Category Archives: News

democracy and burying one’s head in the sand

We owe 25K in taxes this year.  I don’t mean that we owe 25K in total.  (Obviously, we pay a lot more than that.)  I mean we will be writing a check for 25K in a few days.  Typically, it’s been between 10 and 20, so this is a new high.  No interest, no penalties.  H pays estimated tax three or four times a year (whatever you’re supposed to; he deals with this all on his own.  I’m not sure I appreciate him as much as I should).  Anyway, I’m just curious if my friends write huge checks in April, or if you have your withholdings set such that you break even or get a refund, or at least pay a lot less.  I kind of like the annual reminder that I pay the federal government a hell of a lot in taxes.

I’ve had three days of short, slow runs in a row.  Hopefully I can keep the streak going.  To get in my planned 4 mile run tomorrow, I’ll need to get up at around 5:30.  I am not morning person, but if you want to be a parent and a running person, there aren’t a lot of options.  At least it’s been beautifully light recently.  I love the spring and summer so much in Seattle.

I enjoyed this article from the NYT about a man who’s chosen to bow out of awareness.  The thing is, as a society, participating in our democracy is so critical.  Writing letters, discussing things with your friends, participating in demonstrations, donating to groups that represent your interests; I believe in all these things.  However, as an individual, the impact you can have is negligible and unlikely to impact your life.  The most liked comment said the following:

I’m jealous of Mr Hagerman because he can afford to ignore the news. It seems that he has accumulated enough wealth and does not have an immediate family to care for where any of the current decisions directly affect him. On the other hand I have to continue to work at my right to work (fire you for any reason) workplace, pray my 401k won’t take another 2008 hit because of regulation roll back, and hope I don’t die in an emergency room of a totally treatable disease because of American healthcare or af an AR-15 wound from an at school parent teacher meeting because of the NRA-GOP party policies.

The thing is, this one man’s choice to read the news, write letters, donate money, demonstrate, whatever, probably has zero impact on his 401K, healthcare, and gun rights.  He would probably be happier if he buried his head in the sand.  If EVERYONE did this, it would be catastrophic.  But for an individual, participating in the national “conversation” provides virtually zero benefit and for those of us who care, lots of tooth-gnashing.

I personally made a choice when our esteemed president was elected not to open articles with “Trump” in the title.  I’ve probably read fewer than ten articles since Trump was elected.  I’m not bragging.  I feel vaguely guilty, but not too much.  As someone who’s been struggling with anxiety, I view it as my prerogative to make choices that help me get through the day without panic attacks, and not thinking about what Trump has done today definitely helps.  The guy in the article takes it to an unreasonable extreme, but I think I can safely say that I’m happier not knowing what Mr. T is up to.   I think a lot of other people would probably happier if they spent less time reading the news, but I guess we’d be worse off as a democracy as a result.

I just finished reading (well, listening) to a fascinating book: Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets.  It’s all about the fall of the Soviet Union, with a significant secondary focus also on living under Stalin, or living having lived under Stalin.  I loved the way it made me reflect on the pros and cons of democracy and socialism and of course, communism.  It’s easy for us to be a bit laissez faire about the incredible gift we have to live in a free country, and I like to be reminded of that from time to time.  On the flip side, the chaos that occurred when the USSR fell was horrible for minority groups – Russians living outside Russia, Belarussians living in Russia, Chechens, etc.  When people took on national identities instead of Soviet identities, everything went to hell.  Reading about this made the appeal of Putin obvious.  I would want Putin in charge, too.  Trump or no, I feel we, as US citizens, are incredibly blessed to live where we do with the opportunities we have.

rape trial

A rape trial just concluded in Belfast with the accused being rugby players, more or less the brit equivalent of American football players.  I found it interesting to read the account.  Of course the young woman took actions that put her in the situation, and as always, it’s nearly impossible to prove rape. Personally, I don’t think men should be put away for rape unless the evidence is conclusive.  Since the evidence is rarely conclusive, this suggests that most men who date rape can get away with it.  The solution, in my mind, is to make the penalty so severe that no one wants to risk the unlikely chance they’ll get caught.  I propose life in prison for attempted rape.

There was an event in Seattle recently in which a man attempted to assault and rape a runner.  She fought him off, posted on insta, and became an internet celebrity.  He recently went on trial and is going to prison for less than 5 years.  Really???  Have we learned nothing from Brock?  Just because he’s not a young, handsome, privileged rich kid it’s ok for him to rape women?  There is a major differentiater between Brock and this rapist.  I can with 100% confidence avoid a brock rape by not drinking to the point of unconsciousness.  Perhaps because I run often, and run often in the dark, and always alone, I feel very angry that people don’t take this other type of rape equally seriously.  I feel it’s actually much worse.

Anyway, in terms of the Belfast incident, there are so many young women that take actions that put themselves in terribly vulnerable positions.  I always think about the many times I put myself in similar situations as a young woman – falling down drunk, sometimes with friends not around, strange men pawing at me.  So incredibly stupid!  I was lucky enough never to experience any kind of sexual assault.  But it really could happen to anyone.  One night, and only one, at GT, I drank until I passed out.  It wasn’t my intention.  I hadn’t drank all semester – literally at all – and I drank like I had the tolerance I’d had in Ireland when I drank all the time.  And I passed out and nothing happened to me.  The guy I was with took care of me.  Thank goodness there was no brock around.  Anyway, to me the formula for not getting date raped = no alcohol + no athletes.  Virtually all date rapes include at least one of the two and a huge percentage include both.  But everyone has to go through that phase where they throw caution to the winds, right?  It’s just a question of being lucky enough to get through (relatively) unscathed.

gymnastics

Yes, yes, YES.  Heads obviously need to roll over the Nasser situation, and those heads need to come from the power corridors of USA Gymnastics.

To make the Olympic team in 1996, you needed to be in the top 5 at the USA gymnastics Olympic trials.  (Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu were byes as they were injured by recognized to be the best gymnasts in the country.)

In 2000, doing well at the Olympic trials was no longer sufficient to make the team.  Instead of the athletes who won the trials being on the team:

That year, a selection committee ranked the women vying for the United States Olympic team using their scores at the national championships and the Olympic trials. Then the committee, led by Bela Karolyi, the national team coordinator at the time, selected the six-member team in a closed-door meeting. The gymnasts who were not selected, Beckerman among them, were cast aside, often without explanation.

In 2004:

The two women with the highest scores at the trials are virtually promised spots, although they must show what Marta Karolyi, the women’s national team coordinator and Bela’s wife, calls ”readiness” at a post-trials camp.

The remaining four athletes on each team will be chosen by a selection committee. In some cases, those making the selections will pick gymnasts who excel at one or two events over more well-rounded ones because it would strengthen the United States’ chances for a team medal.
As of 2016, i believe the team was chosen exclusively by committee.  In other words, the way the team was chosen was 100% subjective.  In 2016, the selection committee consisted of Marta Karolyi and a coach who former competed for the Ukraine.  Excuse my prejudice, but I don’t have a lot of faith in former Eastern block coaches to “coddle” the gymnasts – aka protect them from abuse.
You might wonder why the team is now chosen by committee instead of by some objective process.  Well, there are a lot of reasons, but the roll of the Europeans can’t be ignored.  Basically, the Europeans (excepting the Romanians) are not capable of fielding large gymnastics teams filled with all-around competitors.  They have disproportionate influence in the gymnastics governing body, and have successfully pushed for smaller and smaller teams and fewer gymnasts to compete in each event.  Because of the latter factor especially, it becomes much more difficult to objectively select the best team.
What does all this mean?  These gymnasts, most of them between 15 and 19, are completely subject to the opinions and preferences of their much older, much more powerful coaches.  They are training 30 or more hours a week, living what doesn’t resemble a normal life, and they must please 70-year-old Eastern bloc coaches.  It’s messed up.
Whose head would I like to see roll?  Well, lots of them.  But for a start, Marta.  She should be out for good.  She’s so old, she’d probably retire anyway.  But nevertheless, I place a huge amount of blame on her.

aziz ansari and “babe”

I ran seven miles this morning, the last of which was mostly uphill.  However, the hardest twelve minutes of my day were definitely stretching.  Stretching is seriously no joke.  I’ve been diligently spending 12 minutes three times a week, so basically 30 minutes a week, stretching.  It’s become increasingly obvious how incredibly inflexible I am, a product of the fact that I do almost nothing that requires flexibility.  Running, biking and swimming don’t, and spending a significant portion of my day sitting at a desk obviously doesn’t help.  Anyway, I’ll be repeating the sit and reach test in two weeks, so I guess we’ll see if I’ve made any progress.

In other news, I’m very curious what people think of the article in babe about a woman’s unpleasant encounter with Aziz Ansari.  I should start by saying I don’t know much about Ansari.  I’ve never seen him in any shows.  I only know he did Parks and Recreation because I googled him.  I’m not into comedians, and I really don’t care about him in particular.

My take is that he sounds boorish and inept.  It sounds like a bad date.  But this woman allowed him to take her clothes off.  To use the age-old phrase, what did she expect?  If I go home with a man and allow him to take my clothes off basically immediately, I expect that he’s going to want to have sex.  That doesn’t mean he has a right to sex by any means, but it’s a bit unfair to be surprised by him wanting it.  She also gave and received oral sex on multiple occasions during their “date.”  If I were in her situation, I would leave, and I would be upset, and I would not go out with him again.  That’s basically what she did.  (The worst night of her life, though?)  But was what he did assault?  In my opinion, absolutely not.  Was it sexual misconduct?  That’s a bit of a new term, likely invented to address this very article.  I don’t really even think it was necessarily misconduct.

As a feminist, I don’t think a woman should ever be forced into sexual acts that she doesn’t want to participate in.  That means men (or woman) should not use their greater physical strength or other types of power they might possess, such as a position at work, to induce a woman into sexual acts she’s not interested in.  However, I feel that adult women are capable of expressing what they want and don’t want, and I don’t find it flattering or helpful to suggest that a man should have to repeated ask a women, Do you want this?  How about this?  And this?  I’m 100% comfortable with “no means no.”  I don’t think we need “yes means yes.”

From the article:

“I just remember looking in the mirror and seeing him behind me. He was very much caught up in the moment and I obviously very much wasn’t,” Grace said. “After he bent me over is when I stood up and said no, I don’t think I’m ready to do this, I really don’t think I’m going to do this. And he said, ‘How about we just chill, but this time with our clothes on?’”

If you keep reading, they do get dressed, and then he starts hitting on her again.  And then she leaves.

This editorial in the NYTimes summarizes my feelings pretty well.

I’ve read many women who are infuriated by Ansari’s behavior and consider it unambiguously sexual assault.  That is not my perception at all, and I’m curious if I’m an outlier or what.

houston

I’m not sure what to write about Houston, except that I’m really in shock.  I really can’t remember when there’s been a natural disaster in a place I knew, where I had friends and family.  What’s happening to Houston is really mind-boggling.  The graphic on the front of the New York Times sums it up well – unbelievable rainfall right dead center over Houston.  So many natural disasters, even New Orleans, seem avoidable or preventable or fixable in some way.  All I can think in terms of Houston is mandating that all future homes be built at least 3 feet above the ground.

The worst affected person I know is Jonathan’s sister.  She and her family have evacuated – been rescued by boat – and are staying in a hotel with their pets, as of today.  Prior to that, they were staying with a neighbor, as their single-story house in central Houston is under several feet of water.  Their neighbor’s house is built three feet up and has multiple stories.  Right now, Leslie doesn’t think they will ever return.  Perhaps they will move into an apartment.  While this will be financially devastating for them, he is a well-employed lawyer, and they will likely figure it out without having to resort to FEMA trailers like some others may need to do.

The worst story I heard was Sarah and Jose sheltering in closets with their family during a night of repeated tornado warnings.  I’m so glad they were only warnings, but wow, that sounded truly awful.

It’s odd being here in sunny Seattle, completely unaffected, living life as normal.  One day ‘the big one” (earthquake) may hit us, and the rest of the country will look through their internet windows in horror while continuing with their lives.  Hopefully not any time soon.  I was struck at one point that it was lucky it was my SIL Leslie and not my SIL Elizabeth going through this as E is expecting a baby any day now.  (She lives in Virginia.)  But of course, there must be hundreds of mothers on baby watch and hundreds more with tiny babies in Houston.

saudi music video

I am simultaneously inspired and horrified by this music video out of Saudi Arabia creating a sensation.  I am inspired by the brave and obviously vibrant women who made it, and horrified that playing basketball while cloaked and covered from head to toe is considered controversial.

 

It’s well worth watching if you have a couple spare minutes.  There’s so much debate about feminism (and all the isms these days), but very little discussion about the widespread subjugation of women around the world, especially the Arab world.

One thing that struck me recently is that the US has resumed trading with Iran.  Great.  We’re all becoming friends.  However, US women who wish to do business with Iran will have to cover their hair and obey highly sexist Iranian attire rules when in Iran.  This is being dictated by Iran of course, but also by the American companies they’re trading with, such as Alaska Airlines.  What are a few hijabs when we’re talking about billions of dollars in airplanes, right?