SocraticGadfly: 5/24/15 - 5/31/15

May 30, 2015

Fear of death, or of dying? And why does this trouble conservative Xns?

This new Atlantic piece, about thinking about death and how that has changed over generations, centuries and millennia, got me to thinking about related issues, as indicated by the header.

How much are we modern Westerners afraid of death and how much are we afraid of dying? In other words, how much do we fear the end of this life's existence (and, if you're a confirmed materialist, the end of any human life's existence), and how much do we fear the pains of dying, at least from certain types of death?

I agree with articles like this about how we don't memento mori much today, probably in part due to the near-elimination of childhood diseases. I also agree that atheism, because it represents a view that we are ... mortal! ... is a version of reviving memento mori.

Further confirmation for these ideas come from this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, also about the same three psychologists. They talk about the "terror of death," and how it has not only driven religious belief, but many actions based on that belief, from the building of the Pyramids to the deliberately crashed planes of 9/11, for good and for evil.

Speaking of ...

There was a big article, about a month ago, related to that, based on a research paper, about religious people associating atheists with "death" and thus feeling antagonistic toward them on this ground.

I taught a college class on death and dying, and it was an adult continuing education class, not one for new high school graduates. Everybody was 40 or older. I was upfront with the students about being a secularist. This being in the Rust Belt, most of the white and all of the Hispanic students were Catholic. Of the couple of black students, I think they were evangelical Protestant types, but not the most conservative ones. We had a couple of New Agey types, including one who identified as Wiccan. And, a lot of the Christians had a lot of "generic American religion" ideas. No Muslims or Jews that I was aware of, or members of Eastern faiths.

Perhaps because I was the instructor, perhaps because I wasn't at all strident about my secularism, and I think only once used the word "atheist," I must not have challenged people's fears of death too much. But, today, I can see that as possible.

What’s really funny about all of this is that conservative Christians, if anybody, should be the most unafraid of death. After all, especially if they buy into “faith alone,” they’ve got a guaranteed ticket to paradise.

Unless they’re not sure about it, and as a result don't want to think about it, in which case we just opened a big old can of “faith alone” whup-ass.

And, that's what I think we have. Upper-middle-class megachurch Protestants are thinking about the success gospel, as are New Agers in their own way. Conservative evangelical Protestants are thinking about the culture wars. Liberal Catholics and Protestants are thinking, if not always exactly the same, about social issues. Conservative Catholics? Some are joining the conservative Protestants in the culture wars. Others, mainly immigrants, are holding on to cultural traditions from the homeland in a different type of conservativism.

That said, they all COULD think about death more. But, the success gospel types are like Jesus parable of the rich landlord farmer in Luke fixated in building bigger grain bins. The various conservatives have generally bought into identifying Christianity with America, and maybe think they need some works-righteousness from fighting against the nonexistent War on Christmas or whatever. Most liberally religious who are also metaphysically liberal, but not that liberal, are probably afraid to peek behind their own metaphysical curtains too much.

So, people don't meditate on death, and because we don't have deaths from childhood diseases, and we have fewer deaths from accidents than a century ago, and because the euphemized "living room," the former parlor, has been replaced by a funeral parlor, and what I've said about hospitals, nobody faces death on a regular basis.

And, because they're either hypocritical, or more scared than they'd like to admit, they don't want to be reminded of death.

So, we move to dying ... the process of dying.

That said, the modernized West has removed the views of dying from most people. The sick, with some hospice-based exceptions, usually die in hospitals. In turn, that and selective perception bias leave people seeing deaths by accident, deaths by gun violence, and other media-reported deaths regularly, and probably overestimating their likelihood.

And, so, this cuts both ways. We're more detached from "death," but we're more confronted with "dying" in some ways than before.

On the graphic deaths, I think I noted that under selective perception/media bias, increasing fear of dying, not fear of death. I think people's stereotypes about the hospital system, and, despite improvements in knowledge, not knowing much about hospice and related options, has fueled this fear of dying.

As for death, and more specificially,  the idea of memento mori? I don't think we do it that much.

That's contra a Facebook friend. I'm reproducing my side of the dialogue only, since the post, like most of mine on Facebook, was not set to "public."

Santa Muerte? That is at least a partial exception to my statement about death, but per where her worship is most popular, it at the same time confirms my modernized West observations. Well, I guess we could count the Zetas as part of the modernized West, if you will. But, in general, we're talking about a subculture. Santa Muerte, outside the Zetas, is worshiped by other Mexicans not to memorialize death, but to thumb their noses as the institutional Catholic Church precisely because it opposes the cult of Santa Muerte.

Dia de los Muertos? Other than among culturally conservative Hispanic Catholics, I think that's becoming an excuse for an alternative and/or extended and/or souped-up Halloween for some, and a cultural twist on Halloween for others, along with being a tie-in, or throwback, to Mexican culture specifically within the Mexican-American community in the U.S.

Descansos, the Mexican and Mexican-American roadside shrines to the dead? Sure, they hold on among conservative Mexican and Mexican-American Catholics, but that's about it. Beyond that, they're memorializing the already dead. To me, that's a different issue, per my link up top the the memento mori explainer.

And, maybe part of this is part of a larger, continuing belief in "purpose" in life, or teleology, to be more precise. It's something that infuses evolutionary psychology, to the point of totally contaminating Pop Ev Psych. As Michael Ruse notes in this good essay, it's a current that still runs broad and deep through a lot of biology.

It certainly, as he and others note, also spills into Ye Olde Singularity folks, who demonstrate as much of a fear of death after any conservative Christian being confronted with a hardcore atheist. Why else would the likes of Ray Kurzweil spout nonsense that, in some corner of his mind, he knows is not true?

And, anyway, in an America of 315 million and counting, having to face death probably reminds a lot of the people I listed above that they've found little religious-related purpose in life. The success gospel isn't knocking at their door, or they don't think they're winning the culture war, or a hyperfocus on "faith alone" seems a bit sterile, or whatever.

May 28, 2015

Matt Adams and the #Cardinals 1B woes, part two

Yesterday, I blogged about how Matt Adams' hamstring tear, and the possibility of him missing the whole season, put a definite crimp in the Cards' batting, and noting that Mark Reynolds, signed to a one-year free agent contract in the offseason, isn't much better.

This one is in fair degree an onus on one player, plus GM John Mozeliak.

The player? Tony Cruz.

By the end of 2013, before Yadier Molina's 2014 thumb injury, it was clear that, even as a backup only, Tony Cruz wasn't ideal, or even that close to it.

And, even though Adams had shown improvement in 2013 from 2012, it still looked like he could stand to be platooned, at least against tougher lefties, since he did exactly that in 2013, and regressed in 2014.

Mo had the 2013-14 offseason, a full year before this past one, to look for a decent catcher-first base combo, whether by trade or free agency.

Like Wil Rosario. I wouldn't have gone higher up the ladder than him, whether in trade or free agency, but I would have gone that high.

If someone like Rosario was available as a free agent, spending $6-7 million on him rather than the $2 million on Reynolds, would have been smart indeed. Mo, you did sign Jhonny Peralta, but other than that, the crowbar hasn't gone into the free agent market for anything above the scraps level for some time. Brayan Pena would have fit the bill perfectly. And cost less than Mo is paying for Reynolds.

So, though Mo has been willing to gamble at times, like on the Jason Heyward/Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller trade, or on the Peralta FA move, at other times, with this an obvious one, he's just missed the boat.

May 27, 2015

Injury bug hits #Cardinals again; could lead to creative trade

Adam Wainwright's Achilles tendon blowout was the first serious injury for the Cardinals this year.

Now, they've got a second that, while not quite that bad, isn't good.

Matt Adams, out for
awhile after a Joe Kelly
baserunning oops
Matt Adams, taking the wrong page from the Joe Kelly baserunning playbook, has torn his quadriceps tendon badly enough that he could need surgery, and will be out significant time, with or without that. (Remember that Kelly didn't have surgery on his bad hammy, and missed a couple of months.) GM John Mozeliak is now using the words "long term."

Update, May 28: Looks like he's semi-officially out for the season.

That means more time for Mark Reynolds, immediately.

Below that? Unless Xavier Scruggs becomes more than he's shown so far, he's not a long-term answer. And, Reynolds wasn't supposed to be a starter himself, though so far this year, he's actually been batting better than Adams. But not enough to cover up a combined struggle at the spot.

So, what are some other semi-realistic options?

Allen Craig? Please; there's a reason the Sawks sent him down to Pawtucket.

Ryan Howard: Is a
St. Louis homecoming
"in the Cards"?
Ryan Howard? He's actually having an Indian summer year, being an above-average batter so far. Problem is, that means Ruben Amaro will increase his ask, especially if Mozeliak wants Amaro to eat a lot of salary.

But, here's a gamble worth considering. If Mo can convince Amaro that Jon Jay's early-season struggles are just due to his bum thumb, he could be trade bait for Howard, if Amaro will still eat at least 80 percent of that contract. It's essentially a gamble against that on Mo's part, and a gamble in favor of the idea that Peter Bourjos can keep up his current production.

And, at an 80 percent salary-eat, that makes it an official wash on money. (Not counting the $10M buyout on Howard in 2017, which I originally forgot about. Anyway, that's bridge that can be crossed later. Maybe you could get Howard to do a 2/$15 extension or something that eases the hit for the Cards.)

It also, with Jay gone, probably puts more somewhat more pressure on Mo to resign Jason Heyward.

But, hey, it's all moving puzzle pieces. And, with Randal Grichuk raking, and Stephen Piscotty probably getting a September call-up, if not sooner, the pressure isn't THAT big. Besides, with Jay 30 this year, and me not sure why Mo gave him a two-year deal this past offseason to buy up his final arbitration year as well as the current one, he might not have had a long-term Cardinal home anyway. If the Cards don't resign Holliday, but do resign Heyward, that would give you, from left to right, Piscotty, Grichuk and Heyward in two years, keeping Bourjos as your fourth OF. Or put Piscotty in right if Holliday stays, in part due to not resigning Heyward.

Anyway, back to that trade. Mo can even throw in Pete Kozma for infield depth.

This is a trade I make if Amaro eats 80 percent of the salary, not counting that buyout. I'll consider it at 75 percent. If Amaro eats 75 percent of his current salary plus any portion of that buyout, I definitely make that trade.

And, this offseason, if nothing else, you can trade Adams for a backup catcher better than Tony Cruz who's a righty bat and can also play backup 1B. Some follow-up thoughts here.

Get your froth out, Santorum's running again

Rick Santorum — I think that
even the smile looks frothy.
Ahh, who can forget four years ago, when Rick Santorum decided that god had called him to up the nutbar by running for president, and then called gay sex bestiality and pedophilia? Beyond that, who can forget that then, in response, columnist Dan Savage started his naming contest that, as Mother Jones reminds us, gave us the classic definition of "santorum":
The winner suggested giving Santorum's name to describe "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex."

We need not forget, we must not forget, since he's running for Prez again. And, I like this description: Ted Cruz with George W. Bush baggage.

That said, maybe he's just being a stalking horse vice presidential nominee candidate for Sen. Huckleberry J. Butchmeup, who's considering his own run.

Maybe, per former president James Buchanan and Alabama Sen. William Rufus King, we could have Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy comments entering the political world again.

Update, June 1: Huckleberry's making it official.

May 26, 2015

SCOTUS to take Texas redistricting case — Voting Rights Act tie-in?

This should be interesting.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Texas voting case, Evenwel, where plaintiffs argue that voting district reapportionment, in this case a state senate district, should be done on the basis of potential voters, not general population.

Part of the key to Evenwel goes back years, as Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog notes. Who is a "voter" for terms of equal apportionment of electoral districts. Is it any person? Any person who's eligible to vote? Registered voters only? A running average of actual voter turnout?

In the past, the Supreme Court has said that states are NOT required to include aliens, transients, felons barred from voting, and other things, and had indicated that within this, states had some latitude. So, he's surprised that this portion of Evanwel may come into play.

Hasen's co-blogger, Richard Pildes disagrees, as he says it's not surprising the Supremes took this case and he hopes we get a clear, uniform standard from it. He stands in part on Voting Rights Act issues, noting Sims and most other cases were adjudicated before the 1965 Act, let alone later amendments, were adopted.

I'm not sure of what mind I am.

I agree with Hasen that there's clear precedent here. On the other hand, per Pildes, I can see that not addressing this could bring "minority voter dilution" issues into play. Of course, those issues could get worse if SCOTUS mandates national use of "potential voters" for redistricting.

Given that, per the top link, Clarence Thomas reportedly rounded up three fellow justices to vote to grant cert, I'm sure that's what the far right on the court intends. Scalia and Alito probably agree with Thomas. Either Roberts or Kennedy may have been the fourth vote, not because they agree, but because they want clear standards, especially re the Voting Rights Act.

That said, knowing the Chief's stance on it, he'll vote for the plaintiffs, leaving Kennedy as the presumed swing vote.

One would assume the plaintiffs are hoping this is what the granting of cert indicates, given the legal team backing them and previous cases with their involvement.

May 25, 2015

#MemorialDay, aka the #TeaParty national day of distortion

As you think about Iraq War or Gulf War veterans, especially those who were killed in combat, today, let's not forget how and why Memorial Day started.

It was created to honor the nearly 400,000 Union dead from the Civil War.

You know, the war that had the ultimately result of ending slavery.

The war that was fought over the right to slavery in the first place, an issue tea partiers will deny until they turn red in the face.

That’s despite the Confederate constitution mentioning the actual words “slave” or “slavery” several times.

Like this, from Article I:
Section 9
No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.
For one.

And this, from Article IV:
Section 2.
1. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states, and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any state of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property: and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired. …
 3. No slave or other person held to service or labor in any state or territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor: but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs, or to whom such service or labor may be due.
For another.

And this:
Section 3.
3. The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states.
For a third.

That's despite the declarations of secession of Georgia, Mississippi:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world.
South Carolina:

The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy. 
The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the (laws, etc.) as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slaveholding States …
 based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color
And Virginia, all mentioning slavery, often a dozen or more times. More here. And here.

The reality of Memorial Day?

First, the Thirteenth Amendment, ending slavery:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The first time the U.S. Constitution used the actual word, rather than euphemisms to shield thin Southern skins.

Then the Fourteenth, for civil rights for all: 
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
THAT's what Memorial Day is about. 

The real problem is tea party "Lost Cause" types don't want to admit that the South — and its ideology — lost, period. And, too many Northerners were too indulgent of them too soon after April 9, 1865, part of why we need a national Appomattox Day.

This is why it matters when we talk about who started Memorial Day and why — including black Southerners reburying Union dead with honor.

TX Progressives tackle #txlege and political presumptions

The Texas Progressive Alliance welcomes the unofficial beginning of summer, and wishes for honesty related to Memorial Day, whether from Colin Powell or from Tea Partiers, as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a look behind the scenes at the deal struck between Houston's Metro and US Rep. John Culberson.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos injects a little Colbert humor into his piece about craven Texas politicians that run away from crucial issues that will impact our future whether we like it or not. Knowing how the Titanic Passengers felt...

Socratic Gadfly discusses how Pew Research's latest religious survey is another reason Democrats shouldn't make demographic assumptions about voters, in this case, Hispanic/Latino ones.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders how republicans can ignore real needs, promote xenophobia and violate labor standards for the DPS with one act.

Neil at All People Have Value took a walk in Houston Freedman's Town and in Galveston. He took good pictures. Everyday life is fun and interesting if you make some effort and look around. APHV is part of

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Damn near everyone knows that our political systems are rigged. Those on the left those on the right and everyone in between. That frustration is being shown in many different ways all over the political spectrum. Where Left And Right Come Together - Our Political System Is Rigged.

'Mr. Tesla', according to Rep. Senfronia Thompson, was one of the biggest losers so far in the Texas Lege's 84th session. But so has been Rep. Senfronia Thompson, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

From Drake's star-studded Houston Appreciation Weekend to the historic opening of two new light rail lines, Texas Leftist can say in earnest that it was a great week to be in the Bayou City.


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

Austin Bakes is fundraising for Nepal.

Juanita wonders what it would take to stem the open carry tide.

Paradise in Hell points out that the "Texas Miracle" has a lot in common with the "North Dakota Miracle".

RG Ratcliffe interviews conservative video hucksters Hannah Giles and Joseph Basel.

Texas Clean Air Matters wants to know why our state's leadership is more concerned about the success other states than they are about Texas.

Mark Bennett examines the criminal defense situation in Waco following the Twin Peaks shootings.

The Texas Election Law Blog highlights an actual case of alleged vote fraud in Weslaco, which like every other case of vote fraud we've seen would not have been prevented by voter ID.

Mike Collier notes that taxes are going up while schools and roads are going down.

Wouldn't it be a great Memorial Day if ...

If we'd had a great start to it last night?

In other words, if during the "national" Memorial Day event at the Mall in DC on Sunday night, the one always hosted by Joe Mantegna and this year including Colin Powell ...

Powell actually admitted he knew that he was telling the United Nations a bunch of lies in early 2003, helping lie us into war in Iraq, a war that he knew was also breaking his old "Pottery Barn" rule about sufficient force?

You know, something like giving an actual apology for the dead — starting with the nearly 5,000 US troops killed, but, since he lied to the United Nations, also acknowledging the estimated 500,000 Iraqi war dead. (That number does not count the dead from the war-spawned ISIS movement and other things, either.)

It's didn't happen. Of course. (More related cartoons here.)

But, wouldn't it be nice?

True, he did have a weaselly half-assed non-apology "apology" four years ago, calling putting out some of this information as accurate as having "blotted my record," but the rest of that statement was blame-shuffling.

If a lot of us at the time of his speech knew stuff in there was inaccurate, Powell's sad trombone that he was forced to speak to the UN with just four days to review stuff

And, he knows it. And should be called out on it. Like this. He's still a liar, only one who is self-consciously trying to preserve his political legacy.

And, while Bush and Cheney were bad enough, in some ways, Powell was worse.

Beyond his Pottery Barn rule (and he surely knew that Don Rumsfeld's military force plans were inadequate), a career military man lying us into war, and lying soldiers to their deaths, is even worse than a civilian doing that.

And, at least one active-duty field general, Lucian Truscott, even apologized to his own dead from WWII.

And, beyond that, a straight non-apology from Shrub, or a snarl from Darth Chaney, is better in my book than a non-apology "apology" that's about a political legacy.

Also, he's spawned elected civilian politicians getting even more nutty since then, like potential GOP presidential candidate Huckleberry J. Butchmeup, among others, blaming Obama for the Iraq War not being a "success." Strange that he doesn't blame Powell/Bush/Cheney for the Afghanistan War not being a success because of all the force we diverted to Iraq.

Of course, the biggest apology is owed by tea partiers who continue to lie about what led to Memorial Day in the first place.