On the last day of second-year university, I wrote my last exam on a Friday afternoon. That was the last thing after a tumultuous few weeks of final papers, projects and exams. I finished writing it, barely remember driving home, told everyone not to wake me… I’m exhausted, I already ate, leave me alone. I fell asleep around 6pm and woke up the next morning at 11am. That’s 17 hours of glorious, blissful sleep… and I remember it well because it’s, by far, the longest continuous sleep I’ve ever had.
And when I woke up the next day, I suddenly felt like I was in a vacuum. “Now what?!” What paper or project do I work on? What exam do I study for? There were no answers of course, but as the saying goes… when you stare into the abyss, it stares right back at you. Now what?
The government 3pm briefings were something I’d gotten used to. If you were here watching with me, you might have heard me screaming at the screen… not at Dr. Henry or Minister Dix… but rather, at the reporters serving up the softball questions. “Ask him this!” or “Ask her that!” I’d (very ineffectively) yell… and usually, nobody thought to ask what I’d desperately wanted answered. I took to Tweeting certain reporters, and a couple of times, by coincidence or because they listened, my specific questions got asked and answered… but now… this vacuum of silence. This abyss of zero information.
This is, of course, good. No news is good news. Usually. We can all hope we never see Dr. Henry on TV again, except when she’s receiving her well-deserved Order of B.C. and Order of Canada. But perhaps there’s a bit of Stockholm Syndrome as well. This pandemic has held us all hostage for more than a year, and even if it’s letting us go, there’s visible reluctance all around. I’m not saying we’re going to miss it, but certainly parts of it. I’m not saying I need to see the Henry/Dix 3pm gathering every day for the rest of my life, but there’s no doubt it held great importance for many people… and, truthfully, I will miss it. And while we’ve all become very used to masks and distancing, and the mental stranglehold of that – even if Henry/Dix are telling us don’t worry, take them off, gather, whatever – it’s going to take some time. You don’t jump into the abyss… you lower yourself in slowly.
Yes, I do think Dr. Henry will receive (and deserves) those honours. As much as she received criticism and death threats and all the rest of it, in the decades to come, when this whole experience is looked back upon and textbooks are written as to the proper way of dealing with pandemics, British Columbia will be near (if not sitting on) the top of the list. Pandemics incur a lot of collateral damage… lives, businesses, jobs. Mitigating that properly, navigating the subtleties, juggling thirteen flaming chainsaws without getting hurt; it’s no small feat. Look around at the rest of the world for comparison. We, around here, have been very lucky indeed.
I’m going to try to sleep seventeen hours tonight… though I will fail miserably. But one thing that’s changed… I used to go to sleep on Fridays with a bit of dread, not knowing what to expect after the weekend media blackout. That’s now gone, and I certainly won’t miss that.
The eclectic collection of friends and people and organizations I associate with has never been made more apparent than sifting through today’s emails. It’s officially Canada Day, of course, and I’m wishing you all a very happy holiday… in whatever way you wish to celebrate and/or recognize it – and of course, for many people, it’s no celebration at all… right up there with Columbus Day and all of its implications, as we all well-know from the emerging dreadful news that’s nowhere near subsiding.
I have emails yelling “Don’t let them take Canada Day away from us!!” and I have emails calmly explaining things, in great detail, from the point of view of many Indigenous Peoples from across the country, eloquently stating why there’s nothing at all to cheer.
The rest are somewhere in between – as am I.
But before I talk about Canada, let’s talk about Chile a bit – a country many of you possibly barely knew even existed nor cared about… but if you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ve seen that name pop up several times. And while I still have my little soap-box to stand upon for a few more days, here’s one last crack at it.
Here is a brief summary of Chile, the country where I was born and where I still have plenty of friends, family and business associates… a place that was one of the very few in the world accepting Jewish refugees during and after WWII. The boat that sailed west with the few members of my family who had enough foresight to get the hell out of Czechoslovakia in 1938 (among them my maternal grandparents) crossed the Atlantic Ocean and attempted to dock in numerous places, among them Halifax. This was during the reign of Canada’s 10th PM, William Lyon Mackenzie King… who, when asked how many Jewish refugees he thought Canada should admit, replied “None is too many”. The ship sailed south, but the U.S. wasn’t open to it either. The ship then crossed the Panama Canal and kept sailing south, now on the Pacific side… until finally Ecuador allowed everyone off the boat… provided they didn’t stay.
But Chile said, yeah… come on down… and welcomed numerous Jewish refugees with open arms. And these are not the sort of war-torn starving desert-dwelling-type refugees you imagine from TV and movies… these were well-educated doctors, lawyers, businessmen, accountants, engineers, etc… whose subsequent involvement in the country helped grow it to be the leading economy of Latin America.
But, times change. Politics evolve. Moods swing. Demographics shift. A recent article voted Santiago, Chile as the number-one antisemitic city in the world… a city with close to 500,000 Palestinians… close to 10% of the population… compared with less than 20,000 Jews (0.4%). And… a very leftist antisemitic presidential candidate – who, if polls are correct – could easily win the election later this year.
This candidate has brought out all of the usual antisemitic rhetoric and has promised to rid the country of Jews. Needless to say, the Jews are becoming increasingly worried. Public displays of antisemitism, violence and vandalism are being seen in record numbers. And if he wins – as the old adage goes – when you lose the support of the government… Run.
If the shit really hits the fan, where will they go?
Well, one very logical place is Canada… among one of the very best places in the world to be Jewish these days. In fact, it’s one of the best places in the world to be *anything* these days.
Indeed, especially for those who are young and haven’t experienced the world outside the bubble that is Canada, it’s hard to relate to how it feels and looks when a country completely derails. We almost got a first-hand look at it on January 6th… and from the sounds of it, things might look very different right now down south if those armed protesters had simply zigged instead of zagged… and wound up face to face with Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. And it hasn’t happened (yet) in Chile. But it could. It could happen anywhere.
But, these days, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon in Canada. We read with horror at the emerging evidence of our past, but here’s the thing; this is a great country. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any country, great or not, that doesn’t have a significant stain in its history. Chile was good for Jews for a while; that may change. Chile has never been good to its Indigenous population. The Spanish showed up a few hundred years ago, conquered them… and they have remained conquered ever since. Yes, they are screaming for their rights, land, restitution and acknowledgment… but they, like many other Indigenous populations around the world, face a steep uphill. Unlike in Canada, where there are still lots of big problems… in the past and in the future… but they are being acknowledged and they will hopefully be dealt with adequately… sooner than later.
Canada, for the moment, is also a great place for Jews. Antisemitism is on the rise, but still… there is full government support. I don’t judge Canada on the words or actions of William Lyon Mackenzie King. I judge it on what it is today… Canada, which, for the moment, faces a historical trauma that’s been known for decades but rarely spoken about till now… a history that needs to be heard, acknowledged and made right. Great countries deal with it. And that’s what we’re doing.
So yeah, the celebration may be understandably muted this year, but let’s not forget that there’s also a future, not just a past. And if we can learn from the past (and there’s plenty to learn) and use it for a better future for all of us – Indigenous, White, Black, Jewish and whoever else… remember… you’re very fortunate to be Canadian… which in itself is certainly something to celebrate.
When airplanes land, there’s a lot of maneuvering that takes place in the last 40 minutes… you start descending from the cruising altitude, and you navigate in such a way that you’re lined up with the runway. Depending on other traffic, there may be a holding-pattern loop or two… or you might need to speed up or slow down. You’ll hear the flaps being deployed, which gives the wings more surface area, and the ability to “lift” at slower speeds. But after all the turns and changes in velocity and changes in control surfaces… eventually, you’re lined up with the runway on final approach… and you’ll know you’re there because you’ll hear the landing gear drop. There are no more turns once the gear is down; barring some unforeseen circumstances, you’ll be landing shortly.
Today’s optimistic provincial update felt that way; it felt like the landing gear coming down. There is a clear, straight path ahead of us, and, barring something unexpected, we all step off the plane in early September… and this bumpy, nightmarish, turbulent 15-month flight is over.
Today’s dropping of the landing gear also brought about dropping the circuit-breaker restrictions… as well as a number of social-distancing measures. It was a great day for restaurants and other small businesses.
Step two, in mid-June, with further restrictions being lifted, will feel like the moment when the plane kisses the runway and then slows down and heads for the gate… and you, also, will be kissing people… in gatherings of 50 or more… indoor and outdoor.
Step three, in early July, will be that moment when the plane stops at the gate, goes “ding”, and everyone takes off their seat-belts and gets up. And it’s not just you lifting your sore butt off that seat; that’ll be the moment the provincial state of emergency is lifted. The moment the public health emergency is lifted.
And then… that waiting period… of “just open the damn door and let me out of here”… a couple of months of that, but, by then, things will be feeling pretty normal. We’re on the ground and plane has stopped. We’re not going to die.
I won’t fill in all the detail of what happens on all of those dates; check out the official government site for all that… but I will mention that an important aspect of all of this is that we stay on the path that got us here. At the moment, our excellent vaccination rates are causing our case counts and hospitalizations and ICU admissions to plummet, and that’s a necessary part of this; these steps rely on the adult population continuing a path towards complete vaccination.
We’ll never get to 100%, but the targets set out by this plan are easy to achieve. In fact, although I doubt they’d shift much, there’s room to bring these dates forward. We’re at more than 60% of the adult population vaccinated today, and it only needs to get to 65% in mid-June and 70% by July. If we achieve that, we’re there.
A lot has been asked from all of us throughout the last 15 months, but perhaps the biggest ask is this last one; get vaccinated. It makes a profound difference for all of us, something we can plainly see from the numbers.
I’ve been on flights where moments from touchdown, suddenly you’ll hear three things in unison; the landing gear going back up, the flaps being retracted, and the engines revving higher. This is the good-old aborted landing, and it causes three things to go up by at least 20: the minutes of flight time, your diastolic blood pressure… and the percentage chance of you missing your connection. It sucks, and that’s what this would feel like if vaccination rates tail off or numbers stall in their descent.
We’re almost there, and this part is now pretty easy… because if you’re already vaccinated, you can do a lot more than what you could do yesterday. And if you’re not… what a great day to pick up the phone or go online… and get registered.
Look out the window of the plane; it’s a beautiful day and we’re close enough to the ground that you can see lots of familiar sights. Did you miss them?
Me too… but you’ll be visiting them soon enough. Let’s just land this thing.
Starting today, the RCMP will be throwing up the roadblocks. They’ve announced the following:
Highway 1 in the Boston Bar area
Highway 3 in the Manning Park area
Highway 5 in the Old Toll Booth area
Highway 99 in the Lillooet area
In reading their press release from yesterday, here are my thoughts…
The only one of those that’s remotely relevant to people in the lower mainland would be the last one… and that’s only if you decide to not only boot it up to Whistler… but decide to continue the road-trip up, past Pemberton… and in doing so, I guess eventually you’ll run into the cops, who’ll ask you… what are you doing here?
And it’s a good question… what *are* you doing here? That’s clearly the sort of travel they’re trying to discourage.
That being said… I’m not a lawyer, and I’m happy to hear them chime in on this… but my opinion is that none of this is actually ok… to the extent that, if challenged, it’d be swiftly thrown out of court.
Ostensibly, drivers can be fined $600 if their travel is deemed to be outside the bounds of “essential”… but by who and how that’s to be determined is a big question mark. While the police can pull you over and check for a valid DL and insurance, it’s generally none of their business where you’re going or why you’re going or anything else… and without probable cause, demanding answers about it is arguably infringing on your Charter rights. Another fundamental right you have when being questioned by the cops is a very straightforward one, especially when it has the potential to incriminate you: You have the right to remain silent.
I think it’s important to understand the bigger-picture intent of all of this, because from that point of view, it works quite well.
When the cops tell you that there will be a DUI checkpoint on all major roads in and out of downtown this Saturday night, it’s 100% supposed to be a deterrent. They don’t want to be cleaning up horrible car accidents. They’d prefer it if there were no accidents to begin with.
When they want to collect some speeding-ticket revenue, they quietly and stealthily set up shop on the side of the road. If they really wanted people to not be speeding, it’d be just as effective to announce it very loudly – speed traps will be set at the following locations during the following times… and when they realize how effective that is, they’d set up cardboard cut-outs with cops holding up radar/laser guns. Cheap and effective, and that’s what happens on highways where actual dangerous speeding takes place; they don’t want to deal with serious accidents, so they find ways to deter them.
But in this case, the truth is… the cops don’t want to set-up travel roadblocks. They don’t want any part of this, but are being mandated to do so… because the bigger picture, for the moment, requires it.
What they really want… and which is what the PHO also wants… is for this virus to go away, and one step in doing so is to prevent the spread from region to region. They can threaten to throw the law at it, but this is Canada… and as much as some people scream about it, our rights aren’t actually being trampled.
In a perfect world, none of these threats would even need to be made; we could just rely on everyone’s good, common sense. Unfortunately, as we’ve learned over the course of a year… common sense is not so common.
Today’s brief summary requires nothing more than a brief look at the vaccination graph I’ve posted below the usual charts. And if this were being presented as a brief summary in some boardroom somewhere, there would be some hushed whispers. “Hey… what’s the deal with the blue line?”
We’ll get to it.
This is a graph of smoothed-out daily data of the number of people being vaccinated by region, normalized to a number per million.
If you look at the tail-end of the graph, which is from the last day or two, you can see the thick red Canada line somewhere near 7,500… which means, on a daily basis, 7,500 out of a million Canadians are being vaccinated. That number was 4,500 a month ago.
In fact, here’s a look across the country of rough seven-day averages:
BC, a month ago: 4,600. Today: 7,100
AB, a month ago: 3,700. Today: 7,300
SK, a month ago: 3,600. Today: 6,000
MB, a month ago: 3,000. Today: 8,800
ON, a month ago: 4,700. Today: 7,600
QC, a month ago: 5,200. Today: 7,400
Across the board – very good. Vaccination programs across the country gearing up and/or delivering at increasingly-effective rates.
Now, let’s look at that thick blue line… our neighbours to the south. That’s the line that seems to be going in the wrong direction, opposite to all the others.
US, a month ago: 5,300. Today: 3,700
The irony of course is that the U.S. is comparatively drowning in vaccine… but demand is waning. This is the pattern that took them to a 43% vaccination rate, but the next 43%… well, it’ll be beyond difficult. It may actually be impossible.
Forget all of the complicated supply/demand market elasticity theories you may have come across. All of it is irrelevant. If this were a business, the boardroom presentation would be a PowerPoint full of lousy explanations and poor excuses… because the fundamental value proposition is gone. The business model is going to fail, because, as good as the product may be, demand is drying up. R&D department? They did what they were asked and delivered beautifully. Legal? Check. Logistics and distribution? Check. Marketing? Ouch.
It still boggles the mind. This is the part that I and many others simply didn’t see coming. That, after creating, in record time, what’s arguably one of the greatest achievements ever in medical science, an awful lot of people simply don’t want it. A massive failure, arguably due to nothing more than awful, irresponsible, criminally negligent messaging. The marketing department responsible got fired in November and the new team took over in January… but as hard as they’re trying to fix the damage, it may be too late.
Brutal. Meeting adjourned.
I play around a lot with my 3D printer… it’s here, beside me, in my home office, and the little series of sounds it makes while operating is good background noise; it’s not distracting… on the contrary, it helps me focus. And, at the end of it, you end up with some interesting (and sometimes useful) object. I have an endless list of things I and the kids have designed and printed… and I’m fascinated with the technology. This printer is already three years old, and there have been upgrades to it… many of which I’ve printed myself. How’s that for innovation – instead of sending you a part, they just send you a 3d blueprint – then you print the thing yourself. So cool.
That being said, it’s still an evolving technology. Some of these prints take several hours… and sometimes, halfway through them, just when you think it’s all going well, one little thing goes wrong and the entire thing is ruined. We’re all familiar with that concept these days.
I’m looking forward, as the technology progresses, to being able to print things with better consistency, and with more and more detail… and with a greater variety of materials. This one only does plastic, but this is the same technology that’s printing metal. And food. And houses. And human organs… one day.
Soon, these things will be printing with the finest detail possible… atom by atom. What would I print with that?
The first thing I would print is the tiniest violin imaginable… suitable for playing the sympathetic music due to the likes of the soon-to-be-former owner of the Corduroy restaurant on Cornwall, Rebecca Matthews… and Alaska Republican state Senator Lora Reinbold.
These two have misunderstood something, and they’re beginning to pay the price for it. What they don’t understand is that nobody gives a crap about them, and long after the issues of the day have become non-issues, they will be left holding the bag for the misguided messages they were propagating.
After Rebecca Matthews loses her business license, liquor license and whatever court case the City of Vancouver throws at her, she’ll be wondering where all of her supporters have gone. Where are the people that were chanting “Get out!” to provincial health officials when she was illegally operating her restaurant? Where is the crowd that was chanting outside her restaurant yesterday, reminding everyone that social distancing and masks and vaccines are all useless? Where’s Mark Donnelly?
Restaurants in Vancouver are a fickle business. 70% of restaurants fail in the first year. 90% are gone by year 3. Where’d everyone go? To the next one… the new one… the latest and greatest. That’s where all those people will have gone, and her GoFundMe will be puzzlingly disappointing. But that’s what you get for being the voice of unreason.
Similarly, Senator Reinbold is one of these freedom-fighting anti-maskers who doesn’t want to wear a mask in an airport or on a plane. Accordingly, Alaska Airlines has banned her indefinitely… a significant issue when Alaska Airlines is the only airline that services her hometown of Juneau. As a result, what would have been a routine one-hour flight getting home for her turned into a 14-hour road-and-ferry adventure. And, for the foreseeable future, she’s somewhat stuck if she needs to get anywhere in a hurry. Now she’s whining about the monopoly of air transport to/from Juneau… an issue that, of course, was non-existent a few days ago. I actually hope she resolves that “issue”…. so that United and American and Delta and JetBlue and Southwest… can also all ban her.
One thing that’ll never be 3D printed is intelligence, and the ability to think big-picture. And that’s too bad… because, as per above, there are at least two people who’d benefit greatly from it.
In answering a lot of “Ask me next year” questions, I can’t help but touch upon a topic I wrote a lot about last year… but haven’t touched recently.
Just my opinion, but the U.S. has gotten itself into quite a pickle. If you’re a typical, normal, right-leaning American who usually votes Republican because, above all, you favour their economic policies, you’re not facing a great situation. You want the Republican party, but you don’t want the racist misogynist narcissist that presently leads it. Your former president is as unhinged as ever, and that will never change… just get worse. From his point of view, you’re with him or you’re against him. His VP, Mike Pence, stuck with him through high and low, but that didn’t stop Trump from sending him to the lions on January 6th.
Mitch McConnell made his own deal with the devil… one he’s very much regretting. True to form, now that he and Trump are on the outs, he’s facing his own version of getting kicked to the curb. A few nights ago, Trump called McConnell a “stone cold loser” and a “dumb son of a bitch”. That honeymoon is certainly over.
The problem is that the populist Trump has a huge crowd of support and, as we’ve all learned, a significant percentage of that crowd is unshakable. And if Trump dumps the GOP and goes Independent, he will take most of those people with him, and those people, at present, make up half of the Republican voting base. In that scenario, if the GOP votes were to be split in half, there’s a reasonable chance the next election might be a 50-state sweep for the Democrats, a scenario no Republican wants to contemplate. Third-party candidates appear all the time, but rarely have a significant impact. One has never swung an American election one way or the other… but Trump certainly would. Sweep or not, the election wouldn’t be close, and it wouldn’t be a reflection of what the majority necessarily want… a scenario that’s actually not so uncommon.
Municipally, left-leaning Kennedy Stewart is the mayor of Vancouver… elected in 2018, having beaten the NPA’s Ken Sim by only 1,000 votes… something like 50,000 votes to 49,000 votes. Wai Young, who’s further to the right than Ken Sim, got close to 12,000 votes… the vast majority of which would’ve gone to Ken Sim.
Provincially, we saw it here in 1996 when the right-wing split-vote brought in a Glen Clark NDP government with only 39% percent of the popular vote.
Chile similarly saw it in 1970 when Salvador Allende won that election with only 37% percent of the popular vote, the right-wing having split the other 63%.
The U.S. could be next… so, for the moment, the GOP is stuck with Trump… and their bigger problem is that with cult populists, it doesn’t necessarily go away when the head guy goes away. We’re living it here, where the ghost of Pierre Trudeau lives on in Justin. In the U.S., there can potentially be 8 years of Don Jr. followed by 8 years of Ivanka followed by 8 years of Eric. By then, Barron will be over 40 and it can be his turn. Don’t think this isn’t exactly what they’re try to do.
Indeed, now that the cult of Trump is well-entrenched in the Republican party, those who don’t like it find themselves in quite a conundrum… because, perhaps, there’s no way out. But that’s what happens when you dance with the devil. Sometimes you wind up in a mortal embrace. And then you get burned.
The good old “abundance of caution” is back in the news, thanks to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which, like the AstraZeneca, is in the spotlight for potentially causing blood clots. Both of those are adenovirus vector vaccines, as opposed to the mRNA Pfizer/Moderna vaccines (no accusations of blood clots there), so that adds to the correlation.
Here are some numbers:
In the U.S., close to 7 million doses of J&J have been administered. There have been reports of 6 potential cases of blood clots. That’s less than a one-in-a-million chance of developing this particular complication… and one of those cases was lethal, so there’s a close to one in 7 million chance of dying from the J&J vaccine. If it’s responsible for that.
Of the 6 cases, 100% of them were young women between the ages of 18 and 48.
Here’s something else that young women ages 18 to 48 do… they take birth control pills, and they have babies. If you throw that into the mix:
We hear that 1 in 1,000 women on birth control develop blood clots. The number is actually a little lower… more like 0.3 to 0.9… as in 3 to 9 out of 10,000. Also relevant is that in the 3 months after giving birth, that number goes up to 40 to 60 out of 10,000.
I really have no idea how much of that applies to these particular women, except to note that throwing a one-in-a-million factor into it changes nothing. It’s the sort of rounding error that gets lost in the mix. Insurance companies view events beyond one-in-a-million as “impossible”, which makes them easy to insure.
Nevertheless, in this age of litigation and ass-covering and risk mitigation, the CDC and FDA slammed on the brakes until everyone dances around a bit and indemnifies themselves, and then they can get back to it.
In the meantime… as with AstraZeneca, I assume the U.S. is sitting on large shipments of unused J&J vaccine. J&J has, for the moment, halted shipments to Europe. Don’t let it go to waste! We here in Canada would welcome it with, literally, open arms.
Dr. Henry and Premier Horgan and Minister Dix continually remind us all that our infrastructure presently supports much more vaccine-delivery capacity than the supply that’s feeding it. Great! Please secure a few million unused doses of that J&J and get it up here. Perhaps don’t make it the first choice to give young women (optics), but I know a lot of old men (I’m one of them!) who’d happily, unquestionably, without hesitation and with profound gratitude accept it.
Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen… one, because we here in B.C. have zero leverage to be asking for anything… and two, the Americans will quickly come to their senses and realize that even if these two vaccines, J&J and AstraZeneca, actually introduce a one-in-a-million chance of a complication, the benefit is far outweighed by the risk… and the intelligent thing would be to resume vaccinations as soon as possible. As soon as the $2,250-per-hour lawyers are done with it, they’ll be back in business.