30 August 2020
Even the Daily Mail finally gave up on the Tories this week with the headline “Another fine mess” and asked “Why is education secretary still in a job… when will PM get a grip?” One journalist has calculated that, so far, Boris Johnson has done 11 U-turns; another has counted 18. Whichever, however many there have been so far, the government is just going round in circles.
Johnson’s latest set-back is Germany’s withdrawal from a meeting next week to discuss Brexit in the absence of “any tangible progress” during a wasted summer. EU officials are now convinced Johnson will refuse to negotiate, leave without a deal, and then blame Brussels for his failure.
The government is also delaying the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe by refusing to pay the £400m owed to Iran until a court hearing on 4 November, the day after America’s presidential elections – well, we wouldn’t want to offend Donald Trump would we? So Zaghari-Ratcliffe is stuck in Iran because the UK is scared of America.
Over there, the sh*tshow of the week was the Republican National Convention which celebrated Trump’s “swift action” to protect American lives in the week when the number of Americans killed by the coronavirus topped 180,000, more than any other country in the world. Thank heavens he wasn’t indecisive and slow off the mark.
Speakers at the RNC talked as if the pandemic is over even though it killed more people last week than died in the 9/11 attacks. The only speaker who was reported as expressing any sympathy for those suffering as a result of the pandemic was Melania Trump. I’ll bet there was a frosty silence over the presidential Macburgers that night.
Mike Veep Pence did say “Make America great again, again”, implicitly admitting that they hadn’t managed it during the last 4 years, and a clearly unhinged Trump appeared on Thursday, speaking to a rally at the White House where some 1,500 dedicated camp followers were not required to wear face masks or observe physical distancing.
On the same day, tens of thousands of people gathered for the ‘Get Your Knee Off Our Necks’ march in Washington DC. Organisers reminded protestors to wear masks and keep physically distanced and took the temperatures of marchers.
The Trump fan club cheered as he promised to make more jobs for the ever-increasing number of American unemployed (estimated in early July to exceed 50 million people) and to land an American woman on the moon (though he didn’t say who he had in mind, or whether he’d bring her back).
Over here, the nationalised power company EDF Energy (well, it’s owned by the French nation isn’t it?) admitted the Hunterston nuclear power station on the Firth of Clyde is getting dangerous and will be closed down next year rather than in 2023 as had been planned. Let’s hope the bits falling off the graphite cladding don’t cause a melt-down before it’s shut down.
Some of us who suffer chronic but low-grade pain have just become envious of Warsaw zoo’s elephants who are about to start getting medical marijuana to reduce their stress levels. I was thinking of growing a trunk but heard that vets have already used it on dogs and horses so maybe I’ll just start peeing on lampposts.
Meanwhile, a bunch of men have gathered together in a group called MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way – whose members plan to live with no female contact. Brilliant! That’ll die out as its members age and die without procreating.
A study of workers across a range of industries carried out last year by an American journal, Organisational Dynamics, found that #MeToo has some men running scared. 27% of men now avoid one-on-one meetings with female co-workers, 21% of men said they would be reluctant to hire women for a job that would require close interaction (such as business travel) and 19% of men would be reluctant to hire an attractive woman. Which implies that 20-30% of men in positions senior enough to make these decisions are deeply insecure.
I can’t imagine a life without women, whose company I generally find much more agreeable then men’s. I remember once having a conversation with some of my women staff about ironing shirts, and whether one does the arms before or after the body. I seemed to be the only one who did the arms first (still do actually).
Perhaps my lack of insecurity with women is because, looking at alpha males, I realise that not only am I an omega male but I don’t care.
Despite the absence of some basic religious requirements, I decided I could never be a monk but I wouldn’t mind being a nun. (Anybody else remember Jake Thackray’s ‘Sister Josephine’? If you don’t, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p8cIjqBFls is worth a visit.)
Another of my heroes, Banksy, is financing a rescue boat saving migrants’ lives in the Mediterranean. It rescued 89 people on Thursday, and was off the Libyan coast while the European authorities were ignoring them. Lea Reisner, the boat’s head of operations summarised the situation with admirable forthrightness: “The people have sat in a mix of salt water and fuel for days. It is night and European states are not doing their fucking job. They deny responsibility while we are trying to keep everyone alive … we need immediate assistance.”
By Saturday, it had 219 migrants on board and the decks were too crowded for it to be able to move. The Italian coastguard took 49 of the “most vulnerable” on board and another humanitarian ship, Sea-Watch 4, has since taken the others.
Kevin O’Brien plays cricket for Ireland and, on Thursday, playing for Leinster Lightning against North-West Warriors, he hit eight sixes and scored a total of 82 off 37 balls, one of which landed in the car park and smashed a car’s window. However, his luck extended beyond the boundary: the car whose window got broken was his. (Imagine his embarrassment if it had been somebody else’s.)
Last week, I praised what appeared to be a generous gift of £700,000 of equipment from Tesco Mobile to help Crisis provide homeless people with mobile phones. This week, I received a text from Tesco Mobile saying
“… between now and 2023, Tesco Mobile Reconnects will donate over £2.4 million worth of [equipment] to help thousands of people reconnect with society … The money we raise through phone and text donations will help more Crisis members keep connected … Text donations cost £2 plus your standard network rate to send to a premium number.”
In other words, they’ll give Crisis more if I give it to them first and they’ll charge me £2, which goes straight into their coffers, for every donation I make to them, so they’ve turned this into a nice little earner. It seems I overestimated their social conscience last week so give directly to Crisis if you want to help.