Evidently It’s Not Just a Game

A local opinion writer recently had a piece published advocating for a third sports gender category to consist solely of transgender athletes. He offered this suggestion as a way to create ‘fairness’ in sports competition and to ostensibly soothe the angry and indignant arguments that currently dominate the issue. On the surface, it is not an unreasonable suggestion although I’m not sure it is the best idea or even all that good. It is not the first time I have heard this possible solution.

There are things about this suggestion that trouble me. First, there is the implication that all trans athletes are equal. When this topic is discussed it is always mentioned that M to F (Male to Female) trans athletes have a physical advantage over athletes who were female at birth. But not all trans people were male at birth.

Second, many different genetic combinations having to do with sex and gender are present in varying humans. The physical characteristics and abilities of those born male or female are not dualist. Rather, as with most human characteristics, there is a spectrum of traits and abilities spread over a continuum of all people, not necessarily strictly related to the concept of two and only two sexes and genders.

Finally, in this scenario, F to M (female to Male) trans athletes seem to be left out of the discussion entirely. Not all trans people are M to F and those born with female anatomy who identify as men and take action to become men physically need to be recognized as not only real men but real athletes. Where is their category?

To follow the logic behind the concept of three categories these F to M trans athletes should be less capable athletically than those who were male at birth. If this is true, to be truly fair, shouldn’t there be at least 4 categories of athletic competition? Is trans athletic competition only an issue if the transition leads to dominance? 

The exclusion of F to M trans athletes from this conversation is humiliating. Trans people and trans athletes face enough discrimination as it is and certainly do not need any more fear piled on their already hyper-stressed heads.

When a person transitions from their gender at birth to that in their mind, heart, and soul my guess is that they are fully prepared to compete against others of their chosen gender regardless of their birth physicality. This is not a cut and dried, black and white issue. Frankly, there are people born as men who are good athletes and those who are poor athletes. This applies to those born as women as well. I recall something about a tennis player named Billie jean King. 

There is a level of legitimacy to the argument that M to F trans athletes, in general, have better physical abilities than those born female. But the argument that men who choose to transition to female do so only for the opportunity to excel at women’s sports is patently ridiculous. Why would a man who knows he is a man become a woman to win medals and then face years of regret after their sports career is over? It’s absurd.

This is not an easy topic to parse as there are strong opinions held by many. For my money, we should let the athletes decide how to work out this controversy, not parents or politicians. I think we all know this conflict will be difficult to reconcile. But I feel that allowing those who participate to decide will be the closest to fair that we, as a society, can get.

Just the opinion of a cisgender old white man.

A Few Things

I am not a baby killer. Regardless of whether a foetus is or is not a person I do not think abortion is a good option in most circumstances. However, I do not feel I have the right or duty or ability to judge a person for the actions they take regarding their own body. I cannot advocate for their spiritual condemnation. That judgement is God’s and God’s alone. I also believe that legislating morality is dangerous, even more so when it involves the individual decision of one person regarding their personal decisions

Those who favor banning the teaching of any type of reality, even if only relative to a subset of humans, is a fascist. Banning such teaching is tacit denial of that reality. Denying the existence of any human demographic as human is an offense against God and the American understanding of all people being created equal. This is eugenics and reviled by civilized peoples. These individual’s and group’s desire to withhold truth from their children results from fear that their children might learn something counter to their own values. They are terrified their children do not have the common sense to realize that knowing about something bad will not make them bad. In essence they are discriminating against their own progeny. They do not trust their children to be clear thinking individuals. They have no faith in human love or compassion. This is perhaps because they have difficulty with loving and empathizing themselves.

Yes, by themselves guns do not and cannot kill people. This is not a bonafide defense of people with guns. People with guns can and do kill people. None other than that famous woke Supreme Court Justice Samual Alito, in his decision for the Heller vs. Washington D.C. ruling, stated that even the second amendment is subject to regulation in the instance of the infringement of one person’s rights by another person who uses a gun. Freedom does not mean everyone has the liberty to do whatever they want. Violating the liberty of another who exercises their liberty to use their freedoms is ostensibly a crime.

At the leadership level Republicans and Democrats are less different than they and the media would have you believe. Both parties are heavily influenced by corporate interests. Republicans answer to more malevolent corporations who are completely interested in profit. They continue to follow supply side economic principles and have little interest in the real welfare of the people, contrary to their floral rhetoric. Democrats answer to more benevolent corporations who use a modified Keynesian economic approach to rein in the party faithful. They feel that appealing to the needs and desires of the average American will bring greater profits in the long term through establishing a loyal customer base. The Republican party panders to its base through hardline racial and white supremacist dog whistles, which are more audible now than in the past. The Democrats appeal to their base with progressive rhetoric which only rarely becomes people oriented legislation. Both sides accuse the other of transgressions they themselves are prone to. Both use the shiny ball syndrome system to keep the populace distracted from the real issues of the time by trumpeting less than critical culture war issues, such as which bathroom trans people can use, in both mainstream and social media. Republicans continue to attack many specific niche demographics to keep people at each others throats. As an ever shrinking coalition they feel this is the only way to keep an ever growing liberal voting bloc from organizing into a dominant electoral force. Democrats appeal to the native decency of people they feel have been brainwashed by incessant right wing propaganda. They feel this is the only way to convince them to stop voting against their best interests. The Republican message has backfired somewhat to the extent that flight to the suburbs is no longer strictly conservative and inner ring suburbs continue to become more blue. These folks have become disillusioned by what they consider to be ridiculous culture battles and the continued erosion of government services under local Republican rule. Democrats keep bleeding votes from certain previously loyal voting blocs such as Blacks and Hispanics, picked off by right wing persuasion that Democrats only pander to them at voting time and do nothing to truly help their communities. Voting trends in America work like a perpetual sine wave supported by a corporate media that nudges the public from right to left and back again to give the illusion that voting is meaningful to the individual.

To expound on something I touched on earlier many Americans confuse Freedom and Liberty and conflate them to mean the same thing. This is not true. Freedoms are granted by governments through constitutional edicts and laws. They apply to everyone equally and are limited for everyone equally. Everyone has freedom of speech and no one can yell fire in a crowed theater to use to common example. Liberty, on the other hand, is individual. Each person is at liberty to use and express their freedoms how and when they wish. Liberty is granted to each individual simply because they exist. The issue with individual liberty is that by nature there exist conflicts of interest when two people’s liberties clash. Conflicts of liberty are the underlying basis for civil and criminal law. For example the second amendment gives every American that meets legal limitations the right to bear a firearm. The first amendment gives everyone the right to speak freely unless that speech could constitute a threat to everyone else. But the person with the gun is not at liberty to shoot the speaker just because they don’t like what they are saying. Society determines how conflicts of liberty are to be judged by democratically electing representatives who debate and make laws pertaining to such conflicts. In essence, freedom does not allow anyone to do whatever they want when and wherever they want. And liberty is only an inalienable right when it does not interfere with another’s liberty. These words are tossed about much too cavalierly. Once again, inadequate civics education rears its ugly head.

There will be more tidbits of opinion coming soon.

Trash or Trash Talk?

While today there is plenty of attention is being focused on DJT’s arraignment and its political implications I feel the kerfuffle surrounding the NCAA women’s basketball championship has and will have more cultural significance. Angel Reese, outstanding woman’s basketball player for the LSU Tigers, 2023 champions, has been, often mercilessly, attacked for making demeaning and hurtful gestures and using foul language directed at superstar Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes. There is also evidence of Clark making the same gesture toward Reese but she seems to be facing less vitriol than Angel. Angel is Black, Caitlin is White and they are both women; women who have recently been thrust into the national spotlight.

Since Sunday’s championship game, there have been more tweets, quotes, and opinions voiced about this than Carter has pills. There are claims of racism and sexism, accusations, and defenses, from more angles than has a geodesic dome. Even flamboyant and controversial LSU coach Kim Mulkey is being criticized for her sartorial audacity. I say let the woman represent. But seriously, there is great sociocultural import here and it is not pretty. 

The primary issues that anger me and should anger you are not the ‘ism’ charges themselves or even the over the top coach’s outfits. Nor are they the trash talk and actions themselves. It is the hypocrisy of this commentary and the fact that in an evolved civilized world all of this should never have happened.

Trash talk has happened in basketball almost since Naismith set up the first peach baskets. In forums like the NBA, it can and often does get particularly graphic and vicious. Yet if you examine players who have been identified as the worst trash-talkers you find a who’s who of all-time great players. Universally accepted as the worst offender was Larry Bird whose episodes will his biggest rival, Magic Johnson, were considered either epic and legendary, or vile and obscene, depending on your point of view. Another player at the top of the list was Michael Jordan, widely considered basketball’s GOAT. These are two of the greatest players in the history of the game and rather than being reviled as crass and unsportsmanlike they are revered, even worshiped, as role models and heroes who saved the game and brought it to the height of popularity and profitability it enjoys today.

My point is the hypocrisy here is astounding. When cultural icons, wealthy men both white and black do this it is shrugged off as ‘part of the game’. When two young women student athletes, one white and one black, do virtually the same thing, the Twittersphere goes viral with flame wars and attacks unbecoming alleged adults. Yes, it is racism. Yes, it is sexism. But we are nearly one-quarter of the way through the 21st century. When in god’s name are we going to work through these infantile, unhealthy, foolish, cruel, uncivilized, wicked, and psychically wasteful cancers of sexism and racism? This should not be happening. This is supposed to be an advanced human culture, not toddlers screaming “I hate you” to anyone within listening distance. I continue to be appalled at the damaging stubborn stagnation of this conflict of willful obstinance. Yet there is only inertia present when the outrage fades and society is supposed to be doing the dirty work of real change

I might not have another 25 years. Will I ever see the day when the public response to such an event is a simple ‘Did you see those two players trash talking. Not very good role models” with no mention of gender or race? And when the only lesson for the players is learning that their actions on the national stage are more consequential than when they were in a high school gym and not on national TV. This should have been just another 3rd page sports section event and not a bloviated something that should never have been. A minor blip on that day’s Sportscenter.

The racism and sexism of this event are sinful examples of a mainstream tragedy of moral failure; grossly vestigial and much, much, much, much overdue for amputation from America’s spiritual body.

Bernie and Trump: Redux

This essay was written the the fall of 2016 slightly before the general election. We know the outcome. And we mostly know the criminal activities of the authoritarian president who whipped his party into a Fascist frenzy. His malignant narcissism led to the big lie, rejecting the results of the legitimate 2020 election of Joe Biden. He imbued his rabid followers with the idea that the democratic process and the peaceful transfer of power in America, once inviolate, were irreparably broken. It gave rise to a normalization of the idea that violent revolution would ostensibly right the sinful ways of the Democrat’s government and forge a reign by the savior, Trump, and his army of ‘patriots’. 

The Covid pandemic, somewhat unexpected, had a dramatic effect on the nation during the Trump presidency and led to significant economic and societal issues. These largely unavoidable circumstances added to our existent severe partisanship. Now, as we analyze the existentially critical 2022 midterm elections we find that many of the observed issues in this 2016 essay remain in play today, perhaps even more so.

. One caveat, Gen Z was not included in the original essay with the Millennials as potential saviors of America. They were added, through an edit of the last part of the essay that brought some of the text up to date. As I revisit this idea I find that Millennials, while very capable and evolved, have largely become disillusioned with a disintegrating America and the Boomers who refuse to hand over the reins of that damaged society to those who might rejuvenate it. It is Gen Z who will lead the charge to bring light into the darkness that has shrouded America and the planet since the latter part of the 20th Century. They will “woke” many millennials from their angst and despair. Together they can be a great force for good.

.The edited 2016 essay follows. It bears a touch of prescience. 

A continuum is a line. A line extends through space, through the universe. The universe is curved. Therefore a line will eventually meet itself in space to form, in essence, a circle. A circle with one point missing is considered a line. There can be an infinite number of points between any two points. Thus, speaking from the standpoint of nuclear physics we have established a paradox whereby a line can also be considered a circle based on the observers point of view.

Why am I starting off with all of this gobbledygook? Because it provides a mathematical basis for my hypothesis, indicating it is based in science. Using this information, continuums, which are nearly always portrayed as lines, are actually circles. The far ends of continuums, rather than being opposites, as is commonly perceived, are very nearly the same thing. One example is the fact that on a hot/cold continuum both extreme heat and extreme cold will burn the flesh. And obviously, the continuum of the changing of the seasons does not have polar opposite ends but ends that run smoothly into each other.

So to get to the point, finally, it has always been my contention that radical right wingers and radical left wingers have more in common than they have in contention. It is our tendency as humans, these days strongly influenced by the media, to want to see dualities, black and white, in order to simplify life and our perception of it. This dualism causes us to see the ends of a continuum as opposites and encourages us to see extreme liberals and extreme conservatives as complete opposites. This is just not true. This year’s presidential campaigns provide us with good evidence of that fact.

Conventional wisdom would consider Bernie Sanders and his followers to be polar opposites of Donald Trump and his followers. However while they disagree on a number of policies they share many of the more visceral and esoteric ideas about issues and politics in general. I have experienced a large number of people who say they have been Democrats all their lives who will be voting for Trump as well as life long Republicans that will be voting for Sec. Clinton. Many of these folks go so far as to say they are changing parties permanently. Why is this?

Most of these switchers are Sanders supporters angry at the nomination process and appalled that the Democrats would nominate such a dangerous person who is not a real progressive. There are also traditional Republicans angry at the nomination process and appalled the the GOP would nominate such a dangerous person who is not a real conservative. What do these people have in common? A general mistrust of government and how it operates. Their main goal is to throw out all the mainstream politicians, who they feel are all corrupt sell outs, and replace them with outsiders who are not politicians but are ideologically pure. Most of these disillusioned Americans have never been involved in politics before because of their strong mistrust of the process and a belief there is no difference between the traditional parties. They want to throw away government as we know it and start over, based on their interpretation of the constitution and their idea of personal liberty.

But these two factions, as they are considered to be, are generally looked upon as opposites, especially by the press. Now this is true of of much of their overall reasoning, specific complaints, interpretations of the constitution, intentions of the founding fathers, and most importantly who they blame for all of it. But the bottom line is they both believe America is going to hell in a hand basket and the only way to save it is to return to government of, by and for the people. And I believe that in essence they are right about a lot of this.

However, this is where I think things go off the rails. People want all of this change but for a number of reasons most of them aren’t really ready to do the work necessary to make it happen, especially in the way they imagine it to work. There are a large number of folks, lovingly referred to as low information voters, who have little to no knowledge of how America works, what our major issues really are, and what impact proposed policy will have on them, the nation, and the world. These people are easily manipulated by appeals to strong emotions and will believe lies if they are told loudly and often enough. They feel uneasy about the direction of the nation but know little about how to change it or actively work for change except to vote for the radical political influencers they have been told about.

Then there are voters who know a little civics and have opinions on things but who are just too busy to participate in the process. Some are simply disinterested in participating, for various reasons ranging from laziness to feeling that government never changes anything for anyone, ever. These citizens only care about elections the last two weeks before election day. Which is why most campaigns bombard the broadcast media with ad after unfair and prevaricating ad during those final two weeks  So right when voters are looking for facts, after months of ignoring the campaigns, all they get is innuendo, half truths, and actual bald faced lies.

These two groups make up a very large segment of voters, most certainly comprising a majority. And what they have in common is a need to hand over power and responsibility to those they elect and then forget about politics until the next election. Unfortunately this ennui and ignorance is most apparent when they vote for president  Many of us want and expect the president to solve every problem, and right away. They want a savior, a messiah to lead them figuratively out of Egypt, up to and including parting the Red Sea. This phenomenon is one factor that has made President of the United States the hardest job in the world. Everyone expects redemption by the president in ways that are impossible for them to do, either because of the limits of presidential power or external factors beyond their control.

The next and most normal faction, if there is such a thing as normal in politics, is the well informed voter who keeps up with the issues and gets their information from multiple sources. Rather than considering the other party a pack of baby eating demons, enemies to be destroyed, they have some respect for their opponents, who are, in truth, opponents and not enemies. These people are what are often referred to in the media as traditional republicans and democrats or center left and center right voters, centrists, or moderates They for the most part make informed decisions and often subscribe to the mantra ‘I don’t vote for the party i vote for the candidate”. These people respond to parts of both liberal and conservative narratives and what they call “voting for the  candidate” is often more like voting for which of those narratives a candidate activates in their conscious mind.

The final demographic, who also need a savior, and to me the most dangerous, are the radical activists. They are extremely aware of what is happening in politics and society, both domestic and international. They have a clear idea of what they think will save us and they know that to make it happen they need one strong leader who can get the job done in the face of adversity. It must be somebody who displays supreme confidence and the charisma to sell themself, even to the most opinionated of the activists, who will then follow them fervently and bring along their own followers.

There are many societies who have such a strongman at the top of their government. controlling virtually every aspect of government and society. Some of these leaders are benevolent but most are authoritarian and dictatorial. I believe the US has avoided such a regime primarily because it’s two party system keeps both parties from straying too far into uncharted authoritarian waters. They have never felt confident that taking such a dramatic stance could be successful, not with a majority of Americans having basically center left or center right views. But things have changed. I’m willing to guess that the change is, in large part, the responsibility of the rise of the political purist, brought on by frightened parties that felt the need to pander to extremists to gain power. The extremists eventually gained enough power (This happened in both parties but primarily in the GOP) to require a purity test for candidates. This has led to a bloc of candidates who are safe in their districts because  of gerrymandering to become legislators who refused to make compromises and thus ground the business of the legislative branch to a halt. 

This paralysis has been the last straw for those who have become progressively more and more disillusioned with government and it’s failed ability to serve the people. They have come out of the woodwork to strongly influence the current presidential race. They were able to get Donald Trump nominated as a Republican, much to the chagrin of many prominent Republicans who know he is far from being one. And they nearly succeeded in nominating a Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders, as the Democratic nominee. What transpired then is a victory in the Democratic Party of the establishment. This after a more heavily contested primary than they ever imagined. And their candidate, justifiably or not, had an extremely low likability rating. And the GOP nominee, a loose cannon strongman, had an even lower rating.

This has brought us to a place where we had the most disconcerting race is recent US history. The hold your nose, lesser of two evils factor is off the charts. People are tired of having to elect this kind of President. They want someone they can admire. They want big change and they want it now. This frenetic anger has left us vulnerable to an authoritarian strongman being elected President. They will most likely break their promises to make the country a better place for the people, and institute policies that oppress us even more so than we already are. But in the event we can stop this very real danger, the alternative does not inspire much hope that she would ever institute many of the progressive policies this country needs.

This took us round robin to the longtime democrats and republicans, plus the disillusioned radicals or traditionalists who are abandoning their ostensible party’s nominee. What affect did this dynamic have on the outcome of the election? I doubt any of the mainstream pundits know even now. This is out of their comfort zone.

We are entering a new era of American politics, one which may result in a system with multiple viable parties, and a more parliamentary type of governmental creation. Right now the re-evolution is in it’s infancy and as in any revolution heads will fall. It is a critical, crucial time to be an American, even more so an educated and aware American. The arc of our future was forged in November like never before. 

Our Millennial and  Gen Z generations are the only ones who can save us, in my estimation. But their hope for the future is being systematically eroded by overwhelming student debt and impeded by a lack of career advancement opportunities. This is intentional. They are being squeezed by a shrinking job market and reduced public services across the board. They are being distracted by any number of petty playthings designed to numb them from their pain. We boomers, as our last redeeming gift, should protect them, and open the door to empowerment and economic growth. We must run interference for them and exert ourselves to keep them from getting picked off one by one into despair. We must keep the light shining so they have something in the distance to aspire to. 

A dictatorship will make that nearly impossible.

But we have defeated dictatorships before.

There is a reason both love and courage come from the heart.

And there is also a reason evil, cowardice, and hate come from the ego.

Love has always overcome hate.

There is hope.

Not Really About Economics

Economic prosperity and likewise economic distress are both very complex issues with a considerable number of variables sharing responsibility for the economy’s health. To blame any one political party and/or politician for our economic troubles is disingenuous. Knowing that people like simple solutions to complex problems Republicans cleverly apply Occam’s Razor to their campaigning. They frame both our problems and their solutions in the simplest terms possible. Democrats have an unfortunate tendency to endlessly debate, then partially address, each of the numerous variables responsible for our most significant problems, leaving people confused and suspicious.

Republicans are aware that people approach life and its problems emotionally rather than mentally. They use emotional persuasion based in such things as fear, revulsion, and scorn to get their point across. They use emotional ad hominem attacks and sensational prevarication to vilify their enemies (read opponents). They avoid issues primarily because there are no easy solutions to complex problems. Thus they don’t spend a lot of time on policy and problem solving. They do spend in inordinate amount of time disseminating emotionally charged attacks and simple solutions to as many people as possible through their cleverly purchased and easily accessible information sources. They use glib and charismatic talking heads to sell their framing to the masses. These tactics are often successful given peoples’ tendencies to get their information from just one source without taking time out of their manufactured busy day to investigate issues.

On the other hand, assuming we have two hands, Democrats rely on the overrated fact that life is practical and ordered, based on truth and knowledge. They have a different concept of simplicity than Republicans. They feel (over)confident that if they simply and clearly reveal all the factors that influence public policy and problem solving that the people will magically absorb it all into their heads. Voters will obviously recognize and embrace the truth, facts, and irrefutable policy conclusions of the nearly infinite research and careful considerations of the hard working, honest and empathic clerks of the Democratic Party. What a crock. Most people fall asleep before the end of the first paragraph. Luckily for the Democrats, the country, contrary to expansive marketing, is mostly a center/left nation. Philosophically there are more Democrats and sympathetic independents than Republicans. If the Democrats can somehow motivate, logically of course, their base and likely allies to forego chatting over their weak lattes long enough to vote they can usually win. These outcomes hold up for both major parties unless one of the frequently incompetent candidates is vastly more incompetent than the other. Herschel Walker this means you.

It is relatively easy for Republicans to proudly and loudly shout out their simple and emotional views of our problems and their simple and emotional solutions while attacking the Democrat’s complex, mental, and issues oriented assessment of problems and their complex and mentally oriented policy solutions. Democrat’s tough but convoluted solutions are normally more effective but Republican’s easy and understandable solutions are more popular. It is so much easier to convince someone that you are correct in one or two sentences than in a white paper.

Tangentially I rest partial blame for the incredibly short attention span of the modern American squarely on the head of MTV, even though they essentially no longer play music. The accepted metric for editing a music video states there should never be a continuous scene of more than four seconds. For a generation raised on music videos and their progeny and progeny’s progeny this style of editing has conditioned and normalized the average American’s attention span to that very four seconds. Well, perhaps as much as 10 seconds. Barely enough to get in a sentence, or maybe two if they’re short.

Enough of my tangential hypothesis.

Frankly, this very essay is too long and complex. There is a reason many modern opinion pieces, news articles, essays, social media comments, and actual conversations are passed over by ultra busy people. They haven’t the time to read anything longer than a tweet. In the 21st century time is money and you don’t get paid for the 10 minutes it takes to read something that actually covers the subject. With the acronym TLDR: Too Long, Didn’t Read (these days everything seems to be an acronym ) writers apologize for their verbosity, warning the reader, and targeted readers apologize for choosing to avoid reading the piece regardless of it’s relevance.

Here’s my attempt at something succinct. Not easy for this Irish Italian. The Democrats suck but the Republicans suck more. A fender bender sucks but totaling your car sucks more. Do you wanna vote for a fender bender or a totaled car? No brainer if you ask me. Don’t wanna vote for either one? That kinda makes sense but it means you probably don’t have a car.

A final thought. Control of the government roughly resembles a sine wave, with the GOP ruling above the axis and the Democrats below. Once the public elects a party that controls government they eventually become disillusioned with that party’s inability to do much for the people and subsequently vote them out of office. They figure out that the Democrats have such a complex plan they can never really effectuate it and the Republicans have no plan and can only fool people for so long.

So yeah, both parties suck but one party has no plan and the other party has a flawed plan. For my money flawed beats none by a nose.

And if you choose not to vote you’re riding the bus.