“What’s the deal with all the car selfies?”

A great piece by Pam Mandel in Longreads about online dating in her 50s:

When I can’t sleep, I pet the dog and listlessly scroll through profiles, feeling all the markings of my 55 years, looking for something — someone — to stop that feeling of loss. It’s bad for me, junk food for my psyche. I’m reminded how bad it is every time I feel that bump when there’s a match. In my head I understand that I am being manipulated to feel just this way. I know that coming out of a relationship takes time and I should probably resolve all the old stuff before embarking on anything new. I know I should turn off my phone and go back to sleep or get out of bed.

If you get coronavirus, don’t blame the Tories

Jon Alexander, on Medium.com:

The immediate response to the government’s new Covid19 messaging has been a mixture of confusion and outrage. Commentators and academics seem bemused, the only possible explanation being that the government is incompetent.

But actually, I think it’s very deliberate — and if their ultimate goal is to retain power rather than save lives — very smart.

…Covid19 will now become an inconvenient hindrance to our lives, but one that each of us needs to take personal responsibility for dealing with, and getting back to normal as best we can. In this story, government steps back and gets out of the way, because people are best left to look out for themselves. We are individuals, there is no such thing as society.

The dark corollary of course is that if you get the disease, it will be your fault — because you will not have stayed sufficiently alert.

Hate crimes and political shenanigans

Neil Mackay in The Herald writes about SNP factionalism:

The SNP has always had a fractious, bitter, conspiratorial base, which some politicians have pandered to in the past. Now, it seems as if the base is coming overground, as if the base is set on taking the party over.

…will I ever vote SNP again? What if I vote SNP in 2021, backing Sturgeon’s vision for Scotland, and end up with something very different if she’s dethroned, something which I’ve no trust in, and which, frankly, repels me?

I reckon many moderate Yes voters like me – greatly discomfited by nationalism, but hopeful that a better Scotland can be forged away from the failed Westminster model – would think twice about voting for an SNP without Sturgeon at the helm.

And in The Scotsman, justice secretary Humza Yousaf responds to lurid claims that the Hate Crime Bill will criminalise freedom of expression.

The Bill’s provisions on freedom of expression provide reassurance that stirring up offences will not unduly restrict people’s right to express their faith, or to criticise religious beliefs or practices or sexual practices. Freedom of expression is not without limit, but this Bill will not inhibit controversial and challenging views being offered as long as this is not done in a way that is threatening or abusive.

It’s time to reopen Jurassic Park

Carlos Greaves, writing for McSweeney’s:

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!


Ill communications

When you’re trying to keep people at home over what’s likely to be a hot and sunny bank holiday weekend, it’s hard to imagine a worse headline than this.

It’s from today’s Daily Mail (in England; the Scottish edition has Nicola Sturgeon saying the lockdown can’t be lifted yet). The Mail of all papers should be wary about headlines with “Hurrah” in them.

The Mail is one of several tabloid newspapers who are promising an end to lockdown starting Monday and publishing it on their front pages the day after the UK death toll became the highest in Europe. There are officially more than 30,000 people dead; the real number is believed to exceed 50,000.

Let’s see what the papers have to hurrah about.

Has the UK reached its own testing target? Nope: the much-promised 100,000 tests per day hasn’t been achieved at all. The government attempted to pretend otherwise by counting 40,000 tests posted but not received; that worked for one day, but the daily number is back down to 80-something-thousand.

Do front-line NHS workers have adequate PPE? Nope. The much-lauded order of PPE from Turkey is being sent back today because it doesn’t meet NHS standards.

Do we have enough testers and trackers in place to know where the virus is and where to target resources? Nope.

Do we have a trace, track and isolate system in place? Nope.

The official stats are online. We are currently recording over 6,000 new cases a day.

All of these things together mean that the lockdown shouldn’t and won’t be lifted on Monday in England; we may see some very minor changes, such as stopping the cops from shouting at sunbathers, but it isn’t safe to change things yet.

That’s not what the papers are suggesting, though, and as a result we’re going to have a weekend of people flouting the lockdown because hey, it’s going to be lifted on Monday anyway.

Apparently the government are deeply concerned about this; what I thought was a deliberate leak to distract tabloids from the death toll is reportedly an unsanctioned leak that’s been blown out of all proportion to produce front pages like this:

If it’s true that this isn’t what the government wanted, it’s clearly a case of reaping what you’ve been sowing: this is what happens when you don’t communicate clearly with a country, when you share policy and plans not with Parliament but with your pet newspapers, when your government cares more about PR than PPE.

It’s not me, it’s you

I’m careful when I shop. I wash my hands thoroughly before I go out, I use liberal amounts of hand sanitiser before I go in, I wear a mask at all times, I try not to touch anything I’m not sure I’ll buy and I go crazy with the hand sanitiser again when I come out.

The mask isn’t for me; it’s for you. If I’m asymptomatic and potentially a spreader of the virus, the mask can catch the droplets that might go into the air. It doesn’t stop them altogether but the combination of masks and social distancing can reduce viral spread considerably.

What a mask doesn’t do is protect me from the people who don’t wear masks and who don’t keep their distance in the supermarket. There are lots of them. They ignore the one-way aisles, pay no attention to the 2m distancing, barge in front of others and stand in the centre of the aisles so it’s impossible to get past while staying a safe distance away.

I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m currently self-isolating with a temperature of 103.

This is the problem with the people demanding “freedom” from virus restrictions. If they were campaigning for the freedom to blow themselves up in an empty car park somewhere, I’d be all in favour. But that’s not how this works. The people who won’t stay home, who won’t keep their distance, who won’t conform to even the most common-sense instructions are dangerous not just to themselves, but to the rest of us too.

Give me liberty and give me death

Media Matters:

Right-wing groups are using the same playbook against COVID-19 measures they’ve used to fight LGBTQ rights.

…Influential right-wing and anti-LGBTQ groups have responded to stay-at-home orders put in place to protect Americans from the coronavirus by pushing for exemptions for churches and pastors, including by filing lawsuits, pressuring local and state governments, and working with the Trump-Pence administration.

The names are awfully familiar: the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Church Council, the Heritage Foundation and the Christian Broadcasting Network, among others. It’s been clear for many years that they don’t care about the lives of LGBT+ people; this suggests that they don’t care about the lives of any people.

The ministry of bigotry

Many people believe that the Conservative MP Liz Truss is stupid. She may have said many stupid things in her career, but she isn’t thick. She’s much worse than that.

Truss was previously the UK’s Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, where she was responsible for defending the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. So when the right-wing press began demonising judges and calling them “enemies of the people”, she did… nothing.

As The Secret Barrister wrote at the time, calling for her resignation:

A starker, more blatant attack on judicial independence is hard to conceive. It is one thing to criticise court rulings. Or to draw attention to judicial decisions where they fall into error. But when the legislature and executive join forces with the media to launch rocket after rocket of personal, unwarranted abuse that is intended not to criticise or inform, but to demean, undermine, unnerve, terrify and intimidate independent judges who cannot answer back, we have a genuine constitutional crisis. The separation of powers is not just breached but scorched to the ground.

…so what we have is the Rule of Law being roundly trounced and judges being threatened for having had the audacity to apply UK law to a UK legal question and conclude that the UK Parliament was supreme.

And our cowardly, charlatan Lord Chancellor, cowering in the good graces of her Prime Minister and a rampant, ugly tabloid media, sitting meekly by and watching the world burn.

This time last year, The Guardian’s Zoe Williams described her as a “self-aggrandising, sub-Thatcherite, Ayn Randophile Tory” who “represents the new Westminster at its Trumpian worst.”

It’s hard to imagine a worse candidate for the job of equalities minister, a role that’s supposed to be about protecting society’s most vulnerable people. Naturally, that means Truss was appointed the UK’s equality minister in September.

One of her first announcements was to dismiss so-called “identity politics” – minority groups asking for equal rights – and to suggest renaming her ministry to the “Ministry for Freedom”. That’s “freedom” as in “freedom fries” and “religious freedom”, not “freedom from discrimination.”

You can tell a lot about a politician by the individuals and organisations they follow on social media. Truss doesn’t follow any of the key human rights organisations, organisations representing disabled people, organisations representing muslim people, organisations representing Jewish people, organisations representing Black people and other members of ethnic minorities. She follows just one LGBT+ organisation, the LGBT+ conservatives account; no LGBT+ charities or advocacy groups, no charities representing LGBT+ kids.

She does, however, follow some of the most rabidly anti-trans organisations and individuals – organisations and individuals roundly rejected by the LGBT+ community; organisations and individuals who campaign against equality, who promote dangerous and discredited conversion therapy and who orchestrate campaigns against gay and lesbian people who dare criticise them.

Yesterday, Truss’s office removed government support for schools anti-bullying guidance because it included protecting trans kids. The guidance was designed to protect all LGBT+ kids, not just trans ones; the anti-trans groups are celebrating because to them, gay and lesbian kids are simply collateral damage in their obsessive campaign against trans people.

Truss isn’t stupid. She’s much worse and much more dangerous than that.

News isn’t about making you feel better

Ruby Lott-Lavigna in Vice:

Journalism is not supposed to be a fluffy PR machine for the government (unless you’re working in North Korea, or, I don’t know, the Sunday Telegraph news desk), ready to boost your mood on a less than jolly day with an uplifting story of a dog who saved a duck from traffic, or a picture of a waving seal. It is a tool to interrogate power structures and inequality, serve the public interest and, occasionally, provide readers with something funny to read. Unfortunately, spiralling death tolls, falling stock markets and government failures – as depressing as it might be – are news, and need to be reported on.

…the media has never existed to provide a soothing mood-booster or cheerlead the government. Now is exactly the time we need challenging, difficult questions asked, even if they’re hard to hear. The waving seals can wait.

Money keeps you safer than masks

Yet more evidence that we really aren’t in this together: the Office for National Statistics reports that the Covid-19 death rate in England is more than double in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.

In the most deprived areas the death rate is 55.1 deaths per 100,000 population; in the least deprived, 25.3. In Wales it’s similar: 44.6 to 23.2 deaths per 100,000.

That’s partly because poorer people tend to live more closely together, partly because poorer people tend to have worse health, and partly because poorer people are more likely to be in jobs classed as “essential” that they can’t do from home.