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US Secret Service admits it ‘has no sense of humor’…

5 Jun

According to the BBC, the US Secret Service has put out an open tender for someone to invent a program that can ‘detect sarcasm and false positives’.

Secret Service...? The coolest cats on the block. And I ain't talkin' Celsius or town planning...

Secret Service…? The coolest cats on the block. And I ain’t talkin’ Celsius or town planning…

The tender documents are available here .

An un-named source at the Secret Service explained:

“…As usual, we were listening in to American citizens talking to people in communist-infiltrated European countries like Britain, France, Italy…you know – the usual low-life death-bed states.

“We overheard a conversation between Mrs Amelia Krutz of Spokane and her so-called friend in Vienna. Vienna is right on the border with Communist Russia so we naturally zoomed in and went to Black Alert.

“Mrs Krutz was heard to say ‘…he had the biggest weapon I’ve ever seen! He screwed me to the bed and then took a cab to the White House. I pity the next girl who gets in his way…!’

“We evacuated the White House, told all females under the age of eighteen to stay indoors and we then sent a carpenter to Mrs Amelia Krutz’s house, fearing the worst. I just can’t understand these people. She was most ungrateful.”

When asked what kind of program the US Secret Service needed, the source replied:

“Something small and black in a shiny case with some discreet brushed carbon fiber edging. It has to look the part.”

The successful code writer who comes up with the program that the US Secret Service buys will be rewarded handsomely. Six weeks later, they shall be found in a local park, having apparently fallen asleep under a tree that was being cut down.

 

 

The FBI, marijuana and young hackers: Morality hides under the table.

22 May

“..the best ones smoke weed, so we can’t use ’em…”

 

008hacker

 

The director of the FBI, James Comey, has reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that he may have to review the prohibition on drug-taking among his workforce because he cannot employ the best of the best when it comes to hackers.

At first glance, this comment may seem almost comical. Indeed, Comey is now back-pedalling furiously and saying it was meant as a joke. But it may still be a truth spoken in jest.

The FBI does not employ people who have used drugs in the last three years. The FBI wants to recruit hackers. So, they recruited a load of hackers who haven’t used drugs in the last three years. You can guess from Comey’s words how well it all worked out. Now, the FBI wants the ones who are trousered, minced, absolutely off their face on skunk – because the hackers the FBI currently have are not as good.

Can you imagine how the FBI hackers who are about to be fired feel? There you are in your navy blue skirt or your Walmart charcoal pants. You parked your car perfectly in the car park, neither too far to the left nor right. Suddenly, a security guard pulls your chair away and marches you up to the human resources department.

A woman you have never met then hands you an envelope with a letter of reference and tells you that they have done all they can to find an alternative position for you within the FBI but to no avail. Then, she nods to the security guard who walks you out to the car park.

As you pass your old desk, you see that it is now occupied by an eighteen year old who has his slammed Vans resting on your immaculate Apple and is taking a selfie on his iPhone.

You are toast.

This hacker does more in four hours than you did in three months.

You find the Hudson River and you jump into it.

 

The Fantastic Dilemma…?

It would seem reasonable that our offices of high authority and power do not employ habitual drug takers. Drug taking is both illegal and begs questions about the competence of a worker to do their job properly. But what happens if you are trying to arrest criminals who hide behind the tightest web security? The best help may come from those deep inside the business we call ‘code writing’ (if it is legal) or  ‘hacking’ (if it is illegal). These people often smoke joints and eat pizza.

The top hackers often take drugs. I mean, would you really leave a message on the FBI’s server at Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington saying: “Love the suits you guys wear!”  if you were sober and law-abiding? Besides, hacking is a long game that stretches your concentration and intelligence over many straight hours. The USAAF pump Speed into their fighter pilots so why can’t a hacker stock up on some weed and Ben & Jerry’s?

Perhaps James Comey just got sick and tired of having his weekly email to his staff persistently replaced by a picture of a lol-cat and that print of Bob Marley smoking a joint. He’s out for revenge. Book the kid. Think laterally.

015

Which brings us neatly to…

If you are a right-leaning law-abiding citizen, then you probably believe that the FBI go around all the top universities and pick out the brightest code writers and sit them down in the back of the black Suburban and say:

‘Forget Pfizer. Come and work for us.’

If you are a left-leaning law abiding citizen, then you know damn well that the FBI stake out a sixteen year old as he or she hacks into their headmaster’s bank account – the one that pays for the dwarf to whip him – and they sit him or her down in the front room with their parents and say:

‘Forget McDonald’s. Come and work for us.’

‘I can’t. I take drugs.’

(mother faints)

‘Damn.’

 

Can you spot the massive…er…half-truth in all this?

Just because the FBI cannot themselves employ drug-taking hackers doesn’t mean that they don’t use their services.

The FBI contract out this kind of work to a bunch of private firms that do employ drug-taking hackers. Those firms then invoice the FBI for ‘code writing services and program viability analysis’. Everybody is happy.

 

Then, in May 2014, the FBI notice that, whereas the FBI all drive around in four year old Chevrolets, these firms that go by the name of Yellow Penguin Computing, Zed Labz, Drelb Inc. – all drive three month old Ferraris.

 

When your in-laws are outlaws…

James Comey, Director of the FBI cannot have that. It sticks in his craw. Yet he cannot employ drug takers. He needs a solution. He dips his toe into the waters of popular opinion. He says he might have to look a the situation.

If he is successful, then any government department or agency may soon be allowed to employ drug-takers as well.

There will soon be no difference whatsoever between the moral values of society, outlaws and the elite who rule them both. Just like the end of alcohol Prohibition, the questions over morality will melt away. We all know that the current prohibition of marijuana serves no public good. It merely boosts the wealth of dealers – the bootleggers of old.

But the FBI cannot employ the top hackers unless marijuana is legalised across the whole of the US. It is a nationwide agency. Worse still – until that day, the barrier between what is legal and what is illegal becomes arbitrary and selective. Existing laws already flatly ignore criminality within crime-fighting agencies.

You were stopped for speeding by a cop who you believe was off his face on Nepalese black at the time?  Good luck with the appeal. You believe that your local police are paid off by drug dealers? Bring us the evidence and we’ll pay for your headstone.

That is not a good forest for society to venture into. Either marijuana is legal or it is not.

However, could it just be that James B Comey, director of the FBI, is in fact merely lending his weight to the campaign to legalise marijuana?

012

 

 

 

 

 

Ukraine: Western leaders consider snub to Putin

7 Mar

fist love hate

Roadwax’s Elena Handcart has just sent this report from the Crimean peninsula:

As the RAF Chinook helicopter from Odiham in Hampshire dives through the darkness of the night towards Razdolne, Captain Sandy “Toxvig” Thompson’s tense voice rings out in my headphones.

‘Remember, Elena…not a word about this being an MI6 job and no names. Don’t mention how you got here or who you met. Right?’

I nod in agreement as the muscular physique of Chaz “Minty” Mintoe looms towards me, un-buckles my harness and drags me towards the open hatch.

“Who dares, wins…!” he says and hurls me into the darkness while the Chinook is still thirty feet above sea level. I smile and wave goodbye to one of the most handsome and brave lovers I have ever known. So sad, then, that he could never sustain an erection.

I land roughly on the waves and my unconscious body is dragged towards the shore by the savage riptide.

I awake to find myself lying on a clean yet overpriced bed in the 2-Star Radzolne Holidaya Inska. Smiling back at me from the compact yet modern bathroom area is a face I do not recognise.

‘You do not recognise my face, do you?’ The man smiles and laughs.

I get dressed and leave him. His army clothes – all insignia removed – lie scattered around the room. There is no doubt though, from the way he rubs toothpaste into his genitals, that he is actually elite Russian forces.

The hotel concierge refuses to accept my credit card and instead leads me through the maze of coridoors to the back of the hotel and freedom.

‘ My name is Dmitri and I am pro-Ukraine. Not everyone loves Putin here. Do not mention me or I will be killed.’

I nod my head and thank him.

‘Take the footpath over the mountains and you will arrive in Yalta. It is hard climb. God be with you!’

I walk round the side of the building to the main entrance and get in a taxi.

‘Yalta.’ I say. The ancient Mercedes moves off and I settle back in my seat and watch the tired faces of the tired women as they catch fish with tired faces.

Within minutes, we arrive at a checkpoint and I am arrested.

"Well...THAT was a complete bloody waste of a war."

“Well…THAT was a complete bloody waste of a war.”

Aside

Ukraine: Obama, Putin phone call – latest:

2 Mar

Ukraine: Obama, Putin phone call – latest:

Roadwax’s newly-promoted Deputy Assistant Head of International Affairs Elena Handcart  sent us this transcript of Barack Obama’s latest phone conversation with Vladimir Putin from her hiding place in the wine cellar at Chatham House, London:

BO: Putin…?

VP: Obama.

BO: What’s up…? You good…?

VP: You call me. This is because you have problem. I do not have problem.

BO: Yeah, yeah…look…you free to talk right now…?

VP: (sound of tiger cub in background)  Wait….ow – shit…Barack…you give me one moment…ow…fuck…!

BO: Sure, no problem…I can call back in five…wow…that scratch looks bad.

VP: You cannot see scratch. We found your camera. Don’t bullshit. Scratch is nothing…(sound of scuffle and gun firing, muffled yelp)…now…what is your problem…?

BO: Daily call. C’mon…you know we have to do this. You okay…?

VP: I look better than you. Michelle hit you again…? She is bad woman. You must control her.

BO: Nice try. Michelle is fine. She doesn’t hit me.

VP: You want I give you picture of Michelle hitting you? You should stand up…be a man…be like Russian man.

BO: You don’t…why do I always get sucked into this…? You don’t have picture of Michelle. C’mon…

VP: Now. I teach you more diplomacy, yes…? This is why you call me. For next lesson. Okay. I teach you.

BO: No. Look, be nice…you don’t need to keep on being like this. Be nice for a moment…

VP: Nice…nice…what is nice…? Always you say word…I teach you nice…

BO: Look…can you please stop putting your military into Ukraine…? It is not good. It is making things bad.

VP: Bad…? What is bad…? Russian military bring peace to Ukraine. Bad is war. Russia ends fighting there.

BO: No, Russia invades Ukraine and starts war. Bad. Ukraine wants peace and freedom.

VP: Yes, my stupid friend. Ukraine people lose fight against fascist terrorists and Russia comes to help them.

BO: Ukraine wants independence…jeezus, Vlad…we’ve gone over this so many times…jeezus…

VP: Russia military brings peace and arrests fascist terrorists who bring down Ukraine government.

BO: Ukraine government was corrupt. The people spoke. They brought it to an end.

VP: The people spoke…? You see news on TV…? You see all those fascist men…?

BO: Okay, okay…yes…there are many fascist men on news but…

VP: Many fascist men on news, yes…! And these men bring down Ukraine. You say that is good…?

BO: No…I just mean…

VP: Europe and world see the fascist men with their fascist banners and you still say Russia is bad…?

BO: No – I…no – Fascism is wrong…you and I both agree that…

VP: Oh. Barack Obama says Fascist men walking with guns in Kiev are heroes…you want that…?…on TV news?

BO: No…I…

VP: Too late…! Too late, my stupid friend…now Fascist men are being shown on TV all over world.

BO: Yes…I know…I’ve seen the TV. But they are not the true voice of the people…you know that.

VP: Of course I do…so I send in Russian military to protect Ukraine people from them.

BO: The Ukraine people want you to stop doing that.

VP: Yes, they do. Like Iraqi people wanted America out. Like Afghani people want you out.

BO: That was different. We were fighting against Islamic extremism…just like you!

VP: Oh…! My stupid friend agrees that America was fighting war against Islam…oh…!

BO: That is not what I said…

VP: I have it now…on tape…you say it.

BO: You know I was not saying that. I was saying against extremist Islamic violence.

VP: Just like Russia. Just like Russia fights extreme Fascism in Ukraine…yes…?

BO: Russia is acting aggressively…Russia is bringing in military and Ukraine is scared.

VP: Scared…scared…of course it is scared…! Military is to make people scared.

BO: Well, that is all I am saying…just turn the volume down a little…okay…?

VP: I send you something…

BO: What…?

VP: You…I send you something…you look at your inbox…

BO: Vladimir…just tone it down…please…that’s all I’m asking you…shit…!

VP: Hahaha…you see picture in inbox…you see Michelle picture…? Hahahaha…!

BO: Motherf…No way… you motherfu….that is photoshopped…no way…!…no way…!

VP: Hahaha…I teach you diplomacy now…you learn diplomacy now…yes…?

BO: That is disgusting…it is completely fake…Vlad, you are a disgrace…

VP: What…? What is so bad…? Is just woman hitting man…! Is not funny…?

BO: Woman hitting man…? No…Vlad…oh…that is not the picture I have been sent.

VP: Not Michelle…? Not Michelle hit you with shovel in vegetable garden…?

BO: definitely not…No Vlad…ugh…that is sick…so sick…

VP: Wait…! Barack, I check my outbox. Wait…wait…(sound of muffled swearing and slap)

BO: Putin, I’m signing off now. You are completely over the line, buddy…

VP: Oh…Barack…this is wrong photo you were sent…It is mistake…big mistake…

BO: Right…I guess Kremlin make big mistake…

VP: No really…it is from export convention in 2003. Bananas are not real and lady is photoshopped…

BO: You are one sick man, Vlad. I feel sorry for you…

VP: No, listen…you destroy photo, yes…? Is mistake. We are friends, yes…? You destroy photo…?

BO: What am I supposed to say to you…? Is this your diplomacy…? Is this how you are…?

VP: No…I am not like this. Is photoshopped. Listen…Barack…listen to me…!

BO: I’m not sure I want to now…Dave, you seen this…? Man…! Eww….!

VP: Barack…! Barack, my friend…! We fight Fascists! We fight Fascists together…!

BO: Um…what…? Dave, show this to Kerry. See what he thinks…

VP: Barack…! Barack…you and me…! We fight Fascists together yes…? We are friends, yes…?

BO: Call me tomorrow, Vlad…will you do that…?

VP: Sure…sure Barack…I’ll…. ( line disconnects)

Obama avoids admission: George W Bush Library “will contain books”

26 Apr
024Bugeee

At what point in my life am I allowed to just sleep or catch up on Medal of Honor?

US sources have leaked covert film  confirming that President Obama has the ability to survive the worst social gathering in the history of Time and yet still smile and laugh when it is over.

The opening of the ‘George W. Bush Library’ required that he had to be present to make a speech. President Obama was not in a position to decline the invitation.

Despite the oxymoron, it was not possible for Obama to excuse himself from this date with destiny simply because he had to wait at home for the plumber or else be with a friend who was in hospital.

The library has been confirmed as “a building containing books”. How these books came into the possession of George W Bush is unknown. Bush is not famous for his love of non-fiction.

The ceremonial opening was attended yesterday by all the surviving presidents of the United States.

The library was surrounded by the most advanced security available so that its inauguration would meet without problem.

At this time, it is not clear whether the books within the library contain verifiable facts or simply random sentences of worthless information, designed to coerce ordinary citizens into becoming abusive nationalists, convinced that they are being threatened by foreign powers.

In the heavily edited video clip, President Obama is the one who looks like he wants to be somewhere else.

Ex-president Clinton is the one who looks like he wants to go with him.

George W Bush is the one who notices the camera.

Hilary Clinton is the one who just laughs and laughs…and laughs.

If all our news were truthful, questions would be illegal…wouldn’t they?

9 Apr

I have started an argument with an online news editor.

I could have done a thousand other things but the voice inside my head said: “Go for it! Speak up NOW!”

This is the same voice that once advised me to accuse a policeman of lying on oath while I was standing in the dock and had already managed to annoy the judge.

This voice also advised me to confront two street robbers who held very long knives and were in the process of throwing a mini cab driver onto a railway line.

This voice gets me into trouble but it also saves my soul. It allows me to confront and to question when the easy way out is to ignore or withdraw.

The online news editor – we shall call him by his acronym ‘ONE’ , is a reasonable, educated and good – natured soul. I know this for a fact because of ONE’s replies so far.

ONE has enough to do already without needing to waste time engaged in spurious debates with strangers. ONE’s replies to my criticism have been in the form of questions. ONE moves the debate between us onward with intelligence and good humour and I try to respond in the same way.

I hope I succeed because if I do not, I know that ONE will spot the crack in my armour and a spear will dispatch me in an instant. I am certain that I would do the same if I get the chance.

Now, I am going to reveal what I am arguing with ONE about. Perhaps, you will suddenly see me in a different way.

We are arguing over the use of the question mark.

*?*

For a  journalist, the question mark is sacred. It drives their world, their identity and their reason for turning up for work each day. They ask questions.

For a reader, the question mark is an outrage. A reader seeks answers. We only read because we already have a question mark in our head. We are trying to remove the damned thing.

ONE writes headlines with a question mark at the end.

I don’t like this. I tell ONE that it is not the job of a journalist. Journalists should not write headlines that end in a question mark.

ONE replies to me:

“Why??????”

I instantly adore ONE’s answer and I want to frame it. Behind a sheet of slate.

“Because I believe that the essence of reportage is to provide answers, not debate uncertainty”

ONE replies to me:

“Agreed, reports should probably explain rather than pose questions, but surely Twitter is not reportage?????????”

I chew over my relationship with Twitter before suggesting to him:

“It evolves as we use it, changing from look-at-me platform to echo-platform to breaking-newsroom. Hot news at its best, period.”

ONE has better things to do and goes off and does them.

I use the time to write this post on my WordPress blog and clarify my battle plans. Have I won my point? I doubt it.

ONE has asked the Big Question.

Is Twitter reportage?

The word reportage is defined as the means of reporting news.

ONE is making an important point here.

ONE is suggesting that Twitter does not itself report news but is instead, something other. Twitter is a ‘platform’, a soap-box on which we can all stand and shout.

ONE is suggesting that Twitter is the means by which we link to news. It is not the news report itself.

ONE is pointing out that by capturing our attention with a question mark, we will follow the link to the report and read the story. ONE is selling the story on Twitter and not reporting it.

Now, this is a wonderful day for me and ONE to be slugging this argument out. Why? Because yesterday morning, Margaret Thatcher died of a stroke. Thatcher was once a famous and powerful British Prime Minister.

Margaret Thatcher’s death is just a simple and natural occurrence. We get old and we die. It happens to us all.

But Thatcher’s death has unleashed a huge news battle across the internet and the lives of those in Britain. Some welcome her death and others mourn it.

Those that welcome her death do so because the secrets that she hid from the world when she was a powerful leader are now one step closer to being released for the press to report. Many of these secret documents can only be released after her death.

Those that mourn her death are the ones who broadly benefit from those secrets staying locked away.

The most powerful interests are held by the press who wish to maintain her image as a force for good.

The weakest footing is held by those who cannot argue their case until all the documents she hid away are revealed to the world and become common knowledge for the first time.

You see, Thatcher used her power to suppress facts from being reported that might harm her power to rule or cause unrest among the already angry sections of  Britain’s population.

Those among us who personally witnessed the gross censorship and distortion of news under her rule are powerless to speak out because our evidence is locked away in dusty vaults.

We purse our lips as her powerful friends weep Hollywood tears at her passing so that they gain a better seat at her funeral wake.

We wait until we can question what actually went on in secret and get an answer. We cannot do this yet because the facts are still withheld from the journalists who will reveal them. Some files are locked away for seventy years.

One day they will come out. One day, the news will be more truthful than it is today.

ONE is right.

Twitter is just a railway station where trains carrying truth arrive and depart. We get on them if we choose and we are transported to where we want to be. ONE is just a guard with a flag, shouting the destinations and helping people get on board. You want to go here? Get on this carriage. You want to go there? Next train.

But Twitter has one unique element.

It is not owned by the wealthy and influential news groups who have an interest in pitching a certain version of the truth.

Twitter is the place where truth, lies and fantasy are all available and we are allowed to choose. Where the process of news starts and where it is advertised once it is ready for us to read it.

In between us and our news is a man or a woman who has to ask questions on our behalf.

And ONE has to occasionally ask us questions to make sure that we are listening.

And a truth unspoken is a lie that sleeps.

North Korean rocket scientist goes home and hugs kids.

12 Dec

All civilians are instructed to continue with their work program.

That is all.

Is somebody gonna come and wake me up when I’m supposed to salute…?

Does your Procter and Gamble washing powder destroy your will to live…?

5 Dec
Okay...its a box of  washing machine powder...but...

Okay…its a box of washing machine powder…but…

Procter & Gamble UK make a huge range of cleaning, grooming and beauty products. Beginning in the United States in 1837, they have always been pretty clever when it comes to selling stuff like washing powder or anything that involves mixing a few chemicals together to spread over yourself or your kitchen.

Trouble is, they can’t write good copy. I mean, they really have a problem with creative writing. A big problem. Scary big.

This is their household favourite, ‘Fairy Non-Bio’ washing powder:

...nothing suspicious here...everything appears to be quite normal...but...

…nothing suspicious here…everything appears to be quite normal…but…

And this is the same pack from another angle:

...there seems to be some kind of important message on the back...

…there seems to be some kind of important message on the back…

And this is what it says on the back:

oh dear...

oh dear…

I think P&G want mother to sing these words under her breath to the tune of:  ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ – that totally bonkers 1930’s hit song – while  smiling lovingly at her baby.

If you happen to be a baby who’s mother is currently smiling at you and singing these words, get out quick. Crawl towards the door and leave. Never look back.

“I’m a little toddler

Short, not stout,”

Okay, this has already gone wrong, hasn’t it? Babies are almost universally stout. Take a look at your own logo at the bottom right of the pack. ‘Stout’ appears to be very much in evidence. You got a problem with ‘stout’?

“Feel my jumper,

Soft, no doubt…”

Wooaaah…right, so this is already getting way out of line. Is this a call from P&G to encourage a a new trend in baby-fondling? Are babies supposed to be admired and assessed for the softness of their jumpers? Is this how we are?

“When I get all dirty,

Hear me shout:”

Ever heard a baby shout? Did that shout include any recognised words? Anything to do with mass-produced cleansing agents?

“Get the box of liquitabs out!”

Oh dear…oh dear…oh dear…

Where does one start?

Close your eyes and imagine a dirty baby shouting that line at you.

Scary Bad.

Imagine if Sesame Street  suddenly did an episode on bestiality. Or, suppose you saw Kermit theFrog with a needle stuck in his arm. See what I mean? The dream is forever shattered…

And as for suggesting that one should clean up a dirty baby by using a sachet of harsh chemicals, designed to be put in a washing machine…

Okay. Now, dear reader, (as fellow WordPress blogger Linda Vernon might say) we imagine that afternoon meeting in the Procter & Gamble marketing department when this copy was actually signed off.

“Well done, team!…Really pushed the ball uphill on this one!…I think we’ve totally cracked the message we want to send to the world!…Fantastic effort all round!…This is really going to hit the target market hard!…So proud…you guys make me so damn proud…!”

“Team, I feel that our job here is done. Now, let’s move straight on to solving World Poverty. Any ideas come to mind…?”

Crazy Bad.

Oh, since you ask, that spoon on the draining board is mine. I got others as well, but that one is particularly damn sexy, ain’t it? My house is fitted with an alarm, by the way…

UK: A part of Europe yet apart.

25 Nov

This is the view of Britain that you can see if you look west from the edge of Europe. It has not changed since the birth of religion. This view remains constant. It is the view one gets from any ship or ferry that is heading to the Port of Dover, England.

To the home-coming Brit, first time visitor or the migrant, this view emerges usually from a cloak of  mist and cloud. The grey finger of land looms ever closer until great cliffs reveal the entrance to the small but restless port.

These last few minutes of the journey let you see yourself and your fellow ferry travelers as you really are. On deck or looking through the huge windows from the passenger lounges, we all stare at this view in silence.

There is nothing to point at, no comment worth making, no detail to arrest one’s thoughts until one is almost there.

I watch as a group of young Eastern European men and women put arms around each other’s shoulders as they gaze. One of them turns and hugs his friend and I see his cheeks are streamed wet with tears, his reddened eyes blinking furiously. His friends crowd round and he breaks his embrace and laughs and hugs them. They all laugh and hug.

By contrast, the well-dressed elderly couple turn away from the railing. He fishes a handkerchief from his sharply ironed trousers and blows his nose. She opens her handbag and suddenly rummages inside it as if attempting to kill a particularly defensive small rodent.

‘Have you got the keys…?’

Her shocked voice barks out to him, echoing across the deck above the hum and whine of the ship’s engines.

‘Yes.’ He replies, returning his handkerchief to its appointed pocket and inspecting with great enthusiasm the grey plastic decking beneath his brown and immaculately polished brogues.

A mother and father spill out through the cabin door onto the deck and repeatedly call for Imogen. Imogen leaves her position by the hand rail near me and becomes tried, found guilty, sentenced and punished in the few seconds it needs for her tired parents to dispense rough justice.

I watch as my brother takes a last photograph from the stern of the closely packed long-distance trucks that litter the open hold below. Sailors are cracking undone the chains that bind their dusty trailers to the deck and the ship’s tannoy is welcoming us to the Port of Dover in English, French and finally, Polish.

‘It sounds better in Polish’ says my brother, slipping his camera back into his jacket. ‘The French version somehow lacks a certain enthusiasm.’

Our great ferry is now shuddering violently as if something large and expensive to replace has broken loose in the engine room. The stern foams as black harbour water is angrily hurled elsewhere to let us turn and line up the bow doors with ramp number fourteen. The ferry over at ramp number nine  begins to depart and we all start to file below, down the stairs to the car deck.

As the 40 tonne trucks are let out of the holds beneath us, people go through the complex nesting procedures that are required to drive an unbroken journey from the dock to home, hundreds of miles inland.

The baby’s bottle needs to be got from underneath the suitcase in the back. The raincoats need to be folded away on the left so that father can see out of the right. The lady in the Audi TT needs her driving shoes on and her stilettos off and stored behind her. Imogen needs to be reminded once more of areas in her behaviour where her mother seeks lasting improvement.

I need to peel the black tape from my headlights so that they can once again shine more brightly to the left. I need to check the oil and water. Doing so fills the drivers behind me in the queue with horror. I am lifting the bonnet. I must have broken down. They are now trapped behind me. They will never be able to leave the ferry. I have ruined their entire holiday. I should not be allowed to drive. I drop the bonnet from shoulder height and stare back at them. Suckers. It works every time.

Our passports were checked earlier by the French Customs officer at the port in France. Then again at the next cabin fifty metres further along in the concrete wasteland by the British Customs officer in France. Then, once parked up in lines and waiting for our ferry, our load space was again checked by a British Customs officer in France.

Now, we leave the ship and join the queue that leads to the British Customs in Britain. Their concrete cave nestles at the foot of the towering cliffs of Dover. We are invited in.

The British Customs in Britain dance and swerve between the two slowly moving queues of heavily laden cars. They wave and point and beckon, let three cars straight through then stop the fourth and lean in to ask a quick question of the driver. The driver must not do two things. He must not sound nervous when asked out of the blue if he has visited Holland and his breath must not smell of alcohol.

Four policemen with loaded machine guns and hands on triggers ensure that we all focus on where we all are and why we are all here. You may look the policemen in the eye but you may not out-stare them. Not unless you wish to be beckoned to steer to the left and to a bay marked out on the wet concrete floor for those who may not understand. Look away. Appear bored and impatient.

The Eastern Europeans in their minibus are waved straight through. Customs are already fully aware who they are. The old couple are stopped. Duty Free alcohol. Where is it? How many bottles? Are there more bottles they have bought in France? Where? In the back? Show me. Fine. Thank you. Move on. The old man’s face is flushed. He was not expecting that. The customs officer knows that and that is precisely why he stopped him. You’d be surprised who tries to break the law.

My brother and I are waved straight through. Our car is sunken on its springs with over a hundred wine bottles that fill the cabin and boot under our coats and jackets. The Customs officers already know that. We are on a day trip. We are bound to be maxed out on wine that costs a quarter of the British price and tastes twice as good. We won’t be smuggling. You don’t get rich smuggling wine using a VW Golf. You use a Mercedes estate with self-levelling suspension, like the old couple did.

I am bringing into Britain what I am entitled to by British Customs. EU law says that the British are allowed to bring as much of whatever they want into Britain as members of a free-trade union of countries called the European Union. That is what free trade is all about.

But that cuts no ice with British Customs officials. They say that I am only allowed to bring in 100 litres of wine and a kilo of tobacco. Every now and then. Not too often.

Britain is different. We are an island. See photo at top of page for further clarification.

Obama Wins Second Term. World Breathes Out.

7 Nov

Good cat wins. Bad cat loses. That’s how we cats like it.

For us British, the US Presidential election results are revealed between midnight and 6am.

Thoroughly frustrating. Traditional as Halloween, yes, but also maddening.

It is like being forced to watch a five hour presentation of your friend’s holiday pictures when all you really want to see is the bit where they lost control of their rental car and drowned it in the drainage lake beside the airport as they were returning it.

I waited up until the first states called their results and then went to bed. I couldn’t stand the mental agony of listening to the BBC anchor man asking “So, what does this really mean…?” another 48 times.

Five hours of sleep put me in a curious position. I didn’t want to get up. If I got up then the Republicans might be in power. If I stayed in bed, Obama was still ruling America.
As I lay and stared at the ceiling, I remembered another chilling thought from the previous night. One of the commentators had expressed the view that for decades, America had been driving relentlessly onward to the extreme right.
This theory would be proved correct if Obama now was kicked out and the journey towards fascism was continued after a four year accidental blip.
I stayed in bed some more.
Then, I remembered the white British anchorman asking his chatty multicultural American table guests if it may be a case of “…Americans being tired of the black man in the White House…”.
His chatty American guests weren’t ready for that one. You don’t mention that in America. The chatty American guests had been set up. They squirmed. Slam dunk. Answer that one. You’re getting paid, aren’t you…?
In the whole reportage of the American elections by American reporters, you never heard a single reference to the seething indignation felt by right wing white Americans that there was a black man in the White House.
You used to.
You heard it in the run-up to the previous election. You heard it on Obama’s winning night. You heard it at his inauguration speech. You heard it fade away, once the white racists realised that a black man really was in the White House and there was nothing that could be done.
The white racists’ only hope was to get Obama out of office four years later and have him suffer the indignation of being a “One Term President”. Forgotten as a freak of historical detail.
I leaped out of bed and rushed to switch the TV on.
Obama was thanking America and telling Americans how great they were as a nation. His voice croaked as he pushed it for one last time after weeks and weeks of speeches. I almost cried.
And it was true, what Obama was saying. They are great as a nation.
As a nation, they had seen through that grotesque caricature of an Uber-right-wing politician, Mitt Romney. They had voted instead for Obama, the guy who was born to engage with people and embrace politics. Romney, on the other hand, was born only to employ people and play politics with them. He never hid it. He couldn’t.
Noble (through gritted teeth) in defeat, he nevertheless chilled the blood of anyone who understands the dreadful damage that George W. Bush caused the reputation of the American people outside America. Rich white kids who have shares in arms companies are very out of fashion, right now.
Mitt Romney could never shake off the suspicion in most people’s minds that he had come out of the cinema after seeing The Matrix and turned to his P.A. and said: “Find out how much it would cost us to build a machine like that and have the report on my desk tomorrow morning.”
Removing Obama and replacing him with Romney would have been a PR catastrophe for America. 
The good guy won today.
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