Thursday, January 11, 2018

CULTUREPLACES SALON: A SYNOPSIS





DRAFT
Rather than try to tackle complex national and international issues and institutions that affect the entire U.S. , we concentrate on place based trends and academic research that more directly affect our everyday experiences in our own neighborhoods, workplaces, and other closer connections.

Though they will overlap with certain national and global phenomena, we seek to grapple with ideas that stem from and have immediate implications for our personal ties.  We deal with those grassroots issues where we--rather than activists, advocates or interest groups, think tankers, or politicians--have some control and where we can make a difference if armed with the kind of insights that emerge from our discussions.

We start from the premise that changing the body politic is becoming increasingly difficult for citizens of the 21st century in the way that the power structure was able to do at the start of the 20th century, when American Progressivism was imbued with a strong reformist optimism.  “I propose that we lead” declared Edward Adams in the paper delivered at the organizational dinner of the Commonwealth Club of California in 1907. That determination has long since been replaced by anger or apathy, cynicism or irony. Were it not otherwise, the Commonwealth Club would still be engaged in “public service” i.e. attempting through their long standing “Study Sections” to help shape California laws and regulations. Now only specialists attached to policy institutes and politicians’ offices can comprehend such complicated issues, not to mention the power of money.

This more decentralized, small scale approach puts aside debates over broad public policy matters such as “the media”, health care, diplomacy, climate change, and immigration policies that require a level of expertise that defeats all but most determined policy wonk.  Or they happen in our everyday interactions but devolve into heated declarations.

That said, however, certain patterns of behavior associated with racial, gender, and employment relations, for instance, which have a universal dimension, affecting human activity well beyond our individual situations, obviously have strong influence over our own daily lives. Insofar as these human tendencies can be directed or “debugged”, in Steven Pinker’s word, by individuals and smaller groups, they deserve to be examined as they are manifested in particular contexts which we call CulturePlaces.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The last thing on ‘privilege’ you’ll ever need to read



A new book argues that accusing people of unearned advantages does nothing to address inequality -- and may only make things worse.

  


THE PERILS OF ‘PRIVILEGE': Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage
by Phoebe Maltz Bovy
St. Martin’s Press. 324 pp. $26.99

Someone needs to book Phoebe Maltz Bovy on one of those television shows featuring people who have the most awful jobs in America, because she has just completed a project so soul-crushing that I can’t imagine anyone ever doing it again, certainly not voluntarily.
She has scoured the Internet for every overwrought think piece and self-indulgent personal essay about privilege — and has read all of them, apparently. And if that were not enough masochism, she has also read the comments sections, those swamps of vitriol and condescension that no one is ever supposed to even contemplate or speak of, let alone wade into. And she has drawn on that experience to write a book about why so much of the current debate and online pile-on about privilege tends to be contradictory, embarrassing, superficial and, above all, self-defeating.
The result is “The Perils of ‘Privilege,’ ” an often lively and more often meandering book that will be of intense interest to the sort of people who are up on the latest cultural criticism on the state of our cultural criticism. Unless you are steeped in the privilege debates already, the book will be most striking for its obsessively narrow focus, and for its expenditure of Bovy’s analytic and writing talents on a work that explores the vicious and petty ways people talk about a concept more than it interrogates the truth of the concept itself. If this book constitutes a “takedown” of the privilege orthodoxy, as the author suggests, it is very much an inside job.

Is diversity for white people?



Review of "We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation" by Jeff Chang

  

WE GON’ BE ALRIGHT: Notes on Race and Resegregation
By Jeff Chang
Picador. 192 pp. $16.
The copious books confronting this moment in America’s racial politics — a mix of reporting and meditations on President Obama, on Black Lives Matter, on police violence and mass incarceration — can be roughly divided into two broad categories. There are the My Story works, deeply personal accounts in which the authors draw on their own lives to illuminate their arguments, often in self-conscious reference or emulation of notable activist voices of the past; and the Our Story versions, works of history and big-picture analysis, more academic in inspiration but no less ambitious in their ends.
Jeff Chang’s book on the culture wars and resegregation of America is different, though. There is history and analysis in these pages, and there is life and experience, too, but neither form of storytelling overpowers the other. Instead, what comes through most clearly is a versatile mind in the service of a painful and protracted story, an author who ranges widely before drawing tough conclusions and one who, despite the book’s optimistic title, appears deeply pessimistic about things getting any better, much less becoming all right. “We live in a time when merchants of division draw us away from mutuality and toward the undoing of democracy itself,” Chang writes, and by the end of his book you feel that, despite the author’s best efforts, the merchants are winning.
“We Gon’ Be Alright” is organized as a series of seven essays — the “notes” in the subtitle is a bit of an undersell but still pretty accurate — that could each be read on its own in the pages of some high-brow magazine. Two of them in particular stand out, most memorable for their ability to move easily between Chang’s story and a collective one. In “Is Diversity for White People?” Chang explains how the concept of diversity has been “exploited and rendered meaningless,” used as a corporate marketing tool as well as an evasive maneuver against more radical efforts at mitigating inequality. And in “The In-Betweens,” Chang gets personal about the Asian American experience, in all its possibility and artificiality and tension.

Monday, February 27, 2017




Volume 49, March–April 2017, Pages 22–31

It's nature and nurture: Integrating biology and genetics into the social learning theory of criminal behavior



Highlights

Major advances in genetics and biology show that many human behaviors are impacted by factors other than social influences.
Criminology has not incorporated these genetic and biological influences into any mainstream criminological theories.
This article proposes unifying nature and nurture by integrating biological factors and social learning into a single theory.

Friday, February 24, 2017

THE SCIENCE ON WOMEN AND SCIENCE


Excerpt from the conclusion written by Charles Murray, AEI.2009

We have reviewed overwhelming evidence that genetic and hormonal differences between males and females are major causes of sex differences in 258 THE SCIENCE ON WOMEN AND SCIENCE behavior. These include differences in social behaviors in infants, play behaviors, interests, activities, educational and vocational goals, choices of occupations, patterns of cognitive abilities, and the frequency of extreme giftedness in spatial, mechanical, and mathematical ability. The dominance of female doctoral students in the life and human sciences and of male doctoral students in the inorganic sciences and engineering is consistent with and predictable by sex differences in interests and ability patterns. The greater social interest and ability of females than males is evident in infancy. The differing play activities and interests of boys and girls share similarities with sex differences in the play behaviors of nonhuman primates. Interests, activities, values, and vocational goals that differentiate girls from boys and women from men are strongly affected by the level of fetal androgen exposure or tissue sensitivity to androgen. Daily, monthly, or yearly cycles in levels of adult sex hormones influence performance on certain verbal and spatial tasks 


Trump, The Elites, and The Deplorables


Victor David Hanson nails it again in this podcast


Monday, February 20, 2017

How Sweden became an example of how not to handle immigration

We’ve taken in far too many people and we’re letting them down badly – especially the children

 Stockholm
For a British boy to be killed by a grenade attack anywhere is appalling, but for it to happen in a suburb of Gothenburg should shatter a few illusions about Sweden. Last week’s murder of eight-year-old Yuusuf Warsame fits a pattern that Swedes have come slowly to recognise over the years. He was from Birmingham, visiting relatives, and was caught up in what Swedish police believe is a gang war within the Somali community. Last year, a four-year-old girl was killed by a car bomb outside Gothenburg, another apparent victim of gang violence.

Fraser Nelson and Ivar Arpi discuss the Swedish model for migration on this week’s Spectator podcast:

For years, Sweden has regarded itself as a ‘humanitarian superpower’ — making its mark on the world not by fighting wars but by offering shelter to war’s victims. Refugees have arrived here in extraordinary numbers. Over the past 15 years, some 650,000 asylum-seekers made their way to Sweden. Of the 163,000 who arrived last year, 32,000 were granted asylum. Sweden accepts more refugees in proportion to size of population than any other nation in the developed world — when it comes to offering shelter, no one does it better. But when it comes to integrating those we take in (or finding the extra housing, schools and healthcare needed for them), we don’t do so well.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cultural backwash On the muddied state of art and identity.


Politics, the late Andrew Breitbart remarked, is downstream of culture. In other words, the nature of a society’s culture influences the nature of its politics. So if you care about politics—those communal arrangements that, in Aristotle’s summary, conduce to the good for man—you will also care about culture.
What should we think about the state of our culture? Should we be happy about the state of those institutions that we have entrusted to preserve and transmit the cultural aspirations of our society?
Human beings are creatures who exist in perpetual tension between what they are and what they would be. Which means that the answer to that second question will always be No. The imperfection, the longing, that is at the heart of the human condition bequeaths us perpetual dissatisfaction. Still, there are differences to be noted, distinctions to be made, and it is clear that some eras enjoy a healthier, more vibrant cultural life than others.
When we look around at the institutions that define our culture—our families, our schools and colleges, those communities devoted to the arts and entertainment, those that are devoted to formulating our public self-understanding—what do we see? A full analysis or phenomenology of our cultural institutions would fill a book, or many books. But the yeasty political environment we inhabit is mirrored by a curious (to speak softly) cultural environment. Here are a few snapshots.

Guns, Gangs, and Genes: Evidence of an Underlying Genetic Influence on Gang Involvement and Carrying a Handgun


Gangs and guns represent two key sources of violence in America and around the world. While a considerable amount of research has been devoted to studying each outcome, neither has been extensively studied from a biosocial perspective. The current study addressed this gap in the literature by estimating the genetic and environmental underpinnings to gang membership, carrying a handgun, and the covariance between the two. Analyses of kinship pairs from the NLSY97 data revealed significant genetic influences on all of them. Specifically, genetic factors explained 77% of the variance in gang membership, 27% of the variance in carrying a handgun, and 66% of the covariance between gang membership and carrying a handgun. Just as important, however, is that the shared environment explained none of the variance/covariance across models, with all of the remaining variance being accounted for by nonshared environmental effects (plus error).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Saints & Sinners: A Dialogue on the Hardest Topic in Science



 “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall”
– Escalus; in ‘Measure for Measure’ by William Shakespeare
There is arguably no topic more incendiary (about which scholars say less, ironically) than race differences in general, and in particular, race differences in behavior and achievement. There are certain subjects that are so politically charged and fraught with consequences that any scientific research on the topic is instantly applauded or demonized (depending on your viewpoints), no matter the findings. The subject of race differences, broadly defined, falls squarely in this category. For the purposes of this discussion, and because we are behavioral scientists, we focus on the issue of race differences in behavior.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Selections for our Napa Wine and Conversation Salon



The following six posts of related articles deal with the fraught issue of group identity and control vs. individual identity and control (click on 'Read More' for the full article).  

Steven Pinker put the ideal in today’s language in The Blank Slate, writing that “equality is not the empirical claim that all groups of humans are interchange-able;  it is the moral principle that individuals should not be judged or constrained by the average properties of their group.”

The essays are used as "homeplay" for our PAIRINGS Salon Meetup during which we will discuss these identity topics while rating and ranking a selection of new releases.  The articles are meant to give focus to our discussion.  They will not be critiqued for their observations as such, but instead will act as a springboard or spark for our conversation.


 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

What is a Sexist



What kinds of statements about men and women constitute sexism? Is it sexist to say, for example, that on average, men are taller than women or that women live longer than men? Most people already accept the obvious truth that men and women differ in these physiological respects, and it would strain credulity to argue that such statements are blatantly sexist. Suggestions about psychological differences, however, can stoke controversy.
Pressing the issue further by claiming that psychological and cognitive differences might partly explain wage gaps, employment gaps, and the like, will certainly invite harsh rebuke and likely a charge of sexism. Like “racist”, the definition of “sexist” seems to have ballooned in such a way as to include any claim about average differences between males and females from the neck up. Some feminists, in particular, fear that assertions about differences between men and women threaten the social progress we’ve made over the past few centuries. Perhaps they have a point (as we discuss below). But we should consider whether such an expansive definition of sexism is helpful, or whether it actually represents a hindrance to moral progress.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

What is a Racist? Why Moral Progress Hinges on Getting the Answer Right



The charge of “racist” represents a scalpel that has been substantially dulled in recent years. The result is an inability to cut cleanly around the cancerous tissue of racism. The term has been co-opted by well-meaning social justice advocates, and is no longer reserved for people who treat members of other groups as inherently inferior to members of their own group. Nor is it used to identify people who fail to treat members of other groups as the individuals that they are. Instead, “racist” is casually hurled at anyone who expresses ideas that have been emblazoned on an intellectual “no-fly list.”....