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Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Covid-19 - Shit Just Got Very Real

Today has brought yet another broadside from the quote generator wielded by Brendan O’Neill of Spiked, so called because it should have been long ago. He attempts - with even less success than usual - to pin hatred of the elderly on a variety of groups, but not on the likes of the loathsome Toby Young for suggesting their sacrifice.
This, he declared, was down to “the Remainer liberal elites and millennial socialist set … the liberal elite and millennial agitators … a Remainer extremist … ceaseless Remoaner marches … the anti-democratic elites … millennial agitators (again) … Corbynista set … millennial hatred … cult of youth … exacting millennial revenge”. But enough.

There is one good reason that Bren is making so much noise right now, and that is that shit just got very real indeed, real enough to make his ceaseless championing of ending the lockdown, which he asserts has been caused by “Corona-hysterics”, look even more stupid than the stupid he keeps claiming his enemies call those he defends.
Yes Bren, it's your P45. You're welcome

Up to March 25th, no day had brought 100 Covid-19 deaths in the UK. But then the numbers began to climb, with 115 on the 26th, then 181, 260, 209 and 180 on the following four days. But maybe the worst was over? No it wasn’t: March 31st brought 381 more deaths, and today has brought the “ramping up” no-one wanted to see, to 563.
Ed Conway of Sky News observed “Following [Dept of Health and Social Care] update that UK #COVID19 death toll has now reached 2,352, here is an update of various countries' trajectories - UK line rising at same rate as US; growth rate slightly steeper than Italy's at similar stage of outbreak - Most EU states on similar trajectory”. In addition, Germany has now announced an extension of its lockdown until April 19th.
The UK could even be catching up on Italy, and even Spain, where another day of well over 800 deaths passed yesterday. Meanwhile, as Sky News’ own Twitter feed has pointed out, “Heads of Britain’s health and social care unions have warned ministers that lack of personal protective equipment for NHS and social care workers is a ‘crisis within a crisis’ and has called on the government to increase the supply urgently”.
That was what caused an increasingly restless media class to get irritable yesterday, after Michael “Oiky” Gove had given one creative reply too many in response to persistent questioning over the lack of protective equipment - and testing for the Coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Max Roser from the University of Oxford (that’s the same University that was being quoted with such approval by Toby Young when it suited his purpose) added another note of concern. “The UK government (finally) states clearly what is counted as a death due to COVID-19 … (2,352 deaths until now) … It is only those that tested positive and who died in the hospital”. So the death toll may be even higher.
On top of that, markets across the globe are once again sliding today, as realisation takes hold that the much hoped-for return to some kind of normal is not going to happen for several weeks yet. Which puts Brendan O’Neill’s puerile and ineffective attempt to divert attention from reality into perspective. Like it is, as he is, irrelevant.

This crisis is too important to listen to self-promoting nonentities. Bye bye Brendan.
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James Delingpole - A Fraud Speaks

Anyone who thought that the inmates at Spiked, so called because it should have been long ago, were at the limit of the wacko fringe needs to think again. Because in this ago of new denialism, with the Coronavirus rampant across the West, Brendan O’Neill and his fellow emitters of low moaning sounds are mere amateurs: the real hardcore off-the-scale batshit brigade are of an order worse. And they are typified by one individual.
"Gay marriage" ... "Global warming" ... "Red meat Conservatism" ... "Libertarian Kool-Aid" ... "Recycling disinformation" ... "Increasing irrelevance"

That individual is James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who was totally wrong about climate change, and so has decided he might as well be totally wrong about Covid-19 too. To achieve his goal, Del Boy has decided to peddle a series of whoppers about the pandemic that go way beyond irresponsible. Fortunately, no-one cares.
Those whoppers are exemplified by his Retweeting this claim from former Breitbart contributor David Atherton: “UPDATE: Dr. Zelenko Has Now Treated 699 Coronavirus Patients with 100% SUCCESS RATE - Using Hydroxychloroquine, Zinc and Z-Pak”. The claim was made in an article on The Gateway Pundit, which, as its Wikipedia entry confirms, “is known for publishing falsehoods and spreading hoaxes”.
This is not an isolated occurrence: Del Boy has also RTd Chris Loesch - “A man dedicated to Jesus … his freedom and his country” - slagging off economist Paul Krugman with the claim “Paul doesn’t understand that we have the highest confirmed cases because we have the most testing, the most accurate testing and the highest rate of testing”. The USA has none of those: Loesch is lying. But he no doubt believes.
Delingpole does not need to believe, and certainly not when it comes to hypocrisy. On the one hand we read “I'd never have got through World War II, I realise: the Nanny State; the officious directives; the snitches; the recasting of functioning free markets as 'profiteering'; the jobsworthery; the tinpot Hitlers”, while on the other, applauding a snitching, officious recasting of free speech as unacceptable dissent, cos it’s just “recording which commentators are having a good war and which ones aren't. Here is his Lefty List”.
But what really takes the biscuit in no style at all is Del Boy’s claim to have contracted Covid-19, only to be healed by his very own miracle cure. Praise be! “I haven't told you all about how I got through coronavirus despite having several underlying health conditions which, I'm convinced, could have led to intensive care. Essentially, it's a high powered zinc formula, created by a friend, which disrupts the cytokine storm”. Do go on.
What I'd like more than anything is for this stuff to be available on the open market for everyone. But to mass produce it my friend needs ££££. If I crowdfunded it who'd be interested? (Also interested to hear from potential big money backers)”. Of course you would. James Felton tried to remain charitable: “Or - hear me out - you’re one of the overwhelming majority of people who get it but don’t need intensive care, are quite gullible and have a quack friend”. Or maybe he thinks everyone else is a bit gullible.
Maybe James Delingpole is just taking the piss and thinks this will lighten the mood. Maybe he truly believes all the lies about miracle cures. Or maybe he’s yet another of those out there on the libertarian right who have just run out of road.

Still, there are plenty of fruit and veg picking opportunities to take up. Mustn’t grumble.
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Michael Gove - Pants On Fire

The words of warning given by Gordon Brown to Damian McBride more than a decade ago, at the suggestion that something beyond creative might be applied to the usual diet of daily spin, should have been taken on board by politicians across the UK political spectrum: “Don’t. It’s the lie that gets you”. One politician who may be regretting not taking on board the words of his fellow Scot this morning is Michael “Oiky” Gove.
It was Gove who fronted yesterday’s daily briefing on the Coronavirus pandemic. And it was Gove who excused the shortage of Covid-19 tests on an alleged shortage of relevant “chemical reagents”. Ah, a nice new word to add to the modern political excuse lexicon. But Gove made his claim in the presence of journalists who are becoming restless.
And to his credit, it was ITV political editor Robert Peston whose restlessness exposed the tell-tale smoke from Gove’s trousers. “I've just talked to the Chemical Industries Association, which represents the UK's very substantial chemicals industry. It has contacted its members, and they've said there is no shortage of the relevant reagents. So the Association has now been in touch with [Michael Gove]’s office to find out what he means, because it is stumped”. And it got worse for the Government.
The Association also points out there was an industry chat with a business minister today, who made no attempt to find out if there was a supply problem for the vital ingredients of Covid19 testing kits. So this question of why there aren't enough tests for the virus is an even bigger mystery. Also, if it turns out there is a shortage these manufacturers are more than happy to increase their production. But they need to be asked”. They haven’t been.
Sam Coates of Sky News later added “The Chemical Industry Association has just put out this statement putting a question mark over Michael Gove’s statement that a lack of chemical reagant is behind the lack of tests. They say reagant still being delivered to the NHS and the industry can scale up”. So why not nail the Government over this?
Ah well. There appears to be a, shall we say, reluctance to do this, as BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis alluded to later. “See what has happened here ? Hugh Pym asks a simple question of why not enough testing for NHS staff and he gets a long winded reply from Health chief about why testing is important. Which ends with the words ‘ramp up’. Hugh knows all this. We all know all this”. So why not call them out on it?
It would appear to be Journalism 101: as Rachael Clarke, who you can tell as she’s a doctor, put it bluntly, “Tonight [Michael Gove] told the public our inadequate #COVID19 testing is due to a lack of chemical reagents. The UK Chemical Industries Association says there's no shortage at all. Nor has [10 Downing Street] even asked manufacturers to increase production. This is indefensible”. Got it in one.
The Government is effectively admitting that testing, which is claimed to have still not broken through the 9,000 a day mark, is proceeding too slowly, by feeding the Murdoch Times its front page lead today: “PM takes control of drive for virus tests … Frustration as Government admits it’s too slow”. Brave Bozo to the rescue in the retelling!

You caught Gove with his pants alight, media people. So bloody well say so.
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Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Toby Young Goes Full Nazi

While most of the UK understands the very real risks of contracting Coronavirus, and moreover of passing on the virus to others, those out there on the libertarian fringe, now cast adrift by broadcasters who have belatedly realised the value of pundits who actually know what they are talking about, have begun jostling for position in the quest for More And Bigger Attention Seeking Gestures For Themselves Personally Now.
There are many variously undeserving contenders for Most Off The Wall Libertarian Idiocy, with the likes of Peter Hitchens, James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, and of course Brendan O’Neill of Spiked, so called because it should have been many years ago, but upstaging them all today has been the loathsome Toby Young, going full Logan’s Run and declaring that, in order to preserve the economy, the old and vulnerable must die.
Tobes has accomplished his full-on Nazi eugenicist excursion in an article written for, and to its shame published by, The Critic, titled “Has the Government overreacted to the Coronavirus crisis?” QTWTAIN. But we do not need the link, as Tobes has set out his arguments, lame though they be, in a tediously long Twitter thread.
He wants to end the lockdown “on April 14th, the day after Easter Monday. Or if the Government must extend, by the following Monday so children can return to school after the Easter holidays” and goes on to tell “I make three main arguments. First, that the cost of the economic bailout Rishi Sunack [sic] has proposed is too high. Spending that kind of money to extend the lives of a few hundred thousand mostly elderly people with underlying health problems by one or two years is a mistake”. So spoke Tobes 94.
We are talking hundreds of thousands condemned to die a slow, agonising and painful death not unlike drowning - and we can see from available information that many of them will not be elderly. Moreover, the “one or two years” is bullshit. Many would continue to serve their country, and contribute to its economy, for decades to come. But do go on.
Second, this isn't a trade-off between public health and economic health, but between saving lives now and saving them in the future. When economies contract, life expectancy declines, due to, among other things, a rise in poverty, violent crime and suicide. During the global financial crisis of 2007–09, the suicide rate in Europe increased by 6.5% according to the [WHO]”. Why is Tobes assuming continued economic contraction? Plus, 650 deaths by suicide in the UK versus hundreds of thousands by Covid-19. Ri-i-i-ight.
But more significant is his third argument. “There's growing evidence the [Imperial College] team over-estimated the demand for hospital care and under-estimated the surge capacity of the NHS. According to Sunetra Gupta and her team at [the University of Oxford], 50% of the UK population has already been infected. That means the demand for hospital care will be far lower than anticipated”. No. Just no. This is a total non sequitur.
Saying “I found some other research which says something different to the research the Government is following” does not mean there is “growing evidence” of anything. What it does show is that there are some out there on the right so desperate to polish their own specialist turds that they will say anything, no matter how outrageous, as a result.

The stupid is strong with this one. No change there, then.
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Spain Urged To Lock Down Completely

While some on the fringes of UK media and politics try and advance the idea that the lockdown response to the Coronavirus pandemic should be eased or even lifted completely, the situation in mainland Europe suggests the opposite: that existing lockdowns may not be sufficient, and should therefore be tightened.
Italy has been locked down for some weeks now, and in Spain, which entered lockdown over the weekend of the 14th of March, another record daily death toll from Covid-19 has been posted: 849 poor souls lost their lives there in the past 24 hours. There will be no easing of the lockdown; indeed, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has already extended that period from the 29th of March to the 12th of April.

Moreover, I am now told that the Spanish lockdown will continue at least until the end of April, maybe beyond. Its conditions are more severe than those in the UK, as AS has reported: “Spain's lockdown bans its residents from leaving the house for all but essential reasons, such as buying food and medical supplies, or travelling to work or to hospital. Other countries that have adopted such measures, for example the UK, allow their citizens to go out for limited exercise - but this is not the case in Spain”.

So it was no surprise to also read “Among those to fall foul of the authorities was Real Valladolid footballer Pedro Porro: the on-loan Manchester City player was fined 600 euros this week after driving 15km from his home to go shopping in the centre of Valladolid”. Anyone feeling hard done by at being stopped by the Police from driving to see relatives, or head for the nearest beauty spot, should take note.
Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid

Now, a letter to the Lancet has suggested that the Spanish lockdown should be tightened. Having modelled the potential spread of the virus, a group of experts has concluded “The model suggests that the actions taken to date … will be insufficient to prevent hospitals and intensive care units from being overwhelmed over the coming weeks. The foreseen collapse of the health system, along with the age distribution of the Spanish population (ie, 18% of people aged ≥65 years), suggests a potentially high mortality rate associated with COVID-19 in the country”. So what action do they advocate?

According to our models, the current state is associated with a very high risk of saturation of our health system, which is expected to last from March 26 to April 24, 2020 … Therefore, we urge the Spanish Government to implement, as swiftly as possible, more drastic measures to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the Spanish population”.

This means “For example, type A areas (≥100 cases per 10 [to the power 5] inhabitants in the past 7 days) implement a complete shutdown of the region and citizen lockdown, except for essential services (eg, hospitals, health care, and research centres) for a minimum period of 15–21 days”. These areas would include Madrid and Catalonia.

For all those expats hosting barbecues - charcoal is selling well in parts of Spain right now, which is a bit of a giveaway - things could be about to get properly serious. And they could give Brits a hint as to what awaits them - if they don’t follow the lockdown rules.

Coronavirus is not just something other people catch. Now behave yourselves.
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Left’s Virus Response Spooks The Right

Those out there on the right have been on a hair trigger for some days now, fearful of what the left might do in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Even the benign suggestion from Labour Party chair Ian Lavery that members should get involved in community organising, to best help the most vulnerable in those communities, precipitated a howl of protest from the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
Charlotte Gill ...

So it should surprise no-one that Charlotte Gill, now for some reason gifted a berth at Conservative Home, has gone OTT in no style at all at the prospect of ordinary people and their representatives taking the opportunity to organise and advocate for workers to get a better deal, including having the audacity to demand compensation, including sick pay, for those facing poverty, having been forced to accept zero hours contracts.

Ms Gill, demonstrating why she should be in the vanguard of those emptied out of the think tanks and comment factories and sent to help get in the harvest - given that the EU migrant workers have gone home, just as the Brexiteer right wing wanted, and there is an impending labour shortage in that area - has told her remaining readersHow the Left is exploiting the Coronavirus for political gain”. Which the right isn’t, oh no.

So it must have been a figment of the imagination to read all those calls for the lockdown to be lifted on the pretext of getting the economy going, from people as diverse as the Sun’s lie-peddler emeritus Trevor Kavanagh, and Dan, Dan The Oratory Man. The calls from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance for greater austerity after the crisis passes - meaning those at the bottom of the pile suffer yet more - must have been a mirage.

Still, on ploughs Ms Gill, asking plaintively “Will the Left try to exploit the Coronavirus to advance a political agenda? There are increasing signs that this is the case”, citing the Fawkes massive as an authoritative source (er, no) and whining about Lavery’s call for Labour members to volunteer within their communities.
... and her new hero

Especially taxing to Ms Gill is The World Transformed, and its promotional literature telling “As the impacts of the Coronavirus crisis continue to ramp up in the UK and beyond, it’s becoming clearer day by day that we cannot rely on Boris Johnson and this Tory government … there is still huge scope for traditional workplace organising and tactics such as strikes to be successful”. Why does this spook her and her pals?

Even in the dark days of World War 2, strike action was not uncommon, and remains the weapon of last resort for organised labour. But Ms Gill does not consider that, instead getting herself terribly worked up because Grace Blakeley talked about a deepening of democracy in a future where more organisations may come under state control. Because they would have to be bailed out by … well, We The People.

The problem the right has here is that, when faced with a crisis of this scale, and seeing their usual solution - free market capitalism - unable to provide the solution, they become defensive and dig out the “Red Scare” tactics so beloved of the paranoid tradition in the US right in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Ms Gill is unable to otherwise explain why a few left-wingers using social media is going to bring about a collapse in society.

If Conservatives can’t provide the answers to our problems, what is the point of them?
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Monday, 30 March 2020

EU Must Now Expel Hungary

When the EU, in its formative years, was merely the EEC, and consisted of only six countries - France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and the then West Germany, it bordered a whole host of totalitarian states. To the east lay Soviet satellite countries, significantly the remaining, Eastern, part of Germany. To the south could be found the dictatorships in Greece, Spain and Portugal.
And although all those countries have now been welcomed into the enlarged EU, it is with the certainty of night following day that the DDR led by Erich Honecker, Romania under the Ceausescu régime, Greece under the boot of the colonels, Spain ruled over by Falangist Generalissimo Francisco Franco, and the Estado Novo of António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal, would not have been let in the door, and still would not today.

So why Hungary has managed to maintain its member state status has been a test of the remaining EU states, and a problem that they have so far been unable to tackle. That inability has now been exploited by Viktor Orbán, taking advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic to become the EU’s very own Great Dictator.

The leader of the nationalist Fidesz party had already signalled his intention: as the Guardian has reported, “Viktor Orbán … has taken the political maxim ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ and run with it … This week he will almost certainly acquire dictatorial powers. The Hungarian parliament, dominated by his Fidesz party, is expected to rubber-stamp the ‘protecting against the coronavirus’ law, ushering in an indefinite period of what amounts to one-man rule in an EU member state”. A sort of enabling law, perhaps.

There is more. “The new law allows Mr Orbán to rule by decree, alone and unchallenged. The prime minister will be able to override all existing legislation. Elections will not take place. Information on government actions will be provided to the speaker of the Hungarian parliament and the leaders of parliamentary groups. The spreading of ‘false’ information … will become a crime punishable by a lengthy prison sentence”. Decided by whom?
It gets worse. “The decision as to when the current emergency is over will be in the hands of Mr Orbán’s Fidesz MPs. A compliant parliament may eventually choose to make permanent some of the arrangements introduced in the context of a global health crisis. ‘Emergency’ measures introduced in 2016 to restrict the rights of asylum seekers are still in place”. The article concludes “This will be another bad week for Hungarian democracy”.

And so it has proved, as NPR has reported today. “The nationalist government in Hungary passed a law Monday granting sweeping emergency powers that Prime Minister Viktor Orban says are necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Those powers include sidelining parliament and giving Orban the power to rule by decree indefinitely”.

Orbán’s excuse? “This law gives the government the power and means to defend Hungary”, wrapping himself up in the flag, while promising “When this emergency ends, we will give back all powers, without exception”. Like he didn’t with asylum seekers.

Viktor Orbán may be more Chaplin than Hitler. But if the values of the EU are to mean anything, the Union cannot permit a dictatorship within its club. So expel the SOB.
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Tories Ventilating Supporter Cronyism?

The BBC was one of those media outlets hailing one well-known name for his contribution to tackling the Coronavirus pandemic, reporting last week that “The government has ordered 10,000 ventilators from Dyson to help deal with the coronavirus crisis. The firm, headed by British inventor Sir James Dyson, said it had designed a new type of ventilator in response to a call on behalf of the NHS”. And there was more.
The order is still subject to the devices passing stringent medical tests but that is expected to happen quickly. Dyson has had hundreds of engineers working round the clock to design the ventilators from scratch … It hopes to build the ventilators at scale from its UK base in Wiltshire - using aircraft hangars that were used to stuff parachutes in the World War Two”. But something was missing from the report.

Back in 2016, Forbes ran a feature onDyson, a longtime Conservative Party member”. This matters: the Independent has now reported thatA British-based manufacturer says that they have been told by the government not to produce much-needed ventilators less than a week after being asked to help make thousands of the machines, the company’s chief executive has said”. And which manufacturer might this have been?

Nick Grey, chief executive of Gtech, told … that he had been advised by the government on 26 March not to continue making ventilators, despite his company answering the government’s call for help in producing more than 30,000 of the machines just two weeks prior … It’s not clear why the government allegedly told the company to stop producing the ventilators, particularly seeing as the machines are key to keeping people alive who have trouble breathing because of coronavirus”. This could have been a coincidence, though.
Or rather, it could have been a coincidence until Stoke on Trent Live told readers this morningDozens of JCB employees to return to work - to help with national coronavirus relief effort”. Doing what, perchance? “Around 50 of them are set to return to work at the company's Uttoxeter factory within days to make steel parts to be fitted to models of a ventilator being designed by Dyson”. Well, well. Another coincidence. Do go on.

It comes almost two weeks after the closure of the Uttoxeter factory and follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson's direct appeal for JCB to help plug the national ventilator shortage … A research and engineering team was set up to see how JCB could help and the first prototypes of the steel housing have been sent to Dyson … It is hoped that mass production of the housings can start within days”. And there is a Tory connection here.

As the Guardian reported last January, “JCB has a long track record of working closely with top Tories to further the Conservative cause … The Bamford family, which was said to be worth £3.6bn in last year’s Sunday Times Rich List, along with JCB have handed over almost £10m in political donations since 2001, according to records held by the Electoral Commission”. The Bamfords are also believed to have chipped in to fund the TPA.

So that’s two firms with links to the Tories who appear well set to do good business out of the Coronavirus pandemic. Which begs the question, as Private Eye Magazine might have put it, “I wonder if the two are in any way related? I think we should be told”.

Perhaps one of those political editors will ask the question. But don’t hold your breath.
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