SocraticGadfly: 1/15/23 - 1/22/23

January 21, 2023

I just threw up twice over Nancy Pelosi

I'm not sure which is worse, the pablum of Maureen Dowd breathlessly fellating her "satin and steel" leadership, or the New York Post reporting that she supposedly had their house exorcised after husband Paul was attacked there, with a sidebar of wingnut Bill Donohue going Conservative Cafeteria Catholic by attacking her for believing in evil spirits (you ARE a secular one yourself, Bill) and exorcisms, which Rome still officially supports. That said, the Post piece is based on part of the Dowd story, so no, BlueAnon, not made-up bullshit.

The MoJo Dowd piece is semi-vacuous. No tough questions, and letting Pelosi get away with claims such as she would be the only House Dem as Speaker who could stand up to Trump, or her excoriating NY governor Kathy Hochul for not boosting House Dems' chances there by running a tough-on-crime campaign, ignoring that she ran a suck up to Republicans one instead.

So, what about this exorcism stuff???

Is this real? Yes, Pelosi's daughter told the story to Dowd at the top link. If you hit a paywall, here's the Daily Beast. Exact quote:

“I think that weighed really heavy on her soul. I think she felt really guilty. I think that really broke her. Over Thanksgiving, she had priests coming, trying to have an exorcism of the house and having prayer services.”


The NY Post? Let's do this pull quote.

“If it’s genuine, she needs psychiatric help,” Donohue continues. “And if not, it’s another example of Nancy Pelosi exploiting the Catholic Church for her own personal gain.” 
But Fr. Vincent Lampert, exorcist for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said exorcism could indeed be appropriate to combat “demonic infestation,” and the presence of evil that may linger in a place where violent crime has occurred. 
“It would be the recitation of a particular prayer, inviting the presence of God back into the house, casting out any presence of evil that may be there,” Lampert said. “Then the house would be blessed with holy water, reminding us of our new life in Christ, and the fact that we need not fear any evil, because recognizing that Christ is dwelling with us.” 
“I would say I get thousands of those requests every year,” he added.

As a good secularist, and a good ex-Lutheran who knows the Lutheran ties of the fiction called The Exorcist, it is funny as hell to see a superstitious Pelosi believe this AND at least as funny to see Donohue's bullshit called out.

And, speaking of The Exorcist? It would be funniest to see Pelosi spitting out pea soup like Linda Blair.

Per MoJo Dowd, that could be Kevin McCarthy, or better, The Donald, on the receiving end.

Is she "liberated" now, per the headline of MoJo Dowd's piece? Or is a second exorcism going to be needed, per the fictional account of The Exorcist? 

It is, and it's not just that Peter Blatty's book is a novel; his writing about the actual event he bases the book on is itself fictionalized. If you don't believe me, here's the first of a five-part debunking by Mark Opsasnick. A shorter summary of that is at the Skeptical Inquirer. A TL/DR summary of that, and of skeptical observation of exorcisms in general is also at Skeptical Inquirer.

People who have read things like Joe Nickell's piece know that kids will fake all sorts of things, and yes, including demonic possession. It would appear, per Part IV of the big debunk, that Ronald Hunkeler, perhaps egged on by, or double-daring against, a neighbor friend, played up things he was doing even before newspapers, Blatty et al played them up further. Part of the "playing up," per an older brother of the neighbor friend, was Hunkeler playing off his grandmother, an old Kraut Lutheran. (That's how my alma mater of graduate school, Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, got tied in. And, yes, that was whispered about, or discussed, when I was there 30 years ago.) Both her and her daughter, the kid's mom — and an only child to boot — were themselves reportedly obsessed with the Ouija board. Ron himself was reportedly sadistic toward animals, an exhibitor of tantrum-like anger, and more.

Specifically, contra claims by Thomas Allen, the Father Hughes attempted exorcism never happened.

As for the St. Louis Catholic exorcism, an assistant, Father Walter Hallorhan, notes that most of the claims about Hunkeler's actions were later overblown. He didn't really tell Opsasnick who overblew them, whether it was one of the two leads, Father Mark Bishop or Father William Bowdern.

As for more details about Ronald Hunkeler beyond the above? Opsasnick talked to him — or tried to — at the tail end of his investigation, and was pretty much cut off. He's now dead, Hunkeler is.

January 20, 2023

'Vaccinate' against misinformation? We think not

This Nielsen Lab piece crystallizes thoughts I've had for some time. Contra the fact checkers, the Facebook and (pre-Smelling Musky) Twitter reporting, etc., first, misinformation isn't as powerful as claimed. Second, neither is information.

And, that relates to the idea that you can't "vaccinate" against misinformation.

Unfortunately, that idea is part of what's apparently behind centrist liberal Kevin Kruse's new book. "Myth America" (nice pun) by him and Julian Zelizer, gets roasted on Slate. The authors of that piece report various problems with the book. 

The biggest problem, they say, is claiming that misinformation is the primary problem behind our current tribalism.

One is claiming misinfo is exclusively far right, to the degree the book authors give a pass to Never Trumper Rethugs like Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark.

Two is that by claiming Rethugs are anti-regulation, it ignores neoliberal Democrats. Sadly, someone like Naomi Oreskes plays along in her essay in the book. That's even as, re her and writing on climate change, Democraps fetishize "market solutions."

Three is that it's only Rethugs saying things like "socialism is un-American." Easily refuted, as the authors do. And, as half of House Democrats recently did!

And, yeah, they're right that Kruse and Zelizer are writing this for the Maddow crowd.

And, here's a condensed version of my own review:

Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past

Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past by Kevin M. Kruse
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Howlers include one from Joshua Zeitz, in his chapter on "The Great Society." He notes that, in her campaign memoir, Hillary Clinton says she came very close to proposing a basic income. Sure she did, but Zeitz appears to take this claim at face value.

Some chapters are good, like the one on "good protests" and the one on "police violence." Others are ... OK. Akil Reed Amar's chapter is good for noting "democracy" and "republic" were used interchangably back in the day. He doth protest too much about Madison not being "The Father of the Constitution." As I've understood it, Madison got that moniker from the Bill of Rights about as much as Philadelphia 1787. Besides, liberal originalism is warmed-over shite. Immerwahr's chapter on American imperialism is of course good, but — most of the Kruse target audience, both neoliberal Dems and never-Trumper Republicans — likely either rejects the idea, or says that an "American exceptionalism" empire is different. Speaking of?

Bell's chapter on the history of American exceptionalism? I didn't realize the idea originally came from Stalin, and has transmuted. That said, the idea that Trump rejects American exceptionalism? He may reject the phraseology, but the idea? No, he's totally behind it.

Sarah Churchwell's America First chapter gets Henry Cabot Lodge wrong and thus itself perpetuates a myth. He was OK with the League of Nations as long as the Versailles Treaty included the well-known "Lodge reservations" — which Wilson refused to accept. He was NOT William Randolph Hearst on this. She also seems to state that Pat Buchanan created the Reform Party. He hijacked it, of course, but didn't create it.

Per the Salon link? Yes, Slickster Bill Clinton arguably DID do more to peddle neoliberalism in America than did Milton Friedman. Oreskes and Conway miss this, peddling deregulation and similar issues as Republican-only.

Summary? If your voting history is Bernie Sanders or leftward, you can take a pass on this book and not miss a lot. 

Sadly, on Twitter, Nathan J. Robinson was touting an interview with Oreskes and Conway recently. I sent him the link to my review. And, speaking of? I offered some degree of defense of him on the union-busting charges a year ago, based on broader facts, but since then, he's shown "slippage" in other ways.

View all my reviews

Update: This Smithsonian piece, which looks in-depth at things like people seeing Monticello updated with a detailed history of Thomas Jefferson's enslaving and what slavery was like there, then the vast majority of them not remembering any of this, show in more detail why you can't "vaccinate" against misinformation.

It's called "motivated reasoning," generally, a version of "thinking" with your emotions and your ego. If you don't want to accept that Jefferson was a fairly bad enslaver, that Bobby Lee was a harsh slave master, or other similar such things? You won't accept it. It's like the old psychological blind spot of people being told to count the number of basketball passes in a video and getting so focused on this that they ignore the person in a gorilla suit walking through the video. Only in this case, it's a much more willful blind spot, not an "attentional bias." And yes, per the likes of Daniel Wegner, subconscious intentionality is indeed possible.

I totally agree with Laurajane Smith, a professor at Australian National University. Smith, who had done studies on this, says that less than 3 percent of people in such cases have their minds changed by "conventional" new displays.

Solution? Go to those emotions:

Smith, the professor who studies visitor responses to heritage sites, told me that she thinks these sites need to shift their focus from education to emotion. Since research reveals that people aren’t going to historical sites to learn, she believes sites should “provide the resources to allow visitors to work through difficult and challenging emotions in in a way that is constructive.” As an example, Smith pointed to the Immigration Museum of Melbourne, Australia, which uses tools like an interactive simulation of a hate speech incident on a tram to guide visitors into thinking about the experience of discrimination from different points of view. This experience can be uncomfortable, but Smith insists that the heritage is not “cuddly and warm and fuzzy.” What happened in history, and what that should mean to us, is always contested.

Now, how do museums and historic sites DO that? Especially on the budget limits many generally face?

Update: Motivated reasoning is emotional reasoning, and so, preaching against misinformation is the correct approach. 

Update 3: Michael Kazin's piece on socialism is also laughable, as Slate notes. That said, since Wiki notes he's a DSA Rosey, that's WHY he makes such a laughable claim. It's also why, to put it more bluntly than my Goodreads review of his William Jennings Bryan bio, he often turd-polishes the Great Commoner.

January 19, 2023

A cheap leftist trope

Love me some Payday Report, but in this post, there's something wrong with:

While most media outlets have ignored the election ...

Especially when not followed by, but preceded by:

For more, check out CNN Brasil.

Now, Mike Elk isn't alone; I see this enough in certain circles of the left to call it a trope. Doesn't make it any more true.

Now, most the time, there's never the second half to this, even.

You'll just see, especially on Twitter, "The media hasn't covered X ..." when a quick Google will show that's bullshit. Usually it comes from conspiracy-minded leftists, which Elk does not strike me as.

Wingers don't do this because it's part of their cultural DNA to assume the MSM isn't telling the truth. For them, it works in reverse, when Fox, the actual news, not the talking head opiners, actually agree with the MSM.

January 18, 2023

Texas Progressives discuss start of Lege session

The Observer offers its in-depth hot takes on the various stupidities the Lege, abetted by Strangeabbott and Goeb, are likely to inflict on Texans this year. One big issue it notes, only fueled since the last session of the Lege by inflation, is deteriorating salaries for state workers, especially those in Austin. The Observer also expects no good action, and possibly bad action, on gunz and the grid, among other things.

Raise Your Hand Texas also has an overview. 

Texas 2036 provides a brief overview on the budget surplus. 

Another item of battle will be "local control." Look for the hypocrites in the Lege to continue to gut that.

Joe Biden's EPA is full of hot air. Unfortunately, that means the Permian will remain full of ozone.

SocraticGadfly has a few thoughts on Glenn Hegar and the Chapter 313 mess.

The Supreme Court gave Areli Escobar a new lifeline.

Off the Kuff looks at how the Harris County executive office races went in 2022.

George Santos DID get starkly accurate coverage pre-election — from a highly Republican local newspaper that endorsed his Democratic opponent, per the WaPost. Shows how the world of news deserts even hits richer areas.

That came via Scott Dunn, who was actually talking more about news self-censorship, not news deserts. He notes the interestingness of the MSM only covering even the smallest of Ukrainian victories but never Russian ones, and ties it to other self-censorship.

Ooopsie for Warmonger Joe! At least for show, his classified document pinching is on the radar screen of total Blue Anon Congresscritter Adam Schiff. Schiff may in part be trying to pre-empt the Gym Jordans of the world. Good luck with that.

Reform Austin informs you how you can have a roach named after someone you know, and presumably don't like.  

Hajar Yazdiha calls out conservatives for deliberately misconstruing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 17, 2023

Ed Kilgore neolibbing and Nat-Sec Nutsacking on Ukraine

In a largely vacuous piece about the national GOP reaching a tipping point on Ukraine, Kilgore can't be bothered one bit to engage with real, fact-based leftist (or Pope Francis) critique of NATO, the US, Ukraine itself or Zelenskyy.

Frankly, since the Fraud, aka the Squad, let alone the larger Pergressuve Caucus, can't see its way to cutting off Warmonger Joe, the single biggest plus of the GOP having the majority in the House is the chance — probably slim right not — that that happens.

And, my take on Kilgore is nothing new. When Kevin Drum was running Washington Monthly's blog, I thought Ed was more vacuous than him by several degrees.

January 16, 2023

Recession in 2024 instead of this year?

And, whether this year or next, bigger or smaller?

Interesting thoughts at New York mag from Jon Turek as interviewed by Eric Levitz.

TLDR version? Turek thinks recession is more likely next year than this, but leaves open the possibility of a "soft landing." He thinks inflation will diminish, but notes a "full reopening" by China is a wild card. He notes that what he (and other economists) call "friendsourcing" could goose the economy — but that this makes inflation still somewhat of a worry.

He largely ignores workers except as an abstract, and but of course, being somewhere in neoliberalism, broadly defined. He ignores the worker-related problems of globalization, and ignores that friendsourcing is also economic nationalism.

My political analysis? Biden hopes for a soft landing, but if there's going to be a recession, would much rather it happened in 2023 than 2024. As for soft landings? Gas prices in my area went up 30 cents last week. Turek also ignores drought in the lower Plains that could hammer this year's winter wheat crop. the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War and other things.

If this were Goodreads, Turek would get 3 stars, no more. Maybe a split vote of 4 for economic analysis and 2 for economic concern.