Yes, black lives matter…and…

What got me thinking about this topic was this video:

Now yes, BLM is more about law enforcement treating everyone fairly and giving the same benefit of the doubt to black people as everyone else gets. Yes, that is difficult to do, given the nature of human prejudice (not particular to white people; we evolved to reason inductively).

But there IS another issue. As a society, we seem to be ok as long as “we” have the ability to avoid the more violent areas. Those who are stuck in such areas are just out of luck, especially if police presence goes down.

I suppose the rub is that law enforcement shouldn’t be a mechanism to keep “us” (those with a little bit of wealth) safe from those who don’t have any but rather as an entity that protects everyone, including those who have to live in underserved areas. I remember reading in Steven Pinker’s book Better Angels that much of the violence in underserved areas is the result of vigilantism; people there do not feel confident that law enforcement will take their complaints seriously but will instead either ignore them or arrest them for something else. Hence they take the law into their own hands.

If there is a way out of this, I’d love to hear it.

April 9, 2016 Posted by | racism, social/political, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Conservatives and Liberals not getting Trump

Ah, Donald Trump. He is probably the polarizing figure in this election, though Paul Krugman, says this:

I still predict that once Trump locks up the nomination, judicious, chin-stroking Republican moderates will declare, after much cogitation, that given Hillary Clinton’s, um, something or other, Trump is the more responsible choice.

But for now, the establishment Republicans are howling. Why, Trump is RUDE (and yes, he is). Why doesn’t this turn off the Republican primary voters? Why, Trump is not a TRUE CONSERVATIVE. Other Republicans (downballot) will distance themselves from him if he wins! (says Sen. Mitch McConnell, no less). Mitt Romney has attacked him. But those attacks seem to be failing and failing badly.

A few are applauding some ridicule type attacks: look, he can’t even…SPELL!!!!

Hint: Dan Quayle? Tea Party Signs)

Well, here is what the Republican establishment doesn’t seem to get: the less affluent really don’t care about some big CEO or a hedge fund manager getting yet ANOTHER tax cut. They really don’t want us to go to war again. They ARE hurting and seeing a candidate who is NOT talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare…one who wants to repair our laughing-stock bad highways and bring jobs back here….those are matters that affect their lives. Other candidates who need Koch Brother type contributions to be able to run aren’t free to focus on this. But Mr. Trump doesn’t need their money; we have a classic right-wing populist vs. “money conservative” type battle here, as pointed out by Paul Krugman here:

As pundits are discovering to their horror, there’s probably more to the Trump phenomenon than mere celebrity. The fact is that the central planks of modern conservatism — slashing taxes on the rich and benefits for the public at large — are deeply unpopular. Republicans have won elections only by wrapping these policies in other stuff; it’s about cutting benefits for welfare queens and “strapping young bucks” (that’s a Reaganism, in case you’re wondering) buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. And this in turn means that there is a sort of empty box in U.S. politics waiting to be filled.

The matrix here shows the possible positions. A welfare state available to all is the Democratic position, which is pretty much what other Western countries call the social democratic position. The dominant role in the modern GOP is played by a faction that links de facto disdain for Those People with a desire to slash social insurance. Libertarians are, in principle, small-government without the undertones; they are also basically absent from the actually existing electorate.

And then there’s the empty box. Once upon a time that box was filled by southern Democrats, who preserved Jim Crow while supporting the New Deal. But they’ve all moved over to the GOP now, and in the process become anti-social-insurance. But there are plenty of voters who want Social Security and Medicare for people who look like them, but not those other people. And at some level Trump is catering to that unserved population.

It is clear that this is who Trump is targeting. Note his style of “position ad”:

And there are few Republicans that see this coming and actually believe that Trump being unconventional gives him a better shot at Hillary Clinton than an establishment Republican.

But, many liberals have trouble figuring out his appeal too. All they see is the racist/xenophobic part of his rhetoric and they think THAT is where his appeal comes from! Hey, David Duke endorsed him!

So, when I say that I like it that Trump attacked the claim that “President Bush kept us safe” and pointed out that there were no WMD in Iraq

And I like it when a Republican says that hedge fund managers ought to pay more tax and that Social Security and Medicare ought to be strengthened, not cut back. I like it when the lies of the Republican establishment get called out by someone who has money.

Then then I get criticized by other liberals for not focusing on Trump’s galaxy of xx-isms…”how can you say anything good about Trump?”. Psst: yes, I have condemned some of what Trump said, and did so in our local newspaper.

But that is how self-appointed SFB “activists” roll…they can’t see that I am looking at various aspects of a complicated issue and seeing an opportunity.

I think that Howard Dean was onto this in 2004 when he said:

The Democrat front-runner opened ye unholy can of worms recently when he told an Iowa newspaper that he wanted “to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.” Dean made the remark by way of explaining his opposition to some gun-control legislation and as part of his Southern strategy of inclusiveness.

As in: “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross section of Democrats,” he explained to the Des Moines Register.

And, “White folks in the South who drive pickups with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us and not them because their kids don’t have health insurance, and their kids need better schools, too,” he said at a Democratic National Committee meeting in February.

In the wake of Dean’s most recent remarks, a veritable maelstrom of Bubba-ness has ensued. You’d have thought Dean had invoked Satan by the reaction of the other Democratic candidates, who began jockeying for Most Virtuous and made literal the politics of bumper-sticker slogans.

Emphasis mine.

But some can’t see past their “social justice warrior” mindset; for them that mode is always on, front and center, 100 percent of the time.

Let me be clear: I am voting for the Democrat. I am just saying that there is an opportunity to snag at least a few of the Trump voters, if the Democratic nominee is smart, as I think that she will be.

my letter on trump

February 28, 2016 Posted by | politics, racism | , , | Leave a comment

Day game and other topics….

Workout notes: later run (4 miles); untimed; saw some track athletes out there. Knee: moderately sore.
I went to an 11 AM game (I like summers) with Lynn; we caught up on things.

The Chiefs won 2-0 and played much better than last night.

Recent: I am usually surprised to see my face at the end of these 5K races. You can tell that I am putting forth effort; my times just make it appear that I am not trying at all.


Climate: Illinois was unusually cool in 2014; the rest of the world: not so much.

A worker is fired for having the “confederate flag” on this truck. Yes, this happened in Alabama which doesn’t have a lot of protection for workers; in the past someone was fired for having a Kerry bumper sticker. In some states, workers have political speech protection.

Politics: Sen. Lindsey Graham has fun with the fact that Donald Trump gave out his cell phone number.

Recent law enforcement fiasco A woman was pulled over for not signaling a lane change. She was just going to get a warning. But she got snippy with the law enforcement officer. It “shouldn’t” matter; being unpleasant to be around isn’t a crime. But it lead to her getting arrested, and later dying in jail. Here is a sharp CNN discussion (I agree with the female panel member) and here is a discussion on the legal aspects of the arrest.

July 22, 2015 Posted by | 2016, free speech, Friends, racism, running, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Wow…freedom of speech and all that….

Workout notes I started late and was worried about the thunderstorms in the area. So I started walking on the Riverplex track with the intention of taking it outside after the storms were over. But I was on a roll:

14:06, 13:51, 13:46, 13:20, 13:44, 13:42,13:43, 13:42, 13:30 13:27, (2:16:55), 13:03, 13:16, 13:32 (2:56:47 for 13.2). Each “mile” was really 1.0159 miles. I had a rhythm going and didn’t want to break it up. I then cooled down with 10 minutes on the stationary bicycle..I wanted some knee bend.

So this cycle: 18, 16, 13 (faster) seems to be ok; maybe add 1-2 miles to the next 3 week cycle of long walks.

I had intended to blog and read more, but I got in a very long winded internet discussion with an European liberal about the US freedom of speech laws. They didn’t seem to get why it was legal for the KKK to yell anti-black sentiments out loud. This was similar to when I had to explain to non-US Muslims that the President of the United States did NOT have the power to halt a proposed Koran burning.

The bottom line: when it comes to free speech, American liberals and conservatives see more eye to eye with each other than we do with our political cousins in other countries.

Side note: this photo is ironic, no? The civilian is wearing a Nazi t-shirt.


And now we have this: evidently some people want to “play the activist” and go around removing “Confederate flags” from other people’s property.


This is theft and vandalism, and it isn’t helping things. No one has the right to do this. Even worse: there is the potential for some hothead to blow away one of these morons…and wouldn’t the fall out from that be just great? Sadly, some liberals are intolerant of speech; it caused me great embarrassment when some kook went around our neighborhood stealing Aaron Schock signs (this was, 2004 I believe).

And yes, there are conservative idiots who do this sort of thing as well; something similar happened to my wife’s car.

July 19, 2015 Posted by | politics, politics/social, racism, walking | | 1 Comment

Jeb Bush’s “longer hours” statement, skepticism and tribalism …

Jeb Bush said that Americans should work longer hours. You can see the short video here. Now, we need to understand what he meant by that. Of course, there are part time people who would like to have full time jobs:

There are arguments that more people need to be working (there are also good arguments to the contrary). And there is a real problem with underemployment – people who are involuntarily working less 40 hours a week. But Bush didn’t say that more people need to be working (questionable) or that more people need to be able to get full-time jobs (true). He said people need to work longer hours.

But that is not how it came out; it sure came out as if Gov. Bush thinks that Americans are, well, slacking? Or, is it the contention that we should make better jobs so that those working part time can go to full time if so desired?

Paul Krguman takes this on; he sees this as a continuation of Gov. Romney’s 47 percent remarks and entrenched Republican beliefs:

At my adventure in Las Vegas, one of the questions posed by the moderator was, if I remember it correctly, “What would you do about America’s growing underclass living off welfare?” When I said that the premise was wrong, that this isn’t actually happening, there was general incredulity — this is part of what the right knows is happening. When Jeb Bush — who is a known admirer of Charles Murray — talks about more hours, he’s probably thinking largely about getting the bums on welfare out there working.

As I asked a few months ago, where are these welfare programs people are supposedly living off? TANF is tiny; what’s left are EITC, food stamps, and unemployment benefits. Spending on food stamps and UI soared during the slump, but came down quickly; overall spending on “income security” has shown no trend at all as a share of GDP, with all the supposed growth in means-tested programs coming from Medicaid:


Krugman goes on to point out that the percentage of people on disability is flat, *once one corrects for age*. Remember that the longer one lives, the more likely one is to have a physical condition that is disabling.

But alas, the conservatives cannot divorce themselves from what “they know”, even if it is “not so.”

I see that is a human tendency; liberals are not immune to it either. Steven Pinker talks about the “blank slate” hypothesis here..and yes this “blank slate” hypothesis is very popular among the social justice warrior crowd.

It is also tough for humans to see things through the eyes of others, and it is tough to not feel attacked when one’s basic assumptions are challenged. You see frustration with that in John Metta’s sermon on racism.

Frankly, I think that is human nature to rebel when one’s fundamental assumptions are attacked. After all, we’ve believed those assumptions for a long time, and often the person who is attacking those assumptions might not be that intellectually distinguished, and they might be wrong about other things. Their arguments may be weak or contain gaping holes. But nevertheless, they might be right, even if their argument isn’t.

Having a science like skepticism toward the beliefs of others is easy. Having it toward ones OWN beliefs is hard, and I wonder if such skepticism is rare outside of science.

This is really a sticky topic when we talk about things like racism and sexism. Here is a point from Metta’s sermon. He talks about his prior discussions with his white aunt:

Those, however, are facts that my aunt does not need to know. She does not need to live with the racial segregation and oppression of her home. As a white person with upward mobility, she has continued to improve her situation. She moved out of the area I grew up in– she moved to an area with better schools. She doesn’t have to experience racism, and so it is not real to her.

Nor does it dawn on her that the very fact that she moved away from an increasingly Black neighborhood to live in a White suburb might itself be a aspect of racism. She doesn’t need to realize that “better schools” exclusively means “whiter schools.”

Now I challenge the notion that “better schools” means “whiter schools”; it can mean that, of course, but mostly it means “a school for wealthier people” or a “better funded school”. Believe me, I’d choose my racially mixed Department of Defense schools over most of the predominately white schools I’ve seen.

But I think that some of these unhelpful feelings are the result of human beings being tribal and humans tending to reason inductively. Here is what I mean: if you aren’t black, you probably don’t have many close black friends; you might notice a few athletes (“hey blacks are good at sports!”) and see a drug bust on TV (“hey…it is unfortunate that so many criminals happen to be black”) or you might see a black person hitting you up for money (as frequently happens where I live right now; in my prior location the panhandlers were white). So, your brain makes an unhelpful inference based on a tiny, non-random sample.

On the other hand: the white criminal or panhandler is seen as a negative outlier; after all there are many counter-examples in your life that you see every day. The white murderer: sociopath. The white who attacks people out of the blue: crazy.

Quickly: is she a “thug” and representative of violent “white culture”, or is she a druggie or mentally ill?

But when a black person does it, the human tendency is to draw an inference, however inaccurate.

But: I do NOT see white people as being unusually evil; in fact, if the world were created just a bit different and this were a time of black people dominating, I doubt that they would behave much differently. I know that my brown ancestors (Aztecs) happily enslaved and murdered their opponents when they could do so; it just so happens that when my Spanish ancestors got there, my Aztec ancestors got their asses kicked and my Spanish ancestors were less than gracious winners.

Nevertheless, black people in our society, have a “draining from 100 cuts” existence. The cuts might be individually small, but the toll they take accumulates.

Sometimes, our human nature, which may have worked for us from 50K to 1K years for us, works against us right now.

So, I’ll just conclude by saying something that will probably offend many of my liberal friends AND my conservative friends alike:

Yes, our society has some structural racism built in it, and it is a good thing to work and remedying that. But this does NOT mean that white people have any special reason to “feel guilty” either. I do think that we all have a responsibility to help build a less racist society though even if that means giving a little.

I think of it this way: if your neighbor had their house burned down and their wealth plundered, wouldn’t helping out be the right thing to do, even if you had no part in either the plundering or the burning? I realize that analogy is imperfect and that the situation is more complicated than that.

July 11, 2015 Posted by | political/social, racism, social/political | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Confederate Flag and my shame…

Yes, I know; this flag:


I’ll call the “Confederate flag” though it never flew over any capitol in the Confederate States. It was a union jack, the battle flag for the Tennessee army and a square version was the flag for the Northern Virginia army. (more here) But this is what went up over the state capitol in South Carolina and that is what is frequently used in many other settings.

And, when I attended (1975-1977), it was the flag for my High School, William B. Travis High in Austin, Texas. It was on our uniforms and it decorated the door to the football locker rooms.

And yes, as a high school student, I had these flags crossed on my bedroom wall, with a photo of my Yokota High School football team in between them. It was a “school spirit” thing.

What did it symbolize for us? Well, we were a working class high school (55 percent Mexican American, by the way); we saw ourselves as being looked down by those snobby “silk stocking” high schools in the wealthier parts of the city.
So, for us, it was “spunk”, “overcoming the odds”, fighting back against “the snobs who looked down on us”. “Rebel Pride”; “Your durn tootin I’m a Rebel” we said.

Yes, blacks were hated in my high school (the ones who were good at sports were tolerated); I remember the old “lunch lines” where many black students cut the line (no, I didn’t say anything) and sometimes fights broke out. The teachers did nothing to stop it. This was in sharp contrast to Yokota High School, where the mixing was far easier and I had a lot of black friends.

So I carried this flag stuff with me a matter how much it really didn’t fit me. I outgrew it.

I began to see the flag…well, I am being honest here; not so much as a sign of bigotry (which, it is) but more as a sign of uncultured ignorance; for example I would die of embarrassment to be seen riding in a car with such a decal.

I felt the same way about Dixie (the song) too; in fact, I blew a gasket when the church I belonged to sang it; in fact we had a big public dust up over it. (ok, it was a UU church).

But I remember seeing it fly over the capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina when I visited there.

So, let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised to see Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley, Mitt Romney call for South Carolina to take it down.

But…now WALMART???? I suppose they have a lot of black customers…(sorry to be so cynical).

Yeah, I continually read all of the dumb “it is about heritage” stuff. That is backward looking. The Civil War is over. The traitors lost. Personally, I would have voted to let the south go; it isn’t as if they add that much to our country anyway. But we didn’t and they are a part of the United States.

Put it in the museum and move forward.

Regional pride is fine but I hope they come up with something more positive. Remember that the flag went up over the capitol in Columbia in 1961. More on the history here.

June 23, 2015 Posted by | Personal Issues, racism, social/political | | Leave a comment

Talking past each other: Racism

Yes, I’ve talked about this before. And yes, I remain pessimistic.

There are some hopeful signs though; for example President Obama and Governor Romney agree on that the “Confederate flag” (old battle flag really) should be taken down.

However, it is very difficult to get conservatives to even entertain the idea that racism is anything beyond what a statistically small percentage of sociopaths practice, even though there is evidence that racism affects our public policy discussions (e. g.: social safety net discussions)

Now Hillary Clinton addressed this:

But, this won’t convince conservatives, even those who accept the statistics that she cited.

After all, white people aren’t causing black people to commit crimes against each other and there is evidence that the police drawing back in Baltimore is causing an increase in black crime victims.

No one is telling people to have more kids than they can afford: (the video is about a glitch that cut off a SNAP payment; you can see a conservative’s reaction to this here)

Yes, I know. Inductive thinking can fool us; some statistics are very misleading and there is evidence that social pathology follows poverty rather than the other way around.

My personal take

When I am confronted with “people in group X aren’t getting a fair shake”, sometimes my first reaction is that my own (small amount) of success is being attacked! I might respond that “I worked hard for my Ph. D.” (and I did), etc. But, the truth is:

1. The opportunities were there for me to take advantage of
2. There were some things that I didn’t have to put up with and
3. I had encouragement along the way; that is significant!

Now of course, there are plenty of people who have ample opportunity and end up not doing anything with it. There is no doubt about that; individual choices matter and it appears to me that conservatives are better about understanding that. However individual choices matter within the realm of “what is reasonably probable” and social circumstances are a major driver of that.

Let me use a personal analogy: in yesterday’s Steamboat 15K I finished well behind the leaders in my age group. I was in the bottom of my age group (not quite dead last but..)
Now yes, I probably run less than those who finished in the top 5 of my age group; my physical activity is spread among many types of activities (weight lifting, swimming, walking and running). So if I really dedicated myself to running, did running speed work, planned my long runs and targeted this race, what would happen? In reality: I’d move up a few places; that would be about it. Finishing near the top of my age group in this race is just outside of the realm of “reasonably probable”; I don’t have the DNA to be a good athlete nor do I have a “runner’s body” (my frame is too heavy and I sweat too much; I lost 8.5 pounds during this race!)

Now my analogy is flawed in that it is an individual analogy and it concerns natural talent. But apply similar reasoning to a group when poverty and all of its trappings (schools, nutrition, safe environment, good role models at home) is concentrated in an area. Sure, a few will always escape, but on statistical grounds, you’d expect a lesser degree of economic achievement from the group as a whole.

Unfortunately when these sorts of things are brought up, some feel as they are accused of being immoral or evil people.

June 21, 2015 Posted by | racism, social/political | , | Leave a comment

A day without rain?

Walked to the W. Peoria track; did 5 laps (2.1 miles) of drills, quick step, focus on push-off (27:43) and then walked back home and did a little bit of yoga.

Call it 3+ miles, which is good enough for today.

We’ve had quite a bit of rain lately but none last night; so the track (paved asphalt) was mostly dry.

Hmm, it appears as if the University of Texas athletic director is alienating fans, alumni, coaches, faculty and…the college president?


Lindsey Graham:

Sorry, but most everything I’ve read has the murderer being a white supremacist of some sort. But it appears to me that conservatives are tip-toeing around the idea that racial bigotry was a driving factor.

June 19, 2015 Posted by | racism, republicans, social/political, walking | , | Leave a comment

Talking past each other: McKinney pool party fiasco

One thing seems clear: it sure appears that when the police responded to an incident at a pool party, one of the officers grossly overreacted and made a situation much more tense than it needed to be:

What happened: there is a pool in a residential area subdivision that is only open for residents of that subdivision. The subdivision, while mostly white, is still mixed and two black teens invited some friends. There are rules that allow only 2 guest passes per resident.

But more black teens showed up and wanted to be let in; a few climbed fences. They were asked to leave. Also, a fight broke out between a white woman and a black woman when the white woman used racially inflammatory language and a fight broke out.

The police were then called; and it appeared that, while some of the black kids HAD permission to be there (were residents or had proper guest passes), well, look at the video to see who drew the attention of the police.

(analysis from here and here)

You can see what some in the right wing are saying here. And yes, some said that the police did NOT overreact.

Now if the kids weren’t black, we might not be hearing about this on a national level.

Here are my thoughts and feelings:

1. Though this might appear to be a garden variety “wealthier neighborhood doesn’t want its things overrun by poor outsiders” situation, when the wealthier neighborhood IS mostly white, the non-white “outsiders” will stand out, and the non-white “insiders” will look like outsiders to law enforcement. I think that is human nature.

2. Lots of times, poverty issues have a racial tinge to them, given how concentrated poverty (or non-wealthiness) is in darker skinned communities. And sometimes wealthy or middle class minority individuals will be mistaken for “the outsiders” even when they belong; this happens all of the time.

3. Yes, some of the non-invited kids did wrong, but ..well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that as a teenager, I’ve sneaked in to places (not to escape a fee but just for the adventure, or to play ball when the court was closed). Sure I did wrong, but I didn’t become a career criminal. So, IMHO, being arrested by police isn’t always the appropriate answer for rowdy teenagers. It sure seems as if black teenagers (and possibly brown ones) get less benefit of the doubt than others.

4. It appears to me that some of the police officers tried to appropriately deescalate the situation by making the kids go home. But that one hothead appeared to be out of control.

And so it goes…and I don’t have an answer.

June 9, 2015 Posted by | politics/social, racism, social/political | | Leave a comment

“Honest” conversation on race: why I think that it will never happen

Workout notes: easy 3 mile walk. That was it.

“Honest conversation on race”: my guess is that this will never happen. Here is why I think this:

1. When I hear someone say “honest conversation”, it appears to me that the person who wants the “conversation” really wants is others to stay silent while they go on and on.

2. Honestly expressing what one feels can lead to trouble: (example 1, example 2)

3. The truth is quite complicated; there are many pieces to the puzzle which include things like jobs, the legacy of legal racism, educational opportunities, criminal justice practices (profiling , bad law enforcement practices and the like), lack of economic mobility (and increasingly dire consequences of this) and pathological social behavior.

4. Humans appear to be hard wired to reason inductively. That is, we tend to form conclusions on “what we see” and “what we see” tends to be very limited and

5. Humans appear to be tribal.

And so it goes. We notice that the crime rates are higher in the neighborhoods where more blacks live. Perhaps a black person has behaved rudely toward us. So our lesser developed part of our brain draws a hasty conclusion.

But then what about things like this? If we mostly associate with white people (or our own race), we KNOW that most “aren’t like that” and we write those behaving badly as a few “bad apples.” But…how many friends and colleagues do we have from another race? So when we find ourselves thinking “well, my friend X, who happens to be black, well, he/she must be “one of the exceptions” instead of realizing that it is the jerk and criminal that are the exceptions!

Our brains play tricks on us; our brains evolved to help us survive in the world as it was 50,000 years ago, when letting “that other tribe” get to our watering hole might have meant the end for us.

And, sadly, when people speak honestly, we demonize them. Those who express fear of “getting off on the “wrong exit”” are denounced as racists, and those who speak of “structural racism” are denounced as being apologists for all sorts of socially pathological behavior.

Sadly, I have no solutions. What I can say that I was the most comfortable back in the days when I played team sports, especially in Japan. Why? Well, then I had lots of different friends of different races (rather than just internet friends). We visited each other’s houses, trained together. practiced together, socialized together and took the field together.

Oh, I got in fights with people of “other colors”…as in “other color uniforms”.

I really miss those days.

I wish that our university could somehow merge with a historically black university so I could work in a more racially diverse environment, or at least I wish there were more racial diversity in the running/walking community.

But, I feel that Americans are really too racially segregated for there ever to be much common ground.

May 29, 2015 Posted by | racism, social/political, walking | | 4 Comments


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