Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Some Days, I Truly Despair

Mendacity, the constant litany of lies that defines Donald Trump, is one thing, but when the Incompetent-In-Chief extols people who believe that illness is demon-caused and science is experimenting with hybrid human-alien DNA, the world has entered a whole new level of crazy.

Watch this video for context, then read about the viral video that Facebook, Twitter and You Tube have deleted due to the misinformation it conveys.

For Trump, the obvious allure of this group, which is called America's Frontline Doctors (whose website has suddenly disappeared), is their promotion of the now-discredited Covid-19 treatment, hydroxychloroquine, which he has so vigorously advocated for. The Incompetent-In-Chief's ego requires constant fluffing. However, there was some heavy baggage accompanying that extollment:
The video Trump shared Monday night showed a collection of doctors speaking in favor of treating COVID-19 patients with the antimalarial drug. The clip focused on the testimony of a woman named Stella Immanuel, who received a medical license in Texas last November, according to state records. The doctor did not return a request for comment.

Immanuel says she previously worked as a doctor in Nigeria and also calls herself a "Deliverance Minister" who is "God's battle axe and weapon of war." She has given sermons attacking progressive values and promoting conspiracy theories including, in her words, "the gay agenda, secular humanism, Illuminati and the demonic new world order." Another doctor shown in the video, a noted Trump supporter, called Immanuel a "warrior."

"You don't need a mask," Immanuel claimed in the video, contradicting the widely accepted medical advice that has been promoted even by the White House coronavirus task force and Trump himself. She repeatedly called studies questioning the safety and effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine "fake science."
But wait. As they say, there's more:
The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that Immanuel has claimed in the past that some gynecological ailments are caused by people having sex in a dream-world with demons, with the demonic semen as the origins of the afflictions.

Immanuel has also claimed that doctors used alien DNA in medical treatments, and that lizard-like “reptilian” aliens are involved in the United States government. She thanked The Daily Beast on Tuesday for “summarizing” her work. “The Daily Beast did a great job summarizing our deliverance ministry and exposing incubus and succubus. Thank you daily beast. If you need deliverance from these spirits. Contact us,” she tweeted.
Years ago, Carl Sagan wrote The Demon-Haunted World, which in part discussed how to think skeptically and critically, explaining methods to help distinguish between ideas that are considered valid science and those that can be considered pseudoscience. A tough medicine for some, perhaps, but it would seem to be the cure for much of what ails those who lap up the twaddle dished out by the likes of Donald Trump and Stella Immanuel.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The World Judges Donald Trump's Covid-19 'Strategy'

The New York Times offers a report on how people around the world evaluate the response of "the greatest nation on earth" to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Coles Notes version: unlike many Americans, they are not taken in by Donald Trump's empty rhetoric and outright lies.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

From Beyond The Grave

It's been 12 years since George Carlin left us, yet the ensuing years have made him even more relevant than he was in his day. The following video uses his profanity-laced upbraiding of the system to good effect, I think you will agree.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Makes Sense To Me

I get the sense that Jonathan Pie is a tad vexed about government irresolution and people's stupidity when it comes to the wearing of masks:

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Benighted Among Us

If you read this blog with any regularity, you may know that I hold in absolute, unmitigated contempt those who refuse to wear a mask. When hearing and reading about such people and their myriad of contrived (i.e., absurd) reasons for non-complance, I am almost tempted to believe that the world is experiencing two pandemics: Covid-19 and abject stupidity.

Apparently, I have the wrong attitude.

Charlie Warsel writes that e have to meet such people where they live:
As the Ebola epidemic raged in 2014, some West Africans resisted public health guidance. Some hid their symptoms or continued practicing burial rituals — like washing the bodies of their dead loved ones — despite the risk of infection. Others spread conspiracies claiming the virus was sent by Westerners or suggested it was all a hoax. In Conakry, Guinea’s capital city, an imam was arrested for violating his quarantine, and residents protested by not letting health officials check for fevers.

So the World Health Organization sent Cheikh Niang, a Senegalese medical anthropologist, and his team to figure out what was going on.

For six hours, Dr. Niang visited people in Conakry inside their homes. He wasn’t there to lecture. Residents asked him to write down their stories. When they finished, Dr. Niang finally spoke.

“I said, ‘I hear you,’” he told me recently over the phone from Senegal. “‘I want to and will help. But we still have an epidemic spreading and we need your help, too. We need to take your temperatures and we need to trace this virus.’ And they agreed. They trusted us.”
Trust, at a time when mistrust in science is rampant, becomes central to convincing people to follow health guidelines.

As does empathy. Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, wrote an article in The Atlantic about men who don't wear masks in which
she acknowledged that masks don’t feel cool, can be obtrusive and block important body language signals, while still arguing emphatically for their importance. Dozens of non-mask wearers contacted her to thank her for the piece.

“These men were universally grateful to read something about anti-maskers that didn’t shame or demonize them,” she wrote. “It made them want to hear what else I had to say about why it might be worth wearing a mask.”
None of which I find especially compelling. Perhaps it is just my nature, but I prefer the facts over having to jolly people along. The kind of facts, for example, that are to be found in this very informative post on Northern Currents.

And the facts that are readily apparent in this report by Jeff Semple:

Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you." Regrettably, the same must be said about the benighted who, some days, appear to be legion.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Lincoln Project Strikes Again

I have to say I am quite enjoying the output of The Lincoln Project. As noted by Wikipedia, it
is an American political action committee formed in late 2019 by several prominent Republicans and former Republicans. The goal of the committee is to prevent the reelection of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election and defeat his supporters in the U.S. Senate. In April 2020, the committee announced their endorsement of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The Hill reports on their latest salvo, an ad that justifiably ridicules the Infant-in-Chief:
The ad begins with an image of the White House and the caption "Trumpfeld," which is modeled after the logo for "Seinfeld," along with music similar to the hit '90s sitcom's signature theme song.

The video plays a laugh track over several of Trump’s comments, including his repeated denial of several Fox News polls.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pretty Basic Stuff

But how much better off everyone would be if they just followed these basics:

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Another Disease Is Spreading

The affliction, manifesting in a steadfast refusal to wear a mask, appears to arise from a combination of idiocy, sociopathic indifference to public health, and just profound ignorance. And the fact that it is spreading in Canada (the Americans being a lost cause) pains me deeply. With our culture and history of concern for the collective, I expect better.

As discussed in an earlier post, there is almost no medical condition preventing a person from wearing a mask. That fact, however, has not stopped the proliferation of fake exemption cards that are being promoted on social media, all, of course, at the expense of public health during our current pandemic.
The cards in Canada are allegedly created by an “anti-lockdown group” that opposes mandatory mask bylaws.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is listed on the back of a card, claiming to give the holder an exemption from wearing a face mask.

“These are fake. The Commission has not and would not produce posters or cards claiming that the cardholder has an exemption from wearing a face mask in closed public places.

The card is also stamped with the Canadian Red Cross emblem, which did not approve its use.
The use of such cards brought a sharp rebuke from Ontario Premier Doug Ford:
“This isn’t the time to use fraudulent cards and to get away and be able to go into a store, don’t be a scammer. To say you can’t wear a mask and make up some fraudulent cards, it’s unacceptable. Everyone else is wearing a mask, wear a mask,” Ford said.
As well, medical opinion on the use of masks is unequivocal.
Are there any valid reasons not to wear a mask? One of the most abusive shoppers recently caught on camera was yelling about how masks make people sick. “It’s science,” he said, referring, we presume, to the “science” offered up on social media about Co2 building up in masks.

“This is nonsense,” says Dr. Ken Chapman, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. “There is no evidence whatsoever that wearing a mask will cause your carbon dioxide level to build up and certainly there’s no relationship between wearing a mask and damaging your immune system and other nonsense you read online.”

The Canadian Thoracic Society recently issued a statement similarly claiming there’s no evidence that wearing a mask will exacerbate an underlying lung condition.
Then there is Dr. Maitiu O Tuathail, a general practitioner in Dublin, Ireland, who made a video that even the most obtuse should be able to understand:

None of this, of course, will deter the true (dis)believers, those who maniacally worship at the altar of toxic egoism, junk science and bizarre conspiracy theories.

A pity, though, that Canadians aren't more resistant to such virulent, destructive ways.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Benighted Speak

There is a new report showing the continuing spread of Covid-19 in California. It seems that three counties, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange, have now surpassed Los Angeles county in per-capita case rates.

The idiocy on display in the following video helps explain why.

Friday, July 17, 2020

"This Is What National Decline Looks Like"

Take a couple of minutes to watch this searingly accurate assessment and indictment of the United States under Donald Trump. I did not hear a word with which I disagreed:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Just Wear A Mask

That is the message, simple and direct, delivered by CNN's Becky Anderson:

Somehow, I doubt her message will resonate with the unhinged who have emerged from their lairs during the pandemic. This recent delegation at a Palm Beach County hearing into masks should provide more than ample incentive to avoid the Sunshine State for the foreseeable future:

Lest we be complacent as Canadians, however, Emma Teitel writes:
Yes, Americans can be wacky. But so can we. In fact, we’ve got our own version of the God’s-wonderful-breathing-system brigade right here in Ontario. Last week, anti-mask protesters broke mandatory mask regulations when they rode the TTC barefaced, and this week reports emerged about anti-lockdown activists printing phoney official looking cards claiming to give people medical exemptions from wearing masks in public.

According to a survey by Policy Options, Canadians are not immune from believing conspiracy theories about the virus. From the think tank’s survey, “Almost one in 10 Canadians believes that the COVID-19 pandemic is a way for billionaire Bill Gates to microchip people.”
She ends with this simple but powerful advice:
Stage 3 is days away. Now is not the time to be cocky, or bored. Now is the time to be vigilant. And though not much fun, a big part of being vigilant in a pandemic is listening to public health experts. Wear a mask where distancing isn’t possible.
Or to put it even more succinctly: Time for everyone to grow up a bit. Maybe this report from the CDC will help in the maturation process.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Sad Decline

I recently completed The Splendid and The Vile, a book by Erik Larson exploring the first year of Winston Churchill's prime ministership. He assumed the leadership in 1940, at which point Britain had already been at war with Germany for one year. With the U.S. following an isolationist policy, things did not look very hopeful for the island nation.

Despite facing fierce odds against their survival, and despite repeated and brutal air attacks by the Luftwaffe, both the population and its political leadership soldiered on, finding within themselves the character to resist despair and defeat. They truly were The Greatest Generation.

I do wonder whether that kind of national character is as much on display today as we battle Covid-19.

Ninety-three year-old Toronto Star letter-writer Syd Bosloy of Thornhill also wonders along similar lines:
I am 93 years old, but I have never seen anything like what is happening in America today. The U.S. is in a crisis. They are harbouring and ignoring those “covidiots,” who refuse to obey simple precautions such as wearing a mask. As a result, the U.S. is responsible for a quarter of all the world’s cases and deaths due to the pandemic. It’s indicative of what’s wrong with America. I believe it is because their citizens lack a sense of personal responsibility for the good of others, when you compare them with the British in London during the Second World War, for example. Is it because they have never had their country under sustained military attack or occupied during their lifetime? Are Americans satisfied with the “dog eat dog” attitude of their citizens, politicians and police?
Sadly, however, the kind of idiocy Mr. Bosly describes is not confined to the United States. We have our own special breed right at home:
A week after anti-mask groups rode the TTC without face coverings to protest against new city bylaws requiring them, the same groups are now making "exemption cards" that claim they are medically exempt from wearing face coverings.

CBC Toronto is not naming the groups, nor the people involved with them, so as to not publicize false information.

The Canadian Red Cross says the cards contain a version of the organization's emblem that is being used without permission.
Despite dire potential consequences, some are treating these fake cards as a joke:
Posts about the cards can be found on many social media platforms. In one such video, a man smiles and laughs while holding the card and saying, "Mandatory mask? Not with this."

The account that shared the video is run by a man and woman who are leading one of Toronto's anti-mask groups. It has also shared a host of debunked material and conspiracy theories in recent days.

In another online video shared by the same account, a man visits Toronto Western Hospital, where he is told by an employee he has to wear a mask to seek care. He responds that he has a medical condition, and shows the card. Later, he smiles at the camera and says "the card definitely helped."
Dave Watson is one person who isn't laughing.
"It's a load of crap," said Watson, who has cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that causes severe respiratory disease, making patients more susceptible to lung infections.

"If anyone couldn't wear one, it would be me."

Watson says that depending on the day, he is typically running at between 34 and 42 per cent lung capacity. Breathing can be tough, especially in high heat and humidity.

Still, he hasn't thought twice about wearing a mask in public.

"It makes sense to wear a mask, and for people to make these cards, it's pretty insulting," he said.

"I've done my part. The least you can do is do yours."
Increasingly, my patience wears thin with the idiots around me quite blithely endangering others. They represent some of the worst aspects of humanity and as a Canadian they make me feel deeply ashamed.

Time to start imposing severe sanctions.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

He Speaks For The Majority, I Suspect

That would be The Star's Patrick Corrigan:

Meanwhile The Star's editorial board offers some insights into why Canada has fared so, so much better in dealing with Covid-19 than the United States:
It’s a terrible thing for an old, dear friend to watch America — as a result of its wilful blindness, contempt for science and gross mishandling of the pandemic — descend to the status of a pariah state.

The Atlantic’s George Packer described in one searing paragraph recently just how pitiful the former promised land of the planet had become.

“When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills — a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public — had gone untreated for years.”

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational and collective, Packer said.

Instead, it got Donald Trump’s singular ignorance, delusion and pathological instinct to see everything, even matters of life and death, in political terms.
Canada is an entirely different story for a number of reasons:
Part values, part experience, part humility of people and their leadership, part consistency of government messaging.

At core, our national DNA favours the collective during a crisis that has demanded collective action, mutual sacrifice, looking out for the other rather than insistence on personal liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Many of the characteristics frequently cited as negatives in comparing Canada to the U.S. — our smaller size, our humility, our greater trust in government, our commitment to community and social services, no sense of our own mythic exceptionalism — have become assets in this crisis.
We have also shown ourselves capable of learning some hard lessons:
After SARS, Canada redesigned the federal-provincial relationship on public health and infectious diseases. Our public systems are more amenable to coherent reaction to widespread crisis than the private institutions in the U.S.
As well, not having the same level of poisonous political partisanship as does the U.S. also helped:
In Canada, unlike the United States, the partisan cudgels were put aside — mercifully avoiding the vexation of states forced to deal with what Washington wouldn’t, and governors putting political affiliation and loyalty to the president ahead of science and medical expertise.
As recent events have demonstrated, our leadership is far from perfect. But compared to the Americans, we do have things to be proud of as this first wave of Covid-19 wanes.

And, of course, we must keep that border closed for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

UPDATED: Utterly, Despicably Shameful

I'm not entirely sure why these things bother me so much, but I suspect it has a lot to do with my hope and expectation that Canadians are better than their American counterparts in dealing with Covid-19.

As you can see in the following ugly incident, which occurred at a Mississauga T&T Supermarket between an employee and a benighted fool, that is not always the case:

Perhaps the original poster of the video put it best:
"My heart was broken and tears shed ... When that guy shouted at him, he didn't know how to fight back, he kept saying 'I'm Canadian.' Obviously, Canada is his home! Where is our multiculturalism? Where are our national values?"

"Even PM Trudeau called grocery store employees heroes! Why are heroes treated like this? I don't understand."


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

UPDATED: Mask Madness

With increasing evidence that small, potentially infectious airborne particles of Covid-19 can remain in the air for hours, you would think that the use of masks in enclosed spaces would be one of the sanest and safest practices that people would readily and enthusiastically adopt.

Yet it remains a contentious issue for some, even in Canada.

You have likely heard of the hapless Letitia Montana, the Toronto woman who somehow thought she would garner sympathy and support by posting online her denial of service at a city hospital because she stoutly refused to obey the mask rule.

Rightfully, her misbegotten ploy backfired, earning her worldwide contempt from people like George Takei and model Chrissy Teigen:
“This is a new level of moronic and entitled,” actor George Takei tweeted.

“Proud of the healthcare workers who threw her out!,” tweeted model Chrissy Teigen.
Putting things into perspective, as I indicated in a recent post, it is my sense that the vast majority of Canadians are behaving responsibly during this pandemic. Nonetheless, this must be asked: What are we to do with those who are too selfish or benighted to act as responsible citizens in this pandemic?

The fact that this question even has to be posed irks me to no end and, quite honestly, does little to reduce my innate cynicism about our species. My own feeling is that simply refusing service to the selfish is the best response, but unfortunately, that does not address how to stop such individuals from spreading the virus.

The Toronto Star offers this from sexologist Jill McDevitt:
Scrolling through Instagram recently, she saw post after post raging against people not wearing masks. She found herself shaking her head. Public shaming didn’t make people practise safer sex, either, she said.

“We’ve already tried this with condoms, and it’s going to fail,” she said. “They might deserve to be shamed, I don’t know. But if we’re talking strategy, (shame) doesn’t work.”

While condoms in some form have been around for thousands of years, it wasn’t until HIV began to spread in the early 1980s that they became a matter of urgent public health policy, and advocates have learned a lot of lessons since then, she says.

The big one is that you can’t judge people into changing their behaviour, she said. “It’s going to make them feel more and more validated that people don’t understand whatever they feel is their particular reason why they don’t want to wear one or feel like they can’t wear one,” she said.
McDevitt also suggests some empathy is warranted here:
Much of the messaging has been “like, ‘Wear it and deal with it, otherwise, you’re rude and you don’t care about other people,’” McDevitt said. “But, can we acknowledge and have some empathy for the fact that this is not pleasant for people?” She notes that condom companies have made major strides in fit and comfort in recent decades, which has helped.
Peer pressure clearly has a role to play as well:
... a recent trip to the post office gave her hope.

Although the office had a sign encouraging everyone to wear masks, it wasn’t required. When McDevitt walked in, the lineup was a sea of masks. But while she was waiting a man entered without one.

“He’s standing there and more people come in line behind him wearing masks, and he finally says, ‘Can you hold my spot so I can go and get a mask on? I don’t want to be the only one with out one.’”
Were I more magnanimous of spirit, I probably could readily endorse all of the above advice. As it is now, I feel more like giving those mask-refusing ninnies a good slap across the face.

Guess I need to work on my anger issues, eh?

UPDATE: Apparently, Letitia Montana is still defiant. As a Canadian, this makes me feel deeply ashamed:

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Much-Needed Perspective

I don't know about you, but I have always felt deeply uneasy about fervid professions of patriotism, especially the kind that Americans are given to. Their earnest hands over their hearts, their shedding of tears upon hearing the national anthem, their stout professions of "My country, right or wrong," have always made me wonder about their capacity for critical thinking, self-reflection and humility.

In the following, 'the greatest country in the world' gets a much-needed reality check from Colin Kapernick:

Friday, July 3, 2020

An Unwanted Visit, But Something Heartening Was Revealed

Since the pandemic began, my wife and I have been very cautious. Because she has an underlying lung condition, we limit our exposure to outside influences as much as possible. For example, I shop for groceries once every two weeks at the seniors' hour, and even that, when I first started, was nerve-wracking, especially fearful was I of the contagion I might inadvertently bring home to her. And quite honestly, as we learned more about the horrible ravages this virus can inflict, I have also worried about my own safety.

Our purchase of masks have gone a long way toward assuaging anxiety, and I shall return to their use in a moment. But first, I'd like to recount a trip we had to take yesterday to Toronto, a city about an hour from where we live, and a place I have never enjoyed visiting. My wife had to see her respirologist at Toronto Western Hospital for an appointment we thought had been cancelled. Getting ready for it took on an aura of military planning and precision.

Hand sanitizers: check

Masks: Check

A list of washrooms open to the public (because I would not e permitted into the hospital with her): check

Lunches: check

My initial plan was to find the nearby washroom, have lunch at the adjacent park, and then just read until her chest x-ray and appointment were over, which we anticipated would take over two hours. However, despite the heat, after having lunch I decided to go for a walk.

Now where we live, wearing a mask outside is unnecessary, as crowding is almost non-existent. But by the time I got to Kensington Market, I donned the mask because the area was fairly busy, and I wore it for the rest of my peregrinations, which saw me go as far as Queen Street West, well past Spadina. What I saw on my walk heartened me. The vast majority of people wore masks, even though it was quite hot and humid, but I think everyone felt that the moderate discomfort of wearing one was nothing to what it must be like to experience Covid-induced shortness of breath or intubation.

It made me proud as a Canadian to see so many acting responsibly.

Which brings me to the report below. While there is undoubtedly some wistful exaggeration in it, I think it captures the Canadian spirit and ethos rather well:

Quite unlike this nonsense, eh?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

On Canada Day

On this day it is often difficult for us not to feel smug when we look at so much of the world beyond our borders. While such complacence is never a good idea, in her column today Susan Delacourt reminds us we have much to be thankful for, especially vis-à-vis the United States:
Happy Canada Day in the age of COVID-19 — the border between this country and the United States has never been this sharply defined, literally and politically. As many states in America are tumbling back into a resurgence of the virus, Canada and its health-care system are slowly emerging from the crisis in much better shape than our neighbour to the south.
The increasingly dire situation in Donald Trump's Amerika has prompted a turnabout in the thinking of Wendal Potter,
who used to work with the Cigna health-insurance firm, [and now says] he [is] sorry for all the lies he used to tell about Canada’s health-care system and pointed to the COVID-19 response in our two countries as proof of which one was better.

Potter’s Twitter thread confessed that big money was spent in his business “to push the idea that Canada’s single-payer system was awful & the U.S. system much better.” Now, however, he said it’s clear “it was a lie & the nations’ COVID responses prove it.”

Potter has now posted a video as well, called One Pandemic, Two Countries, which plainly states: “When it comes to keeping people safe from COVID, Canada has the United States beat by a long shot.”
Here is that video, and Happy Canada Day, everyone: