Sunday, December 19, 2021

Is doing the right thing really the right thing?

IT'S hard, right now, to really put into words everything I feel at the moment.

So I'll just begin where my brain wants me to begin and work from there.

On Friday night, I went to a rave. To be honest, it really wasn't anything special. It felt like a glorified high school dance complete with the barest of bare-bone setups and all the awkwardness. I feel bad saying all that because I'm sure the rave promoters put in a lot of hard work and I did actually enjoy myself, but I also feel like the promoters deserve an honest take if they're ever to get better at their craft.

Under normal conditions, something like that wouldn't be notable. On to the next night, one that hopefully is a bit more epic.


Unless you live under a rock (which is maybe something I should consider), these are not normal times.

Friday night- because of new, ridiculous rules brought in where I live, the Canadian province of Ontario- will represent the last time I'll get to enjoy a night out in quite some time. How long...who knows, because who knows when restrictions ever get lifted.

I'll spare you the details, except to moan that- once again- pandemic policy follows the "War on Fun" mentality that has failed so many times during the course of the crisis that I wonder why they keep trying. Not just that, but also because Ontario went further than expected. They didn't just cut capacity limits, they also imposed a curfew on venues, closed concession stands everywhere and banned dancing and singing, which they never did during the "vaccine era".

The government insists this isn't a lockdown but, by banning everything fun, it has the same effect.

It also seems unconscionable now that vaccines are widely available to everyone. Since mid-September, unvaccinated Ontarians (by choice) are barred from entering anywhere that would feature dancing, singing or concession stands, a decision spurred by the fact that the unvaccinated are more likely to end up in the hospital than the vaccinated, which has- still- held up to this day.

So, you would think, if Ontario was truly worried about "overwhelmed hospitals", the go-to move would be to get more of the unvaccinated to get the vaccine rather than restrict what the vaccinated can do, since the latter will only shave a few fractions of percentage points off your hospital case growth while the latter will shave several percentage points off your hospital case growth.

The only reason why you'd impose restrictions on where "vaccine passports" apply- especially ones as onerous as just implemented- would be if the vaccines stopped working. In which case, the vaccine passport is a useless policy.

Anyway, that's just me, and we could waste countless hours debating the topic.

What I really want to touch upon is how I feel. As I exited the rave, feeling melancholy that this might be the last time in quite some time, one question crossed my mind:

"Why did it all come down to this?"

Let me start by saying that, throughout the pandemic, I did what I could to do "the right thing". I wore my mask. I minimized my contacts. I tried to do everything outdoors, resisting vehemently any attempt to do indoor activities.

I did that until I got vaccinated. Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on May 29 and June 26, exactly four weeks apart. Why Pfizer? My brother's a longtime shareholder and all the data I saw on that vaccine pointed to it being the best, so I went with it.

Let me state that I never did believe the vaccine was going to make me impervious. No such vaccine- for any pathogen- exists. I just wanted to get back to a more "normal" sense of risk assessment, as, if the vaccine works as it should, the worst any interaction would give me is a bad cold.

Not the greatest thing in the world, but something I can live with.

I had a sense that the vaccine was my ticket to "freedom" from the shackles of the pandemic, and I was not alone. Both the Governments of Canada and Ontario ran ads literally telling people that vaccines were freedom, our ticket to getting back to normal.

Sure, the road ahead would still be bumpy as we worked towards getting everyone inoculated that we can, but there was no turning back.

At least there shouldn't have been.

Yeah, I heard quite a few naysayers suggest that, come winter, we'd be back in lockdown again. I, naively, didn't believe them, because I didn't think the government would be that foolish. Lockdown would be an admission that the vaccines don't work, raising the question of what would actually stop the cycle of lockdowns and restrictions for good.

Which means today that- rightly or wrongly- I feel all that energy "doing the right things" has gone to waste.

Yes, I do realize that there truly is only so much I can do and that the situation can change unpredictably, because science is like that.

It's still not enough to alleviate my disappointment, not just in the course of the pandemic but also with how our increasingly incompetent officials have handled it.

Truthfully, what does new, aggressive restrictions tell people like me who "did everything right"?

I'll tell you what it tells me- all of my efforts are in vain, and any more efforts will be futile, because there will be no way I can do anything to avoid "going back to square one" because nothing I did stopped us from getting there.

Sure, you can tell me that what I did wasn't in vain and the situation is really different now, but how bad is it, really?

You can tell me that I run the risk of passing off the virus to someone who is "at risk" but I somehow doubt that number is really that high and, well, I could pass off a number of other diseases that we don't  seem to care about to people "at risk" too.

Plus, there will always be "people at risk", and that wasn't going to change even if everything went swimmingly.

You can tell me that I run the risk of passing off the virus to someone who is unvaccinated by choice and I could send them to the hospital, but, seriously? At this stage during the pandemic, I doubt there are many people left who are unvaccinated and not content with that choice, because if they were, they'd just get vaccinated.

Frankly, if an unvaccinated person gets sick because of me, it's on them, not me, because they could have taken up the vaccine and not gotten sick in the first place but they chose not to. I mean, if someone jumps out of a plane without a parachute despite being offered one, any severe outcomes is entirely on them.

Finally, you can tell me that "there will always be new variants, and they could come at any moment and change the game". Yes, this is true. Yes I recognize that mutations will occur that will make the vaccines less effective over time and necessitate the creation of new ones or the importance of getting boosted. This is how we deal with the influenza virus since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919.

I know SARS-CoV2 is a coronavirus and not influenza, but the situation is still the same. Every time a new strain of influenza emerges, we don't go back to 1919. We learn, we adapt, we plan and we adjust so we can deal with the strain with as little disruption as possible. We need to do this with SARS-CoV2. We may not know as much about SARS-CoV2 as we do with the flu but I do think after two years we should have some idea of how it behaves even at its worst so we can plan for things with minimal disruption.

The fact that we haven't is absolutely inexcusable at this stage. The fact that I'm also paying for it is completely reprehensible. My tax dollars are literally going to the people who should have done their jobs and planned for SARS-CoV2, so I'm well within my rights to say they ought to be replaced with new leaders who will actually do the jobs they're supposed to do.

If I could give our policymakers the benefit of the doubt- and I'm not sure I will, but, if I did- I would say that the critical error in their decisions is prioritizing the elimination of COVID-19 as the end goal.

This, in of itself, is not a bad strategy. It's probably the ultimate goal, like it is with any disease. However, if it is the primary strategy in dealing with COVID-19, our policymakers have made a mess of trying to implement it.

The first part is obvious. If SARS-CoV2 is so dangerous that it absolutely cannot spread between anyone, let alone worldwide, then why, after two years, are we still dealing with a virus that is running rampant and pretty much unabated everywhere it goes? Either it can't be eliminated or the policies enacted to eliminate it are ineffective. There are no other explanations.

The second part is that our policymakers have used daily reports of positive test results as a metric for policy decisions. This was problematic right from the beginning, simply because we never did get close to testing everyone in a given population or even test a subset of people based on a random sample.

Which is a problem few seem to understand, because we never truly understand the prevalence of the virus within the population. If, say, on Day X there were 4,000 cases recorded and on Day Y, 5,000 were recorded, it may look like the prevalence is increasing. However, what if on Day X there were 6,000 undetected cases (making Day X's total 10,000) and on Day Y there were 3,000 (making Day Y's total 8,000)?

Prevalence is actually going down, but you wouldn't know it by the data that is collected.

All this points to is a problem with the leadership at the top. Make no mistake, they're the ones who have made this mess from the beginning and they're the ones who have contributed to the mess that is occurring right now.

Which just highlights the main frustration I have with the pandemic response. Our leaders have been woefully ineffective, and because of their ineffectiveness, I have to pay for it.

Now, they have shown that they cannot be trusted either, because vaccination didn't avoid the "worst case scenario". How am I supposed to believe that a booster or anything else asked of me to "stem the tide of COVID-19" will actually work now that it's been demonstrated that it hasn't?

Through it all, I try to see the positives. I know the seemingly never-ending restrictions will end at some point because countries cannot sustain them. Businesses- and people- will not stay in a country that may only be open for four or five months a year. Countries will have to figure out the least disruptive policies going forward because they will have no choice.

It still doesn't mean that the anger and sadness I feel today is any less real. The virus may not care what I think but the people paid to manage it should care what I think. Let me tell you, after two years of doing the right things, I'm tired of having to pay for the consequences of their ineptitude.

I'm sure I'm not alone.

It's beyond time that our leaders needed to do better, but "better late than never" to start. If not, I'm going to demand they be replaced with better leaders.

Because I'm not sure how much longer I can put up with paying for their ineptitude. That, I'm sure, I'm not alone on.

Do better and stop messing around.

-Daniel Arnold

Friday, December 17, 2021

A cartoon about how policymakers really view the pandemic crisis- and any crisis really.

Saturday, November 27, 2021


STOP me if you've heard this before.

Every few months, there's a news report about some "scary new variant" of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This variant, discovered in a "far off, distant land" (and they're always in "far off distant lands") is seen by someone the press describes as an "expert".

This expert "gets really, really scared" when he (and they're almost always a "he" if you haven't noticed) sees that this variant has "a large number of mutations" including "some we've never seen before" with "many appearing on the spike protein targeted by the vaccines".

Because of all this, this expert "sounds the alarm" because he's worried this "super scary variant" will "evade the vaccines" and render all the work we've done trying to contain SARS-CoV2 useless, meaning we'll have to "start from scratch" all over again.

Predictably, the media runs with this fear mongering for about a week, and the wider public gets scared because of how traumatic the COVID-19 experience has been.

So we lose our minds and again run around like Chicken Little and declare that "the sky is falling"...only for a week later to realize that this "scary new variant" really isn't as harmful as we thought it would be and/or has fizzled out into irrelevance.

Rinse, repeat.

So when the news came out about the variant we're now calling "omicron" (we're apparently skipping a letter in the Greek alphabet, as "nu" should be next) I was a little cynical about the sensationalism that arose because of it.

Don't get me wrong- I'm not dismissing the seriousness of the emergence of the omicron variant. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and the fact that people smarter than me in their fields are concerned about it means I need to take their words seriously.

I'm not downplaying any of that.

However, excuse me if I'm starting to feel like our health officials are starting to sound like they're crying "Wolf" a little too much, and I'm concerned they're not fully appreciating the impact of what they're doing.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

"Reactionism" is no way to solve the pandemic crisis

FOR months, after a brief jump in reported cases of COVID-19 in August, the Canadian province of Ontario has seen a slow, but steady, decline, with hospitalizations and severe cases remaining extremely low. Much of that was attributable to our vaccination coverage, which is north of 80% and now nearing 85%, which allowed the province to loosen almost all restrictions by the end of October, albeit with a "vaccine passport" requirement needed in places the province deemed "high risk".

However, as October turned to November, the reported case count began to creep up a little. As what usually happens in these cases, there were howls for the province to "do something" even though there was no evidence that anything needed to be done- the booster program is underway, vaccine coverage will be expanded to children and, more importantly, hospitalizations were still very low.

On November 9th, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said that "Ontario was staying the course" in its reopening plan, reassuring nervous Ontarians that when Ontario mapped out its reopening, it took into account this rise in cases.

Should be "case closed", right?

Well, on November 10th, Ontario announced that the next step in its reopening plan- removing capacity restrictions at nightclubs, strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs- will not happen as planned on November 15, with the earliest it can happen being December 8. The province said this was "data driven" but then provided no data to support this conclusion.

Worse, the flip-flopping from "we're staying the course" to actually changing course is no way to reassure the public that the province's administrators have a clue that they know what they're doing.

What it really is, though, is yet another example of the old staple of politics- "reactionism"- and that's no way to solve a crisis. A year and a half into the pandemic, we ought to be better than this.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The pandemic of false promises

THE COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted almost everyone on Earth ever since it began in late 2019. Many agree it is a significant problem, but few ask the question if one of the biggest problems are the actions and the thought processes of those actually tasked with solving the problem.

In this real-world commentary, I argue that the pandemic "strategy" by our powers that be to do little but enact "temporary" half-measures, throw around blame and indulge in their most nonsensical of their nightmare scenarios has had just as deleterious an affect on the public as the actual pandemic has itself. In this article, I call on those who are consist of the powers that be to end the games, end the nonsense and start doing what we, your taxpayers, are paying you to do- come up with real solutions.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Great American Swindle

Pictured (L-R): Cat Andrews (assistant to the President), Australian President Derek Andrews, Byzantine Empress Alexia Comnenus, North American President Kimberly Barhaven, Roman Emperor Erasmus. At the Queen City Waterfront Park, Buffalo, Roman New York

BUFFALO, NY- The Roman "experiment" in North America has officially come to an end, but it's not the good news the continent was hoping for.

In a stunning development, Roman Emperor Erasmus, Australian President Derek Andrews, North American Union President Kimberly Barhaven and Byzantine Empress Alexia Comnenus- the de facto leader of the Virtue Federation- announced publicly here today that Rome and Virtue have essentially agreed to "trade" the NAU from Rome to Virtue in exchange for Australia.

The deal sees no actual transfer of territory between Rome and Virtue, as Rome gets to keep the North American territories it has directly annexed to its Empire (Roman Columbia, Roman New York, southern New England, Texas, the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and Alaska). Furthermore, the actual day-to-day administration of the NAU and Australia will be maintained, as the agreement pledges to maintain of the levels of autonomy the NAU and Australia currently enjoy.

The only difference will be that instead of a Top Protector and a Roman Prefect overlooking Australia and the NAU (respectively), the roles will be reversed, with a Top Protector overseeing the NAU and a Roman Prefect will oversee Australia. It is not known when both will be formally appointed, but it's expected that the transfer of military bases between the two continents will take months at the very least.

On the surface, the deal looks good for all sides. Though the Australians never clamoured for the Romans, Australia's acceptance of the Virtue Protectors was lukewarm at best. On the other hand, the people of the NAU had been very vocal about joining Virtue, and Virtue never shied away from reciprocating their interest.

Virtue, you may recall, was formed in response to Rome establishing the NAU in the first place following the collapse of the United States of America in 1994.

So, for Virtue, being able to formally accept the NAU into the Federation is a major political win.

For Rome, they never seemed comfortable with establishing themselves in North America. They only pursued the arrangement as they were longtime allies of the USA, but, as soon as they arrived, they found the institutionalized morass was far deeper rooted than they had anticipated. The Romans spent their 27 years in charge of the NAU trying to find the right balance of integration and autonomy and never quite got there.

In the meantime, Roman officials across the Atlantic continually questioned the wisdom of the operation, with the growing sentiment in Roman circles that the NAU was nothing but a "money pit".

This is the real reason why Erasmus so easily gave up on the NAU and instead went for the far more lucrative Australian lands. Don't be fooled by the rhetoric where Erasmus claimed this deal "corrects a historical wrong" (since Australia used to be a Roman possession before being booted out by England, now a Virtue member, and vice versa for North America)- the Romans saw dwindling value in the overpopulated mess that is North America, so they're more than happy to let Virtue, their archrivals, have a crack at it.

If anyone thinks Virtue is going to be any better handling North America, think again. Looking at their track record in Australia should be enough proof.

Throughout Virtue's 27-year tenure in Australia, the Virtue Protectors- who were supposed to be "peacekeepers"- established themselves as bullies over the entire Australian society, but especially so over Australia's marginalized groups, the Australian Irish and the Aborigines.

Just by its estimate alone, Global Citizens has counted 738 reprisals against Irish or Aborigine communities committed by the Protectors since they arrived in Australia, an average of 27 per year. Those are just the ones GC can verify- the total is much higher.

Furthermore, the Protectors used their legal right to remove the Australian President as leverage on numerous occasions, even though they never had to follow through. In 2002, President Scott Levine resigned rather than bow to pressure by the Protectors to allow British Leyland to build a factory on environmentally sensitive land near Brisbane. Levine's successor- Tom Mullock- immediately allowed the factory to go through.

Then there's the question of Derek Andrews' election to the Presidency in 2018. Virtue's Ensurers certified the results- a resounding 78% of the vote going to Andrews- and claimed there were "no reports of fraud or interference". However, Andrews' opponents documented thousands of cases of voter intimidation (no doubt committed by the Protectors) and faulty voting machines, including reports of pre-registered votes for Andrews.

For those who questioned Barhaven's election to the Presidency, Andrews' story will hit far too close to home- and there's a stronger case of a conspiracy there.

Lastly, the Byzantine flu. There's no way to talk about the Virtue Federation and not talk about the Byzantine flu.

By now, it's an open secret that Virtue uses the "Byzantine flu" strain of the norovirus as a means of keeping its populace in check. It's why the Federation does nothing substantial to get rid of it despite the fact there are now ample treatments that can deal with it.

Treatments they don't want to approve because it means losing control.

Australia is a textbook example of how Virtue uses the Byzantine flu for abusive purposes, usually in the form of "phantom" cases. The real pandemic hit Australia in February 2012, but cases didn't subside until May of 2014, with allegations made that Virtue extended Australia's misery through faulty reporting as a way of executing another round of electioneering. In March 2016, a reported outbreak in Perth just so happened to coincide with Aborigine protests against the construction of a highway through sensitive Aborigine lands. In August of 2017, similar protests by the Irish community were quelled when a reported outbreak just happened to occur the day after the murder of Tommy O'Vincent by Australian police officer Carla Murton. The subsequent lockdown allowed Murton to destroy evidence and eventually escape conviction.

Then there was the most famous "mockdown" of all, when on September 28, 2019, the city of Darwin was ordered shutdown after a reported case. The day before, a group of Torres Strait Islanders had blockaded Darwin's precious ports over fishing regulations, a blockade that might have continued for months had the city not shut down. Despite the fact the patient that produced the case was never identified and that- strangely- no other cases of the Byzantine flu arose out of this case, Darwin had to endure a draconian lockdown until the following February.

Let that sink in.

Let it all sink in.

Because the Virtue Federation are not the heroes you think they are. If you really think they're going to run North America better than the Romans did, think again.

...but, go ahead. Celebrate in the streets. Be happy that the "big bad Romans" are gone from the NAU.

Just be careful of what you wish for.

Friday, April 23, 2021

A word on police corruption


Part of the Vicendum Project. To learn more, read the The Virus eBook collection, available at Payhip.