SocraticGadfly: 1/20/13 - 1/27/13

January 26, 2013

With death of #StanTheMan, who's now Mr. Cards, #StlCards fans?

Stan Musial / Baseball-Reference
Stanley Frank Musial was officially laid to rest today, of course, after fans had their chance for a fond public farewell on Thursday, as the city of St. Louis mourned not only its greatest sports icon ever, but, possibly its greatest icon ever, period

Per the inductees list of the St. Louis Walk of Fame, Marlin Perkins or Phyllis Diller might be the top challenger among people even older than me, though I met Marlin myself. People my age would probably tab Tina Turner at No. 1. A generation older yet, Charles Lindbergh is probably the only real competitor to Stan, but he spoiled that with his stubborn isolationism.

That said, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith, along with broadcaster Bob Costas, are also on the Walk.

Since Costas have moved beyond just the Cardinals, and wasn't a player, let's look at the other four.

Who's your vote for "Mr Cardinal"? Either on sentiment or estimation of popularity?

Lou Brock / Sports Illustrated
I rule out Red. In Musial's shadow, and at his age, even if fans anointed him, it would be a "caretaker" role.

Gibson still doesn't seem to have the glad-handing personality for a role like this.

I say that it's Brock's to lose for now, with the Wizard second. Not that anybody could fully replace Musial, of course.

But, expect Lou to make some golf cart trips in Busch the next postseason appearance for the Cards, which we hope is this year.

So cast your vote below! You even have the option of calling the idea sacrelige!

Free polls from
Who is or should be the new "Mr. Cardinal"?

Red   Bob Gibson   Lou Brock   Ozzie Smith   Sacrilege!     

January 25, 2013

#Stlcards — trade David Freese for C.C. Sabathia?

Hear me out on this one.

Yankee general manager Brian Cashman says A-Fraud, aka Alex Rodriguez, could be out the entire year. Wow. Kevin Youkilis won't hold up there a whole year, there's nobody of value on the free agent list and I'm sure the Yankee farm system is toast.

Food for thought ... Cards and David Freese are reportedly trying to work out a deal beyond arbitration for this year, to get Freese a second year under contract.

Here's a wild trade idea. If the Yankees will eat a fair amount of his salary .... Freese for C.C. Sabathia, straight up. It would give the Cards more flexibility in dealing with any new contract with Chris Carpenter, or with Adam Wainwright, for that matter, while their younger arms continue their development. And, I'd throw in one, maybe two, depending on who, of the Cards' pitching prospects.)

Robinson Cano doesn't have enough contract time left to make a good deal for the Cards. Ditto on Curtis Granderson and Hiroki Kuroda, since they're all free agents after this year. And, the Yankees don't have anybody else that I want.

As for dollar amounts on the "salary eating"? One-third of his total would be plenty. Pricing his contract ahead to out years, I might settle for one-quarter.

Why would the Yankees even consider this?

I'm taking Cashman at his word about cutting salary numbers. A low contract like Freese nails down 3B for a few years and gives him flexibility on resigning Cano and even making a run at resigning Granderson if the numbers are right.

But why Freese? Well, Youk was a desperation move. The Yankees are highly unlikely to bring him back in 2014. And, if you think Joe Girardi wants A-Rod doing much of anything besides DH-ing in 2014 ...

Does the US Senate 'pro forma' session need reforming?

I'm kind of two minds about this. Not sure whether it's more an abuse of power by the minority party in the Senate, or whether the DC Court of Appeals ruling is ultimately correct.

And, just what is that ruling?

The DC Circuit Court has ruled that multiple appointments President Barack Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board during a Senate recess were unconstitutional.
The Obama administration has repeatedly asserted that the appointments to the N.L.R.B. were legitimate because he made them when the Senate was away during a 20-day holiday recess a year ago. The appeals court strongly disagreed, ruling that the Senate was technically in session because it was gaveled in and out every few days as part of a tactic that created “pro forma” sessions. 
I don't know if SCOTUS will uphold the appellate court ruling or not, but this is a biggie on balance of powers issues.

More here from the LA Times; use "porn mode" to defeat the paywall as needed.
In Friday’s decision, Chief Judge David Sentelle ruled for the challengers and said a “recess” refers to the break when Congress formally adjourns after a two-year session.
“An interpretation of 'the Recess' that permits the President to decide when the Senate is in recess would demolish the checks and balances inherent in the advice-and-consent requirement, giving the President free rein to appoint his desired nominees at any time he pleases, whether that time be a weekend, lunch, or even when the Senate is in session and he is merely displeased with its inaction. This cannot be the law,” said Sentelle, an appointee of President Reagan. He was joined by Judges Karen Henderson and Thomas Griffith, who are also Republican appointees.
The big question is, which is not clear, is will the appellate court ruling, if it stands, invalidate the NLRB rulings made since the most recent recess appointments? If it does, then we damn well better have some liberal groups suing over every Bush-era recess appointment, too.

Yes, that would be boatloads of chaos, but, better that than letting a one-sided ruling stand.

This is clearly an act of conservative judicial activism, otherwise.

January 24, 2013

Raise your hand if you thought Harry Reid had balls

Instead of passing pseudo-filibuster reform.

If your hand was raised, you probably think Dear Leader is actually going to do all that gun control stuff, and that Lanny Breuer's replacement will actually crack down on the banksters. (Tough hires at the SEC may look great, but that's just civil enforcement, folks.)

 Enjoy two more years of incremental neoliberalism!

Meanwhile, the "pro forma" Senate session may need as much reforming as the filibuster which Harry Reid pretended to touch. I don't know if SCOTUS will uphold the appellate court ruling or not, but this is a biggie on balance of powers issues. (More here from the LA Times; use "porn mode" to defeat the paywall as needed.)

The big question is, which is not clear, is will the appellate court ruling, if it stands, invalidate the NLRB rulings made since the most recent recess appointments? If it does, then we damn well better have some liberal groups suing over every Bush-era recess appointment, too.

Yes, that would be boatloads of chaos, but, better that than letting a one-sided ruling stand.

January 23, 2013

Are we seeing the end of a Fourth Great Awakening?

Per discussion with friends on Facebook, over the book "The Rocks Don't Lie," I'd say the answer is yes. (Partial review of the book below, followed by a jump into discussion.)

The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood
The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood by David R. Montgomery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A genial refutation of young-earth creationism

Montgomery generally keeps this story about how the earth's geology refutes any version of a literal Noahic flood light on detailed scientific language. And, it is written as a story.

He takes the reader to various geological formations in the world thatr have been key to the development of geology as a science, while narrating how key figures from geology's history have studied and analyzed such formations. At the same time, he narrates the history of Christian theological thought on literal vs non-literal biblical interpretation in general, and specifically on the Noahic flood. He intertwines the two in discussing how different strands of Christian thought reacted to these scientific findings.

Basically, by the end of the 19th century, a literal or semi-literal young-earth creationism (if not 10,000 years or less, certainly no more than 100,000 years) had fallen out of favor with the great majority of theologians in most of the Western world.

With the exception of the United States.

Montgomery puts YEC developments in the historic context of:
1. Anti-evolutionism and the Scopes trial of the 1920s and
2. Anti-communism and the Cold War, etc., of the late 1940s and beyond.

As talk of "culture wars" continues, and as Montgomery stretches YEC roots back to the Second Great Awakening, this is good to remember.

And now, to tie this to a "Fourth Great Awakening."

First, unlike the First Great Awakening. the Second Great Awakening, or the Third Great Awakening, this "Fourth Great Awakening" has a much more political component.

To explain, for people not very familiar with the history of Christianity in America:

The First Great Awakening was Jonathan Edwards, and others, attempting to revitalize the Puritan Calivinist beliefs of New England and the Middle Atlantic colonies in the first half of the 1700s. It was also was intertwined with the growth of Methodism and Baptist denominations. The Second started to battle deism and skepticism, and at its tail end, was connected to the start of sects such as Mormonism and Seventh-Day Adventism. The Third was connected with the late 19th century Social Gospel and reform movements such as the temperance issue.

The First one may have had some connection to the American Revolution; Wiki's entry claims that, but I think it overstates the case. The Second spawned the short-lived Anti-Masonic Party, but was not directly connected to abolitionism. The Third  (I partially accept there was one, but definite more narrowly in time than Wiki) had a bit of a political angle, more in the "Social Gospel" of mainline Protestantism, though, than in the rising Holiness Movement. was a bit more political, but not extremely so.

I also accept the idea of a Fourth Great Awakening, but while I disagree with Wiki that its timeframe for the Third is too long, I think it's too short for the Fourth.

The Fourth relates to the rise of literalism in biblical interpretation and much more. It's definitely the most anti-intellectual of the Great Awakenings.

Evidence for one starting includes that the National Council of Churches "peaked" in the late 50s/early 60s, mainline Protestantism had clergy/laity separating more at that time, and fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism grew rapidly.

That said, previous "Great Awakenings" shot their Roman candle in 35-45 years, really. (Which is part of why I think Wiki is too long on the Third and too short on the Fourth.)  So ... W's two elections aside, is the Third Awakening pretty much dying? And, does that in part explain some of the vitriol? Angry death spasms?

We're at about the right time frame. Each previous Great Awakening died differently.

The First petered out, as much as anything. The fervor of the Second got a nurture in sects such as Mormonism, Adventism, etc., that got new life in the Third, which also faced American industrialization.

The Fourth had a start, if you will, and was almost stillborn, in the Scopes trial. Not all conservative Christians were young-earth creationists, and so, while they may not have been fully reconciled to Darwinian ideas about evolution, many probably could have halfway accepted a "tamer" version of evolution if combined with old-earth creationism.

But, the Second Red Scare ( the first being after World War I) changed everything. But not by itself. The Civil Rights Movement added a "second stage" to this rocket. (Although black megachurches have grown recently, the Fourth Great Awakening is much more a white Christian phenomenon.)

Because the Fourth Great Awakening tied with this, not just the Second Red Square, it naturally became more political. Non-Catholic parochial schools, battles over school prayer, tax exemptions and more, as well as political appeals, both open and coded, by both Democrats and Republicans, became part of this.

But, now, has it shot its bolt?

It may have. One sign? Per a new Wall Street Journal poll, almost 70 percent of Americans want to keep Roe v. Wade. Gay relationships, if not gay marriage, are also getting more support among centrist Americans.

That said, as I noted, the First Great Awakening pretty much faded out. The Second created the "burned over district," but eventually died down smoothly enough. The Third definitely faded out, after the passage of Prohibition and the fading of political Progressivism.

I don't think the Fourth will end the same way. To riff on T.S. Eliot, if it doesn't end with a bang instead of a whimper, its demise will be more emotionally violent. And, because it's more political, that emotionally violent denouement, which I believe we're seeing now, will have political fallout which none of us can probably fully see at this time.

That depends in part on how much the Democratic party tries to stay progressive on social issues while remaining conservative on financial ones, and even more if some conservative Christian laity become disgusted with a Republican party that panders even more to the rich.

Could we see the Constitution party, which is the closest thing the US has to a Religious Right party, move more fully that way?

It wouldn't surprise me. If a Ron Paul type were to temper his financial libertarianism with a heavier dollop of William Jennings Bryan type populism, that person could indeed lead such a "movement."

If we had parliamentary government, this would be a no-brainer. That said, countries like France, which has a modified presidential-parliamentary hybrid, but more power with the president than the leader of parliament, have multiparty government. The problem here in the US is, of course, the Electoral College system. One could have a spectrum of parties in Congress without it, and lesser parties focusing on Congressional elections.

New terrm, same Obama, same love for #banksters

If you didn't want last night's Frontline on Dear Leader's abysmal failure to pursue criminal actions against the too big to indict banksters, you need to. You'll learn about just how much in the tank the Neoliberal-in-Chief was been during his entire first term.

Go to Frontline now. It's one of the best, hardest hitting episodes I've seen of PBS's investigative journalism program.

In the meantime, here's a good summary from Salon. Not only is it a good summary, you'll learn yet new information at the end of it about how Obama is not only in the tank to the banksters, but, how he personally is petulant and thin-skinned.

Wake up, folks. Vernon Jordan took him on a dog-and-pony show before a bunch of Wall Streeters way back in 2003 for their USDA Prime seal of approval. (He got it.)

Also, don't forget Obama's even more special relationship to one bankster. Dear Leader has at least $500,000 reasons to "show his gratitude" to Dimon and JPMorgan.

The thin skinned and petulant's not at all a shock to me, but to those of you who think the "constitutional law scholar" actually is one, perhaps you still need some enlightenment, as documented at the end of this post. And, it's there indeed, trust me.

Note first this pair of grafs, though:
The piece by PBS reporter Martin Smith looks at how Obama has driven federal prosecutions of financial crimes down to a two-decade low. ...

In the single most damning part of the PBS report, we learn that Breuer, fresh off a lucrative stint defending Moody’s and Halliburton, was appointed by President Obama to head the Justice Department’s criminal enforcement division and was soon sculpting this unprecedented ideology and embedding it into the department’s mission.
Followed by this:
PBS reporter Martin Smith just reported that in response to his report, the Obama White House has decided to block access to Frontline reporters in their future reporting.
If you're still puffing on that Inaugural Address fattie, put it down, wake up, and smell the neoliberal coffee, dammit.

Oh, and to riff on Ronald Reagan (Obama's hero) in 1990, about Mr. Breen and microphones, since PBS gets my (and your) tax dollars?

"Mr. Obama, I paid for that microphone."

Waco mayor calls Rick Perry, GOP Texas Lege morons

Well,. not in so many words, no.

But, that's the implication of what Malcolm Duncan Jr. said about them at a Waco-area town hall meeting, if the state rejects the Medicaid expansion portion of Obamacare:
Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. said that if Texas rejects the money, the uninsured will continue to get medical treatment at local emergency rooms, and somebody pays for that.

“The thing I keep coming back to is that care happens no matter what,” he said. “But if it’s uncompensated care, we all end up paying for it . . . through increased premiums on private health plans.”
It's like the GOP's old "we have national health care, just visit your hospital ER" nonsense.

And, local leaders were grilling their Austin representatives, too:
County Judge Scott Felton, who also favors the Medicaid expansion, asked for the opinions of State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, and state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury.

Both expressed reservations about accepting the federal money, arguing that it could have strings attached. The dialogue was cut short when Duncan noted that the meeting was not posted for public comment, but he said the discussion should continue.
Good to know that Waco leaders, while representing a conservative area, aren't idiots.

Texas legal blog Grits for breakfast has more on this and jail issues for the mentally ill.

#BrianDunning, #pseudoskeptic partner of #MichaelSherner, pseudoskeptic

Michael Shermer
Both Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, and Brian Dunning, a regular contributor to its blog, have pseudoskeptical  issues.

First, both regularly conflate libertarian politics and political philosophy with skepticism. Think John Stossel playing a skeptical poseur, especially with Dunning, who strikes me as just one step removed from a snake oil salesperson.

Second, in other cases, it goes beyond that. If it were only that, the conflation, it would be no big deal. But, it IS more than that, and it's harmful to the image of skepticism.

Brian Dunning via his website
Dunning is "great" at setting up straw men. Take this post on the Skeptic blog, where he claims, "I'm Not in the Pay of ('Big Whatever')."

Problem is, his critics, like me, and Max, who regularly slap him around, have not claimed he's in the pay of Big Oil, Big Pharma or whatever. That's a total straw man.

On his own blog, he does the same, with SUVs, for example.

Here's this:
Based in part on these generalizations, many so-called environmentalist groups have been lobbying, often successfully, for laws against SUV's.
No URLs linking to any alleged "laws against SUVs." Just an undefended statement.

Followed by this:
The vast majority of so-called SUV's are mechanically identical to conventional cars.
As proof, he lists a whole number of Japanese car-frame SUVs without a single US-made truck-frame SUV listed.

With deceptiveness like this, it's no wonder he faces both civil and criminal fraud charges for alleged Internet cookie stuffing schemes.

Shermer, meanwhile, has now joined Sam Harris as clearly being in the realms of "scientism" by claiming that the issue of confusing "is" and "ought" as first identified by David Hume is a fallacy.

First, as Massimo Pigliucci puts it in a great takedown, even if Shermer were right to raise some issues, it's not a logical fallacy.

Next, Shermer, who's not even a scientist, joins in the call for science to take over addressing issues such as morals and ethics, claiming philosophy is dead.

Of course, beyond wrongly trying to make science an absolute arbiter of morals (and other issues better addressed by philosophy), Shermer doesn't have much of a moral leg to stand on himself.

He has had two known racialists, Frank Miele and the recently deceased Vince Sarich, on the masthead of Skeptic magazine.

The two co-wrote "Race," a horrible racialist book which believes the different races are subspecies headed toward speciation, ignores the cultural background of IQ tests and much more, as I note in this review. A sampling:
On page 1, the authors misinterpret a Lincoln quote about the difference between races, and infer that, rather than talking about the sociologocial fallouts from a clearly perceived difference in skin colors, Lincoln was talking about deeper differences in physical attributes. ...

Page 9 - Going with their unproven -- and logically fallacious idea-generating -- 50,000 year date for the evolution of modern Homo sapiens, Miele and Sarich then use this to bootstrap their own arguments about the degree of difference between races, claiming this shows how rapidly human evolution can progress. It's clear circular reasoning based on an already assumed point of view.

Pages 9-10 have a laughably racist "genetic" rather than sociological assumption of evidence for various types of athletic prowess. ...

And, the piece de resistance on page 10 -- the "mean sub-Saharan African IQ of 70." All together, now, can we say Bell Curve?
How bad is it, and are/were they? They're both associates of A-grade racialist Philippe Rushton. With Rushton, at least, I am comfortable with removing the second syllable from the word "racialism."

This type of "thinking" and much more is why I 1-starred Shermer's "The Believing Brain." Among other nuttery of Shermer's, he believes in a Ray Kurzweil-type "singularity." (That's why I just "looooove" libertarians who call socialists "utopian." Shoe pinching, Shermer?)

And, why a mag like Scientific American, even though it has gone downhill in general in the last decade, IMO, gives a Shermer blog space ...

January 22, 2013

Did Obama set a new progressive agenda? (Updated)

So claims BuzzFeed, in part based on these quotes:
"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," Obama said, going farther than ever before in support for gay marriage.  

"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," Obama said. "Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms."
And, pre-Inauguration, his list of executive actions on gun control.

Well, pardon me if I hold my breath until we see action, not words.

Will the Obama Department of Justice file an amicus brief when gay marriage hits the Supreme Court? If not, how will he explain himself?

Will he propose climate legislation, and do it smartly by starting with the Senate? And, who will replace Lisa Jackson at EPA and Kenny Boy Salazar at Interior? Those two Cabinet positions will be clear "tells." So will be any split in reaction to them between more conservative, establishmentarian "Gang Green" environmental groups and more aggressive ones like the Center for Biological Diversity. And, no, just because he spoke a lot about climate change doesn't mean he will be able to get much done, or even try to.

On gun control, in case you've not read what I've already written, here's a summary:
1. He never hired someone to run ATF, a vacancy he inherited from Bush;
2. He's prosecuted 1/10 of 1 percent of gun purchase violations;
3. Getting CDC, NIMH, etc. to look at mental health/gun violence connections requires money. Unless Obama wants to redistribute the current budgetary pie for those agencies, money requires Congressional action.

On voting rights, the real action would be to nationalize voting laws, at least for federal-level offices. States would have to adjust laws for state-level offices rather than have dual ballots. Combine that with giving the Federal Elections Commission more powers. Then, nationalize the Voting Rights Act. It placates Southerners, addresses discrimination against American Indians and Hispanics outside the South, addresses GOP-controlled Northern states attempts at inner city anti-black voter discrimination and more.

Are you holding your breath over anything even close to that?

So, while not to put too much a damper on dyed-in-the-wool Democrats' parties, I'm not holding my breath. This man has had more liberal yearnings psychologically projected on him, and in my opinion undeservedly so, than anybody since Jack Kennedy. If only Chris Hitchens were still alive, and still alive without having jumped headfirst into the shallow waters of neoconservativism, he could be writing away.

So, if "speak" = "set" then Obama (although he didn't mention gun control today) theoretically set a a new progressive agenda. But, since he referred to "We the People" enough, let's look at the paragraph, the prologue to the Constitution, that made those words famous:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
See all those "action" verbs? None of them is about "speaking."

And, via another blog, the whole speech is here. Kind of panders to Lincolnisms, doesn't it? On the written word, it looks kind of ... long, too.

Finally, as a secularist, one who has noted Obama's occasional references to secularism in the past, but also his religion-only moral compass at times like his post-Newtown speech, I find the speech is a bit God-heavy. Five references, and with the male pronoun after the last one, all clearly aimed at the traditional (Judeo fig leaf)-Christian one.

Update, Jan. 22: Per White House spokesman Jay Carney, Dear Leader, aka Compromiser-in-Chief, is already backpedaling.
(I)n the White House briefing room a day later, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said he couldn't speculate about future actions. He said that while climate change was a priority for the president, "it is not a singular priority."

On gay rights, the president had declared that the nation's journey is "not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

But Carney said the president was speaking about his personal views and would not take federal action on same-sex marriage, which he continues to see as a state issue.
So, get a clue, Obamiacs.

There will be NO amicus brief in the Proposition 8 case. Other than playing around the edges, there will be no new actions on climate change and global warming. (Nor on other environmental issues, sadly, including no wilderness designation in an area around Canyonlands National Park that really needs it.) There will be no requests for Congressional funding for any of his so-called "executive actions" on gun control that need money.

Beyond that, the address had nothing about trade issues, nothing about financial regulation issues, basically nothing about economic liberalism.

Besides, Harry Reid has no balls and won't get any real Senate filibuster reform, despite his claims.

Texas Lege — any new school funding will be for armed guards?

John Whitmire
Reportedly, the Texas Senate may consider a proposal to let school districts create a separate section of their budgetary pie just for security issues, rather than having to fund that out of maintenance funds.

And, shock me that John Whitmire, a Democrat who has rarely met a Republican idea he didn't like, is one of the two senators honchoing it, along with fellow Houstonian Tommy Williams.

The proposal would allow local districts to hold local option elections for this dedicated funding, too, if they're not capped out. Beyond that, while this proposal has no state funding attached, it doesn't preclude that coming down the pike, Williams said.

And, of course, they ignore school shootings like Columbine that undercut their narrative:
"I believe this proposal is a Texas solution that will save lives without sacrificing our freedom," he said. 

But, there's the  "freedom" word. We already have students arrested and in court for truancy. How long before districts use armed security guards for this, too?

Gay marriage ≠ more single moms (without abortion) #Roe40

That equation in the header is very true .... unless you're a wingnut!

Slate has the details:
In 2009, Maggie Gallagher observed in the National Review that in the preceding five years, the increase in nonmarital births “had resumed its inexorable rise.” She then speculated, “Is it mere coincidence that this resurgence in illegitimacy happened during the five years in which gay marriage has become (not thanks to me or my choice) the most prominent marriage issue in America—and the one marriage idea endorsed by the tastemakers to the young in particular?”
Maggie Gallagher needs her some high school biology remedial classroom work.  I guess that wingnut fear of evolution, along with that wingnut fear of anything but abstinence-only for sex ed, really has produced ignorance.

The first time two lesbian women or two gay men produce a baby, Maggie, you be sure to call. While you're at the mysteries of human reproductive biology, why don't you call Sarah Palin about Trigg? Oh, contra Andrew Sullivan's rabbit hole (and that's why I wouldn't pay for his blog reading, among many other reasons), I'm sure Sarah's the mom, but I'm also pretty damned sure Todd's not the dad. Bristol didn't fall far from the tree with Levi Johnson, you know? Ditto on son Track.

And, so, red states, because parents refuse to talk about sex at home and let their kids learn about the realities of life at school (hey, 150 years ago, in Victorian Scotland, 1/3 of women were pregnant on their wedding day), more red state girls get pregnant young and continue cycles of dysfunction.

Oh Roe v Wade's 40th — A few basic truths about abortion

Here's a few basic truths to note on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court legalizing abortion.

1. It's been around for more than 2,500 years, as this excellent column details, including the lengths to which women have gone in the past.

2. Seventy percent of people in the US favor keeping abortion legal, at least to some degree. And, that's from the Wall Street Journal, not any liberal website.

3. Not all versions of the Hippocratic Oath have the line about how doctors shouldn't give women abortifactant potions, and we don't know which version is the original, for sure.

4. Abortion in the US only became a big legal issue when almost entirely male doctors started taking over more of the birth oversight process from female midwives in the middle of the 19th century.

5. The Bible says nothing about abortion. One passage in the Old Testament is purely about a man assaulting a pregnant woman and causing her to miscarry. The fine amount involved is less than that for killing an adult slave. The New Testament says nothing, period. Per Note 1, abortion was around already when that Old Testament passage was written.

That said ...

Were the abortion issue not so polarized on both sides, and my lay legal mind didn't say that Roe was somewhat poorly decided, I would favor a bimester instead of trimester system, with Medicaid funding and the full nine yards in the first bimester, but state-level third trimester restrictions, and maybe more than now, covering the second bimester. And, Medicaid would cover more money for prenatal care for women wanting to take their babies to term. And, we'd provide more help for those women who wanted to keep their babies, rather than being guilt-tripped as well as poverty-trapped into putting them up for abortion.

Right-to-lifers, if you're really right to life, you'd support that, and more. You'd also be realistic about human sexuality (one-third of women in Victorian Scotland were pregnant on their wedding days, so this is nothing new) and support birth control availability, counseling, etc. as well. 

And, you have to accept that, if you don't, the result is more single moms, even among your own red-state Christian offspring. (And, blaming gay marriage for the rise in illegitimacy? Someone needs a high school biology class.) 

January 20, 2013

Dennett has new thoughts,still won't reject computational theory of mind

Dan Dennett/Edge magazine photo
Philosopher Dan Dennett has a very interesting interview in Edge.

Key takeaway? He junks a fair amount of what he's said in the past about the details of how the mind/brain is like a computer, 


Still holds fast to the analogy that it's ... like a computer! Even though he admits that the details of this comparison or analogy simply are weak to nonexistent.

Let's look at some comments:
We're beginning to come to grips with the idea that your brain is not this well-organized hierarchical control system where everything is in order, a very dramatic vision of bureaucracy. In fact, it's much more like anarchy with some elements of democracy.  ...

The vision of the brain as a computer, which I still champion, is changing so fast. The brain's a computer, but it's so different from any computer that you're used to. It's not like your desktop or your laptop at all, and it's not like your iPhone except in some ways. ...

Control is the real key, and you begin to realize that control in brains is very different from control in computers. Control in your commercial computer is very much a carefully designed top-down thing.  I mean, with all that, there's no need to hang on to his analogy.  
I guess he simply can't admit it's a crappy analogy that just doesn't work, and walk away from it.

Because it was a crappy analogy a decade ago,. and it's in tatters now. (Ditto for his claim that evolution is algorithmic.) It's nonsensical. Yes, Dan Dennett, it's nonsensical. How can you analogize to something that nobody is used to? Especially since what we understand as a "computer" may never be like that?

That said, per the sentence in parentheses, I suspect it's all about the algorithms. He still wants to believe the human mind, like evolution by natural selection, is algorithmic. And, he's not even wrong, per Wolfgang Pauli.

This is also an example where Dennett should look in the mirror any time he uses the phrase "greedy reductionist."

That said, it's not all hubris in the interview. Dennett admits his new ideas (and it's nice to hear him have some) are speculative enough he'd "be thrilled if they're 20 percent right." And, his comments about brain plasticity, findings that maternal and paternal  inheritance genes in our cells may "war" much more than previously thought, are refreshing. 

At the same time, there IS hubris in other ways. His admissions of plasticity in the brain, combined with the "20 percent correct," should lead him to say that cognitive science, and related things such as artificial intelligence, may have advanced from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in the last decade, but that's where they are and no further.'

Also unfortunately, his new ideas don't appear to extend to free will.

At the same time, though, the last section, about hypocrites in the pulpit, is great.

He's not talking about moral hypcrites, but unbelieving hypocrites in conservative Christian denominations. This is a follow-up to surveys and other work he and others have recently done.

Here's a sample:
How do they thread the needle so that they don't offend the sophisticates in their congregation by insisting on the literal truth of the book of Genesis, let's say, while still not scaring, betraying, pulling the rug out from under the more naïve and literal-minded of their parishioners? There's no good solution to that problem as far as we can see, since they have this unspoken rule that they should not upset, undo, subvert the faith of anybody in the church.
This means that there's a sort of enforced hypocrisy where the pastors speak from the pulpit quite literally, and if you weren't listening very carefully, you’d think: oh my gosh, this person really believes all this stuff. But they're putting in just enough hints for the sophisticates in the congregation so that the sophisticates are supposed to understand: Oh, no. This is all just symbolic. This is all just metaphorical. And that's the way they want it, but of course, they could never admit it. You couldn't put a little neon sign up over the pulpit that says, "Just metaphor, folks, just metaphor." It would destroy the whole thing. 
From personal experience with my own "coming out," I know how true this is. I also know that many agnostics or atheists in the pulpit have become wedded to the money. If you're the pastor, or senior pastor, of a decent-sized church in a mainline Protestant denomination, your total salary and benefits can easily be, say, 35-65 percent greater than that of a school teacher with comparative experience.

I just couldn't do that. And so, I'm schlepping on community newspaper editor salary, in a profession struggling even more than mainline Christianity. But, struggle it is; it's not just Catholic parishes going without priests, etc.

Anyway, that's good stuff to end on. Go read it.