Category Archives: Culture

UPDATE: NCAA’s treatment of Penn State was a sham

Joe Nocera of the New York Times reports that Penn State knew that it didn’t have any jurisdiction to penalize Penn State’s football program as a whole for the horrific private actions of former coach Jerry Sandusky.

We lamented the punishment at the time as an affront to the “rule of law,” so to speak, and unfair to the team.  Naturally, liberals in the media (including Nocera, as he decently admits in the current column) enjoyed lambasting the university’s “football culture” that supposedly contributed to the abuse.

It is fair to criticize the Penn State administration for enabling Sandusky, but it does not follow that the NCAA should punish the players on the field.  It’s a bit too late for the students, players, and fans, but at least we can hope that the NCAA applies more rational oversight in the future.

 

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What’s the real story behind the Bruce Levenson revelation?

Another scalp for the faux-outrage crowd.  We see nothing wrong with the e-mail that Atlanta Hawks’ owner Bruce Levenson sent to his colleagues:  he was calling for more diversity in the cheerleading team and arena music selection; citing the need to attract more affluent whites to the season ticket ranks; advancing a theory that perhaps some presumably racist white people are afraid to come to games and that the team should address their perception, while being careful to add that he didn’t personally share that perception (this second clause in his statement scurrilously left out of the Washington Post‘s coverage); and benchmarking other teams’ fan bases and marketing approaches.  Seems like normal business.

Cue the moronic template statement from the NBA commissioner:  “As Mr. Levenson acknowledged, the views he expressed are entirely unacceptable and are in stark contrast to the core principles of the National Basketball Association.”  This mechanical pablum with utterly no context could have been issued at any time, in any of these phony “scandals.”  If one didn’t know better, one would doubt its sincerity.

The interesting question is how the information came out.  He sent the e-mail in August 2012 and reportedly “voluntarily reported the email to the NBA” in July 2014, triggering an “independent investigation” by the league.  One wonders the circumstances of this reporting.  Why would Levenson report it?  Did he learn that some news was about to leak, and/or the NBA’s “investigation” was about to crucify him, prompting him to try to get out in front of it?  Presumably, during the Donald Sterling fracas, Silver put the other owners on notice that a witch-hunt was coming.  (Of course, the witch-hunt would be coming from the NBA itself, even though the commissioner is supposed to actually represent the owners not sell them out.)  Did Silver offer the owners some type of amnesty, in asking them to get anything potentially damaging out there, and then renege?

(As hackneyed as it is, we can play the usual thought experiment and switch the races in Levenson’s message, and realize that, had he said that the team needs to add more black-oriented music and black cheerleaders, attract more upscale blacks, and otherwise address blacks’ perceptions of the brand to make the environment more comfortable for them, he’d probably receive an award for promoting racial harmony.)

These are all troubling questions, coming soon, no doubt, to your employer too.

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Who are more sympathetic perpetrators: Muslim men abusing young girls, or Catholic priests abusing young boys?

Walter Russell Mead points out the New York Times‘s bias, which reinforces the puzzlement we pondered yesterday.  When it’s homosexual priests abusing young boys, it’s an indictment of religion.  When it’s Muslim men abusing girls, well, that’s rape, and if you even point out the religious aspect, you’re a bigot.

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Adrift trying to navigate the false equivalencies and hierarchy of victimhood

Attractive Tacoma teacher Meredith Powell, age 24, pled guilty to having sex with a couple of male students, ages 15-16.  Everyone has played their dutiful part in the aftermath:  the mainstream media reported on the “rape”; commenters everywhere decried the “double standard,” as a male teacher certainly would (and has) received much harsher punishment for a similar offense; and the 99% that comprise of the rest of us snickered, with some subset of that group envious that they never had teachers like that in high school.

Perhaps, genders aside, one could argue that the teacher abused her power position, but, judging by the sexts the fornicators sent each other, it appears that it was the alpha-men-in-training who had the psychological power over their lonely paramour.

Some on the right have also toed the “double standard” line, including a disappointingly tame Greg Gutfeld.  Polite conservative society seems unable to point out the illogic in the false equivalency between a woman “perpetrator” and a man in such circumstances.  Our polity moves on awaiting the next spectacle.

Where’s the outrage at the outrage?  Channeling Whoopi Goldberg and Todd Akin, this was not rape in any rational sense.  This was not forcible rape.  This was not coercive or even manipulative rape.  This was not date rape because-I-was-drunk-no-I-mean-drugged-actually-I-changed-my-mind-the-next-morning.  The “victims” were postpubescent males who gladly consented and certainly high-fived all their friends afterward.  As would any teenager after bonking a 24-year-old teacher who looks like that.

Meanwhile, following the release on the internet of private naked pictures of 100 starlets (and one dude) allegedly stolen from the iCloud, Time myopically asks, “Where Are All the Hacked Pics of Men?”  The article doesn’t really attempt to answer, which is more indicative of the author’s worldview than would be any attempt to analyze this profound question.  It’s self-evident sexism, of course—make that rape culture.  And, by the way, woman have a hard time working in technology.   And female video-game developers are routinely harassed.  Etc.

The Time author’s title is a rhetorical question, but not for the reason that most people assume.  Sure, one explanation is that there is little demand for such content.  Still, in the era of abundant internet niches to fulfill every imaginable prurient interest (and many that we can’t imagine), we can assume that there is someone out there purveying photos of naked famous men, presumably for the homosexual audience (Google “male celebrities naked pictures” and you’ll find plenty of on-point hits).  The main constraint is on the supply side:  because the “selfie” is largely a feminine phenomenon.  Facebook, Instagram, the “selfie stick,” the dual-camera iPhone, and the other culture-rotting diversions of our time exist because of female narcissism.  You won’t find many men taking pictures of their naked bodies in the bathroom mirror, much less feeling compelled to upload them to the internet.

None of this excuses the hackers’ invasion of privacy, but it is telling that Ricky Gervais was met with nearly universal opprobrium for repeating the obvious advice that we have all received at some point:  don’t publish something that you wouldn’t want to see broadcast across the internet.  Seasoned male pick-up artists (as well as anyone with any common sense) know that when you send an illicit pic to a chick, you make sure that it doesn’t contain any personally identifiable body parts.  But today’s women can’t seem to help themselves.

So, on the one hand, our intellectual elites tell us, there is no biological basis to our quaint notions of gender, so it would follow that there should be no difference between how society reacts to Meredith Powell versus a man similarly situated, and, by the same token, that we should be dumbfounded and outraged (dumraged?) why hackers sought out a nude Jennifer Lawrence but not a nude Joey Lawrence.  (OK, a bad example perhaps.)

On the other hand, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a war on women, not to mention a “deadly epidemic of violence against women.”  In fact, society cares more about endangered ex-pets than about battered women.  So we should come down hard on the patriarchy.  It’s unclear where violence against men is deemed to fall in this hierarchy of worry:  no one seems to care about prison rape, because, well, it’s men who are victimized, plus it’s part of the scourge of American exceptionalism and hence concern about it would place one on the wrong side of the social-justice-enlightenment see-saw.

Since the most noble status one can have in our society is that of victim, and the most righteous pursuit of our intelligentsia is to identify those hapless martyrs and their wrongdoers, it is becoming increasingly complicated to figure out which causes we are supposed to prioritize.  Approaching this puzzle with a basic understanding of the differences between males and females would be a good place to start, but, alas, that ship has sailed—when it suits the narrative.

It gets even harder to decipher the zeitgeist when you add sexual orientation as a dimension.  Civilized society (not to include the authorities in Rotherham) seems to be reacting with appropriate horror at abuse perpetrated by Muslims against young girls in England, as well as that against young boys by Catholic priests worldwide—though the politically-correct media has reduced the sociological sting of the latter crisis by almost universally obscuring its homosexual nature.  One suspects that the secular-progressives’ interest in the case is due mostly to their hatred of religion and their love of lawsuits (with the tort bar chomping at the legs of the table to get its supper).  It becomes complicated trying to patch together our perturbation across so many overlapping grievance groups and boogeymen.

We’ve been trying to come up with a formula to predict the level of contemporary outrage at sexually-based offenses controlling for the gender and sexual orientation of the putative victims and those of the perpetrators.  It’s only getting harder as the number of permutations grows exponentially with all of these new sexual identities.  We give up.

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It’s easy to hate soccer

So it’s the World Cup, where third-world nations and Euro-trash get to rejoice at their superiority, in at least one realm, over America (and the politically-correct media like the New York Times and ESPN get to lament how uncouth Americans are for not getting with the program, at least until immigration takes its toll and we come to cherish mamacita and fútball and empañadas).  Fine, let ’em have their diversion.  We loathe soccer:

1. It is utterly corrupt at every level, from selection of the World Cup hosts to officiating in matches to recruiting players. This is not surprising when you give huge sums of money to unaccountable bureaucracies staffed by hacks, Eurocrats, and self-styled dealmakers with third-world values. We are certain that every purchasing and hiring decision make by FIFA and national organizations is completely corrupt. In fact, the entire enterprise is an embodiment of a third-world mentality.  One has to love how Sepp Blatter, the blowhard head of FIFA whose tone deafness makes Hillary Clinton seem like Zubin Mehta, talks about how he wants to be re-elected so that he can clean up the corruption in the organization.  Memo to Sepp:  you’ve been at the helm for 16 years.

Countries and individuals that can ill afford it spend way too many intellectual and economic resources pursuing soccer. No doubt productivity will be even lower in Brazil during the World Cup than it normally is (to the extent that that’s even possible), as rabid followers care more about the game than about feeding their families.  Dictatorships like Russia squander national wealth just for the ego-boost of hosting the tournament. Rich third-world countries like Qatar import players from war-torn countries and give them passports to play on the national team. Yet, amusingly, these teams still lose, because they fail to grasp that to build a culture of success requires strategic thinking, long-term planning, and patience—virtues that such countries are incapable of adopting—by building an infrastructure to identify and cultivate talent from a young age. (We suppose it’s reassuring that soccer victory is one outcome for which money cannot buy quick-fix success.)

Of course, all of these follies parallel those of the “Olympic movement.”

2. It inspires thuggery. “Soccer hooligan” is a redundancy. If only fans would devote as much energy to intellectual pursuits—or to going to work—as they do to following their teams at the pub and the stadium, world GDP would be higher. Crazed fans murder players who make mistakes. Riots at and after games ensnare innocent bystanders. Players shamelessly and comically “flop,” and get away with it, as an epidemic. The cringe induced by a grown man diving to the ground, clutching some body part and wailing in faux pain, then popping his head up to see if a penalty was called if he is brushed in the slightest by an opposing player is enough reason to turn the TV off right away.  Players adopt the same banal celebration every time they score:  running wild, with a grin like a five-year-old who just stuck his face into a huge bowl of chocolate pudding.  We prefer the advice from our little-league coach:  Act like you’ve been there before.

It’s amusing—though parallel to the priorities of universities, government agencies, and similar politically-correct bureaucracies—that FIFA cares more about fans chanting “racist” slogans than about corruption.  They even punish national teams or federations for their fans’ words, as if they are responsible.  It’s a convenient distraction from the real rot wrought by FIFA.

3. The formats are stupid. In the World Cup and Olympics, the first round is round-robin (three games per team) and the successive rounds of the tournament are single-elimination. This is contrary to every other sport, in which a team has to win the same number or more games in later rounds (e.g., baseball, in which the first wild-card game is single-elimination, then the division series is best-of-five, then the league championship and world series are best-of-seven). Soccer’s format makes less sense because a good team is less likely to lose in a fluke in a longer series, and you’d think that you would want your better teams to battle it out in a more legitimate test of superiority.  Not to mention that it would seem preferable to have more games when the quality of play is higher and when the teams at that stage have earned it.  (As an analogy, we have an infinitely higher probability of defeating Phil Mickelson in a single-hole golf match than in an 18-hole round.)

Many national and international series are best-of-two. Who ever heard of such a thing? The series invariably go to some absurd tiebreaker, like whichever team has the most natural-born citizens wins (actually, that would be a good one).

It’s the only sport in which the clock moves forward, not backward. Instead of the obvious logic of stopping it when there’s a break in the action, they keep it running and then add an arbitrary, and approximate, amount of time at the end to make up for the delays.  Meanwhile, the team that’s ahead stalls for time.  One never really knows how long the game will go. And there seems to be no mechanism to add more time in a second instance if time during the first extension is squandered.

When a game cannot end in a tie, such as an elimination game, each team gets a number of “shootout” kicks against solely the goalie.  This is also a silly way to end a game; 75% of such kicks are successful, so—speaking of flukes—the winner is basically the beneficiary of random chance.  Our solution would be to just keep playing until someone scores; perhaps remove one player from each team every 15 minutes.

They use stupidly ambiguous, unique, and highfalutin terms like “pitch” (for field); “match” (for game); “fixture” (for future game); “friendly,” which is supposed to be an adjective not a noun (for exhibition game), etc. ESPN.com seems to be trying too hard in calling the standings “tables.”  (ESPN, an American site, even writes its World Cup recaps in pretentious British English, with a healthy dose of overwrought floridity.)

4. It’s boring. Most “strategy” seems to involve keeping the ball away from the other team and hoping for a miracle goal, many of which come by own goals. Almost every game seems to end 0-0 or 1-0. The over/under on number of goals scored is two for every single game. (Betting the over and paying referees to gift goal opportunities is how fixers usually succeed—it would be simple to obviate this process by making it impossible to know in advance who the referees will be for a given game, but they don’t bother). When one points out the obvious tedium of the game, a self-righteous fan will inevitably respond that “you just don’t understand it.” These same pretentious lemmings call it “the beautiful game”; we prefer Steve Czaban’s moniker: “the dreadful game.”

But it’s true that we don’t understand soccer.  We actually don’t want to.  We don’t understand why coaches never replace a player with a yellow card (if he gets a second yellow card, then the team has to play short-handed for the rest of the game and the player has to sit out the next game), or why they never replace the goalie with a striker when they’re down 1-0 at the end, or why they never seem to play with any urgency even when they’re behind.  We don’t understand why, after the goalie gets possession after a stopped goal attempt, he usually launches the ball three-quarters of the way down the field—giving his team a 50/50 chance of picking it up—instead of dumping it off to one of his own defenders and ensuring that his team keeps possession.

Soccer is an animalistic affair. The game’s premise is to nullify one of the key evolutionary advantages—manual dexterity derived from bipedalism—that separates humans from other land mammals. Feral thug Luis Suarez exemplifies how the game turns men into lower animals by repeatedly biting his opponents.

Very few states of affairs console us about United States culture to a greater extent than do our poor soccer results and indifference about the game.

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No skepticism from media on Ku Klux Klan “recruitment drive”

The Telegraph (U.K.) reports almost gleefully, “Ku Klux Klan on new recruitment drive with leaflet drop in towns across America.”

The article cites the usual unassailable MSM logic:

  • “hatred of Obama and immigration fuels rise in white supremacy”
  • “membership numbers grow due to opposition to Barack Obama and increased immigration”
  • “The white supremacy group, which aims to oust Mr Obama”
  • “the Ku Klux Klan is enjoying a resurgence”

The article does not substantiate any of this “information” with evidence, aside from a helpful primer on KKK beliefs from “one website” (unnamed) and a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.  The report, according to the Telegraph, fingers a rise in the number of “right-wing, self-styled patriot groups . . . [and] specific hate groups.”  (Even if this is true, and even accepting the scurrilous linkage of the KKK to “self-styled patriot groups,” it makes one wonder why the KKK would have to spend resources recruiting—if, after all, such hate is apparently growing organically.)

Hmm.  No claim of responsibility from the KKK.  No quote from any KKK leader to verify that the group is actually dropping leaflets in red jurisdictions.  No proof whatsoever of the article’s opening that “The Ku Klux Klan is on a recruitment drive across America.”  No citation of any official KKK source—the reporter apparently didn’t even bother to call one of the phone numbers or link to one of the web addresses that he claimed were printed on the leaflets.  (Maybe doing so would subject one to prosecution in the U.K.)

Assuming that this article is not an April Fool’s joke, here are some alternative theories:  the leaflets were produced by mischievous lone wolves, or benign KKK wannabes.  Or maybe this is a false flag operation, yet another hoax from the race-baiting ethnic lobby to stir up the base?  Which is more of a trend in Obama’s America:  hate-crime hoaxes perpetrated by the left, or actual incidents of racial violence and intimidation?

 

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Federal court vacancies: Only the couth (i.e., liberals) need apply

Typical bias from the Washington Post:  Obama Judicial Nominees Poised to Join Powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Only leftist former ACLU attorneys, labor union activists, and law professors belong in the polite company of the federal judiciary.  Any time a Republican nominee takes a seat, he/she “changed the internal dynamics of the court” and upset the “tradition of comity on the court.”

These stories always use terms like “arch-conservative” and “pull[ing] the court’s decisions to the right” when talking about conservatives, but of course never call any nominee “leftist” or “left-wing” or “arch-liberal.”

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Make a mistake about a liberal: Firing offense

A longtime Associated Press reporter was fired for mistakenly reporting that Virginia now-Gov.-Elect McAuliffe “had lied to a federal investigator probing a Rhode Island estate planner involved in a fraudulent death-benefits scheme.”  The Washington Post asks, “did the punishment fit the crime?”

This an egregious error, to be sure, perhaps even abetting libel by alleging criminal conduct.  (Two other AP employees were also fired.)

The Post article notes how rare it is for reporters to be fired over factual errors, citing the previous examples of  “widespread reports of murder and mayhem following Hurricane Katrina and Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch’s supposed heroics at the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.”

What is different about those and other previous errors?  The Post rationalizes the case, quoting a professor citing the “sensitive time — in the middle of a heated political campaign.”  Could it be that the previous cases advanced narratives that the liberal mainstream media supported, compared to a negative story about a Democrat candidate/Clintonite?

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Hypothesis: Our civilization, and any other civilization that will ever come into contact with us, will never invent backwards time travel. . .

. . . Because if it did, then time travelers would have infiltrated our past and present.

Instapundit’s periodic musings on the subject get us thinking about this.

Counterarguments:

1. Our present is so insignificant that no future time traveler would bother to visit us. If time travel is invented thousands of years in the future, is it possible that our current civilization, from its beginnings until today, poses no interest, especially for a one-way trip?

2. There will be rules—based on civilization’s advanced, perhaps complete, understanding of relativity and quantum mechanics—and time travelers will be very careful not to make their presence known. Perhaps time travelers have already influenced our present, but we don’t know it, because each such an occurrence would create a divergence into a parallel universe. But wouldn’t they have left a trace in a more pedestrian way, such as someone appearing out of the blue, getting rich outside the bounds of believability by “predicting” the stock market, leaving behind some object that we cannot explain, or otherwise altering the course of observed events in a way that we could not explain scientifically? Assuming that backwards time travel is invented in the future, then it’s reasonable to assume that, sometime afterward, it would become widespread, leading to the likelihood of abuse. Or maybe our future is a totalitarian dystopia, in which a small band of elites controls all significant technology, and becomes adept at navigating through time to achieve its objectives without a footprint. Paradoxically, such elites would practically be gods, and perhaps they would then have no motivation to interfere much with the past anyway.

It is at least conceivable that time travelers have affected our world and we don’t know it. But what about paradoxes—what if a time traveler traveled back in time and killed the inventor of the time machine, or Einstein before he formulated the theory of relativity, or the traveler’s own parents when they were children? We have no way to comprehend the impact of such a paradox. Which leads to our final counterargument. . .

3. Perhaps backward time travel will be invented in the future, but it will destroy our civilization, sometime after the present. We cannot imagine the social, political, and economic environment that must be prevalent in a society in which backwards time travel were widely available. But surely those conditions would post existential risk to the civilization.

Maybe backwards time travel would be possible if, and perhaps only if, we were living in a computer simulation. Our programmers, who would have nearly infinite intelligence to foresee all possible implications simultaneously and thus to mitigate any uncertainty, would make sure that everything worked out and space-time remained stable. But then that wouldn’t really be backwards time travel in a universal sense.

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Greek island where “people forget to die”: Looks a lot like a predictable statistical anomaly

A story in the New York Times, “The Island Where People Forget to Die,” marvels at how the population (673 souls) of Ikaria, a Greek island in the Aegean, seem to live for a long time.

The story refers to research by two scholars, Gianni Pes of the University of Sassari in Italy and Michel Poulain of Belgium, who have conducted anecdotal research on population clusters with a disproportionate number of people who live a long time.  Their list of anomalous communities is comprised, in addition to Ikaria, of:

  • “on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, we discovered a population of 100,000 mestizos with a lower-than-normal rate of middle-age mortality.”
  • “in Loma Linda, Calif., we identified a population of Seventh-day Adventists in which most of the adherents’ life expectancy exceeded the American average by about a decade.”
  • “a region of Sardinia’s Nuoro province as the place with the highest concentration of male centenarians in the world.”

For Ikaria, people tend to live a long time, and the protaganist of the story moved there after being diagnosed with cancer in 1976, but it went into remission and he is still alive.  Bless him.

Do you see the problem here?  If one slices and dices the world population of seven billion enough ways—the cited researchers’ clusters include one ethnic group, a religious group, a regional group, and an island—then one will find outliers.  Similarly, if one adopts enough different measures of longevity—in this case, middle-age mortality, life expectancy, prevalence of centenarians, and, in Ikaria, rates of people who reach 90—then one will surely find a few that emerge as outliers.  (Not to mention the small sample size in this case.)

Out of the practically infinite number of semi-coherent groupings of people and semi-coherent measures of longevity, by definition, there will be a few that fall into the 0.01%, or 0.0001%, tail of the distribution.  It’s as if you toss a coin 1,000,000 times and search the results for a string of ten consecutive heads and, finding it, you say, “ah-ha—this coin is biased!”  In fact, you expect to get ten consecutive heads about once in every 1,000 ten-toss experiments.

We can hope that Drs. Pes and Poulain consider this inferential reality in their research, but the article does not even address this obvious potential rejoinder.

By the way, the article cites several plausible reasons for longevity in Ikaria:  the island’s hot springs; the relaxed lifestyle there*; a sense of community; a healthy diet, including vegetables, wine, and olive oil; exercise, since the area is rural and hilly; and the popular local drink of tea made from local herbs.  These factors make Ikaria seem like a nice place to live — and no doubt these factors contribute at a basic level to longevity—but they are hardly so novel as to paint this case study as extraordinary.

*Unemployment on the island is 40%.

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