Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Coronavirus Missives from France, Canada and China/England

As published at Smirking Chimp, Unz Review and TruthSeeker, 4/21/20:








There are coronavirus cases in at least 185 countries, with none reported in North Korea. As Western Europe’s infection rate slows, Turkey’s and Russia’s accelerate. Africa’s death toll remains a remarkably low 1,136, but reliable statistics are impossible to get anywhere, not just in Africa. Coronavirus deaths may be wrongly attributed or simply uncounted.

In New York City, at least two journalists have had their drones confiscated as they tried to photograph mass burials on Hart Island. An image by George Steinmetz shows a long and deep trench with an aluminum ladder. There are nude trees, a broken chapel, large puddles everywhere and workers standing on stacks of plywood coffins.

In Vietnam, there are rice ATMs to stave off starvation, but these are available in only a handful of cities. Protests and even riots over government handling of the coronavirus pandemic have already erupted across the globe. In Colombia, prison revolts have killed at least 23 inmates. In Paris, Arab protesters clash with police and burn down squad cars. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, corpses lie in streets or bobble, face down, on undulating waves.

Here in Busan, stores and restaurants are still open, but not the bars. People stroll along beaches, take their kids to parks. I often take the subway or buses around town. Yesterday, I was in Jangnim-dong, a poor, out-of-the-way neighborhood with rundown alleys, a large, cheerful market and plenty of factories nearby. Men in threadbare suits played chess in a tiny park. Others downed soju in barely marked eateries. I walked, paused and looked. The proximity of other bodies and faces was comforting.

Two thirds of American restaurant workers have lost their jobs. On April 24th, Georgia will be the first state to restart its economy, but the world is no longer the same.

Let’s hear how some folks are doing:


Tom, a 79-year-old American, living in southern France


I am married to my love of 14 years, a Russian from Latvia. Living since last June in a small village in southern France. I moved permanently from Vero Beach, Florida where we lived for 5 years. Prior to that we lived in the mountains near the coast of southern Spain and before that in central France....Etc., Etc.

We moved here primarily to leave the USA which I consider to be beyond hope as I view it as corrupt beyond words. I grew up there when life was normal, i.e. before it became a hopeless nation of Greed.

Since we have settled here life has been pretty good, fairly easy to get residency and get enrolled in the great health system. It is not perfect, as the leader is Macron, who was employed by Rothchild's bank prior to his job as President. When the great "Flu" started, he happily locked down the entire country, including requiring you to fill out a permission paper each time you leave the house, with name, address, date of birth, signature, purpose of trip and time leaving. He assigned 100,000 police to randomly stop and check you.

I don't like being on house arrest at all for no good reason. The French people we know don't seem to mind.....my theory is that in general, they are a bit afraid of their own shadow...and easily taken in by mass media propaganda. The first week, the yellow vest protests were out on Saturday, but then stopped.

This Easter, we sneaked to a monastery to celebrate. My wife is Russian orthodox and to marry her in a church, I was required to become orthodox as well. We go to an orthodox church if we can find one. They are not common outside of Russia or Greece. We did a google search and wow, amazed to find sort of an "orthodox church" 15 KM away up in the mountains.

It was strange trying to find it. We felt it was reasonably safe once we got to the small road, as unlikely for cops to be there. There was finally a small sign..saying orthodox monastery. When we arrived, we did not see anyone, but wandered around looking at the place. Then a monk came out and said hello and talked with Olga in Russian.

He explained that there were 10 monks living there of various nationalities. It was a Romanian Orthodox monastery formed about 20 years ago. He said we could join them for Sunday Vespers if we wanted. So, we returned the following Sunday to their little chapel.

On Orthodox Easter Sunday, my wife brings dyed eggs, candy and an apple pie to be blessed by the priest. By the way, two other law breaking “criminals” were there as well.

My current view of this “Flu” is that it’s about the same as a previous bad flu season such as 1968. The economy in France after they stop this craziness will probably still be OK, as the people unemployed due to this receive most of their pay every week anyway. Supply chain disruptions should not be terrible as France produces most of its food and other essentials. They also have the largest percentage of GDP for social services in Europe.

But, the USA is thoroughly F--Cked after this is over, which will probably be middle to end of May, I hope. I have been a sort of wandering nomad for most of my life and this lock down bulls--t is putting a brake on that.


Floyd Rudmin, a 74-year-old retired psychology professor, with forte statistics and in health psychology. From 1968-1970, he worked in the Philippine Malaria Eradication Service. Most of his teaching career was in Norway

I am retired, in good health, with sufficient pension and savings, no debts, no dependents, and no living elderly parents to worry about.

Impacts, 1) no swimming or yoga, 2) disorientation of day-of-week (the only landmark is Tuesday evenings is garbage night), 3) loss of eating-drinking socializing.

My opinions:

a) I think governments are over-reacting, as per massive money creation and stopping the economy. When they under-reacted in January: when we should have been curtailing air travel, ordering supplies, raising standards in nursing homes.

b) I am annoyed by secrecy about cases. I would like a publicly available spreadsheet giving details of each case (not name or address), but including postal code.

c) There is a general belief by public, politicians, media, and physicians, that anything a physician says is “scientifically true.” As a person who worked in a medical faculty doing research, I think most “experts” are reciting dogma or are surmising. Neither is “science.” I have written to several of our CBC (Canada's public broadcaster) journalists, that they have to ask medical experts, “Please tell us more about the studies that show what you just said is true.” For example, we hear over and over that this virus is spread by droplets, not by aerosol (in aerosol, the viruses one by one are floating around). I would like to hear how this was determined.

d) When I hear or read reports negative of China, I discount them as a continuation of pre-virus vilification of China and Xi, in concert with similar projects against Russia, Iran, and Venezuela.

We live in an Ontario health district about the size of Connecticut (with ~200,000 population), in a small city with a medical school. Our public health officer in January alerted nursing homes and hospitals to prepare, e.g. get supplies and train staff for higher hygiene standards. Example, auditing handwashing practices in nursing homes. As a results, we have 50 total positive cases, almost all cases traceable to travel. No nursing home outbreaks. No deaths. No ICU care. Two people currently in hospital. For my personal situation and my geographic situation, this is best-case.

The Canadian federation is more like the EU federation than the US federation. When the prime minister meets a provincial premier, that is a meeting of equals. Canada’s health system is run by provinces, and they are all different. Ontario now has a populist right wing leader, Doug Ford, in the same mold as Trump and Johnson. His campaign was "A buck a beer", i.e. cut taxes and regulations. This government cut public health budgets, and merged health units in order to cut staff. Fewer staff, with less money, responsible for larger district.

I am a little worried about the disease, since I am 74 years old. I am more worried about stroke or Alzheimers, than corona-virus. I am very worried about the economy, and massive money fabrication out of nothing. Actually, I am worried most about the neglect of the climate crisis and the destruction of the surplus wealth that might have been available to cope with it. We are going to be in a major crisis, with much fewer financial and institutional resources. In boxing, this virus is the distracting left jab, as the right hook is cocked to come around and knock us out.

This will be an up and down crisis for 4 or 5 years, since all cases and transmission cannot be eliminated everywhere. Re-infections of clean populations will be happening. In 1968-1970, I worked in the Philippine Malaria Eradication Service, and re-infection kept happening in once "cleaned" regions. Permanent effects? Better hygiene habits in hospitals, nursing home, stores, restaurants, and homes. Less on-the-whim travel. Maybe major social violence and rebellion if the economies go bad for long.

A year from now, I think nothing will change so much. But I am in a best-case location. Probably 50% or more inflation will be hitting hard.


Phil, a British English teacher who has just returned from China

I first became aware of the crisis on around 20th January. I was working at a University in China and I had an apartment on the campus where I taught. We were already on winter holiday so the place was quieter than usual anyway. Almost immediately people began wearing masks and staying in their rooms. Being the type of person who doesn't take what the media says seriously, I eschewed wearing a mask and carried on with my normal routine—albeit staying inside more than usual. The first two weeks were fine: I got on with some work I had been meaning to do and other than my favourite restaurants closing, I didn't find it too much of an inconvenience. Then after about 14 days I had my first experience of acute claustrophobia—I got a crushing feeling in my chest and a desperate urge to “be free.” It was at this point that I started to reflect on what it must be like to be in solitary confinement. Our University decided that we would teach our students online and so we started the new semester as planned at the start of March. This at least gave us something to do and ensured that there could be no quibbling about our salaries.

After four weeks of quarantine, the University changed the rules; previously only the students had been confined to campus while teachers like myself were allowed to come and go as they pleased. Now, teachers were instructed that they had to ask for permission to go outside the main gate. This was most annoying, particularly since the ultra-anal Chinese staff took great pleasure in enforcing the new rules. To be allowed out, I had to call my boss and explain why I wanted to go out. She would then tell reception who would issue a pass after an hour or so. I had to collect the pass and take it to the security guards at the gate who would call back to the reception to check if it was ok. Again, as is often the case as a foreigner dealing with Chinese bureaucrats, you really got the sense of a perverse enjoyment on the part of the local stiffs. It had slowly dawned on me over the previous two and a half years of living in China that, just like people say, it really is a giant police state and this crisis did nothing to dissuade me of that view.

Not being a fan of long haul flights, I had been loathed to fly back to England but with no end to the quarantine in sight and with me tiring of being confined to my room with a steadily shrinking choice of food available, I started looking at getting out of China. The last straw was when my acupuncturist died. I had gone to China to have a long course of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a remarkable doctor that I had met several years previously. His family said he got food poisoning but it is such a secretive culture there that I have no idea what really happened. With him gone, I had no real reason to hang around and so I decided to leave, flying back to Manchester via Abu Dhabi.

There has been some controversy in Britain as tens of thousands of people have been allowed to fly in and out of the country while most people are cooped up in their houses. Indeed, not only have many flights continued as normal but there has been nothing in the way of testing which begs the question, just how seriously is the British government taking all this? My first introduction to the anomaly that is Britain’s travel restrictions was when I left China. At the airport in China, I was greeted by people in full protective gear and I was forbidden from sitting next to a student who was also flying out of the country. In Abu Dhabi, the rules were even stricter: we were quarantined in a section of the airport and given a swab test before being allowed to travel onwards. Upon landing in Britain however, we were allowed to collect our bags and walk straight out of the airport, no tests, no questions, nothing.

I arrived the week before lockdown was imposed by the Boris Johnson government and I very much got the sense that the Tories (the governing party) were bounced into it by the media. It was amusing to see that the reaction of the average Briton to the news that life was being suspended was to go to the seaside and have a few beers. I was almost impressed to then see our scum media and otherwise useless police swing into action, essentially bullying the nation into heading indoors. Since then we have had 5 weeks (to date) of non-stop updates of how many people are dying each day and the frankly bizarre deification of the national health service for which the entire country is encouraged to clap every Thursday at 8pm.

These developments have led me to conclude that Britain is a hopelessly feminised society run by non-entities who didn't have the guts to continue with their original plan to keep the economy open while the population slowly developed herd immunity. My loathing of the media is now at the stage whereby I long for some of the most prominent journalists and presenters to be attacked in the streets.

Personally, I am of the view that the Chinese government was unsure what had happened in Wuhan and so they first under-reacted then over-reacted. A friend of mine is well connected in the world of science and he very much believes that this virus began its life in the Wuhan laboratory and that it escaped. This would not surprise me at all since I have noticed that Chinese people often do things in a chaotic manner and are not particularly hygienic. My sense is that the Communist party rushed to lock down the country because they could not be sure what had happened and they feared a man-made virus had got loose which could mutate in ways which could not be predicted. So far, so fair but their handling of the public relations aspect has not been impressive. First, Chinese diasporas cried 'racism' when Westerners stopped going to Chinese restaurants and the Chinese government chided America and Britain for advising their citizens to leave China. Then China flipped and declared that foreigners would be banned from entering the country and through their media, subtly encouraged the latent xenophobia which is always present in Chinese society which led to many incidents of foreigners being banned from entering shops and eateries. It is not true that this only affected Africans—it has happened to white Americans that I know there. I find this quite pathetic and not a little dishonourable for such a big country which, at the end of the day, is responsible for this mess.

It has also brought home to me just how conformist and cowed the Chinese population is. My Chinese students do not have a rebellious bone in their bodies and they believe everything their media tells them. Some days I have to bite my lip off trying not to respond sarcastically to the things they come out with. In that sense, I suppose, one can say that the CCP has played its hand very well internally.

I have noticed that no one I know, neither foreign students, Chinese students, foreign teachers or British friends knows of anyone who has had the virus let alone has died from it. This leads me to believe that this crisis has been over-blown precisely because the Chinese scientists could not be certain what had escaped and because the Western media has decided to sensationalise the situation. It may also be the case that globalist elements felt that they could use COVID to attack the Trump and Brexit governments though I can't be certain of that. I do suspect that the economic damage which will result from all this is manna from heaven for the bankers who can blame the down turn on the virus rather than the financial crash which was in the post anyway. And I'm sure that the population managers in the State are rubbing their hands with glee at how meekly most people have complied with the restrictions.

I am hoping that Trump will start to re-open the economy in the next week or so and that Britain will follow suit. How they will deal with the knock-on effects remains to be seen—certainly the Tories cannot just expect to continue with laissez faire economics and I don't see how they can continue with mass immigration if millions become unemployed.

Regarding my own personal circumstances, I now hope the Chinese government maintains its restrictions on foreigners entering the country since I do not want to fly back over there until after the summer. I will also be looking around for other jobs since I would not be surprised if my University let some teachers go next year owing to cut backs resulting from the down-turn.

All in all, it’s been very disappointing and frustrating—a crisis caused by sheer stupidity.






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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I lived mostly in the US from 1975 until 2018, but have returned to Vietnam. I've also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), a novel, Love Like Hate (2010), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), and six collections of poems, with a Collected Poems apparently cancelled by Chax Press from external pressure. I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in Tokyo, London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.

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