As We Endeavor

I am pretty sure that this is the longest I have gone between posts since I began blogging in earnest in 2017. Adjusting our routine to the current normal, as well as performing customary tasks such as yard work and income tax returns, have consumed a surprising amount of time.  (I’m aware that we don’t need to file until July; but if – admittedly a big if – things are actually improving as summer dawns, who — unless one is glad of the opportunity to defer a significant payment — will want to do taxes then?)  I have, as I’m confident is true of all of us, a number of different reactions to the challenges we face, but they will wait a bit. One of the unexpected benefits of blogging is that one’s friends send you information and links that they find of particular interest. Several are included below:

For those looking for a practical manner to combat the virus and stay safe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFmaSNP6_z4

For those interested in many different views regarding how we as a people might come out of this crisis with new perspectives of our world:

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/03/19/coronavirus-effect-economy-life-society-analysis-covid-135579

Although the federal government has now extended its social distancing guidelines though April, for those that wish to indulge (perhaps a repeat, but well worth another few minutes) in one of the few light experiences occasioned by the crisis we face:

https://twitter.com/kenolin1/status/1242852430582341639

For those that would appreciate sustenance for the spirit:

https://youtu.be/3eXT60rbBVk

If you have the means – many of us do not — order from your favorite local restaurant. You want to help ensure that it’s still there when the crisis passes. Consider whether there’s anything you can do to assist other small businesses you appreciate that might have trouble surviving the next few months.

Use FaceTime (full disclosure: I can’t, but TLOML can). It will enable you to see, as well as hear, those to whom you need to stay most close.

Your phone and email accounts list a lot of contacts. Among those are people you care deeply about that, due to life’s demands, you haven’t been in contact with for a while. Communicate with them. You may never have a better opportunity.

The numbers of potential U.S. deaths projected yesterday by Drs. Fauci and Birx have been described as, “sobering.”  I understand why, in their positions, they have accompanied grim projections with restrained tones; I consider the numbers scary.  Stay healthy and safe.

Coronavirus Information: Postscript

Following the posting of the note below on Coronavirus information, a close friend forwarded me the attached link to an interactive map of Coronavirus cases around the world. I understand that the map is generally no more than 12 hours behind the publicly available data. The user can obtain more detailed information on a given area by clicking on the corresponding red dot.
https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Admittedly Random Coronavirus Information

Since a number of those who read these pages are 60 or older, and those 60 and older have been consistently reported to be at greater risk of dangerous Coronavirus-related complications and death than the younger population, I sought to discover currently-indicated mortality rates for those over 60. The first citation below links to a piece indicating that the risk of dying for the more senior infected by the virus roughly doubles by decade: for those aged 60 – 69 it is 3.6%, for patients aged 70 to 79 years it is 8%, and for patients above 80 years of age it is 14.8%.

[NOTE:  The data related to the septuagenarians and octogenarians underlying the first link is apparently derived from a Chinese study based on 72,000 case records that I found cited on other sites (no links to those attached)]. [SECOND NOTE:  Since the information underlying the first link is dated in late February, I’ve searched for more recent data; the second link below is to a MarketWatch story updated as of this morning (March 9), which still appears to rely on the same Chinese study for mortality rates among those 70 and older.]  [THIRD NOTE:  It is seemingly arguable that the virus is accelerating much more quickly than the data.]

We have seen indications that the disease can be particularly dangerous for adults with “underlying health conditions.” I have seen two sites that indicated that about 60% of U.S. adults have at least one affliction that would be considered “an underlying health condition.”

Below are links to four sites addressing different aspects of the challenge. Although I obviously lack the knowledge or resources to verify their accuracy, I found them informative.

Age, Sex, Existing Conditions of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/coronavirus-fatality-rates-vary-wildly-depending-on-age-gender-and-medical-history-some-patients-fare-much-worse-than-others-2020-02-26

How Does Coronavirus Kill?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okg7uq_HrhQ

A Reason Viruses Can Originate in China

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPpoJGYlW54

On Fair Play

Major League teams are in the process of beginning their Spring Training schedules, after an off-season marred by continuing and I believe undisputed revelations that in 2017, the Houston Astros engaged in a scheme, involving participants from its front office to its manager, coaches and players, to employ videography accompanied by trash can banging to systematically steal opposing teams’ pitch signs and alert Astro hitters to the specifics of the next pitch. Such activity was in flagrant disregard of Major League Baseball rules. For those that don’t follow Major League Baseball (“MLB”), the Astros won the 2017 Major League World Championship after defeating the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. A number of Houston executives and 2017 Astro players hired into non-player roles on other teams in the years following the team’s championship have now been dismissed from their positions as a result of the scandal. No still-active players have been disciplined by MLB, reportedly due to a deal that MLB made with the players and their union that no player would face retribution for speaking truthfully to MLB investigators about the Astros’ program.

A deal is a deal, and given the deal, no players should be disciplined specifically for their participation in the scheme (although one questions whether any 2017 Astros player should be seriously considered for the Hall of Fame or for any front office, manager, or coaching position when his playing days are done). That said, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred should, without any change in individual players’ statistics, forfeit all 2017 Houston victories in which the team employed the scheme, strip Houston of its American League and World Championships, and declare the Yankees the 2017 American League Champions and the Dodgers the 2017 World Champions. He should accompany such a ruling with an announcement that any player determined to have participated in such a flagrant rules violation (admittedly a subjective standard) after the date of the announcement will be suspended from baseball for one full season, with more severe penalties including an outright ban from the game for any subsequent flagrant rules violations.

Such an approach is admittedly imperfect. The team most elevated in the standings by the recasting of the 2017 American League teams’ wins and losses will argue that it never had a fair chance to compete in the season’s playoffs, and the Yankees will argue that they never had a chance to contest the Dodgers for the World Championship. I would submit that such is irrelevant. The Astros, in 2017 an extremely talented team, would have earned a number of their forfeited victories without cheating. While there will be old-school sign stealing in baseball as long as there are bases in baseball – it’s as engrained in the game as the brushback pitch — it is a short step from the Astros’ technology-enhanced trash can banging to employment of sophisticated and undetectable technological means to gain illegal advantage in baseball and other professional sports. The point of the penalty is to make the consequences to the Houston organization and the threat to players’ careers for future violations sufficiently severe so that for the foreseeable future, every team and player will have significant pause before engaging in such a systemic flagrant violation of MLB rules.

I am tired of a culture that explicitly or tacitly condones and in some ways glorifies ignoring, bending, flouting, and breaking rules. We need honor again. Given the challenges we face as a nation, cheating in Major League Baseball is arguably “of as little account as sparrows’ tears,” as Ian Fleming concluded the James Bond thriller, You Only Live Twice; obviously, players have been seeking an illegal edge through spitballs, corked bats, and steroids for decades or more. That said, we have to start somewhere. Major League Baseball, given its proud claim to being the National Pastime, and its tens of millions of diehard fans across the political spectrum, seems as good a place to start as any.

A Stunning Loss

Attached are two links to articles reporting about the death of Brazilian journalist Lourenço “Léo” Veras, who was murdered on February 12 in his home in front of his wife and two children by an organized crime gang operating at the Brazil-Paraguay border, where Mr. Veras was based. The Washington Post article attached to the first link will make clear how deeply Mr. Veras’ death resonates for our family. I don’t know how many of those that read these pages have access to the Post’s online version, so the second link is to the report of the tragedy appearing on the Committee to Protect Journalists website.

These accounts lay bare – yet again — the dangers journalists across the world face every day.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/he-showed-me-a-lawless-border-town-then-masked-gunmen-killed-him-in-front-of-his-family/2020/02/14/53693762-4eb5-11ea-967b-e074d302c7d4_story.html

https://cpj.org/2020/02/brazilian-journalist-leo-veras-shot-and-killed-in-.php

On 2020

As we enter 2020, it is perhaps easy to be discouraged at the manner in which our national comity appears to be unraveling, the governmental systems that have sustained us are arguably misfiring, and the world around us is seemingly fragmenting. While the problems we face need to be addressed, they pale in comparison to those that our nation has overcome in darker times. I truly believe what Ronald Reagan proclaimed: that we remain the last best hope of man on earth. The coming year provides us with a chance to make adjustments – while recognizing that no changes are sustainable that fail to take into account the rightful values of any segment of our people. 2020 will inevitably be a year of turmoil for our nation, but also one of opportunity. On a personal level, today we are honored to attend the wedding of good friends starting life anew. There is no greater expression of hope in the future than a loving couple’s exchange of wedding vows.

Happy New Year.

Hanukkah … and Happy Holidays

I would suggest that anyone with a center-left disposition read The Point of It All, an anthology of conservative Washington Post Columnist Charles Krauthammer’s works that he assembled prior to his death from cancer at age 68 in 2018. Until I read the collection, most of my exposure to Mr. Krauthammer was as a Fox News commentator, and in that venue he had seemed to me too doctrinaire in his criticism of liberal positions; in reading his compilation, I came to recognize how brilliant and eloquent he was.

The 2019 days of Hanukkah observance began yesterday. In December, 2004, Mr. Krauthammer, Jewish, raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, wrote a column entitled, “Just Leave Christmas Alone.” In that piece, he stated, in part, as follows:

“… I’ve got nothing against Hanukkah, although I am constantly amused – and gratified – by how American culture has gone out of its way to inflate the importance of Hanukkah, easily the least important of Judaism’s seven holidays, into a giant event replete with cards, presents and public commemorations as a creative way to give Jews their Christmas equivalent.

Some Americans get angry at parents who want to ban carols because they tremble that their kids might feel ‘different’ and ‘uncomfortable’ should they, God forbid, hear Christian music sung at their school. I feel pity. What kind of fragile religious identity have they bequeathed their children that it should be threatened by exposure to carols?

I’m struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas crèche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public.

To insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public so that minorities can feel ‘comfortable’ not only understandably enrages the majority but commits two sins. The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions.

The second is the sin of incomprehension – a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of the communal American religious experience …. [T]he United States does not merely allow minority religions to exist at its sufferance. It celebrates and welcomes and honors them.”

That said, in his last months, Mr. Krauthammer became sharply critical of President Trump, writing in July, 2017:

“[Mr. Trump’s comparisons between the activities of the United States and a Vladimir Putin-led Russia] was “[m]oral equivalence so shocking, emanating from the elected leader of the United States, [that it should] … not … be ignored ….

The demagoguery of 2016 did carry the day. … That the traditional left-right political divide of the last two centuries is increasingly being surpassed by the nationalist-globalist and authoritarian-democratic divide is disturbing and potentially ominous.”

Given what has transpired in the two and half years since he wrote the quoted passages regarding Mr. Trump, I suspect that Mr. Krauthammer would understand why I say: I agree that the politically correct should quit hyperventilating about public celebrations of Christmas. At the same time, the American “generosity of spirit toward minority religions” of which he wrote in 2004 seems to be both explicitly and impliedly under greater siege now than at any previous point in either his or my lifetime. Therefore, while he fittingly concluded his long-ago column about Hanukkah with the words, “Merry Christmas. To All.”, I — as a practicing (although manifestly flawed) Roman Catholic – today find myself most comfortable wishing my fellow citizens … Happy Holidays.