SocraticGadfly: 6/18/23 - 6/25/23

June 24, 2023

Quick thoughts on Prigozhin, Putin and Russia-Ukraine war

First, as of the time I write this, it appears that Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group mercenary army, is indeed focused on Moscow and President Vladimir Putin. Second, it appears he has not yet been seized.

Special update: Due to all the PR spinning by BlueAnon and Nat-sec Nutsacks about how much Putin has been "damaged" by the coup that wasn't, rather than continuing to post new updates here, I've instead done a new post about the spinning.

Is Russia taking serious precautions to stop a coup or coup light, while also working to arrest him before that can happen? Absolutely. Contra Nat-Sec Nutsacks™ leading light Kevin Rothrock, whom I mocked last night both seriously:

and sarcastically:

I don't think Putin is "seriously" panicked, but he is "reasonably" so, and more so with this developing more since last night.


Update, midday of this day, US time: Per Max Seddon and others, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has negotiated a "stand-down" by Prigozhin. Details still to come. Surely Prigozhin himself, as well as his troops, get an amnesty. To the degree any of his earlier bitching about the Russian Defense Ministry was legit, maybe a sacking or two?

Update to the update, 7 pm Eastern: Prigozhin goes into exile in Belarus; troops off hook, can still sign new contracts with Russia. No word on whether Prigozhin got Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu or Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov sacked or not. Kremlin spox Dmitri Peskov said that Prigozhin couldn't have discussed that with Lukashenko. (And, that's a lie, of course, and if he did discuss it, Lukashenko certainly could have, and likely would have, raised it with Putin.)

Here's why it's a lie:

Media reports citing Lukashenko's press service said the president engaged in extensive negotiations with Prigozhin throughout the "entire day" after establishing a mutual understanding with Putin. 
Before his negotiations with Wagner's chief, he held talks with Putin and they agreed on joint actions and “additionally clarifying the situation through his own channels.”

Simple enough and now back to the original update.

And, as I just said on Twitter, the #BlueAnon/#BlueMAGA hot takes of a coup in Russia written before noon Eastern time today look like they've fallen as flat as an overbaked souffle. 

Second update to the update, 7 pm: John Helmer weighs in and says Prigozhin never had officer support. He also notes, per the paragraph above, that Ukraine had no breakthroughs at this time. He also confirms the "Here's why" link information.


Is this as serious as the 1991 coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev and really against Boris Yeltsin? I think not. While there are surely state institutional level low murmurs of discontent against the war, Prigozhin has nothing like the old guard of state apparatchiks supporting him, mainly because, with Putin in power (including four years behind the scenes with Dmitri Medvedev) for more than 20 years straight now, there IS no "old guard" of state apparatchiks.

Prigozhin does have troops, yes. But, how many of Wagner will really follow him to Moscow, unless he promises the spoils of a Genghis Khan type sacking of the city? And, Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadarov has already come out against him.

The background to this is near the bottom of the story linked up top. The Kremlin wanted Wagner troops to sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry by July 1. This was clearly an attempt to put Prigozhin's troops on a tighter contract by having their final individual loyalty stated as being to the Russian state, not Prigozhin.

The question next is: Why didn't Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu or Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, or Putin himself of course, anticipate such an action? (I'm assuming that Prigozhin is lying about Russian uniformed military attacking Wagner troops on orders of Gerasimov, as his excuse for doing this.) And, why didn't one of these three have a polonium-210 pellet ready to be shot into Prigozhin's ass, a la Alexander Litvinenko?

The fact that nobody beneath Putin's level, especially and namely Shoigu and Gerasimov, was ready for this despite Prigozhin's repeated mockings of them over war-related issues even before this contracts issue, says that part of what Prigozhin has said about Russian strategic war conduct is certainly true. The fact that Putin himself wasn't more prepared may give fuel to the "he has cancer" claims or something. It is some sort of asleep at the switch issue, though.

As for likelihood of success? No more than the 1991 coup, IMO.


Per the update in italics, will either, or both, of Shoigu and Gerasimov get sacked as part of the deal Lukashenko negotiated? Possibly. Will Putin insert a minder into Wagner, beyond any minders he had there already? But of course, but how quiet, and how effective, can that person be? And per above, will that minder have a Po-210 pellet gun?


As for affecting the war? Of course it will will not, per the update above. Losing 25,000 troops from the front line, plus state troops to try to corral the Wagner units, for any length of time, will would weaken Russia's defense in depth, but it didn't happen. It will would, and maybe still will, only increase Putin's longer-term desperation. How much might it affect home-front morale? Well, Russian internet service providers, likely under state orders, are throttling access to Google News et al.

As for Prigozhin's claims leading up to this, about what was happening, and not happening, in Donetsk and Luhansk 2014-2022? More self-serving bullshit that, before he spouted these Westernized claims, had been refuted and proven untrue by Westerners, ex-Russians and ex-Ukrainians left, center and right.

And so, to finish, Prigozhin gets his own mocking:


In another piece, Helmer makes reference to the March 2022 Istanbul talks. Here's anon-paywalled description, albeit from a highly pro-Ukraine site. TLDR?

  • Russia withdraws to Donbas and Crimea, and official peace AFTER that
  • No NATO membership for Ukraine, but other security guarantees;
  • Ukraine, as part of offering this, insisted it should still get a NATO Article 5 guarantee;
  • No foreign troops on Ukrainian soil, period;
  • EU membership greenlighted;
  • Ukraine and Russia start negotiations on Crimea over a potential 15-year period;
  • Referendums in Ukraine and guarantor states.

My thoughts?

First one is a non-starter from Putin's POV. Crimea negotiations not highly likely to do anything.

June 23, 2023

#FollowTheScience on COVID and not needing masks

Just as I have, even pre-COVID, called out the number of Greens (more than purely stereotypical) who are antivaxxer for not following the science on vaccines while telling duopolists they should follow the science on climate change, and was grudging in my support of Jill Stein in her second presidential run in 2016 ...

So do I call out The People's CDC and fellow travelers for not following the science on COVID and masking. I called them out a second time weeks later for lacking — and refusing to adopt — any nuance on this issue. That's especially true with not only President Biden ending the COVID state of emergency here in the US, but even mask-notorious Japan having its prime minister having done the equivalent three months ago.

First, per Worldometers, we're down to 200 deaths a week in the US. That's 10K a year, half of what the "just the flu" kills in a mild flu season of six months or less and one-quarter of a severe flu season.

Second, per a People's CDC or fellow traveler type on Twitter who repeatedly refused to follow the science? COVID case counts are also down. Worldometers has a nice beautiful line graph for daily cases as well as daily deaths. All of its lines continue to flatten in a convergent sequence that will never hit zero but will likely continue to get closer and closer.

Ergo, we don't need masks. Said Tweeter said:

After I first called them out on COVID now being 2-4X LESS deadly than just the flu, they pulled out Japan, to which I noted the above, that Japan also does not have a state of emergency, does not REQUIRE masks, that fewer people are wearing them, and that mask wearing rates are declining there, including because 40 percent of the Japanese population cited peer pressure to wear the masks. Per that link, Japan's government is even only giving mask "recommendations" for riding mass transit.

When they still refused to follow the science?

Eventually I replied:

And, have not heard back, ergo, per the old proverb, silence gives assent to the idea they support mask mandates.

Jeff St. Clair at Counterpunch should know better, but on last Friday's Roaming Charges decided to stick his oar in as well:

In an attempt to rationalize their premature termination of Covid protocols, the Biden administration is resorting to victim blaming. Here’s HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra last week: “If you’re dying of Covid today, you didn’t take precautions.”

But, it IS true, Jeff. We don't have mask mandates for "just the flu" because some people are immunocompromised, and we shouldn't for COVID, either. Becerra perhaps could have worked to sound less callous, but the facts he states ARE the facts. And, if you're being like Pat the Berner to just do a hit job on Biden? As I told him and others on a blogging callout, you know there's many other things to take on Biden about. "Own the neoliberals" on COVID? C'mon.

Keep it up, and I might start calling you folks COVIDIOTS lite or something.

June 22, 2023

Texas Progressives have a big old roundup

Activists claim the new Houston ISD board of managers appointed by the state is restricting meeting access, though they don't claim it's in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. (It appears not to be.) Meanwhile, Jim Schutze came out of retirement to write a guest column for the Chronic about how new HISD head Mike Miles means business on third-grade reading skills as very much a hill to die on. (From the edges of the Metromess, Schutze is totally right on this.0

Good luck to the new elections administrator in Tarrant County. And, #BlueAnon, if R.F. O'Rourke had spent more time there and less in Muleshoe last year, none of this might have happened.

Strangeabbott continues to be an even bigger whiny pouty face than normal with his property-tax related vetoes. I assume he'll do the same when rural Texas House Republicans continue to tell him "no" on vouchers in his special, ignoring the year Tricky Ricky Perry called multiple specials only to get his hat handed to him multiple times.

I can totally support this: a one-stop shop for small town grant writing help and applications information.

The Lege voted $1 billion to qcuire land for new state parks. (It will need public approval as a constitutional amendment.) At the Monthly, Forrest Wilder has some specific suggestions.

Meet Opal Lee, Fort Worth's "Grandmother of Juneteenth."

Chad and Jennifer Brackeen of Fort Worth failed to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act, which is good for it in general and also good in specific, as the Brackeens remind me of the type of people that led to the ICWA to be written in the first place. And, Reed O'Connor, who made the original district court ruling in their favor, per internet search is generally one of the worst judges in the US. Justice Neil Gorsuch had a fantastic concurrence; as Elie Mystal notes, if only he would translate that love of Indian rights into civil rights in general.

Thuggish Rethuglicans and scaredy-cat Democraps continuing to try to outdo each other on "tough on crime" will probably ignore that murder in the US is dropping again this year, and also that the early COVID spike was still far lower than that of decades ago.

The Texas stRangers are the only MLB team not to do a Pride event.

At The Hill a nutter named Chip Muir lists nine reasons for Biden to pardon Trump. As The Hill doesn't run taglines on guest writers, a quick Google says he was acting chief of staff for the Trump Administration Office of National Drug Control Policy, and also a general counsel at the White House. Of course. One of the reasons The Hill is one-third a piece of shit.

Anti-third party duopolists at the Nation, in the form of Hillbot Joan Walsh, and at NY Mag's The Intelligencer, in the form of Jon Chait, got past third-party "spoiler" history WRONG (shock me), when talking about Henry Wallace, according to Ballot Access News.

So, who DID do the Nord Stream? The WSJ reports that two months before the explosion, the CIA warned off the Ukrainian government.

Betelgeuse has a chance of going supernova in our lifetimes. Getcha popcorn!

Off the Kuff has still more Paxton impeachment news.

Upon his death, SocraticGadfly warned against reading too much into the life and actions of Ted Kaczynski.

Evil MoPac reveals what Austin politicians look like they do for a living.  

The Eyewall tries to make sense of the major Gulf hurricane activity since 2017.  

Your Local Epidemiologist does not like the cuts to public health that resulted from the debt ceiling hostage negotiations. 

The Houston Democracy Project provided an update on the Republican lawsuit to overturn numerous Harris County elections in 2022.

USDA approves "lab meat" chicken; be skeptical of "cultured meat" claims

Details at this AP story.

Why skeptical?

First, inside the story.

Manufacturers wouldn't name a price. They only said that "eventually" they hoped to be near organic chicken, currently reported at $20/lb in the story. I'm betting that this in a posh Bay Area restaurant, for first adopters, if sold to the general public, would run $75/lb right now.

Second, the Good News plant can produce just 50,000 pounds a year, the story notes. Merikkkans eat 50 BILLION pounds. So we're not talking 1/10 of 1 percent. We're talking 1,000 times less than that. Even if it scales up to 400,000 pounds, that's still less than 1/100 of 1 percent.

Reasons to be skeptical outside the story?

First, it's not environmental. MASSIVE amounts of electricity are needed.

Second, to scale up? You'll need computer clean room level clean or near for 400,000, let alone 4,000,000 pounds. And, on a much bigger scale than a computer chip factory.

With that and other things, as I blogged a couple of years ago, this won't be close to economically viable until 2030 at the earliest. And, per that and the "clean room" angle? One screwup will be far worse than something like Jack in the Box's e coli problem of decades ago.

Because of all of the above, there is one thing I do NOT call this: "clean meat."

And again, don't call it environmental, primarily because of the electric cost. I called Mother Jones out on that earlier this year and will do the same to other Gang Green enviros. A number of years ago, as in nearly a decade ago, I was more hopeful. But I then read more on the number-crunching on the electric juice, did a bit of my own, and beyond the couple of years ago link, thought on my own about things like the purity issue.

I'm all in favor  of addressing animal cruelty issues (even as I still eat some meat) and the factory farms issue. The answer is getting Americans in general to eat less meat, and letting the California law on hog anti-cruelty upheld by the Supreme Court be able to "percolate," hopefully followed by similar such measures. The second part of the answer is? Carbon taxes, which would squash both factory meat farming AND lab meat like a bug.

The Paxton trial: quick thoughts (updated)

The Trib has the overview story; Lite Gov Goeb released the formal rules yesterday evening. Let's dive in.

Quick notes:

  • Warren K. Paxton must attend in person.
  • Angela Paxton cannot participate in any closed sessions or "deliberations." Yes, that means she can't vote. (See below for more.)
  • Witness lists must be finalized and submitted by Aug. 22.

Approval was by 25-3 margin. She was one of the opposed; tin foil hat Bob Hall the second, surely for tin foil hat reasons; Democrat Sarah Eckhardt the third for unknown reasons. Rice poly-sci cheese Mark P. Jones, for the Trib, ranks her as the most liberal member of the Senate. Maybe she felt the rule that a simple majority could vote to dismiss any House charge before deliberations and charges votes was too favorable to Kenny Boy. But, with the gag order as part of the rules, as of now through the end of trial, she probably feels she can't discuss. (Update: The Trib notes that, in the Senate Journal, she said that "The Rules are unprecedented in their presumption for opacity and closed deliberations." Per that link, is there an argument that the select committee violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, not just Senate rules?)

Sounds good in general. Angela is cock-blocked without the Senate having to consider an expulsion vote or something. (But, if she didn't draw the short straw on Senate redistricting, maybe that happens down the road.)

Trial starts Sept. 5, not "by Aug. 28." Blame all of Strangeabbott's special sessions or something. But no one-year delay like Kenny's legal beagle Tony Buzbee wanted.

Four of the House's 20 articles of impeachment have been set aside but could be considered in the future. Two are directly related to his securities fraud case and two indirectly related. The Senate select committee may have decided to set them aside now that Houston has been finally nailed down as the venue for his state criminal trial on those issues.

Rules of trial conduct:

  • All deliberations closed;
  • Vote happens on each count without debate;
  • No cellphones (we'll see if somebody tries to sneak a burner in);
  • Normal cross-examination;
  • Prosecution gets right to open and close final arguments;
  • Trial itself, less any closed deliberations, is open to the public.

Getcha popcorn!

As for how long you'll need that popcorn? Given that it's Buzbee vs Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin, there's going to be legal wrangling. It will take all of the Sept. 5-8 workweek, minimum. The rules allow for pre-trial motions to be offered, and voted on. That alone could take a whole day. Such motions must be submitted by Aug. 5 and responses by Aug. 13.

That said, here's some time rules:

  • Opening statements, 60 minutes a side — for prosecutors, it's the House managers, not the lawyers;
  • Presentation of evidence, 24 hours a side;
  • Rebuttals, 60 minutes a side;
  • Final arguments, 15 minutes a side.

So, yeah, Sept. 5-8 for actual trial presentation, if Sept. 5 is a day of pre-trial wrangling, is about right.

So, votes starting Monday Sept. 11? No earlier? Or would they start over the weekend if the trial is done by end of day Friday?

Now, does Angela count as "present," quorum-wise, meaning 21 of 30 votes plus her non-voting attendance are needed for two-thirds, or is it 20 of 30 voting? Trib wasn't clear, but official rules talking about suspension of rules on a vote of "two thirds of the members present and eligible to serve as jurors" indicate that it's 30 and 20 as the numbers. The last rule, though in legalese, seems to underline that: her vote does seem to be allowed for matters besides the impeachment articles itself, as in changes of rules, suspension of rules, etc.

Scratch the above. Another story, from the Statesman, said that her being counted as "present" means it's 31, and thus 21 votes, not 20, are needed. 

We can surely count Hall as a no. Can Warren K get nine other Senators? Not sure about Middleton, whom I don't know very well, but Hughes, certainly. Hancock? Quite possibly. Ditto on my own nutter Senatecritter, Springer. Not sure about Creighton, but Bettencourt, Cockwhore and King are all possibles. So, that's six more semi-likely No votes. To be a bit conservative, we'll count five of them actually going No. Will throw in one more for the combo of Creighton and Middleton. Two more out of the fivesome of Parker, Sparks, Schwertner, Campbell, Perry looks possible. That would still leave Warren one vote short. (Note: See also this post from the top of the month about why the House GOP moved on Paxton as a little more backgrounder.) 

Update: Mimi Swarz cites an anonymous "Capitol gadfly" who disagrees with me and thinks Warren K. won't have a big problem rounding up 10 Senators. She agrees, saying big money donors like Christofascist Tim Dunn will squeeze out any Senate Rethuglican integrity. It didn't do so in the state House, where more than two-thirds, nearly three-quarters of Republicans voted to impeach, but we shall see. (Swarz notes that Charlie Geren said some House Legiscritters were being threatened with retaliation even right after the vote.) Swarz goes on to note that contra Dunn and the Wilks brothers, other state powerhouses like Texans for Lawsuit Reform don't like Warren K.

Oh, and Reddit's r/politics removed my post even though in the past 24 hours they've allowed more than half a dozen different posts about Alito and the Pro Publica story. That comes after taking down my post about Daniel Ellsberg's death because the nutty moderators couldn't understand about how the Espionage Act being threatened to be weaponized against him has only increased in the past decade.

June 21, 2023

My Legiscritter is in the Bottom Ten! You Go Drew Springer!

Texas Monthly brings us its biennial Best and Worst Legislators list. My own Drew Springer made the Bottom 10 list, and I will cite a bit:

Springer “is not smart enough to be a go-to for Dan Patrick or cagey enough to play the lobby,” said one lobbyist. So he’s stuck as a legislative bottom-feeder, pushing initiatives more influential senators wouldn’t touch. This session he targeted renewable-energy producers with punitive taxes. He tried to bar the children of undocumented migrants from attending public school, unless the federal government pays for them.

Unsurprising, and his head's gotten bigger moving from House to Senate. The rewnewables is especially stupid. His old House district is packed with them; hell, he can see the nighttime safety lights from multiple wind farms from his house in Muenster. 

And, the booting items from the calendar? Yeah, Springer likes to throw elbows for no reason, whether inside the Lege or not.

The non-education issue? Yeah, Springer explicitly said this was one of his top two or three priorities at a local town hall before the start of the session. Even other wingnuts don't generally talk so blatantly about such a clearly unconstitutional stance.

Springer was known as an "Abbott guy" when he was in the House, even if he was not explicitly a Dennis Bonnen guy, before Bonnen shot himself in the Mucus and got replaced by Dade "Dade" Phelan. But, "Abbott guys" are a minority in the Texas Senate. Springer hasn't totally dropped being an "Abbott guy," but he hasn't really become a "Patrick guy," either, from what I can see. Weirdly, getting back to education, I don't know exactly where he stands on vouchers. And, that's despite he and wife Lydia being dyed-in-the-wool Catholics. (That said, Conservative Cafeteria Catholics at times have a somewhat different take on these things than evangelical Protestants; sometimes the circle is still broken amongst the Religious Right.)

I think there are two added issues. His Senate district isn't totally rural, first, and as part of that, has a not-totally negligible Black population; as the Metromess continues to grow up I-35 and North Central, it will challenge him more. Second, he drew the short straw and has just a two-year term in a presidential election year that will boost Democrat turnout. Of course, that means Democraps have to get somebody to run; in my area in 2022, Burgess for Congress, Springer for state Senate and David Spiller for state House were all unopposed, and Burgess was the only one to face even a Libertarian. I doubt he'll face Shelly Luther again in a primary, but somebody may challenge him from the right if recruited by Goeb.

Marianne Williamson for president? No need for that to manifest in 2024, either

Marianne Williamson, New Agey author, guru, and peddler of "A Course in Miracles" was certainly the most interesting announced Dem candidate overall in 2020, as I said in a blog post about her campaign then. (This time around, depending on how one uses the word "interesting," it's most likely RFK Jr.)

And, she does "walk the walk" on the woo. She did then, and as ar as I know, hasn't changed since then. Her campaign contributions do NOT include the Green Party, but do include the Natural Law Party. Nuff ced. (As I noted in 2020, it would have been fun to see her and Tulsi Gabbard land in Fairfield, Iowa at the same time on the campaign trail. Tulsi's already been there on a recent trip.)

That said, beyond the Natural Law Party, some of her campaign contributions were to ConservaDems in the past. I don't think she's explained that away any more successfully than the woo factor that she still holds.

And, with that, I've decided to do an entirely new post, overhauling that old one. Why?

Yesterday, I appear to have ensnared a true believer who says that Williamson doesn't believe in "manifesting." 

That person was responding to this snark on Twitter:

Sure she does, for both good and bad, as "A Return to Love," her catechism of "A Course in Miracles," makes clear, per Wiki bullet points:

• "A friend of mine told me that we're not punished for our sins, but by our sins. Sickness is not a sign of God’s judgment on us, but of our judgment on ourselves. If we were to think that God created our sickness, how could we turn to Him for healing? As we’ve already established, God is all that is good. He creates only love, therefore he did not create sickness. Sickness is an illusion and does not actually exist. It is part of our worldly dream, our self-created nightmare. Our prayer to God is that He awaken us from the dream."
• “Healing results from transformed perception of our relationships to illness, one in which we respond to the problem with love instead of fear. When a child presents a cut finger to his or her mother, the woman doesn’t say, 'Bad cut.' Rather, she kisses the finger, showers it with love in an unconscious, instinctive activation of the healing process. Why should we think differently about critical illness? Cancer and AIDS and other serious illnesses are physical manifestations of a psychic scream and their message is not 'hate me, but 'Love me.'"
In the traditional Western medical model, a healer’s job is to attack disease. But if the consciousness of attack is the ultimate problem, how could it be the ultimate answer? A miracle worker’s job is not to attack illness, but rather to stimulate the natural forces of healing. We turn our eyes away from sickness to the love that lies beyond it. No sickness can diminish our capacity to love. Does that mean that it is a mistake to take medicine? Absolutely not."
• "When the cure for AIDS is finally found, we will give prizes to a few scientists, but many of us will know that millions and millions of prayers helped it happen."

There you go. As I told said Twit, this is everything that Barbara Ehrenreich ever called out  in her book "Bright Sided" about "positivity" based psychic healing. It's disgusting and revolting. (Ehrenreich expands on some of these ideas in "Natural Causes.")

Beyond that, from all I know, she's not moved beyond her previous stances on some other issues.

In 2020, Google said, per Orac, that, to use something I've used as a term before, she's an antivaxxer-lite. Or, to rephrase, per an issue where Greens, and lowercase greens, say "Follow the science"? She's a vaccines "skeptic," which is parallel to being a climate change "skeptic," as I see it. That said, contra one Orac commenter, I can be skeptical about the pharmaceutical industry in some areas, yet, unlike Williamson, have no problem with accepting the current vaccine schedule.

After a brief Twitter spat, I'll note she remained antivaxxer, per Science Based Medicine, even after allegedly (with loopholes!) apologizing for old antivaxxer statements. (Sadly, but, not surprisingly, given its hit and miss record on current affairs, Wikipedia semi-whitewashes her.) Also per the big picture, she's never apologized for the New Ageism that's led her down these and other rabbit holes, in part.

Per another Orac, she's also apparently anti-GMOs. (That said, many libertarians are antivaxxer, too, and anti-GMOism also runs a spectrum, but Greens, as opposed to the duopoly, are officially anti-GMO.)

On the ground? She, like most Gang Green environmental orgs, has a record of not being friendly to unionization — in her case, at the Project Angel Food she founded in the late 1980s. (As for how beneficial it may have been to the homeless? What, you can't help the homeless and still be OK with a unionization effort? Whataboutism. As well as ignoring the whataboutism in the cult of Marianne that was happening at that time.) More on the project's unionization issues and other such things at Wiki.

 On foreign policy, in 2020 her woo extends to the Middle East, calling for "love" and the "heart" on Israel-Palestine and warning about karma in selling arms to the Saudis for Yemen's civil war.

That said, at one point in life, I actually owned a copy of "A Course in Miracles." I tried actually getting into it. But, I couldn't ... not in it in specific, and I eventually dropped both it and the attempt to be spiritual but not religious.

In specific, as I've said elsewhere, I find the concept of karma, whether in its New Agey sweetness and light lies (and yes, lies, compared to its origin in full fury) or its Hindu-Buddhist roots to be even more offensive than the traditional (post-Augustine Catholic and Protestant "traditional," that is — it ain't in the Bible) Christian doctrine of original sin.

Per the header? I'm still waiting for "Healing the Soul of America,"  as I was three years ago. Didn't the New Agey flow or whatever have enough power to already start making this happen?

My snark aside, it's too bad, because, when she doesn't go down the woo road, she talks a lot about problems with capitalism and income inequality. But ... why doesn't she, like many fellow woo masters, talk about how people need to "manifest" more? After all, that's a core principle of "A Course in Miracles."

And, while I'm being snarky, I'm also being serious. Just as serious as if a GOP presidential candidate belonged to a church that officially preached the "success gospel." Even more, if a GOP presidential candidate, for a more exact parallel, were a minister of such a church.

Nor am I going to wade through a 70-minute ACIM-based podcast for the claim that it doesn't teach manifestation. Per Williamson's midrash, it does. 

That said, per the quote "our thoughts create our reality and that we can use our thoughts to manifest the things we desire" on Google, it's clear that it's not just Williamson who thinks ACIM is in part about manifestation.

And, per Wiki, her own bibliography indicates her belief in manifestation, or closely related New Age ideas by other names. Titles like "The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money and Miracles" and "A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever" make that clear.

And, she's asking me for money via email. Ain't happening. (And, why can't she "manifest" campaign contributions, as her campaign's debt soars? And, it seems true that her "campaign" is actually a move to goose sales of an upcoming new book.)

June 20, 2023

More on Navajo water rights vs Aridzona

As blogged about recently Navajo water rights claims stand before the Supreme Court, on which it could rule later this month. And, it's just possible that, even if the feds, behind Arizona, win, the victory would be Pyrrhic. See here.

(Update, June 22: The Navajos lost on a 5-4 vote, as Gorsuch couldn't get the Umpire or the Drunk to join him and the three liberalish members.)

Update to the last point? This HCN/Pro Publica piece about Aridzona screwing over Indians in general on water rights begins by noting just how this water could be used, but can't currently be used. A new hospital on the Big Rez stands unused because it doesn't have a guaranteed adequate water supply. And, it's not all Colorado River Compact states, it's Aridzona. This:

The Navajo Nation has negotiated with all three states where it has land — Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — and has completed water settlements with two of them. “We’re partners in those states, New Mexico and Utah,” said Jason John, the director of the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources, “but when it comes to Arizona, it seems like we have different agendas.”

Is the nickel version.

(Update 2, June 26: Pro Publica offers an update to its previous piece.)

It's horseshit, to be blunt and pun, that alfalfa grown by White people takes precedence over something like the Dilkon Medical Center.

That said, per the story, Aridzona doesn't do this just to Navajos. It's all tribes in the state. And, it is hardball:

The state — through its water department, courts and elected officials — has repeatedly used the negotiation process to try to force tribes to accept concessions unrelated to water, including a recent attempt to make the state’s approval or renewal of casino licenses contingent on water deals. In these negotiations, which often happen in secret, tribes also must agree to a state policy that precludes them from easily expanding their reservations. And hanging over the talks, should they fail, is an even worse option: navigating the state’s court system, where tribes have been mired in some of the longest-running cases in the country.


It's a spinoff of Aridzona being stubborn against California early on in the Colorado River Compact, as documented by Marc Reisner in "Cadillac Desert" and others.

Speaking of hardball? To expand on my blog post last month about the three-year temporary non-rescued of the Lower Colorado Basin? It's softball and a boondoggle. 

More here from Gary Wockner of Writers on the Range on how this deal essentially is a boondoggle. With the "bribery" angle in place (for 3 years, $1.2 billion of Inflationmonger Joe's Inflation Reduction Act), alfalfa farmers will dig in their heels in four years. And, it ignores dams in the pipeline on the river's Upper Basin.

His nutgraf is near the end:

What this deal does do is set the precedent that the American taxpayer will backfill any and every financial loss caused by a changing climate. It has been estimated that the Colorado River’s water generates $1.4 trillion in economic activity per year. As climate change further depletes the river, will the U.S. taxpayer always be on the hook?

Couldn't say it better.

Update: Again, lest one thing that this is just about Navajos, High Country News has a new piece about Aridzona hating Hopi water rights, too. And yet another, about the Chemehuevi's water, though that's from Californicating on the other side of the river, actually. Both these are also in conjunction with Pro Publica.

I may owe Sam Husseini an apology over WIV and the possible bioweoponization of COVID

Nearly two full years ago, Husseini raised the possibility of not just a coronavirus lab leak happening at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and not just the idea that gain of function research led to this particular virus that we know today as COVID-19, but that there was bioweaponization research behind this.

To say that I was skeptical is putting it mildly. Based on the USSR's biological weapons program, I was skeptical that the Chinese military would do such work at a lab that was nominally for civilian purposes, built in part with Western help, and in a crowded metropolitan area.

Well, in the past couple of days, multiple media reports said "think again." The Daily Mail, as reprinted in Perth, Australia, claimed that Zhou Yusen was "thrown to his death," rather than just "died under mysterious circumstances." It adds, on its first reference to him, "Chinese military scientist." Lest Blue Anon types in Merikkka say "Oh, it's the Daily Mail," Pro Publica also identifies him as such, and did so in its extensive piece about last year's Senate investigative committee report led by ranking member, ie, top minority party member, Richard Burr, which I blogged about in detail, and then followed up with blogging about Pro Publica largely refuting its critics.

Who is Zhou? Per Pro Publica:

(D)irector of the State Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, in Beijing.

There you go, BlueMAGA.

Then, the NY Post talks more about details of the bioengineering, whether just "gain of function" or "bioweaponization" was behind it. It, in turn, references a Times of London piece which says this before you hit the paywall:

The US investigators say one of the reasons there is no published information on the work is because it was done in collaboration with researchers from the Chinese military, which was funding it and which, they say, was pursuing bioweapons.

There you go.

If this is all true, per my three objections to Husseini?

Actually, first, going beyond my three objections?

Did Chinese president for life or so Xi Jinping know about this in advance or was he kept in the dark? It's a question that shouldn't be idly dismissed, and I'm sure US nat-sec nutsacks inside and outside official government positions are pondering and perusing it. If not, they should be.

Now, the three objections.

First, I guess a nominally civilian lab was believed to offer better cover. Obviously, that belief was wrong and has been shown wrong, at least indirectly, for years.

Second, I guess the fact that the French helped build it might be thought of as a way of throwing Western intelligence off the trail. Well, that might have worked until you caused a global outbreak that probably killed at least 15 million, with 1 million plus in the US, 1.5 million in Europe, at least 2.5 million in China, contra its lies, based on my old estimates, surely at least 5 million in India, and 5 million in the rest of the world getting us to 15 million.

Third, although no racism was involved, the overall callousness at least approaches, if not exceeds, that of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study "experiment" here in the US. Of course, in non-racial callousness or stupidity, Fort Detrick was and is not THAT far from DC and Baltimore.

But, that all said, I go back to Jeff St. Clair's "more credulous precincts of the left," a mot juste that he used about people who believed the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

If, like Green Party thought leaders Howie Hawkins, you think the Chinese government's cultural genocide and slave-ish labor of Uyghurs should be treated "in Chinese terms," do you say the same to this?

And, I can double down on continuing to call Dr. Peter Hotez a grifter and gaslighter — at minimum. Since St. Anthony of Fauci is out of government, he's currently less of one. And, although Joe Rogan is a multi-theory conspiracy theorist, it would be "fun" seeing him and Hotez square off.

June 19, 2023

Texas GOP hypocrisy outside of local control issues

A month ago, Lite Guv Danny Goeb was vociferously opposing the allowance of anonymous reports to Texas Child and Family Services, on the grounds that such reports could be weaponized in divorce and child custody cases. (They can, but that is not THAT common, first, and second, that's why reports aren't acted on without investigation.)

But, last week, Strangeabbott signed the Athena Alert bill into law. It's named after the late Wise County 7-year-old Athena Strand, abducted and sexually abused, before being killed, by a FedEx contract driver.

And, unlike the Amber Alert already on the books?

It allows law enforcement to act even if the report has not been verified.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Dan Patrick.

June 18, 2023

The Reddit "strike" one week in, from a semi-regular user

Anybody who's a big social media user, whether or not they're that familiar with Reddit, is probably aware that a week ago, many subreddits went on a 24-hour "strike," closing their subs over protests about Reddit's decision to greatly up the fees for third-party apps that are used to improve the user experience, mainly on mobile versions. This is being done in part to improve Reddit's business model and possibly in second part to to gussy up Reddit for an initial public offering.

Interestingly, the big three US sports ones appeared to have split. r/NBA went offline while r/MLB did not. (I didn't check r/NFL; I'm a group member of all three. r/NBA's decision by its moderators provoked heated discussion as last Monday was of course Game 5 of the NBA Finals. It was compounded by r/DenverNuggets and r/Heat staying online.


Update, Sunday, June 18: r/NBA has stopped walking the picket lines. Apparently the Finals weren't enough, but the start of NBA trade season was. But, by blacking out the whole previous week, including Nuggets parade, etc., they come off looking like Nuggets haters. They ALSO look like fucking hypocrites for actually having a Game 5 post that was apparently inter-moderator discussion. And, they look like the biggest hypocrite yet for banning the Redditor who called them out. Salute to u/kingtupperware.

They're also hypocritical about WHY they reopened, per another commenter:

every other major subreddit that re-opened yesterday admitted they've gotten a threatening mail from admins 
while this sub: "we reopen cos we accomplished enough, we made reddit promise that they will improve the official app, the boycott WON. 🤓🤓🤓🤓" while entire point of the protest was API price increase and saving 3rd party apps. they spammed front page with "dont let reddit kill 3rd partt apps" etc etc 
r/nba pussy ass mods saying "we are reopening because we won, they said they are gonna improve the official app" is such a laughable pussy statement. 
they couldnt even be honest. absolute pussy ass bitch behaviour. 
if the mod yesterday said "look, imma be honest, we didnt accomplish shit, and we dont wanna lose our mod positions, thats why we reopen" they wouldnt get roasted as hard.

Bullshit. And patronizing, too. Anybody who's followed the "strike" knows that there was no new "motion" over the weekend.

Mods then populated the feed with a bunch of posts, probably put up by themselves, from what was missed, besides the Game 5 insider trading thread, like the suspension of Ja Morant, etc., and some old NBA trivia. (And, by timestamps, it seems they did it already late Saturday night.)

That said, for more regular and hardcore users of r/NBA than me? The way this works is, until you get a chance to vote out any mods, you go to r/basketball first, and at least semi-boycott r/nba.

Then, per this OP, yeah, there's the issue of r/NBA seeming to engage in insider trading on taking down non-insiders' versions of duplicate posts on hot and breaking news. (r/NFL, from a lower interaction base, may be worse; r/MLB doesn't seem to have such a problem.)


But, reddit's subs and their moderators have brought this on themselves. Yes, reddit sucked as an OS. And? You volunteered your services, and site tweaks, for free. So now, just like Steward Brand's "information wants to be free" and the internet "teaching us" that it should be free, now corporate Reddit wants to continue the exploitation. And, third-party app makers, who water-skiied in the wake, shouldn't be surprised that new turbulence has hit.

And, that leads to the bottomline, as explained by Wired, that the blackout is breaking Reddit. Note what I said about about r/NBA vs the two team subs. A week later, r/NBA remains offline. I visited the Nuggets sub to talk about the title. I went to r/basketball to talk about Ja Morant's suspension. I'm not a diehard Reddit user, I have been comment-banned from two biblical criticism subs for calling a toxic moderator a Nazi, and I don't use my smartphone as a computer in general, so I have no dog in the hunt. Per Wired, I think holdouts like r/NBA run a risk of being abandoned by people like me. That's especially true since Reddit has, per links off the main Wired piece, made concessions already to apps for the hearing- and visually-disabled and a few other things. They also, per this piece, increase their odds of getting in Reddit's corporate crosshairs, even as CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman himself pledges no more compromises. (Per one of several good sidebar links off that, Reddit corporate is allegedly looking for "defectors" to replace mods at still-dark subs, and per the r/NBA pullout above, that's worked.) That said, Huffman calling most mods "landed gentry" on NBC is a good example of how not to do corporate PR.

So, Reddit has parallels to Twitter, but not entirely. In both cases, yes, it's had laggard development and management history. But, while both now are looking for new money, Reddit isn't owned by an idiot who keeps creating self-inflicted wounds, by and large, and as noted above, unlike Elon Musk, Huffman has inventor's skin in the game.

Otherwise, if you're a denizen of any social media platform? You have to be prepared. Should Google announce massive changes to Blogger, I'd download the entire blog, not just this but the two others I own, and if I had to jump, upload as best as possible, old content to Wordpress and/or Substack, where I'm occasionally active and semi-active, respectively.

And usesrs or denizens should never forget that Steward Brand had a multi-sentence statement, which it should also be noted, was made to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak:

On the one hand you have—the point you’re making Woz—is that information sort of wants to be expensive because it is so valuable—the right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information almost wants to be free because the costs of getting it out is getting lower and lower all of the time. So you have these two things fighting against each other.

There you go.

Oh, and this claim that Reddit is "the last page of the Internet"? That's much more an indictment of Google than a tout of Reddit. Plus, appending "reddit" to the end of a Google search might get a Reddit page full of misinfo, even with Reddit somewhat cleaning itself up over the past few years, rather than Google's satanic ad-spawn, so an agnostic searcher really hasn't "won." Besides, one can use Duck Duck Go instead of Google to search.

So, to mods? (I have one small sub that's "restricted" not "public" so the blackout wasn't a deal for me anyway), if you think you are providing a service that is non-reproducible in details by others, fight for a piece of the expensive pie. (And fight for it yourselves, rather than being fucking stupid enough to fight on behalf of third-party apps, of which Apollo at least makes millions itself.) If you're just trying to help spread knowledge and fun discussion, though, remember that service is free, and people "moderate" conversations in meatspace all the time.

And, related to that? Since subreddits generally are NOT parallel to Twitter, there's plenty of ego on BOTH SIDES. That's the bottom line takeaway.


As for the future? Some subs have talked about alternatives to the Reddit platform. We'll see what happens. More on these alternatives from Endgadget, which notes that all of them, for now, are "niche," like Mastodon vs Twitter.


Update June 25: MoJo gets much wrong with this piece, including ignoring the money that API makers have already been making for themselves. As I told Kuff, who had this on a weekend link dump, really, it's kind of like the old millionaires-vs-billionaires free agency battle, and even more than in sports, the ardent fans, er Redditors, can refuse to support either side and refuse to be suckered. Since I don't use a smartphone as a computer, am not totally addicted to Reddit, and don't need an app (and have Ghostery, AdBlock Plus, etc. installed) I do my level best to make sure NOBODY makes money off me. And, this is why I'm a skeptical leftist, is stuff like this. (Arguably, MoJo is librul not leftist, to boot.)


Update, June 26: Huffman is also reportedly worried about AI bots scraping Reddit.