Friday, June 22, 2007

America and Race 2007

Back a generation or so ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said ” I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Sadly, it appears that most of the nation is working hard to prevent that from becoming reality. And that includes the government which is charged with ending such discrimination.

Let’s start with the government. Try to do anything with the government, and you will find yourself filling out paperwork. And what always shows up early in that paperwork, as soon as people are involved? That’s right, a demand to know the demographics, including the race of the person(s) concerned. Besides the obvious problem with demanding to know the race of an applicant or participant in a program before deciding on whether to accept them, there is also the poor consideration that not everyone has just one race. My wife and I, for example, are different races, so there is no neat simple box to check for my daughter, and I am personally offended by demands that we identify her by her race. Sure, they can say that they will not use race in their judgments, but the only real way to make sure there is no racial bias is to not ask that question. It simply has no virtue, and no explanation justifies the practice. I certainly understand statistics, and so I know that the bureaucrats will claim the race information is necessary to define demographic parameters. The problem, of course, is the Observer Effect – people change their behavior when they know they are being observed, which means that asking someone’s race, especially when it happens with every government action, influences people to believe that the government makes decisions based in large part, perhaps solely, on race. We also see programs designed to advance one race, preferential treatment which has no justification except by claiming that one race should be treated differently than others. The practice is long-standing and widely accepted, yet is unconscionable on its face.

Society does this as well. Behavior which is unacceptable for one racial group and consequently penalized, may be tolerated and even promoted for another. A good example is language. In the United States, it is reasonable to expect someone to be able to speak English, or to ask for an interpreter. At the very least, someone who knows their command of English is not good, ought to have the good grace to recognize that fact and not become angry at an American for not speaking a foreign language. After all, if one were to go to France as a tourist, one should plan on speaking French or finding an interpreter. While there are many French merchants who speak English, it is a courtesy they extend if they do so, not something which should be expected. The same for traveling to any country; if you do not speak the language, expecting the host country to accommodate you is a bit boorish. Yet here in the United States, foreigners regularly demand that Americans address them in their native tongue, especially Spanish. Speaking bluntly, this is an unmentioned facet in the illegal immigration debate; the refusal of the new arrivals to even try to speak the language, choosing not to just retain their own culture but to superimpose it on the one already in place. And yet, if someone complains about Hispanics who refuse to speak English, they are likely to be called racist, and the people who are the actual offenders are given a pass.

Another societal example is vulgarity. Certain words are universally agreed to be so offensive, that no one can justify their use – unless you are the right race, of course. The notion that epithets should be tolerated if certain races use them is absurd on its face, and yet it is promoted as the civic standard in many towns. Entire sub-cultures have grown up with a confrontational attitude, hostile to all practices which defined courtesy for countless generations. Blatant exhibitions of violent. lewd, misogynist, or racist behavior are common in large portions of the under-30 population, that same demographic which refuses to assimilate to any demand for respect for others or civic ideals, then complains because the society they create is as vulgar and hostile as they are themselves. It’s as if the street gang persona has become pandemic, and the attitudes of race-based gangs permeates to the whole of the racial demographic at large.

Then there is the media. Look at what get promoted, in the NBA for example. In the NBA, the shoe deals and media attention are focused on the likes of Alan Iverson and Ron Artest, gang-wannabe thugs who diminish the game. The NFL recently had enough of the behavior of its worst offenders, yet the media questions whether Adam “Pacman” Jones is being treated fairly; after all, he’s only up for felony indictments for an incident where someone got shot. I mean, Rae Carruth murdered his girlfriend and the NFL did not even fine him for that, so I can sort of see why the media got the idea that criminal behavior was a good thing for role models. And yes, it has to be said that there is a racial component in this; it’s not white athletes who are generally getting gun-crazy and toting drugs in their car, like Dexter Devon Reid, although the Colts show no interest in penalizing Reid for his behavior. It’s just the fashion you see, and it’s almost become expected for black athletes to have drugs and guns with them, so apparently that makes it something to excuse. Millions of kids see and hear this behavior, and what lessons do you think they learn, especially when they comprehend that you are not accountable if your skin is a certain color?

The root of the problem is hostility. Speaking bluntly, there is a vacuum of leadership where it is needed most. I quoted MLK Jr. early in this piece, but the plain fact is that no legitimate black leader of a stature anything like King’s has been seen since his death. Not that there are not qualified black role models, but the people who succeed on their own merits and refuse to play the victim, are attacked as somehow traitors to their own race. Dr. Bill Cosby, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, J.C. Watts, Justice Clarence Thomas, and many other brilliant blacks have been marginalized for not being radical and socialist, which perpetuates the vacuum, as those individuals deemed ‘worthy’ invariably prove quite the opposite, as the careers of Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson so sadly prove. Racism is quite alive and as venomous as ever. We see it when a Congressman is found with enough money to buy a luxury car stuffed in his freezer, but he keeps his job and privileges because of his race, while another Congressman is hounded out of office on charges which are dubious at best and based on a personal vendetta by a political enemy who hates Conservatives. We see it when a District Attorney willfully hides evidence, because he wants to pursue what he knows to be false charges, solely because the men charged are a certain race and culture, and the plaintiff a different and certain race and culture. We see it when we are told that only one race can possibly act in a ‘racist’ manner, and that another race is ‘entitled’ to lifelong, indeed multi-generational compensation and preferential treatment, solely on unproven accusations. We see it when people here illegally are able to march in public for “rights” they know full well they have no valid claim to, yet they know they will be untouched by the law, simply because they are a certain race. We see it when people who uphold the law are punished for it, because of their race and the race of the people they apprehend. We see it when one minority is refused its due consideration by other minority races, solely because that race practices assimilation and refuses direct confrontation with the majority culture.

And it is this same racism which keeps its own promoters down. Those who teach hostility and confrontation to their children, who urge a wholesale refusal of proven societal values in deference to behavior which even they recognize is futile and self-destructive. Sexual promiscuity destroys families, spreads disease, and leads to unplanned pregnancies and personal dismay, yet certain races promote the “right” to such behavior. Drug use leads to financial loss, penalties from the law and dismissal from employment, poor mental and physical condition and performance, yet certain races excuse or even glorify recreational drug use. Dishonest and confrontational behavior damages existing relationships and prevents development of healthy associations, leads to conflict with law enforcement, employers, and family, and can escalate to fatal consequences, yet again certain races excuse deliberately offensive behavior, even to the point of violence, as a social condition which cannot and should not be redirected to more positive choices. In short, many members of minorities are encouraged to pursue behavior which inevitably leads to loss and unhappiness in the long term, yet when that result occurs, the minority will blame the very culture it rejected, for its own self-created trouble.

Fortunately, the modern day seems to have more individual participation than in earlier years. More and more people refuse to accept the social pressure applied by special interest groups and political manipulators. Just as more people marry outside their race and raise mixed-race children, so too do more people work to escape the cycle of defeat imposed by con artists who profit by the game. The lesson is that neither government nor racial activism programs will help resolve the condition faced by individuals, but only the individuals themselves must choose to think, speak, and act according to their own character and ideals. And when they do so, such individuals generally find that other people share that same character and those same ideals, regardless of cultural heritage or superficial appearance. In my neighborhood, four races share a community with similar values. We all work hard and focus on raising our families, we all love our kids and want to build for the future. We all cooperate in common endeavors and we all ignore the sort of people whose only motives are based on hate and suspicion.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

MBA Update

Well, mid-terms are nine and ten days away, so naturally it’s time for me to catch up on some blogging. Seriously, it’s struck me that an update on my school work might serve a purpose.

I’m taking three courses this summer, and here’s how I am doing so far. Each course assigns a total of 1000 points, and so to get an A I need 900 points or better. Here’s the position for each class so far:

Strategic Cost Management

Grades so far:
Reading 1 – 20 out of 20 (100%)
Case Study 1 – 70 out of 75 (93%)
Reading 2 – 18 out of 20 (90%)
Reading 3 – 20 out of 20 (100%)
sub-total: 128 out of 135 (94.8%) Ceiling is 99.3%

Grade pending:
Group Case 1 – worth 75 points

After this grade, 21% of the grades will have been awarded.

Coming up:
Reading 4 – worth 20 points
Group Case 2 – worth 75 points
Mid-Term Exam – worth 300 points

After June, 60.5% of the grades will have been awarded.

Management & Organizational Behavior

Grades so far:
Assignment 1 – 15 out of 15 (100%)
Assignment 2 – 65 out of 65 (100%)
Research Paper Outline – 20 out of 20 (100%)
Quiz 1 – 7 out of 10 (10%)
sub-total: 107 out of 110 (97.3%) Ceiling is 99.7%

Grade pending:
Quiz 2 – worth 10 points
Quiz 3 – worth 10 points

After this grade, 13% of the grades will have been awarded

Coming up:
Quiz 4 – worth 10 points
Quiz 5 – worth 10 points
Mid-Term Exam – worth 150 points

After June, 30% of the grades will have been awarded

Business Statistics and Strategic Cost Management

Grades so far:
Homework DB 1 – 25 out of 25 (100%)
Homework DB 2 – 25 out of 25 (100%)
Case Study 1 – 100 out of 100 (100%)
sub-total: 150 out of 150 (100.0%) Ceiling is 100.0%

Grade pending:
Homework DB 3 – worth 25 points

After this grade, 17.5% of the grades will have been awarded

Coming up:
Homework DB 4 – worth 25 points
Case Study 2 – worth 100 points
Mid-Term Exam – worth 250 points

After June, 55% of the grades will have been awarded

So, at this time it should be obvious that early points do not count all that heavily, yet are important to collect if you want good chances to get an A. The Mid-Terms, no surprise, count heavily, and the pace of work will increase as I move into the final month of the semester. I also need to register for the Fall Semester when registration opens in the last week of June.

“Presidential” Crisis Management

Those who have been to my personal site will have observed that I paused my 'Major League Presidents' competition after 41 contests. Basically, that's because I have a ton of work to do, including my summer classes. But I am also not entirely satisfied with my numbers, and I am considering revisiting them. For this article, I would like to explain what I was trying to do, and to ask for your input on the essential elements.

It's a popular game to rank Presidents, and a lot of publications, schools, websites, and media like to do so. Of course, what happens is usually predictable when you know the leaning of the authors/producers, and so the rankings lose a bit of their usefulness. I have come to the conclusion that part of this comes from two mistakes. First, these polls basically just assign some nominal value to each candidate, total them up and sort them out by their total score. This misses the fact that each President lives and serves in a different set of circumstances, and some Presidents were dealt an easier hand than others. Further, it seems that any President who served prior to 1840 is given an aura of superiority, without much consideration of the fact that everyone has their good and bad points, Presidents included. I don't agree with the notion that a President should be considered better or worse than other Presidents on every point of comparison. Every man who served as President had certain abilities and skills which made them desirable as President in the first place, including those men who became President through the death or resignation of their predecessor. To gain perspective from studying Presidents, we need to watch out for the blunder of making President's one-dimensional.

Some may ask why measure Presidents at all? The present field of candidates demonstrates why, I think. Is Barack Obama or Fred Thompson, with so little experience in office, really a good fit for the office? On the other, how should we weigh the long and often controversial records of people like John McCain or Hillary Clinton? Seeing how real-life Presidents handled their duties could be quite useful in marking desirable traits and warning signs in the candidates, and based on something better than emotion alone.

To sort out any comparison between Presidents, I developed a system which created a series of contests in various times and conditions, where in one case a certain President might prove superior but not necessarily in another set of conditions. Without going into even more annoying specifics, I began by trying to consider what qualities are desirable in a President. To do so, I tried to avoid the subjective - and therefore hopelessly volatile - measures which are so often presented, such as "honesty" and "courage", because such descriptions will vary according to the flavor and mood of the respondent pool. Rather, I suggest that we examine the crises in American History, and how different Presidents dealt with them. So, for this article, I would like you to suggest some crisis in American History, and critique the responses of those Presidents who addressed them. In order to avoid the more emotional responses, I should like to ask that we limit the field to crises no later than 1987.

Thanks. This article is being cross-posted at both Wizbang! and Stolen Thunder.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Women and Men and Societal Lies

I was listening to a popular FM radio station this morning on the way to my bus, and I heard a discussion between a male and female disk jockey about what sort of person each gender finds attractive. The female disk jockey opined, as is common, that men judge women primarily by their physical appearance, while women are more likely to look below the surface. The male disk jockey countered that by noting that women are quick to overlook character flaws in a handsome male, such as Brad Pitt or Russell Crowe. A quick consideration brought me to the guy’s side; a glance at magazine covers, top-name stars and calendar models reveals that women are every bit as attracted to physical beauty as men, but they are apparently more willing to lie about their motive. After all, there’s a reason why firefighter calendars sell out in days, but there is no demand for calendars with accountants known for their integrity. Women first judge men by their appearance just as often as men do women. The difference in actual lewd conduct seems to be far more due to environmental opportunity and peer pressure, than to a superior ethical position for one gender.

Society lies. The male/female stereotypes are one example, but there are many other places where a little contemplation shows the conventional opinion to be far from accurate. Rising gas prices must be the result of corporate greed rather than poor planning by governments, for example, or that the party which historically supported Slavery and resisted Civil Rights legislation, is yet the party which best defends minorities and looks out for their rights. Or the claim that talk radio, which allows direct feedback from listeners, is unfair and biased, while network television, which not only does not allow for counterviews to its positions, but has also been caught in several deliberate frauds in recent years, is still somehow more professional and responsible. Or the notion that only one race can act in a racist manner. Or the claim that the nation which frees a country from a despot, is worse than that dictatorship for protecting itself.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Some Thoughts on the Republican Field

I was watching “Meet the Press” this morning, and it was nothing surprising. This morning, they were discussing the 2008 Presidential elections, and divided the discussion, reasonably enough, into the Republican and Democrat fields. They only discussed the major candidates, so I am afraid there was no mention of Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, or Albus Dumbledore. Where the discussion left balance and approach MSM norms, was the way the press panel discussed Republicans as a whole, and how they discussed Democrats as a whole. That is, the press panel focused on negatives, or potential negatives, for the Republican candidates, and considered only relative positives for the Democrats. In the end, though, that sort of thing tends to work for the Republicans, since the eventual GOP nominee will have to address weak areas early on, while the Democrat will not expect it until after the party convention, at which time – unable to address the most difficult questions – the Democrat nominee may be expected to declare that it is a ‘smear’ to challenge his/her/its claims.

As a result, nothing significant was said about the Democrats; the press still prefers them, and won’t say a word against any of them. The fun came before that, when the press was playing, once again, ’Why No Republican Is Any Good’. Going down the list, the panel played true to their favorite routines;

Fred Thompson won’t last, because he’s just an actor;

Rudy Giuliani is a goner, as soon as Republicans find out what he really stands for;

Mitt Romney is not trusted by Republicans, who are suspicious of his Mormon faith and his position flips;

John McCain is “desperate”, and will do or say anything to stay in the race.

I was almost hysterical with laughter when they finished that review. I mean really, I don’t care much for McCain, but to call him “desperate” two seasons before the first primary even happens? Also, it’s a bit of projection, I think, for the left-leaning press to worry about a Mormon running for President – no Republican I have talked to, considers it a deal-killer for someone to be a Mormon and ask for his vote. As for Giuliani, he’s been very honest about what he believes and how he would govern, so the notion that he’s pretending to be something he is not is rather far-fetched. Were that so, Rudy could have played himself as a strong pro-lifer for the support, but he did not do that.

And then there’s Fred. One thing I love about the present situation, is that the Left, well beyond a doubt, is afraid of Fred Thompson. Very afraid. Enough afraid of him, that even folks who don’t know much about him are interested in finding out what has frightened the media mob so much. We have learned over the years, that the press always hates leaders who are really good for America, so it’s an early endorsement, albeit unintentional, for Thompson that the press is determined to sack him if they can.

Don’t misunderstand me, that I would accept a candidate without giving him/her a good hard look. But neither do I rule someone out just because someone else says nasty things about them. To tell the truth, I even considered the candidacy of Barack Obama early on, but his demonstrated positions on the issues has proven he would not be a good candidate for President, especially on the most critical issues of National Security, reforming Social Security and the Income Tax, on Immigration Reform and Border Security, and on America’s position and responsibility in the world. As for Hillary, she was kind enough to make her positions clear in the past four years, and thereby removed herself from serious consideration before 2006.

For the Republican candidates, I would say that while I have preferences, I am open to just about any of them, so long as they are properly focused on, as I said, those critical issues. And since we are still months away from the primary season, it is fine for a candidate to speak in general terms, if he or she prefers to establish his identity and character with the GOP voters. I do intend to find out where Fred Thompson stands on the key issues, but for now I like him because he seems to grasp the priorities better than anyone else. Running for President is not the same as applying to be a company’s go-fer. Even though the party has done a very poor job of it in recent years, when the President is elected he will lead the party and the party has the duty to pursue the course set by the President. As a result, it is essential not only to know where a potential President stands on the issues, but for the party to get a gut feel for who they would most be willing to trust with the helm. The candidate’s temper, stability, judgment, humor, intelligence, faith, courage … all these things matter more in the early going. To put it simply, Howard Dean’s obvious character flaws blew him off the map in 2004, a lesson both parties should consider before plunging too fast into the 2008 primaries. John McCain lost me not when he sponsored McCain-Feingold, but when he lied about what he had done, and about his opponents. But I could be content with a Romney, a Giuliani, or a Fred Thompson in the Oval Office, provided their answers remain consistent and direct as we move on in the primaries. What the press continually fails to grasp, is the need for a good person, not a clever media-savvy one, to serve as President.