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Saturday 29 February 2020

Coronavirus Spooks The Donald

The percentage of the population likely to contract the Coronavirus may be very small indeed, but the economic impact of its presence could be seismic: whole cities locked down across China, business travellers staying away, leisure travellers cancelling holidays, and worst of all for the global economy, freight not moving - so sales and consumption fall. Stock markets are already getting nervous at the prospect.
Donald, where's yer hairspray?

And while Governments in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, have some time of their tenure left to run, the current US Presidency does not: Combover Crybaby Donald Trump is up before the electorate next November, along with a third of the Senate and all of the House of Representatives. Trump is floundering: he’s called criticism of his response to the Coronavirus “a Democrat hoax”. He’s scared. Why he is scared is down to the D-Word.

That’s as in Depression. Because, while the German psyche has a fear of inflation burned into it, that of the USA has the fear of another Depression. And for Trump, there is the added fear that the Great Depression took out a Republican President - Herbert Hoover - who was infinitely better qualified than he is. Hoover became a one-term failure.

Added to this is Trump’s love for linking rises in the markets to his presence in the White House. It is as if he had never considered the prospect of the whole thing going into reverse. What sparked the Great Depression was, yes, a collapse in the markets, but what weighs on Trump’s mind is the speed at which the collapse took hold - and could again.
This was described definitively by J K Galbraith in his work The Great Crash: here is part of a later summary from The Age of Uncertainty. “The day of reckoning was Thursday, October 24, 1929. The market had been weak on the days before. On that morning … there was a great unrestrained and unexplained headlong rush to sell. This hit the floor of the Exchange with torrential force. The machinery could not adjust to the panic”.

An intervention by the Exchange’s Vice President Richard Whitney turned the market around. But, as Galbraith recounts, “The following Tuesday the real crash came. This time the bankers did not intervene. According to rumour they were unloading the stock they bought the previous Thursday. With occasional rallies, the market went on down for nearly three years … After the Great Crash came the Great Depression”.
Donald Trump sees the potential for economic slowdown in China and other economies in the Far East. He knows that if those economies catch the Coronavirus cold, his country will most likely be next. He knows what happened after The Great Crash. He does not want to be another Hoover, a President whose campaign for re-election was so disastrous that the New York Metropolitan Opera House was filled with “Republicans for Roosevelt”.

What the world outside the White House must also know is that Trump, having taken credit for a market rise to which he has contributed virtually nothing, is incapable of figuring out how to stop the slump if and when it arrives. And he is incapable of shouldering responsibility for the consequences. It will have to be someone else’s fault.

All he can hope is that the crash waits until after election day. But the market is already soft. When that torrential force hits the Exchange, there will be no time for excuses.
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Priti Patel - Squeaky Bum Time

Most of the time, politicians can put on a front to counter rumours coming out of the Civil Service. Disagreements are not really happening, they’ve been exaggerated, there will be a leak inquiry, nothing to see here, move along to the next item dredged up by the 24-hour news Speculatron. But today has brought the opportunity for that front and bluster to be tested against reality. And that’s bad news for one Tory minister.
To no surprise at all, that minister is Priti Patel, inexplicably given charge of the Home Office, which means she is in charge of MI5. This only looks less bad when one remembers that Dominic Raab is in charge of MI6. There had been rumours of friction between Ms Patel and Philip Rutnam, her top Civil Servant. These had been brushed off and rubbished by her press pals. And then Rutnam resigned.
Philip Rutnam

The BBC appeared surprised. “The top civil servant in the Home Office has resigned and said he intends to sue the government for constructive dismissal. Sir Philip Rutnam said there had been a ‘vicious and orchestrated’ campaign against him … BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said such a move was ‘highly unusual’”. I’ll bet she did.
Over at the Guardian, there is a little more substance. “He said he had been accused of briefing the media against the home secretary, Priti Patel, – an accusation he said was ‘completely false’ … ‘The home secretary categorically denied any involvement in this campaign to the Cabinet office. I regret I do not believe her,’ he said. ‘She has not made the efforts I would expect to disassociate herself against from the comments.’” Ouch!
Rob Powell of Sky News has gone into some detail on Rutnam’s very public and highly unusual statements: he was “ - Pursuing court action against Home Office for constructive dismissal - Says he is victim of vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign - Says he tried to reconcile with Home Sec but she will not engage”. And there was more.
Rutnam “ - Says his experience is extreme but he believes it's part of a pattern of behaviour - Has received allegations that Priti Patel shouts, swears at and belittles civil servants - Believes that Patel had involvement in the briefings against him … Utterly extraordinary for a top civil servant to speak out like this and make allegations of this nature against a cab minister. Questions for Mark Sedwill too - Rutnam says the cabinet office offered him a ‘settlement’ which would have avoided him resigning in this way”.
Paul Brand of ITV summed it up. “Absolutely extraordinary resignation in which Sir Philip Rutnam: - accuses Priti Patel of lying - says she shouted and swore at civil servants - says he was offered money to go quietly - will take his claim to court”. The Government, it seems, tried to hush it up. But Rutnam has declined to go quietly.
What will any court action reveal? Well, consider for a moment Otto English’s reminder of his Byline Times assessment: “take a moment to revisit Priti Patel's lacklustre career, which has been dedicated to the promotion of one thing - herself”. Ms Patel and her supporters have to ask themselves one question: is she really as brilliant as the right-wing press pretends, or is she an inept bullshitter promoted way beyond her ability?

I know which way my Occam’s Razor is pointing. Benidorm resort rep squeaky bum time.
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Julia Hartley Dooda Spooked By Teenager

Months of catastrophic bush fires in Australia; weeks of catastrophic flooding in the UK. Yet there are some out there on the right who steadfastly refuse to understand that the climate is changing, and that they must in turn change their lifestyles. To no surprise at all, more than one of those sad individuals have gravitated to Murdoch-owned TalkRADIO, where one host in particular has willingly embraced climate change denial.
Pretentious? Who, Moi?

That host is the self-promoting Julia Hartley Brewer, who has seen tens of thousands of mainly young people gather on College Green in Bristol to see and hear campaigner Greta Thunberg and been seriously spooked by the experience. Some Rotten Foreigner™ might prevent her enjoying all those long-haul flights to which she has become accustomed, and for Ms Hartley Dooda, that can only be A Very Bad Thing Indeed.
So after Retweeting her fellow TalkRADIO host, the deeply unpleasant Mike Graham, being abusive to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for supporting the Bristol gathering, she was away. “If my child wanted to join a school #ClimateStrike I’d expect her to: 1. Know enough to pass a test on climate change facts 2. Agree to give up fashion, all lifts home & all holiday flights 3. Even if she did both 1 & 2, I still wouldn’t let her bunk off school”.
She’s all heart. And then came the sneering dismissal of those gathered in Bristol. “‘At least 30,000 people.’ Or, if it was the same size crowd at a pro-Brexit rally in a BBC report, ‘hundreds of people’”. Why is “Pro-Brexit” the converse of climate protests?
Oh what a giveaway! But do go on. “There’s something about the people attending this #climatestrike by #BristolYS4C with #Greta that I can’t quite put my finger on... Gosh, now what *is* it? I wonder if [Jon Snow] or a BBC reporter could help out?” Try again. "Nope, I still can’t work out what it is. It’s on the tip of my tongue but…”
Still, there was always climate change denial to embrace, and Ms Hartley Dooda performed that task with her customary gusto. That meant Retweeting the pretentious Ben Pile, a flat-out denialist who had sneered at George Monbiot “George invents victims of climate change in Bangladesh and Ethiopia … Both countries have in fact boomed over the last two decades”. It’s not happening - look over there at that economic growth!
And to put the icing on her climate change denial cake, Ms Hartley Dooda RTd Darren Grimes, who was in turn endorsing the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who were in turn endorsing denialist outfit the Global Warming Policy Foundation: “Meanwhile, the UK is unable to expand one sodding airport because of an asphyxiating commitment to eradicate our CO2 emissions - which amount to less than 1 per cent of global emissions”. Triple climate change denials all round!
But seriously, this is a sad show of inconsiderate selfishness by someone who is regularly given a platform by major broadcasters. Just because Ms Hartley Dooda wants to carry on with her long-haul jollies doesn’t invalidate the scale of the climate crisis. And the only reason she seems concerned about the Coronavirus is because that, too, could prevent her jetting off to embark on another exhibition of conspicuous consumption.

Julia Hartley Dooda cares. But only about Herself Personally Now.
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Friday 28 February 2020

Laura Smith Is Back

While alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was still congratulating himself and his new MPs for their victory in last December’s General Election - but, being Bozo, mainly congratulating himself - the campaign to put the Labour Party back in a position where it could be ready to consign the Tories to a nice long period in opposition was beginning. And, as ever, such campaigns begin at the grassroots.
Laura says My Soapbox Is Bigger Than Yours

In Crewe and Nantwich, that meant holding the Tories to account while making sure that Labour maintained a strong presence on Crewe Town and Cheshire East Councils. This campaign had to begin with a tricky Cheshire East by-election in Crewe South ward, the seat being vacant after Labour stalwart Dorothy Flude passed away late last year.

So who would Labour choose to succeed her? There was only one real choice, and that was former MP Laura Smith. The weather was frequently atrocious, but campaigners turned out to do the whole canvassing nine yards once again. There was also help from outside the area. Because Laura is a very popular Labour figure.

Angela Rayner visited twice: for those sceptics wondering if she only came the first time to make sure the CLP nominated her for the Deputy Leadership (they did, by one vote), she made a second visit only yesterday to help in getting out the vote. Mike Amesbury came from Weaver Vale. Nav Mishra visited from Stockport. And Bambos Charalambous made the round trip from London - just to go out door-knocking.

But for the Tories, this was personal: they decided they fancied the seat, and Laura being their opposition seemed to fire them up. They actually canvassed, at least in part of the ward, something that the Zelo Street household has never experienced before. They deposited three rounds of leaflets, the last of which saw the grammar slipping, with “Lower carparking [sic] charges”, and “Its [sic] up to you”.
Sadly, fielding a candidate who gave the impression of being yet another from the Young Tory Boy production line did not help their cause. Martin Deakin was endorsed by new Tory MP Kieran Mullan; it didn’t help him. Perhaps the gloss is wearing off the General Election win rather faster than The Blue Team would like. Because they lost.

All that effort they threw at trying to beat Ms Smith came to nothing as she garnered three votes for every two the Tories managed. What swung the result? Partly the demographic, partly voters returning to Labour after seeing the Tories not “getting Brexit done”, partly that EU nationals are eligible to vote in local elections, and partly because the Lib Dems, who in the past had held two seats in the ward, did not turn up.

So when the Tories told the electorate to “Vote for change”, they did just that. They voted to change to Dorothy Flude’s young protégée. Which means Laura Smith is back doing what she does best - campaigning. And holding the Tories to account.

Because someone has to. Never mind the deLorean - fire up the soapbox!
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Turning Point UK Turning Nasty

Since a launch which verged on the farcical, Turning Point UK, the home-grown offshoot of a US group which has a grim reputation for its aggressive tactics and far-right links, has not fared well in terms of visibility, or indeed credibility. The ridicule generated by hiring the Grant sisters to read propaganda off cue cards did not help them. But it did provide social media with a new comedy genre. So now TPUK has to get serious once more.
One of the less savoury aspects of TPUSA that TPUK claimed it was not going to import was something called the Professor Watchlist. As the BBC reported at the time, “The group's critics have also taken issue with Turning Point USA's ‘Professor Watchlist’ - an online registry of professors that the group accuses of advancing ‘a radical agenda’”.
The supposedly acceptable face of TPUK: Darren Grimes (second right) and Dominique Samuels (third right) - as opposed to ...

As one critic called Skeptical Seventh put it, “They must know that what they are doing will lead to people being harassed, being shut down … It is undermining academic freedom, which is ironic for an organisation that claims to be in favour of free speech”. But the Beeb also told “The British organisation won't be setting up a similar list, one of the group's ‘influencers’, Dominique Samuels, told BBC Radio 5 Live”.
... the deeply unpleasant Charlie Kirk, the real face of Turning Point

Or would it? After author and academic Priyamvada Gopal mused “We should acknowledge, as we look at Priti Patel, that there was one very successful cultural eugenics project: ‘We must at present do our best to form...a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect’”. up piped one of those names that had been in the TPUK launch frame.
Darren Grimes (for it was he) retorted “This person is a lecturer at Cambridge. Is it any wonder our students are churned out of these university factories like hard-left, braindead sheep when this is what is teaching them?! What a truly bloody horrendous thing to think, never mind tweet”. His target hardly broke sweat in seeing off this drivel.
Before I withdraw again for a bit, I thought I should share my enjoyment of Mr Grimes' condemnation of Lord Macaulay's  'truly bloody horrendous thing to think’ … The great thing about British far-right is their complete ignorance of their own history &  literature”.
But, it seems, Dazza was not just gobbing off to no purpose, as the TPUK Twitter feed announced “Our uni campuses are overrun by leftist lecturers who teach their overt political bias as objective truth. This is not ok. The fight back begins now. Introducing ‘Education Watch’: Documenting University Lecturers' Political Bias”.
Take the false assumption that right-wingers are entitled not merely to have their own opinions, but their own facts - and use it to start a witch-hunt. Darren Grimes, who is blatantly looking to close down free speech that brings him inconvenient opinions, was at the launch of Toby Young’s Free Speech Union. That’s why the FSU is a sham.
As Paul Bernal, associate Professor of Law at UEA, put it, “Can I just ask, what do the thought-police *want* us lefty academics to teach our students? Obviously facts are out. Analysis is against the law. Nothing foreign. Nothing expert”. Quite.

Turning Point UK is so desperate for visibility, it’s prepared to whip up harassment and hatred in order to up its profile. So I’m sure all good Conservatives will condemn it.
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Thursday 27 February 2020

Free Speech Union - NOT AS SUCH

The so-called Free Speech Union, latest slice of intellectual munificence from the loathsome Toby Young, was launched yesterday evening in London, to the sound of mass indifference from those who had to catch up on their sleep, or watch paint dry. The event was attended by the great and the good, well, those in that category for whom attention seeking and victimhood are fast becoming a way of life, anyway.
In front of the FSU’s logo and motto (“Audi Alteram Partem”, which has nothing to do with changing the headlamps in upmarket VW group cars), the likes of Darren Grimes, whose freedom to speak has never been circumscribed (if only) gazed in wonder at the succession of has-beens, never-weres and if-only-someone-at-the-Beeb-hadn’t-rung-thems, and pretended that this was a convocation of the greatest importance. It wasn’t.
There was, for starters, Tobes himself, brandishing a box of Taylors Yorkshire Tea Bags, which he declared he would defend against all comers (no, me neither). Grimes was so giddy he almost had to be excused. “At the launch of the [Free Speech Union], [Toby Young] is defending [Yorkshire Tea] from the woke Left!” Which means what, exactly?
It means freedom to be a sexist, misogynist creep and dabble in eugenics. Which seems not to have unduly concerned Trevor Phillips, according to Grimes. “I tell you, [Trevor Phillips] is a hero. What a speech in defence of what the suffocation of free and open speech can lead to”. That’s the same Trevor Phillips that span a bigoted pack of lies about the “Muslim Foster Carer” story. But in the Murdoch Sun. And for money.
Freedom to be an Islamophobe too, then. Who else was there? Claire Fox was: “Honoured to attend [Free Speech Union] launch tonight”. That means adding the freedom to promote terrorism: Ms Fox was all in favour of the most violent acts perpetrated during what became referred to as The Troubles in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
Or perhaps it was more of a Brexity thing: after all, Peter Whitte, no longer having anything to do with UKIP after the leadership of Adolf von Batten, was there, telling his followers “Tonight I went to the launch of the great new [Free Speech Union], a packed house in Soho hearing from [Toby Young], [Douglas Murray]”. And freedom of bigotry, too. Why else would there be a visit from Doug Murray The K? Then there was Spiked.
Yes, the people from the planet so named because it should have been long ago were supporting Tobes, as deputy editor Tom Slater confirmed. “The launch of [Toby Young]’s [Free Speech Union] has revealed that there are loads of prominent people in British public life who either do not believe in free speech or do not seem to understand what it is. The reaction to it has shown why it is so badly needed”. Yeah, right.
So what is it really all about? No-one involved is having their freedom of speech curtailed. The Tweeter known as Buddy Hell mused “White dudes with lots of money talking about how they can't use the word n*gger in polite company”. You think he jests? One of those present reported “I’m at Tony [sic] Young’s launch. He’s just held up this box and said ‘everyone now has to come up one-by-one and fuck this box of tea’. Huge baying cheer from the crowd of about 17 young men in attendance”.

Free speech? Freedom to be twats with no comeback, more like. Another for the bin.
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Coronavirus - Press Loses It

Anyone who wants to know is aware that the Coronavirus, which appears to have originated in or near the Chinese city of Wuhan, and is probably a result of transmission from wild birds, has spread across many countries and affected tens of thousands of individuals. Even so, it is most likely no worse than a bad dose of influenza: for some at-risk groups, it can prove fatal, but then, so can flu. That has not stopped the press panic.
We now have 15 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the UK. That’s so small a percentage of the total population that it hardly registers. Most people are just getting on with life and not giving it another thought. But our free and fearless press - now that’s another matter. Someone goes OTT and wears a mask while travelling on the Victoria Line - snap! And it’s on the front page. Don’t panic - the press will do it for you.
So it is that the Guardian tells readers “UK warns against mass panic as race to halt outbreak intensifies”. Don’t panic, but WE PUT IT ON THE FRONT PAGE. Likewise, the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph tells readers “Schools and offices urged not to panic about virus”, but YOU PUT IT ON THE FRONT PAGE TOO. Along with that photo of a woman on the Victoria Line wearing a mask.
But at least they tried to be a little reassuring: as you move more downmarket, that goes out the window, with the i Paper ramping it up a little with “Virus now growing faster outside China”. No, it’s not “growing faster”, you mean the rate of transmission and infection. The virus remains more or less the same size. Then comes free sheet Metro.
And it is here that the press loses it completely: “ROYALS’ SCHOOL IN VIRUS ALARM … children in self-isolation after trip to Italy … Canary Wharf staff sent home as colleagues fall ill”. Christ on a bike, I was in the Canary Wharf area on Monday evening and have not yet become hospitalised. And the routine (and intimate) crush loadings on the Jubilee Line haven’t resulted in masses of new Coronavirus cases. But it gets worse.
The Daily Brexit, still calling itself the Express, has today gone full screaming Corporal Jones: “VIRUS SCARE HITS PRINCE GEORGE’S SCHOOL … Royal school is among 42 affected by Covid-19 … Health Secretary says we’re ready for outbreak”. Yes, the whole country can be in the grip of flooding, wintry weather, blackouts, shortages, strikes and the minor issue of rampant poverty, but if a Royal is in danger … THAT’S NEWSWORTHY.
Anyone keeled over with the dreaded lurgi while I’ve been typing? No? Thought not. But that hasn’t stopped the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker from telling readers that this one will finish off the NHS. “NHS BRACES FOR VIRUS MAYHEM … Suspected patients to be tested at home … Extra staff drafted in to 111 Helpline … Health chiefs say: everyone must wash hands for 20 seconds”. Don’t leave the house! Aaarghh! JIBBER!
But enough. Remember SARS? H5N1? No? Neither do most people. As with so many stories that they routinely overinflate, our free and fearless press does not care if they scare the crap out of their readers, so long as they score more sales and clicks.

You’ve more chance of being killed crossing the road. But that’s not in the paper.
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