Tag Archives: Pandemic

The 2020 MLB Baseball Playoffs: Why We Should Keep This Format

I know I don’t talk about baseball that much. Please don’t misconstrue that as me saying I don’t care for it. I love baseball as much as any guy who grew up playing catch with his dad in the back yard. Some of my fondest memories are of watching ball games with my dad and eating peanuts.

While I tend to get more excited about football, I still enjoy a beer and a ball game. However, there are some other reasons why I don’t get as excited about baseball as I do with football.

Some of that has to do with the duration of the season and how often it seems certain teams clinch their playoff spots weeks ahead of time. Most of it has to do with the playoff format, itself. That’s the one part of Major League Baseball that I’ve always had a problem with.

Compared to other sports, baseball has always been much more limited in terms of which teams make the playoffs and how those games are structured. For me, the playoffs never got exciting until the ALCS and the NLCS. That’s usually when the drama happens. The divisional rounds before it are just too forgettable.

Then, two things happened. First, the pandemic struck and truncated the baseball season considerably and the MLB expanded the playoffs. Now, instead of just a handful of teams having a shot at the World Series, the playoffs is more a tournament with 16 teams.

This is what it looked like, just after the wild card rounds wrapped up.

Now, I know baseball is famous for having staunch traditionalists, but after following the wild card rounds, I have to say this.

The MLB should totally keep this format or, at the very least, keep most of it.

I love this new format. It really made the MLB playoffs feel exciting again. For once, I didn’t have to wait until the championship rounds to see some drama. As bad as 2020 has been for sports, this new tournament format might be the best thing that came out of it.

This new setup gives struggling teams a reason to keep playing in the regular season, even when they get into a skid. With this expanded format, there are more spots to fight for. The dominant teams will still get their spot, but now there are new opportunities for teams to sneak in and make an impact.

In baseball, that’s a big deal. I’ve been watching baseball long enough to know that any team can get hot at just the right time. Last year was a perfect example of it. The 2019 Washington Nationals are a perfect example of this. They had to get into the playoffs as a wild card team and go through heavyweights like the Dodgers en route to their first World Series title.

It can happen in baseball. Great teams can just have a bad day at the park or several. A wild card team can get hot and take that momentum to a championship. The Nationals sent a message to every team in the wild card round this year that it can happen to them, too.

Beyond the opportunity, it’s just more exciting. I know last year had a single-game elimination wild card, but I found that to be somewhat underwhelming. Like I said, any team can have a bad day at the ball park. Sometimes, quality teams just falter on a particular day. That sometimes means the lucky team wins instead of the better team.

I think a three-game playoff series fits perfectly. It helps ensure a team can win or lose on a single fluke. It also gives a team that falters in one game to make up for it the next. It’s a better way of determining who’s the better team in the long run.

Like the NCAA basketball tournament, more teams means more opportunities for a team to go on a historic run or land a historic upset. In a league that is legendary for having top-heavy teams who try to buy their way into a World Series, this can only help the sport.

Now, I know 2020 is a crazy year that has done lasting damage to the sports world. I don’t doubt that professional leagues are eager to go back to the way things were before the pandemic ruined so much.

However, I sincerely hope that Major League Baseball retains this new format for the postseason. I think it’ll do a lot of good for baseball and the sports world, in general. I know there are some logistical issues and I’m sure the players union will want to get their say. I believe there’s a way to do it and ensure everyone benefits.

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Filed under baseball, rants, sports

Have A (Relatively) Happy Labor Day 2020!

To everyone out there who are lucky enough to get today off, Happy Labor Day!

To everyone else who is still working today, I sincerely thank you. Hopefully, you get a chance to make up for it. You deserve it. We all deserve a day off from the hard drudgery of work.

I know it’s somewhat bittersweet. This year had been a real drag for obvious reasons. This summer has been lost for many. Between travel restrictions, closed pools, and cancelled events, this summer has been one to forget.

Now, it’s just about over. As bittersweet as that is, we’re still forging ahead. We’re still dragging our way through 2020. Let’s make Labor Day this year a much-needed breather. Getting through this mess has been harder than most, but we’re making progress. We’ll get to the end eventually. Keep believing that.

For today, though, just take a step back and enjoy how far we’ve come. We all need it. We’ll also need our strength to make it the rest of the way through this year.

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A Quick Note: Fact-Checking Is NOT Censorship

In general, I am very against censorship. I’m a strong advocate of ending the outdated and asinine practice of bleeping profanity and blurring female nipples. There is no reasonable justification for that kind of censorship. It’s just a dumb, misguided effort to try and cover up certain words and images that some people find offensive. That kind of censorship has no place in a free society.

In that same spirit, I am also very much in favor of fact-checking. I’ve been on the internet long enough to know the near-infinite volumes of bullshit that fill websites, social media, and even blogs like mine. In fact, given the recent trends in politics and a preference for “alternative facts,” I think fact-checking has never been more critical.

For that very reason, it’s important to make clear that fact-checking is not the same as censorship. Verifying whether some bullshit claim about chemtrails or shape-shifting lizards is valid does not constitute censorship. It’s consistent with a sincere and honest effort to filter bullshit from meaningful facts.

I bring this up because certain groups and movements are having a difficult time discerning between the two. More recently, anti-vaxx groups on social media sites like FaceBook have been whining about censorship of their extreme, unsubstantiated views. ARS Technica recently reported that this whining has escalated into a full-fledged lawsuit.

ARS Technica: Anti-vaccine group sues Facebook, claims fact-checking is “censorship”

A notorious anti-vaccine group spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed suit today in federal court in California alleging that Facebook’s fact-checking program for false scientific or medical misinformation violates its constitutional rights.

Children’s Health Defense claims in its suit that Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and the organizations Science Feedback, Poynter, and PolitiFact acted “jointly or in concert with federal government agencies” to infringe on CHD’s First and Fifth Amendment rights. The suit also alleges Facebook and the fact-checking organizations colluded to commit wire fraud by “clearing the field” of anti-vaccine ads.

As anti-vax movement gets weirder—and dumber—Facebook announces crackdown
Facebook has “insidious conflicts with the pharmaceutical industry and its captive health agencies,” CHD claimed in a press release. “Facebook currently censors Children’s Health Defense’s page, targeting its purge against factual information about vaccines, 5G and public health agencies.”

“This is an important First Amendment case testing the boundaries of government authority to openly censor unwanted critiques of government policies and pharmaceutical and telecom products on privately owned internet platforms,” Kennedy added in a written statement.

Now, I’m not a lawyer and I have no legal expertise on the nature of censorship and free speech in the internet age. However, I’m smart enough and sane enough to understand the difference between actively censoring ideas that I don’t want to hear and trying to verify a ridiculous claim shared on social media.

I’m also informed enough to understand that FaceBook isn’t the government, even though it tries to be at times. It’s a platform. It can decide for itself whether or not it wants to remove certain content. Every private organization does that to some extent, especially ones with such a vast reach.

The content they permit has a tangible effect on their brand image. It’s why FaceBook’s reputation is not on the same level as 4chan, even if that’s not saying much. Their efforts to verify or discredit claims on their platform is perfectly in line with standard practices. It doesn’t actively punish or fine anti-vaxxers like the government did when Janet Jackson’s nipple popped out during the Super Bowl. It just removes or flags the content.

You can call that a lot of things. You may not like that companies like FaceBook can decide what is and isn’t appropriate on a platform that has had such a spotty history with censorship, to say the least. In this case though, it’s not censorship.

If anything, fact checking medical claims during a global pandemic is probably the most responsible thing a company like FaceBook can do. Hosting those claims can potentially do a great deal of harm to those who don’t know the difference between clickbait and a legitimate news story. People could actually suffer and die.

When feelings and sensibilities are the only thing at stake, then it’s fine to talk about the merits of censoring content. However, when lives are at stake on a large scale, there is no merit. Claims that may or may not affect those lives should be fact-checked. You can complain about it all you want in a lawsuit, but unless you can verify your bullshit, then that’s exactly how it’s going to be labeled and that’s not FaceBook’s fault.

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Filed under censorship, Current Events, extremism, media issues, politics

An (Awesome) Alabama Principal Channels MC Hammer For An (Awesome) PSA Announcement For Returning Students

The current state of the world sucks. Let’s all admit that.

The state of that world isn’t going to get substantially better anytime soon. Let’s concede that point, as well.

On top of that, kids and teenagers are set to go back to school in a few week, albeit in a very unusual capacity.

I remember going back to school. It was often one of the worst days of the year for me, even without a pandemic. However, even during these objectively awful times, there are still some glimmers of awesome from those who make the effort.

Case and point, I’d like to share this uplifting tidbit with you in hopes that it will make these times a bit less awful. It comes courtesy of Dr. Lee, an Alabama principal who is set to welcome his students back to class in a few weeks. However, a simple statement and some empty platitudes aren’t enough for him. He’s too cool for that.

So, despite the horrible situation with a global pandemic, he offers something that’s both informative and just plain awesome. He makes a parody video of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” for returning students. I wish I could put into words how incredible this is during these dark times. Instead, I’ll just post the link here and let the awesome speak for itself.

On behalf of your students, former high school students, and everyone else who is sick of the long string of terrible news, I thank you Dr. Lee. You’re making the world a better place by being so cool. The Hammer would be proud.

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Filed under Current Events, Uplifting Stories

Why You Should Be (Very) Skeptical About Russia’s COVID-19 Vaccine

There’s no way around it. This global pandemic has been a year-long gut punch to everyone on this planet. Some nations have taken those punches better than others, but even those who’ve handled it well still contend with its effects. It’s frustrating and agonizing. Nobody denies that at this point.

We also accept that there’s no way to definitely end this pandemic without a vaccine. That’s why many people, including myself, follow any news about potential vaccines closely. It’s easy to get excited when we hear about the progress some organizations have made. It’s even tempting to think that we’re close.

Avoid that temptation because, if you take the bigger picture into account, we’re not that close. It’s very likely that we’ll be without a proven vaccine for the rest of the year. It’s for that same reason that you should take Russia’s announcement of a successful vaccine, which it dubbed Sputnik V, with immense skepticism.

I’m not just saying that as an American or as someone who has mixed opinions about Russia and its autocratic government. Believe me, I’d love it if this vaccine were as effective as Russian claimed. I’d gladly celebrate it and commend Vladimir Putin’s knack for “motivating” development. That’s how much I want this pandemic to end.

However, there are some very good reasons to be cautious about this claim. Forget, for a second, that it’s coming from Russia, a country with an extensive history of large-scale disinformation campaigns. Just consider this simple scenario.

Imagine if someone walked up to you and claimed they had an app on their phone that could predict lotto numbers. You’re both intrigued and impressed. You ask for proof that it works. That person refuses to give it. They also ask for information about the program. They only give you the barest of basics, which you can’t verify.

Would you be willing to accept that this program works?

Moreover, would you be willing to accept it if doing so meant risking your life and that of your entire community?

Chances are most reasonable people would be skeptical and for good reason. That’s exactly why you should be skeptical of Russia’s claim. Russia has not released any scientific data on its vaccine testing and has not conducted the kind of large-scale test that most vaccines require to determine their safety and effectiveness. Without that kind of test, it’s impossible to tell whether the vaccine is effective.

That’s why practically every major health organization on the planet isn’t celebrating just yet. They’re not completely discounting it, though. There is a genuine interest in reviewing the data. That’s critical since this isn’t some fancy space probe. This is something we’re injecting into living human beings. We need to make sure it’s safe. Otherwise, we could end up causing more suffering than we prevent.

Beyond just causing a spike in cases, due largely to a false sense of security, an ineffective vaccine could undermine the public’s faith in public health. Vaccines have already been subject to all sorts of negative scrutiny in recent years. If this vaccine proves less-than-effective, it could set public health back years and lots of people will die because of that.

That’s what’s at stake here. There’s a time to rush something and a time to take bold risks. This isn’t one of them. Public health and medical science is not something we can rush. This isn’t like going to the moon or breaking the sound barrier. Those efforts required risks, but that risk was taken on by a few willing and brave individuals.

When it comes to medicine, the risks go beyond the test subjects. We cannot and should not take big risks when millions of lives are potentially at stake. This virus has already killed way too many people. Buying into a vaccine before we know for sure it’s effective could ultimately kill even more.

I’ll say it again. I want this pandemic to end as much as anyone. I want this vaccine to work as well as the Russian government claims. However, I’m not prepared to roll up my sleeve until those claims are verified. I encourage others to exercise similar caution.

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Filed under Current Events, health, human nature, technology

New York Comic Con 2020 Is Cancelled (And Everything Is Worse)

In case I haven’t made it clear enough, this year fucking sucks. I want nothing more than to purge the year 2020 from my memory. Every week, it seems, a new brand of awful emerges to crush our collective spirits. Most of it stems from the global pandemic that has cancelled damn near everything we love.

Some of those cancellations hurt more than others. Personally, I can endure going a year without the NCAA basketball tournament. I can even endure NBA and NHL playoffs getting pushed back. Those are painful, but they’re bearable.

Then, there’s the New York Comic Con. Losing that is a different kind of pain. Losing that hurts me on a level that I cannot put into words. I’ve been bracing for it ever since the San Diego Comic Con got cancelled.

Finally, it became official and still, it hurts. As bad as this year has been, this just makes it utterly irredeemable.

Verge: New York Comic Con is Cancelled

New York Comic Con’s physical presence is canceled this year. The annual convention typically takes place in Manhattan’s Javits Center. Organizers announced today, however, that “it likely comes as no surprise that NYCC 2020’s physical event at the Javits will not be able to run as intended.”

Because of the pandemic, all major events this year — including Google I/O, E3, and SXSW — have come to a stop. Organizers canceled San Diego Comic-Con in April for the first time in 50 years in favor of an online event. NYCC will follow suit with an online-only event, taking place October 8th-11th, through an online portal dubbed New York Comic Con’s Metaverse. “We are partnering with YouTube to bring to life four days of incredible content from the biggest studios, publishers and creators in the business,” organizers said.

Although digital is the best effort any event can safely make, events like Comic Con are social affairs. The fun for many fans is dressing up, seeing favorite celebrities in person, and spending time with fellow geeks. Online events are also ripe for logistical problems; SDCC’s online event, which took place late last month, had streams taken down due to copyright claims or required fans to have access to several streaming platforms.

I’ll say it again and I’ll belabor it as much as I damn well please. This hurts me. This hurts me a lot. I don’t care for some live “virtual” event. That didn’t work for San Diego. It’s not going to work here, either. Having a virtual comic convention is like having a virtual massage. It’s just not physically possible.

I’ve been going to the New York Comic Con every year since 2012. I’ve documented some of those trips. What makes it worth going to has less to do with the news that often comes out of these conventions and everything to do with the experience. You cannot replicate that with a fucking livestream video that cuts out and gets interrupted by shitty insurance commercials ever 20 minutes. You just can’t.

You go to congregate with your fellow fans.

You go to share a colorful, engaging experience with people who share your interests.

You go to meet new people, bond over your hobbies, and enjoy the many activities that you can experience in New York City.

Now, I’m not the most socially capable person on the planet, but at the New York Comic Con, I feel like I can connect with anyone. I can make new friends, flirt with cute girls, and share memorable moments. It’s an experience surrounded by spectacle. There’s just so much to see and do. The idea of not being able to do it this year is just soul-crushing.

I get why it can’t go on. Given the crowds at the New York Comic Con, it’s not exactly easy to social distance. We’re in a pandemic. Thousands have died and thousands more are likely to die before all is said and done. It’s awful. It’s taking lives and destroying the things that make life worth living.

There’s no upside. There’s no hope, aside from waiting another year, assuming the world is still intact. I’m willing to be patient, but my spirit is now fully and utterly crushed. The New York Comic Con is cancelled this year and everything is worse. There’s nothing more to say.

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Filed under Current Events, superhero comics, superhero movies

My (Fragile) Hopes For The XFL With The Rock

Earlier this year, I was very excited about the inaugural season of the second iteration of the XFL. Being a lifelong football fan, as well as a proponent of anything that could shake up the NFL/NCAA duopoly, I was genuinely hopeful for the future of this league.

It was doing everything right. It learned from the mistakes of the first version of the XFL. The league took its time. It got the right people. It dared to innovate how the game was played. It also had the beer snake. Who could forget the legendary beer snake?

Then, the pandemic hit and destroyed everything.

That’s not an exaggeration. I know the COVID-19 pandemic has ruined a lot of things this year, but it utterly destroyed the XFL. This was a brand new league trying to forge a new identity. It had a plan, but that plan did not account for the impact of the worst global pandemic in a century. How could it?

Sadly, the league declared bankruptcy in April. I was deeply saddened. I didn’t post anything about it. The thought of trying to put my disappointment into words was just too much. I was content to just swallow my anguish and find another way to endure the ongoing horror that is 2020.

Then, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stepped in and bought the league for $15 million. Suddenly, the slightest glimmer of hope for the XFL and the future in general has emerged.

As part of the bankruptcy procedures, the XFL went up for sale. There aren’t many people who could’ve bought its assets and inspired any hope that it would live again. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely one of them. He’s one of the most successful and beloved entertainers of the past 20 years. Say what you will about his movies, but the man is just one of the most likable guys you’ll find in entertainment these days.

Compare that with Vince McMahon. There just is no comparison worth making.

He’s also former football player, himself. He loves sports. He has a genuine love for the game. Both he and his business partner/ex-wife, Dany Carcia, plan to play games again. How they’ll go about it and how they’ll make it work remains to be seen. We still have to survive 2020 in one piece.

However, this news gives me a genuine, yet fragile hope for the XFL. It’s fragile because after the events of this past year, everything feels more fragile. The XFL did everything right the second time and still got screwed over by forces beyond anyone’s control. Naturally, I’m very reluctant to put my hopes on something that just seems to attract bad luck and bad circumstances at every turn.

Make no mistake. I want the XFL to come back. I want it to succeed. I think it was on the right path to do so before the pandemic hit. Now, with the leadership and brand appeal of The Rock, I think it’s in a good position to emerge from this dystopian stretch with a viable future.

However, I don’t think it can succeed if it just tries to go back to the way things were. It’s way too late for that. Right now, the XFL has a bad reputation of either being trashy, unlucky, or prone to bankruptcy. That’s not a good brand identity, to say the least.

At the same time, the XFL has an opportunity to re-align the entire football world in a good way. The XFL wasn’t the only sports entity to get screwed over by the pandemic. The NCAA is in a state of enormous upheaval right now. It lost nearly a billion dollars when it had to cancel the big basketball tournament this past spring. It’ll lose even more if it has to cancel fall sports, which is already happening.

Now, say what you will about the brand of the XFL. It’s still more admirable than the NCAA. The current system the NCAA uses to exploit college athletes while enriching itself just cannot be justified. The fact they’re fighting so hard get college sports going shows how little they care for the student part in “student athlete.”

That system is utterly untenable. The pandemic is just exposing how flawed and fragile that system always was. This is where the XFL can step in. If the Rock and his business partners are a smart as I hope, they’ll jump at the opportunity to recruit displaced college athletes. If only a handful of big time college schools can still operate, then that means hundreds of skilled players will be left out.

The XFL can help them and help itself. It can offer these aspiring athletes actual money to play a sport they love. That shouldn’t be such a radical concept, but the NCAA has kept it radical for far too long. At some point, it can’t keep justifying the practice of not paying athletes who make millions for their league and their school. If they keep trying, then the XFL is in position to step in.

At some point, this pandemic will end. Sports will return and people will flood football stadiums as they once did. The NFL will always reign supreme in the world of football, but the XFL will greatly improve the sport by supplanting the NCAA. Other sports leagues have developmental leagues for young, aspiring athletes beyond college. The XFL can be that league.

To get to that point, it’ll take hard work and someone with the vision and grit to see it through. There aren’t a lot of people who are up to that challenge. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is definitely one of them.

I hope he succeeds.

I hope the XFL prospers.

The football world needs it.

The XFL already has two strikes against it. This time, hitting a home run won’t be enough. It needs to hit a grand slam. I’m still very hesitant, but I’m also hopeful.

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Filed under football, sports, XFL

My (Early) Thoughts On Pandemic-Era Live Sports

This past weekend felt like a turning point for the world of sports. For sports lovers like me, it was a weekend we thought might never come. This past year and the global pandemic that has consumed it has ruined so many things, canceling so much of what we love. It got to a point where some of us seriously wondered if sports would go the way of concerns, indoor restaurants, and strip clubs.

As a lifelong lover sports who builds spring and summer afternoons around watching baseball games, this was a terrifying thought. I was already bracing myself for the worst, thinking that 2020 might become a year without sports. For once, the worst didn’t entirely come to pass. Baseball, hockey, and basketball all made a comeback and sports fans everywhere could breathe a bittersweet sigh of relief.

Having spent the past few days watching a little of everything, from late night ball games to the new NBA playoffs, I certainly share that relief. I am very happy to see sports return. It feels like a real sign that we’re navigating this pandemic. We’re making a genuine effort to get our lives back. That said, the experience of watching sports is very different during a pandemic.

The most jarring thing, at least for me, was watching a Red Sox vs. Yankees game with no fans. Even though the broadcast tried to pump in crowd noise, it just felt so off. This is one of the most heated rivalry in the history of sports. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the playoffs or the regular season. When these two teams play, it has real dramatic stakes.

You can hear it in the crowd.

You can feel it with every home run, lead change, and scoring opportunity.

It’s part of the experience, even if you’re watching from home. Without real fans and real visceral crowd noise, it just felt incomplete.

Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed watching the game. After several months with no sports outside of Korean Baseball, it was incredibly cathartic. You could just tell that this is an incomplete product, but for very good reasons. The subsequent outbreaks that followed opening day were proof of that. I have a feeling that won’t be the last outbreak before the season is done.

That season might even get cancelled. That’s a real possibility and one that doesn’t bode well for football season, which is just a month away.

It seems basketball and hockey are faring somewhat better. They still had the benefit of nearly being done with their season by the time the pandemic hit. I managed to watch a few basketball and hockey games. It wasn’t quite as jarring as baseball, but it still felt very incomplete.

If you’ve ever seen how the Las Vegas Golden Knights put together an opening show, you know why. It also changes the stakes, somewhat. When the both the NBA and NHL seasons were put on hold, teams were still fighting for playoff positions. Those positions matter because higher ranking means a chance at home field advantage.

Well, since both leagues are playing in a bubble in limited locations with no fans, there’s no such thing as home field advantage. There’s no crowd energy. There’s no real sense that any team has an advantage, besides the record they earned before all this happened. For some, that’s disappointing. At the same time, this might be the most level playing field these teams have ever had.

In those circumstances, how do we treat the team that ultimately wins it all? How can you judge any team that wins a championship when an entire season got disrupted by a global pandemic? Does that championship deserve an asterisk? Will people and players alike see it as legitimate? Will the fans even be able to celebrate it? It’s not like parades are conducive to social distancing.

These are sentiments I still find myself contemplating as I celebrate a return of sports. I’m sure those sentiments will change as the rest of the year unfolds. If baseball gets cancelled or football season gets delayed, that’ll be another sign of just how bad this pandemic is and how terrible we’ve been at dealing with it.

Again, I’m still bracing for the worst. For me, the worst-case scenario is the NFL season getting canceled or cut short, due to an outbreak. I suspect, with billions of dollars on the line, everyone involves will try to avoid that. However, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the unthinkable is more possible than we care to admit.

I don’t know how it’s going to play out. I’m just glad sports are back, in some capacity. I just worry about what the end results will be when all is said and done.

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Filed under Current Events, football, health, sports

Global Pandemic Likely To Decrease Birthrates (After I Predicted The Opposite)

In general, human beings are awful at predicting the future. That’s why those who successfully do are so celebrated. I’ve certainly made a few predictions in the past. Some are broad and far-reaching. We won’t know how accurate or dead wrong they are for years, possibly until after I’m long gone.

However, some are simply bound to be proven wrong in short order. There’s no shame in that. You dare to speculate. Sometimes, you just end up being wrong. Earlier this year, I speculated that the lock-downs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to a miniature baby boom.

I thought my logic was sound. People are going to be stuck at home with their significant others for extended periods. The aspiring erotica romance writer in me thought that was all it would take. Keep two people together at home long enough with little else to do and eventually things will get sexy. When things get sexy, babies tend to get made.

The logic may be simple and sexy, but the real world is complicated and chaotic. Now, recent reports indicate that my prediction was so wrong that the opposite might be happening. The Daily Mail reports that, amidst the pandemic, very few women are getting pregnant and the overall fertility rate is plummeting.

Daily Mail: Americans are NOT getting pregnant amid the pandemic as experts warn already declining fertility could plummet further

In addition to the unsteady economy, couples are also likely experiencing fear and anxiety over the public health crisis and its uncertain end.

Fertility rates have been steadily declining over the last several years and some believe the COVID-19 crisis could cause these rates to plummet.

Demographers and public policy experts say fewer children will mean not enough healthy, young workers to keep the economy going and replace the aging US population.

One report has even predicted that as many as 500,000 fewer babies could be born, which coupled with the death toll from the virus, could lead to a stagnating economy.

I freely admit I got this wrong. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have made that prediction on such simplistic logic. I should’ve also factored in the anxiety that comes with a massive economic downturn and the fear that comes with not knowing if you or your loved ones will get sick. Those are incredibly relevant forces. They do plenty in terms of undermining anyone’s inclination to get frisky.

It’s a dire situation on so many levels. It’s also understandable. Who would want to have kids during a crisis like this? Who would even want to try? These are not good times for starting families. The world, the economy, and society in general is in a very precarious state. Isolation or not, few people are in the mood and that’s not likely to change in the near-future.

Declining birth rates was already an ongoing trend. This pandemic might just accelerate it. How low will it go? I won’t try to predict that. I’ve already demonstrated that I’m not good at predicting the extent to which people will get frisky.

As for what happens when the pandemic is over, that might be worth speculating on. I’ll try not to make too bold a prediction here, but I will say this. Whenever this crisis ends, whether it’s when a vaccine emerges or when new cases drop to zero, I think people will celebrate. Some of those celebrations might get sexy. Will it be enough to offset this sudden dip in baby-making?

I don’t know. Only time will tell. We just have to get through this first. That should be our main priority. The sexy stuff can and should come afterwards.

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Filed under Current Events, health, human nature, sex in society, sexuality

From Stimulus To UBI: Has The Pandemic Made Basic Income A Relevant Issue?

Sometimes, it takes a big, jarring, and outright awful incident to spark meaningful change. It’s an unfortunate necessity, given the stubborn proclivities of human nature. People naturally resist change. Change is hard, risky, and potentially dangerous. Even when the current state of affairs is awful, we won’t pursue meaningful change without kicking, screaming, and whining every step of the way.

The murder of George Floyd was one such incident. As bad as previous acts of police brutality had been, this one was just too awful to stomach. It triggered a wide range of vocal protests that, while limited in their impact, has made the need for change more palatable. It’s frustrating that it takes this kind of horror to get us to change an objectively flawed system, but that’s just the cards we’ve been dealt.

While efforts at justice reform and tempering police brutality are important endeavors, there’s another major change that has been brewing in recent months. Again, it’s becoming relevant due to something utterly horrific. In this case, it’s the COVID-19 global pandemic that has upended our lives, our economy, and our politics.

Now, let me make one thing clear. This pandemic is fucking awful. It’s killing people. It is, by any measure, doing a massive amount of harm to people all over the world. There is no silver lining that’s worth all the lives that have been lost and all the suffering this disease has caused. From killing thousands to canceling major events, this pandemic is as bad as it gets.

That being said, this might be the big, horrific event that makes Universal Basic Income a relevant issue and a feasible recourse for the future.

I wrote about Universal Basic Income, also known as UBI, a few years back. At the time, I considered it a fringe issue that wasn’t going to gain traction in the United States, or any other country, for at least a couple decades. It shouldn’t be that radical, giving people money directly instead of having them jump through so many bureaucratic hoops. Unfortunately, it was still seen as an extreme by ever political party.

That started to change with the surprisingly successful Presidential campaign of Andrew Yang, who made UBI the central pillar of his bid. That campaign helped expose more people to the idea while making it a legitimate political policy.

Then, as has been the common mantra of 2020, the pandemic hit and everything changed.

Now, with millions out of work and unemployment benefits being incredibly limited, the idea of UBI doesn’t seem so extreme anymore. If anything, it’s starting to feel necessary. That could ultimately accelerate this issue’s ascension to the mainstream much sooner than any could’ve expected.

In America, millions have already gotten a taste of it in the form of a one-time $1,200 stimulus check. It wasn’t much, in the grand scheme of things. It certainly wasn’t going to fix the many problems that were unfolding as millions of people lost their jobs, due to the pandemic. It was still real money that people desperately needed.

I can personally attest to how useful this money was. Like many, I received a stimulus check around mid-April. While I wasn’t in the same dire straits as millions of other working class families, that check still helped a lot.

At the time, I had some back-taxes that I was still trying to pay off from having purchased my current home. I wasn’t in a position to pay it back all at once. I would likely need a payment plan, which would’ve accrued interest over time. Then, the stimulus check came and I was able to pay it all off at once with no interest. I even had enough left over to do some overdue car repairs.

My situation was not typical. Millions of people spent their stimulus checks on a variety of goods and services, but therein lies the key. It still got spent. In economic terms, that’s critical for a functioning economy. While the state may take a short-term hit in its finances, a sizable chunk of that hit will be countered by people buying things and subsequently paying taxes on them.

While economics is an insanely complicated endeavor, most people understand the importance of having money to spend to keep businesses going and communities intact. Other countries are conducting even bolder experiments in this pandemic. The results vary, but the basic trends are the same. When you give poor, desperate people money, they spend it. They have to in order to survive.

If you’re rich, or even upper middle-class, you have the luxury of saving. An extra $1,200 isn’t going to do much. For some, it’s not even a single mortgage payment. However, since most people aren’t that rich, it’s guaranteed that money is going to get spent and push the economy along. It helps poor people and it generates business for the not-so-poor.

It certainly isn’t without cost, but the benefits thus far have been more than worth it. As more people who experience those benefit, the idea of UBI is only going to grow in terms of appeal. It’ll even become more feasible because these recent stimulus checks have proven that the government has the infrastructure to make this work. It just needs the scale.

Even after this pandemic ends, there will be huge upheavals for rich and poor alike. The economy is never going to be the same. Society will never be the same. The continued impact of automation and artificial intelligence is sure to accelerate that change. UBI might not have seemed feasible or necessary before, but 2020 has changed that. Expect more changes before all is said and done.

This pandemic has caused a lot of pain and irreparable losses. If, however, it can be the catalyst to make UBI a viable policy, then we might be able to draw some meaningful good from it. Only time will tell.

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