SocraticGadfly: 1/14/24 - 1/21/24

January 19, 2024

Texas Monthly misses boat on polar vortexes and climate change

As anybody who knows much about climate change knows, problems with polar vortexes in specific and upper-latitude jet streams in general are a climate change issue.

Yet, just a couple of weeks ago, Texas Monthly decided to look backward not forward, despite the increase in polar vortex surges down here to Tex-ass in recent years.

And blew it, not only on looking backward not forward, but on what it got wrong within that.

Contra Alexandra Samuels, 52 degrees is BELOW normal for most of Texas outside the Panhandle in early January. Note that where I live, where the almanac on Weather Underground says the average is above 52, has actually had that many days above 52 in the last 10 days. If Samuels had wanted to talk about something relevant to climate change this time of year and over the recent past, she would have discussed polar vortexes.

And, now, we've just faced one fairly severe one, with a lesser one creeping in as I type. The one bit of good news is a steady week of rain showers after that; we've still not fully recovered from last year's drought.

January 18, 2024

Antidepressant fraud over antidepressant ineffectiveness

It's long been known that many antidepressants seem to be little better than placebo for major depression.

The typical answer from the psychiatric world, if not from every individual psychiatrist, has been "give it a little longer." (To the degree that anti-Ds, whether old tricyclics, newer SSRIs or newer yet SNRIs, do seem to have any direct physical effects, stimulating synapse and/or brain cell growth does take several weeks.)

If that still doesn't work, then the psych world answer is: "Let's try another." Lexapro instead of Celexa. An SNRI instead of any SSRI. Etc., etc.

What if the primary research cornerstone that still upholds the antidepressant world is itself based on Big Pharma research fraud? What if the mainstream media hasn't picked up on that yet, because it largely follows psych world PR?

That's exactly the contention of psychiatrist Bruce Levine, a regular Counterpunch contributor. Levine says this isn't totally new, either; only 4 years after the 2006 STAR*D study, the issue of publication bias in general, though not actual research fraud or the spirit thereof, was raised about anti-D efficacy.

Yes, research fraud or the spirit thereof, as STAR*D investigators didn't disclose their pharmaceutical ties. And, the fraud that's documented is clear and easy to see. Dropping people out of results although part of a test group, for example, if they dropped themselves out of the research before complete. (These people made up almost one-quarter of the test cohort.)

What if they had?

Levine links to a piece from the Mad in America site that covers this in more detail. That said, unless I'm hitting a paywall, it ends with this as a rhetorical question.

And, Levine himself shoots down the rhetorical alternatives. He says, for example, that ketamine is as overhyped as SSRIs.

(T)he research on ketamine as an antidepressant is worse than disappointing.

Given its clear side effects, it's hard to see how it could not have a placebo effect as big as SSRIs.

He also notes that, even if the "chemical imbalance" theory of depression isn't accepted today, if STAR*D's truth had been told early on, this idea never would have taken off. 

Among issues involved, to the degree that anti-Ds do appear to change neurons, we don't know how they change them, if they change only brain neurons, what changes may affect mental health and more. Re the demise of the chemical imbalance theory, all brain neurons have multiple receptors for each of the main neurotransmitters. We don't know which ones might be affected by depression, anxiety, etc., and how anti-Ds may or may not affect that.

Levine doesn't discuss electromagnetic interventions, such as old electroshock or more modern transcranial magnetic stimulation. He does say he has his own antidepressant:

I do have my own personal antidepressant, which is Albert Camus’s essay The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus argues that the realization of the absurd does not justify suicide, and instead compels rebellion that can be vitalizing. Camus concludes, “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

And, we shouldn't take that as a joke. Without going fully Thomas Szasz, we need to look more at the social psychology aspects of depression. I say that because I think things like schizophrenia are not totally socialized psychology, and so, don't totally go down the road of Szasz.

John Horgan, who's long been critical of the Big Pharma world on mental health, had this to say after I tweeted him Levine's link:

He's right. And, of course, this coming in the wake of COVID and conspiracy theories over mRNA vaccines overshadowing people like me who see their relatively low effectiveness, and also see a Biden Administration refusing to use federal power to deal with copyright issues, and you have additional problems both social and political.

Side note: The Twitter exchange has drawn at least one COVID anti-mRNA vaxxer, if not more than that. But, said person has been told the truth, has been seen to retweet racism from VDare and other stupidity, and the conversation has been ended. 

As for that person and others? The real scandal, not just over mRNA vaxxes, but to some degree, all COVID vaccines, is that neither Trump nor Biden, based on federal whipping of "Operation Warp Speed," that neither one exercised federal patent rights.


Personal note: I have been on antidepressants before for the flip side of depression, acute anxiety. They seemed to have work, but how much of that was placebo effect? How much of it was me "aging out" of the anxiety problem? And, I have had the side effects.

January 17, 2024

Texas Progressives talk early election news

SocraticGadfly got to hear Republican SD-30 candidates schwaffle on vouchers.

Off the Kuff interviewed six candidates for the open SD15: Karthik Soora, Michelle Bonton, Molly Cook, Rep. Jarvis Johnson, Todd Litton, and Beto Cardenas.

Paxton WILL be deposed in the whistleblower lawsuit, per Texas Supremes.

Three more Ill Eagle deaths are on Abbott's hands, after the Texas National Guard in conjunction with DPS seized Shelby Park in Eagle Pass and blocked the Border Patrol from entry, but they're also on Joe Biden's hands for his namby-pamby "take Abbott to court" rather than sending US troops to Eagle Pass to arrest the TNG and DPS if they wouldn't stand aside. Per Teddy Roosevelt talking about William McKinley, Biden has the backbone of a chocolate eclair.

Anti-Hispanic racism is still alive and well in Texas.

Matt Rinaldi's being in bed with Farris Wilks is leading even some GOPers to raise eyebrows.

Ryan Puzycki explains why cities must ensure that all of their places are for everybody. 

The Fort Worth Report estimates the impact of the new requirement to elect appraisal district board members on Tarrant County.  

D Magazine predicts 11 stories that will shape Dallas this year.

January 16, 2024

Third party / independent bullshit from somebody who should know better

Bernard Tamas, a poly-sci prof at Valdosta State and author of a book on third parties, recently spoke with Politico about this year's presidential landscape.

First, his analysis of current third parties and that part of the landscape is interesting, if largely wrong IMO.

He does say the Greens have the most coherent brand while claiming Libertarians could fill the non-wingnut conservative hole that the MAGA-implosion of the Republican Party has left.

He might be right on Greens, but has he looked at the Mises Mice? They don't want that hole. They want the LP to be MAGA-nified on social issues while also being traditional LP nuts on "taxation is theft," etc." Does he not track them more?

He's right on No Labels. It's a "this election" party, in essence, if it runs everybody.

He largely ignores the independent candidates, other than a discussion of ballot access laws, which is where I'm headed with a long pull quote.

We can start with ballot access laws, which are determined state by state: how many signatures or other requirements to get candidates onto the ballot so you don’t have to write their name in but can just select them. And those laws have gotten very hard in many states over the last 100 years.
In the early part of the 20th century, it used to be really easy. And then the states just kept making requirements bigger and bigger and bigger, and there was an assumption that this is what is killing third parties.
Well, it turned out after looking at the data that this had practically nothing to do with third parties running into problems, because if it’s an actual third-party organization, that’s something they can do. They can go out and get signatures.
And the Libertarians and the Greens are getting on the ballot all over the country. The ballot access laws are not stopping them; they’re annoying them. They’re a real problem for people like Cornel West, who doesn’t have an organization. For him, it’s a real problem.

First, like the duopolists, and yes, Politico set up the piece, but he focuses on the presidential race. Tamas could have interjected downballot races into the mix, and how those tougher laws have really impacted them, but chose to color within the lines.

Second, even for the LP and GP, if they lose party-line ballot access in a state, "just getting signatures" ain't that easy. Often, it costs money for paid signature gatherers, the money they may not have a lot of, and that Cornel West doesn't really either. And, that's the point.

January 15, 2024

Numbed out to a Trump win? Numbed out to climate change?

I know a lot of Democrats hate themselves some Nate Silver. (I don't know about other leftists, but I myself mock him without thinking he's an object of anything close to actual hatred.)

That said, I think he gets it right — AND not just for himself — when he talks here about being numbed out to a Trump win. Here's the nut sentences, not even a full graf:

Let me state this extremely carefully: emotionally, I’ve accepted this (Trump 2.0) as the default outcome. Rationally, I don’t. ... What I’m getting at emotionally though is that I sense a lot of numbness to the idea of Trump winning another term.

Note that I said above: "not just for himself."

Take someone I kind of like to mock here at times, though not necessarily for the same reason as Brain. That's Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff. I pick him because I think he's the type of Democrat Silver is thinking of — older but not old, as in old end of Gen X through younger end of Boomers. Fairly informed within the Dem Party. Probably somewhat active, not only with some donations but maybe a little elbow grease, as in someone who has been, say, a precinct captain or in precincts with large Dem numbers, some other precinct level position.

Indeed, Silver heads there next:

Among Democrats, there’s been some denial of Biden’s poor standing in the polls but honestly — as a veteran observer of poll denialism — it’s not been that bad. Even the more optimistic assessments tend to concede that Biden has a big fight ahead of him.

I think a lot of them have the same numbness. (That said, I'm not sure that all that many Dems have really rationally thought through this, and I'm not sure that many have emotionally felt through it, other than the Marc Eliases of the world already ready to gin up the "you really voted for Trump" bullshit toward third party and independent voters.)

That said, they're partially at fault. While not all younger Democrats, or Democrat-leaners, may oppose the proxy war in Ukraine, I think a great many of them, especially those "of color," absolutely oppose #GenocideJoe being just that on Gaza.

Meanwhile, the comments there are "hilarious." Or "disgusting."

Silver talked about four existentialist horsemen that were part of Biden's 2020 campaign. One of them was climate change. In comments, multiple people say "I'm on Team Democrat" even while claiming climate change is "overhyped."

Two words for you: Fuck off.

And, what do you hear from the Kuffs of the world?

For the most part, bupkis.