SocraticGadfly: 7/10/22 - 7/17/22

July 15, 2022

Coronavirus week 115: BA.5 and reinfection

Ed Yong has a good summary of what we know (and don't) about this Omicron subvariant.

First, despite an increased number of breakthrough infections on the vaccinated, he notes that this is still primarily a disease of the unvaccinated. And, it causes worse reinfections on those unvaccinated who were infected before than the vaccinated not infected before.

Second, no, it's not more transmissible than measles. In fact, it's no more transmissionble, or not much more, than the BA.2 subvariant and less than the original BA.1.

Now, Yong moves past the virus itself to politics.

He rightly notes that President Biden has "promoted" (Yong's word) laxer COVID policies.


Per Bill Clinton, with an arpeggio: "It's the economy before the election, stupid." (Yong also calls out other political leaders and some in media.) It's a different stanza of the same hymn that Trump was singing in 2020, #BlueAnon.

From there, Yong pivots back to the disease. Even months from now, he says, its "dull roar" level could still leave it twice as deadly as annual flu season.

Finally? Hope. New boosters that target BA.4 and BA.5 could be here by October. More on such boosters from a piece last month, before the FDA announcement on boosters and these variants. Of course, Omicron could have further mutated by then.

That said? Will there be any Biden Administration financial assistance for the uninsured to get boosted? Or will Neoliberal Joe just let them lump it?

As for a pan-coronavirus vaccine? Well, it's still just around the corner, but that corner looks closer than the ones for strong AI or nuclear fusion power.

As for the realities on the ground? I've seen multiple people masked (presumed infected) in the rural western portion of my county, population in area no more than 10,000.

And, one other thing new with BA.5? Reduced time for re-infection, now just 28 days, according to Australian health officials. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee is Oz's national public health decision-making committee.

The Mayo Clinic has more on all of this, including how this remains a disease of the unvaccinated, by at least 5 times.

July 14, 2022

Russia-Ukraine week 16B: Chomsky dialogues with, refutes Ukrainians

Specifically, a longform at Counterpunch has Noam Chomsky responding to four Ukrainian economists in the US and their previous critique of him, them responding to this response, and basically, a final wrap-up.

I say "refutes" because the introduction to the piece notes that the Gang of Four (sic) attributed to Chomsky a number of things he simply did not say. In other cases, he showed that statements of his that they claimed were false were actually true.

Then came an issue of whether "background" is relevant or not. This "background" in this case, as I noted in the Goldilocks Three Bears and Pope Francis calling for peace talks, is NATO siccing Ukraine on Russia, or as Francis said with a bon mot, NATO "barking" at Russia.

Specifically, the Gang of Four seemed to have

Strawmanned Chomsky on Crimea;

Conflated Ukrainian foreign policy free agency with the issue of proxy war;

Tried to minimize the broken NATO no-expansion promises on the "background" and also somewhat conflated his take on NATO with John Mearsheimer (who I think expresses it more strongly);

Strawmanned his presentation on peace talks (notably, that they require concessions by BOTH sides);

Simply rejected Chomsky's claim that it would be both hypocrisy and bad US geopolitics to haul Putin before the International Criminal Court when US presidents who could, and should, go there never will. On this, I'm totally with Chomsky, and definitely on the back geopolitics. This will only make the Chinas, North Koreas and Irans of the world retrench even more.

Outside of the above, per the author of the intro and editor of the piece, the Gang of Four seems disinclined to look at the reality of the Maidan, 2014 war in the Donbas, etc.

Given that of the Gang of Four, one is a visiting scholar at the NY Fed,another teaches at CCNY, a third teaches at Berkeley, and a fourth writes for the Ukrainian version of Vox, I'm sure that none of them will accept the conclusions of the Counterpunch piece. Both Chomsky (leftist duopolist, never forget), and Jeffrey Sommers tried.

Russia-Ukraine Week 16A: Refuting Medium shitposter Barry Gander

Refuting the lies of Barry Gander

And lies they are.

Some people who read foreign policy stories here are familiar with the Russia-bashing, Cold War mentality, facts-light stories of Barry Gander. (That’s not all he writes about; he comes off as a mainstream Democrats only “librul” [sic, to show the sarcasm dripping] who can’t think beyond that, especially on foreign policy.) This is an edited and expanded version of a comment to him in a thread where he called me an “apologist for Russia.”

Ahh, first the stupidity of twosiderism.

In this case, assuming that because I criticize your wrongness and fact-lite-ness, that I show Ukraine has a worse demographic crisis than Russia, and, going past that, that I criticize the US’ broken promises on NATO expansion and more, that I somehow am an “apologist for Russia.”

It’s twosiderism, simple-mindedness, and …a lie.

On twosiderism, as I often do on my blog, let me quote the philosopher Idries Shah:

‘To ‘see both sides’ of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.’ To ‘see both sides’ of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution.’

So, you might start with some learning there.

That said, some actual facts?

I said the other day that Ukraine is mentioned repeatedly in the Pandora Papers. That’s a fact; a reasonable derivative from that is that Ukraine is as corrupt as Russia. A fact, not just a reasonable derivative, is that Zelensky is basically about as corrupt as Putin. That and more, and all in a short read (the first original link is long) is all here.

As for Pope Francis being more honest than Joe Biden about NATO “Barking” at Russia? Right here with the Goldilocks 3 Bears of Kissinger on the right, the NYT editorial board on the center and Chomsky on the left, all supporting peace talks. (So does the Pope, by the way.) But, Gardner, I guess you support NATO fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian? (Ditto for others of his ilk.)

Oh, those broken promises over NATO expansion? Despite the lies (no other word for it) of a few nat-secs to claim no such promises were made? They were. Instead of a blog post, I’ll present you a review of Stephen Walt’s latest book.

Ukraine breaking the Minsk Agreements? Oh, those “apologists for Russia” at the BBC and Reuters, among other places? How DARE they mention this?! But, they do, as linked within this blog post.


What started this is his latest claim (repeated about every two weeks) that Russia’s in some massive demographic decline. I pointed out that, per Wiki, Ukraine is worse than Russia is on both birth rate and death rate, and between those and emigration, on population loss by percentage.

Then, he said Ukraine is some massive powerhouse economically compared to Russia. Taking the 2000–2020 period (which comes before the first post-Crimea Western sanctions on Russia and the first post-Maidan extra aid to Ukraine) Russia actually was performing as good or better than Ukraine. (I forgot to mention those caveats in that comment, or in my first response to Gander, when he went with a post-2015 period.

Contra another post of his, as shown by its exports, Russia is far more than "a gas station with trinkets." That post has the additional problem, as do some of his previous ones, of conflating the old USSR with post-breakup Russia and doing no economic adjustment. (Nor does Barry want to talk about the US, via the IMF and World Bank, and other things, giving more favorable treatment to China than to the old USSR or post-breakup Russia.)

Also refuting Barry? Warmonger Joe has actually stimulated Russia's economy. (Warmonger Trump before him helped.)

Gander is basically close to shitposter territory and I may just tell him that bluntly if he responds to my latest comment.

July 13, 2022

Few more quick post-Dobbs thoughts

First? Post-Dobbs, allegedly (important), vasectomy and tube-tying are surging in red states.

That story about the pregnant 10-year-old girl in Ohio reportedly denied an abortion there? I'm not saying it's not true, but per Glenn Kessler ... it comes off as iffy. And I'm more skeptical than him. The Indiana doctor to whom the girl was allegedly referred is the only source. She calls Ohio doctor a "child abuse doctor" according to Kessler. (He has the phrase in quotes himself.) I've never heard such a phrase used before. As I a newspaper editor know, said doctor in Ohio should have reported this to law enforcement. No such reports show up in Ohio's larger metro areas, says Kessler. Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indy doctor, won't name the name of the Ohio doc, or even where they're located. Again, I'm not saying it's untrue, but it is "iffy." 

I pulled both out of the Roundup for the week for bits of additional thought.

At one time, I would have said that libruls, or even left-librulz, at least those inside the duopoly, need to have their factual ducks in a row. Well, in the MAGA world, even if that mattered moderately with some Republicans in the past, it doesn't today.

Morally, though, you still need your facts in a row. 

Update on the Ohio-Indiana story: Ohio police have arrested Gerson Fuentes, who reportedly has confessed to the sexual assault. That WSJ piece is a long correction, and it gets a kudo. Judd Legum says the initial pall of high-level skepticism was all a right-wing smear campaign. My skepticism was not, and it came, per the original link about this piece, from Maddow's website. That said, with hindsight, especially over the antics of Ohio state AG Dave Yost, I can't blame Dr. Bernard for not naming the Ohio doctor.

Top blogging of June

A bit late, but reading was surely slow over the three-day Fourth of July weekend.

As usual, not all of the most popular posts were from June. Just, they got read then! In fact, the first two are not.

The first? It's from 2010, in fact, and is about the LEMON of the early Chevy Volt.

No. 2? About two and a half years ago, after Adam Silver instituted the play-in tournament for teams 7-10 in both NBA Eastern and Western Conferences, and I called out LeBron James and Luka Doncic for bitching about it.

No. 3? From last month, I said COVID likely has killed 2 MILLION in China, not the 5-15,000 it reports and that is uncritically repeated by Western health data sites.

No. 4? My thoughts on Californians Californicating Texas, who, moving here any time from fall 2020 to spring of this year, largely the tech-neolib types, specifically my thoughts on them having a mild summer last year and now shitting their pants and overstressing the electric grid with real Texas summer.

No. 5? The rest of the story behind that Putin-Macron phone call over Ukraine in February.

No. 6? The Fraud, I mean the Squad, showed their lack of true environmental bona fides by voting with all other House Dems for Biden's newest water program, which includes Ike Dike money for the anti-green Corps of Engineers.

No. 7? Totally different. My thoughts on the future of entry-level digital SLR cameras from Canon, Nikon and others.

No. 8? Back to Russia-Ukraine? Just who IS the Institute for the Study of War? Answers here.

No. 9? I noted that WHO still wants the "lab leak hypothesis" on COVID investigated further, even as a tribalist like Orac won't back off his initial claim that it's a conspiracy theory.

No. 10 and from late in the month? My callout of Texas Green Party gubernatorial candidate Delilah Barrios for being a Second Amendment absolutist, along with call out of her muse on this issue.

July 12, 2022

Texas Progressives talk heat, oil, world politics

Uvalde's mayor denied a research report that a city cop had a chance to shoot the Robb Elementary gunman. I suspect we're going to see more and more denials by both local and state officials in days and weeks ahead.

Odessa may be a small city, not a town, but it's not the largest place in Texas to have water outages from lines that are 50 years old or more. Drought adds to the problem on both water and sewer pipes that are older.

And, speaking of drought? Waco has skipped Stage 1 and gone straight to Stage 2 water restrictions.

So, Marlin hired a director of tourism? The dream of its former, land-grifting, now-booted mayor made true? And, Texas Monthly actually takes his "come visit" ask at semi-face value. Other interesting stuff. Former Mayor Pro Tem Scotty Henderson is featured as the barbecue pusher before Whup's, which does get a brief mention. Sure there's no PR there. And, there is now a "paranormal university" or whatever at the Palace Theater? And the "Coffee and Bites" is pushing CBD stuff hard? Just wow. Interestingly, there is NOT a mention of the Chinese folks who were allegedly kicking the tires on buying the Falls Hotel (No. 8, reportedly in the order of original Hiltons built by Conrad). There's a cursory mention of the old VA, but none of the Houston real estate grifters who bought it and tried to flip it.

Written on the just-passed Fourth, SocraticGadfly offers an expanded book review of "Oh Say Can You Hear, with an in-depth, nuanced take on the National Anthem, including the controversial third verse, and on Francis Scott Key. 

Off the Kuff discusses the two most recent polls of the Governor's race.

Stace ruminates (sort of) on his Thoughts on Viernes about migrant deaths, Abbott's border boondoggle, and the latest on COVID-19. I note that it's "interesting" that even Stace, Democratic stalwart, is getting tired of the "just get out and vote" cries by national Dems.

Can a candidate backed by Jack Danforth block Eric Greitens bid for the Missouri US Senate GOP nod?

Grits for Breakfast covers the history of prosecuting abortion charges in Texas, and notes that the criminal justice reform movement is ill-suited to handle this development.

James Moore delves into the mind of Greg Abbott.

Texas 2036 warns of the wildfire risk this year.  

Robert Rivard reminds us that the Highland Park mass shooter, like the Uvalde mass shooter, could have been stopped before they went on their rampages.  

Jay Jordan reported on a Houston anti-fascist group protecting a family drag show against anti-LGBTQ disrupters.

World items

Per Foreign Policy, of COURSE Merikkka's Nat-Sec Nutsacks™ are mourning the death of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, and the mourning is kind of loosely connected to full facts of Abe's ministerial life.

Chinese censorship at the behest of Xi Jinping Thought is leading to ever-increasing self-censorship at Hollywood movie studios targeting Chinese audiences just as much as American ones. (Of course, the piece ignores Hollywood studios' long history of being gung-ho for American militarism.)

July 11, 2022

Texas exceptionalism, wildlife style, in "Deep in the Heart" film

Sorry, Texas Observer, but color me meh about this new Texas wildlife video you tout. Ocelots are the only truly rare species to Texas. Egrets? All over the place in multiple species, along with their heron cousins. I've seen black bear multiple times in Big Bend.

Bison are only rare to Texas today because none of the larger wildlife refuges in this state, unlike Wichita Mountains on the other side of the Red, stock them. That's not to mention that if you're dumb enough to get close enough to a bison to risk goring, how much of an environmentalist are you?

 Talking about "rare animals like the ocelot" implies the others are rare, too. Ahh, it's narrated by McConaughey! Branding alert! On the movie itself, watching the trailer at its website? Unless "trivially" true, Matty, it's semi-true that "Texas gives life to animals found nowhere else." Don't cite the Kemp's ridley sea turtle; just as the ocelot is found in plenty in Mexico, the turtle is in other Gulf areas and the Atlantic as well.

The blind catfish is the one exception, and that's almost surely due to lack of looking for such a critter elsewhere. I'm sorry; according to a Florida Museum webpage, the "Mexican blindcat" is ... uh ... in MEXICO and per name and pix, it's blind and a catfish.

The trailer goes on to say, via chyron, "Texas' First Wildlife Movie." Folks, we're in the land of Texas exceptionlism! Sadly, not the first time the Observer has gone there. Bernard Rapoport's turning in his grave again.

Meanwhile, further down the homepage, the Texas exceptionalism (even though I've already busted it) comes out in spades:

Deep in the Heart is a visually stunning celebration of what makes Texas unique — its diverse landscapes and remarkable wildlife behavior that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Told through the eyes of wildlife species ranging from the mysterious blind catfish to the elusive mountain lion, the story follows our ever-changing relationship with the natural world and showcases our ability to destroy, conserve, and recover wildlife and the habitat we mutually depend on.

Oy. But, that's not all.

Look at the "partners." King Ranch? Wrecker of South Texas with overgrazing? Ranch scion Jay Kleburg, ex-GOP now ConservaDem candidate for land commish, is involved with the movie. How much did the King Ranch overgraze South Texas in the past? Another partner? The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. As in "Mr. Fracker." Sounds like greenwashing as well as Texas exceptionalism.

(The Mitchell Foundation was created in part for greenwashing, it appears. And in their backyard in The Woodlands, it succeeded years ago. But, despite George's background, the foundation's greenwashing and more makes it hated by wingnuts. OTOH, individuals at the foundation, per Open Secrets, contributed only to Democrats in the 2022 election cycle.)

Oh, but THAT's not all. Something I missed early on? Neoliberal capitalism!

You can by a book about the film for $45, which that one's probably not outrageous. But, a "gimme" ballcap for $25 or T-shirt for $30? High-grade bullshit.

Bernard's turning in his grave because the Observer crapped the bed on this one.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve hits brick wall of no refinery reserve

Warmonger Joe decided to counter high crude prices due to NATO barking at Russia tied to the Russia-Ukraine war thereafter, by opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve floodgates. Problem? As I knew myself, and Biden has yet to admit, US refinery capacity limitations mean much of that is going overseas.

Yep, we've drained the SPR by 20 percent and counting for that. Now the oil gurus note what I already note, that "oil is fungible." Yeah but strategic reserves are not. OTOH, per the second link, from Fox Biz, how many of you GOP wingnuts actually support the Goldilocks Three Bears on peace talks now? And, it is GOP wingnuts ranting that some of this oil is going to China.

Read more about the SPI, including previous sales or releases, at Wiki. (Oil from there has been sold before for deficit reduction; the GOP wingnuts who supported the Trump tax handouts to the rich that swelled the deficit won't tell you that.)

Strategery! Abounds with both duopoly parties, once again!