SocraticGadfly: 2/11/24 - 2/18/24

February 17, 2024

Just when I think Cornel West can't get stupider, or more egocentric

Cornel West, finally disabused of his cluelessness of how hard it is to get presidential ballot access as an independent candidate running outside any party, and obviously having burned his Green Party bridges, has now launched a "Justice for All Party," per an announcement on his campaign website, as seen via Independent Politcal Report. Apparently, he's yet to be disabused of his cluelessness about how hard this will be.

Let me quote the opening graf:

In an effort to directly confront the suppression of voter choice and participation by legacy political parties, Independent candidate for President of the United States, Dr. Cornel West, announced the establishment of the Justice For All Party (JFA). The party will primarily be utilized as a grassroots, people-powered vehicle to secure ballot access in specific states. Additionally, JFA will grow into a larger formation that galvanizes people-powered initiatives to promote transformational change beyond the 2024 election cycle.

Really? Existing third parties of the left could use your help with that suppression, without you going off and starting another one, first.

Second, per my opening graf, this won't seriously help you get on the ballot this cycle. Starting a third party from scratch often requires somewhere around the same number of petition signatures as an independent candidacy.

Let us continue:

JFA builds off the foundation and tradition of grassroots political parties like the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, founded under the leadership of Ella Baker, Kwame Ture, and John Hulett, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party under the leadership of Civil Rights titans like Fannie Lou Hamer and the legendary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

All 1960s orgs; way to date yourself, Cornel. Nostalgia's fun, but bupkis in the world of actual politics. And, the MFDP was a pressure organization within the Democratic Party, anyway, kind of like today's DSA Roseys, not a third party.

Also, beyond the issue of ego, this ignores the question of "why," which really has no answer beyond Cornel West's ego.


Sidebar: At the time I posted this last Saturday morning, West was also getting roasted on Twitter for his uncritical encomium-eulogy to Navalny.

The truth, known by many others besides me, is that Navalny had a past as a alt-right white Russian nationalist and Islamophobe. He eventually worked to rebrand himself, but never did repudiate that past, to my knowledge.

Also, contra some fellow leftists, and contra whatever West is, while I have not read the details of Mumia Abu-Jamal's case as closely as Leonard Peltier's, I've read enough of it that I don't think his and his defenders' cry for justice has quite as solid of a standing.

February 16, 2024

Visiting Bombay Beach, mulling the Salton Sea's future

First, the background.

I've read Marc Reisner's "Cadillac Desert" (second and sadly last edition due to his untimely death) 10 or more times, with a heavily highlighted, underlined, and marginal-noted version in my hands.

Growing up in Gallup, New Mexico, my family may have, or may not have, stopped briefly at the north end of the Salton Sea on a return home from a SoCal vacation. We took I-10 on the way back and ate lunch at Palm Springs, that I remember. 

Anyway, I know well the history of the sea's formation, the geological background of the multiple Lake Cahuilla births and deaths and more. And, I knew the basics of Bombay Beach.

As an adult, I may or may not have tried to hit the west shore of the sea on a springtime visit to Anza-Borrego State Park when leaving it via east side. I know I did three years ago, on my second-last wintertime visit. Unfortunately, driving around an unfamiliar town (think it was Salton Shores) in the dark, I couldn't figure out how to get to the shore itself. In daylight, this trip, I realized much of what I was bumping up against was berms with Imperial Irrigation District no trespassing signs.

The birding part of the world is not dead there, as the avocets show.

That said, that's on the slightly higher elevated west side, which also has less agrichemical runoff as there's less agriculture there than north, south and east.

I did see the "peeps," sandpipers, on the east side, north of Bombay Beach itself. But no avocets, no grebes, etc.

South of Bombay Beach, the Sonny Bono/Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge may have sandhill cranes, along with other birds:

But it is artificially sustained with man-made islands as the sea shrinks, water diversions, and artificial plantings of various cereal grains. Dirty secret: a lot of NWRs are unnatural in this way, like Bosque del Apache south of Albuquerque and Hagerman near me in North Texas. And, as climate continues to change, this is becoming more and more unsustainable at more and more Western NWRs.

Anyway, before Bombay Beach, in what eventually evolved encompassing, albeit hit-and-miss, almost three-quarters of the sea on this vacation, I stopped at the northeast corner. And, got great sunrise alpenglow:

As I noted, that beach looks like the salt knobs at Badwater in Death Valley. But, it's not, as footprints sinking nearly three inches deep into semi-quicksand beach show.

I was walking to see this color-beautiful puddle:

But, as I note in the caption, who knows what agrichemical runoff is mixed with salt to produce that color?

I do know that you smell it.

Salton Sea doesn't smell like the ocean. It does have the salt smell, but it also smells of those agrichemicals. To put it another way, the smell is vaguely like the "produced water" that's becoming an ever-bigger part of the modern oil business, with the additional smell here and there of dead fish, to the degree the Salton still supports any.

Some nutters may still talk of swimming in the Salton Sea. Would you jump in this schlag?

Not me.

The talk of, if not restoring, at least arresting the decline, of the Salton Sea has been going on 15 years or more.

Not happening. Let's be blunt. 

Not happening.

First, having more direct experience with the Army Corps of Engineers and Texas A&M-Galveston and their proposal for an "Ike Dike," as well as remembering the basics of the proposed initial cost vs finality of the Venentian lagoon gates, I know that cost estimates for such massive environmental engineering projects are always massively understated, and often the work involved is lied about. (That's true here in Tex-ass, where Ike Dike proponents lyingly compare it to work done in New Orleans and to its south around the mouth of the Mississippi and the Louisiana coast.)

Usually, all "stakeholders" in such plans have vested interests in lying about the costs. And, yes, they usually know better at the start, so they're lying. 

ANY time the Corps of Engineers bigfoots into something, it's gonna lie.

With the Salton Sea, the state of California has a vested interest in lying so it can pretend it's really interested in doing something and can pretend that its bits of around the edges nibbling work really are doing something.

Largely upper-crust White environmental groups have a vested interest in lying about the cost of fixing the Salton Sea, as it lets them show their concern for the poor Hispanics who can't leave places like Bombay Beach and Brawley, along with the various bands of Cahuilla Indian nations who surround the sea and won't leave.

In addition, has anybody asked the portion of these neoliberal-type environmentalists who live in Palm Springs, or LA itself, if they're willing to SERIOUSLY change their way of water life (or move) to help get serious about rounding up enough water to stave off the Salton's ongoing decline?

The reality, contra this sign:

Is that the sea is indeed sinking and that won't be reversed. It may be moderately slowed, but no more.

So, do we pay people to leave Bombay Beach if they want to? A lot of the neo-hipsters at not just it, but other places for which it's a stand-in, like Slab City, don't want to leave. 

They just want a fix that fixes them.

Fuck em. No matter your artsy-fartsyness at Bombay Beach (which it was fun photographing and photo-editing in detail):

That's the best thing we can say to them. Go back to Quartzsite if you're a snowbirder. Get back to where you once belonged, per the Beatles or try it elsewhere, if you're trying to semi-permanently live in the area. Or accept the consequences.

Otherwise, as a city? In my opinion, the present of Bombay Beach:

Is as good as it gets.

Nature bats last.

February 15, 2024

Presidential elections briefs roundup

Norman Solomon wonders if Nancy Pelosi's smear job against pro-Palestianian protestors isn't part of once again reviving Russiagate for the 2024 elections. (Don't forget the NYT went down this slimy road for the 2022 midterms.)


The FEC is questioning, not so much RFK Jr. having family on staff, but whether their pay grade isn't essentially family money laundering. No wonder Trump was interested in him as Veep; he's got the family grift down pat.

February 14, 2024

Texas Progressives talk this and that

SocraticGadfly talks about GOP whackadoodles in the SBOE District 12 andHouse District 68 primaries.

The border trumps vouchers in GOP primaries, the Trib says, and I can attest.

Speaking of, Katrina "Bullets" Pierson makes, but does not top, Forrest Wilder's list of the most nutbar primary candidates.

The Dallas Fed says Texas job growth will slow down in 2024. Well, it actually slowed down in the second half of 2023. Does it mean it will slow down more, or were they asleep at the switch the last six months?

The Texas GOP executive committee passed a nothingburger resolution to ban antisemites from the party; it's a nothingburger because it doesn't name names like Former Fetus Forever Fuckwad Jonathan Stickland.

Travel bans vs shield laws on abortion and more will surely wind up at the Supreme Court.

Meat Austin Riley, fortunate enough to barely avoid becoming the Hill Country's Tim Treadwell.

Off the Kuff has one word for the latest defense motion in the Ken Paxton securities fraud trial.

Allegedly librul Texas municipal leaders hate Palestinians.

Neil at the Houston Democracy Project said the people of Eagle Pass want Greg Abbott & DPS out

The Eyewall explains the complex relationship between El Niño and California rain. 

Maria Hernandez Pinto writes that harsh border controls actually jeopardize the safety of U.S. citizens, mostly Black and brown border residents. 

Mean Green Cougar Red contemplates the extreme concentration of college football fandom among a handful of programs.

The TSTA Blog declares Greg Abbott a disaster for education.

Houstonia has grim news about the upcoming crawfish season.

February 13, 2024

Alt-history: Legitimate Monmouth, no Glorious Revolution

By Monmouth, I'm talking about the 1st Duke of Monmouth, aka James Scott, aka the oldest bastard of England and Scotland's (no UK then, remember!) King Charles II.

I was inspired to this by a book I just read on Stuart England (again, just England, so doesn't start until 1603, and ends 1689, with William fully grasping the kingship).

The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England, 1603-1689The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England, 1603-1689 by Jonathan Healey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A little bit dense, but not unduly so, and informative throughout. For me, it was most so on the period from the Second Civil War of 1648 through the end of the Protectorate.

I had not realized how, in 1648, much of Parliament was still willing to treat with Charles and on lenient terms.

On the Protectorate, I knew the basics: Rump Parliament, Charles' execution, Cromwell off to Ireland to become a four-letter word, Cromwell scuffing with various Parliaments, then son Richard unable to hold power. But the details of the different Parliamentary arrangements at different times in the Protectorate? How Cromwell was often more Independent, less Puritan, on the degree of religious tolerance he was ready to show? That and more was new.

So were some of the fine details of William vis a vis James II/VII. And, that should be enough without spoiling anything.

View all my reviews

The biggie against legitimizing him is that Charles never married Lucy Walter, thogh Monmouth pushed claims there had been a secret marriage on his father's deathbed, shortly before proclaiming the standard of revolt against his uncle, James II/VII, and claiming the kingship shortly thereafter.

Two questions, with some background first.

First, Charles had earlier sent his brother into exile, when, several years after the Treaty of Dover, Charles' new kindness to Catholics got enough backlash by James trying to push it more than Charles, that Charles sent him out of the country for his own safety if nothing else. A few years after that, when Charles was in a severe illness that looked like it might cause long term incapacitation, or even be fatal, James returned from the Continent without authorization. And made a muck of things while trying to run a quasi-regency. When Charles recovered, both over the muck and over James not asking permission to return first, he exiled him again. This is all tied to the Exclusion Crisis earlier, and the Test Act and the Popish Plot, which is when James was sent abroad.

Did Charles think at that point about making a claim to secret marriage? Walter was dead and couldn't deny it, and Charles had long ago basically told Queen Maria Braganza straight up that his mistresses came first. The only other thing Charles needed was a priest who would have been with him at this time of exile and willing to perjure himself by swearing he'd performed the marriage.

Option B? Could Charles have made a deal with Parliament to legitimize Monmouth anyway? (Some other countries allows such legitimization, or, in the case of Tsarist Russia, asked fewer questions about bloodlines.) Parliament probably would have attached several conditions, such as further expanding the Test Act. With that, I think it would have been possible.

This would have avoided the whole Glorious Revolution, for better and for worse.

Monmouth had legitimate issue, and his eldest son, 1st Earl Dalkeith, also did.

That said, there were others to oppose this, starting with Dutch Stadtholder William and wife Mary, who stood to be the biggest losers.

Would Parliament become more quasi-democratic more quickly, or more slowly, is one question.

And, without the later Hanoverian succession, would the United Kingdom (I assume that still happens, in part for part of the reasons it did in reality, for island unity against the Yorkists) gotten less entangled in Continental affairs?

February 12, 2024

Joe Biden vs Hillary, Trump Ben-Hur; Trikki Nikki on Dementia Don

This is going to be fun.

China Ben-Hur is special counsel Robert K. Hur. The WaPost reports that, among examples of what he saw as Biden's failing memory was that he couldn't remember the start and stop years of his own vice presidency.

"Hey, Barry, was that 2009?" Biden texts Dear Leader?

THIS is going to be really fun.

“I talked to people in the White House all the time, and you know, they know it’s an issue, but as I like to say, ‘look, it’s a legitimate issue,’” Clinton told MSNBC’s Alex Wagner earlier this week. “It’s a legitimate issue for [ex-President Donald] Trump who’s only three years younger, right? So it’s an issue.”
OK, now.

Meanwhile, Sleepy Joe is reportedly blaming Merrick Garland for that report getting out in the first place.

All of this only increases my concern that the MSM, librul version, and the MSM, Faux/wingnut version, isn't discussing the worry of either #DementiaJoe OR #DementiaDon carrying the nuclear football.

The AP says mixing up names is common. Common between living and dead people? And what about mixing up dates? Yeah, it tries to say that we'd forget when we put something in a box, but? If I were elected vice president of Merikkka, I think I'd remember when I started. Funny that Dr. Eric Lenze doesn't address that one. Also, the piece is bad neuroscience, relying on the old trope of your brain is like a computer, putting memories in files. And, even if it DID work that way, mixing up Sisi and AMLO? Yea, Abdel starts with an A, as does Andrés, but Sisi and Obrador? Not, and last-name addresses is what happens among world leaders, as in something that may be attributed to Lenze at the AP piece, or may just be a reporter's explainer that comes close to editorializing, talking about mixing up Macron and Mitterand. Same last name initial AND same country. Not different last initials AND different countries.

Heather Cox Richardson says that since Joe McCarthy days, Republicans have used smears to torpedo Democrats. Is this like Pelosi saying that Russians are behind pro-Palestinian protests?

That all said, Hur DID clerk for both Kozinski at the appeals court level and a year later for Renchburg I mean Rehnquist. And, many Republicans (tho none currently holding any federal positions) also think Hur was over the top.

Meanwhile, a Biden aide supposedly told Arab-Americans he had some regrets about Gaza. Biden's dementia will give him the old presidential "plausible deniability" he ever said that. And, the way I read the opening paragraph, it's Jon Finer expressing his own belief, not Hasbara Joe's, that he has "no confidence" Israel was willing to take "meaningful steps" to Palestinian statehood. Even via backdoor and on the QT, Biden, unlike Obama, would never say that.

Meanwhile, Trikki Nikki Haley is trolling Trump on the age and memory issue with mobile billboards in South Carolina.

And, why not? He had his own ginormous word salad at the NRA convention.

Meanwhile, part 2, Just Security engages in its own spinning, non-dementia division, on the Hur report.

Climate crisis: One straight year over 1.5C

THAT is the bigger reality than just a record-setting January.

Yes, the neoliberal wing of climate change scientists, or climate change Obamiacs as I call them, the Michael Manns and Katharine Hayhoes, will downplay the seriousness of this. Hayhoe probably as an evangelical Christian will do so for that reason alone; survey says, no joking about the phrase, that secularists are FAR more likely to think that climate change is a very major issue than either fundagelical OR liberal-minded people not just of Christianity or any other world religion.

Before the January climate story, I already saw people spinning the record-setting 2023 as "well, maybe we'll hit 2C but no more than that," or words to that effect.

Reality? Per the likes of James Hansen, we've surely baked in 2.5C and almost surely 3C into what will wind up as the new stasis point. As I said in discussing that, and in saying that I would take Hansen over Mann any time on climate assessments, 4C by 2100 would not surprise me. Even 5C would not incredibly surprise me.

And, per it being referenced in Reuters? The Paris accords are Jell-O, and two people wanted that: Dear Leader Obama and Xi Jinping.

Meanwhile, other climate scientists warn that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is closer to a tipping point. That's the point where meltwater from the Arctic and Greenland could overwhelm the Gulf Stream at its northerly reaches and affect the climate of Western Europe. How much, we really don't know.