The Friday Irregular

Issue #584 - 2nd October 2020

Edited by and copyright ©2020 Simon Lamont
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tfir@simonlamont.co.uk

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Contents

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^ WORD OF THE WEEK
bibliotaph
  n. a book hoarder

^ ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

Friday 2nd October   -   The Scots and Norwegians fought the inconclusive Battle of Largs, 1263. Slave uprising leader Nat Turner born, 1800. Mouth artist Sarah Biffen died, 1850. Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone debuted on CBS, 1959. Tennis player Marion Bartoli born, 1984. Musician Tom Petty died, 2017.
 
Saturday 3rd October   -   Mark Antony and Octavian decisively defeated Julius Caesar's assassins Brutus and Cassius at the First Battle of Philippi, 42 BCE. Elizabeth of Valois, queen consort of King Philip II of Spain, died, 1568. Physicist Giovanni Battista Beccaria born, 1716. The United Kingdom successfully conducted Operation Hurricane to become the world's third nuclear power, 1952. Mountaineer Rebecca Stephens born, 1961. Actor and screenwriter Ronnie Barker died, 2005.
 
Sunday 4th October   -   Artist Lucas Cranach the Younger born, 1515. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced, 1582. Engineer John Rennie the Elder died, 1821. Author Jackie Collins born, 1937. Sputnik 1 become the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, 1957. Singer-songwriter Janis Joplin died, 1970. The start of World Space Week. The start of Fire Prevention Week in Canada and the US. World Animal Day.
 
Monday 5th October   -   Denis Diderot, philosopher and chief editor of the Encyclopédie born, 1713. Royal authority in France was effectively ended with the Women's March on Versailles, 1789. American tribal leader Tecumseh killed in battle, 1813. Writer and naturalist Catherine Cooper Hopley born, 1817. Astronomer Dorothea Klumpke died, 1942. The Ladbroke Grove rail crash in west London, 1999. World Teachers' Day.
 
Tuesday 6th October   -   Japanese samurai Minamoto no Mitsunaka died, 997. Physician John Caius, co-founder of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, born, 1510. The Baroque period began with the premiere of Euridice, the earliest surviving opera, 1600. Soprano Jenny Lind born, 1820. The Jazz Singer, the first prominent 'talkie' movie, opened, 1927. Sprinter Bertha Brouwer died, 2006.
 
Wednesday 7th October   -   The Venetians defeated the Genoese at the naval Battle of Modon during the Venetian-Genoese wars, 1403. Elizabeth of Luxembourg, queen consort of Germany, Hungary and Bohemia, born, 1409. Writer Edgar Allan Poe died, 1849. Physicist Niels Bohr born, 1885. KLM, the Dutch flag-carrier airline, was founded, 1919. Tenor Mario Lanza died, 1959.
 
Thursday 8th October   -   King Pyrrhus of Epirus born, 319 BCE. Isabella of Angoulême was crowned queen consort of King John of England, 1200. Writer Henry Fielding died, 1754. Australian suffragist Rose Scott born, 1847. Germany annexed Western Poland and Danzig, 1939. Actress Phyllis Calvert died, 2002.


^ THE WISDOM OF...

This week, Henry Fielding:
Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.


^ FILM QUIZ

A selection of quotations from films by the same director. Answers next issue or from the regular address. Last issue's quotations were from films directed by Richard Attenborough:


^ WEIRD WORLD NEWS

Strange stories from around the world, some of which might be true...

IN BRIEF: A bank manager who picked up what he thought was an interesting piece of glass in Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas, had picked up a 9.07 carat diamond, the second-biggest discovered in the park's 48-year history. ● Residents of Lake Jackson, Texas, were warned of a brain-eating microbe in their water supply; authorities worked to disinfect the supply. ● A Powys man called police four times over three days to complain about Ant McPartlin still hosting Britain's Got Talent despite his drink-driving conviction. ● A Montreal man who, er, erected a 6.8' (2.1m) chainsaw-carved wooden penis on his lawn to protest the bureaucracy that stopped him getting a permit to build a shed vows to go to court to, er, keep it up. ● A leak of Microsoft's Windows XP source code has revealed that the company developed, but did not release, a theme to make the operating system look like an Apple Mac. ● NASA has announced that it plans to put the first woman on the Moon, and the first man since 1972, by 2024. ● After hitting a railway bridge in Walkden, Greater Manchester, an HGV driver reversed, drove off along a different route, and hit a second railway bridge.


CORONAVIRUS ROUND-UP: The British Houses of Parliament have bowed to public pressure following a ban on pubs being open after 10pm and announced that their bars will also close at that time, having earlier been deemed exempt as "workplace canteens". ● Helsinki airport is offering an alternative to nasal swab testing of travellers for coronavirus - two dogs have been trained to detect its presence in sweat (wiped from the neck); the test takes less than a minute and early results suggest a better detection rate than standard testing methods. ● Urban sparrows' songs changed as cities fell quiet during lockdown. ● An Austrian consumer rights group is suing their government over the COVID-19 outbreaks at ski resorts earlier this year that then helped spread the virus to at least 45 countries. ● Oxford United soccer team had to find alternative transport to a game against Accrington Stanley after an alcohol spray used to disinfect their coach prevented it from being started; it is thought that the coach had a sensor to prevent drink-driving which was tripped. ● Four underground lakes of - probably salt - water have been found on Mars. ● The Great North Air Ambulance Service is testing a personal jet pack to enable a paramedic to reach a patient stranded in the Lake District's hills within minutes rather than the hour or more of a walking rescue team or 20-30 minutes for a helicopter.


^ TRUMPWATCH

Last Sunday District Court Judge Carl Nichols (a Trump appointee who temporarily barred New York from handing Trump's tax records to Congress in August) issued a partial injunction against Trump's executive order banning the video sharing social network app TikTok. TikTok argues that the ban exceeds presidential authority, violates its users' First Amendment rights, is both arbitrary and capricious, flouts the Administrative Procedures Act and was motivated not "by a genuine national security concern, but rather by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election" (the executive order was written and signed shortly after Trump's disastrous Tulsa rally, which was succesfully sabotaged by a campaign mostly organised by teenagers on TikTok). ● Trending hashtags we have seen on Twitter this week included #TrumpCrimeFamily, #TrumpLies, #TrumpIsALaughingStock, #TrumpMeltdown, #TrumpisNotWell and #IPaidMoreTaxThanTrump [see below].

The first election debate took place this week, with Trump setting his tone for it before it had even begun, calling for Joe Biden to be tested for performance-enhancing drugs and to be checked for a concealed earpiece. Biden responded on Twitter by posting that he had his earpiece and drugs ready - with a picture of Apple earphones and a tub of ice cream. Kate Bedingfield, Biden's campaign manager, was blunter, saying "Vice President Biden intends to deliver his debate answers in words. If the president thinks his best case is made in urine he can have at it. We'd expect nothing less from Donald Trump, who pissed away the chance to protect the lives of 200K Americans when he didn't make a plan to stop [the virus]." The Twitterati jumped on Trump's ludicrous demands, suggesting that Biden should also submit to a pregnancy test, be tested for alien implants &c... As @marwilliamson pointed out to Trump, "Given that your basic m.o. is to accuse other people of whatever it is that you're doing, this makes me wonder..." Trump is a known user of Adderall, an amphetamine-based medication to counter ADHD and other issues, that acts as a stimulant but can impact congnitive capability. As is becoming increasingly common, hours before the debate an old tweet of Trump's resurfaced, this time from 2012: "I suspect @JoeBiden could do well tonight. Don't be fooled by his gaffes. He is a seasoned and feisty debater."
    The debate itself was farcical, with Trump repeatedly shouting over both Biden and Chris Wallace, the moderator, eventually (actually, just 14 minutes in) leading Biden to say "Donald, would you just be quiet for a minute?" and later telling him to "just shut up". Throughout the debate Biden presented coherent arguments, Trump essentially just shouted his Twitter feed. Offered a chance to condemn white supremacist groups Trump initially said "I'm willing to do that" then namechecked the far-right, all-white Proud Boys group, flagged by the FBI as a terrorist organisation, telling them to "Stand back and stand by". At one point Biden was paying tribute to his late son Beau, a decorated war hero who died of cancer in 2015, only for Trump to start talking over him to criticise his other son Hunter over alleged (by Trump) disproved payments by a Russian businesswoman. Trump again refused to say that he would leave the White House peacefully if Biden wins the election, and to claim, yet again, that postal voting is fraudulent [As we have mentioned before, there have only been a few cases of attempted voting fraud with postal voting in the US, most of which were by Republicans -Ed]. Challenged with having dismissed the deaths of Americans caused by COVID-19 as "it is what it is" [Axios interview in August] Trump blamed the deaths of 200,000 Americans on China then hurled insults at Biden. He went on to claim that there had been "no negative effect" on health from his mass almost-entirely-unmasked rally crowds [The smallest of his rallies, in Tulsa, was deemed to be the likely source of a COVID-19 spike by Tulsa's City-County Health Department]. ● After Trump claimed during the debate that the "Portland sheriff" supported him, Mike Reese, sheriff of Multnomah County, Oregon, which includes Portland where Trump's unmarked goons were sent in to crush mostly-peaceful protests, tweeted "As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and never will support him. Donald Trump has made my job a hell of a lot harder since he started talking about Portland [..]"
    Trump's racism is becoming increasingly overt. Not only did he seemingly back the white supremacist Proud Boys and refer to COVID-19 as "the China plague", he again called Senator Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas", repeated his claim that a Biden presidency would threaten American suburbs (Biden responded by saying "This is not 1950. [..] What really is a threat to the suburbs and the safety is his failure to deal with COVID"), and stated that racial sensitivity training programmes (which he has had stopped for federal agencies) are "racist".
    Asked about the climate, and the wildfires on the West Coast of the US, Trump could only ramble about the need for "immaculate air and immaculate water" (he has withdrawn regulations stopping companies polluting both water and air) and again blamed the fires on unswept forest floors. Biden, on the other hand, presented a policy to eliminate emissions from the energy sector by 2025, stop the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and work with allies to stop deforestation in Brazil and other countries.
    Soon after the debate had aired, the Biden campaign released a campaign ad contrasting his upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with Trump's in New York City, concluding that "all that Trump could see from Park Avenue was Wall Street", underlining Trump's obsession with the stock market (as opposed to the economy) and his being out of touch with suburban America. The Lincoln Project aired an ad calling Trump "a loser" whose presidency had just "collapsed in front of the whole world". Mary Trump described his performance as "grotesque" and "a complete disgrace". Mark Hamill summed up the debate best, on Twitter - "That debate was the worst thing I've ever seen & I was in The Star Wars Holiday Special." [We have a copy in the Archive here. It is not something you'd watch twice... -Ed]

Trump supporters who have routinely mocked civil rights and anti-Trump activists' complaints about police brutality were themselves complaining after bodycam video of police wrestling Trump's former campaign manager Brad Parscale (he is still on the payroll, and allegedly helped redirect campaign funds to Trump family members through his companies) to the ground following what was described as a "mental health episode". ● Trump's attempt to force through his choice of Amy Coney Barrett to replace late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg just weeks before a presidential election has been widely condemned as an "unconscionable" power grab and the "wrecking ball that finally smashes Roe v. Wade [the legalisation of abortion] and undoes the Affordable Care Act" as well as boosting gun rights. ● Trump deigned to put in an appearance as Ruth Bader Ginsberg lay in state outside the Supreme Court, the first woman to be given that honour. He was met with loud booing followed by concerted chanting of "vote him out". Unfortunately he was wearing a facemask so his full expression was hidden, but he gave the impression of someone who would rather be watching TV; asked afterwards he said that he "couldn't hardly hear" the protests, but given the otherwise silence at the time, we think he was probably lying as usual.

On Sunday the New York Times printed a report claiming to have access to Trump's tax return data for 20 years. Among other things they show that in the year he ran for office and the first year in office, he paid just $750 (£583.50) in income tax, and paid $0 (£0) in 10 of the previous 15 years. In 2018 he earned at least $434.9m (£338.35) but reported a $47.4m (£36.88m) loss. Trump dismissed the report as "fake news" (as he does all news reports he dislikes, almost all of which have been proven true) and again claimed that his tax filings are under audit by the IRS (as they apparently have been since 2016) so he cannot release them. In fact, anyone can release their tax filings even if they are under audit; the only regulation is that the IRS cannot comment on them. In his first two years in office and having refused to fully divest from his business as presidents usually do while in office, Trump received $73m (£56.79) from business operations in Scotland, Ireland, the Philippines, India, Turkey and other countries, and paid considerably more tax in other countries than the $750 he paid in America. While his tax dodging might have been legal [but see below], for the President of the United States, it was utterly immoral, given that taxes finance government spending on the military and domestic programmes. Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, compared Trump's reported tax payments with those of the undocumented immigrants Trump has frequently railed against - "Undocumented immigrants paid $11.7 billion [£9.10bn] in state and federal taxes in 2014. [Trump] needs to stop freeloading off Americans." ● George Conway tweeted the identity-redacted 2011 tax statement of an undocumented immigrant who worked at Trump's Bedminster, NJ, golf club. They had $413.14 (£213.42) deducted from their earnings for tax - exactly $413.14 (£213.42) more than Trump paid that year.
    Dan Alexander, senior editor at Forbes calculates that Trump's businesses are worth $3.66bn (£2.85bn) but he is $1.13bn (£0.88bn) in debt (more than $400m [£311.20] personally) to various banks and at least one unknown entity; Alexander Weissman, an attorney who worked with Robert Mueller on his Special Counsel report on Trump, strongly suspects where Trump owes at least $421m, posting "as you read the NYT Trump tax story, remember the Eric Trump statement in 2014: "We don't rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia." Now ask to whom does Trump owe the hundreds of millions of dollars coming soon?"). ● The revelations about Trump's finances have also highlighted his dealings with Deutsche Bank, which loaned him more than $2bn (£1.56bn) over twenty years when other banks would not. The global head of Deutsche Bank's real-estate capital markets division was Justin Kennedy, son of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and a friend of Trump's. With some of his businesses seemingly haemorrhaging money, whether deliberately (to be tax write-offs) or not, is it any surprise that Trump is so desperate for states to reopen for business despite the threat of COVID-19? ● Mitchell Zachary, who was an accountant for Trump for more than a decade commented on the NYT release, "Right now it appears the president's only concern is getting re-elected. And now we can see why. More importantly, we can see why he did not want these returns revealed. Why he fought so hard, all the way up to the Supreme Court. And then going back up the courts again, because this shows he is not who he pretends to be and never was." ● Security experts as well as Donald Sherman, deputy director of the nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Senator Elizabeth Warren have all described the possibility of Trump being financially indebted to foreign companies and potentially governments as a significant security risk.
    One interesting tidbit that came out of the New York Times report was the tax write-down Trump received after his casino went bust. The write-down was dependent on him having no further financial interest in the business, but he did. It has been suggested that this was one of the reasons for the IRS auditing his taxes. ● Another curiosity raised by the NYT article was the $70,000 (£54,460) written off for hairstyling costs while he hosted The Apprentice. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a frequent critic of Trump, noted that "Last year Republicans blasted a firehose of hatred + vitriol my way because I treated myself to a $250 [£194.50] cut & lowlights on my birthday. Where's the criticism of their idol spending $70k on hairstyling? Oh, it's nowhere because they're spineless, misogynistic hypocrites. Got it." Others have speculated on how that much money can be spent on hairstyling; speculation included hiring a personal hairstylist, maintaining a set of "genuine human hair" wigs and having a hair implant specialist on call [Like the one who had an office in Trump Tower, we presume -Ed]...
    For once, there is not an old tweet of Trump's that has reared its badly-fake-tanned head. There are two. In February 2012 he tweeted "HALF of Americans don't pay income tax despite crippling govt debt". The debt under his presidency has risen to record levels, so perhaps a new tweet of "HALF of Americans *and their morally bankrupt president* don't pay income tax..." is called for, while in 2013 he tweeted "@BarackObama who wants to raise all our taxes, only pays 20.5% on $790k [£614.62k] salary. Do as I say not as I do." A quick calculation shows that, according to Trump, Obama paid $161.95k (£126k) in taxes. Definitely not what Trump was doing. ● After the NYT pubished its article the Biden campaign released a 'Trump Tax Calculator' for Americans to calculate how much more tax they had paid than Trump in 2017, and added "I payed more tax than Trump" lapel pins to their stock. In 2017 Biden paid over 4,900 times more income tax than Trump. Both Biden and running mate Kamala Harris have already released their 2019 tax returns.

After Trump refused - again - to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election and suggested that "Get rid of the [mail-in] ballots and we'll have a very peaceful - there won't be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation. The [mail-in] ballots are out of control" Ellen Weintraub, the Federal Election Commissioner, felt the need to clarify that "In case anyone is unclear on the concept, in the United States of America, we do not "get rid of" ballots. We count them. Counting the ballots - *all* the ballots - is the way we determine who leads our country after our elections. The only way." ● A report in The Atlantic, citing "sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels" has suggested how Trump will attempt to cling on to power if he loses both popular and college votes - "With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators [in battleground states where Republicans have a legislative majority] to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly. The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires." As @FPWellman summed up, "They don't want your vote to count. They are going to try and do an end run on your will. Trump is a fascist and the GOP are willing collaborators. They know they can't win with their ideas so they are willing to destroy our democracy to stay in power." ● The chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), has told CNN that he has been assured by America's military leaders that they "will not follow" Trump's orders after the January 20th inauguration date if he loses the election.
    Britain's Channel 4 News has revealed, thanks to a large cache of data from Trump's 2016 campaign, that 3.5 million Black Americans were classified by the campaign as 'Deterrance' and targeted with online ads discouraging them from voting. Of those flagged as 'Deterrance' 54% were people of colour, Black, Hispanic, Asian or 'other'. The other seven categories, who were targeted with online ads encouraging voting, were overwhelmingly white. The Trump digital campaign was run by a Republican National Committee team and a team from Cambridge Analytica, the British company whose later collapse exposed the weakness of Facebook's attempts to secure the personal details of its users. ● Support for Trump from white evangelical Christian groups has long confounded many, given his questionably morality, lack of knowledge of the Bible - but willingness to wave it around having had protesters teargassed from Lafayette Square, and spending Sundays on the golf course rather than in church, and it has now emerged that he told a former campaign adviser after his 2016 win "I've been talking to these people for years; I've let them stay at my hotels - they're gonna endorse me. I played the game" and - in private - told Michael Cohen, referring to televangelist Creflo Dollar [seriously, that is his name...] who persuaded his followers to stump up the $60m (£46.68m) for him to buy a private jet "they're all hustlers" but he thought "the scam" was delightful despite how "full of shit" Dollar was. Another campaign adviser relates how Trump, watching a video clip of a faith healing session joked "that's some racket".

Dumbest-spawn-of-Donald Eric Trump caused considerable mirth and confusion after telling Fox and Friends, in a discussion about the LGBT community's [mostly imaginary] support for his father that "I'm part of that community." Eric has been married to his wife, Lara, since 2014 and has two children. A friend later confirmed that Eric had "misspoken". An old statement of Eric's has resurfaced, in the light of his father's trade war with, and frequent criticism of, China - "I've been to China many times. I love China. A lot of plans for China. We have an amazing buyer base from China that has apartments in our buildings, use our hotels, are members of our golf clubs." ● It was not just Eric who revealed the financial ties of the Trump Organization to Russia. While their father was busy proclaiming that "I have nothing to do with Russia - no deals, no loans, no nothing" and, as reported above, Eric was saying that "We have all the funding we need out of Russia", Donald, Jr, also said "Russians make up a disproportionate cross-section of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."

Bob Woodward's Rage, based on interviews with Trump, sold over 600,000 copies in its first week of sales, beating the likes of Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), Stephanie Meyer and Ken Follett to the top of USA Today's bestseller list. ● Woodward's Watergate investigation colleague Carl Bernstein has given his opinion of Trump: "He has created the first grifter presidency in the history of the United States, in which his purpose in running for the presidency and exercising the powers of the presidency, the fundamental reason is to bail himself and his family out."

After being asked at a press conference what his reaction to a grand jury deciding not to charge any of the three Louisville, Kentucky, police officers with the killing of Breonna Taylor, Trump, who has often demonstrated his racism, instead repeated his claim that "I love the Black community, and I've done more for the Black community than any other president, and I say, with a possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, and I mean that." Asked the same question at another press conference later in the day he cut the conference short declaring that "I have to leave for an emergency phone call". When one of the reporters asked him what the call was about he said "I have a big call"... [McDonalds/Uber Eats on speed dial, we reckon... -Ed] ● At a rally on Saturday Trump grumbled that the "fake news" were ignoring his two Nobel Peace Prizes. Trump has not won any Nobel Peace Prizes; as we reported in an earlier issue a right-wing Norwegian politician has nominated him for the 2021 prize (other historic nominees included Hitler and Stalin) and two earlier nominations were deemed forgeries, but he did win an Ig Nobel award this year, along with a number of other world leaders "for using the COVID-19 pandemic to teach the world that politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors", as reported in the last issue.


^ OBITUARIES

Musician Mark Stone (Van Halen's original bassist, age not given), actress Yuko Takeuchi (Ringu, FlashForward, Miss Sherlock, 40), Timothy Ray Brown (the first person to be cured of HIV, 54), police officer Matui Ratana (54), musician and actor Jimmy Winston (Small Faces, Hair, Doctor Who, 75), singer-songwriter and actor Mac Davis ("A Little Less Conversation", "It's Hard To Be Humble", Northy Dallas Forty, 78), singer and actress Helen Reddy ("I Am Woman", "Delta Dawn", Pete's Dragon [1977], 78), architect Conrad Roland (pioneered spacenets, 86), journalist Sir Harold Evans (former editor of The Sunday Times, What the Papers Say, campaigned for families affected by Thalidomide, 92), writer and poet Emyr Humphreys (A Toy Epic, Hear and Forgive, The Land of the Living, 101).


^ DUMBLEDORE BEAR'S LOTTERY PREDICTOR!

Dumbledore Bear, our in-house psychic predicts that the following numbers will be lucky:
13, 24, 35, 40, 41, 58
[UK National Lottery, number range 1-59]
You can get your very own prediction at http://www.simonlamont.co.uk/tfir/dumbledore.htm.


^ AND FINALLY...

    Little Jennifer and her friend Little Mary were camping in Little Jennifer's garden. In the morning Little Mary said, "That was a tremendous storm last night. All that thunder and lightning, I bet it's soaking outside!"
    Little Jennifer looked at her and pouted. "Why didn't you wake me up? You know I can't sleep during a storm..."


^ ...end of line