SocraticGadfly: 3/27/16 - 4/3/16

April 02, 2016

Rachel Maddow slouches even further toward Gomorrah

Rachel Maddow: Unimpressing me
more and more, day by day
MSNBC talking head Maddow, or Madcow as I sometimes call her, has never been as high in my estimation as she has been for many liberals. That's yet another reason I don't call myself a "liberal."

The latest? Doing breathless video-stenography work for lawyer Montgomery Blair Sibley in his claim that the Supreme Court MUST release him from a restraining order because he potentially has the power to affect this election.

Who is Mr. Sibley?

Well, nearly a decade ago, he WAS the lawyer for Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam,"

Since then? Well, for at least a while, he was nobody's lawyer, as he was disbarred for three years in 2009/10 — for being a deadbeat divorcee dad. (And more, below.) And, since the time of the D.C. Madam case, he's been an Obama birther.

Which is not mentioned by Maddow.

Well, that means that he might be monkey-wrenching for this election, right?

Right indeed. But not in the way you think.

See, he's now a Ted Cruz birther.

That too is NOT mentioned by Madcow.

I mean, I found all of this with 10 minutes of teh Google.

Add to it that, on the Puff Hoes piece about his being an Obama birther, Dave Weigel reportedly got him on video talking about genital size, which surely means he's simpatico with Trump.

Add in that he was also disbarred, not just as a deadbeat dad on child support, but for barratry. And I'm not sure he's ever been reinstated. A certain unethical news site still calls him disbarred in its piece, which also notes that he's raising money via a Gofundme.

Plus, he announced he would try the same thing back in 2012.

I mean, to anybody with brains, it should be clear what his breathless "must be released" is ... it's related to him being a Cruz birther.

All I can venture is that Madcow is ratings-whoring.

As for my "Madcow" and other things? The one book of hers that I read I found "meh" and three-starred. Just not impressed by her. Run-of-the-mill left-wing-of-party Democrat, who's not too neoliberal, and that's about it.

April 01, 2016

Lies about #freetrade and #TPP from the #MSM

Or rather, lies about "free" trade.

I like Chris Tomlinson. Never met him personally, but his book Tomlinson Hill" was quite good, and in general, his business column stuff for the Chron is decent, and with some degree of call-outs for the need for business ethics.

But, he's an in-the-tank free trader (and some sort of in-the-tank neolib in general), and his latest column is Example No. 1 of this.

He talks about "cowardly politicians" slow-walking the TPP. First, he claims a lot of them are unprincipled, but doesn't even mention Bernie Sanders among presidential candidates, who opposes TPP for principled reasons.

Second, he claims opponents are against it wrongly, in trying to save manufacturing jobs that will never return.

Well, Chris knows damn well, as do many of us, that the TPP is about intellectual property, environmental regulations and many other things besides manufacturing laws. When I cited, on Twitter, multinational corporations using trade deals to override national laws, he Tweeted back to "keep spinning."

I Tweeted back to HIM to keep spinning himself, while providing one link (of many available) about how in NAFTA, Chapter 11 of the deal has been used exactly as I described.

Let's look at the second link:
The investor-state dispute settlement mechanism contained in NAFTA’s chapter 11 grants investors the right to sue foreign governments without first pursuing legal action in the country’s court systems, in order to protect foreign investors from discrimination. Drafters of the 1994 treaty included the provision to protect U.S. and Canadian investors against corruption in Mexican courts.  
Critics argue that the mechanism limits governments from enacting policies on legitimate public concerns such as the environment and labour or human rights, and that negotiations are often carried out in secret.
Exactly, and it was probably always eyed as having that as a backup benefit. The story goes on to note Canada's been sued more than the US or Mexico.

On the specifics of the first and third links? Give that Chris works for the Houston Chronicle, at Ground Zero of oil and gas interests in America, I'm pretty sure he knows full well exactly who the Ethyl Corporation is, exactly what MMT and MTBE are, etc.

And, he chose not to include that in his column.

I've busted his chops on the Export-Import Bank before, too, pointing out how it's been used to promote fracking in other countries, with even lower fracking safety and environmental protections than here in the US — and ours aren't great.

So, who's more cowardly — some politicians, or a columnist not telling the full story about trade deals?

And, yes, I know the header's a bit harsh, Chris. But, that's my opinion. The links out there show that multinational corporations do leverage free-trade language against national governments and will continue to do in the future. They also show that free-trade deals are, more and more, about more than manufacturing jobs. They're about copyright, "creative class" work, finances and services businesses and more.

It behooves nobody to pretend otherwise.

#AprilFools, 2016 political version

Don't you wish you could have awakened this morning and discovered that:

1. The entire 2016 GOP presidential campaign were just a dream?

2. Democratic superdelegates didn't exist?

3. Huckleberry J. Butchmeup were honest with himself? Even more, don't you wish that honesty included Trey ("Benghazi") Gowdy?

4. That the snacks had run out at Malheur NWR and the Ammonites jamokes had started a Donner Party with each other?

5. That we had real multiparty parliamentary democracy at the national level?

Unfortunately, the April Fools yolks is on We the People.

1. The Republican Party still has an asinine campaign populated with asinine candidates.

2. The Democratic party is still beholden to establishmentarian hacks for whom every election day is Groundhog Day with the shadow of a mythical strawman version of George McGovern looming.

3. Huckleberry is still in his GOP burrow, having not entered the Log Cabin.

4. The Ammonites are fat and sassy, albeit jailed.

5. The so-called "cradle of democracy" isn't. It's more like the "baby-strangler of democracy."

March 31, 2016

Did #neoliberalism cause the fall of St. Louis?

So claims Brian Feldman, in a piece surprising in that he's a fellow of the New America Foundation, writing for Washington Monthly, both places that normally don't criticize deregulatory neoliberalism that much.

And, having lived in St. Louis off and on in a 15-year period from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, I can also say he's wrong in a number of ways, while also noting he may be right in a way he refused to discuss. You have to scroll to the bottom for that.

First, he's wrong about Jay Gould's early 1880s monopoly of the Eads Bridge hurting St. Louis vs. Chicago. Chicago had already passed St. Louis in population in the early 1870s. Why? The transcontinental railroad ran through it, not St. Louis. Add that to its Lake Michigan shoreline, and especially with the rise of refrigerated shipping, middle American agricultural goods could get to Europe faster and cheaper via Chicago. Besides that, I'll bet I can find a monopolized bridge on the Union Pacific line of that era.

Second, he's wrong about the Miller-Tydings Act not only from what I understand but from what Wikipedia says under retail price maintenance. The fact that it was itself a carve-out from the Sherman Antitrust Act undercuts his whole scenario that deregulation has always been bad for Middle America cities.

He then ignores why Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis, Indiana, and above all, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, have done better.

Third, it ignores that the city of St. Louis arguably shot itself in the foot by legally separating from St. Louis County. This was not just a physical and legal issue.

Beyond the geographic boundaries, the city-county separation was psychological, for one thing. Kansas City had the option of doing the same and rejected it.

Fourth, other commenters there have good points about the freeways, about white flight issues which reflect St. Louis as a quasi-Southern city that, unlike Atlanta, didn't reinvent itself, and about specifics of development patterns, like building downtown too close to the river.

It also ignores the destructive effect that interstates had on St. Louis. Having build its downtown next to the riverfront, it saw the I-55/70 "canyon" separate the riverfront from downtown even as planning for the Arch was starting. It's a scar that still hasn't been fixed, in part because civic leaders took years and years to recognize it was a scar.

Between that and what I said above about Minneapolis etc., and the self-contradictions that undercuts the author's thesis (and I lived in St. Louis myself, 20-some years ago) no, St. Louis probably needs to look at itself more.

I can think of yet other issues, too. The ad agencies stuff? D'Arcy and Gardner could have decided to get bigger themselves. Find a white knight. Whatever.

The Square founders moving? Maybe St. Louis was too conservative or too dull. Maybe it lacked ethnic diversity outside of black-white — because it does. Again, some Midwestern cities, like MSP, are ahead of it on things like this.

The lost Fortune 500 companies? Not all were so retail related. General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas (disclosure: a relative works there) are both war-related. And GD wasn't acquired, it simply moved.

And, I wouldn't be the first person to say so, while I also wouldn't be the first person you expect, but not all neoliberal deregulation has been an unmixed evil. Airline deregulation did make flying more affordable.

So, no, I'm not buying Brian's thesis, and I"m well to the left of him politically, I'm sure.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the civic pride. I loved St. Louis when I lived there, and sadly saw a certain amount of his decline. But a fair chunk of its problems are self-inflicted.

Others? As other commenters noted, they're not due to deregulation, but free trade. St. Louis had its share of steel and other heavy industries at one time. And, of course, free trade is a hallmark of the neoliberal agenda, one conveniently ignored by Feldman.

Actually, no, not ignored. Deliberately rejected. In the extended-length kicker at the top, Feldman specifically rejects that idea.

And, I can show he's wrong.

In 1991, the New York Times wrote about multiple rounds of layoffs at "Mac," the Fenton Chrysler plant facing closure and more:
While it still has stable companies that employ thousands, like the Anheuser-Busch Companies, the Monsanto Company and Ralston Purina, and has a fast-growing health services field that has added 2,000 to 5,000 jobs annually since the mid-1980's, the metropolitan region still lost 17 percent of its manufacturing jobs in the 1980's, nearly triple the national loss. 
And this:
In 1979, more than 70,000 people were employed making cars here; one-third of those jobs disappeared in the next five years. By this spring, economists expect the number to be about 36,000.
"Free" trade produced plenty of job losses there.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch returned to this issue nearly 20 years later:
Between 1980 and 2005, St. Louis was one of 12 metropolitan areas that lost their status as "strongly specialized" in manufacturing. In plain English, that means we once had a higher concentration of factory jobs than the nation as a whole, and we now have a lower concentration. The U.S. lost 24 percent of its manufacturing jobs during the quarter-century that the study covers; St. Louis lost 34 percent.
There you go. 

But, people who go to Wash U, as it's known in St. Louis, are the type of people who normally only worry about the creative class, not the laboring class. In short, Feldman is seeing a select childhood slice of his city of origin through rose-colored glasses.

I saw the piece via Doug Henwood, who may not know St. Louis well enough to know the problems with the piece.

March 30, 2016

#Fracking can threaten dams

Latest evidence on that end?

The Army Corps of Engineers, never noted for its environmental friendliness, wants to ban fracking within 4,000 feet of the dam for Joe Pool Lake in suburban Dallas. It also wants to ban fracking injection wells within 5 miles.

And, now, the Texas Railroad Commission is up in a dander. The state's oil and gas regulator claims the Corps is usurping its rights. The Corps is making some nice-sounding noises, but sounds like it has a bottom line to which it will stick.

Give that a new map from the U.S. Geological Survey has shown that, if manmade factors are included, Dallas' earthquake risk has increased tenfold, it's probably got good scientific ground for that. (Per map: At least Big D isn't Ok City!)

But, the RRC, which still refuses to admit fracking, specifically injection wells, can cause quakes, has like a lot of GOP-dominated state agencies, always proved its unfriendliness to science that questions its best plutocratic instances. Plus, the Corps is "the feds." (Except when a Texas city or suburb wants channelization help because — usually because channelization elsewhere has increased the likelihood of flooding downstream.)

I'm not sure exactly how this will turn out other than a court battle where once again, the state of Texas is likely to lose to the federal government and waste both more state taxpayer money, and on the other side, more federal taxpayer money, while losing.

And, I "love" the Starlegram, in the first link, talking about the RRC and the Corps finding "reasonable ways" to settle this. Last time I checked, I thought Fort Worth was in Texas. The Startlegram knows better about the RRC.

And, in all of this, the Corps, while not environmentalists, DOES know dams.

And, since Joe Pool is also used for drinking water, let's add this. A new Stanford study has confirmed that fracking fluids can contaminate drinking water systems.

March 28, 2016

TX Progressives look at ongoing primary season, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance is sad that Kansas isn't headed to Houston for the Final Four as it brings you this week's roundup. (Sad for all the missed comedy opportunities, of course.)

Off the Kuff would really like to see some general election polling of Texas soon.

Libby Shaw exposes how the Republican Party cleverly foments fear and outrage among Christian fundamentalists for the sole purpose of winning. How the GOP Foments Outrage and Fear Among Christian Fundamentalist Voters.

SocraticGadfly takes a deep look at the problematic background and connections of Tulsi Gabbard, the Congresswoman and former Democratic National Committee vice-chair who resigned the DNC spot to endorse Bernie Sanders.

Dan Patrick touts xenophobic, racist memes at the border while forgetting about community building trade.  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes Patrick is a Republican and that's what they stand for nowadays.

Hillary Clinton is eager to get her war on, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs really doesn't want to go down this road again: war protests, war criminals, torture, disabled vets who can't get their VA benefits handled properly, etc. and so on.

Neil at All People Have Value encountered a Donald Trump window sticker on his travels around Houston. APHV is part of


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

The TSTA Blog highlights a rural school district that is trying to hang on.

Better Texas Blog celebrates the 6th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.

The Texas Campaign for the Environment advocates for a Zero Waste plan for Houston.

Paradise in Hell asks the tough questions about Ag Commissioner Sid Miller.

The Current reminds us that SBOE candidate Mary Lou Bruner is still deranged.

Austin On Your Feet lists nine barriers to building housing in Austin's central city.

Prairie Weather looks at the Democrats' ongoing fear over the spectre of George McGovern.

Zachary Taylor is on the anybody-but-Clinton train.

Grits for Breakfast looks at both what's true and not so true about Taser's projections for its fiscal future and where incarceration grew the most in the past few decades — rural counties, while also examining the issues behind the state's annual warrant roundup.