Politics, culture wars and all that

I’d like to give a prediction about the upcoming midterms but..well, cannot. For one, the abortion rights issue could be a game changer, and yes, the President’s party often loses seats, many of the losses come from Congressional Districts where the incumbent party overperformed in the Presidential Election due to coat-tails…and we didn’t see coat-tails in 2020.

It is as if the old models might not be relevant.

And, contrary to popular opinion, Biden has not done that bad:

Still, I tend to agree with this:

But the culture stuff might end up killing us. Observe:

Now, the NPR listeners/UU Church/Liberal Arts crowd are saying how she just “OWNED” or “Schooled” Sen. Hawley. But to the average voter who isn’t immersed in that lingo….her answers sounded..ridiculous.

Yes, of course, Sen. Hawley was playing politics with his “simple question”; I am not naive enough to think he was asking in good faith. He WANTED to pick that fight for the cameras.

And what a better foil than a Berkeley prof with nose rings…

On a college campus, “calling out” someone as being “transphobic..etc.” wins you points, but it flops in the public.

You see something different going on here:

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was going up the Capitol steps when a professional provocateur (a real jerk) decided to make remarks about her behind (and throw in an anti-choice remark).

He posted the video but it was taken down from Twitter. But I saw it because ….the Representative POSTED IT HERSELF!!!!!!!

Why would she do that?????

Then she posted this:

In the second video, she appears rattled but didn’t appear so in the first. Given that she was not exactly sheltered in her previous life…my guess is that she is scoring points with the “me too” crowd. But it does make her look easily rattled..I’d imagine a leader quality woman just saying “oh, grow up” to the professional jerk.

But, here I am talking about this sort of stuff when there are more serious things to ponder:

That is huge; there is a negative impact in the lives of women. And there is this:

I support BLM, but yes, sometimes the armed person in a standoff who was trying to kill/had killed others is a black guy. This in no way negatives that black guys are sometimes unfairly profiled or treated poorly.

But not every police shooting should be an incident to be hijacked by “activists” with an agenda.

Another day with good old delta

Yes, omicron has arrived but right now, the dominant strain is still delta and we are at 18.36 percent positivity (as of 29 December). We are getting creamed.

Yeah, we sold our NFL tickets; can’t risk it at my age and with my elderly wife.

I know that the CDC is catching heat; the argument is that they are recommending something that people might actually follow rather than something safer that they won’t.

I can’t defend everything they recommended; for example my wife followed their “vaccinated adults don’t need to mask” and ended up with a breakthrough that required BAM treatment (late July).

But some of what they said “back when” was reasonable advice at the time. Example: the older variants of covid required a larger dose (viral load) to infect, so cloth masks did provide some protection..and they still do a decent job of filtering droplets released by the wearer.

But sure, now that delta came a long, you need a better mask (NK-95, KF-94) for personal protection.

I admit that I’ve become a bit bitter. Last year, I was whiny about being toward the back of the vaccination line.

Now, my anger is mostly at the COVIDIOTS who won’t get the shot, now with those who won’t mask in indoor public places and institutions who won’t create and enforce vaccine mandates.

And yes, I am still steamed at liberals who, back in the summer of 2020 were all “no large gatherings, unless it is a protest we approve of” and those who wildly exaggerated the efficacy of vaccines by using statistics in a very stupid way.

Yes, it does turn out that outdoor stuff wasn’t that bad, but one needs consistency when one makes recommendations. Liberals were downright hypocritical at the time and, well, why would a conservative trust what we say?

There is a ton of blame to go around.

But there are those doing things right.

Workout notes

Pull ups were harder than usual: weight gain? Cold? (29 F)

5-5-5-5, 10, 5-5-10-5-5 (chins, wide grip included)

push ups: 30 sissy, walk 10 (hard), 10 deficit, 10 legs up the steps (touch the chest).

Deadlifts: 10 x 134, 10 x 184, 10 x 224, 10 x 244 (all low); technique is improving a bit. Felt slight back tingles and decided to end with the 10 x 244; it was the best I’ve done at 10 reps and 244 is more than what I could do in Jan, 2020.

On being taken seriously, etc.

I waded into a couple of somewhat heated discussions on Twitter.

One involved Steven Pinker, who, while loved by many, is absolutely despised by many of the Twitter woke.

I was amused; someone referred him to as a pop-writer and I reminded him that Pinker is in the National Academy of Science…(he is: linguistics) and stated that he was far more accomplished and smarter than the vast majority of his critics.

OMG, was there some butthurt!!! I love it.

Sure, Pinker often writes pop stuff over things not in his area, just like Paul Krugman does. And I am sure that some of it (at least) is an over simplification and he probably gets some things wrong, or at least gives a misleading impression.

And yes, some very smart people ..even Nobel Laureates in physics…have gone full crackpot. So the probability that some of his mediocre (or worse) critics are right and he is wrong is non-zero. But I know which way I’d bet.

And, IMHO, that is just reality.

I see an issue that I don’t know much about. On one hand, this proven smart guy, who is outside his specialty, makes a case saying “it is probably this way”..and some nobody says he is wrong.

I don’t have access to a CV..and unless I see the critic has at least some respect in said area, I am not going to take them seriously. …no more than I’d take “COVID is an overblown hoax” nonsense seriously.

Deeply gross?? What is “deeply gross” is how people want to be taken seriously when they’ve given no objective reason to do so.

Oh well…

The other issue was this one:

I had pointed out that in some cultures it is extra polite to take on a “sir, Madame”, etc. and of course the loudmouths threw a fit.

It is no skin off of my nose; I was merely pointing out that this could be awkward, but the noisy were not having any of it.

In my honest opinion, IF your goal is to win more acceptance into the broader community, you probably aren’t in a position to DEMAND it or to order everyone to bend to you..and your saying something doesn’t make it correct.

And speaking of Chappelle:

Streisand effect: Dave Chappelle threw shade at Hannah Gadsby so I decided to watch one of her specials on Netflix. I was expecting to be OUTRAGED. Instead I nodded off and fell asleep. Woke up, watched a short Bill Maher clip from a recent show and laughed so loudly that B wanted to know what was up (it was “woke Halloween Movies”; clip is elsewhere on my wall. I am not saying Gadsby was incompetent; her stage presence and delivery were pretty good. And some of her stuff was funny (her joke about making fun of Americans was “still punching up, but perhaps for not much longer”..But for me, the best “thought comedy” is the stuff where they say something that perhaps you thought of or felt but hadn’t put into words….even if the feelings aren’t the most noble ones.

Now, I would NOT say that Gadsby “wasn’t funny” but I would say that her humor really isn’t designed for me. There are all sorts of instances of that: sports specific jokes, discipline specific jokes, etc.

Another asymmetry

The clip is mostly asking Democrats to “dial it back.” Yes, he acknowledges the rage from the right wing is more shrill and more intense.

But there is something. The block of rabid, right wing MAGAs is, frankly, larger than any block the Democrats have. And it seems that much that comes from liberals (at least on social media) is “oh, you believe this…I HATE YOU…don’t you KNOW how BAD I HATE you!!!” and that is supposed to convince someone.

If you are in a tiny minority…no matter how righteous your cause is (or you THINK it is), rage will not change anyone’s mind. It is the wrong game plan, FOR US.

Maher goes on to note how it is NOT about “the issues.”

You can’t win over people who HATE YOU…and we seem to seek out such hate. There is an asymmetry here.

Now about the “National Divorce”: I want one. But I don’t want 2 countries. I want THREE. I don’t want MAGA-land (and their insistence that COVID is a hoax, or overblown…denial of science). I don’t want woke-a-stan either where even BRIDGE OPERATORS (they make a draw bridge go up and down) have to pursue equity and social justice

and any semblance of merit is called “white supremacy” and sex is a social construct. I don’t want the police abolished.

I want a third country which has a mix of people who can at least agree on some kernel of reality and have arguments/discussions on how to proceed from there.

Olympics for me..

Yes, I know, television viewership of the Olympics is down. There are several reasons for that (confusion with how to watch, time zones, and yes, the crushing pandemic)

Personally, I loved it when NBC used their US platform (MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Sports, etc) to give you a wide variety of stuff; I loved following, say, the boxing that way..and I didn’t miss the mainstream prime time nonsense with all of the “human interest” stories taking the place of, well, the sports.

This year, mostly I’ve watched Youtube clips “after the fact” to get highlights.

And what do I want to see?

I want to see genetic outliers who have dedicated their lives to be able to do awesome stuff and then deliver:

For the US readers: 491.6 lbs. IN THE SNATCH, 584 in the clean and jerk. MONSTER weights! For those who want to know: he went 6 for 6 for his lifts (lifters get three attempts in each lift)

Snatch: 208, 215, 223
Jerk: 245, 255, 265.

But..what do I see on my feed? I see stuff about the transwoman lifter (who failed to complete the necessary lifts to even get a score), or emotional meltdowns, athlete political statements, etc.

I watch the Olympics to see the exceptional. If I want to see mundane to incompetent political statements, I can go on Twitter. I can watch emotional meltdowns and failure in my own life.

No, I am NOT criticizing the athletes for having human sentiments, desires, and, well, lives. I am not criticizing them for expressing such things.

I am talking about what gets covered in the media; what I want to see in the press; what I want emphasized. The athletes are exceptional for their sporting feats and that is why I tune in, when I can.

Public scrutiny of the athletes Now, that is a tough one. We become fans because they are outlier-level good. Another example: here are the women superheavyweights putting up some eye-popping totals:

Sara Robles scored a bronze for the US.

Li Wenwen of China won the gold with 140/180 = 320, which are the sort of numbers that would make a D1 football lineman proud. (not quite 400 lb in the clean and jerk!)

Sorry..I got excited..back to scrutiny. The athletes are critiqued by the fans, and given that most of us (myself included) are light years from being elite at sports, the critiques are often, well, incompetent.

But..many of us do have questions.

On the US team (I won’t mention names), one lifter was in the following situation: they were competing in a weight class that was well above their body weight (20 lb!) because that lifter was the best that country’s team had to offer; so that lifter stepped up to the challenge. Kudos and respect!

That lifter also trained very, very hard. Kudos and respect again!

But in the days leading to the competition, said lifter was on tik-tok making “my goodie bag is awesome” and “look how good my butt looks in my Olympic underwear (a genuine perk..and yes, tik-tok deleted it for a violation)”. So, was said lifter really in the correct mental space to compete? Evidently not; that lifter needed three tries to make their clean and jerk opener which was below their recent international meet best…and was in tears…and yes, got some public criticism and was NOT happy about said criticism.

So..the price of being followed is being subject to “did they really take it seriously and do their best” type criticism. Most of us do not live with such scrutiny from the public.

Was this lifter a failure? Well, top 10 in the Olympics plus golds and silver in recent international competition (like the Asian, European, African or Pan Am games level) in a weight class above their own is hardly failure..it is extremely successful, by any reasonable standard. But they certainly weren’t at their mental best for the Olympics.

Back to the mundane Yeah, watching these strong guys did NOT make me stronger…I still suck, as bad as ever.

Last night: a tiny bit of shoulder pain, some butt stiffness.

Morning: pull ups: 10 singles, 2 sets of 10, 4 sets of 5. Ok.

Rehab plus twist cruches

push ups: 3 sets of 20, better range of motion (went ok)

deficit dead lifts (standing on 1 inch plates to get that deeper squat)

10 x 134, 10 x 184, 11 x 224 (PB for deficit)

shoulder presses (seated) focused on shoulder blade squeeze: 3 sets of 10 x 44 (I know..just the bar, for now..felt it in the upper back (good), slight sensation in the bad part of the shoulder)

2 sets of wobble board squats.

Videos: yes, some shirtless shots to see my shoulder blades and deltoid muscles; I wanted to see if I am using the “correct” muscles in the “correct” way. I KNOW those are highly non-flattering; I am not happy with how soft and floppy my body is.

Back to the push ups: better range of motion and it gets better the longer the set goes on; better depth toward the end. That is the opposite from pull ups where my final reps are too short (during my sets of 10)

Transgender athletes debate

One of the more contentious debates that I see are those about allowing “male to female” transgender to compete in female divisions.

What I find astonishing is that are are some who have very loud voices who honestly do not understand what a statistical advantage biological males have.

Let’s look at weight lifting.

This female lifter is Olympic caliber and she recently clean and jerked 300+ lb in practice. Yes, that is stronger than the vast majority of gym-bros and would be respectable for, say, a D3 lineman.

Pretty impressive! But look at how a top male weightlifter handles that amount of weight:

Yes, I know, more than most, how heavy that is: (handles are 4 inches higher than a neutral grip; some trap bars have 8 inch handles). I busted my gut to get this to my waist.

Introspection is hard…

Matt Yglessias article:

“But the politics of these framings are perverse. It’s particularly perverse because the kinds of people who spend a lot of time thinking about race from a progressive point of view are precisely the people who in other contexts are inclined to emphasize what a big deal racism has historically been in shaping American politics.

That’s why liberals from FDR and LBJ to Obama tried to downplay it when possible — they were trying to win and help people! After all, there’s no special features of unions or Medicaid or the minimum wage that leads them to close racial gaps — all egalitarian economic policy has this effect.

My suspicion is that this is a weird tic of campus politics that has followed graduates into the professional arena where they unconsciously started deploying it in less appropriate contexts. If you’re in a dorm at a fancy college and you can convince an administrator that something is racist, the administrator will probably put a stop to it. At the same time, “this is bad for poor people” just isn’t going to get you far as a campus argument. After all, these schools more or less openly auction off a number of admissions slots to wealthy donors (while, of course, practicing affirmative action to keep things diverse) so they can hardly take a hard line on class politics.

But electoral politics in a democracy isn’t like that. And to the extent that the US political system isn’t democratic, it’s mostly tilted in favor of over-representing white people with no college degree. So if you actually want to close racial gaps by raising the minimum wage, expanding union membership, expanding Medicaid, and reducing student debt, the last thing you want to do is to sell people on the idea that this is really all about race.”

And I think I see that gap in action, especially on Twitter. So often, I read “We called out the Republicans on X and they don’t care???” and they just don’t get that Republican politicians don’t act the way that their deans or HR departments act.

Too few on our side can “see it as they see it”; they almost see the ability to see things from “the other side” as a weakness!

And this brings up something else: one of the reasons I am slow to “call out xxx-ism” is that I am often not sure as to what I am seeing, and I always wonder if I am missing something. I just don’t have the “confidence” in my initial reactions that many “wokes” have in theirs.

Remember the Covington fiasco? But…in my world, “wanting to know the facts and context” is almost considered a micro-aggression! (yes, I’ve been accused of that….for asking what time a certain Waffle House closed when someone complained they were locked out and not let in..)

Woke-ism and its effects

I saw this tweet and wondered what it was about:

The explanation was here:

In a nutshell, Dawkins said this and :

She responded by “denouncing this clown” for supporting genetics….and of course, he did nothing of the sort.

This reminded me of the old anti-steroid campaign where, in order to discourage steroid use, a poster claimed that “steroids didn’t work.”, which was ludicrous.

Now this woman is not stupid; she wouldn’t be a scientist at a top ranked university if she were. But she IS woke, (check out her twitter feed) and one characteristic of wokes is to attack people, not on what they actually said, but to attempt to draw some indirect inference on what they “must” believe given that they spoke on a subject in a “non-approved” way or didn’t want to discuss something else.

Here is another example:

You see…it must be one of those two reasons and not any of a multitude of other reasons!

For what it is worth, here are mine:

  1. I am tired of liberals telling me how I am supposed to feel and react to certain things and
  2. Such discussions usually devolve into slogan spouting and applause lines.

Frankly, I have better uses of my time; I have no desire to hear some Dean tell me how wonderful they are.

Yes, it is an important issue, but it is a complex issue and a nuanced issue and one that can’t be solved by bumper stickers and catch phrases.

But I digress.

And there is the whole wokeness thing:

And…well, no.

“Wokeness”, at least to me, means stuff like what is described in this long thread.

It is kind of a “Princess and the Pea” in being pure enough to be offended by, oh, non Indian people eating Indian food or doing yoga (cultural appropriation), claiming that the concept of “biological female” has validity, blah, blah.

Effect on entertainment

I finally watched Glengarry Glen Ross:

(NSFW language and slurs)

Now such a movie would not be made in the US today; the action involves only straight white male characters…and, while dropping the f-bombs is ok…I guess..there ARE stereotypes, slur words, etc.

Nevertheless, the movie has an interesting plot and makes some interesting commentary on the human condition, and involves commentary on personal skills, yes, love, jealousy, envy, back stabbing and just plain vindictiveness and meanness. And yes, it made me glad that I didn’t do that for a living or work with them…it did not make the lifestyle look appealing in the least.

I am glad that I watched it, loud f-bombs and all.

Could this movie worked with a more inclusive cast? Well, I am out of my lane here; I do wonder if homogeneity was a necessary part of the set..I could see the story working with an all Black, all Asian cast and yes, all female would work too.

My reasoning: backstabbing and conflict were a part of the story, and lack of homogeneity would make you wonder if the backstabber was merely bigoted or prejudiced.

Why “woke” is an insult: a conjecture

I am starting out with a conjecture about human nature (and yes, I believe there is such a thing; we are NOT blank slates; no animal is)

I believe that humans, by nature, are aspirational. We want to strive for improvement and success, even when there is no monetary benefit.

People want to improve their golf game..get better at playing cards, score higher in a game, run that 5K faster or place better, lift more weight; win an award at an art fair. We even “want” more likes on Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Of course, we like the work promotion and signs of success (e. g. a nicer looking car, better body, better tickets) are aspired to.

We even want a spouse or…kids that we can openly be proud of.

Also, in our dealings: we want the cook to fix our food well; we want our mechanics to do the repairs correctly; the doctors to cure us..the drivers and pilots to get us there safely.

We even want our sports teams to win the game.

So…I believe, we are instinctively drawn to success…to “winners” if you will (or those who appear to be winners).

Republicans seem to understand this.

Liberals and wokes on the other hand…..do not appear to.

Wokes are always going on about “privilege” “white” privilege”, “male privilege”, “able bodied” privilege, etc. When someone has success..well, if they’ve made “good choices”, there is an excuse for that:

Of course, when one makes “good choices”; it is relative to the available choices. I don’t deny that, say, being born rich is both an individual and a statistical advantage in many respects.

For example: if you come from a rich family, it might make sense to chase that dream of being an entrepreneur as there is family support (and perhaps a trust fund) to prop you up if you fail. If you come from a poor family, it might make sense to take the route of getting a secure job that pays well…thereby dooming you to be ..”comfortable at best”…because the safety net isn’t there if you fail.

And, of course, if the educational opportunities are limited to begin with..the probability of a comfortable lifestyle will probably be smaller and you might be unaware of all that IS available to you.

So I am all for opportunity work for the disadvantaged.

But the disparaging of success: that will always be unpopular and keep people at arm’s length, even if you espouse popular policies.

For example: yes the minimum wage IS a popular policy (as is COVID relief) but no one wants to earn the minimum wage…it is popular..FOR SOMEONE ELSE.

I know people have trouble with this article and the subsequent video…but…there is some truth here.

On the other hand

I admit that the pandemic has changed my thinking and feeling about things.

For one, it is a bit humbling to realize that I will be one of the last ones to get a vaccine…I am not old enough to be 1b, I am old enough to be at elevated risk, but I am blessed enough to work remotely.

So…that I can take.

Also, early on, I had envied those living in small towns, away from the (stupid in pandemic times) protests and from the early rapid spread. That was then.

And then I saw this old billboard:

Several white supremacist groups have roots near Harrison, Ark. Residents believe a yellow billboard in town is a reaction to a local effort to make the town more inclusive.

Needless to say, the yellow sign is ridiculously wrong.

But what about the lower one: the Welcome to Harrison…
in days of old, I thought about “hey, they are saying: low crime.”

Now: I wonder: “how many of them even wear a mask or practice social distancing.”…there is no way in the world I’d be attracted to this town, even without the upper yellow sign.

I really view the urban vs. rural divide differently now.

Am I really against “wokeness”? Or is it…

I admit that when I hear the adjective “woke”, I grit my teeth. I have something very specific in mind.

But…when I examined the issue further…what I am objecting to isn’t really a certain point of view but rather what I consider flawed thinking…that those on the right frequently engage in as well.

Onto some examples of what I am talking about:

  1. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez discussed her experiences when the Capitol was stormed by the morons. Yes, she was in an annex building which was connected to the Capitol by a tunnel. But some Republicans criticized her on the basis of inaccurate media reports of what she actually said.

I remarked that she was “a publicity hound” but “not a liar” and, while that comment got quite a few likes, I drew attacks too, including the all-too-predictable line:

“another male threatened by a smart woman.”

You see similar reactions on liberal twitter, faculty meetings, in UU churches, etc.

It appears to me that they think “if this person had the right attitude they would respond like this…”

And yes, conservatives act this way too. Didn’t like Bush? You must “hate America.” Don’t like this preacher? You must “love sin” (or Satan, or whatever.)

2. Some time ago, a sitting US Senator was speaking and someone came from the audience and interrupted them and took the microphone.

Rude, right? Well, to the woke, it mattered:

Was the interrupter a, gasp, WHITE MALE or a “WOMAN OF COLOR” and was the Senator a WHITE MALE or a WOMAN OF COLOR.

Why does it matter? “Privilege”, they say.

I say: nonsense…it was rude either way.

And yes, it happened in both manners (then Sen. Harris and Sen. Sanders)

But some Republicans also have a different standard: they were so upset at what they saw as insults from liberal politicians but told those offended by Trump’s insults to “get over it.”

3. Wokes often get upset when their advocacy based “scholarship” is called out (example: they are upset over criticism of the 1619 project)

But some conservatives happily run with crackpot ideas like creationism and “intelligent design” as it suits their social agenda.

I am not naive enough to think that anyone is perfectly objective and yes, some top of the line scholars are dreadful human beings.

But, well, I believe that one should try to be as agenda free as possible when pursuing the truth; there should be a difference between advocacy (what a lawyer does at a trial) and scholarship.

Summary: I have a distaste for these sorts of things; I actually want a more fair society that, when appropriate, includes multiple points of view.

I say “when appropriate” in that I don’t think that there is such a thing as, say “feminist engineering” (e. g. if the design is not done according to sound engineering principles, it will fail).