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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

236. Do we need a Tree Museum?

Verse 2 of Joni Mitchel’s 1970 classic Big Yellow Taxi goes like this,

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see 'em

Earlier this year I performed at the Scottish Parliament for Environment Week. It was a good event. It showed that people care – at least in theory. However what I see around me does not tally at all.

For hundreds of yards along the Water of Leith near where I live, both banks have been denuded of trees as remedial work was carried out to manage the river. Many locals believe that if ongoing maintenance had been done then the wholesale blight of the rivers’ banks would not have been necessary. Also, calls to protect mature and beautiful Roseburn / Murrayfield trees fell largely on deaf ears.

So far, along with the tonnes and tonnes of new concrete, I counted 19 tiny replacement tree saplings. Three don’t look too healthy. And while I applaud tree planting, a venture much enjoyed by schools and a great sap [sorry for the pun] to corporations who like to be associated with these kinds of uncontroversial eye-candy charities, does it need to be said out loud TREES TAKE A LONG TIME TO GROW so better not cut them down.

A few months back I was near the central Edinburgh university campus and noted workmen sweating to chop down several mature cherry trees in full bloom. Much of that area too is now going under concrete. The impact is immediate - on our stretch of river, while we still see the herons, it is a long time since I’ve seen a kingfisher.

At my local primary school – which I walk past most days – I noticed after Christmas the increasing prevalence of cars churning up the water-logged grass verge along the lane by the side of the school. Eventually I mentioned to two parents I saw there regularly that the grass verge was not a car park and might they consider the amount of damage their large car was doing and the mess they were creating. A local councillor suggested contacting the police (on grounds of criminal damage!) but I strongly suspect the police have higher priorities than chasing thoughtless parents. A while after that, my parthner had to help a woman extricate her car when the wheels got stuck in the quagmire she herself helped to make– he obliged, ending up covered in mud.

The first couple – apart from being rude – told me they had been given permission to park there by the school – which was easily fact checked as a silly lie. What I don’t get – and I could be misjudging a book by its cover – is that they looked like the kind of couple who’d serve their child wholemeal, organic seasonal fairy dust on sustainably produced gluten free carrot fluffs with guilt-free quinoa, flown in from paradise on a non-carbon producing magic lilac unicorn. But they are happy to a. poison other people’s children by driving down the lane next to the school playground b. churn up the green areas where other people, who like to walk to school -  like to walk.

Ditto another couple who recently sought – and did not get – neighbour agreement to decimate a mature sycamore (ok not everyone’s favourite tree – but hey – like my teenaged daughter said – it’s a TREE!!!). They wanted to cut the tree – not in their garden but – as it turns out – in my 89 yr. old neighbour’s garden – down to 9 feet – what we otherwise call a tree stump. The garden of my elderly neighbour has a variety of mature trees, planted by her dad, well maintained by a local gardening charity for the elderly. When the over-the-way folk realised they were not going to get the go-ahead they did that Jekyll and Hyde thing where they went from twee to fck-you in a nano second.

In 2014 when I toured my environmental poetry audio story 'Casey & the Surfmen' around a couple of dozen primary schools and libraries in Edinburgh there was news about new explorations of the deep ocean made possible by advances in diving technology. And what did scientists find already down there? Rubbish, plastics and other human pollution.

Two years ago I travelled to the highlands for a wedding. The scenery is truly astounding but you are aware that every impressive panorama is the graveyard of The Caledonian Forests which would once have been teeming with wildlife, sucking up carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. I believe best estimates are that there is 1% of the forest remaining.

As we are being told that, in densely populated conurbations, hedges are as important as trees in mitigating ever more deadly levels of air pollution – especially diesel particulates – people are increasingly replacing mature hedges with fencing. Another neighbour of mine has just done this.

A recent brief item on the news announced that Britain is particularly poor at tree replanting. The British Ornithology Society discussing the lesser spotted woodpecker (whose numbers declined between 1972 and 1999 by 72%) say it is declining still further because of our penchant for TIDYNESS in woodland. The deadwood these birds require is cleared away too quickly (unlike beer cans, used condoms, bits of cars and burnt areas where people have impromptu fires, food cartons, old sofas, fridges and shopping trolleys).

Years ago I bought a dilapidated house to renovate. One of its best features was a huge and beautiful pair of mature cherry trees that were breathtakingly lovely in the spring, lush and shade giving in the summer. Our neighbours – who were really nice people – admitted that during the many months when the house was empty – they had considered sneakily getting the trees cut down because they dropped blossom on their lawn in the spring!!!

Why are we so keen on imposing damaging tidiness on the tiny bits of nature remaining to us and not so keen when it comes to clearing up human litter and dog shit?

Politicians are happy to claim they care about the environment while giving planning permissions that harm it. Just the other side of the border to the south, Northumberland  County Council recently gave planning permission for open cast mining at Druridge Bay on the Northumberland coast -  an area of acknowledged natural beauty and important wildlife habitats (see blog 188 Pursuit of Profit is a Terminal Illness.)

As I mentioned in a previous blog – a dead whale recently washed up on the coast of Tiree. Scientists reckon it was the most polluted sea creature they have ever examined.

Remember, there are two major factors on planet earth when it comes to taking up Carbon Dioxide that humans cannot breathe and putting out Oxygen that we can - the oceans and the trees. So I have to ask - is everyone mad?

Maybe it’s the pollution.

But anyway – Edinburgh city council and the Scottish Parliament – if we are to be further deprived of mature and life giving greenery, please build a tree museum so our children and grandchildren (presumably wearing oxygen tanks), will at least be able to see what they missed.

“If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound” is a famous thought experiment connected with the Philosopher George Berkeley and his seminal work ‘A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge’ 1710. Perhaps the 2017 answer would be ‘When the last tree falls in the forest there will be no one left to hear it anyway’.

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If you are brave enough to stare into the abyss - get your copy of
Zero One Zero Two
e-book or paperback

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

235. Sean Spicer is Greyfriars Bobby US. Plus, how Corbyn could stand a cat in hell’s chance in the UK General Election…


The more forcefully he defends the indefensible and the longer he survives in the parallel universe of Trump’s paranoid, spiteful idiocy – the more you find yourself reluctantly warming to Sean Spicer.

Here in Edinburgh, we have the legend of (and a much- photographed-by-tourists brass sculpture of) Greyfriars Bobby.

Little Bobby dog is famous for one reason. Even after his master was dead and buried the wee fella stayed true. Even as its master was being eaten by worms, little Bobby would not be put off but remained faithful. Even when the cadaver must have begun to stink, the little furry friend was good and true and faithful to his putrid, rotting master. We love Greyfriars Bobby. In the same way we begin to love Sean Spicer – no need to hide in the bushes pal.

But I suppose everyone has their limits. Apparently, after the latest act of self-serving vindictiveness by Trump – axing FBI head James Comey - driver of the investigation into Trump campaign links with The Kremlin – poor wee Sean tried to escape the press by hiding behind some bushes.
We feel your pain Sean.

Theresa May doesn’t need a Sean because the suicidal politics here are being carried out by apparently sane individuals.

Here in the UK, as the Conservatives (having hoovered up the UKIP dust) jauntily flag-wave their way to the General Election to the tune of GIVE THERESA A MANDATE TO TEACH JOHNNY FOREIGNER A LESSON – the depressed sensible people are either flapping like fish in a frying pan or – like me – staring at a blank wall and just unable to decide what to have for tea.

Then, Corbyn (‘leader’ of the opposition Labour Party) had his election manifesto leaked. This, on the one hand, keeps with the idea of incompetence but does at least give the dazed and confused electorate time to look at his proposals. Maybe also, it gives them time to think – oh yeah – you know what – I can just about recall a time when the rich didn’t own all the country’s resources and I didn’t have to spend large chunks of my time trying to work out which energy company was the biggest rip off this month…

Back in 2015 I predicted – on this blog – with little equations and everything – that Miliband would LOSE. The only shock for me was just how surprised everyone else was – from political pundits to professional polling companies.

In blog 150. I laid out the problems of a Corbyn leadership. I suggested the Labour party – step back and take stock – maybe even find a woman (everyone else seems to have managed it). I pointed out that Corbyn was evidence that what remained of the grass roots party wanted real Labour policies. It was not a vote for Corbyn per se. If you recall he only got on the ballot paper because the centrists and right wingers wanted the competition to ‘appear’ fair.

In blog 221 I outlined why Corbyn’s ‘leadership’ is bad for Britain. I even suggested that Momentum should seize their own moment, shake off the shackles of a stagnant Labour party and forge ahead as a new separate movement. Well – I hope Momentum are taking note of how such a move worked out for a certain Emmanuel Macron.

None of this is complicated. If you pay attention and listen to the odd conversation at the bus stop, it’s really really obvious. It is only not obvious if you are swirling around in the self-fuelling tornado of media and political hysteria. I know lots of folk who, while shocked, have not been surprised at all by events, just sick and tired of the waste and stupidity.

As I predicted from day 1, Corbyn has shown himself as messianic as his nemesis – the war criminal Blair but – I reckon if Jeremy Corbyn really promoted what is a truly Labour manifesto with something approaching passion AND laid out a plan for a managed hand-over to clean new management of the Party - over – say a 6 month period immediately after the election (very late in the day, unconventional and maybe even clutching at straws...) – he could do way more than give the Nasty Party a run for its money. Britain’s future would be a shade less bleak and we wouldn’t be looking for our own version of Greyfriars Bobby to mourn over the rotting corpse of Britain’s global credibility.

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Remember if you are in Edinburgh this week I’ll be doing one of the author sessions for the big book sale/festival. Christian Aid are one of the flag ship organisations helping refugees (and many other great causes) in the face of the UK government’s sinful reneging on promises to protect vulnerable refugee children.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

234. Theresa May, her SS soundbite and my worst Brexit joke…


Here in Britain, Theresa May’s election slogan “Strong Stable” leadership is already jarring like an over-played Eurovision song contest runner up – it’s irritating but you can’t get it out of your head. Plus, Theresa May seems to have injected her Conservative party with Strong Stable Tourette’s.

Following Macron’s resounding victory, the UK is several steps further down the credibility ladder. But in the headache blear of election fatigue for a campaign that only just began – I ask myself why does Theresa May need a ‘strong stable’ when the BREXIT horse has already bolted? (Sorry)

In her blue-stocking way, Theresa May revels in being called a “bloody difficult woman”. She fashions herself as a cross between Margaret Thatcher, a starchy nanny dispensing cod-liver-oil and a human prophylactic against the EU cooperation disease and any chance infection of common sense. In the process, she whips up more jingoism (if you can imagine squeezing any more into the UK) by claiming the EU isn’t going to play nice with us. REALLY!

Following the French victory of common sense and hope over creeping, craven cowardice, none of this now matters. (Thank heavens I didn’t have to re-draft this post following news of the results) Britain and America have placed themselves firmly on the margins of the sensible collaborative forward-facing world. Both are saved from immediate irrelevance only by their unhealthily credit-based monster-consumerism and their military. The main difference is that as soon as Trump is out of office or has his overdue choking fit on a bolus of un-chewed meat or is impeached – America may crawl its slow painful way back to integrity. Britain’s situation is not so reversible.

So, what does May’s strong stable stance mean? Rigid and intransigent or delusional, as Jean Claude Juncker stated?

It sounds as if May is surprised that negotiations will be tough. Like Trump was surprised that sorting healthcare for a nation was complicated.
NB - Jonathan Guber, MIT Economics Professor and architect of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, referencing the way millions of vulnerable Americans are to be thrown off healthcare to fund a gigantic tax cut to the wealthiest, called Trump’s new healthcare bill “The largest pure redistribution from poor to rich…in one bill” the US has ever seen (MSNBC interview with Rachel Maddow May 4th 2017).

But back to UK stupidity…
Theresa May seems surprised that the remaining 27 countries in the EU do not want to serve her tea, cake and whatever else she wants. Many of the electorate – especially those that voted to leave – also seem to be surprised that Britain’s foot stamping is not working as they whip themselves into faux-imperialist fervour. Meanwhile, the imminent threats to all human life - military escalation and environmental decimation - are somewhere below what’s-on-the-telly in terms of them giving a shit. So here I am in my alternative universe – as usual – and I don’t get their don’t-getting – any more than I understand the Remainers who think this is still reversible... (See blog 207 Brexit means Brexit or my letter in The Guardian 5th February 2017)

If that blog post didn’t make it clear – try this doodle.

What did May think was going to happen? What did Boris Johnson, Fascist Farage and the Leave-without-a-plan camp think was going to happen? 

Macron refers to Brexit as a “crime”. It truly is a crime against common sense, the future, and the young and hopeful.

Like I said a couple of blogs ago – to hear Theresa May spout about what she’s going to negotiate from the EU (with her SS leadership) you would think she was pitching to get Britain IN to the EU not OUT.

Recently USA Today reported the Orca whale, Lulu, washed up dead on the coast of the Scottish island of Tiree after being caught in a fishing net. Aberdeen University researchers noted it was the most polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) polluted carcass they have ever examined. Maybe that’s it - our environment is now so polluted that our brains are poisoned and no one is thinking straight – certainly not here – certainly not in the US where the Environmental Protection Agency is run by someone who was a cheerleader for Fracking and doesn’t believe the planet is in danger (see blog 220)

Guy Verhofstadt – Europe’s Brexit negotiator - is a Macron fan and sees him reforming the EU, a role David Cameron should have assumed rather than allowing Farage and Johnson to dance us drunkenly into the storm while their privilege protects them from any consequences.

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On a much more positive and fun note – this weekend is the start of the week-long, huge annual book sale / festival here in Edinburgh raising funds for Christian Aid. Oodles of books of all genres will be on sale at bargain prices. I’ll be doing an author slot on Wed 17th May 1pm with readings from my adult novels, children’s adventure books and my own dystopian novella Zero One Zero Two plus comedy poetry and live Q&A. http://edinburghmethodist.com/wp/amanda-baker/
So
If you think the thing that really matters is having a planet humans can live on, get my sci fi dystopian novella Zero One Zero Two https://www.amazon.com/dp/1539762602

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

233. BT ignoring your customer complaints? Just do a doodle.


Demoralised and dehumanised by your monster corporate utility monolith? Try posting a cartoon and they will be right on to you.

A cartoon, even an amateur doodle will – it seems – get you attention from a megalodon company that otherwise treats its customers like a necessary irritation.

A few weeks ago – I posted an old cartoon about crap BT customer care. It was in response to news earlier this year that British Telecom – provider (or NOT) of public broadband for the government - were in more corporate mess because of being crap (I’m paraphrasing). Lo and behold my ex telephone suppliers wrote to me. And I’d not heard from them since I sued them for customer harassment; half a decade ago.

Following an initial problem caused by BT engineering in 2009, I entered into a formal customer dispute with BT in 2012. For 12 months, instead of responding fully to my concerns, BT sent multiple threatening letters and a conveyor belt of debt collectors. The debt collectors changed every time I wrote to the latest one explaining why I was ‘in dispute’ with BT! It was a horrible, stressful year. Eventually I’d feel slightly sick every time an envelope dropped through the letterbox.

They failed to engage, in particular, over a single engineering fee of £99 that we did not agree on. Fortunately I am now with another provider and though I’ve had to call them out twice in three years, I’ve never been charged.

I thought BT would run out of debt collecting firms but they did not. So, in the end I sued them for customer harassment. It didn’t go great. For example – the dweeb judge was bemused that I – a black single parent on a very low income living in a tiny ex-council house - did not experience the same sparkly, wonderful, marvellous service that he – a white male judge presumably living somewhere more up-market- always got from BT. Ya don’t say. 

NB If you wish to try this – do not do your online claim application while you are a. upset and b. on a time limit on a library computer. Despite my claim being accepted as viable – in court, the judge decided the whole application was invalid because, while I had cited the relevant legislation in my statement, it had not, as I thought, been included in the original online form.

There was, however, no further communication from BT following my issuing of the case in autumn 2012 so the delightfully vague terms in their letter “a while ago” and “in the past” actually mean half a decade.

But then I posted one of my old satirical doodles, featuring BT a few weeks ago in my cartoon collection and the BT monster stirred. I only hope their current crop of disgruntled customers with no broadband despite very expensive government contracts, are getting as much dedicated time and attention as I am.

Yes – after a gap of half a decade I received that letter last month from managing director of Customer Care, Libby Barr. For the record, the little shyster responsible for my year of hell was actually – Warren Buckley. By sheer coincidence, BT just happened, it seems, to have dug up that old file after 5 years and “sold” my debt to a shiny, fresh new debt firm. And I’ll tell Lowell debt collectors, if they do get in touch, the same as I told the others. If I ever get a response to my actual question this may get sorted. But well done BT for finding a debt collector they haven’t already worn out.

Ultimately you have to hand it to BT. Rather than discuss a disputed engineering bill with a very long standing customer (about 25 years); a reliable, regularly paying customer - they cut me off even though I was a single parent living alone with an asthmatic child. Then, they sent multiple threatening letters. Then they pursued me with debt company after debt company after debt company after debt company etc. Instead of taking a last chance to open dialogue, they responded to my online small claims case against them with a rainforest of legal paperwork – that you’d have been better weighing than reading. Then – half a decade later – after I put out an amateur cartoon on a modestly read blog – they stir into action like a fat, arthritic, drooling hyena.

 So if you can’t get their attention – do a doodle and may I suggest we heartily celebrate the BT company advertising slogan -
IT’S GOOD TO TALK

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Next week - back to Brexit / the general election / venting about the state of the world yada yada yada  Plus, if I remember, I’ll put up info about the free author event I am doing to help raise money for Christian Aid during the fantastic Edinburgh CA annual book sale/festival beginning 13th May.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

232. Corbyn – ‘Shuffling Shit Shaper’ – seems to be the Opposition Leader’s Election Pitch


Yes. Corbyn promises to tweak the mess…

Oh and give us extra bank holidays. In offering to end zero hours contracts and strengthen union representation – he does at least aim to counter the ridiculous Miliband dissociation from the workers’ movement that birthed the party. Let’s face it – that was like a feminist group saying they would distance themselves from women. But all in all, it’s too little, too weak, too muddled and way too late.

 ‘I’ll make the shit smell a bit better’ – seems to be Corbyn’s offer to Britain.

That is the Liberal’s line too – the party that propped up the Tories and sold a generation down the toilet with their colossal deceit on tuition fees. But Labour is supposed to be the official opposition. In reality, they haven’t been for a very long time.

Yes – the UK is having a General election – or if you observed the sudden verve and energy and enthusiasm (from everyone apart from the electorate that is) it’s a ‘general erection’ for politicians who’d rather be posturing than running the country.

I mean – isn’t that what elections have become? They have morphed from real democracy into pseudo mob rule. The first-past-the-post voting system has caused political constipation in the UK for decades. Folk who spend too much time watching soap operas and reality TV, panic vote following the latest nonsense stories about immigration, while politicians get all pumped up with fake passion. And JC is doing just that. He is zealously proposing to close the barn door after the horse has bolted and the barn has burnt down. He is going to furiously fiddle round the edges. He’s made really (almost) impassioned speeches about how big business will quake in its boots if Labour get in. Can you hear the rustle of bank notes as the wealthy scrabble about for their millions of unpaid taxes? Can you hear the squeal of brakes as all the banks, fleeing the UK, respond to Corbyn’s inspiring tones about a better economy and about turn? No.

This is the party that couldn’t even elect a capable woman leader (for once) when it had the chance – even though it would have sent out almost the most positive message the party could muster. JC continues on his Blairesque ego trip – the people need MEEEEE. And that nasty little war criminal Blair is sniping from the side-lines, like none of this has anything to do with his legacy, inviting voters to cast for other parties if they think it might get them a soft Brexit – as if he can deliver some sort of political pooh softening laxative – it’s STILL SHIT.

Even the moolah-monster Mandelson is pitching in with his horrible cadaver sneer at the writhing zombie of the Labour party he helped to poison. It’s too awful. But being complicit in the status quo is not the answer.

It’s clear why Theresa May is doing this. Many observers (me included) regularly refer to her as our unelected Prime Minister – which she is. The woman who campaigned for Remain now wants to stamp on dissenting voices so she can take us hard over the Brexit cliff and she has looked across at the opposition front bench and concluded, now is the time.

I have the greatest respect for many left wing commentators and genuine Labour activists who are energetically calling for unity. Quick – let’s paper over the cracks – again. Swallow your misgivings, they say, and support Jeremy because the alternative – a stronger Tory government – is unthinkable. One real argument for voting Labour in your area might be to keep out the UKIP slime but I think Paul Nuttal has already done that job.

Unfortunately, the UK is now a tanker without enough room to stop before it hits the Brexit rocks. (NB Labour is – today – finally – laying out some sort of plan for Brexit) A Labour victory would simply mean that Labour would be at the helm when the smash happens and there would be even less incentive for the root and branch change required if the party is not to become extinct.

I’ve tried to sit through some you tube videos of Corbyn interviews (thank god I don’t have TV) and all I can conclude is that those ludicrous, dithering, fumblings where you can see the cogs slowly grinding, is Corbyn thinking – ‘… how would I answer this question if it really were 1975?’

Following Theresa May’s the-breaks-have-gone-on-the-car victory on June 8th there must be one very significant resignation on June 9th – that of Jeremy Corbyn. Then Labour can begin the job it should have started after Blair hollowed out the Labour party or when Miliband set out confusing everyone – rebuilding and actually planning for the next real election in 2022.


Between now and then - God help us.

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See also -

blog 50 - Ed Miliband – Political Semolina
blog 107 – Labour’s Gift to the Tories – Again!
blog 135 - Kim Kardashian and Ed Miliband – I told you

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

231. Erdogan? Turkey literally voted for Christmas…


What is the attraction of the 21st century's mini Hitlers?

With the Turkish referendum going Erdogan’s way (as I guessed – see last week’s cartoon) we have to ask ourselves – WHY the world has such a penchant for these mad men. The fat stupid type Hitlers – Kim Jong-un; the plain nasty ones – Duterte and Assad and the pig style Hitlers – Trump e.t.c. 
On a lesser scale why do people actually vote en-masse for self-harm (yes I’m thinking Brexit)…

Now we watch nervously to see if the French are going to go down the same sewer with Le Penn.

In the UK, the phrase ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’ was used in relation to the vote to leave the EU. But at least turkeys – the fat flightless birds - go to make a sumptuous meal (if, unlike me, you eat meat). But why are people voting for meanness? Why are people voting to have their rights taken away? Why are people voting for less kindness, less freedom, less humanity?

These are rhetorical questions. I do not believe there are logical answers. Yes these monsters appeal to the lowest denominator. Yes they appeal to fear and prejudice. But are there really more stupid scared people in the world than good people?

Where does letting these inadequate, spiritually ugly men take over the world get us? Kim J-u and creepy Trump couldn’t decide who won the bad hair competition so they’re using weapons to see who is the biggest idiot.
Let’s face it – if you were playing ‘whose the person you’d least want to be stuck in a lift with’ it would be a tough choice.

Kimmy has had top brass executed (including an uncle who didn’t clap loudly enough) and Donald put American servicemen’s lives at risk by openly saying America should go after Middle East oil while troops are trying to organise peace and co-operation on the ground. Oh and with the Muslim ban.

Both would rather spend their country’s wealth on weapons than on health care or social services and they are both unhinged - need I go on?

The only thing is that Americans had a choice as did the Turkish - the Koreans didn’t – so Kimmy is easier to explain than Trump and Erdogan.

Erdogan wants to re-introduce the death penalty. Trump, who can’t spell – has no morals – is a bully, a misogynist, a sex pest - doesn’t know if he bombed Syria or Iraq (while eating 'beautiful cake'). He is a spiteful brat who is repealing Obama legislation just because it was Obama legislation. I mean – what kind of guy reverses a ban on pesticides proven to cause brain damage in children? What kind of lunatic reverses legislation to make cars more efficient AFTER that legislation has been accepted by the industry?

One of Trump’s main campaign pushes was that he is such a great business man. Many people, conned out of money to go to a Trump university, successfully sued him. He couldn’t make a success of casinos in Las Vegas, the gambling capitol. And one of the reasons that he is in hock to Vlad the Putin is because he ran out of people to borrow money from following business failure after business failure.

Why does a man who vowed not to get involved in ‘other people’s’ conflicts use a weapon costing (and this is an average of the various prices put forward) $16million per unit? We are told the weapon killed 36 – (or 92 depending on whose guesses you are using) and 300 metres of tunnels. Really? That is a lot of money to kill very few ‘baddies’. It sounds like very, very poor ROI.

Then we were told it was not about the Afghan hit – it was about sending a ‘message to North Korea’. And you have to worry about a bloke who can go from tweets to MOAB in one step. Frankly the tweets were better value. They were free and caused easily as much damage as the multi-million dollar bomb.

As Erdogan dreams about state murder and opposition detention, is Trump flicking through the military catalogue poking his stubby fingers at pictures of weapons and asking some square jawed buzz cut ‘what does this one do?’ and ‘can I have a go?’ like he did with that truck at the Whitehouse – ‘Oh please let me press the horn’.

The fat stupid spoilt spiteful bloater babies are in charge of Armageddon and the combination of fear and ignorance is like chucking a petrol tanker into an active volcano.


But I still don’t get where these shits come from. Is the devil running a factory where these men are churned out like the Orcs in Lord of the Rings? Is there an army of them ready to mess things up whenever something good gets a foothold? Or are they just always there, in the background, ready to take over whenever stupidity, self-interest and meanness reach a zenith?

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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

230 A little bit of death…


…as Trump plays with his new war toy.

Last week, in an attempt to divert attention from the ongoing car crash of his own administration, Donald Trump indulged in a little bit of death in Syria.

Pundits and commentators – who insist on behaving as if he is a real person – commended his actions. Frankly – if you are a psychopathic murderer like Assad – wealthy, unopposed, unchallenged by your rich neighbours and your country is the centre of the latest war games played out by the world’s current crop of delinquent, personality disordered leaders – it must seem like your birthday every day.

Assad’s latest atrocities allowed human sewer Donald Trump to indulge in a little bit of death. Not only is it a great way to distract from the political carnage at home, it’s a fabulous way to stage a fake disagreement with Russia as the investigation into the Trump election campaign’s links to Putin fail to go away. And while the people of the Middle East continue to suffer and suffer and suffer – Trump is flown, on Airforce1 between his new pad – the Whitehouse - his golf courses and his holiday club Mar a lago where he happily exposed sensitive government information in public.

Dump both echoed and crapped on the Obama position on Syria in 2012. This side of the pond where all energies are – and will be for years to come – mopped up in the cold, mouldy sponge of Brexit (see last week’s post) – there was some fawning over the American attack. Which is odd – because it was the 2013 UK Parliamentary vote – lost by David Cameron (then PM and architect of the BREXIT debacle) that sealed the fate of action then. As the consequences of the 2003 invasion were still evolving, no one dared look head on at Syria. Congress refused to back Obama which meant the US could not follow through against Assad when Obama wished to. Odd because Blair was able to follow the war monger and idiot – G. W. Bush into an illegal war with no basis the decade before. Once again, we have to say that the consequences of the illegal 2003 invasion are long and wide and deep and will continue to skew international reactions for the foreseeable future.

Weirdly, everything seems to be coming out opposites at the moment. The situation shows the UK is already irrelevant on the world stage – the total opposite of what the Empire mob who rode the BREXIT horse into a ditch wanted. Trump – in dabbling with a bit of death in Syria - has alienate the only people who really supported him – the extreme right-wing white supremacists.

And while the UK Eton twonk, former Mayor of London and our racist Foreign secretary Boris Johnson jumps on the Trump bandwagon – the former head of MI6 and permanent secretary to the UN John Sawyers believes – and I agree – Trump is also posturing for North Korea (the other country with a spoilt brat leader with bad hair). Yum.

To add irony to injury, immediately after the US strike – Assad’s planes were able to take off from the very air base targeted by American missiles.

As the other miserable conflicts continue – overshadowed by the Syrian mess – Ukraine, Yemen, South Sudan, Iraq etc – the spoilt rich boys carry on chucking bombs from the safety of their privileged life styles. The worry is that Trump may have enjoyed playing his new war game and the US / Russia proxy war in the Middle East spreads to be the real world-war we dread.

And who pays the price for these global war games started by inadequate men with small personalities, distended egos and bad hair? Always, always, always – innocent civilian men, women and children…

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See also blogs; 43 - Killing them Softly 172 – Syrian Pogrom and 200 - Suffer the little children – again… (Syria)

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

229. Article 50 is funny – isn’t it?


Especially from up here in Scotland. I’m surprised we’re not calling it ‘our-tickle-50’. Apologies if you are reading this on translate – that pun won’t work… a bit like BREXIT.

You can almost hear the canned laughter.

Seriously – this is a farce J.B. Priestly would have envied.

Like many voters, the Scots were totally conned. Among other lies, they were told – the ONLY way to stay in Europe was to vote NO in the Independence referendum in 2014.

Then David Cameron – in his Eton schoolboy fog of misplaced confidence, shining inadequacy and poor judgement called an in/out EU referendum. He decided, gambling with Britain’s future was the way to deal with the Empire mob in his own party. And just as when Tony Blair, hanging out of George W Bush’s arse, went into Iraq – there was no post-mess, post-mad-decision PLAN. Not even a few scribbles on the back of an envelope.

Interesting to mention Blair here following the destabilisation of the Middle East. UKIP – the UK Independence Party – exploited the fear of refugees fleeing war, migration and an explosion in (sorry for another pun) global terrorism – to hijack the EU referendum with the blunt, amnesia-inducing instrument of Xenophobia.

Augmenting their lies and racism, the Leave campaign used the opposite arguments they’d advocated in the Scottish referendum, to rattle a poorly informed public.

The Leave campaign won – and then rubbed our noses in it by admitting, the day after the vote, that one of their biggest, loudest lies was – well – a big loud lie - ha. How amusing, how jolly…

Then Farage skipped off to play with Trump. Cameron exited swiftly and without a backward glance.

Now our unelected Prime Minister Theresa May – who was a Remain advocate – is turning out to be the most brittle of Leave practitioners. So, was she a flimsy shit then or is she a flimsy shit now?

And the merry-go-round whirls crazily on to a jangling, painful, discordant tune. Suddenly EU citizens who have been settled here for decades, do not have security. The Prime Minister refuses to exclude them as pawns in her negotiating. And as her hand is so very very weak – pity them. And last week in the madness whipped up by the racists a young asylum seeker was set on by a mob and was beaten nearly to death and ex- Tory leader – Howard started sabre rattling over Gibraltar. All this before negotiations begin.

The new UKIP leader Paul Nuttal, is everything you would expect from that party. Stupid, dishonest, attention seeking, stupid, a fantasist, stupid, boring – oh and did I mention STUPID. Farage’s media gimmick was that he was an ‘ordinary bloke down the pub’ and he was regularly pictured perched on a bar stool with fag and pint. In fact, Farage is a privileged and wealthy ex-stockbroker who went to an exclusive private school where the staff didn’t like him because he was too racist. But Paul Nuttal actually is the wanker down the pub. He is the bloke everyone tries to avoid and who they pretend they haven’t seen if he tries to catch their eye. He is the guy glad-handing anyone who will give him the time of day as he spews his girly, whining, clichéd speeches and re-hashed unoriginal phrases.

Theresa May’s Article 50 pronouncement itself was comedy. There were references to the close union she wants with Europe – the co-operation on security and trade etc. A newly landed Martian could be forgiven for thinking she was pitching to GET IN to the EU.

In this hiatus of crazy, I cannot begin to explain what happened across the pond. Trump - the alpha male – with no alpha and a parody of masculinity – is simply shitting on America like a delinquent baboon. However, here in the UK, it is more obvious what happened. Mediocrity triumphed. From the Prime Minister who is every inch the 6th form head girl who got in because the student everyone wanted got caught sniffing glue behind the bike sheds to a lack-lustre, out of touch public broadcast organisation. Still the BBC is dancing, like an arthritic auntie, trying and failing to be relevant and shuffling three steps behind – well - everything - paid for by everyone!

Apart from the general national mess – there is an important similarity with the US - the nasty people were given huge amounts of free prime-time media coverage which, in the US, has been admitted. Here, UKIP were shamelessly platformed by our public broadcaster the BBC.  Way, way back I wrote about the BBC promoting ‘Hitler lite’ (see blog 111). Well – now the internet – via twitter is finally cottoning on and picking up that UKIP – despite not being able to hold a single seat in Parliament are given endless time on the BBC – including the BBCs flagship political discussion programme - Question Time. It is lower than slap stick farce. The BREXIT / Article 50 show is more garish than a juggling, unicycling, farting clown with a bent neon foghorn.

I mean – come on – I know Trump is no longer funny – but surely Brexit is. And Article 50 is hilarious - isn’t it?

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You may also like these related blogs from the archives -

117. Get Those Darkies Back In Their Box
152 Could the Nice People speak Up Please

165 The Penisic Era

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

228. Westminster – North of common sense & South of reality.


Here in the UK, in Westminster outside Parliament, another man with a sad history of family instability, drugs and violence ran amok. Adrian Elms used the excuse of Islamic fundamentalism to hurt and murder people in cold blood. At least that is one way of seeing it. Unfortunately, the increasingly ghoulish media coverage took a view parallel to the one simplified by the terrorists themselves. Terror groups, retrospectively, claimed Elms (aka Khalid Masood) as their soldier and the press also broadly painted him as a crazed Islamist fighter. Really? Without wishing to seem cynical, I would doubt he had time to absorb any meaningful teachings of the Koran in such a chaotic, drug addled, sad, violent and confused life.

Have we learnt nothing about giving the oxygen of dramatic, protracted publicity to those who crave melodrama and extended media coverage?

Then, hot on the heels of the deadly speeding car and this unhinged man were ex-UKIP leader, liar and racist Farage and deluded, lying, attention-seeking Katie Hopkins with their particular brands of vile rhetoric. And just as quick were the media outlets to report every word they said.

There is muddy bog here of untruth and a warped reality.

Those who play with this particular brand of toxic populism and fear, cunningly ignore the destabilising role of rampant global capitalism, wealth disparity and the increasing pressures of climate catastrophes. Instead they roll out the convenient two-dimensional platitudes - it’s all the fault of immigrants, refugees fleeing war or Muslims or (in the US) Mexicans or the Chinese. Broadly speaking, you could say brown skinned people are the problem. Unless you were trying to lever the UK out of the EU in which case EU nationals were in the mix too.

On the other hand, we have the lone attackers, often with violent backgrounds – often involved in drugs and often perpetrators of domestic abuse. Along comes a situation of utter confusion and political chaos where leaders behave like headless chickens and where these unhinged, disconnected individuals can vent their disturbed and violent natures – under the false guise of a cause.

And a lazy media with endless hours of air time to fill – with an apparently short memory – swings along behind this simplistic narrative. It is a dangerous and pervasive narrative that does not serve the public and does not serve peace or justice. Add to this the new enthusiasm for public service announcements on the radio, warning folk to be vigilant. Here in the UK they are set to the kind of music one would associate with cheap TV drama. It’s a recipe for hysteria and fear.

In relation to the murderer Elms and his kind, it is a view that enlarges and gives a false sheen to these small sad characters. At the other end of the spectrum, it is a line of thought which ignores the past – ignores inequality – ignores the fallout from illegal wars, vicious detention regimes, social, political and economic destabilisation and the failure of the rule of law.

Then everything is boiled down to an easily digestible soundbite – albeit one that will give us socio-political indigestion for decades. It is simple and self-righteous and less than half the truth - THEY just want to ruin OUR way of life – we are told.

Many seem to accept the strange irrational nature of this out-of-focus picture. Do so few people remember that in pre-invasion-of -Iraq world we did not have entrenched global terrorism?

Added to the disruption and destabilisation of the Middle East we have the ever increasing disparity in wealth. While people still starve and millions are affected by climate weirding, fleeing their homes and on the move across the globe -  we have billionaires successfully avoiding tax, promoting the continuing use of climate-damaging fossil fuels and hoarding money mountains they could not use in 100 lifetimes.

The notion that this is simply a battle of ways of life is a dangerous. Them v us. The wrong v the right. The East v the West. This narrative is way too convenient for both extremes.

The reality is in the uncomfortable middle. The bare open ground. The no-man’s land of uncomfortable honesty. The world is unstable because too few people have way too much. Everyone else is edgy because they can see the waterhole they need to share with the majority shrinking and shrinking and shrinking.

What is truly bizarre is the way significant numbers have turned to the very architects of the inequality and destabilisation. So in America – we have a charlatan – a liar, an inept business man and corrupt ignoramus who promised to "drain the swamp". What he then did was to fill the swamp with crocodiles. This is what happens when the thinking is skewed and the easy narrative takes hold.

If you look round the world at stable countries, you will observe one interesting factor – they are the least divided economically and socially. They are often also the countries where the most vulnerable are given generous social and economic safety nets. And yes – the rich have to pay their fair share.

Unnerving and uncomfortable and energy draining as it is, we have to be honest. We have to look at the whole picture – not just the bits that suit a headline.

If you want something snappy but a wee bit closer to the truth – try this – Greedy Pigs are the problem, not Pigmentation…

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

227. Mothers’ Day Manifesto


Every wealthy tax-avoider should be forced to have a large picture of a homeless person or an over-flowing hospital outpatient department or a starving child or the suffocating interior of a sweatshop, on the walls in their place(s) of residence. This way they could be reminded who really pays for their opulent lifestyles.

I’m just throwing around some ideas for Mothering Sunday, this coming Sunday 26th March.

I distantly remember that, as a child, you’d make a sticky card for your mum at school using the strange collection of odds and ends from the ‘craft’ cupboard. Often, bits dropped off on the way home. On the day, you would attempt to make breakfast for her. This usually involved tepid tea and soggy or burnt toast which she received with a surprised smile as if she had no idea what was coming. Dad would try to be useful and somewhere along the way flowers and chocolates might be involved.

Now, as a mother and grandmother, I am slightly repelled by the shelves of saccharine-pink cards, bouquets of desperate flowers, teddies with bows and schmaltzy messages hung round their necks, plus truckloads of celebrity-endorsed perfumes overflowing the supermarket aisles. The headache-inducing advertisements scream at people to buy buy buy something special for their special mother on this special day.

So, Ok – enough of the grumps. What would I really like for Mother’s Day?

Evidence is daily with us of just how grim it is for women trying to be mothers as they flee war. The current famine crises emerging in African countries, bring up the images we’d hoped to consign to history, of desperate women rocking starving hollow-eyed infants as the ravages of war and climate change go unchecked. Even in the UK we must ask, how is it possible to provide that essential motherly safety and nurturing while more families live in insecure accommodation or struggle with family debt. How powerless does a mother feel watching a child become ill with respiratory problems caused by increasingly bad air quality. So, I came up with a rough Mother’s Day Manifesto –

Let this government finally understand that the children and mothers languishing in refugee camps must be given a chance to make a decent life. The even more vulnerable lone child migrants must be given immediate help. The UK must reinstate the previously agreed commitment to accept vulnerable refugee children after Theresa May’s government shamefully overturned The Dubs Amendment.

Because this and previous administrations don’t seem to understand basic human decency – there should be – let’s say – a statutory £2million fine for every pregnant woman or mother and child group being held in immigration detention centres. Centres such as the infamous Yarl’s Wood are no better than prisons even though the people held there are not criminals but unfortunates who are in the limbo land of the current messy system.

More generally, there must be a coherent strategy to revolutionise the UK system where, if you are born rich, you rise regardless of how useless you are and you struggle if you are born poor regardless of how talented. Start by removing the charity status from private schools and increasing the per capita budgets for pupils at state schools. As I’ve said many times on this blog – the current system damages society on a fundamental level. Not just because the bright but socially unconnected youngsters don’t get on but, more to the point, dim but very well connected offspring get to be in charge. Then we all suffer.

As an adjunct to the previous point. Many private schools are set in extensive and beautiful grounds while very many state schools are situated on busy main roads or junctions where the worst traffic pollution occurs. These latter sites must be tested and if the air quality is consistently poor, the roads must be re-routed.

The government must finally ban the sale of weapons by UK arms manufacturers to corrupt regimes and those practising human rights abuses. This is an ongoing and identifiable problem. Somehow it keeps being side-lined. Many UK aid workers find themselves assisting refugees fleeing conflicts fuelled by armaments made in Britain.

This government must force the wealthy to pay their taxes. No more threatening a smack on the wrist. No more cup-of-tea ‘negotiating’ with HMRC when tax-avoiders are found out. New powerful sanctions must be imposed for those who asset-strip companies for personal gain (see blog 185 Does Sir Philip Green kick disabled orphan kittens in his spare time). Put genuine effort into retrieving the £millions / £billions owed and currently AWOL in the fiscal system. Then we can start to tackle the abomination of increasing numbers of homeless families in one of the richest countries in the world along with many other things on our social wish list.

Double the tax on private cars. Make buses free for children and the elderly.

Re-nationalise railways and halve rail fayres – so we can begin to improve the quality of the air our children breathe and reduce traffic accident mortalities.

Let the media, employers and governments stop dictating to women what they can / cannot wear.

Finally – make it compulsory for good-quality dark chocolate to be free on Mother’s Day 😊


That would mark a really good 2017 Mothering Sunday.