SocraticGadfly: 8/19/18 - 8/26/18

August 25, 2018

RIP John McCain

John McCain first freely exercised his great American democracy freedom at birth, when he freely chose to be born the son and grandson of US Navy admirals.

John McCain later chose his freedom to prove he was not a copycat clone of his father and grandfather as a military man by freelywrecking multiple US Navy aircraft. Part of exercising that freedom was not learning how to fly better as the son and grandson of admirals, knowing that he didn’t have to fly better, and take "fly better," "fly straight," and "fly right" however you want.

As for his serving his country, the flyboy playboy freely chose to stay in the military, as he didn't have the courage to leave before he got shot down, even though he didn't want to stay in. Resign your commission.

John McCain later exercised his democratic freedom by freely choosing to leave Hanoi, North Vietnam ahead of his Navy comrades, despite being the son and grandson of admirals.

John McCain then exercised his great American freedom to choose his personal life as a heterosexual straight male by freely divorcing his wife.

John McCain continued to exercise this freedom throughout an illustrious democratic Congressional career.

He freely chose to accept money from Charles Keating under the notion it would increase his freedom.

He used his freedom to freely support lies in the name of Greater Democracy as it sought to destroy people resisting its bounteous good, even at the point of war.

He used his freedom to freely support leaving the heartbroken country of Georgia at the altar of NATO bridehood after promising he would respect its democratic valor against the Great Satan of Russia.

He then, in 2008, used his freedom to engage in tokenist faux-feminism by naming Sarah Palin his vice-presidential candidate.

After that, he unselfishly loved Ukrainian neo-Nazis.

He finally accepted the Normalization Freedom Prize from Fred Hiatt for services above and beyond the call of duty.

Fortunately, I had accumulated notes on a Word document for a few months for most the material above.

But, many members of #TheResistance will say, but he was such a decent man. 


Beyond all the above, he supported government shutdowns, supported not voting on an Obama Supreme Court nominee and other things. The Straight Talk Express of the 2000 campaign was a schtick; already then, he was the Schmuck Talk Express™ and looked "straight" only because he was running against Shrub Bush.

Don't forget that in 2008, he didn't want to deal with the financial crisis. And, he said we should never talk diplomatically with countries that are alleged terrorist supporters. He never would have negotiated Obama's Iran deal. Nor would he, despite his famous visit to Vietnam, have been likely to loosen things up with Cuba.

And, no, he was NOT the "maverick of the Senate." I don't think the Senate has had a real maverick since Wayne Morse. Hell, the Arizona Republic, in its news obit, said, re his Senate time, that he "never was an outsider."

Some people might point to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation as an example of something good that he did. Yeah, but ... did McCain ever utter a word against Citizens United after it gutted what the Supreme Court hadn't previously directly gutted?

Bottom line is that, above all else, McCain was a warmonger. Never forget.

As for his cancer, he didn't vote to save Obamacare; he just voted to delay its execution to try to do it in a more orderly fashion. He never uttered a peep as Trump undercut parts of it (and showed why we need a single-payer system).

Also, let's not forget that he was not enlightened on racial issues. Contra one centrist type on Twitter, if he DID evolve, he evolved from a LOW starting point. And, any evolution was very late, given he was making racist comments just five years ago. (Add in his part in the ACORN scandal, and finding out that Obama could be pushed around on this.) Putting him in the same breath on this as Abraham Lincoln is Grade-A horseshit.

Otherwise, look at his stances on other issues, per Wiki. Patriot Act supporter. Snooping on America supporter. Gun nut. Opposed most gay rights. War on Drugs cold warrior. He did support immigration rights, but, as part of a lever of not making many jobs that immigrants take both safer and better-paying for American citizens.

As for McCain's media fellators, the inside-the-Beltway stenos who have now made themselves even less trustworthy than before? If you didn't write your dreck, people like me might not write this.

And, I tackled the whole McCain funeral deification with a stream of tweets, put into a blog post here.

Update: The Schmuck Talk also had a hand in spreading elements of the Steele dossier. New releases from a lawsuit against Buzzfeed over the dossier, which make clear this was a bipartisan Never Trumper effect, are here.


Per DeSmog Blog, as for "service to his country," his attempt to pass a climate bill nearly 20 years ago was of more service than bombing Vietnam or mongering other wars.

August 24, 2018

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, idiot

That's my conclusion after reading his latest book, "Skin in the Game."

Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily LifeSkin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Taleb, whose politics I did not pay attention to in Black Swan (and I skipped reading Antifragile), come off as a mix of right-neolib, classic liberal and Hayekian libertarian. It’s certainly possible, in addition, that he’s a Trump Train fellow traveler, though not riding the main line himself.

He’s anti-regulatory as part of libertarian part of him. Yes, agencies can suffer regulatory capture, but the libertarian idea espoused by him of regulation through private lawsuit doesn’t work. Most people don’t have the money for lawyers, not even to sue over being forced into arbitration, and contra his classical pseudo-erudition, we’re not classical Athens where one has to defend their own case without lawyers.

Second, he hates academics, and this book was presumably being written before Mary Beard punked him over people of color in Roman Britain. Given all the other things he says that relate to academia and are clearly wrong, such as claiming that the Essenes merged with Christianity, I’d hate academics and academia were I him too, because they clearly point out how fricking wrong he is.

He has the privilege of dual Lebanese-French citizenship at birth and picked up BA and grad degree in Paris. For him to present himself as being on the side of the polloi is hypocritical. Speaking of ...

Hypocrite — says he’s no longer an active trader, thus HAS NO SKIN IN GAME, directly undercutting the main premise of this book.

Hypocrite 2 — says a lot of things don’t scale up or down well, yet seems to wish for the whole world, all nations, to be organized like Swiss cantons

His “good fences good neighbors make” for countries inside the Middle East comes an unspoken awfully close to justifying apartheid. He only mentions Arab states, but Israel-Palestine is surely in the back of his Lebanese Christian mind.

Related to that, his calling all Sunni Muslims barbarians is ridiculous. It might, or might not, be a stretch to make that claim for all Salafists within Sunni, but all Sunnis? And, when he attacks Sunnis, praising Shi’ites while ignoring Iran?

BSes himself about hedge funds having skin in the game. They have some, but not as much as other investors, and the fund manager usually draws a salary plus a percentage.

Seems to be strongly anti-GMO, and claims that Seralini was persecuted by Monsanto. Wrong. He had crappy research. His set of anti-GMO rants throughout this book are not just incredibly wrong, above all about risk factors and testing, but they border on the paranoiac. And he believes in homeopathy.

He’s even more laughable when he claims the US was a low-rentier society until Obama. Dude ….. or duuuuuddeeee, the CDO slice-and-dice world, the housing bubble, and the bursting of the housing bubble all began under Shrub Bush.

Worse yet, Taleb seems to be some degree of fanboy of Trump on economic grounds. You mean, the four-times bankrupt Trump who gamed the American bankruptcy system to keep his skin out of the game? At this point, Taleb is basically becoming a parody of himself.

Also, a kind of one-trick pony, like Robert Wright with non-zero stuff.

Cognitive dissonance is not at all about sour grapes. Possibly the stupidest explanation of cognitive dissonance I’ve ever read.

The intuitional insight of a grandmother is not right 90 percent of the time. I note from my life that wearing hats does NOT make you go bald. And “masturbation makes you go blind” is of course a moral injunction disguised as insight.

Taleb is also wrong about relative economic mobility in the US vs. Old Europe. (Shock me.) San Francisco is the worst, but not the only, counterexample.

To the degree he has anything good to say, I steal from another reviewer: “His ideas are easy to summarize, because they are simplistic: People who commit risk are more interested in outcomes; systems that last longer have undergone more stress tests; and random events affect all plans.”

And, you could find that from somebody else.

View all my reviews

August 22, 2018

TX Progressives look at Beto heating up

The Texas Progressive Alliance looks at how the Beto O’Rourke campaign is heating up to almost Hotter ‘n Hell One Hundred temps — hot enough to get his first "longform" national political puff piece, analyzed here — to lead off this week’s Roundup, while yet wondering if he is playing debate chicken games.

Off the Kuff considers some secondary goals for the Beto O'Rourke campaign.

Brains and Eggs revises upward his estimation of Beto’s chances.

The Dallas Snooze looks at downballot Dems drafting off the Beto boom at his campaign rallies.

The Week notes that Beto is being boosted by dislike of Havana Ted Cruz.

At the Dallas Observer, Stephen Young notes the seven steps to getting to Cruz begging Donald Trump for help.

SocraticGadfly has some fun introducing Loopy Lupe Valdez (and her gun) to Aerosmith. (Yours truly will have a couple of Beto pieces in next week's roundup.)

Jim Schutze wonders if Walt Humann or friends of his are trying to gut the city of Dallas deal (which Monte Anderson — I know him — calls very good) to privatize Fair Park operations.

The Chronicle does some analysis on Nancy Pelosi’s Houston visit.

In Part 4 of its nine-part series on borderland waters and climate change, the Texas Observer looks at shared aquifers, an important issue in general given Texas’ differentiated treatment of surface vs underground waters.

The Lunch Tray takes issue with a partnership between Houston ISD and Domino's Pizza.

BeyondBones warns of the Bananapocalypse.

Better Texas Blog can't understand the arguments against paid sick days.

Grits for Breakfast flags another scam charity that claims to benefit police families.

Paradise in Hell laughs at a dumb Trump quote.

The TSTA Blog sees through Dan Patrick's phony concern about teachers' health insurance premiums.

A Houston ISD school gets black marks for using a quote by the Mayflower Madam to shame girls.

Cohen, Manafort, Trump and the "Resistance"

Few quick thoughts here, folks. Enjoy the editorial cartoon.

First, the Paul Manafort conviction did nothing to prove "collusion" between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hillbots will be claiming that from the rooftops; people like Kossack Dead End Kids alums Marcy Wheeler and Bmaz will try to give that same claim a high-intellect turd-polishing. Still not true, no more than it was with Marcy's Emptywheel claims a month ago. (And, there's the issue about whether Manafort will finally flip, or still hold out; his attorney said he's "evaluating his options.")

Anyway, it wasn't true pre-conviction; ain't true now.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych may be a "mess" (and just one of many dictators who Manafort turd-polished, speaking of that term). Last I checked, though, he was not a Russian citizen, let alone an official member of the government of the Russian Federation. Therefore, not collusion (unless Mueller investigates possible collusion between Trump and the government of Ukraine).

Related note: Per who was actually at the Trump Tower meeting of infamy, given that none of the Russians were at the time official members of the government of the Russian Federation, NOT collusion! Stupidity galore for the amateurish handling of it by both The Donald and The Donald Jr. If members of McResistance seriously consider that collusion in the legal sense, I can probably figure a way to make a collusion case against both Jeb! Bush and Hillary Clinton over the Steele dossier. There's a shot across the Hillbots' bow right there, kids.


On to Cohen.

Here, the ground is different. It seems pretty obvious whose campaign he was lying for on that charge. If Cohen's claim that he was doing the Stormy Daniels payoff at Trump's direction holds up, then we're looking at what would certainly seem to be an impeachable offense, right? Contra Rudy "Rudy" Giuliani, who has by now become a caricature of a caricature of himself, now with:
“There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen.”

“At the direction of the candidate.”
 It seems like a slam dunk, right? 

Well, maybe not. One could argue that this was before he was president, therefore not impeachment. In that case, one could then make the call for Justice to start criminal proceedings. Hey, if civil proceedings started against the Slickster (Paula Jones) while he was president, why not?

And, speaking of the background to this? Stormy Daniels got covered by yours truly eight months ago at Washington Babylon.

Finally, the pardons angle.

If Trump offers them, and they are accepted, then there's no Fifth Amendment protections against the pardoned testifying. Secondly, Manafort still has New York State charges for which he could be tried; presidential pardoning doesn't cover that. Thirdly, as noted above, civil suits still could be launched.


And, selected commentary roundup will follow, here.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Turley says a Manafort pardon by Trump is still in play while adding that, vis a vis Papadopoulos and other things, Mueller has perhaps put himself in a bit of a legal crack.

Mark Penn says the Cohen plea deal is little more than a Mueller shakedown. Among his more interesting observations is that the hush money was and is NOT a campaign finance donation, therefore, that action wasn't actionable. Penn goes so far as to say his former boss, the Slickster, got all the breaks and Trump is getting none.

At the Federalist, Mollie Hemingway is partially right. Manafort was, indeed, prosecuted in part for lobbying. She draws the wrong conclusions, including drawing no conclusion about the need for further reform as well as better enforcement of what's on the books, though. She's fully right in agreeing with Penn, especially with the added note that work on the payouts began before Trump officially launched his campaign.

On the other hand, if Norm Eisen is correct, Trump lying about the Cohen payment on financial disclosure forms would arguably be a crime, and as it happened after he became president, would also arguably be impeachment grounds, whether this should be considered a campaign finance payment or not.

Lawfare notes, among other things, that it doesn't matter if Cohen doesn't sing now. He has one year to do so in exchange for sentencing reduction. Furthering my contention that Marcy's still wrong, the roundtable notes that the Manafort case has nothing to do with Trump directly.

David Cay Johnston discusses just how Trump could be prosecuted under New York State law.

Cohen, not Manafort, now faces new NY State worries; the state has subpoenaed him re its Trump Foundation investigation.

August 21, 2018

Beto is trending! — first longform nat'l political puff piece

From Anne Helen Peterson of Buzzfeed, Beto O'Rourke, I mean, "Justin Trudeau with a Southern accent" (thanks, Twitter friends) now has his first nationally written political puff piece. A full 8,000 words, and with a few major errors, though it is worth a read in many ways.

First, the errors.

The first error I saw was one I expected, and was even kind of looking for. Peterson three times says that O'Rourke favors "universal health care" without mentioning, or even looking for, the reality of his stances. Specifically, I'm thinking of how ConservaDem Beto not only refused to back John Conyers' HB 676 in the House, on semi-specious but not totally specious grounds, but also refused to support Bernie Sanders' Senate bill on explicitly neoliberal grounds, namely that it didn't require people to pay enough out of their own pockets.

Honest mistake? Well, maybe.

But, not really.

Rather, this reads as a piece by someone not that familiar with politics, and who added actual politics and issues into a political profile piece.

Second big error reinforces this thought of mine.

Peterson talks about how Beto hasn't accepted union money. The truth? By federal election law, candidates cannot accept union money directly. CANNOT. Period. (Unions can give to a campaign PAC, but not to a candidate. CANNOT.)

The third is presenting small donors as driving the needle on his campaign contributions.

While he is doing better than many candidates in this regard, nonetheless, by dollar amount, not by number of donors, Open Secrets notes that nearly 60 percent of his contributions come from large donors, above $200. (Some 68 percent of Obama 2012's donors came from that same group. So, Beto's doing well. But not perfect. Beto is getting less, as a percentage, from small donors than Bernie did in his 2016 presidential run.)

Oh, and while he doesn't accept money from PACs, he DOES take money from employees at non-PAC lobbyists. And, J Street's money, among those, was PAC-bundled. PolitiFact still gives him a fully true rating on this. (The FEC doesn't consider PAC bundling of individual donations to be PAC money; IMO it's a bit more grayish, though I would largely accept that.)

A fuller look at his top donors explains other things.

Tenet Healthcare folks have given him nearly $20K. Why Because Beto does not back single-payer! Tech industry folks give him a lot. By industry, here's his donors.

By email, Peterson told me thanks for reading when I pointed out the health care error. We'll see if she says more, on Twitter, about the other errors I dinged her on.

Back to this issue. "Universal health care"? That's not far different than Rethugs calling the hospital ER "universal health access" or similar. And Beto knows that. More generously interpreted, it may be like "Medicare access for all." However, that's not "Medicare for all." It's the old "public option" that Dear Leader Obama talked about in 2008 then ignored. It would treat Medicare like private insurance available to the under-65 crowd. Pseudo "progressives" who back it generally do so with zero details of how it would work and mention it just to keep up the pseudo when challenged by people who want the real deal.

Finally, while I'm here, one other issue — legalizing marijuana. Yes, this is primarily a state issue, but to some degree, it's also a federal one. And, while Beto talks the talk about marijuana, as far as I know, he has sponsored no bill to even address the DEA continuing to list pot as a Schedule 1 drug, let alone do anything more than that. (Peterson doesn't discuss this issue in her piece, which itself indicates how much Beto's putting it on the back burner in red-lands Texas. In turn, it seems like Beto is stereotyping old, white, red-lands Texas on this issue, as old, white, pro-pot Willie Nelson is from Abbott.)

In fact, last year, a bill was introduced in the House to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to move marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3. The bill has three co-sponsors in addition to the Congresscritter who introduced the bill. None of them is named Beto O'Rourke. The sponsor, Congressman Gaetz, even spoke about the bill on the floor.

Per Brookings, rescheduling down to Schedule 2, though it might mean less to state governments, would have at least symbolic value. As for what Brookings states about worries about international law obligations, I believe Canada just legalized pot nationwide, becoming official Oct. 17. And nearly 50 countries have decriminalized it.

That said, I noted that Peterson's piece is worth a read in many ways.

Her on-the-ground tailing of O'Rourke, more at red to deep-red stops, like Abilene, Kerrville, and even a place like Iraan referenced in an aside, was fun to read. It also notes turnout for these events, and indicates enthusiasm is real. More real than Wendy Davis' by far in red-state areas; more real than any statewide Dem has done in such places in decades.

Peterson also notes that, despite his speaking Spanish on the trail, O'Rourke doesn't want to play the traditional games with South Texas Hispanic power brokers, and has somewhat the same stance toward urban East Texas African-American power brokers. I think this is problematic. That said, maybe, on Hispanics, he doesn't think he can bolster the turnout needle that much. Or else he's hoping Lupe Valdez will take care of that not just for herself but for him. She's riding on his coattails and he may be hopeful that some reverse coattails happen.

Peterson does note the historic turnout issues with Texas Hispanics, so she's not naive about politics in Texas in general. She just swallowed too much Beto Kool-Aid.

She also repeats other stereotypes, like having a San Antonio resident talk about all the hippies in Kerrville. It's been half a dozen years since I was there, but, last time I was, I saw no hippies. On her own, related to that, she perpetuates the myth that all California retirees fleeing the state for other climes are liberals. Not even close. That's a bit of intellectual laziness right there, which ties back to the errors up top.

Basically, can Beto as a male, and a better campaigner, do a better version of Wendy Davis' plan of 2014? Remains to be seen.

And, contra Peterson on an issue related to this. Apathy in Texas Hispanics IS a uniquely Texas issue. Hispanics turn out in lower numbers in Texas than any other state where they're even semi-significant statistically. And a new piece at New Republic accuses Dems in general of taking Hispanic votes for granted. (Many younger Hispanics, by religion, are evangelical Protestant, not Catholic, and can be more open to Republican pitches in part because of that.)

Oh, and without mentioning his name, Peterson's O'Rourke to Obama riff on young Senate campaigners was for me another turn-off, not a turn-on.

And, Beto your ownself? Your campaign may be big. Other than visiting all those red-lands areas, it's not bold, though, for the reasons listed above.


Related? Jonathan Tilove, whom I usually like a lot, is talking up Beto for Prez 2020, and not just as a political analyst, but with a clear personal op-ed angle of liking.

August 20, 2018

O'Rourke is pushing his debate games luck with Cruz

As of this morning, it's been three full weeks since Ted Cruz proposed a five-event broad-ranging set of debates with Beto O'Rourke. It's been about a week since Ted's camp pushed for nailing down just the first debate in that set, for Aug. 31 in Dallas.

And, Beto's refused to sign off on either, in what's looking like deliberate strategery.

Now, Beto may think that Ted needs to be "fairer," especially about the Friday night times.

(Update, Sept. 14: They've agreed to a three-debate set. Ted gets two of the three to be moderated format vs one town hall, so he wins that compromise. Beto gets two moved off Friday, and the one that is Friday is a 6 p.m. start, so he wins that. Per a poll I have on Twitter, I'd call it a split decision.)


First, when has a Republican ever been fair in today's world?

Second, and more seriously, that's not how things work in politics in general.

Cruz is the incumbent, and you, O'Rourke, are the challenger. Unless the offer is blatantly bogus, you take one-quarter of a loaf instead of none. (And, this is a one-quarter loaf, at least; it's not blatantly bogus.)

If you really think playing the "fairness" card instead of accepting the deal will work? Wrong.

Ted's gonna play the chicken card, ace through 10, for a chicken royal flush on you.

As for the Friday nights issue? Maybe Ted's thinking he can not only bury the debates in general but that more women, more Democratic-leaning women already in your camp, will watch then. I don't know.

I DO KNOW, though, that there is this thing called the "Internet." Whichever teevee station or stations hosts each debate, it will surely be on that station's website soon enough afterward. Commercial teevee folks will want the clicks and retweets for ad dollars.

It will be available to be retweeted and Facebooked and Instagrammed with spin attached and spread all over, on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

Beyond that, the Friday Night Lights issue is kind of overrated. Here's why.

Typical small, but not tiny, town? About 10 percent of the adult population of the town not directly associated with the high school turns out for the game. Maybe 15 percent. No more than that. For instance, in a town of 5,000, you've got almost 4,000 adults. Subtract teachers, administrators, support staff and spouses. You're at around 3,500 adults. Somewhere between 350 and 500 of them will be at a typical game. Half or a little more of the high school and connectees will, for another 250. That gets you to 750. Majority of your students will be there. That gets you to around the 1,000 people that show up for a game in a town of 5,000. Even in more enthusiastic towns, it's no more than 20 percent of the non-connected population and no more than 60 percent or so of the high-school connected population.

As for the polls that might indicate Beto is on firm ground in pushing his luck? People who have been in Texas any length of time and have political savvy know that polls here regularly overestimate likely Democratic turnout. And, that could be extra problematic, per C.D. Hooks, if Beto's field strategy, and dealing with some core constituencies and regions of Dem support, backfires.

Related to that, from Anne Helen Peterson of Buzzfeed, Beto now has his first nationally written political puff piece. Maybe he's helping its 8,000 words help. Certainly, Peterson drinking his Kool-Aid, as I note here, helps.

That said, this shouldn't be surprising to people who look critically at some of Beto's campaign positions. I'm thinking particularly of single payer, Medicare for All, national health care. Specifically, I'm thinking of how ConservaDem Beto not only refused to back John Conyers' HB 676 in the House, on semi-specious but not totally specious grounds, but also refused to support Bernie Sanders' Senate bill on explicitly neoliberal grounds, namely that it didn't require people to pay enough out of their own pockets.

You read that right.

And, Peterson is NOT one of those people who looked critically at Beto's positions. She three times mentions him talking about "universal health care" without apparently looking at his actual stances.

As for Beto's enthusiastic Millennial volunteers?

Hey, kiddie pool waders, at some point, your ignorance of Beto's stance on this issue passes from accidental to willful. Maybe it already has.