September 11, 2015

Antonin Scalia — fundamentalist

The Supreme Court associate justice, well-known for his forceful (if often vague and sometimes changing) exposition of a doctrine of Constitutional law jurisprudence known as "originalism," would surely reject the charge of being a fundamentalist.

But, in my first essay at the new philosophy-related webzine, The Electric Agora, I argue that this is indeed the case. I argue that there are definite parallels with religious fundamentalism, especially in its Christian fundamentalist stripe, and that Scalia's line of thinking, rather than being new, arguably goes back to Chief Justice Roger Taney of Dred Scott fame.

I also argue, following on my review of his most recent book, that pop historians of a certain stripe, like Joseph Ellis, perpetuate the fundamentalist type textual reification of the Constitution, and the reification of the thought and intent of the founders, as expostulated by the likes of Scalia, Samuel Alito and others. On the Christian fundamentalism side, my inspiration in part comes from the selectivity of the fundamentalism of anti-Constitutional Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her backers, or eggers-on.

Anyway, if you're looking for more in-depth writing on the intersection of philosophy with the social sciences and the arts, head to The Electric Agora.

September 10, 2015

The #Phillies love song of J. Scott Proefrock

With apologies to T.S. Eliot, let us look at "The Love Song of J. Scott Proefrock," as the team bids a not-totally-fond farewell to lame-duck general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.


Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like Amaro, etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through a half-deserted stadium,
The muttering tedium
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of lamentable intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Ruben Amaro.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing it was a gameless October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a trade to counter the trades you get;
There will be time to murder and abet,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question at home plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Ruben Amaro.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the major leagues?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with trade returns;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?

He grows old ... He grows old ...
I shall pay more for my first baseman cold.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to trade a Lee?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk beside the sea.
I have heard the boo-boos cawing, Utley, Utley.

I ignore that they still will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

A Game with Words: We must run Wittgenstein through Hume

Philosopher friend Dan Kaufman surely would or will disagree if or when he sees this, but I shall explain that header.

On Ludwig Wittgenstein, he does have a lot of insight, but, I don’t ennoble him like Dan does. (Dan might object a bit to the word "ennoble," but ... I'll stand by its sentiment.)

In part, that’s because one can go “meta” on Wittgenstein’s language games idea. I think Walter Kaufmann, with his somewhat contrarian rejection of “guilt” and “justice” as universals or quasi-universals kind of gets at that.

But, there are other issues. And, expanding on a comment I left on a post at Massimo Pigliucci's blog, here are a few of them.

1. Are we talking about descriptive or prescriptive use of a particular word, or words in general?

2. Can we even agree on what “prescriptive” and “descriptive” mean, either in general or with a particular word?

3. How do we make such judgments?

These are just a few of many ideas related to this issue.           

In short, Wittgenstein’s idea on language games, in the real world, must be run through …

Wait for it, those of you know one of my favorite philosophers …

Wittgenstein must in some way be run through Ye Olde Philter of Induction, courtesy David Hume.

September 09, 2015

On #climatechange this time, Jon Chait has his neoliberal head up his ass and Dear Leader's

I've come to loathe Chait, possibly to the degree Ken Silverstein loathes Nick Kristof, since, a few years ago, the degree of Chait's in-the-tank Obamiac-dom became apparent.

I've little doubt that Chait's Pollyanna tome on how "winning the war against climate change is just around the corner" has a fair amount to do with Dear Leader still being in office.

First, yes, greenhouse gases were flat in 2014. But, projecting a one-year trend into the future is nonsense. Chait either does know that, or should.

Related to that, as of September 2014, GHGs were projected to increase. It's possible that the Chinese recession was already starting last year, and that's why they didn't increase. Chait doesn't consider that possibility.

Second, he talks about "China this" and "China that." The non-Western world includes more than China, notably India. Indeed, per the third link, India's rate of increase in 2013 was higher than China's.

Third, China may not add 18 gigawatts of solar this year, do to the recession.

Fourth, the only mutually reinforcing treaty, or similar, is a carbon tax plus carbon tariff. If we do it first, China has to play ball. If China does it first, we have to play ball (with a tariff on our agricultural exports, primarily). And, Dear Leader has never come even close to talking about a carbon tax. That's in part because he has no cojones, and in part because a tax, and/or a tariff, would not be a "market based solution."

Fifth, promises have been made at climate conferences for 20 years and more now. If Chait really thinks promises this year will become reality, he'll probably sell you on the idea that Dear Leader will give post-presidential speeches for free.

Related to that, it's not just conservatives who scorned the U.S.-China agreement on climate change; see this blog post by yours truly. Or, in relation to the nanny-state scolding that Obama likes to engage in, I tackle that issue and how Obama wants to use it on climate change here.

Sixth, speaking of Dear Leader again, Chait talks about his trip to Alaska while ignoring his permitting of drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

Seventh, Chait's wrong for singling out U.S. conservatives. See "Harper, Stephen" and "Conservative Party, Canada."

As for Chait? I've called him a fellator of Obama (after previously calling him a fellator of Obama before that). I've then called him out as NOT a member of "the reality-based community."

Because New York magazine has continually and repeatedly blown massive money on his sorry ass, and yet doesn't have a paywall, I've put the "no follow" tag on the story. No need to reward their pageview count for analytics.

#Deflategate and #Spygate: Lawsuits, leakers, players

ESPN’s bombshell linking New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichik’s Spygate and quarterback Tom Brady’s Deflategate has several sidebars to it.

One, from outside the league, is, is there any chance of lawsuits?

One could conceivably come from either a Vegas or a non-Vegas sports book, convinced it lost money on point spreads on some games. Given the duration and depth of the spying, more than previously known (outside of the Boston Globe reporting the Patriots had spied on a St. Louis Rams 2002 Super Bowl walk-through practice, then the NFL forcing a retraction, even though that appears to have been true), I’m sure major sports book companies can find all sorts of game to look at.

Starting with that one.

Per Vegas, the Rams were a 14-point favorite in an expected 53-point total. Actual final, as NFL fans know? Patriots 20, Rams 17.

And, about that game, and the filming of a Rams' pre-game walk-through, we know, as largely reported before:
During the walk-through, the Rams had also practiced some of their newly designed red zone plays. When they ran the same plays late in the Super Bowl's fourth quarter, the Patriots' defense was in position on nearly every down. On one new play, quarterback Kurt Warner rolled to his right and turned to throw to Marshall Faulk in the flat, where three Patriots defenders were waiting. On the sideline, Rams coach Mike Martz was stunned. He was famous for his imaginative, unpredictable plays, and now it was as if the Patriots knew what was coming on plays that had never been run before. The Patriots' game plan had called for a defender to hit Faulk on every down, as a means of eliminating him, but one coach who worked with an assistant on that 2001 Patriots team says that the ex-Pats assistant coach once bragged that New England knew exactly what the Rams would call in the red zone. "He'd say, 'A little birdie told us,'" the coach says now.
Sounds more than just a bit suspicious.

Or, let’s say a centimillionaire or higher rent guy is a big NFL fantasy sports fan, and has played in leagues with serious betting. Is he going to sue for losses?

And ... in a civil suit, there's no Fifth Amendment to plead.

The second is from inside the league.

Thinking like a journalist (rather than thinking like a pot-stirrer regarding a potential Vegas suit), the big question is:

Who started leaking to ESPN and why?

Is it the same (anonymous) owner who called the original Deflategate decision a make-good, and now feels HE got burned? (That said, per the tail end of the ESPN piece, other owners had similar sentiment.) Does the attempt to call John Mara in as a mediator last week make it less, or more, likely, that it's him?

It could be one of those disgruntleds, but which one? 

Or, could it be ...

Stan Kroenke, trying to get leverage to move the Rams back to Los Angeles? Even though a lot of fellow owners reportedly dislike him? Or, maybe precisely because a lot of fellow owners dislike him? Obviously, as owner of the Rams, he’s got a direct connection on the story. And, as 2002 Super Bowl loser, even as Vegas had things pegged totally differently, he has leverage, too. (Meanwhile, he becomes more loathed by the day in St. Louis. Even though the city and/or county may shell out for his every stadium demand and more at end.)

Let's say Kroenke knows even more, because at this point, there may well be an "even more" still lurking. He threatens to drop that other shoe ... or sue, the league, Goodell, AND Kraft and the Patriots, knowing Goodell once was, until Deflategate, Kraft's fair-haired boy who shielded Kraft and the Pats during Deflategate.

Kroenke's price for silence? A guaranteed 75 percent of owners supporting his move to LA, no matter what.

Meanwhile, back to the 2002 Super Bowl ...

September 08, 2015

Thoughts on the decline and fall of the site formerly known as Hardball Talk and the blogger called Calcaterra

Over the weekend, and sneakily, a holiday weekend at that, the overlords at NBC Sports overhauled the design of the blog formerly known as Hardball Talk.

More insulting yet, they castrated some of its personality, starting by changing the URL's name from "HardballTalk" etc to "MLB," and doing the same with its name.

Proprietor and chief blogger Craig Calcaterra, unlike his Pro Football Talk compadre Jim Florio (perhaps in part, if comments are correct, due to Florio having legal rights to his blog) has been a mix of sympatico, mock sympatico, snarky and condescending, most notably, on the latter two, on his Twitter feed. (Maybe NBC castrated him, too?)

Long-time commenter Old Gator and others with nuanced insight on baseball are probably "outta there." I'll either read more at Yahoo Sports (which I semi-abandoned after its similar "ass" redesign of a few years ago, or go to a successor to Grantland, after the contracts of most the folks Bill Simmons recruited expire and they don't come back.

But, if they do a site that's long-form only, like Grantland, with no blogging and no commenting, that's not a good option either.

OG mentioned CBS. Well, yes, but Scott Boras mouthpiece Jon Heyman is there, tho I don't know if he does any blogging.

IMO, brand loyalty (and as someone in the media, I've seen plenty of this) is to authors, not sites. So, if Craig wants to continue to suck at the NBC teats, he risks ever more abandonment.

As for his comment that people like OG adjusted after a redesign of a few years ago, they eventually stopped bitching and came back?

Yes, but you hadn't built your brand up so much yet, Craigie. However, you had already built it up somewhat; that's why NBC picked up Shysterball.

You're risking the equivalent of a Tylenol scare. For yourself, not NBC. At least, if you continue being a corporate flak.

But, you don't have to be. More below the fold.

TX Progressives look at police politicization, school finance, nature, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone enjoyed the three day weekend provided by the labor movement, and fights for its future, as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff reported on a busy week at the State Supreme Court, which heard the school finance appeal as well as a case involving the city's of Houston's anti-pollution ordinances.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos is disgusted by the right wing's politicization of a horrible tragedy in Houston. Harris Co. (Houston) TX Needs a New Sheriff.

SocraticGadfly, having edited photos from last month, shares National Parks' geographic beauty, wildlife, history and astrophotography, in photos, narrative and photo album links from his most recent vacation.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau should be ashamed of herself for inviting death threats and hate on the TV station that broadcast video of her deputies shooting a man.  Now we're supposed to trust her investigation of the incident?

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs finished posting about Houston's citywide races on the November ballot with At Large 4, At Large 5, and the controller's contest.

Looking for a balance in a complicated world, Neil at All People Have Value visited the place were Deputy Darren Goforth was killed in Harris County and the location in Prairie View of the incident that led to the police death of Sandra Bland. APHV is part of


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

Scott Braddock explains how Texas Republicans are sending mixed signals to business interests.

Better Texas Blog is ready for a school finance solution.

TransGriot gives you some reasons to fight for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

The Texas Election Law Blog fears that with redistricting still unsettled, the 2016 primaries could be a mess.

Newsdesk looks back at the Austin smoking ban, ten years after its implementation.

Grits for Breakfast, in an apparent exclusive, takes an in-depth look at some new issues in forensic DNA evaluation.

Fascist Dyke Motors starts a rumor she's having an affair with Huma Abedin. Katy, did you get any secret emails out of it?

September 07, 2015

A few workers' thoughts on wrapping up #LaborDay

First, per friend Perry, let's hope that Labor Day doesn't get made even more irrelevant by a combination of most Republicans and large chunks of neoliberal Democrats.

Second, per a cartoon, let's hope that, regarding things like both illegal immigration and a fair amount of legal immigration, the folks above and others stop exploiting many workers — and that more and more average Americans become more concerned.

And, said workers do more than pick lettuce and tomatoes. If you're a Texas liberal, and live in a new house, how much of the construction work was done by whom and at what cost?

Third, let's hope that, if you've gotten a holiday day today, or if you're in a job you have to work today but you get a comped holiday day, that you're not overworked when you get back to the office.

Fourth, let's hope that Tea Partier types finally find some enlightenment (and that maybe Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein can help deliver it) that your jobs are stagnant, and that it's not the fault of President Obama, that it's not the fault of black men in general, and that Bretbart alums' guerrilla campaign against abortion or Tea Partier politicians selling that tea isn't going to make your job any better. Because Pat Robertson gets it right when he notes "economic patriotism is dead." Your GOP prez candidates are among those who have helped kill it.

Fifth, and related to that, and while rejecting the capitalism-driven myth of "time is money," and the myth of both Protestant work ethic and "callings," and New Age versions of both, along with rejecting the myth of "quality time," do remember that work is dignified, per Mike Rowe. Or the "I Am a Man" of 1968 Memphis sanitation strikers.

Finally, re those GOPers, neolib Democrats, and libertarians, and the business managers and owners who think that way: don't believe the "work hard, play hard" bullshit, and don't drink similar Kool-Aid.

Big #Organic vs. Big #GMO — facts vs myths and #antivaxxer and #SJW parallels

A story by Eric Lipton, about how Monsanto et al (mainly Monsanto) "buys off" academics in support of ... what he seems to imply is its "GMO agenda."

(Addendum and note: Meanwhile, I can only, by his willful silence, conclude that Lipton is an anti-GMOer. On Sunday, he retweeted multiple Tweets mentioning me, both before and after I had tweeted him asking for his stance on GMO safety. He had yet to respond. Between that, and the fact that he tagged along on email trolling/leaking by Gary Ruskin and US Right to Know, a group that promotes junk science on artificial sweeteners (the weasel word "may" covers a lot of things in "consumerism") and, on its website, seems to ignore how corporatized Big Organic is, and elsewhere, shows it will use the same tactics as climate change denialists did against Michael Mann et al, Lipton leaves himself open to other questions, which he is also refusing to answer. [This follows on NYT pieces by other reporters about Hillary Clinton and Amazon whose impartiality has also been questioned.] In light of this, I have contacted NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan; to the degree Lipton's piece started with email hacking and leaks by a junk science outfit, and one that may not critique the even worse lobbying of the organic industry, he leaves himself open to questioning.)

First, it's easy to demonize Monsanto, especially when you fail to report its market capitalization is smaller than that of Starbucks. About one-third smaller.

Second, given that his own newspaper reported three years ago about how the modern organic farming business is Big Business, largely owned by companies such as Kraft, General Foods, Coke and Pepsi, with market caps far bigger than Monsanto, the demonization doesn't ring true on the business side. Per the link just above, by market cap, Coke is more than 3x the size of Monsanto.

(That link also notes that, in general, without disaggregating GMO sales, Monsanto isn't even as much a behemoth within the seeds business as some would claim.)

Surely, as part of their lobbying, Coke, Pepsi, et al, probably "bought off" academics to get stuff like carrageenan and DHA added to the organic approved list, as Stephanie Strom reported in that 2012 piece. They've clearly, as part of this, as Strom notes, "bought off" the National Organic Standards Board. Lipton does briefly talk about big organic farming, but never raises the issue of possible parallels.

(I suppose US Right to Know thinks family farmers and families discussing how to discuss their farms' use of GMO crops means they're on the take too. See page 8 of this PDF.)

Lipton's failure to note either of these is why, despite some retweeters, it is NOT "excellent reporting." It's good, maybe very good, but no more.

More talking points below the fold.