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 That determination has long since been replaced by anger or apathy, cynicism or irony.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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In Defense of Cultural Appropriation

by Kenan Malek
Op Ed Writer
New York Times
June 14, 2017





Seventy years ago, racist radio stations refused to play “race music” for a white audience. Today, antiracist activists insist that white painters should not portray black subjects. To appropriate a phrase from a culture not my own: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

In Canada last month, three editors lost their jobs after making such a defense.
The controversy began when Hal Niedzviecki, editor of Write, the magazine of the Canadian Writers’ Union, penned an editorial defending the right of white authors to create characters from minority or indigenous backgrounds. Within days, a social media backlash forced him to resign. The Writers’ Union issued an apology for an article that its Equity Task Force claimed “re-entrenches the deeply racist assumptions” held about art.
Another editor, Jonathan Kay, of The Walrus magazine, was also compelled to step down after tweeting his support for Mr. Niedzviecki. Meanwhile, the broadcaster CBC moved Steve Ladurantaye, managing editor of its flagship news program The National, to a different post, similarly for an “unacceptable tweet” about the controversy.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Andrew Sullivan on our cultural divide

April 30, 2017

And then there is the cultural impact of mass immigration, which the Party of Davos, living in a post-national world, celebrates as a vision of the global future. Neo-reactionaries beg to differ. They get a little vague here — tiptoeing awkwardly around the question of race. A nation, they believe, is not just a random group of people within an arbitrary set of borders. It’s a product of a certain history and the repository of a distinctive culture. A citizen should be educated to understand that country’s history and take pride in its culture and traditions. Honed and modulated over time, this national culture gives crucial legitimacy to the American political system by producing citizens acclimated to the tolerance, self-government, and other civic values that democracy needs if it is to function. And so [National Security Council's Michael] Anton, who gives America’s long history of successful integration of immigrants short shrift, worries about the influx of what he delicately calls “non-republican peoples.” “What happens when the West ceases to be western?” he asked me. On the blog, he was much more direct: He wrote that “Islam and the West are incompatible” and that Muslim immigration should be almost entirely banned. A country like the United States requires “a certain type or character of people.”

For the entire essay: 
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/andrew-sullivan-why-the-reactionary-right-must-be-taken-seriously.html 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Jonathan Haidt on the Cultural Roots of Campus Rage

An unorthodox professor explains the ‘new religion’ that drives the intolerance and violence at places like Middlebury and Berkeley.


New York
When a mob at Vermont’s Middlebury College shut down a speech by social scientist Charles Murray a few weeks ago, most of us saw it as another instance of campus illiberalism. Jonathan Haidt saw something more—a ritual carried out by adherents of what he calls a “new religion,” an auto-da-fé against a heretic for a violation of orthodoxy.
“The great majority of college students want to learn. They’re perfectly reasonable, and they’re uncomfortable with a lot of what’s going on,” Mr. Haidt, a psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, tells me during a recent visit to his office. “But on each campus there are some true believers who have reoriented their lives around the fight against evil.”
These believers are transforming the campus from a citadel of intellectual freedom into a holy space—where white privilege has replaced original sin, the transgressions of class and race and gender are confessed not to priests but to “the community,” victim groups are worshiped like gods, and the sinned-against are supplicated with “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.”
The fundamentalists may be few, Mr. Haidt says, but they are “very intimidating” since they wield the threat of public shame. On some campuses, “they’ve been given the heckler’s veto, and are often granted it by an administration who won’t stand up to them either.”

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 Advantag
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.