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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Health Care "Canada-Style"

Watching part of the debate in Congress about the Health Care Bill, I have one question for all Americans. Should health care accessibility be market-driven or a constitutional right guaranteed by law?

In Canada, Tommy Douglas is commonly known as the father of "medicare", and was instrumental in its first implementation in the province of Saskatchewan. His groundwork, along with the future aid of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson helped to make "medicare" a national entity, beginning in 1966.

Having had a medical doctor as my father and the experience of Canadian health care delivery for over 40 years, I conclude that Canada made the right decision. The system has served Canadians well since the Medical Care Act of 1966 was passed under the Pearson government: Medical Care Act.

Yes, it will cost the taxpayers, but isn't that the purpose of taxation, to equalize services to all citizens regardless of income? We cannot judge a man by the color of his skin, or by the size of his savings account, but by the content of his character. Didn't I hear that somewhere before? ...and health must not stand in the way of the productivity of citizens, regardless of income.

Canada had this debate long ago, to resolve the health care issue, for all Canadians, and the time is right for America to follow with its own brand of universality, which allows health to be a right, not a privilege.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Great Thanksgiving Day Present for Shreveport

This great news about the Shreveport Symphony was extracted from The Times [Shreveport]. It arrived just in time for Thanksgiving Day, and not a moment too soon.

November 25, 2009

Shreveport Symphony series offers hope of a permanent return of live orchestral music

On the eve of Thanksgiving, let's embrace the encouraging news that orchestral music again will be ours in 2010.

After a year when the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra fell silent over a contract dispute, let's give thanks for fresh beginnings, the apparent dissipation of acrimony and distrust at the negotiation table. Add to that a $70,000 challenge grant from the Community Foundation, and music lovers can now look forward to three concerts as negotiations continue on long-term solutions. The first concert is Jan. 30 and the last in May.

Challenges remain to achieving a full resolution of disputes, but the notes are encouraging.

"There was a sense that maybe people weren't just being bull-headed," said musician representative Rick Rowell about the recent talks, "that there were honest positions to deal with and I think we realized everyone is passionate and wants it to work."

Monday's announcement by Rowell, Symphony Board President Dick Bremer and Paula Hickman, executive director of the Community Foundation of Shreveport-Bossier, is the initial fruit of work that began around Labor Day when Bremer, as new president, sought to resume talks.

The agreement at this time presumably will help the board and musicians raise funds as potential donors survey the landscape for worthwhile causes before the tax year closes. Many donors have wrestled with the dilemma of wanting to support this long-standing cultural asset but concerned about the economic model that appeared to be losing financial ground each year. Much of the contract dispute was related to the previous board's decision to switch 24 full-time core musicians to a per-service pay structure, though part-time musicians would have received a pay increase. In this three-concert season, the musicians have agree to per-service payments while negotiations continue.

In search of organizational and funding solutions, both sides have agreed to bring in a consultant on symphony management. Here's hoping his recommendations can offer credible strategies that can be supported by both managers and musicians — and reassure donors.

Live orchestral music is not only food for the soul but sets this community apart from other cities our size — and larger. After six decades of performances, the Shreveport Symphony has become deeply grooved into our community's soundtrack. Monday's announcement offers hope it won't go silent again.

-taken from Shreveport Symphony series...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Non-profit group allows musicians to keep performing.

Recently it was noted in The Times (Shreveport) that a group calling itself CODA [Concert Organizers for Diversity in the Arts of Northwest Louisiana] is trying to keep symphonic music alive in Shreveport. The term "diversity in the arts" implies that along with popular music, we need to support orchestras that cover a broad range of music, from serious classical compositions to lighter fare, such as movie soundtracks, orchestral arrangements of popular music (known as Pops) and musicals. There is a good reason why the orchestra as a performance group has survived over many centuries.

Here is the article in full describing the role of CODA (Sept. 5, 2009, The Times, Entertainment Section):

New group to support Shreveport Symphony
Board, musicians resume talks

By Donecia Pea • • September 5, 2009

A newly formed nonprofit organization is reaching out to assist Shreveport Symphony musicians with a fundraiser concert.

Concert Organizers for Diversity in the Arts of Northwest Louisiana will present its opening concert at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at First Baptist Church of Shreveport.

The concert will feature most of the symphony's 23 core musicians.

"Maybe two musicians won't be participating and that's only because their schedules won't allow it," CODA President Dorothy Rivette said.

Featured performers include the I-49 Brass Quintet, which includes Rick Rowell, Mike Scarlato, Tom Hundemer, Mike Davidson and Mark Thompson. Flutist Sally Horak will combine classical and jazz elements in a piece by Claude Bolling for classic flute and jazz piano trio.

The final selection will be the traditional Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven, performed by a full orchestra and conducted by Kermit Poling.

Rivette said the group is not designed to replace the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, which has been embroiled in a negotiation battle between symphony musicians and the board members for two years.

Rather, she said, CODA was formed to support the musicians and give them a way to continue to perform.

"CODA intends to keep the seasoned and educated musicians performing and living in the community so that when the day arrives, whatever orchestra our city ends up with will be one of high quality rather than one that sounds like a community orchestra," Rivette said.

Rivette said she foresees CODA working hand in hand with the symphony, similar to the Symphony Guild, but with its fundraisers solely being concerts.

"If an agreement is able to be reached, CODA would like to offer its assistance to the symphony in possibly continuing to help organize some concerts of the variety that the symphony has given up on in recent years, such as a chamber series, children's concerts, etc.," Rivette said. "Our organization is not made up of people who have money to donate, but of people who can provide a service in order to keep music alive."
(2 of 2)

Rivette reached out to symphony board president Richard Bremer asking for his support of CODA.

"She did send me an e-mail and explain what they're doing. Basically, if it's helpful to musicians, that's fine," Bremer said.

Bremer further noted that the board members and musicians, along with their union representative, have resumed talks and plan to meet again shortly after Labor Day.

"The musicians and the board continue to use our best efforts to hopefully overcome the impasse and be successful," Bremer said.

However, Bremer would not comment further on the status of negotiations or the future of the symphony.

"It's too early to comment. I'm just going to leave it there," he said.

Symphony musician spokesman Rick Rowell could not be reached for comment.

Rivette was a former board member of the short-lived Red River Chamber Orchestra, formed last September by community volunteers Kevin Hill along with Bill Causey and Bob Maynard to assist the musicians. However, the group never attained its 501(c)3 status.

Rivette eventually left that group and formed CODA in December, receiving 501(c)3 status in June.

Rivette said they haven't determined how many additional concerts they will present after the inaugural concert.

"We are taking things one day at a time right now. We'll just see how this one goes and see what we want to plan after that. A lot of it depends on what happens with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra," Rivette said. "If they begin producing large symphony concerts again, there won't be a need for us to do it and maybe we'll do some chamber or children's concerts."

For further information about the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, which has an uncertain future, but might still rise out of the ashes, visit Shreveport Symphony Orchestra.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Orchestra Musicians Regroup

This article appeared recently in The [Shreveport] Times Opinion section.

Editorial: Saturday concert reminds us what we're missing

September 24, 2009

Shreveport musicians who have spent too little time on stage will gather Saturday to remind us what we've been missing.

The Diversity in Music concert will range from Beethoven to jazz, from full orchestra to ensembles. The performers will include many players who made the Shreveport Symphony an oasis of musical excellence in our regional soundscape. For six decades, the Shreveport Symphony has not only been — note for note — one of the better orchestras around, but one of the last in a community of our size.

But orchestras cost money. The expense isn't much in comparison to health care or even what we pay to dine out during the year, but it's enough that a contract dispute has silenced the Shreveport Symphony for more than a year. The dispute involves the musicians' pay structure, particularly how it affects the symphony's core musicians who are contracted to perform for an entire season.

But there is a glimmer of hope.

Last week The Times editorial staff, in an effort to update our readers on this musical impasse, e-mailed a set of questions to both the Symphony Board and representatives of the musicians to determine the status of negotiations. Our hope was that time and a rotation in leadership might have allowed a fresh start.

What came back was a very short, not too revealing two-sentence response:

"Symphony representatives have met with the musicians and their union representatives and have scheduled another meeting to try and resolve our differences. Both groups prefer not to say anything more at this time since the matters being discussed are sensitive and our combined efforts are focused on reaching an agreement."

The importance to us wasn't the comment but the attribution. The sentence was a joint response by the board and the musicians, no insignificant detail.

The two groups have had at least one long session of talks in the past month. Without providing any specifics, new Symphony Board President Dick Bremer leaves us with a feeling of cautious optimism.

Meanwhile, Saturday's 7 p.m. concert at First Baptist Church in Shreveport will provide some musical balm around what would traditionally be the opening of another symphony season. It's the inaugural event of Concert Organizers for Diversity in the Arts of Northwest Louisiana, or CODA, a group formed to support the musicians and provide them an opportunity to perform. Dorothy Rivette and other organizers are to be commended for stepping into the breach and working to uphold this end of our community's culture.

Without hearing a note, we applaud this concert and hope that off stage any past dissonance soon may resolve into sweet harmony.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stealing cars is a pastime that needs to be squashed.

When I look up the definition of "pastime" in, I get
Noun 1. pastime - a diversion that occupies one's time and thoughts (usually pleasantly)... [Middle English passe tyme, translation of French passe temps : passer, to pass + temps, time].

If stealing cars by youths has become a pastime, who has been sleeping on the job of raising these kids and has let them turn into lawless freaks who have lost any sense of right and wrong? To parents who claim they have taught them right from wrong, I say not on your life! They have failed in the one task which all parents must fulfill if they deserve the name of parent, that is to get the children, at an early age, to understand that consequences of anti-social, destructive and disrespectful behavior are severe and that good behavior towards other human beings is its own reward... END OF STORY. No more excuses about living in poor conditions, and having less. LESS IS MORE.
The following link contains my response to an event that happened right in my own city.
HAVE YOUR SAY - Winnipeg Free Press

Posted using ShareThis

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Indian" vs. "Native American"

by George Carlin
From his Book,"Brain Droppings"

Now, the Indians. I call them Indians because that's what they are. They're Indians. There's nothing wrong with the word Indian. First of all, it's important to know that the word Indian does not derive from Columbus mistakenly believing he had reached "India." India was not even called by that name in 1492; it was known as Hindustan. More likely, the word Indian comes from Columbus' description of the people he found here. He was an Italian, and did not speak or write very good Spanish, so in his written accounts he called the Indians, "Una gente in Dios." A people in God. In God. In Dios. Indians. It's a perfectly noble and respectable word.
So let's look at this pussified, trendy bullshit phrase, Native Americans. First of all, they're not natives. They came over the Bering land bridge from Asia, so they're not natives. There are no natives anywhere in the world. Everyone is from somewhere else. All people are refugees, immigrants, or aliens. If there were natives anywhere, they would be people who still live in the Great Rift valley in Africa where the human species arose. Everyone else is just visiting. So much for the "native" part of Native American.
As far as calling them "Americans" is concerned, do I even have to point out what an insult this is? Jesus Holy Shit Christ!! We steal their hemisphere, kill twenty or so million of them, destroy five hundred separate cultures, herd the survivors onto the worst land we can find, and now we want to name them after ourselves? It's appalling. Haven't we done enough damage? Do we have to further degrade them by tagging them with the repulsive name of their conquerors?
And as far as these classroom liberals who insist on saying "Native American" are concerned, here's something they should be told: It's not up to you to name the people and tell them what they ought to be called. If you'd leave the classroom once in a while, you'd find that most Indians are insulted by the term Native American. The American Indian Movement will tell you that if you ask them.
The phrase "Native American" was invented by the U.S. government Department of the Interior in 1970. It is an inventory term used to keep track of people. It includes Hawaiians, Eskimos, Samoans, Micronesians, Polynesians, and Aleuts. Anyone who uses the phrase Native American is assisting the U.S. government in its effort to obliterate people's true identities.
Do you want to know what the Indians would like to be called? Their real names: Adirondack, Delaware, Massachuset, Narranganset, Potomac, Illinois, Miami, Alabama, Ottawa, Waco, Wichita, Mohave, Shasta, Yuma, Erie, Huron, Susquehanna, Natchez, Mobile, Yakima, Wallawalla, Muskogee, Spokan, Iowa, Missouri, Omaha, Kansa, Biloxi, Dakota, Hatteras, Klamath, Caddo, Tillamook, Washoe, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Laguna, Santa Ana, Winnebago, Pecos, Cheyenne, Menominee, Yankton, Apalachee, Chinook, Catawba, Santa Clara, Taos, Arapaho, Blackfoot, Blackfeet, Chippewa, Cree, Mohawk, Tuscarora, Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Comanche, Shoshone, Two Kettle, Sans Arc, Chiricahua, Kiowa, Mescalero, Navajo, Nez Perce, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Pawnee, Chickahominy, Flathead, Santee, Assiniboin, Oglala, Miniconjou, Osage, Crow, Brule, Hunkpapa, Pima, Zuni, Hopi, Paiute, Creek, Kickapoo, Ojibwa, Shinnicock.
You know, you'd think it would be a fairly simple thing to come over to this continent, commit genocide, eliminate the forests, dam up the rivers, build our malls and massage parlors, sell our blenders and whoopee cushions, poison ourselves with chemicals, and let it go at that. But no. We have to compound the insult. Native Americans! I'm glad the Indians have gambling casinos now. It makes me happy that dimwitted white people are losing their rent money to the Indians. Maybe the Indians will get lucky and win their country back. Probably they wouldn't want it. Look what we did to it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tibetan Refugees Shot by Chinese Border Guards

Today, I learned for the first time about a horrible event that occurred on Sept. 30, 2006, at the border between Nepal and Tibet. A group of 75 Tibetans, among them children as young as 7 years old, were being led by 2 guides across the Himalayan Nangpa La pass (5,700m). This is near the mountain Cho Oyu, which lies in the Himalayas and is 20 km west of Mount Everest, at the border between China and Nepal.

See the link Nangpa La Shootings - This story shows the utter brutality and lack of respect for human life of these "cold-blooded murderers" which masquerade as border guards for the Chinese government.

This story needs to be told, because it also demonstrates that a group of over 100 mountain climbers that witnessed the shootings were reluctant to give any information upon questioning by human rights organizations, supporting the cause of Tibet. They would rather remain silent than risk losing their privilege of climbing the Himalayas from the Chinese side. In other words, they would rather leave the plight of the Tibetans to be forgotten, than risk being black-listed by the Chinese. Fortunately, a couple of brave mountaineers were willing to break the story and to give evidence of the atrocities of the Chinese soldiers on that day in 2006.

An amazing BBC documentary was produced last year, called Tibet: Murder in the Snow. A preview can be seen here: Top Documentary Films -- Murder in the Snow

I was impressed by the quality of this documentary, including live footage from that September day in 2006. It needs to be seen by many people to demonstrate to the world the hypocrisy that is the Chinese government, and their willingness to shoot at their own people (if they claim that Tibet is their own). The more people that know about this, the more pressure can be brought to bear on the regime in power in China to allow for freedom of those who do not belong in China, because they are oppressed by their occupiers. Tibetans deserve to govern themselves, since the Chinese have shown their illegitimacy by their brutal actions.

Rightful government proves its right to govern by protecting human rights, not suppressing them. This message needs to go to all the brutal dictatorships that currently rule on this earth, and bring their ignorant, narrow-minded view to bear on the most precious human beings, those who are willing to fight for freedom of expression, at all costs. The cowards who would suppress them are too stupid to see their own image as it is: cold, uncaring, power-hungry demagogues, whose only wish is to preserve their power once they have grabbed it away from the hands and hearts of the people they are supposed to serve.

Yes, I speak of Iran as well. Need I mention it? Neda lives on in our hearts. She gave her life unwittingly to the cause of freedom all over the world. We will honour her memory by how we also fight for that very freedom, not shying from the dangers that might involve. For to get closer to the universal freedom and justice, we need to extinguish one by one those regimes that have only power and greed as their goals. History has demonstrated again and again that the will of the people cannot be silenced forever, because it grows and engulfs those weak-minded men and women who hide behind the force of arms, rather than to stand on the basis of genuine care for their fellow human beings.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Flashback: Jazz piano legend Ahmad Jamal performing at the Vienne, France, Jazz Festival in 2005

For those of you heading out to the Rhône valley in France this summer, you may want to check out the 29e festival Jazz à Vienne, about 60 km. north of Tain l'Hermitage by Peugeot, or similar vehicle.

Clint Eastwood featured two recordings from Ahmad Jamal's But Not For Me album — "Music, Music, Music" and "Poinciana" — in the 1995 movie The Bridges of Madison County. The latter track provides background for the scene in the kitchen (set in 1965) where Francesca and Robert discuss all matters urbane and personal, including their career choices and obsessions, which also brings them closer together, if you get what I mean.

As an aside (not to distract you from the main point here- romance is aided by a good background music choice) the date of the original recording was January 16, 1958 at Chicago's Pershing Club. The Ahmad Jamal trio featured Jamal on piano, Israel Crosby on bass, and Vernell Fournier on drums. In the following video, we see Ahmad, almost 50 years later!, at the festival Jazz à Vienne, with a different set of musicians-- accompanied this time by drums legend Idris Muhammad and James Cammack on bass.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Like my son, I am an optimist.

We do not often hear from the father of Bill Gates of Microsoft fame. Well, here is a recent sample:

Why I Wrote Showing Up for Life

ADDED on 5/5/09
Charlie Rose had both Father and Son Gates as guests for his show on April 28, 2009. Listen to them here

Friday, April 24, 2009