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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

227. Mothers’ Day Manifesto


Every wealthy tax-avoider should be forced to have a large picture of a homeless person or an over-flowing hospital outpatient department or a starving child or the suffocating interior of a sweatshop, on the walls in their place(s) of residence. This way they could be reminded who really pays for their opulent lifestyles.

I’m just throwing around some ideas for Mothering Sunday, this coming Sunday 26th March.

I distantly remember that, as a child, you’d make a sticky card for your mum at school using the strange collection of odds and ends from the ‘craft’ cupboard. Often, bits dropped off on the way home. On the day, you would attempt to make breakfast for her. This usually involved tepid tea and soggy or burnt toast which she received with a surprised smile as if she had no idea what was coming. Dad would try to be useful and somewhere along the way flowers and chocolates might be involved.

Now, as a mother and grandmother, I am slightly repelled by the shelves of saccharine-pink cards, bouquets of desperate flowers, teddies with bows and schmaltzy messages hung round their necks, plus truckloads of celebrity-endorsed perfumes overflowing the supermarket aisles. The headache-inducing advertisements scream at people to buy buy buy something special for their special mother on this special day.

So, Ok – enough of the grumps. What would I really like for Mother’s Day?

Evidence is daily with us of just how grim it is for women trying to be mothers as they flee war. The current famine crises emerging in African countries, bring up the images we’d hoped to consign to history, of desperate women rocking starving hollow-eyed infants as the ravages of war and climate change go unchecked. Even in the UK we must ask, how is it possible to provide that essential motherly safety and nurturing while more families live in insecure accommodation or struggle with family debt. How powerless does a mother feel watching a child become ill with respiratory problems caused by increasingly bad air quality. So, I came up with a rough Mother’s Day Manifesto –

Let this government finally understand that the children and mothers languishing in refugee camps must be given a chance to make a decent life. The even more vulnerable lone child migrants must be given immediate help. The UK must reinstate the previously agreed commitment to accept vulnerable refugee children after Theresa May’s government shamefully overturned The Dubs Amendment.

Because this and previous administrations don’t seem to understand basic human decency – there should be – let’s say – a statutory £2million fine for every pregnant woman or mother and child group being held in immigration detention centres. Centres such as the infamous Yarl’s Wood are no better than prisons even though the people held there are not criminals but unfortunates who are in the limbo land of the current messy system.

More generally, there must be a coherent strategy to revolutionise the UK system where, if you are born rich, you rise regardless of how useless you are and you struggle if you are born poor regardless of how talented. Start by removing the charity status from private schools and increasing the per capita budgets for pupils at state schools. As I’ve said many times on this blog – the current system damages society on a fundamental level. Not just because the bright but socially unconnected youngsters don’t get on but, more to the point, dim but very well connected offspring get to be in charge. Then we all suffer.

As an adjunct to the previous point. Many private schools are set in extensive and beautiful grounds while very many state schools are situated on busy main roads or junctions where the worst traffic pollution occurs. These latter sites must be tested and if the air quality is consistently poor, the roads must be re-routed.

The government must finally ban the sale of weapons by UK arms manufacturers to corrupt regimes and those practising human rights abuses. This is an ongoing and identifiable problem. Somehow it keeps being side-lined. Many UK aid workers find themselves assisting refugees fleeing conflicts fuelled by armaments made in Britain.

This government must force the wealthy to pay their taxes. No more threatening a smack on the wrist. No more cup-of-tea ‘negotiating’ with HMRC when tax-avoiders are found out. New powerful sanctions must be imposed for those who asset-strip companies for personal gain (see blog 185 Does Sir Philip Green kick disabled orphan kittens in his spare time). Put genuine effort into retrieving the £millions / £billions owed and currently AWOL in the fiscal system. Then we can start to tackle the abomination of increasing numbers of homeless families in one of the richest countries in the world along with many other things on our social wish list.

Double the tax on private cars. Make buses free for children and the elderly.

Re-nationalise railways and halve rail fayres – so we can begin to improve the quality of the air our children breathe and reduce traffic accident mortalities.

Let the media, employers and governments stop dictating to women what they can / cannot wear.

Finally – make it compulsory for good-quality dark chocolate to be free on Mother’s Day 😊


That would mark a really good 2017 Mothering Sunday.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

226. Article 50 & Frozen Spice


The Real Zombie Zone

Ok – it may just be my odd brain but sometimes two phenomena come along that are like flip sides of the same reality.

Before the end of this month, the UK’s unelected Prime Minister Theresa May, who, as Home Secretary, campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU, can and will now trigger Article 50. This is the irreversible legal mechanism by which a member state leaves the EU. It begins a 2-year negotiating process at the end of which the UK could have an indeterminate something or nothing.

The EU referendum was an ill-conceived attempt by then Prime Minister David Cameron to control his own political party. The Leave campaign was easily hijacked by racists and bigots – UKIP leader Farage and Ex- Lord Mayor of London Boris Johnson (now foreign minister) to name two. The pissy weakness of the opposition meant that there was no coherent strategy for positively presenting arguments for remaining.

Britain has not recovered from the 2008 financial crash caused by a corrupt banking sector. The fiscal shenanigans of the rich and powerful left us economically battered. Instead of prosecuting criminal behaviour and reforming the banking sector – UK tax payers were forced to bail them out and the media spotlight was deftly turned on Europe and immigrants. Fast forward a few years and we are launching into a process which will cause more economic pain and more instability for ordinary people. We are – you could say – like a homeless person increasing their problems and vulnerabilities by taking extremely harmful unfamiliar drugs.

Which is interesting…

Last week, many UK news outlets started highlighting the widespread and disturbing prevalence of new synthetic cannabinoids; drugs known as SPICE. One, which is endemic in the fast-growing homeless communities in our cities, is called Frozen Spice because of the way it sends users into a catatonic state. A Manchester drug worker has been quoted as saying that 95% of the homeless community there may be using this cheap, treacherous and devastatingly addictive drug.

Richer recreational users turned away from the drug as ‘cheap and nasty’ but it is now the alternative for people with few alternatives. Some dealers will sell for whatever the user has in their pockets. In short – Frozen Spice is a capitalists’ dream and shows that unfettered markets can work - for the pushers!

And just as Spice users enter a limbo land where they seem neither dead or alive so will Britain be once it has taken Article 50.

Frozen Spice is an unknown quantity. Even now scientists are trying to de-construct it to find out how it messes with the brain to put the user into such a zombie state where they can struggle to breath and are so defenseless there are stories of users being ‘mugged’ unopposed while they are under the influence.

Leaving the EU is an unknown quantity and it is a risk Britain did not have to take at a time when there are so many major challenges facing Britain and the world. It is a silly risk, equivalent to taking a new cheap nasty drug. And like the drug, which may cause anything from seizures to psychosis to paranoia to breathing problems to death – Article 50 will lead to consequences we cannot fully know and were silly to chance. Like a homeless person, when you are already in a mess, if someone offers you a ‘cheap and nasty’ escape, it’s always a bad idea. And, just as those who concocted this life-denying synthetic marijuana, worked to ensure its properties were highly lucratively addictive, peddlers of the referendum deceits, succeeded in getting it into the systems of the vulnerable and scared. To the extent that a lot of areas in the UK that were net beneficiaries of EU membership voted hardest to leave.

Many, on the margins of society who take Frozen Spice and other drugs – are self-medicating their way out of an uncomfortable reality. Using a cheap temporary stun gun to obliterate the world around them that has become frightening and confusing.

Similarly, many people voted for Brexit in the mistaken belief that some of the bad things that were happening to them and their community could be solved with a quick fake fix. The big pushers, Farage, Boris Johnson and the other liars, slipped a gullible electorate the heady contradictory, cheap mix of false ideas. By leaving Europe, they said, we’d solve everything from the problems of straight bananas to the money that was being sucked away from the good old brits for wasteful projects. Such as supporting struggling regions and trying to protect – for example – the European steel industry from Chinese overproduction?

The big red Brexit battle bus claimed that £millions ‘wasted’ by the EU would go into health service coffers. A lie that was admitted THE DAY AFTER THE REFERENDUM result. But just like a junkie who has a bad trip – there is no come back from the dealer.

If you are a regular reader, you will know I love my analogies. In this case I think it goes all the way.

Just as the dealer will mess with the head of the junkie to keep them buying – so the pro Brexit media and the leave campaigners keep pedaling Brexit shit.

The economy is doing great – look at the increased exports – they croon. The reality is that exports are high because the value of the pound is low. Show me a country anywhere on the planet where shipping out lots of cheap stuff and having to import expensive stuff works for ordinary people long term.

At the end of the day – the dealers win and the junkies lose. We will all be the socially, politically, economically homeless once Article 50 is triggered.

Now we’re hooked, regardless of whether we were tricked, did it of our own accord – or were swept along by those around us. We have to take the shit and hope our zombie state is temporary and not terminal while the rest of the world moves by without us.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

225. Trump – your place in hell will be TREMENDOUS


Where to begin? 
The UK government seems comfortable using EU citizens living in the UK as pawns in the ongoing Brexit madness. The economic cracks are widening and we have not yet triggered article 50 (see cartoon below). PM Theresa May is equally untroubled about turning away from promises to help unaccompanied, suffering migrant children. 

Meanwhile, across the pond, Trump – the draft dodger – salivates at the idea of pumping up the US military and sending other people’s sons and daughters to war.

I’m way too fed-up this week to proper blog. Even when you are satirising, this shit it still stinks and it can get you down. A week of the miseries and claustrophobic dreams also reminded me that it’s the 10th anniversary of my dad’s unpleasant premature death from lung cancer (check out blog 22 Drink Driving with my Dad & other Happy Memories.)

So, a brief note to those who profit from or compound the misery of others without losing sleep; cigarette manufacturers, those selling illegal arms to corrupt governments, sweat shop owners, people traffickers, warmongers yada yada yada. Despite the centuries of cumulative horrors man has committed, there is room in hell for you.

And for those who whip up fear, bile and hatred because they can – Farage, Le Pen, Wilders and of course Trump – your places in hell will be, to use a favorite word from Donald’s limited vocabulary, “tremendous”.




Tuesday, 28 February 2017

224. Walls in Space, TRAPPIST 1 (& your free novella).


Aliens will pay for the space wall because, I’m sure, they don’t like what they see.

As more countries are flushed down the socio-political sewer by malformed, cowardly, inadequate individuals who, somehow managed to grab power, you have to guess that any aliens with telescopes stronger than ours will be thinking, “shit – we have to keep these idiots away from us.” Do you think they are looking at Assad, Trump, Mugabe, Duterte, Erdogan, Kim (Jong-Un not Kardashian) and thinking – we should invite them to tea??? No.

NASA ‘found’ seven new exo-planets orbiting the dwarf star TRAPPIST 1. Three are earth-like, potentially habitable worlds. My youngest daughter and I watched the announcement in awe. She certainly felt it was as significant as the 1969 “giant leap for mankind”.

What becomes immediately obvious is that doubts about the potential for life out there, suddenly diminish. That isn’t to say that little green humanoid entities are wobbling round on other worlds waiting for Star Trek type visitors. But the idea that, within the reach of our current telescopes and mathematical equations, there are already three exo-planets that have the physical properties to support water and which also may have earth-harmonious temperature, is huge. Out of the seven new worlds three are in what NASA scientists refer to as The Goldilocks Zone – not too hot, not too cold.

This is tremendously exciting for me for a different reason. My new Sci fi – dystopian novella Zero One Zero Two published last November is predicated on exactly this kind of discovery. OK my book is also a monumental rant about how we’ve trashed our own planet with a wee bit of romance, poetry and lots of death…But in my novella, following earth’s destruction, a mission is sent to a distant solar system which has never been visited but which scientists calculated using hi-tech telescopes and mathematical data so they know it exists ‘in theory’.

My belief in our planet’s uniqueness has not altered. I do not think for one moment that there is a parallel universe somewhere with another ‘me’ on it clicking away on a keyboard freaking out about the dangerous idiots who are trying to take humanity over a cliff. I do not believe there is a similar ecosphere where the dominant species literally have the world at their feet but choose to crap on it and on each other at every opportunity. Why would they? Why do we?

Life does not necessarily mean sentient beings or flora and fauna we would recognise as such. I know no more than the next person about the formation of our world or the evolutionary steps that brought us to where we are today. But clearly, those events were so extraordinary and extreme and also not extreme (when it mattered) that replicating the process, statistically, would be billions to one.

On the other hand…

One thing is for sure – if there is advanced life out there and it is observing us right now there are many reasons intelligent Aliens may not want to make contact.

On discovering they’ve been discovered – who knows – those aliens may, right now, be getting together in an inter-galactic alliance to build a space wall to keep humans OUT.

The fact that aliens have not contacted us may be the proof of their real intelligence.

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FREE COPIES of Zero One Zero Two
From midnight PST today (28th February) until midnight PST this Saturday (4th March) you can get the e-version of Zero One Zero Two FREE on Amazon. NB - you do not need a kindle. You can download the free kindle app from Amazon when you download the free e-book so get your free novella.


                          NASA poster      Zero One Zero Two

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

223 Good Stuff (2)


Some people care.

Ok – I am digging deep (that is a pun, you’ll see why) because I promised you two weeks of positive out of the current insanity.

So, as the Washington farce continues and the UK Brexit Danse Macabre goes ga ga and Marine Le Pen has political orgasms over the possibility of inflicting the same carnage in France – here is a scintilla of good stuff.

Here in Scotland there is evidence that some movers and shakers care about the planet.

While ex-Oklahoma senator and Attorney General who ignored calls to regulate fracking - Scott Pruitt - is now head of America’s Environmental Protection Agency, I have better news from Edinburgh. Yes, though Scott Pruitt, who presided over a 10-fold increase in  serious earthquakes in Oklahoma is now employed to look after the environment in the US, here in Scotland there is evidence that people want to keep the world habitable.

This evening (Feb 21st) I’ll be performing at a ‘Speak up for the Environment’ event in the Scottish Parliament. The week-long programme will involve politicians and delegates from charities and organisations at the forefront of environmental protection.

As well as some adult satirical poetry, I’ll be reading a section from Casey & the Surfmen my epic poetry tale about wrecking the land for profit. In this story, Casey, with the help of the ancient surfmen, triumphs over the digger men, their corruption, greed and lies (we can all dream!)

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Also, thanks to those who heeded the call to buy from bandcamp on Fri Feb 3rd when bandcamp were donating their proceeds to American Civil Liberties.
Check Casey & the Surfmen out https://amandabaker.bandcamp.com

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Satirical business as usual next week.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

222. Good Stuff (1)

Ok - out of the current swamp of horribleness, I fished out some good stuff for this week (and hopefully next week).

Regular readers will have read my Mixed-race magic post a while back,celebrating the fact that in the climate of populist bigotry, prejudice and hatred, people of different creeds, colours, castes and races are getting it together, falling in love and making lovely babies.

This is my friend's wee daughter reading my mixed-race fairy story. Her dad is English (geordie) and her mum is Gambian.

Beautiful.

*nb - to enjoy some of my amateur political cartoons click on my name in orange down the right hand column or bottom if you are on a mobile device.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

221. Corbyn is also dangerous....


The gap between reality and media soundbites is increasing in the UK. This problem is compounded by the lack of a functioning opposition. Jeremy Corbyn is less use than a teacup in a Tsunami. I’ve railed against the ineffectual clown Corbyn while the left was still swooning over him. They are not so keen now and it’s got much worse.

‘Turkeys voting for Christmas’ was a phrase used about Brexit supporters. For the non-US or non-UK reader, turkeys are traditionally eaten at Christmas / Thanksgiving. In the US, turkeys were given to European settlers by the Native American Indians to keep the white invaders alive through winter. Those same Europeans then wiped out the Indians, as we know, so there is a whole other dimension there that I won’t go into now. But you get the analogy.

Here, as in America, fear and xenophobia triumphed. Many areas of the UK which benefited most from EU membership voted heavily to leave the EU. It’s done. But it is hard to swallow the sickly, repeated refrain that everything is fine.

It is not.

As the reality gap in the UK gets ever larger, people are falling into the crevasse. And just as the formal opposition failed miserably to provide leadership during the referendum campaign, the dysfunctional Labour party continue whining from the side-lines while being 100% ineffectual.

One beautiful result is the grass roots protests, marches, huge displays of solidarity, defiance and anger against the fascist populism infecting both the US and the UK. If you want to lift your spirits view some of the marches, the numbers of them the extent of them, the mix and wondrous variety of people taking part. The banners are sometimes personal, imaginative and often downright hilarious. We need that.

But the people who were not taken in by the vile propaganda and blatant lies and those who were are being let down badly.

I can’t decide if Prime Minister Theresa May is a rabbit caught in the headlights or a headless chicken in a coop full of headless chickens.

The foundations on which our economy is based are ephemeral. See blogs 202 – The Tat Economy or blog 208. The Cannibal Economy.

Personal debt is an enormous partially submerged iceberg.

Xenophobia is out of control (thanks Farage). This matters because, for example, applications from the EU to our universities are down, massively cutting revenue. The NHS is struggling to recruit staff. And so on.

Meanwhile, Uncle Jez Corbyn and his limp crew repeatedly fail to not fail. They are worse than hopeless. Yes, Trump is a dangerous, lunatic conman, elevated by lizard woman Kellyann Conway. But when the leaders are bonkers or out of touch, formal opposition matters. As has already been proven, the courts and the people can be trampled.

The UKs opposition party, led by another lover of wedding cake, Jeremy Corbyn, is useless. Pathetic. And right now, not having an effective opposition is dangerous.

So, I listen in the morning to some BBC news (in between the sport and the bovine chit chat) and the people they choose to interview (when they are not platforming Nigel Farage) are banging on about how well the economy is doing. Then I go to my local supermarket and a single item that I bought a few weeks ago, for 65 pence is now 89 pence. You clever people can work out the % increase.

The disconnect is messing with my head.

I want to go and visit one of my daughters and I find the ticket price, despite the appalling state of the UK rail network, makes my eyes water.

A family friend who works in the banking sector and who is facing redundancy, is currently training the workers who will be doing his job when it is shipped abroad as the banking sector abandon a sinking ship. More of my friends, lucky enough to have jobs, are doing increased workloads for ever decreasing pay.

Homelessness is at a record level and if you include families living in insecure accommodation, it is epidemic.

One of the worst UK energy providers (and I should know as I was once an N-Power customer) just announced a 10% price hike.

Yet, folk in-the-know keep telling us everything is groovy. So, it must be, mustn’t it? 

I hate to be a killjoy but I’ve been right about other stuff that politicians – the media – even professional pollsters have got very wrong – like election results. I see the Empire Zombies taking us over a cliff and my stomach is in my chest as I sense the drop.

There are one of two things going on here. Either I am living in a parallel universe, which is always a possibility or we are being fed dishonest shit by the government and the mainstream media.

Time will tell.

One thing is for sure – the turkeys who voted for Christmas are being led by headless chickens and Jeremy Corbyn is a lame duck...

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THANK YOU to everyone who responded to the bandcamp shout out last week and, by purchasing a download of Casey & the Surfmen, contributed to those attempting to oppose Trumps’ hideous policies.
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And remember, if you like a post - follow/share/tweet it or whatever you young folk do. THANK you.