June 3rd

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

The US has descended into chaos: leaderless, lawless and desperate for answers. On top of which, public health policies have been replaced by crowd violence and the complete absence of social distancing. COVID-19 is winning and law and order, at least in some significant parts of the US, is failing. At a moment like this leadership is key – it can make a difference. Some police forces, taking a knee or quietly joining with the protestors, show true leadership. Some Mayors and Governors are showing leadership. Absent is Presidential leadership. Declaring many governors as weak and ineffectual and urging them to meet violence with greater force; declaring burning the flag a serious crime, which the Supreme Court has twice defended as a right; declaring Antifa a terrorist organization as if this solves anything; using force to clear the street for a photo-op holding a bible; and speaking only to his deplorables in racist code is not leadership. Nor is declaring martial law. Let’s hope American’s can see their President for what he is: a lost and self-defeating little boy in a big body with a psychological disorder.  He will be seen like Nero, fiddling with himself in a bunker while the US burns.

To make things worse, some doctors are lying. The official autopsy suggested that George Floyd died of “natural causes”, including pre-existing heart conditions. This account is flatly contradicted by an independent autopsy, which found no evidence of heart disease and is explicit: he was killed because a police officer killed him. End of story. Murder is murder.

Even the Amish are protesting. Peacefully. A sign that things this time are different.

The world goes on (for some):

Restaurants are opening again, but with seat restrictions, social distancing rules and strict cleaning requirements both front of house and in the kitchens. It will be difficult. Kitchens are designed around the brigade system – different people have different roles – and the line, where chefs stand next to each other performing different tasks. Having grown up in restaurant kitchens (grandfather was a chef), the kitchen will be tough. Many famous restaurateurs – Rick Stein in Padstow, Marcus Wearing in London, Gordon Ramsey worldwide – are unsure whether their various establishments will survive. Nando’s Canada is closing 21 of its venues permanently. VJ’s Rangoli and Holy Crab in Vancouver are also gone as is Doan’s Vietnamese in Edmonton. In Canada, this is an $85 billion industry (4% of GDP) that employs 1.2 million people (7% of the workforce) in 97,000 locations. 20% of young people – students in particular – work in the sector, with many using their pay as a means of paying for college or university. 70% of restaurant owners have indicated that they may not make it.

Britain is willing to offer a path to citizenship for Hong Kong passport holders if China now imposes the law it passed last week restricting the rights of HK citizens. China tore up its agreement with Britain which led to the repatriation of HK to China.  

Britain’s response to COVID-19 is about as clear as banana smoothie. Yes you can have people visit at home, but they can’t be old or stand close by, go to the toilet or enjoy themselves. Yes you can travel, but not to Barnard’s Castle. Yes you can go to church, but do stand 6’ apart and don’t sing. Yes, you can fly into Britain but self-isolate for 14 days before you do anything, like go to church unless you’re from a country which permits singing in church. No you can’t go on holiday abroad, but Ireland is OK.  Yes, you can visit the Pizza Express in Woking, but don’t get too near Prince Andrew, just back from having his eyes tested in Barnard Castle. It’s so confusing.

There is talk in Britain about tourists from countries with R numbers (reproduction rate in the population for COVID-19 – the number of people a person with the virus will infect) lower or the same as the UK being able to come to the UK without having to self-isolate. This is called “an air bridge” – a bridge between nations via air travel. UK has an R rate of between .7 and .9 (it needs to be below 1 otherwise the virus will expand exponentially) depending on which part of the country we’re talking about – Cornwall has a much lower rate than Wales or Tayside. While there is no “safe” number, a number of .5 or below may  become acceptable level of risk. If the rule is that only those traveling from countries with a lower R number than the UK will be permitted to enter the UK, then almost anywhere except Portugal and the US would be eligible. It is already possible for tourists from the Island of Man, Ireland, Jersey and Guernsey to travel to the UK without self-isolating. There are just so many people wanting to see Barnard Castle, now that Dominic Cummings has made it the #1 tourist destination.

5th June

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

Having had his troops tear-gas and assault peaceful protestors so he, as President of the United States, could walk to a Church he has never attended to hold up a Bible he has never read for no apparent reason, the White House Press Secretary now compares President Trump’s actions to Churchill surveying parts of London after the blitz.  A few subtle differences: (a) Churchill didn’t do the bombing of London; (b) Churchill had read the bible; (c) Churchill did his walkabouts to offer comfort to people hurt by the bombs not to gloat over the mayhem; and (d) Churchill always had something intelligent to say; and (e)Trump is about as close to Churchill as a pit-bull is to a budgerigar. The end of history has happened, at least in the near empty head of the Press Secretary. The end of the Presidency is happening, thanks to the voices now speaking out like General Mattis and Trump’s own Defence Secretary, Mark Esper.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, gave Donald Trump the bird this week by saying “no” to an in-person G7 summit, no to inviting Russia and no having anything to do with a clinically obese orange alien with all the skills of a Muppet. Justin Trudeau took 21 seconds of careful thought to answer a question about what was going on in the US – we’ll have to await his memoirs to find out all the expletives he was editing out during those 21 seconds. Even some GOP stalwarts are struggling to find the words to continue their co-dependency.

On 3rd May 2007 a young girl disappeared from a hotel bedroom while her parents (both doctors) ate a meal with friends at a resort in Portugal. Madeleine McCann, then aged three, has never been found. There is now a clear suspect for the first time in thirteen years – a German 43-year-old man called Christian Brueckner who has convictions for child sex abuse and the rape of a senior. The German authorities have said (with some certainty) that Madeleine is dead. This case gripped Britain and the world at the time and has been the subject of ongoing investigations. Maddi’s parents were, at one point, suspected of her murder. This dreadful saga may now be coming to an end. Let’s hope so.

Sex workers in Amsterdam’s red-light district have been instructed not to work until at least September 2021. Many of them are having to find new ways of describing their services, since they still need to earn money to live. “Body mechanic”, “body tester” and “skilled enabler” were all terms in use this week (according to the BBC). My own favourite is “pre-Trump visit preparation worker” – a job Stormy Daniels once had, according to Melania.

New developments in breakthrough inept government are now happening daily here in Alberta, thanks to the UCP kakistocracy. Our Minister of Health, fresh from disabling rural hospitals, avoided an independent recruitment process for a key mental health advocate position and appointed a friend instead (at least he didn’t appoint his wife). Our inept Minister of Education, fresh off cutting 20,000+ positions from the school system, has complained that elected officials are not being invited to Zoom or drive by graduation events (perhaps because they are not welcome) and the UCP has passed legislation (yet another Bill – Bill 1) which falls foul of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms outlawing protests against things like, well the government.  It is no wonder that Albertan’s (according to polling this week) now prefer Justin Trudeau over Jason Kenney – but then I would prefer a flatbill platypus over Jason Kenney (who sometimes resembles one).

June 10th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

The US Senate is unable to pass legislation outlawing lynching (just pause for a moment and read that again). What is amazing here is the legislating banning lynching is having to be considered at all.  What kind of “greatest country on earth” is this? One problem is that some Senators do not want the proposed law to include protection for LGTBQ2+! Answer to the question posed: a country rushing to become third world country, getting worse every day, thanks to corruption, capitalism and idiocy.

As an example of how sad things are in the US, a gay escort is hinting on social media that Lindsey Graham has used the services of several male escorts over the years, including himself, and made them sign non-disclosure agreements. Apparently, the Senator likes to be called Lady G. The “real” Lady Gaga is not amused and neither is Lady Glenconner. But then Lindsay Graham is not happy either, well until his friend “Mitch” arrives.

Vladimir Putin (Trump’s re-election agent) has said that the US would benefit from focus on democracy – something he knows a lot about.  Robert Mueller took note. The President of China is also encouraging the US to remember the need to ensure minorities have equal rights, which is a pretty rich thing for him to say,given the fact that over 1,000,000 people mainly Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic Turkic Muslims, Christians as well as some foreign citizens such as Kazakhstanis, are being held in secretive internment camps.

Black Lives Matter has stimulated protests around the world focused not only on discrimination, police brutality and inequality for black people but for others, such as First Nations and indigenous people’s around the world. As George Floyd was put to rest in Texas, the world watched carefully as the US begins the process of looking at what happens in practice now. Some cities are exploring shifting funds allocated to police services to community organizations (the so-called “defund the police” campaign). Others are looking at changes in the law. But inequality and poverty are at the heart of this challenge together with systematic in-built discrimination in things such as voter registration, education funding, access to services. A long walk to freedom will continue.

COVID-19 is gradually getting worse in many parts of the world (but not New Zealand – the first country in the world to be COVID-19 free after Vatican City). The US will soon hit 2 million cases and 120,000 deaths and a second wave is now beginning, especially in those states who defied the White House guidelines (with the encouragement of a rogue President) and “opened up” , enabling the virus to go on killing people in the name of capitalism.

Swedish investigators have determined who killed Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden in 1986 as he left a downtown cinema. They have named Stig Engström, a graphic designer working at a financial services company and a prominent gun club member, as his killer. Stig died in 2000 of a suspected overdose. He was interviewed several times by police, at first as a witness and later as a prime suspect. Stig vehemently disagreed with the left-leaning views of the government. The murder shook Sweden and sent shock waves around Europe. He also hated all Abba songs.

For the second time ever, astronomers have detected a pattern in a mysterious fast radio burst (known as an FRB) coming from space. The signal is repeating in a 90 day window, then is silent for 67 days and then repeats again. The pattern repeats consistently for 157 days. Speculation as to what it might be is mounting. Some suggest that it is the source of Trump’s big ideas. Others that it’s Tommy Hunter making a comeback. But the explanation is likely something simple – Taylor Swift rehearsing or repeats of Seinfeld bouncing off rogue satellites.

Prince Phillip celebrated his 99th birthday with a large glass of something serious and a pork pie. Never one to worry about protocol, he has been at Windsor in lock-down with the Queen, who he married 72 years ago. He is the longest serving consort of a British monarch and the couple have had the longest royal marriage of any British monarch. The secret: he doesn’t give a flying monkey about all the fuss and folderol but rather enjoys putting his foot in a journalists mouth.

June 12th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what’s happening…

The Trump Campaign is spending app, $500,000 a week advertising on shows it knows Trump watches on Fox news and other channels. The aim is to persuade Trump that they are hard at work trying to get him re-elected. They are also posting large posters in the White House toilets and bunkers and sponsoring his diaper providers. Trump’s approval rating remains flat at 42% and Biden appears to be leading in many US states, but not all. Trump has a 20% chance of winning – last time round in 2016 it was a 30% chance. We are now 147 days from the US election (12th June).

Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s blond bombshell press secretary, is about as smart as a bucket of pea and ham soup. Defending President Trump’s claim that the 75 year old peaceful protestor pushed to the ground by police in Buffalo was sent in to taunt the police by walking in “an elderly fashion” – a common Antifa tactic. In a tweet, Trump had claimed that the old man fell “harder than he was pushed”. Young Kayleigh defended the President’s right to be a complete covidiot by tap-dancing in words and clapping. She has made other remarkable claims – like Trump has done more for civil rights than any President in history  –  and is now in training as a covidiot.

COVID-19 is on the rise (again) in the US. 21 states have seen a spike in cases, with Arizona up 40%. The (smart) Governor of New York State is sharing his frustration with the pressure from the White House to give up on medical / scientific advice. Brazil is even worse. The pandemic will be with us for some considerable time. Get used to it. Meantime the US has shuttered its COVID task force and is hellbent on letting it pandemic run rife. Indeed, President Trump is hosting a series of rallies starting next week so as to spread COVID-19 and his message of “let’s defeat democracy”.

Prince Andrew, finally out of the Pizza Express in Woking, is cossetted with lawyers deciding whether to testify in person to the Epstein investigators about his deviancy and activities with under-age girls.  He likes the cosset, reminds him of corsets. The former Queen’s favourite child, he is now persona non grata in royal circles. His behaviour is even making Fergie look responsible – quite the achievement.

Speaking of causing offence, statues around the world – many of which have been in place for a hundred years or more – are suddenly causing offence. Lord Baden Powell, founder of the scouting movement, is to be removed as are statues of Cecil Rhodes and others. In the US, statues of confederate generals who fought to defend slavery are being toppled. These symbolic removals are intended to keep up the pressure for change – Black Lives Matter. I do fear for the statue of Desperate Dan in Dundee. He was the cartoon comic character who used to champion the eating of meat pies (with mushy peas) as the health food of the Britain. No doubt vegan protestors are plotting its demise as we quietly sip coffee and eat pork sausage rolls at Second Cup.

Even more ridiculous is the decision of the BBC to remove the German’s episode of Fawlty Towers and the whole of the Little Britain series in case it offends anyone.  Comedy is meant to offend in some cases. Stop it! This is over the top stupidity. I can understand the removal of the Black and White Minstrel show, but Fawlty Towers? Get real!

IBM and Amazon have blocked the use of facial recognition software, especially by police forces. This has come as a great relief to some. Boris Johnson’s face was always seen to be the same as a mop head and Trump’s face was recognized by IBM Watson as the “rear end of a bullock”. Ivanka Trump was always confused by facial recognition, which is why she ended up marrying Jared Kushner – the forever young face she remembers from a book she read as a child: Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

Alberta’s neo-liberal kakistocracy is really excelling itself in showcasing what idiotic government looks like. Since it came to power just over a year ago, the UCP will have added $30 billion to Alberta’s debt, cut services to health, education (schools, colleges and universities) and government operations while still managing to undermine investor confidence in oil and gas. They have lost several billions in misguided investments, denuded rural hospitals of medical care and now threaten to make further cuts to health and education in the despairing hope of balancing a fictional budget which is in no need of “balance” – debt is almost free and debt is what government need in a recession / depression. With all the skills of Elmer Fudd of Looney Tunes, the Premier continues to prattle in ways that make no sense and will further alienate those on whom we all depend. The most recent deal: oil sands companies no longer need to talk directly to the government about using and abusing our land and resources – see Bill 21. They can do direct to the regulator! No more real oversight – a sad day for Alberta.

June 16th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

The new mantra of the woke protestors is “safetyism” – the right of people to feel physically, emotionally and psychologically safe. “Safetyism” trumps values such as free speech. In the name of the safetyism, television shows are being removed, journalist are having to resign at the New York Times and all who write or speak are now conscious that they could be “summoned” at any moment. A cartoonist for the Marxist Morning Star newspaper was fired for doing what she does best – satire. This has all the hallmarks of an inquisition. When comedians can no longer poke fun at something, even if it makes us all uncomfortable, then intolerance is on show. I am for equity. I am for respect. I agree that ending racism, sexism, ageism, poverty, slavery, child labour, domestic violence, food poverty, homelessness are all things we need to do. But I also value independence of thought and free speech. When we lose free speech we lose community and the chance of getting something done.

A new book about Melania suggests that she delayed her arrival in Washington as First Lady because she was renegotiating her pre-nuptial agreement with the Donald. No surprise there. She wanted not only more freedom from his control – they live largely separate lives – but full recognition for their son, Barron. Love to know what she really thinks about her “stable genius” husband. Probably not a lot. She is fully aware he is a total plonker.

Speaking of books, John Bolton (aka Il Mustachio), one of many of Trump’s former National Security Advisors, is going ahead with his “tell all” book about his time in the White House – a book the White House has tried to prevent us seeing and continues to try and supress. It will not be that exciting. Just look at his clothing choices! If that’s Mr. Excitement, then we are all in for a dull few days of reporting along the lines of the eleven other books about life inside the toilet bowl of the Trump bunker. He will not likely reveal Trump’s psychological condition and his growing dementia, on show at the speech at West Point this last week when he had difficulty getting a class of water from a table to his mouth and even more difficulty walking down a slight incline – signs of some brain dysfunction.

More interesting, perhaps, will be the book by Trump’s niece who has a PhD in psychology and knows the Donald well – she has sued him twice over his “theft” of her inheritance from the family estate and the Donald’s arbitrary cancellation of her medical insurance, issued by the Trump company. Another tell all, this will be more personal and detailed about Trump’s early life. Expect to have confirmed what we all already know.

Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, to give him his full name, has lost the plot and, in doing so, lost the trust of the British people – he is now seen as more de Pfeffel than Johnson. He doesn’t seem to be the same, confident and focused Prime Minister he was before he caught COVID-19. His “let’s open schools / let’s not” and “let’s end the 2m rule / let’s not” is confusing. He’s young baby is obviously keeping him up at night and affecting his thinking. But come on, make some bold decisions – and stop trying to use distraction (like the move of foreign aid into the Foreign Office) and bad hair to avoid the key issues the UK faces.

Brexit trundles on, with trade negotiations with the EU continuing to falter. The UK will be “out” on January 1st 2021. A “no deal exit” is now looking the most likely scenario. As predicted at the beginning of this looming hundred year war, the battleground is the rights of access of EU member countries to UK fishing waters. Before Brexit, most fish caught in UK waters was caught by non-British boats which had higher quotas than UK boats. The EU wants no change post-Brexit and Britain wants to control quotas. It will not end well. We can expect cod-wars and a load of pollock.

The Swiss authorities are looking for the person who left US$191,000 worth of gold bars in a suitcase on a train – so easy to do, as I am sure you can all attest. I once left $10 in a taxi in a wallet. The owner has five years to collect. I am sure I was in St. Gallen last week…

A young man called Carlos Acutis was aged fifteen when he died in 2006 of leukemia. He was kind and generous, going out of his way to prevent bullying and help the homeless. He was also a “nerdy man” – highly skilled in coding and a computer “whiz”. He was deeply religious, setting up a website The Eucharistic Miracles of the World, celebrating the work of saints. This young man is now on a journey to sainthood – in 2018 Pope Francis named him “venerable” and more recently a miracle in Brazil in 2013 has been attributed to him, so now he will be beatified in October. If a second miracle is attributed to him, he will become a Saint. Maybe he could help connect the gold in Switzerland to its owner…that would be a miracle.

June 17th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening..

A man in Vienna has been fined €500 (£447 / $750 Can) for breaking wind loudly in front of police in a move the Austrian police force was at pains to defend. The Fart Fine is a complex offence in public decency law, especially in Vienna. In London, it is expected and usually rewarded with fireworks, especially after a late-night curry.

Aunt Jemima syrup is to get a new name. Quaker, who make this dentist delight, recognized that it has origins which are offensive to – the branding is based on a racial stereotype. It took just 130 years for this PepsiCo owned business to realize this. The search for a new name is on. Suggestions welcome. I think it should be called Bad for Your Health.

A smart guy conducted an interesting experiment. He created a fake Facebook (FB) account – Will They Suspend Me? –  and populated it with exact copies of Trump’s FB posts. FB demanded that the posts stop and closed the account for a time. The accusation: the posts incited violence. Enough said.

President Trump is planning an assisted dying event in Tulsa as part of his campaign to put America Last Again and win re-election. So sure is he that people will become sick as a result of listening to him lie and spread half-truths that he is asking all who attend his rally for COVID to sign waivers saying that will not sue him, Ivanka or the Trump campaign when they are infected with COVID-19 or are arrested from doing what he suggests. Cases of COVID-19 have been rising in Tulsa exponentially since June 1st.

Mike Pence, who claims to be Vice President of the United States when he is fact a submissive sycophant actor hired to play the part, says that COVID-19 is basically “over” in the US – all talk of a second wave is “fake news” from “the media”. He also suggests that the Titanic never sank, and Barry Manilow is in fact a gifted singer, like Florence Foster Jenkins.  Pence is supporting Trump’s line that, if the US stopped testing, then there would be no new cases. This would be true for all diseases – cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia. If we stopped diagnosis based on tests there would be just life, half-life, village idiots and death.  This idea comes from a village idiot, aka as Mike Pence.

Private polling by the Trump campaign shows that he is leading in all 72 US States, especially Xargon. Other polls, some conducted by people who know what they are doing, show Biden leading in every state except Georgia, where his lead is within the margin of error (2%). As Trump’s vote declines, the Trump campaign have taken to suing those who publish polling data, like CNN. They will soon be suing weather forecasters, sports forecasters and, well anyone who has evidence  or forecasts of any kind. Trump’s evidence spokesperson, Stormy Daniels suggests that “he loves big data”. I think that what she said…it was big something……I should check with Melania.

There are new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, which had been the first country in the world (after Vatican City) to be virus free. The new cases were traced back to two middle aged Briton’s allowed in to visit a dying parent. New Zealand has suspended its “compassionate exemptions”. Just 22 people have died in New Zealand which has a population similar in size to Alberta, where deaths due to COVID-19 are 151 (June 15th).

At the India – China border in the Himalaya’s 20 Indian troops were killed in hand-fighting with their Chinese counterparts. It is not yet clear how many Chinese troops were injured or killed – unconfirmed reports suggests that up to 43 were injured, some fatally. Tensions over the border have risen recently, causing Prime Minister Modi to caution that severe responses will occur.  The world watches anxiously – both nations have nuclear capabilities.

China is also experiencing a new wave of COVID-19, this time hitting Beijing hard. Some flights have been cancelled, parts of the city locked down and college / university classes cancelled. The outbreak has been traced to a market selling Make America Great Again hats left over from 2016 and the new hats no longer required by the Trump campaign – Let’s Start a Civil War Again.

A new series of Alan Bennett’s monologues Talking Heads begins on 23rd June on BBC Television. The actors include Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), Sarah Lancashire (Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley), Tamsin Grieg (Friday Night Dinners, Belgravia, Emma 2009), Dame Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Military Wives, Gosford Park), Maxime Peake (Theory of Everything, Silk, Peterloo), Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit) and several others. It will be wonderful television, including some new never seen before episodes. These monologues are part of the A level syllabus in the UK (high school diploma) and many students write to Alan (now 86) for advice. His advice is to treat him as a dead author who is unavailable for comment – a bit like Proust or Spike Milligan.

On his tombstone, Spike Milligan – amongst the funniest men who ever lived – has the inscription “I told you I was ill!” and then, in very small letters “If you can read this, you are standing on my balls!”.  His acceptance speech at the 2009 Brit Awards when he was given a lifetime achievement award is a wonderful example of him at his best.

June 18th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

Arizona now leads the world as the worst place to be in terms of COVID-19 – worse than Brazil, Russia and Peru. It has the highest rate of infection, hospitalizations and ICU admissions per capita worldwide. Arizona’s infection rate has reached 60.5 per 100,000 people, compared with New York’s 12.5 per 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.  Well done Doug Ducey, the Governor and ardent Trumpkin.

In Florida, another hub of covidiots, some bars and restaurants have been forced to close, having just opened a week ago. COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising and have been traced back to gatherings in such places. Ron de Santis, another ardent Trumpkin and Florida’s governor, dismissed talk of a “second wave” of the virus as fake news. It is still in fact the first wave, made worse by reopening Florida too soon. The GOP is considering moving its convention to Florida so that more of the deplorables can be infected.

Leaked extracts from John Bolton’s book on the Trump Whitehouse confirm what smart people knew before: Trump is a narcissist and has no interest in politics, reading, thinking or people other than himself. He asked China to help him win the 2020 election. He encouraged China to build more concentration camps. He had no idea that Britain was a nuclear power. He wasn’t sure whether Finland was an independent nation or part of Russia. He still is unsure where Puerto Rico is or what its connection to the US is, even though it has been a US territory since 1898.  His life is a sad story of tweets and twinkies. As America declines, both as a nation and as a player on the world stage, Trump continues to be preoccupied with one thing: himself.

MIT engineers have designed a “brain-on-a-chip,” smaller than a piece of confetti, that is made from tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses. When asked why, the team leader at MIT said “we’re trying to build real neural network hardware for portable artificial intelligence systems. Imagine connecting a neuromorphic device to a camera on your car, and having it recognize lights and objects and make a decision immediately, without having to connect to the internet. We hope to use energy-efficient memristors to do those tasks on-site, in real-time.” Maybe they could implant half a dozen in the brain of the leader of the free world, having loaded the chips with key information needed to make sound decisions.

Now that the oil and gas industry world-wide is challenged by a fall in investor confidence in the future of the sector and the rise of green energy alternatives, which can produce the same or a higher return on capital, the UCP Kakistocracy in Alberta is looking to invest in other industries. They are doing this so that pensioners who used to work in the public service will have to return to work, since it is their pension funds that will be used as risk capital. They have already blown app. $10 billion in less than a year. They have, sensibly, ruled out investing in fax machine manufacturing, pagers, hula-hoops and rotary phones. Their big new idea is to invest in gas and oil. Premier Kenney pointed out that this is a very different sector from oil and gas. Such progressive thinking is the hallmark of the UCP Alberta government.

Alberta might want to look at buying Hertz – the bankrupt car rental company. It has $19 billion in debt (which would clear out the funds in the Heritage Trust Fund). Its unsecured bonds are currently trading at around 40c on the $1. What’s amazing is that some idiots are buying Hertz stock (creditors always come before shareholders), even as Hertz plods along in its bankruptcy proceedings (it filed on June12th). Even the court is now complicit in letting Hertz raise $1 billion from clueless shareholder investors who will be 100% guaranteed to lose their investment. Come on Jason Kenney. Buy Hertz – you know it doesn’t make sense!

Canada failed to secure a seat on the UN Security Council, losing out to Norway and Ireland. Canada has been trying to get back the seat it lost in 2000 for years, led by every Prime Minister from Chretien through to Justin Trudeau. No big whoop. The Security Council is about as effective as Canada’s do not call register. Better to focus on an effective foreign policy and strategy for the post-Trump era (whenever that may be).

Staying in Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is, rumour has it, in the midst of an election for a new leader. The term “new” is a little incorrect as the front runner used to lead a version of this party until he realized he wasn’t up for it and called in Stephen Harper. The candidates are seeking to replace Andrew Scheer who was to the CPC what a butterfly is to a supersonic flight.  Neither front runners are fluent in French or in words which resonate with the needs of Canada at this time.

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the British Labour Party, seems to be doing well against a weakened and unfocused Boris Johnson. An Ipsos Reid poll shows he is the most popular opposition leader since Tony Blair in 1994. Blair went on to win the general election in 1997. The next UK election is in May 2024. Mind you, given Boris’s recent performance, a dead rabbit or a one-legged Alsatian dog could beat him. He is also a great improvement over his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn.

Dame Vera Lynne, voice of the forces during the second world war and a wonderful woman, died aged 103. Her song  “We’ll Meet Again” has been used since the war at key moments in British history – most recently as an anthem for lock-down. RIP. Another smart lady – Jean Kennedy Smith (92) has also died. She was the sister of President John F Kennedy and a former Ambassador to Ireland. She wrote a sensitive and compassionate account of the Kennedy family called The Nine of Us (2016). She was a gentle woman. RIP. A colleague and fellow academic, Professor Jerry Kachur at the University of Alberta, has also died – suddenly at home.  He leaves a very loving partner, a son and a daughter and grandchildren. RIP Jerry.

June 22nd

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

The UCP Alberta kakistocracy has decided that the equalization payments that all Canadians contribute to are unfair to Alberta and will hold a pointless referendum so that they can spend more money for no apparent reason. The current equalization formulae were developed by the same people who now oppose it – Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney – during their many years as Federal cabinet members. Federal taxation is a federal matter and the referendum will be about as useful as a mosquito trying to bake a cake. The referendum will also ask questions about whether Albertan’s want to retain the RCMP and the Canada pension plan – something recent polls show that Albertan’s overwhelmingly want to do. This exercise in pointlessness is a distraction from the lack of a strategy and leadership for the future of Alberta. Next there will be a competition to find the largest cabbage grown in Alberta and a referendum on whether Alberta should enter the Eurovision song contest. An expert panel will also be established to decide how best to prevent the spread of songs by ABBA.

This same government has decided to prolong COVID-19 and deepen Alberta’s economic challenges by not making the wearing of masks in public places compulsory. Just because Jason Kenney, who claims to be “our” Premier, can’t find a mask big enough to cover his cakehole doesn’t mean that the rest of us don’t understand the need to protect each other. A US economist colleague has suggested that not wearing a mask means that you want a longer, deeper recession.

COVID-19 infections world-wide will, at some point this week, have hit 9 million people and killed 500,000 with the US being the epicenter of the disease (over 2.25 million cases and 120,000 dead) closely followed by Brazil, Russia and India. An entrepreneur in Miami has set up a shop called COVID Essentials selling face-masks, hand sanitizer, wipes and other paraphernalia to help protect people and property: a sign that late stage capitalism is alive and well.

The Trump reality TV show “Lies and Misdemeanors” is back on the road. The first episode was in Tulsa – not as many showed up as the show’s organizers anticipated. An after show for the “overflow” crowd had to be cancelled since the crowd did not overflow. Trump was “punked” by several thousand people who booked tickets with no intention of showing up. Officials say that between 6,000 and 9,000 attended the 19,000 stadia. During the show Trump made stuff up, lied, exaggerated and attacked people who think he is an idiot, ironically demonstrating that these people are right. He managed to speak for an hour and forty-two minutes without saying anything of substance. Those there seemed to enjoy it – let’s hope so: many will soon be forced into self-isolation. Almost no one was wearing a mask and social distancing averaged about four inches, according to Stormy Daniels who knows about size.

One thing that was rumoured to be true but isn’t: Trump did not sign an executive order renaming the San Andreas Fault Barack Obama’s Fault. He’s just thinking about it.

Britain’s contact tracing app, developed to ensure that anyone who encounters someone later diagnosed with COVID-19 can be traced, has been scrapped and replaced by the Apple/Google app which does the same thing. The UK tracing app did not work on buses or underground trains and cannot tell the difference between 1 and 3 metres. Most elderly people – the most vulnerable – do not carry a phone which will be recognized by the app or have the Bluetooth links turned on. We all might as well carry a banana.

Two Canadians held in China – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – in retaliation for Canada’s prosecution of Ms. Weng in Vancouver have now been charged with espionage. Ms. Weng, a Huawei senior executive and a member of the elite within the Chinese communist party, is charged with fraud and is likely to be extradited to the US. China is engaged in “hostage diplomacy”. Things do not look good for the two Michael’s.

Malala Yousufzai (22), the Nobel prize winning Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for championing the rights of women and girls to engage in learning, has just completed her PPE degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She is an honorary Canadian citizen. The youngest Nobel laureate, she says she will now spend some time sleeping, reading and binge-watching Netflix – exactly what I would do with a degree and Nobel prize behind me at age 22.

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI (93) has travelled to Germany to visit his ailing brother, Rev. Georg Ratzinger (96) who is dying in Regensburg. They were ordained together in 1951 and have been close since childhood. Benedict said he “would spend the necessary time” with his brother. Pope Francis is saying prayers for both Ratzinger’s daily, he said.

Daniel Thorson is a Buddhist monk in training in Vermont, US. On 11th March he went into a silent retreat and for 75 days stayed there – not connecting with television, radio, or people until recently. He innocently asked, on his return to sound, “did that virus thing happen or did it just go away?” and is slowly piecing together the story of how the US did not (and is not) handling the pandemic very well. He’s thinking of going back on retreat as soon as possible.

24th June

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

The Alberta legislature, at the request of the ruling kakistocracy via MLA Todd Loewen, debated whether or not to permit the establishment of a militia to support the police. Soon they will be debating whether to arm the militia and call them the Armed Sons of Odin. This is about as useful a development as those masks people have cut holes in so they can breathe more easily. What MLA’s should be discussing is the strategic choices for the future of Alberta.

Many see Trump as a failure and disaster and think it is inevitable that he will be out of office next year and that Joe Biden will become President-elect in November. After all, Biden is leading across the US in the polls and the Biden campaign will be boosted by his choice of VP. But there is five months to go – a lifetime in political time (“a week is a long time in politics” – Harold Wilson; “in politics, there is no use in looking beyond the next fortnight” – Joseph Chamberlain). Trump’s campaign is a mess (it was last time). Trump seems to be fighting himself as well as everyone else (he was last time), Trump is just trying to ensure his own supporters show up and vote and is not interested in broadening his base (no change there). He may still win in the electoral college despite losing the popular vote (he did last time). Don’t write him off yet. He is involved in a different “game” from everyone else – it’s a reality TV show to him while the rest of us see it in terms of politics, economics, social wellbeing and the nature of law.

Whenever Trump says something truly outrageous – which he often does – some of his sycophantic covidiot staffers or cabinet members defend him, saying “he was just kidding” or being sarcastic. We know that this is not true. Trump’s attempts at humour have all been a dismal failure. He doesn’t have a funny bone in his body – according to Stormy Daniels. What you see is unadulterated and unfiltered Trump. He only laughs at other people’s misfortunes or at catastrophes, including those he is complicit in creating. The US continues to pile on cases of COVID-19 at an alarming rate – there are more deaths each day due to the policies and practices Trump is encouraging. He is a killer President. No humour there.

Baroness Scotland is the controversial head of the Commonwealth – the organization which seeks to leverage the collaborative power of the fifty-four member countries. Her term of office ends on June 27th, and her future is now uncertain. Some want her to continue, but others point to her cronyism and questionable use of funds as barriers to her reappointment. Her fate was due to be decided by now but has been postponed until the next meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government.

English pubs will reopen on July 4th, much to the delight of my sister, who owns one in Filey (North Yorkshire) – Bonhommes Bar. The social distancing rules in Britain are now changed from 2 metres to 1+ metres. The “+” is meant to indicate “one meter and as much more space as you can, preferably up to two metres”. This is Brexit-like in its simplicity – we’re changing the rules but don’t really want to. Many pubs and restaurants will not survive. Le Caprice – favourite Piccadilly eatery of the rich and famous – has already gone, and many more will not reopen. The food and drink business is tough – ask my sister – and depends on cash flow and tight margins. With months of rent / mortgages due and loans to pay back, it is now even more precarious. Scotland and Wales are not reducing social distancing and not reopening in the same way.

The World’s #1 Tennis Player, Novak Djokovic, has tested positive for COVID-19. He organized a tennis tournament in Belgrade so as to stimulate interest in the sport and raise money for charity – it is part of the Adria exhibition tour, with events now due in Croatia. Two other players who participated have also tested positive (Dimitrov and Coric). This tour has received a great deal of criticism from other players who refused to play ball.

The former CEO of Wirecard – one of Germany’s biggest technology companies – has been arrested on fraud charges. A $2.1 billion hole has been discovered in the accounts – roughly a quarter of its purported assets. Markus Braun, the man in question (who is very clean-shaven) is accused of defrauding investors through false accounting. Wirecard is a fully integrated financial services platform offering a global payment system and related services for digital banking. It has over 5,500 employees and 300,000 customers worldwide.

The US Federal Appeal Court has ordered the immediate dismissal of the case against Michael Flynn, yet another of Trump’s former National Security Advisors. Flynn had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI but changed his opinion of his own behaviour and now wishes to withdraw his own guilty plea. It has been established that the US Attorney General has been working behind the scenes in this case – another example of him responding to Trump’s needs and politicizing the courts.

The terms “customer service” and “the building trades” are generally not terms that sit well together. Trying to get someone to do something for which we are willing to pay good money is like trying to get a polar bear to sing a Madonna song (they prefer Lady Gaga). Four contractors contacted via phone and their websites and zero response in three weeks – only one of the websites has set up an acknowledgement system for contacts. Even approaching workers engaged in a similar task in a nearby house produced the response, “you will have to ring the office” – when we did, nothing. How difficult can this be? Say “we’re too busy” or “just go away”. It is better than the purgatory of silence and being ignored and still have downspouts that need fixing.

25th June

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening…

One challenge of living long is that you keep coming across inventions that are pointless – the toothbrush that also lets you floss while you brush, the razor with five blades, a walking sleeping bag, a pet rock with a USB connection – yet someone manufactured them. One domain for failure is the bathroom – shared toilets, the domestic urinal amongst them. Another is health products, like some of the insanely useless products from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. Finland celebrates failure with a national holiday on October 13th. There is also a museum of failure in Los Angeles. I think they will be building an extension to the museum and making the holiday a two-day event soon, since lock-down is encouraging even more weird inventions.

Another feature of ageing is that tolerance for idiocy declines over time. When university and college students gather in a church in Phoenix, Arizona to hear a lying orange man spout total gibberish with no social distancing, mask wearing or sense that they are witnessing not only the loss of logic and decency, but also the collapse of ethical behaviour while risking their own lives and that of their community. A sense of loss seems appropriate. Arizona is the new epicentre of COVID-19 in the US. These students should fail social studies, economics, health, and compassion credit courses simply because they were there.

Margaret Wente, retired columnist for the Globe and Mail, has resigned from her appointment as a Senior Fellow and member of the Quadrangle Society at Massey College, Toronto. She was one of the new senior fellows at the College, which is an intellectual community – an idea gathering point – for graduate students. Wente was a controversial opinion columnist who has been accused over a long career of all sorts of things, which is what happens to opinion columnists. She was, however, accused of plagiarism and a specific column written in 2016 led to the Globe and Mail offering an apology. There were more general concerns about her recognition and attribution of sources. Buzz Feed identified seven specific instances of questionable source use in a single year of columns. Some have suggested that Wente’s voice has been “silenced” due to political correctness. Senior Fellows should be role models for graduate students and, within the groves of academe, plagiarism is a serious issue that can lead to expulsion.

Speaking of academic misconduct, 30% of civilian pilots in Pakistan arranged for someone else to sit their pilots exam in their name – they are not qualified to fly. That is 262 pilots who actively fly domestic and international flights endanger lives each time they turn up for work – they have all had their licenses revoked. This was revealed as a result of an inquiry into the fatal crash that killed 97 people in Karachi in May of this year, now clearly blamed on pilot errors.

81% of the COVID-19 deaths in Canada occurred in senior care facilities. While there are a variety of factors – related health conditions, age, too many episodes of Hot in Cleveland – there is a clearly an issue here, especially in Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. An underlying cause – privatization – cannot be ignored. Profit before people is not a good prescription for longevity.

A string quartet from the Liceu Opera in Barcelona performed Puccini’s Chrysanthemum in their concert hall to 2,292 house plants. No reaction. Next week they hope to play Prokofiev’s For the Love of Three Oranges and Eric Satie’s Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear to trays of fruit.

The Dixie Chicks have changed their names to The Chicks in respect of Black Lives Matter – rejecting history in favour of wokeness. Lady Antebellum, the group, have also changed their name for the same reason – they are now known as Lady A. The record label One Little Indian, whose most famous signing is Björk, has changed its name to One Little Independent. The label’s logo will also change. Other names that might change include Fox News – soon to become Just Lyin’ – and CNN into Breaking News You Already Know.

Liverpool Football Club are the new Premier League Champions in Britain. An outstanding team with a coach who is a cross between Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford and as enigmatic as John Malkovich, they are simply stunning in the way they play the beautiful game. Way to go Jürgen Klopp – hero of the week.