SocraticGadfly: 2021

July 23, 2021

Best proof yet there was no Trump-Putin collusion? Or not?

I know #BlueAnon continues to claim there was, like Emptywheel (Emptyhead?) Marcy Wheeler did long ago, including narcing on a reporter and then never naming who it was, and other unethical items.

I know that there's no evidence Trump got help from Russia, though, contra the allegedly outside the box stenos  — the same old group of names, including, on various issues, Aaron Maté, Mark Ames, Yasha Levine, Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal, along with fellow travelers that at times include Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald and others who should know better, and conspiracy theorists like Jimmy Dore and his fellators (typed that all out this time so I can do a copy-paste) — there's plenty of evidence Russia meddled plenty in 2016, including but not limited to hacking BOTH the DNC and ALSO the RNC computers, creating both pro-Trump AND pro-Clinton Facebook groups, etc., and succeeding far beyond Vladimir Putin's dreams.

As for actual collusion? Yes, Trump asked Julian Assange for more DNC-hacked emails. But? We don't know if Assange at the time knew his source. And, even if he did, he surely wasn't telling Trump. So, Trump-Assange "collusion" is not Trump-Putin collusion.

As for post-election but pre-inauguration meetings? Flynn's meetings were generally legal. Besides, the country who likely got the most help? Israel, via Flynn's meetings with Turkish cutouts. Take that, Zionists within Blue MAGA, and shut up.

Besides, all along, I've said Vladimir Putin is way too smart to have hitched himself to a flighty weathervane like Donald Trump.

And, we now have proof Putin was thinking exactly that.

Business Insider reports (but SECONDHAND) that leaked Kremlin docs called Trump an "impulsive, mentally unstable and imbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex."

On the other hand? The Guardian, from whom BI is pulling (and this is why it's always important to go back to the original) claims that some of the documents claim they had the dreaded "kompromat" on Trump.

Seriously? Is the Guardian overreading into things, or is Putin that dumb, too? You can't compromise someone who has no sense of shame. And, though this was before the leaking of the "grab 'em by the pussy" old tape, Trump's semi-macking on Ivanka was old news, as were other things.

Finally, contra BlueAnon and BlueMAGA, as well as the Guardian, Trump WAS tougher on Russia in some ways, at least, than Obama.

And, Business Insider talks to better intelligence experts than the Guardian did. By the time I was done with the Guardian, I was believing what Thomas Rid and Chris Krebs told BI: Deliberate disinformation leak, or at least possibly so. Krebs even goes one more and says much of it could indeed be real, even all of it, but yet a deliberate leak.

Putin's playing chess again, knowing Trump wants to run in 2024. And, he knows that BlueAnon is still suckers for the "kompromat" angle. (That part, especially since it points to an appendix the Guardian docs mysteriously don't include, reinforces my idea that 

July 22, 2021

Coronavirus Week 67: Shots still not being gotten in US; lambda variant here; Indian dead massively undercounted?

Let's start with the second half of the header, because it puts everything else into perspective. The government of India officially claims a little over 400,000 COVID deaths. Some Western think tanks are saying the real number might be FOUR MILLION. Not all of that is due to the virulence of the Delta virus variant. Some of it is on the incompetence of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And, some of it's on Indian poverty. 

That said, I question an item or two in the story. It may not be "officially official," but, going by state health departments and such, Worldometers has a US death toll of 625K, not the 500K mentioned in the piece as "official." THAT then said, many researchers estimate that a few hundred thousand early deaths may have been missed. So, the real number may be 900K, not 700. In any case, even allowing for population difference, that's still below India's 4 million, if true.

As for the why? Per NPR, some of it may be chaos. But, I don't think it stresses enough the efforts of state governors from Modi's BJP to directly undercount deaths. (Remember, this has been alleged about the early days of COVID in China.)

Remember all of this when you hear BRIC or BRICS nations being touted. That's especially when said touting is by left-socialists, or Marxists like Richard D. Wolff who "can't be bothered" to mention The Cultural Revolution or Great Leap Forward when discussing China's putative-to-him inexorable rise to economic power. (Since he's a Marxist, such things are of course "inexorable" per the pseudoscience of the prescriptive side of Marxism.)

Finally? WHO's director general is pushing China hard to be more lab-transparent.

OK, with that, next, the second third of the header.

Texas

Yep, there's ANOTHER variant, called lambda. Only about 700 documented cases, but at least one of them is here in Texas. It's a "variant of concern," but believed to be less transmissible than delta.

Also here in Texas, it's bad enough that Austin has put out new social distancing recommendations. Recommendations, not regulations, because per Strangeabbott, they're not enforceable.

Statewide, with vaccination still under 45 percent, the delta variant has driven the state's positive test rate up above 10 percent.

And, that also includes information that leads to the first third.

National

As Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy calls out Facebook (and a lesser degree, Twitter, which lacks no "fake news" tag in its verticals for why I'm reporting a Tweet) for its role in vaccine disinformation, Facebook, including through the About Facebook blog, continues to lie by silence.

Springfield, Missouri, hospital director tells denialists to "shut up" as adult and pediatric cases all surge. And, this surge started way back at the Fourth of July weekend.
 
The liars and hypocrites at Fox, after repeatedly attacking so-called "vaccine passports" got busted by a leaked email as having their own.

That's as the Delta variant shows more ability to break past vaccination than previously reported.

Oh, white wingnuts who helped contribute to the biggest one-year drop in US life expectancy since WWII? Especially if in your 50s and early 60s, thank you! You paid in plenty to Social Security but took little to none, making it a bit more solvent for me.

St. Anthony of Fauci lied again earlier this week, and unlike over masks, his lies about gain-of-function research aren't even Platonic Noble Lies; they're shabby phrase-spinning.

Woke White Warriors are claiming antivaxxers are inherently racist. I refudiated this claim, showing it can't even prove they're racist specific to issues on the ground, let alone inherently so.
 
World
 
Of course Xi Jinping told WHO to "go get stupid" about its request for on-site follow-up coronavirus investigations.

July 21, 2021

Another lie by St. Anthony of Fauci: gain of function

For #BlueAnon, in my opinion, Fauci is more and more a "Mount Rushmore face" ranking right up there with former president Dear Leader.

Lies by him continue to go unchecked.

Yesterday, in another Tar Baby-like argument with Squirrel Hair (Rand Paul), one that I'm sure both of them like for its Tar Baby reasons, Fauci again claimed the US had not sponsored gain of function research at Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Reality?

Hellz yes we did.

Fauci was busted six weeks and more ago for lies, lies by omission and lies by redefinition about his agency and others helping the Wuhan Institute of Virology in "gain of function" research on coronaviruses. This busting also applies to the fellow travelers above. Before that, Fauci is on record openly supporting gain of function research in general.

Jaime Metzl, who used to work for President Clinton, and also for then-Sen. Joe Biden, so not a wingnut, has also said WIV did gain of function research. That link is a long read but well worth it. Among other things, he VERY SPECIFICALLY notes that "gain of function" research is NOT "genetic engineering." Fauci knows this, but, IMO, he's hand-waving, gaslighting or whatever, and even if not actively conflating the two ideas himself, letting others do the lifting for him.

Finally, as with his original Platonic Noble Lie, and his follow-up Noble Lie on population percentages for herd immunity, on his emails as well, St. Anthony of Fauci is unapologetic. He claims the outrage is all Republican and all anti-science. Tell that to the likes of me and Zeynep Tufekci.

Or, per the Fauci emails, have your toady, Kristen Andersen, tell them that after his lying on your behalf on viral engineering. Per that piece, Andersen lamely claims that "new evidence" arose between his email to Fauci and one to the Lancet which squashed, for public consumption, the lab leak idea like a bug. Metzl asked, how much new info could arise in four days. (For open minded people like Jaime, try THIS on size: Times Higher Ed reports that critics claim Lancet, and other journals with the same take, had potential conflicts of interest.)

As I've said before, if Fauci had any ethics, he'd resign. But, I more and more question just how much or how little ethics he has. I don't question how much of a bureaucrat he is.

No, antivaxxerism is not INHERENTLY racist

The key to the phrase above is in the capitalized word. Paula Larsson, as a graduate philosophy student at Oxford, should be ashamed for writing a piece claiming that it is inherently so, as she should know the extra burden of proof involved in claiming that any social idea, group or movement is INHERENTLY "X." 

The Conversation should be ashamed for running this.

People like Juan Cole should be ashamed for spreading this.

None of them, of course, WILL be.

The "inherently" claim is ultimately a structural claim. And, with that, I see the camel's nose of Critical Race Theory — and its misuse, overuse, stretched use and abuse. As an actual leftist, at least for America, and as one who's read one of the seminal texts of CRT, actually does know something about it, and sees both things to like and dislike about it, I can say this with a high degree of confidence.

To wit, I've actually read Eddie Glaude's Democracy in Black, who is on the edges of the movement, and Derrick Bell, a founder of the theory, whose Silent Covenants was a good introduction. 

I've also read many other books about how the concept of race was developed. And, blogged about the good, bad and ugly of CRT here.

And, Larsson's just not proven her claim AT ALL.

In fact, she's not proven that leading White antivaxxers like RFK Jr. and their organizations are NON-inherently (casually?) racist.

To take a counterexample? Some anti-abortion people target minorities in general and Blacks in particular, claiming abortion is genocide. Does that make them racist? Of course not. AND? It's built on the fact that Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist, among other things. Ditto for antivaxxer pitches to minorities; they're built on facts like the Tuskegee Airmen.

Does that mean they're not distorting facts? Of course they are, and so is Paula Larsson. I've heard many things hurled at RFK Jr., but inherently racist (if the movement is, then he is, as a leader, by default definition) is NOT one of them. As a public figure,  with the "actual malice" standard, there's no way the likes of him could win a lawsuit against Larsson, but, I feel that, ethically if not legally, she's skating on thin ice.

Basically, what we have here, as I see it, is an "own the wingnuts" form of tribalism. It's the same type of tribalism that ignores St. Anthony of Fauci's Platonic Noble Lies and refuses to even talk about the possibility of a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or that, at one time, we did indeed fund gain-of-function research there, or that St. Anthony can even be wrong at any time. (I may feel the urge to blog about this gain-of-function stuff, as it's yet another of St. Anthony's lies, this time done by trying to redefine the most commonly accepted definition of the phrase.)

In other words? #BlueAnon tribalism. Cole's a definite #BlueAnon tribalist. Larsson's Canadian, so we call her the Canadian fellow-traveler or equivalent of BlueAnon.

And, in most these cases, and definitely this one? It's a self-own, at least for us who strive not to be tribalists and who actually engage in critical thinking. Other than that, all it does is increase tribalism and give fuel to wingnuts attacking CRT. Or to wingnuts attacking #BlueAnon over ideas like this.

July 20, 2021

Texas Progressives talk Runaway Scrape 2.0 and more

Texas

Off the Kuff has plenty to say about Quorum Break 2, the sequel. (SocraticGadfly called it Runaway Scrape 2.0) .

Chris Hooks notes that the quorum break will take a toll on Strangeabbott

Hooks also looks at what Matt Rinaldi as state GOP chair will mean for the party.

The Observer checks in on recently-paroled Reality Winner. (Glenn Greenwald, for the clueless or sycophantic, blamed everyone else at The Intercept for her arrest.)

Now we know why Joe Manchin still loves the filibuster: GOP bucks, including right here in Texas.

The Observer also talks about the problem of building more roads to fight traffic, which only increases sprawl in the end, and the political-industrial complex that continues to push this. (If the US is one third of the way to being a failed nation-state, Texas is — like California for different reasons — one third of the way to being a failed state.)

Regional

The Observer has a guest editorial calling for Austin to officially ban its cops from firing bean bags.

National

With neoliberals like Dear Leader's former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sucking up to Big Oil and Big Coal on climate change, it's no wonder national Democrats fiddle while Rome and the world burns.

Or, rather than Rome burning? Lake Mead, continuing to dry up, will likely trigger a Colorado River water emergency declaration soon, far earlier than expected. (Per the story, Upper Colorado states face a likely similar declaration next year.) And, as the story shows, Aridzona is lying about how prepared it is for this. Per the story, doubling or tripling water prices would show actual preparation.

CPAC came to Texas, and Hooks notes it did cancel culture on St. Ronald of Reagan.

Global

SocraticGadfly saw the new Pentagon report and took a DEEP dive into why aliens are NOT visiting planet Earth.

The Atlantic charges that Black Lives Matter is wrongly looking at Cuba through an American-centric lens, and I at least halfway agree. (I agree with Cuba still having its own racial-discrimination problems; I disagree with Atlantic in wanting to finger state-owned economic apparatus as a major contributor.) The Independent Media Institute commits the same mistake, unwilling to finger the Cuban government for anything. The same piece co-published at Counterpunch

Yes, a Muslim-Evangelical global alliance is a real thing. And, potentially, a good thing.

July 19, 2021

Putin bans Proekt, Russian version of Wikileaks

Especially in light of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory and its first heavy supporter, many people may wonder why there's no Russian outlet for Wikileaks. (Actually, in light of the first half of the first sentence, some people may have stopped wondering, if you know what I mean.)

Well, Russia has had an equivalent of Wikileaks for several years. Proekt has done some damn good work, as I've noted in the past, such as Russia backing Evo Morales' coup against the Bolivian constitution because he was eyeing an in to Bolivia's lithium mines.

No, really. Per Quartz, the Russkies thought Morales would grant more favorable mining concessions than his opposition. More at Proekt's site, including the role of Rosatom. And, it's good enough for the New York Times to have won a Pulitzer by apparently plagiarizing from it.

Alas, it's going to be harder for Proekt to do such work, at least inside Russia. The Guardian reports that Putin has essentially outlawed Proekt by fiat. Too many unflattering Putin scoops were too much.

Now, is Proekt perfect? (Setting aside that none of us are.) No, not really. I think it takes too whitewashed of a view of Navalny. That said, when all you have is Putin as a nail, every anti-Putin politician can become a hammer. 

==

Updates: Proekt is cutting ties with its US-based funder and closing that entity. But, via Moscow Times, Proekt says it has a new blockbuster coming. The cutting of US ties is probably to avoid the "foreign agent" label.


Sixers AND Mavs fans, I got a trade for you: Porzingis-Simmons

Yes, I know, Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers say they're going to fix Ben Simmons' shooting. That assumes it is fixable, and that it's fixable in the context of playing for the Sixers in Philly, generally regarded as the toughest sports fandom city in the nation.

And, the idea would be questionable coming out of many head coaches' and GMs' mouths. From these two? Even more so.

As for Dallas? Yes, Rick Carlisle, Mr. Floor Spacing, being replaced by Jason Kidd or whomever may make Kristaps Porzingis somewhat more at ease, but, he's probably worn his welcome thin as well.

Now, I'm nowhere near a genyus on NBA salary cap and trade rules, but I know that going by 2020-21 salaries, both teams are over the cap but (I believe) under the lux tax level. So, we have to match within 125 percent. Via Spotrac and looking ahead to next year, here's the Mavs and the Sixers.

Since this is the NBA, first, we have to get within 80 percent on salaries, right? Simmons is set for $33 million and change next year on his base salary. The Zinger? Spotrac says the same!

So, no extra players need be thrown in.

Now, to make the trade happen, not in terms of salaries, but to make it happen, should this get serious consideration, would one team insist on an additional player, or a draft choice, from the other? 

Possibly, but neither should be dumb if it really thinks it's time to move on.

How does this affect both teams?

For the Mavs? Simmons can be point forward or even point center in some lineups. Teach him a Magic Johnson baby sky hook or jump hook in the post. Teach him a Magic-style push-set shot three-ball stroke even. With Luka DoncicTim Hardaway Jr. if resigned,Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson, the Mavs still have four three-ballers.

For the Sixers? The Zinger gives an additional outside threat, and one who's not afraid to let it rip. And, since Joel Embiid is already a defensive stopper, the Unicorn could go floating more in a "twin towers" lineup. When the Sixers go smaller, he pairs nicely with Tobias Harris inside.

There's one "small" problem with this. 

As I noted last month in discussing what the Sixers should do with Simmons, they're kind of thin behind him at the point. George Hill is old. Can Seth Curry be your PG? Uhh, probably not. If you're the Mavs, do you slip Trey Burke in to grease the skids? Include Brunson if you have to?

Would this make either team better? The ESPN Trade Machine says it's a wash for the Mavs and a big ding for the Sixers as a straight-up. So, throwing in one of those PGs would certainly help.  The trade machine calls it a near-wash for the Sixers if Brunson's in there.

That said, the trade machine only looks at things like PER. It's just a numbers-cruncher; it can't look at how players fit together.

If I'm the Mavs, I make that trade, including throwing in Brunson if necessary. If I'm the Sixers, I do it if a draft choice is also included ...


July 16, 2021

Zeynep Tufekci officially calls out COVID tribalism!

And, #BlueAnon probably won't like it even more than what she's said before, as I've blogged.

Public intellectual Zeynep Tufekci has written a long piece at the NYT about the possible origins of COVID. It's very interesting. VERY interesting. She starts with the relative stability of the H1N1 virus and says that, ACCIDENTALLY, the Chinese government appears to have caused that stability.

Next, she notes that social media users in China, before Xi Jinping could institute a Xi Jinping Thought crackdown, were among the first skeptics of the official WIV story. (Orac hasn't told you that in the past, either.)

Apparently, more skeptical than Blue Anon, either in the media or the US science world.

On her Substack, Tufekci then explained the backdrop of the piece and promises a further breakout there.

She then had a SECOND follow-up, and among its hot takes are a specific decrying of the attitudes behind that Lancet letter. 

Biggest takeaway? She uses the phrase "cover-up."

She also thinks that people saying "don't make people mad" were in reality not wanting to talk about lab leaks.

Finally, this, which is DIRECTLY relevant to Orac and others of #BlueAnon. It's a long quote, but needed:

Again and again, throughout the past year, the more unlikely and extreme scenarios get “debunked” and the many actual questions and sensible and factual worries have been treated like… they don’t exist. 
After enough of that faux “debunking” and knocking down of genuinely unhinged stuff and/or strawman versiions of reasonable questions, people have gotten used to treating the entire question of virus-origins as something of only interest to crazies, or of no interest to anyone because there is no question there. 
Any discussion about potential lab/research connections are then deemed to be “conspiracy theories” (used in the sense of extremely unlikely or impossible events being speculated on because of other reasons), rather than substantive discussions we can use as figuring out how to take steps so as not to find ourselves here again. 
In this worldview, just saying there is a cover-up and that there are real questions about the virus origins, can be called a “conspiracy theory,” too, if you define conspiracy theory to mean any scenario in which authorities and people in power are lying, and are potentially coercing and pressuring everyone else, including the scientists. In reality, given this is China, such deliberate obstruction is obviously likely.

And, Orac has posted twice at his site since I first started trolling him on Twitter. (I have no problem admitting that that's what I'm doing, but also have no problem saying that he deserves it.) He hasn't addressed Tufekci at all; he has worried SO much about ivermectin that he blogged twice about it.

And now, a third Substack piece, which directly throws down the gauntlet of tribalism.

She doesn't call out the likes of Orac or the Novella brothers; rather, it's tribalist science writers working for major media outlets.

July 15, 2021

Coronavirus, week 66: Brief thoughts

The rate of vaccination in Texas continues to slow even as hospitalizations pick up, the Trib says.

Much of it is the Delta variant, on new cases in general, as well as hospitalizations. But, some of it, per the church youth camp kids, is COVID denialism/minimalism.

Prof. Peter Hotez worries about the rise of COVID in two different parts of Texas.

An old SARS vaccine at Texas Children's could be repurposed for COVID.
 
Cuba, like Vietnam, did NOT "crush" COVID last year, as the recent riots there are in part over a mushrooming of cases. Claims that it did, as with Vietnam, seem to be parallels to the Aaron Maté / Ben Norton / Max Blumenthal allegedly outside the box stenos looking for anything to America-bash with. In reality, there's enough to realistically bash over without lying.

July 14, 2021

But Aliens! NOT!! Maybe Russia's new "F/A-18"

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about what Daniel Brito wrote about the latest UFO brouhaha, and I of course see him as "representative of a class." (Turns out, contra the initial header, that the Russky plane-in-development that may have triggered some alleged UFO spottings by US military pilots is not an F/A-18 knockoff, but an F-35 Lightning II. Now that we've got Russian air show spottings, see below for why indeed this could be the trigger.)

With that in mind, and since, within that piece, as an addendum, Poynter interviewed some not-so-skeptical skeptics, including, surprisingly for not being more skeptical, Keith Kloor, I'm doing a part two about the social psychology, sociology and related issues as well as physics and more.

First, on the physics.

It would be incredible, simply fantastic, for a civilization to develop astro-ships that could travel at one-tenth the speed of light, or 0.1 c. The energy such a civilization would be expending in general, even with genius-level economies and conservations, would have a massive electromagnetic spectrum "signature" that would surely be visible outside of its home star's spectrum. 

Given the variety of telescopes we've had in Earth orbit for 25 years or more, and with none detecting such a signature, I think it's very safe to say no such civilization exists in the 25 light-year range established by that. Period and end of story. (The "25 years" is a round number; I didn't do web searches for the date of launch of every atmospheric telescope in all different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum in which they have been launched.)

Related to that? From Wired, among other things on this issue, Adam Mann talks to actual astronomers! (We'll get back to him below.)

Here's an excerpt:

But before rushing off into such flights of fancy, it might be good to consider that another group of sky watchers, astronomers, rarely report seeing unidentified aerial phenomena. “No one would be happier than astronomers if UFOs turned out to be alien spacecraft,” says Andrew Fraknoi, a retired astronomer and member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), which promotes critical investigation of extraordinary claims. “Imagine getting to talk about astronomy with creatures that traveled through the stars.”

Mann has more in that vein, with further comments from Fraknoi, at the link.

Heck, 0.01 c would be incredible. (In all of this, I'm rejecting Star Trek's warp drive and other science-fiction ideas of trans-light travel as being, well, science fiction and not science fact.) And, per my comments above, a planet achieving this level of development would also, surely, have a visible electromagnetic spectrum "signature."

A planet more than 25 light years away, with this skill level, would take 2,500 years to visit Earth. Or ANY planet 25 light years away from it.

NOW, we're going to get into sociology, psychology, and related issues.

Given that Earth as of this time does not have THAT level of "signature," that this planet does, and given the 0.01 c constraint, given that Earth 2,500 years ago had basically ZERO human-based "signature" at light, infrared or other radiation lengths, WHY would our planet be a target for ANY aliens?

Answer: It wouldn't.

We have zero, zip, zilch, nada, to teach them, from anything I can see. We couldn't even teach them not to be idiots, since a civilization this much more advanced than ours would already have avoided human idiocy. Per the Sargon episode of Star Trek-The Original Series (all future ST references will also be TOS, and normally by generic names, and specific episode titles), while we humans are arrogant, we haven't reached Sargon-level arrogance at the time he and the rest of his species wiped out their planet, in essence. So, nothing to teach them.

So, why else would SO advanced a civilization come?

The "Apollo" or "Who Mourns for Adonis" episode postulated that ancient aliens became ancient human gods. Well, Erich von Däniken was wrong in reality, and besides, we see no "worship me or die" aliens around here any more.

Are they here to teach US something? Well, no aliens have gone to Biden, Putin, Xi or the UN General Assembly and said, here's how you stop climate change: Do it or die.

Nor, to postulate aliens not just ego-hungry, but hungry period, and to change TV shows, have any aliens like those of Twilight Zone's "To Serve Man" dropped in to herd humans into their "cattle truck" UFOs. (And, why wouldn't some aliens be that diabolical? Or maybe, just that resource-exhausted on their home planet? That said, contra Rod Serling, they'd probably dispense with niceties and just put a bunch of humans on dry ice after stunning them.)

So, contra Ralph Blumenthal at Poynter, this idea that aliens would drop in on John Q. Public for a cuppa coffee with a humanoid is laughable. But it IS a sign that, if not mental illness in the narrow sense, "Apollo" level egos among John Q. Public humans on this issue are quite real.

Speaking of "Apollo," let's turn this around to Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11. If we knew the Moon had sentient life, Neil and Buzz wouldn't have gone to John Q. Moon Public. They'd have visited Joseph Moon Biden at the Sea of Tranquility White House. Or, they, per Mann, would have visited the head of the National Moon Academy of Scientists or something.

So, again and now in detail, contra Mr. Blumenthal?

“I’m pretty sure what they are not. They’re not mental illness. They’re not hallucinations. They are not fabrications or hoaxes,” he said. “They’re not publicity-seeking efforts … so when you eliminate that people are not crazy, they’re not disturbed, that they’re not doing it for attention, that it affects people from all walks of life … it’s a universal phenomenon in terms of these sightings. … Where they come from, that’s speculation.”

In the past, hallucinations and fabrications have been part and parcel of UFO reports. Publicity seeking certainly has been. Whitley Strieber presumably has been doing both! Why would anything be different now? And, narcissistic personality order has an official DSM listing, so, if neuroses as well as psychoses are considered mental illness, that's covered, too. (And, per Rational Wiki's page on Strieber, many like him either are true believers in, or grifting peddlers of, multiple types of metaphysical woo and/or conspiracy theories.)

Also, per the Skeptic's Dictionary entry, what is called "Roswell" is actually a conflation of events over several years, with aging-deteriorated memories, other false claims and more.

And, with that, let's again bring in someone else I mentioned in my first piece — Adam Mann.

Mann has several good things to say:

Though it contains no indication that any of its incidents could have been caused by things not of this Earth, it will be seen as a major victory by those who have been pushing for increased government disclosures about strange lights in the skies.

The new report is less a major turning point in our understanding of life in the universe and more a product of our current cultural climate, a time when expertise and authority are increasingly being called into question. The debate over UFOs instead highlights the limits of knowledge and humanity’s continued need to believe in something beyond our mundane experience of the world.

To me, that ties in with the psychological angle of narcissism on those who claim to have actually seen UFOs that must be aliens. People in an America of 330 million and world of 7-plus billion are looking to escape the mundane.

Maybe Ralph Blumenthal is doing the same, not through believing in UFOs, but believing that non-skeptically condoning belief in UFOs also battles the ennui of the mundane.

OK, I said above that you should put a bookmark in that initial physics talk, and now, here's why.

Related to that? The economics of interplanetary manned spacecraft. I mean, in today's dollars, peak Apollo spending was $40 billion a year. And, that was just to send three men 250,000 miles away for a week or so at most.

Let's put that distance in astronomical terms. That was to send people about 1.5 LIGHT-SECONDS away. That's versus an interplanetary alien ship that will have to have come from at least 25 LIGHT-YEARS away.

Let's do simple division for a ratio of differences on length. There's 40 1.5 light-second periods in a light-minute. From there, 60 light-minutes in one light-hour gives us 2,400 Moon-travel distances. Then 24 light-hours in a light-day, which contains 57,600 Moon-travel distances. And, we're not yet at the finish line.

Multiple that by 365 for a light-year and we're at more than 21 million Moon-travel distances, or 21,024,000 to be precise. But wait, remember this civilization has to be more than 25 light-years away, so multiply that by and we're at FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE MILLION, or 525,600,000, to be more exact, times the distance to the Moon.

This is why the likes of Daniel Brito, per my initial piece are either full of shit willfully or full of shit out of ignorance. Ralph Blumenthal's shit is probably astrophysics ignorance. Kloor's, and one other interviewee at Poynter, Denise Chow, who used to write for Space.com, are willfully full of bullshit. Maybe they haven't thought this through, but they know the physics. 

OK, so, what the hell would it cost to be able to launch one, let alone more than one, ships with max speed of 1/100 c, to address the more conservative case first?

I'm going to guess, at a minimum, in today's dollars, the current GNP of the entire United States, currently around $6 trillion. Why not? If I multiplied that $40 billion of Apollo costs per year by $525 million, I'd be a shitload higher. Like $200 quadrillion. Let's say that economies of scale and overall economic expansion should really put that in a different light. Whack it by 1,000 and you're still at $200 trillion in today's dollars.

Let's go back to physics.

What if, per Star Trek's "Horta" or "Devil in the Dark" episode, these aliens, if they do actually exist, are silicon-based life forms? Could they even communicate with us? Would we recognize them as intelligent if we saw them? To drop the egocentricity, would they recognize US as intelligent?

If aliens do exist, they almost surely don't have a Roswell-Whitley Strieber knockup of human form.


Or, per the "Catspaw" ("Korob") episode, where he and his partner's true life form is roach-sized, would we recognize them, period? Or, a la "To Serve Man," again, what if WE are roach-sized compared to the aliens?

Back to physics in other ways. We know how weightlessness deteriorates bones of Space Station astronauts. Many of us remember watching the mix of space suit stiffness and one-sixth of Earth gravity with Apollo astronauts on the moon.

What if the aliens are from a Jovian-gravity planet, more than 300 times that of Earth's surface? Would they risk bouncing off our planet and into space, especially if we were roach-sized compared to them?

Or, what if they were roach-sized from a planet with 1/300 the surface gravity-weight of Earth? Could they even breathe, or their equivalent of breathing? Likely not. But, space suits? Which would likely have to be far bulkier and more protective.

Side note: This is why, although some likely values for some of the variables in the (in)famous Drake equation have been revised higher with the spotting of ever more exoplanets, other variables should be revised downward from some estimates. Maybe some new variables should be added. Maybe some things aren't even really calculable.

Beyond that, would they even send their own species? Ships with a mix of robots, rovers and drones would certainly come first. Even at 0.1 c, a trip from a planet outside of 25 light years away takes 250 years. Barring incredibly huge lifespans, that means, per "Space Seed," the "Khan" episode of the original series, suspended animation is likely part of the picture. That, in turn, adds yet more to the cost.

So, contra Poynter's four non-skeptics, the likelihood that any currently unidentified aerial phenomena are actually extraterrestrial and intelligence-driven is at best 0.02 percent, as I see it, and the likelihood that they're human — including hoaxes, publicity-seeking and mental illness — is 99.98 percent, and that is probably itself way too conservative. A split of 0.002 percent vs 99.998 percent is probably more the bee's knees.

Or, as Michael Shermer said a decade ago, it's not UFOs OR UAPs, it's CRAP. Shermer covers some of the inflations of the original description of the Belgian Triangles by some of its military by later persons, including the Leslie Kean so beloved by Daniel Brito.

Shermer references Stealth bombers and the like. Mann also talked about the Cold War.

A new piece at NY Mag goes back further, to chaff and other early anti-radar measures in World War II. Stealth bombers, whose triangle shapes match these non-bogie bogies on modern radar screens, is just an extrapolation of that technology. The piece also, interestingly, raises not only the possibility of "but Russians" or "but Chinese," but says, more possibly so, is "but defects in software powering modern American radar."

===

Meanwhile, we have a perfectly normal reason for alleged UFO sitings. In breaking news, Russia is supposedly bringing out its version of something like the US's F/A-18 fighter jet. Yeah, the Russky PR is tweaking the American UFO public obsession, but descriptions of the plane having advanced stealth capabilities make this seem like an actual deal.

Update two, July 20: This plane, per photo at left, clearly has Stealth-like design and, just as US Stealth-type aircraft in development almost certainly triggered some previous "UFO" reports, surely, this has done some of the same.

There's a whole slideshow gallery at this story site about the new plane developed under the Checkmate program. That said, Russian Interior and Trades Minister Denis Manturov said it was designed to compete with the US F-35 Lightning II. And, it's the first single-engine Russian fighter in decades.

Texas House Dems execute Runaway Scrape 2.0: First thoughts

I had wondered a month ago if House Democrats in the Texas Legislature would pull off a new version of 2003's "Living on Ardmore Time," the new update of that classic hit.

You get Don Williams' version, not Clapton's, because Williams was first and Clapton's a racist and an asshole.

I figured several things had changed since then.

1. Democratic president, so Strangeabbott, unlike Tricky Ricky, couldn't lie to FEMA about missing planes.

2. Narrower margin in the House side than then.

3. Generally more organized Dems. Yeah, there's still a few ConservaDems in the House, but nobody like Helen Giddings of back then whoring herself out for Tom Craddick plum committee assignments. Dade Phelan is newer to the House than Craddick was back then, and brand-new as Speaker.

Anyway, they've done it. For non-Texans or new arrivals unfamiliar with the original Runaway Scrape, click that link.

Per this update from the Trib, at least four Dems — three from ConservaDem districts, the fourth retiring, have stayed.

Four Democrats were present on the House floor Tuesday morning: Reps. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Tracy King of Batesville, Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass and John Turner of Dallas.

It appears a few others, per the math, have also not fled. 

And, gone to DC, which as the Federal District, is not like a state in some ways. Had they gone to Ardmore again, in part, Okie Gov Kevin Stitt certainly would have helped Abbott round them up. Had they gone to New Mexico, like some of them in 2003, Michelle Lujan Grisham would have resisted more, but Abbott would have pushed harder.

Different in DC.

So, how long can this last?

Well, several things are in play. 

One is the suit against Abbott defunding pay of Legiscritter staff, which starts Sept. 1. If the veto is still in play, will Republicans be less likely, or more likely, to compromise if that hasn't been settled?

Possibly more.

Let's not forget that there's the special special session for redistricting that has to happen, and that won't happen until after Sept. 1 for sure. GOP Legiscritters are going to want staff there to help them crack and pack, though they probably could try to do it with outside consultants only.

Since 2010 redistricting ultimately went to court anyway, Dems have no incentive to return for THIS special special any more than for the regular special sessions, until some negotiations happen.

Will they?

How long before trust gets burned out and Democrats stop pretending that collegiality exists at some core level?

That determines whether negotiations happen before House Dems de-scrape or not.

What if the whole 30 days run out and nothing happens?

Do House Dems, expect for a purely symbolic few, not even bother showing up in the first place when Strangeabbott calls his second special session?

I think they have to do that.

Given that Abbott has now said he'll arrest them upon their return, and given that the quorumless House GOP took a vote to that effect, giving the whiny little titty-baby (look at his face, it looks like a perpetual pout) surely relishing the opportunity to posture, why would they return?

Abbott will send state troopers to their hotels and rented houses if the whole House Democratic Caucus shows up for the next special and there's been no movement between now and then.

Besides, there was no good faith at the start of this session, not even on the more collegial House side, Morales claims.

July 13, 2021

Texas Progressives talk special session, redistricting

With the special session of the Texas Legislature started, and a new one to come on redistricting soon enough, we've got plenty for you in this week's roundup of Texas Progressives thought.

So, let's dig in.

And see how long the digging in is going to last in Austin and DC.

Texas Lege House Dems, not living on Ardmore Time like in 2003, are living on DC Time now. I had expected this at the end of May. Strangeabbott and Goeb obviously didn't; I don't know about Dade Phelan. Kuff asks "what's the exit strategy" in the face of recurring special sessions. This may be it. Going to DC, not Okieland, and with a Dem Prez unlike in 2003, gives them more leverage.

Texas politics

SocraticGadfly looked at how Jane Nelson's retirement might affect Texas Senate redistricting

Off the Kuff takes one more look into how State Rep districts have changed over the decade, this time with a focus on counties.

Stace is back and writing about Greg Abbott's empty immigrant prison in South Texas. It's one part of Abbott's special session agenda.

Grits testified before the Lege and said rural counties would be hurt most by Strangeabbott removing most judicial discretion on bail.

The Trib analyzes the Lege's vote-suppression bill as of last Friday, even as people prepare to protest.

In Texas as nationally, critical race theory is both NOT taught in general in public schools but IS misunderstood (if they try to understand it at all) by wingnuts. Instead, the phrase, just like "socialism," is used as a whipping boy by the likes of the Texas Lege.

Harvey Kronberg sets the record straight about Dan Patrick, SB7, and why no one trusts the Senate right now.

Emily Eby live-tweets the voter suppression hearings.

Texas politics — next year

I noted last week, in discussing Allen West vs Dreamy Don Huffines vs Strangeabbott, how the GOP primary dance card for statewide executive offices was pretty much filling up. Chris Hooks notes that the Dems are largely still MIA, or as his header says, "dazed and confused." (And yet, dollars to doughnuts, Gilberto Hinojosa will remain the Dems' state chair after 2022.)

Speaking of, here's the four Rethuglicans who want to replace West as state GOP head.
 

National

Richard Hasen explains just how bad the Brnovich voting rights decision by the Supreme Court was.

Riffing on that, and starting with what Hasen notes, John Roberts' position with Reagan's Justice Department, Andy Kroll talks about how the mask is now fully off.

Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene were canceled in Orange County. You have to be a wingnut indeed to get canceled in the OC.

July 12, 2021

Shaking my head: Green Kool-Aid drinkers who think Glenn Greenwald is a leftist

The latest I've run into over that is former Twitter friend Dave Schwab, eventually unfriended so I could mute him (as the last time I muted someone who was a friend, it didn't work, and I don't know if that's always the case with muting friends) then eventually blocked.

I've run into it before on a private email list, the official Green Party Facebook group and elsewhere.

And, this needed the latest installment of "Kool-Aid Man" Photoshopping!

Most start by citing "but Snowden." The full truth about Snowden, Greenwald, Greenwald's luck, Snowden's possible "using" of him, Glenn's gifting 90 percent of the Snowden treasure to Omidyar and more is all here in an extended review of Glenn's "No Place to Hide." (Ironic title, isn't it.)

I referenced Glenn's defense of Matt Hale (easily findable), the likely truth about his hookup with Miranda, and, after muting Schwab, links to both that and his plutocracy.

Schwab waved away Matt Hale as "Do you know what defense lawyers are supposed to do?" No, really! In part of my tweetstorm after muting him, I told him that, first, it was a civil case and second, Hale was the plaintiff. There's no room to argue with that level of ignorance, whether previously accidental or willful.

I think part of the problem is many peoplc confuse civil libertarianism and leftism. They're not at all the same.

Many L/libertarians are civil libertarians & also hypercapitalists. Besides Greenwald? Take Radley Balko. Same great stuff, but feels lawsuits replace laws, like his wanting to eliminate DWI laws. Yes, really. And, it stems from other libertarian bad concepts of his.

(That said, Balko does have the advantage over Glennwald of not being an online troll, and a grating one at that, nor is he a suckup to Swanson Tucker Carlson and other wingnuts.)

Glenn has long contributed to this confusion, with his touts of speaking to socialist youth events. BUT? As far as I know, he's ONLY talked about civil liberties issues, not actual socialism, nor whatever he thinks his friend, fake "Socialist Swanson Tucker Carlson," preaches.

The reality is that Glenn is not, has not been, and likely never will be a leftist. He is (or was) a civil libertarian. And an economic libertarian of some sort. And a Brazilian 0.1 percenter. (And, related to that, apparently a liar about how he and David Miranda met. And, no, Schwab, it's not a smear against pornography or against Greenwald or Miranda to point out that they likely had a porn producers connection, not an accidental run-in on a beach.)

His buddying up with Swanson Tucker Carlson, his attack on "light on bail" district attorneys like Larry Krasner and other things shows that he's willing to throw his civil libertarianism out the door to suck up to wingnuts. But, he'll keep an on-steroids version of civil libertarianism, wrongly applied, as part of sucking up to wingnuts with his challenging of COVID public health measures. And, Glenn's stance on social media bans show either further hypocrisy or else shallow thinking. (I prefer to say the latter in public, just because calling him a shallow thinker will piss off him and his fanbois more.)

Anyway, I felt like arguing more with Schwab than the people I just block on Facebook when they show their ignorance, or ditto on a Greens-related email list-serve I'm about to leave.

As I stumble across other bad thinking, expect updates.

Beyond that, if you're NOT a fanboi, or at least not so dyed-in-the-wool as to be open to new information, just click the Greenwald tag below.

Was Dallas Morning News parent A.H. Belo facing NYSE delisting?

I occasionally write here about media issues, and it's always fun kicking the Snooze, the tea-sippers of Texas newspapers.

Per the header?

Reading between the lines of a Belo announcement, I think that's exactly the case.

Last month, A.H. Belo said it was leaving the New York Stock Exchange for NASDAQ. Specifically, it's headed for NASDAQ's Capital Market. Why?

Learning more about that Capital Market is, I think it was in danger of being delisted.

NASDAQ Capital Market, per Investopedia:

The Nasdaq Capital Market is one of Nasdaq's U.S. market tiers containing early-stage companies that have relatively lower market capitalizations. Listing requirements for companies on the Nasdaq Capital Market are less stringent than for the two other Nasdaq market tiers, which focus on larger companies with higher market capitalization.

More on the Capital Market here further confirms this idea.

In short, Belo, a one-newspaper (Dallas Morning News, aka the Snooze) with adjuncts like Al Dia, and a digital marketing agency that must not be doing THAT well, doesn't have much money on tap. This is kind of like NASDAQ's "penny stocks" wing.

One thing that I'm kind of curious about: why didn't it go to the former AMEX instead? Is the bottom tier of NASDAQ even weaker?

July 10, 2021

Top blogging of June — hoops and COVID

No. 1? My ripping a new cornhole for fake journalist Max Blumenthal, specifically related to Nicaragua issues.

No. 2? My semi-takedown obit of 9/11 falser, Tulsi Twerker and Just.Another.Politican Mike Gravel. 

No. 3? My saying STFU to Scottie Pippen for his various stupidities, including hinting he thought he was better than Michael Jordan, his ragging in general on Phil Jackson for choosing Toni Kukoc to shoot that 1994 NBA playoff game-ender against the Knicks, and claiming racism was behind that.

No. 4? My rejection of twosiderism and tribalism between the Georgia Green Party, on the one hand, and the Green Party's Lavender Caucus and allies on the other.

No. 5? My salute to Zeynep Tufekci calling out COVID twosiderism and tribalism by BlueAnon. (A follow-up is coming!)

No. 6? Calling out UFO pseudoscience by Daniel Brito, along with fellow travelerism by journalists who should know better. (A follow-up is coming!)

No. 7? Discussing how it's funny, in a sense, that a Black in a leadership position with the neoliberal Sunrise Movement has discovered half the truth about Sunrise — only the race-related truth, but not class-related and more.

No. 8? One in a series of pieces about the Dallas Mavericks' future, complete with takes on superstar Luka Doncic and then-head coach Rick Carlisle, calling for him to be replaced with Jason Kidd, which eventually happened, though not quite as I would have expected.  in Game 7, the Dallas Mavericks lost Game 7 to the Clippers and have another first-round playoff exit.

No. 9? Related to No. 5 and from earlier in the month — my takedown of BlueAnon COVID tribalist Orac.

No. 10? Related to both 5 and 9, some thoughts on an alleged Chinese defector reportedly spilling some beans on the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

July 09, 2021

Noam Chomsky, intellectual genius? Not so fast: Part 2, linguistics

Is Noam Chomsky perhaps above my intellectual pay grade? Yes.

Genius? No.

The political side, I've already tackled. Shorter take? He's a sheepdogger for the Dem half of the duopoly and has been for quite a long time.


Alleged genius otherwise? As in, alleged genius on linguistics?

Neuroscience has shown the brain is NOT "massively modular," therefore undercutting theories of language of Chomsky, Steve Pinker and others. I first noted this point 15 years ago, Ken, so that part of my critique isn't even close to new. I also noted, per Wiki's take on him, that he was too much of a rationalist on this issue in general. 

Indeed, Wiki's piece on generative grammar notes that no evidence for deep structures has been found, and that Chomsky has shrugged that off by a fallacious appeal to Galileo (who DID have evidence for his claims), showing that not only is Chomsky too rationalist, but also that, in additional to being anti-behavioralist, he's anti-empiricist.

Related? Back in 2010, per Doug Hofstadter and Gödel, Escher, Bach, I said the mind, including on language, was massively recursive, not massively modular.

And, some researchers argue that Chomsky's version of a universal grammar violated Ockham's Razor even if it actually does explain things.

Next, per this review of Terence Deacon's The Symbolic Species, even if a universal grammar does exist to some degree, it might not be the major factor in the origin of language.

Related to that, and also undercutting Pinker to a fair degree, neuroscience HAS shown the brain didn't have a massive explosion 60,000 or whatever years ago. In short, language ability evolved gradually and adaptationally, or even exadaptationally. And "one-tenth of a language" is of as much evolutionary value as a planarium's "one-tenth of an eye."

Chomsky also seems to miss the power and role of cultural evolution in this.
 
Even more, of course, he ignores the power and role of plain old neo-Darwinian evolution. It's clear that other upper-level sentient animals (other primates and cetaceans coming first to mind) communicate. Per teaching sign language to some primates, it's clear that they have at least rudimentary skills at symbol manipulation and recombination. And,  of course, from that, clear that language of some sort is not peculiarly or solely human.
 
Those facts all go directly against the claims of Chomsky, a straight humanities guy, that language IS specifically human. From there, to use Dan Dennett's "skyhooks" idea, he seems to have "pegged" without evidence the massively modular brain, etc.
 
Finally, the end of this Wiki piece on transformative grammar he got some massive signal-boosting on early claims to have invented a new world in linguistic study. Related? He got lucky to be attacking behavioralism with his linguistic ideas just as behavioralism was starting to collapse in general. He admits to getting lucky in being the "somebody" MIT needed to fill the faculty position he was hired for. Remember, Noam is purely a humanities guy.

And, even if Chomsky WERE right? What then? He hadn't shown HOW things like deep syntactical structure evolved, and we still don't know that today, whether the brain is massively modular or not.

To be honest, really, on the origins and development of our original use of language, we now little more today than we did 50 years ago.

And, this may remain permanently unknowable.

And, there ARE alternative, newer, scientifically informed takes on the development of language.

The Truth about Language: What It Is and Where It Came FromThe Truth about Language: What It Is and Where It Came From by Michael C. Corballis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent book from the preface on.

Many people know the name of Noam Chomsky, but they may not know that, while he dethroned B.F. Skinner’s behaviorist approach to linguistics, his own theory, which broadly falls into humanist linguistics, has itself become largely passé.

Two major newer schools, with a fair amount of overlap but with distinct emphases, are in the lead today: functionalist and Darwinist schools of linguistics. Michael Corballis comes from the later, though he’s conversant with the former. In the same broad train of thought as a Michael Tomasello, he talks in this book about the likely route for development of human language.

Corballis says straight up that he knew he would butt heads with Chomsky, Gould and others. He rejects Chomsky’s massive modularity of the brain (as does most modern neuroscience) and rejects Gould for saltationist ideas about the origin of language.

Corballis says that he sees normal, incremental neo-Darwinian evolution at work.

Early in part 1, chapter 1, he calls out Chomsky for ignoring most of the vast variation between languages in his attempt to posit a universal grammar. He even QUOTES Chomsky to that effect.

“I have not hesitated to propose a general principle of linguistic structure on the basis of observation of a single language.”

This is basically like the old “spontaneous emergence” idea of maggots in rotten meat, Galen’s claiming the human liver has seven lobes because monkey livers do, or similar.

Now, after refuting Chomsky, what ideas does Corballis offer up?

First is that language probably in part evolved from gestural issues. He notes that human babies point to things just to note them as an object of attention, vs chimps who point because they want.

Next, he notes humans’ ability to mentally time travel. Tis true, he notes, that corvids may not immediately revisit seed caches if they think another of their species has been spying on them, but that’s about it as far as looking to the future among animals. Elephants and primates seem to retain some memory of deceased loved ones, but of itself, that doesn’t reflect mental time travel backward, really. Only humans seem to have that in great degree. This, in turn is part of larger “displacement” in language, moving ourselves spatially as well as temporally. Related to that is that, in English at least, many prepositions can have both spatial and temporal functions.

Beyond that, he postulates that humans (and possibly earlier members of the genus Homo) having third-order theory of mind, vs primates (and presumably, cetaceans) having only second-order TOM, and a restricted and species-specific one at that, is probably a big factor in language development. Language recursiveness and nesting would seem to underscore this.

In all of this, though, Corballis notes that primates have some gesture usage, and that even dogs can recognize specific human words.

Next, it’s off to grammar. After a basic look at parts of speech, Corballis notes how and why, in English and other language, some things like “helping verbs” evolved … and then, in some successor languages, devolved again. As part of this, and the idea that languages in general started as noun-verb only items similar to modern pidgins, Corballis notes the role of cultural evolution.

Corballis ends with his “Crossing the Rubicon” of how he things language began. This starts by summarizing some of his differences with Chomsky on things like internal vs. external language and their function in language development, language as a means of expressing thought rather than thought itself and more.

With that, he notes that to the degree there was a great leap forward, speech, not language, was it. Abstraction was not inherent to speech. Related to that, he says it’s an open question as to whether all current languages evolved from one Ur-language, or if instead, they started evolving after modern Homo sapiens started splitting.

Corballis does admit that, without more evidence, he too is telling a “just-so story,” and it’s nice for him to end on a note of epistemic humility.

Side note: many of his “peregrinations” during the book are interesting, but I think he spends too much time, with repeated returns, to the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, when it’s but marginally connected to his main theme.

View all my reviews

Chomsky is also wrong on some philosophical issues, such as claiming humans have universal standards of moral justice. On many issues, no we don't. Even what constitutes "murder" is not 100 percent universal. Per my cultural evolution link above, Chomsky's also surely missed its role and power in development of morals. And, speaking of morals, his actions in the Faurisson affair still raise questions.

Sidebar: Deacon's second book, Incomplete Nature, is way controversial. Here's an interesting review. It defends his invention of a number of new words and generally says "good try, but still not actually explained." Deacon was also charged with plagiarism ... charges that might just be true.

He IS right, very much, on media criticism. I'll give him that.

Oh, and Ken? Noam is on record at having no problem with being blunt in criticizing others.

July 08, 2021

Texas Progressives on 'the wrong Carlos' and more

Allen West is doing it! He'll finish behind Strangeabbott, of course, but will he wind up ahead of or behind the Dreamy Don Huffines? My thoughts on that here.

Anybody who's not a wingnut has good evidence that innocent people have been executed by Tex-ass. The latest? Per both the Observer and the Monthly, a new documentary film about how the state executed the "wrong Carlos."

Danny Goeb booted friend Chris Tomlinson and his co-authors of a a new book about Texicans, slavery and the Alamo ... from speaking at the Bullock Museum. Of course, Goeb is just another white wingnut who has also bashed critical race theory with no attempt to understand it. And, there's additional fun of the Bullock Museum's director trying to spin this booting, as in, "we had nothing to do with it." Bullshit. This IS censorship in its proper First Amendment usage; state officials and a state museum conspired to ban a previously scheduled talk.
 
As the special session of the Lege approaches, the Snooze had a poll that said a slight majority of Texas voters oppose Strangeabbott, Goeb, et al on a border wall and critical race theory while the same narrow majority agree with sports competition for transsexual (gender?) athletes. More than 60 percent, though? Worried about summer electric blackouts! Rethuglicans are officially forewarned.

More border arrests prove the border is already more secure, contra Abbott's spinning.

One likely mud puddle in Northeast Texas, on Bois D'Arc Creek, isn't enough; Dallas' powers that be are continuing to push another.

What's likely one of the first exposed larger bitcoin money laundering schemes has resulted in a plea deal.

Finally! The feds get a conviction on a White developer in the Metromess, not just the Blacks on the Dallas City Council who took bribes from people like this.

Off the Kuff took a first look at how State Rep districts have changed over the last decade.

The 19th profiles two leaders of the Democratic legislative walkout over voter suppression, Reps. Jasmine Crockett and Gina Hinojosa.

The Texas Living Waters Project warns that we need to stop over-irrigating our lawns.

Texas 2036 has three takeaways from the 2021 STAAR test results.

The Dallas Observer updates us on the latest assault on free speech being committed by Collin College trustees.

Robert Rivard reviews our state's long history of suppressing the vote.

Scott Braddock examines Dan Patrick's deep and abiding convictions about "freedom of speech".

July 07, 2021

What's the future of the Boy Scouts?

Maybe about the same as the future of the Catholic Church, only with a faster death spiral?

The Boy Scouts of America, headquartered in Irving, have settled a massive sexual abuse lawsuit. The details about how pervasive this is have been one factor (but by no means the only one) in gutting the agency, where participation is only 40 percent of its membership compared to just two years ago. (Girl Scouts is down to just 70 percent, and both organizations were dropping before this; COVID accelerated the decline.)

For Boy Scouts, the decline probably isn't over. It's likely that assets like summer camp lands will have to be sold as part of raising money for lawsuit payouts; in turn, that's likely to further undercut urban and larger suburban Scouting interest. Remaining camps will likely be more crowded, and BSA state and national will charge more for camp attendance to recoup some of their losses. That, in turn, will reduce yet more the lower-income urban and suburban interest.

And, that's as the immigrant population increases.

Hat tip D Mag on both links.

What do the Denver Nuggets need to do this offseason?

Really, not much.

They've got the reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic.

They had a great midyear pickup in Aaron Gordon.

They saw Michael Porter become who they hoped they were drafting.

Unfortunately, they saw Jamal Murray blow his knee out not too long after acquiring Gordon.

But, seriously, with a week free agent class, all they need to do is decide whether or not to resign Paul Millsap, and at what price, and ditto on Will Barton if he doesn't exercise his player option. Millsap has a lot of heart and still some "enforcer" or "banger" value. But, that's about it and he's getting older. (Update: Barton has opted out, and if it's for money, rather than a multi-year deal, I think you have to let him walk.)

Otherwise? A full season with a largely young, still improving team? A full season of Gordon?

Don't panic.

The Lakers are getting older, especially LeBron James. Anthony Davis is still, to a degree, an injury waiting to happen. Other than that, they're kind of thin.

The Clipps? Who knows what that team will do? Paul George and Kawhi Leonard still partially occupy the same position and theyre weak at the point.

The Jazz? You have more overall depth, still, than what they do behind Donovan Mitchell.

The Suns are most likely your biggest longer-term competition, as Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both still rise, especially as long as Chris Paul has something in the tank.

Otherwise, a "banger" type guy in the draft would be a good target, IMO. Yes, Murray's injury precludes him from the start of the season. But, Austin Rivers was ... OK (assuming they bring him back), they've got a full season of Gordon, and if Barton walks, they can probably sign some other wing cheaper.

Over at Hoops Rumors, commenters on their story on the Nuggets offseason preview have many soured on Gordon.