What happens after the Covid-19?


What happens after the Covid-19?

20 Jan 2020 – USA has first confirmed imported case – From China.

20 Jan 2020 – COVID-19 included in Statutory Report of Class B Infectious Diseases and Border Health Quarantine Infectious Diseases in China – Measures to Curtail: Temperature Checks, Health Care Declarations, Quarantines – Instituted at Transportation Depots – Laws of China – Wildlife Markets Closed – Captive-Breeding Facilities Cordoned Off.

22/23 Jan 2020 – WHO decides not to yet declare the outbreak a PHEIC.

23 Jan 2020 – China observes Strict Travel Restrictions.

24 Jan 2020 – First Report of case in Europe – France.

30 Jan 2020 – WHO declares 2019 nCov (former name of COVID-19) outbreak a PHEIC – under International Health Regulations (2005).

11 Feb 2020 – The Virus and the Disease it causes officially named – The Novel Coronavirus named ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)’; The Disease it Causes named ‘COVID-19’.

27 Feb 2020 – WHO updates case definitions for COVID-19 for Suspected, Probable, Confirmed – Worldwide Surveillance Continues.

28 Feb 2020 – Nigeria reports first case of COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

11 March 2020 – WHO upgrades the COVID-19 outbreak to a Pandemic.

A mother in a Lorrie Moore short story People Like That Are the Only People Here, jokes, ‘Healthy? I just want the kid to be rich’.  We know what happens next.

Writers are readers. If they’re no readers they’re not writers. Here’s the story: We’re all in it together. In Burlington Care Home in Glasgow, thirteen elderly residents died in a week. Two of the staff test positive for Covid-19. All over the world Covid-19 has been behaving in the classic hockey-stick manner of epidemics plotted on a graph. We sit on the side-lines and clap our team, the NHS, care staff, all those on the front line. There’s good reason for this. Wearing gloves and a face mask doesn’t mean you won’t get sick – viruses can also transmit through the eyes and tiny viral particles, known as aerosols, can penetrate masks, but it does make it five times more unlikely.

With no football on, we’ve all become expert analysists, pitting our team against other countries. We know from the SARs  2003-4 in South Korea, most of the cases were in health workers. The pattern is repeated with Covid-19. Those who spend more time treating victims are more likely to become victims, especially if they don’t have proper protective equipment.

Other armchair experts claim it’s no big deal, no worse than seasonal flu. Herd immunity sounded feasible. This was the positon the moron’s moron President Trump took. Now he’s saying 200 000 American deaths would be a good score. The side of the Atlantic, Boris Johnson took the same position as his senior partner in the Oval Office. Johnson is now settling for 20 000 British deaths after the first wave of the Covid-19 has passed.

Do the math. If borne out by further testing, this could mean that current estimates of a roughly 1% fatality rate are accurate. This would make Covid-19 about 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu, which is estimated to kill between 290,000 and 650,000 people a year worldwide. The population of America is around 250 million so if Covid-19 hockeystick trajectory continued as epidemiologist modelled with over 80%  of the population becoming infected over 2 million Americans would die. In Britain that would be around 600 000 deaths.

As we’ve seen, even with these lower numbers our health services are working beyond full capacity with apparently mild cases overlooked and hockey-stick numbers growing exponentially. This is important because as Chinese scientist have confirmed these cases DO contribute to transmission and need to be socially isolated. Health Care workers such as those in Burlington Care Home did go into work.  Tens of thousands of Care workers face that same dilemma.

Employers, until now, have created even more ways of punishing and sacking low-paid workers and depriving them of their rights. Care staff as disposable as bed-pans. Classed as self-employed. No holiday pay. No pension. Zero-hour contracts.  Minimum wage is the maximum wage and ways such as not paying for travelling costs being used to deprive them of even that. Classified as agency staff and their minimum wage reduced by a third by paying their employers for employing them. Take it or leave it.  

The future looks like the past. Imagine the Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla residents of Burlington Care Home. We’re all in it together. Under new NHS guidelines in England (this is Scotland you might argue) rationing or triage needs to take place. The Queen because of her age would not qualify for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or qualify for a ventilator. Charles might get into ICU but because of a shortage of ventilators doesn’t receive incubation. Camilla qualifies for both. Are we really all in it together?

Let’s look at the league tables and cheer. Singapore is top of the table. China has flat- lined, it no longer has hockey-stick growth in numbers. Italy is doing most testing, but has the highest fatality rate. Spain is catching up with Italy in terms of casualties and testing. Germanic efficiency, doing everything by the book. It  has been doing widespread testing of suspects with symptoms and contact tracing in the WHO-recommended fashion from the beginning of the epidemic. We’re at different stages of the epidemic. The UK death toll is currently higher than Italy’s at the same stage, reinforced by another showing that by this stage of the outbreak. Italy had begun to flatten its curve while in Britain the line keeps rising, the number of deaths doubling every three days. We’re not even looking at Third World Countries. Trump boasts he’s testing more than Britain, more than China. Those without healthcare or the capacity to treat victims know what to expect. We’ve all seen it before. More of the same.

When it ends, when it really ends, we’ll be back at the beginning, waiting for the second wave of the Covid-19. The golden bullet of vaccines, optimistically, look about a year away. Only about five major drug companies have the resources to manufacture the golden bullet if it was found today. Scaling takes time. First world countries would be first. Even the moron’s moron in the US  has woken up to the need to test – and is telling companies that export, America must come first. Trump tried to buy a German company bio-tech company. Third world countries third, because you can’t go any lower. But here you create a reservoir population, ready to infect the rest of the world. Using an economic axiom, ceteris paribus: Changing the number of people tested, or who is being offered tests, will also affect the number of reported cases.

Moving forward to when, or if, we flatten the hockey-shaped curve, people need to return to work in stages. In Britain one effect of government rhetoric is the NHS is safe, even under the Tories that have been selling it off piecemeal, and depriving it of funds. Any hint of depriving the NHS of much-needed resources would be political suicide, but this is short-term.

Cast your mind back to 2010 to the unfunny Laurel and Hardy of Cameron/Osborne government, before their slapstick act of economic stupidity and self-mutilation called Brexit. Note the four doctors to have died so far are BAME doctors.  Britain had to pay higher than other EEC countries for ventilators, for example, because they’re no longer part of the EEC and the pound is plummeting. Fifty percent of our food comes from imports. Crops will rot in the fields without immigrant workers. We import more than we export. Quite literally, we can’t go it alone. Our government knows this.  But the then outgoing Labour Chief Secretary of the Treasury Liam Byrne left a jokey written message to his incoming colleague, the Liberal Democrat (remember them) David Laws: ‘there’s no money left’.  

We all know what happened next. A detailed assessment showed that public spending was to increase in five Whitehall departments and to be cut in seventeen, beginning with welfare. What we used to call social security was gone. As over 1 000 000 people newly registered for Universal Credit have found out. Living on less than £100 per week is the new norm. While the British economy was flatlining in 2010, in the way we hope the Covid-19 will in 2020 the Tory government pursued a policy of taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Tax cut. Tax cut. Tax cut. Privatise and cherry pick our NHS, stealth by the back door such as Virgin Health running mental health services. Yes, the same Richard Branson asking for a bailout for his airline. Private profit and dividend and tax cuts, whilst domiciled elsewhere. How does that add up with we’re all in it together?  Those were also the words used by George Osborne and leave a familiar taste in the mouth.

Austerity was imposed on the poor in 2010, but not on the rich. They bounced back very quickly to 2007-2008 levels of capital wealth and an increased share of the GDP. The gap between rich and poor matched that of the Great Depression. Wages never recovered. Those in work and claiming benefits grew and grew. The working poor, those that work in, for example, care homes as carers were mocked as the scum of the earth. Junior doctors were labelled greedy. Nurses were chastised for demanding a pay rise. Loans instead of grants were the new norms for nurses training and numbers dropped.  

Austerity in the twenty-first century. Covid-19 is a dress rehearsal for climate change, but one is now, the other deferred. In the same way, the $2tn US coronavirus relief package is doling out $60bn to struggling airlines and offering low-interest loans that are available to fossil fuel. Britain has in the words of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak effectively nationalised the economy. 10% of Britain’s GDP of debt and growing, £435 billion in Quantitive Easing (printing money) £200 billion up front to keep the economy temporarily afloat.

Writing in the Guardian, the economist David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College in the US and a member of the Bank’s interest rate-setting monetary policy committee during the 2008 financial crisis, said unemployment was rising at the fastest rate in living memory. UK unemployment could rapidly rise to more than 6 million people, around 21% of the entire workforce, based on analysis of US job market figures that suggest unemployment across the Atlantic could reach 52.8 million, around 32% of the workforce.

“There has never been such a concentrated business collapse. The government has tried to respond but it has no idea of the scale of the problem it is going to have to deal with. We make some back-of-the-envelope calculations and they are scary,” he said.

 Unemployment looked to be at least 10 times faster than in the recession triggered by the 2008 financial crisis.

The Great Depression of the hungry thirties was ended not by fiscal stimulus, although that helped, but by the second world war. During the Depression years rich monopolists chaffed at government intervention in the economy and called for a return to lassez-faire economics. Sounds familiar. Listen to Thatcher’s ‘let poppies grow tall speech’. Reaganomics was just Thatcherism wrapped in a different flag.  We’ve seen the same effect under Osborne/ Cameron. At some point in the aftermath of the pandemic hard choices will need to be made. Simple choices if you’re a Tory, you take money from the poor and give it to the rich. After all under Thatcher dogma, ostensibly, they are the creators of wealth. The keepers of our economic good health, but just don’t ask them to share. Trillions can be wiped from stock market shares, ten, twenty, fifty, seventy percent, yet a tax increase of 1% is met as if Armageddon has occurred. Then it did begin to unfold.

Ironically, the moron’s moron may well win an election not for anything he did or said, but because he’s a leader on TV screens and his popularity remains high especially among white, male, Republican supporters.  Those most likely to die from the Covid-19 virus. Here Johnson is in social isolation. He has the virus. He is a viral infection. But he’s never been more popular. As an old Etonian when it comes to making hard choices of who gets what and why, well, that is easy, Thatcherism. Survival of the fittest. Tall poppies, like Branson. Survival of the richest. Poor people are there to be applauded, every Thursday, but not helped. There to be used and discarded. The backlash is coming and it’s coming soon. Expect no mercy from Tory scum. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. If you think we’re all in it together you’ve been living on the moon and probably would vote Trump if you lived in America.   People Like That Are the Only People Here. A choice between being rich, or being healthy, few of us get to choose. I choose life, but not stupidity.

The Piety of Hand-clapping

Piety, as we all know, is a quality of being reverent. We usually associate it with religion. Etymologically, it comes from Latin and is related to dutifulness.  It’s not often I’ve seen ideology in action. People coming to their front doors and clapping their hands and supporting the NHS. Our NHS and the support workers. Care workers and what we used to call auxiliaries. Only to find we’re all auxiliaries. A writer’s job (even a would-be writer) is when we look along the line of common humanity and listen to the cheering and the clapping to take a step back and shut our ears and look for the cross beams and the creaking of the gallows.

I’m not alone in remembering the vacant eyes and the Oxbridge braying of the Conservative elite when their backbenchers cheer when it’s announced that nurses that will not receive a pay rise. Or an invocation of the Thatcherite spirit, when the Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt branded junior doctors greedy because new contracts were even worse than the non-contracts they had — in which they agreed to work a squillion hours unpaid. Why now the halo of heroism for largest sector of the economy, largely female carers, where the minimum wage is the maximum wage and there’s no time for caring?

Humiliation after humiliation should be branded on our forehead like the tattooed numbers of the women in Auschwitz—work makes you free—those of us that dare to be poor and keep having the wrong kind of children – poor children.

We’ve retreated from politics, squabbled among ourselves and let our so called betters like Boris Johnson get on with it. After all Boris is one of us. He battered his girlfriend, the police were called, but he denied it. Got her pregnant and went on holiday when he should have been at work. Now he’s got the Covid-19 virus and is still working away in his bunker that will allow him to come away with more Winston Churchill quotes about us ‘all being in it together’.

When we’re clapping, we’re not clapping him, or his ilk. We’re clapping ourselves on the back. We’ve came through 30 years of Tory dogma and 10 years of bleeding austerity.  It’s not just Covid-19 that makes us sick, but Tory promises fill us with a rich sense of foreboding.  Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere. Boris recognised the business-as-usual model would lead to tens of thousands of—mainly old folk (with a higher proportion of men, for some unknown reason, unless god really is a woman)—and he rejected that model. The moron’s moron is quite willing to take that risk, but had to be pulled back from the brink of stupidity, which for him is as high as a three-year-old boy’s knees.  

The business as usual model is based on taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. A increasingly widening gap between those that start their day in debt and those that finish the day in more debt and those that hold all the debts and all the cards and tell you to clap. That’s successful ideology for you, the sullen recognition you’ve been used. You’ve been dehumanised, treated as something that needs reined in. And you’ve embraced that choke collar as a necessary evil.

Keep clapping, but when the clapping stops, you’ll know what to expect. You’ll know who the enemy within will be. It’ll be you that’s being unreasonable. You that isn’t listening. You that need to be locked up. Keep clapping. But watch yourself. Look for the cross beam and listen for the creak of the gallows.  

An idiot’s guide to the coronavirus.

When we talk about the coronavirus it’s the virus part we need to pay attention to. Corona, from the Latin, means crown and is associated with the aurora that surrounds the sun, moon and stars. We also get the word coronary from corona, a constriction of the arteries around the heart. But here Covid-19, coronavirus, is a simple nametag to differentiate it from other viruses, in the same way that ship number 736 in John Brown’s yard was later tagged The Queen Elizabeth 2, to differentiate it from other ships under construction and its predecessor the Queen Elizabeth 1.

What is a virus?

The science of viruses is a field of study in microbiology, the investigation of very small objects, organisms a fraction of the size of a living cell. Viruses mutate and are as old as the rocks. But the human body also mutates and adapts and produces antibodies which fend off most viruses. Viruses can be thought of as the jamming of cellular DNA code.  The most common virus is the flu virus. It too mutates and is always lying, waiting somewhere in the world for its next victim. Viruses also have reservoirs in other animals and organisms that make the species jump to humans as did the ‘wet market’ in Asia.  But let’s not forget John Gummer, over twenty-five years ago, feeding his daughter a prion burgher to disprove the mad-cow-disease scandal.

A virus is a study in large numbers.

A virus one of the smallest of living things, over time, produces an exponential effect. We know how this works. 1…2 …4…16…infected cases (and since my arithmetic is crap I’ll leave it there). Here is a more entertaining account from Hollywood’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, of how transmission of the disease occurred in fifties America, obviously it didn’t affect black or Chinese people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYrcyROSjl0

The 1918 influenza pandemic (also called Spanish flu, so we could blame Spanish people for it, so Covid-19 should in the interests of fairness be called Chinese flu) infected at the beginning of the twentieth century around 500 million worldwide and around a quarter of the world’s population of around 1.8 billion.   For those of you good at arithmetic, divide the world’s current population of around 7 billion by 4. That would be our high-water mark in the twenty-first century.

The Gates Foundation (billionaires have to do something with their money) ran a simulation in 2018 of how an extraordinary flu virus would grow exponentially: 28 000 victims after one month; 10 million after three months; 33 million after six months.   

You might also want to watch here the late Robin Williams, playing the British neurologist Oliver Sacks, in Awakenings. The Spanish flu, unlike the Chinese flu, affected the most able-bodied, the young and fit. This may have been due to a cytokine storm. Cyto indicates a cell, a small room and kine is related to kinship. A storm inside the cells of young people whose immune response works against them (that’s one theory). The Chinese flu follows the more conventional pattern of the common flu, which has high tides and low tides in which the body count follows. Here it is usually those most vulnerable to virus infection and whose immune response is compromised. We’re talking about the young, who have not built up sufficient antibody resistance to fend off infection. And the old—whose bodies are knackered. These groups are most at risk from the coronavirus. I reminded my neighbour, when we talk about ‘those old folk’, we are included in that subcategory.

The best-case scenario

The coronavirus tide is already out. All those people that puff there chest out and say, ‘I told you so,’ are proved correct. It’s also instructive to see how presidents of the two major superpowers reacted. President Xi Jinping visited the hotspot, treating it as a war zone, and Chinese Communist Party Officials locked down Wuhan Province isolating those that exhibited symptoms of the virus. As antibodies fight the virus like any other flu virus this is shown in an increased body temperature, coughing and spluttering. Wuhan’s population is around the same as that of the United Kingdom. Imagine everybody in the United Kingdom being told by Boris Johnson to stay indoors. Imagine, constructing two hospitals the size of the £100 million building in Glasgow and Edinburgh (still shut for further work) in two weeks as happened in Wuhan. Imagine the Chinese have developed a vaccine for the coronavirus. Without having to imagine any of these things the number of cases in Wuhan has spiked and is dropping. The worst of the worst may be already over and other countries might not need to go into lockdown.

Worst-case scenario.

The coronavirus tide is beginning to roll in. Lock down as in Wuhan Province. We’re seeing similar measures in Italy, parts of Germany, Spain and most other nations. The moron’s moron in the Whitehouse has declared he doesn’t believe in it, therefore like United States senators preaching isolationism as Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbour being prepared is regarded as a trick of the mind. American First means pulling public funds, from example, organisations like the World Health Organisation that has the expertise to coordinate a multinational approach to Covid-19, which would be more effective over time. Being unprepared gives non-symptomatic carriers access to other victims and the virus continues mutating into a more virulent form. There’s no place of safety. We all live in 1950s America. We’re only as safe as we allow our neighbour to be whatever their skin colour, gender or class.

Keep your grubby hands off our NHS.

A small pathogen that we cannot see has shown us how everything is connected, everyone is connected. The first question dental staff asks us now is how are you going to pay for this treatment. Outside of the Windrush Generation we don’t—yet—hear that in the frontline of our National Health Service. Sure, parts of it are being sold off to private developers and bit by bit it is being dismantled, but even David Cameron couldn’t admit that he was doing it. Boris Johnson tells us he’s pumping even more money into our NHS. He’s a liar. He thinks by mussing his hair and rolling a large number such as £20 or £30 billion off his tongue, we’ll be duly impressed. Our NHS budget has shrunk from 5% of GDP to less than 4%, with an aging population and now the corona virus, the figures don’t add up. Public health is not just for the poor. That’s why we need a properly funded public-health system. The Americans used to come to us and see how we did it. Now we’re selling out to them. One of the most inefficient and expensive health-care systems in the world. Good luck with the coronavirus if you’re a poor American. Good luck with the coronavirus is your British and can’t afford a day off work.

When a just-in-time supply system breaks down there’s panic buying. That’s already happening. Supplies of masks, suits and other protective equipment for health care workers must be made available. There’s talk of hiring retired medical doctors and bringing them back to work. Perhaps the first thing the government should do is shut down those cruelty camps, centres in every major city that allegedly assess benefit claimant’s health and disabilities. Use the medical staff and facilities they already have as treatment centres for victims of the coronavirus. Children’s homes and Care homes will also need added staff and financial help.  The coronavirus has meant that selling off our NHS has become overnight more of a political vote loser than any other issue. That’s got to be a good thing.

If you know any other idiots like me that require an idiot’s guide to the coronavirus, then share it with that idiot and you’ll look less idiotic. Be smart.   

Deborah Orr (2019) Motherwell: A Girlhood.


I was shocked—well, that’s the wrong word, but I can’t think of the right one—that Deborah Orr was dead. She’s the same age as me, or would have been— Motherwell: A Girlhood was a message from beyond the grave. She died in 2019. She came from Motherwell. The title is a dead giveaway. And there’s a whole stack of her achievements listed on flyleaf with a picture of her, a haunting picture, in retrospect. Look at the cover image and, in contrast, a picture of Deborah aged around seven or eight, long hair, smiling for the camera, crinoline dress, blue and white pattern, white socks up to the knees and shiny white shoes. A proper little girl.

Deborah Orr’s achievements, including writing and editing for The Guardian, which at the time was as novel as a woman Prime minister, not because of her background, but despite it. One of the commonest tricks played on the working class is to point at the exception to the rule and say there’s one there. There’s a black swan. Upward social mobility is possible for those that work. My message to you and I’m sure Deborah Orr’s would be too is – fuck off. We’ve been moving backward to the dark ages bit by bit since the Thatcher/ Reagan revolution. An era when Deborah Orr escaped to the glory of a London squat, roughly, when this book ends.

Deborah was named after the film star, Debbie Kerr, her mother Win, loved all the glamour and glitter of Hollywood, but the grim reality is here in this joke the author loved (and I do too) about a Yorkshireman on his deathbed.

‘Steven? Are you here?’

‘I’m here, Dad.’   

‘Mary? Are you here?’

‘I’m here, Dad.’

‘Bethany? Are you here?’

‘I’m here, Grandad.’

‘Aaron? Are you here?’

‘I’m here, Grandad.’

‘Then why’s the hall light on?’    

Here’s one of your markers if you want to apply for your passport to poverty. I laughed out loud, while recognising my da skulking in the hallway waiting to pounce because I was on the phone. ‘That’s no a piano,’ Dessy, my da said.

The memoir is structured around  memento mori. ‘The Bureau, Baby’s First Haircut, The Wedding Clippings, The Dolls…The Dope Box, Letter to Crispin, Untitled, The Last Vestiges of John’.

‘I loved Win’s wide black velvet belt, so tiny that she kept for years, a reminder to herself of her lovely curvaceous figure, “before I had children”.’

John was Deborah’s dad, the centre of his world.  He was the baby of a family of five, as was her mum, Win, who was English. Win was under five-foot small, but gorgeous, everybody said so. John was luck to have Win, Win was lucky to have John. They all lived happy ever after isn’t much of a story.

‘John and Win met, and had their miscegenated, cross-border romance because of the war. Without the war, I was always told I wouldn’t have existed.’

When Deborah recalls three increasingly brutal rapes by different men—the playful rape at University, if you don’t squeal, I won’t tell; to the accidental rape, you’re sleeping, so I’ll just fuck you because we talked earlier; to the hands on the throat and you might never live to tell the tale—and her mother’s surprise that sex could be pleasurable and not something done to you, then her mum sides with the rapists. She sides with women jury members that found rapists and murderers such as Peter Manuel not guilty because women shouldn’t have put themselves in such a positon to be bludgeoned.

The natural positon of women was to think of Scotland, or even England in her case, when John, a good man, forced himself on her. Her wee brother David was brought up with different expectations, he’d go on to make his mark on the world.  John and Win were great believers in the natural order of things. No Catholics, no blacks, no dogs as landlords used to mark on the front door even though dogs couldn’t read.

John couldn’t read either, not really. Like many others he’d left school at twelve or thirteen to earn scraps of money. Motherwell was built on steel and coal. Ravenscraig once employed 14 000 men and was the most efficient steel makers in the world.  He became part of the working-class aristocracy when he got a job in Colville, girder makers, prior to nationalisation at the age of fifteen. He even became a heroic figure to many hardened by the noise and daily grind, when he pushed a man aside and away from a red-hot girder that had slipped its chains and would have slipped through his body just as easily. Health and safety was still to be invented.

Deborah believes he suffered from post-traumatic-stress disorder and that’s what led him away from the life mapped out for him—to Essex and Win—and back again. John returned to Motherwell with his beautiful bride to working class life and the hope of a decent council house.

Win had a believe common to most rich folk, in what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine. Her father, John, as protector and saviour, aided her in this belief. His hates were his hates and vice versa. John, for example, had mates whom he thought ‘the sun shone out of their arse’, then it didn’t shine very much. Then it was them that was the arse. He ditched them. And he waged petty hate campaigns against his neighbours.

A conversation I heard today goes something like this, ‘They’ve just moved into the house for five minutes and noo they’re getting everything.’

I’ll translate. My neighbours are getting a new path. The same as other council house tenants. Imagine they were black, or homosexual or even worse English.

Deborah suggests her mum suffered from a narcissistic personality.  She wasn’t a sociopath such as the moron’s moron Trump, or little Trump, Johnson, but she recognised the same self-centredness and hate. As long as Deborah remained a child and under her mother’s thumb, she was a good girl. Nobody hates so much and as well as the Scottish and we’ve got long memories. Win fitted right in. Win-win.  But I couldn’t quite forgive Win and John for voting Tory. Voting for Thatcher. But I guess that makes sense. Deborah’s life ran in a separate trajectory to mine. The same, but different. RIP.  

#Impeachment



https://www.flickr.com/photos/11020019@N04/32459807456/

I’m a hypocrite, in the week that Britain formally leaves the European Economic Union, an act of economic mutilation the equivalent of, for example, California seceding from the United States of America, I want Scotland to opt out of Britain. My fealty is not to Nicola Sturgeon or the Scottish National Party, but to the commonwealth of the Scottish people. Put simply, the future is green and will be built on interdependence not independence. Thatcherism and trickledown economics has never worked. It simply exacerbates the existing gaps between rich and poor. The direction of travel of Boris Johnson and his ilk has not changed so we as a people, we as a nation, need to leave them to their own short-term folly—for our own good, and perhaps theirs.

Democracy is a sham. But reading Robert A.Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnon, is a reminder that sometimes it can work for the greater good. As it did from roughly the end of the second world war to the rise of Thatcherism and Reaganomics when there was—limited, some would argue, very limited—upward social mobility. Now it is downward. Poor people die sooner than rich people (and yes I do go to more funerals now) but they are doing so in such high numbers the life-expectancy of both men and women in Britain, despite technological advances, is declining.

We get Boris Johnstone’s mussed hair and, staged gravitas, as he bangs a gong at 11pm on Friday, 31st January that ends Britain’s formal membership of the EEC after 47 years. Perhaps the one good thing is the reptilian Nigel Farage, and fellow old Etonian, will no longer be able to claim tens of thousands of Euros in allowance and will become just another stooge in the moron moron’s background team.

The defining image of the week isn’t of mussed hair of President Trump or of the Boris Johnston thatch, but a video of an eight-year-old girl easily climbing up and over a mock-up of Trump’s ‘virtually impenetrable’ wall with Mexico. Certainly, there should be calls to elect the eight-year-old girl to become President rather than the moron’s moron.

The impeachment of President Donald Trump in the chambers of the United States Senate as political theatre has turned into a damp squib. The senate has overseen fifteen previous impeachments, which included two presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate Scandal and before he could be impeached. The moron’s moron, as we know, wants much more than that and another term in office. He is liable to get it and get away with breaking the law at will.

Cato’s examination of the Annals of Congress are instructive of what democracy should look like but doesn’t. For example, the trail of Samuel Chase, in the Senate could also be applied to Bill Clinton, but not Donald Trump who has committed much greater crimes—both public and private—than request a blowjob.  

His footsteps are hunted from place to place to find indiscretions.

Listen to the words of Vice President Aaron Burr (indicted for murdering Alexander Hamilton) and his defence of the right to try Samuel Chase not in the halls of public opinion but in the Senate.

The House is a sanctuary; a citadel of law, of order, and of liberty; and it is here, here in this exalted refuge; here if anywhere, will resistance be made to the storms of political phrensy [sic] and the silent arts of corruption…  

   Or the words from Robert Byrd, who served the Senate, two centuries later.

The Senate exercised in that fine moment of drama the kind of independence, impartiality, fairness and courage that, from time to time, over the years, it has brought to bear on the great issues of the country.  

We see the opposite of that in the Senate, and in the world, generally. We see the partiality of the rich and powerful and politicians who bend at the knee. We see unfairness and a lack of moral courage. We see a President who when the call came refused to fight for his country leading other weak men who refuse to see any wrong in their leader. We see the politics of the ghetto given national stage.

We’re not comparing like with like. Samuel Chase was, by Caro’s account, an intellectual colossus whose inflammatory rhetoric led to him being impeached. The moron’s moron intellect is the kind of genius that if he went head to head with the eight-year-old, who climbed all over his pseudo-fence, I’d be backing her.

Compromise is not a crime. It’s an essential part of political life and life in general, but if the men we elect do not act in the interests of future generations then they shouldn’t be in office. We can no longer think locally, or national, but need to think globally, to work together to save our planet. Ironically, that means Scotland leaving Great Britain. An act of economic mutilation akin to Johnson’s betrayal, but necessary for the greater good of all and not just the super-rich few.  

Fergal Keane (2005) All of these people

I know this man. He is one of us. All of these people are people I know. Good and bad, flawed humans. Fergal Keane is much the same age as me. His father was a well-known actor and his mother a school teacher. Ireland was a generation behind us when he was born, in a different times zone, gripped by a dangerous nostalgia of what could have been, a different kind of Ireland, one that was ruled by priests and hypocrisy. Fergal’s father was an alcoholic, the disease of the Irish and handed down from father to son. His mother a miracle worker as his father follows his star from stage to stage from Southern Ireland to London and back again just in time to put the kettle on for the Troubles and the Celtic economic miracle.

Fergal dreamed of Africa and being the kind of hero that changes the world as we all do. He dreamed of writing and with his mum and dad’s connections got started in the reporting business and on the right track for the writing business in general. His Uncle John B Keane was holding forth about writing and writers as they walked. And here is the way it is, ‘If I couldn’t write,’ he said, ‘I’d go stone fucking mad.’

There’s no guarantee of course you won’t go stone fucking mad even if you can write. Fergal’s dad’s pals, politicians, playwrights and poets such as Brendan Behan and Fran O’Brien were professional drinkers and dreamers. His father a greatly loved story teller of some renown, who brought the written word alive, but the drink pulled him under, pulled them under. Fergal is honest enough to declare he too fought on that front, but the war never finished, a waiting game, until the next skirmish.

He makes the leaps from boy to man from Cork to Limerick junior reporter  on the Leader – 17th September 1979— to reporting on Northern Ireland and the Troubles to world stage and lead report for the BBC telling the word about  South Africa before and after Mandela’s release, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in Serbia and Syria. His dreams had become reality with the added glitter of a loving wife and child to give him ballast.

Look into the Nietzchean pit long enough and the pit will look back at you. Sectarian violence in Ireland, in South Africa, in Serbia and in Rwanda had a common feature. Hatred of others in their midst no different from the Nazi ideology of hatred of the Jews. The dehumanising effect of ideology no different from which we’re spoon fed today when people cheers when ships carrying immigrants sink in the Mediterranean or border guards beat men to death, or guards separate children from their mothers and put them in cages as they do in Trump’s America.

In Rwanda Keane saw men and women running with children in their arms, pleading to be let into the reporter’s cars to escape their attackers, only to be hacked to death in front of them. Keane admits he’s not a brave man. The car did not stop. He did not step out, his white face a passport to be treated differently, he wanted to live. He left the others behind. The reporter’s job is to report, not intervene, as a mantra.

How do you find peace within yourself after what you have seen, lived through? That’s a question that runs through this book. A question we all should ask ourselves. Honesty allows Keane to admit—as  I would too—the Nazi guard, that could have been me. Caught up in forces and ideologies that perpetuate hate and give one a choice of either for them or against them, most folk, myself included, take the easy by-line and easy life.  From the Milgram Shock Experiment to the Stanford Prison Experiments authority figures telling us what to do frees us from the restraint of morality, unleashes the evil within us.

Initially, Keane naively asks why the Tutus never ran from the Hutus when the genocide began. The answer was staring him in the face. Murderers, rapists and child killers weren’t some foreign body but people’s neighbours and friends, people that went to the same places you went to, that knew the back roads and side roads you would take and where there waiting. And when places of sanctuary like a Catholic church was filled with those without hope, they rounded themselves up, encircled on all sides.

One of the stupidest things I’ve read, comes from the mouth of a heroic character in The Librarian of Auschwitz in which he declares the Jews had no army, or the Germans wouldn’t have defeated them. Sectarian and ethnic violence is premised on that argument. Trump supporters carrying make America great again. Franco’s fascist supporters carrying placards calling to make Spain great again.  Le Pen’s right-wing army calling for the deportation of immigrants to make France great again. Or Farage’s cull on the immigrants, with the pictorial smiling face of Boris Johnson with a Union Jack, send them back motif behind him.

Hatred has many flags and many faces, a cancerous growth Keane recognises runs through us. He’s paid the price with his reporting life. And like pastor Martin Niemöller he witnessed the politics of hate from Cork to the whole of our creation which brings nothing but corpses,

  First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Friday the 13th, Vae Victis -woe to the vanquished.

I am left wing. Let me explain what that means. The term comes from a reference to the French National Assembly (1789-91) where the nobles sat on the president’s right and the commons (commoners) to the left.

I am also part of the proletariat, Proletarri in Ancient Rome, Roman citizens who owned little or no property.

I am working class and allowed to put an X on a piece of paper every four or five years and told this is called democracy. My seat in the French National Assembly would be as far to the left as I could get from Boris Johnson.

Our democracy has given his class a mandate to rule for five years. I see that as an expression of the collective misery of our lives.   

Scotland, as a nation, once again, has overwhelmingly rejected the right wingers, but to little or no avail.

Vae victis – woe to the vanquished, for much shall be given to those that have much and what little we have will be taken away.