Today was a very incredibly frosty day with the weather at about -4 degrees and with quite a misty freezing fog over the whole of the area. We had our Waitrose shopping order delivered an hour later than usual which we think will fit our timetables a little better – but by the time we got everything put away, our walk down the hill was delayed somewhat. We made our way a little gingerly but, in truth, the pavements were not especially icy or slippery. I am tempted to say that the weather was ‘cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey‘ which I always thought was actually a nautical term derived from the old sailing ships. The iron cannon balls were stocked in a pyramid on a brass plate (called a ‘monkey‘) and when the weather was very cold the differential rate of contraction between the iron and the brass was sufficient to give the pyramid a minute nudge and this caused the balls to fall off. However, in all honesty, I did find an internet source that comprehensively rubbished the whole of this explanation, including the fact that iron cannon balls were never even stored on a brass plate in the first place. Nonetheless, I think I will hang onto the first explanation. We collected our newspapers and ate our comestibles on a frozen park bench but the park was practically deserted. We did notice, though, that as the weather conditions seemed extreme, everybody we passed seemed exceptionally jolly. Is just the British tendency to smile in the face of adversity? Whilst we were in the park, we received the very sad news (via a WhatsApp message) that Don Mariano Baena one of our oldest Spanish friends had died. In his younger days he had helped to frame the Spanish Constitution and then became the Head of the Department of Public Administration at the Complutense University of Madrid which is how we came to know him. Later he returned to the Supreme Court but he was under the constant threat of death from ETA – the Spanish terrorist group. This was not an idle threat as several of his colleagues had been assassinated. As Mariano was aged about 90 and had had a stroke, we did have the inevitable pang of sadness but also a feeling that Mariano might well be in a better place (he was a fervent Catholic)
When we got home, we treated ourself to a nice hot curry – a dish we often prepare on a Thursday but one that seemed to be especially called for. We particularly wanted to settle down in front of the rolling news programmes to see the sequelae of yesterday – no doubt, the American nation as in 9-11 will be full of a period of introspection asking themselves ‘How did we allow this to happen?‘ Three particular things are starting to stand out in the cold light of day. Firstly if this was not a coup, then it surely was an insurrection as Trump had urged his supporters on to virtually occupy the Capitol building. Secondly, many, many contrasts are being made between the way in way in which the Black Lives Matter protest outside the Capitol was handled. On that occasion, the National Guard were all protected to the hilt and several peaceful protestors were violently manhandled and even arrested. Meanwhile, the mob yesterday were allowed to roam over the building and were even escorted out with perhaps many not being even arrested or charged. I think the number of arrests is about 60 out of a crowd which at the preceding rally was numbered in thousands and many of them joined in the storming of the Capitol. The FBI are now appealing for video evidence and anything that might identify them. (Why did the police when reinforced by the National Guard did not lock the building, handcuff everybody with plastic ties, put them in a secure location such as an army barracks nearby, try them in a specially convened court this morning and then keep them locked up for about two weeks until the inauguration was over? The suspicion remains that if they black, this would almost certainly have happened) Thirdly, there is now active consideration of the ways in which Trump could be removed from office immediately before he could inflict God knows what damage in the few days remaining. One possibility is Amendment 25 to the Constitution (the Vice President and the majority of the Cabinet with a quorum of 8) could declare the President ‘incapable’ and the Vice President could take over. Another possibility is impeachment which requires a two thirds vote in the Senate as as well as a resolution in the House of Representatives. This vote would pass through the lower house and then could pass through the new Senate if all of the Democrats and one sixth of the Republican senators (to give a two thirds majority) voted for it. This could be passed in one day, given the video evidence. I doubt, though, that either will happen but these are are unprecedented times. I always thought that a coup from the right was much more likely in the USA and the UK than a coup from the left and, of course in the UK, Boris Johnson tried to prorogue Parliament to prevent further debate before Brexit.The German government recalled that Hitler had arranged for the Reichstag to be burnt down before coming to power ‘democratically’!