And twitter and social media depresses me: Border wall fiasco

What is happening at the border wall near Tijuana was a fiasco. Roughly speaking:

Although the number of people at the border was relatively small, the unrest — with migrants attempting to climb fences and run through car lanes to reach the United States, and scenes of mothers and children choking on tear gas — represented a serious escalation of the crisis.

What began Sunday morning as a migrant protest of the slow pace of the U.S. asylum claims process devolved into a chaotic scramble in which hundreds made their way to the border hoping to cross onto U.S. soil. To block that from happening, and as some threw rocks and bottles, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers took the rare step of firing tear gas into Mexico as well as closing all legal vehicle and foot traffic to the San Ysidro border crossing, which U.S. officials say normally has about 100,000 visitors per day.


Although the majority of the group approached and gathered at the fence peacefully, Mexico’s Interior Ministry said that hundreds tried to cross the border in a “violent manner.” Mexican authorities said they would deport anyone who tried to cross illegally.

Before 9 p.m. Eastern time, CBP said the port of entry had reopened.

This lead to an explosion of “OMG, we are tear gassing babies” posts on my social media feed (liberal dominated) with some “ok, we bungled was coming so why didn’t we have a lot of people there, ready to process their asylum claims?” posts. By the way, about asylum claims: this little article quotes an expert (immigration lawyer).

Personally, I have a ton of questions about this, but most of what I see are the “OMG we are gassing babies” vs. “NO OPEN BORDERS: THE CARAVAN STORMED THE BORDER”. A few said “they did nothing wrong” (false).

But now for my own thoughts and questions:

1. I believe that, as a country, we do have some responsibility for the horrible conditions that some of these people are fleeing (e. g. our propping up right wing dictators in our “fight against communism” a long time ago). So, I have a “if you helped break it, you should help repair it” mentality.

2. But this caravan did cross through other countries to get here; if we are so awful, why come here? Yes, I know, first world vs. third world, but why did it become that way?

3. This take:

Now does this mean we have to make accommodations for all who want to come here? I think that good intentions can lead to bad outcomes. We have to be reasonable.

4. About the tear gas: yes, it was used on those trying to get over the border illegally and who threw rocks and other things. I do not know if this was a disproportionate response or not. But if you think so, what should the border patrol have done? (yes, we should not have let the situation get here to begin with but given that it did…)

5. And yes, I can totally see Trump trying to set something like this up for political gain; after all, his deploying troops when he did was a political stunt. But to be fair, this was, at least partially, the result of a long legacy of failed policy and a mess we caused.

6. Personally, I’d be in favor of our trying to make the host countries more hospitable and economically viable…but how to do that?

7. Back to the asylum: I know that Trump claims that he made a deal to keep people on the other side of the border until their claims could be processed.

8. What about Mexico and other countries: it feels weird that we (along with European countries) are held to a different standard than other countries, including other wealthy countries.

Ah, there is so much more and so much I don’t know and haven’t thought of. I’d welcome feedback but I am afraid that all I will get is “you are just like Hitler” or “you are for open borders” bullshit.
Why so many feel so sure about their positions just astonishes me. To me, there are a ton of things to balance.

November 27, 2018 Posted by | social/political, world events | Leave a comment

North Korean Summit

Quick take (I still have to read the various articles)

1. I am glad that we are talking. The status quo sucked.
2. I did not like Trump’s ridiculous praise of a ruthless, utterly brutal dictator. Yes, I know; in WW2 we worked with Stalin to defeat the Axis. But I wish Trump would have been the type to have studied that; how to work with a brutal person without lavishing them with praise.

3. I wonder what we got out of it..I know that we agreed to not do the joint exercises with South Korea. I have to make up my mind about that, but this does mesh with Trump’s isolationist tendencies.

4. And Trump claiming that this means peace with North Korea and that they are going to be denuclearized: is way too soon to be dancing in the end zone. It is a first step.

Yes, it is an important first step, but that it all that it was.

June 14, 2018 Posted by | political/social, politics, world events | | 1 Comment

Trump, Korea and Utility Theory

Imagine the following: you were to play a game in which you had one roll of a die that was scientifically proven to be fair. If it came up “1” you lost 200,000 dollars (or your belongings up to 200,000) . If it came up 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, you’d win 1,000,000. Now the expected value: (-200,000) (1/6) + 1,000,000 (5/6) = 800,000 . So, mathematically speaking, you’d play. BUT, unless you are reasonably wealthy, losing 200K would either bankrupt you or seriously damage you financially.

Someone who was worth several million would certainly play; most of us would not.

Now imagine running a factory. Say there was, oh, perhaps a 1 percent risk of a major accident (over, say a 1 year period) which might claim lives if you didn’t do an expensive upgrade..and upgrade which is expensive enough to seriously dent your profits. So if you decided against the upgrade, you’d attain that higher profit and *probably* get away with it. Is that a good decision?

And THAT is how I am viewing the news about North and South Korea potentially officially ending their long war and working toward a nuclear weapon free Korea (there was a cease fire in 1953, not a truce). Some have claimed that Trump’s behavior was reckless and unpredictable enough to be a credible deterrent.

That might well be, but what about that (small, but credible) risk of an absolutely horrible outcome which might have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands? Was that risk worth it? This is where utility theory comes in.

In evaluating this genuinely good, genuinely welcome outcome, one cannot ignore the risk that was involved and how catastrophic a bad outcome would have been.

Workout notes weights and a 2 mile walk in glorious morning weather.

usual pt, pull ups: 2 sets of (4 x 5), 1 set of 10 (4 sets of 5 with 10-15 seconds rest between sets; the pull up quality is better in these, but oh my goodness, do these sets hurt)

bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 185 (shoulder is ok), incline: 10 x 135, decline 10 x 135. I need to continue cautiously, but it looks good.

military: standing dumbbell: 10 x 50, 15 x 45, 20 x 40

rows: 3 sets of 10 x 200 Hammer

abs: usual twist crunch (50, 24), yoga leg lifts (10, 10), moving bridge (as a rest), headstand, front plank (2:30..this always sucks), side plank.

Feeling off again…not sure what is going on.

Weight: 198.9

April 27, 2018 Posted by | walking, weight training, world events | , | Leave a comment

Pre workout thoughts: graphic software and North Korea …

Just so you know where Korea and Guam are; many Americans do not.

I am not worried about North Korea attacking the United States; having a reliable ICBM with a miniaturized warhead is a huge technological task. But a new Korean war would be a human disaster for not only Korea but possibly for those in Japan and other nearby states. The first one devastated Korea, burned down almost every major town and killed more than 1,000,000 people.

In times such as these, I want cool heads to prevail.

Graphic software: in the days of old, if you wanted to get a mathematics paper published, you’d send out the paper, get it refereed, and if it was accepted, technical typists and artists would write up the paper and you would review it.

Now, it is up to the author to type set it (I can do is a minor pain) and draw it…and well, it is tough to make good drawings with just “Paint”. I am trying to learn Inkscape and am running out of patience. I am sure I will be a pro when I finally learn it but ugh…that isn’t how I want to spend my time.

Workout notes: yesterday, 8 miles of hills; untimed but it was a steady effort. Great weather for it; I could not make myself go into the gym to do timed laps.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | mathematics, politics, walking, world events | | Leave a comment

Will Trump realize my worst fears?

My fear of Trump was not his agenda; we’ve had presidents with conservative agendas before. I disagree with the approach, of course. But I realize that I won’t agree with the policies of every president.

It was Trump’s lack of stability and his unwillingness to listen to those who know what they are talking about that troubled me the most…by far…and more so than his vulgar social media persona.

I was reminded of the Vietnam war which killed between 1.3 and 4.2 million people. It was sold to the US as “Communism vs. the West” when, in fact, Vietnam wanted self determination (who doesn’t?) The Vietnamese and the Chinese were ancient enemies and there was little chance that they would have anything more than a brief “alliance of convenience” to get rid of the US. The Fog of War discusses this. If you haven’t seen it, it goes 1:45 but is well worth it.

Now Trump is irresponsibly shooting his mouth off with regards to North Korea. That is just so irresponsible and childish…exactly what I don’t want a President of the United States to be. This is NOT a Rambo movie.

No, I doubt that North Korea can actually hit the US with anything resembling a reliable weapon. And yes, North Korea will be annihilated if they fight the United States. But at what cost, especially to those in South Korea and Japan (and other nearby countries)?

I sure wish that we had a stable person as President right now.

But I suppose it is one way to rally the rubes.

Workout notes Running was too painful, so I walked a hilly 5 mile course (Cornstalk) at right around a 15 minute pace. I felt much better afterward.

August 9, 2017 Posted by | politics, politics/social, walking, world events | | Leave a comment

My Syria post

Ok, President Trump launched some cruise missiles at an airstrip from which the chemical weapons attack originated. Because the Russians were there, they were given advance notice. And, evidently, the airstrip/base remained operational:

And yes, the rubes cheered…hey, he did SOMETHING.

Oh, the options were not all that good.

And ISIS took advantage. Let’s face it: things are complicated. One has the so-called government which Russia, along with Shiite groups backs. The Rebels are mostly Sunni (backed by Sunni groups) and ISIS has a foothold as well. It is complicated.

In the US: the support really isn’t strictly along party lines; the Freedom Caucus is upset but the old guard seems ok. Given what the strike accomplished (basically…nothing…) and deterred (basically nothing…) well..

And how legal was it? Here are what some top legal minds say. And the politicians are split (here and here): we have the War Powers Act of 1973 (which specifies that the President is authorized to start limited military action IF several conditions are met and it is in our national interest (e. g. retaliate for a state sponsor murder, protect US citizens, etc) and there is the authorization of use of military force (used for the Iraq invasion) to generally fight terror. appears to me that the real criteria is for the President to say “it is in our national interest” and for Congress to not object and for it to be over quickly.

Who in the hell knows. I’d like to think that Trump was not that unethical, but his repeated, foolish tweets give me reason to doubt his personal stability. I wish that I had more confidence in him.
Yes, I can see other Presidents doing something *similar* (execution? targets? effectiveness?). So my questions are more about the President that ordered it than anything else; he just has no “benefit of the doubt” from me..the way that other presidents (of either party) had.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | political/social, politics, Uncategorized, world events | , | Leave a comment

Refugees and mass murder

Many on my Facebook feed are politically aware. Most lean liberal and have gone the “how dare the heartless governors refuse to accept Syrian refugees” (not sure HOW they are going to refuse entry, but never mind that).

My take: I don’t mind the US helping out, AFTER the local countries have done their part. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States are wealthy and yet haven’t done all that much. So, I want to see them step up! There is no reason that Europe and the US ought to be expected to absorb people merely on the strength of them wanting to be here. And yes, many of the refugees are already outside of Syria; there are problems but in some cases, they merely want better economic opportunities.

I think that the West always being called on to save the day is just colonial thinking.


Why the attention on France and not on, say, Kenya or Beirut? I offer the following opinion: while it was true that the Kenyan attack was done by Somali terrorists, that attack, as gruesome and cruel as it was, is largely seen as part of a “sort-of” civil war between competing ideologies. Something similar can be said about Beirut. These attacks are more similar to, say, the Oklahoma City bombing in the US. Yes, lots of people were injured and killed in Oklahoma City, but that was homegrown terrorism and not an attack from the outside.

The Paris attacks are seen as an attack from the outside and not homegrown terrorism.

And yes, of course an American life is worth the same as a French life or the same as a Kenyan life or a Lebanese life. All of those killings were senseless, tragic and cruel. But attacks from “the outside” always draw more sympathy.

November 17, 2015 Posted by | social/political, world events | , | 1 Comment

Paris Attacks…

Needless to say, I am saddened and sickened.

It is my uneducated guess that these were designed to retard the influx of Syrian refugees to Europe.

We shall see.

November 14, 2015 Posted by | world events | | 1 Comment

Why would anyone listen to Dick Cheney?

By the way, the Senate has 41 votes to filibuster an attempt to block the Iran nuclear deal.

September 8, 2015 Posted by | politics, politics/social, world events | , | Leave a comment

Peoria for a while…

Well, in Peoria with daughter who is enjoying sleeping in.

I did a 10 mile walk this morning; ok 10.2 in 2:16:55. My Cornstalk 8.1 segment was 1:48:11 and my 1.4/.7 loop segment (full Cornstalk hill plus lower “half loop” around the median) was 28:44 and the last 1.03 was 12:39. It was cool.


The paper published my “Iran Deal” letter. I did get some negative feedback by a Fox News type who knows that I am “naive and delusional”. 🙂

I am writing to express my support for the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. I support the deal for the following reasons:
1. The technical side of the deal was designed by nuclear scientists; that is by people who know how to make a nuclear bomb.
2. The negotiations were done in consultation with people who understand Iran both culturally and politically.
3. The deal meets the approval of the vast majority of our major allies as well as our major competitors. Such widespread agreement is difficult to come by!
4. The deal is narrowly focused; it is designed strictly to keep Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon. It doesn’t try to do too much.
5. The deal is based on verification and contains immediate “snap backs” on sanctions if Iran fails to comply. Nothing in this deal is based on blind trust.
6. Nothing in the deal prevents us or other nations from taking action on stopping attempted transfers of conventional weapons from Iran to rogue actors.
Of course, there are those who oppose this deal. But the opposition mostly comes from those who enthusiastically supported the Iraq war and the reasoning behind attacking this deal is based on the same thinking that got us into Iraq.
I see this deal as having the potential to stabilize a possibly dangerous situation and possibly making it more likely that Iran returns to the world community as a good citizen.

I don’t blame a regular person for such a response. But our public leaders should know better; evidently our public felt the need to elect people who just shout simplistic slogans. Seriously: I am not talking about smart people disagreeing but rather stuff like this:

4. EMPs. In the July 23 Senate hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin asked Moniz about a 2008 commission report on EMPs, electromagnetic pulses, which could be triggered by nuclear detonations and could knock out the U.S. power grid. Moniz, the former chairman of MIT’s physics department, has spent his career working in nuclear science. He told Johnson that he was unfamiliar with the report but that “if you look at our Quadrennial Energy Review published in April, we do identify EMP as a risk to transformers, and we are beginning to try to work up a response to that.”

In the hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas used this exchange to portray Moniz as an idiot:

Cruz: You told the United States Senate you hadn’t read the congressionally mandated commission on EMPs and that you didn’t know what an EMP was.
Moniz: That is incorrect. I said I did not know this 2008 report recommendations. I said I was quite familiar with the issue, and we all know about EMPs from airburst nuclear weapons.
Cruz: Secretary, let me read the testimony verbatim so that I don’t mischaracterize you. … “Senator Johnson: ‘Are you familiar with the EMPs commission 2008 report?’ ‘No, I am not, sir.’ ‘You’re not? Do you know—do you know what an EMP is?’ ‘You’ll have to explain it to me, please.’ ” I find that stunning. …
Moniz: That was about the report. If you read further in the testimony, you will see my explicit statement. Of course I know about the issue.
Cruz: Do you agree that an EMP detonated by Iran in the atmosphere could kill tens of millions of Americans? …
Moniz: It depends upon the specifics. These are highly variable—
Cruz: Does that mean, yes, it could?
Moniz: I said it is highly variable in its—
Cruz: OK. You’re refusing to answer the question.

The most disturbing thing about this exchange isn’t Cruz’s obnoxiousness. It’s his intellectual confidence in the face of his own ignorance. He doesn’t know the slightest fraction of what Moniz knows about EMPs. Either Cruz doesn’t understand this difference between himself and Moniz, or he doesn’t care.

Seriously; this is what it has come down to. These are our elected “leaders” acting like ignorant idiots and being applauded for it.

August 4, 2015 Posted by | politics, walking, world events | , | Leave a comment