SocraticGadfly: 7/17/22 - 7/24/22

July 22, 2022

Not sure about this Ace Rental Car

I'm taking vacation in a couple of weeks.

Got my plane tickets some time ago, then, over rental car prices at my original destination (a possible domino effect from the Yellowstone floods) wound up changing destinations.

I usually worry about getting a rental car immediately after locking in a flight, though I do look at rental car prices for several different possible destination airports when flying in the Western US, while perusing flights at the same time. Lesson learned, if this wasn't a one-off.

Anyway, will be cutting work close on Friday of vacation start with the change in destinations being an earlier Friday night departure, but I'll be OK.

I switched while perusing rentals, and got a MUCH better deal.

OK, now, to Ace.

Usually, a couple of weeks after getting a rental (and I will pay the extra total cost in exchange for free cancellation if not an outlandish difference), I go back to Travelocity or Expedia and look again.

Well, up pops this Ace, and more than $100 cheaper than my original price.

I'd never heard of them before.

Supposedly, they're a LOT smaller than the other boys, but they truly are independent — not part of Avis, Hertz or Enterprise. (Sixt, in case you're wondering, is German, and bought "gates," if you will, in the US from bankrupt Advantage for its most recent expansion.) But, they, Ace, allegedly only have 59 sites. Or is it 300+, per Wiki?

Well, that's a red flag there, if we don't have agreement on that. Or maybe it's 59 in the US and 300+ overall.

Another red flag? Why didn't I see them a month ago?

Another red flag? ALL of their SUVs? Same price. AND, less than a compact car or the "dealer's choice" mystery car.

Another red flag? Apparently LOTS of hidden fees they try to foist on you, based on these reviews. Also, having Googled "Ace Rent A Car," it looks like there may be a lot of independent contractors signed up under Ace's name. Another red flag.

Final red flag? Per the "our story" at their own website? AND? Contra that "supposedly" link? They sold out to Avis a few years back. In other words, they're probably Avis' loss-leader/come-on division. 

And, a bigger oops? Unless I entered the hours of arrival and departure on my flight wrong, Travelocity misled me. They're closed at the time I would arrive at that airport. (Option B may be that, when I officially booked my car, I entered a later time for "cushion.") No wonder they're so fucking cheap. Closed at 9 p.m. weeknights in an airport that size? If my flight were late, I'd be up shit creek.


July 21, 2022

Coronavirus Week 116: BA.2.75 and Bye Bye Fauci!

First, yes, there's yet another Omicron variant on the horizon. Katharine Wu talks about that and other Omicron evolutionary tricks at The Atlantic.


Orac (David Gorski) rails against doomsday slingers who claim you can get reinfected every two weeks. May not be true; but will he and a co-politicizer of Bidenism/Blue Anon respond to my sending them last week's post, where Australian public health officials said you CAN get reinfected every four weeks? Probably not. Orac's a tribalist, beyond his original tribalism, on all things Dem in general I think, and definitely, re COVID, on things like the lab leak hypothesis and St. Anthony of Fauci ...

Who is ...


Saying bye-bye! And we'll wave back. Now, it might be two full years or more, but good riddance to the man who told a Platonic noble lie about masking early in 2020, which undermined his medical high ground (MAGAts might well have mostly ignored him anyway, but reaching 5 percent more of them than he actually did would have been something). This, in tern, was part of larger Trump-like minimalization of COVID. He and then followed that with further, less Platonic and more ignoble lies, like his Overton window shifting on percentages needed for "herd immunity," or his flat-out lies by definition on gain-of-function research.

As for Fauci decrying politicization? Yes, Trump, Rand Paul and others did it much more than him, but, contra his "who, me?" pose, he's not innocent. And, like Orac, he's claimed that everybody who doesn't agree with him are rejecting "data and science" and are "conspiracy theorists." Wrong, oh butt-hurt bureaucratic infighter.

As for tribalism on COVID? Teynep Tufekci, who was among the first to call out Fauci's Platonic noble lie on masks, has also called out COVID tribalism in general.

Monkeypox: It's out the door, Gottlieb says

I still don't think our worry level needs to be as high as Jessica Wildfire had it a month ago, but ...

Former FDA head Scott Gottlieb (who pleasantly surprised me there and is one of many non-Orac professionals who thinks the lab-leak hypothesis on COVID needs a further look) thinks there are thousands of cases we don't know about, and used the word "endemic":

“I think they’re going to be reluctant to use the word pandemic, because it implies that they’ve failed to contain this, and I think at this point we’ve failed to contain this,” Gottlieb told CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan.
“We’re now at the cusp of this becoming an endemic virus, with this now become something that’s persistent that we need to continue to deal with,” he added.

That's just the first in a set of comments that needs extracting. Next is the possible undercounting:

Although cases have primarily been detected among men who has sex with men, Gottlieb says the virus has “spread more broadly in the community,” and the current reported trends are in part because testing has focused on sexual health clinics. 
“We’re probably detecting just a fraction of the actual cases,” he said.

And, the biggie? The "horses are already out the board door":

“I think the window for getting control of this and containing it probably has closed, and if it hasn’t closed, it’s certainly starting to close,” he added.


July 20, 2022

Texas Progressives talk SS Texas Democrats, Uvalde and more

SocraticGadfly calls out the "Deep in the Heart" Texas wildlife film for Texas exceptionalism and greenwashing, among other things.

Off the Kuff has the first fully post-Dobbs poll to analyze. 

Stace gives us his take on the FLOTUS taco controversy and how Dems lose opportunities to capture Latino votes.

Several items up on Uvalde. First, the problems and screw-ups keep looking bigger. The AP adds on with "egregiously poor decision-making."  Second, and related, and why I back red-flag laws (which have to be applied, of course), unlike Green gubernatorial Delilah Barrios opposing them by her silence, Salvador Ramos was identified as being "at risk," with good reason, a year before the shooting. And, local residents (rightly) are tired of finger-pointing. Third? The Uvalde cop with the "Punisher" logo on his phone in the "infamous" Twitter pic? Husband of Eva Morales, a Robb teacher killed in the shooting. The Monthly has more.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial's Wall of Remembrance is riddled with errors.

San Antonio's city government hates birds.

The Observer talks criminalized abortion, on what we know pre-Roe and what we can guess about post-Roe.

Mark Pitcavage corrects the title of a new HBO show.

The TSTA blog reminds us that a revenue windfall for Texas is only good news for public schools if the Legislature sees fit to make it good for them.

The Dallas Observer notes that the Texas Secretary of State is still a Big Lie aficionado.

The Austin Chronicle sums up Ken Paxton's latest threat to society

Steve Vladeck documents how the state of Texas has hand-picked the judges hearing most of its 27 challenges to Biden administration policies.

The SS Democrats in the header is the state party re-electing Gilberto Hinojosa as boss.

July 19, 2022

Notes on the ongoing Tex-ass heat and drought

Several items on the heat wave.

First, it's going to be here another full month, in all likelihood, as is the drought. So, ERCOT may still suck, but you need to still conserve.

Matter of fact, per a great new book, if you actually are a Texas environmentalist, if you're going to talk the talk, you SHOULD be conserving rather than adding to climate change by using more AC. If not, you're a neoliberal capitalist hypocrite. So, how low is the AC set at state headquarters of national Gang Green environmental groups like Sierra Club? Is it 72F? Or 74? Or 76? How well insulated is the office?

Third, even though Tex-ass and its Lege haven't passed a "feed-in tariff" law for rooftop solar (where your local power company pays you for excess juice; most actual Western states have one), solar in the state has doubled in just a year and is helping out. (long read) Sadly, per that long read? ERCOT's gone Wayne Christian and blamed wind power, even though its production was within norms for this time of year.

Fourth? If you're a Californicator who's a recent move here? Deal with it and don't add to the problem.

Fifth? For now at least, thank doorknob, the crypto bros are heeding ERCOT's conservation calls

Sixth? If you're a homeowner and watching your power bills soar? Blame Rethuglicans in the Texas Legislature. A few years ago, along with banning local governments' ability to battle plastic bags and other environmental issues, the Lege barred local governments from setting building standards. In other words, your town or county if you bought a McMansion in an unincorporated area, CANNOT require D.R. Horton et al to have minimum insulation, double-paned or triple-paned windows or anything else.

July 18, 2022

Hinojosa remains captain of SS Texas Democrats

I would say that the Texas Democratic Party decided to stay with the captain of a sinking ship, but Gilberto Hinojosa never did raise the SS Texas Democrats from the bottom of the Gulf in the past decade and probably won't in the future. So, he's still at the helm. Not that Kim Olson would have been a lot better. The fact that that Olson refused to criticize him during her challenge says something right there.

I blogged about the race, and "somebody" resurrecting a 4-year-old assault claim against Olson, in April. As for the third candidate, Carroll G. Robinson, knocked out after the first round? I had little truck for him, as also noted in that piece.

As a non-duopolist, it's no huge skin off my back, but Hinojosa's apparently belief that demographics is destiny and thus that, like Herbert Hoover, victory is just around the corner, hasn't spoken much for him. I've called that out for nearly a decade. But, when your options are a pretentious lawyer whose support may not be deep past a few but not all Black Democrats, and a ConservaDem career military officer with missteps, your bench for running the party is no deeper than your bench for statewide Democrats.

And, I've never seen an explanation on why Hinojosa bailed on a state appeals court position to run for county judge. Did he see the GOP wave and know that either the Court of Criminal Appeals or state Supremes was out of reach?

Bon voyage!

July 17, 2022

Saudi Peak Oil is here!

Or, to be more precise, the announcement that is will be here in 2027 is now here. That's straight from the spavined mule's mouth of Muhammad bin Salman, who announced as part of the Biden Suck-Up Summit that Saudi oil production would max out in 2027 at 13 million barrels per day. OilPrice notes that Saudi Aramco can't ramp up faster than that. It also notes that other Gulf states don't have as much spare capacity as they've often claimed in the past. 

Sidebar: This why the Saudis say they won't seriously ramp up production without the agreement of OPEC+. Remember, warmongering Democrats, that that "+" is Russia. And, per that OilPrice peach, Riyadh and Moscow seem to be, and claim to be, on relatively good oil terms right now.

Even if you're not one of the Merikkkans who think oil is a divine righ, know that this is another issue where I as a third party voter don't see much daylight between Rethuglicans and Democraps.

For example, Obama's vaunted EPA gas mileage standard increases? First, they let SUVs continue to go by lesser pickup mileage standards and even allowed the gap between the standards to widen. Dear Leader also allowed a massive loophole for flex-fuel vehicles. And, how many of you actually put E85 in your Ford Edge that's labeled as dual fuel? Here's a list of that and other loopholes. Note that that link contradicts neoliberal Dems who say that Europe and Japan rely primarily on much higher fuel taxes to force more efficiency; actually, they also have mileage standards that beat ours. More here on what's wrong with the E85 loophole and the calculation behind it.

And, related to THAT?

Sidebar 2: Democrats' ripoff version of the #GreenNewDeal officially has "oily" hands, and like Dear Leader's energy strategy, is "all of the above.

“This president seems to be incapable of doing any of the hard work which needs to be done for the American people,” said Corbin Trent, co-founder of the No Excuses PAC and former spokesman for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “We need an all-encompassing US energy policy … a Green New Deal — which includes gas and oil.”

See paragraph 3, above. (Of course, per new DNC policy, he's pushing against an open door.)

And related to THAT?

Sidebar 3: Trent, also founder of Justice Democrats (blech) has shown an amazing ability for grifting while claiming to promote pergressuve Dems. He probably learned some of that from his boss, whose "origin story" has gotten a critical examination in these pages before."


Is this "real," or just MBS posturing?

Years and years ago, I was a regular commenter at, and occasional contributor to, the old Oil Drum website on peak oil issues. Still remember Jerome á Paris, Going West and others. One big item of discussion there on a regular basis was just how much, and how quickly, the Saudis could ramp up Ghawar. We have an answer, it seems.

As for the theory of Peak Oil? King Hubbert based his calculations on rational economic actors, but capitalist greed doesn't work that way. The Wall Street quants et al who lost their shirts in the Permian, along the "tragedy of the commons" greedy idiot drillers, did nothing to disprove peak oil. Beyond that, per Wiki's chart, we never actually have passed the 1970 peak anyway. (Red is his idealized projection, green is actual.)

World peak oil, as also discussed at The Oil Drum, was kind of a mug's game due to lack of transparency in most OPEC nations and beyond.