A miracle, US super-spreader, Boris backs capitalism, restricting education, badgers and kindnesses

11 October 2020

It’s a miracle!  Donald Trump, the White House’s own super-spreader, has completely recovered from the coronavirus in a matter of days, the only person in the world to do so.  He’s now the fittest person still alive (as I write), despite being a fat pensioner and having been so unfit in his 20s that he failed his medical on leaving college and wasn’t able go to Vietnam to fight for his country and get shot.

Which may be why he said a few weeks ago that the American soldiers who fought and died in World War II were “losers” and “suckers” for getting killed.  It now seems that Covid-19 has destroyed what was left of his brain because nothing he now says or does makes any sense.

Trump said he has “learnt a lot about Covid” from his infection.  If he’d read the briefing papers he’s been given for the last 10 months, he’d have learnt it a lot earlier.

Then, though he was still infectious (why do people say ‘contagious’, which involves touch, instead of ‘infectious’, which doesn’t?) when he discharged himself on Monday, he appeared on the White House balcony and dramatically removed his face mask to prove to the world what an idiot he is and that he doesn’t care who he infects even though, when he was speaking, at least 27 people in his inner circle had tested positive (ABC News claims 34), and the bodies of more than 210,000 people killed by Covid-19 litter the country.

People who know Trump believe he would happily sacrifice anyone, even those closest to him, to win the election.

He’s even cancelled the second presidential debate after a non-partisan commission decided the debate should take place online due to Trump’s diagnosis;  his refusal to take part in a ‘virtual’ debate wouldn’t have been related to his childish and “unpresidential” performance at the first one would it?  He will however be attending a supporters’ rally in Sanford, Florida on Monday, though everyone attending it will be required to sign a waiver of their right to sue the White House if they subsequently contract the virus (“Nah mate, no risk at all, everything’s fine, just sign here or piss off”).

The third and final debate is to be held in Nashville, Tennessee on 22 October, just 11 days away.  Harold Wilson once said “A week is a long time in politics” so anything could happen.

All of this rather leaves Boris Johnson in the shade but he’s desperately trying to catch up.  In a speech he gave on Tuesday, he said “We must be clear that there comes a moment when the state must stand back and let the private sector get on with it”.  In plain English, this seems to mean “We’re not going to (re)nationalise anything else or give businesses any more support and if they go bust, tough, that’s how capitalism works”.

However, Rishi Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer almost immediately contradicted him by saying that, from 1 November when the furlough scheme ends, the government will subsidise employees’ salaries in qualifying businesses (thought likely to be pubs, bars and restaurants) by up to two thirds, to a maximum of £2,100 per week. 

I’ll bet the odds on Sunak’s being the next leader of the Conservative party are shortening.

I wonder if this is why the government has recently ordered schools not to use materials supplied by organisations that are opposed to capitalism?  The short (about 200 years) history of what we now call capitalism deserves a blog of its own but they’ve obviously never heard of social enterprises or mutuals or housing associations or even charities and other not-for-profits? 

It might be easier just to control what schools can teach.  Stop history at 1820 to include Mary Wollstonecraft but exclude the Tolpuddle martyrs and exclude all earlier references to slavery, colonisation, empire etc.  In fact, better to burn all the books just in case.  Fahrenheit 451.

Another Johnson wheeze to distract from his disastrous handling of everything else, announced a couple of weeks ago, is his expansion of badger culling to 11 new areas with the aim of killing 60,000 more of the beasties.

In 2018, in the report of an independent review led by Professor Sir Charles Godfray at Oxford University and commissioned by the then environment secretary, one Michael Gove, scientists said it was wrong to claim badgers were the main cause of outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis and it was “highly desirable” to start vaccinating badgers rather than killing them.  They concluded that most infections were caused by poor farming practices such as insecure fencing between different herds, and the movement of two million cattle round the UK each year.

Despite the government’s clear commitment in March to phase out badger culling, this turned out to be another of Johnson’s “Of course I’ll still love you in the morning what was your name again” promises.

The South West was that light grey line way below all the others on the charts of infection and deaths during the first epidemic but, with the summer influx of grockles and the return of students, things are declining and, worldwide, it looks as if the earlier surge was just a foothill in a mountain range still to be scaled.

Interestingly, the Office of National Statistics routinely tests tens of thousands of households around the country whether or not the occupants have symptoms and has found that, between April and June, 86% of people testing positive had none of the main symptoms on the day they were tested and 75% had no notable symptoms at all.  This could be interpreted to indicate that most people have it and are infectious without showing any severe symptoms so tests don’t identify all carriers and we should all wear masks everywhere.

In August, I praised Tesco Mobile’s kindness in giving £700,000 of equipment away.  Sadly, I was premature.  Tesco, to whom we (you and I and all other UK taxpayers) have already given £249,000,000 for a business rates holiday, is giving dividends worth £315,000,000 to its shareholders.  Morrisons did something similar last month

Tesco’s Chief Financial Officer Alan Stewart said it is the “right thing to do for shareholders” because it was based on last year’s profits.  What absolute bollocks.  The same argument could be used by a company that made a profit last year and is now bust but it’s still OK to increase its losses by giving its shareholders a dividend.

We are definitely entering the end days of capitalism.

And there’s more good news and kindness.

The Queen has issued a message of support for traditional media outlets.  She said that “having trusted, reliable sources of information, particularly at a time when there are so many sources competing for our attention, is vital”.

She never, of course, comments on political matters but one is tempted to read her support for the BBC into the message.  Good on yer, ma’am.

The footballer Marcus Rashford, who I’ve praised before for getting the government to extend free school meals, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

And Prince William has set up the Earthshot prize fund which will give away five £1m prizes each year for the next ten years with the aim of trying to reverse the climate crisis and “repair the planet” by 2030.  No, of course it’s not all coming out of his own pocket but it’s great that King-in-waiting no. 2 is using his power to draw together a group of charities and businesses and individuals to support the movement started by a Danish schoolgirl.

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