SocraticGadfly: 7/23/23 - 7/30/23

July 28, 2023

Antiwar is as dead as Justin Raimondo?

I did an expanded version of this post, my callout back to David Rieff about a serious peace plan to end the Russia-Ukraine war, at Substack.

I had sent the original to Counterpunch, heard nothing. Sent the Substack version to Antiwar, the late Justin Raimondo's home grounds.

And, egarris there, Eric Garris, Antiwar's co-founder, said:
A bit too snarky for us (quite a bit). Thank you, appreciate the sentiment.
I emailed back, and responded to myself on Twitter that, something can be totally serious even if it appears snarky.

I did NOT email him, but DID post as a comment to myself on the Substack, and on Twitter, that I guess Justin Raimondo really is dead.

That said, as I noted in my blogged obit of him, I didn't agree with his blanket antiwar stance, and outside of that, I thought he was pretty much a nutter. And, that piece reminds me that Garras is a nutter in many ways, too. I also also forgot that current editorial director Scott Horton, like both of them, is a conspiracy theorist, though not perhaps as much of a general political nutter.

Oh, well. Truthout next? Actually, per their submission guidelines and areas of interest, hard no. And, I'd forgotten it has had some recent troubles. So, I shot it to Alternet. And, I stressed in an introductory paragraph that it was NOT snark.

Also NOT snark is in that 4-year-old blogged obit, Eric, about you, Justin and Scott being nutters.

Snark? The header is high-octane, Bacardi 151 level snark.

So again, Antiwar? What's it good for? I guess that what it's good for in its own POV is just for Merikkkans. With some hindsight, especially given the Lew Rockwell background of both Raimondo and Garris, that shouldn't be surprising, either.

If I had thought of this in advance, based on old blogging, I might not have tried Antiwar. OTOH, it did let me see some of its actual hypocrisy. And, I'll take Mark Ames and Yasha Levine over you Rockwellians. Of further hypocrisy, the actual Randolph Bourne would loathe most the ideas of Raimondo, Garras et al.

As far as tone, snarkiness didn't even pop up in my mind while writing. Instead, I wondered if I was being too preachily didactic, with a "take your medicine" angle (for US-NATO-Ukraine) pushing something that isn't realistic for anybody but Vladimir Putin. I accept that as still being a possibility.

A sympathetic look at Waco — maybe too much?

Is it TOO sympathetic, both in the author's treatment of two religious leaders who attempted to negotiate with David Koresh at the time, and the stance of those two religious leaders themselves? Let's dig in on this extended version of a Goodreads review.

Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and A Legacy of RageWaco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and A Legacy of Rage by Jeff Guinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is good to very good but not quite great as pop history, and OK-plus but not quite very good as semi-academic history. It’s also one of those books whose possible rating changed in my mind while writing up this review. (It's really a 4.25, which is what it got at StoryGraph.)

The good? First, Guinn gives a detailed, and accurate, history of Branch Davidian’s history, starting with the foundation of Adventism, then through Davidian’s start as an offshoot of traditional Adventism. Connecting Cyrus Teed to Koresh via Lois Roden getting his one book sent to the Waco-McLennan County Library. (I know Sean Sutcliffe from days of living in Marlin, Texas. I also from days of living in the Metroplex, know Carlton Stowers.) His idiomatic interpretation of “Messiah” as someone chosen by god for a specific purpose is also good, and probably assisted by biblical scholars who helped him. In all this, it's generally a good work.

His description of how ATF’s surprise was blown, not by ATF itself, nor by the Waco Trib’s start of a story series, but by a clueless KWTX cameraman who should have been fired if he wasn’t, is also good. So, too, is the backstory on why ATF pushed to go through with the raid even after local leaders knew cover had been blown. Later in the book, the description of differences between ATF and FBI in hierarchy, organization and lower-level autonomy is important.

Getting ATF people to talk, whether on the record or on background, is also good. That said, with two other new books out for the 30th anniversary, I don’t know if Guinn was any more successful on that than the other two authors.

Really good? His alternative 4 on how the fire started — neither FBI-deliberate (I reject that as he also seems to do), nor Branch Davidian-deliberate (the compound was too disorganized) nor accidental, but Koresh-deliberate, based on a literalistic interpretation of a “wall of fire” from Zechariah. OTOH, that assumes that under that much stress, that Koresh could have popped up such an idea is perhaps questionable.

Issues? And, this is where we extend off the Goodreads review. 

James Tabor is arguably but NOT Unarguably an “esteemed religious scholar.” I would be OK with using "recognized" in an academia sense but wouldn't go further.  J. Philip Arnold isn’t even that.

Tabor believes in a quasi-DaVinci Code David family dynasty theory of a Jesus movement, and also believes that the James ossuary, and others where he has gotten even more scorned, are “real” burial sites of Jesus’ family and disciples. 

Arnold seems to be some sort of quasi-Restorationist Xn. He was also flat wrong in the insinuation I infer behind his statement that Branch Davidian was entitled to First Amendment protection. Said protection does not include violating state child sex abuse or federal gun control law. This is clear in a variety of court rulings up to SCOTUS level. 

Both were probably overly sympathetic to Koresh at the time they were entering negotiations. Guinn doesn’t address that, nor does he address the issue of whether Tabor and Arnold might have been not just sympathetic but so overly sympathetic that they thought they really could have gotten Koresh to surrender. 

I personally doubt that; Tabor seems like he might have been close to gullible on the issue and Arnold might even have inadvertently egged Koresh on, if allowed more contact. Guinn definitely doesn't address that issue. Nor does he address the possibility that not everybody on the FBI team was an urban yokel about these issues.

Beyond that, as recently retired NPR religion reporter Jeff Burnett (originally from here in Tex-ass, in Sherman, and for whom the standoff was one of his first big pieces) tells the Texas Observer, David Koresh was also another in a long line of skirt-chasing, money-grifting evangelists.
Nor does Guinn address the likelihood that FBI people were right and the promised exegesis of all seven seals would have become a stall tactic around seal 6 with Koresh saying, “God won’t give me more revelation.” I think this is not only possible but likely.

Also, even though he’s written a book about Jonestown, Guinn doesn’t try to draw parallels. Personally, by the end of the book, I was more reminded of Heaven’s Gate, though it, unlike Jonestown and Mount Carmel, did not end in a battle with government forces. Jonestown, though, had a number of people starting to become disillusioned before the denouement, whereas Heaven’s Gate, like Mount Carmel or even more, had all true believers.

That said, the epilogue, “Clive Doyle is Waiting” was good, illustrating him as the truest of surviving true believers. And it ends with him dying.

As did some people 2,000 years ago.

And, that's the final missed parallel. Beyond not comparing Mount Carmel to Heaven's Gate, Guinn in general doesn't "play it forward." And, on the political connections, that's the biggest failing of the book and it ties with giving Arnold uncritical airspace.

Nor does he "play it backward." About a decade earlier, Guinn wrote a good bio of Charles Manson. But, in his Koresh bio, he doesn't note the number of parallels between the two. Some of the parallels are tighter, some are looser, and not every aspect of their two lives is parallel. But, enough are to make me wonder if Guinn was deliberately too sympathetic to Koresh to the point of punch-pulling.

View all my reviews

July 27, 2023

Thierry Tchenko joins Dems' battle to replace Havana Ted Cruz

I don't think he has much of a shot in the primary vs Colin Allred and Roland Gutierrez, but I wouldn't write him off, looking at his resume.

I guessed correctly by the name that he was a first-generation immigrant, part of the "new African diaspora," and that he was likely from a Francophone country. (Cameroon.)

He has been "networked" into campaign efforts at both state and national levels ever since Dear Leader's 2008 run, which is one reason I wouldn't write him off.

In terms of racial calculus, being Black with a Hispanic wife, he can stand up to both the others.

What exactly he means by running "for" something instead of just running against Havana Ted isn't spelled out further. (Shock me.)

I would say he's got the inside edge in Greater Houston, between the above, his nonprofit organization, and membership in a Black evangelical megachurch. Allred would be the leader in DFW and Gutierrez in the Valley and presumably San Antonio. That leaves Austin, the Triangle and other areas up for grabs.

Bernie Sanders gets an early start on sheepdogging

This is an extended review of Bernie Sanders' newest book, moving a bit beyond a review bomb.

It's OK to Be Angry About CapitalismIt's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism by Bernie Sanders
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a review bomb and I don't care if you don't like that, #BlueAnon. Bernie needs to be called out on this.

Clearly, Bernie's getting an early start on sheepdogging for the left hand of the duopoly for the 2024 election, and enlisting the help of Green Party hater John Nichols from The Nation. (He is a Green Party hater and I know that from personally tangling with him, as I've done multiple times on Twitter, I think going back to the 2016 general election and possibly earlier.)

And, Bernie's a sheepdogger.

As for being angry about capitalism? He's right as far as he goes. But, he doesn't go that far.

But, does Bernie talk about defense contractors? Does he talk about being a general warhawk, related to that? Does he talk about his own decades-long lust for F-35s? No and no. (And yet, as I blogged yesterday about "recent stupidities at Counterpunch," it let him rail about the new NDAA — even while said railing deleted his hope stated two weeks ago that the Senate would try to do something about Biden sending cluster bombs to Ukraine.)

Did he talk about being an actual socialist, as in a corporate socialist for Big Ag? No.

Does he talk about Palestine? No. About the US and NATO poking Russia with various sticks, culminating in the Ukraine stick? No. And in the railing at Counterpunch above, did he talk about that NDAA having money for arms for both Ukraine and Israel? No.

I didn't one-star it because what he says is good enough as far as it goes. But, it can't get more than 2 stars because it's sheepdogging for the 2024 election. And, for time No. 927 or whatever, this is why I don't subscribe to The Nation.
And, it's stuff like this — especially given that Jeff St. Clair at Counterpunch has surely seen that book and yet gave him space to sheepdog — that frustrates me about it at times.

July 26, 2023

Texas Progressives talk border, Greens, Ukraine lies

Within the duopoly world, college towns are cratering the GOP statewide advantage in states that have started tilting red, but not gone totally there, like Wisconsin. Long read from Politico. The GOP's No. 1 answer is vote suppression of various sorts, but there's only so far that can go.

Abbott's border offensive is probably not that effective, but it is inhumane. Border/Lines discusses in more detail.

Texas State Historical Association's (current) executive director J.P. Bryan is, shockingly, an "Obama is a Muslim" conspiracy theorist; I looked at the escalation of the dustup between him and the TSTA board a month ago. The Monthly concludes by noting the lawsuit could wipe out TSTA's finances and wreck the organization. I'm sure wingnuts think that's OK, and that they'd get the wingnut Lege to then invent a replacement.

The Daily Beast got a leaked transcript copy of the script of "The Guantanamo Candidate" the movie that VICE wrote for Showtime about Ron DeSantis' time at Gitmo as a Navy lawyer and that Showtime killed the day after DeSatan announced his prez run.

Off the Kuff began his roundup of July campaign finance reports, including those from federal races and the City of Houston's Mayoral race.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at Cornel West and early media coverage, and without even diving into Dan Froomkin's hypocrisy.

Warren K. Paxton may have started his petard-hoisting with the hiring of Brandon Cammack.

Tex-ass may not meteorologically be Arid-zona this year, but it's looking to be one of the worst five summers on record.

Warmonger Joe's Secretary of State Anthony Blinken claims Ukraine has recaptured 50 percent of lost territory. I think he's full of shit, even by Nat-sec Nutsacks standarrds. 

Via Josh Marshall, John Ganz gets RFK Jr. totally right on antisemitism. It's not so much whether he's "really" antisemitic, it's that he knows that a lot of conspiracy thinking treads into antisemitism, and so, this is like a trope of his derpity and his bona fides in that world.

Neil at the Houston Democracy Project asked Houston voters concerned with the protection and expansion of democracy in Houston, to think about where they have leverage with Houston municipal candidates and to use that leverage.

The San Antonio Report has the story behind the viral mariachi video tribute to Victor Wembanyama, which is just delightful.

Therese Odell identifies the deep cynicism behind that terrible Jason Aldean song.

Frank Strong reports on wingnut book-banner candidates for Tomball ISD.

Chris Geidner explains the latest "target letter" for The Former Guy and Michigan's crackdown on its 2020 fake electors.

El Paso Matters records its city's ridiculous heat wave in five charts.

Various recent stupidities at Counterpunch

The biggest is running a presser by Bernie Sanders talking about the NDAA and how it's too much defense spending. In this statement, Sanders doesn't talk about how, two weeks ago, he was looking toward a Senate attempt to block Warmonger Joe's plan to send cluster bombs to Ukraine. And, he doesn't at all talk about his two-decade lust for F-35s.

Second-biggest is Melvin Goodman, usually much more sensical, talking about a grain airlift from Ukraine, based on the assumption that Russia would allow this, or perhaps, from his comparison with 1948 Berlin, the assumption that US-NATO could pull it off without planes being shot down. John Helmer notes that part of why Russia shuttered the Odessa grain export deal was its belief that weapons were being smuggled in on grain freighters.

White supremacy was indeed involved with the War in the Pacific's portion of World War II, but trying to reduce the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to just that and little more is as stupid and as factually untrue, as trying to claim they were ultimately about sending a message to Stalin. Sadly, this hot mess is at Counterpunch+. That said, I'm sure St. Clair, Frank and Cockburn, both behind and in front of the paywall, will offer more such stupidities in the run-up to Aug. 6. On this issue, to use Jeff St. Clair's own words, the site is part of "the more credulous precincts of the left."

I'm sure Eric Draitser has a new Counterpunch Radio coming up that will only add to this.

July 25, 2023

Biden's federal oil-drilling reforms — one quick thought

Increasing the royalty payment, per High Country News' list of all that President Biden's proposed reforms include, sounds good.


At the state level, it gets Western states with lots of drilling on BLM or Forest Service land even more addicted to oil money. That's especially if they're relatively low-population and also relatively poor.

Looking at you right in the eyeballs, New Mexico and fake green governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Note that between federal, state and private land, New Mexico oil drilling has almost doubled in the past five years. It has passed North Dakota into No. 2 on state oil production. (Most the recent explosion in shale drilling in the Permian Basin is on the NM half of the Delaware Basin.)

'Humaste' and more in the North Texas heat

Humaste is a word I invented a year ago while hiking in the Colorado Rockies. Essentially, it’s a humanistic, or for me, more specifically, a secular humanist riff on the Buddhist word “namaste.” 

In direct parallel: “I salute the human in you because of the human in me.”

And, that has come to mind in this hot summer. The small outlying area in north Texas where I live has a few homeless people here and there, I think, or at least transients passing through. Denton, though? Like the Metroplex proper, it has a fairly large and semi-stable to stable homeless population.

(Note: This is an updated version of what I had originally meant to post ahead for today, but clicked too high last Saturday and posted accidentally to be a week ago.)

And, in this summer’s heat, I know they’re suffering.

I don’t know what I can do. The city of Denton has inclement weather shelters that are open until fairly late in the evening.

And, not all these people may actually be homeless. Some may have a residence, but it either has no AC or just a window unit. And, if it does have AC and just a window unit, and it’s an old house, not an apartment complex where other units partially shield you from the heat, maybe they can’t afford to run it.

So, they’re in places like Quakerstown Park, in the shade of oak trees, getting what cooling they can.

As for the actually homeless? About 10-20 years ago the rule of thumb was that one-third were that way primarily due to drug and alcohol problems, one-third to mental health, and one third to medical or other problems primarily outside their control. Note that the first two are not that way. Addiction is real, but the 12-step “powerlessness” idea is not, not in my world. Mental health? You can’t help it if you have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but it’s in your control whether or not you take your thorazine or similar for the former, or lithium for the latter.

Anyway, that rule of thumb turns out to be .... halfway true? NAMI estimates that 20 percent or more of homeless have severe mental illness. (The first two categories, of course, have some degree of overlap.) That comes from this Yale Climate story looking at homelessness in Phoenix.

Anyway, whether actually homeless, or simply at the bottom end of the precariat, beyond what got them there, I look at the bigger mental picture besides narrow mental health. They’re sapped, by the heat itself, then by being anchored to certain locations to try to avoid it.

As for help from me? I have at times given money, but it's not often. I'm at the edge of the precariat myself, by some standards, based on career path and other factors. And, I know the "thirds" mentioned above. I most definitely do not give money to people at urban freeway intersections. I know enough about that.
That previous paragraph is of course not cynical. It has a certain amount of skepticism at the end, as well as a boatload of realism at the front. That's where modern America has left us, as underlined by recent reporting that says 40 percent or so of Americans WITH health insurance have deferred a medical procedure this year, sometimes a serious one, because they can't afford all the deductibles and copays.

July 24, 2023

Cowards Biden and Garland vs Strangeabbott and McCraw

So, why hasn't President Joe Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland publicly announced that he's starting a federal investigation into Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's blockading the Rio Grande and DPS Executive Director Steve McCraw's enforcement of it? Yeah, the DOJ says that Strangeabbott has until today to "commit to" (big loophole right there) removing it.

Update, this afternoon: Wallmonger Joe is suing, after all. Why no criminal charges?

Abbott's border offensive is probably not that effective, per the WSJ (as well as not being wanted by many Texas border counties and burning a hole in the budget) but it is inhumane. Border/Lines discusses in more detail, as well as discussing Biden and the Border Patrol.

Above and beyond that, why hasn't Biden told Strangeabbott: "Since you think you and McCraw are so damned good at border protection, I'm removing ALL Border Patrol from the Texas sector immediately"?

Reality? As places like Border/Lines have long reported, Biden has replaced Trump's Title 42 with a tech-neoliberal equivalent of it, and somebody in the White House knew that that's what Biden's craptacular-working smartphone app for asylum application would be. Jeff St. Clair talks more in the second half of last Friday's Roaming Charges.

Bottom line is that Appmonger Joe and Strangeabbott are playing kabuki theater with each other.