SocraticGadfly: 4/5/20 - 4/12/20

April 11, 2020

Top March blogging — shock, it's coronavirus!

A few days late in the month, but here you are! Seven of the top ten were coronavirus related. A couple of them were in early April. All were popular based on reading in the last month, and not a new surge of interest in any old pieces.

No. 1, which is now in my top ten for the last year, is about humans being "predictably irrational," as shown at this time.

No. 2 was one of the three outliers. It was about a kind of smug Berniecrat complaining that the Green Party was allegedly oh-so-unwelcoming.

No. 3 was about my suggestions for shopping, etc. in the "new normal." Whether from my few words or not, more people are doing these things — but not yet enough.

No. 4 was actually written in what seems almost a coronavirus eternity ago, it seems. It was about how American exceptionalism is crumbling in the face of the coronavirus. Many Trumpers, especially, between moments of still pretending this isn't ultimately mainly Trump's fault, are in panic-frustration emotional crossbreeding because they somewhere, dimly, recognize this is true.

No. 5 is also from that time. That's when I started splitting the weekly Roundup of Texas Progressives news into two blog posts, one for coronavirus, one for "the usual idiocy." This was the coronavirus half of the first week's split, with future weeks being linked at the top of the post.

No. 6 was a bible-based AND constitution-based refudiation of rebellious (yes) wingnut pastors who claim that government has no right to shut churches.

No. 7 was about coronavirus and ugly Chinese nationalism. NO, not spates of anti-Chinese racism here in the US, fueled in part by Trump himself. I'm talking about coronavirus-related Xi Jinping Thought.

No. 8 was from early March. I explained why I'm still a Green, not a Bernie or Bust guy. More relevant now that Bernie has busted and, as in 2016, it's likely Bernie will sheepdog and most Berners will sit out, if they don't vote Biden, rather than voting Green. Hot air's still free, folks.

No. 9? Jefferson Morley claimed a while back that he had left the JFK conspiracy theory world. From where I sit, it doesn't look that way.

No. 10 is that Texas icon Half Price Books seems severely wounded, if not mortally so, by the coronavirus. I talk about that, and reminisce about visits.

April 10, 2020

Stations of the Cross, Trump style, and other
snarky Easter weekend thoughts

First, that Trumpy-style Stations of the Cross, as inspired by the actual:

1. The media has condemned me.
2. I bear the #FakeNews cross.
3. I need my cracker before I fall.
4. I met myself.
5. Pence will carry this fucking cross.
6. Veronica is sitting on my face (and telling me that she loves me).
7. Celebrity Jesus Apprentice, that's me. Or maybe it's him. I'm the final prophet.
8. Met Bibi in Jerusalem.
9. Two Corinthians says the world will fall for me.
10. Sold my undies for bigger tax write-off than Bill and Hillary.
11. #MAGA nailed it!
12. Die? I'm TRUMP!
13. Hannity takes me on his show.
14. They place me in O'Reilly's man cave. Loofahs for all in three days!

There's also surely a joke or six about the Tenebrae. Trump's thought processes have been self-extinguished from outside illumination for some time. But he's not a penitent, let alone a flagellating member of the Penitentes, at all.

And for Dan Patrick:

I have a GREAT idea for #GoodFriday and #EasterSunday. You sign yourself up for a #DeathPanel, take action today, and see if the economy is resurrected in three days, OK?

Why did Bernie go bust? He's a punch-pulling bad campaigner

The New York Times confirms for me a few major issues, none of them new to me. And now that Bernie is out of the race (warning: sheepdogging ahead), we can start deconstructing his campaign.

1. Jane Sanders "wearing the pants," if one will allow a cliche, and if not, it's being used anyway. I've long thought this. The various degrees of both grift and nepotism associated with both Our Revolution and the Sanders Institute? Both are ultimately on her as much as anything. Some of the grift, though, is joint.

2. As exemplified by his refusal to actually attack Biden, even while regularly attacking "the establishment," that he's a bad campaigner. Running in a small state like Vermont, first as the state's lone at-large House member, then statewide as a senator, meant after his first election that he had few challenges to become a better campaigner.

The NYT largely ignored this issue, though, and it's important, I think.

Bernie's not been primaried in 20 or more years. By "primaried," I'm also including his agreement with the Vermont Democratic Party that it would kibosh any registered Dems running against him in the general, to the best of its ability. This was broken once and only once. In a purplish state that's become more and more straight blue, between his House and Senate runs, he's also faced little serious general election opposition. Indeed, per a Wiki page on his electoral history, most his House and Senate general election opponents don't have Wiki pages. Nuff sed.

So, before the 2016 presidential campaign, he'd run all his campaigns in a small-size, small-area, relatively homogenized state. Come 2016, and, while he had a message that appealed to many, he couldn't or wouldn't sell the deal.

Per his "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails," he proved he was a bad campaigner.

First, on the bad politics, bad strategery version? You're the challenger to a semi-incumbent and you're running behind. You have to throw sharp elbows. Bernie hadn't had to do this in 20 years.

(Update via Gateway Nutbar: Briahna Joy Gray, unlike Sirota or Weaver, actually WAS part of the problem, if she's BOASTING about not going negative on Biden.)

Second, on the bad politics, bad tactics? You also have to appeal to your base, and many Dems, and many independents in states with open primaries, weren't sick of the issue at all.

Third, on the bad politics, grand strategy or political core beliefs or whatever? As the mainstream media sometimes obscured and befuddled, and as Clinton and her allies gleefully helped, the issue ultimately was about her email server, not her emails. Many people knew that, but Bernie never mentioned it. He was either that ignorant, or knowing it and zipping his mouth, he had already gone past bad campaigning to having a few toenails in the sheepdogging world.

Politico, playing catch-up to the Old Gray Lady now that Bernie is officially out, confirms that his refusal to throw those elbows was a problem. It also reinforces that Bernie was not good at taking advice, and that although he has changed political positions over the years, he doesn't like changing political strategies.

And, Politico ties that 2016 video with post-Nevada 2020 and the last Dem debate before South Carolina:
Two of Sanders’ top advisers — pollster Ben Tulchin and speechwriter David Sirota — told Sanders that he should pointedly take on Biden at the Feb. 25 debate in South Carolina. …  
In an email to senior staff, Tulchin said that moderate voters were beginning to unify behind Biden and that the consolidation would intensify if he won South Carolina, according to people familiar with the message. 
But on the stage that night, Sanders didn’t take his aides’ advice. Instead, he largely gave Biden a pass, bashed Bloomberg sometimes — but not over stop-and-frisk — and mostly stuck to his standard talking points. It wasn’t the first nor the last time Sanders eschewed his staffers’ suggestions to be more aggressive with his top rival. Their warnings proved prescient: Biden went on to sweep the day in South Carolina, unify moderates, and then carry Super Tuesday.  
“Knocking out Biden was job No. 1. And even when he was down, no one went for a knockout blow,” said a top aide. “That was the problem.” 
Sanders’ unwillingness to go for Biden’s jugular is just one of the decisions campaign aides are wrestling with since he exited the primary Wednesday. There you go, in spades.

2A. Stereotypical Berners. Yes, every candidate's boosters have their bad apples. Trump the worst. But, Berners have a higher percentage of stereotypical people than anybody other than Trump this cycle, IMO. They had no problem attacking Biden, or others. And, as in 2016, other candidates, and their press staffs, had no problem taking the stereotypes, over-inflating them and running with them. Yes, he had a fair amount of media animosity awaiting, but, he let fuel be dumped on the fire.

The  dueling non-doctors of a week ago, with, in reality, by AP Style, NEITHER Jill Biden NOR Jane O'Meara Sanders being a doctor, is another example of some of the cultism, IMO.

3. (Update): Andrew Stewart at Washington Babylon adds something I didn't think of. If Bernie really WAS running against the Dem establishment, as in 2016, then why did he waste four years without doing any movement building? (Answer, as Andrew should know, is that he was grifting off 2016. And Jane was doing that in spades. Remember, it's about her in the end.) So, in a sense, I didn't so much ignore this, as not stress it because Bernie was busy doing other things. See No. 1.

4. Related to 1, 2 and 2A above, is Bernie's problem not accepting advice. Not "not accepting advice graciously," but just not accepting advice. He's not alone in this in the political world. Trump, of course, has a huge problem.

But Bernie, especially for someone who has changed ideas over 40-plus years (he has, and he has a lot, Berners, and stop peddling legends) is on the upper end of the scale on this.

Other thoughts, from that NYT piece?

Jeff Weaver is an idiot with the Emancipation Proclamation analogy. Lincoln didn't have a sweeping win to work with. It was a minor victory tactically, but per Seward's advice of a month earlier, that's all he needed.

Berners on Twitter are largely attacking Weaver, who isn't all wrong, and David Sirota, who reportedly most wanted to go negative on Biden. And, of course, in doing so, they're perpetuating the cult of Bernie — and continuing to enable his mindset. That's related to point 2A above.

Per my poll at right, when Bernie officially sheepdogs for Biden this summer and fall — and does so with a minimum of 50 percent of the enthusiasm for Biden as he had for Clinton — what will you do next?

Answer, now that the poll is down and we're post-election?

Most of you followed Bernie's sheepdogging.

Shock me.


Meanwhile, Jacobin, which is running an intellectual diarrhea stream of fellating Bernie long after his capitulation, has doubled down by claiming he wasn't a bad campaigner.

First, a LOT of Berners have been making the dumb-ass claim that Bernie "won the battle of ideas." Really? Since Bernie folded, Biden has still not supported single-payer and has even indicated it wouldn't help in the coronavirus.

Second, excusing him for not throwing elbows? That by itself might not have won. But it might have. Had Bernie "contained" Biden's South Carolina victory size, he might have won more Super Tuesday states. At the least, it would have been part of a strategery.

Third? The piece ignores the missing youth vote even before Bernie folded.

Fourth, the "fear of Trump"? Isn't this why Jacobin itself won't call out Bernie for sheepdogging?

April 09, 2020

Coronavirus, churches, Romans 13 and First Amendment
versus greed, ego, rebellion and the Success Gospel

About two weeks ago, I blogged that the government can indeed close churches at a time like this, as long as the closures are for an appropriate heath emergency (they are, duh), and are applied to all churches equally, as well as to all faith traditions equally, as an additional note for the wingnuts who claim Merika is a Christian nation.

A main link in that piece was a news analysis story from the Deseret News, one of two mainstream media daily newspapers in Salt Lake City.

Guess who owns it?

In case you didn't know, the answer is the Mormon Church.

I also noted that many nondenominational churches were of course ignoring, or even actively fighting, church closures. I said they were ignoring "submit to the governing authorities" in Romans 13:

13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 
and noted that was not surprising. Many of the English and Scots-Irish early American settlers came here with a history of rebelling against the English or Scottish crowns pre-1707 union of them, or the British throne after that. And of course, their successors also ignored Romans 13 in 1775, including Declaration of Independence signer John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister.

That's the "rebellion" in the second line of the header.

There's a couple of other reasons involved too, though.

One is ego.

Though listed second on the second line of the header, I'll start with it on the additional reasons, because it's connected with rebellion.

Many of these independent churches are independent for a reason.

Some guy (they're almost entirely men who are fighting closure orders)* thinks that he and only he understands the bible. Therefore, he has to start his own church. (See end of post for asterisk.)

In some cases, there's a Svengali-like personality involved, to boot. Maybe that's why so many of them are hardcore Trumpists to the point of ignoring his essential irreligiosity. Cultism is as cultism does, to quote Forrest Gump.

Well, here, besides the old saying that schadenfreude is a bitch, there's the biblical saying that "pride goes before a fall."

And that fall?

Could literally be deadly, as was the case earlier this week with coronavirus-mocking pastor Landon Spradlin. Per that link, he was a Trumper — and his family continues to drink the Kool-Aid afterward.

There's also the ego of being your own boss. A Southern Baptist pastor may have some of that freedom, but even there, he faces some denominational strictures. An independent? Nobody's his boss but the members of his church and their wallets.

Speaking of?

Let's get next to the first and last parts of the second line of the header, as they're connected: "greed" and "Success Gospel."

With independent ministers, whether of the megachurches, the mini-megs, or the new startups who dream, greed is often a factor in being a minister. A quick Google will tell you the worth of Kenneth Copeland, Joe Osteen, Creflo Dollar and others.

Even a start-up guy, if he gets 200 regular members a week, hammers tithing hard, gets a good response and is renting a storefront rather than a traditional church building, can easily gross $75K

And, of course, besides hammering tithing hard, hammering the Success Gospel's ties to it are also important.

But, back to Landon Spradlin, and from him, on to Luke 12 versus the Social Gospel. Specifically, it's the parable of the Rich Fool:
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
And there you go.

There is, I think, an element of fear as well.

Pastors are considered self-employed, and thus, generally not eligible for unemployment benefits. And besides, until a church officially closes for good, they're not unemployed.

But, it they believe in a god both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, they should then remember what Jesus said in the Beatitudes about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field not worrying.


*For the women who are conservative evangelicals or fundamentalists but yet are pastors or church leaders by any other name?

There's good old pseudo-Paul in 1 Timothy 2:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
Love the ladies who ignore that. I had a former GF who loved Joyce Meyer. I'd argue that Meyer falls in that category, teaching to men.


Addition: These nutters are also ignorant of church history. (Of course.) In medieval Europe, since the village church or town cathedral WAS the agora or forum, it worked to prevent the spread from one village or region to another. The churches themselves? Some were open, but in many cases, priests ran away. And, with daily masses, peasants could probably practice a crude form of social distancing.


Update, July 26: My take on Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest orders and the latest round of sinful rebellion in California.

Texas progressives and the usual idiots

As with the three previous weeks, while coronavirus news in Texas, and nationally and globally, warrants its own separate space, the weekly Roundup will be split into two.

There's still plenty of interesting and stupid stuff in the state and nation unrelated to coronavirus issues, so dig in!


Among those burned by the myth of fracking in the Permian? As DeSmog Blog reports, Warren Buffet. Sadly, it also notes that as just another capitalist grifter, he'll be meeting with Trump along with oilmen, and probably using his wallet's throw weight to get off the hook.

The Observer talks with John Henneberger about the future of fair housing in Texas. Beyond ethnic discrimination issues, he talks about how Texas law is biased against tenant renters.

Big Ag may insist it's an "essential business" during coronavirus. It continues to poison countless rural Texans all the time.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation had upheld on appeal a federal lawsuit it had won against the state. Unfortunately, to follow up on what I said at the time the suit was filed, really, both FFRF and Abbott needed to lose, if they both could have.

The Rivard Report notes a surge in sales of baby chicks as egg prices have risen.

Better Texas Blog highlights the role of policy in fighting hunger during a crisis.


The firing of Capt. Brett Crozier isn't an anomaly, of course; it's part of a pattern of Trump's kicking the armed forces to the curb (especially the Navy) even while playing the MAGAs for suckers.

Juanita has a question for Jared Kushner.

Berners, Biden-stanners and doctorates tussling: this Green voter sneers at both sides' hypocrisy.

Texas politics

 Off the Kuff looks at the potential for expanded vote by mail in November.

April 08, 2020

The noble American Indian vs COVID — reality vs myth

Two new pieces, one from Native News Online and the other from High Country News, both peddle myths that all we have to do is look to American Indians of the past to get past the novel coronavirus.

First, Native News Online. It claims that American Indians, unlike Dan Patrick, Glenn Beck and other wingnuts, would never sacrifice elders for the economy.


(First really is that Chief Seattle didn't say that.)

So, the Inuit leaving elders on ice floes to die when they couldn't keep up? It wasn't common, contra the semi-legend that thinks it was, but, especially in bad times, like famines, yes, it really happened. More here. In other cases, they were knifed or walled into igloos, not abandoned on the ice. And, it's not just Inuit; other cultures have practiced senicide of various sorts around the world at various times.


Now, High Country News. Starting here:
Indigenous peoples who have lived sustainably in the same territories for thousands of years have important knowledge systems that can productively intervene in the destructive social structures currently orchestrating our downfall.
No, most American Indians didn't stay in the same place for thousands of years. They might, or might not, have stayed in the same region. Even that, though, was usually only for hundreds of years. The Navajo and Apache, exactly whenever they migrated from Canada, arrived at the eastern edge of the greater Southwest about 1350 CE. I reject some eccentrics in the world of archaeology who claim to have solid evidence of the Navajos not only in the area earlier, but west of the Rockies a century or so earlier. Even that, though, would be less than 1,000 years ago and certainly not "thousands."

The Sioux and "their" sacred Black Hills? They only moved west of the Missouri in numbers 200 or so years ago, the same time Lewis and Clark were going up the river. And, they only moved because the Ojibwa kicked them out of Wisconsin.

Within a region? The Anasazi abandoned most their villages every 35 or so years. They had to. They had hunted out the land of meat that supplemented their farming, and at least as much, had probably winnowed thin plants they added to their diets as the gathering half of hunter-gatherer work. Anthropologists and archaeologists today know that the corn-beans-squash farming trio alone didn't, and couldn't, sustain the Anasazi.

Colossal population growth has happened outside of "the West."

And, let's get to brass tacks. Like:
Indigenous societies, on the other hand, are based on worldviews where human needs are balanced with the needs of other life forms.
Really? So those mastodons and mammoths just disappeared on their own 10,000 years ago? That arroyo cutting in Chaco and elsewhere happened by magic? Or, per a claim on HCN's Facebook page, those mastodon exterminators weren't American Indians? Or, did the needs of mastodon and mammoth suddenly run dry?

And, hey, they were noble savages, but also scientists!
When the integrity of an ecosystem is guarded, the integrity and very existence of human communities are guarded as well. 
American Indians of "yore" didn't know about "ecosystems," let alone guard them. (Neither did other cultures of centuries or millennia ago, of course, including those of Europe.) "Ecosystem" understanding didn't come until modern science development. Tis true that said sciences have exploited American Indians just like pioneers and missionaries. But, scientists have generally (but not perfectly) moved beyond that, and certainly more than uninformed descendants of pioneers and missionaries.

You want more? Slavery of course existed back then. And, sometimes (though not as much as with Euro-Americans) it was even hereditary. Slaves, as property and therefore a measure of wealth, were reportedly even killed at potlaches. Here's a Google search.

And here's T.H. Watkins, being blunt about the issue of noble Indians today in general.

As for capitalism? The Spaniards, and other Europeans, were indeed gold-crazed. But, the Aztec and Inca weren't totally innocent in the first place, were they? And, those potlaches were around before the first Spaniard or Englishman explored today's Washington State and British Columbia.

American Indians, or First Nations if you're up in Canada, weren't and aren't dirt. But, they weren't and aren't Rousselian noble savages, or New Agey saints, either. That's true whether you're a modern Anglo or a modern American Indian. (Oh, American Indians, like any people, can be racist, too.)

It's not just the folks above. By name, this is part of why I deblogrolled Wrong Kind of Green.

Things like this are why I keep the word "skeptical" in front of "leftist" on my blog header and elsewhere. Yes, today, wingnuts will exploit some of this. But, New Agers will exploit the backlash for various versions of social and social media shaming as exemplified by the two pieces.

Again, let's treat American Indians as people — the good, the bad and the ugly. And, that applies to American Indians themselves. I blocked one Canadian First Nationer over this issue at HCN's Facebook page.

And, yes, it matters today, as I said in reply to another commenter on that T.H. Watkins link. It matters for exactly these reasons.

Sadly, the week before, HCN published this piece explicitly about not misrepresenting American Indian knowledge during the coronavirus pandemic.

That, in turn, shows larger unevenness in recent years in editorial management. By that, I'm talking about the overall tone or tenor becoming more and more fuzzy, not copy editing or style issues.

It's not just HCN. A number of political journals have this problem more and more. Jacobin can be all over the place, for example. But, this is another of the effects of the Internet, in my opinion. Lack of focus plus an overly expanded editorial mission killed Pacific Standard, in my opinion.

April 07, 2020

Texas progressives talk coronavirus, week four

As with the past three weeks, this outpost of the Texas Progressives is breaking the weekly roundup of news and politics into two parts — coronavirus and all the other stuff.

The first week of the COVID roundup is here. For the March 23 week, the same split is in effect. More coronavirus news here. And ditto for the March 30 week; COVID news here. Week 5 is here. Ditto for Week 6.

We do have good news related to the coronavirus. Per the NYT, genetic sequencing now gives us more of an idea of how it works.

With that, let's dive in.

Socratic Gadfly looks at a major casualty of coronavirus in Texas, perhaps a fatal one — the Texas icon Half Price Books — and wonders if it can survive even as a shell while he reminisces about many years of shopping there.

We're going to have some Twitter embeds as part of this week's take.

Like this:
If only we could force Danny Goeb to work as a CNA in a nursing home for a week or two.

Or the related, which nails Gov. Strangeabbott:
Sorry, folks.

And this:

OR this:
I mean, he does look like he's about to stroke out.

Or, on the lighter side, this:
Or ABC fellating Shrub Bush for warning about a pandemic in 2005 while ignoring:
And also ignoring:

Seriously, the MSM's three-year pattern of anointing Shrub Bush as a stable genyus is almost as bad as folks in Oslo, Norway, giving Barack Obama a gold medal.

OK, what's happening elsewhere?

Houston may be a growing coronavirus hotspot as we speak. But Abbott won't tell us that, because the state is HUGELY bad in testing. New York State has tested 7x as many people per capita. Many medical professionals in the region say there's a good chance it will wind up as bad as at least Detroit and New Orleans.

The Trib (and I am sure others have done so, too) profiles the work of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. The Dallas Observer notes that, per Jenkins' working ahead of Gov. Greg Abbott, he's now extended Dallas County's emergency declaration through May 20, though shelter in place is still just through April 30. Per Our Man Downtown objecting to what's an essential business, how many South Dallas pawnshops are owned by Friends of JWP? And, who besides wingnuts for virtue signaling are pushing for Hobby Lobby to be an essential business because they sell a few things that could be used to make emergency masks?

COVIDIOTS include UTIODIOTS who went to Cabo.

More than 1/4 million Texans filed for unemployment.

Abbott, like Trump, has promised to help doctors and hospitals with medical supplies, and failed.

Contra Trump suck-up Mike Liddell, the Pillow Guy, who said he could make 48,000 masks a day by last Friday (and presumably hasn't), Rice engineering faculty and students may actually make a makeshift ventilator. (I Tweeted Liddell and no response.)

Grits is back, and talking coronavirus, jails and Abbott.


Expecting that stimulus to actually work? Remember who's managing it.

Also note that Trump is apparently stealing COVID supplies that other countries were importing, diverting them to the US. On the other hand, this an RT piece, so it doesn't mention any Putin nefariousness.


Indian novelist Arundhati Roy calls out nationalism, sectarianism and other bigotries that may be on the rise, starting with the Hindutva-focused government of her own India. I quote-tweeted the piece and tagged Hindutva lover Tulsi Gabbard. I am sure she'll ignore it, and that her stanners will ignore her history. That said, per Roy, Modi looks more and more Trumpian in his mismanagement of all of this.

Whether through political PR lying or plain idiocy, by graying their lines on a graph, Bloomberg claims that Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan have flattened the curve. No they haven't.

And, claiming they have has the potential to fuel claims (ultimately racist, or the closely allied cultural essentialist) that there's an Asian secret sauce. Well, India's part of Asia, and there's clearly no secret sauce. So, it then gets narrowed to "east Asian secret sauce." Still doesn't exist, obviously.

Also, it's "strange" or "interesting" that claims of Japan flattening the curve not only aren't true, but that new case numbers are starting to increase again after the Olympics has been scrubbed for this year.

April 06, 2020

Jill Biden vs Jane Sanders: the non-doctors duel

So, Jill Biden isn't a doctor, contra what Whoopi said?

Going by AP style, strictly applied, she isn't.

Guess who else isn't a doctor?
This is fun, especially since a possible Berner posted it in jest to antagonize Biden-stanners.

That said, I'm already seeing that Berners are kind o hypocrites on this one.

As I said on Twitter, what's good for the Biden goose is good for the Sanders gander.

Anyway, with Jane O'Meara Sanders, PhD may stand for Please Hire DaFamily. Or Pay HerFamily DaMoney. It's a lower level of grift than Hunter Biden buying and selling "access" under the guise of hydrocarbons or whatever in Ukraine. But, grift it is.

And all Dumbocrats who attacked Jill Stein, MD, for identifying as "Dr. Jill Stein" in 2016 are of course hypocritical shits.

Coronavirus and a likely new Cold War (longer read)

Atlantic Monthly had a good speculative piece on likely fallouts from COVID. Neocons and many centrists wanted a new Cold War after 1989. Thanks to the toxic mix of the Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby of Xi Jinping Thought (a good read is here from the Beeb) and Donald Trump Mouth (evident to any non-MAGA American), they likely have gotten it. This is not to exonorate China in general or Xi in particular for technology theft far beyond the old USSR or modern Russia (or democracies like France, or like the US, for that matter) nor its forcing companies to surrender trade and business secrets (which they always could have resisted).

Some specific factors in both Xi's and Trump's makeups, while not making a new Cold War inevitable, at least made it more likely. Hubris, a certain amount of which is necessary to becoming a leader, is one that is toxic in too high of amounts, per the biblical statement that "pride goes before a fall." It's one that both of them have in excess. The photo at left underscores how much disdain they have for each other at bottom line, though Xi better masks his.

Let's start with Xi.

I'm not such a close China-watcher that I know that he had an excess of hubris early in his his first term. But, asking for, and being granted, the possibility of being president for life rather than being restricted to the two terms that had been on the books since Deng Xiaping's time, put it on full display. It's clear, by the CCP's rubber-stamping of the idea, that Xi had been wanting this for what, a a full year in advance? (He publicly broached the idea six months before his second-term election by not providing an apparent successor. And clearly, that also had been planned.)

That said, whether directly connected to imperial hubris or not, Xi's actions during his first term had helped grease the skids. His anti-corruption campaign surely not only eliminated actual corruption, but per Franz Joseph's old bon mot, "Is he a patriot for ME?" eliminated people who refused to be corrupt directly for and to Xi and Xi alone.

And then, just 18 months later, Xi became the first of two people to learn that you can't bully a pandemic.

And, it's "interesting," or "ironic," while ultimately tragic and worse that his mindset and Trump's on the coronavirus appeared to mirror each other. Both essentially, in their own ways, tried to pretend it away.

Xi had the advantage, or disadvantage, of being able to use brute force. Telling government agencies to destroy records, for example. Oh, wait, Trump told the CDC to scrub its website. Actual records are still available, but trying to hide stuff from the public? That said, the good side of American federalism meant that Trump couldn't get state health departments to outrightly lie, like we know Xi did with Chinese national stats and continues to do so. See here for more.

Pre-coronavirus, Trump wasn't totally wrong about China. It was all of the above, and given the growth of its economy, also arguably a currency manipulator and more.

But, he was totally wrong on how he handled this.

First, while globalization is not all good, it's not all bad, either.

Second, his America Firsterism cut out potential allies in battling China, namely Canada and the EU.

Third, his record of semi-failures in the business world, with something that looks like long-term success being achieved only through six US bankruptcy filings, a likely infusion or three of Mafia money (beyond what we know of his willingness to do business with mob-controlled companies in his early days), some known infusions of Russian money (but no, Putin didn't collude to elect him president, and doubly no, he hasn't been a Russian asset since the 1980s), and the Deutsche Bank ongoing lending to him that has raised eyebrows as to possible ultimate reasons, fueled an already high level of hubris. Well, international affairs isn't like one-off business deals, first. Second, the only ultimate results to bailing out a country are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and given that both are ultimately based on the dollar, that would have meant harikiri for them.

Fourth, per my post on how Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" has insight for human reactions to the coronavirus, Trump is a poster child for human nature's general willingness to throw good money after bad, plus the human, and definitely not-Asia specific, worry about losing face.

So, in international affairs, he had a history of wreckage, carnage and more before this. Specific to Xi, he had a history of insults, some of them at least marginally racist in nature long before his description of the coronavirus, and a refusal to really negotiate with Xi on any terms other than at least a partial surrender in advance by Xi.

Then this. We know Trump had some national-intelligence knowledge of the severity of COVID even while Xi was trying to cover it up, before that failed. And Trump? Like the stereotypical Nero fiddling while Rome burned, Denialism Don entered his usual mode when there's bad news he can't fully control.

The US will have more total cases and deaths than China by the time this is done, even with the most liberal allowance for Xi's lies. For US, and global by country, deaths and cases, click those links. (With notes that China's, especially is of course inaccurate.)

The fallout of all of this will be, as Atlantic notes, an increase in lack of cooperation between the US and China. Whether China's supply of help to EU nations can buy off knowledge of its lies remains to be seen. So, too, does the issue of other EU countries largely leaving Italy adrift in its early days.

Given that the EU doesn't border China, or Chinese satellites, and neither does NATO, of course, assuming we're already in the start of a new Cold War, this one will be different from the last. If COVID drives more austerity, it's likely that more European nations that are NATO members will look at further military budget-cutting.

As for the EU? Union-wide bonds for its short-term post-COVID future sound great. Germany continuing to keep a budget surplus sounds great to Chancellor Angela Merkel, I'm sure. It probably sounds even better to the AfD. The next six months are going to determine if she'll go down in history as the first leader of 21st-century Europe or "just" as a great chancellor of Germany.

Odds? 50-50, in my opinion.  Yes, as head of a parliamentary-based government, she has more restrictions than a President Macron. But, she's not running for re-election, and she still has some wiggle room outside the Bundestag. The 50-50 includes a guess on how much she'll try to use that wiggle room, or not.

Some of the Cold War 2.0 picture will depend on the US presidential election.

If Trump does get re-elected (shut up, Dems, it's a real possibility, and your claiming it isn't just makes it more real) of course, Trump's personality and everything driving the Cold War from his side just gets worse, and per my "Tar Baby," it just gets worse on Xi's side as well.

If Biden is elected (shut up, Berners, he's not getting the nomination, and that's in part due to him being a bad candidate, not your conspiracy theories), he'll do his best to undo the worst of Trump's damage. Unfortunately, it will be on the path of pursuing the bipartisan foreign policy establishment's idea of "engagement" with Beijing, which Xi will see as weakness.

Xi will also have no problem smiling when the allegedly outside the box stenos, the cadre within leftist American journalists who think America is almost always wrong on foreign policy, keep that up, as well as folks like the People's Republic of Humboldt Bay.

 Russia's own president for life, Vladimir Putin, remains a wild card. The median age of the Russian population as a whole isn't much higher than the US, and is well below, say Italy (and Germany). BUT? The median age of ethnic Russians, plus Belorussians and Ukrainians inside its borders, is higher than the various minorities, like those at the edge of Russia's Central Asian neighbors or those in the Caucuses. On the other hand, it's relatively non-dense, even in the European side; Moscow and Petersburg are the only metro areas of more than 5 million in Russia.

On the other hand, Putin's already treating this just like Xi did, to the point of arresting one doctor. And, Dr. Anastasia Vasilieva had been challenging Putin's official numbers.

So, it could survive COVID fairly well. It could survive the oil price wars fairly well. Climate change could improve its agricultural situation. If farm mechanization increases, Russia could be the next US.


Update, April 28: For purely domestic political reasons, Mitch McDonnell's senatorial campaign committee wants to push a new Cold War.

April 05, 2020

Freedom from Religion Foundation wins a lawsuit appeal
that I wished both it and Abbott could have lost

On appeal, per Friendly Atheist, the Fifth Circuit upholds a federal district court's ruling in favor of the Freedom of Religion Foundation in a "secular nativity" display in Austin in the Capitol. For a variety of reasons, as I blogged at the time, I was NOT a total fan of the suit. And, indeed, I mentioned the Friendly Atheist himself, Hemant Mehta, in that piece. I says I wished both sides could lose. And I'm not a total fan of FFRF in general. These same liars (yes) once claimed Lincoln was a crypto-atheist or something.

Per the first of my blog links, I linked to an old piece which gave further background on why I thought the Austin action was a stunt. I also had a bullet point in the first piece explaining what I saw as evidence the Austin action was a stunt. The second and third of the three points in all were about Abbott, as a tu quoque. As I said, I wished both sides could have lost.

Mehta, in his link at top, links to his piece about the original district ruling. He never addresses my first bullet point, about why FFRF asked for that space in the Capitol basement rather than on the lawn with all the other Nativity displays.

Mehta can be very good at times. But, while not having both feet there, he can have one foot in the Gnu Atheist world at times. This is clearly one of those times. And, Hemant, it has been from the start. Sorry, but you're a quasi-Gnu on this issue.

And there's plenty of other FFRF nuttery to go around.

Like when it sued to try to block Obama from saying "so help me god" as his add-on to the presidential oath? The real answer is that it's unconstitutional to require that, but that it's unconstitutional to block presidents from making that as a personal utterance, too.

Let's also not forget that nutter Michael Newdow was part of that suit.

Although its rhetoric is not over the top as much as is that of American Atheists, rhetoric isn't FFRF's focus. Actions are.

As in kabuki theater-type stuff. Stunts.

In short, FFRF is kind of like the PETA of Gnu Atheists.

Let's also not forget that Godless in Dixie, via a guest commenter, and other Gnu dumb fucks have supported FFRF on this blindly from the start.

Zoom sucks, far beyond Zoombombing

Read The Intercept. Or twice.

Or Schneier on Security.

Or Tech Crunch.

Or the Guardian.

Or even NPR.

Or search the Net on your own.

Per Schneier, Zoom sucks three ways. It's a mix of
1. Bad privacy practices.
2. Bad security protections.
3. Bad user configurations.

Reporting your info to Facebook.

Trying to lift info from your LinkedIn.

Those are under No. 1

And, possible Chinese backdoors. Definitely No. 2.

And, of course, Zoombombing. No. 3.

That said, even if the Zoombombing is primarily "user error" on the part of hosts/leaders of meetings, Zoom should have been more proactive on instructing hosts to lock things down and how. And, Zoombombing itself is not just a malicious prank, it's harmful in a number of ways — and if kids under 18 are being shown porn, surely illegal.

I had, for some personal reasons, signed up for a Zoom account. I've made sure I am logged out on both FF and Chrome browsers. Unfortunately, the IT person coordinating the Zoom events that partially motivated my sign-up is largely dismissive. That's all I can say.

I won't accept as an excuse that Zoom has coronavirus growing pains. Per The Intercept, Schneier and others with IT / cybersecurity career backgrounds, many of the things that are wrong about Zoom were flagged a year or two ago.

Is it too harsh to call Zoom malware, as in the Guardian piece? I don't think so. Add in the fact that, per Schneier, its early responses have been "minimum necessary" on actual fixes accompanied by "maximum possible" on corporate PR bullshit and there you go.

Update, April 6: Zoom has apparently pulled back away from requiring meeting passwords. So, their "minimum necessary" was itself a clusterfuck.


So, what are the alternatives?

First, contra Margaret Thatcher's infamous TINA, there ARE alternatives.

Alternative No. 1 might be asking if you even need the video conferencing.

Take schools first.

In my local area, all the smaller school districts aren't using non-interactive OR interactive video. They're simply preparing weekly lesson plans and having parents pick it up, either physically or online. Stuff gets turned in online. Yes, the interactiveness is missed.

But, you know what? We're in a new normal.

I mentioned non-interactive video.

For education, option B, since most education, not only at the K-12 level but undergraduate collegiate, is still the good old fashioned lecture? Record teacher lectures and post them on a YouTube channel.

OK, business next.

Slack, and jokes about it being down on Twitter from time to time, has become a backbone of multi-location staff meetings. So just use it more.

"Have to" have video? Double check first.

If you do, there are options.

I just mentioned one. Slack does video calls.

So does Google Hangouts.

Yeah, Google will be spying on you. But, you already knew that. And, it will still have somewhat better privacy than Zoom. And, Google and Slack are known commodities.

It may be harder for a leader to control video calls than a full blown meeting. And these apps may not have things like whiteboards.

You know what? They're good enough.

Support groups?

Kind of similar to businesses, but with added privacy needs.

This isn't that hard, though.

There's text-based meeting apps like Adobe Connect. Or using Google Hangouts. You simply have to tell members of your support group meeting that the meeting is being treated as "closed" and people who aren't members aren't to be invited.