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COVID-19: Confusion! Finger pointing! Blame!

You know, if there’s one word you hear in damn nearly every news broadcast about COVID-19 these days, it’s the word “confusion” or some variation of it. “People are confused,” the teleprompter reader whines! “The government’s rules are so confusing,” they go on. You know, part of me wants to shout at the TV screen and tell them the only people confused are journalists, not ordinary people. However, probably ordinary people are confused too, some of them because they want to be. It’s their hobby horse, and they’ll ride it until they die.

The bottom line though is pretty damn straightforward:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Don’t congregate in groups.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Keep your contacts down to an absolute minimum and minimise the amount of shopping and other business you need to do.
  • Don’t travel.

There’s absolutely nothing confusing about that.

If you’re in one part of the world and listening to health advice from another region or part of the world, then don’t! That’s why you’re confused! What the public health officer in Turkmenistan (where they apparently claim to have no COVID) says has nothing to do with what the public health officer in Buttfuck, Saskatchewan, has to say and what you should therefore do if that’s where you live!

Businesses

OK, where confusion may start to creep in is if you run a small business. Sure, do you run a gym with spin classes, or do you run some other business which can be run completely online? Or probably something in between? Do you have employees? How many locations? Can your employees work far apart? That, perhaps and to some degree, is where “confusion” can come in. However, if you’re an individual, the rules are not confusing, and perhaps you shouldn’t be patronising certain businesses. That’s not confusing.

But yes, a new disease is always confusing! It’s not the government’s fault it’s confusing; the government is just as confused, but at least they’re doing something! (This statement doesn’t apply if you’re an American. Read above about following the advice pertinent to your jurisdiction.) Don’t get on TV and whine about the government! Sure, talk about what a difficult position you’re in and wish that it was better, but if the government had a magic wand they’d wave it!

Medical face mask.

Medical face mask (ArtJane/Pixabay)

Masks

Masks work; does your brain? A mask is as much of an infringement on your rights — your supposedly god-given rights to do whatever the hell you please at any time and in any place — as requiring you to wear pants, or stop at red traffic lights. Wear a fucking mask when you’re around others outside of your home. It’s not fucking confusing.

It has occurred to me that people who don’t want to wear masks — the so-called anti-maskers — must never have played team sports in their lives. Whether it’s team sports or launching a new business with partners, employees and suppliers, all such activities require team spirit, doing something not just because it benefits you, but because it benefits the team. Wear a goddamned mask. Don’t be a fucking baby and shout at people because you don’t like wearing one, or physically attack people for the same asinine reason. The same applies to all of you who think you literally have the permission of one god or another to do as you please because he’s stronger than the government. If that’s what you believe, who the fuck do you think sent the COVID and where the fuck are his lightning bolts?! Contrary to beliefs among you tin-foil-hat wearers, not everything is a conspiracy by the government against you and your group!

And in the words of Premier Brian Pallister of Manitoba, “If you don’t think that COVID’s real … you’re an idiot.” (Or in the words of Francesco Aquilini, owner of the Vancouver Canucks, “Hey @VancouverSun change the headline to ‘Former Canucks anthem singer.’ #wearamask“, in reaction to Mark Donnelly apparently planning to sing the national anthem for an anti-mask rally.)

Public health

Some people and even countries and provinces don’t seem to understand the concept of “public health”. It’s not about your health, it’s about everyone’s health, and how everyone being healthy contributes to your being healthy and able to do the things you want to do. All these idiots — including Canada’s Trump, Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta — going on about their individual freedoms being impaired — whether it’s being asked to wear a mask or not to have gatherings — don’t have a clue. In some places and cultures it’s acceptable to spit in public, but even the average idiot in a Western culture would turn their nose up at that and consider it rude. Guess what? That’s because you’ve been “brainwashed” by ancient public-health messages about spitting in public! If you can wrap your head around that, and understand how it means you have to “play ball” on the team to improve public health, then you may be catching on to what the rest of us have understood intuitively since time immemorial.

Hospitals.

Hospitals (Pixnio)

Hospitals

Yes, the hospitals keep claiming they’re going to be “overwhelmed”. And yet somehow, to the untrained eye, they seem to carry on as normal. That’s because they’re going above and beyond to ensure that you and your stubbed toe can get in, despite the fact that they’re overrun with COVID patients. Sure, they don’t all die, but a lot of them do, or come very close to it. Do you really know, in advance, how you’ll fare if you get it? And just because a hospital may not be 100% full, that doesn’t mean they’re not at capacity. A “bed” is not just a piece of furniture; it’s the nurses and doctors that come with it, and if a large number of nurses and doctors (and hospital janitors, etc.) are at home because they’re recovering from COVID, a “bed” might not be available because there aren’t the staff members to support it.

Oh, and by the way, you might think that COVID is a hoax, but meanwhile the hospitals are busy treating actual COVID patients. When you or your grandmother show up at the hospital with your heart attack, you’re going to find the nurses are a little too busy to take you. You may get triaged to the bottom of the list. So much for believing this was all a hoax and it wouldn’t affect you.

Why are the hospitals at capacity? Are they not well managed? The problem is that they are very well managed, but the management plan for the medical system can’t be run on the basis that there could be a pandemic tomorrow. In any given year there are so many broken legs, so many heart attacks and so on, and they’re managed around those numbers. Throw in a pandemic and those numbers are all thrown in the air. Everything changes. And it changes every day now as we learn more about the disease. That’s yet another reason the rules keep changing! It’s not because some hospital CEO wants to “confuse” your poor, fragile, confusable mind!

1+1=4.

Cumulative (1+1=4)

Cumulative measures

Masks are a great idea. However, they are only one idea, one layer of defence. Let’s just pick two layers of defence: masks and distancing. If you’re wearing a mask and are standing with your face right in my face, that’s not good; if you’re mask-less and standing two metres away, that’s not good either. What if you did a radical thing and combined both measures?! Now you’re getting the point. No credible person has suggested that just one measure alone is a silver bullet! It’s all about the cumulative effect of combining the measures!

Double standards for businesses

One area in which I support protests is the double standard in Ontario where small businesses are being closed but big competitors — Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, etc. — are allowed to remain open selling the same goods. Get together with friends and march on Queen’s Park — masked and distanced — and tell Premier Doug Ford that he is pandering to his friends running the big businesses if he doesn’t implement the same measures as have been implemented in Manitoba (I believe it is) where non-essential goods are cordoned off (and not for sale) in the big shops. Ford claims it’s too difficult for the big-box stores to do this; more whining, this time by the leader of a government!

Loopholes

Here’s one I love: “I’m not allowed to do X in this region, so I’ll just go to the neighbouring region and do it there.” Here, please take this dunce cap and go and sit in the corner for the rest of the pandemic … with your mask on.

Elders treated as superfluous

Certainly in Canada, it has become painfully obvious how little value is put on the lives of the elderly and others who are in long-term care. Either something should be done about this — it obviously hasn’t been, as we can see from the same shit happening in the second wave — or society should just be honest about what they do and don’t care about. “Logan’s Run“, anyone?

Apparently about a quarter of all Canadians in long-term care at the moment will have their last Christmas this year; think about that, “Mr./Mrs. I can’t possibly think about spending Christmas day just with my immediate family for once in my goddamned selfish life”.

Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain (Thomas Wolf, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)

Travel restrictions

Apparently something like 15% (can’t remember the exact number off the top of my head) of Canadians are planning to travel this Christmas. That’s close to six million idiots who can’t take a one-time (in their lifetimes) break. (In the United States this year’s Thanksgiving looked like any other, with everyone going somewhere else, but their idiocy explains why the American numbers are so fucking bad.) Hey, I’d love to have the Trevi Fountain to myself right now, but I’m not so fucking selfish that I would use my connections to do that. Whether you’re planning to go to Italy or planning to drive to Buttfuck, Saskatchewan, take a break this year! How hard can it be for you to do that? Some families won’t get to celebrate Christmas this year (or any year in the future) with a loved one because others were too selfish to stay the fuck home or put on a mask!

Lack of resilience

I received a Christmas letter from a friend recently with this comment:

And overall we have the very definite impression that Icelanders are coping with this whole situation rather better than the populations of many other countries — there’s almost no talk of people being “fed up”, “depressed”, etc. Perhaps being isolated on a rock in the middle of the North Atlantic together with the cold and dark every winter helps people more easily cope with the restrictions imposed by the current pandemic.

This sums up what my thinking has been for some time. Modern people seem to be almost entirely composed of people who expect everything to be “easy” and everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. Look, I realise that there are almost as many exceptions to rules as there are rules, but for the vast majority of us we’re the architects of our own demise. Grab a backbone and a mask, and do your part to keep our species alive to rape and pillage the Earth for a while longer.

Finally, as I said at the start, don’t take my advice if you don’t live where I live! Frankly, I think it’s good advice wherever you live on this planet, but you should modify it for where you live. In some places the advice might be over the top, and in others it’s not enough. In addition to a mask and a backbone, you need a brain!

The coming US civil war

Quite frankly, I have lost my will to write this piece. It’s now as obvious as the nose on my face to just about everyone how bad the situation is in the United States. I don’t need to assemble all the facts and lay them out along with my prediction.

There are so many sides: you have a president who foments just about every negative, anti-government grievance a paranoid American can think of, whether it’s against the Internal Revenue Service, Democratic state governors (viz. Michigan/Whitmer/kidnapping/”liberation“), the US Postal Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Fauci himself personally, whatever organisation(s) is/are in charge of running elections (and collecting all of those “fraudulent” mail-in ballots), masks and the “China virus”, and Blacks, Latinos, anyone whose ancestry can be traced to a “shithole country”, killed and captured war veterans … the list goes on and on and grows by the day; you have ordinary Americans who just want to get on with their lives; you have members and supporters of the Democratic Party who would like nothing more than to get rid of the guy; you have the National Rifle Association; you have The Lincoln Project; you have supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement; and on and on that list goes too. What has been and is happening in various major American cities (especially Portland) are, in fact, small civil wars, just very disorganised and disjointed.

On 3 November, election day, Americans may not get the decisive results they are used to as quickly as they’re used to. This is apparently because about half the number of people who voted in the 2016 election have already voted by mail and in advance polls, and those votes won’t all be counted on election night. Trump has already sown the seeds that some will see as a green light to action of some sort, by claiming that, if he loses, the election will have been “rigged”. Any delay in the results will be seen as time for machinations to rig the vote. It will be the only possible explanation for his loss. And if you’re a “good, patriotic” American with a gun, a stockpile of ammunition and a few friends, what would you do? The country is riddled with those nutjobs; hardly a day goes by in America without some mass murderer or spree killer doing his thing.

You know, it amazes me; generally speaking, people get better at something the more they practise it. Some Americans love to refer poetically to what they call their “experiment” in democracy. (After a couple of centuries, you’d figure it wasn’t still an experiment!) And yet, to this day, they have those in power doing everything they can to make it difficult for people to exercise their democratic right to vote. We recently had an election here in British Columbia, and I voted in an early poll. I was in and out of the polling station within five minutes (including parking and walking from and back to my car), and yet, night after night on the news we see queues miles long of Americans trying to vote in their early polls. You really need to be dedicated! And in Texas, their governor has limited election drop boxes to one per county; one county had advertised twelve drop boxes over their 2000 square miles! Of course, it’s all in the name of “enhance[d] ballot security” and “the integrity of our elections,” not vote suppression at all. In most democracies the election authorities will go out of their way to make it so easy to vote they’ll even wipe your ass while you do, but in the American “experiment” they go out of their way to make it as difficult as possible!

The US might not exactly be one of Trump’s “shitholes”, but it sure is a shit show!

Election speculation, 2020

Sigh. There’s just no limit to the depths to which politicians will sink. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic (if you’ll excuse the redundancy) and Canadians have elections or threatened elections left, right and centre. OK, three elections out of a possible fourteen federal, provincial and territorial elections isn’t exactly a lot, but if one does it, the rest of the politicians might follow … like lemmings, or a virus maybe. As Blaine Higgs — who was heading a minority government in New Brunswick, perhaps the “right” (in more ways than one) in the “left, right and centre” — succeeded in winning a majority in New Brunswick, half the rest of the country will pile on the bandwagon. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of every province and territory, but generally speaking they’ve followed science and their public health officers (unlike in certain other painfully obvious countries) and they are reaping the benefits in their poll numbers. Even Doug Ford in Ontario, if you can believe that!

Which bring us to the left (again, in more ways than one) of the country here in BC. Apparently John Horgan also thinks the time is right to convert his minority government into a majority. The speculation has reached a fever pitch, and for all we know we’ll see the writ dropped today, by some accounts. Horgan better hope that our COVID-19 numbers don’t get any worse than they are; schools have just gone back, and we still have to see how the Labour Day long weekend and the schools affect those numbers.

Which brings us to the centre. (Weird how the language works here.) Justin Trudeau also wants to convert his minority federal government into a majority. The aforementioned fever pitch hasn’t been reached in Ottawa yet, but the smirk on Trudeau’s face tells the story. The pandemic has been a boon for him and his friends, well, until his stupidity resulted in the WE Charity folding its Canadian operations last week. (No loss in my book. Why do people get excited about adults jumping up and down like idiots and demeaning themselves on stage?) His poll numbers, too, are through the roof, and he’d love to take on the new Leader of the Opposition, Erin O’Toole. But he too better hope that the pandemic numbers don’t get worse before an election (he talks as if he’s had a handle on it since day one), as it seems that hypocrisy and material failures in his leadership don’t seem to stick to him.

African witchdoctors in America

Stella Immanuel Youtube video screen still.

Stella Immanuel Youtube video screen still

I am amused by what little I have read about Stella Immanuel, who seems to have suddenly been brought to prominence by Donald Trump seemingly simply because they share their belief in hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19. What a joke.

Nandos witchdoctor poster spoof.

Nandos witchdoctor poster spoof

Her website is down at the moment and the Internet Archive won’t display their cached copy because of directives on the original site (firepowerministr[y|ies].org) that disallow it. But her Youtube profile is still up, thankfully, because it contains the image at left, which is basically the Internet equivalent of the poster at right that you will find on just about every lamp post and telephone pole (if you can find one) in Africa. Of course, the “poster” is a parody (apparently done by Nandos Chicken) of the real posters (see further below) you find all over Africa advertising the local and not-so-local witchdoctors who promise to cure everything from acne to “sexual problems” to “loose, wet sexual organs”. (See the scan of the “Times of Swaziland” below.)

In short, anyone from Africa has seen this shit before, and it’s old news. The only question is this: Who’s the real witchdoctor, her or the guy in the White House?!

Disopi can also help women with loose, wet sexual organs. (Times of Swaziland.)

Disopi can also help women with loose, wet sexual organs. (Times of Swaziland.)

Professor Simbwa is a specialist in sexual problems. (Picture of a poster in Orkney, North West province, South Africa.)

Professor Simbwa is a specialist in sexual problems. (Picture of a poster in Orkney, North West province, South Africa.)

Canada-China prisoner swap

Protest sign calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor.

Protest sign calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor

It seems bizarre to me to be writing about this kind of medieval or (I suppose) Cold War-type prisoner swap in the 21st century, but it seems that some countries (namely China) are still in that kind of backwards mindset. (This is particularly ironic, given the assertion by the deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department [Zhao Lijian] that other countries [namely the US] suffer from a “Cold-War mentality“! Proof that politicians everywhere talk out of both sides of their mouths.)

I’d like to make clear a few of my assumptions and biases first:

  • I am not under the influence of China or any Chinese pressure groups, and presumably the authors of both of the letters to which I refer below are not either,
  • I travel internationally as much as I can, and although I have travelled to China, I have not (so far) knowingly travelled to any countries where my life or liberty might be in danger,
  • I am a dual citizen.

I have read the letter from the “distinguished Canadians” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (cached copy), and I think it forms a basis on which Canada could move forward. It disgusts me that a reasonably civilised country like Canada should be in this position, but it is; it’s similarly repugnant that a country like China, who would like to present themselves to the world as being civilised (all the while acting the global bully wherever it thinks it can get away with it), would do such a thing. But they have, and here we are. And why have they taken hostages? Well, Meng Wanzhou isn’t some low-life drug trafficker or any other alleged common criminal; she seems to be about as close as you can get to royalty in China in the modern age, just without (obviously) the diplomatic immunity. Quite frankly, their taking hostages is the international equivalent of an unhappy child throwing their toys out of their cot!

Among the objections to this course of action are those of Trudeau himself (and presumably therefore the Government of Canada) and 53 signatories of an opposing letter from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The objections seem to boil down to three primary issues, with a fourth unstated openly by the Canadian government:

  • Principles: A prisoner swap would weaken Canada’s principles. It matters not that two innocent Canadians have been deprived of their liberty for a year and a half (so far), as long as some unarticulated principle is upheld. I’ll address that shortly.
  • Giving in to hostage takers: I see the value in not giving in to the demands of hostage takers, but in my mind there is a significant difference between a hostage taker that also happens to be a state, and a hostage taker that is an individual or a group (e.g., a terrorist organisation), i.e., not a state. Quite frankly, a state that violates the norms of international practice (if not law) and takes hostages, is a pariah state, and one that should be isolated by all states. Of course, I’m no naïf, and I know that a superpower like China can’t and won’t be isolated by all states, but there are measures that Canada, and others, can take. Also more on that shortly.
  • Endangering travelling Canadians: As if Canadians are somehow magically protected when they’re travelling internationally now, the assertion is made that negotiating the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig will result in Canadians abroad being taken hostage with more frequency. I feel that theory holds when we’re talking about hostages taken by the aforementioned individuals or groups, but not when we’re talking about hostages taken by states. If the principles of due process, comity and international law are not strong enough to prevent states from exercising their unlimited power within their own borders to arbitrarily detain random foreigners, does anyone really think that an unspoken “disapproval” of hostage taking is going to achieve the same goal?!
  • Canada’s commitment to lawful extraditions, and in particular to the United States: While there is no doubt that following some sort of process to “free” Chinese citizen Meng Wanzhou from Canada’s legal system will royally piss of the Americans, let’s not lose sight of the fact that her arrest under an extradition request is nothing short of the United States using an extradition treaty to prosecute their global foreign policy (particularly against Iran and China in this case) through a third party (Canada), not enforcing criminal law alleged to have been broken on its own soil by one of its own citizens. Now, I don’t claim any expert knowledge of extrajurisdictionality (especially as the principle applies to international sanctions), but it seems to me that this must be considered differently to cases involving the citizens of one’s own country fleeing to other jurisdictions to avoid prosecution in the home jurisdiction. In my opinion the United States and China — their empires colliding — need to use other means to carry out their mutual attempts to exert international control, in ways that don’t compromise their so-called allies … or in the latter’s case, the country that many of their citizens now call home, and will likely be calling home to a greater extent following Beijing’s crackdown on freedom in Hong Kong.

On the part of those advocating something more expedient (so to speak) there are the principles of fairness and humanity. It’s not news to most people that communist systems tend to “[override] individual self-interest and [subjugate] the welfare of the general population to achieve [their] goals“, and it’s quite clear to any observer that the “individual self-interest” of the Two Michaels (or their families) is of no interest to the Chinese Government. Then there’s the degree to which Canada’s foreign policy (especially with respect to China) has been hobbled by their inability to speak more bluntly where China continues to abuse its own citizens ([Hong Kong] (whose refugees will shortly be flooding Canada, the UK and other countries), [Tiananmen Square], etc.), its neighbours ([India], [Taiwan], etc.), and others around the world — as they are doing to Canada right now. If a country’s policy in one area or another is hobbled by an identifiable cause, then it certainly is a matter of national interest and perhaps security to take whatever action is necessary to address the problem!

So what’s my suggestion? Glad you asked. I think Canada should negotiate and implement these points:

  • The last thing Canada should do is simply “free” Meng Wanzhou and then “hope” that China reciprocates. That’s just insanity! Even if they do reciprocate, it could still be years before the Two Michaels are released under one mechanism (also trumped up) or another, simply to show who has the power in the relationship, and to give China the ability to claim (falsely of course) that the release of the Michaels was not connected. No, if China has actually gone as far as to tacitly acknowledge that they have apprehended the Michaels on trumped-up espionage charges, then Canada should publicly state to China that we are ready to negotiate a prisoner swap, and move to begin the negotiations. (To quote China: “Zhao Lijian: … we have also seen reports of an interview with Kovrig’s wife on June 23, during which she said that the Canadian justice minister had the authority to stop Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process at any point; such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians.“)
  • The prisoner swap must be very public, and televised on live television in both countries. Since Canada and China don’t share a land border, I suggest that a Royal Canadian Navy ship meet with a PLA Navy ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to do the exchange, preferably over a gangplank between the ships. Alternatively, and slightly more practically I suppose, the prisoner exchange could take place on one of China’s land borders, or perhaps in the Korean DMZ.
  • Canada's Hong Kong travel advisory, 2 July 2020.

    Canada’s Hong Kong travel advisory, 2 July 2020

    One of the less obvious unilateral actions that Canada (and actually, all countries) should take in the current international climate is to start negotiating bilateral “non-hostage” treaties with other countries, possibly connected to extradition treaties. How would these work? Well, you simply make a pact with another country that neither of you will take each other’s citizens hostage. Of course, arrests in the course of normal law enforcement would be acceptable, but not arbitrary detentions with no evidence. If Canada doesn’t have such a non-hostage treaty with a country, then the travel advisory for that country would state, in very prominent and unambiguous wording, that a such a treaty does not exist and therefore Canada very strongly warns against travel to that country. (There is currently, as of 10 July 2020, a similar warning on the Government of Canada Hong Kong travel advisory [see screenshot] on the “laws and culture” tab, but it is neither prominent nor strong enough, and there is nothing on the China travel advisory advising against travel there except for COVID-19 reasons.) Without a non-hostage treaty, if a Canadian citizen (for the sake of this example) is arbitrarily detained (taken hostage) then Canada will make attempts to provide consular assistance, but will not try that hard. This is more likely to have a greater effect on dual citizens (of which I am one, I should make clear), especially for those for whom Canadian citizenship is a citizenship of convenience.

I have no doubt that the Government of Canada is indeed “doing” something in the background (as happened in Egypt recently), even if it’s just talking amongst themselves, but to the rest of us beer-swilling plebs in the deserted (at the moment) pubs and stalking the blogosphere, it sure looks like the safety and security of Canadians abroad is not a concern to Canada, contrary to their professions otherwise.

Canada is small potatoes to China, in probably every way you can think of except land mass, coastline and morals, but everyone learns when they are still a child that bullies can be stood up to. This is what Canada and most of the rest of the world must to do to stop, or at least ameliorate, China’s bullying tactics. I don’t in any way suggest that China needs to be stomped down as the “enemy”, but just as happens with individual humans they have become too big for their breeches, and for that there are or need to be consequences. Part of the “problem” with China is not even the fault of the Chinese; it’s the West’s constant obsession with “unlimited growth”. However, that’s a debate for another day.

Collage: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (the Two Michaels).

Collage: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (the Two Michaels)

Don’t wanna wear a mask? Why are you even wearing clothes?!

I have to laugh at the Canadians who are now emulating their stupider American neighbours, and protesting at mask laws. It’s all about freedom, they claim. But if you won’t wear a mask, why are you wearing any item of clothing?! Take off your shirt, your pants, your skirt, your dress, your bra, your knickers/panties, your briefs, your jockey shorts … they’re all restricting your rights!

Fucking morons.

Happy sarcastic Canada Day … enslaved farm workers

Slave ship diagram (Wikimedia).

Slave ship diagram

I used to pride myself on buying Canadian (as local as possible) fruits and vegetables, passing over the American and Mexican produce where I didn’t have a particular need for it. I was tangentially aware that 99% (or maybe 100%, I’m not sure) of Canadians won’t lower themselves to work as a fruit or vegetable picker, and so Canadian farms have to import “temporary foreign workers” every season, but I didn’t realise that they were housing those workers in conditions of near modern day slavery. Recently, according to the news, the farmers have even been (passively or actively) denying their TFWs access to COVID-19 testing, seemingly because that would probably cut into more productive picking time. (Plus, of course, as we all know, testing increases the number of positive cases!*)

It’s ironic to me that, twenty-six years after Canada and the rest of the world brought down Apartheid in South Africa, the system is still alive and well in the country that is credited with inventing it.

*In keeping with the title of this post, and in fear of those with no sense of irony, I feel I should make absolutely clear that this comment is a joke!

Updated, 2020-07-02: Add link and slave ship image.

Politicians behaving badly … as usual

Scheer and Trudeau and the UN Security Council vote

I think that Andrew Sheer confuses being the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition with being the leader of a bunch of unruly children in a playground, bringing American-style ad hominem attacks to bear on the government Justin Trudeau. (Well, he is half American, so I suppose that’s no surprise.) OK, so Trudeau brought it upon himself by spending so much time and effort (and taxpayers’ money) on his pet project of getting Canada elected to the United Nations Security Council, but really, what the hell kind of measured, mature reaction is this?!:


Now, in all the fairness I can muster, I think Trudeau and/or the Liberals had the same personal dig at Stephen Harper when he failed in his same bid in 2010, so fair’s fair right? Meh, whatever. Politicians are almost all a bunch of self-serving opportunistic bastards; the only downside is that they have to inflict this crap on us, the suckers who pay their salaries for spending their lives acting like spoilt children.

At least the NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Jack Harris, had a distinctly more statesmanlike response. He was neither complimentary nor insulting, but had some constructive criticism of Canada’s (and Trudeau’s) attempt at election, and forward-looking suggestions.

One thing that does amuse me abut Trudeau’s virtue signalling is when he talks about championing maternal issues in developing countries. As far as I know, that was (ironically) Stephen Harper’s pet project back in the day!

Champagne quarantine?!

In related news, I see that François-Philippe Champagne, our gallant Minister of Foreign Affairs, suddenly crossed the border and showed up in New York to cast Canada’s ballot in this election. What the hell?! I thought the border was closed to all but essential traffic?! If our UN ambassador was in New York, what exactly was essential about Champagne’s presence? And did he quarantine himself for fourteen days before mixing with all and sundry at the UN General Assembly?! Enquiring minds want to know.

Kudos for Scheer

On the positive side of Scheer’s ledger is this farcical two-minute exchange with Trudeau in the House of Commons that is a textbook example of doublespeak and not answering the question on the part of Trudeau:

Scheer questions Trudeau’s campaign for U.N. Security Council seat

My god! Even taking into account international diplomatic niceties, Trudeau makes absolutely no attempt to address the issues that the leader of the Opposition raises. In fact, the donkey show he puts on is as passively aggressive as is possible before the aggression crosses the line into a middle finger or active, physical aggression! It’s the legislative, “grown-up” (note the quotation marks!) equivalent of the playground, “I know you are but what am I?” that would get you a bloody nose in any other setting! It’s a wonder these politicians get anything done, and it’s no wonder they are mostly so reviled by the public. None of the rest of us would get away with anything like this in real life. Maybe I’m just an ingénue that doesn’t spend enough time watching videos of politicians being assholes.

Jagmeet Singh’s ejection from Parliament

I’m of two minds about what happened to Jagmeet Singh on Wednesday. On the one hand he moved a motion that, especially in the atmosphere in which the US and much of the world finds itself these days, was completely reasonable, and I can understand his surprise (and dismay) at even one vote of opposition. On the other hand, I can see the point of the Bloc Québécois who claimed that his motion prejudged an anticipated report of the public safety committee that would have addressed the points in the motion moved by Singh.

I don’t know the nature of the motion, and particularly whether or not it was binding or just some feel-good parliamentary fluffery designed to (as mentioned previously) be self-serving opportunism. Which it was has significant bearing on the matter, but I have not seen comment on this by anyone in the media. However, I can certainly understand Singh’s discomfit, especially at Alain Therrien’s alleged dismissive wave in the direction of Singh. Probably another example where, had I been involved, there would have been nasal blood (Therrien’s) spilled on the Commons floor!

The “new NAFTA”

I am amused that, despite its unwieldy new name — that some (mostly Americans) have tried to make into a single “word” — people are calling the “United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement” the “new NAFTA”.

So I read that there is already bluster in the US that they’re itching to take legal action against Canada and Mexico as soon as the new agreement comes into force on 1 July. So what else is new? These are our “friends”! However, what sticks out for me in that article — besides the video of Deputy Prime Minster (and Intergovernmental Affairs minister) Chrystia Freeland’s rather smarmy (if unspoken) “fuck you” between gritted, smiling teeth aimed in the direction of the US threat — is the claim that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer makes that other countries’ plans to tax American-based digital services is a plan to “screw America”. Ironically, the very next day, I received notice from one of my digital providers that they would henceforth be charging my company and their other customers taxes levied by six US states, including the one in which my business is domiciled. I doubt the two actions are linked, but the Americans are busy screwing themselves with new taxes!

Canadian hostages in China

China has finally, after holding them without charge for eighteen months, charged two Canadian hostages with “spying”. Everyone and their dog knows this is tit-for-tat, gangland hostage taking (“hostage diplomacy”) by the Chinese government, except the tit (or the tat) that happened in Canada was a lawful arrest under international treaties. I think it is despicable the situation in which the US has put Canada to further their political agenda, but it doesn’t excuse thuggery on the part of China who have stolen the lives of two (and arguably four) Canadians purely for spite. And on top of that the prisoner in Canada lives in her own multi-million dollar house in a larney area of Vancouver, while the two Canadians rot in cells in China! The two — known in Canada as “the two Michaels” — are Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Even if they were released by China tomorrow, they’ll never get back the time stolen from them by the Chinese government. It is unconscionable!

Hopefully the world will one day, together, stand up to the bullying of China (not just against Canada, but other countries including Taiwan and [recently, with deadly results] India), but it’s questionable whether or not that will happen in time for them to be stopped from steamrolling all over the rest of the world. I think China already delivered yet another “message” to Canada earlier this week; it is alleged that China strong-armed African nations — whom they have quietly re-colonised over the last decade or two — into voting against Canada in the aforementioned United Nations Security Council elections.

Hero pay

In other news, Canadian grocery store operations are clawing back the raises given to their employees when they were (temporarily, apparently) “heroes” on the “front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic — and all the other quasi-military terms used for them and similar low-paying occupations like cleaners, drivers, etc. Never mind that these companies made and continue to make a killing on elevated sales numbers (including as a result of hoarding). The hypocrisy is galling! If there was one thing I thought people would learn from the experience of the pandemic it’s that far too many people are terribly, terribly underpaid, and then they suddenly became “heroes” overnight! And for that they got a measly two bucks an hour extra! That’s all they’re worth! And now, they’re not heroes any more, they’re just schleps schlepping their way through a work day again.

I know that I don’t have any economic solutions for the massive inequities in society (in this country or any other), but you can’t, in good conscience, pay someone a meagre wage one day and the next day claim they’re heroes, pay them a pittance more, and then take away their hero status (and extra pay) on some arbitrary (and collusive) date in the future. Are they heroes or not? Look, nobody claims they’re heroes in the same sense as a person who defends or saves the life of another, but really, the hypocrisy really is galling. And the hypocrisy is galling not just on the part of the grocery chains — Sobeys, Metro, Save-On-Foods, Loblaws, etc. — but on the part of us, their customers. I’ve said for a long time that so many people want to strike for good union wages, then they want to shop at disgraceful places like Walmart. It’s understandable that we all want to optimise our revenue-to-expense ratios, but this is a big deal that needs to be addressed somehow.

While looking for an appropriate article to which I could link on one of the main news websites (that isn’t behind a paywall, like The Globe and Mail is), I came across this one: The End of ‘Hero Pay’ for Grocery Workers in Canada an Operational Necessity: Expert. It’s written by an academic (which is not always a knock) for a retail industry publication, and as a result is skewed towards being supportive of the pay cut. However, it does cover some interesting points that are critical of the retailers that I think are worth reading.

Jas Johal

Someone else who I think doesn’t quite get his position as a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal. He was a half-decent television reporter, but man, the only time he pokes his head above the parapet these days is when he wants to be on TV again and has nothing constructive to say … about anything, ever! I mean, I get that his job is that he’s an Opposition “critic” of the current NDP government, but there’s a difference between the title “critic” and the adjective “critical”, and you can’t claim that the government — any government — of the day doesn’t ever get anything right.

His latest crap is to criticise and condemn the BC government for daring to consult the public on ways in which they might steer activities related to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not exactly direct democracy in action, but we haven’t seen a pandemic in about a century, certainly longer than Johal’s lifetime, so what the hell downside could there be to initiating a consultation process that could very well have a positive effect?!

Give it a rest Johal! I think if you looked like a reasonable person once in a while instead of whining and complaining all the time you’d actually look like the Liberal leadership material for which you’re obviously trying to posture yourself.


Updated, 23 June 2020: Corrected my grammatical error. Of course you can’t make an ad hominem attack on a government!

Civil war in the US?

I’ve had a piece in the works since April — but actually in my mind for years — about the coming civil war in the United States of America. But holy shit, I’m not sure I’ll get around to finishing it in time for it to be predictive!

There is no national RCMP policy on the use of the Alert Ready system

So Global News — and only Global News, for some reason — last night reported that RCMP spokesperson Corporal Caroline Duval stated, “There is currently no national RCMP policy on the use of the national Alert Ready system.”

This just flabbergasted me!

Is there a more egregious example of mixed-up priorities and putting the cart before the horse?! It seems that someone invented a system — the ability to send alerts to all cell phones (and radios and TVs) — without the supreme national police agency who might be empowered to use it even having a use for it! Think about it: Nobody (presumably at the RCMP) apparently said, “We need to have a system to alert the public in case of an emergency.” What someone else apparently said was, “Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to spam the entire population of a country all in one go?!” Someone else said yes, invented it, then sat around waiting for the authorities to come to them and tell that they needed to use it. (Yes, of course I’m simplifying all that, but that seems to be how to boil it down as far as the RCMP are concerned!)

The Global article linked to above is full of the excuses we’ve heard from the RCMP in the last ten days, some of which are covered in my earlier article. It also points out something of which I didn’t realise the full import, that being that while the Nova Scotia RCMP was allegedly “in the process of preparing an alert” for many hours, they had, in fact, issued multiple alerts (over a dozen) already via Twitter. Which one of those alerts was not suitable to send via the Alert Ready system, slightly modified if necessary?

Old excuses offered include that it was a “fluid” and “quickly-evolving” situation. I get that, and I said before that I don’t envy anyone having to deal with that situation. However, this is exactly why organisations such as the RCMP have a command and control structure and support personnel. A competent incident commander should have the ability to have an overview of the incident, and make decisions accordingly. Whoever was in command of this incident didn’t apparently have that ability. And apparently, neither did anyone else among the support personnel have the presence of mind to complement the officers on the ground dealing with death, blood, bodies and fire, by helping with administrative decisions removed from those immediate circumstances.

A new excuse offered in the article is that “[t]he [RCMP] system is ‘regional by design’ [Dan Henstra of the University of Waterloo] because of the different threats each province faces …. It’s also tough to impose policies that apply across the entire country, even for the RCMP, which has a clear chain of command.” I’ll admit I’m not an expert on the RCMP chain of command, and I have to admit that it’s refreshing to see an authoritarian paramilitary organisation not impose policies on Nova Scotian police officers (just for example) that only make sense in Yukon, but really? Are you telling Canadians that there are no forward-thinking, bright minds at RCMP HQ that think/thought far enough ahead about a day on which an alert might have to be issued on a provincial/territorial/divisional or possibly even national level, and come up with at least a vague guideline on why and how such an alert might be decided on? If so, what exactly is the point of having a “national” police force?!

There is also finger pointing between Nova Scotia’s Emergency Management Office and the RCMP. Premier Stephen McNeil has stated “that emergency management staff were brought in (‘on their own accord‘) [on Saturday night] specifically for the purpose of issuing an alert about the shooting, but that no request was ever made by the RCMP.” (Quote is of the article.) This seems credible, and McNeil clearly knows which way the wind is blowing on this issue. Think about it; the EMO knew that an alert should be sent out, and was ready and waiting to send that alert (not sure how many staff are required to tap a “send” button, but not just any yahoo should be able to do so), and yet the RCMP dithered. The RCMP claim that “in general, standard operating procedures for when to use the emergency alert system would be set up through the provincial and territorial emergency management officials [but] Nova Scotia’s Emergency Management Office [did not provide specific details (to Global News) on the question of] if it has protocols in place for when the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies should issue an emergency alert.” So it does seem that in general there is some blame to be shared here between the RCMP and Nova Scotia’s EMO, but who was actually in charge of the situation on 18 and 19 April? It was the RCMP, not the EMO.

Again addressing the disastrous decision to use Twitter, “The RCMP … said it used Twitter and not the emergency alert system because it is their ‘normal method’ of communicating with the public and because it is a better way for sharing information about a quickly-evolving situation. [What, exactly, is “normal” about the country’s biggest mass murder, and how, exactly, is it better than an emergency alert system designed for exactly this type of emergency?!] ‘We have relied on [Twitter] because of the instantaneous manner that we can communicate. We have thousands of followers in Nova Scotia and felt that it was a superior way to communicate this ongoing threat,’ said RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather a day after the shootings.” (Emphasis mine.) I addressed their “thousands” of followers previously — the equivalent of whispering/tweeting “Psst, fire” to about 5000 random people inconsistently scattered around Rogers Centre in Toronto, and then expecting the stadium to empty immediately in an orderly manner. (With respect to the reference to “thousands of followers”, I’m reminded of Dr. Evil laughably holding the world hostage for “one million dollars” in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.) Give me a fucking break! To quote a CBC article, “… in communities plagued by spotty internet [sic] service and heavily populated with seniors who might not use Twitter, some people are asking why the province did not use its emergency alert system to issue text messages to cellphones [and radios and TVs] advising people of what was happening and to stay inside.”

Also overlooked by the RCMP, notwithstanding vagaries in cell phone technology there is nothing more “instantaneous” than an emergency alert that won’t shut up until you attend to it. Even if you are following their Twitter account, you could go a whole day without noticing their tweet, even if your do have Twitter installed on your phone!

I mean, it was even a Sunday in the middle of a pandemic! Staying at home and locking the doors wouldn’t even have been a massive inconvenience for much of the population!

What happened here was a massive failure to “serve and protect” the public. (I realise that’s an American pop culture police motto, but there’s a reason it’s used in pop culture.) I have no doubt that, as a result of Canadians and Nova Scotians being outraged at this failure, questions will be asked and answered. I also agree that the RCMP needs to focus on a thorough investigation of the incident itself, for now, but this question does need to be asked now so that it can be answered later. But will it be answered? And will someone take responsibility and fall on their sword? Or will it be dismissed and swept under the rug? And even if guidelines come out of this, they will be too little too late.

I will conclude this editorial with some additional quotes from various Global and CBC articles that stand out on their own. But first, here’s the emergency message I would have sent out late on 18 April or very early on 19 April:

Stay inside until further notice. Gunman fleeing police is armed and dangerous. Shelter in place and lock your doors. This message will be updated in X minutes/hours.


There is ‘no national RCMP policy’ for when emergency alerts should be issued, 28 April 2020

… the RCMP sent out more than a dozen tweets, advising the public to stay inside and providing information about Wortman’s appearance and whereabouts.

There was an active shooter. Why didn’t Nova Scotia send an emergency alert?, 21 April 2020

[Tony] Gibbs is also concerned by how he and his wife found out about the shooter: a call from their neighbour, rather than a provincewide alert.

Leather was asked twice to explain why the province’s alert system, which experts say uses radio, television and cellular networks to warn residents of serious threats to health and safety, including “active law enforcement responses,” wasn’t used.

The RCMP should use all tools at its disposal, Dan Henstra, an expert in emergency preparedness at the University of Waterloo, said. This includes the Alert Ready system, which, Henstra said, has proven highly effective in communicating threats to the public. … “It is a little surprising that the RCMP didn’t use the (alert) system, one purpose of which is to notify residents about ‘civil emergencies,” he said.

N.S. premier not ready to question if a public alert should have been issued about gunman, 20 April 2020

Heather Matthews, a resident of Wentworth, N.S., about 140 kilometres north of Halifax, believes such an alert would have saved her friend and neighbour, Lillian Campbell Hyslop, and possibly others. Hyslop was shot and killed while out for a walk Sunday morning.

“If we were all given that security alert for Northern Nova Scotians to lock your doors, she would have been home,” Matthews said in a telephone interview. “She would have been safe in her house. She wouldn’t have gone out for a walk.”

Matthews, who was also out walking with her husband, David, at about the same time, believes they heard a gun shot while they were out. Normally, they walk along the main road but decided to take a different path yesterday. It was only after the couple returned home that they learned what was happening because friends were calling to tell them to stay in and lock their doors.

Questions emerge about RCMP’s failure to send emergency alert on gunman’s rampage, 21 April 2020

[Lillian Campbell] Hyslop was killed Sunday morning in the Wentworth area, roughly eight hours after the shooter had killed people in Portapique, a community 40 kilometres to the south.

Matthews said she wishes her friend Hyslop, a frequent walker along the roads in Wentworth Valley, had known about the shooter before she went for her usual stroll that morning.

“I understand that RCMP put it out on Twitter. But not everybody is on Twitter, not everybody has Facebook, not everybody has the internet [sic], but we all have TVs, radio and a phone. There should have been some other way of notifying these people that they should have been inside safe,” Matthews told CBC News.

Central and northern Nova Scotia is a largely rural area where internet [sic] service is spotty and Twitter use is not widespread.

Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann, who represents the area, said Monday many of her constituents “prefer Facebook” to Twitter.

Debi Atkinson is another friend of Hyslop’s from Wentworth. She told CBC Radio’s As It Happens Tuesday that most residents of their village feel like they were left in the dark by police.

“Everybody’s feelings about the whole thing was, why wasn’t there an amber alert? We went into this blind,” she said. “Out of all our friends, I don’t know anybody that follows Twitter, that has a Twitter account.

McNeil said the province’s Emergency Management Office had been activated and technicians were brought in Saturday to send such an alert — but the request never came from the Mounties.