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The End of the Beginning

By Shlomo Maital

   There is evidence that, to quote Winston Churchill, “we are not at the beginning of the end, the end of the beginning.” Here are the daily totals of new cases worldwide, thanks to, and next to them, the % daily change:

3-Apr 101736
4 84821 -16.6 %
5 71502 -15.7
6 74044 3.6
7 85116 15.0
8 84447 -0.8
9 85638 1.4
10 94629 10.5
11 80963 -14.4
12 72523 -10.4
13 71572 -1.3
14 73969 3.3

What this looks like, is a kind of ‘plateau’ levelling off — as the coronavirus spread globally, some countries were afflicted early, others later. So countries will reach their ‘apex’ at differing times… (the US is still not there yet)…. And this will produce a kind of plateau worldwide.

   The reason this is important, is this — countries will begin to emerge from their ‘lockdown’ at different times, some sooner than others. Denmark is opening its kindergartens, China is sending Wuhan back to work in part.

       But in terms of public health, we need to see this as a global system. If there are hot pockets in one country, no country is safe – because a return to normality will restart flights and travel. And we still do not fully understand the duration or extent of coronavirus immunity for those who had it.


Leadership In the Time of Plague:

Learning from Winston Churchill

By Shlomo Maital

Destruction During the 1940 London Blitz

Erik Larson. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. Crown, 2020. 546 pages.

 In days of crisis, people everywhere look to leadership. Many of our leaders have alas fallen short. Perhaps they each should read Erik Larson’s new book, The Splendid and the Vile, about the leadership of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during the terrifying days of the blitz, when the German Luftwaffe bombed London daily, for 57 days and nights, including a huge daylight raid on Sept. 15, 1940.

   The damage was enormous.   Historians note: “More than 40,000 civilians were killed by Luftwaffe bombing during the war, almost half of them in the capital [London], where more than a million houses were destroyed or damaged. A million houses!

   What did Churchill do to show leadership?

     (Luftwaffe head Hermann Goring was ordered by Hitler to begin bombing London, on Sept. 6/7. The goal was to terrify London citizens and draw the sparse Royal Air Force into a battle, where, outnumbered, RAF plans would be destroyed, leaving Britain open for invasion).

     First, he was there. He regularly went out to sites that had been bombed, spoke to those who had lost their homes, and showed empathy.

     Second, he condensed his message to two simple qualities; Truth. Defiance. Truth, to recognize the desperate situation. He told the people the truth – how the RAF was far outnumbered. Defiance, to spark the British people’s morale and fighting spirit. Churchill regularly watched the bombing at night from the roof of 10 Downing St., exposed and unafraid.

     Churchill understood his people. British anti-aircraft guns were silent in early September, because the nighttime raids meant you could not see the Nazi bombers. No point in wasting ammunition. But Churchill understood – he ordered the anti-aircraft guns to fire anyway – and the Londoners cheered and were cheered and buoyed.

       Enemy bombers are a different enemy than a silent killer virus. But leadership remains similar. Truth. Defiance. Tell the truth – something some leaders fail to do, such as the criminal behavior of the President of Brazil. Defiance — Fierce determination to defeat the virus, by telling people what to do and how to do it, even if it means sacrifice. The WHO made an enormous error in the early stages, saying that wearing masks was not needed. This turns out to be wrong – Researchers show that even home-made cloth masks (of the kind my wife zapped together in no time, with a handkerchief and two elastic bands) can do a lot of good, protecting others from infection from those who are asymptomatic. [Great Leader Trump refuses to wear a mask, seeing it as a sign of weakness… I wonder, would Churchill have worn a mask, had he led Britain today?].






Why Britain (and the World) Deserves Crackpot Boris Johnson, UK’s Next PM

 By   Shlomo Maital  


   In a few days, rank-and-file Conservative voters in Britain will choose Boris Johnson as their new leader (and automatically, as Britain’s new Prime Minister), over the solid, stable, experienced Jeremy Hunt.

   Johnson follows in the footsteps of Donald Trump. Trump, once a Democrat, now leads Republicans, with hurtful racist words that fire up his “base”, white males, and sow discord, violence, dissent and hatred. Trump got elected, because — well, here’s my explanation.

     As author Yuval Noah-Harari writes, four ‘global’ ideologies exist: fascism, communism, socialism, liberalism. The first three were tried, disastrously, and mostly failed, except for the social democracy version now prevalent in Scandinavia, which isn’t really socialism (state ownership of property and businesses).

     Liberalism?   The United States built a powerful, beautiful vision of a world driven by liberalism (democratic nations trading openly, based on dynamic competitive economies) at Bretton Woods, NH, on July 2, 1944. That’s 75 years ago.   By exporting, many nations grew wealthy – mainly, in Asia (China, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, India). The US offered a huge market.  

       At the end of World War II, the world was largely destroyed, except for the US, whose economy doubled twice during the war, and whose GDP comprised a startling 75% of world GDP. By opening its market, and building a global trading system, the US helped the rest of the world (Europe, Asia) grow wealthy. And Europe wisely joined once-hostile countries into a powerful open economic bloc, of 28 nations.     This was an enormous success for liberalism.

       But now, 75 years later, it is failing. It is falling apart. Trump’s trade wars are spreading. Japan and Korea are now in a trade war. And there will be others.


       Because of us.   Because those who saw what was happening, who knew enough to see it, who saw how many countries and people (nearly all of Africa, the underclass in the US, UK, Europe, and elsewhere) were left behind, how wealth became obscenely concentrated among the 0.001%, how these wealthy people controlled democratic systems with their wealth — those who saw it, simply sat on their hands and elected liberals who did nothing about those left behind.   

         And now – the bill for this neglect has been presented. And it’s huge. The US underclass elects billionaire Trump, who has rewarded fellow millionaires with an obscene tax cut – yet, the underclass still loves him Why? Because he twists the tails of the educated elite, the liberals. And that’s worth everything – because if you are humiliated and downtrodden for 70 years, and you think you have a leader who speaks for you (he doesn’t, really) – that’s worth everything.

         And now, Johnson. He was a left-leaning Mayor of London. Now he’s turned far right, for the Brexit crowd. Why? It’s in his interest. Votes, you know. He was once pro-immigration. Now he attacks Muslims and immigrants. He once strongly supported oil companies. Now he’s an eco-warrior. He beat up his girl friend, police were called – and he refused to explain, not a single word. He says he will take Britain out of the EU, deal or no deal, by October 30 — when a no-deal exit will drive Britain into recession. He wrote a crackpot novel, “Seventy-Two Virgins”, — compare it with John F. Kennedy’s non-fiction book Profiles in Courage.

         Like Trump, Johnson says dumb hateful things – and gets away with it. And by the way – Trump strongly endorses him.

         In the disastrous referendum on Brexit, initiated by the hapless David Cameron (an ego trip, he was sure it would be defeated – and ended up throwing Britain into endless chaos), Johnson supported “leave” using false data and false claims. Totally false. And he got away with it.

     There is an alternative. Wise Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Minister, long-time Health Minister, who ran London’s amazing 2012 Olympics –   perfect for UK PM, but about to lose when rank-and-file Conservatives choose their idol, Boris.

         Johnson once wrote about Churchill:  he became Prime Minister “despite members of the Conservative Party having been conditioned to think of him as an opportunist, a turncoat, a blowhard, an egotist, a rotter, a bounder, a cad and on several well-attested occasions a downright drunk.”

         All of those words, each of them, describes Johnson. And Johnson is no Churchill. Britain will pay heavily during his likely-short tenure.  Britain will get anti-Semite Jeremy Corbyn, in the next election, as their leader, and things will get much worse, if that is possible.

         Good luck, Britain. Bull in the China Shop Boris.   He’s your choice for Prime Minister.

         And we liberals are all to blame. We saw the huge gaps in income and wealth emerging, within countries and between countries – and ignored them.

         Now, with Trump, Johnson, and others – we are paying for it. In spades.



Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital