Kyle Rittenhouse's "Acquitted" - a review

Kyle Rittenhouse's book "Acquitted" is, obviously, a Rorschach test. You look in to it, and you read what you want to take from it. There are those who call him a "white supremacist killer", and others who call him a vigilante - sometimes approvingly, sometimes not.

The book itself is apparently self-published, with author and journalist Michael Quinn Sullivan being the co-author; in this kind of collaboration, the risk is always that the voice of the author is lost, or alternatively the co-author doesn't supply enough direction and the book wanders everywhere. Thankfully, the book avoids that trap. It's not a doorstop (only 118 pages), and the line formatting is, frankly, terrible, but it's very readable and packs a lot in.

The first nine chapters - leading up to chapter ten which starts the events of August 25th, 2020 - are an interesting, and at times sad, view into Kyle's childhood and teenage years. His family was quite dysfunctional, with a drugs-and-women depedent father, whom he has subsequently cut out of his life, and a loving mother who nevertheless was terrible with money. Kyle and his two sisters moved around houses a lot, didn't do very well at school given all the disruption, and he recognizes that he was well on the way to delinquency. It was the police cadets at school, and in particular the male role models he found there, which brought him back (mostly) to the straight and narrow, with a new determination to train as an EMT/firefighter. He qualified as a lifeguard, and was working that job in Kenosha when "Saint" George Floyd expired in Minneapolis and the BLM riots started, eventually spreading to that town in August.

Of the riots themselves, he describes being in town the day after the first riot, and seeing both the destruction wrought, and the way that white and black citizens got together in determination to clean up and repair that destruction. He and his friend lent their efforts to the clean-up, but everyone was aware that the riots might well restart that night, so he volunteered to stand guard at a car shop, equipped both with his rifle (legally held) and his EMT kit.

Then the riots kicked off, violent thugs ran around burning and breaking the city, and at some point Kyle was chased into a dead end by Rosenbaum, who grabbed for his rifle...

There's a joke going around Twitter that "Kyle Rittenhouse fired at three random liberals, and two of them were pedophiles." The truth is a bit more nuanced, but Rosenbaum certainly had a record of sex offending against minors, along with a lot of violence, and Huber was a repeat domestic abuser, also with violence. Grosskreutz, the sole survivor, had a list of lower-level offences. Certainly, it seems clear that the two fatalities from Kyle's shooting were not individuals for whom society should particularly mourn.

Nevertheless, Kyle's reflections on his actions that night were interesting. He certainly doesn't celebrate them - he says that he wishes that night had never happened, and with everything that followed it's hard to be sceptical about that wish. In more detail, he wishes he hadn't chosen to go to Kenosha that night - but given that he did, he doesn't regret bringing the rifle. He points out that given the level of violence threatened and demonstrated towards him and others that night, the rifle likely saved his life - from Rosenbaum's likely violence with him cornered, by stopping Huber from beating him any more around the head with his skateboard, leading to head injury and long-term headaches, and probably Grosskreutz by preventing him from firing the (illegally conceal-carried) pistol he pointed at Kyle.

Interestingly, he also regrets a number of the things he said and did after being released from jail on bail, during trial prep and during the trial itself. Some he details, some he alludes to, but in particular he reflects on his naivety with regards to all the grifting that happened around his case, and how his situation was presented in wildly different ways across the media. In particular, he strongly resents Joe Biden whose PR campaign adverts presented Kyle's case in a very different way to the actual facts.

A few people and organizations come out with a lot of credit. The juvenile detention organization, which held him for just short of 10 weeks, bent over backwards to support him, give good advice and guidance, and keep him safe. Things started to get dangerous when inmates came in who had heard about Kyle's case, and the threats started. By the time he was transferred to adult jail in Kenosha, there were already outside organizations briefing inbound prisoners on Kyle, with the clear implication to cause him physical harm. An additional three weeks in effective solitary confinement in the Kenosha jail was even less fun, though again the guards were professional and kept him safe.

Mark Richards, the lead defense counsel in Kyle's case, seems to be a remarkable man, and one of the few lawyers whom I think I could respect. He agreed to write the foreword in Kyle's book, and unlike many other forewords, this is very worth reading. In particular, he notes:

Kyle is 1 of only 3 clients I have represented in a murder case where I personally believed the individual was truly not guilty of what he was charged. [my italics]
Kyle clearly admires Richards, describing him as an incredibly focused man, unafraid to be blunt with his client, a hard taskmaster in trial preparation, and frequently calling out Kyle on his bad judgements. Corey Chirafisi, co-counsel, was also greatly valued by Kyle; as a former prosecutor, his practice court sessions quickly showed Kyle how to present himself in court, how to avoid being tripped up too often, and warn him about different strategies the prosecution could use to elicit damaging testimony from him. Crucially, Kyle described the subsequent trial as holding "no surprises".

The defense team was not pro bono; Kyle was fortunate that his case had caught enough media attention, and that the available facts e.g. from the videos that night, seemed to corroborate his case. A substantial defense fund was raised, and spent, in addition to the $2 million in bail that Kyle was required to raise before being released. Donors from all across the country effectively prevented Kyle from being railroaded into a multi-decade jail sentence. One wonders how many others without such support have not been so lucky.

The prosecution lead, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, no doubt wishes he'd never taken this case to prosecute. I didn't realize at the time, but Kyle (presumably from Mark Richards' observations) noted that the District Attorney had passed on the case - and likely because it quickly became clear that there was a lot of photographic, video and then forensic evidence on Kyle's side. Binger is infamous in the trial coverage as having a strip torn off him by the judge when he repeatedly tried to introduce Kyle's use of his right to silence - which is a big no-no. Kyle clearly doesn't like Binger, which is no surprise, and takes some relish in pointing out that none of the prosecution witnesses helped Binger's case, and some actively helped Kyle.

The rest is history. Kyle did okay on the stand, Richards and Chirafisi did a rock-solid presentation of the defense facts and argument, the jury came back after four long days with unanimous "not guilty" verdicts.

The ending is fairly bittersweet. Kyle has won his case, and has his freedom, but is unable to take up his desired career (EMS/firefighter) for the forseeable future, until his notoriety reduces. There are still civil cases pending from the families of the people he shot, so the remaining money his case raised will probably be eaten up by defending those. He still has panic attacks from the night, but has a support dog Milo who helps him with this. He has started a job as a entry-level political consultant, which I guess isn't a bad choice given the experience he has had with politics - on both sides.

"Acquitted" is available on Kindle from Amazon, and from rittenhousebook.com in paperback. If you care about the American justice system, and the truth, it's worth your time to read.


Observations on boiling frogs

I've had the recent opportunity to observe a post-COVID concerted attempt by tech leadership to reduce its company's costs, and it has been quite eye-opening. A common theme in employee chat spaces when discussing the changes is the whole boiling frog meme, but I think that a lot of people miss the deeper implications of what's actually going on.

Q: Why do you boil frogs in the first place?
A: You're making frog soup.

When you make frog soup, you can add in lots of other ingredients to change / disguise the taste, but inevitably you will need to have a certain amount of frog to attract customers. Yes, these customers will probably be French, and you'll have to deal with everything that comes along with that, but that is your customer base. Frog soup eaters, who pay you for the soup, want frogs in their soup.

Ah, but how many frogs will there be? You fill the tureen with lukewarm water, drop (say) 100 frogs into it, and turn on the gas cooker. Will you get a 100-frog soup? No!

  • Some frogs will jump out of the tureen, just because they're interested in the wider world - the water temperature means nothing to them.
  • Some frogs are sensitive to heat, and at the first warming sensation they'll try to escape.
  • Once the activity becomes noticeable to the broader frog population, there will be general concern in the tureen, and some frogs will try to jump out just because they notice other frogs jumping out. Generally, you lose the healthiest frogs at this point. The old, sick frogs are stuck.
  • You might try to drop additional frogs into the tureen to replace those lost. Unfortunately, word gets around the frog community fairly quickly, and the larger frogs will squirm out of your hands. You're left with the young frogs who don't know any better.

Eventually, the soup comes to the boil, and you're left with... substandard frog soup. Bon appetit!


Evanston - an inadvertent experiment in racial math

Hat tip for this to @DanProft on Twitter:

Note: I'll be giving references throughout these blog posts, but I have high confidence that they will soon be wiped out, so I'm preserving as much relevant text as possible.

Evanston Township high school in Illinois (1600 Dodge Avenue, Evanston, Illinois, 60201), is in the suburbs of Chicago, about 7 miles north of Chicago city center. It has just achieved notoriety by racially segregating its math classes. For background, Evanston's population demographics are 16.1% Black, 11% Hispanic or Latino - not far off the USA average.

In case you think I'm indulging in hyperbole, here is the curriculum:

  • AP Calculus AB - MA0515: Students will study the equivalent of one semester of college calculus... This code for the course is restricted to students who identify as Black, all genders
  • AP Calculus AB - MA0555: Students will study the equivalent of one semester of college calculus... [No racial restriction]
  • AP Calculus AB - MA0565: Students will study the equivalent of one semester of college calculus... This code for the course is restricted to students who identify as Latinx, all genders.
The same pattern is repeated for the Pre-Calculus course, which is a precursor to AP Calculus, and in the case of Latinx for 2 Algebra, which is the precursor for Pre-Calculus.

Note: I looked at the Science courses, and they did not have any kind of racial restriction.

Some background: the "AP" classes are usually taken at ages 16-18, though can theoretically be taken any time in the four years of high school. They are 1 year long, have a well-defined national curriculum, and culminate in an exam which is marked completely separately from the coursework and other scoring for the class; so, for a 1 year AP course you get a regular grade (0.0 to 4.0, approximately, higher being better) and also the final exam grade (integers 1 to 5, 5 being best). You could in theory get a 1.0 in class (terrible) and 5 in final exam (amazing) - or 4.0 in class (great!) and 1 in final exam (did you even spell your name correctly?). They are notorious, especially in mathematics topics, for needing coaching to do well.

In UK terms, AP Calculus AB is something around A-level Mathematics. The separate course AP Calculus BC - which is offered here but not racially segregated is more like A-level Further Mathematics, and only for hard-core nerds.

The obvious question: why is the school doing this, and what are the implications?

A tempting answer is: "to cheat!" Why else would you split out by race? You give the Latinx and Black students a teacher who marks easy, say about +1.0 on the curve, and the rest of the students a teacher who marks hard, say -0.5 on the curve. That way, a Latinx student who is actually 1 whole grade point behind a white/Asian student, would show up in final results as 0.5 points ahead, and therefore tempting material for a college recruitment.

Problem! The AP final exam is hard to cheat on. All students in the school should be taking it at the same time, under the same conditions, and probably in the same room. It would be very hard - though not impossible - to give the Black/Latinx students an advantage by writing down or correcting answers. If a school took this route, it would show up for any sample size other than tiny, by the white/Asian students having much higher final AP exam scores than their course grades would predict, relevant to Black/Latinx.

What I think might be going on instead: the school assigns the Black/Latinx classes their best teacher in the area, and a time-serving loser for the white/Asian class. This will muddy the waters in the scoring differentials. With a good teacher, Black/Latinx will achieve their maximum potential in both class and final exam, whereas white/Asians will depend heavily on external coaching - or high innate ability - to do well, since the teacher is useless. And, as an explanation for why they're not doing it for AP Calculus BC, they probably only have one teacher who can lead this subject, and in any case lots of external parental help / tuition ends up being important, which Black/Latinx students are less likely to get in any case.

Short version: in my opinion, this school wants to boost Black/Latinx student achievement in mid-level math, at the expense of white/Asian students. If you're one of the latter, consider identifying as Black.

I'm really looking forward to how this experiment works out, and I sincerely hope that legal action doesn't kill this segregation - as it well might - because getting this relative performance data would be fascinating.


A short history of the Trans movement

Roman times

Trans woman: I like to wear dresses
Man: Dude, we already wear togas
TW: I'm a woman
Man: if you've cut your balls off, you're a eunuch, not a woman. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
Woman: a big strong man with no interest in women to guard the harem - what's not to like?
TW: I want to have babies!
M: Where's the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?

Middle Ages

TW: I like to wear dresses
M: The Catholic Church might be just the thing for you
TW: I'm a woman
M: I'd keep that quiet while you're leading Sunday Services
TW: Though I still do enjoy perving on and bullying women from time to time
M: Like I said, Catholic Church
W: (told to keep her mouth shut)

Late 20th century

TW: I like to wear dresses
M: Seems to work for the Scots
TW: With nothing underneath
M: As I said...
W: At least, shave your legs
TW: And wear makeup!
M: The major advantage of men in getting ready quickly in the morning, and you just piss it away
W: Top tip: use about 80% less. And don't steal my stuff.
TW: I'm actually a woman
M/W: Sure, Jan

Early 21st century

TW: I like to wear dresses
W: How bold! How brave! How lovely!
M: You look ridiculous, but that's up to you
TW: I'm really a woman
W: Yes, yes, of course
M: You're really a loony
TW: I want to use women's bathrooms
W: Err... should I say something? Mustn't look judgemental
M: Weirdo
TW: I'm actually a woman
M/W: You don't have a vag
TW: I've got them to make me a vag
M/W: Oh my. Ewwww


TW: I am woman, hear me roar!
M/W: Okay ...
TW: Call me Agatha
M/W: Okay!
TW: Address me as "Miss"
M/W: Wut?
TW: Haters! BLASPHEMERS! I'll get you fired
M/W: Okay, "Miss"
TW: Time to start picking up easy trophies in womens' sports
W: What the hell?
W: (shuts up, simmers)
TW: Ah, a woman's locker room. Please admire my penis
W: Get out!
W: I'm starting to think we made a mistake
TW: Hmmm... how to reproduce given the obvious but unfortunate biological obstructions ...?


TW: I am woman, hear me roar!
W: But... (Gets punched in the mouth)
M: That's not very lady-like
Antifa: We'll burn your fuckin' city to the ground, transphobe
TW: I'm enjoying my new job as an elementary school teacher
M: What in the name of X is this 1st grade lesson plan about anal sex?
TW: All your kids are belong to us
M: (starts building up his household armory)
W: Wait, what's going on here?
TW: I'm taking all your sports trophies, and cancelling you if you object
W: (weeps)
TW: full public obedience and obeisance to the Trans cause, or we'll destroy you
M/W: (moves out of California, Oregon, NY, DC if they can)
TW: Christians? Legit targets. Let's leave the Muslims alone for now, they look like they might be a bit challenging.
W: (insists that husband purchase pastel grips for her pistol)

I don't know where this ends, but it's not going to be pretty.


The Twitter Whistleblower report - how bad was Twitter, really?

Prompted by a post by everyone's favourite Portugal-based squirrel-torturing blogger, Tim Worstall, I thought I'd dive into the practical implications of all the (frankly, horrendous) technical, security and privacy problems that Twitter was identified as having before Elon Musk rocked up as owner and CEO.

Usual disclaimer: I'm going by the reports. Reality might be different. I cite where I can.

For background: both USA and European authorities take a dim view of corporate access to, and usage of, individual user data. Remember the European "ePrivacy Directive"? Also known as the "'f+ck these annoying cookie pop-ups' law"... Governments in both Europe and the USA are keenly interested in companies tracking individual users' activities, though my personal opinion is that they're just jealous; they'd like to do it too, but they're just not competent. Anyway, a company doing individual tracking at large scale for profit - Twitter, Google, YouTube, Meta, Amazon - attracts their attention, and their laws.


Let's talk about security - and, more importantly, access to secure data. A fundamental principle of security is "least privilege" - everyone should have the smallest set of access privileges to be able to do their job. You could argue that 5000+ people in Twitter "need" to be able to change things in production at some point to do their jobs, but they certainly don't "need" to have always-on, cross-production access. Not least, because someone running a command they found on an internal playbook as an experiment, could easily break a large chunk of the service. But don't rely on me, ask their job candidates:

Twitter's practice was a huge red flag for job candidates, who universally expressed disbelief. One Vice President of Information Technology [his current role, not the target role] considered withdrawing his application on the (accurate) rationale that Twitter's lack of basic engineering hygiene in their arrangement presaged major headaches.
Hire that guy.

Certainly, every company is far from perfect in this area, but those with regulators are continually seeking to narrow the number of people with access, and the scope of access those people have. Twitter pre-Musk clearly did not give a crap about the count and scope of access. One can only imagine why; were they, for instance, relying on a large base of pre-approved employees to intercept and downgrade/block opinions outside the mainstream? How would we tell if this were not the case? Can Twitter show that they were engaged in a systematic reduction of number and scope of access to production? If not, who will be held to account?


Control is one thing - but at least, if a human performs an action in the production environment (change, or query), that action should at least be logged, so future audit can see what happened. This is not a high bar, but was apparently too high for pre-2022 Twitter:

There was no logging of who went into the production environment or what they did.
To make clear the implications: in general, there was no way of finding out who queried (for their own purposes) or changed (deleted posts, down-rated users, etc) the production environment at any particular time. "Why did [event] happen?" "Beats the hell out of me, someone probably changed something." "Who? When?" "No idea."

This is particularly interesting because Twitter's Chief Information Security Officer - who resigned post-Musk - was also their former head of privacy engineering, and before that, apparently, global lead of privacy technology at Google. One could only imagine what that implies.


There is also a wide range of engineering issues. Data integrity (not losing user-entered data) was obviously a critical issue, but Twitter had been aware for a while that they teetered on the edge of a catastrophic production data loss:

even a temporary but overlapping outage of a small number of datacenters would likely [my italics] result in the service going offline for weeks, months, or permanently.
This is not quite as bad as it first seems. After a year or so in operation, companies have a fairly good idea what happens with a datacenter outage - because they're more frequent than you imagine. Say, Henry the intern accidently leans against the Big Red Button on the datacenter floor, that cuts power to everywhere. Or you do a generator test, only to discover that a family of endangered hawks have made their nest in the generator housing for Floor 2... So you get used to (relatively) small-scale interruptions.

If you want to run a global service, though, you need to be able to tolerate single site outages as routine, and multiple site outages (which turn out to be inevitable) have to be managed within the general bounds of your service's promised availability - and latency, and data availability. Even if all your physical locations are very separate, there will inevitably be common cause failures - not least, when you're pushing binary or config changes to them. So, don't wait for these events to sneak up on you - rather, anticipate them.

This means that you have to plan for, and practice these events. If you're not doing so, than a) it will be obvious to anyone asking questions in this area, and b) when things inevitably do run off the rails, there will be bits of burning infrastructure scattered everywhere, around the highly-paid morons who are busy writing memos to cover their asses: "how could we have foreseen this particular event? Clearly, it wasn't our fault, but pay us 20% extra and we might catch or mitigate the next such event."

Go looking for those people. Fire them, and throw them into a den of hungry pigs.

Leaving the doors open

By far the most horrific aspect, however, was the general relaxed attitude about government agencies - and heaven only knows what other NGOs, cabals, and individuals - having under-the-table access to Twitter's data. Just the tolerance of user-installed spyware on privileged devices would be enough for any sane security engineer to be tearing out their hair, but actually letting in individuals known to be employed by foreign - and even domestic - governments for the purposes of obtaining intelligence information, and potentially affecting the flow of information to their and other countries... one is lost for words.

At some stage, Twitter had to either grow up, or close down. Under Dorsey's crew, the latter was inevitable - and likely not far away. It's still too early to tell if Musk can get them to option 1, but there's still hope.


The (Karin Jean-)Pierre Principle

Many of my readers (at least two!) may be familar with the long-established Peter Principle which states that in many organizations, people rise to - and are left at - the level of their incompetence. And I'm sure that we can think of many examples in our own corporate experiences.

Now, dear readers, I would like to propose the (Karin Jean-)Pierre Principle which states:

Promoting someone based on their identity, rather than ability, leads almost inevitably to incompetence which you are unable to fire.

For evidence, I'd like to offer the examples:

  • The titular Karin Jean-Pierre, promoted to White House Press Sec based on being black and a lesbian. If anyone would like to argue that ability featured in this promo, I'm all ears.
  • Kamala Harris as VP of the USA. Heaven help us.
  • Pete Buttgig as Sec of Transportation, advising all Americans to buy electric cars to save money.
  • Keisha Lance-Bottoms as mayor of Atlanta, Georgia; subsequently failing-up to be senior advisor and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement
  • Jayson Blair, former staff writer at the New York Times; they were eventually able to fire him but my goodness, it was hard going.
Notable counter-examples: Hillary Clinton (barely female, was kept out of any important jobs), Barack Obama (could actually give a good speech), Margaret Thatcher (one of the few competent UK Prime Ministers, and elected despite being female).


Elon Musks' employees might be racist

A Happy New Year to all my occasional readers! May your 2022 be less fucked-up than your 2021, which is probably the best we can hope for.

I was inspired to put pen to... LCD? whatever... reading a breathless Los Angeles Times article on racism and discrimination at Tesla's Fremont, California plant:

4:05 p.m. Feb. 12, 2022: An earlier version of this article said that at least 167 racial and sexual harassment suits were filed against Tesla since 2006. At least 160 worker lawsuits were filed over various grievances, not just harassment.
Oh, sorry, that was an article correction. I'm sure that most of the 160 lawsuits were about racism and sexism. Many, at least. Some, for sure. I wonder why they didn't give a more specific breakdown?

Anyway, let's get on to the meat of the allegations from California's (government) civil rights agency, who are clearly in no influenced by Tesla's move from California to Texas that will take billions of dollars out of their income:

Tesla segregated Black workers into separate areas that its employees referred to as “porch monkey stations,” “the dark side,” “the slave ship” and “the plantation,” the lawsuit alleges.
Only Black workers had to scrub floors on their hands and knees, and they were relegated to the Fremont, Calif., factory’s most difficult physical jobs, the suit states.
Graffiti — including “KKK,” “Go back to Africa,” the hangman’s noose, the Confederate Flag and “F-- [N-word]” — were carved into restroom walls, workplace benches and lunch tables and were slow to be erased, the lawsuit says.
Ooohkayyy... Let me show you where this factory is located:
It's squarely in the Bay Area, which is one of the most liberal areas known to man persons. It's just down the road from Oakload, which is heavily Black. If this behavior was really happening at the scale indicated, I would fully expect mobs from Oakland to come and burn down the factory - while mobs from San Jose and San Francisco with artificially colored hair paraded cleverly-worded signs outside.

This claim is almost certainly massively exaggerated bullshit, based on a few events. I mean, the Confederate Flag? If you ever flew it here, your house and car would be burned down in short order. But, and here's the kicker, it might contain a kernel of truth.

Thing is, these "triggering events" aren't coming from the well-established white supremacists in the Bay Area (either of them). They're coming from the near-minimum wage factory worker class - and, to no-one's surprise, this is dominated by recent immigrants: Very few of whom are in any way white.

The dirty secret which the California civil rights agency skirts around is, and this goes back to Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird", practical racism mostly happens around the same strata in society. The Ewells were racist - eventually, fatally so - to Tom Robinson because he was only one rung below them in society - a hard-working black man, not far off from doing better than the wastrel crackers who formed the Ewells. Things have not changed much in 60 years.

The relevant strata of society in the case of Tesla - and any other manufacturing company in the Bay Area - is recent immigrants in manual labour, earning not much above the minimum wage. There is strenuous competition for these jobs, and indeed for the positions just above them that have more security and better prospects. As such, you tend to see the various communities form "views" on the other communities. And, unfortunate as it might be, African-Americans are seen as the least hard workers and least dependable.

From reported experience in major cities, in both USA and Canada, newly immigrated Hispanics and East Asian Americans tend to be reasonably coherent groups, with intra-group solidarity (if you were Manuel Labor on the factory floor, you'd support Javi in his attempt to get a full-time position because he's "one of you", you'd grudgingly agree that Binh from Vietnam could do the job but he's clearly trying to climb to the management ladder, but there's no way you want Marland from Jamaica because he's always complaining and making other people fix his mistakes, but the boss won't fire him because he's black and they can't be doing with the inevitable racial discrimination claim...

This is deliberately a caricature, but it's the practical reality in a wide range of jobs around here. There's strenuous competition for jobs and advancement, so the natural defensive tendency of the human is to join a tribal group for self-protection, and absorb their attitude towards other groups.

Interestingly you don't get so many (proportionate to immigration rates) South Asians in these jobs - they tend to come to the Bay Area on graduate-level visas, or head towards their own small business rather than working for The Man. But still, they have a view on Black Americans, and it's often informed by the relative racial proportion of people robbing their - and their extended family's - retail establishments.

I particularly liked this claim from the article:

One was lodged by a female Black employee who said her female white boss struck her with a hot grinding tool and called her “stupid” and the N-word and insulted her intelligence. The suit says the supervisor was fired but later rehired.
A white woman, in the Bay Area, using physical violence and calling a Black woman the N-word in earshot of anyone else? And the company re-hires her? I would love to hear the details of this case. I suspect the actual facts are quite different to the stated ones.

I understand that the California governing class is mad at Elon for taking his money away from them, and that an accusation of racial discrimination is the easiest tool to exact revenge. But let's not be fooled - these claims are likely 90% bullshit, and the core of real racism arises from the struggle for good jobs and money between non-white ethnic groups.


The Mythical Bay Area Mask Mandate

I had to buy a pair of shoes today, and so decided to use the mall visit to test the effect of the "mask mandate" that theoretically grips San Jose in its iron fist.

My selected target was an anonymous, generic, medium-quality indoor mall. I approached it in regular clothing, with no mask or other face covering in sight - I had a mask in my back pocket should things prove sticky at any point. Spoiler: they didn't.

Within the body of the mall, I passed by security guards at least four times in close proximity. No-one said anything. I was careful not to lock eyes in challenge, just looked ahead at a destination store and occasionally consult my phone.

Of the other stores:

  • I avoided CVS (Pharmacy), and the pharmacy area of Target - didn't want to unnecessarily disturb sick people
  • Within Target there was no reaction, even though I walked past several staff members.
  • Discount clothing store #1 - nada
  • Footwear store #1 - very relaxed, even when I asked them questions
  • Discount clothing store #2 - no challenge, but a staff member was wearing trousers well below his underwear waistline so I'm not surprised he didn't say anything. Let he who is without sin, et cetera...
  • Discount clothing store #3 - v helpful, no comment on lack of mask.
  • Footwear store #2 - no problem at all, friendly even through the purchase of shoes.

Summary: no-one gives a shit on enforcement of the mask mandate. It's way too much hassle. Don't feel constrained to wear a mask. That said, everyone else in the mall I saw was wearing one, even though some were way below the nose and only being worn for the form of things.

Also note: as a highly white person with clear diction, if there were anyone expected by shop staff to be a nark, and therefore demand mask-compliant behavior, it would be me.

I'm rather disappointed that I didn't have to pull out my explanation:

"I'm feeling the spirit" -SF Mayor London Breed, explaining why she was dancing without a mask in one of her city's nightclubs , contrary to her own order


Comparative advantages in violence

This post was occasioned by the viral video of a Houston high school student (Hispanic) being attacked by two others (black). It's not a nice video - while we don't know what happened immediately before it, the Hispanic student appears to be trying to ignore the other two students and eat his lunch; then the other two suddenly launch a frenzied attack, initiated by a hard sucker punch to the ear. Once he falls to the floor, they lay in with repeated kicks.

Fights happen in high schools all the time - though this one appears to be particularly vicious, and possibly caused by racial tensions in the school - but this one in particular made me ask: "what made them think that they could possibly get away with this?" No obvious provocation, clearly no aspect of self-defence, aggravating kicking-when-down factor; I can't imagine that they didn't know they were being filmed. Heck, they quite possibly warned the camera holder - why was he/she filming in the first place?

I won't bother to recycle the stats that black male youths include a disproportionate number of the most violent and dangerous youths in the USA. If you don't believe that's true... you should take a walk around Baltimore/Chicago/Oakland and see how that works out. But why is this true? Why do you find black youths initiating so much violence?

Like most things in life, it's perfectly rational with the right data. It's all about what's to gain vs what's to lose. If you're in a sink school, poor family, probably no father in the picture, no real job prospects, you really don't have anything to lose. The school expels you after repeated violent episodes - so what? You weren't going to graduate anyway. Your only plausible route to success is in the local gang scene, and if pummelling a random Hispanic student (on video) is your way to rise in status in that gang then, frankly, why wouldn't you?

The Hispanic students, though, are likely first or second generation immigrants. Their mommas - and papas, and abuelas, because they're generally in intact families - are busting their cojones about succeeding in school and getting a job. Maybe not always college, but doing well enough in high school and part-time work to get a decent job with pathway to financial security. They start getting seriously involved in violence, they have a lot more to lose.

Thus, the black students generally have the comparative advantage in applying violence - they're more likely to get a net benefit from it. So we shouldn't be surprised when they do disproportionately more of it.

There are always exceptions; one can contrast a Hispanic student whose father is in jail for a lengthy term for MS-13 crimes, with a black student from an intact family who realizes that his only real shot at success is to do the best study he can. And every school bully has the common sense to avoid that one weird kid whose family history is murky, but whose every action at school indicates that he has absolutely nothing to lose.

The problem, of course, is the medium term. Teenagers have highly short term thinking... if you're in doubt, talk to a teenager for more than two minutes. But if you look at the demographics in Houston, where Hispanics comfortably outnumber Blacks more than 2 to 1, you start to see the future problem. Should the Hispanic population finally decide that the Black populatation is too much of a threat, it's not going to be pretty, and it's only going to end one way.


Asian Lives Matter - intervention

Instance number N in a long series of crimes, during the past weekend two Asian women in Oakland were attacked by scumbags who stopped their car in the street, and stole the ladies' purses. However, two bystanders intervened:

One of the Good Samaritans was shot and wounded and crumpled to the ground.
One of the robbers is seen on video jogging to a double-parked Honda Accord. The second man trying to help is pistol-whipped and gets into a tug-of-war over a purse with the other assailant.
Now, that's pretty ballsy of the bystanders. Not wise, but brave. Two (Chinese) male bystanders saw the robbery being perpetrated, and tried to intervene. Of course, they were physically smaller than the (apparently African-American) attackers, and the attackers had firearms, so it didn't work out too well. The first defender was shot; looks like the second defender was beaten around the head but managed to hold on to the purse long enough for the attacker to give up and make a break for their car. Still, the bystanders must have known that the odds strongly favored the attackers, and yet tried to intervene anyway. Mad props to them.

KTVU (local TV station) interviewed Mr Li, the bystander who got shot but fortunately survived:
"Well, I wouldn't call myself a hero... they can call me a hero if they want. I just consider myself as trying to help someone in need, so I'm pretty sure that they really needed help."
I would like to big-up Mr Li - he must have known that he was facing a dangerous situation, had nothing but his wits, and nevertheless stepped in to try and help. He was damned lucky to come out of the situation injured but generally okay - only luck stopped it being much worse. Still, communities need people like Mr Li to stiffen their backbone, and resist predators like those seen today.

The police aren't going to stop crimes like this. Oakland's police leadership and Mayor does not appear to be interested in doing anything even slightly controversial to reduce crime in the city. So, how is this going to change anything?

I refer my dear readers to my previous posts on this subject. Does the "Black Community" really think that the "Asian Community" is going to continue to take these assaults and not retaliate? The Chinese Chamber of Commerce is undoubtedly already talking to the local Tongs - and, likely, Triads - about their need for protection. Do you think that the undisciplined, random violence of African-American thugs is going to be able to persist against a highly organized and cohesive network like the Tongs/Triads? The hell it is.