Maybe We Shouldn’t: Reopening is bad, starting is worse

This is the second of three items on sports attempting to have “normal seasons” in 2020-2021.  I actually planned to write this last, but the issue is pressing.

A few months ago, Taiwan’s CPBL boasted about starting its regular season only a month late but still having a regular season. South Korea’s KBO also began a shortened but “normal” baseball season too, as has Japan’s NPB (beginning only a month ago).

I am starting to regret this. It may have encouraged other leagues around the world to say “this is fine!”

More below the fold.  A lot more.

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Opt Out: Expect more to follow his lead

This is the first of three items on sports attempting to have “normal seasons” in 2020-2021.

Because of COVID-19, the NFL and the NFLPA have enacted an “opt out” clause for players who don’t want to participate in the 2020 season (as if there will be one).  Players who choose to sit out will get $150,000 and their contracts extended another year.  Nice work if you can get it.

In reality, the league and its owners will call players sitting out “cowards” and won’t have any trouble replacing them.  They will likely cut the players’ contracts once they find cheaper replacements.  If there is a “season”, expect the play to be on par with the 1987 replacements.

It’s likely players would be afraid of losing their contracts unless a big name player decides to do it first.  One now has: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Racist Name team.  He is one of the league’s best offensive linemen and part of the Stupor Bowl winning team from last January.  Teammate and running back Darien Williams has also opted out, and at least thirty other players.

Duvernay-Tardif opted to sit out because he has medical degree from McGill University (he has yet to complete his residency), and is taking care of COVID-19 patients at a care facility in Montreal.  Even though he’s relatively young (29), he may decide to retire.  He has a championship ring and US$22 million in career earnings.

A player as high profile as him to sit out may encourage other players to do the same.  And you may see more retirements once players enjoy having an entire year off and seeing how their health improves (vis-a-vis the 2004-2005 lockout that wiped out an NHL season).

The first practicing medical doctor to play in the NFL opts out of the 2020 season

Super Bowl champion Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the first practicing medical doctor to play in the NFL, has decided to opt out of playing in the upcoming season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my life but I must follow my convictions and do what I believe is right for me personally,” the 29-year-old Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman said in a Twitter post. “That is why I have decided to take the Opt Out Option negotiated by the League and the NFLPA and officially opt out of the 2020 NFL season.

“Being at the frontline during this offseason has given me a different perspective on this pandemic and the stress it puts on individuals and our healthcare system. I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love. If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients.”

Duvernay-Tardif is the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season because of the pandemic. According to ESPN, Duvernay-Tardif was set to earn $2.75 million this season. By opting out, he will get $150,000 instead as a result of a Friday agreement struck between the union and the league.

 

Nobody Learns: Taiwan is obsessed with “reopening”

And so has a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.  Sure, 26 isn’t much compared to tens of thousands in other places, but this was predictable after the country was down to three, and politicians were obsessed with “reopening”.  Select foreigners have been allowed in, and one of them, a Belgian engingeer, has been passing it on.  Taiwan had its first domestic transmission in months.

Unlike other countries, international trade continues and the economy here has suffered very little (less than a 1% decline in 2020).  There was nothing wrong with the “bubble” that the money-obessed seem intent on bursting.

Let’s Remember: Alan Parker, film maker, 1944-2020

Alan Parker was an English filmmaker, born February 14, 1944 and died July 31, 2020 of undisclosed causes.  He began his career filming advertisements, later writing scripts and directing films.

Parker’s output was not prolific, only nineteen films between 1974 and 2003.  But what he lacked in quantity he made up for in quality.  A partial list of his output includes:

Planning To Fail: How Kushner condemned an entire country

In the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS was becoming a public health crisis, what did Ronald Reagan do to stop the spread of the disease?

Nothing.  For five years, he did absolutely nothing because the far right saw HIV/AIDS as a “gay disease”.  They believed it would affect only LGBTQIA people and kill them off, leaving cishetero binaries unaffected.  Then reality set in: HIV/AIDS spread to heterosexuals, to white people, to “middle america”.  It was only when the disease affected everyone – and notably, white republicans – that Reagan’s corrupt regime took action.

It’s clear that Cheetolini and his corrupt cast of republicans have learnt nothing from history.  Jared Kushner and those working under him had a national plan to address and deal with COVID-19, but chose not to implement it.  Why?  Because in March and April, the only states affected were predominantly democrat party states.  They wanted democrat voters to die, just like Reagan wanted gays to die.  They expected the disease to stay where it was.

But as spring turned into summer and republican states are now the ones most affected, that lack of a plan, lack of leadership and encouragement for the selfish and stupid to ignore scientists has caused the disease to run rampant in republican states.  As the number of new US infections skyrockets (nearly 10,000 within Florida in just one day) and deaths are climbing again (half of Thursday’s US deaths in just three states: Florida, Texas and Arizona), that lack of planning now kills and incapacitates republican voters.  Democrat states are doing a far better job.

How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan “Went Poof Into Thin Air”

This spring, a team working under the president’s son-in-law produced a plan for an aggressive, coordinated national COVID-19 response that could have brought the pandemic under control. So why did the White House spike it in favor of a shambolic 50-state response?

[. . .]

Kushner’s team hammered out a detailed plan, which Vanity Fair obtained. It stated, “Current challenges that need to be resolved include uneven testing capacity and supplies throughout the US, both between and within regions, significant delays in reporting results (4-11 days), and national supply chain constraints, such as PPE, swabs, and certain testing reagents.”

The plan called for the federal government to coordinate distribution of test kits, so they could be surged to heavily affected areas, and oversee a national contact-tracing infrastructure. It also proposed lifting contract restrictions on where doctors and hospitals send tests, allowing any laboratory with capacity to test any sample. It proposed a massive scale-up of antibody testing to facilitate a return to work. It called for mandating that all COVID-19 test results from any kind of testing, taken anywhere, be reported to a national repository as well as to state and local health departments.

And it proposed establishing “a national Sentinel Surveillance System” with “real-time intelligence capabilities to understand leading indicators where hot spots are arising and where the risks are high vs. where people can get back to work.”

By early April, some who worked on the plan were given the strong impression that it would soon be shared with President Trump and announced by the White House. The plan, though imperfect, was a starting point. Simply working together as a nation on it “would have put us in a fundamentally different place,” said the participant.

But the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it—efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically—and erroneously, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.

Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

Let’s Backtrack: The Amiga 1000 at 35

The Commodore Amiga 1000 was released on July 23rd, 1985, thirty five years ago.  Imagine how different computing might be if Commodore had had good leadership and the Amiga had become a dominant platform.  At a time when both DOS/Intel machines and Macintoshes had beeping speakers and four colour CGA or four grey scale black and white, the Amiga had full eight bit sound and 4096 colours.  They were far ahead of the market with a competitive price (US$1800 in 1985, including a monitor).

While Commodore no longer exists as it originally did, that doesn’t mean the Amiga is dead.  Third party companies still manufacture and sell hardware and software.  The Amiga OS continues to receive periodic updates within the community.  I had an Amiga 500 myself.  It wasn’t the best computer I’ve ever had, and hated the countless “Guru Meditations” I suffered (Commodore’s version of the Blue Screen of Death), it was an eye opener.  In the “regular” computing world, only the MSX architecture could compete for sound and graphics performance.

The Amiga series were powered by the Original Chip Set: the Agnus (control system), Denise (video), and Paula (audio).  Jay Miner designed and oversaw the Amiga project (as well as previously creating the Atari 2600 and Atari 800).   Glenn Keller (youtube interview) helped design the Paula.

Here is a demo of an original Amiga 1000.  The sound and graphics were astounding for the day, when 16 bit audio and 256 colours were unheard of on DOS or Mac machines.

The 8bit Guy: Adding composite video to the Amiga 1000

Jan Beta restored an Amiga 1000 in a pair of videos, the first part and the second part.

Artist Samia Halaby used and still uses the Amiga 1000 to create artwork.

 

Bends And Tears: No honour on those cops’ badges

Secret codes amongst criminal cops are nothing new, nor is targeting whistle blowers who go after criminal cops.  But this one takes it to a new level of sadism, like the corruption in the movie, “Copland”.

Vallejo police bend badges to mark fatal shootings

They call it, “The Badge of Honor.” For a generation, a secretive clique within the Vallejo Police Department has commemorated fatal shootings with beers, backyard barbecues, and by bending the points of their badges each time they kill in the line of duty, an investigation by Open Vallejo has found. The custom was so exclusive, some officers involved in fatal shootings were never told of its existence.

But senior law enforcement and government officials say everything changed when a police captain tried to end the practice following the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Willie McCoy in February 2019. Over the next six months, the tradition became known at the highest levels of Vallejo city government and the district attorney’s office.

The captain who pushed for an investigation, John Whitney, would soon be out of a job. A former SWAT team commander with two master’s degrees, Whitney says he was forced out of the department after raising concerns about the badge-bending tradition and other misconduct. He filed a retaliation claim against the city in March.

This immediately reminded me of white supremacist gangs that get a tear tattooed near their eye after every kill.  It only has meaning to those who know.

News Break: Herman Cain, dead of COVID-19

You can ask me not to celebrate, but don’t expect me to mourn.

Laugh, possibly.

Herman Cain dies from coronavirus

Herman Cain, a onetime Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has died from coronavirus, according to an obituary sent from his verified Twitter account and Newsmax, where he was launching a television show.

Cain, 74, was hospitalized earlier this month, and his Twitter account said this week he was being treated with oxygen in his lungs. It is unknown where Cain contracted the virus.

[. . .]

As a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, Cain was one of the surrogates at President Donald Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma — which saw at least eight Trump advance team staffers in attendance test positive for coronavirus. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh has told CNN that Cain did not meet with Trump at the Tulsa rally.

Music Rules: “Back In Black” turned 40

AC/DC’s seventh album “Back In Black” was released on July 25th, 1980, forty years ago. If you haven’t heard it, you lived a sad life and need to get one. Back In Black is similar to Nirvana’s “Nevermind” in 1992, both records that brought harder edged music into the mainstream, creating space for all the bands that followed. Both have stood the test of time and repeat listening.

(Excuse me for a week of no posting. Other items of more substance have come up that I want to post, but I have not had internet access at home for the last few days. I’m doing this from work.)

After the commercial success of 1979’s “Highway To Hell”, AC/DC were set for mainstream breakthrough, then singer Bon Scott died. The band sought a replacement singer, choosing Brian Johnson, former singer of UK band Geordie, as suggested by producer Mutt Lange.

One story from the recording sessions was when the band wanted to record Johnson’s vocals, they couldn’t find him. At first they thought he had disappeared. They eventually found him in the studio’s rec room, playinng pool with the roadies. Exactly their type of person, down to Earth and not full of himself.

Back In Black has certified sales of 29.4 million, and an estimated 50 million worldwide. Only Jackson’s “Thriller” has sold more. Back In Black produced four hit singles (all top 40). All ten songs are standouts, not one weak moment on it.

On the opening track “Hells Bells”, the minute long instrumental section was intentional, done to make listeners anticipate Johnson’s voice. The title track was placed on side 2 to give listeners reason to try side 1.

The last single, “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, has a spoken section at the beginning. It was intended to mock fundamentalist christian preachers.

Now, We Wait: It’s likely when, not if TGD collapses

Plum rains are supposed to be a spring phenomenon in Asia, but they have continued unabated in China all through June and now into July, as mentioned a few weeks ago.

Upriver of the dam, cities and towns continue to be flooded, and the water has stressed the dam without relief.  To alleviate the pressure, they opened the floodgates.  ALL of them are open, the maximum flow out of the dam (never mind using it to generate power), and it’s still not enough to deal with the flow of water.

China Floods Calls Into Question Sustainability Of Massive Three Gorges Dam

Seems to be part of the times, no? A once in a generation pandemic, a once in a generation flood. Parts of China is literally up to its eyeballs in water, in what the Chinese government is calling a once in 100 years flood. The Three Gorges Dam, built to stop these things, is now in the spotlight.

[. . .]

Cities in the country’s central region along the Yangtze River — China’s longest river — have been flooded in the past week due to heavy rains this monsoon season. It was reported to be the worst flood since 1998, and not 100 years have some in Beijing have said.

All told, more than 400 Yangtze tributary rivers have overflowed, with nearly 200 people dead and properties underwater.

Average rainfall is around 12% higher than last monsoon season. The economic damage from flooding is expected to reach 86.2 billion yuan ($12 billion), according to some government estimates made on Friday.

Those may be optimistic estimates.  More below the fold.

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Birth Rates: The world’s is in a slow decline

The Lancet has published a study on birth rates world wide, concluding that all nations will see reductions in population over the next eighty years.  Like we didn’t know that already.

Fertility, mortality, migration, and population scenarios for 195 countries and territories from 2017 to 2100: a forecasting analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study

Interpretation

Our findings suggest that continued trends in female educational attainment and access to contraception will hasten declines in fertility and slow population growth. A sustained TFR lower than the replacement level in many countries, including China and India, would have economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical consequences. Policy options to adapt to continued low fertility, while sustaining and enhancing female reproductive health, will be crucial in the years to come

[. . .]

Conclusion

Global population is likely to peak well before the end of the century. Given that we forecasted that societies tend towards a TFR lower than 1·5, once global population decline begins, it will probably continue inexorably. Within the declining total world population some countries will sustain their populations through liberal immigration policies and social policies more supportive of females working and achieving their desired family size. These countries are likely to have larger overall GDP than other countries, with the various economic, social, and geopolitical benefits that come with stable working-age populations.

The notion that it is a “problem” reeks of a boomer and corporatist capitalist whine: “Who is going to fund my pension?  Work cheap and pay massive taxes so I don’t have to?”  We should be praising Millennials and Zoomers for being environmentally, socially and fiscally aware instead of attacking them for not breeding.  Voluntary population reduction is a lot less painful than starvation, war, and environmental collapse.  You can’t fault people for saying, “I can’t afford a kid, so I won’t have any.”

The other boomer/capitalist whine is, “Who is going to pay to fix everything?”  How about you lot?  Let’s tax all wealth over $50 million at 50%, 40% from $20-50 million.  Capitalism is NOT more important than survival of the planet or species. You can’t eat or breathe dollars, no matter how rich you are.

A “writer” at the BBC has an equally capitalist-based take on it, below the fold.

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Razed, Not Raised: A failed attempt at recruitment

The US military has a long history of using unethical tactics to try and trick 13-18 year olds into being cannon-fodder for the wealthy.  I mean, conscripts.  The US Army (hereafter called “Smarmy”) released “America’s Army” in 2002 for free and continues to release updates.  More recently it created “US Army Esports” involving other FPS games to predate on the young.

This past week, the official Smarmy account was thrown off the gaming service Twitch for unethical acts.  It was falsely offering Xbox Elite Series 2 game controllers but in reality directing young people to a Smarmy recruitment page.  There was no “prize”, and no cake either.

Twitch Forces U.S. Army To Stop Tricking Viewers With Fake Giveaways

The U.S. Army has a Twitch channel that it uses to fish for potential recruits. Last week, it came under fire for issuing bans to viewers who asked about war crimes. This week, a report by The Nation dug deeper, pointing out, among other things, that the channel had a habit of running fake controller giveaways that redirected viewers to a recruitment page. Following widespread scrutiny, Twitch says it’s forced the Army to stop.

According to The Nation, the giveaways—which took place “repeatedly” in chat—offered viewers a chance to win an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. Clicking the associated link, however, would send viewers to a recruitment page “with no additional mention of a contest, odds, total number of winners, or when a drawing will occur.”

Upon learning of this yesterday, Twitch viewers and streamers reacted with disbelief.

“The silence from Twitch on the latest wave of criticism regarding the military using the site to scam kids into sharing personal info speaks volumes,” said streamer Jayson “ManVsGame” Love on Twitter. “Imagine any other channel doing that. Feel free to manipulate your viewers as much as you like, I guess?”

“Hey Twitch, is using your platform to run scams always against the [terms of service] or does the US Army get a special exception when they’re after kids’ blood instead of money?” game developer Bruno Dias said on Twitter.

Earlier, the Smarmy had attempted to obtain personal information of players for recruitment purposes.  Instead, it was bombarded with intelligent repartee about the US military’s war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  What did the Smarmy do in response?  It blocked and banned those who asked tough questions and linked to factual history.

U.S. Army’s Twitch Chat Is Banning People For Asking About War Crimes

Some folks have recently taken to trolling the U.S. Army’s official Twitch channel by asking in chat about the military’s well documented history of committing war crimes. The channel’s moderators have responded by banning them.

The U.S Army has a Twitch channel where the members of its esports team occasionally stream games, and earlier this week some newcomers used the chat to grill the Army about past abuses. “What’s your favorite u.s. w4r cr1me?” a Twitch user typed into the chat under the alias really_chill_guy, according to a video esports insider Rod “Slasher” Breslau shared online on July 8. Really_chill_guy then shared a link to the Wikipedia page listing U.S. war crimes. Moments after making the comment he was banned from the chat. “Nice, really chill guy, have a nice time getting banned my dude,” said the channel’s streamer at the time, Joshua “Strotnium” David, a Green Beret and 12-year veteran of the Army.

Vice reports that after Breslau’s video started making the rounds, others decided to hop into the chat as well. “Hello fellow kids,” wrote one person, according to a screencap shared by SB Nation producer Kofie Yeboah. “Oh so you like video games? Well you’re gonna LOVE dying in a foreign country to protect the interests of oligarchs back home.”

For all the farcical military talk about “none but the brave”, the US Army certainly engages in cowardly tactics.

Snyder Remarks: If you thought the racist name was bad….

Dan Snyder has been reviled for his insistence in using a racist word as a team nickname, his refusal to consider changing until recently forced to by corporate sponsors.  If those were his only problems, he might survive.

But it goes much worse.  He has been cultivating a corporate culture of intimidation, a cesspool of sexual harassment and abuse.  The complaints and complainants have not named him as a participant, but they do name him as knowing, permitting and condoning it.

NFL releases statement addressing allegations vs. Washington team: ‘Contrary to the NFL’s values’

After 15 women who worked for the Washington NFL team, in addition to two reporters who covered the club, told the Washington Post the were sexually harassed by other team employees during their tenures, the league released a statement Friday addressing the allegations through spokesman Brian McCarthy.

“These matters as reported are serious, disturbing and contrary to the NFL’s values,” the statement read. “Everyone in the NFL has the right to work in an environment free from any and all forms of harassment.”

Snyder and the NFL are just like Donald Sterling and the NBA.  When the appalling pair managed to keep their reprehensible behaviour behind closed doors and hushed, the leagues were willing to turn a blind eye.  When it hurt their corporate image and profits, then something had to be done.

Which is why it’s laughably hypocritical for Mark Cuban to be lecturing Dan Snyder about “morality”.  Cuban and the other NBA owners knew what sort of scum Sterling was, when Cuban’s own team had rampant sexual harassment under his watch.

I don’t believe the claim that cultures of harassment “just happen” and they “didn’t know about it”.  They happen because owners and management don’t take steps to prevent them, they don’t provide means for people to report without retaliation, they don’t do better vetting of those hired nor train them properly. When you don’t prevent it, you condone it.

Toxic cultures in the workplace are NOT caused by “blind spots”.  They happen because management turns a blind eye – nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.

Where Did The Time Go?

Wednesday was an anniversary for me.  It was July 15, 2001 that I boarded a Singapore Airlines flight and left Canada to work abroad.  I left expecting a one year experience, not an entire new life in other countries.

My college has an office for job postings, and graduates are welcome to look for jobs no matter how long after graduation.  In early June 2001, I saw a posting that said “TEACH IN KOREA!”  It was always my desire to teach in Japan, but I wasn’t qualified.  I did, however, meet the requirements (at that time) to teach in South Korea.  I applied, and to my surprise was accepted.  I quickly renewed my passport through the local MP’s office (minister of parliament), and within six weeks had to pack and leave.  That was one heck of a garage sale, getting rid of everything and whittling my entire life down to two suitcases under 20kg plus a carry on.

Going abroad didn’t only lead to better paying work and new experiences, it was life changing.  I should write a book about it someday.

Nineteen years. Where did the time go?  And with COVID-19 likely to be around for at least two years, I may be abroad that long too.

Lyrics below the fold.

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