SocraticGadfly: 5/21/17 - 5/28/17

May 26, 2017

GregAtLast discusses James Comey and Jill Stein

Just in time for your extended holiday weekend:

As for the unsympathetic Comey, here you go. You'll find further links off there. Here's one about how he and Trump are both unsympathetic, and per what Greg AtLast says, Comey buttered his bread with the Clinton Clusterfuck.

As for Jill and the Green Party and Bob Fitrakis? Again, here's the latest, and you'll find further links off that.

Or, I'll give you a few.

First, the election was not rigged, not in the way Stein, other AccommoGreens like Fitrakis and David Cobb, and Dem-friendly computer scientists claimed.

Second and third, because this piece has multiple points, the recount was Stein's, not the Green Party's, and it was partisan, no matter how much turd-polishing Stein and Contrails Bob do.

Fourth, it's things like this that, for people like me but no means limited to me, means that the Green Party is near the end of its tether — 2020 is a sort of make-or-break on national party organization, organization, professionalism and more of many of the state parties, candidate professionalism and more.

May 25, 2017

More Trump #hypocrisy — He owns #Mercedes cars built by the evil The Germans

The example at top comes from this Business Insider story.

The next, also a Mercedes, is one he surely still owns, as a 2015 model. It's at this site, which also has the Mercedes McLaren in the top photo, as does this site.

That said, today's comment about "the evil" Germans over all the cars they sell in the US isn't the first time he's shot his mouth off on this issue. He was talking about a tariff on German imports even before his inauguration.

But, this is another example of rich hypocrisy. Trump would pay a 35 percent tariff, ignore that Mercedes and BMW both have US factories, and claim to be protecting American jobs all at once. (That said, many of the Beemers are SUVs that are exported to Asia.)

#FakeNews, thy name is Associated Press

Mainstream media has caviled about so-called "fake news" for the last year or so.

Of course, there's a high level of hypocrisy here.

The New York Times ran Judith Miller's fake news, nay, PUSHED it, then, if that contribution to the Iraq War wasn't enough, it spiked for a full year a story about Bush's warrantless snooping, which helped him get re-elected. Not that John Kerry would have done much different on Iraq, and judging by Dear Leader four years later, wouldn't have done much different on spying on Americans.

(And, I haven't even covered the fake news that's increased on the Times' op-ed page with hiring Bret Stephens.)

And, earlier this year, after it decried "fake news," the Washington Post then Tweeted repeatedly for a third-party group called "Prop Or Not," which made the Democratic Party's, and Clintonistas', "Putin Did It" claims about the presidential election read as soberly as wallpaper drying compared to Prop Or Not's McCarthyism — McCarthyism which later turned up to have seeming connections to Ukrainian fascists.

And, now? Per that screenshot up top?

It's the good old Associated Press, with the screenshot coming from this story.

The issue of posting crap from a place like Taboola has become even more decried in the last year or so, even as "digital dimes" in the online ad world become ever more "mobile nickels." (Thanks, Dean Singleton, and the 1990s AP board of directors, who touted the "TV model" of the Internet while ignoring that pay TV channels like HBO had already existed for 15 years or more.) Indeed, Taboola itself is one of the worst of the "sponsored links" folks, and most the news, or "news," you'll find off those links is sketchy at best, skeezy at worst, and almost certainly native advertising in some way, shape or form.

But, that's not all.

AP is writing, and photographing, its own clickbait as well, as shown above.

If American media dies, it will be from self-strangulation in its own crib.

Doubling down on the wrongness of "class-only" warriors

By "class-only" warriors, I mean the likes of Adolph Reed, who pretty much claims that all issues of race, or nearly all, are ultimately reducible to issues of socioeconomic class. I mean the likes of Reed touter Doug Henwood, who ultimately blocked me on Twitter because of this.

I am building on an old post about Reed, where I take on his claim that New Mexico is one of the whitest states in the nation. It was part of a broader effort of his to largely diss Black Lives Matter.

The meat of that, relevant to this piece, follows.

A few months about, when discussing Black Lives Matter raising police brutality issues across the country, he responded rhetorically, wondering why police brutality was so high in New Mexico when it's one of the whitest states in the country, in his claim.
And, according to the Washington Post data, the states with the highest rates of police homicide per million of population are among the whitest in the country: New Mexico averages 6.71 police killings per million; Alaska 5.3 per million; South Dakota 4.69; Arizona and Wyoming 4.2, and Colorado 3.36. It could be possible that the high rates of police killings in those states are concentrated among their very small black populations—New Mexico 2.5%; Alaska 3.9%; South Dakota 1.9%; Arizona 4.6%, Wyoming 1.7%, and Colorado 4.5%.
No, I don't think that's playing "gotcha." Rather, I think it — and the whole piece — was Reed playing "gotcha" with Black Lives Matter activists. The first four states on the list all have high American Indian populations. New Mexico has a high Hispanic population and Arizona a medium one.

But, that's a sidebar. New Mexico, separating out Hispanics of any race, as the Census calls it, as a separate socio-ethnic group, has long been a majority-minority state. Even without doing that, it's STILL a full one-third non-white. It has about zero in common demographically with Wyoming. I'm using Wikipedia, even if some call it "lazy-ass." (I'm also using my personal knowledge of New Mexico.)

I tie it to this new piece from High Country News about American Indians' problems with police violence, and how a "Native Lives Matter" movement has struggled more than Black Lives Matter to gain traction.

First takeaway? This:
In the West, as in the rest of the nation, Native Americans are the racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement, at a rate three times higher than whites.
And, no, socioeconomic class didn't lead to Indian marginalization. Indian marginalization led to them being poor. Indian marginalization, not poverty, led to them being considered as having few rights.

That's simple. Or, it should be. 

Here's much of the "why":
Several factors contribute to that statistic, including the lack of mental health services (nearly half of the victims had histories of mental illness) and the often-strained relationship between Native Americans and non-native police. Many tribes are under the jurisdiction of nearby non-tribal authorities, leaving cities and counties struggling to come up with the additional policing resources. According to researchers at Claremont Graduate University, 83 percent of the deadly encounters between Native Americans and law enforcement involved non-tribal police.
That's somewhat similar, in urban areas, to most police actually living in suburbs.

American Indians live largely in rural areas, so their deaths at the hands of police get even less media attention than black deaths. Also, the fact that they make up a smaller portion of the population is a factor.

First, wishing that all racial problems ultimately reduced to class ones might be nice. But, if it's not true, it's not true. And, with blacks, as the mudsill movement shows, it's often not true. The resurgence of modern mudsills as part of Trump's backers shows that. Mudsills existed in the old South before it was heavily capitalized or industrialized. Yes, the "cavaliers" had a class, and looked down at "po whites." But that class, if based on economics at all, was based on land, not capital — unless one counts slaves as capital.

Now, per this interview with Reed, it's possible that identity politics CAN have a neoliberal bent. Yeah, and so can mercantilist trade policy. Neither one HAS TO be such, though. Reed also comes very close to making this into a zero-sum game. People who are concerned about racism — and racism against people of individual racism, not a blanket word game like Reed claims — and class issues as well could argue that Reed himself is playing into other hands.

Beyond that, I'm sure Reed as an academic knows that not only women, but LTBGQ people also face economic discrimination. Oh, I could probably dig up some twisted, quasi-Marxist class-based argument.

Or, I could just realize that society still has plenty of bigots.

I should add, per this Existential Comics issue, that it's "interesting," during the time I followed him on Twitter, that Henwood just about never, if at all, mentioned Frantz Fanon. I'm not sure Reed does a lot, either.

May 24, 2017

The blatant stupidies of Ross Douthat on literary classics

It’s been a long, long time since I wrote a column about the blatant stupidities of Ross Douthat.

But, after pointing out last week that he doesn’t actually seem to understand the 25th Amendment, I guess it’s time for another.

Per his take on Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which I had seen David Rieff Tweet, I have to wonder how well — or how poorly — he understands classics of literature that he cites, which of course has an impact on how credible his understanding of Atwood is.

He claims “1984” is about socialism. Well, no. I had Tweeted it was about communism, thinking instead of “Animal Farm.” Orwell’s “1984” is actually about neither. It’s about authoritarian government in general.  The governmental villian is, yes, called “English Socialism.” But, at the time of its publication in 1949, Attlee’s Labour Party had been in power four years. Orwell, per his own Wiki page, supported democratic socialism. (And, if you know much about Orwell, you don’t have to go to his Wiki page to know that.)

Old Rosty made that claim in saying that socialists need to read the book for disconfirmation.
In this sense, conservative Christians should approach “The Handmaid’s Tale” as something more than just a hate-read for the same reason that socialists should read “1984” or even “Atlas Shrugged” and techno-optimists “Fahrenheit 451” or “Brave New World.”
Ahh, but just as “1984” isn’t about socialism, the other two aren’t about “techno-optimism.”

Rosty does note that all are dystopian, but with neither of these is the dystopianism about failed techno-optimism. Rather, like “1984,” “Fahrenheit 451” is about censorship and thought control. It’s also, like “1984,” about the effects of mass media.

“Brave New World” also isn’t about technology per se. It’s about the use of technological manipulation by the world of big business. It also somewhat parallels “Fahrenheit 451” in its fear of mass media, and a larger commodification of life in general.

That said, here’s where Rosty goes wrong with Atwood:
But precisely because of the ways that Atwood’s novel plumbed and surfaced the specific anxieties of 1985, her story is necessarily time-bound and context-dependent and in certain ways more outdated than prophetic. 
Really? The Religious Right would still like to outlaw all abortion, among other things.

Rosty even claims:
The second contrast lies in the fizzling of the post-1970s religious revival, the defeat of the religious right on practically every issue save abortion and the waning of the religious case for female domesticity.
See above. First, the Religious Right has only been defeated on a full ban of abortion. It continues to chip away at the margins with as much success as failure. As for female domesticity, erm, old Rosty hasn’t listened to Mike Pence, has he?

He is right about some things, like surrogate mothers. However, claiming that feminism has “acquiesced” to this is wrong on several counts. First, there is no unified church of feminism to “acquiesce.” Second, some class-based feminists have expressed concerns about this.

He also ignores that the Hulu media production isn’t quite the same as the book.

May 23, 2017

Guaranteed income — what I do and don't support

Call it guaranteed income, universal income or basic income.

Based on what I've seen on Twitter, it's time to make some initial stipulations about types of GI that I will NOT support.

1. If you want to rule out disability payments entirely, or at least say "above X dollars no more," nope, you lost me.

Disability payments are because you can't work period.

I support guaranteed income as a baseline that then allows people to do the work they'd like to do. If you're disabled, your ability to work is limited, period.

As for some people saying, "But disability is so hard to get," that's mixing two different problems. Let's reform the disability system AND adopt GI.

2. If you want to rule out unemployment benefits, again, nope, you lost me. Again, guaranteed income is a baseline, and versions I've seen don't propose replacing work entirely. So, if someone is still working, and then loses a job, they get unemployment bennies.

Now, if you want to get your guaranteed income floor at, say, $2,500 a month instead of $700 a month, then we can talk about eliminating unemployment. But, many GI proposals I've seen, especially more "libertarian" types, don't come close.

3. If you want to eliminate housing vouchers? Again, nope, I'm outta there. Unless the paragraph immediately above is in operation. The housing voucher system needs to be reformed, as Matthew Desmond excellently documented as part of his new book, "Evicted," as I note in my review. But, like with disability, reforming a program is different than eliminating that.

Basically, this is like Obamacare versus single-payer. I don't want a head fake that blocks real change.

Now, we can keep the GI baseline at $700. That's fine. But, we keep some version of all of the other stuff above along with that.

That said, Scott Santens is talking $1,000 a month. That's better, and enough above $700 that we could talk about lessening payments into other systems.

But, a partial co-opting of Social Security as part of this? I'm in favor to the degree that I'm in favor of getting more of SS on general revenue stream rather than the currently regressive FICA tax. BUT ... guaranteed income is going to be a hard enough sell itself without playing with the legendary "third rail" of DC politics.

And, the Alaska Permanent Fund that is often cited as a template for GI? While housing vouchers and disability benefits start at the federal level, unemployment bennies are a state-level matter and, guess what? Alaska has them.

Yet other factors? Giving up disability payments might be, for some libertarian proponents of basic income, a backdoor way of saying OSHA isn't needed, or at least, a less robust version is needed.

The Boston Review also weighs in, supporting the idea, but expressing caveats similar to mine:
Many of today’s basic income proponents are libertarians and view the policy as a means of compensating losers, or as an excuse to repeal wage per hour or collective bargaining laws. Few are concerned about public goods, workers’ and capital owners’ entitlements within the firm, the power of various social groups, the ability of workers to organize collectively, and the question of what constitutes good work, not just jobs.
Bingo. And ...
(M)any have argued that a basic income would make minimum wage and collective bargaining laws less necessary, since workers’ material needs would be met by the state. But cash benefits and reasonable wages are not morally equivalent. 
Those "many" would primarily be those libertarian types. BR continues:
Popular debates have largely ignored these limits of a standalone basic income, an oversight that is not entirely accidental. As a tax-and-transfer program, basic income would be consistent with a wide variety of political-economic systems, including neoliberal capitalism, social democracy, and various forms of socialism, but much of the basic income literature has a libertarian streak.
There's more than enough there for me to do a separate blog post, which I will line up for next week.

And, that is now available here.

And, as the story also notes, "basic income" in America cannot just be for American citizens, otherwise economic exploitation will be even worse than today.

I am with Santens on several key things.

First, guaranteed income will empower employees. So, contra Eduardo Porter and other scoffers, $500 a month is not enough.

Second, it will be less paternalistic than today's programs.

Third, and related to that, whether it's TANF (food stamps) or other programs, Santens is totally right that we need to get away from block-granting stuff to states. Red states, especially, will do all they can to "skim" block grants for their state treasuries.

As for paying for it? To riff on Porter, if we start by cutting our military budget by one-third or more ...



And Dylan Matthews, in a wide-ranging, mostly good sometimes iffy piece, notes other problems.

There's the Charles Murrays of the world, who want to gut the existing safety net even more than liberatarians, for example. Surely, other economic-thinking paleoconservatives agree. And, even allegedly liberal union leader Andy Stern wants to use BI to cut at least parts of that net, and cut Social Security. That said, this is far from the only reason I put "alleged" in front of liberal with him.

Stern has other issues. He, along with Murray (with Murray the reasons are obvious) doesn't want a BI that includes kids.

Overall, Matthews brings a good deal of largely well-placed pessimism. And, part of his solution is well-based on that. That's both for a targeted version of BI within the US safety net perhaps being a better starting point, and a more comprehensive BI in the developing world helping both it and the whole world.

That said, Matthews has his own neoliberal interpretation problems with our current economy and labor system. Does automation raise wages? For computer and robot programmers, sure. For the employees who work with the robots? Maybe. For those replaced by robots? Not at all.

We should have his pessimism about elements of BI, yes. But, they shouldn't be run through his own version of a neolib filter.


New update:

I don't make Twitter a total echo chamber, but, Santens make me wonder yet more how much he's in the libertarian tank when he follows both Turning Point USA and its founder, a founder who is an extremely hardcore libertarian.

Per my "one tool" and per Turning Point's Charlie Cook vehemently opposing single-payer national health care, it's at least time to put back up my Twitter filters about basic income. And I may mute Santens.

TX Progressives look toward #txlege stumbling toward #bathroombill Gomorrah, more

With the end of the Texas Legislature's banana republic every-other-year session approaching, the Texas Progressive Alliance is old enough to remember when even Republicans would have laughed at the idea of Danny Goeb running the Texas Senate.

Off the Kuff notes that the state's voter ID failure in 2016 was way bigger than you thought it was.

The night they drove old Dixie down happened twice in New Orleans this past week, as documented by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Republicans double down on killing women with expanded war on health services.  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme says vote as if your life depends on it.  It does.

SocraticGadfly says that Republicans, Democrats and media pundits alike who talk about a  "25th Amendment solution" to President Trump need to read their Constitution better.

Neil at All People Have Value attended the weekly Tuesday protest at the Houston office of wicked-doing Senator John Cornyn. APHV is part of

Jobsanger is among those seeing Joe Lieberman as Trump’s possible FBI director as a terrible choice.

The Lewisville Texan Journal sees possible collusion sees possible collusion — a violation of state law — between the Lewisville school board and its political action committee in a bond election.


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

The Lunch Tray likes the newly-unfettered Michelle Obama.

Paradise in Hell wonders what US Rep. Mike McCaul does with his time.

The Current notes some of the most self-proclaimed "pro-life" members of the Lege using procedural tactics to kill a bill that would fund a study of rising maternal mortality rates.

Therese Odell has the late night reactions to the latest Russia revelations.

The TSTA Blog explains why vouchers leave special ed students behind.

Juanita finds some politicians who got rougher treatment than Donald Trump.

TransGriot eulogizes Houston LGBTQ activist Kristen Capps.

Grits for Breakfast decries replacing driver’s license responsibility fees with an even-worse tariff system.

Zachary Taylor says that ALL for-profit insurance — including things like life insurance, not just health, is government-sanctioned crime.

The Texas Observer, with perfect timing near the end of the Lege session, quotes House member Celia Isabel as saying that Speaker Straus is getting rolled on the bathroom bill.