SocraticGadfly: 10/28/18 - 11/4/18

November 02, 2018

Bears Ears — the controversy and concern

Bears Ears from Natural Bridges

I have seen Bears Ears many a time — after all, they're visible from as far as 90 miles away in southeast Utah. I've seen them from the edge of Canyonlands. From the Abajos. From Natural Bridges. From the Moki Dugway. From Canyon of the Ancients in Colorado. From Garden of the Gods. From Monument Valley in Arizona.

Moki Dugway 1

But, I'd never driven the road up to them.

Which I rectified on my most recent vacation.

President Barack Obama's creation of Bears Ears National Monument, blogged about by me, President Donald Trump's downsizing that and splitting it into two units, the non-contiguous Shash Jáa in the south and Indian Creek in the north units, the former including the actual Bears Ears. And, Trump may be playing politics with the name for the new, and hopefully temporary by legal ruling first unit, as noted in the Salt Lake Tribune. (And I am SHOCKED that Interior Secretary chief hack Ryan Zinke, an even bigger Lyin Ryan than outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, lied about the renaming. (There's a good GIF map there of various proposals for the size of the area and the designation, whether national monument or not; by size, Obama's action is very close to what Utah's own Congresscritters Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop proposed, though without national monument designation.

Very worth a read: A new National Geographic article on Bears Ears and related issues.

Given things in Moab and in and around Arches National Park, I also get the concerns the likes of Jim Stiles had that the monument would bring an avalanche of recreational tourism. But, I think that's way overblown, as I've said before.

First, that has not happened in a Moab-like way in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area. There have been a few complaints that Escalante itself has gotten too tourist-dependent on some of its businesses, but from what I read about that recently in High Country News, it's nowhere near a Moab-type problem. (Beyond that, nothing's stopping Mormons in Southern Utah from ramping up heritage tourism.)

Second, there's a finite amount of both recreation time and dollars.

Grand Gulch-footprints stylized
Take only memories, leave only footprints, is very true in Grand Gulch.
Third, Bears Ears, like GSE, is more off the beaten path.

Stiles has recounted decades-old patrolling of that area by the BLM with presumed military surplus helicopters. Nobody wants that noise today. But, national monument designation might have led to drone patrols that wouldn't happen otherwise, among other things.

Beyond that, the Geographic story notes another concern. With digital cameras, and even more, smartphone cameras, geotagging photos, it becomes easy for more and more people to visit back-country ruins. Even if not vandals or for-profit thieves, they may still steal potsherds or masonry stones, or otherwise disturb the provenance of a site.

“The strategy of leaving it alone and trying to keep it a secret is unsustainable,” says Josh Ewing, executive director of Friends of Cedar Mesa, a conservation group.
Sums it up.

I know Stiles rightly questions Friends of Cedar Mesa's old plans to sell guided tours of the monument's backlands. Fine, but here's a better idea than chucking that entirely. Cut the price on such tours to more reasonable levels, and have the tribes involved with monument management, not Friends of Cedar Mesa, run them.

Fines from lawbreaking, especially on violating antiquities, could have a cut go to the tribes, too.

Beyond that, Stiles has now graduated from being an Ed Abbey quasi-propagandist to a full-on Mormon propagandist, in my opinion. When he says that Mormons have not only been persecuted as bad as American Indians but also indicated that said persecution of Mormons had just as little justification, it's hard to take anything he says about anything without HUGE grains of salt, if he doesn't post a URL for me to read through and make my own determination of his interpretations.

Other thoughts:

Per that Tribune link, the Navajos' link to Bears' Ears is the most tenuous, and may come close to the cultural appropriation that marks much of Navajo religion. (All religions have degrees of cultural appropriation and syncretism, but very few on the level of the Navajo.)

For a plethora of petroglyph and ruins pictures from Cedar Mesa and elsewhere, go here, or to a blog post of Randy's here.

November 01, 2018

White Helmets: "Russian meme" vs mainstream liberal progaganda

Taking on a new level of interest, with Germany and other EU members indicating they're willing to cooperate with Moscow, is the short- and medium-term future of Syria. And, part of that will surely be further discussion of how evil Bashar al-Assad is, and how saintly in many people's minds the White Helmets are. Related and lurking in the background for many will still be "Putin collusion with Trump ideas."

Unfortunately, people who should know better refuse to.

Shane Bauer's new book about the problems of the private prison system, expanded from an article he wrote for Mother Jones, is pretty good to very good.

Unfortunately, Bauer's employer is Mother Jones — the same Mother Jones that has been part of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment in warmongering about the Middle East, including Syria, and even more, led the now clearly vacuous "Trump-Putin collusion" brigade.

So, I guess it shouldn't be of any surprise that Bauer, jumping in a Twitter conversation that was started by Glenn Greenwald, claimed that anybody who attacked the mainstream line that the White Helmets were saints in preserving Syria's Arab Spring against the Assad regime was spouting a "Russian meme."

So, per Bauer's "Russian meme," then:

The United Nations, in confirming much of Ted Postal's analysis at Eastern Ghouta, is a Russian meme.

UN weapons inspector and Iraq invasion critic Scott Ritter is a Russian meme.

Sy Hersh, on Khan Sheikhoun, is a Russian meme.

Dennis Kucinich is a Russian meme.

So, too, is Counterpunch Consortium News founder Robert Parry and along with him, many others. That would even possibly include the European Union, though it may have opposed Syria sanctions for other reasons. (Per David's comment, Ken Silverstein, the actual founder of Counterpunch, would also be a Russian meme, though.)

Bauer joins a long list of people to strawman Syria. They're neocons plus (neo)liberal hawks for the most part, though there's also a few Trots claiming that no leftists but them understand Syria. Both groups, in more nutter expressions, call leftists like me "tankies." Wrong. Neither I nor any of the "Russian meme" people above are apologists for either Bashar al-Assad or Vladimir Putin. (Trots use the term "tankie" more narrowly to attack non-Trots of the left or far left on any grounds.)

And, an example here of Fisk NOT whitewashing Assad, at the end of this column about Jamal Khashoggi in particular and Middle Eastern hypocrisy in general.

And, with that, it's once again time to cite our old philosopher friend Idries Shah.

Idries Shah
Once again, Idries Shah:
“To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.” 
It's not surprising that average janes and joes with an investment in two-siderism pull this crap. And, that they don't want to know better. At one time, I would have called it surprising that a Shane Bauer did something like that. But, even though I know he knows better (I think), in the last 18 months, I find this less and less surprising.

This is also NOT to say, as my third-siderism goes fourth-siderism, that I agree with every bit of Russia apologetics from a Mark Ames or Yasha Levine. I like a fair amount of what both say, but don't buy everything.

October 30, 2018

TX Progressives number-crunch early voting and more

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges everyone who has voted to work to get more people to the polls as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the potential ticket-splitters in this year's election.

 SocraticGadfly does some number-crunching on the early voting surge and offers a quick hot take on what it might mean for the Cruz-O'Rourke Senate race.

Brains and Eggs takes a look at voting machine problems in early voting and ties this to state judicial court races and other issues.

 Stace at Dos Centavos reports on the weekend's voting and cultural activities in the Northside and The Heights.

NPR reports Kenny Boy Paxton, who shouldn't be using the word "fraud" anywhere but at his own trial, is doubling down on fake vote fraud claims.

The Texas Observer discusses Beto O'Rourke's work to turn out the black vote in Houston.


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

The Dallas Observer reports that the family of Botham Jean is suing the city of Dallas in federal court.

The Texas Trib has a half-good story about the problems facing high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston. It's half-bad, though, in that it never mentions HSR backers are choosing the wrong route, and should be following Texas 6 from Houston to Waco, then I-35, rather than following I-45. (Brains and I are were having a back and forth on his version of the Wrangle. He's right that the current folks have this specific route set; I can still call a turkey a turkey, though. In addition, while I've criticized Cal's HSR plans for having too many stations too close, adding just one, for Waco, doesn't seem dumb, especially if you've got one already planning allegedly for College Station but actually 30 miles away, and also allegedly going to serve Sam Houston State and the rest of Huntsville. [One wonders who holds land near that area.] Beyond that, specifics of the Dallas and Houston terminals are dumb enough this project is going to be a turkey for those reasons too. More talk from me in the past here, and more from Brains here, in what may become will be a separate blog post, for a number of reasons. The latest on California's HSR building progress and setbacks here. )

David Bruce Collins contrasts liberals and radicals on borders. (And, this is why I call myself a skeptical leftist; I'm not a radical in wanting to abandon the nation-state idea with open borders, but I am definitely not a liberal, either.)

Sanford Nowlin reminds us that some Christians do support progressive ideas and politics.

The TSTA Blog begs teachers to support public education at the ballot box.

Rick Casey votes No on a license plate honoring Confederate soldiers.

YesNoBlog suggests we pay attention to the security of our GPS systems.

Paradise in Hell ranks Donald Trump's favorite dictators.

Out in SA warns of a threat to San Antonio's non-discrimination ordinance.

October 29, 2018

Dallas Snooze pulls twist on its "one Dem an election" endorsements

It's long been a joke based on reality among bloggers and other pundits in Texas anywhere left-of-center that the Dallas Morning News, oh, sorry, The Snooze as it capitalize the The as part of the title, endorses one Democrat a year in top of the ballot races to prove it's non-partisan.

Well, first, the GOP ticket this year is chock-full of nutbars. When Gov. Strangeabbott is made to look sane by Danny Goeb, trial-dodging indictee Kenny Boy Paxton and Jeebus Shot Sid Miller, you have a problem with endorsing just one Democrat.

But, what the Snooze gives with its right hand, it takes away with its left.

For example, like the Houston Chronic, again a surprise, it endorsed Beto Robert Francis Xavier Kennedy O'Rourke over Havana Ted Rafael Edward Cruz.

But here's the taking away with the left:
That is not to say that Cruz doesn’t arrive to this debate with a host of policy positions that we are deeply devoted to.  On economic policy, for example, we supported the president’s tax cuts that Cruz voted for. And we stand with Cruz in looking to remove federal regulations that stifle job creation.  Removing barriers to American employment and prosperity is itself an act of compassion.
As I tweeted to the Snooze and Snooze opinion accounts, does this mean you support the Trump deficits? Or, instead, do you believe that Reagan's trickle-down pony in the haystack, peeing on my leg, will make me richer?

And, do you also stupidly believe that a bunch of federal regulations is stifling job creation?

Actually, the lack of single-payer national health care is stifling real entrepreneurship.

Finally, the Snooze lies in claiming Beto isn't a ConservaDem.

October 28, 2018

Texas early voting surge: A quick hot take

According to the Secretary of State's office, in just the top 30 counties in Texas, which contain about 75 percent of the state's registered voters, a little more than 2.4 million people had engaged in early voting last week.

Let's note just how much a surge this is.

In the last midterm, in 2014, a little over 4.7 million people voted in the governor's race, the top ticket with no incumbent in the race, versus Cornyn for re-election to the Senate.

So, already, we've had people in just the top 30 counties, three-quarters of the state, cast ballots at a rate of more than 50 percent of ALL voting, both early and election day, in ALL 254 counties, of 2014.

Some of this may be cannibalizing election day voting, sure. Most of it, though, probably not.

My guesstimate is somewhere around 5.7 million total ballots will be cast. Even offsetting population growth, that will be up a solid 20 percent from 2014.

So, what's driving this?

Here's my guesstimate on breakout percentages.

I'd say this:

  • 40 percent due to Beto-mania (he'll cut the White Album after the election)
  • 30 percent to Trump Train drive, even with teeth gritted
  •      (Note: I don't see a Beto-like surge being driven by any individual Republican on a statewide race, and the Racist Anarchist in Chief isn't on the ballot, as he'll surely remind people starting Nov. 7)
  • 20 percent non-Beto general #Resistance surging
  • 10 percent undifferentiated.

Take the 20 percent away from the 30 percent, and then take that remaining 10 percent away from the 40 percent. That leaves 30 percent of the surge, on net, for Beto.

That's a net difference of 300,000 voters right there. Cruz won in 2012 by 1.2 million, though, so we are not close.

Let's say that 30 percent translates to the whole 5.7 million. That's 1.7 million.

Beto's not going to beat Ted by 500,000. I'll eat my hat, Beto's skateboard and Havana Ted's White Castles empty boxes if it does.

Split the difference, then, giving Beto the big bump on the surge and a lesser bump on overall turnout and you're at 1 million.

Can Beto get an extra 200,000 votes beyond my hot take guess? Stand by.

And, Ted was running in a presidential year. So, cut his 1.2 million down to, say, 800,000. Take the 300,000 from the new voters alone, and we're at 500,000.

That means Beto has to flip just over 10 percent of the "old" voters. Possible? Sure.

Our Racist Anarchist in Chief has made this election yet more volatile. Richard Linklater is surely taking video from the Trump rally and cutting in words from Trump's incitements to violence, if he has half a brain.