SocraticGadfly: 11/29/20 - 12/6/20

December 04, 2020

The Hispanic Biden Cabinet calf scramble!

So, Hispanics think Biden is slighting them, and they highlight a leak that New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham turned down a shot to run Interior as one big proof, and say they think MLG should be considered for Health and Human Services AND that this hurt Rep. Deb Haaland's shot at Interior, where she has indicated an interest.

Second, Raul Grijalva knows better than to be stoking false hopes for New Mexico.

Two Cabinet members are NOT both coming from a small state! Period and end of story.

Second, it's VERY unlikely that a one-term Congresscritter, even if American Indian, and even if she has Obama-Biden connections of some sort in the past, is getting a Cabinet-level position. BIA, sure. Interior, not likely.

Third, Lujan Grisham is the governor of a state that still loves itself some oil and gas fracking, and under her watch, has loved cutting the boys some methane emissions loopholes. She has no bidness running Interior.

Tulsi Gabbard officially in Pander Bear territory

First, a reminder that I'm not a duopolist.

Second, a reminder that I've known about Tulsi the Islamophobic Hindutva-fascist for almost 5 years now.

Third, a reminder that I've warned about her Kool-Aid in general for almost a year, which includes her speaking at a John Hagee conference and otherwise palling up to neocons.

So, in light of two and three, I can call out her worries about the First Amendment before the Supreme Court's totally wrong Nov. 30 ruling against Gov. Cuomo as bullshit.

There you are.

And, I can also specifically tell her and her Twerkers HOW it's bullshit:

There you are.

Meanwhile, her defenders include one of Max Blumenthal's allegedly outside the box stenos at Grayzone.

There you are.

And I can respond:

There you are. (That said, Omar does appear to have a cozy relationship, and it is questionable. But, this ain't a zero-sum game, Alex. Nice try but a big old fail.)

The reality is, as the late Robert Fisk cogently observed, linked in this blog post about her, Tulsi, like The Donald, appears to love authoritarians in general. And, by her own Congressional votes, she actually loves Moar Nukes and other warmongering.

Final blow(s), or confirmation of her being a Pander Bear?

First, her telling Trump to veto the NDAA unless it kills Second 230 of the 1990s telecommunications bill.

Second? This:

What more is there to say.

What I really don't get is why many left liberals, and some leftists, think she's so picked on. I can accept that many think she's attacked for the wrong reasons. But, that's because establishment Dems have already drunk her Kool-Aid and think she's not on the reservation.

Final issue is that for the left-libs, this a twosiderism issue, especially when used to attack the people who attacked Sheepdog Sanders from within the Democratic Party establishment. For people like Alex Rubenstein and other stenos, it's just waters-muddying whataboutism.

As for alleged Dems on Twitter looping in Dan "Bong Man" Bongino to talk about her as the best hope of Dems in 2024? I wouldn't be totally surprised to see her launch a GOP presidential run in 2028, or maybe even four years earlier.

December 03, 2020

Coronavirus, week 35: Chinese lies, vaccines, more

Big news this past week, and surely flying under much of the US radar screen? China is aggressively upping its efforts to claim the novel coronavirus originated outside of China. That's even as newly leaked documents from inside China show just how much the goverment, at various levels, was covering up early coronavirus problems. (Adding to the problem, Hubei province had an influenza spike that started just before that, AND China hasn't been fully transparent about that, either.) And, stuff like THIS is why I called out the drinkers of Xi Jinping Thought Kool-Aid earlier this fall, including Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins and top advisors Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. Given that China cut the number of actual early COVID deaths in one third, vs. what it reported, the world's response was crimped indeed.

That's just half the issue, though. Also contra the China-stanners, provincial-level Chinese Centers for Disease Control appear to be at least as underfunded as a lot of the health apparatus in the US of A. Related question: How much of this was laxity from Beijing, and how much of it is provincial governments lying to Beijing, and provincial governors and staffs maybe grifting and grafting as part of that? After all, that latter issue has a long history in China — and not necessarily just in modern times, though the post-Deng black and white cats have brought it to new levels.

And, per Worldometers, China claims to have less than 5,000 COVID deaths. Yeah, right.

Finally, per a combination of the first and second links, why should we trust Chinese reporting on COVID control today? I mean, Beijing lied about SARS case numbers, too.

• Yes, that's all bigger than Moderna officially seeking FDA approval. "Seeking" is not "getting," no matter how rosy Moderna's PR, and no matter that even a mag with Science as its name is reporting PR as straight news.

Related? Yes, the vaccines could be here by mid-winter. Will they be as effective as PR claims? What if the PR doesn't pan out, and people have stopped wearing masks? That one isn't directly covered in this piece about the winter ahead, but other things are.

• Texas, along with being last in the nation in percentage of people with health coverage of some sort, is also basically last in the nation in mental health protections. Wingnuts use the rise in suicide statistics, which is real, to shout stuff like "end the lockdown" (though we've never had a true lockdown). But, none of them will talk "national health care," let alone "national mental health care." (In nations with some sort of national health care, psychiatric coverage can vary.)

• Meanwhile, speaking of wingnuts and rules, and flouting thereof? Gov. Strangeabbott created the "restaurant loophole" for bars this summer. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, nobody's enforcing it, and many bars are staying open as — bars. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins asked Strangebbott to given local officials enforcement authority, and instead, Strangeabbott shot the messenger.

• Wingnuts have repeatedly talked about people who "don't want to work" during the pandemic. Turns out special unemployment aid has underpaid them.

December 02, 2020

Peak Oil? No, Peak James Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler was always the John Gray of Peak Oil prophets, or beyond that, a Cassandra in reverse — often telling direly pessimistic overstatements, but always being believed. I had read columns and essays by him semi-regularly 15 years ago, when many in the West were worried about Peak Oil.

Recently, I saw his "The Long Emergency" at my local library, and grabbed it off the shelf.

What follows is first my Goodreads review, then some extensive additional thoughts.

The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century

The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James Howard Kunstler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Peak PROFITABLE US oil may still have been in 1970, as anybody who knows anything about the recent fracking boom in the Permian knows that 20 percent of it, at minimum, is unprofitable. Peak GLOBAL PROFITABLE oil may or may not have been in 2005. On that, I doubt it, as fracking has been mainly a US phenomenon until recently, and even where adopted elsewhere, has probably not been adopted at a loss.

But, given global oil production is up more than 15 percent since then, contra fanbois of his claiming otherwise, we've not hit Peak Oil. Period and end of story.

The two swing states of Saudi Arabia and Russia certainly haven’t peaked, even if fields in European Russia (and Azerbaijan), West Siberia, and Ghawar are all deteriorating. And, one must wonder how true the claims of Matthew Simmons et al 15 years ago actually were. (That doesn't mean we should believe every word of Daniel Yergin, either.)

Other aspects appear dated. One is that lithium batteries have become feasible for hybrids (and nickel hydride has been used too, and still is). And, that means that battery storage technology for solar and wind becomes more feasible. That undercuts oh, about one-third of his pessimism about renewables.

That said, the non-peak of world oil means climate change becomes more problematic. And, in a “bootstrapping,” climate change opens more Arctic lands to oil exploration.

Even if the US has certainly already hit a peak in profitably produced oil, and in all likelihood, a peak in oil produced at any price, all of the factors above indicate that oil addiction isn’t going away.

That said, Kunstler was right about several things.

One is that renewable electric energy simply cannot ramp up enough to replace fossil fuel electricity AND decarbonize our transportation.

This all said, a fair amount of what Kunstler worries about in the Long Emergency would be true without peak oil, and without climate change doing exactly what it is doing.

And he was spot-on, sadly, in warning we were “overdue” for an influenza pandemic.

So, with hindsight, and knowing already a decade ago, or five years after the book, that Kunstler had a high level of alarmism even by my standards? Three stars.

View all my reviews


Going beyond Kunstler’s book? 

First, I’d read a number of essays by Kunstler, a decade or so ago. He seemed alarmist enough then. He seems more alarmist now. And, a Michael Mann or Katherine Hayhoe type would call ME at least mildly alarmist.

He’s both alarmist and hypocritical today if he’s flying in a plane and driving in a car to meet fanbois in person, per a sequel book of this year, as one reviewer notes.

Second, in discussing oil in the Middle East, he had a touch of Zionism in him. Not huge, but not nothing, either.

Third, even though there were indications 15 years ago it might happen, he ignored that climate change would open up oil exploration in the Arctic. Now, especially in the Russian Arctic, how MUCH oil is up there remains unknown, as does the issue of its depth, ease of extraction, etc.

But, if the Arctic of 10 years from now is as relatively calm overall as the North Sea of 20 years ago, and we know the available oil is definitely more than a nothingburger, it will be extracted.

Kunstler (and others) arguably could be faulted for ignoring what fracking would do, as fracking to expand and recomplete oil wells in conventional plays was already happening in 2005. For the first weekly newspaper where I was an editor, as part of a story, I was out on such a frack job back in 1998.

It’s sad that places like The Oil Drum went away. It’s sad in part because by simply disappearing, they gave their critics too much ammo. And, in retreating, they left nobody to defend parallel ideas like Peak Copper.

As for me? Of course, there will be a peak in obtainable oil. Beyond the increasing financial costs, the environmental costs will go up.

(And, I've already run into one 2005 Peak Oil cultist in his Goodreads review. When I pointed out he was wrong, he pointed to some story and chart which showed oil peaking now. Ignoring the issue of whether or not that's a demand driven short-term peak rather than a permanent production peak, I pointed out that 2020 isn't 2005.)

Peak Oilers aren't Seth Rich conspiracy theorists. But, they do need to do better thinking, including better engagement with the facts on the ground.

I wound up blocking said reviewer of Kunstler's book on Goodreads. He claimed that Peak Oil happened in 2005. When I said no it didn't, he then quoted an author of some other book, not from the book, but it seems from an email he sent to him, saying that "conventional oil" appeared to have peaked in 2005, but conventional PLUS non-conventional continued to rise.

The author, in reviewing Kunstler, never said "Peak Conventional Oil," as the screengrab above notes. Kunstler himself discussed Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan dirty oil, etc. Plus, Matt Simmons and all the Peak Oilers talked about oil, period. I said he and the quoted author were guilty of intellectual dishonesty, in my third comment on his review, then blocked him. Greenpeace and others do the same. (Its linked Bloomberg piece is wrong; Ghawar has been producing 3.58 mbbl/day for some time; this isn't something new and "less than expected.") It also doesn't matter if US banks won't finance more Arctic drilling as long as Russia has cashflow (or gets it from China).

It's barely possible that we hit a peak in profitable global oil in 2005, but highly unlikely. International oil experts are agreed on Saudi and Russian oil production overhead, and that it's much lower than US overhead. Even if a water cut in Ghawar is growing, Saudi costs surely still aren't higher than Russian ones, which remain below fracked US ones. As for that field? It has peaked, and the water cut has increased somewhat, but the Saudis are also injecting CO2. It's not quite dead yet.

Big picture? This is yet another issue with a lot of simplistic twosiderism.


Note to Bloomsberg's Peak Oil liars and scammers: Peak Oil Demand is not the same as Peak Oil, so the header of the piece is a liar. Second, a decade or more from now for Peak Oil Demand is NOT "suddenly upon us."

December 01, 2020

Texas Progressives: National stupidity roundup

State politics and Texana news got to be enough in this week's roundup that I split off national news, and one national-global item. So, let's dig in!


Why did Trump almost win, and Republicans hold serve elsewhere? Will Wilkinson has a very cogent op-ed at the NYT. His two biggest points: 1. Trump goosed the pre-COVID economy with tax cuts for the rich, enough for him to have some sort of advantage; 2. Dems not having a coherent response to Trump's "open up" callousness on COVID. Biden is in trouble because he still doesn't, and per Wilkinson, I've seen nothing of Biden's "messaging" to indicate this will change. In other words, Biden opposes single-payer, opposes anything close to basic income, and a repeat of the current Dem angles won't work. I mean, Biden has even in the past been open to partial privatization of Social Security. And now, Senate Republicans are talking again about doing what they always do — take a deficit exacerbated by a Republican president and cram austerity on his Democratic successor. Before Biden, Obama kind of self-crammed, of course, kneecapping his own stimulus.

A wingnut rancher in open-stock state Arizona uses the excuse of Ill Eagles to thank Trump for building him an international stock fence. The reality is, as noted, that the Peloncillo Mountains already deter immigration (and Fort Huachuca being in the general area offers an additional deterrent), so the claims of the mayor of Douglas, Arizona, about Ill Eagles in his town's back yards are bullshit.

A NYT op-ed, but a member of teh bipartisan foreign policy establishment, does plenty of hand-wringing over the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist (presumably by Mossad, possibly with advance US knowledge, maybe advance US push), while hand-waving away as different four such assassinations while Dear Leader was president. I select this as but one piece to show how the establishment is treating Fakhrizadeh's assassination as different. (I'm not even linking to Teapot Tommy Friedman's "it's a new Middle East" bullshit pseudo-advice to Biden.)

Should Trump's lawyers be sanctioned, even disbarred, for some of their more nutbar recent voting case filings? It's arguable they've violated federal rules of proceeding as well as ABA standards. It's called "barratry," in a word.

Related: Carl Bernstein tweets a list of 21 GOP senators who have privately expressed "concerns" about Trump. Havana Ted's not on the list, but Big John Cornyn, his lapdog, is.

W. Joseph Campbell, linked on my blogroll for some time, may be getting the boot again after his second straight post that's election related and with a quasi-Trumpian slant. Citing Heritage Foundation and an anonymous Substack with just two posts, both post-Nov. 3, for vote fraud? It's laughable, and Campbell should know that from his own years in the media. I mean, Tucker Carlson and now National Review have called this laughable.

Facebook has continued to say, and some news reporting halfway backs them, that people really don't get that much political news, let alone politicized fake news, on their feeds. Charlie Warzel, with a deep dive into two Facebook users (yes N=2) but a much broader look via Facebook-owned Crowd Tangle (which it says "don't believe") says, Facebook is wrong, and worse, the real problem is comments. Crowd Tangle probably IS less than totally accurate that way, but not in Facebook's favor; rather, against it.

The NYT editorial board says we need higher wages, and not just that: we need a shift in labor-management power. Tell that to Biden.


Nike, Coke, Apple and many others admit that (contra Xi Jinping Thought stanners like Howie Hawkins and top advisors) that China has Uyghur labor camps; they just want to continue to exploit them.

Texas Progs: First look under the hood at the 2021 Lege

Besides facing a massive budget deficit left to it because the state constitution prescribes an every-other-year meeting for the banana republic we call the Pointy Abandoned Object State™, Legiscritters will have to deal with pushes to address inequalities in voting (let's see if the Green-Libertarian lawsuit over HB 2504 gets adjudicated by the end of session), will get to do redistricting, and will also face pushes for additional policing reforms vs Pander Bear Gov. Strangeabbott's pushback this summer.

Let's dig into this week's Roundup, with state news here and national news in a separate afternoon post.

More than 60 voting-related bills have been filed in the Lege. Usually, Rethugicans hate this kind of stuff. The Trib asks if big Republican turnout will soften at least some of their opposition?

Portraits of three Confederates, including Jeff Davis, hang in the Texas Senate chamber. What's their fate? 

Friendly reminder, ConservaDems with wet dreams. Matthew McConnaughey was on Hugh Hewitt when he left the door opening to running for gov.

The Trib offers a first look at redistricting in the Lege, though it's a Houston-centric piece. I discussed one interesting aspect of this, statewide, a year ago — how rural, GOP-heavy state House districts are going to have to be crammed together, forcing some GOP "barons" to run against each other. One key issue: Because of COVID, the Lege will probably have to call a special session — census data won't be done by May.

Off the Kuff looked at recent Presidential results in the counties around Travis and Bexar County. 

The Texas Lawbook reviews the appellate court races for the Houston area.  

Reform Austin looks ahead to the next elections.  

Carlos Mendoza mocks Dan Patrick's affinity for offering dumb rewards.


SocraticGadfly had two snarky Thanksgiving-related posts to offer. First, he came up with a list of suggestions for new names for the Washington Football Team. Second, he gave a good smackdown to the cult of Whataburger.

Even gators are chill to the cult of What? A Burger?

Crockett was the first home to real attempts to educate Black girls and women, as that history crumbles.

Crickets, you hear? No, in 2022, in the Metroplex, you'll be hearing the bats of cricket

The Great God Pan Is Dead revisits some favorite artworks.

November 30, 2020

Blacks and Browns and the Democratic reservation

Joe Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton on African-American and Hispanic voting. Related? He underperformed her in many central cities.

You Democrats can cite "COVID worries" on not going door-to-door in central cities all you want. I don't buy it. You can cite "money" all you want, and as, at the presidential level, Biden outraised Trump, I certainly don't buy it.

Instead, per the header, the "reservation effect" seems bigger than ever among many national Democrats. And, that is an operating assumption that Blacks, and to a lesser degree, Hispanics, will "stay on the reservation."

But, you know what? Even with a president with a known history of racism long before he became president (as in the 1970s HUD suit), they DIDN'T stay on the reservation.

The sad part, for Blacks and Hispanics, for the nation's voting and more, is the twosiderism that's connected to this.

Many of these minorities assume their only alternative to Democrats is Republicans.

And, of course, it's not.

Libertarians have made a pitch for minority votes on the grounds that the ending of affirmative action will free minority entrepreneurs from being stereotyped as getting unfair assistance. It may work, but what sets that apart from similar Republican claims? I've not heard GOP-type racism from Libertarians. I've also not heard Libertarians telling minority voters that. It's strange not to be playing that up, but ... hey, Libertarians, you want to waste ammo? Your biz.

Greens have in some places, like the Philly where Biden lost votes, made inroads with central city minorities. But, they're hampered by other problems. One is the perception of being just an environmental party, with the related perception of environmentalism being a "white" issue. Both are wrong, but the GP's own early history was highly white. The other is the resistance of many Greens to Howie Hawkins' attempt to move the party in a more directly ecosocialist realm. I think he was right, even though I didn't vote for him for other reasons. But, the GP imploding in 2024 wouldn't totally surprise me.