SocraticGadfly: 2020

December 30, 2020

Greg AtLast calls out BOTH Seth Rich nutters AND Trump collusion nutters

Been about a full year, I think, since Greg AtLast, the better half doppelgänger of Greg Palast, has spoken to me.

Listen to him first call out #TheResistance nutters claiming that Trump surely colluded with Russia, then call out Ty Clevenger for his part in continuing to goose the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, along with Aaron Maté, Max Blumenthal, and other "allegedly outside the box stenos" for their claims that the DNC hacks were NOT by Russia (ignoring the RNC hacks) and failure to offer an option to this being a Russian hack, giving assent by their silence to Seth Rich conspiracy theories.

Per friend Greg, none of this is to say that Trump isn't "unhinged" in his conversations with Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn. It is to say that, AFAIK (and AtLast can tell) there was no collusion. And, re the 25th Amendment, "unhinged" is not "insane" in a clinical sense.

Onward and upward, with three weeks left until Joe Biden does a more graceful management of the continuing decline of America. Given that recent events show the body of the American constitution sucks, this is what we're stuck with until we get a LEFTIST "Convention of the States." AND? It needs to be a skeptical leftist version.

December 28, 2020

How a President Biden could get us a mask mandate

It's actually pretty simple.

The president IS the chief executive.

The executive branch has nearly 20 Cabinet departments and dozens of independent agencies.

All do a lot of federal purchasing.

So, you start by saying you will only buy products from companies that have internal mask mandates. If you want to get really hardball, you expand that to something like:

"The federal government can no longer buy products from companies with location in states with no mask mandates."

In other words, meat processors in South Dakota? Federal building and department lunchrooms no can do on buying your pork. That would get Kristi Noem's attention for sure.

Extend it from there, under the interstate commerce clause, to stop other products from leaving states with no, or tissue-paper-thin, mask rules. Defense manufacturing would be a biggie, because a president, Biden or somebody with bigger balls, could add "national security" in a way that reverse-spins Trump on meatpackers.

Also getting the attention of a Kristi Noem would be federalizing the National Guard in states with Indian reservations that require masks when the state government doesn't. Tribes are sovereign nations per the Constitution, so this would all be legit, too.

December 26, 2020

Brexit deal: No, Boris, you didn't win

A "Brexit deal" between the UK and EU is now here. Ireland-Northern Ireland appear the big winner overall. The UK is the bigger winner on fisheries issues, but the bigger loser on most other regulatory issues, and a number of things were punted down the road, which means Boris Johnson is lying (shock me) when he says "we have taken control." And, it was symbolic bullshit, as fishing is less than 1 percent of the British economy. Also per that NPR link, the claim that Britain will get some special deal in new trade negotiations with the US or elsewhere? Any new deal with the US will be one that will not harm US-EU relationships.

And, US banksters, knowing the UK is now cut off from the Continent that way, may push to further undercut The City of London's financial power. That — the details of Britain's financial services relationship to the EU — was one of the punts.

There's also still the question of whether Scottish nationalists will plump for another independence vote, and if Johnson would attempt to fight that.

Also contra Boris, the long-term game is much more in the EU's hands than the UK's. The leverage over Britain no longer being in the EU's financial services market is one reason. The European Central Bank and EU member state banks, plus major private banking firms, especially in Germany, will throw new weight around.

Ditto if, on the punted regulatory issues, Johnson or a successor tries to get hardcore on Ireland. Here in the US, a President Biden is ardent about the Good Friday accord, and if Johnson appears to be doing anything to hurt that? Related to Ireland? As Patrick Cockburn notes, there, the EU-UK border was agreed by Boris to shift to the middle of the Irish Sea, not between the 22 and the 6.

December 24, 2020

Coronavirus news: Keep wearing a damned mask, week 38 and beyond

• And, hopefully, in the not too distant future, you and I will know how well it works! NIOSH and ASTM are developing mask efficacy standards. As the story notes, the FDA, post-Scott Gottlieb, midst-Stephen Hahn semi-kowtowing to Trump, could have worked on such standards, and didn't.

• None too soon, either. London went on lockdown last Friday as the result of a new strain of coronavirus evolving, and Canada and many other countries temporarily blocked travel. Meanwhile, yet another new strain, perhaps worse than the London one, has also evolved, primarily in South Africa, and reportedly more dangerous than the London mutation, especially as it's more "aggressive" against younger people. I saw a piece by Outside mag recently speculating on how soon international travel might pick up again. Latest answer? Not very, and it is probably irresponsible of Outside to do any more speculating. That said, Dr. Anthony Fauci (wait a minute, is he an MD or not?) has said he opposes a travel ban here.

• A mix of sad and disgusting here in Texas. So many health care workers in the Valley passed on getting vaccinated (wish ProPublica/Trib had at least a few comments as to why) that it had extra vaccine available ... and ConservaDem Legiscritter Eddie Lucio cut in line, by standards of vaccination eligibility, as pictured at left.

Meanwhile, here's the latest on Chinese censorship at the start of the spread of the coronavirus. It's also yet another reminder not to trust Chinese case and fatality stats. Sidebar: The piece is also a reminder that I take commenters who pooh-pooh the seriousness of China's reported plans for a social media credit system with a grain or three of salt. The bigger question yet? How long before Beijing tracks down these leakers?

• Another reminder that, contra Trump's "reopen America" and Abbott's "reopen Texas" — dead people don't buy anything.

• That includes the 16,000 and counting age 25-44 COVID deaths.

• Reminder: Face shields, by themselves, are not great protectors. They help. But have gaps — literally.

• Texas, weddings, and maskless COVIDiocy. Shock me.

• Deborah Birx: The coronavirus' John Cornyn of (allegedly) talking tough to Trump in private. Oh, also, a big fat hypocrite.

• Bud Kennedy reports small-town Texans are "angry at COVID." From where I live, they're not angry enough to mask up like they should. He notes it's the same in places like Granbury. What this really is? Another form of American exceptionalism. "We're Merika, we shouldn't be getting bossed around by this little bitty V'uh-EYE-russ."

• Merika's expansive definition of "essential worker" and other things means that there's some major medical ethics involved with vaccine triage. (That doesn't stop Andrew Sullivan from playing "gotcha" with professor Harald Schmidt near the end of the story.)

• Reopening schools has had its own round of detritus in "blue" areas, especially ones that also have teachers unions in contract negotiations. Slate has details of how certain blue state considerations can trump science .... kind of like Trump did. Part of the story in Brookline is "blue against blue" .... Berniecrat type teachers vs. neoliberal Hillbot/Obamiac administrators and parents.

• And, schools largely opened up in Europe, for a variety of reasons that included but weren't limited to weaker unions in a few countries to more centralized (as in federalized/nationalized) school control in many.

• Shelley Luther got off scot-free. Had she been non-white and in the Valley? She'd have been arrested

• A guest poster at Skeptical Raptor says she'd like coronavirus vaccine liability cases moved OUT of an emergency use liability limitations court system and into the general vaccine court system. 

Jef Rouner talks to Dr.Peter Hotez about the forthcoming anti-vaxxer backlash.

December 23, 2020

Is China's discussed great social media credit system feasible?

In the latest round of his suggested readings, Massimo Pigliucci mentions it in passing, mainly from the point of view of a Stephen Kershnar, philosophy prof at SUNY, who among other things, utters this:

The problem with Shen’s argument is that people do not have a right to dignity, privacy, or reputation.

Just. Wow.

"Saphsin" in comments, with multiple links, responds vociferously that it taint so. And I, in my last comment on Sunday, countered with this ProPublica piece about China's degree of social media and general Internet control over early days and weeks of coronavirus news.

First, per my comment with that link, I do NOT think there's a huge degree of scalability on the tech side. Also, unlike the US, where an Amazon, if it ever actually developed a corporate conscience, could walk away from CIA work, many of the Chinese tech companies involved with furthering Xi Jinping Thought through censorship of questioning of it, if not state-owned, do so much business with the Chinese government that they can't walk away.

Per Lee Majors speaking the opening to "The Six Million Dollar Man," Xi could easily say: "We have the technology. We have the capability ... "

To the degree there IS anything like a scalability issue? It's on the people side.

Sure, it would take at least an extra 100,000 people to make this truly work. And unlike Hucksterman outsourcing Facebook content moderation to the Philippines, this would have to be done in-house, so to speak.

But, impossible? Μὴ γένοιτο, to riff on Paul; there, it means "god forbid," translated idiomatically, or something similar. Would that there were a god to forbid on something like this! In reality? I look at pre-1989 East Germany. The Stasi reportedly had as many as 200,000 informants on its books in a country 2 percent the size of China.

The REAL issue? It's a philosophical one. A Platonic one. Per "The Republic," who watches the watchers? Who guards the guardians? Actually, per a program this big, in a country the size of China, per theory of other minds, you'd certainly need a third level, that of people watching the people watching the watchers. Per Monty Python, the people watching the watchers who watch the watching the watchers have been sacked from the subtitles.

But, with carrots and sticks, or bread and crucifixions, to spin Caesar a bit, you can get enough spying on the spies to make this happen.

Facebook and Twitter themselves offer ideas. Both allow people to report things like fake news, misleading claims about elections, etc. (Though Twitter, at least in the case of one certain elected official, doesn't actually do anything with that, of course. Not really.)

Let's say that Chinese social media platform Weibo, roughly similar to Twitter, had similar reporting tools. Let's also say that, for each comment by someone else I report and that Weibo agrees needed to be reported auto-tweaks my algorithm to make future comments by me more visible to others. Let us also say that, short of account suspension, the more posts of yours that are reported and that Weibo agrees needed reporting auto-tweaks your algorithm in the reverse direction. (Surprised that Twitter hasn't already thought of this; the cesspool would clean up a fair amount right there.) Let us now say that CCP officials oversee Weibo's reporting system and that, in addition to Facebook and Twitter reporting categories, there is one that is called "Insults Xi Jinping Thought" or similar, and that CCP officials monitor this category of reports most closely.

ProPublica tells us more about how China's paid Internet trolls stage-manaaged making the coronavirus appear less bad in China than it actually was. This, too, should show us how a social media credit system could be controlled. You use fluffers to fluff the subservient.

Sorry, Saph, but your links aside? This shows how that wouldn't be that hard. It's just a subtler, more insidious form of the Cultural Revolution.

Xi could even say, per Mao: "Let a thousand Weibo accounts be shut down!"


More Chinese coronavirus lies, including those by Winnie the Pooh himself, President Xi Jinping, have been exposed. These are again about covering up/ignoring the early days and weeks in Wuhan, including Xi's own lies about how quickly he intervened.

December 22, 2020

Texas Progressives say Merry Christmas, and said Happy 250th Ludwig

And, Splendid Saturnalia, Kozy Kwanzaa and anything else you need greeted.

With that, let's dig into the roundup.

From his arts and philosophy blog, SocraticGadfly offered a hearty Happy 250th Birthday to Beethoven, including YouTube tracks of favorite orchestral, chamber group and soloist performers of some of his music.


"Lesser evilism," intra-GOP version, prevailed Saturday in the SD30 runoff as establishmentarian grifting wingnut Drew Springer beat lawlessness wingnut Shelley Luther.

Grits, looking at the rigor of police training in other countries, wishes we could apply some of that here.

Speaking of, the feds are intervening in Austin policing. Gee, once again, what about states rights etc?


The Bum Steer Awards are out! Top dog? Texas Dems for once again overpromising and underdelivering. Top runner up? The COVID-19. Greg Abbott was top/bottom dog within that. Sadly, Shelley Luther only got mentioned within Greg Abbott's mention. I forgot about Kenneth Copeland saying God would destroy the virus.

Barry Corbin is still kicking.

Texas Monthly is still fellating H-E-B.

The Big Bend's mini-Target outside Marfa is gone.

#MeToo issues in the oil patch? I am shocked! I'm also "shocked" that #MeToo accountability has, for the most part, not even started to happen.


Ohh, more alleged bribery involving Dwaine Caraway.

A federal judge has reinstated the Botham Jean family's lawsuit against the city of Dallas, after amendment.


Steve Hotze's Texas-fried version of the nutter conspiracy theory has led a former Houston PD captain to apparently commit what could wind up being multiple felonies, staging a deliberate rear-end collision to arrest an AC repairman whose van allegedly contained "Texas suitcases" or whatever of ballots.

Off the Kuff analyzed statewide judicial numbers and the trends from the last three Presidential elections in Harris County.

The Texas Signal commemorates Harris County's first election under the new Elections Administrator.


Trickle down economics via tax cuts for the rich is officially a failure. Shock.

That said, trickle to relatives grifting, Trump-style, has hit the Colorado GOP.

Michael Li explains the SCOTUS dismissal of the challenge to Trump's order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census.

Therese Odell contemplates the "Trump is literally dragged out of the White House" scenario.

Texas Monthly takes a closer look at Austin-based SolarWinds, the company at the heart of the massive Russian cyberattack.

December 21, 2020

Solstice star, not Christmas star, at Great Conjunction

Jupiter and Saturn tonight have their closest conjunction in 400 years and their closest nighttime, visible one in about 800 years.

And, fitting for methodologically naturalist science, it's on the winter solstice.

And, I appear to have indeed gotten it, as ragged as it is, on camera, handheld.

That would be Jupiter at left, and I believe Io above and Europa below.

And, per my blog post of several years ago, as far as modern explanation of the development of our Solar System, Laplace is the reason for the season. That's French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace, who articulated the "nebular hypothesis" more than 200 years ago.

For  latest modern modelings on how the nebular Solar System developed, see this great Nautilus piece. Among other things, it explained why Jupiter and Saturn likely moved out, rather than in closer to the Sun, as they gained mass.

Per two paragraphs above? As a secular humanist, I can appreciate the wonder and joy of astronomy without having to put either Christian or New Age veneers over it. I can also appreciate the wonder of reaching across 800 years of history. But also, unlike some of Laplace's older peers (Diderot, d'Holbach even more) I don't have to act like a Gnu Atheist, either.

After I did editing of pix and an initial wrap on the blog post (I already had the Nautilus and my old blog post in place yesterday) I started thinking about "miracles" of human ingenuity.

First, of course, is the cultural evolution in astronomical understanding that led Copernicus to re-invent the heliocentric theory and for it to gain acceptance. Then came the big step of Kepler's gathering of empirical evidence to establish elliptical orbits. Then, Galileo with Venerean phases giving empirical support for heliocentrism. And so forth.

On the personal side? The camera and lens I used to shoot that photo? Arguably better than ones I would have paid 10 times as much for 15 years ago.

And, per the verse from Proverbs? Not always, but often, with all our new knowing, has come new understanding as well.

I will have some further thoughts in a post on my philosophy blog.

Top November blogging

It was an interesting, and COVID-heavy, mix of what was popular last month, including a couple of old favorites.

Top post? Coronavirus met politics when I said COVID was the only big reason Biden won (other than not being Trump). I stand by that, and will stand by it for the four years of his uninspiring, declining presidency. (It will continue to get worse.)

Actual Flatticus ... in my top 10 all time, and continues to be popular.

No. 3? My first post of the year about the Cardinals hot stove off-season — buying out Kolten Wong.

No. 4? Week 32 of coronavirus posting — the week Texas moved past California on total cases. (Texas remains ahead, and far ahead on death rate, approaching the US average.)

No. 5? My 2018 post distinguishing between DSA roseys and Green sunflowers on Twitter. I'm not currently a Green, either, but an independent leftist.

No. 6? Coronavirus week 31, looking ahead at the winter surge that then seemed likely and is starting to happen.

No. 7? With numerous updates since its original writing in September, the eventual total collapse of Ed Butowsky and his shyster lawyer Ty Clevenger in the face of Rich family lawsuits against Ed, Fox et al.

No. 8? Non-election political news of the week of the election.

Nos 9 and 10? Two Thanksgiving-week snarks. First, suggested new names for the Washington Football Team. Second, a smackdown for the cult of What? A Burger? and for Texans touting it.

December 18, 2020

Did Tony La Russa magically revitalize the 1996 Cardinals by shoving aside Ozzie Smith?

Every older St. Louis Cardinals fan is surely familiar with the first year of history after Tony La Russa was named manager of the Birdos. Walt Jocketty was looking for replacements at shortstop and after failure to land the likes of Walt Weiss and Greg Gagne as free agents, settled on Royce Clayton as a long-term, and possibly immediate, replacement for the Wizard, Ozzie Smith. The rest of the story is how Red Tony rudely shoved aside Smith, after claiming he would have every chance to remain the starter if he could win the position, and of getting to go out a winner as a deserving full-time player with the Cardinals. (Smith had already indicated 1996 was likely his final year.)

Unfortunately, there's a lot of less than full information out there about the issue, as told by the likes of Ben Gosar of Viva El Birdos. (Ben has responded that he didn't mean to relitigate 1996.)

Royce 1996 did NOT have a better year than Ozzie, or even an equal year. Same WAR? Yes. But it took Royce 2x as many at bats. Ozzie had a 0.8 WAA, while Royce was in the hole at -0.1. This is one of several reasons I take a close look at WAA as well as WAR. Over a career, especially when considering a player's possible Hall-worthiness, the WAA/WAR ratio is a big tell if a player is, or is not, a "compiler." If a player's career WAA is more than 50 percent of their WAR, and they're otherwise on the borderline of consideration? Vote ’em in!

Back to the main narrative.

Per one of the stories Ben linked:

"I'd play Ozzie until he proves he can't play," said Chuck Tanner, currently a scout with the Milwaukee Brewers who managed four major league clubs, including the White Sox. "He's a Hall of Fame shortstop. There is no indication he can't play--not yet. An if he needs a rest, and he sure isn't going to be able to play every day, then I'd play Clayton."

As for who's telling the truth about Ozzie being promised a shot at still being a starter? I know whose word I'll trust first. (The Trib piece actually has Red Tony using "sincere" and "sincerity.")

As for Tony always doing what was best for the team? Beyond running off Scott Rolen, uhh, being drunk as a manager, which likely led to enabling of bad behavior by some players? NOT best for the team.

As for 1996 and the "end result"? Correlation doesn't mean causation. IF you compare that team to 1995, a lot stands out.

One? Tom Pagnozzi had a MUCH better year and was healthy a full season. Gary Gaetti was a HUGE improvement over Scott Cooper at 3B. Andy Benes and Todd Stottlemyre were major pitching upgrades.

I don't get some Cards blogs for their homerism over Yadi, or stuff like that. I really don't get blogs that are one-sided toward Red Tony on this issue.

Is it possible that telling Ozzie he'd have to compete for the job would shake things up? Yes, there Ben is right. But, per the umpiring rule of "tie goes to the runner," Ozzie was at least equal to Royce in spring training, to riff on Chuck Tanner, and ... La Russa lies.

What it really was, IMO, was a lawyer's mindset. Tony the Pony had a pre-established conclusion he was headed toward, and he was carefully framing his "facts in evidence." All of us can engage in a certain degree of motivated reasoning, but lawyers are trained in it and hired for their skill at it.

So, what we REALLY should be saying is that Walt Jocketty magically revitalized the 1996 Cardinals by his offseason acquisitions.

Were you judge managers? As I've mentioned before, there's one tool, via B-Ref. That's going to team pages, and seeing how a team's W-L record tracked against its Pythagorean estimates. A manager who is at or above the bar year after year is a good manager. I even blogged about that. (And, Baseball Reference has promised to take under advisement posting Pythags on manager pages.)

As for Tony the Pony lighting a fire under the team for 1996? Well, Pags was one of just two position player starters over the age of 30.

One final thought re Ben and Tony doing whatever it takes to win, or whatever it takes for the team? Yeah, that included ignoring roiding both in Oakland and St. Louis. He talks about Red Tony benching Mark McGwire in the playoffs near the end of his career. Well, Big Mac would have been out of baseball by this time if not for Red Tony's blind eyes. And, of course, there's Jose Canseco, the Typhoid Mary of roiding.

December 17, 2020

Coronavirus week 37: A new 9/11 every day

That is, of course, the official prediction from the CDC's Robert Redfield.

That's as we in Merika have crossed the 300K mark on deaths, and before the end of the year, faster than I expected.

Right now, by death rate, Ground Zero for that new 9/11 is rural, red, and still mask-conflicted Gove County, Kansas. Like many such places, antimasking is part of Trumpland. Like many such places, it has limited hospital services. UNlike some such rural places, like my slice of north Texas, the Catholic hierarchy there is acting like most their wingnut Protestant brethren in not requiring masking at churches. Sadly, some in the hospital and nursing homes who know the need for masks say they're not here to tell other people how to live their lives. Folks, that's what the PUBLIC in public health means. If you're not wearing a mask in a place to affect me, I'll tell you.

Texas is running ever-lower on ICU space.

And, per the two paragraphs above? Bud Kennedy reports small-town Texans are "angry at COVID." From where I live, they're not angry enough to mask up like they should. He notes it's the same in places like Granbury. What this really is? Another form of American exceptionalism. "We're Merika, we shouldn't be getting bossed around by this little bitty V'uh-EYE-russ." 

Part of the problem is that most the red states, esp. the rural areas within them, don't want to read about it.

Your State Board of Education — now you know why they're anti-science in Tex-ass public school textbooks; they're anti-science on the public health of masks and social distancing.

Texas GOP chairman Allen West hosted a "Night of the Mask" event with Cooke County Republican Women to install officers. The event name apparently is facetious, as pictures indicate nobody wore them.

Last Friday, Trump's WH chief of staff, Mark Meadows, supposedly threatened FDA head Stephen Hahn with firing if Pfizer's vaccine wasn't approved by the end of day. Hahn claims the original story got it wrong, but doesn't really say how. Given that the vaccine was likely to be approved any day now, and that Trump isn't going to be president after Jan. 20, 2021, anyway, this is Bizarro World indeed.

How the vaccine distribution plan depends on a state-by-state definition of "essential worker" shows why Merika needs more than "just" single payer national health care, it needs federalized, or rather, nationalized, standards of care, treatment, credentialism and much more on health care provision.

Brendan Nyhan talks about how to get more people to trust in the vaccine and get shot. He offers the commonsense idea that getting family doctors to be the primary "salespeople" is a key point.

The EPA has (shock me) fast-tracked review of actual or alleged coronavirus disinfectants. A Texas company is a leading profiteer. Beyond spray disinfectants, and largely beyond the EPA's purview, the piece notes that the jury is still out about claims of the general efficaciousness, let alone coronavirus-specific efficaciousness, of UV light.

December 16, 2020

Scientism, philosophy, and the Big Bang

Regular readers of this blog and my main one both know that I like to comment at times on the issue of "scientism," which is, in a nutshell, certain scientists overblown claims for science, that it has explanatory power, or will at some day, and explanatory frameworks for many things that are rightly regarded as philosophical.

Aesthetics would be a great example.

"De gustibus non disputandum" Romans said 2,000 years ago, and it's just as true today.

Science has basically nothing to tell — certainly, hard sciences have basically nothing to tell — about why I think Mozart is overrated by many people. He IS and you shut up!

In some instances, the social sciences may indeed have some explanatory value, but even there, it's overblown. The hard sciences, though, are where scientism really hits the road.

And, last week, with Roger Penrose getting the Physics Nobel for his work on black holes, his naysayers on his anti-Big Bang ideas popped up.

I have little doubt Ethan Siegal knows cosmology well. Philosophy, including philosophy of science or more narrowly, philosophy of physics, )per the likes of Massimo Pigluicci postulating "philosophies of ..." for separate hard sciences at least) not so much, it would seem, per this anti-Penrose diatribe.

He says, near the end:
This presents a tremendous challenge for cosmology, and for science in general. In science, when we see some phenomena that our theories cannot explain, we have two options. 
1. We can attempt to devise a theoretical mechanism to explain those phenomena, while simultaneously maintaining all the successes of the prior theory and making novel predictions that are distinct from the prior theory’s predictions. 
2. Or we can simply assume that there is no explanation, and the Universe was simply born with the properties necessary to give us the Universe we observe. 
Only the first approach has scientific value, and therefore that’s the one that must be tried, even if it fails to yield fruit.
Uhh, wrong!

Accepting there is no explanation is itself of scientific value. It cuts down on possible pseudoscience; it allows scientific inquiry to be directed more productively, and other things.

And, in terms of philosophy of science, it leads to some epistemic humility. (That itself is something lacking in spades among many scientism practitioners.)

Siegal needs to read himself some early Wittgenstein and learn when to be silent.

Now, at times, explanations manifest themselves years or decades later. Planck's solving of the blackbox radiation problem, directly tied to Siegel's post, is one such answer.


Even that is not guaranteed. Siegel acting like scientific answers are guaranteed is textbook scientism.

December 15, 2020

Texas Progressives approach the holidays

Even as news slows with the approach to Christmas, we've got the post-Brexit "walkaway" between the UK and EU about to collapse, actual bits of common sense from Republican politicos in Texas, lies by alleged environmentalists and more.

Let's dig in.


Who kidnapped the SBOE and replaced half of its members brains with working models? The State Board of Education is now calling for abstinence-plus rather that abstinence-only sex ed at the middle school level.

Solar energy is growing in the state. So is disinformation about it. The real issue is that, without a state income tax to allow state deductions, and without a clear feed-in tariff to allow surplus solar to be sold back to utilities, there's little incentive for homeowner rooftop solar. That said, it's "interesting" that this bullshit is spread by the likes of alleged environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, per links within the story. (I told the Observer that it was good, but needed to cover things like the feed-in tariff.)

Off the Kuff analyzed the Presidential vote in Congressional and State Rep districts in Harris County.

The 19th interviews Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo about COVID, racial justice, and more.  

Steve Vladeck gave a simple explanation of the Ken Paxton overturn-the-election lawsuit, then explained the SCOTUS order.  

Grits for Breakfast lists the top ten Texas criminal justice stories of the year.  

Christopher Hooks attempts to explain Ken Paxton to a new audience.  

Paradise in Hell sides with HEB against anti-maskers.  

Elise Hu listened to 252 TED talks so you don't have to.


I gave a spanking to The Resistance over its knickers-knotting over Joe Epstein's "drop the Dr" column to Jill Biden.

Matt Taibbi almost made it to half right in his most recent Substack. I have receipts

Wild Earth Guardians et al are again suing US Fish and Wildlife for failure to do its job on wolverine protection.


Is Boris Johnson's Britain doomed to decline? That's assuming the EU continues to call his bluffs, even though some EU negotiators say there's still time for some sort of deal. As for people who said last week, "but Boris didn't walk away," that's small potatoes. He's still trying to bluff his way through because he's known all along that "walk away" isn't a good option. Scotland's devolved government doesn't like the Dec. 31 deadline for a post-Brexit deal falling in the middle of a pandemic, among Dec. 12 updates from the Beeb.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi has reportedly resigned from the PLO Executive Committee, allegedly because the Palestinian Authority is resuming security patrol cooperation with Bibi's Israel. She also called for reforms within the PLO.

"Wrestling with Zionism," as reviewed at Mondoweiss, might fit on an informed world citizen's holiday reading list. It looks good.

Move over (PLEASE), Elon Musk. A former top assistant of his, after a failed previous try at an electric car, is back, and Henrik Fisker looks poised for success. The fact that Musk (unsuccessfully, natch) sued Fisker for breach of contract would make this success all the more sweet.

December 14, 2020

Matt Taibbi: Maybe up to half right this time

Sometimes, Matt Taibbi is still half right. This is in a piece of his talking about YouTube banning #StartTheSteal videos and similiar.

The half right?

Hey Democrats, how many of you remember protestors storming the official Wisconsin electoral college vote and protesting after the 10 electors officially voted for Trump?

That said, he is no more than half right, this is the most right he's been since going to Substack and he, like the other alleged outside the box stenos, continues to throw babies out with bathwater and apparently believes no Russian meddling at all happened and that Guccifer 2.0 doesn't exist. Beyond that, no electoral voters needed a police escort to cast their votes, unlike in Michigan this year.
NOR did Democrats have "alternative electors" cast their own pseudo-electoral votes in Wisconsin.

Plus, Taibbi is also half nutbar.

So, I asked him on Twitter, as I've asked Aaron Maté more than once, if he's a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist. Per this piece, he's at least a fellow traveler. 

So, Matt, I slapped the "no follow" on your piece. No clicks from me. 

Now, shut up and work on getting to be more than half right. And, like Aaron, if you are a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist, at least be honest about it.

December 13, 2020

I'll take some #TheResistance twatwaffles over Joseph Epstein

The Resistance is all bent out of shape to the point of calling Joseph Epstein a "twatwaffle" and worse on Twitter for stating reality about Jill Biden and "Dr."

First, AP Style says only use it with MD and DO, etc. NO PhDs.

Second, Epstein's right about comparative ease of many non-PhD doctorates, including Jill Biden's EdD. Public school superintendents here in Tex-ass have them like candy, and in many cases they're obtainable without a single in-person class at the granting institution.

The twatwaffles of #TheResistance, meanwhile, talk of Jill Biden as though she has a PhD, and she doesn't even do that.

Third, the actual twatwaffles of #TheResistance are likely the same people who supported Dem-leaning media in 2016 when it told actual medical doctor Jill Stein to drop the "Dr."

And, the blind rage of The Resistance is blind indeed! I've seen people on Twitter claim that Epstein, 14 years older than Biden, is engaging in ageism. I've seen others claiming he's comparing his honorary doctorates to Biden's academic degree, when A. He isn't and B. He only claims one honorary degree, not multiples.

And, it's not just individuals. Daily Beast has a bit of rage-blindness ...

And, it may have been one of those media outlets attacking Jill Stein 4 years ago. I know Charles Davis was there at the time and attacking Stein for other things.

The fact that Northwestern said he hadn't taught a course there since 2002 means nothing, as he would have been 65 then. 

Yes, he has a controversial past, and his 1970 article on homosexuality is beyond controversial, just wrong. He deals with that in a 2015 Washington Examiner piece which is very interesting, at least partially apologetic, and readable.

As for the claim that academic titles were first and MDs just followed? Err, wrong! Originally, you went to university for one of three things, as any actual historian knows: Law, medicine and theology.

In short, agree with Epstein or not, but do it honestly on the ground, and without being a 2016-based hypocrite.
That said, he went too far with the "almost fraudulent." It is an earned degree, first of all, and second, given how much of a winger Epstein is, could be interpreted as a larger dig. (You fill in the blanks.)

December 12, 2020

9 lads who made a killing when WTI went negative and why

Remember when oil price futures, specifically the April contract for West Texas Intermediate, lifeblood of the Permian and of Cushing, Oklahoma, went negative at the end of April? Well, a few people made a helluva killing on that. Here's their story. Part of the "fun" of this all is seeing petrobillionaires (well, he used to be, at least) like Harold Hamm bitch about "market manipulation" when that's exactly how capitalism is supposed to work, isn't it, homeboy?

AND, given that the nine traders who pull this off are associated with a London trading house, it's questionable how much US oversees can punish them, if they deem then needing of punishment.

The bigger yet issue, as I see it, is that US oil futures trading isn't transparent, and to the degree that it's regulated, it's designed to protect the Harold Hamms of the world from the George Soroses of oil, or however we put it. In other words, it's OK for an actual Soros to break Southeast Asian oil currencies, but by god and by Texas, NOBODY had better tamper with the American awl bidness.


It’s also illegal in the U.S. to place trades during or before the settlement with “intentional or reckless disregard” for the impact.

Is the nutgraf for that observation. In other words, the US oil futures market is a sort of cartel.

That said, it's not just oil. Gas, and cattle and several other commodities also have "trade at settlement" settings. But, none of them, as far as I know, have the settlement date equivalent of having to take physical possession, or metaphysical possession, of 1,000 barrels of crude at Cushing, nor do any of them have the equivalent of a Cushing storage problem. When's the last time you've heard of a crush of cows or hogs causing feedlots to run out of space?

It's the same issue as the Dow Jones removing an Exxon or GE because it loses some luster. It's all about capitalism propping itself up while patting itself on the back.

December 11, 2020

Coronavirus week 36: Science! And scientific precautions!


• Vaccine science: Meet BioNTech co-founders — and husband/wife — Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türecki, and the story behind their creating the vaccine that now is being manufactured by Pfizer. I don't know if any Turks have won a Nobel outside of Literature, but, if this pans out, the whole idea of creating the first viable mRNA vaccine is surely going to short-list them. In addition, the couple, who started their work on antibody work for cancer, still hope for an mRNA based treatments of some sort there. Many other vaccine scientists remain skeptical, but let is see.

• The science goes next to South Korea, with a detailed study (of a type not done in the US, even in "blue states," by and large) of how the coronavirus can spread in a restaurant — and well beyond the six-foot social distancing line. A summer study here in the States, broader, on how HVAC systems work, notes that by drying the air out, they can aerosolize droplets, helping increase their spread. I attest to this as a local newspaper editor, as for calls to get fresh air into school buildings. But, per that second link? That drives your electric costs a lot higher! This is all, of course, important because a jab is not a cure. Assuming that Phase 3 clinical trial information, when it comes to the public, shows the vaccine is 70 percent effective? That's not 90-95 percent. 

• Yet more science: It's nice to see Carl Zimmer, if not pumping the brakes on direct vaccine enthusiasm, remind us that the coronavirus will continue to evolve — as it has been during the pandemic — and that how much and how quickly it continues to do so will affect vaccine efficacy. 

Example of that evolution last week: The NFL's Baltimore Ravens, hit hard by the virus, reportedly had four different strains show up in testing of infected players. Remember that, with the annual flu vaccine, it fights some strains better than others, and sometimes, as two years ago, it takes a semi-whiff because the most prevalent strain that flu season evolved the most from the time the year's vaccine was being finalized.

None of this is meant to give comfort to antivaxxers. Seventy percent effectiveness is still a lot more than 0 percent, which is what no vaccine is.

• Coronavirus public health science: STAT has a deep dive into issues of vaccine administration.

STAT adds this important point:

One of the biggest questions about these vaccines is: Will they stop people from being infected? Or will they just prevent infected people from becoming sick by jump-starting an immune response? It’s no small distinction.

In other words, will a vaccine stop asymptomatic spread? If it doesn't, then it's a LOT less helpful than currently touted, especially if its real world effectiveness rate in preventing actual sickness is around, say 70 percent. The answer is that it may not stop this. Infected animals given the virus were still "shedders."

As for that "70 percent"? As STAT points out, clinical trials generally recruit younger, healthier participants and for other reasons as well, have higher success rates than in the real world. So, again, pump your brakes.

• Related immunology science: How long will the protection last? Lots of shots in our standard armamentum, like tetanus, need a booster every 10 years, and they're not for rapidly evolving coronaviruses. My guesstimate? If we have another coronavirus-based pandemic, and it's more than 5 years from now, we'll need brand new vaccines.

• More, sad public health science: the winter surge is getting worse, especially in Midwestern states like mask-flouter Gov. Kristi Noem's South Dakota.

• Vaccine science, international: Turns out Russia's Sputnik vaccine (like Pfizer and Moderna, a two-stage jab) has more production problems than either of them. Namely, the second shot can't be stably made right now, which undercuts vaccination, period. China, of course, crickets. Easier than lying.

• And, coronavirus social science: COVID will also affect future retirement plans of people now at the tail end of the baby boom. That's from a dearth of underpaid home health aides who will be more choosy if another pandemic hits, to children of older retirees being more leery of nursing homes, and many other things. It will also cut the average lifespan of those today 65 and older, affect exercise health and many other things.

There's lots of things society can do to address this, but "can do" and "will do," in an America that remains, and likely will remain, hypercapitalist with Status Quo Joe as president for the next four years and a divided Congress? Two different things.

• Linguistics is a science, too, right? The Oxford English Dictionary doesn't have a single "word of the year" this year; rather, it's a suite of English language changes centered around the virus.

• Austin Mayer Steve Adler rightly deserves a butt-kicking for his trip to Cabo. That's a shorter one from the Trib; this is a longer one from Dan Solomon at the Monthly.

• As we wonder if and when before Christmas Congresscritters will pass a stimulus bill and how much big biz pork will be in it, Texans facing unemployment have a complex system, which the Trib tries to explain. Of course, many people aren't counted as unemployed, as, just like in previous recessions, they've given up trying to find jobs. This is why the U-6 rate is the "real" unemployment rate. Currently, it's still at near 12 percent.

December 09, 2020

Some more lies about Seth Rich from Clevenger?

Here's the link to the latest round of mixed vileness and mendacity from barratry-lawyer Ty Clevenger, legal beagle to the "stars" like Ed Butowsky, but, due to antidepressant withdrawal and lack of moral fiber, unable to keep himself and Ed from folding all their legal tents.

Per one of Jim Hoft's minions at Gateway Nutbar, and as of last night, NOWHERE other than there and other wingnut blogs (NOT "news sites") Clevenger claimed that "the attorney for the FBI" had said that they actually had Seth Rich's laptop.

See the update on the reality of the case below.

First? The FBI has one attorney? To me, that's what "the attorney" implies. No, Ty, it's represented by multo attorneys against you in all your fishing expeditions. (That was actually Gateway Nutbar's doing."

Second? NONE of the wingnut sites, in selections of the quoted email, give us a name for "the attorney." In other words, we can't look online for an actual name.

Third, per what Gateway Nutbar actually quotes?

FBI has completed the initial search identifying approximately 50 cross-reference serials, with attachments totaling over 20,000 pages, in which Seth Rich is mentioned. FBI has also located leads that indicate additional potential records that require further searching. . . . FBI is also currently working on getting the files from Seth Rich’s personal laptop into a format to be reviewed. As you can imagine, there are thousands of files of many types. The goal right now is to describe, generally, the types of files/personal information contained in this computer.

What the fuck gobbeldygook is that? (Boldface original in Gateway Pundit quote.)

And, it IS gobbledygook, probably of the deliberate gaslighting type.

Third, subpoint A: What, all these files aren't in a format already to be reviewed? They're not .eml or whatever Outlook's normal email extension is on a PC? They're not Word docs? Or JPGs? Or PNG screengrabs? 

Third, subpoint B, the biggest part of the gobbledygook? What the fuck is "cross-reference serials"? Is this the alleged "the attorney" trying to present himself, or someone he allegedly is speaking for at the FBI, as a forensic computer examination expert?

I would say this and more onsite at Gateway Nutbar, but it blocked me long ago.

That said, regular readers know that I have the good on Clevenger.

First, the degree to which he and Ed Butowsky folded their lawsuit tents within the last month (and Ty's lies about why) show his immediate past lack of credibility. (And yes, I'm already anticipating wingnuts saying the "Deep State" at the FBI admitted this only because these lawsuits were settled.)

Second, Ty lacked credibility long before this. I've written up a pretty complete list of the goods on his background here, YEARS ago.

Third, Seth Rich didn't leak anything. Per that and several other blog posts, the fact that RNC computers as well as DNC ones were hacked undercuts the Seth Rich leaker thing right there. Unfortunately, for a while, I listened too much to bullshit artists like Aaron Maté (you ARE, on this, Aaron, shut up!) who said "cloud computing" and "mirrors" etc. were no substitute for the real thing. Well, when you use cloud servers, Aaron, that IS the real thing. If you're that much of a gasligher, you too can go fuck yourself along with Clevenger. If you're that much of an idiot, again, shut up. Ditto for anybody else repeating that nonsense.

Fourth, per Stuart Blaugrund on Twitter, Michael Isikoff said 18 months ago that the FBI said it had Rich's laptop. So, nothing new, other than this possibly being Clevenger's small contribution to #StartTheSteal.

Fifth, via a link about Isikoff's story at that time?

But “Conspiracyland” quotes a source familiar with the network’s investigation saying that Fox executives grew frustrated they were unable to determine the identity of the other, and more important, source for the story: an anonymous “federal investigator” whose agency was never revealed. The Fox editors came to have doubts that the person was in fact who he claimed to be or whether the person actually existed, said the source.

Gee, sounds a lot like "an attorney," doesn't it? (My emphasis above.) And, now that I got Ty's site to load, it's even clearer that any reason we should believe him has evaporated.

Also refuting the claims it couldn't have been a botched robbery? The same story notes there had been seven armed robberies in that neighborhood in the six weeks before Rich's death.

I saw this posted, not by a wingnut, but by the owner of the MeWe group "Green Party Supporters." I was already thinking of leaving the group due to the number of Trump Trainers that had joined in the last two weeks. (It has no screening questions, and no post moderation. I'm not sure if MeWe allows either one; if it doesn't, for all its self-braggadocio, that's a big fail vs Fuckbook.)

Since then, she has responded "bullshit" to me, apparently deleted the post, and definitely is no longer owner of the group and apparently no longer even in it. Good. I wonder if the infiltration was connected to this.

As for facts on the ground here? Green types who believe this are, per Counterpunch owner Jeff St. Clair, "the more credulous precincts of the left." (Sadly, St. Clair, along with managing editor Joshua Frank, have crappy editorial control in general over free[lance] submissions that they publish, as he's let his own site fuel this bullshit.)

As for Clevenger, as I asked on Twitter, is this "just" a #StartTheSteal contribution to Trump, or are you a paid agent of the SVR? He makes no new claims, is apparently making up a person and a person's name, mentions Butowsky without mentioning all the lawsuits the pair of them have folded on (this is his first post in four months) and otherwise ignores reality.

There is a related question or two. Does Clevenger believe all the fanbois haven't read about his having to fold his tents legally? And, is this actually a justified true belief, perhaps?


Update: Here's the actual legal matter at hand, per Stuart Blaugrund.

The FBI is asking for a three-month delay in meeting Brian Huddleston's FOIA request, filed earlier this year.

Second, despite Clevenger's cloak-and-dagger skullduggery? The FBI's attorney of record is Andrea Hedrick Parker. That's "the attorney."

Third, Ty is so loony he thinks Fox itself is part of the conspiracy:

And why is Fox News working so hard to kill this story? I wish I could say more about Fox’s behind-the-scenes treachery — and someday hopefully I will — but rest assured that Malia Zimmerman’s May 17, 2017 story about Mr. Rich was fully vetted by senior Fox management. I repeatedly encouraged Fox’s attorneys to postpone settlement discussions with Seth Rich’s parents until I obtained the FBI records (my client, Ed Butowsky, was a co-defendant with Fox), but Fox was hellbent on settling the case in October / November. That’s around the time Rupert Murdoch publicly joined forces with Joe Biden.

That's our boy. WORSE than Joey Dauben with a law degree by now. 

(Note: This would also seem to confirm my initial impression, namely, that this was Ty's contribution to #StartTheSteal.)

Fourth? The actual case? Seems to be little more than a conspiracy theory fishing expedition. I quote from the original pleading:

Yeah, right.

All data, documents, records or communications (including texts or emails) that reflect any meetings or communications from July 10, 2016 until July 10, 2017 between former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and any and all of the following: (1) Seymour Myron "Sy" Hersh (born on or about April 8, 1937); (2) Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; and/or (3) former Democratic National Committee Interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile.

I've already looked at Sy Hersh's involvement, along with him burning Butowsky after finding out Ed taped him. The rest of it? Looney tunes. Have no clue why DC's mayor is in there. The link is from an excellent piece by The Nation. And, yes, Caitlin Johnstone IS a nutter, but she's right that Hersh still owes us an explainer for passing on unverified shite that he'd never seen himself — and not saying it was such to Butowsky. IF Sy was trying to wheedle something out of Butowsky, it seems naive of him not to have expected Ed to have been recording him.

Dec. 17: We have another non-anonymous person from the FBI, Michael Seidel, records division section chief, explaining how FOIA work cannot generally be done remotely and that it therefore has indeed been hampered by COVID. Ty and Huddleston have likely known this all along. It's kind of like Aaron Maté and some of the other increasingly duplicitious outside the box stenos talking about Crowdstrike's failure to turn over computers when they KNEW all along that much of the information in question was cloud-based.

Greg Abbott: Bullet-train bimbo with a party of hypocrites

I argued directly with Brains, long ago, and indirectly with Kuff more recently, about the virtues vs. the vices of the Texas Central Railroad. This piece from about 15 months ago is the latest on that.

That's until now, with the help of a new Texas Monthly piece about Gov. Strangebbott pulling yet another of his Jesuitical flip-flops, this on the train. He first wrote a letter in support of it, to make sure the Japanese government still had a yen for it, then, allegably spurred by some of his staff, who wrote the Snooze to say he was agin it, he's .... agin it!

First of all, there's some bad framing in the middle of the piece, as I told Morgan O'Hanlon. It's not all wingnuts or gummint officials who oppose it. Per my link, Schutze has long looked at the Dallas station terminus as a focus of grift. From my part, having lived in Navasota, I'm smelled the hog crap of a station in Roans Prairie ever since the line was first announced. The claims that this was to try to serve both College Station and Huntsville are itself bullshit, as I said in a previous piece which also noted the whole fricking line was wrong for following I-45 instead of Texas 6. "Bullet" stops are at College Station and Waco where you hit 35 and that's that. Maybe on a non-express, you drop a stop at Hillsboro, and one at Katy. I discuss stop-gaps (no pun intended!) on a bullet train route, based on French trains, in this old post.

And, as I predicted there? Just like in California (there's Texas wingnuts being hoist by their own petard), the price is going up WAY over the original. Cost estimates have doubled. Oh, no, I'm sorry, they've TRIPLED. And, no, contra that piece, work won't start in the first half of 2021. It's not just that the Lege may monkey-wrench it further. They still don't have all their federal permits. And COVID will still be an issue on supply chain. And, will the Japanese government money remain firm in the face of all of the above?

In any case, no, it's not starting before fall 2021 at the earliest.

That said, back to the Monthly's piece? It IS "fun" to watch the wingnuts not in the gov's mansion blather about "Green New Deal." I think they forgot "Agenda 21" and "the bullet train will take over our golf courses."

And, back to that Snooze piece. "Incomplete information"? The train's been on the drawing board for almost a full decade now, right? Lying sacks of shit.

The only "incomplete information" Abbott had was the degree of vociferousness of opposition that could contribute to him being primaried in 2022. In August, I saw that as more unlikely than yes, offering 2-1 odds against. Now? Especially if Shelley Luther tops Drew Springer? I'd cut those odds to 3-2. Still 3-2 against, but narrowing.

That said, Abbott's staffers aren't the only liars here. TCR's foreign partners claiming the coronavirus was "the" cause of 28 layoffs in March? Maybe A cause, but THE cause? No.

Finally, there's Texas Central Railroad being hypocrites. 

Remember they originally said that this would all be private money? Guess that only applied to inside the US of A. Foreign gummint money spends just fine in their quicksilver fingers, apparently.

December 08, 2020

Texas Progressives glad that DACA is back (on paper)

As Trump continues to lose election challenge suits, there's still a special election for the Texas Lege, Biden Cabinet nominees and infighting over them.

There's other things on the plate for this week, so let's dig in, and we shall do so.


The Observer eyeballs the high cost of traditional death in Texas, Texas' role in spreading this nationwide (the Dignity et al chain of semi-monopolistic funeral homes started here) and what some are doing to fight back.

Off the Kuff has wrapped up his look at recent Presidential results with analyses of East, Central, and West Texas.

"Let's go aggressively centric." Yep, Texas Dems, that's the idea of your Hollywood heartthrob that you have hard-on for as your 2022 guv candidate. More on Matt McConaghey's appearance on Russell Brand here.

Dr. Peter Hotez says "goodbye and good riddance" to Scott Atlas.  

Sanford Nowlin previews the legislative budget battle.  

The Bloggess presents Year Eleven of the James Garfield Miracle.  

Jessica Montoya Coggins worries about the next phase of anti-abortion legislation in Texas.

North Texas

Tarrant County went blue, just slightly, which started the mouthbreathers in the local GOP off with localized fake news claims about voting fraud. It's the first time since LBJ that that's happened, which explains the butt-hurt.

Shelley Luther is playing up the antimasking angle in her SD30 runoff against Drew Springer, but as COVID numbers soar, will that dog hunt?

Nancy Rodriguez will be bad for Dallas ISD. Schutze explains.

Is downtown Dallas walkable? Zac Crain says actually, yes, sort of. The Observer writes about his effort.


Ken Paxton, on state trial for corruption and under FBI investigation for more corruption, is of course the perfect poster child for vote theft #StartTheSteal corruption by suing other states.

Joe Biden, more than Status Quo Joe, is New Jim Crow Joe, Counterpunch details.

He's also the New Warmonger Joe, giving us a career military man, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, instead of warmongering neoliberal-con Michele Flournoy, as Secretary of Defense.

SocraticGadfly, noting Biden's fall-offs vs. Hillary Clinton, and of course vs. Obama, looks at minority voters vs the Democratic reservation, and about minorities looking beyond the two-party box. 

A federal judge ruled that some teens should be allowed to apply for DACA again.

Friendly reminder that Trump was mostly talk, little action on ending "forever wars," contra Maté, Blumenthal and other not always useful idiots. Friendly additional reminder that his mindset, frozen in amber from 50 years ago, includes being frozen in amber on wanting to fight Cold War wars.

It's fun watching the Biden Hispanic Cabinet calf scramble!