COVID-19 DIARY – THE PROMISED LAND

People gather in Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House as they celebrate after Democratic nominee Joe Biden was declared winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Over the next few days I watched the U.S. election coverage with great interest and a swirl of emotions.
You can’t have supporters show up in one state and insist the vote be counted and in another demand the count be stopped. It becomes very clear that your intentions then are not about ensuring the democratic process.

I don’t like to give into the hyperbole of the moment but it was with some concern that we watched the election coverage and were simply stunned by just how fair Ballbag was willing to undermine the election process and also how many people were happy to step in and support him.

I have worked in the past at elections here in Australia. I’ve stood in a warehouse on election night and counted votes and in the days after. People of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs worked with me. There was a lot of supervision, oversight and cross checking. I couldn’t imagine people chanting outside the building and the need for security at such places doing such work.

Democracy is a privilege and something fragile, I certainly thought so even more during these days.

You can hate on Ballbag if you like but he’s a symptom of something much larger and scarier than just his own misbehaviour and hubris.

I turned 40 that Saturday night. I went out and had dinner in the Valley with some friends at a Chinese restaurant. This was the first time I saw some of my closest friends in person all year. Some the second or fourth time. We certainly felt lucky to do this given what was happening around the world.

In fact walking around The Valley that night past lines outside nightclubs you could have been excused for not knowing there a pandemic was on but there was.

The Valley is on the perimeter of the Brisbane CBD, noted for its night life. I walked past the alleyway where a short film was shot by Kelly Chen. I realised there were 20 years of history with me and this part of the world. I could see clearly where a younger man had had adventures but I no longer was the man, I would much prefer to stick to the restaurants even then and I was eager to get home. It was good to see my friends though.

On the 7th of November the World Health Organisation reported there had been 49,219,511 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 615,945. There had been 1,242,899 deaths globally with a daily increase of 9,134.

In Australia there had been 27,645 confirmed counts with a daily increase of twelve. There had been 907 Australian deaths.

In Canada there had been 251,338 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,635. There had been 10,381 deaths with a daily increase of 50.

In India there had been 8,462,080 with a daily increase of 50,356. There had been 125,562 deaths with a daily increase of 577.

In the United Kingdom there had been 1,146,488 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 23,287. There had been 48,475 deaths with a daily increase of 355.

In the United States of America there had been 9,504,758 with a daily increase of 116,780. There had been 233,292 deaths with a daily increase of 1,126.

November 08

The next day I awoke to find that former Vice President Joe Biden had become President-elect Joe Biden.

On the first day of the month there had been 8,952,086 confirmed cases with a new record daily increase of 99,356.

On the 6th of November there was a new record of the daily increase of confirmed cases – 106,050.

On the 7th of November a new daily record again with 116,780 confirmed cases.

On the 8th of November there was a new daily record of 131,821 confirmed cases.

On the 8th of November the United States of America had 9,636,579 confirmed cases with a new record daily increase of 131,821.

There had been 234,500 deaths with a daily increase of November.

Ballbag went out and played golf.

Donald Trump Goes Golfing As US Media Declares Victory For Joe Biden

In Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced the ring of steel around Melbourne would be gone come midnight along with many more easing of restrictions.

Victoria will be once again united as one single state,” Premier Andrews said.

This announcement came following nine days of no new cases or deaths in the state. What was referred to as Double Doughnut days. There were only four active known cases in the entire state.

From Monday restaurants and pubs could have up to 40 people inside and 70 outside depending on density. Gyms could have 20. Religious ceremonies 50. Cinemas and theatres – 20 people. Weddings remained ten plus the couple, celebrant and photographer.

Visitors to care facilities and hospitals were now allowed.

The Premier urged people to not become complacent and to get tested even for mild symptoms.

“Nine days of zero is not the same as a vaccine,” Mr Andrews said.

I have to admit I was concerned at the time that they were opening up way too fast but they did only have four active cases something I did not realise at the time.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE

US election 2020: Election Day shadowed by threats of legal challenges

November 03

It was Wednesday the 3rd of November in Australia when the U.S. election took place on the other side of the world.

In Australia there is growing interest in U.S. elections, since America entered the Pacific war and with its allies turn the tide of war, Australia has taken a great interest in America and forged a partnership with it and other nations.

As a kid who loved the movies America captured my imagination with its culture and aspirations. Since blogging I have come to know some Americans and admire them.

1980s Lower Manhattan Skyline At Night Photograph by Vintage Images

I was angry and heartbroken when the towers fell, angry and heartbroken again when the bombs dropped on Baghdad and have made it a point to support Australians of those wars.

Of course I couldn’t imagine Ballbag winning in 2016, my heroes were President Roosevelt (both of them), President Truman, President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, President Ford, President Reagan, President Clinton and President Obama. Politicians like Senator John McCain and John Kerry.

But I got it.

Ballbag was a moment of great disappointment but the hyperbole in 2016 struck me as odd, surely he would get a good team around him. It wasn’t like it was the end of the world.

….

Well.

It’s no secret I am angry, appalled and vitrolic about my disdain for Ballbag on this blog. If you support him you may not want to read the rest of this post and that is fine by me.

Heading into the U.S. election I watched the 60 Minutes interview with President-elect Joe Biden and Ballbag.

I am always angered by Ballbag’s demeanour and disrespect to others. But also how his followers espouse him as a tough guy when he so often acts like a little bitch and toddles at the first sign of a challenging question.

Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was still covering the election. As Ballbag sang one of his standards, that case numbers were going up because we were testing the best. Well testing was up by 13 per cent and case numbers were up by 51 per cent. Do the maths Ballbag.

Over 69 million Americans had already voted and 46 million of those by mail in votes. Chas Licciardello also advised that if Democrats won either North Carolina, Florida or Arizona they’d be looking good. The Republicans would need all three.

Heading into the U.S. election I mentioned it to a family member my concern that Ballbag may once again surprise despite recent changes to polling.

Despite a Planet America episode interviewing a election analyst Dave Wasserman who discussed the changes that had been made to increase accuracy of polling since 2016.

I hate being right sometimes.

That episode also pointed out how COVID cases were on the rise as well hospitalisations but at least hospitals had not been overrun yet and that was good news in terms of keeping the death rates down.

I would say that John Oliver maybe summed up my thoughts best in the closing moments of the 2nd of November episode of his show Last Week Tonight.

I would urge anyone to listen from the 16th minute, Oliver speaks for five minutes at that point and sums up succinctly what has occurred under President Trump during COVID-19.

Highlighting how Ballbag doesn’t care about anybody else certainly not our brave health care workers who have done so much when Trump has done so little (hell fuck that! – he’s done damage), noted how the numbers don’t stack up – case in point America has four times the population of Germany who sure as hell had its fair share of cases and yet America has 17 times the number of cases as Germany and also mentioned the personal toll of the pandemic.

Never forget America, never forget any of us.

I won’t.

I didn’t give much thought to mirages on election days as Florida swung to Trump I was shocked and appalled. Ohio followed which was the state that decided the 2008 elections. Arizona being called for Biden by Fox News didn’t even get my attention.

Checking the New York Times election page I left work at 6pm to find that Biden may lose Pennsylvania with commentary about the fracking fracas from the debate being the turning point.

I wondered after all those dead Americans that Trump didn’t care about, an opportunity had been missed to give him his marching orders. Fake news worked both ways.

I could deny it now but I really did think something was really wrong in the country.

With talk of civil strife I did suggest maybe it was time to burn it down. Not in the sense that I wanted rioting or people to get hurt and not in the sense that I wanted anybody on either side to just hate and protest each other. But just in the sense if that is where we were surely the system and the culture needed radical reform and that could only come from real action.

Even with hindsight it seems there is still some truth to this.

US presidential election: New York skyline lit up to mark Election Day |  South China Morning Post

Just like in 2016 despite which ever candidate claims victory, they inherit a nation divided. I believe most of us are sick of that. That division is not just present in America but throughout the West and here in Australia.

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison was elected last year, lefty commentators up in their glass tower commented on television in the wee small hours on how Australians just didn’t get it having denied the opposition a win for their ideas. My first thought was maybe you guys didn’t get it, after all the people had spoken and they’d said that dog won’t hunt.

I like to think that the majority of us agree on the big things, you only have to see how many conservative governments give bailouts and fund major programs. That progressives mostly espouse traditional family and religious values.

As a young Senator once said in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention,

“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America —

there is the United States of America.

There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats.

But I’ve got news for them, too:

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.

We coach Little League in the Blue States, and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

At home during dinner I watched special election night episode of Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

President Trump at 2:30am in the morning in America claimed “We were getting ready to win this election – frankly we did the election. This is a major fraud on our nation. We want all voting to stop.”

One week in an America riven by politics and the plague - New Haven Register

With that the endgame of Trump’s efforts to undermine postal voting during a global pandemic (with anybody with a scrap of thought for the lives of Americans would have promoted) was now out in the open for all to see and it was pretty scary and it was only going to get scarier.

Former Vice President Joe Biden perhaps to avoid the mistakes of the 2000 election came out before that to say that while the results were not in he was confident Americans would ultimately choose him.

Going off the votes as they currently stood I was pretty worried. I went to the gym after dinner and watching the news on the TV screens in the gym America woke up to the next morning and there was hopeful new numbers coming out of Michigan and Wisconsin.

I actually thought about the movie Moneyball and Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane working out in the gym and listening to the results of the baseball game while he did it.

Nevada was still in play and as time went on Pennsylvania and even Georgia would come into play as more postal votes were counted.

Arizona while called by some news outlets was still in play too.

While I worked out I listened to The Rewatchables podcast cover The American President. I was slightly moved as they recalled the idealism and reverence that we used to have for politics at least in the movies and how things that were said about elections back then are oddly prescient now. 

We need to know the difference between the sand and the water.

On the 3rd of November, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 9,108,353 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States of America with a daily increase of 75,888. There had been 229,442 American deaths with a daily increase of 444.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – MARKET PENETRATION

Image: A man wearing a protective mask passes by the Colosseum in Rome on March 7, 2020 amid fear of Covid-19 epidemic.

Market penetration – the extent to which a product is recognized and bought by customers in a particular market.

News believe it or not works like a line of products being offered up to the market.  There is niche news, alternative news, comfort food news and leading news.

After all… news is consumed and when you need to get the word out you can only hope you achieve market penetration quickly.

These days its hard for the news to get our attention and even harder for one voice to reach all audiences.

In the second week of March COVID-19 had achieved market penetration and by the end of the week it would be dominating our attention.

March 04

The next James Bond movie No Time To Die was due to open 02APR2020 and in America 10APR2020 but with only a month to go and amidst a publicity ramp-up and marketing spend the release date was moved.

With the Chinese box office compromised and territories like Italy and France shut down the Bond feature became the first blockbuster of the year to move out of the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

It would not be the last with A Quiet Place II, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick, F9 and the hotly anticipated Wonder Woman: 1984 all following suit. This all made sense to me, my concerns at this point like the filmmakers were with the risk to lives.

This followed production halting on the latest Mission Impossible film on the 25th of February which was set to film in Venice, Italy.

 

March 07

Karen and I had dinner with friends and travel restrictions were on people’s minds but the coronavirus did not dominate the conversation. Toilet paper shortages were definitely in the news but Karen had recently bought some from a bargain store when the stocks were out in the major supermarkets. We were fine for now.

 

March 08

On Sunday we had a family gathering for the birthdays of two of my siblings. We did not think this would be the last time we were going to see each other in person for a while. But that has certainly proven to be the case.

March 09

Italy went into national quarantine with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte restricting travel only for work and family emergencies and the cancellation of all sporting events.

March 10

At work we were all practising social distancing.

On Tuesday we had a team meeting and discussed at length what was needed to be able to have all staff work from home.

The framing was if someone had to self isolate. The other thinking was in order to minimise risk, staff may work 50/50 at home and in the office on a rotational basis.

I had just purchased a new laptop of the 27th of February and started to think of rushing to load up software on it and start using it but first I wanted to wrap up transferring some things from my old laptop.

With market penetration I was certainly starting to think about coronavirus differently. It was here and we had seen the devastation it was wreaking in Italy. I had watched John Oliver’s 01MAR2020 episode for water cooler conversation but we were going beyond that.

After the meeting I turned to a work colleague and observed that I had been working at the Queensland University of Technology during the Swine flu and Bird flu scares and the Ebola outbreaks to the West in 2014. I had lived through MERS and SARS too. With all the international students at QUT we had never had a meeting to prepare for contingencies like this.

The penny should have dropped there.

 

Rita Wilson (with Tom Hanks) | Iconic Beauty Looks From the 1995 ...

March 12

I was standing at Stellarossa Toowong getting my morning coffee when the barista told me “Tom Hanks has got coronavirus.”

I asked if this was one of those things news pranks and she assured me it was not. Wow I thought. Sure enough back at my desk I saw a news headline saying Tom Hanks and wife have coronavirus. I walked over to my boss who was about the same age and joked I feel like saying “Her name is Rita Wilson, show some goddamn respect” of the actress, singer and producer in her own right.

This may sound horrible but the diagnosis of a celebrity let alone such a beloved one might have proven the moment for a lot of people that this thing was to be taken seriously. Tom Hanks getting it kind of drove home the point that anyone could.

Pregnant superstar Katy Perry performed in Bright, Victoria to give back to bushfire ravaged communities, to thousands of people. This followed on from her performance in the Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup Final on the 8th.

On the 10th, Miley Cyrus had cancelled her appearance at a Melbourne bushfire relief concert due to coronavirus concerns. While Perry was lauded for her performances the decision by Cyrus was already starting to appear sensible.

This was Thursday, the same day that the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic. “The number of cases outside China increased 13-fold in the past two weeks. Now there are more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 people have died, with the numbers expected to climb.

That day the World Health Organisation reported that China had gone from 80,302 cases on the 3rd of March, 2020 to 80,981 on the 12th of March, 2020 with a daily increase of 26.  The death toll was reported as 3,173 with a daily increase of 11.

In Iran there were 10,705 cases with 1,075 of those having just been reported that day. 75 people died in Iran that day bringing the death toll to 429.

In Italy there were 2,502 cases with a daily increase of 466. 80 people had died, 28 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there were 987 cases total reported with a daily increase of 281. The national death toll stood at 29 with four from that day.

In the United Kingdom where I have family, 134 new cases reported that day increased the national total to 594. Two new deaths brought the total to eight in the country.

In Australia there were 140 cases with a daily increase of 18. The death toll stood at 3.

In Canada there were a total of 93 cases with no new daily increases. The first death had been reported the day before.

In the episode Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that aired on the 1st of March, 2020, Oliver noted that “Trust in institutions is critical when trying to contain a possible pandemic.” On reflection of what would happen in the days following the 12th of March these words only ring more true to me.

-Lloyd Marken