June 3, 2021

Do you remember learning about convex vs. concave? Which is which? If you have trouble remembering, and are frustrated, go punch a piece of sheet metal… see that indentation? How the sheet is now “CAVEd” in? There you go… conCAVE when it goes in, conVEX when it comes out… like the VEXed expression on the face of the guy on the other side of that sheet, wondering why you did that.

Now that we’re clear on that, let’s look at this new colourful graph I’ve thrown in today… the one on the bottomright. You’ll notice it has three convex lines, a thicker blue one that’s a bit of both, and only one concave one – the thick red Canada line.

Much like the Canada line that runs from downtown to the airport, this one also took a while… and was expensive in its own way… but well worth it in the long run.

This particular Canada line tells a few interesting stories. The first thing that pops out is how ridiculously steep it is in recent months, compared to the others. That’s what happens with a lot of pent-up demand; in fact, you have to wonder if the fact it took so long to hit 5th-gear with our rollout is now contributing to its continuing momentum. Would we have wanted it so badly if it were so easy to get…? Brilliant psychological trick, if that’s what they pulled on us. Either way, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The best thing it indicates – exactly what the others don’t – is that we’ve not yet reached the end of the “low-hanging fruit”. We’re still injecting as much of the stuff as is made available, but let’s not fool ourselves; we’re going to plateau at some point, and we will start to look like that thick blue American line… concave to start as demand outweighed supply… followed by that flattening… which is also evident in the three other countries I threw in there; Israel, the UK and Chile. Those three were the world leaders in vaccinations… but once the fanfare wore off and the low-hanging fruit was picked… now it gets more difficult. In the last two months, we’ve gone from 14% to 59%. Israel has gone from 61% to 63%. It’s not difficult to see where the momentum is. Those three countries have entered the post-low-hanging-fruit phase and are entering the vaccine-hesitant phase.

To be clear, nobody is getting to 100%… even here. There’s a solid 10% to 15% of ardent anti-vaxxers in Canada who’d rather get Covid-19 than admit they’re wrong, and nothing will change their mind… so forget about them. That number is higher in other places, and inter-mingles with the vaccine hesitant crowd. Looking at that graph, you’d have to assume a global number of around 65% “yes for sure” vs a sliding scale of 35% that ranges from “yeah, soon, eventually, I will probably…” to “never”.

While it’s impossible to know exactly who any of these lines will eventually shape out, there’s no doubt that Canada will go crashing into first place if current trends continue. Assuming the vast majority of people who get that first does eventually get the second one as well, while it took us a while to get there, we may end up in better shape than anyone else. Doesn’t matter through which sort of lens you use to look at that – convex/concave… whatever… it’s looking good.

May 18, 2021

There are plenty of different racing styles when it comes to horses, but as the far extremes go, it’s like this:

On one ends of the spectrum are horses that have only one gear… the “GO” gear. Most jockeys are unable to control these horses’ pace, so there’s no sense in trying; it only frustrates the horse… and uses up their energy anyway. So… they let the horse floor it, and the horse sprints to the front… and you hope there’s enough gas in the tank (ie. stamina) to hold that lead to the end.

On the far other end of the spectrum are horses who are in no hurry. They’ll start slow, sit dead last, and at some point, hopefully, find another gear or three to make a late run for it.

The latter ones are the most nerve-wracking… whether you own/train/groom the horse… or just bet a few bucks on it, seeing it dead last by half a mile is never a relaxing experience. I can think of many examples of horses coming from out of nowhere, but perhaps the best example is the 2009 Kentucky Derby; that’s worth a look on YouTube if you’ve never seen it. The winner, Mine That Bird, a 50-1 longshot, was so far out of it, you can barely see him in most of the video. At one point, the announcer loses track of the fact that there’s yet another horse behind the one he thought was last. What happens next is quite remarkable. Look for the #8 horse with the pink saddle cloth.

Similarly, Canada, in the horse race of vaccination, was a good 40 lengths behind the leaders, taking its time while everyone sprinted off towards the finish line. But recently, Canada, like Mine That Bird at the quarter pole, managed to find a gear nobody was expecting.

In the next day or two, as per the numbers and pictures below, Canada will have, per capita, more first injections into people than the U.S… and we’re blowing by other countries at the same pace Mine That Bird reeled-in his competition.

Recently, Canada, on a daily basis, is averaging vaccinating around 0.9% of its population. The U.S. never really got above 0.7%, and now they’re averaging around 0.2%… and today, they barely managed 0.1%. It’s like one horse, in top gear, screaming down the lane… and the other one, out of gas, easing back… out of contention. Up ahead, the jockey on Canada (I guess that’s all of us, collectively) can see some other front-runners starting to tire… Chile, Hungary, the U.K. We’re going to pass them all.

That being said, a win here is not finishing ahead of anyone; a win here is everyone hitting the line together, sooner than later… and there are two issues that conspire to prevent that: supply and demand, often at odds with each other.

In Canada, we have lots of both, and the politicians weren’t lying; the infrastructure to deliver everything we can get our hands on is in place, and it’s working very well. We’re taking full advantage of it. Until recently, I thought my 17-year-old daughter wouldn’t be vaccinated for another few months. It’ll actually be in another few… hours.

How long will this momentum last? When you assume infinite supply, it all comes down to demand… and that’s the wall the U.S. has hit. Everyone who wants a vaccine has had every opportunity to get one, so now it’s a trickle of people, not the full-on stampede we’re experiencing here.

The real win, for any particular country, province, state, region, whatever… is to surpass the threshold of herd immunity. The U.S., by virtue of vaccinations alone, will not get there. At least 25% of Americans have flatly stated they refuse to be vaccinated. Unless they change their mind, their theoretical best-case scenario is 75%.

Will Canada? It remains to be seen. Our “No way I’m getting vaccinated!!” number is 9%… while 88% of Canadians have said they will or already have. If we don’t “run out of horse”, at the current pace, we’ll be hitting that threshold by mid-June. In fact, at the current pace, we’d theoretically hit 100% by mid-July.

It’ll be interesting to see at what point that line flattens out. Anything north of 80% would be huge… and I wouldn’t bet on it exceeding 85%… but then again, I didn’t bet on Mine That Bird either, so who knows; once in a while, those long-shots pay off… and if this particular horse comes in, it doesn’t matter who you bet on… we all win.

May 5, 2021

Yogi Berra was hall-of-fame baseball player with numerous World Series wins and All-Star honours… but he’s just as well-known for some great sayings. One of his most famous Yogisms: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Indeed, there seem to be a repeating cycle around the world; different places and at different times, but it’s the same pattern:

1. Things get bad
2. Restrictions are imposed
3. Things get better
4. Restrictions are lifted too soon
5. Go back to 1

But now there are entries that fit in-between all of those lines…

1.5 vaccines
2.5 vaccines
3.5 vaccines
4.5 vaccines

What effect do they have? Well… there’s some good/bad déjà vu there too. Chile and Israel are among two of the better vaccinated places on earth, but headed in diametrically opposite directions. In both cases, feeling the invincibility of vaccines, they opened things up and things got careless. One of those countries has figured it out; the other, not so much.

Add to this whole thing… the Seychelle Islands… where, per capita, it’s the most vaccinated nation on earth. But they’re seeing a surge in cases, and are now having to impose restrictions… again. Two weeks of no school and cancelled sporting events.

The Seychelles have a population close to 100,000. More than 60% are fully vaccinated. The problem is that they rely almost entirely on tourism, and, rest assured, 60% of those incoming tourists are not vaccinated.

Here’s a rule that needs to be remembered with respect to herd immunity: Even if you achieve it, it needs to be maintained. You don’t just reach it and throw the doors open and forget everything it took to get there… or you will quickly find yourself back to square one.

Closer to home, our provincial neighbours to the east are in lockdown mode. Better late than never, but guess what would’ve helped avoid this in the first place… yeah, a little more patience would’ve helped.

All of that being said… vaccines. At the end of the of the day, vaccines work… and they work very well. In places where a little patience has helped them take hold properly, the numbers are very encouraging. In the U.K., where 52% of people have had at least one dose, cases are down 96% from the recent high in January. In Israel, where 60% of people have had at least one dose, new cases are down 99% and things are, indeed… relatively back to normal.

There’s a lot to learn from how these success stories did it… as Yogi once said, “You can observe a lot by watching.”

But, of course, there’s the most famous thing Yogi Berra ever said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

April 19, 2021

The “Presidency” of Augusto Pinochet in Chile lasted until early 1990. But you can’t really call him a President, because the Republic of Chile never actually democratically elected him into power.

So… in other words, when I was living there in 1987/1988, life under a military dictatorship was in full swing. It meant that a lot of the civil liberties we take for granted here in Canada simply didn’t exist. But other things, that we do take for granted *not* to exist… did. Such as… checkpoints.

Whenever you run into a checkpoint here… 99.9% of the time it’s to sniff out DUIs. The checkpoints are strategically placed so that if you find yourself heading into one, there’s no escape. Just over the hill on the Granville St. bridge, southbound – heading out of downtown on a Saturday night – is a good example.

And as you approach it, you will feel one of two things. If you’ve been drinking, dread. Fear. A complete freakout. And now you get to pay the steep price for making the poor decisions that put you in this situation.

Or, you haven’t been drinking, and you feel a mix of relief and indignation. Relief that you get to have a brief and friendly chat with the cop before you’re on your merry way… and a bit of indignation. How *dare* they stomp on my civil rights. Who do they think they are. I should be free to drive wherever I want. This is a free country. I should be able to do whatever I want.

We’ve been hearing a lot of those sentences recently, in a very different context… but these two different contexts will be merging a bit on the near future, much to the horror of civil libertarians.

Living under a military dictatorship kept you on edge. Every single time I went through one of those checkpoints… and, might I add, they not only popped-up unexpectedly, but many were semi-permanent. Imagine a checkpoint in the middle of the Lion’s Gate Bridge. In both directions… License and registration and insurance, please. Why isn’t this car in your name. Why are you going downtown. Who do you know on the north shore. How often do you travel this route.

That would be a permanent checkpoint… a little hut in the middle of the bridge, manned by a solider 24/7. Except it wasn’t 24/7… just to mess with you, sometimes the hut was empty and you could just go through. Just to mess you with and keep you on edge.

But usually, it was manned… so, you’d jump through the hoops; you let them execute their little power trip, you acquiesce to their bullshit. And unless you’re actually up to no good, you’re unlikely to have a problem. I was asked a lot of stupid questions… “Where’d you get that car radio?” “Canada? Is that one of those little states way up north?” but it was never more than a few questions before “Have a nice day”.

I’ve been back to Chile many times post-1990, and all of those checkpoints are gone… but the little huts are still there. And I drive by them now and think… what was the point of that. Seriously, what was the point.

Well, the point was that they wanted to keep you in fear. They wanted to constantly remind you… don’t forget who’s in charge. We control you. Don’t, for a minute, think you’re free.

It took a radical change in government to get rid of that but, rest assured, the right-wing military junta of Augusto Pinochet had zero in common with today’s NDP government of John Horgan… something to remember when people start screaming about today’s announcements… that for several weeks, travel restrictions… where you simply shouldn’t leave your local area. And you may run into a checkpoint. It’s temporary and it makes sense, but, oh boy… here comes the screaming and yelling from the freedom/liberty crowd.

I don’t expect to get pulled over at any checkpoint because I don’t expect to be transiting from home any time soon… but in a warped way, I’d look forward to it… because I wouldn’t be able to not compare it to my experiences from 30 years ago… the difference between slowly pulling up to a young, potentially itchy-trigger-fingered solider armed with a loaded semi-automatic weapon… and some VPD or RCMP cop whose only job in this context is to try to keep people safe. I’d look at today’s checkpoint and realize that the cop is on my side, that this is temporary, that this is necessary… and resign myself to the fact that we put ourselves in this situation.

It’s more serious than many people realize, but that’s counteracted by the measures already in place which *are* having a positive effect… and warmer weather, and vaccines. The outcome of this collision course is approaching… do we go the Israel route or the Ontario route in the near future?

Well, let’s look at the Chile route. Way ahead on vaccinations, and fully locked up… because they took that freedom and abused the hell out of it and things went from being under control to totally messed up. That’s what can happen. That’s what might happen here if strict and sudden measures weren’t put in place. So ironic that checkpoints in Chile might have prevented their full-on lockdown.

Around here… may I say… temporary. Can I repeat… temporary. As in – what we need to do today, so that we don’t all have to be doing this forever. I’m pretty sure we can do this for just a few short weeks.

I sure hope so. Otherwise, it won’t be short and it won’t be weeks.

April 15, 2021

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.

April 1, 2021

There is fire and there is ice. Fire might be ignoring this virus entirely, and watching an entire society, its economy and its people, crash and burn. Ice, on the other hand, would be freezing everything… cold, hard lockdowns until the virus is extinguished, for as long as it takes. Several months at least. And extinguished along with it, the entire economy… of now healthy — but starving and broke — people.

Neither is a palatable alternative, so we’re stuck navigating a mix of the two… an endless ocean of lukewarm water… where we float around with no destination in sight, hoping to eventually find a shore where we can disembark from this brutal journey.

That being said, actions aside, the *messaging* can’t be lukewarm. It can’t get a little warmer or a little colder. It needs to be decisive, and, around here, it’s not. The result of it is irresponsible parties in Big White… and Whistler… and Surrey weddings… and Yaletown Penthouses. The list goes on.

The lukewarm messaging, along with the lukewarm weather and the lukewarm vaccine rollout has led to this lukewarm attitude… and it’s not good.

I haven’t talked about Chile in a while, so here’s an update: They are the most vaccinated country in the Americas. Their one-jab percentage is 36% (The U.S. is 30%; we’re at 14%). Awesome, right? They must all be out in the streets, partying it up, having a great time, right? Yeah… no. They are, as of today, on a full-on lockdown. Like, full-on… for two weeks.

How did that happen? Many reasons, but a lukewarm attitude to following restrictions is a big part of it. Easing here, easing there. For a while, things were bad. Then they locked it down hard. Then things got better… then they started easing restrictions… then they started making exceptions. The following people are allowed out… caregivers, pharmacy visitors, cab drivers… whatever… the list slowly grew till fully some 5 million people out of the population of 19 million were legally out and about, ostensibly during a lockdown. Not a big deal, because that was when vaccinations were ramping up, and the variants hadn’t arrived. And suddenly, very quickly, with everyone already living like things were back to normal, it’s all gone to hell.

While it’s possible this level of vaccination and nonchalance might have kept up with the original virus, it’s no match for the far-more contagious variants. Accordingly, 5 steps forward has led to 10 steps back. New cases have risen dramatically, and hospitals are near capacity. ICUs are overflowing… and so are the morgues. There can’t be a worse indicator than when the emergency overflow morgues start showing up.

I’ll be honest… I’m not impressed with our lukewarm provincial messaging. Things are kind of good one day, not so good other days. Wishy and washy. Ninety percent of Covid fines are unpaid and, given what we’ve seen with respect to organization around all of this, unlikely to ever be collected. And they are insignificant slaps on the wrist anyway, considering the potential implications. It bothers me greatly that people behave that way, and it bothers me that many do so because they’re just following an example they see all around them. Please don’t do this; please don’t do that. It’s perhaps the biggest downside of being a Canadian during all of this; our inherent politeness doesn’t seem able to impose a degree of harshness that’s truly needed. Give me fire or give me ice. We’re not getting anywhere anytime soon, floating around aimlessly in this vastness of lukewarm water.

But there is some good news… my mom got vaccinated today!

March 13, 2021

There’s a lot to be said with meeting someone in person, looking them in the eye, giving them a firm handshake and knowing that you’re not leaving the room till you get what you want. Obviously, a lot more can be achieved in person than online.

As introverted as I may be, I miss those in-person meetings… in the same way I miss being able to properly hang up a phone. A real phone. At the end of an unpleasant conversation, there was nothing more satisfying than slamming the receiver down onto the cradle. Those Bell phones were made of nuclear-war-resilient plastic. Unbreakable. My uncle in Chile a few times lost his temper on whatever was on the other side of the call and flung his phone out of a second-story office window. The cord ripped away, but the phones always survived. Clicking the [Leave Meeting] on Zoom angrily is a far cry indeed.

Speaking of Chile and doing business, specifically the sort of business that has them pretty close to the top of the list of vaccinations… perhaps my post a few days ago seemed to allude to the fact that perhaps there was some sort of funny business that may have occurred when those Chileans flew out for those in-person meetings and got those vaccine agreements. A little nudge, a little bribe, a little kick-back. I didn’t mean to imply that; I meant to state it unequivocally. Of course that’s what happened. I don’t have any proof of it, of course, and what does it matter… it’s just my opinion. But I also understand what greases the wheels… what gets slow-moving government bureaucracy going in a hurry. What jumps the queue. What gets it done.

My first experience with government corruption occurred when I was quite young… 12 or 13. I had a friend who lived nearby, and his dad put up a basketball hoop in the back lane, hung up over the garage door. The lane was flat and paved… and it was great. We were out there for hours the first week… playing one-on-one and every variation of P-I-G and H-O-R-S-E you can imagine. One day, the neighbour’s wife came out to see what was causing all this racket. The next day, her husband came out to have a look… watched us play a bit… didn’t say much, just went back inside. Oh, did I mention that guy was an Alderman for the city of Vancouver?

Two days later, when we got there after school, there were two freshly-laid speed bumps in the lane, perfectly placed and wide enough to completely destroy our basketball court. It still smelled of freshly-poured tar. Not a single other speed bump in any back lane for 10 blocks around. And not like there were ever any speeding cars there to begin with. What the hell. Is this how things work?

Needless to say, we weren’t happy. Our version of petty revenge lasted years. That guy ran in two subsequent elections, and every time an election sign (with his name, of course) popped up in front of his house, we’d replace it with three different ones from various opposition parties. We’d have to venture deep into East Van in the middle of the night to collect all of the colourful alternatives. Totally worth it.

Ok, where was I… yeah, governments. I think it’s no big surprise to learn that there’s corruption at every level. Screwing up a couple of kids’ fun just because you don’t like the sound of a basketball is a small example. Bribing officials, peddling influence, making big promises, forgiving crimes, throwing huge money at certain people and, ultimately, lying… were things Abraham Lincoln did to push through his Emancipation Proclamation and ban slavery in the U.S.

Ah, didn’t see that coming, did you… yes, indeed… sometimes, that corruption is for the greater good… and for those crimes that today would’ve gotten Lincoln jailed for life, he’s instead considered the greatest president in history. Quite a fine line, isn’t it. I don’t know what those Chileans did, and I don’t care, and certainly, the well-vaccinated populace of Chile doesn’t care either.

If you want to argue that Canada should be above that sort of thing, name me a Prime Minister and we can discuss his corruption scandal. Chretien’s helicopters, Mulroney’s Airbuses, Trudeau’s SNC-Lavalin. Closer to home, Glen Clark’s deck/casino, Harcourt’s BingoGate and Vander Zalm’s Fantasy Gardens.

Government corruption has been around forever, and it’s never going away. At the very least, they could put it to use for the greater good… not just individual gain.

Lincoln? Awesome. Chile? Same. The rest of my examples? Brutal.

20 Likes, 3 Shares

March 12, 2021

Our last dose of local numbers until Monday, and, as usual, they tell a mixed message… hospitalizations up by 11, ICU cases down by 1. Case numbers rose by 648, the largest one-day jump since Janurary 7th. But also, nobody died of C19 in the last 24 hours… which hasn’t happened since November 5th. As per yesterday’s post, it depends how you look at it. You’ll find disagreement with respect to what it means.

On the other hand, it’s rare for Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, the NDP… pretty much everyone… to all agree on something… but there’s a topic that keeps coming up twice a year, and I have never heard anyone speak in favour of it. Everyone is opposed to it, yet it’s still around… and all of the aforementioned have the power to once and for all to deal with it, but for some reason simply haven’t.

Wouldn’t we all be a lot better off without the constant, biannual Daylight Savings nonsense? Pick one or the other and just leave it there… and by the way, the right answer is to leave it ON – when we move our clocks forward tomorrow, that is the setting they should stay on… forever.

Are you getting up at 4:30am to spread manure on the fields? Me neither. What a load of crap. But what’s ironic is that, unlike what we’ve all been hearing forever, it was not the farmers that wanted DST… they initially opposed it. Saskatchewan is effectively all farms, and they’ve never been a part of this nonsense.

DST was created during WWI as an effort to conserve fuel. In fact, it was the Germans who came up with it… and much of the world involved in WWI went along with it, the U.S. and Canada included. And although most of North America and Europe still does the clock flipping, the rest of the world has abandoned it… or never did it in the first place.

Studies have repeatedly shown that when you stop screwing around with the clocks twice a year, there are reductions in crime, depression, childhood obesity, energy consumption and car accidents. Economic activity goes up… and, might I suggest, the next 6 months will be wonderful with the extra hour of afternoon sunshine… but, after that, just in time for Winter comes the flip back, and 5pm darkness… wouldn’t every single economy benefit from that one extra hour? No more flipping back. Nobody is getting up early to go have breakfast on a patio somewhere at 6:30am… but all the pubs and restaurants would love an extra hour of “afternoon/evening crowd.”

Like I said, nobody likes DST. The issue seems to be that unless everyone decides this in unison, it’s problematic. I take it for granted that L.A. is the same time as us, and that Toronto and New York are three hours ahead. I don’t ever want to have to devote a single brain cell to that calculation. It’s already annoying enough for places that flip the opposite direction, and now, at different times. Sometimes Chile is 3 hours ahead… sometimes they’re 5 hours ahead. On paper, they’re supposed to be 4 hours ahead but it’s rarely the case because both places are haphazardly moving their clocks back and forth.

Enough already. It’s time for a change. Or not, I guess.

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March 10, 2021

There’s a lot to learn from looking at the list of countries who managed to secure significant doses of vaccine early in the game, because it begs a lot of questions. Why are they doing so well? Where did they get it from? Why did they get it and not us?

Starting at the top of the list and sorting by Doses… either by “population percentage with at least one dose” or simply “doses per 100 people” – the results are pretty much the same. There, it makes sense to remove the “big” names because the answer is obvious… those that are making the vaccines are using it for themselves as much as they can. The U.S., the U.K, China, Russia. Also remove from there places whose numbers are skewed because of low populations. The Maldives, the Seychelles… tiny populations, mostly vaccinated.

The top of the list now is of course Israel, who was on top of the list before anyone else was removed. They have a population of 9,000,000. They’ve administered 9,000,000 doses. They’re not all first doses, but most are. I saw a picture of a café in Tel Aviv yesterday… and outdoor patio, crowded, no masks, people having a blast. We’ll be there one day… but they’re there now.

How did Israel do it? A pretty sweet deal with Pfizer – one that worked out well for everyone. Lots of data, lots of healthy people. There are plenty of articles to read about how it all came about.

But who’s next on the list now? A terrific outlier to study, as far as I’m concerned.

Chile… and I’m interested because I was born there. Because I have friends and family there. Because I used to travel down there on an almost annual basis, and I know how things work; I know more about doing business with Chile than anyone would ever want to know… which led me to ask the relevant question… who’d they hustle and how’d they do it? Their population is about half of Canada. 22% of those people have had at least one dose. We’re at 5%.

May of 2020 was a bad month down there… 100,000 new infections and almost 1,000 deaths. That’s when they began taking their vaccine plan seriously. Their ministry of health set up meetings with 11 labs around the world, a number that went down to 5 as talks progressed. Internally, it was agreed that when the health regulators of those jurisdictions approved those vaccines, they’d be auto-approved in Chile. To lock in those supplies, meetings were scheduled *in person*. The Chileans flew out to numerous places, including Abu Dabi and the UAE, principal operational hubs for Pfizer and BioNTech. And this is where the Chilean way of business kicked in. I wasn’t in those rooms, but what I know is that those Chileans did not leave without firm deals to receive vaccine; letters of intent, confidentiality agreements… and, probably, agreements not so different from Israel – yes, for sure, we’ll give you the data… we’ll red-line vaccinations… whatever you need… just get us the stuff, AND, if *you* don’t comply with your end of it, there will be hell to pay, as enforced by whatever international laws apply.

I’m speculating a bit and drawing on my knowledge on how things work, and what sort of leverage (the only sort that could possibly be applied) might have worked… because it ultimately worked, and worked well. Very early in the game, Chile was already ahead. By September of last year, Chile was setting up clinical trials for Sinovac and Janssen. Some 3,000 Chileans happily volunteered between October and November. And, for doing so, Chile locked in a $14/dose cost of vaccine and top of the delivery schedule. Chile stuck to their end of it, and the manufacturers have stuck to theirs. Win-win.

Around here, we’re paying $35/dose, when we can get it. Yes, I know – we’ve all read the same news – we will get it all in due course, and just because we keep getting dropped down the list it doesn’t mean anything. Patience, etc. By the time our anger and head-shaking subsides, the pandemic will be over and we’ll have moved on and nobody will care. But allow me to put it in writing; our government let us down. Good intentions are not good enough. Intention to have enough vaccine in a timely manner. Intention to have an infrastructure for booking appointments. Getting up in front a podium and TV cameras isn’t worth anything if you don’t deliver. Nobody is interested in finger pointing and lame excuses, especially how it’s “out of our control”. Your job as our leaders is to find a way to put it into *your* control. Our control. Many governments around the world, with far less resources at their disposal, managed to navigate this process far better.

Ultimately, I’m familiar with the Canadian way of doing business too. The 300,000,000 doses we’ve procured – in the same way Seinfeld “procured” a car reservation in that famous episode – was done with lots of emails, phone calls, Zoom meetings. Whiteboards and PowerPoints. Lawyers and contracts and back-and-forth mark-ups, with nothing in there that could incur any liability. And with nothing to offer in return, very little teeth in those agreements. How can we be sure they’ll hold up their end? It doesn’t matter… and don’t worry about it because with all the “best efforts” language in there, we have zero recourse anyway. Let’s just hope for the best.

Chile started at the finish line. They simply asked, “What is the fastest way to get vaccines into the arms of our population?”… and assigned a group of intelligent resourceful people to just get it done. And they did. Pisco Sours all around. Salúd.

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March 6, 2021

Unrelated to everything… although relevant in that people have opinions they like to share… comes this, from a story that made waves a few years ago…

When you mention Nestlé around here, it’s like mentioning the Satan of corporate greed. These miserable people come in here, steal our water, and then sell it back to us for criminally high prices. It’s outrageous, it’s unacceptable, our government sold us out for next to nothing, somebody do something.

We, here in B.C., are blessed with some of the most bountiful and freshest water on the planet. We completely take it for granted, and only occasionally feel the pain when our water needs to be shut off for the day for repairs. Oh, the humanity, how will we survive. We are so, so lucky.

For centuries, people have been bottling fresh water and taking it to places where it’s needed. There are places in the world where you simply can’t drink the tap water, and you come to depend on it. Sidenote, when I lived in Northern Chile in 1987/1988, water was the equivalent of $3 a bottle, while beer was about 25 cents. I spent a lot of time pretty buzzed… because that water was totally undrinkable. The water was so loaded with calcite that if you didn’t dry it off after washing your hands, you’d quickly find them coated in chalk. The water was sticky and gross – and that was when you could get some actual water pressure.

Around here, there’s nothing wrong with the tap water. Far from it. It boggles the mind that people literally fill up bottles from our tap water, and then sell it back to us… and we buy it, like it’s magically better for some reason. It’s not. A cheap home filter will give you the same quality. An expensive home filter will give you much better quality, but most people don’t actually need it. Not around here. We have amazing fresh water, and more than we know what to do with. Accordingly, forever, the policy has been “take as much as you want” – so long as you don’t pollute the environment. Businesses have been parked on the banks of the Fraser for decades.

One day, a few decades ago, Nestlé showed up and set up shop, taking some of that Fraser River water and bottling it. No one said much, because nobody knew and or cared.

The government, at some point, did care. These guys are taking our water for free and then making a commercial enterprise out of it. Shouldn’t they be paying at least something for it? Maybe they should.

The government approached Nestlé and said, hey, maybe you should be paying for this water. Nestlé said sure, how much? We’re not sure, said the government… we’re going to study it and get back to you. Sounds good, said Nestlé.

Then the government figured out it’d cost a lot of money to study this issue… who’s using water, how much of it, how much should we charge, how much can we charge, how to we meter it, how do we control it, who’s going to manage it… and so on. It’s complex. The government figured it’d cost close to $10,000,000 to study it properly, and came up with the genius idea to get some of these commercial enterprises to pay for it.

Hey Nestlé… how about you pay for this study? Sure, said Nestlé.

OK, said the government… here’s how we’ll do it. We want ten million dollars… you guys pull out a zillion gallons of water a year, and we will charge you enough cents per zillion that we can get our money… and once we’ve figured it out, we will charge more, but this is a good start. Sure, said Nestlé.

And that is where Nestlé, who had been paying zero for the water, now began paying a nominal amount for their water. And when that tidbit of info hit the newswire, the shit hit the fan. Because the story that got told was very simple; the government just sold us ut. How can the government let them steal our water for fractions of a penny per litre… and then sell it back to us for 10,000x the cost. They should be charged $1 a litre! $2 a litre! $10 a litre! They should all be arrested and thrown in jail!!! Our poor precious water!!!

Do you know how much water Nestlé pulls out of the river? If you could dam the river for a certain period of time, how long would it take to accumulate all the water that Nestlé takes in a year? A month… no… of course not. A week? A day? OK, a day… that’s still a lot, sort of. Except it’s not a day. It’s not even an hour. It’s less time than it’s taken you to read this far. In seventy-two seconds, Nestlé takes their annual haul of Fraser River water… because, unfortunately, as priceless as our crisp, clear, pristine drinking water is, 99.99999% of it flows into the Pacific Ocean. It’d be nice to be able to tap into a lot more than that, but the infrastructure isn’t there.

I’m not sure what the status is of these water studies, nor what the plan is to bill industries that rely on it. It’s come to light that any meaningful increase in industrial water cost would cause big problems for some of those businesses who count on super-cheap (if not free) water. Like I said, it’s complicated.

If there’s any aspect of this that relates to the pandemic, it’s the part where well-spoken agendas, as one-sided as they may be, sometimes fill the echo chamber at the expense of a balanced opinion. There’s often more to the story.

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