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Gender: Do not display
Current location: Scotland
Member since: Sun Sep 6, 2009, 11:57 PM
Number of posts: 5,226

Journal Archives

Trump COVID memes

Well, since Trump obviously isn't taking his illness seriously, I don't see why anyone else should. Many on Twitter certainly aren't. Add to this collection if you want.

qanon trying to figure out if COVID is still a hoax now that trump got it

Boris Johnson calls coronavirus pandemic a 'massive opportunity' the Tories can exploit

Speaking to Tory activists, the Prime Minister said his party would use the fallout from the pandemic to 'short-circuit' the state and slash taxes

The Prime Minister has explosively described the deadly coronavirus pandemic as a "massive opportunity" that his party can take advantage of.

Boris Johnson said that the Conservatives would use the fall out of the crisis to "short-circuit" the country and impose a right-wing agenda of tax cuts and reduced support for the unemployed.

And he urged activists to keep the faith as he promised that he would slash taxes as soon as the Spring.

Speaking at a Q&A session at Conservative conference on Sunday, he said: "We have a massive opportunity now to use this unquestionable crisis, I mean it's been a huge thing for our country, to build back better."


No great surprise - never let a good crisis go to waste, after all - but sort of refreshing to see it set out so bluntly.

In terms of the Shock Doctrine, I'd have thought the impending no-deal Brexit might have been enough to do the trick on its own, but I'm sure Johnson/Cummings know best.

Rescuers race to herd whales away from military exercise in Scotland

GARE LOCH, Scotland (Reuters) - Rescuers are racing to herd a group of whales out of a Scottish loch ahead of major military exercises that conservationists fear could distress the giant cetaceans.

The pod of northern bottlenose whales, which can dive to depths of 2,000 metres and rarely visit coastal waters, were first noticed around Loch Goil but then ended up in the Clyde.

Five of the whales - which can grow up to 11.2 metres in length and weigh over 7 tonnes - have been spotted around the Loch Long area and have entered some of the smaller lochs nearby ahead of a military exercise due shortly.
Europe's largest military exercise - Joint Warrior - begins on Saturday with its headquarters at at Faslane naval base next to Gare Loch.


The Gareloch is just on our doorstep, some 20 miles down the River Clyde from Glasgow. We heard this morning that an attempt was going to be made starting around 12.20pm to herd them out of the loch into the Clyde Estuary and deeper, less enclosed waters.

A pod of three to five bottlenose whales has been in the Clyde area for a week or so, heading up the neighbouring Loch Long to near Arrochar, where they put on some grand shows for photographers. Three of them then moved to the head of the Gareloch, where the Faslane submarine base is sited.

The buildings in the background are used to service the UK's Trident submarine fleet. The base also berths and services a number of surface vessels (none of the photos in this post are ours).

People were at first understandably excited and entranced at the chance to get such close-up views of these magnificent beasts.


lifewithoutnukes 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿
Now these visitors 🐳 are the kind we love 💓 seeing in the #Gareloch #Whales #Argyll #Scotland #marinelife

[Twitter video]

Unfortunately, scientists feel they're in some distress and rather thin, so they're not thriving.

Faslane is due to host the major annual Exercise Joint Warrior around the Scottish coast beginning this weekend, and ships from various navies have already begun to arrive in the area.

The fear is that the whales may be disturbed by the increased traffic and beach in the shallow waters at the head of the loch, which would obviously be disastrous. Any danger they might pose to shipping in the relatively enclosed waters is a subsidiary concern.

So we headed out around 4pm to see if we could witness what was going on. By the time we arrived, we found a flotilla of RIBs heading in formation beyond the Rhu Narrows, which is where the Gareloch opens out into more expansive waters. Here's an aerial view:

And here's a closer one:

We could hear some sounds from the RIBs, as if someone was banging a tin pot, presumably as part of the herding effort. After a while, the RIBs gathered into a raft and stayed put for about 20 minutes.

We hoped at that point that they'd been successful and were allowing the pod to make its own way into the Firth of Clyde. The RIBs then dispersed back into the Gareloch. so we haded around the Rosneath Peninsula to get a better view of the wider Clyde. We encountered some Coastguard vehicles, so stopped to ask them what they knew. Sadly, they'd heard over their radios that the pod had turned back into the Gareloch, so today's effort had been a failure.

Here's the latest developments I could find in the media:

Gareloch whales rescue bid goes on after first attempt fails

A multi-team operation to herd a pod of whales stranded in shallow water near Helensburgh to safety is continuing this evening - after the first rescue attempt failed.
An update shared on the BDMLR Facebook page shortly before 5pm said: "The whales were successfully herded towards the mouth of the loch earlier today, however as the whales reached Rhu Point, they changed direction and headed back towards Garelochhead.

The boats have stopped to refuel and regroup, the operation will then continue.

"With an increasing amount of traffic on the water our spotters on shore are finding it difficult to monitor the movement of the animals."

NATO military exercise, Joint Warrior, is set to start this weekend, bringing with it an influx of vessels to the Faslane naval base over the next few days, and the MoD has said that it would be prepared to amend the scheduled programme of activity if circumstances involving the whales dictate.



Spectacular scenery across Gare Loch this evening as our team make a final attempt to move the Northern Bottlenose Whales out of the Loch. We'd like to thank the locals, boat operators, the MoD and everyone who has given their support and assistance today. 👏 🐋

Samantha McFarlane

[Twitter video]

"The problems the president had tonight can potentially be fixed" - Chris Christie on ABC

Jennifer Epstein
"The problems the president had tonight can potentially be fixed," says Chris Christie, who is part of the Trump debate prep team, on ABC.

A resounding vote of confidence there from Christie.

Maybe substitute Trump's Adderall stash with ketamine?

Hillary chimes in

What does the Russia report mean for British people and politics?

What does the report tell us?

The Russia report accuses the government of failing to investigate Russian interference in British politics, in particular during the 2016 EU referendum. The Commons intelligence and security committee’s language is scathing. It says Downing Street showed a “lack of curiosity” over Kremlin meddling. The report doesn’t say whether this complacency was deliberate or an omission. Either way, it amounts to a stunning rebuke of Boris Johnson and his predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May. We now know why Johnson sought to bury the report before last December’s general election. It is embarrassing. He burned political capital to keep it secret.

The report broadly reflects the expert view of Christopher Steele, a former MI6 spy who gave evidence to the ISC in 2018. He said Johnson, as foreign secretary, and May “threw a blanket” over indications that the Russians had pushed for Brexit and may have covertly funded the campaign. They put Tory party politics above national security, Steele alleged. The ISC says: “The written evidence provided to us appeared to suggest that HMG [Her Majesty’s government] had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes or any activity that has had a material impact on an election, for example influencing results.”

There is abundant evidence that the Russians were actively seeking to undermine British democracy, the report says. The intelligence agencies – including MI6, MI5 and GCHQ – were acutely aware of Kremlin activity around the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. They had early warning in spring 2016 of Moscow’s email hacking and dumping operation against the Democrats in the US, done to damage the party’s then presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, and to help the Republicans’ Donald Trump. Yet no Russian “threat assessment” was carried out before the 2016 EU vote, the ISC says. The referendum was therefore left “unprotected”, it says.

The report is equally critical of the spy agencies. They appear to have been reluctant to take responsibility for defending the UK from hostile state meddling, it suggests. None of the agencies carried out an assessment of what Moscow did during the EU vote. When asked, MI5 sent the committee a cursory six-line note. GCHQ failed to provide information about the numerous pro-leave troll accounts run from inside Russia. And the report suggests MI6 didn’t ask its secret agents “to provide information on the extent or nature of Russian influence campaigns”. The big picture is damning: of a government that didn’t want to know, and of spooks who were too timid to ask.


The arguments about Russian interference in UK politics will not be resolved by this report - indeed, the main complaints are about blase attitudes in government and the security services which mean that any evidence hasn't seriously been sought or explored, or worse, has been papered over.

The mention of interference in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum has predictably been pounced on by some as a handy distraction, including whoever drafted the Telegraph's front page, but the report devotes a mere few lines to it and presents no hard evidence, just relying on "open source commentary", which amounts to no more than somebody's expressed opinion:

There's no suggestion of interference with voting processes in any election or referendum, more attempts via social media to influence voters - and if it did spread misinformation during any votes, Russia was far from the only bad faith actor, as events since have proven. Russia expressed scepticism at the result after the 2014 independence referendum, but David Cameron's on record as having appealed to Putin to intervene:

Cameron's plea to Putin: help me stop Salmond

DAVID Cameron's Government wants the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the battle against Scottish independence, the former USSR's leading news agency has reported.

Itar-Tass, citing a source in the Conservative Prime Minister's office, said Britain was "extremely interested" in referendum support from Russia, which this year holds the presidency of the influential G8 group of rich industrial nations.


More important in my view is the report's focus on Russian money laundering and influence-peddling via the UK. This Twitter thread by the New York Times's Jane Bradley covers the main points:


Jane Bradley @jane__bradley
The Russia Report is finally out — I’ll tweet key lines.

• The UK is one of Russia’s top intelligence targets, yet the UK government has “actively avoided looking for evidence of Russian interference” which the committee brands “astonishing”.

• London was allowed to become a 'laundromat' for illicit finance. The arrival of Russian money has resulted in a growth of “enablers” including lawyers, accountants and estate agents who wittingly or unwittingly became 'de facto agents' of Russian state.

• Nobody in government is protecting the UK from Russian interference.

“The outrage isn’t that there is interference, the outrage is that nobody wanted to find out whether there was interference.”

• The mechanics of the UK's paper-based voting system makes direct interference difficult, so Russia has instead sought to influence voters *before* they cast their vote through the likes of state-owned media, bots and trolls, and leaks and hacks.

• "The UK welcomed Russian money, and few questions if any were asked about the provenance of this considerable wealth." Highlighted as particular issues:

• The UK's investment visa scheme
• Housing market
• Judicial system
• PR firms etc offering "reputation laundering"

• "Russian influence in the UK is the new normal. There are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth."

Committee calls on the government to make legislative changes.

• Report raises the important issue of Russians at risk in UK and questions whether the UK intelligence services has picture of which Russians are at risk in the UK.

• Salisbury attack shows that it's not only people "critical of Putin who are at risk here in the UK."

• Report cites a 2017 BuzzFeed investigation into 14 suspicious deaths in Britain (which I was part of) that warned the UK authorities weren't fully investigating possible Russian hits. The report evidence is redacted (!) but you can read the series here

Given how widely it's been known for quite some time that the Tories have received numerous sizeable donations from Russian oligarchs, it's a scandal that each example hasn't been headline news.

Julian Lewis has Tory whip removed after beating Chris Grayling to top security job


Mr Lewis, who was elected as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee in a surprise turn on Wednesday, has been booted out of the parliamentary Tory party after defeating Chris Grayling.

A senior government source accused Mr Lewis of “working with Labour and other opposition MPs for his own advantage”.

Mr Grayling was Number 10’s preferred choice to lead the ISC, which oversees the work of MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the other intelligence and security services.


A few aspects to this.

Failing Grayling lives up to his name in grand style yet again. Much hilarity is being enjoyed at the irony of the would-be chair of the Intelligence Committee seemingly being utterly blindsided by Lewis's behind-the-scenes manoeuvres.

Lewis's almost instant ejection from the Parliamentary Conservative Party could be seen as a kneejerk act of petulance worthy of Dominic Cummings or an attempt to put a shot across the bows of any other Tory MPs tempted to display disloyalty.

The chances of the Russia report seeing light of day any time soon are likely higher than they would have been under the favoured placeman Grayling. It wouldn't be surprising if this was part of the bargaining between Lewis and the Labour and SNP MPs who supported his candidacy.

I must confess to having had a brush with Lewis in the 1980s, when he was chair of the Coalition for Peace Through Security. His main activities at the time consisted of dogging the steps of CND's Bruce Kent, especially during a long peace walk Kent undertook from Faslane to Aldermaston. At least in the initial stages, Lewis and his sole companion and their placards received decidely frosty welcomes in the towns en route. At the beginning of the walk, a police inspector chatting with us at the Faslane gates looked across at Lewis and pal and asked, "Those the fascists, then?"

It remains to be seen whether Lewis is as suspicious about Russia's intentions nowadays as he was in the 1980s.

Cummings to drop in on Britain's most secret defence installations

London: Boris Johnson's controversial adviser Dominic Cummings will tour some of Britain's most highly classified national security sites as part of his plan to radically shake up the military amid a major turf war in Westminster over how Britain will defend itself in the future.

According to internal correspondence obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the Prime Minister's top adviser requested visits to five classified sites including facilities that specialise in defence intelligence.

Such are the high stakes of the review, due for publication from September, that Defence Minister Ben Wallace expressly forbade ministry officials from talking to Number 10 or Cummings directly about the itinerary for his planned trip.

"The Secretary of State explicitly does not wish anyone to engage Number 10 or Dominic Cummings on this," officials were told. "It is for the [the Minister's special adviser] and the Secretary of State to engage in the first instance before delegating to officials."


Why is Dominic Cummings still in No 10? Because Vote Leavers never say sorry

The adviser is at the heart of a government that is treating the pandemic just like the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign

Dominic Cummings is a lucky man. A couple of weeks ago, Boris Johnson’s chief strategist – and his lockdown-busting trip to north-east England – dominated the news headlines. Now the global outpouring of Black Lives Matter protests and other vital issues in the coronavirus pandemic have captured the news agenda. With the prime minister’s vocal support, Cummings still has a job, and the world seems to have moved on.

But Cummings’s continued presence at the heart of the British government is not just down to luck, of course. Johnson’s special adviser has probably the most valuable asset in Downing Street right now: the unswerving loyalty of the Vote Leave campaign that now holds the key levers of power in British politics.

On paper, Vote Leave disappeared almost four years ago. Having won the Brexit referendum, the campaign packed up its spartan office beside Lambeth Bridge. Cummings left politics to advise an artificial intelligence startup (which subsequently won lots of NHS contracts, but that’s another story).
When Johnson, Vote Leave’s public face, came to power last July his first significant act was to bring in a large swath of the campaign’s backroom operation into the heart of his new administration: from Cummings as his right-hand man to Lee Cain as Downing Street’s truculent head of communications. All the great offices of state are now held by Brexit true believers, from Priti Patel to Dominic Raab.

Why does any of this matter? Well, for one thing, now that Vote Leave has managed to take control of government – and looks set to take us to the brink of a no-deal Brexit, again – many of its ranks are worried about what would happen if their eminence grise were not around to oversee the project.


UK abandoned testing because system 'could only cope with five coronavirus cases a week'

Disastrous decision is now seen as the key reason why UK has Europe's highest death rate

Britain’s disastrous decision to abandon testing for coronavirus occurred because health systems could only cope with five cases a week, official documents show.

Newly-released papers from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies shows routine testing and tracing of contacts was stopped because Public Health England’s systems were struggling to deal with a handful of cases.

At a meeting on Feb 18, advisors said PHE could only cope with testing and tracing contacts of five Covid-19 cases a week, with modelling suggesting it might only be possible to increase this to 50 cases.

Advisors then agreed it was "sensible" to shift to stopping routine testing - despite acknowledging that such a decision would “generate a public reaction”....


(Text after the .... only viewable with a Telegraph subscription.)

I've not been posting much, if at all, about the pandemic and fuck-ups around lockdown etc. because the situation's so messed up and we're all up to our necks in it anyway, so why add to the air of doom we're powerless to do anything about apart from try to safeguard ourselves and those around us? But this revelation seems appalling enough to be noted.

The fact that abondoning testing may have suited the initial (and perhaps ongoing in some UK government quarters, who knows?) drive for mythical "herd immunity" and prioritizing economic considerations over our health and lives may also be a significant factor.
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