October 31, 2015

#Oilprices to remain low for a few years?

Chevron has confirmed it will lay off thousands more, as it indicates, by cuts in out-year spending, that it expects no major rebound until at least 2018.

More and more companies in the oil patch keep writing off more debt. Per that, and per my reporting in smaller corners of the oil patch, smaller companies are starting to face tax lawsuits from county-level taxing entities.

Given that the government, if back taxes are owed, is by definition first creditor on a bankruptcy, various investors who pounded sand down an oil patch rathole may really be in trouble.

When the write-downs lead to dire actions, including forced sell-offs of equipment or other actions, that then ripples through the industry. It affects steelmakers and others. They, in turn, if already stressed, may approach their own bankruptcies. Or enter their own defaults on paying taxes, as I've already seen.

October 30, 2015

Depth psychology as pseudoscience and nonscience

Note that I did not say 'Depth psychology AND pseudoscience."

The "as" is quite deliberate.

This is a critique of a comment by philosophy professor Dan Kaufman in defense of an essay by him on his new webzine, The Electric Agora. (Disclosure: I am a contributor there. And, I like a fair amount of Dan's ideas; I too am a Wittgensteinian, for example.) Here is the essay, and here is the particular comment, made in reference to someone else:
Robin: I am far more positive about depth psychology than you are, so once again, we are just going to have to disagree on this. Ditto regarding the efficacy of modern marketing and advertising techniques. You see no difference between these techniques and their effects and the methods of persuasion that institutions have been using for millennia, whereas I see — as Aldous Huxley and others did — an enormous and game-changing difference.
That original comment included this:
Freud’s theories were never useful at all in evidence based treatment of mental health, so I don’t see why I should accept that they were efficacious in mass psychology, especially as the field is just a continuation of something long established..
I then offered up this as part of my first in-depth comment:
First, on depth psychology? 
Really, Dan? You give that much credence to it? Freud was bad and Jung was worse. Both were unethical as part of that. Freud stopped pursuing what was actually behind many cases of “hysteria” when he discovered that what that was, was child sexual abuse in many cases, and came up with sexist “answers” instead. Jung slept repeatedly with one patient that we know of, invented New Agey myths, and was a huge Nazi sympathizer. (I cannot recommend strongly enough the bio, “The Aryan Christ,” about Jung.) James wasn’t quite as bad, but, as a rich white American of leisure, he was “self-allowed” to have what Freud would have labeled “hysteria” had it occurred in a young woman, and quasi-Jung, lent his name and credibility to spiritism, etc.
Again, I cannot recommend that book strongly enough, reviewed here by the New York Times. If you click the Amazon link in the blockquote, you'll also see how much Jungian cultists dislike it. And, yes, cultists, and yes, he was a Nazi sympathizer and all. 

From there, in this comment, Kaufman goes on to very favorably reference the three putative founders of depth psychology, one of whom, of course, is Freud:
1. Re: Depth psychology — as far as I am concerned, the crucial insights (which go, at least, as far back as Nietzsche), are absolutely spot on. That we vastly overestimate the extent to which we are conscious of our own reasons for acting; that we are far less rational than we like to think; that we are as much mysteries to ourselves as to others; that civilization is largely an exercise in combating our baser instincts; all of these things are not only true, but essential to a complete understanding of our nature.
Of course, the problems actually start in the body of the essay, along with multiple other problems, none of which Kaufman ever addressed from my main comment, but that's for another blog post.

In the essay body, Kaufman says:
For a liberal education to serve a countercultural role in today’s postindustrial world, it would require a radically different curriculum; one that emphasized late 19th century and 20th century arts and letters and particularly, those that serve demystifying, debunking, and unmasking functions: works by the likes of Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, the later Wittgenstein, Foucault, Huxley, Orwell, etc.  
I cited that to explain his reference to Nietzsche.

First, Nietzsche was NOT a good psychologist or philosopher of psychology. He was a quasi-religious person, arguably, with the religion being the deification of one Friedrich Nietzsche, if anything, anticipating Jung.

Second, Marx was in no way a debunker, at least not an original one. Any debunking of religion, per his famous "opiate of the masses" bon mot, was stolen from Feuerbach. 

Third, the non-rational basis of much human thought, action and motivation goes back 150 years before Nietzsche, to the first philosopher to be a modern psychologist.

For the unaware, I'm talking of David Hume. His "A Treatise of Human Nature" explicates well HIS bon mot that "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions." With his empiricist emphasis on sense impressions and sensibilities derived from them, Hume believed that ethics in particular, and explanations of human motivation in general, cannot be rationally derived. Wikipedia tackles this in its explanation of Book 3: On Morals, and this piece does so even more concisely.

(Sidebar: This is why I disagree with Massimo Pigliucci that Western philosophy is but a set of footnotes to Plato. Good Stoic and other things that he is, he defends the idea in this piece at his latest blog site. But I digress.)

Dan defends the "value" of works by Jung and Freud. But, beyond dodging multiple issues (mainly related to Gilbert Ryle and differing interpretations of knowing-how vs knowing-that) from my longest main comment, Kaufman also dodges one related to those two and William James, the third founder of depth psychology, ignoring the non-psychologist Nietzsche.

And, that's noted in the headline here.

It's the pseudoscience or nonscience of them. Nonscience may be a word nouveau by me, but I'm using it for something slightly different than pseudoscience.

Jung and James were very arguably, from their own writings and reasonably extrapolation, both ontological dualists. One does not uncritically support psychic research (James) or believe oneself to be a reincarnated deity (Jung) without being, in the Western tradition, an ontological dualist.

The foundation principle of modern science is methodological naturalism.

Ergo, James and Jung are nonscientists.

James was not a practicing counselor in the way Jung was, so I cannot call him a pseudoscientist in presentations from case studies, etc.

I can, and do, call both Jung and Freud that, though.

Freud, of course, was simply wrong in reducing all our unconscious desires to sex. Related to that, and ironically, or something else, for Kaufman mentioning his name in a piece on ethics, he was also unethical, including professionally unethical to clients, by abandoning his research into so-called hysteria of many women when it started becoming clear that such research revealed the cause of such hysteria to often be child sexual abuse. Jung was pseudoscientific in him making specific New Age-type claims, many of them dualistically framed. And, he was professionally unethical by sleeping with at least one client.

I haven't thought about how much to dive into the numerous other issues I had with the essay, which go beyond even those posted in comments there and this blog piece.

Whatever Kaufman's depth of insight as a philosopher, it doesn't seemingly extend to the natural sciences.

Suffice it to say that I was surprised to read such in-depth (no pun intended originally, but I'll stick with it) defense of depth psychology. Maybe even stunned.

But, I realize that I won't persuade Dan, and he won't persuade me. That said, I did appreciate the exchange in that it gave me further insight into a couple of pieces by him on his previous blog.

October 29, 2015

Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald et al vs Mark Ames, Yasha Levine, et al

Mark Aims of Exiled Online had a great post earlier this week about how whistle-blowers don't always have patriotic motives.

He cites the story of Col. Robert McCormick, the quasi-fascist publisher for decades of the Chicago Tribune. Specifically, the day or two after the Battle of Midway, albeit without being too specific, McCormick printed that we won the battle because we'd broken Japanese codes. That said, he was specific enough to say that we knew the attack on the Aleutians was a feint, and to cite anonymous sources in Naval Intelligence.

Before that, he'd printed how Franklin D. Roosevelt planned a 10-million man army, if necessary, to win World War II.

This was three days before Pearl Harbor, when we knew that Japan was likely to attack us if diplomacy on their part failed to ease our stifling economic sanctions. We were already in an undeclared naval war with Germany.

We didn't declare war on Germany on Dec. 8, only on Japan. Germany declared war on us on Dec. 11, in part citing ... the Chicago Trib, Ames notes. Here, we know that America Firster McCormick was trying to prevent war.

So, that's how whistle-blowers aren't always good for the general public.

That brings us to Edward Snowden. And Chelsea Manning under the et al, by Ames.

And, by me, extending the et al to Snowden's leak targets in "independent" media, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

Ames does note, after describing how Snowden, until at least 2009, favored a hawkish national security state, and had even attempted to join the Special Forces in 2004, may indeed have crossed a Rubicon. But, until then? And, he notes that Manning's politics are even more indecipherable, correctly stating that anybody enlisting in the military in 2007 couldn't be a pacifist. In fact, Manning disavowed that she was, essentially, when claiming "transparency" was her only motive.

First, that's a helluva risk to take for "transparency." Second, Manning wasn't transparent, as far as I know, to about anyone as to wanting to be a transitioned transgender person at this time. Third, to the degree one has sexual identity problems, joining the military isn't a good idea in general, I think.

But, that leads to our other et als, especially as connected to Snowden.

We know he gave the two of them a boatload of shit. But, at times citing national security (and I know this mainly from Greenwald) most of it hasn't been published.

Why not?

Isn't "transparency" so important after all? Ames notes that at the time of the leaks, the word was a sort of shibboleth for Snowden as well as it had been for Manning.

And, if Snowden is as hack-skilled and tech-skilled as he claims, why didn't he set himself up as a personal WikiLeaks? Short of that, why didn't he go to the founder of the actual WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and have him do a full document dump?

Even without Ames quoting Snowden's comments about Russia, I've long been suspicious of him. Indeed, I'm suspicious (as well as laughing at the hypocrisy) of Russia Today, whenever it writes about the U.S. constricting online freedom. Is Snowden feeding it tidbits?

Poitras, having made a documentary about Snowden, is emotionally and intellectually invested in carrying baggage of his mythos. So is Greenwald, who used this to bounce from The Guardian to help start up The Intercept with libertarian payola from Pierre Omidyar.

Ames concludes by cautioning once again against hero-worshipping leakers.

Perhaps he should have also cautioned against hero-worshipping those who turd-polish the myths about leakers.

I just warned you about two of them.

Beyond that, the word "transparency" is, by itself, a word with no larger meaning. As noted above, I can ask Snowden, or Greenwald, to be more transparent and wonder why they're not. Libertarian types (like them, to some degree), usually are slow to ask Big Biz to be more transparent, but have no problems with Big Biz forcing us to be more "transparent" with how much information we give them.

October 27, 2015

Are chimpanzees religious? Bad science meets New Age thought

A very interesting suggestion, limned out here, largely based on the fact that chimpanzees show even more reverence for the dead than do elephants. Well, more than that

It's also based on Jane Goodall's high level of anthropomorphizing chimps, on New Age old philosopher favorite Rudolf Otto, and personalized definitions that would probably get flunked out of a class in either philosophy of religion or ethology, and probably in anthropology of religion, too, which is what James Harrod claims is his ... yes, I'll go there, his "ground of being."

My caveats to Harrod's claims, in specific.

One is that it presumes fear of death is at the core of human religion, and at the core of the start of human religion. The first half of that seems true, but is not proven. The second half? The caves at Altamira, etc., shed no light.

The problem is that, just as with evolutionary psychology, let alone Pop Ev Psych, even if human brains fossilized more than they do, human behavior doesn't. Also, the rate of genetic change isn't constant, and we can't readily tell when it "hiccups." This all, also, ignores environmental influences as well as the lesser, but not nonexistent, influence of epigenetics and other para-genetic issues.

The second is that, if the second half of the above opening statement by Harrod is true, it also presumes that the last common ancestor of humans and chimps had such fear, and it passed to chimps. Definitely unproven, just as we have no sense about the background of the elephants' above-mentioned reverence for their dead.

The third is that Harrod's dialetical-like pairing of opposing behaviors as a theoretical foundation seems tenuous.

The fourth is that he shifts from "fear of death" to Rudolf Otto's idea of the numinous, the mysterium tremendum and mysterium fascinans. (And, no, the "holy" etc., will not be capitalized on this site.)

We don't know whether or not a fear of death became "numinous" even if Otto's ideas hold a lot of water. Nor, per my comments above, do we know whether or not, even if a fear of death became numinous to early humans, it was the most numinous idea in their metaphysical constellation.

Harrod wrestles not one iota with any of these issues.

The fourth is that he relies heavily on Jane Goodall, including ingesting wholesale her degree of anthropomorphism, along with other things for which she has been criticized.

Related to this is that the author doesn't do much of an explainer as to where he got his "trans-specific definition of religion" from, or why. An initial glance of his list on pages 24-25, though, suggests extensive cribbing from Rudolf Otto and "The Idea of the Holy." Well, that's Harrod's own cribbing, then. I don't know what exists within the world of philosophy of religion in terms of discussion of "trans-specific definition of religion," but I'm pretty sure Rudolf Otto isn't the starting point. Certainly, "awe" is not a specifically religious emotion. And, Harrod admits near the end that this is pretty much a personalized definition, based largely on Goodall, who apparently has swallowed Rudolf Otto wholesale.

The fifth is that what may or may not constitute religion under a working definition of anthropology of religion is very latitudinarian. Going by this, rather than the properly done evolutionary psychology of Pascal Boyer or Scott Atran, is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall.

The sixth is that, due to the language barrier, we can't make perfect assessments of what's with chimp communication. Do chimps have at least a proto-culture? I'll accept that. But, without knowing their communication in more detail, we have no idea what they're saying. And, since even Harrod admits that whatever theory of mind they have is only "first-order," it's probably not too abstract.

The seventh, getting back to the anthropomorphizing, is that "religious" carries connotative baggage along with denotative description. He either does, or should, know that.

But wait, that's not all!

Nine? This gets to the New Age in the header. Harrod gets more mystical yet, even looking for the classical four elements of earth, air, water and fire that chimps venerate. So, actually, he's mashing up Otto, Goodall, and Thales, Empedocles, Heraclitus and Anaximander of pre-Socratic fame.

So, in short, pass. Totally pass, at least on Harrod.

That said, per the story, I would accept that chimps might be "proto-religious," making allowance for their seemingly having a partial theory of mind. But, it would be for reasons entirely different than Harrod. And it would certainly be for better grounded reasons.

October 26, 2015

Forget #Benghazi; forget #Clintonemail stuff; this could be the bomb

Ken Silverstein, long-time proprietor of the Washington Babylon blog and news analysis corner at Harper's, says the Clinton Foundation has less than a month to get its accounting books run through some major clean-up operations, or else start worrying about fraud.

Couldn't happen to a nicer gent, if the Slickster is in trouble. Actually, it could; Silverstein says that long-term Clinton insider Ira Magaziner, the driving force behind 1993's Clintoncare, which (despite the GOP hating it — they first loved it) made Obamacare look actually liberal in some ways, could also get run over by the wheels of justice, too.

And, the IRS ain't Trey Gowdy. If this all comes down the pike, 'twill be fun to listen to Bill spin this.

'Twill be more fun yet to listen to Hillary spin this, since Ira was really in thick with her, and Clintoncare is really, as we all know, Hillarycare.

Actually, the most fun would be to listen to Hillary throwing lamps at Bill, per old Secret Service rumors.

How possible is any of this?

Well, Ken notes that the Clinton Foundation is on Charity Navigator's watch list; notes that a New York attorney, Charles Ortel, formerly of Dillon Read, says that under New York State law, at least, intent doesn't have to be proven.

Most oily in all of this is what got them dinged by Charity Navigator — spending less than 10 cents of the funds raised dollar on AIDS related program. At the center of that oiliness, the man probably more oily than either Clinton: Magaziner.

The foundation is worried enough that, in response to previous comments and reporting by Ortel, it's then-acting CEO promised in April to have made "mistakes" in tax filing and that amended filings would be done by Nov. 16.

So, set your clocks!

Even if the accounting restatements match IRS muster, this will still have impact. It opens the door to new stories about the foundation in general, and per the Charity Navigator watch list bit, opens the door to stories about how little the foundation spends on actual, well, you know, actual charitable work.

We already know, as in her desire to investigate Exxon because the company stopped supporting the foundation, that her (and presumably the Slickster's) hypocrisy knows few bounds.

In turn, that points to one other thing. The Nov. 16 date will lead to new looks at the incestuous relationship between the foundation and Clinton campaigns. It will also give more fuel to the fires on Clinton's left about how regressive many of the foundation's corporate donors are, or have been. Like eXXXon.

It will also bring the more oily of Clinton's connections, like Magaziner and Sid Blumenthal, to the light of day. These moles may scurry back into their dark, shit-laden corners, but the additional exposure can't help her campaign.

TX Progressives have 2015 vote suggestions, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance is scouting out pumpkin patches, and discussing Halloween costumes, including these 14 do-not-wear items, while wishing Missouri's second baseball team World Series success, as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looked at early voting trends for 2015.

Socratic Gadfly told people who had not yet been to the polls to vote No to 6 of 7 on the constitutional amendments propositions.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos  explores the devastation to women's health care options in Texas, compliments of the state's far right Republican policies. The Texas GOP & Its Unforgiving War on Women.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is horrified at the Republicans use of state power to abuse Planned Parenthood, their patients, their employees, their associates and the people of Texas.

All of the political mail, door hangers, and assorted communication from the upcoming election for 2015 was photographed, discussed, and then recycled by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Realizing the value of everyday life, which when asserted against the elite and insider absence of values of the establishments of both major parties is a possible starting point for an uprising or people's movement, Neil at All People Have Value took two pictures of traffic in Houston. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


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

Better Texas Blog analyzes State Propositions 1 and 7.

Streetsblog advocates against Prop 7.

The Current reports on the signs that Rep. Diego Bernal is providing local businesses who do not want to allow open carry on their premises.

Fascist Dyke Motors voted and feels good about it.

Texas Watch provides five things to know when filing a wildfire insurance claim.

Bekah McNeel vents her shame and outrage at being fooled by Volkswagon.

The Texas Election Law Blog answers your questions about homeless voting.

Millard Fillmore's Bathhouse takes Greg Abbott to the woodshed for siding with cancer.

Bat flips: Bad to "old school" baseball, or nonconformity to "white school"?

It's a real question.

Jose Bautista may also want you to fight blind acceptance of 'white culture'
An online acquaintance dislikes bat flips because they're not "old school." He was specifically talking about Jose Bautista in this year's one AL Division Series.

Now that the ALDS is done, despite two non-bat flipping homers by Joey Bats, and we can discuss this more.

I responded that "old school" here often equals "white school." He, possibly in part from knowing I'm a Cardinals' fan of long standing, said "what would Bob Gibson do"?

I, in turn, first responded that today, Pirate star Andrew McCutchen has specifically said, more than once, that such old school ideas are, in his mind, part of lower African-American involvement in baseball than decades past.

He may be right. At a minimum, he's led me to a more open mind.

I then said that Bautista was a "piker" on bat flips compared to Korean players.

And, he responded:

Us Bernie (S)anders liberals want some place in popular culture where we don't have to cringe. If people want to call it racist, they can go find who they are more at ease with. My dad fought for Korea at great personal expense. But he did not fight for bat flipping.
Well, no disrespect to your dad, but that sounds like a pretty paternalistic response.

I've not (yet) unfriended this person. I said I was surprised enough when I saw the start of the conversation. I was more surprised yet when, at this point, I said I was unfollowing the conversation, rather than trying to persuade him differently.

I did, though, move him from "friend" to "acquaintance" on Facebook. And, since his normal status in Facebook posting is "public," I'm not violating my canons of social media ethics by quoting his one comment.

Beyond that, and to add to the "fun" of that comment, as Deadspin recently reported, one of Korea's top bat-flippers, Hwang Jae-gyun, may come to the US.

If you don't like Joey Bats, and think he's "disrespecting the game," you definitely won't like this guy. If he, or one or two of his Korean fellows like Cho Hong-Seok come to the US, if they temper the bat flips, I hope they don't totally eighty-six them, as the NYT said they might.

Per the Times story, as it sorted through analogies for an "untranslatable" word, a good bad flip in Korean baseball is like "comfort food."

That said, one other point. Per the Black Lives Matter movement, how many of Sanders' supporters are like this — stereotypical upper New England or Pacific Northwest white liberals living around few blacks?

The bat flipping itself was a fairly small item ... but, where the discussion led from there wasn't.

Beyond the seeming paternalism of the Korean part of the response, the first part makes it sound like he's afraid of an invasion of hip-hop (or the Caribbean version of Tejano or something) wherever he goes.

And, finally, beyond surprise, I kind of cringed when I read it.

And, in crafting this post, it led me to create a "white culture" tag, which I didn't previously have.

This is one of those blog posts I took multiple days to write, off and on, and still gave a couple of days leeway before posting.

Even though Project Implicit says I pass the "black face test" fine, nonetheless, I don't like loud rap music myself.

But, I don't like loud, almost totally white, country music, either.

Beyond that, this is one of those slippery slope arguments; today, it's bat flips, tomorrow, it's hoodies and gangsta rap in the burbs, or whatever exact portion of pop culture he's afraid will take over, white or nonwhite. Just like the NRA with "today, AK-47s, tomorrow, they'll take our Remington .22s.

(I'll concede that "pop culture" may be just that, and not "white culture." However, said person didn't resist my premise when I brought up Cutch; he just said, in essence, he didn't care.)

Beyond that, it's a relatively uninformed read of the history of baseball, including the "accommodation" that Jackie Robinson and other integration pioneers were suggested to make.

And now, Bautista has weighed in himself about his bat flip.