A Journal of the Plague Year Day 70

Thursday 28th May 2020

Following the death of George Floyd protests in Minneapolis last night have gotten increasingly destructive. A block of housing under construction has burned down along with an apartment building, several garages and stores in the part of town near the 3rd Precinct police station, where the police officers involved in his death were based.

The turn of the crowd appears to have started with the looting of an AutoZone store, as protesters urge the man to stop.

Online people identified the man as possibly Jacob Pederson of the St. Paul PD, including a screenshot of his alleged ex-girlfriend claiming she also recognises the gloves and mask as hers.

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All this still needs to be verified rather than just speculation and politicking, but one imagines the looting and fires would have started at some stage. The fact the protests have spread to well beyond Minneapolis, to 20 other cities is a sign. Watch the vid of George Floyd’s last moments and you can see why.

It is not just another injustice, just another cop killing of an unarmed Black man, but one where you see it happening in real time and -in a world gone mad -a crowd pleading for it to stop, to no avail. The fact a cold-blooded killing can occur in broad daylight with full back up of the law says there’s something very wrong with this world.

I must admit, as cities burn a part rages with the violence: that society needs to change. That the difference in the arrest of say, Dylann Roof, armed after the massacre of 9 Black churchgoers, and the arrest of an unarmed, already handcuffed Black man suspected of having just given in a fake $20 bill is a difference that willfully kills. A statistic we will no longer tolerate, where being Black means you’re 3x more likely to be killed after the police show up. That the use of tear gas and foam bullets early in the peaceful demonstration, as opposed to the hundreds of heavily armed far righters allowed to storm State Capitol buildings last month, speaks volumes.

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In a show of how impossibly cack-handed a single organisation can be, the Minneapolis police arrested a Black CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, on an empty street unaware the cameras were still rolling and being beamed live into the newsroom. They handcuffed him and led him away, with no charge given even after he asked for one. A fellow crew on the same street were also approached (the reporter was White), but not arrested and told they could stay. The MPD later apologised, and said they were investigating.

The city of Minneapolis, long the belle of liveability and progression for the US, will forever be tainted.

Another scandal briefly kicked off at home, with uproar over the replacement of presenter Emily Maitliss for her emotive coverage of the Dominic Cummings scandal. The BBC apologised for her lack of impartiality in her opening words (including the line “a deep national disquiet”), and the subsequent pressing of interviewees.

Twitter was strangely alive with reprimands against her rather than support, and her leftist agenda (she was actually a former writer for the central right Spectator). Numerous accusations then flew that many of these were bots, as was seen days earlier when Cummings’ story broke, with hundreds of copy-pasted messages of support for him identified. Also many reminded that the infamously feared and pushy presenter before -Jeremy Paxman -had been allowed year in year out to be so direct, and even celebrated for it -the difference being that when a woman doesn’t hold the punches it results in furore. A BBC insider followed up to say the Beebs response had been “weak and embarrassing” for caving into the government.

Within the day Maitliss had been reinstated, claiming she had asked for a night off, and her last-minute replacement, Katie Razzall, stating she would never have agreed to cover if it had been anything other.

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In a third scandal Trump has been at it again, starting a fight with Twitter that he is so obnoxiously reliant on to spread his word. To date, The Great Orange Dolphin has publicly declared over 18,000 outright lies and misleading information while campaigning for or in office, thanks to the Washington Post counter which must be going metronomically these days. His claim over the voting by post changes being rolled out, that “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent” was slapped with a warning label of ‘unsubstantiated’, the first for him, despite the fact he would long have been banned had he been anyone other than POTUS.

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Trump subsequently went on a hissy fit. He threatened to “strongly regulate” or even “close down” social media platforms, tweeted to his 80 million followers that Republicans felt the platforms “totally silence conservatives” and that he would not allow this to happen, also claiming Twitter was “completely stifling free speech”. By evening he said that Twitter “has now shown everything we have been saying about them… is correct” and vowed “big action to follow”. People immediately pointed out he was stifling free speech in the name of free speech, and/or claiming free speech to stifle it. What would have been hilarious is if Twitter had subsequently slapped fact-check warnings on those statements, but hey, we can but dream.

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Today has been in short, a confusion for many, many editors as to what on earth to put on the headlines. CNN has chosen to continue with the ongoing repression of Hong Kong, (which is a bigger story than appears -as if all the protests of the past few years have culminated in Beijing’s most direct attack at its democracy). However it has dropped the killing of George Floyd to the very last story listed on its front page (and within hours has disappeared it altogether), while all other US news networks and papers have it as their main headline, from Fox News to MSNBC. The BBC have steadfastly buried the Emily Maitliss scandal alongside, in the same bottom-right position, while it trends as the main story online and in rival news.

It is a bonanza for journalism right now.

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Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 67

Monday 25th May 2020

Tomorrow, tomorrow.

It’s all still kicking off on top aide and resident genius to the PM (read: the de facto leader of our country) Dominic Cummings, now under siege from the groundlings on ( I mean off) the streets, the Opposition, his fellow MPs and even the Church. He sneaked 260 miles into County Durham during the lockdown he helped create, and now JK Rowling’s entered the fray, armed with quite some humour. If ever there was a delicious scandal to pass the time between Eastenders and Hollyoaks re-runs, this is it. Even the Daily Mail screamed outrage, with every broadsheet exposing the PM as dependent. And following his decision to back Cummings against the uproar of the nation, through the reworking of what a lockdown should engender, someone released an official Tweet from the Home Office.

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After it was hastily removed, she offered a year’s salary to the sleuth:

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One can imagine the scene in the government offices right now, the Prime Minister’s door slamming, the roaring, the staff running round the corridors -or at least their living rooms, where they’ve been WFH, zooming back and forth between walls in a show of urgency. The wrenched phones, the papers fluttering in the air as a bespectacled secretary scrambles to pick them off the floor. The whodunnit perpetrator, possibly holed up in a photocopying room, making surreptitious folders, or downloading data while a wingman fakes a seizure.

The mood of the nation is just as brazen as Cummings has been, both in his crime and his response to getting caught.

Well, what an epic spectacle, with #BooforBoris or #Booris (and er, #CumGate) trending for the day, planned for an 8pm Tuesday. We should order popcorn. The Twitterstorm is also full of supportive tweets for the government, that runs into the new Dominic Cummings show, and subsequent investigations as to how many copy-pasted messages have aligned, by accounts inactive for years, sometimes decades, before recent revival.

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The copy-paste of Tory MPs to their constituents also appeared sourced from some handed-down directive:

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In other words support bots still at large, run by the Conservatives, and another of Cummings’ tricks from up his algorithmic sleeves. This new arsenal is hot on his act with Cambridge Analytica that swerved the tide for Brexit (by targetting over a billion ads at swing voters). This a sign of the times, the future of democracy under attack by partisanship, AI, populism and media wars.

Coronavirus - Mon May 25, 2020

His public announcement, to a gathering of the press in his lush £1.6 million Islington garden, showed he was unrepentant, claiming his circumstances exceptional, and that the law apparently allows for. JK, who appears to be tweeting hourly through lockdown (new book too she just announced, free online, that’s setting every HP fan near to self immolation with expectation), had something to say on that:

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The fact there is obviously two systems at play, one set of laws and restrictions for the spivs, and the other for an elite to openly dismiss. People (including fellow politicians) who’ve been unable to say goodbye to dying relatives due to obeying the lockdown are furious, with some MPs already tendering resignations in protest.

Cummings also admitted to having driven to Castle Barnard where he was spotted, a 60 mile excursion, but only to ‘check his eyesight’ with wife and child in tow, a practice Michael Gove now echoes that he himself has done in the past, possibly near baby-killing ceremonies in Masonic Temples. The castle happens to be large HQ for big pharma company Glaxo-SmithKline, that also announced a deal to supply vaccines and meds to France on the same day. His wife can drive -a 2012 Spectator article dug out about her roadtrips in the US -so why did she not take the wheel so concerned were they about his eyesight? Ever more holes are appearing not just in the story but his Party support, now bitterly divided.

Another Tory twit following suit didn’t help things. The party seems doomed:

Well, all in all quite a schadenfreuden showdown. But in other more sobering news, Trump was spotted playing golf as America’s death toll breached 100,000 on the Memorial Day weekend. Biden, who was out for the first time in 2 months, released an advert:

I mean look at him, just LOOK AT HIM.

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Meanwhile the crowds continued to pack it in Stateside, with some of the usual scenes of protest, such as two stalwart Karens wearing facemasks but with a big hole in the visors cut out (gimp-like) so they could fully partake in Germfest ’20.

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Another meme doing the rounds has been the nurse protesting against lockdown alongside the rest of the circus, until it was noticed she had on a fake badge (handwritten fer Chrissakes) and a dodgy costume.

Plus the Republicans’ chairwoman for Arizona urging protesters to fake it:

Planning protest to #Reopen America? EVERYONE wear scrubs and masks -the media doesn’t care if you are really in healthcare or not -it’s the “message” that matters!

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Meanwhile China has quietly taken away Hong Kong’s rights not to stay bidden to the thumb of the Party.  While everyone’s too busy with the pandemic, and many Hong Kongers too fearful of infection to gather, as they so valiantly do normally, the regime’s slipped in a fast one. All after months of fighting off the extradition laws, which would have made everyone submissable to Chinese legislation- and treatment -as any Mainlander. It fully undermines the special status of the One Country Two Systems policy, and a democracy enshrined for 50 years after Handover.

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Well now all that protesting appears for nothing. China’s quietly taken the initiative, with the appointed HK leader, Carrie Lam telling the world they ‘have no place’ to protest and denying the law will curtail citizen rights. Hmmmmm. I do kinda feel for her sometimes, dubbed ‘Beijing’s Puppet’ and jeered wherever she goes, despite her redemption in a winning handling of the C-19 crisis. But she is evidently lying imo.

This comes hot after China decided to give every adult Hong Konger a no-strings $1200 for being “overwhelmed by a heavy atmosphere” back in February, alongside a wave of freebies in the new budget. It appeared to be part fiscal handout for a struggling economy, part bribe to not keep protesting by the millions, for months on end. The new laws will ban treason, secession, sedition and subversion -everything the Hong Kongers have been doing for years, starting an entire generation culturally used to mass protest and rebellion.

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The border is slowly being erased, and for Hong Kongers that’s an erosion of their freedom-wheeling protectorate under Chinese law. It says a lot about our times, and our governments who will make use of the pandemic to sneak in their wishlist. From Victor Oban’s dissolution of democracy in Hungary to the US vowing only to ease sanctions against Venezuela (the socialist regime sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves) in so pressing times as long as they replace their anti-American leader. When denied, Trump swiftly followed up with a failed US invasion earlier this month, that’s been barely reported. A coup so botched and abandoned by its backers, and the plan reported in the press beforehand too, that the handful of mercenaries who arrived were only lightly armed and seasick already. Though dutifully wearing face masks:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-luke-denman-airan-berry-arrest-coup-plot-confession-a9503336.html.

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If Big Bird and his auntie tried to stage a revolución it would look a bit like this butter fingered rout (Selmaaa!!! Where’d ya put the ammo? Whaddya mean you left it in the cookie jar???).

The two surviving American mercenaries (8 were killed), hired by a security firm in Florida are now prisoners, paraded in front of the media and forced to confess. The regime is absolutely loving it. Yet the lack of furor? Sheer embarrassment on Trump’s behalf, and a media complicit with a script that the heroic West never fails at anything (nor so laughably), and doesn’t do cackling, villainous things to cackling villains (the current President Maduro is largely seen as illegally holding onto power). It’s not so much being caught red-handed in the brazen attempt at an illegal coup -one of 76 the US has so far funded abroad -but the circus of absurdity they called a military operation. That by far, would be the more damaging to the demagoguery, that American heroes are not how Hollywood Netflix portrays.

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I ended the day watching Disney’s nature films. Childish commentary (and completely devoid of science, positively avoiding it) but with jawdropping photography. An unlimited budget surely helps. Insanely cute too, from baby pandas tumbling down a slope to leopard cubs chewing on mom’s ear, to shivering little monkeys.

We need this in our lives right now, a nice reminder that there is a world beyond our people, our politics, that’s still turning.

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