SocraticGadfly: 2022

December 30, 2022

Texas Progressives: Last roundup of 2022 for Bum Steer Austin

Austin is Texas Monthly's Bum Steer for 2023

Related to that, the Observer notes the rent is too damned high for UT students. It's too damned high for anybody, for that matter, at $2,000 a month.

SocraticGadfly wished a merry fucking Christmas to Robert Jeffress for cavorting with Belial.

Off the Kuff compared Beto's performance in Harris County in 2022 to his performance in 2018 and Joe Biden's in 2020.

Paradise in Hell once again channels Donald Trump.

The Current looks at the causes and effects of pandemic fatigue.

The Texas Signal casts a wary eye at the forthcoming legislative session.

Robert Rivard laments how easy it is for bad cops to get hired by one law enforcement agency after another.  

The Monthly covers the feds looking at Llano's book banning.

Block Club Chicago and Borderless Magazine followed 10 of the thousands of Venezuelan migrants sent to Chicago as part of Texas Gov. Abbott's political stunt this year.

Two Texas businessmen were leaders in pushing to Trump the idea that state legislatures could overturn presidential (or other, I presume) election results.

"Whatever it takes" is NOT an answer for the Russia-Ukraine war.

The Fed says those older workers are staying retired, and that could have interest rate implications.

December 29, 2022

A Bad Trip with the Toad Shaman

The Observer's longform is informative, sad, scary, and hilarious in the sense to the the 2021 state constitutional amendment sent to the public by the Lege, over public health measures restricting COVID church services, now being used by New Age wingnuts to start "churches" devoted to smoking toad venom:

Entheogenic churches seem to be spreading rapidly in Texas. Ian Benouis, an Austin-based attorney, says he has helped organize dozens such “medicine churches,” which use bufo or other psychedelic substances such as ayahuasca or kambo. He explained that the state provides the best legal protection in the country for these types of churches because a 2021 amendment to the Texas Constitution prohibits the state or local government from limiting the services of religious organizations. An entheogen is a psychoactive substance, usually derived from a plant, that induces altered states of consciousness for religious or spiritual purposes. Many researchers prefer that term to psychedelic when referring to substances like bufo.

Beyond that hilarious petard hoisting, the scary part is that this is toad venom, is poisonous, and unlike LSD, psilocybin or ayahuasca, has rarely been studied. And, per the piece, it is NOT "ancient medicine" of Sonoran Indians, which makes the provenance of what fake churches are peddling an additional issue.

And, per the piece, the Comcaac Indians, the self-name for what outsiders call Seri, themselves seem a mix of New Agey projectionism and self-marketing over that:

Rodrigo Rentería-Valencia, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Central Washington University, said he thinks bufo is essentially a marketing tool for some Comcaac people. 
“The use of bufo, in my opinion, became a platform for certain Comcaac individuals to be able to offer a market to non-Indigenous people that are in this New Age thing to explore a ‘spiritual dimension’ in a ‘real indigenous context,’” Rentería-Valencia said. He specializes in indigenous societies in the Sonoran Desert. “Right now, the Comcaac people are an extremely hot commodity in Mexico,” he said.

They've got the right to make money off dumb, Westernized but would-be escaping Whites (or Blacks, Hispanics, etc.) but caveat emptor!

And, they may have need for that. Long resistant of Spanish/Mexican incursion, their isolation, and their traditional-world social integrity, seem to be crumbling.

My year in books

Thanks to a library card at the nearest large library, I smashed my Goodreads reading challenge with room to spare. Take a look at what was on my list. I hit 130-plus books, with probably one-third of them being 5-star, and maybe one-sixth being 1-star.

December 28, 2022

Texas Parks and Wildlife butthurt over prairie chicken

Unlike nearly a decade ago, when the oily Kenny Boy Salazar ran the Department of the Interior, this time, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, whether current Comptroller Glenn Hegar was backing it like judge-gaslighting Susan Combs back then on the dunes sagebrush lizard ...

The lesser prairie chicken has now officially been listed under the Endangered Species Act.

And, TPWD is butt-hurt. And lying.

Per that dunes sagebrush lizard, especially with the fracking boom taking off in the Permian after the timespan of the first link, its condition only worsened. "Voluntary conservation efforts" did nothing.

That's why folks like Center for Biological Diversity sued Fish and Wildlife again, after it was discovered that some of its staffers were in cahoots with Combs et al.

December 27, 2022

Colorado River sound and fury, symbolizing nothing, in Las Vegas

Plenty of talk from state-level and lower-level water folks 10 days ago, from all seven member states of the Colorado River Compact, in Las Vegas, but no action.

Upper Basin states still want Lower Basin states to take more of a water haircut. Lower Basin states, like wingnut Aridzona, continue flooding land for alfalfa — for Chinese and Arab owned dairying, among other things, but Aridzona by god will give Xi Jinping himself a fucking hug rather than cut one acre-foot of water, especially if the Californicators in California stand to benefit.

And BuRec? Plenty of hand-wringing:

“I can feel the anxiety and the uncertainty in this room and in the basin,” said Camille Calimlim Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.

But not much else.

This Pro Publica piece makes that clear. That starts with Touton, though "feeling the pain," refusing to comment further about it.

Will she actually do anything by Jan. 31? Or will it be another head fake, like last summer?

She won't do anything because, per her Wiki, she's a political hack. (Congresscritter staffer for years, starting with Harry Reid. Nuff ced.)

And, per the first link, she shot herself in the foot with last summer's head fake:

Some state officials here blame the Biden administration. When it became clear this summer that the federal government wasn’t ready to impose unilateral cuts, the urgency for a deal evaporated, they said.

So, in Vegas, nobody's showing their hole card.

And, much of the low-hanging fruit's already been harvested. As a reader told High Country News editor Jonathan Thompson on his Substack:

Finally, it is true that we in Las Vegas were able to reduce water use while almost doubling our population over 20 years. However, this involved a one-time rebuilding of the entire valley’s wash system to capture and recycle all the water we used to let runoff. Now that it is done, we can’t repeat this feat for the next population increase. It is easy to cut back the first time (when starting with a wasteful system), but is progressively harder as system develops more efficiency 
Sascha Horowitz Las Vegas, Nevada

Very true.

That said, as I've noted before, Thompson himself is as much problem as solution.

Finally, as the Post story notes, there WILL BE a potential "nature bats last" fix for the Lower Basin.

In recent years, the worry of "dead pool" has been more at Lake Powell. Well, if it hits dead pool, and in an unmanaged way, hoe long before Mead hits dead pool?

And, all of this shows how laughable New Mexico neolib environmental journalist John Fleck is.

December 26, 2022

Coronovirus Week 130: When Republicans eat their future

Yasmin Tayag at the Atlantic has a stark piece about the COVID death gap between Republicans and Democrats, with the biggest takeaway being how that gap INCREASED after the arrival of vaccines. She cites Strangeabbott's early banning of all vaccine mandates here in Tex-ass early on, or now, Florida Man DeSatan's vaccine investigations committee, as among the most dire examples of this.

The numbers? By political affiliation, a death cap of 1.6 percentage points (not percent) pre-vax, to 10.4 percent now. This is a self-genocide.

And, it occurs as 2021 life expectancy has declined again, to a 26-year low. And, as that's not just due to COVID, but also due to "white working class" woes that Trump and Trumpism were supposed to address like drug and alcohol problems. (Cirrhosis and chronic liver disease, as one joint cause, are now in the top 10 causes of death.)

Interestingly, re the racism of many such "white working class" people (not all, but many, and no apologies to the spirit of the late Leo Lincourt) Black and Hispanic men did NOT have such declines — probably because they've already been hardened to life's woes felling all Whites, and more Black and Hispanic women.

Back to the first link — Tayag says that behind COVID, but again on issues largely related to public health, the red-blue life expectancy gap goes back to the 1990s. She mentions tobacco taxes (tho they're high enough in red Tex-ass), gun issues (aye) rejection of Medicare expansion under Obamacare and more.

Sidebar: I'm fine with this for one reason, or rather, two closely related ones. The "young-eating" should happen, ideally, close to but before age 65, for one thing, or age 66 and change, for another thing.

But, not much younger. Pay into Medicare and Social Security, but feel free to die off before you use them. Helps solvency.

Sidebar two: For the other half of tribalists, a friendly reminder that average daily cases, while having a small recent bump, remain relatively low, and average daily deaths remain low.

December 24, 2022

Merry fucking Christmas to Robert Jeffress as he cavorts with Belial

The Dallas Observer is Dallas-Fort Worth's alt-weekly, part of the (Village) Voice Media group. Its Dec. 1-7 issue (just 24 pages at about a 50 percent adhole, not counting house) had a quarter-page ad from Robert Jeffress. Yes, THAT Robert Jeffress, wingnut Trump-schlonging pastor at Dallas First Baptist. Rexella Van Impe, wife of the late Jack Van Impe, and herself 90 years old, is also tied in.

At the same, Bob Jeffress, Rexella, and Jack Van Impe Ministries have to be just as desperate to advertise in an alt-weekly that also carries ads from all the major DFW titty bars.

Looking at the event being advertised, are the pair going to try to do a resurrection of Jack, or what? 

On the flip slide of that?

Meanwhile, let's go all biblical on Bob, from Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 6:

15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[a]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?

Well, Bob? How do you explain to members of First Baptist when they see that you're trying to cavort with Belial?

Or maybe it's Beelzebul, per Mark 3:

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

There you go. Robert Jeffress, Lord of the Flies. And Pimper of Trump.

December 22, 2022

Life after Beto, er, Beat-0, for Texas Dems

At the Observer, Justin Miller looks at the options on statewide candidates now that Beat-0 is toast. 

And, I look at his looking.

Congresscritter Joaquin Castro? Not gonna do it if he thinks Democrats can regain the U.S. House in 2024 elections. Possibility of moving up the career ladder, and maybe looking beyond that. Colin Allred? Possibly. Might be enough of a ConservaDem to satisfy Greg Summerlin. Lizzie Fletcher also an urban ConservaDem. Veronica Escobar is from El Paso, and less known than Beat-0 had made himself known.

Lina Hidalgo? Not in 2024; the COVID contracts issue with her staffers is probably, even if cleared up 100 percent in her favor, still going to be too close in time. That means a third run for county judge in 2026.

Christian Menafee? Interesting, but still low profile.

Clay Jenkins? Miller only name-checks him. He'd certainly look at Allred's seat if Allred decide to run for a statewide office. I could see him taking his own flyer against Havana Ted in 2024.

December 20, 2022

#Txlege — Dems make GOP bids on issues

Will Donna Howard's bill to do a narrow sexual assault carve-out to Texas' abortion law actually draw any GOP backers once it hits the light of day? Color me skeptical, though Joan Huffmann and Robert Nichols are on record as supporting it and have GOP-friendly districts, so it's not just campaign talk from them.

They have to get Danny Goeb to let it see the light of day, then, assuming it passes the more friendly House, have to dodge a Strangeabbott veto, es


State Rep. Joe Moody wants to eliminate the "dead suspect" loophole to the state's Public Information Act. It's high time, and current and presumably ongoing Speaker Dade Phelan is interested. But, is he OK iwth the other parts of Moody's bill, which would broaden the PIA on police misconduct in general, and on jail deaths? I doubt it, and I know that's part of why CLEAT has vociferously opposed past such bills. Will Moody narrow the bill? Dunno. I support the whole idea, but like Donna Howard, he might need to settle for half a loaf, or less. That said, given that he's introduced similar bills in the past, I don't hold my breath on compromise.

Texas Progressives have warm thoughts

Shock me Tony Tinder(holt) has hired a Christian nationalist as his legislative director.

The White/non-White birth death gap remains high.

"Matthew Kascmaryk ruled X" should be saved in a macro for the next 20-30 years. This time, it's over blocking Biden's attempt to end "remain in Mexico."

Maybe, Aaron Dean's conviction on top of Amber Guyger's will get at least big city cop shops in Tex-ass to screen their cops better. And thank doorknob Jim Schutze's retired.

Will Republican control of the US House put any restraints on Biden's Ukrainian arms bazaar? Mike McCaul says no.

Off the Kuff takes a first look at precinct data from the 2022 election, starting with Beto versus Abbott in Harris County. 

SocraticGadfly looks at international politics and notes that, like many Americans, many Ukrainians want real peace talks in the Russia-Ukraine war.

G. Elliott Morris chats with ChatGPT about polling.  

Grungy presents a recent history of the Rice Marching Owl Band, also known as The MOB. 

Your Local Epidemiologist has a post about the bivalent boosters where only subscribers can comment, so I can't ask her thoughts on why we don't have non-mRNA boosters.

December 19, 2022

Harvey Yates, sinking his oily hands into New Mexico

I didn't realize that Yates, scion of THE Yates oil and gas plutocrats, had bought Española's Rio Grande Sun earlier this year. (Of course, it had been a semi-laughingstock itself long ago, goosing its circ by selling in Santa Fe and Duke City so that the big city folks could get their jollies laughing at the drug crimes in one of the Land of Dis-Enchantment's armpits.

That's part of the discussion in this New Mexico Searchlight piece about Yates widening the spread of his oily talons across the state.

His ultimate goal, per the piece, seems to be a drive into browbeating the Valencia County Commission into changing various zoning laws so he can drill — and frack — in the Albuquerque Basin.

As for his claims that NM Media is dominated by Gannett? Laughable. Hobbs is owned by a small scale company, or was. The Albuquerque Journal's Number Nine Media dominates print media in the Albuquerque Basin, including the Valencia County Bulletin in Belen, and No. 9 is semi-wingnut. Carlsbad and Cruces are Gannett, tis true. Duke City teevee? KOB is a smaller chain. KOAT is Hearst. KRQE is Nextstar. Farmington's paper is Gannett, but I"m unaware of it ever saying a bad word about either fracking or flaring.

It's also laughable, is his implication that Gannett, now Craphouse of course, is run by a bunch of wild-eyed bomb-throwers. However, I'm sure he hates even the slightest mention of climate change on its news pages. It's also laughable to read about his circumlocutions about fracking. He probably also hates to see the slightest mention of fracking, injection well earthquakes, etc. in any of those papers. Of course, that's assuming there's anybody left at those papers. It's a bit richly hypocritical for the Fanta Se paper folks to report on the details of Gannett's hollowing out in New Mexico, but here you go. (That said, it is the Capital City's alt-weekly, not the New Mexican.) Gannett doesn't even have a local reporter at its Ruidoso or Alamogordo papers.

December 17, 2022

Ukrainians also want peace talks

I blogged about six weeks ago how a majority of Americans want the US government to take the lead on starting Russia-Ukraine peace talks. Now, via Counterpunch, if not a majority, a significant minority of Ukrainians want peace talks as well.

The poll notes that, in the areas of Ukraine on the front line of the war, barely half want it to continue, and that's with respondents answering a Gallup poll under the thumb of Ukrainian oppression, which includes President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shutting down opposition media and political parties even before the start of the Russian invasion (and the "NAFO" folks and even BlueAnons who should know better) supporting that here inthe US.

Yes, I know neither Biden, nor Zelenskyy, want serious negotiations themselves. In Zelenskyy's case, it's easy for him to say "nyet." The solution of Jonathan Steele, the author of the Counterpunch piece?

It's time for the UN and Secretary General Antonio Guterres to take the lead on a push for negotiations. With him taking the lead, just maybe Chinese President Xi Jinping could jump in, if only by a nuanced semi-silence. Or, since Pope Francis talked about NATO "barking" at Russia, he could dovetail.

Putin won't speak, given how Angela Merkel strung him out over the Minsk Accords, until the ball starts rolling more and that's his right.

Sure, Biden and Zelenskyy could still say "nyet" but they'd be under pressure. I have no doubt that, in the south and east of Ukraine, a majority of free respondents want these negotiations.

December 16, 2022

Texas Progressives: Non-hypocritical news

I had a theme going with this week's roundup yesterday, so I decided to separate out non-hypocritical news items.

Unionizing solar panel installers sounds like a great idea.

Reform Austin flags a WaPo story about how Texas law enforcement agencies fail to report police shootings to the FBI as required by law.  

CultureMap explains the city of Houston's new program aimed at helping Houstonians purchase and install rooftop solar panels and battery storage.

It's Not Hou It's Me plugs the Galaxy Lights exhibit at Space Center Houston.

The San Antonio Report hosted a debate for and against a proposal to ban horse-drawn carriages in that city.

December 15, 2022

Coronavirus week 131: Biden about to end COVID emergency; tribalism and twosiderism alert for what's next!

That's per Politico, which discusses in more detail what it means.

That's all while Politico (along with many other sites) breathlessly says "COVID cases are on the rise."

They are, but per Worldometers, they're only modestly on the rise, or at worst case, somewhere between modestly and moderately. And, daily death numbers are NOT.

The problem is that one "side" of the twosiderism on this issue isn't prepared to "transition." Whether the Biden Administration is doing that transition too soon or not is debatable, of course. That's different from saying we shouldn't even be considering the idea for, oh, another full year.

And, it's all compounded by the same one "side" refusing to talk about why we don't have non-mRNA boosters and related issues.

So, in weeks and months ahead, you're going to get a new round of twosiderism and tribalism on this issue on Blue Satan.

Mastodon: Yea or nay?

For me, even seeing the Muskhole shithole that Twitter is becoming, it's nay.

Because it was 6 years ago.

I signed up shortly after it was launched and, like many new joiners are learning, found the whole disseminated server idea (not going to use a PR name) clunky at minimum, frustrating at most.

Then, the idea that Mastodon is a Garden of Eden in social media? 


I'd previously read CJR's piece about not just individuals, but other whole Mastodon servers blocking the new journalism server. Blocking itself is not the only issue. Read the piece and note conspiracy theorizing about journalists, etc.

Beyond that, Noema Magazine has a good piece about bad behavior on Mastodon. In one of the pieces it links, Wil Wheaton says that harassment he got on Mastadon, essentially full online mobbind, was worse than on Twitter. The other, by a researcher studying online harassment, notes that the decentralization means no centralized safety service (even if outsourced to the Philippines like Facebook does; dunno about Twitter). It also means that you have to block people on multiple servers.

Back to that Noema piece. A main focus is how "traditional" social media was built on the issue of scalability. It says that Mastodon offers the flip side, of what it calls "subsidiarity." That's like US federalism, in which federal laws apply at the local level, but are often enforced by local officials. I can give you the flip side of here in Tex-ass, though. Having TCEQ do EPA enforcement work doesn't lead to much enforcement. Or, per the old phrase, "Who watches the watchers?" And Eugen Rochko appears to still be a fair amount of a one-man band. 

As far as collaborative decisions on servers on safety and moderation issues? The votes, it appears, are majoritarian, not unanimous. Which means, if you don't like enough decisions, you have to join a new server, or see if you can "transport" your current Mastodon account, and friends lists, etc., to a new server. That's not guaranteed. Plus, as the authors note, Mastodon is not currently built for server groups to have governance decisions there, so they "offshore" it.

More here, on a second main thread, about different privacy and security standards at different servers. Because of this, comments won't necessarily migrate from one server to another.

Then, decentralization may have other problems. This Forbes piece says things like data breaches WILL occur.

To sum up then, is Mastodon private? Nope. Well, no more or less than any other social network or community. Will there be data leak, if not breach, stories emerging as Mastodon grows? Yep. Of course, there will, this is the real world, after all. So, what should you do if still at the pondering stage when it comes to Mastodon membership?

If they're serious enough, who do you sue? The operator of your group's server?

Back to scalability. The "other" link above says Rochko may not be interested in scalability. Or related issues. Which means people fleeing the burning ship of Twitter later rather than sooner will be SOL. 

Also, remember that Gab and Truth Social are both based on Mastodon forks. Rochko wrote former President Donald Trump directly after Truth Social didn't make its code public. Nothing else happened after it did so.

Finally, an issue related to the new AI "art" creation programs. People have been called out on Twitter for using photos from these programs, since they scrape commercial photos. Is Mastadon any better on things like this?

So.Choose.Wisely. That was said more than once in the Forbes piece.

Oh, if you really hate legacy social media, or anything like that? I challenge you to delete your Amazon account if you're talking about deleting Twitter and/or Facebook.

December 14, 2022

No, nuclear fusion is still not just around the corner

Nuclear fusion has been "just around the corner" for decades, kind of like strong AI. Now, while strong AI photo-scrapping has become ever more a cause for concern and even alarm, overall, it's still not just around the corner. However, something more than weak AI does seem closer to just around the corner.

Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, has seemed to remain metaphorically, but not actually, just around the corner.

That's contra the breathlessness some have expressed over a supposed surplus energy from a brief fusion burst at the National Ignition Facility, per Science News:

At 1:03 a.m. PST on December 5, researchers with the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, Calif., ignited controlled nuclear fusion that, for the first time, resulted in the net production of energy. A 3-million-joule burst emerged from a peppercorn-sized capsule of fuel when it was hit with a 2-million-joule laser pulse.

Sounds promising, no?

Especially with this?

“These recent results [at] NIF are the first time in a laboratory anywhere on Earth [that] we were able to demonstrate more energy coming out of a fusion reaction than was put in,” NIF physicist Tammy Ma said at the news conference. She predicted that pilot projects for power plants based on the fusion approach will be built in the “coming decades.”

But Tevye knows this one IS just one small, very small, step for mankind. Because it didn't actually result in the net production of energy, when one, to riff on creationists and evolution, looks at the full closed system involved:

But this latest fusion burst still didn’t produce enough energy to run the laser power supplies and other systems of the NIF experiment. It took about 300 million joules of energy from the electrical grid to get a hundredth of the energy back in fusion. “The net energy gain is with respect to the energy in the light that was shined on the target, not with respect to the energy that went into making that light,” says University of Rochester physicist Riccardo Betti, who was also not involved with the research. “Now it’s up to the scientists and engineers to see if we can turn these physics principles into useful energy.”

That's where we're at. 

And, in terms of net power production at the fusion itself, it's not THAT far ahead of 16 months ago.

Per Tommy Ma, focus on that "decades away." If not "fifty years in the future," it's almost surely no closer than 40 years. In other words, really nothing massively new here and in other words, not in my lifetime.

Plus, as Counterpunch reminds us, a lot of the PR two weeks ago was exactly that: fusion-industrial complex government-industry PR. And, also per Counterpunch, future tritium shortages and materials costs will impose bottlenecks.

Smartphone addiction is a killer

I get Texas Department of Public Safety reports on fatal accidents from time to time and not just in my immediate area. 

Here's one from last month. A driver is westbound on US 80 near Wills Point, a semi with a trailer. He's turning left across the highway into a private drive. 

There's a vehicle coming eastbound on 80 who isn't paying attention and hits the trailer as the first driver is in the middle of the turn. 

She's driving too fast as well. And she's dead. 

Beyond "failure to control speed," DPS notes "driver of vehicle 1 was later determined to watching a movie on her cell phone at the time of the crash."

December 13, 2022

Paul Whelan, spy?

Per all the talk, in Brittney Griner's release, about why Paul Whelan wasn't released, the issue of who Whelan might really be doesn't get directly touched, even though Wingnut Walrus John Bolton arguably hints at it.

Let's look at Bolton's words, part of him condemning the swap of Viktor Bout for Griner:

“There are occasions when you swap spies. Obviously, there are legitimate exchanges of prisoners of war,” he continued.

Parse them.

Was Whelan a spy? I think so.

Remember, per Wiki, or just note, per Wiki, if you didn't know this, he's a serial liar about his law enforcement record and college record, a would-be thief, and an actual identity thief, in the Marines who got a bad-conduct discharge and other things. (Only a dishonorable discharge is worse.) Someone like that, also a Trumpie of some sort, would have been an easy mark for the CIA to recruit, and also for Russia to compromise.

And also per Wiki, note that family members told the Beeb that he bragged about knowing a member of Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB.

Beyond this, he could have been doing economic espionage for Kelly Services, a past employer, current employer BorgWarner, both and/or others. He could have been doing just this, or also some official CIA moonlighting in addition.

As for CIA claims it wouldn't have recruited a person with his background? Bullshit. As for the idea that they wouldn't leave such an asset so exposed? More bullshit; they'd willingly burn him. As for feeling the need to state that publicly? "Methinks the CIA doth protest too much."

Per three paragraphs above? This could also explain the somewhat "resigned" attitude his family had when learning he wouldn't be released.

As for how Bout inflamed relations? The US arrested a Russian national for "unauthorized export of defense materials" the day after Russia arrested Whelan.

As for claims this was tit-for-tat for Marina Butina? Laughable, since she only got a 9-month sentence on a minor felony.

Whelan either is a spy, or, given his background, idiotic enough to try to be a freelance spy or something. And in the latter case, if you're going to walk, talk and quack like a spy ...

There's one tidbit besides that, though, and it relates to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's bombshell interview published several days ago that the Minsk Accords were designed just to string Putin out while the West rearmed.

Per an NPR piece about how NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg worries about the war expanding, Putin has said he wishes he invaded earlier, though he doesn't talk about why he didn't catch on earlier, if he did not. That said, and, as reflected in the Brittney Griner exchange, and ignored by the likes of John Bolton, it has lead to fallout. Putin is specific:

“Eventually we will have to negotiate an agreement,” he said. “But after such statements there is an issue of trust. Trust is close to zero. I repeatedly have said that we are ready for an agreement, but it makes us think, think about whom we are dealing with.”

There you go.

Whelan, whether an actual spy or a wannabe, is probably going to "rot" a while longer, thanks in part to Angela Merkel. And Barack Obama, per her story.

Texas Progressives: Political hypocrisy from local to global

Hypocrisy alert 1: Retiring bald-headed goon Kevin Brady blames social media for most of the divisiveness in modern politics while declining to look in the mirror.

And 2: SocraticGadfly took an in-depth, critical look at Angela Merkel's bombshell in Der Spiegal, about using the 2014 Minsk Accords to string out Putin and other things.

And 3: The Trib says skyrocketing housing costs will be a key issue in the Austin mayoral runoff. The Observer has more on that and city council runoffs. Funny how neoliberal Dems, like Rethuglicans, love capitalism until their constitutents' collective ox is gored.

And 4: Off the Kuff derides the election contest filed by a loser judicial candidate in Harris County.

No 5? Meet the MAGA Munns of Borger, formerly of Wisconsin, and Jan. 6 criminals who got hand-slapped. Definitely hypocrites and other things. (They look incestuous, as well.)

And No. 6: Rivers McCown tried to find some meaning in the Deshaun Watson return to NFL action against the Houston Texans. The Browns, the Texans, the NFL? And Watson? All various degrees of hypocrites.

December 12, 2022

John Bolton just further kneecapped #Russiagate — it seems

Somebody alert Emptywheel, er Emptymind, her flunky BMaz I mean BPutz, other ex-Kossacks, or better, at least in his case, an ex-Kossasshole, and current general asshole, and BlueAnons in general. I say this based on what Bmaz said related to Marcy anonymously narking on an alleged journo who she has yet to name four-plus years later. Or my ripping him here for Green Derangement Syndrome. Or both of them, to get back to the theme, here for having previous Russiagate wet dreams crushed. (If they actually knew federal law, and the difference between federal criminal and civil law — which they don't — they wouldn't be such idiots.

And, how did Bolton kneecap Russiagate?

He said that in the middle of his neoconning as Trump's national security advisor, the idea of trading arms dealer Viktor Bout for Paul Whelan was discussed — and rejected.

OTOH, parse his words:

“The possibility of a Bout-for-Whelan trade existed back then,” said Bolton, 74, “and it wasn’t made, for very good reasons having to deal with Viktor Bout.”

Does that mean that Russia actually broached it at some level? Or rather, that Trump broached it and Bolton told him no fucking way?

Yeah, Trump joined in on dogging Biden:

“Why wasn’t former Marine Paul Whelan included in this totally one-sided transaction? He would have been let out for the asking,” the former president said. “What a ‘stupid’ and unpatriotic embarrassment for the USA!!!”

But the flighty weathervane might have had different thoughts four years ago

This also raises questions of why Biden did this (if he agrees with Trump and Bolton that Bout is that bad). I don't, and neither does the judge who presided at his trial, who said earlier this year, when Bout-for-Griner was first floated, that he should be out of prison in some way, shape or form anyway. That judge, Shira Sheindlin, in this piece primarily about Bout's lawyer, said she sentenced him to 25 years only because federal minimums required that.

“It is virtually undisputed that until the DEA went after Bout, he had not committed a crime chargeable in an American court in all his years as an arms dealer,” she said at his sentencing. “But for the approach made through this determined sting operation, there is no reason to believe that Bout would ever have committed the charged crimes.”

There you go.

Even more, though, it raises the issue of whether Putin actually would have agreed to such a deal. I mean, Bout is not big skin off his back, and he's not connected to the Russian government. See more on that from a UN weapons inspector talking at Democracy Now.

That may be also related to the issue of whether Whelan is indeed a spy. Let's look at more of Bolton's words:

“There are occasions when you swap spies. Obviously, there are legitimate exchanges of prisoners of war,” he continued.

Parse them, too.

Just maybe Whelen is a spy, and since Bout isn't, no deal from Putin. Per that link about Bout's lawyer, Russia refused to release Whelan along with Trevor Reed. Zissou adds that he thinks the seeming entrapment of Bout poisoned US-Russia prisoner exchange details in general. Thanks, Shrub Bush.

So, on the first part of the triple bankshot, yeah, Bolton probably did kneecap Russiagate further. Not hard to do if you're not BlueAnon.

On the second issue, of why Biden did this, yeah, maybe he did feel pressure. Maybe he also knew that the likes of Bolton are full of shit.

And, that's my third bankshot, and they ARE full of shit. And, per Whelan's brother, Bolton and Trump are also asshats.

But, back to Whelan. I do think he was a spy, but I'm going to drop details into a separate post.

There's one tidbit besides that, though, and it relates to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's bombshell interview published several days ago that the Minsk Accords were designed just to string Putin out while the West rearmed.

Per an NPR piece about how NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg worries about the war expanding, Putin has said he wishes he invaded earlier, though he doesn't talk about why he didn't catch on earlier, if he did not. That said, and, as reflected in the Brittney Griner exchange, and ignored by the likes of John Bolton, it has lead to fallout. Putin is specific:

“Eventually we will have to negotiate an agreement,” he said. “But after such statements there is an issue of trust. Trust is close to zero. I repeatedly have said that we are ready for an agreement, but it makes us think, think about whom we are dealing with.”
There you go.

SB 8 curtailed; Felipe Gomez appears to be a liar

Senate Bill 8, the "sue the goddammed abortionists" bill, has had its scope dramatically narrowed by a state district judge tossing the lawsuit against its first target, Dr. Alan Braid, on standing issues. The Monthly has more, including that the plaintiff intends to appeal. Missing from either story is who's fronting the money for his lawyers? The Chronic reminds us that Felipe Gomez ALLEGEDLY filed the suit, which was before SCOTUS overturned Roe, in order to point out the hypocrisy of members of the Texas Lege. I call bullshit, especially because of his saying he's going to appeal. So, again, who's front the money for his lawyers?

December 09, 2022

All of life is an escapism from life

How's that for the ultimate in existentialism? Throwing in, if not a Nietschean eternal recurrence, then at least a hard feedback loop.

It's a theme that I will likely explore more in bits and pieces both here and at my philosophy and critical thinking blog.

Now, are all forms of escapism equally bad? No. Are all of them, when put in the scales, found wanting, to riff on Daniel, and ergo, at a minimum, more bad than good? Absolutely not.

What are we escaping from, anyway?

Boredom, in most cases.

Before the rise of print media, and especially before the rise of electronic media, boredom — or at least, the possibilities for boredom — were huge. Before the rise of radio, the farm belt, especially on the High Plains, had the highest suicide rate in the US. Boredom. Stuck on the land, in semi-arid, widely scattered farms and ranches, was a challenge.

But, boredom is not inevitable. And wasn't then. Mindfulness of the land could have helped on the High Plains, to call out the legend of the farmer loving nature.

December 08, 2022

Coronavirus Week 130: Peter Hotez, #BlueMAGA tribalist, grifter, gaslighter

I didn't realize it was this bad, but it is. I'm extracting and updating this from some previous COVID-related posts involving Dr. Peter Hotez.

I think it's a new version of Fauci's Platonic Noble Lie for people like Hotez, who know better, to be telling all Americans, whether over 50 or under 50, contra Updates 2 and 3, to "go get your bivalent boosters," as both were on Twitter over Thanksgiving weekend.

I quote-tweeted Hotez with this post, and he quote-tweeted me back.

I in turn did another quote-tweet, which noted that's "global" not American and there's no non-mRNA vax here in the USofA, and added that I was aware of his global work. (Either Pro Publica or the Trib, or the two together, wrote about it several months ago.) We'll see if he does another quote-tweet back talking about WHY we don't have this in the US. And, that's the issue, Dr. Hotez, is that we don't have it here. And, that's true of initial-line shots as well as boosters. We're pretty much being peddled mRNA and nothing but. AND, you're connected enough to DC insiders on this issue, that you could, in my opinion, "push" more on this issue yourself. Saying, "oh, look, we've got non mRNA boosters globally is not the US.)

As far as the last part? Maybe CDC finally indicated it, but that was NOT its original plan, Dr. Hotez, and I have no doubt that you, like Offit, know that CDC originally planned to "indicate" the bivalent booster for only those 50-plus.

I should add that Hotez has gone Twitter radio silent since my last quote tweet.

AND ... proof that he's a tribalist and twosider? He's also a tribalist and twosider on the lab leak. Bigly, starting with attacking non-wingnut Richard Burr over the Senate minority committee report by Pro Publica over the lab leak theory, which it has now reviewed and strongly defended, despite the pushback by #BlueMAGA like Hotez, who comes off as a kinder, gentler Orac:

And this isn't new from Hotez, as his Twitter feed and stories will show.

Not at all. As I said in quote-Tweeting that first tweet, he's lost some serious credibility in my book. I noted that Alina Chan, Scott Gottlieb and Jaime Metzl, among others, are not members of Congress (and by extension, not chuckleheads or uneducated). May blog just about that.

The grifting? Grants he's gotten for both gain-of-function research and lab-leak escape research, for starters. Being a flunky for Peter Daszak. Per that first piece and others, saying he wants an "impartial" investigation into the lab leak idea, but then, when it's offered, going on the attack. 

So, let's call him a gaslighter as well.

More JFK moronity from Jefferson Morley


The CIA holds documents that show presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in an intelligence operation before the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a prominent Kennedy assassination reporter alleged Tuesday.

Is laughable. And, as the story goes on, an argument from silence hybridized with circular reasoning, all mashed up in the echo chamber of Morley's own mind.

Surprising, though? Not at all, if one knows Morley's past history. The biggie is that two and a half years ago, Morley claimed he was no longer a JFK conspiracy theorist. He didn't fool me. And, now, it must be like crack cocaine for him.

As for George Ioannides? It is true (that's Wiki's page) that he was connected to funding Cuban exiles tied to Oswald. The "plausible deniability" smokescreen conspiracy theory's been around since the start.

The argument from silence, etc? He's been suing over Ioannides' papers for years, and all along claiming he knows they have specific information. ....

Uhh, how do you know if you haven't seen them? And, if you actually DO know? How do you even know for sure it's 44 documents, as you claim? Show your homework already? Speaking of homework, the Daily Least (opening link) apparently can't be bothered to do a modicum of it. 

If they did, like me at my link, they'd know Morley is full of Camelot crap, too. Jim Lippard, who has "liked" other stuff by him, and strikes me as more and more of a pseudo-skeptic, should know that too.

Also, contra that "suing" piece, from USA Today, it's really not "perplexing that Oswald first tried to join the DSE before launching his one-man "Fair Play for Cuba." It's easy to see him thinking he would worm inside the group and become a mole.

Sidebar: I love all the conspiracy theory sites that talk about JFK dying "in a hail of gunfire." Since when did three shots become a "hail"?

December 07, 2022

Crypto sucking at the ERCOT teat

Texas (shock me) is becoming a bitcoin haven, even encouraged by ERCOT. Despite all the dubiousness involved after Sam Bankman-Fried, I'm sure this won't slow down. Another issue: what if another Uri strokes and overloads the "independent Texas grid"? As the Observer notes, ERCOT has yet to respond to a query by Congresscritters about how prepared it is for this. And, you and I know that means it ain't. 

As SBF showed, Dem politicos of the neoliberal stripe, like Tex-ass' own Beat-0, mentioned in the piece, are crypto "evangelists" as much as libertarian GOPers and straight Libertarians.

Part of the reason Tex-ass is a haven? The wind farms in West Texas often have "stranded power" because the dipshits at ERCOT don't have enough transmission lines connecting them to the west of the state. (Smoke that, Wayne-o not so Christian.)

The story does note, as far as issues when the grid gets tight, that crypto turned off its mining — and got all sorts of grifting financial credits. Rep. Al Green, one of the query authors, said this was a new form of arbitrage.

December 06, 2022

Biden and the border; Hypocrisy alert

Team Biden (maybe in part the Deep State within DOJ, but the buck has to stop somewhere) refused to make publicly available documents on the legal negotiations re the Fisher private border wall until threatened with legal action. The new story on that makes pretty clear why, IMO; Biden doesn't want to actually remove the wall.

Sounds like the tonks at the Border Patrol are abetting Strangeabbott and the DPS on locking up Ill Eagles. Be nice if Biden fired more people. Be nice if he also pushed to restore mandatory service location rotations. Neither is likely to happen. For a mix of political reasons and, I believve, personal belief, Biden's actually pretty hardcore on border issues, at least for a Democrat.

Speaking of tonks and hypocrisy, or something, Kyrsten Sinema would indeed think it's a grand compromise to help out the Dreamers, in exchange for BOTH extending Title 42 another year (at least, could be more!) AND giving the tonks even more money than Trump was asking for in his 2018 proposal. Also, any idea that allegedly "immigration moderate" Rethugs like Cornyn will buy in, as long as he's claiming Biden's not enforcing the border, is baloney.

Texas Progressives talk books, colleges, more

I told Sandy Hook lawsuit filers they needed to get some sort of Alex Jones asset freeze into their cases. Now, his bankruptcy filing may not be actually granted, but ...  Related: The Texas Monthly jumps into a semi-deep dive on Ye's appearance on Infowars.

Abbott SAYS he wants to decriminanlize fentanyl test strips and make Narcan more readily available. The lattter would be doable without the Lege, IMO, by executive order to the DPS. Let's see how much he actually pushes for either one next year. 

SocraticGadfly talks about a citizen suit in New Mexico and other environmental briefs.

The Trib talks about the Texas part of the United Methodist Church break-up. As it notes, the big issue is the "incompatibility clause." The fact that it's survived 50 years without editing or nuancing by more progressive UMC members probably is a good indicator of how deep the fault lines are. In terms of church and politics issues, it's surely right that it means diminished influence for the nation's second largest (I think only the SBC is larger) Protestant denomination. 

Independent bookstores are growing in Texas (and presumably nationally) despite mouthbreathers' comments on what they sell. In fact, as with Jenny Lawson, the mouthbreathers are getting punked. Many struggled during early pandemic days, as did Half Price Books, which has apparently rebounded. (And, per Wiki, outside of Texas, faces a unionization drive.)

Community college enrollment sagged during COVID. The Observer looks at how that, and funding, might be addressed by the Lege and other things. The in-depth story covers how dual enrollment actually hurts community colleges financially and several other issues.

Off the Kuff reminds you to never believe a word Ken Paxton says about "voter fraud".

The TSTA Blog warns about Dan Patrick's con job regarding school vouchers.

In the Pink Texas is not impressed by Ted Cruz and John Cornyn's No votes against the Respect For Marriage Act.

The Dallas Observer notes the Metroplex's connection to the rise of soccer in the US.

The Current ridicules the legal arguments against President Biden's student debt relief order.

Amber Briggle reminds us how much the families of transgender children have suffered at the hands of the state in Texas.

December 05, 2022

Angela Merkel was "playing" Putin all along

As referenced in a piece by Scott Ritter earlier this week, here's her long and broad interview (English-language website version) with der Spiegel recently, which includes, but is not limited to, the run-up to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Several pull quotes related to her (with French president François Hollande in the era of their inking) using the Minsk Accords, which I have blogged about in depth, as a stall game. Per this, and Ritter's piece, Nat-Sec Nutsacks™ will surely applaud this, when in reality it's far below the level of applause.

Start with this, which is not a direct quote, and is not the first reference to Minsk, but is the key backgrounder:

Merkel suddenly recalls that in addition to watching "The Crown" and "Babylon Berlin" with all her free time, she also took in "Munich: The Edge of War," the Netflix film about Neville Chamberlain’s role in the run-up to World War II. Jeremy Irons played Chamberlain. She liked it because it shows Churchill’s predecessor in a different light – not just as a frightened pawn for Hitler, but as a strategist who gave his country the buffer it needed to prepare for the German attack. In her telling, the Munich of 1938 sounds a bit like Bucharest of 2008. She believes that back then, and then later during the Minsk talks, she was able to buy the time Ukraine needed to better fend off the Russian attack. She says it is now a strong, well-fortified country. Back then, she is certain, it would have been overrun by Putin’s troops.

Can't be much clearer than that.

Much later, she ropes in Dear Leader:

"He, of course, has been out of office for longer than me. I have the impression that we agree when it comes to Putin," she says. "After Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, we did all we could to prevent further Russian attacks on Ukraine and we coordinated our sanctions down to the last detail."

I don't doubt that. Near the end of the piece, she notes that her Minsk-related shuttle diplomacy included trips to DC.

Spiegel interviews others, including former SPD head and Merkel vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. Gabriel himself says that the NordStream 2 deal, negotiated between Merkel and Putin, included its shutter at times like this.

It's interesting, per both herself and Ritter's take, that Putin didn't catch on sooner. And, Ritter's right on one big thing: Putin's pissed off. That said, if he DID "catch on" before launching the war, it's mind-boggling that he didn't prepare to fight it better, making allowance for Ukrainian defensive improvement.

(Update: Per an NPR piece about how NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg worries about the war expanding, Putin has said he wishes he invaded earlier, though he doesn't talk about why he didn't catch on earlier, if he did not. That said, and, as reflected in the Brittney Griner exchange, and ignored by the likes of John Bolton, it has lead to fallout. Putin is specific:

“Eventually we will have to negotiate an agreement,” he said. “But after such statements there is an issue of trust. Trust is close to zero. I repeatedly have said that we are ready for an agreement, but it makes us think, think about whom we are dealing with.”

There you go.)

Not just this duplicitousness, though. is discussed in the wide-ranging interview. She also seems to think there is a kinder, gentler, inner George W. Bush tormented over the Iraq War. No, really:

Did she see how George W. Bush recently confused the war in Ukraine with the Iraq War during a recent public appearance, and then tried to pass it off by joking about his age?
She shakes her head.
"I think it’s a form of self-critique," she says. "On the Iraq War, though, I have to be rather critical of myself as well. I was one of those who chastised Gerhard Schröder at the time for risking the division of the West" for his vocal refusal to join the war effort. She starts looking for something on her iPad. Perhaps the pathetic "proof" offered by then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell of Iraq’s alleged WMD program? Or the article that she wrote for the Washington Post at the time defending the war?
Instead, she shows a picture that George W. Bush painted of her. The former president took up painting several years ago. "He painted Berlusconi, Putin, everyone," says Merkel smiling. Perhaps it’s a form of therapy Bush uses to quiet his demons. At his ranch in Texas, Bush told her that his father thought his other son, Jeb, would have made the better president.

I doubt it.

The Spiegel piece is NOT "sympathetic" overall. It says 86 percent of Germans want an apology for her Russian positions. And, that's not all. There's her "legacy":

Her legacy has been wrapped in protective Styrofoam, as a kind of respect for what she achieved in her time at the top, her longevity. But such conversations also make it clear that her legacy is looking worse and worse: in Russia policy, in energy policy, in health policy, in climate policy, in digitalization.


Near the end of the story, she claims she intended to address much of this in her last term. Really? It was almost half over by the time COVID started.

Meanwhile, this confirms how much dreck Kati Marton's Merkel bio is.

#txlege wingnut news

First, sorry for wingnuts in the Texas House, but since incumbent Dade Phelan won the GOP Caucus vote, which is, yes, nonbinding, he'll be back as Speaker. Tony Tinder-holt got all of six votes.

Wingers say that they want GOP-only committee chairs in the House and indicate they'll make anotehr run at it next year. It will likely be as successful as in the past.

Mike May, House race election denialist.

Harris County, abettor of May's BS, could be ground zero for the Lege further monkeying with state election laws. And, arguably, ConservaDem DA Kim Ogg is abetting that. Shock me.  

Extracted from the regular Texas Progressives Roundup: Off the Kuff reminds you to never believe a word Ken Paxton says about "voter fraud".

All of these indicate, when combined with the fact that the "red wave," going by individual Texas House districts, did little better here than nationally, that Phelan could have a bumpier ride than 2 years ago from his own caucus.

December 02, 2022

Top blogging for November

Older posts had the lead in most viewed stories for November, some signal-boosted by me, others not.

An old blog post, from the end of Shrub Bush's first term, my blogging about the Dallas Snooze's take on how Shrub could reinvigorate his Cabinet, has been trending for a full month or so and I have no idea why. It doesn't even have a potential Chinese bot launch-triggering comment. (BTW, if you want an example of how stupid the Snooze was then — and pretty much still is now — on its op-ed page, just click that link. It's a short read.)

No. 2 was signal-boosted and is an September post about coronavirus "vaccine losers," namely, we the people of the US not having a non-mRNA booster, among other things, and why people with bigger popguns than me on Twitter weren't talking about that. It got signal-boosted in part because of a quote-tweet back-and-forth with Dr. Peter Hotez, who talked about what his institute is doing globally with non-mRNA vaxxes, but who went radio-silent when I said globally isn't Merikkka.

No. 3? Fresh stuff. My Texas elections post-mortem (for both Democrats and Greens). Related? No. 9, my take that the Texas Green Party, like I said two years ago about the national party, is past its best-by date.

No. 4 was also election-related, but on a national level. That's my call-out of the New York Slimes for attempting to revive Russiagate just in time for midterms.

And, No. 5? Also election related, and also a post-mortem, this time for one Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke, whom I said, in a visual typographic pun, should be called "Beat-0" for his lack of election prowess the last three cycles.

No. 6 was related. After Greg Summerlin appeared to be trying to make Beat-0 into some wild-eyed radical, I summarized his comments, and expanded on my responses, in a separate post calling out his ConservaDem-ness. And, I may not be done yet.

No. 7 was a Texas Progressives non-election roundup, during election week. Not sure what triggered its popularity, whether it was the part about pro-lifer grifting, Xi Jinping supposedly getting ready to meat MBS or something else.

No. 8? Again, election related. This was my take on Axios undermining its credibility over conflating QAnon with all conspiracy theories, then conflating conspiracy theories with the possibility of an actual conspiracy (while using that word loosely) followed by other thought.

No. 10? My take on the XBB coronavirus subvariant. (Background: I think we're at least moving toward endemic, and that big popguns folks like Walker Bragman have one foot, at least, in tribalism on this issue.)

December 01, 2022

Environmental briefs: Citizen suit, criminal charges win out

Oxy, one of the big gas drillers even after an overpay merger with Anadarko, agreed to settle a lawsuit without admitting liability over massive gas flaring in the Carlsbad, New Mexico area. The suer was not a state government, nor the feds, but Wild Earth Guardians, using a provision in the federal Clean Air Act. See here for details. WEG is right that oil and gas companies see such flaring as normal, but given the overpay and other costs with that questionable acquisition of Anadarko, one wonders how much extra "pressure" Oxy may see to be cheap.

On the criminal side, just in time to move into his new role as the state's governor, Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro got Coterra Energy, the successor company to Cabot Oil and Gas of "Gasland" documentary fame, to take a nolo on state criminal environmental charges. It includes actual good news for Dimock-area residents: a clean water line to them, and other support for the next 75 years. (I hope Shapiro got something for that escrowed.)

BROKEN: Charles V's secret diplomatic code

Fascinating story, seen via Bruce Schneier.

In the 1500s, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V/Spanish King Charles I had as his most vigorous foe Francis I, king of France. Francis was of course worried about Hapsburg encirclement, worried enough to even make an alliance with the "dreaded Turk."

Charles, in turn, was worried enough to fear French assassination. Worried enough about rumors to that end to write one of his diplomatic representatives in Paris about them in a code. A code now broken after cryptographers looked at an original note.

Gordon at Skeptophilia claims Charles' fear was unfounded and that he was "always a bit paranoid." I don't think either is true. There may have been no actual plot, but the Francis-Charles battle was already nearly three decades old by this point. In addition, as I've blogged on my religion and philosophy blog, Charles V did NOT whack Luther after the Diet of Worms and did NOT desecrate his grave after the Schmalkaldic War. That said, the day before, he claimed outrightly that the Sponsion coin is legit, when in reality, among academic types, that's nowhere near settled, and a month ago, referenced the original fundagelical discoverer of the Mt. Ebal curse tablet uncritically. (More here on how much of a circular reasoning fail it is, in a generally good r/AcademicBiblical piece except the one fundagelical there.)

Joe Biden, climate change hypocrite; US and Tex-ass environmentalists, hypocrites in waiting

By OKing a shale oil export terminal, Warmonger Joe is also Climate Hypocrite Joe, of course. (Again.) Question: How many of the people who are disappointed that Biden is actually giving nothing more than "thoughts and prayers" to fight climate change will still vote for him, rather than some third-party candidate, in 2024?

Answer: Zero, or close to it. I've known that for years at the national level, watching people like Bill McKibben.

Seriously, per names in the story? Kelsey Crane and others at Earthworks are voting Dem, not Green or Socialist, in 2024. Same is presumably true for Jeffrey Jacoby and others at Texas Campaign for the Environment, Melanie Oldham and members of the group she founded in Brazoria County, and others not mentioned.

We'll all be told, whether Der Grüppenfuehrer gets a third nomination, or if it's DeSatan, or somebody else, that the election is just too important to vote outside the duopoly. Funny, these are the same people who say that climate change is THE issue of our lifetime. Which is it?

November 30, 2022

Coronavirus week 129: ProPublica stands by latest lab leak story

About a month ago, Pro Publica, working jointly with Vanity Fair, reported on a Senate committee's minority report on the latest work on the idea that coronavirus, as in SARS-CoVID-2, originated in the human public from a lab leak at Wuhan Institute of Virology. I blogged about that at the time it came out.

Well, per updates to that post, it got LOTS of pushback. Not all of it was from St. Anthony of Fauci fellating BlueAnon tribalists, but a fair amount certainly was.

I don't know if Vanity Fair has said anything in response, but, ProPublica now has.

ProPublica HAS COMPLETED a review of its initial reporting, and generally stands by it, and specifically totally stands by it on anything of consequence, including Toy Reid's translation work.

Since that was the No. 1 criticism from the tribalists (and others), this:

We commissioned three Chinese language experts with impeccable credentials who were not involved in the original story to review Reid’s translation. They all agreed that his version was a plausible way to represent the passage, though two also said they would have translated the words to refer to the dangers of day-to-day lab operations. The third produced a translation that was in line with Reid’s. All agreed the passage was ambiguous. We have updated the story to underscore the complexity of interpreting that dispatch.

Sounds pretty straightforward.

Bigger issue No. 2:

We continue to see our story as a measured exploration of the array of questions raised about the WIV’s laboratories. The possibility that a biosecurity breach at the WIV occurred, and sparked the pandemic, remains plausible.

Indeed it is. And, with St. Anthony of Fauci's retirement and the air-kisses he's getting, this is important.

And sorry, tribalists, Pro Publica's not going away on the issue, either:

We plan to keep reporting on this issue and expect new evidence to emerge. It is our view that both the natural-spillover and laboratory-accident hypotheses for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic merit continued investigation. Given the human toll, which continues to mount, it is imperative that we continue this work.

Deal with it.

Minor corrections relate to the timing and details of China's Zhou Yousen filing a patent for a vaccine. ProPublica notes others filed earlier claims, but these were all provisional, indicating they wanted patents for planned future research. 

The complete addendum follows up on the second and third pull quotes. It stresses it, including via medical experts it has interviewed in the past and for this addendum, that it does not believe it has a lab-leak theory smoking gun. But it stresses that its experts see the lab-leak idea as plausible enough to indeed warrant further, ongoing investigation.

And, there's the tribalism issue. See this:

(A)s interviews with other scientists before and after publication have made clear, the question is far from resolved. In their view, there is not enough evidence to establish how the virus first reached the now-infamous Wuhan market or to assert that zoonotic spillover is the sole possible explanation for the pandemic’s origin.'
(Jesse) Bloom, the virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, is among those scientists. “I’ve never seen anything as controversial as this in my field,” he said. “The amount of toxicity is out of control. Each side feels uniquely wronged. To me, it remains an open question.”

Agreed. And, it does cut both ways, especially outside the professional science world, and into the Twitterati of #MAGA vs #BlueMAGA.

Part of that, often from #MAGA but not always so, is the move from a lab-leak hypothesis to claims about weaponization. I noted that this has not always been "MAGA," and blogged specifically about leftist Sam Husseini making empirically unsubstantiated AND logically unlikely claims to this end. My refutation of him applies to both MAGAts and to horseshoe-theory leftists. There's no way China would have done weapons work at a lab built with large French assistance. As with the old USSR, there's no way they would have mixed medical research with weaponization. That's true of the old US, as well.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Hotez is a tribalist and twosider on the lab leak. Bigly, starting with attacking non-wingnut Richard Burr over the Senate minority committee report, coming off as a kinder, gentler Orac:

And this isn't new from Hotez, as his Twitter feed and stories will show.

Not at all. As I said in quote-Tweeting that first tweet, he's lost some serious credibility in my book. I noted that Alina Chan, Scott Gottlieb and Jaime Metzl, among others, are not members of Congress (and by extension, not chuckleheads or uneducated). May blog just about that.

No, Bernie Bros didn't start the Seth Rich conspiracy theory

Sorry, or rather, "sorry," to Jeff St. Clair of Counterpunch, but contra your Tweet

That might be simplistic, and Andy Kroll doesn't seem to say that in his new book. Rather, per Axios, he makes it clear that it was launched by Assange.

What was the moment the Seth Rich story began to spin out of control? 
I would pinpoint that moment to August of 2016. I would place it very specifically on an interview that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gave to a Dutch radio station.

I do recall that some Berners had some part in trying to amplify it. Launch might be too harsh, whether Kroll covers that elsewhere in the book or not. (I do intend to get it, whenever my library should have it.)

Note the "some" is in bold, and they're probably no more than 10 percent. And, that's "amplify," not "start." Sorry, Jeff, but in this case you sound like you're amplifying Hillbots' conspiracy theory about all Berners. And, on its effects in the 2016 general election? Contra Hillbots like Amanda Marcotte at Slate, Hillary's PUMAs in 2008 defected from Obama in bigger numbers than Berners did from Clinton in 2016. And, even Marcotte admits that other people than Berners were playing it up at the start.

As I told Jeff, I had done a Google Trends long ago, as noted in my Assange and Guccifer 2.0 longform, and the "takeoff" of the conspiracy theory indeed corresponds with Assange offering a reward for Seth Rich's murderers and framing it in a way to imply the DNC did it.

As far as "starting" it? Michael Isikoff reminds me and St. Clair both that Russia's SVR (Internet Research Agency) "started it." 

This, then, per my "longform" link, leads back to the issue of whether or not Assange was lying back in 2016 when he said the leaked emails didn't come from Russia. I'm at least 90 percent certain he was lying and quite willingly, and thus, contra my original tweet which St. Clair was quote-tweeting, itself a quote tweet of an Assangista, Julian Assange is far less than 100 percent honest.

The book does sound interesting, I will say. At the same time, does it have THAT MUCH new compared to Isikoff's 2019 longform? We'll see.

Former prosecutor Deborah Sines, per Isikoff, confirms my other hunch, that the murder was in all likelihood drug-related. Now, the question there, is, was this totally mistaken identity or similar, or is there something else about Seth Rich that we may never know?

November 29, 2022

Texas Progressives: Bits and pieces

Off the Kuff looks at the mishigoss over provisional ballots in Harris County, which for now at least resulted in a favorable ruling for counting them all. 

SocraticGadfly looks at the Pro Publica/Vanity Fair longform on the likelihood of the WIV lab leak hypothesis for COVID, and notes it's comprehensive and holds up well, some tribalist-type pushback aside.

Why is Herschel Walker still not only claiming, but getting, a homestead exemption here in Tex-ass even though he registered to vote in Georgia a year ago, contra wingnuts?

Steve McCraw, grifting off Uvalde for more DPS dinero from the Lege.

Immigrationmonger Joe's Border Patrol has done at least 372 cases of family separations, all in violation of federal policy. What has he said? Done? You know the answer. 

Meet the Houston Catholic immigrant refugee site still publishing Dorothy Day's old paper, The Catholic Worker.

Gohmert Pyle is not going quietly into the lame-duck night.

Biden is ready to kowtow to whomever Netanyahu puts in his new cabinet.

RIP Funky Winkerbean.

Happy 100th, Charles M. Schultz.

Texas Monthly tries to explain the year in book banning.

The San Antonio Report brings news of a successful attempt to use drones to transport donor organs within Texas and Oklahoma.

The Texas Observer attends Denton's Trans Pride Fest.

 Steve Vladeck explains his family's Thanksgiving traditions.

November 28, 2022

The EU boo-hoos about Biden; I boo-hoo back

The EU complains of Warmonger Joe's war profiteering off natural gas prices (while also attacking the Inflation Reduction Act as trade protectionism). Both are true, but? What are you going to do? Talk is cheap and don't feed the bulldog. In the case of the former, Germany, especially, knew something like this could have happened. Speaking of, what is post-Brexit UK charging for its North Sea natural gas?

On the latter, the answer is simple. On green energy subsidies, pass your own version of an "Inflation Reduction Act."

Beyond that? YOU signed off on sending arms to Ukraine yourself; not American warmongers' fault if you can't mong fast enough.

Beyond that, and more seriously? Your two leading nations gave Zelenskyy blank checks when he refused to implement the Minsk Accords.

More on why Marxism is pseudoscience

I've written about this before, from the deductive side. Hegelian dialectic, in addition to being crappy philosophy, is pseudoscience by its very nature when made into the backbone of any scientific theory. (This sets aside the issue that economics in general at the time of Karl Marx was close to pseudoscience.)

Now, we have something new from the inductive and empirical side. Joe Costello, whose dad droned decades as a hollowed out (Eliot's Hollow Men) factor worker, notes that Marx's definition of who the industrial proletariat is (or was in Marx's time) was totally made up, trying to apply Roman peasant farming to the 19th century industrial world.

Understanding the history of labor, socialism, and Marx is like opening one of those Russian Matryoshka dolls, one nestled inside the other. Obviously, the industrial labor force was created by industrialism. However, socialism's agrarian roots preceded industrialization. Marx used industrialization to redefine socialism, wrongly claiming his socialism was scientific as opposed to its “utopian” forebears.
Marx's thinking had all sorts of wrong headed ideas and fatal flaws. First, in one of the great misreading’s of history, he relabeled industrial labor, “the proletariat.” A term derived from the Ancient Roman republic, proletariat was a census designation for economically disenfranchised citizens, who did nothing but “reproduce.” For most of the republic's history, Rome was largely comprised of small farmer citizens, but as its empire grew, land ownership was increasingly consolidated. Ever more in debt and away fighting the latest war, the majority of small farmers lost their land to ever larger entities, then ended up in Rome. Here they became the proletariat, an economically disenfranchised, politically enfranchised citizenry reliant on the state for food, housing, and entertainment.

Costello doesn't stop there, though.

He also faults "the Old Moor" for not considering inputs beyond labor, most notably energy. Given how steam power launched the Industrial Revolution, this is a worthy ding. He also notes that capitalistic change, and capitalistic control, extends far beyond the "means of production." Give the whole thing a read.

Back on my site, there's also the angle of the "no true Scotsman" card being played by Marxists today.

November 25, 2022

Obama flunky tries to spin tale of Blue Texas

Josh Simpkins at the Observer tries to spin a tale of Texas, and the South, as more bluish than is actually true. Most his anecdotes are undercut by reality. With Huckleberry J. Butchmeup, aka Lindsay Graham's, 15-week abortion bill, that was US Senate, not South Carolina Lege, and Mitch McConnell (rightly, it would seen) didn't want that being a midterm election issue. Virginia and abortion? It's a purplish-blue state where Youngkin was elected governor over a Clinton retread seeking a second term. Polling on abortion is notoriously subjective. As for what Texas voters say they want in terms of things like Uri relief? They didn't vote that way. But, when you're a former Dear Leader flunky who also has Aspen Institute ties, per his editorial tagline, directly or indirectly, you're paid to spin tales like this.