SocraticGadfly: 8/20/23 - 8/27/23

August 26, 2023

Nikki Haley and Never Trumpers

Nikki Haley may have put herself in the best place to replace Meatball Ron DeSatan as No. 2 in the GOP running list after last week's debate, and certainly as No. 1 in the Never Trump wing of the GOP, per Charlie Sykes' take, but she has three problems:

  1. She's a minority, albeit lighter-skinned and "Nikki" covering up the real first name of Nimarata;
  2. She's a woman;
  3. She's allegedly non-Christian (outside the real, faux and cultural Christianist wings all three), despite talking about a conversion to Christianity, namely Methodism, in the 1990s. Ramaswamy's already been attacked by the Religious Right for being a Hindu. Don't see how she escapes. In fact, she isn't. She reportedly goes to Sikh services at times with her parents and gets attacked for that. To the degree she is truly and deeply Christian, she's "compensating" by loving up with the likes of John Hagee, per this good RNS story. But, the "compensating," per that piece, probably won't help her.
And, even within the Never Trump wing, I don't think she can sufficiently overcome those, especially if whispering campaigns gear up.


Sidebar: The worst possible GOP outcomes for both now and 2028, to riff on this Politico piece about all the main 2024 candidates and this one about how the cascade of indictments will hurt Trump in the general?

Trump gets the 2024 nomination and loses. And, assuming he doesn't stroke out from his "215 lbs" weight, he runs AGAIN in 2028. Even if from a jail cell; the Constitution doesn't ban it, and Eugene Debs, with much more rightness, did it in 1920.

Meatball Ron would be even more yesterday's goods, and lilkely will have a bruising 2026 Florida gubernatorial re-election campaign. (Neither Rick Scott nor Marco Rubio is up for Senate re-election in 2026, and neither would step aside anyway.)

Haley would be out of office and off the radar screen four more years, unless she can get elected to something else in 2026.

Pence, ditto on out of office, and would have four more years to not have an actual backbone.

Trumpian Mini-Me Ramaswamy would look like even more of an empty suit if he tried the Running In Name Only a second time.

Of candidates not in this year's race? Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin would be the person to keep your eyes on. (Contra the first link, I do NOT expect Youngkin to try to do a late parachute into the 2024 race; he's way too smart for that, from what I see of him.)

Trump, mugshots, cheap suits

As in, while bitching to Hannity about shooting a mugshot for Fulton County officials, he did it, and ergo, folded like a cheap suit.

This is nothing new about Trump. It's Trump on Jan. 6, 2021 and the main reason, while trying to push others into insurrection at the Capitol, he would never lead such a thing. It's why, while encouraging lawyers to talk about fake electors, he would do his best to never directly lead such an effort.

Trump, without admitting guilt, folded like a cheap suit to HUD 50 years ago over racism in Trump family public housing.

For constructing his hotels and casinos (and maybe for running them), it's why he folded to the Mob like a cheap suit.

When confronted with rock-hard authority, whether government rule of law or otherwise, it's his MO.

At the same time, it's all getcha popcorn moments for BlueAnon. The next one for them will be Sept. 6, arraignment day.

August 25, 2023

Goodbye to The American Southwest

No, not the portion of the US, as I'll continue to vacation there.

I'd been thinking about leaving THE American Southwest Facebook group for some time. John Crossley is almost as much a Nazi snowflake admin as those at some religious subreddits. A few years ago, he said "no photo links from websites." I forgot he expanded that to "no YouTube links from videos." So, I direct-uploaded one, and that was hauled down too. So, with that, I first deleted every picture post of mine but one, so I could leave a semi-fuck-off farewell there as well as in a separate comment. Besides indicating what I thought of Crossley, albeit without name, also told people I was in multiple MeWe groups that had no problems with photo or video links. That's that. (I did mention Crossley by name on my own Facebook page.)

If Crossley thought he would really get swamped with link spam by allowing YouTube links, or Vimeo or other video sites, let alone ones off Google Photos or even Flickr, call on a couple more assistant mods. (I did not block any of them.)

MeWe dodges that, in part, by being much lower traffic, I know. But, still, there's a principle. And, life is too short to deal with these Nazi and/or snowflake mods.

That said, I had barely posted there in a couple of years. The "no more photo links" had already irked me (tho he did let previous ones stay up). The "no YouTubes" did so even more.

And, again, it's not just me. Surely at least a few percent of people still members there have videos they'd like to post. But, I guess they haven't spoken out.

And, speaking of other people there?

It's kind of like members at 14ers' Facebook. A year ago, I had said I planned to go to the Bisti Badlands, now the federally designated De-Na-Zhin Wilderness. And, a bunch of commenters treated me — without asking questions back of me first — like I was some pilgrim. 

This gets back, a bit, to Naugrith the Nazi at r/AcademicBiblical. Social media groups, whether John/Jane Doe individuals, let alone moderators, making unwarranted assumptions.

August 24, 2023

Texas Progressives — toll tags, TPWD lies, gunz, more

Texas toll road billing is full of shit and the Lege took a pass on actually reforming it. Going beyond the first driver in the story, I NEVER HAVE driven a Tex-ass toll road, but this does double down on my resolve to continue that.

If you're in a rural or semi-rural county (mine is under the 55K cutoff) expect more weekend convenience for early voting — if there are poll workers enough. Won't be bad this year, but 2024?

Tex-ass Christofascists plus Kyle Rittenhouse equals guaranteed hot mess. It does remove the last torn bits of the mask of Rittenhouse being "apolitical."

Off the Kuff is back on the Paxton impeachment beat as more revelations keep on coming. 

SocraticGadfly talks about TPWD lies and laziness over the now former Fairfield Lake State Park.

Houstonians? Whether Dems, or Greens jumping in? If you're in the 7th Congressional District, a must-vote is to be in the Dem primary next spring and pull the lever for Pervez Agwan. Per Mondoweiss, he has openly called Israel an "apartheid state." He works in renewable energy. He backs M4A.

Bill Cassidy, one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump at his second impeachment, thinks the Jack Smith documents indictments are "almost a slam dunk" and he should drop out. He DID in a semi-weasel way say "I'm going to vote for a Republican," but he can always do a write-in.

Sadly, on a per-capita basis, more New Mexicans than Texans own guns.

With climate change, it should be noted that seasonal affective disorder is more than sunlight-deprived winter depression. The Observer notes the effects of isolation in the heat.

Mike Miles: The Musical didn't play well.

Nino Scalia and "Is fish meat?"

Dos Centavos is not happy with Houston's post-COVIDing as positivity and hospitalizations continue to rise. (Yes, but nationally, and I assume in Houston, they're not rising that much.)

Neil at the Houston Democracy Project attended the Houston Climate Movement Houston At-Large Council forum, and asked what if there is no bipartisan partner on climate change? Maybe the most pragmatic course is to prepare for conflict. 

The Eyewall provides a look ahead at the peak of hurricane season. 

 The Dallas Observer reports on how school districts are handling the new law requiring armed guards at public schools.  

Law Dork has an update on the forced "religious liberty" training that had been imposed on Southwest Airlines.  

Your Local Epidemiologist presents a guide to fall vaccine options. 

Want to get paid to suck Fuck You the Beaver's nuts? You can. Why?

August 23, 2023

King: the man, the myth, the complex reality, and the alternative history

King: A Life

King: A Life by Jonathan Eig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A powerful book in which Eig, in part with the help of recently declassified FBI files, access to materials from King's "unofficial archivist" L.D. Reddick, audio tapes by Coretta Scott King in the early months after Martin's assassination as editor's notes for her first memoir, and notes for an unpublished memoir by Daddy King, gives us a complex portrait of a complex person, and the times around him. In addition, more than 200 interviews went into the book.

First, a few notes about what I learned about the pre-famous King, from childhood to Montgomery bus time. They're behind a spoiler alert at Goodreads, but pulled out here:

1. Daddy King was a womanizer and MLK knew it before he went to Crozier. His pledge not to follow in daddy’s footsteps was doubted by a woman to whom he told it at the time.
2. King was non-academically plagiarizing sermons on occasion from early on.
3. Daddy King was a hypocrite over Gone with the Wind’s Atlanta premiere and big PR.
4. MLK seriously dated a white woman while at Crozier, but broke it off after accepting such a marriage would crush his reputation. Harry Belafonte and others said she was his one true love.
5. In the intro chapter, Eig says King made a couple of childhood halfhearted suicide attempts. It sounds like a mix of biological depression plus struggles already then with Daddy King’s full legacy.
6. And, this I didn’t know either. Guess it just never popped. His dad wasn’t born “Martin Luther” King and neither was he. It was “Mike.”  (To be more precise, I may have heard that before, but it never stuck. I do know that my racist conservative Lutheran pastor father hated Martin Luther King Jr. having that name.)

Moving to the adult King, Eig uses the new materials to show more of several things already known to some degree about his efforts with the SCLC. 

First is, from the additional FBI materials (and 2027 will reveal more) just how much Hoover’s hatred drove not just him, but senior assistants, on the spying on not just King, or King plus Stanley Levinson, but also tapping phones of Bayard Rustin and others. And, of course, the biggest laugh is that King only started to question the worst of capitalism, contra Hoover’s claim that he was a Commie, AFTER the taps and moles inside SCLC started. (The reality is that Rustin and HIS background were a bigger threat to “turn” King than Levinson ever was. Rustin knew that, and that’s why he often stayed in the background.

Related to that, and also in part from the new FBI materials, is just how much LBJ started signing off on Hoover’s claims, and how much, despite his trying to blame RFK (and a little, JFK) he wanted more. Sadly, Bobby’s first replacement, Katzenbach, was no better. It was only when Ramsey Clark became AG that the nonsense at least diminished.

Second is better discussion than other bios I’ve read of how not-so-popular King was, not with whites, but other organizations and their leaders. The NAACP and Roy Wilkins, as Eig notes, found him kind of a showboat early on and stressed that their legal victories, not King marches, were the big issue. Then, even before Stokley Carmichael and Black power, James Farmer at CORE, John Lewis preceding Carmichael at SNCC and others thought King too passive at times, too willing to compromise at times and also, not fully buying into nonviolence.

Through all of this, King walked various tightropes, often dependent on Ralph Abernathy as well as Coretta. Especially in earlier years, Eig fleshes him out well. (He didn’t want to move to Atlanta after Martin did, afraid of being under his PLUS Daddy King’s shadow, but eventually agreed.)

Third is King himself, as preacher and prophetic voice, movement inspirational leader, and movement manager. Eig, excerpting from sermons and speeches of his, notes his greatness in the first area while also noting the plagiarism problem that began pre-adult and went through academia never went away. The second? I think one good anecdote is of so many people meeting King in personal and being surprised that he was only 5-7 or so, expecting a much bigger man. His "presence" was huge and magnetic. The manager? Eig is honest on King's lack of organization at times (something he notes that — and notes was discussed by Blacks — seemed then at least to run through Black church denominations and ministers), also his battles for funding and focus with the other organizations mentioned above, but also his own sometimes scattershot approach to specific situations, like going north to Chicago. Plenty of details on all three aspects abound in this book.

Fourth, Eig talks about sexism in the civil rights movement in general. Part of this was due to its pre-feminist movement start. Part of it, he says, also relates to the Black church, and I think that's a fair judgment. On social issues outside of civil rights-related things today, even relatively more liberal Black church denominations and individual members tend to be more conservative than their White counterparts. There's a lot of details, most of it about simply refusing to accept women in leadership roles.

Fifth, per what he noted in the introduction?

There’s not a lot new to me on the personal side OTHER THAN Dorothy Cotton as his … mistress. THAT was all new, while Eig notes insiders called her his “second wife.” As part of this, I found Coretta Scott King’s denialism of it interesting, especially since she knew and accepted his womanizing foibles in general.

The epilogue is good in noting Reagan’s resistance to making his birthday a holiday, and how we still have failed to address King’s “call for an end to the triple evils of materialism, militarism, and racism.”

That said, Jason Sokol’s “The Heavens Might Crack” goes more into that resistance.

Note: While this is a biography, this leads to the speculative “What If” … as in, if King had not been assassinated by James Earl Ray. It’s beyond purview of a review, but as noted at Goodreads, I'm addressing it here.

View all my reviews

And with that, on to the alt history.

What would have happened had King not been assassinated? Starting with the nearest term, my first guess is that he might have got modestly more concessions for the Memphis strikers than Coretta but not a lot.

The Poor People's March? For reasons partially outside his control (the abysmal DC weather that hit the actual event), but largely reasons inside his control — his lack of focus, as noted above, and specific to this event, something warned about by Rustin strenuously, so much so that he refused to participate, and others as well — and the likelihood of a Vietnam tie-in "spoiling it" with national thought leaders, while probably not attracting "poor whites," many of them still (and today still) "mudsills" in their racism, means this would have been about as much a flop with him as with Coretta and with his name attached.

So, what then on his legacy after that? If Bobby is still assassinated, does King, who had never before endorsed a candidate but given hint that he might do that in 1968, swallow hard at the tail end and mention Humphrey's name after LBJ's bombing halt? Or does he call the halt itself hypocritical? And, what if Bobby is not assassinated? It's possible LBJ + Daley and other Northern urban bosses ram through the Hump anyway. 

Wiki's page on the 1968 convention notes that, after the Cal primary, Humphrey still had a plurality, albeit not a majority, of delegates.

At the moment of Kennedy's death the delegate count stood at Humphrey 561.5, Kennedy 393.5, McCarthy 258.

Those 1,200 or so delegates are less than half of the 2,600 or so voting at the convention, and they hugely rejected a "peace plank" and adopted a platform without one by a confortable margin before nominating Humphrey.

The platform was passed by a narrow margin, with 1,567 delegates voting for the platform while 1,041 voted against.

Sorry, Wiki, but that's not "narrow." It's 3-2, or 60 percent in favor. 

Getting into alt-history with RFK as well as MLK, I highly doubt he would have run a third-party candidacy. That means Bobby in 1972 vs. Tricky Dick. Does McGovern call Bobby a hypocrite in primaries, first? Or does he stand aside? In either case, Bobby running in 1972 covers up Teddy taking Mary Jo Kopechne to his favorite Chappaquiddick law firm of Weiner, Deiner, Dicher, Dunker.

So, King would have been stuck again. Side note: McCarthy, largely attacked years and decades later as "soft" on race issues, lost the California primary precisely because he was NOT soft and talked of having public housing for Blacks scattered throughout the LA Southland, a proposition radical for the time. Bobby explicitly rejected that in a debate just days before the primary vote.

Sidebar: While Eig doesn't go into details, just a bare statement of the facts of April 4, 1968, yes, yes, yes, James Earl Ray did it.

There are a couple of other points of alt-history to consider.

First, would Hoover have gotten more ruthless in his wiretaps, etc., and related, would Nixon had gotten more ruthless with what he wanted and did? A qualified yes to both.

Second, would King, having expanded his movement to accommodate poverty in general, and a focus on war, have ever come to terms with, let alone embraced, feminism? I doubt it, and I think the post-Roe world, especially, would have further diminished his reach. More feminists in general, and White liberal ones in particular, would have consider him yesterday's news.

August 22, 2023

"Skeptical Raptor" Michael Simpson disses the lab-leak theory

Not totally shocked by this, but he still got a two-tweet callout. I'll expand on this.

First, I noted that he ignored the in-depth Pro Publica piece. That's the Pro Publica piece whose core, and most of its periphery, withstood attacks both scientific and more often politically tribalist.

Related, I noted he hadn't at all discussed someone like former Bill Clinton National Security Agency staffer Jaime Metzl, who was on the possibility early on, and who has regularly updated his writing on this. (I've visited that link about every three months.)

Metzl lays out a VERY detailed possibility of how a lab leak could have happened. (I have never posted the full thing before.)

  • In 2012, six miners working in a bat-infested copper mine in southern China (Yunnan province) were infected with a bat coronavirus. All of them developed symptoms exactly like COVID-19 symptoms. Three of them died. 
  • Viral samples taken from the Yunnan miner were taken to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the only level 4 biosecurity lab in China that was also studying bat coronaviruses. 
  • The WIV carried out gain of function research, almost certainly on these and a range of related and other samples (which is different than genetically engineering the viruses). Chimeric viruses were likely developed in this process. There has never been a full and public accounting for what viruses are in the WIV sample set and database, and key elements of the database have been taken off line or deleted. 
  • Given the close relationship of the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) in the development and construction of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, it is fair to assume a connection between the PLA and the WIV. 
  • In late 2019 the SARS-CoV-2 virus appeared in Wuhan. The closest known relative of this virus is the RaTG13 virus sampled from the Yunnan mine where the miners had been infected. (NOTE: RaTG13 is almost certainly not the backbone virus for SARS-CoV-2. Also, the BANAL-52 virus, a closer match to SARS-CoV-2, was later isolated from samples taken in Laos. Viral samples from Laos and Cambodia were regularly sent to the WIV.) 
  • The genetic similarity between the RaTG13 virus and SARS-CoV-2 suggest that SARS-CoV-2 or a closely related backbone virus could have been sampled from the Mojiang mine or elsewhere in the same region and brought to the WIV (which is why the disappeared WIV databases and lab records are so critical). 
  • It is also plausible that SARS-CoV-2 could have been among the viruses held in or derived from a different virus in the WIV repository. 
  • In the earliest known stage of the outbreak, the virus was already very well-adapted to human cells. 
  • In the critical first weeks after the outbreak, Wuhan authorities worked aggressively to silence the whistleblowers and destroy evidence that could prove incriminating. 
  • When Beijing authorities got involved a bit later, they likely faced a choice of implicating the Wuhan authorities, and, in effect, taking blame for what was quickly emerging as a major global problem, or turning into the curve and going all in for the coverup. I believe they likely chose the second option. 
  • The Chinese government then massively lobbied the WHO to prevent the WHO from declaring COVID-19 as an international emergency and prevented WHO investigators from entering China for nearly a month. 
  • In late January 2020, PLA Major General Chen Wei was put in charge of containment efforts in Wuhan. This role included supervision of the WIV, which had previously been considered a civilian institution. General Chen is China’s top biological weapons expert. Allegations that the PLA was conducting covert dual civilian-military research on bat coronaviruses at WIV have not been proven. 
  • The Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to destroy evidence and silence anyone in China who might be in a position to provide evidence on the origins of COVID-19. 
  • Although nothing can be fully conclusive in light of Chinese obfuscation, the continued absence of any meaningful evidence of a zoonotic chain of transmission and mutation in the wild and the accretion of other evidence is pointing increasingly, in my view, toward an accidental lab leak as the most likely origin of COVID-19. Given the extent to which China would benefit from discovering evidence of a transmission in the wild, we can assume Chinese authorities are doing all they can to find this kind of evidence without success. This failure would explain why Chinese officials have recently begun, with little credible evidence, asserting that the outbreak started outside of China. 
  • In light of all of this, only a full and unrestricted international forensic investigation into the origins of the pandemic, with complete access to all samples, lab records, scientists, health officials, etc. will suffice. 
  • Ensuring the most thorough and highest quality investigation exploring all possible hypothesis is and should be in all of our interest, including that of the Chinese government and people. 
  • Preventing such an investigation should be seen significnatly [sic] as an admission of guilt by the Chinese government.

But, Simpson's piece doesn't even begin to dialogue with something like this.

I did give him a kudo for not being a sneering tribalist like Orac. (I do think he is a tribalist. If he accepts my callout to do a follow-up, we'll see how tribalist he is, and we'll see if he goes more down Orac's road on sneering, too.)

For someone who claims to be "skeptical," he isn't, and we'll also see, if he does a follow-up, if he gets any more skeptical. And, per Metzl's last point, if he doesn't do such a follow-up, his silence will be seen here as like Beijing's prevention.

That said, Simpson's personal-professional story is interesting. IIRC, he moved to the West Coast for a position that fell through and he's now blogging for tip jar money and doing other things on the side.


Ten days later, no response on Twitter, no update to the original post, and no new follow-up post.

Big Oil about to make your Texas water even tastier

Tex-ass' official state anti-environmental quality commission is ready to let Big Oil dump "produced water" into lakes, streams and creeks, all this of course without scientific study.

Oh, and I don't know whether it was the administration of a neoliberal Democrap president or a Rethuglican who enabled this, but one of them did:

Federal law allows produced water to be discharged to waterways west of the 98th Meridian, a line that roughly divides the arid West and the water-rich East, if it is beneficial to agriculture or wildlife. East of the 98th Meridian, including Austin and points east, the water must first pass through a central waste treatment facility. The TCEQ additionally sought authority, or primacy, from the Environmental Protection Agency to permit produced water discharges statewide. 
EPA granted the request in 2021, and this May, the TCEQ released its draft permit covering discharges east of the 98th Meridian. The permit will authorize discharges of produced water from stripper wells — marginal wells with low production levels — to inland rivers and streams east of the 98th Meridian. The permit also authorizes discharges from both fracking sites and conventional drilling off the Texas coast into the Gulf of Mexico.

And, even if Shrub or the Donald was the enabler, Dear Leader or Warmonger Joe was/is the non-reverser.

Oh, and Alamo City? You're west of the 98th meridian. Enjoy that Eagle Ford taste in your water. Austin, you're luckier (if such water doesn't gum up treatment plants).

West Texas? The Pecos is already a dump in many areas because of lack of TCEQ management. Plus, this year, like last? It's so drought hit there IS NO RIVER aboveground in many places. So, the future "river" will simply be an oil toxic waste dump. 

That picture is from Inside Climate News, of the Pecos in Reeves County (I-20; county seat, Pecos), and will more and more be the Pecos' future in a world of continuing climate changes. Now picture that with running water, but with an oil-based sheen on top. Then, picture that running halfway out of water again, but still having that sheen on top.

August 21, 2023

Paxton new impeachment news roundup

First, Dan Patrick made big news Friday about appointing Judge Marc Brown as an impeachment advisor. A day later, Brown turned him down on conflict of interest issues, having made a past donation to a Paxton primary opponent. This shows that either Goeb and staff don't do research that well or else don't know/don't care about conflict of interest issues.

Update, Sept. 4: Here's a last, expanded, pre-trial look at the lay of the land, with votes on opening motions appended at the end.

Second, Patrick and the Senate have 4,000 pages of evidence to sift, after the House did a document dump after Warren K.'s legal beagles claimed there was no evidence. This piece of analysis notes that is supposably just the tip of the iceberg. I had thought, early this summer, that the trial would wrap in a week. With the amount of scrambling objections and Overton windows moving that Paxton's beagles will have to do in response to what will likely be a full week on the prosecution side, this will actually surely take most of two weeks and quite possibly go into a third. That second like has Karl Rove claiming that Paxton is toast, but on the Texas level, Rove's been GOP-irrelevant for a decade, so don't hang your hats on that, Tex-ass BlueAnon.

The Monthly has more on what's in those pages.

Third, a slimeball former assistant of Warren K. has provided evidence about the deepness of the derpity of Kenny Boy's ties to Nate Paul. He's also provided evidence that Warren either did not end his big old sexual affair when he claimed, or else that he later resumed it.

And on that, I wonder if a few of the Christofascists in the Senate will on this issue have an actual "Christo" win out over the "fascist." Ditto for the Tim Dunn Christofascist donors and Mucus and Luke Macias type Christofascist lobbyist-agitators. I mean, one issue that these folks are theoretically death on is sexual purity. Of course, that said, the GOP tent still IS a big tent for hypocrisy. (So is the Democrat big tent, but on other issues.) At one time, that wasn't so much the case, per old-time Newt Gingrich and his would-be successor, Robert Livingston, among others.