Archive for March, 2020

Day 3

7:49am. Another gray day. Temperature at plus 5C. The forecast promises no more rain and gradually increasing temps throughout the week. That would be welcome news considering the surplus of negativity on the media waves. The affected count this morning, according to the fine folk at Johns-Hopkins now exceeds 800,000 worldwide. I looked at some of the mortality rates and the span across nations is quite remarkable. Some nations seem to have the body count under control, for example Israel is at 0.3%. Here in Canada we sit at 1.0% and it scales up from there, to an astonishingly depressing 11.0% in Italy. I’ll try to avoid too much discussion around these mortality and case numbers, but they are too glaring to ignore. And the reason why we are basically in a world wide lock-down. If you want to see a visual depiction of why the entire world is mired in this pandemic have a look at flightradar24.com and it will clearly explain why the USA for example, is and will be hard hit by Covid19. The amount of air traffic still cris-crossing the USA and worldwide makes me wonder how congested our skies are in normal times, let alone during this crisis when most air traffic has been grounded. Wow!

Apparently Sweden has approached the pandemic entirely differently than most nations in our world. There is no massive lock-down there. Business is proceeding as much as normal can be. I do believe they are practicing some social distancing but nowhere near the rest of the world’s more draconian appraoch. Their mortality rate is 3.6% so one has to ask, is it worth killing twice as many people in your country to avoid wrecking your economy? I prefer Governor Mario Cuomo’s approach, all life is worth saving!

The recycling guys have already done their run. I imagine the number of cans and jars in blue boxes across the nation have increased considerably since the start of this lock-down. They are showing up earlier and earlier every week. No doubt they also wish to get through their work day and home to security and safety as soon as the can. My trades guys did not show up yesterday. No surprise there, but I must follow up with the propane boys today. Tanks are at 5%. They must get switched out this week or I shall be out of propane. Hardly a life threatening situation I agree, but that would mean no hot water and no cooking and no heat. Thank God it is not mid January.

With the amount of stay at home work happening now, there better be a push to install broad band internet everywhere. It is a given that many workers will continue in the home based work activity wherever possible. And at 5mbs download (yes, I know, we are soooo slow here) it does not make for efficient file transfer of video files. I have not found any significant buffering issues though, with TV. I binged yesterday on a few episodes of “Better Call Saul”, an amusing spinoff from the “Breaking Bad” series. That shows you how little TV I do watch, a few years behind the times! Quite an amusing show, visually a delight. The framing of each scene is perfectly done, and art directors have a heyday with the color palate and set design. But that was enough TV for a couple days, time toe get back to the books and some long walks.

Join me again tomorrow as I continue logging snippets and musings from Pandemic 2020.

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(This techno troglodyte has lost the Day 1 entry and I’ve consolidated it to the Day 2 entry. So future entries will happen here on the ‘Home” page along with other musings and writing.)
Day 2

8:03am. Another dreary gray day. Temperatures going to plus 10C this afternoon. At least that is something positive in what otherwise is a world teetering on the brink of an abyss that grows deeper and larger by the day. By the hour. All the more reason to turn off the damned news every now and then. Keeping that live stream of body counts on all day can do no good. Try it. The old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” truly does work! Today I have some large projects on the go. The local propane supplier should be arriving to switch out my tanks. I had previously been buying propane from the nearby first nations reserve since their discount over local suppliers was too attractive to ignore. But their inability to harness some radical elements who blockaded our national rail line and caused immense damage to our economy convinced me to return to local suppliers. Buy locally. It is the morally correct thing to do. I’m also expecting another tradesman to arrive and blow in spray foam insulation at the joist pockets of my house. That should help lower the heating bill and reduce dampness in the basement. But with the current pandemic climate, I’m not guaranteed they will even show up.

I think on how my parents lived through a world war, through escape from communism and fascism, literally running for their lives with nothing save a knapsack on their back. Surviving years in a displaced persons camp in Germany while awaiting word from overseas governments as to their possible immigration. If they could live through that nightmare and end up prospering in a totally new culture and country then we can survive this pandemic. Sure, the fallout will be extraordinary in terms of, well everything. Our bank accounts will be depleted. Our ability to travel the world unfettered will be compromised. We will be attending funerals of loved ones who pass away much too early and young. But there will also be many positive things sprouting from the ashes of this blaze. I am already perceiving a more relaxed and friendly vibe. A more generous and compassionate feeling. There is a hope and faith that this pandemic has forced to the surface. A communication between people that rarely contacted each other before. My brother who has not contacted me for years picked up his phone and called. This world scourge is bringing folk together. If you are feeling lonely, then do the same. Social distancing is not social shunning. Send out emails and texts to people you have not heard from for a long time. Let them know that we are all in this together. Strength in unity. It is not a cliché but a powerful way to live.

Pandemic Diaries Day 1

9:05am. Raining. Plus 5C. I look out to a very dreary day. Grey the predominant color. Cat Stevens in the background. The case and death tolls are on a vertical track in most countries. Very few have the pandemic curve flattened. The USA is facing a horrific catastrophe. Read in this morning’s news that 20% of New York’s EMS personnel are sick with Covid19. They are unable to respond now to all emergencies. Overwhelmed. And we are at the starting point of the pandemic. This is truly a mankind changing event. I’ve been keeping busy with lots of spring gardening chores. Raking. I think I have hauled 10 tarp loads of leaves and assorted detritus from last year’s growth to various piles around the property. So thankful I live in the country. Larder is stockpiled. Gas cans filled. Food enough for the entire month of April if that should become necessary. It is a surreal time to be writing, can’t escape the apocalyptic feeling that lurks on the fringes of our world. As much as radio stations and people in general try to maintain a positive face, it seems inescapable that there will be mountains of pain coming. Netflix provides a welcome escape, but I’m limiting my viewing. Occasional binges but otherwise attempting to stay more cerebrally engaged. I have several books on the go. Enjoying ‘Gotham”, a 1,300 page history of New York City from the 1600’s onward. Fascinating fact. The famous pirate Blackbeard used NYC as a base during his profiteering raids in the West Indies.

A journalist commented on the rising feeling of loneliness and hopelessness that he is seeing. And to remember this feeling when we are eventually through the tunnel of despair that presently surrounds us. This is the feeling that elderly folk in nursing and senior homes experience every day. We must remind ourselves of this and visit our kin and others who are shut in on a daily basis. Forever. Not now of course, since the risk of infection is so high in those facilities, but when this is over, make time in your life to go and spend time with the elderly. Or whenever the quarantines are lifted in those facilities wherever you live. Because we will be in this changed world forever. The specter of another pandemic will surely change the societal paradigm, the culture we have become used to, the approach we take to living and interacting. I know from my family history how important such visits are. When nothing but four walls surround you, it is a source of immense good feeling to see the face of an elderly person light up when you open the door to their apartment. Remember this, and we will be part way there to living in a much friendlier, more mindful kind of society. So much good can come from this pandemic if we are careful how we approach it. It would be easy to get mired in a pit of depression so do what you can to help others through this painful time. Let’s all become better people.

It’s a Sunday morning so I do believe pancakes are in order. Join me again tomorrow as I post daily about my pandemic activities and musings in Pandemic Diaries: A record of survival during very troubling times.

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I’ve been thinking about how unimportant money is when our world around us, our human world, is imploding. And yet, the very irony, it is exactly the declining reserves of such money, that has become our focus. Our measuring stick. Our exploding anxiety. It should be an almost incomprehensible idea, that the preservation of this capital is more important for us,than the loss of life. But at this stage we seem to measure our future by the capital we have left. This almost obscene passion for money and wealth could very easily hijack the arc of humanity. We have come to a juncture in our collective identity, wherein choices will be made that shall resonate for generations to come. But I sense a developing wave. A surge of positive karma, an energy and mindset that could if nurtured and encouraged, drive away this mania for money. Replace it with other frameworks that are unquantifiable by numbers. It is heard in the voices on our community radios. They share a resurgent positive focus. And they keep us focused. It is seen in the heroic efforts of our nurses. The efforts of engineering students to make affordable PPE. Our government, yes I occasionally do see the benefit, for throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever it takes. I pray that when we do come out of this darkening abyss and back into the light, we have a reinforced and strengthened sense of purpose. One that is gauged by something more tangible than money, or stocks, or gold. A solid moral compass measured by the smile on a neighbors face. A way of living that is not determined by financial strength. But also honour. Integrity. Compassion. A different way to live, where enmity and the need to collect, fades into history. Will such a world be born from the remnants of the current pandemic world? Too early to tell at this stage. Start to prepare by turning off the TV news. Try this for 24 hour periods every few days and you will find a strengthening peace. A more fulfilling day. A mindful kind of existence wherein you truly can enjoy the moment. Engage socially even during these troubling times, but at a distance. Social distancing does not mean social shunning. Let’s help each other through this pandemic and help ourselves become better as a society, more wholesome as people, more attentive. Let’s build on whatever is left, and ensure a new and better morality rises to the surface. Strength. Honor. Integrity. ComPassion.

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Hey Ontario Government. How about toning back the Amber Alerts about Covid 19 self quarantining. I get it. The gravity of this pandemic is not lost on me. But as I am sitting on my deck, alone, because good citizenship and community respect guides me to, I don’t need to have my tranquility disturbed so regularly with auditory irritants. Offer those of us who do understand the pandemic poses extreme threat to humanity, an option to opt out of those Amber Alerts. Surely there is some way to code so a recipient can respond back to you they have understood and are complying. Our little rectangular communicators have enough other buttons, I would welcome such a tab. Clik. And your Amber Alerts can continue to other communicators. If anybody does not see the consequence that awaits them with persistent rejection of the 6ft rule and the 14 day mandatory quarantine then my sympathy for their eventual submergence to a slow and frightful death, fades. So please, we understand this crisis, but don’t add to our anxiety.

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After a hospital put out a call for protective gear, three friends developed a product in a few days. Their design is now being manufactured by Ford. Check out this feel good story. Time to write about some positive news!


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Marisa Taylor, A Washington based journalist, writes the following report for Reuters News Agency. I don’t think it requires any further commentary from me.

The Trump administration cut staff by more than two-thirds at a key U.S. public health agency operating inside China, as part of a larger rollback of U.S.-funded health and science experts on the ground there leading up to the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters has learned.

Most of the reductions were made at the Beijing office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and occurred over the past two years, according to public CDC documents viewed by Reuters and interviews with four people familiar with the drawdown.

The Atlanta-based CDC, America’s preeminent disease fighting agency, provides public health assistance to nations around the world and works with them to help stop outbreaks of contagious diseases from spreading globally. It has worked in China for 30 years. The CDC’s China headcount has shrunk to around 14 staffers, down from approximately 47 people since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the documents show. The four people, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the losses included epidemiologists and other health professionals.
The material reviewed by Reuters shows a breakdown of how many American and local Chinese employees were assigned there. The documents are the CDC’s own descriptions of its headcount, which it posts online. Reuters was able to search past copies of the material to confirm the decline described by the four people.

“The CDC office in Beijing is a shell of its former self,” said one of the people, a U.S. official who worked in China at the time of the draw down.

Separately, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the global relief program which had a role in helping China monitor and respond to outbreaks, also shut their Beijing offices on Trump’s watch. Before the closures, each office was staffed by a U.S. official. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) transferred out of China in 2018 the manager of an animal disease monitoring program.

Reductions at the U.S. agencies sidelined health experts, scientists and other professionals who might have been able to help China mount an earlier response to the novel coronavirus, as well as provide the U.S. government with more information about what was coming, according to the people who spoke with Reuters. The Trump administration in February chastised China for censoring information about the outbreak and for keeping U.S. experts from entering the country to assist.

“We had a large operation of experts in China who were brought back during this administration, some of them months before the outbreak,” said one of the people who witnessed the withdrawal of U.S. personnel. “You have to consider the possibility that our draw down made this catastrophe more likely or more difficult to respond to.”

The White House declined to comment or respond to questions from Reuters regarding the U.S withdrawal of staff in China.
The CDC did not respond to detailed questions submitted by Reuters about the cuts. It has insisted its staffing levels did not hinder the U.S. response to the coronavirus.

“There are many factors that go into decisions around staffing,” the CDC said in a statement.

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Business as usual? Hardly. Yesterday’s surge in the stock market was basically a dead cat bounce. The market had already built in the framework for the USA and Canada and world government financial aid packages. Those will not save our economies from the impending severe recession. We are already in a recession, the severity is yet to be felt. And whether or not it morphs into a depression is largely a semantic argument. We are nowhere near the upper limit of the pandemic contagion arc and already Canada has 1 million workers seeking unemployment insurance. The USA legislation promises $1,200 to each American in their $2 trillion package. How long do you think $1,200 will go for somebody without any income? It really does appear that this pandemic will steam roller everything in its path, regardless of the money we throw in front of it unless we direct that money to the places that can work best with it for our collective benefit. Take those $billions and fund science around the world. Get people like Dr. Brilliant and Ronald Klain involved again (see my earlier post of the Wired magazine interview) and give them free rein to find solutions. There is going to be immense suffering and no matter how much money we throw in financial aid to shore up “the markets” it won’t be enough to stop death. What is more important? Stock values or human life? The moral choice for humanity will be to fund science. Boeing’s share price won’t mean a friggin’ thing if there are no workers left to build airplanes! Yes, our stock portfolios have taken a beating, but like the tides of an ocean, the markets will rise again. And eventually, some day in the hopefully very distant future, they will again recede. Back and forth. It is a natural cycle. Of course government has to be involved with bailout monies. But the bulk of that should be going to science, not to business. Stay home, stay safe, keep yourself occupied, work on your garden, whatever you do be sure that you minimize personal social contact. If we do not let this run its course and practice disciplined social distancing as recommended by our health professionals, there is no telling how bad things will get. Take individual responsibility. Help those in need if you can. Drive food bank hampers to those in dire straits. Donate blood. Listen to the health experts because most politicians and business people have a very short term horizon. Life is a long term project.

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Kevin Libin of The National Post wrote the following excellent piece. As we fight for survival let’s not forget how the communist dictators in Beijing lied and deceived and obfuscated about the critical life threatening dangers of corona virus Covid19. Before we rush to blame one western leader in particular, let’s reflect on this essay to gain some more perspective on why the entire world is now going to suffer horrendously in the coming months. Perhaps even years. And remind ourselves that the vast majority of flu viruses originate in China and other Asian nations. That’s not racist. It is fact. As we hopefully all practice social distancing to try to curb the lightning spread of this virus, add “Pandemic: How to prevent an outbreak” to your binge watching schedule. It is an excellent Netflix original which gives insight into the fight against flu viruses and the extreme difficulty involved in the search for solutions. Covid 19 is tragically the result of our failure to heed the warnings of scientists and medical professionals the world over. And then when a country’s leadership (ie: China) tries to mask the problem and muffles its own doctors as they fight the spread, what we end up with is a pandemic. We do live in dangerous and troubling times.

Beijing’s communist regime is the biggest ‘China virus’ threatening our survival
For critical weeks the Chinese government lied and denied, and now the whole world is paying

Kevin Libin
March 23, 2020

White House reporters may be surprised how unhelpful the average person finds their ongoing badgering of U.S. President Donald Trump to stop highlighting that the COVID-19 coronavirus originated from China. He’s calling it the “Chinese virus.” Members of the press have challenged the president, insisting it’s “racist” to keep saying it. Maybe, but that might surprise the ethnically Han Chinese population of Taiwan, where naming the virus after the place the outbreak began — Wuhan, China — is both common and uncontroversial.
Meanwhile most of the rest of us probably consider it a bigger priority right now to focus on a frightening and dangerous worldwide pandemic rather than politically correct terminology. Still, Americans and the rest of the world won’t likely forget who is to blame for allowing the outbreak to become far more deadly and destructive than it needed to be — and it isn’t Chinese people, who have also been made to suffer, both at home and worldwide. The blame instead belongs to the criminally self-interested communist government that rules China, whether Chinese people like it or not. And after watching Beijing respond so ineptly to a globally threatening virus outbreak, with deceit, paranoia, self-preservation and cruelty, they must like it rather much less than before. Perhaps we can all compromise and call it the “Chinese communist virus.” Chicom-19?
The Chinese government’s coverups and lies are clearly driven by fear and it would be optimistic to think Beijing isn’t continuing its deceit in its claims about the miraculous success of its containment efforts and improving mortality rates. Xi Jingping and his cohorts have every reason to believe that this pandemic could badly weaken their grip on power. Their economy has been in freefall, with January’s industrial output at its lowest since 1990. All governments worry how they’ll survive this plague, but for a one-party authoritarian government, the fears are existential. “The Party’s social contract with the people — ensuring the people’s well-being and providing ever-increasing economic prosperity — is being stressed on a nationwide level in ways I don’t recall in the past several decades,” wrote Bill Bishop, a respected authority on China, on his Sinocism blog last month.
Xi has long boasted that his communist model of governance is superior to liberal democracy. If it takes suppressing news of scores of new deaths to preserve that belief, who doubts he would do it? Beijing’s recent redoubling of censorship and state-media propaganda efforts, while ordering the deportation of reporters from several major American outlets last week, even as it claims it has conquered the outbreak, certainly provides grounds for suspicion.
Not that anything is necessary to prove Beijing’s readiness to deceive the world no matter the cost to human lives beyond its handling of the initial outbreak. The first cases from Wuhan reportedly began arriving as early as mid-November. When doctors there began raising alarms in December about a new deadly virus, they were charged by the government with spreading “lies” and forced into false confessions. As the virus spread further in December, the government still played down the danger, insisting the virus was not anything like SARS — which, of course it is — and maintaining it had been contained and there had been no human transmission. As the toll mounted into January, any discussion on the internet that contradicted the bogus official line was prohibited, wiped out, deleted. For critical weeks the Chinese government lied and denied, rather than undertake serious containment efforts, as the virus spread, uncontrolled, around the world.

If the communist party’s paranoid self-preservation is at least understandable, harder to explain is the thinking of those in the West, eager to assist in defending Beijing, and not just the language-scold journalists who may mean well, even it plays into Beijing’s worldwide propaganda campaign to call it “racism” to talk of the virus’s Chinese origins.
Patty Hajdu, Canada’s health minister, weeks ago publicly praised China for being “very open” in helping contain the worldwide spread, because “within a week or so (of discovering the virus), they were letting the World Health Organization and therefore all of the partner countries know that they had an outbreak on their hand(s).” No. It persecuted heroic doctors to keep the spread silent for weeks.
Hajdu appears to be following the lead of World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has praised Xi’s “leadership” in fighting the virus. This was after China stalled for two weeks before it allowed an international mission of medical experts into the country to study the outbreak. In February, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, François-Philippe Champagne, met with his Chinese counterpart at the Munich Security Conference, where Wang Yi thanked Canada for its support in sending masks and protective gear to China, and praised the “special relationship” between our two countries.

The institutional flattery of the communist government in Beijing was something we had to tolerate back in the days when the establishment still saw China as a rich vein for trade deals and other lucrative goodies. It was easier then for political leaders to shrug at China’s conduct when the victims were in Tibet, or Hong Kong, or the Uyghurs of Xinjiang. But now the whole world is paying dearly for Beijing’s behaviour. And China is scrambling to dodge responsibility, now promoting conspiracy theories that the virus was actually spread by the U.S. military, and provoking Trump into harping on this being a “Chinese virus.” A more salient debate isn’t whether that’s racist, but whether Trump is unwittingly giving Beijing more material it can use to play the victim with.
This pandemic has cost our economies billions, if not yet trillions, and will cost us far more yet. Its human toll will be staggering and permanent. We will likely persevere, but what the world can no longer afford is the threat to our collective health and well-being that is the Chinese communist regime. As it desperately tries to salvage its legitimacy, let’s at least refrain from helping with that. This isn’t the first deadly viral epidemic to emerge from their country and it probably won’t be the last. The good people of China will have to cure themselves of this communist government if we all hope to survive the next one.

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What if this pandemic is a message from God? Or whatever your deity be. A caution for what happens when we lose focus. A kind of punishment to humanity for what we have done. How we treat the earth. Our relentless pursuit of money. The divides that we continue to propagate. Greed. Anger. Lust. Envy. What if this pandemic is a sign from somewhere, some thing, somebody bigger than all of us? Let’s hope this is a wake-up call to humanity. We cannot continue to survive as a species while pillaging the resources of our planet. If religious differences continue to divide us, then this is the outcome. If we insist in engaging other nations in wars that are thin disguises for protecting energy sources for our own benefit can there be any surprise about where we now stand? If envy drives our direction then we will suffer consequences. When we ignore our brothers and sisters of lesser means while hunting for ever more to pad our lifestyles then torment and suffering will envelop us all. We have lost our way and are wandering without direction. Will our world morph into a wasteland or will we find hope and clarity to build a more mindful world once this pandemic passes? If we can reassess our lives and build more meaningful relationships with our brothers and sisters around the world then the abyss we are about to drop into, this horror about to envelop us, may in future be retrospectively viewed as a turning point in mankind’s history. We are at a crossroad and the actions we now take will have a lasting impact on those who follow us. It is not just physical life that is at stake here. Our very humanity depends on how we confront this pandemic and what we are going to be like when we come out of it. Will our children and future generations review the events around Covid19 with awe and respect, or will they work to erase this generation of mankind from memory because we brought them into a world without meaning? So many questions are now confronting us. Let’s make certain we embark on the right path. Strength. Honor. Integrity. Com-Passion. Let’s find that clarity and build a brave new world. There is no tomorrow if we do not make the right choices today.

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