times, why can't THEY on occasion do just that? Robert Fisk did. As part of that different focus, Dorsey also looks beyond just ISIS-K to other challenges the Taliban may face from alternative militant groups.

In all that, though, there's some degree of straight disagreement about how much the Taliban have to fear, Dorsey indicates it's more a real thing than Cockburn does. (And, although Dorsey doesn't go into it, this may be another reason why the Taliban put preconditions on surrendering bin Laden. They didn't really want to, because it might threaten their control over Afghanistan; preconditions gave them an out.)

Beyond all that, though, Cockburn can't be troubled, after his beating U.S. foreign policy with a cudgel, to understand Afghanistan much better or much further than the U.S. foreign policy establishment he hates.

In a new piece, Dorsey notes Iran has already cooled to the Taliban somewhat do to its freeze-out of ethnic Hazaris, who are also religiously Shi'ite and who comprise 20 percent of Afghanistan's population. Again, you won't likely find stuff like this in the more simplistic pages of Counterpunch.

Nor will you find nuance on great power or superpower issues at Counterpunch. But you will from Dorsey.

Dorsey writes about all the above in light of Iran's hope to move beyond observer status to full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this weekend. Membership is by consensus vote, but any group that can include both China and Russia, and even more, both Pakistan and India, can surely make room for Iran.

As Dorsey notes, it probably won't help Iran's isolation much, nor cut sanctions much. After all, this IS a country that, after the election of Biden and some small loosening of relations, asked for all sanctions to be removed before talking about whether it would accept going back to the Obama nuclear control deal while at the same time, this summer, running the most rigged presidential election in its history — an election so rigged that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's Guardian Council booted former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad off the ballot, as well as Ali Larijani.

Dorsey adds that this may not be Iran's goal. Rather, if it gets full membership, since full membership is by consensus, it can then block Gulf Arab states from joining.

He also notes that the application process for the SCO is two years, and that if China, Russia, Pakistan, or the "-stans" of former Tsarist/Soviet Central Asia  have concerns about Iran in general or vis-a-vis Afghanistan in particular, they have two years to deal with that.

If Iran IS accepted, that would make Afghanistan totally surrounded by SCO states, another reason to reject Cockburn's thinking that it will "run wild."

Dorsey, who's on a roll recently, offers another reason to challenge Cockburn. At some point, Uyghur mujahideen, or hell, to riff on Reagan and kick Max Blumenthal in the nads, "freedom fighters," are going to flee to Afghanistan. What's the Taliban-led government going to do when Beijing knocks at the door, Dorsey wonders

This isn't idle speculation. Leaders in the former Afghan government claim Uyghurs gave major help to the Taliban.

It's not idle speculation for another reason. Contra Alex Cockburn, the Taliban has regularly resisted turning over outsiders that have given it assistance.

That said, the rhetorical question cuts both ways. Having seen both the U.S. and the Soviet Union get mired there, what will Beijing do if the Taliban says no?

Texas progressives and Abbott and Texas Dems and China and more

Texas Dems are still the gang that can't shoot straight, as misunderstandings and eventual acrimony about whether or not Dem Legiscritters should skip the second special session show. And, contra James Talarico, no "harm reduction" was achieved. Why did people like you bother to skip the first special session?

Socratic Gadfly used Labor Day and the end of extended federal unemployment benefits to talk about what's up next for restaurant and retail employees who still aren't going back, as well as larger labor issues.

Off the Kuff analyzed the 2020 election results for State Board of Education districts.

On medical ethics, turns out China's been treating the Uyghurs kind of like the US treated the Tuskegee Airmen. Waiting for an apology from Margaret Flowers and Max Blumenthal in  ...

Speaking of, does Michael Hudson actually believe some of the shit he writes? This one, claiming such equitable distribution of Chinese economic advances (setting aside whether the Uyghurs participate or not  if true) sounds like it could have come from Max's keyboard. (Or, more to the point, Richard Wolff's.)

The Bloggess looks back on a fateful September for herself. 

The Dallas Observer updates us on the latest move by conservative activists to restrict academic freedom.

Mary Tuma details the reasons why Greg Abbott's assertions about SB8 and rape are meaningless.

Steve Vladeck shows why the "shadow docket" was a big problem even before the cowardly SCOTUS ruling on SB8.

September 15, 2021

An argument against Basic Income — and for other ideas

And, it's not just by anybody, it's by Douglas Rushkoff, known as a left-liberal, if I put a label on him, analyst of class and socioeconomic issues. Rushkoff's argument (the piece is three years old, but Medium, like Pocket, in its "roundup" emails, will pull up some old stuff) is that if Silicon Valley if for it, the rest of us probably should be agin it.

More specifically, he says they're pushing it within a current structure of late era hypercapitalism, as a block to larger economic reforms. 

I think this is particularly true of Scott Santens versions of BI, ones that want to cut or even get rid of current social net programs to feed the maw of Silicon Valley. Rushkoff, at least as much as Jaron Lanier, has long been distrustful of Silicon Valley, unlike Santens.

And, "we" who know enough know this about Santens, even if some Greens like Laura Palmer don't. (Here's one of my more recent pieces about the many ways Santens is wrong.)

What we REALLY should do, Rushkoff says, is promote universal basic ASSETS, first. The idea is described in more detail here.

Second, promote employee ownership. (That said, I'm not as sold on this as he is, knowing that Walmart did this way back when, but Rushikoff is really saying we need to look at multiple angles on income inequality.)

September 14, 2021

Coronavirus, week 75: Abbott and Paxton vs common sense

First, nearly 6,000 Texans have died of COVID in the past month. And, my county is still below 35 percent vaccination.

And yet, Kenny Boy Paxton is now suing school districts with mask mandates, even though he's essentially admitted elsewhere that he can't enforce Strangeabbott's executive order, and even though TEA isn't enforcing it. (One wonders if this is in part Wag the Dog territory, and if that in turn is because the FBI's investigation of Kenny Boy's corruption is heating up.)

And, Kenny Boy's lawsuits are happening also even though the Lege, though asked by Strangeabbott, refused to pass legislation banning mask mandates.
 
Vaccines are not the finish line, says a "breakthrough" infection sufferer.

Joe Pinsker says our current murky landscape is like Waiting for Godot.

Remember Sarah Palin's "death panels"? Arguably, the white wingnut state of Idaho now is one.

Katelyn Jetelina explains the Mu variant.

Michael Hardy looks at Dimmit County, where nearly everyone has either had COVID or been vaccinated for it.

September 13, 2021

With Dum Fuqs for Texas voters ...

That's my biggest takeaway from the latest "Should R.F. O'Rourke run?" piece.

Strangeabbott's continued relatively high poll ratings perplex me. A Jesuitical hair-splitter with a perpetually pouty face? I guess he looks good because he's placed next to the likes of Danny Goeb, Kenny Boy the Walking Indictment Paxton, and Jeebus Shot Sid Miller, on one hand, and the two-dimensional Pee Bush and the featherweight Dade Phelan on the other among statewide Republicans, while the relatively sane Glenn Hegar gets forgotten about.

With Joe Straus gone and two Speakers in two terms, you've got the featherweight new speaker, the featherweight of a family that seems ever. more featherweight, and wingnuts wingnuttier than Strangeabbott.

I mean, Abbott's poll approval numbers are high enough there has to be a few of the dreaded independent voters who like him to offset the set of Rethuglicans who either think he's not wingnut enough on some issues or who else hate him over the early months of COVID for "hating their freedoms."

That said, Texas Politics showed his numbers sagging a bit in late August and now officially underwater. Morning Consult shows him just slightly above. Both came out before the abortion bills shit hit the fan, though.

Newsweek has more on the Texas Politics poll. Abbott is slightly underwater on banning mask mandates in general and well underwater on banning school mask mandates, or trying to.

The second takeaway is "if not Beto, who?"

Seriously.

The Castrol brothers are both out.

Matthew Dowd has indicated interest in Lite Guv only.

The other Matthew, McConaughey, could wind up as Matthew McConman, either running as an indy or not at all. (Right now, my odds are 45 percent not at all, 30 percent indy, 25 percent Dem.) 

Harris County head Lina Hidalgo is a first-termer. Not enough statewide knowledge. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is perhaps moderately better known, but not a lot.

We gonna get Conservadem MJ Hegar?

The third takeaway is the ongoing mystery of how Gilberto Hinojosa continues to be the head of the Texas Democratic Party.

September 10, 2021

Coronavirus Week 74B: How long a long haul?

That header question is the focus of Ed Yong's latest in The Atlantic. He also talks about just what symptoms may, or may not, define it; how much, or how little, many doctors may actually know, or claim they know; and how much patients have taken the reins into their own hands.

Related to that is why? He says two hypotheses, which aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, have some solid support. One is that COVID is still symptomatic at a low and ongoing level. The other is that it's provoked an ongoing autoimmune disorder response.
 
Given multiple recent arrests in Hawaii, this TNR piece on the wild west of vaccination card fraud is interesting. Most of the fakes won't pass muster with real people, but, more important to the story, outside of Hawaii quarantining itself, most people checking these things don't really care and don't have an eyeball, so rather than pay $250, in crypto, natch, why not just Photoshop your own?  And, ignore the counterfeiters who keep insisting that "they" will tighten the belt soon.

COVID denialists/minimalists wanting to try to citizens' arrest a principal telling them their kid needed to  quarantine (at the same time, in a district with no mask mandate), or ripping a mask off a teacher in class (here in Tex-ass, natch) are why I reject leftist COVID conspiracy claims just as readily as those of wingnuts. The dad who led the would-be citizens' arrest was himself later arrested.

In wingnut states and areas, more and more people are ODing on ivermectin rather than just getting vaccinated.

More than 4,000 people died in Texas last month, in part due to Strangeabbott.

Ditto on the 45 school districts (and counting) having to shut down.

Speaking of? Socratic Gadfly goes coronavirus-snarky with "Who Killed Cock Robin" COVID version.

Delta is also hammering the Texas construction industry. (The Monthly doesn't ask, though, if the number of Ill Eagles is part of vax hesitancy among workers.)

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone's report about scads of people OD'ing in Oklahoma on ivermectin is reportedly full of shit, starting with the fact that the doctor-story source hadn't worked at the main hospital in question for two months, per the hospital. Drew Holden has the details; unfortunately, as a semi-wingnut, or full-on, he may be overzealous in who he's dunking on, or on extending the dunking beyond this particular story. (He did retweet Dylan Matthews noting that winger media do the same stupidity, but will probably fall back on "RTs ≠ endorsements.") See my own opening tweet in a three-tweet thread noting that Holden's actual dunk-value is narrower than he paints it, and concluding with the essentially fraudulent nature of the "go-to" ivermectin study, and calling on Holden to retweet. 

The full story about how that study is essentially fraudulent itself needs a careful reading. Wingnuts-of-wingnuts like Dark Webber Bret Weinstein have been leaders in ivermectin peddling. And, like some leftists, but from a different angle, he hints at conspiracy behind the push for vaccines if ivermectin means "there shouldn't be vaccines we're administering," because ivermectin renders them irrelevant.

That said, I suspect Holden will actually do no such retweeting. Yes, he has written for the New York Times before, and the Washington Post. But also for Fox. And National Review.

I might still cut him slack there.

But, the Federalist? Bridge too far, at least in the abstract, for my credibility.