Current Event Friday #98

Racists and pandemics are a bad combo

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t discriminate about who it affects or infects. Sadly, some humans are discriminating towards others in the midst of this pandemic. The racism and discriminatory practices tied to those thoughts are today’s #CurrentEventFriday topic.

woman in crew neck t shirt wearing face mask
Photo by Skye Dingle on Pexels.com

While the origin of the virus has been linked to China since early Winter, this origin has provided cause for racism. Many in the mainstream media harangued Pres. Trump for his usage of ‘Chinese Virus’ in his tweets to label the disease. Many have argued that this inflames tensions and is an approval of racist practices. Those who defend usage of this label point out that during the onset of this disease prior to its widespread effect in the United States, that the term ‘China virus’ was commonplace. Specifically, the media personalities condemning Pres. Trump were using ‘Chinese virus’ themselves until the pandemic became so prevalent in the United States. Further, that by calling it a Chinese virus, Pres. Trump and others are pointing out China’s totalitarian government contributed to a lack of information and allowing the disease to run rampant when they tried to control the spread of information and punished those who spoke out about it.

In the midst of the kerfuffle of how exactly to label it, a doctor of Korean descent was refused service at a gas station near Indianapolis this last week. Even worse, a man in Texas stabbed several members of an Asian family at a local supermarket including two young children. Others of Asian descent in California and New York have been assaulted in the last two months by people fearful they will be infected while using racial slurs.

Obviously, Chinese people are not guilty of spreading the disease. There are enough problems with lost wages and widespread infections without adding discrimination efforts based on race. The problems with the disease’s origin can be linked to a totalitarian government not protecting its citizens and under-reporting the severity of its disease, not the citizens themselves.

Racism will not solve this pandemic crisis, and in fact the United States by some statistics is the largest affected nation. Arguably, Americans who are strongly independent have allowed the disease to spread counter to the spread in China. Too many Americans are suspicious of government and resist grand-scale government intervention as a result of these suspicions. I’m waiting to see if a federal law is enacted to force people to stay home but I don’t expect compliance by everyone. I’m hopeful that with warmer weather and people taking this seriously we can see the disease reach its high point and taper off soon (so I can return to #CurrentEventFriday that isn’t linked to Coronavirus). Time will tell of course

Have you observed anyone being racist in the midst of this pandemic?

Current Event Friday #97

All I wanna do is Zoom

This last week has zoomed by and as social distancing continues to impact people from being out and about the days get lost. In the midst of physical distancing, many find creative ways to still be social and productive. One of the more popular means and awareness for how best to use it is today’s #CurrentEventFriday topic.

Zoom Meetings Pro Video Conferencing Annual Licenses

Zoom Video Meetings have become much more popular over the last several weeks as businesses, schools, and other organizations still want input and interaction from their constituencies but admit that conference calls can still betray facial expression and body language when communicating. Zoom also allows many more participants than a traditional conference call.

How Zoom Employees use Zoom

As Zoom has surged in popularity, a new trend for hackers is ‘zoombombing’ which involves the hacker posting inappropriate images or video in a Zoom meeting or appearing as a participant while speaking hateful or inappropriate words. A professor noticed during one of his lectures this week that a participant had posted pornography while another came in shouting racial epithets. Due to the confusion this created, the professor hastily ended the meeting and suspended any further meetings until the problem could be solved. Some have suggested that Zoom should require all meeting to be set to private by default and additionally to require passwords in order to join a meeting.

On a lighter side of concerns with Zoom, newer users should be aware of how to participate while being aware of your other co-participants. First, when not speaking use the mute function on your end. As anyone who’s ever called into a radio station knows, you turn down the radio to stop the feedback loop it can create. You can also help yourself if you have a set of earbuds plugged into your device so you’re clear on what is being said in the meeting. Secondly, be sure that your setting is fairly well lit. Broadcasting from a dark cave only works for Al-Qaida and terrorists in third-world nations. We have light and hi-resolution for a reason. Third, be sure to properly align the camera. Nobody needs to see your nostrils or your neck. Experiment with raising, lowering, and tilting your device to properly align your face. Last, be engaged as you would be in person. If you have to get up to use the restroom or grab a drink that’s fine but avoid checking your e-mail or browsing the internet while in the meeting.

I’ll admit I’ve used Zoom a handful of times for a discussion group with other pastors as we’ve studied the Sermons of John Wesley so I’m not quite a novice, but I’m still learning. I’m not used to the muting when not talking, but I also tend to have one earbud in, so it limits the feedback and the other participants seem to have quality setups that limit issues as well. I’m hoping many others will put this to use and become better Zoomers even after social distancing relaxes and we can meet in person again.

Have you used Zoom Video Meetings before?

Current Event Friday #96

And then there were two…

Another week is coming to an end, and it’s been a wild and fast-moving one to be sure. That means it’s time for #CurrentEventFriday once more. I know I’ve been fairly quiet on the blog lately, and it has nothing to do with the Coronavirus I assure you. I’ve been focused on essay assignments for my Course of Study (Continuing Education) classes and my brain is shot and so was my motivation to write for pleasure. Without further ado, let’s get into today’s entry which is all about the Democratic election.

Image result for joe biden

The primary season is winding down, and after yesterday there are only two candidates left—former Vice President Joe Biden & Sen. Bernie Sanders. For the most part it has been these two for the last couple weeks, but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard finally conceded yesterday and endorsed Joe Biden. That leaves the two senior statesmen left to battle it out.

If these two were closer in the delegate count it would be worth paying attention to, but Biden has almost 300 delegates more than Bernie Sanders. According to RealClear Politics, Biden has 1181 pledged delegates to Sanders’s 885. To win the nomination, a candidate needs 1,991 delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Biden has won most of his delegates in the last month and handily. While many thought Sanders’s early lead in the polls and easy wins in the first few primaries would easily give him the nomination, Biden was able to depend on Southern states with several black voters and traditional Democrats to bring him back into contention.

What seems surprising is with this surge in momentum and the other former candidates now endorsing Biden, is that Sanders hasn’t given up the fight. For his part, Pres. Trump has pointed out that the DNC is trying to ‘steal’ the election from Bernie like they did in 2016. Many progressives in the party and Sanders surrogates have also intimated the same thoughts alleging that Biden is hardly any different from Pres. Trump and doesn’t share their progressive values. Biden hasn’t necessarily dismissed those arguments completely but has responded that his policies and efforts are more in line with being electable not only in the primaries but in the general election as well. For what it’s worth, Biden is probably accurate that he is seemingly more electable than Sanders.

Many who feel that Sanders is having the election stolen from him a second time conveniently forget that he is an Independent and not officially a Democrat. He only runs as a Democrat when running for the presidency. So, there’s no reason for the DNC to show loyalty to a person who isn’t a member of that organization. If Bernie is indeed popular among so many people, why not run as President for the Democratic Socialist Party of America?

At this point, Bernie’s continued presence in the Democratic primaries is likely to result in a Pyrrhic victory for Biden. With only two New England states and New York left as possible wins for Sanders, Biden should wrap up the nomination, but Sanders will inflict damage on Biden that Pres. Trump will use again in the general election cycle. It will also likely depress voter turnout for those who wanted to see Sanders as the nominee. Some will support the Democratic candidate no matter who it is because they are determined to beat Pres. Trump but likely not enough. Pres. Trump is smart enough to use the tactic of playing on the allegations that Sanders had the election stolen again to keep more Progressive voters from voting for the Democratic nominee.

Regardless of Biden likely winning the nomination, I feel like Pres. Trump will likely win re-election because Biden has been seen as a doddering old fool much of this campaign and Pres. Trump will capitalize on attacking Biden’s gaffes and will get Biden to become defensive and argumentative rather than sticking to substance. If Pres. Obama doesn’t endorse Biden even after he wins the nomination, Pres. Trump will also call attention to that as well. Expect questions about Hunter Biden and Ukraine to also be asked of Biden by Pres. Trump to knock Biden off his game. If by some miracle, Sanders wins Pres. Trump will say the word “communism” every 10 minutes of the campaign to attack Bernie and his affinity for socialism and its evil stepbrother communism. All of this to say, it will be entertaining during the general election and especially during the debates because Pres. Trump never fails to be an entertainer even if sometimes his political instincts take a day or two for him to catch up on given his recent foray into being a politician.

Should Bernie drop out and let Biden be nominated?

Current Event Friday #95

After an exciting start to the Daytona 500 with Pres. Trump as Grand Marshall, the finish becomes even more exciting

We’re at the finish line of another week again and today’s #CurrentEventFriday looks at the wild events that played out of the finish line of the Great American Race—the Daytona 500 on Monday. More specifically, the attention paid to the fourth-place competitor.

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Ryan Blaney (12) attempted to pass Ryan Newman (6) whose car suffered a dangerous wreck. Denny Hamlin (11) would win the race. 

The finish of the race saw the second-closest result in the race and was won by Denny Hamlin. After this win, Hamlin won his third Daytona 500 race and the second in consecutive years. Before crossing the finish line, Hamlin was running in third place but was able to gain the lead in the last few hundred feet as Ryan Newman lost the lead while being spun out by Ryan Blaney.

What makes this noteworthy is that Newman lost the lead while blocking Blaney from performing a bump-and-run maneuver that sent Newman into the outside wall and turned Newman’s car upside down which was then struck by Corey LaJoie’s car. After being struck by LaJoie, the car piloted by Newman began to ignite.

Hamlin’s crew and team owner began to celebrate their victory while many fans booed the celebration given the damage to Newman’s car and Newman himself. Newman was rescued from the car and was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

NASCAR officials released a press statement about Newman’s condition later that night. Many took to social media to offer thoughts and prayers for the veteran driver. Of course, many were concerned about his condition eliciting a parallel to the announcement following 2001’s Daytona 500 that ended with Dale Earnhardt’s death.

Thankfully, for Ryan Newman there are several safety measures and equipment in place after Earnhardt’s death. The modern car includes a Head and Neck Safety (HANS) device that protects the driver’s head and neck, a roll cage with several reinforcements including an Earnhardt Bar and a Newman bar that were added after previous crashes that injured the driver the bars are named for.

As these safety measures have become standard and protect the driver’s more each year it’s no surprise that Wednesday afternoon that Newman was released from the hospital, alert and walking. Some on social media created memes of Dale Earnhardt acting as a guardian angel for Ryan Newman. Surprisingly, many who passively follow NASCAR demonstrated concern for Newman while he was hospitalized and celebrated his release.

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Corey LaJoie (32) praying for Ryan Newman after Lajoie’s car struck Ryan Newman’s car at the end of Monday’s Daytona 500.

For LaJoie and Hamlin’s part they were both concerned for Newman after the race and offered prayers and support for his recovery. An image of LaJoie praying for Newman near his  own still smoldering car was shared on social media. Roush-Fenway the company that Newman drives for announced that Ross Chastain will drive the car until Newman is medically cleared to return to the car.

An interesting wrinkle in this story involves Ryan Newman and his wife Krissie. Just before the Daytona 500, the couple announced that after 16 years of marriage they were separating. In statements from both Ryan and Krissie, they announced they would raise their two young children as co-parents despite their own relationship.

After the accident and subsequent hospitalization, Krissie posted on Twitter & Instagram a photo of Ryan awake and posing with the girls and later a video of Ryan walking out of the hospital with their children. Some fans believe that after this brush with mortality, the Newmans may reconsider their separation. Neither Ryan or Krissie Newman has offered an update on their marital status since the accident, so they may still proceed towards separation amicably or they might reconcile. Optimists no doubt are pulling for the latter over the former, and why not stranger things have happened.

Did you watch Ryan Newman’s accident?

Current Event Friday #94

A man attacks a recliner and it has nothing to do with a furniture store

Remember when air travel was an exciting event that people dressed up for and looked forward to? Those days have gone the way of records, analog televisions, and cursive writing. Now, air travel provides opportunities for people to become angry as they are hopefully trying to escape stress to a vacation hotspot or they’re returning rested and refreshed. Sadly, two passengers couldn’t get along and are today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

A traveler flying from New Orleans to Charlotte with American Airlines on Jan. 31 posted an incident from that flight to her social media, and the video quickly went viral. In the video posted, another traveler, an unidentified man begins punching the woman’s seat.

Reading that summary, it’d be easy to say that the would-be-boxer is in the wrong and should apologize. Yet, the woman posting the video had reclined her seat and when doing so it invaded the unidentified man’s space. So, maybe he has at least a legitimate gripe with the woman. Given that airplanes don’t really offer that much space, having a passenger in front of you take away any more of that space by reclining could be a point of contention.

Of course, most of us would just be angered and vent to family or friends after disembarking. But both of these passengers decided if they’re going to go at it over something so trivial, they should turn it up to eleven. The video shows the two passengers loudly arguing about who is in the right, and eventually a flight attendant tries to intervene. The woman posting the video claims the flight attendant asked her to stop the recording and offered the angry man an alcoholic beverage to calm down.

That should be the end of the story, but no such luck. Now the woman who posted the video is seeking legal action and plans to sue the punching man and the flight attendant. She adds that she has reported the incident to the FBI. To support her case, the woman claims she has had to have x-rays, suffers from headaches and has lost time from work.

The legal action is why people tell lawyer jokes. Parents with kids who kick their seats in cars are no stranger to the same issue as the lady posting this video. When’s the last time you heard one of these parents having headaches or missing work from their kids throwing these tantrums? I’ll admit the guy should have refrained from punching the seat and it wouldn’t have risen to this level. Even those who are angry in the moment about strangers’ behavior on planes usually find passive-aggressive ways to deal with it or as the cool conflict managers and elementary teachers instruct, “use their words” to solve problems.

I’m also probably the last person to weigh in on no space on airlines. I’m 5’6” so I don’t take up much space on planes anyways, so I’m not bothered, plus I’m pretty sure that airplane seats barely recline anyways. It’s not like automobile seats that recline to nearly 90o that end up on the laps of backseat passengers.

Regardless, civility and understanding are sorely missed in society nowadays. Airplane travelers need to be aware that other people are on the plane and realize those travelers might be a little stressed from early wakeups or long security checks too. Basically, if everyone could remember the lessons of kindergarten and respect others and their spaces, we’d be better off.

Should the lady who posted the video been more understanding?

Current Event Friday #93

A Democratic Presidential candidate tries to avoid being caught being hypocritical

Let’s play Hide and Seek. 1, 2, 3…28, 29, 30. Ready or not here I come. To be clear, I am not writing a blog post with hidden Easter eggs hidden throughout. The hide and seek is about one of the Democratic hopefuls for president. Today’s #CurrentEventFriday is all about that candidate’s attempt to disguise what could be seen as hypocrisy. Somewhat coincidental, this post like the latest #HistoryMonday is all about a plane and Iowa.

I’m tempted to offer you 3 guesses on which candidate hid when caught being less than truthful and you’ll probably guess easily. If you guessed Elizabeth Warren, you’d be right. She’s seemingly always being caught in a lie or mistruth. This week while returning from Senate obligations to Iowa for the final push in the Iowa Caucuses, Warren was spotted disembarking from a private plane, but realized she was being filmed and hid behind a staffer.

Candidates traveling by private plane wouldn’t normally be newsworthy, but when you’ve railed against the rich and powerful using private planes which contribute to climate change, then it seems a bit hypocritical.  When asked at a climate event in New Hampshire in October, “What specific steps have you taken in your campaign to ensure that your campaign’s environmental impact is as limited as possible?”  Warren responded by telling the host: “So, I’ve mostly been flying commercial, um, but we’ve been trying to look at other ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint and it’s everything from the kind of car we drive, uh and down to … do we purchase offsets, can we make that work as a way to try to reduce the footprint.”

Flying private planes which have been argued as damaging to the planet and a luxury only the evil wealthy seem to own, tends to devalue the argument that climate change is serious. Other politicians who advocate for more regulation to curb climate change have also undermined their argument when buying coastal properties and using transportation like private planes and gasoline-powered ground transportation. Examples of this hypocritical sanctimony about climate change include Leonardo DiCaprio flying all over the world on a private plane to advocate for climate change or Pres. Obama attending an European summit in “The Beast” a diesel-powered limousine while promoting climate change regulations at the summit. Even recently, the Obamas purchased coastal property which might lead skeptics to believe that climate change isn’t as serious as we are led to believe.

Even the newest darling of the Democratic base, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has backed down on climate alarmism. Shortly after being elected to the House of Representatives, AOC said in an interview that the world had at most 12 years, when asked how she arrived at that number, she clarified she used 12 as a placeholder number to mean not in the immediate next few years, but just a little longer.

Admittedly, I’m skeptical of the climate change argument and the near religious belief of its proponents. In the last four decades, the shift in what climate change is upon us seems too flexible to be believed, In the 1970’s the fear was the earth would cool to a drastic level bringing a 2nd Ice Age. When the 2nd Ice Age didn’t happen after a decade and a half of fearmongering, then we were told that the earth was dangerously heating. Then after similar fears didn’t materialize after a decade and a half we were told that the new fear was climate change. I’m willing to believe and admit that the climate is changing, I tend to question the degree or the complete blame on humanity for it. This position seemingly is the conservative position, but there are some on the right who deny any climate change and by extension human responsibility.

Back to Elizabeth Warren, there’s already footage of her on the plane before she hid behind the staffer so she can’t pretend she wasn’t on the plane. She could easily admit that a commercial flight was unavailable to accommodate her schedule, and she made a one-time flight on a private plane and this goes away. Although given her spotty record with the truth, she doesn’t have a lot of credibility to begin with if she made such a statement. The better approach is quit attacking the people who have just as much money and influence as she does. Basically, follow the old adage about throwing stones when living in glass houses.

Should Elizabeth Warren fly on private planes and stop condemning those who do?

Current Event Friday #92

A day to celebrate groundhogs is apparently dangerous to groundhogs

February is upon us and with it, Spring will soon be approaching. Many will turn to rodent meteorologists this weekend, but not everybody is looking forward to that. Why one group is denouncing the practice of Groundhog Day is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

Groundhog Club handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 131st celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (Associated Press)
Punxsutawney Phil, being shown to the crowd by his handler from the Groundhog Club on Groundhog Day

As every February 2 comes and goes, if the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow this weekend in the small Pennsylvania town, he will retreat, and winter will continue for six weeks. If Phil does not see his shadow, spring will be here soon. Maybe not the most scientific system since we’ve basically agreed that March 21/22 is the vernal equinox regardless maybe Groundhog Day is a strange practice. The folks at PETA tweeted about the practice and believe it’s not only odd but it’s dangerous for Phil.

PETA argues that Phil’s artificial habitat for 364 days out of the year doesn’t provide him with true environments to be a groundhog. Not only that, being picked up, shown to crowds, and photographed like a Hollywood celeb is scary and unnerving for Phil.

As a possible solution, PETA has suggested using a robot groundhog that could predict the weather thanks to artificial intelligence. Using this animatronic groundhog, PETA argues would still celebrate groundhogs and drive tourists to Punxsutawney, PA for the celebration. The Groundhog Club president Bill Deeley responded to PETA’s suggestions that people want to see Phil, a living, breathing, actual groundhog and not some robot.

Frankly, I’m surprised PETA hasn’t made this push before. It’s not a recently created event, so they’ve had decades to protest the celebration and suggest a different approach. Maybe, the advances in robotics would have prevented that until now but can’t imagine that PETA really cares whether there’s a robot or not. Like many others, looking at a calendar and doing some quick math is a lot more realistic than watching a groundhog see its shadow.

Although, I may not celebrate Groundhog Day like those in Punxsutawney or other locations celebrating the day, I’m not going to be a jerk about it. PETA like many other ‘woke’ or PC organizations and groups have become unbearable and lacking nuance in their arguments, appealing to emotional manipulations and insults rather than discussion. So, instead I’ll just treat Groundhog Day like any other obscure holiday and live it like any regular Sunday in the year.

Should Groundhog Day celebrations include a robot groundhog instead of a living one?