July 28, 2017

#Snopes is "saved"? And, so what if it is?

Recently, David Mikkelson, co-owner of the iconic rumor-busting website Snopes, launched a GoFundMe account, asking for $500,000. And, he appears to have been successful.

But why did he need this?

Well, there's a certain amount of history behind this, and the media source that first broke it gets ad hominemed by some skeptics when they reject anything it writes because the source is itself accused of doing little other than ad homineming.

Confused?

I'll quickly straighten it out.

The Atlantic has the current state of the issue.

In summary, Snopes was founded a number of years ago by David and Barbara Mikkelson. They eventually divorced. They split ownership of Snopes 50-50, having created a company vehicle for it, Bardav, long before the divorce. Eventually, whether they had a private Chinese auction agreement or whatever, Barbara sold her half to five people, who owned a company called Proper Media, with which Bardav/Snopes had entered some sort of agreement the year before.

It gets more fun from there. Essentially, one person was forced out from Proper Media, and because of the interlocking relationship with Snopes, that threatened David's control of it. There's sidebar issues as to who is or is not a director of both Proper Media and Bardav.

The two are now at the point of dueling legal motions, which is part of why DM launched the GoFundMe.

Now, Atlantic refers to "titillating details" of the divorce becoming public.

Out of prudery or whatever, it won't refer to this Daily Mail article, now updated in light of the current situation, which is where they became public.

And, that's the "media source" above.

For people familiar with the Daily Mail, it is what it is. And? The National Enquirer got John Edwards' love child right long before the MSM would even start to look at the claims there. A true skeptic, a true critical thinker, approaches the story as a story, noting its source while at the same time trying to partially follow Husserl's idea of "bracketing."

Anyway, to that Daily Mail story.

What got the DM going was that Facebook named Snopes to be one of its arbiters on "fake news." While Snopes is good at busting straight-up urban legends, including political ones (it rightly noted Jill Stein is not an antivaxxer), when it comes to larger, deeper, in the woods political analysis like that of Politifact et al, it's not always that good. And, its staffers to do this very likely are not trained journalists, or trained in general. (That said, Politifact et al aren't always that great themselves.)

I already figured that, once Snopes announced this mission creep. And a few truly skeptical friends (not "movement skepticism" or "scientific skepticism" players) felt the same.

The original DM story's essence (lightly updated) is about halfway down the page. It reports that David Mikkelson wanted a salary of $720K a year. No wonder, per the Atlantic, it has overhead of more than $100K a month.

And, sorry, Atlantic, but it's relevant that his second wife was a Vegas "escort" who charged $500 an hour before they got married. Goes to fiduciary duty, per Proper Media's claims of his alleged wastrel nature.

There's more yet at DM's original story from last December. Lots more. Yes, with more titillation.

DM delves even more into the divorce paperwork. Both Mikkelsons accused each other of financial impropriety and Barbara accused David of embezzlement, among other things.

David was already making $240K a year back then. Pretty high cotton. Both were to get $20K a month as draws against profit after the split. Both had plenty of bank account money from Snopes' years of existence.

Finally, relevant to the issue of fact-checking, whether more narrow urban legend debunking or bigger Politifact work, David admitted staffers have no specific training.

Note that NONE of this was in the prudish Atlantic piece.

But it DID get a Forbes blogger, Kalev Leetru, to wondering. He sent a series of emails to David, from which he wrote this piece. David denied none of the fact checking issues and hid behind "divorce settlement" on other questions.

Oh, and claims the Daily Mail supported Hitler in 1938? The Democratic Party, at least large chunks of it, supported racism still in the 1950s. THAT's an ad hominem.

So, people who are in love with Snopes, here's my skinny of notes and rhetorical questions.
1. Since other institutions exist, like Truth or Fiction, which recently, for other reasons, replaced Snopes on my blogroll, what makes Snopes so special?
2. Snopes also never really delved into woo-debunking, or larger issues of critical thinking. The late Bob Carroll's Skeptic's Dictionary remains my gold standard there.
3. If a couple, then one half of a couple, screwed up a company because of a marital and post-marital clusterfuck, why should I help bail them out? Even if they put out a product or service that I thought was more important than Snopes?
4. That's even more true since it was an "S" company with a two-person board of directors, originally, existing 20 years with no more fiduciary oversight than the two Mikkelsons.
5. If you don't know that most "fake news" analyzers have bias (like Google using the term "low-quality news" and downgrading stuff that's more than 3 degrees left of Bernie Sanders), Snopes as a fake news analyzer isn't going to help you anyway.
6. A lot of "movement skeptics" reject extending their movement outside "scientific skepticism," so shouldn't really care about the "new Snopes," anyway. (This sets aside the ongoing problems the movement has with libertarians in the tent confusing and conflating libertarianism with skepticism.)
7. If you're going to repeat claims about the Daily Mail supporting fascism from back in the 1930s (while I counter that the majority of Senate Democrats were racists in the 1950s to undermine such stupidity), try overcoming the tribalism that's a hallmark of movement skepticism and one reason why I'm not a player in it.

In other words, try being more skeptical yourselves.

July 27, 2017

Insurers get self-righteous on #Trumpcare vs #Obamacare

The likes of Blue Cross / Blue Shield, Delta, Cigna, etc., are making me vomit in their mouths over Mitch McConnell's ongoing attempt to repeal Obamacare, whether "repeal and replace" or "repeal now, replace later" or simply "replace."

The "statement" by the Blues shows why.

Self-righteousness over a veneer of hypocrisy usually gets under my skin.

They're really committed to insuring those with pre-existing conditions because Obamacare requires it, while giving them money to do so. Pre-Obamacare, they told people with pre-existing conditions to fuck off and die just like most Senate Republicans want to do right now.

A system that doesn't require people to PURCHASE coverage is what's truly needed, of course, but what we will never get supported by these folks.

I'd be fine, per my call-out for at least a partial version of a British-style NHS, if the Blues et al still had some modicum of existence selling the equivalent of Medigap plans to those under 65. They could otherwise disappear.

As for their employees finding future employment under such a change, well, maybe they'd start supporting a guaranteed basic income or universal income.

Remember, folks, often, the enemy of my enemy is NOT my friend, but just a temporary ally of convenience. Accept the Blues' help on fighting Trumpcare.

But stop settling for Obamacare.

Vote Green. Vote SPUSA. Stop voting Democrat. Stop being a sucker for neoliberals who wanted to reward bloodsucking leeches by giving them more reward money. You know, like Cory Booker, a B-grade neoliberal on the Democratic neoliberal second team. A shadow Obama. An even bigger shill for Big Pharma.

Remember, national health care would transform the whole employment world, too. You wouldn't be chained to a crappy boss. You could work part time if you didn't have to work a minimum number of hours for health insurance. You could freelance. Etc., etc.

That's why American neoliberals hate single-payer. And why they despise something like a British National Health System, which is what America really needs.

July 25, 2017

The death of the death of #Obamacare? (newly updated)

The Turtle loses a round
A week ago, that seemed to be the case.

The House, after one failure, narrowly passed its version of Trumpcare late this spring.

Then, on to the Senate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell figured he could use reconciliation rules to get a simple majority to pass something.

Wrong.

Hardcore faux libertarian Rand Paul and moderate (for the GOP, it's still relative) Susan Collins both said they couldn't vote for the Turtle's soup. Pretty soon others, like Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito and even Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, along with Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, started raising more stinks.

So the Turtle did a crab crawl.

He then came out with the Turtle Two-Step of "repeal now, replace later."

But that is also now dead.

Selected members of the aforementioned specifically said they refused to buy a pig, or a turtle, in a poke. Surely others felt the same way.

Meanwhile, Donald Duck, the Trumpcare original snake-oil peddler, pulled the floor out from under the Turtle with a "let Obamacare fail" tack.

But, that still didn't stop the Turtle.

And the Turtle still wants to do something. He scheduled ANOTHER vote this week, even though people as high ranking as Senate No. 2 John Cornyn claim they still don't know what they're going to vote on. Per John Thune at the last link, it sounds like that's deliberate. Basically, it sounds like the Senate will be asked to give the Turtle a blank check.

And the Turtle is peddling a blank check because there's cheating like hell on Senate reconciliation rules on his omnibus pig in a poke. Parts of the cheat the Senate parliamentarian ruled out of bounds included an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and an attempt to let insurers peddle Ted Cruz-style junk policies.

Collins and Murkowski were the only two GOPers to refuse to buy the first half of the pig-in-a-poke; the Senate voted 50-50 to approve a motion to debate the actual, still-unidentified, pig-in-a-poke, with Vice President Mike Pence then breaking the tie.

That said, Capito and others "rallied" to help put a marker on the Turtle's actual bill. The vote to override the parliamentarian and let Mitch go full-speed with selling the pig-in-a-poke died 43-57.

And, July 26, the new attempt at "repeal now, replace later" also failed. That also was by 43-57; per the NYT live vote tracker, "partial repeal and replace" failed 45-55.

But, knowing the zombie-like antics of McConnell, who, like John Randolph of Roanoke's description of President Martin Van Buren, "rows to his object with muffled oars," I still wouldn't call Trumpcare dead.

Indeed, the live vote tracker says an allegedly, and I don't think that word can be stressed enough, final vote, is scheduled for later this week.

It's like McConnell is trying half a dozen options, seeing which loses by the smallest margin, with plans of then trying to force that one option down recalcitrant senators' throats.

The latest version of that is what John Cornyn et al started calling "skinny repeal" on July 27. It would keep Dear Leader's surtaxes in place, while still calling on wingers to defy the parliamentarian and defund Planned Parenthood. That seemingly reflects what I said just above, per Politico. The Turtle has essentially been running trial balloon votes to see just what might have a chance of passage.

Of course, this itself is hypocrisy. This is ultimately just an attempt to have something to run through the reconciliation process (perhaps parliamentarian be damned) and send it back to the House. Politico appears to confirm this is the skinny of skinny repeal.

You know, kind of like how Obamacare itself was passed after Ted Kennedy died.

And, surprisingly, the Schmuck Talk express joined Murkowski and Collins in killing this. Heller, Capito et al went AWOL on any alleged principles and joined the Turtle. McCain voted no because he wanted a fatter repeal, while lying about Obamacare's alleged "collapse."

==

Of course, half the "fun" of this, in the earlier fails especially, was real fun — watching the GOP fallout. Until the latest news.

(The other half isn't so fun — it means being stuck with a semi-crappy Obamacare rather than the somewhat better option of a truly improved O-care, let alone single payer. Anyway, I digress.)

First up, sotto voce but getting louder, will be intra-Senate sniping. I'm sure that will only increase after the July 25 fail.

House-Senate GOP friendly fire will come next, with strongly conservative, but not quite Tea Party, House GOPers, not appreciative of being hung out to dry.

After that, since we're only halfway through 2017, will come threats or actualities of tea partiers primarying senators.

However, there's just one problem for the tea sippers.

None of the above senators is up for re-election in 2018.

But, most of them ARE hypocrites, given their 2015 vote for a repeal now, replace later bill. Collins is the one exception.

And, even if THIS does fail?

Don't declare Obamacare magically resurrected.

Moran still wants to replace it.

That said, he wants an actually open Senate process. And it seems clear that he wants nothing to do with Havana Ted Cruz's junk-bonds level insurance offerings as part of that.

There is little way, though, that a truly improved Obamacare would come out of that. Senate Dems wouldn't play ball without further wheelings, and while the Turtle isn't that much of an ideologue, he might not play ball.

Also, in all of this, do NOT believe that insurers like Blue Cross / Blue Shield are your friend. They're not. They're still bloodsucking vampires, just with more money for their hypocrisy under Obamacare.

TX Progressives take a stab at the latest news

The Texas Progressive Alliance is dancing like nobody's watching them delete their old tweets as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff notes the two Democratic candidates who have emerged so far to run for Governor.

SocraticGadfly looks at Mitch the Turtle's ongoing Senate manueverings on Trumpcare.

Texas Democrats who can't support Tom Wakely for governor may be stuck with having to draft Joe Straus, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Texas Republicans are all about encouraging polluters and not about the health and well being of people.

Neil at All People Have Value promoted the half year mark of the weekly protest at the Houston office of terrible Senator John Cornyn. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Stace at Dos Centavos  does a follow-up on Harris County’s stance on SB4.

Jobanger wonders if state, nation, or territory is the best answer for Puerto Rico.

John Coby marvels at the new open carry for knives law.

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

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

The Houston Justice Coalition is back and ready to get to work building up and not tearing down.

Robert Rivard calls the bathroom bill a choice between social justice and discrimination.

John Coby marvels at the new open carry for knives law.

The Texas Election Law Blog flags a Rick Hasen editorial about the perils to our democracy.

Fort Bend ISD school board President Kristin Tassin explains how Greg Abbott's voucher plan hurts kids with disabilities.

Keith Babberney speaks for the trees.

Texas Vox is stumped by Abbott's anti-tree agenda.


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Better Texas Blog reminds us that the state relies an awful lot on local property taxes to fund our schools.

R.G. Ratcliffe notes Gov. Abbott's new million-dollar donor.

July 24, 2017

The Green Party craps its national pants (updated)

Friend Brains has promised something on this year's national convention of the Green Party, but I've already seen enough to post something now.

We've actually had two different but, with exquisite timing, somewhat intersectional (I see what I did there) pants-crappings.

The first is over the ongoing role and powers of AccommoGreen-in-Chief David Cobb. That, in turn, has gotten tied up with Counterpunch giving him repeated paddlings over his willingness to partner up or whatever with Caitlin Johnstone, 9/11 truther, alt-right fellow traveler and other things.

Joshua Frank has led the recent charge against both of them at Counterpunch. It was a follow-up to this one by Yoav Litman.

I blame Cobb to a fair degree for the relative poverty of Jill Stein's showing last November. Yes, the Libertarian Party nationally is more popular, relatively, than the Greens. But, Stein shouldn't have finished with just one-third the vote of addled pseudo-Libertarian Gary Johnson.

I blame him to some degree for her open endorsement of Bernie Sanders in the California Democratic primary, followed by her offer to step aside for him as the Green presidential nominee — an offer she then claimed wasn't exactly that. Both of these actions were WAY outside the bounds of the Green Party acting as an independent political party. That said, for AccommoGreens like Cobb, being an independent third party trails behind being a social movement that will hopefully nudge Democrats a step or so left.

(Oh, and yes, on Johnstone. Frank's got links documenting both that she's an alt-right fellow traveler, even if only tangentially, and worse yet from my POV, a 9/11 truther. That said, the Green Party has more of those than it does antivaxxers, from what I can tell.)

Per this Counterpunch analysis of some video statements of hers ... erm, wow. No, not the deepest thinker. Yes, Caitlin, Mike Cernovich is going to pay attention to you when you tell him on Facebook he's "not doing something good."

(And, given her willingness to work with the alt-right, and by name, Cernovich? Let's note that this memo by former NSC staffer Rich Higgins now blowing up the Net is filled with not just Steve Bannon versions of nationalism, but directly attacks social justice ideas AND plays with anti-Semitic tropes. And, it's linked to Cernovich. And, she's probably having an orgasm over it because it mentions "deep state.")

Frank et al were wrong, though, IMO, not to let Cobb/Johnstone have one shot to respond on-site rather than elsewhere. Let them have their one best shot before cutting them off.

As for the latest pro-Johnstone flak? Any "lies on Syria" she is calling out are lies by Democrats or national media. No halfway informed Green believes these things, or did when they happened.

Brains and David Bruce Collins both also have pieces about this portion of Greens' national meltdown. DBC goes full defensive on not only Cobb (acceptable, though I disagree) but also on Johnstone. I also didn't think Kevin Zeese, in his Counterpunch stuff, was THAT harsh on Cobb or Stein. Much more on Zeese below, as it ties to national convention issues. Brains, who has been tracking my direction more and more on Johnstone, still defends Cobb more than I will, and thinks I'm too harsh on Stein.

But, I think I have a legit stance. Stein's recount late last year WAS partisan, done only in states Clinton lost, trying to help her only. Stein — and her campaign manager Cobb — lied about that at the time (along with lying about related issues), lied about it afterward, and lie about it to this day, including lying about it being a private Stein recount, not an official Green Party one, which leaves them with a private donor list they could try to sell back to the party — or to a Berniecrat third-party or to Democratic "Socialists" of America. It's part of both of them being AccommoGreens.

OTOH, Counterpunch publisher Jeff St. Clair still has a quasi-hatred of the GP, I think. He's still butt-hurt over Ralph Nader not being renominated in 2004.

Two things happened after Nader's relatively successful 2000 campaign.

One is that the GP decided it wanted to run a "safe states" strategy in 2004. I halfway disagreed then and totally disagree now. But, it was a party decision, just like British Labour decided to oppose Brexit, only to see Jeremy Corbin mumble in his beard. (That's one reason I remain less than a total fan of Corbin.)

The other was that, in line with post-2000 actual and potential growth, the GP decided to go to a formal caucus and convention presidential nominating process. Yes, some state GPs (are you listening in Ohio, Bob Fitrakis? and whoever should be in California?) were then, and are still today, the equivalent of British parliamentary rotten boroughs or pocket boroughs from 200 years ago.

No matter. It was an organizational step forward.

And Nader wouldn't personally jump through the hoops.

Anyway, that's why 2004 GP presidential nominee David Cobb will never be allowed to write an article in Counterpunch. And, while I'm at it, Jeff, I'll take ANYTHING you personally say about either the GP or Nader with at least two grains of salt until you get more honest about this.

On the third hand, Peter Camejo, whether or not he was a Nader cut-out, won the Green primaries in 2004. Clearly won them. (I know who Carol Miller is, the co-author of the piece, and lived in New Mexico when she ran for Congress. I think she has a generally accurate take on the issues at hand.)

And yet, Cobb got nominated. Why? Because the Green Party's "organization" still kept those rotten boroughs in place, which is what the state nominating conventions were in many cases. And, it let "insta-Greens," or something equivalent, vote in convention when coming from those states.

This is — as a sidebar — why I have problems with Greens' "decentralization" among its Ten Key Values. Because, per it, the likes of a Fitrakis can push a "rotten borough" state party forward, and, if it doesn't have a primary, run it like a little fiefdom.

On the fourth hand, if you will, St. Clair also ignores Nader's defense funds in 2000, like Stein's in 2012 and 2016, holding oil and defense stock portfolios.

On the fifth hand, in his response, Cobb was too stupid to separate himself from Johnstone. So, he kind of deserves to get crapped on.

===

That said, that first pants-crapping didn't actually happen at the convention.

What did, but what got tied up with the first, was no African-Americans getting elected to the party's national steering committee. (DBC's link above partially covers this as well; Brains just deals with the pants-crapping above.)

Yes, the GP is largely white — not as white as the GOP but more white than the Democrats.

Here's a take by a black member of the Louisiana Green Party who was at the national meeting. Sounds simple, right? Blacks were shut out and the party has a long way to go. After all, that's part of what happened at the Texas state convention, discussed by me in this post, and it also seems a sidebar issue per KPFA radio in Houston, per Brains, with his initial discussion at this post, and follow-up at this one.

Not so fast, says Bruce Dixon.

Bruce, the editor of the Black Agenda Report, has several problems with this spin.

First, he sees at least a small degree of tokenism.

Next, Dixon said neither the candidates themselves nor the Green's Black Caucus (of which the Louisianan above is a member) campaigned enough.

Third, he notes that Greens need to reach outside traditional black bases where most black Democrats come from. He rightly, as Greens are generally more "frou-frou" religiously (setting aside the secularists) than Democrats, let alone black Americans of any party, notes that the black church is definitely NOT a place to look.

Yes, this makes it harder. Bernie Sanders found that out within the Democrats; that's a primary reason he, a secular Jew, didn't get more black votes.

But, admitting it's difficult doesn't erase away reality.

Next, Dixon notes that the Greens are not a dues-paying party, and wonders how deep of roots some of the black steering committee candidates have or had. (Dixon, along with 2016 Green VP Ajamu Baraka, are big pushers of the dues-paying model.)

The New York Green Party having trouble with Democrat and even Republican state judicial candidates trying to run under the Green banner shows that the idea of "insta-Greens" is actually true, at least in some cases.

Finally, Bruce, as a member of the Georgia GP, has had a run-in or two with race issues there already. He's not blind on that issue. But, he's right on this:
There absolutely should be a black caucus in the Green party. But caucuses shouldn’t get automatic votes on the national committee or the steering committee. Those bodies should be elected by state parties instead of being anti-democratic phantom organizations responsible to nobody in particular. … 
 Liberalism offers easy answers to the problem of recruiting token blacks to leadership. But the black leaders you get that way are opportunists, who can only win followings by deception, by manipulation of the unwary and by the laziness or inattention of others responsible for the institution and the mission of the party. That mission is to struggle for power, and to build a movement of movements against capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy and endless war. There are no shortcuts.
There you are.

I don't know if Dixon is right, re the first paragraph of the pull quote and earlier up in his piece, about the black steering committee candidates being newbie Greens. But, it's possible. And, even if not, that doesn't negate his other worries.

The intersectionality? Or simply the good old-fashioned intersecting? Here, per Zeese. Andrea Mérida Cuéllar, a Colorado Green who's battled racism in the national party, got used by Cobb and Stein as a pawn in the steering committee battle. Well, not totally a pawn. It was Cuéllar who led objections to no blacks being elected. After that, she became a tool in the Cobb-Stein fire, more than a pawn.

Other Greens are shocked over Dixon's "white liberal guilt." There, I agree more than I disagree, and I note that left-liberals to leftists both black (Adolph Reed) and white (Doug Henwood) have talked about this in detail for years.)

Hey, white liberal greens? I think there's something to this. And, it's OK to drop your own attachment to it, to purity test ideas behind it and more.

I don't totally agree with Dixon, Reed or Henwood about this; even less do I agree with their claims that racism always reduces to classism. Henwood disliked my specific counterexamples, and follow-up. enough that he blocked me on Twitter.

But, a certain amount of the time, a specific race issue DOES reduce to class. Other times, like with Jim Crow in the South, it doesn't do so, but class can still in a case like that exacerbate and extend the racism.

For more on this issue, and the possible "tokenism" of which Dixon hints, I suggest some Greens (and some SJWs) need to read up on Frantz Fanon. More on Fanon at this blog post of mine.

DBC, from what I can tell, disagrees with all of this and takes pretty much a straight-up "this is racism" stance. Sorry, David; gotta disagree.

Now, about a related issue: Privilege.

Do I deny it exists? No.

Is it always race-based, though? No.

It's sometimes class-based. Or sex-based. Or sexual orientation based. Or religion-based (versus atheists).

Barack Obama, a rich African-American with enough money from his grandparents to go to a private high school, then Occidental College before Harvard, has more privilege than I do.

===

Overall, I'm with Bruce more than I'm against him. I've seen some of this myself. But, from my bits and pieces so far of investigating left alternatives, I don't think the situation is any better at the Socialist Party USA. At least on this particular issue. But 2016 SPUSA presidential candidate Mimi Soltysik promised the party would get better on GMOs.

Besides Green and Green-leaning 9/11 Truthers, I've seen other Greens who continue to insist Stein's recounts last year were totally non-partisan and neutral, rather than designed to help Hillary Clinton. And, again, who was her recount manager as well as her campaign manager?

David Cobb.

David Fricking Cobb. (And, per Zeese's link, had a Democratic lawyer, John Bonifaz, help with recount issues.)

At least the SPUSA doesn't have AccommoSocialists. Those would be ... Berniecrats at best, who are enough of a plague on the Green Party.

This first pants-crapping has been a long time coming. Setting aside the St. Clair animus, the Green Party needs to be the Green Party, not a Green equivalent of the Democratic Socialists of America.

I've made bits of noise here before about how I've done more looking at the Socialist Party USA, and did a bit of deliberation about pulling its write-in trigger for president last year.

I'll go further now and stipulate that not only will I not vote for Stein in 2020 if Greens nominate her for a third term, but I won't vote for any GP presidential candidate who uses Cobb as campaign manager.

Finally, at The North Star, somebody totally gets it!

The Green Party US, as in the national party, is nothing more than another state party. That's why the GP has disorganization, not decentralization, with state parties acting like the equivalent of British parliamentary rotten and pocket boroughs of 200 years ago.