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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

213. Fidel Castro would be proud of Trump/Brexit - the musical...

I am going to call my Brexit/Trump pantomime/musical Hair of the Dog Politics (H.o.t. Dog politics). If you don’t have this phrase in your country, it is something people say when they have too much alcohol the night before and start drinking again the next day as a ‘cure’. The full saying is ‘Take a hair of the dog that bit you’.

Hair-of-the-dog  is the equivalent of getting hit by a car and deciding that the cure is to throw yourself under a bus.


Forget Hamilton or Mamamia. I gave you Brexit the poem (see blog 207 Brexit means Brexit) now –its H.o.t. Dog politics the show.

I cannot help wondering what Castro, the life-long revolutionary would have made of this ridiculous mess. The Brexit/Trump results are as close to a contemporary revolution as the craving-for-the-days-of-empire dullards of the UK and the we-wish-it-was-1950 crazies in the US could do.

Imagine a sort of ‘d’ grade pantomime version of the musical, Cabaret with Nazi ditties playing in the background sprinkled liberally with cheap glitz, rubbish costumes and pre-recorded music.

This is the broad narrative of the new production - 
There is grumbling from rent-a-mob because the theatre managers took their money, turned down the heating, took the stuffing out of the seats and told them they can only eat straight bananas. Then the managers told the mob its all the fault of the low-paid immigrant cleaners. Rent-a-mob tear up the theatre and scream at the cleaners.

Un-elected prima donna Theresa May, rushes in to replace the weak previous headliner, David Cameron. Cameron suffered a terminal case of ‘oh shit, what have I done’. She finds herself thrust into the footlights where she lip-syncs catch-up while stumbling badly, repeating her lines and boring the audience.

The increasingly unfunny buffoon is played by Boris Johnson. Every time he appears on stage a groan goes through the audience. They yell, ‘how did he get up there’ and ‘seriously, he’s the best we could do?’ as he mumbles, leers at the chorus girls and hurls abuse at people far more talented than himself.

The chorus is made up of a motley crew of has-beens and never-weres belting out the production’s main theme tune,

Britain can be racist
Myopic, xenophobic
And still get everything it had before
Yes we’re mad and shifty
We want article 50
We’d rather drown in our own mess than help the poor.

And so on and so forth until everyone has lost the feeling in their legs.

In the background is the mesmeric beat of the Chancellor’s autumn statement song -
Hey baby, we’re in the shit now – you better believe it - etc.

No one is actually paying attention because the Remainers are dazed and depressed and the Leavers still think they won something.

Usually in such productions there is a primary villain with a side kick. In this production, there is a veritable football stadium of people jockeying for the roll of moron-in-the-spotlight. MP John Redwood – an oily, creepy private school cadaver - really should have been the director’s main choice. Redwood is always there, ready to sneer at the truth, denigrate anyone who may have actually checked the facts and dangle the rotting, whiffy carcass of empire glory under the noses of potential non-believers. For a while he was upstaged by the flamboyant racist Frothy Farage but Farage is chasing a bigger gig state-side.

As for Fidel Castro, the CIA once thought of eliminating him with an exploding cigar. That’s as close to pantomime style slapstick as you can get. It’s also an example of how the US has behaved like a colonial power intervening in any administration that doesn’t take their fancy (unless it ploughs substantial funds into the pockets of the US elite, like Saudi Arabia). When Trump trots out his one liner ‘make America great again’ I wonder if he is thinking Bay of Pigs! Or is that just the name of his new administration?

Few media outlets highlight the fact that Cuba has, for example, a better fairer health care system than many so-called democracies. But a couple of serious papers in the UK have pointed out that Castro replaced dictator Batista in 1959 only to become de-facto dictator himself. Maybe this marked the start of the popularity of Hair of the Dog politics. Look at both Brexit, orchestrated in part by UKIP / rich kid Frothy Farage and privileged non-tax paying Trump. 

In the US and Britain, arrogant, privileged white blokes have been messing up badly for decades. So, what did both countries do? They listened to privileged, arrogant, bigoted white blokes when those men said ‘hey – we have the answers’.

Hair of the Dog politics is so in fashion. Fidel Castro would be proud.
For all you folk who've enjoyed this free blog it's hand in pocket time. At less than the price of one cup of coffee, read my new novella zero one, zero two. Check it out -
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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

212. So, you thought it couldn’t get worse…

Joking apart, America and Britain currently stand as the laughing stocks of the developed world. But there's a strange synchronicity here. Both countries were built on slavery, colonialism and pissing in other people’s countries. Both have been brought low, beyond the point of farce, by racism, bigotry and prejudice.

Also, on this side of the Atlantic we number days and weeks differently to the US. Here - 9th November is 9/11, the day we found out Trump was elected... Another US disaster.

And now Tony Blair, one of the architects of the Iraq war and arguably the destabilisation of the Middle East, thinks it’s time to return to British politics. Is the guy addicted to chaos?

In last week’s post, I used the phrase ‘what goes around comes around’. Surely we have to acknowledge that the universe exhibits a highly developed sense of irony.


If you enjoy my posts, do check out my new short novel


Now available in paperback

If you already got the e-book Thanks.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

211. Thank you America…

In the 2016 poker game of ‘who are the biggest political idiots?’ democracies across the world have been pointing at Britain since June 23rd. But on November 9th America trumped us.

Thank you for diverting a painfully revealing spotlight.

And it will be ok. Not for a while but eventually.

I’m talking to the KaTs - Kind and Thoughtful people. Here in the UK we’ve just been through it. Spiritually ugly, egotistical bigots successfully drowned out common-sense because fear, spite and self-interest already made many listeners partially deaf. We’ll call them the KJs – knee Jerks – (reactionaries).

In Britain, those who supported the UK Independence Party are UKIPers – led by frothy Nigel Farage; think Trump lite without the tan, the orange sweep-over or the sexual assaults but with all the malice and intolerance.

Frothy Farage, teamed up with other deplorables including the racist ex-mayor of London - Boris Johnson, and UK tabloid newspapers, owned by men who don’t even pay their taxes in the UK. In the absence of real opposition they pushed sanity towards the Exit sign.

Across the Atlantic you also have YaKs – You are Kidding. YaKs have been chewing on the envy stick since an admirable, successful black family entered the White House. They had to sit on their racism for 8 years and they were not (especially, it seems, white women) going to let a female president disturb their internalised misogyny.

On both sides of the pond don’t forget the SWIOKs – So What, I’m OK. These comfy cliques are so insulated from life’s realities they don’t care. They may not have favoured Brexit / Trump but now blow with the new wind. Their lives have expensive foundations and they can afford the roof repairs in a political storm.

K.a.Ts are hurting. People who take time to check facts, read information, make informed decisions and don’t spend their waking hours blaming convenient scapegoats for their problems, are just ill right now.

The KJs, like the UKIPers, feast on the false diet of a delicious past. Mmmm – the McCarthy witch hunts, segregation (US), rationing (UK), rickets, TB, the establishment turning a blind eye to child abuse and the degradation of minorities, women and indigenous peoples – truly it was a Utopian banquet.

But the SWIOKs are the most morally aberrant in my view. These people are now saying – you know, Dump isn’t that bad. They’re also berating the KaTs for being distraught at the way the Hate volume has ratcheted up. Like Boris Johnson. Although – to be fair – being a racist he fits other categories.

In ancient times, humans tried to fashion themselves in the image of their God. They would look upwards and aspire to be better, hence the reaching architecture of churches, synagogues and mosques.

With mass addiction to ‘talent’ programmes and reality TV and in an atmosphere where politics is run like a game show, increasingly the public seem to want someone who reflects them on a bad day. Peering down into the gutter, they embrace what they see. Like a grim version of X-factor – it’s now acceptable to be preening, gurning and strutting in public if you are stupid, thuggish, talent-less.

Talking of talent-less – wasn’t the fake ‘scare’ at the Trump rally, where security hustled him off stage, the worst acting you ever saw? For a better version of that watch Colombo – Candidate for Crime.

However, here in the UK we have a useful saying - ‘what goes around comes around’. There is a similar Arabic adage which is ‘if you sit by the river long enough the body of the wrong-doer will float by’.

We sense that things are not right (check last week’s blog to see where I think this could go). We know deep down that many privileged communities have failed to act generously. Somewhere even deeper, we know there is always a price to pay – whether it be displaced people on our borders because their countries are broken or strange diseases erupting from parts of the world few cared about before (see blog 105 Ebola – What’s really gruesome) or just a general sense of insecurity.

Across the globe the insanely rich have siphoned off so many resources to fund their yachts, gold houses and daughter-aged wives, that we’re now staring at the socio-economic equivalent of locust denuded fields. What better than a vindictive, macho gob-shite who screams loudly enough to convince millions it’s the fault of the already downtrodden?

Fear is driving people to the old ‘the strong man’ fantasy. Notice Hollywood is vomiting up super hero movies like a kid with the nora virus who won’t stop eating fudge sundaes?

Trump is a distorted version of King Canute. Whatever he hollers and however loudly he shrieks violence and bigotry in our faces, the tide of decency will flow back in. The people who do ok in the end will be the ones who build boats of friendship and kindness and community – not the ones on the shoreline screaming and ranting at the waves. The only question is, how many will these nutters drown in the process.

(Why not check out blog 152. Could the Nice People Speak Up Please)

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Tuesday, 8 November 2016

210. zero one, zero two...

Yes – I want to cheer you up this week - sort of!

If you have enjoyed reading my blog posts, my brand new short novel should rock your boat.

Zero one, zero two is a mix of acerbic social comment and observation sprinkled with satire and dark humour (brown girl style), wrapped in futuristic science fiction and flung out into space.

Rachel Smith exists at the mercy of technology she does not understand hurtling to a place she does not know with only the bodies of her crew and her memories for company - or is there something else there...
here's the intro

zero one, zero two
… we are all dead…
 “There is no cruelty here because cruelty needs a tomorrow. Deliberately induced fear or pain combined with anticipation, that is cruelty”


We were meant to be a crew of 6. The 6th member of the crew was swallowed up by a fractured earth sink hole. She was on her way to the departure facility two days before we were due to leave. No time to prepare another human. Preparation does not just involve training but certain chemical alterations that make the body both more resilient, more malleable and receptive to adjustment should a destination be reached – which is not a given.

It is not wise to dwell on these things. There has been so much death, what is one more? But I was shaken by the news.

1 is a large proportion of 6. There should have been 6 of us. It is a number the algorithms like. It worried me that things went wrong so early. Not that we are needed to operate the craft. And that ‘gone wrong’ was tiny compared to all the others.
Sector 4, which is in what remains of the old country of Germany, contains the launch facility.

Despite all advances we cannot undo death so only 5 of us were sky lifted, one at a time, then carefully lowered into the opening slit in the outer energy shield of the curving, egg shaped craft. Even getting aboard was dangerous.
I tried so hard not to be sick. Impossible.

As you are lowered, in what looks like a glass inverted teardrop, through the outer, shimmering defence layer, surrounded by throbbing atoms that are supposed to protect you from the unbearable pressure, your lungs feel as if they are bound in iron. At least mine did. No training can prepare you. Pulse waves stop you falling like a stone but all sensations are disturbed. The worst is the effect on the mind. Though, I am told, the process of being forced through the outer shield takes three minutes it seems like half an hour. Half an hour of struggling, gasping, sweating with pain as you sense your head is being crushed by boulders.

Lying shivering, clammy and naked on a recovery pallet I think, not for the first time, what is the point? Why suffer more, why go on? The others who are to follow are, at least, younger than me.

We have not met but I have read their profiles. I have seen their pictures.
Maybe it is just normal human camaraderie but I felt pre-disposed to like them. I was keen to meet them. Ngendi, the youngest, is beautiful. I suspect she has been modified in lots of ways but her cheekbones and strong forehead say Africa to me. She is, among other things, a geo-physicist. She will be clever and capable; it will be good to have her aboard.
The Russian, Nikkoli was a psychiatrist and a geologist. Yes, extra longevity has its benefits. Time to learn. Time to study. And I know from his brief biography that he is brave.
Sophia was a medic in the days before machines took over our biological care. She has even learnt to use some of the genetically modified plants. There is nothing though that she can do that the craft cannot. What she may do is reassure the rest of us, the rest of the crew. Funnily enough it was Nikkoli, one of the chosen himself, who selected her. The fifth, Deepika volunteered. Yes, not everyone chosen for the project wanted the chance to hurtle through space to an unknown unknowable destination. Many clung to the delusion that life would again become sustainable on earth. Finding crew for the four small, even more dangerous kamikaze relay craft that were to follow at intervals of four months, had been almost impossible.

As we prepare to depart, only two of the relay craft have designated crew.
I have been many things. Some useful some not. My last job was working in the hydroponic grow tunnels for my unit. I preferred it to work in areas where there was more necessary human interaction. A plant will not suddenly throw itself down in front of you, screaming, because it has run out of bio-meds.  It was good work. It felt useful.

I think kind, sweet Deepika said yes for the same reason that I agreed. The crew has the feel of a human unit: a family. But maybe she is too young to know what that is.

1.    An End

With the development of the Kepler telescope, NASA discovered the first planets outside Earth’s solar system at the end of the 20th century. Many thousands more were discovered over the next couple of decades and then too many to count. It was not long before planets with similar life potential to earth were recorded. Some orbited their stars at almost the right distance. They varied in size, had different temperatures, different gravitational energies because of their size but some were not so different. Some, it was presumed might have water, some may have similar gravity to earth and others may have breathable gas compounds.

Armed with muscular speculation, the mission began. We had ample evidence that humans would soon, for the purpose of our existence, wreck the planet on which we all lived. The race was on to chart a viable course to a place that could sustain human life.
The search was often frantic, occasionally methodical, sometimes almost forgotten.
Over the decades as humans alternately faced up to the reality of self-annihilation or sunk into collective denial, projects were developed then shelved then revived.
Now we are going. Or, I should say, we were going. Now only I am going. A 200-year-old woman with a precious cargo.

It is 2164

We are all dead…

Read it in paperback or get the e-book for the price of a coffee.  My blog remains entirely free to read. Purchasing this book or any of my other publications will support my free posts as well as entertain you. -
or etc

UPDATE Fri 24th Feb - Although the main driver of this novela is the way we are destroying THIS planet - my youngest daughter and I were on the edge of our seats a couple of days ago when NASA made their announcement about the 7 exo-planets, 3 of which could be the intended destination in Zero One Zero Two :)

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

209. Put the monkeys in charge?

 Donald Trump is 70. The officially oldest Orangutan (the other orange primate) in the world is 60 and I know which one is more deserving of our respect.

Recently, I listened to a radio interview. You know the ones. The media outlet gets a serious subject, finds two blokes on opposing sides who try to get a few words in for about two minutes before the sport or whatever.

In this case the ‘debate’ was whether scientists should continue medical experiments on primates.

Both interviewees delivered the predictable responses. The scientist’s angle was that there are lots of horrible diseases that affect humans that an understanding of the monkey brain (for example) might help us cure. The other guy pointed out that it was cruel, often completely useless and immoral especially since we now know how intelligent non-human primates are.

As it happens, it is entirely possible for both positions to be true.

What was not said is that a huge percentage of human health problems are,

a.  Entirely preventable
b.  Caused by humans

Also, we apply only a tiny proportion of the knowledge we have, to help people. Add to this the fact that much of the global population is blocked from even basic medical care by poverty or lack of infrastructure and suddenly the case for causing suffering and harm to any other species begins to fall apart.

Putting aside drug/alcohol abuse, smoking, poor diet and debt-related anxiety, is there anyone left on the planet who does not know that pollution is killing us, both directly and by devastating the environment we depend on?

Stress will shorten your life. Here in the UK, thanks to zero hours contracts and employers finding new ways around paying the minimum wage, even those in work often struggle to make ends meet. (see blog 174. Zero Hours is not a contract)

Data has emerged to show that in parts of Africa air pollution is now responsible for more premature deaths than starvation or unsanitary water.

Road deaths from motor vehicle accidents have reached epidemic proportions across the world. This is never headline news. Why? Because we don’t want to give up or reduce car use.

Right now, humans around the world are doing a monumentally efficient job of killing each other with guns and other highly sophisticated weapons. In America, they slaughter each other daily. It’s so popular, even school children join in.

Meanwhile pharmaceutical companies spend more time and energy creating drugs for profit than they do in developing and making available drugs that benefit humanity. (see blog 97. Viagra yes, cure for malaria, no…)

Here in the UK tree coverage is down to near 11%. Even mainland Europe does better and that is only just over 30% But what are we doing? Planning more runways (Heathrow) and preparing to cut through great swathes of the countryside with the new HS2 rail link. The rail systems we have would serve us if they were brought back into public ownership and run properly with revenue going into investment rather than shareholder’s pockets.

Trees, by the way, are those green things that produce oxygen – that stuff we like to breathe…

The world is in some turmoil. And there is a powerful underlying reason for that – Inequality. Inequality is arguably the greatest cause of war, famine, unrest and even disease and premature death. But maybe this is not something governments will tackle head on because it means curbing human excesses and the grossly bad behaviour of the very rich. But we desperately need to change the rules (see blog 201 Change the Rules).

Radical re-foresting programmes and energetic tackling of social inequality would do far more to improve human health and wellbeing than brutalising primates in the name of science. 

Short-termism appears to be everyone’s modus operandi right now. Much better to keep burning the planet for profit and hope science gets us out of the mess, keep poisoning and choking people and wish for a drug that can put things right.

Ironically, inequality is something monkeys understand and reject. There is a famous experiment that shows this. I won’t link the video as I cannot stand to promote images of intelligent animals in cages.
Also, monkeys may even be smart enough to reject selfish behaviour. If only humans could do this…

I’m sure chimps could help us out. We should just give them some lab coats and test tubes and a few millions of research funding and ask them,

Why is the upright, clever aquatic ape so f***ing stupid?


For related reading from the archives try blog 12. Armageddon will not be Televised

And remember if you like a post to follow/share/tweet/ or whatever you young folk do. THANK you.