By Horatio Kemeny|2020-10-16T21:17:30-07:00October 16th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Life in Vancouver, Travel Stories, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature, History|Tags: COVID-19, Chile, Quebec, Canada, United States, Vancouver, Trump, PM Justin Trudeau, Spain, Newfoundland & Labrador, France, United Kingdom, Numbers, American, Country, Government, Population, School, Respect, Relevant, Falkland Islands, Argentina, St. Pierre & Miquelon, PM Margaret Thatcher, Isabel Perón, Juan Perón, General Leopoldo Galtieri, Falklands War, War, Election2020|0 Comments
Sometimes, I write these posts in the morning… sometimes, at the last minute… a few times, the day before. I get the impression I’m going to have to back off trying to be too current, because the news changes almost as fast as I can type… and by the time you’re reading this, it could be largely out of date. In any event, I’m writing this earlier in the day and it might be longer than usual to make up for the fact that I won’t have much time tomorrow… so let’s pack two day’s worth of thoughts into one…
First thing… on this side of the 49th… Ontario increased its C19 death numbers significantly… 111 deaths in two days… but no, it’s not so dire. The vast majority of those were re-classifications from deaths earlier in the year.
South of the border… in the news, and changing by the minute, is the remarkable irony of the White House event which was intended to be the grand introduction of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee… but could turn out to be the very reason why Judge Amy Coney Barrett doesn’t ascend to the Supreme Court… that being that there may not be sufficient votes in person to achieve confirmation… because too many Republican senators will be sick and/or quarantining.
I’ve never been to a White House event, but I can only imagine it’s the sort of get-together that involves exotic teas and tiered platters with egg and cucumber sandwiches (no crust, of course), yummy pastries, scones, whipped butter, jam… you get the idea. The poshest of the posh. Side-note, that really made me hungry – any recommendations for local fancy tea places?
Anyway, that particular event will not go down in history for the fine food that was served, nor for the fine China upon which it was presented. Instead, it will be forever known as the Covid-19 Super-Spreader event that changed the course of American history.
It’s only been a few days, but now we’re getting a very accurate account of how fast this virus spreads when it’s in our midst and not taken seriously. Those Republicans, scoffing at the notion of wearing a mask — lest they be ridiculed by their Fearless Leader – may have screwed themselves out of contention. Their reckless, holier-than-thou attitude was evidenced at the “debate” where the entire Trump entourage, having entered the seating area all wearing masks as required, dramatically and contemptuously removed them in unison, with appropriate contemptible smirks to go along with their heroic acts of independence and freedom.
At the White House ceremony, same thing… most guests arrived in masks, but many removed them. There are hundreds of pictures and videos showing what went on. If you zoom up really, really close, like 150,000,000x, you can see the C19 virus balls flying all around, out of this mouth, into that nostril, and so on.
At this very moment, around noon, here’s the known infection roster:
Senator Mike Lee
Senator Thom Tillis
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel
Advisor Kellyanne Conway
Advisor Chris Christie
Campaign manager Bill Stepien
Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins
3 White House reporters
Conflicting numbers re White House staffers… one or more
Another senator that wasn’t there, Ron Johnson, has also tested positive.
AG William Barr, who was there too — and was recorded having a long, close conversation with Kellyanne Conway — hasn’t tested positive and is refusing to quarantine. By the time he tests positive, we’ll have a good idea who he’s likely infected as well.
And, for what it’s worth, NBC correspondent Garrett Haake tweeted this: “Tillis and Lee are both on Judiciary. I stuck my head into their hearing midweek and basically none of the senators were masked. The staffers around the edge of the large conference room were.”
Obviously, all of the senators in that meeting should be isolating for two weeks… but we all know that’s not happening. Add to that… Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is demanding all senators show up by Monday, Oct. 19th so things can move along. He needs them in person to have the required quorum.
Good luck, Mitch… and, might I add… I remember very well a different Monday, Oct. 19th… back in 1987. That was Black Monday, when the stock market crashed and burned and sent the financial world into a tailspin.
The only thing that might crash and burn this Oct. 19th is Mitch McConnell’s dream of installing a new Supreme Court Justice. As you may recall, Mitch McConnell was the one responsible for blocking Obama from installing a new Justice seven months before the end of his term, saying, at the time, “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.'" Notwithstanding the remarkable and blatant hypocrisy with respect to what’s going on now, you know what… Karma’s a bitch, Mitch.
Finally, on top of all of that, there are conflicting messages coming out of the White House and Walter Reed hospital… Trump is good, Trump is not so good, Trump is breathing fine, Trump is on oxygen, he’ll be going home soon, the next 48 hours are critical, he’s responding well, we’re not sure how well he’s responding. You can throw this paragraph away, because it’s entirely meaningless, other than to punctuate with some clarity one of two possibilities… nobody really knows what’s going on… or they don’t really want us to know.
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.
A bit of an interruption to pandemic news and personal anecdotes… because I wanted to touch on a story that’s a big deal around here.
The first thing I thought, when I heard that Mountain Equipment Co-op was being bought out by Kingswood Capital… was, wow, great, awesome… terrific and unexpected news… that the legendary Joe Segal and his crew would be taking it over… finally, it’ll be in good hands.
Joe Segal is indeed nothing short of a legend in this town… businessman, builder, community leader, philanthropist. A well-deserving recipient of both the Order of B.C. and the Order of Canada. And, to be honest, his business ingenuity might have been what could’ve saved MEC… but, unfortunately, it’s not Joe Segal’s Kingswood Capital that’s taking over… it’s a different one, an American private investment firm… and that’s not great news. Say it ain’t so, Joe.
At best, they will simply strip the company down to a form that makes money, and what might have been left (not much) at the heart and soul of MEC will be gone, and it will now just become another big-box retailer. And, at worst, they’ll just shut it all down and redevelop the significant real-estate assets they’ve now acquired. They’re promising to keep at least 17 stores open and 75% of the workforce. We shall see. Sounds good on paper, and those are good quotes to fall back on next year when they shut it all down anyway and say “We tried, but couldn’t survive the effects of the pandemic…” or whatever other excuse.
MEC will become a SFU Segal School of Business case-study on how to run a gloriously successful business into the ground, through awful mismanagement. There’s far too much to get into here, but it’s a long list of bad decisions, and it’s no surprise to anyone who’s been following MEC’s (mis)fortunes over the years. There has been a grassroots movement to remove the presiding board, for years.
Now that they’ve screwed it up completely, this is really the only course of action. They sold because they’re bleeding money and out of options. When he was young, Joe Segal lost his entire life’s saved-up fortune of $3,000 in one night of poker. He managed to dig himself out of that hole… but the close to $100M needed for these guys who don’t know (and haven’t known, for years) what they’re doing – is too much to ask.
It’s this, or bankruptcy and liquidation. And at least this gives it a tiny chance of saving what was once there.
I remember the first day I walked into that impressive place… I remember giving them my $5 and signing up and feeling like I was part of something. I didn’t even know what a co-op was until that day.
More importantly, I remember the last time I was there… and it’s also pretty telling with respect to how things had changed. It had already turned that corner… from co-operative, to… not. I’d gone in to get some hiking boots, and here’s what happened when I approached a salesperson on that elevated shoe area:
“Hi there… I’m looking for some hiking boots.”
“What sort of hiking will you be doing?”
“Hmm… nothing too crazy… like something good enough for the Grouse Grind.”
“Pfffft…. that’s not a hike.”
Heh… I chuckle about it, thinking about it now. But back then (this was more than 20 years ago), it pissed me off.
“Ohhhhh…. sorry. OK, well, if I were a self-righteous prick such as yourself, whose idea of what a hike is differs so much from the common man, what might I be looking for?”
He rolled his eyes and walked away. And I walked out of MEC and haven’t been back since. That was one small step (out the door) for a man. And this recent business decision is one giant leap for mankind… in an unfortunate but necessary direction.
There we lots of red ballcaps, American flags, Trump signs, anti-lockdown signs… even a little girl, with a multi-colored sign that said, “Forcing me to wear a mask is child abuse.” It was loud, abrasive… and depending how you look at it, truly frightening, for many reasons. No masks, of course. No social distancing.
But this time, no guns to be seen… wait, how is that possible? There are always some yahoos wandering around with semi-automatic weapons, just to show that their freedom entitles them to do so. Why not this time?
Because this didn’t take place anywhere in the U.S… this was right here at home, yesterday afternoon, outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, at around 3pm. Five hours later, the New Westminster pier was in flames, and much of the historic dock has been destroyed. Eight hours after that, some asshole (once again) cut the cable of the Sea to Sky Gondola, sending the cars crashing to the ground. And all of this going on the midst of an apocalyptic haze, enveloping everything.
We’ve seen better days.
And… we could potentially see even worse ones. Because, you know, I haven’t even mentioned the pandemic yet… but I’m about to, with exhibit A: Israel.
Israel is a country at the forefront of innovative technology, with many tools at its disposal to battle C19, and they’ve done a valiant and impressive effort. Through lockdowns and contact tracing and masks and social distancing, they were a poster child of stamping out and controlling this thing. And then there was a collective sigh of relief, and many things went back to normal and they lived happily ever after.
Or did they.
No… at the end of this week begins their new year. It also begins a mandatory and heavily-enforced three-week lockdown…. because, as per the tipping point I’ve talked about, they hit it… and now it’s a quick descent. At the time of this writing, at least one hospital is turning away C19 patients… because they’re beyond full.
Some quick numbers: after a frightening March and a swiftly-responded-to April, they were down to less than 20 cases a day. Today, they had 4,700… and that’s a country with a population of 9,200,000. Extrapolating the population, it’d be like us here in Canada having 20,000 new cases today (we had 817). It’d be like the U.S. having 170,000.
This is what happens when you ease up. This is what happens when you say it’s no big deal.
Even to the most ardent deniers of this thing, I sincerely hope you don’t get it. As has become very evident… if you catch this bug, its effects may well be with you forever. It may not take your life, but it can significantly affect it. With a common cold or flu, once you fight it off, it’s gone. Covid-19, not necessarily. Given all of that, what possible logical argument can you possibly make against masks and social distancing and being responsible? Seriously.
Everyone needs a little escape from reality these days… because as if it weren’t already enough, parts of it are literally burning. Vancouver, presently with some of the worst air quality on the planet? Sure, why not. It’s 2020.
My escape on sunny weekends is to get on my bike for a couple of hours and do my 50 km loop… but, for now, that’s also off the table. Now what.
Well… let’s head to the indoor escapes. For many people, the escape (even if only for a few hours) from the present-day world… is professional sports… and the insanity of this year has led to an interesting occurrence… which was that this last Thursday, every single continent-wide professional league was active. Hockey playoffs are going on, even though the Canucks are out. Basketball playoffs are going on, even though the Raptors are out. Baseball is going, Soccer is going… and now, American Football is starting up. Indeed, just one relevant league isn’t going… having cancelled the entire season, and that is the Canadian Football League.
With no Canadian numbers to report (full update tomorrow) and with no B.C. Lions to watch, I’ve unapologetically spent the entire day watching NFL football… and will continue to do so in about 10 minutes… so for now, I leave you with the most relevant (and most Canadian) joke I know:
It’s Grey Cup weekend, and the big game is being played here, in Vancouver, at B.C. Place. Fans from all around the country are flying in for it, and Level Two – Domestic Arrivals at YVR is a zoo of activity. The luggage carousels are all surrounded by rowdy, excited fans.
An American couple – two tourists, who just happen to be in town, are there as well, clueless as to what’s going on, and they’re amazed at what they’re seeing. In particular, there’s a group of Roughrider fans, already all decked out, dressed and painted proudly in their green and white jerseys, their faces also painted green and white, large horns on their heads, cowbells… the whole schtick.
“What’s up with that? Where are they from?”, wonders the guy out loud.
“Who knows?”, replies his wife, “Why don’t you go ask them?”
The guy wanders over to the group of fans… and says to one of them, “Hey there… you know, just wondering… my wife and I were curious… where are you folks from?”
“Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!”, answers the fan, beaming with pride.
“Ah”, says the guy… and goes back to his wife.
“What’d he say?”, she asks.
“I don’t know… they don’t speak English.”
Monday, September 10th, 2001 had been a late night… Monday Night Football combined with Monday Night Poker. It was a good night for me… I won money at the tables, and I won money on the game, having bet on the Denver Broncos. I am always a big fan of betting Denver at home, because they live and breathe and play at more than 5,300 feet above sea level, and visiting teams are rarely conditioned for the thin air. Nearing the end of the game, the other teams are often tired and struggling. In my opinion, it’s a big reason why John Elway was always able to orchestrate his 4th-quarter heroics. In this case, it was the New York Giants (who live, train and play in East Rutherford, New Jersey, elevation… 3 feet above sea level). Accordingly, Denver won the game… a successful evening all around. I staggered home in the wee hours of the morning and collapsed in bed.
Of course, none of that matters at all, especially in light of what happened next. I was awakened just before 7am by a phone call from a friend.
“Turn on your TV.”
Like so many with a similar story, I spent the day watching CNN, barely able to comprehend what I was seeing while frantically trying unsuccessfully to contact anyone and everyone I knew in New York. Eventually, everyone I knew was confirmed to be ok, but I found out years later that I had one friend caught in the middle of it… he was one of those guys who survived, but staggered out of there coated in white powder, debris directly from one of the falling towers, looking like a zombie from The Walking Dead. And he was, of course, one of the very lucky ones.
In hindsight, it’s easy to reflect on just how much changed that day. At the time, it felt like an enormous catastrophe, which it certainly was… but one from which everything would emerge and return to normal. It didn’t. It hasn’t.
Out of the endless things to learn from that day, near the top of the list, is this: Don’t ever acquiesce power to the government that you’re not willing to give away – forever. A lot of things got thrown into the world after 9/11, among them the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, and everything else wrapped up in the subsequent “protection” of the American people.
Wiretaps without warrants. Spying. Unlawful detention. Kidnapping. Torture. Constraints on Academic Freedom.
The Patriot Act, which was set to expire in 2005 (though most of it still lingers) was ostensibly put in place to protect people from terrorism. Whether it’s helped or not, what’s certain is how it has completely side-stepped the U.S. Constitution, and continues to do so.
Indefinite detention, warrantless searches… phone, email and financial record searches without consent and without a court order… these are all things that are here to stay in the great Democracy/Republic of the United States of America.
On the flipside, something that got a bit of coverage but should’ve been a much bigger story… was when in late March of this year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed a bill to authorize emergency spending with respect to the emerging pandemic. He wanted $82 billion at his discretion, to put into the hands of soon-to-be struggling Canadians. "No problem", said every single opposition party. We get it. Go for it.
Bill C-13 showed up, ready for signature… which a little bonus clause thrown in by The Liberals, one that can only be described as an attempt at an enormous power grab. It would have granted the government the right to spend money, tax Canadians and purchase/hold any company’s shares… all of that without Parliamentary Approval… until 2022. It was an underhanded attempt to seize power/control, using the crisis as an excuse. Extended out to the worst of its ability, it’d empower the (minority) government to do anything it wished. That would certainly have transformed this country into a very different Canada than what we’re familiar with. Conservative, Green, NDP… whatever you are, whoever you support… I’m very proud of that group standing up and saying, “Hey… what is this crap!?”… and Bill C-13 ultimately passed, but with none of that frightening language as part of it.
And yet… the U.S. of today isn’t the one many of us have known from 20 years ago. If Osama Bin Laden’s intent was to damage America where it really hurts, it’s sad to say… he thoroughly succeeded… a deep, divisive cut that has yet to heal.
All of you red-baseball-cap-wearing Patriots screaming “FREEDOM!” to anyone who’ll listen might want to consider a real example of what freedom truly is. Of what a real, functioning government looks like. There’s a hell of lot more to freedom than waving a gun around and/or ripping your mask off in an act of “courageous” defiance.
No local numbers today, so just some local observations.
On some particular Friday evening, the Canucks played a valiant game 7… but unfortunately, came up short, and got knocked out of the playoffs. The following day, Saturday, was the running of the Kentucky Derby. The weather outside was sunny and pleasant, but not too hot.
The preceding paragraph could’ve been mapped to any typical first weekend in May of the last 50 years. But, of course, this year is anything but typical.
The Friday in question was last night, and this year’s Kentucky Derby was run today, on the first Saturday… in September.
From that point of view, we’re exactly four months behind… which sort of lines up with the way I envision the near future. Just like March seemed to last about 79 days, this year is probably going to feel like it lasted 16 months.
If you ask me when I think things might start looking like any sort of normal again, I’d be guessing exactly that… 4 months into 2021… which coincidentally is the beginning of May. When the weather will be getting better. When the Canucks will get knocked out of the playoffs (hopefully not, of course), and the Kentucky Derby will go back to being run on its normal day (hopefully, of course), like it’s been for the last 145 years.
And the vaccine situation will be greatly clarified, with numerous options, most of them available to the majority of people.
And the American election furor, whatever that might look like, will have died down.
But who knows. Here’s one last, accurate observation… I was wrong about who’d win last night’s hockey game… and I was wrong about who just won the Kentucky Derby.
To be honest, not great numbers today, if you’re looking at new cases… as we head into the weekend, today’s new-case counts are the highest ever, here in B.C… and in Alberta as well. The only positive thing about that, one would hope, is that it serves as a wake-up call. We’re presently heading in the wrong, direction… albeit slowly. And now is the time to address it. We can at least appreciate the transparency with which we’re handed this information. That’s not the case everywhere.
The U.S. election is 67 days away, and Donald Trump needs to make sure things look as good as possible during that time. All other issues aside, his continued waffling and ineffectiveness with respect to managing the pandemic (the U.S. response is now ranked 2nd-worse on the planet, only slightly better than the U.K.) has made him look awful, no matter what he says. His insistence that things are going well, and it’ll soon be over and all that… most people are wising-up that this is far from the truth.
He’s taken two significant steps in trying to put lipstick on this particular pig. One is that the testing data no longer goes directly to the CDC. It goes to the White House, where it’s compiled, curated and released to the public. The other is his strategy of testing less… because, you know, the less you test, the less positive results you get… and the better it looks. Duh.
The combination of those two things has led to a significant decline in positive test results.
If you average the number of positive tests in the U.S. (and Canada, in [brackets], whose population is about 1/9th the size), starting a month ago, the 4 subsequent weeks were:
Wow – those are some great American numbers… look at that downward trend, even as Canada, at best, stays flat… or goes up a bit. Let’s hope some aide doesn’t jokingly suggest to The President to cut testing altogether… because what’s better than zero positives!
Of course, when reality checks in, things look a little different. Here are the daily deaths averages for those same time periods:
Remarkably consistent. No matter how you try to hide the numbers with respect to this disease and its spread, it’s hard to hide the deaths. Those numbers are beyond the reach of the White House to “manage”.
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.