SocraticGadfly: 2023

June 06, 2023

Is PRO Gainesville in more trouble?

The Gainesville, Texas based group was convicted of a Misdemeanor B offense a year ago for violating the legal limitations of their parade permit on their last protest against the Confederate statue on the Cooke County Courthouse lawn. Per that link, even though I agree with their cause, the arrest was good and the conviction (after their legal beagle, Allison Grinter, was dumb or stubborn enough to refuse a plea bargain, or her clients were), was legit.

Now, the Cooke County Sheriff's Office is looking for three subjects alleged to have vandalized that statue. Or, they were looking. As of late last night, an update at that link says all three have been identified. Names and charges have not been listed.

I've long said that I agree with their ideas but that they WERE lawbreakers. The ACLU's own guidance pamphlet for what one can and cannot do in terms of protest on a parade permit, linked in the first link and also here, ALSO says so, which is why the ACLU of Texas and ACLU national are hypocrites for engaging in fundraising for the group's appeal.

And, I don't know how serious the damage is, but if you're dumb enough to do this in broad daylight at 4:23 p.m., you're dumb enough to deserve being swiftly arrested.

That said, I don't know if the people allegedly involved have any official connection, if you will, to PRO Gainesville or not.

That said, per the photo below from the Gainesville Independent School District, the guy in the center looks like faux PRO Gainesville dude Tucker Craft. He's pictured at left. Is it him? The center suspect is the right height. Similar glasses. Ears seem similar. (I couldn't get Blogger to properly embed the CCSO Facebook photo, so I'm enlarging on FB.) This person is a good dozen pounds heavier, though. If so, is he not "faux"? Or is this a false flag?

Cornel West running as a third-party candidate? Yay, then not yay

I was at first pleasantly surprised when I saw the news that Cornel West had thrown his hat in the ring as a third-party presidential candidate. I knew he wouldn't be a Libertarian.

I assumed he was running as a Green.

And, assumed wrong.

He's running for the nomination of the People's Party.

As I said on Twitter, minus the link to the announcement story, and edited because I don't have character limits here?

Seriously. If half the Green Party is AccommoGreens, 90% of the People's Party is butthurt Berners led around by the nose by grifter Nick Brana.

Plus, the People's Party, as of this point, has almost zero ballot access. And, given its problems, or rather, Nick Brana's problems, I would not sign a petition for it to get on the ballot here in Tex-ass. And, as I blogged 16 months ago, speaking of said problems, it included the PP being overrun by antivaxxers (who have been supported in the GP by the noxious 2022 Texas gubernatorial candidate Delilah Barrios).

That said, remembering what I'd blogged before about a previous People's Party convention, I shouldn't be surprised West is choosing this route. And, per that link, Brana has been a political grifter for some time. Also per that link, I thought West's explanations about voting for Dear Leader were either disingenuous or else a display of true cluelessness.

Someone on Twitter expressed their sadness at West running with an anti-Black political movement. I'm not sure if Brana's touched that note or not, but if so, it wouldn't surprise me. And, that said? Given his history with the People's Party, and per the paragraph above, that he's really not that much of a leftist, this doesn't surprise me.

Meatball Ron DeSatan — human trafficker or abetter thereof?

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar has officially recommended the Bexar DA bring charges in last year's case of Ill Eagles being taken from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard. People connected to Florida Gov. Meatball Ron DeSatan appear to be behind that, as also behind the new stunt of flying people from El Paso to Sacramento, though of course, it's not clear if the SAME Floridians were involved. Salazar has not named names on who he thinks should be charged.

But, the Miami Herald at the first link names names:

The migrant relocation program, using Florida tax dollars, was overseen by DeSantis’ chief of staff, James Uthmeier, and public safety czar Larry Keefe.

And then adds background:

Although DeSantis’ has not yet confirmed the state of Florida was behind the latest flights to California, the migrants arrived outside a Sacramento-area church carrying documents that indicated the travel was arranged by the Florida Division of Emergency Management and Vertol Systems, the private contractor that also arranged the original flights to Martha’s Vineyard, the office of California’s attorney general said.

All seems pretty clear.

All of this raises one other question: Where is our almost Republican United States Attorney General Merrick Garland?

June 05, 2023

Ken Paxton on trial

Kenny Boy Paxton just can't or won't stop being a legal idiot, despite House Investigations Committee member David Spiller (my district) praising his legal mind, per a Trib story previewing his trial. Ann Johnson, one of the House managers, said that Paxton's already dropping a binder with his planned defense on all senators was the equivalent of witness tampering.

Paxton's in trouble otherwise, if the explosive duo of Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin will be the hired guns serving as the House's prosecutors. Hardin has already provided a tease:

“This is not about a one-time misuse of office,” he said. “This is not about a two-time misuse of office. It’s about a pattern of misconduct.” He added: "I promise you it is 10 times worse than what has been public.”

Getcha popcorn! More seriously, if Paxton is relying on state AG's office staff, whether careerists or top-level political appointees, to battle against this pair? He's up shit creek, unless, per the first link, Patrick and the team he has setting trial rules, frame issues very narrowly.

That said, also per the first link? Dan Patrick has said "no recusals," meaning Paxton's wife Angela gets to vote? The Trib cites the state constitution, requiring all senators be present for a trial. But, like Harold Dutton's "present" vote in the House, that doesn't mean that Patrick has to allow them to vote, does it? The piece goes on to note that's not the only apparent conflict of interest in the Senate. 


At the Monthly, Dan Solomon notes the trial is not a referendum on Trump. In a literal sense, that's Captain Obvious. In a figurative sense, given that Trump has already commented, and given the Trib pieces, behind senators' silence, it's wrong.


From the Texas Progressives Roundup, Off the Kuff games out the best political outcome (for Democrats) of the Paxton impeachment saga. For Greens? The best political outcome would be for enough Rethugs to vote "no" and enough Dems to pull a Harold Dutton that leaves Kenny Boy in office.

Mueller She Wrote or Fraud She Wrote?

Mueller, She Wrote #BlueAnon / #Russiagate Tweeter Allison Gill is apparently as much a fraud as the Steele Dossier and some other parts of Russiagate. (Sorry, though, conspiracy theorists, the DNC — AND THE RNC — were indeed hacked by the Russians.) Anyway, on Gill? This guy has the goods on Twitter. She's lied about her grandpa dying in WWII, about her serving in the Navy during the actual Gulf War, about her "dismissal" from her VA job and more.

As I quote-tweeted the first tweet, I was reminded: Has Marcy Wheeler, aka Emptywheel, ever named the guy she narked on?

Even without knowing the backstory, her Tweeting has seemed some mix of sanctimonious and backbiting. Plus, as a semi-pacifist leftist, Dems who are war cosplayers, even if not full warmongers, turn me off.

And, per the Twitter OP, it is at least an open question as to whether or not Allison Gill is violating not just some generic idea of stolen valor but the Stolen Valor Act of 2013. Since Gill's podcasting and other career has indeed generated money, and is based on part on her military honors claims, it's not an issue that I'd just dismiss. (This sets aside the issue of whether or not the act, like its 2005 predecessor, violates the First Amendment.)

Update: It gets better and others are piling on. Like this Tweet which has a clip from one of her comedy events, calling a vegan a fag. More from same Tweeter here. I'll add more as I see them!

June 02, 2023

No, Paxton didn't make Beto lose, as #BlueAnon Texas Dems start their own Russiagate

With Texas AG Ken Paxton's impeachment last week Tex-ass Blue Anon mouth breathers have been claiming that he caused massive vote suppression causing R(ump) F(uck)? "Beto" O'Rourke to lose his race for governor to Strangeabbott, aka Greg Abbott.


First, Kenny Boy did no such massive vote suppression. The state did, in the case of Harris County and some other urban counties, get some restrictions on early voting remote ballot drop-offs. In other cases, most notably Harris, the county itself had shut some polling places before the general.

Related? Kenny Boy is too incompetent to pull off real vote supression.

As for the reality?

Beto beat Beto.

First, his 2020 prez run statements, especially on gunz, then on the environment (even as he continued taking slick oil money before his quick dropout) came back to haunt him, as anybody with a brain knew it would.

Second, his lunacy of going out to Muleshoe instead of concentrating on suburbs and exurbs not only cost himself votes, but probably cost Dems a chance of winning the Tarrant County Judge race.

Third, those non-voters aren't sekret Dems, and, even if they were, county chairs  in counties much larger than Muleshoe's Bailey County — think places like Bonham's Fannin County or Gainesville's Cooke County — have ZERO get out the vote effort or organization. Beto may not admit it, but half the reason statewide Dems like him go to those places is to "stroke" these useless as tits on a boar hog county chairs and keep them involved with the state party. I mean, even the executive officer for "Skipper" Gilberto Hinojosa of the SS Minnow admitted last November that their GOTV vote sucked.

Speaking of, Texas Dems, lemme know when you fire the Skipper. And,try getting a better alternative than Kim Olson; 2022 didn't work, maybe in part because too many Texas Dems are still too invested in Hinojosa. For whatever reason. Any easy facilitation of denialism, maybe?

June 01, 2023

Why did the Texas GOP finally go after Ken Paxton?

The best explainer I've seen so far is by Chris Hooks at the Monthly.

Hooks first describes Paxton's near-decade long alleged legal malfeasance that's been on the state docket, and successfully dodged so far, for the unfamiliar. He also adds in a brief backgrounder of the previous decade of alleged criminality before THAT.

Next is noting the omerta that Texas elected officials practice toward each other, with this as the kicker: 

Nihilism is the WD-40 of Texas politics: everything goes down easier if you accept that nothing really changes and nothing really matters. Until, suddenly, it does.

He then notes that Warren Paxton asking the Lege to approve the state paying off his lawsuit settlement was a bridge too far for a variety of reasons. (Sidebar: The House Investigations Committee began looking at Paxton then, long before Bryan Slaton; his impeachment wasn't out of the blue.)

He says other Rethugs balked at eating Kenny Boy's turd sandwich because it would appear to reflect on him.

Paxton easily won his last primary, and there's no indication anything would be different in 2026 unless the feds had a conviction by then. And, contra the Tex-ass level Blue Anons, there's nothing to indicate the 2026 general would be different than 2022. So, with an opportunity to impeach, they did. And, before this, Hooks notes they really didn't have a case for impeachment.

And, this, again, is why I scoffed at Tex-ass Blue Anons when they said Dan Patrick would never have a Senate trial. Most of them are tired of him. That includes Strangeabbott; naming John Scott as temporary AG rather than the permanent No. 2, Brett Webster, running the shop, probably should be seen as an Abbott endorsement of kicking Kenny Boy to the curb.

Hooks then notes the knots his 21 House defenders tied themselves into.

Hooks does have a stumble or two. He takes Harold Dutton's "due process" comment at face value without noting his Blue Anon tweet that he wanted Kenny Boy to have to be on the next ballot.

May 31, 2023

Texas Progressives say "So long, Kenny Boy" (sort of)

Note: Per various sources, the Texas Senate will meet June 20 to discuss rules of Ken Paxton's trial. Lite Guv Dan Patrick has already named a committee of senators who will report to the full Senate then. Quorum Report says the trial will be held no later than Aug. 28.

With that all said, I want to laugh at members of the Texas division of #BlueAnon who claimed a week ago on Twitter that Patrick would have no such trial. I knew then that Goeb has no trouble throwing away former allies or political friends of convenience once their usefulness to him has expired. 

Off the Kuff was all over the impeachment proceedings against Ken Paxton. (With large chunks of quote-texting MSM sources.) In a further update after sending out the Roundup, he speculates about why it happened now as well as how he hopes the Senate trial plays out, and how this ties to Dems' 2024 state race chances.

Also on the Kenny Boy impeachment, Harold Dutton showed that at least one Democrap in the Lege can be just as cynical as any Rethuglican, and in addition, be as naive about Dems' statewide chances as Gilberto Hinojosa, Democrats' captain of the SS Minnow. Harold, meet Kuff. Kuff, meet Harold.

And, with that, on to the rest of the Roundup.


SocraticGadfly explained what the new short-term tweak to the Colorado River Compact does and does not mean.

Multiple sites and people paid tribute to the great Houston-based writer and Texas original John Nova Lomax, who died this past week at the age of 53. A sampling, from the people who knew him and the places where his writing flourished: Houston Chronicle Houston Public Media Texas Highways Texas Monthly CultureMap Houston Houston Press The Press also dug up JML's classic series of stories called "Sole of Houston" in which he'd walk the entire length of an iconic Houston thoroughfare, sometimes over more than one day, and documented the experience in word and photo.

The Observer attended a memorial service for Uvalde victims on the one year anniversary of that massacre, which the Republicans in the Lege completely ignored.

Steve Vladeck wrote about being singled out for criticism by Justice Sam Alito for daring to mention the "shadow docket".

Mean Green Cougar Red offers a bit of perspective on the potential for a relocated NHL team in Houston.

"Congrats" to Boris Kagarlitsky for implying only Russia, not Ukraine, has draconian thought censorship, and "congrats" to Counterpunch for finding a Russian Eric Draitser.

Zionists trying to call Roger Waters a Nazi can fuck off. Sincerely, Mondoweiss.

May 30, 2023

African-Americans invented Memorial Day? Not so fast, and definitely not on Southerners

It's a stretch, at least, and perhaps wrongful wokeness at worst, to claim a May 1, 1865 memorial to fallen black Union troopers by black Charleston, South Carolina, residents the first Memorial Day. And, yes, David Blight offers good scholarship in resurrecting this event, but not so good in his extrapolation.

First, looking forward past that date? Blight does note that John A. Logan's call in 1868, which included the specific date of May 30 for commemoration, is what stuck.

Second, looking at the event? White missionaries were involved, too. Per the story, it's not clear whether they or the black residents first came up with the idea, or whether it was jointly evolved. It's also not clear if they had some specific inspiration or not.

Southern Whites may have had some role, but this piece overstates that, IMO, and doesn't look at the question of whether or not Southern Whites decorated Black Union soldiers' graves, and I think you know the answer to that. Richard Gardiner and Daniel Bellware have co-authored a full book about that, and appear to have ignored the March 1, 1865 event entirely, even though it's in Wikipedia's article on Memorial Day. I call shenanigans. That said, contra Blight, Logan never cited the Charleston event, from what I can see, so maybe it's not shenanigans; it just didn't "take."

But, the pair ignore pre-1866 Northern events.

And so, versus Gardiner and Bellware perhaps having a small bit of Lost Cause, or a bigger bit of Steven Spielberg gauze in them, the larger ideas in Blight's book Race and Reunion should take precedence. I have not read this book, but I have read his fantastic Frederick Douglass bio, so I think he knows in general what he's talking about.

Third and looking further back? There was this special battlefield dedication on Nov. 19, 1863, where a guy named A. Lincoln spoke a few words that time has certainly NOT forgotten.

Fourth? Looking further back, I do NOT think Logan was influenced by pre-Civil War Appalachian Decoration Days.

Summary? I hadn't heard of this event before, unless Eric Foner mentioned it and I forgot. It's good to recall it. But, it shouldn't be put on this level of pedestal, either.

Bigger summary? Blight is definitely more right on Gardiner and Bellware on the issue of gauzy heroic memories, especially if they have a hat tip toward the incipient Lost Cause, vs. African-Americans being quickly shoved aside from the remembrance of events. (Blacks fought at Gettysburg, but by the time of the 50th anniversary event in 1913, this was totally, and deliberately ignored.) What the Columbus State duo also ignore is that Logan spoke about "traitors" and other such in his call for Memorial Day, per the Veterans Administration. I quote:

General Logan was aware of these memorial efforts and their origin. In a speech given at an 1866 Independence Day celebration in Salem, IL, he spoke of the practice of floral tributes in the context of post-war Black civil rights, and compares "traitors in the south [that] have their gatherings day after day to strew garlands of flowers upon the graves of the Rebel soldiers" to a Black man "who has gained his liberty by the march and prowess of American arms, [who] shall come along with a basket of flowers to strew upon the grave of some poor loyal soldier that he shall have the right to do it."

So, while he may have been influenced by Southern practice, he was NOT influenced by any ideas behind said practice. So, IMO, it's a stretch to claim Columbus, Georgia, "conveniently" the home of Columbus State University, as the originator of Memorial Day. The "convenience" may also be an attempt to drum up tourism, as are other such claims.

And, if we're to honor Logan's spirit, even if he didn't know about it, we will give a hat tip to Charleston. Sadly, and why it's not on my blogroll anymore, Snopes is semi-dismissive of Blight's framing, and buys the Gardiner-Bellware claims whole and unskeptically. (Yet another reason Snopes shall remain deblogrolled.)

And thus, since Charleston, per Blight, did have the spirit of Logan, I stand by my piece on Memorial Day itself, wishing Happy Memorial Day to the traitors.

Final summary? Gardiner's piece has appeared in numerous places like the "Nebraska Examiner," rated by Media Bias Fact Check as "liberal." (Having looked at the Kansas version, I totally concur.) That was a surprise to me, as I expected wingnut sites to be his biggest touters.

May 29, 2023

Happy Memorial Day, traitor supporters

PRO Gainesville, the group that has protested Cooke County, Texas', refusal to remove its Civil War monument (the city of Gainesville did remove its), had some pertinent thoughts related to the city of Gainesville billing itself as the Medal of Honor City.

It noted that award was started during the Civil War. And, it commemorated people fighting against treason.

So, yeah, if "support our troops" extends back to those in gray, think again.

That said, PRO misfired by not mentioning that Gainesville is also the Great Hanging site. Just as much as in the North, if not more so, many Southerners didn't want to fight. And, in Gainesville, as in the German lower Hill Country, some got lynched for their pains.

Years ago, the city and county were approached about giving more publicity to the Great Hanging site, and possibly tying it in with Medal of Honor week, and both governments said no.

May 26, 2023

"Good god-fearing people" rural red-state bullshit

I don't know if any graduation speakers at local graduations tonight will spout this shite, but, let's do a quick breakdown, since I heard this phrase from a new local principal early this month upon his hiring.

By their own lights, Shi'ite ayatollahs in Iran, Zionists in a settlement in Occupied Palestine, Upper Castes of Hindus in India who heavily back the BJP, and 969 Movement fundamentalist Buddhist monks in Burma are all "good god-fearing people."

So, too, here in the US, were the followers of David Koresh. And, before David Koresh became a follower of himself, he probably was a good god-fearing person, too.

It's like Religious Right wingnuts wanting to bring back public, coercive school prayer. WHOSE? What if a Catholic says a Hail Mary while fingering their beads? Or, for that matter, a Shi'ite cries "Allahu akbar" while fingering THEIR beads, and they're leading a public, coercive prayer?

Spare me your bullshit, which also presumes the godless aren't good.

May 25, 2023

Colorado River deal is not all that

The New York Times actually has a decent story.

Here's the biggies on what the Lower Basin states of the Colorado River Compact — California, Arizona and Nevada — have agreed to, and the four Upper Basin states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have tentatively signed off on.

First, this is a three-year deal. It merely postpones a long-term rewrite of the Compact by three years. Neoliberal John Fleck is probably doing huzzahs and hosannas somewhere. Don't follow his hype.

Second, the 3 million acre-feet of cuts? That's total over the three years. It's not bad, but, it's the minimum that needs to be done permanently in the Lower Basin. See Science Magazine from last year for what really needs to be done at a "minimum." But, they're not going to make a permanent deal until they get at least a bit of Upper Basin help.

Third, it doesn't really address the elephant in the room. Aridzona can bitch about Saudi people buying up land there and irrigating alfalfa for Arabian horses — or Chinese beef. But, that doesn't excuse Aridzonans, or Californians on the west side of the river, from doing it themselves.

Fourth? While NOAA notes El Niño effects can be relatively weak in summer, that expected El Niño is already projected to be parking a dry high over the Southwest this summer. Hope you enjoy all the snowmelt because it's possible there won't be much of a monsoon season this year. 

Fifth? Follow the money. Federal "bribery" achieved what Basin states couldn't last year.

Fifth, part 2? BuRec's threat to void current appropriation percentages in the lower Basin? Surprised California apparently thought that was real, given BuRec's fake banhammer last summer.

Sixth? Per that fake banhammer link, the odds of California preserving the Salton Sea just dropped further.

Robert Glennon has more details, noting that the feds are paying for 2.3 MAF of the 3MAF  of cuts. He says more needs to be done, but given how hard it was to put together the original Compact, says that it should be within its framework and not starting anew. That said? The original deal expires in just 3 years, or, at the same time these temporary additional cuts go away. And, whatever the Supreme Court rules on Arizona v Navajo Nation, Indian water rights will loom much larger in 2026 than before. And, speaking of Thompson, he also weighs in; per him, it's most likely that the federal bribery is to take enough of that water-guzzling alfalfa out of circulation for three years by a short-term, specific, version of something like the Conservation Easement Program. So, not only is this short-term, it's short-term in a way that will backfire in three years. In addition, what if any of those people paid not to grow are the Arabs in Aridzona?

That said, that problem is not just on the Colorado. Look at what New Mexico does on southern New Mexico stretches of the Pecos and Rio Grande. Irrigation-driven dairy farming is wrecking Western water.

That's not to excuse irrigation-driven beef ranching, or the nostalgia of the likes of Jonathan Thompson. Nor is it to ignore ongoing PR by the National Cattleman's Beef Association pretending that sustainable beef is OK in our climate change world. (I ran into a guy on Medium making that claim, and now I wonder if he was a paid psyops.)

Finally, all of this ignores American Indian water rights issues, namely Navajo water rights claims on which the Supreme Court could rule later this month, per above comment. And, it's just posssible that, even if the feds, behind Arizona, win, the victory would be Pyrrhic. See here.

Racism and datedness at the classic comedy theater

It's amazing, and cringe-worthy, the amount of it in a British arts' sites top 25 comedy movies of all time. Duck Soup is to cringe. And, though not on the top 25, so is Blazing Saddles, despite Mel Brooks' talk about what he ran by Richard Pryor as a co-writer. The Jerk is maybe only semi-cringe-worthy.

The datedness goes with hamminess. Much of the more modern slapstick (you, Leslie Nielsen) is also cringe-worthy.
AT the same time, my beloved M*A*S*H wasn't free of this. "Spearchucker" Jones in the opening seasons? Really?

May 24, 2023

Texas Progressives look at more Lege bullshit

On one issue, the Texas Lege may offer some hope of inaction. If the House and Senate stay miles apart on a bill to replace the old Chapter 313 program, maybe there will be no replacement.  Per the Trib piece, wingnuts are already lying, when they claim Chapter 313 favored renewables. And, in the two chambers, and within them, if this continues to be a Republican vs Republican issue, the clock might just be stalled out.

On another, and related? Tex-ass is trying to punish electric vehicles. A $100 surcharge to make up for lost gas taxes (and a bit more) I could see. But $200 per year on your registration? Bullshit. And $400 on extra title costs? Double bullshit.

Off the Kuff wades through the ridiculous Fifth Circuit hearing on the mifepristone lawsuit appeal. 

SocraticGadfly notes that, given his pre-Lege career, Bryan Slaton is an exemplar of an ongoing Southern Baptist sex abuse scandal the denomination still refuses to fully address.

G. Elliott Morris looks at polling and forecasting in 2024 and beyond.  

The Texas Living Waters Project is glad to see the Lege finally pay some attention to fixing leaks and replacing aging water infrastructure.  

Texas 2036 reports on the effort to expand broadband access in Texas.  

Reform Austin reports on the Bonnen brothers' bum deal to start funneling Medicaid dollars into more private, profit-driven companies' pockets.

Hillary Clinton says it's OK to question Warmonger Joe's age. Next, do Sen. Betty Crocker.

May 23, 2023

Texas Lege claims to care about children, but really doesn't; but that may cut both ways

It's called HB 63, which would bar anonymous child abuse reports. Yes, per the story, there are real vindictive false abuse reports. But also, per the story, which I knew before clicking, there are real reports which people have good reasons to make anonymously. Like, for example, a paraprofessional reporting a teacher.

And, with that, here's some of the new ways it, and the state government in general, really hate children.

A bill to put religious chaplains in public schools, allegedly not there to evangelize kids, but per the bill's top backer, speaking elsewhere, they actually are. (That's not to mention it's unconstitutional.)

The attacks on "gender"-affirming care for minors (scare quotes needed because "sex" and "gender" aren't the same thing, and so says NIH), about which I am a non-twosider, but know that Lyin Ken Paxton's heavy-handedness aren't called for. At the same time, the Observer's piece on SB 14 is part of why I'm not a two-sider. It's debatable whether the effects of the likes of Lupron are "easily" reversible or not. The Observer doesn't mention its real — and often lasting, as in the cases of bone density loss — side effects, that eventually resulted in an FDA black box warning. It does mention the psychological background of "gender-affirming care," but doesn't discuss in detail the Mayo Clinic guidelines for what all that should involve if puberty blockers are properly used. And, by noting that sexual-reassignment surgery (it's sex, not gender!) is not the "first line" with minors, it admits that it IS nonetheless, something done to minors. This whole issue makes me feel more and more like Justin Raimondo, as someone likely to be a man without a party, assuming the Greens go further down the twosider path and the SPUSA follows on this issue.

The laughably vague anti-drag bill.

May 22, 2023

Bakhmut, G-7, F-16s and the latest Russia-Ukraine

First, the planes. Russia has warned of taking into account the latest US-NATO escalation, this of offering training to Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s that will be supplied, in dribbles for now most likely, by NATO  member states. The real biggie? Given Xi Jinping's rumblings the past couple of weeks, how much will CHINA take this into account?

Second, the summit. Brazilian officials feel the G-7 members suckered the country's leaders in general and newly returned president Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva over Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's appearance at the summit in Japan. (Since Western media can't seem to figure out if his last name should be "-sky," "-skiy" or "-skyy" we're going to go back to just "-sky" even if that "sounds Russian.") Lula has backed Xi Jinping's peace talks proposal, and has also renewed his calls for an alternative to the dollar as a second global reserve currency.

Third, despite world-renowed economist James K. Galbraith showing just how little sanctions against Russia are actually working, the G-7 voted for more. Thanks, Warmonger Joe.

Fourth, Vloddy begged the G-7 (and G-20, at least Lula's Brazil and India) for more handouts. At that link, it appears he and Lula did NOT meet, and Chinese officials told Western countries to knock off East Asian warmongering.

Finally, the Wagner Group claims it has captured Bakhmut. As proof that Mark Ames is not a Russian secret agent, I present this tweet:

And, there you go.

Ten days ago, Jeffrey Sachs called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to chart a more independent path from the US on the war. That obviously still isn't happening. Dear Canadians: PLEASE vote NDP at the next election!

May 19, 2023

Did they really live as long as us in antiquity?

The statement is often made, in some form or another, that if you throw out childhood diseases (and greater maternal pregnancy risks), the ancients did indeed live as long as we do.

And, it's easy to point to a Socrates (70), Plato (either 75 or 80) or Aristotle (only 62) as proof, or even a Cicero who hit 63 before his murder. Or, at the end of antiquity, Augustine hitting 75.

But, there's logical fallacies and other issues behind that.

First is availability bias or similar, obviously.

Second, also obviously, is small sample size on top of that.

Third is questions of adequate representation.

I just listed three philosophers and a politician-philosopher.

To the degree we can project today's classes back to the past? All would be considered "upper middle class." Or higher. All had leisure. All had the service of servants, slaves or both.

The reality?

Compound fractures or deep cuts always ran the risk of inducing blood poisoning. It might not always be lethal, but could be.

Even without that, compound fractures were usually poorly set back then. For a poor free wage laborer, that would leave one dependent to some degree on others for help. For a slave, it might well mean death.

Many cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, treatable if not even curable today, hit in middle age, even early middle age. They were a death sentence in antiquity.

Tooth decay? Dental caries? To the degree we know it appears to contribute to body-wide inflammation, let alone affecting eating and digestion, it would have lopped a few years, at least, off the lives of many. 

Plagues? The one during Marcus Aurelius' reign devastated Antioch. "Childhood diseases" (this plague was possibly measles, but we're not sure, smallpox is also possible) weren't limited to childhood. The Plague of Justinian, the first occurrence of bubonic plague, wreaked havoc. As for claims these were intermittent and shouldn't totally count? Wrong? The Plague of Justinian was part of a multi-century First Plague Pandemic. That was followed by the Second Plague Pandemic, of three centuries from the Black Death through the Great Plague of London. A much shorter Third Pandemic hit mainly East and South Asia.

My Bayesian guess? Probably half the population that made it past 21 2,000 or more years ago did not make it past 50.

May 18, 2023

Florida book ban lawsuit looks fun, but likely full of trouble

Escambia County Schools (that's Pensacola, Panhandle, Redneck Riviera) is being sued by the big book publishers plus PEN for various book bans. The lawsuit looks fun. Winnable? Different.

First? Gotta loovvveee school board member Bill Slayton:

"We have been removing books that have been called inappropriate, pornography," he said. "I guess I'm a little surprised because this is going on all over the state of Florida, not just here. My reaction is our procedures are following what we have been told we have to do."

Sounds like Nazis' version of "just following orders."

Winnable? Different story.

This sounds great:

Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement the freedom to read “is guaranteed by the constitution.”

But, the Supreme Court has in the past said the First Amendment doesn't fully extend to children. Hazelwood is one example, a ruling tightened in Morse, the famous "Bong hits for Jesus" case. OTOH, by denying cert, the Court let stand the Guiles ruling, which indirectly and partially goes against. It's also said the right to an education is not fundamental.

The Fourteenth Amendment grounds might sound better, but there again, there's the school in loco parentis.

Deconstructing Sarah Fay

Cliches become well-used before they get known as clichéd for good reason: They express near-universal truths, to venture into the land of clichés. And, the best of them never become hackneyed.

With that? 

"Trying to have one's cake and eat it too" is the best I can think of on Sarah Fay's attacks on the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the "bible" of counseling psychology and psychiatry, in her books "Pathologized" and "Cured." Hers is not by any means the first such attack; indeed, as noted on my Goodreads review of "Pathologized," which expanded to cover both books when I noted, via her website, that "Cured" is being published for free reading (in part?) in Victorian-type serialization on Substack installments, (See near the end for specific takes on specific chapters.) I long ago wrote a long, detailed blog post about Asperger's being "schizold disorder of childhood" until DSM-IV.

Pathological: The True Story of Six Misdiagnoses

Pathological: The True Story of Six Misdiagnoses by Sarah Fay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is kind of a hard book to rate. Or, it was, until I hit Fay's website and became more agog at what I read.

I will spell out in more detail, wrapping up with heading back to selected portions of the review, how it earned that 2-star rating, including warnings to readers of this book or her in-progress sequel, "Cured."

Hers is also not the only attack on the pharmaceutical industry in general and its psychotropic wing in particular.

That said, despite some Overton window shifting in her referencing a "recovery model" of mental illness, she seems to not only accept the need for such medications for herself, but to accept such need willingly, not grudgingly.

Just one problem. Such medications are prescribed based on a mental illness diagnosis. Such diagnoses are based on mental illnesses mentioned in the DSM, however imperfect it may be. To want such medications without accepting an accompanying diagnosis? More specifically, to want a doctor to prescribe without offering an accompanying diagnosis? That is essentially asking a doctor to commit medical malpractice.

If this is not the impression you intended? You've got a Ph.D. in English, creative writing or similar. I suggest you contact yourself or your editor if that's not the impression you planned. But, you can't have your cake and eat it.

Fay's story has other issues, some about her story, and some about her understanding of psychological counseling. The calls of her, and other people, for patient centered counseling?

Has she, and have they, never heard of Carl Rogers and his client-centered approach? It's like she (and others whose shoulders she stands on) are reinventing the fucking wheel. "Pathologized" never mentions his name, nor do the parts of "Cured" already available for reading. I would have checked the anti-DSM website of hers listed on the dust cover, but? It's expired. (Also interesting.) She loses claims to credibility right there. It's not entirely her fault; the therapy world today seems to be "meds here, cognitive behavioral therapy there." Other counseling modalities (she does mention dialectical behavioral therapy once) get ignored. Group therapy, gestalt, etc? Not mentioned. The broader humanistic psychology (which does not generally include gestalt) also ignored. Not all elements of humanistic psychology work well with more serious mental illness, even when medications come first. Nonetheless, for neurotic-level depression, alone or with hypomania, neurotic-level anxiety and other issues? It can be very good. 

As for patient involvement in general? Did you really not get involved in dialogue about your medications for 20 years or whatever? That may be something symptomatic of women's treatment in mental health. If it is, you really didn't discuss it, even as a couple of Goodreads reviewers noted this, race, etc., have long been "problematic." On the other hand, you mention at least one female psych and other female counselors. If not asking questions for 20 years reflects other obsequiousness to authority? That's not a mental health problem but it may be a personal development one.

Otherwise, what the new "recovery model" focuses on in one way is also just like the old humanistic psychology, and can be summed up in one word, a word I nowhere see in Fay's writing: "acceptance." It's that simple.

Then, there was her reply to me on Substack. She said "Cured" "isn't an advice book, it's a memoir." The two aren't mutually exclusive. "Pathologized" is a memoir, but it has an epilogue, which most memoirs do not, and that epilogue is very much an advice book.

I also found interesting that the circle wasn't closed in "Pathologized." Fay, if not full-on anorexic, had some sort of eating disorder as an adolescent, during the run-up and through her parents' divorce. Relations as an adult seem somewhat strained with her mom at times and more so with her dad before in the end of the book, she seems to indicate all is hunky-dory with both. But, she never talks, even in generalities, about how that happened, given that the relationship was clearly "distanced" per later parts of the book. And, at the same time, after her parents split, during high school, she bounced back and forth between them. Color me skeptical. She also talks about the "murky pit" already in the first chapter. That may not quite be Churchill's "black dog," but it sure sounds similar. So, two of the six misdiagnoses she alleges don't seem to be misdiagnoses.

That's even more true when one reads her essay "On Suicidal Ideation". "Interestingly" (that's scare quotes, Sarah) much of its material did NOT make it into "Pathologized." That includes not only details of the frequency of her ideation, but that she had a less hateful take on the DSM. And, that's not ancient history. It's 2019, and "Pathologized" went to press in 2022 and was surely in writing a full year or more before that.

And, while not a counselor myself, she strikes me as a "highly sensitive person," not just in the sense of the book of that name, but more. She seems to have a highly developed sense of interoception, which in turn then would influence her high emotional sensitivity. None of that is either good or bad; it simply is. That said, it should be noted that interoception that is off the norm is associated with many mental illnesses.

And, with that, on to extracts from my Goodreads review.

Near the end of the book, Fay does slightly nuance her diatribe against the DSM, and against mental health diagnoses.

I give you the last two sentences of the Epilogue:
Before you accept a DSM diagnosis, pause. That doesn't mean you don't seek treatment or take medication or ultimately decide that having a diagnosis, no matter how tenuous (at least for now), serves you, but you do so knowing the truth.

Sadly, especially given my further digging around, it's too bad those words weren't in the first two sentences of the Prologue or Introduction.

That said, she's more close to right on the DSM, and the DSM's evolution, than many 3-star reviewers give her credit for. On the other hand, that has to be seen in light of her suicidal ideation essay, which frankly raises questions of "why the shift."

Beyond the DSM, although she doesn't go into it a lot, she's right as rain, including her own experience, of too many doctors still peddling too many benzos for anxiety. Or antipsychotics. Anti-depressants are another option (especially if used in low doses with talk therapy).

She doesn't square the circle with her opening chapter. Whether she had full-blown anorexia or not, she had some sort of eating disorder that appears to have been in part a reaction to her parents' divorce. And, while she says she's got a good relationship with her dad at the end of the book, she never talks, even in generalities, about how that happened, given that the relationship was clearly "distanced" per later parts of the book. And, at the same time, after her parents split, during high school, she bounced back and forth between them. She also refers to the "murky pit" in the opening chapter, which sounds like depression to me. And, wanting to stay on an SSRI, plus the suicidal ideation, would certainly point to that.

So, that would mean that a minimum of two of her six diagnoses weren't wrong. They may have been partial, or incomplete, but they weren't wrong. That's even more true when one reads her essay "On Suicidal Ideation." "Interestingly" (that's scare quotes, Sarah) much of its material did NOT make it into "Pathologized," though the essay is referenced.

Now, more of a review of "Cured."

And, guess what, Sarah? Your diatribe against group therapy lost you another star, and gets a "recommend against further reading" as part of this review. (In a reply to me, she claimed she wasn't "dissing" group therapy; I differ, without begging.) In the words of scientific skepticism, you've now clearly ventured into "n=1" territory. And, you could be contributing to someone else's mental harm, not cure. Also, her chapter on recovery models of therapy comes off as glib:

Psychiatric “symptoms” like depression and lack of interest and anxiety and ruminations are part of the human condition—even psychosis. (I used to think psychosis was different but as someone I know who hears voices explained, “Ever had a song stuck in your head? That’s not the same, but it gives you an idea.”)

The chapter after the one dissing group therapy has two issues. First, "Staying on the Course" is largely a recycle plus some expansion from this book. And, she talks about Patricia Deegan being "healed" from schizophrenia. Deegan talks about "recovered," but I'm not sure she would use the word "healed." She uses the word "heal" for herself in Chapter 9, and it again seems clear that this is NOT "cure" as in the Latin root meaning "care," as she says in this book, but ... "cure."

And, Fay undercuts herself on this:

As she healed from schizophrenia, Deegan developed her own personal medicine: “Medications were just one tool in an entire set of recovery tools I slowly pulled together for myself. I built my recovery toolkit over time, intuitively, and without even having heard the word ‘recovery.’”

Time after time, it's shape-shifting from her on the issue of medications. Or? Whether better or worse, the political phrase: Overton window shifting. She'll imply or insinuate that recovery models of mental illness somehow move beyond medications .... until there they are! And, why are they there? Because of a diagnosis.

What does Fay want from her movement, anyway? If it's to be "more than a label," I think she's tilting at windmills. I don't think the majority of mental health patients, and certainly not the majority of less severe ones, identify themselves as a label. And, if she really accepted much of her psychs' advice passively for years? See above, about humanistic and client-centered therapy. I am halfway dumbfounded at this.

As for labels, and "healing"? In both schizophrenia, and in chronic depression, and in both sides of bipolar, etc., symptoms can flare up and die down. That doesn't mean the underlying condition has gone away. Happens in some physical ailments, too, like multiple sclerosis, and nobody but a sicko or a self-delusional person would talk about being "healed" from MS.

If a mix of relabeling and refocusing helps Sarah Fay, more power to her. But, this isn't magic. Nor, as I risk moving from skepticism to cynicism, is this about being a "brand." Stopping short of cynicism, there's intellectual dishonesty toward the public, and maybe toward herself, in not describing the "shift" between her state of mind at the time of the suicidal ideation essay and the start of writing "Pathologized" two years later. 

My guess on that, again at the risk of moving beyond skepticism to cynicism, or at least as being perceived as doing such? I think that some time in that two-year gap she became converted to the "recovery model" of mental illness and mental health and then became an evangelist. And, I use "converted" and "evangelist" quite deliberately. (Sidebar: I don't like the descriptor "recovery model" as it sounds too much like addiction and sobriety, where recovery generally means something quite different. It may be riffing on AA's "daily reprieve" statement, but still, beyond that, there's not a lot of parallels in the details. Sidebar 2: I could have riffed further on conversion into conversion disorder ...)

And, given that both her books are advice books as well as memoirs, and knowing there are better, more scientifically grounded, yet still personally focused, critiques of the DSM, I write this in fear that she could, with some of what she says, be a danger to others as well as being some degree of hypocrite, as I see it. On the danger part? I, along with a couple of reviewers who specifically mentioned this, wonder if some readers didn't get halfway through "Pathologized" and think they could just toss their pills. Or, per "Cured," pills or no, people thinking that schizophrenia can be cured.


Side note: The punctuation part of the book, trying to riff that into the different diagnoses, seemed forced. That said, it perhaps emphasizes that the rest of the book is split, per the "splitting" that Fay talks about in herself but never describes in detail (lest she get a dissociative identity disorder diagnosis?) between memoir that could have been better yet if more fleshed out, and the lurking anti-DSM screed.

View all my reviews

May 17, 2023

Bryan Slaton: just another day at the Southern Baptist Convention

A state House committee found Bryan Slaton did have sex with an intern early this month and eventually unanimously expelled him.
That second link notes that he was a former Baptist youth pastor for more than a decade, I wonder if this was the first virgin he deflowered. Or even "just" the second. Or third. And ditto for getting them blotto drunk as part of that.
So, where is the Southern Baptist Convention in all of this?
Apparently, twiddling its thumbs, and apparently, likely to continue to do so.
Per a freelance PR guy who mass-blasts Texas newspapers, it's not like the SBC's sheets on this issue are a hell of a lot cleaner than those of Rome. He references this story by the Daily Mail, with a long quote tweet, which I shall break up into parts, starting with this:
Southern Baptist congregations shed nearly half a million members in 2022, the denomination's biggest one-year loss in more than a century, amid a damaging sex abuse scandal, new data show. Research from Lifeway Christian Resources shows that America's biggest Protestant and second-biggest Christian denomination lost 457,371 members to end the year with some 13.2 million members.
The Mail notes that part of the decline is due to the rise of the Nones, but much of it is due to the scandal within the scandal, namely the SBC's refusal to address the sex-abuse scandal.

First, the percentages? That's 3.5 percent in a year. Second, other  context? Yes, it's a fundagelical church, but it's also a mainline, or mainline-ish, denominational church. And, its grown had been declining for 15  years, per the chart at the piece.

The SBC hierarchy is probably afraid that clamping down on the problem might drive out more buck-passing old-timers.

And, losing other members, even while downplaying the losses, and ignoring the members who say this is why they left:
Scott McConnell, director of (Lifeway), which worked with SBC on the study, downplayed the losses, saying that many of last year's lost members had actually dropped out years ago and 'record keeping is finally catching up.' 
But on social media, former churchgoers posted about the declined, saying they were driven away by church leaders and its executive committee failing members by mishandling sexual abuse cases and mistreating victims and survivors. 
'The SBC still have not answered for this,' said a Pennsylvania-based Twitter user called Paul Young, who could not be verified. 
'That is why I left.'
There you go.
The shamelessness isn't limited to Slayton himself and the SBC, though, per this new site riffing on Texas Scorecard. Seriously, click that link, which I saw via Chris Tomlinson. Mucus, Christofascist Tim Dunn, nutbar-squared talking head Luke Macias, and, natch, Former Fetus Forever Fuckwad Jonathan Stickland all come out as being as morally loathsome as Slaton. My one business email account got signed up for Macias' blasts and I referenced that as well as tagging him on Twitter. Crickets. I also said on Twitter that he looked like Mucus' bastard love child.


Texas Progressives talk Ukraine, Lege calendar, more

For Blue MAGA who just can't understand why Warmonger Joe is so unpopular, even as inflation (starts to) decline? Try this great Pro Publica piece on tire inflation. Especially since tires continue to climb in price, and since it's not all about supply chain issues, but over things like carbon black, is connected to the Russia-Ukraine war, just maybe your eyes will be opened.

(That's all as Pope Francis prays for peace while Zelensky rejects that, but Z himself admits that long-touted counteroffensive, at least right now, isn't going to be all that.

SocraticGadfly read carefully world-renowned UT economist James K. Galbreath's new paper that notes sanctions often aren't crushing Russia but are even helping it at times, and discussed in detail how well he marshals his evidence, along with additional corroboration.

And with that, off to the rest of the Roundup:


Post-James O'Keefe, Project Veritas is still Project Veritas, as it is reportedly behind Kenny Boy's investigation of Dell Children's in Austin

Poor Strangeabbott and DPS head Steve McCraw. The DPS had to stop sending unwanted state cops to Austin so it could send unwanted cops to the border to once again slow down truckers. Let's not forget that regurgitated, returned, neoliberal Austin mayor Kirk Watson invited McCraw even though most the city council didn't want him.

Will the House really fight the Senate on tenure and DEI issues? Too bad Dems aren't talking about another D: Divestment.

Wingnuts in the Texas GOP hate on renewable energy even though it hugely benefits many of their constituencies. Surprisingly, that was Russell Gold that wrote that.

Battles over alleged, though not actual, "wokeness," have hit the staid TSHA.

Off the Kuff has closely followed the Dallas ransomware story.

Many bills hit the calendar deadline last Friday. Here's a look at some.

Sports gambling coming to Tex-ass? Maybe, but casino gambling is dead.

Yes, it's unconstitutional by SCOTUS ruling. (These days.) A full 20 years after the Lawrence ruling, Texas Dems finally got a bill to repeal Texas law on the House floor but ran out of time.

Others that ran out of time are at that link.

Andrea Grimes plumbs the depths of the dominant gun-loving culture. 

In The Pink also has some thoughts about guns in our state.  

Robert Rivard can hardly keep track of what mass shooting we're supposed to be praying about now.

Robert Moore reviews a book that tells the story of former Nazi scientists living in El Paso and how their children received a better education than the children of color that were already there.  

Texas 2036 looks at legislation that could help alleviate medical debt. 

The Austin Chronicle reports on the (as of the weekend) forthcoming strike at the Austin American-Statesman.  

May 16, 2023

The Texas Lege and a season of mass murder, capped by Allen (for now)

You read that right.

First, thank doorknobs in some ways for the Texas House's calendar deadline and its having billls that ran out of time? Shockingly, the House didn't vote to legalize sawed-off shotguns. Fortunately, reciprocal gun licenses and school marshals with open carry also died. Sadly, on gunz, the move to raise the age to purchase semi-autos to 21 also died.

Vis-a-vis the semi-autos, and other gunz issues, CD Hooks reminds us there have been EIGHTEEN mass shootings since the start of the Lege, AND that, like at Uvalde, Strangeabbott has made up shit about at least one of them. 

That's the season of mass murder.

And, it's still being politicized.

The Allen shooting. Two memorial services. Two different churches. Politicizes vs non-politicized. The Observer (still purity-testing ads free) has the details.

People's CDC types like Pat the Berner wrongly hating on Biden

Yes, he has officially ended the COVID state of emergency.

Guess what, Pat the Berner, to call out somebody by name, and other People's CDC and fellow traveler dudebros and dudettes? (If you're not an actual People's CDC "type," you ARE fellow travelers, in the tankie-type sense.)

Per Worldometers, or the actual CDC (quelle horreur!) other sites, there IS NO FUCKING COVID EMERGENCY.

If you want to hate on Biden for kowtowing to Big Pharma on patents and $$$? I'm there. If you want to join me in calling out his adminstration for not having non-mRNA boosters? Join me. (Maybe you haven't yet.)

If you're not a fellator of the Pergressive Cucks, including AOC, on US-NATO warmongering by proxy, call him out for being a warmonger on Russia-Ukraine. (If you ARE a fellator and won't call him out [Pat may be] then get off my lawn.) Ditto on calling him out for being a friend of Bibi.

Hate on him for a likely, and likely secretely desired, kowtow to Kevin McCarthy on the debt ceiling. You bet your bippy. 

Hate on him for not effectively abolishing the federal death penalty, per Counterpunch? Most certainly.

But, on this? You're wrong. Or, Not.Even.Wrong. We're now down to about 250 deaths a week. Or, for a full year, half of what a moderate flu season kills in just the flu season, or one-quarter of a bad flu season.

If you want Basic Income? Advocate for it in general, not because of COVID. (And don't do Scott Santens' version.) If you want national health care? Join me in going one better, beyond Physicians for a National Health Plan's capitalist-based, fee-for-service retaining system and push for the US to adopt a British-style NHS. But, again, not just because of COVID.

I'm not ready, not quite yet, to start blocking some of you on Twitter. I am ready to start muting, even if you're following me and/or vice versa. Not that I'm a huge whoop on Twitter, but, I do have some guiding principles.

Follow the science. I'm reminded of the portion of Greens who say that on climate change and then are antivaxxers.

May 15, 2023

Draft vs volunteer army: A political football

At least, a political football between the two duopoly parties, largely dependent on whose occupying the White House and what war they might be mongering.

I got sucked into a Twitter discussion last week when an apparent typical Blue Anon, Brynn Tannehill, (whose bio and even more, whose linked blog, seem to support that) quote tweeted nutter Brigitte Gabriel, who pushed for bringing back the draft. 

Now, I know why Gabriel did that; with her, calling this a political football rather than a troll would be too nice.

But that back story? True, or true with one half of the political football. 

IIRC, way back in BushCo, some more liberal minority (ethnic, not out of power minority) Democrats in the House broached the issue of reviving the draft. They got little support, to the degree they voiced it since the 2006 midterms, and after the big swing, it pretty much went away.

That said, among professional-class Democrats, I think minority ones, and I know whites, dislike for the draft is probably about the same as with non-trolling GOP comrades of the same class level. 

Now, to Tannehill.

First, Tannehill does NOT mention Option 3 of universal service. Why not? IMO, because the neoliberal Democratic ruling class dislikes that almost as much as the draft. And, the second person beyond the original group to jump on the thread claims that national service would have the same loopholes as the draft. Not if it actually IS "universal." You can, just like Shrub Bush's alleged cocaine-dodging, be sent to work at an inner-city (Houston or elsewhere) social services center. And, her claim, and others, that it would be gamed? The same claim is made by good old neoliber Conor Friedersdorf. Shock me. That said, per that link, Champagne Charlie Rangel's idea of national service is not mine. He thought that if you weren't in the military, you should be in military-related national service. I personally reject that as an issue of militarization, and also in support of conscientious objectors.

Second, she thinks My Lai is her ace in the hole. I said Abu Ghraib trumps that, and one Blue Anon fellow traveler, the first in line jumped on my for saying I thought it was worse. No, and I told him I used "trumps" because I inferred she was implying that volunteers didn't do that. Besides, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as I told the dood (who didn't respond) that we committed other war crimes in both countries that involved outright killing of civilians, just like in Vietnam. Period and end of story. That guy may have shut up because he claimed I could only have said that because I was born after 9/11 and had a dumb take, to which I responded that I grew up in the 70s and my oldest brother was just a year or so short of draft age when Nixon ended it. 

Third, my first interlocutor in various ways tried to claim all-vol armies show their superiority. I said the US hadn't been seriously tested since Nam. He shifted to Argentina-UK, at which point I showed him how much help the US gave Britain, as also detailed here. He admitted he didn't know that, and yes, that was a massive thumb on the scale, though he wouldn't admit that. Then, on my use of the word duopoly, said he's from Europe. By what he retweets, he's British, not continental. And, that would explain his opposition to universal service. The UK, like the US, has an all-volunteer military, with no universal service.

Fourth, he ignores, or may not know, and Tannehill most certainly DOES know, how at the height of the Iraq War, the Army lowered its standards and let in a lot of gangbangers to meet recruitment needs. True, in the draft days, the old "enlist or go to jail" sentence from a local judge might have caused the same, but in a non-volunteer army, it was, IMO, easier to "sit on" such people.

I later asked him, saying I guessed he was British, what his take was on Jezza Corbyn. He didn't respond. Shock me.

In the bigger picture, this whole issue was touched on in Paths of Dissent. But, only touched on.

Paths of Dissent: Soldiers Speak Out Against America's Misguided Wars

Paths of Dissent: Soldiers Speak Out Against America's Misguided Wars by Andrew Bacevich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not bad but not quite fantastic.

Biggest takeaways from the individual chapters?

1. Only 7 percent of today's America is veterans vs around 50 percent after the Civil War and after WWII. Hence the disconnect of "support the troops" while not actually caring to ask what that really should mean. (Update: One or two of the essays touch on the issue of bringing back the draft, either by itself, or as part of a larger universal service program, but this wasn't a focus for most, whether grunts or officers, short-termers or careerists.)


5. It would have been nice for the editors to have had a bigger analysis-driven conclusion. No nation-building was implied, but Bacevich didn't touch on flyspeck military missions, delve further into the draft issue or general military-civilian separation, etc.

View all my reviews

May 13, 2023

Subspecies protection, the ESA and "institutional vertebratism"

Or, to put it another way, High Country News getting "woke" about butterflies.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all here to protect species, and within butterflies, on frittilaries, I've shot pix of the well-known G. fritt and one or two others, like this Hydaspe at Olympic.

That said, I have issues, issues biological, philosophical and public policy based about employing, or deploying, the Endangered Species Act at the subspecies level for ANY species, insects or other arthropods, birds, mammals, reptiles or amphibians. Have for years.

Biologically, as the folks at Fish and Wildlife, as well as Gang Green and not so Gang Green environmental groups know, there's no uniformly accepted definition of "species." And, I'm not going fundagelical Christian with "kinds." I think there's no problem at the genus level — at least in today's biological world, where we have the help of DNA analysis. And, there's definitely not a problem at the family level and above.

But species? Yes. And certainly, for subspecies.

Now, HCN might trump me and say that today's subspecies might be tomorrow's species. I can reply, I know that, and have run into it, with photos, on the blue grouse being separated into two species, dusky grouse and sooty grouse, rather than them being subspecies. 

At the same time? That Sword of Damocles cuts both ways.

This is related to the old "demarcation problem"in philosophy, as philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci knows. What criteria do we use to define a species, and how "leaky" are the "borders" between two similar species?

This, in turn impacts public policy, and goes right to the story. Since insects in general get the short end of the stick on ESA protection money, why are we worried about subspecies? That's especially since, per the story, we still know MUCH less about lifestyles of many insects than, say, about mule deer vs. blacktail deer.


Non-HCN, while I'm here? Gender, while based on biological sex, is ultimately cultural, and therefore, contra Riley Black, snakes don't have gender.

May 12, 2023

No, sanctions haven't crushed Russia; it's BETTER in some ways

In fact, per globally renowned economist James K. Galbreith, they may have helped Russian President Vladimir Putin in some ways. Andrew Cockburn notes how US sanctions (nowhere discussed by Hawkins) may have actually HELPED Putin do some internal reforms, working in part off Galbreith's paper. He also adds other tidbits, before you hit his paywall, like the ruble now trading vs the dollar at pre-invasion levels.  This trumps the US foreign policy establishment and the Nat-Sec Nutsacks™ or the NAFO Fellas. Oh people who really follow Russia-Ukraine war issues, and may have heard of Nadin Brzezinski? They were a nutter long before this. I'll certainly take Galbraith over that.

As for sanctions hitting Russia's war-funding ability? Galbraith notes that the Russian government (unlike Merikkka) was running an accounts surplus before the war, so it had cushion space. In addition, while half of that accumulated surplus was at the Fed, western banks, etc., and was frozen? Obviously, the other half was not.

As far as some Russian industries being hurt? Yes, Galbraith says its true. He adds that transshipments, interestingly often working through the three Baltic states (somebody's surely taking cuts) has mitigated that. He also noted that Russia addressed many other issues when the post-Crimea sanctions started in 2014. I've already noted here before that Russia became agriculturally self-sufficient in the wake of that. No wonder Putin celebrates global warming at times, eh?

Side note from Galbraith? Western countries wanting to truly and fully leave Russia had a variety of stranded assets that they have largely wound up selling at distressed prices.

Next, the oligarchs? Galbraith is simple — they're not the Russian state. They might not like their private assets abroad being frozen, but what can they do? (In some cases, I suspect some transfers and laundering have been done, for suitable cuts, anyway.)

The cut-off in Western products? Galbraith notes that (thanks to older version Jeffrey Sachs and others) Russia IS a market economy. So, to the degree possible, Russian manufacturers, service companies, etc., will fill these vacuums.

So, this:

The above covers the major points in the analysis of the Sonnenfeld team. Their evidence of sharp drops in consumer purchases at Moscow stores, of job losses as foreign firms exit, and the poor financial performance of major resource firms in the first half of 2022 are all logically derivative from these points. I dispute none of the stated facts. The problem lies elsewhere. It lies in the fact that the stated facts, taken together, may point to the opposite conclusion. Though with clear difficulties, they may indicate the potential for rapid recovery in Russia and the reverse in Europe, along with the consolidation of economic power inside Russia in hands aligned with the interests of the state.5

That footnote 5 is to the last piece WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovitz wrote before his arrest. Galbraith notes it attests to the Russian economy already becoming adaptive.

And, we're just halfway through a relatively short (16-page) piece!

Other issues, in brief?

On warfighting ability, Galbraith says he expects Russia stockpiled some high-tech stuff like avionics before the war. Trucks and tanks destroyed in battle? Russia certainly has better repair capabilities than Ukraine.

Continued warfunding ability? Oil etc. may have declined in foreign exchange levels but went up in price, even with Western "haircuts" and China freeloading on that. Grains went way up. Result? Russia's actually hauling in more foreign exchange.

Much of the rest of the piece is a call-out of various forms of fact-free handwaving by a few Nat-Sec Nutsacks™economists, often larded with American exceptionalism digs at poor, dumb, Russkies. Refuting Emily Blanchard, among other things, is what I noted above about Russia becoming agriculturally self-sufficient since the Crimea sanctions. Indeed, as I blogged back in 2010 in calling out Teapot Tommy, aka My Head is Flat, Friedman, Russia had become a net grains exporter already then. Confirming Galbraith elsewhere? Per that same link, Russia had been running governmental budget surpluses since 2001, as of that time. It was also EXporting computer software at that time. Now, much of that may have been to former USSR states, for various reasons. Nonetheless, a fact is a fact.

Related, on the grains issue? John Helmer notes that a 2020 update to Russian governmental agriculture food security focuses, with a link to a USDA piece, aimed to cut reliance on Western seed companies. It's part of a Helmer piece that looks at new Russian government 2023 farm "guidance" backed by the grain farmers' org but opposed by a berry farmers' one. One of the big takeaways from Helmer is that Bayer has still not fully pulled out of Russia and is still using weasel words to justify some degree of continuing investment. Helmer says Bayer appears to be afraid that, if it pulls out of Russia now, it will never get back in. Related to this, the 2020 standards were focused on further reviving internal, Russian-developed seed banks that atrophied in the later Yeltsin years. (And the early Putin ones, though John ignores that.) It's already paid off to a degree. More than 40 percent of corn and soybeans comes from Russian seed. Almost all wheat does. However, much of the potatoes and sugar beets, as of a year or two ago, still came from outside. There's a mix of state-funded and private seed banks being redeveloped. He concludes that this is another area where more cooperation with other BRICS countries is likely.

The USDA piece looks at Russian production, not seed sources, and self-sufficiency or beyond, or still short of that, by individual crops. It also has an English translation of the Putin 2020 food security update.

Update: Add this from the Spectator, via Mark Ames — the "stans" of Centra Asia, shades of Holland at the start of World War I, have massively increased imports of things like cars from Europe, and of course, from there, they're going to Mother Russia.

The conclusion?

The sanctions aren't just helping Putin in some ways. They're also helping Russian entrepreneurs, and yes, Galbraith uses that word. Stick THAT in your Treasury ass, Emily Blanchard.

Oh, I gave Brzezinski a copy of the link to Galbraith's piece, on Medium. I ignored their reply. As normal, I also made it a new post for myself on Medium.

And, then there was the Blue Anon last week saying they don't click on PDFs cuz viruses. Yes, that can happen, but, as if? Galbraith is stuffing his PDF with viruses? Anyway, I then gave "What you see" the link to Cockburn's original Substack. And heard crickets from him. And, I eventually muted said person. I had originally said I would post on Monday. I didn't, because I wanted to tweak, and because the Allen shooting and other issues gave me plenty of material for the start of the week. If he wanted to, he could tag me, if he missed this. He didn't.

In short, this seems to be an issue like BlueAnon tribalism on the lab-leak hypothesis at Wuhan Insttitue of Virology.

May 11, 2023

Texas Progressives talk Colin Allred, more

Off the Kuff celebrated the Senate candidacy of Rep. Colin Allred, as well as the opening list of his potential successors in Congress. Yours truly has his own take on Allred and related issues.

Juanita is also happy to see Colin Allred take on Ted Cruz.

The Texas Signal reports on Allred's big fundraising haul following his announcement.

SocraticGadfly notes that work is about to start on a new Chisos Lodge dining room at Big Bend and discusses details of that, as well as some recent trail work, and other, undiscussed things the park needs to do.

The Slacktivist gets honorary Texan status for the week for his deep dive into the recently passed Senate bill mandating the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools.  
Bayou City Water Keeper launches its "Justice in the Sewers" hub. 
The Observer argues that mental illness shouldn't land you in jail.  
Jef Rouner wants more TVs in public places like waiting rooms to be tuned to "chill" channels.

Per the always-readable Roaming Charges by Jeff St. Clair at Counterpunch (a truly international smorgasbord of a roundup) while the Sierra Nevadas have snowpacked roads from the hugely abnormal falls this year, in Europe? The Po River in Italy is already below last year's low midsummer low (no risotto for you, John Podesta) and the airport in Cordoba, Spain, broke 100F last month.