Rant

I had hoped I’d last slightly longer than the second weekend of the year without having a rant, but events this week haven’t exactly worked out that way.

Let’s start with the events in America this week. I don’t think there can be many of us who weren’t shocked at the scenes from Washington DC, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an effort to overthrow the legitimate result of the Presidential election in November, as it was being verified.

Shocked, yes, but surprised? Honestly, not really. This has been building up since before the election. You’ll doubtless recall this exchange in one of the Presidential debates, when Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, specifically The Proud Boys. This was his response:

No criticism of them, just “Stand back and stand by.”

Post-election, when he wasn’t playing golf, attempting to get the election result overturned by the Courts (and having each of the 60 attempts thrown out on the grounds that no evidence had been submitted to support his claims), or watching Rudy Giuliani’s paint-job run at a particularly hot press conference (presumably the heat coming from a nearby sex shop), he was sending out further dog-whistles via his now-suspended Twitter account:

Twitter was a fascinating place to be on Wednesday/Thursday, not only watching the whole thing as it happened, not for the righteous outrage and indignation that bubbled and boiled, but for the concerted effort from many to identify those who had participated in the storming of the buildings and to pass that information on to the law enforcement agencies (presumably not the same ones who assisted the mob with access to the building, that is).

At the same time, many right-wingers tried to claim the attack was totally spontaneous and not pre-planned and that Trump had nothing to do with it. Oh yeh? Then how comes they’d printed up their own merchandise?

And that’s not even the cheap, unofficial shite you usually find spread out on the pavements when you leave a gig (ah…gigs…remember them?). No, that is your bona fide, 100% authentic mail-order MAGA merch, right there.

And this one even turned up with what, in the hands of your average honest-as-the- day-is-long electrician is merely a bunch of cable ties, but in this scenario can only have been brought for one purpose: to restrain and tether people:

Spontaneous, my arse.

Luckily, identifying many of them did not prove too arduous a task since, for as one would perhaps expect from such a baying mob, many of them wunt too cleverest.

If I was running a course on how to start a revolution, then Day 1 Lesson 1 of Revolutionary School would go something like this:

1. Keep your identity secret when trying to over-throw the government, at least until you have gained power.

But no. For a start, as devout Trump-followers, and thus by definition the hard-of-thinking, most of them were also Covid-deniers, and so refused to wear face masks.

If that wasn’t dumb enough, many decided to take pictures of themselves in various poses within the Capitol Building, and then post the snaps on their own social media, which were of course, open to the public to view.

And have a look at this one man tribute to the film Deliverance:

This one is so smart that he’s wearing his work lanyard. Needless to say, his now former employers were none too impressed:

It would appear that this knuckle-dragger was part of The Proud Boys, the group that Trump told to “Stand back and stand by.” Here’s a group shot of some of the leading lights taken on the day:

I mean, if I’d paid good money to see a Village People tribute act, and this is what waltzed out on stage, I think I might suggest storming the parapets too. Just saying.

Incidentally, is it just me or doesn’t the name The Proud Boys sound just a little bit….camp? Like a dance troupe of buff but exceedingly gay male strippers, dripping in baby oil? No? Just me then.

And then there’s this chap, who provided perhaps one of the most famous images from the day:

Now I don’t know about you, but I think that Robbie Savage should be free to do whatever he likes with his down-time. In fact, anything that keeps him away from “commentating” or football punditry in general is to be encouraged and is absolutely fine by me.

He may have less than two weeks to go until he has to begrudgingly hand over power to Biden, but there has to be consequences to Trump for his part in all of this. Hopefully he’ll end up wearing a boiler suit the same colour as his skin, but I can see a scenario where he gets off scot-free, and it’s one floated by Television’s Richard Osman on The Late Leg a few weeks ago. And it runs like this: Vice President Mike Pence relieves Trump of his duties for the final stage of his presidency, and in that time issues a pardon to him, in the same way as we have seen Trump issue pardons to all of his imprisoned cohorts over the past few weeks.

Thankfully, Pence – presumably with one eye on the next election – does appear to be distancing himself from Trump over the past couple of days, so maybe I’m being a little pessimistic.

What’s absolutely stark here is the difference between Trump’s handling of the BLM protests – call in the National Guard and the armed forces, shoot them – and his refusal to do the same when his buddies were doing the same when democracy itself was under threat. Hmm. I wonder white that might be….

Anyway, time for a tune, and I’ll start off by making the same joke as I did when I last posted this tune back in 2017: I wish it had the letters “Im” at the start of the song title, and then this would be perfect:

But it doesn’t, so it’s not.

See, the problem with most of the songs I have about uprisings or revolutions is this: they’re generally performed from the perspective of those rising up, with whom we, the listener, have empathy. So, not especially appropriate to post now.

And then I thought of this, a record more angry than any other, which builds and builds into a furious explosion about the antics when in power of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaușescu. I’m not going to draw too many parallels, but….this is magnificent in it’s fury and outraged anger, which should, frankly, be our default position right now:

*****

What all of this does bring into question is the matter of freedom of speech, and the platforms afforded to those who invoke it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that – finally – various social media providers, such as Twitter, Facebook and their ilk have decided to ban Trump, The Proud Boys, QAnon and many others from their platforms in the wake of this week’s events.

However, it happened far too late. This should have been done years ago, in which case we may not have even had Trump as President. But the revenue streams brought to those providers were too great to resist, and so these people have been allowed a place to spew their bile in the name of balance.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with the BBC. The problem the BBC has is that, publicly funded body as it is, it is obliged to appear impartial. So for every view point that they wish to give some airtime to, they have to provide an equivalent amount of airtime to somebody who wishes to present a counter argument.

It’s the reason why, say, during a by-election, they may focus on the main parties, but then have to list all of the other candidates from other parties, standing in the same constituency.

The problem is that where one position is sound, knowledgeable and appropriately given a platform, but where the opposite position is half-baked and usually wrong, both voices have to be allowed to be heard, no matter how ill-informed or – and I hate to use this term, but it has entered the common vernacular – Fake News it may be.

(NB: as a general rule of thumb, when somebody uses the phrase “Fake News” as an argument against something they disagree with, you can immediately discount them from the conversation, because they are clearly an idiot. It’s like when online arguments liken someone’s stance to Hitler.)

This topic reared its ugly head this week when YouTube removed from its platform all of the content from Talk Radio, on the grounds that many of the clips were promoting Covid as a hoax, or anti-lockdown/mask propaganda. The BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, invited voices from either side of the fence on to the show to discuss the topic. This is how it went:

Twitter, as you would expect, was ablaze after that was broadcast. Many of those in my liberal bubble were bemoaning that Young had been given a platform at all, whilst you only have to read the comments on YouTube under that clip to see that many thought Young came out the better in that exchange, even though it was proven in that clip that his own position had changed from one previously expressed.

Here’s what I think: I don’t like or agree with what the likes of Young, Hartley-Brewer, Burchill and (God help us) Hopkins say, but if you refuse them the platform to talk their horse-shit, then this will only serve to feed the bottom-feeders, who simply seem incapable of rational thought and blindly seek out conspiracy theories.

Moreover, it adds fuel to the fire for those who claim they have been “cancelled”.

If “cancelled” isn’t the new word of the year according to the Oxford English Dictionary, then I’ll buy a hat and eat it*. It means ‘to be ignored’, or, more specifically, ‘to be prevented from airing your views’.

So the way forward is surely to allow these dunderheads one shot to present their argument and whatever evidence they have to support it. And then, to meticulously dissect everything they say so that their position is exposed as flawed. You then no longer have to invite them on to your show, or give them column inches, because their views have been discredited. End of story.

“We’ve listened to you once. You said nothing of any substance. We’re not listening to you again. Good bye”.

Take Suzanne Moore. I can’t profess that I followed her story all that closely, but I gather she is a former Guardian journalist, who was sacked quit her job because her views on trans matters did not chime with those of her employers.

The reason she came to my attention was because she was suddenly appeared everywhere, complaining that she had been “cancelled”.

Which she hadn’t been, because if she had, then I’d never have heard of her.

What had actually happened was that one platform listened, published, gave voice to her views, decided they thought she was talking utter codswallop, and decided not to be associated with her anymore.

And that’s what The Mail Online is there for: to hoover up all of the dislodged, jilted rhetoric, and publish it all in one place where we all know that everything that appears on its pages is bullshit, and that anyone who ever reads it or comments on it can be safely ignored.

I had a similar conversation with somebody at work recently. We get on very well, and often enjoy a good laugh and a conversation with each other. But in one conversation towards the end of last year, Trump’s name came up. I can’t remember precisely how, or why, the orange coloured one made an appearance, but he did and I made a disparaging comment about him. My colleague chastised me:

“Oi!”, he said (he literally did, I didn’t think anyone outside of The Beano said “Oi!” anymore). “Don’t go slagging Trump off!”

The schoolboy within me wanted to snigger at the proximity of the words ‘Trump’ and ‘off’, but I resisted. Composing myself, I retorted:

“What, you’re a fan are you?”

“Yes I am,” came the proud, chest-puffing reply.

“You’ll be telling me you think Brexit’s a good idea next”, I quipped, a comment which was met with a stony silence.

And so he was added to the list of people I know that there’s just no point in discussing politics with.

Here’s Stewart Lee, to further illustrate my point:

Stewart Lee – Cab Driver

On the matter of Covid, the Government has finally introduced some rules about people coming into the country. They come into force next week; basically anyone arriving on our shores now has to provide documentation to prove that they had a Covid test within 72 hours of travelling, and that the test was negative.

This is good news, right? Of course it is.

But it’s January 2021.Why wasn’t this done in March 2020? The UK is an island, and therefore is almost uniquely placed (apart from other islands) to control who comes in to our country, and thereby potentially reduce the risk of further Covid-carriers coming into the country.

I haven’t seen it yet, but if it hasn’t been already appeared then it’s only a matter of time before it is posited that EU Regulations prevented us from doing this earlier. And that, dear reader, is horse shit.

We’ve always had control of our borders, we have just chosen not to enforce it because it was too costly.

When the mutant strain of Covid was identified in the UK in December, several EU countries – but, crucially, not all of them – decided that they would not allow flights from the UK to land in their territories. Not all of the EU, some/most of them. A perfect illustration, if you will, that we had control of our borders when we were in the EU, and that anyone who says that we didn’t is flat out lying to you.

In unrelated news, here’s a picture of Nigel Farage having a pint.

Often, finding an appropriate picture is difficult. But go to Google Images, type in the words “Nigel Farage pint” and see how many results you get.

Lots, right?

He’s quite determined that you accept his image as an ordinary man who likes a pint, isn’t he? Odd that, isn’t it?

*****

Anyway, Brexit. I seem to have stumbled upon it, so I may as well finish off with it.

It’s happened now, hasn’t it? And contrary to everything I thought would happen, Boris managed to get a deal with the EU. And, much as I didn’t want to leave, getting a deal with the EU is much better than not getting a deal with the EU, and us crashing out with No Deal and having to trade under WTO terms. So I’m sort of happy – happy that the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen, but still angry that the next “best” thing is.

The problem is that to get a deal with the EU, Boris pretty much had to agree to all of their stipulations, and give up ours. He didn’t negotiate a great deal, as promised, he capitulated rather than be branded the PM who forced us into a No Deal/WTO situation.

“We hold all the cards…”….”We’re not planning for No Deal because we’re going to get a good deal….”…”The deal is oven ready”…blah blah blah. Such was the rhetoric before and after the referendum and now them chickens are coming home to roost.

Chickens is probably not the best analogy here, maybe fish is more appropriate.

For this week, our proud UK fishermen have found that to export their daily catch to the EU is not as easy as promised. Indeed, many of them are finding that by the time they have completed all of the documentation required to allow them to export to the EU, then them fish ain’t as fresh as promised and nobody wants to buy them.

The flip side of this is that I have read many examples of companies within the EU who have seen the amount of red tape and bureaucracy now required to export goods to the UK, weighed that up against the amount of profit they will make, and decided: nah. Actually, they probably gave a Gallic shrug. They can export elsewhere and make more money with less form-filling in.

Still, as long as (Remainer) Liz Truss is opening those pork markets:

But then there’s the cheese problem:

What this fails to acknowledge is that many of those cheesy products she refers to had EU Protected Status. This meant that you could not, for example, make Stilton Cheese – the King of all Cheeses – and call it Stilton Cheese unless you were making it in the home of the Stilton Cheese, Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire (not Cambridgeshire where the village of Stilton is. Long story, which I’ll explain sometime. Maybe.)

Now, we are no longer in the EU, and so those EU Protected Status tags have been removed from our yummy products, meaning that anyone, anywhere can now make mouldy old delicious cheese and call it Stilton. And so now, they no longer need to import it from us.

The flipside is that we can now produce our equivalent of EU products, such as Brie. Hurrah! And then you taste Lymeswold and think…it’s not as good, is it?

Too late! Brie producers in the EU have no intention or need to sell to the UK, because their protected status market is too good, and the paperwork to do so is too time-consuming.

And nobody wants to buy our Brie-replicant, because they have a deal with France which means they can buy as much of the authentic runniness as they like, complete with its valuable EU protected status.

We’re nine days in, and already our supply and demand chains are being throttled by the deal Boris signed off.

It’s not Boris’ fault though. This was always and forever how it was going to be.

And we’re now signed into this for the long-haul: various aspects of the Trade Agreement will be reviewed every five years, at which point they may be removed but, on the balance of probabilities, will be extended. Meaning we’re just as tied in as we were before, only now we have no say whatsoever, no voice at the table, and with more red tape and bureaucracy – the very things Brexit was supposed to bring us escape from.

Well done, 52%. Give yourselves a pat on the back, you fricking legends.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when they have to announce that the Covid vaccine can no longer be imported. Which will be down to those pesky EU rules (which we’ve agreed to).

The other good thing, of course, is that for the past nine days, £350 million pounds per day has been pumped back into the NHS, just as was promised in the referendum. Right? No……?

Anyway, what I mean to say is this: everything is just fine. No need to worry.

More soon.

*No, I won’t.

Rant O’Clock

You may have missed this, but last week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that “…Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of Food and Drug Administration restriction.”

The thing is, Melton Mowbray pork pies are not sold in Thailand and Iceland, as confirmed by The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, who probably know what they’re talking about.

The pie currently holds EU protected status, which means that only 10 manufacturers can legitimately claim to produce the most famous of pork pies. Ironically, this protected status will, in all likelihood, be lost if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, leaving the door open for any number of non-UK manufacturers to claim they are the real purveyors of pastry products whilst actually making piss poor parodies of the pork pie, and thereby increase the risk of job losses within our own proud ground pork industry.

“Why are you talking about pork pies, Jez?” I hear you ask. I bet you’re thinking it’s just an excuse to post this:

Well, you’d be wrong.

It’s because, deliciously, Johnson had been caught telling pork pies about pork pies.

Question: How can you tell when Boris Johnson is telling a lie?

Answer: His lips are moving.

As I write this, our undemocratically elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson (remember when Brexit was all about standing up to those pesky, supposedly undemocratically elected EU ministers?) has stepped out of No 10 to make an annoucement, which had widely been expected to be that he was calling an election.

Of course, he said the opposite, and that he really, really doesn’t want to have an election. No: what he wants is to either be able to negotiate a new deal for Brexit with the EU, or failing that, to leave on October 31st without a deal.

That would be a different deal to the one which he voted in favour of at the third time of asking, by the way.

I think what he wants is a little more complicated than that, though.

What I don’t think he wants is to go down in the history books as the Prime Minister who took the UK out of the EU without a deal, because deep down he knows just how catastrophic that would be for our economy.

And how do we know that a No Deal Brexit is going to be catastrophic? Because today the Goverment launched its campaign to get us all ready to leave the EU at the end of October. It’s called Get Ready for Brexit and is reportedly costing the taxpayer around £100 million. That’s roughly double what the National Lottery spends on advertising in a whole year. Call me a cynic, but you don’t spend that kind of money on something which is going to be as great as leaving the EU was described to us as being in the build-up to the referendum.

The Housemartins – People Get Ready

For example: you’ll recall how former Brexit Minister Dominic Raab was derided for failing to understand the importance of the Dover-Calais crossing? Well, his replacement, Steve Barclay doesn’t seem to be that clued-up either: just last week he tweeted this:

Good idea Steve! Best to do it now, with two months left until the deadline, rather than, say, at any other time in the last three years!

It’s not just the Dover-Calais border which is going to be problematic post-Brexit, of course. The main bone of contention, of course, remains the Irish border, where the back-stop is written into the Withdrawal Agreement which Theresa May failed to get through Parliament on three not-very-different-really occasions: Johnson wants it scrapped, but the EU insist that there must be something in place to maintain the integrity of the Republic of Ireland, who will not be leaving the EU anytime soon

The Sunshine Underground – Borders

Johnson insists that he has several viable alternatives up his sleeve – I actually saw one (not credited to Johnson, I must admit) which suggested that the Republic of Ireland should temporarily give up its EU status so that no border checks are required, like the problem was all their making – and he told EU leaders as much when he did a flying visit last week, along with his attendance at the G7 summit. Their unified response was: “Okay, let’s hear them then”. Given that most of these have already been suggested, and dismissed as unworkable, I think we can understand their scepticism.

Nothing has been forthcoming as yet.

So what we have here is the biggest game of chicken you can imagine; Boris doesn’t want us to leave on No Deal, but he believes that to have any kind of leverage with the EU, he has to make them think that we are prepared to walk away without a deal, and that as a result they will make concessions. It’s a case of who’s going to blink first.

But it isn’t simply a case of staring down the EU, for there is – at last – some cross-party unity in trying to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal, and there can be little doubt that blocking them was the reason that Boris got the consent from Her Maj last week to close down (prorogue) Parliament in an effort to shut down any opposition to the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Don’t forget, that after the recent by-election in Brecon, the Conservative Party has a majority of just one, so he cannot afford any dissention amongst the ranks.

Obviously he didn’t say that was the reason for doing it (although he inadvertently alluded to it a day or so afterwards), because to openly admit it would be accepting that, having banged the drum in the build-up to the EU Referendum in 2016, citing “taking back control” of our sovereign Parliament as one of the main reasons for leaving, it would be rather inconsistent to then close Parliament to prevent it doing the job he claimed he wanted it to do.

It was interesting to note that certain Conservative MPs – Gove, Rudd, Javid, Hancock, Leadsom, Truss, Morgan – who, in the race to become leader of the Tory party, or since, had all been quite out-spoken against and critical about the idea of proroguing Parliament, now, satisfactorily bribed with positions within the Cabinet, were suddenly unavailable to do any press interviews.

I do love someone who uses pop records to make a point. It’ll never catch on though.

What I think Johnson massively underestimated was the outrage which prorogueing Parliament provoked across the country, and the determination of those MPs who wish to prevent No Deal are. For just because Parliament isn’t sitting, there is nothing preventing them from meeting elsewhere, which is exactly what I have read they are doing, the resourceful little scamps.

Over the weekend, there were whispers and rumours that any Conservative MP who rebelled against the Goverment by voting against them would have the whip withdrawn; in other words in the event of an election, they would not be permitted to stand as Conservative MPs. Instead, they would be replaced by a candidate who is fully on board with the party’s position.

And this tells us a lot. It reminds us that all of this has never really been about the EU, that’s just the backdrop against which all of this has been played. It’s never really been about curtailing immigration either, as there’s been nothing stopping us doing so for years had the inclination been there – certainly nothing the EU is insisting on anyway – our governments simply haven’t bothered to implement the rules which the EU have introduced. It hasn’t even been about dodging the EU laws to close tax-avoiding loop holes, although that’s certainly a benefit the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg would enjoy.

No, all of this has been about the survival of the Conservative Party, firstly in the face of the challenge from UKIP which led to then-Prime Minister David Cameron (who, allegedly, also had a somewhat unsavoury relationship with pork), and now it is about the challenge from the party which has replaced UKIP, The Brexit Party, led by the same (self-appointed, undemocratically elected to the position of party leader) foe, Nigel Farage.

It’s not just the EU that Boris is trying to out-stare: it’s the whole of the British electorate, or, more specifically, those who are likely to switch from voting Tory to Brexit Party. He needs them to think that his position on the EU is the same if not stronger than theirs, which he hopes will nix any allegiance swapping ideas those pesky pensioners might be having.

And that’s why I think we’re probably going to have an election before the 31st October, whilst Johnson can still maintain the facade that he wants No Deal, and whilst he can point the finger elsewhere: he’s told us he doesn’t want an election and now, if the cross-party conglomerate are succesful in blocking No Deal before Parliament closes, then the finger can be pointed squarely at them.

Whatever happens next, the sad thing is that it’s too late to put all of the division, the hatred, the racism which Brexit has unquestionably stirred up back in the box.

Blondie – Island of Lost Souls

The Adventures – Broken Land

More soon. Undoubtedly.