Stuff for this week is parked here pro tem. GW: sifting through the ashes of Trump’s conflagrated brain

Even as thousands of Extinction Rebellion protestors link hands to block London’s bridges and are carted away by the dozen, another protest tells a different story on the other side of the Channel.

If proof is needed that there is no possibility or even a glimmer of a possibility of a hope that the human race can be persuaded to change its way of life along with the climate, before the refugees are throwing themselves on the razor wire and the food riots are breaking out amid empty supermarket shelves, it is surely this.

One protestor was killed, hit by a car, and many injured in other incidents acrosss France, as 120 thousand people wearing yellow safety gilets took to the streets to block traffic in protest at an increase in fuel duty proposed by the Macron government. All the injuries were caused by furious drivers pushing impatiently through picket lines. One 71 year-old man is in a serious condition.

The price of a liter of diesel in France is still 7p lower than it is Britain (except on our famously expensive motorway network, where you will pay greedy petroliers a 12p to 15p/l premium). Crediting AFP, the BBC reports:

“The price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in French cars, has risen by around 23% over the past 12 months to an average of €1.51 (£1.32; $1.71) per litre, its highest point since the early 2000s. World oil prices did rise before falling back again but the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol, as part of a campaign for cleaner cars and fuel.”

The protestors are up in arms about a further 6% increase Macron has proposed for January, claiming the price of oil has fallen; although actually, it’s been going up again. They’ve called on Macron to resign as he “doesn’t have the interests of the people at heart”.

A new report in The Lancet meanwhile suggests that the developing lung capacity of urban children is reduced by 5% when they are exposed to daily levels of NO2, the main pollutant gas from diesel fuel, higher than the WHO standard, as children are in most European cities; and that this will shorten life expectancy, leading on to lung disease and a generally unhealthier population. It also impedes brain development. A recent Chinese study revealed that NO2 can reduce cognitive ability in 60-year-old adults by about a year’s worth of schooling.

But no, M. Macron doesn’t have the nation’s interests at heart. No proud freeborn Gauloise-smoking Beaujolais-glugging Horse-chewing Sitting-around-in-cafes-discussing-philosophy Frenchman is going to be told he has to breathe cleaner air.

The seaside town of Mexico Beach on 17 Oct., after Hurricane Michael’s 165 mph winds raised sea level by 18 feet. (Wunderground – Scott Olsen/Getty, with apologies) 45 residents died.

GW: sifting through the ashes of Trump’s conflagrated brain

USA: With the discovery of more charred remains, the death toll from the Camp Fire that swept over the town of Paradise, Cal. (pop 27,000) last week has risen to 76. Over twelve hundred people remain unaccounted for, although authorities are hoping many were simply dispersed and have not come forward. Thousands too remain in temporary shelters and camps, refugees in their own country. The fire is still only 50% contained, although said to be burning now “in pockets”. 9 thousand firefighters continue to battle fires throughout the drought-stricken state. The death toll in the Woolsey fire in Ventura County has risen to 3. (BBC)

Meanwhile Trump is on the stump in California, still blaming the forestry service for the fires (apparently, he saw some firefighters on Fox News raking out dead brushwood and fulminated that they should have done it earlier. His administration last year slashed $633 million from the budgets of the responsible departments to pay for tax cuts for the rich, while many of the areas worst affected come under Federal agency management, not the local forestry service. But you can’t tell him anything; he’s too stupid to even know he doesn’t know anything.)

Canada: There are still some 30 fire ‘hotspots’ showing on the current map, all in British Columbia where they had a record fire season again, with a few more south of the border in Washington and Oregon (just checkin’). Getting up-to-date information is difficult, however: Canadians are a famously logical, plodding race of people, and when they say the fire season ends at the start of October, it ends – the information websites shut down and the firefighters go home.

Otherwise the east coast has been suffering record low temperatures for November; around one and a half meters of snow has blanketed Quebec.

Peru: Flash flooding and mudslides in mountain districts have killed 1 person, following heavy rains affecting San Martín, Huánuco and Cusco regions, for the third year in a row. Many rivers have burst their banks; at the 133m level the Huallaca river in San Martin is on Orange alert and around 500 homes have been evacuated. (Floodlist)

Iceland: While the rest of Europe appears to be cooling down after last week’s exceptionally warm spell in the north, and the weather has started to look remarkably normal, albeit with “significant snowfall” expected for large parts of southeastern and eastern Europe over the next several days, with extremely heavy rain over lower-lying areas to the south of it, posing a flood threat to parts of Greece, Iceland remains this weekend at 10 degrees C, with heavy rain forecast. (Meteo World/Severe-weather.eu)

Pollution: 4 in 10 parents of school-age children in London have moved house or are contemplating moving and/or changing their children’s schools as a result of local air pollution monitoring surveys, according to Mumsnet. A report in this month’s Lancet finds that city children on average lose 5% of their potential lung capacity when fully grown to damage caused by Nitrogen dioxide and particulates from diesel fumes, leaving them exposed to higher rates of lung disease.

Habitat loss: The Labour-controlled Welsh Assembly is reported to be on the verge of approving a £2 bn motorway bypass for the congested M4 around Newport. The preferred route of the new road, being justified on the grounds that it will enable more EU freight traffic to cross the country from the Channel ports to the Irish sea crossings at Milford Haven and Fishguard, not benefiting Wales in any way, will devastate the Gwent Levels, a habitat-rich wetland area of unique species diversity in Britain. (Guardian Green Light)

The decision is being taken in flagrant disregard of last week’s UN report warning that, in addition to a growing number of total extinctions that threaten to tear apart the web of life, 60% of the populations of most species on earth have vanished since the 1970s, and recommending that world governments take immediate, urgent remedial action to restore and protect lost habitat.

A report on the Arctic News website refers to new research showing that rapid species collapse could occur by September 2019 owing to an El Niño event creating up to 5C warming. The research indicates that the majority of plant and animal species cannot survive at a temperature of more than 23.7C (10C above 1750). It shows too that rapid collapse is accelerated by “co-collapse” of interdependent species. Record methane levels are once again being detected over the Arctic, even as winter approaches.

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Book choice: “Brexit daze” – a BogPo Longish Essay

Book choice: A BogPo Longish Essay

“Peter Shore MP, the most persistent Labour party critic of Europe, during the 1975 referendum took up this theme: ‘What the advocates of membership are saying … is that we are finished as a country; that the long and famous story of the British nation and people has ended; that we are now so weak and powerless that we must accept terms and conditions, penalties and limitations almost as though we had suffered defeat in a war.’ It was a masochistic rhetoric that would return in full force as the Brexit negotiations failed to produce the promised miracles.”

Brexit daze

I believe I can safely recommend a new book I have read only in a lengthy extract today (16 Nov.) on the Guardian website.

Heroic Failures, Brexit and the Politics of Pain, by the brilliant Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole, cleverly analyses the mentality behind the Brexit vote as a peculiar form of British national paranoia, arguing that many Britons see the EU perversely through a special kind of lens as a symbol of the defeat we didn’t suffer during the Second World War. A war whose filmic and literary tropes we seem entirely bound up in still.

Many masochistically wish we had lost – or, despite the bumsqueaking victory, wish we had more nearly lost, allowing us the opportunity to gloriously resist the invasion that never came – an opportunity of which treacherous British collaborators with the European Project have since deprived us by surrendering to economic forces, that are so easily confused in the din of war with force of arms.

The outcome of the war for many was insufficiently decisive, leaving a lingering resentment that has wormed its way into the national psyche. As I have occasionally mentioned, we seem to be getting bored with too much peace.

Judging by Comments on the many news threads that dribble towards the bottom of thousands of pages of more considered analysis – even the idea of consideration seems to infuriate these people – “Leavers” tend to see the EU as the ultimate triumph of the Third Reich, constantly referring to Hitler, the war, and how “we won it” to justify their obtuse facial expressions. Britain’s accession to the Treaty of Rome in 1973 was a betrayal of British values and a thousand years of history; in terms of what many refuseniks at the time called an “unconditional surrender” to German dominance in Europe; the British always seeing any move towards European unity through the wrong end of the binoculars, as some kind of dangerous conspiracy against us. And now, here we are, crushed under their heel. It’s too bad!

It doesn’t appear to have occurred to Leavers that 27 other European nations (as defined by geography), all with their own national mythologies, separate cultures and histories, all proudly declaring their own sovereignty, blood and soil, seem perfectly happy to be part of something greater than themselves. Even the Greeks and the Italians, the Irish and the Portuguese, at the mercy from time to time of ruthless German bankers and Euro-based capital flight, busily electing hyper-nationalist governments behind the barbed wire, have nevertheless declared that whatever the pain, they are better off in than out.

Yet here we are, doing okay, mostly, deliberately damaging our national interest for generations to come – if the climate allows any. Why?

Of course it’s not perfect. It’s only been going for 60 years, two generations. That’s not even a history. And every economy has its ups and downs. How easily we have forgotten that during her reign, Margaret Thatcher presided over two damaging economic recessions of the government’s own making.

This bolshy “We saved you in the war, so don’t think you can tell us what to do”, “put the kettle on, mother”, backs-to-the-wall, Dad’s Army, music-hall monologues nostalgia is, however, nothing new. During the brief pause between the two halves of the Civil War, in the mid-1640s the Levellers, a proto-socialist movement, and more specifically those who came to be known as the Diggers, campaigned vociferously against what they saw as the Norman yoke – the Normans having conquered Britain all of 600 years previously, they argued (while rebelliously, like Corbyn, planting vegetables in protest on newly privatized land), had nevertheless established a kind of supranational foreign dominance alien to the true culture and values of the Anglo-Saxon laboring man.

(Even 800 years has not been long enough to persuade a section of the Welsh that the conquest by Edward 1, having imposed an unjust colonial settlement by the English, is not still to be resisted, if only on the rugby pitch. Living here, but without a trace of correct DNA, I have several times been accused over some innocuous remark of being a colonialist, having patently refused to master the convoluted native tongue. Maybe they’ve got a point….)

Interviewed in a sidebar story also in today’s Guardian, some shopworkers in a Shrewsbury organic fruit & veg store perfectly illustrate O’Toole’s thesis. On the basis of absolutely no evidence of their irrational prejudices, and being as they are at least two, possibly three generations removed from the fighting, they nevertheless trot out all the old, familiar tabloid newspaper, comic-book tropes, such as:

“I voted out in 2016 and I’d vote out again if it came to it. I don’t know many people who would change their vote (polling shows Remainers are now in the majority and 20% of former Leavers would prefer to Remain… Ed.). We pay out too much money to the EU, we should be running our country ourselves.” And: “We’re better off leaving. There are too many foreigners around here. They are taking our jobs, getting the houses. That’s one of the main reasons I voted for Brexit.”

Time and again, such beliefs – founded apparently in perfect ignorance of the actual relationship between Britain and the EU – have been countered by a welter of facts and statistics, to no avail. European communautarianism is not taught in our schools.

If our opinion was ever sought, and valued without insult and cacophony, a Remainer such as myself might argue with those simple shopgirls as follows:

At the end of the war, that we so nearly didn’t survive, much of Europe lay in ruins. Seven million internally displaced German refugees were on the borderline of starvation, women selling their bodies for Hershey bars. Barely any women east of the Rhine under the age of 70 had escaped the Russian army’s campaign of mass rape. Millions more were in camps and in need to resettlement.

The European Union, a development of the original Coal and Steel Agreement, that in 1957 under the Treaty of Rome became the European Economic Community of six nations, was founded by eleven postwar visionaries, survivors of the Nazi occupations; among whom can be counted our own Winston Churchill. It was never a “German plot” to take over where Hitler had failed! An agreement for economic co-operation, the founders – Jean Monnet, Robert Schumann, Konrad Adenauer and others – intended that never again should the dominance of any one European nation descend into armed conflict; such as a war in which, some estimates suggest, as many as 80 million people died.

That aim of preventing the rise of any one nation over its neighbours through the checks and balances of economic and legislative union has always sat uneasily with the British, who naturally regard ourselves as the superior culture, forever maintaining the balance of power across the channel – by force, if necessary – sorting out the kids in the playground. We resent bitterly, the notion that we pay taxes to a supranational entity of garlic-munching foreigners, over whom we perceive we have too little or no control; although whose fault is that?

Under the American nuclear umbrella, that arguably threatens us with annihilation in the event of war with the Eastern powers, a two-edged sword, the Union has helped to maintain peace and stability and occasionally faltering economic prosperity in Europe for over 60 years. If Germany has become the controlling power in the EU, it is only because we have relinquished that role through the reluctance of a tendency of stubbornly nationalist politicians in Westminster to co-operate fully with the institutions of which we have been a member since 1973.

As members of the community we still run our country ourselves, within a framework of improving co-operation with our European neighbours – who still run their own countries themselves. No member country (apart from Belgium, obviously!) is in any sense “ruled” from Brussels by “unaccountable” bureaucrats, many of whom are British civil servants. Elections are held to a European parliament, but it does not “rule” the UK; it governs the affairs of the community as a whole, in conjunction with the Council of Europe. There is no real impetus towards a federal European “superstate”; even M. Macron’s idea of a pan-European defense force to back-up NATO and relieve the burden on America is viewed everywhere with alarm.

Our membership fees are calculated proportionately to our annual GDP, ensuring we can well afford them. What is causing too many Britons to go hungry is not the EU, it’s the sovereign will of the Tory government. Half the fees are returned to us in the “rebate”; and we benefit from added-value arrangements such as regional development grants, the much-criticized Common Agricultural Policy, that supports British farmers; and from automatic memberships of many scientific, industrial, academic and cultural co-operative organizations. Those will not be available as benefits of the kind of external trading alliances such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the World Trade Organization that Brexiteers talk about joining, once we leave. For British scientists, academics and even musicians, our departure is a disaster.

We may see an end, too, to co-operative projects such as those that have benefited us, along with everyone: Airbus, Concorde, the Channel tunnel, Galileo GPS, the European Space Agency. Our proposed withdrawal from UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, will double-down on our isolation from the currents of global thought and research. Brexit is a dangerous, go-it-alone project with no certain future, dreamed up by ambitious politicians and City gamblers who financed the Leave campaign and stand to profit from it. The indications are, too, that Russian money may have been behind it, as Mr Putin seeks to destabilize Western institutions.

When they talk about “sovereignty”, they mean theirs – not yours or mine.

We still do make our own laws (Blair’s three governments introduced over three thousand new laws), our courts still rule on them; the vilified European Court of Justice is only a court of last resort, British judges sit on it too, and 95% of its decisions have gone in favor of British higher and Supreme Court judgements. Are we arguing that British courts can never be wrong? Or that they should be the final arbiter when issues of wider EU law apply? The ECJ really does not prevent us from expelling foreign criminals and jihadis without good legal reason! We have, or had, full representation and a respected position in the courts and councils of Europe. That’s now being thrown away.

Many of our own laws have been imposed (benignly, one hopes) vice-versa on our European partners, by mutual agreement. The EU has agreed rules. We’ve accepted product standardization, to the benefit of our industries, enabling more inward investment; quality and safety regulations and environmental standards, to the benefit of British workers and consumers. The City of London is pre-eminent: a vast hive of international financial trading. That position is now threatened. Our trading agreements are mutually beneficial: the EU does not prevent us from trading with more than 60 external “third” countries, under a framework of rules and tariffs that gives British exporters better, more risk-free access than other, global frameworks ever will.

Under President Trump, a rogue agent with close ties to Putin, our American “allies” meanwhile are busily seeking to dismantle the very international trade organizations and treaty alliances our Brexiteers hoped to join, in order to protect their own industries and services; removing banking regulations, for instance, that were imposed after the global financial crash they triggered in 2007; overinflating the dollar and instigating a damaging trade war against China. That’s not looking good for us, unprotected as we shall be outside the European Union. With its 450 million consumers, Europe is by far our largest market, where we can trade freely and without customs barriers we will now have to reimpose.

The vast majority of migrant workers and specialists from Europe who come here under the civilizing influence of free movement, one of the so-called “four pillars” of the community, are vital to the running of a successful UK economy, as our population is ageing. There is no evidence whatever that European migrants take our jobs away, enjoy privileged housing and other benefits or somehow dilute our British racial stock. Freedom of movement has also enabled millions of British workers, managers, specialists and retirees to live and work and travel and marry freely in Europe.

That’s another privilege we’re losing, to our great detriment and theirs. Many people, especially the younger generation, now consider ourselves “European British” by nationality, and bitterly resent the narrow, nationalistic, majoritarian Leave vote that is arbitrarily and without authority or legal standing – without asking us – depriving us of our identity and citizen privileges outside the UK. Leavers, I suspect, will soon feel unhappy queuing to get in and out of the country at non-EU transit channels. They will have become second-class citizens just 26 miles from the White Cliffs of Dover.

We have not “lost control of our borders”; an idiotic Eurosceptic “meme”. We are not signatories to the Schengen agreement, which guarantees open borders within the EU. We impose tight restrictions on non-EU immigration under what is being viewed by many in view of appalling Home Office excesses as an unfair and oppressive visa-based system that has led to absurd anomalies like the growing shortage of doctors and nurses in the NHS; or the deportation and non-readmittance of many Caribbean postwar “citizens by invitation”, who were given no papers to prove their right to remain when they arrived as much-needed labor in the 1950s and 60s, who settled and have British families.

Immigration numbers are cruelly distorted by Theresa May’s dogmatic insistence on counting-in the hundreds of thousands of foreign students, who bring much-needed additional revenue to our universities, as immigrants – even though the vast majority return to their home countries. Numbers are already falling as a result of Brexit, which seems to have licensed more violent attacks and abuse. Are you happy about those?

Non-EU migration is not affected in any way by our EU membership. So if you object to seeing black or brown people in our streets, leaving the EU is not going to change anything. Even for EU arrivals, many of whom have been here for ten or twenty years, obtaining British residency or citizenship is increasingly difficult and expensive. Visas are already subject to ludicrously high bars – I have never in my life earned as much money as you would need to be earning before you could apply for a Tier One visa as a skilled worker.

The border is tightly controlled, both externally and internally, with much bureaucracy and multi-stage supervision of passport ID – not supposedly necessary within the EU. Border Force operations are conducted against “illegals” who, unless granted asylum – increasingly difficult, as application is expensive and legal aid no longer available – are automatically deported. Asylum-seekers are not allowed to work and must remain in hostels, living on £37 a week – and so cannot be taking British jobs and housing. We have one of the most sophisticated and intrusive State surveillance systems in the world to keep an eye on everyone.

How on earth our “borders” (there is only one!) could be more tightly controlled is never explained. It is only code for “We think there are too many foreigners in the country”. But without them, the economy would be worse.

“Brussels. It’s worse than Nazi Germany”…. Boris is talking out of his expansive arse. The history of the Second World War doesn’t really show that Britain “stood alone against the Nazi menace”; rather, that it took a huge co-operative effort by an alliance of resistance fighters, exiles and volunteers and free national armies from all over Europe, Asia and the Commonwealth, plus massive military and industrial interventions by the USA and the USSR, to simultaneously defeat a resurgent Germany and an expansionist Japan. It was a “world war”, not confined to the defense of Walmington-on-Sea. No one is doubting anyone’s courage and endurance in that grim endeavor, not even the enemy’s; but the fantasy of British exceptionalism is a damaging national myth we would all be better off without.

All water off a duck’s back. If the girls in the fruit section had their way, the British resistance would have people like me shot as collaborators.

O’Toole quotes a Thatcher friend and minister, Old Etonian Nick Ridley, interviewed in the Spectator in the 1980s that the European monetary system (the Euro) being introduced by the EU was “all a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe … I’m not against giving up sovereignty in principle, but not to this lot. You might as well give it to Adolf Hitler, frankly … I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have the shelters and the chance to fight back than simply being taken over by economics.”

You see, for many people our relations with continental Europe are still defined entirely by the war. Thatcher herself, O’Toole reminds us, spoke of the Falklands conflict in terms of restoring Britain’s greatness, giving new life to the metaphors of retreat and invasion.

“We have ceased to be a nation in retreat,” she said, implying that the nation had been precisely that for a long time. “Why,” she asked, “do we have to be invaded before we throw aside our selfish aims and begin to work together … ?”

Sentiments echoed many years later by the fatuous oaf, Boris Johnson reminding Britons of how we stood alone against the devilish European unifying forces of Hitler and Napoleon. And to remind everyone, “we” hadn’t been invaded! The Falklands conflict was touch-and-go, just like every other war involving the under-prepared British, the government and the media propaganda machine having made of the Falklands a fragile microcosm of halcyon prewar British society (flag-waving, English-speaking white people with a village-green culture and red post-boxes), and not an occupied group of wind-blasted islands off the coast of Agentina, with more sheep than people. There too, we came within a hairsbreadth of defeat by a vastly inferior foe backed only by the logic of geography; near-defeat being absolutely necessary to the myth of historic British actions.

Significantly, as with Suez the Americans didn’t want to be dragged in, any more than we’d wanted to get involved in Vietnam. So much for the Special Relationship.

It’s frankly bizarre, a Jingoistic fantasy, a distortion of history, but it seems unlikely that a section of the British public in their race memory will ever get over the disaster of the Second World War. A disaster, because we were on the winning side at a time when we were already losing an empire and our role in the world. The Commonwealth was scant consolation; a bunch of uppity, inferior black countries we’d once ruled over, who didn’t appreciate us any longer.

Winning the war left us weakened and economically – psychologically – unable to compete with the Marshall-plan-aided German Gewirtschsaftswünder when it came. The aim was to avoid the dangerous resentment of a defeated people whom we had seen after the First World War turn to a resurgent nativism based on violent racial myths. (Co-operation was not an option, apparently!)

That that was precisely where our US allies wanted us to be – and still do – is never much considered. Nor is the parallel, enormously successful economic experiment the US constructed with their erstwhile enemy, after the even more bitter Pacific war against Japan; an example of trust-building which we failed to follow; to our detriment.

Exulting in our insularity, a certain section of the British public clings to our brief moment of triumph in 1945, all the tropes of survival against overwhelming odds lived over and over again as a vindication of our furious impotence in the modern world. For a nation built on trade, we still look to force of arms and an indomitable, churlish spirit as the primary British virtues.

That these people, mainly Leavers, still vote Conservative despite the economic wasteland around them, the food banks, the homelessness is evidence, not of loathing and despair of the government’s austerity program, but of their approval of it! This bleak devastation is how things should be, when we’re losing a war with our backs to the wall, shoulders to the wheel, noses to the grindstone, all pulling together and fighting them on the beaches.

We seem to be getting bored with too much peace.

Heroic Failures: Brexit and the Politics of Pain by Fintan O’Toole, is published on 22 November by Head of Zeus.

The day war broke out… On entering the lobby…. Wanted, dead or alive… Clawing one’s way up the ladder… Feeble Brexit joke… I Spy, with my little i… The ultimate hack-proof account…GW: A flippin’ and a floppin’ like a fish out of water

Prelude

8 pm, Wednesday 14 Nov.

After a stormy five-hour meeting, Theresa May has won the backing of her cabinet for a Brexit withdrawal deal already approved in principle by the EU commission.

So that’s that then? We can start trade talks?

Until, of course, one remembers how she got the “backing of her cabinet” for the previous draft, the so-called Chequers agreement, only for the swivel-eyed Brexit lunatics to renege on it three days later, and for Boris Johnson to resign as Foreign Secretary; which, tragically, he can’t do twice.

Presumably the change of mind – I can’t say heart – came after Aaron Banks’ clandestine moneymen had got to them.

The odds are still on a No Deal Brexit, or I’ll eat my stash of tinned sardines!

Oh, zet’s so sed, Theresa! Vot, ze kebinet chust agreed to beck your plen? Vot vill you do now, stay on as PM?

The day war broke out

10.15 am Thursday, 15 Nov. 2018

I’m struggling to organize my departure from a holiday hotel in somewhere like Switzerland, up a mountain, only I’ve left a trail of my possessions at various points between the hotel and the departure terminal below, a great glass hall; things I have put down and forgotten to collect on the way: a blue suitcase; clothing; my cat; her lead, without which I cannot take her anywhere.

The train is due to leave at three, and it is now gone half-past twelve; but the station is somewhere further on and I still have to get there. As I hurry through the bustling hall, its tables and chairs and potted palms, trying to find things, someone beside me is lecturing me in a voice of calm reason about classical antiquity; a history I know I once knew but have forgotten.

I find the information desk – the lecturer is now a bitter woman I once worked for, whom I didn’t like – where the unhelpful young man tells me there is possibly a bus I can persuade to take me back to the hotel, only it may have closed by now. He goes back to chatting indifferently with his colleagues.

I don’t speak the local language; and in any case, I realize, I now have no shoes on and set off in search of them. Eventually I find them on a chair, but time is running out and I can no longer remember what it is I need to go back and collect, or why. What was in the suitcase? Do I really need it, whatever it was? Couldn’t I just leave it behind? I sit down and start to weep piteously: “I can’t do this on my own anymore!

I wake up. On the radio, Melvyn Bragg’s guests are discussing the agreeable Roman poet, Horace, unaware that war has broken out.

*

The 15th of November dawns a stunning day in Boglington-on-Sea, the sun is blazing once again out of a clear blue sky, it is T-shirt warm and the Shadow Brexit Secretary, Kier Starmer has just signalled in a radio interview to the Brextremists in Theresa May’s treacherous cabinet of incompetent plotters that Her Majesty’s Opposition will also oppose the draft treaty she has negotiated with the EU Commission.

Without a bad deal, there is to be No Deal. Negotiations are all-but time-expired.

The neolithic Ulster Unionists and the Scots Nats have also expressed their disappointment with the terms of withdrawal, that commit us to, essentially, remain within the Customs Union indefinitely, under the control of Brussels, with separate status for Northern Ireland – a Protestant red line.

Due to address the Commons at ten o’clock to present her rapidly unraveling triumph, the Prime Minister is now very far from achieving a majority and may be forced to resign, triggering a general election. Jacob Irish-Mogg of the “European Research Group” cabal has already written to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, calling for a vote of No Confidence. Only 47 more letters, and a vote will be triggered.

Having only last night agreed (apparently unanimously) to back her plan, starting with some junior plotter no-one has heard of, but spreading like a California wildfire, led by the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, one by one while the 10 o’clock news is still on the air her ministers have started to stick it to Mrs May again. Before the bulletin ends, we learn that the rebarbative liar and arch-grinder of Britain’s poor, the Workhouse and Pensions Scretaru, Esther McVey is second in line.; while that pathetic little attention-seeker, Michael Gove has announced that he can’t decide whether to stay or go.

The tragedy is, by voting in numbers to leave the EU, Britain’s poor have voted to maroon themselves with this ambitious, expedient cow and her strident calls for British nationalist independence in charge; along with the exultant hedge-fund manager, Rich-Mogg; Johnson and Gove; Duncan Cunt; Farage, Banks and the rest of the neoliberal plotters, as the pound lurches southwards again.

It is a coup d’état.

Civil war.

How we prosecute a civil war in 2018 will of course be very different from 1640. There may be no citizen armies mustered, armed with agricultural implements, to hack their Royalist opponents into pieces; no small-arms fire from the private militias of the nobility, no Roundhead cannonballs thumping into the walls of late-medieval castles under siege.

How we will do it I don’t know. Maybe by lethal Tweet. It’s only just beginning.

This coffee is too strong.

But it’s a lovely day outside. I just thought you should remember that.

 

 

On entering the lobby….

(This item has been moved here from Issue 70 of The Pumpkin owing to extra Trump news)

Within days of a well-received memo emanating from Head of News Fran Unsworth, freeing BBC editors from the responsibility to put up unqualified lobbyists as spokesmen for the non-existence of man-made climate chaos in the holy name of balance, Mr Myron Ebell popped up on a Newsnight “extinction” special to peddle his usual noxious brand of Exxon-sponsored denier bullshit.

The same Mr Ebell who, in 2005, was the subject of Parliamentary questions after a notorious appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, in which he attempted to make out that Professor Sir David King, the UK’s chief scientist, was not qualified to speak on the subject. Mr Ebell’s only qualifications being a bidness degree, and the lots and lots of lovely money he makes working as a freelance liar for US energy corporations.

It appears that the Establishment and its mouthpiece are unashamed of the way they are carrying on, openly flouting norms of decency in the battle to manipulate public opinion in support of some grim new realities.

Given that this kind of thing is still going on, it’s perhaps not surprising that there are elements within 10, Downing Street who felt no shame at outing an inconvenient Brexit whistleblower as gay, thus causing him to lose his job with The Taxpayers’ Alliance, now revealed as a phoney front operation for shady, dark-money interests.

That doesn’t stop them from being regularly invited onto BBC programs as experts on whatever, tax. Paying.

The Alliance, which is reportedly allied with half a dozen other false-front political lobby groups posing as educational research charities, or “think-tanks”, startled the legal profession last week by fully owning up to a massive smear campaign against Shamir Sanni; including a possibly libellous attack on him on the BBC by Matthew Elliott, head of the Vote.Leave campaign. The Guardian reports:

“The alliance has accepted all the allegations Sanni made during his action claiming unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, direct discrimination and ‘dismissal by reason of a philosophical belief in the sanctity of British democracy’*. Significantly, it has also conceded that it is liable for what Sanni’s lawyer, Peter Daly of Bindmans (solicitors), describes as ‘extreme public vilification’.” (13 Nov.)

Mr Sanni was behind the revelation that the Vote-Leave campaign had massively overspent its permitted budget during the referendum, deliberately hiding the overspend through creating – I have to use the phrase again – other false-front groups on the pretext that they were each operating independently and hence, within financial limits. He was later vindicated by the Electoral Commission. Criminal investigations, sat on by Downing Street for five months, have now got under way at the National Crime Agency.

The supposedly independent Alliance has also owned up to operating Mr Elliott’s website for him, and other dodgy dealings.

Why?

Well, it seems there are two strands to these astonishing admissions. One is that the Taxpayer’s Alliance is affiliated to the Institute for Economic Affairs, parent of the European Research Group, a nasty little Westminster claque to which a number of prominent Tory Brexiteers in Parliament belong, including the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab; and two, by freely confessing to sins that are certainly going to cost them a lot of money by way of compensation to Mr Sanni, his case against them falls away and there is no chance they can be pressed under cross-examination to reveal the secret sources of their funding.

So, the hunt for the money goes on. However, it appears increasingly that for whatever reasons – possibly to prevent civil unrest, or to mask its role in the grotesquely incompetent pantomime of the Brexit negotiations – the Prime Minister’s office has been fighting a rearguard action to prevent the truth coming out about how the referendum was hijacked by a coalition of neo-Thatcherite and Christian Right elements, probably with Kremlin backing, to destabilize the EU and open the way for neoliberal authoritarian anti-abortion governments to assume control.

*”dismissal by reason of a philosophical belief in the sanctity of British democracy”! I know, I was once sacked for not being Welsh!

 

Wanted, dead or alive

Following the news that a Republican candidate and convicted pimp has won a Congressional election in Nevada, despite having died in October, come the equally disturbing outcomes of two legal cases in Romania….

Where a higher court has ruled in a case brought by police, that a man who had successfully appealed against a speeding conviction should have his license returned, even though Mr Valerian Vasiliu died just days after the original verdict.

And where another court has ruled that, although he has turned up alive after an absence abroad of several years, Mr Constantin Reliu, 63, must remain officially dead, having been declared as such when his estranged family obtained a death certificate for him.

A non-person, he is now unable to obtain benefits or hold a bank account or passport.

Taken with the unreconstructed Thatcherites in the UK cabinet, we are increasingly living a world of quantum relativity, where zombies roam. (Except that Mrs Thatcher was entirely in favor of the European Union, as long as they let her be in charge of it.)

On the subject of speeding, a 15-year-old boy in Cleveland, NE England, has had six points deducted by magistrates from his driving license for speeding on an electrically assisted push-scooter and other infringements amounting to reckless driving under the 1854 Highways Act.

In case he ever gets a driving license; the legal age for which is 17.

A police spokesman warned that virtually no-one is aware of the law regarding the use of personal light electric vehicles (PLEVs), which are becoming increasingly popular among young adults. (Guardian)

 

Clawing one’s way up the ladder

A pictorial biography on the BBC website to mark the 70th birthday of the still uncrowned Prince Charles records that he was “educated at home until the age of eight”.

Wrong!

As well I know, Charles was the first royal prince to be publicly educated outside the precincts of the royal palaces. From the age of six-going-on-seven, he attended Hill House pre-preparatory school in Knightsbridge, London, before embarking for Cheam.

I know that, because I was there myself, at the time.

In fact, I was very probably the first – but almost certainly not the last – commoner to physically abuse the royal personage; kicking him hard on the shins and running away, after he had told me somewhat imperiously to “shut up”!

Charles at 8, in Cheam uniform. But this was not his first school!

I confess, I had been nastily guffawing at him when he fell over while trying to kick a football during afternoon sports time at the Duke of York’s barracks, in Chelsea. Footballs in those days were made of thick leather with an inflated pig’s bladder inside and practically immovable in the wet. My Republican mother had inculcated anti-Royalist sympathies in my skinny breast, although I have since come to regret my actions and would like to take this opportunity to apologize to HRH Prince and his friends, the trees.

Also, I was personally resentful that I had worked my ticket up the classroom hierarchy all the way from the first form to 6B, only for this privileged interloper to arrive with a media fanfare and his own personal detective in the set above me. It didn’t occur to me at the time that he was – and is – ten months older. It was no consolation when my doting mother remarked that I was probably far cleverer.

The rest of the day we did Latin and stuff under the firm tutelage of the redoubtable headmaster, Colonel Stuart Townend, who was still running the place when he died in 2002 at the age of 93. Hill House boys were a familiar sight, trooping in crocodile formation along Hans Crescent in our rust-brown uniforms and baggy, Don Bradman caps.

Many years later, a curious incident occurred in the daytime.

In 1997 I was working as an editor, part-time, for a measly £8 an hour: correcting copy, ghostwriting and typesetting humdrum paperback books about business management and finance, slaving away on a burned-out computer in the alternately freezing and baking attic of the home of a morose Old Etonian somewhere in darkest Gloucestershire, when I took a phone call.

It was a reporter from the Daily Express, who had by some devious means known only to tabloid hacks tracked me down at work. He wanted to know if I had been at Hill House with Prince Charles? Cautiously, I admitted to it, and he asked me if I remembered a certain individual who had featured in a news story a few days earlier?

This person – whom I was sure I had not known – had thrust himself forward at a charity reception, and introduced himself to the prince as “a homeless man” who claimed to have been at Hill House with him; the idea of anyone from such a privileged background being homeless seeming somewhat unlikely.

Intrigued, I asked the journalist if he had contacted anyone else from our year, and he mentioned several familiar names. I asked if he knew how they had all fared, and was mildly surprised to learn that not one had gone on to become anything out of the ordinary; about the best of us was an architect.

The idea that a posh education automatically opens doors denied to any hardworking pupil from a humbler background has always seemed a trifle invidious. As literate as I may be, familiar with the classical tropes of Times crossword-setters, I never got to university. I’m a retired domestic caretaker living almost entirely on the State pension.

I wonder, if Charles hadn’t been trapped in The Firm with his tedious life mapped out for him, what he might have made of himself?

(Photo pinched from the BBC archive, sorry)

Fully occupied

In case you were wondering what life is like as you approach 70, what you do with your empty days, the answer is quite simple:

You spend them looking for your glasses.

 

Feeble Brexit joke:

What is the masculine form of Vaseline?

Vassalage…

 

On ice

An American oil company hoping to take advantage of the greedy Trump pig’s rollback of the defense of the nation’s remaining pristine wilderness has hit an unexpected snag.

In order to drill in the Beaufort Sea, Texas-based Hillcorp Energy requires a stable and reliable ice platform from which to begin operations.

The ice has all gone.

 

I Spy, with my little i

Hi, you may have read one or two moans I’ve indulged in about the increasing breaches of client privacy I’ve been detecting on various web platforms? If that’s what they’re called?

Like when I’ve discussed making payments in an email, Google offers me an auto-reply about money transfers?

And how I think that goes too far, given the generally confidential nature of personal financial transactions and natural concerns one has about banking security.

So, I just went to YouTube and there, right up front, I’m being offered some video of a Joni Mitchell concert in which she sings “Both sides now”, which is curious, since most of the recommendations I get are based on my obsessive interests in US politics, climate change and modern jazz.

But of course, two weeks ago I quoted from the very same Mitchell song on this, muh li’l bogl.

Welcome to my readership, secret Follower.

Even though you spell your name in Cyrillic text.

дмитрий куприянчик

You might like to send him a cheery message of greeting.

 

If you have a spare moment, go kill these assholes

Also, please send a message of Christmas cheer to the environmental health department of Kansas City, USA who sent officials out to pour bleach over the food of charities running soup kitchens to help the homeless, if they didn’t have a permit.

I am honestly struggling not to put a fake news sticker on this story from TYT/Ring of Fire. Really?

The home of Charlie Parker?

 

The ultimate hack-proof account

Dominic Raab, the newly resigned Secretary of State for standing by and watching Theresa May’s officials cock-up the Brexit deal, attracted scorn and ridicule the other week when he confessed he had no idea that 16% of all Britain’s trade passes through the port of Dover.

Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland Secretary, admitted that she had so little idea about politics in the divided province that she did not understand the historic relationships between religion and voting preferences. Why were Catholics all Republicans? She wanted to know.

Surely, their naivety and inexperience pales into comparison with Mr Yoshitaka Sakurada, 68, the deputy Japanese minister in charge of cybersecurity, who has “provoked astonishment by admitting he has never used a computer in his professional life” and had no clue what a “USB memory stick” was.

“Since the age of 25 I always had a secretary to do that for me”, he confessed.

I know, since the divorce I’ve got a problem doing the washing-up.

 

GW: A flippin’ and a floppin’ like a fish out of water

“Very warm weather” – up to +15C anomaly – persisting over the Arctic, Iceland, Greenland, Scandinavia down into the British Isles and northern Europe through into next week, will push a mass of cold air down into the Balkans and across the Mediterranean. Morocco is in line for a clobbering from another deep low. Northern Scotland is forecast to broil today (14 Nov) in 17 degrees of highly unseasonal warmth.

I’m out today in my T-shirt. It’s all a bit topsy-turvy, this extinction business.

USA: Following analysis of emergency calls, the number of residents of Paradise, California missing, possibly perished after the Camp Fire raged through the town of 27,000 has been increased to OVER 600.

Up to 8 inches of early snow on the east coast and a big freeze-up has snarled traffic from Mississippi to Washington DC and up into New England. 6 people have died in traffic accidents.” (PBS) In California: “As of Thursday morning (15 Nov.), the Camp Fire was 40 percent contained after having burned across 140,000 acres (219 square miles). 63 people are known to have died in the town of Paradise, overrun by the fast moving fire last week. Early enquiries blame communication problems and poor road infrasructure for the failure to get people out in time.

“Smoke from the catastrophic Camp Fire continues to plague much of central and northern California, bringing dangerously high levels of fine particulate pollution. Hourly levels were in the red “Unhealthy” range at more than 30 official EPA monitors across the region. … Two stations near the Camp Fire recorded PM2.5 levels on Thursday morning well into the maroon “hazardous” range—the highest level of danger on EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) scale. At this level, EPA warns that this would trigger a health warning of emergency conditions.” (Wunderground)

RT (Russia Today) is reporting, the fire also overran a heavily polluted nuclear waste disposal site, carrying radiation over Los Angeles. Well, it’s Russia Today, so.

Argentina: Four days of “severe weather, including heavy rain and flash flooding, has left around 3,000 people evacuated from parts of the capital Buenos Aires. Sauce Viejo city in the province of Santa Fe recorded 196mm of rain in 24 hours to 12 Nov. (National weather service) said that this November has already been one of the wettest on record.” (Floodlist)

Atlantic: After bringing heavy rain to the Leeward Islands, Tropical Depression 96L has turned north, where it has run into strong wind-shear and is not now expected to develop into Hurricane Patty after all. She’ll have to wait for another bus to come along.  Wind-shear has been a feature of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, keeping storms well out of the Caribbean region and harm’s way.

Pollution: A new “study, published in the Lancet Public Health, found the capacity of children’s lungs was reduced by about 5% when NO2 pollution was above legal levels, … resulting in a  higher risk of an early death, as well as a higher risk of lung diseases. Most urban areas in the UK have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. … The latest government action plan, which environmental lawyers called ‘pitiful’, revealed air pollution was even worse than previously feared.” (Edited from Guardian report)

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser, biggest in the park, erupts for the 27th time this year. A normal year might see one or two eruptions, if any.

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 70: “What’s he gone and done now?”… And in other news… GW: This is getting silly… A bigger splash.

Quote of the WW1 century:

“…that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen” – Sir Nicholas Soames MP

“Hang on guys, is this rain? Did you order rain, Manny? You know I melt in the rain… can we go back in and watch TV?”

The Dead Can Wait

What’s he gone and done now?

Does any news report nowadays not begin with the dread-laden words: “President Donald Trump….”

Do our hearts not sink constantly as we ask ourselves, oh, right, what’s he gone and done now?

In the course of Saturday, 10 November, in The Year of Our Donald #3, he managed to upset the entire European national leadership, again, and half of the Americas by refusing to leave his hotel room for a ceremony to commemorate the US dead of the First World War, because it was raining.

In an earlier statement, he had managed to blame the Baltic States for starting the war. Thus collectively bewildering the assembled Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian leaders, as well as his grimacing Balkans-born wife.

And then he tweeted home that he was going to defund the California forestry service of “$billions”, whom he blames for a number of devastating wildfires that have killed possibly more than 200 of his own people and forced a quarter of a million to flee their homes – a caravan of refugees – in the past five days. Without either mentioning the victims, living and dead, or praising the firefighters.

The fires, as fire service chiefs and assorted weathermen have pointed out, have not much affected afforested areas under the management of the forestry service, but are on the whole brushfires in untended exurban areas of the most populous State, exacerbated by a season of unusually extreme drought and the hottest July to September months in 124 years. The cause of the devastating Camp Fire, for instance, is thought to have been the failure of a power line. It began in an area supposedly under federal management; not CalFire.

But we recall that he also blamed last year’s fires, including the one that destroyed much of the city of Santa Rosa, on the forestry service; so this is probably just a bad case of dèjá vu in a man whose diseased mind is clearly wandering.

The US administration has whined that at least Secretary of State Pompeo turned up at the ceremony, and it was Trump’s military-grade helicopter that couldn’t cope with the rain. It’s hard to find a taxi when it rains in Paris. Trump then announced he would also be a no-show at the Paris Peace Forum, which is run by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. Instead, he flew home. Significantly, so did Putin.

Trump is playing the blame game, again. He clearly has no interest in peace and international co-operation.

One might conclude that he is just a fat sack of tormented, pig-ignorant shitburger, totally unfit for office of any kind. Or one might agree with Sir Nicholas Soames MP, Tory party grandee, former Lieutenant, 11th Hussars, Equerry to HRH Prince Charles, and coincidentally Winston Churchill’s grandson, who (despite advancing years) also has a Twitter account, and knows how to use it. He wrote:

“They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen #hesnotfittorepresenthisgreatcountry.”

There’s a different school of thought that basically believes no man that is born of a woman, as opposed to being hatched from an addled egg or descended from a passing spaceship to ask directions to Tralfamadore, could possibly behave this way unless they were trying to distract our attention from some shittier, even darker purpose.

No-one, for instance, has mentioned since Friday, that he has appointed a Big Crook to the post of replacement Attorney-General, pro tem., after firing “weak” A-G Sessions for failing to protect him against the Russia Thing. No-one had ever imagined they would feel sympathy for the lying little Alabama racist, but people actually took to the streets in support.

A man about whom, on Wednesday, Trump was seen on many TV channels declaring was a great guy, he knew him personally… and then on Friday, was on many TV channels insisting with an equally straight face, betrayed by a somewhat hunted look, that he didn’t personally know the guy, he had never met him, but he came highly recommended.

It was left to Kellyanne Conway, who seems to have had her bags lifted, to explain on many channels that what the President meant was that he had known the man, but no longer did. And that his adverse views on the Russia Thing were irrelevant.

That was all very embarrassing. Constitutional lawyers were soon conscripted to argue that the man, “Matt” Whitaker, a ringer for Desperate Dan of The Beano, was obliged to recuse himself, as his predecessor Sessions had done, from the Mueller probe into the Russia Thing owing to his frequent blunt assertions that it was all a “witch hunt”, a hoax and an illegitimate misuse of Justice department time.

Words that came as music to the furry old ears of the President, who followed himself up with a rousing tirade against Mueller who, he wheedled, had not been approved by the Senate. Whitaker, he said, rolling the phrase around several times for emphasis, was Senate-approved. Mueller was not Senate-approved. So there. Whatever.

More constitutional lawyers then went over the top, blowing whistles, to opine that that was because there was no legal requirement for a federal prosecutor to come Senate-approved, like an egg with a quality stamp; whereas a deputy Attorney-General who looks more like an egg without a quality stamp, laid therefore under intolerable battery conditions, was a political appointee and required Senate approval.

Yet more constitutional lawyers then advanced in open-order, suggesting that merely nominating this “Russia-Thing denier” to a position of power over Deputy Attorney-General Rosenstein, who in turn has power over Special Counsel Robert Mueller, might amount in itself to illegal obstruction of justice. That’s the very charge Mueller is having to investigate beyond just the Russia Thing, with relation to Mr Trump’s many attempts, some successful, others futile, to undermine and fire anyone connected with the investigations; which he has previously asserted he was perfectly competent to manage all by himself.

One school of thought felt that denying he even knew Whitaker, who has been on many TV channels shown visiting the Oval Office with A-G Sessions on at least ten occasions in pursuit of his normal duties as a ranking official at the Justice department, was one of President Trump’s more spectacular own-goals. It must have been either evidence of advancing mental confusion, they believe, or just the biggest lie of his presidency – he has told over 6,500 since taking office, according to the fact-checkers at the Washingon Post.

Another school of thought – can Mrs deVos keep track of all these schools? We don’t hear a lot of her lately – holds to the view that between the two contradictory positions, someone must have informed the President that Whitaker, the nominee, has well-documented connections with two companies that were heavily fined and compulsorily wound-up owing to strong allegations of fraud; that he personally threatened complainants with bogus criminal proceedings; and that he stands little chance of being confirmed in the position, even with a Senate packed to the skirting boards with cheese-nibblers.

Yet, he’s still there.

One of the companies, pertinently, is said to have targeted, specifically, US military veterans – some of them disabled – with a scheme (pronounced scam) to provide them with a valuable course of instruction on how to register and patent and market their inventions; Americans being a famously inventive people. One disabled veteran was reported as saying he had invested nearly $14 thousand, his life savings, only to receive a pack consisting of a piece of paper with a badly drawn diagram he said his granddaughter could have made.

A story that arouses faint memories of another, similar scam known as Trump University.

“Damn, I voted for him and he’s gone and stolen my job!”

So, there is Trump, transported once again at taxpayers’ expense to France, where the first thing he does – this was on Friday, as a warm-up to Saturday’s clusterfuck – is to berate President Macron bitterly over some matter to do with European defense spending. That is then explained by the Elysée palace as a “misunderstanding”. Then on Saturday came “le déluge”, as the Orange Calamity sat sulking in his hotel room, watching TV, while Macron and Merkel and May and the rest held hands and cried in the rain before the graves of thousands of fallen US soldiers.

Finally, on departing from France, Chump tweeted out childishly that French wine tariffs were unfair (they’re actually EU tariffs); the US made better wine anyway, and without the interventions of the USA in two world wars, the French would be speaking German.* And in another tweet he praised French “nationalism” – which has been taken as support for Le Pen’s Front Nationale – and mocked Macron for his low approval ratings; his own having seldom risen above 35% thoughout his term of office..

This on the anniversary of the attack on the crowd at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, that left 130 mostly French dead.

It seems axiomatic that this desperate, feral clown (that’s the “feral clown” school – there’s a more sympathetic school that argues he is genuinely suffering from dementia and deserves psychiatric help, not all this horrid criticism) simply has to step down, or be stepped down; one way, or another, or another, whatever the Constitution allows.

So far the Constitution seems more like Constipation, having great difficulty in excreting a foul-smelling stool.

Surely America cannot afford the embarrassment of yet another day, waking up to the news that “President Trump has….”?

 

Postscriptum

The official WH version according to Lyin’ Sarah is now that the helicopter couldn’t safely fly because there was “zero-visibility” (there wasn’t, obviously not in the daytime), so much for US military capability, and Trump didn’t want to cause a traffic jam in Paris by resorting to his motorcade, on the advice of the Security Service. Nothing to do with the demonstrations, then. Or the rain.

Trump then travelled to another ceremony by car, and stayed in the car as 60 real-world leaders marched in solidarity, in the rain, to the cemetery; later claiming he had attended in the open.

And then… Back in the USSR… sorry, USA, the President refused to attend the traditional Veteran’s Day parade at Arlington cemetery on Sunday, claiming no-one told him it was a bad optic not to. Aides cited fears for his hair in the rain as a reason. He is reportedly in a state of deep depression, worsened by recounts hungover from the deeply flawed midterm elections, that he claimed were a triumph for him, that have elected more Democrats – watch out, world!

One has to ask in passing, why it takes America, supposedly the world’s most technologically advanced nation, more than ten days to count its votes, when Zimbabwe could manage it in three?

And still can’t get it right.

*Is there no end to this? Eric Trump, the “little Nazi” (as Mike Malloy christened him) has enthusiastically welcomed Trump’s critique of EU wine tariffs. Why? Possibly because Eric turns out to be President (and everything else – treads the grapes, gums on the labels) of “Trump Winery”, one of the many diversified interests of the criminal Trump dynasty.

 

And in other news…

Trump, who boasted that he was so rich he would relinquish his official salary, has personally benefited from $3.2 million dollars in profits from hire of his businesses – hotels and golf resorts – since taking office in January, 2017, according to a CNN investigation, much of it from foreign delegations visiting the US; including at least $470,000 from Saudi Arabians.

It is likely that the newly Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will want to look into possible breaches of the Emoluments clause of the constitution. The White House was unable to comment.

Trump has announced that he is awarding the coveted Congressional Medal of Freedom to the wife of Mr Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate and “friend” of the Trump family. No-one seems entirely sure what Mrs Adelson has done to deserve it, but Mr Adelson has donated more than $100 million to the Republican cause.

Liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, however, records that Miriam Adelson, a research physician, has done a lot to combat drug addiction, her specialty; while President Obama in his time honored several possibly less worthy recipients from the world of showbiz; thus the award is not to be taken seriously. Like most secular Jews in America, the Adelsons are really liberals.

Trump is expected to sign into law, if he has not already done so, a measure to deny refugees, regardless of what circumstances they may be fleeing from, the right to apply for asylum in America other than through designated channels, in breach of US law and the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, to which the US is a signatory.

It is supposed to be a response to the so-called migrant “caravan” from Honduras, which Mr Trump pretends is about to bring thousands of Middle Eastern terrorists, rapists, drug dealers etc. across the southern border with Mexico. He has stationed 5,600 US army personnel in Texas, equipped with armoured vehicles, where they will be missing their families over Christmas, since their commanders have pointed out that they’re not allowed by law to intercept civilian refugees.

Although Hundurans have been arriving at the border the main caravan is believed still to be roughly a thousand miles away and is reported by some media to have diverted from a route that would take it directly to the USA over the next two months. The military assessment is that most of the caravan would not make it anyway.

Meanwhile, 150 thousand Americans are now refugees in their own country, having fled the fires ravaging the California suburbs. I’m sure the irony will be lost on the feral clown in the White House.

Poo corner…

In Alabama, meanwhile, communities are up in arms as a lengthy railroad train consisting of big tanks of raw human sewage excreted in New York and New Jersey and exported by a private corporation has been trundling around the State for weeks, parking in sidings close to residential districts and creating a horrendous stench htat laves people vomiting and in tears, while it awaits instructions from the EPA for disposal.

The apparent dumping of this, literally, load of shit on the southland by what’s perceived as the Yankee north has become a contentious political hot potato.

And not the only one, as there has also been a massive bribery scandal in which officials and businessmen have gone to jail, involving environmental clean-up contracts on contaminated land in a poor black neighborhood of Birmingham. The scandal even reached out at one time to touch former Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, said to have been personally involved.

A key official, Trey Glenn, deeply implicated in the scandal has just been appointed to run the EPA’s Southeast Regional division, covering eight States – by President Trump.

And it turns out, his financial disclosure reveals he’s being paid for consultancy by the company running the train.

He’s now been indicted for multiple crimes involving bribery and corruption.

The “Poop train” as it’s being called, coyly, is coming to be regarded by many as an apt metaphor for the current administration. (MSNBC)

Trump does seem to have singularly bad luck when it comes to his appointments, almost every one of whom turns out to be a Big Crook. Who knew?

As the White House goes into post-election meltdown, Trump’s secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke is under investigation on multiple corruption charges; while secretary for Homeland Security Kirstjen Neilsen, the child-snatcher, and the now profoundly compromised Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly, are also on watch for a Trump firing squad. Rumor is that he’s also planning to dump the profoundly corrupt Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross.

“I hire only the best, the very best people”, Trump told his election rallies.

Counting is still going on in Georgia and Florida as the courts have had to force the Republican administration to count all the votes, not just the ones cast for Republican candidates. Trump has been grumbling about the Fox-generated fake news that Hillary Clinton has financed a fraudulent campaign against his friend, the profoundly corrupt governor of Florida, Rick Scott.

Clinton has no connection with Florida, and is not even running.

 

(An earlier article on Andrea Leadsom that attracted a Comment has been removed for space. I then managed to delete it while transferring it to tomorrow’s BogPo. I may be getting too old for this. Ed.)

 

GW: This is getting silly.

Wales, UK: It’s another blue-sky-dome day here in Boglington-sur-Mer, gleaming white hummocks of solid cumulus peering like curious teddy-bears from over the hills in the distance, unmoving. Out of the cooling breeze, which drops away now and then, even at its low inclination in the sky the sun is beating down. I can feel its pressure on my skin. And in a T-shirt with a light sweater and an open coat, as we return from Hunzi’s walk around the Industrial Estate I am sweating. Younger, wiser people are everywhere, polishing cars in just their T-s.

A video on BBC News of an incident in London yesterday shows many passers-by wearing only shorts and shirtsleeves.

Remember, remember, it’s the 11th of November.

The deadly Camp Fire, seen from space. (USGS/Wunderground) Chico is approx. 12 miles from Paradise.

California: the horror goes on. Over 130 are still reportedly missing and 56 confirmed dead as more charred bodies are discovered in the ruins of the town of Paradise, after the most lethal series of fires on record. California continues to suffer a prolonged drought now eating well into the rainy season, and dessicating Santa Ana winds continue to fan flames through the wooded canyons. Thousands of properties and hundreds of thousands of acres of countryside have been burned out; 150 thousand people have fled or are in temporary accommodation, tents or even sleeping in the open. (The irony of Mr Trump banning refugees entry to America is not lost on your Old Gran.) Air quality across the State ranges from poor to “hazardous to life”. No rain is forecast before the weekend, while windspeeds are expected to strengthen again over the whole State. (Wunderground, Guardian et al)

To give some idea, the WHO guideline for safe – rather, “standard” – concentration of particulates in the atmosphere is 150 microgrammes (µg) per cubic meter. Regions of California are showing over nine thousand µg/m3. CO₂ levels as high as 809 ppm were reached on November 10, while there’s a lot of toxic CO (carbon monoxide) around too. (from Arctic News, 4 Nov updated 12 Nov) Sulfur dioxide emissions are also high, producing the “global dimming” effect without which global temperature would rise another 2.5C in a matter of years. The dilemma is obvious.

India: three Tropical Cyclones are brewing in the Indian ocean. “Severe” TC Gaja is threatening the Indian coast at Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu provinces; Alcide is aiming for the northern tip of Madagascar; Bouchra is out in the middle somewhere. (Times of India, et al)

Thailand: “Heavy rains have caused extensive flooding, with around 45,000 people affected in as many as 500 villages. Local media have reported 3 deaths. Thai Meteorological Department said that 261.6mm of rain fell in 24 hours.” (from Floodlist)

Brazil: “Authorities in the state of Rio de Janeiro say that at least 10 people have died after heavy rain triggered a landslide in a residential area, destroying 6 houses. 11 people were rescued from the debris. It is feared the death toll could rise and rescue workers are continuing to search for survivors.” (Floodlist)

France: rescue workers are continuing to search through the rubble of two tenement buildings that collapsed in Marseilles last week. 8 bodies have been recovered so far; several more people were hurt when a balcony collapsed during a march to pay respects to the victims. No cause has been ascribed, although buildings in the old quarter are generally unsafe owing to age and lack of maintenance; however your Old Gran is moved to mention the atrocious weather and record rainfall in the Mediterranean of late.

Atlantic: Tropical Depression 96L, somewhere in the region of the Leeward Islands, is expected to become Tropical Storm Patty by Thursday. Forecast track aims for Bermuda but a northward turn avoids contact with the US mainland. Expect it over Scotland sometime next week.

UK again: “The capacity of renewable energy has overtaken that of fossil fuels in the UK for the first time Between July and September, the capacity of wind, solar, biomass and hydropower reached 41.9 gigawatts, exceeding the 41.2GW capacity of coal, gas and oil-fired power plants.” (Guardian Green Light) News that Toshiba has pulled out of the deal to build a new reactor at Sellafield will only add to the sense that we’re going dark anyday now…. (!) It probably doesn’t matter, the forecast for northern Scotland today is 17 degrees C.

World: Your Old Granny poses a disturbing question: can these seemingly endless numbers of people drowned and crushed and choked and baked and burned alive in these extreme weather events, albeit in relatively small numbers at a time, be considered mere collateral damage as the human population increases and spills into areas that have always been dangerous; or are they the first casualties of the coming extinction?

Birds: For whatever reason I see fewer and fewer birds on my bird-feeder this past week. I mix it up, but maybe there’s just nothing they like to eat? Larger flocks of starlings are arriving overhead to roost at sunset, making wondrous patterns in the darkening sky, but numbers are still down.

Clouds: We had some dramatic cloudscapes today after rain this morning! Huge blocks of cumulus, tops streaming in the wind, just blew away in minutes… sun now shining warmly through a thin layer of stratus and my window; blobbies arriving. Must be mid-November… I’ve not had to put any heating on thus far; I can feel smug that my energy provider is again complaining that my meter readings seem too low. On past performance, I’m sure they will just make some up.

 

A bigger splash…

Scientists testing their new ground-penetrating radar in Greenland have found possible evidence that a mile-wide iron meteor – an asteroid or comet – hit the Hiawatha glacier perhaps as recently as 12,000 years ago. The resulting impact crater 19.3 miles wide has remained hidden under a half-mile-thick ice sheet until now. (Guardian)

If true, it is an event that happened well within the memory of modern humans and may have been responsible for a number of puzzling effects that have as yet no complete scientific explanation.

They might include:

  • Triggering the end of the last glacial period
  • The extinction of northern megafauna, including woolly mammoth
  • The so-called Great Flood – creation of the freshwater Great Lakes and Lake Baikal
  • Rapid sea-level rise, isolating what we now call aboriginal communities
  • Reduction of Neanderthal numbers below replacement capacity
  • The near extinction of humans, creating the choke point in human evolution known as the Eve Hypothesis, when numbers are thought to have fallen worldwide as low as 10,000 individuals
  • Oral myths and legends in many cultures involving floods and falling stars.

None of these suggestions is reported in the Guardian piece, The Pumpkin ventures them only as ignorant hypotheses. It seems likely that the damage would have been terminal had the meteor, the same size as the Chicxulub event that ended the reign of dinosaurs, not struck so far north, at a lower inclination; and on a mile-thick ice-field, cushioning the impact. Otherwise the depth of the crater at only 300 meters and the diameter would have been considerably greater.

However, The Pumpkin still envisages the vast energy of such an impact at 12 miles per second would have vaporized trillions of tonnes of water at Ground Zero, leading to potentially weeks of torrential rain around the world, with possible major disruption to the polar jetstream and ocean currents.

The water vapor in the atmosphere – a greenhouse gas – and dust, together with decades of global volcanism set off by the impact – could have provided the warming impetus to trigger melting of the icecaps.

Instantaneous ice-melt further from the center of the impact would have sent extreme localized floodwaves across the open tundras of Canada and Siberia below the ice-line, reducing numbers of mammoth, aurochs and other megafauna to below replacement breeding rates; to be finished off by hunters.

 

Deja vu corner…

This, from the BogPo, September something-or-other, last year (2017)

California: La Tuna, Burbank LA fire consumes 5,800 acres inside the city limits. 700 evacuated. Cal. and western states – Nevada, Montana, Idaho join the million-acre club: Chetko Bar fire in Oregon is burning over 125 thousand acres and not expected contained before mid-October. Eagle Creek fire burning in Washington state. Huge fires in Montana can be seen burning from space. Most of the northern US wreathed in smoke, causing breathing problems. More than 6.8 million acres of the USA have burned so far this season, plus 2.5 million acres of….

Canada: where new fires are reported in British Columbia as weekend temperatures remain in the 30s C. Smoke from Canada’s 2.8 million acres of wildfires burning since June has been detected across the North Pole as far away as Britain.

You’d think there’d be nothing much left to burn by now.

Welcome to the week’s only Brexit and Trump-free zone! : Remember God?… The Office of Petty Cash Deceits… GW: I could go on singeing…Dear Joanna Rowling…

Quote of the Week

“Seemingly every cabinet job these days is … a Pygmalion-like plot in which two unseen financiers have decided, for a bet, to pass off a rejected Family Fortunes contestant as a secretary of state.”

– Marina Hyde, writing in The Guardian (edited extrcat)

Welcome to the week’s only mostly Brexit and Trump-free zone!

Progress report:

7,162 households in the UK are still watching TV on black & white sets.

 

“I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this…”

 

“This is getting really, really – like, bloody intolerably – intrusive.”

Remember God?

Uncle Bogler writes:

Can it be coincidence?

I’ve just been browsing idly through a story on the BBC News website.

It’s a piece, not very relevant to me, about the lethal air quality in the Indian capital, New Delhi, 20 times worse than the WHO limit, and how everyone fears the Diwali festival fireworks are about to make it ten times worse again.

But you know religion, right? God made fireworks compulsory for all Mankind. Interfere with that at your peril.

And I think to myself: I live right on a thundering main road in the outskirts of Boglington, a busy seaside town. It’s the main arterial route for all the commercial and vacation traffic that needs to come into town, as well as the school-run.

There’s no bypass.

Twice a day the traffic is backed up for an hour in either direction, engines idling. The rest of the day, trucks and tankers and vans and cars and huge, three-tiered animal transports reeking of sheep-fear come hurtling through, on a blind bend, at speeds well in excess of the 30 mph limit, and nobody does a thing to stop them. Every other main road in the county is emblazoned with traffic-calming measures: bumps and chicanes and active, flashing warning signs. Not this one.

I’ve been here almost seven years now, shouting in the street like a mad old man at speeding drivers, and have in the past few years suffered from streaming eyes and constant runny or blocked nose and minor chest congestion, that I haven’t had since I left the city, 30 years ago. The stonework in my front garden is black, the windows gray, and a fine dust drifts past the double-glazing to coat my frontroom furniture, muh li’l laptop.

All very minor, but a clear indication that pollution levels here in Boglington are probably not good.

Not as bad as Delhi, I grant, but not great. And I’m always reading that nitrogen dioxide (N02, that you get from diesel fumes) is a contributory factor to childhood obesity, asthma, Type 2 diabetes, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and various cancers; not to mention Scrofula, DuPuytren’s Contracture, Capgras’ Delusion and Blue Skin Disorder.

So, I know! I think (to myself, it’s just me and Hunzi and Cats here) wouldn’t it be a great notion to get one of those air quality sniffers and, if the results are bad enough, fire off a report to the local authority, cc our MP, The Guardian, demanding action? Sue someone, even, maybe?

And so I duly open up my desktop link to Amazon – which, along with all the other websites I regularly visit, has for some unknown reason taken to demanding I log-in again manually – and when I manage to log-on, before I have even turned to the Shopping page, it has already flagged up four offers on…

…air quality monitors.

This is getting really, really – like, bloody intolerably – intrusive.

“Google is both that all-seeing, all-knowing parental entity in the sky AND the creepy blueprint for the creation of a replacement planet…”

In an email exchange with my ex-wife yesterday, I explained that I had mislaid my phone, hence the silence, and she suggested phoning me to hear where in the house the ringtone was coming from, and Google instantly offered me, basically, an auto-reply message that said, ‘Yes, please do that’.

Get outta my face!

The other week, I was having an email discussion with a guitar dealer, we’d just got to the difficult money part and Google was already offering me: “I’ve transferred the money to your account.” (I hadn’t. I didn’t. I backed out, dear Reader, balking at the large commitment when it became clear, no more affordable deferred payment plan was on offer.)

Now that intervention by a third-party entity that has no business in my business is, to my mind, a gross breach of client confidentiality, and Google must be made to understand, they cannot poke around in people’s financial affairs with impunity.

It’s like having a guest living in your house, who can’t resist interfering at every turn. If I wanted an Alexa, or Siri, or a fucking domestic robot, I would buy one. I don’t want one, which is why I haven’t bought one. Have you noticed that, Amazon? That there are more things I don’t buy, than stuff I do? That looking is not touching?

There is no such thing as a helpful intervention. It’s all just bloody annoying. If I want something, I know where to find it; know how to ask. I’m not a child. People say, oh, but you can switch it off! Just go into Settings! Well, switching off auto-reply doesn’t prevent the algorithm from capturing and analysing your emails in the first place.

You remember God?

You know, the universal gizmo that counts the hairs on your head and the sparrows falling from the sky? That knows absolutely everything about you and everything else? Like your mom?

That thing that never leaves you alone, always nagging you, offering you hope then whipping it away again with a hollow laugh, the tyrant that as a species we’ve only just begun learning how to rid ourselves of?

It seems to me, Google is both that all-seeing, all-knowing parental entity in the sky AND the creepy omprehensive blueprint for the creation of a replacement planet: Earth 11, when we’re through trashing this one with our Free Will and our restless and insensate acquisitiveness; our Shareholder Value and our consumer technology.

In the meantime, they’re using all that information to turn us into data and sell us to their advertisers, on the basis of some perfectly innocent enquiry on a completely different internet platform that their shitty algorithms have been slily watching you blunder around on.

As the Wise Ones say, if it’s free then you’re the product.

So now I’ve gone off the whole idea of a pollution monitor. A box of tissues and an early death will have to do.

If you’re reading this, Google, Amazon, I have a message for you.

You already know what it is.

 

The Office of Petty Cash Deceits

It’s almost impossible to beat the following heads of the story, reported in The Guardian, of yet another horrible Home Office clusterfuck, that appears to have arisen out of a policy of vicious domestic racism combined with positively Christian charity for the undeserving poor:

“The government has been ordered to make back-payments to victims of trafficking that are likely to reach more than £1m, after a high court judge ruled that Home Office cuts to their support payments were unlawful. The ruling followed the department’s decision in March to reduce support payments to people it accepted were victims of trafficking from £65 per week to £37.75, a fall of 42%.

“The Home Office defended the change by saying it wanted to bring levels of support to victims of trafficking in line with support levels for destitute asylum seekers.” (Guardian)

What? So the most “destitute” people deserve the lowest level of support of all? That’s helpful, especially when they’re not permitted to earn money. And a “victim of trafficking”, a concept of brutal sexual slavery poorly understood by your average Home-Office box-wallah, they’re to be made destitute too, are they? On less than forty quid a week? An indifferent lunch? Oh, thank you, kind Masters.

“K. was a 30-year-old Albanian woman who fell into the hands of sex traffickers after she refused to get engaged to a man her family had selected for her. She was subjected to sexual exploitation and forced prostitution in Albania then passed to two Albanian men who brought her to London in January 2017, locked her in a room, drugged her and threatened to kill her if she didn’t do as she was told. She was kept in isolation and forced to have sex with seven to eight men every day.

“The support levels were cut soon after the government announced in October last year that it was going to ‘radically improve the support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery’.”

This Orwellian doublespeak is becoming quite terrifying. Mrs May blithely announces the end of austerity, Mr Hammond budgets a bit extra here and there, potholes and so on, but analysis after the media smokescreen clears finds austerity hasn’t been ended at all: 40 per cent cuts in vital areas affecting poorer peopl: local authority grants, the care sector and police spending are still going ahead; along with the mindbogglingly inept Universal Credit scheme that is beggaring thousands.

How much are the wealthy getting in tax breaks and loopholes for offshoring their ill-gotten gains and hedging their global casino bets, at everyone else’s expense? Where’s their fucking austerity?

And MPs, what was their payrise last year, an extra £12,000 a year, pretty much what I live on – in return for their pusillinimous support for Article 50, when two-thirds of the halfwits appeared to have forgotten they privately voted Remain in the referendum?

How long can this omnishambles go on?

Ah, well, you see, speaking from on high, a spokesman for God, Mr Jesus bar-Joseph defended the practise, explaining that, “It’s always been Tory policy that ‘unto him that hath, shall be given; while from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away’.”

Thank the same God, if you must, for the British courts, backed up as they usually are by the European Court of Justice on these matters. Basically, they don’t put up with this indefensible shit from the EDL skinheads at the Home Office, and neither should we.

But that’s now. After next March, Big Bruvver from Brussels won’t be watching.

 

Forever young

“Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old Dutch “positivity guru” who says he does not feel his age, has started a battle to make himself legally 20 years younger on the grounds that he is being discriminated against on a dating app.” (Guardian)

He’s the same age as me! I’m so encouraged by this, I’m considering applying to a court to be legally declared dead, so I don’t have to live in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s 1950s Britain, tugging my forelock to Iain Cunting Smith. There’d be no requirement to  receive more bilingual mailshots from Plaid Cymru, or for my next passport to have to have a blue cover.

Though I guess Heer Ratelband might not be so happy when the court says, fine, but you’ll have to hand your pension back….

A vision of Hell: Paradise, Cal., (pop: 27,000), made famous by the Joni Mitchell song, was almost totally destroyed in The Camp Fire.

GW: I could go on singeing

USA: “Conditions are ripe for explosive wildfire development over large parts of California. The most immediate threat on Thursday morning was a fast-spreading fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills a few miles east of Chico. Dubbed the Camp Fire, the blaze grew from inception to cover more than 5000 acres in just three hours, according to CAL FIRE. Much of the city of Paradise has been evacuated, and some motorists attempting to leave were reportedly stuck in gridlock (and had to run for thei lives). … More than 10 million people are in the extremely-critical risk area.” (Bob Henson, Wunderground)

Speedy update 10 Nov: Paradise has been almost completely incinerated, 23 confirmed dead, over 100 missing, 6,300 properties destroyed and mass evacuations are going on around Malibu, site of the Woolsey Fire, 2 dead, in the south. Kim Khardashian had to be evacuated, along with Lady Gaga, Will Smith and many other celebs. Reports of looting. 16 fires now burning in the state. Thousands of properties are threatened. Air quality in the San Francisco Bay area was described as “extremely dangerous” for people with respiratory ailments. Trump has approved federal emergency funding. (BBC, et al)

“California temperatures were the hottest for any July-to-September period in 124 years of recordkeeping. Sacramento is having one of the ten driest starts to the wet season in its history, receiving a meager 0.04” on the only day of rain since October 1.” (Wunderground) Large areas of California are experiencing what is known as “negative rainfall”, i.e. more moisture is evaporating from the ground than is falling from the sky. No rain is forecast for the coming week.

President Ignorant Fat Cunt tweeted: “There was no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.” He also threatened to withhold funds, due to “gross mismanagement of the forests”.

Indonesia: At least 4 people have died in floods and landslides in two provinces of Indonesia over the last few days. 2 died during floods around Padang, West Sumatra. Heavy rain has also caused flooding and landslides in West Java. Flood water as deep as 1.8 metres was reported in some areas. 2 people have died and around 50 families affected. Roads have been blocked and bridges damaged, leaving some communities cut off. 231 mm of rain fell in 24 hours to 06 November in Pacitan Regency, East Java. (Edited from Floodlist report)

Middle East: “Unusually heavy rain has caused flash-flooding in Kuwait, Iraq and Iran. 14 dead. Bushehr in Iran recorded 67mm in 24 hours to 07 Nov. Mean total precipitation for November is 27.3mm. This is the second major flood event in the Middle East within the space of 2 weeks. During late October, 2018, heavy rain caused flooding in Syria, northern Iran and Jordan, where at least 21 people died.” (Floodlist). On 20 October, it was reported, Qatar experienced more than a normal year’s worth of rain in just 6 hours.

Brazil: 10 killed and 11 injured in a mudslide near Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, caused by heavy downpours. People were killed and injured when a large boulder rolled on top of six houses in the Boa Esperança neighbourhood. “It rained a lot over the past two days and a state of alert was declared. People were advised of the situation and were recommended to move to safer locations. Several families “refused to leave”. (Guardian)

Scandinavia: Parts of Norway experienced temperatures up to 19.3C, 66.74F, 8 Nov., as a plume of warm air pushed up across Germany into the Baltic. The average temperature in Norway for November is 5C.

Wales, UK: More than 1,000 properties were left without power during heavy rain and wind which brought flooding and travel disruption. Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire saw the worst of the weather with some homes in Milford Haven under 10ft (3m) of water. (BBC, 09 Nov.) Do we make a fuss?

Boglington-on-Sea: the weather feels pretty much like Norway here today. Promised a cyclonic storm was on its way, with 65 mph gales, high seas and heavy rain, we went out for our walk under a uniform gray sky. Soon, the cold breeze dropped and within minutes, even with the sun behind thick cloud I was gently perspiring in the November warmth. That was the upper half. Next thing, I wet myself; having forgotten to put on a nappy this morning while changing to a fresh bag. Catheters leak, making heavy rain and gales unnecessary to one’s discomfort. No, my clinic appointment hasn’t come through yet. Thanks for asking. Bit blowy out, 1.5-in. rain, nothing special.

Last Orders Please…

Yellowstone: Normally erupting once or twice a year, if at all, the big Steamboat geyser goes up for the 26th time this year on 09 Nov. Associated Arch Steam Vent turns to Arch Mud Vent – huge outburst, biggest since 1967, complete with “implosions” – sinkholes full of muddy water, sucking their own gas bubbles back down…

 

Magical Realism

It was reported yesterday that JK Rowling, the multi-millionaire author, is suing her former PA for £24 thousand she claims she abstracted in phony expenses, credit card overruns and cash transactions; including what seemed like strangely magical sums – £thousands said to have been spent on totally trivial, day-to-day items like make-up; and mailing out suspiciously expensive Harry Potter merchandise apparently worth hundreds of pounds per item, that doesn’t seem to have reached its intended destinations.

As nothing added up in the way one feels it should, raising questions about what exactly has gone wrong, it seemed natural to write to the well-remunerated but notoriously spiky auteur with a mild Armistice week rebuke on behalf of the downtrodden servant class:

 

Dear JK Rowling

I hope you don’t mind me writing to you, you must be frantically busy. This is not a plea for money; rather, the opposite.

I was born, as they say, on “the wrong side of the blanket” – my father had run away on the stage – into a wealthy banking family. I owe my education to my American grandmother, but I was miserable at my private schools and never went to university. In my career I pursued many opportunities, having short-lived successes in many fields, mainly writing and editing texts of all kinds.

In 1995 I suffered a business bankruptcy. We surrendered our home, took the children from their private schools and ended up, perhaps fortuitously, in a cottage on a remote hillside in rural mid-Wales.

We farmed sheep, grew veg., made our own electricity, pumped well-water and entertained the children, there being no TV or internet, reading Dickens and, yes, one-by-one as they came out, eagerly anticipated, all your Harry Potter books. (Our now 29-year-old daughter is still a mad fan.)

Finding work was difficult. I did gardening and cleaning jobs for £5 an hour; but the marriage didn’t survive. And then in 2005, I answered an ad in the local paper and the following week found myself occupying a set of sparsely furnished, unheated rooms at the back of a dilapidated, partly derelict Grade One-listed Georgian mansion hidden-away in a wooded valley, the live-in Estate Manager.

I was now “in service”. But at least there was a roof over my head (rather leaky!)

An East End boy made good, the wealthy new owner lived eight thousand miles away and travelled incessantly, descending on his “stately home” for perhaps two or three weeks of the year. The rest of the time, with one very underpaid part-time assistant, I was left entirely in charge.

Fully half of my munificent £14 thousand a year salary went on child maintenance and other family support. A few weeks into the job, as there was no-one else there, I was instructed to go to court and apply for the entertainments and alcohol sales licences, and open a hotel.

On-call 24 hours a day (the contract said 37.5 hours a week, but who else was there?), I took no holiday for five years. I’d became a hotelier, faute de mieux, rattling around a grim-looking, reputedly haunted house; operating with worn-out legacy equipment. One evening I heard a car doing a rapid U-turn on the driveway, and shortly afterwards the travel agent phoned to say her client was complaining that she’d been sent to an abandoned building. In vain, I protested that I’d just been awarded three red diamonds for hospitality by the AA!

My duties as “Peeves” now expanded somewhat. Here is an actual list:

  • Business manager
  • Hospitality manager
  • Wedding organizer
  • Marketing & PR manager
  • Housekeeper, purchasing supplies
  • Cook, of guests’ delicious organic breakfasts and occasional table d’hôte dinners
  • Waiter
  • Barman/”Designated Premises Supervisor”/potboy
  • Cleaner
  • Laundryman
  • ‘Plongeur’ – the dishwasher was broken. (Try washing-up for 150….)
  • Gardener/forester
  • Driver (for the owner, when present)
  • General maintenance man
  • Night security guard

The job description ran to eight A4 pages. I know, because my first job was to write it. I also had to deal with legal and local authority finance matters, environmental policy, market research, management planning, sourcing and obtaining grants, appointing and managing architects and contractors, interior design specification; complying with the Licensing Act 2003 and many other relevant statutes, of which my employer had not the slightest idea.

Thanks to my knowledge of UK business and rural affairs, I saved or sourced £’000s for my employer, with little sign of recognition. After three years I had a small payrise. An excited email to tell him I’d managed to get him a rarely available business development grant of up to £2.5 million was met with incomprehension: he didn’t want anyone going through his company books, so he turned it down.

But he could read a balance sheet blindfold. By repute, he ruthlessly micromanaged his core businesses, literally to the penny. Thus I was also expected to produce monthly accounts.

 

Despite giving my time endlessly for very little reward, I felt I was constantly under suspicion. The owner was not unfriendly; just excessively cautious. I confess, I have poor admin skills; I’m a doer, not a counter. But despite producing many costed reports and proposals, I was given no budgets to cover the many areas I now had responsibility for.

The owner’s maxim was always: “You make the money, then you can have the investment.” But hotels don’t work like that!

Of course, I wasn’t able to make money: there were only three habitable bedrooms to begin with. Obliged to use outside caterers, our profit margin was less than 4 per cent; heating bills alone were £1,000 a month – sixteen room-nights, as I saw it. Average bookings were fewer than six, although we could be busy during graduation week and at Christmas.

Then, when the C18th sewage system failed and we were overrun with rats, threatened with closure, I had to break it to the owner that he was in for a £60 thousand bill and weeks of upheaval… Something else I was never forgiven for, although somehow I kept the business running.

To cover daily expenses, I’d been given a credit card with a spending limit of £1,000. Out here, few small contractors and service businesses take cards, and the debts of the previous owners were legendary: it was always “cash on the nail”, as it was with the casual staff, students I had to hire-in for weddings. But paying cash is illegal: I couldn’t put it through the books; while with such erratic custom, stock control was a nightmare, leading to considerable wastage.

Whatever I couldn’t cover from petty cash had to go on the card and somehow be explained. The owner had no real idea of the expenses the place ran to, his view was entirely rose-tinted. In everyone’s opinion it needed major refurbishment, but he would always plead poverty – refusing even to carry out the urgent safety measures recommended by experts year after year. (The fire station manager described it as “a death-trap”).

So, to (as I thought) relieve the pressure, I hired a part-time bookkeeper, a woman who affected to be a “hotel management consultant”. The moment she saw the house, her eyes widened. And that was when the whispering campaign started, that I was running off with the profits.

It soon transpired – I’m not an idiot – that a) this individual was basing her sly accusations on what she thought a “posh” country house hotel ought to be making, without any appreciation of the actual trading conditions; and b) she owed a business favour to a sleeping partner whose son had just graduated and was in need of my job.

Rapidly, the hooks went in to my absent employer. I found myself sidelined over matters about which, frankly, she hadn’t a clue. I realized then, the owner would always take the word of an outsider who charged him more for their advice than I cost on my lowly pay grade.

The card was taken away: it was cash or cheque.

At long last, I managed to persuade him that the building was genuinely uninsurable. I warned that he could be legally liable to a huge fine or even prison if we kept trading. While he set about raising money to turn the place into the bookkeeper’s dream of a “5-star hotel”, I (the gardener!) was to appoint conservation architects to carry out the conversion works.

After two-and-a-half more years, living in what had become a building site: missing floorboards, constant hammering and drilling, frozen in winter, sometimes without water or electricity, my title downgraded to “Caretaker”, in 2012 I was paid off: statutory redundancy. “We need”, the owner announced portentously, “a proper manager.” My successor required a staff of 12 and lasted, I believe, eight months.

And that’s the story of how I found myself in private service, Joanna. Ten per cent of it.

Your relationship with Amanda is absolutely none of my business, I know, I have only the “facts” as presented in a BBC News report. But I hoped by writing to you at length about my own experience of being employed as a domestic servant, put in such an impossible position, that I might somehow make a difference; if there is one to be made. I can’t believe anyone actually enjoys being in litigation.

You know how, in Victorian romantic novels, the honest servant always gets the blame and ends up in the colonies, or the gutter? Well, we don’t always thoroughly deserve it; although I will own up to borrowing a bottle of wine every now and then, when I had no money left to buy my own;  eating the leftovers from the meals I cooked.

One more short story:

We had a neighbour, the legendary TV producer Linda A., who’d sold her production company for many £millions and was living life in the Grand Manor. One day, her odd-job man left her brand-new, £40 thousand Mercedes unlocked with the key in the ignition (therefore uninsured) while he went to pay for petrol. Linda just shrugged, and ordered another one.

So, I’m sorry for your loss. It seems relatively trivial, financially speaking; the broken trust is probably worth more to you, I concede.

I’m nevertheless firmly of the belief that if I have learned two lessons after almost 70 years on Planet Earth, they are: 1) never buy a listed building without a structural survey, and 2) never come between a wealthy person and their money. Oh, and 3) with forgiveness comes tranquility (it’s Armistice week).

I hope you can forgive my impertinence; no reply is necessary.

Sincerely, etc.

PS – More Cormoran Strike!

 

Trunk calls

Finally for real magic, there’s an artist from the north of England called Paul Barton.

Paul has a very strange project you’re gonna love. He plays classical piano to blind and retired elephants on a reserve in the Thai jungle.

I cannot think of a more worthwhile pursuit. It’s incredibly moving. Catch him on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYlfhKhPbe0 and more.

The Pumpkin – Issue 69: Campfire courtroom tales… The politics of fear… Art of the Steal… Just an old sweet song… The worst election result ever?… GW: Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky…

“I can’t really say that anything he says is true, but I trust him.” – Valarie Wunder, Trump supporter, Wyoming.

 

“This chubby finger is loaded, buster, and you’re goin’ down.”

Campfire courtroom tales

“The Girl Scouts of the United States of America have filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America after the Boy Scouts decided to drop “Boy” from its program and start welcoming older girls.

“According to the complaint filed on Tuesday, the Boy Scouts do not have a monopoly over such terms as ‘scouts’ or ‘scouting’, and its decision to rebrand its program Scouts BSA will erode the Girl Scouts brand and marginalize their activities.” (Guardian)

Boy, what did the Boy Scouts say to deserve that? Is someone after their lawyer’s badge? Baden Powell would be spinning in his grave.

If anything points to the complex and seemingly irreconcilable divisions opening ever-wider in American society, split along many lines, including those suggested by opposing unbridled masculinist hegemony and the women’s hashtag Metoo movement, it is surely this.

But first, it indicates that America is so hopelessly addicted to litigation over every little thing, that to be a lawyer now is very heaven. You would think the two sides could have just got round a campfire and talked it through, with a few songs and some sticks of damper (a tasteless floury paste twizzled on a stick over a fire)? (I was a Patrol Leader!)

Secondly, you would imagine that an organization of principally female orientation might welcome the removal of gender-specific titles in favor of gender-neutral, and join in by removing its own, somewhat disparaging term, “Girl”.

It cannot be long before The Transitioning Intersexual Scouts of America is formed, followed by Queer Scouts of America Identifying as Female On Mondays and Wednesdays, followed by Dr Who Fans of American Scouting, Heavily Armed MAGA Scouts for Re-electing The President and Junior Opioid Crisis Scouts of the Midwest Rust Belt.

And then Attorney-General Sessions will obey another insane Trump decree to keep himself from being fired*, and declare scouting an illegal terrorist activity – which it should have been all along.

Trump, of course, is closely allied with scouting in America.

We recall, do we gnotte, how, when asked to pay his son Eric’s $7 annual subscription to the Boy Scouts of America, Trump sent a check drawn on his tax-exempt foundation account rather than use non-deductable funds from his own pocket.

And that speech he gave to the Boy Scouts of America, regaling them with tales of orgies aboard his friends’ superyachts, thanking the mostly underage audience for voting for him and calling on them to lock Hillary Clinton up.

If we didn’t know he was teetotal, we would have to imagine he was as drunk as a skunk that time.

Ah, those happy, far-off days when we could still remember the awful things he’s done for more than 24 hours.

*Oops, no, he’s gone.

 

But let’s not ignore the main story of the week…

The politics of fear

In the meantime, there’ve been elections, complicated ones, the lower House of Representatives in Congress has changed sides, and hopeful media commentators are expressing the view that, after two years of reporting daily horrors, the malignant narcissist’s power is broken, his time is up.

So instead he comes right out and fires his Attorney-General, to remind everyone (and himself) that he still can; threatens the House majority Democrats with fire and fury if they dare to oppose him; mounts an astonishing assault on the White House Press Corps; doubles-down on his bullshit theory about migrant caravans; names and shames five Republican traitors who, he claims, lost their House seats only because they failed to “embrace” Donald Trump; and nominates as his acting Attorney-General a man with two business failures due to accusations of fraud* who has previously launched venomous attacks on the Mueller investigation into Trump’s Russia connections.

Not bad for one day.

Unfortunately, this temporary appointee is also the man who would have to subpoena Trump to ask him politely why he seems to want the investigation to go away so badly that he is prepared to risk impeachment for the crime of obstructing justice?

And the man who, with a stroke of the pen, could order his deputy, Mr Rosenstein, who has been overseeing the investigation, to fire the investigator, Mr Mueller; or to so constrain his efforts that he cannot proceed further, precipitating a constitutional standoff.

When President Nixon followed precisely this course of action, his strategy for avoiding impeachment over the Watergate burglary came unglued when his new acting A-G turned on him and pushed the investigation to its limit. Will Trump allow history to repeat itself? Don’t be fooled: he is cannier than that.

Let’s remind ourselves: Mr Mueller has already indicted 32 co-conspirators connected with the Trump election campaign, at least one of whom has levied under oath in a court of law, a charge of criminal conduct against the President, who stands as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a bid to rig his own election, possibly in collusion with a foreign power.

Yet he is still there.

To ensure his own acquittal, Mr Trump has had appointed, or attempted to appoint, hundreds of new conservative judges in the District and Appellate courts, many of them quite unqualified, all of whom now owe him their careers-for-life.

And he has succeeded with the connivance of his Republican enablers in the Senate in getting two low-wattage judges appointed to the Supreme Court, creating a majority on whom you can bet the family farm they would never rule against him; with yet a third in the offing.*

And let’s remember, the Senate that ratifies his terrible appointments has remained firmly Republican.

(How this happens is one of the mysteries of American politics that I have not yet fathomed. How do a huge majority of voters bid for representatives from one party, and then find themselves stuck with senators from the other? It’s baffling, but I think it has something to do with the Electoral College system of redistributing votes so that each state gets 2 Senators, regardless of the actual size of the voting population. The idea that America is a plural democracy is a joke, given the ease with which local administrations run by corrupt party apparatchiks can perfectly legally cheat, to rig their own election.)

While Mr Trump continues so blatantly to abuse his powers to re-engineer both the Justice department and the courts, and fires many senior FBI officials, he ensures that there is not the slightest chance that, whatever the mountain of evidence against him, he will ever go to trial for all the bad things he has done with impunity throughout his life.

And even while he continues his campaign to undermine the credibility of the media, to which he owes possibly his entire shitty existence, to bully them into subservience, many normal people still cling to the hope that the most horrible, isolationist President since Nero can at least be removed from office before his term expires.

I respectfully submit, that is not going to happen either.

*It’s unlikely the revered 85-year-old liberal, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg can carry on much longer, after breaking three ribs in a fall.

 

Art of the Steal

* In a story in The Guardian, 09 Nov., Donald Trump’s new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, “was involved in a company that scammed US military veterans out of their life savings, according to court filings and interviews.

“Several veterans, two of them with disabilities, said they lost tens of thousands of dollars in the WPM scam, having been enticed into paying for patenting and licensing services by the impressive credentials of Whitaker and his fellow advisers.”

What they actually got was “a bad quality drawing and logo that my grandson could have made”, according to one disabled veteran who paid $14 thousand to obtain support to register a fishing-tackle invention.

Do we hear echoes of the phony “Trump University” scam, where punters paid up to $30 thousand for a “degree-level” course in real-estate management that consisted of no more than a few pages of “advice” drawn from Mr Trump’s ghostwritten book, Art of the Deal, and a paper certificate?

These fraudsters, shysters, conmen and grifters are completely unashamed. Life is a zero-sum game, there are winners and losers, and it’s generally best to be one of the former.

Or President of the doomed United States.

 

“It would, I suppose, be invidious to say these dumbfucks are just normal Americans”

Just an old sweet song

“Supporters of the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s governor’s race say they still aren’t giving up hope of a win. Stacey Abrams (a black woman) is refusing to concede to Republican Brian Kemp until all votes are counted. Under Georgia election law, a candidate for governor must reach 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. As of early Wednesday, Kemp’s share of the vote stood at 51%.” (BBC, 08 Nov)

This is, of course, the southern state where Secretary Kemp has been accused of suppressing half a million black and latino voters – either removing them from the roll or preventing them from registering – prior to the election. It won’t, of course, make a difference if he wins by a margin of those half a million votes, he’s the guy who would have to order an investigation.

Other, utterly redolent senators, including the racialist from Iowa, Steve King, have also won re-election. Of this much-loved stinker, now elected to his ninth term, Esquire magazine writes:

“King has never had much use for dog whistles or coded language. He simply says and does indisputably hateful things. Over the course of this election year alone, he gave an interview to a publication founded by a Nazi (in Austria, where he met the white nativist “Freedom Party” leader, Jorg Heyder and said Nazis need not feel guilt), endorsed a candidate for Toronto mayor who’s running on a platform of preventing “white genocide,” and said that he wouldn’t want Muslims working in his district’s pork plants”

He has also argued (there are whole webites dedicated to tracking his every utterance, usually with amazement) that:

  • only white people have ever done anything that advanced civilization;
  • whites need to keep their birthrate up (which is why he opposes abortion);
  • “cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end”. He has also:
  • accused President Obama of being a member of al-Quaeda;
  • compared the use of taxpayer money on gender reassignment for U.S. service members to the castration of Ottoman Empire slaves;
  • claimed that the “Dreamers” – children of undocumented migrants enjoying special protection – are all drug mules;
  • ridiculed Emma Gonzalez, teenage survivor of the Parkland school shooting and gun-control campaigner, on his Facebook page;
  • suggested Muslim children are “preventing our civilization from being restored”;
  • complained falsely in an interview that people were supporting an openly gay candidate in California: “I don’t know if they were holding hands, or what was the deal. It’s hard to write a check to those guys when they do that.”
  • displayed a Confederate flag on his desk.

He won by only three points this time, but Iowan voters interviewed spoke of his kindness, his community spirit, his humble origins and how refreshingly he only says what they are thinking.

It would, I suppose, be invidious to say these dumbfucks from Hicksville are just normal Americans, as plainly there are many more normal Americans who are horrified and shamed by this unspeakable individual.

However, there he is, back in Congress thanks to democracy and apple pie, free to say whatever stupid garbage the fuck he likes, whatever liquid shit dribbles from his diseased brain as the death toll from shootings by retards who follow disgusting, expedient people like him continues to mount – another 12 killed today by “a tall man dressed in black”, an ex-marine armed with PTSD (hero, deserves our respect) and a 0.45mm automatic with an illegal magazine, 10 young people out celebrating the election at a country music bar in California dead, a security doorman and a police sergeant shot “multiple times”.

(It seems one of the people killed was a survivor of last year’s massacre at a country music festival in Las Vegas.)

Moronic throwbacks like King* aren’t worth the skin they’re printed on. But he’s only a part of the problem.

Trump, you fat cunt, are you listening? This is you, you repulsive, slimy old thug. Your doing.

Just get out. Go.

*Not to be confused with the good King, Angus, Senator from Maine.

Taking the piss

After five murderous attacks by violent rightwingers in a little over a fortnight, with 30 dead so far, the Trump admin has cut funding to the Homeland Security Department’s anti-radicalization program monitoring white extremism throughout America.

It now has the magnificent total of eight staff and a budget of $3 million.

The worst election result ever?

Lesia Romanov lost her race for Nevada’s 36th Assembly District to pro-Trump candidate Dennis Hof, a reality TV star, convicted pimp and brothel owner, who died last month. (CNBC report)

America, you’re doomed.

 

GW: “Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky…”

Italy: Fierce winds and rains have killed more than 20 people and razed hundreds of hectares of forest in the country’s devastated north. Storms also struck the southern island of Sicily overnight on Saturday, killing 9 in Palermo after their villa was flooded by the swollen Milicia river. One man died after the car he was driving was hit by floodwater, another is missing. More extreme rainfall – up to 20 cm in 24 hrs – is forecast over the weekend.

An 87-year-old woman and a 62-year-old German tourist were killed on Friday after being struck by lightning in Sardinia. In northern Italy: “It’s like after an earthquake,” said the governor of Veneto, Luca Zaia. “Thousands of hectares of forest were razed to the ground, as if by a giant electric saw.” He said 160,000 people in the region were left without electricity, adding that parts of the Dolomites were “reduced to looking like the surface of the moon”. Meteorologists have predicted further wind and torrential rain on Sunday. (from: Guardian)

Update: Tue 6 Nov, more heavy rain has beeen falling over NW Spain and again in northern Italy, where above 1k meters an extra 1 meter of snow is expected. By contrast, eastern Europe and the Baltic states are experiencing up to 15C heat anomaly for early November. Temperature in Tirana, Albania hit 31.3C (88.3F) on Saturday. (Severe-weather.eu)

USA: 2 workers died when part of an Amazon fulfilment center building collapsed in Baltimore, Maryland, during an officially as-yet ‘unconfirmed’ tornado event. Severe storms were in the area at the time. (CNN) 2 more died in tornadoes that hit Florida and Mississippi. A total of 44 tornadoes were officially confirmed by 02 Nov as violent storms broke out over the southeastern states. (CEWN #144)

Update: Tue 5 Nov, more severe storms strike Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, with many tornadoes reported. A deep Arctic freeze-up is forecast to descend over most of the continental United States this week. (Severe-weather.eu)

GW Note: despite news correspondents criss-crossing the US interviewing dumbfucks ad nauseam for election week (I’m sorry you have no money or prospects, neither do I. And don’t count on that steel bonus lasting), I have heard not one mention of the extreme weather that’s been embattling the country all year, with record heat in the west, drought in the cornbelt states, record floods and violent storms in the south and east contributing to what some fear is increasing food insecurity. Climate Change seems to have become one of those afflictions to be borne with immense fortitude, in complete silence.

South Africa: 7 dead in 6,000-hectare wildfire along the Garden Route east of Capetown, following a new heatwave in the drought-stricken Western Cape. (CEWN #144)

Saudi Arabia: death toll in two weeks of flash-flooding following torrential rains reaches 14. (CEWN #144)

Indonesia: 2 dead in flash-flooding around Padang, Sumatra, following torrential rains. (CEWN #144)

Australia‘s special spring weather event continues…

The Sydney Morning Herald reports: “Drier than expected conditions have put Sydney and much of the NSW east coast in severe fire danger, as the city experiences a “low intensity heatwave” on Friday afternoon. A large mass of hot air moving across the state is driving temperatures up towards 40 degrees in some parts, fanned by strong winds above 30km/h. At the peak, the mercury had hit 38.9 degrees at Sydney Airport, Friday (02 Nov). White Cliffs in the far west notched 43.3 C, 110F. A backpacker and a biker died in separate stranding incidents in the Outback in 45 deg. heat. (ABC News). Midsummer in Australia is still almost two months away.

A huge hailstorm near Kundabung in drought-ravaged New South Wales has killed 400 kangaroo and livestock worth AU $40,000. (ABC)

World: With the exception of a small area of Greenland and northern Canada, and a pool of cold air persisting around the Urals, the Global Temperature Anomalies maps and forecasts over the past few days have been showing virtually the whole planet up to 8 degrees C. warmer than average; with, in particular, hotspots over the north pole. (CEWN #144, drawing on Climate Reanalyzer data) Pushed by 170 mph winds from remnantTyphoon Yutu, sea surface temperature anomalies were recorded as high as as 7.1°C (or 12.7°F) in the Bering Strait on October 15. (Arctic News)

Frackin’ news

Oil-well operator Roan Resources has decided to shut down its fracking operations – permanently – following a M3.4 earthquake felt by long-suffering residents around Bridge Creek, Oklahoma. Earthquakes in the vastly extensive fracking zones of Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas have been getting exponentially more powerful as time has gone on, with growing evidence of destabilizing damage to the Earth’s crust.

End of….

There’s a peculiar new post on the Arctic News “Sam Carana” website, dated 04 Nov. It purports to show that a straight-line extrapolation along the famous “doomsday” graph trending from 15 minutes before midnight in 1991 towards the mythical hour of doom, as determined annually by the international Atomic Scientists’ committee, now standing at 2 minutes of 12, takes us directly to the same potential runaway extinction territory in 2021 that some climate scientists have been shyly warning us about for a few years now.

Just sayin’.

 

 

Okay, so there’s a bit more than there was, with clouds…! A cold night in… It stinks… Mr Porky-pies… It stinks worse… In Local News… GW: But clouds got in my way

It’s against the law in New York City to own a duck.

 

SHAMELESS.

A cold night in

“I thought about writing something dismissive with reference to the glorious late October sunshine…”

So, I was tempted to do my usual thing, trolling idiots on YouTube comment threads.

Usually it’s climate-change deniers. Kids in stinky bedrooms and dumpster-divers in hostels and piss-stained sofa dwellers in grimy basements; contrarians who think they’re really smart putting one over on the libtards, regurgitating the ludicrous myths put about for decades by the PR people for the ‘nergy bidness.

What was it Trump said about Republicans being too dumb to vote?

it’s just natural warming, up ‘n’ down, happens all the time. It’s the sun cycle, we’re in a Grand Solar Minimum, a Kondratieff wave…. It’s really an ice age. It stopped warming in 1999. The planets are all on one side of the sun. It’s volcanoes, earthquakes, eclipses, chemtrails, geoengineering, Planet Nibiru – stuff falling in the sea making the sea-level rise. Biblical prophesy. Plants will eat all the CO2, it’s good for them, we’ll have more food. We’ll capture and bury the rest of the CO2 using clean coal. It’s not poisonous, anyway. We can pump sshiny stuff in the air, reflect the sunlight (away from the food crops? Don’t think so. Ed). Nothing to see, just a Chinese hoax; scientists chasing bigger grants; governments levying ‘green taxes’ to make us non-taxpayers poorer, take away our guns.

But sometimes it’s climate-change accepters writing piteously about terrible extreme weather events occurring where I live, when I know they’re not.

Mostly those stories come via the editor of the Daily Express.

And yesterday I read that the UK is being plunged into an Arctic freezer-box, and I thought about writing something dismissive with reference to the glorious late October sunshine we’ve been having, warm and welcoming under blue skies.

Then just now I took Hunzi out for his late-night walk to the bridge and back.

Reader, I am wearing a T-shirt under a lightweight sweater under a heavy fleece under a Gore-tex lined and padded overcoat, plus a sheepskin cap with earflaps, acquired from a supplier somewhere in the trackless snowy wastes of Canada (‘Made in Turkey’) where they know a bit about cold weather.

And I can barely walk, I am so cold my teeth are chattering and the air is condensing in a cloud around me. Cold, seeping up from the very ground, through the thin rubber soles of my tennis shoes, is turning my legs to unfeeling pipes of non-compliance. I urge Hunzi to get on with his piss-sniffing and hurry on home, where it’s really no warmer

Sadly I cannot afford both to heat my home and drink wine, so it’s almost as cold inside as it is out. Having to leave a window for Cats doesn’t help. I go to bed with everything on but my pants and shoes – yes, even wearing the hat – wrapped in an extra fleece blanket.

Yet I am sure if you go into the town centre, it will still be teeming with raucous party girls in skimpy boob-tubes and microskirts, and cool young dudes brazening it out in sleeveless Freddy Mercury vests and shorts, showing off their tattoos and their rippling abs, all trying to get laid before they make it illegal.

Maybe a tattoo or two would keep me warm through the coming ice age?

It stinks

Okay, here’s one. Andrew Wheeler, the profoundly corrupt Scott Pruitt’s supposedly less corrupt replacement at the US Environmental Protection Agency, has passed an edict.

The “Normal Odor Rule” removes the existing requirement for factory farms, of which there are many, many thousands, to report incidences of environmental contamination to the EPA, or even to inform local residents that their air or water has become contaminated.

Such incidences, he advises, are merely “normal odors” that should not be subject to harmful regulation.

Just lettin’ ya know. (Source TYT/Ring of Fire channel)

Meanwhile as he pretends to be sending thousands upon thousands of troops to the Mexican border with orders to shoot any refugees who throw stones (an illegal measure: the US Army is banned by law from engaging in civilian policing operations on US territory) the Pentagon’s assessment of the threat from Trump’s terrifying caravan of invaders: brown people and middle eastern terrorists, drug dealers and criminals, many of them under five years old, has been leaked to Newsweek magazine.

Basically, the Army’s position is, there is no threat. Less than 20 percent are expected to ever reach the US border; they are at least 800 miles, or six weeks’ walk, away; there are no middle eastern terrorists. (Plus, of course, there are already 20 thousand ICE and Border Patrol agents doing their job; while without drug smugtglers, the economy would probably collapse.) Also, media reports suggest, there is no smallpox (a Fox News conspiracy theory – smallpox was eradicated worldwide in the 1980s) or leprosy among the desperate migrants.

It is all a big, fat, shameless Trump lie, at your – the taxpayer’s – expense.

And going on past form, once the elections are over next week he will tell an interviewer from the Fake News media, an Enemy of the People: sure, I made it up, but we won, didn’t we?

Just like he did when the entitled, Ivy League fratboy and multiply accused incontinent sex-pest, the temperamentally unstable and (according to a letter signed by 1,400 law professors) legally unfit, redfaced, beer-drinkin’ Justice Kavanaugh was finally loaded onto the Supreme Court, and Trump admitted that the lies he’d told about Dr Blasey Ford, the vicious character assassination he engaged in, the suppression of the FBI investigation had all helped to get his boy over the line, so what? Another win for Donny. Do we ever get fed up of winning?

And the dumbfucks will take that and go on believing this degenerate, self-serving, criminal liar, this purulent, overly made-up, pig-ignorant proto-fascist from whom the unbearable stench of amoral expediency is just “normal odor”, was sent by God to clean-up America. (Source: MSNBC)

Those who are suffering most, however, are Trump staffers fleeing the building. TV station CNN has imposed a ban on hiring anyone connected with the Trump administration on the grounds that they can’t be trusted to tell the truth.

 

Mr Porky-pies

Trump’s lie counter since he took office is approaching 6.5 thousand, according to the special fact-checking unit at the Washington Post. He told 1,100 lies or made other false or mistaken assertions during October alone, an average of over 30 a day. (CNN)

The biggest one after the ‘caravan invasion’ he’s been called out on, he’s told his dumbfucks many times at rallies how proud he is of his own, very wonderful idea that he signed into law just this summer, providing for veterans to be able to seek healthcare from a different company if their condition isn’t dealt with by their own insurer within 30 days.

That law was actually signed by President Obama in 2014. (MSNBC)

 

It stinks worse

The UK Home Office is not fit for purpose and should be broken up into separate, accountable areas of responsibility.

We have crises in policing and immigration that Home Office officials have proved time and again, they are neither competent nor fit to manage; preferring instead to rely on the insouciant lies of press officers and misinformation provided to ministers by civil servants. And in five months’ time they will have to administer a new Customs and Excise regime that is nowhere near ready as the Government is still unable to define what it will be after we exit the EU next March.

Remember when David Cameron announced magnanimously that we were going to take in 3,000 unaccompanied “vulnerable” child refugees from Syria? It didn’t seem very many, considering the 10 thousand Jewish kids we extracted from Nazi Europe in1938. But it was something.

And remember how, after the Daily Mail had finished lying that the first “children” were really adults, the number was cut by that fucking ghastly hag, the vicar’s daughter at the Home Office, to 480, just to garner votes from the gum-gnashing Dacre fanbase, most of whom are already mercifully dead, and the “Tommy Robinson” crowd?

So, take a guess how many we’ve resettled in the last two years? Go on, guess.

Four hundred? Three hundred? A hundred and ten?

Twenty.

Two-zero.

But it’s estimated that 7 thousand children have gone missing from unofficial camps in France and elsewhere, many trafficked into slavery or prostitution, while Home Secretary Sajid Javed (the name bespeaks some immigrant status of his own. Go home, Mr Javed) stands by and twiddles his bloodstained thumbs, whistling at the sky and counting his happy racist voters.

This country under the Conservatives has become a stinking moral pariah; a tacky seaside pier with rotten supports, that is about to come crashing down on the next tide.

And the idiots go on voting for it.

(Source: Guardian, 03 Nov. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/03/uk-admits-only-20-unaccompanied-child-refugees-in-two-years)

 

And in local news…

“Aldi, the award-winning discount food retailer, is preparing a proposal to redevelop the currently vacant land in Boglington-on-Sea with a new, high-quality food store.” (Reads the press release printed verbatim in the local rag, followed by a series of clearly invented ‘reader’ Comments all marvelling at the wondrous tidings and praising Aldi to the skies.)

“An Aldi food store would provide a new store in a convenient and accessible location, bringing high-quality produce at discounted prices to the whole community. A store at this location would help to keep spending local and allow residents to do their food shopping without travelling out of the area.”

So, good news. Once you pass the Morrison’s superstore in the retail park on the edge of town, keep going a quarter of a mile down the road and there’s this really local Aldi (artist’s impression) on a vacant lot, and 200 yards further on there’s a large Tesco and a Marks & Spencer food hall (where they pulled down the elderly people’s daycare centre built only eight years earlier), and then a few hundred yards further into town where there are two Spar stores, one of them with 24-hour opening, and on the hill on your left a Co-Op and another Spar and on the opposite hill a large if unappealing CQ Foodstore and between the hills, next door to one another in what would have made a nice central town square but is just a fucking huge car park, there’s an Iceland and a Lidl.

So now thank heavens we can heave a sigh of relief. We can ignore all those news reports about failing retailers in the age of Ocado, we no longer need to fly to Tasmania to do our food shopping, or have stuff delivered from Krasnoyarsk… for now, for the first time in our lives we are allowed not to leave the area to do our food shopping, allowed not to travel 20 miles to the next nearest Tesco, Co-Op, etcetera!

Bless you, Aldi, for this, your environmentally sustainable beneficence.

And I’m just dying for yet more huge supply lorries to belt past my house day and night at speeds considerably in excess of the 30 mph limit, ripping up the road surface, which has to be re-laid every three years.

Our only hope is, this is the third or the fourth time I’ve seen this same story from Aldi about the same old brownfield site in the last 14 years.

What’s the German for ‘wankers’?

Citizen journalism

On our walk, Hunzi and I have an unfortunate encounter with the local gossip-merchant, who stoppeth one of two to brief me at inordinate length on the latest doings, usually of people I have never heard of and have no interest in.

One such is his neighbour, who got off a charge of raping his 12-year-old granddaughter, or some such, thanks to some adroitly brutal cross-examination of the child by an evil barrister. I think that must have been some years ago as he has told me about it in gory detail several times before.

I’m pleased to hear, too, that our local MP has also been given an extraordinarily light sentence for downloading child pornography but has to wear an electronic tag for five years. That one didn’t make it into the mainstream media, and I find no reference to it on Google either, or on the party website, so we’ll give it a pass.

A former neighbor of mine who twice threatened me with a shotgun over my contractor spraying his Japanese knotweed, but subsequently broke his neck when an old motorcycle he had tried to repair exploded, throwing him into the air, has happily recovered. A man I don’t know who drove a three-wheeler, however, has died.

I learn that for the past four years I could have been claiming a free TV licence, although I am not yet 75, which is the usual age for the concession to operate, provided I was in receipt of Pension Credit; and that the Jobcentre is paying people directly to work for local employers three days a week for nothing.

A retired policeman he knows, a very nice man, had a wife who moved out lock, stock and barrel while he was out at work, leaving him only a can of peas on the stairs. The burger van unofficially parked in the football field car park, owned by foreigners, was broken into two days ago.

Finally, I am treated to a list of his relatives and acquaintances who seem to be benefiting from State largesse on an improbable scale, while living in rent-free social housing. One such has a £700 a week disability allowance but has been seen out shopping with heavy bags.

I don’t know whether to let my envy simmer, or pop along for some benefits advice to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, to which he helpfully gives me directions, although he cannot remember what it is called.

And finally…

I have just eaten a £4 box of KitKat ‘Senses’ chocolates at two sittings and am feeling sick.

 

GW: But clouds got in my way

Italy: “The death toll from fierce storms battering Italy has risen to 9 (now 11) as wild autumn weather swept across many parts of Europe. Roads were blocked and thousands of people were left without power in southern and central Europe, as rain and violent (110 mph) winds sparked flooding and tore up trees. Heavy snow fell in mountainous areas of France and Italy, trapping scores of drivers in their cars and tourists in hotels. Venice was inundated by near-record flooding and tourists were barred from St Mark’s Square on Monday as local authorities said the high water peaked at 156cm. The water level has only topped 150cm five times before in recorded history.” (from: Guardian). Rome was hit with a massive hailstorm, streets turned to rivers of ice, etc. Meanwhile it was hot enough in the north to spark a huge wildfire near Belluno.

Day after day here, the sky is like a foam bath and seems unnaturally blue. How low does physics say they can hang?

France: “More than 1,000 drivers were trapped in their cars for the night in the mountains of the Massif Central region as snowstorms engulfed the roads. Another 400 had to spend the night in train carriages at the main station in the eastern city of Lyon after heavy snow blocked the tracks. About 195,000 homes were without power across mainland France, most of them in eastern and central regions. Another 21,000 homes lost power on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, which was placed on red alert on Monday for powerful winds, shutting its airports and ports.” (from: Guardian)

Obviously, the idiots hadn’t read my previous Post where I warned them about all this. But a meter of snow in the Alps again this year (remember the 13,000 tourists trappen in Chamonix last year?) doesn’t mean there’s an ice age coming: between the cold regions is a heatwave. Severe-weather.eu sums it up: “a very intense cold core resulting in extremely cold weather across eastern Iberia, S France and western Mediterranean. Ahead of the low and frontal system, extremely warm airmass is being advected across the Balkan peninsula into eastern Europe. With temperatures 10-12 °C warmer than average, an extremely warm afternoon for late October is expected in the lowlands and also mid-levels.”

“The weather pattern is now in place for a severe torrential rainfall event across the central Mediterranean. Areas around the Tyrrhenian sea and the area between Sicily and Tunisia will receive extreme amounts of rainfall. Additionally, severe thunderstorms are expected, with the potential for large hail, severe straight line winds and tornadoes.” (Severe-weather.eu, Friday 02 Nov)

I’ve not seen any reports of how the boat-people are faring amid all this chaos in the Med? Not very well, would be my guess.

Philippines: At least 15 people have been killed and dozens more are missing after Typhoon Yutu hit the Philippine on Tuesday, say authorities. The deaths were mostly due to landslides caused by heavy rains in the mountainous region of Cordillera in the northern part of the country, said the national disaster risk reduction management council. (Guardian) Downgraded to a TD, Yutu is headed for the Chinese mainland.

Paraguay: Over 10,000 people have been displaced in the capital, Asunción, by flooding from the Paraguay River. Further rain and flooding is expected, with more flooding and evacuations likely. (Floodlist)

Sudan: “Torrential rain and ensuing floods that started on Wednesday evening (31 Oct) are still continuing and hindering life in a number of places in Red Sea state. 1 man drowned in the eastern part of Port Sudan. 5 others sustained injuries when they attempted to cross streets in the city and were swept away by floods. In Arbaat, north of Port Sudan, the water and electricity supply halted. Hundreds of livestock and poultry drowned. Residents expressed fears that the flooding and the cadavers would lead to a health disaster.” (from Floodlist)

Hot-air balloon race at sunset… (Photo ©01 Nov, 2018)

Jordan: Civil Defence authorities said that at least 21 people died as a result of flooding in Zarqa Ma’in. The victims were in a bus that was swept away by flood water, according to local media. Flooding also destroyed a bridge on the Dead Sea Cliffs. Around 35 people were rescued and several are thought to be still missing. Qatar, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia have all been hit with torrential rain and flash-floods in the last few days. (Floodlist)

Russia: At least 6 people have died and 1 missing in flooding that has affected parts of Krasnodar Krai region of southwestern Russia (on the Black Sea coast) over the last few days. Around 30 villages and towns, as well as the cities of Tuapse and Sochi have been affected by the high waters caused by heavy rains that hit the area from 24 October. Electricity and running water supplies have been interrupted, as have local train services. Some roads have been damaged and a bridge along the Tuapse-Maikop highway destroyed. Warnings have been issued for further severe weather, including thunderstorms, hail and winds over the next few days. (Floodlist)

Australia: With hot desert air pushing into the south, Adelaide could top out at 36C today (01 Nov) while parts of Sydney could exceed 38C on Friday. Inland areas of South Australia, NSW and Queensland could be even hotter, exceeding 40C. Experts have now issued fire warnings across the country as gusty conditions combine with temperatures which are tipped to be 10C above average. Early in the week, severe storms could drench Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart, Tasmania. (from News.com.au)

Scotland: is expecting severe gales from the outer bands as Post-Tropical Storm, formerly Hurricane Oscar, passes north of Cape Wrath on its way to clobber the Faroe Islands this weekend. (Severe-weather.eu)

Visuals: Climate & Extreme Weather News #142, #143: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FIi4m0Pr3M&t=1066s

 

The Terminal Beach….

Yellowstone: Steamboat #25… a record, again – and the biggest eruption so far this year lasting two hours, of the largest geyser in the park, that normally manages only one or two wet farts in an entire year. Accompanied by earthquakes, multiple smaller geyser eruptions, continuing ground vibration, ‘drumbeats’, ground uplift and mysteriously missing or fudged USGS data. Also, somebody went through her garbage cans… .(M. Greeley)

Armaggedon: The Trump administration is trying to push through an additional $90 million in funding for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, the two-year-old special division tasked with saving the world from a major asteroid impact. Conspiracy theorists are asking, what’s the rush? This old cynic thinks it looks more like concealed funding for Trump’s loony-tunes Space Wars program. So far, the Japanese have had most success in actually landing on an asteroid and doing stuff that works. But fear not, the Hollywood plan to nuke anything over 140 meters is not the object: just a nudge will do, apparently. There are thought to be 25 thousand asteroids that size that could eventually impact the Earth. (Politico)

Clouds: another day of bright sunshine and those bright, blobby clouds are back shoaling again (see below, and two days ago, above). They’re a daily occurrence, together with this unnaturally blue sky, like it’s been painted on, unless it’s completely overcast and rainy. You know, I should not be surprised to meet one coming along the cycle path at head-height through our park. Indeed, I shouldn’t be at all surprised if it spoke to me… they seem to have characters all their own, and so low-hanging. I wondered if there is a physical limit to how low these type of clouds can get? Some seem no higher than maybe 400 feet up. What do they want from us?

It’s the first of November and our famous local starling clouds are back! Maybe not in such great numbers as I have seen them before, but an encouraging display of synchronised aerial draughtsmanship as thousands came home to roost under the pier yesterday at sunset. Several have discovered my bird table, too, dammit. Poor sparrows!

UK: A comparison exercise by the Meteorological Office shows that on a range of indicators the average temperature in the UK has risen by 0.89 degrees C since the 1970s. Shorter frost periods, warmer winters, hotter hot days, longer heatwaves, more ‘tropical nights’ when the temperature doesn’t fall anywhere below 20C and heavier rainfall totals, they say, are all consistent with predictions of global warming. Well done, chaps.

Your Gran reported recently that the river management authority here just installed a new gauge, that’s six feet higher than the previous one. I was just out there yesterday by the monitoring station and watched a group of young guys in waterproofs and safety gear staging a rescue exercise in the water. They had a brand-new shiny red van marked “Flood & River Rescue Service” towing a smart new Zodiac inflatable with a big outboard.

This is a river whose level is supposedly managed from a hydropower barrage upstream. Do they know something we don’t? Should I sell?

“I shouldn’t be surprised if one spoke to me….” (Photo ©01 Nov, 2018)

The Mothership returns… (Photo ©01 Nov, 2018)