SocraticGadfly: 5/7/23 - 5/14/23

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.

May 10, 2023

Problems on Mastodon?

Someone on Twitter mentioned racial and other problems there.

And, they weren't wrong on the racial issues, at least by one example. Mastodon's hived off servers also mean security problems. And, it doesn't help issues that Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko didn't want to talk about the racial issues. Let's continue on that.

On Twitter, this Black/Jewish person thinks the private nature of Mastodon invites MORE casual / off the cuff racial insensitivity than Twitter. She also seconds Johnathan Flowers, the racial issues focus of the Guardian piece at the first link, that way too much stuff on Mastodon gets a "content warning" tag.

Mashable's prediction six years ago that Mastodon wouldn't survive were wrong, obviously. But, if we change don't survive to don't thrive, not wrong.

Now, Mastodon's most enraptured users will spout Rochko that it will never be like Twitter. And, that's fine, but you know what his sounds like?

Mac 8.6, pre i-Anything, Apple Computers, and a version where Jobs never originally gets booted out, or when he comes back, never listens to an underling tell him to create a PC-operating system version of iTunes. But, though Rochko may be more low-key than Jobs, the parallel otherwise does Apple a disservice. Picture Apple in Jobs' first heyday with a less-than-Linux sized slice of the OS world, and NOW the parallels are somewhat better.

I joined at about the time of the Mashable article and was quickly hugely underimpressed.

There's also this issue from 2019 — the Daily Dot noted that, while Mastadon presents itself as community-creator friendly on the surface, at least then, it was NOT so friendly in the deeper waters. And, a former assistant of Rochko calls him basically the Benevolent Dictator for Life. When Gab migrated to Mastodon, interestingly, though, when asked to totally black-box it, Rochko claimed "I don't have the control." Bullshit, I say, from my limited computer networking knowledge. You could, I would presume, "defederate" other servers that wouldn't play ball.

That said, I also have no desire to follow Jack Dorsey's ice-bath-shriveled balls to Onlysky, which will have the same problems (which we all didn't recognize so much at the time) as Dorsey's version of Twitter, to be sure.

Speaking of, with allowances for big fish in small pond angles, I think Rochko in his own way is like a Dorsey or Zuckerberg — big and proprietary egos about their social media babies. I also think his own particular flavor of tech neoliberalism is influenced by being German and two-plus generations removed from the post-World War II reaction to Nazism.

Update, July 24: Mastodon also reportedly has a child abuse material problem.


Alternatives? Per this OnlySky piece, I'll pass on CounterSocial. Blocking entire countries based just on government hacks is wrong. Second, the US and Israel also do cyberhacks. And, beyond that? Per this roundup, good old Tumblr may be the best Twitter alternative. (Since this, I've heard that BlueSky has a racism problem, too.)

May 09, 2023

Thoughts on Canada's new social media law

Based on this Toronto Star piece, my three basic thoughts, and one add-on, are:

  1. It's not censorship, though the Trudeau government's refusal to accept one Canadian Senate amendment wasn't totally good;
  2. In terms of US cultural imperialism, protecting Canadian online content producers was probably needed in some way, and, expect other "Western" nations that don't already have such provisions to study this;
  3. To the degree that Canada's media laws, mainly pre-Internet, had not adapted to the post-2000 social media world (like Section 230 here in the US), those provisions were certainly needed;
  4. To the degree that rule making even in a country the size of Canada, let alone the US, "has to" be left to regulatory agencies, on the details, rather than Congress or Parliament, I hope the right balance was struck.

Otherwise, today's Canadian Conservatives are calling it censorship largely in the wake of their own FreeDumb Convoy and other issues where Prairie Provinces Conservatives are becoming ever more Trump-like. In addition, some political science newsletter author on Twitter, a Canadian, claiming that the NDP "works for" Trudeau, is an obvious liar.

As for American-related thought, beyond how Canadian Conservatives of today are imitating Trumpist Rethuglicans? The bill also shows guidelines on how to reform Section 230. And yes, contra hardcore libertarians and "more credulous precincts of the left" leftists (or pseudoleftists) it needs reforming.

May 08, 2023

Texas Progressives talk guns, Bryan Slaton, Alan Vera

There was enough stuff from the Lege to separate it from the rest of this week's Roundup, especially since the Slaton news kept on giving.

A state House committee found Bryan Slaton did have sex with that intern and recommends expelling him. If the full House does give him the boot, it would be the first time in nearly a century. Even worse for his cause from the Religious Right POV, he deflowered a virgin. Update: Slaton resigned late Monday but still faced a House expulsion vote on Tuesday. Update 2: Slaton has now unanimously been expelled.
Guess even Matt Rinaldi got shamed enough, 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.

And, back to Slaton to wrap. Given 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.


Did either Joe Biden or Lina Hidalgo kill Alan Vera

The House may loosen up the Senate's anti-DEI bill over fears of universities losing federal funds. Why all the worry? If the House passes the Senate's no-tenure bill, universities will lose funds from the students not attending due to all the profs leaving, and this will especially hit at the grad school level.

For whatever reason, Strangeabbott has once again decided to #StopTheBorder with unnecessary stops of Mexican semis. And, I say for whatever reason, because as of now, Abbott and McCraw haven't stated one.

How much can House Dems delay at least some of the tidal wave of Republican social legislation?

Fire burn down your petrochemical plant? No problem, we won't consider it as part of permit renewal, TCEQ says. In the hearing, TCEQ in general was part of a clown car. So is the Biden Administration, as long as it allows TCEQ to run federal permit hearings. Wonder if pseudoskeptics Naomi Baker and Jeff Wagg weigh in on stuff like this. (And yes, I like to keep kicking them on occasion.)
The guns? See my separate post about the Allen shooting.

Various streams of loathsomeness intersect over Allen shooting

Explicitly, I'm talking all the "thoughts and prayers," I mean "tots and prayers" crowd. I'm also explicitly talking Allen's Congresscritter, Rep. Keith Self, and the Libertarian National Committee Chairwoman, Angela McArdle. There's plenty of implicit loathsomeness beyond that.

The Allen Premium Outlets mass shooting will surely lead the Lege to ... do nothing, as has been the case in the past. (Well, maybe it will mandate that all malls have armed guards.) Or, like Rep. Keith Self, who represents Allen, you can say that "almighty god ... absolutely is in control of our lives" as a justification for doing nothing.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Mises Caucus thrall and head of the Libertarian National Committee Andrea McArdle offers this nuttery:
After telling her the truth about Allen and Rep. Keith Self (truth she should already already know, as she currently lives here in Tex-ass), including a kick in her nads by telling her that he was almost a Mises Caucus Libertarian, I of course told her to fuck off. Let's also not forget, per Wiki, her support for German New Medicine (and on Tim Cess Pool's podcast, no less) an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
At the state level, the Lege could take one action immediately: Pass HB 2744, to raise the age of purchase of AR-15s and similar from 18 to 21. But, neither the tots and pears there, nor the libertarian wingnuts, will back that idea. League of Women Voters also says that HB 636, which would allow election judges to bring guns to polling places, should be blocked. Agreed. In today's world in general it's stupid, and in #StartTheSteal world of conspiracy theories, it's stupider yet.