Isn’t that a nice image of a butterfly?
Alright, enough pleasantries, now for the week’s events.
You can now listen to What Just Happened in audio form, as Ali and Will take a stroll through this weeks blog:
Bonus: Who’s Getting Rich from PPE in the UK? (27th October) – What Just Happened?
- Bonus: Who’s Getting Rich from PPE in the UK? (27th October)
- Bonus: The WJH take on Covid in the UK (16th October)
- 4th July – Change Places! Mount (Rush)more Culture War and The Encryption that Wasn't
- 27th June – Why We Can’t Have Nice Stuff, Recreational Sheep, and Pointless Planes
- 13th June – Tearing Down Walls, Chickens without Borders, Trace Your Enthusiasm
Florida Man Launches Failed Coup
If there were ever to be a ‘Florida man’ of coup attempts, this would be it. Two American ex-special forces turned mercenaries were caught this week, allegedly attempting to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, before setting foot on Venezuelan soil. It appears the two had been training additional insurgents in Columbia, before planning to assume control of Caracas airport and extradite Maduro to the US. This may all sound like a crazy idea, until you realise that AP had published a detailed investigation of the coup attempt several days before it even kicked off, making it a downright insanely stupid idea.
The (alleged) Florida man in charge was ex-green beret Jordan Goudreau and his private security firm Silvercorp. It would appear that the plot emerged as a plan between members of Guaidó’s opposition and Goudreau after they met when Silvercorp provided security for Richard Branson’s fundraising concert on the Venezuelan-Columbian border in early 2019, although the opposition leader denies any knowledge. The plot fell apart after its Venezuelan backers lost confidence in Goudreau and pulled the plug. I for one, am looking forward to this movie/Netflix series. In the meantime, the footage of Goudreau parading around in his underpants and looking all pre-botched-coup broody on his company website will have to suffice…
Vive la France
The French health service have begun retesting samples from before Covid-19 was known to be widespread in the country, revealing at least one positive case as early as December 2019, a month before the first previously confirmed case in France. While the virus can’t have come into existence after it’s reliably being recorded, this isn’t necessarily an instance of reliable testing (since this is about one sample). The other likely explanations include; false positives (the sample tested positive for SARS-COV-2 despite not containing it, although the sample tested positive twice) and contamination at some point since the sample has been in existence (when it’s been kicking around in labs throughout 5 months of pandemic this starts to look plausible, to put it mildly).
When thinking of daring heists of huge proportions, it’s rare that New Zealand comes to mind. Tell that to the Kiwi chaps who made off with 97 pristine hire cars from a lot in Auckland under the cover of lockdown. It was a haul that seemed too good to be true – a field full of cars, unlocked, with the keys inside, you can hardly blame them for having a go (or as many goes were required to depart with almost 100 automobiles…).
The quintessentially Kiwi non-violent theft occurred over Anzac weekend (the long weekend commemorating Aussies and Kiwis who’ve died in wars and peacekeeping missions), which falls on the anniversary of the disastrous Gallipoli landings – if you’re a history buff, Sean McMeekin’s telling of this tragedy of inept leadership in The Ottoman Endgame is worth a read… anyway, back to the car thieves making a mockery of the freedoms their ancestors afforded them; over the long weekend, staff from the car-rental firm weren’t inspecting the lot, so they only learned of the mass-automobile-migration following a police report.
The plucky thieves however, didn’t seem to think past the first part of stealing the cars and haven’t been tricky to track down, given the small market at the moment for the sale of suspiciously under-priced hire cars, with 85 having been recovered so far and 29 people arrested.
Giant F’ing Hornets
Asian Hornets have been in the North Westernmost point of the U.S., and British Columbia, since August of last year (at the latest): similarly to our UAP story last week, the finite quantity of extremely concerning news continues to reveal itself. Why is this story doing the rounds again at the moment? Likely because major outlets are trying to write about something other than Old Lady Rona and they’ve a keen sense of the extent of our desensitization…
A pretty determined bee-keeper and supporting team found a nest in BC and killed the bastards (I might start using murder-hornet as a synonym for bastard), which is great, because it’s crucial to get invasive species before they entrench themselves and start exporting that sweet crude… wait, sorry, Asian Hornets – not the U.S. military, right.
They’ll decapitate whole hives of bees in order to take the thoraxes (thorai?) back to their young for feeding… punk rock as it gets (Ozzy Osbourne eat your heart out… not literally… though there is still speculation about how Ozzy feeds his young. Anyhow!).
The bastards (sorry, hornets) are usually just shy of a couple of inches long (1.8”), with ¼” stingers (enough to make it through bee-keeping suits, as our Canadian heroes mentioned above learned) and wing spans of around 3” (so about 1/28th that of a bald eagle, to use a totally unhelpful comparison), though Queen’s can be longer than 2” – who knew hornets had Queens? Just another coincidental relationship with the British… think nothing more of it.
The bees do have a defense mechanism, gathering round the hornet in huge numbers, vibrating and existing such that the hornet gets cooked in a buzzy bee-oven (heat vision footage of such gnarl). Remarkably, the tolerances here are pretty fine: the bees generally survive since they can tolerate temperatures up to 118 Fahrenheit, while the hornets upper limit is 115, so they’ve got to generate enough bee-friction in the 116 to 117 range to do the hornet in. Though, as you can imagine, this is pretty exhausting for the poor bees. They can get a few scout hornets, but they’ll soon be overrun if the hornets persist.
This Week in Dystopia:
The writer and creator of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker, revealed this week that he isn’t currently working on a season 6 of the show because he doesn’t believe people could “stomach” it right now. Or perhaps he’s scared of writing more episodes, lest they continue to map disturbingly well to reality.
Either way, the USA seems to have responded in order to make up for it. See examples such as budget-airline Frontier offering social-distancing on flights… as a paid optional extra. Or see the state of Georgia dropping the requirement for a driving test and just handing teenagers a license if their parents say they’re “Good to go!”.
Better yet, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is genuinely pushing to allow ‘low-level’ radioactive waste to be buried in unlicensed disposal sites. I shit you not. The president of a nuclear industry watchdog put it succinctly: “If you dump radioactive waste in places that aren’t designed to deal with it, it comes back to haunt you.” In defence of the NRC, they claim this would only involve “very low-level waste”. More concerningly, “very low-level waste” is in absolutely no way defined. I prefer my ionizing radiation in non-existent doses where possible.
Camera Phone’s Make Racists Famous
In a dark moment that makes Georgia seem to have progressed in precisely no ways since the days of lynchings and owning people, a man goes for a jog and gets killed by two vicious *long streak of profanity since my words necessarily fail me here*.
It’s completely unreal that Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by two white men with a shotgun while out for a jog. It’s criminally negligent on the part of local authorities that this happened in February, there is video footage of it, and the killers were not arrested until May. The camera phone is to the United State’s deeply entrenched racism as the contraceptive pill is to women’s rights.
We encourage you to tweet at the Governor of Georgia demanding reforms to the police and justice systems (or, of course, whatever more effective means of direct action you can think of or get involved in).
An exact and methodical prescription of means for amending the institutional failures of the United States is perhaps beyond the scope of this newsletter, however, we will remind the reader that approximately 2 out of 5 murders in America prove beyond the law insofar as no arrests are made. The homicide rate in the US is 5.3 per 100,000 (squarely in-between Zambia and Sudan) compared to 1.2 in the United Kingdom.
To help protect people in the U.S. it seems obvious we should advocate for:
- Police forces made up of the demographics they serve
- A national database of shell casings (some 40 were let off a few blocks from my house in Portland recently and one shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for developments on those cold casings…)
- Common sense gun regulations (are you a horrible racist who’s going to kill innocent people because of the colour of their skin? If so, no gun for you)
- Undo the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) which prevents gun manufacturers from being held liable for profiting off needless horrific suffering.
From Time magazine:
“If pillows caused fatalities at that level, those companies would be bankrupt,” says Fleegler of Boston Children’s Hospital. “If there were 500 deaths a year associated with any consumer product, it would be banned, regulated, fixed. But here, nothing.”
Michael Flynn was President Trump’s national security adviser and has been facing criminal charges for lying to the FBI regarding communications with the Russian ambassador (which he pleaded guilty to, by the way).
The Justice Department (headed up by Barr) has decided to dismiss the case without a single prosecutor willing to condone what’s happening.
Trump has explicitly undermined the rule of law, like an authoritarian in a smelly nappy (=diaper), by blaming the charges against Flynn as the work of “filthy cops” in the FBI. The Justice Department has decided it was in some way inappropriate for the FBI to speak with Flynn in any case…
Obama says this is an existential threat to the “rule of law”. You know it’s serious when the Patron Saint Of Extrajudicial Killings by Drone pipes up about it.
Let’s all remember the only reason Trump didn’t get charges brought against him is because it’s less than customary to charge a sitting president and the Justice Department discouraged it:
““The reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of the O.L.C. opinion”—a reference to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel—“stating that you cannot indict a sitting President. Correct?”
“That is correct,” Mueller said.”https://www.newyorker.com/news/current/muellers-testimony-strongly-suggests-that-trump-would-be-indicted-if-he-werent-the-president
Yeah, remember the Mueller report? Barr got his mitts on that before the public in order to protect Trump from the law just as he did rat-fucker-extraordinaire Mr.Roger Stone (see “Rogering the Stone”). Stone was also let off from things he was obviously guilty of following Justice Department intervention.
The UK has continued this week to handle the Covid-19 pandemic with a level of competence that has made the whole Brexit debacle look like an unprecedented, rip-roaring success.
The disastrous mess that is our failure to procure usable PPE has rumbled along like an uninspired pantomime starring a cast of z-list soap opera stars (our current cabinet): “The PPE’s in Turkey!” “Oh, no, it isn’t!”, “It’s on that military transport!” “Oh, no, it isn’t!”.
In case you missed that particularly bit of fun, the short version of the story goes as such: a cabinet member got flustered at a briefing and mentioned how a shipment of PPE from Turkey (that he wasn’t meant to talk about) would cure all our woes. Said shipment didn’t have the export approvals from the Turkish government and so didn’t turn up. We then sent military aircraft to sit on the tarmac in Turkey and do some metaphorical watch-tapping. “Hurrah!” we all said a couple of days later, “it’s in the UK, we’re saved!” Except naturally only a small part of the shipment had been released, and it was only enough to help the NHS for a few hours anyway, then we all lost interest. But wait! It’s not over yet! It was revealed this week that the shipment has since been rejected as it didn’t meet safety specifications.
The irony being that the entire operation (given it would provide such a tiny amount of PPE) seemed to be a bit of a propaganda exercise to get some photos on front pages of crates of gowns being unloaded by our proud and trusty armed forces, but the entire thing descended into a farce that perfectly encapsulates the government’s response.
So what of testing? You might have thought the government may have been slightly more reticent to make ballsy claims following the disgraceful obfuscation of testing numbers required to meet their 100,000 a day target, especially given that their own (rather deliberately massaged) figures show they only achieved this for two days.
Johnson has now set a new goal of 200,000 tests a day.
Johnson has also managed to completely confuse messaging regarding lockdown time-frames, announcing on Wednesday a coming speech (this Sunday) declaring the easing of lockdown restrictions, or “unlockdown” as he gracefully styled it. Cue the rags responsibly launching front pages suggesting “freedom” and pubs and cafes reopening.
The cabinet has since back-pedaled, suggesting any changes, if they even happened, would be “modest”. Too little, too late it seems, as I cycled around the sunny back lanes of Cheshire on Friday, roads had been blocked off with vehicles to allow street parties celebrating VE day in which there was zero sign of social-distancing, and we’ve heard echoes of the same story from up and down the country.
Should you wish for more evidence of the type of utter bellends in charge of the country right now, Matt Hancock provides no end of quality material. Particularly so when he criticised MP and active ER doctor Rosina Allin-Khan for her “tone” when she questioned his statistics and accused the government’s testing strategy of costing lives.
The Tories have a long and illustrious record of being contemptuous little turds to people who actually know what they’re talking about: it’s truly a bizarre insight into the mechanisms of class and perceived status in the UK.
This pattern of behavior is apparent (and more than a little Déjà vu inducing) when one reviews a Tory cabinet member acting like captain of the Cambridge University Netball Team by accusing a doctor of ‘fear mongering’ over the potentially disastrous public health consequences of crashing out of the EU (i.e. tearing up the majority of the UK’s trade agreements ensuring prompt delivery of myriad essential medical goods, among most everything else).
In a world in which the US president conducts global diplomacy via Twitter it makes sense that the UK Home Office might want to get in on the action…
Not content with evicting asylum seekers in the midst of a pandemic and continuing deportations within the EU, the Home Office is frustrated that the judiciary have been releasing suspected illegal immigrants on bail, despite the fact they are legally obliged to when there is no prospect of them being deported.
The Home Office thoroughly embarrassed themselves by sending a letter to a senior judge which appeared to be an attempt at influencing the judiciary. The letter of response from said judge reminded the Home Office of the law with what can only be described as the legal equivalent of a wedgie.
Alas, that wasn’t enough for the Home Office, seemingly irked at the criticism from the anonymous barrister and author, ‘The Secret Barrister’, they implied that SB had lied. Hence, SB pointed out this was a defamatory attack and absolutely schooled them on their behavior in a lengthy and entertaining Twitter thread.
The whole thing is an expert demonstration of the art of creating a defamation case against oneself.
Thanks for reading! We’ll be back next week, get in touch with the authors Will Marshall and Alistair Simmonds on Twitter and let us know what you did and didn’t like.