SocraticGadfly: 10/23/22 - 10/30/22

October 28, 2022

Coronavirus Week 125: The lab-leak theory gets validation

People like pseudoskeptic and tribalist deluxe Dr. David Gorski have LONG laughed and sneered at people like me who have said, citing people like Bill Clinton National Security Agency advisor Jaime Metzl and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, that the idea of COVID 19 originating from a lab leak in Wuhan, was a realistic possibility. Or well known public health and data analyst Zeynep Tufekci, who called out the Lancet letter saying it couldn't have been a lab leak.

Instead, Gorski et al called it a conspiracy theory, and conflated it, presumably deliberately, with the idea that COVID-19 was actually created in such a lab, and did so as an apparent smear.

The likes of him were abetted, albeit without smears, by the likes of David Dayen. (Unfortunately, the usually grounded leftist Sam Husseini DID conflate "lab leak" and "bioweaponizing.")

Well, they can now officially shut the fuck up, per Pro Publica. In conjunction with Vanity Fair (an interesting editorial partner for a story like this, but I digress), it has a story on a report by the minority membership of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. That report:

concludes that the COVID-19 pandemic was “more likely than not, the result of a research-related incident.”

There's your nut graf.

I'm sure the likes of Orac will, "more likely than not," respond with something like "minority report = Republicans."

My whole set of responses?

Toy Reid is clearly not a GOP operative;

Richard Burr isn't a total wingnut;

Pro Publica is reporting.

Pro Publica begins by establishing Reid's knowledge of, nay, fluency in, Mandarin, coupled with his knowledge of and appreciation for East Asian culture. It then notes his skill in translating "Party speak" by the Communist Party of China.

Reid says he was able to look at a variety of information already online from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and "translate" the "party speak" for new insights.

Party speak in a science lab? Yes:

Like many scientific institutes in China, the WIV is state-run and funded. The research carried out there must advance the goals of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As one way to ensure compliance, the CCP operates 16 party branches inside of the WIV, where members including scientists meet regularly and demonstrate their loyalty.

PP offers more details in the next graf of its story. Well, there's that. This also kneecaps the Rainier Sheas and Margaret Flowers of the more loony precincts of the left.

Reid says that WIV staff were scrambling to prove their scientific bona fides and value to party hacks and apparatchiks. This rings true per a site like Retraction Watch, where a large percentage of people with scientific research studies that don't pan out (or are fraudulent in some cases) are Chinese nationals.

AND, an apparent biosecurity breach Nov. 12, 2019.

Now, back up to refuting Orac and loony leftists:

Given advance access to hundreds of pages of the Senate researchers’ findings and analysis, Vanity Fair, in partnership with ProPublica, spent five months investigating their underlying evidence

So, they're not taking anybody's word on credit.

And, they're going beyond it, in fact:

Taken together, our reporting provides critical context that is not included in the pared-down 35-page interim report. It offers the most detailed picture to date of the months leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak, including new details on the intense pressure the lab faced to produce breakthrough research, its struggles to grapple with mounting safety issues and a previously unreported series of references to a mysterious incident shortly before the virus began infecting its first victims.

That's that.

That additional reporting includes getting other China experts to separately look at documents that Reid did. And, they signed off on his interpretation.

That includes that China apparently already started work on a vaccine in November 2019.

Read that again.

That includes that China apparently already started work on a vaccine in November 2019.

In other words, Xi Jinping has blood on his hands. (Some lab-leak denialists will point to Moderna working on a coronavirus vaccine even earlier. Yes, but it wasn't specific to COVID-19. And, it didn't work. And, AFAIK, China wasn't even working on a generic coronavirus vax before this time.)

Further confirming that this reporting is legit? Burr got the help of Dr. Robert Kadlec, an HHS careerist who, per what I've read on COVID, knew his shit on a variety of emergency preparedness issues. Kadlec also played a role in debunking the claim that trailers in Iraq in 2003 were mobile bioweapons labs, this story notes.

OK, back to the narrative.

Next tick in the timeline.

Nov. 19, 2019, seven days after the possible biosecurity breach, Dr. Ji Changzheng, tech safety and security director for the Chinese Academy of Sciences (parallel to the US NAS) came to WIV. He said he was bringing words of Xi Jinping about "a complex and grave situation."

From there, we get more on sloppy research and security practices, not just at WIV but elsewhere in China.

The story also reminds us that WIV had TWO labs. One is biosecurity level 4; the other is only BSL-2, but nonetheless had research being done there way above its biosecurity pay level.

The story then moves to discussing the tribalism over the lab-leak theory I talk about at top. 

And, the interim report's conclusion?

(T)he interim Senate report concludes that “the hypothesis of a natural zoonotic origin no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt, or the presumption of accuracy.”

I agree.

And, speaking of tribalism, I don't like Michael Worobey's claim that he had been given insufficient time to respond. As in, I don't think Pro Publica shortchanged him re any followup to his piece this summer.

Anyway, that's just the iceberg. READ THE FULL THING. "Familiar names" like Ralph Baric, Peter Daszak and Shi Zhengli all appear. As for odds? Even before this new Pro Publica piece, Metzl put the lab leak origin odds at 85 percent.


An addendum: Contra some wingnuts, this should not be used as a crude tool to kick China (though the re-election of Xi to a third term has left China under his leadership fully open to that) but as a warning about security and safety levels at biological research labs around the world, including here in the US.

It should also lead to new clampdowns on gain-of-function research, including getting Fauci, Collins and others to stop misdefining (or lying by redefining) about just what constitutes that. 


Update, Nov. 1: There's a big push-back on Twitter, claiming that Reid got some tenses wrong on some of his translation and other things, and now, some push-back against the push-back, with me contributing my part. Part of the original push-back (not saying all) appears to be #BlueAnon. Part may be  (not saying is) Chinese agents. As far as journalism, a leader in the push-back is Semafor, which has multiple good-for-it reasons to be leading the push-back.

I'll see how Pro Publica updates the piece. Until then, not writing further. (As of Nov. 3, nothing on its website.)

Update to Update 1, Nov. 26: One month on, neither Pro Publica nor Vanity Fair has seen any reason to update, append an editor's note, or anything else.

Update 2, Nov. 29: Pro Publica 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.

Russia-Ukraine Week 23: Biden doesn't want diplomacy

In my previous blog post about the invasion and war, I noted that a majority of Americans want diplomacy.  Almost 60 percent, even if it does NOT mean the status quo ante bellum for Ukraine.

But, Warmonger Joe, aka Inflationmonger Joe, doesn't.

Proof is in the pudding, both past and present.

Pudding past? The US kneecapped pre-war negotiations, either two-party between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, or four-party, with Germany and France, led by then Chancellor Merkel and President Macron, the same two nations that brokered the Minsk II agreements broken by both Russia and Ukraine (despite Zelenskyy's claims as part of the so-called "Normandy Four" countries) that he supported Minsk (albeit saying he supported it with tweaks). And, that kneecapping continued into the early weeks of the war.

Pudding present? Warmonger Joe sending the famous Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne to Europe for the first time since WWII.

Who could blame Putin for later telling Macron he "wanted to go play ice hockey" rather than talking to Biden?

And, with that, once again "fuck you very much" to the cowardly groveling by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, from Chairwoman Primala Jayapal through the 30 members who signed the letter calling for negotiations, including Ilhan Omar, AOC and other members of The Fraud, er The Squad, and down to the 70 who refused to sign it in the first place.

As I said there?

You just surrendered your leverage, per your groveling response of saying you're going to vote for all new expenditures, or, per a sex-neutral upgrade of a famous LBJ saying?

You just put your gonads in Biden's pocket.

There you go.

October 27, 2022

The clueless #BlueAnon at the Daily Texan

A dude named "Justice DuBois," whether a real name or a pseudonym riffing on W.E.B. DuBois (and sullying him), writes this howler for The Daily Texan, the "official newspaper" of (the Blue Anons of) THE (can't forget that) University of Texas, to wit: "Third party voting invalidates your vote."

As an ex-Green, I know it's typical Blue Anon bullshit. After the 2016 election, and up as late as last week, I've been told that in the 2016 presidential election, "I really voted for Trump," or that, in re this year's election, "I'm really voting for Abbott." (Does that apply to principaled undervoting as well?)

As I've also said before, I've never heard Rethuglicans broach the same about voting for Libertarians, even though in both Texas and nationally they draw higher than Greens. 

"Democrats: The party of fear!" is a great campaign slogan.

Back to the piece. 

It's also wrong, unless DuBois meant "statewide office" when he wrote "state office," and I'm uninclined to be that charitable. You ARE a newspaper, albeit one where a lowly sophomore rises to the level of "senior columnist."

But, again, it's wrong. Richard Winger at Ballot Access News, where I saw this first linked, has the goods.

Richard also noted that the "not so young" folks at the Chronic, undercutting part of DuBois' thesis, just endorsed a Libertarian in the CD-22 race in Fort Bend County.

This is the type of callow stupidity someone like Noah Horwitz would write.

Mr./Ms. DuBois would be better served, if a Blue MAGA, writing a piece on Democrats and Overton Windows, or re CD-22, about getting better candidates.

October 26, 2022

The Squad is still the Fraud, despite Ryan Grim's turd-polishing; but, so is the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which The Squad Fraud is a part, sent a letter to Warmonger Joe Monday asking him to push maybe just a tiny bit for negotiations on Ukraine. As Grim spells out at the Intercept, they then had the door slammed shut on them.

Well, no, per the statement (also embedded) on behalf of the caucus by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, its chairperson (pictured at right), they shut the door on themselves in a sense, Ryan. They could have tried pushing back against that "door," but chose not to.

That's Groveling 101.

And, surrendering of leverage. Of course, the CPC surrendered leverage when all Dem Congresscritters, including all of the Fraud, voted for Warmonger Joe's first big Ukrainian arms bazaar bill. And, before AOC, Ilhan, etc. speak out, the Tweet above says Jayapal as CPC chair was speaking for the caucus, not just herself. (And, I checked AOC's Twitter Tuesday night.)

But wait, it gets better, which Grim's article was written too early to reveal.  And, that's seeing Jayapal throw her own staff under the bus:

"The Congressional Progressive Caucus hereby withdraws its recent letter to the White House regarding Ukraine. 
"The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately released by staff without vetting. As chair of the Caucus, I accept responsibility for this."

Wow. Also "wow" is those trying to defend this, claiming that staff wrote this up in June or July, got the 30 who signed it to sign then, and there it sat, doing nothing, until the CPC policy director hit "send." So, you're defending Jayapal by claiming that she's not progressive and has a staff who recognizes it.


But, note that Joe Cirincione is a member of the Nat-Sec Nutsacks™. And, he is essentially claiming that Progs Caucus staff didn't trust Jayapal, or rather, that they DID trust her to be exactly who she showed she is — someone who will grovel like a newspaper-smacked puppy by the military-industrial complex. And, the staff was right.

And, over at Rumble, Lee Camp destroys these claims by Cirincione and his ilk.

And then, there's people on that same Twitter feed saying replace Jayapal with AOC, when the real answer is "replace your AOC romance with a 'duopoly exit.'" For you folks, also from that Jayapal statement:

Democrats ... have strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package of military (aid).

What part of "strongly and unanimously" do you not understand? Beyond my blogging about the Fraud's initial sellout?

And, since Grimm's article, for whatever reason, doesn't link to their original statement, let's go there. And quote:

But as legislators responsible for the expenditure of tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in military assistance in the conflict, we believe such involvement in this war also creates a responsibility for the United States to seriously explore all possible avenues, including direct engagement with Russia, to reduce harm and support Ukraine in achieving a peaceful settlement.

There you go.

You just surrendered your leverage, per your groveling response of saying you're going to vote for all new expenditures, or, per a sex-neutral upgrade of a famous LBJ saying?

You just put your gonads in Biden's pocket.

There you go.

Of course, the Congressional Progressive Caucus itself has become more and more bullshit. Per its own website, it has nearly 100 members, or 40 percent of the Dem Congressional caucus. If you think everybody in there is truly progressive, I've got beachfront in North Dakota to sell you. Proof of that? If those nearly 100 members, only 30 signed the letter to Warmonger Joe.

It's ALSO of course, interesting that the CPC says "we're nearly 100 members" but doesn't list them all by name on that link, probably because they know people like me would laugh. Well, if you click through from that link to "caucus members" you'll see them all. That includes the many who cut Israel blank checks (remember that dispute flaring up just a few weeks ago?).From here in Tex-ass, I can tell you Eddie Bernice Johnson is no progressive and Lloyd Doggett is not much better. Nor is Sylvia Garcia. Jared Huffman puts capitalism in front of environment at Point Reyes. And, I haven't even talked about members that oppose BDS.

Update, Nov. 18: Will the CPC call out Warmonger Joe's lying lackey about Russian missiles?


Update: All of the Squad but one (Tlaib) is also the Fraud on railway workers issues, as was about all of the CPC in general.

Texas Progressives talk start of midterms voting

SocraticGadfly has two strategery thoughts related to the midterms nationally, namely that neither inflation whataboutism of the Pelosi stripe, nor "But Republicans" (and the implied "Only Republicans" by Team Blue activists on entitlements privatization, are likely to work well with independent-minded independent voters.

Read about the secret plan to try to bring private school vouchers to the state.

Off the Kuff interviews Rochelle Garza, who would be the best Attorney General the state has had since the 90s if elected.

Axe 'em ALL, Jacks, seems to be the sentiment in Nac, at least the community sentiment, to Stephen F. Austin joining one of the four statewide Texas university systems. (Well, Tech's isn't statewide, if it's just Tech and Midwestern.)

How much trouble is Lina Hidalgo in? I'd say it might not be as bad as the Trib hints. But, it's not nothing.

Ill Eagle crossings are up, and not just in Texas. That said, many are from Venezuela, per the story, where Eagle Hunter Joe has invoked Title 42 health standards against them.

Trump continues to stiff the city of El Paso for $500K.

In something very problematic, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (and what ruling by it is NOT problematic?) has said, in originalism on steroids, the funding mechanism for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is unconstitutional. This is, of course, a wedge or camel's nose issue for the Fifth.

The Dallas Observer reports on the violence that Texas nurses are seeing at their workplaces.

The Houston Press lists ten MRA and incel red flags to look for.

Paradise in Hell shakes his head at the DNA kit rollout in Texas elementary schools.

October 25, 2022

Steve McCraw, throwing Uvalde shade

Steve McCraw has thrown the first DPS trooper under the bus over Uvalde. The DPS head has yet to say if larger DPS instructional problems were any part of the cause for someone like Sgt. Juan Maldonado not taking over in the first place. Of course, it's easy to throw underlings under the bus when you continue to stonewall the media (and others) by refusing to release public information. In some degree of fairness, the Monthly notes that Uvalde County DA Christina Busbee Mitchell, a Republican whose responses to various post-shooting issues have drawn hatred from both the Republican identified mayor of the city and the Democratic state senator, wants an airtight lid on her investigation that not only may, but probably will, indict nobody, and could be a whitewashing in its own right without any prodding from McCraw or Strangeabbott.

Here's Forrest Wilder on that possibility:

If the lawsuit fails, one possible scenario is that Busbee ends up not prosecuting any of the cops, or fails to secure a conviction. In either case, the Uvalde records could fall into a legal black hole, never to see the light of day. That’s because a provision in open-records law allows officials to block the release of records when a criminal investigation doesn’t result in a conviction, including in cases in which the suspect dies. (Which explains why it’s often referred to as the “dead-suspect loophole.”) The intent of the law is to protect the innocent, but over the years it has been twisted to shield police from scrutiny in high-profile cases, such as the 2019 death of Javier Ambler while he was in the custody of Williamson County sheriff’s deputies. 
It’s possible, then, that the truth about Uvalde died with the gunman, Salvador Ramos.

Interestingly, her LinkedIn notes that she's an active Catholic. Surely this is part of what's playing out in the fracturing of Uvalde's Sacred Heart, as blogged here recently, if she's a member there.

Wilder then notes that enforcement of the state's Public Information Act is in the hands of Kenny Boy Paxton. He politely avoids stating is like the fox and the henhouse.

Update: Uvalde parents called for him to resign. His response? An Overton Window shifting on what circumstances would lead for him to resign.

October 24, 2022

Beto-Bob is within 2 points of Strangeabbott? Color me skeptical

That's the claim of a new poll from Beacon Research posted today, that claims Beto-Bob, aka Robert Francis O'Rourke, is within 3 percentage points of Greg Abbott, and 2 percentage points among definite voters.

It contradicts everything we've heard in the past couple of weeks, or even past month, that said O'Rourke's effort to close the gap has stalled out, as I blogged just earlier today about the UT poll from late last week. It's why I doubted, a week ago, that Beto would catch up. In addition, among people who have identified as very likely voters in previous polls, the gap between the two has been GREATER than among plain old registered voters, and here the gap is a percentage point SMALLER.

And, as KXAN notes at the first link, Beacon does polling on behalf of progressive groups and Democrats. Stuff like this is GOTV efforts disguised as polls, no matter who does it.

To put it more bluntly?

"Dear Beacon: Try not to be so obvious."

Thoughts on this year's races as early voting starts

This will incorporate reflections on the polls at right, and also build on my "Gadfly slate" of last Friday.

First, here in Tex-ass, statewide offices.

I'm not yet ready to say Strangeabbott's odds against Beto-Bob are in above 80 percent, but they are at 70-79 percent. And, barring Kenny Boy Paxton busted for fucking the wife of a Republican official, if Strangeabbott wins, so does every other statewide Rethuglican. Jeebus Shot Sid Miller wins. Wayne "Oil Wells Are" Christian wins. Kenny Boy wins. So do others.

The Lege? I'm not analyzing 150 House races, or even 31 Senate races. Let's say the GOP gains two in the House and holds serve in the Senate. Dade Phelan holds on as Speaker.

Nationally? New inflation concerns, thanks to the latest OPEC cuts, plus tight diesel stocks, have slackened the sails of earlier Democratic tailwinds, as Jeet Heer notes at The Nation, with me discussing in more detail here. So, I've revised downward thoughts I had just a week ago.

And, I mentioned "denialism" in Nancy Pelosi's take on the inflation issue. Susan Glasser at New Yorker applies that word to Warmonger Joe's take on the whole election.

The Senate, I think, odds are about 50 percent it stays 50-50. I had originally had this at a bit above 50-50 that Dems hold serve or improve.

The House poll was the first one I started, when inflation was really bad. Wingnut nominees on the GOP side stand better chances in the House than the Senate. Inflation dipped, but now, gas prices have crept back up. I don't think Dems will lose 50, but, losing 40 wouldn't surprise me.

This could well make Kevin McCarthy as Speaker a slightly loonier, yet ultimately as wingnut-squared-challenged, as Boozing Boehner or Eddie Muenster Ryan. With that big of a majority, the Lauren Boeberts (if re-elected) and Marjorie Taylor Greenes will run wild and might not even be the worst.

Of course, that would relieve Nancy Pelosi of the onus of considering violating her pledge to step down as Speaker. It would also relieve AOC of the onus of having to vote against her, if she did that, in an even tighter House.

Abbott expands lead on Beto-Bob and why? "It's the economy, stupid"

Well, that's not the only reason, but that's a good starting point for why Greg Abbott, aka Strangeabbott, is up 11 points among likely voters in the Texas gov's race vs. Beto O'Rourke, aka Beto-Bob. (Per my "Gadfly slate" post Friday, this confirms that I'm likely to undervote this race. O'Rourke isn't going to win, and he's been a panderer deluxe on the campaign trail; as for options to him, I'm not voting for Second Amendment absolutist Delilah Barrios, even if she is a green. (Hold that thought; I'll have more on the Texas Green Party after the election.)

It may not be fair, per details of the polling, that the environment is the only thing voters trust Beto-Bob on more than Strangeabbott. But, there it is. And, the 50-50 split among Hispanic voters show that, whether it's a real concern or one inflated by Strangeabbott, Hispanics are concerned about immigration, even if Operation Lone Star really isn't doing much.

A 55 percent majority even supports Strange's busing of Ill Eagles out of state.

As for the header? "The state economy" was the second-largest concern among all likely voters, even though it didn't crack the top four among Democrats. Really? In denialism for the sake of a poll, like Passive Pelosi™ trying to pretend inflation doesn't exist (which also comes off as a bit New Agey, and contra Aaron Rodgers, "manifestation" doesn't exist), and Inflationmonger Joe of the frantic SPR releases?

Between various grocery stores last Saturday, I noticed that staples like brown rice are up again. "It's the economy stupid, and it's personal." It's not fair for state politicians to be judged on a national issue they can't control — setting aside the issue of how much or how little presidents can control the economy, and how much or how little they can control specific situations related to the economy. But, it is what it is; and, for both likely voters at the state level, and their candidates, to practice denialism? (That said, Strange hasn't said anything about the economy, but he doesn't need to.)

A 55 percent majority also favors stricter gun control laws, but Beto-Bob the Panderer, or Bob on a Knob, as I've called him before, has backed off that in places like Muleshoe. I mean, four years ago, Loopy Lupe Valdez was clueless. O'Rourke doesn't even have that excuse. Per my hammering O'Rourke as a bad strategerist? Abbott has an 11 point lead in the suburbs. I mentioned more of him needing to visit exurbs rather than suburbs per se, but the general idea applies.

Last note: 1 percent of Dems support Barrios; 0 percent of Rethugs support Libertarian candidate Mark Tippetts. That says something right there, doesn't it? 

Meanwhile, one lady I responded to, on Bud Kennedy's tweeting of the poll, brought out the state-level version of a "Vote for Stein is a vote for Trump." I reminded her (or informed her if she didn't know) that both duopoly parties have engaged in third-party vote suppression, as well as that a vote for somebody is a vote for somebody.


Update: There's a new poll claiming Beto-Bob has made the race a statistical dead head. I am skeptical.