SocraticGadfly: 6/14/15 - 6/21/15

June 19, 2015

Why #race doesn't biologically exist, part 12

Because the latest study of Kennewick Man, and a 12,000 year old Mexican skeleton, show that race can't be defined by one or two facial features. And, as for why Kennewick Man could look "Ainu" or "Maori" yet still be American Indian? Well, American Indian DNA is not all East Asian; it's got a fair admixture of Eurasian Siberian. Maybe it's got Denisovan DNA in higher concentration than other ethnicities, which would vary widely in individual percentage from person to person.

So, "race" as an alleged biological reality, when focused on skin color and a couple of facial features, isn't that; it's a sociological construct.

That said, the clueless, the racialists, or others, will draw the opposite conclusions, for various reasons.

This is also why it's sad that, in the light of the Charleston shooting, our president, Dear Leader, still can't admit that he's not a "post-racial president." I mean, he has no more elections to win, no more possible perceptions of "angry black man" to hide.

Newspapers are dying because nobody's paying online

That "nobody's paying online" is the key takeaway from a big new survey by Reuters, summarized in this very good article from Columbia Journalism Review.

By "nobody's paying," what do I mean?

The survey showed that 47 percent of American Internet users "regularly" use ad blockers. It's 55 percent among the youngest age cohort. And, though I've not seen breakouts correlated to Net usage, I bet more people who are online more often use ad blockers more.

The other big number was 11 percent. That's the amount of Americans who cough up money for paywalled news.

I'm in the 47 percent; I'm not in the 11 percent. For most proprietary news sites that have paywalls, I can work around them. If you're the likes of the Wall Street Journal, I just don't pay.

I've gotten into a dispute with another commenter at a baseball blog about related things.

He's misinformed enough to think that pageviews matter, ad blocking aside, or not aside.

No, they don't. More and more digital media representatives, and advertisers, recognize that page engagement, not numbers of pages viewed, is the key metric. But, that's as much a quality metric as a quantity one, and it's tougher to measure even as a quantity, because,if I have 25 tabs open, how do you tell which one I'm actively engaged with?

Meanwhile, back to the main story. As smartphone use grows, the ad problem does, too. Because, of course, you can't get anything but a small ad on a smartphone. As for paywalls? Beyond what I said about leaky paywalls, paywalling just e-editions don't count. Among other things, I can still read top stories on HTML links. And, smaller daily papers still aren't doing tablet versions of e-editions, and are you going to try to read an 11x21.5 PDF on a smartphone? (And, ad-blocking apps or extensions are headed to smartphones, too.)

As for amounts? The majority of that 11 percent pay $10/month or less. Most who don't pay wouldn't pay more than that; many wouldn't even pay that amount. And, since smartphones in general seem to reduce that page engagement metric, that will probably drop other things, too.

And, that's not all. The shift to "platforms" like Facebook will likely ding the media, too.

These trends don't just affect traditional newspapers, CJR notes. PuffHoes, BuzzedFeed and others face the same issues. Maybe worse. Yes, they don't have the overhead costs of legacy newspapers. But, many legacy papers, albeit by brutal cost cutting, are still profitable in print, and decently so. And, if one bets on the wrong digital platform (i.e., what if WhatsApp makes Facebook into MySpace?) then there's another oops.

On the flip side, while the AP says this could free up money for more news reporting, automated bot-reporting's probable spread to weather stories and more will rather be seen as a way of plugging revenue holes.

As for me? I've "learned" to get news free online and not pay for it.

I use AdBlock Plus.

I use Ghostery to block tracking cookies, so that ads that do get past AdBlock Plus are less "personalized." They will thus be less appealing to me.

I use other extensions to flag advertorial that gets past AdBlock Plus.

I try to remember to use Ixquick or DuckDuckGo, so that Google can't take my search information and personalize ads off that.

I use HTTPS Everywhere for both general security and to otherwise play bits of whack-a-mole on tracking.

This is the basic suite of online privacy extensions and add-ons that cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier recommends to protect against business surveillance.

I haven't even mentioned doing a massive upgrade to one's hosts file, which essentially blocks whole websites, including major online ad creators or hosts, from ever loading in the first place.

This all said, people who have schadenfreude over "the death of newspapers" should note what I said above. This is something that's going to more and more hit online media in general.

That includes web advertising salespeople, or apparent ones, who are making false sales pitches or ideas pitches, whichever.

And, the schadenfreude is also related to the Wild West libertarianism of today's Net 2.0, including many who have made the most money off that.

June 18, 2015

#SCOTUS says #Confederate flag not free speech; #hypocrisy alert?

More specifically, the Supreme Court has said the state of Texas can ban the Sons of Confederate Veterans from being part of the state's vanity license plate program because of its use of the Confederate flag.

This is a tough issue, but I generally disagree with Gov. Greg Abbott, who led the push for the ban. The Sons of Confederate Veterans has had local chapters that have been squirrely, but, how else do you put the SCV on vanity plates without the Confederate flag?

Here's the backstory:

In 2010, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board denied a request from the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Texas Division that the state issue a license plate featuring the group's name and a picture of the Confederate flag. The board said it denied the application in part because "a significant portion of the public associate the confederate flag with organizations advocating expressions of hate directed toward people or groups that is demeaning to those people or groups."
This, of course, gets into issues of hate speech vs. actual hate crimes, and many other things. 

The easy answer is to get rid of vanity plate programs in general. Here in Tex-ass, that would have the advantage of killing off another privatization contract, for starters. (Here's the details of the current contract.)

And, if a pattern of hateful speech eventually becomes part of criminal activity, as with Charleston shooter Dylann (sic) Roof reportedly  displaying a Confederate flag license plate, you then prosecute for a hate crime.

Otherwise, this is just like Adopt-a-Spot programs that have highway road signs. States, when someone like a Ku Klux Klan local has become an Adopt-a-Spot volunteer, have simply killed the public signage for the program.

It's interesting that Clarence Thomas was part of the majority. Given that he's been more philosophically consistent on the Court than Nino Scalia, and has opposed many affirmative action programs, it's interesting indeed. The Atlantic has more on his flip-flop, which does stem from his Southern background. Now I'm back to questioning his intelligence, if he can see no link between Southern white intimidation of blacks and the need for some type of affirmative action. There's good in-depth analysis here of Thomas in particular and the majority in general.

And, isn't that, my "get rid of vanity plate programs in general," reminiscent about what John Roberts has said about affirmative action?

"There is no honor among Supreme Court justices."

And, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, among others, agree this is censorship.

#TwinPeaksShooting video shows Cossacks armed for #Bandidos bear

These are among bikes at Twin Peaks restaurant
that may face asset forfeiture proceedings.
Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune
As the Waco police start asset forfeiture procedures against bikers in the wake of last month’s Twin Peaks shooting, we’re learning more bits and pieces, and starting to connect a few of those jigsaw pieces, about what happened — and why.

Per that story from the Waco Tribune, here’s some of that latest.

First, this confirms what I've read in various sources, that the Bandidos and Cossacks have been at it with each other since an Abilene stabbing in 2013. Indeed, two Cossacks stabbed there were at the May 17 melee in Waco.

Early this year, other incidents happened.

Then, an April 16 incident at Twin Peaks, followed by another a week later in its parking lot was surely what led the Waco PD to issue its last appeal to the Twin Peaks owner.

Here’s what the police have constructed about May 17:
Viewing videos from Twin Peaks and Don Carlos, police say they were able to see several Cossacks reach under their vests and appear to adjust their weapons or check their weapons. They had handguns and knives as they walked around the patio, and officers said they also could see Bandidos, Machateros and Caballeros members standing along the perimeter of the parking lot. 
As another group of Bandidos arrived in the Twin Peaks parking lot, several Cossacks, Bogatyrs and Scimitars climbed over the patio railing and went toward the Bandidos.
“Several of the Cossacks pulled their weapons, including handguns, as they stood on the patio and exited the patio,” the affidavits say.
Scimitars moved to the front entrance of the patio, appearing to take a “rear guard” position for the Cossacks, the documents allege. 
A Bandido nearly struck a Cossack with his motorcycle in the parking lot. Members of both groups converged and a Bandido punched a Cossack in the face. 
“Several Bandidos and Cossacks pulled out guns and knives, and shot and stabbed each other,” the records show.
So, they were ready to rumble indeed. And, there's such a thing as "Tasing Knuckles"? Wow.

That said, this does undercut the Washington Post story by an unnamed Cossack who claimed some Bandido from East Texas invited them to the May meeting to bury the hatchet. On this angle, the Cossacks were simply determined to crash the meeting when it was moved up to Waco. (The May 17 biker confederation meeting had been, like previous ones, scheduled for Austin.)

That, in turn, leads to the old “why,” or more specifically,  “cui bono”? Simple answer? This anonymous Cossack is probably pretty high in its hierarchy; he is, after all, president of a local chapter. He’s already trying to craft a narrative, for when trials start, about “poor innocent Cossacks.” As in this:
The Cossack, president of a North Texas chapter of the motorcycle gang, asked not to be identified because he is now in hiding and said he fears for his life. He is a rare eye-witness speaking publicly about the Waco massacre, one of the worst eruptions of biker-gang violence in U.S. history.
Of course he’s in hiding. He’s probably in hiding because, to once again compare bikers to mobsters, he ordered this hit. He’s afraid the Bandidos will kill him for sure. If not that, he knows that he could be charged with capital murder himself, and so, he’s afraid of arrest.

I said, in blogging, that it had the ring of truth to it. Well, I ‘ll pretty much withdraw that. I think it still has the ring of truth in that this was a deliberate, pre-meditated event. But, a lot of the premeditation seems to have been on the Cossacks’ part.

Let’s see if the Washington Post does a follow-up. Probably not. The two reporters appear to have gotten punked. (As did I, a little bit, for not being more critical of the story at the time.) That said, for people who know Cossack structure, it's probably not too hard to figure out who he is. So, the arrest part of his fears are probably something he can't avoid.

Finally, note that this is part of asset forfeiture proceedings.

I oppose, on principle, pre-trial asset forfeitures. The Fourth Amendment says we’re supposed to be “secure in (our) persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Combine that with a legal presumption of innocence, and asset forfeiture proceedings shouldn’t start until after a conviction. Unfortunately, our law-and-order Supreme Court has ruled otherwise.

That said, to further deflate conspiracy theorists, the story also notes that 75 percent of the 177 arrestees have gone through bond reduction hearings. Not all of them have been successful, but they've had their day in bond court. And more than 60 people detained on May 17 were not arrested.

June 17, 2015

Feds tell #wingnuts: Worry about your own, not #Muslims

Very interesting news analysis piece from the New York Times.

It's still anti-government extremists (who are far more likely to come from the far right than the far left) who are the biggest worry, according to a national database of police departments:
In a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year of 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. And only 3 percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe, compared with 7 percent for anti-government and other forms of extremism.
And, we have specific examples:
Last year, for example, a man who identified with the sovereign citizen movement — which claims not to recognize the authority of federal or local government — attacked a courthouse in Forsyth County, Ga., firing an assault rifle at police officers and trying to cover his approach with tear gas and smoke grenades. The suspect was killed by the police, who returned fire. In Nevada, anti-government militants reportedly walked up to andshot two police officers at a restaurant, then placed a “Don’t tread on me” flag on their bodies. An anti-government extremist in Pennsylvania was arrested on suspicion of shooting two state troopers, killing one of them, before leading authorities on a 48-day manhunt. A right-wing militant in Texas declared a “revolution” and was arrested on suspicion of attempting to rob an armored car in order to buy weapons and explosives and attack law enforcement. These individuals on the fringes of right-wing politics increasingly worry law enforcement officials.
We didn’t even mention Cliven Bundy, among Nevada’s anti-government militants, either.

That’s why, although not agreeing with everything related to bonding amounts on the Twin Peaks Shooting in Waco, I don’t blame police for having some serious concerns.

The bottom line comes elsewhere in the piece, though, and it’s the admonition to have appropriate risk proportionality knowledge:
(T)errorism of all forms has accounted for a tiny proportion of violence in America. There have been more than 215,000 murders in the United States since 9/11. For every person killed by Muslim extremists, there have been 4,300 homicides from other threats.

In fact, cigarettes kills as many people in two days or so as were killed on 9/11. Yet, you have people applauding the TSA kabuki and worse while still puffing away.

Update, June 19: Dylann Roof is the latest proof of how true this all is.

My #USOpen2015 picks, prop bets, etc.

I'm enough of a golf fan that I usually do a blog post ahead of each of the four major tournaments.

And, we're at U.S. Open time this weekend, at a visually stunning course at Chambers Bay, which will not be your father's U.S. Open. I think maybe we should call it "linksy" instead of a full-blown links, but it's similar enough. I think it's more of a true links than Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, home of two previous PGAs as well as this year's.  Certainly, with the possibility of oceanside weather, it's more linksy than any course in Wisconsin.

Between that, its length, and Tiger Woods' impression that every hole feels like it's playing uphill (surely, Tiger, the par-3 with a 100-foot drop doesn't feel that way, does it?) it's going to be a challenge. At the same time, while many applauded, some worried about the tricked-out Pinehurst a year ago, and it turned out tame. Beyond that, there's no rain in the forecast, no wind above 12mph or so, and no full sun until Saturday. And, Rory McIlroy says that lofted irons, rather than run-up ground balls, are still in play.

That said, I mentioned Red Shirt, so off to prop bets.

Tiger I put at 50-50 to make/miss the cut. The same is true for Ian James Poulter, just because he's being Poulteresque.

Winning score? I'll go with 1 over. I'll go with half a dozen snowmen on individual hole scores. I'll go with three scores of, say 83 or worse. But, I don't think this place is going to blow up. Looks like no British Open-type weather. With no full sun until Saturday, greens may stay fairly slow.

Now that I've written TW off, what about some other players?

First, I swat down the touting of Jim Furyk by some. This is NOT his type of U.S. Open. Too, too long. He might not make the cut either. I also don't see this as a Steve Stricker place. Especially on Furyk, national golf writers should know better.

D.J. Johnson? Call me when he actually wins a major.

Ditto for Rickie Fowler.

Jordan Speith? While his caddie has looped the course, no, young'uns like him don't win back-to-back majors. That said, said caddie, Michael Greller, has good analysis of what he thinks will be the toughest holes.

Without picking a winner, or saying it will for sure come from this group, I'm going to tag three.

One is Rory. I'm assuming his Eurotour missed cuts are primarily fatigue. I'll secondly assume that this isn't so linksy as to make him lose focus or whatever, per his own words above. And, if those words aren't enough, he's also talking smack on the level of LeBron.

The second is Adam Scott. Steve Williams back on the bag, slow greens to help him dodge his dodgy putting, and surely a "legacy" desire to win a second major.

The third is Phil Mickelson. Philly Mick finally got links right at Muirfield. He's rounding into shape, has motivation, and could just pull it off.

As for the course? I do agree with Andy North that 1 and 18, which can be set up as either a par 4 or a par 5, should have the day's setup announced in advance, like the day before.

June 16, 2015

The #Cardinals in big trouble with the #FBI on #Astros hack

Luther Hackman,
Cards' IT mascot
The FBI claims that some Cardinals employees were behind a hack of the Houston Astros' computer systems, which wound up having part of the information leaked to Deadspin last year, with usual Deadspin hilarity.

Couple of quick observations, while joking that Luther Hackman is the Cards' IT mascot.

It appears it might been individual employees acting on their own, and not coordinated. But, further investigation is surely warranted. (sigh) The subpoeans are for unnamed members of the front office.

The employees allegedly thought that Luhnow had taken proprietary info, gambled that he hadn’t changed his passwords (he hadn’t) and voila.

That said, the story also notes that nobody has been suspended. Which could mean that maybe Luhnow DID take proprietary info. There’s more to be written. This could have included advanced second- or third-level sabermetrics, paid for from a private company, or some meta-sabermetrics on how to weight individual sabermetrics.

Jokes about Astros dumb and/or cheap trade ideas involving Bud Norris, Ichiro Suzuki, Xander Bogaerts. George SpringerCarlos Correa, or Giancarlo Stanton aside, this is interesting. Given that nobody, nowhere, has been suspended so far, maybe Luhnow DID steal some info.

Derrick Goold has the main story at the Post-Dispatch. He notes: 
While with the Cardinals, Luhnow helped construct a database of player information -- including scouting information, medical details, and proprietary rankings -- that was used as a clearing house for evaluating and acquiring talent. In Houston, Luhnow and his staff built "Ground Control," which an online database for use by members of the Astros' front office. 
Stay tuned to that.

Also stay tuned to Hardball Talk for more from Craig Calcaterra. Given that he's a lawyer, his legal insights may be good, and he's already delivered. The potential crime is the same thing on which the feds nailed hacker Aaron Swartz. Plus, he notes that the feds in general, including Congress on occasion, likes to make baseball into a piñata. At the same time, Craig agrees that this likely WAS a rogue operation.

Ignore a lot of commenters there. Many have multiple WordPress accounts, and it's clear that this is a "haters gonna hate" gorgefest opportunity. As for some of them? Per Craig's legal analysis, he doesn't think this is above rogue employees level. Second, with IRS employees and other things, we have actual examples of rogue employees, whether in the government or the private sector, doing this. And, that's not new, either.

Related? Jeff Gordon from the P-D notes this is an image black eye, as if we needed someone from the Cards' newspaper of record to tell us that.

The Twitter jokesters, on the other hand, I not only don't hate, I can even laugh along with them.

Meanwhile, I wonder why MLB staff as well as that of the Cardinals was subpoenaed.


Updates: The Houston Chronicle says 4-5 employees are believed to be involved. Lester Munson of ESPN has a definitely different take on the legal angles than does Calcaterra. He says two key issues would be that the feds have to prove knowledge of criminality in advance, and that the info was available noplace else. Obviously, if Luhnow five-fingered stuff from the Cards, we're in whole new territory. That, in turn, could be why MLB as well as Cards staffers have been subpoenaed. On the other hand, if the feds were already walking down that road themselves, I would think Astros staff would also be subpoenaed.

And, saying that the possibility of Luhnow having taken proprietary materials from the Cardinals could be seen as either psychological motivation for the hack, or, after the fact, a legal defense, is different than claiming it's an ethical justification. Some commenters on sports blogs apparently don't get that, they don't want to get that.

The Cards are now doing an internal investigation.

As for whether or not the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act applies? Another Chron piece says the information hacked must be worth more than $5,000. Well, we know Luhnow's idiotic trade ideas don't pass that muster.

Conspiracy theories continue to abound about #TwinPeaks shooting

Most these conspiracy theories started among hardcore libertarians, bikers, or gun nuts. Unfortunately, as I'm discovering, more and more progressives are buying the idea that the Waco Police Department "set up" the bikers who met at the Twin Peaks Restaurant on May 17.

First, bikers were firing at other bikers first. That's not just Waco PD claims; one biker firing at another was caught on video; read the story as well as seeing the video footage in this account. Second, per a Cossack who wants to stay anonymous, for obvious reasons, the whole event was a set-up by the Bandidos.

Second, if it really were a set-up, why didn't Waco PD have 40 cops there instead of 14? Why didn't it kill 30 people instead of the 9 it allegedly did kill?

Survey says: Because it wasn't a set-up.

Update, June 18: Survey does say that the Cossacks came loaded for bear.)

Survey says that conspiracy thinkers will say: Because this was all part of the conspiracy.

Yes, the Waco PD did do a pretty broad dragnet on its arrests. And yes, local judges, at the prompting of a hang-em-high DA who has Texas' fifth-worst record, by county, for pretrial detention time, set bonds high. But, a little more than half the arrested are now free on bond, most with reductions from the original $1 million to $100K, $50K or even $25K. Judges are trying to speed this up even more. And, that's as those who are in jail engage in deliberate monkey-wrenching as jailhouse lawyers.

Third, this is part of broader issues, though.

As I've told others, although I vote Green because it's the only left-liberal option here in Texas, this is part of why I'm not an official member of the Green Party. Too much anti-vaxxerism (though a lot of that runs around in libertarian circles, too, like Orange County, California), and too much anti-GMO-ism, among other things.

The GP 2012 platform says that farms and ranches should convert to organic, (as part of broader ag issues that, if all implemented, at once, would probably cut our food production 20 percent) which would mean it's officially anti-GMO, presumably in part for conspiracy thinking reasons.

On medicine, it officially supports "alternative" medicine as well as .. well, as well as medicine! Alternative medicine, when I'm in an extra-snarky mood, I call pseudo-medicine. It's either tested and confirmed of value, tested and disconfirmed, or not tested. Categories two and three are not medicine.

Specifically, these items of GP-endorsed pseudomedicine:

Chronic conditions are often best cured by alternative medicine. We support the teaching, funding and practice of holistic health approaches and as appropriate, the use of complementary and alternative therapies such as herbal medicines, homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and other healing approaches.
(Previous Green platforms also mentioned Ayurvedic techniques by name.)

I cut third parties more slack, because the American system is stacked against them. But, that doesn't mean I have to join them while voting for their candidates.

And, this isn't something new. I blogged about Greens and agriculture three years ago. Besides, Grist, a national respected strong, in-depth environmental magazine, shot down most GMO myths a year ago. That said, I've had people say Grist is "on the take." Which just proves there's no arguing with conspiracy theorists.

Or, I blogged earlier this week about the dumb idea that banksters are mysteriously dying in massive numbers. (I guess the idea is that their higher-ups are killing them off before they spill all the beans on yet-uncovered financial shenanigans.)

That said, at least any progressive types who are conspiracy thinking are being open about this.

Even if "not even wrong," per Wolfgang Pauli.

Have I believed any conspiracy theories? Once, on a lesser one, yes.

At one time, I believed that Sarah Palin was not Trig Palin's mom.

That said, first note that "at one time" in italics. When I had a better plausible explanation, as suggested in part by someone else (the not Trig's mom was originally suggested entirely by other people), I ran with that. I actually found two better plausible explanations, and they're not mutually exclusive.

I also noted on this blog that I had abandoned that original idea; in fact, on my own, even before officially abandoning it, I was finding it less likely. And, I actually read something from a fairly big conservative blogger (blind hogs and acorns, if you will), that was part of my final abandonment of that issue.

Which I also publicly noted on this blog.

That said, Sarah Palin acted a lot more weird and suspicious than the Waco PD. And, if you don't believe that, then we're past the point of reasoning together. And, while my next statement may be in part self-rationalizing behavior, given what I said about Sarah Palin vs the Waco PD, and the amount of detail publicly reported about the shooting fallout vs. the Trig Palin birth fallout, this is a conspiracy theory that's more easily corrected.

Will it be?

Quasi-looping-reference intended, call me skeptical. Being skeptical about the McLennan County DA, with a known, provable hang-em-high reputation, is one thing. I am myself, to some degree, though less than others.

The murder by cop? No.

And, that's not the first time for me. I was very skeptical about the worst claims against Darren Brown in Ferguson, while giving more credence to those about the Ferguson PD in general, or even the whole city apparatus.

Know what? Then-Attorney General Eric Holder ultimately agreed.

And,  yes, sometime in the near future, I'll probably do a rewrite of this to focus further on left-liberal conspiracy thinking. It happens. And not just with the items I mentioned above. Certain elements of the far left, as well as the libertarian-type far right, worry about things like contrails, too.

And, it's not just the far-left or far-right. It's the far-nonrational in general.

Folks, in my day job as a newspaper editor, I've seen plenty of conspiracy theories about police in particular and local governments in general.

Do I give a kneejerk rejection? No. I investigate.

That said, only a couple have come even close to having actual fire behind the alleged smoke. Most were neither empirically nor psychologically plausible.

But, because Homo sapiens wasn't built to be a slow-thinking, cogitating animal, we don't do it well.

I don't claim to do it perfectly, myself.

I DO claim to be committed to continuing to improve at it.

I wish others would make that same claim. No matter their political stance, no matter their religious beliefs, no matter other things.

Related to that, sometimes I get in a mood, or a mindframe, where I blog more about sports. Or about science. Or about something else.

I feel the need to blog more about skeptical issues likely popping up in the future.

June 15, 2015

TX Progressives talk Alamo City races, renewable energy, national health systems

The Texas Progressive Alliance is binged out on the NBA Finals and waiting for the U.S. Open as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff tries to predict how County Clerks and AG Ken Paxton will react to a SCOTUS ruling in favor of marriage equality.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos spanks the Texas Republican Party for its ideological and spiteful decisions that cheat Texas taxpayers, robbing them of paid for services. Wake up voters. TX GOP: Spite Cheats Texas Taxpayers.

A few people predicted Leticia Van de Putte's close loss in the San Antonio mayor's race, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs found them.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know a labor bashing provision was in the Latino bashing border security bill.  50 hours a week is the new norm.

Socratic Gadfly thinks we need to drop a bomb on our entire current health care system, going beyond "single payer" to a full-blown British-type National Health System.

Nonsequiteuse is frustrated by journalists who can't or won't shut down wingnuts when they go into the Gish Gallop.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Good news out of Williamson County regarding renewable energy, Georgetown Will Be Powered 100 Percent By Renewable Energy Within The Next Couple Years.

Neil at All People Have Value took a picture of the mailbox he used to send a $50 donation to the Bernie Sanders campaign. APHV is part of

Texas Leftist wants you to know about the 150th Anniversary of Juneteenth, and where you can go across Texas to celebrate.


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

Scott Braddock looks back at how the Senate operated in a non-two-thirds-rule world.

Juanita is keeping an eye on Tom DeLay as the SCOTUS same sex marriage ruling draws near.

Greg Wythe reviews the list of departing (or possibly departing) legislators so far.

Scott Metzger offers his thoughts on a recent kerfuffle between some high-end restaurants and the Silver Eagle beer distributor that has many Texas microbreweries caught in the middle.

Carmen Cruz and Annetta Ramsey argue that marriage equality matters to both gay and straight people.

BEYONDBones celebrates World Ocean Day while spreading the word about the problem of plastic pollution.

The Texas Election Law Blog critiques Rick Hasen's criticism of the Hillary Clinton campaign's push for voting rights reform.

Jay Crossley calls for an end to road-only bonds.

Rachel Dolezal resigns NAACP post; a teaching moment for #race?

Rachel A. Dolezal at her home in Spokane, Wash.
CreditColin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review, via Associated Press
Rachel Dolezal, the ethnically "white" adjunct professor at Eastern Washington University, who has recently come to public light through her pushing her public self-identity as "black," including being president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, has resigned that position. But, not entirely voluntarily, as local members started a campaign.

(UPDATE: We've gone straight to fraud and ego as the best explanation for her behavior if she once "pulled a Bakke" and sued Howard University for anti-white discrimination.)

I have several thoughts on the issue, beyond her ego trips.

First, I reject, in general biological ideas of "race," and even more, the idea that, were we to define race biologically, only one definition is allowed, namely, the "white" definition based on skin tone and a couple of facial features.

Second, I do accept that "race" has been a sociological and cultural construct, and because such constructs have "legs" today, we shouldn't ignore them.

Third, I think that Rachel Dolezal was sociologically "white" as raised. I don't think she's "mentally ill" as broadly and vaguely used. Is she perhaps highly egotistic? Yes; see the "update" link above. And, per her past, she's arguably engaged in cultural appropriation, and perhaps done that for academic or other advancement, in part. See the second link above, or go to what it links to, a new piece from the Smoking Gun.

I mean, maybe she wouldn't have become chapter president, but she certainly could have served on the board of the Spokane NAACP; the organization has long had multiracial involvement.

Is there more to her birth family than we know? As in, maybe abuse of her, or maybe favoritism, or perceived favoritism, to her adopted siblings, who are African-American? Yes. And she has had a fallout with her family, including (but not limited to) her parents, who "reverse outed" her as being Caucasian.

Do I think it's good she resigned her NAACP position? Good for whom? Could be good or bad for her, based on her larger psychology. That said, the details of her announcement offer me little hope on that for now.  And, as the likes of V.S. Ramachandran note, this may be some kind of identity self-dissociation. We might not call that quite "mentally ill," but, we wouldn't call that "normal," either.

At the same time, did she somehow, between adopted siblings and a marriage to an African-American, somehow become "black" in her own mind? Yes. Is it body dysmorphia to have possibly gone beyond tanning, on skin color? I'd also say yes.

As for the NAACP? It's for the board to figure out whether it's ultimately good or bad, but I think it's most likely good. It's especially good if this becomes a "teaching moment" — and one that works. That said, judging by the Spokane local's "push," I think they felt what she had done was harmful — and was some sort of cultural misappropriation.

As for my second wind thoughts on why she was trying to "pass"? (I see no reason not to call a spade a spade.) It does appear that she — even if she really "felt black" in some way — was looking to leverage this into academic and artistic advantage.

That said, this will be like pouring gasoline on the fires of affirmative action cases in court. The next time a Fisher vs University of Texas case reaches the courts, the plaintiff(s) will almost certainly mention this as part of arguments. (And, speaking of ironic timing, SCOTUS today declined to take a second look at that very case.)

As for her parents? Yes, Rachel once claimed she was born in a tepee, but her parents claimed to be both Caucasian and Native American. Apparently, it wasn't enough for official tribal status, so maybe that was untrue, and psychologically, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

One philosopher in this roundup of mini-essay philosophical thoughts notes this issue, and how the "one drop" theory applied only to blacks in American history, not Asians, Hispanics or even American Indians.

And, I'll give Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the last word. Be yourself, while continuing to work for the causes you back.

Actually, now, I'll take the last word. If the "real yourself" is being a fraud, no, don't be yourself, at least not until you become a better self.

As for that suit? She lost, and had to pay court costs, plus additional costs for trying to delay a medical examination. (Dolezal also claimed she was facing discrimination over being pregnant; I'm guessing she was trying to delay an obstetrical examination.)

The cult of Hillary grows — anti-populist human bites dog

Maybe this adds to the inevitability factor, but Democratic presidential campaigner Hillary Clinton is asking for people to do unpaid summer internships — and they are.

But, you're thinking, this is dog bites man. Sure, she claims to be a populist, but she's not the first to want college kiddos to work for free during the summer.

Nope. It's man bites dog. She wants people with previous paid professional experience to do this for free — and they are.

Your choice, folks, but P.T. Barnum, in talking about births every minute, or Sinclair Lewis, in a secularized version of Babbitt, already has your name and number.

To me, that's the big takeaway, even more than Hillary's seeming hypocrisy after positioning herself as a populist. It's the cultlike attitude of people, similar to those who would have gotten more than $30,000 a year in the past, doing this for free, at least during the summer.

Again, Barnum and Lewis have your number.

Beyond this, though, the idea of the Hillary cult, that makes people willing to do this, is fascinating.

First, she's not the most feminist of women. While she dissed the idea of baking White House cookies, she bought whole hog into "stand by your man," and long before the Slickster became the POTUS of us all. She's OK on the equal pay, but no trailblazer.

Second, despite a tack left so sudden that it looks like she took parasailing lessons from John Kerry, she's not that liberal, and, unless you're already in the cult, not that believable at looking that liberal. Maybe she's mashing up "1984" and "Brave New World," speaking of authors. Soma-induced serfdom, anybody?

#Libertarianism, #paleoconservativism, #racism and #skepticism

I've blogged more than once in the past about how I cannot support modern organized skepticism because of the likes of Penn and Teller's libertarianism on things like global warming and climate change and (at one time) secondhand smoke, though P/T later backed off that (at least partially).

I've also blogged about leading libertarian skeptic Michael Shermer and his keeping two known racialists, Frank Miele and Vince Sarich, on the masthead of Skeptic magazine for more than a decade.

Well, I think D.J. Grothe needs to be added to the list.

And, I need to write further about this whole issue.

Yes, it's true that certain genetic differences can be used to biologically divide humans into what some people insist on calling "race."

That said, depending on WHICH genetic markers I use, I can slice and dice "race" into many different ways. If I, say, focus on certain blood proteins, rather than skin color, I can find multiple races of sub-Saharan Africans. And certainly, in things like medicine, blood proteins are more important than skin color.

Or, on malaria drugs and allergenic reactions, I can make "Semites" and "blacks" all one race.
Why intelligent people insist on claiming "race" as a biological reality, AND, insist on only the classical, ultimately RACIST (sic) idea that the only definition of race that counts is skin tones plus a couple of facial features, I have no idea.

And, yes, I'm calling that not "just" racialism, but racism. If you insist that your particular type of biological divisions of people into races is the ONLY valid one when it's clearly not, you're at least giving the appearance of not being "just" a racialist, trying to put pseudoscientific lipstick on a pig, but, vehemently wiping off anybody else's lipstick when they use a different one.

Beyond that, such ideas, beyond ignoring environmental factors, totally ignore the role of luck within environmental factors for achievement.

I have less than no idea why people who claim to be "scientific skeptics" do this. The alleged libertarianism behind this is as harmful to your (not my) "movement" as is the libertarianism of Penn and Teller on global warming. Or more.

And, if you're a libertarian, you're theoretically harming your libertarian evangelism as well as your skeptical evangelism. (Actually, the likes of Shermer and Grothe strike me as a hybrid of libertarian and elitist conservativism [or it's "degenerate" cousin, natural-born conservativism] though they'd never admit that.)

In the particular case in hand, beyond everything else, the facile assumption that I've never read Charles Murray or Nicholas Wade?

That wasn't just wrong. It was an insult.