Yeah, I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later I’d have to write about… him: the walking excrement that currently occupies the big round room in the big white house.

I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to employ the phrase ‘the orange poltroon’ to describe Donald John Trump, but I was certainly unaware of anyone else using it when I started to use it in tweets. And I’d said for years that ‘poltroon’ was one of my favourite words so… anyway, I’m claiming it for the UK side of things.

I mean, sure, I’ve occasionally mentioned President Poltroon before on here; days after he was elected, I observed that he now had a power that genuinely scared me, and no, it wasn’t the power to obliterate countries leaving only a mushroom cloud in its place.

I’m only faintly surprised he hasn’t excercised the full extent of the power-that-scares-me already, that some maniac supporter hasn’t killed a federal judge, say… and received a pardon from Trump for doing so, or killed those serving on a grand jury investigating the orange poltroon, and then been pardoned by said poltroon.

Pardoned, I hasten to add, with no deleterious consequences for said poltroon.

For the current iteration of the Republican Party have made it crystal clear in their behaviour the past couple of years that, no matter what the orange poltroon does in office, they’ll follow the exact same strategy as they followed during the election campaign… once it became apparent that Trump was [going to be] the nominee:

That Trump is a racist misogynist bully, a sexual abuser, a fool, who rarely reads, knowingly plays to the worst of the worst, lies like he breathes, and wants to bang his daughter, is beyond doubt. His ego and his vanity were well known long before he ran for office, and no-one expected that to change after sixty million or so people marked their ballots in his favour.

And, sure, no one was overly surprised at the sheer venality expressed by others in the GOP who turned the supineness and submissiveness of the cowardly bully, when faced with a bigger bully, into a bloody art form. Partly because he serves their purposes, partly because of their contemptible fear that Trump will turn against them at any moment.

And, of course, having given him their support, they’ve got too much personally and politically invested to back down now.

But of all the norms that Trump has shattered, has ignored, has completely crapped over, what no one truly predicted however was the breach of the most basic norm of constitutional government.

The most basic, the fundamental, tenet of American government. No… not that he’d ‘do something unconstitutional’; it’s possible that any President could do that; that’s in part why the Supreme Court exists, and in whole why the impeachment power exists.

The fundamental constitutional norm that Trump’s pissed on from a huge height is something that John Ramm¹ was at pains to point out to students:

“The American system of government works as it should, and only works as it should, if and only if, each branch of government respects the authority and legitimacy of the others.”

And Trump doesn’t. It’s as plain as that.

There was a throwaway comment Trump gave in a recent interview which I was mildly surprised wasn’t picked up more, since it revealed so much. He’d been told – let’s face it, he didn’t read it himself – that the Presidency is covered in Article II of the Constitution of the United States.

Article II.

And it so obviously irritated him, so plainly irked him. That The Presidency wasn’t in Article I, I mean.

Because, despite the Constitution giving – obviously – different powers, different rights and responsibilities, to each of the three branches of government, Trump clearly believes with every fibre of his being that it shouldn’t. It’s beyond comprehension to him that the other two branches, Congress (the legislature) and the Supreme Court (the judiciary), are equal branches of government; he plainly believes that they’re not only lesser than the Presidency (the executive) but that they inherently hold less legitimacy and authority… because they’re lesser.

And that’s a tough position for him to even state, let alone argue… if the Presidency is Article II. I mean, he’ll try, obviously. Because he’s a fool. But even someone with his… unique kind of intelligence… will struggle.

His view of Congress, of members of Congress, of Senators, is transparent: he views them with contempt. All of them. The ones who hate him, the ones who profess to love him, those who condemn him, and those who support him. Because they’re not Presidents, because they’re not him.

And the message to Republican Senators and members of Congress isn’t: ‘if you back me, I’ll say nice things about you’; it’s ‘if you pieces of crap support me, I might not shit on you… today‘.

And they take that. They take it every day, and then come back for more.

I mean, when it comes to Republican members of Congress and Senators, who knows, maybe he’s right – practically, not morally – to treat them like that, because it’s bloody worked. And it continues to bloody work.

Even those in the GOP who once criticised him in the harshest possible language have all sucked at his teat since, and voted to pass legislation of which he approves. And without in any way repudiating their previous criticisms, they’ve pretended those criticisms were never made, those statements were never issues, the video of them doesn’t exist.

As for the judiciary, well, the orange poltroon’s expressed his contempt for how it operates in the US any number of times, while both praising and condemning the court system, and individual justices of the Supreme Court.

But again, remember that

“The American system of government works as it should, and only works as it should, if and only if, each branch of government respects the authority and legitimacy of the others.” 
 
Thirty five years ago, about now, during the impeachment of the hearings of them President Nixon, it was revealed that in Nixon’s secret recordings of what happened in the Oval Office, there was an 18½ minute gap. In the resulting litigation, the Supreme Court (an 8-0 decision, in US v Nixon) ordered Nixon in July 1974 to deliver tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials to a federal district court. He did so. he followed the Court’s ruling. And sixteen days later, Nixon resigned.

I’ve been wondering, since 2017, what happens when (not if but when) the Supreme Court rules against Trump on something big (‘Watergate 18½ minutes’ big, say) and Trump effectively responds ‘No. Now what are you going to fucking do about it?’

SCOTUS’ authority rests on the other branches respecting its legitimacy and authority.

And Trump doesn’t.

The other week, I went to see Michael Wolff being interviewed by Matthew D’Ancona, the former promoting his new book Siege, covering the second year of Trump’s [first] term in office, after Fire and Fury covered the first year.

 
Genuinely fascinating, and there was a Q&A afterwards; some good questions, some great answers.

So I asked the question above, what would happen if SCOTUS ruled against Trump on something huge, something genuinely important… and Trump effectively said ‘fuck you’ to SCOTUS.

Wolff paused a moment, thought of his answer, and then simply replied “I don’t know. But it’s a scary thought. And, personally, that’s why I think Robert Mueller ‘punted’ in the report, didn’t go as far as he could have, as he should have. Because he didn’t want to provoke, to create, that problem, what would be a genuine constitutional crisis.”
 
I’m not sure I wholly agree that Mueller did punt the report; genuinely think there’s strong arguments on both sides of that one, none of them conclusive.

But it’s certainly not something I wholly disagree with either.

I miss the days when the branches of government at least pretended to respect the authority and legitimacy of the others in public, and mostly did so in private.

Something else tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.


¹my tutor in A Level “Government and Comparative Political Systems”, which I studied at Luton VI Form College (1980-1982)

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Earlier on in this run, I wrote about skillsets some have for their careers that I don’t have, and that I wish I genuinely understood inside and out.

But of course there are other things – not limited to skillsets – that I either don’t understand and wish I did understand, or don’t understand and don’t really care that I don’t understand…

And then there are the subject matters about which people care hugely; they’re important to them in a way that not only are they not to me, but I don’t even understand why they are to people. On an individual sense, I mean.

Like fashion, say, but we’ll come back to that.

No matter what the industry, I’ll acknowledge immediately that they’re important to people who work in the industry. I couldn’t give a damn about the design of mass produced greetings cards, say. Not really. One’s the same as another in most cases, as far as I see. Except the ones you see, look again in disbelief, and then are terrified that someone actually got paid to design it.

But for those who work in the greetings cards industries, I quite understand why it’s important to them; to the government who collects taxation from the companies, the payroll taxes, the corporation taxes, etc. To those whose livelihood depends on that industry, yes, I get all of that.

That caveat needs to be up front and centre. Any industry is important to those working in it.

Like fashion, say. But we’ll come back to that.

Small – but relevant to what follows – diversion: this isn’t fishing for compliments, but I’ve never thought of myself as ‘good looking’. OK, I’ll admit that I’m better looking than I used to be (as the annually updated A Life In Pictures post proves) but… objectively ‘good looking’?

No.

Not at all.

I’m… ok, I guess. On a good day, I might qualify for a bit better than ‘plain’. Again – not fishing for compliments here.

But I say all that I have above in order to now recognise that even I, looking like I do, am vain enough to not like it if I have a crappy haircut, or have a spot appear on my face.

I stress the above to acknowledge that there’s some, small, vanity, on minor things before going on to say that in a major way, vanity has affected my choice in clothes.

I’m not sure who first observed that clothes form an inherent part of your identity. But of course they’re correct, both in how others see you and how you see yourself. But despite the above, I’ve never much cared about how people see me, only about what they thought of me, and even then only with some people.

Going back a few decades, I don’t really remember choosing clothes to ‘look good’ before I got married. (Yes, yes, that annual post proves it. I know.)

I wore what was ‘appropriate’ for the setting (work, synagogue, pub), and b) what I felt comfortable wearing… but not really more than that.

Wasn’t fashionable usually, if ever. Yeah, fashion. We’re getting there, I promise.

Then I met the lady who became my wife. Yeah, a lot of stories start like that.

Laura had, has, far better taste than me in clothes, and it wasn’t uncommon for her to surprise me with a top, or a shirt or a jacket… In all the time we were together, maybe twice, maybe three times, I didn’t like her voice. Every other time, it was great; it suited me; I liked it.

When we split up, I dressed all-in-black for something… and for the first time – genuinely, the first time ever – pretty much everyone complimented me on how I looked. (To the point that I briefly but genuinely wondered whether they’d gotten together to take the piss.)

But no. I dressed all-in-black at work; got compliments. Dressed all-in-black for a social occasion… same result.

Huh. Weird.

I’ve said before those who are good looking, have always been told they’re good looking, genuinely don’t have a clue what it’s like to not receive those life long compliments. No more than those of us who didn’t get them have the slightest comprehension what it’s like to get those compliments through your life.

So me getting compliments all the time for how ‘all-in-black’ suited me, how much better I looked, astonished me.

Even weirder was how I felt about dressing all in black: very, very comfortable, very… ‘me’.

Yes, there was good natured mockery, the ‘goth’ comments, the “DarkBudgie” silliness. (Remember: I’m a huge fan of silliness.)

So, lots of reasons for me to continue: I liked it, it was easy, people seemed to think I looked good in it, and I felt comfortable as hell wearing it.

And here we go…

At no point was I wearing black because, say, it was the ‘in’ thing to wear; at no point was I wearing it because ‘everyone I knew and mixed with was wearing it’; at no point was I wearing it to ‘make a statement’, or to ‘make a point’.

Which brings me to fashion. Both as a concept, and an industry.

I don’t get it.

I mean, leaving aside the economics of it…

  • dresses that cost more to deliver than to purchase
  • wages paid to those who make the clothes that make people blush
  • built in short term obsolescence

…the very idea of social acceptance or otherwise thought wearing what has been decided is this year’s Thing… I’m utterly mystified by the idea.

It’s not just the actual clothes in the fashion industry, of course, that mystify and puzzle me. The ‘you can’t wear the same this year/season as last’. I don’t get it. The ‘you must buy new and newer and different.

I don’t have many pairs of shoes; a pair of trainers, a decent pair of brogues, a pair of plain formal shoes. and I’ve pretty much replaced them with identical pairs. (OK, I could excuse that because I’ve a fucked up foot.) But that wouldn’t explain why I also have lots of identical shirts, and identical pairs of plain trousers.

Having multiple outfits for multiple occasions, mixing and matching – and purchasing stuff in order to do so… not being able to, nor wanting, to wear the same clothes repeatedly.

Fashion: I don’t get it. At all.

I honestly wish I did.

Yeah, this didn’t start out as a whinge. I’m sorry it turned into one…


Well, that didn’t exactly turn out as planned. To reward you for slogging through it, I’ll let you know about the single best mass-produced greetings card I’ve ever seen, in Bermuda, in the mid-1990s. Die cut, so the front of the card was slightly smaller than the back of the card. The front of the card had a typical 1950s detective or PI. Low slung hat, raincoat.

The front of the card read: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. Somewhere, someone’s in trouble. Somewhere, someone needs to stroke a small animal. That’s where I come in.”

When you opened the card, you saw the same defective, his raincoat now open with:

“My name’s Friday. I carry a badger”.


See you tomorrow, with something more interesting.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Long before I started the countdown blogs, every so often, on a Saturday, I’d put up some YouTube videos or some snigle panel editorial cartoons, or even some ‘funny newspaper headlines’… some silliness, anyway.

After a week of blogging, just something trivial and silly on a Saturday.

Note that I don’t say “unimportant”. Silliness, even in the roughest of times, The worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best things about humanity.

So… more silliness.

A Classic, but it seems more relevant than ever: Mitchell & Webb ask an important question

 

Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard the Thunderbirds theme, but never quite like this

 

Carly Smallman finds her perfect man, and knows they’re Made For Each Other

 

Jay Foreman has a problem with Radio 4, one I would share…

 
And another one from Mitch Benn, this one on being Militantly Reasonable

See you tomorrow, with something else.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

(For part 1 of ‘one-offs’, about individual television episodes I will rewatch whenever they’re shown, click here)

I mentioned last week that even in ‘baddie of the week’ tv shows, in every medical drama, in every sitcom, an individual episode will stand out for some reason; the guest star will knock it out of the park, the writing on that episode will particularly impress, the specific plot will reward rewatching.

The same, of course, applies to long running comic books, which are also serialised drama/fiction. And as with tv, there are too many, far far too many, for me to list all of them, the individual issues that mattered to me, that I’ll dig out and reread every so often. Picking ten isn’t meant to imply that they’re ‘better’ than the others; it just means they’re the ten that sprung to mind when writing, ok?

But here are ten. Of course with some series, there are multiple issues, but as with Part 1, I’ll limit it here to one issue per series, in some case per character.

Oh, and where I can, I’ll list the creative teams. Apologies upfront to any I don’t know at the time of writing; I’ll slot them in if I discover them later.

OK then.

Iron Man: “Star Hunter” (Vol 1, issue 237)
Writer: David Michelinie, Bob Layton; Penciler: Jackson Guice; Inker: Bob Layton; Colourist: Bob Sharen; Letterer: Janice Chiang
I love this issue. Everything about it. The plot is sharp and clever, a one character issue in which Tony Stark (Iron Man… oh shit, you didn’t know? Oops.) investigates why satellites have been going offline and discovers the real story behind SDI: an artificial creature, created specifically as a satellite killer, designed to adapt to whatever circumstances it finds itself in. The art flies off the page, the captions and thought balloons aren’t intrusive and make sense given the circumstances – most of the issue is silent, the station’s in vaccuum – and it’s the final couple of pages linger in your brain long after you’ve put down the issue. In them, Iron Man kills the creature, after introducing an atmosphere into the satellite… and he gets the shock of his life when the dying creature speaks. When Iron Man asks why the creature tried to kill him… and did kill its creators, the answer is simple… and still chilling: “It was what I was created to do.” It’s rare that I can look back, decades after an issue saw print, and can remember almost panel for panel what happened in a story. Iron Man #237 is one such story.

 
 
The Flash: “Shot In The Dark” (Vol 2, issue 30)
Writer: William Messner-Loebs; Penciller: Greg Larocque; Inker: Larry Mahlstedt; Colourer: Carl Gafford)
Wally West is at the cinema on a date, watching a movie when he notices everyone has frozen around him, as has the movie; he feels something in the back of his neck, the pressure slowly incresing. He reaches behind him and disovers it’s a bullet. Another almost silent issue, but this time not because of a lack of oxygen, but because the entire issue (bar the first couple of pages) takes place in about a tenth of a second. I’ve now seen this kind of thing done any number of times on the tv show, and in movies, but this was back in the late 1980s and it was the first time I’d seen it done in a comic book. West had automatically flipped into ‘Flash Time’ the moment his body felt the bullet touch it, and it took a moment or two – subjective time – for his brain to catch up with his body. The issue is great at handling the physics of momentum, and how it feels to be in that state, and how the slightest relaxtion – when he realises what’s going on – means someone could die, almost does, if he is blasé about it. Great writing, great art, really nice colours.
 
 

Sandman: “Men of Good Fortune” (Issue 13)
Writer: Neil Gaiman; Penciller: Michael Zulli; Inker: Steve Parkhouse; Colourer: Robbie Busch; Letterer: Todd Klein
Despite the official title of this story being “Men of Good Fortune”, I find it impossible to think of this by any other title than “The Hob Gadling story”. This was one of the few Sandman stories that I immediately reread the moment I had finished it. The story is deceptively simple: a ‘common’ man announces to his friends that he won’t die… in 1390. That’s all, that he simply won’t have it. As luck (and a Neil Gaiman script) would have it, Morpheus and Death are in the ale house when he makes his statement and Death agrees to forsake him. Dream does not inform him of it directly, but merely says that he will meet Gadling “one hundred years hence” at the same spot. After a hundred years, they meet. And a hundred years later. And another hundred years… You see the best and worst of humanity summed up in a single character, the highs and lows a man can be brought to. The final panel sums up a relationship. over 600 years in the making, in eleven elegant words. Gaiman excels himself in this story and Gadling remains my favourite character in the entire Sandman saga. Todd Klein also seems to do that little bit extra in this book…

 
 

X-Men: “Elegy” (Issue #138)
Writer: Chris Claremont, John Byrne; Penciler: John Byrne; Inker: Terry Austin; Colourist: Glynis Wein; Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
This is the epitome of how you do a ‘what you may have missed’ or ‘what has come before’ or even ‘Previously…’. Anyway, it’s a catchup issue. The issue after the Dark Phoenix Saga ends, with the death of Jean Grey, the conceot of the story is that it’s her funeral… and the entire story is done as a reverie of Scott Summers at funeral. From his meeting with Jean – as it was in continuity then, anyway – through various adventures, various teams, and various identities. And takes it through to her death. No, stop sniggering, you at the back. No one at that time expected her to come back. Repeatedly. But it’s a great lesson on how to tell a story – because it is still a story being told – catchup or not. There’s a personal element to me liking this issue as well. It’s one of two things that got me back into comics after some teenagerly absent years. (and maybe that’s an entry all on its own…) Claremont’s script is great, and Byrne and Austin deliver. Wein’s colours are usually ignored when this issue is talked about, and they shoudn’t be; they help set the tone throughout.
 
 

The Incredible Hulk “He’s Back” (Issue #372)
Writer: Peter David; Penciller: Dale Keown; Inker: Bob McLeod; Colourist: Glynis Oliver; Letterer: Joe Rosen
Peter David’s long run on The Hulk, though with the very occasional ‘blip’, remains one of my favourite long runs on any comic by any creator. David is, I’m sure, sick of reminding people that it wasn’t he who came up with the idea of the Hulk being a multiple personality (it was Bill Mantlo’s, for the record), but it was certainly Peter David who took the idea and ran with it. And despite the later retcon by other writers, the eventual amalgamation of the “Green Hulk”, “Bruce Banner” and the “Grey Hulk” into an integrated personality was, for my money, the best issue David wrote, with the possible exception of the final issue, but it’d be cheating to include that one. There’s just nothing wrong with this book. The final panel “I’m home…” is worth the price of admission on its own.

 
 

Moon Knight “Scarlet” (Issue 5)
Writer: Warren Ellis; Art: Declan Shalvey; Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
I loved Warren and Declan’s short run on Moon Knight, treating the character as a sort of half-urban myth/half-consulting detective. In this issue, however – a story that is, by their own admission, Ellis’ and Shalvery’s take on The Raid – Moon Knight knows there’s an abducted young child in an abandoned hotel; the only way to get her back is to wade through 20 or so mob guys, all of whom will quite happily kill anyone who comes to rescue the child. So Moon Knight goes in to rescue the child. It’s a 20 page fight issue, floor by floor. It’s gorgeous, brutal, and the injuries are forensically accomplished, and portrayed. Not my normal ‘preferred’ style of story, but somehow this one always gets me. Glorious use of the medium and each page is wonderful. Huh. I just realised. Another, pretty much, silent issue.
 
 

Fantastic Four “This Man, This Monster” (Issue #51)
Writer: Stan Lee; Art: Jack Kirby; Co-plotters: Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Wow, this one’s going back to stone age… How the hell do you follow a three parter that introduces Galactus and the Silver Surfer in which you save the planet? Stan Lee and Jack Kirby deliver a masterclass in early Marvel, let alone early Fantastic Four. A simple, elegant, story, beautifully and stylishly executed: someone steals The Thing’s powers and goes off to the FF’s HQ, thinking Reed Richards does it for the glory. Learns he doesn’t and sacrifices his life in the Negative Zone to save Richards. At iits heart, it’s the story of a man’s redemption from a life of selfishness, by the most selfless act one can perform. And as for Ben Grimm? Delighted to no longer look like The Thing, he goes to a woman he like and turns back into The Thingjust as she was about to see the ‘real’ him. It’s cleverly written, wonderfully draw, and it’s a perfect synergy of their individual talents. Just great.

 
 

Kurt Busiek’s Astro City “Dinner At Eight” (vol 1, Issue #6)
Writer: Kurt Busiek; Artist: Brent Eric Anderson; Colourist: Steve Buccellato ;Letterer: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
For a series that asks, better than any other book, to my mind, the ‘what would it actually be like if super powered, and supernatural, ‘people’, good and bad, existed in ‘real life?’ question, this is an odd one… because it subverts that entirely. This isn’t about normal people reacting to super-powered characters in their midst. This issue is, basically, what if Superman went on a date with Wonder Woman, but in their civilian identities. (That might seem disparaging to Samaritan and Winged Wonder; it’s not intended to be; the super-man and super-woman characters start from those archetypes, and very very quickly move away from it.) I love this issue. Everything about it just… works. The guilt both feel about taking some time away from crime fighting is obvious and understandable, despite promises from their comrades to step in. They can’t… relax. And they know it. and they know the other can’t, and they understand it. As always with Astro City, it’s a delightful character study.

 
 

Holy Terror
Writer: Alan Brennert; Artist: Norm Breyfogle; Letterer: Bill Oakley; Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
A bookshelf edition, and an Elseworlds title at that, but it’s within the ‘rules’ I set up for myself – a single issue – so there. Holy Terror is my favourite Elseworlds book. Now, in case that sounds like “faint praise that damns”, it isn’t meant to at all. It’s one of my favourite all time comic books. It starts from the premise that Cromwell remained in power in the UK and that England won the War of Independence with The Colonies. America is in effect would now be called a Fundamentalist Christian State. Bruce Wayne is a novice priest who finds out that his parents weren’t killed by a common mugger as he had always believed but were executed by the State. He becomes The Batman in order to find out why and who ordered it. It’s a superb book with many twists in it, including a wonderful sub-plot throughout about The Green Man, someone rumoured to be an alien… and it’s not who you think it is. Written by Alan Brennert, whose work never disappoints, with art by the wonderful Norm Breyfogle.

 
 

The Wicked and the Divine: (Issue #1)
Writer: Kieron Gillen; Artist: Jamie McKelvie; Colourist: Matthew Wilson; Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Where the hell do you start with a book like WicDiv, as it’s known to its fans? At the start, obviously. Which start, though? And that’s a question that in order for me to answer it in any way that even came close to making sense, you’d have had to have already read the book. Every 90 years, twelve gods are re-incarnated; they live as gods for a maximum of two years. A wonderful concept, expertly delivered… with wonderful scripts, beautiful art, clever stories, and twists and turns of the best kind: those you don’t see coming but in retrospect seem if not invitable then at least perfectly sensible. So, why am I choosing the first issue? Because nothing makes sense – literally in two cases – without having read and understood the first issue. Add to that the commencement of one of the best ‘normal person interacts with the abnormal’ storylines I’ve ever read, and a shock ending that still gut punches you even though you know it’s coming… Both Gillen and McKelvie are doing the best work of their already sparkling careers, and it’s been a pleasure being along for the ride. Special call out for the covers, which have both been original and stylish.


Final note: while writing this entry, I had so much fun, reliving the stories, the sheer talent shown throughout, and I thought… y’know what, maybe at the end of the run, I’ll do another ten… it’ll be equally as easy and as much fun.

And then I deleted the entry in error and had to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. It was less fun after that. So, there may well be another ten at the end, but don’t hold your breath.


If you’ve been paying attention, you know what’s coming tomorrow. See you then.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I’ve been going back and forth on this one. But last night’s Panorama programme about antisemitism inside the Labour Party tipped the balance.

No, I’m not going to write about that today, neither the programme itself nor the details therein, save for one small reference towards the end of this post; maybe soon, but not today.

Some years ago, I wrote a piece about antisemitism in the UK, and how it’s risen, and how it’s not uncommon – some would aver often – for criticism of Israel (used as a metonym for its government, PM, military, laws, politicians) to ‘cross the line’ into overt antisemitism.

Now, whenever this does happen, whenever antisemitic criticism – not criticism itself, but overtly, blatantly, antisemitic criticism – is highlighted, you can guarantee two responses:

  1. “Oh, you just don’t want any criticism of Israel!”, and
  1. “You’re making up false allegations of antisemitism to prevent any criticism of Israel; you always do that!”

How best to respond?

Bollocks. Oh, ok, yeah, that works.

Unfettered, unmitigated, unreserved… bollocks.

(The second of those responses above is known in the UK, among the Jewish community as ‘The Livingstone Formulation’, since it’s been deployed by Kenneth-of-that-Clan for decades.)

I don’t know how often it has to be said but apparently at least once more is necessary even before I read the comments to this piece: criticising Israel [its government/politicians/polices/military] isn’t per se antisemitic. How could it be? It’s no more inherently anti-Jewish to criticise the actions of a Jewish state than it’s anti-Christian to condemn the UK government – of a still formally Christian country – for the ‘Bedroom tax’, or to criticise its Prime Minister, or to criticise the actions of the UK’s military.

BUT… if that criticism is expressed using the same words, the same lies and/or the same imagery, as has been used for literally centuries to demonise Jews, yeah that’s antisemitic, Israel references or no.

So what do I mean, when I say the ‘same imagery?

Do I mean ‘similar’? Nope, I mean the same. The same hooknosed caricatures of ‘zionists’, the same ‘gorging on blood’ images of Netanyahu (a politician I loathe, not that it should make the slightest difference) that have been used to demean, disparage… demonise Jews via the Blood Libel for centuries.

This entry, and some others in the run going forward, is to address the lie, the flat out lie, that using antisemitic imagery – based upon age old antisemitic tropes – is somehow, magically, not antisemitic if you replace “Jews” with “Zionists” or “Israel”.

Because it is [still] antisemitic if you do that.

Yes. It really is.

You want to criticise Israel? Its government, that government’s policies, its actions, its statements?

Go right ahead; I might even agree with you on the criticisms. I might not, but hey, there’s lots of criticisms on any subject with which I agree… and some I don’t.

Seriously, go right ahead and criticise away. One small thing, though: Just don’t do it antisemitically. It’s not a lot to ask, I believe. Just don’t be antisemitic. Don’t express your criticism, your condemnation, by using the same canards, the same myths, the same fabrications, the same images, used to condemn, excoriate, and falsely disparage Jews for hundreds of years in some cases, longer in others.

Don’t do it using a decades’ old, sometimes centuries’ old, antisemitic trope. Don’t do it with classic antisemitic themes, antisemitic imagery or antisemitic canards.

If you’re going to do that, then, yeah, folks – me among them – are going to justifiably say, “yeah, antisemitism”. Note that: justifiably.

So… in some blog entries over the remainder of this run, this place is going to give examples of antisemitism that – in some cases pre-dating Israel’s existence – criticise Jews and then show exactly the same modern criticism, only with “Jews” clumsily replaced by “Zionists” or “Israel”.

Ok then. Let’s get started.


Let’s start with: Cephalopods

I don’t know what antisemites have against cephalopods; I really don’t. They seem pretty harmless to me, although an octopus’s three hearts do really freak me out, I’ll be honest.

But cephalopods (the octopus, the kraken, the squid) have been used as a symbol of “Jewish power” by antisemites for over a century.

It’s used, I guess, to indicate, both the alleged secret way Jews have supposedly infiltrated everything from any established previously ‘clean’ system – the media, banks, the press, democracy – to a named county, to even a planet. (No, you didn’t misread that. Yes, I said a planet.)

And also, I guess again, that Jews somehow cling on to things?

I dunno.

Logic and facts are not two things antisemites are that fond of, I’ve found.

(Someone I know wondered a while back where all the smart, intelligent antisemites were, because they only came across “fucking idiots” online. I have some sympathy with that view, but I think that, dark humour aside, it’s giving the ‘smart’ ones far too much credit.)

But anyway, take a look at the first set of pictures below.

They’re old, really old, and are explicit in their Jew hatred.



Hitler – yeah, be fair; you knew he’d be along sooner or later – made plain his views on Jewish power, metaphorically using… oh, you guessed.

“If our people and our state become the victim of these bloodthirsty and avaricious Jewish tyrants of nations, the whole earth will sink into the snares of this octopus; if Germany frees herself from this embrace, this greatest of dangers to nations may be regarded as broken for the whole world,”- Mein Kampf

The next pic comes from that time….

(Sometimes they start with an octopus and I dunno, figure a spider is better… or they can’t draw tentacles?

But yeah, a hook nosed, caricature of a Jew. (And of course the spider has links to ‘vermin’ and lots-of-people-are-scared-of, which may form another post in the run.)

But the pics above are just half a dozen of literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of examples in history.

Oh, let me quickly address one apparent confusion among some:

Two pics:

The one on the left (on top if viewing on mobile) is the Israeli Flag. The one underneath (on the right) is the Star of David I wear around my neck, a 21st birthday present. The former is the symbol of The State of Israel. The latter is a symbol associated with Jews and Judaism back to the days of the Bible. In Hebrew, it’s not called a Star of David, but a Magen David (pronounced Moggain Dovid), a Shield of David, because that’s what was painted on the shields of King David.

The two share a six pointed star. The former has details not on the latter: a white background, a specific colour, stripes above and below.

If you use the magen david without all of the above…? Don’t pretend you’re referencing Israel; you’re not. You’re referencing Jews. And you know it.

Here’s another, more recent, picture.

Recognise anything?

Now, those who use, promote and post the pic would almost certainly – do, in fact – insist it’s aimed at Israel (the AIPAC in the background would ostensibly seem to agree.) And it may well be ‘aimed at Israel’… but it’s not only aimed at Israel. Which is the point.

It’s using age old antisemitic imagery used for centuries to attack Jews as well, and the people who created the image and those who promote it, distribute it, send it around, use it on social media, defend it… they know it means Jews.

But surely they don’t always know?

Let me introduce you to Kayla Bibby who posted the attached on social media.

OK, it’s the facehugger from Alien movies, but it’s just the latest iteration. Hey, look, there’s a Star of David… not on a flag, not with a white background, not with stripes above and below.

Huh. How about that?

But did she know that it means ‘Jews’?

Well, for once we have a concrete answer to the question. The image comes from a far right website which was crystal in its clarity that yes indeed it was about Jews. The article it accompanied described Jews – not zionists not Israelis, but Jews – as “parasitic” and said they were to blame for “financial heists of entire nations”.

Ah, but how was Ms Bibb–

She contacted the site and specifically asked permission to use it.

Ah. Yes, ok then.

Ms Bibby actively sought this image out, requested its use… from a site which specifically said it was about Jews.

(By the way, the Labour Party first said that the image wasn’t antisemitic, and that neither was she, and chose to not even suspend her; they merely issued a “reminder of conduct”. Only after outrage at this decision – and her MP, Louise Ellman, raising it at a parliamentary party meeting – was she eventually, over the original protests of the leadership’s office, suspended.)

If you use those images, any images like them, you don’t get to say they’re not antisemitic. You just don’t. Not without lying. Because those who use it know the images are antisemitic.

That’s why they use them.

Two final points to make today.

So how can I criticise Israel without being antisemitic? Glad you asked. There are loads of good sites out there on the subject; I like this one, as it happens: How to Criticise Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic.

Secondly, and following on from the above, it’s so easy to criticise Israel, and its government, ministers, military, etc., without being antisemitic, that when folks do insist on using antisemitic canards, tropes, and imagery…

…one is forced to conclude that it’s the antisemitism that’s important to them, not the criticism.

More images, a different trope, next week.

But something entirely different, however, tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

[Oh, before I start, I got asked yesterday where I’m getting the photos from that I use for this blog. Other than ones I’ve taken myself, or have express permission to use, they come from an iOS app entitled Unsplash which supplies copyright free photos. Also on: https://Unsplash.com]

Had an entry all ready to finish today – subject matter, bullet pointed out, everything – but got caught up with other stuff that’s pretty much consumed my day.

And to be honest, with something that’s occurring tonight, I’d struggled to get my head ‘in the game’ to write anything serious.

So another entry already part-completed but planned for half way through this run is appearing, oh, a week and a half early.

Ain’t that always the way?

No?

Well then you’re substantially better at keeping to schedules than I am.

But it’s amusing to me how blogging changes. Before Twitter, I’d think nothing of sticking up three or four blog posts a day on Livejournal, containing this link, or that photo. Twitter, instagram, Facebook, Tumblr… they killed that kind of blogging, probably a good thing.

But on Livejournal, sooner or later everyone did one of those “Answer 100 questions with a single word for each” or detailed Q & A’s. They’d be of the

          Ask me five questions and I’ll answer honestly

type.

A couple of dozen people would play, and I’d have 100 or so questions to answer.

And at some point, when I’m doing one of these countdown runs, I’ll grab some of those questions, and answer them with today’s answers. (It’s part amusing, part horrifying, for me, seeing how many of the answers are radically different now, seeing how many are the same.)

So here’s a collection of questions asked of me through the years, from Livejournal, from formspring, from curiouscat with some up to date answers. All of the answers are the truth, and nothing but the truth. As always, however, rarely the whole truth.

Some questions, some answers

What is your middle name? Often surprises people that I don’t have one. Growing up, I wish I did, as I utterly loathed ‘Lee’ as a name. It’s no coincidence I grabbed ‘Budgie’ as soon as I acquired it. And as stated previously, I prefer to be called that now.

Why are you called Lee? I’m not. I’m called ‘budgie’. Ok, since you insist. I’m Jewish; we tend to name children after those who have passed on, who have joined the choir invisible. Who have died. I’m named after my maternal grandmother, Leah.

Where does most of your family live? My ex-wife and our son live in Barnet. I believe my mum is still in Luton, and a brother & his family live in Bushey. But we’re not in contact… which suits all of us just fine, thanks.

When was the last time you visited the street where you first lived? Well, I was born in Luton; very deliberately haven’t been back to the town, let alone the street, in years, other than to the airport.

Most memorable birthday? My 50th, in Edinburgh. Pretty much everything was perfect about the day: surrounded by friends, comedy, alcohol, presents, and much fun and laughter. Also the first few after Phil was born; there are few things as nice in life as your very young child singing Happy Birthday to you, and giving you a card he’s made.

So, what do you want for your birthday this year? Best wishes. That’ll do it, thanks.

Do you make friends easily? No, not easily at all. And I’m a lousy friend to have; fair warning.

But if you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? The temptation is to say “no”, but I don’t have a clue; I’m hopeless at judging myself objectively in any way.

Are you jealous of anyone? Still can’t top a friend’s answer when he answered this more than a decade: The usual raft of envy regarding other people’s good fortune, intelligence, academic prowess, family relations, published writing, and effortless ability to be likeable, but not actively and specifically “jealous”.

Do you vote? In elections, you mean? Every bloody opportunity I can, since 1987. In every election, even those where I’ve intended not to because I was pissed off with all the candidates. Turns out I can’t not vote. I’m a huge believer in, and advocate for, voting. And no vote is a ‘wasted vote’. If it’s for candiate who can’t possibly win, well, your vote might save their deposit. Or give them/their party confidence for next time.

1987? But you were 18 in 1982? Yeah, I didn’t vote in the 1983 general election. Was away studying and didn’t bother to register there.

What characteristic do you despise in people? Gratuitous intolerance. Everything I dislike in people (including, but not limited to, lazy thinking) stems from that.

Do you have any prejudices you’re willing to acknowledge? I stupidly, very stupidly – it’s a flaw, I know – tend to extend a good faith assumption that someone who’s intelligent in one area will be equally intelligent in others. Oh, and I’m unfairly biased in favour of intelligent people with interests beyond who got kicked off of Celebrity Big Brother last night.

Illegal drugs? Not right now, but thanks. But no; while I have in the past, I some time ago realised that I’m too old and my body too broken to tolerate even marijuana these days. The last time I tried… well, it didn’t go well.

Are you photogenic? Lord, no. But better than I used to be.

Do you like having your photograph taken? Generally? No, I really don’t like it. I don’t mind if I know it’s being taken, but I really, really hate and loathe it when I don’t know it’s being taken. The chances I’ll like the pic if I don’t know it’s being taken are miniscule. And if someone takes a candid shot, I’ll often ask them to delete it, or at least not put it on social media.

Is looking good important to you? [looks in a mirror]. Obviously not.

Do looks matter? Other than in “the Kingdom of the Blind?” Yes. Always, always, always, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Do they matter in terms of attracting you? I’ve always thought that looks are what gets you interested in someone, while everything other than looks is what keeps you interested. Well… me, anyway.

Which hurts the most, physical or emotional pain? Physical, every bloody time. I’ve been told “There’s something wrong with you if you don’t choose emotional pain”, a sentiment with which – when it comes to me – I wholeheartedly agree.

What do you think of hot dogs? The owners should be prosecuted for leaving them in the car.

Have you any tattoos? No.

Piercings? Hahaha. No.

Do you trust others easily? Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No.

What subject in school did you find totally useless in later life? Geography. I cannot truly express the heights of my disdain for geography as a subject, or at least how I was taught it. I left school wholly convinced that it was an entire waste of time unless you intended to use it as a future career. I’ve never been completely sure I was wrong.

What kind of hair/eye colour do you like on the opposite sex? No particular preference, but if the eyes are communicative, can send messages? I’m a sucker for that. However, even then, I’m hopeless at interpreting such messages.

What is the most pain you have ever experienced? Breaking my foot – felt like I’d plunged it into molten lava. Since then… still the foot, on a regular basis.

Do you have siblings? One dead, one still alive.

What are your weaknesses? Way, way too many to list here.

If you got to live for a prolonged period of time in any time period, which would it be? I wouldn’t. To visit? Early 1960s, maybe mid 2030s. But to live somewhere? No, I lack too many cultural references and background knowledge, let alone the language and social norms. And going back far enough, I’d likely die from this disease or that one.

First thing you ever got paid for writing? A short sketch on BBC Radio 4’s Weekending. As I recall, it was about Boris Yeltsin. Followed shortly thereafter by one about Michael Heseltine.

Ever have a near-death experience? Yes. Three, in fact.

Name an obvious quality you have. Well, according to several people, a very skewed perception of how I’m regarded by others. That’s their opinion of an “obvious” quality, not necessarily one with which I agree.

What’s the name of the song that’s stuck in your head right now? A Night Like This by Caro Emerald.

Would choose to sing at a karaoke bar? I wouldn’t. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

If you could suddenly get the skill to play any single musical instrument, which would you choose? Mouth organ – that way no one would ever ask me to sing. (Some years ago, friends bought me one. I started to learn, then put it down; I really should get back to learning it. I’d genuinely actually quite like to.)

Do you read your horoscope? No; if I want to read fantasy, there’s plenty of better written stuff out there.

Ever seriously questioned your sanity? Yes, on many occasions, though not for a while.

Have you ever killed your own dinner? Have I ever killed something and then ate it, no. Have I ever destroyed a meal I was making? Hell’s teeth, you’re asking questions of someone who could burn corn flakes. I’m a terrible cook. Abysmal.

What’s the longest time you’ve stayed out of the country/where? 1980, from mid-July to mid-August. On a BBYO/youth group tour of Israel.

And the furthest you’ve ever been from where you were born? Singapore. Flew there, stayed six hours, flew back. Long story. Not as long as the flight, though.

Why do you write? Either because I have a story I want to tell, or to meet a challenge, (self-imposed or external), or something occurs to me that I have to get down… in order for it to make sense to me.

Why do you always pretend you don’t know when someone’s interested in you when you obviously do? Erm, we’ve obviously never met. My not realising it has been the source of humour in the past to friends. Nowadays it’s a source of mild irritation, and sometimes not that mild.

Life lessons? Two:

  1. Learn from your mistakes; regret ’em, but don’t brood on them.
  2. Accept completely, and irrevocably, that life is an ongoing and consecutive series of ‘well, it seemed like a good idea at the time’.

Exam lessons? I’ve taken a lot of exams in my life. I learned these four lessons far later than I should have done:

  1. Don’t worry about ‘answering the question’; ensure you ‘get the marks’. The two are often only the same thing by coincidence.
  2. The first half marks in a question are always easier to get than the last half.
  3. KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid; don’t assume the marker knows anything
  4. RTFQ: Read the fucking question

Who would you most like to meet? There are any number of people with whom I’ve corresponded online that I’d like to meet, including some that have become friends. Celebrities? Stephen Fry, Peter David, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Samantha Bee… mainly so I can tell them how much I’ve enjoyed their work. And some celebrities, public figures, who have, the past few years, stood up to defend Jews against antisemitism solely because it’s the right thing to do. I’d like to meet them so I can just say ‘thank you’.

Would you ever consider running for political office? Not. A. Fucking. Chance. Ever.

Do you believe in ghosts? Nope, not at all. I think that those people who do believe in ghosts are… misguided.

If you were to be famous, what would you like to be known for? As the disreputable and slightly embarrassing father of a very talented son.

What’s your favorite black and white movie? Always have problems with ‘favourite’ questions, because I have different favourites depending on genre. But probably Casablanca as a ‘serious’ movie, and Duck Soup as a comedy. (Definitely not It’s a Wonderful Life. Can’t stand the movie. At all.)

What do you wear to bed to sleep? A duvet.

What song always makes you happy when you hear it? Not sure about ‘happy’, but Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves always makes me smile when I hear it.

Are you afraid of the dark? It’s never given me a reason to be afraid of it. So far.

What’s your favourite music to dance to? Even when my foot allowed it, I disliked dancing. Hated it. I’m too self-conscious; I cannot get it out of my head that everyone’s looking.

Do you think writers are too in love with themselves? Oh hell, no. I think many writers don’t like themselves very much at all.

Can you recommend a coffee? I always recommend a coffee.

Who is the strongest person you know? Couldn’t narrow it down to one person; so many people I know have triumphed – or are struggling to do so – against horrible things that have happened to them, that I couldn’t narrow it down to one person.

Favorite Number? 1729

Can you speak any languages other than English? The odd word of yiddish, but absolutely fluent rubbish.

Would you rather visit a zoo or an art museum? I’d rather visit neither.

Do you own a knife? Well, does a Swiss Army Knife count? If so, yes.

What did you want to be when you were little? Older… and taller.

Is there any subject that should be off limits for humor? No. None. However, just because a joke can be made about a subject doesn’t mean it should be made, or told.

Are you a hypocrite? Yes. Next question?

Just curious – what’s your type? Arial Rounded MT Bold.

If you were one of The Endless, which one would you be?
As a general rule though, never really feel like a character created by someone else. I’m more of a self-made person who has a healthy disrespect for my creator.

Why did you stop the fast fiction stories? Mainly because I’d written 700+ of them and I didn’t want to write 800. They may return at some point, if there’s a reason the format suits the occasion.


Something else tomorrow, something a bit more serious and a lot more sensible…

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Some more old fiction today, a couple of stories that not many people will have read, and almost certainly, no one who’s started following me in the past decade or so.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Anyway, here are two more from the vault.

One of the pleasures is rediscovering little gems from the past; I particularly enjoyed rediscovering these two.


Title: Train of Desire
Word: despair
Challenger: IckleBlackBird
Length: 200 words exactly

As the announcement faded, I could sense mild discontent in the air. I knew how they felt.

The train was twenty minutes late, and not expected for another five. People were glancing at their timepieces, and I joined them, looking at the heavy watch she’d bought me. This was the first time I’d worn it and I wasn’t used to either the additional weight on my wrist or the analogue fascia.

I looked at it again, for the second time in as many minutes, not yet anxious but concerned nonetheless.

I looked to my side and confirmed I wasn’t the only one waiting for the train’s arrival, but the familiar company didn’t lessen the possibility of future despair.

I’d been late often enough in the recent past that for a brief moment, I wondered if the fates were playing games with me. He may not have played dice, according to Einstein, but sometimes I suspected He played with humanity’s sense of timekeeping just to amuse Himself.

Where the hell was the train?

And then I heard the organ start, and my heart filled with love as I saw the train and the dress and my beautiful bride who wore both.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: And Then The Faerie
Word: dodecahedrons
Challenger: Challenger: Emily Strange
Length: 200 words exactly

The alien ships, painfully geometric in shape with sharp edges, trimmed and bolstered by cold iron, appeared in the night sky without warning.

The killing started immediately. Cubes destroyed huge swathes of land with energy blasts; pyramids let loose with rays that left nothing but devastation in their path; and dodecahedrons blasted away with pulsed force beams

Within hours, they’d taken the territories of Oz. I still remember the sight of the Emerald City splintering in the moonlight.

The refugees called it Krystallnacht.

The aliens and their ships were remorseless, and when we heard that first the Dreamland had fallen and then The Land of the Lady had been taken, we knew we would be next.

We are a selfish people, and my species’ history as a warrior race was in the long ago. But I would do my duty: for honour; for Oberon; for survival.

For Faerie.

I flew past a religious outpost, a chaplain outside tending to the wounded immigrants with his helpers. Priests, faerie or not, probably served some purpose, but I knew not what it was.

As I flew past him, he was murmuring something about “first they came for the Munchkins, and I said nothing…

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Something else tomorrow…

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.