July 1, 2021

The eclectic collection of friends and people and organizations I associate with has never been made more apparent than sifting through today’s emails. It’s officially Canada Day, of course, and I’m wishing you all a very happy holiday… in whatever way you wish to celebrate and/or recognize it – and of course, for many people, it’s no celebration at all… right up there with Columbus Day and all of its implications, as we all well-know from the emerging dreadful news that’s nowhere near subsiding.

I have emails yelling “Don’t let them take Canada Day away from us!!” and I have emails calmly explaining things, in great detail, from the point of view of many Indigenous Peoples from across the country, eloquently stating why there’s nothing at all to cheer.

The rest are somewhere in between – as am I.

But before I talk about Canada, let’s talk about Chile a bit – a country many of you possibly barely knew even existed nor cared about… but if you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ve seen that name pop up several times. And while I still have my little soap-box to stand upon for a few more days, here’s one last crack at it.

Here is a brief summary of Chile, the country where I was born and where I still have plenty of friends, family and business associates… a place that was one of the very few in the world accepting Jewish refugees during and after WWII. The boat that sailed west with the few members of my family who had enough foresight to get the hell out of Czechoslovakia in 1938 (among them my maternal grandparents) crossed the Atlantic Ocean and attempted to dock in numerous places, among them Halifax. This was during the reign of Canada’s 10th PM, William Lyon Mackenzie King… who, when asked how many Jewish refugees he thought Canada should admit, replied “None is too many”. The ship sailed south, but the U.S. wasn’t open to it either. The ship then crossed the Panama Canal and kept sailing south, now on the Pacific side… until finally Ecuador allowed everyone off the boat… provided they didn’t stay.

But Chile said, yeah… come on down… and welcomed numerous Jewish refugees with open arms. And these are not the sort of war-torn starving desert-dwelling-type refugees you imagine from TV and movies… these were well-educated doctors, lawyers, businessmen, accountants, engineers, etc… whose subsequent involvement in the country helped grow it to be the leading economy of Latin America.

But, times change. Politics evolve. Moods swing. Demographics shift. A recent article voted Santiago, Chile as the number-one antisemitic city in the world… a city with close to 500,000 Palestinians… close to 10% of the population… compared with less than 20,000 Jews (0.4%). And… a very leftist antisemitic presidential candidate – who, if polls are correct – could easily win the election later this year.

This candidate has brought out all of the usual antisemitic rhetoric and has promised to rid the country of Jews. Needless to say, the Jews are becoming increasingly worried. Public displays of antisemitism, violence and vandalism are being seen in record numbers. And if he wins – as the old adage goes – when you lose the support of the government… Run.

If the shit really hits the fan, where will they go?

Well, one very logical place is Canada… among one of the very best places in the world to be Jewish these days. In fact, it’s one of the best places in the world to be *anything* these days.

Indeed, especially for those who are young and haven’t experienced the world outside the bubble that is Canada, it’s hard to relate to how it feels and looks when a country completely derails. We almost got a first-hand look at it on January 6th… and from the sounds of it, things might look very different right now down south if those armed protesters had simply zigged instead of zagged… and wound up face to face with Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. And it hasn’t happened (yet) in Chile. But it could. It could happen anywhere.

But, these days, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon in Canada. We read with horror at the emerging evidence of our past, but here’s the thing; this is a great country. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any country, great or not, that doesn’t have a significant stain in its history. Chile was good for Jews for a while; that may change. Chile has never been good to its Indigenous population. The Spanish showed up a few hundred years ago, conquered them… and they have remained conquered ever since. Yes, they are screaming for their rights, land, restitution and acknowledgment… but they, like many other Indigenous populations around the world, face a steep uphill. Unlike in Canada, where there are still lots of big problems… in the past and in the future… but they are being acknowledged and they will hopefully be dealt with adequately… sooner than later.

Canada, for the moment, is also a great place for Jews. Antisemitism is on the rise, but still… there is full government support. I don’t judge Canada on the words or actions of William Lyon Mackenzie King. I judge it on what it is today… Canada, which, for the moment, faces a historical trauma that’s been known for decades but rarely spoken about till now… a history that needs to be heard, acknowledged and made right. Great countries deal with it. And that’s what we’re doing.

So yeah, the celebration may be understandably muted this year, but let’s not forget that there’s also a future, not just a past. And if we can learn from the past (and there’s plenty to learn) and use it for a better future for all of us – Indigenous, White, Black, Jewish and whoever else… remember… you’re very fortunate to be Canadian… which in itself is certainly something to celebrate.

April 12, 2021

Let’s tackle another one of those “Ask me in a year” questions that popped up around last April… and this one was pretty contentious… the question of how Sweden was handling the pandemic, in harsh contrast to most of the rest of the world. Sweden’s head epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, had the same response to his critics. “Ask me next year”.

A year later, the answer can be summarized in one sentence: “What else were you expecting?”

Both Sweden and the U.K. initially tried the same approach… which was mostly a version of “Protect the elderly and vulnerable, but the rest of you can go on with your lives as normal. No masks or any of that nonsense needed.” In the U.K., that didn’t last long. They quickly course-corrected when things started getting out of hand. Back in Sweden, Tegnell felt abandoned, but held the line… and, as usual, the longer it goes, the harder it is to admit you were wrong, because then… part of it is having to admit you were wrong all along.

On that note, there are those who will still argue it wasn’t wrong. There are people who have friends and relatives that needlessly died… who’ll tell you it wasn’t wrong. I’m not here to judge people’s opinions, though one thing I’ve learned over the last year is that there are a lot of irrational people, and then more irrational the idea, the more irrationally some people will hold on to it.

Culturally, Sweden is most like its Nordic neighbours, so let’s just do a bit of and apples-to-apples comparisons:

Covid-19 deaths per million of population:
Denmark: 421
Finland: 158
Norway: 126
Sweden: 1,342

Economic impact of C19 on GDP 2020:
Denmark: -4.2%
Finland: -3.1%
Norway: -3.6%
Sweden: -4.0%

Expected GDP recovery 2021:
Denmark: +3.5%
Finland: +2.8%
Norway: +3.6%
Sweden: +3.5%

In summary, thanks to their policies, between three to ten times the number of deaths… and, as far as that being the trade-off for saving the economy? It seems to have had no impact whatsoever. And these days, in Sweden, out in public and especially on public transit… you’ll see lots of masks.

Asked and answered. Moving on.

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 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 2, 2021

The whole concept of supply/demand is pretty easy to understand. You don’t need a degree in economics to wrap your head around the idea that the more supply there is of something, the less it’s worth… and when something – anything – is in short supply, its value increases… sometimes, irrationally. Toilet paper, hand sanitizers, masks. There was no actual rationale behind the toilet paper part of it, but since everyone decided there would be a shortage, a shortage was indeed created and prices shot up and scalpers moved in… until manufacturing turned it up to 11 and caught up, and then there was a flood of extra supply. When it happens in the consumer world, it’s easy to understand – not necessarily why it happened; just what’s going on. At any given time, you know exactly what something is worth because as soon someone who’s willing to pay that amount meets the person who’s willing to sell at that price, the question is answered.

Valuing something like an option is more complicated. Imagine someone is selling a horse for $20,000… and you’re interested, but not sure you can come up with the money… or not sure the horse is healthy, and want it checked out by a trusted vet. But you also don’t want someone to come along and scoop him up while you’re still pondering… so you call up the owner and offer him some money… he sells you an option to buy the horse for 20k, and it’s good for 5 days. After that, the option expires and he can do whatever he wants… and your money either goes towards the purchase of the horse, or you kiss it goodbye.

What’s that option worth? $100 is probably not enough for the owner to turn away potential buyers for a week. $2,000 feels pretty steep if you end up walking away from it. One can discuss it, and many opinions will be offered, but the only one that ultimately matters is what the two people involved in the transaction agree upon.

In the financial world, it’s no different. Options to buy and sell stocks trade on their own, independent market… and those prices are based on numerous variables, but the important ones are how much time until the option expires, at what price the option can be exercised at, and how volatile it is. All of that comes together to a single number, and every time two people agree on it, a trade happens.

But what happens when the thing being bought/sold/traded/optioned/whatever’d doesn’t have a value assigned to it? Or the actual financial value is an irrelevant aspect?

A parachute while browsing the local aviation shop is worth something different than when you’re in a plummeting airplane and there is one parachute left and three people who want it.

A Kit-Kat bar being auctioned after a week of hiking in the frozen snow of Strathcona Park is worth a lot more than when it’s sitting next to the checkout line at Safeway.

And… vaccines. A year from now, a Covid-19 vaccine… be it Pfizer or Moderna or AstraZeneca or, by then, numerous other ones… will be as common as Tylenol. “Hey doc, while I’m here, can you spare a….” “Say no more.” Jab. Done.

But today? People chartering planes to the middle of nowhere, just to get it. People flying to Dubai, just to get it. Young women dressing up as grandmas and getting into lineups… just to get it. Stories of people throwing all sorts of money at it in all sorts of ways, just to get it… now. What’s it worth? What’s it worth in a month, six months?

I don’t know. I suppose I could attach a number to it, as far as what I’m willing to pay for it. We can all do that, and we would all come up with different numbers. Some people are happy with zero; happy to wait. Some people don’t want it, even if you paid them.

All of this is largely irrelevant, because it’s not for sale. It’s like that old MasterCard commercial:

Parking at the clinic: $3
Alcohol/cotton swab/syringe: $1
Trained nurse: $40
Vaccine: priceless

There’s no real point to this; it’s just me thinking out loud, because my business brain can’t help but think about stuff like this. But this business brain also understands that some questions have no answers.

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February 28, 2021

Welcome to the end of February. Tomorrow begins March… and you’ll recall last year, March 2020 felt like the longest month in history. To some extent, it’s been a year but it feels like we’re still in it. Happy Sunday, March 334th.

At this time last year, Canada had seen 15 cases of Covid-19. Seven of them were here in B.C. Another 7 were in Ontario, and the other was in Quebec. By the end of March 2020, Canada had over 8,000 cases and 100 deaths. A month later, the case-count was over 50,000 and the deaths were around 3,000 and we were all freaking the hell out.

We’re all too exhausted to be freaking out anymore, and we’ve realized the numbers didn’t follow that trajectory. Had they, my quick math implies we’d all have caught it by the end of July, and we’d all have been dead by the end of Summer. None of that happened, and none of that will… but it’s worth thinking back to how things felt at the time, just to remember that things can change quickly and we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

On the flipside, like a lot of people, I’m actually starting to wonder what society is going to look like after this is all over. Many profound changes, and I’m not just talking about remote work and Zoom and virtual offices and things like that; let’s recall that in no small part, the end of the 1918 pandemic launched the roaring 20s… a decade of romanticised, glamorous fun that lasted until the economy collapsed and The Depression took over.

But here’s something else that with great subtlety changed the world drastically…

Up until 1918, there were steam cars and there were electric cars… and internal combustion cars were around, but not so popular. People with steam cars used to fill them up at horse troughs… free water, everywhere… but, with the pandemic, and standing water being a great collection point for mosquitos, those troughs got covered up… and the car manufacturers like Henry Ford seized that opportunity to tell the world how awesome gas-powered cars were. No waiting for it to charge, no waiting for the water to heat up, no chance of a steam explosion. Gas stations sprung up everywhere… and a hundred years of R&D that’s gone into gas-powered cars might have gone into steam-generated engines and/or electrical systems and batteries. Hard to imagine what society might look like… and how it would’ve evolved… without this dependency on oil.

I wonder what’s changing these days that’ll have such a profound effect on the entire world. What will they be talking about 100 years from now as one of the largest radical shifts caused by all of this?

I don’t know… I’m just asking the question… but happy to hear you thoughts.

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December 16, 2020

Today, we’ll take a step back from gambling advice and bashing Trump and discuss… yes, how about the pandemic…

As usual, there is good news and there is bad news.

Let’s start with the good news, and that is that around the entire planet (with one notable exception), things are getting better. That doesn’t mean things are great, but if you look at the numbers and graphs below, it’s clear things have stopped getting worse in Canada. They’re either just bad, or improving. At some point, I’ll throw together some world data for comparison, but the graphs will look similar; sharp drop-offs in the rates of new cases, which in turn should show fewer hospitalizations and eventually fewer deaths. Where they were growing quickly, they’re growing more slowly. And in some places, stopped. Entirely. New Zealand is the first country on the planet where C19 is gone. Period. Restrictions lifted. Workplaces, restaurants, sports stadiums… packed with happy, healthy people. This was the place that locked down early and hard, and almost did away with it on the first go-around… but it came back, so they took more drastic action. And this time it stuck. Brutally ironic and pathetic was Donald Trump, at that time, mocking them… “It’s over for New Zealand. Everything’s gone.” That was Trump, trying to imply something like, “See? No matter what you do, you can’t get rid of it. Why bother wrecking the economy, when it won’t make a difference?”

Trump wasn’t the only one with that attitude, but the attitude is wrong. Strong decisive action can make a big difference.

While things look to be getting no worse pretty-much everywhere, the huge exception is, of course, is the U.S… where things are getting drastically worse. The collision course between the pandemic, people who don’t care, and the vaccination… it’s a perfect storm, made more complicated by that second factor… people who still don’t believe there’s a serious virus and/or people who do but won’t get vaccinated. If all Americans were to go out and get vaccinated as quickly as possible, the entire country would be rid of the virus by summer. There will probably be enough vaccine to go around to do that. All the timelines we’ve heard rely mostly on the understood supply of Pfizer vaccine that’s on its way, but there is more good news… that we can soon throw the Moderna vaccine into the mix… and that’s more of a game changer, because it’s doesn’t need the ultra-cold transport and storage; that one can (and will) be made available far and wide.

The bad news is that the pain of this pandemic, from an economic point of view, will be very harsh. Every sector has been radically affected… and the issue now is that there are many businesses that rely on the holiday season to get them through with enough momentum to last them till next December. Many of those businesses are already running on fumes, and are really only still in business because it’s the Christmas season and they may as well scrape what they can from it before they pull the plug. Many that stuck it out this long were hoping for a relatively normal holiday season, and it’s not going to happen.

On that note restaurants are suffering terribly, especially many of which count on the Christmas office parties and the party season in general… and while that won’t happen this year, it’ll all come back eventually. Certainly by this time next year.

Until then, there’s no simple answer… though might I throw in… support your local restaurants if you want them to survive. It doesn’t mean go there with a group of friends; not yet. But order their food and pick it up, or get it delivered from them directly, so it’s not some third-party that’s getting all the margin. Buy gift certificates and stuff some stockings with them.

The economic landscape will look like a 9.0 earthquake roared through it, once this is all over. Hopefully, for most, it’ll just have been a big, rattling shake… and not a complete collapse.

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November 18, 2020

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about Sweden, so it’s time for an update. To rewind to the almost-beginning, the first thing I ever wrote on the topic was on April 10th… my opinion with respect to what they were doing handling this pandemic… you can read it here: https://kemeny.ca/2020/04/10/april-10-2020/

If you’re not familiar with what they attempted to do, it’d be helpful to read that, for context. And here we are 7 months later:

Did their approach cause more deaths? They’d hoped it wouldn’t, but understood it might… but that the risk/reward was worth it. To summarize, “Some people might die, but saving the economy makes it worth it.” That post from April makes it pretty obvious that things were not heading in a great direction, but I suppose they’d hoped things would settle down.

How bad was it? The obvious comparison would be against their Scandinavian neighbours… and here are the deaths per million caused by C19:

Norway: 55
Finland: 67
Denmark: 133
Sweden: 624

Let’s mark that one down in the “miserable failure” column… but at least the economy was saved, right?

The usual measure of economic growth/decline is GDP. Here are those four countries’ rough economic declines for 2020, as per data from the OECD:

Norway: -5.1%
Finland: -5.9%
Denmark: -7.9%
Sweden: -7.7%

Not only did their economy suffer just as badly as their neighbours (the ones with one tenth the number of deaths), but it was actually a little worse.

Well… at least they achieved herd immunity, and after all those great sacrifices, they won’t have to face a second wave like all the rest of us, right?

Unfortunately, that second wave is hitting Sweden very hard, as we speak… so hard, in fact, that Sweden is abandoning the Swedish model. The very lockdowns and closures they’d so adamantly refused… are now in place. They’ve finally admitted to themselves that herd immunity is unachievable without a vaccine, or a tremendous amount of carnage, something that’s been evident to everyone else for a long time.

The whole thing was an unfortunate disaster, and for more than one reason, not the least of which was other “leaders” touting the benefit of the Swedish model and imposing it on their populations. Before all of this, the only thing that came to mind when you heard “Swedish model” was Tiger Wood’s wife… but, oh… how things have changed.

Those two Swedish models actually have something in common… one beat up her cheating husband and smashed up his SUV. The other one beat up an entire country, and smashed any confidence anyone could possibly have that letting this virus run its course is a good idea.

Elin Nordegren realized she was in a crappy situation, and moved on. Better late than never. I guess the same can be said about Sweden.

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November 6, 2020

To follow-up briefly on yesterday’s poker analogy… we’re at the point where Joe Biden went all-in, and Donald Trump, hesitatingly, called… so Joe flipped over his cards; what’s colloquially known as “the nuts” — the unbeatable hand, because there’s nothing left to deal that can change anything. Trump is drawing dead, and can only helplessly watch the hand play out.

Normally, a player in Trump’s position would realize he’s beaten, flip over his cards, and watch the chips get dragged over to the other side of the table. But, of course, Trump is trying to bluff an unbluffable hand. Perhaps at some point, his fans cheering him from behind will be able to convince him to just face the fact that he lost, and move on. But it’s doubtful. Many of them continue to cheer him on blindly.

Notwithstanding that this may end up being a bigger victory for Biden than was originally thought a few days ago, there are a lot of posts from people wondering how it’s possible that a misogynist racist narcissist whose policies have further divided a country the desperately needs unity – not to mention his abhorrent handling and messaging of this pandemic – could have received so many votes? There are many takes on it, but it boils down this…

First of all, some simple math… rough numbers, some 144 million people voted. Of those, there is an unshakable core of Republicans who’ll vote that way no matter who the candidate. How big is that core? It depends how you measure it. Here’s a rough breakdown of Trump voters:

American Preservationists (20%)
Staunch Conservatives (31%)
Anti-elites (19%)
Free Marketers (25%)
Disengaged (5%)

Within that breakdown, there are probably 40% who won’t be swayed, no matter what. And 40% of 144 million is around 57 million… so really, perhaps it’s only 13 million who “really” voted for Trump… and the vast majority of those are white men, and it must be noted that the urban voter turnout is what probably made the difference. The People Of Colour… Blacks, Latinos, Indigenous peoples… they showed up. In person, waiting hours to vote… or mailing it in… however they did it, they showed up. It’s no surprise that even in many Republican states, the big cities are hubs of blue votes.

On the flipside, the rural areas, many of them populated by people with very different priorities… Immigration, jobs, terrorism, the economy, national debt. Who cares if the leader is a jerk? These are the things that matter to me, end of story. My house and my job and my gun… mean more to me than whatever is going on elsewhere. Any by the way, for many people who’ve never left their own state, let alone country… “elsewhere” is everywhere else that’s not within driving distance. They couldn’t care less what’s going on in Portland or Kenosha.

While Biden got more votes than any presidential candidate ever, in second place is Donald Trump. His seventy million votes is what Obama got in 2008 when he crushed (365 to 173) John McCain. It should be noted that four years ago, when Trump beat Hilary, it was 304 to 227. And this was viewed as a huge victory, a demographic shift, a fundamental realignment, etc. It’s looking like Biden will wind up with almost identical numbers. So while it’s not a Blue Wave many hoped for, let’s not discount the inherent statement being made: No more Trump – spoken quite loudly.

The voting system may need a bit of thought, but there are no easy answers. It’s hard to fix it when there’s no agreement with respect to what’s broken. One thing about the electoral college system is that without it, given how fractured the country is, you might not see a Republican president elected again for a very long time. Biden is ahead by 4 million votes, but Hilary was ahead by 3 million and lost. In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by half a million and lost. In 1960, JFK crushed Richard Nixon 303-219… but won the popular vote by a ridiculously small margin, like 100,000 votes.

The sad truth is as that the chasm gets wider, like the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the popular vote gap between Democrats and Republicans will widen… and that will, at least for the foreseeable future, be reflected in the left-leaning popular vote. Biden has his work cut out for him; he’s inheriting a mess on every level. I hope he, and the excellent people with whom I hope he surrounds himself, are up to the task.

A final, unrelated note… when I started writing these daily thoughts 235 days ago, it was supposed to be exclusively a daily update of C19 numbers and perhaps a paragraph with respect to where things are. It started to turn political when my daily research of what was going on south of here went from surprise, to incredulity, to anger, and all of it directly pointed at Donald Trump.

With him on his way out, and hoping Biden and his administration start taking things seriously, the daily bashing of American politics will be far less frequent. We have more important things to worry about. Here in B.C., almost 600 new cases in the last 24 hours… and I unfortunately know one of those people. Also, more than 600 in Alberta. And in Ontario and Quebec, more than 1,000 each.

The U.S. has its stuff to fix… they quietly reached 10,000,000 cases while all of this has been going on… but here, north of the turmoil, we have ours.

HK COVID-19 Daily Report - Graph for Nov 6, 2020

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September 12, 2020

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>

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