Mike Kueber's Blog

April 8, 2015

John Saunders is rooting for the home team

Filed under: Culture,Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 9:41 pm
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This week on The Sports Reporters, John Saunders’s “Parting Shot” consisted of his lament that there were no black coaches in the Final Four and only one in the Sweet Sixteen. According to Saunders, this development is not a mere aberration. Rather, it is a reflection of a disturbing trend in college basketball – i.e., the return of racial discrimination. How else would you explain that during the last decade, the percentage of black coaches decreased from 25% to 22%? (Maybe the fact that blacks comprise on 13% of America has something to do with that.) How else would you explain that twelve black coaches had been fired this year alone? (Maybe they didn’t win enough games.)

I don’t begrudge a black man for rooting for black coaches. I was rooting for Wisconsin because it started four white guys while the other three teams had none, and I wanted the Wisconsin players to show that white men could play winning basketball. I considered the Wisconsin players to be underdogs, and I suppose Saunders continues to think of black coaches as underdogs, too, even though they have had and continue to have plenty of opportunity to prove their merit.

If I were famous, however, I suspect that my rooting for the white team would be challenged by many as racist, whereas Saunders’s statement sailed by without any concern.

Of course, Saunders has a history of this. A few months ago, he was euphoric over a Chicago little-league team, Jackie Robinson West, winning a national championship because it was all-black. Again, this is rooting for the underdog. Unfortunately, the team was stripped of the title a few months later because of illegal recruiting.

No one will accuse Saunders of being politically correct, but, of course, he is.

April 6, 2015

Real men don’t get offended

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 2:36 am
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Unfortunately, the big news following Wisconsin’s upset of Kentucky last night hasn’t been the game, but rather the post-game conduct of the Kentucky players and fans. Although post-game riots are usually the province of the winning team’s fan, in this case it was the sore-loser fans in Lexington.

But the Kentucky players were even worse sore losers. Three of the players walked off the floor without the traditional handshake and one of them during a press conference responded to a question about Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky by uttering under his breath, “Fuck that niga.”

Not surprisingly, the utterance did not result in a media firestorm. Instead the media quickly moved past the incident and pivoted first to Andrew Harrison’s apology and next to Kaminsky easy acceptance of the apology.

Kudos to Kaminsky. As argued in a column that my brother Kelly recently posted on Facebook, real men don’t get offended.

As for any consequences to Harrison, Kentucky coach Calipari was asked if that were being considered and he responded with, “Nah.”

And when a Yahoo columnist Dan Wetzel pondered the incident, he quickly concluded that this was a racist incident:

  • “Harrison’s comment, while a racial slur, likely wasn’t rooted in racial anger anyway. This was immaturity and embarrassment. He wasn’t creative enough to put Kaminsky down any other way, so he fell to the lowest rung on the ladder, a rather absurd one too since, as noted, Kaminsky is white.  Still, apologies should count, so let that one. If Kaminsky said he’s good with it – not that the victim here usually has much choice – then so be it. Turning Harrison into a piñata for varying forces on acceptable racial language doesn’t seem reasonable either. This really wasn’t about race.”

It seems that a black person won’t be accused of racism unless there is compelling, direct evidence, but a white person, like the Ferguson cop, will be exonerated of racism only after a comprehensive investigation of his life history fails to discover any utterance or action of a racist nature.

I understand the double standard regarding the use of the word “niga,” but I don’t think there needs to be a double standard for judging someone a racist.

 

April 4, 2015

Diversity in the Final Four

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:00 pm
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A couple of days ago, USA Today published an article captioned, “Wisconsin doesn’t hide from ‘white guys’ reputation.”  In the article, the writer attempted to explain why the Wisconsin basketball team has four white starters while the other three Final Four teams have none. The suggested explanations:

  1. The system
  2. The demographics of Wisconsin
  3. The university

Of these, only the first makes any sense. There are a plethora of examples that reveal that the composition of a nationally competitive sports team has minimal connection with the demographics of a state or the university.  But the system at Wisconsin is considered to be a slow-down game with a heavy emphasis on fundamentals, and white basketball players seems to be more successful is that system as opposed to up-tempo playground basketball.

Regardless of the reason Wisconsin has four white starters, I think it is just as interesting that the other three Final Four are non-diverse in the other direction – i.e., all black starters – and I made the following comment on my Facebook account:

  • According to USA Today, the starters on the basketball teams in tonight’s Final Four are among the least diverse in all of major-college basketball. Good thing for these teams that they were selected on the basis of merit instead of political correctness. Contrary to current propaganda, I suspect that diversity creates challenges that these teams have decided to avoid.

As part of the progressive propaganda, Americans are continually bombarded with messages explaining that diversity makes businesses and organizations more effective because of the varying viewpoints and perspectives. While there is something to be said for that position, I’ve always suspected that it was driven by political correctness instead of hard analysis of the countervailing friction that is caused by diversity.

Increasing diversity is inevitable and, therefore, something that we all need to learn to manage, but let’s not lie about it.

 

March 25, 2015

Nature vs. nurture

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 5:07 am
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Today, while taking my daily bike ride on the Leon Creek Trail, I came upon a middle-aged, slow-moving couple riding single file in front of me, with the woman up front and the man a few yards back. As I was preparing to pass on their left, the man slowly veered to the left until his tires went off the edge of the trail and when he overcorrected his bike came back onto the trail and then went down. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze by on the left side of the trail, and as I went by him, three thoughts went through my mind:

  • First – “Whew, I missed him! That was close.”
  • Second – “What was that guy thinking? Idiot!”
  • Third – “I’d better stop and see if the guy is hurt.”

After stopping and turning around, the guy quickly called out that he was OK and I resume my ride. But as I proceeded down the trail, I wondered why my immediate reaction had been so self-centered. Yes, human instinct has a dominant concern for self-preservation, but the accident scene wasn’t very dangerous because I wasn’t traveling that fast, and even after I evaded the downed bike, my next reaction was to be peeved at the fallen rider instead of being concerned about him.

Ever since studying psychology in college, I’ve been familiar with the nature vs. nurture argument (coined by Francis Galton). I’m guessing my first reaction was mostly caused by nature, but my second reflects a disposition that my best friend describes as Ayn Randian.

March 12, 2015

Jon Stewart brings some perspective to the SAE controversy and rampant racism in America

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 8:12 pm
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Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart attempted to prove that he is an equal-opportunity satirist by devoting the second segment of his show to skewering Hillary Clinton for her lame, almost risible explanation for declining to send government emails from a government server – i.e., carrying two phones would be inconvenient.

But, true to his nature, Stewart reserved his most serious sarcasm, and the first segment of his show, for a video of a busload of SAE fraternity members drunkenly singing to keep black people out of the OU chapter of the fraternity – “You can hang them from a tree, but they will never sign with me. There will never be a nigger SAE.”

Stewart compared the SAE video to another video by an OU linebacker, Eric Striker, responding to the SAE video:

  • “I’m so motherfucking furious right now. SAE just fucked it up for all you fucking white fraternities. The same motherfuckers talking about racism don’t exist, be the same motherfuckers shaking our hand, giving us hugs, telling them how you really love us. Fuck you phony ass fraud ass bitches.”

Since the revelation of the videos, OU has disbanded the SAE fraternity and expelled the two SAE members for creating “hostile learning environment for others.”  The linebacker is being recognized on FOX Sports are an heroic leader of his team.

The last part of the SAE segment, however, was the most interesting, and relates to my previous discussions of logic and critical thinking. Steward showed a series of clips where conservatives tried to minimize the SAE incident by characterizing it as an isolated event that does not reflect a prevalent attitude. Then, as is Stewart’s wont, he showed conservatives arguing against welfare and food stamps based on isolated incidents of abuse – e.g., as buying salmon with food stamps.

But Stewart wasn’t willing to accept that both sides employ similar misleading tactics in making their arguments. He wanted the moral high ground that welfare fraud wasn’t prevalent whereas racism was. To win his argument, he used two punches:

  1. According to Stewart, the recently released Justice Department report on Ferguson was “as comprehensive a catalogue of race-based predations as anyone’s going to find.” Stewart failed to mention that the Department’s principal proof of racial animus in Ferguson was six racist jokes that had been communicated on employee computers.
  2. Megan Kelly on FOX was guilty of inadvertently incriminating herself and all conservatives by saying that any in-depth Justice Department examination of employee computers of most companies would likely find six similar jokes. Thus, according to Stewart, Kelly didn’t exonerate Ferguson, but rather indicted all of America.

Which brings us to our critical-thinking skills. Does the fact that some people send or receive jokes that compare President Obama to a chimpanzee mean that those people and their agency/companies are dangerous racists that must face the heavy hand of the law? Attorney General Eric Holder seems to think so because he has said the Ferguson government will be dismantled by the Justice Department unless it agrees to voluntary reforms. The SAE chapter has already been dismantled by OU.

Another question – is it more important to weed out racists than bigots? What about jokes disparaging Catholic priests or Muslims or Russians or illegal immigrants or fat people or gay people or people on welfare? If a company doesn’t vigorously weed out these snarky people, does the government intervene?

This is a slippery slope for government.

Racial discrimination in Madison

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 3:02 am
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I recently posted about critical thinking and dubious conclusions of racial discrimination in Ferguson and San Antonio. Today, USA Today contained an article pointing suggesting that Madison, WI should be added to the list of racist cities. According to the article, titled “Blacks lags whites in Wisconsin well-being”:

  • African Americans in Wisconsin’s capital significantly trail whites in dozens of measures of well-being. Those include employment, household income and percentage of children living above poverty.”

This media characterization of Madison is especially newsworthy, not only because Madison is the location of the latest “cop-kills-unarmed-black” incident, but also because Madison is a highly progressive city that often makes lists of “best places to live.”  The article attempts to provide a balanced discussion of the issue by quoting three people:

  1. A local firebrand. “Racism is at the heart of Madison’s problems — blatant racism, covert racism and institutional racism,” said Eric Upchurch, a member of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition. The group took part in a march Wednesday to demand “justice for Tony Robinson and all those murdered by police.”
  2. A sympathetic police chief. Among Madison’s whites, 95% of adults hold jobs, the median household income is $65,000 and only one child in 20 lives in poverty. By contrast, the Race to Equity Report found that blacks experience 25% unemployment, a household income of $25,594 and a child poverty rate of 58%. Madison’s racial disparity is strikingly evident in arrest statistics. A USA TODAY analysis of arrests made in 2011-12 found the rate of arrests of blacks is 9.6 times greater than that of whites. That’s greater than the disparity in Ferguson, Mo., and one of the widest gaps found in any large or midsize American city. “If you have a problem being a social worker with a badge, I hope to hell we find you out,” said Chief Mike Koval, Madison Police Department.
  3. A logical out-of-state academic. Authorities point out that disparity in arrest figures does not automatically mean police are racist. David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies relationships between race and crime, said disparity signals leaders to look closely to determine why the disparity exists, and determine whether fixes are needed. “It may indicate discriminatory practices by police, but it may not,” Harris said. “It might be that people in poorer neighborhoods — something often correlated with a high percentage of minority (residents) — are demanding more police services, as they should.”

As I was thinking about the various numbers being bandied about, I thought about two other statistics on racial inequality that are often overlooked:

  1. Wealth. In 2013, according to Pew Research, white households had an average net worth of $149,000, black households $11,000, and Hispanic households $13,700.
  2. Parenthood. In 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25% of white children were in single-parent households, 67% of black children were, and 42% of Hispanic children.

These two numbers indicate that white kids, with two parents and an inheritance, have a huge advantage over black and Hispanic kids and this advantage makes in unreasonable to expect that, even in the absence of racist conduct, school suspensions and police interventions will be racially indistinguishable.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to these two numbers.

March 7, 2015

Critical thinking – racial discrimination in San Antonio and Ferguson

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 2:04 pm
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Following up on my recent post about logic and critical thinking, this week’s media reporting included two glaring examples of failing to use the aforementioned abilities.  The first, an article in the San Antonio Express-News, suggested that racial bias was behind the fact that a disproportionate percentage of blacks and Latinos were suspended from school in San Antonio and Bexar County.

  • “Among racial groups, in the 19 school districts that are all or partly in Bexar County, black students are far fewer in numbers, but about 15 percent of them were suspended out of school in the 2011-12 school year, compared to 10 percent of all Latino students and 5 percent of white students.”
  • “The findings ‘bring up civil rights issues,’ said Daniel J. Losen, the center’s director and the report’s principal author. ‘We know from studying the data that suspensions are strong indicators of lower academic achievement and higher numbers of dropouts. It doesn’t help anyone much, from what we can tell.’”

I comment as follows to the author of the article:

  • Francisco, your article seems to suggest that the disproportionate suspensions of blacks and Latinos raise civil-rights issues. If that is your point, I think you (or your cited experts) should explain why this is causation, not mere correlation. Further, I don’t understand why the reported numbers don’t include Asian students. If suspensions are the converse of academic achievement, you would expect Asian students to be subjected to fewer suspensions.”

In addition to the causation-correlation delusion described in The Halo Effect, the article is also guilty of the delusion of single explanations. There is no attempt to consider other possible causes of the connection between racial status and school suspensions, such as academic achievement. The lazy writer simply makes an incendiary, politically-correct assertion.

The New York Times took a similar path in reporting on the Justice Departments findings about Ferguson policing.  In an article titled, “Racially Discriminatory Policing Was the Norm,” the Times dutifully reported the Justice Department findings:

  • Black people are two-thirds of Ferguson’s population, but from 2012 to 2014, they accounted for 85 percent of police traffic stops, 90 percent of citations issued, and 93 percent of arrests. The Municipal Court also treats blacks more harshly, according to the Justice Department’s findings. The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans, and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race…. Our investigation has revealed that these disparities occur, at least in part, because of unlawful bias against and stereotypes about African Americans. We have found substantial evidence of racial bias among police and court staff in Ferguson. For example, we discovered emails circulated by police supervisors and court staff that stereotype racial minorities as criminals, including one email that joked about an abortion by an African-American woman being a means of crime control.”

Notice the skillful use, twice, of the qualifier, “at least in part.” Technically, this relieves the Times from the obligation to report on other, possibly more significant causes, outside of racism, for blacks to be involved with the Ferguson PD.   The actual Justice Department report, not the Times article, seems to consider and reject this possibility:

  • City officials have frequently asserted that the harsh and disparate results of Ferguson’s law enforcement system do not indicate problems with police or court practices, but instead reflect a pervasive lack of ‘personal responsibility’ among ‘certain segments’ of the community. Our investigation has found that the practices about which area residents have complained are in fact unconstitutional and unduly harsh. But the City’s personal-responsibility refrain is telling: it reflects many of the same racial stereotypes found in the emails between police and court supervisors. This evidence of bias and stereotyping, together with evidence that Ferguson has long recognized but failed to correct the consistent racial disparities caused by its police and court practices, demonstrates that the discriminatory effects of Ferguson’s conduct are driven at least in part by discriminatory intent in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Talk about conclusory, unsubstantiated allegations! And the ubiquitous, “at least in part.”

Of course, even if we can’t expect the media to report on complex issues of causation, we might hope that it discusses solutions. And the only obvious solution is that the system must be jury-rigged so that 13% of all school suspensions, nationwide, go to blacks, 17% go to Hispanics, and the remaining 70% go to others.  But I’m not sure that is the color-blind society that MLK dreamed of.

March 6, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies #143 – A Love Song for Bobby Long

A few days ago, John Travolta was widely mocked for planting an “awkward” kiss on Scarlett Johansson on the Academy Award’s red carpet.  The implication was that the 61-year-old actor was a Biden-esque groper inflicting unwelcome attention on a much younger beauty. The situation seemed similar to the even-older sportscaster Brent Musburger once talking about the beauty of an Alabama quarterback’s girlfriend.

The responses of the women in both situations was essentially the same. The quarterback’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, immediately came to Musburger’s defense:

  • “I think the media has been really unfair to (Musburger). I think if he had said something along the line if we were hot or sexy, I think that would be a little bit different. The fact that he said we were beautiful and gorgeous, I don’t think any woman wouldn’t be flattered by that. I appreciate it, but at the same time I don’t think I needed an apology.”

Similarly, Scarlett Johansson came to Travolta’s defense:

  • The image that is circulating is an unfortunate still-frame from a live-action encounter that was very sweet and totally welcome. That still photo does not reflect what preceded and followed if you see the moment live. Yet another way we are misguided, misinformed and sensationalized by the 24-hour news cycle. I haven’t seen John in some years and it is always a pleasure to be greeted by him. There is nothing strange, creepy or inappropriate about John Travolta.”

While reading about the Oscar’s incident, I learned that Johansson and Travolta had starred in a 2004 movie, A Love Song for Bobby Long,” and I decided to take a chance on it. After watching the movie, I am not the slightest surprised that Johansson took umbrage at the media making fun of Travolta over the kiss. Not only did they co-star in the movie, which makes his familiarity with her reasonable, but also they had great chemistry in the movie as father-daughter.

Although the Rotten Tomato critics panned the movie (43%), the audience loved it (80%), and I agree with the audience. The movie is about a couple of Southern literate guys who have gone bohemian, and I can’t imagine a better place than New Orleans (maybe NYC or Austin) to go that route. The duo becomes a trio when Johansson arrives from Florida to take the place of her recently-deceased singer-mom. All three characters are interesting and worth rooting for.

I give the movie three and a half stars out of four.  And I say, quit picking on us old geezers who, like Augustus McCrae, have a little sport left in them.

February 23, 2015

Kristof softens his approach to white-man privilege

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 9:57 pm
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NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has written ad nauseam about white privilege. Yesterday’s column expanded the topic to white-man privilege.  But Kristof’s tone appears to be softening. Instead of characterizing white men as evil, he know considers the possibility that they are merely stupid:

  • White men sometimes feel besieged and baffled by these suggestions of systematic advantage. When I wrote a series last year, ‘When Whites Just Don’t Get It,’ the reaction from white men was often indignant: It’s an equal playing field now! Get off our case! Yet the evidence is overwhelming that unconscious bias remains widespread in ways that systematically benefit both whites and men. So white men get a double dividend, a payoff from both racial and gender biases. It’s not that we white men are intentionally doing anything wrong, but we do have a penchant for obliviousness about the way we are beneficiaries of systematic unfairness. Maybe that’s because in a race, it’s easy not to notice a tailwind, and white men often go through life with a tailwind, while women and people of color must push against a headwind.”

A few months ago, I used the headwind/tailwind analogy with a friend during a white-privilege discussion on Facebook, and thought perhaps I had invented it. Now I’m thinking that if Kristof and I both thought of it, someone else probably thought of it before us. You think?

Regarding unconscious bias, who can argue against that? I’ve blogged often about the plethora of studies showing that our brains operate in a certain way, without regard to higher-level thinking. Even Kristof admits there’s not a lot you can do about it beyond being aware of it:

  • So, come on, white men! Let’s just acknowledge that we’re all flawed, biased and sometimes irrational, and that we can do more to resist unconscious bias. That means trying not to hire people just because they look like us, avoiding telling a young girl she’s ‘beautiful’ while her brother is ‘smart.’ It means acknowledging systematic bias as a step toward correcting it.”

Incidentally, a friend told me this weekend that he was recently involved in a road-rage incident in which the tough guy followed him into an HEB parking lot. My friend nonchalantly got out of his car without worry after noticing that the guy was driving a late-model Mercedes. Based on that information, he correctly presumed the guy was not going to assault him.

If the guy had been driving a beat-up car, my friend would probably still be driving.

February 21, 2015

Does President Obama love America?

Filed under: Culture,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:21 pm
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Rudy Giuliani is catching a lot of liberal flack for suggesting that President Obama doesn’t love America. According to a Politico story, Giuliani said the following at a private fundraiser in NYC for Wisc. Governor Scott Walker:

  • I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

(Incidentally, private fundraisers are proving to be a boon for political journalism. That is where Romney talked about the 47% and Obama talked about people clinging to their guns and religion.)

Of course, Giuliani is not especially relevant nowadays, so the liberal media are using his comments to attack the candidacy of Governor Walker, who, according to the Washington Post, sat spinelessly at the fundraiser where the calumny was spoken.

The NY Times in a follow-up interview had Giuliani respond to charges that he was prejudiced:

  • Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”

(The Times outrageously titled this article, “Giuliani: Obama Had a White Mother, So I’m Not a Racist.”  Talk about taking something out of context.)

Giuliani also challenged reporters to find examples of Mr. Obama expressing love for his country:

  • I’m happy for him to give a speech where he talks about what’s good about America and doesn’t include all the criticism…. I want an American president to raise our spirits again, like a Ronald Reagan…. What I don’t find with Obama — this will get me in more trouble again — is a really deep knowledge of history. I think it’s a dilettante’s knowledge of history.”

Not surprisingly, this challenge has gone unanswered.

It’s impossible to know what is in someone’s heart, and Christians are frequently enjoined from judging others (judge not, lest ye be judged), but I think politics are different. Voters must make judgments in choosing who to follow.

I blogged previously about President Obama, American exceptionalism, and patriotism, and I believe Giuliana’s charge is essentially the same thing as those earlier charges that President Obama didn’t believe in American exceptionalism, or that he wasn’t patriotic because he refused to wear a flag in his lapel, or that Michelle Obama in 2008 responded to her husband’s electoral success by saying, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”

Patriotism or love of country are not “all or nothing” things. Rather, they are continuums. I believe that cosmopolitan progressives are generally not as far on the continuum of patriotic love as are provincial conservatives. And President Obama is by far the most cosmopolitan progressive ever elected president of the United States.

Rudy is probably thinking, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

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