July 05, 2014

#WendyDavis vs national Democrats: liability or jealousy the issue?

Texas Democrats, usually because, in statewide races, they're trying to be even more Republican-lite than national Democrats, tend not to cozy up to national Democrats coming to the state.

Bill White, in his 2010 gubernatorial bid, avoided Obama like the plague. Yes, Obama handled the post-passage politics of Obamacare horribly. But, given the bumbling, inept, sizzle-free campaign White was running, he had nothing to lose.

More puzzling yet is this year's gubernatorial Galahad, Wendy Davis, uninviting national Democrats from speaking at the state convention.

As noted by the Texas Observer, Hillary Clinton, Kristen Gillibrand and Joe Biden all carry sizzle in numbers. And with Davis launched to fame on an issue close to many liberal women, reproductive choice, why, why, why wouldn't she have wanted either of the first two, especially.

Here, I partially disagree with the Observer.

With Davis, I'm thinking jealousy and/or control issues were part of the decision, too. Neither would surprise me, which is probably part of why I'm thinking they were part of the issue.

And, here's the problem with that: it affected Leticia Van de Putte and other downballot candidates in general and women in particular, in all likelihood.

And, it's selfish.

Here's the deal.

The Texas Democratic Party is not exactly the same as the Democratic National Committee.

It's the Democratic party for the whole state, not just the gubernatorial candidate. The guv is relatively weaker, compared to the constellation of other elected officials, than the president is at the federal level. Plus there's no state-level equivalent of the DCCC or the DSCC. The TDP is the primary support arm for lower-level statewide races, and state house and senate races, too.

Perry's got a lot more take on this issue, which arguably is kind of backfiring, because now, one of the biggest items of news out of the Dems' convention, at least among inside baseball types, is the uninvites.

As for Davis' fear of tackling the abortion issue, with "Abortion Barbie" out there? The Trib says that she probably has a majority of voters who agree with her overall stance.

Ted at Jobsanger also weighs in. He doesn't think it's jealously, but doesn't agree with Camp Davis that national Dems are a liability. Rather, he says the problem remains potential Texas Dems who won't vote, and that dissing the nationals won't change that one bit.

In Ted's favor (although his POV and mine aren't mutually exclusive) is this piece, showing just how much "political bystanders" are concentrated among young Hispanics.

July 04, 2014

Government and pursuit of happiness — #ThomasJefferson vs #DavidBarton

For addition of a period, the meaning has changed.
Has a misplaced period in one of America's founding documents led to a misunderstanding of Thomas Jefferson and his thoughts on the role of government?

Very possibly so, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, affiliated with Princeton University.

Here's how one of the most iconic passages in the Declaration of Independence normally reads, with the punctuation mark in question included:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
See that period right after "the pursuit of Happiness"? That's what's at question and, according to Allen, not part of Jefferson's original hand.

OK, we take it out. So, what does that do?

According to another story, this:
Allen ... argues that Thomas Jefferson intended to emphasize the second part of this passage — the role of the government — equally with the individual rights in the first part. Instead, with the period in place, there's an implied hierarchy. So you can begin to see how one little punctuation mark's presence or absence could become the subject of heated debate among those who have strong opinions about the role of government as it concerns individual liberty.

In fact, she's written a book on the issue. And, has some strong arguments. Typologically, given that a comma appears after the first "that" clause, just before the second em-dash, and that other historians of the period think that if there's any punctuation mark after "pursuit of Happiness," it's a comma, not a period, she's not alone.

Besides, sentences don't begin with "That."

As for non-wingnut objections to the idea?

First, it doesn't matter that Jefferson was one of five people on a committee drafting the Declaration of Independence. What matters is he was the one writing it.

There's a reason that word is boldfaced.

The Declaration is NOT a "modern" document like an Obama State of the Union address. It's a manuscript in the narrow etypmological version. It's something written by hand, and Thomas Jefferson didn't pass the pen to Ben Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, or Robert Livingston, his fellow members of the Committee of Five.

Beyond that, as the top link notes, beyond my form-critical note about sentences not beginning with "That," this is a textual criticism issue. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, about which I recently read a great critical book about its manuscript history, comes to mind.

So, too, do Plato, Homer, the Bible, etc. This is a text-critical issue. And, with a graduate divinity degree and a class in textual criticism, I'm familiar with issues like this.

Given that the National Archives "engrossed" or Matlack copy is illegible, it's hard to appeal to that. Per the Times piece, and per common text-critical issues, it's very possible that the Stone 1823 copperplate added a period working off, to analogize with the Greek New Testament, the "Textus Receptus" at hand.

Also per the story, Allen has other historians who agree, including others that have a background in textual criticism and manuscript issues.

That all said, we do have parallels in the study of other ancient manuscripts to what would have happened had Jefferson handed the quill pen to somebody else. Paul, at the end of one of his letters, says, "Look at the big marks I make with my own hand," implying everything else had been dictated to a scribe. (Sidebar: It makes one wonder how much of the claim Paul was a Pharisee of academic training actually is true; given that it's only in Acts, not in Philippians, itself of doubtful authenticity to a few scholars, this almost certainly isn't true, the academic part. But then, was he a Pharisee at all? I'll stop, before digressing too much.) Or, in a manuscript of the Gospels, we'll see how a second "hand" edits what (he thinks) is a mistake in the original.

But, we have none of that here. Nobody's ever suggested that the version at the Archives is based on multiple "hands" being on the document Matlack used.

To wit:
The period does not appear in Jefferson’s so-called original rough draft (held in the Library of Congress), or in the broadside that Congress ordered from the Philadelphia printer John Dunlap on July 4. It also does not appear in the version that was copied into Congress’s official records, known as its “corrected journal,” in mid-July.
So, there you go. 

These issues of textual criticism are well illustrated by the history of composition of the Gettyburg Address, delineated very well in this new book.

Now, back to, using biblical studies analogies, "higher criticism" of the passage with a comma, not a period. And thus, sometimes my "wasted" professional degree is not wasted.

Does it make the language flow that much differently? I say yes. I think she's still stretching her argument somewhat, but not fully.

The Jefferson of 1776 was certainly not the states rightist of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions a full two decades later. He would surely, still, have a belief in a somewhat limited government, but, we do know that he feared a strong central government because he thought it would overly boost the power of manufacturing interests — and, indirectly, financiers.

So, at a minimum, this undercuts the Jefferson as portrayed by libertarian wingnuts who want to move him halfway to Ayn Rand, or Religious Right wingnuts like David Barton who want to make him into a small-government zealot so as to undercut his "wall of separation" comments on church-state separation.

As for claims that Jefferson is misinterpreted, as Barton likes to state? Wikipedia shows that it's more complex than that. Our history shows that our founding fathers made a number of other compromises, though they held ideals in mind. Note slavery. Setting aside the inconsistent, then hardening, Jefferson, we know Ben Franklin's involvement in abolition, yet his signing off on the Constitution.

Some people interested in history may say, but, "It's the 'official' copy of the Declaration of Independence! Surely Jefferson would have corrected it."

Well, this gets back to how much difference the comma vs. period has. More precisely, it gets back to the perceived degree of difference back then, not today.

At the first Census, in 1790, we were a widely scattered nation of just 4 million people with no faster means of communication than horseback or sailing vessel. And, even in Britain, let alone America, government remained fairly small relative to the populace. So much the more, in a more open, more loosely-run nation here.

So, the difference wasn't nearly as much in a pre-electronic communication world of 4 million vs. a wired, big government world of 315 million.

A second reason Thomas Jefferson didn't run to correct Matlack? That's per John Adams famous mis-guesstimate about July 2 being "the day," not July 4, as Adams expected future Americans, if such a country survived, would be celebrating the day we declared our independence, not the day Congress approved the document stating why we had declared that independence. A month later, as long as Matlack didn't refer to George II instead of George III, nobody was that concerned. By the time of the 1823 copperplate, I'm pretty sure Adams, Jefferson and Charles Carroll were the only three Signers alive and nobody thought to check.

Third, given the military events of the next 18 months in the middle colonies, the Declarational Founders had little time to worry about what was surely very low on their priorities list. They were trying to escape capture by Gen. Howe, squabbling over who should have precedence in the mission to Versailles, trying to figure out how to pay for that French weaponry and much more.

In other words, to riff from the Declaration to the Constitution, and to kick one of David Barton's fellow travelers, Constitutional originalist Nino Scalia, right in the nuts, nobody was performing biblolatry on the Declaration of Independence between 1776 and 1823.

And, what you saw in the last five paragraphs above, if you include the snarky last one, was the equivalent of "historical criticism" or "higher criticism" in biblical studies, properly connecting with textual criticism.

And I do appreciate some comment on Facebook which led me to the last one-third of this post, to spell out these issues.

July 03, 2014

Summer rain in Texas; no prayer from Rick Perry — coincidence?

Rain? In the middle of Texas? In July? In significant amounts? With no hurricane or tropical storm in the mix?

"It's a miracle," right?

But, have you noticed that Gov. Helmethair hasn't been offering up prayers for rain, or encouraging his fellow Texans to do so, any time recently, unlike his actions three years ago, which were a huge failure. So much a failure that, at the evangelical wingnut "Response" event, risk and all, he decided to double down on his stupid, which led me to compare him to the false prophets of Baal in their rain-prayer battle with Elijah.

So, Rick Perry stopped praying in public for rain, actually, what, a few months ago, and May and June were above normal?

Coincidence? I think NOT!

Wait, wait, I have it.

He's praying to beat the grand jury rap on a possible felony indictment. (Feel free to vote in the poll at right.)

Hey, Rick, if that's the case? Given your strikeout percentage, somebody else should do the praying.

#Libertarians trade fear of possible #tyranny for increase of actual tyrrany

I recently interviewed a Libertarian Party candidate for statewide office. While I certainly agree with small-l libertarians, and to fair degree the party on many social issues (gay marriage, at least decriminalization of marijuana and ending the "War on Drugs" in general, and because of the first issue and reproductive choice, know that neither Rand nor Ron Paul are libertarians), we definitely part ways on regulatory issues, what are essential needs from our government, economic ideas and more.

Said statewide candidate raised the fears of government tyranny, a police state, and the need for possible nullification of allegedly unconstitutional laws. While I disagree with both Obama and Bush on warrantless wiretapping, even while matters related to that slowly work their way through the court system, and personally believe some of those actions have been unconstitutional, that's not what libertarians, or even more, Libertarians, are talking about.

For them, basically any environmental, economic, health or safety regulation is "unconstitutional."

And, in this belief, they've exchanged the fear of one tyranny for the growing actuality of another.

I've often said of the two biggest dystopian political novels of the 20th century, "Brave New World" is far more prescient than "1984." Even thought control, the bane of the latter book, is more likely to come from the corporate world than the government today. We just need to change "Ford" to "Google" or similar in Huxley's novel. (That also shows that individual businesses can sometimes "date" themselves.)

Ever since the first, 1976 Buckley v. Vallejo Supreme Court ruling on political campaign contribution money being "free speech," through Citizens United and now McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, we have a majority of the Supreme Court willingly and blindly turning an eye to how plutocratic companies, the plutocratic CEOs who run them, the plutocratic lobbyists they send into battle, the plutocratic think tanks they fund, and the plutocratic-fearing Members of Congress they buy off corrupt our political system, and from that, our social and economic system. (And, once again, folks, this is why Glenn Greenwald is NOT a liberal. He supported Citizens United, and by his silence, supports McCutcheon.)

And libertarians, let alone the greater wingnuts of the Party, think even less regulation of this, and more money sloshing through the system, will help John and Jane Doe on Main Street? Tosh. Wall Street cares nothing for Main Street unless it gets on the same lobbying bus. Libertarians claiming they have answers for small-town America?

I suppose this statewide Texas Libertarian candidate would like to see even less than the already-inadequate regulations that let an ammonium nitrate fertilizer plant turn West, Texas, into a giant, horrific, bloody Roman candle.

So, small-town Texans? If you run into a Libertarian candidate, just ask them how they feel about regulating fertilizer sites.

Meanwhile, let's look at the fears of alleged tyranny from the federal government that have Glass all worked into a lather, per her campaign positions, and deconstruct them.
★     Nullification: Nullify unconstitutional federal acts like EPA, Obamacare, NSA spying, and BLM land grabs.  Don't sue the buzzards -- arrest them!  Resist UN power grabs like the Small Arms Disarmament Treaty.  Protect our gun rights from local, state, national, or international threats. 
Really? In actuality, SCOTUS ruled EPA's carbon regulation constitutional last week, and Obamacare the same, 3 years ago. As for nuttery like "BLM land grabs," Ms. Glass, either you know there is almost zero BLM land in Texas, and so you're a lie-spouting hysteriac on this issue worse than Greg Abbott, or you don't, and you're too stupid to run for governor. 

Beyond that? Just because you the Red Queen of Wonderland wave your hands over your head and shout "unconstitutional" doesn't mean that it is actually unconstitutional.
★     Fiscal sanity: To be financially independent of Washington, replace -- or even better do without -- the almost 40% of our budget that comes from the federal government.  Promote and restore sound money to fall back on in the event of a currency collapse.  Send the Texas Rangers to bring our Texas gold back from New York.  Slash our budget 50% -- taxes and spending -- which would just put Texas back where we were when Rick Perry first took office.  End property taxes and franchise taxes, and resist efforts to impose an income tax.  Opt out of Medicaid.  No taxpayer-funded services for non-citizens.  
Reality? Texas, like most red states, gets more money from the federal government when it pays in.

The rest of this is just blather. "Texas gold from New York?" Given that there is no "Texas gold" and "federal gold" isn't stored in New York, this is a highly weak Libertarian attempt to piggyback on the Occupy movement, if it's even that logical.

★     A welcoming immigration policy and a secure border:  As in times past, create a made-for-Texas guest worker program which prohibits receipt of taxpayer-funded services.  Use our Texas State Guard, which is under the total control of the governor, to work with Texas law enforcement and protect private property rights along the border 
Reality? Here and above, Glass talks about Texas state law enforcement engaging in unauthorized federal law enforcement activities. The rest of this is pandering. Illegal immigrants are already, and always have been, not allowed to qualify for food stamps and most "welfare."

★     Property rights:  Defeat BLM land grabs.  End eminent domain.  Stop toll road boondoggles, public/private partnerships, and other forms of cronyism.  Defend water rights from theft by federal, international, state, or local authorities, commissions, boards, or private entities using the machinery of government.  Beat back any effort -- no matter how small -- to disarm Texans. 
Again, there are no "BLM land grabs." There is no plan to "disarm Texans." And, that's just the least wingnut part of this area.

★     Texas sovereignty: Revitalize our Texas State Guard to secure our border, provide disaster relief, and anything else a state miltia should be prepared to do in these times.  Protect our Texas electrical grid from interference and harm, and protect our civil liberties by forbidding its use by the NSA's San Antonio super-spy center. 
See the "secure borders" section above. Glass claims she's not about secession, but this manifesto, especially the last paragraph and the dogwhistle word "sovereignty," is exactly about a de facto version of secession and she knows that.

So, non mouth-breathers, any time you think the GOP can be nuts, the Libertarians, at least in Texas, will trump that.

And, Glass is arguably a "mainstream" Libertarian. Think of what she'd be like if she were a wingnut by Texas Libertarian standards.

Once again, the Libertarians have shown that they're basically about two things:
1. A paranoia that is generally not just out of proportion to reality but, per Victor Weisskopf, is "not even wrong" in proportion to reality.
2. Randian-like spoiled brats who don't want to obey rules.

I'm sorry, they're about three things. Whether driven more by No. 1 or No. 2, they're ready to be even more blatant liars than, in general, currently elected officials from the two "major" parties.

I am reminded of U.S. ambassadors to Afghanistan semi-jokingly saying that Afghan President Hamid Karzai "needs to take his meds." Well, that's what ranting like this makes me think of — someone who needs psychiatric help. Speaking of, and with actual past need for psychiatric help, I am reminded of Texas lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick, known around these precincts as The Stinking Anglo Formerly Known as Danny Goeb™.

It's clinical paranoia exacerbated by cultish groupthink. And, it's gotten worse over the decades. In 1992, I did a freelance interview of Andre Marrou, the Libertarians' presidential candidate this year. He hit all the basic Libertarian principles, but without the hysteria. True, we didn't have NSA snooping on American citizens, but we did have the revelations about COINTELPRO and other CIA shenanigans that were less than 20 years old.

So, rather than focus on "they're taking our gunz" (and where's Agenda 21 in all of this?) you'd be less hysterical if you talked about the overkill of the "War on Terror."

Speaking of, and other "wars"? Also, Glass, and I guess other Texas Libertarians, are suddenly silent about the "War on Drugs," long a bete noire of not only Libertarians, but rightly, of left-liberal civil libertarians like me.

As we celebrate the 151st anniversary of "a new birth of freedom," and approach the 238th anniversary of the original one, we don't need a new tyranny, whether from Google, Amazon, Apple, or other corporate masters, strangling what's left, tenuously, of that freedom. Nor do we need politicians who think that's the American dream.

Yes, "regulatory capture" means that bureaucrats often don't do all they could. However, even then, it's the "captured" elected officials that are usually the root problem. See "lobbyists," above. The Libertarian solution is the wrong one for rural Texas and Texas generally, at the state level, and wrong on the national level, too.

July 01, 2014

#HobbyLobby — does the IUD really cause #abortion and other issues

Whether or not SCOTUS was right in extending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to undercut a bit of Obamacare, many secularists, or reproductive choice liberals in general, want to call both the 5-man SCOTUS majority and Hobby Lobby anti-science for claiming that the birth control methods to which they object, like IUDs, cause abortion. Here's one sample from the New York Times.

But, not so fast.

Contra some people's claims that IUDs don't do this, a place like WebMD says they do. That's not their primary, or intended, methodology of birth control, but, they can do that.  WebMD isn't Dr. Oz, either. It's a popularizing site for a variety of medical information, but it's mainstream medical information.

On the other hand, Hobby Lobby and The 5 want to ignore, if they're even aware of, something else entirely, namely, per biologist Francisco Ayala, that "God is the greatest abortionist of them all."

Ayala, one of the world’s greatest evolutionary biologists, spells that out in battling the Intelligent Design types, while also standing up for theistic evolution:
In fact, he said, evolution “is more consistent with belief in a personal god than intelligent design. If God has designed organisms, he has a lot to account for.”

Consider, he said, that at least 20 percent of pregnancies are known to end in spontaneous abortion. If that results from divinely inspired anatomy, Dr. Ayala said, “God is the greatest abortionist of them all.”

Or consider, he said, the “sadism” in parasites that live by devouring their hosts, or the mating habits of insects like female midges, tiny flies that fertilize their eggs by consuming their mates’ genitals, along with all their other parts.

For the midges, Dr. Ayala said, “it makes evolutionary sense. If you are a male and you have mated, the best thing you can do for your genes is to be eaten.” But if God or some other intelligent agent made things this way on purpose, he said, “then he is a sadist, he certainly does odd things and he is a lousy engineer.”
So, there you go.

To further riff on Ayala, and further refute some "end of science" types, it's clear that we still don't know everything in the world about the gestation process.

We do have a good idea, though, that it does NOT cause creation of a metaphysical soul. Well, if you really, really want to stretch that idea, if you're of the ilk of Hobby Lobby,  or Catholics, then, in the case of chimeras, you have to quadruple down on the biblical myth of Jacob and Esau in the womb, and believe that one of two fraternal twins, in many births, is a cannibalistic soul-devourer. Or else, it's a physical cannibal with two souls "attached" to what on the outside seems to be one body, with one brain.

That said, on the IUDs, etc. Since preventing implantation is not their intended methodology, at least, where was Team Obama on this? If the Justice Department knew this was at least part of Hobby Lobby's rationale and didn't try to refute it, that's not good lawyering at all. Who knows? Maybe Dear Leader told the solicitor general's staff to take a dive.

In short, of the science actually presented in this case, Hobby Lobby wasn't so far off the mark. In terms of the broad world of available reproductive science, Hobby Lobby's ignorant and Team Obama was either AWOL or definitely taking a dive.

Because this wasn't based on First Amendment issues, it's unclear how narrow or wide this case's potential precedent could be. A lot of the religiously liberal and secularists have already pointed out that there's theoretically no stopping SCOTUS from agreeing with a Scientology-owned business not paying for psychiatric meds, a Jehovah's Witness-owned company not paying for blood transfusions or a Christian Science-owned business ... not paying for health insurance at all.

That's because Justice Ginsberg raised that issue herself:
Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)? According to counsel for Hobby Lobby, each of these cases …would have to be evaluated on its own…apply[ing] the compelling interest-least restrictive alternative test. Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.
That, in turn, reminds me a bit of Town of Greece vs. Galloway, and how  SCOTUS seemingly thinks that it can sideline sectarian Christianity, let alone non-Christian religion. 

While not getting too much into detailed speculation, this blog covers the general ground, albeit with a fair amount of bias of its own. It's a bit toward the Gnu Atheist area, which most of Patheos' atheist blogs are. In addition, it's by a layperson, not a lawyer. See Scotusblog for a good overview of the ruling from a pro-choice supporter who filed an amicus, but who is also a lawyer, and presumably not a Gnu Atheist. This overview, more importantly, notes that Kennedy's controlling concurrence greatly muddied the waters.

Finally, per a thread on Facebook? American law on abortion, combined with this ruling, isn't "sharia." And, a Canadian pointing to Canada's unlimited abortions law (while Canada's gender pay gap is no greater than that of the US) is a good starting point.

Here's a short roundup of abortion laws throughout the world. Let's note a few countries generally considered more liberal than the US.
Although a 1995 law makes abortion illegal, neither doctors nor women are prosecuted if the mother is a victim of rape and the procedure is performed within 12 weeks of conception. A similar waiver exists in the first trimester for cases in which the mother has received counseling to encourage carrying her baby to term but still wants an abortion. After the first trimester, abortion is available only to preserve the life or mental or physical health of the mother. State insurance generally does not pay for the procedure except in cases of financial need.
More conservative than the US.
Since 1974, abortion has been legal in Sweden in all circumstances within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. After this point, abortions are only permissible to save the life or physical health of the mother, or if approval is granted by the National Board of Health and Welfare. To date, abortion has not been a politically controversial issue in Sweden.
More conservative than the US, unless the national board is very, very liberal on its exemptions.
Great Britain
Abortion is freely available in Great Britain due to a broad interpretation of the Abortion Act of 1967, which permits abortion for a variety of reasons if certified by two physicians. Within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, these reasons may include: to save the life of the mother, to protect her physical or mental health, to terminate pregnancies involving fetal abnormality, or for social or economic reasons. In cases in which the mother’s life or health is “gravely threatened” or there is significant risk for fetal abnormality, there is no time limit on when an abortion may be performed.
About the same as the US, if one averages out state laws.

And, per Wikipedia, Australian law also varies by state/territory, and on average, is of about the same restrictiveness as the US.

And, this is why I don't blog about reproductive choice issues more. (Weirdly, one former Facebook friend, whose views I generally thought I agreed with, unfriended me over this issue. Or maybe, for him, it was a "last straw" related to other issues.)

I'm generally a social liberal, but, after a point of fetal viability, I oppose unlimited abortion, like Canada allows. I'm on the left-hand side of the great American center on this issue. Since becoming a secularist, nothing has empirically or logically moved me to anywhere near an unrestricted abortion stance. That said, unlike a secularist such as Nat Hentoff, nothing's led me back to the pro-pregnancy stance I held while religious.

And, as fetal viability issues show, BOTH poles on this issue can be selective about their science. Of course, one can be even uglier, like P.Z. Myers, and on paper at least, support post-birth infanticide on a very narrow definition of viability.

And, on the Patheos thread linked above? Contra one commenter, availability of services is an entirely different issue than "abortion on demand." I've blogged here before opposing undue restrictions on access to services. But, in the clear demonstration that they're different issues, Western Europe has high access to services, certainly in the three countries mentioned, but, unlike Canada, does not have abortion on demand.

Also, some people there assume that because I don't support "abortion on demand," I'm a heartless conservative otherwise. Actually, no. I've blogged before that I think Medicaid should still pay for poor people to have abortions, albeit within the viability restrictions I've mentioned.

As for the idea that a, say 22-week window for viability runs up against the normal 15-20 week period for amniocentesis? Well, a procedure like chorionic villus sampling, though somewhat more limited, can be done at 10-12 weeks. And, again, those "liberal" countries of western Europe and Australia that don't have a theocratic patriarchy deal with very similar issues.

I'm also learning that at least per nonscientific sampling "abortion on demand" folks tend to overestimate the percentage of severe disabilities in premature births, even very early ones. And, trying to discredit referencing Wikipedia, as if it doesn't link to actual medical research in its articles on preterm birth or fetal viability? You're coming close to obfuscation.

And, when I otherwise present statistics, claiming they're wrong? Or presenting your own claims to statistics without links? You're getting as close to being as fact-free as you claim the Hobby Lobby folks are.

And, to any social justice warrior types, ready to say, "You're not a woman," I'll respond that "You're not a 25-week-old post-viability fetus. And, something similar to that eventually came up on the thread. I cited a 25-week-old contracting encephalitis vs. a 2-year-old contracting encephalitis, both eventually with equally severe mental handicaps. I was told that was "some ridiculous academic discussion. I then brought up real-world infanticide; even if P.Z.'s stance is only on paper, or cyberpaper, infanticide.

I had turned off notifications of updates in the thread before that. Well, after that, fighting fire with fire, I said I'd leave because, after I was accused of illogic, and other things, I said we'd probably be in social justice warrior territory next. I wound up blocking one person as we got near to what I expected to become mansplaining terrritory. I took the use of the word "dude" as being the first concrete hint of that possibility.

The other reason I don't blog much on this issue is illustrated by that FB thread. On this issue, both polarities generally have the "if you're not for us, you're against us" stance.

Update, July 5: In a related issue, re Wheaton College, SCOTUS has made clear that, despite Justice Alito's claims, this is NOT a narrow ruling. It was this follow-up that drew the special ire of the three female justices. And, given that what SCOTUS first says, we're finding out, is not necessarily the officially final word but far from it, stay tuned.

Whooping cranes lose today, may win for future

Whooping crane in Texas in flight. John Noll/USDA
I agree with Jim Blackburn of the Aransas Project, on a three-judge ruling within the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that overthrew a federal district court ruling finding the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality liable in whooping crane deaths for not sending enough water down the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers during drought.

The appellate panel ruled narrowly, mainly saying that TCEQ couldn't have had foreknowledge its actions would indirectly kill whoopers.

But, in looking for a silver lining, Blackburn notes that, with the whooper deaths of the suit now on record, the state now knows.

As rivers like the Brazos and Colorado, despite June's abundance of rain, face growing long-term problems, this is more incentive than ever for the state to seriously address long-term problems. The state's long-tern loan fund to build more shallow, high-evaporation reservoir lakes doesn't do that.

Conservation, linking groundwater with streamwater and other work must all be increased.

That said, I noted this is more incentive. Will the state listen? 

As long as TCEQ is run by anti-environmentalists who are also anti-open government, you know the answer.

June 30, 2014

There is a class war, and Dems won't win by not talking about it

This blog post starts withe the review of a book, one that notes that we probably need to move from race-based to class-based, affirmative-action type programs.

Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in AmericaPlace, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America by Sheryll Cashin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sheryll Cashin writes a solid book on something I, and certain other liberal-minded people, have been saying for some time.

It's time to move affirmative-action programs beyond race and on to socioeconomic class instead.

She cites two main reasons:
1. A shifting, usually eroding, legal landscape for race-based affirmative action in the federal court system.
2. White "resentment," which is not always racist per se, over seeing black benefits from affirmative action.

Cashin focuses her eyes on collegiate admissions as being a good place to level the playing field.

I agree, but think she's too optimistic, not just optimistic. This will cost most colleges some serious money. With status holding flat or cutting their support to public colleges and universities, and higher education in both the public and private sector, in general, doubling down on neoliberal-driving academia as Big Business ideas, I think Cashin's a bit naive about the reality of this all happening.

And, that still leaves de facto residential segregation by class, even more than race, and its effects on K-12 schooling, all standing in place.

That said, Cashin does note the degree of class division here in the US, greater than in Europe.

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That said, beyond the seemingly naive overoptimism, Cashin needs to look at today's political parties.

The great majority of state-level and national-level Democrats flinch whenever Republicans accuse them of practicing class warfare. That's even with President Obama talking about increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Worse yet, most Democrats won't even talk about how there is class warfare — and how the rich have started it.

Would a policy like this play out in Texas? I'm not sure. A lot of statewide candidates get out-of-state money, and it's unclear about how well many rich Democratic donors would take to this issue. A few rich independent liberals, like George Soros, do talk about class differences, but he's the exception. So, donations might dry up. And, on the collegiate issue, Cashin is right. Black "legacies" at places like Ivy League schools would be threatened even more than now, just like white "legacies." It would be an uphill sled getting this passed.

Money aside, would such a move at least tempt a few rural and suburban whites, ones not too, too invested in black resentment, to at least consider the D lever? Would it improve the chances of getting Hispanics, especially in the Valley, out to vote?

Maybe. It couldn't make things on the ground any worse, could it?

Meanwhile, the Green Party has yet to realize that work like this requires ... party organization, among other things. Look at the Libertarians — organized enough to have a candidate for every state senate race this year.

And, claiming that its urbanites vs. rural areas on things like water and eminent domain, the Libertarians almost sound like they're talking about class war more than Democrats are.

Maybe they are, but, of course, their answers are all wet. More on that later this week.

So, we have too many Democrats still ready to sing Kumbaya, Greens a useful angle as a protest vote against that and little more, and Libertarians sometimes having the right ideas, but always the wrong answers on economic issues.

June 29, 2014

Dear Texans: Don't count your chickens yet on El Niño (updated)

There continues to be more hints that an El Niño system may be in the process of developing in the Pacific. Such systems normally bring more rain to Texas, and definitely more rain to the Southwest.

But, as of now, it's pretty clear that any such El Niño won't come until after the end of summer.

(Update, June 17: John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist, agrees with my header:
In early May, NASA predicted a very strong El Niño, Nielsen-Gammon said. NASA based the prediction on satellite images showing patterns of temperature and ocean height that were similar to those of May 1997, a year of one of the strongest El Niño oscillations of the 20th century.

“But the recent computer model forecasts are not so enthusiastic,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “More likely, we’ll end up with a weak to moderately strong El Niño.”

This means much of Texas could still have a wetter than normal late fall and winter, just not as wet as it might be with a very strong El Niño, he said.
More here on other climatologists agreeing with Nielsen-Gammon; the expected El Niño looks like it's dying out. Back to your regular climate programming.)

First, note the temperature map for July-September. It ain't gonna be a cool summer, is it?

In fact, that 40 percent chance of above normal temperatures covers the whole state in June, and the eastern two-thirds in October, as well.

So, again, no temperature relief until fall.


No significant part of Texas moves into the 40 percent change of above normal precip until November, per the map at left.

And, that's about as good as it gets. Chances of above average rain and below average temperature disappear by early spring.

And, not just Texans should be cautioned.

That precipitation map is also about as good as it gets for California.

Now, that's several months out. Nonetheless, don't expect the next El Niño to be a major game-changer.

That's you, global warming denialists in Texas, I'm talking to above all.