A Journal of the Plague Year Day 67

Monday 25th May 2020

Tomorrow, tomorrow.

It’s all still kicking off about top aide and resident genius to the PM (read: the de facto leader of our country) Dominic Cummings having sneaked into County Durham during lockdown, with JK Rowling entering the fray now, 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. Yesterday someone released an official tweet from the Home Office, following Boris’ decision to back Cummings still, and the continued reworking of what a lockdown should engender.

 

“Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?”

After it was duly removed, she offered a year’s salary to the sleuth.

 

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 slammed 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 colleague 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 trending for a day, planned for an 8pm Tuesday. We should order popcorn. The Twitterstorm is also full of supporting 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. In other words bots, run by the Conservatives, and another of Cummings’ tricks from up his algorithmic sleeves. 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:

 

Well, 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:

 

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 mouth 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 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 in effect make the Hong Kongers submissable to Chinese legislation- and treatment -as any Mainlander. It would’ve meant undermining their special status of the One Country Two Systems policy, as 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???).

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.

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I ended the day watching Disney’s nature films. Childish commentary (and completely devoid of science, positively avoiding it) but jawdropping photography. An unlimited budget surely helps. Insanely cute too, from baby pandas tumbling down a slope to baby snow leopards 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, and still turning.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

 

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 38

Friday 24th April 2020

PUBLIC DISCLAIMER

DO NOT READ THIS LOOK AWAY NOW

If you’re looking for escape this, today, is not where to find it. For never was a story of more woe. Thus following, reality.

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Another day another dollar. Scroll. Brush teeth. Scroll. Sleep. Shower. Lunch. Netflix. Scroll. Sleep. Film. Sleep.

A Friday so I treated myself to takeaway for lunch, which turned out to be the stodgiest fried calamari in the city, like chewing on bread crust. Our local really is the worst, but beggars can’t be reviewers. The night’s film was the other highlight, a tankard of cider to go with An American Werewolf in London, and a good catch up with J while A is getting ever more islanded, which he may be enjoying. It was Orthodox Easter recently, the equivalent to Greek Xmas (regardless if you’re religious or not) which he’s not celebrated, separated from family all these years. We’ll try and do something later maybe, though he’ll typically veto it.

The C-19 death toll in the UK hit 20,000, which is only counting those from hospitals. It’s significantly higher if they tally up those in care homes and residences, so we may be closer double that. This could yield the world’s highest deaths per capita, over current leader Belgium, who counts live fatalities and not just in healthcare. It all depends whether the UK extra deaths are at the 40% or 100% ends of hospital totals.

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I’ve been increasingly worried about the ‘biblical famines’ the UN is warning may transpire within months. They will start in the world’s current war zones where infrastructure is broken and farming majorly disrupted by fighting. DPR Congo, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Niger. It’s also unlikely for people or countries to give aid, such is the situation in their own backyard. DPR Congo is a prime example of what a disruption of infrastructure results in. The Second Congo War ended in 2003, where fighting killed an estimated 20,000. However excess deaths continued well after taking 5.4 million by 2008, due to the complete collapse of food industries, healthcare and transportation networks.

Likewise the UN sanctions before the Gulf War against Iraq, that resulted in an extra million deaths (560,000 of them being children). They targetted the populace not the regime as hostage -banning food, water, medicines, medical equipment, water purifiers, even baby food and milk powder. And lasted for 12 years after the US and UK repeatedly blocked UN attempts to end them, plus three successive UN Generals resigning in protest. When Ambassador Madeleine Albright was told in interview that half a million children had died, she infamously said: “we think the price was worth it”.

This scenario is even keeping me up at night, and becoming one of the things when waking. It’s not normal for me, and I doubt for anyone. When we hear of untold horror and misery abroad we may well shed a tear at the news report, given it’s sufficiently graphic enough. But no one really takes it home with them, into their daily thoughts and fears and dreams. The only time I’ve seen any kind of widely depressionable story has been for the death of a single person, Princess Diana. Forget the 250,000 killed in the 2004 tsunami, or the additional million in Iraq following invasion, it’s the death of a celeb people grew up with, who felt they personally knew that got people crying beyond the screentime. Witness footage of her funeral, as thousands of mourners spontaneously burst into tears as her cortège rolls by (one of them myself). It’s like something out of North Korea.

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On that subject Kin Jong Un, rotund dictator of said country is currently MIA on the global stage, with rumours thick and fast that he may be dying after heart surgery. All eyes now on his sister who will likely take the reins if he expires. Now, I’m no fan of an autocratic regime that has in the past kidnapped random South Koreans, taken down passenger planes and operates internment camps, but the South Koreans are just as gung-ho, trigger-happy and belligerent. Just as liable to be the first to shell the opposite side, shoot over a prow, or hold mass army drills on the border, in a giant show of two fingers against the horizon.

The US is also increasingly seen as playing both sides off each other -the situation allows them to keep foreign bases on the peninsular and Japan, thus controlling the north Pacific and hemming in China. Notably George Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech even after NoKo had agreed to dismantle it’s nuclear capabilities, that subsequently made Kim restart them in defence, and defiance. Or the abrupt ending of the 2018 thaw (both sides had even competed as the same country in the Olympics) when the US held mass joint-training exercises, thus restarting the arms race.

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South Korea is also quite propagandic and equally dogmatic. All the lurid tabloid tales on the uncles being thrown to bloodthirsty hounds (in fact he was shot by firing squad, following a failed assassination attempt) or execution of former girlfriends for prostitution (she turned up a year later as a newscaster), of the Pyongyang Metro being fake, and that everyone on the streets are actors (thousands of them) are all sourced from the south, via media agencies citing ‘cross-border sources’.

In fact South Korea is studied by sociologists as a prime example of how propaganda is just as rampant in democracies, fueled by complicit media agencies as well as their avid audiences. One only has to look at the partisan politicking in the US (**cough Fox News /cough**), or the Rupert Murdoch-owned press at large here (**Daily Mail, Sun**).

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When Kim Jong-Il died NoKo released its usual dreary propaganda to the world, showcasing endless streams of people distraught at his death (the kind who’d throw themselves on the coffin as it gets lowered), of course the world took this as how very indoctrinated the North Koreans were. Then people started pointing out that in the background, no one was crying, only those in front facing the lens were suddenly found to be apoplectic with grief.

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Thus SoKo subsequently followed up with lurid tales of everyone who didn’t cry getting 6 months free stay in a labour camp.

North Koreans Face Six Months Labour Camp for Not Crying at Kim Jong-il’s Death

Thus parroted by the rest of the world:

Punished for not crying: Thousands of North Koreans face labour camps for not being upset enough


At the end of the day North Korea is a study on journalistic integrity and standards. Almost no stories coming from there can be fact-checked or corroborated… but neither can anyone call them out on it if they decide to go to print. Thus much of the world just ends up reporting it anyway, straight from South Korean tabloids, even if you’re a respected broadsheet. Which is telling -it fits with the narrative.

It’s also telling which papers are reporting the dictator’s death (Daily Express, Sun, NY Post), as rumour-milled via a Chinese social network, and which are waiting for official confirmation, or at least putting a question mark in the headline.

The fat twat.

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And talking of convenience, where for example is the coverage or navel-gazing (surely one story?) for the current human tragedies of the US/UK-backed sanctions: Iran, Venezuela, and of course North Korea? Despite sitting on vast commodities or one of the leading science powers, they’ve been denied medical equipment and ICU’s they could otherwise have afforded easily. We even cover Iran building mass graves, and tut at their imagined cover up of figures, without nary a mention of our role in it. The latest humanitarian crisis on the now closed Colombian-Venezuelan border likewise ignored, as has been the US calls for the country to hold new elections (read: exit President Maduro) in order to allow the meds in, plus access to the world’s largest oil reserves. Sounds a lot like a ransom, and exploiting a tragedy to do so.

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It appears this global crisis is only spewing division and geopolitical rivalry, as opposed to the Bennetton ad we all imagined a shared experience would engender, and cooperation between states. That democracy is a veil over ignorance, selfishness and prejudice, if not a platform for it. Witness country after country stealing vital equipment before being sent off, or even en route, and ignoring all calls of aid from its neighbours. See the comments following any, ANY news story.

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How depressing, but it had to catch up some time. The air weighs heavy so it’s time to take a walk, chew some cud and maybe take in an 80s film, back when it was all so much simpler. Life is but a scroll away.

Oh and the Great Orange Dolphin just suggested we all inject bleach and sunlight into our lives and limbs, to vanquish the plague. His wranglers are now desperately attempting to shut him the fuck up and wind down his daily updates. Perhaps throwing playballs in the other room and bustling him out -today’s was the shortest yet, at 22 mins, rather than the hours he normally courts. This I think would be a mistake.

As a great woman once said, I’m not saying kill all stupid people, just get rid of the health and safety signs and let the problem sort itself.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 14

Tuesday March 31st 2020

The house got a deep clean today. All furniture polished, floors stripped, fabric waterboarded and rugs publicly whipped. The recycling bins are now twice as full as they can take, tottering like Stonehenge due to imaginary collection days -First World problems again, ah how we’ve missed you.

Although a little disconcerting. Are we ever going to see binmen again? Is it a sign of things to come? It starts with a lack of attention to recycling categories and ends in shooting crazed Mad Max grannies from the roof of a local mall.

IMG-20200331-WA0002

The govt issued a missive quickly mentioning something about power outages mid-cough, and that we should maybe expect them [/cough]. The minute the internet goes down there’ll be rioting I’m sure. People running into Dixons and trying to grab all router shaped boxes, fusilli phone cords, then eyeing up radios and satellite dishes. Like an 80’s disaster movie when they need a looting scene (smashed plate glass, carnival atmosphere, Black dude with shades nodding to a ghetto blaster).

28 Days Later (2003) Directed by Danny Boyle Shown: Cillian Murphy

People are getting fed up of queueing to get into the supermarkets, like exclusive clubs for tracksuited, standoffish couch potatoes, leaning on their trolleys. No one bothers dressing up anymore, which is unlike London, where putting on the lippy to take the rubbish out is a thing in certain circles. And once inside, the exclusivity demands attention -make sure to browse leisurely, maybe take a few selfies with the bogroll, smell every brand of air freshener and try on all the XXL cardies. While the people outside are now heckling NHS staff who get to skip the lines, as was done in Liverpool to a crying nurse after her 13 hr shift. They’re also liable to share fake news that kids will be banned from Asda (dear heaven of God), and that early hour for the aged is game for anyone sporting a sudden limp, or Jim Carrey style impersonation of a chimpanzee. One week in and people are starting to lose their shit.

Business Leaders Converge In Sun Valley, Idaho For Allen And Company Annual Meeting

So the news is Europe has a new dictatorship a la Hungary, approving Viktor Orban’s new emergency grip over power worse than the Communist dictatorship, but in a much more Far Right kinda way, including 8 years prison for being an upstart, and hot on the heels of his previous gem making it an offence to help undocumented migrants. Meanwhile India (the new name for the country is Meanwhile India, it’s reached that stage of geopolitical power where you can’t keep ignoring it, despite most of the people in the world being them) has seen its online youth organise mass food and cash handouts to the millions of migrant workers, many trapped between states and attempting treks of hundreds of km. Although the govt offers free food, shelter and cash, it’s harder to come by on the road.

In the US things are hitting the part of the curve that climbs exponentially, infections in line with the politicking, which is reaching ear screeching levels between left and right as hospitals take the strain, and the long-suffering populace battles through the confusion, pistols at the ready. An aircraft carrier, now stranded in Guam is radio’ing for help as its 4,000 sailors get cosy with corona.

Over 900 died in Spain today, beating Italy for the first time, as it did China’s amount of infected. East Asia is now locking down the air routes, and closing all borders as reinfection stalks the recovery, several provinces in China, reentering lockdown. While the US is offering Venezuela a lifting of sanctions so it can get access to the lifesaving meds and equipment it could easily afford – just so long as they get rid of Maduro hold new elections, and thus give US access to the world’s largest oil reserves, which sounds suspiciously like a mega ransom to me, and a country using death threats as an opportunity. Shocker! People are already massing at the Colombian border, now closed.

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Oh and the stock markets have fared their worst since 1987 in this quarter, the Dow Jones down by 23% and FTSE 100 by 25%. Meanwhile, India is attempting a herculean task: to trace tens of thousands of people at risk of infection from a ‘super-carrier’, a 70 y.o. preacher returning from Italy, now deceased who flouted govt advice and attended a local festival back before they were banned. 550 came into direct contact with him, which has led to 40,000 people in 21 villages now quarantined. I mean seriously, one righteous fucker in the mix and the entire district now feeds through hamster nozzles.

A 13 year old boy in Brixton with no underlying conditions has just died, making him the youngest in the country, but not unheard of. Apparently 1 in 30,000 infections in his age group will succumb. The kid was born in 2007 for Chrissakes. He would have been a 5 year old, just starting to learn football by the time of the 2012 Olympics in his home city.

He started showing symptoms on Thursday, and was rushed to hospital for breathing problems. By Friday he was on a ventilator, then an induced coma, and died in the early hours of Monday morning, just 4 days after his first symptoms. So contagious is C-19 his family weren’t allowed to be with him in his final moments. His name was Ismail Abdulwahab.

A 19 year old died on the same day, once again with no underlying health conditions and ‘very healthy’ succumbing just 30 minutes after being taken to hospital -once again after a few days of symptoms, and only a few hours after his condition worsened. Post mortem was fulminant (meaning sudden, explosive and severe) pneumonia. His name was Luca di Nicola.

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According to data from China the young may be more protected normally because of differences in immune systems -newer, fresher, more likely to overcompensate perhaps (although this shouldn’t really change things with this infection). Older people, who’ve had more experience with other coronaviruses react with a time-worn attack plan, but this version is different from the others, and may be affecting the reaction negatively, making the immune system attack the body alongside.

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Oh, and facemasks. All that official, widely spread malarkey about them being ineffective was meant to be a salve to reserve them for essential workers, but those absolute gems of community who choose to stockpile everything then sell them off eBay got them anyway. While China had been telling people to wear them from the start as precaution, arguing it was airborne back from Feb 8th (something quite hard to prove but that a Shanghai team were convinced). Infection rates can be up to halved using them appropriately. Ah well, shucks. It didn’t help either that when accepting Chinese masks (and test kits) up to 70% of them were ineffective, thanks to some eminently dodgy new companies in Shenzhen, which are now under investigation, not just for jeopardising foreign contingency plans, but China’s too.

People, govts are inept and predatory, and society burns far too quickly. Design by committee, so endemic among democracies and First world individualism -stage villain for wrongly signposted ways, diabolical bureaucracy, stolen misallocated funds, confusing media campaigns and bad graphic design -is now proving deadly.

This I’m sure will be the Autumn/Winter look by next year, or possibly Friday.

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On the home front, it’s been everyone in the house. Strumming from room to room and scrolling, then the cleaning blitz before more of the same. An occasional Netflix session, a phone call here and there, and endless tappety on the laptop. I mean the internet is hard to compete with. Tell a time traveler from the 1950s about this day and age, and the most confusing thing will be the fact you have a rectangle in your pocket that holds all the information in the world, but you use to look at kittens.

I mean just look at the options, for the uninitiated, the unmotivated, the un-arsed. The ones who don’t wake up in a ray of light, bursting with energy (seriously who TF does that?). Who don’t have a home gym/ yoga session to throw themselves into with Joe Wicks. Who don’t cook well, recipe books n everything. Who don’t have gurning, sun flared children for countless hours of fun and board games and reading re-mortgaging leaflets.

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Choosing the Perfect Family Home

Life has become smaller, noticing the littler eddies in this leaking tap of existence. The new toothpaste is leaving bright blue detritus in the sink, like tiny, stubborn anemones. J has put a battery into one of his antique clocks in the living room, and it ticks infernally (every half second) like a time bomb. A sleeps with his earphones now, and iPhone hugged, like a warm, fascist teddy bear. I’ve stopped changing T-shirts, day and night for about 2 days a pop, and stopped caring. I need to cut my toenails. It’s all starting to drift; I’m going to have to unplug. With nothing to report but the reports. Horror films or award winning docudramas are becoming daytime TV, and Oscar worthy screen matinees are background to the sucking glow of the internet. That’s literally it for life right now, internet and films, food in between (baked beans on rice, nuff’ said).

Things I saw today (read: sat through): Mercy Black (banal, cliché-ridden, unscary), that Rome docuseries (Caligula the Utter Cvnt and his licentious siblings), Tiger King (Florida Man strikes again, a sign of what happens when you lack history and culture in your life), and 1917, which I did perk my head up and watch. Heartstopping and heartrending in equal measure, shot in one glorious take -you can see why it was Oscar nominated, though a little harsh on Jerry, who is as likely to murder you as look at you, even when you save him from burning plane wrecks.

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My good friend in Germany is facing trouble in a lockdown, and dreading time with the kid who’ll drive her barmy (14 y.o, that age). She still works in social services, although unreasonably so, providing leisure and sporty options to refugees, which no one really feels is frontline nor essential anymore, including the refugees. She’s also asking about any conspiracy theories I’ve heard (none so far other than a fudging of infection stats) but I do wonder. As of yesterday the UK govt started counting the people who’d died outside hospitals and the tally jumped by a quarter. In Germany they only test the living, which may account for why their survival rates are seemingly the highest in the world.

Sweden meanwhile marches on apparently oblivious, throwing caution to the wind as cinemas (though Indy films only, given the dearth of blockbusters, now delayed), schools, shop, cafés and bars still go strong, with citizens picnicking and BBQing on the beaches, parks and beauty spots, dazzling smiles unsheathed. Public gatherings are limited to 50 (down from 500 on Friday), and those over 70 advised to avoid social contact. There is an uneasy sitting between public trust in the experts, and the unfolding horror everywhere else, even just across the Oresund link where Denmark has been in lockdown for nearly a month. It’s the biggest gamble the country’s taken since WWII, back when they were twiddling over whether to let the Nazis through on one side and the fleeing Jews on the other -or why not both at the same time? Sweden is attempting once again, to have its cake and eat it. In a lovely Drottninggatan bistrot with beer and some pals.

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Does life go on if the disaster unfolding, with thousands of dead, goes unseen? Is it normal? What impact on a complicit society will it have -and should ignoring the fate of others ever become cultural? Is it even a new normal? as that has long been the M.O. for much of the Western world in regards to the indentured billions of the Global South supporting our lifestyles the past few hundred years.

Sweden may be the one experiment that all our governments have wondered about.

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Likewise Trump, like a stuck record on his daily Old Tyme Medicine Show introduced a pillow company CEO (who will now start making masks) at the daily press briefing, who then went on to beseech the nation to read the Bible, as well as castigate it for taking the good book out of the curriculum.

“God gave us grace on Nov. 8, 2016, to change the course we were on,” ( referring to the day Trump was elected). “God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God.”

Indeed, God help us all.

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Does March ever fucking end?

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