SocraticGadfly: 12/15/19 - 12/22/19

December 19, 2019

Greg AtLast is back on impeachment, 25thAmendment
and Aaron Paté, Matt Snidely and other OTB stenos

Yes, he's back. Greg AtLast, still doing his best black hat work:

Per what friend Greg has said, here's my take on the 25th Amendment vis-a-vis Trump.

Here's one of my takes on the alleged outside the box stenos. And another.

And here's my take on Putin being too smart to collude with Trump.

As for the Trump Train riders who claim every previous impeachment has been on criminal charges?

Not even close. The Tenure of Office Act was entirely civil. So was every other "not doing your job" (the way we want you to) charge brought against Andrew Johnson.

Of course, what friend Greg didn't mention is that this is really yet another argument for moving at least closer to parliamentary government.

Also beyond Greg, there are other items that are more solid impeachment grounds than Ukraine. Such as spending money without Congressional appropriation for his wall.

December 18, 2019

Texas progressives welcome
our potential Green candidate overlords

This corner of the Texas progressives congratulate all Greens running for office, whether provisional based on final rulings on the HB 2504 lawsuit and its injunction about filing fees, or those who will run no matter what. For voters who want to make sure the party keeps ballot access, voting for RRC candidate Kat Gruene, when many Rethugs are already endorsing ConservaDem Castañeda (one of four Doinks in the race) over incumbent Rethug Ryan Sitton means the party can make noise.

And with that, let's dig in.

Texas politics

David Bruce Collins updates us on who all is running as Green candidates for various offices, including himself for U.S. Senate. He does this with a split listing, noting who has, and has not, paid filing fees in light of the lawsuit against HB 2504. That includes noting that his own candidacy is based on whether or not the onerous filing fees of that bill for third-party candidates are finally blocked in court, at least for anybody before Green or Libertarian nominations are made.

Brains takes his 2020 weekly update to the state instead of presidential level this week.

Off the Kuff took a closer look at the Democratic filings for Congress and state offices.
Texas Monthly offers its hot takes on primary filings.

The Trib notes that the plethora of Donkey candidates means a shortage of staffers.

Could the Doinks flip the House side of the Texas Lege? The Trib speculates. My guess is "probably not," but I wouldn't be surprised to see the difference narrowed from the current 83-67 to something like 80-70, which in turn means a Straus (Straus lite) Rethug has a good shot at the speakership. And, it would mean that Abbott, Danny Goeb, and other Rethug wingnuts in the Big House and the Senate would be handcuffed. I'll have more in my own blog post soon.

John Coby salutes Briscoe Cain's primary opponent.


Sly Turner smoked Tony Buzbee in the Houston mayoral runoff.

Taddy McAllister wants to know what happens to recycling after it's picked up from the curb.


The Texas Observer turns 65. Founding editor Ronnie Duggar, still alive, reflects on its history.

Nashville is buying Austin City Limits. Sounds like fun.

Texas Monthly pans Brian Kilmeade for his basically all-white (shock me) version of Texas independence.

Dan Solomon informs us that Alex Jones has always known exactly what he is doing.

Downwinders at Risk adds new board members. I hope it stopped the partnership it formed long ago of taking dirty money from the Wyly Brothers.  I remember old Katie Hubener defending that one. Or trying to.


In the wake of more nothingness at COP 25, David Bruce Collins asks from Houston how people who really care about climate change continue to vote Democrat rather than the duopoly exit. Reminder: The Paris Accord is little more than Jell-O.

Speaking of, the Observer interviews Katherine Hayhoe. IMO, she's a bit squishy about the severity of climate change, and hasn't made that much of a dent in trying to convince fellow evangelical Christians that even her slightly-squishy level of concern is anything more than socialism, but give it a read, including the spin level. I'll have more.

Trump invited Dallas Jew-hater Robert Jeffress to the White House to fellate his image — at a Hanukkah event no less.

Paradise in Hell fears we are in the Clown Era of world leadership.


SocraticGadfly offers a twofer related to world affairs, first saying goodbye to Jeremy Corbyn then calling out Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales for his sliming of Corbyn and other general sliminess.

December 17, 2019

Without guilt and justice in the Texas courtroom

The title's first half should be in quotes, as I am referring to Walter Kaufman's "Without Guilt and Justice."

Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to AutonomyWithout Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy by Walter Kaufmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kaufmann, Nietzsche's foremost expositor, and best English translator, brings his own considerable philosophical skills to play in this volume.

It is true that some of his specific references, such as the "alienation" of mid-20th century psychology, or his riffs on Solzhenitysn, may be dated.

But his core arguments certainly are not.

Kaufmann spends a fair amount of time turning a withering moral eye to retributive justice, and another withering logical and existential eye to the idea of proportional justice, and various related ideas.

Hence his title "Without Guilt and Justice." Kaufmann argues convincingly that neither idea can be logically generated within an overarching system of morals. One can almost see John Rawls being ground to grist between the millstones of Kaufmann's cogitating.

But, this is small confort to humanists who would argue that an enlightened system of morality exists without religion. Instead, Kaufmann is saying that ALL systems of morals, no matter their metaphysical base or antimetaphysical base, are existential in nature. As for particular moral terms like "guilt" and "justice," without specifically referencing Wittgenstein, Kaufmann's argument appears to be that they are part of the language games we play.

View all my reviews

So, where does the Texas courtroom come in?

Last month, at my current newspaper location, a teacher pled guilty to two counts of "improper relationship with a student."

She got five years probation, a fine, and of course, loss of her teacher certification. No jail time.

Had it been a male teacher and female students? The book probably would have been thrown. Absolutely, if we had had a male-male or female-female situation. This is Texas. And rural Texas is still where the wingers fly high.

But, it's not just that.

Two newspapers back, five years ago, had a similar situation. Female teacher, male student. Complicated by the teacher's oldest son being at the same high school.

Case went to trial and the teacher got several years.

In the first case above, the later, current case? One of the hookups involved, in part, Snapchat. Now, "snaps" are supposed to disappear by default, but I think you can make them non-disappearing. You can also, of course, do screengrabs. Reportedly, parents just wanted the case to go away, too. But, maybe the DA was being a red ass. Until he was told, "Look, if this goes to trial ..."

The earlier case? The kid had a Twitter account. It was mentioned — not just that he had one, but WHAT the account was — during the trial. During lunch break, the first thing I did back at my office is look it up.

His feed looked like a wannabe "playa." And, no, not the Spanish word for a salt flat.

Did the hookup turn him into that?

Well, I had the approximate date for the start of the sexual part of the hookup, so I scrolled back that far in his Twitter feed.

It may have made him more of a playa wannabe than before, but, he was somewhat that way before that. 

Why the defense attorney didn't introduce this? Especially as said kid had just signed a college sports scholarship, and to a private college to boot?

If the judge ruled it inadmissible, just to make doubly sure my appeal was well grounded, I think I would have tried to introduce it anyway.

Besides that, that can't have been the case. After all, the assistant DA was the person who mentioned the Twitter account.

That said, this was a teacher, not some indigent. And, the lawyer wasn't from Shelby County. the family hired someone, I don't even think from Nacogdoches; I think they went to Tyler.

Just shows you that you can blow money on a lawyer and still get a bad one.

December 16, 2019

John Fleck is NOT Marc Reisner

I stumbled across his blog about two years ago while Googling for information about Colorado River annual precipitation, basin snowpacks and related material.

While I recognized that he had good information about those numbers, I saw more and more that his "framing" was horrible. Like a junior president Obama, he thought all problems within water allocations could be — and had been, in cases already solved — fixed by "Kumbaya."

Along with this, he, and even more, a second-level co-blogger, slammed Marc Reisner, along with newspaper journalists and others, for promoting "conflict narratives." The co-blogger on the site was worse, claiming Reisner was out of date and other things.

Well, this summer, Fleck started touting his own new book, and how it would build on his previous book of years ago. So, I decided to make an interlibrary loan request for said first book.

I got it.

It was horrible.

I gleefully savaged it.

Here you go.

Intellectually dishonest, in my opinion.

I have Fleck’s blog (with some coauthors, mainly Eric Kuhn, the coauthor of his new book, but it’s primarily his) on my blogroll.

He knows the numbers stuff, or has friends and blog coauthors that do.

But, he’s Kumbaya on Colorado River stuff, as in like Preznit Kumbaya, aka Obama. And, on his blog, he sneered about Marc Reisner. And, yes, IMO, sneered is the right word. Look for yourself.

 So, knowing Fleck had written this book, and that he had a new one coming out, I wanted to see what he was like in more than blogging depth.


Worse than on the blog.

Let’s start with the most egregious issue. A 2016 book about Colorado River water issues doesn’t even use the words “climate change” until page 199? UNACCEPTABLE.

Second, and the point behind the header?

Much of the “Kumbaya” that Fleck mentions was only achieved with the threat of a legal mailed fist behind it. Kumbaya by force of law is hardly Kumbaya.

Other issues that pop up early on?

More dissing of Reisner. After initial mention, simply ignoring James Powell, author of “Dead Pool.” I have re-read “Cadillac Desert” half a dozen times and “Dead Pool” twice. Both are in my small “keepers” library.

Next? More Kumbaya, even as places like today’s Aral Sea basin, Jordan River, Tigris-Euphrates and Nile show that Kumbaya ain’t working so well as we speak.

We don't even need to go outside the Colorado Basin! The fate of the Hohokam should indicate that Kumbaya doesn't always win.

Next next? Ignoring that Colorado River water usage has been mitigated by ever-heavier drawdowns of groundwater, both in groundwater basins connected to the Colorado (Arizona) and in those not (California), though there it’s more to reduce Sacramento-San Joaquin water u se in the Central Valley.

Next next next? Ignoring the connection between groundwater basins and river recharge. Anybody who knows the godawful state of southern Arizona tributaries of the Gila also knows why.

And, we’ll keep going. In supporting growing alfalfa as a flexible crop, he ignores that the methane farts of the cows it feeds contribute to the climate change that is making the Colorado ever drier. But, since he doesn't mention climate change until the end of the book ...

A lot of the Kumbaya cooperation Fleck cites, like in SoCal, has the fist of threatened legal power behind it, in specific, just as has most Colorado River stuff. Doesn’t matter if the threat is rarely invoked; it exists. That’s “forced Kumbaya,” not Kumbaya.

Also, it comes off as a bit cherry-picking to discuss a couple of small Southland water districts and never discuss the massive water headaches in the Central Valley, which were a large part of Reisner’s book.

One other reviewer notes water fights in the Central Valley (speaking of) are even worse than in the Colorado, and large scale corporate farms have no problems putting their thumb on the scales.

Back inside the Colorado basin, and after the date of this book, Arizona’s state Speaker of the House Bowers nearly gutted a needed agreement for new water use reductions earlier this year with a proposed rider on the bill. Only the threat of the Maricopa affiliation of Indian tribes forced his hand. Fleck made light of it.

Speaking of that, that water agreement was required because of Lake Mead hitting 1.075 elevation. Fleck, near the end of the book, notes that a previous agreement didn’t directly address 1,075, but appears to believe there that this point wouldn’t hit until after 2020.

Well, Fleck, it hit before then, and it hit before then in spite of a record Rockies snowpack in 2019. Did you talk about climate change in your new book?

One other point vis-à-vis the Anglo water world in the Southwest in general, American Indian water rights are the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Fleck does eventually discuss them – for half a dozen pages or so in the last 10 percent of the book. But he doesn’t go into detail.

Next, he never considers whether a “moon shoot” shouldn’t overhaul the current Upper / Lower Basin divisions. (I say it should; I’d put the Virgin River in the lower basin and the Little Colorado in the upper.) Related to that, on his blog, Fleck appears wedded to giving the Upper Basin just as much water despite its lesser population and its agricultural challenges.

Something almost as inexcusable as not mentioning climate change until the end of the book? Talking early on about the Mormons and the amount of water management ideas they spread around the West while ignoring that they got much of that, in turn, by learning from the majordomos who ran (and still run, in many cases) acequias in New Mexico. It’s doubly inexcusable not to mention this since Fleck is a long term reporter at the Albuquerque Journal.

(Update: It now becomes triply inexcusable. New research from the U.S. Geological Survey shows the river has lost 20 percent or more of its flow since 1913 and more than half of that is definitely attributable to climate change. More information from that study shows that, in just 30 more years, it will lose another one-quarter of its flow. Maybe more. So, Fleck is not only "criminal" for not discussing climate change in his first book, he's also "criminal" for its effects playing out, and he's criminally stupid in his Kumbaya belief if he things the future's going to be addressed without elbow-throwing lawyering.)

That’s even though he mentions it in his blog. While, at the same time, it's a throwaway line.

Look, some "gloom and doom"  newspaper reporting and books over the state of the Colorado may have been too much. BUT, they were reasonable extrapolations from the status quo at the time they were written. Killing a perhaps sometimes overdone angle the way Fleck has done is proverbial gnat meeting sledgehammer.

Of course, a sledgehammer can't be swung quickly and accurately enough to actually kill a gnat.

Finally, beyond the thumb-on-scales slant, I just don't think the book is that well written. The throwaway nature of the Mormon comment would be one example.


Update, Feb. 5, 2020: Apparently I've been ghosted out of commenting on his blog. I could just use a new email address, but he's not worth it.