SocraticGadfly: 3/29/15 - 4/5/15

April 04, 2015

A mammoth national monument coming to Central Texas?

Pun fully intended on the header.

Waco Tribune photo/Rod Aydelotte
Dava Butler, education coordinator at the
Waco Mammoth Site, gives a tour on April 1.
Waco civic leaders and the management of the Waco Mammoth Site have, for several sessions, tried to go the Congressional approval route to get the site taken into the National Park Service system. But, as noted by me here, those have all failed, in large part because Waco's current US Congresscritter, Bill Flores, has played games with authorization bills and fiscal language in them.

So, as also noted at that link, Waco leaders got tired of that game and went the Presidential route, asking President Barack Obama to declare it a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

And, on Monday, we may move one step closer to that.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis will be on site on Monday. He will first inspect the site itself to determine its suitability, then attend a public meeting to gauge support levels.

Both should be in hand:

“To have a show of support for the national monument designation would be wonderful,” said Tommye Lou Davis, a Baylor University vice president involved in the effort. “We know the support is there. We know the community for a long time has been with us on the treasure that the mammoth site is for the community and Texas.”
So, onward and upward?

The funding portion of support is already there, after all:
The city of Waco and the Waco Mammoth Foundation, which together spent $4 million developing the site as an educational attraction, have been seeking the status for more than a decade.
As is the eligibility side:
The National Park Service in 2007 declared that the site met all standards for inclusion into the federal park system. 
The city and the foundation have developed the 100-acre site at 6220 Steinbeck Bend Drive to National Park Service standard, building a visitors center and climate-controlled pavilion to house the bones of mammoths and other Ice Age animals. Baylor University scientists have identified 24 mammoths at the site, dating back as much as 65,000 years ago.
For people in Central Texas, the public meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 6 at the Mayborn Museum's SBC Theater. 

I support it both as being deserving and as a way to put a thumb in Flores' eye.

April 03, 2015

Dear Texas DPS troopers — don't stand by these Republicans

DPS Trooper Billy Spears and Snoop Dogg. / Snoop's Instagram
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, it's allegedly a serious work-related faux pas to be caught in public next to a big-time criminal.

Trooper Billy Spears, while in uniform and working security for South by Southwest, was spotted by one Calvin Broadus, commonly known as rapper Snoop Dogg. The Dogg, for whatever reason, wanted a picture with Spears, who agreed, and someone in the Dogg Pound shot the pic and up it went on Instagram.

Soon thereafter, it was spotted, and up in smoke went any love for Spears at DPS HQ.

And, not just in anyway, but in a particularly Kafkaesque one.

The "deficiency" that was issued against him, which includes counseling from superiors, is something that can't be appealed. It's based on this, from a DPS PR quote:
While working a secondary employment job, Trooper Spears took a photo with a public figure who has a well-known criminal background including numerous drug charges. The public figure posted the photo on social media and it reflects poorly on the Agency.

And, it gets worse from there.
Spears’ reply to what actions he intended to take to “overcome deficiencies” was “Refuse photos.”
And it gets worse from there.
A lieutenant from Tyler drove 80 miles round trip at night to have Spears fill out and sign the one-page document.
Puhleeze, Steve McCraw, doesn't your department have more serious things to do, like pretending to "secure the border," or pretending that the border is "insecure" in the first place? (Maybe an "insecure" border needs counseling?)

Since then, apparently a lot of people have been covering Spears' back, at least informally.

But, if this is a real issue, then let's enforce it.

DPS troopers, you can't stand next to:
1. Tom DeLay (convicted, though later overturned on a bizarro-world Texas CCA take)
2. Rick Perry (indicted on multiple felony counts)
3. Scott Walker and Chris Christie (under investigation) when they visit Greg Abbott
4. Ken Paxton
5. George W. Bush,  (DWI, a more serious issue than marijuana; possible though unproven cocaine; war crimes not listed here).
Fellow Texas bloggers, feel free to add names.

And, beyond partisan GOP figures, of course, no DPS trooper should ever be caught dead with Willie Nelson.

April 02, 2015

Is watching Ken Burns like eating Chinese food?

Ken Burns/Wikipedia photo
You know, as in the stereotype that it's not that filling, and an hour later you need to east something else?

I say that after watching all three parts of the Burns-affiliated (though not under his complete control on this one) "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies," based on the book, "The Emperor of All Maladies," which I found very good. (In hindsight, I'm scratching the "very." Given what I wrote below originally, I'm not sure why I had the "very" there in the first place. It may just be "OK," in fact.)

It wasn't the typical Burns piece, in that it involved primarily people and events from the here and now. But, he handled that part well.

On cancer itself, he didn't go maudlin, but he may have leaned a bit too much to the optimism side. The last speaker in the final episode ended with using the "c-word."

I'm not that optimistic. I don't think we're any closer to a "cure" for cancer than we are to peaceful nuclear fusion power or true artificial intelligence.

But, that's not so much the "light."

One arm of David H. Koch's philanthropy (the PBS website isn't clear which one) was a sponsor.

And, while parts two and three of the program mentioned prevention as an important part of the "war" on cancer, only smoking was specifically talked about in detail.

In part three, it was noted that an Italian doctor, in 1700, noted that coal miners had higher-than-average rates of lung cancer.

Yet, "somehow," here in the modern US, the highly carcinogenic rate of petrochemicals — you know, the stuff that's behind the Koch Bros' fortune — never got mentioned.

(Update, Sept. 22, 2017: Ken Burns' Vietnam series, plus the comments below from my original piece, and more hanging out with left-liberals and even leftists online, have made me not only VERY skeptical, no scratch-outs needed, of the Vietnam series, but pretty darned skeptical of Burns' entire oeuvre of work. Read this longform piece of mine for much more detail.)

And, that leads me to the "Chinese food" part again.

As noted here, Burns' "Roosevelts" series had a number of errors, more about TR than about FDR. But, as I note there, Burns' general documentary take is a very PBS one. Nice, noble, grand, lots of pictures, but not necessarily that challenging. (Of course, a lot of people want to mythologize TR; if he'd gotten his third term in 1912, I think he would have been a disaster.)

Take his National Parks series. Very little discussion about American Indian issues related to various national parks sites. Little comment about chronic underfunding of the NPS in the last decade-plus. Of course, by cutting that series off at 1980, it was easy to sweep later problems under the rug.

Or what shot him to fame — Baseball. A bit two-dimensional on Landis as the "savior" of baseball. Some coastal bias against baseball in the hinterlands, too, IMO. And, per what I noted above about the cancer movie, Burns' "10th inning" add-on had its own problems, including not interviewing living people.

Of course, per his mother's death when he was 11 and his father's later insight about Burns' reaction to that, as Wiki notes, maybe he can only do a present-day documentary when it in part involves death.

"Dust Bowl" was pretty good, but like the cancer film, he was working from an already written book, with an author in Timothy Egan that I presume insisted on some consulting role with actual power. That said, while Egan did talk a bit about climate change and the southern High Plains of today, the series probably could have had more of that.

If you'll click from that Wikipedia page to individual Burns documentaries, you'll note that several others, beyond my Roosevelts critique, have been faulted for their inaccuracies. His World War II mini-series failed to include anything about Hispanic or Native American contributions.  Even though it was before good DNA testing, Burns got all the white historians in his Thomas Jefferson miniseries to pooh-pooh over the idea that he had a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings. Now, it's true, that was before the 1998 DNA Y-chromosome testing, but still.

April 01, 2015

#Hypocrisy alert from Jerry Brown on California water

Gov Edmund G. Brown Jr.,
California water whore.
(Wikipedia photo)
Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., to rightfully name him, has imposed the first-ever mandatory statewide water restrictions.

So, why is this hypocrtical?

Because he is known to want to build the Edmund G. Brown Jr. Delta Peripheral Canal, among other things. If Wikipedia's description of likely environmental damage:
A peripheral canal would reduce the overall freshwater flow into the Delta and move the freshwater-saltwater interface further inland, causing damage to Delta agriculture and ecosystems.
Put another way? A peripheral canal, with the new water realities, is just reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. And, it ignores that the desert always wins on water issues.

Then there's more.

Try Friends of the River, which notes it would severely draw down reservoirs in northern California. You know, the ones that already have almost no water this year.

As for the name I mention?

No, it's not on record. But surely Junior wants his "legacy" as Cal governor to be a follow-up to Daddy's California State Water Project, which includes the Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct. He's as thirsty for it as an almond orchard south of Fresno. Given that agricultural users aren't required to make further cuts, as Mother Jones notes, this isn't hyperbole. And, as the Daily Beast notes, including describing how California is the Texas of California on groundwater, and as Cadillac Desert explains in much more detail, that agricultural water is often subsidized by not just urban Californians but the rest of the nation.

Remember that whenever you hear Western farmers and ranchers, or politicians that mouth their views, tout free enterprise and bitch about the federal government. One of the biggest hypocrites in US political history, beyond the Brown family franchise, was Barry Goldwater.

So, Californians? The answer is simple.

Hold on to a metaphorical 10 gallons of water and flush Jerry Brown. Just like Gray Davis. Recall him. But not to be replaced by an Ahhhnold.

Get somebody real. Maybe Barbara Boxer, since she's not running for the Senate again.

Because Jerry Brown is full of it, starting with the claims of 25 percent water use reduction, if agriculture doesn't face anything mandatory at all, and neither does the oil and gas industry.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali doubles down on her Islamophobia

Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Guardian photo
Islamophobic wingnut Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation" is probably even more over the top than Ayaan Hirsi Ali's two memiors. That’s not to mention that I'm skeptical of people who feel they need to write multiple memoirs before the age of 45. “Nomad: From Islam to America,” was nothing more than a PR screed. That’s not to mention that her first memoir, "Infidel," was not a memoir at all, but a huge pack of lies, as Alternet notes.

I read "Infidel" before all the untruths were exposed, and before she had gone so far down the Islamophobia road of lumping all Muslims together. I found her interesting, and semi-compelling. But, my eyes were eventually opened.

She's pretty much owned up to most of those mistruths, but not told why she told them in the first place. We'll see if she, beyond basic Islamophobia of calling all Muslims the equivalent of the Devil's spawn, gets manifest in Nomad.

That said, three reviews, from pandering to critical, will illustrate the problems with the new book.

First of all, it’s interesting that the Daily Beast first quotes Bernard Lewis, himself a cultural Christianist. It’s also interesting that the Daily Beast, generally thought of as a more liberal site, would run this fawning of a review. Then, that reviewer, Tunku Varadarajan, carefully elides around her actual childhood history vs. her original story about it. Given the background of Varadarajan, currently at the Hoover Institution, no surprise, though.

Nicholas Kristof ain't much better, and perpetuates his own stereotypes, especially on the "three problems" he claims Ali identifies in Islam Substitute "Buddhist" or "Hindu" for "Muslim," or for "African" as an ethnos (my neologism to replace "race" for super-ethnic level groupings) and imagine what people would say. I'm just surprised he didn't work in more explicit neoliberal platitudes, or his pointillist paintings of a bright neoliberal world abroad that, like actual pointillist paintings, fade into random dots on a close-up look.

The LA Times review gets it right: That she's lumping all of Islam together. Kind of like Gnu Atheists do with Christianity as well. (Surprisingly, Gnus haven't called all Jews fundamentalist and I'm not sure why.)
Given her avowed atheism, Hirsi Ali's solution comes as a surprise. 
"The Christian leaders now wasting precious time and resources on a futile exercise of interfaith dialogue with the self-appointed leaders of Islam should redirect their efforts to converting as many Muslims as possible to Christianity," she advises.
Bingo on the "surprise." It would be like d'Holbach or Diderot decided that Martin Luther hadn't worked and they needed to write a book about the reformation they thought Christianity needed.

And, it clearly puts her in the cultural Christianist world along with Lewis and others.

I disagree with Brandeis disinviting her from a speaking gig, while acknowledging that it has the right to do that. But atheist and secular humanist groups should not invite her in the first place.

Happy birthday, Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz set the Republican world on fire with his recent announcement of his candidacy for president.
Eduardo Rafael Cruz (his real name) has a number of advantages. These include a high name recognition, a strong (if perhaps overstated on the national level) "core" of support and more.
Does this mean that he should be considered a frontrunner?

Cruz aficionados might say yes, but in an (unofficially as of this time) crowded GOP field, not so fast.
Republicans have a near-mirror choice in Rand Paul, after all, who is less strident, relatively, than Cruz, and plays ball better with fellow Senators, among other things.
Unity is never something to ignore, even if endorsements by senators, or governors, are overrated.
Zingers against fellow Republicans can be funny for the crowd, but sometimes they backfire.

Well, if we don't anoint him the favorite, is he one of a group of favorites?
I'd say probably not, at least not right now.
Let's start with that glut of potential candidates. Until more of them declare themselves actual candidates, then succeed or falter in traction with both polls and donors, it's hard to say too much in general.
Let's move on, then.

Even if Cruz does have an enthusiastic core, as noted above, that's only half the issue.
Very rich donors may not cotton to him, especially if he continues to take stances like wanting to kill the Export-Import Bank.
Even a moneybags who might otherwise like him, like Sheldon Adelson, for both his tea partyism and his stance on Israel, has called him "too right wing."
Republicans will probably take that to heart.

Besides, the Israel half of the issue probably won't play well in New Hampshire; fellow libertarian-type Republican Paul will surely draw better there.
Even if he doesn't get too snowed there, a poor finish and poor funding will hurt.

Perhaps, though, as some have said, he's like Barry Goldwater; he really cares about moving the GOP even further right, and winning nomination, let alone election, follows behind that.
Rhetorical wins aren't necessarily real wins, though. Sure, Nixon adopted some chunks of Goldwater's "Southern strategy," and Reagan was a water-carrier, but neither even tried to get rid of Social Security or privatize the TVA.
Even if Cruz overcomes his self-handicaps, he's not likely to be nominated.
Since, as of right now, Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favorite, irrational Clinton hatred means the GOP muckety-mucks want to be especially sure to have an electable candidate.
If Ted Cruz seems to have some lasting power in the primaries, but not to be electable, a stop-Cruz movement will gain momentum.
Due to this, he probably has uphill sledding in 2016. But, what about future campaigns, if this is true? Well, 2020 would be interesting. If a Democrat wins in 2016, especially if it's Hillary Clinton, "electability" will be even bitter. And, if a Republican is in the White House, I'm not sure that even Eduardo is that much of a one-man band marching to the tune of cluelessness/
Extending things further out? Unless he stops moderates his tone or appearance at least a little bit, it's going to be the same set of problems. Plus by 2024, if he stays in the Senate, he'll have baggage. And 2024 will be a Senate election year to boot. He could, under Texas' "LBJ law," seek both offices at the same time, but that probably won't sit well. So, for the future?
No chances for Havana Ted to be at 1600 Pennsylvania without an invite, that I can see.
Ted, your equivalent of 15 minutes of fame is about up.

As for why I am wishing Ted Cruz a happy birthday today, check your calendars. Also, if you know what an acrostic is (there's a hint throughout the piece), you have a further answer.

March 31, 2015

#Clintonistas continue to self-immolate their guru; #SJW posse the latest

The 'Clintonesque' Hillary Clinton.
Wikipedia photo
If only this were parody, but it's not. (And, from my writing style, if only parody were so easy to write at times. Or to pretend it's reality so easily.)

Supposedly, there are 13 words the media "can't" write about Hillary Clinton any more. Why?

Because it's sexist, etc.

Who says?

Hillary's new social justice warrior posse, the self-named Clinton "Super Volunteers."

Specifically, per a series of Tweets whomever is behind this group has sent to a New York Times reporter:

(T)hese words are now off the table: "polarizing," "calculating," "disingenuous," "insincere," "ambitious," "inevitable," "entitled," "over-confident," "secretive," "will do anything to win," "represents the past," and "out of touch." 
I guess it's time to whip out the synonyms!

Here's the words that will be on the table:
On the table, in respective order, are "divisive," "scheming," "oblique" (I skipped "duplicitous" but will put it on account) "uncandid" (great one from "hard-charging," "predestined," "privileged," "cocky" (and, that's a male pun, so anti-sexist to boot!) "tight-lipped," "bus runner-over" (think about it), "hidebound," and "clueless."
Good enough for starters, right Hillz?

Other words, like "jesuitical," "ham-handed," "cagey," "enigmatic," and many others, will remain on file for future use. Neologisms like "Carvillian" stand at the ready.

Or, I could just retype, or copy-paste, "Clintonesque" 13 times!

Of course, as the new New Republic (and perhaps, a better New Republic?) reveals, it's almost reads like a Poe of some sort. That said, it's always fun to pile on to a good Poe.

OTOH, per the Washington Examiner, it's not a Poe, nor is my timing some April Fool. While the group is not officially affiliated with Clinton's non-campaign (for now), it is lead by Democrats who have a certain degree of connectedness, including being headed by a higher-level volunteer for her 2008 run.

Here's an email sent by the group:
"We continue to experience vile and hateful responses anytime we speak out against sexist reporting, sexist comments, or post positive facts about Hillary Clinton and her record," read the email, which was obtained by the Examiner. "[W]e will not tolerate any form of sexist news coverage of any woman who chooses to break through glass ceilings; whether as a CEO or running for President of these United States."
Again, two points.

First, none of the 13 words/phrases is sexist. Second, it's on the hands of John West et al to prove they're factually incorrect.

As for "fake" Twitter account? The URL on its profile, the Ready for Hillary, while declaiming that it's "unofficial," nonetheless seems to be "connected," or "plugged in."

And, a third point, a psychological one.

Having blogged before about Clintonistas being Hillary Clinton's worst enemy after herself, I know that the psychological effects of all of this will be one big backfiring. I think that's already happening, and I'm OK with adding this small bit of gasoline to the blaze.

And, let me not be disingenuous. Or insincere. Or out of touch. Please, send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of 13-word synonyms to describe Hillary Clinton.

2nd-qtr #oilprices — up, down, flat? Texas effects? #Txlege actions?

Glenn Hegar, Clueless Comptroller
I blogged earlier today about some specific issues in the Middle East that could drive second-quarter prices higher.

That said I don't think they will, at least not significantly. I provided some explainer there and I'll add a bit here.

I don't expect Iran to get much more involved in Yemen. If Iran does torpedo the nuclear fuel deal, it's already under sanctions; additional sanctions won't drive oil prices much higher. And, ISIS will probably peak before the second quarter is done.

And, there's more proof of that on April 1, with no jokes attached. As a result, oil prices have sagged again.

(Update, April 2: It appears "movement" has happened on Iran nuclear talks. That's probably worth a $1/bbl cut right there. At a minimum, sanctions against Iran won't get any stiffer. And, if progress continues in advance of the June 30 final deadline, the P5+1 might slightly relax, at least, some of the sanctions. And, as Chris Tomlinson notes, Iran-Saudi Arabia tussles could lead the Saudis to pump even more.)

So, with foreign disturbances likely to be of little import, what happens? Probably they stay flat, or trade in a narrow range. If you agree, or disagree, you can let me and readers know with your vote in the poll at right.

I'm not so much a catastrophist to think they fall below $40/bbl, though I do offer that as a voting option in my poll at right, and offer more options, and narrower ranges, than I did in my first quarter poll. I do also think that the "narrow range" will be, in general $40-$50/bbl, and that, barring me being wrong on foreign policy predictions, West Texas Intermediate ends the second quarter at or below $50/bbl.

Now, what's that mean for Texas?

Not good news.

New Comptroller Glenn Hegar, aka Scrooge McOilDuck here and Jethro Bodine at friend Perry's site, has yet to create fake environmental protection plans, unlike his predecessor, Susan Combs, but he seems just as wedded to the oil patch as her, combined with being even less willing to face reality.

First, his budget revenue estimate given at the start of the legislative session, which he has refused to revise since then, in the face of plenty of evidence to the contrary of his ideas, thinks that WTI will hit $65/bbl in fiscal 2016.  That link is also very good as an explainer of how state money from the oil patch gets distributed into different pockets. Click it and get a look-see.

Meanwhile, back to Scrooge McOilDuck and his Reaganesque "rosy scenario."

Even in calendar year 2016, which starts next January, that wouldn't be likely. Given that for Texas, like the federal government, fiscal 2016 actually starts in October of this year, it's very, very unlikely. And, given that $60/bbl is, seemingly, the magic production cost number for shale drillers to start new wells, rather than complete and cap for later supply wells already underway, that means little new drilling in fiscal 2016.

In short, per that link just above, Hegar's likely to be half a billion dollars short in his estimates.

I don't know whether he's just clueless, unconsciously delusional, willfully self-delusional, a believer in a state level of trickle-down economics (possible indeed), or a Kloset Kommie Keynesian economics believer (state budgets have to be balanced, Glenn, Keynesianism doesn't work here), but the state of Texas will be hurting indeed, between Dan Patrick's slash-and-burn tax cuts and Hegar's misestimating oil revenues.

And, per Twitter, I'm not alone in concerns. Even at least one member of the Lege is asking questions:

But Otto's level of concern apparently isn't strong enough for all:

Stand by for news!

As identifiers, Otto is chair of House Appropriations; Schaefer is a member of Defense/Veterans and Urban Affairs.

And, it's not just oil revenues themselves, as this piece makes clear. A sustained dropoff in drilling affects other businesses, and many of them in, or associated with, the oil patch, expect this slump to last six months or longer. That means fewer truck drivers in the fields, at least a few. It means fewer sales by fishing tools companies and their like, fewer drilling rig leases, fewer semi sales, fewer pickup sales and more.

The link near the top, about a renewed sag, also notes that oil companies in Texas have announced new layoffs; it also notes that part of the manufacturing decline in the state is due to fewer O&G orders. Meanwhile, Moody's agrees that demand for oilfield services will continue to drop.

One should also take note that, per that piece, a few oil-related bidnessmen ARE more catastrophic than I am, and expect the $40 floor to be broken.

It's arguable that if oil commodities speculators are placing massive bad bets, and storage fills to the brim, sub-$40 oil could arrive. But, sub-$35? I doubt it. If nothing else, some speculators will dump sooner rather than later, due to leverage issues. Anyway, feel free to cast your vote in the poll at right. (Given that the Bloomberg author in question probably has never been near an oilfield in his life, and said that fracking was specifically part of horizontal drilling in another piece, I'm taking his $20/bbl claims with a grain or four of salt.)

In either case, on fiscal issues, just like on teh gay and other social issues, it's clear that several dozen clown cars drove up to the Texas Capitol in January, all fully loaded.

I can't wait for the 2016 special session their idiocy will almost surely foist upon us. (Sidebar: This is why, even if Texans are so allergic to government as to oppose a full-time legislature for a state of more than 25 million people,it should at a minimum have its part-time lege meet every year.)

Iran, Yemen, key to second quarter #oil prices

A few bits of disturbance in the Middle East may keep prices pushed higher, namely, the ongoing tussles with ISIS in the northern, Kurdish part of Iraq and the Houthi-backed insurgency/civil war in Yemen. And, continued sanctions on Iran, if a nuclear enrichment control deal falls through, as looks more and more likely after its Sunday night volte-face on outsourcing enrichment outside its borders, could do the same, especially with Iranian backing for the Houthis.

(Update, April 2: It appears "movement" has happened on Iran nuclear talks. That's probably worth a $1/bbl cut right there. At a minimum, sanctions against Iran won't get any stiffer. And, if progress continues in advance of the June 30 final deadline, the P5+1 might slightly relax, at least, some of the sanctions. And, as Chris Tomlinson notes, Iran-Saudi Arabia tussles could lead the Saudis to pump even more.)

However, I expect ISIS to get no stronger in the next three months, and eventually fade again, to something like an ongoing low-grade abscess at the top of the Fertile Crescent, something that needs gauze, antibiotics and maybe occasional lancing, but no more than that. On the other hand, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are at loggerheads on Syria and President Bashar Assad, which has ISIS implications.

Assuming the Saudi Arabian air force can actually fight (and not have a bunch of pilots turn fundamentalist and desert, or bomb the Grand Mosque in Mecca, or something else), the Houthi insurgency will be contained, and eventually shoved back, for the old, militaristic but non-fundamentalist authoritarians to return to power in Sana'a.

So far, the Saudis have been swift and forceful enough to cause Iran to start blustering, which in turn has CNN fearing greater escalation.

Sorry, folks in Atlanta, but Tehran ain't that dumb. They may try to run more supplies to the Houthis (and likely fail) but that will be about it. Given their nuclear stubbornness, they don't want to provide an excuse for the Saudis, especially if guided by US or Israeli intelligence, to attack their nuclear facilities, even if some of them are fairly well "hardened." CNN may be right, though, that Yemen breaks into pieces. (I can't see a third Houthi state surviving, though. Rather, it would be the old Yemen and the old PDR Yemen or similar, in terms of territory if not necessarily in terms of types of government, i.e., North Yemen and South Yemen.)

Per that, then, and per my like to Sunday's Iranian punking, Dear Leader, aka President Obama, needs to be realistic about what we can and can't control in the Middle East, and the costs in terms of military and other engagement (and steadiness of mindset) on the more easily controllable versus the more difficult.

Meanwhile, what effect will this have, or not have?

Stay tuned for my second quarter predictions later today. And feel free to vote in the poll at right.

March 30, 2015

Conservative ministers hypocritically fuse church, state, military

A friend of a friend on Facebook recently posted one of these memes with attacking Clinton and Obama for lack of military service.

First, there's three big things militarily "wrong" with the picture.

One is that Shrub Bush, of course, used Air National Guard service, quite sporadically, to avoid Vietnam. Two is that the draft had ended before Obama graduated high school and thus he was not subject to Selective Service call-up.

And three is that Reagan, while in the Reserves even before World War II started abroad, let alone Pearl Harbor, was blind as a bat, never saw actual military work, and spent most of his active duty time making war movies, to be followed 25-50 years later by ongoing massive self-deception that he had in fact fought in World War II.

There's three things wrong with the attitude of the person who posted it, too. This gentleman, a Rev. Kevin Wenker is a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the main denomination of the conservative, even fundamentalist, wing of Lutheranism. (This, and his Facebook posts in general, are posted as "public," therefore, per my standards about social media and blogging or resharing, I'm not violating any privacy.)

The first thing wrong is a selective lack of respect, which is addressed in this gentleman's scriptures by Romans 13:
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

I highlighted that last line on purpose. Because that's obviously not being done by this gentleman, nor by thousands of other conservative Christian ministers, of whom he is a type.

Clearly, above cheap spoofing at both Obama and Clinton, the Obama picture bears either the insinuation that he is a Muslim, or was born in Africa. Both are, of course, lies, which is far below respect and honor.

The second thing wrong is somewhat related. It's the assumption that because the politics of one president, or one president's party, more than another, align with certain mores and doctrine of a denomination, that president should be run up the flagpole and saluted.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is "pro-life," and hence, part of the love for GOP presidents. But it, and most Protestant churches, who have quasi-officially, or at the individual pastor level, supported a man deliberately waging a war that was stupid, whether or not Augstinianly unjust, aren't so pro-life; that's even more true if they support the death penalty. 

Catholics, at least popes, get this right, with opposing the death penalty, and John Paul II questioning the Iraq invasion.

Heck, my own LCMS minister daddy got this right, in his last congregation, when some of his members got too gung-ho about running the Iraq War up the flagpole and saluting it.

Of course, the LCMS, like most conservative Protestant churches, has many members close to, or in Tea Party country, opposing Obamacare as "socialism" and more.

To that, and to Southern Baptists — per Jefferson's Danbury letter to Baptists — I note the fusion of church and state.

As for "supporting the troops"? This gets back to more and more veterans who say to wingnut types that your "thanks for your sacrifice" words are empty bullshit. I "support the troops" by not wanting them sent to stupid wars in the first place.

And, per Romans 13, and per additional blogging of friends like Dan Fincke, this is just another example of how fundamentalists can be selective about their fundamentalism.

Iran punks Dear Leader on nuke deal

Couldn't you see this one coming from a mile away, after Iran said a couple of weeks ago that it wouldn't sign any written deal immediately, but only a couple of months later?

Iran now says that it won't sign off on any plan to send nuclear fuel outside its borders for enrichment.

And, the “meta” angle is the big one:
If an accord allowing Iran to retain the fuel is reached, the Obama administration is expected to argue that it would not constitute a serious risk, particularly if it is regularly inspected. So far under an interim agreement negotiated in 2013, Iran has complied fully with a rigorous inspection process for the stockpiles of its fuel, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said.

That is really of no surprise, that Dear Leader's going to argue for this treaty no matter what.

This Foreign Policy piece has noted that, through all twists and turns, President Obama has slavered after this deal like Pavlov's dog hearing a CD of bell ringing. It's very much worth a read in looking at the big picture in the Middle East, as is the first, NYT piece to show just how skeptical we should be about Dear Leader's salivating trust in Iran.

Frankly, no deal in which a direct representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as the "secular" government, is not participating, isn't worth anything anyway.

Besides, as the Washington Post shows, sanctions are having their bite. The ball's in our court to wait out Iran as they bite further; no blind salivating needed. More proof they're having their bite? To the degree he, and the mullahs of the Guardian Council in general, are involved with negotiations, Khamenei wants sanctions removed immediately and fully if a deal is reached.

Also, a real deal would work toward getting closer to normalization of US-Iran diplomatic relations. And, it would have the US admit to the Mossadegh coup, and "deplore" it, while Iran did the same for the Argentina synagogue bombing, at a minimum.