Mike Kueber's Blog

August 22, 2014

Political correctness rears its ugly head

Filed under: Culture,Media — Mike Kueber @ 6:50 pm
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Other than Wikipedia, my favorite on-line resource is the Urban Dictionary. This resource provides not only a workable definition, but also does it with it with wit. So when I decided to post another entry in my blog about political correctness, my first step was to refer to the Urban Dictionary for a working definition:

  • Politically correct is a way that we speak in America so we don’t offend whining pussies. Ex.: only pathetically weak people that don’t have the balls to say what they feel and mean are politically correct pussies.

David Martin Davies is not especially politically correct. As a talk-show host for Texas Public Radio, he fashions himself a disinterested independent observer, but any discerning listener quickly knows that Davies is as independent as Will Rogers was (or a younger reference, Jon Stewart). Yesterday, however, he posted something on his Facebook wall that reeked of political correctness.

The background for the post was that the Washington Post had included a small item in a column called The Loop about up-and-coming, erstwhile SA mayor Julian Castro making a big splash in DC, and some copy editor had subtitled the item, “Going to need more fajitas.” Apparently, the Post quickly replaced the subtitled on its own volition and apologized to Castro, but that was not enough for hometown booster Davies. He posted the following on his Facebook wall:

  • Washington Post, sure D.C.is going to need more — whatever. Here’s the problem with the headline. It tells us that all you see is a Mexican American. WAPO, you could have written something about a rising star, maybe the next VP? You could have noted his youth. Another HUD Secretary from SA? There are lots of things they could have put in the headline of substance but instead you admitted that all you see is a Mexican American. It’s not about fajitas. It’s about the WAPO’s lack of understanding about where this country is going and which demographic will be leading the way.

Virtually all of Davies’s Facebook friends were similarly outraged by the Post’s racism and insensitivity, so I decided to give an alternative perspective:

  • Obviously, the copy editor was trying to be funny and witty, and sometimes that falls flat. Reminds me of Fuzzy Zoeller making the joke at the Masters’ dinner about Tiger Woods and fried chicken. Apparently, Castro has not indicated whether he was offended. I would be surprised if he was.

After reflecting further on Davies’s post, I realized that Davies was being hypocritical by first denying the importance of Castro’s Hispanicness and later in the same post asserting that Hispanicness is the future of America:

  • The lady doth protest too much, methinks; or being hoist by your own petard :) David Martin Davies, if Julian Castro is so much more than a Mexican American, why did you conclude your argument by pointing out that WAPO’s “lack of understanding about where this country is going and which demographic will be leading the way.” I assume the demographic you are referring to is the exploding number of Mexicans in America. Most reasonable people know that Julian’s claim to fame is his Mexican-American heritage. Furthermore, I don’t think most Mexican-Americans are ashamed to be associated with fajitas, but I could be wrong.

I probably should have stopped with that follow-up comment, but later I got sucked into an attenuated discussion with Vanessa Martinez Campos:

  • Vanessa Martinez Campos – So we can go back to associating black people with foods? How would that play out?
  • Me – Vanessa, every ethnicity is associated with particular foods. As a Norwegian, I am often teased about lefse and lutefisk. As a German, I am often teased about sauerkraut. The problem arises when someone uses that association to “put you in your place.” Arguably, Fuzzy Zoeller did that when he suggested Tiger Woods would be putting fried chicken on the menu for the formal Masters Championship dinner. I don’t think the Washington Post was out-of-line in joking that DC people who want to suck up to the new kid in town should stock up on fajitas.
  • Vanessa Martinez Campos – I took 7 years of German culture, and not once in my life have I ever thought to tease any German about sauerkraut or bratwurst. But, I’m of a race and culture that gets thought less of, stereotyped negatively, and thus knows better than to do that to others.
  • Me - So you think the Washington Post guy was trying to stereotype negatively Julian Castro? I don’t. You seem to think that it is always inappropriate to crack wise about someone being Mexican-American. I think context is important and this brouhaha is an excellent example of being politically correct, with the charge of racism bandied about too casually.

Incidentally, before I used the term, “crack wise,” I turned to the old reliable Urban Dictionary:

  • Crack wise – To be sarcastic and/or engage in witty banter, for the purpose of creating a humorous moment — in particular with mates or friends.

In the politically correct world, where no one is your mate or friend, it is hazardous to crack wise.

August 21, 2014

White cops in black cities

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 6:53 pm
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FiveThirtyEight.com is the name of a website created by Nate Silver. Nate is perhaps the pre-eminent statistics-based analyst in America, and the name of his website is taken from the number of federal legislators (senators and representatives combined).

Yesterday, Nate posted an article related to Ferguson, with its white cops and black population. (The population is almost 70% black, but the cops are only 11% black).  The 538 article described how common it was for large cities to be protected and served by policemen who don’t live in the city, but this was especially the status for white cops and not as much for black or Hispanic cops. For example, in NYC 77% of the black cops and 76% of the Hispanic cops live in the city, but only 45% of the white cops do. In San Antonio, 74% of the Hispanic cops and 57% of the black cops live in the city, but only 44% of the white cops do. According to Silver, cities with largely black populations have the greatest disparity in white cops and non-white cops living in the city they police.

Attorney General Eric Holder, upon his arrival in Ferguson, hinted at this disparity. According to an article in the NY Times:

  • Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on Thursday that the unrest the country has witnessed here over the past two weeks was emblematic of deeper problems that exist across the nation, where a corrosive mistrust exists in certain places between the police and the people they are meant to serve.

Common sense says that being policed by out-of-town cops might facilitate mistrust, and the 538 article noted that many cities require their cops to live in town. But such a requirement might be a great, undue burden on our cops. Further, no cop wants to live in a poor part of town, so it seems almost inevitable that cops will be viewed as outsiders when policing in a poor, inner-city area.

But what is the solution?

The San Antonio Express-News recently published an editorial critical of policing in Ferguson and elsewhere:

  • For young black men in particular, encounters with the law seem to be more fraught with peril. Driving or walking while black — or in some parts of the country, Hispanic — is not a myth. And neither is the disproportionate number of young black men arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison. And disproportionately killed by police — four young black men in the last month alone. Ferguson, predominantly black but whose power structure is dominantly white, is just our latest lesson that we are far from post-racial nirvana. Case in point. On Friday, the Ferguson police chief released the name of the officer who shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown, 18. In the same press conference, he said that Brown was a suspect in a “strong-arm” robbery at a convenience story. One had and has nothing to do with the other.

I commented as follows to the editorial:

  • One (the robbery) had and has nothing to do with the other (the shooting).” How can you say that? Most reasonable people would believe that a person who has committed a strong-arm robbery in the preceding hour would be more likely to act in a way toward a policeman that would justify self-defense. Most of this editorial seems intent on rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The problem isn’t the police or the Ferguson power structure. If you don’t believe me, ask Detroit, DC, or other urban areas with a black power structure. The problem is the decaying inner city and its residents. You should be focused on ways to fix that.

Incidentally, another article in the NY Times a few days ago partially explained why there were so few black cops in Ferguson – i.e., the city until recently was predominantly white, and it takes time for the changing population to be reflected in long-career positions like law enforcement:

  • Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.

 

August 19, 2014

Rush to judgment in Ferguson

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 1:42 am
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As a mostly jaded, non-empathetic person, I don’t pay a lot of attention to human-interest stories. That explains why I didn’t initially follow the developments in Ferguson, MO. Then as things spiraled out of control, I played catch-up and read-up on the earlier activities and new developments. Part of my catch-up consisted of reviewing the Facebook wall of Cary Clack.

Cary is a Facebook friend who posts thought-provoking stuff. A couple of years ago, he was a columnist in the Express-News. Like most of the E-N columnists, Cary was a liberal and he provided readers with the African-American perspective on most issues. When Joaquin Castro decided to run for Congress, he lured Cary away from column-writing and into policy-advising. Then, when Joaquin was elected and left SA for DC, Cary stayed home and ran Joaquin’s local office. But that job didn’t last.

A couple of weeks ago, Joaquin’s brother, Julian, gave up his job as SA mayor and took a job as HUD secretary. The SA City Council replaced Julian by selecting Ivy Taylor as interim mayor, the first black mayor in SA history. (The city is only 7% black.) Ivy asked Cary to be her communications person and he accepted.

Multiple jobs haven’t changed Cary. One of his first posts on the subject of Ferguson and Michael Brown, Jr. included a link to a CBS St. Louis article titled, “Michael Brown called quiet, respectful.”  The following paragraphs were gleaned from the article:

  • Big Mike, as some of his friends called Michael Brown Jr., wasn’t the type to fight, family and neighbors said, though he lived in a restless neighborhood where police were on frequent patrol. His parents and neighbors described him as a good-hearted kid with an easy smile who certainly wouldn’t have condoned the violence and looting that spread through his north St. Louis suburb following his death.
  • Brown was an aspiring rapper, though it was more of a hobby. This week, he was supposed to start college in pursuit of a career as a heating and air conditioning engineer. On the day of this death, Brown had walked with another friend to a nearby convenience store. Mull saw them in the street and honked his horn to say to “hi” just minutes before the police officer came by.
  • “He was never a person who liked confrontation,” Mull said. “His smile was going to make you smile.”
  • Neighbors described Brown as quiet and respectful—a “good boy,” who “was never in trouble,” said Sharon Johnson, 58, who lives just a little ways down the street. Johnson said Brown would frequently stop to chat.

A couple of days later, the police released a video that revealed “Big Mike” was not always good-hearted, peaceful, and respectful. In fact, I can only imagine how stupid the reporter who wrote the article feels about saying Brown “wouldn’t have condoned the violence and looting.” Hell, Brown did not even need the cover of a riot to conduct his personal looting of a liquor store.

To Cary’s credit, he posted the Brown video and said:

  • “I won’t be a hypocrite and not post new developments that will be part of the Michael Brown story even when they’re not favorable to Brown. We can’t ask for facts that will help us understand the truth of what happened and then only accept the facts we like. No excuses for his behavior in the store. Still no justification for how he later died.”

Most of the commenter’s to Cary video posting followed Cary’s lead and attempted to downplay its relevance. I took a different tack and responded as follows:

  • Fair & balanced? Hardly. The vast majority of commenters attempt to minimize and marginalize the new evidence – i.e., an unarmed Brown (6’4″ and almost 300 pounds) apparently committed a strong-arm robbery shortly before he encountered the policeman – so that they can hold to their initial narrative. Of course, that always happens when someone rushes to judgment.

It amazes me that, while no one objected to the media portrayal of Brown as a gentle giant who was never in trouble with the law (at least, no trouble since his 18th birthday as any earlier activity would be juvenile-protected), it is suddenly highly objectionable when facts reveal the person to be a thug. While that may not be relevant in a courtroom, it is relevant in the court of public opinion. Furthermore, I think the fact that Brown had committed a felony less than an hour before the shooting is relevant to how he might react to a policeman confronting him on the street.

But, unlike the people of St. Louis who yesterday marched in support of their policeman or the people of Ferguson who rioted and looted in support of Brown, I’m going to try keep an open mind and not rush to judgment.

July 5, 2014

Declining patriotism or creeping socialism

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:24 pm
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According to an article in the NY Times on July 4, “Young Americans are less patriotic. At least in some ways.”  The article is based on a series of surveys taken by the American National Elections Study that reveal fewer Americans say they love America or that being American is a big part of who they are. Instead, more Americans express concern about unequal opportunity in America.

Leave it to the NY Times to suggest that this creeping socialism is a new form of patriotism:

  • In general, millennials have more appetite for egalitarian principles than older people. They may look less patriotic than the rest of America at first glance, but coming of age in the era of globalization and being a more racially diverse generation may simply mean that traditional symbols of American democracy hold less meaning for this cohort. Millennials may be less devoted to the symbols of America, but they are no less devoted to democratic ideals. A new patriotism in American may be rising.

Incidentally, patriotism means, “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.” I’m not sure how egalitarian principles qualify one for being a patriot.

July 1, 2014

Brutal comments

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Philosophy,Self-improvement — Mike Kueber @ 5:55 pm
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Jennifer Coffey is a media personality, currently a host on QVC. She is a Facebook friend who recently posted the following on her wall:

  • In two days I’ve suffered two brutal online comments about my weight, suggesting I “put on a few.” 25 years ago I suffered relentless insults in school about my weight, suggesting I “drop a few.” What have I learned in those 25 years?
  • You are not your weight. You are not your age. You are not your job. You are not your income. You are not your past. And you are certainly not other people’s opinions.  You are your spirit. You are the love you give. You are the joy you feel.  And I feel so much joy.

As you can imagine, Jennifer received an avalanche of support suggesting that (a) she is beautiful, and (b) the commenters were jerks.

My immediate reaction was different. Instead of seeing her obvious call for support, I was hung up on her use of the term “brutal.” In checking with a dictionary, I found confirmed that the term meant savagely violent or cruel.

Since when does suggesting that someone has put on a few pounds amount to savage cruelty?

All of this reminds me of ND hockey star, T.J. Oshie, who responded as follows to being called a hero in an Olympic game – “No. The real heroes wear camo. I’m not one of them.”

Jennifer, I suggest that we save the term brutal for real victims of brutality.

p.s., subsequent to posting this note, a friend pointed out that Jennifer has been criticized, not for being overweight, but for being underweight.  I simply misread her comment, and I was not the only one.  On reader commented as follows – “Are you kidding me? You are so thin in person that I can’t believe anyone said that! Just ignore it!”  So the situation actually involves a woman who in her youth was criticized for being too heavy and now is being criticized for being too thin.  Although many women would be quietly pleased with such a comment (akin to being too disciplined or a perfectionist), Jennifer was “brutally” offended.

It’s sad that society has created such anguish for women over a few pounds, either way.

June 27, 2014

My summer vacation

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Retirement — Mike Kueber @ 4:48 am
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When you are a kid returning to school after summer, your teacher may traditionally ask you for a report on what you did during your vacation. That report would typically describe a trip that exposed you to fun and interesting things. My recent summer vacation to Aneta, like those vacations to Aneta before it, was focused not on fun and interesting things, but rather fun and interesting people.

My greatest interest in returning to Aneta annually is to observe how people are aging from one year to the next. And I’m not referring to the aging of their bodies, but rather how they are mentally adjusting to getting older. That is a problem that we all must deal with, and I attempt to gather a variety of “best practices.”

In addition to studying the aging issue, I also love to observe the different personalities with a detachment that comes from knowing that I don’t have to live with those personalities for more than a few days. Two unique characters presented themselves to me on my last full day in Aneta:

  1. A friend complained that his academic career was held back because he was always horrible at standardized tests. Instead of taking the politically-correct position that standardized tests are bad, I took a different tack that my friend, as a former basketball player, might understand – I suggested that the inability to do well on a standardized test is analogous to a basketball player being unable to make free throws – i.e., it doesn’t completely define that person, but it hinders that person’s utility in some situations.
  2. Another friend, who was in the process of trying to court a beautiful woman in a neighboring town, was upset that the woman had been told by someone from our town that my friend was “driven” and “particular.” I could tell that my friend was concerned that this description was not a good thing for his courting prospects, and he was highly interested in finding out who had slandered him. Because my friend is widely acknowledged as driven and particular, I decided not to advise him that truth is generally a defense to slander. And I also didn’t tell him that if the woman noticed that this description concerned him, she would have all the confirmation that she needed. I probably should have told him to admit that he is aware of these issues and is working on them.

Traveling to my hometown every summer takes a lot of energy, but the grounding and centering that it affords me is priceless.

June 8, 2014

Fun/happy

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 2:22 pm
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Last night, a friend posted on Facebook from a George Strait concert, “That’s a wrap. Most fun ever.” When I read the post, I had just returned from an afternoon at my apartment pool and was feeling a bit like a curmudgeon and commented:

  • A George Strait concert was your most fun ever? Of course, I once said the same thing about a Jerry Jeff concert.”

Later, my friend explained – “he’s been my most fave since I can remember. We had a ball! Singing and dancing like there’s no tomorrow. So maybe not the MOST fun ever – but pretty darn close.”

Perhaps I was feeling like a curmudgeon because I had just finished reading Charles Murray’s The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead. In that book, Murray spends a lot of words talking about happiness, which he defines as “lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole.” According to Murray, happiness almost always comes from family, work, community, or religion.

Although happiness and fun seem like close relatives to me, Wikipedia disabuses me of that notion by defining fun as “the enjoyment of pleasure, particularly in leisure activities. Fun is an experience – short-term, often unexpected, informal, not cerebral and generally purposeless.”

So, while a George Strait concert may not be the place to be looking for true happiness, it obviously is a likely candidate for bushels of fun.

June 7, 2014

Sunday Book Review #138 – The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead

Filed under: Book reviews,Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 1:17 pm
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Several months ago, I reviewed a book by Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, titled How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. In the book, Adams shares his accumulated wisdom for living a successful life. The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray is a similar book.

In the introduction, Murray describes how this compendium started as a workplace, intranet guide to English grammar and usage that expanded into proper behavior in the workplace. Ultimately, the book included advice toward achieving not only success in the workplace but also success in living.

The book’s intended audience is:

  • You are in or near your twenties. You are intelligent. It’s not essential that you have a college degree, but you probably do. Many of you attended a well-known college or university; some of you attended an elite one. You are ambitious – you daydream about becoming a CEO, a high-powered lawyer, head of the World Bank, Pulitzer Prize winner, or president of the United States. Your ambitions are not confined to outward measures of success. You want to become excellent at something. You plan to marry eventually, if not already. You aspire to be a good person. You aspire to genuine happiness. To put it another way, you are me long ago.”

Murray is a 71-year-old libertarian political scientist who works for a conservative think-tank in D.C. called the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of a controversial book titled The Bell Curve, which argued that intelligence is a better predictor of success in life than is socio-economic status or education. It also argued that some races are more intelligent than others, whether produced by genetics or environment.

Also, as suggested by the book’s title, Murray is a curmudgeon, which he initially defines as “an ill-tempered old man,” but then he tweaks that definition to better fit the group of people who generally make decisions that affect a young employees career arc:

  • “Highly successful people of both genders who are inwardly grumpy about many aspects of contemporary culture, make quick and pitiless judgments about your behavior in the workplace, and don’t hesitate to act on those judgments in deciding who gets promoted and who gets fired. Be warned that curmudgeons usually don’t give off many clues that they’re doing these things.”

Murray admits that there are some industries that are not run by curmudgeons – e.g., entertainment or information technology – but my experience in the insurance industry suggests that Murray is mistaken about the prevalence of curmudgeons at the helm of American commerce. Yes, we all have encountered curmudgeons in the workplace, but this quality does not bode well for success, except perhaps in the world of conservative think tanks.

Regardless of the prevalence of full-fledged curmudgeons, however, the insights of this curmudgeon are worthwhile in helping a fledgling college grad navigate the workplace filled with a lot of executives who have curmudgeon tendencies from time to time.

The first section of the book provides insights regarding how to present yourself in the workplace:

  1. Don’t suck up. Although I agree that a strong employee will do better without becoming a sycophant, I have seen weak employees survive by becoming sycophants.
  2. Don’t use first names of older people. I agree, even though my upbringing causes me extreme discomfort with the word “mister.”
  3. Don’t use vulgar language unless the boss uses it freely.
  4. No piercings or tattoos.
  5. Dress like your bosses.
  6. Don’t act like any work is beneath you.
  7. From the bottom, it looks like management has unlimited numbers of good people to select for advancement, but from the top, it looks like good people are hard to find. Be a good worker, and you will be noticed. I’m not persuaded by this assertion.

The second section of the book provides insights on thinking and writing well. Murray obviously sees good writing and good thinking as related – “The process of writing is your most valuable single tool for developing better ideas. The process of writing is the dominant source of intellectual creativity.” Outside of creativity, however, Murray feels most strongly about “rigor”:

  • If your major in college was anything except one of the hard sciences, you may not have experienced much demand to be rigorous up to this point in your life. How many of your teachers not only demanded that you write papers instead of taking multiple-choice tests, but handed back those papers with every error in syntax, usage, and spelling marked in red, and every error in logic pointed out? How often during class discussion have you been criticized for a sloppy argument, even though your conclusion may have been correct?…. graduates of even the most elite universities can leave school still innocent of what it means to be pushed to the limits of their intellectual potential.”

Getting a B.A. from Harvard in history and a PhD from MIT in political science may not have been rigorous for Murray, but I disagree that these studies in general aren’t as rigorous the hard sciences. (David Brooks and Tom Friedman of the NY Times had a similar disagreement a few weeks ago, and that was the subject of a blogpost.)

The third section of the book is titled, “On the Formation of Who You Are.” The first thing he suggests is that you leave home. Suffice to say that boomerang kids are not welcome, and parents who allow this are not doing their kids any favor – “Don’t argue that you can’t find a job that pays enough to support yourself. You can. You just can’t find a job that will support you in the style to which you have been accustomed. So accustom yourself to a new style. Learn to get by on little – prove to yourself how resourceful you can be. Move out. No matter what.”

Because most kids are excessively praised and pampered and encouraged, Murray thinks many kids have been stunted:

  • You probably possess two of the most important personal qualities for success – high cognitive ability and good interpersonal skills. But it is unlikely that you have already developed another important trait: resilience.”

Most modern kids are taught that being judgmental is bad. That is wrong. You must make judgments about what it means to live a good life:

  • The purpose of a human life is not just to pass the time between birth and death as pleasantly as possible, with as little trouble as possible. Life should consist of something more than leisure and transient pleasures. Can we agree on that?… For those who are still with me, the first step in thinking about what it means to live a good life is to accept that you’re going to have to make judgments – not just statements about your personal tastes and preferences, but judgments about what are the excellences that human beings should strive to realize, which in turn means judgments about what is right and wrong, good and evil.”
  • “I want to emphasize that being judgmental is not the same as being intolerant. It is appropriate to be tolerant of behaviors that you wouldn’t engage in yourself, and even ones of which you disapprove but which you also judge to fall within the range of choices that people should be free to make in a free society. But you can’t let your desire to be tolerant get in the way of your obligation to reach moral judgments. You need to think through your assessment of alternative codes of behavior, drawing upon as much accumulated human wisdom as you can about virtue and vice, and about the consequences of different behaviors for human flourishing. You not only need to do this; you must. The failure to do so doesn’t define you as nonjudgmental. It defines you as lazy.”

The preceding principle reminds me of Mike Callen’s call for the action with the preponderance of favorable outcomes. Murray’s guiding principle is, “Don’t ruin your love affair with yourself,” by which he means that you should hold yourself in high regard and that all of your action should enable this high regard to continue.

The final section of the book is titled, “On the Pursuit of Happiness.” Murray believes that lasting and justified happiness flows from four sources – family, vocation, community, and faith. Money and fame are not on the list. “An unavoidable side effect of ambition is to be gnawed by ambition about whether you’re going to succeed. You’re bound to feel it in your twenties and thirties. Put it away in your forties. By that time, you should have learned enough to recognize that fame and wealth are trivial – really, truly trivial – to a life well live.” I’m happy to report that my life followed the track that Murray suggested.

Although Murray is technically a Deist, he suggests that you take religion more seriously than you have been socialized to.

And finally, he concludes with some advice on who, not whether, to marry.

Murray’s words of wisdom mostly ring true. My youngest son is in the demographic that Murray hopes to reach, and I have strongly suggested to him that he would be well served reading this little 142-page book.

 

May 30, 2014

Diversity at Google

Filed under: Business,Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 2:21 pm
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The big story in the technology world this week is that Google released its diversity numbers.  (Facebook to follow.)  The release was in response to pressure from the cottage liberals, like Jesse Jackson, who are concerned that the technology world is an exclusive club for white males.

What did the numbers show?  Well, Google’s tech employees are mostly men, and they are mostly white if you consider Asians to be white and Hispanics to be not-white:

  • American workforce – 47% women, 16% Hispanic, 12% black, and 12% Asian
  • Google techies – 17% women, 2% Hispanic, 1% black, and 34% Asian

So, what is causing this situation that is so distressful to cottage liberals?  Well, according to an article in USA Today:

  1. “At its heart, there are two reasons for the mismatch, experts say. The first is pipeline. White and Asian men are much more likely to have access and take advantage of technical schooling that leads to jobs at tech firms than historically disadvantaged minorities.”
  2. “Finally, high tech isn’t a very welcoming place if you don’t fit in.”

Aside from racial and sexual balancing, why should diversity be an objective for Google?  As explained in the USA Today article:

  • “By putting its numbers out there, Google is taking the steps necessary to bring change. Doing so isn’t about window dressing. It actually makes it a better and more profitable company, says Ed Lazowska, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington-Seattle. ‘Engineering (particularly of software) is a hugely creative endeavor. Greater diversity — more points of view — yields a better result.’”

I don’t know about you, but I think Google as presently staffed has been highly creative in software engineering, and if I were a stockholder, I wouldn’t want the company to start focusing on social engineering.

A remarkably similar article in the NY Times provided additional support for the proposition that the demographics of the Google workforce are a result of the demographics of the pipeline that provides those workers:

  • Tech companies have often blamed the lack of diverse workforces on the pipeline — they can only hire the people who apply for jobs, and those tend to be white and Asian men, they say. That is partly true. For instance, only 18.5 percent of high school students who took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science last year were girls. In eight states, no Hispanic students took the test and in 12 states, no black students took it. The problems start as early as childhood, when girls are discouraged by parents and teachers from pursuing technical pursuits.

Of course, the liberal agenda of the NY Times will not be blocked by mere statistics:

  • “Yet some of the blame also falls on tech companies. There can be a sexist culture that turns away women, as evidenced by the high attrition rate among technical women as compared to men. And women who try to start tech companies face exclusion by a venture capital network dominated by a chummy fraternity of men. This is all despite the fact that the data — which in Silicon Valley usually reigns supreme — shows that diversity on groups benefits research, development, innovation and profit.”

To sum up two liberal newspapers – (1) the tech pipeline is not turning out sufficient numbers of women, Hispanics, and blacks; (2) tech companies discriminate against women, Hispanics, and blacks, and (3) although tech companies are perhaps America’s premiere industry, it would function much better if it were forced to hire a workforce that “looks like America.”

Call me skeptical.

May 24, 2014

Mark Cuban wades into the Donald Sterling fiasco (again), and Stephen A. Smith bails him out

Filed under: Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 5:08 am
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While the media first attempted to lynch Donald Sterling for the bigoted comments that he made privately to his girlfriend, the Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban tried to slow down the lynching by warning against a slippery slope:

  • But at the same time, that’s a decision I make. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope. Again, there’s no excuse for his positions. There’s no excuse for what he said. There’s no excuse for anybody to support racism. There’s no place for it in our league, but there’s a very, very, very slippery slope.”

But Cuban quickly backed off from that position and seemed to be in favor of a forcible sale of the Mavericks until earlier this week, when Cuban created a firestorm by admitting that he, too, was prejudiced and bigoted in certain situations:

  • I know I’m prejudiced, and I know I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways. If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos, I’ll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.”

The lynch mob attacked Cuban for stigmatizing black kids in a hoodie and suggested that Cuban was laying the groundwork for cutting Donald Sterling some slack.  But Cuban received some support from an unexpected source – Stephen A. Smith (a black journalist) from ESPN’s First Take. 

Smith pointed out that Cuban, by giving both black and white examples, was not excusing racism, but rather was pointed out that “presentation matters.”  According to Smith, people are going to treat you differently based on the way that you present yourself.  Hoodies, tattoos, or pants halfway down your ass don’t give anyone a right to shoot you, but if you present yourself that way, don’t expect to be treated respectfully.  (Some wag pointed out that Patriot coach Bill Belichick wears a hoodie and expects to be treated respectfully.  I suspect that he would not generally be treated respectfully if he is not recognized as the Patriot coach.)

Cuban later apologized to the Trayvon Martin family for using the hoodie example, but other than regretting his example, he stood by his statement.  On the next edition of First Take, white guy Skip Bayless opined that the apology was necessary and appropriate, while Smith doubled down to say that the clarification was nice, but the additional context was unnecessary.

I agree with Stephen A.’s point that presentation matters.  Further, I have previously discussed how people will naturally profile.  Racial profiling, however, is a special concern, and although it is scientifically almost impossible to stop, it is something that America needs to work to minimize.

With respect to the Donald Sterling matter, it seems that Cuban’s comments militate in favor of reconsidering the draconian sanctions proposed by NBA commish Adam Silver and there is nothing wrong with that.  Reconsideration is always a good tack to take when dealing with a lynch mob.

P.S., Smith also made a distinction that I have previously made between racism and bigotry – i.e., racists feel superior while bigots strongly dislike.  Based on this definition, Smith said that blacks and whites are both bigoted, but only whites are racists.  I’m not sure that I agree that blacks can’t be racists, too, but in any event, those definitions seem to put Donald Sterling’s comments more into the bigoted category than the racist category.

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