SocraticGadfly: 12/24/23 - 12/31/23

December 30, 2023

Texas Progressives vouch for Abbott with this year-end Roundup

The Trib takes a semi-deep dive on how Abbott lost the battle for vouchers in the House side of the Lege. TL/DR is that refusal to make the program limited and means-tested was the big failure. Part of this was Abbott eyeing the national stage. As if he had a chance for the presidency in 2024. What a chud. Of course, Christofascist Tim Dunn wouldn't want something like that, either, and neither would Dannie Goeb in the Senate. That said, contra Abbott's politically framed polling, the House GOP holdouts were hearing from constituents. Big question, not asked by the Trib: Per the stereotypical 5 percent of voters turning out for GOP primaries, what will the swing be in these districts? Two months ago, it might have mattered for me, but with David Spiller being a weaselly voucher-flipper in the last special, now it doesn't. Sidebar: Here's a list of House candidates Abbott, and Kenny Boy Paxton over his impeachment, are targeting.

I have followed Ballot Access News for years. Richard Winger has many smart observations. But, late last year? Setting aside issues of "ripeness" and whether courts should intervene in primaries as well as general elections, his post on the Colorado Supreme Court knocking Trump off the ballot essentially wants to make the 14th Amendment's portion on ballot disbarment nugatory. I told him it was the stupidest thing he's ever written.

How many lawyers are there in Fredericksburg? How many are lining up in San Antonio? Gillespie County's plan to hand-count votes in the March primary (and likely with ZERO extra money from the Secretary of State on the cost side) will be a clusterfuck that's gonna lead to lawsuits in close races.

SocraticGadfly looks at national and world politics and takes a deeper dive on the Supreme Court Dobbs ruling, Putin, and Israel-Gaza.

Channelview's Jacintoport area's been bombarded by Cancer Alley benzene for nearly 20 years that the state knew about and said nothing.

Off the Kuff reminds us again that there are no easy fixes to the disaster caused by Republican abortion bans, and that Republicans themselves cannot and will not do anything to try to make it less bad. 

Pandering Kenny Boy is on a trans health care fishing expedition against a Seattle hospital. Whichever of the more than two sides one is on, on this issue, this is just bogus.

In re Katie Cox, the Texas Supreme Court wants to hear from the Texas Medical Board. Whether they listen is another matter. The TMB has said it's punting while any cases are in the court system. That timidity is what Texas Rethuglicas want.

Trump getting booted from the Maine ballot is bigger than Colorado. It's a more swing-y state, among other things. And, it was done administratively, by the Maine Secretary of State; might make it harder to legally challenge.

Neil at the Houston Democracy Project said the extensive police powers of SB 4 well-serve an authoritarian vision. 

 The Dallas Observer salutes one "Concerned Parent in North Texas" for their service. 

The Texas Observer takes a deep dive into the career of Kelly Siegler, former Harris County prosecutor turned true crime TV star that's still doing the same old thing.  

Texas 2036 reviews some top stories in K-12 education. 

The Texas Living Waters Project does its year in review.  

In the Pink Texas discovers the true spirit of Christmas.

December 29, 2023

Frank Church NOT 'The Last Honest Man'

The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, and the Kennedys―and One Senator's Fight to Save Democracy

The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, and the Kennedys―and One Senator's Fight to Save Democracy by James Risen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book when I saw it on the library shelf, being old enough to remember Frank Church, definitely old enough to remember the multifaceted 1976 Democratic presidential primary battle, and also having read a lot of Risen's reporting in various outlets.

From the Prologue, I figured this would probably be a good four-star, but not a five-star.

First, I’ve long held, from what I’ve read, that the Pike Committee did more than the Church Committee. So said Mark Ames. Risen disagrees. I've read other material elsehwere to that effect.

That said, he doesn’t even mention the House Government Information Subcommittee of Bella Abzug. In fact, Risen doesn’t mention Abzug, period. James Bamford does mention her extensively in Puzzle Palace, calling it, vis-à-vis BOTH Church and Pike Comms, “like an ammunition-laden cargo plane out of control,” from the spooks point of view. Bamford of course talks about both full commissions.

Second, he, and he’s not alone, talk about the Church Committee “reining in” the intelligence state. Well, that was a low bar to hurdle and was also relatively temporary. And, the battle was halfway lost at the time and Church signed off on the final version of the Church Committee report, establishing the Intelligence Committee refused to require the CIA to give the Intell folks advance notice of covert operations. It also had other loopholes, and per that link, many staffers excoriated the committee. Oh, the vote was unanimous, so that includes Church. (The Senate Government Operations Committee, or more precisely, the Senate Committee on Government Operations, was the Church Committee. That said, as it had 11 members, I'm not sure where a 12-0 vote comes from, nor am I sure what the name of Charles Percy, who was never on the committee, is doing there.)  In other words, per his own committee staffers, at least metaphorically, he wasn't all that honest of a man.

The claims of Church and others that this would tread on the sacrosanct Constitutional separation of powers and involve one branch of the Trinity interfering with another was and is laughable. Congresses regularly set restrictions on presidential power, as do courts. In fact, just a couple of years prior, the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon's "impoundment" of Congressional appropriations was unconstitutional.

The real issue, as I see it, is that senators didn't really want to reign in the CIA that much, and didn't want to be called bad guys for allegedly putting handcuffs on the CIA. This, in fact, is a charge that Steve Symms raised against Church in his successful 1980 run to unseat him. Even beyond that, I think these, and most senators, wanted "plausible deniability" vis a vis the CIA.

So, with that, we've fallen out of the four-star range on just how much Church really did, as well as, metaphorically, just how honest he was or was not. And, with that, like one other three-star reviewer, I thought the title stood out like a sore thumb and was off-putting, whether Risen chose that, or his editor.

Beyond that, per "The Last Great Senate," there were other senators in 1980 who, overall, were in the same general range of honesty as Church. So, again, why the title?

Related to that? Yeah, Church may have in private been an early opponent of Vietnam, but for some time after voting for the Tonkin Gulf resolution, those concerns stayed private. As for the two who voted against LBJ? Ernest Gruening got lied out of the Senate in 1968 by Mike Gravel and his campaign (and lie Gravel did, about that and many other things) and Wayne Morse was the type of independent minded person beyond Church's idol, William Borah, let alone Church himself.  I mean, the vote split has even 10 "not voting" senators, nine of them Democrats. Church couldn't even do that. And, where was Church after Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1967 Riverside sermon?

And, why the subject? Yes, I know Risen is big in intelligence community reporting. But, per Ames' link, why not a bio of Pike?

With Church (and this would be far more true with Pike), I think Risen got his ass in a crack. There's not that much on which to hang one's hat for a Church bio other than the Church Committee. Well, then, in that case, don't make it a bio. Focus on the Church and Pike committees.

As for the 1976 campaign? I disagree with Risen's implication that Church likely would have won California had Brown not have made his late entry into the race. Mo Udall was the most union-favored remaining candidate at this point, and from the neighboring state of Arizona. Plus, Carter would have campaigned harder in California without Brown there, and without Brown having won Maryland, probably would have been in a position to win the nomination right there, without George Wallace and Scoop Jackson ceding their delegates.

One other error?

Page 243, the Sacheen Littlefeather who stood in for Marlon Brando at the 1972 Oscars is a pretendian, not an American Indian, and has been suspected long before Risen wrote. The NY Times even had a news story .

That said, ignore wingnut 3-star and lower reviews like this MAGAts one. Surprised she gave it 3 stars rather than lower.

View all my reviews

December 28, 2023

SPUSA prez nominee Bill Stodden, part 2: Dear Leader, the Salvation Army, sneering

So, two months ago, I did a long piece on Socialist Party USA presidential nominee Bill Stodden and specific reasons why I wouldn't vote for him.

I partially, but not totally, lost one of the two big political ones, when I found out that an error by the Rapid City, South Dakota newspaper about him allegedly being against the Iraq War but supporting Vietnam, during a protest against the Iraq War, was incorrect. I have corrected that post.

But, I didn't totally lose it, as Stodden, who was already an SPUSA activist for years in 2008, voted for Dear Leader Obama for prez, apparently being suckered by his "no more dumb wars" statement, while not asking further about that, and ignoring that he was otherwise just another neoliberal. And, in extensive comments on that first post, Stodden has not only doubled down on his lack of repentance for that vote, but increased the defensiveness, and further undercut himself.

He said:

You did your “duopoly exit” in 2000. Good for you. I presume you never voted for one of the two major parties again after that. That sort of ideological purity is nice. You have certainty. You cup is already full then. Nothing more can be added. It is clear that you missed the point of the declaration that the wise man knows that he knows nothing. If you know everything already, there is nothing to learn. Fine. 
Obama in 2008 was the only vote for a major party candidate I ever cast, in my life. We can go through my voting record some other time, but I never did a “duopoly exit” because I never did a duopoly entrance. I voted for Obama because 1) I believed that he was sincere about being anti War. I was wrong. Sorry about that. I’m not the first person to be lied to by a politician. And 2) I believe that the election of a black dude would give the racists in this country heart palpitations. And about this, I was correct. His election was like lifting the rock on the facade of civility. I don’t give a damn what anyone says about this: dragging the racists and bigots out into the light is always a good thing. If that’s the ONLY positive thing his election did, I say it was worth it. Because while neither you nor I may like it much that one one or the other of the duopoly gets to win, that is still a fact. I’d rather it be the one that was elected. I voted that year for the one of those two that I thought would do the most good. I didn’t vote for him again in 2012. It was a principled vote and I even resigned from the SP to do it, because I also believe that you don’t get to call yourself a socialist if you are voting for Democrats.

Emphasis added.

To which, I responded:

2. Yes, I have never looked back, at the presidential level, from 2000 on, Bill. (That includes conscious undervoting of the presidential race, as I did in 2020.) I didn't trust Dear Leader on things besides the war. And, by your logic on voting for him, you should have voted for Biden in 2020, as all the BlueAnons screamed. Or, to twist deeper, you shouldn't be running yourself on the SPUSA line this year because "democracy is at stake." So, your sneer in the first paragraph of your second comment is indeed taken as a sneer, and a defensive one.

And, his further response, which I won't bother quoting, shows that he doesn't grasp his own illogic. If he accepts that one side or the other of the duopoly is going to win and he wants to be on the winning side, yeah, that's exactly what Blue Anons say today. EXACTLY. 

And, Stodden has a PhD in political science to boot. And still doesn't grasp, or accept, his own illogic. And, per lesser evilism, Trump 2024 is indeed a worse fear than McCain 2008.

The second issue hasn't gone away, but has in fact intensified due to more sneering on his part, that I'm not going to quote.

Yeah, Bill, the charitable division of Salvation Army may be administered differently from its congregational division, but? It's still part of the Salvation Army. Catholic Charities is still part of the Roman Catholic Church. I'm sure there's at least a Goodwill, on clothing and small appliances, or maybe even a non-affiliated thrift store. There's probably a regional food bank. That doesn't go to shelter, but there may be a homeless shelter that's not run by the Salvation Army, too.

I use all of those. 

Also, while I'm here, there's secular alternatives to 12-step sobriety. There's no in-person SMART Recovery in Ames, but there are four meetings in Des Moines, and both SMART and Lifering have online meetings, email groups, etc.

I'm not poor, but I'm not rich and I'm not even that high up the middle class food chain. And, as both an adult and a child, I have experience government-defined poverty before. My career path includes rejecting options that would have left me better-paid than today, too, Bill, just like, even if you weren't a Quaker in the 1990s, you could have opted not to volunteer for the Marines, unless you needed collegiate money that badly.

So, your sneers about using a little discretion in shopping? I am not going to engage further.

As for his family heritage? I was just adding "color" to the original piece. Sorry that that was incorrect, but as noted, I'm not a NYT investigative reporter who does only this for a living, and it meant nothing one way or the other to the core of the piece, and I said words to the effect of "could be," anyway. On the protest and the Rapid City paper? Not my fault, as noted at the time.

To sum up, even if we didn't have the possible (if he's on the ballot here) option of Cornel West instead of likely two-com-three time GP retread Jill Stein, I still wouldn't vote for you if you're on the Tex-ass ballot. Everything associated with your Obama vote and your defensiveness is laughable. Although I'm not a Marxist, if West isn't on the ballot, but PSL is, I'll vote their candidate over either you or Stein.

December 27, 2023

Why I still don't give money to Counterpunch

Yes, but, Jeff St. Clair, on your reposting two months ago of a 2019 piece explaining the rigors of your annual major fundraising drive. 

One-quarter of what Counterpunch runs is dreck, like the guy who was (is?) your poet laureate. I've sent stuff that you haven't run, both poetry and prose.

I posted the above as part of a Texas Progressives roundup in early November.

And, then, that same day, St. Clair posts a dreck piece by wingnut James Bovard about Waco and the Branch Davidian standoff. Bovard is flat wrong that ATF outgunned the Davidians. (The FBI is a different story.) From all evidence we have, he is wrong that the National Guard helicopters during the ATF initial raid fired shots at the compound.

Bovard is a wingnut otherwise. Retweeting folks like the Brownstone Institute shows he's a COVID wingnut; the fact that he's an official fellow shows that in spades. His own website shows that 95 percent of what he writes is for the NY Post.

On Waco, I suspect he's trying to grift on the recent release of the Stephan Talty book, which followed the spring Jeff Guinn book. Both links are to my Goodreads reviews, which is part of how I know that, as far as forces on the ground, Davidians outgunned ATF agents.

Otherwise, his piece, and his Twitter replies to me, are filled with a mix of "maybes" and "possiblies," and quotes of people like wingnut former Congresscritter Steve Schiff, a UFO conspiracy theorist, plus strawmanning. On the media, the reality is that the Clinton Administration faced a fair amount of fairly early pushback.

The idea that the FBI "targeted childen" is itself laughable. Anybody who knows the reality knows that Koresh had any and every opportunity to let remaining children go. As for the final FBI assault, since it had nobody inside, and the bugs it had sent in on food were audio-only, it couldn't have known where children were to be targeted. It's also "interesting," in regard to this, where Bovard ends direct quotes in the middle of a sentence. It's another version of quoting someone out of context.

Finally, per both books and repeated investigation? Koresh started the fire. 

And, speaking of books? Per one of his, co-authored with fellow nutters from the Libertarian Institute, he claims that gun-ownership is a "God-given right." Since there is no god, no such rights exist, and certainly not to guns.

So, St. Clair, even if he's not behind the paywall, if you're running this, once again, you don't need my money.

Or, if you're running the dreck of Michael Hudson, totally uninformed about biblical criticism, and close to being a duck-quacking water carrier for Zionism, whether behind a paywall or not? You don't need my money.

Or, other nuttery behind the paywall? This interview of Mitch Horowitz, a hater of modern skepticism because he's a paranormal true believer? Again, Jeff, you want to run him, and behind the paywall? You don't need my money.

Otherwise, the St. Clair-Cockburn slugline of "we welcome all political faiths" may be marginally more true than the Libertarian Party's "neither left nor right," but that's a low bar to clear indeed. To take it it an extreme, you could publish both Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and Stalin's personally edited version of the 1936 show trials and be wrong twice. (I don't know what the Stalinist equivalent of Godwin's Law is, but I just went there with pleasure.)

December 26, 2023

Could the 2024 presidential race go to the House?

First, I will occasionally update this first-round guesstimate as we get firmer polling numbers not just on Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, Jill Stein, and whomever Libertarians nominate.

With that, let's dig in, with Wikipedia's entry on the 2020 election the starting point.

Bob Jr. strikes me, and certainly, pollsters, as the biggest wild card among independent and third-party candidates. Where is he most likely to have an effect? I'm basing this somewhat on state-by-state hunches and a general thought that he takes 60 percent Republican, 40 percent Democrat, among his voters who voted for somebody else in 2020, and doubles that with "green" voters. (Not "green" in that sense; green as in didn't vote for either one in 2020.)

My guesstimates:

1. He keeps Arizona in Biden's column.

2. He keeps Georgia in Biden's column.

3. He takes Maine, both of the individual Congressional district electoral votes and overall.

4. He takes New Hampshire.

5. And, for shits and giggles, let's say he takes Wisconsin as well.

That's 18 EVs for him. Not enough to send it to the House. It's 288 Biden, 232 Trump, 18 Kennedy. But?

Let's say I'm wrong on Arizona and Georgia. That's 17 votes. I'm moving them to Trump, not Kennedy.

Then it's 271-249-18, right? Wrong. We forgot to factor in redistricting, which gives Trump's 2020 states 3 more EVs this time, and Biden's 3 less.

We are now at 268-252-18.

That said, as she still dithers, there's the Liz Cheney factor the other way. But, further kneecapping Biden, there's the #AbandonBiden push. And, there's the new indictment of Hunter Biden, which raises up again the issue of Biden family sleaziness.

We'll talk more later.

Update: Bob Jr. is officially on the ballot in Utah, his first state. Per a piece at Independent Political Report, he expects ballot access battles could cost up to $15 million — and sounds prepared to spend. Unless slipstreaming in his wake, it's hard to see Cornel West coming close to that.