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Friday, September 11, 2020

Voting for delusion 

 

As I read this short piece at No More Mister Nice Guy, I felt increasingly horrified: 
It's often said that Trump's approach to everything is "transactional." I think Trump's approach to reality is transactional. The truth is the truth when it serves his purposes. In those moments, Trump believes in reality. But in other moments, not only does he walk out to a podium and contradict reality, he does so without necessarily believing that he's lying. As I've said in the past, Trump doesn't believe in truth. There are (as we see them) facts, lies, and true and false interpretations of reality, but to Trump they're all equally valid. He'll use any of them to shape reality, and he'll believe whatever he's saying at the time, even if it contradicts what he said six hours ago. In part this is because, as Yastreblyansky says, he believes in the Power of Positive Thinking and therefore thinks confidence can shape reality. In part it's because it's important to him to be his audience's daddy, someone who dominates us the way his father dominated him.
This is the man that millions of Americans voted for. And will vote for again. 
I'm reading more stories now about Americans who don't believe COVID is actually real - they think its all a Democratic plot, and that millions of Americans are just getting the flu, and hundreds of thousands are dying of something they already had like heart disease. 
I don't know what they think people are getting sick from in other countries around the world, but probably they aren't even aware that other countries actually exist.
And I'm reading stories now about how people in small towns in Oregon and Washington and California think that Antifa, not campers or lightning, is the cause of the fires that are destroying their homes.

Its absolutely crazy.

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Sunday, September 06, 2020

Dumkirk 

Yes, I know in the overall scheme of things, the sinking of some of the boats in Trump's boating parade this weekend is pretty trivial. 
But there's nothing like trivial to make Twitter come alive. 
The hashtag of the event is #Dumkirk:

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Sunday, August 30, 2020

End of August Doldrums 

What a strange week! 
I've been trying to decide what to post here for this week, and haven't really got anything organized.
Down South, the Republican Convention came in like a lamb and left like a lamb too, and nobody seems to really remember anything about it. 
Hurricane Laura came and went too, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Two more hurricanes are on their way. Oh, great!
More Black people were shot needlessly, and more protests are underway, and now Trump is talking about going to Wisconsin and nobody wants to see him there. I wonder if he ever gets embarrassed by how useless he is at any kind of leadership? 
Following the example of the Kenosha shooter - who was just "helping the police" by killing two people and wounding a third - we are seeing more MAGA people driving their pickup trucks and waving their flags at the protests, and so more people are getting shot. This isn't going to end well. 
 As Twitter keeps mentioning, it's bizarre for Trump to be talking about how the protest violence is Biden's fault, when it is happening under Trump's watch. Of course, Trump never takes responsibility for anything so why would he ever take responsibility for the violence of his own supporters? 
And here in Canada we have a new Conservative leader -- Erin (AKA Eric) is not making a good first impression as he refuses to confront the haters in his own party. You know, I seem to remember that it was Trudeau, who is supposedly just a whimpy drama teacher according to the Cons, who didn't hesitate to boot people out of the Liberal caucus for any accusation of misconduct, and who refused to let anyone run under the Liberal banner if they were not pro-choice, and who refused to give federal money for student employment to any organizations that preached against abortion. 
O'Toole doesn't seem to realize that a leader who goes along with jerks and assholes because he doesn't want to offend anyone is not a leader that Canadians will respect or support. 
And now school is getting underway, and it will be a disaster. Give it a week or two, for COVID to start passing between children and teachers and the families, infecting and killing across Canada. 
COVID is the honey badger - it don't care
Everybody basically KNOWS this is going to happen. But we all seem to be in some sort of mass-hypnosis fugue Tinker Bell state where we think if we just BELIEVE hard enough and WISH hard enough and HOPE hard enough then everything will be JUST FINE. 
Yesterday the Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer said we have to change our "summer bubbles" when school starts -- basically, what he was saying in an incredibly convoluted and indirect way, is that Grandma and Grandpa have will have to stop seeing the grandkids once they go back to school.
Oh, what a week!
But then I watch this: and this Now I feel better.

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Saturday, August 22, 2020

We've got a goddamn plan! 




  • Chrystia Freeland is going to be a great Finance minister. 
    The first thing she will have to do it get a grip on the pro-Morneau leaks from her department. 
    Like the one this week about Trudeau Chief of Staff Katie Telford's husband Ron Silver phoning up to see if the Finance Department would change some part of the pandemic benefit programs to benefit his employer: At Routine Proceedings, Dale Smith writes
    For the past two weeks, as the leaks about Bill Morneau started coming out in advance of his departure, we also saw a number of warnings over social media about Liberals being their own worst enemies and that now was really not a good time for a civil war within the party. The fact that there were anonymous leaks to both VICE and the National Post about this incident shows that someone is suddenly awfully keen to talk, hoping to possibly embarrass PMO in some way, and considering that the leakers are showing how virtuous they were in standing up to Silver might make one assume that those leakers are loyalists of Morneau who are trying to, if not burnish his reputation, then certainly tarnish his detractors. I do wonder if this is a limited screw-you to Trudeau, because I havenโ€™t yet seen camps loyal to Chrystia Freeland and Franรงois-Philippe Champagne forming and trying to oust Trudeau so that one of them can take over just yet. That said, this year has proven to be full of surprises, so weโ€™ll see.
    I don't expect Freeland will have any difficulty with the Finance bureaucrats. Listen to her putting down David Akin for being annoyed on behalf of the opposition parties who are being forced to put up or shut up: The next thing Freeland will do is get to work on Trudeau's grand plan for Canada. I do believe there is an untold and unnoticed (by the WE-obsessed Canadian media) story of the Moreau resignation: Trudeau intends to use the COVID crisis to greatly improve Canada's social welfare system. Moreau wouldn't do it, but Freeland will. 
    I think the Morneau resignation, whether forced or not, provided an opportunity for Trudeau to make changes to Canada that he has long wanted to make -- I wondered if Morneau was resisting these changes, and THAT, as much as the WE issue, was why he had to leave. 
     Here's Trudeau using a reporter's question about government pandemic support to talk about his plans:

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    Friday, August 14, 2020

    More funny stuff 

    One of the things I love about Twitter is the funny people on it:

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    Saturday, August 08, 2020

    School Daze 

    I don't have any children or grandchildren in school these days, and thank heavens for small mercies. I think this mom has it right: The School Safe "plan" in Saskatchewan is based on wishful thinking: Parents aren't happy: Neither are doctors: I am concerned that the Sask Party seems to be reducing the whole School debate to a discussion of whether or not to make masks mandatory, while the Sask Medical Association is asking for a much broader look at school problems:  
    [SMA says]โ€œClosed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded spaces with many people, and close-contact settings with close-range conversations are not uncommon in schools and these realities need to be front and centre in back to school plans.โ€ Education Minister Gord Wyant said Friday that, in response to the associationโ€™s concerns and recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the province is looking at making masks mandatory. 
     And it is, of course, not just the schools themselves that are problematic. Its also the impact that COVID increases in schools would have on the rest of us.
    I spent four months staying away from people, stores, restaurants, everything. So will I have to go back to that kind of life if there is community COVID spread here again? Yes, I'm afraid so.

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    Saturday, August 01, 2020

    August funny 

    OK, its been one of those weeks, so here's some funny stuff:

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    Saturday, July 25, 2020

    Button, button, who's got the button? 

    Well, this is a little strange. 
    Today the Globe and Mail published a story about how Canada's pandemic early warning system within the Public Health Agency of Canada has been muzzled under the Harper Conservatives in 2014, and how the Liberals had said they would change this but then they never did. So as a result, the epidemiologists in the early warning system, called the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), were silenced just when Canada needed them the most.
    Other than not actually telling us which the individuals or offices are responsible for the muzzling, its an explosive article:
    Early detection is as much an art as it is a science. 
    The disease is hiding, but the signals are detectable. 
    Acting quickly can have a big impact on the outcome. With COVID-19, the signals began small, but grew louder. 
     โ€œWe all had enough warning,โ€ she said. โ€œWe saw what happened in China, in Italy,โ€ Dr. St. John agrees. โ€œThe signal was there,โ€ he said. 
     However, few people outside GPHIN knew Canadaโ€™s early warning alert system had effectively stopped working, just when it was needed most. 
    When Ms. Thornton, the vice-president in charge of the alerts, appeared before a House of Commons committee in May to face questions about Canadaโ€™s handling of the pandemic, she was asked how the government had tracked the spread of the virus. 
     Ms. Thornton referenced GPHIN and the work it did. Though she made no mention that GPHIN had not issued a single alert in the previous 12 months. Nor did she mention that analysts had been assigned to other work, or that GPHIN had not sounded any further alarms on COVID-19 developments after the outbreak became known โ€“ even though the departmentโ€™s own guidelines required as much.
    As far as the committee knew, Canadaโ€™s surveillance system had been operating as it always had. 
     Itโ€™s not easy to know the consequences of such decisions, but Mr. Garner, the former senior science adviser at Public Health, says he believes Canadaโ€™s early response to the outbreak โ€“ which has been criticized for being slow and disorganized โ€“ was a product of the many changes he saw made to the department. 
     Those changes helped move Public Healthโ€™s focus away from science, he said, which slowed down its ability to react effectively โ€“ and with maximum urgency. 
     โ€œAll of these things have tragically come home to roost,โ€ Mr. Garner said. 
     โ€œNot to be overdramatic, but Canadians have died because of this.โ€ 
    A pretty damning indictment of the Public Health Agency of Canada, and of the Canadian government.
    But then I also found this: in April, the CBC published a story that said GPHIN had been undergoing a technical upgrade in 2019, and that's why it hadn't issued alerts about COVID19 until the end of December.
    CBC News has obtained a series of internal public health agency documents and slide-presentation decks โ€” including one given by a senior epidemiologist from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) last November on the eve of a pandemic that has since killed tens of thousands and crippled the world economy. 
    The documents bring into sharper focus the kind of information key decision-makers had at their fingertips as the outbreak started in China and raise questions about how seriously global pandemic preparedness was being taken within the federal government. 
    The records show GPHIN was in the middle of a long-overdue technology upgrade as the virus was spreading. 
    Despite almost four years of work with the National Research Council of Canada, the early warning system was โ€” as of last fall โ€” still in need of "improvement in the geographical and time tagging algorithm," according to a Nov 12, 2019 presentation to a WHO conference in Seoul, South Korea by senior epidemiologist Florence Tanguay. 
    That algorithm is crucial to the system's ability to sort through as many as 7,000 online articles per day to spot disease outbreaks around the globe. 
    The network also was awaiting an "expansion to new data sources," such as social media feeds. 
    From its inception in the late 1990s, GPHIN had relied on news wire services and later local media articles posted online.
    So now I'm not sure what was going on in Canada last January and February.  
    Maybe GPHIN was issuing timely and accurate reports on the emerging virus but Public Health Canada was minimizing their analysis and not sending the reports up the ladder to government. 
    Or maybe because GPHIN was basing its alerts on wire services, its reports were no longer regarded as reliable enough for PHAC and government to count on.
    Either way, it does sound like somebody maybe dropped the ball, doesn't it?
    And I hope there might now be some attempt to figure out what really happened.

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    Saturday, July 18, 2020

    Messenger of the gods 

    The last time Comet NEOWISE was visible in our sky, Stonehenge had not yet been built.
    See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will downloadthe highest resolution version available.

    Comets used to be seen as messengers of the gods, sent to tell us something important. 
    This time, maybe its just "wear a mask and keep your distance!"



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    Sunday, July 12, 2020

    How Canadian is this scandal, really? 

    So I guess the Globe and Mail thinks we're supposed to be outraged now that prominent Canadians have raised money for an outstanding charity
    What a typically Canadian scandal this is. 
    I guess only non-entities like me are ever supposed to raise money for charities - over the years I have given a few bucks to the Saskatoon Food Bank and the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and I went door-to-door for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and for Diabetes Canada.  
    So as far as the Globe and Mail is concerned, that's OK as long as I never achieve any public prominence or get active in politics years after. 
    Because hey, how dare people like Katie Telford and Seamus O'Regan, back in 2010, years before they were involved in politics, volunteer to work on creating artworks in developing countries, to support a charity then called Free The Children which later morphed into WE Charity and then later still got money from the feds to run a gigantic volunteer effort to give Canadian university students some support during COVID summer. 
    Can't have that.  This corruption must be STOPPED I tell you! And The Globe and Mail is ON IT!
    I guess if I ever do become a cabinet minister or something, I'll have to make very very sure that I never never have anything to do with any decisions around funding for, say, the Heart and Stroke Foundation. After all, I could be charged with having an awful and corrupt conflict of interest, I guess.

    I would think that sometime next week, or maybe the week after, we will start seeing news stories with Conservatives and NDP expressing deep deep concern for the horrible situation of Canadian post-secondary students, with lots of hand wringing about what in the world they are going to do for money to pay tuition this fall. Somehow, its all going to be Trudeau's fault again of course. 
    Oh gag me with a spoon.
    Trudeau's Canada Student Service Grant idea was a good one, innovative and useful, another Trudeau success. 
    Oh, can't have that.  Not during a Conservative leadership campaign, when they were all just desperate to knock the Liberals off their perch at a time when Trudeau is so popular across Canada and around the world. It had to be trashed, and trashed it has been.
    Of course they had to trash an outstanding Canadian children's charity while they were at it, but can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
    So what can be done now? Well, nothing. I might be wrong but I think its too late to fix it this summer.  
    Trudeau should just expand CERB eligibility to anyone who intends to go to school in the fall.  Move the Student Service Grant funds into the CERB budget, and let students claim the benefit for July and August, and just be done with it.  I think they would each get about $4,000, which would be something.
    And he can urge them to volunteer somewhere, too. Maybe the service grant program can continue in the fall and winter, when government staff will have the time to run it.

    Ending this post on a more cheerful note, here's some funny:

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    Saturday, July 04, 2020

    Celebrate 

    Trudeau's uplifting message on Canada Day: Biden's inspiring message on Independence Day: Here's another good one, from Arnold Schwarzenegger: And nothing in either of Trump's speeches is worth repeating. But here's a summary, in case you missed them both:

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    Sunday, June 28, 2020

    Public Health has failed us all 

    Over the last week, I have come to understand that the COVID 19 pandemic will be known as the worst North American public health failure ever. 
    Here's why:
    Remember five months ago, way back in February, when COVID cases first began showing up in North America?  
    That is also when doctors in Europe, who were already dealing with dozens of cases, started reporting that, unlike other recent viruses,  transmission of COVID 19 appeared to be happening from people who didn't know they were sick and who did not display any symptoms.
    It is impossible to find and quarantine such people, because nobody knows who they are. They themselves don't even know they are carrying the virus.
    The only way that someone without symptoms can be stopped from transmitting a respiratory infection is for everyone to wear a mask, so that the infected people are prevented from spraying infectious droplets every time they speak, cough, sneeze, etc. 
    So if, back in February, we had all been told to wear homemade masks whenever we were out and about (like many people already do in Asia, by the way) this simple act would have protected the friends and families and coworkers and clients of the hundreds of people across North America who were already infected but didn't know it - the dentists, the doctors, the choir members, the conference attendees, the nursing home staff, the teachers, the social workers, the waitresses, etc etc
    And thus, COVID 19 virus would not have infected hundreds of thousands.  And thousands of the people who died would have lived instead.
    But what happened when, back in February, European doctors started reporting that symptom-less people were infectious? 
    Well, nothing.
    Faced with these early reports of symptom-less transmission, public health authorities like the World Health Organization, and the CDC and Canada Public Health did not leap into action. 
    They squabbled. They denied the evidence. They quibbled about terminology. The New York Times report goes on:
    Interviews with doctors and public health officials in more than a dozen countries show that for two crucial months โ€” and in the face of mounting genetic evidence โ€” Western health officials and political leaders played down or denied the risk of symptomless spreading. 
    Leading health agencies including the World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control provided contradictory and sometimes misleading advice. A crucial public health discussion devolved into a semantic debate over what to call infected people without clear symptoms. 
    The two-month delay was a product of faulty scientific assumptions, academic rivalries and, perhaps most important, a reluctance to accept that containing the virus would take drastic measures. 
    The resistance to emerging evidence was one part of the worldโ€™s sluggish response to the virus. It is impossible to calculate the human toll of that delay, but models suggest that earlier, aggressive action might have saved tens of thousands of lives. 
    Countries like Singapore and Australia, which used testing and contact-tracing and moved swiftly to quarantine seemingly healthy travelers, fared far better than those that did not.
    And another thing happened too, at the same time. 
    Even without a lot of evidence, even without contract tracing and quarantining travelers and other government measures, there was one crucial step that everyone could have taken without any government program at all - wearing a homemade mask. 
    It seems like at least some of those who work in public health in North America also believed that the situation with COVID 19 was so urgent that wearing masks couldn't hurt and might help.  
    But they decided not tell us. 
    While public health officials hesitated, some doctors acted. At a conference in Seattle in mid-February, Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University professor, said his research suggested that Covid-19โ€™s rapid spread could only be explained if there were infectious patients with unremarkable symptoms or no symptoms at all. 
    In the audience that day was Steven Chu, the Nobel-winning physicist and former U.S. energy secretary. โ€œIf left to its own devices, this disease will spread through the whole population,โ€ he remembers Professor Shaman warning. 
     Afterward, Dr. Chu began insisting that healthy colleagues at his Stanford University laboratory wear masks. 
    Doctors in Cambridge, England, concluded that asymptomatic transmission was a big source of infection and advised local health workers and patients to wear masks, well before the British government acknowledged the risk of silent spreaders.
    But back in February, there wasn't enough PPE to go around and all the medical masks we had were desperately needed by medical staff. 
    So Public Health authorities had a choice -- they could have been truthful, and told us that masks might help but the general public had to use homemade masks to save the medical ones for the health profession. 
    But this message was too complicated and people were already hoarding toilet paper, and homemade masks might "give us a false sense of security" because we're all just so stupid that we wouldn't stay home anymore and besides, we likely wouldn't wear then correctly anyway. So it was just so much easier to us not to bother with masks at all, that they weren't necessary for anyone who wasn't already sick.  
    The American authorities, faced with a shortage, actively discouraged the public from buying masks. โ€œSeriously people โ€” STOP BUYING MASKS!โ€ Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams tweeted on Feb. 29.
    In other words, they lied to us.
    And the politicians those public health authorities were advising -- the governors and premiers and presidents and prime ministers - ended up passing on those lies because they didn't know any better.  
    So now here we are in June.
    And now the public health authorities say, "Oopsie!!  Hey, you guys, we tell you now that you really should wear masks after all, because everyone would be just so much safer."
    Only its too late. Hundreds of thousands have already died. And millions are confused by the changing stories and the untruths and the squabbling and now they don't believe anything that public health authorities are telling them. And the people who own stores and manage events and work in offices and teach in schools are just as confused. So they don't know whether to require masks or not.
    Back during the Spanish Flu, public health failed because they just didn't know how to organize public health administration and do the scientific studies and analyze policy options and communicate widely with the public.
    Now, we have all that. We have a huge public health infrastructure with thousands of experts worldwide whose whole purpose in life is to keep people safe. 
    But in North America, they failed us.
    So first they didn't recognize the truth, and then they didn't trust us enough to tell us the truth when we needed it.  
    [CDC head] Azar also pushed back on the idea that the new surge in cases is a result of reopening the country too fast, arguing, "That's not so much about what the law says on the reopening than what our behaviors are within that. If we act irresponsibly, if we don't social distance, if we don't use face coverings ... we're going to see spread of disease."

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    Wednesday, June 24, 2020

    Sports will be back, sort of 

    I think the realities of getting back to sports are becoming clearer as we begin to understand that Corona Virus is not going away any time soon.
    Yes, we are going to be able to play and watch sports again! 
    But no, we won't actually be able to watch the games in person -- though maybe eventually we can as long as absolutely everyone wears a mask absolutely all the time. And no shouting!
    Hmm -- would that even work? 
    Or would the silence just be too creepy, like those bizarre photos of a chamber orchestra playing to a theatre full of plants?  
    I've been watching the Ultimate Tennis Showdown and its fun to see a newer, quicker version of tennis, though its a little odd to hear the fake crowd noises after each shot. 
    Likely when sports do get going again, each sport will have to deal with continual interruptions as individual athletes come down with COVID-19 and stop playing until they are well again.
    There is one thing about the sports shutdown that I will miss -- the #LifeCommentaries on twitter, when sports announcers kept themselves busy by posting videos narrating ordinary life as sporting events:

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    Sunday, June 21, 2020

    Funny stuff 

    OK, here's some funny stuff I collected over the last while -- particularly enjoyed the last one:

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    Sunday, June 14, 2020

    Trump is unwell 

    After yesterday's West Point debacle - the water glass, the inability to say "McArthur", the ramp, the tweet ABOUT the ramp - #TrumpIsUnwell is trending this morning on twitter. 
    Along with all the jokes, there is this: Personally, I believe that Trump has a minor stroke last November - remember the fast and unscheduled "tour" of Walter Reed? - and he still has impairments on his right side. 
     On a lighter note, #ObamaDay is also trending twitter:

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