Social commentary: DEI, the desire for boutique experiences

It is well known that DEI (“diversity, equity and inclusion”) offices, programs and efforts are under fire, especially in higher education. I think that I “get” why: it seems that while the public is mostly in favor of “colorblindness”, many think that “colorblindness” does not go far enough, so “bringing race into it” became in fashion in liberal circles.

Roughly speaking: for the most part, aside from isolated incidents, the very open, formerly legal, very overt racism is behind us (i. e. legalized segregation, which existed in my lifetime). Things like racial slurs are punished. And yes, that IS progress. But many feel that is now time to go further. This is a good analysis of that position:

The issue I have is this: one can make an intellectual and moral case for viewing people as belonging to a block. But will that benefit them? Why would those NOT in that block be inspired to give a bit extra or give something up to help them?

As far as an approach that I think might work with the public on the whole, well, let’s say that Tim Scott’s candidacy interests me. Yes, he is still and Republican, and no, supply side economics does not work. But as far as how to view the very real problems with current racism, I think he speaks well and does so in a manner that might appeal to the public on the whole.

Here is the speech:

He pulls no punches here, but speaks in a way that I think the public will accept.

And HERE is where I often mix it up with “woke” liberals: when I say things like that, I get accused of “tone policing” and the like. HOW DARE you tell others how to express their feelings!

And that is the deal: IF you are not in power (as they claim); if your group is not the majority or even close to a plurality, and if your group has disproportionately less wealth and power, well, IF you want those outside of your group to change behavior and/or attitudes, you had better care how your message is received. Those you claim as being “privileged” might well decide to exercise their privilege and tune you out, or, even worse, start actively opposing you.

Topic Two: it is NOT all about me.

It is “Pride month” and my baseball team said something:

Some supported it, but you also had some of the old “quit ramming this down my throat” response.

Here is the deal: The Chiefs put on lots of promotions. They have “Faith and Family” night. They sometimes have people sing “God Bless America”. They honor veterans. They even sometimes have a local sing the National Anthem in that country style (which I find very irritating…and remember, this is a professional version; the amateurs aren’t nearly as good)

And the Chiefs have promotions all game long.

I am there for baseball. But that is ME, and, while I am a customer, I am not the only customer, and I am not even the typical customer.

The Chiefs have to appeal to a broad audience to stay in business. Their franchise does NOT revolve around me, nor should it.

The same is true about so many other things.

There are sporting events (say, marathons or longer) that I can no longer do. But others can.

The bike/walking paths I use: shared. Walkers, fast runners, cyclists, families out to enjoy the beautiful river: it belongs to all of us. Yes, they sometimes set up tents and close off one part of the path (still access to a detour): yes, but thousands enjoy those outdoor festivals. That area is not just for me.

The things I like in the community are shared, and shared by many others who are NOT like me.

I am not owed a boutique society.

But, of course, I agree that a shared space won’t work without rules and etiquette and there will always be some debate about what said rules and etiquette should be.

Manufacturing outrage

First the workout: I STILL started too late; walk started at about 8 am and it was getting humid. I went with my West Peoria 5.15 mile course and I did take one brief stretch break (1:16 start to finish time; break was 90 second/s)

the discomfort was mild, but I was not in a mood to try to walk through it (while doing posture stuff).

Then resistance training (after a cool down break)

pull ups: 10 single pull ups, 10 single chins, 10 (a few toe touches), 5 pull ups, 5 chin ups, 5 pull ups, 5 chin ups, 2 penalty reps.

Then downstairs: Swiss bar: 10 x 134, then a drop set: 1 x 170, (ugly), 1 x 165 (very ugly), 1 x 160, 3 x 155, 3 x 150, 4 x 145, 5 x 139, 6 x 134

Shrugs: 3 sets of 10 with handles, 3 sets of curls (2 with dumbbells), high incline: 7 x 94, 7 x 99, 7 x 99

Oh well, there are no perfect workouts.

Manufactured Outrage

Last night, I watched this movie made by a conservative activist.

The movie takes about 95 minutes, and to be honest I almost gave up early.

The gist: Matt Walsh (the movie maker) appears to be trying to make the point: the word “woman” should stand for the adult human who produces (or can, in principle produce) eggs; that is sex is determined by the gametes.

And so, if someone says: “transwomen are women” they are being illogical since the ability to produce eggs cannot be changed, so they are not biological women. But if you don’t use “woman” with its biological meaning, then saying “X is a woman because they identify as a woman” is logical nonsense; it is the classical circular definition. Ok, if I wanted to, I could talk about how any logical system has to start with primitive terms; terms that cannot be defined (e. g. like “point” in geometry). But I won’t go there.

Then Walsh proceeds to interview different experts (or “experts”) and others and plays “gotcha” with most of them (save 3 friendly experts.

He isn’t stupid: he knows that society produces (evolves?) social roles for biological males and biological females (the professor he interviews seems to be trying to explain that) and a biological male can be suffering from gender dysphoria and will want to “identify as a woman” (fit into the roles normally filled by biological women) and there is a push to say “if you sincerely see yourself that way, you are a woman (in terms of role in society).

Walsh then visits a society that has not been touched by this sort of ideology in order to drive home that what we have is a recent sociological invention, if you will. Then he talks about two early researchers and presents unflattering personal aspects of them. (note: though he attacks their personal ethics, he doesn’t seem to attack the substance of their work). It is “horrible ideology comes from horrible human beings…which…is ..sort of “woke”…never mind that)

There are a couple of other factual issues: in one place, he shows transwomen athletes competing in women’s division (I think this is unfair) but then adds a photo of Caster Semenya who is intersex and NOT transgender.

And then, in an interview, the “furries” hoax is mentioned (though they don’t get to the literbox claim) and he quickly switches to an adult who has some rather eccentric views about…wolves.

The sad thing is that there IS room for a serious discussion about these topics: sports, age of consent for medical procedures, what can go wrong, etc. And, IMHO the best part was the interview with a very unfortunate transman who is suffering, possibly from the effects of transition surgery and hormone injections. That part was well worth watching.

But instead, the producer appears to want to make himself some sort of cultural warrior hero.

Social and educational issues: what should Democrats do?

I’ll say it right now: though I think that Joe Biden will win reelection, I do not have a lot of confidence in this prediction. I feel that the Democrats are at a disadvantage in some emotional social issues.

I’ll start with education. Governor DeSantis (Florida) threw a haymaker at higher education:

In one of the “prohibits” in the top row: they are actually regulating what the professors teach in the classroom (small government, anyone?)

For my discipline (mathematics), that wouldn’t be a problem. But what about history? For example, it would be impossible to teach WW2 honesty without dealing with racism: the Nazis, of course, but also the British and the US lost initial battles to the Japanese Navy due to underestimating them, AND Japan thought themselves to be racially superior to everyone else too.

As far as the US Navy underestimating the Japanese at first: I learned about this at..the US Naval Academy in the 1970’s, and that was hardly a “woke” institution.

Then look at the red tape added: need to submit the course list YEARLY? OMG….and then look at the accreditation. At the college level, these are national or at least regional; they cannot MAKE an agency grant accreditation, especially if the university is teaching a subject falsely or incompletely.

BUT: these issues probably sound great to much of the public; higher education faculty tend to lean left (though not as much as some think, especially in, say, business or engineering schools), some professors do mix activism into education (I’ve seen that firsthand) and department/university mission statements sometimes have leftist social views in their mission statements. And yes, some universities require “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statements from job candidates or from professors coming up for tenure or promotion.

Note: I can understand (and approve of) non-discrimination criteria. Still, this reeks of overreach and what DeSantis is doing here might be more popular than it should be for that reason. It appears to me that liberal academia spends much of the time shooting itself in the foot with respect to public perception.

Then glance at some of the other issues.

Yes, this is DeSatan..er, Governor DeSantis again:

If you are unfamiliar: there was an incident where a person was coming up to passengers yelling at them in a threatening manner. Said ex-Marine got this guy in a choke hold (with assistance of 2 other guys) and restrained him. But he held the choke hold way too long and ended up killing the guy. So the DA brought up manslaughter charges (in defending people, one can’t just apply any old amount of force; example, if some feeble elderly person was threatening to punch someone, you wouldn’t have the inherent right to land a haymaker to their jaw)

It turns out that the dead person had a long criminal history and has violently assaulted passengers in the past.

Neely has been arrested 42 times in the last 10 years, most recently in November 2021 for slugging a 67-year-old female stranger in the face as she exited a subway station.”

I am NOT speaking to the nuances of this truly tragic situation. I am speaking to the political hay the Republicans are making from it: Marine vet who tried to save others vs. habitual violent criminal who was hassling others?

Then we have this:

 San Francisco’s district attorney Monday released surveillance video showing the fatal shooting of a suspected shoplifter by an on-duty Walgreens security guard, along with other footage and documents that she said support her decision not to file charges against the guard.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins released the information amid public outcry over the April 27 death of Banko Brown, a 24-year-old who was not armed, outside a downtown Walgreens. Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution urging her office and the police department to release more evidence. She cited self-defense in her decision not to charge the guard, Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony.”

Ok, this is a decision by a blue DA in a blue city in a blue state, right? But what the Republicans will show you is this:

The tendency for liberals to have a knee-jerk reaction to side with “the marginalized” no matter the situation or how much they may have been at fault will make it harder. It is quite the millstone.

Oh, back to the race itself: I am reasonably confident that the GOP will nominate Trump, despite DeSatan’s…er, Governor DeSantis’s political skill.

My money is on the Orange Con Man. Yes, DeSantis has good *conventional* political instincts, but I think the GOP base ..the CURRENT GOP base, really wants someone who will OWN the libs on an emotional level, and that is best done by Trump.

DeSantis: attacking higher education for political points

I thought about these recent videos:

Now, I will acknowledge that professors tend to lean left (though that is highly discipline dependent) and that some professors cross the line between scholarship and activism. And yes, sometimes science gets caught up in it too; creationism from the right, and things like “how should one classify sex” on the left.

But the reality is that, in many disciplines, an honest, accurate accounting of history WILL include talking about things like racism and sexism.

Example: in World War 2, early on, the US Navy was getting defeated by the Japanese Navy. One of the reasons was racism. To not consider that factor would be revisionism. I remember learning in class that some US Naval officers thought that Japanese had poor night vision; we found out otherwise in some disastrous night battles.

Sexism: in the history of sport, we’d find that women were limited in the distances that they were allowed to run, which seems hilarious given some of the very long distances women runners routinely cover in this day and age. The first women’s Olympic marathon was 1984; I remember watching it on TV.

But, would a professor come under fire for bringing these things up?

What about critical race theory? This was developed with regards to law, and frankly, I think it is important to be learned. Remember the law often goes by what a “reasonable person” might do in a situation, and it strains credibility to deny that, at least in the US, Black people and non-black people would have, on the average, different experiences. By the way, the link is to a speech made by a Republican US Senator.

So, yes, academia sometimes leads with its chin, and sometimes nutty professors do nutty things. But I see what Governor DeSantis is doing here is merely political opportunism; a way to score easy political points.

Unpleasant people agreeing with you doesn’t make you wrong

One of the toughest things about our current political debates is that, from time to time, people that I don’t like are right about an issue or two.

Example: remember when George Floyd was murdered by police (and yes, he was). Well, we are now seeing him lionized among some. Yes, he was murdered, and the police were correctly brought to justice. But he was not one to emulate; he had a modest criminal record and no exemplary achievements. And yes, some unpleasant people agree with me.

“Hispanics don’t champion their criminals!” (Ann Coulter; see the above).

Sports: I believe sports are segregated by sex for fairness reasons. So, at least beyond a certain grade level, I do not condone biological males, no matter how they identify, competing against biological females in female divisions.
And, unfortunately, many antitrans bigots take the same view. I want nothing to do with them.

The same goes for things like “drag shows for kids”, especially when tied to school (what a parent takes their kid to outside of school is their own business)

But taking this stance puts me on the same side as morons like this:

Something similar is true with Joey Swoll calling out women for making false (or unlikely) “gym creep” claims on social media. Swoll is right even though some unpleasant people are backing his efforts.

The same was true during the immigration debates; I am a “play by the rules” sort of guy, but that put me on the same side as some genuine bigots.

Frito Bandito, activism and alienation

Seeing this reminded me ..

Yes, I had one of these; if I remember correctly, you could sent out for it.

This character was popular some time ago:

Clearly, tongue-in-cheek, right?

Well, activists complained and Frito-Lay did away with the Bandito.

Background: I am Mexican-American from both parents; I refer to myself as Latino. My mom learned to speak English in her teens; she grew up speaking Spanish. This is relevant.

When it came out that complaints from activists pressured Frito Lay into dropping the FB, my mom said something to the effect: “Idiots. Don’t they have better things to do? I thought the Bandito was funny!”

And so it goes: though you might think my mom was unique, she really wasn’t. There appears to be a gap between what the “activist” class thinks and what the rest of us think. Consider the issue of the word “Latinx”. Most Latinos haven’t heard of it, and most who have do not like it.

So, when people point out that there is a gap between what the loud, often academic “activists” think and what the rest of us think, the activists seem to think that the rest of us are “colonialized” or ignorant, or unaware, etc. Yes, activists, I’ve heard your arguments and I rejected many of them.

But that is not the main point of this post.

The main point of this post is that Democratic politicians who want Latino support but are unfamiliar with us tend to, you guessed it, turn to “activists” to learn and get advice.

At least as far as the “Latinx” issue, the tide appears to be turning.

But the larger point remains: if you want to court our vote, don’t go by what some woke recent college graduate activist has to say; try to connect with the larger community.

The “national divorce”: why I don’t want it

I remember the dark days of the George W. Bush presidency. Many liberals thought about “succession”; I remember the following:

Yes, I read the book. And there was this (NSFW language)

Well, now, we have a Republican representative talking about a “national divorce.” While some Republican politicians have condemned such sentiments, many Republicans, especially southern ones, support it…as do some west coast Democrats.

Now, aside from the very idea being a mess…after all, the split is really more of an urban vs. rural one…there ARE blue regions in red states and red regions in blue states, ….and some major problems….

I am not sure I’d even want to live in a “liberals rule” area anymore.

At one time, I thought “it would be great to teach science without being yapped at by the creationists. But now…we have the equally moronic “science is white supremacy and patriarchy” crowd. And just look at how low some of the old, formerly good magazines have sunk. I don’t want the daffy leftist extremists in charge either. The new leftist anti-intellectuals would have a great deal of power in a new state.

Cognitive empathy, behavior changes and activism

First a remark about the fiasco in Congress in which it took 15 votes for the Republicans to elect the Speaker of the House:

Lots of memes were made about this:

and I made one too (part of a series where I lampoon my life when I was single)

(side note: her outfit is actually coral (in color) but appears to be bright red due to the lighting)

But I digress…the real purpose of this post is to comment on the antics of so-called “activists”. You know: these are the ones that disrupt things, like those who block traffic:

Or..maybe they stop a university from showing a film that they disapprove of:

Well, the question I have is this: what are these “activists” hoping to accomplish? It appears to me that they have concluded that because their cause is just (and perhaps it is) that it is ok for them to do whatever they want to do.

But, what is their goal in doing said protest? If their goal does not involve getting more supporters on their side and to change behavior and attitudes, then I suppose it is ok, I guess…though there are legal consequences.

But if their goal is to actually change the behavior of others and to change attitudes ..IN THEIR DIRECTION, well, they should probably step back and engage in some empathy..that is, cognitive empathy.

WHAT? COMPASSION FOR THE BIGOTS AND CLIMATE DESTROYERS?

Well, no. In fact, I learned the value of cognitive empathy in sports (football) and in the military! Reason: you will do better if you can see things from your opponent’s point of view. And that is what I mean: if you stop and check out “how will my actions be viewed by others..especially those that I am trying to convince”, you might make better choices. Instead, these morons just turn the public against them.

Goal: change of behavior; two incidents from my past

Case 1: mid 1990’s: our department was discussing candidates. Our chair, long since retired, was an old school, conservative gentleman. And he referred to the male candidates by Dr. X and the female candidates by their first names.

I was a young, untenured professor, and I spoke up: “why are we referring to females by their first names and men by their titles; shouldn’t it be the same for both?” And..well, that just confused the old professor at first, but…*he changed his behavior.* There were no Deans called in, no big to-do, no “mandatory sensitivity training”; no “pound of flesh.”

Case 2: I was taking a class and in a pre-test review class, an international student asked if there would be “coding” on the exam (writing a program). The professor said “no coding” but mimicked the student’s Asian accent.

A student spoke up: “I heard that..that Asian accent”; prof said “no I didn’t” and the student laughed and said “yes, you did.”

It never happened again. Change of behavior. No firing, no Dean, no running the gauntlet; no “pound of flesh.” (this was the late 1990’s).

The goal was attained. I wonder if our cancel culture has lost sight of that.

Note: the professors involved have retired a long time ago.

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.

Unhelpful Pedantry in discourse

Disclaimer: I teach math (and occasionally do math) for a living. I understand the necessity of precise language in certain situations. When it comes to, say, a mathematical theorem, meeting the hypothesis matters!

But when it comes to discussing the issues of the day, being inappropriately pedantic gets in the way.

One big example is the issue of “assault guns” in the hands of civilians. Sometimes, hard core 2’nd Amendment supporters chide liberal gun control advocates for “not knowing what an assault weapon is” or even claiming that “assault weapon” is a meaningless term.

Let’s be clear: though most who have a strong opinion on this issue is NOT a firearms expert, what is meant here is a weapon that

  1. Fires a military grade round at a military grade muzzle velocity
  2. Has a magazine that can hold multiple rounds
  3. Can fire multiple shots very quickly (not automatically) without jamming
  4. Is semiautomatic (self loading, though the trigger has to be pressed for each shot)

And yes, I know; the better known weapons (AR-15, AK-47) are examples of this kind of weapon, but are far from the only kinds out there.

They gun people know these things; one survivalist put it this way: (paraphrasing as I lost track of the book): if you have supplies like food and water, others might try to take them from you. What do you defend yourself with? Using a sporting rifle against well armed intruders is just noisy suicide.
(not my thoughts, but I cannot find the reference)

Well, the rifle that you’d want in such extreme conditions (that you can legally obtain sans a lot of extra hoops to jump through) is what we’d call an “assault rifle.”

People like me do not believe that civilians should have possession of weapons which are military caliber weapons without the automatic setting. These are for killing people effectively (or causing horrific wounds).

Jerry Coyne’s blog has a nice post on this topic.

Note: this issue is one where we have to start from where we are (our country has a LOT of these type of weapons) and we are very divided. I don’t see how a ban could work. And if you think that we have any prayer of repealing the Second Amendment, you are delusional :

Sure..we can’t even get 50 Senate votes…LOL.

I hesitate to point out that it isn’t just the conservatives that are guilty of this.

Think of Critical Race Theory and K-12 education. Technically, CRT is really a law school caliber theory to help lawyers and judges apply the law more fairly. So, no, you aren’t getting CRT in grade school.

But that is NOT what is meant when parents complain about CRT.

As Yascha Mounk writes:

The idea that critical race theory is an academic concept that is taught only at colleges or law schools might be technically accurate, but the reality on the ground is a good deal more complicated. Few middle or high schoolers are poring over academic articles written by Richard Delgado or Kimberlé Crenshaw. But across the nation, many teachers have, over the past years, begun to adopt a pedagogical program that owes its inspiration to ideas that are very fashionable on the academic left, and that go well beyond telling students about America’s copious historical sins.

In some elementary and middle schools, students are now being asked to place themselves on a scale of privilege based on such attributes as their skin color. History lessons in some high schools teach that racism is not just a persistent reality but the defining feature of America. And some school systems have even embraced ideas that spread pernicious prejudices about nonwhite people, as when a presentation to principals of New York City public schools denounced virtues such as “perfectionism” or the “worship of the written word” as elements of “white-supremacy culture.”

And parents ARE concerned and have a right to be. In my own state, a school received attention because it decided to stop “giving 0’s in the gradebook” for work not turned in because they felt that such a standard is unfair to minority students. (Note: the article I linked to has a very misleading headline: there are NOT race based standards; the standard would apply to all students in said school).

I am old enough to remember the segregation/integration wars, and I remember one argument that segregationists used was that integration would lead to an erosion of standards.

I am NOT saying that the liberal wokes are the same as the racists; they are NOT. But some of their policy prescriptions sure reminds me of stuff the racists used to say (disclaimer: I am Latino and I am sensitive to accusations that whatever success I have had was due to my meeting a lower standard).

My point: dismissing the concerns of parents by saying “LOL..your kid isn’t learning CRT” is to miss the point. It hurts dialogue and..on a political level, hurts Democrats.

Bonus topic

Yes, I’ve frequently been more critical of Democrats than Republicans for the following reason: I’ve voted Democrats for years. The current Republicans are the party of COVID denial..the party of taking deworm medicine for COVID..the party of climate change denial..the party of eroding voting rights. I want nothing to do with modern Republicans; there are no Romney/Bush/Rockerfeller/McCain types that I’d consider voting for (at the national level)

They are the party of this type of insanity:

So, I want Democrats to win, even if I can’t stand some of the social stuff they do. But my goodness, too many Democrats campaign as if they are trying to win over NPR listeners, college professors and Unitarians.

Some thoughts on this topic: Bill Maher asks Democrats to dial back on appealing to our extreme factions:

More along these line…