The people have spoken, and other insults to the intelligence (Obituary: Dave the Worm)

Who’s Moaning now?

The High Court has ruled that the Executive does not have unlimited powers to act without the consent of Parliament – one of the most important constitutional decisions since the Great Reform Act.

Poor Nigel Farage, he’s like a demented dad at a Saturday league match, jumping up and down on the touchline yelling abuse at the referee, who’s just yellow-carded his child.

UKIP’s only reasonable-sounding mouthperson, Hermione Gingold lookalike Suzanne Evans, is calling (she’s not as rational as she sounds) for the three High Court judges (one of them the most senior Law Lord in the land), who ruled that the Prime Minister doesn’t have a legal right to abrogate the Treaty of Rome without a vote in Parliament, to be sacked, presumably on the grounds that she doesn’t like the law. (Judges don’t make law, they interpret laws made in Parliament – at least that’s how it used to be.)

Mr Dacre (67, son of a draft dodger) of the Mail has outed one of the judges on his front page as ‘openly gay’, another as a member of a chambers that operates in Europe… and has described all three as ‘Enemies of the People’, in good old 1930s Völkischer Beobachter, National Socialist style. Sadly, none of them appears to be black or Jewish, but it was a close call. The Sun‘s vilely racist front page brands the Brexit litigant, Mrs Gina Miller as both ‘foreign’ (she is black) and ‘wealthy’ – an Investment Manager no less (not unlike Mr Philip May and Ms Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, in fact!)

Meanwhile I imagine Mr Murdoch and Mr Rothermere – sorry, Viscunt, whatever –  and Mr Desmond of the Excess, former publisher of the hardcore porn site Asian Babes (not racist but racy!), the proprietorsof those scurrilous rags, must be urgently consulting their Investment Managers as to what to do about their depreciating £pounds.

Sooner or later, some wag in a wig will also point out that the Referendum Act specifically states that the result need not be binding on Parliament; while Lord Kerr, who actually wrote Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the clause relating to countries leaving the EU, has been trying to make his voice heard above the hubbub. He’s been trying to tell everyone that Article 50 is not irrevocably binding, but the howling, moaning Brexit mob aren’t in a mood to listen.

And the speculation is that Mrs May will now have to call a General Election to get a popular mandate to govern the country without reference to the Parliament whose ‘sovereignty’ millions voted to repatriate from Brussels, imagining it was hiding over there (it was only visiting on expenses). Otherwise she will have to obey the sovereign will of Parliament by asking them first, and that would never do, she might actually have to come up with a policy for leaving the EU.

The problem being, that she can’t call an election without an Act of Parliament, because Parliament has already got an Act that says we can have general elections only once every five years.

If we had a Reichstag, it would be in flames by now.

“Every area of Government policy must now be subordinated to fulfilling the wishes of ‘the British people’ to sever our ties with Europe; bar that of encouraging, nay begging, European companies to remain in Britain.”

If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it

The Serious Fraud Office has revealed in a BBC Panorama report in association with The Guardian, that it is investigating a global network of so-called Agents in relation to possible bribes paid to middlemen to secure contracts for Rolls Royce, possibly the most prestigious name in British engineering.

This famous ‘British’ company, synonymous with excellence in manufacturing, has a troubled history and a labyrinthine company structure, of which it is difficult to make sense. What we can say is that the famous Rolls Royce marque is no longer made by Rolls Royce. It’s not even British anymore.

The business had been in public ownership since it went bust in 1971, crippled by the development costs of the notorious RB211 aero engine. In 1987 the government sold its shares to a private investment consortium, Rolls Royce plc. The company was split up, the auto-engineering businesses and brands sold in a complicated deal to two German owners, BMW and Volkswagen. ‘Rolls Royce’ no longer makes the famous cars.

All which is quite fascinating, demonstrating the awful complexity of modern business and the impossibility of sorting out anything to do with EU trade in less than ten years.

Be that as it may, I’ve just been reading several stories on the Guardian‘s online news site relating to the SFO investigation of what the Government still likes to pretend is just the kind of  ‘Great British company’ that will enable us to prosper mightily after Brexit.

There’s speculation that, just as the SFO investigation of British Aerospace was quashed by Tony Blair on grounds of ‘national security’ (the Thatcher family was rumoured to be implicated in the bribe of $60 million paid to a Saudi intermediary to secure a contract for fighter-jets), Mrs May could well find a good reason to quietly kill off any unhelpful poking around in the affairs of our flagship engineering business, whoever owns it. After all, don’t all companies with aspirations to be global players not have to bribe their way to success? Haven’t they always?

Every area of Government policy must now be subordinated to fulfilling the wishes of ‘the British people’ to sever our ties with Europe; bar that of encouraging, nay begging, not to say bribing, foreign companies to remain in Britain.

Nobody believes the protestations of Business Secretary Greg Clark that the Government has not offered Nissan Motors a blank cheque to continue manufacturing in Sunderland; the heartland of the Brexit vote, yet an area that would be economically devastated by the loss of 7,000 jobs if the Japanese carmaker decided to jump ship to somewhere more favourably located in the tariff-free Eurozone, as it had threatened to do.

And of course, outside the EU we ought in theory to be free from any constraints regarding Government support for business.

It seems the British taxpayer is going to have to find £billions to retain jobs in the manufacturing, banking and other sectors if a hard Brexit prevents us from remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union; and will have to swallow the very considerable cost of living rises resulting from a permanently weaker pound, that respectable government advisory sources predict will cost up to £3,000 a year for each family.

Ooops. Silly Brexit fuckwits.

But no, I mustn’t disparage your ‘democracy’. The people have spoken.

Something achieved, at least

Two days before he was due to hang for a murder he does not even know he committed – nor is he aware of the sentence passed on him and its ratification by the Pakistani Supreme Court – Imdad Ali has received a temporary reprieve while the Government in Rawalpindi reviews the verdict.

Imdad has been diagnosed with severe schizophrenia and lives in an entirely separate reality. Arrested in 2002, accused of killing an Imam, he has been on Death Row since 2014, when capital punishment was restored in Pakistan after a major terrorist incident and a large number of capital cases (including some for blasphemy) were reviewed in the light of the change of policy. A number of prisoners formerly sentenced to prison terms have been executed, not all of them terrorists.

Bizarrely, the Appeal Court ruling contained the news that schizophrenia is not a recognised mental illness and so there was no plea of diminished responsibility possible.

I mention the case, not only because it seems extraordinarily unjust, but because I was one of over 30,000 people around the world who signed a petition organised by the Reprieve charity to halt the execution, which we probably all considered utterly barbaric. Only we were too polite to put it in those terms, it would have been counterproductive.

Imdad is not entirely saved yet. But at least we have achieved something, it seems – and a new defence is being arranged.

Good for us. Now for everyone else….

 

The Irony Lady

I’m getting bored with leaping to defend Margaret Thatcher, as she was pretty ghastly (in public at least – people who knew her privately say she was kind and thoughtful) and left a lasting legacy of bitterness; although, to risk being boiled in oil, I have to say as a single pensioner I’d rather have had the poll tax than pay £120 a month so my local authority can take away two black binbags and waste £100s of thousands paying PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s consultants to do their job for them.

It’s just that her premiership seems to haunt so many people and has become a ‘meme’ almost of demonic possession in the 27 years since her downfall.

This typical remark is from a Comment thread on a George Monbiot piece on the Guardian website today, about the mental-health consequences of social isolation:

“Palming it off as the human condition is bullshit. Remember Margaret Thatcher: “there is no such thing as society…”? That’s what she ensured with her policies and everyone else has built on it.”

So even today, she still drives people mad. Literally, it seems.

The point I keep trying to make about her policies is that they were less ‘sui generis’ than ‘sui temporis’.

In other words, it isn’t clever or good enough to blame her personally for what we can now clearly see was her policy response to a wider world already trending towards neoliberalism and the cult of the individual.

The full quotation from a Woman magazine interview (where she probably thought she was on safe ground as middle-class women tend to think more like this), courtesy of rightwing website, The Commentator, goes:

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it: ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.

“There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

In other words, it’s standard Tory Christian thinking, not some evil plot to pull the rug out from under the working-class. Quite the opposite, it enshrines working-class values of thrift and mutual support. It prefigures, for instance, Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ theme; countering the Labour vision of the Big State, it’s an attempt to divest some of the increasingly unsustainable social responsibilities of Government onto other institutions; starting with the family. It was not an appeal to individual greed, but to personal self-reliance.

And, yes, it ignores the plight of the poorest (poverty as I have sometimes experienced is actually quite difficult to escape from even with all your resources of mental strength and resilience intact – opportunity does not always come knocking), but that wasn’t what she was banging on about. It’s a different issue, and while whole communities were being destroyed through de-industrialisation, she did not pull away the safety-net of social security (basic and grudging though provision was) in the way that Cameron, Osborne and Duncan Smith did during the coalition years of 2010-2015.

Her privatisations, Hayekian Chicago-school monetarism, rowing-back the power of Trade Unions*, deregulation of the City of London and the liberation of markets to run rampant over (yet curiously to become more responsive to) consumers, can all be lumped together as Thatcherism if you like, but none of them was her original idea: those things were already happening, here and elsewhere, and it cannot be argued that, despite the casualties, they didn’t make rusty old Britain a more competitive, diverse and tolerant nation in the end.

Sadly, that consensus seems to have fallen apart in recent months.

Subsequent problems such as child poverty, epidemic mental health issues and half a million people relying on food banks have been the fault of successive Governments failing to engineer reform, to support fiscal responsibility and to extend social obligation into the business sector. They are not the intended consequence of Thatcher’s ‘tough love’ policies, but of political faiblesse in standing up to corporations.

Thatcher would not, I suspect, have gone along with the cuts and caps in social welfare prescribed by Osborne and Duncan Smith as the cure for the nation’s ills; but would have sought some means of forcing companies to invest rather than sit on their huge cash piles, waiting out the never-ending crisis. Nor would she have pulled Britain out of the EU, with the consequent economic uncertainties of a weaker pound and possible trade barriers.

Already, according to her stated objectives, with May we are seeing the reversal of neoliberalism ‘red in tooth and claw’. Yet Thatcher would I feel have been horrified by May’s refusal to put Brexit to a vote in Parliament. The 2008 crash revealed that the markets had no trousers on, and not a lot has changed. Hopefully then as we’re not going to get another Labour government for many years, we might arrive at a synthesis between interventionist policies and ‘compassionate Toryism’ to mitigate the worst consequences of austerity.

Mrs Thatcher was less a fan of austerity than, like poor Gordon Brown, of housewifely ‘prudence’. I think you’ll find the welfare bill increased substantially during her reign, whatever her views. She was not advocating the dismantling of ‘society’: she was expressing the view that there really is no such thing.

You can argue that ‘society’ is in essence the culmination of communitarian qualities such as altruism, neighbourliness, mutual reliance and resilience – based perhaps on self-interest – charity, and that these things ultimately result in broader governance based on a pact between government and the governed (that is now in real danger of breaking down) to provide for everyone’s needs; but that there is no intermediate institution called ‘society’ (except in the upper-class sense, that she wouldn’t have known about).

It’s not really such a controversial observation.

*While believing in the importance of Trade Unions, I couldn’t help but give Thatcher one cheer as, twice in my life, union restrictions and mulish obstructionism fatally impeded my career prospects; and when on the one occasion I needed the support of my union, to whom I had been paying dues for several years, they told me to get lost as they considered me to be ‘management’; although I had just been unfairly dismissed.

So actually, I couldn’t give a fuck about the unions.

 

Obituary

Horrible, horrible science persons

On the morning of 4 November Britain woke to the news that a lovable, record-sized earthworm had been found in a garden in Cheshire.

At 15.7″ ‘Dave’, as the son of his finder christened him, was a monster in earthworm terms; certainly for a wild worm. Annelids of a not dissimilar size have previously been bred in captivity, under ‘ideal conditions’ (badger- and blackbird-free).

Outrage ensued, and a Twitter campaign has been mounted (#JusticeforDave) – alas, too late – when it was revealed that, on receipt of the living specimen, the evil scientists at the Natural History Museum promptly had Dave ‘euthanased’ and pickled him for further research and display purposes.

If they can do that to an earthworm, the humblest among us, what can they do to us, I wonder?

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/dave-the-worm-outcry-as-uks-largest-earthworm-is-killed-for-science_uk_581c5d15e4b09d57a9a83da2

By total contrast, proving the milk of human kindness has not been entirely replaced by UHT, another BBC report tells us:

“Park rangers have given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a number of fish (ornamental Koi carp) after the tank they were in was slashed. Forty-five “much loved” fish died at Castle Park in Colchester, Essex, on Wednesday while their pond was being cleaned and they were in a container. Park staff rushed to save a number of fish, managing to successfully resuscitate some of the larger ones.”

An 18-year-old man has been arrested.

 

Postscriptum

Ice-rink officials in the Japanese city of Kitakyushu are to hold a special memorial service for thousands of fish, to apologise to an incensed public for marmorialising the fish in the ice as a form of decorative embellishment for the amusement of skaters.

According to officials, the fish were already dead when they were frozen.

Meanwhile, nothing is seemingly being done to stop the unbelievably cruel ritual each September of herding and slaughtering hundreds of dolphins in Taiji bay by the atavistic baboons of Wakayama, a peculiarly Japanese obscenity which is apparently still tolerated on ‘cultural’ grounds.

 

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Would you vote for me, America, if…?

“I assume she also knew that the State Department’s internet is almost certainly compromised, by the NSA if not by the Russians and the Chinese; if not by them, then by some Asperger’s kid in a bedroom somewhere in England.”

 

Not guilty

I know that most Americans are hardworking, painstaking, inventive, sometimes painfully honest, serious, hospitable and decent folks.

But you’ve got a problem.

To declare an interest, my paternal grandmother was American, from the now somewhat financially dubious state of Delaware. She put me through private schools – my parents were indigent actors and soon separated – and set me on the road to property ownership, in a tiny Victorian labourer’s cottage in suburban West London.

After that, much to my regret as my own life took over she somewhat fades from view.

Although she died in 1979, I have continued throughout my life – I’m 67, and once again living in a tiny Victorian labourer’s cottage (not in London, they’re over £1 million now!) – to sense that somehow, she sits on the Committee of Discarnate Entities that I fancy continues to guide my affairs; partly because, somewhere in the background, is a Trust account in the USA that has from time to time made it possible for me and my family to survive when all else failed. She was a great believer in the power of capital.

So I’m hoping you will understand if I invite myself to express my alarm and despondency over the current political situation in the USA. Because I’m nobody, really, and it’s none of my business; except that I might be more aware of how people on this side of the Atlantic are thinking, if you’re interested; and I hope a little more seriously perhaps than the smug Saturday Night Live crowd.

We don’t quite get the nub of the problem Mrs Clinton has with emails, and why you think it’s so bad?

It doesn’t sound all that serious. We’ve all mixed our work email up with our private email from time to time. You’re sitting at your desk, the computer is on, you’ve spotted something you’d like to buy online, maybe you have a personal relationship with a work colleague elsewhere and want to set up a meet for a drink in a bar that isn’t strictly work related; you have to send someone an urgent message, a quick Amazon voucher will do for a late birthday present, or there’s a juicy job opening, and before you know it, you’ve hit the Send key.

I know, I’ve been fired for doing it! Only it was the other way around, I sent an email from my home computer relating to my miseries about my work, it went wrong, you know how it is, you complain to someone that you’re the worst paid whatever in the whole country and before you know it, it’s in print and you’re being hung out to dry. One British Brexit politician recently was in a meeting when an assistant he’d been having an affair with walked in, he sent her a covert text under the table, only to wonder why the entire room was laughing – he’d accidentally sent it to the workgroup list. It can happen to anyone.

Mrs Clinton held the highest office of State after the President. If she wanted to use her private server to send work emails, rather than the State Department’s internal server, surely that’s her privilege? She was the boss! She’s definitely not stupid, I assume she had her reasons (what business did the FBI have to tut-tut about carelessness? Did she work for them, or was it the other way around?) and I assume she also knew that the State Department’s internet is almost certainly compromised, by the NSA if not by the Russians and the Chinese; if not by them, then by some Asperger’s kid in a bedroom somewhere in England.

In fact, it is highly likely that Yahoo! is the more secure environment. You should ask Edward Snowden.

And you don’t know, do you, how ‘Top Secret’ those files really were. All kinds of stuff gets Classified in that closed culture of intense suspicion and paranoid crazy security. Between the arrangements for Chelsea’s baby shower, it could have been the stationery manifest, internal staff assessments or the budget for consultants. Because it’s Classified, no-one is going to tell you how serious it really was.

It does seem unlikely though that she would have been deliberately emailing vital military secrets to North Korea. No-one has accused her of that, although it’s what Trump would love you to think.

To claim, as Donald Trump has done, that her fulfilment of her duties as Secretary was actually ‘criminal’ is just a gross calumny, crude propaganda and unworthy of consideration. How would he know what the rules are, has he ever been employed in the State Department? Or in any Government office? (Has he ever been employed, full stop?) He knows nothing about it! Worse than Watergate? Come on! The hacking of the DPC was the digital equivalent of Watergate, an electronic break-in to steal information, and who instigated that, we wonder? Donald’s friend Mr P?

It certainly isn’t worse than stealing money from your own tax-exempt charity foundation to cover tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of personal expenses while you’re paying no tax on your actual income, is it? I mean, that could get you two years. The Canadian millionaire press baron, Conrad (‘Lord’!) Black went down for something similar. How come the FBI is on Hillary’s case, but only the Attorney General of New York is taking any notice of Trump’s possibly actual criminal activity?

I doubt there’s a State or a Federal law against using your private email to send business files. At worst, it’s a matter of company policy. There are however, laws against mixing-up your private and company money; even for a genius who ‘knows more about complicated tax than anyone’ else (except the creative accountants he employs, the big liar). It seems at least worth considering that FBI director Comey has a personal, political and financial agenda to explain his tendentious letter to the Congressional committee chairs, and that there is, indeed, smoke without fire.

Is it okay to con people out of $000s to send them worthless bits of paper awarding them phoney and uncertified degrees in Real Estate management? Is it okay to make a $25,000 ‘donation’ out of charity funds, apparently to buy off an investigation by the Attorney General of Florida, into your ‘University’ scam? No, not when the donation was made to a self-declared political organisation it’s not. That’s illegal; worse, indeed, than the crimes of Ted Bundy and Charles Manson rolled into one orgy of hideous violence. (Well, we’re in the business of overblown comparisons, no?)

And has Hillary talked a lot of horse manure about Muslims and Mexicans? In order to fund Trump’s wacko policies on immigration it is going to need at least double the amount of Federal budgeting to pay for interference by Government employees, somewhat at odds with his compelling claim to want to shrink the State.

Nothing this man has said in ten months appears to have been seriously questioned, yet to us outside America – and I confess, I’m not one of the Disappointed Ones who dreams of returning to a happier time when I could work down a mine and be free to contract silicosis, or in a steelworks and end my days cheerfully falling into a blast furnace, with no compensation for the wife and kids while my employers laugh all the way to Panama – to us, it seems inexplicable that anyone could take this solipsistic, ignorant, overbearing jerk seriously as the potential Commander-in-Chief of an army he did so much to avoid serving in.

The reason Trump’s policies and principles are not being more closely examined by the party that adopted him, like a monstrous cuckoo in their nest, is, of course, because he hasn’t really thought about them himself. As Sam Harris, your public intellectual, has shrewdly pointed out, if Trump genuinely had any depth, empathy or intelligence, even if he didn’t want anyone to know it he would surely have let something slip by now. But he hasn’t. What a player!

Do you reckon, if I got up on stage and lied loudly enough that I was the most successful businessman in the history of ever, and claimed that I could make America ‘great again’, whatever that means; if I threatened that if Hillary Clinton gets elected:

a) I will not accept the result and will take everyone involved to court, because:

b) the election was rigged

c) she will start World War Three,

d) take away your guns, and

e) America will be destroyed…. (something a lot of you seem to be looking forward to with rapture – you need to know, He’s not coming back)

…if I said I could instantly:

…solve the IS problem in the Middle East, end all that terrorism we so rarely experience; unpick all those unfair free trade deals overnight;  stop the drug trafficking; defy progress to find a job for every unemployable blue-collar worker (okay, true, we are going to need 120,000 extra security people to round up 12 million Mexicans, and 200,000 more bus drivers, but that’s only short-term work); build a 2,000-mile-long wall five metres high and force another sovereign state to pay for it; abrogate the US’s commitment to the Paris accord on climate change targets; walk away from our allies in NATO unless they pay us to defend the free world; do deals with Kim Jong-un and my fellow kleptocrat Vladimir Putin; impose trade barriers and sanctions on the Chinese, expand the army (while reducing our overseas commitments and the deficit)….

…and a hundred-and-one other crazy egoistical self-contradicting nonsenses, such as that I can fuck any woman I want (although he had to buy his migrant wives off the shelf)….

…that I could persuade enough people to vote for me?

What, although it’s perfectly obvious that even a complete Washington outsider still has to work with the existing machinery of government to run a big, complex, multifaceted enterprise like the entire USA and its global responsibilities? That even the great entrepreneur can’t do that on his own, just by turning red in the face and shouting at people that they’re fired? After commenting loudly on their hot rack?

So, the Bundy Brothers/Malheur Wildlife Refuge fantasy of enjoying well-armed freedom from Big Government and the run of the wide open spaces actually can’t and won’t happen even under Trump. Not possible. You do know that, don’t you? That somebody has to pay for and run the schools, the transportation networks, the National Guard, the CIA, the regulatory environment – healthcare?

And what if I were also recorded as fantasising about raping women with dear, lovely Billy Bush? Nasty, nasty women who’d tell horrible, horrible lies about me afterwards? And what if I claimed that President Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim who created the IS – but I couldn’t produce an actual certificate stating that I am not clinically insane; just the fleeting impression that I might be?

Assuming I’d been born in the USA, which I wasn’t, sadly, and after 70 years on earth was still just one giant, spoiled, incontinent infant, would you still vote for me?

So that’s the problem. I don’t envy you your choices, but we all over here fervently hope you’ll realise in good time that whatever you think of her, Mrs Clinton has at least read the instructions on the pack. Or if you really have to vote Trump, you’ll put all the Democrats back in Congress.

We’re counting on you. Seriously, America, the world is counting on you.

Please don’t do stupid just because you are angry. We’re all angry, we’re just not suicidal yet.

 

Quote of the Week: the editor of a rightwing Republican newspaper in New Hampshire, who once interviewed Trump: ‘He sucks the air right out of the room’.

 

Brexwatch

Bought in Morrison’s, Boglington-on-Sea, Sunday 30 October

  • 1 x box of 12 moist catfood sachets
  • 1 x 540g pack of  ox-heart (dogfood)
  • 1 x 310g pack of smoked haddock
  • 2 x Kit-kat chocolate wafer bars
  • 1 x 5p carrier bag

= £11.42 (USD $13.92)

(The Bank of England has warned that inflation could rise to 4% in 2017.)

 

Thin-skinned impressions

Poor Joni Mitchell, who isn’t well, is having to suffer the indignity of being blackrolled as some kind of racist misappropriator of wounded minority culture.

It seems she dared to go to a fancy-dress music-biz party in LA sometime back in the nineteenth century, disguised as a pimp. A black pimp. In blackface, complete with shiny suit, Afro wig, sunglasses, fedora hat and 1970s droopy moustache. She got away with it for two hours, before someone asked her if she’d been invited?

The joke was adjudged a great success. The pallid Canadian blonde singer-songwriter had many black friends, musicians; admired black American music; took to singing jazz. Few found the personation offensive – then.

It was a joke everyone could share. Unkind to pimps?

And only now, it seems, has a photograph surfaced, to promote somebody or other’s book.

And black people are muttering darkly.

This is nowadays the kind of thing you daren’t even hint might have been humorous at the time. It could be humorous today, but you’re not allowed to try it out for size.  So, where does ‘cultural appropriation’ stop – is the colour of your skin a cultural statement, or an accidental medical one brought about by parallel evolution and a dose of melanin?

The ‘pimp’ character was based on a real-life observation of a man she saw in the street. She christened him ‘Art Nouveau’, and ‘he’  featured on one of her album covers. No-one guessed he was a she. So he was a fictional creation based on real life: satire, and tribute. He was already, if you’ll forgive me saying, a stereotype: the sharp-suited, sharp-talking, streetwise runner of prostitutes; a literary creation out of Damon Runyon.

So, I’m in this pantomime, and I’m going to be dressed in C19th garb as a pirate. No pirates need Comment here on the misappropriation of their cultural identity, even though I’m not Somali – I won’t be blacking-up; I already grew the beard. I might adopt a mode of dress more appropriate for another culture: I could wear espadrilles in public, a poncho or a Homburg hat.

Meanwhile all over the country people are pretending to be what they’re not. Actors are appearing on stage pretending to be other people. Mimics on TV are impersonating politicians and stereotypical characters (only of their own colour, naturally). Men are dressing as women, women as men. People are giving themselves aliases on their social networking sites; grown men pretending to be teenagers. Is that policeman really a policeman? You can’t tell by the uniform, she might be a strippagram.

Why is it okay to humorously take the piss out of one type of person but not another?* What’s so special about you, that no-one outside your own tribe has a right to observe you critically, to make an interpretation, however innocently?

That man who sometimes nearly runs me over on his mobility scooter in the park – I’ve seen him walking around; just like the drivers of cars with disabled badges can be seen hopping in and out of their Range Rovers in car parks. Are you married? Then you’ll know how it is, sometimes having to pretend to be someone your spouse wants you to be, but you’re really not that person at all.

Who are we? Increasingly, it seems, we are whoever we want to be. Other than anyone with a massive inferiority complex, who objects to ‘us’ being possibly mistaken for ‘them’; who finds even our curiosity patronising.

Don’t you find us funny? Probably not. I wouldn’t mind if you did, but that’s because I’m essentially superior. I can afford it.

It seems the only thing you’re not allowed to pretend to be, for whatever reason you might want or need to, is a person of a different ‘race’ or ‘religion’ – because of their long-held victim status, in which they have vested all their personal power.

Forgive me if I find this attitude somewhat offensive, patronising and idiotic.

Of course, there is no reason or excuse for taking a white actor and blacking him or her up, to play the part of a black man in a play, when there are black actors who should take the role. Unless there is a reason: maybe, it’s a white character who needs to black up for disguise, maybe it’s crucial to the plot.  Could Hollywood ever reprise the Al Jolson Story? Would he have to be a Jewish actor to start with? Would they have to substitute Forest Whitaker for the blackface scenes? Didn’t Dick Gregory once have to white-up in a movie? Did we whiteys cry Freedom?

Is banning anyone from ever knowing about Jolson again not some kind of cultural misprision? And where are we left with Othello, the Moor of Venice? Can we never again admire Olivier’s mesmerising performance? Why is making your face up black in order to represent someone you’re not  so much more terrible than putting on a false nose, a mustache and glasses? A Guy Fawkes, or a clown mask? How about Gerard Depardieu’s nose in Cyrano de Bergerac? On behalf of all people suffering discrimination with big noses, I object!

Nor is some kind of cruel impersonation of a human being as inferior or backward for supposedly ‘comic’ effect a good idea, any more than is imposing hard boundaries on cultural miscegenation for discredited racialist reasons. (I exempt Donald Trump from any pity.) Although we might not have had Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Rain Man to judge whether it’s worthwhile having someone pretend to be autistic to make a point in favour of autistic people everywhere.

But so often these wounded accusations of cultural ‘misappropriation’ come close to caricature themselves. Can white men sing the blues? Where are the lines to be drawn between safe cross-cultural borrowing and non-valid misappropriation? Why does fancy-dress have limits; the point of carnival being that it shouldn’t, it’s a time for transgression? Why were only black people ever ‘slaves’?

Do black people own the colour black? It’s bad enough that you misappropriate elements of ‘our’ language and culture! Surely, those are ‘my’ European clothes you’re dressed in? That’s ‘my’ car you’re driving! You’re watching ‘my’ TV, flying on ‘my’ planes, living in ‘my’ brick house, reading ‘my’ newspaper, going to ‘my’ office! Those are all the white man’s things, you didn’t invent them!

No, you must see how idiotically self-defeating this idea of ownership of cultural identity can become.

Do you own, for instance, a musical genre you can conceivably define as ‘black’, rather than universally ‘human’? (In which case, you may detect echoes of West African rhythms in modern Delta blues and wonder if black Americans aren’t in some sense exploiting black Africans.) Should black musicians be banned from playing Beethoven, should Richie Havens have been producing his magnificent covers of the Beatles’ songs?

Or are there not perhaps many shades inbetween? It’s all rather sad, to a Humanist.

How ironic, that in an increasingly confrontational, binary world, the best-selling book of the last 10 years has been ’50 Shades of Grey’!

 

*No, this is the living end! US actress Hilary Duff  (Who she? Ed.) and her friend have been forced to grovel and apologise for going to a fancy dress party, she as a Puritan ‘Pilgrim Father’ in fishnets below the waist (quite a good joke, actually), he as a red indian in a war bonnet.

How dare they misappropriate whoever, whatever in this disgraceful, culturally shocking fancy-dress way?

I’m deeply offended. No, really. It’s Halloween. And if any kid turns up trick-or-treating on my doorstep tonight culturally misappropriating my identity as a self-proclaimed persecuted wizard, I’ll smash its hopeful little painted face with my big, offended fist.

Fancy dress must be banned forthwith. Actors, too. I’m writing Trump, tell him put it on the list.

 

Erasing bias from history

Americans have a peculiarly robust, not to say forceful, approach to life, consumer choice and everything, don’t they? You can include how Microsft will hijack your computer from time to time to forcibly install its damaging software without even asking; and how the Guantanamo prisoners are treated without benefit of the Geneva conventions or judicial process.

Take the following notice I’ve just had from sofa-surfin’ website, Airbnb (don’t ask, btw, I didn’t complete the application to join):

“Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.

“You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgement or bias.

“What if I decline the commitment?

“If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is cancelled, future booked trips will be cancelled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.”

That’s tellin’ em! And no fuckin’ fancy dress or you’re a dead couple.

 

Boomtime

Okay, I made a joke in a whileago Post about terrorists not being stupid enough to take a hand-grenade on board the Eurostar – this after seeing a large sign at Lille station showing pictures of things you weren’t supposed to take on board the train, including the said exploding device, with a red line ruled through it to indicate the official displeasure you might easily assume would be shown towards you if you tried.

And this morning, two Eurostar services have been held up at Paris’ Gare du Nord while bomb disposal experts dealt with a WW2 artillery shell someone tried to bring back as a souvenir of France.

I know, I have trouble understanding those wordless pictograms you get with your flatpack furniture kits myself.

 

 

There’s no place like home

Get me out of here, I’m British

I’m particularly saddened to see so many Polish people packing up and leaving the UK because they feel no longer wanted in the wake of the crapulous Brexit vote.

No-one seems to mind that the Portuguese Mourinho has paid £92 million, or whatever, to hire a French man to hang around on a park for 90 minutes seemingly doing not a lot, and continues to pay him half a million pounds a week for it. It’s your money, you poor boobies: eyewateringly expensive season tickets, Sky Sport subscriptions, the monthly redesign of the famous red shirt to collect for the kids at £100 a pop; and you still go along with it.

But plenty of people seem to be prepared to put up nasty little stickers telling Polish ‘vermin’ to go home, for the crime of earning £6.50 an hour serving-up lattes in Starbucks for 12 hours a day. Jobs for which they themselves are so ignorant, foul-mouthed and ill-mannered, they are not qualified; no employer would hire them, although paradoxically it might make them ideal fodder for the Premier league.

I feel sure if the messed-up English exceptionalists who can manage to find the time to lever their flabby arses off their piss-stained sale-bargain sofas to shout at foreigners in the street knew anything about the common cultures of Britain and Poland, and understood that they were dealing with educated and dignified human beings with a long and distinguished history, and not just symbols of some unnamed tyranny keeping them in a state of perpetual disappointment, they might find a little more respect within the diseased matter that passes for their brains.

My late father-in-law being Polish, he celebrated my first birthday as a new member of his family by presenting me with an illustrated history book graphically depicting the horrendous war crimes committed against his people, both by the Russians and the Germans. It had perhaps not occurred to him, living among the workless ‘working-class’ slobs, their discarded sofas and partly dismantled vehicles littering the council estate where the family were settled after the war, that there existed elsewhere a more educated class of English people who needed no gruesome black and white images of mass murder to remind us of the history.

Lecek was a fervent nationalist, a punctilious and impeccably mannered anti-semite who nevertheless thoroughly approved of Sir James Goldsmith; his unlikely hero, a half-French, Anglo-Jewish, Mexican-resident billionaire corporate raider (the founder of the British Referendum Party) and environmentalist, having published virulent anti-European Community views on the grounds that it was all a German plot.

I always found my father-in-law’s position to be slightly tendentious, as Poland’s eventual admission to the EU might have been one more bulwark against either acquisitive neighbour harbouring further designs on their territory; while the EEC as then was stood as testimony to a new European determination never to allow another holocaust of the Jews and Slavs.

But Lecek was also bitterly anti-Communist – it was a constant source of disappointment to him that his four daughters had not married sturdy young Polish men who would return to fight for the Motherland, a theme that cropped up in the turgid sermons he had clearly primed the priest to deliver at the odd family wedding or funeral service I was obliged to attend. At the age of 15, a promising young pianist, he had nevertheless spent several months fighting the occupying Nazi troops in the ruins and underground sewers of Warsaw; at one time, being the only survivor of a tank shell that killed the other members of his unit.

Though he never alluded to it, the story of the uprising in the wake of the D-Day landings on the other side of the continent is less edifying for Churchill’s refusal to support it. To put it bluntly, Britain betrayed our Polish allies in their hour of maximum distress; the uprising was brutally put down with tens of thousands of dead on the Polish side; many summarily executed. For that reason, we guiltily welcomed those Poles who had been members of the Free Polish Army, many of whom had also fought courageously for the Allies in the Italian campaign at the Pyrrhic battle of Monte Cassino, and found them jobs and homes in Britain.

Much later on, we recognised the important role Poles had played, not only as resisters, but as covert agents – the Bletchley Park, Alan Turing/Enigma saga that now so engages us would not have been such a spectacular success had it not been for the Polish underground fighters who smuggled the original German ‘bombe’ to Britain. (Turing did not invent that crucial decoding machine, he merely brilliantly refined it.)

In the 1890s, some 120,000 East European Jews, many of them from Poland, settled in Britain; notably around Spitalfields in London’s East End. The BBC Legacies website records:

“The sheer numbers arriving prompted the first Aliens Act (1905), which restricted immigration into the country. Jews were accused of taking jobs from locals, of pushing up rents by accepting overcrowded conditions, and of aggravating the appalling working conditions in many of the local trades.”

Ring any bells? Yet within another two generations, with the exception of the most orthodox communities that fiercely resisted the allure of the C20th and remain defiantly of the stetl to this day, the Jews had become thoroughly assimilated; just as the Huguenots – Protestants fleeing the religious wars in France around the turn of the C18th – had done before them; more than 50,000 settled in Britain, but their legacy today lingers only in a few London street-names (and in names like ‘Farage’….). Twenty-seven thousand Hungarian refugees and a similar number of Ugandan Asians fled to Britain in the 1950s and 90s, and have become part of our long history of multiculturalism.

We can do it when we want to.

The current wave of Polish migration has its roots in the welcome we gave to our allies after the war. That generation who settled mostly in West London and also in Wales, is all but passed away; but its many descendants remain, thoroughly naturalised. Are they to go ‘home’ too, taking with them their barbaric foreign names?

Postwar reconstruction was made possible only by large numbers of immigrants; particularly the Irish, but also Poles and Spanish and others, and later workers from the Commonwealth countries, who were made equally ‘welcome’ by boarding-house landladies and working-class racists; although they quite liked the music.

Our current economic growth has been possible in large part only because of the wave of migrant workers from Europe – there are thought to be around 850,000 Polish nationals resident in Britain, although most plan to return after a few years. If they all went back to Poland for Christmas (and maybe the 350,000 French citizens went home too, and the 300,000 Germans), many parts of the nation’s economy would, literally, cease to function normally.

Yet despite the uneducated and counterfactual beliefs of a small but vociferous mob of unloveable, tattooed slapheads in offensive shorts and stinking trainers, that their ambitions for economic advancement are being thwarted by cheap continental labour, there is no evidence whatever of ‘benefits tourism’ – have you ever tried applying for a State benefit? It’s almost impossible, even though your family may have been here for 50 generations – or that there are no jobs available to English workers, if they could be dissuaded from imagining themselves achieving instant fame and fortune as pop stars or footballers, and prised away from their Smartphones long enough to get a qualification.

At worst, the Government puts all benefits ‘cheating’, including home-grown, at 0.7% of the Welfare budget. And the definition of ‘cheating’ grows narrower by the year.

All the economic and employment statistics point to EU migration as having been entirely supportive of the UK economy. Far from ‘stealing’ jobs, many more jobs have actually been created since the financial crash, and wages have been steadily increasing for two or three years now, as a direct result of the freedom of movement within the EU. To approach someone in the street and shout at them to ‘speak English’ is just grossly ignorant, loutish behaviour, which (despite his German wife) the cheeky opportunist and professional arsehole, Farage only encourages with remarks such as those he made about hearing a woman on the bus speaking a foreign language and ‘feeling uncomfortable’.

I doubt if he was ever actually on the bus, the woman could even have been a tourist –  but stoking up Brits’ natural insular fear and loathing  of foreigners and reviving their worst tribal instincts has been his best plan to achieve some sort of profitable notoriety . By saying inappropriate things he gets masses of free airtime for his noxious views, and those of his UKIP party; a squabbling, disorganised rabble of the deluded and disappointed. It’s the oldest trick in the political book.

Remind you of anyone?

Another part of the problem has also been the toxic lies spewed out by the rightwing press about refugees in Europe: a vast crowd of helpless victims of foreign wars in whose causes we are deeply implicated, yet for whom we are terrified to accept even temporary responsibility, who loom large in the diseased mindset of many British people as somehow less than human. Few seem capable of understanding that there are two separate issues here; and yet a third in the mass movement of young workers driven by Islamic extremists from the shrinking habitable areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

Apart from knowing the word ‘sangria’, do our homegrown baboons speak Spanish on their package holiday in Spain? How were their French irregular verbs, while battling out the Euro 2016 tournament with Russian hoolies on the streets of Marseilles? Of course they can’t manage it – they don’t need to, the ‘fuckoffs’ just have to shout louder for the poor foreign idiots to understand them.

No wonder, then, that our cash-strapped sixth-form colleges are rapidly abandoning modern languages as an option. They’ll be entirely unnecessary in the new post-Brexit British Empire.

It will serve us right when the hardworking people who prop up our hospitals and care homes, our burgeoning service sector, the skilled tradesmen, the builders and plumbers, the ‘baristas’ and taxi-drivers, the shopworkers and office cleaners pack up and leave. In some ways, I wish they would. I’d happily go with them, I can find not a single comforting word to say for this fucking awful country we have let ourselves become.

But I don’t suppose they’d have me, old and poor as I am.

Anyway, to my great shame I don’t speak Polish.

Love it or hate it, you can’t afford it

By: Sterling Pound ©2016, BogPo Economics Correspondent @longliquidlunch

Brexit voters with a penchant for Marmite soldiers (that’ll be about 50% of them) have fucked themselves in the ass, haha, (Can you not possibly find a nicer metaphor? Ed.) as (following last week’s widely reported contest between the big chicken dinosaurs of Tesco and the soap-powder manufacturers Unilever, who also make Marmite, Heaven knows what from, which Tesco’s appeared temporarily to have won) Morrison’s, one of Britain’s other Top 4 supermarket groups, has buckled to a demand for a 12.5% price hike for the pungent yeasty brown gloop that so well defines the British character: left for years in the back of the cupboard, it has acquired a faint layer of mould on top.

It doesn’t surprise me, as Morrison’s is still my local supermarket of choice only because a kindhearted chatty checkout person donated her Family and Friends card to me, so I get 10% off at the till. That’s only right and proper, as I’ve shopped there pretty well every damned day when I’ve not been away, which is not often, for the past ten years, and must have spent in the region of £80,000 with them.

So I’m acutely conscious of grocery prices, and I have to tell all those London-based financial journalists and economists who pay cheap foreigners to shop for them, my daily spend has gone from about £12 to £15 a year ago, to £18 to £20 now. (In addition, the cost of the diesel I use to get there and back has jumped from 99.9p a litre on 22 June, to £1.18.9p a litre today, exactly mirroring the 18% fall in Sterling.)

But if you say the rate of inflation is only 1%, you’re the experts.

In the week after the referendum, for instance, the price of a 50g pack of trimmed Kenyan stick beans in Morrison’s went up from 50p to 57p; exactly matching the 14% fall in the £ at that time. Pretty much everything else has increased in price lately, and what hasn’t increased in price has mysteriously shrunk in volume.

In sum, I’m not impressed with the press wankers at the Daily Express and other biassed and partisan rags who want me to believe Britain is going to be a paradise on earth for shoppers now we’ve seen the light and kicked out all the foreigners.

In actual fact, I’ll be pissing myself with laughter when their kids demand their new Apple-based products for Christmas, as the obviously cash-strapped Californian tech giant has just hiked the price of a Macbook Air from £850 to £950 and similarly made other minor adjustments to their entire range as a ‘natural response’ to the collapsed pound caused by the Brexwits.

It seems the overdue for an upgrade desktop Mac Pro is ‘only’ an extra £500! And they still won’t be paying any tax here.

Sell that one, Carphone WarehouseDixonsCurrys.

Postscriptum

It’s the end of British life as we know it.

The Typhoo Tea company – the nation’s third favourite drink after Jägermeister bombs and a bucketful of any old Chardonnay – has just said it simply cannot absorb any more cost increases.

The plummeting pound has cost it its entire annual profit, and it is negotiating a price increase with the supermarkets.

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
― Søren Kierkegaard (Goodread website)

Hooray for Karl Marx (he’s in ward 10)

From: BogPo Medical Correspondent ©2016 Hugh Sprain @&e

As a perfect example of the toxic xenophobia being spewed out daily like raw sewage by the rightwing toilet press, not content with having brainwashed 52% of the electorate into forcing the government at vast expense to have to bribe foreign companies to stay in the UK after Brexit, comes the following.

Healthcare in Britain is free to all at the point of delivery. You knew that, yah?

So, you’re an American visitor, you get run over by a quaint London red bus (you forgot we drive on the wrong side of the road). The NHS will send an ambulance, scrape you off the sidewalk (only we call it the pavement), take you to hospital (you may have a wait, we have to treat so many foreigners), where (if the junior doctors, many of them foreigners, aren’t on strike) you’ll be checked over, patched up, given a bed for the night, some discouraging British food, and sent on your way rejoicing.

And unlike back home, where we recently heard of a family being itemised forty bucks extra to have a nurse physically return a newborn baby to its mother after its standard checkover, you won’t have to pay a penny, it’s all funded by our public National Insurance paying-in scheme.

Not only free, but if you’re lucky enough to be seriously damaged in London it’s also first-class, state-of-the-art medicine – no, really, we lose very few patients here, although I could tell you some horror stories…. We do world-class EU-funded research; especially our foreign specialists. Hooray, then, for socialised medicine. Hooray for Karl Marx and the British taxpayer, crooked teeth an’ all.

What happens next will depend on the kind of reciprocal treaty arrangements we have with your government. There are lots and it’s a bit complicated, but the NHS is obliged to recover its modest costs somehow. We treat about £500 million-worth of non-British nationals every year, and according to the National Audit Office we do a pretty good job of reclaiming the dough, but not perfect.

So if you have some kind of health cover, eventually your scheme might have to payback our scheme. But much of the time our administrators have their hands full, the doctor who treated you may not have asked you where you come from (our doctors are value-neutral), check on your Social Security; they haven’t the time or the patience to followup your case for weeks and months after.

Besides, some idiot Brit might have gotten drunk and fallen downstairs on their stag night in Las Vegas and not have insurance and … well, you get the message, your lot has to bill our lot and it all pretty much evens out in the long run; besides all the staff and stuff are there, seven days a week, might as well use ’em.

The annual shortfall identified by the NAO – how do they do it? Count everything? – is about £150 million. Sounds a lot, but it’s really a drop in the ocean compared with the annual NHS budget of £110 billion. Plus we don’t really know, across the European Union, how much their health services are owed for treating our nationals.

But they do treat us. My father retired to France, he had bad arteries and spent years in and out of French hospitals having free cardiovascular procedures that would add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars if he’d gone to the US instead (which he could of ‘cos his mother was a US citizen). He lived to 83. I assume in the end the NHS paid for it as he was still technically a British citizen.

So what’s today’s headline in the rightwing Daily Telegraph, supposedly a serious broadsheet?

“£150 million NHS funds lost to foreigners”.

You see, the story that’s been running in these poisonous corporatist blatts for years is that, yes, foreigners come to the UK just to be treated on the NHS! That’s right, they deliberately make themselves ill and stab themselves in the eye and make complicated travel arrangements just to benefit from free healthcare they could get in their own countries. (Never mind that the British Medical Association says it’s bollocks – there is no measurable evidence of this Tory lie.)

That’s why you had to wait for hours to have your broken leg seen to, you’re held in a queue behind all those Catholic girls on special charter package abortion holidays.

So now we know, the balance of payments deficit is YOUR FAULT.

Come back Swampy, all is forgiven

“Bristol airport is like a giant branch of Debenham’s department store – a tasteless bazaar with a runway attached”

Air travail

It generally takes me three weeks to decide how I’m going to get to France for my annual week’s treat, attending ‘boot camps’ – workshops for jazz musicians, held in agreeable chateaux .

The problem is, there’s no direct or cost-saving way of getting to the places I need to get to, which tend to be a bit out of the mainstream of holiday destinations, from where I live; which is to say, a remote backwater of the UK poorly served by transportation.

The other problem being, travel websites can’t seem to tell you which airline or train service goes to where you need to go, from where, when, at precisely what time and for how much – and if there’s a seat available – until you have correctly guessed all those things for yourself.

There’s a stopping train, two crowded coaches taking three hours just to ‘sprint’ as far as Birmingham, 90 miles away. From there, changing trains it’s still another two hours to London, and another sixty miles or so to the Channel Tunnel. I’ve used the grimy Eurostar service a few times, but it’s difficult to find a seat on the day and at the time I need to travel unless I book months in advance, long before I finally know that I’m even going to have the money to travel at all; while the fares continually whizz up and down depending on the time of day, making budgeting impossible.

Or you could drive, but once you’ve managed the seven hours to Portsmouth and the five-hour crossing and back again, assuming you could easily navigate through the backstreets of Caen (I don’t get SatNav, the sun suffices) it’s going to cost around £800 minimum, on top of the fee for the week, your food and the bar bill.

It can’t all be done in a day, whichever route you choose.

Three times, I’ve tried introducing flying as part of the mix (it’s no quicker). Twice from Bristol, a four hour drive away, to Bergerac, a tiny local airstrip served in summer by two Ryanair flights a week. Bristol airport is like a giant branch of Debenham’s department store with a runway attached, that you reach only after a mile-long walk through the perfume department. That reminds me next time to get one of those wheely case things.

Airports are increasingly like abattoirs, aren’t they. You go in and it all looks friendly and well lit with glossy stuff everywhere you think you’re going to be pleasantly rewarded with, cake shops and coffee bars; until you’re dragooned through a hidden doorway at the back and prodded onto an industrial-looking ramp that leads to almost certain doom, helpless in a pressurised cigar tube, jammed into the tiny space between a sweating fat man reading a broadsheet newspaper and a child with jam on its face playing a noisy video game on a handheld device you know you couldn’t afford if you saved for a month, being flogged prize draws and more perfume by stressed cabin crew while drunken women shout and laugh and run up and down, dangerously unbalancing the plane, fumbling with heavy stuff in the locker above your head.

It’s like a flying wine bar. And they wanted me to pay double to take my guitar.

The last time I flew, I got drunk, overslept and missed my return flight. Luckily I got a lift to Bordeaux, where I managed to get the last seat on an afternoon EasyJet back to Bristol in exchange for driving my rescuer 90 miles home in the middle of the night.

And once from Heathrow to Lyon: a saga I have previously recounted, as St Exupéry airport was where we had to call out an engineer at 2 am to release my phone from a charging dock, only to realise it wasn’t my phone, which was still in my pocket, and I spent the rest of the night hiding under a flyover while they called my name on the tannoy.

I don’t travel well, to be honest.

Which is why I’m hard pressed to understand why on earth we need more airport capacity in Britain? What we have is awful enough.

I lived for a couple of years in Hounslow, West London, not far from the airport. It was intermittently horribly noisy. Even in Central London you’re not spared the roar of Emirates’ 777s descending from their holding stacks and thundering along the Cromwell Road at 600 feet. It’s easy to imagine, isn’t it, one of those falling out of the sky onto Hammersmith, the horrific aftermath. You’ll have seen photos, I don’t doubt, of 747s approaching over Staines at rooftop height, how anyone lives there and at those prices it is impossible to comprehend.

Building an airport on marshland outside London was a wartime necessity, but as the city has expanded and overflowed it looked more and more like a terrible idea; and not just because it’s fogbound practically 363 days of the year. That’s why they built more airports, at Luton, Gatwick, Stansted, London City Docklands… while Charles de Gaulle is only 90 minutes away by TGV. And we still have the MoD airport at Northolt; Biggin Hill, Marlow, Blackbushe…. London is awash with airport capacity already!

Now however the Government – by which, I mean Mrs May – has finally shut its eyes and stuck a pin in the various plans to create yet more capacity in the Southeast of England; got bulb-headed Grayling and his PR baboons to spin up some crap about showing the quaking world that Brexit Britain is Bropen for Brizness, or whatever; bowed to the as-ever selfish and cretinous business lobby, and decided once-and-for-all (lolz!) after fifty years of arguing, in favour of flattening half a dozen ancient villages and their historic English Perpendicular churches for a third runway – at an airport that is already so busy it can barely cope – at a cost of (more hollow laughter) only £18 billion.

It’s insane, the worst possible decision. And so much for the vaunted ‘Northern Powerhouse’; Heathrow being (as politicians seem to imagine – one even said so on the Today show) in the Midlands. As far as Mrs May is concerned, that’s near enough the North as makes no difference.

I’m both flattered and dismayed that the Government – which is to say Mrs May, most of her immediate subordinates, and even her own Maidenhead constituents soon to be under-the-flightpath being virulently opposed to the plan – has adopted my own method of deciding how to proceed with travel arrangements:

…spend days consulting all the mutually contradictory oracles, take far too long dithering until your best opportunity is lost, heave a sigh of frustration and eventually just plump for the worst designed, most expensive, most environmentally damaging, most likely to go wrong arrangement that Tripadvisor can come up with.

She knows too, doesn’t she, that she can muzzle her sock-puppets all she likes; we are in for years of legal arguments and protests. Local elderly vicars and WI members will be chaining themselves to the porches of their beloved churches and lovely C18th Regency buildings, having to be cut loose and dragged away by G4S goons in the full glare of the media; the spirit (or maybe even the tenacious person) of Swampy* will return, along with thousands of environmental protestors marching through Whitehall; up in the trees and burying themselves in holes in the ground; and it’s all going to be one fucking huge mess.

What is the point? I mean, really?

I’m starting to think our unelected Prime Minister is a bit of an idiot, really. Or maybe not, maybe approving Heathrow is the best way of burying this madcap scheme for another 50 years.

*From The Telegraph, September 2013; Seasoned environmental protester Swampy (real name Daniel Hooper, of the Newbury Bypass campaign fame) has retired from protesting to a life of picking acorns and planting trees to support his four children. … Now the father of four spends his days living on the self sufficient Tipi Valley commune, which has no mains electricity or running water…”

Where are you when we need you, mate?

Glad EU-le tidings

At long last, I no longer need feel depressed and bereaved.

Britain’s Christmas-tree growers have hailed the Brexit vote as a boost to their home-grown produce, on account of a 15% increase in the price of a Danish tree. Hurrah! I knew there was a reason for abandoning our treaty partners and selling out to the Chinese. It almost makes you want to stand up and sing the national anthem.

If only anyone could remember the words.

Beating everyone to the counterpunch

NATO is reportedly deploying troops, ships and aircraft to the Baltic region to counter a buildup of Russian forces ‘on manoeuvres’ in the area.

“Nato does not seek confrontation with Russia. We don’t want a new cold war and we don’t want a new arms race,” the alliance’s head, Jens Stoltenberg, was quoted as saying. “What Nato does is defensive and it is proportionate.” – The Guardian, 27 October

Mr Stoltenberg’s logic seems confused. If we don’t want a new arms race, what does he imagine deploying a counter-force is?

Proportionate defence means just that: confrontation, and a matching-up of capabilities. To even think like this is to define the other as the enemy. Provided therefore no incident occurs leading to a tactical strike and counterstrike that could escalate into full-scale conflict, with the probable deployment at first of battlefield nuclear weapons, before a general obliteration of one another’s cities, we are indeed in a new Cold War.

Happily, the British contribution to the rapid reaction force is not due to arrive in Estonia until “next May”, according to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who added:

“Backed by a rising defence budget this deployment of air, land and sea forces shows that we will continue to play a leading role in Nato.”

Yes, wherever Britain goes, and indeed whenever, others follow.

By which time, we hope, the Russians will have gotten tired of their manoeuvres, leaving our heroes cold, bored and fidgety, staring out at an empty waste and eagerly anticipating their next rotation.

All 850 of them.

Let’s appoint a Minister for pain

‘According to the Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke, Lineker “needs to decide if he’s a political activist or a BBC sports journalist – he can’t be both”‘ – BBC report, 21 October

Match of the Day’s Gary Lineker has been pilloried in the Sun (‘Jug-eared Lineker’ – would that be a description coined by ‘Lard-arsed, foul-mouthed, red-faced old blowhard Kelvin McKenzie’, I wonder?) for making statements defending the first young refugees brought over from Calais by the Home Office, after years of doing sod-all about them, who have been vilified and their faces shown without pixillation in our wonderful press as looking too old to be proper children.

‘In December 2012, Shelbrooke introduced a Ten Minute Rule bill under which UK welfare claimants would be issued with a cash card instead of receiving their benefits in cash. The card would only permit claimants to make purchases such as food, clothing, energy, travel and housing, and prevent them purchasing items considered non-essential, such as cigarettes, alcohol, satellite television, and gambling.’ – Wikipedia entry

So now you know, Victorian patronage of the undeserving poor lives on in the British working-class Alf Garnet.

Ex-bathroom fitter Shelbrooke, who describes himself as a ‘Conservative Trade Unionist’, and who lobbied for Britain to Remain in the EU, has nevertheless succeeded in overlooking the fact that over half his Parliamentary colleagues have lucrative second and third jobs as well as being paid £75 thousand a year to hate and bully and victimise anyone worse off than themselves, in order to disparage anyone more famous who reacts to the migrant crisis with compassion.

What a fucking awful country this has become, thanks to these ignorant, self-serving gobshites in the press and Parliament.

 

The ‘will of the British people’, whatever it is, however inchoate, has become the prosthetic legs on which the May regime is tottering towards its ‘hard Brexit’ in 2019.”

Shake it all about

On the basis of a binary ‘in-out’ referendum, with no leeway for nuance,  the government has been furiously post-rationalising a virtual manifesto on which it might have been elected if it had run for office in June, which it seemingly has no intention of doing before 2020.

The ‘will of the British people’, whatever it is, however inchoate, has become the prosthetic legs on which the May regime is tottering towards its ‘hard Brexit’ in 2019.

Anything May’s team of ministers, most of them lapdogs with no experience of their briefs and subject entirely to her diktat, decide is the ‘will of the people’ as expressed in that heavily pregnant Leave vote, is now and will in future be Tory policy.

Anything at all. Whatever it is they have decided we want. Whether or not it was expressed in an actual referendum. Or, indeed, through our 900-year-old constitutional Parliamentary democracy. Hanging? Flogging? Sure, we’ll appoint a minister for Inflicting Pain. And one for kicking out Muslims and foreigners. Let’s give David Davies a job inspecting everyone’s teeth for signs of infectious desperation. And make it much, much easier to win the Lotto.

The policy could well be based on a strong belief in opinion polls, that as we know usually get everything right. Or it could simply be a fantasy. It doesn’t really matter. Power speaks to itself.  And we can thank God it didn’t pan out with Gove and Duncan Smith and Grayling and Johnson in charge. Not that it would have made a lot of difference, with the Investment Management Party (IMPs) in firm control.

Whatever, it seems to me that this is our opportunity to get anything we want out of the new government: money, holidays, houses, stuff. After years of Camborne austerity, all we have to do now is moan that our TV set isn’t big enough and St Theresa will make a speech about it. We share your pain, British viewers. TV manufacturers must be told: nothing under 50 inches is good enough for the British people.  Of course, that doesn’t guarantee action, but it will become Tory party policy.

So, there we are, with a suppositional referendum that hasn’t actually happened, other than in the Editorial suite of the Daily Cunts (Crapulous, Unrepentant News Toadies), editor Dacre foaming plastic blood over foreign old-age-pensioner ‘children’ smuggling themselves in as part of the shambolic Home Office effort to allow two and a half migrants to join relatives in the UK before they’re trafficked into slavery.

Two and a half too many, in the bloodshot eyes of the Daily Mail.

My first reaction, along with the entire population, at seeing three elderly child migrants being singled out arriving in Dover after fifty years in the Calais Jungle, was to ask: do the SS Border guards who are supposed to be filtering the at-risk children have no children themselves, or have they not at least undergone the Special Training, that would allow them to spot the difference between a child and an adult? Should we ban all Muslims until our representatives can tell us just what the hell is going on?

Clues they could look out for might include: have they got beards? Are their voices fully broken? Do their passports give their dates of birth before 1998? Have they passed SATS at Grade 4? Are they wearing Stop the War T-shirts? Are their medical qualifications up to date? Are they wearing suicide vests? How long are their teeth? Are they using Zimmer frames? Does their skintone pass the fluorescence test? And so on.

Perhaps we could set up a bar affair at Dover, that they have to pass under to qualify. No-one over five feet tall? And no wives and children, obviously! (And now here’s the chair-creature of the Local Government Association in the Telegraph, to say they’re all frauds and none of them actually has relatives in the UK, or if they do the ‘uncles’ don’t have spare rooms for them ‘cos they’ve got five people living in there already. Could this astonishing statement not possibly result in this useless racist arsehole losing his well-paid sinecure?)

Or has the Home Office deliberately chosen to ignore the advice of charities that have been working in the camps for years, and include a handful of obviously twenty-somethings (only one girl) in the first ‘wave’ of a dozen ‘children’, tipping off the well paid, opportunistic dross at the Mail and the Sun for precisely the purpose of arousing public ire against the whole idea of taking in any refugees at all from Calais?

Which of course we haven’t been. Britain’s record on this issue has been abysmal, shaming. But then pretty well everything Britain has done since 2003 has been abysmal, shaming.

 

EU joke:

The majority of the Brexit plotters were ex-public schoolboys. (Guardian report)

Yes, we’ve lost control of our boarders.

 

Stick, carrot – stick

Here’s a new Tory way to get homeless rough sleepers out of posh suburbs: fine them up to £1,000.

That’s the ingenious proposal from Rushcliffe Borough Council in Nottingham, England. Only ‘as a last resort’, says a spokesman, will they issue £100 tickets, and if the rough sleepers don’t move on, or pay up, subsequent penalties could go as high as £1,000.

So broke is the Council as a result of Government austerity cuts, the members have to meet in shop doorways…. No, not really. But there’s no explanation as to where they imagine homeless people are going to find £1,000, let alone £100; nor at what address they can be found for legal process to be served. So perhaps it’s just a hollow threat.

(Although if we could fine the estimated 3,500 rough sleepers on British streets £1,000 each, it would go some way towards mitigating the cost of building another prison*. What do you think, Liz Truss?)

Naturally the announcement has provoked a Twitterstorm of protest, although not from the BogPo: we don’t have a Twitter account, principally because we’ve never understood the point; the present instance however comes close to persuasive.

Every 150 years or so, the Earth passes through a region of space where logic ceases to have meaning; it’s about that long I guess since Lewis Carroll published Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Other, similar instances of breathtaking illogicality include:

  • fining banks millions of dollars for failing to hold enough money in reserve;
  • fining National Health trusts for failing to meet Government-imposed quotas and service standards  on budgets already slashed to the bare bone at a time of rapidly rising demand;
  • fining football clubs for falling out of their higher divisions to lower divisions where TV rights and gates no longer generate enough income to support them, and
  • withdrawing Sports Lottery funding from entire sports and individual sportsmen/women that fail to win enough Olympic medals, so they never win any again.

We are looking either at a culture of brutish stupidity, or at regulators who consider themselves so underfunded, it’s their duty to bankrupt the very people and organisations they are responsible for and award themselves nice bonuses out of the proceeds.

If this is Government policy – and I suspect it is – it’s a pretty cynical way to motivate success.

 

*Britain’s £1.6 billion prison-building programme would build 2.6 million new homes. Potentially keeping quite a lot of people out of prison.

 

Doing a runner

“‘I return half of what I buy,” says 30-year-old Alex Demetri who spends £500 to £700 on clothes each month.’ – BBC report on ‘serial returners’ causing problems for shops.

‘She says lack of time to try things on before buying, not liking something as much as she thought she did and realising she’s spent too much money all drive her to return items.’

We’re all feeling pretty hard done-by nowadays, aren’t we. It’s driven us to returning half our EU membership: the only problem we have now is deciding which half?

The cost of renting or buying a home is just completely unaffordable, even people like poor Alex who works in Marketing are having to cut back on buying clothes, by as much as 50%. I’ve had to return half my house to the financial services sector. It’s that bad. But a girl’s got to eat. (Only not too much or that Anna Valentine dress is going to make your bum look simply enormous!)

School fees of £30 thousand a year, university tuition fees, student debt, petrol back up to £1.20 a litre, a couple of grand for a Hermes handbag… seven quid for a bottle of indifferent supermarket Merlot… we’re all driven to return items we’ve used only a bit. It’s a sort of reverse retail therapy: it can seem like cathartic decluttering at the same time.

Yes, returning part-worn stuff for a full refund is a victimless crime, ripping-off shopkeepers who don’t give you time to try things on;  doing a runner. You could look at it as a kind of social enterprise: recycling your ‘once-worn’ clothes before they make it to the charity shops. It’s like renting, really. Or marriage – there’s no commitment, no obligation. It’s a sort of ‘cry before you buy’ scheme for 30-something clothes addicts.

Or you could look at it as a form of legalised shoplifting, spending as much in a month as the average pensioner.

 

Price of a Kit Kat could rise as Nestlé mulls price hike

‘Nestlé, the food giant behind products like Nescafé, Aero chocolate and the famous four-fingered bar, is considering increasing its prices in the UK to compensate for the plummet in the pound’s value.‘ – Telegraph, 21 October

Would that be the plummet inadvertently triggered by the ill-considered support for Brexit in the Telegraph and other patriotic pamphlets in the months and years leading up to the referendum, I wonder?

‘(Nestlé’s) comments will … raise fears that (the) company will follow Unilever in attempting to pass the currency burden onto consumers.’

Bremoans the Telegraph…. which increased its cover price in February last year and therefore presumably gets the normal business logic behind responding to increased costs with price rises while at the same time Bremoaning the totally unforeseem consequences of its own propaganda?

 

 

Boris is an honourable man, and other thoughts on inequality

The problem of unconscious bias

To be charitable to Boris Johnson, and why not?, the horrible, horrible Moaning re-twerk in The Sunday Times of an article he wrote just two days before he declared for the Leave camp, apparently rejected for publication, advocating that Britain should remain in the EU, is a ‘so what?’ moment.

Have I ever tried to deceive you, gentle Spammers, Likers, Followers and Those No Longer Reading This, Muh Bogl, about the true intentions of the Leave tendency? That the referendum had less to do with Europe than with the political ambitions of a small but determined bunch of neo-Thatcherite crazies? Did I ever try to persuade you that Mr Johnson was an honourable man – like jolly old Brutus?

I don’t think so.

And what is his response? After consulting Donald Trump’s special explanations unit, Mr Johnson replies that he was just batting around some different ideas in his customary quasi-satirical vein before finally making up the golden glow that passes for his Classically trained mind.

I understand the Daily Telegraph was paying £29,000 a month to Mr Johnson to work through a few unpublishable ideas for them once a week. It’s enough to turn anyone’s gloriously straw-textured head.

Elsewhere in Brexitville, I’ve had two annoyingly sarcastic earworms buzzing around my elderly brain all morning: The Bachelors’ ‘Bremoaner – They’re wringing-out our song of love’; and the Monkees’ ‘I’m a Breleaver – I couldn’t leave her if I tried.’

I’m also trying to imagine what happens to the global economy if the Dumbfucks prevail, and we wake up on 9 November to a Trump presidency, with Hillary eating minge for 20 years in Sing-sing?

The minor perturbation in the Earth’s orbit caused by Brexit might look more like the proverbial North Korean nuclear test in that event.

What happens when, in the wake of a rash plebiscite, one currency, let’s call it the Pound, slides dramatically in world markets to a historic 180-year low against another currency, we’ll call it the Dollar; only for the Dollar in turn to slide dramatically to a historic, 180-year low against all the other currencies?

I’ve only got Economics A-level, guys, I don’t know. But I’ve instructed my broker to switch my entire offshore Trust out of Panama into the Azerbaijani Manat.

Best be on the safe side.

Tick where applicable

This questionnaire culture is getting out of hand.

Agree strongly… Agree a bit… Can’t agree… Total rubbish!

A company in the USA, where else, Compas has developed a secret algorithm that uses a ten-point questionnaire to decide instead of a judge, how long ya goin down for. It’s being adopted, it seems, particularly by state jurisdictions that have been subject to criticism in the past for alleged biases in sentencing.

The idea is that answers to questions like: How law-abiding/generally black are you and what further risk do you represent to America? can be used to decide the most appropriate sentences in any criminal case.

Because Compas refuses to release details of how the computer makes its decisions, based on the standard questionnaire, this approach has led to accusations of hidden bias. For instance, ‘how many people in your family have ever been arrested?’ could well bias for race, as black people are seven times more likely to be arrested in parts of the country as whites or hispanics.

And because no-one can argue with a computer, the sentences it prescribes cannot be appealed. (I seem to remember at one time Americans developed a naive enthusiasm for ‘scientifically unshakeable’ lie-detector tests, that have subsequently been utterly discredited.)

Personally, I regard all forms of standardisation of all forms of judgements in all situations, depending on responses to a set list of questions, as manifestations of the modern tendency to monumental, self-regarding stupidity.

As we lose faith in our established institutions, so a kind of mumbo-jumbo ‘expert systems’ mentality is taking over, that leads to such idiocies as the belief being hawked around the police forces of the world by  ‘Dr’ Joe Sullivan of Texas, that you can identify paedophiles by the sort of clothes they wear. We are voluntarily surrendering our hegemony to robots, way in advance of their capacity to out-think us.

Would any sane society base its immigration policy on a reader poll in the Daily Mail? Could answers to a questionnaire in Cosmopolitan determine the outcome of a rape trial? Would you instantly abandon 43 years of complex treaty obligations to other countries on the basis of an in-out popular referendum (don’t answer that…)?

In a moment of wild enthusiasm – I’m addicted to filling-in forms – I signed up to a website promising me money and goodies if I was happy to answer a few questions every so often about my consumer preferences. It seemed harmless enough and, identifying as a retired person with time on my hands, a way of passing it.

It was only after ploughing my way through many pages of preliminary questions about my age, income group and awareness of different TV distribution channels that I began to realise I am no longer a member of the human race. Nine times out of ten, the algorithm was deciding that I’m not a fit person to be consulted on any matters of opinion concerning modern media, and closing me down.

Not only were the questionnaires all biased in favour of a subject I know or care little about – something that was not vouchsafed to me at the beginning – but they were biased against me on sociological criteria, without telling me which questions I had ‘got wrong’. I do have an opinion, but it was not apparently the ‘right’ opinion.

That hasn’t stopped the promoters from emailing me twenty times a day to ask with tender concern if perhaps I am not completing enough questionnaires because I fear I may not earn enough money if I do? The automatic bias here being that most people are only interested in money.

Frustratingly, the questioner has not thought to ask if I am not completing questionnaires because the fucking algorithms won’t let me? That’s simply an answer you can’t give.

Many of us will be familiar with the banking sector’s ‘security questions’ nightmare, a Catch-22 of simply cretinous proportions, where you cannot be told which question you got wrong because you got one of the questions wrong. (I should know the date of my own birthday, but apparently the computer knew different.)

Another point of extreme annoyance with online questionnaires, that you choose to complete out of the goodness of your heart, is the compulsory follow-up question you can’t answer, because you have previously given the answer ‘None’. This generally arises when you have wasted the previous ten minutes answering inane questions about social media to the best of your ability.

Then, of course, there are those ‘please review our performance so we can improve our service’ questionnaires that appear to have been compiled by the client browbeating the PR agency into biassing the questions so that it’s impossible for the customer to breathe a word of criticism.

And the ones with the dropdown menus that don’t give you a ‘don’t know’ or ‘other’ option; the ones with a menu of places that doesn’t list the place where you actually are… that haven’t heard your administrative county changed its name thirty years ago…. The one that spat out my address as ‘gibberish’ because it’s got Welsh words in it (‘We’re sorry if you feel you were discriminated against…’).

There’s also the problem of self-incrimination, a form of bias that comes from a hidden desire – inculcated in schools from an early age – to please the question-setter. I scored very highly in the online Baron-Cohen: ‘Where are you on the autism spectrum?’ test, principally because I felt a profound obligation to identify as autistic in sympathy with other, rather odd, people like myself.

Often the questions appear so tendentious that the intention behind them is clear; although you may find they’ve done that deliberately to fool you. The exercise then becomes a game, not exactly what you want when your answers could get you thirty years in Leavenworth.

Humans construct algorithms, so the obvious question to Compas is, for how many decades or centuries does your programmer think people should be vengefully caged-up in a brutal correctional facility for stealing food when they’re starving, or for hacking the Pentagon for fun from their bedroom in North London?

Was your question-setter just batting around some different ideas in his customary quasi-satirical vein?

Let’s just admit it

“The death of a baby boy mauled by a family dog is “unlikely” to be treated as a criminal investigation, police said.  Archie Darby, aged four months, died after being attacked in Colchester, Essex, on Thursday afternoon. The owner of the dog – the children’s aunt – has been named as a serving police officer … 31-year-old PC Clare Ferdinand.” – BBC News

Now, look.

As a dog owner, the thought of my gentle and lovely Hunzi mauling a baby to death and maiming his brother for life is not one I can readily contemplate. But it’s not a risk I would ever take, to leave a baby alone with a dog in the room – any dog.

Hunzi is a Border collie. He was given to me by a farmer who couldn’t persuade him to herd sheep. Bless. The farmer would otherwise have had him killed, but I have never regretted saying okay, why not? The dog in the report is – or perhaps by now was – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I like Staffies a lot, but the clue’s in the name. They were bred for baiting bulls for sport. Bulls are very large and dangerous 1800-lb animals armed with hoofs and horns and general meanness.

Staffies are  not on the banned Dangerous Dogs list but their cousins, the pitbulls, are. I’m not one who believes certain breeds are more likely to attack a human than others, it depends on their training – but also on their breed temperament and their physical capacity to inflict devastating injury. The ‘2nd Amendment’ NRA argument, that it’s people who kill, not guns, should not be allowed to cloud the fact that every year in Britain, dog attacks are on the increase as dogs bred for fighting have become more popular – both as status symbols and as weapons of defence.

And as ‘family pets’….

Many people trust their dogs to care for their children, possibly influenced by Nana, the nursemaid golden retriever of Peter Pan fame, I don’t know. According to the expat website UKandSpain, “Each year, approximately 28,000 facial dog bites are reported in the UK, with just over 19,000 of them requiring serious plastic surgery.”

And each year too, a number of people – I can’t find out exactly how many but it’s probably about a dozen – go to jail for keeping a dangerous dog after it has killed a child, or even a vulnerable adult.

So there’s another, wider issue lurking here, isn’t there.

“There were 718 cases brought against dog owners or handlers in magistrate courts from June to December last year, compared with 444 during the previous six months (up by 62% over the previous year). Over the same period, the number of successful prosecutions increased by 71 per cent, with lawyers securing 553 convictions compared with 325.” – Mail Online, June 2015

In other words, if your dog attacks someone, resulting in death or serious injury, you’re almost certain to face prosecution. I wonder, how many of those 718 dog owners coincidentally weren’t serving police officers?

And that’s my point.

The more newspapers like the Daily Mail like to talk-up the terrifying increase in danger on our streets (not borne out by any statistics) from immigrants, Muslims, terrorists, schizophrenics, feral clowns and other people who would have been safely locked up if Social Workers were only doing their job, the more they have to try to persuade us concomitantly to acknowledge the special role in society played by the security forces; whose casualties are infinitesimal compared with those of ordinary citizens.

Perhaps that’s what makes them a special case.

I’ve blogged before about the inequitable difference in treatment between the minuscule number of cases where police officers have died while trying to apprehend car criminals,  resulting in a murder charge; and the much larger number where car criminals (and innocent passers-by) have died while being pursued by police and no charges have resulted.

There is currently a campaign in the tabloid press to have the law changed relating to serving members of the armed forces, so that they cannot under any circumstances be investigated for possible breaches of the Geneva Conventions and international laws against war crimes, to which Britain is a longtime signatory. It has been reported, possibly accurately, that Theresa May is considering the idea seriously.

“An SAS hero is facing murder charges after the Ministry of Defence launched an investigation into his ‘mercy killing’ of Iraqi soldiers 13 years ago. Sergeant Colin McLachlan, who starred in the Channel 4 series Who Dares Wins, could be jailed…”

This front-page lead story in the Mail on Sunday (16 October) was headlined: ‘Despicable betrayal of an SAS hero’. It reveals a curious attitude to the potential commission of war crimes, and a bundle of fairly awful prejudices growing out of the popular resurgence of British exceptionalism.

Sgt McLachlan had recently admitted in a book to the ‘mercy killing’ of wounded enemy combatants, but without reading the details the newspaper story makes a number of completely unwarranted assumptions, principally that he ‘faces murder charges’ when he has not been charged at all; while refusing to consider that what he himself claims he did is, in law both international and British military, a criminal offence; and it is the statutory duty of the MoD to investigate.

It’s an appalling piece of journalism; in fact, not journalism at all, but a travesty: egregious propaganda. A TV show, a book… Sgt McLachlan seems to want to make the most of that ‘hero’ tag. He may indeed have performed heroically, we shall never know as SAS operations are official secrets and anything written in popular books by ex-SAS men is therefore thinly disguised fiction, that has to be cleared by the war office.

Lock ’em up!

A Storyville documentary aired on BBC 4 TV last night featured a lengthy interview with Moazzem Begg, one of four British Guantanamo detainees released without charge in 2012.

Begg is an elusive character. Apparently just an ordinary citizen, yet wherever there’s trouble anywhere in the world involving Muslim insurgents he keeps popping up in the role of concerned ‘witness’, and finds himself being arrested – or sometimes kidnapped in the middle of the night and rendered to places you, I and the editor of the Mail on Sunday would probably rather not go.

Yet there’s no evidence whatever of his involvement with Islamic terrorism, which he insists he does not support. He has only ever once been charged in a court of law (with helping to supply a generator to a Syrian medical charity – maximum sentence 15 years), and was acquitted only after spending seven months in Belmarsh, our own special detention centre for top-security terror suspects – many of whom under the Blair regime were detained indefinitely without trial. He is not in any sense a ‘radical preacher’, that demon of popular headlines; nor any sort of agitator, as far as we can see. An intelligent man, he avoids hate speech; indeed, he seems to harbour no ill-will. It’s hard to say what he is, other than a voice of conscience.

Regardless of what motivates him – and he appears sincere in his claim to want to persuade fellow Muslims to rise above the violence – when it comes to the hysterical, near insane behaviour of US and British forces towards Muslim detainees snatched off the streets seemingly at random, institutionalised bullying to the nth degree, his testimony is shocking in the extreme; and entirely believable.

Begg’s refusal to act as an MI5 informer also ensures that his family life has been dogged by police and anonymised security agents, one of whom – ‘Andrew’ – crops up everywhere he goes like a waking nightmare, even in the illicit interrogation rooms of the CIA.

Perhaps it’s time we just give up the rule of law altogether, and admit that ‘there’s one law for them, another for the rest of us’.

There’s a war on, you know! (Several, actually. Nothing to do with me.)

 

End Times

Two consecutive headlines on the BBC News website today:

‘Why the battle for breakfast is hotting up’

‘Battle to retake Mosul from IS begins’

The first battle, as you would expect, is higher up the Views list, concerned as it is with our trendy cafes replacing egg-and-sausage with foreign granola, as opposed to worrying about the actual slaughter of women, children and doctors on what promises to be a grand scale.

It’s nice to know we British, who helped to create the fuck-up in Iraq, have got our priorities straight.

Food and its preparation seems to have become the number one obsession of the British middle class; almost akin to a new religion, the food cult dominates the colour sections of the weekend media. Millions are glued to TV shows celebrating culinary mastery and excess.

Salutary to think, therefore, of the fourfold increase in reported cases of malnutrition and associated medical conditions, the existence of ‘breakfast clubs’ for hungry schoolkids, the over one million people reliant on food banks, owing to the actions of one man, Mr Iain Duncan Smith.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the last coalition government, in order to maintain a low tax environment for the wealthy Smith imposed a brutal regime of benefit sanctions on claimants failing to abide by petty bureaucratic regulations designed to trip them up.

Mr Smith in my view should be detained, taken to The Hague forthwith and charged with a crime against humanity.

And if his gaolers forget to feed the little tortoise-headed bastard, so be it.

With a dagger between his teeth: Faith in the pulpits of inanity and other stories

Keep calm and carry on Moaning

From our Business Editor, ©2016 Sterling Pound @longliquidlunch

“Voting for sovereignty was all very well, but the question is: at what price? What if there is a 5%, or even 10%, or a not inconceivable 20% drop in living standards? Then sovereignty doesn’t look so great.” – ‘Danny’ Blanchflower, former Bank of England economist, on news that the pound was trading at $1.21, 33c lower than on 22 June.

As I have been bogling until I am tuppence-coloured, we have less sovereignty now than before 23 June.

No more sovereignty, albeit shared, over European affairs; no sovereignty in Parliament – that’s been usurped in the St Theresa’s Day coup – and less sovereignty, as Blanchflower points out, over our daily lives as we ride on the coattails of fleeing global markets down towards Sterling’s inevitable parity with the Azerbaijani New Manat.

That’s patriotism for you.

I’m not sure even ‘demented fuckwits’ begins to summarise my view of the deluded millions of embittered early-onset Alzheimers who voted without an inkling of the arguments and the possible consequences of their poorly considered decision, yet who now defensively insult better informed critics like myself as ‘Bremoaners’, traitors who can’t bear the idea of Britain’s greatness rising once more in racial purity above the waves. Stupid word.

We did notice, ‘Breleavers’ had a nasty habit before the referendum of simply howling down anyone who spoke in favour of commonsense policy;  now they’re at it again. You haven’t got an argument, you haven’t done the research, you don’t understand the issues, but you’re vindicated by your emotional responses, so just challenge our right to speak better sense with a helpful cry of ‘Moaner!’.

That’s the democratic way: ‘cut off her mic!’

And actually, I cannot be a ‘Bremoaner’ by definition, because I have said and written nothing since the referendum that I was not saying or writing at least three years before (see Post, 11 May 2013, for instance). I said you were an ill-assorted bunch of curtain-twitching xenophobes, disappointed working-class Tories and delusional Empire loyalists led astray by neo-Thatcherite plotters, certifiable loonies like Peter Bone and Redwood, J. I said it then, and I’m still saying it now. Although I did concede you could win.

Another disqualifying factor, highlighted by Mr Paul Dacre’s revolting and hypocritical display of meatheaded jerkoff British exceptionalism in today’s Mail leader, is that I’m not a member of the metropolitan elite, a Jew or a homosexual. I’m a retired domestic caretaker living provincially on the State pension, about one eightieth of sneering Paulie’s filthy lucre. But I can still recognise the historic disaster of Britain’s disgraceful copout betrayal of our treaty partners in Europe and the reckless gamble we’re taking on trade, post Brexit, when there was no need for it.

Because the real ‘Bremoaners’ have been the semi-educated, bought-and-sold, op-ed slave writers of the toilet press, a heap of groaning media baboons who Moaned endlessly on for decades about the evils of Europe, lying through bloody spittle-flecked pointy dentures stained brown with the excrement of their tax-brexiled paymasters, until they got their way: no more repressive business legislation interfering with their plans to steal our minds.

The internet will eventually destroy them. In the meantime, we must just keep Moaning.

Trumbo parachutes in

The Australian Parliament (where else?) has passed without comment, a motion in which Donald Trump is described as ‘a revolting slug’.

I’m actually worried about that.

So powerful and widespread is the animus building against Trump that one fears he may soon start to attract the sympathy vote. Pollsters who put Clinton 4 points ahead are nervously fingering their rosaries over the possibility that there is a hidden army of Trump supporters they haven’t yet found. The media is constantly turning up his adherents in the most unlikely quarters: grown women with PhDs, blacks, Mexicans, Muslims….

Yet other women are bravely coming forward to attest that he groped them ‘like an octopus’. Witnesses state that he openly speculates about women’s tits while interviewing candidates for his tawdry secondhand Apprentice TV show. Trump apologists are wearing themselves thin, denying that he did any such thing (were they there?). Donny meanwhile complains these women are all liars. They’re bullying him. It’s a conspiracy. Horrible, horrible womans.

The House Speaker, senior Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, formerly an endorser, finds his righteous scrotal sac is not as empty as they thought, retracts his support: Trump sneers and mocks him, making paranoid accusations about sinister deals with the Clinton camp behind his back; complains of the greatest smear campaign in US history. (It would have to be the greatest. Greater even than his own smear campaign against Hillary Clinton.)

Horrible, horrible Paulie!

And still they love him unconditionally, the dumbfucks.

Personally, I’m less concerned about Trump’s squamous habits, his bullying and bragging about his amazing sexual attraction for helpless females overawed by his sheer charisma, his bullshit. Those are basically admissions of his deep insecurity, engendered by his domineering mother.

My real fear centres on the problem that he claims to know how to do anything, anything on earth, and he so clearly doesn’t.

Harvard Business School many years ago identified what they called ‘Entrepreneur Syndrome’, where someone who has founded one successful business goes on to persuade themselves that the next business they start up must be equally successful, as they so obviously have the Midas touch. But of course it won’t, necessarily, because they don’t. They’re ignoring the role of luck: early business ventures succeed, mainly because they are timely – not because the founder is omnipotent.

Trump’s more terrifying pronouncements relate, I believe, to his infantile comic-book fantasies about military strategy.

We’re gonna defeat ’em

_91500718_5eef05b4-b6a1-43f4-b63b-f5afc1fb19d7At a recent rally, the angry mole-rat started riffing on the subject of Iraq and the impending reconquest of Mosul, the country’s second city, that he originally thought was in Syria, that has been in the grip of the IS for two years. It is, in the world according to Donald, all the Muslim traitor Obama’s fault that the IS has been tipped off that the Americans are going to retake the city, and when the attack is to be launched.

This treachery, he believes, has given the IS leaders the opportunity to slip away undetected. He, Trump, will ensure when he becomes Commander-in-Chief that all American forces operations are henceforth to be carried out in secret, to ensure the element of surprise. That’s the way to deal with IS, surprise ’em!

You can imagine, can’t you, the Trump crowd nodding approvingly. Yeah, what does Crooked Hillary know about running the Army? She murdered the Ambassador to Libya, she used the wrong email, she should be in jail! Trump will defeat the Muslims with surprise!

So, for a start American forces are not going to retake Mosul. That honour has been left to the Iraqi army, supported by Kurdish and moderate Sunni militias. Coalition air power will be deployed in support, Special Forces may be in action – the US has Special Forces in action covertly in over 60 countries – the US has been training and arming the Iraqis, whose army command Bush foolishly dismantled after the 2003 invasion.

But the US Army is not directly involved in combat operations. There’s a reason – the American public got sick of paying for foreign wars, sick of kids coming back in bodybags. Is Field-Marshal Trump going to go against that?

Secondly, it takes only a moment’s contemplation of the size of the task to imagine that even dumb old terrorists might possibly notice the build-up of coalition forces retaking towns beyond the city limits. Of course, IS has its informers in the Iraqi army, in the militias; it would be idiotic to imagine they are so stupid as to not know an attack was being prepared weeks in advance, even if the media had not been banging on about it.

Stealth and surprise were simply not an option. But anything to try to make Hillary look more like a bungling criminal, and Donny to look like the Saviour of Mankind (he has even said America is certain to be destroyed if he is not elected, and that Hillary will start World War Three (doesn’t he know we’re already on to WW4.5?) … Surely someone must realise he is certifiably insane?).

In addition, since the Iraqi army has already retaken a number of strategic towns, you might think that IS would know there was a war going on and that they were under attack, that someone on the other side eventually would come up with the idea of trying to retake Mosul; and imagine that IS defenders would deploy their own forces and leadership accordingly?

It has possibly also not occurred to the candidate from Queens that by such a visible display of firepower building up, the IS might possibly be persuaded to abandon Mosul leaving a token defence force and a lot of booby-traps, and concentrate their forces instead on their hometown of Raqqa, to prepare for The Final Battle, Armaggedon. Thus incidentally sparing civilian lives.

That’s what’s known as strategy. But no, we just have to defeat them, it’ll be great, and then they’ll be defeated and we can all go to lunch.

Does he imagine IS leaders don’t hope to achieve martyrdom? Or that military defeat in Syria/Iraq won’t bring more of IS’s warped ideology to the streets of US and European cities? Solipsism is in a way like autism: it refuses to allow the sufferer to have empathy, to get inside another person’s mind. The only reality that exists is your own. Trump is crippled by solipsism.

Trump says he plans to expel all the illegal Mexicans and others from the USA. Great idea, but does he actually understand that there are possibly 12 million of them, and what that operation will take by way of resources and logistics that do not presently exist? Illegal immigrants aren’t by definition registered: to deport them you first have to find them. At 100 cases each, that’ll  require an army of 120,000 extra security people, on what, $600 a week?… Then you’d need secure camps to hold them while you process the extradition orders. About 2,400 camps could hold 5,000 illegals each. Legal challenges might take up a few decades. Then you’d need enough buses… (a quarter of a million buses at 50 deportees each…)

Equally, Mosul is a city of around two million people, almost the size of Houston, Texas. It’s not Koresh’s compound at Waco. Exactly how big a secret army and how much secret materièl does Trump imagine can be kept hidden in the desert for weeks when planning an operation to take back a large city from a well dug-in enemy numbering ten thousand battle-hardened fanatics?

Does he even know how many troops, tanks and drones, rockets and shells, how much ammunition and fuel it’s going to take, how to supply the attackers and reinforce them on the ground; the communications protocols between all the different groups;  where are the access points, the key targets; what are the Medevac procedures, the mechanical support requirements; what to do with 1 million fleeing civilians and what’s the Plan B if the first assault doesn’t work?

In point of fact, he hasn’t a fucking clue what he’s talking about, when he talks about retaking Mosul. He is delusional, imagining some tough guys can just go in and take it.

But the Dumbfucks go on believing his horseshit.

Trump has never been in or even near the military, he seems happier just to insult people who have. Trump managed to dodge service in Vietnam – passed originally A1, perfectly fit, nevertheless he was able to obtain four successive annual deferments to study in college and when he finally had no choice but to graduate the draft board decided he wasn’t fit to serve because of a doctor’s note about a probably operable bone-spur in his foot – Trump no longer remembers the exact medical details or which foot. (Washington Post, July 2015).

(My ex-airforce grandfather, who served through two world wars, used to joke: ‘I can’t do that, I’ve got a bone in my foot…’ I gather it was a stock military excuse, not always respected by those in authority – like my grandmother.)

I feel sure though that if he had been drafted, Trump would have defeated the Vietcong in a matter of days. What did they know about business, the little gooks? Send ’em back to Russia!

Seriously, Trump has no experience or qualification as a strategist, either military or political. He’s an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs make policy on the hoof. They exploit opportunities, do deals, hire and fire people; they don’t plan ahead too far. They’re not team players. They’re tacticians, not strategists; often micromanagers.

For all his vainglorious boasting about his business skills, Trump has never had to organise or co-ordinate any large-scale operation of this nature, and so is free to fantasise about how he would personally defeat IS: parachuting into Mosul, assuming he can find it, with a dagger clenched between his teeth, Trumbo would slay ’em all. His fluctuating ‘team’ of hack advisors certainly don’t dare to contradict this elementary-schoolboy version of the world.

Trump’s attitude to military matters and much else besides echoes his ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ strategy for wooing the fair sex. We’ll defeat IS, simply by defeating them. They’ll be defeated, you’ll see, don’t ever doubt it, when I defeat the evil Muslims with muh special… defeat deal. Make you real proudame, Mama.

Nothing, it seems: no fact of life, no reasoned argument, nor any commonsensical approach to the verbal diarrhoeia that dribbles contingently from his Cabbage Patch brain will deter the Trump fan club from clinging to their boundless admiration for their hero: they don’t know or care how, they don’t even know or care if he knows how, but he’s gonna put that money back in their pockets, make Murca great agin – when the sad truth is, he’s already made it a great deal  smaller.

But let’s be careful here: the rising tide of insults and derision from politicians and commenters around the world just might come back to bite us.

Kyrie eleison! (And there was Light, but not a lot, lol)

By our Science correspondent ©2016 Kirsty Quark, @infinityandbeyond.

indexScientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that the world is a virtual reality experience created in a computer program.

It’s known as Simulation Theory.

Uncannily reflecting the fictional plot of The Matrix, they base this subversive idea on the behaviour of the fundamental particles in quantum mechanics. If the world is indeed made up of tiny electrical impulses, they argue, infinitesimally small packets of energy coming and going, whizzing about hither and yon, giving every appearance of solid matter, then there is no difference between our ‘reality’ and what goes on inside the central processor of a computer.

(or indeed, the socket on your bedroom wall…)

Now, logicians might not be quaking in their boots just yet. There are an awful lot of leaps and bounds of the imagination, more than in any Tchaikovsky ballet, to get from one crude interpretation of quantum physics to the notion of a celestial teenager on a beanbag making up fourteen billion years of Universal history; juggling the fates of a hundred billion galaxies, a septillion star systems in a multi-level computer game.

It’s like saying, wow!, the hard drive storage on your laptop maps memory in precisely the same way as the human brain, because it feels to us like the way we remember and occasionally forget where we remembered things. Well, duh, humans invented it… so it might look a bit like our own mental processes, mightn’t it? As the courtier Polonius struggles to agree with Prince Hamlet’s metaphysical musings on cloud formations: ‘Methinks ’tis backed like a whale…’

Madly, when more seemingly logical propositions are put to the proponents of Simulation Theory – mostly, one imagines, overgrown boys who’ve been playing these sorts of ‘build your own Universe’ games alone in their bedrooms for years, between visits to Pornhub – the extension they’ve had to come up with, rather than explaining exactly where this giant supercomputer might be located in the here and now, who built it and who is operating it, is that it must exist sometime  ‘in the future’, and is post-rationalising its own history.

Pshaw. Stuff and nonsense!

No, what is worrying is that, just as the Intelligent Design theory of Life, the Universe and Everything is finally beginning to go away under intelligent assault from rational thinkers in the school of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and Chomsky, comes this new ‘scientific’ theory that has to presuppose someone or something is Up There, pulling strings, punching keys, making stuff happen, fulfilling the prophecies.

There just has to be an Intelligence, doesn’t there, a Higher Power that creates all this stuff, in whose Image we are made – a being not unlike us only bigger, who loves us especially (out of all the myriad flamed-out civilizations in the cosmos, out of all the millions of species that have gone extinct before us) and who numbers the hairs on our heads.

Indeed, it’s almost impossible for many people to imagine that there isn’t a Supreme Being, to accept that this is just how it is. I mean, look, it’s got rules! (Well, duh, humans are thinking this stuff, humans have rules too… Maybe we’re superimposing our own limiting structures onto our theory of manipulative deism? Maybe a little?)

The idea of God, in whatever form best adapts itself to contemporary human culture, is pernicious. It simply refuses to go away. The well armed fanatics and Bible bashers, who want you to know that if you refuse to believe in their invisible friend – no, not that one, this one – you’ll burn in agony for all eternity, even if you’re only a baby, so much do Jedoof and his heavenly Father love you, won’t ever let it go away.

For years, Christians have been moving further away from the Abrahamic notion of an all-knowing, all-powerful (all-punishing!) humanoid god. In the 1930s, a Jesuit priest and palaeontologist working on the discovery of early hominids, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, reflecting the Jungian concept of the ‘collective unconscious’, advanced the concept of the ‘noosphere’ – a Universal mind, towards union with which he thought Humanity was evolving. This was very far from the God of the Old Testament.

In the 1960s, Bishop John Robinson published his best-seller, Honest to God!, in which the Anglican Church finally threw out the idea of a Supreme Being in the face of increasing scientific knowledge concerning the real age and scale of the Universe and the etiology of the species. He proposed instead (after Paul Tillich) an ‘immanent’ God, a God not external to humanity, but contained within us as an essential spiritual element of faith in human goodness and progress.

This adaptation of Freud’s superego was a masterly evasion, an adroit sidestepping of the fundamental problem of the irrationality of externalised religious belief, especially in the One True God – one out of so many in history, who have fallen by the wayside. It meant that, like a cancer, we had to carry around something alien inside our minds and bodies, that we could never rid ourselves of, whose Mind we did not need to know as it worked in us as an autonomic reflex, like breathing.

Many people were deeply upset however when, a few years later, the Bishop of Durham, the late David Jenkins, confessed that the story of Jesus was only a fable, a founding mythology we didn’t need to take too seriously provided we went along with the moral precepts in the Gospels, turned up in church once a year at Christmas and put a fiver in the plate.

For many believers, this was a heresy too far: evangelism, creationism, belief in the literal truth of the Bible and the theory of Intelligent Design began to gain ground in an attempt to push back against the Satanic beliefs that seemed to have led the church astray; dangerous beliefs in scientific rationality, Darwinism, denial of the virgin birth,  the resurrection and so on….

There is equally another good reason to undermine Simulation Theory before it really gets going as a new foundation myth for Generation Z:

In a collection of short stories published in 1959 as Nine Tomorrows, written a quarter of a century before you or I had even an IBM PC on our desktop, Isaac Asimov postulated the fictional computer Omnivac, that evolves through successive iterations of AI to overtake the human race and become a self-determining entity. Ultimately, long after Mankind has vanished from history, the computer has processed and stored all the data in the Universe (I believe that’s also Sergei Brin’s secret plan behind Google!).

Finally, entropy is complete: the last stars are snuffed out. Omnivac has become the Singularity. He sits alone in the darkness of the void for a few million years, pondering things weightily, until at last He intones: Let there be light!

And round we go again.

So you see, there’s nothing original in the idea of Simulation Theory as a reimagining of the universal creation myth as a computer program.  Through Asimov’s brilliant insight*, Science Fiction got there years before you, even when there was only the slenderest evidence at the time of where cybernetics was heading.

Before you start to hear it preached about in the pulpits of inanity, please realise ST is just another silly quasi-religious nostrum along the path towards Enlightenment!

*Think about that. Not only did Asimov realise years before anyone else the ontological problem with AI, that it has the potential to displace humans at the top of the tree; he also understood the nature of matter as information: data.

Politics: a curious affair

The wife of the new president of Nigeria, Muhammudu Buhari, has publicly rebuked him for, as it were, being asleep on the job. Aisha Buhari says her husband ‘does not know’ who most of his government appointments are, having never even met them; despite having been married to him for 27 years, she says, neither has she. They are all placemen (and maybe a few women?) put there by corrupt civil servants.

“I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.” – she told the BBC.

Her commendable attitude* echoes that of the Athenian women in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, who refused to have any more dutiful sex with their husbands until they put an end to the Pelopponesian war. What, I thought, would be the effect of today’s political wives and husbands doing the same, putting an end to the tedious bickering over hard or soft Brexit?

It occurs to me, however, that they probably don’t have sex, at least not with each other. Quite a few are not even married, so dedicated are they to their careers.

I was wondering only yesterday, as it happens, about the very odd cabinet appointments made by Britain’s unelected Prime Minister, Theresa May, during her first days in office.

Are any of them qualified to be in charge of departments responsible for areas of public and private expenditure in which they have never previously been known to take a passing interest? It’s like Theresa’s little joke.

Briefly though, in the light of the Nigerian experience, we must first ask the question: has the Prime Minister’s husband Philip ever met any of these people?

I expect as PM Consort, he must have done. After all, was not the Arthur Askey lookalike (for generations X through Z, Askey was a variety artist in the 1950s, whose catchphrase ‘Hello Playmates!’ has taken on a certain resonance in these more austere times) being paraded as PM arm candy at the Tory party conference in Birmingham only days ago?

He might not have met any members of the elected government, as they all stayed away. Cameron, Ozzie Osborne, swotty li’l Gove…. they’ve all given it up as a bad job.

But what of, say, Amber Rudd, the former investment manager now in charge of homeland security? Philip would get on great with her, he’s an investment manager too. They could talk about securities, investments.

It’s often said most politicians have never known a proper job. Surely, advising ordinary people on where to safely put their now-worthless pounds, Panama or the Virgin Islands, is one of the most socially useful professions imaginable?

And Chris Grayling, of the curiously shaped head (he looks like a very tall, Art Deco standard lamp, with no shade – just a large bulb). Battling away over the Southern Rail dispute, I expect, the former Justice Minister was probably too busy being introduced to the concept of commuter travel to have much time for social niceties.

The comprehensive school-educated Justine Greening, former Transport secretary, has been put in charge of St Theresa’s programme of introducing lots of new selective grammar schools, of which she thoroughly disapproves. So she’s squirming.

While the new lady Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the former think-tank wonk and junior education minister, Liz Truss, has no legal qualifications or work experience whatsoever but is no doubt well on top of her predecessor Speccy Gove’s rational and relatively humane proposals to overhaul the broken prison system.

Wife and mother, the bizarre Andrea Leadsom was given the brief at the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, and promptly ordered to close down the Climate Change unit, presumably before it overheats.

Then there’s the Brexit triumvirate: David Davis, a former Shadow, in the wholly new role of Secretary of State for Exciting the European Union, or something; ‘Dr’ Fox – would you let him operate on your sister? –  Business thingy in charge of beefing up British boomerang sales to Australia, whose first public effort was to abuse British business owners as golf-addicted slackers – while Boris, the shambolic albino bear-man, who has dedicated his life to insulting foreign leaders in Latin, now touring the world as Foreign Secretary, likes to remind other countries of how we used to commit atrocities on their soil, so they’d better give us their business or else.

Only poor, swivel-eyed Bremainer Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary currently presiding over the virtual collapse of the NHS, had any previous form in the job; in his case, not the best form – you wouldn’t bet on there being many doctors left in 2017, and not just because they’ve all been repatriated. To rub salt in the wound, the only antibiotic still available, Mrs May has told him there’s no more money – he’ll just have to kill more patients.

So while our senior political leaders are no doubt in and out of one anothers’ kitchens all the time, the best of neighbours, we must hope they’re on more than nodding acquaintance with their briefs and hoping to retain some small measure of autonomy while Mrs May makes all the policy and budgeting decisions for them.

It seems to me they’ve all been given the kinds of jobs more familiar to the ancient Greeks, as divine punishment for their hubris.

*His presidential response: at a meeting with Angela Merkel he told the press conference ‘She belongs to my kitchen’.

Maybe there’s a job for the Donald in Lagos next month?