SocraticGadfly: 7/19/15 - 7/26/15

July 25, 2015

#ClintonEmail takes a "classified" new turn

Some of the emails on the private email server a Morgan Stanley employee Daddy Warbucks created for Hillary Clinton — four, to be precise — have classified information.

This was an inter-agency intelligence inspector who found them, too, not Trey Goudy or other House GOP wingnuts.

Clinton's response?

Blame the Obama administration:
A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign released a brief statement on Twitter, saying, “Any released emails deemed classified by the administration have been done so after the fact, and not at the time they were transmitted.”


And, there could be plenty more sparks, if not a full fire. Four emails sounds like small beer, eh? Those four came up in a spot check of just 40 emails. 

That said, this probably isn't all that much of a big deal. Showing that a big government bureaucracy IS indeed a problem at times, the Department of State has been retroactively classifying some of them.

On the PR side, though, we're in another world. Few more nicks for Clinton.

July 24, 2015

#IronyAlert: Tricky Ricky Perry benefits from the First Amendment

Texas' Third Court of Appeals has said that one of the two criminal charges facing former Gov. Rick Perry over his threats to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit out of Travis County unless Travis DA Rosemary Lehmberg resigned is unconstitutional.

The court ruled that Texas' coercion of a public servant statute is an unconstitutional limit on a public official's free speech, and therefore that count is dropped.

The state district court that originally heard Team Perry's appeal of the charges had said the statute was constitutional. Special prosecutor Michael McCrum has not yet indicated if he will appeal. And, given that a constitutional issue is involved, if both parties are ready to appeal all the way out, this could eventually land in federal court.

I'm unsure on this ... per this NPR story, Perry at least pushed the edge, but, courts likely do see free-speech concerns, and, on the political side, separation-of-powers issues.

If this holds up, that leaves Perry facing just one misdemeanor, and it's hard to see how McCrum is going to make that stick, because that's largely dependent on the line of reasoning that led to the felony, which was originally two charges.

Friend Perry has more thoughts on the political background and ramifications.

The Dunning-Kruger effect and race relations

The New York Times has a very interesting story about race relations in America.

Two key polling points are the "tells."

First, about 60 percent of Americans, including majorities among both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and about 40 percent think they're getting worse.

However, more than 75 percent think they're getting better in their own communities.

Which is just as impossible as everybody in Lake Wobegon being above average, or the Red Queen's multiple impossibilities actually being true.

That's why I mentioned the Dunning-Kruger effect. This seems to be the emotional or moral version of that, where most people think they're smarter or more competent than they actually are, expect people are thinking they're more racially enlightened than they may actually be.

Here's the real "tell" on that:
Similarly, only a third thought that most people were comfortable discussing race with someone of another race, but nearly three-quarters said they were comfortable doing so themselves.

Erm, Sure! 

Which is just as impossible as everybody in Lake Woebegon being above average, or the Red Queen's multiple impossibilities actually being true.

And, as for why many people think race relations have gotten worse? The tea partiers have drunk the rebranded Jim Jones Kool-Aid, with the result of this:
Seventy-two percent of blacks said they approved of the way Mr. Obama is handling race relations, compared with 40 percent of whites. …

 The divide, seen in the answers to virtually every question in the poll, was stark when respondents were asked whether they thought most Americans had judged Mr. Obama more harshly because of his race. Eighty percent of blacks said yes, while only 37 percent of whites agreed.

Don’t tell me you’re surprised.

I would suggest those 60 percent of whites (not counting any like me who ding Obama from the left at times) take a test about subconscious bias at Project Implicit.

But, I know they won't.

July 22, 2015

We are looking yet more screwed on #climatechange

First, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration upped its estimate of sea-level rise by the end of this century from three feet to six feet, as Al Jazeera reports.

Not looking good, right?

Well, climate change solon James Hansen has now weighed in and said, in essence:

We should be lucky if it's only six feet.

Because he thinks oceans will rise 10 feet before at least some of us are dead.

Once more.

James Hansen thinks ocean levels will rise 10 feet in 50 years.

Cut both in half, and that's 5 feet in 25 years, when a lot of us will still be alive, and far before NOAA's 2100.

If he, and other authors on a report, are right about the West Antarctic ice sheet, yes, we're screwed.

Look here. Major chunks of the heart of Boston gone. NYC is OK, but Jersey City and Newark aren't. Tampa-St Pete have major problems.

Go here for more; see New Orleans become a narrow marshy archipelago at a 3-meter (10-foot) rise. Add another meter and much of it disappears. Out west, the whole Sacramento Delta becomes ocean. Millions of acres of farmland disappear.

Meanwhile, the idea that deniers are an endangered species is simply not true. It may be a cute phrase to rally the troops, but it's not true.

Big Tobacco, 20 years after the Medicaid lawsuits, still fights a residual rearguard action. And, on climate change, we're nowhere near that point. We're somewhere around Luther Terry's original 1964 Surgeon General's report on tobacco.

July 21, 2015

There is no #MissCongeniality in this GOP contest

The Dallas Morning News notes that, with less than three weeks left until the first GOP presidential debate, scheduled for Aug. 6 in Cleveland and limited to the 10 candidates riding highest in a consortium of five polls, several people are fixing to be on the outside staring in.

Among those? Since Rick Perry couldn't correctly count to 3 three years ago, it's not much surprise he can't count above 10 now; he is on the border of the cut. Rick Santorum's polling isn't a frothy enough mix. Bobby Jindal can't get enough potential Republican voters to play Jenga with him. John Kasich, not officially in the race until today, of course isn't officially in the polling. Carly Fiorina is no more popular than she was with Hewlett-Packard. And, George Pataki hasn't yet climbed above the level of one of Alphonse D'Amato's potholes.

How's THAT for snark?

Oh, and Huckleberry J. Butchmeup isn't butch enough for voters. Don't forget that.

Well, no, that's not enough snark.

Given that the Faux News debate rules say candidates must meet all constitutional requirements to be president, any chance we get some Ted Cruz birthers popping up? We could only hope.

Getting to a post-oil world? This book has challenges, but few answers

TEnding the Fossil Fuel EraEnding the Fossil Fuel Era by Thomas Princen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Parts of this book were good indeed. I certainly believe we should leave coal in the ground as much as possible. More carbon-intense oil, the same.

And, the US probably could lower its per capital energy consumption, at least on electricity, to Europe or Japan. However, given the much larger size of the US, and Canada, lowering fuel consumption that much is not realistic.

Nor is the idea, hinted at by the authors, of taking overall per-capita energy consumption to even lower than that. Oh, physically, it might be realistic. Just ask Americans to not only drive no more than Europeans, to live in European-sized houses ... AND, along with Europeans, to pretty much stop using the Internet, big-screen TVs, "devices, etc.

It's a challenge, indeed, and seemingly a pretty idealistic one.

Per my header, the biggest inaccuracy was claiming the majority of US electric generation comes from coal. Not true, and not true for a decade. A narrow plurality still comes from coal, but well short of a majority. And, no, I'm not cutting the authors semantic slack. Three university professors should know the difference between "majority" and "plurality." (As of 2014, 39 percent of US electric generation came from coal and 27 percent from natural gas. My guess is that gas passes coal within a decade.)

The biggest omission? In looking at either incorporated Western oil companies or nationalized ones getting out of the fossil fuel business, the chapter on that has an incomplete list of suggestions. It notes that some "majors" have gotten out of retail sales, and suggests that distribution will be next (with it already starting), then refining. The implication is that oil majors will eventually complete the divestiture process.

But, the authors nowhere mention the alternative idea of diversification. Why wouldn't either Exxon, or Saudi Aramco, buy a solar panel or wind turbine manufacturer? Indeed, it's puzzling that oil companies haven't already started this, despite BP's PR stunt a few years ago of claiming to be "Beyond Petroleum."

The authors, speaking of divesting, nowhere mention the divestiture drive campaign of pushing colleges, state pension funds, etc., to get rid of oil stocks.

Finally, the issue of "Peak Oil" is nowhere mentioned; it's vaguely hinted at, but nowhere directly mentioned.

So, if you are concerned about our energy and environmental future and want some challenges, read this book. But, you might want to bring your own answers.

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July 20, 2015

TX progressive bloggers talk #NewHorizons, #BlackLivesMatter, #LeonardPeltier, elections

The Texas Progressive Alliance asks What Happened to Sandra Bland, and what might happen to Blue Bell Ice Cream, as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the lawsuit filed against the state for refusing to issue birth certificates to children of undocumented immigrant mothers.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos makes a compelling argument as to why the Democratic Party needs to sharpen its message in a way in which it resonates with and motivates the majority of D voters. Why we need a better Democratic story and how Sanders' candidacy underscores this point.

Socratic Gadfly says that if Obama is going to visit a federal prison and talk about commuting sentences, he ought to throw the long bomb by going to Florida and freeing Leonard Peltier.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know Greg Abbott screwed up child support payment upgrade.  Republicans don't really care about kids.  You can tell by action after action.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The rotting fruit of one-party rule in Williamson County, County GOP Elected Officials Using Courts For Petty Political Battles.

The disruption at Netroots Nation's presidential town hall forum by activists associated with Black Lives Matter was a clash between the politics of the old-school Social Democrats and that of the New Democrats' identity politics.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks there will a coming-together of the two movements or a cleaving of the Democratic Party as the dynamic unfolds.

Neil at All People Have Value discussed Obama's role in taking away our freedoms through the New Horizons mission to Pluto. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Texas Election Law Blog celebrates its second anniversary, and reviews the case that led to its beginning.

Ken Janda asks how can Texas continue to ask for billions of dollars in uncompensated care payments to hospitals for uninsured patients coming to emergency rooms, when more than one million of those people could be put into Medicaid Managed Care?

The TSTA Blog warns of "dangerous anti-educator" Scott Walker.

Texas Vox cheers the forthcoming end of coal.

Grits for Breakfast is pleased to see that funding has been allotted for research into the underlying scientific bases for the forensic tools and methods currently used in the criminal justice system.

David Ortez gives a graphical representation of the Houston Mayoral fundraising race.

Rachel Pearson explains why that video hit job on Planned Parenthood is "pure applesauce".

Texas Clean Air Matters documents the trend towards clean, affordable power.

No, Al Gore isn't the answer to either #FeelTheBern or Hillary

Al Gore/Wikipedia
Let me indulge Salon's Sean Illing enough to post a link to his piece. And, thence to destruct it.

Yes, Hillary has high negative ratings. That said, whoever comes out of the GOP race won't?

Yes, Sanders has hurdles of his own. But, he couldn't sell himself in a general election, if he got the nomination?

Yes, Hillary has high negatives. And, many of them aren't in part from connection to hubby Bill? And, that's our perfect entree.

So, let's look at Illing's 10 specific points.

1. Stature? Gore has less of it than Illing suggests. It's been 15 years since his presidential campaign and 8 since his Nobel Prize. How many people under 40 regularly think of Gore? How many under 30 even know who he is?

2. Vulnerability? Should he enter the race, he'd have plenty of it, mainly from his years as Bill Clinton's Veep. Income inequality. Standing by Bill on the repeal of Glass-Steagall. NAFTA. The start of Internet spying on Americans. JoeMentum Lieberman as his 2000 Veep. Dialing for Chinese dollars.

3. Sanders as a "regional candidate"? Same argument could have been made about Gore 1992. And, making your second Gore-touting point a weak Sanders-bashing one doesn't bode well, either.

4. Independents? See Gore's "vulnerability" above. Outside of climate change, he's no more attractive than Hillary.

5. Foreign policy? Illing can write all he wants on a blank slate. Reality is that Gore, like the Slickster, had PNAC ties, the neolib version of neocon foreign policy, and more. As for alternate history? He, like Shrub, might have attacked Saddam Hussein after 9/11.

6. Wall Street corruption? See No. 2 above, and things like dialing for Chinese dollars in his official residence. See Glass-Steagall. See "silence on income inequality."

7. Climate change. Agreed on this, but, this is to oversell the value of climate change as an electoral issue. It's a "slice" issue.

8. Nothing to lose? Oh, nothing other than peace of mind, ease of life and a rehabilitated reputation. And, again, if this is about reasons why Gore would make a good candidate, why is this on the list?

9. Vengeance? Gore refused to fight fire with fire in the Florida recount. In other words, he didn't have it in his bones then and probably doesn't today. And, a lot of his handlers and staff knew that about him in 2000. Plus, this assumes Jeb Bush gets the nod; "vengeance" isn't really a deal for Gore vs. other GOP candidates.

10. Democrats need a spark? From Al Gore? The man who refused to fight fire with fire in 2000? The man who's the same age as Hillary? The man who's been out of politics for 15 years?

And, a bonus No. 11 ...

Illing calling me "sport" after I Tweeted, pre-blog, that his list was either vacuous or stupid, or both, gets you a bonus.

Because all of these points were and are clear and easy to think about.

Basically, Al Gore is a neolib like Hillary who doesn't have any baggage that's currently being discussed, but if he entered the race, he'd have plenty of baggage that would be.

The idea that he would bring something "special" to the Democratic presidential base ... basically shows how "thin" the Democratic bench is, how worried many Dems-first "liberals" actually are about Hillary Clinton, and how "thin" much of the Democratic national-level world of ideas is.

And, Sean Illing? That includes you. "Sport."

Oh, and any allegedly liberal Louisianan claiming Gore is the answer, who's not named James Carville, is probably dumb enough in some ways that he just should change his name to James Carville. Oh, and with such brilliance, how you ever got to teach political theory at LSU I don't know. And, while not wanting to be strange or other bedfellows with conservatives, such things DO make me wonder at times about whether academic tenure is totally a great idea or not.

This ain't your daddy's #BlueBell any longer

Ice cream pints being filled at Blue Bell's Oklahoma plant before it
shut down this spring. Steve Campbell/Fort Worth Star Telegram
Oil and water may not mix, but apparently oil and dairy cream will.

Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse and his PR minions can spin this any way they want to (and they've done enough spinning since the listeria shit started hitting the fan), but Sid Bass's $125 million bailout — that's what it is — of the ice cream giant WILL change how things operate at the Little Creamery in Brenham, Texas.

Kruse himself couldn't spin the story enough to hide that he had no other choice rather than to agree to a deal that could, in just three years, give Bass one-third ownership. The idea that is, as a private company, "cannot discuss financial matters" is of course horse hockey.

And, if Bass thinks Blue Bell needs a new CEO at that point, he'll get one. And, presumably, one outside the Kruse family, which has run the company for most of its existence. Now, it may stay privately held, rather than publicly traded, but changing family control would be big enough.

But, going public could be the next step, according to this news analysis. And, it's understandable. The company's going to need money for its plant improvements, which are underway. It's going to need more money to settle lawsuits. And, it's going to need more money yet to make sure Sid Bass is getting enough return on his dinero to remain a content investor.

In that piece, Sam Hamadah, to pick up on both it and my second link, says Blue Bell's books must be pretty bad for it to accept such a deal. He says they probably contacted various bankers, who offered interest rates of 9 percent or more. Instead, they get Bass' line of cash, but in exchange for his presumed takeover.

And, despite the spin, going public.

So, while this ain't your daddy's Blue Bell in general, for any children of Kevin Kruse, before long, it certainly won't be your daddy's.

And, overall, that will probably be for the best for the company, and for ice cream lovers in general, given that Kruse and his PR minions sat on listeria news for five years, even while pretending that it was still just "The Little Creamery" rather than a giant ice cream behemoth, through various peddlings of myth.