SocraticGadfly: 5/5/19 - 5/12/19

May 10, 2019

Green New Deal vs Green New Deal Part 4:
Agricultural technology as part of the solution

This is something I have not discussed in Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of comparing the Green New Deal of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a few other venturesome Democrats to the 2016 Green Party proposal.

Now, I'm on longstanding record as rejecting the idea of "salvific technologism," as I call it in a blog tag. In other words, I do not believe that Silicon Valley, or other technology, is guaranteed to save us from our big problems.

At the same time, I'm not a Luddite, either. Nor am I a conspiracy monger or similar over agricultural technology.

I'm talking above all about GMOs, along with CRISPR and other things.

And here? Today's Green Party is behind the curve and remains behind the curve. Modern agricultural technology indeed has a role to play in a Green New Deal that wants to reduce agriculture's share of contributing to greenhouse gases in particular and environmental degradation in general. I don't know what AOC thinks, and given that she's been a hypocrite on hamburgers, I really don't care what she thinks out loud anyway.

But, on this one,, specifically on GMOs I almost certainly disagree with many members of the Green Party. And I also disagree with the official stance of the Green Party. We do NOT need a moratorium on GMOs. And, should the party try something pre-emptive here, we certainly don't need one on CRISPR technology. The SPUSA is OK with GMOs, as long as they're labeled.

Your snooty French bread: Full of GMOs by some definitions
That said, per Grist, just what is a GMO, if do want to label them, let alone indefinitely ban them? (Let's be honest, that's what the GP's moratorium aims for.) Depending on how you define what a GMO is, especially for lower-case greenies who want their baguettes, they're already eating GMOs.

And, it's easy to demonize Monsanto if you have an advance mindset of wanting to demonize it, whether on GMOs or on glyphosphate.

Bananas: More radioactivity than
a basement full of radon, plus chemicals!
This is the same Grist that, a number of years ago, wrote the excellent series "Panic free GMOs." Per my take at the time, it says that 2/3 of Greenie-type fears of, or even just concerns about, GMOs are totally unfounded. Another 1/4 of the concerns, per Grist, are legitimate mild to slight concerns. One-twelvth and no more rise to the modest/moderate level and none go higher than that. I basically refuse to talk to Greenie types who haven't read the Grist series, and I block on social media those who say they have and claim Grist is on the take or something. Grist allowed multiple comments and even did some follow-up pieces in the series about them, among other things. NOT on the take and NOT closed-minded.

On the other hands, both parties are Luddites on opposing antimicrobial irradiation of food. Beyond just being Luddites, they ignore, in fearing "chemicals!", that bananas are naturally radioactive. And loaded with "chemicals"!

Also depending on what definition of "GMO" you use, Greens who eat Rio Star / Ruby Star grapefruit and drink modern beer with modern beer barley are being hypocrites because these are mutagenic plants — genes modified by .... wait for it, wait for it ...


Are there concerns we should have about "Big Ag" as an industrial sector? Yes, and they should be just as real and accurately informed as concerns about "Big Pharma." We don't need fear-mongering about GMOs any more than about vaccines.

May 09, 2019

TX Progressives look at municipal elections and more

Change came to locales across the state with municipal and school board elections, as well as a number of bond elections, last Saturday. The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes things went your way where you live while offering you this week’s roundup from members and other contributors and news sites.

That includes one unindicted soon-to-be-ex mayor leaving a Dallas suburb and also proving that John Creuzot's prosecutorial reform is in some cases misguided, overboard, or just not all it's cracked up to be.

Off the Kuff goes down the redistricting rabbit hole one more time.

Stephen Young analyzes the Dallas mayoral and city council races, and pending runoffs.

SocraticGadfly asks, in the wake of his recent arrest, is Julian Assange a journalist?

Michael Li reports from the Texas Voting Rights Act bail-in hearing.

Christopher Hooks summarizes the fight over paid sick leave in the Lege.

The Trib notes the sales tax for property tax swap appears dead.

Grits for Breakfast calls for indigent defense to be separate from the judiciary.

John Coby recaps Tony Buzbee's political history.

Christof Spieler analyzes the forthcoming Metro referendum.

The Bloggess gets better Amazon recommendations than you do.

Vince Liebowitz in his paper talks about how the LCRA is intervening in a Colorado County water pollution case.

In a twofer here, Stephen Young sniffs at former Sen. Konni Burton's "news" outlet.

I used to think state legiscritter Chris Paddie was a relatively sane conservative. His bill to charge activist environmental protestors with disrupting projects under construction — under construction, not built — is ridiculous. It’s Gohmert Pyle East Texas nutbar ridiculous.

Could the Driver Responsibility Program finally be dead

Jim Schutze offers his update on the Botham Jean shooting with the release of the Amber Guyger 911 call recording. 

May 08, 2019

Advance surrenders in NOLA

It really should be no surprise.

The Baton Rouge Advocate, having started a New Orleans edition several years ago when Advance, owners of the venerable New Orleans Times-Picayune, made noises, then did it, about getting rid of a 7-day print product, or at least a 7-day print product for home delivery, has now bought the TP. (IF you're going to do something like this? Don't piss off subscribers. Instead, even though you're delivering in volume, whack everyday delivery to racks and retailers instead. Advertisers would probably prefer to reach dedicated customers, too.)

The takeover is brutal for NOLA staffers — all of them were sacked and will have to reapply. The Georges family would have come off better at saying "we'll look at staffing needs," and hired all op-ed staff immediately on a contract basis, along with section editors off the copy desk and selected top staffers otherwise, while saying "we'll get back to you" on the rest.

On the third hand, per the official announcement, the Advocate had its own, well-sized for today's newspaper world, staff.

But in terms of the big picture, the only question I have is — what took this so long? Did Advance not face reality? (As soon as the Advocate announced a New Orleans edition, it took off like white on rice in jambalaya.) The officially announcement said that NOLA was not for official sale but that Advance saw the handwriting on the wall.

For the Georges ownership, it makes great sense. They launched a paper in Lafayette a few years back and own an alt-weekly in NOLA. And, contra a NOLA TV station, the TP had ceased to be a gold standard at least since the 2012 circ decision. (Oh, pro tip to the TV interviewer? Turn your cellphone off before starting an interview. And, if the interview itself was done on cellphone video cam? Pro tip to station: stop being so fucking cheap.)

So, why isn't this happening elsewhere? Why doesn't the Akron Beacon Journal roll the dice on a Cleveland issue and see if Advance and the Plain Dealer will surrender? Ditto on whatever the paper is in Vancouver, Washington, (it's the Columbian) versus the Oregonian? Especially since Advance's company-wide transition to being allegedly digital-first has been as slow as hell.

May 07, 2019

High Country News goes from surrendering to movement
rightists to kowtowing to SJW environmentalists

High Country News, which surrendered to the militia/3 percent/posse comitatus type western conservatives more than a year ago when it shut off all commenting on its stories, and has long decided not to seek out editorial contributions from more leftist environmentalists like Jeff St. Clair, has now also decided to kowtow to a SJW-driven group of minority outdoors lovers by letting their leader pen an op-ed screed claiming that people calling out the Instagrammers trampling on poppy blooms and other expressions of environmental concern are all racist.

No, seriously, though:
And, yes, this may well be the most ridiculous piece I've ever seen in HCN in 15-plus years of semi-regular, semi-continuous subscriber readership.

(Note: A modified version of what I had originally created as this blog post was submitted to HCN as a letter to the editor. We'll see if it runs it as is, bounces it back to be shortened or politened, or refuses to run it and never contacts me about that. Given that it hasn't responded to most Tweets when I've been critical of articles before and listed specific reasons, I am not holding my breath.)

An anti-geotagging movement is supposedly racist, in part because it's an exercise in privilege.

The "Leave no Trace" campaign is hysteria. And it's supposedly about "policing black and brown bodies" in the outdoors. And, it's allegedly misguided because traces are already left. (No duh; any good environmentalist knows that.)

And the idea that "Leave no Trace" campaigners are "out there" and while "out there," engaged in "policing black and brown bodies" is ridiculous. And, based on a misinterpretation of what the Leave no Trace Center says on this Instagram. The LNTC account says X, Y, or Z MAY happen with regular feeding of a wild bird. AND, it does NOT mention "this MAY happen ONLY if the person feeding the bird is a minority."
This is one of those areas where the Center doesn’t have an official stance. Rather, we leave it up to personal choice (as with many things Leave No Trace) as to the best decision. Again, our focus is on non-motorized recreation and how to enjoy the outdoors in a responsible way.”
Is the misinterpretation accidental or willful? I can't prove it's willful, but given the tenor of the main HCN article, it sure comes off that way.

This excellent Jezebel piece about poppy tramplers and the person running the Public Lands Hates You account says NOTHING about "casual hikers quoting rap lyrics." In fact, it doesn't mention minorities at all.

And, if you go to the Instagram account, it calls out capitalism, then the hunt for the infamous 15 minutes of fame, not people of any race.

Speaking of, here's my second tweet in a thread about this utter dreck:
The rest of the piece goes on with what seems to be continual evidence free (or even evidence refuted, as above) claims.

Is there still racism in environmentalism? Is there still racism in the Green Party as an environmental party? Yes and yes.

Does this piece and the Instragram hullabaloo document any of that related to the Instagram hullabaloo? No.

As for other things, like claims that some flower tramplers are drunken? Maybe they are/were, maybe not.

In either case, that's the only claim made. NO claim was made that they were "black drunks," or "Hispanic drunks," or anything like that.

Instead, the PLHY guy has been threatened with multiple lawsuits from Instagram influencers, as well-known environmental writer Christopher Ketchum describes, something the Melanin Base Camp folks conveniently omit.

The Ketchum piece is itself worth a thorough read, rather than MBC's attempt to trash it. In fact, I'm seeing this as being a "whose ox was gored" as much as anything.

It's no surprise that HCN, in what I see as a continuing incremental rightward drift, won't instead write more about the Instagrammer problem. And the capitalism behind it.

Meanwhile, MBC founder Danielle Williams next goes straight to Whataboutism in spades:
What they don’t say is striking. None of the articles place responsibility on Congress to increase appropriations for the Department of the Interior which faces a budget cut and a massive administrative overhaul. Nor do they ask Congress to stop weaponizing government shutdowns — which have devastated national parks like Joshua Tree in the past — to play to their political base. There is also little expectation that land management stakeholders respond to overcrowding with increased staffing, education, permit requirements, enforcement or outreach. No, the overwhelming emphasis is on keeping hikers they don’t want in, out.
Ketchum and others, PLENTY of other good environmentalists, have written about all of this, and the suggestions at the end of the HCN piece, plenty of times.

HCN printing such whataboutism is itself disgusting. 

Sorry, HCN, but that's how I feel. You've run a number of good stories about the lack of minorities in the outdoors, which have pointed out legitimate issues, and legitimate attempts to address them.

Then you run a piece that could be by, and certainly is in support of, a bunch of Instascammers (I went there) wrongly using racism accusations as an SJW tool.

And, while I know more and more than Twitter has a low call-to-response ratio, this isn't the first time that HCN has not responded to me when I've called out what I see as "framing" errors. That's another reason I'm definitely ready to let my subscription lapse and am close to asking to have it canceled now and refunded what remains.

Beyond that, the Instascammers — and arguably, HCN, per my previous call-out partially to it — don't take climate change's portion of environmentalism as seriously as it should maybe be taken. The Instascammers under cover of SJW eco-woke-ness (yes I said that) are clearly pro-capitalist. HCN has only occasionally written about the left not liberal early unionizing history of the west, and even that, mildly.


Update, May 13: A condensed version of this was submitted to HCN as a letter to the editor. Editor-in-Chief Brian Calvert has responded by saying he'll keep this in mind. Whether it runs as an actual letter or not? Stand by. With this issue being HCN's travel issue, I wasn't expecting it in there, but ... next issue?

And, answer is no.

If you don't run mine, you'd better run somebody's angry letter, and I assume you got them over that piece.

And, answer is that they ran nobody else's.

The answer now, May 27 is that this was an online-only piece, so no print letter to the editor. I've inquired about online letters to the editor; somehow I doubt HCN has even thought about that, and I also doubt that it will change its policy, or tweak its website, to make that happen.

In essence, you're saying that you'll publish whatever you want online without reader feedback. You've already turned off online commenting, and you don't have online letters to the editor.

NOT wunderbar.


And, call it an irony alert, or more likely, either unaware irony or something else. In its Heard Around the West from that issue, HCN notes a New York Times story calling out Instagrammers.

Slightly in the same vein as the Melanin folks' piece is this interview with a Berkeley prof who claims previous histories of the Transcontinental Railroad have ignored the sociological personal story of the Chinese who were part of the work. Actually, Empire Express, at least, does talk about that, as I note in my long-ago review. Although not specifically mentioned by me, Bain does talk about the Chinese strike, among other things. And, mentioning Philip Foner by name, when, although he wrote books about labor history in the era of railroad building, he did not write one specifically about the transcontinental railroad, seems a bit specious.

Anyway, on a lesser scale, like Melanin Base Camp, this seems another angle of using social justice warriordom in the service of capitalism.


Beyond THAT, said influencers are losing influence, the Wall Street Journal reports. THAT (per my suspicions) was probably behind the Melanin folks' bitching, and again, something HCN never considered.

May 06, 2019

Good bye to Rob Franke as Cedar Hill mayor
You deserve a legal kick in the butt that you're not getting

STB-ex Mayor Rob Franke and then-Councilman Chris Parvin — Cedar Hill's original Piety Brother hypocrites.

Perhaps the soon-to-be-ex Cedar Hill mayor did nothing criminally wrong, but ethically wrong? Shit, that good-old-boy network of real estate issues stunk to high heaven ethically. And, per Franke's personal background, was hypocritical as hell for a conservative evangelical Christian. Franke said he was embarrassed, but maybe it was only for being caught, especially since he blamed city staff for not reminding him — OVER A FULL DECADE — to not file conflict of interest materials. Others caught up in the issue, like Councilman Chris Parvin, may not even have been embarrassed. And, it's too bad Creuzot, didn't find enough to bring charges during the investigation, or rather, it seems, too bad Creuzot went in the tank for whatever reason. (Adding to the problem, perhaps, is that Creuzot's Greg Abbott-appointed GOP predecessor, Faith Johnson, is a Cedar Hill resident.)

Parvin, like Franke, was at least embarrassed enough not to run for re-election, ending his tenure a year ago. Fellow hypocrite Jami McLain — not on the council when I was there — unembarrassedly tried to succeed Franke as mayor, and lost. It makes me wonder what shenanigans went on behind what is now the semi-flop of a mall in Cedar Hill, the former Uptown Village, even if it's not inside the economic development zone that brought up the conflict of interest problems. The same lack of ethics that led to a refusal (NOT a "failure") to disclose conflicts of interest could have led to other unethical behavior in terms of land and economic development. The 2008 start of non-compliance is kind of a red flag. I wish I could ex post facto throw up Parvin's White Rhino coffee.

Parvin, unlike Franke, never really fooled me. Parvin was active then in partisan politics, along with then-fellow councilman Wade Emmert, who went on to eventually become Dallas County GOP chairman.

Franke? I don't bash all conservative Christians as people, even when I disagree strongly with their views. But, if they walk the walk ethically, I will tip my hat. And at the time I was in Cedar Hill, he struck me as a straight shooter.

I had no idea until reported several years later that he had these conflicts of interest ... and conveniently chose to stop reporting them just as the old downtown area of Cedar Hill was looking at new development, a possible planning overlay for that, etc.

And, Franke made this all much worse by claiming it was inadvertent, and that it was inadvertent because city staff didn't remind him.

Really, Rob? You (IMO) lying sack of shit? You'd been filing conflict of interest forms before that, and after that, because some city staffer reportedly didn't remind you, you magically forgot?

And, if I'm understanding correctly, this isn't just a civil issue. Creuzot could have filed Class B misdemeanors, at least if the prohibition on state officials applies to local elected bodies. He would have had to prove intent, but, still ...

That said, if former long-term city manager Alan Sims (city manager in 2008 and 2009, at least, per Franke's comments above) is now joining the city council, how much will really change? (Cedar Hill ISD trustee Valerie Banks would have been better, IMO, even if Sims won't be bad — I think.) Well, Cedar Hill voters are apparently allowing package booze sales, so that much has changed. And, Sims didn't appear to be as much a toady to Franke as Sims' assistant city manager, then successor, Greg Porter.

Other Best Southwest election results show long-term Drunkenville ISD board member Dorothy Wolverton poised to lose her seat.