SocraticGadfly: 7/9/17 - 7/16/17

July 14, 2017

Note to Texas Greens: Do NOT take a pass on 2018

Specifically, do not take a pass on pushing a ballot access petition for 2018, and waiting until 2020, just because that's a presidential year, and a horrible Donald Trump plus a possible neolib Dem candidate will help chances then.

And, yes, I've heard talk about that already. What I consider halfway serious talk.

So has friend Brains, I'm sure.

Indeed, new state Greens chair Wesson Gaige notes it was discussed last month at the state convention. (Brains will have something next week on Greens' national confab.)

And, speaking of, here's WHY Texas Greens should be wanting on the ballot, with party line access, in 2018.

Per a Brains blog post, plus a piece from Texas Monthly's BurkaBlog, Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidates are shaping up to be asshat sorry. Add in this piece early this year from the Trib, about state Dems already meeting to discuss the issue. (Link is now fixed, per Brains' comment.)

The Trib piece is the source of the photo.

Notes: At left, Wendy Davis of 2014 infamy isn't likely to run again, since she's got her lobbying shop set up. At bottom, both Castro brothers have already taken a powder. At right, Beto O'Rourke's chasing a Senate seat. At top, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker probably doesn't have a lot of "throw weight," although, in that Trib piece, she was certainly making "noises." None of Texas' other big-city mayors even got mentioned. Mike Rawlings is also a Democrat, but apparently getting no love. Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio is also a D, but new. Steve Adler from Austin has been around a while.

With no statewide offices, Dems have a thin bench. Per discussions Brains and I have had, black Democratic state senators don't want to run. Royce West likes his law practice, and possible "overrides" on some of John Wiley Price's grifting, as in the Dallas Inland Port. Former state Sen. Rodney Ellis decided that the Harris County Commissioners' Court offered better opportunity for something or another.

The Trib mentions a couple of Anglo state senators. Mike Collier, from the business wing of the party, has already announced for lite guv.

It's possible that Matthew Dowd, eschewing an indy run for senate, still considers one for guv. That, per Brains' piece, would only increase the 2006 parallel. (If Kinky Friedman runs again, I'll ask the dogcatcher of Utopia to arrest him.)

For Greens, with a somewhat unpopular Gov. Greg Abbott and an even more unpopular Lite Gov Danny Goeb, why would you wait until 2020 to try to get back ballot access?

The second reason NOT to wait is the elimination of straight ticket voting in Texas.

So, get on the ballot, and get a better gubernatorial nominee than Brandon Parmer.

David Bruce Collins, at the Houston / Harris County level, has more good points on Greens acting like an actual political party.

July 13, 2017

Trumpsteria is even hitting McClatchy

I am hereby suggesting a new portmanteau, mashing up on "Trump" and "hysteria" for "Trumpsteria." Like a wisteria, it will be purplish in its anger, and sometimes in its prose.

Like McClatchy, which I thought at one time knew better than to run speculative-at-best crap like this about Jared Kushner meeting with people who may be, but likely aren't, that close to Vladimir Putin.

First there's this, among the more tenuous statements.
By Election Day, an automated Kremlin cyberattack of unprecedented scale and sophistication had delivered critical and phony news about the Democratic presidential nominee to the Twitter and Facebook accounts of millions of voters. Some investigators suspect the Russians targeted voters in swing states, even in key precincts. 
Russia’s operation used computer commands knowns as “bots” to collect and dramatically heighten the reach of negative or fabricated news about Clinton, including a story in the final days of the campaign accusing her of running a pedophile ring at a Washington pizzeria.
Erm, given that major newspapers have retracted their "17 intelligence sources" stories, and for other reasons, if by "Russia" you mean "Russian government," we still know no such thing.

It gets worse:
One source familiar with Justice's criminal probe said investigators doubt Russian operatives controlling the so-called robotic cyber commands that fetched and distributed fake news stories could have independently "known where to specifically target … to which high-impact states and districts in those states."
So, we have an intelligence operation brilliant enough to distribute fake news stories, or enhance their Google rank, etc., etc., and who have been selected for their cyber-smarts deliberately to target American presidential politics —

BUT, BUT, BUT too dumb to know about the Electoral College and battleground states, and left without guidance from supervisors who would know?

Supposedly, the cyberhandlers behind these bots were even smart enough not just to try to help Trump in the general but also in the Republican primaries. But still dumb!

As for other aspects of that latter link? Clint Watts is ex-FBI. I don't know if he's a BFF of James Comey or not, but it's at least possible. And,  he's clearly otherwise bipartisan foreign policy establishment insider, given stuff like his past association with the Foreign Policy Research Institute. At the same time, CNN says he is NOT known as a cyber expert.


On another Trumpian relative, Donald Jr., Masha Gessen has the much more factual story. A low-wattage conman was being conned by brighter ones.

July 12, 2017

#Philosophy foot fight falls flat

A favorite modern philosopher of mine, Massimo Pigliucci, on his blog, runs a Friday links roundup. This one, per a link of his about ethical eating, has exploded in comments.

Massimo, per that link, is a "reducitarian." So am I, but for different reasons and for a different moral compass. And, he's very ardent about it.

Fueling the comments fire was, first, Rita Wing, a hardcore vegan, and second, and interesting, or sometimes "interesting," but not-favorite philosopher, philosophical friend, and sparring partner of Massimo's, Dan Kaufman. He's not a philosopher enemy; he's more a semi-frenemy.

And now, our philosophers, with their "philosophy food fight falls flat."

Massimo comes off as defensive, and very defensive for an admirer of Stoicism who even has a second blog about modern Stoic-based advice, "How To Be a Stoic." It's an "if you're not for me, you're against me," defensiveness.

Dan comes off as smug. (That's not new, even more so on his own blog site, The Electric Agora.) That said, Dan seems to largely reject animal rights issues, and not just an extreme, Peter Singer version of them, but all of them. (More on that below, though.)

Behind the "smug," I think Dan's stance is twofold:
1. People can become preachy on this issue without warrant;
2. This isn't that big of a deal for him.

Now, to comments.

First, Wing comes off as sanctimonious, especially when she appeared ignorant about Jainism, notably, "sky-clad" Jains and the most rigorous of them starving themselves to death because they believe even plants have some senses.

I mentioned that vegans, without supplements, have Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Massimo, after critiquing her for an appeal to nature fallacy, called mine a naturalistic fallacy.

I think not, when I unpack the shorthand.

Yes, I can get B-12 from a pill. But that's coming from animal products that, if the whole world went vegan, we'd have to raise just for that purpose. That would be costly, wasteful and have environmental burdens. (More on that in a minute.)

Let me state one other thing for the record, before I dive into the two protagonists.

I'm not a moral realist, but, if I'm presented that as an issue of two polarities, moral realism vs. "moral non-realism," I reject that.

I consider myself some sort of moral semi-realist.

I don't think empirical facts, whether findings of science, recordings of history or other things, should control moral investigation, articulation of positions and stances, etc. I do think, though, that empirical findings should guide such things, and on a case-by-case basis.

As I told Ms. Wing, I'm a definite Humean, and with him, I affirm the "is ≠ ought," IF that means, "an is doesn't necessarily imply an ought." Because an "is" may imply an "ought," and certainly, the extreme idea, that any "is" should have zero consideration on any "ought," is flat wrong.

Back to Massimo, and first with a prelude.

He called extreme Jainism's belief "bizarre." Yeah? So are other religious and quasi-religious arcane dietary beliefs. Kosher rules are just such an example. And I believe veganism is just such a quasi-religious system.

Per the matter at hand, and animal pain, that means getting the best scientific information, and interpretation of it, on what animals can feel pain, or something like it. The "interpretation" issue means no anthropomorphizing.

That also includes the "folk science" issue of knowing that, if an animal is capable of feeling pain, it's not just factory farming that causes pain. The act of killing an animal, unless you've shot it up with morphine or gassed it with ether first, also inflicts pain.

Massimo also didn't really like this observation. Nor various spinoffs, largely from me, but also from others.

On the commercial side, of empirical facts in record, for reducitarians to ponder, it is to be noted that major fish, such as salmon and catfish, are factory farmed. Therefore, above and beyond the note above, a reducitarian, for even a partial moral cover, must logically avoid factory farmed fish as well as beef, hogs, etc. (And, I'm venturing that a significant minority, at least, do not.)

One smaller note on issues of philosophy, and even more, of psychology, THEN the protagonists.

I see scales and shades of gray in many things, not just what I mentioned above.

Fernando raises an interesting aside in comments there. We have pretty good reason to be sure that any mammal feels pain. And, beyond the idiots in the cosmetics industry, a fair amount of “legit” scientific research causes lab rats pain, let alone dogs, doubly let alone primates.

It seems the only way to justify such research is to be a utilitarian, but of a different stripe of what one’s utilitarian canon contains than Singer. But, Massimo in general is a virtue ethicist.

However, Massimo rightly calls out Kaufman for calling Peter Singer shallow. And he's right. Dan unconvincingly appeals to other philosophers. I disagree with Singer less than Dan — and probably find him a bit more discomfiting. Shallow, though, he is not.

That said, given the degree of Massimo's emotional angst, I suspect Singer hits kind of close to home for him, and he'd like to dismiss him.

As for claims I'm committing the naturalistic fallacy? I suggest a little MatthewArnold. Or if that's not good enough, I'll riff on that and suggest that Arnold was saying, contra Hobbes, we can never totally rise above a state of nature. In other words, the only good Buddha is a dead Buddha. With that, if I am still committing somebody's definition of that, then, I'm definitely making only a non-Edenic appeal.

What I see Arnold as saying is that we're never going to truly transcend "it ≠ ought" issues, and we're certainly not going to expand our addressing of them, on natural issues, if our attempts to transcend a Hobbesian state of nature remain selective. And, yes, that's what I think Massimo is doing.

Contra sky-glad Jains, I do not think plants feel pain. Therefore, if one wants to be vegetarian, as long as they don't preach at me, I think they've got a pretty strong moral standing.

Veganism? Milking a dairy animal causes no pain, per se. Factory dairy farming may, but that's a different critter. Therefore, if one "sources" one's cheese, butter, etc., one can make a legit claim to dairy products. Eggs? It's possible a hen feels a psychological pain from egg theft, so, maybe leave them out. Clothing? If the cow's dead for other reasons, don't waste the leather. Wool-shearing, as long as sheep aren't too exposed to elements, is not painful. Down? If taken from natural molting, no pain.

So, one can certainly ethically wear animal-based clothing. Ms. Wing is wrong, and sanctimonious.

Finally, the issue of animals suffering pain ANYWAY. A leopard or lion would kill a wild cow. Something might kill a wild hog. Varieties of animals kill wild sheep and goats. Bears kill wild salmon. Etc., etc.

Other animals don't have a second-level sense of others, like we do. Even if it cared, an obligate carnivore leopard, can't stop killing a cow anyway.

Is the fact that we can sense pain of other creatures of itself enough reason to stop?

Back to utiltarianism.

What if ... ants and flies sensed pain.

Are sprays and swatters always OK, or, how do you justify it? I'm sure many vegans who aren't sky-clad Jains haven't thought about this and would prefer not to.

Some opponents of factory farms will talk about broader "quality of life" issues rather than pain.

Quality of life is itself a quasi-anthropomorphizing concept when applied to animals. I mentioned free-range cows to Saph. We don't build barns for free-range cows. Millions of them died on the US High Plains in the blizzards of 1886-87. Barning free-range livestock would be pretty silly, in my book.

Dan's blog discusses a piece by Cora Diamond which partially, but not entirely, parallels my thought.

However, without reading Diamond's original, I think Dan's piece isn't totally relevant to Massimo's piece, as he is not adopting a quasi-Singerian position. And MPBoyle in comments is one reason I not only stopped writing for Dan but largely stopped reading.

I do think he in particular, Boyle, misses friend Thomas' points. And, one of those is that Diamond, and from her, Kaufman, may push some things too far.

On the other hand, Massimo's own stance is presented largely in terms of the western world, and beyond that, a more privileged subset of it.

And, I mean that. Not all Americans, with our factory agriculture, can afford to pay to be vegetarians, let alone vegans. Many can't easily even afford Massimo's reducitarianism.
Finally, in an interesting sidebar from the non-human portion of the natural world: sometimes vegans, under duress, become cannibals!


As noted, my animal ethics is based on environmentalism, and two subgrounds.

One is that it takes 10 pounds of food to put a pound of weight on a cow, about 8 for a hog, etc. Except in places, like savannah plains that are semi-dry, and not suitable for much agriculture, where we should ranch animals like cows (or better, in the US, the native bison), we have too much livestock. We can feed people better with a more vegetable-based diet.

This is even more true in places in the world where most cannot yet afford the Western hankering for meat.

Second is global warming, and things like cow farts.

Too much livestock is killing our future. And, killing it more rapidly than most conservative-minded scientists want to admit — along with all the other causes of global warming.

Finally, there's good non-ethical reasons to avoid not meat in general, but modern factory farmed meat, especially in the US, or countries making special trade with the US. Food safety reasons. That article ignores the fact that the USDA's own stateside food safety programs suck as is.

There's yet other issues.

A stance like Massimo's, to get back to capitalism, involves a certain amount of privilege. I mentioned that in a late comment that he didn't address. So, too, do other moral issues that are in part, aesthetics issues in disguise.

Next, it's not just veganism, or even vegetarianism, that are arcane dietary systems. Some, as those of a Kamchatka Peninsula people, are culture-wide.

Finally, one last thought.

Massimo, it's OK to be non-Stoic once in a while.

July 11, 2017

TX Progressives mock G-19+1, #Trumpcare, and All Things Trump

The Texas Progressive Alliance would like to bottle and sell Angela Merkel's eyerolls as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff comments on the Justice Department's flipflop on voter ID.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks hurricane preparedness is so much more important than building a monument to racism.  Today's white nationalist party, the GOP, disagrees.

SocraticGadfly moves from politics to scientific skepticism, with an anniversary-based look at one of the most famous events in the UFO world.

The Russians tried to hack our election, and they may try again ... but given the effective suppression tactics of voter ID and partisan gerrymandering in Texas and throughout the country, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs asks: shouldn't Democrats be focusing on the voting challenges they can affect, as opposed to the one they can't?

Neil at All People Have Value posted that freedom loving Texans showed up at the office of wicked-doing Texas Senator John Cornyn even on the Fourth of July. You can't take a holiday from the work freedom. APHV is part of

Lewisville Texan Journal calls out Ted Cruz for not discussing Trumpcare at a town hall.

Texas Leftist notes how Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner continues his sellout to the Houston establishment.

Texas Vox calls out Gov. Greg Abbott for blocking cleaner air for Austin.


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

The Statesman previews the upcoming court battle on Congressional and state legislature redistricting.

Burkablog discusses how making Texas almost a one-party state The Statesman presents problems for the Texas GOP.

Saadia Faruqi explains why she wears a hijab.

Therese Odell takes another dive into the Trump Twitter cesspool.

Better Texas Blog runs the numbers on how Trumpcare would screw our state.

Grits for Breakfast has some suggestions to improve the usage of video by the Court of Criminal Appeals.

July 10, 2017

The NBA West: First overview of 2017-18

Dirk Nowitzki: Doomed
to miss the playoffs
yet another season?
For starters, I'm going to say that, much as Mark Cuban hates even discussing the idea, the Mavericks need to tank.

Two teams below them in last year's Western Conference standings got better, probably enough better to pass them, and the two teams immediately above them got enough better to widen the gap.

I love me some Dirk, but he's not going to carry that team. Harrison Barnes is a decent second banana, but that's it, and once again, so far at least, Cuban hasn't landed even a B-list free agent.

The Kings landed both Zach Randolph and George Hill. Neither is earthshaking, but that, and if Buddy Hield proves worthy of last year's trade, that certainly moves them ahead of the Mavs. Yes, they're likely losing Rudy Gay, but adding both De'Aaron Fox and Frank Mason in the draft, is good.

The T-Wolves should easily pass Dallas, even with more games of ground to make up. Adding Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, and then Jamal Crawford, with the trade of Ricky Rubio perhaps being addition by subtraction, overall, is worth more than two games.

The Pellies will stay ahead of Dallas, whether actually making the playoffs or not, just by having Boogie Cousins for a full season.

Denver is upgraded through adding Paul Millsap, even with the loss of Danilo Gallinari. Add in a full season for Nikola Jokic to spread his wings, and they've got a good shot at the playoffs.

The Grizz are the most likely team to fall out. Losing Randolph will hurt somewhat. If, as rumored, they trade Marc Gasol to the Celtics, they'll be doing that to go full rebuild mode. (That said, given that the Celts are having to work to make cap room for Gordon Hayward, I don't know how they pull this off.)

Portland could also fall out of the playoffs after a quiet offseason.

Utah's addition of Rubio should be enough to partially offset the loss of Hayward. And, if Hayward actually comes via sign-and-trade, that helps more. And, I certainly don't expect the Clippers to fall out of the top eight. Indeed, getting Patrick Beverley in the Chris Paul sign-and-trade, and now adding Euro guard Milos Teodosic, it's possible the Clips will improve. Yes, you read that right.

Zach Lowe talks more about the major changes to teams, especially in the West. I agree overall, including his caveats about the long-term future of the Wolves unless Thibodeau takes off some of his previous coaching blinders.

So, there you have it, Mavs fans. It's possible you're nesting with the Suns and Lakers at the bottom of the conference. Hey, and Dirk's getting a full $5 million to suffer through this. Unless Mark Cuban has a wink-and-nod deal for an ownership stake after Dirk retires, that's a criminal underpay.

That said, without of course saying "tank," Cuban admits the team is clearly rebuilding.