Mediasteria

In March last year, To quote a BBc correspondent in the US: “There have been 4,000 deaths from Ebola in West Africa; one in the USA. From the media coverage, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the other way round.”

I see our founder has been battling with the armament of common sense against the growing hysteria, though, I fear, to less effect than might be desired. I’ve been shocked myself, to read some comments. The MSF doctor, and others, are frequently referred to as criminals—for”‘putting the population at risk” of something they are extremely unlikely to catch anyway. Some have called for returning nurses and doctors to be ‘quarantined’ elsewhere: anywhere but in the USA.

I think our founder is perfectly right. the current quarantine restrictions now in place in New York, New Jersey and Illinois are purely political (and, one has to assume, anti-Obama). And, for all the public talk of ‘preparedness’, the picture of the quarantine in which the nurse—who has now twice tested negative for Ebola—is being held looks distinctly ad hoc to me.

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Another photo I’ve seen suggests that  what has been described as a ‘dedicated facility’ in which the tent is placed is suspiciously like a car park. This looks to me no more than a stage set designed to impress the unknowledgeable. And in any case, it is hardly necessary for someone who is not yet actually infected, or  infectious; and of virtually no use whatsoever for someone who becomes so.

But I suppose an ordinary quarantine room in an infectious diseases hospital—I once spent a couple of weeks in one until I was finally diagnosed with an illness which wasn’t transmissible—just wouldn’t look superficially so impressive.

Just as the setup for the media would not have looked quite so impressive on the telly without an ambulance flashing its emergency lights, escorted by—was it seven or eight?—police cars . . . .

It appears Cuomo has changed his mind, and the nurse may, after all, ‘self-quarantine’ at home in Maine . . .I suppose, if any airline in the USA would now take her there? Perhaps he needs the tent to house a five-year-old.

Grammer Skool

I thought perhaps we ought to have a more permanent place, even if, in the end, it’s just for me and Madame Max to complain and moan in.

So another in our endless, but scattered, ‘Grammer Skool’ series: a headline from CBS, which made no sense at all to me for several seconds, until I realised someone can’t tell the difference between a singular subject and a plural one, or possibly the difference between subject and object, or possibly both. Take your pick:

“What drops in Netflix, Apple say about the stock market”

(Some years ago, it became fairly obvious to me that website designers—especially— hadn’t heard of sub-editors (Am. Eng. ‘copy editors’?) and worse, didn’t want to. You cannot, I found, explain why you should fix spelling, grammatical and punctuation fuck-ups in English to people who simply cannot see that they’re making any; or that it matters. Or that reading a simple sentence should not be a grammatical Rubik’s Cube in which you have to twist the components around until you can make sense of it. Squ has long, and with increasing despair, thought half his degree in English Literature and Language—a rare beast then and even more rare now—was wasted, really.)

They may not wear Black Shirts, but. . .

 

 

 

Nigel-Farage-leader-of-Uk-001mosley5They won a bye-election on the South East coast of Britain, and came very close to another in the North West. Geographically speaking, neither result is altogether surprising. The Clacton constituency is composed of small towns on the coast that were Music Hall jokes a century ago: dull, dead seaside places where the fossilized white aged retire and find their amusement spending a penny once a week to make the laughing policeman cackle in the arcade.And Rochdale was once a busy cotton town which imported (rather than ‘attracted’) asian immigrants for the mills in the late Fifties and Sixties, but is still, I think, predominantly white and (among at least a substantial part of that population) probably uneasily so.

So we now have a political party, that, rather like the Republicans and the Tea Party, has been manufacturing dog whistles that, by comparison, have a somewhat subdued, but nonetheless penetrating shriek. Its leader wants, among other things, to ban anyone with HIV to enter the country. that’s a code easily grasped by the aged whites in Frinton and the suspicious white northerners of Rochdale. Anyone with HIV is, of course, bound to be either gay or black, or, as they used to say when I was a kid, coloured because there were few if any people of African origin around. Or—as I remember rather bitterly from my early school days, because I have a complexion that’s more Mediterranean than Scandinavian, half-caste or touched with the tar brush, though that sort of thing was only said behind my back. Not that I realised it was being said at all until I was about thirteen and heard about it from a swimming friend whose father was also Italian,  but from Northern Italy, so he was blond and had blue eyes . . .

The real irony, of course, is that UKIP’s Leader, who purports to be yer standard working class no-nonsense guy with a flat ‘at,  ey-oop, was born in the affluent stockbroker belt of the South East the son of a stockbroker; went to a public school; and worked in the City until the Brussels-Strasbourg gravy train looked a more attractive option. All the things that, in fact, while they might attract the retired Colonel Blimps of the retired seaside resorts of the Essex coast, ought to be anathema to the supposedly hard-headed burghers of Rochdale.

It’s just as ironic that both constituencies were gerrymandered to try to make them Tory. before the Conservative Party comprehended that another might arise that was more authentically Right than they were. There’s not much satisfaction, just a little, for people like me, in that there’s now a good possibility that the Tories will lose a large part of the electorate that they thought they were securing only for themselves. And no doubt, will over the next six months try to re-secure with a good half or more of the neo-fascist Tories that have until this year been relatively subdued, coming out into the open with their leather belts, jackboots and shirts they’ve been hiding in their wardrobes.

There are, probably, all sorts of other reasons (and I can think of quite a few) why a neo-Fascist party (for that, despite its veneer, is what it is) has just got, and possibly will get in six months’ time, a lot of votes. One of them is simply that people are rebarbative. I’ve long held that all politics tends in the end to fascism unless the Left constantly combats it. And for twenty years now, the one major party that could and should have done reneged on its origins and abandoned the kind of people who formed it.

 

Top Left: Leader of United Kingdom Independence Party, Nigel  Farage.

Top Right: Leader of the British Union of Fascists, Oswald Mosley.

As they say, all demagogues look the same to me.

Policing or Vigilantism?

We read these things with, I suppose, inevitable fascination.

The officer, who has worked for the St Louis police department for six years, was doing a secondary job for a security company when he approached four men on the street, police said.

As he exited the car, the gentlemen took off running. He was able to follow one of them before he lost him and then found him again as the guy jumped out of some bushes across the street,” said Police Lt Col Alfred Adkins. “The officer approached, they got into a struggle, they ended up into a gangway, at which time the young man pulled a weapon** and shots were fired. The officer returned fire* and unfortunately the young man was killed.

*Seventeen times.

** Reminds you of something, doesn’t it?

There are all sorts of questions, aren’t there?  this police officer was “in uniform’. But what uniform? The security company’s. or his police uniform? He ‘exited the car’. An unmarked car? A security company car? A police car? Who, therefore,  thought they were running away from what?

And why does a single armed policeman think it sensible to pursue four men alone? And do police officers regularly moonlight for security companies—and would that be because they carry guns? And what was he supposed to be ‘securing’ anyway?

Coalitions of the Vaguely Supportive of Something or Other

So, there are forty (or ‘more than’) countries joined together in this anti-IS coalition? Which are, exactly? Anyway, all are obviously united in their deep-seated desire to be rid of the IS fundamentalists. Like Egypt, whose military rulers are no doubt salivating at the idea of getting more US money and guns to ‘degrade and destroy’ . . .er, the Moslem Brotherhood, probably. The Gulf States, who will be equally keen to get their hands on more munitions to ‘degrade and destroy’ . . .er, those awkward democratic protesters. The odd monarchy here and there that hopes to keep going for another fifty years, with its own brand of Islamic fundamentalism . . .

It is hardly surprising that nobody has much idea of who’s in, or what they’re in for. (In both senses of the phrase.) A ‘coalition’ cobbled together like this is simply nonsense; it’s not a plan, nor a strategy, it’s just a recipe for ever-expanding chaos as countries gleefully pick their favoured  enemy and call them “IS-inspired’ just as previously they were ‘Al Quaeda inspired’ or ‘Iran-inspired’ or ‘Libya. . .’ or  ‘Hamas . . ‘. . .well, you get the idea. As though there hasn’t been enough already.

And of course, it’s going to be  a really good start to hand over a half billion dollars’ worth (or whatever) of weapons to a few thousand ‘vetted’ ‘freedom fighters’ in Syria. Who, one supposes will be asked to tick the right boxes on a questionnaire before the airdrops land on the heads of IS occupiers of Syrian and Iraq towns and airbases.

“Tick both of the following: ‘Do you promise to use these guns only against IS and not against other ‘freedom fighters’ you might have a beef with or happen to attack you?’ ‘Do you promise to use these lovely expensive weapons against Assad’s forces at the same time, no matter how likely it’ll be you’ll be decimated between the two?’ ”

And once the 5,000 have done that, off they charge into Iraq brandishing their wonderful weaponry all ready to be greeted with flowers and sweets, instead of tanks and rockets the US (and the Iraqi army) so casually left lying about. And after that, after a quick diversion into Pakistan, the Egyptians will give them a free pass across into Libya, so they can sort out the ‘wrong kind of Muslim’ there; and then nip across the Sahara to tidy up Malawi, northern Nigeria. . .and everybody (especially American soldiers) lives happily ever after.

(Forget about the Kurds, btw. The US is never going to allow anybody to give the Peshmurga any really effective weaponry to do anything more than hold on (just!) to what they’ve got. Turkey, you see. Still pretty unkeen on anything that might ever come to resemble the capacity or possibility of any kind of independent Kurdistan.)

Never mind, it’ll all work out somehow. There’ll be a banner (headline, not on an aircraft carrier this time) probably just before the next US presidential election boasting that “IS has been degraded and destroyed.” Somewhere. (Probably somewhere rather small and ineffectual.) Just like all the others . . .

Oh dear, oh dear. It’s all a bit too late to start asking the Pentagon, the State Department (and, obviously, any members of Congress at all) to learn some history, some theology and some geography. Looking back, forget the Balfour Declaration. Perhaps one of the biggest British blunders in the Middle East was giving Abdul Aziz a bloody kingdom.

Squirrel Nest ‘Open House’ . . .

Just realised it’s the London ‘Open House’ thing this weekend, where all kinds of buildings, houses and flats get opened to anybody and everybody who turns up.

Sadly, the Squirrel Nest is not included this year. (Again.) No-one seemed interested in the description I offered:

“Undistinguished, even casual and mildly inconvenient, 1960′s conversion of the first floor above a shop of a Victorian building of 1870. No original features, apart from half a stuck sash window (re-glazed ca. 1970) and many-times overpainted skirting board, from time to time housing authentic descendants of the original Victorian mice.”

So I shall be free to go buzzing around looking at things I haven’t somehow got around to seeing. (I hope: the Squ. spine’s been in a bad way the last few weeks, but I get a new injection on Wednesday, just in time, if it works as quickly as the last one.) One site I rather fancy is a trip around the roof of Victoria Station, only I doubt somehow it’ll have wheelchair access . . .Or crutch access, for that matter.

Mildly tempted to see what the inside of that horrendous grey concrete Czech Embassy looks like. Will they show us the rooms the Russians were reputed to do all their spying from? (If you don’t know of it, it was notoriously huge—probably about eight or ten times the size of the actual Russian Embassy just along the road—and with an array of aerials on the roof back then that was probably capable of picking up alien reality TV from Tau Ceti.)

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What you can see this year is just amazing. Hadn’t realised it had got so big. There are around 20 places I’d really like to get into; going to need at least a full day plotting bus routes, I think. Pity about the Victoria station roof, though. Curiously, one is the chapel at Charing Cross hospital: it’s got stained glass windows by John Piper, apparently. I didn’t know that, and I’ve been going to that hospital three or four times a year for years. I like Piper. Have to look for it on Wednesday when I’m there.

Hacking Shock: Naked Squirrel in Bed Pic!

WARNING: NSFW!

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And be Warned!

“Sharing these images is not the same as making a joke . . .. It’s an act of sexual violation, and it deserves the same social and legal punishment as meted out to stalkers and other sexual predators.

“Under US and other laws, it is illegal to own or share sexual images of another person under 18.” [The Squirrel here was definitely under 18 when this photo was taken. Probably about four.]

Does anyone else feel this is becoming ridiculous?  If you’re going to take nude photos of yourself (or have someone take them for you) and then keep them in the Cloud, why exactly did you do it in the first place?  To keep looking at them yourself, which is absurdly narcissisitic, or to pass them around to others, which has just happened on a rather larger scale. . .There’s something rather warped that nudity amounts to sexual abuse; if that were to be taken at face value, then an awful lot of painters over the last few centuries are criminals, not painters (admittedly, one or two Italian ones actually were!) and anyone who goes into an art gallery or wanders past Michaelangelo’s David in Florence, or the Mannekin Pis in Brussels, will have to be prosecuted.

“Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against you. Your bared body can always be used to shame and humiliate you.”

Wonder what Botticelli’s Venus would think?  (And can we be absolutely sure she’s under 18?) Or Alison Lapper? (Who, btw, was talking on the BBC a week or so ago, along with her son—who’s now 14—who didn’t seem to feel that either.) Or Rembrandts’ Sascha? Or Angela Merkel for that matter?

So, here, is naked, unashamed, Squirrel.

 

Dark Days for Satirists

As satirists around the world scribble their “Goodbye cruel world” notes and reach for their razor blades and sleeping pills, CNN reveals that a nine-year-old girl, on vacation with her family in northern Arizona near Las Vegas, has shot and killed a tourist-emporium employee with the submachine gun he was teaching her to shoot. At a place called Bullets and Burgers. (At a place called Bullets and Burgers. At a place called Bullets and Burgers.) The owner of Bullets and Burgers says that “We really don’t know what happened.” (He should watch the video that CNN helpfully links to. It would be the least he can do, since everyone that kid has ever met will have bookmarked it already.) CNN notes that Bullets and Burgers brags on its Facebook page that “We separate ourselves from all other Las Vegas ranges with our unique ‘Desert Storm’ atmosphere and military style bunkers.” Their web site (which CNN doesn’t seem to have found yet) makes the same claim, and adds “You will be treated with the World Famous All American Hamburger, fresh cut french fries, and a drink. The All American Burger is guaranteed to be the best hamburger you have ever eaten.” Trip Advisor, whatever that may be, ranks Bullets and Burgers “#1 of 575 attractions in Las Vegas” (take that, Hoover Dam). CNN does not reveal whether the girl will be tried as an adult, but things don’t look too good for her because the dead instructor “was married, well-liked and a veteran.” Also, there were no reviews of the hamburgers.

Carnival!

few early pix before I had to use my long-planned ‘rat-run’ to get to a concert that was going to start more than four hours later. Going against this:

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Friemds? (It was also the 200th anniversary of us burning the White House, but we kind of forgot  to celebrate that on Monday. Washington Post reminded us . . .)

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. . .or. . .or . . .when I grow up I’ll learn to play the tuba!

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OK,. so where’s the Italian one, then? (All quiet now, but could be awake for a while yet; they’ve just started the first run cleaning my street; won’t be finished till 4 in the morning probably . . .)

 

It’s a bit sad today. We had a forecast of heavy rain and it’s been raining continuously since dawn. Usually, by about now (mid-day) there are two or three hundred people walking around my street and in a couple of hours’ time  there’d be a couple of thousand; now, there’s barely a handful. One plus is that the sound stages are relatively quiet. (Normally my windows and doors are rattling like bass drums by now and I start worrying about going deaf and hide in the kitchen . . .But I suspect some of them didn’t pay attention to the weather forecast and have blown their electrics . . .)

Should have been going to a lunchtime concert, but  I had to abandon it. I got a very big waterproof cloak for rainy days. (it’s huge, I call it ‘The Tent’. It’s a German thing that doubles as a sort of ground sheet. I think you can probably use it as a bivouac as well; it covers me and a lot of my wheelchair down to my feet; bought it after getting thoroughly sodden from the waist down a few times last year.) But I’d still have to wheel it for about half an hour to get to a bus, and I couldn’t face it. Especially as I’ve got tickets for two concerts tomorrow . . .

Ferguson, Missouri: “Proud to be ‘a playful USA community’.”

More:For the fourth consecutive year, they say  on the official website.

 

 

Ferguson

Newark 1967

 

Top: Ferguson 2014;  bottom, Newark 1967

To bring some sense of proportion to this, according to the St Louis Post Despatch, the number of protesters actually on the streets of Ferguson has varied from ‘ a dozen or more’, to  ‘a few dozen’ to ‘over a hundred’. The largest number appears to have been 400 who met in a church, some of whom briefly ‘marched up and down’ outside afterwards.

And for  this, they are deploying automatic weapons, tear gas, ‘wooden bullets’ (not rubber?) and heaven knows what else. And they order the media out; and they close the airspace. Small town, small war. And all because a young (admittedly rather large) man didn’t step onto the pavement when a policeman in a car ordered him to.

Also, according to the same newspaper,

Gun sales have spiked at several metro area gun stores in the wake of rioting and looting in Ferguson and disturbances at a few stores in other locations.Mid America Arms in South County reported that firearm sales were up by about 50 percent on Tuesday.Customers are loading up on semi-automatic handguns and shotguns, said Al Rothweiler*, one of the owners.

 

This, I suppose is where Bill Bratton’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policing leads. (He wanted to be the Met’s next Commissioner; mercifully, we’ve been spared that, or perhaps the streets of London would be littered with corpses.)
* I’m not sure I can believe the owner of a gun store is really called that. . . .
And it goes on . . .now they’ve brought out armoured vehicles; tear-gassed a TV crew (Al Jazeera America. . .well, they would, wouldn’t they?) and nicked their equipment, arrested two journos, one from the Washington Post, because two bottles were thrown. (Which probably didn’t actually hit anyone.)  Nonetheless, this constituted an assault on the police:”The fear of threat like that is still construed as an assault. Injury does not have to happen for an assault to happen,” said a police spokesman.They’ve arrested a state senator for ‘unlawful assembly’. (What?) And they’re using flash-bang grenades and sound cannon. (There’s a pic of one mounted on one of the armoured vehicles.) What next? Bring in drones and start demolishing ‘suspected protester’s’ houses?All this does (all it can do) is fuel not just distrust, but absolute loathing. I was living in Notting Hill before (and during) the riot in ’87. I’d just moved there. For weeks before Carnival, I was stopped and searched at the end of my own street any night I was coming home late from work. (Dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase. It got so if I spotted a police van in the distance, I’d turn and take a long detour home to try to avoid them jumping out of the shadows at me.) If I’d been black, I’d have been stopped at least once every night. It made me angry. So when rioting erupted after Carnival, I wasn’t exactly surprised. It took years  for the police around here to regain any sort of trust (let alone respect) whatsoever. What people in Ferguson must feel, apparently treated like that continually year after year and now faced with what looks like a military occupation, I can hardly comprehend.(A few weeks later I had to chair a public meeting (not in Notting Hill, in Westminster) with a senior ‘Community Officer’ from Scotland Yard about ‘reassuring’ people that the cops were nice people really. He was very shocked when he spoke to me privately afterwards to thank me for chairing the damn thing and I let rip—still seething—about what it had been like living in Notting Hill those few months.)

 

And now . . .the governor is sending in the National Guard. This is turning into a war.

 

And another man is shot by police in St Louis. The police car draws up, he first walks away, then turns back towards them as they yell “drop the knife!” Within fifteen seconds of their arrival, they have fired at least ten-twelve shots from a few metres away. they have made no attempt whatsoever to keep some distance between them, no attempt to calm him, no attempt to disarm him by other means. they just confront him and  open fire. They don’t even attempt to shoot to disable him. The police chief says it was ‘a lethal situation, they used lethal force.’ But it’s not clear it was a ‘lethal’ situation’. the man had shown no sign of attacking anyone else; he did not strictly speaking, show any sign of actually attacking the two policemen. And even the St Louis alderman who has been on the streets said “Legally, an armed man lunging at police can be shot. . . this seems to be legally justified.”

A couple of friends of mine (one Italian, one French) are as shocked as I am. (The point being, of course, that though both are living in Britain where the police in the streets are not armed, that’s not the case in France or Italy, where every policeman has a sidearm.) I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Belgium (where the police are all armed too) and France, but though I know people have been shot by police, it’s not like this.

 

And then, of course, there is the now notorious piece in the WashPo by an ex-policeman who is now a ‘professor of homeland security’ which lays bare the contradictions in policing this way. (Which the author, professor or not) seems not to have realised himself.)

You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must let you go. Finally, cops are legally prohibited from using excessive force: The moment a suspect submits and stops resisting, the officers must cease use of force.

But:

if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me.

As we’ve seen, ‘aggressively walking’ (or too fast, too slow, or not at all) can be ‘legally’ lethal.