SocraticGadfly: 3/21/21 - 3/28/21

March 26, 2021

Dear Leader's memoir — dreck and more dreck, Vol. 1

This is an expanded version of my Goodreads review, in part because I remembered more of the dreck from his first term that Dear Leader Obama tried to whistle past, half an hour after I posted my review, and I added one item to that, then thought ...

"Shit, might be all sorts of stuff pop up that I forget about, so I'll post this on my blog to publish a couple of weeks down the road, which will give thought plenty of time to percolate."

So, here you go.

A Promised LandA Promised Land by Barack Obama
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this so you wouldn’t have to, like Custer died for your sins.

The Obama memoir, from 200-plus pages in? 3-star bland neoliberal dreck. Just like his presidency. Or, so I thought at first.

I eventually decided to drop it yet another star.


Missing from the new Obama memoir:
  • Almost all stuff pre-presidential
  • Sheila Jager
  • Almost nothing about his complicity of sharp elbows in the state Senate run
  • Almost nothing about what he actually supported in the state Senate
See David Garrow’s book for more, reviewed by me here. Speculate as to why this isn’t in there.

Obama’s previous memoirs did get us through his state Senate years, but not really his brief span in the U.S. Senate. And, of course, he’s never talked about No. 2, and little about 3-4.

So, what IS in here? (And, what's deliberately omitted from here?)

Chides protestors for Bush “war criminal” signs on Jan. 20, 2009

Shows that he early on had a bromance hard-on for “bipartisanship”

At this point, I decided to check the index, given the man Status Quo Joe decided to invite back to run USDA again, Tom Vilsack.

And? No mention of Shirley Sherrod.

Note: This is the first item that I added to the original review, and then thought ... you know, let's post this to the blog. I will post this, and other additions, in italics.

Remember, this is a man who, BEFORE he got played by Breitbart over Sherrod, later got played by James O'Keefe — via Breitbart, no less — over ACORN. Oh, that also is not mentioned in the book, nor is the fact that our "constitutional law scholar" prez signed into law an unconstitutional bill of attainder against ACORN. [The district court got that right; the Second Circuit, overturning on appeal, got that wrong. More on the background of that case and bills of attainder in the court system in general here.]

From there? The stimulus. Doesn’t talk about compromising away the compromise in advance in public. Doesn’t talk about trying to get the initial numbers higher. Doesn’t talk about problems with HARP.

Anwar al-Awlaki does get one mention, but only as someone who stirred up Fort Hood’s Maj. Nidal Hasan, not as an American citizen Obama had drone-assassinated. The process by which Obama decided to knock him off, and the feedback, and Obama’s feeling about that pushback? Not here.

AS for the US recovering from the Great Recession faster than Western Europe? Neoliberal and left-neolib analysis says it wasn’t the stimulus funds nearly as much as looser US bankrtuptcy laws plus ‘no-recourse” mortgages. This couples with different homeownership rates, especially between the US and continental Europe, and what triggered the recession, in part. (None of this excuses austerity within the EU by Germany, the UK and elsewhere. But it does say that Obama’s “American exceptionalism, stimulus division,” ain’t quite that.)

I will give him a partial pass, per the book, about why he agreed to keep the Bush tax cuts in place during the lame-duck Congress session after the midterms. I'll give him a partial pass for Dems losing the House, but they shouldn't have lost it that badly.

Talks about UN’s “one-sided condemnations of Israel.” Doesn’t even discuss Resolution 242. Doesn’t discuss the Security Council’s one-sided silence toward Palestine.

Talks about “Chinese surveillance capabilities were impressive.” Ignores US ones. That said, and I know this is just Volume 1, before the man became president in 2013, but it’s interesting Xi Jinping is not mentioned.

The Paris Agreement was not a “breakthrough.” It was Jell-O. (We won’t actually get there until Volume 2, of course, but since he talks ahead about it in discussing the Copenhagen climate summit, it needs to be mentioned now.)

Claims Volcker Rule replaced substantive parts of Glass-Steagall.

Claims Holder et al did fine with bank/bankster prosecutions. Ignores no criminal sentences.

Through much of this, ignores pre-inauguration claims that he asked the “left” to push back against him as needed and that he then got bitchy when it happened. The closest he gets to this is talking about Samantha Power’s idealism. Or, "idealism." Speaking of, in discussion of Libya, into which Power kind of provoked him, mentions Christ Stevens. Doesn't mention his grisly demise. [For that matter, Dear Leader doesn't mention the open slave markets that eventually developed in post-Gaddafi Libya.]

Near the end, comes close to accusing Al-Jazeera of fomenting terrorist. Direct quote? “Al Jazeera, the Qatari-controlled media outlet that had become the dominant news source in the region, having built its popularity by fanning the flames of anger and resentment among Arabs with the same algorithmic precision that Fox News deployed so skillfully with conservative white voters in the States.”

I was leaning further and further away from three stars. And, I know that Al Jazeera America isn’t exactly what’s seen in the Gulf world. Nonetheless, this is over the top and was a ratings tipping point.

Oh, speaking of the media? No mention of AG Holder spying on the Associated Press, which started about the time this volume ends. No mention of his war on whistleblowers and the inhumane treatment of Chelsea Manning. This too started before his first term was over.

And, along with not mentioning this, he's not bothering to explain these things away.

It’s still on the 2/3 star border because it does illustrate the one constant good about a memoir vs. a biography, especially when the biography is NOT an “authorized” one. A memoir will show the author-subject’s true beliefs, even when they’re self-delusional or close to it.

At the same time, seeing Dear Leader peddle an autographed deluxe edition for nearly one thousand large confirms the two-star rating. This book isn’t for plebians. But, it confirms where Obama's heart lies — per Garrow, it's wherever Michelle's purse needs some more Benjamins.

Speaking of that, that probably illustrates, indirectly, what the memoir is like. It's about Barack Obama, this guy who just happens to be president. Forrest Barack (and family) anybody?

March 25, 2021

Texas progressives: more winter storm nuttery, vote suppression

More kabuki theater over the Abbott Blackout. The Lege wanting to constrict voting even though the majority of Republicans as well as Dems liking more options. AND .... could medical pot be coming to Texas after all? Read on.

We jump into statewide stuff first, then various local-level items, then national and global in a jam-paced Roundup.

1. I eventually pulled the last week's worth of winter storm kabuki theater by the Lege et al into a separate blog post, it got to be so much. 

2. As the Lege looks at tightening voter rules, theoretically to restrict non-White non-Rethuglicans, this: Eighty-six percent of Texans believe the 2020 elections in Texas went well, and 97% reported a good personal experience voting, according to a new statewide poll released last Friday by Secure Democracy. Leading Republican pollster Chris Perkins of Ragnar Research Partners also found strong bipartisan support for policies and legislation that increase accessibility and accountability within the Texas election system. A majority of Rethuglicans as well as Democraps (and surely we third party types — there is an "independent" line) support some big things, including more voting sites and an extra week of early voting, like COVID gave us last year.

2A. In his own further take, Off the Kuff finds some hope in that poll that shows broad support for voting convenience over voting restrictions.

3. The Lege, along with those of other oil and gas states, think they can force the clock backward on renewables by blocking state agencies from investing in environmentally responsible investment funds, etc. The Texas-specific angle here. R.G. Ratcliffe notes the Texas bill has (shock me) a loophole. If the manager of a state investment fund says it would cause fiscal harm to withdraw from an environmentally or socially responsible investment fund, they just need put that in writing as a "finding" and they don't have to withdraw.

4. A related matter on the Texas level here. The Lege wants to block cities from mandating electricity for heat and cooking in new homes.

5. Here's my take on Oklahoma possibly undercutting the Lege and saying "Drive north for real medical marijuana."

6. Also posted to his weekly COVID roundup, SocraticGadfly has a group of COVID-related posts. First "Galveston Karen" went on to make herself "Texas City Karen" last week. Second, his weekly coronavirus news roundup from the previous week talked about the one-year anniversary of COVID awareness first really spiking in the US. Related to that, he addressed the NBA as capitalist COVID hypocrites. Finally, on hypocritical PR, he looked at masklessness at a Kroger and corporate response.

7. John Coby lays into Rep. Chip Roy for his anti-Asian racism. 

7A. William Kim calls on everyone to fight back against anti-Asian hate.

8. Luis Acuña explores what the Biden stimulus means for Texas broadband expansion. 

9. Lilli Hime discusses the current legislative session with LGBTQIA advocates.


Selena would have been 50 next month. The Monthly has a retrospective.


Art Acevado is gone as top cop. But why, for a much smaller cop shop? Is it because he sees no chance of replacing Sly Turner as mayor in 2024? Will his successor be better? Will Sly Turner push through police reforms before his mayoral tenure ends? The Chronic's editorial board weighs in.

Alamo City

An Elizabeth Warren-type American Indian identity (or false identity) issue has popped up with a City Council candidate. In a separate piece, the reporter notes she's not a "tribal identity cop" or anything like that, but it seems clear to me she has big doubts about Crabb, as do I. (The reporter is from Gallup, and per her various feeds, though not stipulating it, appears to be an enrolled Navajo.)


The Collin County Jail "did a George Floyd."
1. James Livingston has a good discussion about basic income.

2. "Democracy Pledge" aims to nail companies down in not supporting candidates who supported election lies.

3. Andrew Yang is back to telling lies about BDS.

4. If you've heard of Clearview AI, here's why to be very wary.


The French focus on laïcité is a contributor to rising Islamo-leftism there.

Counterpunch has a hard hitter on Biden's anti-Russia, anti-China hawks at State and NSC, and  how Blinken and Biden themselves are making a hash.

March 24, 2021

Being real, not woke, about the Status Quo Joe stimulus

A week ago, I blogged about how Jamelle Bouie and Jeff Greenfield (and probably many others among MSM inside-the-Beltway pundits) were peddling the Joe Biden Kool-Aid about a "transformational" stimulus package.

The reality of not just that package but the next two years is much different.

First, he's hostage to Kirsten Synema and Joe Manchin. Maybe another senator here and there on specific issues. Maybe several on that $15/hr minimum wage; maybe other Dem senators voting no opposed it in general, not just on rolling it into the stimulus package.

I've said before, speaking from rural America, that $15/hr is too much out here, and I prefer something like Oregon's rural/exurban-suburban/urban $10/$12/$15 split. I said long before THAT, though, in 2007, that minimum wage increases needed to include a cost of living adjustment after hitting the final level. No Democrap listened to me back then, and none will listen today.

Krystal Ball has a Substack post about this, but it's paywalled, and neither her insight nor opinions (given that she's a Tulsi Twerker, or was) are worth money. Since she is, or was, a paid TV talking head, they're even less worth my money.

Nicholas Lemann, as I noted back then, is Biden-woke, but also looked forward to Biden's planned Act 2, which he said could be called the "Build Back Better" bill. That has zero chance, unless it includes upping the ante on China and lingering currency issues, etc., as part of it. That, in turn, needs to be done in smart, non-Trumpian ways.

For a more in-depth take on what's real and what's not about Biden's stimulus and the mindset behind it, read Chris Hedges.

March 23, 2021

Coronavirus week 50: When do we get herd immunity?

Shorter answer? Not for a while.

• Counting Puerto Rico as well as DC, but not even smaller outlying territories, Tex-ass is up to 42nd out of 52 jurisdictions in percentage of fully vaccinated residents. With that, we MAY be up to "herd immunity" (at 75 percent) by the time school starts in the fall. (New York State, at about the national average, is estimated to hit 75 percent in five months.)
• And, none of this includes whether we're whack-a-mole, and whether we recognize vaccines are just one leg of a four-legged stool, per this in-depth piece from Nautilus, by former long-time NBC science correspondent Robert Bazell. We remain behind on testing, Abbott has given his guv's imprimatur to ditch masks and by implication social distancing, and medical treatment for the infected still sucks if you're not rich. Meanwhile, we still don't know how much protection the vaccines offer in the long term for either getting sick or for spreading it.

This is all why I've said that a COVID that becomes endemic at 3x the death rate per year for "just the flu" is a public health nightmare.

• Another long read, from David Wallace-Wells, notes the complexity of COVID case and death rates around the globe. It also notes that part of why both the US, and the EU in general (including the UK, since Brexit only became official this year) failed is because of some anti-Chinese racism over things like "exotic" wet markets. (That said, the Chinese gummint encouraged the belief that COVID came from wet markets. WW says that, if the EU and US had noted the Wuhan lockdown and that it had NOT been done before, just maybe, the EU at least would have paid attention. That said, other EU nations didn't learn a lesson from Italy, either, nor other US states from Washington State or New York.

This pull quote needs to be noted:

“Clearly, the West was betting on a magic bullet,” (Adam) Tooze says. “Developing the vaccine has to be understood holistically as part of our reaction, if there’s any kind of rationale behind that reaction at all.

So, not just the US seeking magic bullets.
WW then takes a hard look at Fauci, and by extension, Messonnier and others of America's public health establishment.

WW closes by talking about how individual-patient focused health can never be truly public health, riffing on Teynep Tufecki.

One final thing is several American thinkers, whether trained in public health or not, noting America hadn't felt "discomfort" in a while.

There may be something like "EU exceptionalism" or "Western exceptionalism," but what you really hear about is "American exceptionalism."

• What this really means, between WW's angle and Bazell's four-legged stool, is that herd immunity is a somewhat limited concept.

• Speaking of, the Skeptical Raptor has an update on the various vaccines and how they might be tweaked for new variants on COVID-19.

• The Raptor also turned to guest contributor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, talks about a lawsuit in New Mexico over the state requiring the vaccine for state employees. He's noted before that the EEOC has already issued initial guidance that employers can require vaccines. The plaintiff claims that you can't require a vaccine that's only been released under an EUA. At the same time, the plaintiff ALSO argues that an EUA, being federal, overrides a state-level vaccine mandate. No wonder he says the suit isn't well formed. (There's yet more reasons beyond that.)

• SocraticGadfly has a group of COVID-related posts that he offered to the Texas Progressives' weekly roundup. First "Galveston Karen" went on to make herself "Texas City Karen" last week. Second, his weekly coronavirus news roundup from the previous week talked about the one-year anniversary of COVID awareness first really spiking in the US. Related to that, he addressed the NBA as capitalist COVID hypocrites. Finally, on hypocritical PR, he looked at masklessness at a Kroger and corporate response.

• Remember the idea of shining UV light directly into your lungs? Healight, the company that pushed the idea and has a light to do just that, now, nearly a year later, finally has a study out. Orac finds it to be "underwhelming." Yeah, with only five patients and no control group? That's putting it sarcastically-mildly.

• Retraction Watch says retracted papers on COVID issues are now at 89. Most are conspiracy-theory driven, whether by wingnuts or certain subtypes of leftists. When you see "5G" and "coronavirus" in the same header, or "traditional Chinese medicine" or "sound vibrations" (no, really) as a cure, you know where you are.

• Texas Roadhouse's CEO committed suicide after being unable to shake COVID symptoms.

• Houstonia talks to restauranteurs, chefs, and bartenders about their year in COVID.

March 22, 2021

Rethinking St. Anthony of Fauci for Blue MAGA

A coronavirus long read from David Wallace-Wells notes the complexity of COVID case and death rates around the globe. It notes that some of this means that, short of the East Asian stance of acting quickly and asking questions later, advanced nations of the West might always have wound up with some problems. (These issues are discussed on my weekly coronavirus roundup piece.) 

But, later in the piece, he looks at some of the specific American problems.

And, no, he does NOT target Donald Trump. Nor Greg Abbott.

The St. Anthony of Fauci, to Blue MAGA/Blue Anon, looks worse and worse with hindsight:

On February 11 (2020), a month before Ryan’s press conference, Anthony Fauci, Nancy Messonnier, and Ron Klain had taken the stage at an Aspen Institute panel on the novel coronavirus led by the superstar infectious-disease journalist Helen Branswell. Several times, Fauci repeated that he believed the virus was low-risk — later clarifying that it was important to communicate to the public that it was low-risk, in part to protect his own credibility and the credibility of the public-health Establishment. “To this day I do not understand why,” Branswell recently wrote. A few days after the panel, Fauci described the risk of the coronavirus to Americans as “minuscule.”

We need to hear this, and Blue MAGA needs to abandon yet more of its anti-Trump tribalism. On my other blog, from a philosophy perspective, I've talked about Fauci's "Platonic noble lie" on masks.

But wait! There's more!

(A)t every opportunity, Fauci was counseling the opposite — calm in the face of the storm. On February 15, he told an interviewer that the flu was a bigger threat to Americans. For another month, he was still advising against masks. It wasn’t just Fauci (whom the upstart leftist magazine The Drift recently mocked as “Dr. Do-Little” in what likely won’t be the last reconsideration of the sainted physician).

I've already started my retake!

March 21, 2021

Legal "medical" marijuana coming to Texas via Oklahoma?

Via the Dallas Observer, the OK Lege wants to open its medical marijuana program to residents of all 50 states. That really means the program, widely considered the loosest in the nation, is targeting Texas, widely regarded as among the strictest.

Here's some key takeaways, starting with a direct quote:

A qualifying medical condition is not required for a nonresident medical marijuana patient license. The Authority may contact the recommending physician of an applicant for a nonresident medical marijuana patient license to verify the need of the applicant for the license.

Cost is $200 for a two-year license. No restrictions otherwise apply to non-residence licenses.

The bill would also establish a marijuana license for caregivers.

As I read the details, I am not sure whether Texas red-asses on pot would have too big a leg to stand on. It would be Oklahoma-granted licenses for out-of-state people. The "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution says Texas would have to respect these licenses. The "interstate commerce" clause is more murky. Can having an Oklahoma medical license override Texas' personal possession laws? Probably not. So, posessors of such licenses would need to be careful when crossing back over the Red, or coming into the Panhandle.