SocraticGadfly: 11/15/15 - 11/22/15

November 19, 2015

#FeelTheBern on #socialism, #BlackLivesMatter, even foreign policy

Bernie Sanders knocked it out of the park, at least in terms of Democrats, in his "socialism" speech at Georgetown today.

Several brief points, mainly taking from stuff I tweeted during the speech.

First, he hearkened back to Franklin D. Roosevelt, not just 1933 or 1937, but the FDR in the middle of war, who still looked to greater economic equality (if but haltingly for minorities) in his 1944 State of the Union address.

He then transitioned to Lyndon Baines Johnson and Medicare. This was good, which then led to a pivot to calling for a "Medicare for all" single-payer national health care system.

However, if Bernie wants to really go for the long bomb, he could have thrown deeper.

First, I still contend that the only good way to control costs in American health care, a single payer system isn't enough. Medicare being tight on reimbursement rates might help, but it might not be enough. I still say we need to look at nationalizing chunks of the hospital/clinic/doctor health care provider system.

(Update, Nov. 24: I have now written a broader blog post specifically defending corporate socialism, which Sanders did himself back in his salad days.)

Second, he didn't touch all of LBJ's Great Society. That's despite quoting Martin Luther King Jr.:

"This country has socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor."
Let's remember that LBJ riffed on this in relation to African-Americans.

More, far more, than the New Deal, the Great Society was focused on racial as well as socioeconomic issues. Hence LBJ at Howard University’s 1965 commencement:
You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: 'now, you are free to go where you want, do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.' You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe you have been completely fair... This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity—not just legal equity but human ability—not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.

Heck, LBJ might even had said #BlackLivesMatter today, per this from 1968 and riots:
When you put your foot on a man's neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what's he going to do? He's going to knock your block off.
More of his Great Society and other quotes are at Wikiquote.

But, this must be balanced with socioeconomic concerns, too, both in the ivied towers of the Ivy League and the crumbling curbs of Main Street.

Speaking of, while he did make more than one allusion to unionism, I wish he had spoken more directly about the issue. Unfortunately, many unions, like the oily SEIU, have already lined up to endorse Clinton. And, per Sanders and social democracy, the American non-parliamentary two-party system is part of why Democrats co-opt unions without having a Labor or Social Democratic party.

On the other hand, organized labor could withhold endorsements before we get further into the primary system. And, just one — a truly liberal one like the Longshoremen — maybe could do a Greens endorsement in the general.

But, Sanders did touch on other issues today, even if family and maternity leave doesn't help the underclass if it's not paid leave.

He did note that climate change is a moral issue.

And, he did touch on foreign policy. Including calling a racist spade a spade, from Donald Trump or whomever.

No, he did more than that.

He covered foreign policy in far more depth than at the second Democratic debate, and did well.

Arbenz. Mossadegh. And many others the CIA overthrew all got mentioned. Vis-a-vis the GOP's Benghazi fixation, let's remember what Benghazi was — a spook shack.

He then called out Gulf oil states for not accepting refugees from their own corner of the world. Saudi Arabia has a tent city that can hold up to 1 million people and is only used for pilgrims at the hajj. It sits empty as I type. He also said the Gulf states need to join in the fight against Daesh. Related to that, he forswore an endless "War on Terror."

And, wingnuts will call him "earnest" or whatever while doing their own pontificating, but he focused on the moral angle of many of these issues.

Finally, in a lighter vein, and throwing Hillary Clinton under the bus, he said he wasn't running because it was his "turn." More seriously, besides the bright lines he continues to draw with her over things like Wall Street regulation, he threw her under the bus on the War on Drugs, calling for a lot less incarceration, especially on things like minor drug crimes. Given that Clinton gets significant campaign funds from private prison companies, this is important.

For a few more text pullouts, see Mother Jones. And, the NYT gave him a respectable read — on its First Draft blog. Let's see how the main page plays it. And, a Paul Krugman. Or others.

"Others" including a "real socialist" like Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who is not yet highly impressed by Sanders.

And, per PDiddle in comments below, I'm at least some sort of semi-pacifist myself. And, I have blogged extensively about Bernie sucking too much at the military teat. PD's got more on his take at his blog. And, Sanders' website has full speech text.

Too bad he already co-opted himself by (on paper, at least) forswearing a third-party run.

Hypercapitalism, Yosemite, the National Park Service and lawsuits

Early this month, I blogged about how Yosemite National Park needs to get "greener," noting specific things like lack of modern water facilities, no solar panels on buildings, etc. This is a hit-and-miss issue, as I noted; Zion, for example, is an exemplar of sorts within the whole National Park Service.

Speaking of ....

Yosesmite's parent was sued two months ago by the Delaware North concessionnaire company.

(It) claims it was owed big-time for its intellectual property investments at Yosemite. These include the historic Ahwahnee hotel, Curry Village and Badger Pass, names for which the company holds trademarks. 
 Formally known as DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite Inc., the Delaware North subsidiary argues that the government mishandled the intellectual property question, breached a contract and likely cost the company its shot at keeping the Yosemite business.
Now, regular readers know that I reject over-the-top claims of “privilege.”

But, there are real issues of privilege, or to put it another way, in this case, cultural appropriation.

Let's look at this more.

To be frank?

It's bullshit that DNC claims it owns name like "Ahwahnee" unless it can prove that this is an uninterrupted chain of custody from builder of hotel and that this is a made-up name by that person.

Rather, since it's an actual American Indian word, and an everyday one, the trademark to me seems questionable; and if there's any suing, the Yokuts should sue DNC, which I would love to see.

The other names? 

Given that Badger Pass Ski Area existed before DNC took it over, and that "Badger Pass" itself is a generic name for a place name, I'm not sure how that's trademarkable, even if some court granted it. That said, if it WAS trademarkable and the NPS has been dumb enough here and elsewhere, to give vendors inside national parks such trademarks, rather than retaining ultimate rights itself, we have another problem, Houston.

November 18, 2015

Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, #BigCoal and #KeepItInTheGround

Jeremy Nichols, climate director,
Wild Earth Guardians, advocate for
Keep it in the Ground strategy
From one of my favorite magazines, High  Country News, a go-to source for environmental and other news from the Western states, we have two juxtaposed stories.

The first is about Florida presidential candidate and senator-in-absentia Marco Rubio rounding up plenty of endorsements from Western Republican elected officials. As part if it, it notes that Rubio's pandering on anti-environmental stances may be near the bottom of all GOP presidential candidates, and that's lower malebolge territory indeed.

The second is about Hillary Clinton seeking votes and support in coal-producing areas of the West. I don't have a problem with job retraining or other issues — if it's not for coal alone. Remember, we export both jobs and pollution to places like China. Their more inefficient industries cause more acid rain than ours (for Japan, Taiwan and the Koreas as well as China) and more carbon dioxide to warm the whole world than ours. So, job retraining for coal miners should be no more robust than job retraining for jobs lost to "free" trade (and those largely unenforced "side agreements" on both labor and environmental issues that started with Clinton's husband and NAFTA).

Beyond retraining, continued and expanded support for the West's abundant resources on solar and wind energy should be priority No. 1. Yes, they don't have a lot of permanent jobs at individual sites, but let's get more solar panels and wind turbines manufactured there. (Note: Solar and wind need to themselves be environmentally friendly; bigger wind turbines helps there, but thermal solar, at least currently, is a big, big bird killer.)

This, Big Coal, relates to a third story (subscription required). It notes that 40 percent of U.S. coal is mined from federal reserves. In other words, don't think West Virginia and private mountaintop removal. Think BLM lands like the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. It also notes that this is one of President Obama's weakest areas on climate change: his "all of the above" energy strategy has been applied to coal as well as oil on BLM lands.

Jeremy Nichols, leading the charge to "keep it in the ground," is no outsider. He's from Boise, and his dad worked for the BLM. As his activism notes, part of the problem is that Washington has been hands-off on a lot of this, leaving interpretation of environmental impacts and other permitting issues to individual BLM districts.

In any case, the battle has only begun. Nichols says he does "opposition research" at places like Interior Department "listening sessions." I hope he learns strategies that do address local economic concerns, and that he learns to be careful on his language and its possible misinterpretation.

November 17, 2015

Chris Bell shows how shallow the Texas Democratic bench really is

Looking at gubernatorial elections, it's been shallow for 20 years.

Chris Bell: Republican lite, sellout
In 1998, many Texas Democrats asked then Land Commissioner Gary Mauro not to run against George W. Bush, but rather to let him have an unopposed walkover win.

Beyond blaming Bob Bullock for playing too nice with Shrub, or not becoming a Republican himself, I don't know whether that was good advice or not.

Anyway, we know what happened, and Mauro had little real opposition in the Democratic primary.

Since then, it's gotten worse.

In 2002, we had Tony Sanchez, whom it turned out had been a big GOP donor for years and voted Republican in the past.

In 2010, we had Bill White, a neoliberal squish former mayor of Houston and former Clinton administration officials.

And, last year, we had Wendy Davis. Strong on reproductive rights, I guess OK on gay rights, but a neoliberal squish on a lot of other things, including environmental issues.

What about 2006?

One-term Congressman Chris Bell liked to play himself up as "Mr. Ethics."

Mr. "Republican Lite" is the reality:

Unfortunately, I bought his schtick back then. That said, Kinky Friedman wasn't a lot better.

Endorsing Republican Bill King in the Houston mayoral runoff (yes, technically, a nonpartisan race, but let's be real) has made his true colors more public.

Because Bill King is apparently fully in the anti-HERO camp, current "wide stances" aside:

Chris Bell is also showing how shallow Chris Bell is. I don't know if he's been offered a cheap payoff by King, or he has some old grudge against Turner, but this is ridiculous.

As for 2018? Forget it.

Julian Castro, if not Hillary Clinton's Veep nominee, is staying in DC. Brother Joaquin will stay a Congresscritter.

Black state Senate titans Rodney Ellis and Royce West like being state Senate power barons while having their law businesses on the side. Besides, Royce has his hands dirty enough from cooperating with John Wiley Price on the Dallas Inland Port shakedown that I wouldn't vote for him.

And, folks like Battleground Texas probably think they need more "Chris Bell Democrats" in the future.

A la Samuel Johnson, I refute #determinism thus

Inspired by Daniel Klein's new book, "Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It," I came to an "a ha moment" on philosophical determinism.

Yes, a lot of people call it physical determinism, but, I generally believe they're wrong. And, I'll state that bluntly. More on that further down the road.

First, though, another reason they're wrong. Per good, common-sense epistemology, like Raymond Smullyan's "An Epistemological Nightmare," most don't believe in their own claims to be determinists.

Along the lines of that claim of mine, I present these rhetorical thoughts.

For determinists, if you really think all your life is determined, do you:
1. Stop consciously desiring things?
2. Stop consciously planning things?

If you claim that such desires and plans are themselves determined,
1. How do you justify that?
2. Do you really believe that means you shouldn't stop consciously desiring and planning things, because you can try to hide what seems like willingness in a "meta"?

And, I'm quite confident that, whether I have in mind evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, a couple of commenters on blogs of philosophy professor and online friend Massimo Pigliucci, or a Facebook friend and lover of Sam Harris, that they of course do not cross any of those hurdles. To riff on Johnson, I have kicked their "determinism" rock and found it to be made of papier-mâché.

So, what gives?

I don't know whether it should be labeled more as a Wittgensteinian misuse of language, or a Gilbert Ryle category mistake, but I am pretty sure of "what gives."

Such people think that the rejection of ontological dualism and embrace of philosophical naturalism necessarily entails philosophical dualism. Note: I am using "necessarily" not in an everyday general language sense but more precisely in its logical sense.

And, of course, philosophical or metaphysical naturalism in no way entails philosophical determinism on matters of the will.

Now, that said, in some narrow, quasi-tautological sense, does non-dualistic naturalism lead to some narrowly defined physical dualism? Of course. Again, that's quasi-tautological at most, and straight-out tautological at least.

This is why, once again, the likes of Jerry Coyne should leave philosophy to philosophers, and the likes of Slamming Sammy Harris, if he's promoting philosophical or mental determinism himself, should stop claiming to be a philosopher.

Beyond that, as regular readers here know, I've strongly rejected the whole "polarities" of the "free will vs. determinism" issue by saying "mu" to it, as well as noting that determinism's central physicalism claim has the same problem as Aristotle's Prime Mover on infinite regress, noting that human evolutionary biology and the evolution of consciousness would give determinists yet another thought experiment hot potato, riffed on Dan Dennett (I'm a better thinker than him on this issue, and that's that, Dan) to say that there are varieties of both free will and determinism not worth considering, said "mu" to the polarities again, called determinism of the Coyne type "simpleminded," and, most recently, said free will might be a spandrel, using that word just like Stephen Jay Gould.

November 16, 2015

TX Progressives talk media insiders, elections, DPS bias, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks maybe we should finish celebrating Thanksgiving before we begin the Christmas season as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff took a closer look at how people voted in the Houston Mayor's race.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos wonders if Houston's anti-HERO supporters (those who embrace discrimination on behalf of bathrooms)  know the group's head ringleader is defending a male bathroom pervert? Anti-Hero Activist Defends Man Photographing Women in Bathroom.

Socratic Gadfly is trying to popularize the term Inside the Mopac media as a parallel to "Inside the Beltway media."

Donald Trump asked "How stupid are the people of Iowa?" and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs answered, "stupid enough to vote for you, asshole".

Neil at All People Have Value said that Mark Rothko had an almost Starbucks level of hatred for Jesus. APHV is part of

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks its all kinds of wrong to have private businesses pay for our border patrol.

From main line media reporting, it almost seems like some "shocking development" that the same forces which defeated the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance would now turn their ire upon the city of Dallas. But to Texas Leftist, or anyone that has closely followed the U.S. Pastor Council, this move was just a matter of time. Hold on to your seats North Texas, and get ready for some heinous lies to come your way.


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

Grits for Breakfast calls out DPS for screwing up racial classifications on traffic stops.

Morgan Guyton decries Houston pastors who bore false witness against their transgender brothers and sisters.

Texas Watch has a petition calling for hospitals to be accountable for their doctors.

Raise Your Hand Texas reviews the education-related interim charges for the Legislature.

Alexa Martin-Storey and Kate Prickett remind us that plenty of laws and policies that undermine same-sex parenting still exist.

The Texas Election Law Blog updates us on the continued election woes of the city of Martindale.

Somervell County Salon talks about George P. Bush's Alamo overreach.

Raise Your Hand Texas looks at what the legislative interim has on its education plate.

State-by-state 'national' healthcare?

Color me skeptical of the wisdom of this.

Whether or not one even partially accepts the old saw, largely touted by states rights conservatives, that states are the laboratories of democracy, nobody ever said that should include being laboratories of financial management.

Yes, Obamacare has slowed the rate of health care costs modestly. Maybe moderately, if I'm generous on credit. 

But, no more than that. And, I understand quite well that it's verklempt for more and more people eligible for it because they can't afford to actually use it due to high deductibles.

So, while I applaud Coloradoans getting a ballot initiative for a state-wide single payer health care on their 2016 ballot, I at least somewhat question the wisdom.

I like the idea of public healthcare, but I don't think a state-by-state system is the way to go, just like I think we need a 200-day school year, but a  state-by-state system isn't the way to go, with the pricetag involved. Vermont's eventual "pass" on state-level single payer was due to cost control concerns.

Colorado backers might be able to sell the 10 percent payroll tax as cheaper than private insurance, if it is. However, they're also going to have to sell businesses on it, not just individual voters.

And, per my observation that the U.S. needs to contain costs before it adopts a single-payer national health care system, and the only way I see of doing that is nationalizing much of our current structure, a la the British NHS, I simply don't see how Colorado's going to control costs.

And, while the federal government could nationalize fair chunks of our health system, a state can't "state-itize" that at all.

I'm all in favor of a single-payer system. But, per my NHS/nationalization idea, I'm in favor of a single-payer system that's not going to bankrupt us all.

And, I'd also like a 200-day school year. Doorknob knows how cheapskatish the Texas Legislature would be with that.