May 30, 2016

TX Progressives Memorial Day blogging roundup

The Texas Progressive Alliance remembers the men and women who died while serving in our nation's armed forces as it brings you this week's roundup — along with a friendly photo reminder of what war started Memorial Day and ultimately why.

Off the Kuff rounds up coverage of Ken Paxton's latest anti-transgender lawsuit and publicity stunt.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos remembers Ken Starr and his role as the Republican's Grand Inquisitor during Bill Clinton's Presidency. The Grand Inquisitor for Bill Clinton's sinning is mired in a sexual abuse scandal.

SocraticGadfly, looking ahead to the general election, and his mentions already of "Plan B" and Green Party voting, takes note of what he calls anti-third party electoral bigotry.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston notes the Texas electricity website is a mess.

Lewisville Texan Journal talks about flooding and fishing problems at Lake Lewisville.

Some incredible pictures of the sky were included with flood photos from Houston's most recent monsoon at PDiddie's Brains and Eggs.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Lone Star Ma focuses on the eleventh of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): "Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable."

The Lunch Tray explains the logic of serving federally-compliant donuts at school.

The TSTA Blog traces the origin of the STAAR test.

Paradise in Hell contemplates Ken Paxton's potty issues.

Prairie Weather examines the Clinton's "nunya" mindset.

Existentialism explained, and unexplained

I just got done reading "At the Existentialist Cafe," mentioned, if not recommended, by a friend on either Google Plus, Facebook or Twitter.

Well, I can tell you now, you probably don't need to read it.

At The Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and apricot cocktails with: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Karl Jaspers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and othersAt The Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and apricot cocktails with: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Karl Jaspers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and others by Sarah Bakewell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is overrated and mistitled and I'm going to explain why.

I wasn't sure exactly how to rate that book. This is another book that deserves a half-star rating, as in 3.5. Since so many others are overrating it, it thus gets the bump down to 3 stars. And, by the time I got done writing this, I wondered if even that were generous.

First, there's a typo/proofreading error on 11, that's tres funny, especially given that the book is primarily about Sartre. Instead of talking about him "exhorting" his readers, it actually mentions him "extorting his readers."

No radical freedom there!

There are one or two more serious errors of fact in the book, plus the fact that "glib" or whatever sometimes becomes disjointed.

A good example of this is when, in discussing Sartre's HUGE overwriting about Genet, she doesn't mention his amphetamine addiction. She only mentions it about 50 pages later, and then, it's never really called an addiction. But, that's part of a larger part — the book is a love affair with Sartre, papered over with the "Existentialist Cafe." It's a love affair with Sartre's cafe, then with Sartre and Beauvoir's. Camus (though I take his statement at face value that he was an absurdist, not an existentialist — something Bakewell never really explores), Levinas and Merleau-Ponty get short shrift. So, too, even in a popularizing account, do structuralists and deconstructionalist children or stepchildren of existentialism.

That points to a bigger problem. A David Edmonds of "Wittgenstein's Poker" or "Rousseau's Dog" fame would have focused on one or two fun issues (I've asked him to write a book about Koestler punching Camus), and written about 200 pages that we never expect to be a more serious history of Wittgenstein, Hume/Rousseau, etc.

However, Bakewell appears to fall between two stools in wanting to write something light, yet something serious, at the same time. And, to some degree, BOTH stools fall out from beneath her. If she wanted to be more serious, yet without giving a full analysis of existentialism, she could have analyzed why Sartre became an addict, or what was behind his existential dread (it was) of squishy, gooey things.

On to a few other issues.

On page 74, no, Germany's Social Democrats did NOT take power in Novemeber 1918 in "a kind of a coup." Instead, on Nov. 9, Prince Max of Baden, the Chancellor, announced that Wilhelm was abdicating as both German Kaiser and Prussian King. Max was forced to resign later the same day, when it became clear that only the Social Dems (to be precise, the majority Social Dems, not including the soon-to-be Communists) could hold the reigns of government and prevent an actual revolution. It's true that Friedrich Ebert demanded the chancellorship, but Max was likely recognizing already there was no alternative.

And, on page 75, in 1933, Hindenberg was head of state, not head of government, and therefore was not head of any coalition that gave power to Hitler. As president, he simply approved the coalition government that Hitler offered.

These are errors, especially the second, that shouldn't have been made. And, arguably, they may color how harsh Bakewell is, or is not, for Heidegger's early Nazism. I think they do.

Later, comes an error in biblical interpretation. On page 150, she says of Genesis 22, that Yahweh was "surprised" that Abraham went through with the offer of Isaac for sacrifice.

No, it doesn't, and in my read, it doesn't even hint that that is the mood of Yahweh. Ergo, she can't have a good grasp on either Kierkegaard's or Camus' writing about this episode. This probably ties with her giving short shrift to Camus.

On 152, she notes that Sartre attacked Camus for being too influenced by Hume. First, is this actually true, that Camus was more influenced by Hume? (The "too much," of course, is not true!) Second, why would Sartre feel that way? Bakewell never asks.

On 213, shockingly, she seems to misinterpret the end of "No Exit." She talks about the trio being "trapped" in hell — passive voice.

Not at all. The whole theme of the conclusion is that the trio have TRAPPED THEMSELVES! Yes, a demon placed them there, but they have the freedom to not only open the door, as they do, but leave — as they do not. Other parts of her interpretation of "Huis Clos" also seem incorrect.

Finally, on 257, and to no surprise to me, she misinterprets the Camus-Sartre split in a way most favorable to Sartre and in a way untrue to Camus and "The Rebel," in my opinion.

So, per some reviewers, this is an OK to good introduction **to Sartre and Beavoir.** To the whole of existentialism? No.

View all my reviews

May 29, 2016

Clinton win now bringing out conspiracy theorists (updated for 2016)

Editor's note: This post was originally written for 2008, after Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire primary win. Everything below the divider line was updated May 29, 2016, due to a Twitter exchange that eventually evolved Friedman.

Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog, normally (sometimes; see below) a much more sober writer, claims hacked Diebold election machines may have given Clinton her victory.

Of course, this feeds off the memes of “Clinton the old insider” and “The GOP really wants to face Clinton.” Yes, Diebold machines have been hacked, and we’ve still not done enough nationally about the problem.

But, the win is explicable. In fact, per Talking Points Memo, Zogby said his polls were showing a last-day shift, but it was too late, and too small a sample, to run with.


Just sent to me via Twitter, Friedman has a 2009 post, which DOES support bad programming or other accidents as a problem, but is using it in a Twitter thread about fraud, when his post has no proof of that.


I knew, once we had gotten into this thread, that I had blogged about Friedman before, and then stopped reading him for years. Now I remember why.

I'm with him on paper ballots. No, I'm with myself on paper ballots, because I've blogged about this, and written newspaper columns about this, even, without any "help" from him. (And, if he's misusing the word "hacked" for accidental misprogrammings, then he's butchering English. But, he's not. Let's move on.)

I don't need the "help" of conspiracy theorists like him or Greg Palast, though.

And, via the magic of Twitter's "block" button, have taken care of that with Friedman. His last Tweet, with its arrogance, combined with a previous one questioning if I am a liberal or not (actually, I'm not, since I call myself a left-liberal), were two straws too much.

The other guy who sucked me in on this thread? I pointed to Bernie's Michigan win as "proof" that he must be a conspirator too. And, worse, yet, he's a JFK conspiracy guy.

And, Friedman himself may be a "JFK truther." At a minimum, he seems quite unskeptical about it. Actually, he cites Mark Lane favorably, so he IS a JFK truther. I don't know about Palast on this issue, but I know he's a 9/11 truther.

And, given that he has links to RFK Jr. talking about alleged fraud in Ohio 2004, when in reality, RFK Jr. is about as right about that as he is about autism, that only "seals the deal." (And, stuff like that is why I lament not starting this blog six months earlier, and doing with it more immediately, so I would have had more visibility during the 2004 election cycle.)

Meanwhile, contra the person who started this on Twitter, Bernie himself says the Democrats' process was not rigged. And, contra Friedman, whether or not it's easier to "flip" votes in an intraparty caucus, it is easier to stonewall legal attempts at remedies.

And, people like Friedman, Palast and low-tier conspiracy-thinker Sandernistas are supposed to have "the answers" about stolen elections? Please.

Nonsense like this is also why I am a skeptical left-liberal.

(Actually, Brad, I'm not a Green leaner. I'm a Trump infiltrator in disguise. Congrats on your swift knockdown of me. And that's about the snark level you're worthy of.)

#FeelTheBern vs #FailTheBern on #Honduras (updated)

Coming into last night's Democratic debate, knowing that it was on Univision and in Miami, I wondered (hoped isn't quite the right word) if Bernie Sanders would finally mention the 2009 Honduras coup that was helped by President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Reality? Per my Twitter feed:
Again, since I was wondering, not hoping, this doesn't surprise me.

After passing on chances starting within the first half hour of the debate, CNN, near the end, played an old, mid-1980s video clip of Sanders praising both the Sandinistas and Fidel Castro. Hillary Clinton then jumped on him for praising leaders who "disappeared people," which led to this Tweet from me:
Because, if not being disappeared, people in Honduras are outrightly being killed today.

(Update, May 28: Per the Book of Proverbs, Clinton is now fleeing when nobody is pursuing, deleting Honduras references from her memoir. Per that Common Dreams link, it appears to be part of a larger whitewashing of her backing the rougher edges of neoliberalism and American imperialism throughout Latin America.)

For you Sandernistas, this is why, even if Sanders can pull off the shock of shocks and get the Democratic nomination, I expect to vote Green for president again, as I have in every election this century.

If Sanders' critique of foreign policy adventurism can't extend into the current administration and, other than an oblique reference to the Bay of Pigs, generally only covers Republican misadventures of the past (don't forget JFK's overthrowing Diem in Vietnam and Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, which was also part of Latin America, last I checked), then his foreign policy stances remain problematic.

Did he support the coup himself? I doubt that, but why won't he speak out? Afraid of giving Republicans ammunition? Well, if that's the case, then he's not so revolutionary after all.

Surely, Sanders knows both about the Honduras coup, or even semi-coup, if he wants to tone it down a bit, as well as the 2014 semi-coup in Ukraine, or semi-demi coup, if he wants to soften that; I mentioned a month ago my lament that neither was being covered in the Democratic debates, multiple times. Israel/Palestine got nothing more than perfunctory coverage, and when it and related issues did, Bernie had bipartisan foreign policy establishment answers.

I'm going to have a more in-depth wrap later, but, this debate got to the heart of not just what I have said, but what others have, about Sanders' foreign policy stances, to the degree that people who don't know a lot of them have heard about them besides his no vote on the Iraq War.

Jeet Heer at The New Republic frames it similarly, and more broadly, noting that Sanders critiques Hillary Clinton as part of a system, not as Hillary Clinton, and in a way to stay inside the Democratic Party's coloring circles. It's all part of making nice and being a good Democrat, which, the nuttery of some Clintonistas aside, he really is and has been. Jeff St. Clair was saying the same nine months ago.

Also speaking of foreign policy #fails, Sanders has yet to repudiate the endorsement of Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an arguably Islamophobic supporter of India's BJP, which is also enabling by silence the persecution of Christians in India.
Refusing to repudiate current coups is bad enough, as the lack of a foreign policy revolution; continuing to accept the endorsement of an Islamophobe is even worse.

May 26, 2016

Baptists can't dance, except around the truth, at Baylor — #hypocrisy alert (updated)

So, Ken Starr is (apparently) the official fall guy for one known rape and multitudinous other sexual harassment issues of the Baylor football team. More here.

I say "apparently" because the U has yet to comment, and as this link notes, Chip Brown (who despite his attempt at perpetual youth, has failed), has gotten non-UT stuff wrong before. That said, this Tweet claims "multiple sources" have confirmed this. We'll see. Stand by for news! Meanwhile, if true ...

Update, May 25: And, that "apparently" rather than "fired" is the operative word. Per the Waco Trib, Baylor regents say Starr's still in place — but promise more info in the future.

The old Chipster has updated on Twitter:
However, Baylor regents are saying new info will come by the time of the next board meeting, which on June 3 would not be the end of this month but early next month.

And, living in Tejas, by my reading eyeballs, I'm personally familiar with Chip Brown getting stuff wrong before.

Update, May 26: The Chipster was WAY wrong. Baylor just canned Briles.

That said, let's pretend he's right ...

First, yes, the schadenfreude for Mr. Whitewater Voyeur is fun. You richly earned it, Ken.

That said, does anybody doubt that if Baylor's football Bears had played to a 6-6 mark last year, and that the shiny new stadium had empty seats, that football coach Art Briles would be taking a walk as well? Ditto for AD Ian McCaw.

Of course not, despite Baylor's silence.

A Baylor, of course, is not a State U., where this would be hypocritical enough. It's a religious institution.

That said, beyond the religious hypocrisy, firing Starr won't make this go away. Jasmin Hernandez' lawsuit, after all, is against the board of regents, Briles and McCaw. Starr wasn't named.

Of course, the board might be viewing Starr as its proxy, hence pushing him out.

In which case, Briles and McCaw should probably retain private, personal legal counsel ASAP.

Meanwhile, the Waco Tribune is apparently asleep at the wheel. As of the time of this blog post, 1 p.m. May 24, it had NOTHING on its website. Bupkis. Not even writing about rumors, reports or university no-comments. (This has obviously now changed.)

Why June 3?

Survey says the regents and Starr are negotiating the price of a buyout, which would then have to be approved at the next meeting.

That said, per this Waco Trib piece, Starr has done good at Baylor, outside the athletic department issue. And, any going away, or kick upstairs, if it happens, may not be done without threats of him wielding a shiv in retaliation. (That whole piece is worth a read.)

And, per all of the above, with the Briles firing, Starr may just stay in place. Two Tweets sum up:
So maybe the schadenfreude should be put on hold.

Or NOT. Starr is also fired, as president; he may be retained as chancellor, but that's not a done deal. AD McCaw on probation.

I don't get why Baylor regents would even consider keeping Starr on as chancellor.

With one caveat.

Maybe he threatened to sue, and this is the "peace offering."

If not, then this is not so much hypocrisy alert as stupidity alert territory.

Texas runoff elections recap

Not much to add to what Brains had to say, but I'll do a few notes.

First, living in SBOE District 9, it was gratifying to see gay prostitute monger Mary Lou Bruner go down to defeat in the GOP runoff. I think her appearance on WFAA's talking heads last Sunday killed her. Bud Kennedy wasn't harshly confrontational, but he and his cohost strongly grilled her, her conspiracy theories, and the conspiracy theory-driven lies she and her campaign spread about opponent Keven Ellis' campaign. Her staff probably told her, or she told herself, she couldn't afford to duck the appearance once the offer was made to both, but she probably should have. Ellis got a lot of exposure, and her nuttery (collected at this spot) got just as much.

Second, to snark ... if religious conservative Wayne Christian is the GOP nominee for the RRC, then shouldn't he want to clean up the messes by Big Oil? After all, oil spills and fracking waste are both noxious enough they can cause spontaneous abortions, I'm sure, and abortion is right up his alley.

To be more serious, the win of Grady Yarbrough on the Democratic runoff for RRC underscores another point.

The Railroad Commission, along with Court of Criminal Appeals Place 5, is one of two MUST-FOCUS races for the Texas Green Party to hit the 5 percent threshold and maintain party-line ballot access in 2018. Yarbrough is a doob.

Unfortunately, as of this time, all Green candidate Martina Salinas has is a Facebook page with no updates in more than three months, and no website.

(The other is Place 5 for the Court of Criminal Appeals. Judith Sanders-Castro is the Green nominee. As I blogged during primary filings, Betsy Johnson appears to have been a last-minute Dem recruit with a mix of just wanting to fill out the Dem slate and perhaps wanting to cockblock Greens. Given what I read about Gilberto Hinojosa, no surprise. That said, I can't find even a Facebook page for her.)

A basic, Wordpress-driven website costs what, $39 a month to host with GoDaddy or something? A professional, but part-time, web/IT person, for a third-party candidate on a quasi-volunteer basis, shouldn't cost more than $100 a month right now, maybe $100 a week after Labor Day.

So, Salinas, and Sanders-Castro, it's time to up the ante. And, I've Tweeted Texas Greens already to pass this along.