SocraticGadfly: 9/23/18 - 9/30/18

September 28, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh, apparent liar, vs Jeff Flake, clear poseur

As for the actual lying? Nathan J. Robinson has a VERY THOROUGH takedown of Kavanaugh's testimony at Current Affairs, and, in reality, his own prized calendar actually helps "convict" him. Unfortunately, it's in the lap of the FBI gods now; Robinson notes that in Kavanaugh's testimony Thursday, Democratic Senators had plenty of chances to follow up on specific threads of seeming lies and failed to do so. (The Intercept adds that he lied about being an environmentalist.)

So, the header?

That's your takeaway after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford spoke at the Senate Judiciary Committee special interrogation yesterday followed by today's delayed, and negotiated, committee vote.

Flake was in long talks with committee chair Chuck Grassley as well as several Democratic committee members in minutes before the vote, eventually delaying it.

What resulted is that, without a formal agreement, the committee is sending Kavanaugh to the full Senate on an 11-10 vote with the stipulation? idea? request? wishful thinking? that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will delay the floor vote, set for Tuesday, by a week, with a renewed FBI investigation at the same time.

First, Flake has less backbone than the William McKinley of Teddy Roosevelt's chocolate eclair bon mot. He had the chance to instead force Grassley to delay the committee vote, not the Senate floor vote, by a week, while similarly asking Mitch the Turtle for that investigation.

(Update, Oct. 4: Flake has now said that nothing in the FBI "investigation" confirms what Ford said. Oct. 5, Flake voted FOR closure, so unless he surprises me Saturday by voting against confirmation, he confirms he's a poseur.)

Second, Flake had more leverage within the committee than on the Senate floor. See next paragraph.

Or, maybe not. He has his second Republican, it seems:
Boom! Murkowski ain't leaving the Senate and ain't intimidated by, or trusting of, the Turtle. Per a 2015 profile by High Country News, she is NOT to be messed with.

Third, what may be at work is the hope of a few Senate Republicans (Collins, Murkowski, and maybe actually Flake) and a few ConservaDems (Manchin, Heitkamp, as Smokey Joe's already indicated he'll vote yes, and she's on radio silence) that Kavanaugh will withdraw over the weekend.

I have two related Twitter polls. First, did Flake indeed make a gonadless deal? Second, is this a hint to Kavanaugh and if so, will he follow it?

Fourth, if McConnell honors this (and it appears Trump has punted to him on calling out the FBI) how thorough will this investigation be? Will other accusers be interviewed? Mark Judge has just said he will cooperate.

And, Trump has agreed to said probe, and it looks like it will be at least halfway thorough:
Kavanaugh needs to buy a clue.

Fifth, if Kavanaugh doesn't withdraw, will Chuck the Weasel Schumer change his stance and put pressure on Smokey Joe et al? That's the key. I wouldn't at all depend on Flake to vote no. Murkowski may well say no if she didn't like what was in the hearing, but that would mean getting Collins to flip and Chuck the Weasel Schumer to line up all 49 of his ducks, which he has currently said he won't try to do.

Meanwhile, as far as any Trump-imposed restrictions on the FBI investigation, it has talked to accuser No. 2, Deborah Ramirez. And, fortunately for those of us who have big concerns about Kavanaugh, but also big concerns that any false steps will be jumped on by wingnuts, the FBI is not interviewing accuser No. 3, Julie Swetnick. This AP piece shows there's good reason for that. Now, the bluster by her attorney, Michael Avenatti, aside, "basta" is right that her past legal issues don't mean that Kavanaugh didn't sexually assault her. They do mean, though, that any story she would tell would be horrible and immediately attacked. Beyond that, there's the redder flag that, in the one suit, she was allegedly the sexual harasser herself. A second suit has the air of gold-digger about it and more. In all of this, and in Avenatti's tissue-thin denials, the air of the gold-digger grows ever larger around him, too.

Update on that: Senate Judiciary Republicans are playing hardball with her. More about Dennis Ketterer here; he's from Utah and reportedly Republican, though he ran as a Democratic Congressional candidate in the mid-1990s. And, since theirs was a brief togetherness, there's no reason Swetnick would have told him of her background.

At the same time, none of this negates the original AP piece, nor my take on the thinness of Avenatti's response to that.

September 27, 2018

Two, I mean FIVE, SIR ironclad proofs
there was ZERO Trump-Putin collusion

The first proof is from Trump's Sept. 26 presser which was, even by Trump's low standards, a clear clown car show. For those who didn't get the details, all here on Vox, he called a Kurdish reporter "Mr. Kurd," claimed George Washington had sex scandals and other nuttery. That followed getting laughed at during his speech to the UN General Assembly the day before.

As I said in a series of linked Tweets:
Seriously, Donald Trump couldn't coordinate his own bowel movement.

Would an ex-KGB colonel pick somebody this incompetent? Someone too egotistical, and too incompetent, to fake incompetence?

Of course not.

Now, the Hillbots will say that's part of the plan, at least the collusion die-harders will. They'll say something like incompetence, more than kowtowing to Moscow, was the plan. However, this ignores Trump selling new arms to Ukraine, Trump twice attacking Russian client state Syria, and at that UNGA speech, Trump accusing Germany of being at risk of falling into endless energy dependence thralldom to Russia.

The incompetence itself? 

Nothing new, as anybody knows.

But, how bad it was two years ago, and just how unprepared Trump was to be president, is detailed by "Moneyball" author Michael Lewis in a new Guardian piece.

And, that's proof No. 2.

Trump simply will not accept "handling." Period. There's no way Vladimir Putin would work with such an off-the-cuff actor. That said, the piece is good. Read it to see just how bad the train wreck was.

Want a third proof? Hillary Clinton's electoral ineptitude highlighted by Democratic senatorial candidates having semi-comfortable leads in those Great Lakes states she lost.

Oh, and sorry folks, but the 25th Amendment was not written for this. I said so in these pages more than a year ago and did so more recently in a newspaper column after the NYT's "Anonymous" column. There, I noted that the way the amendment is written, four days after Pence got the Cabinet to suspend Trump from office, all he has to do is appear before Congress, say "I'm OK," and he's back in.

Oh, here's a fourth: Russia has "given up" on Trump. That includes the state-controlled media that Vlad the Impaler oversees.

A fifth? Trump's abandonment of the INF.

September 26, 2018

Mudsills, part 5 — demographics

I've talked before about who mudsills are, and how they were part of Trump's winning campaign. Even if they weren't THAT important, they were a factor. And, Trump being Trump was an enabler for them to be more vocal about racism, and the specific type of racism which is associated with them as a sociological group – largely working-class whites looking for someone lower on the socioeconomic latter for them to kick. Several social psychology books talk about this phenomenon; I've read a couple.

This post?

I am going to offer a few takes on the demographics of mudsills in their most common locales, which I have previously identified as "Appalachia extended" — this allows for the mudsills who moved to places like Flint or Milwaukee to work in the auto plants and similar. (Steel mills, the older ones, were actually in Appalachia, the northern end, of course.)

The demographics will concern the locales as well as the mudsills themselves.

First, they're likely to live in an area with at least 3 percent black and / or 3 percent Hispanic population. It's likely that both minorities will be in non-insignificant numbers.

But — neither minority is likely to be above 25 percent, and definitely both will not. The area will also likely have few Asian-Americans.

In other words – enough minorities to be "visible" but in a white-majority population. In Appalachia itself, and often in Appalachia extended, if blacks also moved there from the original Appalachia and nearby, attitudes and relations from original mudsill times will largely still exist. And, there will be just enough Hispanics to be perceived as job stealers, and perhaps seen in the light of stealing jobs that mudsills think blacks should have still been working anyway.

Diet and health are other demographic markers.

Mudsill-heavy areas are likely to be above average in smoking rate. Note that the national rate of adults who have smoked just once in the past year is at 15 percent, according to the American Hearth Association. That's more empirical. So is higher to much higher use of smokeless tobacco.

Education is a biggie. Clear evidence indicates that racism declines with collegiate and post-collegiate education. That said, as Brains points out, the likes of Stephen Miller and Kris Kobach show that college doesn't eradicate racism among either the educated or the rich. It just provides a broader ground for new plants to outgrow the weeds of racism.

These observations are generalizations. However, I state that they are generalizations and NOT stereotypes. Based on modern informal logic, my take is that if an observation applies to more than 50 percent of a population group, it's a generalization, not a stereotype.

Oh, and the 2016 elections seem to reflect this in voting patterns. The Atlantic notes that, among working-class white voters, sociocultural anxiety, and NOT economic anxiety, pushed such voters who indulged any anxieties toward Trump.

September 25, 2018

TX Progressives recent thoughts

Yours truly has been on vacation, including during the first Cruz-O'Rourke debate, which had the post-debate spin I expected when the debates over debates started. Brains offers a roundup of debate hot takes, while noting, as I have, that he's still undervoting.

Anyway, here's Brains' roundup of this week's debate-focused wrangle, and below selected takes from the week before.

SocraticGadfly wonders why states' rights wingnuts like Ted Cruz can't talk more about the truly overlooked Ninth Amendment and less about the un-overlooked Tenth Amendment, especially in judicial confirmation hearings.

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

BeyondBones catalogs what the devastating fire at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro means to the world.

Kevin Curtin says goodbye to the iconic Threadgill's World Headquarters in Austin.

Raise Your Hand Texas reads between the lines of the Texas Education Agency's budget request.

Mean Green Cougar Red and Eric Berger look back at Hurricane Ike ten years after.

Sanford Nowlin takes measure of Beto O'Rourke.

See Brains for more from last week, too. Note also his hot take on Beto's chances.

September 24, 2018

Election security and voting machines

Since we're getting closer to election time, and the Election Assistance Commission has just disbursed the final round of HAVA money to Texas and other states, let's take a look at where we are on issue.

First and foremost, let us state that, theoretically, money to protect elections should be no object to the alleged "cradle of democracy." In reality, of course, that's different, but it's not just today's GOP that is penurious.

The reality, at the Texas level, is that many voting machines still don't provide paper tickets of a voter's intent. Paperless voting machines are bad.

This is not just because hackers or Russkies can hack them, or that Diebold or other makers can. (More on all that in a minute.) It's that as many voting machines get to be 10 years old, or 15, or 20, they deteriorate. It's called entropy. And, they get more susceptible to random glitches.

Now, the "more on all that."

Can Russkies hack voting machines? Not likely. Per Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and many other election officials across the country, voting machines are not connected to the Internet. Are vote totals hackable on websites? Yes, but they are pretty well protected, plus, there's paper backups.

As a newspaper editor, to get daily, or total, early voting numbers, as well as election night returns, I've looked at plenty a paper printout of ballot box totals. Is fraud possible? Yeah, but more likely from the county clerk's office, or the election officials' office in larger counties, than from Russia. Or from Diebold.

On to that.

Yes, a week or two ago, news was made of a pre-teen hacker breaking into mock voting websites. First, these were mock sites. Second, this person and others were given advance instructions on what to do. Third, any of them that hacked into individual voting machines? Again, those aren't connected to the Net. And a consortium of state election officials say the setup wasn't realistic.

ProPublica goes further in refudiating DEFCOM's claims. The kids were coached and had cheat sheets.

Per the Reality Winner story, the Intercept's initial report, some devices related to voter information allegedly have Bluetooth capability. But, again, that's voter information, not voting machines. Per that, in a Twitter thread, Aaron Maté notes The Intercept overhyped the whole story. I agree.

As far as paper ballots being the verschnizzle? Nope, not as long as politics in the U.S. is war by other means, in places that still have one-party government.

I suggest people google "Landslide Lyndon" and "George Parr, Duke of Duval County." Or "Mayor Daley's Chicago."

It's easier to vote either peons or tombstones illegally on paper ballots than on a website. Or on a paper list of overall votes.