It seems America owes a debt to the ‘patriots’ who gate-crashed Congress on Wednesday after all; the universal condemnation of their actions finally provoked the Donald into belatedly acknowledging his lingering grip on the Presidency has indeed slipped from his tiny hands. 24 hours after the dramatic events at the Capitol Building, Trump grudgingly conceded he was committed to an orderly transition of power in a fortnight’s time, even if his announcement exuded all the sincerity of a chastised child being forced to apologise to the neighbour whose window he broke. To be fair, he had nowhere left to run; short of barricading himself in the Oval Office and turning it into his own panic room-cum-fallout shelter, perhaps one last defiant gesture his disciples could undertake by proxy was his way of bowing out disgracefully. Once the shock-horror MSM and social media reaction to the incident subsided, however, it seems evident that there are many beneficiaries – from Beijing to Moscow, and not forgetting Washington itself.

Trump’s most unhinged supporters served up precisely what the President and his enemies goaded them into and gifted the incoming administration with confirmation that the deplorables are indeed deplorable; four years they’ve been craving just such a moment and they finally got it. This presents them with the ideal excuse to press ahead with greater policing and censoring of opinions that the incursion of a certain virus had already laid the ground for; and a bunch of hicks in fancy dress costume handed it to them on a plate. Just as the actions of extremists on both Leave and Remain sides tarred moderates of either with the same damning brush, any American resistant to Identity Politics can now be bracketed along with every Confederate flag-waving yahoo that stormed the Capitol, every blinkered redneck that highlighted just how strangely inadequate security at one of Washington’s most politically sacred citadels is. A sceptic might even come to believe security was deliberately lax in order to allow such a stunt to happen, thus justifying the inevitable clampdown to come. That four people apparently died in the melee is, I guess, the price you pay for playing the pawns in someone else’s cynical chess game.

The Democrats devoted all their energies before last November’s Election to overturning a result they didn’t like, four whole years spent trying to oust Trump by foul means, desperate to find a way to remove a man from office they never once considered would contribute towards his own downfall in the end without any help from the opposition; four years which the Democrats could have spent weeding out the Woke cancer from their own party and presenting a non-divisive alternative to Trump. Anyone watching the chaos taking place on Wednesday would have been shocked, but it does stick in the throat a little that those who have voiced their outrage over the anarchy and the desecration of a government building weren’t so vocal when Antifa and BLM mobs were burning down Portland or taking over an entire district of Seattle, destroying ordinary people’s homes, livelihoods and neighbourhoods in the undemocratic process – y’know, those ‘mostly peaceful protests’.

Democracy wasn’t viewed as so precious then, nor when the Democrats scrabbled around for proof that Trump’s 2016 victory could be negated. Indeed, when the likes of Caroline Lucas, who did everything within her pitiful powerful to prevent the enactment of one particular democratic process, gets on her moral high horse yet again and condemns America’s ‘attack on democracy’, you know you’re in hypocrite heaven. That the mob intervened as Congress was going through the lumbering motions of verifying the result of the Presidential Election gave their protest additional potency; it appeared they, in their own clumsy way, were attempting in a couple of hours exactly what Remoaners here and Democrats there have exhausted their energies on for four years, and that is the real reason why their actions are worthy of condemnation. Lest we forget, what they disrupted was the last act of a democratic process that their man claimed was corrupted to guarantee his defeat. For all the Democratic Party’s hard work of ensuring this state of affairs would eventually come about, Trump himself has to take a great deal of credit for events; not only did he criticise his Vice President for refusing to countenance the President’s delusions, but his increasingly ridiculous conviction he was cheated out of a second term when the evidence simply isn’t there was destined to provoke civil disorder sooner rather than later. He effectively issued a call to arms, inviting his most diehard devotees to descend on the capital and disrupt confirmation of a result he’ll probably never accept. He no doubt had an inkling of what would happen, but so did anyone with the half-a-brain absent from the Presidential cranium.

Whereas the invasion of the Capitol Building occurred in the blink of an eye when compared to the sustained assault on Portland, the symbolism of the location undoubtedly elevates its significance. However, what struck me when the initial images unfolded was the way in which the gate-crashers appeared almost as amazed at the ease with which they’d managed it as the viewer; posing for selfies and wandering around like giddy, unsupervised kids on a school trip to a stately home, they seemed too gobsmacked to indulge in any overt vandalism; I suspect had Antifa got inside they’d have slashed the paintings, toppled the sculptures and started fires. Then again, whereas one side claims to love America, the other claims to hate it. The USA’s problem with condemning any physical manifestation of ‘revolutionary’ ideas is that it was forged from the flames of just such a move, so the Trump extremists fond of referring to themselves as ‘patriots’ can cite 1776 as a tradition they’re merely following in. Indeed, what could be more traditionally American than insurrection?

With the Democrats now controlling Congress as well as the Presidency, it is the Republicans’ turn to be enveloped in the kind of existential crisis that the Democrats were confronted by whilst Republicans took their eye off the ball during the distracting Trump circus. Having let the Donald in, they now can’t get rid of him; he has hinted more than once he intends to run again in 2024; and how do the Republicans reinvent themselves as a credible political party with him still representing them? On the surface, it may seem the Democrats have no such dilemma, though they’re just as rotten to the corrupt core as the opposition. Joe Biden in the White House is seen by many as a resumption of where we were before November 2016, as though the last four years can be erased from the record books and therefore never happened. However, they did happen, and the Democrats turning back the clock in their own ‘great reset’ feels a bit like the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in the wake of Napoleon’s abdication. They’re just papering over the cracks.

Of course, had the Donald won the Election anywhere other than in his head, it would have been Antifa and BLM storming the Capitol; but what’s the bloody difference, anyway – bar the reaction on media both mainstream and social? ‘Just think of the carnage had they not been white’ was an archetypal Twitter comment at the height of events on Wednesday, underlining the Identitarian thought processes behind giving the moral thumbs-up to one form of protest and the moral thumbs-down to another. The problem is if leniency is shown to one side, the gains they make serve as a gauntlet thrown down to the other; on and on the pissing contest goes and where it stops everyone knows. Mob rule by one begets mob rule by the other, and it’s never a good thing, whether in Portland, Seattle, Washington…or Bristol. A little love wouldn’t go amiss right now.

© The Editor


When numerous American cities have been subjected to manmade fires of late, it somehow seems timely to receive a reminder that natural infernos are depressingly regular occurrences in some of the country’s hottest spots – spots that have always been that way and need no additional assistance from man. Less than a year on from the devastating bushfires that cut such a ruthless swathe through several states in Australia, the US has been experiencing its own devastation of a similarly destructive nature. At one time – and no doubt still today in some quarters – such awful occurrences were regarded as the acts of an angry God; the contemporary faith of climate change doesn’t attribute natural disasters of this kind to a vengeful celestial father figure, choosing instead to lay the blame at the door of the creature He made in His own image. But the belief of the new religion’s devotees in the guilt of those they hold responsible is no less unswerving in its conviction than the Bible Belt brigade and their dependable standby of God reading the Riot Act whenever the sins of man ask for it.

In many respects, the sins of man are still what we’re dealing with – just different ones. With God-botherers, it usually centres around man’s carnal appetites when the outraged Almighty intervenes; with the climate change crowd, it’s down to man’s insatiable greed and his indifference towards the damage being done to the environment as long as he can make a profit. Christian fundamentalists have the Holy Book and climate change fundamentalists have science. Both have their merits as source material and both have their failings – though those for whom either the Bible or science are the Gospel will not countenance these failings. Climate change was held up as the guilty party in Australia by some, though the country’s lengthy history of wildfires tearing through the vast landmass is well documented and predates modern global warming. Equally, the climate in California that draws the public to it has also been prone to perennial outbreaks, something that has become more noticeable today in that more corners of the state are now populated than ever before.

It is true that the temperature of the planet has increased in recent years and this undoubtedly means the risk of fires wreaking havoc on the land, on wildlife, and on people will increase with it. The pollution in the atmosphere for which man and his industry does indeed need to take responsibility has certainly played its part in accelerating the process; but to ignore the fact that the earth has routinely heated up and cooled down over millennia, and to turn a blind eye to how the current situation can be viewed in that historical context, is a dishonest bending of the argument to fit one’s personal position. If anything, there are several causes at play simultaneously, with climate change merely one of them. The silhouette of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge against a toxic-looking fiery orange sky is unquestionably a dramatic, apocalyptic image; but it shouldn’t be utilised as political propaganda in the way the Democrats are predictably utilising it in the year of a Presidential Election.

I remember a few years back, watching a documentary on the English obsession with the country life and the craving for a rural idyll. The cliché of the wealthy couple departing the big city and relocating to the green and pleasant land was covered comprehensively, as was the fact that many do so on the misguided understanding that the green and pleasant land will respond to its new residents on the urbanites’ terms. A farmer spoke of recent new arrivals to his village, arrivals aggrieved by the aroma of his manure drifting in their direction or complaining about being woken by his cockerel at the crack of dawn. How bloody inconsiderate of the countryside! Wealthier Californians stretching their legs and setting up home in a great outdoors that has always seen wildfires leaving that outdoors a scorched wasteland seems like an extreme extension of this mindset; just because man has encroached further into one-time wilderness doesn’t mean nature will cease its more nihilistic activities simply to suit him and his concept of getting back to the garden – especially when the temperature is more conducive to such a scenario.

Of course, if our old friends Extinction Rebellion amounted to more than narcissistic circus performers disrupting the lives of city-dwellers with infantile glee, they’d be in California; they’d be rescuing terrified and injured animals from the wreckage, and providing assistance to families who’ve lost everything they own and no longer have a roof over their heads. But they’re not. They talk a good fight, yet are conspicuously absent when their obsession has its Ground Zero locations crying out for help. One of the regular complaints at the height of the Australian inferno was the cutting back on investment in the management of the land, and President Trump appears to have hinted that investment in California’s damaged areas might help minimise the chances of this year’s devastation being revisited on the state in the near future.

But whatever or not investment is made, the fact remains that California has been experiencing a severe drought for the best part of 20 years, and more than 2.3 acres have been lost to wildfires this year alone; the fires are going to happen, so it’s a case of being able to manage them better than the impossible task of preventing them altogether. Intense heat-waves have characterised the last few months in America’s western states, including Washington state and Oregon (where fires have also wreaked havoc); indeed, what is believed to be one of the highest temperatures ever recorded – 130F – was recorded in California recently. At the same time, and perhaps reflecting the variable conditions in such a huge country, other states such as Colorado have been experiencing record low temperatures that have spawned winds which have travelled into the fire-stricken states and contributed to the spread of the carnage. Meanwhile, down south, states such as Alabama and Florida have been battered by Storm Sally; as the hurricane has moved north-east, it has brought severe flooding to Georgia and the two Carolinas. Once again, those in the path of Mother Nature are realising Mother Nature will do as she pleases – even if her timing seems especially terrible.

One might almost conclude that the schizophrenic climactic chaos in the US at the moment is some sort of metaphor for the chaotic state of the nation as a whole; from the outside looking in, America does not appear to be a country at ease with itself. It goes without saying that for a Brit to observe this from a position of smug security would be farcical; we don’t seem to be any less divided on this side of the Atlantic; it’s just that America always does everything on a far bigger scale simply because it’s so bloody massive. Add a global pandemic and its consequently unprecedented restrictions on civil liberties to the mix and you’ve got an inevitably combustible recipe for disaster. The ‘Disneyfication’ of the natural world in recent years has turned a blind eye to the fact that life on earth has always been a battle. As David Bowie once said, ‘the Earth is a bitch’; I won’t say we’ve finished our news and that Homo-Sapiens have outgrown their use, though – not yet, anyway…

© The Editor


Events in Michigan a few days ago confirmed my long-held opinion that the lunatic fringes of both the far left and the far right have far more in common with each other than they do with the rest of us. Extreme beliefs expressed via extreme behaviour are pretty much the same, whatever the ideology – whether a mob in Iran calling for death to America or western Woke students besieging a campus, demanding the removal of someone or something that triggered them. Intimidation in numbers and the promise of violence when the perpetrators lack both the vocabulary and ability to debate are universal tactics. The far left’s anarchists tend to come from the privileged middle class whereas the far right’s are largely blue-collar; but both manifest their grievances in a remarkably similar manner when mobilised. The difference between, say, Antifa and the protestors who surrounded and then entered the state capitol building in Lansing was weaponry; the latter included an armed ‘militia’, taking the demonstration to another level.

In case you missed it, a group of right-wing demonstrators calling themselves ‘patriots’ (a hardly-coincidental echo of the label adopted by the rebels kick-starting the American War of Independence) had gathered for the latest protest against Michigan’s response to Covid-19 on Thursday. Once inside the capitol building, their intentions to gatecrash the House Chamber were only prevented by an impenetrable wall of state police, much to the relief of the elected representatives on the other side of the door. The main target of the protestors’ ire appears to have been Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer – who happens to be a Democrat; and the decision of a court a month ago that Whitmer’s directives do not infringe on the constitutional rights of Michigan citizens lit the fuse for the state’s most gung-ho, huntin’/shootin’/fishin’ sons and daughters to take to the streets. Like their far left opposites, they tend to be defined by whatever they’re against, and need little in the way of prompting; the lockdown was the gift they were waiting for.

The fragile relationship between Washington and several US states – a situation exacerbated by a President not renowned for his diplomacy – has been stretched to breaking point ever since lockdown measures were imposed. Michigan currently seems to be home to the most vociferous opposition to pandemic policies in the hands of individual state governors, and it’s notable that the majority of those participating in Thursday’s ‘American Patriot Rally’ had been galvanised by what they perceived as enthusiastic support from the President. Mind you, when the Donald exceeded his customary irresponsibility by tweeting ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN’, it’s no wonder they reckoned they had legitimate grounds to act as though engaged in their own little revolution.

The UK’s lockdown has had its opponents, but a few isolated piss-ups behind closed doors hardly rank with some of the protests seen across the Atlantic these past few weeks. Closer to home, perhaps only certain segments of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland can compete with some Americans’ fanatical adherence to centuries-old designs for life, such as 1791’s Second Amendment – the right to bear arms. Beyond such circles, gun-toting is hardly guaranteed to gain sympathy for any grievances, reinforcing as it does specific stereotypes of inbred hicks and rednecks. But those with the mindset that sees no wrong in carrying firearms regard any impositions on their freedoms as an excuse to reach for the rifle, reacting in a way that implies theirs is the sole community on the planet to have a lockdown imposed upon it – as though it has been singled out for especially punitive treatment because of its beliefs rather than a global health crisis affecting everybody.

The ringleaders of Thursday’s events call themselves Michigan United for Liberty; their manifesto declares it has ‘the right to work to support our families, to travel freely, to gather for religious worship and other purposes, to gather in protest of our government…’ Yes, all reasonable expectations for the citizens of a democratic society, and ones we can all agree with – BUT – as we are all aware, we are not currently living in normal circumstances; the freedoms expressed as a given have been suspended for a reason. Not that the close-knit crowd spreading their germs amongst each other in Lansing appeared to have recognised this, despite residing in a state that has seen Covid-19 claim the lives of more Michigan folk than the 3,000+ that spurned social distancing to congregate on Thursday.

Lest we forget, amidst the unprecedented mood of the moment, America is still focused on a certain upcoming Presidential Election, and Michigan happens to be a so-called ‘swing state’, which has resulted in many Republicans effectively endorsing lockdown-breaking protests in Michigan and other states where votes are required. It might seem anachronistic that a state such as California staged similar protests on Friday; after all, think of California and most think of San Francisco or Hollywood, which are hardly renowned as hotbeds of right-wing radicalism. But perhaps the sheer size of so many American states is easy to forget, and the small pockets of lefty liberalism that dominate discourse are able to do so because they have the largest platform to get their message across. As with the cultural and media elite here, the over-abundance of like-minded voices in control of such institutions can give a lopsided impression that they are the majority when they’re very much not.

Some US states, such as Georgia and Maryland, have seen the people take matters into their own hands without any discernible opposition from local authorities; small businesses confronted by the economic abyss, like barber’s and family-owned cafés, have reopened whilst still observing basic guidelines. This doesn’t seem irresponsible; the lockdown was never going to kill the virus, anyway, but merely minimise its initial impact and therefore prevent it from overwhelming hospitals and medical centres in one fell swoop. A gradual lifting of the most severe restrictions for those whose livelihoods could otherwise be lost should the lockdown continue much longer feels like the sensible approach to take, and those whose businesses have tentatively resumed are a long way from gun-toting, MAGA cap-wearing shit-stirrers looking for a fight.

Population density has a large part to play in this crisis, and as lockdown measures are eased, such factors need to be taken into account. Over here, for example, a blanket approach for the whole country has its limits; yes, London being the overpopulated metropolis it is obviously needs restrictions in place longer than, say, Cornwall does; this also applies to the vastly varied US states. And as the left lionise their latest pin-up in the saintly shape of New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, it should remember how small the population of New Zealand is compared to the majority of the world’s great cities; maybe it should also remember how Aung San Suu Kyi was similarly worshipped until relatively recently and might consider reining in its tendency towards deification. In short, it’s easier to proudly unfurl a low body-count when one presides over more scattered communities than teeming urban cauldrons. And it’s easier to digest a valid point without having to do so at gunpoint. Yee-hah, y’all.

© The Editor


Las Vegas may now be home to America’s worst recent mass shooting – with 50 dead at the time of writing; but, to be brutally honest, having written about numerous massacres in the US since this blog began almost two years ago, it’s frankly quite difficult to come up with anything new to say on the subject. Such atrocities seem so endemic to the country that avoiding repeating past conclusions feels like an impossible task. Indeed, what else can really be said other than it’s bloody horrible? From everything I’ve so far heard, this one sounds less in tune with the current wave of Islamic terrorism and more reminiscent of the first such incident of this nature in modern times, that of Charles Whitman in 1966; the ex-Marine positioned himself in the clock tower on campus at Texas State University and opened seemingly indiscriminate fire on anyone in sight, eventually killing 15 people – including an unborn child – before being shot dead by police.

Anyone who has seen Peter Bogdanovich’s low-budget 1968 thriller, ‘Targets’, and is familiar with the Whitman case, will recognise the influence this true-life horror had on the movie. In the film, the unlikely assassin is a clean-cut all-American boy whose military experience in Vietnam has clearly left an unwelcome legacy; he shoots dead his wife and mother (as Whitman did) and then opens fire randomly on anyone who gets in his way before finally setting up base at a drive-in cinema. As the movie features one of the last on-screen appearances of Boris Karloff, the horror legend becomes the focus of the narrative, making an in-person appearance at the drive-in before one of his old pictures is screened. As soon as the projector begins to roll, the shooting spree kicks-off.

‘Targets’ may have been shot on a shoestring, but as with the bigger-budget portrayal of the Boston Strangler by Tony Curtis the same year, it marked a significant turning point in the horror genre; after decades of horror movies being dominated by supernatural or fantastical half-human creatures, the villain of the piece is suddenly the Ordinary Joe or the Boy-Next-Door, which is infinitely more unsettling on account of him being the kind of character we could easily meet on the street. ‘Targets’ is also an early cinematic document of the psychological damage done by warfare, specifically America’s sojourn in South East Asia; coinciding with Walter Cronkite’s game-changing opinion that the US could never win that particular war – crucial in turning popular opinion away from the more gung-ho view of American involvement in Vietnam – ‘Targets’ was, in retrospect, quite a pivotal movie in the way Hollywood chose to terrify its audiences.

Denied the funds to purchase literary rights, screenwriters and directors of low-budget movies have regularly scanned newspaper headlines for source material, but the Whitman case was such a major story that parallels between it and ‘Targets’ would have been obvious to anyone in the States at the time; indeed, more people knew of events at the University of Texas than saw the fictional adaptation of it. Although their President had been assassinated three years previously, the American people were not accustomed to random members of the public being gunned down as opposed to world leaders; after all, Kennedy was the fourth US President to have had his presidency curtailed by the bullet. But targeting people not holding high office and therefore not regarded as potential targets for a gunman – in 1966, this was something new.

Bizarrely, the last recorded fatality of Whitman’s spree came in 2001, when a survivor of the attack finally died of injuries sustained during the shooting. The victim in question, David Gunby, only had one functioning kidney when one of Whitman’s bullets hit the kidney still in full working order; in pain for the remaining 35 years of his life, when Gunby died the cause of death given was homicide. As is so often the case, Whitman didn’t answer for his crimes, but was himself shot dead by police on the day he opened fire. At the time of his death, Charles Whitman was just 25; he’d been a student at the University of Texas after joining the Marines straight from school, though the loss of his scholarship while he struggled with a gambling habit coupled with a tumour posthumously located on his brain is regarded by many as the cause of his sudden lurch into mass murder.

What’s most surprising about the man responsible for last night’s massacre in Las Vegas is that he was apparently as old as 64; one would have imagined any such instincts might have surfaced far earlier in life, as usually appears to be the case. The gunman this time round was local resident Stephen Paddock; where Whitman picked the observation deck of the prominent campus clock tower on the University of Texas, Paddock chose a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, giving him a panoramic view of the site where the C&W music festival he targeted was being held.

Holed-up a safe distance from the location, it seems Paddock casually picked-off his victims at his leisure; along with the 50 fatalities confirmed, a further 200 were injured, highlighting once again how large numbers gathering in one place are extremely vulnerable to the home-grown lone wolf as much as they are to the coordinated group shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’; and in a corner of America where the gun laws are lax, even by the insane standards of a country where the right to bear arms is sacrosanct, it’s a wonder Vegas hasn’t played host to this kind of carnage before. But even in the mass shooting game, it seems there’s a first time for everything.

© The Editor


It’s an old question – ‘What would you take with you if your home was on fire and you had to make a dash for it?’ For years, my answer to the question was the same: my cat and my memory stick. I sadly no longer have my cat, so it’s just the memory stick now. Touching wood, I’ll never be faced with that dilemma; but it’s not just fire that can provoke a swift and sudden flight. Hurricane Irma’s trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean and the southern coastal States of the US has forced people into giving their own answers to a similar question. Unfortunately – and, to me, inexplicably – many of them didn’t regard their pets as being top of the list; some didn’t even put their pets on the list at all. For such a God-fearing country as America, it’s amazing how many Americans failed to take a leaf out of Noah’s book.

Living in Blighty, we tend not to experience such extreme weather conditions. Yes, we’ve suffered some terrible floods in recent years and there have been the odd occasions in which Michael Fish has had to regret not taking a can of Mr Sheen to his meteorological crystal ball; but by and large most of us have no concept of having to make a rapid exit in the knowledge that the Big Bad Wolf will probably huff ‘n’ puff and blow our house down in our absence. Having said that, knowing it was coming would enable us to hastily gather our loved ones together and get the hell out of there quick. Nobody but a complete bastard would leave their children behind, so why would anyone abandon such significant family members as their pets?

Wind speeds of 135mph, a storm surge of 10 feet, three inches of rain every hour – that’s what was predicted when Irma came to town, and the people responded accordingly, by packing away all essential possessions and running to the hills; a pity pets weren’t regarded as essential possessions. The sad fact is that animals kept in the home are no more important to some people than disposable and replaceable items like furniture; there might be a hurricane coming that will more than likely condemn the poor beasts to a certain death, but hey, we can always get a new one once we rebuild our wrecked nest, just like we can a widescreen TV set. The mind boggles.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen several heartbreaking videos online of admirable animal rescuers travelling down residential streets transformed into the residential rivers of JG Ballard’s ‘The Drowned World’ in search of pets left behind; and they found plenty. In Florida’s Palm Beach County, the first 48 hours of Hurricane Irma saw Animal Care and Control officers come to the rescue of 38 dogs and two cats that their owners clearly didn’t view as worthy of joining them on the journey out of town. With the saddest of ironies, such a socially gregarious animal as the dog appears to have received the worst of this careless cruelty from its best friend.

Despite the fact that there were many evacuation centres accommodating pets along with their owners, some still chose to not only abandon their animals, but in the case of several dogs, to leave them chained up to poles or in kennels; the dogs couldn’t even make their own escape as a consequence. In Polk County, four dogs were mercifully saved from a watery grave by members of the public; the rising water level in the kennel they found them in was apparently as high as the dog’s chests and the grimy pool was also swimming with horrific-sounding fire ants. It’s worth remembering too that the Animal Care and Control officers have to deal with dogs whose bewilderment with, and fear of, their predicament in such a situation can be manifested as aggression, making their lifesaving work all the more heroic under the circumstances.

Flying debris can be as big a danger as flooding in the conditions that descended upon Florida; experts said as little as a single grain of sand in winds of 100mph can cause a serious injury. The image of confused dogs tethered to immovable objects when Mother Nature is inflicting such a violent onslaught in the vicinity is one that should haunt the guilty parties forevermore; but if they had a conscience, they wouldn’t have left their pets to face it alone in the first place. Some simply dumped animals at shelters before fleeing and probably believe they’re somehow more responsible and humane than those who didn’t think even think their pets deserved that much; but they still left them.

In Palm Beach County, chaining dogs outside a property if the owner is absent is actually a felony offence, so doing so in a hurricane means some stiff penalties are imminent. Returning home, these ‘victims’ of Irma for whom it’s difficult to have much in the way of sympathy can look forward to fines and even prison sentences for their callous actions. The maximum sentence, incidentally, is a mouth-watering five years. The State Prosecutor for Palm Beach said, ‘This is a prime example of animal cruelty. We will find you and we will prosecute you.’ The Animal Care and Control Captain of the same county added, ‘The animals should be a valued part of your family and they should be part of your plan.’

Those who may well receive time behind bars will also not get those pets back and will be banned from owning any pets ever again; meanwhile, those who dropped their pets off at animal shelters before hot-footing it out of town will be placed on a ‘Do Not Adopt’ list; they too will not be reunited with the animals they rid themselves of. Sure, none of us on this side of the pond can picture the nightmarish scenario that people in the path of Hurricane Irma found themselves in; but that’s still no excuse for the cruelty some of them exhibited towards animals in their care. I hope their new homeless status lasts until at least the next storm. Serves them right.

© The Editor


Shortwave radio may be the most underused of all the AM wavebands, though its ability to travel far greater distances than either long or medium-wave has enabled it to cross continents, open extended lines of communication between amateur radio hams and provide intelligence services with an invaluable means of both eavesdropping on the enemy and passing instructions on to agents in the field. The clandestine cult of the Numbers Stations (which I have covered in previous posts) has highlighted the indisputable existence of the latter shortwave use, even if governments remain in public denial. The repetitive reading of numbers by an electronically-generated voice, reciting a code indecipherable to the layman, was a vital weapon in the Cold War because shortwave broadcasts can often be untraceable.

The golden age of the Numbers Stations was when the majority of them emanated from behind the Iron Curtain, though they have continued to appear on shortwave long after the so-called Russian Woodpecker over-the-horizon Soviet radar system served as a useful jamming device. Many these days come from the likes of Cuba and China. Shortwave radio is an almost infallible method of secret communication, far more than the easily-hacked and traceable signal from the internet. The notion that a medium dating from the early years of the twentieth century is a safer bet than contemporary technology flies in the face of everything we’re led to believe in this techno-savvy age, when the lifespan of mediums means they seem to have a use-by date stamped on them the minute they exit the conveyor belt; but it’s true.

It goes without saying that I’ve no evidence whether or not shortwave is utilised to penetrate the closed world of North Korea, but if it isn’t it should be. The global reach of the worldwide web experiences something of an obstacle when confronted by Kim Jong-un’s citadel; very few of the great dictator’s subjects have internet access, so snooping on the traffic travelling in and out of Pyongyang is a considerably more challenging task than watching westerners wanking over webcam wonders doing rude things in a Belarus bedroom.

That many of the North Korean nuclear testing sites are situated underground has also limited the ability of American satellites to observe the country’s rapidly developing nuclear programme. Modern spying techniques that work so well when observing the innocent have proven to be all-but useless whenever the west has attempted to keep an eye on the Far East’s most worrisome nation.

North Korea’s old sponsor China hasn’t seen fit to share what its own intelligence has been able to divulge re recent events, though North Korea’s understandably jittery neighbour in the South has claimed more missile launches are being prepared; these would be hot on the heels of the one that flew over Japan last week before splashing down in the Pacific. North Korea has also bragged that it now has the capabilities for attaching a hydrogen bomb onto a long-range missile, after testing out said explosive device at the weekend, one that apparently made the H-bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 resemble little more than a fart in a curry-house.

The detonation of North Korea’s weekend H-bomb could be clearly detected in tremors that were felt in the Chinese city of Yanji, though few who flooded social media with their videos of the aftershocks were initially aware this had been a manmade earthquake. The fact that North Korea chose to test their H-bomb on the same day as Chinese President Xi Jinping was scheduled to give a speech at an international diplomatic shindig perhaps demonstrates its growing detachment from its former ally. Each of the recent publicised North Korean nuclear tests have coincided with major dates in the Chinese President’s schedule; the fact that China has backed UN sanctions against the nation it remains one of the few in the world to still trade with clearly grates.

China, however, is still in a position where it could effectively bring North Korea to its knees, being the country’s principle supplier of gas and oil as well as laundering billions in its banks; the apparent reason it doesn’t seems to stem from Chinese fears over what the collapse of the North Korean regime would do to the region. If North and South were to reunite, with the whole of the nation becoming one giant South Korea, China is concerned that the US would exercise the same influence it already has over the South, turning the reunified Korean Peninsula into another American base in the Pacific akin to Japan. China isn’t exactly keen on the thought of US troops stationed on its borders, but how much more is it prepared to tolerate before it exercises its remaining power over its one-time protégé?

China and the USA have a greater influence in the area around North Korea than any other world powers, so they are both better placed than most to change the current situation; but it’s equally obvious that they need to work together to bring about a resolution that the UN is incapable of concocting. North Korea has hardly paid much attention to that institution so far. President Trump declaring that America is considering no longer trading with any nation that trades with North Korea seemingly overlooks the fact that China provides the country with 90% of its trade. For the moment, North Korea is essentially dropping its trousers and mooning China, the US and the UN in an act of schoolboy taunting; but China still wields the cane. All it needs to do is use it and maybe the rest of the world can sleep a little sounder as a consequence.

© The Editor


Better watch what you say in your comments today – disagree with me and I’ll be on the Hate Crime Hotline to PC PC; I’ll have you done for Petuniaphobia, and going by the new guidelines outlined by the Old Bill and their comrades-in-compassion the Clown Prosecution Service, anything can be interpreted as online abuse. Much as some find ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ the funniest thing since sliced Del Boys whilst others would rather be trapped in a lift with Kelvin McKenzie than watch it, definitions of what constitutes a cyber Hate Crime are subjective. Latest statistics reveal the CPS successfully prosecuted over 15,000 ‘Hate Crime incidents’ in 2015-16, though the Hate Crime category is so wide-ranging that it can encompass everything from a long-running vicious vendetta in which death threats are regularly tossed about to the guy who made a joke YT video whereby he manipulated his girlfriend’s dog into making a Hitler salute.

The latter not only highlights the ludicrousness of criminalising comedy (see Paul Gascoigne), but also seems to tie-in with the concerted clampdown on free speech that is well in advance of us on the other side of the Atlantic. An intended free speech rally in Boston at the weekend was gatecrashed by thousands of so-called ‘anti-fascist’ protestors, including the masked left-wing anarchists who go by the name of Antifa; following the heaven-sent Twitter comments of Mr President in response to the trouble in Charlottesville the week before, I wonder if the Donald pointed out that the violence this time round emanated not from both sides, but just the one – i.e. the anti-fascists?

Amongst numerous tasteless tactics in evidence was hijacking the death of Heather Heyer – the one fatality of the drive-in at Charlottesville; the protestors half-inched her image in the same way some here exploited the murder of Jo Cox for their own loathsome ends last year. Now the ‘movement’ has its first martyr, and even the picture of Heyer which was worn like a piece of corporate protest merchandise had a distinct look of the airbrushed Che Guevara photo that was de rigueur for late 60s student bedsits. Whatever she may have been in life, Heather Heyer has now been immortalised as a brand name for the Alt Left. Her family must be so proud.

The rally itself was intended to be unashamedly conservative with a small ‘c’, though everyone attending was naturally labelled ‘white supremacist/KKK/racist’ etc. If you’re not with us, you’re against us; there’s no moderate middle ground in this New World Order. And the world that existed before it actually didn’t exist at all; remove all physical traces of it and it never happened; get Google in on the act and cyberspace follows suit. Simple Ministry of Truth principles apply today. The intolerant McCarthyism of the SJWs has already polluted US campuses and rendered them uncomfortably reminiscent of Chinese universities during the Cultural Revolution, and this mindset has now spilled over into so many facets of American life that anyone daring to lift their head above the PC parapet is shot down in a way that would constitute a Hate Crime were it the other way round.

Back in Blighty, a naive notion of equality whereby cultural, racial and sexual differences are deemed an unnecessary weapon of division is the mantra of the moment, whereas the accompanying word is ‘fluidity’. Schools now generate the fallacy that we’re all the same – something that extends to the school sports day, whereby everyone who competes receives equal billing. Of course, the quality of education a child receives still being dependent on whether or not its parents can afford to pay for the best makes a mockery of this philosophy; and outlawing competition amongst pupils hardly prepares them for the world beyond the playground when it remains a crucial element of the rat-race. Parents that have repeatedly told their offspring how special they are have had such praise reinforced by teachers, yet the insulated Telly Tubby Land these pampered potentates are eventually released from is hardly the ideal training camp for the absence of gormless optimism that awaits them.

As recent as four or five years ago, I would’ve regarded myself as very much on the left, and while I’m a long way from the right (I remain contemptuous of IDS and Gideon), I do feel somewhat stranded at the moment – a bit like one of those athletes in the Olympics who fly under no flag. Politically, I’m stateless. The humourless, censorious finger-wagging serial banners that have taken control of the left are to me no different from the Whitehouse/Muggeridge/Longford collective that once operated from a similar standpoint on the right. It matters not to me which side of the political divide these attitudes inhabit; they go against so many of my core beliefs, and if it is the left that currently exercise these restrictions of freedom of thought and speech, f**k ‘em. I reserve the right to criticise whoever I want to, whichever party of whichever colour they represent. And I can do that without resorting to name-calling Hate Crime.

One of the unfortunate offshoots of being told what one cannot think or say is that it creates a vacuum for rational and sensible debate, one that is then filled by the egotistical gobshites and professional contrarians who love the sound of their own voices – the kind that don’t possess the intelligence or humour of a Christopher Hitchens. As these are then perceived as the only ones who express an alternative opinion to the consensus, anyone who harbours an alternative is inevitably lumped in with them. I detest Hopkins as much as I detest Abbott, so where do I go? I may have voted Lib Dem at the last two General Elections, but that was for a decent constituency MP rather than any party allegiance, and Old Mother Cable carping on about a rerun of the EU Referendum is about as relevant to me today as calling for a repeal of the Corn Laws.

Equality cuts both ways; it doesn’t mean usurping those who kept minorities oppressed and then oppressing the usurped. It should mean everyone – whatever their political persuasion – being on a level playing field and all voices being heard. But, politically, it doesn’t work that way anymore than the Tsar being ultimately superseded by Stalin meant the Romanov’s palaces were burned to the ground and the ruling class of Bolsheviks set up home in a community of garden sheds. The aphrodisiac of power is as appealing to those who don’t have it as those reluctant to let it go; and I’ll still be out in the wilderness whichever side grabs it. In 2017, however, I think the wilderness is the most interesting place to be.

© The Editor


When Belfast City Council voted to break with tradition in 2012 by reducing the flying of the Union Flag atop City Hall from 365 to 18 days a year, the more vociferous wing of the Unionist community greeted the announcement with violent protests. A couple of days ago, marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, bonfires were lit across Unionist strongholds of the province, many of which were decorated with photos of prominent Sinn Fein politicians. I only nod to our neighbours over the Irish Sea to make a roundabout point on how the issues that enflame passions on both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland barely register on the mainland; they’re viewed by the rest of the UK (with the possible exception of Glasgow) as parochial concerns unique to Ulster and characteristic of a land with an extremely long memory.

Even with the high profile suddenly afforded the DUP in the wake of Theresa May’s golden handshake, the ‘street politics’ of Northern Ireland rarely attract outsiders to the barricades, something that can’t be said of another divided community from a region with a similarly turbulent history several thousand miles away – Virginia. The dramatic and ugly events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia at the weekend didn’t have their source material in religious divisions, but race – the most contentious of all American issues that just won’t go away. Not even eight years of a black President could sort it.

Virginia was one of the four slave states from the ‘Upper South’ of the US that, along with Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, joined the original seven Southern secessionist states in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Its history, now so bound-up with the Confederacy and its aftermath, predates that era considerably, with Virginia being the first English colony in the New World, established as far back as 1607. But it was also prominent among the 13 colonies that broke with British rule and has a claim as being the birthplace of the USA; it certainly was the birthplace of eight US Presidents, for one thing.

Like the rest of the states in the South, Virginia had a segregationist policy in place until the civil rights movement of the 1960s gradually led to a repeal of the remaining Jim Crow laws; but its past, like many of its neighbours’ pasts, continues to attract the attention of those for whom integration remains a greater threat to making America great again than the hardware in Kim Jong Un’s toy-box.

Recent attempts to reduce the high visibility of the Confederate Flag in the Southern states have gone hand-in-hand with a concerted programme to remove statues of, and monuments to, Confederate heroes from public places; and these efforts at erasing a history that sits uncomfortably on the shoulders of modern America have served to ignite the ire of white Southern natives proud of their inheritance, as well as white supremacists from different parts of the country who exploit the situation to promote their cause. When Washington belatedly addressed the iniquities and inequality of the South in the 60s by outlawing its segregationist traditions, the white population claimed the rest of the US didn’t understand the South and there’s probably a grain of truth in that. The South was seen as something of an embarrassment that contradicted America’s international reputation as the Land of the Free; the South was a place where the past remained present.

The ongoing contemporary operation to change the perception of the South, not only for outsiders but also for those who live there, has been characterised by the official removal of ‘negative’ symbols relating to its past; though whereas the pulling down of statues during an uprising or revolution tends to come from the emancipated population itself, the policy of removing them that has been taking place across the South of late is a decision of federal government. Many have viewed this decision as symptomatic of rewriting American history, a rewrite that fails to acknowledge aspects of it that don’t complement the image America likes to project of itself. There are also concerns that by erasing the visible legacy of the Confederacy, future generations are being presented with a lopsided story of their country, one without warts and all, and one depriving them of a history they could learn from.

Plans to remove a statue of Robert E Lee, Confederate Civil War general, in Charlottesville led to the town being invaded on Saturday by a ‘Unite the Right’ march, bringing in angry white men from all over America for a rally that was destined to be met with a counter-rally. Whatever valid points had a right to be made didn’t stand a chance of being heard; both sides were infiltrated by those whose intentions were obvious from the start, many of whom had little or nothing to do with the part of the country they headed for.

The relatively liberal college town of Charlottesville was hijacked by opposing sides looking for a battlefield. The far-from spotless ‘Black Lives Matter’ crowd were accompanied by the masked men from ‘antifa’ – an abbreviation of ‘anti-fascist’ – who have a reputation as violent left-wing anarchists; they were the group responsible for the trouble that occurred in Washington on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Those under the Alt-Right banner included neo-Nazis as well as that old mainstay always up for a fight, the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK are almost to the South what the Orangemen are to Ulster, though for all their shared pseudo-Masonic ritualism and shameful record of gerrymandering, the Orangemen are a long way from the Klan when it comes to provoking and stoking hatred in the most sinister manner.

What was already a predictable and unedifying clash on Saturday plumbed especially appalling depths when one lunatic ironically took a leaf out of the Jihadi manual and drove a car directly at protestors; his efforts were responsible for 19 injuries and one death. The white supremacists, who view President Trump as ‘their man’, were gratified that the Donald seemed reluctant to attribute blame for events to them, though the majority of the Alt Right (to whom Trump owes a great debt) probably regard the extremists who descended upon Charlottesville with the same abhorrence as the left views the ‘antifa’. It would certainly suit the narrative of the moment to lump together anyone who questions or challenges the anti-Trump consensus into one hate-fuelled, racist mob; but unfortunately, it’s not quite so…erm…black and white.

© The Editor


All too often, that celebrated US sitcom known as ‘The Trump Presidency’ hits heights worthy of a script penned by Larry David. With the disappointing departure of wacky White House Spokesman Sean Spicer, it seemed the loss of such a colourful cast-member risked the show never being the same again; lo and behold, however, the Donald hired his replacement on the same day, and Anthony Scaramucci has quickly settled into Spicer’s shoes by proving to be instantly popular with viewers. Mr Scaramucci made an immediate impact in a classic episode that saw him interviewed by Emily Maitlis, and has also maintained the tradition of washing dirty linen in public by launching a personal attack on White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – with hilarious, as they say, consequences.

Beyond the fourth wall, the serious business of running the USA hasn’t been quite so side-splitting. Over on Capitol Hill last night, it was drama rather than comedy that dominated proceedings as the Senate debated the President’s repeal of ‘Obamacare’. This was the third attempt to repeal the healthcare act of Trump’s predecessor, and the third failure. The bill became known as the ‘Skinny’ repeal, due to it being a scaled-down version of a total repeal that it was reckoned all Senate Republicans could agree to. Had the bill succeeded, it would still have left an estimated 16 million Americans losing their health insurance within a decade as well as a 20% increase in insurance premiums for those fortunate enough to keep it.

What made the defeat an especially bitter pill for the Trump administration to swallow is that three prominent Republican Senators – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and former Presidential candidate John McCain – voted against the bill and contributed significantly to its defeat in the process; the latter member of the trio was apparently badgered by Vice President Mike Pence for the best part of 20 minutes in a desperate attempt to get the veteran Republican to vote according to the President’s wishes, before taking his place alongside a group of enthusiastic Democrats as the bill was voted down by the tantalisingly tight margin of 51 votes to 49. Trump’s response was to claim all three Republican turncoats ‘let America down’; but for McCain in particular it was an opportunity for revenge.

During his run for the Presidency in 2008, much was made of John McCain’s Vietnam War record. After being shot down on a bombing raid over Hanoi in 1967, McCain was a Prisoner of War for six years and suffered appalling torture at the hands of his captors that has left him with lifelong physical disabilities, most famously the fact he cannot raise his hands fully above his head. McCain entered politics a decade after his return from Vietnam, but has long had something of a reputation as a ‘maverick’, not always prone to toeing the party line. His run for the Presidency in 2008 saw him lose to Barack Obama, though his cause probably wasn’t helped by the selection of the execrable Sarah Palin as his running-mate. Nevertheless, he has remained one of the most recognisable and respected Washington veterans – not that this counted for much where Donald Trump was concerned.

During the embryonic stages of his efforts to gain the Republican nomination for 2016, Trump mocked McCain’s record in Vietnam by saying he preferred ‘heroes who weren’t captured’. It should be noted that, though of an eligible age, Trump himself conveniently avoided the Vietnam draft like one of his White House predecessors, Dubya; he also didn’t enlist as a volunteer or consider joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps; as a student, he obtained four deferments and was given a further medical deferment when threatened with the draft in 1968 on the grounds of ‘heel spurs’, which was nice.

A man such as McCain, with over thirty years in politics, will have developed an extremely thick skin by now, but a crass comment along the lines of the one Trump made was bound to rankle; last night, he had the chance to give the President the finger and he took it. Trump’s avowed intention to get rid of Obamacare now seemingly stands in tatters, largely thanks to a man whose recent diagnosis with a serious brain tumour means he really doesn’t have anything to lose. That he returned to active politics just a couple of weeks after brain surgery shows he’s quite a tough cookie.

Ironically, McCain had spoken out against Obamacare and the need for it to be replaced during his re-election campaign in 2016, though by the time he came to cast a decisive vote yesterday evening, his opposition to the proposals on the table appeared to stem more from his disapproval of the clandestine manner in which the bill was prepared. McCain made a speech a couple of days before last night’s vote calling for a ‘return to regular order’ when it comes to lawmaking, so it was perhaps no surprise that – coupled with the urge to get one over the President – McCain should side with Democrats at the eleventh hour.

The ‘Skinny’ repeal compromise was regarded as the only version Republicans might be able to get through Congress; its defeat means there are no other prospective bills on the cards to repeal Obamacare; despite this, Trump tweeted in the aftermath of the vote ‘As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal.’ At the same time, one of Trump’s early rivals for last year’s Republican nomination, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, declared ‘Mark my words, this journey is not yet done.’ It probably won’t be in the long-term, but for now it is; and the Republicans have one of their own to thank for it.

© The Editor


Well, after all the endless gossip of a mutual admiration society between The Donald and Vlad, not to mention persistent accusations of Russian interference in last year’s US Presidential Election – both of which have been recycled by Trump’s opponents at home for months – one wonders what Mr Putin’s opinion of the President is now. American-led coalition airstrikes against Jihadists in Syria have been an under-reported element of the Syrian Civil War since 2014, but the deliberate targeting of one of Assad’s airfields by US missiles in the early hours of this morning is the first time the Americans have attacked government forces. Where this leaves opinion on western involvement in the Syrian conflict, not to mention US-Russian relations, is probably too early to speculate; but it’s fair to say the Kremlin isn’t happy.

Russia has called the American strike that struck Shayrat airbase at 1.40 GMT ‘an act of aggression against a sovereign nation’ – unlike annexing Crimea, then? All the doom-laden predictions that Moscow would be pulling the strings of a puppet President in the White House appear a tad premature now. The Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said: ‘Instead of the previously touted idea of a joint fight against the main enemy – the Islamic State – the Trump Administration has shown that it will carry out a fierce battle against the lawful government of Syria’. Russia has also suspended a joint air safety agreement between it and the US in Syria as a result.

It would seem the appalling nature of events in Khan Shiekhoun on Tuesday has prompted a change to American foreign policy re Syria, certainly where Trump is concerned. From the off, he has repeatedly stressed domestic issues were at the top of his agenda, and his suspected softness towards Putin suggested he’d steer clear of Syria. But a President with such a swaggering personality and combative approach to governance was clearly presented with the kind of challenge to flex his muscles on the world stage that he couldn’t resist.

Not that this familiar Trump persona was the one on display in the press conference he gave following confirmation of the attack. Unusually – though not unexpectedly, considering the circumstances – subdued, the President didn’t mince his words and seemed to suggest America was acting on behalf of all nations who attributed the nerve gas bombing to Assad. Most nations were rightly appalled by what happened in Khan Shiekhoun, but even when Trump called on ‘all civilised nations’ to contribute towards ending the conflict, everybody knew only one would be prepared to react to Tuesday’s incident with force.

Caution has characterised the western powers’ attitude towards Syria, as though everyone was holding their tongues, waiting for America to make the first move; Obama preferred the sneaky drone game, essentially military involvement through the back door, but his successor has now stated his case in a far more decisive manner. If today’s target was indeed the same airbase from which Tuesday’s chemical attack was launched, then Trump has certainly laid down the gauntlet. What next, though? Rather worryingly, a Oklahoma Senator who praised the President’s actions hinted the attack should herald the rebuilding of the US military after Obama’s budget cuts in order that America can achieve ‘peace through strength’, the old Republican call-to-arms catchphrase.

In 2017, Vietnam is now probably too distant a memory for many to recall with the shudder it provoked for decades, but the shadow of Iraq is still a potent influence on the Commander in Chief’s decision when it comes to where US forces are deployed today. I doubt Trump would want to commit ‘boots-on-the-ground’ in Syria any more than his predecessor wanted to, but airstrikes don’t send body-bags back to American airfields. Launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two US Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean is a shrewder option when there remains such reluctance to send in the troops.

Every western country that dispatched soldiers to Iraq has subsequently shied away from repeating the same mistake in Syria, though some would argue this has enabled Assad (with the invaluable assistance of Russia) to continue getting away with murder. There was a proposal put forward two or three years back, particularly where British recruits to the fight against Assad were concerned, that the situation was comparable to the Spanish Civil War, when the International Brigades recruited multinational volunteers to the anti-fascist cause as many western powers preferred inactive neutrality. Perhaps the memory of the First World War was still strong in the minds of western leaders back then, just as Iraq is today.

Not all parallels with the Spanish Civil War stand up to scrutiny, but I suppose one could say that in that conflict, Nazi Germany effectively played the Russia to Franco’s Assad, with the Luftwaffe’s role in the bombing of Guernica a barbaric test-run for the horrors to come. However, what did follow in the same year the Spanish Civil War ended is hardly the most optimistic comparison one can make with what might follow Syria. We can only hope history’s habit of repeating itself takes a break for once.

© The Editor