Saturday, November 28, 2009

In Praise of Artistic Nudes

Garrison Keillor knows what he likes.
"I see no reason to paint flowers. You can buy fresh flowers. Still lifes are only an exercise. And abstract expressionism is for the lobbies of big insurance companies. The true calling of an artist is to paint women and the greatest challenge is the naked female form. That's what separates the true artists from the wallpaper-hangers."

I said this in the room that houses some rather erotic Georgia O'Keeffe flowers and "American Gothic" with its squinty lady, and I spoke on behalf of American men everywhere. At the age of 67, I have stopped apologizing for looking at naked women. I don't stand directly in front of a nude and stare at her, lest I be taken for a pervert. I stand in front of the painting next to the nude and sneak sidelong glances, but nonetheless I am moved by her. Deeply.

Humbug Moldbuggery

No, this is not about the rampaging rapist home builders in Texas and their screwing buyers over mold damage.

Moldbug, not his real name, seems to be a leading Libertarian social philosopher blogger today.

I was exposed to his ideas recently by a quasi-Libertarian friend and was puzzled because I thought the ideas and arguments just didn't make sense.

Martin Regnen provides a Condensed Moldbuggery guide and also concludes it doesn't makes sense.

One example of the limitation of Moldbug's thinking is his dividing people today into three classes or castes. (No, people who divide people into classes isn't one of the classes.) Moldbug has:

Eloi - the educated liberal artistic elites who run things,
Morlocks who do all the illegal work or collect welfare,
and Proles who do the real work.

If you are flummoxed it may be because this is an almost complete reversal of H.G. Wells creation of Eloi and Morlocks. If you are familiar with H.G. Wells you realize that this should have been:

Eloi - the beautiful people, artistic and intellectuals who have no power but live in beautiful garden surroundings.
Proles - those who do all the work and live in the dark fiery Hellish industrialized underground.
Morlocks - the powerful masters of industrialization who the proles work for. In The Time Machine proles and Morlocks are really condensed into just the Morlocks.

The Eloi always end up being eaten by the Morlocks unless an unlucky time traveller comes along.

There is much other stuff in his works like for democracies with two major political parties, the more progressive party is referred to as the Inner Party and the more conservative party is the Outer Party. His key point is that supporting the Outer Party is not an effective strategy against progressivism. In case you haven't gotten it progressives are the evil Eloi who must be destroyed.

Progressivism (also called Universalism) is responsible for the vast majority of the world's problems today. It is a non-theistic religion descended in a direct line from the various Dissenter sects of England. Although the belief in God was dropped during the religion's evolution in order to improve its ability to spread, the core of progressive beliefs are very similar to the Quaker beliefs of a few centuries ago. In short, progressives are dangerous and creepy religious maniacs who don't need to believe in God but that makes them no less dangerous, creepy or maniacal.

The conflict between progressivism and conservatism

Progressivism always wins in the long run. Conservatism can at most slow down the implementation of selected progressive ideas. This is because progressives dominate the universities, media and non-governmental organizations which allows them to mold public opinion. Progressives dominate those institutions because progressivism is a far more attractive ideology for people who are intelligent, ambitious and status-seeking. In the US conservatives are largely members of Protestant sects of American origin (mostly Evangelical sects) whereas progressives are the spiritual descendants of the English dissenters, so this conflict is essentially a religious one.
I won't waste more time on this unless I get interesting comments. Even despite my social and political orientation - a Universalist Progressive, I can't see how more than a few misguideds would see Moldbug's hypotheses as more than a sad waste of limited intellect not worth mining the dross for a possible few gold flakes of real useful, or at least interesting, ideas.

Still, I am happy to see this is what passes for sophistication on the Libertarian Right.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Almost unbelievable story of the new economy

And the Money Comes Rolling In
Markus Frind works one hour a day and brings in $10 million a year. How does he do it? He keeps things simple.

How PlentyofFish became the world's largest dating site - make it free and fast.

I keep thinking this is much of the future of the new economy - unfortunately it does not spell much future employment. He works one hour a day and after very rapid exponential growth has two employees. A year ago his site had ten million users and was getting well over a billion page views each month. By now he should be creating a million successful relationships a year. is so successful now that it is doing a promotion offering dates with Lady Gaga - new single Bad Romance - to winners.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Locke seeks the homophobic vote

I am going to link to Kuff for the meetings Locke had with Harris County's nastiest political kingmaker and very political, very conservative preachers concerned about "the gay agenda." And Gene Locke's tepid response which I read as Locke saying I am not responsible for who votes for me or why.

It is disappointing but not unexpected that Locke is going that route. He already had alienated women voters with several good ol’ boy gaffes earlier in the campaign and the revelation of previous lack of respect for women.

It is significant that his political team consists of highly paid national Democratic and Republican operatives and insiders from a previous mayoral team not known for its smoothness or ethics.

So now Locke has meetings with the smear master of the far right in Houston who lead the Christian fundamentalist takeover of the Harris County GOP and the politically active anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-Democrat pastor group. How much did he pledge to support conservative causes? Then a statement that essentially says Locke is not going to be responsible for what others say about his opponent. All this is a political style we thought Houston outgrew in local races.

I hope many Republicans will stay home rather than vote for a Black Democrat angling for homophobic support.

I see even an Evangelical minister is wondering if the Houston Area Pastor Council, which is the home organization of the US Pastor Council, is crossing the line in terms of IRS regulations in mounting a campaign against gay candidates.

Monday, November 09, 2009

More Criticism of SuperFreakonomics

I shouldn't be surprised at SuperFreakonomics. Freakonomics reminded me somewhat of early John Stossel, while not the established wisdom they were glib "common sense" economic arguments. Like Stossel, later works veer more right and less factual. This latest seems to exhibit the bias toward particular approaches they decry in others. From The New Yorker review:

Given their emphasis on cold, hard numbers, it’s noteworthy that Levitt and Dubner ignore what are, by now, whole libraries’ worth of data on global warming. Indeed, just about everything they have to say on the topic is, factually speaking, wrong. Among the many matters they misrepresent are: the significance of carbon emissions as a climate-forcing agent, the mechanics of climate modelling, the temperature record of the past decade, and the climate history of the past several hundred thousand years.
“The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them. The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking.”
Pierrehumbert carefully dissects one of the arguments that Levitt and Dubner seem to subscribe to—that solar cells, because they are dark, actually contribute to global warming—and shows it to be fallacious. “Really simple arithmetic, which you could not be bothered to do, would have been enough to tell you,” he writes, that this claim “is complete and utter nonsense.”

But what’s most troubling about “SuperFreakonomics” isn’t the authors’ many blunders; it’s the whole spirit of the enterprise. Though climate change is a grave problem, Levitt and Dubner treat it mainly as an opportunity to show how clever they are.

Leaving aside the question of whether geoengineering, as it is known in scientific circles, is even possible—have you ever tried sending an eighteen-mile-long hose into the stratosphere?—their analysis is terrifyingly cavalier. A world whose atmosphere is loaded with carbon dioxide, on the one hand, and sulfur dioxide, on the other, would be a fundamentally different place from the earth as we know it. Among the many likely consequences of shooting SO2 above the clouds would be new regional weather patterns (after major volcanic eruptions, Asia and Africa have a nasty tendency to experience drought), ozone depletion, and increased acid rain. Meanwhile, as long as the concentration of atmospheric CO2 continued to rise, more and more sulfur dioxide would have to be pumped into the air to counteract it. The amount of direct sunlight reaching the earth would fall, even as the oceans became increasingly acidic. There are eminent scientists—among them the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen—who argue that geoengineering should be seriously studied, but only with the understanding that it represents a risky, last-ditch attempt to avert catastrophe.

“By far the preferred way” to confront climate change, Crutzen has written, “is to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Here is another notable review on two Vegetarian books.

Monday, November 02, 2009

My Liberal Identity

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Harris County Voting Info

2009 locations,dates & times for early voting in Harris County





Harris County Administration Building

1001 Preston, 1st Floor



Moody Park Recreation Center

3725 Fulton



Julia C. Hester House

2020 Solo St.



Ripley House

4410 Navigation Blvd.



H.C.C. Southeast College-Learning Hub

6815 Rustic



Palm Center-Justice of the Peace/Constable Entry

5300 Griggs Road



Fiesta Mart., Inc.

8130 Kirby Drive



Metropolitan Multi-Service Center

1475 W. Gray



Northeast Multi-Service Center

9720 Spaulding



Galena Park Branch Library

1500 Keene Street

Galena Park


I.B.E.W Hall #66

4345 Allen Genoa Road



Sunnyside Multi-Service Center

4605 Wilmington



The Power Center

12401 South Post Oak Road



Bayland Park Community Center

6400 Bissonnet (near Hillcroft)



Tracy Gee Community Center

3599 Westcenter Drive



Trini Mendenhall Sosa Community Center

1414 Wirt Road



Acres Homes Multi-Service Center

6719 W. Montgomery Road



Hardy Senior Center

11901 West Hardy Road



Octavia Fields Branch Library

1503 South Houston Ave.



Humble ISD Instructional Support Center

4810 Magnolia Cove



North Channel Branch Library

15741 Wallisville Road



Baytown Community Center

2407 Market Street



East Harris County Activity Center

7340 Spencer Highway



Freeman Branch Library

16616 Diana Lane,



Henington-Alief Regional Library

7979 South Kirkwood



Lac Hong Square

6628 Wilcrest Drive



Courtyard by Marriott

12401 Katy Freeway



Franz Road Storefront (DPS)

19818 Franz Road



Bear Creek Park Community Center

3055 Bear Creek Drive



City of Jersey Village-City Hall

16327 Lakeview Drive

Jersey Village


Tomball Public Works Building

501 B James St.



Barbara Bush Branch Library

6817 Cypresswood Drive



Ponderosa Fire Station No. 1

17061 Rolling Creek Drive



Cypress Top Park

26026 Hempstead Highway



George Bush Park-Glen Cheek Education Building

16002 Westheimer Parkway



Lone Star College-Willowchase Campus

9449 Grant Road



Crosby ISD Administration Building

706 Runneburg Road



Early Vote Hours of Operations
Oct 19 - 23rd
8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
October 24th
7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
October 25th
1:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
October 26th - October 30th
7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Early Locations, PDF
Election Day, Look-up: or (713) 755-6965

Constitutional Amendments - November 2009

Here is where to vote in Harris County. The map is by Greg Wythe.

When to Vote:

Early Voting Hours
» 10/19 - 10/23 : 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
» 10/24 : 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
» 10/25 : 1:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
» 10/26 - 10/30 : 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Election Day is November 3rd : 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m..

What to Vote For:

Proposition 1: Allowing cities and counties to issue bonds for improvements around military bases.

Proposition 2: Prohibiting property tax appraisals of homes from being based on the property's potential use as a business.

Proposition 3: Providing for uniform statewide enforcement of property tax appraisal standards.

Proposition 4: Establishing a permanent fund for the advancement of Texas public research universities.

Proposition 5: Allowing neighboring counties to share appraisal review boards.

Proposition 6: Allowing the Veterans' Land Board to reissue bonds that had been previously paid off.

Proposition 7: Removing the provision that prevents officeholders from serving in the Texas State Guard.

Proposition 8: Allowing state funds to be used for federal veterans hospitals.

Proposition 9: Placing provisions of the Texas Open Beaches Act in the Constitution.

Proposition 10: Extending the terms of Emergency Services District boards to four years.

Proposition 11: Placing restrictions on the use of eminent domain in the Constitution.

I think I am for all of these. Some beach property owners and developers are against 9 because they hate the open beach laws Texas has. Number 4 is particularly good, the University of Houston should qualify for state research money next year and it is money the state has but is simply not using. Tier One Research Universities are job creating machines. Number 11 has drawn some opposition because the actual amendment is worded poorly and contains loop holes even if it is better than what we have now.

Scott Hochberg has a lot more on these amendments.

League of Women Voters Guide to Amendments -PDF.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Milestones in the Quest for the Historical Jesus

This is a the new heretics view.

I consider myself to be one on the outskirts. More a mostly skeptical Universalist.

Saul who became Paul is very bad and Jesus seems a religious fanatic who thought he could bring on the End Times. James the Just, the brother of Jesus, seems the real leader and hero. When Jerusalem and most of Israel was destroyed only the Jewish communities outside survived and the Pauline Christianity community in Rome eventually became the most powerful and wrote the Bible, they also received the authority to destroy books that they did not support throughout the Empire. Jesus did not talk about atonement, that innovation came from Paul of Tarsus. It is to Paul that Christianity should trace its roots. The origins of Christianity as we know it came, not from Jesus, but from Paul.

The New Testament are letters that often chronicle the disputes between the Family of Jesus Church and Paul. The mysticism and miracles that are in the New Testament are superstitions that were copied down. A number of the Dead Sea Scrolls are from the first century and recount the struggles of the early church against "the liar" we now know as Paul.

Some of this is summarized here.

You Can't Please Everyone - WP edition

In Today's Viral World Who Keeps a Civil Tongue? the Washington Post asks in a front page story about someone who read at a school suddenly becoming hated by the right. Not for something she said but because at the school some children sang a song about Obama. Michelle Malkin was one of the first to lead the attacks.

Of course, the WP is scolded over this front-page column by the conservative so-called fact-checker Newsbusters.

They get facts wrong, of course. The repeal of "don't ask - don't tell" is something Obama has pledged many times before. In a nothing new speech he pledged it again and that speech was not a front page story. You rarely get front page stories when the President says nothing new - you might get angry editorials about him saying nothing new which is Andrew Sullivan's function for the Atlantic.

Another righty blog is outraged that the subject of the story is a government worker who has time to be a writer as well. Other than slams at the liberalness of it all that is about all that is there. has someone scolding the WP for only focusing on the nastiness of the right, not doing fact-checking on the inaccuracies.

Anytime the Washington Post puts an article scolding Michelle Malkin on the front page instead of one praising her I'll take it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Climate Change - Is It Just Too Damn Late?


We must start now to not only decrease emissions but also to increase the rate of atmospheric carbon reduction.

Dying because of no healthcare in Texas

“If you don’t qualify for Medicaid or the county indigent program, you are in no-man’s land. If you can’t pay for your treatment, you are out of luck.”

Anyone who thinks that America has the best health care system in the world should visit the county clinics around Texas as people come there as a last resort. If they have gotten sick enough to can't keep a job they may get help - if the county clinic can find someone to take them.

Usually poor people would be on Medicaid. But Texas has the most misery Medicaid qualification in the country. To qualify in Texas a family of three can't make more than $188 - a month.

Texas Observer - Sick + Tired
How Texas' health-care system bleeds county coffers and sends some to early graves.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Shroud of Turin replicated

Jobsanger has the info on the Shroud of Turin being replicated using materials easily available several centuries ago. Scientists proved by radio-carbon dating it was made in the Middle Ages but conservative Catholic members on the teams disputed the findings. This touched off a long debate with supposedly scientific evidence against the radio-carbon results presented.

Wiki has a good article on the controversies.

Goppy lies over National Competition

"Why are you so viscerally opposed to personal choice (ability to buy policies across state lines, HSAs, etc.) and instead insist on a government solution ? - Someone in the Washington Post comments.

"Why are Democrats opposing the real way to reduce costs, allowing health insurance companies to cross state lines?" Republican strategist on MSNBC.

The last time conservatives went on a big campaign for personal choice and increased competition by crossing state lines it was over credit cards. Increased competition would lower rates they cried.

Immediately after it passed every credit card company went to the states with the least regulations. Competition diminished and rates skyrocketed past the usury levels most states had set.

They count on people not knowing history and buying into these supposedly free market myths.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Are we past the global warming tipping plateau?

There is a fair amount of new evidence on global climate change in the last 10 or so years. Unfortunately it doesn't fully support the deniers views.

The effects of global warming, a misnomer as it is really global climate change and some smaller areas will see temperature decreases, are clearly in evidence and accelerating faster than predicted. See rate of glacier loss, ice cap reductions and high altitude micro-climes changes.

Global warming as measured by temperatures, actually quite difficult to do in a standard way over long time periods, according to skeptics has leveled off even as CO2 continues an accelerating rise. Other temperature series which include ocean data reportedly show continued increases.

Increasing amounts of CO2 will have limited effects on blocking infrared radiation. Some experiments indicate it is already blocking most of the rays it can.

Putting these together it looks like temperatures may not continue to increase but that we have reached a plateau that is past the tipping point of extreme effects from climate change, warming permafrost and melting glaciers.

The smarter deniers have long since given up arguing against the evidence of warming that is everywhere but just deny it is man caused.

Future climate change regulations will have to not slow down the growth of emissions but reduce emissions steeply to lower the amount of CO2 already present.

Congratulations deniers, there was no tipping point, but we are past the tipping plateau.

A lot of this evidence comes from global warming denier websites and pamphlets, they just haven't put it together in pursuit of their own agendas of reduced government regulation and denying industrialization is responsible.

A lot of this new evidence was presented to me by a global warming skeptic. Most of the stuff presented in The Skeptics Handbook were distortions and special pleadings and smears of scientists and politicians who support the idea of global warming. Her evidence was often incomplete - an ice core that has both ends cut off where presumably only the part that supports her belief that warming temperatures cause rising CO2 was presented. I admit to not being an expert on ice cores and how they measure both temperature and CO2 concentration. A rebuttal to The Skeptic's Handbook explains why rising temperatures lead to rising CO2 and how the ice cores prove they are coupled. A shorter rebuttal of her four points is here.

Her case did not logically hold up and was worse science and more smears than what she accused the global warming warners of engaging in. That was a shame as she did have some evidence that indicates the standard climate change models may need to be revised. It is even possible that CO2 is having only a minor affect on temperature but that warming is something external that is occurring in the solar system.

The real scientists say that I am crediting her data too much, the claims she makes aren't supported. I am pointing out that even if she is right we have to brace for continued climate change.

Her new evidence and interpretation does point to that further temperature rises may be unlikely except for that brought about by the dangerous and accelerating changes in the world ecology caused by the already new temperatures.

Ironically, we had better hope that most of the warming is caused by man made CO2 and we can reverse it. If instead the warming is primarily caused by an unknown factor (solar radiation?) that will be much more difficult to change.

Monday, September 28, 2009

TPA Blog Posts For 9/28/09

As early voting for the November elections looms on the horizon, the Texas Progressive Alliance says good-bye to September and hello to another weekly blog roundup.

BREAKING NEWS: Natural Gas Development Brings "amazing and very high" Levels of Carcinogens and Neurotoxins to Barnett Shale area! Take a deep breath before you read this study because the findings will take your breath away! TXsharon at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS broke this story and the study evaluation by MacAuthur (Genius) Award winner, Wilma Subra.

This week Left of College Station, Teddy reports on why the anti-choice movement is not about abortion but about the oppression of women. Also, guest blogger Litia writes about asking non-tradition questions about Texas A&M traditions; Litia writes a weekly guest blog for College Station about a liberal teaching in Aggieland. Left of College Station also coves the week in headlines.

Neil at Texas Liberal writes that Socialist candidate for Mayor of Houston Amanda Ulman should run a serious campaign or not run at all. There once was a solid base of socialist voters in Texas and the U.S. Who says that cannot someday happen again?

McBlogger takes aim at people who think that adjusting to climate change is just something that will unfairly hurt the poor.

Off the Kuff contemplates the possible entry of Farouk Shami into the Governor's race.

The old Easter Lemming has a useful post on voting for the Constitutional Amendments in his area.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at the 22 year high TX unemployment rate. What recession? We're in one?

Agriculture commissioner Todd Staples opened his mouth and out fell a big wad of stupid. Stupid so ignorant that it topped anything Rick Perry or John Cornyn or even Glenn Beck could manage this week. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has it -- if you can stand it.

WhosPlayin followed up on an open records request for internal emails related to Lewisville ISD's decision to ban President Obama's speech to children. The emails, including a racially charged email from a board member to the superintendant, do not paint a pretty picture..

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on money, energy, and the economy in the Texas governor's race, Perry's cap and trade photo op.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes Rick Perry does his best George Bush cowboy imitation with Ranger Recon.

Over at TexasKaos, boadicea, Warrior Queen, is seeking a pulse, any pulse over at the Tom Schieffer campaign, as she opines that Tom Schieffer Needs Something Original to Offer. It seems that lifting policy ideas from Hank Gilbert is the best he can do right now. Read the rest at TexasKaos.