April 15, 2021

In answering a lot of “Ask me next year” questions, I can’t help but touch upon a topic I wrote a lot about last year… but haven’t touched recently.

Just my opinion, but the U.S. has gotten itself into quite a pickle. If you’re a typical, normal, right-leaning American who usually votes Republican because, above all, you favour their economic policies, you’re not facing a great situation. You want the Republican party, but you don’t want the racist misogynist narcissist that presently leads it. Your former president is as unhinged as ever, and that will never change… just get worse. From his point of view, you’re with him or you’re against him. His VP, Mike Pence, stuck with him through high and low, but that didn’t stop Trump from sending him to the lions on January 6th.

Mitch McConnell made his own deal with the devil… one he’s very much regretting. True to form, now that he and Trump are on the outs, he’s facing his own version of getting kicked to the curb. A few nights ago, Trump called McConnell a “stone cold loser” and a “dumb son of a bitch”. That honeymoon is certainly over.

The problem is that the populist Trump has a huge crowd of support and, as we’ve all learned, a significant percentage of that crowd is unshakable. And if Trump dumps the GOP and goes Independent, he will take most of those people with him, and those people, at present, make up half of the Republican voting base. In that scenario, if the GOP votes were to be split in half, there’s a reasonable chance the next election might be a 50-state sweep for the Democrats, a scenario no Republican wants to contemplate. Third-party candidates appear all the time, but rarely have a significant impact. One has never swung an American election one way or the other… but Trump certainly would. Sweep or not, the election wouldn’t be close, and it wouldn’t be a reflection of what the majority necessarily want… a scenario that’s actually not so uncommon.

Municipally, left-leaning Kennedy Stewart is the mayor of Vancouver… elected in 2018, having beaten the NPA’s Ken Sim by only 1,000 votes… something like 50,000 votes to 49,000 votes. Wai Young, who’s further to the right than Ken Sim, got close to 12,000 votes… the vast majority of which would’ve gone to Ken Sim.

Provincially, we saw it here in 1996 when the right-wing split-vote brought in a Glen Clark NDP government with only 39% percent of the popular vote.

Chile similarly saw it in 1970 when Salvador Allende won that election with only 37% percent of the popular vote, the right-wing having split the other 63%.

The U.S. could be next… so, for the moment, the GOP is stuck with Trump… and their bigger problem is that with cult populists, it doesn’t necessarily go away when the head guy goes away. We’re living it here, where the ghost of Pierre Trudeau lives on in Justin. In the U.S., there can potentially be 8 years of Don Jr. followed by 8 years of Ivanka followed by 8 years of Eric. By then, Barron will be over 40 and it can be his turn. Don’t think this isn’t exactly what they’re try to do.

Indeed, now that the cult of Trump is well-entrenched in the Republican party, those who don’t like it find themselves in quite a conundrum… because, perhaps, there’s no way out. But that’s what happens when you dance with the devil. Sometimes you wind up in a mortal embrace. And then you get burned.

March 22, 2021

Here’s what seems to be a logical progression… some witty/smart/creative troublemaker comes up with an idea and “puts it out there”. The idea enters an echo chamber of like-minded people who welcome it with open arms. The idea gets tossed around, talked about, enhanced upon… grown in different directions, exaggerated and then commandeered to suit the narrative of whoever is propagating it.

Eventually, the original source of the idea backs away… but that’s now irrelevant. Those who need the idea to exist hold onto it and continue to manipulate it to their heart’s content. When logical people argue against it, they get shot down. When those believers are told it was all made up and whatever was said originally simply isn’t true, they refuse to accept it. When the original guy comes out and says, ”Hey, I was kidding”… believers will assume he’s bought out/paid off/threatened… whatever. Then that person backs away from the mess they’ve created, and all that’s left is a big mess of people believing nonsense they want to believe.

Every single conspiracy theory imaginable can trace its origins to something like this. Some religions as well.

But also… good old common fake news.

The former president of the US made “fake news” a thing. I don’t think any of us had heard those words until Donald Trump began uttering them on an hourly basis, a response to anything that didn’t fit his narrative. And now it’s become the de-facto argument for when people disagree with something to which they have no counterargument.

This follows-up on yesterday’s post, because in reading what people have to say about the AstraZeneca vaccine, one thing is now clear. It was smeared briefly with misinformation, and that smear, for those who want to believe it, will never get polished off. There is no science, no data, no version of facts that can now be presented to someone that’d decided that the AZ vaccine causes blood clots. AZ vaccine causes blood clots in the same way water and fresh air and blinking causes blood clots, but nobody wants to hear that. If vaccines are evil, here’s one more gargantuan piece of evidence. Forget that it’s wrong; that doesn’t matter. Of course, scientists will tell you it’s safe, etc etc.

What can you do? Actually, nothing. I saw a piece of a reported wandering into a restaurant in a very red state; a 90% Trump-voting district. He went in there and asked for a show of hands… “Who’ll be getting the vaccine?”

Not a single hand from the dozens of unmasked people. Not one. He then interviewed a few of them and asked why not… and got the usual answers you’d expect… they’re trying to poison us, they’re trying to control us, they’re trying to kill us… or, it was rushed, it’s not safe, there’s no covid, fake news, etc.
One person was asked the exact question I wanted to hear answered: “If Donald Trump today came out and said to do it… like he did… he got the vaccine, albeit quietly without telling anyone… would you then get the vaccine?”

That particular answer: “No way… why would I listen to Trump? He’s a Liberal New Yorker. Can’t trust him!”.

“But you voted for him.”

“Whatever.”

This is not a “steep uphill”… it’s a vertical, slick and slippery and unclimbable wall. Not even worth trying.

March 8, 2021

Setting aside the vaccine optimism for a moment, let’s remember we’re not quite there yet… although, slowly, things will trend in that direction. It depends where you are and it depends how things are going. For example, today, New Brunswick shifted from level “orange” to level “yellow”… which means, for them, bubbles can grow to 15 people, sports teams are allowed league play across zones and in larger tournaments, formal indoor gatherings are allowed (with some restrictions) and informal outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people are also allowed.

But we are far from New Brunswick, in more ways than one.

B.C. is the only province in Canada where our 7-day rolling average of new cases has been consistently going up. Every other place has seen it bounce around, a little up and a little down. Ours is very consistently a little… up. A month ago, our 7-day average of new cases was 436. A week later, 452. A week after that, 482. Today, it’s 557.

So what, that’s just testing… but what matters are hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths, right? I’d argue that’s not quite true, but even if that’s what you believe, then all I can tell you is that all of those numbers, over the last month, are virtually unchanged. Around 250 people in hospital, 65 of them in ICU… but 136 people have died since then, so there’s a consistent pipeline. It’s neither a downward spiral nor an upward spiral. Just a churn.

It’s easy to fiddle with the numbers, but let’s remember these are real people, not just statistics. Every one of those 136 people have family and friends deeply affected. As do the 136 presently in the system. And as will next month’s 136 if nothing changes.

Things, fortunately, are changing… just more slowly around here, for the usual reasons. Like staunch Republicans who are still supporting Trump, we are now well past the point of changing people’s minds. If you were never into masks and social distancing, you’re certainly not about to change your tune now. If you’re adamantly against vaccines, that won’t change either. The flipside of that is that today was the first day to call in and book for vaccine appointments for the general public, starting with those aged 90+. The phone lines were flooded with calls… like 1.7 million calls for only 40,000 or so eligible people. That’s actually pretty encouraging. We’ll get there, but the impatience is evident… everywhere.

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February 21, 2021

The numbers will all be accurately updated tomorrow. In the meantime…

There once was a doctor named Henry
Whose gentle words, kind and most friendly,
Said, “Please, just stay home,
This is no time to roam”,
But for many, those words were just merely…

A voice full of spite… so annoying!!
“We’d rather be out, and enjoying
The pubs and the fun,
And the parties and sun,
We’ve just had it with life that’s so boring!!”

The numbers crept up, somewhat slowly
But suddenly jumped… holy moly…
The hospitals slammed,
And the ICUs jammed,
“Oh no”, said the people… “if only…

We’d listened when last we were told
Those words that will never get old:
Be calm, safe and kind,
We can leave this behind,
But it’s not just like some common cold.”

OK… the good news is that the numbers haven’t yet exploded off the chart… but they’re at that point where it could go either way…. and here’s the deal… as long as they stay low, I’ll keep writing about interesting things… like vaccines and science and bitcoins and my life and my dog and whatever else has kept you around, reading this. Maybe I’ll bash Trump a bit more, too… just for old-time’s sake.

And if numbers go up, you will all instead be subjected to more terrible poetry. As per above, it’s up to you. You’ve been warned. Don’t make me do it. Please.

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February 18, 2021

Around five years go, Donald Trump famously said that he was so popular, he could stand on Fifth Avenue in New York and shoot someone, and not lose any voters. Indeed, I have to agree… anyone today who’d consider again voting for Trump is certainly someone whose mind is made up to the point where him murdering someone in cold blood would do little to change it.

What’s presently left of the Republican Party is full of people like that, who realize that no matter what, they’re now dealing with an unshakable core… and, therefore, anything goes. While it was Trump who took that limelight for the better part of four years, he’s presently faded from the forefront, some it’s up to some other despicable full-of-crap demagogue to step up.

Enter Ted Cruz, who didn’t hesitate to show America (and the world) where his loyalties lie. He fully supported Trump’s insurrection from start to finish, if for no other reason than to hold on to that core for his potential 2024 run.

But don’t let it fool you. Cruz, like Trump, cares about nothing but what matters to him… and realizing that he can do no evil, will simply do whatever the hell he wants. So… while his great state of Texas is greatly suffering from bitter storms and power outages, off he went to sunny Cancun.

Hypocrisy is nothing new for these guys, but sometimes… the “Are you kidding me?” factor is just too much. In a radio interview on Monday, Cruz told people to “stay home” and “not risk it”. And to “Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids.” That was a few hours before he and his kids jetted off to the sunshine of Mexico. Cruz, who in the past has criticized other public officials for vacationing or golfing during times of crisis. Cruz, who violated a travel ban. Cruz, who works for a government that at present is telling everyone that Mexico is out of bounds.

Pandemic, ice storms, freezing cold, no power, people dying in the streets. Their vaccine distribution infrastructure paralyzed. More than 2,000 new C19 cases today. Whatever.

Texas is in a heap of trouble because they’re fiercely independent and their power grid doesn’t connect to the rest of the U.S… and as much as others might like to help, the infrastructure doesn’t support it. That’s a whole other story, but there are plenty of people who’d argue Texas isn’t a state but its own independent whatever that never actually whatever’d their way into the U.S. It reminds me a bit of Quebec and how every so often, likes once every generation, the “Vive le Québec Libre” bullshit fires up. When you dig into it, Québec would be an instant 3rd-world country if that were to happen… because if you’re truly independent, a lot of national things you take for granted go away.

So Texas wants their own power infrastructure; here’s an issue that might come up. But don’t worry about it… as long as their fearless leaders can jet off and leave the problems behind, no problem. Nobody will care, and Cruz will get re-elected because… well, because “Republicans” I guess, though that word has now achieved a completely new meaning. This group of “leaders” needs a different word than the same one attributed to the likes of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan. And their present group of followers… don’t get me started.

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February 13, 2021

Snow day!! No school!! And also, no local numbers… which of course, snow or not, is always the case over the weekend. And, can I just say… back in the day when it snowed enough to actually cancel school, why did the big snow-dump always happen on a weekend? Not fair.

But, briefly, speaking of numbers and things that are not fair… New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is going to be facing some tough questions. The explanations are inconsistent and the story changes, but the bottom line is that in NY, Covid-19 deaths were underreported with respect to nursing home residents at the height of the pandemic. At its most fundamental level, this is just politics trumping science. Cuomo just didn’t want to look bad to the Trump government and face all the noise that’d be coming his way.

It’s ironic… in that the Trump loyalists, especially at the time, were always the ones claiming it’s a hoax and nobody is dying; that death numbers were being inflated and, anyway, old people are going to die. Had all of this come out sooner, they would’ve been faced with an interesting contradiction… how does one complain that deaths are being overstated… while at the same time, have proof – actual numbers that would provide you with actual evidence to justifiably criticize your opponents – that say the exact opposite?

Except among the truly deluded, long gone are the “Covid death rate is 0.000243%!!!” posts. The nonsense that the flu kills more people, etc. If you’re curious… these days, more people in the U.S. die from C19 in any rolling 10-day period than typically die from flu in an entire 12-month cycle. And this year, that ratio will be sharply higher because flu cases (and deaths) are way down.

Excess deaths in the U.S were around 300,000 between January and October last year… and Covid-19 deaths during that time averaged 975 per day. Since then, C19 deaths have averaged close to 2,500 daily.

At least this explains something that head-scratchingly wasn’t adding up… what are all these American excess deaths attributable to, if not C19?

Yeah… it turns out it was C19 after all.

Oh, some breaking news… I’ll conveniently provide it in the form of a poem:

It’s snowy and peaceful
And time for a book
The Senate acquitted
But Trump’s still a crook

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February 10, 2021

I must admit, it feels good not to be writing about Donald Trump. Because now, I read the news about the guy and my first thought is always, “Who cares”. Washington will have their hands full with the impeachment circus, and by the end of it it’s highly likely he’ll be acquitted… but through the motions they go.

I find it pathetic that the Republican Party hasn’t got the internal fortitude to figure out what’s really important to them; some of them cling on to their has-been demagogue for the simple reason that there’s still an army of misguided supporters out there. What they perhaps don’t realize is that those aren’t fellow Republicans. They’re cult followers. Jeez, if the events of January 6th can’t convince you of that, nothing can. Or, of course, they *do* realize that, and don’t care. Which is really far worse, when you consider the implications. Either way, I look forward to it all going away. And, hopefully, not coming back.

Sifting past the pages of all that nonsense for something relevant to write about in the few minutes I have to do so, I found an interesting story from the CDC claiming that double-masking can block 93% of potentially infectious particles. That number varies, depending how well you double-mask and how well knotted it’s done… but it’s drastically different than single masking in the 40-60% range. It’s a far cry seeing that published and possibly adhered to, as opposed to the aforementioned has-been demagogue who spent a year telling everyone masks are useless. For those who like math, the extrapolation of triple-masking goes to 97% and quadruple-masking 99%. Beyond that, it’s 100% because you probably can’t breathe.

Yeah, wear a mask or two… it makes a huge difference. I look around with some envy at places that had these mandates in place early and effectively… places where two-week mandatory quarantines don’t have exceptions and you pay for it yourself and you don’t complain; those are now the places that have bustling restaurants and crowded stadiums and no mask mandates. There are indeed places on the planet that are back to normal. The U.S. completely messed-up their opportunity, but that was because of colossally crappy leadership, right from the top, and right from the start. We’ve done a lot better here in Canada, but now that we’re a year into this thing, it’s not difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons. It could’ve been a lot better. In gambling terms, it’s called the “woulda coulda shoulda” – it’s what you hear from most frustrated horseplayers moments after the horses cross the finish line… I woulda bet the 6… I coulda bet the 4.

And yeah, we shoulda had masks everywhere… long ago.

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February 9, 2021

Let’s talk about something else entirely… at least for today.

Like Covid-19, it’s invisible to the naked eye. Like Trump, it’s wildly volatile. Like both of those things, its future is uncertain, but there’s plenty of speculation. What I’m talking about is Bitcoin.

Bitcoin (BTC) was born almost exactly 11 years ago, created by an entity known as Satoshi Nakamoto. Nobody’s too sure if that’s a real person, or a group of people, and/or whether that individual, if it is one, is still alive.

The first time I heard about Bitcoin was some time in 2010… from a friend I’d formerly worked with… a very smart guy, one of the best Linux/network admins I’ve ever met. Smart guy, but nobody took his touting of Bitcoin seriously. This was late 2010, and Bitcoins were worth less than a $1. The following year, they started going up in value… all the way to $20. He was very happy. Then the price crashed back down to a few dollars again. He was not so happy. It all still felt like something not to be taken seriously… but that started to change as time went on.

In late 2013, the world’s first Bitcoin ATM opened up… right here in Vancouver. It’s still there… in Waves Coffee, on the corner of Smithe and Howe.

Very cool. I went down there with $500, plugged it into that machine, and bought 2.5 Bitcoins. And when you buy BTC, there’s no tangible evidence of it… but then again, there’s no tangible evidence of your bank balance, except for what your phone or computer screen tells you. You just assume the little numbers translate to value. Like cash or stocks or gold or anything else with a number that describes what it’s worth. Then I bought a coffee and some food with it; Waves was one of the first places to accept Bitcoin for payment.

I dabbled with BTC over the years; for a while, I had my own mining rig… but it wasn’t anything too sophisticated. In fact, it was computer motherboard and three video cards all crammed into a milk crate. That thing ran hot… and loud. I was selling most of what I mined as quickly as I could… BTC was $400 at the time… and that was the mindset; create $ out of thin air and lock it in. Obviously, in hindsight, holding onto all of that would’ve made far more sense, but BTC back then, at least in my mind, was simply a new-fangled digital currency to be used like any other. And like any other, it’ll fluctuate… but never appreciate to levels of insanity. You wouldn’t expect a Canadian Dollar to suddenly be worth $2,000 U.S.; this was no different. Eventually, I shut it all down. Mining BTC becomes more difficult and more expensive as time goes on. Doing the math on how much energy I was consuming in this increasingly-difficult exercise implied it was no longer worthwhile. The garage, where it had been running, became much quieter and colder.

Except… it was different.

The first evidence of that was in 2013 when BTC shot-up to over $1,000 a coin… and it was because of currency restrictions imposed in Cyprus, during a financial crisis. People there were frantically trying to get their money out. In the old days, you’d try to do that by smuggling out gold or diamonds… but if you can seamlessly tap-tap-tap here and somewhere else in the world, someone else does the tap-tap-tap and now has all the money (and, of course, that someone else can also be you)… and no financial regulator was in the way… well, great. Even better, even if the financial regulator saw that transaction go by, they have no idea who did it. BTC became the de-facto currency of the Silk Road marketplace, a dark web Black Market site for purchasing all sorts of illegal goods.

When the Cypriot financial crisis sorted itself out, the BTC prices came back down to earth, but everyone took notice. Hmmm… forget buying coffees and croissants… if this thing can hold its value, given everything else it brings to the table… hmm…

What else does it bring to the table? It’s secure. So far, nobody has figured out how to hack it, though many have tried. The general consensus is that it’d take a very long time for all the computer power in the world at present to do so. The infrastructure is secure and transparent. Everyone can know what every wallet balance in the world is at – but not necessarily know to whom it belongs. Transactions are verified in real-time by multiple machines around the world. It all simply works. And who’s to say what a BTC is worth? Well, who decides what gold is worth? Or a diamond? It’s simple… it’s worth exactly what at this moment in time, someone is willing to pay for it while someone else is willing to part with it.

But perhaps the biggest intangible, the one thing this particular commodity brings to the table that no other one does is… that it’s finite. Given how it’s designed, only 21,000,000 BTCs will ever be mined. Around 18,500,000 have already been mined, but, like I said, it’s getting harder and harder. The last one won’t be mined till around 2140, and it’ll take decades for that last one to emerge.

Oil, gold, diamonds, wheat, sugar, cocoa, pork bellies… the earth always provides more. Nothing is infinite, but we’re nowhere close to running out of those things… we can always mine, grow or breed more. But not BTCs. So what happens when you have a trusted commodity where supply is known to be limited? You’d expect it would appreciate in value.

At this moment, a single BTC is worth $60,000. That coffee and chocolate croissant I bought way back when for 0.05 BTC? It cost me $3,000 in today’s dollars. That initial $500 in BTC I bought (and is now long gone) would be worth over $150,000… but if that makes you go ouch, consider the very first BTC transaction ever… two Papa John’s pizzas… worth about $30… for 10,000 BTC. That is, in today’s dollars, a six-hundred million dollar pizza. Sorry, two pizzas.

A lot could go wrong with BTC, which would vapourize all that value instantly. Someone could crack the encryption. Governments could conspire to shut it all down. A better crypto-currency could appear, and all the value would flood in that direction. Or… it could continue to appreciate forever. Some people are saying a single BTC could be worth $500,000 within a decade. Given its recent meteoric rise, who knows.

People also wonder what’ll happen after 2140, when there’s no more reward for being part of the network, since mining will have stopped. But in the same breath, the answer is obvious. Not our problem… just like in 2140, perhaps we’ll all have fusion-powered diamond-makers in our homes, or do-it-yourself alchemy kits for turning old pennies into gold. Not our present-day problem.

For now, the world has a trusted, unique, ubiquitous and accessible form of wealth storage that seems to find a little bit more of legitimacy every day. Recently, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would be accepting BTC for payment. And that Tesla holds $1.5 billion in BTC, just as a part of a diversified investment portfolio. And perhaps that’s what a well-diversified portfolio looks like in the future… cash, equities, bonds, gold, real-estate, commodities… and now, also… BTC.

As far as my friend is concerned, the one who was into BTC so early in the game… at some point, he cashed it all in (whatever “it’ is), bought a boat, and has been sailing around the world ever since.

** Disclaimer: I’m nobody’s idea of a registered investment advisor. None of the above is intended as advice; just interesting info. Should you choose to dabble in BTC, do so at your own risk. Past returns are never indicative of future whatever yadda yadda…

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January 27, 2021

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day… recognized every January 27th because it was on this day in 1945 that the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was liberated.

For all my Jewish friends and family, there isn’t much I could write here that they don’t already know… but this is going out more to everyone else, because I want to touch on the topic in a way that involves everyone… because, at the end of the day, this affects everyone, not just the unfortunate 6,000,000.

In second place to the most easily disprovable conspiracy theory (flat earth being number one) is holocaust denial. And while flat earthers just amuse me and make me a little sad, holocaust deniers get me angry. Very angry. There’s a video clip somewhere of some idiot “Moon Landings Were Faked” conspiracy theorist hounding Buzz Aldrin on the street, trying to shove a bible in his face and trying to make him swear on it that he actually walked on the moon. Calling him a liar and a thief. Buzz tries to get away from him, can’t… and eventually loses his cool and punches the guy in the face. I get it. It’s what anyone can expect from me as well if you question something that’s, unfortunately, far too close to home; going back on both sides of my family, more perished than survived the holocaust… and some entire branches in Auschwitz itself.

Hearing the nonsensical “here’s an aerial view of the camp… there’s no way that blah blah blah….” type of arguments… and setting aside the overwhelming quantities of first-hand evidence and eyewitness accounts… here’s a simple question in return: The well-documented and widely published European census of 1933 counted 9.5 million Jews. In 1945, that number was around 3.5 million. It’s really a very simple question… where did all those people go? If this was a big conspiracy, where did they all hide? Six million people is a lot… where are their kids and grandkids? The world population of Jews was 16.6 million just before WWII, and it still hasn’t recovered. Today, it’s still less than 15 million.

At the insurrection at The Capitol three weeks ago, there was a guy with a “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirt. There was a guy with a shirt that stated “6 million wasn’t enough”… and that right there answers the question, if there was any doubt, as to why we need a Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is, of course, first and foremost… to recognize, remember and honour those 6 million… but part of that is remembering for the future; spreading the message far and wide… not only did this happen, but it can happen again. And not just with Jews, but with anyone. Yeah, anyone… consider the fact that Jews weren’t geographically tied to any place. There’s never justification for genocide, but at least you can understand the tribalism when one group of people who look a certain way march into the territory of others who don’t look like them and decide to get rid of them all and take everything. It’s not a justification, but perhaps an explanation deep-rooted in the human animal of survival of the fittest.

But in this case, Jews were a thriving part of society… making up roughly 2% of the population and immersed within it at every level. Why target them? You know who else is 2% of the population? Red-haired people. Gingers. What would happen if some psychotic military leader somewhere in the world today decided that red-haired people are clearly soulless, devil incarnates, and we need to get rid of them. Unfortunately, the events of three weeks ago leads me to believe that a not-insignificant population of brain-washed zombies might buy in. Yeah, it’s for the greater good… and hey, it’s not us they’re coming after… so, sure.

The motto of this day is “Never Again”… but the frightening part – perhaps the most impactful part – perhaps the most important and persistent legacy of Holocaust Remembrance Day – it needs to be this, and I will quote another Jew who managed to survive the holocaust… Albert Einstein: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

You’ve all read that poem… which to summarize, talks about how first they came for some guy, and nobody said or did anything… and then they came for some other guy and, again, nobody did or said anything…and eventually they came for me, and there was nobody left to help me.

This is why it’s critically important, not just to passively remember, but to actively be engaged at forging a future that can’t repeat the past… like throw the book at Donald Trump. And at the insurrectionists. And at the lawmakers who supported them. Because anything less is a tacit acknowledgement that as long as it doesn’t affect “me”… well then, whatever. It’s not my problem. This is the key that needs to be hammered home, and America almost got a taste of it… that by the time you’re saying, “Holy shit, what’s going on?!” – it might be too late. Everyone has to remember…it’s not just a question of letting people think it’s ok to get away with things when you think it doesn’t affect you; at the end of the day, it most certainly could. “If only we’d…” are not thoughts you ever want to be having when it affects your country, your home, your family.

Maybe they didn’t see it coming in Europe. That’s bullshit, but it’s an argument. Then when it arrived, well, maybe nobody knew it was going on. Also bullshit. I don’t buy it for a moment. Also – irrelevant. To some extent, if it’s not already here, it’s coming. It might be tomorrow or it might be in 200 years… but somewhere between those two end points, the “it could never happen here” mantra will be chanted out shortly before whatever *it* is actually happens.

Or, everyone realizes that we’re all in this together, whatever *this* is, and we maintain an active – not passive – role in maintaining it. As we’ve seen recently in countless examples, it takes a lot longer to build something meaningful than to destroy it.

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By |2021-01-27T17:03:01-08:00January 27th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics|Tags: , , , , , , |10 Comments

January 23, 2021

We watched a movie the other night… I thought it’d be a waste of time, but the kids really wanted to see it. OK… I can spare an hour and forty minutes, and who knows… it might be amusing. It’s called “Behind the Curve” (Netflix), and it’s all about Flat Earthers – the society whose members genuinely believe that the earth is flat. Or, pretend to. Or, are members for other reasons. OK, queue it up.

My assumption was that it’d be 100 minutes of idiots espousing theories that make no sense. Certainly, that was part of it. But above all that, there’s a genuine sadness to it, and some enlightening points that are incredibly relevant to today.

Of all the conspiracy theories out there, this is the one that’s most easily disprovable. For more than a thousand years, intelligent people have been devising experiments based on heights, distances, shadows and trigonometry… that show that the earth is a sphere. So good were some of these ancient experiments, that they were pretty-accurately able to calculate the diameter and circumference. This throws a bit of a wrench into the flat-earth conspiracy where millions of scientists, NASA employees and pilots are all in on it. You’d have to add Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle and Archimedes to the list, among many others.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter – the details of how a flat earth could even be possible don’t add up, to the extent there’s disagreement within the group. Is there a giant dome, snow-globe-like, covering the heavens? If not, what are all the stars and planets attached to? Queue the internal bickering.

Shortly into the movie, you realize that there’s something a little off about these people. They’re not dangerously crazy… just… off. Something emotional that comes across as almost child-like… and then it becomes obvious. This is a support group for like-minded people who’ve found each other. They feel like they’re part of something big. They feel they get it, and everyone else doesn’t… and it’s their mission to educate the poor, ignorant masses.

They don’t mind being called stupid idiots by the rest of the world… not only because they’re used to it, but because, to some extent, they bask in it. Us versus them. We know. You don’t. And this is where the bigger-picture relevancy comes in. When everyone tells you what you believe in is nonsense, for many people, human nature dictates they double down. They entrench their belief and they will never let go of it and they will build (and share) crazier and crazier ideas to support something that’s actually unsupportable. Queue the madness.

Sound familiar? At least, these guys aren’t storming The Capitol. Let’s talk about a different sort of queue… just Q.

There’s an interesting thing going on in the U.S. (actually, around the world – apparently Japan has a big following as well…) – and I’m talking about Q and QAnon and all that. For years, their now-absent leader Q has been dropping hints about what’s about to happen. The original finish line was January 6th, when Trump would seize control via – heh, we know what that looked like. That didn’t work out so well, so the Qs shifted to believing the failed storming was part of a bigger plan; one that would now allow the president to invoke martial law, take back those key states, and continue the presidency. None of that happened, of course, and the smooth, quiet transition of power took place. Now what.

Typically, when conspiracies hit their finish line, one of a few things can happen. One is that people realize it’s nonsense and bail. Another is that they’re so sunk into it that they will continue the fight, no matter how senseless it might be. And another possibility is that they claim it all actually came to be, just as they said… and most people don’t realize it. There was a lot of that – all of it – in 2012 when the world didn’t end. Some people came to the conclusion it was all nonsense. Some people claim the math was done wrong, and the end is coming.. later in 2012 (didn’t happen) or maybe 2021. I guess if you keep pushing the date further and further, eventually you’ll be right. And, some claim, the world *did* end, and now we’re in some illusionary remnant version. For what it’s worth, if this is The Matrix, give me the blue pill. I’d rather ride out this illusion than battle aliens the rest of my life.

Q is seeing a lot of disillusioned people bail on them at present. They realize it must have been nonsense; they were duped. There is no master plan. For those not feeling so rudderless, they will continue the fight, though now I’m sure there’s confusion what that might look like. And… there are some who think it all worked out… and that, I kid you not, Trump is still in fact in the White House, and that he and Biden did some sort of face swap thing like in that John Travolta/Nicholas Cage movie. If you really need to keep holding on to this particular conspiracy, and that things are still in place, that’s where you wind up today.

And with these flat earth people… skirting the fine line between philosophy, art, science and madness… the final scene of the movie – I don’t think I’m giving too much away here by announcing that the earth is, indeed, a sphere (an oblate spheroid if you want to be perfectly technical about it… the earth is a little compressed at the poles and bulging at the equator, due to the spin)… so at the end of the movie, these guys have devised an experiment to prove the earth is flat. It’s pretty straightforward… attach a powerful laser to a stick 15 feet high. Point it to a big poster board a few miles away, also 15 feet high. If the laser hits it, clearly the earth is flat.

This is a sound experiment. At that distance, the curvature of the earth is not irrelevant. If you imagine the curve “kicking in”, that laser should hit about 21 feet high to compensate.

The guys wait for darkness and fire-up their well-calibrated laser. But nothing hits the board. “Jeez, what’s wrong”, they wonder. The laser is on, they really should see it. They move the big poster board around, but nothing.

“Try moving it up”, suggests one guy… so they do… they lift it 6 feet, and the bright laser comes splashing in.

“Oh.” says the guy.

Queue the credits.

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