27 September 2020
Exceptional times demand exceptional leaders. Cometh the hour, cometh Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. Oh dear.
At least Johnson shows signs of knowing he’s out of his depth and has given up saying “all over by Christmas” and is tightening things up again, allowing localised lockdowns, presumably so that when all the local lockdowns meet in the middle, nobody can blame him for closing the entire country down for a second time.
The problem is that it’s likely a second lockdown is unavoidable and, therefore, ’twere well it were done quickly. A lot of people suffered badly during the first lockdown and, by easing too much too soon when a second surge of infections was inevitable, they were given a false hope that their lives would improve again. Reimposing restrictions is therefore likely to hit them even harder and I fear we’ll see even more people suffering from depression and committing suicide.
What I find difficult to judge is the actual increase in infection rates. We know that, as more testing is done, the more positive results there will be but I don’t know how the increased number of infections relates to the increased number of tests. (Donald Trump has naturally realised the link between the number of tests and the number of reported cases but his unhinged brain has interpreted this to mean that if you stop testing people there will be no more positive cases and therefore the pandemic will end.)
Our Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has cancelled the budget and announced a multibillion-pound fund to boost the economy but has admitted it isn’t enough and that more businesses will go bust and unemployment will increase even more. It seems strange that he didn’t also introduce a maximum amount that directors and managers could take out of larger companies, cancel all dividends to shareholders and require both groups to repay past payments back to their company to help ensure its survival. I suppose what this omission emphasises is that, given a choice between letting more people die or inconveniencing the rich, the government thinks money is more important than people.
Then the rich emigrate to tax havens, the latest being the UK’s richest person, Sir Jim Ratcliffe (no, me neither), so they don’t have to contribute to the costs of putting Britain back on its feet again.
At least the chances of a rebellion / civil war are probably lower here than in America, but they’ve had more recent practice than we have. The only difference will be that instead of blue versus grey, it’ll be blue versus red though it’ll probably involve roughly the same groups fighting each other again. Followed by lots more deaths and, finally, partition into the Disunited States of America.
Tellingly, Trump refused on Wednesday to deny that he wouldn’t leave the White House if the vote went against him and, when pressed, said “Get rid of the ballots … The ballots are out of control.”
Brian Karem, who’d asked the question, later tweeted “This is the most frightening answer I have ever received to any question I have ever asked. I’ve interviewed convicted killers with more empathy.”
Then, on Thursday, I saw a clip of Trump smiling at a crowd of people somewhere offstage who were chanting something that sounded terrifyingly like “Sieg Heil!”. It’s haunting me still.
Even more frightening is the disrespect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s last wishes that Trump has just shown by announcing a new supreme court judge who just happens to be on the far right and claims to be a “faithful Catholic” though she’s actually a member of a loony, misogynist fringe group called ‘People of Praise’ which is run entirely by men to whom women are subservient. It’s headed by a board of governors, all men naturally, who describe themselves as its “highest authority”. I thought Catholics believed God was the highest authority and that, if God’s in a meeting, the Pope steps in but I’m obviously out of date.
Trump obviously sees her as a supporter willing to vote the Republican way. Since when have a judge’s personal beliefs been more important than the law of the land? (And since when has a politician had the experience to decide the best lawyer to serve on the supreme court?)
More books are being published about what life with the Trump Klan is really like and, since John Bolton’s book ‘The Room Where It Happened’ became a runaway bestseller in June, the Department of Justice has started a criminal investigation into whether Bolton was indiscreet with classified information.
Ellen Knight, the former senior director for records, access and information security management at the National Security Council has since confirmed her team spent four months reviewing and double-checking the contents of Bolton’s draft to ensure it didn’t disclose any classified information. After clearing the book in April, Knight claims Trump’s lawyers tried to force her to sign false and misleading statements to prevent its publication and she’s now filed a formal letter confirming this in the federal court in Washington.
Trump’s unstatesmanship was further exposed this week when China’s leader Xi Jinping said that the fight to control and overcome Covid-19 was an opportunity for international cooperation while Trump blamed China for unleashing the “plague” in the first place.
There are still, of course, alternative ways of dying. In Massachusetts, a construction worker ate 1½ bags of liquorice every day and, after the glycyrrhizic acid found in black liquorice had unbalanced his body’s chemicals, died a few weeks later.
On a lighter note, David Flatman, a sports presenter on Channel 5 recently exposed the bigotry of his co-presenters – and probably quite a lot of his viewers – by pointing out that “global pandemic” is tautologous because the ‘pan’ prefix means worldwide. An intelligent sportsman? Who’d have guessed this was possible. It’s a good job he’s not also a woman or the comment would have made the front page of the Daily Mail.
Despite an apparently undisputed debt to Iran, the UK still hasn’t paid it and hopes that its settlement would allow the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe seem over-optimistic and she remains under house arrest in her parents’ home. She now claims she’s being harassed by the Revolutionary Guards who have falsely accused her of damaging her tag and threatened her with a second charge. The FCO is aware of this so it’s down to Dominic Raab. Don’t watch this space unless you’re bored by* watching paint dry.
And a big kindness from Ireland this week. In the latest act of solidarity between the Irish and Native American peoples, the Irish men’s lacrosse team has relinquished its place in the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, and given it to the Iroquois Nationals, a team representing a confederacy of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations.
Lacrosse originated among the Iroquois nations (also known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) and Ireland Lacrosse’s CEO Michael Kennedy said “We want the Iroquois to take up the position which is rightfully theirs”.
Links between the Native Americans and the Irish go back at least as far as 1845 when the Choctaw nation gave $170 (worth about $5,500 in today’s terms), more than Queen Victoria gave, to victims of the Irish potato famine. This led to a lasting bond between the nations and, in 2020 alone, the Irish people have given more than $5 million to Native American families who, due to poor health, lack of running water and numerous other deprivations, have been struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic in Arizona and New Mexico.
* Why do so many people now say ‘bored of …’?