A Touch of Humor

A photographer on vacation was inside a church taking photographs when he noticed a golden telephone mounted on the wall with a sign that read ‘$10,000 per call’.

The American, being intrigued, asked a priest who was strolling by what the telephone was used for.

The priest replied that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to God.

The American thanked the priest and went along his way.

Next stop was in Atlanta . There, at a very large cathedral, he saw the same golden telephone with the same sign under it.

He wondered if this was the same kind of telephone he saw in Orlando and he asked a nearby nun what its purpose was.

She told him that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 he could talk to God.

‘O.K., thank you,’ said the American.

He then traveled to Indianapolis , Washington DC , Philadelphia , Boston and New York .

In every church he saw the same golden telephone
With the same ‘$10,000 per call’ sign under it.

The American, upon leaving Vermont decided to travel up to Canada to see if Canadians had the same phone.

He arrived in Canada , and again, in the first church he entered, there was the same golden telephone, but this time the sign under it read ’40 cents per call.’

The American was surprised so he asked the priest about the sign.  ‘Father, I’ve traveled all over America and I’ve seen this same golden telephone in many churches. I’m told that it is a direct line to Heaven, but in the US the price was $10,000 per call.

Why is it so cheap here?’

The priest smiled and answered, ‘You’re in Canada now, son … it’s a local call.’

KEEP SMILING

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Are we just a little confused?

The Emancipation Proclamation, or Proclamation 95, was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln  on September 22, 1862, during the American Civil War. It changed the legal status under federal law of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in the secessionist Confederate states from slave to free. As soon as a slave escaped the control of the Confederate government, either by running away across Union lines or through the advance of federal troops, the slave was permanently free. Ultimately, the Union victory  brought the proclamation into effect in all of the former Confederacy. The remaining slaves, those in the areas not in revolt, were freed by state action during the war, or by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in December 1865″………… Wikipedia

This was a bench mark step forward in the long struggle to abolish slavery and it is a very important date in American History. It needs to be remembered, honored and celebrated. Particularly in the USA. What impact did it have on black slaves in Canada? Now hang on  a minute……..  September 1862.    Correct me if I am wrong but it is my understanding that at that time there were no slaves, black or otherwise, in Canada. In fact there probably hadn’t been slaves in Canada for around 60 years. So The Emancipation Proclamation had little or no meaning in Canada. The date Canadians should be remembering and celebrating is the 1793 Act Against Slavery.

To once again quote Wikipedia…………

“By 1783, an anti-slavery movement to abolish the slave trade throughout the Empire had begun among the British public. Spurred by an incident involving Chloe Cooley, a slave brought to Canada by an American Loyalist, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada John Graves Simcoe tabled the Act Against Slavery in 1793. Passed by the local Legislative Assembly, it was the first legislation to outlaw the slave trade in a part of the British Empire.  Later the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73) abolished slavery in parts of the British Empire. This Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom expanded the jurisdiction of the Slave Trade Act 1807 and made the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within the British Empire, with the exception of “the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company”, Ceylon, and Saint Helena.The Act was repealed in 1997 as a part of wider rationalization of English statute law; however, later anti-slavery legislation remains in force.”

So once again Canadians are confused and have assumed the mantle of American history. We have forgotten that slavery in the British Empire and Canada was  long gone way before the American Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The current demonstrations in Canadian cities are further examples of hysterical theater that distracts from real Canadian issues. In addition massive, inappropriate demonstrations do not help in controlling the current Covid-19 pandemic. So, as Canadians we should get the American Emancipation Proclamation into perspective and the date and event we should be celebrating is The Act Against Slavery  tabled in 1793 by John Graves Simcoe.

On a related issue here is an interesting little side bar to the Abolition of Slavery story.

It’s hard to believe but it was only in 2015 that, according to the Treasury, British taxpayers finished ‘paying off’ the debt which the British government incurred in order to compensate British slave owners in 1835 because of the abolition of slavery. Abolition meant their profiteering from human misery would (gradually) come to an end. Not a penny was paid to those who were enslaved and brutalized. The British government borrowed £20 million to compensate slave owners, which amounted to a massive 40 percent of the Treasury’s annual income or about 5 percent of British GDP. The loan was one of the largest in history.

I hope that clears up some of the confusion.

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A LOVE SUPREME

ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER ……….

Jimmy Cobb (January 20,1929 – May 24, 2020) drummer on Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue,’ Dies at 91.

New York Time Obituary, March 7, 2020 – McCoy Tyner, Jazz Piano Powerhouse, Is Dead at 81

Jimmy Cobb’s passing was a reminder of the classic Miles Davis album KIND OF BLUE recorded and released in late 1959. This album started jazz musicians down the modal path of musical improvisation and innovation.

Like wise McCoy Tyner’s passing was a reminder of that other jazz modal master piece –  John Coltrane’s  A LOVE SUPREME. This was a four part jazz suite recorded during December 1964 with John Coltrane on Tenor Sax, Elvin Jones on drums, Jimmy Garrison on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano.

As described in wikipedia: A Love Supreme is a suite with four parts: “Acknowledgement” (which includes the oral chant that gives the album its name), “Resolution”, “Pursuance”, and “Psalm”. Coltrane plays tenor saxophone on all parts. One critic has written that the album was intended to represent a struggle for purity, an expression of gratitude, and an acknowledgement that the musician’s talent comes from a higher power. Coltrane’s home Dix Hills, Long Island, may have inspired the album. Another influence may have been Ahmadiyya Islam.

The album begins with the bang of a gong (tam-tam) and cymbal washes. Jimmy Garrison enters on double bass with the four-note motif that lays the foundation of the movement. Coltrane begins a solo. He plays variations on the motif until he repeats the four notes thirty-six times. The motif then becomes the titular vocal chant “A Love Supreme”, sung by Coltrane accompanying himself through overdubs nineteen times. In the fourth and final movement, “Psalm”, Coltrane performs what he calls a “musical narration”. Lewis Porter calls it a “wordless recitation”. The devotional is included in the liner notes. Coltrane “plays” the words of the poem on saxophone but doesn’t speak them. Some scholars have suggested that this performance is an homage to the sermons of African-American preachers. The poem (and, in his own way, Coltrane’s solo) ends with the cry, “Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen.”

To my knowledge there is no videos available of a complete Coltrane performance but there are fragments of performances scattered across YouTube. In place of that there is the excellent complete performance by the Bradford Marsalis Quartet recorded in Amsterdam in 2003.

Brandon Marsalis – Tenor Saxophone
Joey Calderazzo – Piano
Jeff Tain Watts – Drums
Eric Revis – Doublebass

This performance and the original Coltrane performance is not light weight music. It is a deeply spiritual composition and calling it intense is not and understatement. The music  would not be to everyone taste. But having said that for anyone interested in jazz it is a classic recording and should be on every jazz fan’s shelf

For anyone interested in information about the music and the recording I suggest the publication A LOVE SUPREME – The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Recording by Ashley Kahn published in 2002.

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So What!!

While surfing the web the following item caught my eye….

Jimmy Cobb (January 20,1929 – May 24, 2020) drummer on Miles Davis’s ‘Kind of Blue,’ Dies at 91. He was the last surviving member of that landmark album’s sextet, he was a master of understatement, propelling his band mates with a quiet persistence.

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It was this “blast from the past” that prompted me to revisit the album. Most Jazz fans “have the moment” imprinted on their memory of when they first heard KIND OF BLUE. For me it was during a lunch time break in a record store (remember those) in down town Sydney, Australia. In those days there were head phones or listening booths available to check out the latest releases. The radio in those days was awash with top Forty Tunes and Jazz wasn’t all that popular. Apart from late night smooth jazz radio  to get one’s jazz fix you had to get it when ever and where ever you could. For me it was those lunch times listening sessions in a record store. The opening track on the album,  SO WHAT,  became my all time favorite Jazz composition and performance. Here is that opening track from the classic album followed by a live clip from a TV show.

While the tune in both instances is the same a discerning ear can detect distinct differences between the performances. The first clip from the recording is the classic Miles Davis Sextet of Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (Tenor Sax), Julian Adderley (Alto Sax), Paul Chambers (Bass), Jimmy Cobb (Drums) and Bill Evans (piano). The contours of the solos played by John Coltrane (tenor sax) and Miles Davis (trumpet) in both clips are similar but demonstrate the variety available within jazz performances of the same material.

The album KIND OF BLUE was recorded recorded on March 2 and April 22, 1959, at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York City. It was released on August 17 of that year by Columbia Records and in the past 60 years has never been out of print. It is regarded as the best selling jazz album of all time and because of its unique approach to composition and performance  it has been deemed as one of the most influential records of all times. On this album Davis followed up on his modal experimentation on his earlier Milestones album. By basing Kind of Blue entirely on modality he departed even further from his earlier work in the hard bop jazz style.

Why the recording is so important in the Jazz repertoire is that it was a radical departure from the way jazz musicians normally approached performances. Throughout the early history of Jazz up until the 50s and even later, the main stay of the Jazz repertoire was what was called THE GREAT AMERICAN SONG BOOK. It was a standard repertoire  filled with the songs of Cole Porter, George Gershwin etc. Generally a performance of these songs included an instrumental statement of the tune, sometimes with variations followed by individual solos by various instrumentalists. The underlying chord structures and melody line  were the basis for the improvisations that applied time honored musical devices to shape individual performances.  The songs may have had mundane lyrics (moon, June, love, spoon, etc)  but the melodies and the harmonic structures were (are) pretty sophisticated. Jazz musicians often ditched the standard melody and made up ones of their own. Sometimes they just used the chord progressions and  came up with completely different compositions. KIND OF BLUE changed that. Instead of using chord progressions for the improvisations Miles Davis came up with a Modal approach. It was no longer necessary to play in a specific key, rather the composer could dictate a series of modes to act as basic scales for the improvisation.

“So What is one of the best examples of modal jazz music. Although improvisation takes up the majority of the piece, it does have a compelling riff that sets the piece in motion and sets up the stage harmonically for the improvisations. This riff is notable in that involves the interplay between the upright bass and the rest of the band. The antecedent phrase is played by the bass, which plays an ascending line of notes that begin with a fourth leap starting from the root note. This is followed by the “response” by the piano or rest of the band, which consists two chords that move in parallel motion downwards in answer to the bass. These chords are a whole step apart and are made up of a root, fourth, minor seventh, minor third, and fifth. The second chord-and final statement of the phrase-is an altered  minor chord. This establishes the harmonic center of the piece.

Harmonically speaking, this piece is fairly simple. It is centered around the D Dorian mode, and there are no harmonic progressions other than the modulation from D Dorian to Eb Dorian, which occurs throughout the piece. The piece follows a 32 bar AABA structure, both during the melodic line and during the solos. This translates to 16 bars in D Dorian, 8 bars in Eb Dorian, and 8 bars again in D Dorian. The piece begins with a piano and bass opening with a slower tempo than the rest of piece. After this bass and piano alone play the melodic line with the drum as accompaniment. The drums serve to get the atmosphere going with a laid back, ‘cool’ atmosphere. The other instruments join in and after one chorus, each performer takes an extended solo in the following order: trumpet, tenor sax, alto sax, and piano. After the solos, the melody line is played for a chorus. The piece ends with the melody being just played with the bass and piano (with drums for accompaniment) before fading out.

The harmonic simplicity of So What gives the instrumentalists a certain freedom in their improvisations not found in other forms of jazz music. The differing creative approaches are evident in each of the different solos; for example, Miles Davis’ solo can be characterized as very melodic which is mainly focused on thoughtful phrasing whereas Coltrane uses a harder and often scalar approach, playing faster and leaving less space between his phrasings. Despite this, the atmosphere throughout So What remains mostly unchanged thanks to the vamping of the rhythm section and the careful upholding of the structure of the piece. The composition and the performance is a Jazz Masterpiece. Miles Davis was famous for approaching recording sessions with no set agenda. Just a sketch of some scales or chord progressions to be played with very loose instructions to the participants about tempo, structure and what he wanted to achieve. KIND OF BLUE and SO WHAT conform to Miles’ general approach to recording. In his later electronic explorations (BITCHES BREW, etc)  he even took it further using the recording studio as a compositional tool. Literally editing, cutting and pasting and shaping the final product (I find it hard to call it a performance) to his compositional needs. Miles never dwelled on his musical past and in later years when asked about the recording he tended to be dismissive of the effort and basically had the attitude “been there done that and I have moved on”.

Modal Jazz, in some ways reaches back to earlier classical and folk music ways of playing music. It did not replace the time honored Great American Song Book, rather it opened the door to different ways of composing, playing and improvisation. FREE JAZZ, a later development in jazz performance ,  was another way of organizing (some would say disorganizing)  the music …. no prepared structure, no set key, rhythm etc. Here in 2020 it has been around for 50 years and while is still has a significant following it remains controversial.

I have this uncalled, and I dare say sometimes unwelcome urge to educate my peer musicians in some of the finest recordings out there. I sent these clips out to friends and one response astounded me. The composition and performance was described as and interesting “song” and it kind of illustrates the difficulties modern audiences have with instrumental music. Calling SO WHAT  a song is like calling Beethoven’s A minor STRING QUARTET #15 a song. We are all used to listening to “songs” but most of us have little or no educated experience with listening to instrumental compositions. As a result a large percentage of audiences have no sign posts to help them understand the music. Instrumental music is about the architecture of the piece; the use of melody, harmonic invention, rhythm and variations within all of those elements. Songs, as typified by the normal singer/song writer, and instrumental compositions in the Jazz and Classical traditions operate at two different levels and there is no way to really compare the two. Songs tend to be (not always of course) factual and concrete and generally touches our humanity with portrayals of every day circumstances and emotions. Instrumental music on the other hand tends to be more abstract and puts us in touch with music at a more mystical level.

Each musical style or school has a specific, and often unique, way of composition and performance. For instance,  Arab and Middle Eastern music is based on completely different concepts of harmony, melody and rhythmic rules to  western music. To understand and appreciate that music requires a re-education in the rules of the game. Similarly, Northern and Southern Indian Classical Indian that, to some extent , came from the Arabs is different again. In fact Northern and Southern Indian traditions are sufficiently different to require another re-think when moving from one tradition to the other.

Closer to home, Celtic Music is based on time honored airs and dance tunes with a large component of modal methods and a different feel to the music. Blue Grass had its origins in Celtic music but the feel is different. To my ears Blue Grass musicians do terrible things to Celtic tunes. At a Celtic music session in Dublin I once  asked my daughter in law what she thought of the music. Her response was “it all sounds the same to me”. For most people that is the response to most, if not all, instrumental music ……  “It all sounds the same to me”.

But with a little bit of effort it does not all have to “sound the same to me”

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Post Script. Over the years there must be thousands and thousands of words examining, defining and analyzing the album KIND OF BLUE. One book of note that I can recommend is KIND OF BLUE – THE MAKING OF THE MILES DAVIS MASTERPIECE, by Ashley Kahn, Da Capo Press Books, 2000.

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Covid-19 – What if?

 

The cartoon above is from the Economist May 9th, 2020

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J. Joseph Watson is a writer and former journalist, who has worked for daily newspapers in Ohio, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, California and Oregon. He is a graduate of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern  California. He wrote an article in THE DAILY GOOD titled “America’s sinking COVID-19 reality is hauntingly similar to our relationship with gun violence”

He opened the article with “Just when things seemed to be turning a corner into a slightly more optimistic future, The New York Times broke the news that “private forecasts provided by the Centers for Disease Control to the White House show a startling, distressing road ahead: 200,000 new COVID-19 infections a day in the U.S. by June 1, and 3,000 daily deaths.”  He goes on to say “America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic does have a disturbing precedent: gun violence. “Seems easy to prevent!” Times opinion columnist Charlie Warzel wrote in a series of Tweets, correctly noting that “others have!” But the strange evolution of our uniquely American notion of liberty insists that certain, select “freedoms” be allowed, unchecked and unencumbered even by common sense.The result? “I imagine that we’ll just … get used to a certain number of deaths happening as we do w/gun violence/school shootings,” Warzel wrote. Calls for stricter gun-control laws have been met with swift, vocal, often angry opposition……. Now comes COVID-19, and swift, vocal, often angry opposition that has led to shockingly large rallies to force the government to “reopen” the country despite the recommendations of doctors, scientists, public-health experts – even the White House’s own guidelines.”

(Based on current numbers and the 3,000 daily death predictions then the total death toll in the USA by June 1, 2020 could be over 150,000)

So, does this mean the USA is setting itself up for infection rates and deaths that will continue to grow virtually unchecked and what are some possible outcomes of that notion? For instance, will the Canada/US border remain closed indefinitely? On Global News today (2020/05/11) one commentator suggested that the border would remain closed for the rest of the year. The BC and Ontario Governments are on record apposing any relaxing of border controls. Will the US government pressure the Canadian government to relax the border controls and if the Canadians refuse to comply what will be the outcome? To follow that through at an international level, what if American citizens are refused entry to other countries while the pandemic rages on in the USA? After all, the USA has already set the precedent with entry refusals for non-US travelers coming from nations with covid-19 infections.

The closed border essentially kills international travel and that could last for up to two years. Some of the cruise industry companies are planning to start up in August this year. Is that realistic? Because they are committed to the life style I think “cruisers” will still book trips but will there be destination ports willing to accept ships potentially loaded with infected clients? When the pandemic hit  back in March numerous ports and national administrations were unwilling to take on the burden and the risk of more corvid-19 infections landing in their ports. Even today there are still cruise ships out on the high seas with crews waiting for permission to dock.

The impact of the closed border could mean severe restrictions on the Canadian film industry. Many participants in the industry travel back and forth across the border and are they going to be quarantined every time they cross the border? Probably not. Will the Canadian government declare them essential workers and monitor them very closely? We will have to wait and see on that one.

How will the NHL deal with an indefinite closure of the border? At the moment the season has shut down and despite some hints that a solution may be in the works I can’t see how that can work. Maybe an interim plan to have a Canadian season and American season with no border crossing is a possibility. There is still a ban on mass gatherings so will they be playing in empty arenas? I can’t see that generating much fan enthusiasm. Maybe it’s time to bow to reality and cancel this season and try planning for the next season. Of course there is every possibility that the situation will not change over the next six months and there will be no 2020/21 season. The BC government is talking to the NHL about some sort of plan to get hockey in some form or other back on track but is that realistic or just wishful thinking.

So that is only one big “If” of the current status of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are many, many more to be considered. This may seem overly pessimistic but without a vaccine the reality is that the virus is going to be with us for years. The “new normal” is not going to look anything like the “old normal”. It will be different and if we can make the required adjustments it could also mean that when we hit the final “reset” the world may even be a better place.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“WE LEARNT A LOT OF LESSONS IN (the fight against) SMALLPOX. BUT ONE OF THEM IS THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF COALITIONS” –   William “Bill” Foege  A leader of the 21 year campaign to eradicate the deadly scourge, accomplished 40 years ago today. Foege says the lengthy campaign holds lessons to the current international race for covid-19 vaccine.

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Is this the end of American Exceptionalism?

There was time when the United States always seemed to occupy the moral high  ground. This was despite numerous historical blunders. Nobody remembers the Spanish- American War in the early 1900s and the bad outcomes in the Philippines and Cuba; Or the numerous fiascos in Central America; The ongoing isolation of Cuba; The overthrow of the democratically elected government in  Iran and,  the biggest one of all, the war in Vietnam. Well, everybody still remembers Vietnam and, in a forgiving mood,  lists it as “an unfortunate mistake” for which the US paid dearly. More recently, the debacles in the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria) have some what tarnished that notion of the moral high ground but despite all of these questionable adventures there was the underlying notion that the Americans were the exception, they were always the “good guys”. America’s participation in World War II, The Marshall Plan and championing of the United Nations are all good memories of America’s benevolent actions and intentions. The Donald Trump presidency has all but demolished that notion. In the administration’s mad rush to blame everybody or anybody for their own short comings the USA is coming across as petty, vindictive and maybe even evil; Here are a couple of very recent magazine articles underscoring that the USA is no longer perceived as the “good guy” or as even exceptional anymore.

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The Rest of the World Is Laughing at Trump

The president created a leadership vacuum. China intends to fill it.

Anne Applebaum – Staff writer at The Atlantic  

It looks, at first, like one of a zillion unfunny video clips that now circulate on the internet: “Once Upon a Virus” features cheap animation, cheesy music, and sarcastic dialogue between China—represented by a Lego terra-cotta warrior with a low, masculine voice—and the United States, represented by a Lego Statue of Liberty with a high, squeaky voice. They “speak” in short sentences:

“We discovered a new virus,” says the warrior. “So what?” says the Statue of Liberty.

“It’s dangerous,” says the warrior. “It’s only a flu,” says the Statue of Liberty.

“Wear a mask,” says the warrior. “Don’t wear a mask,” says the Statue of Liberty.

“Stay at home,” says the warrior. “It’s violating human rights,” says the Statue of Liberty

The dialogue goes on like that—“It will go away in April,” the Statue of Liberty says at one point—until it ends, finally, with the statue on an intravenous drip making wild and contradictory statements while the warrior jeers at her.

Although this looks like an I’m-bored-at-home amateur production, it is not: The video was published on April 30 by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. It has since been promoted by Chinese diplomats and watched, as of yesterday afternoon, by more than 1.6 million people around the world.

It has also been mocked and denounced as crude propaganda—which, of course, it is. Crude propaganda is what China’s leaders do, both at home and abroad, and since the pandemic began they have stepped up their efforts. But even those who are mocking should beware: Anybody who knows any history will be aware that propaganda—even the most obvious, most shameless propaganda—sometimes works. And it works not because people necessarily believe that all of it is true, but because they respect the capabilities or fear the power of the people who produced it.

Propaganda also works best in a vacuum, when there are no competing messages, or when the available alternative messengers inspire no trust. Since mid-March, China has been sending messages out into precisely this kind of vacuum: a world that has been profoundly changed not just by the virus, but by the American president’s simultaneously catastrophic and ridiculous failure to cope with it.

The tone of news headlines ranges from straight-faced in Kompas, a major Indonesian news outlet—Trump Usulkan Suntik Disinfektan dan Sinar UV untuk Obati Covid-19, or “Trump Proposes Disinfectant Injection and UV Rays to Treat COVID-19”—to snide, from Le Monde in France—Les élucubrations du « docteur » Trump, or “The Rantings of ‘Doctor’ Trump.” The incredulous first paragraph of an article Sowetan, from South Africa, declares that “US President Donald Trump has again left people stunned and confused with his bizarre suggestion that disinfectant and ultraviolet light could possibly be used to treat Covid-19.” El Comercio, a distinguished Peruvian newspaper, treated its readers to photographs of Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus-response coordinator, grimacing as the president asked her whether the injection of disinfectant might be a cure.

Quotations from the president’s astonishing April 23 press conference have appeared on every continent, via countless television channels, radio stations, magazines, and websites, in hundreds of thousands of variations and dozens of languages—often accompanied by warnings, in case someone was fooled, not to drink disinfectant or bleach. In years past, many of these outlets presumably published articles critical of this or that aspect of U.S. foreign policy, blaming one U.S. president or another. But the kind of coverage we see now is something new. This time, people are not attacking the president of the United States. They are laughing at him. Beppe Severgnini, one of Italy’s best-known columnists, told me that while Italians feel enormous empathy for Americans who have suffered as they have, they feel differently about Trump: “In this time of darkness and depression, he keeps us entertained.”

But if Trump is ridiculous, his administration is invisible. Carl Bildt—a Swedish prime minister in the 1990s, a United Nations envoy during the Bosnian wars, and a foreign minister for many years after that—told me that, looking back on his 30-year career, he cannot remember a single international crisis in which the United States had no global presence at all. “Normally, when something happens”—a war, an earthquake—“everybody waits to see what the Americans are doing, for better or for worse, and then they calibrate their own response based on that.”

This time, Americans are doing … nothing. Or to be more specific, because plenty of American governors, mayors, doctors, scientists, and tech companies are doing things, the White House is doing nothing. There is no presidential leadership inside the United States; there is no American leadership in the world. Members of the G7—the U.S. and its six closest allies—did meet to write a joint statement. But even that tepid project ended in ludicrous rancor when the American secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, insisted on using the expression “Wuhan virus” and the others gave up in disgust. Not only is the president talking nonsense, not only is America absent, but the nation’s top diplomat is a caricature of a tough guy—someone who throws around insults in the absence of any capacity to influence events.

Others are drawing even more radical conclusions, and with remarkable speed. The “disinfectant” comments—and the laughter that followed—mark not so much a turning point as an acceleration point, the moment when a transformation that began much earlier suddenly started to seem unstoppable. Although we are still only weeks into this pandemic, although the true scale of the health crisis and the economic catastrophe is still unknown, the outline of a very different, post-American, post-coronavirus world is already taking shape. It’s a world in which American opinions will count less, while the opinions of America’s rivals will count more. And that will change political dynamics in ways that Americans haven’t yet understood.

Look beyond the Lego video at China’s more serious public-relations campaign: the stunts at airports around the world, from Pakistan to Italy to Israel, designed to mark the arrival of Chinese aid—masks, surgical gowns, diagnostic tests, and sometimes doctors. These events all have a similar script: The plane lands; the receiving nation’s dignitaries go out to meet it; the Chinese experts emerge, looking competent in their hazmat gear; and everyone utters words of gratitude and relief. Of course some of this, too, is propaganda.

In reality, some of the equipment billed as aid has been purchased, not donated. Some of it, especially the diagnostic tests, has turned out to be defective. Some of those who receive these goods also know perfectly well that they are designed to silence questions about where the virus came from, why knowledge of it was initially suppressed, and why it was allowed to spread around the world. If, in these circumstances, the propaganda “works,” that’s because those who receive it have made a calculation: Pretending to believe it is a way of acknowledging and accepting Chinese power—and, perhaps, a way of expressing interest in Chinese investment.

In the Western world, this dynamic has played itself out with striking success in Italy. Flattened by the virus and depressed by the lock down, Italians are deeply divided by years of conspiratorial social-media campaigns, some with Russian backing, that have attacked Italy’s traditional alliances, NATO as well as the European Union. China has added its own unsubtle social-media campaign. Bots have been promoting Chinese-Italian-friendship hashtags (#forzaCinaeItalia) and thank-you-China hashtags (#grazieCina). But there is another, less visible layer of activity, too.

A year ago, Italy became the core European member of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Chinese trade-and-infrastructure project designed to create deeper links across Eurasia and to provide an alternative to the transatlantic and Pacific trade pacts quashed by Trump. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, until recently the leader of Italy’s anti-EU Five Star Movement, has cultivated links to China too. Chinese investment has gained importance. Already, a Chinese oligarch has bought the Inter Milan soccer club; Chinese banks already own big stakes in Italian companies like Eni and Fiat.

Thanks to the economic havoc created by the coronavirus, China’s efforts in Rome may now bear fruit. Maurizio Molinari, the editor of La Repubblica, told me that Chinese businessmen are right now building on their contacts, looking for companies and properties to buy, scouting out factories that are suddenly bankrupt and entrepreneurs who want to sell out. I asked him what the source of China’s appeal was right now: “Money,” he replied. By contrast, the most conspicuous gesture that the U.S. administration has made in Italy’s direction since the pandemic began was Trump’s abrupt decision to ban flights. Apart from a modest and belated aid package, little in the way of friendship came from the United States.

Chinese propaganda may find unexpectedly fertile ground elsewhere too. Chinese aid has also been delivered to Japan and South Korea, two U.S. allies who have sought close relationships with Trump and have received, in exchange, demands that they pay more for American bases. As close neighbors and former foes, both countries have many reasons to be wary of China. But now that Trump is a laughingstock, now that America is absent from the game, some in both Tokyo and Seoul may conclude that they should start hedging bets. China has also offered major assistance to Iran, a country that had already been given a major role as a Belt and Road hub. Iranian leaders now have extra reasons to hope they can outlast sanctions if the American president calling for them need not be treated as a serious person.

China’s relationships with the Arab world have also deepened during the pandemic. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait sent aid to Wuhan during the earlier part of the crisis; later, China reciprocated. The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates has described China as the role model to follow in this crisis. On March 8, Chinese medical workers arrived in Baghdad—an advance team, perhaps, poised to take advantage of the inevitable American retreat. In each one of these places, America is absent, distracted, stumbling—and laughable.

To be absolutely crystal clear: I am not praising China’s efforts. I am simply calling attention to the fact that, in a world where people laugh at the American president, they might succeed. Inside the bubble of officials who surround Pompeo, it may well seem very brave and cutting-edge to use the expression “Wuhan virus” or to call for bigger and bolder rhetorical attacks on China. But out there in the real world—out there in the world where Pompeo’s boss is perceived as a sinister clown, and Pompeo himself as just the sinister clown’s lackey—not very many people are listening. Once again: A vacuum has opened up, and the Chinese regime is leading the race to fill it.

Judging from their own recent statements, Trump-administration officials do not yet understand the significance of the chaos they have created in place of what used to be American foreign policy. Pompeo has spent time in recent days trying to organize sanctions on Iran, as if Russia and China or even European allies were still willing to follow his lead. Philip Reeker, assistant secretary of state for Europe (or rather, acting assistant secretary of state for Europe, because the Trump administration is in constant chaos) was recently asked by French journalists  whether the coronavirus crisis could repair the poor state of transatlantic relations. His pompous response made him sound like a member of the Soviet nomenklatura at the end of the 1980s: “I don’t agree with the premise of your question,” Reeker said, before claiming that transatlantic engagement, and particularly Franco-American cooperation, is “remarkable.” Yes, it’s remarkable—remarkably invisible.

Even the more learned analyses of U.S.-China relations suddenly look out of sync with reality. It’s all very well for think-piece authors or former Trump-administration officials to suggest that a post-pandemic America must change its relationships with China, rally its allies to defy China, and rewrite the rules of commerce to exclude China. But when Trump seeks to lead the world against China, who will follow? Italy might refuse outright. The European Union could demur. America’s close friends in Asia might feel nervous, and delay making decisions. Africans who are furious about racism in China—African students have been the focus of heavy discrimination in the city of Guangzhou—might well do a quick calculation and seek good relations with both sides.

I wish I could say for certain that a President Joe Biden could turn this all around, but by next year it may be too late. The memories of the prime minister at the airport, welcoming Chinese doctors, will remain. The bleach jokes and memes will still cause the occasional chuckle. Whoever replaces Pompeo will have only four short years to repair the damage, and that might not be enough.

And if Trump wins a second term? Any nation can make a mistake once, elect a bad leader once. But if Americans choose Trump again, that will send a clear message: We are no longer a serious nation. We are as ignorant as our thoughtless, narcissistic, ignorant president. Don’t be surprised if the rest of the world takes note of that, too.

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Trump and the Yellow Peril

By Gwynne Dyer. Dated: 5/5/2020 12:13:25 AM

An accidental leak from a BSL4 lab would be a rare and very serious mistake, but that’s probably not what happened in Wuhan, and in any case it’s clear that no hostile intent was involved. The US national intelligence director’s office has determined that Covid-19 “was not man made or genetically modified.”

It was completely predictable that Donald Trump would try to blame China for the fact that at least 30 million Americans are unemployed and that 70,000 Americans have already died of Covid-19. His polling numbers are down and the election is only seven months away. What else was he going to do? Blame himself?
That’s why we’re now getting the good old ‘Yellow Peril’ defence, fresh from the late 19th century. As a memo sent out by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to Republican candidates put it: “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban – attack China.”
The Coronavirus now spreading death across the world certainly originated in China. The Chinese government itself said so, before it started prevaricating after Donald Trump began using China as a scapegoat. There was at least a week’s delay in late December when officials in Wuhan didn’t report the outbreak to Beijing, fearing they would be blamed for alarmism, or simply for letting it happen. That’s when Dr. Li Wenliang wrote in a private WeChat group: “7 confirmed cases of SARS were reported [to hospital] from Huanan Seafood Market.” It wasn’t really Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It was a new Coronavirus closely related to SARS, which had caused a much smaller but lethal epidemic in 2002. But Wuhan officials didn’t want to believe it, and on 3 January Li got a warning from the local police to stop “making false comments on the Internet”.
Six days later the first person in Wuhan died of what we now call Covid-19. On the same day, 9 January, the World Health Organisation (which Trump now vilifies as ‘China’s public relations agency”) announced that China had reported the emergence of a new Coronavirus like those that caused the SARS and MERS epidemics.
So there was at least a week when Chinese officials at the local or national level had the information and hesitated to publish it, partly because they weren’t sure yet themselves. But only two days later Chinese scientists published the full genetic sequence of Covid-19 so that researchers everywhere could start working on potential treatments and vaccines.
Other East Asian countries that had experience of SARS understood the seriousness of the WHO warning and promptly began diligent testing, tracing and isolation of infected persons. As a result, they never had to go into lockdown (South Korea has had 250 deaths; Taiwan had 6). China did a partial lockdown, but is now up and running again.
But then the real delay happened, and it had nothing to do with when China reported the disease. The point is that Western countries did nothing serious about the pandemic for an astonishing TWO MONTHS after that.
Trump boasts that he banned travel from China to the United States early, but in fact the United States was the 41st country to declare such a ban, on 2 February. And it was a very leaky ban, affecting only non-US citizens. Another 40,000 US citizens and permanent residents flew in from China during the next two months, many not being checked for Coronavirus at all.
Italy started locking down some municipalities in the country’s badly hit north in late February, but no European country went into national lockdown until 9 March. The United Kingdom waited a further two weeks after that, until 24 March. The United States never did a national lock down, but most states had social distancing policies in place by early April.
Those even longer delays explain why the UK and the US are on track to be the two countries with the highest Covid-19 death rates, but why did they all wait so long. Why weren’t they at least setting up comprehensive testing, tracing and contacting systems and making more ventilators and protective clothing back in January? Did they think they were exempt?
That’s probably what they did think, and their people are now being punished for their governments’ arrogance. But Donald Trump’s attempt to shift the blame for a huge US death toll and a looming economic disaster onto China is utterly cynical and false. The problem wasn’t a week’s delay in China; it was a couple of months’ delay in America.
If it should turn out that the first human infections with Covid-19 were due to a leak from the Bio-safety level 4 Wuhan Institute of Virology, not at the Huanan Seafood Market in the same city, it changes nothing. BSL4 labs (there are around twenty in the world) routinely work with dangerous viruses, because otherwise we’d never develop defences against them.
An accidental leak from a BSL4 lab would be a rare and very serious mistake, but that’s probably not what happened in Wuhan, and in any case it’s clear that no hostile intent was involved. The US national intelligence director’s office has determined that Covid-19 “was not man made or genetically modified.”
That will not stop Donald Trump from scapegoating China, even at the risk of causing a new Cold War. Never mind the fate of the world. It’s the fate of Trump’s presidency that’s at stake here.
*(Gwynne Dyer’s new book is ‘Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work)’.

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In times gone by Americans believed implicitly in the “Manifest Destiny Doctrine”. It was  a phrase coined in 1845, that encapsulated the idea that the United States is destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent. By extension, adherents of the policy believed that the American people and institutions possessed special virtues that fitted them for their expanding role, first in North America then though out the world. The United States had a mission to redeem and remake the west in the image of agrarian America. Manifest Destiny may no longer be officially on the foreign policy table but every action of the USA on the international stage seems to bear fragments of that original doctrine. Most Americans might not think in terms of Manifest Destiny but there is no doubt the notion of “American Exceptionalism” still has a grip on the American imagination. The Covid-19 pandemic has given a severe blow to that notion. Despite massive wealth and resources the United States has been dealt a massive blow to its self image of “Exceptionalism”. Americans too can die in massive numbers from a pandemic. American ingenuity, organizational, political skills and system of government have not been up to the challenge posed by the pandemic. America has stumbled in its response to the disease and there has been no “Exceptional” plan or response to the pandemic. Americans can die and are dying in massive numbers from the pandemic.

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Lee Konitz (October 13, 1927 – April 15, 2020)

Every generation has its “Classic Jazz Era” with its distinctive style of performance and musicians. In the 1920s it was the original “Jazz Age” with master musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, Joe Oliver, Edie Lang, etc. In the 1930s it was a transition into the “Swing Era” with the Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie Orchestras and the emergence of the Saxophone as a major solo instrument. In the 1940s it was “The Swing Era” with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and of course Duke Ellington and Count Basie. By the 1950s Jazz as a popular musical form had faded but the ” The Bebop Era” was probably the most vibrant musical style to ever grace the Jazz scene. It still has a major impact on the way Jazz is being played today. Charlie Parker on Alto Saxophone was the major Bebop innovator and a giant influence on all jazz performers of that era and all jazz performers since. In the 1960s the musical jazz styles of what could be called the “Blue Note Years” became diversified across a number of styles that included Cool Jazz, Hard Bop and Soul and featured the likes of Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck and of course Miles Davis and  Lee Konitz.

In the years since then Jazz has continued to evolve into a plethora of styles and a number of musicians who came to fame in Blue Note years have continued to perform well into their sunset years with major contributions to the art form. This obituary in the New York Times, April 16, 2020 by

Lee Konitz, Jazz Saxophonist Who Blazed His Own Trail, Dies at 92

He was a pioneer of the cool school, but he resisted pigeonholing and focused on “making a personal statement.” He died of complications of the coronavirus.

Lee Konitz, a prolific and idiosyncratic saxophonist who was one of the earliest and most admired exponents of the style known as cool jazz, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 92.His niece Linda Konitz said the cause was complications of the coronavirus. She said he also had pneumonia.

Mr. Konitz initially attracted attention as much for the way he didn’t play as for the way he did. Like most of his jazz contemporaries, he adopted the expanded harmonic vocabulary of his fellow alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, the leading figure in modern jazz. But his approach departed from Parker’s in significant ways, and he quickly emerged as a role model for musicians seeking an alternative to Parker’s pervasive influence.

Where modern jazz in the Parker mold, better known as bebop, tended to be passionate and virtuosic, Mr. Konitz’s improvisations were measured and understated, more thoughtful than heated. “I knew and loved Charlie Parker and copied his bebop solos like everyone else,” Mr. Konitz told the Wall Street Journal in 2013. “But I didn’t want to sound like him. So I used almost no vibrato and played mostly in the higher register. That’s the heart of my sound.”

Although some musicians and critics dismissed Mr. Konitz’s style as overly cerebral and lacking in emotion, it proved influential in the development of the so-called cool school. But while cool jazz, essentially a less heated variation on bebop, was popular for several years — and some of its exponents, notably the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and the trumpeter and singer Chet Baker, both of whom he sometimes worked with, became stars — Mr. Konitz for most of his career was a musician’s musician, admired by his peers and jazz aficionados but little known to the general public.

This was in part because of his personality: An introvert by nature, he was never entirely comfortable in the spotlight. And it was in part because of his musical philosophy, which valued spontaneity above all else and often led him to pursue daring improvisational tangents that could leave his less adventurous listeners feeling a little lost. (His way of preparing for a performance, he once said, was “to not be prepared.”)  “My playing was about making a personal statement — getting audiences to pay attention to what I was saying musically rather than giving them what they wanted to hear, which is entertainment,” he said in the 2013 interview, referring to his early struggles to find an audience. “I wanted to play original music.” His willingness to take chances was admired by advocates of so-called free jazz, which, beginning in the late 1950s, defied established rules of harmony and rhythm. But ultimately no label, not even “cool,” really fit Mr. Konitz; he was best characterized as sui generis. Reviewing a performance in 2000 for The New York Times, Ben Ratliff called Mr Konitz “as original a player as there is in jazz” and praised the “boiled-down wisdom” of his playing, noting that “even when he is in the heat of improvisation, it sounds like someone whistling a tune he has known all his life.”

Leon Konitz was born in Chicago on Oct. 13, 1927, the youngest of three sons of Jewish immigrants. His father, Abraham, who owned a laundry, was from Austria; his mother, Anna (Getlin) Konitz, was from Russia.Inspired by Benny Goodman, he persuaded his parents to buy him a clarinet when he was 11. He later switched to saxophone, and in 1945, with the ranks of the nation’s dance bands depleted by the draft and opportunities for young musicians plentiful, he began his professional career with the Chicago-based band of Jerry Wald. His first big break came in 1947 when he joined The Claude Thornhill Orchestra, whose soft sound and pastel colors meshed well with his playing style. A subsequent stint with the more dynamic and aggressive Stan Kenton ensemble proved an uneasy musical mix but helped spread his name in the jazz world. The recordings that did the most to establish Mr. Konitz’s reputation were made in the late 1940s and early ’50s, after he had moved to New York, under the leadership of two of the most distinctive artists in modern jazz: the pianist and composer Lennie Tristano, with whom he studied for several years and whose unorthodox approach to improvisation helped shape his own; and the trumpeter Miles Davis, whose short-lived but influential nine-piece band sought to adapt the ethereal Thornhill sound to a bebop context.Those recordings, and others Mr. Konitz made as a leader in the 1950s, were widely admired by other musicians. But that admiration did not translate into work, and he struggled to find bookings; for a brief period in the ’60s he stopped performing altogether. He did not find steady employment as a musician again until the mid-’70s, when New York City experienced a small jazz renaissance. He attracted a loyal audience for his work both with small groups and with a nonet that, despite its ambitious repertoire and arrangements, ultimately did not last much longer than the Miles Davis ensemble on which it was partly modeled. He had a bigger following in Europe, where for the last several decades of his life he spent much of his time and did most of his recording. His European discography ranged in style and format from “Lone-Lee” (1974), on which he played unaccompanied, to “Saxophone Dreams” (1997), on which he was supported by a 61-piece orchestra. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2009.

While Mr. Konitz rarely maintained a working group for more than a few months, he performed and recorded as both leader and sideman with an impressive array of top-rank musicians, ranging from the pianist Dave Brubeck (on Mr. Brubeck’s 1976 album “All the Things We Are”, which also featured the avant-garde saxophonist Anthony Braxton and the drummer Elvin Jones (on Mr. Konitz’s influential 1961 album “Motion” an experiment in spontaneity recorded without planning or rehearsal) to, in more recent years, the pianist Brad Mehldau and the guitarist Bill Frisell. In 2003, in a rare foray outside the jazz world, he played on Elvis Costello’s album “North”. Despite health problems, Mr. Konitz continued to perform into his 90s. In recent years he would often stop playing in mid-solo and continue improvising vocally.

Mr. Konitz was married three times. He is survived by two sons, Josh and Paul; three daughters, Rebecca Pita, Stephanie Stonefifer and Karen Kaley; three grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

Like many jazz musicians, Mr. Konitz often found himself plying his trade in bars and nightclubs where the audiences were less than completely attentive. He professed not to mind.“Wherever I’m at, I’m happy to have a chance to play,” he told the British jazz writer Les Tompkins in 1976. “People come in and say, ‘How can you work in this noisy little joint?’ I say: ‘Very easy. I take the horn out of the bag, and I put it in my mouth.’ I appreciate the opportunity.”

I came to the music of Lee Konitz by a round about route. My all time favorite Alto Sax player is Paul Desmond. Konitz and Desmond had the same light airy sound. Paul Desmond’s  contrapuntal improvisations with The Dave Brubeck Quartet led me to the Mosaic box set of “The Complete Recordings of the Paul Desmond Quartet with Jim Hall” (MDV-120). This set featured a number of delightful Bossa Nova explorations so when I stumbled on a Danish recording of Bossa Nova music featuring Lee Konitz it was a natural route to follow in exploring the music of a musician who did not have a large presence in my Jazz collection. That led me on to other Lee Konitz recordings, including the classic “Birth of the Cool” sessions with Gil Evans, Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan and the Mosaic Box Set “The Complete Atlantic Recordings of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz and Wayne Marsh” (MDV-174).

In a musical career spanning around 70 years Lee has recorded masses of material that is just waiting to be explored by anybody who is interested. On YouTube alone there are heaps of his video performances.

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POSTSCRIPT :

Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser’s Art (Jazz Perspectives) Kindle Edition

The preeminent altoist associated with the “cool” school of jazz, Lee Konitz was one of the few saxophonists of his generation to forge a unique sound independent of the influence of Charlie Parker. In the late 1940s, Konitz began his career with the Claude Thornhill band, during which time he came into contact with Miles Davis, with whom he would later work on the legendary Birth of the Cool sessions. Konitz is perhaps best known through his association with Lennie Tristano, under whose influence much of his sound evolved, and for his work with Stan Kenton and Warne Marsh. His recordings have ranged from cool bop to experimental improvisation and have appeared on such labels as Prestige, Atlantic, Verve, and Polydor.

This book is available from Amazon and the sample I have read is interesting. However at this particular time the cost, for me is just too high. Even the Kindle version is around $40. Here are some comments on the book…….

“Meticulously researched, detailed and documented, this long awaited overview justly establishes Konitz as one of the most consistently brilliant, adventurous and original improvisers in the jazz tradition—a genius as rare as Bird himself.” —John Zorn (a major saxophonist in his own right).

“Hamilton’s work may well mark the inception of a format new to writing on Western music, one which avoids both the self-aggrandizing of autobiography and the stylized subjectification of biography.” —The Wire

“An extraordinary approach to a biography, with the man himself speaking for extended sessions. The main vibration I felt from Lee’s words was total honesty, almost to a fault. Konitz shows himself to be an acute observer of the scene, full of wisdom and deep musical insights, relevant to any historical period regardless of style. The asides by noted musicians are beautifully woven throughout the pages. I couldn’t put the book down—it is the definition of a living history.” — David Liebman (another major saxophonist)

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Out of Nowhere: The Musical Life of Warne Marsh Kindle Edition

To study the life, times and music of Lee Konitz then one has to pay attention to Lee’s connections to music of Warne Marsh and Lennie Tristano. This book is a way into that world. The writing style is a little odd, almost a literary jazz solo on the subject matter, but worth the effort. The jazz world of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s was a very different musical environment .

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Covid-19: The Aftermarth

We can’t say we weren’t warned. Epidemiologists and Public Health Officials have been going on for years about the next big pandemic. In their opinion it was not a case of “if” but rather a case of “when”. In the early 2000s we even had a dress rehearsal with the SARS epidemic. By the time that was over there were 438 cases in Canada and 44 deaths. It was a wake up call for Canada and by and large the immediate post epidemic response was appropriate. Preparedness and planning were beefed up with the promise that the next time we would be ready. But, of course time has slipped by and memories have become clouded and in 2020 we were were not as ready as we could have been. The Covid-19 pan-epidemic is now with us and all around the world the infection rates are through the roof, people are dying and economic activity has come to a stand still. In Canada more than 38,00 people have been infected with the virus while more than 1,800 people have died . World wide, some 2.5 million people have been infected and 175,000 have died (April 21, 2020). Apart from the number of deaths and the economic down turn the World Food Progamme of the United Nations has also warned that up to 300 million people face food insecurity as the virus hits the undeveloped countries. “Already two things are clear. First, governments need to explain to their people that the world is not about to return to normal. Without a vaccine or a therapy, life will be constrained and economies will remain depressed. Second, testing and contact-tracing are vital to keeping the virus at bay.” That is all pretty scary stuff.

Through it all, in my opinion, Canadian authorities and Canadians in general have reacted appropriately. We are still in the middle of the storm with economic activity at a stand still, stay at home orders in place, school and University closed, major sporting and cultural events, concerts  and all mass gatherings cancelled. We do not know when things will get back to “normal”. What will normal be when and if it occurs we don’t know. There is still the threat of a second wave in the fall. When it’s all over one thing for sure it will be different. In some ways I expect some things will be better.  There is lots of scary stuff out there but there are some positive things happening. Here are a couple things to ponder.

The anti-vaxxer movement is starting to have a very negative impact on people’s health. Their belief in the false notion that vaccines cause autism has led to a decrease in the number of vaccinated Americas. Last year, this created the largest measles outbreak in the U.S. since 1992. Back in 2000, it was believed that the disease had been completely eradicated in the U.S. The health problems caused by the anti-vaxxer movement have led many to fear how they will respond to COVID-19. Health officials warn that life many not completely return to normal in the United States until a COVID-19 vaccine is administered to the entire population. Over 70  potential vaccines are currently in the works across the world. However, there is some hope that the current crisis will change some anti-vaxxers’ minds.

Haley Searcy, a former anti-vaxxer, told CNN she has changed her mind about vaccines because of the pandemic. “I was just as scared of vaccines as I was of the diseases they protect against,” she said. “Since COVID-19, I’ve seen firsthand what these diseases can do when they’re not being fought with vaccines,” said Searcy. A big reason for her change of heart is her mother. “My mother has a lung disease, so if she gets COVID-19 there is no fighting it,” she added. “I learned as much as I could to speak out against misinformation in the hopes that I could convince more people to stay home and follow social distancing so that she won’t get sick.”

“So many lives are at stake, including people I care about who are very vulnerable,” Searcy said. Searcy’s fear of vaccines stemmed from a lack of knowledge on the subject. “I wasn’t actively looking for vaccine information but the more I learned, the more I realized it would help and the easier it became to recognize the lack of science in anti-vax arguments,” she said. The modern anti-vaxxer movement was born in 1998 when a fraudulent paper authored by Mr. Andy Wakefield alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was later redacted. Since, there have been over 140 peer-reviewed articles, published in relatively high impact factor or specialized journals that document the lack of a correlation between autism and vaccines. Last year, another study of over 650,000 children found there is absolutely no evidence that vaccinations cause autism.

Lynette Marie Barron, who runs an anti-vaxxer group called Tough Love, says around half of its members would take a COVID-19 vaccine. She told CNN the split is “like a 50/50, which I wasn’t expecting,” with some saying they were “so scared” of the virus that they would get a vaccine if it were available. She says that others, like herself, “don’t care” and “wouldn’t if you paid me a million dollars.” It’s telling the way people behave when in a crisis versus everyday life. Some anti-vaxxers probably get a kick out of pumping themselves up by pretending they know more than the experts. But now that vaccines are a matter of life and death, some are smartening up and listening to science.

Of course there are the irrationals out there who have not changed their minds and probably never will. After all there are some people out there that still believe the world is flat and the Americans  never landed on the moon.

  • Westix – Alberta separation was a bad idea to begin with – but COVID-19 has shown it’s never going to happen

This is an article by Max Fawcett in the Globe and Mail, April 8, 2020. Max Fawcett is a freelance writer and a former editor of Alberta Oil magazine and Vancouver magazine

In politics, timing is everything. And when it comes to Alberta’s burgeoning separatist movement, the timing of COVID-19 couldn’t be much worse. It was just last October, in the wake of the federal Liberal government’s re-election, that it appeared to be building some momentum. And while Alberta Premier Jason Kenney argued that he didn’t share their ultimate objective, he did effectively legitimize many of their other priorities by striking the “Fair Deal” panel to assess their merits. Their final report was due last week, but any recommendations it contains are almost certainly moot.

That’s because the fallout from COVID-19 is serving as a powerful reminder of how much we depend on each other and how much we’ll need to keep doing that as we emerge from its shadow. For most of us, this growing sense of social and national solidarity is a good thing.

But for Alberta’s separatist movement, it’s a major setback. That’s because, just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there won’t be many people who believe they’re better off on their own after this pandemic finally passes. As Albertans stare at the possibility of an economic downturn that’s reminiscent of the Great Depression, some of them are realizing that they could use a little help from their friends – even the ones they don’t particularly like.

This is a nightmare for those who have been dreaming about an independent Alberta, one that’s equal parts political revenge fantasy and Ayn Rand fan-fiction. Only once unshackled from the burdens of supporting the rest of the country and the ungrateful people in it who were holding them down, it suggests, will their province truly flourish.

The combination of their oil and gas resources and a determination to see them fully and unapologetically exploited would mean lower taxes, better services, more freedom and a long overdue opportunity to watch the eastern bastards freeze in the metaphorical dark.

But that dream deliberately ignored the contributions that the federal government had made to their province and its oil and gas industry. It was the federal government that helped fund the oil sands in their earliest days – and helped rescue them when a key American backer pulled out of the Syncrude consortium in 1973.

It was the federal government that implemented important tax changes in the 1990s that made the oil sands a far more attractive investment and helped kick off a decades-long building boom that disproportionately benefited Alberta. And it was the federal government that bought and is building the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, effectively doing for Alberta what the private sector couldn’t – or wouldn’t.

The separatist dream of an independent Alberta also conveniently overlooks the fact that separating from Canada wouldn’t mean separating from geography. British Columbia would still stand between them and the Pacific Ocean, and the vast majority of its residents would want no part of a right-wing Libertarian Petrostate, to say nothing of the many untreatied Indigenous communities who have made their feelings about Alberta’s favourite industry clear.

And as Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde has said, the Indigenous communities that do have treaties with the federal government expect those to be respected. “You have to be careful when you go down that road of Western alienation, Western exit,” he told the CBC. “We have inherent rights; we have treaty rights, and those are international agreements with the Crown.”

  • The Demise of Vancouver’s 4/20 “Weed Fest”.

Vancouver’s 4/20 Festival had humble beginnings on April 20, 1995, when a few dozen people gathered to share and celebrate cannabis at Victory Square Park at Hastings and Cambie. Since then, 4/20 has grown into a massive cannabis protest festival, with over 150,000 attending to buy, share and celebrate cannabis in an unparalleled farmer’s market, while enjoying a free concert with internationally recognized performers. 2020 is the 26th year of the festival and was to be the fifth year at Sunset Beach. The original impetus of the festival was to bring about the legalization of Cannabis and now that has been achieved maybe it is time to move on. The results of the legalization are probably  not what was anticipated  and expected by aficionados. The corporate sector moved in; The small grow-ops are history; Heavy fines and penalties and rigid controls are in place; There are insufficient legal outlets and the black market has not faded away. Having said that the legalization of Cannabis was necessary. However, I suspect the motives of the festival organizers have changed. Perhaps they are more interested in an Oktoberfest like event with Cannabis instead of beer. Watching any news coverage of the event one can only conclude that the event is just a huge opportunity to market illegal product. The event was unsanctioned by the city, imposed significant policing and clean up costs on the taxpayers of Vancouver and generated air pollution on a massive scale. The difficulty facing City hall was how to close it down. Corvid-19 and the ban on large gatherings has taken care of that. The 2020 event was cancelled and, I suspect the ban on large events will still be in place in 2021. Will there be a 2021 4/21 Festival in Vancouver? I suspect not.

  • The Role of Women – The secret weapon in the fight against coronavirus: women

An Article by Arwa Mahdawi, Saturday April 11, 2020

Being a woman doesn’t make you better at handling a global pandemic – but women generally have to be better in order to become leaders – Female leaders are doing exceptional work

What do Germany, Taiwan and  New Zealand have in common? Well, they’ve all got female leaders and they’re all doing an exceptional job in their response to the coronavirus crisis. Tsai Ing-Wen, a former law professor, became the first female president of Taiwan in 2016 – the same year America got its first reality TV president. Tsai has spearheaded a swift and successful defence to the pandemic; despite Taiwan’s proximity to mainland China it has largely contained the virus and has just under 400 confirmed cases. It is so well prepared that it is donating 10 million masks to the US and 11 European countries.

New Zealand, led by Jacinda Ardern, is also a world leader in combating the virus. The country has had only one Corvid-19 death so far. That’s partly due to geography and size: with under 5 million people, New Zealand’s entire population is much smaller than New York’s. Being an island state also gives it a distinct advantage. However, leadership is also a factor. New Zealand has implemented widespread testing and Ardern has responded to the crisis with clarity and compassion.

Germany has been hit hard by coronavirus, but it has an exceptionally low mortality rate of arounds 1.6% (Italy’s fatality rate is 12%; Spain, France and Britain’s is 10%; China’s is 4%; America’s is 3%.) A number of factors feed into Germany’s low death rates, including early and widespread testing and a large number of intensive care beds. Again, however, the country’s leadership plays a role. As one wag on Twitter joked: if you’re asking why death rates are so low in Germany and so high in America, it’s “because their president used to be a quantum chemist and your president used to be a reality television host”. Angela Merkel, who has a doctorate in quantum chemistry, is actually the chancellor not the president, but the sentiment still holds.

Denmark (led by prime minister Mette Frederiksen) and Finland (prime minister Sanna Marin is the head of a coalition whose four other parties are all led by women) are also doing noteworthy jobs in containing coronavirus.

Correlation is obviously not causation. Being a woman doesn’t automatically make you better at handling a global pandemic. Nor does it automatically make you a better leader; suggesting it does reinforces sexist and unhelpful ideas that women are innately more compassionate and cooperative. What is true, however, is that women generally have to be better in order to become leaders; we are held to far higher standards than men. Women are rarely able to fail up in the way men can; you have to be twice as good as a man in order to be taken half as seriously. You have to work twice as hard. With a few notable exceptions (*cough* Ivanka Trump *cough*), you’ve got to be overqualified for a top job. A surplus of qualifications isn’t exactly a problem Donald Trump has. America’s response to the coronavirus crisis is arguably the worst in the world – although Britain also gets an honorable mention here. Instead of expertise, the Trump administration has led with ego. While thousands of Americans die, Trump Tweets about his TV ratings. Instead of cooperating, Trump is lashing out at the press and state leaders. It’s hard to imagine Hillary Clinton responding to a crisis in this way without being immediately impeached. Which raises the question: are some men simply too emotional to be leaders?

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We can add three Canadians to the list. Dr. Bonnie Henry is the Provincial Health Officer of British Columbia. Her signature sign off at briefings “Be Kind, Be Calm and Be Safe”  is an inspiration to us all. Dr. Thesa Tam Chief Public Health Officer of Canada is Bonnie’s Federal counterpart and Dr. Deena Hinshaw the Provincial Public Health Officer in Alberta. These three ladies are doing a stellar job in the fight against Covid-19

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When will it all be over? The optimists are pushing the envelope to get things back to “normal” ASAP. The pragmatists are looking at no earlier than mid May/June to ease some restrictions. The realists are buckling down for a long haul of at least two years of disruptions, possible second wave and third waves of infections and that the new “normal” will be completely different to what we are used to. For starters new infections need to be approaching zero and massive testing and tracking needs to be in place to ensure that no further out breaks are likely to occur.  These conditions are not likely to be met in the immediate future. There is also a need for a vaccine and that is at least two years away. In the meantime international air travel is unlikely to be resumed any time soon.  Mass cultural and sporting events will remain banned for the remainder of this year and possibly well into next year or even later. I suspect the summer Olympics in Japan will face another postponement or even cancellation. International tourism is effectively dead and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Cross border shopping will either decline or disappear. The cruise ship industry, despite a history of coming back from previous related setbacks, will likely take years to come back. This is despite loyal patrons who insist they will continue to cruise. The health insurance burden on the industry and the patrons will make it difficult to carry on business as usual.  Will the Canadian/American border open to regular traffic? If the infection numbers in the USA continue to climb I can’t see it happening? It would be difficult to enforce 14 day quarantines on visitors and returning Canadians and I can’t see the Canadian government willing to risk the importation of infectious cases. On-line shopping will  continue to grow and bricks and mortar locations will decline in numbers. Jobs that have gone to work-from-home will mostly stay that way. The Automotive industry will remain in the decline that is already self evident. Just about every aspect of what we considered normal will change and the result, given the right mid set, could end up as a plus. Just look at the environment. Most major cities over the past month have never had air quality to match the current situation. It’s time to hit the reset button and get it right this time.

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Post Script April 27, 2020:  DON’T SAY THE WHO DIDN’T TRY TO WARN US

“One of the most confounding aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic must be that we were warned, forcefully and repeatedly, that this was going to happen. In September 2019, about 60 days before a mysterious new pneumonia-like illness appeared China, and about 90 days before China formally identified a new coronavirus, an organization called the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) issued a frightening report called A World At Risk. A creation of the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization, the GPMB was formed in 2018 largely out of concerns identified following the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In this, its first major report, the board painted a harrowing picture of global pandemic preparedness.

“If it is true to say ‘what’s past is prologue’ then there is a very real threat of a rapidly moving, highly lethal pandemic of a respiratory pathogen killing 50 to 80 million people and wiping out nearly five per cent of the world’s economy. A global pandemic on that scale would be catastrophic, creating widespread havoc, instability and insecurity. The world is not prepared.”

All of the shortcomings that we have experienced in our pandemic response were outlined in this report in detailed, prescient fashion: insufficient supplies of swabs, specimen containers and reagents needed to test for the virus; global shortages of masks, gloves, gowns, face shields and ventilators; public-health agencies starved of resources; mass confusion about the closing of borders, the cessation of domestic and international travel, and shelter-in-place orders. There isn’t much value in having the authors of this report and their sponsoring agencies engage in a lusty “we told you so.” But it should be said that they did tell us what was going to happen, and we ignored them. On that basis alone, any attempt to blame the WHO and other international agencies for leaving us unprepared for COVID-19 seems quite ridiculous. But that did not stop Ontario Tory MP Derek Sloan, a candidate for the leadership of his party.

In a Twitter video and in a statement issued April 21, Sloan attacked Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, for deferring to Chinese officials who, it has been established, concealed the existence of the coronavirus when it was first identified last fall. Sloan noted that Tam, who serves on a WHO oversight committee, failed Canada when it came to pressing China for more transparency. “The truth is that the WHO serves the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China,” Sloan wrote in his release, while accusing Tam specifically of “dutifully” repeating the “propaganda” of the Chinese government. “Dr. Tam must now either resign or be fired.”

Many rushed to condemn Sloan for his comments about Tam, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said such intolerance and racism “have no place in our country.” Senior Conservatives, including departing leader Andrew Scheer, did not criticize Sloan who, in the face of a backlash, doubled down on his allegations on Friday. “We are in a culture where political correctness and identity politics are used as a shield to deflect or even outlaw criticism,” Sloan stated. “Being called a racist for asking questions has been disappointing, though not unexpected.” Missing from Sloan’s attack, and indeed from the parallel attacks being launched against the WHO by leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump — who withdrew hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the WHO — is the simple fact that the very agency that is the target of their contempt begged us to prepare for a pandemic. It is the last refuge of scoundrels and cowards to wait until they are in the grips of a crisis to blame the people who warned them it was going to happen. The WHO is hardly a newcomer to mob-styled attacks. The global health agency operates under the umbrella of the United Nations and, as such, is a popular target for rabid nationalists throughout the world who believe any multi-national agency is a threat to their sovereignty. Depending on who is making the attack, the WHO has been guilty of acting too quickly and harshly, acting too little and too late, not standardizing the global pandemic response, not recommending a ban on international travel or the use of face masks early enough, or not pressing China for greater transparency in the early days following the detection of the virus.

Is the WHO guilty of any of those transgressions? There is some evidence the global health agency did not challenge China robustly enough early on, was perhaps a little late in declaring COVID-19 a pandemic and supporting measures to stop international air travel and promote the use of non-medical masks in places where social distancing is not possible. But those who have attempted to lay blame at the feet of the WHO — and that includes some really dense and ill-informed journalists — are ignoring the fact that not only did we collectively dismiss its warnings, but that the agency itself does not have the moral or legal authority to force anyone to do anything. Decisions on social distancing, sheltering in place, closing the economy and stopping travel were fully made by individual nations, or even jurisdictions within those nations. That’s why some countries that were slow to react were ravaged by COVID-19 and others fared much better.”   Dan Lett of the Winnipeg Free press

Don’t forget the name Dan Sloan, who is running for leadership of the Conservative Party, nor the Party’s lack luster response in condemning Sloan’s attacks. Once again the party has demonstrated that they are out of step with most Canadians.

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