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
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.
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>
The next time some yahoo tries to convince you that this virus only has a death rate of zero point zero something, feel free to refer to this… I will pick the U.S. as an example because even the doctored, minimized and understated White House data presently implies this:
U.S. population: 330,000,000
Closed cases: 4,029,000
We know that more people than what’s documented have actually had the virus, most of them without even knowing it. How relevant is that? It’s important, of course, because the more people have actually had it, the less lethal it ultimately is. Some people, like the zero-point-zero something crowd, would like you to think it’s no worse than a common cold or flu, but let’s see how the math shakes out.
At face value, given these numbers, the deaths-per-case number (195k ÷ 6.5M) = 2.98%
Relevant to that is the actual closed-cases percentage… ie, if you actually are known to have gotten this virus, what’s your outlook?
3,833,400 ÷ 4,029,000 = 95.15% recover
195,200 ÷ 4,029,000 = 4.84% die
But ok… if everyone who’s known to have the C19 virus at this moment had it miraculously disappear, that’d imply a 3% death rate. That’s obviously nonsense, but let’s go with it. And if ten times as many people actually had it than what was known, that number drops to 0.3%.
How does that compare to the flu? In 2019, the CDC estimated 35.5 million cases… resulting in 34,200 deaths. That’s a 0.10% death rate.
What about colds? I’m not even going to factor in deaths from the common cold… because it’s ludicrous. Some 18,000 people in the U.S. have died from complications of a common cold… since 1979. That’s less than 500 a year. Nothing more than a rounding error.
Again, this supposes that the virus magically disappears instantly. The “the flu kills more people per year” argument fails to address a rather relevant issue; Covid-19 is very much still here, and is still killing thousands of people a day. In the U.S., where they’ve only had perhaps 6 or 7 months of it, it has already killed five times as many people as an entire annual flu season. And it’s not done yet.
Finally, 195,000 ÷ 330,000,000 = 0.06% — which, if the virus vanished and the deaths stopped instantly, is theoretically the lowest number you could ever get for U.S. deaths. Today’s death count divided into today’s population, and not a single death more. To get to the 0.02% number that the crazies insist upon, the virus would have to vanish instantly, and the U.S. would need to have a population of more than a billion.
So… all you “it’s just a bad cold” or “it’s just a flu” people – kindly, stop. I don’t think you realize how silly you sound relaying “facts” that you insist on believing; it’s complete and utter nonsense, and you should be ashamed of yourself for propagating it, and further ashamed for buying into it… and then accusing others of being the blind sheep following some hidden agenda. You’re the sheep, and you and your herd will suffer greatly if you don’t smarten up… and you’ll unfortunately take a few of the rest of us with you.
There’s a virtual triangle that applies to many things in life… especially when it comes to actually creating or building something. Any project, really… and it’s a basic triangle where the three sides are labelled: Time, Quality and Cost.
Typically, you can pick any angle… and that’s what you’ll get; what those two sides offer – at the expense of the opposite side.
Want it quickly and cheaply? No problem, but don’t expect quality.
Want quality and want it soon? Sure, but be prepared to pay for it.
Want quality without spending too much? It can be done, but you’ll have to be patient.
It’s interesting trying to map this to the development of a vaccine. Everyone is throwing lots of money at it, so the only thing that’s sliding around is quality versus time.
On the one hand, you have a conglomerate of responsible companies who’ve signed a pledge not to rush anything to market until it’s ready, which means every step of a rigorous scientific process. Many of those are currently in phase 3… which is one step before early or limited approval.
On the other hand, you have President Trump promising a vaccine any day now, completely contradicting the head of Operation Warp Speed… and you also have a few places who’ve rushed a vaccine and knowingly are throwing it out there, having side-stepped phase 3, and/or doing it in unison. It’s also relevant that those places are Russian and China, where political statements and optics often outshine what’s in the best interests of the greater population. It’s pretty much the message that Trump is trying to shove down the throats of anyone who’ll listen, but it’s heartening to see scientists banding together in solidarity rebuking it.
The scientific world is well-aware what it takes to properly develop a safe vaccine. It’s a process. Like making a baby… that’s also a process. That one takes a man, a woman and nine months. You can’t throw nine men at it and hope to have the baby in a month. You can’t throw money at it. If you want to do it, there’s exactly one way to do it right, no matter what the president says.
And, fortunately, in the U.S. and Canada and many other places around the world, that’s what’s happening… there are presently 24 vaccine candidates in phase one, 14 in phase two and 9 in phase three. Many of them will probably hit the finish line around the same time. Getting them out there to everyone is a different issue, but first things first.
If you’ve been around long enough and/or know something about hockey and/or Olympic history, you’re probably familiar with “The Miracle on Ice”. It happened back in 1980, at the Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games, where the Americans won the gold medal.
It all took place in the midst of the Cold War. The Soviet Union showed up with a veteran team of experienced superstars, who’d been crushing their opposition for years. They’d won the last 4 Olympic gold medals, and hadn’t lost an Olympic match in that entire time.
The Americans, on the other hand, showed up with a group of very young (average age 21) college players with zero NHL experience. A bunch of excellent amateur players… but way out of their league.
To make a long story short, in one of the most epic David vs. Goliath moments ever, the Americans defeated the Soviets and won the gold medal… but if you’re not too familiar with it all, you may not realize that when the U.S. beat the U.S.S.R., that wasn’t the game that won them the medal. They still had one more game to go, against Finland… and the winner of that game would win it all.
U.S. coach Herb Brooks (played by Karl Malden in the made-for-TV movie) was well-known as an excellent motivator, but he had his work cut out for him. After the mental and physical exhaustion from beating the Soviets, they had to dig down and find it all again, one final time.
Needless to say, Finland was no pushover. They were playing for the gold too, and it was Finland that had the lead, 2-1, going into the final period. The entirety of what Herb Brooks told his players during that 2nd-intermission break isn’t known… but the last thing he said to them was this:
“If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your f#@%ing graves.”
Then, he stormed out of the locker room… but, not quite. He stopped at the door, paused, turned around… and solemnly said, “Your f#@%ing graves.” Then he walked out.
Perhaps that was the differentiator. Who knows. Great coaches, great techniques, great ideas, great execution. The Americans scored 3 goals in the 3rd period, and the rest is history.
On a more recent but less important similar event, the Canucks, last night – facing playoff elimination and playing with a playoff-rookie goaltender… managed to get it done. A gutsy and well-earned victory. Who knows what head coach Travis Green said to them… and/or how relevant it was… but it worked out well. A very good team with a very good leader.
On the flipside of all that… the L.A. Kings, two weeks before the end of a disappointing 2015 season (having won 2 of the last 3 Stanley Cups, but now about to miss the playoffs…) locked their coach out of the dressing room. They’d had enough of Darryl Sutter… and by the time Darryl had managed to find a rink attendant to open the door, he was greeted by three garbage cans and an empty room. It wasn’t too long before he was fired.
On a much, much larger scale… like, a national scale… what happens when the team loses confidence in their leader? Usually, they vote him out. Unlike hockey, there’s no General Manager or President of Operations or Ownership Group to pull the trigger. In a democracy, it’s assumed that when the majority tells you it’s time to go, you go.
If you’re actually doing a great job, a tremendous job, a beautiful job, people tell you it’s the greatest job being done that they’ve ever seen… well then, they’ll simply vote to keep you around. And if they tell you they’ve had enough… it’s time to go.
I’ve never heard of a hockey coach refusing to leave after being fired. On the flipside, history is unfortunately full of elected leaders who weren’t happy being defeated and decided it was time for a “different approach” to stay in power. There are different versions of what that can look like, and none of them are pretty. And I sure hope I’m speaking purely hypothetically with respect to the near future.
No pandemic numbers to update, but let’s talk about something relevant in my last 24 hours… my involvement in the World Series of Poker, which was going really well, until… suddenly… it wasn’t.
Unfortunately, that is the nature of the game, and there’s actually something relatable to the world in general, especially these days.
In tournament poker, unlike cash games, you play until you have all the chips (and win) …or you bust out with nothing. Often, in tournament poker, you’re put in a position where it’s blatantly obvious what you should do, but plain old (good or bad, depending who you are in the story) luck will have something to say about it.
Even in the most extreme and obvious cases… and here’s the math on one of the most extreme examples… things can (and do) go wrong.
Let’s say it’s just you and me battling against each other in a hand. You have a pair of Aces, the best possible starting hand. I have a 2 and a 7 of different suits, which is generally the worst starting hand. For some misguided reason, I think you’re trying to bluff me with whatever you did to kick-off the hand, so I go All-In on you, meaning I bet everything I have… not because my cards are any good, but because I think you don’t have anything that good, and as per what I wrote yesterday, this is a game of money played with cards, not the other way around. As long as you think I have something better than you, you should throw away the hand.
But instead, this scenario is a dream for you. Someone pushing All-In, while you have pocket Aces. You call instantly, and are even further delighted to see my awful cards. Here’s the math: After running 5 board (common) cards, you should win 88% of the time. I, through sheer luck, will win 12% of the time… having hit 2 pairs or 3 of a kind or who knows.
And that’s the thing… one out of eight times in that dream scenario, you will lose. And it will feel like someone sledgehammered you in the gut… and if you visit the hotel bar at any poker tournament, you will see an ever-increasing group of gut-sledgehammered people wandering in to drown their sorrows and tell anyone who’ll listen how they just got completely screwed by some idiot who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
I will spare you all the details of exactly what busted me out of “The Big One” this year, but there’s no expert that’d tell you I did anything wrong. I got all my money in with a much better hand, and the other guy got lucky. In a real tournament, “IGHN” – I Go Home Now. Silver lining of course… I already am home. And instead of having a bunch of drunk, depressed poker players to make me feel better, I have my dog licking my face.
What’s relatable? That sometimes, doing the exact right thing… doesn’t yield the results you were hoping for or expecting. You’re wearing a mask, you’re social distancing… and somehow you caught the bug. It’s happened. Bad luck. But in no way does that negate what you (and everyone else) should be doing. Knowing that sometimes things aren’t going to work out is no reason to not do the right thing in the first place.
And, for what it’s worth, there are still some smaller WSOP events I might jump into. If things go well there, I assure you, you’ll hear about it. Kind of like the pandemic… when that starts going well, rest-assured… I’ll be here to tell you all about it.
Here’s an interesting coincidence… the adult human body has 206 bones; the earth has 206 sovereign nations. If you were to map each bone to a country, what would that look like? For example, I imagine all those little wrist bones might relate to all those little South Pacific Island Nations. Few people really know what’s there or what they’re called or what function they serve… but they’re a very relevant part of the bigger picture.
But let’s worry about what’s more important; the entire human body doesn’t work well without a solid, healthy backbone. You could say the same about the geo-political stability and general health of the entire planet.
There are 33 vertebrae in the human body, so we hopefully have 33 solid countries inhabiting this planet which, to some extent, the rest need to be able to rely upon… because the whole thing falls apart, or, at least, is in great pain… when those 33 are out of alignment.
There is no dispute what 33 bones make up the human backbone, and while there would be discussion as to what countries round out the bottom of the list, the top of that 33 would be pretty straightforward; all of North America, most of Europe, some of South America… the big players in Asia, perhaps a few in Africa… etc.
Indisputably, the U.S. would be near the top. There was a time in the late 1940s where, without a doubt, they were number one. They’re still top 5, probably top 3… but here’s the thing; they’re presently in pain. Like with a fractured vertebra, and the discomfort that causes. A pain we’re all feeling.
Back problems have treatment, but it’s not always straightforward. You can go visit your local friendly physiatrist or chiropractor or rheumatologist or whatever it might take. There’s a specialist out there who’s very familiar with what’s causing your back pain, and she’ll do what she can to fix it.
But, here’s the thing… if you’ve been visiting the same medical specialist for almost 4 years, and your pain not only hasn’t gotten any better, but it’s gotten notably worse… well, perhaps it’s time to move on. Even though you were told by others that this specialist was terrific, tremendous, the best ever… it may be that you need to reach your own conclusions. Your health and well-being depend on it. And, as per above, the whole world’s as well.
By popular demand, and because their numbers are very relevant to the overall picture, please welcome Alberta to the party. As you can see, they now get their own 4 columns and graph.
Alberta had that awful last two weeks of April… then things settled down for a while, until mid-July… when they took a turn for the worse. They’ve since started to slow down… sort of… their numbers jump around a lot, but at least they seem to be trending downward. Those graphs can be a bit misleading, because the scales are all different. If you were to overlay B.C. and Alberta, pretty much all of B.C. fits “under” the Alberta activity. Their down-trending case counts are similar to B.C. numbers these days… so I guess we’ll see where things go.
From a “trend” point of view, the B.C. graph really looks awful in comparison to the others, but it’s worth noting the Y-axis. We still have some wiggle room… our numbers are good if you compare things, simply apples-to-apples. Saturday’s 100 new cases was the worst day we’ve ever had… but our cases and deaths per 1M of population continue to be way ahead of other provinces.
There will be more to say about this in the near future; we're using up all the "goodwill" we earned leading up to this… and while it's not too late, everyone needs to take some responsibility… for how we got here, and… more importantly… where we go from here.