Thursday, January 13, 2022

So Are They All



The bug found its way into our house. My wife and I have been down with something. The doctor says that tests aren't available and we should assume that we've contracted OMICRON. It has not been pleasant. But we're thrice vaccinated and also vaccinated for the flu. If you haven't been vaccinated yet, you should assume that it's coming for you.

I awoke this morning to the news that Kevin McCarthy, like his colleague Jim Jordan, will not co-operate with the committee looking into the events of a year ago. No surprise there. In the words of Mark Antony, "He is an honourable man. So are they all -- honourable men."


Thursday, January 06, 2022

The Power Of A Lie

It's been a year since the attack on the American capitol. But here's a depressing number. Edward Keenan writes that:

One year after Jan. 6, 2021, only 55 per cent of Americans believe President Joe Biden legitimately won the election. That is depressingly close to the percentage of voters (51.3) who voted for Biden. Trump’s big lie, the one that inspired the insurrectionist assault on the Capitol a year ago, has prevailed against all evidence for a huge chunk of the public, including the roughly 75 per cent of Republicans who doubt the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency.

Trump himself has recast the Capitol riot as a glorious protest against the “real insurrection” that he says happened on election day, and has portrayed the rioters as martyrs and political prisoners. Most of the Republicans who seemed ready to abandon him in the aftermath of the Capitol storming have either come back to his side or fallen silent. Those like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who serve on the House of Representatives’ Jan. 6 commission and refuse to stop speaking about the danger of Trump’s culpability for that day, have been essentially exiled from the party.

As much as — or perhaps even more than — before, it is Trump’s party.

And, in the year since the attack, Republican state legislatures have been rewriting the rules about elections:

Republican-led state governments have been rewriting rules to further ensure majorities for themselves, to restrict voting in ways that seem likely to suppress Democratic constituencies, and to give partisan political figures power over federal election results and the authority to overturn them. Election authorities who stood up to Trump’s attempts to fraudulently overturn his election loss are being hounded out of office and replaced by Trump loyalists.

Keenan covered the attack for The Toronto Star:

A year ago, as I stood on the Capitol steps while the rioters rampaged, one of them said, “This could be the start of something.” Another replied, “Oh, it is. Today changes everything.” I wrote then that the change might be different than what they were expecting, that it might be the end of the indulgence of Trump.

One year later, it seems like the rioters were right. Their message has been embraced by many Americans, and their larger goals are now being pursued by other means. Their attack on the Capitol wasn’t the end of their attack on American democracy. And so the insurrection continues.

Never underestimate the power of a lie.

Image: AZ Quotes

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

While The Truth Is Putting On Its Shoes


The nutbars are loose and roaming the range. Stephen Mahar writes:

On Sept. 22, Shanon Sheppard of Halifax posted a video on Facebook to share terrible news with the world.

Sheppard, who comes across like a normal, worried mom in the video, says she hopes she can keep from crying. After she composes herself, she reveals the disturbing news she just learned from her daughter at school.

“One of her friends is now in critical care in hospital here in Halifax because her heart stopped right after she had a vaccine,” Sheppard says. “She’s not well right now. She can’t breathe. Her heart keeps stopping. She’s 13 years old—13 years old, and her heart stopped!”

Sheppard denounces Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston and chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang for forcing a 13-year-old girl to be injected with a dangerous vaccine.

This was simply untrue. But, in Saskatoon, defeated People's Party candidate Mark Friesen picked it up:

Fresh from a fourth-place finish as a People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate in the federal election, he tweeted a link to Sheppard’s video along with his own video, filmed from behind the wheel of his truck.

“There are kids dropping like flies all over the world!” said Friesen, struggling to control his temper. “There are adults dropping like flies all over the world from this vaccine that you’ve now mandated! And the rest of you people, you just accept it because the government says so, because the f–king media says so, while we watch our kids die!”

Sheppard's video spread like a wildfire:

Hundreds of other people shared Sheppard’s video on Twitter. It went viral, getting more than 100,000 views on Facebook alone, before the platform took it down.

Such is the world we live in. “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is putting on its shoes.” There is some argument about who said it. But it nonetheless remains true.

Image: Quotes Planet


Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Overwhelmed

One step forward and two steps backward. When it comes to COVID, that's the pattern. Ontario is once again repeating that pattern. Bruce Arthur writes:

Four days after the chief medical officer of health presented a plan to reopen physical schools, schools are back online for at least two weeks. Nineteen days after Premier Doug Ford said the province would not use lockdowns to defeat this wave, restaurants are closed again, bars, gyms, lots more.

It was too late and it might not matter enough, and we may not be able to tell just how much it does matter. Omicron could be so widespread that attempts to stop it are buckets in the ocean. Testing already crashed. There are a lot more cases than we see.

Premier Doug Ford looked shaken, like a man who had just gotten bad news; Ford then claimed he had made a decisive decision, three weeks after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had called this wave a tsunami. It wasn’t clear what exactly changed in the past four days, but something did.

What changed was the realization of just how transmissible the OMICRON variant is:

There was the hope Omicron would be mild, despite warnings about the comparative youth and immunity wall in South Africa, and despite a warning that Omicron needed to be 10 times as weak as Delta to make up for the speed of transmission. There was the worn old hope that cases would not translate to hospitalizations, and then that hospitalizations would not hit the ICU. Lagging indicators can lag slower, but they still lag.

And we did get lucky; just not lucky enough. The science table’s modelling in mid-December overshot Omicron’s severity, though it clearly explained why: that was the best data at the time. According to table scientific director Dr. Peter Jüni, Omicron appears at the moment to have 50 per cent of the hospitalization risk of Delta and 25 per cent of its ICU hazard. Vaccine protection against severe outcomes is holding and previous infection helps too. These are gifts.

But there are already too many cases, too fast. Monday’s 1,232 hospitalizations were triple the number from one week earlier. ICU admissions were 15 a week ago and 40 Sunday. Up to 10,000 non-emergency surgeries are being cancelled, including some heart and cancer surgeries; that should have been the line the province moved to preventively protect. Hospitals are already in crisis, with William Osler Health System calling its first pandemic-related Code Orange Monday and transferring patients to other hospitals for the first time in the Omicron wave. They won’t be alone for long.

It's not a case -- as the libertarians would have it -- of give me liberty or give me death. It's a case of give me enough hospital beds -- please.

We'll see if we'll have enough beds -- and enough people to staff them.

Image: Saanich News

Monday, January 03, 2022

Spinning Our Wheels

If you thought that 2021 was going to be a year of radical change, Susan Delacourt writes that you must be disappointed:

It has become a cliché to call 2021 the “Groundhog Day” year in Canadian politics, after the 1993 movie in which Bill Murray is condemned to live the same day over and over again. Actually, though, this year also appears inspired by another, earlier Murray appearance: a 1978 “Saturday Night Live” sketch called “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave.”

A mock trailer for a horror movie, the piece featured a house guest (John Belushi) impossible to eject, no matter how many hints were dropped by Murray and a terror-struck Jane Curtin. Last year was kind of like that, beset with exit-averse things.

The big house guest who refused to leave was, of course, COVID. But several other issues are still front and centre as we enter 2022:

Then there were the various climate catastrophes; the fires in B.C. that burned for far too long, only to be replaced later in the year by torrential rains and floods that wouldn’t stop.

Politically, 2021 was the year that Trudeau couldn’t shake off minority government and none of the opposition leaders could trade their standings for better ones. Even Donald Trump is proving difficult to eject from American politics, not to mention the memory of the Jan. 6 rampage his supporters inflicted on the Capitol building in Washington. The lines from that SNL skit come to mind again: “A creature so rude, so inconsiderate, they thought it would never leave.”

Was it only two years ago that all the political parties embraced the word “forward,” inserting it in all their slogans and talking points? Thanks to all these things that won’t leave, however, much of politics has felt stuck in neutral, or even in reverse, in 2021.

Still, there have been a few big changes. The biggest is the vaccines:

When the year first kicked off, all of the talk around Parliament Hill revolved around access and availability of vaccines. Would Canada get enough doses, quickly enough to fight back the third wave?

"What are the Liberals doing to fix their deadly screw-ups and get us vaccines?” Conservative MP Michelle Rempel asked in the Commons in January 2021, in a very typical question for her party at the time. Only a month or so earlier, Rempel had floated the possibility that Canadians wouldn’t be fully vaccinated until 2030.

Eleven months and millions of vaccinated Canadians later — not to mention one federal election as well — it’s remarkable to see how that tune has changed on the opposition benches. The party that was crying out for more vaccinations at the beginning of 2021 has morphed into the party standing up for the liberty to be unvaccinated. For many, many weeks after the election, mystery surrounded how many Conservative MPs were vaccinated and who had opted out.

Officially, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he is staunchly in favour of vaccinations as the best way out of COVID. But whether O’Toole liked it or not, his own caucus is sprinkled with MPs who have been kicking up a fuss over mandatory vaccinations in Parliament and the right to keep their own vaccination status private.

Blame it on Mad Max, Delacourt writes. He's Erin O'Toole's real enemy.

That said, we can't spin our wheels forever. While Mother Nature is giving us a hard time, we need to remember that she abhors a vacuum.

Image: Edutopia


Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year

 


As this year comes to a close, it's clear that we will face several cascading challenges next year. They will test our character -- individually and globally. Let's hope we're up to what's coming our way.

Happy New Year.

Image: AsianPolyGlotView

Thursday, December 30, 2021

A Dismal Response

Our political class, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, have learned nothing from COVID:

Three weeks ago Omicron, a variant more transmissible than TikTok, started another global conflagration. And thanks in part to the connectivity of global elites who insist upon uninterrupted long-range travel, the variant has now started roaring fires in more than 90 nations.

Once again authorities responded with sloth, resignation or deadly indifference. How déjà vu of them.

Instead of acting quickly, our political classes collapsed into self-pity or pulled out a morgue full of excuses.

Individuals elected to lead complained the pandemic is so unpredictable. (Sorry, the evolution of variants is highly predictable as The Tyee has repeatedly explained.)

Put bluntly, our response has been too slow:

Pandemic expert and physicist Yaneer Bar-Yam, whose track record on COVID has been depressingly accurate, offered a blunt assessment this week on Twitter.

“Omicron is spreading very rapidly. The responses of many countries are insufficient. Please protect yourself and your families. In the next few weeks shelter in place, and be prepared for the shock that will occur as cases rise.”

“We don’t know the full extent of the shock and must prepare for difficult times,” he wrote. “There are risks of supply chain disruption. We cannot predict their extent due to the underlying complexity.”

In the next six to eight weeks expect a large proportion of the doubly vaccinated to get infected. Many will become deathly sick or develop long COVID.

Omicron, the most highly mutated variant to yet emerge, can evade both natural and vaccine immunity. As a consequence this wave could put the world back to square one in this pandemic.

And don’t think for a moment that Omicron is the worst the pandemic can still throw at us.

In his informative Forbes articles, U.S. virus expert William Haseltine soberly notes that coronaviruses have been around for million of years and can infect various animals. The next variant might well come from an infected population of mink or deer.

Moreover COVID, the seventh coronavirus to plague humans, “is capable of far more changes and far more variation than most ever thought possible and it will keep coming back to haunt us again and again.”

Hasletine adds that a variant more transmissible and deadly than Omicron is entirely possible given the dismal global response to the pandemic so far.

Yesterday, I wrote that the economic response to COVID has been pretty good. But the public health response has been dismal.

Image: The Weather Channel