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 That determination has long since been replaced by anger or apathy, cynicism or irony.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, January 10, 2018

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.


 

Friday, January 05, 2018

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.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

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.”....

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The End of Identity Liberalism


by Mark Lilla   Dec 16, 2016
Continue reading the main story








Credit

It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It’s an extraordinary success story.
But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.
One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

Is Criticism of Identity Politics Racist or Long Overdue?



NOVEMBER 23, 2016

INTRODUCTION

rfdraceCritics said President-elect Donald J. Trump’s campaign slogan celebrated a time before racial discrimination, gender inequality and homophobia were matters of concern.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A widely discussed op-ed by Mark Lilla in The New York Times (above) argued that the Democratic Party had gone astray by engaging in “identity politics” that were more concerned with a diversity of demands by women, African-Americans, immigrants and L.G.B.T. people, than in appealing to Americans as a whole. Some said that piece implied that liberals should ignore unique and real issues faced by anyone who isn’t a white man.
Is criticism of political correctness and identity politics a reaction that’s long overdue or just racist?
This is part of the Issues for Trump and America series.
READ THE DISCUSSION »

DEBATERS

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Is Wonder Woman being Forced into Early Retirement



As of Friday, Wonder Woman will no longer be an honorary U.N. ambassador. A petition protesting her appointment called her "a large-breasted, white woman of impossible proportions." Above, a display at Comic-Con International 2016 shows the evolution of her costume.
Matt Cowan/Getty Images
It's come to light this week that the comic superhero's controversial tenure as the United Nations' honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be coming to a close this Friday.
That's less than two months since the character was unveiled as the face of a U.N. social media campaign to promote women's rights via tweets and facebook callouts. The decision sparked protests both in and out of the organization, with nearly 45,000 people ultimately signing an online petition that called the choice of a fictional character with "an overtly sexualized image" to represent gender equality "alarming" and "extremely disappointing."
But in a phone interview with NPR today, Jeffrey Brez, a United Nations official in the same department, said that while the plan was for DC Comics to continue activities in the coming year, the U.N. piece was never intended to last as long.At the time, officials of both the UN and DC Comics — which owns the rights to the character of Wonder Woman — said the campaign would continue well into 2017. "As long as there's momentum in the campaign we'll move forward," Maher Nasser, the U.N. official who essentially brokered the collaboration between the United Nations and DC Comics, told NPR in late October. "They have committed to a year."

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Lynda Carter Deflects Critics of Wonder Woman







Is Wonder Woman a “pinup girl” or a feminist icon? The question dogged a United Nations campaign that featured the superhero as a symbol of self-empowerment for girls and women.
While some feminists may have felt triumphant when the United Nations announced the end of the Wonder Woman campaign this month (in an earlier New York Times article, a United Nations spokesman said that the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar), one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman.
While some feminists may have felt triumphant when the United Nations announced the end of the Wonder Woman campaign this month (in an earlier New York Times article, a United Nations spokesman said that the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar), one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman.”
Of the pushback that accompanied the campaign, Ms. Carter believes that some of it may be because “the U.N. didn’t put a woman in there.” The ambassadorship was announced just weeks after the United Nations passed over several women to be secretary-general.
Now 65, she is preparing to pass her golden lasso to Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who will appear in next spring’s film version of “Wonder Woman.” Ms. Carter took time from acting (including a role as the president on “Supergirl” and a governor in the coming film “Super Troopers 2”) and career as a singer (she just competed a four-city tour and is recording her third studio album) to discuss the complex legacy of her Amazon princess alter ego. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

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 

On the CulturePlaces of the Trump Supporters



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).