Saturday, March 6, 2021

Week 51 Quarantine Report: Nearing the Anniversary

Depending on which events caused one to realize that this thing was serious, sometime in the next week for most North Americans is the anniversary of: holy shit!  This story nicely shows the Canadian tik tok, including stuff that resonated from elsewhere, as people began to realize the severity of the crisis and started to lock themselves down.  A year ago, today, I was in Kingston for a Women of International Security-Queens event where sharp young women organized a great conference.  Among those featured were Mercedes Stephenson, a TV reporter who has been killing it lately, with a series of scoops that have revealed significant abuses of power within the Canadian Armed Forces and a Minister of Defence who didn't really do much to stop it. I will get to that below. 

At that conference, I guess I remember the developing dread about what was getting closer and closer.  I still had plans to go to Toronto for the first CDSN Capstone, and, yes, I will still hoping I would be going to Hawaii for the ISA.  The CDSN Capstone went really well although two participants decided to skype into it--one from the US concerned that he could not get back to the US and one who has an immunosuppressed partner.  Their presentations went really well, which was good news given the skyped and zoomed future that awaited us.  My clearest memory of what I call Tom Hanks/NBA day (March 11th) was not that the WHO declared it to be a pandemic, but sitting in the small, lakeside airport in Toronto--Billy Bishop-- and hearing every sniffle and cough in the place.  I called Mrs. Spew and told her to buy lots of food (I wasn't thinking about toilet paper and didn't need to, given our Costco purchasing had created a sufficient supply).  She said, why, we are going to Hawaii next week.  I said: nope.  More on the anniversary when we get there on Thursday.

I am glad I got my downhill skiing in as we have had a warming and then a freezing that has turned our snow into ice.  I may have also be done with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.  Last week's snowshoeing was very difficult because of the melting snow.  I think this week would be un-fun for the opposite reason--too hard.  But we have had a winter full of blue skies and bright white snow, so I can't really complain.  

One of the challenges of doing social science is that if you study stuff that is quite current, you will often be jammed up when things change.  I will always remember the friend in college whose research paper on the successful US arms embargo against Iran got up-ended by the news of Iran-Contra where the US was secretly selling arms to Iran (and yet folks still think Elliott Abrams should be in polite society).  So, his seminar paper blew up overnight.  I had some hard conversations this week with students working on projects that were very focused on very recent stuff, and they found themselves in trouble.  So, I will have to remember to be more assertive about this basic rule--don't try to do research on stuff that is still in motion.  

This week's civ-mil class was on multilateral civ-mil, which is what I wrote my book with Dave on--NATO and Afghanistan (and Libya).  It was fun to talk about that stuff, and the students were really engaged on the related readings.  I didn't make them read my book as I just summarized it in the week's video.  My plan this term was to do a short video each week where I cover stuff in readings that I have cut from the syllabus (hard to focus on lots of readings mid-pandemic).  It has worked ok but not brilliantly.  I may not have to learn too much about how this worked out since we are hoping to teach in person in the fall.  Canada's schedule is behind the American one--the rollout to the general population is likely to take place mid-late summer although that may get moved up with the latest vaccine approvals. 

The big policy problems--can universities require staff and students to get the vaccines--have not been resolved.  I don't think universities should have in-person classes until students can and do get the shots.  It is not enough for profs and staff to be protected--we need the students to be protected as well or else we are creating super-spreading environments.  And, again, this thing may not kill college students at a very high rate, but it can certainly cause a lot of life-altering damage.  

More and more news about the abuse of power scandal in the Canadian Armed Forces, so it remains a focal point for me and my pals who are in the defence area.  This week's news was how the ombudsman told the Minister of Defence about allegations made against the highest ranking officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, that the MinDef didn't want to see the evidence, that the ombudsman then was investigated perhaps due to retaliation, that the ombudsman didn't meet again despite many appointments with the MinDef, and the Minister of Defence appearing to lie about what he knew and when he knew it.  I don't think the Minister of Defence has much credibility anymore, and he should also bear responsibility for choosing a new chief who has allegations against him.  But (a) Trudeau moves slowly and (b) the Minister represents a key constituency.  So, maybe they will try to ride this out.  The media is not going to let them, as they have been tenacious about this story and rightly so.  

Time to figure out how to eat an iron-rich lunch now that my latest bloodwork shows that I am anemic.  Be well! 


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