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
Food, water, oxygen. Those three things have something in common… which is, none of them are a big deal… until you don’t have access to them. Then, depending on how much time has elapsed, they all become a big deal. That is how it is with things we take for granted.
In the case of these three things, roughly speaking, three minutes without oxygen will kill you. Three days without water might too… and the same goes for three weeks without food.
These things we take for granted… we should think about more often than once a year… certainly, on the tail-end of this three-day (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend, pandemic notwithstanding, we really have a lot for which to be grateful.
Most people reading this are living in a country that is most certainly (as it is ranked, year after year) in the top-three in the world with respect to quality of life. And of the cities in this great country, let’s agree Vancouver easily hits that top-three list as well.
There’s no deep political message today; I guess I could write about the original Thanksgiving, and its ultimate implications. Certainly, the associated Columbus Day (which is today in the U.S.) requires a deep look and an intensive re-write, a process already in the works.
But let’s keep it simple… the sentiment of being grateful for what you have; that’s word-wide and eternal. If you’re sitting around a table doing the turkey thing tonight, or did it yesterday, or even if you don’t do it at all, it’s at least a good day to ask someone (and yourself) – name three things for which you’re grateful.
I always have a tough time answering that question. Not because I can’t think of anything, but because I have too many things I’d equally rank and can’t decide what to prioritize. It’s a dilemma I identify as “a good problem to have”. And if you’re reading this, you automatically share in that part of the same problem/dilemma. As bad as things may seem these days, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
We have plenty to appreciate. We have plenty to acknowledge. And we have plenty to celebrate. With that in mind, I think I’ll go have a slice of pumpkin pie. Maybe two. Actually, given all of the above… yes… three it is. However you choose to celebrate it — Happy Thanksgiving!
I should take a step back writing about Donald Trump. I’d been planning to watch the debate and then comment on it, but of course, there was no debate. There was a schoolyard bully, flailing around aimlessly, aggressively, disgustingly and frighteningly. I know the majority of people reading this were as horrified as I was, watching that shitshow… and for those who think otherwise… well, there’s really nothing I can tell you. In talking about Trump, I’m either preaching to the choir or talking to a brick wall. Either way, to a great extent, I’m wasting my time discussing it. All I can say is that if you still support that deplorable, awful excuse of a president, there’s nothing anyone can say that will change your mind. Therefore, I will leave it at that, with one final point:
I’ve said before I don’t watch a lot of TV – not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have time. I’d binge watch 12 hours a day for a few weeks, given the opportunity. My “to watch” list grows a lot faster than I can get through it.
As a result, at the moment, I’m a few years behind… and watching the second season of the excellent adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale”.
It’s very good… and very relevant. It deals with a dystopian future, where the first season’s episodes flash forwards and backwards – dystopian future/normal past… but, unlike most SciFi of that genre, the dystopia is not in the distant future; rather, it’s probably no more than 5 years apart… and it all takes place “now”… it could be 2005 to 2010 or it could be 2018 to 2023.
A lot has changed in those 5 years, and the differences are made clear in the first season. But now, in the second season, it’s starting to fill in the blanks… how exactly do we go from a normal society, to a messed-up fascist military occupation based on religious zealotry?
It doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t take long. It’s frightening to see the fiction of the show and compare it to the realities of the U.S. today. While it might sound a little alarmist, if things really derail, it will be impossible for anyone to actually say, “Jeez… didn’t see that coming.” All of the signs are there… signs that history has seen time and time again.
Let me assure you, when the president is doing the wink-wink-nudge-nudge to a group of neo-nazi white supremacists who’ve waited all their lives to unleash their violent hatred… well, unfortunately, anything is possible. And he’s so arrogant, so flagrant, so unapologetically offensive – because he knows he can get away with it. Because it empowers him. Because that’s the kind of person he is, and because it’s what his unshakable core of people want to hear.
The real question looming on the horizon for that potentially-soon-to-be-formerly-great country is pretty simple, and it will be answered on election day… just exactly how many people out there want to see it all crash and burn? Hopefully, the quieter majority (who most definitely do not)… will finally stand up and do something about it.
For the moment, the U.S. is still a democracy, one that many people lost their lives creating and defending. To see it slip away, especially like this, would be unforgivable.
I spent a wonderful, relaxing day yesterday (once again, thank you for all the good wishes) – soaking in the good weather, and feeling deeply appreciative of many things. Certainly, a big part of that is having the privilege to ride out this pandemic here in Canada. The colossal difference that thin line running along the 49th parallel makes; it has never been more evident.
I am, in all sincerity, hoping The United States of America can hold it together. So much has already been written about the GOP’s hypocrisy with respect to the Supreme Court; how they’ve done a clean (actually, couldn’t be dirtier) 180 with respect to filling a vacancy during an election year. They denied Obama the opportunity in 2016, but they will jam down everyone’s throat their candidate in a matter of months. And all of it, both 4 years ago and today, beautifully described and justified in a gleaming, shiny steaming coat of bullshit.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a card-carrying Marxist or a fanatic right-wing fascist. Most people are neither, and find themselves in the moderate in-between. But all of you should be horrified at how your country, you know – the one with life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness – is being ripped away from you… a process that started years ago but really caught its footing in the last four. It began to quickly accelerate right around the time the president figured out he could just make it all up as he goes along, jam “truth” down people’s throats, and make them swallow it, either by persistently sticking to it, or by just ignoring the backlash and moving on to the next thing… all the while being cheered by his adoring crowd.
Accountability is at an all-time low, scraping along the bottom of credibility. If anyone is deserving of a dying wish – after all she did, to benefit the greater good – it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And her dying wish was to not be replaced before the next election. It’s more than unfortunate that she won’t be granted that. On the flipside, voter registration surged after her passing. Perhaps enough people are realizing that unless they do something, it’ll get done to them… and it won’t be pretty. But to flip it back again, Donald Trump has made it very clear he won’t accept the election result if he loses. He’s vowed to fight it to the Supreme Court. You know, the one whose balance of power he’ll have installed a few days earlier. The answer to the question, “Could it get any uglier?” is no. No, it couldn’t.
Add to that volatile mix this morning’s announcement with respect to Breonna Taylor. After 6 months of wondering what would happen to the three police officers who shot an innocent woman to death while she slept, we have an answer. For two of them, nothing. For one of them, two charges for negligently discharging a weapon. And, to be specific, discharging it into a neighbouring apartment. With respect to what happened in Breonna Taylor’s apartment, nothing. Zero accountability. I’m sure by the time I post this, the rioting will already have begun. There’s only so much gleaming, shiny steaming bullshit people can take.
Dr. Henry’s “back to school” ad rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and I was one of them. It painted a completely unrealistic picture of what classrooms would look like. As any student or teacher or parent (of either of those) will tell you, most classrooms have more than 6 kids and most classrooms don’t have a sink for convenient and frequent handwashing. The explanation given was that it was simply a setting for Dr. Henry to be explaining things to a group of kids; it didn’t necessarily represent the norm. They could’ve shot that ad outside or in a gym or in a playground or wherever, but they chose to talk about classrooms… in a classroom – but a classroom that doesn’t actually look like what classrooms will look like. Hmm.
When I was in school, the most frequent thing from teachers was “Settle down” or “Be quiet”. Until recently, it was “Get off your phone”. These days, all of that has been replaced with “Put on your mask”.
Seeing some of the pictures my kids are sending from school (both are in high school), it seems one thing hasn’t changed; a lot of kids aren’t great listeners and will do whatever they want.
In another sort of horse race that nobody wants to win, the province of Alberta has recorded more than 100 school outbreaks, and they’re growing quickly. B.C. is presently at around 20. For comparison, as of a few days ago, Ontario had seen around 90 school outbreaks… and Quebec, around 270.
Interestingly, a few minutes after I signed and submitted some forms promising to keep an eye out for symptoms in the kids before sending them off to school, the B.C. Ministry of Health removed more than half the symptoms, among them sore throat and runny/stuffy nose. To be clear, the directive is this: IF you are a kid and IF you have only that symptom… sore throat and/or runny/stuffy nose – chances are, you’re ok.
I get it, and I don’t get it. It’s a tough situation. As anyone who has kids (or has ever been a kid) knows, every single kid at some point between now and March will have a sore throat and/or runny/stuffy nose. All of them. And, for the vast majority of them, it will not be C19. They certainly never were in the past. Yet, almost certainly, some will slip through the cracks and there will be outbreaks. And then what? I guess we’ll find out. And it’s not an “if”; it’s a “when”.
Speaking of “not if but when…”, our numbers aren’t looking great. Not just here, but AB, ON and QC as well. Looking at these little graphs, it’s pretty evident. Those 7-day moving averages, from across the country, are not encouraging. I’m not saying we’re beginning a second wave, but if we were starting one, this is exactly what it’d look like.
And a final “not if but when”… John Horgan just called a Provincial Election. Funny, I was recently having this discussion with someone, pondering whether an election would be called sooner than later. Although, purely (and only) for political reasons, it makes some sense now… I thought they’d hold off. Because, by the exact same token, the NDP is going to face an enormous backlash. People have far more to worry about in the next month than this… and the very tenuous balance-of-power held by the present government could end up swinging in a different direction.
Be prepared to hear a lot more about this… #infectionelection
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.”
September 11th has been a relevant date in my life for a lot longer than 19 years… a sentiment you’ll hear from every Chilean.
Yesterday, you heard my 2001 version… and I was just a little kid, but here’s the 1973 version… events which have some relevance to today.
A bit of history…
In 1964, Eduardo Frei was elected president of Chile. He was the head of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP), pretty comparable to today’s Canadian Liberals. He held power until the 1970 election, where it was expected that the CDP, who’d been running South America’s best economy, would be re-elected. Unfortunately for them… well, recall our provincial election of 1996 where Glen Clark and the NDP, with only 30-something percent of the popular vote, won the election — because the Reform Party managed to snag enough votes away from the Liberals to tilt things in that direction — the same thing happened in Chile, a split of the centrist/right-wing vote… except the beneficiary and winner of all that wasn’t a moderate/leftist NDP… it was a full-on Marxist socialist by the name of Salvador Allende.
Economically speaking, things for Chile did not go so well under Allende, and on 9/11, 1973, a CIA-backed coup, supported by the Chilean army, navy and police force… took over the country. Allende committed suicide in the midst of the presidential palace being bombed and overrun by the military. The constitution was suspended. The Republic of Chile, formerly a model democracy, was instantly transformed into a military dictatorship.
All of this was initially supported by the CDP, who expected once things settled down – perhaps a few months — there’d be a general election and things would get back to normal, right? Wrong.
One of military leaders, General Augusto Pinochet, decided he liked the view from the throne. Suddenly, he wasn’t General Pinochet… he was President Pinochet, and there he remained until 1990… and left only after he agreed to hold a plebiscite to let the people decide whether he should be allowed to stick around or not. They voted him out, but not before he embedded all sorts of immunity clauses into the new constitution to prevent new governments from coming after him for his numerous crimes, accumulated over his 17-year reign of terror. What’s the relevance here?
It’s a scenario that’s played out numerous times over history; a country is slipping backwards, the military steps in to restore order, ostensibly as a stop-gap measure until things settle down, and the country can go back to being what it’s supposed to be… except that fascist military dictatorships don’t just appear out of thin air. And, more importantly, they don't go away easily either.
Something for our neighbours to the south to consider, in the days ahead, and relating to what I wrote about yesterday… it’s far easier to break things than it is to fix them. It takes one day to break them. It takes decades to fix them. Given that Donald Trump contested an election he won, we can certainly expect, no matter what happens, that he won’t leave quietly. He’s already laying the groundwork for that.
Like Boris Yeltsin, standing on a tank… or George W. Bush, standing on a pile of rubble – the WTC remnants on 9/11 – at some point, Donald Trump will stand up… my guess would be on the newly-renovated White House Rose Garden… or maybe the hood of his Cadillac… and demand, “Who’s with me??”
And the correct answer should be…. <crickets>
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.
Did you know I have an intersection named after me? Don’t look for any official signage… it’s all very informal, but legendary in the history of my school to the extent that it still gets brought up… from an event that was decades ago.
The school, being right next to the UBC Endowment Lands, uses those trails in the forest extensively. Wander or bike those trails during school hours, and you will often run into a group of depressed Saints boys slogging through the muck. They’re beautiful trails, those that make up Pacific Spirit Park… but not when you’re forced to run them in freezing December rain.
On this particular day, in the Spring of 1983, there was some sort of cross-country race for the whole grade. Somehow, I’d managed to get out of running; in hindsight, as miserable as that might’ve been, it would’ve been preferable to what happened…
I was assigned the corner of 29th & Imperial as a spotter, to make sure cars were aware there was a race running by, and to be careful. So I made my way out there before the race, and just walked around, sat around, wasted some time.
If you’re not familiar with that particular intersection, it’s a hairpin turn… at the end of the straightaway of 29th Ave, as it turns into a beautiful short cut through the forest of Imperial Ave, all the way to 16th. If you’re approaching it from the east, it basically looks like you’re approaching a dead-end, but then there’s a sudden sharp turn to the right. If you’re approaching from Imperial, and you’re not expecting it… it goes from an uninterrupted, undivided forest road… to a sharp left turn, back to reality. The signage from both sides is supposed to slow you down to 20km/h. It’s that sharp.
On this particular day, Chevrolet was on campus at UBC, allowing students to take cars out for a test spin. This was long before L and N and whatever restrictions… got a license? Great, good to go.
Some guy at UBC packed his three closest friends into the little Chevy, flew down 16th, turned right on Imperial and kept the speed up… right up to that intersection. Police reports and skids marks and all that imply he hit the hairpin at 80km/h. He tried to make the left turn, but there was no way. He hit the concrete curb thing, flew over it – fully airborne briefly – before slamming head-on into a tree. What’s left of that tree, the dead stump, is still there.
Unfortunately for me, I happened to be sitting on that concrete curb thing… and looked up just in time to save my life, but not in time enough to avoid getting hit. I sprung up and dove to the right, but the car clipped me and sent me flying about 20 feet. I landed with a thud in the forest, and avoided going head-first into a huge boulder by less than a foot.
I wound up with two broken vertebrae and plenty of bruises and cuts… and, as it turns out, two broken back bones is better than just one, because it dissipated the force of me slamming into the ground. It otherwise might have been a broken spinal cord, and a whole different story. Or worse.
This all happened before the race. By the time the guys went running by, it was a full-on accident scene… cops, paramedics, a couple of ambulances. Nobody was hurt as badly as I was… still lying on the ground being tended to when all of grade 10 went running by… many of them looking curiously at the car embedded into the tree… and stopping abruptly when they saw me. I may have set the record for hearing the most “Hey, are you ok?” over the shortest period of time.
Anyway… yes, thanks… I’m ok. After several months of rehab and all that. Painful as hell at the time, but like the pain we’re all going through right now (see, there’s always a way to make it about the pandemic!), I made it through all of that ok…. as hopefully everyone reading this will as well… eventually.
And be sure to visit Kemeny Korner™ next time you're in the area!