December 02, 2023

Stanning for Lancaster, Texas

I guess Lancaster City Manager Opal Mauldin-Robertson is doing what she thinks a good city manager would do, but this PR statement after a shooting in Lancaster is a transparent howler:

While shootings do happen, City of Lancaster City Manager Opal Mauldin-Jones said she does not feel like Lancaster’s shooting is unusual since the city is “pleased to have commercial businesses in our community. Sometimes, with business comes challenges, and the movie theatre attracts customers from across the region. Regrettably, the incident involved visitors to our community. The City has worked with the movie theatre ownership to ensure they have proactive measures in place to prevent large youth loitering opportunities.”

Opal could have said something like: "Well, we're not Wilmer or Hutchins. We DO have a movie theater."

Good old Rita Cook writing that story, too. If not for her, Focus Daily News would probably be the rest of the way in the toilet. That said, the lede sounds just as non-exciting as did stuff she wrote nearly 20 years ago.

December 01, 2023

Texas Progressives talk vouchers and more

Quo vadis vouchers, Switek asks at the Trib, even as Strangeabbott released an endorsement list of House Rethuglicans. No voucher foes got one, but the four flip-floppers on the last bill, including my own David Spiller, who is being primaried, did. Abbott calls the 21 foes "pro-union," as of course that's a smear (unless Rethugs tread around cop unions). Further related? Andrew Murr, one of the House managers (along with Spiller and others) of the impeachment of Ken Paxton, isn't running again.

The TSTA Blog keeps on chronicling Greg Abbott's lies about vouchers.

Frank Strong recaps a dismal night for books in Conroe.  

In the Pink Texas reviews a bad day for textbooks at the SBOE. 

For the 60th anniversary of JFK's assassination, SocraticGadfly stumbled into a brand-new conspiracy theory.

Just when I thought James DiEugenio couldn't get any more fucking stupid in his JFK conspiracy theory grifting, he does. Compared to him, Jefferson Morley looks like pure sanity.

Whoa, now. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals actually ruled in favor of environmentalists and ordered TCEQ to fix its mistake.

Off the Kuff takes a closer look at recent voter registration and turnout numbers.

UT-Dallas decided to stifle student discourse on Israel-Gaza. 

House Intell head says it's likely there's no more money this year for either Zelensky or Bibi. Hot damn, and I support it from the left on principle and on it pissing off #BlueAnon.

Neil at the Houston Democracy Project noted the Trump, Abbott, Texas law enforcement rally at the border. 

 Law Dork surveys the legal landscape and sees a lot to be worried about.  

The Current reads Ted Cruz's new book so you don't have to, not that you would have anyway. 

Science news roundup: mammal gayness

This one dips a bit hard into the ev psych world, so take it with a grain or two of salt, but reportedly, homosexuality in mammals may have evolved to reduce group conflict. Given that same-sex sexual behavior has been seen in non-mammalian animals as evolutionarily ancient as crickets, that's part of why I'm skeptical. 


Dieter Lukas, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who was not involved in the new study, was skeptical of this conclusion. “Taken together, the findings in this study have not convinced me that there is a single explanation for the occurrence of same-sex behavior,” he said.
His skepticism came in part from the data on which the scientists based their study. The challenges of observing animals in the wild may mean that same-sex behavior in some species goes overlooked. “It will be much easier to observe whether the behavior occurs if individuals are on open ground and active during daytime,” Dr. Lukas said.

Is a good starting point. 

And, per others, those crickets may suggest another answer:

Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota who was not involved in the study, commended the researchers for focusing their study on mammals alone, rather than the entire animal kingdom. “We’re trying to steer way from one explanation to rule them all,” she said.
In April, Dr. Zuk and Jon Richardson, a postdoctoral researcher in her lab, put forward a different explanation for same-sex behavior based on an experiment on crickets. They showed that male crickets will sometimes produce courtship songs and try to mate with other males and with juveniles.
Since the crickets don’t live in social groups, that can’t explain the behavior Dr. Zuk and Dr. Richardson documented. Instead, crickets and perhaps many other species may engage in same-sex sexual behavior as part of a strategy to take advantage of as many opportunities to mate as possible.
Dr. Zuk likened the strategy to a smoke detector. “You want a smoke detector that is sensitive enough to detect all fires,” she said. “And if it does that, occasionally it’s going to go off when you burn your toast.”

Or at least, per Lukas, that there is no single answer.

Another reason to be skeptical? It's a meta-study. They can be good, but overall, no better than the weakest of the individual studies. 

Yet one more reason for skepticism? Dean Hamer. Yes, I went there.

In addition, males of many of the species involved generally do NOT form social groups much of the year. Only in winter, for example, do wild ungulates become part of herds, and they're going to be more socialized at that point because they're testosterone-exhausted after the end of their rut.

At a minimum, I think we should say that already existing homosexuality perhaps underwent cultural evolution in some eusocial mammals.

November 30, 2023

Kicking Henry Kissinger with a side-kick at Christopher Hitchens

Greg Grandin, who wrote THE book on Kissinger, has the best straight-up, news but realism, obituary.

With people like Hank the Knife, though, my angle is always for the "takedown" obituary, though, and Grandin is a distant second to Spencer Ackerman's work of brilliance. And, I'm not going to try to improve on it.

Beyond Grandin's book, it's good that both obits mention Bangladesh as well as Cambodia. "The Vortex" will tell you all about how Kissinger and Nixon abetted (West) Pakistan's genocide in emerging Bangladesh as well as how we nearly got into a shooting war with the USSR in the Bay of Bengal. It's one of the top two books on modern world history and geopolitics I've read in the past five years. Kissinger / Nixon were likely responsible for the death of even more Bangladeshis than Cambodians, if that's possible.

No, really. High-side estimates for the Bangladeshi genocide run in the 2-3 million range.

And, per this Jeet Heer Tweet, Hank's rank immorality extended to his own Jewish people, willing to abandon them, in the case of Soviet Jews if he thought his own Realpolitik required them to be abandoned. Or, if his will to power required them to be abandoned. Here's the Forward piece to which Heer tweets.

Yes, power as aphrodisiac.

One other note, per the many on Twitter talking about Christopher Hitchens' book-length callout of Kissinger? First, as noted in my brief review, Grandin's book is better.

Second, there's Snitchens' Iraq War rank hypocrisy that sullies his reputation, as shown in his late-life book "Selected Essays."

And, we're going to give him, Hitchens, a kicking while we're here.

I gave him his own takedown obit in 2010. Beyond that?

He was wrong about the nobility of the Kurds he backed.

And, beyond THAT? The big picture?

Snitchens was quite arguably a hypocrite who was not a leftist. And, doing so in some alleged romantic and idealistic nation-building makes it worse, in one sense, than Kissinger.

Once again, Michael Hudson needs to leave biblical exegesis to others

I've called out Hudson before for his apparent belief that the biblical year of jubilee, or the seven-cycle culmination of sabbath years with an extra year to make 50, was actually real. The truth is that, as Edward Chancellor details in "The Price of Time," kings in the ancient Near East (anachronism, but still often used) would occasionally, upon their accession, have a debt jubilee, but only then, and only for certain types of debt. And, the reason they did them was not because of divine mandate but (derp!) to quell social unrest. It was a one-off of Rome's bread and circuses. No ancient kingdom or empire had anything like the biblical ideal, and the 7x7 numerological artifice should alone indicate this isn't real.

But, Hudson still thinks he's an academic biblical exegete, and his latest proffering is based on the current Israel-Gaza war. Many people, not just academically trained (if not in actual academia, like me) exegetes, but people in the general populace, know about I Samuel 15, where Yahweh orders Saul to commit a holocaust (I used that word specifically, not just "genocide," precisely because of the current situation) against Amalek, the Amalekite people. In fact, via the prophet or judge Samuel, Yahweh tells King Saul to kill not just all the people but even all their livestock.

Hudson, perhaps in part acting Jesuitically or Pharasaically (take your linguistic poison) on parsing the verbiage, claims it ain't so:

Netanyahu has evoked what he claims to be a Biblical excuse for Israeli genocide. But what he pretends to be a covenant in the tradition of Moses is a vicious demand by the judge and grey eminence Samuel telling Saul, the general whom he hopes to make king: “Now go and smite Amalek [an enemy of Israel], and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15:3). 
These were not the Lord’s own words, and Samuel was no Moses.


Let's quote the start of 1 Samuel 15, specifically, verses 1-3, not just verse 3:

And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. 2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction[a] all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

’Tis so indeed, Hudson.

But wait! Hudson gets better:

It was not the Lord offering that command to destroy Amalek, but a prophet anxious to place a king on the throne.

Really? So, in essence, Hudson is calling Samuel a false prophet. And, lying about the run-up to Saul being anointed on top of it.

That also ’taint so, as selected verses from 1 Samuel 9 and 10 tell us. We start with 9:15-16:

15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince[c] over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen[d] my people, because their cry has come to me.”

Then to chapter 10: 1-2:

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince[a] over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince[b] over his heritage.

Now, later in chapter 10, in what is surely another "hand," we have this, in 10:17-19:

17 Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah. 18 And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ 19 But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.”

This is preceded by another "bookmark," the full chapter of 1 Samuel 8, also having Yahweh telling Samuel it's the people's fault, not his. But, opening verses there show this was partially Samuel's fault that the people wanted a king. We read in 8: 1-5:

When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

So, it seems clear there are two narratives. Chapter 9 and the first half of 10 have an enthusiastic embrace of a king, it seems, sandwiched between warnings. Proof of this? A bad transition from from the end of 8 to start of 9. 8:22 has:

And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

Followed by 9:1-2:

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man.

But it gets better. 9:15-16 says:

15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince[c] over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen[d] my people, because their cry has come to me.”

Note the footnote there, that Saul here is not called "king." That's another example we're dealing with two hands. Somewhat Joshua, but definitely, Judges and the two books of Samuel of the Former Prophets, as shown in various Greek versions and also at Qumran, have a torturous history.

The positive thread starts Chapter 10, then, as noted above.

Clearly, the previous narrative not only has Samuel being told by Yahweh to anoint Saul, but it being presented as a good thing in Yahweh's eyes, overall.

But, Hudson nowhere at all wrestles with how this evolved.

The rest of Hudson's piece is more crapola.

He is clueless about just how torturous the text-developmental history of 1 and 2 Samuel in general were, first of all. Second, whether Saul was a real person or not, or even David, for that matter, later kings who perceived themselves as David's heirs needed to in some way justify what seemed to be a usurpation.

Next, Hudson gets on his debt hobbyhorse:

The Jewish Bible is remarkable in criticizing the kings who ruled Judah and Israel. It is in fact a long narrative of social revolution, in which religious leaders sought – often successfully – to check the power of a selfish and aggressive oligarchy that was denounced again and again for its greed in impoverishing the poor, taking their land and reducing them to debt bondage.

’Taint so, Michael.

First, there is no "theology of the Tanakh" any more than there is a "theology of the New Testament." And, given the torturous history of 1 Samuel in particular and all four of the Former Prophets/Deuteronomic history in general, there's no unifying theology of the four books, or even the one book.

Hudson is also wrong about MMT and other economic issues. And, it was in part knowing that he identifies as a Marxist (probably still a Democrat sheepdogger, though, like an Adolph Reed) that I said "MMT is Maoism."

As for his attempting to rescue Judaism from the Jews? He reminds me of Walter Kaufmann. Kaufmann had the exact same problem of pontificating about biblical Yahwism without talking to actual scholars.

Sidebar: UMKC faculty meetings could be a hoot. Besides Hudson, you've got "How Not to Kill Yourself" sobriety confidentiality violating Clancy Martin among tenure profs.

November 29, 2023

Does Green Party two-time retread Jill Stein still have a hypocrisy problem?

Two weeks ago, I blogged about Stein, the Green Party's 2012 and 2016 candidate, jumping back in the race this year after Cornel West did his Lucy van Pelt and pulled away his football. I did, per a commenter elsewhere, note the angle that not only would this help the Green Party — more than half of whose other filed presidential candidates did not meet GP filing requirements — but it would also help her pay off 2016 campaign debt the Federal Elections Committee said she owed and that courts have agreed. (Option B is that she's using her campaign fundraising to also get money for a Supreme Court appeal on this issue, which looks as stupid as her 2016 recount. And as hypocritical.)

I forgot the biggie, although I did tweet about it after my initial post.

That is, that in 2016, Jill Stein had a hypocrisy problem like Ralph Nader in 2000, and that is, via mutual funds, having investments in oil, tobacco and defense contractor stocks. The last is the biggest this time, given her rightful but presumably hypocritical attacks on Genocide Joe over Israel and Gaza, and her stance on Russia-Ukraine before that.

Eight years ago, Stein did, partially, address Yashar Ali. But, she kind of petard-hoists. (And, it's linked in his piece.)

  • The biggie is, why didn't she divest earlier, before Ali, already divest?
  • Second and related? You're a medical doctor, not a public-school teacher whose investments are made by a state pension fund, not themselves.
  • Third? If there are "green" mutual funds that invest in fracking, they're not so "green," right, but why is that an excuse to stop looking further?
  • Fourth, and relevant to today? You don't mention the defense stocks.

Oh, for Naderites? All of this applies to St. Ralph, too.

It next notes that, contra the "gotcha," even if Clinton's campaign gave this a push, that duopoly candidates have also been questioned for their financial holdings, and links to one about GOP candidates.

There are a few Stein-specific things. She mentions she inherited half a million. Good. The story already mentions that itself.

Re the no "gotcha," it turns out that the bankster-investments include ones with Goddam Sachs, for which she criticized Clinton, and also for which, in the link immediately above, GOP candidates were criticized.

Yes, I know Hillary's oppo research dumped that in Ali's lap, or at least nudged him that way. Ditto with the Gore campaign and Nader in 2000. Doesn't make it any less true, especially with this:

Admittedly I have not spent a lot of time researching elusive ethical investments. I prefer using my time fighting for social, economic and ecological transformation, and recycling capitalist money into the fight to do so.

Gee, you'd run for president in 2012, and I guess were lucky enough not to fall under Dear Leader's re-election spotlight. You therefore were able to waste four more years not researching "elusive" ethical investments, which were advertised in The Nation at the time of Nader's run already.

Anyway, Ali addresses that, too.

While it’s true that Stein would not have control over the investments of the funds she invested in, she did have a choice of whether to invest in these funds to begin with. In the past, political candidates, in an effort to avoid a conflict of interest or have their judgment called into question, have invested their entire portfolios in U.S. Treasuries, cash/cash equivalents, in socially responsible index funds, or clean-energy funds.

Again, hard to argue.

Disclosure: All my money is in either one "National" bank which is, I'll admit, one of lesser ethics, especially post-Great Recession, or a "state" bank which doesn't have problems that I'm aware of.

Until I see an official statement from Stein, pre-empting FEC information, with an independently audited review of her personal investments, I'll assume she has not divested. And, I use the word "divested" deliberately, as I know Stein also supports Boycott, Divest, Sanctions.

And, until I see that, it's a guarantor she's not getting my vote. And, it's an indication that the question in my header is rhetorical and the answer is obvious.

And contra this:

Yes, I think it's an issue. And for details on why? See above. The bits of 401k I have from previous jobs, I have no idea either. BUT? Again, I don't have any control over that, either, other than cashing it out. An individual with an individual mutual fund has the choice of how to invest in the first place.

Also, again? If you don't see the issue, are you a lefist (Ken said a while back he was a Nader Raider of long ago) who doesn't support BDS? Because, those defense contractors are also arming Israel, let us not forget.

Finally, if these all are protest votes, I can also protest against the protest votes being offered me. No problem doing that.

And, as you see, I've listed as least three different hypocrisy problems, not just one. Well, two of them are tied together. But, if you want a fourth? Per that second link? Why does a medical doctor own tobacco stocks?

Oh, again, and as I told Brains back then, so-called "ethical" mutual funds exist. They did back when St. Ralph of Nader ran in 2000. Yes, they may have a slightly to modestly lower rate of return, but when you're running a third-party presidential campaign, this is not at all an unreasonable purity test. Actually, they may NOT have a lower rate of return; per Nerd Wallet, they may do just fine. And, calling more bullshit on Stein's claim, that piece also notes that things like "robo-advisors" offer at least some degree of simplification on the task, if you're not seeing a financial advisor who touts and advertises responsible investing advice. As for the history? The modern history, per this piece, goes back somewhat to Vietnam, and even more to the first push for divestment, vis-a-vis South Africa.

Besides, both Stein and Nader are multimillionaires. It's not like they can't or couldn't afford to meet this purity test, if it even is an affordability issue.

And, specific to Stein is her owning Big Pharma stocks even while not only criticizing the pharmaceutical industry in general, but being an antivaxxer.