September 30, 2020

I should take a step back writing about Donald Trump. I’d been planning to watch the debate and then comment on it, but of course, there was no debate. There was a schoolyard bully, flailing around aimlessly, aggressively, disgustingly and frighteningly. I know the majority of people reading this were as horrified as I was, watching that shitshow… and for those who think otherwise… well, there’s really nothing I can tell you. In talking about Trump, I’m either preaching to the choir or talking to a brick wall. Either way, to a great extent, I’m wasting my time discussing it. All I can say is that if you still support that deplorable, awful excuse of a president, there’s nothing anyone can say that will change your mind. Therefore, I will leave it at that, with one final point:

I’ve said before I don’t watch a lot of TV – not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have time. I’d binge watch 12 hours a day for a few weeks, given the opportunity. My “to watch” list grows a lot faster than I can get through it.
As a result, at the moment, I’m a few years behind… and watching the second season of the excellent adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale”.

It’s very good… and very relevant. It deals with a dystopian future, where the first season’s episodes flash forwards and backwards – dystopian future/normal past… but, unlike most SciFi of that genre, the dystopia is not in the distant future; rather, it’s probably no more than 5 years apart… and it all takes place “now”… it could be 2005 to 2010 or it could be 2018 to 2023.

A lot has changed in those 5 years, and the differences are made clear in the first season. But now, in the second season, it’s starting to fill in the blanks… how exactly do we go from a normal society, to a messed-up fascist military occupation based on religious zealotry?

It doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t take long. It’s frightening to see the fiction of the show and compare it to the realities of the U.S. today. While it might sound a little alarmist, if things really derail, it will be impossible for anyone to actually say, “Jeez… didn’t see that coming.” All of the signs are there… signs that history has seen time and time again.

Let me assure you, when the president is doing the wink-wink-nudge-nudge to a group of neo-nazi white supremacists who’ve waited all their lives to unleash their violent hatred… well, unfortunately, anything is possible. And he’s so arrogant, so flagrant, so unapologetically offensive – because he knows he can get away with it. Because it empowers him. Because that’s the kind of person he is, and because it’s what his unshakable core of people want to hear.

The real question looming on the horizon for that potentially-soon-to-be-formerly-great country is pretty simple, and it will be answered on election day… just exactly how many people out there want to see it all crash and burn? Hopefully, the quieter majority (who most definitely do not)… will finally stand up and do something about it.

For the moment, the U.S. is still a democracy, one that many people lost their lives creating and defending. To see it slip away, especially like this, would be unforgivable.

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September 29, 2020

Leona Helmsley was a wealthy hotelier, back in the 1980s. In discussing herself and her husband, she once famously said, “We don’t pay taxes; on the little people pay taxes.” Leona was ultimately sentenced to 16 years in prison for federal income tax evasion. And, as you may already know, Al Capone, guilty of every organized crime known to man (bootlegging, prostitution, racketeering, murder, etc.) was ultimately only charged and sentenced for one thing… income tax evasion… which landed him in prison for the rest of his life.

More recently, like a few months ago, I was staring at a math formula that I needed to plug into a spreadsheet. I needed the formula in terms of x, but unfortunately, x was an exponent in an expression that was under a square-root sign, and all of that was the numerator in a bigger expression. After staring at it for a minute, I asked my son, who was sitting nearby, if it he could figure it out… and he promptly did.

In hindsight, perhaps I could’ve paid him a consulting fee. What was that worth? Well, like the old joke… from the old “50 cents to push the button, and $999.50 to know which button to push” school-of-thought, $20 wouldn’t have been out of place. Even $100, since I needed it right away.

Wait… maybe I need a mathematician on payroll… I could hire him as a consultant on a monthly retainer. $1,000 a month? How about $10,000, because now I’m thinking tax benefits. How about $500,000,000 a year, and I get to deduct chunks of it for the rest of my life… and since I’m not paying him all of it, it’s of no tax consequence to him. And for me… some fancy accounting showing the liability due, and then claiming the annual credit of $10,000,000 – wow, I’ll never pay taxes again!!

Welcome to the slippery slope of how tax avoidance (totally legal) slides into tax evasion (totally not).

Setting aside the cushy job she got in her daddy’s organization, Ivanka Trump was paid an extra $750,000 in consulting fees. Giving your kids money is no crime. Claiming it as a business expense, however, is quite a different story. What’s slowly coming to light is how many tens of millions of dollars Donald Trump “consulted“ away… when actually, he was just keeping money in the family, but paying no tax on it.

As per emerging facts imply, as bad a businessman as Donald Trump may be, there’s still income from his numerous properties. The ones he didn’t already bankrupt (how do you bankrupt a casino) do generate some sort of revenue. That they’ve all lost money year after year probably means he doesn’t run them too efficiently… and whatever they do make is outweighed by the generous deductions he claims. Again, they either genuinely lose millions of dollars a year of his father’s hard-earned money that he’s slowly squandering… or, they make a bit, and he “cleanly” hides the profits.

As per above, you don’t mess around with the IRS. Around here, the CRA. Same thing… they want their cut, and they’re not happy when you try to hide it, or dance around it. They understand you’re allowed to pay as little tax as possible, as long as it’s legal… but there’s a line, and sometimes, its crossing is just way too blatant.

If Donald Trump doesn’t get re-elected, among the long list of lawsuits he’ll be slammed with… is likely to be the IRS, seeking what they feel is owed to them. Whether it’s criminal tax evasion, or a simple slashing of a bunch of bullshit deductions ($70,000 a year for hair care?)… remains to be seen. Taxes owed, interest, penalties… on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars of loans he has to repay in the not-too-distant future… to be clear, Donald Trump can’t ride off into the sunset, even if he wants to. He desperately needs the four years of presidential immunity that comes with the job.

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By |2020-10-08T01:08:39-07:00September 29th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Business & Economics|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

September 28, 2020

I’m not sure where our family tradition came from… the one where you break this fast, after 24 hours of no food or drink… with a shot of liquor. Single-malt scotch in my case. Let me tell you, that’s one way to shock the system.

Anyway, it’s been a day… did… I… miss… anything?

Exactly a month ago, my closing paragraph was this:

“The President of the United States may not be aware that there are two things in life that are a certainty… death and taxes. You can’t escape either….and history will not be kind in exposing his attempts to cheat on both.”

The gist of that article was more to do with the fake numbers he was now controlling, to direct the C19 narrative… things aren’t so bad, things are getting better, numbers are going down… and so on. Sure they are, Mr. President… they can say whatever you want, when you’re managing it.

I haven’t dug into it yet, but a superficial read on these recent stories implies one of two things: Donald Trump is either among the world’s worst businessmen… or, he ruthlessly cheats on his taxes. I suspect it’s a bit of both, but I’m curious which version his die-hard supporters would prefer? That they were sold a pack of lies? Like the ones who like saying, “Yeah, ok, he’s an abrasive asshole, but at least he knows business and deal-making and all that.”

Or… how about this: “Hey, hardworking American labourer who’s single and made $18,000 last year…you paid more in taxes than your “billionaire” president.

Pick your poison, Trumpers… what do you prefer? The (brutally) inept businessman? Or the ruthless, uncaring tax evader? Tough decision… but, if you have any sort of critical thinking ability left, what shouldn’t be a tough choice is the one you face on November 3rd.

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September 27, 2020

Once a year, me and several million like-minded people fast – no food or water – for about 24 hours. For everyone, it’s a different experience… but one thing in common… for all, it’s a period of deep introspection.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, feel free to Google Yom Kippur.

This Jewish Day of Atonement always comes exactly 10 days after the Jewish New Year (Happy 5781!). Since it’s based on the Hebrew calendar, which is made up exclusively of 28-day months (it always lines up with the moon), these holidays move around with respect to our conventional calendar. In fact, it’s especially nice to have a New Year’s a few months before the end of December… it gives you a second shot at those new year’s resolutions that maybe didn’t stick.

Next year, Yom Kippur will fall mid-September. The year after that, early October. You never know what day of the week you’re going to get. Like all Jewish holidays, it starts the evening before the actual day… which means tonight, in a couple of hours (sunset) – and lasts till tomorrow’s sunset. As I mentioned, for that period of time… it’s a complete fast, which includes switching off all non-critical electronics as well… in an effort to truly disconnect. Accordingly, tomorrow’s update with all the new numbers will have to wait till after sunset… which will be sometime after 7pm.

In the meantime, I’ll be lost in thought… and with no interruptions and with no food or water to balance out the brain chemistry, I’m looking forward to seeing what I come up with. You may be reading about it for weeks.

For all my peeps doing the same, Gmar Chatima Tovah – and may you have an easy fast. See you on the other side.

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By |2020-10-08T01:08:40-07:00September 27th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , |15 Comments

September 26, 2020

No numbers till Monday… though it’s worth sadly noting that by this time tomorrow, the world will have seen its one millionth C19 death. We have a long way to go with fixing things.

You know… “Fixing things” used to mean something positive… like, you have something, it broke, you fixed it… and now it’s good again.

The word’s more sinister implications… well, you have disgraced and disbarred former attorney Michael Cohen… Trump’s “fixer”… who fixed things like campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. Evidently, like cheap scotch tape, his illegal fixes were temporary, and fell apart when put to the test.

I have a particularly fond memory playing poker. A friend went to the washroom, and in the 60 seconds he was gone, we “fixed” the deck. By the end of the hand, he’d put every penny he had into the pot, and lost it all on the last card. He couldn’t believe it, and we couldn’t stop laughing at the emotional rollercoaster we put him through. All in good fun; he was incredibly relieved to hear it was all a set-up, and he hadn’t actually lost his entire net worth. I suspect most fixed poker hands don’t end so well.

When it comes to elections, history has seen plenty of fixes… and some are so blatant, they’re ridiculous.

The Liberian general election of 1927 is a good example. There were 15,000 registered voters. One candidate received 9,000 votes – pretty reasonable. The other candidate received 243,000 (that’s not a typo).

It’s interesting to note that until relatively recently, like the mid-19th century, when you voted, you made your vote public. The British colony of Victoria, ie Australia, adopted a secret voting system in 1856… where a generic paper ballot was produced by an independent third party. Before that, each campaign would produce their own ballot, on a piece of paper with their own colour. To vote, you’d drop your selected coloured ballot… into a glass bowl. Surrounding those glass bowls would be party operatives or even the candidates themselves… persuading, bribing and even threatening the voters. It took guts to vote because, as you might expect, it was frequently a violent undertaking.

Fortunately, neither the American nor Canadian upcoming elections will be people publicly dropping red of blue pieces of paper into large glass bowls, for all to see. That would be crazy.

Unfortunately, what will ultimately happen may be another sort of crazy. I’m not too worried about up here; we haven’t had a disputed election ever, and the closest thing to a scandal was that Conservative robo-call nonsense orchestrated by some junior staffer in 2011.

But south of the border… fasten your seatbelt. I don’t think any of us, in person, have ever seen what’s about to happen… and it’s already started. The president is already calling it crooked, and has made it clear he won’t accept the result if he loses.

Disputing the security of mail-in ballots, watching the USPS dismantle the infrastructure needed for a fair election, seeing how a top official in Philadelphia explained that up to 100,000 mail-in ballots might be invalidated due to a technicality (Pennsylvania is one of those key states that could, on its own, decide the election)… it’s all just beginning.

Just like a slow-moving train-wreck, it seems everyone is watching with morbid curiousity, unable to do anything to stop it. No matter what, it’ll be a big mess to clean up. Let’s just hope we can one day… fix it.

 

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September 25, 2020

There’s that old parable where, suddenly, people can’t bend their arms. There’s plenty of food to eat, but people are starving… because they can’t reach their mouths.

The parable goes on to explain how, actually, it’s only the self-serving narcissists that are starving. The good people have figured out that all they need to do is feed each other, and everyone will be ok.

To some extent, we’ve been told that masks are sort of like that; you wear one, more than anything, to help others; to avoid you infecting them with your sneezes and coughs… and, as long as everyone is doing that to help others, we all benefit.

For a lot of my life, I thought catching a cold or flu was like getting pregnant; you’re either pregnant or you’re not. Similarly, either you have a cold… or you don’t. Certainly, you can be 7 weeks pregnant vs. 7 months, and it’s a very different experience… just like you can have a mild cold or a really bad cold.

The subtle difference in my mind was this: Once you have a cold, how bad it is depends on that particular cold virus. Some hit you really hard, while some give you little sniffles. Some years it’s really bad, some years… not so much.

What I didn’t understand was the whole concept of viral load. It’s not necessarily the severity of the strain of the virus… it’s also how much of it you got. The actual level of dosage, the actual number of little virus balls you inhaled… like, how badly you were infected… has a huge influence on how it affects you.

This is becoming very evident with the analysis of C19 patients; those exposed with high viral loads have a much more difficult journey. In fact, viral load at the time of diagnosis seems to be, on its own, an independent predictor of mortality.

All of this goes back to masks, and a recent article that pointed out something that should be pretty obvious, but perhaps hasn’t been made abundantly clear: If you wear a mask, you’re not only protecting others, but you’re protecting yourself. Your chances of receiving a lethal infectious dose are dramatically reduced if you’re wearing a mask.

Further to that – a very promising conclusion that follows from that is that by wearing a mask, you may well be creating immunity in yourself. As we know, a vaccine simply stimulates an immunity response… well, guess what… you may already have done that, in small doses. We also know that 80% of cases are asymptomatic, and that may in large part be due to the low viral loads that caused them in the first place. Perhaps the small amount you got from a distant sneeze. Or, perhaps, the small amount you got from someone nearby… but your mask took the hit, and all you got was 1% of the potential viral blast in your face.

And one final (also promising) conjecture… it seems that even tiny viral loads in your body may stimulate strong immune responses. By the time the vaccines roll out, you may already be immune… and only because you’ve been wearing a mask, self-vaccinating yourself in small doses.

I’m not sure any of this will change the minds of the ardent anti-maskers, for whom this whole issue is entangled with political (and other) agendas… but if you know any somewhat-reasonable anti-maskers who think it’s not worth it for medical reasons, feel free to pass this along. Or maybe to that “me me me” narcissist who doesn’t feel the need to benefit others, at the expense of their personal comfort. Well, guess what… it may benefit you greatly.

And for the rest of you reasonable people, just keep doing what you’re doing… and wear your mask with the knowledge that your little contribution to the greater good may actually be doing a lot more good than you think.

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September 24, 2020

When I was around 13, my mom’s cousin came to visit – from way far away; he and his family live in an industrial town in Slovakia. It was just him that came to visit, and he spent a week with us. I recall he arrived on Saturday morning, and we spent the weekend taking him around town, hitting a bunch of tourist sites. The beauty of Vancouver made a big impact on him; it was all very different from his typical surroundings.

On Monday morning, we all had breakfast together, and then it was time to go… my sister and I to school, my parents to work. They offered to take him downtown or drop him somewhere to look around, but no… he just wanted to chill at home. No worries. When we all left, he was sitting outside, on the deck, overlooking the backyard… with a cup of coffee and a cigarette in his hand.

Fast forward about 10 hours… I got home before anyone, and there he was, still sitting on the deck… the cup of coffee had transformed into a beer, and the ashtray was now overflowing with cigarette butts.

“Have you been sitting here all day?”

“Absolutely.”

OK… whatever melts your butter, I guess… but at the time, I do remember thinking how insanely boring that must have been. I thought about everything I’d done that day (a lot) and compared it with what he’d done (nothing).

The next day, it was the same thing… a full-on 10-hour chill. A few cups of coffee, a few beers, a pack of smokes… and call it a day. And that was pretty much it for the rest of the week. Every single day, all he did was sit outside and stare into the garden.

The world’s most boring man, I thought, at the time.

I told him, at one point,

“I really can’t understand how you can just sit here all day.”

“One day, you will.”

Over the years, every time I think about it, I have a more profound appreciation for it. This guy flew 8,000km to disconnect from his day-to-day reality, and he did it right. Back home, he was a hard worker with tons of responsibility and stress. And here, well before the era of perpetual connectedness, he’d found his oasis and he milked it for all it was worth.

These days, it’s an inward-facing question I ask myself… when I find myself spending time on something I’d rather not: Would I rather be here, or sitting on a deck, staring off into a garden or ocean or space or whatever…

You don’t need me to tell you that we’re living in a crazy world… and that it’s probably going to get a fair bit crazier before it gets better… which means, more than ever, scheduling those “deck moments” ahead of time. Scheduling an entire week of them is a lofty goal we can only aspire towards, but every little bit helps. As the weather gets worse and the days get shorter and the stresses mount and the case-counts and hospitalizations and ICU admission numbers all rise… find your deck – and visit it as often as you can.

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September 23, 2020

I spent a wonderful, relaxing day yesterday (once again, thank you for all the good wishes) – soaking in the good weather, and feeling deeply appreciative of many things. Certainly, a big part of that is having the privilege to ride out this pandemic here in Canada. The colossal difference that thin line running along the 49th parallel makes; it has never been more evident.

I am, in all sincerity, hoping The United States of America can hold it together. So much has already been written about the GOP’s hypocrisy with respect to the Supreme Court; how they’ve done a clean (actually, couldn’t be dirtier) 180 with respect to filling a vacancy during an election year. They denied Obama the opportunity in 2016, but they will jam down everyone’s throat their candidate in a matter of months. And all of it, both 4 years ago and today, beautifully described and justified in a gleaming, shiny steaming coat of bullshit.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a card-carrying Marxist or a fanatic right-wing fascist. Most people are neither, and find themselves in the moderate in-between. But all of you should be horrified at how your country, you know – the one with life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness – is being ripped away from you… a process that started years ago but really caught its footing in the last four. It began to quickly accelerate right around the time the president figured out he could just make it all up as he goes along, jam “truth” down people’s throats, and make them swallow it, either by persistently sticking to it, or by just ignoring the backlash and moving on to the next thing… all the while being cheered by his adoring crowd.

Accountability is at an all-time low, scraping along the bottom of credibility. If anyone is deserving of a dying wish – after all she did, to benefit the greater good – it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And her dying wish was to not be replaced before the next election. It’s more than unfortunate that she won’t be granted that. On the flipside, voter registration surged after her passing. Perhaps enough people are realizing that unless they do something, it’ll get done to them… and it won’t be pretty. But to flip it back again, Donald Trump has made it very clear he won’t accept the election result if he loses. He’s vowed to fight it to the Supreme Court. You know, the one whose balance of power he’ll have installed a few days earlier. The answer to the question, “Could it get any uglier?” is no. No, it couldn’t.

Add to that volatile mix this morning’s announcement with respect to Breonna Taylor. After 6 months of wondering what would happen to the three police officers who shot an innocent woman to death while she slept, we have an answer. For two of them, nothing. For one of them, two charges for negligently discharging a weapon. And, to be specific, discharging it into a neighbouring apartment. With respect to what happened in Breonna Taylor’s apartment, nothing. Zero accountability. I’m sure by the time I post this, the rioting will already have begun. There’s only so much gleaming, shiny steaming bullshit people can take.

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September 22, 2020

Thank you all for the kind birthday wishes; certainly a most memorable one. Not being much of a party animal, I have very little memory of my last 5 birthdays… but this one will certainly never be forgotten. I hope by next birthday we’ll all be back to a much more mundane and forgettable – ie familiar ie normal —sort of party schedule, whatever that means for you. ????

But for now, I’ve spent the day enjoying some free time, playing hooky from everything… and it’s been great… and I’m about to continue to do so.

See you tomorrow.????????

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By |2021-07-06T16:52:00-07:00September 22nd, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: |32 Comments

September 21, 2020

Dr. Henry’s “back to school” ad rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and I was one of them. It painted a completely unrealistic picture of what classrooms would look like. As any student or teacher or parent (of either of those) will tell you, most classrooms have more than 6 kids and most classrooms don’t have a sink for convenient and frequent handwashing. The explanation given was that it was simply a setting for Dr. Henry to be explaining things to a group of kids; it didn’t necessarily represent the norm. They could’ve shot that ad outside or in a gym or in a playground or wherever, but they chose to talk about classrooms… in a classroom – but a classroom that doesn’t actually look like what classrooms will look like. Hmm.

When I was in school, the most frequent thing from teachers was “Settle down” or “Be quiet”. Until recently, it was “Get off your phone”. These days, all of that has been replaced with “Put on your mask”.

Seeing some of the pictures my kids are sending from school (both are in high school), it seems one thing hasn’t changed; a lot of kids aren’t great listeners and will do whatever they want.

In another sort of horse race that nobody wants to win, the province of Alberta has recorded more than 100 school outbreaks, and they’re growing quickly. B.C. is presently at around 20. For comparison, as of a few days ago, Ontario had seen around 90 school outbreaks… and Quebec, around 270.

Interestingly, a few minutes after I signed and submitted some forms promising to keep an eye out for symptoms in the kids before sending them off to school, the B.C. Ministry of Health removed more than half the symptoms, among them sore throat and runny/stuffy nose. To be clear, the directive is this: IF you are a kid and IF you have only that symptom… sore throat and/or runny/stuffy nose – chances are, you’re ok.

I get it, and I don’t get it. It’s a tough situation. As anyone who has kids (or has ever been a kid) knows, every single kid at some point between now and March will have a sore throat and/or runny/stuffy nose. All of them. And, for the vast majority of them, it will not be C19. They certainly never were in the past. Yet, almost certainly, some will slip through the cracks and there will be outbreaks. And then what? I guess we’ll find out. And it’s not an “if”; it’s a “when”.

Speaking of “not if but when…”, our numbers aren’t looking great. Not just here, but AB, ON and QC as well. Looking at these little graphs, it’s pretty evident. Those 7-day moving averages, from across the country, are not encouraging. I’m not saying we’re beginning a second wave, but if we were starting one, this is exactly what it’d look like.

And a final “not if but when”… John Horgan just called a Provincial Election. Funny, I was recently having this discussion with someone, pondering whether an election would be called sooner than later. Although, purely (and only) for political reasons, it makes some sense now… I thought they’d hold off. Because, by the exact same token, the NDP is going to face an enormous backlash. People have far more to worry about in the next month than this… and the very tenuous balance-of-power held by the present government could end up swinging in a different direction.

Be prepared to hear a lot more about this… #infectionelection

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