SocraticGadfly: 11/1/15 - 11/8/15

November 07, 2015

Classical music, 'race' and double standards

Scare quote on "race" in the header because what many people claim as "race" is basically a sociological construct. If we want to speak about a level above ethnicity in terms of biology, in other words, rather than the difference within different "whites," different "blacks," etc., my suggested term, harking back to the classical Greek, is "ethnos."

That said, a couple of stipulations.
1. People of any "race," or ethnos, can be racist. "Reverse racism" is racism.
2. People of any ethnos can commit double standards. A "reverse double standard" is a double standard.

That note aside, let's get to the meat.

In a blog comment thread, I heard someone respond to a comment I made about being "hot" for female classical violinists, after others had been posting about various female rock stars. I noted it would be out in left field, and just let it go at that.

One commenter, a woman, then responded, "That's so white."

If she meant literally, I mentioned Midori, then moved from violinists to opera and Denyce Graves. (I could also have mentioned Kiri Te Kanawa.)

If she meant figuratively, then we're into double standards. "That's so white," or similar? If I said "that's so black" about hip-hop, I'd get flamed by a lot of liberals, even ones not stereotypically PC.

If she meant "white" because of the relative lack of minorities? True, but it's improving. And, the "that's so white" stereotype is already used by black kids in school to hold each other back intellectually. It's only worse for whites to offer it up as a tool to hold blacks back artistically, or claim classical music is part of the dead white males canon, or whatever.

Claiming that classical music (or, say, national parks, which suffer from a similar perception, and fairly deservedly) are "oh so white," in a structural and not just sociological sense, perpetuates double standards, and stereotypes.

Of course, white people, every one of them individually as well as an ethnos, are believed by some to be endowed with privilege and thus can't be stereotyped.

I'm not saying this person was coming from that point. But, are some people with similar ideas?

November 06, 2015

#Baseball and #batflip issues intersect with #philosophy and #culture

In a post a week or two ago, I blogged here about the intersection of bat flipping in baseball and issues in culture.

I've now extended some of those ideas, and generated new ones, at my latest post as contributor to the new philosophy-and-culture webzine, The Electric Agora.

My original post started from a Facebook acquaintance surprising me by saying he dislikes bat flips because they're not "old school." He was specifically talking about Jose Bautista in this year's one AL Division Series.

Per the art at my piece at the Agora, Yasiel Puig is, of course, another well-known bat-flipper. So is Carlos Gomez. See a commonality?

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.

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.

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.

That's the starting point for my piece at The Electric Agora — how much is baseball in particular, or any sport in general, limited or constrained by the sport that created it?

Basketball, I note, is more internationalist. Many European players, in fact, buy into African-American hip-hop culture even before coming to the U.S. Meanwhile, Eurostars like Manu Ginobili bring things like the Eurostep to our shores, with the likes of James Harden eagerly adopting them.

From there, I delve into classical music and more.

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

Bernie Sanders and Vermont political affiliation: #hypocrisy?

Bernie Sanders
Given that Bernie Sanders staff has come out and said "Yes, he's really a Democrat," is it fair to ask if the "Independent" political label he gives himself as a senator is at least in part a façade? Or more than just that?

I say yes, it's at least fair to ask.

Per the link, Vermont, like many states, does not require political registration to vote. So that's how Sanders claims to be an Independent, even though he's repeatedly also run in Democratic primaries, just to scare off independent Democratic challengers, pun very intended.

That pun is very intended. Per the link, yes, Sanders has a cordial, or more than cordial, link with the state's Democratic party.

Per previous blogging by me, in exchange for such cordiality, the Vermont Democratic Party has regularly quashed would-be challengers to Sanders. That would include him running in Democratic primaries as needed, as explicitly noted by Vermont's alt-weekly. (The paper is a good, straightforward, and skeptical when needed eye on Sanders, for people interested in him, but like me, always bringing a skeptical eye to politics. Bookmark its Bernie Beat.)

So, it is a façade. Next question is, how big, and how hypocritical?

My answer? At least moderately big, if not more, and mildly to moderately hypocritical. Sanders is to the left of most national Democrats, but by no means all. California Sen. Barbara Boxer, I would put to the left of Sanders, for example. She's not been as outspoken on Wall Street as him, but, she's not a semi-gun nut nor a semi-war hawk.

As for 2016 and my plans? If Sanders is still in the race by the time the Democratic primaries get here to Tejas, I'll certainly vote for him. But, should he somehow get the nomination, which I doubt, I'll still vote for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, if she's nominated again, or any other reasonable Green Party nominee.

Friend PDiddie posted on Twitter that Hillary Clinton has already sewed up, or nearly so, some 500 Democratic superdelegates. Sanders is no babe in the woods; he knew this was likely before he ran. (It's also why Joe Biden made his candidatus interruptus permanent.)

But, that's also why I say he semi-castrated himself when he said he wouldn't run as an independent (I presume that includes rejecting a Green Party run) if not nominated as a Democrat. It didn't surprise me much then and it surprises me even less now. The announcement doesn't surprise me at all; the lack of thinking about political leverage surprises me somewhat, but also makes me wonder just how much of a strategic political thinker Sanders is, or is not.

As for the labels? Per Vermont law, and per the reasoning and claims of Sanders' staff, he could slap all sorts of labels on himself besides "Independent." He could be the "Brooklynite" senator from Vermont, or the "Mormonism" senator from Vermont or whatever.

Of course, "Independent" plays to stereotypical rock-ribbed New England values. Right, Howard Dean?

November 05, 2015

An open letter to Yosemite National Park

Twlight, near the start of the Mist Trail
The recent vacation of mine was, by my count, the fourth time I've visited Yosemite, including my second trip to upper Yosemite.

While its natural beauty is still great, despite the ongoing California drought, the park's management is behind the curve in a number of ways.

Here's more.

First, it needs to start installing the water bottle fillers that several other parks have. In my last two vacations, I’ve seen them at Canyonlands, Rocky, Arches, and Yosemite’s southern neighbor, Sequoia, as well as Lassen.

For the unfamiliar, this is like a water fountain, but it pours from the top down into the top of a water bottle or CamelPak. It has an automatic cutoff when a person removes the bottle or bag. And, by being built into a wall, it’s better insulated against cold weather.

I saw none in Yosemite. And, beyond that, at the park services complex at the end of the Yosemite Valley road, I saw relatively few water fountains of any type.

Second, I also “saw none” in terms of solar panels. (This was true at other California national parks, too.) I’m not saying that parks should go out of their way to install them, but, when roof repairs are needed, you better do this!

Zion is, for me, the epitome of this. When it built a new visitor center, it incorporated several active and passive solar features, and for summer temperatures, also built it with breezeway designs and other passive cooling features.

And, ditto for concessionaires. (I’ll have a separate blog post soon about a concessionaire lawsuit against the National Park Service over Yosemite.)

Speaking of concessionaires, and that lawsuit (over a change in concessionaire contract), Yosemite is too pricey. Look, I know that national park concessionaires have some freedom to charge more by both the nature of their service, and in some cases, parks being isolated.

But, $14 for a chili dog at the Ahwahnee Hotel’s snack bar or whatever? Ridiculous. (Not to mention the $475 as cheapest lodging stay at that hotel.) And, not to pick on it, but Curry Village (also operated by the same concessionaire) wasn’t a lot cheaper. Even it was high by national park standards. And, I’ve eaten meals at the El Tovar on Grand Canyon’s South Rim, the lodge at GC’s North Rim and the Old Faithful Lodge at Yellowstone, among others. If the change in concessionaires lowers prices, it’s a good deal right there.

That said, having written this summer about the decline and fall of the National Park Service, I'm not holding my breath over much of this.

(And, no, despite another recent post, and more to come, I'm not in an "I hate California" mood.)

November 04, 2015

China: Cheating bastards on #carbon emissions, #climatechange

Early this year, I was skeptical about what was billed as a groundbreaking agreement between Dear Leader and Chinese President Xi Jinping. I called it "relatively toothless" because of how far out it punted a lot of things, the "convenience" of China estimating it would hit peak carbon the same year as peak population, and more.

A street sweeper in Beijing last month amid heavy smog.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images AsiaPac via New York Times
And, lo and behold, I now have proof I had good reason to be skeptical, or even cynical.

Skeptical over claims; cynical over Obama fellators like Jon Chait and his turd-polishing on this issue.

The reality is far different than Chinese lies (nothing new on Chinese lies) or Jon Chait's claims (nothing new on his fellating or turd-polishing).

Instead, just in time for upcoming Paris climate talks, we learn Beijing isn't even close.

China has emitted as much as 17 percent more carbon dioxide than claimed.

Here’s just how bad it is:
The sharp upward revision in official figures means that China has released much more carbon dioxide — almost a billion more tons a year according to initial calculations — than previously estimated. 
The increase alone is greater than the whole German economy emits annually from fossil fuels.
Just. Wow.

As I said on Twitter, China’s been cheating like Volkswagen.

And, again, this is not surprising to me, though it's nice to see the details.

So, if you believe this:
The Chinese government has promised to halt the growth of its emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse pollutant from coal and other fossil fuels, by 2030.
I’ve got some clean air in Beijing to sell you.

That said, it’s unclear how much of this was conscious cheating and how much of it was “falling through the cracks” stuff in a massive, likely understaffed, government bureaucracy for a nation of 1.3 billion people:
The new data, which appeared recently in an energy statistics yearbook published without fanfare by China’s statistical agency, show that coal consumption has been underestimated since 2000, and particularly in recent years. The revisions were based on a census of the economy in 2013 that exposed gaps in data collection, especially from small companies and factories.
Part seems “falling through the cracks,” based on length of time. But, the fact that it’s gotten worse in recent years makes some of it deliberate.

Meanwhile, are the “exposers” being marched to some Chinese gulag for their sins?

And, speaking of “buying,” I hope the more naïve about climate change aren’t buying the new round of (carbon-inducing) horse manure from the mouth of Xi Jinping:
When President Xi Jinping proposed that China’s emissions stop growing by 2030, he did not say what level they would reach by then. The new numbers may mean that the peak will be higher, but they also raise hopes that emissions will crest many years sooner, Mr. Yang, the climate adviser, said. 
“I think this implies that we’re closer to a peak, because there’s also been a falloff in coal consumption in the past couple of years,” he said.
Yeah, right. Why should we trust your data on coal consumption, either? Because, as the story shows, your country’s lied about that before.

I wouldn't believe Xi if he said it was daylight outside. I'd go outside (putting on an air mask if we were in much of China) and take a look, assuming I could even see the sun.

Speaking of, this is not just about carbon dioxide and global warming. Dirty coal is worsening Chinese smog, acid rain in China and neighboring Japan, Taiwan, North Korea and South Korea, and more.

Speaking of Taiwan? In the summit between the two Chinas, a note to Taiwanese President Ma Jing-Yeou. Wear a cup. Wear a jockstrap. Wear anything you need to protect your personal and national "family jewels."

#HERO, Houston, Dallas and #schadenfreude

Austin isn't the only city in Texas that, after last night's vote, continues to offer more legal protection to transgendered people than Houston.

El Paso ranks even, or a bit better. San Antonio and Fort Worth rank higher.

And, per Lone Star Q, only slightly behind Austin?


Now, Austin doesn't have the infrastructure for an NCAA Final Four, or even a regional final. San Antonio does. But, only one city besides Dallas can host a Super Bowl.

And ... it's Arlington!

That said, Jethro Jerry Jones may get to have Jethroworld shine in Dallas reflective glow, and host a second Super Bowl before post-old Rice Stadium Houston hosts one.

After all, Phoenix lost a Super Bowl over the state of Arizona not having a Martin Luther King Day.

And, it's not just sports. General Electric has indicated there's no way it will move its corporate HQ to anywhere in Texas as long as we have economic nutbars representing our state in Congress. (Frankly, I partially disagree with the inside-the-Mopac state media punditry on the Export-Import Bank, but that's a sidebar.)

There's also convention business and such.

There's already been speculation about how long before Houston faces a formal boycott.

I said last night on Twitter that I would l laugh my ass off if some Dallas business leaders actually bankrolled such a boycott on the hopes that it not only steered events away from Dallas, but steered them to Houston.

Now, I've got blogging and personal friends in Houston, and like them all.

That said, this reminds me of several years ago, when I was interviewing for a newspaper position with a daily not too far away from greater Helltown.

I was asked, by the chief editor: "Are you a Houston person or a Dallas person?"

Now, I"m not a native Texan. But, I'd already lived in this state long enough that (besides laughing internally that Austin and San Antonio don't make the cut) I knew what it was about, and knew what my answer was.

I'm still a Dallas person.

A lot of native Texans call Dallas the New York City of Texas. It's meant as an insult when it's actually, of course, a compliment.

Houston? I used to (before that interview, for not quite a year) live between Houston and College Station. Never grew on me (other than the mold, perhaps). Maybe in part it was because I was "homesick" for Dallas. Anyway, Houston to me never compared to Dallas.

In reality? Houston strikes me as Los Angeles with snakes, mosquitoes and humidity. And, no, that's not a compliment, even before the failed HERO vote.

That said, unlike Indiana, when the state considered passing a bigoted "religious freedom" ordinance, I don't know how Houston business leaders could readily reverse the results of last night. I suspect many Houstonians would dig in their heels against such an effort.

For public consumption, the NFL has said for now it's not moving the 2017 Super Bowl for now, and the NCAA has said it's not moving next spring's Final Four.

Is that written in stone? No. Now the NFL had two-plus years to move the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix, not one-plus, but it's doable.

First, sponsoring advertisers have to be threatened with boycotts. Second, Houstonians who were pro-HERO (and actually voted?) must man the picket lines. Things go forward from there.

November 03, 2015

Vote no to #txlege stupidity; oppose 6 state constitutional amendments

As we near the start of early voting, Texas Election Law has a good rundown on this year's amendments.

And, I add some follow-up thoughts of my own.

I'm going to start with Amendment 7, with this separate piece here noting that the total environmental and other cost of more road-building isn't priced into it.

I oppose Amendment 7 for another reason. I oppose it because there is no need for an amendment to encumber money in such a way. The Lege just needed to vote for that to happen. Yes, it can't I hugely dislike state constitutional amendments that result from the Lege refusing to do its job. Yes, one Legislature can't legally bind another one two years down the road. So? Each Legislature then needs to vote to do its job every two years.

Again, regardless of the issue of whether or not Texas should be devoting more and more tax dollars to covering the ground in pavement (versus more mass transit, or encouraging less sprawl in our urban areas), we need to stop letting the allegedly fiscally conservative Texas Legislature refuse to do its elected job.

The other six propositions?

As a community newspaper editor, I loathe Prop. 1. Vote no. The Texas Legislature, even as the latest school finance lawsuit sits in the docket in the Texas Supreme Court, has a decade-plus history under its current wingnut overlords of misfunding and underfunding state public schools. Don't let them do it even worse with this amendment.

The amendment is even worse for having required school districts to craft their fiscal 2016 budgets in an anticipatory fashion, rather than waiting a year to kick in. It's the poster child for everything wrong with Republican Austin.

In fact, I think it is, by constitutional law definition, an ex post facto law, and the Constitution of the USofA, if not the Texas one, bars states from doing that.

I cite Article I, Section 10:
No State shall enter into any TreatyAlliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tenderin Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

And, the way I read this amendment, it’s an ex post facto law.

Besides, who wouldn't like to see Texas school districts sue the state AGAIN? (Besides the Lege not wanting to see that, that is.) And, to that end, I have asked the Texas Association of School Boards if it sees things that way. I'll post any response I get.

Update: TASB notes that it serves primarily as a "source of information and support for school board members." However, it will be looking at Prop. 1 "closely." (That said, whether taking the lead, or filing an amicus brief, TASB could, theoretically, be part of legal action if it wanted, as I see things.)

Even better than the Easy button!
One of Amazon's few good things.
Plus, that's not all the nastiness. As Texas Election Law notes, as part of the continuing steaming pile of budget-related legal notices the state is dumping on local taxing entities, a related Senate bill requires school districts to write PR flak for the Lege in their tax bills.

Prop. 2 deserves TEL's snark. "We" all in Republican Austin love veterans, just like in Republican D.C., except when it comes to medical bills, mental health bills, etc. But, it's worth a yes vote.

Prop. 3? Absolutely vote no. The capital of Texas is in Austin, and if alleged government-hating Republicans dislike that fact so much that they don't want official residences there, the answer is simple: Stop holding elective statewide office.

Prop. 4? Allegedly pro-free enterprise Republican Austin already gives too many handouts to our state's professional sports teams, what with past tweaks in hotel-motel and rental car taxes and other things. File 13 this nonsense. Besides, we don't need more lotteries in the state in general, between the Texas Lottery, PowerBall and Mega Millions. Period and end of story.

Prop. 5? Absolutely vote no on an amendment that violates at least the letter of Texas' anti-corruption legislation, and possibly the spirit of it as well. What next? Counties of up to 20,000?

Prop. 6? Vote no on this, just because it's a bit of anti-Obama, pro-NRA nuttery.

There you have it. It's OK to vote Yes on 2, but you don't have to. (And, sorry, Perry, but we disagree on three of seven.

Otherwise? Pull the "party line" No lever. Send the Lege a message as part of voting No.

Also send a message to Progress Texas, which lost its "Progress" label by calling Prop. 1 a "toss-up." Prop. 4 I can give it a pass, but ignoring the anti-corruption background of Prop. 5 with a Yes suggestion? No way Jose.


Meanwhile, Houstonians who've yet to vote, don't "hold out" for a HERO; go help create one. Make your city more Dallas-like.