#COVID19Chronicles-299: January 31, 2021-Trump unlawyered!

Before I went to bed last night, I was reading about the team of lawyers in the team to defend Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial, led by Butch Bowers from South Carolina.

When I got up, I was shocked to read that five of the legal team had quit!

CNN broke the story that two lead lawyers had skedaddled by “mutual decision”:

But it seems things slid downhill fast. They say a week is a long time in politics; it seems to be true.

The stumbling block was Trump’s insisting that the case be built on the election having been subject to massive voter fraud. No evidence exists of that and this line had failed miserably in court cases brought by Trump’s lawyers before the results were certified and confirmed. As was seen in those cases, lawyers wouldn’t cross the ethical line of peddling lies in proper legal settings, irrespective of words uttered outside such settings. So, it seems again. Many legal minds think a better line would be to contest the constitutionality of the case, which would give more leeway for an acquittal.

‘The Donald’ is nothing if not a dog with a bone on this obsession.

The question, now, of course, is who will lead the legal team now. It’s unlikely to be Rudy Guiliani, as he may himself be a subject in the trial.

The interesting times just keep getting more interesting.

#COVID19Chronicles-298: January 30, 2021-Heightened inequalities

The COVID pandemic has exposed many inequalities within countries and between countries. We’ve seen this in the form of access to the Internet, with its most damaging short- and medium-term costs being imposed on children and their education.

“This pandemic has made remote learning, telemedicine, financial inclusion, and mobility leap forward by five to seven years,” said Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. So, the unequal Internet access has important effects on countries’ demands that citizens stay home and minimizing the impact of that of output and productivity.

We have seen glaring income inequalities:

The pandemic is hitting the poorest countries most:

The world’s 10 richest men made $540 billion during the pandemic — enough to cover COVID-19 vaccines for the whole planet.

We are seeing early major inequalities in access to vaccines, within and between countries. This is a worrying, though not surprising, development:

The phrase of 2021 may become “immunity inequality”. Keep watching.

#COVID19Chronicles-297: January 29, 2021-Another year passed; interesting times for a birthday

A year ago, I was planning to take a short vacation to England, in mid-February, just because, but also to get a personal sense of how Brexit was rolling in. Now, after it rolled in, I’d have much less desire to make the trip. The pandemic, which was declared as my vacation was ending, is being managed badly there and Brexit is turning out to be the ‘pig in a poke’ that the supporters lied it wouldn’t be. With COVID restrictions, I’d be able to leave Jamaica but would not be able to return from the UK!

A year ago, I had anticipated my daughter returning from school for Spring break in March and my mother-in-law and her sister coming to spend a few weeks while my wife and I headed off on work travel to Colombia. I didn’t anticipate they’d be still here in July and later. That’s life during a pandemic!

A year ago, as I turned 65, I was happy to be retired and enjoying my life as a mainly home-bound person. I didn’t anticipate that the bulk of the country and likewise in many countries would be living their lives as work-at-home or stay-in-place people. That’s life during a pandemic.

Once the pandemic rolled through the world, eyes turned to scientists for solutions; a vaccine was hoped for but would be far off, we thought. Yet, here we are and vaccines have been developed and are being dispensed in several countries; richer ones are better placed than poorer ones. Ironically, the UK is better placed than its EU neighbours, because it had decided to order 3 months ahead of them.

I was keeping an eye on the US presidential elections, due to end in November 2020, and as the Democrats fought over who would carry their torch, my hope was that it would be a strong contender against the incumbent President Trump. Then, the election over, I looked forward to the transition. I did not expect a simple handover—Donald Trump doesn’t do losing well; I recalled his threat in 2015 that he would not commit to accepting any result but his victory. He had warned during 2020 well before the election that he thought the election was rigged. So, when he started digging in his heels and vacillating about accepting results, I knew we were in for a struggle.

On election night, the contest was compelling watching and it was a nail biter than looked like a win for the Democrat candidate, Joe Biden. Waking to that confirmation was frankly delightful.

I did not anticipate a string of efforts to overturn the results. I did not expect the overt efforts to do that! The law suits did not seem too out of line, though it was clear that with nothing inside the paper bags that were being used as briefs for the courts, made it clear that the claims of fraud would go nowhere. I didn’t anticipate that this effort would go on so fruitlessly for so long. I expected some of the lying on the stump but it was clear that the truth had to be told in courts. I had doubts about whether the courts would hold the line, especially as many of them and the Supreme Court had been stuffed with Trump nominees. That they did was an amazing surprise.

As we went through what were usually pro forma events to confirm the election results, I was really nervous about where the presidential resistance efforts would lead. I heard words about “peaceful transition”, but in my mind I could see that was not a given, by a long shot, The level of divided opinions, with nearly 3/4 of Republican supporters believing the propaganda that the election was stolen and Trump had won, by a “landslide”, in his words.

The State certifications became dramas. Normal snooze-fests were now must-watch. After that, the wait for Congressional confirmation turned from being ‘who cares?’ to must-watch. As many turned in to see this dull as dishwater piece of political theatre, it was not part of the popcorn eating to watch an insurrection unfolding in front of our eyes. (As a grim reminder, it was like watching the disaster of the 1986 Challenger launch.)

January 6, 2021 is now seared into our memories as the day when the US democratic system was pushed to the brink.

It appeared to survive on the day, and the institutional finalization of the election, the Inauguration on January 20, again became its usual must-watch event. But who could have anticipated that, in addition, to the COVID protocols that forced fewer people and more distance, we would see Washington DC in lock down and thousands of the National Guard lining the streets and ringing the US Capitol, itself ringed with high fencing? The eerie sight of the Washington Mall filled with flags and free of people will remain a deeply strange image.

The security policy failure has still be fully explained and now proposals may include permanent fencing around the Capitol complex and a ready-response force stationed nearby.

The sight of the sourpuss departing president determined to not accept the election results by not publicly uttering the name of the new president and refusing to attend the Inauguration was in keeping with him, but as distasteful a piece of adult behaviour as one may ever seen.

For me, the fact that his narcissism has extended to letting his Vice President and his family be under siege, maybe in fear of their lives during the siege of the Capitol, was more telling of a moral bankruptcy that is rare in anyone, let alone a politician.

The past 12 months have been dominated by the pandemic. Many wanted to see the back of 2020, but 2021 looks set to be no cake walk.

The physical violence that took place on January 6 now appears to have an underpinning of political connivance and planning that is really worrying as it suggests a serious plot to subvert elected government. The fact that Congressional politicians should be openly expressing fear of some of their colleagues is mind boggling. But, these are indeed interesting times.

As I turn 66, I have the mixed emotions that come as the prospect of a vaccine comes closer. Then, I read yesterday that one of the vaccine manufacturers stating that its vaccine should not be given to those over 64. That’s not the kind of present that I want to look forward to.

A year ago, I did not anticipate not spending Christmas with my family, but home alone for 2020 was how it went, while they went to Grandma’s house.

The end of the pandemic is not in sight, and while we can think that a year from now the situation of lockdowns, quarantines, and other restrictions on what was normal life, it’s not a given. New waves keep occurring in various countries. New highs keep occurring in terms of cases and deaths.

We’ve seen a new president, in his first week, return the office to a welcome state of normality, including important things like a daily press conference where the press are encouraged to ask questions and answers are willingly given. What a time to be alive!

The desire for more-open communications from the White House includes having scientists and other specialists speak directly to the public and media from the White House. Having sign language interpreters is an important step.

We got a quick ‘read out’ of President Biden’s call to Russia’s President Putin, before the Russians issued theirs, and it differed. We also got to see and hear a call with the NATO Secretary General:

In coming weeks, we have the first ever second impeachment trial of a president, albeit now a former president. In coming months, we may see law suits that have sedition charges laid against people in the US and even against the former president, in addition to other legal risks he was facing before. Some of those charged already point towards Trump was their inspiration to riot, as ‘patriots’ whom he’d called to Washington DC. It will be interesting.

What a time to be alive!

My wife baked a cake with bourbon, whose smell wafted up to be as I headed to bed. I’ll look forward to that, at least. One day at a time.

#COVID19Chronicles-296: January 28, 2021-Jamaican COVID protocols updates

Restrictions due to end on January 31 have been extended to February 28; this includes the ban on travel from the UK:

Restrictions on funerals are being eased; funeral services can be held during February:

Travel by public passenger buses will have laxer restrictions, allowing some standing passengers:

Certain sporting events can go ahead, with permission:

The enhanced measures for the parish of Manchester remain in place, though February 8:

The new Orders are available online:

#COVID19Chronicles-295: January 27, 2021-UK not OK: COVID policies, another nice mess

Has PM Boris Johnson been like Capt. Mainwaring in Dad’s Army, seemingly firm but ultimately bumbling into another mistake?

Or, has he been like Laurel and Hardy, just moving from one fine mess to another:

The Associated Press was stinging as it wrote, today:

‘The United Kingdom has become the first country in Europe to pass 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths as infections around the globe topped 100 million.

With more than 2.1 million dead worldwide, people the world over are mourning loved ones, but the U.K.’s toll weighs particularly heavily: It is the smallest nation to pass the painful milestone.

For comparison, the United States, with five times Britain’s population, has four times the number of deaths at over 425,000.

‘The U.K. has now suffered its worst civilian loss of life since World War II by a significant number. Some 70,000 non-combatants perished during the six years of war, including 40,000 in the 1940-41 Blitz alone. Three quarters of a century later, it’s 100,000 taken by the pandemic, an enemy no less relentless and fearsome than Nazi Germany was then and one whose defeat is still some time away.

One hundred thousand dead. For perspective: That’s just over 3,000 more than witnessed England’s only World Cup triumph in 1966 at Wembley Stadium as “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks topped the pop charts. And it’s 30,000 more than the crowd that gathered two decades later at the same famous venue for the Live Aid concert.’

Johnson said he’d done everything to avoid deaths:

He’s now pinning hopes on the vaccine:

It rang hollow to his political opponents:

It also rang hollow amongst some prominent media houses—a lot of too little, too late, bad preparation, confusion, and destroying public trust:

He’s being pressed by Scottish MPs to not break rules by visiting Scotland:

Another in a series of all-too-frequent missteps.

It’s worth noting that the UK has paralleled the USA in the awfulness of how it has dealt with the pandemic and it’s worth noting again that these were the two countries best placed to deal with such an event. Political leaders can matter, especially when they get policy wrong. Johnson trumps Trump? Trump was playing with his Johnson?

A COVID-19 Update from Jamaica: Manchester, Vaccines, Testing and More

Good summary from my fellow blogger, Emma Lewis.

Interestingly, I was in Manchester at the weekend for a funeral. About 50 people were present, in and around a large field. Seats were set up near the casket, for about 15 people; others were offered chairs to place as they chose, and most went across the road, to find shade. All kept good distance from each other. All wore masks, throughout, save for a drunk who walked around with a cup or rum and Coke. Everyone left him to roam and rant, and just keep him at about arm’s length.

This morning the Ministry of Health and Wellness held a press briefing. This was most welcome as we had not had one since before Christmas, and a lot…

A COVID-19 Update from Jamaica: Manchester, Vaccines, Testing and More

#COVID9Chronicles-294: January 26, 2021-Heading to the second Trump impeachment trial

The article of impeachment of Donald J. Trump was walked to the Senate by the House impeachment managers, yesterday evening:

It was delivered:

It was read:

It will not be presided over by the Chief Justice, as it involves a former president:

The trial will begin on February 8:

Many are concerned that as time passes, the natural pressure to see conviction will abate. it will be difficult to see where 17 Republicans will vote for that, fearing backlash as well as some concerns about the legitimacy of the process. But, in the minds of many politicians and the public, the question will always be that if the actions that can be laid at the feet of the former president do not amount to impeachable events, what does.

Each day, brings out more evidence of a larger conspiracy to overturn the legitimate election results, driven directly by Donald Trump, so his intent to subvert the democratic process is clear.

#COVID19Chronicles-293: January 25, 2021-A few sporting highlights amidst the politics

Impeachment articles will be sent to Senate today ahead of the historic second impeachment trial of now-former President Trump.

We wont go into the constitutionality of the impeachment now that Donald Trump has left office.

A lot of natural justice is involved in seeing that he is held accountable for a series of acts that appear to fit ‘high crimes and misdemeanour’ and tried to subvert democratic processes in the USA. The insurrection on January 6 stands out, but so too do the series of acts before that to overturn election results that had been declared as fair and certified, included a recorded call to Georgia’s Secretary of State where the then-president asked him to “find 11,780 votes”, to give him the win.

The weekend saw reports from the New York Times that President Trump tried to use the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ‘find’ fraud in Georgia and get its results overturned, including by filing a case with the Supreme Court after removing the acting Attorney General and replacing him with a ‘loyalist’ within the DOJ!

The NYT reports have been substantiated in other reporting:

CNN reported: ‘The effort ultimately failed as Trump appointees in the Department of Justice refused to file the lawsuit, according to the Journal. Rosen, along with former Attorney General William Barr and former acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, refused to file the Supreme Court case citing that there was no basis to challenge the election outcome and the federal government had no legal interest in whether Trump or Biden won the presidency. Trump also backed down during the New Year’s weekend effort after top Justice Department officials, including Trump’s own Senate-confirmed appointees and other political staff, vowed to resign if Trump fired Rosen.’

Serious news always involves sport, in my mind. If two countries can go to war over a football match…. It’s always a buzz to live through some historical moment in sport, better if you witness it in person, but not bad to just see it unfold somehow.

So, I was excited when Henry (‘Hank’) Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, hitting his 715th.

That year meant more to me for Germany beating The Netherlands 2-1 in the World Cup Final.

I knew little about baseball, then, but I understood the violent racist backlash. Fortunately, political leaders saw the merits in raising his achievements to the right level of acknowledgment by President Bush (43) bestowing on him the Medal of Freedom in 2002. His death last week was the passing of a true all-time great.

Yesterday, another great marked another milestone in his seemingly unending career, as Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, 31-26. This will see him play in Super Bowl LV (55)…in Tampa, the first time a Super Bowl team will play at home, after winning all of its playoff games ‘on the road’. Brady is 43 and will be in his 10th Super Bowl, another record; his win/loss is 6-3. This seals his claim on GOAT (greatest of all time) status? For sure, amongst quarterbacks.

Brady left the New England Patriots in March, since when the Patriots didn’t make the playoffs and Tampa make them for the first time since 2003.

The Kansas City Chiefs, current Super Bowl champions, will face the Buccs, after winning their AFC Championship game.

Lots of news billing there, not least ‘old’ versus ‘new’ guard. Bring it on for February 7.

#COVID19Chronicles-292: January 24, 2021-Death duties in Jamaica

No police showed up to check on how well COVID protocols were being observed at the burial. Restrictions on funeral services (banned) and numbers at burials (maximum 15 people at the burial site) have been in place for months.

I’m not surprised the police didn’t show because the ‘road’ was not good; not terrible, but bumpy and narrow.

Apart from the man who appeared at the start with a cup of white rum and Coke, and was clearly talking in tongues, everyone wore a mask and tried to be socially distant. He wanted to be closer to the coffin as it entered the sepulchre 😳

Current rules are that funeral services are banned. The ‘pre-burial’ event was taking place in an open field, just up a hill from where the burial would take place.

Chairs had been set out 2m/6 feet apart, and only enough for about 20 people near the casket. More chairs were available and those who used them found spots on the grass verge across the road from the tent where the body was.

The sepulcher had been prepared and a pile of sand and cement was ready for when the concrete was to be mixed and the casket placed inside it.

It was an overcast day, thankfully; trees had been cut down and back to make space for the burial ceremony. But, this is a area filled with trees and bushes growing wild, adjacent to a couple of houses.

It was a nicely elevated spot in south Manchester.

After the ceremony, the casket was slid down a slope into the sepulcher and blocks cemented into the opening. Then, people started to wander away and grab a box lunch and drink; some found places to sit and eat, we took ours to carry. I took my baked chicken and ate it en route to Kingston. (I’m fasting, so wanted to eat so that I could just about stay within my current eating window that closed about 3pm.) We stopped at the yam park on the highway and a vendor rushed to offer some roast yellow yam. Sorry! No carbs. 😳😩🇯🇲

Raindrops appeared just as we set off again and followed with solid rain for about 20 minutes. A rainbow arced across our path as we hit the highway-nice send off 🙏🏾

#COVID19Chronicles-291: January 23, 2021-Funeral rites during a pandemic

Keeping up with life events, has been one of the most difficult things about the Covid pandemic. We saw this in a major way this week with the manner of the US presidential inauguration. But at a simpler level, we have to deal with the problems caused by isolation and the need to keep our distance at all major life rituals such as births, christenings, and particularly burials.

Most societies have a tradition for how they want to mark the end of someone’s life. Burials are important closure for those left behind. Not having this ritual as usual has caused much discomfort to many.

Today, I had to make the choice between two burials; one was for an aunt, the first sister of my late father; the other was for the housekeeper/care giver for my parents, who died in a tragic circumstances in December. Plenty of family members were available and ready to make the trip to St. Mary for my aunt’s burial, so I decided to go to Mandeville and represent everyone else at the burial of the housekeeper. Both are likely to be interesting events, as Jamaican country funerals are known to be.

The Mandeville burial was out in a field in south Manchester, near the home of the deceased. Family plots are still common in Jamaica; eight other graves are already on the site. Family members prepared the grave, also still a common rite of passage.

One of the traditions in Jamaica is to celebrate before the burial with what we call ‘nine nights’: this is when friends and family come to drink, eat, sing, and remember the person departed in whatever way they want. Nine nights is one of those rituals that is now hard to sustain with all of the restrictions that Covid has imposed on us.

The other ritual, simpler, is the service. Our current regulations forbid funeral services, but burials can go ahead – of course. The current regulations limit those by the burial site to no more than 15 people at a time. My interpretation is that we can have a stream of people going past the grave itself as long as it’s no more than 15 at one time.

It will be interesting to see how that is interpreted today. I know that the police had been informed about the funerals. I know also that the police have been very vigilant about funerals; these are become notorious as some of our ‘super spreader’ events, when people cluster and embrace and generally get closer to each other. It will be interesting to see how that is interpreted today.