SocraticGadfly: 10/30/22 - 11/6/22

November 04, 2022

Top blogging of October: A bit of new, a bit of old

In fact, a bit of the old led top October blogging by readership in the top two spots.

In No. 1, an old Shrub Bush era story, about the, er THE Dallas Morning News, aka the Snooze, pivoting right on its suggestions for Shrub's second-term Cabinet. I have no idea why this started trending; there's no comments on it, so no latent Chinese botting or something.

No. 2? Let's quote the title for the link. "Yes, the bible is anti-gay, contra deniers." And, I know exactly why this one is trending. I posted it to the AcademicBiblical sub-Reddit last week related to a discussion there and it took off. And, yes on "bible" as lowercase. House editorial style rules and this secularist lowercases it.

No. 3? Not old, but a September post still catching eyeballs about coronavirus "vaccine losers." Specifically, it dives into the relative ineffectiveness of mRNA boosters while discussing part of the issues on why we don't have non-mRNA boosters.

No. 4? Again, the title: "What's next for Tulsi Gabbard?" I speculated that with the Mises Caucus now in control, it would not be totally surprising to see her do a 2024 Libertarian presidential run. That said, since I wrote that, she's now endorsing nutter Rethuglicans like Arizona election denialist Kari Lake.

No. 5? Fresh from the second half of last month. My take on the Congressional Progressive Caucus' graven cave-in to Warmonger Joe and the Democratic establishment on Ukraine. Way to make Tulsi look halfway right.

No. 6? Fresh from last week and trending again as some people attack Pro Publica's credibility on it, ignoring that it was co-written with Vanity Fair, which has done its own previous work on the subject. "The subject" would be the lab-leak hypothesis on COVID. The story, and my blogging about it, is the minority report from a Senate committee, whose ranking member, Richard Burr, is generally NOT a wingnut. But, some of the pushback to the piece, and claims of its inaccuracy in spots, certainly appear to be tribalist in motivation.

No. 7? Back to something almost as old as the bible as anti-gay piece. This is one I wrote long ago about Michael Shermer and Barbara Ehrenreich being pseudoskeptics in some ways. Maybe her relatively recent death got it popping up in searches. Or maybe he dropped his trousers again and I haven't heard about it yet.

No. 8? A second COVID-related piece, wondering if we are at least starting to transition from pandemic to endemic. (I give a cautious "yes" answer, while throwing a bit of shade at the likes of Walker Bragman.)

No. 9? File this under "calling out environmental neoliberals." Nuclear power is not, and more importantly, cannot be allowed to be, part of the "answer" on climate change.

No. 10? Contra Perry Bacon cashing Team Blue checks at the Bezos Post, it, the election, is partly based on inflation. Yea, gas prices themselves dropped shortly after I blogged about them rising, because Warmonger Joe released more reserve oil. But, there's little he can do about thin diesel supply spiking prices there.

Russia-Ukraine: Iran ups its game, and, Warmonger Joe, do you REALLY want to remove Putin?

First, on the former. Iran is reportedly sending not only more drones but also short range ballistic missiles to Russia. As far as US tut-tutting over how this could affect revival of the Iran nuclear deal? Well, the EU portion of the "quartet" had (temporarily?) walked away from it a few months ago. Add in the current round of turmoil in Iran, and the bipartisan foreign policy establishment's presumable hope that this could overthrow the mullahs — along with questions about the health status of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei — and the jeopardizing of renewing the Iran nuclear detail is an idle threat. (As far as earlier back-off from the West, Iran has its own fair share of blame.) 

As far as DoD tut-tutting over how much this signals Putin's "isolation," he's still got money to buy all of this from Iran, doesn't he?


As for deposing Putin, which Warmonger Joe said this spring, causing White House staff to madly scramble to walk that back?

"Replace him with whom?" To riff on Lincoln telling the Radicals in 1862 that he needed "somebody," not "anybody," to replace McClellan?

Per the Economist, the most likely "anybodies" might be even worse than Vladimir V., at least from the US foreign policy establishment's view.


Foreign Affairs' Kremlinology is a semi-fail. On the issue of Russian GDP expected to contract 6 percent this year? Without comparing that the NATO countries' GDP, or EU GDP or US GDP, it's pretty much a nothingburger. I mean, we KNOW EU GDP will contract the second half of this year. US GDP likely so. But, it IS from Nat-Sec Nutsacks™ so that's why you don't get the context. (Germany already expects recession next year.) Also, Finland and Sweden aren't yet members of NATO.

November 03, 2022

New York Times tries to revive Russiagate for midterms

At the Times, Jim Rutenberg and assignment editors apparently think that readers, or perhaps rather, the target audience of Team Blue and .Nat-Sec Nutsacks™, haven't heard of the Minsk Accords, or else, like Blue Anon and Democratic national leaders / apparatchiks, think they can pretend Minsk away just like inflation, even as they try to revive Russiagate, and to revive purplish prose at the same time, in writing about a summer 2016 meeting between Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik in summer 2016.

On the former? This:

Known loosely as the Mariupol plan, after the strategically vital port city, it called for the creation of an autonomous republic in Ukraine’s east, giving Putin effective control of the country’s industrial heartland, where Kremlin-armed, -funded and -directed “separatists” were waging a two-year-old shadow war that had left nearly 10,000 dead. The new republic’s leader would be none other than Yanukovych. The trade-off: “peace” for a broken and subservient Ukraine.

Gee, that sounds like the Minsk Accords, as I told them on Twitter. Initial version passed in 2014, final version in 2015. Well before 2016. I noted in another tweet that I blogged about Minsk at the start of the war. Seriously, this is like the Harvards at the start of the war (and the West-embedded Gorby, too), claiming that James Baker never told Gorbachev that NATO would expand not one inch further east.

Rutenberg eventually gets to Minsk, but not until halfway through a 10,000 word piece, and then tying it back to the original "theory," that Putin wanted to break off the Donbas fully and give it to Yanukovych. And, Rutenberg won't tell you (which I do) that Ukraine and Russia both broke them. (As for Russia and Ukraine having different interpretations of Minsk, that cuts both ways, with both countries breaking Minsk.)

Now, on to the second item of concern right off the top of the bat, the "pandering purplish prose"? This:

Shortly after the appointed hour, Kilimnik walked onto a perfectly put-up stage set for a caricature drama of furtive figures hatching covert schemes with questionable intent — a dark-lit cigar bar with mahogany-paneled walls and floor-to-ceiling windows columned in thick velvet drapes, its leather club chairs typically filled by large men with open collars sipping Scotch and drawing on parejos and figurados. Men, that is, like Paul Manafort, with his dyed-black pompadour and penchant for pinstripes. There, with the skyline shimmering though the cigar-smoke haze, Kilimnik shared a secret plan whose significance would only become clear six years later, as Vladimir V. Putin’s invading Russian Army pushed into Ukraine.

Talk about godawful. But, it's not just godawful. It's pandering to Democratic stereotypes of all things Trump, and Rutenberg and/or editors know that. It's probably also pandering to Dem stereotypes of all things Russian oligarchy, even though Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected with the help of oligarchs in that country (more below). And, although too late for much of early voting, it's "interesting" that this is coming out right before midterms. And, yes, I do think that's part of what's driving this. But, just like with Hillary Clinton's too-late oppo research on Jill Stein in 2016, the Times would, in this case, have forgotten about early voting.

Now, do I think Manafort deserves blank checks? Of course not.

But, between the lies by omission about Minsk and the pandering purplish prose, both the paper and Rutenberg individually chucked their credibility out the door 10 percent of the way in.

But, let's retranslate, starting with the reality of Minsk.

For the unaware, the US was never a part of the work that led to the Minsk agreements. (The US is part of the OSCE, but it was never actively involved within it on Minsk I, even before the Normandy Group took the lead.) Ergo, the idea behind them was not part of US foreign policy. And, Kilimnik wanted that to change, and believed that it would under a President Donald Trump. There is nothing illegal about this. Or nefarious.

But, let's go to the outright lies under "Russiagate." Start here:

In the weeks that followed, operatives in Moscow and St. Petersburg would intensify their hacking and disinformation campaign to damage Clinton and help turn the election toward Trump, which would form the core of the scandal known as Russiagate

Reality is that the Internet Research Agency meddled. Period. Full stop. It did NOT meddle on behalf of Trump. Things such as pro-Clintonesque as well as pro-Trump-like Facebook groups, and people here in Amerikkka joining both, and in the same city, squaring off against each other, were part of that. I noted that in this blog post which also has GOP Congresscritter Mike McCaul admitting that RNC as well as DNC computers were attacked, and notes that FBI head James Comey discussed this. I've longly and loudly cited the attacks on RNC as well as DNC computers against BOTH #BlueAnon (and their mainstream media fellow travelers) AND #MAGAts (and their wingnut media fellow travelers), as proof both that Russia was targeting the US, including with Guccifer 2.0, but that Putin was NOT colluding with Trump.

Even their Guccifer 2.0 work on the Assange emails has no quid pro quo. (I believe that Assange likely knew early on where the emails were coming from, per my long-form discussion of the issue.) And, it also ignores that Hillary Clinton was getting help from Ukrainian sources, as discussed here. (It totally ignores the reality of Hunter Biden's laptop.)

Then, there's lying about 2016 Ukraine:

Thrumming beneath the whole election saga was another story — about Ukraine’s efforts to establish a modern democracy and, as a result, its position as a hot zone of the new Cold War between Russia and the West, autocracy and democracy.

Zelenskky himself was elected in part with the help of corrupt Ukrainian oligarchs and is personally corrupt. Before the invasion, he shuttered both print and broadcast media.

And a mix of lies and half-truths about the Maidan. I stopped reading at that point.

I mean, Rutenberg is clearly in the world of PR now. And, it gets worse from there. Rutenberg's bio notes that, after graduating college, he went to work for the NY Daily News as a gossip stringer. Sounds like he never left off.

How long before the Congressional Progressive Caucus continues its craven groveling to Team Blue and signs off on this lock, stock and barrel.


Meanwhile, Fauxgressives like Thom Hartmann are drinking the Kool-Aid. A friend of Mark Ames on Twitter said even Saint Ralph of Nader was. Well, he's not "peddling" the Kool-Aid, but by his silence, he's not calling it out.

Coronavirus week 126: Contra Rochelle Walensky on hand-washing

Editorial note: This got bumped back a week because of breaking news over the lab-leak theory.

People still concerned about the reality of COVID laughed and scorned a week or two ago when CDC Director Rochelle Walensky issued COVID guidance that included vaccination and hand-washing but said nothing about mask-wearing.

If they were like me, they tapped a vein of schadenfreude when it was announced a few days later that Walensky "got it."

Well, not only was she wrong about not wearing masks, but, per the latest news otherwise, she's more and more wrong to tout hand-washing. And not just for COVID-19, but other coronaviruses and similar. You're somewhere between 99 and 99.9 percent likely to catch them from the air. Period and end of story.

As I see it, hand-washing, plus surface disinfection, is a neoliberal COVID indulgences practice. It's a way of absolving oneself from any nagging larger concern, just like the neoliberal environmental indulgence of planting trees, which really just creates phantom forests.

While we're here, to kick my hobbyhorse of the COVID-concerned who still won't mention the phrase "Big Pharma," when Walensky gets back to work, will she talk about us getting non-mRNA booster vaxxes? Because, per her critics on her CDC track record, which include a former CDC director, per Wiki, she often has been, along with the rest of Team Biden, about economy first, public health second. And, rightly talking about #BigPharma on mRNA vaxxes is "economy first," Bragman.

November 02, 2022

Not so fast on those non-voters, Texas Dems

Ben Rowan has a great, long piece on how Texas Democrats' assumptions that non-voters are quiet hard tilters to Democrats simply isn't so true.

First of all, this reminds me of parallel claims by DSA Roseys, Greens or Socialists that many Americans really support our ideas. No, they don't. People either don't vote entirely, or undervote a majority of individual races, while still staying registered to vote (the low-hanging fruit on non-voters) for a variety of reasons. That's just as true of the higher fruit, the unregistered.

Rowan first notes that Dems' new registration efforts in 2020 actually wound up handing net new voters to the GOP. Oops. He then notes Dems still haven't won a statewide race since 1994. So, that led him to do actual research.

First, the data. Nationally, they're young (which in general have low turnout), more likely to be non-White, and more likely to be lower education. Sounds Democrat, right?

Not to me. Sounds more like political "Nones," as Rowan indicates. There's just not a lot that either party offers to incentivize them.

Others are apparent victims of vote suppression, when talking about not wanting to wait in line or otherwise waste time voting. Err, there's this thing called early voting? That gets back to education does it not?

Plus, as Rowan notes, Texas is more conservative than the nation as a whole.

But, Texas Democratic Party staffers, who, per Mencken, are paid to be wrong, will probably continue to assume there's magic ponies in that pile of straw of non-voters. It ties in with their assumptions, nearly two decades old now, that "demographics is destiny." I've shown just how untrue this is. This was confirmed, in other ways, just last year.

One final note, which puts a further mockery to my already mocking Beto-Bob for going to Muleshoe. Bowen notes that in 55 counties, let's spell it out as FIFTY-FIVE COUNTIES, there is NO county Democratic party chair. In other worse, nobody to do a voter registration drive to build on whatever enthusiasm O'Rourke built up. But wait, it gets worse:

Texas Monthly reached out to the chairs of the other 199 counties in Texas, and heard from fewer than forty who are leading door-to-door canvassing efforts this election cycle.

I'm sure my county is NOT in the "fewer than 40."

November 01, 2022

Texas Progressives have a final pre-election roundup

Will Tarrant County break further Democratic

True the Vote leaders found in contempt, could face jail time. And will.

Here in Texas, and elsewhere, the IRS continues to turn a blind eye to churches breaking the First Amendment by electioneering, often blatant.

Texas is the fifth-most difficult state in which to cast a vote. 

One of Abbott's biggest donors, by counting Lady Gaga among his friends, refudiates that #BlueAnon meme about "but we've got Lady Gaga."

Is Greg Abbott his own self to blame for Texas crime?

Off the Kuff notes the remarkable case of the Libertarian candidate for Attorney General endorsing Democratic candidate Rochelle Garza because he sees Ken Paxton as such a threat to freedom.

SocraticGadfly looks at the Congressional Progressive Caucus' craven collapse to Biden and leadership on Ukraine, despite the fact that the majority of Americans say they want the US to lead the push for a negotiated solution.

Read the history of Fiesta spices.

How much is the Christian Right, not just in the US, but in both Christian and non-Christian based Western European politics, explicitly abandoning Jews and even explicitly allying with Islamists? James Dorsey investigates.

Jef Rouner does not have a favorite conspiracy theory.

Your Local Epidemiologist reports on the triple threat of RSV, COVID, and the flu.

Texas 2036 reviews our performance on the National Report Card.

October 31, 2022

So, what IS causing inflation right now?

This is a moving snapshot, and an attempt to be a bit forward-looking, and a look at inflation overall. Different sectors will get a look in a bit of detail.


Let's guesstimate:

  • 25 percent sanctions on Russia, the invasion itself and related
  • 20 percent Chinese COVID-Zero policies and related supply chain snarls
  • 5 weather (esp. on foodstuffs)
  • 5 percent US fuel refinery issues
  • 20 percent pent-up consumer demand related to supply chain snarls
  • 25 percent exploitation of this demand and of the 50 percent in the top half by businesses.

Now, a look at how this is playing out right now and could in months ahead.

Originally, beyond the oil price climbs, the war itself combined with drought in much of the US west of the Mississippi to drive up prices on wheat, sunflower products, canola products and a few other items. 

Fall rains coming in now mean that at least the southern half of the winter wheat belt in the US should have a good crop next year. Northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas remain dry right now, though.

But, more recently, a mix of Russia issues and fuel refinery issues have spiked the price of diesel. That's going to affect food and non-food transportation costs. A lot of Russian fuel, due to its grade, when imported here was refined into diesel. Since Warmonger Joe doesn't want to push for negotiations, some form of Russia-Ukraine war fallout on inflation will continue into at least early next year, even as Biden's options with Strategic Petroleum Reserve releases continue to diminish and he has almost no options on the diesel issue. How big of Republican gains we have in Congress, what that means for less Ukrainian arms bazaar spending and other things remains to be seen.

Chinese policies? Will not change with Xi Jinping getting a third term, pledging to remain committed to COVID-Zero and refusing to accept non-Chinese vaxxes into the country. As noted in a recent NYT op-ed, COVID-Zero is also about more than COVID — it's another tool of political and social control in Xi's quiver. One thing that would actually address that? A carbon tax PLUS carbon tariff climate change bill passing Congress, which would lead to "repatriation" of at least some manufacturing, or else some of it leaving China for other pastures. Fat chance of that happening.

Pent-up demand? If there's another resurgence of COVID — not so much here as in the Yangtze Valley or Guangdong — it will meet a temporarily irresistible object again. Solution? Stop buying so much crap you don't need, Americans.

Corporate greed? Neoliberal Joe has jawboned oil companies, and that's about it. Yes, they didn't totally work, but ... he's not tried Nixon's wage and price controls.