July 19, 2014

Counterfactual history: New Mexico is bigger, Texas smaller

The so-called "Trans-Pecos" region of Texas, west of the Pecos River and hence "trans" from the point of view of populated East Texas, really doesn't fully like the capital city folks in East Texas' Austin. Well, the one metropolis in the area, El Paso, at least, doesn't. Most state agencies underserve El Paso compares to East Texas cities, in per capita staffing at state agencies.

Texas own official state history book acknowledges some of this, even:
Most of the region's physical and cultural landscape has little in common with the rest of the state. Although it constitutes about 11 percent of the area of Texas, the Trans-Pecos has received less attention than the more populous east. 
There you go, Texans.

Of course, until Anglo Texians tried to make it so, El Paso never really was part of Texas in the first place. It wasn't part of Spanish Texas, nor was it part of Mexican Texas. We know both of those had the Nueces, not the Rio Grande, as a southern/southwestern boundary. The Llano Estacado, to the west of the headwaters of the Nueces and running north, really was like "unorganized territory," like the land north of Nebraska Territory in the early 1860s before it was officially organized into Dakota Territory.

But El Paso was further west. And on the royal highway between Chihuahua City and Santa Fe. Nobody went east from El Paso 200 years ago, but plenty of people went north and south. In short, El Paso was really either part of today's Mexican province of Chihuahua, part of New Mexico, or part of its own province. El Paso, tis true, didn't have much population, but it was an established city, since 1680, and, as of the Compromise of 1850, more populous than Albuquerque and Santa Fe. (It still is today, but metro Albuquerque is larger than metro El Paso, and the larger Albuquerque-Santa Fe area is larger than El Paso-Las Cruces.)

Today, El Paso is north of the Rio Grande, so it can't be part of Chihuahua. It's about as close to Albuquerque as to Chihuahua City, though, and far closer to it than to Dallas-Fort Worth or Austin. And, given the fact that Texas invaded Mexican New Mexico in 1841, trying to conquer it, shows that early Anglo Texans, despite their claims of the Rio Grande as their border all the way up to its source, really didn't believe that.

So, let's say that as part of the Compromise of 1850, with the feds paying off Texas' massive independence-era debt in exchange for reducing its state boundaries, among other things, those state boundaries, in the Far West, were shoved even further to the east than they actually are.

What would have been some real-world results?

Well, after the Texas oil boom got out to the Permian Basin in the 1920s, New Mexico would be known as even more of an oil state than it is today, because more of the Permian Basin would be in New Mexico. That would have affected the state's broader economy.

Related to that, a New Mexico Territory wouldn't have sold off so many state lands.  So, Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains national parks would be bigger than they are today, and Davis Mountains would be a national park, too. An enlarged southeastern New Mexico, with all of that plus Carlsbad and White Sands, would rank higher as a nature tourism destination.

Politics? If anything, New Mexico would be more liberal yet than it is today. El Paso is as reliability liberal as Austin, and its liberalism is more New Deal worker liberalism than Austin techie neoliberalism. Oh, sure, the rest of the Trans-Pecos would have far-right ranchers and oilmen, but they'd be far outnumbered by greater El Paso.

And, New Mexico probably would have not just one, but two new Congressmen. El Paso's population alone would provide for one. New Mexico's been on the border between three and four representatives long enough that the rural and small-town parts of the Trans-Pecos might be enough to bump it to a fourth representative, not counting El Paso's addition.

Let's say it has five representatives, or seven electoral votes.

Now, let's look at the 2000 presidential election. Bush beat Gore by 271-267. Give New Mexico two more electoral votes and we're tied and headed to the House to decide, not the Supreme Court. (That said, due to the one-state, one-vote principle, Bush likely would have won the House.)  Beyond that, a New Mexico with two extra electoral votes makes all of the Four Corners states more important politically in general.

So, thanks, Stephen Douglas and other 1850 Compromise folks, for caving in to Texas pouting or whatever.

July 18, 2014

Younger Dems double down on #neoliberalism, even over #OWS

For real liberals believing Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton before him, might just be aberrations, and that Elizabeth Warren will decide to run for president in 2016, this Charles Edsall column is cold water in the face.

Edsall notes that younger Democratic voters are more likely to be neoliberal on economic issues, focusing their liberalism on social issues only, like gender and sexuality rights, etc. And, he links to a Pew survey with massive data to seemingly back this up. Edsall centers his column on this:
The Pew survey points up the emergence of a cohort of younger voters who are loyal to the Democratic Party, but much less focused on economic redistribution than on issues of personal and sexual autonomy. 
Back in April, Pew researchers wrote that “huge generation gaps have opened up in our political and social values, our economic well-being, our family structure, our racial and ethnic identity, our gender norms, our religious affiliation, and our technology use.” These trends, Pew noted, point “toward a future marked by the most striking social, racial, and economic shifts the country has seen in a century.” 
I asked Andrew Kohut, the founding director of the Pew Center, what he made of these results. He emailed me his thoughts: “There is a libertarian streak that is apparent among these left-of-center young people. Socially liberal but very wary of government. Why? They came of age in an anti-government era when government doesn’t work. They are very liberal on interpersonal racial dimension, but reject classic liberal notions about ways of achieving social progress for minorities.”
Edsall backs this up by reference to other larger-scale polling.

At the same time, this doesn't surprise me. Even Occupy Wall Street, at least its original Wall Street incarnation, seemed to have a lot of people who only became mad at economic justice when, despite their MBAs and JDs, they didn't get Wall Street jobs because of the Great Recession. More on my in-depth analysis of the reality vs myths of the original Occupy Wall Street is here.

In fact, Edsall notes that a majority of younger Democrats thinks Wall Street helps the economy more than it hurts it.

At the same time, the younger Democrats are more dismissive of the element of luck, more naive about the likelihood of their own hard work playing off economically, and everything in between. Perhaps this connects to the level of online narcissism among younger people, the idea of self-branding online, and other things. It's not just personal vanity, it's economic vanity wearing a massive pair of Dunning-Kruger Effect blindfolds

Well, people who "bash" me for touting the Green Party? (I'd tout Socialists if there were a party in Texas.) Well, guess what? If this is even halfway true, I'll be promoting Green voting even more in years to come.

Anyway, read the whole column.

#GregAbbott — ethically right for once, legally wrong again, on #Confederate plates

At least that's my call on the ongoing battle over whether or not Sons of Confederate Veterans can be among groups that has personalized license plates.

There's several reasons he's wrong.

They start with the Sons of Confederate Veterans being a recognized nonprofit agency. Related to that, lest we have the irony of Greg Abbott talking about hate speech is that, officially, they are about promoting historic heritage, namely that of Texas soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War. I think it's a bunch of bloviating Texas exceptionalism, but that's another issue. 

Second, there's clear semi-precedent that says Abbott is wrong. It's only semi-precedent because it's not the exact same legal issue, but it's close enough.

Namely, it's the tussle that a number of states had, several years ago, over Adopt-a-Highway sponsorship, and more specifically signs announcing something like, "The next 2 miles are sponsored for clean-up by the Grand Klaven of the Knights of the Klan."

Groups like that were wanting to sponsor highway spots. So were gay rights groups, and with civil unions having less support a decade ago than gay marriage does now, that too became problematic.

But, in various states, state and federal courts alike said that it was a First Amendment issue. States had to list all Adopt-a-Highway sponsors. Or else none. Being selective is censorship. In its proper, First Amendment definition.

What about the flag, the flag as a symbol? Could the state print SCV vanity plates without the tag? Don't think so. First, ever since Texas v Johnson, flags certainly have a place in protected speech. Abbott's only angle here would be for the state to drop logos and symbols from all personalized plates, and nobody's going to buy those.

Abbott could try applying the Dr Pepper plate rule, but I'm sure the SCV could get 200 pre-orders, and the logo, as it now stands, doesn't unduly clutter the plate.

I have no doubt that people beyond SCV supporters will order the plates. However, outside of criminal law, legal statues in general aren't allowed to take intent into account.

July 17, 2014

NO, NO, NO to #geoengineering as main effort to "fight" climate change

I am getting more and more tired of techie types, especially ones with Internet 2.0 outlooks who are right-neolibs or even outright libertarian, promoting seeding the oceans with iron, or the sky with particulates, to either have plankton digest the rise in oceanic carbon dioxide, or have particulates block enough of the sun to keep temperatures from further rising, rather than putting more effort into more conventional adaptation or mitigation efforts first, or even better,

More effort into cutting carbon emissions first!

There's several problems here.

First, both of these approaches assume they're dealing with closed systems, when they're not.

Second, hasn't deliberately engineering our planet through deliberate introduction of invasive species taught us how clueless we are at things like this? Obviously not.

The story somewhat notes these concerns, or at least, the fact that people besides me have them:
Environmental activists stoked fears about unknown side effects. Some worried the iron could lead to a toxic algal bloom, like those that have poisoned sea lions and other sea life off the coast of California. Others floated the possibility that the experiment could lead to a dead zone, like the one created each summer by the algal bloom in the Gulf of Mexico, where the fertilisers that support Midwestern cornfields gush out of the Mississippi river’s mouth and into the ocean. When that algae dies, other microbes consume the corpses, using up all the available oxygen in the surrounding waters. When the oxygen shortages hit, fish flee, but slower-moving sea life such as crabs and worms suffocate and die in droves.
The story claims iron fertilization has been tested. Yeah? Well, one test in a small patch of the ocean does nothing to modify "closed loop" thinking, which the article doesn't even address, let alone test how likely such, or other, open loop side effects are to happen.

Third, I don't see a cost estimate on either of these examples of "salvific technologism," as I call it here. Expenses could be whopping, and, unless more is done to cut carbon emissions, this isn't a one-shot effort. Plus, per the idea that these efforts would NOT involve closed loops means that there's likely hidden costs that aren't even on the technologism folks' radar screens.

And, the story doesn't even address large scale costs.

Fourth, there's no carbon estimate on just how much in carbon emissions either of these would cause. That too is unaddressed in the story.

As one commenter put it:
No matter how seductive geo-engineering may appear, we have never exhibited the capacity to fully predict complex externalities, even in systems we do understand. Nor have we been able think outside whatever paradigm rules political and economic bureaucracies.

In fact these two problems perfectly explain why we have reached such a dangerous place where we need to dream up fantasies like geo-engineering in the first place.
Yep, this is an inside-the-box, or inside-the-paradigm, solution. It's tech-based, engineering-based, capitalism-based.

And, from one of the high priesthoods of science, the Royal Society, there's a much more in-depth smackdown of ideas like this.

The report is five years old, but, I still see nothing to contradict this statement in its introduction:
Far more detailed studywould be needed before any method could even be seriously considered for deployment on the requisite international scale. Moreover, it is already clear than none offers a ‘silver bullet’, and that some options are far more problematic than others.
Indeed.

Fifth, although iron is much more available than, say, gold, still, there's also no accounting for the general effort, besides price and carbon emissions, of a forced increase in iron mining.

Sixth, due to Jevons' paradox, to the degree this might actually work, many people might use it as an excuse to stop worrying about global warming.

This, at the end of the story, is halfway in line with that:
Back in Bremen, Smetacek told me that commerce might be the only way to motivate further research into iron fertilisation. Replenishing missing krill, and the whales it supports, could be the best route to broader acceptance of the practice.
Sure, and then Japan says we don't need to protect whales anymore.

As for where I saw this, on Facebook? I thought that a Bora Zivkovic was smarter than this. Well, no, that's not totally true. Four years ago, I might have thought that.

July 16, 2014

#GregAbbott gives me one less reason to go to the movies

"Thank" Greg Abbott for interrupting your movie.
I'm not a big moviegoer by any means. On average, a once-a-year guy at most, though I saw Lincoln twice.

That said, I can bitch along with anybody else about the growing blizzard of pre-movie commercials in the movie houses. And now, Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, aka AG Strangeabbott, has just given me more reason yet not to go.

Combine three barf factors:
1. Ads before movies;
2. Political advertising in general today;
3. People using cellphones at movies;

And, here you go:
In a new twist, Abbott is taking his campaign to the movies. He is running an ad in two dozen movie theaters across the state, playing on every screen a film is being shown. The ad asks moviegoers to text the word “FREEDOM” to the campaign. The effort is aimed at collecting information the campaign can use to identify and boost turnout in November.

This is also another post-Citizens United sign of a political system so damned swamped with money that candidates don't even know what the hell to do with all of it, other than inundate us even more.

That said, somebody, somebody, please text "FUCK OFF" to Abbott instead if you're at a movie.

July 15, 2014

Redistricting in Texas: Time for #GregAbbott to lose in court again?

A federal judges' court troika in San Antonio has started its hearing on the state of Texas' proposed redistricting for U.S. House and state Lege seats, and the US Department of Justice is getting more involved, not just minority rights groups. Here's why:
“The state of Texas, as it has in redistricting cycles since 1970, adopted maps that discriminated against its citizens,” Bryan Sells, an attorney for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said during opening statements.
The big issue is one of intent, as the story notes:
 What’s at issue is whether Republicans drew the original maps with the intent to discriminate. If so, Texas could be required to continue seeking federal preclearance under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. That section has rarely been employed because the same effect was formerly achieved through the better-known part of the law that is now eliminated.
One of Texas attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's flunkies denies such intent:
“No one in the Texas Legislature discriminated on the basis of race,” Patrick Sweeten, an assistant Texas attorney general, said during his opening statement.
However, that's hard to square with this:
Sells argued that an email written by an attorney for House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, explains seeking blocs of voters with few Spanish surnames to pack districts that would otherwise favor minority candidates.

But Sweeten said that message was taken out of context and that the process was “not about just drawing the map but drafting legislation and getting enough support for it to pass.”
That is BS on the part of Sweeten, and we have a lot more evidence to that end.

Salon has a great story with the details:
On Nov. 17, 2010, Eric Opiela sent an email to Gerard Interiano. A Texas Republican Party associate general counsel, Opiela served at that time as a campaign adviser to the state’s speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; he was about to become the man who state lawmakers understood spoke “on behalf of the Republican Congressmen from Texas,” according to minority voting-rights plaintiffs, who have sued Texas for discriminating against them.

A few weeks before receiving Opiela’s email, Interiano had started as counsel to Straus’ office. He was preparing to assume top responsibility for redrawing the state’s political maps; he would become the “one person” on whom the state’s redistricting “credibility rests,” according to Texas’ brief in voting-rights litigation.

In the Nov. 17, 2010, email, Opelia asked Interiano to look for specific data about Hispanic populations and voting patterns.

“These metrics would be useful to identify the ‘nudge factor’ by which one can analyze which census blocks, when added to a particular district [they] help pull the district’s Total Hispanic pop … to majority status, but leave the Spanish surname RV [registered voters] and TO [turnout] the lowest,” Opiela writes to the mapmaker.

Interiano responded two days later: “I will gladly help with this Eric but you’re going to have to explain to me in layman’s terms.”
Let us explain in layman's terms, Mr. Interiano.

This was microtargeting Census tracts to make Hispanic districts a bare majority on paper, but doing so in a way that was intended to actually dilute Hispanic voting power.

As friend Perry notes in his blog on this issue, Opiela is a wingnut who ran for the GOP nomination for Ag Secretary this year, but couldn't make it to a runoff.

As for intent? About three years ago, in its Shelby County ruling, by a 5-4 (shock me) majority, the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That's the section that required "pre-clearance" of electoral boundaries in states like Texas that had shown a past history of discrimination. But ...

If the Obama administration and the minority plaintiffs show in Perez that the Texas defendants intentionally discriminated against minority voters by diluting their votes, they could dramatically undo the Texas consequences of Shelby.

But, the Salon piece notes that not all of the VRA was gutted.
(T)he high court stripped only a pivotal lever used to trigger Section 5, specifically Section 4b of the same act. That stricken provision laid out formulas for determining which states, based on their histories of discrimination, the Department of Justice could impose preclearance requirements upon.

The Shelby ruling left intact: Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act — or its “Secret Weapon,” as Travis Crum, a former clerk for U.S. District Judge David S. Tatel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, refers to the provision in his 2010 Yale Law Journal article. In the article, Crum explains that the Voting Rights Act’s Section 3 allows: a federal court to find evidence of a state intentionally racially discriminating against voters and therefore order the state to submit to DOJ preclearance.

Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in San Antonio, who represents Perez plaintiffs, believes Opiela’s emails show evidence of intentional discrimination and thereby provide the federal government with a spare key to restart Section 5, replacing the one the Shelby decision removed from the ignition.
And that's why Abbott's flunky protested so vociferously.

That said, this will be way too late to affect 2014 elections, and AG Strangeabbott will do his best, especially if elected governor, to try to make sure it doesn't affect 2016 either.

My 2014 British Open thoughts and quasi-picks

Or, just "The Open" for true golf aficionados.

Yes, the All-Star Game is tonight, but, golf starts Thursday with the third of its four majors. And, even as a long, long baseball fan, Bud Selig's various shenanigans have made me less interested in the ASG every passing year, anyway.

So, on to Royal Liverpool!

My hunch favorite is that young "Ulsterman," as American media likes to call him, Rory McIlroy. Tis true that he's said he doesn't like links golf a lot, but, the fairways and greens are green enough to be semi-American at Hoylake this week. Now, Rory just needs to stop imploding on Fridays. He's been solid in general, even with that. He knows this is his week to put it all together.

It is supposed to rain during the week. Now, if it's more of an American-type soaker, that could help Rory. If it's a classic British Open gale, who knows? 

That said, Weather.com's forecast calls for 16mph winds on Friday, lesser ones otherwise. I usually use Weather Underground but, while much of that site's recent update is great, the wind speed part is not. Anyway, WU is using the word "thunderstorm," not just "rain" as a possibility on Friday, so stay tuned.

My second choice is Justin Rose, who played himself into this position by winning the Scottish Open. A shot at the world No. 1 ranking, if not after this week, then soon, would be at stake. So would putting himself in talk for the future with a second major. And, a third win overall would push him past Martin Kaymer and others for Player of the Year rankings.

Kaymer is in my top 10, though not necessarily my third choice. He's familiar with European playing conditions, but a semi-American Hoylake might benefit him.

Jason Day is "due" for a majors breakthrough, and seemingly recovered from his thumb injury, but so far, he's not had a humongous track record at the Open.

Adam Scott's been consistent this year, but mid-level consistent. I see him in the mix, but not winning.

Other than Rose, I'm not holding my breath on any English golfers. From Northern Ireland, I expect Graeme McDowell to put himself in the top 20, at least.

And, I'll continue to mention Sergio Garcia as a sentimental choice until he either finally wins a major or else turns 40.

That said, the really sentimental pick would be John Singleton. Read here for the story of a non-pro forklift operator making his dream come true just by qualifying.

That guy some call Red Shirt? I'll give you 50-50 odds he misses the cut. I find it interesting, also, a recent anecdote Steve Williams told, that Red Shirt, at least when Williams was his caddie, was bad at judging distances, and distance-club issues, so Williams would regularly give him overlength yardage estimates.

July 14, 2014

Can baseball make the #AllStarGame better, for #Cardinals fans and #MLB fans?

I'd like to think so. As a Cardinals fan, I'm loving the idea that Adam Wainwright is starting, lamenting that fact that Yadier Molina is missing to injury, and further lamenting the fact that, due to injury, Michael Wacha, who had a shot a month ago, won't be there.

As a general baseball fan, I'm definitely lamenting that Waino isn't dueling against Masahiro Tanaka due to his own injury.

First, let's start with the most obvious thing — getting rid of Bud Selig's idea that the All-Star Game should be used to determine home-team advantage in the World Series. With 15-team leagues and 5-team divisions theoretically allowing for more balanced schedules, and requiring year-round interleague play, the league champion with the best record should get World Series home advantage, pure and simple. I mean, the NBA and NHL don't use their All-Star games this way.

Second, let's play this on a better night. I'm not sure about the NHL, because I don't really follow hockey, but I know that the NBA brings the starts out on a Sunday night, not a Tuesday.

So, here we go.

MLB teams' ASG break day becomes Friday, not Sunday. In addition, we have, if not 1 p.m., 3 p.m. start times for all games. That lets the Futures game be played Friday night without competition. 

Our All-Star extravaganza then gets started on Saturday. Home Run Derby and/or whatever else we decide is needed here. (More on that in a minute.)

Then, the All-Star Game itself plays on Sunday night, not Tuesday night. It's the climax of a weekend. And, it starts a half-hour, or an hour, earlier, just like the NBA does with weekend playoff games on TV.

And, to seal it off, and give non-All Star players an extra day of rest, as well as All Star nominees, scrounge an off day from elsewhere in the schedule to make Monday a day off. (That's per what the ASG used to be like, until the days off ran through Thursday, which is too much lull, IMO.)

And, find something else baseball-related to do on Monday in the host city for people wanting a total baseball fix.

How about an old-timers All-Star game? Selig could name captains/managers for each team. Eligible players would be retired three years, a little less severe than with Hall of Fame eligibility. We could either have the two managers draft, or have fan votes. In that case, the league in which a player played the most would be his league for voting purposes. Or we could have managers draft, but still do it as a league-vs-league competition.  Make it seven innings, with no pitcher throwing more than one inning and no position player playing for more than one time through the batting order. (DHs would be replaced by other DHs, in a rare time I'd support a DH game.)

We could have classic older captains in Henry Aaron vs Willie Mays, or somewhat younger ones, and league-separated, too, in Ozzie Smith vs. Cal Ripken.

Get rid of the All-Star Softball Clash, or, if you insist on keeping it, shove it into some dark corner. Does the NBA have celebrity 3-on-3 or H-O-R-S-E? Uhh, no! So, this would replace that.

You'd also have veterans available for autographs as they chose, with something like this.

I mean, I'm just scratching the surface of good ways, not dumb ways, Bud could make the All-Star break better.

#EvPsych and #scientism still can't explain music

On the Fourth of July, after YouTubing Stravinsky's arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner, because we're just past the 100th anniversary of Gavrilo Princip's fatal shots in Sarajevo that helped launch World War I, as discussed by me here, with a dip into alternative history, I started YouTubing the national anthems of the three European empires that imploded after World War I. (Yes, the Ottomans were also in Europe, but  I'm not counting them.)

Here are the stirring national anthems of the three great ones of central and eastern Europe:

The Imperial German Anthem, and stop acting shocked at the tune, you Brits:



It was the Prussian anthem pre-unification, too.

And, the classic Austro-Hungarian anthem. Please don't act shocked at the tune. Franz Josef Haydn wrote "Gott Erhalte Franz den Kaiser" long before the Nazis stole the anthem, and, with edited lyrics, it's the anthem of today's Federal Republic of Germany:



Classic. Sing along. The full lyrics are at the webpage.

Finally, the Czarist National Anthem.



If it sounds familiar, it should; it's adapted as the second theme of Tchaikovsky's Marche Slave.

A few thoughts.

First, there's YouTube devotees to all three empires, just like there's neo-Nazi devotee groups.

Second, the empires, in general, were not evil on the same level or way that Hitler's Nazis or Stalin's Communists were. (That said, Romanov Russia was in a level above Hohenzollern Germany and the Hapsburg Dual Monarchy, above all but not solely on anti-Semitism.)

Third, even if one if a full-on pacifist, a national anthem is still stirring. Even more so, a military march. Rather than trotting out one from John Philip Sousa, I head to one written for the predecessor of the first of these empires, Beethoven's Yorck'schen Marsche:



Who could not be stirred by that?

And, per the header, evolutionary psychology, even in its non Pop Ev Psych version, still can't "explain" music. Nor can overblown uses of neuroscience, per the scientism tag.

Birds sing for mating calls, but it would be a huge extrapolation to claim that a military march is about male strength, therefore male reproductive fitness, therefore a mating call. And, you can't even try that with a national anthem.

July 13, 2014

Theistic evolutionist Ruse shoots himself in the foot

And I'm not talking about any theistic evolutionist. I'm talking about prominent biologist Michael Ruse, who testified against creationists and Intelligent Designers in the McLean case in Arkansas, etc.

But, in an interview with philosopher Gary Gutting, host of the new York Times philosophy blog/column The Stone, Ruse stumbles over Ye Olde Problem of Evil, just as do those creationists and IDers he shoots down on their own scientific, and philosophical, illiteracy.

Let's start here, with GG being Gutting and MR being Ruse, in this interview format:
G.G.: Do you think that evolution lends support to the atheistic argument from evil: that it makes no sense to think that an all-good, all-powerful God would have used so wasteful and brutal a process as evolution to create living things?

M.R.: Although in some philosophy of religion circles it is now thought that we can counter the argument from evil, I don’t think this is so. More than that, I don’t want it to be so. I don’t want an argument that convinces me that the death under the guillotine of Sophie Scholl (one of the leaders of the White Rose group opposed to the Nazis) or of Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen ultimately contributes to the greater good. If my eternal salvation depends on the deaths of these two young women, then forget it.
So far, all fair and good, and I totally agree with Ruse that the attempts of the likes of Alvin Plantinga to counter the problem of evil have been massive flops.

But, next, Ruse immediately goes on:
This said, I have never really thought that the pains brought on by the evolutionary process, in particular the struggle for survival and reproduction, much affect the Christian conception of God. For all of Voltaire’s devastating wit in “Candide,” I am a bit of a Leibnizian on these matters. If God is to do everything through unbroken law, and I can think of good theological reasons why this should be so, then pain and suffering are part of it all. 
Sorry, Michael, but that IS a non sequitur from what you said just above, and higher above.

First, unless you ARE rejecting either the "omnipotent" or "omnibenevolent" forks of traditional Western monotheism and the problem of evil, you're simply wrong.

Second, if you do reject one or the other of those forks, then it's incumbent on you to expressly  declare such things.

Third, if you're citing Leibniz, I'm pretty sure you're not rejecting either fork.

That said, Ruse is himself a secularist, even though he thinks it's possible for religious belief and evolution to co-exist. Because of that, and other things, I'll stand behind calling him a theistic evolutionist. He reminds me of the atheists who work with liberal Christians to try to show that the Bible isn't anti-gay even though it clearly is.

Ruse has other interesting things to say in the interview, too. Like this:
I won’t say I accept the ontological argument for the existence of God — the argument that derives God’s existence from his essence — but I do like it (it is so clever).
Well, with that comment, I think I can really say that I think Ruse is overrated as a philosopher. The ontological argument is simplistic semantics and nothing more.

He strikes me as being a bit like Rodney Stark, the sociologist of religion. Despite saying he's some sort of agnostic, Stark went from Eastern Washington University to Baylor, has adopted with both fists Samuel Huntington's Christianist "clash of cultures" idea, and tells all sorts of lies about historical development to try to support himself.

While I agree with P.Z. Myers very little, Michael Ruse just showed why secularists always need to have a bit of care in working with theistic evolutionists. And the likes of Eugenie Scott should take note in the future. I still reject the label of accommodationist, but won't claim that PZ is all wet. And, given that this part of Gnu Atheism isn't all wet, I can see why Ruse doesn't call himself an atheist.

And while I agree with his anti-scientism stance, given all of the above, I think I'll pass on his new book, “Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know.”