SocraticGadfly: 11/22/15 - 11/29/15

November 28, 2015

No, not everything happens "for a reason"; sometimes, #ShitHappens

Personally, I loathe that phrase, whether out of the mouths of conventionally religious, out of the mouths of New Ages, or out of the orifices of 12-steppers, for two reasons.

One is that it doesn't comport with modern scientific knowledge; the uncertainties of quantum theory show that, at a microscopic level, exact causation cannot be limned out. Related to that, things like chaos theory, emergent complexity, etc., show that exact results of causal events cannot be predicted even at the macroscopic level.

Two, as shown here in detail, it's got a huge, gross, boatload of insensitivity behind it.

This also illustrates why the Silver Rule is better than the Golden Rule.

"Do NOT do unto others what you do NOT want them to do to you."

I've written about the Silver Rule before, most recently with Kim Davis. Before that, with explaining its practical consequential differences, as part of attacking the so-called War on Christmas myth.

This has some extra significance with the HERO proposition losing by a fair margin in Houston Tuesday.

A lot of conservative Christians probably haven't even heard of the Silver Rule. Those who have would surely belittle it as non-Christian.

Beyond the Silver Rule, shit happened plenty in Houston on bigotry, and on the state of Texas in general in kissing the Legislature's ass, last week. And, noooo, there was no divine plan behind it; there was no "reason" except the lack of reason of a majority of a small minority of eligible voters who actually turned out. And, if my guesstimates are right, more shit will happen to Houston in times ahead.

And, beyond that, from personal experience in the newspaper biz, I know that shit happens all the time. Fatal car wrecks had no god or higher power behind them, for example.

Nor does a small town murder-suicide on the stereotypical "slowest day of the news year."

And, certainly, on the slowest day of the news year, no god had a purpose orchestrated behind a wingnut anti-abortion zealot killing a police officer and two others.

November 27, 2015

Dear Gov. Abbott: Yes, keep the #terrorists out of Texas! They're #teaparty folks; you can find them

The last arguable terrorist attack in Texas? As I blogged about multiple times, concluding with this, it was tea party sympathizer Larry Steven McQuilliams.

Per that post, with the links inside of it, McQuilliams had clear anti-government leanings, as mentioned on his Facebook page and other things.

His family of origin, per my post, was deep into Obama birther territory and more.

McQuilliams himself was anti-immigrant as well as a birther, and according to Austin Police, this was based on part on "Christian identity" stances he was taking.

"Christian identity" movements usually boil down to "white identity" movements, and biggest one McQuilliams was in was certainly that.

Given that this happened not quite one full year ago, Texas GOP leadership's institutional memory is short because it chooses to be.

Smoke billowed from a seven-story building after a small private plane
crashed into a building that houses an office of the IRS in Austin.
Alberto Martinez/Austin-American Statesman, via Associated Press
Before McQuilliams?

Andrew Joseph Stack, who in 2010 flew a private plane into the Austin IRS office, in what can only be called a suicide bombing. And, while right-wing bloggers tried to distance themselves and their movement from Stack, anti-IRS animus is much more the province of the far right than the far left, or what bits of a far left exist in America today.

And, yes, it's still a terrorist attack even if done by an individual that's not part of a group, if terroristic intent is involved.

The state of Texas even has the crime of "terroristic threats" on the book of criminal offenses.

Before that?

David Koresh/Wikipedia
Well, going back just over 20 years? White, Christian, anti-government? Remember a guy named David Koresh?

After Koresh but before the election of President Obama, the Southern Poverty Law Center reminds us of the Texas Militia, the Republic of Texas movement, and other right-wing anti-government groups, plus the good old Ku Klux Klan.

So, by all means, Gov. Abbott, I wish you would keep terrorists out of the state. You can start by being honest about who the terrorists are.

But, you won't.

You never will.

Meanwhile, Andrea Grimes of Texas Observer had almost exactly the same thought, including naming McQuilliams, Stack and Koresh, while also throwing in a healthy touch of snark.

I think President Obama should not only call Abbott's bluff on refugees, but go one better.

Let's make Jade Helm 2016 about the military doing humanitarian work resettling refugees — at the Governor's Mansion in Austin.

Oh, and "thoughts and prayers" won't bring back the dead killed by wingnuts.

November 25, 2015

Deep East Texas notes 1

OK, the community where I'm now the newspaper editor is even more deep-fried conservative religious than central Texas. Given that the United Pentecostal Church has a college in Lufkin, I guess that's not too surprising.

Anyway, I had a story a couple of weeks ago about the first car accident at the first section of a new loop highway.

I used the phrase "baptism by fire" in the story. And got a call the afternoon that issue came out.

I was an hour away from taking off to drive to Houston to start vacation. So, I was a bit hasty, but without being short or curt.

I simply told her that I was sure I was not the first person in the world to ever use the phrase "baptism by fire" outside of an explicitly religious context. Indeed, I think the online-only "competitor" "newspaper" used it in its shorter story.

And, our first-ever gay or lesbian engagement announcement has brought out the bigotry.

People saying we shouldn't have run it because:
1. He has no connection here (he grew up here and graduated high school here)
2. He has no current connection here (best as I can determine, at least until just a few years ago, he had at least one grandparent here, and he likely still has friends here, plus his parents are just on hour away
3. By not taking a stand against the "gay agenda" or whatever, we're promoting it (I have bit my tongue for public consumption)
4. We have no backbone, because we're worried about lawsuits (Besides it being the "right thing," and people besides me saying that, but also me feeling that, it is the legal thing to do, as one Texas paper's already been sued over refusing to run gay and lesbian announcements)

And, yes, it's bigotry.

If you don't like gay marriage? Don't get gay married to somebody. Oh, and even though some gays push the findings too far — some research indicates that on average, the strongest homophobes may just be repressed gays.

I don't doubt that newspapers in areas like this, 45-50 years ago, faced some pushback when they ran their first interracial wedding announcements.

On the other hand, while studies indicate that homophobia in men may in some cases reflect repressed homosexuality, I've not seen any study that says "Afrophobia" reflects repressed yearning to be black, Rachel Dolezal (heh) aside.

Also, African-Americans, or Caucasio-Americans marrying them, weren't prepared to sue over this issue 45-50 years ago, either, as far as I know. Too bad. Maybe it would have, by force of pocketbook, speeded tolerance, if not necessarily acceptance.

Beyond that, to the degree gaydar is true, to the degree that there is some degree of feminization of some gays, as I talk about generalizations, not stereotypes, folks, I'm sure a lot of Williams' classmates took a gander that he was gay, even if he wasn't out of the closet then. How "bashed" he was for it, I don't know.

Beyond that, even for a town this size, I'm finding it has a ready population of control freaks.

This will be a challenge to my project of becoming an ever more honest Neo-Cynic in years ahead, but I'll do what I can to meet it.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of fall beauty in this part of the world, as this photo of mine shows. Even that, though, is illustrative of other things.

I was driving around doing fall colors photography last Saturday, and stopped in the road to take a few pictures of this site. The home and land owner comes running out of his house, whistles at me.

Lest he have a gun in hand, I backed up. And, he started grilling me, in his slow but intense Deep East Texas way. After he finally realized that I was actually taking photos of fall colors, and not eyeballing his land for either Jade Helm or Agenda 21 purposes, his paranoid cooled off 5 degrees, at least.

Just like youth is wasted on the young, beauty is sometimes wasted, too.

After I unwound a little bit, I drove a little bit more.

It's sad as well as disgusting, attitudes like this. But that's not all.

It's also hypocritical.

The wingnuts say they just want the government off their backs.

But, whether it's opposing the rights of gays to marry, keeping loitering laws directed at blacks and poor whites on the books, not wanting government to protect the land, water and air for the betterment of all of us, rather than corporate polluters damaging it, they only want the right for the government to be off THEIR backs.

As for paranoia? "What's it good for?" Breeding more paranoia, usually.

That said, as the likes of a Ted Cruz show, many paranoiacs LIKE breeding ever more paranoia.

November 24, 2015

Going beyond Bernie Sanders: Defending corporate socialism

Bernie Sanders' speech last Thursday about democratic socialism was very good in many ways. (Here's my take.)

However, part of it was, well, sad.

And, that is that even Bernie Sanders feels the need to run away from the issue of corporate socialism. And why?

Arguably, before 1971 and its partial privatization into the U.S. Postal Service, the old U.S. Post Office was corporate socialism. I've argued, not on this blog but in actual newspaper columns for my paid day job that we ought to go back to that, in fact. I say that in part because the old Post Office worked better than today's Postal Service.

I have also argued that, for cost control if nothing else, we need to go beyond single-payer national health care, whether Sanders' "Medicare for All" or whatever, to a British National Health System. That is, we need to start nationalizing portions of the actual health care services, i.e., doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, etc.

Certainly, to this day, reddish-state North Dakota's Bank of North Dakota is corporate socialism at its finest. Seven American Indian tribes, considered "nations" for some legal purposes by the government of these United States, also own or control banks. And, Bernie supports postal banks today, and they're kind of like the Bank of North Dakota, which offers limited services as compared to a commercial bank.

Bernie himself has railed against Great Recession bailouts of "too big to fail" banks. Don't know about him, but at the start of the Great Recession, I favored Dear Leader following Sweden's 1990s model and nationalizing some of them. That's corporate socialism. (As with Sweden, I was OK with eventually selling them again.)

And, a younger, 30something Sanders ran for senator and governor on the platform of the Liberty Union Party, with its platform — and his own personal one — favoring nationalizing banks and more. (Click that link; it's a good piece by John Judis.)

So, per the LUP's snarking on Bernie, which hasn't been updated in years, it's kind of sad. It's also kind of sad that he's considered as "radical" by a fair chunk of Democrats as well as about all Republicans, at least elected ones.

Because he's not. Would that he were.

Per my stance on wanting a National Health Service, I don't call myself a corporate socialist, actually. Corporate socialism is not something I generally desire, or actively push. It's more that at times it may be a "necessary evil." But, when it is, I'm ready to see it used, and I'm not afraid of talking about using it.

Or, Sanders, beyond welfare-state socialism, could promote more worker ownership of industries, which does have bits of traction here in the U.S., per Vox. Consumer-owned or controlled co-ops are yet another way to skin this issue. Outdoors equipment company REI is the largest in the US.

November 23, 2015

TX Progressives talk Rick Perry, Chris Bell, Greg Abbott, Syria, Louisiana, single payer

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at Rick Perry's day in court as he tries one more time to quash the indictments against him.

Libby Shaw contributing to Stace at DosCentavos offers a tribute to his uncle, Sheriff Jose Serna. Sheriff Serna was the first elected Mexican American sheriff in Zavala County.

There may be some lessons for Democrats to learn from Louisiana, where they elected a Democratic governor on Saturday, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs suspects the biggest one is "Run the Bluest Dog you can find against the worst Republican you can find".  And that's just a tired recipe for the same failed election results in Texas over the past twenty years.

SocraticGadfly appreciates the intent, but questions the wisdom, of states making a state-by-state attempt at single-payer type "national" health care.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme doesn't understand why some Texas pastors go out of their way to spew hate.

Neil at All People Have Value said the value of everyday life is a good foundation for a broad movement demanding that our everyday work and relationships be given proper regard. APHV is part of

Texas Sharon gets some fracking indignation.

John Coby takes Chris Bell and his failed political career to the woodshed.


Grits for Breakfast calls for police disciplinary files to be opened up.

Juanita goes biblical on Greg Abbott's shameless announcement refusing refuge to people from Syria.

Robert Rivard notes that Abbott's decision is in contradiction to Catholic teaching and practice.

The Texas Election Law Blog mocks the three-judge panel for its refusal to act on the ongoing redistricting litigation.

Dallas City Council member Lee Kleinman touts hit town's non-discrimination ordinance.

Paradise in Hell annotates Greg Abbott's surrender to the terrorists.

Mary Pustejovsky says no one should have to lose a love one to an automobile accident.

Austin On Your Feet provides five lessons from the passage of a "granny flat" ordinance.

Haley Morrison says it is our American duty to show compassion to refugees.

TFN Insider attacks the State Board of Education for rejecting scientific fact-checkers for school textbooks.

Is the concept of god outside of science?

David Ottlinger, a former philosophy prof on a personal sabbatical, says yes

I say no. And, I offer a no that isn’t a scientism-based no.

First, I have to respectively disagree with Ottlinger on how we define the "sciences." I count the social sciences as sciences. If anything, it seems to be quasi-scientism to claim they’re not.

And, I'll also have to respectively disagree with the details of why we disagree. Psychology is becoming more scientific, through folks such as Kahnemann, Ariely, et al, on a regular basis, as far as gathering empirical data, analyzing it, and constructing theories. And, of course, evolutionary psychology — done correctly! — is just the fusion of this with evolutionary biology. Evolutionary anthropology is a similar fusion with cultural anthropology.

There are differences, of course.

For example, to go to history, now that I've touched on psychology and anthropology, and indirectly on sociology.

Historic events are multi-causal, of course. There was no "one" cause (and even no "three" causes) of, say, the American Revolution. And, historians will disagree which of those causes to weight more. But, history can and does conclusively rule out that, say, Manchu China had any causal contribution to the American Revolution.

Therefore, this:
Arguments modeled on science tend to fail because they do not appreciate the subtleties of the concepts and the ambiguities of implication.
Is precisely how the social sciences, at their best, are both social and scientific, because they appreciate the subtleties of concepts involved, but still bring a scientific eye to bear as much as possible.

To be specific, evolutionary psychology ideas of things like pattern detectors and agency imputers being part of the basis of religious evolution, even if ev psych can never meet provability hurdles of modern psychology, do seem reasonable and fit with what we know about human mental development.

While said social sciences can't provide "the answers" on this issue, they certainly can — and, in my opinion, should — "inform" philosophy.

Hence, my "philosophism" tag, for attempting to unduly exclude the sciences from this issue.