May 19, 2018

#ThoughtsAndPrayers and #hypocrisy from Greg Abbott
after latest, Santa Fe, school shooting

Greg Abbott thinks unlucky accidents of nature are the same as deliberate killing of one human being by another.

The thoughts-and-prayers deluded crowd after the Santa Fe school shooting bought it, too.

Unfortunately, not only are they unlike Greg Abbott in suffering from wanton killing rather than natural tragedy, none of them is going to get a multimillion lawsuit settlement, either:
And, they still believe it.

Even as they continue to believe in a god who has allowed more than 200 school shootings in the US since the turn of the century. I'm sure that some of them, like the good conservative Lutherans who were in his audience, blame human original sin for that, or the inscrutability of god, rather than face the fact that said god either isn't omnipotent or else isn't omnibenevolent, and that said inscrutability is part of the theological and philosophical conundrum, not the solution. (And, yes, like Ken Ham, some Xns actually will attribute the cause of anything wrong in our world to original sin.)

That's the message for them.

The message for Abbott is posting a photoshopping I did during his last guv run.

Because, Greg, your call for new gun laws now is bullshit. Gun shootings have happened in Texas and elsewhere since you were first elected governor, and this is nothing but campaign rhetoric bullshit.

So, in my opinion, you need to note that mock cellphone text message that I photoshopped into that picture.

Beyond that, "calling for" new legislation and proposing new legislation are two entirely different things.
Abbott said he'd been planning to roll out several proposals for new gun laws in Texas before the shooting, including "speeding up background checks" and keeping guns out of hands of those "who pose immediate danger." He also praised the mental health screening and preparedness protocols for students implemented at Lubbock Independent School District.
Does anybody really believe Greg Abbott intended any of these #GunControl bill ideas to actually become public until a school mass shooting that happened just three days before the Democratic gubernatorial runoff? When Abbott has had four years, two regular sessions of the Lege and one special session, to do something, and hasn't?

And, he doesn’t really intend them to become law, per that same story:
Abbott hopes the roundtable discussions will involve state lawmakers, educators, Second Amendment advocates and the victims and families of shootings, perhaps including survivors of the November massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs
Emphasis added. We know that means the likes of Dana Loesch from the NRA. (Nazi Redneck Assholes, more and more.)

Show some actual integrity, without hypocrisy, next time. If we're lucky, there won't be a next time, but, this is Merika, Tex-ass division. We won't be lucky on either the school shootings or this year's governor's race.

Unfortunately, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is a bit schizophrenic on this issue. In two back-to-back Tweets, he first says, I quote —

"Spare us your thoughts and prayers."

But in the second, he drinks the Abbott Kool-Aid in believing he really does mean it about those wondrous new laws.

The Dallas mayor's position is officially nonpartisan, but Rawlings is a known Democrat. He should know better on Abbott.

We even have a 2015 Abbott Tweet to prove Rawlings should know better;
THAT is the real Greg Abbott on gun issues. The Greg Abbott of post-Santa Fe statement is the real Greg Abbott on political hypocrisy, but nothing else.

Or, per a new AP piece, this is the real Greg Abbott on guns:

Abbott and Texas Republicans have embraced a steady relaxation of gun laws in recent years. Since 2013, Texas has reduced the cost and hours of training needed to be licensed to carry a handgun, allowed "open carry" for handgun license holders, and allowed concealed handguns in college classrooms and dorms.
That's Greg Abbott.

Of course, both, per the standards listed on Rawlings' account, are actually from his staff, though perhaps dictated by him or something.

That said, Abbott still is 10 percent sane among Texas GOP leaders.

There’s always Danny Goeb, who now wants our schools to become firetraps rather than face reality, to show full-on nuttery.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, also a Republican, said, "We have to look at the design of our schools moving forward and retrofitting schools that are already built. And what I mean by that is there are too many entrances and too many exits to our over 8,000 campuses in Texas."  
"There aren't enough people to put a guard at every entrance and exit," Patrick added. "But if we can protect a large office building or a courthouse or any major facility, maybe we need to look at limiting the entrance and exits into our schools so that we can have law enforcement looking at people who come in one or two entrances."
I will give Goeb credit for telling parents to secure firearms. That's very small, though.

Ted Cruz at least was only hypocritical enough to be in the thoughts and prayers crowd. He said nothing about new federal legislation.

Hell, we're so gun-drunk we had a SECOND school shooting, at a high school graduation for Mount Zion High in Georgia, that same night!

And, what about the shooter?

Some of his teachers seemed to try to “normalize” Dimitrios Pagourtzis, per the New York Times. Daily Beast paints a darker picture. The Chronic adds to that picture by noting he had not only additional guns, but some sort of bomb-type devices. The AP adds yet more details, noting he had journaled about killing people and confirming that the explosives included a Molotov cocktail. (And Mark Ames, who I first saw tweet the NYT link, should know better. Intelligence — per the school honor roll issue — is no guarantor of either moral or psychological firm ground in a person. And making a high school honor roll doesn't fully statistically correlate with general mental intelligence, and not at all with Daniel Goleman's other types of intelligence. Mark also knows better than to give too much credence to an early story.)

Problems with American school students — especially ones like this, who aren't bullied, but are willing to voluntarily at least dabble in elements of the alt-right world, and possibly in his case, bits of the alt-left, too (hammer and sickle ain't fascist), are themselves a problem, especially in a state like Texas where such thinking runs rampant already.


Update, based on an acquaintance's Facebook reposting of someone else's comment.

To Christian parents of children wounded or killed in school shootings telling people like me to STFU?

I sympathize with your tragedy. As the victim of an armed robbery, I can even empathize with it to some degree.

However, two points back.

One, secularists suffer the same tragedies as Christians (and the non-Christian religious).

Two, the god you claim is both omnibenevolent and omnipotent failed to prevent those other tragedies as well as yours.

May 18, 2018

#MuellerTime — one year on

For months now, versus not only the MAGA-heads and their leader, Donald Duck, but people who should know better, like:
The two-siderism that Ray McGovern mouths at Consortium News and elsewhere (though he's not as bad as the MAGA-heads)
2. The deliberate handwaving obfuscation of ShirtLost DumbShit Zach Haller, self-appointed top disciple of Actual Crapulus, I mean #ActualFlatticus, who I'm getting more and more ready to simply call a MAGA-head and call bullshit on him being a "progressive," as I've already called BS on H.A. Goodman;

I have been contending that claiming Robert Mueller has taken way too much time on his probe is simply not true. I have specifically mentioned Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater of Ken Starr infamy.

And now, Five Thirty Eight has a great deep dive on precisely those issues. Complete with that nice timeline graphic.

Update, June 13: And now, one year and one month in, Mueller may have landed his biggest fish to date, as reports say Michael Cohen is flipping.)

Note how short the Mueller frame is compared to Watergate, let alone the other two? So, to say that Mueller needs to wind things up because he's taking way too long is BS. The case at hand is certainly more complicated than the Valerie Plame leaks (which ended with Pat Fitzgerald refudiating Elizabeth Loftus in the Scooter Libby trial) or the Michael Deaver perjury cases.

The piece also has some instructional notes from the past. Once it looked like Lawrence Walsh would not pursue his investigation up to President Reagan, thanks in part due to gaslighting by Reagan's new chief of staff, Howard Baker, and once it became even more apparent that Congress, allowing itself to be gaslighted by old senatorial colleague Baker, would not pursue impeachment, Iran-Contra fizzled out. (One even wonders if Oliver North's conviction being overturned, even though it seemed that Congress and prosecutors had both framed well the "no dual use" on his Congressional testimony, was sabotaged deliberately on the Hill.) Devin Nunes is playing the role of a dumber, less suave, more partisan Howard Baker in this case.

At the same time, Watergate also offers parallels. Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox during the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, which also saw the name of Robert Bork first rise to infamy.

And, as the Five Thirty Eight piece notes, the special counsel law was changed in 1999. Basically, Republicans pulled the ladder up after then when Ken Starr's best, or worst, fishing expedition got nowhere. Typical action. Like Clarence Thomas. So, Mueller can't come close to going on a Ken Starr fishing expedition.

Now, that said, so far, he's found nothing that proves Trump colluded with Putin to have the election thrown to him. Russiagate in that sense is stupid.

That said, if it turns up pay-to-play about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, that's certainly within Mueller's scope. Emoluments Clause-related stuff involving Russia is too, as I see it.

May 16, 2018

Moral realism, moral non-realism, and
moral semi-realism/naturalism

In this post at Footnotes to Plato, Massimo Pigliucci talks about morals and not participating in the "Big Four" of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon ever more dominating large chunks of the online world. The post is based on a new book about that.

A back-and-forth about moral framing issues between Massimo and Dan Kaufman in comments, with me largely agreeing with Massimo, led to me hinting that Dan is strawmanning Massimo on this issue (I still think he is, despite his denial), led to this last comment by Massimo:
“Massimo is also a moral anti-realist, as you know, as he’s said so here”

It would be more correct to say that I’m a moral naturalist, as I think morality is a human invention (thus not “real”), but constrained by human nature, desires, and limitations (thus partially factual).
(His quote is of a previous comment by me.)

I told him in an email that with that explanation, I agree, and that it's why I think something like "ev psych done right," or a relabeled, start-from-scratch, the "evolutionary biology of psychology and sociology" is real — as long as said field includes gene-culture co-evolution.

That said, let me note a comment of mine there, not too much earlier, the one from which Massimo quoted:
Dan, you choose not to see any type of argument, especially if you don’t see “specialness” in something like trashing the entire planet’s climate. To further riff on Isaiah, I don’t try to reason forever where and when it’s a waste of time.

Massimo is also a moral anti-realist, as you know, as he’s said so here. I’m a semi-anti-realist. Being a moral anti-realist is irrelevant here, other than the issue of language, and you choosing to make your division of where the word “moral” falls … And others disagreeing

IF one wants to fully go down that road, and also be a moral anti-realist, every person in the universe can hive off by one’s moral self. If one takes it far enough, we can introduce Mr. Wittgenstein to Mr. Hobbes.

That said, this is why I’m only a semi-anti-realist. Per the evolutionary development of human nature, I think we can find some moral values partially influenced by our human backgrounds.

And, as for Mr. Wittgenstein meeting Mr. Hobbes? Based on the paragraph above, homey can either not play that game, or else play it in deliberately contrarian way, usually based on Cynic ideas.
I can do exactly that. I can call a person like Dan immoral, if I think he or she is for willfully narrowing their "moral arc," per Martin Luther King.

And I do think exactly that. Per the Markan explainer (reduplicated by Q with the Parable of the Talents) of the moral of certain parables, that, "to him who has much, more will be given," and even more, per the Lukan different explainer on a different parable cycle, that, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded," and that virtue ethics morals, based on Massimo's moral naturalism, is somewhat of a sociological project (Massimo talks about writing and exemplifying) I think it is realistic to say that we as a society should expect a broader moral arc from people with higher intellectual gifts, especially if they have a more prominent social standing with it.

That said, whether it's "don't want to" or "can't," at times, Dan's psychological arc isn't highly expanded. He's said more than once that he just doesn't "get" families with less than a fairly high degree of cohesion, let alone families where blood is certainly not thicker than water. Taking it charitably as "can't" within his current psyche, and knowing of some of his gifts, I hope that both on that in particular and moral arcs in general, his arc does expand in the future.

Do I think Dan is as immoral as a person who drowns cats, let alone a suicide bomber? Of course not.

But, yes, and seriously — not just to play Wittgensteinian linguistic schadenfreude — I do think it's a moral failing of a small degree to not expand one's arc further, especially if part of that is willfully wanting to not expand one's arc.

May 15, 2018

TX Progressives talk early voting, Higher Loyalty

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges everyone to vote in the primary runoffs as it brings you this week's roundup.

P Diddie at Brains and Eggs wrote both before and after pieces about the Lupe Valdez-Andrew White Democratic gubernatorial primary runoff debate. Yours truly had some back-and-forth with him on his pieces.

Off the Kuff looked back at the recent Arizona Congressional election for evidence of crossover voting and the potential effect it may have in November.

And, looking ahead to growing numbers of women in politics and elsewhere, the Texas Women's Voices Project, presented by Texas Monthly, is a must read for all.

Socratic Gadfly reads Jim Comey's book and finds that any "Higher Loyalty" is ultimately to himself. (Coming up? A review of Amy Chozick’s “Chasing Hillary.”

Grits for Breakfast ponders the correlation between the DPS "border surge" and the reduction in DWI citations.

Neil at All People Have Value posted a picture of Houston, Texas. 

Christof Spieler asks what it will take for Houston to become more resilient against flooding.

Texas Vox notes a number of cities are looking at climate change issues.

One of those cities is Dallas, where Jim Schuetze calculates the latest in total fallout for the Calatrava bridges over the Trinity.

Juanita could have provided insights into Donald Trump's thinking at a much cheaper rate than Michael Cohen.

Paradise in Hell takes a crack at interpreting Melania Trump.

Dr. Carlos J. Cardenas argues that the best Mother's Day gift we could give would be a commitment to reducing the maternal mortality rate.

BeyondBones presents seven things you probably didn't know about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Ty Clevenger at Lawflog doubles down on being a conspiracy theorist, er, I mean, provides a brief update on his lawsuit against the FBI for Seth Rich records. Ty could just file briefs in support of Seth's parents, or even offer to represent them. (That said, given his winger-leaning background on national issues that I detail in the first link, I would advise Seth's parents not to accept such an offer were it ever to be made.)

May 13, 2018

#TxPolitics – Loopy Lupe vs Whiter than White:
The tale of the digital videotape

Who won? Andrew Whiter than White vs Loopy Lupe Valdez.
Neither Lupe Valdez nor Andrew White scored a knockout blow on the other at the one Democratic gubernatorial primary runoff debate Friday night, nor did either knock themselves out. Video of the debate is here from the Snooze; more analysis from the Texas Observer here.

Neither one appeared to have given themselves a good boost, though, either.

Background: Valdez seemingly had the more to lose. Her campaign had been in semi-freefall even before the runoff. White had continued to ask her for a debate and she continued to say no – until she caved. That's the optics.

So, who did lose more ... or gain more?

Valdez tagged White on abortion, claiming that he was condescending toward women who have made the choice to have one. That, in turn, brings up the issue of his membership in a church of the conservative denomination the Presbyterian Church in America, which contrasts with Valdez' lesbian background, and points out White's generally conservative stance on social issues.

OTOH, the Houston GLBT folks endorsed him. Yes, she got Equality Texas, but still.

White also didn't do well on his company that makes border security biometrics stuff.

And, he's at times called himself a moderate Republican. That said, other than that one donation to the Kentucky GOP a decade ago, he's not given any other money to Republican campaigns or orgs in more than 20 years. So, he's better than Tony Sanchez.

Valdez, on the other hand, didn't appear to overcome her lack of competence issues. She totally whiffed on a minority outreach issue, made worse by White talking about decriminalizing minor marijuana amounts, bail reform and other things. In addition to her incompetence, she continues to come off as too much of a law and order candidate – not surprising for someone who was a county jailer, a federal jailer, then, essentially, a detective for various federal agencies before running for Dallas County Sheriff. She's a career cop. And, minorities can be hard-ass law and order types, just like whites. Look at Sheriff Clarke up in Milwaukee. Valdez isn't THAT, but she still is law-and-order. Oh, and women and LGBT cops can be law and order, too.

Brains has said he'll vote Green if we/they have ballot access, for Jan Richards, if White gets the Democratic nod, or undervote if Greens aren't there. So will I.

He looks like he'll vote for Valdez if she wins and Richards isn't on the ballot. (I"m inferring; from his two posts leading up to the runoff, I can't tell for sure.) Anyway, from MY previous post ... and his comment on that ... and our back and forth ... that strengthens my inference.

And I likely won't. She had one last primary election chance to put two major issues to rest, and at least halfway failed on both. I don't see her ramping up her growth curve a lot against Greg Abbott if she gets the nomination. She caved on agreeing to the debate, and other than the one abortion zinger, still sounded befuddled, then tried to explain away her apparent befuddlement.


And, Brains, we'll presumably agree to disagree. (And, yes, this is another inference, but ... perhaps this, beyond allegations that I'm flirting with racism, is why Brains doesn't like my "Loopy Lupe" nickname. If he were going to undervote either her or White in the general, it might not be as big a deal for him.)

It's not just Valdez herself. I refuse to reward Gilberto Hinojosa playing queenmaker with a crappy candidate shoved down our throats in part because of ... tokenism.