SocraticGadfly: 8/15/21 - 8/22/21

August 20, 2021

Coronavirus, week 71B: Delta and the future, and more Abbott

From last night, before we get to the initial main header? It may just be temporary, but even temporary buys time. The Texas Supremes told Abbott and Paxton that they would NOT overturn any lower court temporary restraining orders against Abbott's mask mandate ban. Instead, this will play out through the normal court process.

Meanwhile, Paris ISD found a novel way to be safe AND tell Abbott to fuck himself in the loophole. Masks are part of the dress code there.

On the big picture? Here's my bottom-line thought:
And now, to the regular programming that had originally started this.

Ed Yong talks in detail about just that issue, the Delta variant. He focuses in part on one issue I've long noted about Merika: "magical thinking."

He also puts "breakthrough" infections into context. He says that with Pfizer and Moderna, and other mRNA vaccines, they're very low. He doesn't mention Johnson and Johnson. (I don't know what other vaccines follow its adenovirus basis.)

But, on transmissibility by the vaccinated? We're still in the woods as a society:
Delta’s extreme transmissibility negates some of the community-level protection that vaccines offer. If no other precautions are taken, Delta can spread through a half-vaccinated country more quickly than the original virus could in a completely unvaccinated country.
And, that's the key: as a society, not individuals.

Yong tackles that next:
Here, then, is the current pandemic dilemma: Vaccines remain the best way for individuals to protect themselves, but societies cannot treat vaccines as their only defense.
He then discusses wingnut governors such as Strangeabbott and DeSatan before noting there are options:
There are better ways to do this. On a federal level, Congress could make funding contingent on local leaders being able to make their own choices, Lindsay Wiley of American University, an expert in public-health law, told me. On a state level, leaders could pass mask mandates like Nevada’s, which is “ideal,” Julia Raifman, a health-policy expert at Boston University, told me. It automatically turns on in counties that surpass the CDC’s definition of high transmission and shuts down in counties that fall below it. An off-ramp is always in sight, the public can see why decisions have been made, and “policy makers don’t have to constantly navigate the changing science,” Raifman said.
There you go.

Finally?

Delta has ensured that COVID will remain with us as an endemic disease, just as the Spanish flu eventually became modern influenza.

===

Delta has also raised the standard for herd immunity, and may, for practical purposes, have put it out of reach.
 
Politico shows how antiquated state public health systems, from old and inadequate computers through lack of personnel on to hospitals engaging in bad reporting practices, has had state reporting on COVID far, far behind the real-time curve and otherwise problematic.

The Atlantic tackles timetables and other issues for having a vaccine available for children under 12.

China appears to have invented a fake Swiss doctor, and more importantly, a fake Facebook account for him, to spread disinformation claiming that WHO's work about searching for the origins of the pandemic would become politicized. The Swiss embassy raised the issue of the nonexistent doctor, but naively, or more, kowtowingly? said that it assumed this was done in good faith. I thought a country that was armed to the teeth against invasion had more balls than that. Rainier Shea, Margaret Flowers and Howie Hawkins, Max Blumenthal and other Xi Jinping Thought stanners have yet to weigh in.


August 19, 2021

Texas Progressives tackle various non-masking issues

Off the Kuff takes a moment to look at Census data, as redistricting will be the next big thing for the Lege.

SocraticGadfly, back from vacation, from that trip wondered which is worse, airline mergers or cellphone mergers.

Strangeabbott, tired of wasting state money from suing the feds over various issues, or getting sued by the feds for "trail and cage" on COVID Ill Eagles, is now wanting to waste state money on "build the wall."

Texas doesn't want public school students to be taught American Indian history but it does want tourists to cough up bucks to see it (in a presumably "sanitized" version).

At the Monthly, Dan Solomon excoriates Gilberto Hinojosa's Texas Democrats for relying on 2020 losers as 2022 standard-bearers. But, given Hinojosa's own track record, why wouldn't he? (Sorry for the likes of Kuff, but, yes, that's what Dan Solomon actually does.)

Michael Li says there's still time for a meaningful federal voting rights bill to be passed.

John Nova Lomax eulogizes the late Texas writer Cort McMurray.

Grits for Breakfast analyzes the latest attempt to make Austin spend more money on cops.

The Texas Signal explains the Child Tax Credit.

August 18, 2021

This corner of Texas Progressives tackles Texas media on the new IPCC report and climate change

Both the Observer and the Monthly got stuff incomplete and pulled punches last week, on the issue of the IPCC's newest climate change report. Sad, but true. Not surprising with either one. Simply true on that with the Monthly, but another sad but true with the Observer.

With that, let's dig in.

Charlie Daniels' "it don't get hot in El Paso" was of course purely rhetorical.


The new IPCC report, as conservative as it is, means more problems for the El Paso area, as part of the Southwest (and "really," part of New Mexico, not Texas). The Texas Observer has more, but its story is incomplete by covering in detail only temperature, not the changes in rainfall that are part of actual full climate change and not "just" global warming.

The Observer also decided to fellate the Sunrise Movement. (Ms. Ahmed has kind of done this before.) They've been rebuked from my past blogging. (I know "carbon tax + carbon tariff" is by no means a single-measure solution. It IS, though, a useful paired set of tools. It' s also, to me, a benchmark. If you can't or won't support them, or if, like High Country News, you conflate a carbon tax with cap and trade, you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.)

The Monthly doesn't do a lot better on the big picture, interviewing climate change neoliberal hopey-dopey Katharine Hayhoe. For my takes on her, go herehere, more here and especially here. Hayhoe knows the report is from the IPCC, which due to various constraints is always somewhat "behind the cycle" and is also too beholden to national governments. Yet, like Yale Climate, she stresses the hopey-dopey in the report.
 
The actual reality, as Jeff St. Clair notes, is that the IPCC report has PLENTY of new alarmism. One biggie? It says that the rate of temperature increase on global warming in the 2015-2040 period will DOUBLE that of 1970-2015. Ms. Hopey-Dopey didn't tell you and Texas Monthly that, did she now? (Sadly, St. Clair partially undermines himself by linking to Nordhaus-Shellenberger / Obamiac climate change reporter John Fleck. He is, very much.)

On renewables and energy in general? No, the boulder is NOT at the top of the hill. Not if we want to find enough renewables to power all the electric-only cars vehicle makers say they'll exclusively sell in no more than 15 years (if true).

She also fails to distinguish within Texas, between east and west, on likely rainfall pattern changes. (See above.) Not much worse than a nice, polite Canadian moved to Texas, eh? The actual IPCC report is here.

We're past naivete on the likes of her, and Michael Mann and others I've labeled "climate change Obamiacs." We're at the point of wishful thinking on their part. (That is, if we're not at the point, or getting close to it, of plain lying, albeit, like Saint Anthony of Fauci, surely Platonic Noble Lies from their point of view.)

I also know, from Twitter experience, that these climate change Obamiacs have one direct similarity to Dear Leader himself. They do NOT like to be pushed, pulled, kicked or challenged from the left. (Unlike Obama, they haven't ever done a rhetorical head fake of claiming to welcome that.)

That said, at least she's not a hypocrite, unlike David Sirota.
 
General sidebar to all of the above: Cap and trade is NOT THE ANSWER.

August 17, 2021

Greg Abbott has got the COVID — my hot takes (and a few others)

And, of course, on hearing this news, I couldn't resist hot takes on Twitter.

Like this:

Given that he's been attending maskless crowds, it IS schadenfreude well earned.

So?

There's this:

Two schadenfreude bitches with one stone.

And this:

Like shooting fish in a barrel.

And this:

C'mon, you would, too!

And this:

Nothing like throwing a dollop of conspiracy-theory pot-stirring in the mix.

And this:

And this:

I'll be here all week, folks!

Here's one or two that aren't mine:

Nice ...

And, kinder, gentler schadenfreude?

Sure!

And seeing the flip side? A COVID oldie but goodie:

Yep.

This one goes political.

Political schadenfreude!

On the serious side, living in Texas, I know that Danny Goeb takes over if Strangeabbott goes to his COVID non-afterlife reward. At the same time, AFAIK, Tex-ass has no state equivalent to the 25th Amendment.

Per Ballotpedia, the Texas Constitution does talk about, under Lite Guv powers, the "temporary incapacitation" of the guv, but unlike the 25th Amendment, in part since Tex-ass has Dick Cheney's plural executive, it doesn't say HOW that's determined if the guv doesn't admit it on his own. The full Article 4 of the Tex-ass Constitution only confirms that. There is no 25th Amendment type provision for Abbott going stir-crazy and then, say a la Nietzsche, kissing a horse and weeping over it or something.

So, what happens if Strangeabbott goes in a coma? Or kisses a horse because, per Nietzsche, it will make him stronger since it's not killing him?

No third special session, for starters.

Update: Rumor has it that Abbott skipped line and got a booster ... and it still didn't save him from his politically-driven foolishness.

Lake Mead water cuts invite Aridzona to face climate change reality; will it actually do so?

The question, of course, is, will it?

Yesterday, the feds announced that Lake Mead had fallen below the level to trigger the first round of water usage cuts next year. Within the three Lower Basin states (Google, and/or click the Wiki link, if you don't understand the Colorado River Compact), for a variety of reasons, the cuts hit Aridzona much more than Nevada. They don't hit California at all, though the next round, if triggered (the story is almost certainly correct that the next round WILL be triggered in just two more year), will hit all three states. 

(Update: Early predictions for US winter weather confirm that drought will remain and that the lower half of the West will also have dry weather. Those 2023 cuts WILL happen.)

(Update: As this piece at The Conversation reminds, canyons like the Black Canyon that holds Lake Mead, or the Glen Canyon of Lake Powell, narrow more and more as you get lower and lower, meaning that each additional foot of drop in elevation cuts water more than if you just had vertical square sides.)

The cuts on the lower Colorado start Jan. 1, 2022. Nevada must cut 7 percent, though it says it's already prepared. Aridzona must cut 18 percent. YES, you read that right.

Most of it will come out of the hide of agriculture, which makes the expansion of mega-dairies in Aridzona yet more problematic. Depleting groundwater for dairy cows and/or their alfalfa feed is beyond stupid.

But, what about urban water? The Aridzona Lege, several years ago, required new residential developments to prove they had a 30-year sustainable water supply. But, the language is loophole-ridden and is as much Jell-O as the Paris climate accords (which were similarly deliberately made so by Dear Leader and Xi Jinping). But, what about water banking? Well, Nevada (I think) is claiming that it's OK in part due to water banking. But, what if, in reality, such an account is already overdrawn. This is not like the federal government budget deficit, where you ignore it, or print more simollians if you have to. There is no more water to "print."

In addition, as of a couple of years ago, at least, it seems Aridzona did not have any withdrawal structure for water banked from the CAP. Since some of that water was banked for the state of Nevada? Erm, see above! In addition, per this piece, water banking was started for two reasons: one, as is true with most things Aridzona and water, as a reaction to those damned water-greedy Californians. Second, it was foisted as an idea for interstate water-banking and resale, as in, "we'll give those water-greedy Californians water if they pay us enough." But, it's hard to do that one, too, if you don't have a good mechanism for withdrawing water from the bank. See above! (The Wiki link also has thumbnail information on Aridzona's history of water animosity toward California.)
 
Robert Glennon, the University of Arizona prof who wrote the Conversation piece, agrees with me that cities and developers likely aren't yet going to smell the coffee.

Being ignored in this is how this affects hydroelectric generation. Mead has had new lower-elevation turbines installed in its penstocks which PARTIALLY alleviate the reduction in generation from a lower, lighter, lesser water load. But, it can't totally address that, and that's a one-time fix; if the lake falls to 950 feet elevation, it's near enough to "dead pool" to be a write-off. Per Glennon, the shape of canyons on water loss is a hydroelectric as well as a water issue, of course.

In essence, all of this above is part of Aridzonans wanting to continue to live in a "Cadillac Desert."

And, yes, I'm referencing Marc Reisner's book, which I own and have read cover to cover half a dozen times. (Reisner was good, as part of this, at tackling the socialism [no other word for it] that is the reality on Western water, and other thing, behind the myth of Western "rugged individualists.") As well as Donald Worster's "Rivers of Empire," which was able to pick up the climate change portion of the ball from where Reisner left it after his untimely death. And, the most recent installation in this on my shelves is James Powell's "Dead Pool," speaking of that subject. (Meanwhile, commenters at Glennon's piece are a mix of uninformed and delusional, mentioning things like pumping water from the Mississippi that Reisner already discussed 30-plus years ago, largely as wet dreams of hydrologist engineers with no connection to fiscal reality.)

And, with that, Glen Canyon Institute's proposal to reverse an atrocity, to "fill Mead first" and let Lake Powell essentially go away, seems to make sense. That said, what if water drops below outlet level there? How much does it cost to blow a hole in the dam, or the lesser option of "blowing multiple holes" in it by creation of new outlet tunnels? What about silt removal? (Powell did some initial looks at that.)
 
Related to that, Glennon reminds us of one other thing. Upper Basin states are required, by the Compact, to provide X acre-feet per year (on a 10-year rolling average, to be precise) to the lower basin. So dams of tributaries above Powell, like Flaming Gorge Reservoir, will be opening their penstocks wider and wider in the future.

And, this is only scratching the surface. Reisner discussed one other issue that has plagued irrigation-based civilizations throughout history — salinization. Especially if the rivers one uses for irrigation projects run through land with high salinity levels, also especially if irrigation canals are not carefully engineered with precise and even "drops," as in, say, 1/4 inch per foot, soil salinity builds up. Leaching is one tool to "flush" salinity from soil, when used with drainage, but ... it requires extra water beyond normal irrigation. Oops, that's not so available.

It's why, before Columbian, or Coronadan, contact, the Hohokam abandoned their canals in the Valley of the Sun. It's why a massive desal plant was built near the junction of the Colorado and Gila rivers. It's why clay 

We end with, what else? Two quotes from Cactus Ed Abbey:

"The desert always wins."

And:

"Growth for growth's sake is the theology of the cancer cell." 

August 16, 2021

Coronavirus week 71A — Texas antimasking and legal battles

Decided to separate this from other COVID news for the week to focus on the Texas angle.

Local mask mandates have spread beyond the Dallas and San Antonio that were the focus of my blogging in last week's coronavirus roundup. As of the end of last week, state appeals courts had upheld these mandates. The Fifth Circuit in Dallas bluntly said Abbott was not entitled to relief. (Sadly, a district court over in Cowtown upheld Abbott there and FWISD does not appear to have appealed.) Other jurisdictions, including many larger school districts, have sued Abbott. Kenny Boy Paxton has appealed the losses to the Texas Supreme Court even as federal education secretary Miguel A. Cardona has said that the feds stand with school districts on anti-masking and using federal education money as part of this. (AFAIK, no federal amicus brief has been filed, though.)

The Texas Supremes Sunday night granted Paxton a temporary stay and writ of mandamus. Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has said that, pending a Dallas County Aug. 24 hearing before a state district judge, it will be masks on ANYWAY. And, per my blogging from last week, if I know Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, he'll file new orders and make new pleadings as needed. See his response to the Supremes' ruling:
There you go.

Jenkins then also said:
OK.

PLUS? There's this temporary restraining order AGAINST Abbott from a Travis County judge and it's statewide. It's within this Snooze story. And there's this story that says all of this leaves school districts with local flexibility.

Update: A disability rights group is suing Abbott in federal court, claiming his ban on school mask mandates violates the ADA by depriving disabled kids of the right to a full education.

Other Texas coronavirus news?

Abbott has also been federally enjoined from sending state troopers to "tail and cage" buses with COVID-positive Ill Eagles.

From Texas Progressives, Stace posts some facts about asylum seekers as Abbott and Republicans spread COVID lies.

Meanwhile, Texas nursing homes are killing residents by not mandating staff vaccines, as well as being way behind the curve on vaccines for those residents.

Bell County (Temple, Belton, Killeen) is arguably the state's most urbanized antimasking ground zero.

Denton city supposedly has a mask mandate but the mayor said he won't enforce it and in Kroger last Saturday I saw zero effectiveness.

John Pilger myth-spins the web of Sweet Julian Assange

John Pilger thinks he knows Julian Assange "has committed no crime" and "is a gentle, intellectual visionary driven by his belief that a democracy is not a democracy unless it is transparent, and accountable." I know no such thing on the first, but rather suspect that's not true. Assange is not a traitor to the US, of course, as he's not an American citizen. But, suborning someone else to commit crime, or possibly engaging in a conspiracy, are themselves crimes. Whether they deserve conviction by a jury (or juryless judge) or not, and what sentence they deserve if the answer is "yes," is a different issue.

Gentle? Hardly. His quasi-dictatorial control of Wikileaks, as documented by Daniel Domscheit-Berg and others, says otherwise.

As for transparent? Assange has said nothing about when he likely learned that Guccifer 2.0 was actually Russia. And, he did. Bet your ass on that, his lies aside.

As for accountable? He's never apologized for being the first major fomenter of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

As for the "one million Russian documents"? Tech Crunch rightly notes it may have been a front, given that before that, Assange brushed off criticism that he'd done nothing to help leakers in Russia, or China for that matter. Rather, Proekt, which recently got Putin's ban-hammer, worked on its own. And, in fact, Foreign Policy claims Wikileaks rejected other Russian leaks a year earlier, presumably as it would undercut the DNC hack.

At one time, Assange may have been somewhat different than what he had become by  2016. But, he was never, ever totally what Pilger claims. It was a full decade ago that Assange threatened to sue Domscheit-Berg over his book, after all. He's also kind of a grubby capitalist, something Pilger ignores.
 
I know Pilger has read or heard all the things I just said, and ditto for many other twosiderism folks in the world of Assange, like the allegedly outside the box stenos, Consortium News, etc. Some of the newer folks there, like Elizabeth Lea Vos, are likely flaks for Putin themselves, almost certainly in her case by name, but that's another story entirely. (Pilger writes regularly for CN and this piece is likely cross-posted.) Whether Pilger chooses to accept that is also a different story. But, I don't have to accept his myth-spinning.

Also, no, Hillary Clinton didn't make Assange this way.

First, we are quasi-independent actors with something kind of like free will, even in the face of button pushers.

Second, as Domscheit-Berg's book came out in 2011, some of Assange's bad behavior and bad psyche were evident before Dear Leader Obama was elected and named Clinton his Secretary of State.