SocraticGadfly: 4/16/17 - 4/23/17

April 22, 2017

#EarthDay 2017 — how much hope?

Pinkladies ultrawide 2

Here we are at another Earth Day. Looking at the nice pretty flowers isn't good enough.

Little was known about details of anthropogenic climate change in 1970 at the first Earth Day. Plenty is known now.

We know that we're already halfway to the 2°C temperature rise beyond which things are deemed, if not fully unacceptable, at least somewhat so. We also know that in all likelihood, we're going to bust that by 2100, and there's a shot we bust 3°C. We also know that the UNPCC's estimates on climate change run from somewhat conservative to quite conservative.

These glaciers in Glacier National Park, behind Many Glacier Lodge:

Glacier - Many Glacier - lodge at sunset

Are almost certainly doomed by 2050.

And, this glacier at Canada's Jasper National Park (yes, you can walk out on it!)

Jasper - Athabasca Glacier - me on it 2

is probably gone by 2100; at a minimum, the portion below the crest in the photo is gone by or before then. (And, the center of this glacial system, in Jasper and Banff national parks in Canada, feeds the North and South Saskatchewan river systems, among others, on the Atlantic side, and the Columbia on the Pacific side.)

But, there are many things — glaciers, polar ice, flora, fauna, and more — that we can save.

But, we need to realize some things.

"The market" won't do it, because it thinks short term, as does instinctual human nature. Carbon cap and trade schemes in the European Union have already shown it.

Only a carbon tax, by an economy as big as the US, the united EU, or China, when combined with a carbon tariff to force everybody on the same page, can do it.

We can't stop 2°C. Only a carbon tax + tariff gives us a puncher's chance of stopping 3°C.

And, as I've written before, this carbon tax cannot be fully redistributed back to the public with rebates or similar. It must have teeth enough to force changes in behavior. And, readers should be skeptical of corporate carbon tax proposals like eXXXon's.

April 21, 2017

Facts, allegations and strawmen on Syria

Bashar al-Assad
As the dispute continues over who was behind a sarin attack earlier this month, what form that attack took and more, and as I've gotten more involved with some question-answering on Quora, all three of the items in the header are coming into play.

There's three — and only three — incontrovertible facts related to this issue at the most macro level, although surely there's many lower-level facts we could state. Those three biggies are:

1. Syria is in a civil war;
2. One or more parties in that war have used sarin on one or more occasion.
3. Identifying a "signature" for a particular sample of sarin in order to trace its origin is pretty damned hard.

With that, let's get to those allegations and strawmen.

Allegations, or assertions?
1. That Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been behind all sarin attacks.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Reality on this? Obama's "red line" attack of 2013 was very likely done by rebels, rebels backed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It took a couple of weeks for this to start being questioned, a couple of months for good evidence, and deduction from it, to weigh against the "Assad did it" line, and several months for that all to be pieced together to point a fairly solid finger toward somebody else. See this recent post of mine for details. See also the link at Fact No. 3.

1. Claiming that it's likely Erdogan did it is the same as "he did it," on the 2013 incident. I've tried to be careful on that, although I have occasionally slipped, I'm sure.

Allegation or assertion
2. That on the attack earlier this month, "this time," "we" (whoever "we" is) have the goods on Assad.

2. Claiming that offering multiple different possible objections to that is weaker than offering one objection. (It's not; try learning modern logic.) Claiming that "we" have the goods on Assad when that was exactly what was what was claimed after that 2013 Ghouta attack, per my blog post linked above. Or, per Atlantic, the UN itself backtracking after a May 2013 attack.

Assertion or allegation
3. Claiming that raising objections to "Assad did it" is defending Assad.

Actually, of course, that is ...

4. Claiming that raising objections to "Assad did it" is defending Assad.

Assertion or allegation
4. Claiming that attacking those raised objections to "Assad did it" is not acting as defense for all the various rebel units.

Actually, of course, that is ...

4. Claiming that attacking those raised objections to "Assad did it" is not acting as defense for all the various rebel units.

Assertion or allegation
5. Assad has used chlorine, barrel bombs, torture, and more as well as sarin.

5. The unspoken (and highly untrue) idea that ONLY Assad has done all this.*

Assertion or allegation
6. It's sarin, so it had to have been Assad.

6. Independent actors can't make sarin. In reality, also per SciAm, like the issue on the difficulty of tracing a sarin signature, it's not that hard.

Assertion or allegation
7. The rebels have managed to take control of the majority of Syria and inflict major losses on Assad's force while causing minimal civilian casualties.

7. This is of course a strawman to booster the "purity" of at least some rebels in the hopes that this will pass ill-informed Americans' smell test. Mondoweiss crushes it. Via Mondoweiss, N+1 has more detail on how there have been mistakes galore, starting with Assad but about equally by the fractious oppositions, that have led to today's point.

Assertion or allegation
8. That one can talk about how bad Assad is while ignoring the issue of, "if he's that bad, then don't we need to take him out"?

8. Such questions and issues don't exist in vacuums — despite at least one person on Quora trying to pretend they do.
8A. Presumes Assad is the worst option to rule Syria that's currently out there and reasonably attainable.

Assertion or allegation
9. That, on the issue of "cui bono," Assad benefits from launching such attacks more than anybody else.

9. Making that claim without analyzing other actors, as I did with Erdogan.

Assertion or allegation
10. That you have to have followed the Syrian Civil War 24/7 for six years.

10. That if you haven't, you're an uninformed idiot, who needs to defer to smug, asserted national-security establishment defenders.

Assertion or allegation
11. (Tacit, from No. 8) Really, air strikes can take him out, just like Libya.

11. The idea that this will work; the idea that this will put someone better in his place. (See "Libya" and "slave markets therein.")

Assertion or allegation
12. (Tacit, from No. 8) That, if we do take him out, we'll have somebody better lined up, and this will be easy. Also tacit from No. 8 — that "we" have learned from Libya or Iraq.

12. The idea that President Donald Trump and his national security establishment could do anything that sane.

The real issue here?

Are neocons, on one side of the coin, and liberal hawk interventionists, on the other side of the same warhawk coin, hoping they can manipulate a mercurial President Trump into a greater degree of intervention?

Survey says yes.

Anyway, when presented with these strawmen, whether tacit or spoken, demand that the hawks put up or shut up on what they actually want to do with Assad and how.

* This also ignores that if barrel bombs are terror weapons, then Israel and the US (shock me) are the first terrorist nations to use them. (That said, I have no good evidence that Syria's army wasn't first on this.)


Update, July 2: We have even more reason to slow-walk Syria after Trump's lies about Khan Sheikhoun, as reported by Sy Hersh.

And, beyond strawmen, I haven't even mentioned the PR lies of the White Helmets on behalf of the ISIS that President Obama funded.

April 20, 2017

French and British election #schadenfreude hopes

Prime Minister Theresa May
Now that Jeremy Corbin has once again (shock me) not listened to people inside his own party and British Prime Minister Theresa May's call for a snap election has been approved by Parliament,* it's time for some schadenfreude!

* In case you're wondering, as was I, the "Fixed-Term Parliaments Act" was passed in 2011; it was sponsored by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and was one of the stipulations to enter coalition with David Cameron and his Tories. Conservatives plus Labour had more than a two-thirds majority in the Commons, preventing the Lib Dems or Scottish Nationalists from playing spoiler on the dissolution vote.

OK, on to our schadenfreude, British division.

The most fun would be if the SNP mops up all remaining votes in Scotland whilst (hey, we're writing about British elections, so, British English!) the Lib Dems have a surge big enough to knock the Tories off the majority and also to ding Labour at the same time.

The LDP says it already has at least 400 candidates lined up. Obviously, it's not taken May at her word.

That said, LDP leader Tim Farron is a nutter. (Still British English!) Specifically, a nutter enough to think the European Union will agree to a "soft Brexit" if he's in No. 10 Downing.

To quote US President George H.W. Bush, as portrayed by Dana Carvey? Not. Gonna. Happen.

That said, if Farron can sell enough others into thinking it will happen, the LDP might just win enough seats to knock May off her slim five-seat majority. Per Wiki, here's the current makeup of the Commons; see also graphic at left.

Let's say Farron gets 30 new seats, a net plus-8 from the Tories and a net plus-22 from Labour.

That means May has to coalition with somebody, which undercuts why she called the election.

What next?

First, May gets bounced as party leader. That's obvious. Second, the Tories scramble to find a "soft Brexiter" as new party leader.

Third, a loss of 22 seats should be enough for the Labour central committee to finally turf Jeremy Corbin as its party leader, no matter the degree of his hard-line union support. "Should be" is not "will," though.

Odds? Oh, about 40 percent, if I were a British punter.

Let me give you option B.

Ferron gets 40 new seats, but its plus 30 from the Tories and plus 10 from Labour. Labour loses all remaining seats in Scotland to the SNP. At the same time, it gains enough elsewhere, laughable as that sounds, to help the LDP knock Labour 35 seats short of a majority.

Now, the Tories need a third coalition partner along with the Lib Dems. Or else, Labour needs everybody but the Tories.

If you're British, or a good American Brit-watcher, you know neither happens.

Hung parliament.

Odds? Oh, about 2 percent, if I were a British punter.


That was schadenfreude No. 1.

Marine Le Pen
Off across the Channel to No. 2 — Saturday's French presidential election.

This could be even more fun.

This one is looking bunched ever and ever tighter. And here would be the most fun.

The top two emerge as Marlez-vous Francais and ...

Jean-Luc Mélenchon!

Quelle horreur, to parlez-vous Francais!

A far-right nationalist vs. a Communist!

That said, in reality, Mélenchon is more a Socialist than a Communist, or at least, what Americans think Communists are. But, versus former Socialist, and fake socialist investment banker Emmanuel Macron, and even versus actual Socialist Party member Benoît Hamon, he's a real far-left Socialist.

National Front was doused in the second round in 2002 after making the cutoff, and fell short in both 2007 and 2012, so a dead dog could probably beat her in Round 2 if she makes it. Still, the contrast would be fun; and it would be

April 18, 2017

TX Progressives salute spring, wait for Trump tax returns with poetry, round up #txlege

The Texas Progressive Alliance has nothing to hide in its tax returns as it brings you this week's roundup, while encouraging you to enjoy spring flowers that are still around.

Pinkladies ultrawide 2

Off the Kuff contemplates a contested Democratic primary for the Senate in 2018.

SocraticGadfly, with apology and hat tip to T.S. Eliot, offers up some snarky Trump poetry.

The Texas House will give a committee hearing to their version of the 'bathroom bill' this week, in a nod — or something more — to the concerns of rural and exurban members, representatives of those Texans least likely to encounter a transgendered person anywhere, much less a public restroom. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wishes tolerance and love was something taught in the state's churches on Easter.

Neil at All People Have Value attended the great big Houston march and rally to demand that Trump release his taxes. We must oppose Trump each day. APHV is part of

Lewisville Texan Journal notes that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has approved Farmer's Branch expanding its landfill.

John Coby attends a Bay Area Democratic Resistance Movement meeting and reports back that he likes what he saw.


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

The Texas Election Law Blog sums up the latest voter ID ruling.

Gerry Hebert and Danielle Lang do the same from their perspective as private plaintiffs' counsel in the lawsuit.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that retired educators need more than kind words and fond memories.

Raise Your Hand Texas highlights the dangers of special education vouchers.

Space City Weather documents our crazy warm winter.

The Lunch Tray eulogizes Dana Woldow, longtime advocate for better school food.

Cort McMurray laments the "Erasing Texas History Act".

Anastasia Hansen explains Houston's German heritage.

Scott Elliff imagines a future day at the county courthouse.

Texas Observer reports on Texas House conservaDems wanting to repeal the franchise tax.