Halloween in the Time of COVID

So the latest word that I’m hearing from the CDC is that kids should not be allowed to Trick-or-Treat this year. Apparently, the concern is that groups of kids going from house to house is an ideal way to spread the virus.

I am afraid I must differ with them. Not that I am one of those nutcases who thinks the disease is a hoax or not as bad as it is, but for other reasons.

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Options

With Mitch McConnell determined to ram through a vote if not a confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice in spite of his saying back in 2016 that “the people should decide”, the Democrats are readying their weapons should he actually go through with this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said they have “many arrows in their quiver”, and Senate Minority Leader has said that if the Republicans go through with it, then when – as is likely – the Democrats take control of the Senate, “nothing is off the table”.

What does that mean? There are quite a few things the Democrats can do in response.

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Mailing It In

Voting by mail is all over the news these days. Rightfully seen as both a way to counter Republican efforts at vote suppression and the problems involved in conducting an election during a pandemic, it’s coming under fire recently, from people challenging its security to the president’s undermining of the Postal Service.

While nice if you need to do it, I don’t think it’s really the panacea that it’s made out to be. There are still issues of ballots being intercepted and delayed or lost, or damaged to the point of illegibility. And that assumes that people follow the instructions properly when filling them out and sending them back. I am aware that several states have been voting entirely by mail with no significant problems, but they’ve had years of practice. And they haven’t had chicanery at the scale we’re facing.

Yes, there are problems with the normal voting in person at a designated polling place, too. Machines can be hacked, and all that. But those flaws are known and anticipated, and any decent Election Commission is taking steps to be prepared.

One key advantage that in-person voting has is that the results are known extremely quickly, almost always the same day. With mailed ballots, you have to give time for them to be delivered and collected, and then counted. In any election that’s expected to be close, the longer you wait for results, the more opportunities there are for the prospective losing candidate to challenge them.

We can’t afford that this time around; the “worst case scenario” is Double Plus Ungood. It could be 1876 all over again, but, given the rabidity of the president’s “cultists”, with more violence.

The best option for the individual voter?

If you have the day off, go to your designated polling place and vote in person. Wear a mask and shower before and after with sanitizer if you have to.

If you don’t, but your designated polling place is close enough so that you can stop by before or after work, go there and vote in person. Wear a mask and use sanitizer.

If those aren’t possible, but you have “early voting” and can cast a vote at your Board of Elections a few days before Election Day, do that.

The fewer chances you give people to screw around with your vote, the better for everyone.

This is Going to be Insane!

We’re finally getting some baseball! Hooray!

And it’s not going to look like anything we’ve ever seen before

The divisions are being mixed up. Everyone is using the DH. Extra innings will start with a runner on second. And that’s on top of the new rules for pitching substitutions.

The biggest change can be summed up in a single number:

2.7

With the season being reduced to just sixty games, every individual game will be worth 2.7 “regular” games (of a 162 game schedule). Every game will mean more in the standings, even with the expanded playoffs. With all the new rules in place, in-game strategy is going to be vital! And with rosters being much larger than usual, expect even more pitching changes than normal.

Then there’s the effect on “counting” stats. Adjust them accordingly, and 20 home runs for a hitter or 75 strikeouts for a pitcher will be phenomenal. With pitchers getting only twelve starts, do NOT expect anyone to get double digits in wins. “Rate” stats could be even more bizarre. If a player has a hot streak, it is within the realm of possibility for someone to hit .400 or have an ERA under 1.00….

And if there happens to be a localized outbreak of COVID-19, things could get even more wacky. Even this close to the start of the season, the Blue Jays don’t have a place to call “home”….

Given the abbreviated schedule, expect there to be ties in the final standings – with the resulting chaos for the playoffs.

The best thing for a fan is to not get caught up in the standings and pennant races, but to just sit back and be glad there are some actual meaningful games being played. It’s a heck of a lot better than following the season simulation at Strat-O-Matic…..

The Name Game

With the Washington Redskins once again coming under fire for their team name, the Cleveland Indians have taken the proactive step of announcing that they will be reviewing their team name. Apparently, they are concerned that the name might cause offense, and want to get ahead of any possible controversy.

The names of the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs are coming under scrutiny as well.

I am puzzled. Not that they are taking such a step these days, but that the names could be found “offensive”.

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Tearing Things Down

Christopher Columbus came up with a bold and daring idea to answer a well-recognized economic problem. He persuaded enough of the right people to give him financial backing, then personally led a team to a successful (at least to his backers) result. But as we all know, he was really a deranged, bloodthirsty, slavering, genocidal maniac who personally killed and enslaved every native he came across (even those he never met), so every statue and monument to him must be destroyed, and everything named for him must be immediately renamed for some celebrity du jour….

George Washington had the leadership skills to keep the Continental Army together and fighting through the entire Revolutionary War. And afterwards, when he was the unanimous choice to lead the infant nation, he was modest enough to refuse to be a king, instead choosing to become a Chief Administrator, thereby setting the precedent for all who would follow. But alas, he owned slaves, and before the Revolution, fought the Native Americans. So his statues must come down as well, and everything with his name on it must also be renamed (presumably with an equivalent to Boaty McBoatface)….

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Baseball is Killing Itself

The NBA’s Board of Governors voted to approve a 22-team league to pick up where the season left off when the pandemic forced a shutdown back in March. Games will start around the end of July, and will all be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando.

The NHL will restart right with the Stanley Cup playoffs. The details are still being worked out, but things are in motion.

The NFL will have coaching staffs return to facilities next week, and fully expects the next season to start on time.

NASCAR has already restarted. Soccer’s Premier League plans to restart on June 17. The PGA will return next week. The WNBA is looking at having their season in one place, probably Las Vegas.

Major League Baseball has rejected the Players’ Association proposal for a 114-game season and has no plans to send a counter offer.

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Contingency Plans

As I write this, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is doign well in his battle with COVID-19. One wishes him a quick recovery, even if one doesn’t necessarily agree with his politics. It’s just the decent thing to do.

I don’t know if Great Britain has any plans or procedures to deal with the death or incapacity of their head of government, but the United States does. We have written rules to handle presidential succession.

But this is an election year…. And we’ve got a pair of septuagenarians running for the office. What happens if something happens?

I’m going to assume that each party has a plan in place for the situation where their nominee dies prior to the election. They had better. It probably involves the vice-presidential nominee moving up a level. It’s not unprecedented. There have been cases in state and local elections where a candidate died before the election – and the dead candidate even won. It won’t be easy, but if the parties have rules in place, we’ll have to go by their rules. It’s the party’s choice who they nominate, after all.

It gets weirder if it happens between Election Day and the inauguration. Given the rules for presidential succession, we’d probably just inaugurate the vice president.

The trickiest situation is if the president-elect dies after Election Day, but before the Electoral College votes to confirm the results of the election. Jeff Greenfield explored that situation in his novel The People’s Choice (1995). Are the electors required to endorse the vice-president, even if he (or she) is clearly incompetent? The matter is not entirely fiction. In December 1960, Richard Paul Pavlick planned to kill president-elect John Kennedy, but he got cold feet at the very last minute. The attempt happened one week before the Electoral College met…..

I think we had all better wish good health for all the candidates.

At least until the inauguration.

Things To Do While Self-Isolating

The whole country is pretty much in a lockdown mode (and those areas that aren’t are going to be rather soon). People are being told to stay home, and keep away from other people as much as possible in order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

This is most likely a new thing for many people, but it need not be a prison sentence. There are plenty of things that you can do to keep your self occupied.

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Viral Response

Well, we’re in a mess.

To put it mildly.

Now, even if you’re not being directly or even indirectly impacted, it’s hard to escape the feeling of gloom and despair that has settled over much of the nation.

It’s times like these that we really could use a bit of entertainment to distract ourselves from everything. And the support that comes from keeping our social ties strong.

So what happens?

Communal entertainments (sports and the theater) are being suspended indefinitely. And we are being practically ordered to keep our distance from others. Just what we need…..

There are going to be a LOT of people wanting or needing therapy when this is all over.

Instead of being told to “socially distance” ourselves from each other (by barricading ourselves in fortresses of toilet paper and hand sanitizer), why aren’t we being told to wash our hands?

Soap conducts chemical warfare on the virus. The soap molecule (not a joke; there really is such a thing) is literally a dagger that hacks the virus to pieces. It has two parts – a “hilt” that is attracted to water, and a “blade” that is attracted to lipids (i.e. fats and oils). When soap mixes with water enough so that the hilts are firmly gripped, the blade cuts in to the outer membrane of the virus – which is made of lipids – and breaks it up as if it were a mere blob of grease on your dishes.

One can even do it in a lighthearted fashion, as they did in the state of Washington some years ago during the last flu outbreak:

Lord knows we could use any reason to smile these days…..