SocraticGadfly: 10/9/22 - 10/16/22

October 14, 2022

Hey, Team Blue? Stop clutching your pearls over Madcow Maddow's unemployment hyping

Here's the reality behind that 3.5 percent September unemployment rate that she breathlessly pushed:

Employers added 263,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. It was the slowest month of hiring in 18 months, showing the red-hot job market is cooling slightly as the Federal Reserve hits the brakes on the economy. 
The unemployment rate fell to a 50-year low of 3.5% in September as businesses continued to hire from a shrinking pool of workers. The labor participation rate fell slightly, indicating fewer people are working or looking for a job.

There you go.

Yes, per the rest of the piece, it's still a tight job market. 

It may "loosen up" once we actually get into recession.

Meanwhile, the piece also notes that the hiring numbers have been sliding for a few months.

The job market has been weakening for the past few months, with the three-month average job gains shrinking from roughly 530,000 a month at the start of the year to 370,000 today. Job openings fell by more than a million in August, to the lowest level since June 2021.

Quitting? Home sales money to make that easier? Just "taking a break"?

Meanwhile, there's the final angle, as the piece also notes.

If the Fed sees the unemployment rate, by itself, as a sign that inflation is still untamed, it may jack interest rates yet again even as gas prices are back on the rise.

Add to the mix? The nation's No. 3 railroad union rejected the contract that Amtrak Joe brokered to head off the strike. Per that link, via Mike Elk, a strike isn't imminent; the degree of opposition isn't high enough. Four unions have ratified the deal, per the link; seven others are in the voting process of 12 total, leaving the Teamsters' sub-union as the first to vote no. Nothing is expected before Nov. 19, which puts it past the midterms.

So, even to the degree this might be good news for #BlueAnon for the midterms? It could be catastrophic after that.

October 13, 2022

Coronavirus week 123: Are there legitimate, non-conspiratorial reasons to discuss "Big Pharma"?

Kaiser Health News, an outlet of the Kaiser Family Foundation, representing a hospital biz that ain't exactly small potatoes, raised that issue relatively recently.

I included the link, without extracting details, in my blog post about "vaccine losers" last month.

That, in fact, needs separate linking, for these people, to quote this paragraph:

(A)s society moves into the next phase of the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry may be moving into more familiar territory: developing products that may be a smidgen better than what came before, selling — sometimes overselling — their increased effectiveness in the absence of adequate controlled studies or published data, advertising them as desirable for all when only some stand to benefit significantly, and in all likelihood raising the price later. 
This last point is concerning because the government no longer has funds to purchase covid vaccines after this autumn. Funding to cover the provider fees for vaccinations and community outreach to those who would most benefit from vaccination has already run out. So updated boosters now and in the future will likely go to the “worried well” who have good insurance rather than to those at highest risk for infection and progression to severe disease.

What else do you want to be said? 

Maybe that other countries, as the story notes, do a non-wingnut version of cost-benefit analysis in such cases? OR that, to riff on Offit, vaxxes in general were oversold a full year ago, and now the vaccine public health world, less skeptical division, is sleeping in the bed it made?

And, from that same piece, here is more of why, contra "Your Local Epidemiologist" but per the likes of Paul Offit, you should be skeptical.

The updated booster vaccine formulations are identical to the original covid vaccines except for a tweak in the mRNA code to match the omicron BA.5 virus. Studies by Pfizer showed that its updated omicron BA.1 booster provides a 1.56 times higher increase in neutralizing antibody titers against the BA.1 virus as compared with a booster using its original vaccine. Moderna’s studies of its updated omicron BA.1 booster demonstrated very similar results. However, others predict that a 1.5 times higher antibody titer would yield only slight improvement in vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic illness and severe disease, with a bump of about 5% and 1% respectively.

So, a 5 percent boost, on average for all ages, from the mighty bivalent booster, especially if you're uninsured or underinsured? Why doesn't alleged left-liberal Walker Bragman talk about that angle? And, yeah, he's going to get hammered here as long as he doesn't.

Note the "all ages," per the cost-benefit issue not done here. Because:

As population immunity builds up through vaccination and infection, it’s unclear whether additional vaccine boosters, updated or not, would benefit all ages equally. In 2022, the U.S. has seen covid hospitalization rates among people 65 and older increase relative to younger age groups. And while covid vaccine boosters seem to be cost-effective in the elderly, they may not be in younger populations. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices considered limiting the updated boosters to people 50 and up, but eventually decided that doing so would be too complicated.

So, the likes of Bragman and Katelyn Jetalina should stop pushing the bivalent for people under 50.

But, they DID study it on mice, didn't they?

Well, good biological scientists know that mice research data is often not worth the serum it's written with. So does this piece:

Though the studies of the updated omicron BA.5 boosters were conducted only in mice, the agency’s authorization is in line with precedent: The FDA clears updated flu shots for new strains each year without demanding human testing. But with flu vaccines, scientists have decades of experience and a better understanding of how increases in neutralizing antibody titers correlate with improvements in vaccine effectiveness. That’s not the case with covid vaccines. And if mouse data were a good predictor of clinical effectiveness, we’d have an HIV vaccine by now.

Ooops. I sank your battleship.

And, there's more. And, if you will, I buried the nut graf:

Unfortunately, history shows that — as with other pharmaceutical products — once a vaccine arrives and is accompanied by marketing, salesmanship trumps science: Many people with money and insurance will demand it whether data ultimately proves it is necessary for them individually or not. ... 
The federal government has been paying a negotiated price of $15 to $19.50 a dose of mRNA vaccine under a purchasing agreement signed during the height of the pandemic. When those government agreements lapse, analysts expect the price to triple or quadruple, and perhaps even more for updated yearly covid boosters, which Moderna’s CEO said would evolve “like an iPhone.” To deploy these shots and these dollars wisely, a lot less hype and a lot more information might help.

There you are.

Bragman offers enough left-liberal bona fides elsewhere that he needs to stop being a two-sider tribalist on this issue, as in tribalist of antivaxxers vs "COVID maximalists" or whatever term you prefer.

October 12, 2022

Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina are gone; unfortunately, Marmol will be back

I mean, just a year after the Cardinals fired Mike Shildt, they're not firing Oliver Marmol, his replacement as manager. Other than being a good yes-man to John Mozeliak and Mike Girsch on player management decisions, he's a minority manager, and other things.

That's not to say that his playoff management isn't more cringe-worthy, arguably FAR more cringe-worthy, than what some fans attacked Shildt for a year ago, listed in the above link.

Looking at Game 1 of the wild card alone, per Bernie Miklasz, there's a clusterfuck full of errors.

In brief, the four biggest?

Yanking Jose Quintana after just 75 pitches;

Related to that, expecting Ryan Helsley to produce a five-out save in any circumstances.

Assuming that doctors clearing Hensley to pitch meant he was at 100 percent.

Playing the infield in during the ninth inning.

Miklasz has more, saying Marmol both over-managed and under-managed. Makes you wonder if playoff pressure got to him. 

He's also not afraid to slay retiring sacred cows. Bernie asks why wasn't Yadi frantically trying to get Marmol's attention, saying something is wrong with Helsley.

He also notes the team's playoff struggle isn't entirely new. Going back pre-Shildt, to the Mike Matheny era, ever since the 2013 World Series, the Cardinals have pretty much spit the bit in the postseason, he says.

October 11, 2022

What's next for Tulsi Gabbard?

In announcing she was leaving the Democraps, Tulsi Gabbard did not say whether she would become a true Independent, a Rethuglican, a capital-L Libertarian, or a Green. (This ex-Green shudders at the possibility of her joining the Green 2024 presidential field. I'm an ex-Green for current political purposes, but no, not a Democrap. But, I still eye Greens. And I'll cut her less slack than I did Cynthia McKinney in 2008.)

So, I took her to the house in this Twitter thread this afternoon. And, a lot of people that should know better, and should have known better long ago (some are likely grifters, getting paid to pretend not to know better, or paid to peddle the Kool-Aid, per my photoshopping) went to that woodshed:

We start here:

One thing, beyond these tweets, is that the malign influence of her homophobic Svengali, Chris Butler, is still in the background on her attacks on "wokeness." There are some times when the "woke" world is wrong, as when I talk about "wrongfully woke." Usually, it's connected to capitalism. Tulsi's failure to make such a connection also proves, contra people named below, that she's no lefist.

Then:

And, yes, she did, even to the point of speaking at one of Hagee's events. It ties with her Islamophobia, or Islamo-hatred, as a "good" Hindutva-fascist.

And:

Next:

Per the above, it's totally explicable. But, the Twerkers out there just don't want to admit it.

And:

I don't know who is worse at ruining Black Agenda Report since Bruce Dixon died, Haiphong or Margaret Kimberly. Maybe it's a tie. You can search here for Haiphong by name to see why I say this about him in particular.

Then:

Gravel never did surprise me, especially when his Berner campaign managers tried to stage-manage him for public consumption and failed. You can search Gravel's name on here, like Haiphong's.

This:

Whatever they're saying is at least 50 percent bullshit by Taibbi and of course more from Glennwald. Interestingly, Matt's not said anything yet. He's still going off (more rightly than wrongly) about Bernanke getting a share of the Nobel in economics. That said, it's not totally rightly, as his prize award is from work that pre-dates the Great Recession.

==

That said, this ex-Green know that she's not totally wrong about Dems. Let's look at some of the highlights, starting with:

It’s now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers

Erm, Rethuglicans, for the most part, as well as Democraps, are voting for arms for the Ukrainian arms bazaar. 

Then this:

driven by cowardly wokeness

Was dealt with above.

This one: 

who divide us by racializing every issue & stoking anti-white racism

Is dogwhistling. She's pretty well shot herself out of the Green Party sweepstakes (if anybody pays attention to her in 18 months). Given the Mises takeover of the Libertarian National Committee, she may find a home there ... in a cracking-up LP.

This one?

who actively work to undermine our God-given freedoms enshrined in our Constitution

Mises LPers or Rethugs might sign off on it. Anybody who actually knows the Constitution knows it's bullshit.

But, as I said on one of my Tweets? Note to the Religious Right: WHAT God does Tulsi have in mind for these "God-given freedoms"? Krishna? Vishnu? Hanuman? Ganesha?

For people mentioning Nikki Haley or Bobby Jindal? Haley's Christian, though raised Sikh. Jindal was attacked on his religion in his 2003 guv run, by ignoramuses, as he's self-described as an "evangelical Catholic," though born Hindu.

Gabbard, on the other hand? Never "de-converted." And, she was actually born into a "bi-religious" family. An old Atlantic profile has more. It notes that she's said that a Hindu-American could become president, in her eyes. Sadly, the piece says nothing about Chris Butler.

==

Update: I've seen speculation about a Constitution Party future. From the party's point, with its version of Mises vs non-Mises Libertarian infighting in the not too distant past, it would likely jump at this for the exposure .... if it swallowed at least as hard as Republicans on her Hinduism.

Per comments at Independent Political Report and Third Party Watch, the idea that being a woman wouldn't handicap her as a Rethug? Tell me how many women have been in leadership positions there compared to Democraps.

==

Update the main: Apparently she hasn't read the Rethuglican press clippings. Or, more likely, she has a degree of anti-librul venom, like a Candace Owens, that she just doesn't care. If she's campaigning for and endorsing an election denier like Kari Lake, then spiting Democrats is the first thing on her mind.

Texas Progressives talk Uvalde, Operation Lone Star and more

I had said on Twitter, just before they got results, that protestors camped out at Uvalde ISD admin building needed to pull back and consider other tactics if this wasn't working, rather than carrying on without results. Well, the next day it got results. Not only is the whole Uvalde ISD police department suspended, two of its officers are on leave, including Lt. Miguel Hernandez, who is former Chief Pete Arredondo's right-hand man and who had hired a former DPS officer who was under investigation for local DPS response to the shooting. (More on that here.) AND, Superintendent Hal Harrell has announced his pending retirement.

True the Vote lost an important battle in the lawsuit against it, which took other weird twists last week as well.

Fort Hood to be renamed Fort Cavazos.

Beto-Bob may be right on wanting to junk the STAAR test. But, it would be outside his power, were he elected governor, to do it. So, is he that informed, or is this another Beto the Pander Bear? You can guess my stance.

The number of suicides in the Texas National Guard among those serving in Strangeabbott's Operation Lone Star is now 5 and total deaths 10. Those still alive and well are going to owe Uncle Sam a bunch of extra taxes due to state screw-ups.

SocraticGadfly says that a certain strain of environmentalists should should stop trying to push nuclear as part of the solution to the climate crisis.

The Observer profiles Harris County Attorney Christian Menafee. Flying under the profile of the county's ConservaDem DA, Kim Ogg, Menafee is doing, or trying to do, serious work on environmental justice. That includes suing the state whenever it goes counter to this.

Off the Kuff published interviews with Susan Hays, Democratic candidate for Ag Commissioner, and Luke Warford, Democratic candidate for Railroad Commissioner. 

Does California need a state gasoline reserve, kind of like the federal petroleum reserve? That is one of many options suggested in this LA Times piece that notes the formerly Golden State hugely needs SOMETHING, with its special antismog gas blends, to stop leaving itself so vulnerable to price and supply hiccups. Amy Meyers Jaffe, formerly here in Tex-ass at Rice, before that at Cal-Davis, and now at Tufts is right that addressing the affordable housing crisis, by lowering long-ass commutes and their gas guzzling, is part of the solution.

Texas 2036 published its fifth Texas Voter Poll to assess general attitudes about the state.

Paradise in Hell does another fine job translating Donald Trump.

The Texas Signal recaps the Ken Paxton Scandal catalog.

The TSTA Blog scorns the imposters who pretend to be addressing public safety and school security.

October 10, 2022

StoryGraph vs Goodreads — initial impressions

Two biggest advantages?

Not owned by the Yellow Satan of Amazon, and offers half-star, even quarter-star, reviews. And, speaking of, if Amazon's going to treat you like the Mafia for reporting fact-free reviews, since it's removed both the unlike button and the opportunity to comment? Fuck Amazon and delete your account, like I did.

A third big advantage is listed further down.

Chaotic neutrals?

Goodreads has friends, while StoryGraph has a community where you can find or create friends. (Nobody that I know of on Goodreads is over there yet.)

Storygraph lets you mark books as not finished, or 50 or 75 percent read. Nice, but you can say that in the review itself as well.

Not quite so good on StoryGraph?

Its tags (limited to five per book) vs Goodreads shelves. Sorry, this isn't even close. One "versus" comparison site claims StoryGraph has shelves; that was at first news to me, but I eventually realized that the "tags" button on the home page for a book has Goodreads' shelves imported. BUT? I don't see a way to create new ones.

Then, one weird one, with a sidebar.

Goodreads lets you do hyperlinks as well as other basic HTML type stuff in the review. Storygraph has a "Medium"-type editor where it's simple clicks for bold, italic, bullet lists, etc.

DOES NOT let you do hyperlinks. Not only, unlike a Medium or a Patreon, does it not have a menu button to click, but if you drop a correctly formatted "a=href" in the body of your review, it still won't run it as hypertext, and it ALSO will not convert your bare URL inside that into a clickable link.

And, it has no immediate plans to do so, though that's under long term possibilities. A "roadmap" link mentions other items.

That iself, with all the crowdsourcing about ideas as well as transparency on what's under discussion? HUGELY better than Goodreads.

Goodreads has a bulletin-board like feedback page. They'll have listed ideas similar to yours if posted, but they will also censor you. No, really. I posted asking about fractional-star reviews and it was hauled down.

When I first launched on StoryGraph, I was confused about a couple things, and I eventually DMed its Twitter account. Very responsive, and eventually, the person there said "Hit us up with other future ideas."

A "neither / nor"? Goodreads is all free, cuz ... owned by Yellow Satan. I don't see ads on there (some people say there's ads on there) from all the "internet condoms" I use. StoryGraph is like MeWe, the alternative to Facebook created from old Google+ floor sweepings. Its basic version is free, then it has a paid upgrade version. (Maybe things like "shelves" are on the paid version.) And, in any case, paying $50 a year doesn't appeal to me.

Content warnings? Meh. In fact, they make me think that StoryGraph is "woke," and that these are like "trigger alerts." And, a lot of other stuff appears pegged at the younger half of GenX if not Millennials. And, despite what StoryGraph told me on Twitter DM when it was first talking to me, a lot of it appears pitched more to fiction than nonfiction.

Another issue, where StoryGraph's cure is worse than the illness, possibly. Goodreads allows "review bombing" by people who haven't read a book. That said, I do it on occasion, most recently on a book about female ghosts of New England or something, where it was filed under "history" and "memoir." Since ghosts don't exist, I noted the book couldn't be either. I also "bomb" things like JFK conspiracy theory books, but I know the conspiracy theory isn't true. I consider this different from Trump Trainers bombing modern politics reviews. Well, StoryGraph lets you mark a book as "did not finish." You can then state way, but you CANNOT give it a rating. 

And, at least under the free plan, I don't see where you can either "like" or comment on others' reviews.

There's also Powell's Bookstore reviews, if, like StoryGraph, you don't want to benefit Bezosville but do want to help an actual bookstore. And, it's in "librul" Portland, Oregon, and has or had a reputation tied to that. Sadly, for people who think Goodreads is clunky compared to StoryGraph, Powell's is 10x clunkier compared to Goodreads. AND, it's not publicized or promoted. Like Firefox vs Google Chrome, Powell's has had a marketing opportunity bonanza and done nothing.

So, right now? On some reviews, though not all, I've been posting a full review only at StoryGraph then linking to that at Goodreads.