+The New York Times runs a story today which shows that in the U.S. unvaccinated people experience on average per week 7.8 deaths from Covid per 100,000. For those who are vaccinated and have had a booster the figure is just 0.1. This should be enough to convince anti-vaxxers to change their minds. But they won’t, of course. The good news is that by political affiliation, 36% of Republicans remain unvaccinated as opposed to 9% of Democrats. On these figures, more Republicans will die of Covid than Democrats. Long live the pandemic!
+There is something deliciously excruciating about a politician wriggling on the end of a stick vainly trying to defend the indefensible. This is now the position in which Boris Johnson’s cabinet colleagues find themselves. On the news tonight we had Brandon ‘I love my red box’ Lewis trotting out a well rehearsed line that in the light of ‘Partygate’ we should all wait for the results of a Metropolitan Police inquiry into the affair (it’s no longer ‘we must wait for the Sue Gray report), but in the meantime the inquiry which was led by civil servant Sue Gray has made some recommendations which Johnson 'wholly accepts and will act upon.' This is indeed the nature of inquiries of the sort Johnson set up—to provide space for a little contrition and promise teacher it won’t happen again. I’m not sure Johnson is capable of that obedient leap, however. It’s just not him. When we do hear from the Met, the line will be ‘we’ve already had Sue Gray’s [bowdlerised] report, so what’s new? Move on!’ But as with most things Johnson, the defence will end up being worse than the original offence. We’ll have to wait and see to what extent the great British public are willing to be taken for fools.
Woe, woe and thrice woe
Jewish Voice for Labour reports that complaints to the Labour Party about alleged anti-Semitic comments made by right-wing Labour MP Neil Coyle have gone unacknowledged, months after the complaints were made. This seems to be in complete contravention of the Party’s stated commitment to resolve complaints quickly. Perhaps complaints about right-wingers don’t deserve the same attention. Given that one of the complaints was made by Jewish member Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, a very prominent human rights lawyer, I reckon the Party may have to buck its ideas up. Assuming of course that the Party HQ is in any fit state to buck anything up (party staff in the UNITE union have just voted to strike and many staff have been made redundant as a result of the party’s failure to stop a mass migration of its members and resultant loss of income). But this latest case of clear anti-left victimisation left me wondering how a party led by the human rights lawyer Sir Keir Starmer could treat its members so abysmally. I looked at Starmer’s Wikipedia page to see what his human rights credentials were or are. Clearly he took part in one or two cases which any thoughtful person might think worth fighting (e.g. MacDonalds v. Helen Steel) but on the whole, and taking into his later career as Director of Public Prosecutions, his record suggests a degree of pragmatism which undermines a reputation for single minded advocacy of human rights vis-a-vis prosecutorial authority. Of course one can only learn so much from a Wikipedia entry, but I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar that his page is regularly reviewed by his staff and if necessary edited. So it comes with some credibility. As yet there is no mention of his war against the left in the Labour Party and the horrendous mess he’s making of it, not least how the £13.8 million inherited from the Corbyn era has been squandered, e.g. as the Guardian reported last year, how more than half the party’s income had been spent on needless legal cases. Maybe there’s a lesson here—get a lawyer for your leader and lawyers’ pockets will be well lined.
I think this stuff is actually more important than ‘Partygate.’ At least we always knew Johnson couldn’t be trusted. We are now discovering that Starmer can’t be trusted either, but in this case he can’t be trusted on matters rather more significant in the grand scheme of things, such as whether a cake was served during a lockdown No.10 party or not. From my own experience locally, I know that many members think Starmer should go—but with Labour’s poll ratings boosted by Johnson’s incompetence, etc., etc. people think the timing is wrong to demand Starmer’s resignation. Relying on keeping Johnson in place is Starmer’s greatest - and possibly only - asset.
It seems about 6% of NHS staff have not had a Covid vaccination, quite of few of whom are refusing on grounds of ‘freedom of choice.’ This issue will have university philosophy departments tangled up for ages. Do these people have a right to free choice? What about the choice of those people whom they treat? We know that hospitals, unsurprisingly have been pretty good places to catch the virus. I cannot imagine that there any NHS staff who could seriously deny that Covid exists (perhaps if they do they ought to be looking for another job anyway) or who hold idiotic theories about Bill Gates seeking to inject us all with nano-technology. But they do insist on their right to choose what is injected into their bodies. Now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find (particularly in the United States) that vaccination refuseniks who talk of their freedom to choose what goes into their bodies are also pro-lifers who object to a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body. Thinking of the U.S., with the Roe v. Wade judgement seemingly threatened by the new right-wing Supreme Court, somebody should send another case to the court demanding to know whether anyone should have the right to force an individual to have the vaccination. There is an easy way through: a woman’s right to chose an abortion is not a virus.
Wait for the report
A headline from the Independent caught my eye this morning:
Man who took uncle’s corpse into post office to collect pension says he ‘didn’t know he was dead’
Were it not a story from Ireland I might have mistaken it for some kind of metaphor for the state of UK politics. No prizes for guessing who the corpse may have been. Also this morning that slick marketing chap, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was asked several times whether a Downing Street birthday party for Johnson was illegal. Shapps sounded like a drunk driver who when breathalysed positive could say ‘I didn’t intend to drink that much, so let me off.’ It really comes as no surprise that this lot are playing ignorance of the law as an excuse, they make the laws for everyone else, not themselves. But I think that’s been said before. I wonder whether Sue Gray, Johnson’s potential nemesis will agree.
I have been struck by a blogging inertia these last few days. The challenge presented by writing about British politics is that there can be only be so many times and so many ways you can describe our Prime Minister as a devious, lying, narcissistic incompetent clown. Although perhaps with so many unpleasant things to say about him, he’s not a clown at all but in fact a very clever performer because he only pretends to be a clown. The interesting part is what this says about the rest of us that we tolerate such a character to be in charge of our affairs.
Unfortunately, as yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions demonstrated, Johnson doesn’t face an opposition which is capable of landing a killer blow. Starmer’s performance, with his long-winded questions and knowing kind of in-on-the-joke smiling and laughing projected, dare I say a more louche twist to his supposedly ‘forensic’ style. His appearance belied his attempt at seriousness, it was more faux shock. It was a missed opportunity so far as ‘Partygate’ is concerned. It may one day be compared to Kinnock’s failure to land a blow on Margaret Thatcher over the Westland Affair. It was left up to David Davis, a former Brexit buddy of Johnson to deliver the line of the day, ‘For God’s sake, go!’ - the parliamentary way of saying ‘eff off.’
Thinking of the Westland Affair and Michael Heseltine’s resignation from Thatcher’s Cabinet, there doesn’t seem to be any minister in Johnson’s Cabinet with Heseltine’s pluck. I would have thought this might have been a good time for Rishi Sunak to distance himself and prepare his springboard for the leadership of the Tory Party. The longer he lingers the more he will be compromised. But then nobody really wants to be seen to go first, like many a donkey in a horse race the front runners often come second or third. Perhaps the Tories need a stalking horse to flush out false loyalties, somebody who no longer has any chance of promotion. But right now I can’t think of anyone on the Tory backbenches with the courage of Sir Anthony Meyer, who was effectively Heseltine’s stalking horse in 1989. And of whom I wrote (in the Guardian at the time) ‘I bet he drinks Carling Black Label.’
String 'em up!
The concept of justice in much of the Civilised Western World of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is clearly no more a guarantee than is the answer to ‘how long is a piece of string?’ Two egregious cases make the point. Let’s look firstly to that noble chap, Prince Andrew. Here’s a headline from the Telegraph today: ‘Prince Andrew: Cutting ties with Royal family only choice for man already found guilty in court of public opinion.’ The Queen it seems has stripped him of his military titles and dumped his ‘Royal Highness’ moniker. This then would be in tune with public opinion. Now the people of York, including their MP want him stripped of his title ‘Duke of York.’ They could probably have requested that a long time ago purely on the basis that Andrew Windsor is a bit of a jerk, but anyway it’s now trending. All this must be having a bit of an effect on somebody who hasn’t actually been found guilty of anything (not to mention Sarah, the Duchess of York who presumably would lose her bit of ribbon should he lose his). Of course, Mr Windsor may well be guilty, but isn’t that for a court to decide? Or perhaps the Queen knows something we don’t. It looks a bit late for him now in any case, as the Telegraph says, he’s been found guilty in the court of public opinion.
The second case which should shatter our faith in the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is that of Julian Assange. He’s served a prison incarceration of nearly three years without being found guilty of anything — three years in the harsh conditions of Belmarsh jail. The case against him, heavily based on what a self-confessed liar had to say, drags on. But our courts seem oblivious to the punishment already meted out to him. Perhaps one could argue that for a commoner and a royal to find themselves in not dissimilar circumstances demonstrates how fair everything is, although of course Mr Windsor is not sat in Belmarsh awaiting further extradition hearings, but languishes somewhere in Great Windsor Park living off his £20,000 p.a. Navy pension (plus the £250,000 p.a. he gets off the Queen laughingly described in the press as a ‘top-up to his pension’).
Thanks to austerity (and Covid) there are countless others waiting on remand for their day in court. I know that Mr Windsor’s team is doing their best not to have him have his day in court, but for most there is no choice. And in the case of Julian Assange, and for those whose collars may be felt as a result of Pritti Patel’s proposed draconian new laws on protest may face, the phrase ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ will take on ever more sinister connotations. In this last context it is pleasing to see juries acquitting protesters (e.g. the Colston Four or today three Extinction Rebellion road blockers). Getting rid of juries will be Pritti’s next job. Summary justice is around the corner, even without a guilty verdict.
I should add: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Andrew Windsor is guilty, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Julian Assange is merely a political prisoner, but it seems that in both cases a fair trial is now out of the question.
Memory and loss Google style
+Dealing with being locked out of your emails is the new locked out syndrome (as opposed to being locked in). Impossibilities everywhere. Actually, I should better describe it as a form of cyber-euthanasia, where memory is extinguished and a previous life is rubbed out. But like a soul, all that was there carries on, albeit without any subjective experience, merely floating around in cyber-space without an owner. My memory is wiped clean, and now Google tells me on my new gmail account that I have used 0% of 15GB of free memory. Previously I was up to about seven or eight per cent. I had a long way to go even on my old account. And they say we only ever use 10% of our brain’s capacity. Anyway, the old gmail soul is floating around somewhere, inaccessible to all. All those stored messages, neatly filed away in various folders—they by definition cannot matter to me anymore, and all because I couldn’t remember my password! (Which is not to say that for years to come new messages won’t arrive at this dead soul gmail account, whispering their enticements into thin air.)
I will now inevitably set about starting a fresh filing system, storing stuff away in the pursuit of a post-modernist goal of memory and loss. The memory is that I save stuff. The loss is that I never bother going back to it. Thank you Google for clearing my memory with your by definition irretrievable verification codes!
I have to say that on Laurie Anderson’s rather beautiful album Landfall she speaks of her reaction to her flooded basement (and storage area) seeing her stored life’s objects floating before her.
And I looked at them floating there in the shiny dark water, dissolving.
And the things I had carefully saved all my life becoming nothing but junk.
And I thought how beautiful how magic and how catastrophic.
Not quite the same as losing 10 year’s worth of emails, but makes you think dunnit?
+As many of my readers around the globe will know, I keenly read the Voice of Britain (aka the Daily Express) to see what’s going down. The Voice of Britain is now calling out Boris Johnson with
Boris Johnson Brexit failures: Three key broken promises
These broken promises are £350million (weekly) to the NHS, reducing VAT on energy bills and a big new trade deal with the US (on their terms of course, poisoned chickens and all). I’m guessing that if the Voice of Britain is getting pissed off with Johnson, his game may be up: the rot starts in the core. Bloody hope so!
+But all is not lost. Somebody called Ben Wallace, who it seems is the UK defence secretary has said (Speaking at the Falklands 40 Margaret Thatcher Day Lecture, hosted by the Policy Exchange think tank and delivered by Lord Moore, the former editor of The Daily Telegraph) “Our enemies should not doubt Britain’s determination to stand up to bullies, to defend those that cannot defend themselves and our values. Distance will not deter Britain, nor will the scale of the challenge. History is littered with the consequences of those that underestimated this small island. General Galtieri was no different.” One wonders quite how the UK would take back the Falklands if they were invaded again. But Wallace, pictured in his combat gear went on to say “I was privileged to have served with a Regiment that fought in the Falklands conflict. In their 380 years history the Scots Guards have beaten Hitler, Napoleon, Tzar Nicholas 1st, and even George Washington.” (Thanks to the Telegraph for these precious quotes.) No mention of Afghanistan then. The levels of self-delusion in UK government circles knows no bounds. Whitehall now has more Winston Churchill’s than a Trafalgar Square souvenir shop. The world quivers in anticipation of our ministerial announcements. Reminiscent of Portillo’s 1995 Tory Party speech where he said that the letters ‘SAS send a chill down the spine of the enemy.’ At least in later life Portillo has made himself useful. I fear there may be no such luck for the current crop of bombastic duffers.
Hide under the kitchen table
Something must be done! We’re losing the war already, and it hasn’t even started! Here’s a piece from the Guardian (online):
‘In his interview, [Admiral] Radakin [the UK’s new chief of the defence staff] . . said the UK needed to develop hypersonic missiles to keep up with the military competition. He highlighted Russia’s hypersonic and long-range missile capability as a threat and Britain’s comparative capabilities as a weakness. “We haven’t [got them] and we must have,” he said.’
A new arms race is what’s needed, and instead of 1960s-style talk simply referring to ballistic missiles, let’s now talk hypersonic ballistic missiles. Russia must have thousands of them by now, and ours are just rusty old Tridents. I’m no expert (of course) but a search on Wikipedia says that Trident missiles have a speed of up to 19 Mach. An article in Defence IQ says ‘Russia has deployed an operational hypersonic system, the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile, capable reportedly of attaining a speed of Mach 10 and a range of 1700 miles, and is believed to be close to deploying a hypersonic cruise missile, the 3K22 Tsirkon. The Tsirkon, a sea-and ground-launched missile is intended to attain high supersonic to hypersonic speeds, between Mach 4.5 and Mach 6, and have a range of 300-620 miles. Russia has also developed an intercontinental ballistic missile-launched hypersonic glide vehicle, Avangard, which may enter service in 2019.’ (article dated August 2018)
Clearly I need to keep up. It’s all in the definitions. A ballistic missile achieves a high arc trajectory and then glides down to its target. Once it starts its glide I suppose it’s less controllable. But these new fangled hypersonic missiles will be propelled for their entire journey and so can be steered—a more precise weapon perhaps. As we know, this new age of precise weaponry can be operated at distances of thousands of miles at little risk to their controllers, but they generally still kill more civilians than baddies (I believe Obama holds some kind of world record in authorising missions of this sort). What’s amazing is the fact that Russia is so far ahead of the West in this new technology. I still (wrongly) imagine many Russian offices populated by old computers with Cathode Ray Tube monitors and dial-up analogue telephones. How condescending of me, clearly. Nevertheless I am reminded of a story from the seventies when a Soviet Union pilot defected to the west in the latest Soviet jet (MIG25—story here Defection of Viktor Belenko - Wikipedia ). The story was that when the plane was taken apart it was found to be much less advanced than previously thought. Indeed, some suggested that the Soviets had deliberately retained some old technology which was impervious to modern electronic counter measures. Valves and that sort of thing. Conclusion: I don’t believe a sabre-rattling word. It’s a game which keeps elites safe in their self-appointed status as national guardians (and ‘Patriots’ © K. Starmer).
I'm still locked out of my gmail account. The fatal flaw in their account recovery process is still preventing my access to it. I wish I knew what my password was!
+The constant drumbeat of anti-Russian propaganda is now relentless. We have just learnt that a Russian submarine ‘collided with a Royal Navy warship.’ Except it didn’t. It merely bumped into a sonar which the warship, HMS Northumberland was trailing. As the MOD put it ‘In late 2020, a Russian submarine being tracked by HMS Northumberland came into contact with her towed array sonar.’ So it was the navy chasing a sub, not the other way round, but it makes a nice little story to make us all worry the more that Vlad the Impaler is everywhere, all-powerfully eroding our defences. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that Putin may not harbour ill-intent towards the West, but he does have as many grounds for suspicion against us as we may have towards him. And it suits his nationalistic agenda just as exaggerating his power suits the hawks in NATO and the Pentagon. They really are twins, umbilically dependent on each other for their macho military appetite. It makes me despondent that so much of our media just laps up this stuff without questioning it, but then I am reminded of how journalists generally ‘embedded’ with US/UK forces in Iraq necessarily saw things from only one side. I wonder how many of our journalists today are ‘embedded’ in the narrative that is fed to them if they want a ‘story,’ indeed, how many are actually journalists, as opposed to merely press release sifters (an issue unavoidably omnipresent in the hard pressed local and regional media)?
+I must express my admiration for Google’s security measures. Having been asked for some unknown reason to sign into my Gmail account, but having forgotten my password (how strange) I got a verification code on my mobile, which I duly fed in. Then I was told that a further verification code would be sent to my email account. That’s the hard part. Without that code, I can’t get into my email account. Am I missing something?
+The C-list actress and ‘comedian’ ‘Dame’ Maureen Lipman has pronounced that Helen Mirren is the wrong person to play the role of Golda Meir, the former Israeli PM, in a new film. Wrong that is, because Mirren is not a Jew. Lipman’s thinking seems to be that it would be impossible for Mirren to really get into the skin of her subject, not being Jewish herself. She suggests it would be akin to casting Ben Kingsley in the role of Nelson Mandela. I’m not sure anybody suggested Kingsley should have portrayed Mandela (if they did they were idiots) but perhaps after his portrayal of Gandhi somebody toyed with the idea. Anyway it seems Lipman has now come up with a list of approved actors who could play Golda Meir, including for example Bette Midler or Barbara Streisand. As Lipman explained “As globalisation gets bigger, casting gets smaller and we’re getting more and more tribal.” Sorry, who’s getting tribal? Lipman apparently is a campaigner against ‘cancel culture’ but wants to cancel opportunities for ‘cross-tribal’ portrayals. Perhaps we shouldn’t have Glenda Jackson playing King Lear. Being a woman is not integral to Lear’s maleness is it? Joel Coen has just cast Denzil Washington as Macbeth in his latest film. This will come as a surprise to many Scots who never imagined that Macbeth might have been black. I wonder if Laurence Olivier had to ‘black up’ to play Othello in 1965? Lipman is an attention seeking C-lister whose occasional mental confusion swills into the public sphere (no more so when she was an arch-anti-Corbynite) like a cat's hairball and she should be completely ignored. End of. Say no more. I won't return to the subject. Ever.