KingMidget's Ramblings

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The Definition of Ludicrous

I’m a lifelong sports fan. Religiously reading the box scores, engaging in water cooler talk about last night’s game and the stupid things players and teams do, watching my Giants lose for years only to turn things around for a few wonderful years from 2010 – 2014, and then as their success dwindled watching the Warriors dominate the NBA for the next few years.

An odd thing happened as the pandemic struck and games and seasons were cancelled. I don’t miss it. So much of professional sports is about greed and supremacy and just so much stupid crap that I’m enjoying the break. But I’ve been watching the discussions about restarting games with some interest. So, in recent days …

  • At least 30 players on the Clemson football team have been quarantined due to positive testing for the virus.
  • The union representing NFL players has advised its members to refrain from practicing together (this, just weeks before the opening of NFL training camps).
  • The NBA’s plan for re-starting the league in an Orlando bubble at the end of July looks like this. The first week of July teams can only have four players in their practice facility at one time, the second week they can go up to eight players at one one time, and then they all travel to Orlando to live in the bubble for the remainder of the revived season and then teams can practice with all players on the court.
  • Major League baseball teams have shut down multiple spring training facilities due to staff and others testing positive.
  • More importantly, baseball owners and players can’t agree on what a 2020 season would look like as they squabble over an ever-dwindling pile of billions and quibble over whether the season should be 60 or 70 games.
  • Back to the NBA — there is a growing group of players who are talking about refusing to play. Their objection is not just related to the pandemic, but also to some players’ sense that they should be focused on racial injustice, systemic racism, and doing what they can in that area for the next few months rather than go back to playing baseball.
  • I believe there are similar rumblings in baseball, at least related to playing during the pandemic, and I can’t imagine that football players are universally thrilled about returning to the trenches.

 

Why is this the definition of ludicrous? Because returning to play right now makes absolutely no sense in the current environment if the leagues and the players are going to try to comply with guidelines and recommendations to ensure as much safety as possible. The interesting thing to me is that baseball is likely the sport that could do this most easily because it is a sport that is more or less naturally socially distanced. But football and basketball?  There’s no way, those sports could possibly comply with any kind of common sense guidelines. In football, there are twenty-two players on the field at any given time — in close quarters, close contact, sweating and spitting and yelling and talking and pushing and blocking and tackling and … that’s not a catastrophe in the making in a time of pandemic?

So, what’s going to happen is this … these sports will start practicing. They may even get to the point of playing a couple of real games, and then the numbers of infected players and staff will start to be reported and they’re going to have to shut down. I don’t see there being any other possibility.

These teams and players are trying to figure out how to thread a needle, between safety and preserving their billions of dollars in cash flow. That’s the only thing here. They aren’t doing it for the love of the game. It’s all about the money. Given that — they should just go for broke. Play it straight, as they have for decades. Practice together, play the games, and just go for broke. Or not. One or the other. These half measures are not going to be successful and just like the re-opening is causing an increase in cases, playing the games again will to. And then what do these leagues and players do?

Some Facts About Coronavirus

I live in Sacramento County, a mostly urban and suburban area of just over 1.5 million people. It is not as dense as San Francisco or New York City, but … we’ve got our people here.

As of this week, there are just over 1,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 61 deaths from the virus in the county. That means that there is a .001 chance of a resident having contracted the virus after almost six months of it being here, and a .00004 chance of dying from it. If my conversion to percentages is correct, that’s a 1/10 of a percent change of having contracted it and a 1/250 of a percent chance of having died from it.

So far.

I get that there are lots of caveats to these numbers. There is so much about the virus and its spread that we don’t know. There are likely more cases than what has been confirmed due to inadequate testing. There may also be more deaths from the virus – although I think there are valid arguments on both sides regarding whether deaths are under-reported or over-reported (case in point, I saw some statistics out of Florida that suggested that state has reported ten times more deaths from pneumonia from February to May than in a normal year – kind of makes one wonder what might have caused that pneumonia this year).

It is also likely that the numbers were reduced by the quarantine/lock down/social distancing/mask efforts of people living in Sacramento. Who knows what the numbers might look like if those measures hadn’t occurred.

But still … I struggle with just how necessary the harshest measures were. While I couldn’t easily find the specific data on this, it appears that a majority of the deaths from COVID-19 in Sacramento County have occurred in nursing homes. And I don’t want to discount the tragedy of those deaths, or any death from this virus.

What if instead of locking so much down, closing so many businesses, our efforts had focused on protecting the most vulnerable, while allowing those who aren’t in those categories to continue to go about their business, their fun, their lives? Maybe the numbers in New York City, which was slower in taking the harshest measures, provide the counter-argument.

I think though that the relatively small percentages of cases and deaths in much of the country is why so many states and communities are moving forward with their re-opening efforts. A recognition that, while this is not a good situation, it may not be as bad as initial concerns suggested. On some level, this virus is now a fact of life, like the flu or pneumonia or heart disease. If people take certain precautions, maybe it’s time to return to “normal.”

I don’t know. Maybe not. By the end of this summer we will probably reach 200,000 dead Americans as a result of the virus.

What do you think?

 

 

What Should They Have Done?

Warning: The video contains some tough images, so watch only if you want.

 

The story behind this is that Rayshard Brooks fell asleep in his car while in the drive-thru of a Wendy’s in Atlanta. He failed a field sobriety test and a breath analyzer, so the officers tried to arrest him. The videos show that the officers were professional and nothing about what they did suggested any type of racial animus. The guy was sleeping in his car in the middle of a drive-thru, he was disoriented and exhibiting signs of intoxication, field tests showed he was above the legal limit — arresting him was justified and not race-based. Nothing about the incident appears to be race-based.

Mr. Brooks then resisted arrest, including throwing punches at the officers, grabbed one of their tasers, fired it at least once of the officers, ran, and then turned and pointed the taser at the officers again. At that point, one of the officers fired his gun several times, killing Mr. Brooks.

Since this happened, the rioters have torched the Wendy’s. The Atlanta police chief has resigned and the officer who fired his gun has been fired. With the other officer being placed on administrative duty.

What were the officers supposed to do?

 

 

Help Me

As I put the finishing touches on Northville Five and Dime, Part One, I realized a few things. First I needed to change the name. It’s now called The Dime — a little more trendy and also doesn’t create any potential legal issues with the real Northville Five & Dime.

But there is a bigger issue. It’s a 30,000 word novella, and I’ve been sitting on Part Two for a long time, feeling like I didn’t know how to finish it. I’ve gone back and forth between releasing them together as one piece versus publishing Part One now and then finishing Part Two and publishing it separately as another novella in the series.

Today, I delved into Part Two and realized that it is extremely close to being finished, so I’ve decided to hold off on publishing Part One until I complete Part Two. But there’s a conundrum I have in completing the thing.

Should Jacob return? (I think I’ve asked this question before, but more vaguely, and I still don’t know what to do with Jacob and the end of Part Two.)

In a nutshell … Lily is 21, she meets Jacob, they date, things happen, and she gets pregnant. When she tells Jacob — he’s young, he has plans for his future, a baby doesn’t fit into those plans just yet. He runs.

So, should Jacob return in the end? Or should Lily move forward with her baby without him? She has Sophie and Pete and Sally to help. It’s not like she needs him, but still …

 

 

(And the other thing is … when I decided to go beyond Part One, which could be a stand alone story, I came up with an idea for Part Three. I don’t know if I’m going to go there just yet, but … who knows … maybe he could come back in Part Three. If I ever get to it.)

The End of Liberalism in America

I live in an idealistic world in which there once was a day when institutions of America’s democracy preserved and protected the rights enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Places like universities and news rooms were the cradles of our democracy, preserving and protecting free speech by allowing disparate views to be presented, not just the popular ones.

That’s all changed now. Andrew Sullivan published a piece a couple of years ago that expands on this idea. He always says things better than I ever could, but here are some things that have happened recently…

The New York Times recently published an op-ed written by Tom Cotton, a sitting U.S. Senator. There is little about Cotton’s politics that I agree with, including the topic of his op-ed, which apparently was a call for the use of the military to put down the rioting and looting. But what happened after the column was published is a shining example of how intolerant the left has become in this country. A group of NYT employees objected to the publication of the op-ed, the NYT had to come out with a statement that it was published in error, and the editor who allowed it resigned. The idea that one of the nation’s leading papers should not publish an op-ed written by a U.S. Senator is just so ridiculous. If the NYT cannot publish such a piece, it really is no longer a newspaper. It is just a mouthpiece for one particular view. I mean, seriously, the whole point of publishing op-eds is to offer voices that are different from the editorial voice of the newspaper.

This is a perfect example of what Sullivan talks about in his piece. As college students, who have been raised on a diet of intolerance for other opinions and taught to believe in the sanctity of their own opinion, enter the work force, they bring their new wokeness into the work place and demand that how things were in college is how they must be in the rest of their lives.

And I wonder how this came to be. College should be about a true education, exposure to many different subjects and topics and issues … and yes, opinions. But more and more, it seems that college professors, administrators and students have come to believe that the purpose of an education is to reinforce one’s world view, to strengthen one’s opinions and ideas, and to shout down those of a different mind. Here’s a more recent piece from Jonathan Chait that directly addresses the NYT imbroglio.

Meanwhile, the owner of a St. Paul, Minnesota-based literary agency is under fire for this: One of the first nights of civil unrest saw numerous businesses around hers looted and vandalized and she tweeted that she had called 911 and hoped the cops would get there before her business was damaged. Almost immediately, three of her employees announced they were quitting and the woman was hounded by the hordes on Twitter. And for what — calling 911 on looters? Because apparently, that wasn’t sympathetic enough to the cause of the protesters. So, in other words, to support the protesters, one must also support the crime — which most peaceful protesters and supporters of the protests were against — even if the crime is against one’s own property.

Confederate statues are being toppled everywhere. And the Confederate flag is once again a target. This is a little bit nuanced for me. I believe we have to keep our history. As they say, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. As a result, I’m troubled by these attempts by the masses to destroy the statues of historical figures. I believe it is far more important to keep our history, both good and bad, alive so that we can continue to learn from it. When we have eliminated the symbols of our past, how will we continue to expose our children to that past? How will we educate and inform on the risks of evil, when we have eliminated all vestiges and reflections of that evil? Countries in Europe have kept remnants of the concentration camps so that the world never forgets. Shouldn’t we be doing the same thing with our own horror-filled past?

But the Confederate flag? It’s more of a thing for individuals and organizations to decide. NASCAR did the right thing, but I would never want to see that flag or any other flag outlawed. Just like I believe that flag burning should be legal and is protected by the First Amendment, so too is the right to fly the flag of one’s choice.

Back here in Sacramento, we had a recent example of wokeness and cancellation culture. Grant Napear is the long-time voice of the local NBA basketball team, the Sacramento Kings. He also hosts an afternoon sports radio talk show. As the protests mounted, a former Kings player (who knew exactly what he was doing) tweeted at Napear and asked him what he thought of Black Lives Matter. Napear responded with “All Lives Matter.” Within days, Napear was fired by the team and by the radio station that aired his talk show.

There are those who objected to this. A local columnist, Marcus Breton, wrote in support of Napear and suggested that this one time incident was an opportunity to heal and forgive. This is a sentiment I generally agree with and, while I am annoyed at cancellation culture for one time whoopsies, that’s not the situation with Napear. He has many examples of questionable statements — including criticizing Kings players for wearing shirts in protest of the local shooting of a young black man killed by the police, questioning whether the former Clippers’ owner was a racist because he hired black people, and also his treatment of callers on his radio show. Napear was a walking anachronism who was an embarrassment to the team and the community for years. He should have been let go a long time ago. Oh, and one other thing … the Kings came out loud and strong in support of Black Lives Matter from the very beginning of the movement. They strive to walk the walk and talk the talk as well — so having one of their front and center employees with Napear’s view? Nah, not going to happen.

And finally, JK Rowling is being absolutely lambasted for expressing a nuanced view regarding trans people, even though there is no question that she is a strong supporter and believer in equality and protections for all individuals, including the trans community. It is a stunning thing to see and, I believe, the best example of what is happening on the left. If you don’t agree with my view 100%, you are dead to me. Anything less than that is unacceptable, and the loudest voices that demand absolute fealty are those with the most extreme views.

Over on the right-wing blog I read, a few years ago, I commented on some posts about Israel and expressed a point of view that is not all-in on Israel’s policies and handling of the Palestinian question. For that I was labeled an anti-Semite and Jew-hater. When I pointed out that I had married a Jewish woman and raised our children in her faith, that reality was denied and I was called a liar, while continuing to be called an anti-Semite and Jew-hater. This is what I expect from the right. Intolerance is their bread and butter.

What I don’t expect is that it comes from the left. As Sullivan and Chait both express, true liberalism embraces the concept of ideas and debate and constant evolution towards a better world. It does not support the destruction of our history. It does not support wokeness and cancellation culture. All of these things are anathema to a true liberal.

I remember when the Charlottesville protest happened and people thought that the racist idiots shouldn’t be allowed to march and protest. To which I responded, that’s not America. Here we allow all to express their views and then we defeat them when logical and rational thought, facts and evidence. Rather than battling the Charlottesville protesters, I thought those there in opposition should have stood quietly and witnessed the racist protesters and then spoke more loudly, more forcefully, and more eloquently regarding the correct way to view the world. I get that seems difficult to imagine in these weird times in which there is no one truth and propaganda runs amuck, but it is the only way to win these arguments and fights. But this idea seems further and further from reality.

Both sides of our political debate are moving further and further into competing camps of intolerance, hate and rage. It’s what destroyed the Republican Party after the election of Obama and it is now what is destroying the Democratic Party as we strive for a response to Trumpism.

I have written frequently over the years about how frustrated I am with the direction the Democratic Party is headed. The never-ending focus on identity politics, which only seems to get more and more extreme, is not a path forward to a unified approach. It is only a path to more and more division.

There’s an interview out there with somebody asking Morgan Freeman who to end racism. It hearkens back to MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech. Freeman rather simply said that we need to stop talking about people’s skin color. That he would not refer to the interviewer as a white man and that he, Freeman, should not be referred to as a black man. It’s such a simple calculation and one that seems to be totally lost on the left these days. Instead, there is more and more focus on race and gender and orientation, to the exclusion of almost anything else.

There’s a book out there that is at the top of most lists for us to read to understand racism in America. I haven’t read the book, and the name escapes me, but I read a review of it and learned that one of the points in this book is that everything … EVERYTHING … that happens in America involves race. This is nonsense. But … I’m also told that I do not have a right to an opinion on this topic because I am white. I also do not have a right to an opinion on the #MeToo movement since I’m a man. This is all nonsense. Just absolutely, totally nonsense.

As Andrew Sullivan says:

The goal of our culture now is not the emancipation of the individual from the group, but the permanent definition of the individual by the group. We used to call this bigotry. Now we call it being woke. You see: We are all on campus now.

We are becoming, and may have already become, a nation of tribal states rather than a nation of united states. It’s time for a change. Just as the woke left wants to defund the police (I know, I know, that’s not really what they mean — but hey, they’re the ones that said it), it’s time to completely reimagine college, media, social media, government, political parties, and so many things about our country. This isn’t working.

 

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