Thursday, July 19, 2018

Brexit: Awkward attempt to make pigs fly

 
 Nor can it be declared a winner or a loser. Leavers could not answer these correctly; I doubt the Conservative Party could, either.


Last week, I complained to the BBC about their constant pushing forward of everyone's favourite Putin Puppet, Nigel Farage. Among the useless paragraphs they returned to me was this one:
 
"Although Nigel Farage has never been elected to the House of Commons, he has been an MEP since 1999, and was an influential party leader in UKIP for several years. While Mr Farage may be a controversial figure to some, he has undoubtedly had a significant impact on British and European politics over recent years. Mr Farage led his party’s calls for a referendum on British membership of the EU, and during the referendum campaign he was a key campaigner for Brexit, the winning side." 

Note, please, they avoided mentioning his party was the fascist front, UKIP. They made it sound as if he were a REAL politician from a real party anyone would want to be involved with.

The entire exercise, both complaining about their bias and their useless reply, was bad enough.


But then, I noticed what they actually said, little enough though it was. They said he was a "key campaigner for the winning side."

The winning side? I'm sorry, did I miss something? Wasn't this an ADVISORY referendum? In other words, they were seeking people's opinions. Is it possible to have a winning or losing OPINION?

No, it isn't. There is no such thing as a winning or losing opinion; opinions simply exist, in their own right, exercising influence on others only when those others choose to accept this or that opinion. Often, an opinion just sits idly, with no one except he or she who authored it choosing to be influenced by it. IMO, famous social media abbreviation for In My Opinion did not arise because people thought they were offering facts, which can be right or wrong, and one supposes winning or losing. They were offering goal-neutral OPINIONS.

On that basis alone, the UK government must abandon its activities based on the opinions we offered in the referendum, and certainly, no action can logically or ethically be initiated based on a bunch of opinions one way or the other. 

If they fail to understand the principle--that an opinion cannot, by definition, be an impetus to group action--then one would have to consider the referendum binding, even though it failed to meet the criteria for binding referenda, such as a certain percentage needed to carry the action, percentage of voters who must have participated, etc. 

If the referendum were binding, then the egregious and criminal activities of the two Leave campaigns would automatically cancel the results of the referendum, as I understand it, and it would need to be run again. Preferably minus Cambridge Analytica and, for the sake of all our dinners staying down, without the witless features of cigar-chomping, Putin-pandering, LePen-loving Nigel Farage being plastered all over the telly and the gormless info-tainment rags the Leavers prefer to read so they may continue to reside in the United Kingdom of LaLa.


Sadly, as the referendum was not binding, the electoral issues do not automatically negate the result. BUT....and it's the biggest but and I fail to understand why no court and not even the EU has pointed this out...no action can logically be taken and no change in the status of the UK vis a vis the EU can be predicated upon it.

In short, the limbo we are in because of the total incompetence of Mrs. May and all her mentally deficient and emotionally maladusted minions is actually nothing next to the limbo we are in because the Conservative Party, aided and abetted by a Labour Party that bears as much resemblance to a labour-supporting organization as I do to the Eiffel Tower, chose to treat a non-binding referendum as if it were binding. It is an untenable position, and frankly, they are too dense to know it. The fact that the things they are trying to construct are mutually exclusive...even that, they have failed to figure out.

Please, if there is a god, let him or her swoop in on wings of intellect and anoint the brow of one, single, charismatic, fully-functioning earthbound being who can get the realities through the heads of the Tory politicians who have made a meal out of creating chaos, and through the skulls of the Leavers who bought the lies and airy-fairy promises. And then perhaps the god will have given us an actual leader. 


I think I'll offer the traditional "thoughts and prayers":
Surely, great Spirit, you have some tidbits of Churchill left around that you could implant in a worthy human...if you can find one of those.  And if I may be so bold, could you ensure that you implant them in a brown, yellow or black UK subject? After the two-year beating we have endured from the Pharagist Phascist Phalanx, it would be lovely to have a little comic relief with our salvation.




Deus ex machina and all that.  PLEASE.


###



Copyright 2018 by Laura Harrison McBride







Why Trump got elected




Why Trump won:

Russian meddling was part of it. But there were also these factors:
  • The inability of so many Democrats to vote for a candidate who was very good, but not a saint. 
  • The inability of so many Democrats to get out the door and actually vote. 
  • The ill-advised entry, into so incredibly meaningful an election, of a man (Sanders) whose time had passed; ego transcends party. 
  • A sham candidate in the form of Jill Stein; had we understood the photo of her dinner engagement at Putin's table, would we have been so naive? Would even the greener than Greens been THAT naive?
And there was also the monkeying with the Diebold voting machines, those miracles of modern technology via which programmers can insert code to turn every 5th (or whatever seems right) vote for a Democrat into one for a Republican, and of course, to be tedious, the Russians hacking into the voting apparatus of several states. One of them, Ohio--a large state, a Democratic state--went to great lengths to convince people it could not be hacked. It could.

Better dead than Red has a new meaning

The following states went Red in 2016:  Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Four of those states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin, had voted Democratic in presidential elections since 1992. It amounted to 56 electoral votes for the Republican candidate. Ohio, which had been a true swing state during the time period--and is virtually always mentioned in relation to difficulties with its voting machines--went Red.

Solid blue states, since 1992, had an aggregate of 242 electoral votes; solid red states over the time period had only 102.


In a fairly conducted election, it would seem next to impossible for a Republican to win, especially after Mr. Obama had resurrected Bush's disastrous Republican economy and restored international faith in the United States.

But the Russian meddling, the built-in ability to be monkeyed with of the Diebold voting machines, and even Mr. Comey's disastrously timed resurrection of the Hillary's emails meme did not win the election for Donald J. Treason.


Journalists did.

Or maybe, more accurately, the organizations employing journalists did.

I would like to know how many viable and well-supported stories lay on the newsroom floor after an executive editor, compromised by a golf friendship, axed them.

Here are a few tales from the (very minor) trenches to help you understand how imperative it is to have not only a free press in the sense of no government oversight, but a press in which the owners get the fuck out of the way of the news operation. At every level, but even more so nationally.

The best and biggest example, maybe

I was working at a daily paper in a medium-sized southern city when the editor got word that a major employer was shutting down. It would do a great deal of economic harm; could I substantiate the rumor, he asked. I could. I had a friend whose father owned a business in the industry in question, so I called in a favor and asked. BUT the father asked his name not be revealed. Oh, shit. Well, of course I guaranteed his anonymity; that's what journalists do, even knowing that if it comes to a court matter, the journalist will spend some time in the pokey if ordered to reveal the name and he or she refuses.

The article I wrote, sans the name of the source, went to the publisher first for review; the story was that big.  I suspect he knew my source was bona fide; he knew that I had turned in the newspaper itself for circumventing employee health insurance requirements in the state, and so I would hardly be afraid to publish based on information the source of which I could not reveal. Sure, I would risk jail; that's the job. But he nixed it. Why? Because the owner of the business in question was one of the publisher's golfing buddies.

When I had begun working there three years earlier, during week two, a local business had tried to dictate what I was going to write. I said no, and walked out of the interview. By the time I got back to the paper--a matter of possibly 6 minutes--the executive editor was at the door so he could tell me he had told the business to go cut bait. It was a real paper. So I stayed. 


But it was only real to the level of the executive editor; the publisher was the worst kind of sycophant, a good ole boy who would withhold the truth, as damaging as it was, for a round of golf.

I quit shortly after that.

Southern States


I withheld the name of the paper above because it still exists although it has changed ownership, and I have friends still working there, and it is not my place to put anyone there in a bind.

Southern States is a southern states agricultural supply company that also still exists, but it has closed down its magazine, Cooperative Farmer, and all the people I knew are well out of it, as far as I know.

In the 90s, for a scant year, I was the editor of Cooperative Farmer, a slick-ish thing that went to all the coop's members, which meant virtually any producing farm in nine southern states. My experience in ag was limited to riding, training and showing hunter-jumper horses, a very small part of their business, but I could write and edit and wasn't afraid to ask the hard questions, even of the 'used car salesmen' of ag, the prize beef farmers. So Southern States was happy to hire me. At least, the upper management was, the vp of communications to be precise.



I had been there a few months when the publisher asked me to get the goods on an organization called American Farmland Trust (AFT). So I did. It was supported by Rockefellers, who claimed to be farmers; well, they do own millions of acres of land in New York State and elsewhere, raising prize (which is to say, not food) cattle (see above). And by a slew of other people who really had nothing to do with agriculture. It has been 25 years since I wrote that article, so you'll excuse me if I don't recall all of them, nor want to spend time doing all that research again.

Anyway, my colleagues in the ag press were quite excited about my project; all of them loathed American Farmland Trust for what it was doing not only to land-use planning but to the viability of farmland in the US. American Farmland Trust, to this day, claims that it uses "conservation easements" to save farmland from being turned into housing estates. It makes payments to farmers in this regard; the money comes not from the monied few, of course, but from governmental sources. That is, the group of rich people who want to ensure the value of THEIR land use our tax dollars to manage farms and farmers in perpetuity, as that's what the easements require; perpetuity. AFT basically inserts itself, via those eternally binding easements, into local politics, without portfolio if you get the point. And they limit what sovereign farmers can do with their land from that point forward.

Sure, it looks good on paper; who doesn't want food and open landscapes and stuff? But it is actually an insidious way for the one percent to gain control of the only real form of wealth the rest of the nation has: land. 



Plus, every acre of farmland held FOREVER and unsaleable under a binding, irrevocable easement makes the rich folks' own acreage that much more valuable. Do this often enough, and you'll end up with nothing but virtual tenant farmers on land owned by the swells; in short, serfdom.
 
If you want to know where the few wealthy people of ATF are, click here. I can tell you that The Plains, Va, and Wilton, Ct. have nothing nothing like farmland as we know it. The Plains is all toney horse farms; Wilton is literally a suburb of New Haven with huge houses on large wooded parcels and not a stalk of rhubarb in sight. NY, NY has no farms; Boston has no farms, D.C. has no farms. Chevy Chase, MD, has no farms. San Francisco and Cincinnati have no farms. Aiken, SC, has mainly the same sort of toney horse farms as The Plains, Va.


What was AFT doing then? It was locking up farmland that was distressed, issuing leases that would save the farmer from bankruptcy, but abrogate forever his right to use the land as he saw fit, and also put it out of reach of development. 

That's a good thing, you say. Well, it can be. But when deciding which farms need to labour in perpetuity under an easement, it would be nice to have local government, the agricultural community, and the local community involved. Instead, via its national governmental connections and its enmeshment with a small group of wealthy individuals in almost every state, it is determining agricultural policy via the back door. So no. Just no.


I wrote an extremely well-supported article. After 6 weeks of research, I spent most of a Sunday night in the office, a sterile high-rise west of Richmond, perfecting it. It HAD to be perfect; it was incendiary.

And then the publisher made changes. The man couldn't edit to begin with, but what he did to that was horrific. He turned my very well-supported article (I even had quotes about the downside potential from a top Richmond Merrill Lynch broker) into a laudatory exercise about the holier-than-all-of us American Farmland Trust.



We had knockdowns about it. "It's not going out with my byline on it the way you've screwed it up," I yelled. He yelled that Cooperative Farmer never pulled a byline. And back and forth we went.

Of course, it went out with my byline on it and I fielded calls for the two weeks until my resignation notice was completed from ag press colleagues who were very, very disappointed in me.




Those are just two examples. I have literally a dozen more, from my own career...and, as noted, it was a minor one in secondary markets in the US or as a freelancer for US national publications. At no time did I gain any national press for myself. I just did the job, and, once, tried to teach it to another...and that is the story I will leave you with.




How bad are those boonies journalism schools, anyway?

One summer, my husband (also a freelancer) had more work than we could handle. So we hired an au pair, a college student from the Midwest who was majoring in journalism. We figured she could help with the house and the guests and the interviewees and also with the typing, filing, and making phone calls for appointments.

Halfway through the summer, I decided she could interview someone for a very small article about a tech subject. She knew we were hot after a particular new development, but the person she was interviewing was not likely to be involved. I thought. So it seemed safe.



When she was finished and I was debriefing her, she said, "Mrs. X mentioned that development you told me about, but she said her remarks had to be off the record. So I told her not to tell me."


You WHAT? I screamed.

"My professor said if someone said it was off the record, just don't let them tell you. Otherwise it was unethical."

"He's a moron," I said, or something to that effect. And then I explained what one does with off-the-record remarks. One remembers them, and then one verifies them, without revealing the source, via other means. It's called investigative reporting. It is not unethical, as long as you don't reveal where you heard the rumor.

I don't know if the young woman got the message; she ended up going to law school, and last I heard, she was a federal judge in the upper Midwest. Now that's a scary thought.




How Trump got elected

And that, friends and enemies, is how Trump got elected. Journalism had long since descended to a place where the owners and publishers are more interested in maintaining relations with their golf buddies than with providing essential information for readers. Most journalists who care about the profession have left, as far as I can tell. And there is, therefore, some reason to believe the Demented Orange Guttersnipe when he claims Fake News; it hasn't been really real since Midwestern colleges dumbed down and the New York Times hired Jayson Blair without checking his credentials.

You only get real news when management steps back and gives journalists not only free rein, but support and appreciation, for doing the essential public service of any democracy: providing accurate, timely information about wool about to be pulled over the public's eyes, about things that will hurt them, about things that will make them less free and limit their choices to those made for them by the monied class.


So now you know.

Where's Superman when you need him? Or even Clark Kent?



-30-

Copyright 2018 by Laura Harrison McBride

 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Factory of the Poor; Fascism


Two poor men and their dog. So, three poor sentient beings. And most people with money to spare walk by without helping.



Fascists hate poor people. However, in the usual illogic of people who have lost their souls, fascists create poverty,  which creates poor people.

Since I hate the fact of poverty for anyone, it is logical, then, to loathe those who create poverty for others while storing up untold riches--riches well beyond need--for themselves, that is, fascists.

I hate fascists with all my heart, with all the burning fury of someone who knew people who had been in "the camps" and had the tattoos on their forearms--people who had borne the worst humanity can deliver, and came out of it alive and productive, and often even happy. No one needs to achieve happiness by surviving fascists. 


I hate the fact that fascists create poor people.

Their greed kills off investment in anything except the baubles of civilization--paintings, gold--that they hoard. By the way, this, too, is a simplification. I'm sure there are rich people who are not, in fact, fascists. But since most rich people these days act like fascists, I'm going to consider them, for the sake of argument, to be the same.

I hate the fact that there are those who are silent, allowing the fascists to think that hating actual poor people is a fine thing for any human to do. 

I hate those who prefer being one of the fascists to being one of the poor. As Jesus said, the poor shall inherit the earth, but the fascists don't believe it.

If they deal with that theme at all, fascists think that the poor inheriting the earth means the poor should be buried in the earth well before time, and they do their best to make that happen.

While they will never face it, fascists will find themselves in the boneyard with the rest of us. They think they can avoid that by ensuring that others get there first, by denying health care to the poor, for example, hoping that sacrificing the poor will grant the fascists some sort of cockamamie eternal life.



I hate the fact that there are poor people in a world so abundant that it could feed, house, clothe and provide education for all the people on it, except for the interference of fascists.
I use the term fascist inclusively, by the way. I mean actual fascists, like Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. But I also mean fascist supporters like the Trumpanzees and Brexiteers. And I mean anyone who believes the following:

1. They are in any way better than anyone else.
2  They are willing to have a draconian government if only it will choose them as the "good" people and poor people or foreigners as the "bad" people. (You can see the problem here; we will all be foreigners if we leave the nation in which we were born, and therefore would have to hate ourselves if we chose to cross a border to live. Indeed, Boris Johnson, penultimate fool, is a foreigner in his own chosen country as he was born in the United States. The ultimate fool? Trump, of course.)
3. Killing another person for any reason is justifiable.
4. Some skin colors mean a person is smart, while others mean a person is stupid. (An exception: Orange-skinned people, so rare in human history that I can think of only one orange-skinned person, are unalterably and always stupid.)
5. They believe they are self-made as an excuse for not sharing with others. Did they have free public education, ride buses, take out a mortgage? They are not self-made; they are made the way the rest of society is made, by their own efforts and by the combined efforts of others in which they share although they won't admit it. No one built his or her own railroad; no one has a personal supermarket. EVERYTHING is group effort.





I'm sure I'm forgetting some of the earmarks of a fascist, but they will always display all or most of the above. So no matter.

What does matter is that I hate that there are poor people. I hate that so much that, from every book I sell in future, I will put aside ten percent and give it to organizations that help poor people. I will put aside another ten percent to help animals.

If I begin to make real money, then I will raise the donation. When I can live as I do now and still afford to give away 50 percent, then I will raise it to fifty percent, split between poor people and animals. And so on along the way. If I die tomorrow, well...at least the RSPCA will get a boost via my will.



I have never understood how rich people could hate poor people when--assuming that they really do hate poor people--the easy solution is to help people not be poor. Voila!  No reason for hatred. I have understood even less how those who are in or close to poverty can equally hate poor people, which they do by supporting such organizations as the Republican Party (GOP) in the US and the Conservative Party (Tories) in the UK.  Maybe they think wealth will rub off.



It won't. The ONLY thing rich fascists are good at is taking everyone else's money and making it disappear into a black hole. Trickle down? That theory was developed by the early GOP fascists for the senile Ronald Reagan, America's favorite clown, to popularize.


It is no more true than the idea of a prosperous Brexit, or a stupid astronaut, or a humane Trump or a strong and stable May.

I hate the fact that there are poor people. I am going to do everything in my power to ensure there are fewer than there are now, and that there are a lot fewer fascists, as well.


Copyright 2018 by Laura Harrison McBride

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ireland, Despite it All



View from the tower of Dunguaire Castle, outside Galway, Ireland. (Photo by S.P. Tiley)
We are going to Donegal in about six weeks. Next door, Ulster--N.I.--is beginning to see the same sort of shitty partisan violence fostered by the thankfully late Ian Paisley; this time it is fostered by Brexit and by the unfortunately not late son of Ian Paisley.

We will go anyway. I went to Donegal many times during the Troubles that ended with the Good Friday Agreement. I drove through Derry, once complete with a British soldier getting into the car, a rental, with me to find the hood/bonnet release I couldn't locate. Yes, his submachine gun came with him. A bit scary.
 
If one didn't remain in Derry, one would be fine. One didn't leave a rental car unattended in NI at that time: either the Provos or the Orangemen would blow it up. So one just drove straight through.

Will I drive through it this time, even if we still have the French tags on our car (they are due to be replaced with UK ones soon, but I can't recall exactly when). 
 
During all those early trips, I was on assignment for US magazines, and being hosted/protected by the Irish Development Agency and Bord Failte, the tourist board. Plus, I was young and adventurous, the last pre-Good Friday Agreement trip through N.I. having happened when I was only 40. By the time of our 2006 trip, our honeymoon, the only difference between N.I. and Ireland was that, as one crossed the border on a main road, the road signs were different.

I do have a couple of assignments about Ireland as it happens, and the website that is paying me likes N.I. included, as the editors are  of the United Ireland persuasion, as am I. Maybe the Brexit threat will make it unite at last; maybe it will blow it up again. Damned if I know.
The author, huddled in the wind, atop Dunguaire Castle, Galway, Ireland c. 2006. (Photo by SP Tiley)
But one thing is certain: If we leave the UK again over Brexit, it will be to Ireland. It might even be to Donegal, which has the world's leakiest border with another sovereign state, N.I. (Although Ireland officially views it as an unfortunately temporarily separated part of itself, as do I.) We might choose Galway, though, because of the art and intellectual tone of that city, a city I have always loved anyway.
 
Lake in Connemara, near Kylemore Abbey. (Photo by S.P. Tiley)



I really need to return to my Irish roots. I think I've spent too long amongst the descendants of Oliver Cromwell, he who hung Irish Catholic heads on spikes in Drogheda to discourage the Irish from living as they liked in their own country. It still gives me chills to drive by the cathedral there, and it was in 1978 that I saw it the first time.

Simon was quite certain, before he went to Ireland on our honeymoon, that he'd be treated badly by the Irish. He wasn't. I knew he wouldn't be: I knew the Irish.

Now? Even on that score, I don't know. My relatives, whom we will see in Donegal, will be nice to him. The rest? I really don't know. I suspect they will be as they always have been, philosophical about things and people until shown the nature of the beast. They have 800 years of putting up with English idiocy and viciousness and somehow shrugging it off for nice people and taking it to the mat for stinkers. Simon is NOT a stinker.

The rest of the British? I wouldn't ask that question of me this morning: I'm not the least bit amused that the deplorable Tory horde has, through its greed and soul-deadness, caused the once and possibly future Troubles to rise again.

Copyright 2018, Laura Harrison McBride

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hard Comfort, Long Earned

Hard Comfort, Long Earned



Watercolour sketch, Portmellon, UK, after a storm (C. LH McBride 2012)

The rain beat down as if it had nowhere else to be
but had to be somewhere,
and soon. A gully washer,
the Americans might have called it.
I called it a blessed cleansing
of a soul too full of sadness,
grief, strife.

I was happy to hear the rain.

Its pounding for an hour was
the best hour of a long,
cold, wet, wintry summer. It turned me.
Dragged me away
from long days of the past year
when my old dog died, an
old wound opened and kept me
hoping to cure it
with potions and lotions the entire twelvemonth,
my old horse—
my dear old beloved and forever missed
friend and partner, the magnificent beast who was the most
beautiful animal I have ever seen—
leant over on some
hay bales, or so his caretaker told me,
and died. He was old,
my horse, but never old enough. It had been a long
while since I'd visited him in his retirement.
He lived long,
and well, and for that
I am glad. He lives, my horse. Every
stride is etched into my mind and body. His smell,
so different from most horses' smells. Oh, yes,
we all say that. But
really, in this case,
true.
Ask anyone.

The rain pounding down, hard enough
to soak life into me again, though
I didn't go out into it. It was midnight. I was
not dressed. I slept
as the rain began to taper off,
woke later as the room got close and stuffy,
opened the window wider,
slept again.

That's how it goes these days. A little sleep,
a wakening, a
sip of water,
half a cookie, a trip to the bathroom. A dose
of Rescue Remedy to give me comfort. Or
any combination of those activities. Sometimes
a heartfelt mini-prayer:
Give it to God and go to sleep.
Always works. First one that
has.

I don't believe in God, not that wrathful,
authoritarian Xtian one, anyhow.

I never slept well, but never this badly. I was too busy,
too needful of sleep to support the enormous
raft of tasks it took me to keep my soul
and my horse's together. Less
dire this past decade, after a late third marriage to,
possibly,
my soul mate.
No matter. We are mated, for good or ill. For
good, I hope, in both senses of the word.
He is.
I must be.
He is a good man.

Age creeps up on one mainly in the night, when thoughts
turn to even greater age and the what-ifs arrive unbidden
in a mind softened by a nightmare, or the snoring of a mate,
or the rummaging of the spoiled dog in the bed, or by the
bladder. It isn't fear of death that makes old folks sleep badly;
it is the remembered fears of earlier life, anticipatory fear of
living longer than one can afford, physically, mentally, financially.

But rain, rain soothes. Rain keeps one in the knowledge of love
of life. It is a presence, not a void like silent sunshine. It bestows
blessings on all it touches, all who hear it, all who breathe in
its ozone scent. I think I shall hope it rains at the moment of my death,
hard. It is the only sound I wish to hear except my husband's voice
wishing me well and loving me still.

Copyright 2017 by Laura Harrison McBride

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Bagels

 
This is a proper plain NEW YORK bagel. Smooth, shiny, small and dense. You split it sideways, put each half into toaster, remove when ready, spread butter on each half and cream cheese on each half. You DO NOT mash them together like a sandwich. Are you crazy? If you've got loose fillings, you'll pull half of them out if your teeth are even sharp enough to handle both sides of a NEW YORK bagel at once.
I think I need to bitch about bagels. At Waitrose, my favorite UK supermarket, we can buy a bag of things the size of a dinner plate interestingly called New York Bagels. They come in bags of six.

If you drop a bag of six New York bagels on your foot, you'd better be wearing shoes or you might break a toe. New York bagels are small, dense and have a hard chewy-glossy shell. In fact, since the beginning of recorded time, mothers in New York City have provided their children who are losing teeth with a bagel for breakfast at the appropriate moment. Guaranteed, that loose tooth ends up in the bagel, no muss, no fuss.

If you drop the UK faux-New York Bagels on your toe, you won't feel a thing. Nor can you get your kids to painlessly yank out their own loose baby teeth with one.

Aside from those obvious failings, there's also the issue of getting UK bagels toasted. First, you have to get them into the toaster which, if it is a UK toaster, will not handle half a bagel per slot unless you squush them a bit. Then they won't pop up, and you'll need tongs to save your fingers. Really, they should be too dense to squush, but I repeat myself.

In the UK, please make sure you turn off the outlet into which your toaster is plugged before sticking tongs in there, or you might never get to taste those bagels. Unlike like US electricity which could give you a tingle if you had wet hands or something, UK socket juice can fry you. Don't believe me? Electricity in Ireland is the same. Watch the episode of Ballykissangel in which the Assumpta Fitzgerald character dies checking a fuse, and you'll get the picture.

Anyway, you've finally got the bagel halves out, and now you need to add butter and a schmear.
 
Properly schmeared bagel.

Butter, on a bagel, should not soak in much, but rather melt down over the sides of the glossy crust. Here, it soaks in, unfortunately, because it interferes with the schmear.. Here, when you've got your spatula nicely loaded with cream cheese--the schmear--it won't leave the spatula in anything like a smooth ribbon around the circumference of the half bagel. You end up, several minutes later as the bagel is cooling down--with lumps of cream cheese here and there around the circumference of the so-called bagel, which is now almost as cold as before you manhandled it into the toaster.* 

So you sigh, pick up your cup of coffee and so-called bagel, and go out to the greenhouse to enjoy the view of Dartmoor, the intermittent sunshine, the tiny wrens at the bird feeder and the song of birds in the hedge.

It's all good.

But I really did have to bitch about ersatz bagels. I'm a native New Yorker, after all.
A bagel with some topping or other, but being eaten properly, each side equally addressed, and addressed separately.
A travesty. If this were a real bagel, you couldn't eat it without risking your teeth. But it isn't a real bagel; far too many air holes and that crust doesn't look chewy to me.
* I've written about our toaster wars before; I think we are now on UK toaster number 7, the previous six having proved inadequate. The current one is the cheapest of the lot, but never fear, I am planning our final lifetime toaster purchase soon, a 125 quid--that's about 170 dollars--Dualit that someone promised me will be great.
Copyright 2018 by Laura Harrison McBride

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Threats, threats and more threats

FB is threatening me that they'll take my McBride blog down if I don't post soon. I might want it, although I've given up on politics. The lines in the sand are drawn; until some feckless Republican jumps that sinking ship and gets rid of Trump, or some gormless Tory (or even semi-intelligent Labourite) grows a pair, admits Brexit is shite, and turns the whole movement on its ear, yapping is just tossing hot air around.

Still, I might want that page someday. So I decided to post something. But to do that, I had to post on my real McBride's Bar & Grill blog. But, as noted, I am sick of politics. So I edited a poem I wrote a long time ago, and decided, what the hell? I'll just post it on McBride's Bar & Grill. So here it is.

Take it with you


La Cite, Carcassonne, France; entrance bridge (Photo SP Tiley)


You can't take it with you, they say, about what you acquire in life. But you can, you can take it by leaving it behind.
Here's what I mean. Today I noticed the caps on two entry barriers at a golf course in Cornwall had roofs that looked just like the roofs on the towers at Carcassonne, ancient French city, now a tourist destination. (Notice, I did not say trap. But only because it has lots of good cafes. And you can enjoy it without paying to see the dungeons, which are probably creepy anyway.) So, anyway....
Obviously, the golf course designer had been to Carcassonne. When I lived in the US, there was a housing estate near Dulles Airport called Exeter; we passed Exeter, UK, on every trip back and forth. So, someone thought enough of Exeter to take the name to the US.
Oh, sure. We all know New York City was once New Amsterdam, both times named after Old World places. There's a Syracuse, NY, and  Rome, GA. And Plymouth, MA, is named for the port city in the UK where I have my hair done.
It's common, you see, to drag names of places around. Have you done it? Have you, for example, named your house after a place you love? We name houses in the UK: I named ours in Maryland, put it on the stationary and all and a plaque on the house.
So what's my house named here? The Sycamores. We only have one. Sycamore, that is. The name came with the house. I can change it for 40 quid. To what? Key West, or maybe Key West East, LOL. Or Bunbeg after my ancestral home in Donegal. Or maybe Heathfield, as Simon was born in that location. Or we could call it something plain vanilla, like Sunnycroft, very popular in rainy Cornwall. I think every town has at least one. 
Rainycroft doesn't really sound too good.

Copyright 2018 by Laura Harrison McBride

Saturday, April 28, 2018

No honor among thieves

Was justice blind in the Cosby case? I doubt it. The plaintiff had already profited from her allegations, and the evidence was 14 years old and never more than circumstantial, or worse, a "he said/she said." This case, unprovable from the start, should never have come to court the first time (ending in a mistrial), never mind a second time after a movement had been founded surrounding it. Sometimes, blind justice happens outside the courtroom, not within it

 
"The defense’s star witness was a veteran academic adviser at Temple {University} who said Ms. Constand had confided to her in 2004 that she could make money by falsely claiming she had been molested by a prominent person. Mr. Cosby paid Ms. Constand $3.38 million in 2006 as part of the confidential financial settlement of a lawsuit she had brought against him after prosecutors originally declined to bring charges." (New York Times.)

I haven't blogged in a couple of months. I've been painting. But this is, to me, a prime example of several varieties of bullshit. Indeed, Constand got a ton of money from Mr. Cosby more than a decade ago; so what did she want? Money, or redress of what she claimed was a sexual assault? Was it? Who was the witness? Was there a rape kit? What the hell constitutes sexual assault? A guy putting his arm around someone at a party when he's a bit tipsy? Saying lewd things? Ogling her boobs? What, exactly? There's rape--which is both provable to have happened and, with DNA, also who done it--and then there's the always fraught non-sexual relations between men and women, with men always wanting more and (most) women wanting to give less, or nothing. As my stepfather used to say, "Men have sex with whomever they can; women have sex with whomever they want." In short, the yay or nay resides with the woman (except in forcible rape when the woman is usually incapacitated by hand, gun, knife, etc.), period.

As far as I'm concerned, if you were NOT forcibly raped--which is a crime of violence, not sex--then you didn't say No well enough. Men are like toddlers in this; they'll try it, and it's up to "Mommy" to say no loud and clear.

As for the drug component, if you accept drugs of any kind from someone not your doctor nor a member of your family, or that don't come in a bottle clearly marked Aspirin or Tylenol if you're accepting them from someone neither medical nor family, you're as asshole. Especially if he's a man and you're a woman and you're alone with him in his house or hotel room. Please see my stepfather's remark, above. And if you DO intend to claim drugs were involved, then you'd better get your ass to the ER for a rape kit and some blood testing or the drug part of it is also hearsay.

My conclusion? Who the hell knows what Cosby did or didn't do, this time or any other time? Absent a rape kit, it's all hearsay. All of it. This woman has already profited mightily from her claim--and celebrities will pay people off just to keep accusers from ruining their careers. But that doesn't mean Cosby did it; it just means he wanted her to shut up about whatever happened. If anything happened. Even if it was her imagination. And she agreed. For a price. And because, at the time, the Me,Too movement--railroading every man into being a Caspar Milquetoast except on the occasions a woman wanst them to be a Tarzan--had not yet infected the already problematical relations between men and women.

Frankly, I think it's dumb to pay accusers off. Let them squawk. Let it go to court in a timely manner when memories, which change over time, might be somewhat closer to reality, IF the public prosecutor believes there is a case to answer.

The Goldmans sued OJ, too, and won. But there is a difference between that and this. Constand sued Cosby BEFORE and in the absence of any criminal court case...and got paid handsomely. The Goldmans sued after a court case with tons of physical evidence that should have been won was lost. I think that Constand's conduct alone casts doubt on what she's saying being true; she took the money, and then agitated for punishment for a case that could never possibly be more than circumstantial and could only be based on hearsay BECAUSE THERE WAS NO RAPE KIT. If she was that disturbed, if there was sexual contact with a man she apparently knew in other contexts, then she needed to get her ass to the ER for tests. End of story. That she didn't says lots to me. Because she feared the fame and notoriety? She certainly doesn't seem to mind it now. Someone is not telling the truth. Maybe neither of them is telling the whole truth. But what stinks to high heaven to me is that she took the money, and STILL went after the person who paid to hush her. Tacky, at best. Certainly not admirable.

I guess it is true, then; there is no honor among thieves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Why is May determined on a hard Brexit? She doesn't fancy jail time.

Nice poster, except it explains Theresa May all too well. Scared people are dangerous people.


For the moment, the UK is still part of the EU.

And that is a BIG problem for those who used Cambridge Analytica--Nigel Farage and his puppeteers Arron Banks and Vladimir Putin, but also for Theresa May. Farage and Banks used CA to hijack the much-too-unspecific "advisory" referendum regarding the UK's membership in the EU. And May was one of their premier dupes.

However, the EU now knows about Farage and Co. deceit, their likely collusion with Russia, and the obscenely dirty tricks developed and played by Farage and Cambridge Analytica to trick UK citizens into voting for poverty and misery.  

Dirty tricks on a massive scale

CA portrayed the EU to gullible UK voters as "Big Brother," an intrusive outsider. Their lies and tricks convinced less savvy Brits that the EU runs the UK. In fact, when the referendum arose, the UK more or less ran the EU, because we got EVERYTHING we ever asked the EU Parliament for. In 40 years, UK requests for exceptions were turned down less than a handful of times.

The Evil Cabal convinced some voters that Turkey would soon be an EU member state, when its human rights record is so abysmal, probably China would have a hard time accepting them.  It was a total lie.

They harped on UK dues funding recovery from economic disasters in other EU nations, such as Greece and Ireland; they forgot to mention both that those nations receiving loans were paying them back or already had, AND that the purpose of associations like the EU are for the purpose of helping each other. As they say, what goes around comes around. 

They also forgot to mention that the EU has paid for more improvements in Cornwall--not to mention farm and fishing subsidies--than the UK government.

You guessed it:  Big Brother is not the EU. Big Brother is Vladimir Putin, who hijacked Russia's nascent free government after the USSR fell, who is Trump's hero and puppeteer (all evidence isn't in yet, but enough to make a prima facie case), and who, if you had been watching, showed his hand before the referendum with his frequent, ominous submarine patrols in the Channel.


Too bad the UK doesn't have a RICO* law

There can be no question about collusion between Farage and Putin. Farage claims he has never been to Russia. So what? MOST traitors are careful to keep their illicit affiliations unknown, hence why spies have handlers. Whether May was privy to it at the time, or found out only recently how beholden she is to lies shopped by CA at the urging of Farage/Putin, she is complicit now. If she fails to push Brexit through, the Conservative Party is finished. If she fails, she is finished.

If she does push Brexit through, I suspect the Conservative Party will be in steep decline, or disbanded. Leavers without a job won't favour the party with goodwill, or with votes.

But now May is pressed by yet another reason she must push Brexit through. As long as the UK remains in the EU, it will be subject to any sanctions that the EU feels appropriate for engaging in anti-democratic dirty tricks on a scale that makes the 350 million quid signs on buses seem amateurish. Next to the direct, constant, targeted psychological ops the Leave campaign, with Cambridge Analytica's mining of Facebook for subscribers' preferences, obvious bus signs were just a bit of icing on that Devil's Food Cake. She MUST get the UK out of the EU to avoid being punished, one way or another, for being complicit with crooks in engineering the downfall of the UK via its exit from the EU.

I doubt May has anywhere to hide. Yesterday, the EU's most cogent voice, Guy Verhofstadt, guaranteed that the Pandora's box of sins by Cambridge Analytica will be cracked open by the EU, and the demonic maneuvers of May, Farage, and the band of other thinly veiled fascists now controlling the Conservative Party brought to light. He called it an "absolute scandal." He is not going to give it a free pass.



Knowledge dawns slowly

There is overwhelming evidence that at least half of the Leavers now know they were duped, and that their nation is being ruined; many have volubly decided they'd rather Remain. May has steadfastly ignored this sea change, and the possible exposure of Cambridge Analytica's dirty deeds, now come to pass, is why.

May must not get away with it. The misdeeds of Cambridge Analytica must rout the Tories, from buffoons like Boris Johnson to bagmen like David Davis to the Prime Minister herself. They will all be shown to be as fascist and greedy and useless as the slimy hanger-on they followed down the path to doom, Nigel Farage, Putin's bootlicker. 

I just hope the outing of a nest of cowards and traitors has not been left too late.

* Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

Coryright 2018 by Laura Harrison McBride


 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Death by peanut butter: Trump replaces nutrition with corruption. Of course.


Nameless low-end, low-nutrition "surplus" foods offered via a Trump Food Box, the execrable program to be administered by chicken man, Sonny Perdue as USDA chief. The program will impair the health of recipients, and damage local farmers' income as many farm stands DO accept SNAP payments for fresh foods.

Mr. Trump, as part of your punishment for being the least intelligent US president ever, the greediest and most heartless, here is what I suggest: When you are convicted of your corruption and your treasonous acts, that you be required to eat all your meals until the moment of your death from a USDA food box. Alone. In your cell. With no phone.

If a USDA food box is good enough for struggling people just trying to get along, it's good enough for a bloated bit of thoroughly degraded human DNA, a puppet whose strings are pulled by an equally despicable ex-KGB agent, masquerading as president of the United States.

Trump may well be able to force this inhumane and corruption-ready plan on Congress and thus on an already suffering US population. I wouldn't doubt it, his (not our) Secretary of Agriculture being Sonny, the useless offspring of chicken man Frank Perdue, and well able to lie with a straight face. I'm sure, with his underpaid workers and virtually no benefits for either workers or product--the battery chickens of the Delmarva Peninsula are unacceptable in the EU, for example, because they are so likely to be substandard and full of bacteria--Perdue is precisely the person you want overseeing a cynically orchestrated dilution of SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program). SNAP is a program that was designed, during the humane era pre-Trump, to ensure at least  minimal health for Americans experiencing poverty until they can regain a modest measure of American wealth. It has done so for fifty years or so; naturally, proto-Trumpanzees have long decried the program because they believe it makes people lazy (just the opposite, actually, because they have energy) and greedy (minimal, as it is a paper program administered centrally, not a hand-delivery program to be used as a sinecure by every witless corrupt local official who can get his or her hand into the food box graft conveyor belt.)

According to an MSN report, "Major agricultural and food lobby groups refrained from comment, while one anti-hunger group was alarmed at the proposal."

I was alarmed. And a lot more than just I and the anti-hunger group should be alarmed. This ludicrous crawl back into Victorian paternalism mode should alarm those receiving benefits, those concerned about those receiving benefits, and anyone who cares about the economy of the United States.
Typical selection of fresh foods and protein bought with SNAP coupons

The food stamp (SNAP) program allows beneficiaries to choose the foods they believe will best keep them healthy. Of course not everyone knows as much about nutrition as a nutritionist, or even possibly an upper-income homemaker. But assuredly, most know nutrition better than Donald J. Trump, consumer of well-done beef, chemical-laced soft drinks, and little else. Most know that a diet of peanut butter and canned vegetables--with not a fresh bit of nutrition in sight--will not keep people healthy. Indeed, it will lead to overuse of the already strained--no, I meant to say absent--health care system in the US.

If you wanted to kill off the poor more quickly than you already are, Mr. Trump, I cannot think of a better way to do it than this.

The MSN report concluded:


The plan would replace a system that’s working "with a Rube-Goldberg designed system of commodity distribution via food boxes that will be administratively costly, inefficient, stigmatizing, and prone to failure," Jim Weill, president of the Washington-based Food Research & Action Center, said in a statement.

It will be corruption at its finest, rivaling any OTHER banana republic for depth and breadth. Note, I said any other banana republic and that's exactly what I meant. It will cost a fortune, with most of the dollars siphoned off in paying overseers for the minimum-wage workers distributing food boxes, a far cry from the clean, well-paid and relatively few administrative tasks required for food stamps. It will not only stigmatize the poor; it will kill them.

It will also harm local farmers, whose farm stands can accept food stamp (SNAP) payments, and often do, as it helps them out with a little extra cash, and helps those using SNAP to eat fresh foods.

After all this, I have only two questions:

When is the US going to rise up en masse against the monster in the White House?

And why did MSN put the two most cogent bits, used above, at the very end of its article?

###

Friday, January 19, 2018

So simple, even a Trumpanzee can understand it


Armed guard at Russian prison
Bad people sometimes get elected to office. People often differ on what constitutes a bad person.

Generally speaking, most agree that bad people tell lies and/or harm other people and/or steal things that belong to others.

Donald J. Trump has done all three, probably within the last ten minutes. No, almost certainly within the last ten minutes. How do I know? Because every word he utters and every action he takes shows that he intends to wreck the United States government and replace it with an unelected regime with power concentrated in his hands and subject to his every whim.

How do I know this? Most recently, because of his Fake News awards.

In that one execrable act, Donald J. Trump made it clear that the only truth is his--and considering he has been found to have lied more than 2000 times in less than a year--that alone is frightening. If you had spoken as many lies in the past year, do you think your family would still speak to you, your boss keep you employed, and the cops fail to come for you over one or another of those lies?That's 5.47 lies per day. And that's only the ones that were uttered in public and could be fact-checked. 

So there is no truth in Donald J. Trump.

Nor was there any in Adolph Hitler.

Hitler wanted to punish someone for the fact that he was a lousy artist and was refused entry to art school in Austria. He decided to punish someone for that slight to the despicable throwback's tiny ego; Jews would do for a start as they were identifiable, passive and generally wealthier than the rest of the population; their wealth came from the fact that, during the Middle Ages, most of Europe prohibited them from any profession except money-lending. This didn't seem to penetrate Hitler's screwed-on sideways brain.

Just so in the US. It escapes the shallow mentality of Donald J. Trump that identifiable immigrants perform most of the tasks Americans refuse to do--lawn care, garbage pick up, practical nursing and the like. The fact that he employs dozens of immigrants at his hotels to do such jobs makes no impression on his addled brain. And certainly none on his greedy, vicious soul.

Allowing a president to lie to you with impunity is the same thing--the very same thing--as giving him permission to do anything he wants to you. And he has already begun.
  

Immigration


Where do you think the exportations will stop? ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has already sundered intact families that contribute taxes and more to US life. Do you think they might deport your doctor if they decide maybe his parents documents were not in order? What about your nephew's wife who came on a student visa and married your nephew before it ran out? And had kids.

Health care

Do you think he will stop at telling you--as he did throughout his scurrilous campaign--that he will give you the BEST health care in the world, and then dump millions off the minimal system in place, once again letting for-profit insurance companies decide if YOU live or die. You think it is decided only for those too poor to buy insurance? Think again. With the insurance companies running things again, it could be YOUR spouse denied life-saving medicines because the cut-off age--they decide--is 60 and your spouse is 61. Tough, right?  

Taxes

If you are truly an evil Trumpanzee, that's what you'll say. Otherwise, perhaps you will begin to see how purposefully making life worse for one American actually makes it worse, both potentially and in fact, for all. You cannot diminish the life of one ordinary person without the domino effect diminishing all. 

Example: Your spouse dies; your children grieve, then they begin to act out, drop out, have drug problems. You get sick from stress.  And through it all, you get no help from the government you pay for because your president has decided you are worthless. Yes, YOU. He told you that you were worthless--except as an expendable workhorse for the wealthy--by shifting more of your paycheck to his buddies through taxes, and by vacationing through one-third of the year on your tax monies.  


The USSR had only two news outlets, Tass and Izvestia. Both were owned by the government and no others permitted. Guess who protected citizens from government excess? No one.


Fake News, Real problem

By his Fake News awards, Donald J. Trump has just told you the following truths, all the while lying out of both sides of his little rosebud lips:

The legal system is about to be turned into a slave for his domination desires, and
There will be nothing you can do about it.

The judicial system is in place not only to punish the wicked but to save the good. You probably think you are good; maybe you are. When there are no watchdogs, such as news media, to reveal when the judicial system goes wrong--when cops overstep, when judges are crooked, when for-profit incarceration such as owned by the current Attorney General destroys young lives for a buck--you are as likely as anyone--good or bad--to be abused by the system.

The news media--the actual news media, broadcast, print and internet--exists to keep government honest, and not the other way around. 

If government tells you it is keeping the news media honest--as Trump is trying to do via his cockamamie awards--what it is saying it that it does not want a news media capable of exposing the government's failures. It wants only propaganda, like Izvestia and news service Tass in the USSR. FOX NEWS IS TRUMP'S Izvestia. Do you think you'll like being owned by the state?




Open season on journalists

When government puts a price on the heads of journalists who report facts uncomfortable to the government, or express opinions the government doesn't like, freedom has ended.

With his Fake News awards, Donald J. Trump has issued a writ for bounty hunters to bring him the heads of bona fide journalists, expressing inconvenient facts or unapproved opinions. Journalists are killed quite often by those they report on; usually, by organized crime or by a third-world junta. Trump tacitly approved actions of fanatics, like the one who injured Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed one of her staff and an innocent child, to stalk journalists.


End times; you won't like it

When there are no journalists--the real journalists the Liar in Chief has labelled fake--who is going to protect you from his wholly owned and completely corrupt judicial system? A system run for profit by his hand-picked advisors like Attorney General Sessions to become rich.  Who will save your grandchildren from losing a parent in a pre-dawn ICE raid on immigrants? Who will write about your child dying because the for-profit hospital wouldn't treat her meningitis without payment up front, as she had no insurance? Who will report your company for forcing you to work in deadly fumes? Who will expose the mortgage lender repossessing your house after one late payment? Who?

I can tell you who won't save you: Donald J. Trump and his wholly owned subsidiary of truly fake news media, the ones who excuse racism, sexism, fascism and every sort of corruption, from shagging hookers and paying them to keep mum, to running a bogus university to fool young people into parting with their money for nothing, to flouting the laws he has been charged with upholding, and so much more. He will continue his theft; he is  spending one-third of the time our taxes pay for golfing, another third of it tweeting, and the rest sleeping, eating, or figuring out new ways to screw Americans out of their money and their freedom.

It's up to you. Join him and find yourself, eventually, afoul of one of his draconian schemes. Find yourself in a for-profit jail with no hope of an honest lawyer because the real news media has been tossed out of the White House (already happened), killed by fanatics, or employed not by the judicial system, but by the executive branch to serve its own interests. Not yours.

Or resist him to the best of your ability and reclaim the true America, the land of the free and home of the brave, that is rapidly turning into the land of the slave and the home of the cowardly, with a liar, draft dodger, bankrupt, vulgarian, sexual predator in charge.

What could possibly go wrong?


###

Copyright 2018, Laura Harrison McBride



Brexit: Awkward attempt to make pigs fly

   Nor can it be declared a winner or a loser. Leavers could not answer these correctly; I doubt the Conservative Party could, either. ...