Friday, September 30, 2022

Inoculation Efficiency

We know the names by now, start with the golden child, Pfizer
Their application of mRNA vaccines led the way, as did that of Moderna
That last featured a weekend assist from good old Doctor Fauci
Fingers crossed, modulo new variants, we're on the way to herd immunity

And then there's the Oxford AstraZeneca variant that one should mention
Whose rollout in the UK temporarily saved the clown Boris Johnson
Surprising really, that vaccine bounce seems to have paused the clock
When the Grim Political Reaper should have dealt with him and Matt Hancock

For their neglect is measured in tens of thousands of dead bodies
And worldwide, there've been millions of devastated families
Sure, the virus sets the timeline and has moved to new epicenters
But the wounds have cut too deep; these are affairs to remember

While Merck were disappointed with the results of their own concoction
Uncle Amtrak Joe cajoled them to assist Johnson & Johnson
Well, cajoled is the nice way of putting that fact
He quietly threatened to invoke the Defense Production Act

They hastened to act quickly,
  this was no time to be quibbling about consent
When the specter has been raised,
   in this emergency, about waiving patents
No, it wouldn't do. Pharmaceutical profits,
   hook or crook, had to be maintained
Without intellectual property protections,
   monopolists are in a world of pain

We're all learning about logistics and vaccine supply chains
And about custom fridges and efficiently deployed cold chains
When you lack infrastructure
  you favor something cheap and easy to store
A surefire reason those in the global south would prefer a one stop shop

All those making a fuss about vaccine efficiency
  have fallen for misdirection
Spare a thought for those highlighting
  who controls the means of production
Generics is the watchword and its corollary is profits
Like the quote from The Graduate, "One word: Plastics"

One read that GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi are also playing catch up
But all these new variants mean that there'll be time enough to level up
While we now hear about vaccine diplomacy,
   I must say it's a seller's market
For when no one is coming, as a buyer,
  you'll pay whatever usurious price is set

republique du tchad prix nobel de medecine 1905 robert koch Chad stamp

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: May 3, 2021

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Uncharted Territory

Terre vierge, untapped
Primordial earth, unmapped
The torrid zone, the pioneer
The outer reaches, the frontier
Stake your claim, the explorer
A sensory experience, keep going past the border

The original peoples, appropriation
An untitled landscape, despoliation
Representative portrait, subversion
Features characteristic, expansion
And retrospectively, a civilizing mission
Behold the black gold, thank God for misdirection

Consolidation, treaties
Subjugation, minorities
Erasure, invisibility
Insatiable appetites, inequality
Bureaucracy, administered territories
Self-professed destination: uncharted territory

map of the gold coast 1729

Uncharted Territory

A soundtrack for this note. (spotify version) Don't call it pilgrim's progress, for it's a trail of tears.

les possesion de la france dans le monde - 1938

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: May 2, 2021

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Emotional Vaccination

Now that Pfizer has gotten their two jabs of flesh,
(Or was it Moderna's two pinpricks at rest?),
After the Oxford AstraZeneca two step potion
Comes the Johnson & Johnson one stop concoction

Sputnik flies again, the one from Gamaleya Research in Russia
And what of the Sinovac, the CoronaVac from China?
My parents in Ghana recently benefited from the Covax facility
But, while overjoyed, never mentioned the brand equity

A relief, but this lack of detail is causing me to wonder
For, if it was a two dose variant, say the Covaxin from India,
Whether there will be enough supply of vaccine for Ghana
Since this pandemic has seen a surge in those epicenters

The mosquito principle, while deceptively simple,
   points to a few limitations
The most obvious is that mitigating a global disease
   requires global solutions
In political philosophy, the problem is described as collective action
Social living is only the start of the journey to emotional vaccination

papua new guinea stamp defence force

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: May 2, 2021

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Ritual Tributes

Apropos public grief, herewith a sampling of tributes to Yuri Andropov by African leaders after his death, as reported in Talking Drums magazine (February 20, 1984)...

The public expression of grief can be confounding especially when rituals combine with politics and the performance of power. At such times, perception is all.

The institutions that have staying power in human history are well practised at the spectacle of ritual tributes. The Catholic Church, and as we are currently seeing, the British monarchy, are experts in this realm, putting on a finely-tuned display with the pomp and pageantry of a well oiled machine.

Africans understand well the importance of funeral ceremonies, death being our close companion. Effusive outpourings are to be expected, furrowed brows and florid rhetoric - albeit with a sober countenance, in celebration of the departed. During our lost decades, even the rogues who were busy feeding on the carcasses of our body politic, and who, in the main, weren't the most gifted of wordsmiths, could be counted on to give a felicitous toast and ritual tribute. Solidarity matters and we were treated to the keen expression of shock and sorrow.

Their counterparts of today may be more sensible but are equally eloquent and performative, it goes with the territory. Observe well the statements of condolences - and acts, upon the death of the good Queen Elizabeth II.

The Soviet Union didn't last a century and their leadership transitions were sometimes fraught affairs but the Communist Party well understood the necessity of ritual tributes. Their populace and their clients duly performed. Shock and sorrow was expected, shock and sorrow was delivered.

Tributes to Andropov by African Leaders

Talking Drums, February 20, 1984

News of the death of President Yuri Andropov was received in Africa with shock and sorrow as expressed in the various measures taken by African leaders in memory of the Soviet leader.

In Nigeria a delegation led by the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, and including the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Ibrahim Alfa and the Minister of External Affairs, Dr Ibrahim Gambari, were in Moscow to attend the funeral.

Ghana: Three days of national mourning were declared during which Flt-Lt. J.J. Rawlings, Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council signed the book of condolence at the Soviet Embassy.

Earlier during a visit to Upper Volta, Flt-Lt. Rawlings had sent a message of condolence to the Soviet leadership noting that "the frailty of individual destinies should provide the world with fraternal solidarity that goes beyond ideological inclinations"

Benin: An extraordinary meeting of the Political Bureau of the sole party was convened followed by a declaration of three days national mourning. President Kerekou then sent a message of condolence to the Soviet leadership describing Andropov as "a worthy pursuer of Lenin's works."

Ethiopia: Addis Ababa radio reported Mengistu Haile Mariam's departure for Moscow and announced that flags would be flown at half mast in Ethiopia for three days.

Zimbabwe: Harare radio reported that Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was at the airport to see off President Canaan Banana and the Foreign Minister, Witness Mangwende to Moscow. Two days of national mourning were also declared as a further mark of the solidarity.

Guinea: The Prime Minister, Lansana Beavogui, delivered to the Soviet Ambassador a message of condolence from the people, party and President of Guinea describing Andropov as a man of peace. The Prime Minister was also in Moscow for the funeral.

Liberia: The Liberian leader General Doe sent a message of condolence describing Andropov as a staunch fighter for world peace

Congo: A statement issued by the Party's central committee declared two days of national mourning. President Sassou-Nguesso sent a message of condolence to the Soviet leadership describing the USSR as the rampart of peace, harmony, world co-operation and the progress of humanity."

Mozambique: President Machel was in Moscow to attend the funeral Earlier in his message of condolence to the Soviet leaders broadcast by Maputo Radio, Machel said Andropov had "wisely used his intelligence and serenity at a time when the aggressiveness of imperialism increasingly showed itself as a permanent menace against humanity's liberation."

Angola: Luanda radio reported the signing by President dos Santos of the book of condolence at the Soviet embassy and his description of Andropov as "a statesman and distinguished leader of the CPSU and a staunch fighter for peace, liberty and socialism."

Upper Volta: According to Ouagadougou Radio, there was a message from the Upper Volta leader, Capt. Sankara, saying that the loss of "this illustrious freedom fighter should further strengthen our revolutionary faith and vigilance."


coffin for head of state - fela graffiti contra Trump

(On election day 2020, this was the graffiti we came across on our walk. On the same trail we saw "Trump is the virus" and other unprintables by the same artist. I guess it was cathartic for them).

Soundtrack for this note

An ironic ritual tribute in Afrobeat. ...

I would normally be moved to a poem, the language in the above passage is tempting; the music to be found in the homilies of strongmen and the men in khaki. Also, as a time capsule of cold war perceptions from the south, much could be drawn out. Still, one is conflicted. Circa 1984 the Soviet Union and General Secretary Andropov were not supporting the apartheid regime as Reagan and Thatcher were, indeed they were actively on the side of many African liberation movements. Still it's hard to resist commenting on the expressions of grief from say Comrade Mengistu, who was then Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), or the erstwhile Master Sergent (and then Doctor and General) Doe, the blood altogether blinds me.

Bread and circuses are not merely confined to monarchies. But this is a time of worldwide mourning and sober reflection, let's not pursue the thread...


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See also: The Laws of Grief

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Writing log: September 16, 2022

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Incalculable Loss

A year of incalculable loss
In part from predictable forces
And fragile economies

A suggestion of disarray
Warning residents to brace for
An alarming turn for the worse

The grim daily tallies
Another thorny challenge
Threatening the progress made

Damage, well beyond its borders,
Tears through the social fabric
The worst two weeks of our lives

After Covid Takes a Frightful Turn in South America
(New York Times, April 30, 2021)

urban decay

Soundtrack for this note

Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) by Prince

See previously:

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: May 1, 2021

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 5 Short Sale)

A closing ceremony of deceit... Part 5 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

V. Short Sale

It was the moment of truth, Ananse rose to make his contribution
After all the earlier haggling he'd gone through with distinction
He'd had to dispense largesse to all and sundry,
   mostly through the back channel
And still, he wasn't sure if these inconstant folk would join him in battle

This, then, is my proposal, if you take up collection,
   I hope you understand
For a small fee, I will guarantee your community,
   and provide soul insurance
If some no good rascal gets up, as advertised, to no good,
   before the gods object
My agency will be able, in a matter of hours,
   to act: the no fault clause will protect

Nay, even beyond the immediate benefits
   of the guaranteed trouble deflection
You can also invest part of your coverage,
   and thereby increase your savings
The tax efficiency of this arrangement is indubitably delicious
Making hay contra Caesar's tax collector is, no doubt, serendipitous

There's no need to agonize any further,
   he went on to rhapsodize
Indeed, with my firm at the helm,
   your returns will be maximized
Ananse had taken lessons from Mami Wata,
   not so long ago, on how to mesmerize
So eloquent was his patter
   that the audience he beheld was quite hypnotized

Look into the crystal ball, my organization is a going concern
Just sign on the dotted line, I'm sure we can come to terms
He hadn't even mentioned the price, with that he ceded the floor
It hardly needed to be said, the whole place was in uproar

The fabric of life

The chief linguist, for one, was immediately brought on board
But in matters of propriety, there was the question of form
Thus there was some back and forth and minor haggling
But the conclusion was foregone after the initial horse trading

The matter was taken to the scribe
   to ratify what the linguist had assessed
He took his time, but even he allowed
   that all protocols had been observed
And for those who continued to view the spider with some disdain,
   he advanced,
"The contract looks ironclad",
   due diligence could be waived in this instance

There was a pause before the signing note at the closing ceremony
This is the moment when tradition imposed reflection as was customary
The Okyeame then stepped up, as was his wont,
   to add the wisdom of the chiefs
Remarking that this novel instrument, soul insurance
   would bring some relief

To be able to insure souls would prove to be a veritable bonanza
Indeed, strategic reserves would be drawn up to finance the coffers
It was all Ananse could do to keep from salivating,
   The bill of goods he'd sold
He was already counting his chickens,
   He could just about taste the black gold

He held his breath when the Okyeame finally brought paper to pen
He wondered if they would notice the clause about blood and sin
But his bribery paid off, at the appointed time Fifi caused a commotion
The elders hushed the young man,
   the ensuing fracas was a welcome diversion

And he was quite proud of the way he had structured the transaction
The Tantalus derivatives, first and foremost, were a great distraction
What with the escape clauses about the quantum definition of time
The minimization of liability for matters in the land of concern

The crowning achievement, Ananse would assert,
   was the Bahamian Thyme Leaf diversion
Just a few ostensibly innocuous sentences,
   they were a relatively recent concoction
He had first been introduced to the new formula
   by a grifter during a cooking session
Specialized in tax shelters,
   it was lauded as the most concise of obfuscations

What with the Balkanization amendment and all that it implies
Starting with the Babel discernment and the Chicken Bone compromise
He'd seen it happen before,
   they would get so caught up in the Magdalene Propositions
Their intricacies would beguile so much
   that they would get caught up in abstractions

No, the contract had so many ways in which he was bound to recoup
It was altogether worthy of the Principal Financial Group
That outfit who were renowned for always collecting
But who were never known, in their history, for paying

Ananse was skilled in the ways of evasion,
   his was a symphony of deceit
Bless his cheating heart,
   little did they know that he was a deadbeat
That before they could turn for payment
   that their defeat was complete
The bottom line they should have heeded:
   never make a deal with a cheat

It's your day by Glen

Short Sale, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note, buyer beware (spotify version)

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions
  12. The Die is Cast

This folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Excessive Liabilities

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Writing log: Part 5 March 25, 2021