July 06, 2022

Texas Progressives talk economy and more

If the Atlanta Fed is right, we're already in a recession.

On the other hand, commodities prices have peaked, at least for now. However, that's not necessarily a sign of real-world inflation or its decline; it could just be the futures market mindset.

Julian Assange has filed a new appeal in British court and won't be coming to America any time soon.

Off the Kuff discussed a tempoarary reprieve for some abortion providers in Texas, and the valiant but fruitless promise that some state District Attorneys have made to not prosecute abortion-related "crimes."

SocraticGadfly has a full background on that "I wanted to go play ice hockey" Putin-Macron phone call.

Stace tells us that recent migrant deaths were caused by a broken political system. It's not a new thing.

Slipping this in during the middle of a holiday weekend, Uvalde ISD top cop Pete Arredondo has resigned from his newly elected Uvalde City Council seat. He soon likely would have missed a third meeting, which without other excuse, would have required his resignation. It IS interesting that, per the Trib, the rest of the Uvalde council learned about it ONLY with that first-linked announcement by Arredondo in the Uvalde paper. That story also notes that he earns more than the city of Uvalde police chief and the county sheriff.

Related to both of the above? (And also why, at least in the official hierarchy, Rome isn't a conservative Protestant church?) Archbishop of San Antonio Gustavo Garcia-Siller talks about "a culture of death." (This is also part of why Rome opposes the death penalty. Note to Conservative Cafeteria Catholics.) 

UNM's Center for Reproductive Health is being swamped with Texans seeking abortions. 

President Joe Biden intends to nominate an anti-abortion Republican lawyer to a federal judgeship, two Kentucky Democrats informed of the decision say.  Well, there you go, from the Louisville paper via CNN

Grits looks at recriminalized abortion through a criminal justice reform lens, with dashes of history.

Climate Change Joe, like Dear Leader before him, may open up new offshore oil drilling leases.

Fuck You the Beaver is among the latest brands hatejacked by Proud Boys. (I'm not as worked up about it as the Monthly apparently is and thinks other Texans should be, since I'm not in the cult.)

Lisa Gray offers some advice for people who need an abortion, or might need one some day.

G. Elliott Morris corrects some bad math in that AP story about people changing their voter registration.

Steve Vladeck proposes Congress take more of a role in shaping SCOTUS' docket 

 Lynn Pruneda lists the key highlights of the 2021-22 Texas STAAR results.

Therese Odell reviews what she missed while she was on vacation.

July 05, 2022

Will the Sunset Commission actually even slightly fix TCEQ?

Related? Will the Sunset Commission actually do anything to fix the state's polluter in chief, I mean pollution agency in chief, the Texas Association for Environmental Quality, and its reputation for turning blind eyes on the pollution on big polluters? Or for its reputation on turning blind eyes to unsafe operations, like Arkema, contra lying by omission pseudoskeptics like Naomi Baker, and enabling pseudoskeptics like Jeff Wagg?

Given both TCEQ staff and Rethugs in the Lege's comments at the public hearing, unlikely, barring changes in the Lege.

Was the Supreme Court's West Virginia vs EPA a disaster?

Many environmental organizations engaged in wailing and gnashing of teeth last week Thursday, followed by fundraising appeals, of course.

Since Grist isn't the likes of Sierra Club, it didn't do the fundraising appeals, and it didn't do nearly as much, at least, on wailing and gnashing, lamenting the decision but saying it's not the end of the world.

First, Shannon Osaka notes that it doesn't take away EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Related, she notes it was narrowly framed. And others agree:

“In some ways I’m actually relieved,” said Cara Horowitz, a professor of environmental law at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a statement circulated after the ruling. “With this court we were bracing for almost anything, so this could have been worse.”

That's that.

She goes on to note that what was at dispute was one small section of the Clean Air Act, based on President Barack Obama's Clean Power Program to force electric utilities to move from one generation source to another. The EPA said that Section 111d of the Clean Air Act allowed the agency to mandate "the best system of emissions reduction." The 6-3 majority at the Supreme Court (and shouldn't we just memorize that "6-3"?) disagreed.

Grist, linking to Vox, notes that the six, under guidance of one-eyed umpire John Roberts, invoked a "major questions" dogma issue, with the six saying Congress didn't specifically address this, therefore the EPA couldn't act. It didn't gut Section 111 for now. (Hold on to that.)

There's several backstories.

One is that, per Vox, "market forces" (why neoliberal climate change ideas are weak tea) has already met Obama's Clean Power Plan goals. Therefore, when an appeals court overrode a Trump Administration weakening of CPP with the Affordable Clean Energy idea, the Biden EPA, probably afraid of a ruling like this, claimed there was no need for SCOTUS to hear West Virginia. And, per Vox, now that West Viriginia as a state, did not face a demonstrable actual "injury," there was the question of whether it even had standing.

Second is that, while this may not be a whale now, the Roberts Supreme Court has a history of making "camel's nose" rulings that just open the tent flap door a little bit, to mix metaphors, then shove the rest of the body in a few years later. So, down the road? Could be a problem.

Third? Gets back to the narrowness of the actual ruling. To quote Osaka's story:

(T)he court did not overturn Section 111, meaning that the EPA will still be able to require existing power plants to use the best available technologies to cut emissions — perhaps even through carbon capture and storage. The EPA can also still regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks, as well as methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure.


But, Biden's not going to toughen EPA fuel standards more than Dear Leader did. Nor is he going to remove the Ford Edge-sized loophole for "flex fuel" vehicles. So, #BlueAnon / #TeamBlue wailing over this is handwaving.

That said? As Grist notes elsewhere, "the market" is also speaking on energy jobs.


July 04, 2022

'O Say Can You Hear?' A cultural and musical history of the National Anthem

O Say Can You Hear?: A Cultural Biography of

O Say Can You Hear?: A Cultural Biography of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Mark Clague
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An interesting, lighter-side at times and rollicking, but deeper at times and with several "new to me" items look at the history of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner and its development. This is expanded from my original review, especially in the last couple of paragraphs.

Several brief points and a couple of longer ones.

First, Key had three days to write it; it wasn’t an overnight flash of inspiration. (That's now long he, an official U.S. government prisoner exchange negotiator, and the man who was their target for exchange, were detained during the battle for Baltimore.)

Second, he’d written another song to Anacreon’s words in 1805, celebrating Stephen Decatur’s naval attack on Tripoli. (Also the source of words in another famous American patriotic song!) That said, Clague rightly notes this wasn’t a poem, it was a song, or rather, song lyrics from the start. (Key also wrote several hymns, some of which are in Protestant hymnals yet today.)

Third, Anacreon wasn’t a “drinking song.” Rather, both words and tune were, for the Anacreontic Society, part of its program of giving professional musicians a glee-club type performance piece. Plenty of details about the club are in the book.

Fourth, additional verses have been written from time to time. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr’s Civil War verse is surely the best and the one that has most survived to today. Go here.

Fifth, it was already an unofficial national anthem of sorts by the Mexican War. See the last paragraphs for more.

Sixth, the National Anthem was being played at opening day games in baseball long before the enforced patriotism of WWI. Related, Clague notes modern “paid patriotism” as uncovered by John McCain and more. And tackles not only Kaepernick, but the likes of Tommy Smith and John Carlos long before him. He also notes that they weren’t the first, but that a Black woman, Eroseanna Robinson, remained seated during the anthem at the 1959 Pan Am Games.

Related to THAT, he notes that “parodies,” based on the Anacreon tune still, began in the 1840s and included ones tied to the temperance movement, abolition, and the early pitch for women’s rights. Next came antiwar versions.

Seventh, Clague has a good breakdown of modern Super Bowl performances.

Eighth, Clague tackles the problematic “hireling and slave” line in the third verse, and takes it to most likely, in context of its time, to refer respectively to conscript troops and British subjects of a king. In short, a follow-up on Declaration of Independence propaganda. He adds that maybe Key intended it to refer to British Gen. Robert Ross, noting its singular while previous third-verse references are plural. I find this not convincing.

Key personally? Yes, a slaveholder. Also, one of the founders of the American Colonization Society. He freed several slaves in his lifetime and the rest in his will (pending his wife’s death). A representer of Blacks in court, including on freedom petitions, that Clague notes saw nearly 60 former slaves freed. At the same time, he as federal district attorney for DC under Jackson, he prosecuted an abolitionist after an 1835 slave riot. But, he also distanced his stances, or tried to, from other ACS members. He never pushed any of his own slaves that he freed into colonization. Clague goes into much more depth to present a nuanced, in-his-times, picture of Key.

In the next chapter, Clague looks at “modern” takes in general. These include Jose Feliciano, of course, Jimi Hedrix, Aretha Franklin and others. He does so in a way that general refutes urban legends, or rather rural legends, since they’re normally by conservative White folk.

From there, it’s on to Rosanne Barr, which a sympathetic yet critical take on it, and for you classical aficionados like me, Stravinsky’s orchestration. Note: I generally like this, but do not like the removed dotted rhythm partway into the 2nd/4th lines. Done by itself, it makes it stand out too much, at least in instrumental-only performances. I’d rather he kept all syncopation but cut the dotted quarters by a sixteenth and augmented the eighth notes by a sixteenth. It does sound less glaring in choral versions, but nonetheless, that part doesn't float my boat. 

Clague also slips in a few observations about medleys of "The Star Spangled Banner" with other music, as done by modern artists.

Back to the brief note above that it had apparently started becoming our National Anthem already at the time of the Mexican War, Clague ends with plaints against it, and suggested alternatives. 

Up until that time, the Civil War "Hail Columbia" was the primary challenger, he says. (The music, he informs us, was written as the original Presidential "march" for Washington before being replaced by "Hail to the Chief.") Today, he notes, it would take much less a change in the 1931 federal law and instead a cultural shift. That said, per what I said about the third verse? Clague addresses that again, too. "America the Beautiful," he mentions first, and part of me would take that, precisely because of its lack of martiality. On the other hand, it's explicitly religious in every verse. (Until you get to the fourth verse, and it's professed mottoe of "In God is Our Trust," the Star Spangled Banner has no such reference.) It's also still too White-centric, especially in later verses. "God Bless America" is way too religious for me. Second, Clague notes it’s still under copyright.  His solution, in the sports world, namely the NFL? Start the season with the National Anthem, then have teams play a  new alternative every week.
"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" might be a fun eff you to Southern wingnuts, but it's also too religious. "America" is also religious, plus would need a new tune.

So, outside of something like "We Shall Overcome" slipping in,


That said, there is one error of note. A professional musicologist should know better than to call Herb Alpert Hispanic.

View all my reviews

July 01, 2022

Dear COVID Millennials: Get a fricking clue about salaries

Yeah, it's easy to stereotype younger generations. But, when they serve up stupidity on a platter, it's not stereotyping.

Via an independent PR rep who regularly emails my newspaper:

A recent survey by Clever Real Estate found that while the average starting salary for college graduates is $55,260, current college students expect to make $103,880 at their first job...


It's a wow on both the total and the percentages. In other words, they're expecting to make DOUBLE what is actually out there.

This reminds me indirectly of a self-survey by the original Occupy Zucotti Park movement that led me to conclude they were a mix of physics PhDs and mathematics MA and MS grads butt-hurt that they had missed out on being part of the "rise of the quants," along with a few new law school grads butt-hurt they'd missed out their big bucks writing legal paperwork for that.

The other interesting part is that this seems provoked by COVID, as the butt-hurt non-quants were provoked by the Great Recession. Clever says that in 2019, the estimates were off by a little over $10k, or about 22 percent. That's still bad, but not THAT bad.

Is it a self-reinforcing loop of too much social media? Inflation? Bad work by college career counselors? A mix of all of the above? Other items?

Because it is correlated, though not necessarily causally so, with COVID, I added that to the headline.

June 30, 2022

The Putin-Macron phone call — the REST of the story

Cue up your Paul Harvey dulcet tones.

Many media sites, especially across the pond, reported earlier this week on a Feb. 20 call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Putin flippantly (allegely flippantly) telling Macron, "To be honest, I wanted to go play ice hockey" rather than have a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden to cut off the looming Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here's the Daily Mail's version.

The rest of the story? 

It starts with Putin complaining to Macron about Ukraine breaking the Minsk Agreements. As they have. And, this is important because France and Germany were the lead negotiators of these Minsk Agreements, and Putin is telling Macron, not just did Ukraine break them, but you know they did.

We need direct quotes at this point. Here's Putin:

'What can I say? You yourself see what is happening,' retorted Putin, accusing Ukraine of rupturing the Minsk accords that reduced the scale of a conflict that erupted in 2014. ... 
'In fact our dear colleague Mr Zelensky is doing nothing' to apply the Minsk accords, Putin alleged. 'He is lying to you,' he added, also accusing Macron of seeking to revise Minsk.

And, here's Macron.

'I don't know if your legal advisor has learned law! As for me I just look at the texts and I try to apply them,' snorted Macron. 
Putin then argued that the propositions of separatists in eastern Ukraine should be taken into account. 'But we don't care about the propositions from the separatists,' snapped Macron.

With that, it's obvious that Putin wouldn't really want to talk to Macron much more either. That's especially true since the "separatists" were promised autonomy within Ukraine under the Minsk Agreements that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, like his predecessors, was breaking.

And, after that, we have Macron letting the cat out of the bag:

'Do not give in to provocations of any kind in the hours and days to come,' he told Putin.

So, provocations, eh? And Zelenskyy not acting alone in this, perhaps, but rather, as I said in my piece about peace talks, NATO "barking" at Russia, per the one and only Pope Francis.

Rather than, like the Daily Mail, and whover its "they" is that thinks Macron came off as weak, rather, I think he got busted on trying to play "good cop" to Biden's "bad cop."