SocraticGadfly: 12/11/22 - 12/18/22

December 17, 2022

Ukrainians also want peace talks

I blogged about six weeks ago how a majority of Americans want the US government to take the lead on starting Russia-Ukraine peace talks. Now, via Counterpunch, if not a majority, a significant minority of Ukrainians want peace talks as well.

The poll notes that, in the areas of Ukraine on the front line of the war, barely half want it to continue, and that's with respondents answering a Gallup poll under the thumb of Ukrainian oppression, which includes President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shutting down opposition media and political parties even before the start of the Russian invasion (and the "NAFO" folks and even BlueAnons who should know better) supporting that here inthe US.

Yes, I know neither Biden, nor Zelenskyy, want serious negotiations themselves. In Zelenskyy's case, it's easy for him to say "nyet." The solution of Jonathan Steele, the author of the Counterpunch piece?

It's time for the UN and Secretary General Antonio Guterres to take the lead on a push for negotiations. With him taking the lead, just maybe Chinese President Xi Jinping could jump in, if only by a nuanced semi-silence. Or, since Pope Francis talked about NATO "barking" at Russia, he could dovetail.

Putin won't speak, given how Angela Merkel strung him out over the Minsk Accords, until the ball starts rolling more and that's his right.

Sure, Biden and Zelenskyy could still say "nyet" but they'd be under pressure. I have no doubt that, in the south and east of Ukraine, a majority of free respondents want these negotiations.

December 16, 2022

Texas Progressives: Non-hypocritical news

I had a theme going with this week's roundup yesterday, so I decided to separate out non-hypocritical news items.

Unionizing solar panel installers sounds like a great idea.

Reform Austin flags a WaPo story about how Texas law enforcement agencies fail to report police shootings to the FBI as required by law.  

CultureMap explains the city of Houston's new program aimed at helping Houstonians purchase and install rooftop solar panels and battery storage.

It's Not Hou It's Me plugs the Galaxy Lights exhibit at Space Center Houston.

The San Antonio Report hosted a debate for and against a proposal to ban horse-drawn carriages in that city.

December 15, 2022

Coronavirus week 131: Biden about to end COVID emergency; tribalism and twosiderism alert for what's next!

That's per Politico, which discusses in more detail what it means.

That's all while Politico (along with many other sites) breathlessly says "COVID cases are on the rise."

They are, but per Worldometers, they're only modestly on the rise, or at worst case, somewhere between modestly and moderately. And, daily death numbers are NOT.

The problem is that one "side" of the twosiderism on this issue isn't prepared to "transition." Whether the Biden Administration is doing that transition too soon or not is debatable, of course. That's different from saying we shouldn't even be considering the idea for, oh, another full year.

And, it's all compounded by the same one "side" refusing to talk about why we don't have non-mRNA boosters and related issues.

So, in weeks and months ahead, you're going to get a new round of twosiderism and tribalism on this issue on Blue Satan.

Mastodon: Yea or nay?

For me, even seeing the Muskhole shithole that Twitter is becoming, it's nay.

Because it was 6 years ago.

I signed up shortly after it was launched and, like many new joiners are learning, found the whole disseminated server idea (not going to use a PR name) clunky at minimum, frustrating at most.

Then, the idea that Mastodon is a Garden of Eden in social media? 


I'd previously read CJR's piece about not just individuals, but other whole Mastodon servers blocking the new journalism server. Blocking itself is not the only issue. Read the piece and note conspiracy theorizing about journalists, etc.

Beyond that, Noema Magazine has a good piece about bad behavior on Mastodon. In one of the pieces it links, Wil Wheaton says that harassment he got on Mastadon, essentially full online mobbind, was worse than on Twitter. The other, by a researcher studying online harassment, notes that the decentralization means no centralized safety service (even if outsourced to the Philippines like Facebook does; dunno about Twitter). It also means that you have to block people on multiple servers.

Back to that Noema piece. A main focus is how "traditional" social media was built on the issue of scalability. It says that Mastodon offers the flip side, of what it calls "subsidiarity." That's like US federalism, in which federal laws apply at the local level, but are often enforced by local officials. I can give you the flip side of here in Tex-ass, though. Having TCEQ do EPA enforcement work doesn't lead to much enforcement. Or, per the old phrase, "Who watches the watchers?" And Eugen Rochko appears to still be a fair amount of a one-man band. 

As far as collaborative decisions on servers on safety and moderation issues? The votes, it appears, are majoritarian, not unanimous. Which means, if you don't like enough decisions, you have to join a new server, or see if you can "transport" your current Mastodon account, and friends lists, etc., to a new server. That's not guaranteed. Plus, as the authors note, Mastodon is not currently built for server groups to have governance decisions there, so they "offshore" it.

More here, on a second main thread, about different privacy and security standards at different servers. Because of this, comments won't necessarily migrate from one server to another.

Then, decentralization may have other problems. This Forbes piece says things like data breaches WILL occur.

To sum up then, is Mastodon private? Nope. Well, no more or less than any other social network or community. Will there be data leak, if not breach, stories emerging as Mastodon grows? Yep. Of course, there will, this is the real world, after all. So, what should you do if still at the pondering stage when it comes to Mastodon membership?

If they're serious enough, who do you sue? The operator of your group's server?

Back to scalability. The "other" link above says Rochko may not be interested in scalability. Or related issues. Which means people fleeing the burning ship of Twitter later rather than sooner will be SOL. 

Also, remember that Gab and Truth Social are both based on Mastodon forks. Rochko wrote former President Donald Trump directly after Truth Social didn't make its code public. Nothing else happened after it did so.

Finally, an issue related to the new AI "art" creation programs. People have been called out on Twitter for using photos from these programs, since they scrape commercial photos. Is Mastadon any better on things like this?

So.Choose.Wisely. That was said more than once in the Forbes piece.

Oh, if you really hate legacy social media, or anything like that? I challenge you to delete your Amazon account if you're talking about deleting Twitter and/or Facebook.

December 14, 2022

No, nuclear fusion is still not just around the corner

Nuclear fusion has been "just around the corner" for decades, kind of like strong AI. Now, while strong AI photo-scrapping has become ever more a cause for concern and even alarm, overall, it's still not just around the corner. However, something more than weak AI does seem closer to just around the corner.

Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, has seemed to remain metaphorically, but not actually, just around the corner.

That's contra the breathlessness some have expressed over a supposed surplus energy from a brief fusion burst at the National Ignition Facility, per Science News:

At 1:03 a.m. PST on December 5, researchers with the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, Calif., ignited controlled nuclear fusion that, for the first time, resulted in the net production of energy. A 3-million-joule burst emerged from a peppercorn-sized capsule of fuel when it was hit with a 2-million-joule laser pulse.

Sounds promising, no?

Especially with this?

“These recent results [at] NIF are the first time in a laboratory anywhere on Earth [that] we were able to demonstrate more energy coming out of a fusion reaction than was put in,” NIF physicist Tammy Ma said at the news conference. She predicted that pilot projects for power plants based on the fusion approach will be built in the “coming decades.”

But Tevye knows this one IS just one small, very small, step for mankind. Because it didn't actually result in the net production of energy, when one, to riff on creationists and evolution, looks at the full closed system involved:

But this latest fusion burst still didn’t produce enough energy to run the laser power supplies and other systems of the NIF experiment. It took about 300 million joules of energy from the electrical grid to get a hundredth of the energy back in fusion. “The net energy gain is with respect to the energy in the light that was shined on the target, not with respect to the energy that went into making that light,” says University of Rochester physicist Riccardo Betti, who was also not involved with the research. “Now it’s up to the scientists and engineers to see if we can turn these physics principles into useful energy.”

That's where we're at. 

And, in terms of net power production at the fusion itself, it's not THAT far ahead of 16 months ago.

Per Tommy Ma, focus on that "decades away." If not "fifty years in the future," it's almost surely no closer than 40 years. In other words, really nothing massively new here and in other words, not in my lifetime.

Plus, as Counterpunch reminds us, a lot of the PR two weeks ago was exactly that: fusion-industrial complex government-industry PR. And, also per Counterpunch, future tritium shortages and materials costs will impose bottlenecks.

Smartphone addiction is a killer

I get Texas Department of Public Safety reports on fatal accidents from time to time and not just in my immediate area. 

Here's one from last month. A driver is westbound on US 80 near Wills Point, a semi with a trailer. He's turning left across the highway into a private drive. 

There's a vehicle coming eastbound on 80 who isn't paying attention and hits the trailer as the first driver is in the middle of the turn. 

She's driving too fast as well. And she's dead. 

Beyond "failure to control speed," DPS notes "driver of vehicle 1 was later determined to watching a movie on her cell phone at the time of the crash."

December 13, 2022

Paul Whelan, spy?

Per all the talk, in Brittney Griner's release, about why Paul Whelan wasn't released, the issue of who Whelan might really be doesn't get directly touched, even though Wingnut Walrus John Bolton arguably hints at it.

Let's look at Bolton's words, part of him condemning the swap of Viktor Bout for Griner:

“There are occasions when you swap spies. Obviously, there are legitimate exchanges of prisoners of war,” he continued.

Parse them.

Was Whelan a spy? I think so.

Remember, per Wiki, or just note, per Wiki, if you didn't know this, he's a serial liar about his law enforcement record and college record, a would-be thief, and an actual identity thief, in the Marines who got a bad-conduct discharge and other things. (Only a dishonorable discharge is worse.) Someone like that, also a Trumpie of some sort, would have been an easy mark for the CIA to recruit, and also for Russia to compromise.

And also per Wiki, note that family members told the Beeb that he bragged about knowing a member of Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB.

Beyond this, he could have been doing economic espionage for Kelly Services, a past employer, current employer BorgWarner, both and/or others. He could have been doing just this, or also some official CIA moonlighting in addition.

As for CIA claims it wouldn't have recruited a person with his background? Bullshit. As for the idea that they wouldn't leave such an asset so exposed? More bullshit; they'd willingly burn him. As for feeling the need to state that publicly? "Methinks the CIA doth protest too much."

Per three paragraphs above? This could also explain the somewhat "resigned" attitude his family had when learning he wouldn't be released.

As for how Bout inflamed relations? The US arrested a Russian national for "unauthorized export of defense materials" the day after Russia arrested Whelan.

As for claims this was tit-for-tat for Marina Butina? Laughable, since she only got a 9-month sentence on a minor felony.

Whelan either is a spy, or, given his background, idiotic enough to try to be a freelance spy or something. And in the latter case, if you're going to walk, talk and quack like a spy ...

There's one tidbit besides that, though, and it relates to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's bombshell interview published several days ago that the Minsk Accords were designed just to string Putin out while the West rearmed.

Per an NPR piece about how NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg worries about the war expanding, Putin has said he wishes he invaded earlier, though he doesn't talk about why he didn't catch on earlier, if he did not. That said, and, as reflected in the Brittney Griner exchange, and ignored by the likes of John Bolton, it has lead to fallout. Putin is specific:

“Eventually we will have to negotiate an agreement,” he said. “But after such statements there is an issue of trust. Trust is close to zero. I repeatedly have said that we are ready for an agreement, but it makes us think, think about whom we are dealing with.”

There you go.

Whelan, whether an actual spy or a wannabe, is probably going to "rot" a while longer, thanks in part to Angela Merkel. And Barack Obama, per her story.

Texas Progressives: Political hypocrisy from local to global

Hypocrisy alert 1: Retiring bald-headed goon Kevin Brady blames social media for most of the divisiveness in modern politics while declining to look in the mirror.

And 2: SocraticGadfly took an in-depth, critical look at Angela Merkel's bombshell in Der Spiegal, about using the 2014 Minsk Accords to string out Putin and other things.

And 3: The Trib says skyrocketing housing costs will be a key issue in the Austin mayoral runoff. The Observer has more on that and city council runoffs. Funny how neoliberal Dems, like Rethuglicans, love capitalism until their constitutents' collective ox is gored.

And 4: Off the Kuff derides the election contest filed by a loser judicial candidate in Harris County.

No 5? Meet the MAGA Munns of Borger, formerly of Wisconsin, and Jan. 6 criminals who got hand-slapped. Definitely hypocrites and other things. (They look incestuous, as well.)

And No. 6: Rivers McCown tried to find some meaning in the Deshaun Watson return to NFL action against the Houston Texans. The Browns, the Texans, the NFL? And Watson? All various degrees of hypocrites.

December 12, 2022

John Bolton just further kneecapped #Russiagate — it seems

Somebody alert Emptywheel, er Emptymind, her flunky BMaz I mean BPutz, other ex-Kossacks, or better, at least in his case, an ex-Kossasshole, and current general asshole, and BlueAnons in general. I say this based on what Bmaz said related to Marcy anonymously narking on an alleged journo who she has yet to name four-plus years later. Or my ripping him here for Green Derangement Syndrome. Or both of them, to get back to the theme, here for having previous Russiagate wet dreams crushed. (If they actually knew federal law, and the difference between federal criminal and civil law — which they don't — they wouldn't be such idiots.

And, how did Bolton kneecap Russiagate?

He said that in the middle of his neoconning as Trump's national security advisor, the idea of trading arms dealer Viktor Bout for Paul Whelan was discussed — and rejected.

OTOH, parse his words:

“The possibility of a Bout-for-Whelan trade existed back then,” said Bolton, 74, “and it wasn’t made, for very good reasons having to deal with Viktor Bout.”

Does that mean that Russia actually broached it at some level? Or rather, that Trump broached it and Bolton told him no fucking way?

Yeah, Trump joined in on dogging Biden:

“Why wasn’t former Marine Paul Whelan included in this totally one-sided transaction? He would have been let out for the asking,” the former president said. “What a ‘stupid’ and unpatriotic embarrassment for the USA!!!”

But the flighty weathervane might have had different thoughts four years ago

This also raises questions of why Biden did this (if he agrees with Trump and Bolton that Bout is that bad). I don't, and neither does the judge who presided at his trial, who said earlier this year, when Bout-for-Griner was first floated, that he should be out of prison in some way, shape or form anyway. That judge, Shira Sheindlin, in this piece primarily about Bout's lawyer, said she sentenced him to 25 years only because federal minimums required that.

“It is virtually undisputed that until the DEA went after Bout, he had not committed a crime chargeable in an American court in all his years as an arms dealer,” she said at his sentencing. “But for the approach made through this determined sting operation, there is no reason to believe that Bout would ever have committed the charged crimes.”

There you go.

Even more, though, it raises the issue of whether Putin actually would have agreed to such a deal. I mean, Bout is not big skin off his back, and he's not connected to the Russian government. See more on that from a UN weapons inspector talking at Democracy Now.

That may be also related to the issue of whether Whelan is indeed a spy. Let's look at more of Bolton's words:

“There are occasions when you swap spies. Obviously, there are legitimate exchanges of prisoners of war,” he continued.

Parse them, too.

Just maybe Whelen is a spy, and since Bout isn't, no deal from Putin. Per that link about Bout's lawyer, Russia refused to release Whelan along with Trevor Reed. Zissou adds that he thinks the seeming entrapment of Bout poisoned US-Russia prisoner exchange details in general. Thanks, Shrub Bush.

So, on the first part of the triple bankshot, yeah, Bolton probably did kneecap Russiagate further. Not hard to do if you're not BlueAnon.

On the second issue, of why Biden did this, yeah, maybe he did feel pressure. Maybe he also knew that the likes of Bolton are full of shit.

And, that's my third bankshot, and they ARE full of shit. And, per Whelan's brother, Bolton and Trump are also asshats.

But, back to Whelan. I do think he was a spy, but I'm going to drop details into a separate post.

There's one tidbit besides that, though, and it relates to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's bombshell interview published several days ago that the Minsk Accords were designed just to string Putin out while the West rearmed.

Per an NPR piece about how NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg worries about the war expanding, Putin has said he wishes he invaded earlier, though he doesn't talk about why he didn't catch on earlier, if he did not. That said, and, as reflected in the Brittney Griner exchange, and ignored by the likes of John Bolton, it has lead to fallout. Putin is specific:

“Eventually we will have to negotiate an agreement,” he said. “But after such statements there is an issue of trust. Trust is close to zero. I repeatedly have said that we are ready for an agreement, but it makes us think, think about whom we are dealing with.”
There you go.

SB 8 curtailed; Felipe Gomez appears to be a liar

Senate Bill 8, the "sue the goddammed abortionists" bill, has had its scope dramatically narrowed by a state district judge tossing the lawsuit against its first target, Dr. Alan Braid, on standing issues. The Monthly has more, including that the plaintiff intends to appeal. Missing from either story is who's fronting the money for his lawyers? The Chronic reminds us that Felipe Gomez ALLEGEDLY filed the suit, which was before SCOTUS overturned Roe, in order to point out the hypocrisy of members of the Texas Lege. I call bullshit, especially because of his saying he's going to appeal. So, again, who's front the money for his lawyers?