Mike Kueber's Blog

November 7, 2016

78258 and walking the walk

Filed under: Aphorism,Issues,Philosophy,Politics,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 5:15 am
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One day after yoga practice at Lifetime Fitness I was talking to a couple of progressives about diversity.  One was Anglo, the other Asian/Mexican.  As progressives, they were very proud of San Antonio’s diversity.  I mentioned to them that San Antonio may be diverse, but it was also one of the most socio-economically segregated cities in America.

Although my statement surprised them, they seemed to accept it, and we moved on.  But when I got home, I decided to confirm my accuracy.  A quick google search took me to the news item that I had based my statement on.  According to a March 2016 editorial in the San Antonio Express-News:

  • Overall, San Antonio is middle of the road for big cities when it comes to prosperity and distress. But where we stand out is in our segregation and inequality. We lead the nation when it comes to the extreme differences between our more prosperous neighborhoods and our most distressed neighborhoods. Put another way, our prosperity is not at all shared among the city’s residents. We are the least equal city in the country.
  • Case in point: ZIP code 78207, our poorest. The index highlights this ZIP code and compares it with 78258, on the North Side, and our most prosperous ZIP code. In 78207, nearly half of the adults don’t have a high school diploma. Nearly 60 percent of adults are not working. Unemployment is up. Income is far below the state’s median level. The poverty rate is stuck at 42 percent.
  • In 78258, only 2 percent of residents don’t have a high school diploma. Two-thirds of adults are working. Incomes are way above the state’s median income level. Employment is zooming. The poverty rate is 4 percent.  “These communities look like two different countries,” said Steve Glickman of the Economic Innovation Group.

I forwarded the editorial to my two friends and then pointed out the ultimate irony – they both lived in 78258.  So, although they advocate for diversity and integration, they live lives of homogeneity and segregation.  Sort of like public-school advocates who send their children to private schools.  Or carbon-fuel opponents who consume prodigious amounts of fuel.  And it’s not just progressives.  There are all sorts of conservatives who don’t walk the walk.

This reminds me of another yoga teaching about changing myself and that will change the world. Or as Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world… As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”

November 6, 2016

Saturday Night at the Movies #151 – The Crown

Filed under: Movie reviews,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 11:10 pm
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The Crown was released on Netflix this week, and I binged its ten episodes this weekend.   As a British period film, it was recommended for Downton Abbey fans, and that certainly includes me.

The first season of The Crown centers on post-war Great Britain and Queen Elizabeth II for the first ten years after her 1947 marriage.  Five additional seasons covering approximately a decade each are already planned.

Because Downton Abbey is still fresh on my mind, it was impossible not to compare the two.  Indeed, after watching the first episode, I made the following comment to a friend:

  • I watched first episode, too, and although I like the King, Phillip, and Elizabeth, the cast of interesting people needs to be bigger.  I saw 2 or 3 former Downton characters, like I usually do when watching a British show.

But subsequent episodes in Season One did not expand the cast significantly.  Yes, we get to know Winston Churchill and Princess Margaret, but everything revolves around Elizabeth and her relationships with her father King George VI and his husband Prince Phillip.  And her dominance among the cast is OK because this is not an ensemble movie; rather, it is about the crown that has fallen on Elizabeth’s head.

Elizabeth is played marvelously by Claire Foy.  Although the modern world now knows the Queen as a dowdy, matronly woman, old photos reveal an attractive woman, and Foy is certainly that.  And she projects warmth and good judgment.  Those traits might seem to complement each other, and they would in a normal life of an English countrywoman, but because the crown fell on Elizabeth’s head so young, she is often torn between doing the right thing as a warm, sensible countrywoman (which she was) and the right thing for a monarch (which she is learning to be).

Of course, my nature is to question formality and tradition, so my inclination is to side with Elizabeth’s uncle King Edward VIII, who abdicated the crown for love, and her sister Princess Margaret, who had similar romantic issues.  But I couldn’t help but admiring Elizabeth for deciding that a thriving Monarchy was sometimes more important than satisfying her personal preferences.

After my second day of viewing, I wrote the following to my friend:

  • I watched five more episodes yesterday, and they kept me watching, despite the mundane, pedestrian content.  I almost believe the life of a queen is a burden that the woman would prefer not to assume, although surely Lady Mary of Downton Abbey would have loved it.  The Queen seems to be a bit like Forest Gump, always around the big events, and even plays a larger role than expected.  Obviously, the Diana years in later seasons will be fascinating.

I’m sure that subsequent seasons will further present conflicts between common sense and thinking like a monarch.  And examine how a monarch gets involved, but not too involved with the politicians.  If the Earl of Grantham sometimes felt besieged in trying to keep Downton Abbey viable, I’m sure Elizabeth would say that is child’s play compared to saving the Monarchy.

As an American, I don’t really appreciate the Monarchy and I don’t know why Brits would want to subsidize the modern British Royal Family.  Perhaps I will learn this in subsequent seasons.  Can’t wait.

November 5, 2016

A cafeteria Catholic

Filed under: Religion,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 6:24 pm
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My best friend and I aspire to live reflective lives, as suggested by Socrates’s “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  To support each other’s aspiration, we try to point it out whenever the other says or does something base or inconsistent with our philosophy.

For example, my friend is a Jesuit-schooled Catholic who attends Mass regularly, but his view on abortion is almost identical to that adopted by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade – i.e., abortion should be discouraged, but legal.  The view, of course, opened up my friend to my charge of his being a cafeteria Catholic – i.e., those who assert their Catholic identity yet dissent from one or more Catholic doctrinal or moral teachings.

I, on the other hand, was raised Catholic, but don’t attend Mass regularly and don’t assert a Catholic identify.  Yet, in a sense, I have become a cafeteria Catholic recently by choosing to adopt a Catholic doctrinal teaching regarding cremation.

Several years ago, I decided that cremation instead of burial was the path for me to take due to simplicity and economy.  And I left instructions with my Will in favor of cremation.  But a couple of weeks ago, I read about new Catholic guidance re: cremations.  The following report was gleaned from a NY Times article:

  • Ashes to ashes is fine, the Vatican says, as long as you don’t spread them around.  On Tuesday, the Vatican responded to what it called an “unstoppable increase” in cremation and issued guidelines barring the scattering of ashes “in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way.”  The Vatican decreed that the ashes of loved ones have no place in the home, and certainly not in jewelry. It urged that cremated remains be preserved in cemeteries or other approved sacred places.
  • The instructions, which reiterate the Roman Catholic Church’s preference for burial over cremation, are in line with previous teachings.  “We believe in the resurrection of the body, so burial is the normal form for the Christian faithful, especially Catholics, whom we are addressing with this document….  cannot “condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the ‘prison’ of the body.”

In yoga, our teachers sometimes talk about certain things that “speak to you” or “resonate with you.”  That is how I felt when reading the Catholic guidelines about cremation.  Cremation does seem like a belief in Mother Nature, and I’m hoping/believing there is something more to human life than Mother Nature.

I need to revise my Final Instructions in favor of burial.

 

November 3, 2016

The revival of protests, but preferably for Progressive causes

Filed under: Issues,Politics,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 6:30 pm
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Protesting is enjoying a renaissance in America.  Many of my Facebook friends (but not my North Dakota friends) are being drawn into the Indian protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.  Although it is hard to discern any valid reason for the protest (no endangered water or violated sacred lands), any self-respecting progressive is going to be attracted to a fight between good-guy victims (Indians) and the bad-guy thugs (Cowboys/oil companies).  When the peaceful protests were ignored by the media, the protesters complained that the media had been co-opted by evil capitalists.  And when the protests turned illegal (trespassing and vandalism), the arrested protesters charged police brutality.  All pretty standard stuff from the 60s.

But even before the Cowboys vs. Indians protest, America was roiled by the Black Lives Matter protest.  Now I have no disagreement with the BLM protest.  Reasonable minds can disagree about whether there is a significant problem in America with the police treatment of black suspects.  Personally, I think the problem is usually with the black suspects, but the perspective of others is that the problem is usually police bias or brutality.  My response to the BLM protesters would not be “All Lives Matter,” but rather that I don’t believe your assertion that the police are acting as if Black Lives Don’t Matter.

The main controversy with the BLM is the form of protest.  And I’m not referring to the hijacking of a Bernie Sanders speech.  If he is such a namby-pamby to allow that, he has no business being president.  I’m referring to the Colin Kaepernick conduct during the national anthem at NFL games.  Clearly, Americans have the right to sit or kneel during the national anthem; the question is whether an employer should allow an employee to engage in a protest while on the job.

Most employers would not allow employees to engage in a protest while working, especially if the protest is controversial.  But the NFL is not “most employers.”  More than 70% of its players are black, so they are especially sympathetic to the BLM cause, even though most of its fans are not black or sympathetic.  That is one of the reasons, imo, that NFL ratings are dropping dramatically this year.

Similarly, most of the NBA’s players are black, so we can expect the NBA to take a similar stand.  Last week, a woman scheduled to sing the national anthem at a Sixer game appeared wearing an “We Matter” t-shirt, and a team underling apparently made a spontaneous battlefield decision to bench her and find a replacement singer.  After the game, several players complained about this treatment of the prospective protester, and the Sixer management concluded that the underling had been wrong and the prospective protester had been wronged, so she they apologized to her and invited her back for another anthem, apparently with their approval to protest however she wants.  I suspect the fans won’t welcome her as warmly as the Sixers do.

Another example of the Progressives flexing their politically-correct muscles occurred yesterday with the University of Wisconsin.   During last week’s football game, a fan caused great uproar by appearing in an Obama mask with prison garb and a noose hanging around his neck.  The University when it learned of the protest, seemed to act responsibly, just like the Sixer underling.  The University stated the following after the game:

  • UW Athletics’ policy regarding admission into the stadium with a costume stipulates that no one may be wearing a mask upon entering the facility. Once inside, it is permissible to wear a mask. The costume, while repugnant AND COUNTER TO THE VALUES OF THE UNIVERSITY AND ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT, was an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech. The university also exercised its rights by asking the individual to remove the offensive parts of the costume.”

But Progressives were not satisfied and lodged a formal complaint with the University, and on Wednesday, the University crawfished, with AD Barry Alvarez announcing:

  • I am deeply troubled by the incident from last Saturday’s game, and I am sorry for the harm it caused.  I am determined that nothing like this will happen again. I appreciated the opportunity to meet with a number of community leaders and students this afternoon to discuss our stadium policies. Our plan, before our next home football game, is to have a revised policy in place. Our department is committed to working collaboratively to make our stadium a great and safe place for fans to watch a football game.”

I look forward to reading how a public university (unlike a private professional team) accommodates the right of fans to protest while simultaneously making a stadium a “great place to watch a football game.”  Are they going to ban masks because Obama masks are racist, at least when joined with prison garb?  (Nooses are another matter.)

It seems that protesting for progressive causes can be a part of the game, but protesting for conservative causes requires that the rules be changed.

 

My presidential vote

Filed under: People,Politics,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 3:41 am
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As I was standing in line to vote today at the Shavano Park City Hall, I noticed that most people in line were reading from their phone, so I decided to join them.  I subscribe to the NY Times and one of the first items to pop up was conservative columnist Ross Douthat’s column titled, “An election is not a suicide mission.”

During the 30-minute wait, I read the column.  Like the Times’s other conservative columnist, David Brooks, Ross Douthat can’t abide Trump, so I guessed correctly what the column was going to say.   He concludes as follows:

  • I agree with them that grave evils will follow from electing Hillary Clinton. But the Trump alternative is like a feckless war of choice in the service of some just-seeming end, with a commanding general who likes war crimes. It’s a ticket on a widening gyre, promising political catastrophe and moral corruption both, no matter what ideals seem to justify it.
  • It is a hard thing to accept that some elections should be lost, especially in a country as divided over basic moral premises as our own. But just as the pro-life movement ultimately won real gains — in lives saved, laws altered, abortion rates reduced — by accepting the legitimacy of the republic even as it deplored the killing of the unborn, so today’s conservatism has far more to gain from the defeat of Donald Trump, and the chance to oppose Clintonian progressivism unencumbered by his authoritarianism, bigotry, misogyny and incompetence, than it does from answering the progressive drift toward Caesarism with a populist Elagabalus.
  • Not because it is guaranteed long-term victory in that scenario or any other. But because the deepest conservative insight is that justice depends on order as much as order depends on justice. So when Loki or the Joker or some still-darker Person promises the righting of some grave wrong, the defeat of your hated enemies, if you will only take a chance on chaos and misrule, the wise and courageous response is to tell them to go to hell.

Douthat’s rationale reflected why I had already decided I would not vote for Donald Trump.  Although he is more conservative than Hillary Clinton, his character is so seriously flawed that a Trump presidency is too risky.  With President Clinton, conservatives can continue to work the democratic process in favor of our policies, and hope that Mitt Romney was engaged in hyperbole when he warned about the tipping point when government moochers become a majority in America.

But I am unwilling to vote for Hillary Clinton, either, not only because of her progressive policies, but also because of her flawed character.  If forced to appoint Trump or Hillary as president, I would appoint Hillary.  But as a protest against both of the two leading candidates, I decided to vote for independent conservative Evan McMullin.  According to the leading election prognosticators, McMullan has a 20% chance of winning Utah, and if a win in Utah prevents either Clinton or Trump from securing an electoral majority, the US House will decide the election, and McMullan would be an excellent compromise President.

And in any event, if Hillary can’t defeat Trump without the vote of true conservatives like me, heaven help us.

 

 

 

A fresh look at political correctness

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 3:07 am
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I’ve probably written in this blog a dozen times about political correctness.  The concept drives me crazy.  At various times I have described it, for purposes of progressive politics, as either treating a false statement as true (creating college diversity is intended to improve the learning environment for the other students) or a true statement as false (a victim might have some responsibility for provoking an assault).

A recent column in the Washington Post by Barton Swaim took another tack on describing political correctness and it probably better explains why the concept so frustrates me.  According to Swaim:

  • Political correctness, if I could venture my own admittedly rather clinical definition, involves the prohibition of common expressions and habits on the grounds that someone in our pluralistic society may be offended by them. It reduces political life to an array of signs and symbols deemed good or bad according to their tendency either to include or exclude aggrieved or marginalized people from common life.
  • PC was born of a generous impulse, maybe — it’s good and right to avoid giving offense, when you can. But it has long been a blight and a menace. It obliges us to think constantly about a few topics — topics having mainly to do with racial and sexual identities, but other sorts of identities as well — even as it makes it impossible for us to speak openly and honestly about those same topics. You must consider every facet of life in light of racial sensitivities, sexual politics or some kind of cultural imperialism; but you’d better not talk openly about any of these things unless you’re prepared to negotiate their exquisite complexities and unless you’re up to date on all the latest banned phrases.

Swaim makes two great insights:

  1. Political correctness is focused on taking care of the aggrieved or marginalized – e.g., women, minorities, disabled, gay, etc.
  2. Political correctness discourages us from speaking opening because it is almost impossible to keep up with the latest sensitivities.

Just last week, I read a post from a Facebook friend who was livid because she had been invited to some sort of Housewife networking event.  Little did I know how outdated, and offensive, this term had become.  Stay-at-home mom was OK; housewife certainly was not.

A few months ago, I got into a heated argument on Facebook over a sports column chastising a variety of Olympic reporters for being sexists.  I questioned whether any of the reporting deserved such strong condemnation, and suggested the author might be a femi-nazi.  Whoa, several feminist friends suggested angrily to me that femi-nazi was almost as bad as the n-word and should never be used in civil conversation.  I told them the sexist charge should not be thrown around casually either.  All of this seemed to me like political correctness gone awry.

On a brighter note, however, I once was discussing schooling with a mother of an autistic kid and I stupidly asked if he attended normal classes.  That was another no-no.  Fortunately, she was not part of the PC police and she gently taught me that the correct description was “mainstream classes.”

Unlike the Olympic brouhaha, I appreciated the autism encounter.  Not only did I learn something that made sense, but the person taught me in such a way that didn’t discourage further free speech.