SocraticGadfly: 3/26/23 - 4/2/23

April 01, 2023

The war criminals governing the US and the UN Security Council

In response to a comment on a piece by a Polish emigre, Henryk Kowalczyk (who himself tries to do cultural essentialism on Russia and the Mongol occupation centuries but ignored me when I reminded him that Poland put a puppet Tsar on the throne in Moscow 400 years ago), I dropped the bomb on who’s the war criminal, when said commenter said “Putin, blah blah blah”: 

You mean, like US war criminals waging war on free and sovereign Iraq?

Or the US war criminals waging war on free and sovereign North Vietnam?

Or the US war criminals waging war on free and sovereign Panama?

Or the US war criminals waging war on free and sovereign Cambodia?

Or the US war criminals waging war by coup on free and sovereign Honduras?

Or the US war criminals waging war by coup on free and sovereign Iran?

Or the US war criminals waging war by coup on free and sovereign Guatemala?

That’s all just the tip of the iceberg, John.



And, yes, the US has basically consistently for decades been governed by criminals under international law definitions.

That’s just one of the reasons the US refuses to join the International Criminal Court.



And, per Amnesty International and the New York Times, in addition, Ukraine as well as Russia has committed war crimes. 

This has more importance yet with the NAFO fellas et al moaning yesterday about how Russia was going to take over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.

None of the laundry list of American president war criminals ever kept the US from heading the UN Security Council. Nor did individual war crimes committed on their watch. Nor did Trump's pardoning of convicted war criminals.


I earlier did that "own" on the OP, and no, he hasn't responded yet. It was an "own" in part because the comment to which I was responding claimed that Merika didn't know East European history.

March 31, 2023

Another pseudoskeptical fail by Michael Shermer

Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational

Conspiracy: Why the Rational Believe the Irrational by Michael Shermer
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is an expanded version of the Goodreads review for inside baseball Skeptics™,pseudoskepticism reasons. Semi-regular readers here should know that I'm not a huge fan of Shermer, and this book only makes it worse. 

Let's dig in on the expansion.

This is a horrible book, not on the conspiracy theories, which I don't need Shermer to tell me, but on him totally getting wrong the one actual conspiracy he discusses, which is why this is 1-starred on a grok.

Rather than there being JUST and ONLY an Austrian conspiracy against Serbia in 1914, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand instead traces directly through one "Apis," head of both Serbian military intelligence and the secret society named The Black Hand, and also directly or semi-directly through confederates of Apis in the nationalist organization Narodna Odbrana, to Serbian Prime Minister Pasic. All of this and more is documented by Christopher Clark in the excellent book "The Sleepwalkers," which Shermer ACTUALLY REFERENCES and then ignores for Tim Butcher's "The Trigger," which is
A. A piece of crap and
B. Only about 10-20 percent about lead assassin Gavrilo Princip and 80-90 percent directly or indirectly about Tim Butcher.

Shermer's right that this is arguably the world's deadliest conspiracy. He's dead wrong about where the conspiracy started.


The rest of the book, without this egregious ax-grinding, would probably be 3 stars, no more, so, even without this, it's not worth a read. It's a basic definition of conspiracy vs conspiracy theories, basic overview on why many people believe in conspiracy theories, and how to try to talk to them.

But, surely Shermer could have found something else to discuss as a true conspiracy. Rather, it appears that, following in Butcher's footsteps despite having read Clark's documenting the likely ties to the Serbian government, and despite mentioning the Black Hand, even in an overall superficial treatment (and even talking about an assassination conspiracy, though trying to limit it to just the Black Hand, if that), he thought he could use some intellectual judo to show an Austrian conspiracy.

In reality, despite Conrad having been pushing for pre-emptive war with Serbia for years, even after the assassination, the Dual Monarchy was divided on going to war. And, trying to treat its Byzantine turns in just a few pages will be a good way to get superficial treatment even if not wrong — which, of course, Shermer is. And, I can say that as having read "The Sleepwalkers" TWICE. 


It's also bad for those other, inside baseball reasons.

First, citing libertarian pseudoskeptic and convicted felon Brian Dunning will get you nowhere in my book.

Second and related, attacking the tobacco merchants and climate change deniers when, at a minimum, I don't think you have ever publicly called out Penn and Teller for promoting both of them, and I'm not sure they've ever backtracked on climate change, is an issue. You yourself, in fact, albeit to a lesser degree than Dunning, have mixed libertarianism and skepticism at times, including on climate change (and Kurzweil's "singularity"). You've also mixed both with bad political hot takes, like on Occupy Wall Street.

In addition, you and Dunning blocked me at Skepticblog, in part because I called out both you and Dunning on the libertarian pseudoskepticism, and you and the Not-So-Always-Amazing Randi also had at least a couple of toes in the world of #MeToo problems, including, allegedly, personally having committed sexual assault, and also, at Skeptic mag, you've been at a minimum, a racialist fellow traveler, tackled again here in passing when talking about Pop Ev Psych and sexism. And, to tie this all into one nice neat bow, the actual Serbian conspiracies, of which its prime minister almost certainly had some foreknowledge, and its army intelligence even more? Driven by ethnic-based Serbian nationalism, which isn't too many stones' throws away from racialism, as Serbia's post-1989 history shows. (Not that Croatia's been a lot better.)

Beyond that is Shermer's ignorance of actual philosophy. Or him being "no true Scotsman" at times on skepticism in his personal life.

View all my reviews

March 30, 2023

Texas Progressives talk budget, Trump, arts

The Texas House Approprirations Committee'ss proposed budget is a mixed bag. At least it said no to what is indeed a slush fund, his disaster and economic-development accounts. That said, things like CPRIT (John Sharp's slush fund) needs to be eliminated if it still gets money, and more. It's also disgusting to have "thoughts, prayers and a counseling site" for Uvalde but nothing to fund a red flag law, let alone just passing a red flag law.

Special investigations director quits Family and Protective Services, blisters lack of funding stretching back nearly two decades. Guess House Appropriations didn't get the memo.

Of note: Danny Goeb was with Trump in Waco Saturday; Strangeabbott was not. Also present? At least one conspiracy theorist who apparently believes Jeffrey Epstein is still alive. At the Monthly, Dan Solomon asks "Why Waco" while ignoring, as the Trib reports in the link immediately above, that Goeb chose Waco, not Trump. Of course, the Trib didn't ask Goeb "why Waco," and Goeb would have known this was the 30th anniversary.

Abortion funds are paying for assistance again after a federal injunction.

A group of West Texas A&M students are suing their prez for cancelling a drag show. FIRE, to its credit, is representing them.

Off the Kuff looks over the 2022 State House election numbers to see what happened last year and where the action may be in the near future.

SocraticGadfly goes to his second blog, on philosophy, the arts and related issues, and takes a look at the Dallas Museum's launch of seeking $175 million for a major expansion.

The Observer once again makes me shake my head, something happening with more and more frequency. This time, it's the claim that TEA's takeover of Houston ISD is the Trojan horse to privatization. As I said on Twitter, if so, then Marlin ISD parents are wondering where their Trojan horse has been for half a decade. The story also, after an initial disclaimer that magnet schools aren't charters, acts like Mickey Leland basically is a charter re Wheatley's struggles.

The Observer redeems itself with an interview with Andrew Gonzales, who moved from burnt-out Austin ISD teacher to Austin ISD school board member.

Border/Lines talks about the latest in Biden immigration police and the death of two Ill Eagles on that train near Uvalde. 

Friend Skeptophilia talks about the book bans (and image bans) in Floridah.

Joe Costello explains how money and banking actually work.

Globally, let's talk not just peak oil but peak fossil fuels.

March 29, 2023

Honest property tax reform in Texas

Even though I'm a renter, not an owner, I support the Lege raising the homestead exemption. BUT?

There's two things they're missing, both of which I've mentioned in newspaper columns before. One is surprising it's not adopted, or more, "surprising." The other is not at all surprising.

The former is to index the homestead exemption level to inflation. In a sense, it is surprising this hasn't been adopted. But, in another sense, it's "surprising" because at both state and federal levels, both duopoly parties like to play politics with consumer-level fiscal issues like this. (Sixteen years ago, in this space, I called for Nancy Pelosi and Dem Congresscritters to make a COLA part of the minimum wage increase. Didn't happen and look where we are now.)

The second is a no way in hell here in Tex-ass. That is to eliminate the caps on property evaluation hikes.

Yeah, this was based on Prop 13 in California and it's just as bad, and even more, just as hypocritical here as there.

Yes, hypocritical in that it's anticapitalist. It also discourages movement, mainly intrastate but also interstate to some degree, in these states. That's because the uncapped value of the home hits the new buyer, who may not want to pay. And, it hits you the seller and previous owner when you want to go to a new place.

March 28, 2023

More #BlueAnon hypocrisy on Social Security

Via Kuff, Talking Points Memo talks about how Rethug Congresscritters' proposals for age hikes on Social Security amount to benefit cuts for early retirees. True. Unmentioned by these #BlueAnon, both TPM and Kuff, is that Status Quo Joe hasn't proposed increasing income subjected to FICA taxation  and then putting a COLA on it. Neither did Status Quo Barack or Status Quo Bill. Of course, the three have been at various times Privatizer Joe, Barry and Slickster, too.

Sheila Jackson Lee running for Helltown mayor

The Trib has the details.

First, why is she waiting this late? Had she announced earlier, she probably could have headed off the full steam of endorsements John Whitmire already has, like SJL's Congresscritter colleague Sylvia Garcia. Now, she doesn't have to resign her Congressional seat to run, so waiting isn't fatal, but if she really wanted this position, she's kind of behind the curve.

Second, if she is elected, voters in her Congressional district could do better than this pergressuve, as I said on Twitter, but probably won't.

As for the "could do better"? If you're one of those people who overrates Sheila Jackson Less as a pergressuve, especially on foreign policy, let me help you out.

In 2005, she had a chance to support a House "let's leave Iraq now" motion, and of course refused.

A year ago May, she joined all Democrats in running Warmonger Joe's blank checks to Ukraine up the flagpole. She and a majority of the Progressive Caucus then caved to Warmonger Joe late last summer. (Oh, and on that one, SJL is one of Jayapal's vice chairs, so a leader of the cave-in.)

Domestically, not always perfect, either. In 2013, refused to sign a letter to Dear Leader from the Pergressuve Cocks which opposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Also, per her Wiki page, she's a grifter with oft-questionable ethics who also appears to be anti-worker, given the way she runs off staff members.

March 27, 2023

Ahh, the censorious editors at Independent Political Report

Yes, it's not technical First Amendment censorship, and also, it was censorious editing, not actual censorship in the everyday sense, but ...

On a post about Libertarian National Committee chair Angela McArdle appearing on Cess Pool's broadcast, they edited my original comment:

“German New Medicine” aside, the fact that McArdle appeared AT ALL on Cess Pool’s show is a “tell.”


“German New Medicine” aside, the fact that McArdle appeared AT ALL on Tim Pool’s show is a “tell.”


If that's going to trigger, as in "trigger," George Phillies and Jordan Willow Evans that much, I'm going to stop commenting there.

I understand your right to moderate, but if that's going to trigger you, I'd rather you delete the comment than post a bowdlerized version.