Mike Kueber's Blog

December 19, 2014

Aphorism of the Week #23 – Youth is wasted on the young

Filed under: Aphorism,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 3:02 pm
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Earlier this week there was a shocking report on an NFL football player, Chris Conte, who opined that he would accept a shortened lifespan in return for a career in the NFL. He loved NFL football that much.   I fully expected Conte’s sentiment to be quickly repudiated by the politically-correct ESPN, but instead ESPN interviewed two thoughtful, former NFL players – Mark Schlereth and Herm Edwards – both of whom agreed with Conte.  Both suggested that the quality of their lives was more important than the quantity.

Amazingly, this story has developed little further controversy. No one is questioning Conte’s sanity. And no one is suggesting Conte shouldn’t have the right to make this decision.

But this morning’s SA Express-News contained a Roy Bragg column that attacked the issue from a different angle – i.e., instead of criticizing Conte, the column criticized the American public for idolizing sports and its heroes. Indeed, Bragg compared sports fans to drug addicts:

  • Comparing sports fans to substance abusers might seem ham-fisted, but there are some similarities to consider. Addicts want to get high or drunk right now, and damn the consequences. They want to get high all of the time, and damn the consequences. We, by the same token, want sports all of the time, damn the consequences. Our addiction has created a juggernaut sports economy that feeds off our addiction. Hence the proliferation of sports platforms — paper, online, broadcast, cable — reporting the same trades and injuries and arrests, over and over, 24 hours a day. Occasionally, as a bonus, they mix in some scores and highlights.”

I disagreed with Bragg and left him the following on-line comment:

  • Roy, at least you take an unexpected tack by blaming us instead of blaming Chris. But I think you are wrong because your assertion is based on a hyperbolic exaggeration of America’s love of sports in general and football in specific. I know lots of sports fans and none of them is consumed by their love of the game.”

Regarding Conte’s thought-process and analysis, I expect most young athletes would come to the same conclusion about an NFL career. Giving up some vague future is easier to do than giving up the glorious present. And although I would be disappointed if any of my four sons felt so strongly about an NFL career, I suspect that my only son who played high school football would make Conte’s decision in a New York minute.

As George Bernard Shaw said – “Youth is wasted on the young.”

December 17, 2014

Bill Clinton on race relations post-Ferguson and post-Staten Island

Bill Clinton was recently interviewed by the modern Walter Cronkite, Jorge Ramos of Fusion TV (a network directed at millennials and Hispanics). During the interview, Clinton weighed-in on race relations in America in the aftermath of the Ferguson and Staten Island killings.  When asked if race relations in America were getting better, Clinton said “yes and no.”

  • Yes, there are more opportunities for blacks in business and the professions.
  • No, there is an on-going problem with the American majority acting out of fear because of preconceived notions based on race and socio-economic groups that don’t share the majority’s values and lifestyle, which results in arrest rates, with a wild racial disparity.

Clinton suggested that this on-going problem was manifested in the Eric Garner killing in Staten Island. While noting that Garner had six children, was overweight and afflicted by heart and lung problems, and was trying to supplement his income by illegally selling untaxed cigarettes, Clinton declared, “he didn’t deserve to die.”

The injustice to Garner prompted Clinton to comment on the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson. According to Clinton, even if the grand jury was right, with Brown “being super-aggressive and all that,” it is undeniable that Brown was chased down, unarmed, and shot.

Based on these two incidents, Clinton concludes that there is a huge problem because of the divide between the community and police. Further, this divide is caused (a) by preconceptions that are triggered in scared people, and (b) the fear of minorities in these communities that they are disposable and not important.

I find several flaws with Clinton’s position:

  1. As a factual matter, Brown was not chased down and shot. According to Grand Jury evidence, he was a fleeing felon who was pursued, but he wasn’t shot at until he turned and charged Officer Wilson. Are police not supposed to pursue fleeing felons? Are they not to shoot a charging felon who has already tried to take your gun?
  2. Clinton implies that the wide disparity with African-American arrest rate is based on more on racial discrimination than on actual criminal activity. What support is there for that suggestion?
  3. Clinton is using a straw-man argument in declaring that Garner didn’t deserve to die. Who has said that Garner deserved to die? His death was an accident precipitated by a sickly 350-pound guy resisting arrest.
  4. Clinton complains that the majority has a preconception (as well as a pre-wired DNA) to fear minorities from a lower socio-economic level, the same people who are arrested and incarcerated at alarming rates. It seems Pollyannaish for Clinton to think that people should ignore their common sense. He might be more effective if he focused on reducing criminal activity in those communities.

I think Charles Barkley has provided better insights on this issue.   He points out that the police are not the bad guys in these situations. Rather, they are the only people who are preventing these communities from devolving into the Wild West, much like northern Mexico. Instead of focusing on the police, Clinton should be focusing on how to transform these communities so that they share mainstream American values.

Ironically, Clinton ended his interview by lamenting about black parents with good values having to explain to their kids about the death of these two unarmed black men. That explanation doesn’t seem difficult to me. Both deceased men were criminals who resisted arrest. The one who acted in a “super-aggressive” fashion was shot in self-defense by a police officer; the other was a Goliath who was accidentally killed while being subdued.

This sort of explanation is far easier than trying to re-wire people to ignore the obvious.

December 14, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies #134 – The Americans, HBO’s State of Play, Belle, Bye Bye Love, and The Lunchbox

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:57 pm
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The Americans is a spy-drama FX series set in the Cold War of the 80s. I previously blogged about how good Season One (2013) was (four stars out of four), and now I just finished watching Season Two (2014). Although I was told by a friend and several critics that Season Two is even better than the first, I disagree.  As I noted in my previous blogpost, I loved the first season, not because of the spying, but because of the interesting, albeit strained marital relationships of the Soviet spy and the American counter-spy.  In Season Two, that strain seems to have squeezed much of the love out of those relationships, and that is difficult to watch. Kind of like Brodie’s marriage in Homeland. And House of Cards. That is why I give Season Two only three stars out of four. But I haven’t given up on The Americans and am anxious for Season Three, which starts in late January 2015.  (Incidentally, I binge-viewed Season One on Netflix, while watching one episode at the time for Season Two.  Binge viewing is much better and that could have factored into my comparison of the Two Seasons.)

State of Play is an HBO documentary series produced by FNL’s Peter Berg on a variety of sports issues, such as concussions and retirement. This week’s episode – titled “First Ladies” – examines the lives of three sports spouses. The subjects are DeLana Harvick (husband Kevin is a NASCAR racer), Kiya Tomlin (husband Mike is an NFL coach), and Megan Lehnhoff (husband Scott coaches a high school football team in the SA area).  Megan is a regular at my yoga practices at Lifetime Fitness, and the HBO people took some video at a couple of our practices, but that video went directly to the editing floor.

Even before watching the episode, I was a little turned off by Kiya Tomlin because a pre-show article in the Pittsburg media noted that she didn’t allow HBO to film her house or her kids because that was something she didn’t want to share with the public.   If I were HBO, I would have told her that her private life, not her budding career as a designer, was the reason that HBO was interested in her. The same Pittsburg article had her suggesting that she was the only wife of an NFL head coach that currently “works.” According to that mindset, DeLana and Megan weren’t “working” either, but I doubt they would agree with that.  (Despite my antipathy toward political correctness, I might be guilty of that a bit here because I have become so sensitive to anyone diminishing the stay-at-home mom.  I still remember Hillary Clinton saying, “I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession.”)

Early in the show, Kiya seemed to quickly dismiss being a stay-at-home mom:

  • I just started working again once my daughter went to kindergarten, and I’m very happy to be working. (Big laugh.) The routine of laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning gets old. (Big laugh.)”

When Coach Tomlin was interviewed, he quickly revealed himself to be a charming, self-deprecating guy:

  • When Mike is asked Kiya’s football interest, he notes, “She never cared; she’s artsy. I’m somewhat of a caveman, you know. She cleans me up.
  • When Mike is asked about his role in running the house, he says, “I do nothing. I go to work. I come home. I don’t know what the phone bill is; what the mortgage is.”

When Mike and Kiya go to a restaurant for dinner, Mike carries the conversation by solicitously asking her about the logistics of an upcoming trade show. And then she takes a couple of business call during the meal.  Talk about role reversal!  Seems to me that Kiya is not comfortable being married to a man as successful as Mike Tomlin (even though she says that his success is a joint achievement), and she is trying mightily not to be overshadowed by him.

DeLana Harvick is similarly driven. Her family was involved in racing, and she followed the family tradition:

  • I never wanted to get married; never wanted to have a family; that wasn’t in my frame of stuff I needed to do. And it happened.”

When she started managing her husband, she admitted that people in the business would say, “She’s a bitch, she’s a hard-ass. Whatever, I don’t care.”

Megan Lehnhoff is the polar opposite of Kiya and DeLana. The show begins with Megan saying her pre-children job in the energy industry, “felt like such an important job, but once I became a mom it just seemed way less important.”  When she decided to become a stay-at-home mom, she and Scott were worried about the economics because, “They fire coaches if you don’t win around here.”  Despite the stress, Megan begins her pre-dawn day with some yoga meditation and a run amongst the deer in typical suburban Texas.

In one scene, Megan asks Scott if he will be home at four or leaving for home at four, and Scott dourly says, “Either or.” That is typical of the repartee that Megan humorously recounts in her Blog in the “Scott says” section, which reminds me of George & Gracie Burns at their best. (HBO failed to mention the Blog in show, and I wonder if they were aware of it.)

Megan told HBO that Scott doesn’t discuss football with her, either because he thinks she doesn’t know enough to discuss the subject intelligently or because he wants a respite from thinking about it. Almost on cue, though, in the next scene Megan then asks Scott a football question at lunch (“At the risk of sounding stupid, what is the scout team?”), and Scott ignores the question. Only after she repeats the question does he finally give her an answer. Shortly thereafter, baby Rex has a diaper blowout and there is no question that Megan is going to change it even though one of the diner patrons suggests that Scott should take care of it. (I don’t think I ever changed diapers when my ex- was present, but I know that my oldest son often does.)

Toward the end of the documentary, Megan offers a couple of far-sighted insights that are sad:

  • I don’t see the time commitment ever getting less. If anything, it’ll probably just get more, so we’ll just miss more and more of him.”
  • “I mean, I’ve always thought about, like what if he were to go into college or to another level of coaching, he will be sacrificing his family and time with his kids, but also part of me whatever he wants to do. We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it.

Following the video part of the documentary, Peter Berg has a panel discussion with the three spouses. The questions were OK (role model, roller-coaster life, etc.), but they didn’t generate many insights other than Megan’s little nugget regarding the roller-coaster life:

  • You take joy in little things, that doesn’t have to be living this giant adrenalin lifestyle all the time.” (Berg responded jokingly, “Doesn’t it? Are you sure?”)

Her advice to someone preparing to be a sports spouse:

  • I feel like it’s such a negative answer. You aren’t going to see him much, and be prepared for that. And be prepared for [the Roller coaster].”

And finally, Berg asks the spouses if they would change their husbands’ occupations if they could. Berg seemed to recognize that the question was almost nonsensical to the driven, intense Kiya and DeLana. But Megan said:

  • He would be miserable. It wouldn’t be worth it.”

Although Megan is much younger than the other two first ladies, she seems to have a better grasp on her situation. It must be the yoga effect.

Belle (2014) is a period drama that reminds me of Pride & Prejudice because it deals mostly with arranging marriages amongst the landed gentry in England in the 1770s. Belle’s story is complicated because she is a naval gentleman’s illegitimate mulatto daughter who is handed over to be raised by his powerful uncle. In his fine household, she is treated as less than a lady, but more than a servant. The storyline is further complicated because her uncle is the country’s most prominent judge confronted by a case relating to whether slaves should be treated as people or property. The problem with this movie is that Belle is supposed to be turned off by an arranged, loveless marriage to a gentleman and drawn to an idealistic young lawyer fighting against slavery, but because of bad casting or acting, the supposed loveless gentleman is more interesting and charismatic than the Pollyannaish sap. The Rotten Tomato critics loved the movie at 83%, along with an audience of 84%. By contrast, I can’t get past the sappish knight in shining armor and give it only two stars out of four.

I’m not sure how Bye, Bye, Love got into my viewing queue of highly rated, recent movies. It was neither (19% by the Rotten Tomato critics, 50% by its audience), nor recent – 1995. The movie is a light-hearted look at three lifetime friends – Matthew Modine, Randy Quaid, and Paul Reiser – dealing with divorce. The problem with the movie is that, although the three guys are skillfully drawn and played, they are so flawed as to be almost unlikeable. The Modine character is so dissolute that he reminds me of Californication’s Hank Moody; the Quaid character is a grouch; and the Reiser character is a pusillanimous wimp. None has integrity. By contrast, their ex-wives are not fully drawn, but they seem to have integrity and perspective. I agree with the audience and give it two and a half stars out of four.

The Lunchbox (2013), according to Wikipedia, is an “epistolary romantic film.” I had to look up “epistolary” in the dictionary to learn it means something carried on in writing, and it is used accurately here. The movie, which is set in Mumbai, India, concerns an old, widowed insurance claims guy (Irrfan Khan) whose personalized lunch is delivered every day from a caterer, which seems to be a widespread practice in parts of India. One day, he accidentally receives a lunch that was intended by one of the caterer’s employees (Nimrat Kaur, from Homeland season four) to go to her husband. The old guy loves the lunch and sends a complimentary note to the employee, who is a young woman married to a cold, dispassionate young man who never much like the lunch she made for him. She appreciates the complimentary note and begins to prepare the claims guy’s lunch every day, and each day she includes a note, and then he includes a note in the empty metal containers that are returned to her each day. Although they are both by nature formal (they are Indians, after all), they eventually make an emotional connection. The Rotten Tomato critics love the movie at 96%, and the audience is almost as favorable at 87%. I agree with the audience and give it three and a half stars out of four because this story of loneliness involves a couple of stars that you learn to care about.

 

December 12, 2014

Racially insensitive?

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 10:53 am
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This morning I woke up to an article in USA Today charging two Hollywood types with “racially insensitive emails about President Obama” that were hacked and then published by Buzzfeed.  According to the article, producer Pascal was planning to attend an Obama fundraiser, and she joked in an email exchange with fellow producer Rudin about asking Obama at the fundraiser whether he enjoyed a particular movie, and they exchanged suggestions for various black-themed movies – Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Ride Along, and Think Like a Man.

The joking (some articles called is mocking) seems benign to me. Although it has some similarity to Fuzzy Zoeller’s infamous comment in 1997 about the prospect of Tiger Woods designating fried chicken as the main course for next year’s Masters’ Champion’s Dinner, there is a big difference between (a) associating a person with low-brow fare (the Washington Post recently apologized for jokingly connecting Julian Castro with fajitas) and (b) suggesting that a black president might be inclined to be interested in black-themed movies.

And it seems totally inaccurate to characterize this joking as racist, as the NY Daily News did. The NY Times probably got in right in calling the emails, “Embarrassing, racially tinged.”

Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete until we have heard from the so-called race hustlers. (As defined by Urban Dictionary, race hustler is “a term coined to describe those individuals of a particular race who project themselves into the media spotlight as spokespersons whenever there is an alleged racial incident which involves their race. The use of the word implies that these individuals exploit a racial situation to serve their own interests.” The Times concluded its article with the following:

  • Also on Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton, in a statement, condemned the exchange between Ms. Pascal and Mr. Rudin as “offensive, insulting” and took further aim at Ms. Pascal, saying her comments reflected a “troubling” lack of diversity at her studio and others.

Sounds like Pascal and Rudin can buy their peace with Sharpton by spending some money on affirmative action for African-Americans. Kind of reminds me of medieval Catholics and indulgences.

Sharpton’s full statement reads as follows:

The statements in the leaked emails by Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal to producer Scott Rudin are offensive, insulting and should be denounced in the harshest terms.

 What is most troubling about these statements is that they reflect a continued lack of diversity in positions of power in major Hollywood studios. The statements clearly show how comfortable major studio powers are with racial language and marginalization. Her apology is not enough there must be moves by her studio and others to respect the African American community and reflect that respect in their hiring and business practices.

She should meet with Black leaders immediately to deal with the gravity of her statements as well as the inequality of how they do business. I have asked Rev. KW Tulloss of National Action Network’s Los Angeles Chapter to convene an emergency meeting to weigh further actions in this area.

These emails nominate Amy Pascal to be considered by some of us in the same light that we concluded and moved on the ownership of Donald Sterling of the L.A. Clippers.”

-Reverend Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network

 

Oprah shares some wisdom

Filed under: Facebook,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 3:15 am
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I participated in two yoga practices this morning, and both yogis were preaching from the same book – The Book of Oprah. There is a short clip currently circulating on Facebook showing Oprah giving some guidance on life, and her message resonated so much with my two yogis that they wanted to share it with their classes. Oprah’s two big points:

  1. Every older person, when asked what advice they would give to their younger self, says in one form or another they would tell them to “relax, relax, it’s going to be OK.” Do older people really know this? I have given this same advice to my kids, but I thought I was being especially wise. Seems elderly wisdom is more widespread that I thought.
  2. What is the next right move? Instead of obsessing over past decisions that may have turned out badly, a person needs to accept what has already happened (it can’t be changed), and focus on what you have the ability to decide in the future.

 

After discussing the clip with one of my yogis, she suggested that I watch the entire interview on YouTube – “Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life, and Leadership at Stanford University.”

Although the interview is lengthy, I decided the nuggets above justified an extended viewing (plus, I’m retired so it’s not like this would interfere with more important things in my life). After watching the full interview, I gave the following feedback to my yogi:

  • You want me to watch the full interview? All 1:04:03? Actually, I did, and Oprah is truly a Renaissance woman. But how about those nerds from Stanford posing convoluted, multi-prong questions that stumped her (global warming and logical vs. emotional decision-making)! Who are they trying to impress? Although Oprah claims to be more of a conversationalist and less of a writer, most of the really juicy insights came in her canned 3-minute closing.

So, what did Oprah have to say for an hour about career, life, and leadership? Mainly, that everyone has a Supreme destiny or calling (not necessarily your job) and that we will eventually find that destiny/calling if we remain open to it and listen to our heart. Her calling is to help people find their calling by increasing their self-awareness.

Oprah talks a lot about consciousness and being grounded, about an inner voice and being centered. And, of course, spirituality. When Oprah interviews senior executives for a job with her company, they are often flummoxed when she asks them about their spirituality.

Oprah feels strongly that her external accomplishments are fueled by her internal peace – you can’t help others until you first take care of yourself. Every person’s objective should be to become the highest/truest expression of themselves as a human being. (I have read that formulation more than once before – e.g., “the best version of yourself.”)

Oprah uses the term, “life coach,” and I think that is a good description of her.

December 8, 2014

Yoga doesn’t care….

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 9:56 pm
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This morning, as I was sitting with a good friend at the back of the yoga studio waiting for practice to begin, I started talking about some of our classmates. Although the term “catty” may be associated with the fairer sex, I take a back seat to no one when it comes to being catty.  The targets of my cattiness today were people who seemed to be excessively proud of their appearance. I mentioned to my friend that back in high school we used to call these people “stuck up.”

My reference to life in high school reminded me of how much yoga practice resembles high school, one of the most egalitarian places in America. In high school, at least at my high school, you were judged mostly on your personality and your character (the way you treated other people). It didn’t matter how much money your parents had or whether you were a great intellect or possessed a strong work ethic or had some special skill (music, athletics).

After high school and college, however, things change. Socio-economic status becomes more pervasive and invasive. Relationships often involve either networking or deferring to those with higher socio-economic status.

But yoga is different. It harkens back to the egalitarian days of high school. Students dress mostly the same and people aren’t treated better just because they are more skillful with the various asanas. Your relationships with your classmates depend on your personality and character, not on whether you are “successful” in a socio-economic way.

Coincidentally, at today’s yoga practice, my yogi read a poem (from Elephant Journal) that relates exactly to what I was already thinking. The following are some excerpts:

  • Yoga isn’t about our lifestyle, our beliefs, our weight, our diet, our flexibility, how spiritual or enlightened we are—yoga is just about showing up and doing our dance on our mats.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you wear Lululemon or Spiritual Gangster.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you are vegetarian, if you eat meat or know what Kombucha is.
  • Yoga doesn’t care what kind of mat you have, brand new or eating away at itself.
  • Yoga doesn’t care what religion you believe in.
  • Yoga doesn’t care what color your skin is or what gender you choose to love.
  • Yoga doesn’t care how much money you have, what house you live in, what car you drive.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you fall over in Trikonasana.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you ever make it into head stand.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you smoke cigarettes and drink whisky.
  • Yoga doesn’t care what political party you vote for.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you are single or divorced.
  • Yoga doesn’t care if you shop at whole foods.

Yoga is just happy you show up.

December 6, 2014

The Obama administration finally addresses racial profiling

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 5:44 am
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Both the Washington Post and New York Times are reporting that the Obama administration is planning to issue rules early next week that further “curb” racial profiling by government agencies, but the biggest focus of the articles seems to be that transportation and border security will be exempted from most of the rules.

I’ve blogged on several occasions about racial profiling and have suggested a similar tack – i.e., common-sense exceptions:

  • 5/25/2010 – “I have been unable to learn if ethnicity can be considered with other factors in deciding that a ‘reasonable suspicion exists’ that a person is in America illegally. I assume, but do not know, that AZ Border and Immigration personnel routinely consider ethnicity when looking for illegal immigrants. The problem seems analogous to looking for terrorists post-9/11, where the target individuals are predominantly from a single ethnicity. If a large majority of illegal immigrants in Arizona are Hispanic, shouldn’t law enforcement be able to consider that as a factor in deciding whether there is reasonable suspicion?”
  • 10/10/10 – “Personally, I think the best course of action is to have a national discussion on what forms of racial and ethnic profiling are acceptable. Liberals argue that all such profiling is illegal, but conservatives respond that political correctness shouldn’t force us to tie the hands of law enforcement when profiling makes them more effective. Alternatively, I think most people would be comfortable with a national ID card. Such a card would not be any more invasive that the periodic census.”
  • 4/26/2012 – “As a practical person, I am reluctant to discard a valuable enforcement tool. The essential question is whether the value of the enforcement tool exceeds the cost to members of the group that will be scrutinized more closely merely because of their skin color. This is an exceedingly complicated, subjective question, and I think the U.S. Supreme Court is supremely qualified to conduct an analysis and render a decision. Unlike the Louisiana judge, however, I will not prejudge their decision and instead will look forward to reading their analysis.”

According to the Post article, Homeland Security was successful in making an argument for common sense:

  • “TSA officials, meanwhile, argued that they should not be covered by the new limits on the grounds that the TSA is not a law enforcement agency.”
  • According to an anonymous immigration official, “If you look at numbers, the vast majority of people we deal with are Hispanic. Is that profiling, or just the fact that most of the people who come into the country happen to be Hispanic? It’s not like you’re a cop on a beat, which is an entirely different situation.”
  • “As a result, entire swaths of DHS activity are exempt from the new policy.”

By contrast, the Times article highlighted that, although the thinking of Homeland Security prevailed, it was not without vigorous opposition by Attorney General Holder:

  • “The debate over racial profiling in immigration enforcement, however, has delayed the release of the new rules for months. Mr. Holder, who was leading the policy review, told colleagues that he believed that border agents did not need to consider race or ethnicity. But the Department of Homeland Security resisted efforts to limit the factors it can consider when looking for illegal immigrants. Department officials argued that it was impractical to ignore nationality when it came to border enforcement. The immigration investigators have said, ‘We can’t do our job without taking ethnicity into account. We are very dependent on that,’ said one official briefed on the new rules.”
  • Under the new rules, agents in those instances will still be allowed to consider race, national origin and other factors that would otherwise be off limits, according to several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.”
  • “Mr. Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, has spoken forcefully against racial profiling…. But while law enforcement officials were generally supportive of his efforts to broaden protections for minorities, Mr. Holder ran into objections on the issues of national security and border protection. F.B.I. agents opposed a wholesale ban on considering race and nationality in terrorism investigations. They said, for example, that an agent investigating the Shabab, a Somali militant group, must be able to find out whether a state has a large Somali population and, if so, where it is.”
  • “The rules — both the current version and the revisions — offer more protection against discrimination than the Supreme Court has said the Constitution requires. The court has said that border agents may not conduct roving traffic stops simply because motorists appeared to be of Mexican descent, but agents at checkpoints may single out drivers for interviews ‘largely on the basis of apparent Mexican ancestry.’ The court ruled that the government’s interest in protecting the border outweighed the minimal inconvenience to motorists.

It sounds like the Obama administration is taking a sound position on racial and other profiling despite the efforts of Attorney General Holder to go too far in tying the hands Homeland Security.

December 3, 2014

Mexican nationals

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 6:00 pm
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This Thanksgiving a friend from yoga who happens to be a Mexican national posted the following entry on his Facebook wall:

  • Just a minute of reflection; I’m not an American citizen, but I’m a thankful to live here since 1999, this country has adopted my family and I, and I am profoundly thankful, U.S, opened its doors to us and we have been able to achieve the life we’ve wanted, our American Dream!!! Today’s is a holiday that everyone should celebrate, join family and close friends, be thankful for everything you have, starting with health, work & love….. Happy thanksgiving!!!

I was so impressed by his attitude that I shared it to my Facebook wall and added the following:

  • Jose and his wife Maria Fernanda Gtz. Zamora are wonderful friends I met at Lifetime Fitness.

A few days later, I bumped into Jose at Lifetime Fitness. He told me that he appreciated my comments, and I told him that I appreciated his. During our conversation, he told me how one of his friends from Mexico in America has a completely different attitude; that she believes Americans look down on her. She has told him that they even call her a “Mexican national.”

As I was stumbling to digest the insight about “Mexican national,” Jose went on to say that this woman was here only for security reasons, but eventually wanted to return to Mexico. By contrast, Jose loved America and wanted to live here and manage his small business. In Jose’s mind, the term “Mexican national” described an exile who wants to return, not an immigrant.

Because I didn’t have the opportunity to explore this issue further with Jose, I put it off for a later discussion with several of my yoga classmates who are what I for years have been calling Mexican nationals.

I am very fond of these classmates and obviously the term will disappear from my vocabulary if it offends them. I had thought the term Mexican-American was reserved for citizens, but maybe not.

To be continued.

Aphorism of the Week #22 – How they made you feel

Filed under: Aphorism,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 12:50 pm
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While walking into yoga practice a couple of days ago, my yogi asked me how my Thanksgiving went. Because I tend to respond accurately instead of rotely to such question, I gave her an ambiguous response because that was my immediate feeling. Later, during practice, I questioned and reflected on why I felt ambiguous about my Thanksgiving.

My Thanksgiving consisted of having a nice breakfast in my apartment and then picking up my son Tommy for an enjoyable drive to Austin (Hutto) for a Thanksgiving dinner at another son’s house – Bobby. Bobby’s wife Heather made us a fine feast while we were able to play with Bobby’s three young kids, mostly inside although the weather outside was perfect. We were joined for the feast by another son, Mikey, and his new girlfriend, Alex, plus Heather’s grandparents, her brother, and his Army friend.

Everything sounds perfect, and it was, although Mikey and Alex had to leave in the early afternoon to join her family’s feast in Boerne. Then at 3:25 Tommy and I started watching the Dallas Cowboys play, and the game went horribly, with the Boys being blown out by the Eagles.

At the end of the Dallas game, Tommy and I headed for home and as we drove home past DKR-Memorial Stadium we tuned in the game on the radio and learned the Horns were already down 13-0. I was able to watch the end of the blowout at my apartment.

So, now back in yoga practice, it dawned on me why my Thanksgiving felt ambiguous – at Lifetime Fitness, the yogis like to remind us of a Maya Angelou quote:

  • People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.

That explains my immediate response of ambiguity about Thanksgiving this year. Although my brain tells me that it was a wonderful day, couldn’t be much better, my heart was invested in the Cowboys and Longhorns that day and their devastating defeats put a damper on my feelings.

December 2, 2014

Empathy and Ferguson

In the past few months, I’ve admitted to three of my best friends that I have an extreme lack of empathy. When extreme bad shit happens to people around me, I don’t get upset or feel sorry for them. As Thomas Hobbes said, life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

I once suggested in this blog that Republicans tend to be less empathetic to people outside the American mainstream because Republicans often have less exposure to those outside the mainstream. But while that may explain why I’m a Republican; it doesn’t explain why I lack empathy.

Alternative explanations might include my ethnicity – i.e., my German DNA – or my upbringing – self-reliant farming stock.

Regardless, I am certainly afflicted with this character flaw, which I first remember noticing when Michael Dukakis was asked in a presidential debate about capital punishment in the context of his wife being hypothetically murdered. Dukakis responded dispassionately about why he still opposed capital punishment and was roundly criticized in the press for failing to passionately describe the hate he would feel for the murderer. Like Dukakis, I would have the same tendency to focus on the right answer instead of articulating empathy – more Spock and less Bill Clinton.

Earlier today on Facebook, my Spock-esque empathy got me into lots of trouble. One of my most political and highly emotional friends (young, pretty social worker) posted something about her SA grandmother getting mugged for some cash. As you might expect, she demanded capital punishment if the thug is ever caught. The following items are her initial post and follow-up comments in response to various notes of support:

  • There are no words for how I feel right now. I’m angry. Angry. Livid. OMG I want to punch something. Ugh. I’m so livid right now. Grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!
  • Someone robbed a family member of mine.
  • She had just cashed her check and they robbed her forcibly. God forgive me but I hope they die in a violent car accident!!!!
  • No one fucks with my family!!!
  • Seriously I hope the burglar dies in a horrible car accident or something. I know it’s mean but tonight I don’t care!
  • Badly shaken up. Which makes me furious!!!!
  • I just don’t know what the fuck is wrong with people??? People who mess with the elderly are pretty fucking low and worthless!!
  • If I had been there I would’ve hurt someone for sure!!!!

Of course, me with my Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus mentality of Mike Dukakis, skipped past the empathy and sympathy thing because a dozen people had already covered that aspect of the situation. What no one had pointed out was that for the past few days my Facebook social worker wanted to lynch Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and the entire criminal justice system in America because of the harsh way that Michael Brown was treated after robbing an elderly Korean shopkeeper. Wasn’t there some cognitive dissonance going on here? So I posted:

  • What about that old Korean shopkeeper in Ferguson who was robbed? He was someone’s family member, too. Oh yeah, his shop and a dozen others were burned down by rioters who thought the police officer should have been able to subdue the 300-pound, charging robber without shooting him.”

Not surprisingly, my social-worker friend was displeased:

  • “Mike Kueber, at no point have you ever heard me condone the rioting of Ferguson. Please don’t make this a political point when it comes to my grandmother getting mugged, k?

Of course, she wasn’t the only one displeased. Several of her friends took me to task, and my friend thanked them for their support. E.g.,:

  • “Thank you I. T. You said something I wanted to say but was floored about an unnecessary political potshot over something I have never condoned at all but someone felt the need to make an opportunity out of it rather than show sympathy for my grandmother. Must feel so big and proud I guess? Whatever turns someone’s motor I guess.

Because I accepted my faux paus in wanting to discuss Mars, while everyone else wanted to discuss Venus, I decided against pushing the cognitive-dissonance argument:

  • “Ana Alicia Perez, I’m sorry for failing to compartmentalize the two incidents. The Ferguson issue just really bothers me, especially after seeing all the fawning press yesterday approve the St. Louis Five protest. Tim Tebow gets excoriated for his gesture, but the Five has license to mock the police – Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

And my friend seemed to accept this dénouement:

  • “I understand Mike. Look back on my feed and I posted an article about the guys who stopped the rioters from destroying a family-owned shop… Probably I posted it two or three days ago. I have never condoned the rioting as it doesn’t make sense how anyone is going to make a point by destroying their own city. It is stupid. Did I agree with the legal decision? No. Did I agree with a bunch of people costing millions in damages to their city and hurting small businesses that Jeromy and I support rather than big business? No. I don’t know anything about the Tim Tebow thing other than he is homophobic so I don’t like him anyway. And as for the nfl thing I saw that and rolled my eyes. It was tacky and I don’t think the NFL can be anything of a moral high ground considering the players who have been caught with drugs, beating their wives, dog fighting, etc.”

But later a straggler friend of hers weighed in:

  • Oh I hate it when someone commits a violent crime such as that on elderly citizens. There should be a double or triple penalty for idiots that do this. I can truly and sincerely understand your frustration in that they rot in hell. I totally agree with you. And that gentleman speaking about Ferguson needs to just shut up. Anna, anyone in the neighborhood that can describe this person? Any witnesses ?!?! OMG. I hate to hear this. Sounds like an assault as well. We need to speak to our elders & tell them to please be aware of their surroundings. I walked into Valero last evening to use ATM and a line of 6 hoods lined up behind me …. Waiting …. I grabbed my card and split !!! I know what they wanted !!! Rectums !!! They’re everywhere. Be careful Peeps !!! I am SO sorry, Ana. God bless your poor granny. She’s in my prayers. Hoping the men in blue find that dork.

I might have overlooked the “shut up” suggestion, although I find particularly abhorrent, but the reference to the “men in blue” was too much to pass up. So I responded directly to the straggler:

  • [Straggler], pray tell, what do you want the men in blue to do when they find the robber. Darren Wilson wants to know. I love it how so-called liberal-minded people casually throw around the term, “shut up.” “Shut up” about abortion if you don’t have a vagina; “shut up” about immigration if you aren’t a native American. Great arguments.

The straggler, who has a graduate degree from UTSA, weakly defended her position by saying:

  • “They know their Job description. Ask them. Thnx.”

And that finally ended our conversation, with I suspect no minds changed. They see this as heavy-handed police and prosecutors, and I see it as a conscientious policemen dealing properly with a thug. Although I have a hard time empathizing with young black males going around with chips on their shoulders (e.g., Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown), I don’t understand their failure to empathize with a policeman having to patrol Ferguson and deal with a known robber who has already tried to take your gun while you were sitting in your car.

Someone, however, who has done a good job of empathizing with everyone, is NO Saints tight end, Benjamin Watson, who posted the following on his Facebook wall (and who also posted a 48 on the NFL’s Wonderlic test, tied for 3rd highest ever):

 

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

  • I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
  • I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
  • I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
  • I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
  • I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
  • I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
  • I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
  • I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
  • I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.
  • I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
  • I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.
  • I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

 

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