Thursday, June 17, 2021

Have We Reached "Peak Woke" Yet?

There are some who say that we have:

For the past year, liberals unleashed on the nation an avalanche of ideological nonsense, coupled with brutal pressure to conform. Those who bucked the party line found themselves canceled and unpersoned and had their opinions subjected to mockery and claims of delusion and “anti-science” prejudices.

Until now. Because the tide is turning. And sometimes the break from the party line comes from surprising places. 

Late-night comics are usually reliable parroters of the message of the day. So it says something that last week, Bill Maher launched an impassioned critique of “woke” culture, while this week, Jon Stewart went on Stephen Colbert’s show to say in no uncertain terms that it looks like the Wuhan coronavirus came from . . . the Wuhan lab.

Using a term from Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, Maher accused liberals of “progressophobia” — “a brain disorder that strikes liberals and makes them incapable of recognizing progress"...

It isn’t just late-night comics who are pushing back. It’s also local politicians and ordinary people. After a year of bullying, they’ve had enough.

The Marxist "critical race theory" is being challenged, too, and you can tell punches are being landed by who's screaming about it:

The opposition to Critical Race Theory, and most particularly its abusive implementation through race shaming and stoking racial tension, has been growing for a year or more.

CRT as a term burst onto the media landscape when ugly and abusive training session materials and accounts were leaked from campuses, government agencies, and corporations last year. The opposition is organic, but until the last few months has been disorganized. Relative to the CRT and BLM movements, embraced by corporate America to the tune of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, the opposition consists largely of parents who just aren’t going to take it anymore, and state legislators who jumped on a resistance train that already was moving down the tracks.

The best evidence that the resistance to CRT is gaining and posing a threat to Democrats is that the mainstream media is trying to marginalize and demonize the movement the way it attacked the Tea Party: Just a bunch of astroturfed racists. It wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now, but it’s the standard playbook.

As a sign of how well my school district is run, we're just getting started with so-called "ethnic studies" classes and CRT.  Day late and a dollar short--still showing up, though, and I blanch at how many dollars we're blowing on this divisive, racist policy.

When Even the BBC Doubts...

The only surprise here is that the BBC reports this:

Most people who start a new company job know the drill. In addition to meetings and an office tour, orientation day typically includes sitting through a session or clicking through a set of virtual slides – with a quiz to follow – on diversity and sensitivity training. 

Ubiquitous in large workplaces across the globe, these company-wide sessions are staples at Fortune 500 companies and smaller organisations alike. “They're everywhere,” says Pamela Newkirk, the New York-based author of the book Diversity, Inc: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business. “Every major company… every major institution whether it’s academia or fashion – that seems to be the go-to strategy for dealing with the lack of diversity.” 

This training is so widespread that it’s developed into a lucrative industry. Yet research indicates that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training does very little to affect change within a workplace

“On average, the typical all-hands-on-deck, ‘everybody has to have diversity training’ – that typical format in big companies doesn't have any positive effects on any historically underrepresented groups like black men or women, Hispanic men or women, Asian-American men or women or white women,” says Harvard University sociology professor and diversity researcher Frank Dobbin. 

Yet despite its inadequacy, diversity and sensitivity training remains pervasive in workplaces. Often, it endures as a way to maintain optics, legal protection and the veneer of progressive action. But leading experts advocate for ditching these ineffective sessions, arguing instead for other initiatives that they believe can actually incite real change in a company...

“Part of why it's so popular, is it's a relatively low-cost initiative,” adds Calvin Lai, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St Louis, US. “You kind of get what you pay for: low cost, low pay off.” 

Additionally, when employees feel like they’re being controlled, says Dobbin, organisational studies show they tend to react negatively. So, when diversity training is designated as mandatory – which Dobbin’s research found was the case at 80% of corporations in the US – employees can perceive these sessions as much less palatable than if they were voluntary...

Training may also endure in an effort to legally protect companies. Research shows that in American civil rights cases against employers, judges often look more favourably at companies that have diversity training programmes and anti-discrimination manuals. “Because the courts are more sympathetic to just the existence of a diversity apparatus and they don’t really pay attention to the efficacy of that apparatus and whether or not it actually fosters change, companies do it as a way of protecting themselves,” says Newkirk. 

Theater.  There's so much we do anymore just to do it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Making Moral Judgements

How we make judgements, and what are the bases of our morality, are the subjects of Jonathan Haidt's book The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion.  I couldn't help but be reminded of the lessons in that book as I read this article:

Researchers studying how we make moral judgements found that people more concerned about catching COVID-19 were more disapproving of the wrong-doings of others, whatever they were doing wrong.

The researchers say their findings are evidence that our morality is shaped by various emotions and intuitions, of which concerns about health and safety are prominent. This means that our judgements of wrongdoing are not completely rational.

The study, published today in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, did not focus on behaviors relating to the pandemic itself—such as —but considered a wide range of moral transgressions.

Between March and May 2020, over 900 study participants in the U.S. were presented with a series of scenarios and asked to rate them on a scale from 'not at all wrong' to 'extremely wrong'. This enabled the researchers to measure participants' responses across five key moral principles: harm, fairness, in-group loyalty, deference to authority, and purity.

Example scenarios include one of loyalty: 'You see a man leaving his to go work for their main competitor'; and one of fairness: 'You see a tenant bribing a landlord to be the first to get their apartment repainted.'

People who were more worried about catching COVID-19 judged the behaviors in these scenarios to be more wrong than those who were less worried.

"There is no rational reason to be more judgemental of others because you are worrying about getting sick during the pandemic," said Professor Simone Schnall in the University of Cambridge's Department of Psychology, senior author of the report.

She added: "These influences on judgements happen outside of our . If we feel that our wellbeing is threatened by the coronavirus, we are also likely to feel more threatened by other people's wrong-doing—it's an emotional link."

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Magna Carta Day

Have you ever wondered why British currency is the "pound"?

For about 500 years, starting in AD 790 under Anglo-Saxon King Offa, the silver penny was the only coin minted in England.  These were small, thin, hammered coins, and 240 of them weighed one pound.  Thus, a "pound" is 240 pence, and later the pound was subdivided into 20 shillings of 12 pence each (still 240 pence).  In 1971, Britain switched to a decimal coinage of 100 pence to the pound.  If you've heard the expression "pound sterling", it comes from the 92.5% "sterling silver" of the pennies.

A couple weeks ago at a coin show I purchased a silver penny from King John.  It's about the size of a US dime and is in XF40 (extra fine, with a numerical grade of 40) condition.  Here's an example of such a penny in a somewhat higher condition:


King John wasn't the most popular of English kings.  He was the king during the Robin Hood time frame, and was compelled by his barons to agree to the Magna Carta.

Magna Carta is often taught as a precursor to the US Constitution, as it limited the rights of the English king.  However, as Wikipedia states:

First drafted by Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton to make peace between the unpopular king and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons' War

It was largely forgotten by Queen Elizabeth's time.

At the end of the 16th century, there was an upsurge in interest in Magna Carta. Lawyers and historians at the time believed that there was an ancient English constitution, going back to the days of the Anglo-Saxons, that protected individual English freedoms. They argued that the Norman invasion of 1066 had overthrown these rights, and that Magna Carta had been a popular attempt to restore them, making the charter an essential foundation for the contemporary powers of Parliament and legal principles such as habeas corpus. Although this historical account was badly flawed, jurists such as Sir Edward Coke used Magna Carta extensively in the early 17th century, arguing against the divine right of kings propounded by the Stuart monarchs. Both James I and his son Charles I attempted to suppress the discussion of Magna Carta, until the issue was curtailed by the English Civil War of the 1640s and the execution of Charles. The political myth of Magna Carta and its protection of ancient personal liberties persisted after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 until well into the 19th century. It influenced the early American colonists in the Thirteen Colonies and the formation of the United States Constitution, which became the supreme law of the land in the new republic of the United States.[c] Research by Victorian historians showed that the original 1215 charter had concerned the medieval relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of ordinary people, but the charter remained a powerful, iconic document, even after almost all of its content was repealed from the statute books in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

So while Magna Carta would have limited the king's prerogatives, had it been complied with, it limited them only with respect to the barons; it had nothing to do with individual rights.  Those rights, as we understand them today, are actually the result of the English Enlightenment.  The myth of the Magna Carta as some sort of foundation of the rights of man is just that, a myth.

It is still, however, very interesting as history.  King John affixed his seal to Magna Carta in Runnymede Meadow, a few miles from Windsor Castle, on this date in AD 1215.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Poor Kid

I grew up working class.

My parents were very young when I was born, 19 and 21, so they weren't yet in their prime earning years even when I graduated from high school.  I'm not saying I went without food or clothes or anything like that while growing up, but there were no luxuries.  Eating out didn't happen, but Hamburger Helper did.  To make sure there were plenty of presents under the tree at Christmas my dad would work a ton of overtime.  Vacations were very few and far between, and they were on the tightest of budgets.

Put simply, there wasn't spare money floating around the house.

I took my trailer up to Reno this weekend, and now I need a new awning.  And my propane tanks are old school, there are some places that can't even fill them!  So I took the trailer to a shop today to get measurements for the awning, and they've squeezed me into their work schedule at the end of next week since I'm leaving for about a month early the following week.  I know how much the awning will cost but didn't even get a quote on the tanks--I want them replaced, so they'll get replaced.

Tonight I started thinking about it.  What's this going to cost me?  A thousand dollars?  Do I really need to spend that?

I have the money.  What's the point of having money if it doesn't make your life better somehow?  It's not something to be hoarded, it's something to be shepherded so it's available when you want or need it.  Upgrading my trailer will make my summer road trip more enjoyable (awning) and less worrisome (propane), so I'm going to do it.  I recognize how good I have things financially, and I am thankful for the blessing of not having to worry about such a one-time expense.

I think part of me, though, will always be that poor working class kid who has a hard time parting with a dollar.

Is This Racism, Or Not?

I ask because I'm often told by rabid lefties that only white people can be racist, as racism requires some sort of "power imbalance" and no one but whites has any power in this country.

So again I ask, were these texts racist?

Two members of the Boston School Committee, the governing board of the Boston Public Schools, have resigned due to the revelation they had shared racially charged text messages...

At a meeting last fall, the former allegedly had messaged the latter “I hate WR” (West Roxbury), to which Rivera responded she was “sick of westie whites.”

Oliver-Davila replied “Me too I really feel Like saying that!!!!”

ABC News notes the texts were sent during deliberations over whether the city should drop an entrance exam requirement for certain schools.

“Best school committee meeting ever. I’m trying not to cry,” Oliver-Davila wrote. “Wait until the white racists start yelling at us,” Rivera texted back. “Whatever. They’re delusional,” responded Oliver-Davila.

Perhaps there's a difference between "racist" and "racially charged"?

Sunday, June 13, 2021

A Different World

Some friends and I took our trailers up to Reno for the weekend.  What a difference a 2-hour drive makes.

No masks.  Very little fear.  People were going about living their lives.  

Yes, most of the employees at the casino/RV park where we stayed wore masks, but no one talked about them.  No one asked others to wear them.  No signs mandated wearing them.  The vast majority of the guests didn't wear them.

And bodies were not stacked like cord wood.  Shocking, I know.

Two hours west, though, here in Capital City:

With one of the lowest COVID-19 case rates in the country, a 70+ percent adult vaccination rate, and widespread reopening set for June 15, the pandemic is finally on the wane in California. But Governor Gavin Newsom is still refusing to give up his “emergency powers.”

“California is set to end most coronavirus restrictions on June 15, but Gov. Gavin Newsom is not lifting the state of emergency,” local media outlet KCRA3 reports. “Newsom is keeping emergency powers given to him by a court in his back pocket ‘in case things go south.’”

"We're still in a state of emergency,” the governor said. “This disease has not been extinguished. It's not vanished, it's not taking the summer months off"...

But Newsom is setting a timeline on his “emergency” powers that could let him hold onto them for years or even the rest of his time in office. Insisting that the state of emergency can only lapse when the coronavirus is “extinguished” or “vanished” gives the governor license to cling on to his expanded powers essentially forever. 

It’s unlikely we’ll have zero coronavirus cases in the near future, but a few dozen infections in a population where almost all vulnerable people have been vaccinated does not an emergency make...

Critics are right, and we should all hope that Newsom’s tyrannical power grab isn’t allowed to stand. But the takeaway here is broader than any governor, state, or even the coronavirus. Time and time again, we see that “emergencies,” both real and manufactured, are used as cover for would-be tyrants in government who want to break the crucial restraints on their power that keep us free. 

‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded – and once they are suspended it is not difficult for anyone who has assumed emergency powers to see to it that the emergency will persist,” Nobel-prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek famously wrote.  

So, don’t just look at what Newsom is doing in California right now with horror. Remember it next time an emergency comes around and your politicians promise that if you consent to their power grabs it will just be “temporary.”

Update, 6/16/21:  California is "fully re-opened" as of yesterday, except it's not:

Here are some of the exceptions, as reported by an NBC affiliate in California.

“As of June 15, California no longer requires physical distancing and allows full capacity for businesses. The state’s long-standing county tier system that determines restrictions has also been lifted, and the indoor mask mandate is no more,” KCRA 3 reported.

But here is some of the fine print:

  • Businesses can still require people — vaccinated or not vaccinated — to wear masks inside.
  • Fully vaccinated people still need to wear masks on public transit, including airplanes, buses, taxis and ride-shares.
  • Fully vaccinated people still need to wear masks indoors in K-12 schools, child care and other youth settings, health care settings including long-term care facilities, state and local correctional facilities and detention centers, and homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers.
  • Unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks indoors at places like restaurants, movie theaters and grocery stores.
  • California says it will require vaccine verification or negative coronavirus test results for indoor events with more than 5,000 people and the same restrictions for “mega events” of more than 10,000 people.
  • Children 12 and younger who are not eligible for the coronavirus vaccine are like other unvaccinated people and must wear a mask indoors and in most public places.
  • Counties in California can set their own rules and some may be stricter than state rules.

KCRA also reported that Newsom is keeping emergency powers given to him by a court “in case things go south,” according to political analyst Steve Swatt.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Day 1

Tuesday we had 7th Period at my house.  My most recent batch of limoncello had recently been filtered and bottled, and guests brought enough food to feed a small third world country.  We at a lot of food and drank a lot of 126 proof limoncello.  I drank enough that people were surprised to see me at work, on time, yesterday :-)

I didn't have a headache, but my body felt like pudding.  I accomplished everything I had to, then came home and napped for 5 hours.  I stayed up till almost 2 am watching the first season and a half of Master of None on Netflix.

Today I have to fuel up, go shopping, and connect the trailer for tomorrow's camping trip departure.

It's Day 1 of summer vacation.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Lying About Race In Pursuit of Political Goals

About recent attacks on Asians:

If you have been following the news about such anti-Asian attacks in the United States over the past few months, you may have noticed that certain narratives have become prominent. The first—promoted by CNN, the Guardian, NPR, BBC, USA Today, the Cut, and NBC News, to name just a few representative examples—is that the attacks are related to COVID-19. And it is true that there has been a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic. In some cases, the attackers have even made explicit mention of the “Chinese virus,” or accused the victim of bringing the disease to the United States. In most cases, however, it is difficult to prove that any given attack is related to the pandemic.

A second theme has been the idea that Donald Trump is to blame for anti-Asian hate. Examples here include “‘No question’ Trump’s racist rhetoric fuelled anti-Asian hate, says White House” (the Independent), “Trump’s ‘Chinese Virus’ Tweet Helped Fuel Anti-Asian Hate On Twitter, Study Finds” (Forbes), and “U.S. outrage over Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric took a new turn this week after shootings at spas near Atlanta” (ABC News).

It certainly wasn’t helpful for the then-US president to describe COVID-19 as “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu,” especially when there are so many people who cannot seem to understand the distinction between the Chinese government and Asian Americans. There also seems to be a link between his expressions of bigotry and the appearance of copycat anti-Asian memes online. However, it was not until the beginning of 2021—nearly a year after the pandemic began, and a time when Trump was already out of office—when the surge in senseless attacks on Asian Americans began to be widely reported. The timing here is not consistent with the idea that Trump played a major role.

A third media narrative has been that anti-Asian violence is caused by white supremacy. At CNN, the headline was “White supremacy and hate are haunting Asian Americans.” At the State Press in Arizona, “Anti-Asian racism is a product of white supremacist norms that must be eliminated.” At the Conversation, “White supremacy is the root of all race-related violence in the US.”

Paradoxically, the backdrop to these articles is that in many cases—including every one of the examples I mentioned earlier in this essay—the suspects were found to be black. Explaining why black attacks on Asian victims is really the fault of white supremacy may seem difficult, but a surprisingly large number of writers and scholars have shown themselves eager to take up the challenge...

Instead, I’d like to point out the recent emergence of yet another narrative: Not only is white supremacy the root cause of all anti-Asian attacks, we are told, but the very mention of black assailants serves to bolster an illusory or harmful trope. Examples here include “Stop Blaming Black People for Anti-Asian Hate” (Newsweek), “Old tropes of Black-Asian conflict rear up after NY assault” (Chicago Tribune), and “Why the trope of Black-Asian conflict in the face of anti-Asian violence dismisses solidarity” (Brookings Institution).

On #StopAsianHate, a piece titled “The ‘Black-Asian Conflict’ Is a Problematic Trope—and It’s Time to End It” informs us that any anger directed at black assailants is a mask for “White establishment anxiety.” At Mic, Melissa Pandika argues that we should refrain from posting photos of suspects in anti-Asian hate crimes—but only if those suspects are black"...

My intention here is not to perpetuate stereotypes about black people. Crime is perpetrated by individuals, not whole races. Moreover, to the extent that black people are overrepresented as assailants in this (or any other) kind of crime, it’s useful to note that crime often is linked to poverty and disadvantage, which disproportionately afflict American black communities. But that said, it is intellectually dishonest to ignore or deny the identity of real crime suspects in the service of protecting a certain kind of ideological narrative.

"There are two kinds of racism, Mr. Escalante.  Singling out a group because they're members of a minority, and not singling out a group because they're members of a minority."  link  I guess there's a third kind--just lying about or ignoring issues of race because doing so fits your politics.

Critical Race Theory at West Point

I hope this ends well:

Republican Rep. Mike Waltz is demanding that U.S. Military Academy West Point stop teaching cadets critical race theory, calling the teachings "divisive," "destructive," and "unacceptable" for the future leaders of the U.S. military.

In a letter to West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, obtained by Fox News Wednesday, Waltz, R-Fla., questioned whether the institution intends to continue its teachings, while warning that the nation is "on incredibly perilous ground if any future leaders of our military are taught the the civilian institutions and structures with ultimate authority over them… are systemically oppressive and that they therefore have a duty to oppose them."

As Good A Reason As Any To Leave The Teachers Union

I’m no fan of the BDS movement, and even less a fan of institutional support for that movement.  But if it gets people to leave that crappy union, I guess I’ve found its silver lining:

A teacher at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has resigned from the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union as a result of the union taking up a motion supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The motion, which was passed during UTLA’s North Area (northeast Los Angeles) and Harbor Area (which includes Carson and San Pedro) meetings on May 20, expressed “our solidarity with the Palestinian people and call for Israel to end bombardment of Gaza and stop displacement at Sheikh Jarrah” and endorsed “the international campaign for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against apartheid in Israel.” UTLA said in a statement that the motion would be taken up for a vote by the UTLA House of Representatives in September and that motions passed in Area meetings don’t reflect the opinion of UTLA leadership.

Lindsey Kohn, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at James Madison Middle School in North Hollywood, wrote in her letter of resignation that “I feel unsafe as a Jew in this UTLA” with the motion being brought to a vote. “As an educated person, I cannot understand how the union can stand by a terrorist organization and a country that bombs Israel, hurts their children and wants to kill every Jew. The Palestinians use children and civilians as human shields and then blame Israel for their death. This political battle has NOTHING to do with the education of my students.”

Additionally, Kohn chided UTLA for supporting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, accusing the union of putting “many lives in danger by taking away our school safety officers. This organization is racist, anti-semitic [sic] and clearly extremely ignorant.”

Monday, June 07, 2021

CRT=The New Civil Rights Movement?

Uh, no.  It's not.  Not even close:

The first thing to understand about this movement is that it rejects the basic values of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King called for the equal rights of minorities, and he dreamed of a day when black people would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

In contrast to MLK, as I argue in the article, social justice activists don’t want to end discrimination. They don’t want people judged only on the basis of merit and character. They don’t want to replace racial strife with racial harmony. They don’t seek reform, progress, or justice; they seek subversion, disruption, and collective, identity-based retribution. . . . Social justice activists want individuals purged for questioning BLM, purged for defending law enforcement, purged for saying “all lives matter,” purged for supporting peaceful protests over riots. They call for abolishing the police. They defend rioting and looting (or commit it themselves). They block, harass, and shut down speakers. They reflexively slander their adversaries as racists, fascists, Nazis, misogynists, or white supremacists.

And they despise America.

And then there's this:

One can understand why Critical Race Theory’s proponents would seek to link it to the civil rights movement, which properly enjoys a hallowed status in American history—and which yielded some of the most revered and intensely studied Supreme Court judgments on law-school curricula. But this line of argument, however rhetorically attractive, is logically incorrect: Critical Race Theory (often abbreviated as CRT) explicitly undermines the intellectual and moral foundations of color-blind American liberalism.

The civil rights movement was based on a hopeful and optimistic vision of modern Americans turning the country’s ideals into reality. CRT, on the other hand, presents a dystopian vision in which ubiquitous bigotry and oppression defines America’s national soul. Far from being heir to the civil rights legacy, Critical Race Theory is in many ways its opposite.

It's a hateful philosophy put forward by hateful people.  It has nothing in common with the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

77 Years Ago Today


The End Is Nigh

Two more days with students, and then a teacher work day.  Taking the trailer out next weekend.

Good times.  These are the good times.

Friday, June 04, 2021

What Could These Idiots Possibly Have Been Thinking?

Was it long-term or just temporary insanity?

An Ohio high school coach and six assistant coaches were fired Thursday over an incident in which they allegedly tried to force a football player to eat a pepperoni pizza despite his religious dietary restrictions forbidding pork. 

The Canton City School District Board of Education made the decision during a special meeting following an investigation, FOX 8 of Cleveland reported. 

The family of a 17-year-old Canton McKinley High School boy, who is part of the Hebrew Israelite faith, claimed the student was threatened with extra drills for his teammates and being kicked off the team for not eating the pizza.  link

Before they were fired the coaches should have been given extra drills.  I cannot for the life of me imagine what they were thinking, or how none of the 7 realized that you just don't mess with a student's religion.