I've Had Enough Of This!

Topics gone bad, the musings of Palmer the Charmer re PTC Junior, Dulwich Yiddo's views from the armchair etc.

I've Had Enough Of This!

Postby Windermere Bore » Mon May 25, 2020 11:25 pm

Sunday night, Monday morning. Rayners Blue O’Clock.

Most Rayners Blue O’Clock posts make more sense than the government’s policy on coronavirus. Even some of those actually written by Rayners Blue. Possibly even some of mine. But not after working 61 days without a day off. I've had enough of this crap!

The Chinese ambassador to Israel died in his bed today. Reportedly of natural causes. Just when something as amusing as that happens, Twitter & Facebook close David Icke’s accounts. Spoilsports. Bloody typical. I could’ve done with a laugh.

So, the Right-Honourable member for HA4 decided to revise the “Stay home! Save lives!” slogan over the V E Day weekend. Thank The Lord! The next person I heard saying “Stay home! Save lives!” was in almost as much danger of being disembowelled as the next one I hear say “See it, say it, sorted!”

One good thing about this virus is that TfL’s financial woes mean the apparatchik who came up with “See it, say it, sorted!” may be taking a swingeing pay cut in the near future. He may even have to get by on less than £100,000 per year. Poor sod.

Anyway, both the “Save lives!” and “Sorted!” parasites are in considerably greater peril than any moderately healthy individual who contracts the Covid-19 lurgie, but then the level of peril from Covid-19 seems to be lower than using a phone while negotiating a busy road junction or over-indulging in recreational narcotics… neither of which cause much concern to either government or citizens.

It’s disappointing that the slogan has changed to “Stay alert!”, rather than “Be alert!” Those old t-shirts with the Kitchener picture were quite amusing: “Be alert! Your country needs lerts!”
Alastair Campbell is clearly playing no part in the current propaganda campaign.

We all need cheering-up at the moment and you’ve gotta love Dilbert. Scott Adams isn’t Gary Larson, but he occasionally hits the spot.
Last weekend. Video call between Dilbert and the Klaus Nomi coiffured “pointy-haired boss” character. Both are wearing masks.
Pointy-haired boss: “Is this data accurate?”
Dilbert: “You don’t go to war with the data you need. You go to war with the data you have.”
Pointy-haired boss: “Did you just make it sound noble to use bad data?”
Dilbert: “And heroic.”

It was a great V E Day Bank Holiday Weekend, wasn’t it? Just a pity Vera Lynn wasn’t allowed out to join the millions celebrating in the streets.
As for the “War on Coronavirus”, never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so few to so many.

Some figures.
I made reference in an earlier post to the senior NHS administrative staff whose job it is to play God. The ones who decide if a patient requiring expensive treatment is going to receive it. There is an established guideline for such decisions. The budget benchmark is £25,000 for each year a patient can be expected to live a relatively normal life after successful treatment. So, if you’re 30 and require surgery, medication, equipment, prosthetics or other treatment that will cost £1m, the NHS will be happy to accommodate you, so long as fixing you up will result in you having a normal life expectancy and making it to your 70s or beyond. If you’re 70 and you need £250,000 spent on you, you’ll get it - if the prognosis is that you’ll make your 80th birthday. If the medical procedures you require are more expensive than that guideline allows, it’s time to regret not paying closer attention to all those weekend newspaper supplement BUPA inserts that you’ve been binning for the last 30 years.
That seems generous to me. It works out as a subsidy of £70 per day for the rest of your life to get you back as a productive member of Team UK. I can’t see how I’m worth £70 per day to Team UK for the remainder of my existence. £15 maybe. £20 at a push. But £70 is way over the top.
So. That’s the official “Price of a Human Life” in the UK. £70 per day. £25,000 per year.
What’s the “Price of a Human Life” currently trading at in the UK coronavirus market?

More figures.
As with every other forecast by “experts” on Covid-19, predicted death tallies for different scenarios varied widely at the start of this pandemic. They still do. The government has been relying on the Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine as its main source of guidance. This is sensible. It’s in the top-10 of most world university league tables. Some of its departments are recognised even by American academia as the best in the world and the number of Chinese students there is frightening. (As is the amount of money China is putting into sponsorship of new facilities and joint ventures, but that’s a different scare story.)
Imperial’s advisory team reckoned on 500,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK, were the government to adopt a North Korea policy and not tell anyone coronavirus existed, and 260,000 deaths if the government went for the Holland / Sweden approach by keeping most of the country open and advising people to be sensible about social interaction.
The government’s enthusiasm for censoring or eradicating “offensive” information is heading north quite quickly, but I don’t think the North Korea option was ever a goer.

So let’s go with the 260,000 figure. 30,000+ have already died. If we assume another 30k will depart (I reckon it will be more), we will have saved around 200,000 lives.
Cost to the UK economy?

As with predictions of the number of deaths, this is a case of educated guesswork in very murky and largely uncharted waters. We have little idea how many firms will go bust, how many jobs will vanish or how much export business might be lost by companies that are unable to supply overseas customers - customers who may well take their custom elsewhere… maybe even to China. However, the most reasonably authoritative sources estimate around £2bn to £3bn per day.
Let’s take the lower figure. The government’s own northbound figures are creeping up quite close to that estimate now. Rather neatly, it represents around £70 per day for every person in employment in this country.
You do the math.
There are Newnham College, Cambridge humanities graduates in Hackney who could “do the math” with figures of 200,000 and two billion.
Every human life saved by the “Stay home! Save lives!” policy is costing us £10,000 per day. In a country where the official “Price of a Human Life” is £25,000 per year.
You do the math.
£3,650,000 per life, per year.
When the “official” value is £25,000.
The “Price of a Human Life” is currently trading at around 145 times its official market value. The trading is being done by the very people who set that official market value.

That’s the equivalent of Manchester City paying £200m for Steve Daley in 1979.
Or Liverpool paying £5bn for Andy Carroll ten seasons ago.
Of course, you can’t put a price on a Steve Daley.
Or an Andy Carroll.
Or a Human Life.
Even when those telling everyone that “You can’t put a price on a human life!” have set its official price at £25k per year and have been trading human lives at that price for decades.

OK. That’s a slightly “Lies, damned lies and statistics” figure, because the lockdown of the economy won’t last a year. (I hope!) However, it’s hardly a case of borrowing £200 from a mate on Friday evening for a short-term emergency and paying him back an extra score when the banks open on Monday. The 1,000%+ APR is a great headline figure for a case like that, but it’s irrelevant. Twenty quid is twenty quid.

Even with the current seven-or-eight-week lockdown, the “Stay home! Save lives!” policy is the equivalent of Citeh shelling £30m for Daley or the Scousers paying £750m for Carroll.
Jez should consider a new e-mail. Sam Cox may not have appeared to be good value at the rumoured £700 per week. However, he seems a thoroughly decent bloke. He may be struggling in the current lockdown. Why not start a fundraiser to re-sign him on £100,000 per week? That’s surely what he’s worth in our new economic reality.

If the government has valued something at £10,000 a piece and has a track-record of treating the commodity as being worth £10k, then the government might be justified in asking citizens to chip-in to bulk-buy said commodity at £10,000 a throw… even if many of those citizens reckon the commodity is only worth £20. However, this government has costed something at £70 a pop and has a long track-record of trading that something at £70 a pop. It’s now press-ganged the entire populace into ponying-up at £10,000 a piece, for reasons that seem to be driven by mindless adherence to dogma and short-term expediency and which appear myopically short-sighted to most rational analysts.

To a point, I understand the importance of the NHS not being over-run, but the notion that this is some variety of scriptural commandment is laughable. Anyone would think the late Lt-Gen. Arthur Percival had been made Minister for Health. It’s not a “You Had One Job!…” situation, in the sense of holding Singapore with three times the manpower of the invading Japanese, but dealing with natural disasters, catastrophes and pandemics is part of the NHS’s remit. Like the defenders of Singapore, NHS workers can expect to be overstretched on occasions. It’s very nice of their overlords to ensure they won’t be overstretched, but it makes no sense… even if they’re not going to be transferred to employment with Burma Railways as a result of being saved from dangerous and unpleasant working conditions. Rightly or wrongly, danger is part of their job.
“I want to be a doctor because I want to take temperatures, send out flu-jab reminders to pensioners and sign prescriptions!” should not be the career motivation of wannabe physicians. Or nurses. Natural disasters, industrial calamities, wars, pandemics. These are what they’ve spent their careers training for. The last three months should have been their Olympic Games. It should be what they sign-on for. Contagious diseases are dangerous - this one far less dangerous than most - and having a government that can supply high-quality protective equipment helps, but the level of risk is hardly on a par with being on a 60-foot trawler in a force-10 wind.

Squaddies might sign-up for travel, camaraderie or to straighten their lives out on half-decent pay, but most would like to see some action. They don’t want to be doing house-to-house sweeps on the Falls Road or sitting in the back of a converted dustcart in Helmand, but taking part in a proper fire fight should be what squaddies aspire to.

Bodies in the streets might damage the re-election prospects of incumbent governments. (Call me cynical, but I can see no other reason why even countries who clearly cannot afford lockdowns and which have zero chance of holding a line for sufficient time for a lockdown to make any meaningful impact have been implementing them.) Bodies in the streets might also “Put Things In Perspective” for a slightly longer period than the time it takes a footballer to compose a Tweet containing that phrase after the premature death of a player… before cheating, diving and trying to con the ref as soon as he next takes the field. Putting things into perspective would do Western society a power of good. Unfortunately, achieving that would take a lot more deaths than the Covid-19 virus can possibly aspire to. Bodies in the streets wouldn’t greatly increase the death tally from an airborne virus. Even on Imperial’s “North Korea mode” projections, we were unlikely to have seen piles of corpses rotting in front of hospitals.

The fact that the temporary Nightingale Hospitals that have sprung-up at Excel and elsewhere have been almost entirely unused is not relevant to the argument. Setting-up temporary hospitals was a sensible precaution and it wasn’t expensive. The incomplete data and incorrect analysis of that data, resulting in a miscalculation of numbers who would need hospital treatment, was understandable… as well as being par for the course in almost every decision the UK government has made on coronavirus so far.

If we keep burning £2bn per day on lockdown, there may not be a National Health Service to be over-run by this time next year. Or a welfare state. Or an education system.

Successive UK governments have created and sustained a laughable system in which their selected professional “experts” in risk analysis will almost inevitably err hugely on the side of caution. As last month’s pre-resignation Private Eye piece on Professor Neil Ferguson, who resigned last week as leader of Imperial’s government advisory group, pointed-out, such “experts” lose nothing by advising extreme caution when confronted by potential threats.
The experts chosen to give advice are almost always the people best-qualified for the task. What they should be doing is providing advice based on professional evaluation and rational analysis that derives from their expertise in their specialist field. Sadly, the system means that many chosen experts become virtually full-time risk analysis apparatchiks, while their “proper” careers take a back seat. The advice given will be the advice most likely to further their careers as risk analysts, not the advice their expertise in their specialist field would deem sensible. The government pays for “expert” advice from a world class scientist or engineer, but does so via a system that means the “expert” leaves his science / engineering headgear on the hat-rack at the door of the conference room. He dons a “professional risk analysis parasite” hat before opening his mouth to deliver “expert advice” that’s geared towards protecting his own back and advancing his new vocation as a stipendiary parasite. Professor Ferguson received his OBE for services rendered as a government penpusher, not for services to epidemiology.

Some experts might be nerds or geeks who know little of life outside their specialist field, but the vast majority will have a normal range of interests. Some might even have a history of independently dabbling profitably in stock markets. Some might have winning Betfair accounts. Those experts heading the various committees are perfectly capable of making rational analyses of risk/reward or cost/value situations and providing the advice they’re paid to give. That advice should take into account budget constraints and the wider impact of any measures introduced to nullify a threat. It should always recommend a “percentage shot” that leaves room for failure. Politicians should be making decisions on the basis of “percentage shot” analyses. Generally, they do.

Most professional risk analysis “experts” engaged by the government invariably ignore rational “percentage shot” analysis in favour of blanket measures that, so far as possible, eliminate the risk entirely. The “experts” aren’t paying the stake money, so they can recommend stumping-up for the full perm - even though the full perm is illogical and very unlikely to return a profit. Failure to avert or contain a threat results in damage to the reputation of an “expert” advisor; successful risk-avoidance measures will see the “expert” advisor take credit for averting a calamity. Any government enquiry and subsequent report that reviews the situation objectively will be a long way down the line. By the time a report that may be critical of draconian measures and enormous unnecessary expense is published, the risk analysis “expert” will have ridden out of town with saddlebags full of “consultancy fee” swag. He will have invested in a fresh supply of new and improved retractable witch-prickers. He will have sat on a few panels to deliver fairly straightforward advice in non-threatening situations and will be safely engaged in advising some other branch of The Powers That Be on how they might best dodge some other possible apocalypse.

The “expert” should be given a brief of, “We need you to make a profit on the stock market this week”, or “We need to make some money on the 3:30 at Haydock Park.” The “expert” should not be allowed to interpret his brief as, “Invest in a profitable share” or “Back the winner of the 3:30 at Haydock”… allowing the “expert” to advise investing in every share or backing every horse in the race, then have a gloat about tipping a winner.

Expert gambling advice will not recommend backing things that are 5,000/1 shots with the bookies but which should be at least double that price in the opinion of most knowledgeable pundits. Expert insurance advice will not recommend taking-out cover against your business premises being hit by a meteorite. Expert military advice will not recommend deploying your limited defensive resources in areas where an enemy will need to traverse mountains, narrow passes, forests or swamps to invade. But of course, any of those three eventualities could come to pass.
If you’re an expert and you’ve advised that it would be prudent to have a few bob on Leicester winning the Premier League and you’ve been ignored, you look very clever and your client looks very stupid if Leicester triumph. If you’ve advised purchasing meteorite insurance and your client in Chelyabinsk hasn’t followed your suggestion, you look very clever and your client looks very stupid if a meteorite strikes. If you’ve advised the French government that the Maginot Line should be augmented by substantial troop deployments to the north, the Elysee Palace says “Non!” and Rommel’s panzers then smash through the Ardennes, you look very clever and General Gamelin looks a twat… regardless of you also having advised conscription of everyone between the ages of 14 and 65 to provide the necessary manpower.
In none of those cases does the fact that the unlikely eventuality occurred mean that what turned-out to be the correct call was the sensible option at the time.

Both Professor Ferguson and Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, have had to resign for ignoring their own lockdown advice. Both have apologised for what they’ve termed “an error of judgement.”
In neither case was there any error of judgement. What occurred in both cases was a professional acting on his or her genuine “real world” judgement of the level of risk. Ferguson had his girlfriend over for shagging sessions. Calderwood drove to her country house a couple of times with her family. Both Professor Ferguson and Dr. Calderwood are 51 years of age. Both are in apparently excellent health. Assuming both were generally adhering to their own advice on limiting wider social contact, the level of risk posed to either of them, their families, their bitch, or the general public by their behaviour was negligible. Prof. Ferguson and Dr. Calderwood are both aware of this.

Ferguson’s genuine professional opinion was that the inconvenience of taking Porn Hub up on its generous offer of free subscriptions during lockdown and jerking-off into a roll of Andrex (assuming he could find any Andrex on supermarket shelves) outweighed the risk of having his ho over for a bunk-up. As a theoretical physicist and world-renowned epidemiologist, his genuine professional opinion is almost certainly correct. However, in his role as a career “risk analyst”, he felt unable to give that opinion to the government.
As a gynaecologist, Calderwood’s professional opinion in a respiratory virus pandemic carries less weight than Ferguson’s (though she may be better qualified than he is on some of the risks associated with shagging hos), but her opinion was that the almost non-existent risk of driving her family to the Fife coast was worth taking, if it allowed them some bracing air and nice views of the Firth of Forth. That opinion, like Prof. Ferguson’s, is almost certainly correct. In her role as a career overseer and risk advisor, she felt unable to give that opinion to the government.

The system of stipendiary bureaucracy ensures that the very people the government engages to give impartial, objective, expert advice do precisely the opposite. They give wholly subjective and entirely predictable advice to avoid risk at all costs. The government is aware of this, so it needs to counterbalance the “expert advice.” It has no genuinely impartial “experts” to do this on its payroll, so must rely on its own judgement as a counterbalance. That’s why ministers don’t act solely - or even largely - on the recommendations of their “expert” advisors… even though they could do so with their backs safely covered by the “expert advice.” They realise the advice is no more objective or impartial than they’d get from an equally well-qualified “expert” employed by a multinational - perhaps Glaxo-Smith-Kline or Bayer in this case. The situation of Jim Hacker being substantially more principled than Sir Humphrey is reflected in the real world… and the system ensures that even Sir Humphrey is far more principled than the average “expert advisor” on risk analysis.

We can easily see the difference between the “blanket risk-avoidance” advice given by experts in their official capacity and their genuine opinion and analysis by looking at how the likes of Ferguson and Calderwood behave in their own lives. Both clumsily dropped their little black books, containing details of their share purchases and betting logs, in front of the cameras. Both little black books were open long enough for a snapshot to be taken: allowing us to see that the tips they’ve been giving us and the things they’ve been investing in themselves differ rather wildly. Dropping their little black books in front of the cameras was highly unfortunate, but the contents of those books were a long way from being highly unpredictable.

It’s disturbing that a significant number of politicians appear unaware of this situation. The tally of imbeciles in the Scottish Parliament calling for the resignation of British Transport Police’s new Jockoland Division chief, because he’s just transferred from Yorkshire and has been making trips back to God’s Own County, is embarrassing. Mind you, we are talking about Scots here. There are things chewing on bones and giving fascist salutes to dictators that have more intelligence than the average Scot.
The odd Pictish prig apart, the UK government is aware that any recommendations it receives from its “independent” risk analysis experts will be derived from a single, highly subjective, position. These recommendations are neither more nor less than extremist starting points to be moderated through negotiation. So it’s difficult to see why the government maintains standing advisory quangos, made-up of semi-permanent “experts” on huge remuneration packages, rather than conscripting “experts” from a wider cross-section of the relevant field when emergencies arise.

I’m pleasantly surprised that neither Prof. Ferguson nor any other “expert” had the neck to advise locking everyone inside their homes for three or four weeks. That’s just about what the Chinese did in Wuhan. Doing that should come close to eliminating the virus. Only a handful of cases transmitted between people in a shared house would still be infectious. Mind you, I’m not sure we even have the
testing and tracking resources to successfully follow-up a lockdown as severe as that.

My personal favourite example of seemingly irrational “risk analysis” was from when I was still a proper bike courier. Fathers 4 Justice protesters were springing-up all over the shop. “Up” being the relevant word, as they were scaling buildings to display banners. One climbed a crane on a building site just north of Tower Bridge and unfurled a banner. This wasn’t a crane with a ground-level cab. The cab was a long way up. The Fathers 4 Justice protester was in the cab. There was no evidence he could hotwire a crane. The jib was over the building site. However, risk analysis was required. “Experts” were summoned. Mayor Ben “I’m Not Racist” Levy-Stern was consulted. (Some of his best friends are black, but not many are Jewish.) Undoubtedly the protester might be able to hotwire the crane. Consequently, he could indisputably swing the jib out over the carriageway. He could undeniably leave the cab and shin-out along the jib. From where he could unquestionably fall onto an innocent pedestrian or motorist. The result of the advice from risk analysis “experts” was a decision to close both Tower Bridge and the A1203 East Smithfield / The Highway - the road that takes traffic from the Limehouse Link tunnel into the City. For the three days the bloke was up there. There were tailbacks up to 10 miles long on the A13 and the A2. Nobody saw the odd £50, £100 or even the odd grand that businesses lost by having supplies, parts or maintenance engineers stuck in traffic. It must’ve cost the economy millions. But the Corporation of London, Ben “I’m Not Racist” Levy-Stern and his friends at Up the RA Construction (& Demolition) Ltd. were safe from being sued by any potential victims of a falling protester. A job well done by the risk analysis “experts.”

Fueled by the 1974 Health & Safety at Work Act, these people have become an offshoot of the “single-issue” pressure groups that have multiplied like… errm, well, viruses… in the past 40 years and have had a lot of success in tugging the heartstrings of governments by focusing entirely on “victims” and potential victims. The tactic is to obscure the bigger picture by prioritising emotion over logic and rationality. It works. At least it works on a governing class guilt-ridden by a colonial history and the present exploitation of the Third World… and desperate to convince themselves they’re wonderful people, whilst feeling unable to change the economic reality of the system that sustains them. I wouldn’t advise trying it with the Chinese though.

It’s an example of the almost universal human need to establish sacred commandments or non-negotiable positions, around which everything else must fall into place. We find such fixed positions especially comforting in times of crisis.

“You Can’t Put A Price On A Human Life!” is an example of this almost ubiquitous human need for fixed constants when analysing complex situations and making difficult decisions. In most complex situations there are few - if any - fixed constants. That’s what makes them complex. It’s what makes the decisions difficult.

Unfortunately, there is a law of inverse proportion at work here. The more insecure and lacking in confidence those confronted by complex choices are, the greater their need for a fixed reference point and the more desperate they are to seize upon even moderately plausible hypotheses as being incontestable truths.

I said in March that there were unlikely to be any fixed constants in analysis of something that’s been around for three months. Two months on and there still aren’t. We still don’t how long Covid-19 can survive outside its host. We still have wildly varying figures on its rate of transmission. The figures on death rate also vary considerably.

“You Can’t Put A Price On A Human Life!” may be a laudable utopian position, but it isn’t true and nobody genuinely believes it to be true. Certainly no doctor believes it.
In my opinion, the number of homeless on London’s streets is the most depraved thing about the capital. There’s no reason for councils not providing accommodation for anyone who’s sleeping rough in this city. Having hundreds of people in cardboard boxes around Euston, Charing Cross and Victoria in particular is inexcusable. There’s an enormous town hall a quarter-mile from me that’s been empty for a decade. Plans to convert it to a hotel were cleared about 18 months back. The strange decision of the UK government to value the human lives of Sergei and Julia Skripal at least as highly as those of a terminally-ill octogenarian has put the kibosh on Roman Abramovich’s plans to demolish two hotels on the other side of the street, but Fulham Town Hall remains empty. There are lots of large empty public buildings in every London borough.

Even considering my bug-bear about the homeless, one repugnant visual experience in London tops seeing people in cardboard boxes. It’s an NHS-sponsored visual experience. It’s not just on the single criterion of being visually irked more than by anything else that the fixed constant or non-negotiable position that I find most inexplicable in its blanket execution is the medical profession’s commandment, “Thou Shalt Give No Quarter In The War Against The Evil Weed!”
A large section of the medical establishment has an unhealthy obsession with eliminating tobacco use. When the seemingly immovable object “You Can’t Put A Price On A Human Life!” meets the irresistible force of the British Medical Association’s war on tobacco, then “You Can’t Put A Price On A Human Life!” goes straight out the door… together with massive numbers of critically ill and wheelchair-bound hospital patients, drips in their arms, flimsy dressing-gowns flapping in the howling wind, to puff on a cancer stick in the snow when it’s 2c outside that door.

It’s worse than forcing people to sleep rough. I think it’s genuinely demented. It’s as close to being evil as the Magdalene Laundries policy in Ireland. I don’t see how anyone who’s taken a Hippocratic Oath support it.

Methadone’s illegal but smackheads get it on the NHS. Some junkies still get prescription heroin. Marijuana is illegal but, even in lockdown, I see or smell people openly using it every day and most of the population now laughably views it as a wonderdrug that should be legalized immediately. But we can’t allow the critically ill - or patients who are mentally ill to the point of self-harming - to have a room where they can enjoy the stress-relieving comfort of a cancer stick.
Opposition to this smoking policy has always seemed virtually non-existent in the medical profession, so let’s have no defence of the notion that anyone believes “You Can’t Put A Price On A Human Life!”

Having mentioned Ireland, I must concede that a crowd of shivering smokers outside a Dublin hospital before Christmas reminded me that I haven’t seen a similar congregation in London for some time. Maybe the, “Thou Shalt Give No Quarter In The War Against The Evil Weed!” brigade has managed to implement a total ban on smoking on hospital grounds. This would be no less psychotically obsessive and no further from being evil, but it wouldn’t result in critically ill patients being finished-off by exposure to Arctic conditions.

Back to the topic:
Data on death rates is still scanty and not hugely reliable, but French figures and projections on infections, deaths and recovery so far indicate that around 0.5% of those infected by the novel coronavirus will die. That looks a reasonable guesstimate. We might safely assume that the average Frenchman is healthier than the average Brit - those who habitually smoke 40 Gauloises Disque Bleu every day notwithstanding - but Imperial’s estimate of 260,000 deaths stands scrutiny under the French figure.
In all probability, the vast majority of that 0.5% who die “of coronavirus” are people who would have been likely to die in the very near future anyway, due to “underlying medical conditions.” More than four of every five will be more than 70 years of age. In many of those cases the presence of the virus would have played no part in the cause of death.

I’ve rarely read an English newspaper since 2000. I’m more familiar with Irish statistics. The figures going into last weekend said that 85% of Irish fatalities had “underlying medical conditions.” This seems appreciably lower than the percentages I’ve seen for other countries. The median age of those who’ve died from coronavirus in Ireland was 84. The average age was 82… parlez-vous? Writing a ribald comedy song about something this farcical shouldn’t be difficult and would cheer people up.
The figure I’d like to see is the median stat for pre-coronavirus “life-expectancy” for those who’ve died - either in Ireland, the UK or elsewhere. The average life-expectancy of a resident in a UK care home is two years. I’d be flabbergasted if the median life-expectancy of those who’ve died “of Covid-19” in this country was as high as two years. On very limited data, I’d guesstimate somewhere between 6 months and one year and I’d edge towards the lower end of that scale. Very few of the “underlying medical conditions” afflicting the deceased have been outlined in any detail, but minor heart defects, an occasional bout of epilepsy, an ingrowing toenail or even mild asthmatic conditions don’t feature in the reports I’ve seen. Most of the “underlying medical conditions” look to have been of the terminal illness variety.

The world’s greatest economic expert could doubtless make a compelling case for bankrupting entire countries in order to save octogenarians. However, it has to be pointed-out that he seems to have a fetish for financial shenanigans that lead to bankruptcy for the relatively innocent and he is 89… but George Soros isn’t advising the government.
As I’ve said, paying £70 per day for 20-odd years to save my neck seems ridiculous to me. Paying £10k per day to keep a senile, incontinent, terminally-ill octogenarian alive for a few months seems beyond idiotic.

Some costs.
Stadiums and training facilities for Qatar’s World Cup: US$6bn (“commission” not included.)
Shit-Hole-on-Circ Stadium: £800m (plus f**k-up fees)
Channel Tunnel: £4.65bn (£12bn inflation adjusted.)
Severn Bridge II: £330m (£550m inflation adjusted.)
HS2 Rail-Link: £85bn (subject to upward adjustment.)
NASA’s Project Apollo: US$25.4bn (US$170bn inflation adjusted.)

We’re throwing £2bn every day at combating a virus. A virus that all of the still wildly differing current guesstimates from “experts” now say would do negligible damage to the economy if it was left to work its way through society naturally.
We could use even one day’s “Save lives!” fund to improve standards of life the UK dramatically. Covid-19 is not the only pernicious infection afflicting this country that may or may not be classified as a lifeform. £2bn would comfortably pay for the deportation of 4,000,000 apostates to Arabia and the bosom of Allah. £500 each. That’d be more than enough under the “one metre, one litre” rule: one square metre of deckspace each and one litre of water per day for the journey. There’d be a long queue of ship owners wanting to sign-up to deliver such a cargo to Jeddah at £500 per head under those conditions. Loadsamoney! Maybe we should treat Covid-19 the way we treat that other infection - exempting its stoneage superstitions from criticism and enshrining the practice of its witchcraft rituals as legal rights. Everyone could be compulsorily infected with tuberculosis bacteria and have to gob out more greenies than the Sex Pistols. As the peasants say at the start of the “Witchsmeller Pursuivant” episode of Blackadder, “A rat a day keeps the plague away.”

Scott Adams may not be Gary Larson, but Gary Larson is Gary Larson.
There’s a Far Side cartoon with two mediaeval watchmen, on separate towers of a castle, looking in different directions. “Genghis Khan! It’s Genghis Khan!” shouts one. His colleague spins around in alarm. “Made you look!” says the first watchman, thumbing his nose.
Our government has certainly made us look, but the Covid-19 virus is not Genghis Khan.

When it first appeared in China, the Chinese did not know Covid-19 wasn’t Genghis Khan. Or Attila. Or Timur. It could have been something as lethal as the Black Death. Their slightly procrastinated panic can be seen as justified.
Having seen what was happening in China, we’ve always known Covid-19 is not on a par with the Black Death and it’s not Genghis Khan.
We’ve undoubtedly reacted as though this is an invasion by Mongols… sorry, Hen… errrm, hang-on, that’s not right, is it? I really do mean “Mongols” in this instance, don’t I? Mongols carrying Yersinia pestis bacteria.
We’ve decided to retreat en masse to the safety of the castles and pull-up drawbridges, in order to protect everyone from the marauding hordes.
Before ordering everyone to down tools and head for the castles, those in command should be confident that the castles have enough supplies to feed everyone and that those supplies will last until the marauding hordes have gone away.
We don’t seem to have considered that.
I’m not convinced that assurances to a gullible and frightened populace about the castles containing Magic Money Trees, with Furlough Fairies living in their hollow trunks, are an adequate substitute for actual food and water... especially when the Furlough Fairies’ contracts, due to expire at the end of next month, have been extended until October. If it’s that easy to extend a Furlough Fairy’s contract from June to October, doing the same for a footballer should be simple.
If the food being doled-out in the castles is a combination of next year’s seed crop and meat from slaughtering all our domestic animals, then the fact that we can “Save lives!” isn’t going to be much comfort in a year from now.

As I’ve always understood it, the Hindu elevation of cows to a status on a par with Katie Price’s standing in Saaaf Essix is not thought to derive from anything Brahma may have done while creating them or from anything Krishna might have done whilst tending them. It’s thought to be a simple matter of practicality. In times of famine, villages could “Save lives!” by slaughtering their oxen. This was tempting. We all want to “Save lives!” after all.
Unfortunately, the resulting lack of beasts of burden would mean that a lot of necessary tasks - including ploughing fields - would become rather difficult. Whole villages might well die in the year after the oxen had been despatched. Lords of the manor were not keen on this. They’d far rather take the hit of having significant numbers of their serfs culled by famine than lose the whole lot by allowing them to indulge in touchingly pathetic attempts to “Save lives!”
Concocting a religious taboo has traditionally been the best way to guard against foolish acts of short-term expediency by the masses.

This was in an age where war, pestilence and famine would often wreak devastation. A nation’s prosperity and ability to defend itself were almost wholly dependent on having a large but sustainable population. Over-population was rarely a problem. Lives were economically valuable commodities, rather than being either an unwanted drain on resources or the sole cause of “The Greatest Challenge Facing Our Planet!” …which was strangely seen as being global warming three months ago. Unlike in the world of today, it’s hard to argue against the contention that lives were worth saving in pre-Mongol India.

As well as retreating to the castles, we also appear to have indulged in a “scorched earth” policy of which Europe’s all-time greatest exponent, Vlad the Impaler, would have been proud: torching anything within 100 miles of the castles that might be of use to the enemy. What will the landscape look like when we tentatively open the castle doors?

As I’ve said, this isn’t Genghis Khan. At worst, it’s a Viking raiding party. They will burn a few villages. They will kill some people and plunder some goodies. They may rape some women and drink some wine… inky-pinky parlez-vous?
Our leaders have decided that we should now tentatively emerge from the castles… while Hagar the Horrible and Lucky Eddie are almost certainly still on the loose. It’s difficult to see why they’ll drink any less wine or rape fewer women than they would’ve done two months ago, but I’m confident they won’t have shapeshifted into the Mongol Hordes. What will we do if things haven’t improved? Dash back into the castles and pull-up the drawbridges again? If so, when might we make another attempt to return to our villages? Are we going to wait until we’ve eaten all the castle’s dogs, cats and critters that even the Chinese might have recently become wary of devouring? Will we wait until we start eating each other? Will the sons of Odin still be out there even at that stage?

In modern terms, it’s like a few citizens have been randomly killed on our streets. We’ve concluded that we have a serial killer on our hands. Or maybe a few mauled torsos have turned-up and we’ve decided a man-eating lion or tiger is on the loose. Advising everyone to stay indoors until we catch Michael Ryan or cross-eyed Clarence is sensible.
Now the tally of corpses and torsos turning-up on the streets has slackened-off. This could be because Joe Exotic and Tigger have just been sent down for 30 years - as every sad sod who’s been staying indoors with only Netflix for company is aware. It could be because the nut-job got bored or the big cat is no longer hungry. Or it could be down to the fact that most people have been staying indoors.

The French government has been honest with its position, its guesstimates and its prognosis. Last week, the French health minister postulated that maybe 3,000,000 or so people - 5% of the population - have been infected by the virus. The Elysee Palace admits that if the lockdown were to be completely lifted now, there’s a high degree of probability that almost exactly the same number of people will die in May/June as would’ve died in March/April had they taken no action two months ago.
The front page of Friday’s Daily Muckswill screamed that 19,000,000 Brits may already have been infected. A Frenchie or the late Cap’n Bob’s former rag? With whom should we side? Tricky. It’s not an exciting choice. It’s a pick between the chemically-preserved peaches or “e-number rich” pears from a tin of Del Monte fruit cocktail. There are no bits of pineapple, never mind cherries.

The UK government seems to be trying to convince itself that simply hoping Ted Bundy and/or Shere Khan have vanished will somehow work the oracle. Today’s fatality figures are the lowest since the lockdown began, so perhaps they’re right. I have doubts about that.

On the subject of tigers, I noticed that Roy Horn was amongst last week’s celebrity coronavirus victims. I used to watch Jackie Mason whenever he was in London. I’ve never laughed at a Jackie Mason gig, but he is technically a great comedian. He rarely swears in his act and it always intrigued me why he’d work Siegfried & Roy into his routine - “Two f**kin’ feigeles and a tiger!” - and why he was so spiteful, especially after Horn was mauled into retirement. Mason had a bullet fired at him as a warning after ignoring Frank Sinatra’s friendly face-to-face “advice” to drop gags about his marriage to a teenage Mia Farrow and the Mafia. He was then beaten-up. He didn’t exactly forgive Frank, but he wasn’t as vitriolic as he was with Siegfried & Roy. I digress.

There have been major differences between the French and UK lockdowns, but it’s hard to believe that two such widely differing estimates could both be correct. I would tend to side with Monsieur Veran’s advisers. The two contrasting theories are centred on transmission rates - the much-publicised “R-number.” How many other people does a carrier infect during the cycle of the Covid-19 virus in a normally-functioning society? The early ballpark figure was three. It appears that it could be lower.
Figures from Third World and developing countries all over the globe on numbers of Covid-19 tests, positive results and subsequent deaths are universally puzzling. They’re all puzzlingly low, given the figures for identical categories in The West.
There are plenty of countries in which The Party, His Majesty or El Presidente could publicize falsified data and keep a lid on dissenting voices. Reasons why they should choose to do so look thin on the ground. There isn’t likely to be much blame directed at governments who are largely powerless to stop Covid-19 spreading.
There are also countries where there is no chance of governments being able to falsify figures. Narendra Modi has historically been fond of a cover-up when dealing with attempts at exterminating lower forms of life and he might yearn to lead an India where he could get away with such behaviour. However, even in poor states dominated by the more extreme elements of the Bharatiya Janata party, there are still plenty of bolshie journalists and coercing the entire medical staff of hospitals into compliance would be extremely difficult. Even at local levels, falsifying data would not be feasible.

In Latin America, where genuinely heart-breaking and utterly pathetic attempts at lockdowns have been tried, most governments have had to face reality and re-open for business. In a culture where a touchingly naive belief in the mystic powers of El Papa Francisco persists, converting the masses to a naive belief in the mystic powers of Furlough Fairies wasn’t an option worth trying. Neither banks nor governments in Latin America have access to Magic Money Trees - as Venezuela discovered when Hugo Chavez was certain he’d found one. (You may blame Los Bandidos Yanquis for leaving some South American banks with the type of cash reserves you see in a Starbuck’s cup waved by a Roma beggar if you wish.) Latin American Covid-19 statistics are moving towards figures that are comparable with some areas in The West. In spite of President Bolsonaro’s refusal to close anything, Brazil’s figures are not out of line with those in most other Latin American countries - though state governors in Brazil have power to close schools and workplaces at regional level and most have done so.

Even factoring-in different methods and categorizations, in Africa and Asia the figures are generally well out of line. In many countries they’re not comparable to Western figures at all. Given the dire projections in March, you’d expect the pile of corpses in Kinshasa to have superseded Kilimanjaro as Africa’s highest mountain by now. It hasn’t happened. Yet. Zaire has officially recorded 60 Covid-19 fatalities. Perhaps there’s an illogical deployment of testing resources, which might account for low numbers of positive tests. I don’t know. Corpses are not piling-up though - and neither incompetence nor corruption can be held responsible for that.
What I do know is that there are a number of diseases that both infect disproportionate numbers in some ethnic groups and/or have more serious effects on some ethnic groups - even when all other factors have been considered. A significant amount of research is being carried out into these anomalies. Of course, such coverage of diseases is not normally boomed into our living rooms by the global media on a 24/7 basis - meaning our stipendiary parasitocracy takes no notice. Just as they take no notice of conflicts and natural disasters not covered by the BBC and CNN.

This ethnic bias of Covid-19 has come as a shock to the Labour Party. Showing a predictable lack of understanding of the probable scale of the depletion of government resources, Comrade Starmer QC (available for birthdays, baptisms, bar mitzvahs and bona fide bullying at a competitive rate of £500 per hour) has called for the taxpayer to fund a public inquiry into why the “BAME community” has been hit with disproportionate severity by Covid-19.
I’m not sure the “BAME community” really has been disproportionally affected.
At least not all of the “BAME community.”
The number of Chinese being infected seems extraordinarily low.

The ever-impoverished Labour Party has even launched its own enquiry. Courtesy of my mole in Southside - the Victoria Street block housing Labour Party HQ, behind which I counted five people not being housed, huddled in cardboard and sleeping bags, on Wednesday night - I can exclusively reveal the results of Labour’s inquiry. Covid-19 has been declared institutionally racist. Happily, however, allegations that Covid-19 is anti-Semitic have been dismissed out of hand.

So, what of the rate of transmission?
An “R-number” of 3.0 in normal social interaction? In London, the tube was running normally for most of March. Even on low guesstimates of the numbers infected back then, there would have been several hundred passengers carrying the Covid-19 virus on rush hour trains by the time Boris addressed the nation eight weeks ago. There would have been upwards of a dozen passengers well within two metres of most of those carriers and “goalside” of their mouths & noses in TfL’s Auschwitz Klasse carriages. Some passengers’ faces would’ve been within 50cm of an infected mouth for 30 minutes.
Again, we don’t have accurate information on an “How close? / For how long?” equation when it comes to knowing the chances of transmitting the virus. However, it’s hard to see that the average Londoner is going the have three people that close to his respiratory orifices for anything like that length of time anywhere other than on a bus or tube during the cycle of being initially infected by the virus and finally recovering, even if that cycle takes four weeks. Is the 3.0 “R-number” based on individuals carrying the virus for four weeks? Or is it based on two weeks? That’s a big difference. If it takes four weeks for a carrier to infect those 3.0 people, sixteen people would have been infected, either directly or indirectly, by each carrier in the last eight weeks, had Boris not sprung into action. If it takes two weeks for a carrier to infect three other people, the eight-week tally rises from sixteen to 256.
If the 3.0 figure is accurate for a population displaying normal social behaviour, it’s logical that it would be substantially higher for those spending lots of time on packed public transport or in densely populated enclosed spaces such as pubs & clubs. But we’re not even 100% certain about this. What’s the difference in the “R-number” between places where citizens are “being sensible” (Sweden & Holland) and places where the local Gestapo is attempting to enforce two-metre social distancing with the level of pedantry usually associated solely with Camden’s parking department, such as Scotland? We have very little idea. We’d need large supplies of human guinea pigs for controlled experiments to have an accurate idea. That’s not allowed. Completely unethical. However, for the Daily Muckswill’s figure of 19m Brits already infected to be correct, the “R-number” must have been well in excess of 2.0 for the whole of the past two months. Even on a two-week cycle, a 2.0 figure only gives us 16 transmissions per carrier over an eight-week period. The view that 1,200,000 had Covid-19 when the lockdown was imposed on March 23rd is implausible. Official figures show the “R-number” is below the magic 1.0 in every part of the UK now. It’s around 0.4 in London. Yes, those figures are derived from painfully inadequate data, but they’re something to go on and they’re what the government is using.

More problematic for the theory splashed over Friday’s front page of the late Bouncing Czech’s favourite toy is the data on symptoms. Initial data from China and Italy suggested around 40% to 50% of those infected would show no symptoms. Subsequent studies are vaguely in that ballpark. Seemingly wild top end theories have the figure as high as 80%. Quite obviously there have not been 4,000,000 Brits with mild sniffles since late March, in a spring that’s been unusually warm and dry. So even taking the 80% figure for asymptomatic cases can’t give us a tally of anywhere near 19m infected in this country. We’d have to be looking at an asymptomatic rate of at least 95% and probably closer to 98%. Even with some of the puzzling statistics that have emerged and been called into question so far, 95%+ showing no symptoms would be a startlingly outlying figure.

Sadly, then, I’d say the Frenchies are much closer to the mark than the late former Oxford United chairman’s august organ. I’d be confident that fewer than 5,000,000 people in the UK have had Covid-19 up to now… and even a tally of 1,000,000 Brits having sniffles since late March is pushing things a bit. It could be as low as 3,000,000.
This is not good news. If 19m people had been infected, then the number of cases & deaths we could expect to occur in the next few weeks, were we to re-open for business now, would be substantially lower than the number we’d have experienced had we not locked-down in March. If the French analysis is correct and the UK’s situation is similar, the difference between re-opening now and not having shut-up shop in March will be small.

Looking at the areas I work in today, the number of people going about their normal lives and paying little regard to social distancing was at least treble the number doing that at the start of the week. The number of senior citizens out and about was strikingly low though. Healthy and youngish people returning to something like normality is unlikely to lead to a sudden spike in new cases needing hospital inpatient care or a sharp rise in the tally of deaths, just as long as they aren’t allowed to pack-out buses, tubes, pubs & clubs. It will lead to precisely that if the healthy and young then go home to elderly parents & grandparents or friend and relatives with “underlying medical conditions.” Presumably, many members of “At Risk” communities are still taking drastic precautions against infection. If the French analysis is correct - and I think it is - I’d expect daily tallies of infections to rise again quite quickly. Assuming the incubation-period data is more accurate than most other coronavirus stats, it’ll take 10 days for the spike to begin. I’d put the chances of the death toll going back up to 600+ per day by early next month at 80%+... and that’s without restaurants, gyms and most schools re-opening. Open that lot now and I’d predict 1,000+ deaths per day within a month. Of course, that guesstimate assumes that similar tallies would have been registered by early April, had Boris not imposed the lockdown. Perhaps the tally would not have continued to rise exponentially throughout April once the living dead in hospitals and care homes had been culled. However, I’m with Les Grenouilles on this: whatever the fatality rate would’ve been in an April without lockdown, the fatality rate in a June without lockdown will be very similar.

The genuinely difficult decision for Boris & Co. will be what to do in the eventuality of that (highly probable) spike in the graph appearing.
Will we re-instate some of the stricter measures? Will we offer the Furlough Fairies an improved contract, to go with their recent extension? There might be considerably more opposition to re-imposing restrictions than there was to the initial lockdown. The rozzers might need to do more than nick Comrade Corbyn’s brother at Speaker’s Corner. I’m amazed the UK’s general population has been so co-operative so far. As for the quiet passivity being shown in France… Que se passe-t-il ici?! The IOC confirmed this week that traditional Gallic culture will be celebrated at the 2024 Paris Olympics by having street-rioting included as a demonstration sport. I doubt anyone apart from the French will bother to send a team. It would be like Johnny Foreigner competing against Londoners if jaywalking had been included in 2012. Yet, a couple of bouts of burning and bottle-throwing apart, the French have fallen into line. Macron is paying even bigger bribes to the proles than the incredible sums Boris & Rishi have come up with, but it still astounds me. If we’re all living on rice in the UK this time next year (I’m sure China will lend us some rice at competitive interest rates), we should be able to laugh at a French population eating grass.
Then there’s the question of which biscuit tin the Furlough Fairies keep their money in and under which mattress it’s hidden. We need to find that tin.
How else will Rishi and the Fairies ultimately pay for this generosity?

The £2bn-per-day figure that the “Stay home! Save lives!” policy has reportedly been costing us is not money we already have. When he was sitting in what’s now Rishi’s seat as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Raith Rovers’ most famous fan, the Rt-Hon Gordon Prudence Brown, shrewdly flogged much of the nation’s gold reserves. He did so when the price of gold was possibly at its lowest level since Emperor Musa I of Mali inadvertently destroyed the economies of Egypt and Arabia on his Haj… or maybe just at its lowest price since Pizarro ransomed Atahualpa. Whichever, it isn’t seen as being a prudent policy in hindsight.
As any fule kno… that there’s a big difference between spunking money you already have in the bank and spunking money that you’re borrowing and will have to repay in the future. The government will need to borrow the money it’s currently paying citizens to stay at home and “Save lives!”

It’s been relatively easy and extremely cheap for Western governments to borrow money at low interest rates since the richest sectors of the world economy recovered from the 2008 crash. Governments have been pissing in the dark with their reaction to Covid-19 because they have no experience of dealing with it. Governments will also be pissing in the dark when it comes to calculating the difficulty and the cost of borrowing & repaying money in the Pandemic World and Post-Pandemic World because they have no experience of conducting financial transactions in what is almost certain to be a severe economic depression. I have my doubts about Magic Money Trees and Furlough Fairies pulling us through.

Will this insane bout of paranoia “Destroy the economy”?
I don’t know.
In common with everything else in the coronavirus world, opinions are projections based on data vaguely connected to the current situation. Precise comparisons are not possible, as “experts” have no data on similar circumstances. As a percentage of GDP and by other economic measures, the hole drilled in the UK economy in the past two months is larger than the hole the 2008 crash drilled in the Irish economy. The UK’s economy is far larger than Ireland’s. Unlike Ireland’s between 1994 and 2008, the UK’s economy as a whole is not entirely dependent on a construction bubble and tax-dodging schemes for overseas “investors”… regardless of London’s economy being largely dependent on precisely those two things.
If you earn £25k per year, win £5,000 on a scratchcard, visit a casino, get pissed and somehow drop ten large, you’re clearly in far more trouble than a bloke on £200k who picks-up his £40,000 annual bonus, walks into a casino, gets pissed and drops eighty grand. So perhaps the two situations are not comparable. It took Dublin until 2013 to see meaningful recovery. Large swathes of rural Ireland haven’t recovered at all.

Joe Public doesn’t seem at all concerned. As Eniola Aluko was unwise enough to point-out last Wednesday night, lots of people are doing well under the Furlough Fairy regime. We’ve heard a lot about the impact of lockdown and isolation on mental health. Diddums! Being stuck in front of a 36-inch plasma TV, with plenty of alcohol and a Tesco at the bottom of the street, is hardly like being banged-up in a Wormwood Scrubs cell for twenty-three hours per day in the slopping-out era, is it? There might be some relatively flat spots in The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, The Wire and Narcos, but back-to-back box-sets of blockbusters are a higher level of entertainment than listening to Steve Wright in the Afternoon or a Brian Hayes phone-in though an earpiece on a pocket transistor radio. Endlessly playing Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, Football Manager or Angry Birds is not likely to produce levels of mental trauma comparable to enduring a game of mixed-doubles with Big Bubba, Maynard and Zed in the showers of the Redneck State Penitentiary.
Ms. Aluko’s tweets shouldn’t be needed to alert politicians to the situation that lots of those now receiving 80% of their salary from the Furlough Fairy and getting the 20% top-up from their employers would normally be spending a large slice of their disposable income in restaurants, bars & clubs or on “Train-beer-football” kicks. In many cases, that money is staying in the bank. So is any money normally spent on monthly train tickets, travelcards and petrol. Many people on the Furlough Fairy payroll are moonlighting in other jobs.
In our culture of “Rights Without Responsibility”, the average prole is not going to refuse a free drink and isn’t going to ask who’s paying for it.
The notion that the “Save lives!” policy is going to result in tax increases, social security cutbacks, permanent closures of some universities, massive reductions in local council services, even fewer police on the streets and maybe even further “consolidation” of NHS resources doesn’t seem to be entering many heads. It’s unlikely to do so while the current level of bribery is maintained.

Last edited by Windermere Bore on Mon May 25, 2020 11:45 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Windermere Bore
Posts: 152
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Re: I've Had Enough Of This!

Postby Windermere Bore » Mon May 25, 2020 11:27 pm


I reiterate that as well as the lockdown policy being a scandalous waste of money, my opinion is that there’s a 80% chance that it will be shown to have been a waste of time. Without adequate testing and with no practical means of tracking or isolating those carrying the virus, re-opening the country is likely to see levels of infection and numbers of fatalities rising to almost exactly what they’d have been had we done nothing in March.

The uncomfortable probable reality is that for a densely populated country or city to win the, “War on Coronavirus”, it needed a lot of luck. Past tense. It appears likely that it’s akin playing one of those first-generation video games. A Space Invaders deal. Lots of aliens, asteroids, hoodlums, zombies, ghosts - or viruses - appear at the top of the screen. You zap them. If you wanted to show off, you could leave it a few seconds before starting to zap them and still get through the first level. But you could only wait a few seconds. Germany waited a few seconds and successfully advanced to level two. South Korea had its finger on the “fire” button before someone pressed “start.”
As we pressed “start”, we knocked a cup of tea over on our bollocks and dropped the controller under the sofa. By the time we’d scrabbled around and picked it up, the screen was almost full of aliens, asteroids & viruses. Even having The Man with No Name, Django, Trinity and the Sundance Kid on four separate zappers, wouldn’t have been enough for us to win. France suffered the same misfortune.
Germany got a vital away goal in the first leg. South Korea returned home with a draw. We lost the first leg 8-0.

Private Eye’s “MD” column pointed out last month that at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, the World Health Organisation ranked Germany #5 on its list of countries best prepared to deal with an unexpected pandemic. The UK was ranked second. The USA was top of the list. Of course, if you’re unable to acquire testing apparatus for new pathogens and are unable to quickly source protective equipment for medical staff, having a great basic infrastructure and first-rate facilities isn’t much use.

As with any insurgency - be it by organism or organization - eliminating it is a “seek and destroy” job.
“The Idiot’s Guide to Seek & Destroy” is a sorely needed omission from the series. Incredible though it seems, there are three - maybe four - elements to “seek and destroy.” As it says on the tin, the seeking comes first. However, we then have the cunning, tricky and seemingly unrecognized bit. Before moving on to the really enjoyable “destroy” phase, we need to conclude the seeking part by correctly identifying the target. Bummer! This is extremely difficult without the correct apparatus… the correct apparatus being a large supply of testing kits in this case. Isolating the target might be viewed as a sensible third step before we can “Round ‘em up! Put ‘em in a field! And bomb the baastaaaards!”
Of course, being English, we could revert to traditional practice and dispense with the boring middle bits. Just attempt to flatten an entire city by carpet-bombing it with massive quantities of incendiary devices, try to machine-gun every f**ker in the courtyard of a place of worship or have a bash at starving a whole country to death, without any need for vile “discriminatory” policies designed to identify targets.
Unfortunately, without adequate numbers of testing kits, lacking enough laboratories to quickly carry-out the tests in the early weeks of the crisis, victory in the “War on Coronavirus” was always hugely improbable. Having insufficient protective equipment for frontline staff didn’t help much either.
I was amused by the story that the plane-load of long-awaited protective equipment imported from Turkey last week was not up to UK health and safety standards. There was speculation about it being sent back and demands for refunds. It seems similar Turkish equipment is being used in many other Western countries. What are we going to do if we send it back? Stick with the snoods and bin-liners currently being used by front-line medical staff? Even after two months of lockdown paranoia and 30,000 deaths, the Real World isn’t making many inroads into our culture of delusion.

We’ve been like Michael Palin in the Monty Python “Lion Tamer” sketch. We scarcely know what a Covid-19 virus is. We also have little idea where it is and no means to destroy it. Perhaps some hats with “Virus tamer” on them would help.

Two weeks back, Wuhan experienced a new outbreak of Covid-19. Six cases. Wuhan has a population of almost 11m. If you believe the bulletins from Beijing, the Chinese managed to test all of them in 10 days. How many tests have we done in three months? Are we up to 2,000,000 yet? Having despotic totalitarianism as your system of government isn’t ideal, but there are occasions where it helps. Equalitist totalitarianism, by way contrast, always hinders.

In fairness, f**k-ups and misinterpretation of data were largely understandable.
The early video nasties from Italy were disturbing. It’s not impossible to empathise with the UK government’s policy of ensuring the NHS wasn’t over-run.
With hindsight, however, it’s arguable to say that Italy was incredibly unlucky and that the situation there in March was unlikely to be replicated in most other places. Early infections in many European countries afflicted well-educated, healthy, affluent yuppies, from rich areas, who presumably live in spacious and relatively luxurious accommodation. They picked-up the virus while on skiing holidays in Italy. The early cases in Italy were obviously a cross-section of normal citizens. These cases were not immediately recognized as coronavirus, which meant a lot of doctors, nurses and frontline health workers were quickly infected, as were medium-term hospital patients and residents of care homes. Large numbers of these unfortunates were rapidly despatched by the virus, leading to bodies piling-up outside mortuaries in major cities.
The initial Italian outbreaks occurred in the most densely populated areas of the country. These areas have high levels of air pollution by European standards, which doesn’t help when the elderly get respiratory infections. They also happen to be Italy’s richest areas and have the best healthcare facilities. As with all similar areas in The West, these localities have large numbers of affluent, elderly and seriously ill citizens being kept alive by easy access to medication and an excellent medical infrastructure. But, like our NHS, that infrastructure is geared primarily towards prolonging the process of dying for a sizable section of the population - especially affluent geriatrics and the seriously ill. Getting the short-term patient back to health is often secondary. Other than in Napoli (Vesuvius been quiet for a long time now) and Catania (where Etna rumbles away continuously), planning to deal with a one-off catastrophe barely registers in Italy. Many of the rich urban pensioners who’ve recently died would have been rich urban students or young professionals in the 1960s, when smoking 40 full-strength, non-filter, Gauloises Disque Bleu every day was the height of chic. The Covid-19 virus couldn’t have picked a worse place to appear... unless it chose Glasgow, and even a new-born virus must surely have enough of an innate sense of self-preservation not to pitch-up in Glasgow.
More than 95% of fatalities in Italy have been over 60 years of age. 84% have been over 70 and 55% have been over 80. Should no action have been taken in Glasgow, those could be the percentage death tallies for fans of Celtic, Rangers and Partick respectively, given the health of the average Glaswegian.

There was understandable panic in Italy about what would happen when coronavirus reached the much poorer south, where medical facilities in many districts are basic by the standards of Western Europe. The arrival of Covid-19 in southern areas of Italy has had a negligible impact on the death rate, which is currently running at historically normal levels for spring. The population is more widely spread in the south, there is far less pollution and far more elderly people die naturally when they become seriously ill. And, of course, they had their finger on the “fire” button when the game started. Unlike the north.
I know less about Wuhan than the average “expert” knows about Covid-19, but it’s a fair guess that a Chinese city of 10m+ people has a high population density, a respectable percentage of elderly residents and air pollution that’s off the scale by European standards.

Healthcare systems in some Western countries are geared towards priorities other than keeping cochelled-up geriatrics alive. This is often due to tradition or happenstance, rather than officially thought-through policy. For whatever reason, Germany has always maintained infeasibly large intensive care units at most major hospitals. These have never been used to anywhere near capacity. Calls to downsize the facilities are frequent, even in a country where healthcare is a high priority. The large intensive care units weren’t necessary in this outbreak, as Germany had things under control quickly, but it’s a fair bet that fewer politicians will be calling for their closure in the near future. West Germany invested heavily in its wider healthcare programme as soon as it was back on its feet after the Great Patriotic War. The policy has continued since reunification. By any measure you want to use, they spend more money on health than the UK. Germans pay an eyewatering percentage of the income tax on their salary as a separate health tax, with the money ring-fenced for health services. Very few complain.

More figures.
I wondered last week what the cost of the “Stay home! Save lives!” policy might be compared to in historical terms. The thing that came into my mind was the Marshall Plan. That seemed a good comparison for V E Day weekend.
For those who didn’t get as far as studying history at Newnham College, Cambridge, the Marshall Plan was a series of “investments” (in football terms) in Europe made by the USA in the years after the Great Patriotic War. Some of the money was loans, but the vast majority of the cash was simply donated to countries who’d had a hard time of things between 1939 and 1945.
The total “invested” was $12bn.
That represented about 3% of European government expenditure budgets over the three-year duration of the scheme.
It’s difficult to convert 1950 prices to today’s values. Some commodities have become vastly more expensive in real terms. Football and housing top that list. Getting into a Football League match might have been three bob at Millwall or four bob at Chelsea. That’s 15p or 20p for any Newnham graduates out there. An ambitious white-collar worker might have been earning £8 or £9 per week in 1950. He’d have been able to buy one of the new 3-bedroom houses going up in Ruislip, Wealdstone or Edgware for around £1,750. Those areas were just about out in the sticks then. The assistant manager at your local Barclays will need significantly more than four years’ salary for a 3-bedroom house in HA4, HA3 or HA8 these days.
Best conversion attempts of $12bn to today’s values makes it worth $150bn. Remember that the $12bn was for the whole of western Europe over three years.
So, even at the lower “£2bn-per-day” estimate of the cost to the UK economy, we’ve just spunked a sum equivalent to the entire three-year Marshall Plan funding for western Europe in two months of lockdown. To “Save lives!”

I also had a bash at working-out what universal speed limit we’d need to introduce in order to damage the economy to the tune of £2bn per day. I didn’t get all that far. The figures are beyond my mathematical abilities. HGVs alone move 1.4 billion tonnes of freight annually in the UK, travelling more 18 billion miles. I reckon we’d have to implement a universal speed limit well south of 15mph to cause an equivalent level of damage to the economy. That’s 20 hours and two drivers to take a load from London to Newcastle. No bike couriers gunning around with time-critical docs, urgent medical supplies or pizzas either. No emergency vehicles blasting about.
A 15mph speed limit would “Save lives!” but I don’t see much clamour for one.
We could revert to a 3mph limit for motor vehicles to “Save lives!”
It would “Save lives!” to the tune of 2,000 per year. It would also help ensure the NHS isn’t over-run.
And think of all the jobs created by the requirement to have a bloke with a red flag walking in front of every vehicle.

Anyhow, I’ve dug out that piece on Prof. Ferguson from the April 24th edition of Private Eye:

Eye readers may have felt a bat-squeak of recognition at the name of Dr. Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College academic who took credit for the government’s change of strategy on coronavirus last month after predicting 260,000 deaths if it continued on a “mitigation” course rather than a full lockdown.
Ferguson was part of the Imperial team led by Professor Roy Anderson which, during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, produced a computer model predicting heights of 400 new cases per day during a period in May when they actually averaged less than eight, and then obligingly amended it to show cases tapering off to zero on exactly the day Tony Blair wanted to hold an election.
The Imperial team’s computer model was the basis for the “contiguous slaughter” strategy which resulted in the killing of 7.7m farm animals and devastation of the rural economy. It was criticised at the time by experts including the deputy director of the Pirbright Institute of Animal Health, who said Imperial had produced “some very seductive graphs” based on “seriously inconsistent data”; by The Royal Society in its government-ordered inquiry following the crisis; and in later scientific papers, including a 2006 study by Edinburgh epidemiologist Professor Michael Thrusfield which concluded the model was “not fit for purpose”.
Obviously this meant Ferguson got an OBE and a seat on SAGE, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies which was set-up after the F&M outbreak, and a voice in the government’s response to epidemics including bird flu and ebola.
In his many, many media appearances during the current crisis, Ferguson has stressed the role of assumptions about the infection and hospitalization rate of coronavirus, but one civil servant involved in the response put it more bluntly to Private Eye in late-March: “All models are wrong. Some of them are useful, but we simply don’t have enough data at the moment for any meaningful modelling, because this is a new pathogen and we don’t know anywhere near enough about how it behaves, and because of the lack of testing.” What data there was came from China and Italy, then the two epicentres of the pandemic, and might not be reliable – a point demonstrated closer to home last week as the Office for National Statistics unveiled death rates running 50% higher than those put out in the government’s daily briefings.
Not that this has discouraged a media with a taste for frighteningly large numbers, such as the 500,000 that Ferguson suggested could die in the UK if no action was taken. As another former advisor to the government during the foot-and-mouth crisis tells Private Eye: “Ferguson and his fellow modellers have very little risk of reputational damage. They will take the credit for persuading the government to implement these ruinous control strategies, just as they did with foot-and-mouth disease. Later analysis showed that their predictions were never going to happen, and it was well under control before the contiguous cull was attempted. But the inquiry brushed over it – it was all over by then. Similarly, they cannot lose here – the 500,000 they predicted to die of Covid-19 will never die – but they will take the credit for implementing the controls and preventing their deaths.”

The first thing to say about that piece is that is appears overly cynical and unnecessarily condemnatory. It’s not quite a, “Move along, now! Nothing to see here!” job, but it’s a mite over the top. The notion that the 500,000 projected corpses “will never die” is amusing. Care homes need to improve their level of service, but I doubt immortality will be advertised as standard any time soon.
Just because something appears in Private Eye does not mean it’s true and it doesn’t mean it’s from an objective source. Private Eye itself may be scrupulously even-handed and objective, but many of its regular contributors are specialists working in specific fields or in government departments and quangos. They will have personal prejudices as well as professional ones. Some will have axes to grind. There are limits to the extent to which Ian Hislop can wield his red pen.

The likelihood is that Prof. Ferguson is simply a product of the environment and culture that spawned him and which surrounds him. It’s unlikely that he’s a cynical, money-grabbing opportunist, spreading paranoia for personal gain in the matter of “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins in East Anglia in the 1640s. His resignation last week, together with that of Dr. Calderwood, might undermine that view. To lose one government’s Chief Scientific Advisor to a staggering bout of hypocrisy may be accounted to a misfortune. To lose both does smack of a culture of almost unparalleled opportunistic cynicism. But I still don’t see him a professional piss-taker. As Prof. Ferguson’s squeeze is a professional agitator on matters such as climate change and Third World poverty, Private Eye’s next issue may well reveal that they were discussing the impact Covid-19 is having in Uganda.

Excessive caution in risk avoidance policy is standard throughout the public and academic sectors, not just in medicine.
It’s more than twenty years since an acquaintance of mine had his van stolen in Sussex. Towards the end of the process of filling-out the relevant form, the desk sergeant sheepishly asked him if he required counselling. My acquaintance initially thought the officer was having a laugh. He’s something of a comedian and was treating the theft in good humour. Accordingly, the desk sergeant was being as light-hearted as his sense of professionalism allowed. The offer was serious. Sussex Police had recently introduced a policy of offering counselling to all victims of vehicle theft. One cannot be too cautious. Having a van nicked might be the final straw that pushes some poor sod off a 20-storey building. Or makes them join a gun club.

These days it would be hard to imagine any elected representative - or perhaps anyone working in the public sector - having the chutzpah to question proposals to introduce any measure designed to assist “victims of trauma”, no matter how ridiculous the measure may seem. For that matter, it would be hard to imagine a local councillor opposing the installation of a bicycle lane on the inside of an arterial road, just before a major junction where large numbers of buses and HGVs turn left. Or opposing the reduction of Park Lane to a single lane, by making half of it “bicycles only”, in order to protect “vulnerable novice cyclists” during the return to work - as if there wasn’t a large cycle lane inside Hyde Park, 50 yards from the main carriageway, running all the way from Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch.
Anything with buzzwords and soundbites such as “Victim”, “Environmentally friendly” or “Save lives!” attached to it is difficult to counter. It’s hard to blame apparatchiks within the system for falling into line with the prevalent culture.

On most of the occasions I dealt with stipendiary parasites in a professional capacity, as secretary of a trade association, I found most of them to be reasonable people. Cynicism was rare, though local authority parking/traffic departments were an exception, as were security companies implementing time-wasting “secureaucracy” measures to make it look as if they were providing security. The number of security firms whose senior staff rub their hands in glee when a bomb goes off or someone gets beheaded is disgusting. Even TfL tended to be manageable.

One of the first things I do every Sunday is read Gene Kerrigan’s column. Gene Kerrigan is rather “left-wing.” As I say, I don’t read UK newspapers but I’d be surprised to learn that anyone within a couple of parishes of Gene Kerrigan, in terms of being “left-wing”, has a column in any UK newspaper other than the Morning Star. Not being British and not writing for a British newspaper, Kerrigan does not have to qualify every “left-wing” sentiment with three politically correct platitudes. Not being beholden to either a Guardianista editor or Guardianista readers, he is also allowed to use irony and satire indiscriminately.
In a column last month, bemoaning the exploitation of “essential workers”, he quoted figures that show Ireland now has more millionaires than nurses. In the latest five-year period for which figures are available, the increase in the number of millionaires created by the policies of the “mercilessly wealth-friendly” Evil Tories in the UK runs to 12%. The EU average was an increase of 14%. In Ireland, by far the most Public Sector-friendly economy in The West, the “millionaire surge” was an impressive 32%.
Kerrigan railed against “gunslingers” providing “professional services” and amusingly, if not entirely originally, listed them as, “Lawyers, consultants, analysts, lawyers, lobbyists, propagandists and lawyers.” That lot will all have their snouts in the trough during any review process that might (but probably won’t) lead to a substantial rise in wages for nurses and other “essential workers.”

The “risk avoidance” community within the stipendiary parasitocracy is enormous. Simply because of herd behaviour, rather than cynicism, its principal function is to enlarge itself.
The real world does impose some limits though. My favourite stipendiary parasite of those I had to deal with was one Percy Smith, a middle-class Glaswegian (!) working as a senior inspector at the Health & Safety Executive. Unprompted, he observed that the 1974 HSW Act could be seen as one of the worst on the statute books because its scope was too wide-ranging and too ambiguously defined. He was supportive of the Act generally and of the many improvements and accomplishments it had spawned, but he bemoaned the large number of occasions on which he was required to investigate alleged breaches that were trivial beyond belief and had nothing to do with Health & Safety.

The scope and ambiguity of the 1974 HSW Act is the reason the Health & Safety Executive has never sought to prosecute anyone under the Act in circumstances where the police can deal with matters under Road Traffic legislation. Gang of lads working for you being ferried around in a vehicle with bald tyres and no brakes? The HSE won’t be interested. Gang of lads working for you being ferried around in the back of a van or minibus with carbon monoxide flowing in from a faulty exhaust? The HSE won’t be interested. Company vehicle supplied to a driver with no instruction or training in its use having been given? The HSE won’t be interested. Applying the 1974 HSW Act’s core “wherever practicable” requirement for eliminating risk to situations where people are travelling at 70mph in motor vehicles would be tricky. Even if the motor vehicle has more than two wheels. It might well lead to 3mph speed limits and geezers with red flags preceding anything with an internal combustion engine… or a battery. Outside a road traffic environment, that scale of risk-avoidance can be legitimately lobbied for and there are “gunslingers” who are paid to lobby for it.
The risk avoidance implemented for Covid-19 illustrates the point.

It’s the reverse of the Two Ronnies “Insurance Against Becoming Jewish” sketch.
Customer: “I’d like to insure my country against having its population wiped-out by a virus.”
Broker: “I see. Please, take a seat. Now then, what sort of virus are we talking about? How contagious? Level of virulence? Rate of transmission? Most importantly, death rate?”
Customer: “It’s mild. Largely airborne. Not especially contagious in normal social situations. Kills one in 200 it infects in the overall population. One in 10,000 of those healthy and under fifty. Nothing to worry about really.”
Broker: “Yes. Quite. Forgive me, but I’ve heard this type of thing before. And what sort of premium might you be thinking of?”
Customer: “Oh, maybe two billion sterling, perhaps three - ballpark figure.”
Broker (vaguely looking for the pen he’s just dropped somewhere under the chair he’s just almost fallen out of): “I see. Can I get you a drink? I’ve a very nice 40-year-old single malt here.”
Customer: “Thank you very much. I will.”
Broker: “Foie-gras sandwich? With organic avocados. On organic rye bread.”
Customer: “Thank you.”
Broker: “If I may say so, if this is such a mild virus, £2bn or £3bn, from my company’s viewpoint, does seem a somewhat generously lucrative annual premium.”
Customer: “Daily.”
Broker (laughing): “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. For a moment there I thought you said “Daily”!”
Customer: “I did. Somebody else is paying.”
Broker: “I see! Bear with me a second. Miss Jones! Yes, Miss Jones, can you call Scarlett in Los Angeles? We have a night’s work for her. We’ll pay double what she’s getting for her current film.”


As for football, well, reality appears to be sinking in. My opinion that most leagues would be played to a conclusion was based on the view that the UK government would not be able to hold the line on its lockdown policy for as long as it has, but that opinion still holds for the leagues at the higher levels.

The occupants of the UK’s Planet Football have turned into the cast of “The Poseidon Adventure.” You remember that: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelly Winters. Luxury liner capsizes and tips upside down. The cast has to scramble to safety by climbing up to the outer hull. At first, the water seems a long way off and people want to stay put. Then the water starts to rise and the ship begins to sink. The water looked a long way down to Hastings United two months ago. Five decks later, the creeping tide has panicked League Two clubs into action and League One clubs are getting edgy, though the band plays on in the Premier League’s 1st Class ballroom, which is still far above the rising briny.

At lower levels, any urge South Shields FC had to sue the Northern Premier League has been tempered by the realisation that the Northern Premier League may not exist by the time any litigation is settled. South Shields might by then be back in the Geordieland Northern League, which might be one of 20 leagues at the highest level below the Football League when matches resume.
The Isthmian and Southern Leagues might also be gone. So might the National League. Wealdstone might be playing the Mon… errr, sorry, Hendon… as well as the Hairdressers, Barnet and Berkhamsted, in a Home Counties North West League, in which the trip to Aylesbury is both the longest schlep and the most eagerly anticipated highlight of the season.
I don’t think that will happen, but it is possible. I’ve always believed any decision to curtail the 2019/20 season would see Wealdstone in Division Five when football resumes and I still do.

I stand by my view than The Blazers would’ve had a 75% to 80% chance of defeating any individual act of litigation or attempt at securing a writ, had they called-off the season and decided everything on a points-per-game basis at the end of March. As the weeks and months go by, playing the 19/20 season to a conclusion becomes less practical, the case for calling-off the season gets stronger and the chances of successful litigation against a decision to settle the season on a points-per-game basis recede.

Whilst The FA south of Hadrian’s Wall understandably continues to dither in the threatening shadow of Our Learned Friends - and the looming spectre of 1974 HSW Act, which applies to the health & safety of working footballers (unless they’re in the team coach when it’s bricked by opposition hooligans) - the Scottish Blazers have played a blinder in dealing with their clubs.
“Seek & destroy” has been perfectly demonstrated. They started by having cosy chats with clubs, then allowed clubs a public vote. Then they let any clubs that fancied it to sit down together and discuss various scenarios. The sit-down would’ve resulted in the more extreme pieces of cynical “legal advice” received by some club directors being compared, contrasted and demolished by fellow club directors who’d received far more rational and sensible legal advice. Reality is more likely to be brought home to any Mr. Angry by discussion with friends, colleagues and peers than by having those in authority lecture and threaten Mr. Angry in what’s already a confrontational situation.
Some malcontents were identified in the cosy chats. All were made to step forward in an open vote of SPFL clubs. This revealed a lack of widespread support for the malcontents. Those identified could then be isolated and put under pressure by members of their own community in the “restructuring discussions.” The Blazers sat back and watched. Forced to face the reality of possible mass bankruptcies in Scottish football, Aberdeen, closing on a crumbling Motherwell for the final European place in the League, have accepted that they won’t be in Europe if the Edinburgh finalist wins the Scottish Cup. Falkirk, on a roll and odds-on to pass Raith, have accepted another season in the seaside division. Stranraer have accepted relegation. A dozen clubs have accepted that they won’t get a chance of promotion via the play-offs.
Partick, facing the seaside divisions three years after finishing 6th in the top flight, make grumbling noises. Hearts scream very loudly and consult lawyers, but their chances of overturning any decision to relegate them on a points-per-game ruling are small. Four points adrift, having lost to main relegation rivals St.Mirren last time out and having scraped a draw in their last home match against then-second-bottom Hamilton (who played 75 minutes with ten men), it’s hard to see how they’ll get much support for their “Waaah! Unfair!” claim in a court of law. They have almost no case at all for litigation on the basis that the other nasty clubs will refuse to restructure the SPFL to keep Hearts up.

Restructuring is not popular amongst Scottish Premiership clubs, many of whom would lose at least one Bigot Brothers fixture and possibly two. The TV deal is reliant on a structure that just about guarantees four Bigot Brothers clashes in each league season. TV firms aren’t really interested in the rest of Scottish football and they certainly won’t pay the current fees for Aberdeen v. Dunfermline or even the Edinburgh Derby. Even with the Old Firm, the current Scottish TV deal is, per capita, the lowest-paying deal in any country in Western Europe. Like it or not, in international terms, Scottish football is Rangers v. Celtic.

When I was in Australia, international cricket boards had cottoned-on to the situation that brown envelopes were appearing in the kitbags of overseas players touring the country. These were not from Indian bookmakers. They were from agents working with advertising and public relations agencies. Players with a high profile were being slipped a few dollars to promote things during the Australian summer. Not many players had managers in those days and any managers that did exist were unlikely to be touting their clients around Australia. West Indies were in town for a full October to February tour that season. The WICB had wised-up and wanted a cut. Fair enough. The West Indies players were under contract to the WICB after all. So, players had to agree percentage terms and deals had to be done through the WICB. An oily Ocker spiv would approach the WICB and offer, say, $20,000 to act as Viv’s agent or $10,000 to act as Joel’s agent for four months. How the WICB split the cash with Mr. Richards and Mr. Garner was up to them. The spiv would then get advertising work for the players he’d signed-up and take enough of a percentage from his players to recoup his payment to the WICB and make a profit. Viv and Joel would then “feel like a Toohey’s or two” in an ad with a catchy jingle in breaks on Channel Nine’s Test coverage and across TV stations generally.
Pakistan pitched-up for the three-way B&H World Series Cup after Christmas. Ten games each before the finals in those days, so the Pakis - as they were innocently called in 1980s Australia, without controversy - were around for a month or so. Infamously, the best offer a spiv made to the PCB was “$5,000 for Imran Khan or $5,500 for the whole squad.”
Inflated view though they may have of themselves, Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen are about as much use for selling Scottish Premiership packages to overseas TV firms as Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir were for selling soap powder to Australian housewives... and all three of those were far better at cricket than Hearts, Hibs & the Sheepshaggers are at football.
For that reason, there will be no enlargement of the Premiership in Scotland.

Rangers continue to rattle their spears. F**k knows why. Green away shirts are more likely to be on sale in the club shop in the autumn than “Champions 2020” t-shirts. Their dirt “dossier” was interesting and raised several genuine grounds for concern. All of these were relatively minor but, had the dossier been released in a civilized and orderly manner, it might have initiated some debate. Rangers announcement a month in advance of publication suggested that they had a videotape of Neil Doncaster, in a public men’s room in Bellahouston Park, sucking a cub-scout’s dick, with a small rodent in his rectal passage. This had the unfortunate effect of everyone simply laughing at them when they finally released the dossier. Doncaster has far more solid grounds for litigation against Rangers for defamation than Rangers have for any sort of legal action against either the SFA or the SPFL… and “Yeah”, I have been watching “The Sopranos.”

In England, there is, as yet, no sign of a public vote amongst Championship clubs. I’d be confident the legal advice all Championship clubs in and around the play-off places will have received will be to say nothing - either in private or in public. There may be some fair-minded and sporting gentlemen sitting in the chairman’s seat at some Championship clubs (though I personally doubt that), but revealing their hand is still unwise at this stage and they will have been advised not to do so. The rising water is still a good few decks below the Championship play-off berths.
The likes of Brentford, Millwall and Preston are looking at a tenfold increase in turnover if they make the Premier League. It’s too much money for them to risk having their position identified and being subsequently isolated. With the possibility of an enlarged play-off system or various “adjusted” points-per-game calculations, they’ll keep schtum until the water rises a lot higher.
That “adjusted points-per-game” on a home & away basis perplexes me. Someone’s pulled a great flanker there. It opens a can of worms. Yes, if Team A and Team B are only a point apart after 36 games and Team A has six home matches to play while Team B only four at home, Team A should be reasonably expected to get more points than Team B over the last ten games. But any statistician or successful football punter will tell you that “strength of opposition” is usually significantly more important than “venue” these days when it comes to assessing probable results over a ten-game spell. Eight of Team A’s ten games could be against opposition in the top ten, with their away trips being to the top three and their local rivals. If so, Team A is unlikely to get as many points in those ten matches as Team B, if nine of Team B’s remaining games are against clubs in the bottom half. I think anything other than straight “points-per-game” opens unwanted avenues for litigation.

Elfunsafety has unfortunately become a large hurdle to clear in the battle to resume playing. As I said, I didn’t believe the government would get away with holding this level of lockdown for two months, but it has. The standards of risk-avoidance that have been normalised are high. Even without over-cautious measures becoming standard, a player refusing to return to training with a potentially fatal contagious disease on the loose should reasonably expect to be given the full support of the Health & Safety Executive. As yet, the HSE has not piped-up.

The HSE has not moved to support frontline NHS staff who’ve been working without adequate protective equipment for the same reasons it ignores the 1974 HSW Act in road traffic situations and in cases of trawlers at sea in force-10 winds: extending the level of protection that might be taken for granted by a “normal” worker to those working in inherently dangerous jobs is not practical and would be hugely counterproductive.

Footballers are not frontline health workers. I see no way they can be forced back to work while the (wildly guesstimated) current levels of infection persist and when there is neither a vaccine or effective treatment for the illness. Nobody can be crucified if an “I’m Spartacus” scenario ensues after the first player step forward and refuses to play.

The Bundesliga is back up and running. Subs wearing masks and sitting two metres apart… while normal tussles, tackles and goal celebrations go ahead on the pitch. I doubt German law on health and safety is as sweeping as ours, but I’d be astonished if most interpretations of it would prevent a player from getting unwavering legal support if he were to refuse to play.

In Ireland, a survey last week of 3,000+ GAA players from all levels saw 22% say they would refuse to return to training until a vaccine is found. 39% said they would not attend a club fixture (i.e. one with a few hundred fans) as a spectator in the current circumstances. 66% would not attend an inter-county match (i.e. one with an attendance in the thousands) as a spectator. Those surveyed will range from those waddling around in over-40s teams to those who might expect to be running-out in front of 30,000+ for leading counties, but they are striking figures.

As with football, the question for the government now is how can we convince substantial sections of society at large that it’s safe to return to something approaching normality. There have been plenty of verified stories of people on medication who have been so un-nerved by the prospect of catching Covid-19 that they are not venturing out to renew prescriptions an are consequently dying. Large numbers of ill people are not seeking treatment.
I ride or walk past Chelsea & Westminster Hospital every day. The A&E department is right on the Fulham Road, on the ground floor, and it’s mainly glass-fronted. There have rarely been more than half-a-dozen people in the waiting area at any time I’ve gone past in the last couple of months. Normally there’d be 30-plus. Granted, if people are at home, they’re presumably less likely to have accidents requiring emergency treatment. Maybe those who cut a finger opening a can of organic tuna for Tiddles might be less likely to decide that this is a job for A&E. It’s a striking reduction though… especially when you consider that road traffic accident admissions have spiked alarmingly at Chelsea & Westminster, due to motorists - mainly Audi drivers, if my observations are anything to go by - behaving like dicks on empty roads.
Vorsprung durch Windschutzscheibe, as they say in Germany. Ninety-three next month or not, saving Geoffrey Palmer from Covid-19 might be worth £10k per day.

I’ve been doing food deliveries every day since the lockdown. Deliveroo and UberEats have an option for “contactless delivery.” Pizza chains and other restaurants with their own delivery riders have the same option. It wasn’t until around three weeks ago that the percentage of customers I’ve delivered to opting for “contactless delivery” crept up to 50%. The week before last, it surged alarmingly to around 80% inside seven days. It began to drop back slightly last week and has plummeted to 35% since Boris’s reassuring words after the V E Day holiday. That’s a heck of a drop in five days. The fact that so many people believe Boris is of appreciably more concern than the virus itself.

I try to stay in Kensington, Chelsea, Fulham and the civilized bits of Battersea, with occasional trips to Bayswater, Notting Hill, St.John’s Wood or a deserted West End. Most customers are foreign. The majority are affluent and seemingly well-educated.
At a house, I phone customers who’ve requested contactless deliveries and leave the food on the doorstep for them to collect. At blocks of flats - usually low-rise mansion blocks in the areas I work in - I use the intercom. I rarely use lifts below five floors, unless there’s one with an open automatic door right in front of me. Scarily high numbers of apartment residents nervously wait at a half-open door and ask me to leave the food two meters away on a landing or three steps from the top of their landing. That un-nerves me. It’s like they genuinely believe Covid-19 is a miniature version of the “facehugger” phase in Alien, with me as the egg and them as John Hurt.
Either that or they believe these things are in geo-stationary orbit at a distance of two meters from a host. Interestingly, they orbit at 1.5 meters in Belgium. In Austria they are resilient enough to orbit at three meters - which is exactly what you’d expect from the Master Virus they doubtless have in Austria.

I can understand people exercising extreme caution, but the idea that a virus can leap two metres from person to person, yet cannot use a brown paper bag as a stepping stone en route, is ludicrous. What the f**k do they think governs a Covid-19 virus’s behaviour? The IAAF’s long-jump rules? It gets DQ’d and is not allowed to infect you if it uses a triple-jump technique?

Last weekend, I attempted an afternoon jog around my manor. This is an obscenely rich area. Levels of academic qualification are high, though this doesn’t necessarily reflect levels of common sense. I had to give up after less than ten minutes. Eel Brook Common was too well-populated with sunbathers and kids playing games or riding bikes for me to run on the grass. I tried the paths. The ones with no rails weren’t so much of a problem and I managed to give people a wide berth, but those with railings saw people imitating Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope as they tried to make sure I didn’t come within two meters of them - even in a deliberate “slow jog, scarcely breathing” mode. I exited from the dead-end Novello Street towards the Sloaney Pony and Parson’s Green. Oncoming pedestrians scattered. People walking in the same direction as me looked over their shoulders at the sound of my footsteps and dived out of the way, as though I was a posse of Hell’s Angels and they’d just finished their lockdown entertainment by watching Mad Max. There were fewer people on Parson’s Green - too many trees to sunbathe, but a mite small to run around. On New King’s Road, punters queuing to pay £3 for an organic avocado at Bayley & Sage greengrocers took their chances stepping into the carriageway with buses approaching, rather than allow a middle-aged jogger within two meters of them. I try never run down side streets, but I diverted down some. The terror on the faces of people confronted by an oncoming jogger and hemmed-in by Land Rovers and Porsche 4x4s parked bumper-to-bumper was Janet Leigh standard. Back out on Fulham Road, punters queuing to pay £25 for a free-range chicken at the Parson’s Nose butchers behaved exactly like those queuing at Bayley & Sage. I dived down a side street, only to meet an elderly gent and a Weimaraner on a lead coming towards me. I pulled-up, stepped into a narrow gap between a BMW M5 and an Abarth mini-wankmobile and gave up. Noticing I was opposite Pat Cash’s genuinely modest abode didn’t improve my mood. It made me think that I should definitely have overstayed in Australia. For at least 40 years. I trudged back to opposite Jemima Khan’s genuinely impressive mansion. It didn’t make me think I should ever have visited Pakistan, never mind overstaying.
Whatever the government’s failings in detecting, controlling or suppressing Covid-19, it’s made a damned fine job of scaring the shit out of a remarkably large number of people.

So how does it intend to convince them that it’s now safe to emerge from the security of the castle walls? These people, like footballers, are entitled to protection under the 1974 HSW Act. Public perception is overwhelmingly that they are being exposed to what modern society deems high levels of risk.

When I was a lad, Acts of Parliament defining criminal offences for which guilt or innocence might be regarded as requiring a degree of subjectivity inevitably contained reference to the opinion of a “reasonable person” as the key criterion. In modern legislation, the “reasonable person” has invariably been replaced by “a victim” or - far, far worse - “a victim or any other person.” Empowering the psychologically fragile or downright mentally deranged, by granting them the same “rights” as everyone else, is undoubtedly cathartic for liberal legislators, but it makes for practically unenforceable law.
In the case of Covid-19 paranoia, we’re not even in that ballpark. Even by more distant standards, a “reasonable person” might baulk at having to work in some of the conditions people have endured over the past two months. I wouldn’t fancy working in a shop, never mind being a chauffeur doing pick-us at airports. For reasons of practically, the Health & Safety Executive has remained inactive.

Premier League footballers, it must be said, don’t need the HSE. The 1974 HSW Act applies to all situations - especially working situations - regardless of whether the HSE decides to ignore its statutory duties. There have been successful private prosecutions of employers for breaches of the Act that have occurred in situations covered by road traffic law. Premier League footballers can afford to take out injunctions or initiate private prosecutions and would be almost certain to win them. Most low-paid “key workers” can’t afford private prosecutions and will be unlikely to seek an injunction. There will undoubtedly be bolshie employees in the HSE looking closely at the situation with twitchy trigger fingers and itching to draw. F**k knows what happens then.

Oh, to conclude, I see the Tories have launched a team to study China and understand what makes them tick. What a laugh. It’s like Arsenal launching a spying/scouting programme to study Liverpool, as if their every move wasn’t on TV.
I can save them some trouble.
The Chinese value unity and conformity; not “diversity”, which they oddly regard as a divisive influence that weakens society.
For at least the last two centuries, ethnic groups that are clearly not Han Chinese have made strenuous efforts to portray themselves as such and mingle into the majority “community.” These efforts have been successful and they are now accepted as being Han Chinese.
The notion of an individual wearing a pendant, or even having a tattoo, of a country that individual has never been to, will never visit and has no wish to be a part of, yet which the individual claims to be central to their identity, would constitute certifiable madness to the average Chinese. As would changing one’s name to a foreign spelling and inserting letters into it that didn’t even appear in said name when one’s ancestors were using the language in question.

There are 1.4bn Chinese. They all think I’m little higher than a monkey on the evolutionary scale. Clearly this is because I have a large, pointy nose, blue eyes and my skin is a different colour to theirs. Any notion that their low opinion of me is attributable to a rational analysis of the situation - my ancestors were throwing spears and eating each other at the time when theirs were inventing just about everything of use to modern society - is clearly false. The Chinese are clearly not “right-thinking” like we are. They are guilty of isms and phobias.

Perhaps we should re-educate them. We’ve done it before. Twice. It was a simple matter in the mid-1800s. Flood the country with opium and send in the gunboats to raze a few coastal cities. It worked. Maybe we should try it again. After all, scavenging on an irradiated hunk of rock in the northeast Atlantic must be a Culture Of Equal Merit to that of the Enlightenment, Socialism, Mohammedanism or throwing spears and eating each other. It can’t be too bad.

Maybe we could close their football stadiums if they say - or chant - anything offensive. That’ll learn ‘em! It’s a remarkable fact that the number of sub-Saharan Africans enslaved or colonised by the Chinese is almost precisely equal to the number enslaved and colonised by those beastly Bulgarian johnnnies, whose football grounds we closed last year. A highly suspicious coincidence if you ask me.

Perhaps we could glue ourselves to the doors of their vehicles, like those brave Extinction Rebellion protesters did in London last spring. I gather there’s a place in Beijing called Tiananmen Square, which has lots of tanks that would be ideal for protesters gluing themselves to.

In all seriousness, when I was born - in a hospital now converted into a luxury “gated community” for Russian and Arab money-launderers and tax-dodgers - the life-expectancy in China was almost spot-on fifty. Of every 100 children born in China, 22 died before their fifth birthday. Life expectancy and child mortality rates in China are now at western levels.
Meanwhile, In London, the days of a man being able to afford a house and keep a wife and two kids on a worker’s salary have been replaced by housing shortages, gig-economy jobs and foodbanks in our Equalitist paradise.

In the history of civilization, nothing remotely compares with the achievement of the Chinese Communist Party in lifting such an astronomical number of people out of poverty inside two generations. That’s why there are so few Chinese dissidents, either domestically or in The West. That’s why the vast majority of Chinese intellectuals and students support the Communist Party. China is a unique post-WW2 example of an authoritarian state that has massively improved the quality of life for almost all its people, while no leading officials have siphoned billions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts.
Whilst the Chinese government’s censorship of Chinese media and bans on Western films and recordings may be laughably strict, censorship of information for the intellectual classes only exists - admittedly in draconian form - in terms of material that is specifically critical of the Chinese regime.
The works of Solzhenitsyn and Orwell are readily available. Chinese intellectuals study abroad. Chinese businessmen work abroad. They are exposed to foreign ideological concepts and are aware of “subversive” foreign literature. The Communist party sees no sense in banning such things. Admittedly, reading a dissident’s book that is critical of China on an Air China plane would be unwise, as would reading anything Taiwanese. Disseminating such literature could see your internal organs being rapidly transplanted into a wealthy American. Over-zealous enforcement of political orthodoxy at local level is not unknown, but there is no equivalent of the widespread surveillance and monitoring associated with most dictatorships and “communist” states.
Almost all Chinese abroad genuinely view Chinese Communism as superior to Western society and the proles won’t read subversive things anyway. Almost all Chinese see a high rate of executions and some restrictions on free speech as small prices to pay for the advances the country has made within living memory of most citizens.

The Covid-19 virus has brought Chinese hegemony maybe a decade closer. That may be bad news for people whom the Chinese view as being somewhere between a monkey and a lemur on the evolutionary scale. But look on the bright side: Covid-19 also means that such people are far less likely to end their days between a pangolin and a snake in a wet market.

If you want to “Save lives!” then donate to a charity installing sanitation in the Third World. I doubt any new sanitation projects will cost £10,000 per day to maintain. I’m confident they’ll all save more than one life - especially if maintenance was to cost £10k per day.

Oh! A tip for you. If you have any spare time or cash left after the “Save lives!” policy, you should “Save Bolivars!” The Venezuelan currency is definitely

If you need to elevate something to the status of the sacrosanct, there are lots of options.
The works of JK Rowling could be declared holy scriptures and anyone guilty of “potterism” could be executed. Maybe a few moai could be carved from the White Cliffs of Dover and worshipped, though this would have been more significant last weekend. Maybe melt down all your gold, to show your displeasure at mining our planet’s resources for reasons of decadence, and cast them into a statue you can bow down to: a young animal, perhaps. Declare some randomly-selected bloke in a historic tourist destination - I dunno, Rome springs to mind for some reason - to be infallible and obey his every whim. I gather that sacrificing your kids to Quetzalcoatl will “Save lives!” Those of you who work for local authorities or advertising & public relations companies must have colleagues who can easily convince the proles that this is the case. Alternatively, exhume Edward Woodward and cremate him in an ornate artwork atop a hill. I’m reliably that this will also “Save lives!”

I hope most of you will still have jobs, clients and maybe even a football club to support by the scheduled start of next season.

Long live the Furlough Fairy!

Salaam alaikum.
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