Mike Kueber's Blog

October 12, 2015

More on Columbus Day

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,History — Mike Kueber @ 8:52 pm
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I rarely post anything political on my Facebook wall because I don’t want to annoy my apolitical friends. But this morning I couldn’t resist posting the following:

  • After getting tired of all the news articles supporting the movement from Columbus Day to Native American/Indigenous Peoples Day based on Native American contributions, I commented on an article in USA Today with the question, “What have Native Americans contributed to civilization?” One sage, noting the jersey in my Profile Picture, wryly responded, “Sports teams’ mascots.” Touché.

Not surprisingly, my veiled political comment elicited several substantive responses:

  • A progressive college friend living in Norway – “I’m not sure how long, if ever, it takes survivors of genocide to contribute meaningfully to the society who took over their land. The vanishing Indian is out-of-sight and out-of-mind through political and social manipulation.”

I responded, “Katie, I can’t think of a better example of ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations.'” I was concerned that my response could be construed as an ad hominem, but went with it anyway.

  • My best friend in San Antonio – “Native Americans have made many contributions to America but I agree that this anger today toward Europeans for what happened 500 years ago and continued for another couple of hundred years is really not very beneficial to all concerned. Let’s work to make things better in America today while acknowledging that our past had some big mistakes…..I still love the Fighting Sioux, a name which centers on them being a fierce, hardworking people. and honors them….Somewhat like the “Fighting Irish” which I wear as a badge of honor.”

I responded, “Mike, I think you hit on the sticking point. Most people would not object to a Native American Day, except when the movement simultaneously repudiates the coming of Western Civilization to America. Can you imagine if Asia got here before Europe? Would the world still be looking for democracy? p.s., several articles refer generically to Native American contributions to our civilization, but uniformly fail to list any. You assert ‘many contributions.’ Go ahead, name them.” I’m still waiting for that list.

  • A progressive high school friend living in Minnesota – “Just to add to contributions, I have observed that the Native American Veterans group is very strong and proud to have served for our country.”

I responded, “Mary, I was referring to Native American culture, not to contributions of contemporary Native Americans. Surely, America has benefited immensely from Native American individuals.”

  • My progressive cousin who lives in Massachusetts – “My sense is that Native Americans seem to have showed profound respect for the land and its creatures. They lived in a sustainable way.  They warmly welcomed us, which, umm, in retrospect was quite the mistake.  I have read that at least some tribes did not believe in the concept of ownership of land. I find that highly admirable.  I am not an expert, though. And, there were many different cultures, with different values.”

I responded, “Pam, I agree with your points, but those attributes or values were not what was needed to survive those times. It reminds me of a scene in Downton Abbey where aristocrat Robert was bemoaning the fate of his kind to his rich mother-in-law from America and she responded that his kind must adapt to the new world or it would die.”

All in all, I found this exchange of viewpoints quite beneficial by suggesting facets I hadn’t considered. It reminds of the old writer who said he didn’t know what he thought about a specific subject because he hadn’t yet written about it. I would add to that saying by suggesting that it helps immeasurably to write about a subject, but just as importantly, the writing should be subject to peer review.

And even though the exchange was beneficial, I plan to continue being reluctant to post political stuff on my Facebook wall. For some walls it is OK, but for now I want my wall to be light and friendly.

Getting my chain pulled on Facebook

Filed under: Culture,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 1:41 am
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Several of my liberal friends on Facebook regularly post pictures with some infuriating statement, like “shut up about abortion unless you have a vagina.” Other times they post a poster with an assertion based on facts that seem too good to be true. Usually they post these pictures or posters without comment, which reminds me of the old guidance about keeping your mouth shut and have them think you are an idiot or open your mouth and remove all doubt.

This morning I was confronted in my Facebook newsfeed with a picture titled, “Working moms have more successful daughters and more caring sons, Harvard Business School Study say.” Although my Facebook friend, a liberal former district judge, failed to comment on the study, I decided that, as a defender of working moms, I should examine the article to determine the accuracy of the title.

The article was not in any reputable news site, but rather on something called Quartz or qz.com, and I quickly determined that the evidence in support of the title was flimsy. Because the posting former judge is strong-minded and married to a good friend of mine, I returned to the judge’s Facebook page and cautiously challenged the article:

  • As I read the article, it seemed the author was not fairly reporting on the study, but rather advocating for working moms with cherry-picked statistics. The only statistic related to the sons of working moms was that they “are likely to spend more time caring for family members and doing household chores than are the sons of stay-at-home mothers.” That is the sole basis for the headline, “caring sons.” Surely the study contained other info relating to these sons, such as their success in life, but it appears that other info didn’t fit the narrative of the reporter or the Harvard professor.  (The link to the underlying “working paper” no longer worked.)

The judge responded:

  • Judge – Well Mike Kueber I didn’t have time to read the article I’m too busy working and raising successful daughters and caring sons.  (Wink.)

I would have been pissed about her posting something without reading it, but her concluding wink precluded that. So I meekly said:

  • “And I spend too much time responding to provocative posters produced not by real journalists, but rather by advocates.”

Another friend of the judge added – “You are correct [judge]. I didn’t have to read it either. We live it.”

So I gently chided her – “I’m as bad as anyone when it comes to confirmation bias.”

A second friend of the judge opined:

  • “I didn’t bother to read the article. I have always believed that moms working or not should help each other out and not keep trying to prove one is better than the other. I was always there to help out the mothers of Nicole’s friends. I have not been gainfully employed for over 18 years and I believe I have a very successful daughter. She is about to be published with her summer research group in a paleo-botanical journal.”

At this point, the judge decided to shift into her politically-correct thinking:

  • Judge:  You are right Tisha it takes a village!

I didn’t think Tisha was making any Hillary-esque comment about village-raising, so I attempted to clarify:

  • “Tisha, I agree with your sentiment that studies like this seem to be divisive. But then again I am quick to point to studies that show kids are much more likely to flourish if they are lucky enough to have both a mom and a dad in the house.”

Meanwhile, the judge loved her village-raising non sequitur so much that she edited into her initial posting as follows:

  • “Truth is it takes a village. Whether you work hard at home or in an office or do both!”

That reads like Biden-esque plagiarism on Hillary-esque pablum.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Be more judicious in expending effort to expose fraudulent Facebook posters when the friend doing the posting hasn’t bothered to comment on the poster.
  2. Don’t overlook the big picture of the poster, which is to suggest that feminists are raising their daughters to succeed in business and their sons to be care-givers.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

October 9, 2015

Senator Judith Zaffirini and the Ignoramus

Filed under: Culture,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 10:10 pm
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I’m a Facebook friend with progressive State Senator Judith Zaffirini. The Senator is a usually a soft-spoken, refined woman, but she recently posted something on Facebook that shocked me with its harshness. As follows:

  • IGNORAMUS: You’re of Mexican descent? You don’t look Mexican.
  • WISH I HAD RESPONDED: Are you as ignorant as you sound?

I wanted to challenge the Senator’s sentiments, but out of respect/intimidation also wanted to avoid being excessively confrontational, so after reading a slew of comments supporting her, I bootstrapped onto a comment questioning her:

  • Jeremy Holshouser: I don’t get it. When I tell people I have Mexican in me, and they question it, I don’t get offended.
  • Kueber: Jeremy, you need to be careful or you will step on a landmine. (wink emoticon)  You can guess about anyone’s heritage, I guess, but Mexican is not one of those politically-correct options. Americans do indeed come in all colors and shapes, but that doesn’t prevent people in other countries from suggesting that we look American. And, like you, I don’t get offended.
  • Jeremy: Unless he was using it as a slur, I still don’t get it. And even if it was, which I’ll never know, there are so much more important things to worry about in life. That’s just me though *shrug.
  • Ellen Sweets: Preconceived notions of what a person is or isn’t has its roots in prejudice in this neck of the woods, whether we like it or not.  Other than bad manners, such uninvited speculation is weighted and well, really socially inappropriate. Anyway, based on having lived overseas for several years, Americans are almost always identifiable for good and sometimes not-so-good reasons.
  • Kueber: Ellen, when overseas and asked if you are American, I hope you didn’t respond, “Are you as ignorant as you sound?”

Later in the comment threat, Senator Zaffirini rejoined the conversation:

  • Senator: I am actually of Mexican (mother, father), Spanish (mother), Greek (father), and Sephardic Jew (mother) descent. Our son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., is all of that AND of Italian descent (father’s side). His beautiful wife, Audrey Pieper Zaffirini, is of German descent on both sides. Can’t wait to see their children!
  • Murray Malakoff: The best traits of all of the above listed. Our age and our gender and our heritage are immutable characteristics. I am glad you did not respond to the idiocy and buffoonery of that individual lowlife bottom feeder. Way beneath your dignity Z.
  • Kueber: Murray Malakoff, are you suggesting that ethnicity comes with traits? (wink emoticon) And I also question whether we should be calling the person an idiot and buffoon. Would you make the same accusation if the question was posed by someone in another country, or do you reserve your venom for Americans?

Not wanting to piss of the Senator, I decided against asking her whether her grandchildren, who will be at least ¾ European, should be entitled to affirmative action when they apply to the University that we both love.

While at yoga practice this morning, I asked one of my best friends about this issue. He is half German and half Mexican, Jesuit educated, and the husband of an Hispanic district judge, and he quickly opined that nowadays it is inappropriate to guess anyone’s ethnicity based on the way they look.

Which reminds me of an incident a couple of weeks ago on the set of an amateur movie. I was sitting with another extra from Houston, and she showed me a picture of her husband. I responded, “Irish, huh?” She looked shocked and ask how I was able to guess that. I told her that I don’t know how to describe Irish people, but my best friend is Irish and he routinely and proudly points out Irish people to me. Over the past few years I have been able to spot lots of Irish people based on facial features (I would have bet the family farm that her husband was Irish), but I wouldn’t be able to articulate what those features are.

July 31, 2015

Cecil the Lion and Chris Duel

Filed under: Facebook,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 1:37 pm
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Cecil the lion and Chris Duel

Chris Duel is a local media personality who works well in both the political and sports arena.  I met him to do an on-line interview when I ran for the City Council and I then I bumped into him at this year’s Rock and Roll Marathon.  He has always seemed a thoughtful moderate, so I was a bit surprised this week when he posted on his Facebook wall some over-the-top support for the liberal hang-wringing/anger over Cecil the Lion:

  • Amazing how late night comics like Kimmel, Stewart & Colbert catalyze opinions & national consciousness while mainstream news usually fails.

I decided to pour some cold water over this ode of love:

  • People whose views are catalyzed by Stewart and Colbert are a small subset of America. They are creatures of cable. There’s a reason they aren’t mainstream.

One of Chris’s friends decided to put me in my place:

  • Michele Autenrieth Brown: It’s a fact: more people get their news from Facebook than any other source. And, most people don’t watch Colbert, Stewart or any others on live TV. They stream it… or watch clips on social media. They are mainstream and a result of a lack of fair and balanced coverage. They poke fun…but if you watch Stewart with frequency, you will see some fantastic interviews with the leading news makers of the day. I will miss his sense of humor and calling BS when it is so desperately needed.

After a little research on the subject, I tried to put Michele in her place:

  • Me:  Michele, Fortune magazine may have recently reported that more people get their news from Facebook, but the magazine went on to say, “Still, for most people on social media, neither Facebook nor Twitter is terribly important for their news consumption. Just 4% of Facebook users and 9% of Twitter users call their platform ‘the most important way I get news.'” I do watch Stewart frequently, and he more often than not does challenging interviews of politicians, but the first two segments of the show are almost always directed at eviscerating conservatives and conservative causes. He is an unabashed liberal and a proponent of liberal causes.

Earlier in the day, Chris addressed the Cecil the Lion matter by attacking those who had apparently challenged the shrill Cecil defenders of having screwed up priorities:

  • Chris:  As some criticize Jimmy Kimmel for criticizing the killing of Cecil, Paul Alexander posted this brilliant reply to those who are angry that Kimmel isn’t showing anger at what they’re angry about: “Let me explain something to you. Jimmy Kimmel was pissed about Cecil….because he was pissed about Cecil.  That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing he’s pissed off about….or that it’s the most important thing he’s pissed off about….or that he’s suggesting it’s the only thing YOU should be pissed off about.  It was what he was pissed off about at the moment…..so he got pissed off about it. This notion that if he’s not pissed off about exactly the same thing you’re pissed off about at exactly the same moment you’re pissed off about it that he is somehow therefore dissing you and your personal cause of the moment is ridiculous.  This notion that he shouldn’t have been pissed off about Cecil because it would have been more appropriate for him to be pissed off about what you’re pissed off about is juvenile, arrogant, illogical and is a reflection on…….YOU….not him.  You’re pissed off about something else? Fine. Go get your own network tv show and get pissed off about it. But Kimmel is under no obligation to carry your water.  It’s the Jimmy Kimmel show. It is not the “Oh, yeah, well what about (fill in the blank)?” show.  If you think his jokes fall flat, light him up. He’s far from my favorite comedian.  But this criticism he’s facing about his reaction to Cecil is bullshit.”

I’m not sure what Paul Alexander does for a living now, but when I came to San Antonio he was a TV broadcast sports anchor.  And because I occasionally see pompous posts from him on Facebook I liken him to MSNBC talk-show guy Ed Schultz, who was a TV broadcast sports anchor in ND before I moved to Texas.  Although I was tempted to call out Alexander for his ad hominem comments, which he is wont to do, I decided to keep it civil and challenge him on substance:

  • Me:  I’m not sure what unspecified complaint is being made against Kimmel because the only one I’ve heard is abortion. That isn’t some random thing to be pissed at. Rather it is closely associated with the Cecil killing because it relates to the value that we put on life. No one complains when liberals chastise conservatives for their self-proclaimed love of life while at the same time promoting capital punishment. Hypocrisy, they yell. Well, this is basically the same thing in that conservatives are charging liberals at being excessively concerned with animal life while sanctioning the termination of human fetuses. Kimmel put the dentists face and name on national TV. What would you think of putting the face and name of abortion doctors on TV?

Neither Chris nor Alexander responded.

Sandra Bland

As with most the white-cop, black-victim stories on Facebook, I initially don’t devote enough energy to learn the details (conveniently, that help me to avoid rushing to judgment), but if stories don’t go away I eventually find myself commenting.  That happened a few days ago regarding Sandra Bland when one of my Facebook friends (and law-school classmate) posted her disgust with some macho cops.  Before I provide our Facebook thread/stream-on-consciousness, I suggest these take-aways:

  1. The race card.  Liberals and the media prefer a narrative of white-cop, black-victim.  If the cop is white, then race is relevant.  If the cop isn’t white, like the Bland case, the Staten Island case, or going back to the white Hispanic neighborhood cop Zimmerman, then race isn’t mentioned.
  2. Resisting arrest. The vast majority of the incidents involve the victim resisting arrest or a lawful order.  A simple solution would be to teach people to not resist arrest.  Instead Bland was taught that she didn’t need to cooperate with a cop other than giving her name and driver’s license.
  3. Black-on-black crime.  Most people believe that cop-on-black violence in only a small fraction of black-on-black violence, yet the media provides only a small fraction of its energy in highlighting and examining the issue of black-on-black crime.  No wonder that race relations in America with a black president are the worst they’ve been in years.

I wonder if any of the people who are so critical of the policemen in these situations have every had a family member who has served in such a capacity.  I’m not sure whether I would sleep easier with a son soldiering in Afghanistan or policing in a rough part of town.  But perhaps most people aren’t as critical of the policemen as the media suggests.  Ordinary people on juries and grand juries often absolve the policemen who has already been convicted in the media.

Facebook thread:

My friendly law-school classmate:  My mama always said something along the lines of big guns on their hips make them think they are big men everywhere. wink emoticon We were talking about this troubling issue about the whole Bland video at work this week. As CNN Commentator Mark Lamont Hill stated, “I refuse to legitimize police violence against people by telling them that if they behave differently, maybe they won’t die . . . maybe you won’t end up on the ground. Yes, there are strategies we can use to survive. But the fact that we live in a world where we have to deploy strategies not to be murdered or killed or assaulted by police unlawfully is absurd.” Trooper Encinia’s attitude that he is entitled to submissive, obsequious, blind obedience to his every comment is what was so disturbing. And it would have been disturbing whether or not Sandra Bland died. His arrest of her was wrong. Plain and simple. And these kinds of arrests happen all the time, but they are not on the national news.

Kueber:  I’m not sure this is much of a story if Bland hadn’t subsequently committed suicide. And I don’t know if the arrest caused the suicide.

My friend:  Did you read what I said? “And it would have been disturbing whether or not Sandra Bland died.” It would not have been “much of a story” unless it was you or one of your kids who was arrested on this bogus stop. She was arrested because the trooper had to prove his dominance and that all should fear and respect him whether he’s being an ass or not and then she was held on a completely made-up-after-the-arrest charge and then she was held in a jail cell for 3 days and then she committed suicide. You want to argue the precipitating event. That is avoiding the point here. The point I was making in this particular post was that we should not have to bow down and kiss the feet of every single police officer no matter what they do. Surely you can agree with that.

Kueber:  A black CNN commentator used terms very similar to describe his view – i.e., you said we should not have to bow down and kiss the feet, while Marc Lamont Hill said we shouldn’t have to kiss the officer’s butt. Of course, I agree with that, but….  about a year ago, I had an experience very similar to Bland’s initial encounter.  Some gruff, old white cop was directing traffic for a massive cop-funeral procession and he suddenly started yelling at me for being in a lane that he wanted empty.  As a lawyer, I knew he was in the wrong and I was mightily tempted to elevate the argument (as lawyers are wont to do when they know they hold the winning hand), but instead I followed the cop’s belittling instructions with only enough talk-back to maintain my self-respect without escalating the matter.  Lamont Hill went on to say, “Black people have a right to assert their dignity in public.”  I felt like asserting my dignity, too, but instead I backed off and came home to write a blistering post to my Facebook wall about the unprofessional cops in SA.

Kueber:  As I thought some more about this matter, I wondered how I would feel if one of my kids was involved, and I’m not sure whether I would be more disappointed in my kid as the cop or my kid as the driver.

My friend:  Mike, spoken as a person of privilege, my dear.  [She loves to accuse me of white, male privilege.] And the reason for noting the race of the CNN commentator? Does that make his statement less or more valid? I just don’t think that the trooper would have been insisting, first of all, that you tell him why you were irritated. That kind of question is manspeak to the little ladies who are supposed to be pleasant to the big man at all times. Okay. You want to argue about whether she should have answered his question about why she was irritated? Or why she wouldn’t put out her cigarette? Or why she was scared of getting out of her car when he was acting like a bonkers macho pig? And I don’t mean pig as in police-speak but in macho-speak. And let me tell you that I actually do have friends who are police officers. And I would be very, very disappointed if they acted like this. And I would be very unhappy if my kids argued with a police officer because I want them to live. Pretty stunning support for why this was such a bad arrest.

A friend of my friend:  Tell it, girl. I’m with you 100%. It seems so obvious to me. We shouldn’t be pointing at Sandra Bland’s behavior as causing this disgrace, both her treatment and the racial hatred that animates so many people in Texas. I can’t even imagine living my entire life with the fear and outrage she must have felt, while smiling and being a “good girl,”

Kueber:  Refusing to look at Sandra Blank’s behavior reminds me of the Bush-43 comment about the soft bigotry of low expectations. “Scared of getting out of her car!” R u kidding?

My friend:  And I am not refusing to look at Bland’s behavior. I looked at it. I watched the video several times. And he had absolutely no reason to threaten to drag her out of her car. She had broken no law that required that kind of response. She hadn’t even “cussed” at him yet, if you want to consider that an arrestable offense WHICH IT IS NOT. Her later outraged response to his outrageous behavior was understandable to me. Not the wisest or most Godly behavior. But understandable. Perhaps if she had licked his boots after she had offended him BY HONESTLY AND DIRECTLY ANSWERING HIS QUESTION AS TO WHY SHE WAS IRRITATED by his bogus stop, then maybe she would have just been humiliated and not arrested. Yeah, I can sure see why he had to abuse, humiliate, and throw her on the ground FOR PULLING OVER BECAUSE HE WAS APPROACHING FAST BEHIND HER and failing to signal a lane change. We need to stop trying to be apologists for what is clearly bogus behavior by the trooper. His arrest warrant was even more bogus because he knew he did not have any real justification for his behavior. NONE. And every time someone supports this arrest by blaming her “behavior,” they add another nail in the coffin of our civil liberties. Now, to go back to the beginning of this string of comments, my post was about how Encinia’s behavior and reactions are reprehensible regardless of whether Sandra Bland died. And yes, this is getting publicity because she died. It is a shame that someone has to die before this kind of issue is discussed. And for those who are posting all those “I support the police” statements, the implication is that police are infallible. They are not. They have hard, scary jobs. I deeply admire the ones who do it well. And when the others screw up they should be called on it. Because they have scary power. So we the people have to make sure they use that power fairly and wisely. And off of my soapbox now. G’nite.

Kueber:  I watched the video for 17 minutes and the crux of the matter seems to be when he asked her to put out her cigarette and she refused.  Although she had the right to refuse that request, he had the right to ask her to get out of her car, and she had no right to refuse that.  From that point on, most legal experts agree that the officer was entitled to take the actions he did, even though Brand sounded confident that she was entitled to sit in her car and say nothing other than “you’re doing all of this because of a traffic ticket.”  This altercation didn’t happen because of the lane change; it happened because of how Bland responded to the traffic stop.  Encinia did not threaten to drag Bland out of her car until she refused his polite request that she get out of her car. You mentioned the danger to our civil liberties; do you consider an individual’s right to immediately challenge an overreaching authority figure (cop/fireman, teacher/principal, captain of ship or plane) to be an important civil liberty? Both you and Lamont Hill express your distaste for kissing the ass/boots of an officer, but I wonder what that has to do with an officer politely asking you to put out your cigarette. And finally, I noticed that the officer’s name is rarely used, and I wonder if that is because it doesn’t fit the preferred liberal/media narrative of the privileged white authority figure abusively dominating the oppressed black person. Reminds me of the media’s need to characterize George Zimmerman as a white Hispanic.

July 27, 2015

Jeb Bush and single mothers

Filed under: Culture,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 3:31 am
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A couple of years ago, a Facebook friend posted a poster bragging that single mothers had raised the two best presidents of modern times, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  She got mad at me when I countered that their mothers may have been divorced multiple times, but neither was single long.  Furthermore, in the case of President Obama, he was co-raised by his grandparents.

Last week, a similar poster appeared on Facebook along with a criticism of Jeb Bush for something he wrote two decades ago in a book, Profiles in Character. In a chapter titled “The Restoration of Shame,” Bush apparently blamed the “irresponsible conduct” of births to unmarried women on a flagging sense of community ridicule and shaming.

When Bush was recently asked by MSNBC about the passage, he responded, “My views have evolved over time, but my views about the importance of dads being involved in the lives of children hasn’t changed at all. In fact, since 1995 … this book was a book about cultural indicators and the country has moved in the wrong direction. We have a 40-plus percent out-of-wedlock birth rate.  It’s a huge challenge for single moms to raise children in the world that we’re in today and it hurts the prospects, it limits the possibilities of young people being able to live lives of purpose and meaning.”

NY Times columnist Charles Blow recently challenged Bush’s position and instead opined a two-prong solution:

  1. First, we should seek to reduce the level of unintended pregnancies in this country. This means that we must wrestle earnestly with poverty, as well as make a more comprehensive sex education and a full range of contraceptive options available, regardless of income.  People should become parents on purpose and not by accident.
  2. Second, we have to examine how we have used the law as an instrument to push unwed fathers out of homes, particularly poor ones, rather than encourage them to stay.

I agree with both men.  Blow’s solutions involve government activity, and that is especially appropriate here since many policy analysts believe that the government’s welfare policy played a large role in causing the disappearance of the dad from many families.  But Bush’s concern for cultural decay is also appropriate because government policy alone does not dictate morality and values.

July 18, 2015

The laissez-faire style of parenting

Filed under: Facebook,Parenting — Mike Kueber @ 7:14 pm
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Laissez faire is generally thought of as an economic system in which private parties are able to act without government interference, but the term is also more broadly defined as “a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering.”

I grew up in a community of laissez-faire parenting.  Kids were taught that they could be anything they wanted to be, but the community neither excessively admired the overachievers nor meanly scorned the underachievers.

This week a Facebook friend showed a different style of parenting.  Jeff Webster, a former city councilman and current business executive, posted the following:

  • JW – I have been told you can hire someone to help with college applications and essays for HS Seniors. Anybody have any suggestions?

Several of Jeff’s friends provided some useful, encouraging information, but Frank Montemayor took a different tack:

  • FM – Just my opinion, but if my kid can’t do that solo, maybe college isn’t for them…. Good luck.
  • JW – There is art to applications these days. Some tips and best practices. Just like professionals getting advice. Not like when I went off to college.
  • FM – I have been told by my kids that I am a bit gruff, but I put it in their court. :); so far it’s worked….
  • JW – Using that analogy. ..I guess we should not hire tutors for school or trainers for basketball. LoL.

Several people congratulated Jeff, but no one seconded Frank’s viewpoint, so I did:

  • MK – I’m with you, Frank, but I’m a bit gruff, too. I have a son who to this day believes that he didn’t get a football scholarship because I refused to produce a highlights tape to send to college coaches, while his friend’s dad did this (as well as camps/trainers) and got a D-1 scholarship. There’s an arms race going on!

Frank and Jeff civilly exchanged a few more thoughts:

  • FM – Not the same thing in my book… An application and a couple of paragraphs…by high school, should be able to do that….again, just my opinion.  It’s not like I didn’t care…I proofread it for grammar and told her if it made sense…
  • JW – Frank…we normally agree on most things. However, there is an art to the process now…not just fill in the blanks a couple of paragraphs. To each his own. My job is to get my son in a good university. ..not worry about how others get in.

Jeff’s strategy is not really a new one.  Decades ago, I remember my ex-wife wanting to get our pre-teenager sons involved in certain activities because “it will look good on their resumes.”  I didn’t like the strategy then, and I don’t like it now.  But I don’t doubt that the Websters of the world will win some battles because of this characteristic.

Incidentally, when one of my sons was applying for a medical residency, he asked me to help him with his personal statement and I eventually did some significant editing.  Later, when he interviewed with the Mayo Clinic, they told him that they were especially impressed with his personal statement and they ultimately selected him for their Emergency Medicine residency.  And he lived happily ever after.

So I understand the Webster philosophy.  Maybe he has more energy than I did.

July 16, 2015

Cutting to the chase of political correctness

Filed under: Culture,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 12:31 am
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When I was running for the SA City Council, my biggest issue was the outrageous employment benefits given to the police/fire.  One of my friends suggested on multiple occasions that I soften this criticism at candidate forums by first describing the appreciation I felt for the people who staff these first-responder positions.  But in the heat of a stump speech, I invariably failed to soften my spiel and instead cut right to the chase – i.e., the police/fire unions were taking advantage of the city.

My tendency to cut to the chase manifested itself again today on Facebook when I criticized a poster from a state senator calling for more respectful language.  Senator Zaffirini proposed:

  • WISH MORE PERSONS USED RESPECTFUL LANGUAGE. This includes not describing a person by a condition, illness, or disability and not joking about them. Examples follow:
    • Say, “the person who is blind,” NOT “the blind person.”
    • Say, “the patient with diabetes,” NOT “the diabetic patient.”
    • Say, “the student with an intellectual disability,” and do NOT use the “R” word.
    • Say, “the person under guardianship,” NOT “the ward.”
    • Do NOT say, “I’m having a senior moment” or “My Alzheimer’s must be kicking-in.” Such conditions are serious and certainly not humorous for those who have them (or their loved ones).
    • Do NOT say, “She drank until she was cross-eyed” or “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Such statements demean persons who have strabismus or one eye.

If I had learned a lesson from my friend, I might have first said something nice to the senator about being respectful and even noted that I had recently learned that autistic kids (sic) sometimes take “mainstream classes,” not “normal classes.”  But instead I cut right to the chase:

  • “I think most of these examples are unnecessary tweaks that produce stilted speech. What’s wrong with “ward”? I agree with the so-called “R” word, but didn’t realize that the term had been become so bad that it can’t be spelled out in polite society.”

Senator Zaffirini responded – “Mike: Indeed, the “R” word is anathema among all of us who champion the needs and interests of persons with intellectual disabilities. Using “ward” is like calling a person “chattel.””

Following this exchange, I did a bit more research and learned that the senator’s suggestion were based on a new strategy in the disability community to encourage the use of “people-first language.”  According to Syracuse University Disability Center:

  • People-first” or “person-first” language is a way of describing disability that involves putting the word “person” or “people” before the word “disability” or the name of a disability, rather than placing the disability first and using it as an adjective.  Some examples of people-first language might include saying “person with a disability,” “woman with cerebral palsy,” and “man with an intellectual disability.”  The purpose of people-first language is to promote the idea that someone’s disability label is just a disability label—not the defining characteristic of the entire individual.

Bottom line – I recognize that I have a sensitivity deficit and am willing to consider reasonable modifications to my speech pattern (adjectives placed before nouns) on a case-by-case basis in order to avoid offending reasonable people.

July 15, 2015

Shifting the goalposts

Filed under: Facebook,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:07 pm
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Progressives and liberals are continually posting graphics on Facebook re: the accomplishments of President Obama.  Yesterday my cousin Pam posted the latest such chart from Occupy Democrats, updated July 13, 2015.  According to the chart, the key metrics that reveal Obama’s greatness are as follows:

  • The Dow
  • The S&P
  • GDP growth
  • Unemployment
  • Deficit percentage of GDP
  • Consumer confidence

I suggested to my cousin that the chart was misleading because of two problems:

  • Seems a bit misleading to compare Obama’s numbers to the bottom of the Great Recession. And since when did progressives start thinking that the Dow and S&P were important metrics of presidential success?

When my cousin responded by pointing out that the starting date (January 9, 2009) was Obama’s inauguration date, I countered:

  • That’s like Ann Richard’s joke that George W. was born on third base and thought he had hit a triple. But getting back to my major point, this chart is a major shifting of the goalposts for the anointed one. Surely, you didn’t elect him president in order to increase the stock market or shore up consumer confidence. Most Americans wanted him to strengthen the middle class, reduce poverty, deal with our illegal immigration problem, and make health insurance affordable. His only ostensible success is ObamaCare, which made health insurance affordable mostly by turning it into a federal welfare program.

I think a fairer chart would comprise the following metrics:

  1. Median income, adjusted for inflation
  2. Rate of poverty.
  3. Number of illegal immigrants in America
  4. Percentage of Americans who can afford to buy health insurance

According to FactCheck.org, median income has gone down and rate of poverty has gone up.   The number of illegal immigrants appears to have plateaued because of several demographic forces (e.g., the tepid American economy is not as great a magnet, while the number of people in other countries who are attracted to America is down).  And finally, CNN says the percentage of uninsured Americans has gone down from 18% to 12% under ObamaCare.  According to the NY Times, 86% of the 11.7 million Americans with ObamaCare received a government subsidy. According to US News, ObamaCare added 10.8 million people to Medicaid so that now almost 70 million people are covered under Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

Some progressives might argue that President Obama has been hamstrung by a Republican Congress, but that argument fails to appreciate that Americans turned the Congress from blue to red because of its antipathy toward ObamaCare.  Indeed, even Massachusetts replaced Teddy Kennedy with a Republican senator in an unsuccessful effort to defeat ObamaCare.

Based on President Obama’s achievements, I don’t think the progressives should be dusting off a place on Mt. Rushmore for him.

July 6, 2015

On Language

Filed under: Education,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 9:29 pm
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Beginning in the 70s, Bill Safire was a political columnist for the NY Times who wrote a special Sunday column titled, “On Language.”  In the Sunday column, he discussed word etymology and usage.

Safire was a favorite of mine for 30 years (he died in 2009), and I thought of him today when I came across a couple of interesting terms:

  • High-quality pre-k.
  • Racist

The first term is invariably used whenever a political entity argues in favor of expanded pre-k, as San Antonio politicians did recently with Pre-K 4 SA.  Not surprisingly, no one wants to expand low-quality pre-k even though America seems to be flooded with it.  Indeed, when I tried to find the distinction between these two types of pre-k, I quickly learned the following poorly-kept secret from an article in the Washington Post:

  • Whenever policymakers talk about universal preschool — and that is happening more frequently these days — they always say that it must be “high quality,” but they never explain what that actually means.

The modifier is especially useful for policymakers to refute any of the numerous studies that show pre-k to be ineffective.  Ineffective pre-k is by definition “low-quality pre-k”; whereas, the progressive politician is asking voters to fund high-quality pre-k (to reduce inequality). How can an egalitarian say no to that?

The term racist was used on Facebook to describe Donald Trump for retweeting the following comment:

  • “Jeb Bush has to like Mexican illegals because of his wife.”

When I suggested to my Facebook friend (a grad of Notre Dame law school) that there was nothing racist about the tweet, he responded:

  • “come on mike…you’re way too smart to stoop to something like that…first of all, trump is referring to a mexican-american, and secondly, he assumes she is illegal…how much more racist can his assertion be?”

I responded as follows:

  • “First of all, Richard, Donald Trump didn’t say anything. He merely retweeted, without comment, what someone else said, kind of like you did in posting this article from Deadstate. And if we are going to infer what Donald Trump was implying, I suggest that he is implying the well-documented fact that Mexican-Americans are generally much more in favor on granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants.  And surely, no one has suggested that Jeb’s wife is illegal.”

I didn’t, however, object to the term racist being used to discuss alleged bigotry against Mexicans. I withheld my objection after reading several online discussions on whether the term racism is appropriate when referring to ethnicities or nationalities.  Although most commenters believe that Hispanics or Mexicans are not racial terms, and therefore believe bigotry is more technically precise and accurate, there were a couple who suggested the meaning of “race” had expanded to include ethnicity or nationality.

I am confident that Bill Safire would not approve of this expansion.  He loved precision in words and felt that flabby usage predicted flabby thinking.  I agree.

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