February 18, 2017

Two Pinocchios for MSM oversimplified "narratives" giving Trump ammo

Yes, it's true, as NBC reported, and the Washington Post last fall trotted out with its four Pinocchios, and that Politifact scored as "mostly false" when President Trump made a similar claim at that time, that Hillary Clinton didn't give Russia 20 percent of American uranium.

But, in the MSM's attempt to nail Trump's hide to its wall, it's engaging in oversimplified narratives.

The reality, as also portrayed in the MSM, namely the New York Times, is a bit more complex.

First, it's nit-picking, IMO, to call out Trump for not distinguishing between 20 percent of uranium and 20 percent of uranium capacity, which is what Uranium One, the company now majority-owned by the Russian government, actually got.

Second, no, the State Department — then led by Hillary Clinton, of course — wasn't the only federal agency that had to sign off on the deal.

Third, promises made related to the deal have been broken since then.

Fourth, Uranium One agents have donated to the Clinton Foundation since the deal was approved.

Fifth, the idea that this particular deal wouldn't have been brought to the attention of the leaders of the nine federal agencies involved challenges credulity.

Whether the Rosatom deal is as of as much concern as some national security analysts claim may be debatable. (Whether it shows the venality and the "is"-type lying of the Clinton Foundation and its principals is another issue.) But, let's debate it without playing "gotcha" on every Trump statement. There are enough where that can be legitimately done without stretching narratives.

So, we're dividing those four Pinocchios in half. Two for Trump, two for the MSM.

Beyond that, over at Puff Hoes, Jason Linkins offers more examples — above all, the use of the National Guard to round up Ill Eaglez — on how the MSM must correctly dot i's and cross t's with Team Trump.

February 17, 2017

Don't get sheepdogged by Bernie's new book — or his legacy spinoff

The following is based on my Goodreads review of Bernie Sanders' book about last year's campaign and beyond, including some presidential campaign staffers of his attempting to either do a Progressive Democrats-type reformation, or a non-Green third party, showing again just what Sanders himself — and his most loyal Berniecrats — think of real reform.

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe inOur Revolution: A Future to Believe in by Bernie Sanders
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Don't get sheepdogged

There are several problems with this book.

One is that Bernie's a real Democrat, and has been a real Democrat for 25 years, despite the "I" that comes after his name on paper on a ballot line. I've blogged about this more than once. Basically, starting with his first re-election run for his House seat, he made a deal with the Vermont Democratic Party. He'd stay in touch — close touch — and the party would keep the field clear of Democratic opponents. He did and it did.

And, he'll never tell you that. Nor does he support true independent or third-party options in general. There's no index, but I can tell you that you won't find a phrase like "Green Party" in this book. Besides, his willingness to tarpaper over the Democratic shithouse right after he folded his primary cards should tell you something.

Second is that, speaking of that, this book is all about domestic issues. Yes, ALL. Every chapter is about a domestic issue. Those are generally important issues, but, they're not the only issues.

And, some foreign policy issues spill onto the home front. Terrorism and trade are big ones, even if domestic automation of jobs has become as much a problem, if not more, than unfair versions of "free trade."

So, why is this a one-sided book, other than that kind of spins off of Bernie's one-note trumpet in the campaign?

Why? Yes, he voted against the Iraq War. So did other Democrats, even if they were a minority in the Senate. (Full details: 40 percent of Senate Dems voted against the Iraq War; 60 percent of House Dems voted no. Sanders was still in the House at the time.) That said, Bernie in general, and the duopoly in general, have supported most American imperialism and American interventionism. Bernie's no real friend of the Palestinians, for example, just like national Democrats in general. And, some of us know that. And we know that if he wrote enough about foreign policy, he eventually couldn't hide that. (Jeff St. Clair of Counterpunch, in a brief interview with Ken Silverstein, has more on the skinny of the reality of Bernie on foreign policy.)

In other words, just as Bernie only mentioned coups under Republican presidents in his second Democratic primary debate with Hillary Clinton, and ignored Kennedy against Diem in Vietnam and Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, not to mention Obama-Clinton in Honduras, he had no desire to shine a light on his party line on most foreign policy.

That, in turn, is because Bernie likes sucking on the military teat. And kind of a warhawk in general, just less of one than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

The problem is that warhawkery, American imperialism, and American exceptionalism are attitudes that don't stay on the foreign policy side of some mythical wall of separation.

Third is that, contra most 1 and 2 star reviews, while he called himself a "social democrat," he's not an actual socialist. But, for all his old curmudgeonliness, Bernie may have had his campaign test-drive the phrase "social democrat."

Fourth is that this is not a well-written book. It's the print version of Bernie's one-note trumpet, which eventually does become tiresome. And, as noted above, it was a quick-enough knockoff that there's no index.

The "Our Revolution" organization, at least from what I can see at the state level in my state, appears to be targeting entirely Dems on the left hand of the state Democratic party. There's two different links that teh Google brings up for Texas. Both are pretty meh on no "about" info; the national organization does list staff and board. Nina Turner is the most "left" there, but she, along with Jim Hightower, have kept their bread buttered with Democratic margarine only.

Let's look at the full board as at this third link. I've already mentioned Turner, the Ohio state senator.

  • Ben Jealous is former NAACP chair; the NAACP isn't leaving the duopoly.
  • Deborah Parker is a Berniecrat who served on the DNC's Platform Committee.
  • Jim Hightower may be a left-liberal, but he's never endorsed a Texas Green candidate at the state level in his life.
  • Jim Zogby? Mainstreamer.
  • Huck Gutman? A former Bernie chief of staff knows the duopoly score.
  • Jane Kleeb? Chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party. Her rural activism has been inside the left wing of the duopoly.
  • Lucy Flores? Youth and minority appeal, but still inside the duopoly.
  • Larry Cohen? Good union leader. But, has he ever even threatened to have the CWA not endorse a Democrat, let alone endorse a Green? Doubt it.
  • Catalina Velasquez gives Our Revolution a link to older activist groups.
  • Shailene Woodley is a woman who either doesn't understand feminism or else has a image based on bad interpretations of certain not-so-good types of feminism, per Time.

In other words, it appears, from that and from what I've heard about recruits for the Texas group, that Greens, Socialists, left-liberal independents need not apply. The book was written to further that; hence my headline.

Hence the header. (Combining points 1 and 2 above, in the one Dem debate, when Bernie discussed coups, he only mentioned Republican-sponsored ones. He ignored Diem in Vietnam, Hillary Clinton's coup against Honduras, and the semi-coup against Ukraine, for example.)

I don't like being lumped with disgruntled Hillbots and wingnuts, who make up all the 1- and 2-star reviews. But, Bernie could have done something different than he did from June on.

And, this past Sunday, Sanders again rejected the idea of stepping outside the Democratic party. Meanwhile, some of his staffers, either ignoring or dissing the Greens, are talking about starting a third party. Not needed. And, unless that third party is truly better than Greens, I won't give it the time of day.

One or more of those staffers, at this website, is stepping up the work to start a third party. Go troll them on Twitter.

And, speaking of Congressional staffers — a friendly reminder to don't get sheepdogged by the former Lloyd Doggett staffers of Team Indivisible, either.

Then, things like "Revolution Road: A Bernie Bedtime Story" leads me to suspect dollar signs behind some of this.

Meanwhile, want to know what else I'm reading?



February 16, 2017

'Animals can't do X,' ethics division

Perhaps I'm overstating the opposition, but that's my takeaway from the most recent posting of philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci.

I'm not sure how strongly he holds that idea, but Dan Kaufmann, who joined him for one of their bloggingheads-type talks, does in spades.

The old idea that "animals can't do X" or "aren't X" or similar has its modern roots after 1859.

The first claim was that humans aren't animals subject to evolution by natural selection. Then along came the "Ascent of Man" in 1871, the first scientific claim to say, no they are.

The battle lines heated up in the second half of the 20th century, with research developments in neuroscience, the development of cognitive science as an interdisciplinary new discipline, and the articulation of evolutionary psychology. I have issues with all three, especially the last, but at the same time have stated that ev psych, when done right, already has things to teach us.

The lines of resistance against a mix of legitimate findings and provocative interpretations from these and related areas has also been sharply drawn, per the header.

Some of the claims:
1. Animals don't have consciousness;
2. Animals don't have a theory of other minds;
3. Animals don't have true emotions.

Have all had to be, at a minimum, modified. Humans still have a degree of consciousness, TOM, and non-instinctual emotions well beyond many other animals and a fair degree beyond even those closest in connection to us.

But is this merely a difference in degree, or a difference in kind?

On all three, at a minimum, I say it's halfway a difference of degree.

And, now comes the issue of ethics and morals?

My initial hot take is that it's at least possible that the difference between humans and other animals is 50 percent one of degree.

And, at a minimum, we don't need philosophers, or scientists with philosophical-type presuppositions, drawing Venn diagrams that have "human morals" and "animal pseudo-morals" in two totally non-overlapping circles.

I don't expect better versions of ev psych or neuroscience to give us 100 percent definite answers Nor do I expect them even to give us a lot of additional guidance in less than 40-50 years from now. But, at that or some other future point, I do expect that additional guidance on empirical information and how to think about these issues to start emerging.

February 15, 2017

Bannon has the long knives out for Priebus, aka Rinse Penis, next?

A shout-out to friend Brains and Eggs for the best nickname for Trump's chief of staff.

That said, how much longer will Reince Priebus BE Trump's chief of staff?

Vox has a good take on a Brietbart piece that indicates if White House special advisor Steve Bannon has his way, maybe not a lot longer.

The first thing to remember is, of course, that Breitbart is Bannon's old stomping grounds. With that in mind, note that three anonymous sources talked to Breitbart. (Sidebar: the MSM-like use of anonymous sources, whether at Breitbart or at Talking Points Memo, is one of the most laughable reminders of the lie of how Gnu Media was going to transform old media.)

One of the leakers is, I'll give even odds, Stephen Miller, with leak talking points from Bannon himself.

That said, who is Bannon?

My quick take on what I've read of him so far and seen of him so far is that he is some mix of Robert Bork and H.R. Haldeman.

In other words, he's a mix of an ideologue in some ways outside of conventional political conservativism and a hatchet man and political infighter with skills.

And, the actual Breitbart piece reflects the Borkian mindset half, with Obama holdovers called "sleeper cells."

Other parts? How can Speaker Paul Ryan push through a Trump infrastructure plan when he's written out nothing, zip, zilch, nada, about its details? More on Trump's lack of specific policy and legislative directions here.

But, it's not just Breitbart. As The Atlantic notes, people like longtime GOP goon Roger Stone are talking on the record. The Atlantic says Bannon called the piece "absurd" in an email. But, a skilled infighter would do something like that in a situation like this. It's also interesting that Sean Spicer gets at least some degree of "grooming" treatment. Is he at the top of the list of replacement names?

That said, if Bannon's right that Priebus is the best White House liaison with Congress, imagine if he were canned. Breitbart, if it wanted actual news stories, could cue up months of bemoaning Ryan not pushing Trump's agenda because we still wouldn't have any of it written down.

Why doesn't the Constitution Party try to get on the Texas ballot?

After blogging last week about how a few Texas Legiscritters would like to (unconstitutionally) make it even harder for third parties to get on the ballot, I started thinking further, based in party on my personal experience of signing Green Party ballot access petitions.

Why doesn't the Constitution Party try to do the same?

Yes, the Libertarian Party is already here, but, for people of the wingnut persuasion whose main problem with the Texas GOP is social/religious, not too many regulations, the Libertarians do you no good.

The Constitution Party, which really should rename itself the Religious Right Party, is who you want if you're such a person.

But, having lived for nearly a decade in or around the Metroplex, and again, having signed ballot access petitions, and even briefly having called on other people to sign them, one year, I never, ever, saw a Constitution Party drive at a mall, mini-mall, plaza, etc.

February 14, 2017

Alex Reyes, down for the count? Or not? And the #Cardinals? (updated)

The Great Red Satan reports that Cardinals phenom pitcher Alex Reyes has a partial tear in an elbow ligament, and is likely to need to be Tommy Johnned. St. Louis' newspaper of record earlier reported the MRI, but as of that time, did not have a team leaker reporting the URL tear. Per the Post-Dispatch piece, Reyes' MRI results weren't scheduled for interpretation and release until tonight, which may give further insight into the value, or not, of ESPN's piece. On the other hand, Jeff Passan is Tweeting about "significant concern" inside the team about a TJ. And, should it turn out to be true, this wouldn't be the first time in the past few years the P-D's Cards beat has either not gotten an inside tip or else has not deemed it worthy of being part of the story; almost certainly, the former has been the case all times.

As it turns out, a Craig Mish of Sirius XM Radio was breaking this at noon Thursday:
Given that he's connected with Jim Bowden, as noted elsewhere on his Twitter feed, we know how ESPN found out.

That said, would it be a surprise, if Mish is right?

(Update, Feb. 15: It's right. Per Red Satan, the team has announced Reyes will have surgery. At the PD, Derrick Gould has more on surgery details. With the tear being complete, I'd lean more to the long end of the 12-18 month recovery period.)

Reyes did the same platelet injection technique in 2013 as Yankees top gun Masahiro Tanaka did in 2014. So far, it's helped Tanaka avoid the knife. That said, he was 25 when he had his treatment and Reyes only 19. At the same time, with this updated news, and this being Tanaka's last year before the option clause in his contract, he now has to debate his options.

Per bits and pieces gathered elsewhere, a TJ for someone with under 200 major league innings like Reyes is, if not a death sentence, the metaphorical equivalent of 20 years in the stir. Let's hope that's not Alex's reality. Yes, the surgical procedure has continued to get better, but it's still not a guarantee. Ben Frederickson has more.

Are the Birds also down for the count?

I'd say not.

All the word is good so far on Lance Lynn's return.

That would give the Cards a starting rotation of (hypothetically)
1. Carlos Martinez
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Lynn
4. Mike Leake
5. A host of options, including Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver, and even (as he's wanted that for some time) Trevor Rosenthal. Wacha has the experience, Rosenthal has the desire, and may have better stuff, and Weaver had the call-up last year before Reyes. Marco Gonzales is also out there with two years of experience and recovery last year from his own TJ.

It's funny how other sites talking about Reyes' exam and possible injury aren't mentioning Rosenthal. I think he is probably getting in the mindset of "stretching out" as much as possible. He's got the hunger, and next year is his last arbitration year. His wallet would love a spot in the rotation.

That said, the Cards have just three off days in April, so there's not a lot of rotation stretching they can do.

As for the longer term? There, it could be a hit for the team indeed. This is Lynn's walk year. Wacha's long-term durability is still unknown. Waino isn't getting any younger. With leverage, if he does bounce back well, I expect Lynn to have a big ask, like 6/$125 with an opt-out after three years.

This, and the Cardinals' overall wallet size, could also factor into Yadi's post-2017 future with the team.

TX Progressives examines #noban and #txlege

The Texas Progressive Alliance declares that the number of the counting shall be three (to zero) as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looked at the Congressional seats the DCCC says it will target in 2018.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos exposes the craven hypocrisy of Texas Senator John Cornyn.  No John Cornyn we did not overwhelm your offices because we are sore losers.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at a biennial Texas Legislature tradition — peddling seemingly unconstitutional bills. This year, silencing non-duopoly voters and other vote disenfranchisement is in the crosshairs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme heard Stephen Miller and Jason Chaffetz. Texas Republicans, like the Trump apparatchiks and GOP operatives in other legislative bodies, are going after voting rights with a vengeance.

Three years, eleventh months, and one more week just like the past three, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value posted a picture he took of diverse and excellent citizens of Houston protesting against Trump's travel ban. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

==================

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

Lone Star Ma calls on us to make contacting our elected officials part of a daily routine.

Therese Odell rounds up the anti-Trump Super Bowl highlights.

The TSTA Blog explains how the Senate budget cuts funding for schools.

Texans Together offers some practical advice for contacting your elected officials.

Bakeyah Nelson implores Ben Carson to "first do no harm" at HUD.

Cort McMurray's heart goes out to poor John Cornyn for having to deal with all those pesky constituents

February 13, 2017

Why New Mexico sucks — wingnut denialism, in part

First, it does suck, and it's not going in the right direction. Residents admit that.

But, per another Albuquerque Journal piece, many of the same residents refuse to admit that
1. The Great Recession is over;
2. NM has been governed by a Republican gov the last six years;
3. The GOP has had partial control of the NM state legislature during part of that time. (The previous session of the House was Republican, and the first session of the Senate in her first term was controlled by a coalition of Republicans and select Democrats, per Wikipedia.)

In other words, Gov. Susana Martinez, in her first six years, had either one side of the Roundhouse or the other in her corner four of six years. And, during her first term, she got at least some Senate Dems in her corner the first two years. (The coalition was a carryover from the last Senate session under her gubernatorial predecessor, Big Bill Richardson.)

When Martinez is being called a RINO, you know the river Denial is running deeper, especially in red-state areas south of Duke City, than is the Rio Grande. And, per the previous paragraph, no, wingnuts, not all Democratic legiscritters were "librulz" determined to oppose her agenda.

Said RINO-type commenters also refuse to admit:
1. Gary Johnson, for all his controversies, was able to work better with the Lege than Martinez;
2. For whatever reasons, people who elect GOP govs in the Land of dis-Enchantment won't elect GOP legiscritters on a regular basis.
3. Voters appear to have gotten more tired of the GOP again.
4. Martinez is certainly NOT a RINO.

Indeed, if one looks at her record, she's stolen a page or two from the Sam Brownback book. And, on jobs creation, been even worse than him in Kansas.

The problem is that many Dems still have no cojones to stand up to her more, or to take the bit in their mouths on other issues.

You can't totally blame oil and gas. The Permian is cheaper to frack than many other parts of the country, and New Mexico has added four rigs each of the last two weeks, according to Baker Hughes. And, the industry is claiming this will boost "low-tech" jobs and the state should help them out on this.

As for the state being overly reliant on federal dollars, as claimed in the second link? It's true. The state is eighth in percentage of state revenue coming from the feds versus how much it pays out in federal taxes; it's also second in percentage of resident income coming from federal support. It's also a state with a high percentage of federal employees.

Speaking of, from that second link, this is funny, hypocritcal, or a bit of both:
“The fact is our state is way too reliant on federal dollars – has been for over a century,” said Michael Lonergan, the governor’s spokesman. “Because of that, not only did we get hit with the national recession, but we took a second blow with federal budget cuts (commonly referred to as sequestration) and a dysfunctional Washington. That put us behind almost every state. To make problems worse, we just saw one of the steepest crashes in the oil and gas industry – another sector we’ve been reliant on for decades. 
Lonergan said the governor has championed tax cuts and job training, adding, “We can no longer rely on Washington congressional leadership. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we continue to grow our private sector and help small businesses grow.”
So, lemme see; the GOP took over the federal House at the same time Martinez became governor. That takeover included a then-freshman Congresscritter from New Mexico called Steve Pearce, who supported the sequestration the House GOP rammed through and Dear Leader surrendered to.

Second, many of those federal dollars are high-tech and well-paying. Do you really want to write off the Los Alamos and Sandia labs? (Let's not forget that Dear Leader's updating of nukes certainly helped those labs.)

Further note to Lonergan: Utah's also pretty reliant on federal dollars, with all those national parks. New Mexico has probably done a less-than-stellar job of marketing, including working on getting tourists to venture very far outside the Albuquerque-Santa Fe-Taos corridor. This has been a long-standing issue under governors of both parties.

Take the greater Ruidoso area. Yes, Texans hit the slopes at Ski Apache if they don't do Angel Fire. Other than that? Smokey Bear gets minimal promotion.

Or, the Glenwood-Silver City area? (I remember the worries about Silver City being "discovered." I'm betting they wish they had that worry now.)

And "New Mexico True" as a marketing slogan? Maybe it works inside the state, but I find its appeal to non-residents is minimal.

As for crime rate? It's actually been in the bottom 10 consistently since the early 1980s, other than improving modestly when Big Bill was in office. It was not great before then, but it was at least like it was in Richardson's time. Maybe we should blame St. Ronald of Reagan, wingnuts.

That said, high school graduation rates have actually improved since Martinez took office.

That said, one can probably fault both parties for not creating a true rainy-day fund. The state's permanent fund isn't THAT sound.

==

This is not coming from a total outsider.

I grew up in Gallup. The first weekly newspaper where I was an editor was in Hobbs.

My one brother still lives in Farmington. My sister and her family lived once at the west end of the Oklahoma Panhandle, far enough out to shop in Clayton. (Why not Dalhart, I don't know.) They later lived in Albuquerque.

February 12, 2017

#txlege looks at punishing "faithless electors," and also at blocking third parties

Ballot Access News has the details.

My take, as expanded from a comment there.

They're all unconstitutional, all four bills. Article II, Section 2, Clause 3, as amended by the Twelfth Amendment, specifies that electors shall do certain things. Otherwise, the idea of the founders (pardon me for sounding like an originalist) seems to be that electors should otherwise be "unbound." Yes, that was before the rise of political parties, and the myth that the founders had no reason to anticipate such.

Now, in my opinion, HB 771 and HB 1391 point the way to something that might be constitutional. That is if a state political party requires an elector to sign an agreement to remain faithful on pain of removal from service.

As compared to criminal law, certainly, and even compared to fines, unconstitutionality doesn't carry the same weight in torts, as far as I can tell based on my high-level for a layperson knowledge of criminal law and medium-level knowledge of civil standards. But, requiring a political party to undertake a certain action related to the electoral college might itself be iffy, which the latter two bills still do.

So, the latter two bills point the way toward suggested, or possible, or constitutionally viable, action.

And, unfortunately, we've still not had a so-called "faithless elector" in a state that has some sort of punishments for them pursue legal remedies to the Supreme Court to get a final determination on the constitutionality.

==

Update, Feb. 12: More voting-related unconstitutionality now being peddled in the Lege, to force registration by party, then block party-registered voters from signing access petitions for independents or, especially, for third parties.. Rethugs will certainly support it in the hopes Libertarians can be held below the 5 percent margin in state races and the Constitution Party would never be able to get the signatures necessary for ballot access. Now that Dems successfully recruited a state Criminal Court of Appeals candidate last year to block Greens' 5 percent push, I'm sure they'd back it too. But, it's all unconstitutional.

Texas is already one of the most independent-unfriendly and third-party unfriendly states in the country. We don't need more.