SocraticGadfly: 11/15/20 - 11/22/20

November 20, 2020

Drew Springer gets free PR

State Rep. Drew Springer was just re-elected to Texas House District 68, and as is tradition in a banana republic state with a legislature that meets just every other year like here in Tex-ass, Drew, along with other Legiscritters, filed a bunch of bills on the first day of filing, a week after the election.

One paper in his district apparently was so impoverished to run this as its lead story. Not even bylined.

There's one additional problem.

This isn't a normal mid-November for Uncle Drew.

Springer is in a runoff special election for a state senate seat. And, just about every one of the bills he filed was a pander against claims by his opponent, Shelley Luther, that he's not a "real conservative."

In short, he just got himself a shitload of free advertising.

We may finally have the tool we need
for carbon tax plus carbon tariff on climate change

I have long touted that we need regulatory sticks, and not the carrots at best of carbon exchanges, or the toothless Jell-O of Paris Accord agreements.

Mainly, I've said that one of three countries/groups in the world needs to adopt a serious carbon tax PLUS carbon tariff on imports. The WTO allows this; Paul Krugman was saying this at the same time I did.

You have to have a country big enough for the tariff to affect a lot of other countries, of course. That leaves the U.S. and China, and maybe Japan, and the EU as a group, if its individual member states would agree to a bloc-wide policy. Individually, Germany just doesn't have the throw weight, I think, though it might from how interconnected EU trade is. On the other hand, for both better and worse, this might finish shattering the EU.

A bonus of a carbon tariff is that it makes a domestic carbon tax more palatable.

Of course, were the US to go this route, measuring carbon emissions elsewhere, especially with, say, a China that won't admit its own general air pollution problems, would be tough.

Not any more.

Enter Climate TRACE. Per Yale Climate Connections, it allows a much greater degree of tracking carbon emissions than before. I don't know if it's quite granular enough to meet my ideas. That's doubly true if it relies in part on voluntary participation, as the sensor installation part certainly does. But it's still a big leap forward.

November 19, 2020

Coronavirus, week 33: Salvific technologism fails

• Remember how, months ago, smartphone contact tracing apps were touted as having a big role in what was already then, a la the War on Drugs, War on Poverty, etc., being touted as the War on Coronavirus?

Don't hear about them much now, do you? Why not?

Per Time, they have have largely been a #fail, and it explains why.

First, per a graph from the story, they've obviously NOT been a(s much a) fail elsewhere. Ireland has 37 percent adoption, vs. Virginia as the top US state with just over 10 percent. So, why a fail in Merika?

First, blame The Donald.

Second, blame tech companies themselves for the degree to which modern smartphones CAN track people, and paranoia even beyond that. (Note that Ireland's 37 percent, as the top country on the chart, and Germany's 27 percent, means this one isn't just an American issue.)

Third, blame states for not touting the apps more, with or without Trump and a non-response at the federal level.

• The Observer talks about how the virus has hastened the exposure of crumbling holes in the superstructure of Texas health care and, just as much if not more, in the superstructure of what is allegedly public health in Texas. 

• Rice University students have gone low-tech with results. A student community court tries students accused of violating mask and social distance rules.

• The Cut offers a story of a person seeing their grandfather die, and calling out Dan Patrick and his "duty to die," who actually is nothing compared to the editor of First Things, who this spring dove DEEP into the empty pool of Religious Right wingnuttery, Catholic division, claiming that the degree some people were going to save lives was "demonic." No, really. I hadn't realized until reading this JUST how much Conservative Cafeteria Catholics had sold their souls.

• Skeptical Raptor says pump the brakes on Pfizer's potential vaccine. Beyond the "peer review by PR," he of course says lets get some real peer review. And, that -100F (-75C) storage requirement? Rural areas in the US likely out. Tropical areas around the world likely out. 

• That's as Moderna says: "Our PR staff says that our vaccine is just as good as Pfizer's PR staff says its vaccine is." The MSM is idiots about more than politics.

• For the second time in a month, I've called out NYT science writer Carl Zimmer for printing PR. And, again, suggested he needs to read Skeptical Raptor, Orac and the like before writing. It's a sad thing that it's happened twice now, not just once. 

• ProPublica says pump the brakes on rapid antigen tests, held out as the hope for all sorts of things, such as the NBA having fans at games in its new season. Currently, they're riddled with false positives and can be misleading if not used carefully and correctly.

• Costco has eliminated medical exemption claims loopholes. You wanna shop there? Wear a damn mask. Per my boycotts and semi-boycotts, all retailers that offer pickup or delivery service should do this. 

• Chiropractors were HUGE antivaxxers when the polio vaccine came out. Why? IMO, a mix of true belief in the pseudomedicine claims for chiropractic and, per we journos, follow the money.

• Silver lining news, sadly temporary? The city of San Antonio has temporarily let kayakers and canoers use the Riverwalk area of the San Antonio River.

• Gov. Noem continues to death-wish the people of South Dakota even as she and her press secretary flunky claim she's presented the "full scope of the science" to residents. Nope. She lies about masks even as deaths soar.

Mink coronavirus is a thing, but contra Counterpunch (not linking!) seemingly less of a thing than the mag claims.

• The US is now past 250,000 deaths. Will we hit 300,000 before the end of the year? Quite possibly. Zeynef Tufecki is the latest to sound the holidays alarm.

November 18, 2020

Ahh, Ken Paxton, flying the GOP freak flag

So, Kenny Boy Paxton is officially under FBI investigation. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

And, one angle behind the investigation? One related to the whistle-blowing?

Kenny Boy's alleged affair, with his mistress, a state Senate staffer, eventually hired by the very developer Neal Paul who's at the heart of the whistleblowers whom Paxton, most likely illegally, fired in some cases.

On modern Rethuglicans, going beyond "follow the money"? The other watchword is "follow the pants."

And, we're following, Ken.

We know just who you are, Tony La Russa

Tony La Russa was named manager of the White Sox because of ownership favoritism. Turns out, he tried to pull the "don't you know who I am" favoritism when Phoenix-area cops arrested him for DWI last fall. Yeah, Tony, we know just who you are. A drunken MAGA lout.

A lout even when not drunken and before Trump was president, as Ozzie Smith knows, a better player than Royce Clayton but rudely shoved aside instead of getting to go out a winner as a deserving full-time player.

A lout who uses favoritism both ways to get undeserving people elected to the Hall of Fame, as people with brains know about Harold Baines and Jack Morris.

No, we know all too well who you are. A person who treats dogs like people and too many people like dogs. Scott Rolen is another former player of his who can tell you that.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of less than full information out there, 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.

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 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. Gary Gaetti 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."

November 17, 2020

Texas Progressives look forward to Pres. Biden (well, not totally)

Trump continues to be a titty-baby, but contra The Resistance, there will be no actual coup.

Contra one increasingly erratic pundit, though, Trump's non-coup firings don't mean what they are claimed to mean.

As for the header? That comes from a blog post of yesterday. Go here.

As for the likes of the increasingly idiotic Glenn Greenwald claiming the firing of Esper and other things are to get us out of Afghanistan?

And with that, off to the rest of this week's roundup.


Turns out there were a lot of ticket-splitters in South Texas, people either voting Trump then lower-level Dems or else Trump then undervoting. Gilberto Hinojosa, he of whom I started the #FireGilbertoHinojosa Twitter tag, should let lower level Texas Dems thank their lucky stars the suit to reinstate straight ticket voting failed. This in-depth analysis notes a lot of them were Hispanics worried about oil and gas jobs. "Defund the police" issues may have been another. That said, even within Texas' Mexican-Americans, the "Hispanic" vote isn't monolithic.

The Observer also weighs in, noting that in the Dem primary, Biden ran THIRD in many Valley counties, behind not only Bernie Sanders but also Michael Bloomberg. It notes that Biden/DNC got lazy during the national campaign, with lack of boots on the ground. Look, Biden wasn't going to win Texas anyway, but this points to a bigger issue — his seeing the campaign and probably the nation, as binary, as in Black and White, with little room for "Brown," whether Hispanic, South and East Asian, or American Indian.

Meanwhile, Capitol and Main falsely claimed that "Black voters saved America." This is wrong on MANY counts. First, I HATE the "GROUP X OF VOTERS saved America." It's simplistic at best. Second, as Biden's Black vote, along with his Hispanic vote, declined nationally as in Texas vs Clinton 2016, it's simply wrong. Third, David Sirota's latest landing ground risks going off my blogroll again with a simplistic duopoly-driven narrative that Joe Biden, vs Donald Trump, will "save America."


SocraticGadfly talks forthrightly about how COVID made Biden president and probably not much else.

DosCentavos reminds Dems that the election is over and that continued fighting with the "radical left" only damages the 2020 Biden coalition kept together by dollar store scotch tape.

Vox pulls a Libertarian twist on the old "Greens cost Dems the election, with the same stupid assumptions, in this case that Libertarians would have voted GOP if given a forced binary choice. At least Jane Coaston interviews actual Libertarians, contra MSM doing hit jobs on Greens in similar cases.


Scammin Ricky Scaman defeated for re-election as Falls County sheriff. I take personal pleasure in this one.

The four fired whistleblowers against Kenny Boy Paxton have sued him.

Off the Kuff has an early look at some election data.

Bill Kelly recalls a time when Republicans respected the will of the voters.  

Sri Kulkarni analyzes his defeat in CD22. 

Rick Casey finds reason for optimism.


D Mag interviews some snooty neoliberal Californians (well, the wife actually went to Plano PLANO WEST!!!! for high school) who are now polluting the Metromess. 

Schutze talks to Drunkenville's Monte Anderson, still doing well in the development world.


Could vote suppression happen in other advanced democracies? The Guardian weighs in from the UK.

RIP, Robert Fisk. The best obit I've read so far comes from Patrick Cockburn.

November 16, 2020

"He is who we thought he is!" — Pres. Elect Joe Biden

With a riff on Dennis Green, ain't that the truth?

What might Joe Biden mean and do as president? 

Be a Zionist, incrementalist, neoliberal, maybe even a ConservaDem.

1. Nothing more than previous Dem presidents have meant for Palestinians, if the likes of Sen. Chris Murphy are in the lead for Secretary of State.

 2. We already know that, since he won't even discuss fracking, and since rejoining the Paris Accords means nothing since they're toothless Jell-o, he won't do much about climate change. As Barron's, no outpost of liberalism, puts it? He's about like BP.

3. Retirement? Biden does want to increase the income subject to Social Security taxation. Of course, in the past, he's also VIGOROUSLY supported partial privatization.

And, yes, it IS going to be president-elect Joe Biden. Trump isn't going to do an actual coup. It's just his normal titty-baby tantrum-throwing self with one last chance to bollix up the works.

Climate change: Were the James Kunstlers right after all?

James Kunstler has been a huge alarmist about the future of Merika in particular and "the west" in general on two issues.

One is Peak Oil, where he's turned out to be Not Even Wrong, and in a way that the Peak Oil movement has become dismissed as a cult by many. I'll have more about this in an upcoming post.

The other is climate change. And just maybe, he's not so all wrong there.

A new study claims we've already baked in a LOT of shit. 

"The world is already past a point of no return for global warming," the study authors report in the British journal Scientific Reports. The only way to stop the warming, they say, is that "enormous amounts of carbon dioxide have to be extracted from the atmosphere." 
"According to our models, humanity is beyond the point of no return when it comes to halting the melting of permafrost using greenhouse gas cuts as the single tool," lead author Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, told AFP.
The study said that by the year 2500, the planet's temperatures will be about 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were in 1850. And sea levels will be roughly 8 feet higher. The authors suggest that global temperatures could continue to increase after human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced.

Those are eye openers! But, are they true?

A lot of the people whom I call things like "neoliberal climate scientists" say they're not. Here's one of the leaders:

One expert, Penn State University meteorologist Michael Mann, told USA TODAY that he was skeptical of the computer model used in the study: "The climate model they have used is a very low complexity model. It doesn’t realistically represent large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns, such as ocean circulation, etc. 
"While such models can be useful for conceptual inferences, their predictions have to be taken with great skepticism. Far more realistic climate models that do resolve the large-scale dynamics of the ocean, atmosphere and carbon cycle, do NOT produce the dramatic changes these authors argue for based on their very simplified model. 
"It must be taken not just with a grain of salt, but a whole salt-shaker worth of salt," Mann said.

Another is somewhat more nuanced, thinking it's overblown but appreciating the warning.

Another expert, Mark Maslin, a professor of climatology at University College London, also pointed to shortcomings in the model, telling AFP that the study was a "thought experiment." 
"What the study does draw attention to is that reducing global carbon emissions to zero by 2050 is just the start of our actions to deal with climate change," Maslin said.

Personally, I think Mann, while not QUITE as bad as a Katherine Hayhoe has shown herself to be, is a punch-puller. In other words, on a little petard-hoisting, you sometimes have to take HIM with a whole salt-shaker.

The research, even if a "stripped down" model, has some basic findings, contra Mann, that have popped up in some climate scientists' more complex models. (And I know he knows that.) The biggest is the authors' claims that we've gone past certain tipping points. Two of them are Arctic ice melt and permafrost melt.

PLUS, per where the study was first reported within the science world? Even the shibboleth Paris accords agree with one point by the new authors:

Even the more sophisticated models used in the projections of the UN's scientific advisory body, the IPCC, show that the Paris climate pact temperature goals cannot be reached unless massive amounts of CO2 are removed from the atmosphere.

To me, the biggest failures of the new research are on the prescription, not description, side.

Namely, how do we yank that much carbon out of the atmosphere and do it in a ... carbon-neutral way?

Per the link immediately above:

One way to do that is planting billions of trees. Experimental technologies have shown that sucking CO2 out of the air can be done mechanically, but so far not at the scale required.

In other words, the new authors are more honest about our screwing, but not any more helpful about how to try to avoid it.