Just a Wee Blether…

About too close for comfort weather

A few weeks ago, I was mumping and moaning about the extreme weather conditions in Arizona. The temperature had hit 122f and the heat was getting unbearable. Road surfaces were melting, the zoo was closed, even some planes were grounded.

It turns out I should really have kept my mouth shut. As bad is it was – and it felt pretty uncomfortable for most of the summer – it was nothing compared with the crazy weather of recent weeks. North America has had to endure everything from hurricanes and floods to wildfires and earthquakes.

Americans in certain parts of the country are well-used to this. In Florida and the southern states, they talk of September as the ‘hurricane season’. Here in Arizona, the worst we get are wildfires caused by the intense heat. At one point this summer, there were 75 wildfires burning in the state. Four years ago, 19 firemen were killed fighting a massive hill fire north west of Phoenix.

This year’s weather season was absolutely devastating, one of the worst in living memory. Luckily, I wasn’t affected – well, not directly. What did make the situation real for me was that, in every major disaster, from Hurricane Harvey to the Mexican earthquake, I knew someone involved, somebody who was there and affected by it. That brought it home more than any news report or TV coverage.

Harvey came first, striking a direct hit on Houston, Texas. A former school friend of mine has lived in the city for decades and, when I saw the scale of the destruction, I emailed to make sure she was ok. I was pleased to get a reply a few days later to say that all was well. But bizarrely, she had just flown for a pre-arranged meeting with another old school friend – to the Florida Keys. So, they then had to be evacuated from the path of Hurricane Irma.

Talking of Irma, as it was barreling its way across the Atlantic, my stepdaughter’s in-laws were enjoying a much-needed vacation on the sunshine Caribbean island of St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands. They flew home only two days before Irma flattened the place, uprooting trees and homes, and knocking out power supplies. Their holiday snaps might just show the last pictures of St Thomas as a paradise resort.

Irma then continued to the US mainland, most notably the state of Florida. Friends of ours live in the city of Fort Myers. They had to flee their home as it approached and returned days later to find tiles from the roof blown off, along with some landscaping damage. Bad enough but a lucky escape compared with others in the area.

They braced themselves for Hurricane Maria, which followed in Irma’s wake, but it passed them by.

While all this mayhem was going on, my wife’s sister and her family were clearing their valuable possessions from their home on the Oregon coast as the Chetco Bar wildfire headed towards them. The fire at its peak covered 107,000 acres, destroyed houses, and sent a column of smoke 20,000 feet into the air.

The fire got within three miles of the house before the wind changed, the rain came, and the danger was averted.

Just as things were settling down in the USA, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico City, killing more than 270 people. Again, my first thoughts were for a long-time friend, an ex-journalistic colleague from Scotland, who lives in the city.

When I emailed him, he replied with the good news that all was well. However, there had been a ‘scary hour’ before he could contact his wife and school-age daughter to make sure they were alive and well.

So, you’ll be pleased to know that I survived the natural disasters that came our way this year. And equally pleased that all my friends escaped unscathed too. Next year, when the temperature soars in Arizona, I’ll be careful to keep my complaining in perspective.

Now, did someone mention volcanoes?

Just a Wee Blether…

About tragedy…tweetery…stupidity

Take a look at the woman pictured. Until Monday, she had a pretty good job, earning a six-figure salary as a corporate lawyer with one of America’s leading television stations, CBS. Today, Hayley Geftman-Gold is one of the most hated women in America – and for very good reason.

Late on Sunday night, while the horror of the Las Vegas massacre was unfolding, the 41-year old made the fateful decision to issue a tweet, giving her thoughts on the tragedy.

It read, “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered, I have no hope that the Repugs will ever do the right thing. I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are republican gun toters.”

If you’re not sure what she meant, the ‘children’ were the youngsters shot at the Sandy Hook school in 2012, and the Repugs are the politicians in the Republican Party. As for country music fans, In Ms Geftman-Gold’s world, it’s ok for them to be shot and killed because it’s most likely they are Republican voters.

I don’t know if she was drunk, high on drugs, or is just a complete idiot. I suspect the latter. She graduated from the prestigious Columbia Law School, one of America’s Ivy League universities, so presumably she has a brain of sorts lurking somewhere inside her head. Just a shame she didn’t use it.

Her bosses at CBS fired her immediately. She has been ‘bombarded by online death’ according to her attorney. What does she honestly expect? What could possibly have gone through her mind when she typed out such a stupid, idiotic message?

The truth of the matter is that Hayley Geftman-Gold encapsulates everything that is wrong with 2017 America.

She is quite obviously a supporter of the Democrat Party, one of two criminal gangs masquerading as political parties that fight it out every couple of years for control of the nation. The other, as I’m sure you know, is the Republican Party. I love country music, but I wouldn’t vote for anyone connected with either of these mobs, and I use the word advisedly.

There seems to be no such thing as meaningful political debate in America today. If it did exist, it’s been replaced by tribal warfare and infantile mud-slinging. Like babies throwing their rattles out of the pram, or little kids hurling childish insults at each other in the playground, that’s the level we are talking about.

Republican supporters are Repugs or Trumpeteers who support the Trumpster. Democrats are Libtards, Libturds or Dumbocrats, followers of O’bummer and Killary.

That‘s what passes for serious political discourse in 21st century America. One side blames the other for absolutely everything. At times of national crises, when normal people in normal countries are looking on in shock and horror, Americans are blaming their political opponents.

Repugs will tell you today that if Crooked Killary had been in the White House, more people would be dead in Las Vegas. She couldn’t handle Benghazi, she would never have handled this. So, you get the point.

For a country that purports to be one of the world’s greatest powers, it is an utterly pathetic state of affairs. And it’s not getting any better in the near future. The country is so divided and polarised that its difficult to see how the two sides will start to behave like adults towards each other.

A few years ago, I asked a lifelong Republican supporter if he would go for a drink or a meal with someone he knew to be a Democrat. He shook his head and said ‘no’.

The gun control debate that should take place after Las Vegas will never happen of course. The corrupt politicians in Washington would never dream of it. Their hip pockets are stuffed full of wads of cash from lobbyists. In the real world, it’s a practice we call bribery, and the politicians are what we call crooks.

Big businesses like health, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies hand over millions of dollars to congressmen to buy up health debate votes. They pay many more millions in campaign funds. The powerful and controversial National Rifle Association does the same to ensure there is no meaningful gun control legislation.

If and when a vote comes around, then it’s payback time. The person who started off as a well-meaning politician now finds he or she has no place to go. They must do what their paymasters demand of them, and to hell with their constituents. Simple as that. This kind of thing, of course, happens all over the world. But this being America, it’s bigger and badder.

So, with the nation hurling childlike barbs at each other across the Internet, what will become of the clownish Ms Geftman-Gold. I doubt if she will get a job for a very long time, and she will be maligned on the internet for years. Should we feel any pity for her? Well she felt no sympathy for the Las Vegas victims so I guess that answers the question.

One solution had crossed my mind. At a time when hard working Mexican business people and students who have lived in the US since they were children are being deported because a family member sneaked across the border illegally 20 years ago, perhaps we could keep just one of them.

In their place we could transport Ms Geftman-Gold’s sorry ass to a desert island inhabited by giant pythons and crocodiles and let her await her fate.

Truthfully, I don’t want her to die. Of course, I don’t. She has been an idiot but I have always believed that people should be forgiven. One of my heroes was a gentleman called Gordon Wilson whose daughter Marie died in the 1987 Enniskillen bombing in Northern Ireland. In fact, he cradled her in his arms beneath the rubble as she spoke her last words – ‘Daddy, I love you very much’.

In the aftermath of the bombing, Mr Wilson reached out to the Provisional IRA bombers, he said he never felt ill-will towards them, and had prayed for them. He and the IRA had several face-to-face discussions and he became a noted peace campaigner. I always hoped I could find the courage to do the same if tragedy like that came to my door.

Tweeting nonsense is, of course, a national obsession in America, nowadays. The leader does it every morning. Perhaps penalties should be in place for tweets that fall foul of some sort of internet legal code. Hayley Geftman-Gold could serve a period helping the shattered survivors in Las Vegas, or in hurricane-strewn Puerto Rico.

On second thoughts, I suppose that’s about as likely as politicians behaving like people of integrity, and the American public having sensible, grown-up political dialogue.