SocraticGadfly: 1/21/24 - 1/28/24

January 26, 2024

Reality vs 'knights of the road' legend on semi driving

Harper's has a deep dive on truck driving and driver training school, or, as one economist calls it, "a sweatshop on wheels." It touches on the issue of the romance of trucking for people who peddle the "knights of the open road" mythos. That, in turn, is itself exploited by trucking companies that cater to hiring independent drivers as contractors, who are then part of an even bigger sweatshop on wheels than company-employed truckers.

I remember during the early COVID days, companies offering up to $190K a year or something for independent drivers. Sounded great, no? But, at the high fuel prices of that time, you needed to deduct $60K for that. Since these were independent drivers, you probably needed to deduct another $25K a year, maybe more, for the annual payment on their current cab, if not paid off. (I was estimating $125K for a basic model new cab hitting a total price of $175K on a 7-year note; my guess was in the ballpark, it turns out.) Say $10K a year for the amount of insurance you have to have as a driver, especially owning your own rig. Maintenance costs. Double-pay on FISA taxes as self-employed. And more.

At the time, $6/gallon or more diesel probably meant $90K a year on fuel costs alone, at the high end. So, down to $100K right there. Start subtracting that other stuff and you see where you're at soon enough.

It's even worse with one particular "white knight of the road," the cattle hauler. Sure, you're not driving cross-country. You've got a semi-dedicated run. But, especially for the dudes with their name in lights on a trailer they haul? You can only haul one thing. Cattle.

The situation is broadly similar in the Rockies and Sierras with logging trucks.

And, that's why, as a generalization but not a stereotype, these people drive like assholes.

January 25, 2024

The curse of the downvoting chud on Reddit

At one time, I thought getting rid of downvote buttons on social media sites was a bad thing. I even argued with others about that.

I stand corrected.

The downvote is hugely abused by people on Reddit, generally butt-hurt younger (given Reddit's profile) males who can't stand being contradicted. They'll downvote posts as well as comments. I suspect some of my Reddit followers are following me for that reason.

That  said, a winter vacation break from Reddit had accelerated growing disinterest in the site. If, as it claims it will do, Reddit launches its ong-rumored IPO in a month or so, we will see if that leads to yet more site changes.

Anyway, re the downvoting chud? I realized that, per comments about karma farming on places like r/geography, which I hadn't visited even before Christmas, that Reddit in general is indeed much like Facebook's old Zynga game Farmville.

Update, Feb. 4: I thought the MLB subreddit was halfway sane, but ran into a bunch of downvoting chuds there last week, all of them apparently butt-hurt Joey Votto fans who can't handle the truth about his lack of MLB future. Side benefit is that I've been off Reddit for the past 3 days in response.

January 24, 2024

Self-righteous idiots at PRO Gainesville appeal to CCA; self-righteous idiots at ACLU Texas abet them

There's no other way to put it than the headline. 

The PRO Gainesville saga has been going on for three-plus years now. And, not content to lose a Class A misdemeanor case locally, a trio of PRO Gainesville leaders, charged arrested and convicted in trial for, to use the everyday term, "jaywalking" on a state highway when leading a protest march WITHOUT a parade permit (an important issue) appealed to the Texas appeals court system.

And, lost again, and pretty summarily, as noted in detail here, much of which is quoted below.

I thought that MAYBE they would stop there, while also noting snarkily there, AND a bit in media commentary for my day job, that maybe they wouldn't.

Sadly, my snark is right and they've appealed again to the Court of Criminal Appeals, egged on by an ACLU of Texas who apparently is either:

  • Ignorant of the facts on the ground;
  • Ignorant of ACLU National's pamphlet on what's allowed and not allowed with, and especially WITHOUT, a parade permit, or;
  • Doesn't care, believes that beliefs make law, or similar.
  • Related: Going beyond the three above, or a mix of them, to straight lying.

I'm going to reference items from ACLU Texas' news release, the second link, before posting details from the first link, of my previous blogging.

Here's the biggie to unpack:

“This is a pivotal case for free speech rights in Texas,” said Savannah Kumar (she/they), an attorney with the ACLU of Texas. “It concerns whether protesters can move along public streets without facing jail time and whether organizers of peaceful protests can be held criminally responsible for the words and actions of other participants. We are asking the highest criminal court of Texas to take this case and reaffirm that Texans cannot be convicted for simply walking in a street.”

Wrong in several ways, Savannah. 

First, per what I said above about not having a parade permit, and extracting from my previous post at the first link?

The ACLU national, which I cited in my first post-arrest discussion of the trio's plight, would also like a word with both you and original county court at law case defense attorney Allison Grinter's understanding of protests and permits.

I quote from the ACLU pamphlet:

You don’t need a permit to march in the streets or on sidewalks, as long as marchers don’t obstruct car or pedestrian traffic. If you don’t have a permit, police officers can ask you to move to the side of a street or sidewalk to let others pass or for safety reasons.

Pretty clear. Note that that applies to ANY street. It applies in spades to a state highway, whatever the state.

And, if you don't do that, especially after warnings? They can arrest you as necessary. Period and end of story. 

So, it is NOT NOT NOT "a pivotal case for free speech rights in Texas,” contra Kumar. And, per the law, yes, they have the right to be arrested.

As for why these three? They're the organizers. Whether the "rank and file" knew that PRO Gainesville did not have a parade permit, or not, these three did. They're the ones who applied for one, and were denied it. And, with organization and leadership comes responsibility. (I await Kumar claiming, as Grinter did, that "they're just kids.")

Next? This:

A few days later, they were issued arrest warrants for “obstructing a highway or other passageway,” a misdemeanor under Texas law, even though they had not caused an obstruction.

Is simply untrue, spoken by someone who has seen the video, was in the area at the start of the march and read the county court at law trial testimony. It's why I added the fourth item to the original three bullet points up top.

Next? Whichever one of the four bullet points, or all of them to some degree, is correct, Kumar and the rest of ACLU Texas roped in Emerson Sykes from ACLU national, who apparently is also a mix of uninformed about facts on the ground and/or functionally illiterate about ACLU national's own pamphlet.

So, we quote him for refutation:

“Since our country’s founding, public streets and sidewalks have always been a place where people can march and exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Emerson Sykes (he/him), senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “It is unconstitutional to arrest and jail protesters just because they momentarily walk in a street, and it conflicts with Texas state law and precedent recognizing the importance of the right to protest.”

First, obviously, uninformed about the pamphlet. I mean, the whole unstated background premise of the pamphlet is that, if you don't comply with police order to stop walking in the street and hindering traffic, whatever the applicable laws of a state or municipality are, they can be enforced. Period.

I will again quote from that pamphlet, were elsewhere that premise is indeed stated:

Police may not break up a gathering unless there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, interference with traffic, or other immediate threat to public safety.

Pretty clear in my book. Emphasis added to get at the heart of this issue.

Let's quote elsewhere from that, like an opening paragraph:

Your rights are strongest in what are known as “traditional public forums,” such as streets, sidewalks, and parks. You also likely have the right to speak out on other public property, like plazas in front of government buildings, as long as you are not blocking access to the government building or interfering with other purposes the property was designed for.

Pretty clear in my book. (Emphasis added.)

Second, the "momentarily" shows him uninformed about the facts of the matter.

And, that's why the "self-righteous" is in the header. 

Related to this is that this seems to be another example of a critique of the ACLU first raised about a decade or so ago. That is that it is becoming more and more a progressive justice organization and not just a civil liberties outfit.


Per my previous update, and referencing those facts of the matter on the ground? Having been dumb enough not to accept a presumable plea deal from County Attorney Ed Zielinski on the misdemeanor charge of obstructing a major passageway, the PRO Gainesville leadership trio of Torrey Henderson, Amara Ridge and Justin Thompson got a $2,000 fine and seven days in the county slammer as their penalty upon jury conviction.

Rather than cut their losses, the trio got the ACLU of Texas to help them on appeal. And emphatically lost that appeal last Nov. 16. Will they go to the Court of Criminal Appeals next? Try to bump that to federal court on their First Amendment claim that this is First Amendment protected speech? I was halfway snarking, but with an update, a response to the Register, received uncritically by it, it sounds like I shouldn't have been.

That said, why wasn't this dude (I heard it on that video too) charged?

At one point in the video, the cameraman could be heard saying, “[The police] are telling us to get out of the road and we’re not listening. I like it.”

Can't the police finger him? (The state statute for obstruction of a major roadway says "willingly" or "knowingly," and Gainesville's police chief said at the time they didn't think most the rank and file knew the leadership had not gotten a parade permit. BUT? What if the cameraman DID know?)

Meanwhile, why did PRO Gainesville go all the way down to Dallas to land Alison Grinter as their legal beagle, especially if she either doesn't understand the First Amendment or thought she could buffalo the Gainesville yokels with stuff like this:

Dallas attorney Alison Grinter’s defense relied on First Amendment protections and the right to protest. She said she believed the legal system was trying to make a point by having the charge be an obstruction of traffic on a major passageway, when if the charge had been on any other street in the area the charge would have been a ticket for jaywalking at most.

Ms. Grinter, come now. Courts have ruled for hundreds of years that the actions of public protest under freedom of assembly can be regulated by government permit requirements. If PRO Gainesville had asked you to sue the city of Gainesville on its claims of unfair treatment of issuance or denial of permits, that would be another thing.

The only thing I agree with re this actual case is that jail time beyond the fines is overkill. But, 7 days is FAR less than the maximum of 180 days.


Maybe Zielinski offered that, something less than 7 days, in plea talks and you rejected it? Maybe he didn't, either. Grinter Allen (her actual last name, Grinter her maiden, see below) didn't talk to the Groansville folks, but told the Denton Wrecked Chronic, which also reported on the case, that Zielinski was determined to go to trial. Well, he no-commented, since she's appealing. 

(I asked her point-blank on Twitter if Ed offered a plea deal or not. We'll see if I get a response. I also told her in my Tweet thread that I'm a non-duopoly actual leftist.

We'll see if she responds. A year later, she hasn't. Shock me. Zielinski was determined to go to trial ... rather than dismissing all charges, is what it is. Or rather, Ms. Grinter, YOU and PRO Gainesville were determined to go to trial rather than accept his plea deal. If that IS bad legal counsel, well, the ACLU of Texas is providing more of the same.)

In their story, Thompson claims the commissioners court was in on the effort to deliberately punish them. Uhh, wrong. They don't micromanage Zielinski.

Thompson also claims that a group of Trumpist MAGAts types were so upset over local coverage they started an alternative newspaper. News to me. Never seen a copy at, say Quick Trip. Seriously, knowing how far right Gainesville tilts? And this isn't publicly circulated?

Thompson also has a different story for the Wrecked Chronic about not hearing the police than he did for the Register, where he said he did, thought the warning was originally for a bicyclist, then realized it wasn't, then told people to get back on the sidewalk. 

To update my original piece? "Goes to motive, your honor," per the old legal phrase.

This is one of several reasons, but the biggest recurring reason, that, while I have made civil liberties donations to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU hasn't gotten a dime from me for, I think, 15 years and counting now.

Texas Progressives talk Uvalde and more

Biden now has a leg back up on Abbott in one area: the DOJ report on Uvalde, releasing more information about the clusterfuck that Strangeabbott continues to do his best to try to hide.

Kuff has a roundup of pull-quotes and links from the Department of Justice's Uvalde report.

New Mexico, the nation's second-largest oil state (which many Texans probably didn't know) is grappling with proposed new regulations for its short-term Lege session (which our banana republic, of course, doesn't have).

The NM Lege also is considering a bill to ban public libraries from banning books.

Off the Kuff notes the request to the Texas Medical Board to define what the exceptions to the anti-abortion law are, which Ken Paxton will never accept.

SocraticGadfly talks about the big medical research fraud on claims of antidepressant effectiveness.

A state appeals court said that a lawsuit against Paxton and Strangeabbott seeking any J6-related emails they have can go forward.

Best of luck in running for the Lege to Averie Bishop.

Once again, there will be NO "immigration deal." Biden will keep chasing the House's Overton window even as Trump lashes out at it to keep moving that window.

Dean Phillips, on DEI, has the same chocolate eclair backbone as Joe Biden does on other things. Scratch him from the prez race.

The Dallas Observer presents ten holidays invented by TV and movies.  

Innovation Map explains why Houston should prioritize electric vehicle adoption in 2024.  

Your Local Epidemiologist looks at measles trends.  

In The Pink revisits Iowa. LawDork has good news and bad news from SCOTUS.  

Nonsequiteuse provides an unfortunate update on the state of sexual harassment in progressive politics.

January 23, 2024

Houston, Metromess — less affordable than New York City

Houston — less affordable than New York City, per recent studies, as reported by the Monthly. (DFW isn't far behind.)  The gas costs of suburban sprawl is a big factor. And, want to save on that by moving into or near the central city? Gentrification will hit you on housing. The story also notes that Helltown would have had almost no population growth if not for "international migration."

Oh, and this is nothing new, even as Tex-ass elected folks don't listen. Three years ago, in a piece I wrote about myth vs. reality on Texas being Californicated, back then, Helltown and the Metromess were more pricey than the Big Apple.

Also, as I noted back then, it was the Metromess, not just Helltown, and for the second time in three years, the Monthly has ONLY tackled the latter. And, both times, it was the same author, Peter Holley, billed as a "senior editor" at the Monthly. I tweeted him to ask "why."

Shock me that once again, the "Texas miracle" ain't so much. On that last issue? It was the case a dozen years ago. Whether Ill Eagles or healthy immigrants with papers, already then, "Rick Perry's Texas miracle" was dependent on two things — oil and immigration. The first needs to be phased out; the second, even without Ed Abbey's "cancer" cautions about blind population growth, is a Ponzi scheme.


January 22, 2024

Democratic climate change deniers mirror religious deniers

A week ago, I noted several Democratic climate change minimizers in comments to a Nate Silver piece on Substack.

Last Friday at his Roaming Charges, Jeff St. Clair confirmed, with link to the original AP. Here's the setup graf:

Americans are less convinced that climate change is caused mostly or entirely by humans compared to data from recent years, declining from 60% in 2018 to 49% this year. Americans are less convinced that climate change is caused mostly or entirely by humans compared to data from recent years, declining from 60% in 2018 to 49% this year.

Followed by the nutgraf:

Democrats and independents are becoming less convinced that climate change is caused mostly by humans, while Republican attitudes remain stable.

So, most of that 11 point drop is from Dems.

Yet another reason I'm not one.

But wait, there's more. The Sierra Club and its youth wing, Sunrise Movement, can't blame blue collar Democrats, whether white or "of color," because:

This increased doubt was just as significant for someone who graduated from college as someone who has a high school diploma or less (11 percentage point drop), and was more pronounced for younger Americans (17 percentage point drop for those ages 18-29 vs. 9 percentage point drop for the 60+ age group).

The denialism is becoming more entrenched in Democrats, then, if it's growing among young people in general. (AP had no "age + party" breakout.)

We're screwed.

But WHY?

I think I have part of the answer from religion scholar Ryan Burge, both an academic and a congregational pastor. Christians of all stripes take climate change no more seriously than do non-Christians of other world religions. But, that's not the biggie. It is that religious people in general take it less seriously than agnostics and atheists. And, Religious Right smears aside, your average Democrat is about as likely to be religious, and almost as likely to be Christian, as your average Republican.

As you see, this difference is HUGE.

Forget about the likes of Kuff-type BlueAnon Democrats, or even Burge to a lesser degree, trying to spin this as evangelicals vs others. By percentage points, the "all religions" vs "agnostics" gap is bigger than "evangelicals" vs "all other religious." And, related to that, it's also not Democrats vs Republicans, and forget about that spinnning too. It's secularists vs. religious. By degree of difference, on the "extremely serious," the separation between atheists and either "nones" or "world religions" is GREATER than that between evangelicals and non-evangelicals.

Burge runs the religious breakdown through the parties filter, and in this case, I don't think that's good framing. More to the point, I don't think it's "fair" framing. He uses "independent" to cover anything not D or R, first. Second, he doesn't do a by party (plus independents, even if separating them by political stance) breakout of religiosity. It's true that "nones" are more Democrat than Republican, but that's also not as much as some might think, and "nones" is a catch-all anyway. Pew looks at "belief in God," but also with the same three-way breakout of politics.

I know that Burge has limited data on politics and religion when Pew has only the standard three-way breakout. He had the choice of doing less extrapolative guesstimates than he did, given that.

That said, he does also look at age issues related to this. In all religious groups, the younger are more worried than the older about climate change — except atheists, where it's even across the board.

That said, Burge also may not have been aware of the AP piece before he posted. Well, he is now, since I posted this there.

I'll probably unpack this further, and in yet more directions, in a week or two on my philosophy-critical religion-critical thinking second blog.