SocraticGadfly: 11/27/22 - 12/4/22

December 02, 2022

Top blogging for November

Older posts had the lead in most viewed stories for November, some signal-boosted by me, others not.

An old blog post, from the end of Shrub Bush's first term, my blogging about the Dallas Snooze's take on how Shrub could reinvigorate his Cabinet, has been trending for a full month or so and I have no idea why. It doesn't even have a potential Chinese bot launch-triggering comment. (BTW, if you want an example of how stupid the Snooze was then — and pretty much still is now — on its op-ed page, just click that link. It's a short read.)

No. 2 was signal-boosted and is an September post about coronavirus "vaccine losers," namely, we the people of the US not having a non-mRNA booster, among other things, and why people with bigger popguns than me on Twitter weren't talking about that. It got signal-boosted in part because of a quote-tweet back-and-forth with Dr. Peter Hotez, who talked about what his institute is doing globally with non-mRNA vaxxes, but who went radio-silent when I said globally isn't Merikkka.

No. 3? Fresh stuff. My Texas elections post-mortem (for both Democrats and Greens). Related? No. 9, my take that the Texas Green Party, like I said two years ago about the national party, is past its best-by date.

No. 4 was also election-related, but on a national level. That's my call-out of the New York Slimes for attempting to revive Russiagate just in time for midterms.

And, No. 5? Also election related, and also a post-mortem, this time for one Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke, whom I said, in a visual typographic pun, should be called "Beat-0" for his lack of election prowess the last three cycles.

No. 6 was related. After Greg Summerlin appeared to be trying to make Beat-0 into some wild-eyed radical, I summarized his comments, and expanded on my responses, in a separate post calling out his ConservaDem-ness. And, I may not be done yet.

No. 7 was a Texas Progressives non-election roundup, during election week. Not sure what triggered its popularity, whether it was the part about pro-lifer grifting, Xi Jinping supposedly getting ready to meat MBS or something else.

No. 8? Again, election related. This was my take on Axios undermining its credibility over conflating QAnon with all conspiracy theories, then conflating conspiracy theories with the possibility of an actual conspiracy (while using that word loosely) followed by other thought.

No. 10? My take on the XBB coronavirus subvariant. (Background: I think we're at least moving toward endemic, and that big popguns folks like Walker Bragman have one foot, at least, in tribalism on this issue.)

December 01, 2022

Environmental briefs: Citizen suit, criminal charges win out

Oxy, one of the big gas drillers even after an overpay merger with Anadarko, agreed to settle a lawsuit without admitting liability over massive gas flaring in the Carlsbad, New Mexico area. The suer was not a state government, nor the feds, but Wild Earth Guardians, using a provision in the federal Clean Air Act. See here for details. WEG is right that oil and gas companies see such flaring as normal, but given the overpay and other costs with that questionable acquisition of Anadarko, one wonders how much extra "pressure" Oxy may see to be cheap.

On the criminal side, just in time to move into his new role as the state's governor, Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro got Coterra Energy, the successor company to Cabot Oil and Gas of "Gasland" documentary fame, to take a nolo on state criminal environmental charges. It includes actual good news for Dimock-area residents: a clean water line to them, and other support for the next 75 years. (I hope Shapiro got something for that escrowed.)

BROKEN: Charles V's secret diplomatic code

Fascinating story, seen via Bruce Schneier.

In the 1500s, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V/Spanish King Charles I had as his most vigorous foe Francis I, king of France. Francis was of course worried about Hapsburg encirclement, worried enough to even make an alliance with the "dreaded Turk."

Charles, in turn, was worried enough to fear French assassination. Worried enough about rumors to that end to write one of his diplomatic representatives in Paris about them in a code. A code now broken after cryptographers looked at an original note.

Gordon at Skeptophilia claims Charles' fear was unfounded and that he was "always a bit paranoid." I don't think either is true. There may have been no actual plot, but the Francis-Charles battle was already nearly three decades old by this point. In addition, as I've blogged on my religion and philosophy blog, Charles V did NOT whack Luther after the Diet of Worms and did NOT desecrate his grave after the Schmalkaldic War. That said, the day before, he claimed outrightly that the Sponsion coin is legit, when in reality, among academic types, that's nowhere near settled, and a month ago, referenced the original fundagelical discoverer of the Mt. Ebal curse tablet uncritically. (More here on how much of a circular reasoning fail it is, in a generally good r/AcademicBiblical piece except the one fundagelical there.)

Joe Biden, climate change hypocrite; US and Tex-ass environmentalists, hypocrites in waiting

By OKing a shale oil export terminal, Warmonger Joe is also Climate Hypocrite Joe, of course. (Again.) Question: How many of the people who are disappointed that Biden is actually giving nothing more than "thoughts and prayers" to fight climate change will still vote for him, rather than some third-party candidate, in 2024?

Answer: Zero, or close to it. I've known that for years at the national level, watching people like Bill McKibben.

Seriously, per names in the story? Kelsey Crane and others at Earthworks are voting Dem, not Green or Socialist, in 2024. Same is presumably true for Jeffrey Jacoby and others at Texas Campaign for the Environment, Melanie Oldham and members of the group she founded in Brazoria County, and others not mentioned.

We'll all be told, whether Der Grüppenfuehrer gets a third nomination, or if it's DeSatan, or somebody else, that the election is just too important to vote outside the duopoly. Funny, these are the same people who say that climate change is THE issue of our lifetime. Which is it?

November 30, 2022

Coronavirus week 129: ProPublica stands by latest lab leak story

About a month ago, Pro Publica, working jointly with Vanity Fair, reported on a Senate committee's minority report on the latest work on the idea that coronavirus, as in SARS-CoVID-2, originated in the human public from a lab leak at Wuhan Institute of Virology. I blogged about that at the time it came out.

Well, per updates to that post, it got LOTS of pushback. Not all of it was from St. Anthony of Fauci fellating BlueAnon tribalists, but a fair amount certainly was.

I don't know if Vanity Fair has said anything in response, but, ProPublica now has.

ProPublica 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.

Minor corrections relate to the timing and details of China's Zhou Yousen filing a patent for a vaccine. ProPublica notes others filed earlier claims, but these were all provisional, indicating they wanted patents for planned future research. 

The complete addendum follows up on the second and third pull quotes. It stresses it, including via medical experts it has interviewed in the past and for this addendum, that it does not believe it has a lab-leak theory smoking gun. But it stresses that its experts see the lab-leak idea as plausible enough to indeed warrant further, ongoing investigation.

And, there's the tribalism issue. See this:

(A)s interviews with other scientists before and after publication have made clear, the question is far from resolved. In their view, there is not enough evidence to establish how the virus first reached the now-infamous Wuhan market or to assert that zoonotic spillover is the sole possible explanation for the pandemic’s origin.'
(Jesse) Bloom, the virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, is among those scientists. “I’ve never seen anything as controversial as this in my field,” he said. “The amount of toxicity is out of control. Each side feels uniquely wronged. To me, it remains an open question.”

Agreed. And, it does cut both ways, especially outside the professional science world, and into the Twitterati of #MAGA vs #BlueMAGA.

Part of that, often from #MAGA but not always so, is the move from a lab-leak hypothesis to claims about weaponization. I noted that this has not always been "MAGA," and blogged specifically about leftist Sam Husseini making empirically unsubstantiated AND logically unlikely claims to this end. My refutation of him applies to both MAGAts and to horseshoe-theory leftists. There's no way China would have done weapons work at a lab built with large French assistance. As with the old USSR, there's no way they would have mixed medical research with weaponization. That's true of the old US, as well.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Hotez is a tribalist and twosider on the lab leak. Bigly, starting with attacking non-wingnut Richard Burr over the Senate minority committee report, coming off as a kinder, gentler Orac:

And this isn't new from Hotez, as his Twitter feed and stories will show.

Not at all. As I said in quote-Tweeting that first tweet, he's lost some serious credibility in my book. I noted that Alina Chan, Scott Gottlieb and Jaime Metzl, among others, are not members of Congress (and by extension, not chuckleheads or uneducated). May blog just about that.

No, Bernie Bros didn't start the Seth Rich conspiracy theory

Sorry, or rather, "sorry," to Jeff St. Clair of Counterpunch, but contra your Tweet

That might be simplistic, and Andy Kroll doesn't seem to say that in his new book. Rather, per Axios, he makes it clear that it was launched by Assange.

What was the moment the Seth Rich story began to spin out of control? 
I would pinpoint that moment to August of 2016. I would place it very specifically on an interview that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gave to a Dutch radio station.

I do recall that some Berners had some part in trying to amplify it. Launch might be too harsh, whether Kroll covers that elsewhere in the book or not. (I do intend to get it, whenever my library should have it.)

Note the "some" is in bold, and they're probably no more than 10 percent. And, that's "amplify," not "start." Sorry, Jeff, but in this case you sound like you're amplifying Hillbots' conspiracy theory about all Berners. And, on its effects in the 2016 general election? Contra Hillbots like Amanda Marcotte at Slate, Hillary's PUMAs in 2008 defected from Obama in bigger numbers than Berners did from Clinton in 2016. And, even Marcotte admits that other people than Berners were playing it up at the start.

As I told Jeff, I had done a Google Trends long ago, as noted in my Assange and Guccifer 2.0 longform, and the "takeoff" of the conspiracy theory indeed corresponds with Assange offering a reward for Seth Rich's murderers and framing it in a way to imply the DNC did it.

As far as "starting" it? Michael Isikoff reminds me and St. Clair both that Russia's SVR (Internet Research Agency) "started it." 

This, then, per my "longform" link, leads back to the issue of whether or not Assange was lying back in 2016 when he said the leaked emails didn't come from Russia. I'm at least 90 percent certain he was lying and quite willingly, and thus, contra my original tweet which St. Clair was quote-tweeting, itself a quote tweet of an Assangista, Julian Assange is far less than 100 percent honest.

The book does sound interesting, I will say. At the same time, does it have THAT MUCH new compared to Isikoff's 2019 longform? We'll see.

Former prosecutor Deborah Sines, per Isikoff, confirms my other hunch, that the murder was in all likelihood drug-related. Now, the question there, is, was this totally mistaken identity or similar, or is there something else about Seth Rich that we may never know?

November 29, 2022

Texas Progressives: Bits and pieces

Off the Kuff looks at the mishigoss over provisional ballots in Harris County, which for now at least resulted in a favorable ruling for counting them all. 

SocraticGadfly looks at the Pro Publica/Vanity Fair longform on the likelihood of the WIV lab leak hypothesis for COVID, and notes it's comprehensive and holds up well, some tribalist-type pushback aside.

Why is Herschel Walker still not only claiming, but getting, a homestead exemption here in Tex-ass even though he registered to vote in Georgia a year ago, contra wingnuts?

Steve McCraw, grifting off Uvalde for more DPS dinero from the Lege.

Immigrationmonger Joe's Border Patrol has done at least 372 cases of family separations, all in violation of federal policy. What has he said? Done? You know the answer. 

Meet the Houston Catholic immigrant refugee site still publishing Dorothy Day's old paper, The Catholic Worker.

Gohmert Pyle is not going quietly into the lame-duck night.

Biden is ready to kowtow to whomever Netanyahu puts in his new cabinet.

RIP Funky Winkerbean.

Happy 100th, Charles M. Schultz.

Texas Monthly tries to explain the year in book banning.

The San Antonio Report brings news of a successful attempt to use drones to transport donor organs within Texas and Oklahoma.

The Texas Observer attends Denton's Trans Pride Fest.

 Steve Vladeck explains his family's Thanksgiving traditions.

November 28, 2022

The EU boo-hoos about Biden; I boo-hoo back

The EU complains of Warmonger Joe's war profiteering off natural gas prices (while also attacking the Inflation Reduction Act as trade protectionism). Both are true, but? What are you going to do? Talk is cheap and don't feed the bulldog. In the case of the former, Germany, especially, knew something like this could have happened. Speaking of, what is post-Brexit UK charging for its North Sea natural gas?

On the latter, the answer is simple. On green energy subsidies, pass your own version of an "Inflation Reduction Act."

Beyond that? YOU signed off on sending arms to Ukraine yourself; not American warmongers' fault if you can't mong fast enough.

Beyond that, and more seriously? Your two leading nations gave Zelenskyy blank checks when he refused to implement the Minsk Accords.

More on why Marxism is pseudoscience

I've written about this before, from the deductive side. Hegelian dialectic, in addition to being crappy philosophy, is pseudoscience by its very nature when made into the backbone of any scientific theory. (This sets aside the issue that economics in general at the time of Karl Marx was close to pseudoscience.)

Now, we have something new from the inductive and empirical side. Joe Costello, whose dad droned decades as a hollowed out (Eliot's Hollow Men) factor worker, notes that Marx's definition of who the industrial proletariat is (or was in Marx's time) was totally made up, trying to apply Roman peasant farming to the 19th century industrial world.

Understanding the history of labor, socialism, and Marx is like opening one of those Russian Matryoshka dolls, one nestled inside the other. Obviously, the industrial labor force was created by industrialism. However, socialism's agrarian roots preceded industrialization. Marx used industrialization to redefine socialism, wrongly claiming his socialism was scientific as opposed to its “utopian” forebears.
Marx's thinking had all sorts of wrong headed ideas and fatal flaws. First, in one of the great misreading’s of history, he relabeled industrial labor, “the proletariat.” A term derived from the Ancient Roman republic, proletariat was a census designation for economically disenfranchised citizens, who did nothing but “reproduce.” For most of the republic's history, Rome was largely comprised of small farmer citizens, but as its empire grew, land ownership was increasingly consolidated. Ever more in debt and away fighting the latest war, the majority of small farmers lost their land to ever larger entities, then ended up in Rome. Here they became the proletariat, an economically disenfranchised, politically enfranchised citizenry reliant on the state for food, housing, and entertainment.

Costello doesn't stop there, though.

He also faults "the Old Moor" for not considering inputs beyond labor, most notably energy. Given how steam power launched the Industrial Revolution, this is a worthy ding. He also notes that capitalistic change, and capitalistic control, extends far beyond the "means of production." Give the whole thing a read.

Back on my site, there's also the angle of the "no true Scotsman" card being played by Marxists today.