Mike Kueber's Blog

September 30, 2014

Women in the Secret Service

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:00 pm
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Washington, D.C. is abuzz about the most recent Secret Service lapse. How could a man with a knife jump the White House fence, run 70 yards to the North Portico entrance, barge over a Secret Service agent guarding the front door, and finally run past the staircase and into the East Room before being tackled by an off-duty agent on his way home? Director Julia Pierson, a 30-year veteran of the agency and the first female director, spent the day being grilled by a House committee for this debacle.

According to an article in the NY Times:

  • In response to repeated questions about the recent intrusion, Ms. Pierson offered new details about the moments before Mr. Gonzalez was finally captured. She said he made his way through the unlocked front doors, “knocked back” an agent inside the building, and then fought with the agent as he continued through the Entrance Hall, turned left into the Cross Hall, got a few steps inside the East Room, and was finally tackled back in the Cross Hall, just outside the Green Room.

Although the incident is replete with obvious security lapses, including the unimpeded 70-yard dash and the unlocked front door, the one that no one has discussed is the fact that the agent at the front door who was “knocked back” and shoved aside was a women. The unexamined question – is it appropriate for a woman to serve in that role?

Women have been a part of the Secret Service as agents and uniformed personnel for over 40 years. More recently, women have been allowed to compete for positions in military combat units. (Read about Sage Santangelo’s unsuccessful attempt to become a Marine Corps infantry officer.)

But service by a woman in the President’s protective detail seems even more problematic, and this White House incident illuminates the problem. The man who breached the White House while brandishing a knife was eventually tackled by a man. At the Congressional hearing, according to the Times article, a congressman suggested that the intruder should have been shot before getting to the East Room:

  • Chaffetz angrily questioned Ms. Pierson about why the Secret Service had put out a statement that said its officers had exhibited “tremendous” restraint of force when the intruder breached the fence. He said that he wanted it to be “crystal clear if you dash at the White House we are going to take you down.” Mr. Chaffetz said that the Secret Service should take lethal action because even if intruders do not appear to be armed, they could be strapped with an explosive device or dirty bomb. Ms. Pierson responded that officers can only use lethal force if a person poses an imminent danger to themselves or others. She said that based on what had occurred, she believed that the officers had used proper restraint.

How the hell can Ms. Pierson say that the female agent at the front door of the White House, after being knocked aside by a knife-wielding intruder, showed proper restraint in not blasting the intruder?

More importantly, wouldn’t America and President Obama be better served by having a bulky guy guarding the front door, sort of like a barroom bouncer, or even better, like the offensive linemen that guard Peyton Manning? Those guys would be excused for tackling the intruder instead of plugging him.

September 27, 2014

The politically correct buffalo Stephen A. Smith

Filed under: Culture,Media — Mike Kueber @ 5:27 pm
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A Facebook friend recently posted a complaint about ESPN’s relatively excessive suspension of Bill Simmons:

  • Bill Simmons received a three week suspension by ESPN for criticizing Roger Goodell. That’s two weeks longer than Stephen A. Smith’s recent suspension. Apparently criticism of the NFL commissioner is worse than telling women not to provoke men if you don’t want to get hit.

I wasn’t familiar with Smith’s suspension, so I research it and learned that it was related to Ray Rice’s domestic assault on his then fiancée. Apparently, Rice’s fiancée, who eventually married him, claimed some responsibility for the assault by admitting that she provoked Rice. Smith merely elaborated on that point:

  • What I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family — some of who you all met and talked to and what have you — is that … let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come — or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know — if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you.

The politically-correct were outraged by Smith’s comment. ESPN’s Michelle Beadle led the charge against Smith by suggesting she would wear a mini-skirt to work, implying that Smith-type thinkers would feel provoked to rape her.

That’s crazy. Violence is often provoked by the ultimate victim, and Smith was merely treating women as equal to men for this character flaw. After taking heat for a few days, Smith bowed to the politically correct and apologized profusely:

  • On Friday, speaking right here on ‘First Take’ on the subject of domestic violence, I made what can only amount to the most egregious error of my career. My words came across that it is somehow a woman’s fault. This was not my intent. It is not what I was trying to say.

This case is another blatant example of the politically correct whining about “insensitive” conversation.

Emma Watson on feminism

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 12:13 am
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A female Facebook recently posted a quote from Emma Watson on feminism, taken from a speech that Watson gave to the United Nations:

  • The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” …. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals.

As I further reflected on this matter, I recalled that singer Taylor Swift had taken a pro-feminist position a few weeks ago, and I decided to revisit her comments:

  • As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means. For so long it’s been made to seem like something where you’d picket against the opposite sex, whereas it’s not about that at all.

In the parlance of politics, what we seem to have here are two talking points:

  1. Feminists want men and women to have equal rights and opportunities.
  2. Feminists don’t hate men.

But talking points seldom provide a thoughtful analysis, so after reading a text of Watson’s speech, I responded to my friend’s post as follows:

  • I agree with much of what Ms. Watson says – i.e., men and women should be free to be as sensitive or as strong as they prefer. And I agree with feminism as she defined it: “For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” But she goes on to modify that definition by saying, “It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” Equal opportunity does not equate to equal results. Methinks most feminists want women to be as strong as men, and will not be satisfied until they pressure/ostracize feminine women who prefer being sensitive over being strong. And they will insist on quotas for all powerful positions.

 

September 26, 2014

Why poor kids struggle at elite colleges

Filed under: Culture,Education — Mike Kueber @ 5:58 pm
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The New York Times recently published a fascinating op-ed piece titled, “Why poor kids struggle at elite colleges.”  The column was authored by a NYC teacher, Vicki Madden, who 35 years ago immigrated to the City from “hardscrabble” Montana.

Madden’s main point is that, although kids from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are admitted to elite colleges in depressingly low numbers (5% are from the bottom quartile; 14% are from the bottom two quartiles), these kids can handle the academic challenges, but they have immense difficulty with leaving their way of life behind:

  • But once those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds arrive on campus, it’s often the subtler things, the signifiers of who they are and where they come from, that cause the most trouble, challenging their very identity, comfort and right to be on that campus…. Hardest was the awareness that my own experiences were not only undervalued but often mocked, used to indicate when someone was stupid or low-class…. To stay four years and graduate, students have to come to terms with the unspoken transaction: exchanging your old world for a new world, one that doesn’t seem to value where you came from.

Madden then explains why she was able to navigate the distance from old world to new world:

  • Perhaps because I came from generations of people who had left their families behind and pushed west from Ireland, West Virginia and Montana, I suffered few pangs at the idea of setting out for a new land with better opportunities. I wanted the libraries, summer houses and good wine more than anything that I then valued about my own history…. Being young, I didn’t understand, believing myself immune to the idea that any gain might entail a corresponding loss. I was keen to exchange my Western hardscrabble life for the chance to be a New York City middle-class museumgoer. I’ve paid a price in estrangement from my own people, but I was willing. Not every 18-year-old will make that same choice, especially when race is factored in as well as class.

All of this rings true to me, as I still remember the difficulty I had in moving from being a practical small-town farm kid to a big-city urban/intellectual guy.

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

September 9, 2014

The purposes of college

Filed under: Education — Mike Kueber @ 11:48 pm
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A recent column by the NY Times’ David Brooks suggests that there are three principal purposes of college:

  1. Commercial (starting a career)
  2. Cognitive (learning how to think)
  3. Moral (building an integrated self through moral, emotional, and spiritual growth)

According to Brooks, elite colleges have mostly abandoned any attempt to guide their students toward a meaningful, moral life because they don’t think it is their place or they don’t think they know how. But Brooks is encouraged by an essay by William Deresiewicz that “offers a vision of what it takes to move from adolescence to adulthood. Everyone is born with a mind, he writes, but it is only through introspection, observation, connecting the head and the heart, making meaning of experience and finding an organizing purpose that you build a unique individual self.”

Hear, hear! My thoughts exactly.

Danny Ferry and political correctness

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 10:47 pm
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First we have LA Clipper NBA owner Donald Sterling complaining to his girlfriend about her habit of hanging out with former black basketball players at Clipper games. (Chris Rock has joked that he wouldn’t want his girlfriend hanging out with black basketball players either 🙂 )  In the wake of the media/public uproar over “racist” comments, the NBA forced Sterling to sell his team.

Then we have Atlanta Hawks NBA owner Bruce Levenson complaining to his team executives about the team’s failure to get adequate numbers of affluent white people supporting the team. To remedy this failure, he suggested including some white women as cheerleaders and playing something other than hip hop music at the games. When Levenson learned that his emailed complaint, which he self-described as offensive, was going to be made public, he fell on his sword and agreed to sell his team.

Next we have Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice on a video coldcocking his then fiancée, now wife Janay in an elevator. Although local law enforcement and the NFL had already investigated the incident and issued penalties – i.e., anger-management counseling and a two-game suspension, respectively – the release of the video to the public created such a media/public uproar that the Ravens released Rice and the NFL banned him.

And finally, now we have Atlanta Hawk general manager Danny Ferry during a conference call to his ownership group reading the following scouting report on Africa-born free agent Luol Deng:

  • “[Deng] “is still a young guy overall. He is a good guy overall. But he is not perfect. He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell your counterfeit stuff out of the back.”

This comment greatly offended one of the co-owner/listeners – J. Michael Gearon, Jr. – and prompted him to personally consult legal counsel to determine the team’s legal and exposure.   Following that consultation, Gearon issued a demand to the team’s controlling owner Bruce Levenson, which included the following verbiage:

 

With respect to one potential free agent, a highly-regarded African-American player and humanitarian, Ferry talked about the player’s good points, and then went on to describe his negatives, stating that “he has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.” Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player (and impliedly, all persons of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat.

We are appalled that anyone would make such a racist slur under any circumstance, much less the GM of an NBA franchise on a major conference call. One of us can be heard on the tape reacting with astonishment. Our franchise has had a long history of racial diversity and inclusion that reflect the makeup of our great city. Ferry’s comments were so far out of bounds that we are concerned that he has put the entire franchise in jeopardy.

As a minority partner with no effective say in decision-making, we were somewhat at a loss what to do next. So we consulted this week with two attorneys, one a very well-known and highly respected African-American former judge in Atlanta, and the other a highly regarded employment discrimination lawyer. They confirmed our fears and then some. The former judge put it pretty succinctly, saying that any African-American who heard the comments would interpret them as meaning “all blacks are two-faced liars and cheats.” The employment attorney opined that we as a team face significant exposure, possibly in the courts, but certainly in the court of public opinion, and, as we all know, within the league. She described the possible fallout as “devastating.” We agree.

 

As you may recall from my previous posts about being politically correct, the Urban Dictionary defines the term as, “A way that we speak in America so we don’t offend whining pussies.” I wonder if you look up the term “whining pussies” whether you will see a photo of J. Michael Gearon, Jr.

I also wonder if the 24-hour media will ever be able to rise above its current role as an alter ego for a lynch-mob public.

Incidentally, Gearon is incorrect in referring to Deng as an African-American player. Deng was born in Sudan, move to Egypt, and finally settled in England, where he was naturalized in 2006.

 

The Ray Rice video and political correctness

Filed under: Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 12:58 am
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Full disclosure – I am the owner of a Fantasy football team called Team Mike, and I recently spent a valuable draft pick for the services of the Baltimore Ravens estimable running back Ray Rice. Thus, Ray’s future professional status will affect me financially.

I drafted Ray Rice even though the NFL had suspended him for the first two games of the season because of an incident of domestic violence – i.e., he had knocked his fiancée unconscious in an elevator.  As the owner of a top-tier team, I afford to miss Ray for a couple of weeks and still make the playoffs, at which time Ray would be critical to my success.  Today, however, the NFL announced that Rice’s two game suspension was being increased to an indefinite suspension because the incident had been caught on a video camera in the elevator.  Furthermore, the video had gone viral and was causing a public-relations nightmare.

Local Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia complained on his Facebook wall about Baltimore’s too-forgiving fans who, prior to release of the video, had been prepared to welcome Ray back following his two-week suspension. One of his friends (Madeleine) piled on by urging criminal prosecution. I suggested a different tack:

  • A few commentators who aren’t hyperventilating are pointing out that we already knew that Ray Rice had coldcocked his wife/girlfriend. The only new news is that the incident was taped. Are we as a society going to double the penalty for violent crimes caught on tape? Madeleine, Rice has already been prosecuted for the assault. There is a law against double jeopardy in this country.

Incidentally, I didn’t know what distinguished domestic violence from garden-variety violence, so I looked it up. Wikipedia describes it as a pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic context. The Department of Justice uses a similar definition – “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” Criminal law, however, doesn’t like the requirement for a “pattern of behavior,” so it typically requires only “any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat of violence or physical harm committed by one family or household member against another.”

So the obvious question is why does violence against a family member require a special status, and I wonder if that rationale would be the similar to the rationale for special laws against hate crimes. According to a cursory review on the internet, it appear that both sets of law impose stiffer penalties because the law considers the harm done in these contexts to be especially damaging to society. That makes a little bit of sense, but I think society would be better served if the law declined to make these micro-distinctions between victims.

That’s a slippery slope for the politically correct.  (Seems I am inclined to characterize anything as politically correct if I disagree with it. :))

September 8, 2014

More racism or more political correctness

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,Media,Politics,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 3:06 am
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I know that I just complained in this blog about political correctness, but I can’t resist commenting on the latest outrage. Bruce Levenson has declared that he will sell his controlling interest in the Atlanta Hawks basketball team because of a self-described offensive email that he sent to his team executives a couple of years ago. Leading media outlets have variously described the email as racist, vile, and bigoted, but their reports failed to document precisely what the offensive language was. So I found a copy of the actual text, and concluded that Levenson’s email isn’t nearly as offensive as the political correctness in vilifying him.

Essentially, Levenson argued that the target demographic for Hawk season tickets is age 35-55 white males and that this demographic might prefer to see some white cheerleaders, some music that is not hip hop, and some post-game concerts that are not gospel or hip hop.

So that is racist?

NY Times columnist Bill Rhoden concedes that racism is a “sometimes imprecise” word, but that doesn’t stop him from concluding that Levenson was a racist:

  • Because the email was so open and earnest, it is likely that Levenson did not believe he was being racist, but simply addressing a problem that seemed obvious to him.

I wonder what Rhoden would think of a team owner who was concerned about the dearth of black people in its season-ticket base? Enlightened!

What if the owner suggested that the problem might be ameliorated by adding some black cheerleaders, maybe even some hip hop music?   Inclusive!

What if the owner desired a “critical mass” of black fans so that they didn’t feel uncomfortable or out of place in the arena? Far-sighted and shrewd!

Diversity cuts both ways, and when whites become minorities, as they already are in San Antonio, the politically correct will need to adjust their modus operandi.

 

 

September 1, 2014

A minority-affairs reporter in San Antonio

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 4:38 pm
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Today’s San Antonio Express-News contained a column on re-development of the Alamo penned by Elaine Ayala, a self-described Minority Affairs reporter.

In the context of San Antonio, you might wonder what minorities need a dedicated reporter to ensure that their issues aren’t overlooked. Although traditionally in America the overlooked minorities are blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, these groups already dominate San Antonio. Our recently departed Hispanic mayor was replaced by an African-American, and there are (or soon will be) seven Hispanics, one African-American, and one Asian, along with only two Anglos, on the City Council. Based on city demographics of 63% Hispanic, 7% black, 2% Asian, it appears that only the 27% Anglos are underrepresented on the City Council.

Not surprisingly, the Alamo column by Elaine Ayala objected to the current depiction of the Alamo defenders as heroes and suggested a fairer development of the Alamo not only should take the luster off the heroes, but also should shift attention toward Tejano contributions to the development of Texas. Also not surprisingly, I could not restrain myself from firing off the following angry critique (which I subsequently had to edit due to the paper’s character limit):

This is the type of column to expect from a Minority Affairs reporter and a Latino Life blogger. Life is a series of grievances.

As the city considers ways to upgrade the Alamo, Elaine Ayala suggests that, “Anglo defenders and their motivations have been mythologized. At the same time, new cadres of Latino academics have begun to shed new light on them.” I hope those “Latino academics” don’t have as much of a political agenda as Elaine appears to have.

So, according to Ayala, we upgrade the Alamo by pointing out that some of the defenders were not as purely heroic as history has depicted them? While correcting the inaccurate history of heroic Alamo defenders, Ayala suggests that we shed some light on Tejano contributions to state development, and even on the fact that the Alamo was near Indian burial grounds. (I’m not making this up.)

There can be only one “entry point” to the story of the Alamo – i.e., those 13 days in 1836. People who travel to the Baseball Hall of Fame want to learn about the legends; they don’t want to learn about the tawdry details of the players’ lives. People who travel to Gettysburg want to learn about the crucial Civil War battle; they don’t want to learn about the “rich history” of this Pennsylvania town.

Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg are something that are applicable for the Alamo Plaza committee and ultimately the City Council to recall:

  • We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Sunday Book Review #146 – The American boomerang by Nick Adams

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:46 am
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If you are as old as me, you might remember a popular 1974 record titled The Americans. The song was spoken by a Canadian news anchor Byron MacGregor defending post-Vietnam America when it being disrespected throughout the world. The American boomerang is a modernized, book-length update to The Americans, with Canadian MacGregor replaced by Australian author Nick Adams.

According to Adams, America is the greatest country in the world because of its conservative values, and although those values are deteriorating in the face of a progressive assault, America has always possessed an internal, self-correcting mechanism that will get us back on the right track:

  • Tocqueville once observed that ‘the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

Adams continually cites Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, and although Tocqueville’s observations about American values and character are almost two centuries old, Adams is confident that most of them still apply. Examples:

  • America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
  • The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s money.
  • Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of the few, but by the laxity of morals amongst us all.
  • There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different characteristics of the sexes, would make man and woman into being not only equal but alike. They would give to both the same functions, impose of both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights; they would mix them in all things – their occupations, their pleasures, their business. It may readily be conceived that by thus attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded, and from so preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever result but weak men and disorderly women.
  • A thousand special causes have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward.
  • Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.

So, what are the values that Adams thinks make America so exceptional?

  1. The Cowboy spirit. [No argument here.]
  2. Old Glory (patriotism)
  3. Faith (Judeo-Christian)
  4. God’s troops (He’s on our side)
  5. Liberty (government protects our right to life, liberty, and estate)
  6. Competitive culture (capitalists)
  7. Self-made men (and women)
  8. Constitutionally limited government (protection against dictatorship of the majority
  9. Tradition (conservative values)
  10. Armed (the Second Amendment)

I find it hard to disagree with the author’s point that these values are the basis for American exceptionalism, but I also understand that others in our country want different values going forward. In fact, Adams spends two chapters denigrating secular humanists (“An Almost Treasonous Culture War”) and Radical Islam.

Incidentally, in the Tradition chapter, the author pays special homage to Texas:

  • Exposed to the geographical diversity of this land, outsiders find different exceptionalism in each of the states.  But in my observation, the mammoth state of Texas stands alone….  The land of Texas is enough to excite any true-blooded conservative American.  The Texan is the most American of the Americans….  Texans have a merciless contempt for political correctness, and a steadfast refusal to embrace the new emasculated and morally debased world.  This makes it truly a piece of living history, one of the only places left where traditional values, Christianity, patriotism, and common sense still prevail.  Not to mention, the moxie, swagger, and bravado of Texas are intoxicating.  I love it.  With the current trends of the world, it is in any right-thinking person’s retirement plan….  If you weren’t born there, get there as quick as you can.

South Carolina is a distant second.

Although the boomerang reference is cute from an Australian perspective, Adams does little to support his theory that America will return to its historical roots and character.  I suspect his ability is better at cheerleading for conservative causes than it is at seeing into the future.

But I hope he is right.