If I were inclined to be a pessimist, here’s what I’d worry about

I hope Gary Larson doesn’t sue me for using this. I just saw it on Pinterest, and thought it a way better illustration for this post than the boring shot of Putin I originally put here.

Well, these are some of the things I’d worry about. Not all are even near the top of the list. These are just things that were in the news today — actually, all three were in one of the several papers to which I subscribe — so they’re on my mind at the moment.

So worry away, folks…

  1. Classic American tragedy — The headline was “Teen sought in Amber Alert dies in shootout after running toward deputies.” Basically, a 15-year-old girl that authorities were seeking to rescue from her armed-and-crazy, murderous father is now dead — shot by, well, authorities. So your initial reaction is, there go the stupid cops again. But then, if you care at all, you actually read about what happened. And you see it’s not so simple. What happened (so far as know at this point) was, shots were fired near a school. The school is placed briefly on lockdown. Then cops find a woman with multiple gunshot wounds, who is pronounced dead at a hospital. The call goes out to look for the husband, Anthony Graziano, and the couple’s young daughter, Savannah. Graziano’s Nissan is spotted, and pursued. He starts shooting, putting several rounds through a police car windshield. With bullets still flying both ways, someone, “wearing protective equipment, including a tactical helmet, emerged from the passenger side of the vehicle, ran toward sheriff’s deputies and then fell amid the gunfire.” When it’s all over, it’s discovered that someone is Savannah, and she and her father are both dead. What do you think should be done to prevent such things? This is very much like what happened to Breonna Taylor — someone with the victim starts shooting at police, and the victim is killed in the crossfire — but since she was black, a lot of people simplified it to “racism.” With Savannah being white, one is tempted to simplify by saying, “guns.” For instance, since I watch at LOT of British cop shows, I think, why can’t our cops go unarmed, like them? But of course that ignores the fact that there are 393 million guns in private hands in this country, and a lot of those hands belong to people who like to shoot first, like Graziano. So no, I don’t know that answer, but I’m pretty sure it can’t be summed up in one word.
  2. A big AI advance — I often sneer at artificial intelligence, noting that it may be artificial, but it certainly isn’t intelligent. Well, something like this makes me take a step back, and have “Matrix” thoughts. See that block of images below. None was taken by a camera. And they were generated not by hours of work by a CGI artist, but by “the artificial intelligence text-to-image generator DALL-E.” The one at the upper right came into being in response to the phrase, ““A woman in a red coat looking up at the sky in the middle of Times Square.” The only human input for the one at bottom left was, “Red and yellow bell peppers in a bowl with a floral pattern on a green rug photo.” I don’t know what the prompt was for the boy in black-and-white, but this is scary. Note that I say, “the phrase,” “input,” and “prompt.” Each time, I almost wrote “command,” but dare we speak of issuing orders to our future digital overlords?
  3. Ukraine dilemma — If you don’t spend too much time thinking about it, you can conclude that the thing to do is simply cheer for Ukraine to win, and Putin to lose. And I do. But I also worry. As I have since the start. Those of you who think Brad is just this wild warmonger — because I would sometimes use military force when you would not — may have been taken aback by the way I worried when all this started. I was running about like Neville Chamberlain, wringing my hands — sort of, anyway. Once it started, I continued to worry, while following the above formula. But while I rooted for Ukraine, and was pleased by that country’s recent successes, I continued worrying about the big picture, which goes like this: Putin needs to be humiliated, so he stops doing this. He didn’t pay a price in Georgia, or for his early moves on Ukraine. This has to stop. He needs to go. But he’s got all those nukes, and what will he do with them on his way out the door? Anyway, I urge you to read this piece, “Putin is limping toward an endgame in Ukraine. Should the West go along?” Read the whole thing, if you can. It basically asks, if fixing “elections” so he can save some face by annexing part of Ukraine — again — should we let him do this disgusting thing, to prevent a nuclear holocaust? My gut, of course, says the hell with him. But I don’t want nuclear hell unleashed on the rest of us, either. What’s the right move?

The first and the third problems are very similar. Any intelligent, or merely satisfying, response to either has enormous barriers in front of it. Get rid of those 393 million guns (the only thing that would really fix the problem)? Good luck. And imagine Joe Biden, in this poisonous political environment, trying to steer a course that does something enormously sickening to all sides, in order to avoid Armageddon. Forget about the consequences in the midterms — would it even be possible to do it?

Maybe we should stop worrying about 1 and 3, and let 2 happen, so the algorithms can make the decisions.

Anyway, as I said, if I were inclined to be pessimistic about life, the universe and everything, I’d spend all my time thinking about things such as these…

The upper-right was generated by “A woman in a red coat looking up at the sky in the middle of Times Square.”

15 thoughts on “If I were inclined to be a pessimist, here’s what I’d worry about

  1. Barry

    Not sure. Sounds like the girl was running toward police to help her. I can’t answer in this situation.

    I watch some videos online of police encounters and I think police often shoot too quick (and they escalate situations needlessly too often) but I can’t say that in this case without seeing video.

    The “dad” in this case looks like he has had a lot of major problems in his life. I often wonder what women see in men that seemingly have no future and live a life that will result in contact with police.

    Speaking of Russia, I do wish a group there would rise up and kidnap Putin or worse. The world would be better off. But they have to do it themselves.

    I was reading an article last week or the week before that said Putin decided to go to war on his own and most of his top advisers were not in favor of war- and were not prepared for war.

    Not that he would listen to anyone but this was all his decision and there is no one among his top advisors that would ever dare to disagree with him on anything at all. Most plans developed in that environment will fail.

    Also heard Peter King and Susan Glasser on NPR being interviewed about their book. They told the story of Trump’s cowering to Putin in Helsinki and how his almost obedience like approach to Putin stunned even his most trusted, top advisors. Some of those advisors were back at the White House following developments in real time and they were stunned by what they were seeing.

    Dan Coats, Trump’s handpicked Director of National Intelligence reportedly told some Trump advisors as it was happening in Helsinki that he thought to that maybe Putin did have something on Trump because he had never seen any American kiss up to Putin like Trump did – all the while Putin was playing Trump perfectly.

    They told a story of Trump bragging to Putin in Helsinki and Putin cutting Trump down with an emotionless gaze.

    Trump suggested his popularity outside the U.S. was so strong that Poland was planning a military base in his name while Israel, he gloated, had just recently announced a new settlement, “Trump Heights,” in appreciation of his administration’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

    Putin was unfazed. “Maybe they should just name Israel after you, Donald,” he said witheringly.

    Glasser and King report more on what we already knew- that people knew that Trump was easily manipulated if you played to his ego- and that Trump often didn’t realize when he was being played- that his advisors had to talk him down so many times and explain in private that something another leader told him wasn’t a compliment- it was actually a put down. But Trump could never admit that to himself.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I hope you notice what all three of these things have in common: I don’t have the answer to any of them.

    I don’t say, “If only this or that leader would do X,” or “If only people would wake up and do Y.”

    I wish I DID have a prescription. The fact that I can’t see the obvious — or even fairly evident — course to take is what worries me…

  3. Barry

    Excellent, ecellent opinion piece by University of Texas Law Professor Steve Vladeck.

    By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court cleared the way last week for Alabama to execute Alan Miller, who killed three men in a 1999 workplace rampage

    Nonetheless, it was the third time in less than a year that the justices have granted a state’s emergency request to allow an execution that lower courts had blocked to go forward.

    And like the first two (which divided the high court 5-3 and 5-4, respectively), the majority wrote … nothing. There was no explanation for why the District Court, which wrote a 61-page opinion explaining why Miller was likely to succeed on his challenge to his method of execution, was wrong.

    There was no explanation for why the conservative-leaning, Atlanta-based federal appeals court, which refused to undo the District Court’s ruling by a 2-1 vote in a 32-page decision, was wrong.

    There was no explanation for why Alabama was right. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh voted to send a man to his death – and they couldn’t be bothered to tell him why.

    No one disputes that the Supreme Court has the power to overturn a lower court’s conclusions, whether as to law or fact. The problem is the impression that the justices leave when lower courts have gone to great lengths to explain and defend their rulings, and, as in Miller’s case, the court overrides them summarily. The court at least appears to be acting for political reasons rather than legal ones.

    More of the piece at


    1. Ken

      That was actually the 12TH time since just 2020 that justices have granted “emergency relief” to allow an execution to immediately proceed where lower courts had provided reasons why they shouldn’t. In 11 of those 12 cases, the Supreme Court majority offered NO reasons for overruling the lower courts.

      1. Barry

        Yes- Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas Law School has a new book out discussing this issue in detail.

        Of course Conservatives don’t care though because the Republican Supreme Court is ruling their way. They don’t care if they offer an explanation or not.

        Of course- maybe their explanations are so poor that they realize they can’t defend them.

        In the recent case about the coach that got “fired” (He never got fired) for “praying” – Justice Sotamayor included pictures in her dissent to show that the “facts” presented by the majority was simply made up.

        When you can’t rely on certain Justices of the Supreme Court to get the basic facts right about a case, you have a serious problem as a country.

        That case was built on lies and the majority on the court went along with them when they knew better. But again, they didn’t care.

        1. Ken

          This court not only interprets law as it wants, ignoring statutes as well as legislative prerogative and history that does not comport with its preferences. It not only has decided to determine what history is, cherry picking bits of history it likes and ignoring other bits in its headlong drive to impose its judicial philosophy on all of us. It is even deciding what facts are, as in the Coach Kennedy case, where it ignored facts and made up its own. In the words of the (conservative, G.W. Bush appointed) 9th Circuit judge whose ruling the court overturned, the majority embraced a “deceitful false narrative.” Yes, folks, “alternative facts” are now a thing at the Supreme Court, where the burn-it-all-down mentality that fuels the Trumpist movement has found a home. The “Flight 93” hypothesis appears to apply to the court as well now, which seems to believe that what they perceive as the country’s decline under previous courts and under “leftish” policies must be arrested by whatever measures are in their power to apply. This is a majority that not only has no respect for precedent. In in its zealotry to overturn what it doesn’t like, the majority members don’t even respect the integrity of the institution they sit on.

          1. Barry

            Justice Jackson gave the court a history lesson earlier this week in oral arguments quoting directly from numerous framers- which was a smart and respectful counter to some of Justice Alito’s invented claims was beautiful.

            Oh, I am sure her side will lose. But it was nice to see someone, in this case a black woman, push back on a Conservative Republican justice that has invented in his mind some things that just aren’t accurate.

            Alito is also one of the justices that relied on factual inaccuracies in the case of the coach that was “fired” for praying (he was never fired. )

            However, I am glad that some Satanist clubs across the country are now able to “pray” on football field at public high school games. Two can play that game.

  4. Ken

    This is about more than pretty pictures.

    Examining the prospective/nascent metaverse, Sue Halpern recently wrote that it
    “…opens up a new and seemingly infinite opportunity to extract data and sell ads. Following users across the metaverse through their avatars will give Meta unfettered access to what users like, whom they comport with, who they would like to be, and who they are.”

    This is an unsettling prospect – except, I suppose, to those Panglossians who believe that privacy is not and should not be a right.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Do you have a link to the Halpern piece? I’m curious as to how the Metaverse allows “unfettered access to what users like, whom they comport with, who they would like to be, and who they are” more than existing technology — Facebook, Amazon, and for that matter those little plastic tags that the grocery store scans — provides currently.

      I see that it provides a new means for doing that — another channel. I’m curious as to how it would dramatically increase that capacity. Perhaps it would; I certainly don’t know enough about it to believe it would not.

      So I’m curious to know more…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, dang. Couldn’t read it.

          I subscribe to a lot of publications, but even though the universe of good ones (and this is one of those) is finite, I can’t subscribe to all of them….

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, cool. Now I need to figure out how to make my library card work.

      I’m bad about that. My wife reads multiple books from there in a week. I go so long between using it that it expires, and I have to start over.

      I think public libraries are one of the best ideas this country — or, more specifically, Benjamin Franklin — ever came up with. But I’ve got this greedy thing about wanting to own the books I read. As soon as I read one, I feel like it’s mine, and I don’t want to give it back…

      Of course, also, I don’t read as many books as my wife does…

Comments are closed.