Can’t get enough Tiger King?

While we’re all stuck inside during a deadly pandemic, a Netflix documentary about insane people might be the only thing keeping us sane.

“Joe Exotic” himself is now in isolation because of COVID-19, because 2020.

If you’ve binge-watched the series and want even more, Texas Monthly and New York magazines both published longform articles about Joe last year. Both contain some details that didn’t make it into the documentary, including the fact that Joe Exotic did not actually write nor perform his own songs.

Yes, folks, I’m sad to say that Joe Exotic is the Milli Vanilli of tiger-themed country music.

Wondery also released a Joe Exotic podcast last year. They’ve since taken down the episodes but are re-releasing them one week at a time.

The only thing is, now that I’ve been through all this, what else can possibly keep me so entertained and fascinated during the lockdown?

COVID-19 and the courts

The courts of Nova Scotia have issued several memoranda explaining how its practices and procedures have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic:

If you are dealing with any legal matters at the moment, make sure to contact your lawyer and check the courts website to see how your case is being affected.

As for me, my office is closed to the public and I’m working from home. But I’m still meeting with clients when needed – albeit by teleconference or video calling apps. My contact information remains the same, but regular mail may be delayed – email or fax is the best way to get a hold of me.

In the meantime, stay home and keep washing those hands!

If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out.

The novel coronavirus has arrived in Nova Scotia. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say the virus has been here for some time, and we’re just getting confirmation now. It takes a few days for symptoms to appear, so anyone reading (or writing) this could have it without even realizing.

The top priority for now is keeping the spread of the virus to a minimum, to avoid strain on the health care system. That means practicing “social distancing” to the greatest extent possible:

Remember, even if you aren’t sick, you may be carrying the virus without knowing it. And even if you’re young and healthy, you will inevitably come into contact with the elderly, people with chronic breathing problems, and other members of vulnerable groups.

The Washington Post has posted the best article I’ve seen, illustrating how the coronavirus can spread and how social distancing can keep the problem manageable. The Post uses some very clever (and unnerving) animations to explain some complicated mathematical and scientific concepts. (There’s a reason I went into law instead of a STEM field.)

Court appearances in the coming weeks will be affected, as well. I am now working from home as much as possible, and changing all in-person appointments to phone or videoconference meetings. If you are one of my clients, I will be in touch.

It’s time to take this seriously, but don’t panic. And even though we may have to physically stay home, we can still keep in touch with our friends, relatives and neighbours through social media. Or, if you’re in Italy, by singing on your balcony:

Don’t worry, everyone: I promise not to sing to you in public, unless the authorities need me to help disperse a crowd.

How Coronavirus could hurt Netflix

As we watch the coronavirus continue to spread and process the shocking news that the entire nation of Italy is putting itself under quarantine, people seem to assume the coming “social distancing” will be good for Netflix if nobody else. If we’re all stuck at home we’ll all be watching it, right?

Yes, we likely will. And this Yahoo! Finance article explains why that could actually be bad for the most successful streaming service:

Netflix (NFLX) will be yet another company dented by the global coronavirus outbreak, according to Needham analyst Laura Martin.

[…]

…having more people at home to binge more hours of Netflix won’t necessarily translate into higher revenue for the company, Martin pointed out.

“NFLX charges a fixed price of $9-$16/month in the U.S., regardless of how many hours are watched,” Martin said. “More hours viewed by existing subs are not monetized by NFLX.”

Netflix does not offer an ad-driven tier and has so far declined to take on an advertising-based business model, despite broad investor speculation as more competitors join the fray. That decision prevents Netflix from capitalizing on any upside from increased viewership that could arise as social distancing increases with the coronavirus outbreak, Martin said.

And given that Netflix was already saturated in the U.S. at 61 million domestic subscribers as of December 31, “it’s unlikely that COVID-19 adds new U.S. subs,” Martin said

If anything, their problem is that’s they’re too successful, at least in North America. Pretty much everyone who wants it already has it, so there’s not much room to grow. And the price doesn’t change no matter how much we watch. But the more we stream, the more Netflix has to spend to keep its servers running.

Netflix is an all-you-can-eat buffet, and we’re all Homer Simpson.

I can see some of the other streaming services picking up business while we’re all confined to our homes, though. And maybe, just maybe, could this be something that gets people buying subscriptions to newspapers and magazines again? A heavily discounted online subscription to, say, The Washington Post (and it’s always heavily discounted) could be very enticing at a time like this.

#NeverTrump means Never Trump

Joe Walsh (not the “Ordinary Average Guy” guy, but the former Illinois Congressman) says he will not be voting for Trump under any circumstances. Yes, even if the Democrats nominate socialist Bernie Sanders:

No, never-Trump isn’t an official designation. It’s not (yet) a political party. It’s not a club with bylaws. But it is an idea. It means that President Trump — his impeachable conduct, his nonstop racist jabs, his tariffs, his nepotism, his knee-jerk foreign policy and his insistence on turning the presidency into a cult of personality — is the real bridge too far, not Sen. Sanders.

Never-Trump means that you still believe in the Constitution. It means you knew what Benjamin Franklin meant when he warned that we Americans have been blessed with a republic, “if you can keep it.” It means you recognize that Trump is enough of a threat to our founding principles that you won’t vote for him under any circumstances. And, at least to me, it also means you’ll suck it up and support his Democratic opponent, no matter who that is.  …

[…]

In 2016, sadly, I supported Trump. [Did he ever – DP] I freely admit that I’m a second-wave never-Trumper. But once I got here, it was always my plan to stay. Because, for me, the ways in which Trump threatens this country go beyond left-right ideology. He lies constantly. He grants pardons to toadies. He conflates America’s financial interests with his own. He uses his bully pulpit to air a never-ending, year-round list of Festivus grievances.

He surrounds himself with lackeys and purges staff who won’t do his bidding. He’s an authoritarian who once said, with a straight face, “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want.” That’s a bigger threat to America than free college, a $15-per-hour minimum wage and Glass-Steagall part deux. Yes, I’m a fiscal conservative who still worries about the national debt. But not as much as I worry about Trump wrecking my country.

I really, really, really don’t want Sanders as the alternative to Trump. But even he won’t be…this.

It won’t necessarily be Sanders, though.

It’s 1972 again

Last July, The Bulwark‘s Charlie Sykes warned Democrats that 2020 could easily turn into a repeat of 1972 – when their party gambled on a far-left candidate to take on an unpopular, divisive President. The result:

Read it all, and tell me if you think the party has learned a friggin’ thing from 1972. Or 2016. Or 2018, when “The Squad” got all the attention after winning in overwhelmingly Democratic districts, but moderate Democrats actually flipped the House.

So, let’s talk about the 1972 election.

In the year leading up to it, the Democrats were giddy with anticipation. The country was still mired in a bloody war, the economy was a mess, and President Richard Nixon, while lacking Trump’s theatricality and instability, was regarded with fear and loathing by much of the country. In the 1970 midterms, Democrats won the popular vote in House races by 8.7 percent, while adding a dozen seats. In 1971, Nixon’s approval ratings dipped below 50 percent, and stayed there. Surely, they told themselves, they could beat this guy.

Nixon’s vulnerability attracted a host of potential challengers, with Senator Edmund Muskie, a previous vice-presidential candidate, as the front-runner. He had gravitas; The Times opined that “No national leader since Franklin Roosevelt has been better than Mr. Muskie in delivering a conventional ‘fireside chat.’”

But they noted that despite Muskie’s appeal, many Democrats “believe the times call for radical change.” For some Democrats, Muskie “appears a little too cautious. He evokes respect, but not enthusiasm.”

This “mild dissatisfaction” gave an opening to a far more liberal candidate, one who spoke to the activated left of the party, George McGovern. For Democrats who shared McGovern’s anti-war passions, his record “establishes his moral superiority,” the Times wrote. But it also noted that others feared that “his views have too sharp a cutting edge and would energize as many elements as he won over.”

That turned out to drastically underestimate McGovern’s weakness. As unpopular as he was, Nixon would go on to win 49 of 50 states, 520 electoral votes, and nearly 61 percent of the popular vote, beating McGovern by nearly 18 million votes.

It’s possible that Nixon would have beaten any Democrat, but what happened in 1972 was not inevitable. It was, however, a choice. Democrats chose to move sharply left – to indulge their ideological id. Nixon ran against the party of “Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion.” The result was a massive landslide for a vulnerable incumbent.

The relatively moderate and well-regarded Edmund Muskie was actually taken down by the Nixon campaign’s dirty tricks. Again, history repeats itself.

Iron Newman

After Ryan Newman’s horrific crash at the end of the Daytona 500 on Monday night – a wreck that looked much worse than the ones that claimed the lives of Ayrton Senna and Dale Earnhardt – I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d see this less than 48 hours later:

I was relieved when I heard that Newman had survived the crash, but still assumed it may have ended his racing career. At the very least, I figured he was probably done for a few months. And here he is now, accompanied by his young daughters, walking out of the hospital under his own power.

A miracle? No argument here. But also a testament to how far motorsports safety has come since The Intimidator was killed at the very same race nineteen years ago:

…the short answer is that safety improvements at NASCAR races have made it  more unlikely for drivers to die while competing after the death of legendary driver Dale Earnhardt in the same race 19 years ago. They might have even helped save Newman, whose injuries aren’t publicly known.

“It’s been amazing,” said Terry Trammell, a racing safety consultant and retired orthopedic surgeon. “They’ve turned this whole thing around over time.”

Mandated head and neck restraints (HANS devices), along with energy-absorbing walls (SAFER barriers), are among the biggest safety advancements since Earnhardt died of head injuries after slamming into a wall at Daytona International Speedway in 2001.

In 2003, NASCAR also opened a research and development center in North Carolina – the first such R&D center owned and operated by a sanctioning body of a major motor sports series. Part of its mission is to track  crashes and study safety, helping give NASCAR nearly two decades without driver deaths in its three national series – a seemingly shocking statistic considering the risks involved. 

NASCAR has made many, many mistakes since its heyday in the late nineties and early 2000s – too many cookie-cutter tracks, constant messing with the points system – but they’ve certainly gotten this right. The sport’s next major challenge will be the inevitable transition away from gasoline-powered cars:

Volkswagen has made it quite clear that its future is electric, but its motorsport division, appropriately called Volkswagen Motorsport, is following the leader.

This past Friday, VW Motorsport announced it has ended development of racing vehicles that feature an internal combustion engine. In translation, gasoline-powered race cars are officially a thing of the past at VW Motorsport. Instead, it’s going all in on electric vehicles. Even though the division is saying goodbye to the engine as we know it, the company is excited about the things to come.

The ID R race car will remain the division’s ambassador, so to speak, and the production MEB electric car platform will also spawn new zero-emissions race cars, too. The ID R has been a beast on numerous race tracks and courses around the world. It owns the electric car lap record at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, perhaps the crown jewel of its achievements thus far.

A few years from now, Newman’s NASCAR Mustang might be a Mach E.

The partisan judiciary

As usual, if you want to know what a political party is really up to, look at what they accuse their opponents of doing:

The Liberal government relies on a large network of party officials and supporters to decide which lawyers receive sought-after judicial appointments, e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail show.

Liberal MPs, ministerial staff members and even party volunteers have been involved in candidate vetting since the federal government revamped the process in 2016, after having accused the previous Conservative government of politicizing appointments.

In the United States, where the process of appointing judges is blatantly based on partisan loyalties, you pretty much have to belong to the President’s political party if you ever want to make it to the Bench. Here in Canada, um…

The dozens of e-mails between ministerial staffers from 2017 and 2018 detail widespread partisan involvement in the selection of new judges, offering unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the current judicial appointment process. The e-mails also show clear tensions during that time frame between the minister of justice’s office, which handles the appointment process, and the Prime Minister’s Office, which collaborates on those decisions.

The PMO ensures Liberal MPs are consulted on all nominations in their ridings, the e-mails show, using the judicial candidates’ postal codes to determine where they live. In 2018, a member of the PMO’s appointment branch asked then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s office for the results of MP consultations for more than a dozen candidates, despite the concerns of her judicial affairs adviser, François Giroux.

[…]

The Globe reported last year that the PMO also vets potential candidates with a private Liberal Party database called Liberalist to see whether they had given money to the party in recent years, participated in party activities and even put up Liberal election signs.

Honestly, none of this comes as a surprise, and I’ll go even further and say involvement with the governing political party shouldn’t disqualify you from being appointed as a judge. We lawyers are definitely over-represented in government and politics – heck, the reason I went to law school was because I didn’t know what else I could do with my political science degree – and being a party hack doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified.

My only wish is that we stop pretending this doesn’t happen.

The Wet’suwet’en conundrum

As cross-country protests continue, CTV News has an explainer about the difference between hereditary chiefs and elected ones, and their different perspectives on the pipeline project that ignited this powder keg:

Protests across the country in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have prompted questions surrounding the difference between these chiefs and elected band councils — and the answer is complicated.

Essentially, the hereditary chiefs oversee the management of traditional lands and their authority predates the imposed colonial law, which formed the elected band council.

While the band council is in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the hereditary chiefs are not.

[…]

Hereditary chiefs represent different houses that make up the First Nation as a whole. Their titles are passed down through generations and predate colonization.

“The hereditary chiefs draw their authority from Wet’suwet’en law, so their law is the law that pre-exists colonization in the territory,” Kim Stanton, a lawyer at Goldblatt Partners LLP who specializes in Aboriginal law, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview Thursday.

“The hereditary chiefs’ authority is with respect to all of their ancestral lands and those are the lands that they’re seeking to protect.”

In 1997, the Wet’suwet’en people were part of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, which ultimately upheld Indigenous peoples’ land claims to land that had never been ceded through a treaty, which includes Wet’suwet’en Nation and much of British Columbia.

[…]

On the other hand, elected band councils — as the title suggests — are elected members of the community.

These councils were the result of the Indian Act, which was first established in 1876 and defined how the Canadian government interacts with Indigenous people. They were formed to impose a leadership structure that more resembled Canada’s system of governance.

“They don’t have the authority under the Indian Act to make decisions on traditional territory,” Pam Palmater, an Indigenous lawyer and the chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday.

On its surface, this is about a pipeline project. Fundamentally, it’s about whether the traditional Wet’suwet’en lands – and other First Nations’ territories that were never formally ceded by treaty – are under Canadian authority at all. This dispute has barely even started.

The Recline of Western Civilization

Never mind the election or climate change or the corona virus or anti-pipeline protests. This is the moral dilemma going viral on Twitter today:

Who is right? Neither of them. Who is wrong? Both of them, but he’s worse.

The amount of comfort you get from reclining your seat is rarely proportionate to the aggravation it causes the person behind you, so I think she should have nicely asked him if it was okay.

In turn, the guy in the back is a grown adult man and not a three year-old toddler being told he can’t watch any more unboxing videos on YouTube, so he should have asked nicely if she could put the seat forward instead of throwing a passive-aggressive tantrum.

In my experience, when you ask the person in front of you to put the seat forward they will usually do so, because people in real life aren’t like people on social media. But if that person says no, you suck it up – or maybe ask the flight attendant if you can change seats. But you don’t do this.

So, in this case there’s plenty of blame to go around. Also, I heard “Laurel” and the dress is definitely black and blue.