SocraticGadfly: 9/17/23 - 9/24/23

September 23, 2023

Ken Burns officially outed as America's "Empire Whisperer"

I was calling out Ken Burns for promoting American exceptionalism in his PBS documentaries (mockumentaries?) more than 15 years ago.

But, the photo above, from this Pro Publica piece not actually focused on Ken Burns, but rather on Clarence Thomas, is proof positive of him as that "Empire Whisperer." Kudo to Jeet Heer, as seen by my via my Twitter alerts email feed, for first pointing out (as I'd not seen the article yet) how many people were overlooking Burns standing between Clarence Thomas and David H. Koch. (Jeet himself forgot to add the magic words about the photo's location: Bohemian Grove.)

Kudos to Pro Publica for noting in the caption that Koch has financed Burns' movies. He's also financed other things via "The David H. Koch Fund for Science," which long ago pressured PBS to tone down anything it said about climate change.

Maybe #BlueAnon type librulz will start waking up about PBS and stop giving it money. I said they should, for this reason (and it accepting other wingnut money as well), nearly a decade ago, and had a folo piece about Koch money buying PBS omerta a year later.

I ran into one of those #BlueAnon on Twitter, responding to the person whom Heer had quote-tweeted. Said person I ran into was gushing about Burns' Vietnam series. I told him the truth about just how craptacular it was.

In another post, I noted that bringing to PBS his dramatization of the book, "The Emperor of All Maladies," about the "war" on cancer, David Koch apparently bought Burns' silence about the carcinogenic power of petrochemicals. That link also notes him writing American Indians out of the picture in his librulz-acclaimed National Parks series.

He also had errors, presumably in the service of empire, in his Roosevelts series. His "10th inning" add-on to "Baseball" was meh and included Landis hero-worship.

September 22, 2023

Evan Smith coming out of retirement for Yachtsman Joe

If this announcement, and the Texas Tribune's huzzahs and handsprings over it, doesn't sum up the Trib, as well as my feelings over it, what could?

The Trib thinks Yachtsman Joe Manchin will be a great fundraiser. If ideas like this are why the Trib hired new fundraising staff while shit-canning editorial, its struggles may not be done. It's also interesting that they're dragging Evan Smith out of retirement to host Yachtsman Joe.

Since Yachtsman Joe loves him some fossil fuels, and since the Trib has pulled its punches on climate change, that will surely get discussed.

Yachtsman Joe is also the type of ConservaDem that Texas 2036 loves, so they'll probably indirectly play it up.

September 21, 2023

Will John Anthony Castro really box Trump in? (UPDATE: Or is he a mini-Trump himself? Or rather, a JAC-off?)

He boasts about his use of Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to try to boot Trump off the ballot.

But, he downplays one thing.

The Rule grants a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order. (Italics added.)

That's the part that Castro isn't really talking about.

After your TRO is up, you still have all the normal legal heavy lifting to do. (See more on JAC and TROs below.)

As for his case soon to hit SCOTUS? Castro has to clear the "standing" hurdle, which he may well do, and the "ripeness" hurdle, discussed by me before, which he almost certainly will not.

Per the three links in the comment below, Castro is also the moral equivalent of fraud.

First, no, John, you were NOT a West Point cadet. A lawyer who's more than a shade-tree mechanic equivalent should know language better than that, and a newspaper editor definitely does. And, also re Castro's 14th Amendment stunt suits, if he doesn't get jurisdictional issues, he probably also doesn't get "standing" or "ripeness" ones.

Second? He's not only been rejected on the "standing" issue on some of his 14th Amendment filings, his claim that he's loaned himself $20 million for his campaign appears to be undermined by American Express suing him for credit card debt AND him saying he needs pro bono legal help.

Third, also tying back to No. 1? If "lawyer" means licensed to practice law in one or more of our 50 states, Castro is not a lawyer. (The link within this piece is also at the "second" above.) (It's also interesting that his Twitter mentions UNM Law as well as Georgetown Law. Probably some further backstory there.)

Based on all the above, he either doesn't understand Rule 65, or this is more shenanigans, or worse, more grift.  Or a viral marketing stunt, per a comment on Ballot Access News.

He IS a vanity/celebrity candidate, per the tail end of his Wiki piece, running in 2018 as a Dem for Webb County Commissioners Court, then as a Rethug in the 2020 Senate primary and 2021 Sixth District special election.

Speaking of? Per the Jan. 4, 2024, commenter? After you hit their link and do your search by name, here's the link to get a copy of Castro's ethics disclosures.

And, a personal observation? Whatever individuals and companies are using Castro as a tax advisor, given all of the above? Personally, I'd start looking for somebody new. (Given the two links by the second commenter, I redouble that advice!)

BIG Jan. 10, 2024 update to that one: Castro has been arrested on 33 federal counts of aiding and assisting in false preparation of federal tax returns. 

Here's the nut graf:

The criminal charges against Mr. Castro, who has prepared income tax returns for clients of his business, accuse him of repeatedly promising to help those clients get a higher tax refund than other preparers could, and of claiming false deductions on their returns without the clients’ knowledge. The indictment claims he “devised and executed a scheme to defraud the United States by falsely creating and submitting false tax returns on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers.”

Followed by a JAC-ing off nuts graf response from Castrol (he's oily):

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Castro claimed he was being persecuted and retaliated against by Trump appointees. He said the allegations in the indictment involved actions he took years ago and that he had previously taken responsibility for misinterpreting the tax code in those instances. He added that he thought the charges against him were an attempt to disrupt his lawsuits regarding Mr. Trump.

What else is there to say?

Well, there's the "to say" of the person who tweeted me the story.

Even if he's acquitted, his services as a tax advisor (or financial planner or anything similar) are toast. Since he's not licensed to practice law (and never will be), and per up above where he doesn't have liquid assets"? "There's retail."

There's also the "to say" of Biden being president three years now and the USDA for this part of Texas being, of course, a Biden appointee.

Final question related to this? Does Castro believe his own self-claims as much as Trump believes his?


I'll offer updates on various specific cases as sites like Ballot Access News drop them.

Sept. 28: JAC has lost, at least in the first round, a bid for a TRO in West Virginia.

Sept. 29: Per the link in comments about the guy live-blogging Castro's filings? He's withdrawn his case in Utah, is a conspiracy theorist about Trump personally ordering the IRS to subpoena his grad school transcript (setting aside the issue that on reasonable intelligence, AFAIK, the IRS is not the Department of Education and has nothing to do with collegiate transcripts)

Oct. 2: JAC-off Castro lost at the Supreme Court

Oct. 5: Castro admits he was JAC-ing off in Oklahoma and North Carolina

Nov. 1: Castro's JAC-ing off in New Hampshire denied for lack of ripeness.

Nov. 5: Via BAN, Castro gets to actually JAC off in the South Carolina primary.

Nov. 22: Again via BAN, and a ruling I don't totally agree with, as polling strength should not be used to judge standing, the First Circuit told him to stop JAC-ing off in the New Hampshire primary.

Jan. 1, 2024: Via BAN, and again, I don't agree on the standing issue, but West Virginia told him to stop JAC-ing off.

Jan. 10: Nevada court, which gets standing right on primary vs caucus, says Castro is JAC-ing off.

Jan. 13: New Mexico court, wrong on standing issue, whacks down another limp JAC-off.

Texas Progressivs talk Paxton, politics

Off the Kuff documents the conclusion of the Paxton impeachment trial, and then reacts to the verdict. (My own take on the verdict is here.)

SocraticGadfly offers up reviews of two politics-tinged books: William Jennings Bryan as the original Bernie Sanders and Secret Service agent Paul Landis' new conspiracy-theory tinged JFK assassination book.

Wingnuts don't really care about raising good children. 

Climatemonger Joe continues to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic rather than real action.  (He then throws Palestinians under the bus again.) Ask me why I'm not voting for him, #BlueAnon?

Stace looks at a recent snapshot of Houston Latino voters and how it affects representation. 

 Neil at the Houston Democracy Project said that we must accept the reality of the threats to democracy.

The Fort Worth Report takes a deep dive into the segregated history of the city's public pools, and how they could be recovered. 

The Dallas Observer contextualizes the latest JFK assassination revelation. 

 CultureMap advises you on getting the most for your Texas State Fair dollar this year. 

The Current marks the first-ever successful birth of the rare Oklahoma cave crayfish in captivity.

September 20, 2023

Yet more on Zelensky's West-abetted failures and fakery

Yet more, from Harper's, on how, after early post-election promises, how Zelensky refused to further confront corruption (being faced down by oligarchs that had helped get him elected) and also refused further pre-war negotiations with Russia, stared down by Ukrainian nationalists. The author makes the note, contra #BlueAnon and #NAFOFella types, that while far-right nationalist parties may not have much electoral success in Ukraine, they've actually, since the Maidan, put in place a level of Overton Window shifting the Republican Party in the US could only dream about. Oh, again, this is Harper's, not RT. And Desch is a professor at Notre Dame.

Related? The indispensible, and irrefutable, Ivan Katchanovski, via whom I saw the Harper's piece on Twitter, has far more Maidan background at Brill.

Further reassessing Angela Merkel as Germany struggles

Her austerity moves after the Great Recession, even years after, even to the point of nearly tanking all the PIIGS, and definitely tanking Greece, have been assessed and reassesed plenty.

No, per this UnHerd piece, it's time to reassess her foreign policy meshing with her domestic policy.

This is the Angela Merkel who, per her infamous der Spiegel interview, discussed by me in depth here, deliberately used the Minsk Accords as a sort of "appeasement" to give Ukraine more time to at least moderately up-kit its army, and even more, up-train it to something supposedly like Western standards (though we're now seeing how realistic that is).

Per UnHerd, that's the same Merkel who couldn't or wouldn't get Germany off Russian natural gas. It's the Germany who allegedly abetted Volkswagen's diesel emissions cheating scandal, both in the US and in the EU. It's the Merkel who, despite the problems with nuclear power, killed all German power plants after Fukushima without any Plan B on board, and instead, without solar or wind enough to come close to replacing them, started burning more coal — and not just coal, but that dirty-for-coal lignite shit that we stopped burning in US coal-fired plants years ago. And, this coming from a Ph.D. scientist who knew better on not only climate change in particular but air pollution in general. Tis true that, since 1990, Germany has cut emissions more than the US, but that's not totally a fair comparison. First, that includes shutting down most of East Germany's dirty industry and second, it's based on a flat population. In the last 15-plus years, the US has done better.

It's the Merkel who, doubling down on old-fashioned German automotive excellence, didn't prod German carmakers into hybrids, sees them behind the curve on full electrics especially vis-a-vis China, and between that and German utility costs, per that Unherd piece, one wonders just how unstable the German car industry is.

And, the piece goes on to note that the economic weakness that has resulted from this has given a new boost to the Alternativ für Deutschland, along with it being the only party other than die Linke that opposes the war in Ukraine. Wolfgang Munchau says AfD had plateaued after getting its initial boost from opposing her opening the doors on refugee immigration.

Back to the economy. Munchau says it was a form of neo-mercantilism, which makes it all the more stupid for pissing Russia off when you're relying on its natural gas to literally fuel that.

The German economic situation is so bad that, beyond alt-ish websites, the AP just wrote in depth about it.

September 19, 2023

Why are Texas cities suing NOW over the "death star"?

I mean, in reality, the Lege has been cutting home rule rights for years. The plastic bags issue. The fracking in city limits issue. And, in both those cases and others, Tex-ass courts have said yes after lawsuits.

For that matter, there's previous measures that cities DIDN'T sue over. One, about which I blogged with last year's heatwave, was the Lege banning local cities from setting minimum building standards, including minimum insulation standards. That was 2019, IIRC.

September 18, 2023

Calling Dan Patrick's bluff on impeachment-related constitutional amendments

Saturday, after the last vote in the Ken Paxton impeachment trial, Lite Guv Danny Goeb said he wants the Texas Constitution amended on impeachment-related issues.


Let's start with one THAT I have been pushing for, for years. Let's get rid of the every-other-year meeting of our banana-republic style Lege. The House, if it did "rush," did so because it had to. It couldn't do anything until 2025 if it didn't get something on the floor before the end of this year's regular session.

Second, you want to follow the feds on not having a state official suspended without pay during impeachment? Fine. Let's also amend to follow the feds and have our state's Supreme Court chief justice, not you, as presiding officer. Would at least lessen the possibility of corruption in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

Third and related, let's amend the semi-authoritarian powers of the Lite Guv in general.

Beyond constitutional amendments, let's rewrite Texas state law to give the Texas Ethics Commission some teeth, you know, so that a lieutenant governor can't take $3 million dollars from a PAC favoring the guy whose impeachment trial he's about to preside over.

That said, while I called this a "show trial in reverse" Saturday (as in,  Texas Rethugican Senatecritters would pretend to look at evidence, just like in Maoist or Stalinist show trials, with an advance presumption, in this case, of course, innocence, not guilt) nonetheless, it wasn't entirely so.

But, per friend Chris Tomlinson, maybe the whispering before the trial about intimidating senators worked? Kal Seliger, who knows Goeb's wrath, thinks so.

THAT then said, though, one-third of the Democratic caucus voted to acquit on multiple charges. And, speaking of, Royce West said he saw some GOP votes shift during deliberations. Once it became clear no charge would hit 21, a number of borderline Rethugs ran for the exits. That link also notes that only two Democrats voted to convict on every charge.

Wrong priorities with Zeus the wonder Great Dane

Don't mourn the death of Zeus, the world's tallest dog, for the wrong reasons. Rather, mourn that we're creating inbred purebred dogs that die before their fourth birthday. Mourn that we've got upper-middle-class people with beaucoup spare money to blow on a dog's battle with cancer, or, if they don't, will start a GoFundMe for a dog when we don't have Medicare for All. Mourn that we've got people talking in terms of the semi New Agey "War on Cancer." Mourn that we have an online new media reporter extending this "furkids" stuff so much that she talks about "his human mother."

I never thought I'd be writing the pet-oriented version of a "takedown" obit, but, there you go.