July 02, 2015

Jim Webb makes it official on the Democratic Prez side

The former Virginia senator and Navy Secretary before that has become the fifth Democrat to enter the presidential campaign, following Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee.

Webb is probably, overall, the most socially conservative of the candidates, as shown by his stance on some of the issues. He is talking about class-based economic issues more than Clinton, and with more conviction, but he was arguably the last to the gay marriage table of the five Democrats, and by some degree. He opposed the Iraq War, but that is about the only other plus, and, unlike Sanders, or Chafee, wasn't in the Senate to cast a "no" vote on it.

He's got a bad environmental record, and he's made no real effort to make it better. And, his stance on Confederacy-related issues, as well as the flip side of the image of promoting class-based affirmative action, will kill him with black Democrats.

I've not yet voted on my own poll, shown at right, but, assuming Greens don't need my help and I were to vote in the Democratic primary, I would NOT vote for him ahead of Clinton.

July 01, 2015

If same-sex marriage is OK, why not polygamy?

I know that in some corners of conservative Christianity, that's the rhetorical argument du jour against the Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage nationally last week. (That's if they've not already stooped to the ridiculous and claim bestiality or child marriage is next.)

First, especially for conservative Christians who always like that "Judeo" fig leaf on "Judeo-Christian values," er, your past religious heritage shoots you in the foot.

Many of the "heroes" of the Christian Old Testament/Jewish Tanakh had multiple wives. (Yes, technically that's polygyny, not polygamy, which cuts both ways and could also include multiple gay or lesbian marriages at once, but, usually, polygamy winds up as one man and several wives. So, we use polygamy throughout.)

But, Jesus said!

Erm, no he didn't, and claims that his comments disallowing divorce prove either that he was anti-polygamy or that polygamy no longer existed at his time simply aren't true. The actual Paul may have been anti-polygamy, and the pseudo-Paul who wrote the Pastoral Letters certainly was, but that's a different story.

However, while Greeks and Romans were one-spouse folks (not counting mistresses, of course), some sects of Judaism still allowed polygamy at the time of the New Testament.

As for today? There's religious freedom grounds for it, primarily for Islam, but also for the Fundamentalist LDS. And, while Ashkenazi have officially banned it for a millennium, Sephardi still accept it, and Orthodox among them still argue for it today. And, to really screw with fundy Christians, a "Messianic Jewish" rabbi practices it in London.  And, although legally banned, it's also practiced in Israel.

So, why shouldn't polygamy be legally protected? Fredrick de Boer offers an in-depth argument in support.

I agree. First, per my comment about mistresses, he says polyamory's been around as long as the "nuclear family." Beyond "mistresses," polyamory as all multiple relationships, none of them "legalized" by marriage, has been gaining steam.

Second, the legalization of same-sex marriage has refuted the old "for having kids" argument. Of course, older straights getting married has always been Argument No. 1 against that.

deBoer then notes that traditional marriages, like polygamous ones, can be havens of abuse. Duggar Family Values, anybody?

I would go beyond deBoer, at least what he explicitly mentions.

I would require a man or a woman wanting to enter a second or additional marriage to publicly disclose he's married to another person already. As it already generally is considered with no polygamy today, such failure to disclose would be legally considered fraud — and should be considered felony-level fraud

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For commenters or others who think this is "snark," it's not.

To go beyond my comment response to Joshuaism, most of the comment is red herring.

First, consent is "manufactured" in single marriages. Don't tell me you haven't heard of Indian-Americans still marrying the spouses their parents have arranged for them.

Second, the consent issue has nothing to do with incest, which I'll tackle separately.

Third, to elaborate on my comment about Macedo's Slate article, of course there can be one-to-one meeting on each marital partner in a plural marriage. Maybe there can't be one-to-one 100 percent meeting, but if you're expecting that, then you've got a definitely naive, possibly harmful "absolute soulmate" view of marriage in general. No marital partner should be, or should be expected to be, the 100 percent match, complement, "meeting" or whatever of another marital partner.

This expands on what I noted was of concern in Kennedy's ruling — the over-uplifting of marriage as more than it really is, or really should be expected to be.

For both him and possibly Katy, beyond the public health angle, I think the state can make a plausible, even compelling, public mental health angle against incestuous marriage. While questioning the over-uplifting of marriage, I don't want to over-devaluate it, either. And,  yes, especially with kids, the whole wrecking of the normal plot of extended family relations that an incestuous marriage would cause would be a public mental health concern.

#Racism, presentism, #philosophy

Trust me, folks, this is where I do another one of those Jeopardy-type headers, then use the body of the post to tie them all together.

Racism and philosophy should both not need defining.

Presentism? Well, it has multiple definitions. I do not mean the philosophy version; although skepticism tells me I cannot prove this, I do not believe items in the present do not exist in the future and did not in the past.

Rather, I mean the literary-historical idea, which I am talking about for the sake of rejecting it, at least rejecting it on a case-by-case basis.

Namely, rejecting it on an ethical issue like racism.

It's interesting that, whether it's a certain subgroup of Southern whites and fellow travelers defending the Confederate flag, or certain sections of academia defending "the classical canon" from allegedly unwashed revisionists, that political conservatives, in trying to defend "traditional values" of some sort, resort to what is clearly itself relativism.

Because, if ethical and moral standards aren't constant, then traditional values mean nothing today. Just in their traditional past.

Even a fair chunk of liberals, though, wave the flag of presentism strongly. Perhaps they're afraid of being tarred as the latest incarnation of the new left.

That said, here's how I reject it. Let's look at the Wikipedia definition:
In literary and historical analysis, presentism is the anachronistic introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Some modern historians seek to avoid presentism in their work because they believe it creates a distorted understanding of their subject matter. … 
 Presentism is also a factor in the problematic question of history and moral judgments. Among historians, the orthodox view may be that reading modern notions of morality into the past is to commit the error of presentism. To avoid this, historians restrict themselves to describing what happened, and attempt to refrain from using language that passes judgment. For example, when writing history about slavery in an era when the practice was widely accepted, letting that fact influence judgment about a group or individual would be presentist, and thus should be avoided. 
 Critics respond that to avoid moral judgments is to practice moral relativism, a controversial idea.
Bingo. 

I don't think moral relativism is necessarily bad itself, first of all. But I don't want to get off track too much yet.

Second, per that word in the first line of the definition? When I call Aristotle or David Hume racists, there's nothing anachronistic about that. There were Greek philosophers who were at least less racist than Aristotle, and they didn't make racial judgments with at least a hat tip to empirical observation. As for Hume, the case is even clearer. Four years before he died, the Somerset ruling ended slavery inside Britain. At least a few of the philosophes on the Continent were already condemning racism. So, nope, there's nothing anachronistic about labeling people from the past as racist.

Back to that issue of moral relativism, though.

It is true that "race" is largely a sociological construct. So, does that mean that racism, and a definition of such, is based purely on culture? Am I about to hoist myself on my own petard?

No and no.

First, while "race" is at bottom line a social construct, it's nonetheless one built on biological phenotypical markers. (Not genotypical; in different "black" ethnicities, different genes may be involved with details of melanin production; certainly, between three or four different groups of sub-Saharan Africans, plus the pre-Aryan "Dravidian" people of Indian, plus New Guineans and Aborigines, different genes are involved in hair differences, or to the degree they're similar, hair similarities.)

Second, a degree of xenophobia, and distinguishing between in-groups and out-groups, seems to be more in our genes, and those of our primate kin.

However, it is precisely culture that has shown us we can rise beyond basing in-group/out-group distinctions on a cultural construct called "race." Therefore, it is not "presentism" to wonder why Aristotle didn't do that. And certainly, closer to our times, it's not at all presentism to wonder about Hume, or his younger semi-contemporary Kant, who also had a racist bone or two.

Does that mean we shouldn't study Aristotle, or Hume, or Kant? No, of course not.

It does mean that we should approach them carefully whenever they make race-related philosophical pronouncements. It means we should reject them as authorities on race outside of philosophy.

And, it means, since we're not engaging in presentism, we should ask how such otherwise intelligent people came to be racist in the first place.

(And we can and should remember that not all people who have racism issues are equally deep or virulent in their racism.)

Why that question?

Per another philosopher, Santayana: Those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

As for fear of being "labeled" a presentist? Non-PC, non-SJW liberal friends, like Massimo, of mine should reject the use of this conservative cudgel. Since it's really a straw man, it's a cudgel without power unless you believe otherwise.

June 30, 2015

Where do oil prices go next?

Looked like readers here (see poll at right) pegged oil prices as of today just about right.

They closed yesterday at just over $58/bbl for West Texas Intermediate.

That said, we've got three clouds on the horizon for the next few months that could affect oil prices' future.

They are:
1. Greece's possible departure from the Eurozone;
2. Puerto Rico's debt crisis, which almost certainly will lead to it seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (It's already being advised by a lawyer that helped the city of Detroit with that);
3. The ramped-up intransigence of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on nuclear talks with the West + Russia and China.

One interesting "tell" is that Brent is slumping even more than WTI, so that, despite the storage capacity issues at Cushing, Oklahoma, elsewhere, the Brent/WTI gap has narrowed a fair amount in the last week or so.

Meanwhile, today is the official end date for Iranian talks, but they're expected to continue.

But, to what end? Is Khamenei banking that Russia and China, at least, will soon tire of maintaining stringent sanctions? If that's the case, just like with a successful conclusion, more Iranian oil hits the market and prices fall. However, Iranian intransigence would add a bit of destabilization.

So, what next?

I predict crude will likely stay in a $55-65 band (WTI) for the next quarter. I'll have a poll up soon. Oh, and be skeptical of people who keep saying oil prices are going to explode. They're not. Here in the US, the supply-hoarding issue will keep somewhat of a lid on things. In Europe, Greece issues will put a definite lid on Brent. And, more proof oil bulls are wrong? Many analysts think US gas prices have already hit their summer peak.

The #SJW world and #InsideOut spoiled

Inside Out PR release poster,
via Wikipedia
Joni Edelman, a "body positivity" feminist, claims that the hot new movie, "Inside Out" (hot enough to have trumped "Avatar" for best opening weekend in history) promotes "body negativity."

Why?

Because the "Sadness" character is ... "fat."

Well, she is heavier than the others, but ... watch as I prepare to rip Joni Edelman to shreds.

First, this must also mean that "Anger" is an attack on short people. In addition, since the Anger emotion for the character "Riley" is played by a guy, I guess Pixar was also saying that women's anger is unfeminine or something. Got it.

And, "Fear" looks awfully anorexic. Must be an attack on them there.

Plus, Anger is red, Sadness is blue. I guess there's a political message for today's America hidden somewhere?

And, of course, which even Edelman is compelled to mention, Sadness is different in other ways. She has what Edelman calls an "emo" haircut. She wears glasses.  Guess that's a huge bias.

She wears a turtleneck, for doorknob's sake! And, yes, Edelman actually latches on this, as though it's proof of nerd bias or something.

No, really:

Joy doesn't wear glasses. She probably had Lasik. Because she is probably also rich. Rich, white (well, white-ish) people are also joyous. And she gets to wear a cute little dress, which she probably bought at Nordstrom, while Sad is shrouded in what is probably an itchy-ass thrifted wool sweater. Maybe that's why she's named Sad.
Oh, they're all "white-ish."

What? Edelman's not bitching that none of Riley's emotions look like a stereotypical minority? (Rather, I think a legit bitch is that neither Riley nor her parents sound even close to native Minnesotan.)

Beyond that, Anger is about the same build as Sadness.

Finally, Edelman, aren't you promoting body-negativity yourself by fixating on Sadness' weight and other things and presuming that Pixar is sending a message? Hmm, maybe we need to create an Implicit Bias Project test for weight and see if you have a high degree of unconscious body negativity yourself.

Of course, when you say this near the start of the review:
I can't write with any real authority about Inside Out, because I haven't see the movie, but I'm pretty much 100% positive that seeing the movie isn't required to make this judgment.


Ahh, so we’re judging a book by a cover you invented and then straitjacketed on to it. Got it.

(Oh, and while I just read this by Edelman, I'm sure she is far from alone in social justice warrior land.)

On the surface, the New Yorker, in an opinion that sounds like Richard Brody is Woody Allen at a primal scream therapy session from the 1970s, sounds better.

But, in reality, his idea of introducing half a dozen additional emotions, along with, say, "existential angst," would kill "Inside Out" dead as a kids' movie. And, it might kill it dead as an adult movie for three-quarters of the adults who are seeing it for themselves. Beyond that, you would have had a 3-hour movie or more if Pixar had tried to go inside the brain of multiple people for the whole movie. (It DID, though, Brody, look briefly at least at Mom and Dad.)

On the other hand, I largely agree with his idea that it could have used more complexity. But, I would have made Riley 13 or 14 in that case, to put her in the post-puberty world. If we're going to re-engineer a movie plot, let's do it right.

I would have "shoehorned" one more emotion into the mix: Guilt. It's semi-core. (Jealousy and the others Brody mentions are generally not considered "core" emotions.)

He is right that Pixar movies can be insipid. But, if one wants an adult movie about complex adult emotions, a number already exists. "The Brothers Karamazov," on screen, comes immediately to mind.

Besides, there are some more subtle angles. This reviewer notes, as did I and surely many others, that Joy is a control freak and that the other four "Cores" also have personalities.

June 29, 2015

TX Progressives talk gay marriage, climate change, Obamacare

The Texas Progressive Alliance is still celebrating love's victory — and pondering Texas AG Ken Paxton's combination on that of political pandering with lack of backbone — as well as pondering what SCOTUS will do when it again rehears the Fisher vs. University of Texas affirmative action case, as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff discusses the next steps for equality advocates.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos shares personal stories about the heartbreaking impact of overt racism.  And though he has come to hate prejudice and racism with a white hot passion, Lightseeker said the time has finally arrived for sharing the truth, change and healing. Time for Truth, Change and Healing is NOW.

Lost in the earth-shaking Supreme Court developments last week was a report from a former Harris County deputy sheriff that Adrian Garcia did not tell the truth when he said he did not know about the mentally ill jail inmate in a littered, feces-filled cell over a year ago. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says it's a headache for the Houston mayoral contender, but shouldn't damage his prospects... unless things take a turn for the worse.

Socratic Gadfly notes that new polling from Yale shows that people concerned about global warming are NOT a minority, even in a red state like Texas, even to the point of supporting a carbon tax, and suggests there are political activism and outreach lessons to be learned.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. No surprise in SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare, ACA, aka, Obamacare Subsidies Upheld By SCOTUS.

Neil at All People Have Value said that the 14th Amendment--cited this week by the Supreme Court to allow gay marriage--is the product of blood and sacrifice. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texas Leftist is still trying to recover from this weekend's monumental Houston Pride celebration. Fair warning... What "turns up" must eventually come down.


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

Scott Braddock adds up the success rate for getting bills passed for legislators who opposed Speaker Joe Straus.

Texas Watch responds to Rick Perry's claims about his record on health care.

BEYONDBones explains why we should eat bugs. No, really.

Juanita Jean updates us on the activities of one of Dan Patricks's citizen advisors.

The Lunch Tray says we all have a Sid Miller problem now.

The Texas Election Law Blog highlights a respected federal judge's change of heart on voter ID.

Better Texas Blog evaluates the legislative session.

Paradise in Hell bids an un-fond farewell to the ideals of the Confederacy.

Lone Star Ma addresses some of the crazy objections that have been made to the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision.

(Blog publisher's note: I would be willing to try bugs if, per the blog post, they were made into flour or something — and presumably didn't have a Whole Foods-level pricetag on them.)