Category Archives: News

twitter thoughts

I look at Twitter occasionally.  I never go to twitter.com to start, but sometimes I’ll read a news article and there will be a tweet.  Because of the privacy settings, I have to go to Twitter to see said tweet.  I probably do this less than once a week – maybe once or twice a month.  However, I decided to stop by twitter.com and see what all the fuss was about.  I started scrolling through and reading tweets and I found myself getting pissed off.  Everyone is very loudly and often offensively expressing their opinions, which I often don’t agree with.  These obnoxious tweets are interspersed with “interesting” posts about this or that arcane thing that I find not interesting in any way.  Wow.  Yuck.  I vowed not to visit Twitter again any time soon.

With that said, lots of other people visit Twitter.  It’s kind of alarming that the Twitter addicts have such an outsized influence on life and politics.  What kind of personality traits lead someone to spend a lot of time on Twitter?  And do we really want people with those personality traits (eg Musk) affecting our lives?  In any case, needless to say, I fully agree with Musk that censoring major newspapers – Covid origins, laptop story, etc. – is utterly unacceptable.  Let’s consider Covid “misinformation.”  Who gets to decide what is misinformation?  The CDC?  I personally think the CDC is probably about as good as it gets in terms of government organizations in terms of health advice.  With that said, it’s an arm of the government, and letting the government decide what is “misinformation” is seriously sketchy.

In Russia, media organizations that aren’t in line with Putin are suppressed and put out of business directly.  Things aren’t that bad in the US.  But if major newspapers, like the New York Post, cannot share their articles on Twitter because a government organization of any kind deems them “misinformation,” that is a serious problem.  Here in the brave state of Washington, our governor wanted to make it a crime to claim that an election was “rigged.”  Sounds great, right?  That would prevent all that nonsense in 2020 when Trump’s cronies claimed the election was unfair, right?  OK.  But what about when the election actually *is* rigged?  And anyone who points that out is thrown in jail?  Luckily, the legislators in WA declined to pass the bill.  For me, it’s just not possible to have a neutral arbiter that decides what’s truth and what’s misinformation.  You have to let people make up their own minds.  Otherwise, you’re no better than Putin.

If I were in charge, I’d only allow people to post on social media under their own names.  If you compare the comments section on the Seattle Times or really any newspaper other than the NYT and the Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times and the like are filled with insults, vulgarity and poor behavior.  The Wall Street Journal makes people post under their real names, and the comments section is a different animal, with relatively civil discourse.  (The NYT also has polite discourse but they review all comments before posting, something which most newspapers and forums cannot afford.)  I’d like to see ALL online communities require people to post under their real names.  How to verify real names?  A credit card would be a pretty good option, or government ID for those who lack credit cards.

Groups are a problem.  I’d really like to stop “groups” from posting as a group without a name.  You could still allow groups, like say a newspaper, to post, but require under the group header to be the name of an actual person affiliated with that group.  So, if the New York Post, or a local road race, wants to post, fine, but there had to be an actual human putting their name out there.  In other words, no anonymous posting, ever.

peace in our time

“My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.  Now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds.”

– Neville Chamberlain, September 30, 1938

(While the Munich Pact would become synonymous with “appeasement,” some historians believe that since the German and Italian air forces were twice as strong as the combined British and French airpower in September 1938, Chamberlain’s agreement gave the British military valuable time to bolster its defenses to ultimately defeat Hitler.)

Ukraine is under attack, and the slactivists are out in force.  Before criticizing them, though, it’s probably worth acknowledging the possibility that tagging #istandwithukraine on my Insta might have an actual significant impact.  As some columnist noted, Putin is far from the first despot to randomly attack another country, but he may be the first who’s at the helm of a nation “deeply dependent on international commerce.”  As such, the actions of various virtue-signal-seeking companies can actually have a huge impact.  Boeing’s response, for example, has been . . . modest.  Could the pressure of a million Insta / FB tags make a difference?  Perhaps.  Some sports organizations have banned Russians, but world #1 Medvedev will still be playing at Wimbledon right now, which I consider absolutely unacceptable.  In conclusion, I should probably stop criticizing and start tagging.

But what’s going on right now is not getting it done.

The particular target of my annoyance is Orca running, a local running company.  They’re putting on a virtual run to aid Ukraine.  Plunk down your ten bucks, and they’ll send it on to charities ostensibly aiding Ukrainians.  The first problem is that there is an additional entry fee that goes to runsignup.com of about $2.77, so more than 20% of the money won’t even go to the charities.  Also a $10 donation is really extremely modest.  Don’t get me wrong.  If you’re poor or young or a grad student or something, I think it’s awesome that you’re giving $10.  But if you’re a runner running in $150 running shoes and a $100 Orca top and spending $$$ on race entry fees and so on and so forth, I feel like we can probably give a bit more than $10.  Of course, no one should feel pressure to support a foreign military if they don’t want to.  Or any cause.  I just feel like a $10 donation is a virtue signal for the well off, not a meaningful contribution.  But again, maybe this type of signaling makes a difference in terms of the behavior of powerful international companies that are currently just not doing as much as they could be.

I am in the middle of reading Last Witnesses, which is a collection of first person sources from the German invasion of the Soviet Union.  Since Ukraine is in the West, most of the sources are from Ukraine and Belarus.  It’s disturbing and much darker than fictional accounts of WW2 that I’ve read, which of course can be quite dark.  There are no “good” or even not so bad German soldiers in these accounts.  I feel like what is happening right now with the current invasion is likely similar in terms of impact to children as what happened nearly 100 years ago.

If you feel like donating, some links are here.  For me, China and Russia to a lesser extent represent the greatest international threats to our children’s happiness and freedom and our own national integrity.  China, naturally, is fully supportive of Putin’s invasion.  I can’t see Ukraine winning this.  So what happens next?  Moldova?  And then what?

the limpics

Thoughts on the Olympics . . .

  1. Thanks for a friend’s login, I had access to nbcolympics.com, and I thought the coverage was stellar.
  2. I am thoroughly distressed by the Valieva disaster.  I haven’t followed figure skating in years, and I guess I’ll go back to ignoring it.  Also, I feel like every time I get excited about an athlete or story, it turns out to not be real.  See: Lance Armstrong.  Valieva is apparently on three heart medications (two legal), and I just find this really sad and disturbing.
  3. Though, really, Russian figure skaters on drugs is not as scary and sad as Russians invading Ukraine.
  4. I haven’t watched alpine skiing in years, and I loved watching it during the Olympics.  Especially the downhill and super-G.
  5. I hate that there is so much emphasis on the Olympics in some sports.  No person’s life should be defined by how they perform on one day every four years.  I love that skiing, for example, has other pinnacles of achievement, and honestly don’t think Shiffrin’s failure to perform, for example, at Beijing is all that meaningful.  She has had many other successes in her career.
  6. I think programs to increase participation by athletes from countries without snow are silly.  Very silly.  It would be far more worthwhile to try and increase participation among poorer people and countries that DO have snow, like lower income communities in the US and Canada, and poorer cold countries like Kazakhstan and maybe the southern extremes of South America and Africa.  Who cares if people from Tonga or Jamaica participate in the winter Olympics?
  7. Some Olympic sports are seriously lame and boring.  Curling.  Nordic combined. The sliding sports.
  8. Women should be allowed to do quads in the short program of figure skating.
  9. I enjoyed watching biathlon.  Though cross country skiing is one of the most PED-rife sports around.
  10. The difference between men and women in some sports, like the half pipe, is huge and striking.  It’s much, much smaller in others like figure skating.  To me, this points to the fact that cultural factors are huge in achievement in sport.
  11. Being in Beijing right now as a foreigner seems like a nightmare.  I particularly feel for the athletes who were disappointed in their performance.  Really, almost any cold place in the world would have been a better choice than Beijing.
  12. I am sad they are just about over.

And yes, my recent interest in skiing is not exactly a coincidence.

Valieva

Kamila Valieva is to skating as Simone Biles is to gymnastics – a once in a lifetime star, a generational extraordinaire.

 

And Alexandra Trusova is nearly as good.

Both are extraordinary and head and shoulders above every other skater in the world.

Their third best skater is also amazing and light years better than the rest of the world.

Only a major mistake will keep them from sweeping the medals. Personally, it’s what I’m most interested in seeing this Olympics. Watching is the rest of the world’s female skaters is like a flashback to 15 years ago. The Russians have progressed and the rest of the world has stood still. Honestly, I’m kind of obsessed with Valieva and Trusova.

Rittenhouse

I have to admit I haven’t been following the Rittenhouse trial closely, but here’s what Wikipedia has to say about what happened:

First major confrontation

The beginning of the first confrontation between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum was witnessed by McGinniss to whom it seemed that Rosenbaum and other protesters were moving toward Rittenhouse, who was trying to evade them; Rosenbaum then tried to engage Rittenhouse, but Rittenhouse managed to avoid this by sidestepping and running away.[12][51] FBI infrared footage taken from an overhead airplane captured the shooting of Rosenbaum and the events immediately preceding it.[52][53]

The remainder of Rosenbaum’s confrontation, and the following incidents with Huber and Grosskreutz, were recorded in cellphone footage from multiple angles, including the moments of the shooting.[54] Video footage showed Rittenhouse being pursued across a parking lot by Rosenbaum,[44] who threw a plastic bag[12] in Rittenhouse’s direction.[55][51] A bystander fired into the air for unclear reasons.[56] Rittenhouse stopped running and turned towards the sound of the shot.[44] Rittenhouse testified at trial that prior to being chased by Rosenbaum, he heard another man tell Rosenbaum to “get him and kill him” but also knew Rosenbaum was unarmed.[50] Rittenhouse testified that he aimed his gun at Rosenbaum to deter him from pursuing him further.[50]

According to Kenosha County prosecutors, Rosenbaum engaged Rittenhouse and tried to take his rifle from him.[57][58][13] Rittenhouse fired four shots, hitting Rosenbaum in the groin, back, and left hand. The bullets fractured Rosenbaum’s pelvis, perforated his right lung and liver, and caused additional minor wounds to his left thigh and forehead.[59] McGinniss began administering first aid to Rosenbaum. Rittenhouse began to flee and, according to detectives, was heard saying “I just killed somebody” on his cell phone while he was running.[13] Rosenbaum died shortly afterwards.[59]

I don’t see how this can be anything other than murder.  What type of murder is less clear given that I am not a lawyer and really don’t know that much about one type of murder vs another.  But I can’t see how anyone could find him innocent.  After this “first major incident,” he is basically a crazy man running around with a rifle potentially killing people, which I think colors what happens next.

Second major confrontation

Video from another angle then showed Rittenhouse being chased down the street by several protesters, one of whom allegedly struck him from behind in the head, knocking off his cap,[60] shortly after which Rittenhouse tripped and fell to the ground.[61] According to the criminal complaint, at that point, protesters were heard on two different videos yelling “Beat him up!,” “Get him! Get that dude!,” and “Get his ass!”[12] One of the men who had been chasing him jumped and kicked Rittenhouse while he was still on the ground – Rittenhouse fired twice but missed the unidentified man.[14][62]

Next, according to court records and video footage, another protester, Anthony Huber, “made contact” with Rittenhouse’s left shoulder with a skateboard as the pair struggled for control of the gun.[16][12][63] As Huber was pulling on the rifle, Rittenhouse fired once, hitting Huber in the chest, perforating his heart and right lung, causing his rapid death.[12][64]

Taken in isolation, Rittenhouse’s actions are more defensible here.  He is being pursued by a mob and shoots only once while grappling for a rifle.  However, this didn’t occur in isolation.  Huber is pursuing and trying to subdue a murderer at this point.   With that said, if I were a prosecutor, I’d be focusing on the first murder, since this one is more ambiguous.

Third major confrontation and Rittenhouse’s departure

Gaige Grosskreutz, who believed Rittenhouse was an active shooter,[65] approached Rittenhouse while he was still on the ground but stopped and put his hands up when Huber was shot. A complaint filed by the Kenosha County Clerk of Courts stated that Grosskreutz appeared to be holding a handgun,[66] which Grosskreutz later confirmed.[67] Grosskreutz then moved again towards Rittenhouse a second time. Grosskreutz testified at trial that he did not intend to shoot Rittenhouse, but acknowledged pointing his handgun at him, saying that Rittenhouse opened fire only when Grosskreutz approached Rittenhouse with his handgun aimed at him.[68] Rittenhouse then shot Grosskreutz in the arm, severing most of his right biceps muscle.[16][69][70] At least 16 gunshots from other sources were heard on video during the time that Rittenhouse was on the ground.[44]

This is again less clear cut than the first shooting.  A man approached Rittenhouse while pointing a gun at him, and Rittenhouse was still at this point being pursued by a mob.  (Justifiably so, since Rittenhouse had just murdered someone.)  Still, under these circumstances, it’s harder to say his actions weren’t self-defense.  Is a fleeing murderer entitled to defend himself, however?  I’m not sure he should be.  Pointing a gun at a fleeing murderer is rational behavior, so perhaps the murderer should not be entitled to defend himself in this circumstance.

Rittenhouse is accused of:

  • first-degree reckless homicide against Joseph Rosenbaum, punishable by imprisonment of up to 65 years
  • first-degree recklessly endangering safety against Richard McGinnis (a reporter who interviewed Rittenhouse before the shooting), punishable by imprisonment for up to 17 years[82]
  • first-degree intentional homicide against Anthony Huber, punishable by a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole
  • attempted first-degree intentional homicide against Gaige Grosskreutz, punishable by imprisonment of up to 65 years
  • first-degree recklessly endangering safety against an unknown male victim, punishable by imprisonment of up to 17 years
  • possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 (the only misdemeanor charge, the others are felonies)[83][84][85]

Based on what I just read, I’d have a hard time with the homicide and attempted homicide charges re Huber and Grosskreutz.  First degree reckless homicide is:

“Whoever recklessly causes the death of another human being under circumstances which show utter disregard for human life is guilty of a Class B felony.”

This one with re to Rosenbaum seems like a no-brainer, so I’d be sending this guy to prison for a few “up to 65 years”.  At least.  I guess we’ll see what the jury thinks.

spending our kids’ money

Biden has a giant expensive bill he’s trying to pass – 1.75 trillion.  My basic problem with it is not its contents but the fact that he’s not really paying for it.  Balance the budget – then spend.  Otherwise you’re taking on debt that your children will pay off.  I’m not 100% sure what’s in it, but it mostly sounds like a bunch of malarkey.

Here’s what’s not in it: three months of maternity leave.

Here’s thing.  We’ve had literally decades of democratic rule since 1980.  And yet – no maternity leave.  Why not?  It’s almost like the Democrats bully women into voting for them by pointing at anti-choice Republicans and then, over and over, fail to prioritize things that matter to women – like maternity leave.

And no, 4 weeks of maternity leave is not acceptable.

There are roughly 4 million children born every year in the US.  To pay the parents of every single one of those children $10,000 for leave would cost 4 million * $10,000 = 40 billion per year.

So what if the Democrats had done this one tremendously important thing instead of messing around with this giant bill that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t really do anything great?  It would cost less than 2% of the proposed price tag.

Biden’s original plan called for expanding universal preschool.  Basically, they want to extend public school down to age 3.  I am EXTREMELY opposed to this.  Public school is a failure in many low income areas.  It’s a failure for the most needy kids.  And 3 year olds shouldn’t be in “school” anyway – they should be experiencing play-based learning, Montessori at most.  Want to help parents with child care?  How about giving them money to pay for whatever childcare THEY want to use?  Universal preschool will be a massively overpriced, underperforming boon for teacher’s unions.  You could give parents with children under 5 – ages 0-4 – all $10,000 per year per child for childcare to spend as THEY please – for 160 billion per year.  Less, actually, since a lot of families have at least one non-working parents.  (Call the difference administrative cost.)  So the total cost of the O’Meara plan is 200 billion.  I wouldn’t include anything else.  Keep it simple and actually provide something meaningful we can afford without indebting our great-grandchildren.

But if I were a senator, I would vote against Biden’s crazy bill.  Too expensive, and no maternity leave.

I actually think taxing billionaires net worth is a good idea, but I think it’ll be tossed out in court, making the bill even more responsible from a fiscal perspective.