Getting warmer with travel to South Africa and Arizona. But what is happening?

March 4th

Let us take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

Borish Johnson is now engaged to Carrie Symonds and she has announced that she is pregnant with his child.  He wants to call it Agrippa or Sophocles but she favours Burt or Belinda. No doubt there will be a referendum. This will be Borish’s third marriage and (at least) his sixth child.

COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) is taking its toll. Mike Pence, who is now in charge of the US response to the spread of the disease, is running out of thoughts and prayers and is having to resort to science – something he has no understanding of. He is asking everyone to bath in Lysol and not to shop in Whole Foods, since this is owned by someone who supports Democrats. That will help. At the Vatican, Pope Francis took four days of sick leave and is still not well – coughing, sneezing. He has only one and a quarter lung, having had major surgery in his teens, so there are anxious prelates wondering if COVID has captured him. Israel says it is three weeks from producing a vaccine and some Canadian scientists are now in human trials of a potential vaccine. Over 90,000 cases world wide.

In Israel the voting saga continues. Round Three of the election game was concluded on Monday (the third election in less than twelve months), with Israel trying to decide between the corruptBenjaminNetanyahuand his rival Benny Gantz.  Netanyahu looks to be the winner, with just two seats short of a stunning fifth term victory. All he has to do now is avoid going to jail on the corruption charges he faces. He will no doubt use the Trump impeachment handbook to win there too.

Pete Buttigieg has dropped out of the race to be democratic nominee for the US Presidency. He showed some spirit and some promise, winning Iowa. But can’t see a path past Bernie or Biden and was running out of cash. Also out is Amy Klobuchar – one smart lady who was both articulate and focused. Both have endorsed Joe Biden. Meantime, Joe Biden is now on a surge having done exceptionally well on Super Tuesday. Now the struggle between Biden and Bernie begins in earnest. There looks likely to be a contested convention, giving Trump more gifts. I can’t help but think that Biden is the gift to Trump that will keep on giving.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can do nothing right. Having only just now secured an agreement with First Nations chiefs over land-disputes and pipeline and rail blockades, he is now being pummeled for not being a “gutsy” Prime Minister. Right, just what we need. Blood and guts, which is what will happen if we start to use force to solve land disputes. People forget what happens when we go to war over land. Trudeau may look like a poor choice for Prime Minister, but Andrew Scheer or Peter McKay or maybe Dennis the Menace or The Joker?

Alberta based X-Site Energy’s logo is on a sticker depicting the rape of Greta Thunberg. Doug Sparrow – the general manager – initially refused to acknowledge whether or not the company produced the sticker but now acknowledges that it was an error of judgment. No kidding. He also said that it did not depict child rape, since Greta is seventeen and the legal age of consent in Alberta is sixteen. So sad to see such a debased way to campaign for oil and gas. Even Britain’s Daily Mail was appalled, which is quite the achievement.

Princess Beatrice, no friend of Meghan, is all set to marry Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, son of a Count (Count Alessandro Mapelli Mozzi) and will then become an Italian Contessa while retaining her Princess and HRH titles. The wedding is in late May. Edo, as her husband is known, has a son called Wolfie from a previous relationship – Wolfie Mozzi. Beatrice continues to work while also performing some royal duties – the point made by Meghan in her blistering response to the Palace over the use of royal titles.

Former GE CEO Jack Welch – a leading thinker on business turnarounds and six sigma – has died at the age of 83. Jack was amongst a group of management gurus who knocked around helping people think about the art of management – which is how I met him (I am one of those who knock around). He also knew how to have fun (I had the headache to prove it). RIP Jack Welch.

I have little to do with sports – I am in the fitness protection program. But it looks increasingly likely that after many years of absence, the Edmonton Oilers could now make the 2020 playoffs for the Stanley Cup. They are currently second in the Pacific division of the NHL and won an amazing game against the Nashville Predators 8-3. Fingers, toes, legs crossed (which makes driving around difficult).

March 7th

Next Walk

Let us take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

Spitting Images – the satirical puppet show – is back on Brit Box! Wonderful puppets take us to the world of Meghan and Harry, the Trumpkin and others and romp through the news. Almost makes this blog (this walk is always extracted from The Murgatroyd Diary Blog) look lame. Can’t wait to see the Joe Biden puppet and his likely running mate Ruth Bader Ginsberg (86). Think about it. Bearnaise Saucy Sanders is 78, Sleepy Joe Biden is 77, former candidates Michael Billionaire Mini-Mike Bloomberg is 78 and Elizabeth Pocahontas Warren is 70. Potential running mates need to be fit, healthy, younger and ready to take over: Amy Klobuchar (59), Kamala Harris (55) and Pete Buttigieg (38) are now all strong vice-presidential prospects. There is also talk that Trump will dump Godchild Mike Pence in favour of Shiksa Nikki Haley (48) or Windbag Rush Limbaugh (69) or even the current real Vice President, Make-It-All-Up Sean Hannity (58).

Mike Bloomberg dropped out of the running of the DNC nomination and now supports Joe Biden – he spent app. $500 million (small change for him and more than $1m per US citizen) and got nowhere; Elizabeth Warren is also pulling out but is not supporting anyone.  Biden now looks the likely front runner going into the convention unless Bernie can pull of some miracles. Tulsi Gabbard (38) is still in the race (who knew?), despite polling at less than 1% in recent primaries. The DNC are making the same mistake that the GOP made in choosing John McCain and Bob Dole – “it’s my turn and I am not yet 100” as opposed to “I have things to do and I can win” is a poor excuse for a proactive party. But that is the problem. The DNC is not really a political party – it’s a really a money brokerage with no real commitments to social change, only to creating a mess in which it may (remotely) be possible to pull something out of the fire. The phrase “lions led by donkey’s” comes to mind.

(As an aside, six states vote Tuesday, March 10, to be followed by another four on March 17. The biggest prize in all those 10 contests is Florida, where 219 delegates are up for grabs. The Sunshine State votes on March 17, as do Ohio, Illinois and Arizona).

Donald Trump’s election campaign is suing the Washington Post for defamation. His concern relates to a series of opinion pieces which suggests that Trump and his campaign engaged in a series of quid pro quos with Russia related to the 2016 campaign. In part this is linked to the proposition that Trump’s bank loans from Deutsche Bank (no US bank would touch him) were underwritten by VTB (Vneshtorgbank) – a Russian state bank underwritten by the Russian government – something not yet established as a fact. VTB has been under US sanction since 2014. VTB was also the backer of the Moscow Trump Tower project. Trump still owes Deutsche Bank $350 million and Ivanka and Jared owe up to $50 million (nice for all the family debts to be in one bank, a bank which was recently fined $41 million for money laundering).  Trump’s war on the free press – “the enemy of the people” – continues. The Post points out that the pieces that Trump’s campaigns legal claim is focused on are all opinion pieces. Opinion is still free speech. We’ll see.

Trump has replaced his acting chief of staff with another “anything you say, sir” clone: Mark Meadows, currently a congressman from North Carolina. Meadows is not Acting CoS but is now the actual chief of staff. Best of luck. He is the fourth in three years. As a reward for his great service, his predecessor Mick Mulvaney is named United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland – bet he’s over the moon.  Better than being sent to the Ukraine or on a cruise ship.

(12% of American’s, according to a recent study, believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife! It’s now wonder Dr. Trump – the stable genius and expert on all things – is doing so well. Come on Randy Rainbow, we need you!).

Given the spread of COVID-19, many may wonder if the Olympics will take place as planned in Tokyo, Japan this summer (July 24 – August 9th). Italy is closing its schools and universities and other countries are considering making public gatherings more difficult, if not impossible. Fears have also been raised for other events, such as Wimbledon. A tough decision for the IOC and other sporting organizations. There is no “safe” place. Life is a risk. COVID-19 has now hit the Vatican (Pope Francis tested negative) and Alberta (one case in each of Edmonton and Calgary). On US television, a CNBC pundit named Rick Santelli suggested a new strategy: infect every American and then the problem would sort itself out. Wonder where he got his degree in epidemiology from? Ah, Trump University!

The reality of Alberta’s UCP kakistocracy government is hitting home. Massive cuts to post-secondary education, closure and sell off of public parks (giving away publicly owned assets to the private sector), opening up health care to privatization, cutting school budgets (whatever the savants in government say) and creating all the conditions for deepening Alberta’s recession. All at a time when borrowing could not be much easier and cheaper. The only way forward is a sales tax. Get on with it. Stop the idiocy of trying to “balance a budget” – only fools and horses pursue such follies.

March 10th

Let us take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc. 115,829 cases worldwide in eight countries and 4,087 deaths with a 55% recovery rate. Canada has a total of 77 cases and one death. Some say that the most serious consequence in Canada is the withdrawal of Roll Up The Rim to Win by the Brazilian owned company operating in Canada as Tim Hortons. 81,000 cups all ready to be rolled up will now by rolled out to the landfill. For many Canadians, this will bring the seriousness of the spread of this virus home. Given that some think it is a hoax and part of a plot by the NDP to undermine the West and big oil, Timmies is doing us all a favour. Wash your hands! Do it again! Now go buy a decent coffee (I recommend Lock Stock on Jasper Avenue, Edmonton).

The Alberta Premier, who is to Alberta what Trump is to the US (a real Drumpf), has endorsed Erin O’Toole for the conservative party leadership. O’Toole was, like Kenney, a member of the Harper cabinet. He is a corporate lawyer and former serving officer in the Canadian armed forces (helicopter pilot). In the last leadership election he came third. O’Toole is a hard Tory (Peter McKay is seen as a “wet” Tory). He is committed to closing the CBC English language programming, toughen the law on blockading infrastructure and use the notwithstanding clause to over-rule the Supreme Court of Canada when its rulings annoy him. Kenney’s endorsement is interesting, unlike the campaign for leadership itself which is as dull as bucket of second hand gravy.

Speaking of dull leadership races, we can also look at the Labour Party leadership race in the UK. The three remaining candidates – Sir Keir Starmer, Lisa Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy – will know their fate on April 4th. Starmer is the front runner and is about as exciting as a roll of wallpaper. Lisa Long-Bailey is a Corbynista and is as likely to pull off an upset as a cat entering Cruft’s dog show. The most interesting candidate and very articulate is Lisa Nandy, but she has no route to victory – gives her odds at 20:1 while Keir Starmer is 1:20.

While on paddypower I checked the odds of Joe Biden winning the US Presidential election in November 2020. The odds are: Biden 11:8, Trump 4:6 and Bernie 14:1. Tulsi Gabbard, who is still in the race for the DNC nomination despite what you might read and hear (another example of misogyny), is 300:1 for winning in November and 200:1 of winning the nomination.

The odds of Bono succeeding Pope Francis at the next conclave remain at 500:1 (someone has actually placed this bet, wonder if its our Premier?) as they have been for about eighteen months. Cardinal Turkson (Ghana) and Cardinal Ouellet (Canada) remain front runners. Father Ted of Craggy Island is unlikely to win (he is also no longer with us). You can find all sorts of interesting things at!

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has arrested three of his family for treason, or corruption or for singing Barrie Manilow songs (who really knows why).  They each have rival claims to succession on the death of King Salman (84). The King has been seen in public several times in recent days, but is known to be frail. The Crown Prince is an authoritarian, nasty piece of work and is widely regarded as directly responsible for the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia is also still a very repressive Kingdom, executing over 150 people a year (184 in 2019, 37 in one day). Execution by crucifixion is still undertaken as is decapitation. President Trump sees Saudi Arabia as a great ally and has vetoed a number of pieces of legislation that would have impacted Saudi.

Oil wars are heating up as OPEC failed to agree on quotas. West Texas crude fell to its lowest price since 2014 and Brent crude to its lowest price since 2017.  World demand is falling, in part as a result of COVID-19 but also as a result of increased production, especially from the Saudi’s. As of April 1st 2020 no constraining production quotas will be in place. Analysts expect prices to stabilize around $32 – $35/bbl for quite some time. Just a short while ago the Government of Alberta budget assumed an average West Texas price of $58/bbl in 2020-21 rising to $63.00/bbl by 2023. Not going to happen. So our debt and deficit will grow, as they generally do under conservative provincial governments. Premier Kenney has already indicated that this could be the case, which he also knew before the budget was released (no serious analyst took $58 seriously). So much for responsible government. The path to balance has never been there, but now it is more like the yellow brick road. Kenney has now asked wonderkind and economic doomsman Jack Mintz, who is a pure cut and burn guy, to head up a new panel to recite the Kenney decisions already made.

Italy is now on total lock-down as deaths from COVID suddenly increase. 60 million people are asked not to leave specific areas following 9,172 reported cases and 463 deaths. It is likely that the UK will follow suit in ten day’s time if the virus continues its spread at the current rate. I am off to South Africa on Sunday (7 cases  and no deaths) – just as safe as Alberta if one is sensible and takes precautions.

March 11th

COVID-19 continues to spread across the world. At the time of writing there are 120,000 infected persons around the world and there have been 4,300 deaths. It is a serious challenge.

It is also personal. I am traveling to South Africa on Sunday and will be there for nine days. Its rate of infection are about the same as Alberta’s (14 cases, 0 deaths) and I am in quality accommodation. But I am 69 (70 on October 31st), have Type 2 diabetes and am generally good health. Many think I shouldn’t go. But why not? If I self-isolate and cut myself off, what am I doing? I have people to see, things to do, money to be earned and fun to be had. I love Africa and its people. This is probably my last chance to visit (on someone else’s dime).

The formal advice to those of my age is not to travel. I will take my usual precautions for long-haul travel and carry Lysol wipes to clean off surfaces on the flights. But I see no reason at this time to quit life and stay home.

Let’s hope this is a sensible decision. Some of those I am seeing, especially in Cape Town, are not sure that their university will be open in a weeks time. I can still see individuals (there are good places to eat, drink and be merry in Cape Town) and have conversations – but a week is a long time in a pandemic.

(Next day: I decided NOT to travel)

March 13th (Friday the 13th)

Let us take a walk around the world and see what is happening…Vladimir Putin (67) is supporting changes to the Russian constitution so that he can serve as President until he is 282. His argument: “what is good for me is good for Russia”. He is probably the richest man on earth (but says he isn’t) and is certainly playing a long game. He has already been in power for 20 years – not quite as long as Stalin yet. Let’s hope his best man and employee of the year, Donald Trump, doesn’t get any ideas. The same goes for Borish Johnson.

Joe Biden won lots of new delegates on Super Tuesday II (also known as Groundhog Day). More specifically, he won Michigan which is a big prize (Sanders won Michigan in 2016). Looks like the big push is over for Bernie – his path to the nomination looks to have faded, but he continues to fight so as to shape the policy agenda (he did win in California). Tulsi Gabbard continues to compete and secure less than 1% of the vote – one wonders why and also how she is funding this adventure in futility. She often sounds like a Russian asset or a Republican.

The British Minister of Health, Nadine Dorries has been diagnosed with COVID-19. She contracted the illness last week and then spent time with Boris Johnson. She is self-isolating but is worried about her 84-year-old mother who is staying with her. Cases continue to grow – 130,000 cases worldwide and 4,800 deaths. Our Prime Minister is self-isolating, following his wife’s diagnosis with COVID-19. The Italian Chief Medical Officer has died of the illness. Here in Alberta, the situation seems to be managed well – 23 active cases and no fatalities. I can also still buy toilet paper, though have a copy of the Provincial budget which I could use if we ran out.

The Trumpkin has banned all non-US residents from arriving in the US as of today from Schengen area. He made a complete mess of the announcement which was made without consultation with the 26 Schengen countries which does not include UK, Cyprus and Ireland – Trump has properties in some of these countries. Carnage followed on the stock exchanges and the world has changed. Trump’s bungling will lead to deaths and disruption. The GOP will support him since he is also a virus and they are all infected.

Harvey Winestain, guilty of rape and sexual assault, was sentenced to 23 years in prison. He now faces a trial in California. He’s not coming out from these charges – he will be 90 (assuming a full term) and his health is not good.

Prince Harry was punked. He took a call from two people pretending to be Greta Thunberg and her father. The punkers (or punkettes) were Russian YouTube stars. Harry said that he really wanted to play football for Colchester City, eat proper sausages with chips and fart a lot while watching Last Tango in Halifax and Meghan wanted to dance in the rain wearing her Jimmy Choo’s while singing “Yes, we have no banana’s!” (no they didn’t, but who cares?).

Just as the Edmonton Oilers looked like getting to the NHL play-off’s, the NHL has suspended the hockey season. What am I to do with all this beer and confetti? Well, I can solve half of this problem…but the confetti? HRH Her Indoors, She Who Must Be Obeyed suggest I sow the confetti back together and use it as toilet paper.

March 16th

Let us take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

In the US Senator Ted Cruz said that he has decided  – “out of an abundance of caution and to give everyone peace of mind” –  he is extending his self-quarantine to 2024 or later, unless he suddenly discovers both truth and science.

Also in the US, having initially declared COVID-19 to be under total control and “basically a hoax”, President Trump declared a national emergency so that he can “unleash the full powers of government” and then immediately denied the right of states to use Medicaid to help fight the virus. We now see what “the greatest country on earth is really like” – a mess and an embarrassment when compared to the tough moves in Italy, Norway, New Zealand and other countries. COVID-19 is a massive leadership challenge for all in the world – Trump has failed. Within hours of announcing a national emergency, Trump flew to Florida to play golf.

In trying to fix their botched response, the US suddenly banned travel from the UK and Ireland. It also decided to test all arriving passengers, though airports were ill-prepared. Despite recommending social distancing, thousands of passengers were herded into corridors standing within millimeters of each other for hours waiting to be tested. Ideal conditions for spreading the virus.

All concerts and artistic performances are cancelled, postponed or curtailed. This is terrible news for artists, many of whom rely on concert revenue to pay the bills and feed themselves. This is also true for many minor league sports players and self-employed consultants. There will be major implications if COVID-19 takes 3-6 months to “clear”, which is what we should expect.

In Britain, a legal and regulatory framework is being prepared that will require elderly people to self-quarantine for up to four months. “Elderly” are those over the age of 70. My wife is 72. I am 69 years and 4 months. I understand the rationale – death rates are higher for the older age group, especially those of us with underlying conditions. But four months is a long time (actually, a week is a long time if you cannot use the library (closed), watch sports (not happening) or shop (not much there)). In Italy those over 80 will be “left to die”, according to some reports – they will not be tested and not treated. If the pandemic persists, and no one knows how long this will go on for, all our lives will have changed dramatically.

Loneliness is also a killer. If we cannot connect and socialize and feel real social isolation, then depression coupled with real anxiety can set in and cause all sorts of other problems. One study compared loneliness as equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day from a physical health perspective – it is risk factor in early deaths for elderly people. The irony here is that the most common solution – getting people out in the community and spending quality time with people – is the exact opposite of what is now being recommended.

Britain, under Theresa May, had a Minister for Loneliness. Borish Johnson has continued this. The joke was that Theresa May appointed to the position so she would have someone to talk to. Borish has someone else, as the announcement of his recent engagement shows. The Minister for Loneliness is Baroness Diana Barran — the nation’s third Minister of Loneliness in two years and a former hedge fund principal. She is also Under Secretary (Minister) for Civil Society, Youth and Social Action, Inclusive Economy, and Ceremonials. Busy lady. Not likely to be lonely for long.

Roy Hudd, a very funny man and gifted actor, has died. He was 83. In addition to being funny, he was also a historian – one of the leading authorities on the legends of the music halls. He will be missed.

March 18th

Let us take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

Australia intends to fine individuals who break quarantine $50,000. Britain is also looking at significant fines. If you’re sick you could also be broke. Katie Hopkins – a well-established columnist for The Sun newspaper on Britain – has suggested that the UK government should equip a number of vans with euthanasia equipment to cull the older population. She made her name on Big Brother and maybe she should have been voted out before the show started.

Our Canadian border is closed to all non-Canadians (unless they are diplomats or air crew or US citizens engaged in essential commercial business requiring travel); flights are constrained with only four airports accepting international travelers (Calgary is one); sick people will not be allowed to fly anywhere (this obviously includes Katie Hopkins). Europe is closed to all non-EU travelers and those  EU citizens who do arrive have to self-isolate for 14 days. Meghan and Harry made it back to Canada and will go into self-isolation with Archie – not a bad thing.

Idris Elba has COVID-19. The Brits think that setting up a web site for people to pay money to give him bed baths could wipe out the British government debt.

Joe Biden won more delegates and votes than Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday III big time. He now looks unbeatable. He has committed to choosing a women as his Vice Presidential nominee for the November election. Odds are that he will chose Julia Louis-Dreyfus aka Selina Mayer, who did such a good job playing this role in the TV series Veep. If Julia says no, his back-up plan is Amy Klobuchar, the Senator from Minnesota. Sanders has no path to success.

Our Alberta kakistocracy government has found a new way of ensuring ill health amongst Albertan’s. In the midst of the most serious pandemic in more than a generation, our inept government has sent a notice to our radiologists that they will soon lose their contracts and that their work will be put out to tender.  These contract were agreed to through arbitration last November by this very same government. They have also made clear that their completely defunct budget, which carries cuts to health care, must be passed otherwise the sky will fall and our Premier’s pants will catch fire.  The budget past and his pants did catch fire but someone else was wearing them at the time. This kind of nonsense just goes to show what happens when a virus (neo-liberalism) impacts clear and focused thinking. Given how much time people have to reflect these days, let’s hope each of the arbitrary and pathetic things Kenney & Co are doing will be given the same scrutiny as if it were an NHL Stanley cup Oilers game.

Jim Banks, US congressman from Indiana, is suggesting that the US seek reparations from China since the COVID-19 virus “originated there”. Similar suggestions were made in an article in MacLean’s magazine and are being quietly talked about in a variety of capital cities around the world. Perhaps we could also suggest that Canada seeks reparations from the US for its inept handling of the situation. Trump has started calling COVID-19 the China Virus, indicating that part of his brain remembers watching Fox News. He also is reported to have said “some people have died that have never died before”, suggesting that he hasn’t taken his meds today.

March 20th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening..

The Queen (93), Duke of Edinburgh (98) and Prince Charles (71) are all in self-isolation and cannot fulfill their royal duties. Prince William and Kate are being positioned as front and centre Royals and Prince Harry, who was about to “retire” (31st March) may be asked to postpone his departure from the front-line royal duty list, subject to Meghan’s approval.

Princess Beatrice (31) is to be named a Counsellor of State – promoted from being a nobody to be a nobody with a title. There is also a strong likelihood that her wedding – due to be held May 29th 2020 – will be postponed for a year. By then the kafuffle over her father’s behaviour with Jeffrey Epstein and under-age girls sex scandal may have died down and her partners parents – Count Mapelli Mozzi – and family may be allowed out of Italy. She is a woman of no importance, as some might say, even though she works for the software company Afiniti. After her marriage, she will in fact be a Contessa.

Princess Eugenie (29) (aka as Mrs. Jack Brooksbank) continues her work in the art world at Hauser & Wirth where she is a director. They have galleries in the UK, US, St, Moritz and Zurich and produce a very nice magazine and high quality art books in addition to exhibitions and sponsored events.

Prince George (6) and Princess Charlotte (4 and a bit) are being homed schooled. Kate is leading the work with Willian revising in a back room so he can remember how to do basic math – he finds subtraction difficult (2 brothers minus one is..).

Responses to COVID-19 produced some interesting challenges. In both France and Italy airports remain open but it is illegal to drive to one – doing so will invoke a fine. A London friend is self-isolating, largely at the Kings Head in Camden. His brother is doing the same at the City Arms in Cardiff – both are over 70. President Macron (42) of France took his wife Brigitte (66) to the theatre to demonstrate resilience, only to announce the next day the closure of all restaurants, bars and theatres. Let’s hope the show they saw wasn’t Albert Camus La Peste.

UK shoppers in their rush to empty supermarket shelves and hoard toilet paper are leaving behind three of the most valuable food stuffs you can ever buy: tins of SPAM, corned beef and mushy peas (or, as we Yorkshire folk like to think of them “northern guacamole”). Just think of the wonderful meals you can have with these ingredients: spam, spam and spam with a hint of mushy peas comes to mind.

Some have suggested that the self-isolation will lead to a spike in the birth rate around nine months from now – after all, how many repeats of The Big Bang Theory can one watch? The last such big spike was when Tommy Hunter was on prime time TV – perfectly understandable reaction. More likely, according to self-reports flooding in from all sources, will be a spike in the divorce rate: parents seeking to separate from their stay at home children. China reports a significant rise in divorce in Hubei Province, epicenter of the virus in China.

Bernie Sanders (78) is said to be seriously considering ending his campaign to become President of the United States by pretending to be a Democrat. This follows from the significant defeats he has experienced in the last few primaries – Joe Biden (77). Is on a roll. While his campaign team says that he hasn’t really decided, we all know that’s all over and that this is the last time he will run – this is his second attempt.

A Little Later…

The Premier of Alberta is concerned about the price of oil and gas since it affects both Albertan’s and the Government’s ability to fund operations. He is asking Ottawa to “bail out” oil and gas, despite: (a) significant subsidies which the industry receives from Ottawa – app. $3.3 billion a year; (b) subsidies from Alberta of app. $1.3 billion a year in royalty forgiveness; (c) having one the lowest royalty rates in the world; and (d) having given $4.7 billion in tax giveaway’s from the Alberta budget to profitable companies, including oil and gas.

In addition, oil companies were bailed out by the Federal government when it agreed to purchase a pipeline under construction so as to ensure Alberta oil could get to tidewater. The Government initially spent $4.5 billion buying the pipelines and are now on the hook for construction – app. another $5 billion or more. Oil and gas have also largely walked away from their legal obligation for well restoration once a well has reached its end-of-life or is abandoned. There are over 3,400 of these abandoned wells in Alberta which will cost some $30 billion or more to clean up and the available funds to do so are just $227 million.

In 2019 some of the larger oil and gas companies had a terrific year. CNLR, for example, achieved record production totaling 1,098,957 BOE/d, delivering 2% production growth over 2018 levels in a curtailed market environment. Net earnings were $5.416 billion. In 2020 the company planned to spend $2.4 billion on share buy-backs – a common theme in the industry. At the same time, CNLR hired fewer people to drive its performance as it is now, and has been for some time, an early adopter of key innovative technologies aimed at increasing production with fewer people.

We should not bail them out. They can use their asset base to borrow funds at the most competitive interest rates seen in a generation.  We also should not bail out airlines or cruise ship companies for the same reason.

What we should do instead is pay citizens a guaranteed income for the next 12-18 months (all citizens) so that we can all cope with the challenges of mortgages, rents, food costs (which will rise significantly). Oil company executives and shareholders can sort themselves out.

As for the Government of Alberta, they should heed the suggestion: “never let a good crisis go to waste”. Introduce a sales tax now (exempting food and medicine) and scale it to replace oil and gas royalty revenues used for operations. In addition rethink the royalty regime to extract more from oil and gas so as to strengthen the Heritage fund and strengthen the orphaned well funds. This may look counter intuitive at a time when oil prices are so low, but it is a time to decide what is important for all Albertan’s not just a few.

The Alberta government should abandon its budget so shoddily rushed through the legislature and start to focus on creating the next Alberta around policies of equity, compassion and service. Bold new thinking not old recycled thinking from Ayn Rand. Rather than focusing on the oil and gas economy, Alberta’s strategy (like that in New Zealand) should focus on the wellbeing of all of its citizens. It is time for a wellbeing budget.

March 23rd

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happenig…

Laura Ingraham is a fox news columnist on TV. She tweeted this week that “American’s “need to know date certain when this will end. The uncertainty for businesses, parents, and kids is just not sustainable”. She also tweeted that “in one week we need to be headed back to work, school, stores, restaurants, and churches with new protocols in place”. The CEO of the COVID-19 Pandemic has not yet responded, though several Twitterettes have. President Trump – ace scientist and a stable genius – has tweeted that “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 days period, we will make a decision as to which way we will want to go!” I think Laura and the Donald should get together and make the decision – they seem to know everything and then some.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s answer to Donald Trump, has said that the COVID-19 “scare” is an invention of the press and his political opponent. “it’s really just a little flu”, he said. This flus has infected 372,563 people and has killed 16,381 so far, including 25 deaths in Brazil. He is not impressed by the reaction of every other country in the world, as he wouldn’t be – he is an unstable genius.

The US Senate struggled to make decisions between the needs of people and the needs of corporations. Given how much corporate sponsorship there is swilling around in the Senate, it is not surprising where the GOP and DNC ended up: stalled. Moscow Mitch suggests that the blocking by democrats of the$1 trillion bill is all about the green new deal. Chuck Schumer says that the real issues are no-strings-attached corporate bail-outs. Violins are being handed out to the leaders of all parties so that they can fiddle while the US burns.

Harvey Winestain, now in prison, is hospitalized in an ICU with COVID-19. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?

Canada has decided not to send athletes to the 2020 Olympic games scheduled for Japan beginning on 24th July. It is asking the IOC to postpone the games to 2021, throwing off all of the schedules for all of the competing sports. Other countries are also asking for a postponement. My wife was hoping to compete in the book club sharing illnesses and cake eating competition. Postponement now looks certain.

In Scotland, Alex Salmond former leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party has been acquitted of all of the charges against him of sexual assault. The jury deliberated for six hours and found him not guilty on all twelve counts of rape, sexual and indecent assault.

The Alberta kakistocracy has found a way of making money for Telus. It is paying for an app that risks the lives of Albertans by connecting to them to doctors who are unaware of their medical histories and do not have access to their medical records and are paying them to give advice at a higher rate than the patient’s own doctor. This is about as sensible as clearing snow from a mountainside with a soup spoon. Back door privatization. Meantime, Alberta doctors who are practicing telehealth with their own patients are being punished financially for doing so. Our government is obviously aligned with Jair Bolsonaro. (Late news: The government have changed this policy since I posted this).

March 25th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

Albert Uderzo has died at the age of 92. The co-creator of Asterix and Obelix and a very nice Frenchman who lived in Neuilly-sur-Seine, just west of Paris. This is also where Marine le Pen lives and where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived in exile. He was a kind and generous man with a great sense of humour and a cynicism worthy of a French cartoonist.

The chief barker, savant and stable genius (sometimes known as The Donald) is losing money big time at all of his hotels. He wants to re-open the US economy quickly “and get back to normal”, preferably by Easter (April 12th) – this against the advice of any sane person (other than some his fellow republicans). He also wants some of the $500 billion Moscow Mitch is trying to create as a slush fund for his corporate friends, but the Dems have specifically excluded the Trump and Kushner from benefiting at all. He is supported in this idiotic idea by the Texas Lt Gov Dan Patrick who has said that he is “all in” on risking his health for the sake of the economy, even if it means he’s “done for”.  He wins this week’s prize as Covidiot of the Week. None of the available scientific advisors or medical advisors support any of this, which is why Trump has sidelined them.  Asked what he would do if Trump resumed “business as usual” by Easter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he would continue to base decisions on “evidence and science”. There’s novel.

Using science, evidence and best practice for policy making would go badly in the office of the President of Brazil, Jai Bolsonaro. In a televised address on Tuesday he said he wouldn’t feel anything if he was infected – it is one of his super-powers – and that the world-wide reaction to the virus is all part of a conspiracy by the deep-states around the world, especially the media. Surprise was expressed that he didn’t blame Pope Francis or the Vikings, it would fit his logic. He is competing for the Covidiot of the Year (with Kim Kardashian).

The 2020 Olympics – the multibillion-dollar festival of people in shorts – has been postponed to 2021. Both Canada and Australia had withdrawn, and Japan then formally asked the IOC for the postponement. One really feels for the athletes who have dedicated their lives for years to the pursuit of the Olympic experience. This may lead to darts being included, which was already under consideration for the 2024 games. I am starting a petition to ensure that darts players are not required to wear shorts.

Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID-19. He is in isolation in Scotland. Prince Andrew has tested positive for stupidity and bad judgement. He is in isolation at a Pizza Express in Woking. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have tested positive for petulance. They are in isolation at a Tim Horton’s in Vancouver. Prince Phillip has tested positive for everything. He is at Windsor with the Queen. Prince William is getting ready for the succession.

Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and recently acquitted of thirteen charges of sexual assault, is threatening to sue the Government of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and all Corgi dogs. He claims that there was a conspiracy at the highest levels of the SNP (including Nicola Sturgeon) to disgrace him and he is seeking compensation. He also doesn’t like Corgi’s. Some have suggested this could bring down the Scottish government, which about as likely at Scottish people eating fruit daily.

March 27th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

Given Prince Charles positive test for COVID-19, most Britain’s are self-isolating their Duchy Original biscuits. Mine are in the bucket of cornflakes covered with cheerios.

Borish Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19. He says he knows he has the key features of the illness: unruly hair, strange speech patterns and wild thoughts. He says that he will use a wizard to help him recover if she is available.

Vladimir Trumpkin had decided to position troops at the US-Canada border so that they can shoot the COVID-19 virus as it crosses the border. He knows that the US troops can use their night sights to spot the virus (which he says has eight legs, two noses and nineteen ears) and kill it. Not really, but given that there are no sensible explanations of his magical thinking, this will have to do.

The Norway University of Science and Technology (NUST) has told its students that the US has an “underdeveloped healthcare infrastructure” and that they should return home as soon as possible to a country with outstanding healthcare support. The University understates reality. The US has a highly developed medical infrastructure for the wealthy and none at all for many of its citizens. It would rather see them die and go bankrupt than offer them treatment.

Speaking of the privileged, Senators. Lindsey Graham ($5m), Rick Scott ($255m), Tim Scott ($2.5m) and Ben Sasse ($1m) all raised concerns that the part of the $2 trillion US deal related to unemployment benefits would “incentivize” individuals not to return to working. Be  clear: some of the richest people in government formally opposed supporting some of the poorest people in the country who will likely not be able to afford food, shelter and warmth. Their ability to understand how the real-world works is about as strong as our collective ability to understand the ways in which quantum physics informs knitting or the design of socks.

Many artists are performing from home. Names include Pink, John Legend, Garth Brooks and many others. But there is excellent news: James Blunt has announced that, by popular request, he is not doing so.

Meghan, Archie and Harry have permanently left Canada for a life in Los Angeles. They took a private flight out the day before the border closed and have rented a villa near a number of studios in LA.  Now they are self-isolating due to COVID-19 and KINGNOTU-2 near others who have to self-isolate because of their popularity.

March 30th

My son…

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

A number of those who were self-isolating following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis are now “out”, having served their time. Tom Hanks, Rita Orr, Prince Charles and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau are among them. James Blunt continues not to perform from home, saving millions of minds.

Airlines around the world are asking for bailouts. Easy Jet, Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada and others who have spent years making good money and using it for share buy-backs and paying their executives well, are laying off staff. Airlines all carry significant capital debt – aircraft are not cheap. But they also have other challenges – Air Canada has a pension deficit of $4 billion. Canada needs air transport – it is too far to walk from Edmonton to Ottawa. But how we bail them out will matter – there needs to be a set of conditions attached, one of which must be no share buy-backs and a significant component of public ownership. Another should be better sandwiches. Expect seat prices to go up and to be charged for coffee on board.

An Australian scientist called Daniel Reardon, based in Melbourne, was working on an invention which would prevent a person from touching their face when he accidentally pushed magnets up each of his nostrils, only for them to fuse together. He was admitted to hospital and the magnets were clinically removed, as was his license as an inventor and his dignity. Photographs were taken as a great many people touched his face.

In Alberta, as part of its strategy to help the struggling Alberta economy and support its people through the COVID-19 crisis, the Government of Jason Kenney cut education funding by 14%, laying off 25,000 people (1% of the Alberta workforce). They made such a major announcement through a press release on a Saturday afternoon to avoid having to answer questions, such as “just how stupid are you?” and “have you any idea what you are doing?” and “you do realize this is the exact opposite of what you are asking employers to do?”. Amongst those being laid off are teaching assistants, so vital to supporting learners with special needs, especially now that they are at home. The Minister involved had, just two weeks before, committed to fully funding education through the balance of the school year.

James Dyson’s company has redesigned and reinvented the ventilator, so much in demand from health systems around the world. The new model is now in production. Formulae One team Mercedes has also invented a breathing device which gets oxygen to the lungs without the need of a ventilator. The only challenge is that patients have to run very fast behind a racing car as it speeds around Goodwood.

The wonderful (and one of favourite monthly reads) magazine The Idler is offering its online courses at half price. The options are interesting – Harmonica for Beginners, Learn Latin, How to Read the Tarot. My personal favourite is How to Fix the Future. Shame I didn’t take it a few months ago.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have moved to LA – they finally realized just how bad Tim Horton’s coffee really is (undrinkable). Almost as they landed, President Trump tweeted that he would not be funding their security – something they had not asked or expected the US government to do. He will also not be funding Harry’s aftershave, Meghan’s pantyhose or Archie’s diapers. One explanation for the couple leaving Canada is to reduce the complication of being taxed in both Canada and the UK. Another is that it continues to snow and its cold in Canada (-9c and snowing as I write).

and also

My letter to Alberta’s Minister of Education:

Dear MinisterOn 15th March you promised school boards that the 2019-2020 funding allocation would remain in place, thus enabling them to plan for the balance of the fiscal year.

On the 28th March you informed them through a press release and with no prior warning or consultation that this was now no longer the case and that you were reducing budgets by $128 million as a “temporary measure”. The press release suggested that these funds would be re-allocated to COVID-19 related expenditures. In fact, it will go back into general revenues.

While reports of the exact impacts of this decision vary, it will lead to 25,000 immediate job losses – app. 1% of the Alberta workforce. Amongst those to be “let go” are educational assistants who provide, and are continuing to do so at this time, excellent supports to students with special needs.

I understand that the present unprecedented situation creates challenges. I also understand that one of the challenges of government is to make difficult choices.

I note, however, that your government has decided to continue to fund the Canadian Energy Centre at a cost of $30m a year. It would not be a difficult decision to close this operation and to reallocate these funds, since the Centre appears to provide no useful purpose at this time.

Trust is central at a time like this. Your government and you personally have lost the trust and confidence of those with whom you have to work and those that you serve. By announcing the largest lay off of public sector workers in Alberta’s history without any prior notice, consultation or reasonable explanation you have lost the trust of the people. Your past actions – denying that you had reduced the funding available for schools when it was clear to trustees, teachers and administers that you had – you lost trust of those that you serve.

I do not see how you can regain the trust of those who work daily to provide education to our children and young people – one of the best education systems in the world. Your actions, especially this most recent one, suggest that you have little real understanding of what takes place in classrooms, in schools and the school system. To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement – I am angry and deeply disturbed by your actions and those of your government.

It is time for you to consider your position. When you were appointed there was some hope that, given your experience as a school trustee, that you would understand the importance of collaborative professional practice and the importance of evidence based decision making. Your behaviour since becoming Minister shows a lack of compassion and understanding of some basic principles of governance. Having lost the trust of those you serve, I think there is only one course of action you can take.

With sincere regret…….