SocraticGadfly: 4/12/20 - 4/19/20

April 18, 2020

China, Wuhan and coronavirus origins:
Maybe not a bioweapon, but fucked-up medical research

So says a Washington Post op-ed. Again, it notes this is a maybe, not a definite. That said, the Bezos Post's hard paywall and my refusal to pay means linking to a blog.

So, what do we have?

In a nutshell, Chinese scientists have been known to have studying coronaviruses for several years at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But, for American scientists, they've also been known for several years to have been short-staffed and to have been taking unnecessary risks.

It was bad enough that U.S. State Department officials in Beijing sent cables back home warning about problems after sending science-trained diplomatic staff to WIV.

The story goes on to note that Wuhan's patient zero did NOT go to the Wuhan wet market and that that market doesn't sell bats anyway. And, that Beijing otherwise remains close-mouthed on how it started.

The dots do connect.

And, the blog's link got me past the paywall.

What this does say is there's a good possibility this shows how, in many ways, China is not quite at developed world standards, doesn't it? It looks kind of like Russia and nuclear powered (not just armed) cruise missiles. And yes, they've had accidents, too.

Of course, the US has not incredible room to talk. The post-911 anthrax scare, how it may have happened, and the government's botched investigation of it all come to mind.

Is it possible that this is just Trump Administration leaking? Sure. Some of the alleged outside-the-box stenos seem to believe that. And alt-right conspiracy theory nutters have pushed this once it came out, effortlessly gliding from their old bioweapon claims to this.

I don't think so. If anything, WIV's request for additional funding or other assistance from DC and the Trump Administration saying "no" means that it's not only China's fault.

At the same time, they'll point to Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying he didn't think it came from a lab. Even more so, they'll point to Joint Staff Surgeon Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs. BUT — at the end, he specifically uses the word "bioweapon." I'm not sure how clearly he's read Ignatius or Rogan. That said, it's the author of the Hill piece who first used it. Not sure how carefully SHE read.

On the third hand, the stenos might claim this is a mix of the MSM and "Deep State" careerists at State attacking Trump.

On the fourth hand, Trump's China hardliners have been most pushing this.

On the fifth hand, WHO now rejects this (albeit with a small bit of wiggle room).

On the sixth hand, going beyond what Trump has said, WHO did kowtow to Beijing early on.

On the seventh hand, if you want to believe anything, you'll believe anything.

April 17, 2020

Coronavirus and ugly Chinese nationalism, part 2

I have a feeling that, like my separating out coronavirus news from other Texas Progressives items the past five weeks, this Part 2 may not be the only entry after Part 1.

First, China has revised upward death numbers from Wuhan. By 50 percent.

They've only tweaked cases numbers, but researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (surely about to be bigfooted by Beijing) insist that this is off by a factor of four. Researchers there also question how quickly Beijing was able to revise its numbers. The NYT at the link notes that in pandemics, revisions in cases and fatalities aren't uncommon.

As for Beijing refusing outside help, whether from the WHO it tried to bully, then bypass, or from the CDC? There's probably a reason for that.

State Department leakers claimed earlier this week that the Wuhan Institute of Virology badly bungled research into coronaviruses in general. So says a Washington Post op-ed. Again, it notes this is a maybe, not a definite. That said, the Bezos Post's hard paywall and my refusal to pay means linking to a blog. I'll be looking at this in detail in a separate post.

And, China attacking Taiwan and accusing IT of fomenting nationalism? Risible.

This is going to dent globalization. (Fact is, actually, that global trade as an overall percentage of the world economy had peaked nearly a decade ago. That's not so much because globalization itself collapsed as it is the continued rise [at least on paper] of the economy of China, and lesser degrees that of other East Asian nations.)

The last time global trade was badly dented, it exacerbated the Depression.

From Al Kaline to Don Denkinger and beyond

Yes, you read that right, old-time baseball fans, Cardinal fans of any time over the past 35 years, and others.

Kaline, the great Tiger Hall of Famer, and probably third just to Roberto Clemente (and of course Henry Aaron) as the best all-around right fielder of the post-integration era, recently passed away, and drew a bevy of tributes.

And in searching the net, I found this blog post about the 1972 ALCS. I'd forgotten the Tigers played the A's, as AL East champs.

I also didn't realize it went the full five games, and that the A's won the last one 2-1 on a controversial play at first.

We're getting closer to Don Denkinger and 1985 World Series infamy.

With the possible exception of Ed Armbrister not being called for interfering with Carlton Fisk in 1975 by Larry Barnett, this play might be the most egregious postseason blown call in 15 years or more before Denkinger.

OK, I pulling the third video clip from that blog, with selected highlights from Game 5.

OK, head to the 1:30 mark or a second or two after.

George Hendrick is at the plate for the A's. Yes, Cards fans, "Silent George," and we're getting closer to Denkinger territory. Game is tied, 1-1. Hendrick is in because, if you look earlier in that clip, Reggie Jackson, who scored the first run in a delayed double steal, was injured in the play at the plate.

Silent George pulls a grounder in the hole. Dick McAuliffe, playing short that day instead of normal Ed Brinkman, makes the play, throws to first. Appears to beat Hendrick easily. But ump Johnny Rice said McAuliffe pulled Norm Cash off the bag. It's harder to tell with 1970s lower-resolution video and lower-quality slow motion. It's possible Cash's foot was pulled off, but not definite, and for my money, he stayed on the bag until after he had dug out the throw. I would have "swallowed my whistle," had I been Rice. (The game clip is a montage, so I don't know how long Cash argued. But it looks like he argued vigorously enough.)

Anyway, three batters later, after Hendrick had been sacrificed to second, Gene Tenace drove him in for the winning run. Ballgame, and the A's go on to a classic World Series against the Reds and the start of a dynasty.

Now, we'll complete the loop.

Hendrick was traded by the Cardinals to the Pirates after the 1984 season.

Part of the return?

John Tudor, who had a career year in 1985.

And then melted down in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, after Don Denkinger's blown call in Game 6.

Let's just look at that day that will live in infamy again.

Jorge Orta is still out. And, while Orta tries to pretend otherwise in the short clip below?

Denkinger admits he got it wrong. He's long admitted that.

That said, yes, the Cardinals just melted down. And stopped hitting long before then, for a variety of reasons, many at least indirectly connected to Vince Coleman and the Attack of the Killer Tarp.

See this for more:

Including the good, bad and ugly of former Cards great Keith Hernandez trolling the team from time to time. The bad and the ugly? Keith, that would have been your coke-snorting and other things that got you traded. Keefer says he had stopped snorting before the trade. But, the loafing? He has admitted more than once that his brother jumped his ass after the trade and said he needed to shape up.

Hernandez was of course Whitey Herzog's worse trade ever, but he'd been wanting to dump him since the start of the 1983 season, for a jar of peanut butter and not much else.

You want more baseball karma? Larry Barnett, the home plate ump who refused to call interference on Armbrister in the 1975 WS, Game 3? He was the second base ump in that A's-Tigers game.

That said, with further looks, and a look at the rule book, that call was more iffy. And, Pudge had little shot at the runner going to second anyway. But, it's not totally iffy, on the call.

And here's that:

It's more of a judgment call, as noted above. But ... it did lead to the Reds scoring the winning run the next batter later, in the bottom of the 10th. (To make matters worse for Fisk, he had grounded into a double play in the top of the inning.)

If that game flips? And the Sox wind up winning the World Series? Do the Reds get back in 1976 or is it too much heartbreak? Do they go down as the Buffalo Bills of 1970s baseball, losing it all in 1970, 72 and 75?

April 16, 2020

Texas Progressives have you mesmerized

For yet another week, there's plenty of interesting — good, bad and ugly — news and views in and around the Lone Star State and beyond that caught the eye of Texas Progressives in general and this corner in particular.

So, let's dig in.

Here you are.


Socratic Gadfly notes that Freedom from Religion Foundation had a lawsuit victory over Gov. Greg Abbott upheld on appeal. As he said at the initial filing, it's a case he wishes both sides could have lost in some way.

Buying a house, but not getting the land? The Observer looks at the big picture on community land trusts, in a longer read. (One thing not mentioned by the Observer: the whole myth of a home as an investment.)

The Observer welcomes Tristan Ahlone as new editor-in-chief. As a long-time reader of High Country News, familiar with his work, I say this is a great add.

Get your art fix online. The Observer has the details.

Angelo State's prez resigned without reason.

The Texas Living Waters Project reminds us that flood planning is still a thing we need to be thinking about.

Early prognostications of this year's Atlantic hurricane season aren't good.

Texas politics

Off the Kuff notes an update to that weird "ghost candidate" story from the HD142 primary.

David Bruce Collins reminds us that the Texas Green Party convention, to be done virtually, is this weekend. Register here.

Criminal justice

Grits has the receipts on "perhaps the junkiest of junk science," forensic hypnosis. When it's worse than bite marks, blood spatter and other Texas forensic pseudoscience, it has to be bad. And it is. And deadly, since we're a death penalty state.

Grits talks about how Abbott has lost round one in his thinly-coronavirus-veiled attack on bail reform.

He also offers an update on his cancer recovery.


Bernie wasted no time this time around in starting the sheepdogging.

David Bruce Collins, like me, wonders just how many of the #BernieOrBust folks actually will leave the Dem party Nov. 3. And by "leave," both he and I mean voting Green, not staying home and not voting at all.

Why did Bernie go Bust? Gadfly offers his thoughts, mainly based on Bernie being a bad campaigner.


Turns out baby daddy Julian Assange wasn't quite so isolated, and certainly not so monastic, inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. And the baby mommy and him have been partners for 9 years, and engaged since 2017, but marriage not on the plate until now. And, if Assange's mom is mad about invasion of privacy, she can tell her kid to start by apologizing for the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

April 15, 2020

How will restaurants survive the coronavirus 'new normal'?

I am thinking about categories of restaurants here, not individual restaurants, though I will cite some individual restaurants as examples.

Speaking of that? I was prompted by driving by an IHOP where I live the other day. It had a "we're open" sign in front on the grass strip near the interstate frontage road.

But, really?

Yes, IHOP serves other foods. But, you think of it for?? Pancakes, followed by other breakfast food. And who does takeout pancakes? I mean, your straight-up fast food restaurants do breakfast burritos and sandwiches. McDonald's still has pancakes, at least at select locations. I eat relatively little fast food, and when I do get breakfast fast food, it's a sammich or burrito.

And with that, let's dig in.

Fast food restaurants

They should come out pretty well. Most of them did the majority of sales at the drive-through before this. The only hinderance might be the recession and fewer customers. Breakfast sales will likely take some hit with fewer people driving to work; OTOH, out of habit, many of them may still hit a fast food place for breakfast, if they're single, or partnered but childless, and just bring it home. Pizza joints already did delivery, so they'll generally be OK, too. (When's the last time you ate a Pizza Hut or a Domino's inside the joint?)

That said, fast food places that still have robust breakfast lines may wind up trimming them before this is done. See above, and below, on the pancakes issue.

Fast-casual restaurants

I'm thinking of the likes of Chili's. Many of these places already did takeout, so again, they should be OK overall, just general recession worries. Regional as well as national chains, this is true. Chinese restaurants, even local ones, have long done takeout. The local ones will struggle, but if they keep doing takeout, and use a limited menu to reduce overhead, they should be OK. Other local, or small-regional (less than 10 locations) chains, like local Mexican? They're probably in more trouble. All of these may take a bigger hit from no booze sales except in states where executive orders were framed carefully to allow takeout wine or beer with the takeout food or something. Italian, like Olive Garden? More trouble yet. Nobody's ever thought of pasta as being a big takeout food.

24-hour breakfast oriented restaurants

Three big names here. I already mentioned IHOP. Another trended on Twitter, per an actual index by FEMA, and that is Waffle House. Denny's is the third. Denny's is less oriented toward breakfast than the other two, but still, if I asked you to name one Denny's item from memory, you'd almost certainly say "Grand Slam" — a breakfast. None of these three did takeout before. As noted above, many breakfast items don't lend themselves to the idea of takeout. They'll be hurting. All three chains will surely close marginal locations. And, speaking of closing marginal locations, that leads to ...

All-you-can-eat joints

The name here, in much of the nation, is Golden Corral. But, it spent most the previous decade or more dumping marginal locations. Some stayed open as independent restaurants. They will all be in trouble. The whole biz is predicated on high volume at slim margins — the Walmart of restaurateuring. (If you call these places restaurants.) Many might offer takeout; Golden Corral itself, and many of the others, offered a la carte dinners as well as the buffets. But, seriously. These places are hurting. Luby's is another that was hurting even before the coronavirus.

But, while you can do takeout, and many already offered a la carte options, they were predicated on all-you-can eat business. They're hurting.

There's a subcategory here, of "healthy all-you-can-eat." No, that's not a joke. One name pops up: Sooper Salad. But, soups and salads are even less, overall, a takeout item than what Golden Corral offers. Some of these places also got dinged by the dirty lettuce scares of the last couple of years.


Steak is also not a traditional takeout food. If steakhouses are wanting to cope, I'm sure they'll try. But, as the weather warms up, more people will be grilling on their own. Meat availability and prices for bigger steaks is also going to be a factor.

Upscale sites

People go to these places for the food presentation as much as the food. Or to be seen, as much as for the food. (Think upend steakhouses, high-end Italian, etc.) They're hurting. But, they have a chunk of loyalty for the reasons above and more and will likely bounce back well.

April 14, 2020

Texas progressives: Coronavirus, week 5

As with the previous four weeks, this corner of the Texas Progressives is splitting the weekly Roundup of news and opinion into two parts. This is the coronavirus half. The usual interesting stuff will come later in the week.

And for April 7 week, here. Ditto for Week 6. Here's Week 7, and Week 8.

Sadly, the "interesting" part on coronavirus news is that CONFIRMED deaths in the U.S. passed 20,000 last week. Worldometer is again a great resource link. Globally, throwing out city-state sized places, Spain leads the world in cases per capita and is narrowly ahead of Italy now in deaths per capita. The US per-capita death rate is 20 percent higher than the Iran that wingnuts love to mock.


It may not be quite as bad as Florida, but the Texas Workforce Commission's current situation on unemployment filing also sucks.

Special education students, and their parents, are being especially hit by school closures.

Rural counties are likely facing more cases than limited data shows or than Gov. Strangeabbott and Death Panels Danny Goeb would like to admit.

Get your art fix online. The Observer has the details.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson are squaring off more and more on coronavirus issues, with John Wiley Price, frustrated that Jenkins has long ceased to be his puppet, pouring fuel on the flames when he can.  Jim Schutze weighs in with a piece on Johnson's general cluelessness.

The Texas Signal worries about the rise of anti-Asian racism.

The Lunch Tray deconstructs stress eating and "anxiety baking".

Jose Benavides documents how he got tested for coronavirus.


The virus, with fatalities, is already hitting rural areas. And not just chic ski resort rural areas. The NYT has the details.

Contra one hope held previously by some scientists, but pushed by wingnuts, it appears like that that COVID is unlike seasonal flu in another way: It appears UNlikely to substantially weaken in warm weather. That's the National Academy of Sciences weighing in.

Kelsey Atherton writes about how the Trump Administration's dysfunctional response brings us closer to the cyberpunk world of movies and stories like "Blade Runner," and how this could become a vicious circle.

National Review, in the wake of the Wisconsin debacle, supports nationwide no-restrictions voting by mail.

Fauci, trying not to be or look like too much of a Trump toady, has been making the rounds of the news channels. In a livestreamed interview, he said that he thinks we ought to permanently get away from hand-shaking, even post-COVID. That said, though speaking on his own, and though noting a number of problems in the government that may have exacerbated its spread, he refused to use the word T-R-U-M-P.

Parts of rural Virginia are turning on Trump.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has long played up his Trumpian ties and background connections. Now, it appears that, because of his Trumpian-like response to coronavirus, his popularity is caving, just as Trump's is stagnant at best, contra normal crisis politics and rallying around the president.

We don't need legends of Rousselian noble savage American Indians (or any other New Agey shit) possibly undercutting coronavirus treatment.

With Trump-Kushner grifting, to riff on Eisenhower, is it too early to talk about the coronavirus-industrial complex?

Much of Georgia has been a black hole of COVID stats. The AJC has the details.


Ugly Chinese nationalism now includes attacking Taiwan, complete with Chinese Twitterbots.

It started in Belgium and has, sadly, gone "viral": the totally false bullshit that 5G wireless caused this. Shock me that RFK Jr. is peddling this.

April 13, 2020

The sheepdogging started early

Four years ago, even after it was clear he wasn't going to win the nomination, Bernie Sanders waited until the Democratic National Convention to give a full public endorsement to Hillary Clinton. CNN noted there appeared to be little chemistry between the two. (That said, Black Agenda Report said in 2015 his entire campaign was an intentional sheepdog. See three paragraphs below.)

This year? Took him less than a week after leaving the race to endorse Biden. And, some Twitterati are saying there's more chemistry, which means that if anything, Bernie will be a MORE enthusiastic sheepdogger this time.

Of course, he wrote a book about the fine art of sheepdogging in 2017. (Note that the board of directors of Our Revolution is all people who will fall in line to sheepdog.)

That said, long before Bernie's sheepdogging double-dip, it was a fine Democratic art. Like Denny the Dwarf Kucinich. Or fake lefty Howard Dean. And before them, Jesse Jackson (who surely got some inner-city walking around money for it).

It happens outside Prez races, too. Team Indivisible sheepdogs, and was founded to sheepdog, for Dem Congresscritters.

And, with Bernie officially endorsing Biden, the "Bernie party protest" idea peddled by Socialist Alternative and Kshama Sawant, besides being hypocritical already yesterday, is DOA today. And the Democratic Socialist of America roses? Not endorsing Biden? Big whoop. Will you go beyond Bernie and call on people to Vote Green or not? Or sit on your hands? Or, more grudgingly, follow Bernie into the land of sheepdogs? (After that blog post of mine, last week, when Bernie "suspended" his campaign, Sawant and SA doubled down on the hypocrisy. (And the stupidity.)

Update: The sheepdogging has continued since then. When the New York Democratic Party cancelled the primary over coronavirus concerns, who sued? Andrew Yang, not Bernie Sanders.  Sanders later jumped on that bandwagon, but it was just Yang originally suing.


But, sheepdogging isn't just a candidate issue. It's an opinion media issue, too.

The Nation will sheepdog for Biden, count on it. John Nichols, for example, has a history of DSA puff pieces but hates Greens. As does the mag in general.

Jacobin, which saluted the centennial of the Revolution 2.5 years ago, will nonetheless, albeit reluctantly, sheepdog. Dunno about a further left site like In These Times.

Aaron Maté, per his appearance on Jimmy Dore, is already sheepdogging. That's funny and hypocritical at the same time. I'll be checking the other allegedly outside the box stenos on Twitter in days and weeks ahead.

Second-quarter blogroll updates

Fleck's Colorado River blog? Gone. Apparently I'd been ghosted out of commenting on his blog since my start of year update. I could just use a new email address, but he's not worth it. I tried FF as well as Chrome, home and office both. Wouldn't post. When I used same email but new user name, my comment posted, but "under moderation." I've been ghosted/banned. So, bye to Fleck. And fuck his 1-star book. Fleck could also stand to read the likes of Johnny Thompson, who notes how climate change in the Colorado River Basin affects plants, and that in turn is leading Arizonans to continue to increase often-unregulated groundwater pumping.

Wrong Kind of Green, besides thinking the ultimate answer to neoliberalism on climate change is Marxism, is full New Agey on plants, with this post about "trees ... care for their young" and "mother trees suckle their offspring." Trees do none of that as we  understand not only humans but many other animals doing that because they don't have brains, or, in the case of suckling, they don't have mammary glands. Friendship? Involves conscious decisions that trees can't make. Two species growing in some degree of symbiotic relationship is not "friendship." And now claiming that the desire for environmental enclosures like national parks stems from 1860s US racism (a reference to the creation of Yosemite, I guess???) is just ... off the wall. Marxism + New Ageism together is bad enough.

Washington Babylon. Sorry, Ken Silverstein, but you've turned it over too much to Andrew Stewart for "fill" on the political side, and a two-bit poet for other fill. And now Stew is full-on conspiracy thinker on the assassination of Malcolm X. No, COINTELPRO didn't do it. Elijah Muhammad thugs of Nation of Islam did; evidence is pretty solid, including a freely made confession by one of the convicted murderers. I can still drop by on occasion without blogrolling you, to see if you've got something to say yourself. Or something from someone else more insightful than Stew, like all the allegedly outside-the-box journos who simply are in their own new box.

Fleck is gone entirely; the other two are still on my links list, but removed from my active blog feed. I don't visit either regularly.

Evgeny Morozov's "The Syllabus" had an interesting idea, but never really caught on with me on details, plus its RSS feed has been semi-AWOL for some time. To the links list it goes.

I still like Shem, but if you're not posting much (and not on Twitter much)? Driven to Abstraction goes to the links list.

Added? DeSmog Blog. Tracks pollution issues especially, and environmental issues in general, pretty well. Further left than Gang Green but not either New Agey or Marxist.

The Rag Blog. Texana from a generally old Austin hippie/Observer fellow travelers POV.

Off the Kuff. One person knows why, or should know why, even if I hadn't dropped a hint in a recent Roundup.

Joe Monahan's New Mexico Politics moves to the link list but no active feed. Heath Hausaman and his NM Political Report don't have the same knowledge of the Desplobado's political chess as does Monahan, but on news analysis, they've got a better feel for the pulse of the state and what's happening. I have clicked to see how repentant he's become after attacking Gov. Lujan Grisham for allegedly being panicky in vetoing spending bills from the NM Lege's short session. He's been reasonably repentant, but still.