Mike Kueber's Blog

November 3, 2016

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  Little did I know how outdated, and offensive, this term had become.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.

 

 

 

 

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August 20, 2015

Maryanne Trump Barry

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:00 am
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The New York Times today did a profile on Maryanne Trump Barry, older sister of The Donald. In the article, she comes across as a serious, respectable person who was a homemaker who went to law school and thrived. Eventually, she became a success lawyer before becoming a federal judge, and I was impressed.  But, because I hate political correctness, I loved her comment from 1992 about sexual harassment:

  • “Professional hypochondriacs,” the speaker [Trump] said, were making it hard for “men to be themselves” and were turning “every sexy joke of long ago, every flirtation,” into “sexual harassment,” thus ruining “any kind of playfulness and banter. Where has the laughter gone?” As for boorish behavior, the best way to disarm it was with “humor and gentle sarcasm,” or better yet, that “potent weapon” of a “feminine exterior and a will of steel.”

That sounds like my kind of woman.

July 25, 2015

Colin Cowherd

Filed under: Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 1:20 pm
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Earlier this week, radio talk-show guy Colin Cowherd was making an argument about how simple the game of baseball was when he offered as supporting evidence the fact that most of the major leaguers were from the Dominican Republic, a country noteworthy for its weak education system.

I believe Cowherd’s statement, although irrelevant, is true, and Cowherd has since provided objective proof of it.  But it is also, in the mainstream media, something that is not said in polite company.  Therefore, ESPN has taken Cowherd off the air.

I don’t envy being a radio talk-show guy, especially those employed by politically-correct corporations.  These guys are supposed to be edgy, but their livelihood is at risk if they say anything that offends an important stakeholder of the corporation.

p.s., if I had a dollar for every time I heard a northeast liberal make a snarky comment about the intelligence of southerners, I could retire 🙂

July 23, 2015

Larry Summers vindicated?

Filed under: Culture,Education,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:13 pm
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In 2005, at a conference on diversifying the science and engineering workforce, Harvard president Larry Summers proffered three potential explanations for why women were underrepresented as professors in the highest science and engineering positions:

  1. High-powered job hypothesis (i.e., women were distracted by family obligations)
  2. Different availability of aptitude at the high end (test results showed that men tended to have both the highest and the lowest scores)
  3. Different socialization and patterns of discrimination in the search and placement

In his conclusion, Summers explicitly attempted to provoke further discussion by suggesting that different aptitude was the dominant cause, saying he would like nothing better than to be proved wrong.

But, instead of proving Summers wrong, the politically-correct police charged him with sexism and careless scholarship.  After a year-long trial in the media, Summers was forced to resign as president of Harvard.  And when his name was floated as a potential Secretary of the Treasury under President Obama, this brouhaha was used to sink his prospects.

I thought of Larry Summers today when I read an article in fivethirtyeight.com about six American boys winning the International Math Olympiad.  The article pointed out that boys have dominated not only the American team but also teams from other countries ever since we joined the competition in 1974.  Eighty-eight percent of the six-person American teams have been entirely boys, and the teams from other countries average 0.5 girls per six-person team.

Joe Klein once defined politically incorrect as a statement that is true, but not proper to be uttered in public.  The lynching of Larry Summers seems to be an excellent example of the politically-correct police on steroids.  Or, as Summers said, I would love to be proved wrong.

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.

January 19, 2015

Ivy Taylor and the Oscars under attack

This past weekend, a progressive female Facebook friend posted an article on SA’s black mayor, Ivy Taylor, and blasted her with, “I really can’t stand her. At all.” The article was titled, “Mayor Taylor says political correctness is ‘frustrating.’”

You can imagine my surprise at my friend’s antipathy toward our mayor because I thought progressive females would be highly partial toward a female who was the city’s first black mayor. After reading the article, however, I understood her displeasure. Namely, Mayor Taylor, when serving on the City Council last year, had voted against a gay-rights ordinance, which was one of my friend’s pet issues. (Her kids’ father has become a woman, and she fully supports him.)

In the article, Mayor Taylor defended (inarticulately, according to the article) her opposition to the ordinance and talked of abhorring political correctness. I have often taken a similar position in this blog re: political correctness in a wide assortment of contexts, and I was thinking of collecting them for a single post, but as I was doing some research, I stumbled on a new example in the NY Times today.

The paper’s media critic, David Carr, complained in an article headlined, “Why the Oscars omission of ‘Selma’ matters.” I initially was confused by the headline because I thought Selma had been nominated, but as I read the article I learned that Carr was upset because, although Selma had been nominated, the lead actor and director hadn’t. Carr then proceeded to criticize these omissions, not based on their merits, but rather because:

  • But yes, it still matters. The news continues to be full of all manner of pathology and victimization involving black Americans, and when a moment comes to celebrate both a historical giant and a pure creative achievement, it merits significant and broad recognition.”

According to Carr, it wasn’t enough that a black film – Twelve Years a Slave – won Best Movie last year. Unless the Academy continues to recognize black films, it will appear that it is merely “ticking off boxes.” Under that rationale, America will need to follow up President Obama’s election with another black president just to show it wasn’t merely ticking off a box.

Carr’s comment that most agitated me was as follows:

  • And no club in the United States — over the last several years, the academy has been around 93 percent white, 76 percent male and an average of 63 years old — is in more need of new blood than Hollywood.”

That reminds me of the current efforts of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to force “diversity” into the Silicon Valley. According to them, the tech industry will be vastly improved if it had fewer whites and Asians, and more women, Hispanics, and African-Americans.

But when you consider which industries in America are vibrant world leaders, the first that come to mind are the movie industry and technology. I suggest that those are the last places we want to see increased progressive-government meddling.

September 9, 2014

Danny Ferry and political correctness

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

August 22, 2014

Political correctness rears its ugly head

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 24, 2013

R is the new L word

Several months ago, I blogged about the difference between a liberal and a progressive.   As I noted in the blog post, there is arguably a distinction, but many people consider a progressive to be a liberal who simply refuses to be associated with a term that has been thoroughly discredited.

Apparently, the same thing can be said about the term “redistribution.”  According to a column in yesterday’s NY Times, titled “Don’t Dare Call the Health Law ‘Redistribution,’” the White House is so averse to the term that President Obama hasn’t uttered it for 18 months.    His last use of the term then was the following during an Ohio campaign speech:

  • Understand this is not a redistribution argument.  This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people. This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody’s got a fair shot.”

The Times’ column also described an important presidential appointment that wasn’t made because a prospective appointee has said the following almost 20 years earlier:

  • A commitment to economic justice necessarily implies a commitment to the redistribution of economic resources, so that the poor and the dispossessed are more fully included in the economic system.”

Surely, that sentiment is shared by most progressives and liberals in America, but it is also untenable in politics.  That reflects the fact that America, even in the age of Obama, remains a center-right electorate.  Ironically, political correctness typically restrains conservatives, but in this instance it restrains liberals and progressives.

Coincidentally, Time magazine columnist Joel Stein authored a humorous column this week that also examined redistribution.    The column, titled “My 3% Problem,” made fun of the fact that the top 1% (or in Stein’s case, the top 3%) “feel bad for the 97%… but not enough to give my money away….  I want them to know that I vote for candidates who will raise my taxes because I want a more just society and not because I’ve noticed that even when they win, they never succeed in raising taxes.”  This guy is sometimes Jon Stewart funny.

Where do I stand on income redistribution?  Like most conservatives, I abhor the thought of income redistribution because, instead of increasing the size of the economic pie, it simply re-divides it and likely results in a smaller pie.  But like Joel Stein, I also abhor the income inequality in America.  Instead of being motivated by Obama’s refrain of “spread the wealth around,” I think America needs to develop policies that help the underprivileged to rise up in the modern world economy.  And I think taxing policies should be carefully crafted to reflect one’s ability to pay.  Finally, the estate tax should be utilized to reduce the extent of intergenerational transfers of Rockefeller-esque wealth.

October 31, 2013

Political correctness taken to a ridiculous extreme

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 7:44 pm
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An article in today’s SAEN reported that a university executive in San Antonio had apologized for “unprofessional and inappropriate” language that he used in a private meeting.  The language was made public by an individual who surreptitiously and illegally taped the meeting and published it on You Tube.

According to the article, the OLLU miscreant uttered the following phrases:

  • In one recording, Bisking refers to a student as “the angry black woman.” In another, he refers to an employee, saying, “I’m having the brand-new African-American dean and Latino department chair tell the minority female, ‘You ain’t worth a (expletive).’”  He later adds, “I’m hoping she’ll quit.”

I provided the SAEN with the following online comment about the article:

  • What was the race-related comment – “angry black female” or “minority woman”?  Whichever, it could have just as easily been described as a race and gender-related comment.  Is it wrong to describe an individual as black or minority?  If so, then perhaps an individual shouldn’t be described as a man or woman, either.  This is an example of political correctness taken to a ridiculous extreme. 

P.S. The next day, this administrator resigned his administrative positions, while retaining his faculty position.

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