By Horatio Kemeny|2022-02-27T10:53:53-08:00February 26th, 2022|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics|Tags: Canada, China, Pandemic, Vancouver, Masks, Trump, Politics, PM Justin Trudeau, Russia, Coronavirus, USA, Graphs, War, Statistics, COVID19, C19, BritishColumbia, Truck Convoy Protests, Ukraine|15 Comments
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.
A tiny glimpse of visibility with respect to how our federal government presently operates – and why we happen to find ourselves behind the 8-ball with respect to vaccines – is evident in the mandate letter sent to Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on January 15th.
But, let’s go back a little further… actually, a lot further.
At a gala held at the National Arts Centre on April 14, 1972, when Trudeau was only a year old, visiting U.S. president Richard Nixon famously raised his glass: “I’d like to toast the future prime minister of Canada, to Justin Pierre Trudeau!”, he proclaimed. Nixon was also later caught on his White House tapes, famously deriding that three-day trip: “… wasting three days up there. That trip we needed like a hole in the head.”
Two little take-aways from that… one is that if the person presently holding the office of Prime Minister had a last name like Smith or Jones, he probably wouldn’t be PM. He has a unique last name and the genetics to go with it, and they’ve taken him right to the top. Perhaps it was assumed that what he lacked in qualifications might be made up magically, with that last name… or, with experience, having been immersed in that life as a child, right from day one.
There might be an element of truth to that; if Justin hung around daddy enough back then and asked lots of questions, he’d certainly have had a very privileged viewpoint as to how things work. The problem is that Pierre Elliot Trudeau, love or hate the guy, was a true statesman. Whether he destroyed the country or helped shape it to what it is today – let’s set that argument aside. Either way, he was a true leader… and I suspect if he were in power today, we’d have lots of vaccine at our disposal.
But that aspect of leadership is not learned; it’s a personality type that requires a level of understanding and big-picture thinking that either you have or you don’t.
Which leads to the second little take-away… that a lot of government bullshit is a complete waste of time, but it’s necessary for the optics. Nixon called it for what it was… three wasted days of fluff. A gala? Pat Nixon delivering a stuffed Snoopy to Pierre and Margaret’s little boy? All while Nixon was facing some serious problems back at home. Like, you know, a war he was losing on the other side of the world.
Back to present day, this letter, publicly available of course… and, its optics. It’s a real work of art… and reading it, the first thing that comes to mind is that whoever wrote it knew that this document was going to live forever, and therefore, every single word needs to be perfect. Every single word, well-thought-out. Nothing is missing. It mentions every political issue imaginable, many of them irrelevant to the pressing issue at hand.
Emissions reduction targets, Gender-based Analysis, intersectional lens, Indigenous people, Métis, Inuit, LGBTQ2, persons with disabilities, reconciliation, self-determination, Yes, of course they’re all important issues… but instead of 3 pages on tangential issues, all of which are affected by the pandemic, how about one sentence: “Every Canadian deserves equal access to vaccines, and your job is to get it.”
Completely lacking in that document are actual targets. Zero deliverables. That part of it is difficult to figure out, but that’s the important part of it… not just inclusive (and vague) hand-waving. If I’d had a shot at it, my letter would’ve been a lot shorter:
“Anita, please go find as much vaccine as you can, as quickly as possible. Don’t be ok with signed documents and promises unless those documents have some clout to them; we need hard numbers with respect to delivery schedules, and they should agree to severe repercussions and/or reparations if they fail to live up to their end of it. Don’t be afraid to overpay to secure that – we can afford it. Don’t hesitate to leverage whatever we may have to offer. Trees, water, electricity, whatever. Don’t be afraid to charter some planes and waste some fuel. We can handle the political fallout from dumping excess carbon emissions into the atmosphere. For now, at this moment, this is more important. Getting these vaccines quickly and reliably is all that matters. We are scaling up a national vaccine program like no one has ever seen, and we need the product to fill the pipeline. Vaccine inventory can not be allowed to be the weak link in this chain. We don’t need 10 doses per Canadian next year. We need one dose… now.”
But, no… instead, we get a nice big fluffy document with zero teeth. It, literally, looks good on paper. So does cheque for a million dollars… until you try to cash it, and it bounces.
That’s the thing; it can’t just look good. It needs to actually work. And that’s perhaps the destiny of that mandate letter. It’ll be printed off on a huge sheet of fancy parchment and signed with a big feather and framed for all posterity… so that all of the grandkids of Canadians who survived the great pandemic of 2019-2022 can one day tour the great halls of Parliament Hill and look at it. And, as they slowly walk by it, say something… like… “Huh.”
On the flipside of the virulent anti-vaxxers comes the crowd who’ll do anything to jump the line and get their shot. Our most famous local exhibit are those two “hotel workers” who flew to that remote village in the Yukon, happily joining the queue with the Indigenous elders of the area. Pathetic, and grossly unethical.
… and, as it turns out, far from uncommon. Given the haphazard rollouts at provincial and state levels, there are plenty of opportunities appearing. It’s come to light that any of us could hop on a plane, fly to an American city… and easily get jabbed. Different places have different requirements, but here’s a good example: Any smoker in Illinois is instantly eligible. People have been lying and getting shots all over the place… and if your ethics allow for it, why not fly to Chicago for $300, walk into a pharmacy, buy a pack of smokes and say, “Hey… while I’m here…”
Were it not for the 3-day, $2,000 mandatory hotel visit on the way back, I suspect this might be a more popular thing to do.
But, you don’t have to go so far… and, this changes daily. And, it’s completely ethical:
In four days, any adult in Ohio will be able to get the vaccine. A couple of days later, anyone in Utah. A few days after that, Michigan and Connecticut. Washington State is a bit behind, but they’ll likely have that in place by May. And that’s for *everyone*.
Eventually, places reach the point where the supply outpaces the demand, and the doors can fly open. Come and get it. And, until things get to that point, still… with a pre-existing eligible condition, just wander into the CVS and walk out vaccinated… as easily as getting a flu shot around here.
The three most common words that you’ll overhear at a racetrack are “Woulda”, “Coulda”, and “Shoulda”; you hear them a lot when the horses cross the finish line and frustrated horseplayers crumple their losing tickets and toss them angrily onto the floor.
“I coulda bet the Daily Double!”
“I shoulda put the 4 in my Trifecta!”
“I woulda bet the 7 if I had more money!”
One day, when this is all over, and the people in charge are trying to figure out why Canada, a first-world nation with every possible resource at its disposal, managed to fall so far behind the eight-ball on their vaccine rollout, these words will heard a lot. They coulda done this, they shoulda done that. No doubt lessons will have been learned… but it’s just as likely that by the time the next pandemic of this sort shows up – which, hopefully, is many many years from now, it’ll all be forgotten. The only lines people will be familiar with jumping will be for the SkyTrain… or for rides at Playland on crowded Labour Day PNE weekends.
Highly recommended, by the way… the rides, the food, the animals, that building full of hucksters shilling Ginsu knives and stuff to magically polish your car… and, while you’re there, check out the horses at Hastings Park. Pick a horse and bet on it… watch it finish fourth… and then, repeat after me – including you, Mr. Trudeau — woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Beware the Ides of March… happy March 15th. Indeed, one day after Pi Day comes Die Day… at least, that was the case for Julius Caesar who, on this day 2,064 years ago, quickly realized that unfortunately, sometimes even your best and loyal friends can literally stab you in the back.
It’s good that politics, at least around here, have evolved beyond that. The House of Commons would be quite a different place if that were still an accepted method of resolving disputes.
One dispute that continues to make some waves has to do with the AstraZeneca vaccine… the opinion of which seems to widen with each passing hour. More people vehemently say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, yet more and more countries continue to “cancel” it.
I wrote about it yesterday, so let’s update this evolving story. In Europe, 17 million people have received the AZ vaccine. 37 of them developed blood clots. That is 0.00022% of the population. One in 460,000 people. The typical European rate is actually significantly higher than that. I wonder if this story can turn a 180, where suddenly people realize that the AZ vaccine significantly lowers the risk of blood clots. I’m not a doctor, of course… just looking at the numbers. But that’s what they imply.
This is a great example of politics versus medicine. The science, the data, the everything battle tested says it’s safe; more than safe. The politicians who need to cover their asses always like to play it safe, so once those dominoes start falling, “the optics” dictate you need to follow suit. If eleven countries have decided to suspend it “out of an abundance of caution” (and to hell with the data, such as that analyzed and reported by the World Health Organization), and you’re the leader of the 12th nation, what are you going to do? Even as the scientists tell you… it’s fine, it’s ok, here’s the data… yeah, you’re going to cave. This is high-school peer pressure on a global level. Look around; everyone is putting up their hand. What was the question? Who cares, follow along, don’t look like the idiot.
Unfortunately, as I wrote about and am now believing more strongly by the hour, this might have a profound effect on what C19 looks like in the coming weeks in Europe.
Around here, as much as there are people who’d like to jab a dagger in Trudeau’s back, I applaud his resoundingly unambiguous statement endorsing the AZ vaccine, and I applaud the reliance on the suggestions coming from Health Canada – not the obscure political PR analyst firms in Ottawa.
Sunny day here in B.C…. and we get an extra hour of it… and, nicely trending numbers over the weekend. All of that pointing in the right direction.
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.
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There’s a lot of vaccine news these days… perhaps too much to accurately convey in a short space… but I’ll take a jab at it…
Like in the Seinfeld episode where they’re arguing about the rental car… it’s easy to book a reservation. Having it honoured is a whole different thing. At present, although Canada is at the top of the list with respect to reserving (“procuring”) vaccine, we’re 20th on the list for vaccinations per million, and that number is going to drop further… because every time there’s going to be a delay in deliveries, it seems like we’re part of it. We’ve “reserved” 10 doses per person, more than any other country… but we’re not getting the stuff. It’s clearly understood that there’s a world-wide demand, and everyone wants as much as they can get, as quickly as they can get it… but it’s not difficult to see what this would look like if the countries were personified into a crowded pub where everyone wants a drink, and is storming the bar, much to the concern of the two bartenders who are feeling totally overwhelmed.
Some countries would be pushing their way to the front, shoving others out of the way… “Hey, gimme two hundred million vodka sodas!” – while Canada would be standing near the back wall, timidly raising its hand… “Umm… excuse me… umm… sorry, could I get… oh, sorry, no, you go ahead… yes, of course… sorry.” So… we politely standby while everyone else gets served.
We’re told it’s just a little bump in the road… we’re told we’ll effectively get it all at the pace we were promised, just not at the rate we thought. Try to parse some sense into that… implying we’ll hit the finish line when we were promised, just not at the speed we need to get there.
Or… throw all that away, because there’s a report today that completely contradicts PM Trudeau’s promise that most of us will be vaccinated by September. The report claims it’ll be “well into 2022” before most Canadians get their shot… and that’s because countries like the U.S., the U.K. and all of the E.U. come first. Maybe you need a “U” in your name to get attention. Hey, Canaduh would like a drink.
It’s interesting how that report paints us as a bit “behind” those aforementioned countries… where we’re in a secondary bracket, along with Australia and Japan.
Pfizer, trying to capitalize on our politeness, has gently suggested that since we’ve intelligently managed to extract 6 doses out of each vial instead of 5, how about they just label each vial with a 6 instead of a 5, and that way, we…
… oh, you thought I was going to say, “that way we get more doses.” – but no. Actually, that way, Pfizer can just send us less vials and still deliver the same number of doses they promised. Canada is balking at that, but of course… we’ll eventually cave, because it’s the polite thing to do. But if you’re wondering where the 3.5M doses we’re getting vs. the 4M that were promised comes from, it’s that.
In the meantime, the E.U. is trying block exports of E.U. produced vaccines, namely the UK-based AstraZeneca vaccine which they want ahead of anyone else. Of course, the U.K themselves want it ahead of everyone, even the E.U…. and contracts be damned. Visions of a bar-fight, as everyone jockeys for position, and to hell with everyone else.
What are we going to do? Sue? Years of litigation when all we really want is the vaccine that we contractually bound ourselves to purchase?
We have no leverage here. We will take what we can get, or what… we will pout and we will be disappointed, yet somehow, we’ll still be apologizing. And, no matter what, we will be patiently waiting.
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