SocraticGadfly: 6/10/18 - 6/17/18

June 16, 2018

Sanity and insanity on the Mueller investigation
and the Paul Manafort case

The Mueller investigation, just over a year old, appears to have a variety of charges against Paul Manafort and may be getting Michael Cohen to flip, belying winger critics, as I have noted.

But, to what end?

The Nation, injecting some left-of-center sanity in the picture, decried by Hillbot wingnut David Corn, says that Manfort was clearly grifting for Ukraine to become more western, if anything. In other words, he had a more money-grubbing version of the Clinton-Obama mindset that led to the Maidan semi-coup. That's the reality, David.

It comes from Aaron Mate, who's been a voice of sanity at The Nation and elsewhere for ever since I've run across him on Twitter post-2016 election. Indeed, within that piece, Mate notes that the Clinton campaign accepted help from Ukrainian sources while also seeking dirt on Trump.

Now, it's possible that Mueller may find money-grubbing info vis-a-vis Russia about Trump and/or his family.


If it happened before Election Day, it may or may not be illegal. That would depend on just what happened. It would not be unconstitutional; not yet president, Trump would not be subject to the Emoluments Clause. It would be unethical. And? See "Clinton, Hillary."

And, speaking of? Mate also notes that those Russian Facebook ads, besides being a drop in the bucket, were after money, not election fixing.

And the Internet Research Agency case behind that? Not only is it a nothingburger, as Mate notes, in my opinion, it violates the spirit, at least, of the First Amendment.

(Update, June 9, 2019: At the same time .... refuting both Trump Train smokescreen spreaders AND certain strains of left-liberals and leftists, with different types of "whataboutism" from both, Symanetc reports that the Internet Research Agency's work was more painstaking and more hands-on (in terms of human intervention on many social media accounts that weren't totally "bots") than previously believed.)

And, Manafort now being jailed for witness tampering claims changes nothing about the main issue of whom he colluded with, per the Mueller investigation.

As for the insanity?

One of the ringleaders of the #Resistance, The American Prospect, gets more stupid yet by claiming Trump's growing tariffs war is all driven by Vlad the Impaler Putin and his Moscow minions.

The real problem is that the real "crime" of Manafort, playing a long-term part in corruption of the American political system in general, is not a crime. Sadly, the second half of that Atlantic piece repeats the traditional #Resistance talking points. The first half is good; read the second half in light of the Nation piece.

June 15, 2018

Third parties and political conspiracy theory beliefs

Recent research indicates that those who overestimate their political knowledge are more likely to engage in conspiracy theories, specifically, in political conspiracy theories. More here, in a piece linked at that original, which also shows that conspiracy theories generally aren't driven by ideology but by losing.

The study the top, new story is about is here, with more details:
Utilizing a pre‐/post‐election panel design and a large sample of U.S. Citizens (N=394) recruited in the context of the 2016 Presidential Election, we provide evidence that political IOED, but not a non‐political IOED, was associated with increased support for general and election‐specific conspiracy beliefs, particularly among political novices and supporters of the losing candidate. We find this pattern of results net the influence of a broad range of variables known to covary with conspiracy beliefs. Implications for theory and the need for future research are discussed.
Very straightforward, that.

Especially in the US, with its strong-president system and first-past-the-post Congressional system, this means third parties probably should have more conspiracy thinkers than Republicans or Democrats. So, Libertarians? This would explain their anti-vaxxer conspiracy thinking just as it would for many Greens. It's political mistrust, or outright paranoia.

Now, when does a conspiracy theory fall outside the political world? The JFK, RFK and MLK assassination theories are certainly political. So-called deep state conspiracy theories certainly are, and actual conspiracies such as the CIA overthrowing foreign governments of course may fuel them. (See my piece on the 50th anniversary of Bobby's assassination.) But, alien abductions? Seemingly non-political, but the "they" that are covering this up are all politicians in such theories. Ditto for HAARP, chemtrails, etc. (On HAARP and/or chemtrails, it's a short step from there, probably, to frame climate change denialism into a political theory, either the Agenda 21 angle that it's an attempt to take over the American way of life, or the alternative, that maybe humans — in the form of the gummint — can indeed change the climate, but John and Jane Does driving cards still can't.)

Basically, another way of phrasing this is Dunning-Kruegerism and political conspiracy theory beliefs have a definite correlation.

And, the political novices are often Greens. Maybe Libertarians, too.

That said, it's not just political novices. Big conspiracy theorist Ray McGovern did a public endorsement of Jill Stein. Bob Parry, son of Consortium News founder Robert Parry, whose website is riddled with conspiracy theorizing, had a Green Party bumper sticker in 2016.

In addition, conspiracy theory belief can be used to maintain in-group cohesion, or perhaps even as an in-group shibboleth.

Meanwhile, since originally writing this, I ran into this innnnteresting thread on Twitter. I'm quoting the one tweet that I saw retweeted in my timeline:
It's rational, but no, not empirical. My response:
Mr. Ganz quotes and references Descartes repeated, but references nobody from British Empiricism.

June 14, 2018

Blogroll cleanup — good riddance, Consortium News

Every 9-18 months, I do a blogroll cleanup, and discuss it briefly.

That's because I don't follow 40-50 other blogs on my blogroll, and so, any deletions — or additions I hadn't previously discussed — deserve comment.

So, here goes again.

The biggie is dropping Consortium News. It's gone downhill since Bob Parry died, plus I have new information that it wasn't always all it was when Bob was alive. On the downhill since he died, adding Caitlin Johnstone was a biggie. Then Ray McGovern goes into his twosiderism over Trump and Mueller to the point that he regularly considers Devin Nunes a reliable figure. Either Ray knows better, in which case he's a general bullshitter, as well as simply wrong on promoting twosiderism, or else he doesn't know and is thus untrustworthy otherwise.

Then, it runs a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist like James DiEugenio. Worse yet, searching CN's archives, I find out that Bob Parry ran him more than once, and on JFK conspiracy theorizing and related stuff. The related stuff includes the "JFK was headed out of Nam" myth, with dumping all the war on LBJ (not that he wasn't problematic, but ... the plans to up the war were in the White House not only before Tonkin Gulf but before Jack's assassination).

Otherwise, on interpreting LBJ, I'll take Robert Caro over DiEugenio's critique of him any time and double on Sundays. Especially since in that critique he makes it clear that he's a Camelot last-dithcer, including calling Sy Hersh's "The Dark Side of Camelot" discredited?

Eugenio also believes the non-skeptical leftist line on things like Hiroshima/Nagasaki, a la Gar Alpherowitz.

He's not a historian, period, whatever his claims. And that Parry ran him repeatedly says that Bob Parry is overrated in some ways himself, I think. Bob also ran one other piece by another author supporting JFK conspiracy theories and, in this header by him to his own piece about Gary Webb, the contras and cocaine, leaves open the possibility of being a JFK Truther himself:
The 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination saw a mainstream media blackout of nearly all evidence of conspiracy in that case. But New York Magazine went even further, mocking the proven Contra-cocaine scandal as a “conspiracy theory,” Robert Parry writes.
The fact that Parry was right about the NY Mag piece that prompted the response (Benjamin Wallace-Wells is an idiot in general) doesn't make him right about JFK. And, I've seen enough Google hits that consider Parry a JFK assassination conspiracy theory fellow traveler, that he surely knew he had this reputation. If it weren't true, he would have issued a clear denial, IMO. That's only exacerbated by the fact that Bob, as EDITOR of CN (and editors decide what runs, and what doesn't, among other things, ran several pieces on or around the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, three of them clear conspiracy theory pieces and one leaning that way, plus, one two months later from Bob himself, linked above.

And, that's not all that falls under Parry as editor, and "editorial silence gives assent" to him being a JFK conspiracy theorist.

Example? Bob DID explicitly call out 9/11 truthers, and then did a follow-up, which included:
Indeed, the “truther” account has sometimes struck me as a parody meant to bring ridicule on more serious conspiracy investigations such as those into the JFK assassination.
I can't abide conspiracy theories in general and more so, JFK ones in particular because they're usually based on the BS that DiEugenio articulates about the Golden Age of Camelot. In other words, they tell lies about the JFK Administration to try to bolster the alleged need for a conspiracy to assassinate him.

Add in that Ray McGovern of various CN nutteries is also a JFK truther AND a 9/11 truther, and I would never have added it to my blogroll in the first place, with more knowledge. (Sidebar — this also further confirms my recognition of the nuttery level of Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog.)

And, per this, (shock me), Caitlin Johnstone is also a JFK truther.

Do I deny that something like a "deep state" exists? Of course not. Do I deny actual coups by it abroad, like Guatemala? Of course not. Do I deny its attempts to influence US foreign policy? Of course not.

Do I deny that it worked with the FBI in the past on things parallel to FBI operations like COINTELPRO? Nope.

Do I believe any of this adds up to it trying to make Manchurian Candidate presidents, let alone Seven Days in May moves? I sure do deny that.

Some other tie-ins, related to some evidence that third party voters are more likely to be conspiracy theorists? Ray McGovern did a Jill Stein endorsement. Nat Parry, son of Bob Parry and current manager of CN, has a Green Party bumper sticker.

This doesn't mean that I won't still take an occasional glance at CN. It's just that I can't give it that public promotion.

Other changes to the blogroll, now that I've purged CN from my brain with that?

The Society for U.S. Intellectual History, or S-USIH? Stopped reading it after it went to a "real names only" comment policy months ago. Use of real names doesn't stop idiocy; only comment moderation does. Besides, I found it becoming ever more "meh." Dunno what late friend Leo Lincourt would have thought of the thinking behind its change. He turned me on to it; I liked a fair amount of it early on, but it became more "meh" in recent years (I've read it for five years or more) and the commenting policy, plus the lack of insight behind it ... and maybe a bit of pretentiousness behind that, of the idea that they have 50 comments per post and so might have a problem, all added up.

American Third Party Report hasn't updated since last year and its website is 404.

Update, July 2: I also cut Science of Us. Had been thinking about it for some time, but when it ran bullshit about psi phenomena, namely, a claim that meta-analysis confirmed Daryl Bem's claims about the reality of the Ganzfield effect, and ignored that his own initial journal couldn't replicate, out it went. As with Consortium News on conspiracy theories, if you run outright pseudoscience, out you go.


On the additions side, I have added the wonderful daily comic Two-Party Opera. Brian Carroll bats at least liberal, if not some place further to the left like me, knows his presidents and has a wry sense of humor.

Fellow Travelers posts just occasionally, but it critiques American foreign policy from the left, and generally left, not just left-liberal.

Tim Shorrock has migrated to a new site, Dispatch Korea, continuing and expanding his work on South Korean foreign policy history, especially vis-a-vis the US.

Robert Fisk I have read off and on for years. With some liberals, and some Trots, both playing holier-than-thou with leftists on Syria, I figured it was good for me, if nothing else, to blogroll him.

And because of what I just said that was the strawbreaker at Consortium News, I've added JFKFiles. It's a "tell" for people familiar with American conspiracy theories in general and JFK ones in particular. Of note? Per his Wiki page, in the early 1980s, blog author Dale K. Myers didn't believe Oswald did it. But, he was confident Oswald shot Tippett. After that, he looked at the Zapruder film, and came to believe Oswald did do it, with the one caveat that Vincent Bugliosi and Gerald Posner had about one Warren Commission error — that it was the first bullet that missed, the second that was the "double hit" and the third was the head shot.

Adventr.CO is a great site to see a guy and his wife hiking, kayaking, etc. around the Colorado Plateau.

Skeptophilia is a nice six-day a week dose of skepticism that's not from someone inside the Skeptics™ world.

June 12, 2018

TX Progressives talk Bernie, Beto
single-payer, polling, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks we should give trade peace a chance as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff uses the latest Congressional forecast for Texas to make a larger point about interpreting statewide polls.

SocraticGadfly sees major businesses remain silent on single-payer, even though it would surely save them money, he suspects it's because they like keeping employees in serfdomas even more valuable.

Brains and Eggs says the DNC’s anti-Bernie presidential rules change might not work, in part due to his good standing with the Vermont Democratic Party.

Down with Tyranny thinks Dayna Steele has a chance of an upset.

Texas Vox notes a push for San Antonio’s public utility to phase out fossil fuels.
Juanita has some computer advice for Paul Manafort.

Harry Hamid tells the Green Party, you’re dead to me.

Gregg Barrios reflects on Andy Warhol and the myth of the American West.

Better Texas Blog reminds us why an accurate Census is so important.

Andrea Grimes wants men to read a reissued book about why women's literary voices are so often silenced.

Grits for Breakfast, in a crime news roundup, deploreshow few people understand probable cause.

At the Dallas Observer, Andrea Grimes updates the Khraish Khraish West Dallas housing saga and suit.

Joyce King remembers the horror of the James Byrd murder.

Sommervell County Salon discusses Trump’s disinvite of the Eagles.

Ty Clevenger goes further down the Seth Rich conspiracy theory rabbit hole even though yours truly has told him of possible new corruption ideas to look into in his old Hearne backyard.

I also didn’t know until now that he was representing Butowsky in this nuttery, which further explains his running down rabbit holes. More on who Clevenger is here, which should show how how Butowsky ties, and wingnut ties in general, are not atypical of the man. And, obviously, between wasting his time on a conspiracy theory and being sued over it, he doesn’t have time, or will claim so, to address Hearne issues except the lowest of the low-hanging fruit.

June 11, 2018

The need for third parties of the left

Ever since Zach Carter got elected to the Virginia House of Delegates as a Democratic Socialist of America candidate, the DSA has been getting plenty of touting. Brains recently posted an NYT piece about DSA-ers in Texas. The Nation recently had John Nichols with a DSA bromance, which I blogged about.

There's just one problem, though. The DSA is not a political party; it's an activist group within the Democratic Party.

And, like other such groups, it's subject to being co-opted.

Howie Hawkins, a Green Party candidate for various state offices in New York State, makes the case very well for full-blow third parties in a long read here.

I agree. That said, that third party, or the leading left party of multiple ones, does not necessarily have to be the Green Party. I agree with Ohio Green Mark Lause that I'm looking for the best third-party vehicle of the left for me.

Speaking of, the board of The North Star, of which Lause is a member, did an outreach event to DSAers during a lefty convention in New York City last week. Some DSAers admitted that working solely inside the Democratic Party is an uphill struggle at best. North Star members said DSAers need to see winning third-party candidacies and so, specific to Greens, third parties need more focus.

That said, the Greens are not the only third party — actual party, not Democratic-based movement — of the left.

In 2016, as I was less than totally sold on Jill Stein for president, I looked at the possibility of voting for the Socialist Party USA candidate Mimi Soltysik. However, I found both its platform and a top touter I ran into online (who threw Stein in the ditch) both offputting. The platform, to ignore the messenger, I found even more "out there" on some things than Greens.

No more.

The updated SPUSA platform is improved.

Beyond calling for labeling of GMO foods, it's not anti-GMO. It does reject irradiation for food preservation, so it's not totally free of anti-science stances.

It has rejected unilateral non-nuclear forces disarmament, though it still calls for citizen referenda for declarations of war. I've softened on that ... I don't consider it totally nuts now. I could buy it, if it had a waiver saying it only applies if the US has not been attacked. Yeah, I know, that leaves semi-sized loopholes for the repetition of James K. Polk and LBJ, among others, but ... I'd still feel more comfortable with that.

In other ways, the platform is better than that of the Greens. No footsie-playing with antivaxxers. Indeed, no indulgence of claiming that alt-medicine pseudomedicine is medicine. Like me, it wants a US version of Britain's National Health Service, not "just" single-payer health care coverage. It calls for some type of nationalization of parts of the Internet. And, it does NOT make a shibboleth out of decentralization.

Whichever party becomes the best vehicle for the left, Hawkins, who has never run for a federal office, encourages bottom-up party-building. Part of that, he said, should be dues-paying membership, something the old Socialist Party and today's SPUSA both have, and that the Greens are considering.

Hawkins has other good insights, like this about modern American unionism, including its relation to today's political process:
The labor movement also tends to reproduce the corporate class structure. Some unions do practice a social movement unionism that engages their members in education and decision-making and seeks to build a class-wide movement with labor and community allies. But most unions practice a transactional business unionism where the officers and top staff make the decisions and cut the deals and the members’ role is minimized.
Beyond that, more and more unions are willing to make outright bed-feathering with corporations, even at the expense of taking regressive stances on issues such as environmentalism.

Give Howie a read.

And, speaking of third parties, David Bruce Collins noted Texas Greens failed on the ballot access petition drive. I'm out here in the boonies, so never even had a chance to sign, unlike in the early 2000s, when I lived in Dallas.