Grenfell, a bonfire of the sanities… We can’t hear you, Mr Secretary – a letter to Rex Tillerson… Fore!… GW: warming her gnarly fingers by the light of the burning windmills… Dissertation: On the Tedium of Buying Stuff From Builders’ Merchants.

Two thousand liters of water are needed to produce just one kilo of avocados. – Guardian

This may explain why Avi, my avocado tree, has yet to produce fruit. She’s lucky to get a couple of pints a week…

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Grenfell

A bonfire of the sanities

It is clearly not good enough nowadays to know what you are talking about.

Any “expert” who fails to court the approval of the Sun newspaper and the rag-tag and bobtail herd of self-publicizing, technologically unsophisticated and overpromoted windbag MPs is doomed to be ground to dust and scattered to the winds of history.

The BogPo has previously noted how the aptly named Professor Nutt, among the world’s leading experts on the neurological effects of recreational drugs, lost his post as head of a commission set up to review the regulatory framework when he published a scientifically determined recommendation that certain drugs could safely be declassified to save policing costs and cut the prison population, thereby incurring the predictable wrath of a scientifically unqualified but clearly panic-stricken Home Secretary.

Then there was the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland, who sensibly proposed abandoning an almost entirely fruitless and seemingly unending inquiry into the 30-years-old crimes committed during The Troubles, ordered in the wake of the Good Friday agreement to bring “closure” to victims’ families, as it was badly draining police resources sorely needed to fight today’s crimes. That cost him his job in a welter of Cameronian outrage.

You would think that these so-called “experts” would know better than to make sensible suggestions based on advanced knowledge and years of research. Would it not make perfect sense to save money by not having an education system at all, but to put children to work in call-centres?

(Subsequently a number of MPs have called for the Northern Ireland investigations to carry on, while demanding the inquiry overlook the clandestine role of the security services in well-publicized political assassinations. There clearly needs to be one law for the baddies and another for the good killers. It’s an insult to our brave boys to pursue them for their murky conspiracies after all this time. After all, there was a war on.*)

So, this morning a report is published by a leading engineer and public safety specialist, looking into the use and application of the building regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

This was not the fabled, judge-led “inquiry” into how 72 people came to lose their lives in that towering inferno, which hasn’t even started yet, but merely a supportive technical report into building safety, human accountability and the regulatory environment.

Before anyone could possibly have read, let alone understood all 350 densely argued technical pages, the media and politicians – experts all – were stridently demanding the head of Dame Judith Hackett on a platter for failing, seemingly, to do the obvious thing.

Scrap 349 pages of the report and use Page One to call for an immediate ban on the filthy stuff: yes, killer cladding….

Cladding helped spread the fire. But was its use already banned?

Never mind that there are already explicit legal controls on the use of flammable materials in high-rise buildings. Controls that are not being properly enforced, as Dame Judith cogently reports, with local authorities, architects and builders cutting corners and costs. The point being that they need to be properly enforced through a thorough overhaul of the systems for specifying, testing and applying these materials safely, making certain people accountable for failures at every stage of the planning and construction process.

It’s not a cladding issue, so much as an enforcement problem. And Dame Judith argues that until the regulations are more tightly enforced and people made accountable, no amount of banning is going to help.

Tell that to the Marines, as they used to say.

Dame Judith is a serious academic and so failed completely to comprehend her role in all of this, which was simply to go along with the unlettered emotional demands of the lawyers, survivors and families of the victims of the fire, the media and Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey, and BAN the filthy stuff, whatever it is.

Just magic it away.

Why they don’t get sick-bitch Katie Hopkins or Trevor fucking Kavanagh of The Sun or Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee of The Guardian to handle these investigations – “experts” who understand that the real issues  are too much immigration, too little social equality, Tory indifference – is not immediately obvious.

It didn’t help either that, when asked three times on BBC Radio 4’s Today show why she did not call for a ban on flammable cladding and solve all of the problem forever, as if Martha Kearney was the only one who had thought of it, Dame Judith stupidly tried three times to explain that banning it was not really the solution.

Sometimes people are too clever for their own good.

It does not help that she is a former director of the Energy Saving Trust, an organization that in the past promoted the use of a similar type of plastic cladding insulation to that which contributed its toxic fumes to the high death toll at Grenfell House. (Guardian report)

Notwithstanding, the regulations already state that it must not be used on high-rise buildings, and Dame Judith’s point is that someone had been responsible for ignoring the regulations, while others had failed to implement safety measures recommended by previous inquiries, such as the mandatory retrofitting of sprinklers, which certain politicians still in office had determined would be too expensive to waste on the poor. Banning polyisocyanurate foam (PIR), she argues, will not help if people were simply going to break the rules.

A subtle distinction which, I fear, does not lend itself to the construction of crowd-pleasing headlines and sensible political statements free from electioneering and media-driven hysteria, pandering to the general ignorance of the public, promoting further socially damaging mistrust of people who do at least know what they’re talking about.

*

*By one of those astonishing synchronicities for which The BogPo is justly famed, this story resurfaced in the news just 24 hours after I posted the paragraph above about Northern Ireland, and in pretty much the same format as the original, in 2014:

Prosecutions for Troubles-related murders should be brought to a halt, according to Northern Ireland’s former Director of Public Prosecutions. Barra McGrory denounced proposals for a new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) as “convenient politically”. But he added it had not been properly thought through. In response a UK government spokesman said it was “committed to building widespread consensus and delivering better outcomes”. (BBC News)

Let’s see how long McGrory lasts. Longer than this government, one hopes.

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A Letter to Rex Tillerson

Former US Secretary of State, retd.

Dear Mr Secretary

You were, I believe, the Secretary of State for the United States government in 2017 exactly a year ago, when President Trump made his much-hailed visit to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia – and then on to Tel Aviv, the erstwhile capital of Israel?

And the Secretary of State is, correct me if I am wrong, the senior diplomat, consulting on and implementing, if not always driving foreign policy?

Trump waggles his weapon. Was Qatar shafted to the hilt?

I am wondering therefore how you have responded, in your reserved and private fashion, to the emerging news of what might have happened, there in Riyadh and afterwards?

I am referring, obviously in the first instance (we’ll leave Israel out of it for now), to the Qatar affair.

For it seems that while you were supposedly in command of international diplomacy, the following narrative was playing out, very probably without your knowledge.

Qatar, Mr Trump assured us at the time of his visit, was a good friend of the USA and a key ally in the fight against ISIS. He met the Emir, vague promises of $billions in military sales were made for the cameras – it should be remembered that Qatar already hosts the biggest US military base in the Middle East, al Udeid, the forward operations headquarters of Centcom.

On the basis of what is currently suspected rather than definitively known, however, behind the young Emir’s back – and apparently yours, Mr Secretary –  Mr Trump was doing – or soon afterward did – one of his famous “deals” with the Saudis.

The assumption has to be, does it not, that he offered to abrogate the Iran nuclear pact in exchange for certain services?

(He is, as you well know, apart from Messrs Bolton and Pompeo, two convenient anti-Iran “hawks” he appointed to the senior security and foreign policy posts in his administration just before announcing US withdrawal, the only person in the foreign policy establishments of more than half the world who thinks it is a good idea to abandon the Iran treaty.)

The deal, I believe, was much as follows:

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would agree to put intolerable pressure on Qatar to meet certain, may we say incoherent, objectives. Economic and trade sanctions, a blockade of essential supplies, closure of the Al Jazeera news services, even the threat of military invasion were threatened. America would not be directly involved, but would explicitly support those actions.

Mr Trump in turn would make speeches to his not very bright support base, accusing Qatar of this and that, being a major funder of global terrorism, a secret ally of Iran, etc., etc., undermining their global credibility – especially that of their wealthy international investment community, to whom his comments were clearly addressed.

But why pick on poor little oil-rich Qatar?

Meantime, Mr Charles Kushner, father of Trump’s son-in-law and “senior White House advisor” in charge of Middle East peace negotiations, the incompetent Jared, had – it’s reported – been lobbying the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, touting for a half-billion dollar investment to bail out his failing property empire.

The Kushners were desperate for cash.

In 2007, while Kushner Sr was in gaol over fraud and witness tampering charges – he sexually blackmailed his own brother-in-law – left in charge, dimwitted Jared had done a hasty and ill-considered deal to acquire a massive piece of Manhattan real estate, 666 Fifth Avenue, and had caught a serious cold with the financial meltdown that year, incurring debts approaching two billion dollars. He’s never recovered.

Chinese banks had originally offered rescue finance, but withdrew. On that basis, Qatar felt the Kushners’ credit was not good enough, and also withdrew. Two weeks later, the threats from Riyadh began; boosted in April this year by a further threat, directly from Washington, to relocate the al Udeid airbase to another country.

But now, by a fantastic stroke of luck, or in a sensible and informed change of heart, the New York Times reports, having granted Saudi Arabia its reward, not to mention Israel, Mr Trump is once again hailing Qatar as an important friend and ally, the UAE is backing off and all’s right with the world.

A sudden and, observes MSNBC News, a remarkable turnaround.

While Kushner Companies are presumably celebrating the news from Bloomberg that the Qatari sovereign wealth fund is “looking again“ at the many obviously advantageous opportunities presented by becoming a part-owner of Manhattan’s most prestigious, near-empty office block.

Could it be there’s a connection? Nah, it’s too far-fetched. Preposterous!

A building, incidentally, over the marketing of hard-to-shift units within which Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump were to be indicted for sales misrepresentation – until Mr Trump’s election, when the charge simply melted away, along with all the District Attorneys in New York.

Mr Secretary, I wonder what you think of this criminal shakedown of a sovereign nation by the most corrupt US president in history? A nation which, we might mention, competes aggressively for major real estate deals around the world?

To bend US government policy to the fraudulent acquisition of public wealth might in some unimaginable but possibly plausible universe at least have benefited the nation.

But to conspire to extort foreign finance purely for the private benefit of his own son-in-law, a government official to boot; to blackmail and threaten the existence of a sovereign nation, to risk a regional war leading to a greater conflagration and the security of a major US military facility purely for a sum of money which Mr Trump has extensively boasted he has in his own bank accounts, and much more, is surely a criminal and treasonous enterprise worthy of condign punishment?

Will you please, Mr Tillerson, for God’s sake and that of your benighted Republic, speak up about what you know, or suspect you know about this squalid “deal”?

We can’t hear you, Mr Secretary.

 

Fore!

And why wouldn’t Trump extort money from little Qatar, when as a quid pro quo he’s ordered his mate Wilbur Ross at the Commerce department to lift sanctions on a giant Chinese telcoms company he previously accused of ripping off US tech firms, when by an amazing coincidence the Bank of China has just agreed a $500 million loan to finance a resort project in Indonesia featuring Trump-branded hotels and golf courses?

Let’s stop pretending, if we ever did, shall we? His modus operandi is becoming clearer by the day: he is abusing the power of his office and the might and global reach of the USA to extort vast sums of money from corporations and even nations for his own personal gain and that of his crime family.

The President of the United States is a big, fucking crook. Not in the usual sense they all have been, one way or another. No, actions speak louder than words. Trump’s methodology is to run the world misusing US foreign policy as one vast protection racket.

And it’s doubtful that even the vast and rambling Mueller probe is going to unseat him, or even prevent him running for and probably winning, a second term in 2020.

Because, like all the best mobsters, Trump is untouchable. His lieutenants may go down, his wheeler-dealing may look heinous, the corruption blatant: but so far, nothing seems to be linking him directly with any actual crimes.

And even if it did, the constitutional issue of whether a President can be indicted for any common criminal activity short of treason remains an open one.

x want to extort money from Qatar

GW: warming her gnarly fingers by the light of the burning windmills

Afghanistan: “At least 40 people have died and 4 injured in flash floods over the last 7 days. Many areas of the country are still struggling with drought conditions after an unusually dry winter. The number of people forced by drought to migrate within the country has reached more than 20,000″ (Edited report from Floodlist, 16 May.) PS: 21May,

An update by Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) of 20 May reported that the total number of flood related deaths now stands at 72. “The flood situation has worsened over the last few days as heavy rain has continued to fall.”

India: “At least 80 people have died as powerful storms swept through northern India, demolishing houses, uprooting trees as winds turned the skies brown with dust and sand, officials said Monday. More storms are expected in the region this week. Less than 2 weeks ago, similar storms caused 134 deaths and injured another 400. The extreme weather comes amid withering summer heat and approaching monsoon rains.” – Wunderground

Sri Lanka: The “Department of Meteorology said that Anamaduwa, Puttalam, North Western Province recorded 35.3  cm of rain (1 ft) in 24 hours to early 21 May.” (Floodlist). Possibly 5 people have died as a result of flooding and landslides as the island is battered by storms, dumping up to 15 cm of rain a day over several days.

“Far East”: US scientists at NOAA are trying to track a major unexplained source of the globally banned ozone-killing refrigeration-to-aerosols chemicals, CFCs, detected as a result of research showing the ozone holes created in the 1980s aren’t repairing themselves fast enough.

S Korea: flash-floods in and around Seoul, 1 dead, 1 missing as 20 cm of rain falls in 36 hours.

Syria: Heavy rainstorms caused flash-floods in parts of the country, including Banias and Aleppo, on 12 May.

NE Africa: A rare tropical cyclone, Sagar is concentrating in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia. Sagar’s main threat is dangerous flash flooding in the deserts of southern Yemen, northern Somalia and Djibouti into the weekend. (The Weather Channel) … “Severe flash flooding and river flooding across the region will lead to a loss of human life, livestock, and the destruction of crops, property and infrastructure. Very heavy rainfall occurring across Western Yemen (linked to, although not directly from the cyclone) is likely to promote cholera infection rates in the weeks ahead.” – (UK Met Office)

16 dead, many missing. On Sunday, forecast models indicated that a disturbance dubbed 92A could develop into an intense hurricane-strength cyclone this week, possibly threatening Oman by late in the week.

N Africa: the town of Setif in Algeria experiences flash-flooding following a heavy rainstorm.

Hold that taiga! Siberia burns, 15 May.

Russia: Vast plumes of smoke are visible from space along the Amur river near Komsomolsk and around Chelyabinsk, blowing towards the Arctic, as Siberia continues to burn out of control after a month of wildfires. (Siberian Times report)

USA: “Severe storms caused major damage in Northeastern USA on 15 May. 2 deaths were reported – one in Newburg, New York, the other in Danbury, Connecticut (where 4 tornadoes, 3 at max. TF-1, touched down on 17 May) – as a result of falling trees. Almost 400,000 people were without power in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Heavy flooding was reported in parts of Maryland, in particular Montgomery and Fredrick counties, where up to 6 inches of rain fell during the storm. Hail up to 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) was also reported.” (Edited report from Floodlist, 16 May. More “severe” storms are forecast for the midwest at the weekend.)

USA: “…the California Energy Commission has unanimously voted to approve measures requiring solar panels on all new homes, condos and multi-family buildings up to three stories high beginning in 2020. The requirement is a historic first in the United States and is in keeping with the state’s ambitious zero net energy goals to reduce greenhouse emissions.” The decision emerged the same day a 350-page report was released, highlighting rapidly accelerating climate change in the region. – (The Weather Channel.)

Alabama Senator, Mo Brooks distinguished his Republican self in a committee hearing when, while browbeating a climate scientist, he attributed sea-level rise to rocks and stuff falling into the water, “like the White Cliffs of Dover”…

Colombia: severe thunderstorm inundates Medellin. (CEWN #118)

The scene in Guatemala yesterday (Photo: Red Cross)

Guatemala: 10 cm rain in 24 hrs, floods. 2 dead, 80,000 flooded out. (Floodlist, 19, 21 May)

Europe: It’s been snowing in the highlands of central France, the Alps and over into the Balkans. Up in Scandinavia and northwestern Russia there’s a record spring heatwave, with temperatures in Finland and Sweden touching 30 deg C, 85F. Lapland is bracing for its worst spring thaw floods in decades. Severe thunderstorms and torrential rain have brought flash-flooding to parts of the Netherlands and Germany. The town of Bistransky in Croatia was underwater. (CEWN #118)

Germany: on 16 May, during a powerful storm two people were injured by a huge tornado that hit Viersen, near Dusseldorf. (CEWN #119)

UK: Good news, bad news…. “Britain’s windfarms provided more electricity than its 8 nuclear power stations in the first three months of 2018, marking the first time wind has overtaken nuclear across a quarter. Wind power produced 18.8% of electricity, second only to gas …. At one point overnight 17 March, wind turbines briefly provided almost half of the UK’s electricity.” However…

“Funds going into renewable energy fell more than 50% in 2017, having dropped by 10% in 2016, bringing annual investment in the sector to its lowest since the financial crisis in 2008. The environmental audit committee said (16 May) that the government would be unable to meet its pledges on carbon emission reductions if the collapse continued. The MPs also said the government was failing to implement policies to cut emissions. (Reporting: The Guardian)

As if that were not enough, British Environment Secretary, Michael Gove was summoned to Strasbourg earlier in the year to explain Britain’s failure to do anything much about NOx pollution. “On Thursday morning (17 May), after an apparently unconvincing performance and an extension of the deadline to come up with policies, the UK has now been referred to the European Court of Justice, along with the other big polluters: France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania. The limits set out on air pollution under EU Directive 2008/50/EC had to be met in two stages, by 2005 and 2010, but are still being breached by the referred states as of 2018.” – The Independent.

Insectageddon

Mildly drunk, I’d left some of the dog’s meat out uncovered on the kitchen worktop overnight. This morning it was still there, gently oxidizing, and not a fly to be seen.

Normally after a week of warm sunny weather it’d have turned to fly-egg pie by then. There wasn’t a pregnant bluebottle anywhere in view; not even an egg. It’s late May, and 18 degrees.

Later, I took Hunzi for his usual walk. Apart from a few gnats, I saw no flying insects. No butterflies on the sedum flowers, no bees on the clover. There’s not much out by way of pollen-rich wildflowers, but there’s enough. This time last year we had a minor plague of click-beetles and false-wasps of various kinds feasting on the rotting umbrels of cow-parsley flowers.

No cow-parsley flowers.

Botanists using standard measurements for this and that say Spring is arriving 26 days earlier now than 100 years ago. This year it arrived 26 days late. The last trees – mainly ash – are only just coming into leaf now. Many have abnormal leaf development, while conifers around the sports ground here are massively overproducing cones, often straight out of the bare wood, and the Corsican pines all appear to have developed some kind of browning-off disease.

I think the reason for the lack of insects is not insecticides – we have no commercial or arable farming locally for miles, just sheep. It’s the dislocation of the seasons. Everything evolved in synch, now we have winter arriving in spring, wetter summers colliding with warmer, dryer winters; shorter autumns.

Either that, or it’s those darned chemtrails. Plus, of course, Planet X Nibiru and the Hawaiian volcano.

A propos of which:

“Lava destroyed four more homes and isolated dozens of others in the shadow of the volcano Saturday during a “very active” morning, according to scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. It advanced at rates of up to 300 yards per hour.

“It then entered the Pacific Ocean, forming lava haze, or “laze,” as the hot lava hit the ocean, the Star-Advertiser also reported. Residents were warned to stay away from any ocean plumes, as laze sends steam and hydrochloric acid peppered with fine glass particles into the air.”

22 fissures are now spewing molten lava into the air and a major eruption is still a possibility.

Awesome footage:

weather.com/news/news/2018-05-02-hawaii-kilauea-volcano-activity

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Dissertation

On the Tedium of Buying Stuff From Builders’ Merchants.

When our two nearest branches of the B&Q consumer DIY supplies chain closed two years ago (to “increase our consumer choice”, according to the press release), it left in the town no midrange supplier of useful materials for light amateur building work.

If you needed to buy things like bricks, paviors and fencing panels, timber, doors, paint or sheet materials, the choice came down to, either housewares stores and garden centers stocking none of those items, or the full-blown builders’ and agricultural Trade merchants, with their grudging back-store bins of tools, ironmongery, creosote and useful unexplained small architectural items.

There’s nothing inbetween.

So my new garden wall, all six feet ten of it (it’s taken ten days to get that far) that’s reached its final brick course with just two more bricks still needed – one-and-a-half, actually – and no more cement mortar, was sitting there in the sunshine on a Saturday morning before work (yes, I have work, for now!), inviting me to spend a few hours completing it, had I the requisite supplies (it’s always a fine calculation between ordering too much and too little).

Accordingly, as I wasn’t really needed in an exam room with only ten candidates still sitting, I took an unpaid hour off work to get to a local builders’ merchant I’ve been using for the project in time before they closed – at noon.

Arriving at ten minutes to, I found the front gate half shut. A surly young man warned me to turn around, as they were closing in “two minutes”. Can I have fifty bricks? I asked, having the previous week pre-purchased 250 to finish the wall but, having nowhere they could all be delivered to and stored simultaneously, suggested they hang on to them and I would collect them as needed. “Fifty?” he demanded, incredulously. “But we’re closing now!”

Eventually he relented and started loading the car. There were some other small items needed, but I thought better of going in to the Trade counter and even daring to ask, when obviously they were all hoping to fuck off early, presumably to catch the Royal Wedding… lolz.

This deliberately offensive recalcitrance is just so typical of the builders’ merchants’ anachronistic business model.

It is of course designed to suit the traditional bare-buttocks Trade builder, who doesn’t work weekends. Or doesn’t he? The Ukrainians putting up the 12 million-pound flats next door to my old mum in London worked weekends, evenings too. Drove her barmy. The times, they have a’ changed. Except in the wholesale supply business, obviously.

Who else still closes at 5 p.m. weekdays and noon on Saturdays, just when hardworking householders have done their supermarket shopping and are thinking about getting out and doing stuff around the garden? Here is an obvious consumer market opportunity being missed to suit the recidivist and curmudgeonly jobsworths who populate the building supplies trade.

Usually three or four blokes are hanging around the office area behind the counter, doing what looks suspiciously like nothing much. A phone will be ringing off the wall but no-one takes any notice of it – nor of the two or three crumpled-looking, dust-covered, boiler-suited customers – and you, trying to catch their eye. Instead, the customers catch yours, observing how your lack of a well-filled toolbelt and steel toecapped boots, your unlined face, plaster-dust-free hair and soft hands indicate you’re just another householder imagining you can do a man’s job and thereby save yourself a pittance.

Huh, little do you know!

One sales assistant will be listlessly doing something on an aged computer running Windows 6; another making tea, a third drinking his slowly. A fourth will be laboriously browsing through a trade catalog to find the price of the thing someone asked for, half an hour ago. None will actually be assisting.

Every request is greeted with much sucking of teeth and rolling of eyes. “Ooh, dunno mate, was it the triple-flanged 4 mil. squiggled wonkin you was wanting, or just the double? Only they don’t make those in brown anymore, purple do you?…”

Endless forms will be generated in triplicate, to be taken along by hand to the warehouse, way across the nine-tenths empty yard, as proof of purchase, plus VAT, where three more blokes doing nothing much will scan them for several long minutes before emitting deep sighs of frustration. “You want it cut to length? Here’s a saw…” Later, they will all guffaw over your CCTV footage.

It’s like finding yourself back in the early 1960s.

How do they do it? B&Q would have been open until 8 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Even the local recycling center, with its bolshy operatives and Hitlerian foreman is open on a Sunday. With five builders’ merchants in and around the town it’s a miracle how at least four haven’t gone out of business years ago, owing to their infuriatingly lackadaisical approach to customer service and short supplies of almost everything.

Yet miraculously they survive, while the Bs & Qs of this world are increasingly going under. Overpriced and poor quality, it’s no wonder we can’t build affordable homes that don’t leak.

I’d guess the key is, don’t try to be a supermarket unless you’re a supermarket. Builders’ merchants have understood the principle well, and there they still are, curse them, sitting on their grim industrial estates, resolutely closed at every opportunity.

The British love and deserve nothing better than to be monumentally frustrated, a service the builders’ merchants deliver with aplomb.

 

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A New World Order… The Presidency racket… GW: Still blowin’ hot and cold.

“Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, courage, and moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J Trump.” Washington’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, kissing furry golden ass on the occasion of the repurposing of the US consulate in Jerusalem as a monstrous standing provocation to the stalled Middle East peace effort.

“Welcome to England, Mr President…”

A New World Order

“Re-imposing sanctions on Iran will create the greatest division between Europe and the U.S. since the Iraq War, Mark Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies office in Washington, told me. “Only this time it will be worse, since not a single European state sides with the U.S. on this matter.” Beyond Europe, American credibility worldwide “will go down the tubes,” he said. “Who will ever want to strike a deal with a country that, without cause, pulls out of a deal that everyone else knows has been working well?” – Robin Wright, in The New Yorker magazine, 10 May.

Perhaps somebody could make the same point to Theresa May and the treacherous little shits and Russian-cash-soaked millionaires behind the Brexit plot?

That blithely tearing up 45 years’ worth of carefully negotiated and complex international manufacturing, trade and customs agreements, safety standards, environmental controls and workers’ and consumers’ rights with our European partners – and hence, the wider trade networks with 60 countries more easily accessed through the EU – sent a signal to every country in the world that “perfidious Albion” is just a bunch of  embittered fantasists and amoral hooligans who cannot be trusted to stick to our agreements and stand by our allies, ever again.

Sadly, it seems to be symptomatic of a new world order in which greed, caprice, emotion and whimsy rule in an atmosphere of celebratory ignorance and anti-intellectualism, encouraged and funded by a new, largely hidden elite of unelected data capitalists and money-movers whose interests lie mainly in breaking apart the democratic consensus and pulling down its institutions. Those – and attempting through amassing vast personal wealth to escape the lethal consequences of the self-interest of previous generations of capitalists.

Much of what we do see is sleight-of-hand: distraction and deflection, setting up straw targets manufactured from the tropes of past conflicts: class warfare is back on the agenda, with a leavening of stirred-up racial tensions; as now with Israeli dissembling over their actions in Syria – the old, childish game of “Oh, but THEY started it!” – is the prospect of a genuine war we seem too apathetic and bored to stop.

And who benefits? Yawn… just watch the price of oil.

 

“… he doesn’t like them earning money at his expense”

The Presidency racket

The Cohen affair in the USA has gone way beyond the Stormy Daniels payment.

Allegations are swirling around the possible creation of a secret $5 million slush fund run by Cohen, the President’s closest legal advisor, built up from payments by industrialists buying access to the White House and sanctioned Russian oligarchs seeking relief and a safe haven for their dirty money.

Outed by the media (which Mr Trump has again been vigorously trolling in the past few days), companies found to be paying into the fund have given only shifty reasons, claiming for instance to have been employing Cohen as a consultant in a variety of capacities in which he hasn’t the slightest qualification.

It’s beyond satire. The corporations implicated are huge and do not require the services of an averagely incompetent legal consultant, having thousands of their own and access to the best. But they are terrified of the effect the wayward President and his sloppy, intemperate tweets might have on their share prices.

The discovery of this hitherto unsuspected funnel of cash pouring into a decidedly gray, unaccounted area of the Trump 2020 re-election campaign through what appears to be little more than a barely legal climate of extortion and patronage has highlighted the incredible number of former and current corporate lobbyists now employed inside the Trump administration, said to be approaching two hundred.

Far from “draining The Swamp” of corporate lobbying in Washington – one of his big campaign promises to the screaming dumbfucks, who will never be disillusioned no matter what – Trump is seemingly determined to fill it up with placemen loyal to him, at least financially, while – it is suggested – benefiting personally like a mafia boss from a steady stream of kickbacks and commissions bubbling up through the mire from lobbying fees paid by corporations to government employees – of whom Trump, did he but realize it, is one.

As is being said, in the same way he doesn’t like his people getting more media attention than he does, he doesn’t like them making loads of money at his expense.

Due tribute must be paid.

Accordingly, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell have proposed a startling theory about many of Trump’s seemingly deranged, out-of-the-blue attacks and dire threats he tweets against companies – like Ford Motors – and even other countries, pointing out that the first thing his “victims” always do is employ more lobbyists to try to avert his wrath; who in turn may be paying a chunk of their enhanced fee income into the Cohen piggybank, which has been used, among other things, to buy off embarrassing people like Stephanie Clifford (Daniels).

What else might it be being used for? We assume that releasing his tax returns, which he stubbornly refuses to do, might indeed raise questions as to the sources of much of his income.

Even major foreign policy decisions such as the controversial withdrawal from the Iran nuclear nonproliferation treaty, that threatens to widen the conflict in the Middle East, could benefit Trump personally through the enhanced lobbying activity it will undoubtedly cause in The Swamp, as well as use of his hotels by official State delegations.

By “draining The Swamp”, few perhaps suspected Trump meant “bleeding it dry”….

Yet few took seriously his repeated assertions on the campaign trail that he was always greedy for more money. They thought he was making a self-effacing joke. Only he doesn’t do those. He rarely self-effaces – he frequently self-incriminates. He knows he can get away with anything, always has, always will, so it doesn’t matter – a sort of reverse fifth amendment.

If this bears out – and much of the speculation started with Daniels’ canny lawyer, Michael Avenatti – it would surely be evidence of staggering top-level corruption, extortion and conspiracy to add to the litany of Trump’s calumnies: collusion with Russia, damaging foreign and domestic policy initiatives, bullying, aiding and abetting money-laundering, endless lies and incompetence that has attached to this extraordinary “made-for-TV” individual since he was doubtfully elected by just three heavily gerrymandered constituencies only 16 months ago.

No doubt the Special Counsel, Bob Mueller will be keen to get to the truth of these assertions, if he hasn’t already; just one more reason for Trump to be desperately angling for ways to make his inquiry go away.

To get a flavor of what is now being discussed, go to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3IbcvpeGCw

Oh, wait, there’s more…

I turn this morning to the delightful Joy Reid, MSNBC’s weekend breakfast show gal, for further news.

So, you remember last month the FBI raided the files of Michael Cohen, Trump’s “fixer”? Now at his team’s request the Southern District court has appointed a Special Master to go through the files to see what can be used as evidence and what is protected by attorney-client privilege.

And she’s received a letter this week from a lawyer called Gleason, requesting that letters he exchanged with Cohen in 2013 be protected on grounds that their release would infringe his own clients’ rights to privacy.

Who were his clients? Why, two “women”, who were alleging sexual harrassment by Eric Schneiderman, who resigned just last Monday from his position as New York’s Attorney-General over similar allegations by four other women who have just come forward.

Why is this relevant? Because, so Vanity Fair magazine suggests, instead of bringing a case against Schneiderman through the normal legal channels, Gleason apparently took the story to the National Enquirer magazine, a scandal sheet owned by Trump’s friend David Pecker (no, seriously), who in turn seems to have passed it on to Cohen in his capacity as Trump’s attorney.

Why he do dat?

What had the matter to do with Trump? Well, Schneiderman was at the time investigating Trump’s phony “Trump University” scam, over which Trump would later have to settle $25 million to compensate his many victims. Remember, this was back in 2013, long before Trump launched his bid to steal the presidency.

Trump then tweeted out that Schneiderman (with the usual dismissive insults about his capabilities) was linked with Anthony Weiner, who would three years later have his emails hacked as part of the attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton and get a gaol sentence for sexually harrassing a teenage Democratic party staffer.

How did Trump know about Weiner’s behavior at that stage? He could only have known if he was running an operation through Cohen to dig and retain “dirt” on various individuals who, like him, had been accused of sexual impropriety; a kind of boys’ club for serial pussy-grabbers.

Cohen, as we now know, was operating a fund to buy off and/or threaten women complainants, and revelatresses like Stormy Daniels. So it now seems plausible from what various media outlets are reporting that Trump’s strategy was to use sexual blackmail against people he wanted to shut up, or to do bad stuff for him.

Where it gets really messy, however, is – as reported above – that some very large and respectable (supposedly) corporations, including an investment fund whose largest shareholder is a Russian oligarch close to Putin, have been paying very large sums into the fund, supposedly to employ the inept but brusque Cohen as a consultant; but in practice, to gain access to the White House.

Or was it for murkier purposes?

And it’s being suggested the money sitting in a Delaware-registered shell companyowned by Cohen – who has reportedly paid himself over a million dollars out of it –  might also be available for his boss’s personal use.

Watch various spaces – this one could run and run.

x

GW: Still blowin’ hot and cold.

Arctic: Weather.com reports that temperatures in the Arctic are hovering around the zero deg. C  mark yet again, 35C above the 1981-2010 average for the time of year. Wunderground makes the point that it has been colder in some northerly US states during April than it’s been at the North Pole. The Norway Ice Service reports the loss of 32,000 sq miles of ice in just three days last week. NOAA concludes that the multi-year trend to a hot Arctic could not be happening without a rapid rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia: “Storms in Tasmania have caused severe flash flooding in the capital Hobart and south eastern areas of the state. (The) Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said that 129 mm of rain fell in Hobart in 24 hours to early 11 May, 2018 (local time). Mount Wellington recorded 236 mm of rain during the same period.” Over 1 thousand lightning strokes were recorded.

“Scientists in New Zealand have documented what they believe is the largest wave ever recorded in the southern hemisphere. The 23.8m (78ft) wave was measured by a buoy on New Zealand’s Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean on 08 May.”

Canada: around 3000 people have been told to evacuate their homes in British Columbia as rivers peak half a meter above records going back 200 years, due to a heatwave producing rapid snowmelt. “The flood water in British Colombia rivers has made its way downriver and into Washington state, USA, where the governor has declared a state of emergency.”

Kenya: “A dam has burst overnight 09 May, after heavy rain, causing “huge destruction” and killing at least 44 people. The breach happened in the town of Solai, 190km (120 miles) north-west of the capital, Nairobi. The Kenyan Red Cross says it has rescued 39 people so far. Hundreds are said to have been left homeless.” 150 people are known to have died in widespread floods this year.

Ecuador: 70 mm of rain in 24 hours causes local flooding in El Oro province.

Colombia: Baranquila underwater. If you want to know what mother nature thinks of cars, watch 9 minutes of citizen journalism on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xmd7K-k6Duo from 04′.42″.

China: Quangjou, Fujian province underwater. 3 dead, 2 missing. Luchuan, Gianxi province underwater. 72,000 people affected, 4,500 Ha crops lost.

Sri Lanka: The start of the monsoon season (as last year) has brought immediate flooding with some 8000 people so far affected. “As much as 166 mm of rain was recorded in Galle in 24 hours to 12 May.”

Iraq; 4 killed in Duhok floods, Kurdistan.

Italy: “Homes and businesses were flooded in San Polo, Tuscany after an intense storm dumped over 50 mm of rain in about 3 hours. The storm hit d “uring the afternoon of 08 May, 2018, flooding areas near Sinalunga (Siena province), San Polo in Chianti (Florence) and Volterra (Pisa).” Legnano, Northern Italy, massive hailstorm, rivers of ice, etc.

Germany: “Severe thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain affected parts of Germany on10 May, 2018. Flash flooding was reported in Hamburg and areas of Schleswig-Holstein, where emergency services received over 2,000 calls for help. The Schleswig-Holstein town of Quickborn, north west of Oststeinbek, recorded 58.7 mm of rain in 24 hours to early 11 May. 42 mm fell in just 30 minutes.”

Elsewhere in Germany a severe hailstorm affected Rhön-Grabfeld in Bavaria

Greece: Flash-flooding in Thessaloniki after torrential rainstorm.

UK: Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade and climate spokesman, said: “2018 is the year when countries have been asked by the UN to ratchet up their commitments on climate change. Instead our government is actually proposing to count emissions savings made from as far back as 2010 towards fulfilling their obligations in the next decade from 2021-2030.”

Hurricanes: The Eastern Pacific hurricane season officially starts on May 15. “… for the second year in a row, we have the potential to see a record-early start to the season. A concentrated area of heavy thunderstorms … 1200 miles southwest of the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, had acquired plenty of spin, but was not yet organized enough to be labeled a tropical depression. Conditions were favorable for development (NHC: 70%), with … sea surface temperatures … 28°C (82°F), about 1°C above average. The first name on the Eastern Pacific list of storm names in 2018 is Aletta.”

Anyway, it’s not on track to make landfall anywhere. Meanwhile, on the other side of the isthmus:

“The peak season for Atlantic storms, which officially starts on 1 June, is set to spur as many as 18 named storms, with up to five of them developing into major hurricanes, according to separate forecasts from North Carolina State University and Colorado State University.” – Guardian

However, Bob Henson at Wunderground speculates that while rising sea temperatures may provide additional energy and precipitation to storm systems, rising air temperatures in future may inhibit the formation of defined hurricanes.

Weather.com/ BBC News/ Wunderground/ CEWN #117

 

Yearning for a credible alternative… Support the zad… GW: stripped to me undies in the rain and snow… Bring on the ecopolypse… The fuckwitted booby… Memory Lane: Depression Blue.

“You could drive a bus through these legs…!
Bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus, our new Home Secretary vows with his reinforced trousers to fix the Windrush migrant crisis, before joining the Hard Brexit party and chucking out all the… er….

 

Yearning for a credible alternative

Here’s a long list of indictments for you to be going on with:

  • 100 thousand more children in absolute poverty than a year ago.
  • 120 thousand children living more than 6 months in temporary accommodation.
  • Housing starts remaining static; targets on social and affordable housing not being met.
  • House prices flatlined or falling.
  • Failure to make promised safety reforms in the wake of the Grenfell House fire.
  • Campaign of disinformation against critics of the government’s inaction in the wake of the fire.
  • Continuing welfare and benefit cuts affecting the poorest, e.g. “two children” policy; “universal credit” fiasco.
  • 1.2 million free “3-day” ration packs dispensed by food banks in 2017 to registered users.
  • Continuing “austerity” cuts to vital public services, including local authority, police, road repairs.
  • NHS in almost permanent crisis of undercapacity, staff shortages and mismatch of resources.
  • Little progress made on mental healthcare, especially for teens.
  • Failure to tackle shortages of social care beds and staff and integrate patient care across sectors.
  • Rising rate of violent crime; failure to tackle cybercrime (underresourced policing).
  • Failure to deal rationally and pragmatically with totally failed drugs policy.
  • Universities in meltdown over fees, falling rolls, demotivated lecturers and greedy Vice-Chancellors.
  • Schools having to beg parents for money to buy teachers, books and other essentials; support “grey” kids.
  • Mrs May’s disastrous “hostile” immigration policies resulting in incompetence, cruelty and injustice.
  • Failure to resolve post-Brexit status of legal EU residents here and Brits abroad.
  • Soaring cost of mostly successful immigration and disability “fit for work” appeals.
  • Massive cuts in legal aid making the law available only to the wealthy.
  • Continuing high wastage and incompetence in defence and computer procurement.
  • Failures of outsourcing partners, e.g. Carillion, Capita. Criticisms of G4S.
  • Continuing inability to address the additional costs to public finances of PPI projects.
  • Feeble and overly prolonged negotiations over the Brexit withdrawal arrangements.
  • Major split in the party over Brexit tactics; “magical thinking” on the Irish border issue.
  • Certifiable lunatics, failures and joke figures in seemingly unassailable positions; eg. Johnson, Gove, Williamson.
  • Long overdue reforms in the banking, money-laundering and offshore investments sectors.
  • High-level unminuted meetings with Russia-connected ‘hard Brexit’ thinktank The Legatum Institute.
  • Acceptance of almost £1 million in party donations from Russian exiles in London.
  • Dependence on DUP votes, a party having unexplained financial links to the Leave.EU campaign.
  • Attempts to bypass the sovereignty of Parliament; attacks on the Lords and the courts.
  • Impotence in the face of data breaches and other internet-related issues.
  • Failure to tackle large-scale corporate tax avoidance and offshoring of untaxed funds.
  • Sleaze and bullying culture in Westminster.
  • No attempt to tackle the problems of unearned CEO pay and bonuses.
  • Slavish support for Trump’s dangerously incoherent foreign policies (maybe not the Iran deal, but if it’s war? …).
  • GDP growth slowed to 0.1% in the first quarter of 2018…..

And of course, whenever any of these points are put to the very junior ministers and ex-ministers who do sometimes dare to go on radio and TV to answer journalists’ anodyne questions, what do we always hear?

“Oh, but we’re throwing lots more money at the problem, so there’s no problem. The experts are wrong.”

But they don’t mean it. The money is invariably already allocated and will simply be moved around at the expense of some other budget – more likely, not reallocated at all.

The Tory party: all smirk and mirrors.

It is quite beyond me how, after almost ten years in power, this headline-driven, rotten, heartless and inept government can still find a single person in Britain willing to vote for them, who is not out of their head on their designer drug of choice.

Ending in a draw, the local elections seem to have been a case of “anybody but Jeremy”. (Incidentally, following the ‘draw’ at the polls it still appears from the numbers that there remain almost exactly twice as many Labour councillors in England than there are Conservatives…)

Possibly because the media tend to hype local government elections as a barometer of voter intentions for the next General Election, people forget that Councillor Jim Figgis from the next street has no influence over anything other than the binbag collections, meals on wheels and library closures. National issues are not relevant.

Or maybe not, and that’s why voters still feel they can vote Tory at the local level while yearning for a credible alternative in Westminster.

Don’t do it, it only encourages them.

 

“(Macron) sits in a primary school classroom. He speaks about the zad for a little over a minute, “republican order must be returned” he says, and “everything that was to be evacuated has already been evacuated”. As he speaks a hundred and fifty concussion grenades are launched in less than half an hour in the Lama Sacrée field, the explosions echo across the bocage, bursting the ear drums of those nearby…”

Support the zad

You may very probably not have heard of the zad.

It’s not the kind of thing the mainstream media owners like people to know about.

Thousands of protestors holding a huge area of land originally zoned for a new airport have daily since 8 April been battling against eviction by 2,500 riot police armed with plastic bullets, teargas and plastic fragmentation grenades, causing dozens of casualties.

Squatters who have lived on the site for a decade or more, occupying abandoned farmsteads, building their own camps, a complete rural society, a small township sprang up and has persisted as a kind of independent state. The airport plan was abandoned two years ago, but the French authorities, who can be pretty authoritarian, seem to have just gotten tired of this successful alternative anti-capitalist way of living. Despite the clever, mostly peaceful – ironic, even – tactics of the resisters, it all sounds pretty brutal, in the customary way of the French police.

Where is the zad?

It’s outside Nantes, in Brittany, near a village (scheduled to be bulldozed) called Notre-Dame-des-Landes – and it puts the “Swampy” occupations of 1980s British planning atrocities to shame; although we shall see what transpires once the British government starts trying to evict nice, middle-class, elderly people from the site of the new runway at Heathrow, bulldozing pretty, wisteria-clad C18th villages heartily redolent of our vanishing traditional British values.

“There is so much gas, we can no longer see beyond our stinging, running noses. The police are being pressurised simultaneously from the other side of the road by a large militant crowd with gas masks, makeshift shields, stones, slingshots and tennis rackets to return the grenades. They are playing hide and seek from behind the trees. The armoured car begins to push the barricade, some of us climb onto the roof of the two story wooden cabin, others try to retreat without crushing the beautiful vegetable plot. It’s over, the end of another collective living space on the zone. Then we hear a roar from the other side of the barricade. Dozens of figures emerge from the forest, molotov cocktails fly, one hits the APC, flames rise from the armour and the wild roar transforms itself into a cry of pure joy.”

That this incredible battle has been raging just a few hundred miles from here without comment, even from The Guardian and other faintly leftwing media, is astonishing. It is, after all, a powerful echo of “les événements” of exactly fifty years ago. Ah, 1968… The zad writes, collectively:

“From making our own bread to running a pirate radio station, planting herbal medicine gardens to making rebel camembert, a rap recording studio to a pasta production workshop, an artisanal brewery to two blacksmiths’ forges, a communal justice system to a library and even a full scale working lighthouse – the zad has become a new commune for the 21st century.

And we can’t have that, can we. There’s no room for nonconformity in little Macron’s unimaginative, dull and soulless technocracy.

For a good long read, turn to:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zad-forever/revenge-against-commons?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=68a8708f5b-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-68a8708f5b-408090269

x

“…the highest ever April temperature recorded on earth.”

GW: stripped to me undies in the rain and snow

Parts of India and Pakistan are continuing to experience unusually hot spring weather with temperatures in the mid-40sC, 114F. A reading of 50.2C (122.3F) in Nawabshah on 30 April “may count as the highest ever April temperature recorded on earth.” A news service in Hyderabad reports 19 heat-related deaths.

Elsewhere, in Africa:

Burundi: “Red Cross says that over 2,500 people have been made homeless after floods … close to the city of Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital … on 28 April, 2018, after a period of heavy rain. According to local officials, the situation worsened when one of the dykes of the Mutimbuzi River gave way, causing the river to flood nearby communities.”

Rwanda: “…as many as 200 people have died in disasters since January … heavy rains have affected the whole country, causing floods and landslides. Storms and strong winds have also affected some areas. Over 4,500 hectares of crops have been destroyed. 15 were killed on 6 May following heavy rains in the western region. A local official in the capital, Kigali, told the BBC that 3 people had also died in a mudslide in the city.”

Somalia: “The flood situation has worsened over the last few days. Observers say the current floods are some of the worst the region has ever seen. The UN says that flash and river floods have now affected 427,000 people.” The President is appealing for international aid. Good luck with that. Uganda also affected by widespread floods.

A mad catfish is photographed from space, terrorizing the Bahamas. What is happening to our weather?

USA:  1 May saw “21 preliminary tornado reports posted to the … Storm Prediction Center’s database, most of them in Kansas. Very large hail—up to 4” in diameter—pummeled parts of Kansas and Nebraska. No major damage or injuries were reported.” More forecast storms affected the midwest over the weekend of 05 May accompanied by record high temperatures over the east, reaching 93F, 34C in Washington, DC and 91F in New York.

Record cold had ushered in May in parts of the midwest, Iowa and Wisconsin having their coldest April in 154 years, giving way to severe storms as warmer air pushes northward, and there was more snow in upstate New York. Meanwhile, the wildfire season has kicked off in Arizona with thousands of acres of forest ablaze – the “Tinder Fire”. Forecast highs in Phoenix this week are expected back in the 100sF, 40sC.

Canada: heavy rain on snowmelt. 04 May, “the St John River in New Brunswick is at record levels and expected to rise further. Flooding has damaged homes and roads and prompted evacuations. Authorities have urged residents in the city of St John to leave their homes.” 2 killed, many injured and much property damaged by 100 Kph winds in Ontario. 200,000 left without power.

Caribbean: “Rain, flooding and landslides in parts of the Caribbean have caused at least 4 fatalities and displaced around 4,000 people. Heavy rain has affected Jamaica, Haiti and Dominican Republic since around 02 May”. Bahamas: a weather front stalled over the islands is given a 10% chance of becoming a rare tropical depression for early May as the sea temperature is already 2C above the 26C needed to generate a cyclone.

Argentina: a powerful storm rocks Buenos Aires on the 29th. Flash-flooding, power outages, 2 killed. “Flooding in the province of Entre Ríos (03 May, 300 mm rain) has left 1 person dead, more than 30 evacuated and 1,600 requiring assistance.”

Chile: city of Ancud underwater.

India: “At least 76 people have died and scores more were injured in a fierce dust storm that hit the northern Indian states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The storm on 02 May disrupted electricity, uprooted trees, destroyed houses and killed livestock. … The storm also hit the capital Delhi, more than 100km away, along with heavy rains late on Wednesday evening.”

Pakistan: a high of 49C, 120F was recorded over the weekend of 5 May in Karachi, with 9 fatalities attributed to the heat.

Iraq: “At least 4 people died in flash floods that hit the city of Duhok in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on Saturday, 05 May 2018.” Refugee camps are also affected.

Turkey: “Flash floods caused by heavy rain wreaked havoc in Ankara on 05 May. Further heavy rainfall the next day caused some surface flooding and traffic problems. Officials said 6 people were injured in the floods, with more than 160 cars and 25 businesses suffering damage.” (This actually made the news here in the UK.)

Australia: overall, the country experienced its hottest April on record, the maximum daily average being some 3.17C above normal.

New Zealand: record rainfall brings extensive flooding and a state of emergency is declared in the Rotorua region.

Europe: continent bewildered by a chaotic mashup of extreme cold, heat, rain, floods, hail, snow (in France), high winds and “even a tornado”. Basically anywhere to the west of a line down the Franco-German border through to southern Italy has been too cold, anywhere to the right too hot; south of the Mediterranean, North Africa is roasting. A huge chain of thunderstorms with almost half a million lightning strikes counted was recorded on 30 April stretching from the Spanish border across France to Italy and the Balkans, up through Switzerland, Austria, Germany and over into Poland and Slovenia, where big hailstorms were reported with streets turned to rivers of ice.

Switzerland: 7 skiers, 2 climbers and a guide have died in 5 separate incidents after bad weather swept through the Alps region on 6 May. 5 skiing victims, from France, Italy and Germany, were among a group of 14 who failed to reach a mountain cabin.

Italy: “Two days of heavy rain has caused flooding and landslides in Sardinia. Around 100 people have been evacuated from their homes. In the last 48 hours some areas have recorded over 150 mm of rain – more than four times the average monthly total for May.” (This last statistic can also be interpreted as “a year’s worth”)

UK: World Health Organization reports, the steel town of Port Talbot in Wales has the highest level of dangerous microparticulate pollution in the country, at 18 mg per m/3 of air. That’s considered pretty unhealthy, unacceptable in fact – so you won’t want to be moving to Muzaffarpur in India, with a figure of 197 mg per m/3 the world’s most polluted city. (BBC).

Forecasters say the May Bank Holiday high could approach or beat the previous Mayday record of 28.6C, 83F.

Globally: April was the 3rd warmest on record and 0.5C above the 1981-2010 average. Only the unusual cold in the eastern USA and Canada during the early part of the month kept April from being the hottest ever, everywhere. The high of 50.2C (122F) in Nawabshah, Pakistan on 30 April was confirmed as the hottest temperature ever recorded in an April month.

Acknowledgments to: Richard Davies at Floodlist/ Wunderground/ BBC News/ Climate and Extreme Weather News (CEWN) #115, #116/

 

Bring on the ecopolypse.

Among other things, I’ve been thinking for a while about buying an air quality monitor.

Since I moved to live beside an increasingly busy main road I’ve had an itching sensation in my nose, low-level throat and chest congestion – rhinitis – am always bunged-up first thing in the morning and suffer from “dry-eye”, an obscure condition that is actually “wet-eye” as they’re constantly blinded with tears. Add to which, I’m always wiping a fine dust off every surface, that may have ruined my digital piano, and would like to have the scientific data to know how bad it is here so I can write to the local paper… lol.

And, as you know, your old Granny is always boring on about carbon dioxide concentrations. An air quality monitor of the right sort will tell you how well that’s doing too, both inside and outside your home.

Just now I went on Amazon, and while browsing the info about a particular model (see what I did there? Hahaha, particles!) costing a deterrent £229, was amused to see below it, a suggestion that (as, obviously, an eco-terrorist) I might (also? Instead?) like to purchase 1Kg of Sunwarrior “Warrior Organic Blend” drinking chocolate for £29.95.

Sod the pollution, I thought. Bring on the explosive dopamine.

And bring on the ecopolypse. The chocolate warriors are ready for anything.

(Photo: John Seach/ Volcanolive.com)

Even volcanoes.

The situation on Hawaii’s Big Island is looking unusually serious.

If you’re not paying much attention, Mount Kilauea has been erupting for over 20 years, and is one of a handful of volcanoes in the world to maintain a permanent lake of lava in its main crater. The lake has now escaped sideways through underground channels and the magma is erupting violently 24 miles away in a dormitory suburb. The nightmare of molten rock suddenly bursting out of people’s gardens and swallowing homes, roads and cars, huge fiery vents opening in the earth, the main ones now numbering 12, with thousands of earthquakes, the release of sulfurous poison gases, is like something out of Dante’s Ingerno and is expected to go on for weeks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNNoGCm3nqU

 

The fuckwitted booby

The Kremlins’ “Useless Idiot”, Trump recently presented an award to Teacher of the Year, Mandy Manning, praising her work in educating the children of America.

The poor booby apparently failed to spot a collection of faintly insulting anti-government campaign badges on Ms Manning’s dress; or to notice that she was refusing to speak to him on the platform.

Nor did he manage to understand that she doesn’t teach ordinary schoolkids: she specializes in English language development for refugees and other immigrants.

“Teachers like Mandy play a vital role in the wellbeing of our children, the strength of our communities and the success of our nation”, the US president said.

The story in today’s Guardian concludes by pointing to a certain irony in Trump’s position on foreigners:

“Trump has cracked down on both legal and illegal immigration and suspended the US refugee program … He has demanded that a wall be built on the Mexican border to keep out murderers, drugs gangs and other criminals”.

No wonder he didn’t know his lawyer, Michael Cohen, had paid Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) to keep quiet about the affair they never had, despite the existence of emails to the contrary, when he reimbursed the $130,000 Cohen says he borrowed from a bank using a false-front account just prior to the election, claiming it was his own money and that she had breached the confidentiality agreement Trump had failed to sign as First Party, the pseudonymous “David Dennison”, forbidding her from lying about whatever it was that never happened. As wealthy celebrities so often have to do. And of course, Trump says, he gave Cohen the money without knowing why. From what is now reported to be a slush-fund deliberately created to shut embarrassing people up.

Luckily, the orange imbecile has brought his friend, former NY Mayor and Rumpelstiltskin’s gropy grandad, Rudy Giuliani onto the legal team, so he could tell Sean Hannity on Fox News the exact opposite of the story Trump and Huckabee Sanders had been spinning the press for days: no affair, just ordinary blackmail; no precise knowledge of any payment; no payment. Poor sweaty christian Huckabee is taking the flak for lying.

There’s no argument any longer, he’s a total loser.

x

Memory Lane

Young IT baboons partake of TSB’s fermented fruit, prior to collapsing in a groaning heap. (Guardian/LinkedIn)

Banking on “facial recognition” technology – of the analog kind!

Depression Blue

At the time my wife and I separated in 2005 we had a joint account with Lloyd’s Bank. Being somewhat older, I had had accounts with Lloyd’s since 1972, including a period from 1991 to 1996 when we had our business account with them as well; and a mortgage with Lloyd’s-owned Cheltenham & Gloucester.

Not only that, but coincidentally as a senior advertising agency copywriter, between 1987 and 1990 I had worked on creating consumer and business-to-business campaigns for all five main divisions within the Lloyd’s Bank Group.

I’m not sure how much more “brand-loyal” any customer could have been.

We decided to close the joint account, and I set up my own personal account. As part of our voluntary separation agreement, because I was back in work (although pretty poorly paid) and my wife was not, I agreed to take on the £150 a month repayments of our joint £19,000 liability to the bank.

As it happened, we’d had to come to an earlier arrangement with the bank over the loan at a time when neither of us was in work (we had for some reason moved to a part of the country where there isn’t any), and my persuasive wife had succeeded as part of the deal in negotiating an unusually favorable rate of interest.

Despite micro-managing our tiny revenue to the nearest penny, going just a few pounds overdrawn for any reason would result in bullying phone calls from Brighton – one even threatening to have us arrested and charged with fraud over a dishonored check for £50 we had written in good faith weeks before. Yet we had the security of owning our own home! (We didn’t know it at the time, but it was going up in value by about £12 thousand a year.)

This concessionary interest rate was then turned against me by the bank when, on agreeing my new personal account, and although I had found a job, a managerial position, and still owned half a house, they nevertheless informed me that my credit score was being reset at zero. That would not allow me to have any form of credit, not even a check guarantee card.  Instead I was given a kind of Master-criminal card that would only allow me to withdraw up to £50 a day from an ATM, provided there was enough money in the account; which, as I was paying over half my salary in maintenance for my family, there often wasn’t.

This punitive situation lasted for three years during which I continued to make regular payments to the bank, while I enjoyed two pay rises; I was by now overseeing a £5 million business development project involving a culturally important institution, dealing with grants and government finance departments, yet I couldn’t pay for anything over £50, and it had to be in cash. Despite my appeals for greater flexibility, the bank remained obdurate.

Only with a change of manager did the situation improve, and in 2008 I was finally granted a debit card and a £50 overdraft facility.

Yet I had done nothing wrong, other than repay a loan!

On one occasion my employer (who lived abroad) failed to pay my salary on time – she had not realized it was a Bank Holiday in Britain. I became £5.72p overdrawn for one night and was immediately threatened with penalty charges and interest that, I calculated, amounted in the first year to more than two thousand pounds. I was tempted not to repay the fiver, just to see what might happen. It would have made a good story in the media.

In, I think, 2012 (there will be a letter somewhere), along with around two million other Lloyd’s customers, we were given the cattle-truck treatment. Our accounts were automatically being moved, certainly without my consent, into the TSB; a secondary bank of which, I imagine, few had ever heard, to, as Lloyd’s PR people charmingly put it, “increase our consumer choice”. (Fucking copywriters!)

Since then, however, I have found my local TSB branch staff – Lloyd’s immediately galloped out of town on their black horse – to be perfectly kind, helpful, efficient and friendly, to the point where I don’t even want to do Internet banking.

I enjoy a relationship “over the counter” with all the staff, who know me by sight and are able to sort out problems – as, for instance, the time when Experian informed them I didn’t exist – but that’s another story. I’ve had a couple of useful loans from them, plus a flexible overdraft arrangement, while my accounts – I can even save, and tragically have an ISA – remain miraculously in credit.

For the first time in my life I’ve found a bank that’s allowed me to breathe.

I don’t trust the internet, as it turns out presciently, and I appear so far to have escaped the worst of the consequences of the perfectly predictable IT meltdown at TSB, which has been trying to get the Lloyd’s monkey off its back (they are forced to pay £100 million a year to share Lloyd’s’ wheezing and clanking old systems but are now part of a different, go-ahead Spanish-owned group). I fear it may have ramifications that will eventually affect those customers who don’t rely on personal technology to rule our lives wisely and well – indeed, I don’t have any social media accounts, as I’ve never trusted them either.

What an old stick-in-the-mud. But you learn from experience, don’t you.

(Whouaahouaahouaa…. eerie flashback music)

My business had gone bust at the end of 1995, leaving me unemployed and with two credit card debts. I’d taken out one card earlier that year through the Institute of Directors (there was a case of claret on free offer) for the sole purpose of financing the acquisition of a computer we needed at work to service a lucrative new account, who insisted on compatibility with their own systems. A few months later, the client was ‘re-engineered’ without warning by its parent group and closed down over a single weekend, leaving us holding many thousands of pounds’ worth of promotional materials they hadn’t paid for.

The IoD-branded card was underwritten by Beneficial Bank, a rackety US corporation, who had sold me PPI – as indeed had Lloyd’s, on my personal credit card, through London & Edinburgh assurance. I was glad of it at the time. L&E paid out immediately, without a fuss, and even left me with £100 in the account. But Beneficial Bank’s Irish insurers refused to pay the principal, covering only the interest on a month-by-month basis – and I was out of work for the first time, with nothing coming in.

What happened next is still not fully explained, but the following year – 1997 – I started getting letters out of the blue from Beneficial Bank, demanding repayment of the principal in full, about £2,500, which I could not do. I eventually contacted them, and we came to an arrangement to pay a monthly amount. After several more months, however, I got another demand to repay the principal, again without being given a reason. So I resorted to the old trick of hanging on until their demands turned purple, then called the Credit Controller and offered him a minimal settlement figure, which I loaded onto a new “zero-interest” card taken out for the purpose. Well, why not? Our clients used to do it to us on a regular basis.

He told me nothing of what had happened. Subsequently, however, I began to piece together a narrative that puts them in a somewhat murky light.

Shortly after my original claim started paying out, it seems the bank had parted company with their Irish insurers without making arrangements for a new insurer to continue the business, which was why the interest payments had stopped – without telling me. That was on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality”, but it screwed my credit rating all the same. They had also managed to lose a large tranche of their customer records in a computer “upgrade” that had gone disastrously wrong, again without telling anyone, and so had no recollection of our arrangement and instead, pursued me for the balance.

Had I known at the time, I would certainly have filed against them for maladministration. But the PPI misselling scandal was still many years away, there were no “no-win, no-fee” solicitors chasing lucrative bank business, and now I no longer have any records on which to base a claim for damages.

But you can understand why, last week, after learning that TSB was “upgrading” its systems at the weekend, I made sure to go into the branch and transfer some savings into my current account, just in case, and get a paper record of the balances to use as evidence when (not if!) the records vanished.

Once bitten, as they say. The bank teller was super-confident. Oh no, she assured me, they’d been trialling the new system for weeks, nothing could go wrong. And so far, everything seems to be working normally, even using the debit card in shops. You can’t beat “facial recognition” technology – of the analog kind!

So, sorry to sound smug, but I hope this affair won’t bring TSB crashing down, I rather like them.

As long as CEO, Paul Pester doesn’t get his £1 million bonus for presiding over the screw-up, of course.

The Pumpkin – Issue 51: Kill Bilal – Ahmad too… He’s not a bad dream that is going to go away… “Suffer the little children” was not a suggestion… GW: Your old girl in a whirl… Denial News…

Something more going in here, Pumpkin…? Ed.

It’s complicated!

Maybe mention Trump’s heroic lying? He’s just reportedly broken the 3,000 barrier after 466 days in office. 6.5 fact-checked and certified lies a day represents an increased rate of lying over last year, by one a day.

Or the “Mueller probe questions” question? Seems the 49 questions that were going to be put to the President in a face-to-face with the Special Counsel until they were leaked to the media in advance by the White House – questions Trump says prove conclusively that there was no collusion with Russia or he’d have asked about that, and which show that Mueller is clearly exceeding his authority – were actually written by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, they didn’t come from the Mueller team at all.

That’s quite a big lie, then – a group effort by the Trump legal team to thwart the judicial process. So what?

For interesting dirt on Sekulow (see past Pumpkins), by the by, visit: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americCounsel as/donald-trump-lawyer-jay-sekulow-christian-charity-ngo-christian-advocates-serving-evangelism-case-a7812061.html

 

“Looks like we’re both in the clear…”

 

“I witnessed the Trump Administration argue that people—American citizens included—had no right to be heard in court…”

Kill Bilal – Ahmad too

Ah, good. The story that’s been waiting to go in here has just arrived in my email inbox.

We’ve all been clucking recently here over the plight of the children of the “Empire Windrush” generation, those West Indians, mostly, who were recruited in the 1950s and 60s to replace the casualties of war in the British workforce, and who appear now to have no settled immigration status.

It has emerged in the media that many of them have been caught up in a nightmare trawl of “illegal immigrants”, despite having lived in the UK continuously for decades, propping up the tottering health service and the transportation networks – victims of a crude quota system for deportations imposed by the former Home Secretary, now Prime Minister Theresa May; a woman whose housewifely Home Counties blankness hides a cruel and wanton Tory savagery.

As someone who has occasionally fallen into the so-called “safety net” of the British welfare state, The Pumpkin has also had some frustrating experience of the Kafkaesque illogicalities and ludicrous impositions with which one has to struggle in a modern bureaucracy.

But we ain’t seen nothin’, as someone once said.

Based on CIA analysis of their “travel patterns and phone calls”, two accredited journalists who have been covering the wars in the Middle East for years are in court as I write, having to plead with the US Government to remove them from a list of “terror suspects” who are to be killed on sight.

I’ll repeat that slowly:

Based on CIA analysis of their “travel patterns and phone calls”, two accredited journalists who have been covering the wars in the Middle East are in court as I write, having to plead with the US Government to remove them from a list of “terror suspects” who are to be killed on sight.

One is an American citizen, the other an internationally acclaimed reporter who works for Al Jazeera.

Both are on a secret CIA “kill list”, against which there is no appeal; indeed, it is even forbidden to challenge the orders.

And the government appears in no mood to listen.

Reporting from the courtroom in Washington DC, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, an attorney working for the Reprieve organization, writes:

“Ahmad Zaidin is a renowned reporter with Al-Jazeera, who won acclaim for his work with CNN and PBS and was the first person to interview Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. He was falsely assumed to be a terrorist based on a flawed analysis of his phone and travel patterns (referred to as “metadata”).

The other journalist plaintiff bringing the challenge, Bilal Kareem is “an American citizen asking his own government for the opportunity to hear his side of things before they kill him. He has reported on the conflict in Syria since it began. In 2016, he narrowly escaped being killed in drone strikes on five separate occasions, including two strikes on cars he was in and two strikes on the headquarters of his news agency.”

“Former CIA Director, Michael Hayden, famously said ‘We kill people based on metadata.'”

“Yesterday, I witnessed the Trump Administration argue that people—American citizens included—had no right to be heard in court, or even offer information to the agencies compiling the lists of people designated for death without trial. The decision to put a person on America’s Kill List, according to Trump, should be beyond the reach of the US’ judicial system.”

Two days ago, six journalists were killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, deliberately targeted while reporting on an earlier bombing at the same spot. The Taliban has claimed responsibility. From the enemy of the Taliban, the “leader of the free world”, there is only silence. One can only conclude that, in common with the Taliban, he recognizes the value of terror in silencing his enemies; the truth-tellers.

Mr Trump is the greatest, the most brazen liar in the history of the US presidency. He has an utter disregard for the truth, he poisons the air around him with his lies, he co-opt everyone meets to be complicit with his web of deceit, and he lies that journalists are the ‘Enemies of the people’, peddlers of “fake news”.

News that we all hope and pray will one day very soon destroy him.

The British people should understand, those American spooks are the psychopathic, amoral, murdering bastards skulking in the shadows, unaccountable to anyone, who supposedly “share our values” as our “closest ally”. If they were not part of the security gang, hiding behind secrecy, many of them would be serving life sentences.

Do you think you’re safe from them? When the President daily expresses his admiration for their filthy business?

This is the world they are making for us.

“Oh, but surely, if you are innocent you have nothing to fear?”

Fuck off.

x

“It’s not the word “fake” in Trump’s all-disparaging worldview that grates, sometimes it’s the idea that any of this is “news”…

He’s not a bad dream that is going to go away

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the effects of PTSD – President Trump Shock Disorder, a profound kind of neurasthenia hardening into fatalism, resignation and hopelessness in face of a continual barrage of negative stories playing out across the water.

Stories that make not the blindest bit of difference to the new and darker emerging world order, presentiments of impending disaster swirling around this singularly repugnant and amoral individual.

The best you can say of him is that he hasn’t actually murdered anyone. So far as we know.

Many times, The Pumpkin has felt like giving up the argument as the realization dawns that this is now, for the foreseeable future. Resistance is futile, the monster thrives on it. Never in my remaining years is it likely that I shall again see even a modicum of patience and good intention restored to the management of world affairs. The drink isn’t helping, either.

The calamity that is this presidency has played out in the media day after day, week after week, for 15 months now, revelation and scandal and tangible evidence of Trump’s total unfitness for office piling atop one another like Peleon on Mount Ossa – yet he is STILL THERE.

Apparently there is absolutely nothing that anyone can do to shift him, no way to stem the base order of reality his malign presence is creating around him, reaching out to touch the whole nation with the stench of sleaze, corruption, incompetence, a new brutalism and the celebration of heartless stupidity.

One gets, for instance, a sense of dèjá vu about the “news” that his former personal physician, the eccentric Dr. Bornstein, has admitted he did not write the mandatory pre-election statement about the rude health of Candidate Trump. MSNBC reported in – I forget exactly when, lies and lies ago – that he had merely signed a piece of paper he believes was written by Candidate Trump himself. We knew it was all another Big Lie, that’s now confirmed, but he still got elected.

There was a historic inevitability about the process by which that happened, a candidacy built on the kinds of huge lies that simple folks can really get behind; great lies that just keep coming. While the good Dr. Bornstein says he felt “raped” when Trump’s goons invaded his office and took away the president’s medical records without his consent, an action that Trump’s flabby prostate, Huckabee Sanders, has told the press is “normal” with every new presidency, another lie, you feel not only for him, but for every well-meaning person this deranged old sack of composting fishburger has shat on.

Another insult there, I notice. They do no good.

And in the “news” – it’s not the word “fake” in Trump’s all-disparaging worldview that grates, sometimes it’s the idea that any of this is “news” – today, his unlikely new legal appointee, Rudy Giuliani, has apparently blurted out on Fox & Friends that yes, Trump did pay Stormy Daniels off – at least, he reimbursed Michael Cohen. Another multiply-repeated lie is nailed.

And in the real world, a bleak analysis in the Washington Post today of the never-ending war in Afghanistan, where US troops are fighting who were in kindergarten when it started, shows up Trump’s utter inadequacy in being able to deal with the world in any terms other than impatient and ultimately futile displays of hard power against enemies of America’s own creating:

“So long as the Taliban believes it is winning, it is unlikely to agree to peace talks, no matter how generous the offer. And let’s be clear — the Taliban very much thinks it is winning. … That’s an unfortunate conclusion in the best of times. Under President Trump, who has shown little interest in the hard diplomacy needed to stabilize the country, it sounds even worse.”

– s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?e=cGRpbmdyYW1zQGdtYWlsLmNvbQ%3D%3D&s=5aea975afe1ff64f25122493

Now too, we are watching the train wreck of his dogmatic and ill-considered repudiation of the Iran deal approaching, there is apparently nothing anyone sensible can do to warn him of the grave consequences of such an action.

It is a ridiculous course he seems to have set himself on one day, out of sheer ignorance of international affairs and a perfervid ambition to scrub every last taint of the black man from the White House, as the dumbfucks in a stadium somewhere screamed their delight at each new wilder and more casual brutality he proposed to make government policy, to Make America Great Again.

It sounded like a policy – hadn’t W Bush included them in his “Axis of Evil speech? Weren’t the evil Iranians arming the Houthi rebels in Yemen and carving a path across Syria to connect with their militia in the Lebanon, threatening Israel? Never mind that the Hezbollah were fighting against ISIS while maintaining the uneasy peace in Beirut, never mind that Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia was committing daily war crimes with billions of dollars’ worth of American weaponry, while exporting Wahhabist terrorism to all corners of the globe. So long as they continue buying from us.

(It’s all about the money, who pays most.)

Never mind too, that a nuclear-armed Israel led by an aggressively racist party in the pockets of religious extremists and a corrupt coterie of billionaire Russian-connected mafiosi still has a doctrinaire belief that it can do anything, anywhere it likes, even bomb other countries and carry out extrajudicial killings, to maintain its muscular cultural security.

Never mind that Trump was proposing to tear up this “terrible deal” as he calls it – he won’t have actually read it, he doesn’t read – by which, after years of painstaking negotiations involving the US’s key allies, Iran had agreed not to pursue WMD in exchange for admission to the economic community of nations. Allies he has no hesitation in pissing-off at every turn, because – to put it bluntly – he has no fucking idea who they are, May, Merkel, Macron. They’re just more losers getting in his way.

Like his friend Netanyahu, Trump is a creature of total belief in his own mythology: in his case, however, it’s a bogus mythology. Trump the Reality TV Show Host, the caricature of a thrusting and successful, all-knowing businessman invented by the backroom writers at NBC.

That Trump doesn’t exist and never has, never will. But he’s too deluded, spoilt and vain to know it.

The Washington Post reports, Mr Netanyahu has cunningly shown him the little pictures, the colored maps and diagrams, the idiot-grade “see Jane run” captions he barely reads, explaining that Israel has found proof that Iran has a program to build weapons of mass destruction – “proof” that experts say is several years old, already discounted, and predates the agreement which, says the atomic weapons commission, is holding just fine.

He won’t believe it. He’s seen a picture of Biny’s impressive folders containing 100 thousand documents proving that Rouhani is a lying sonofabitch, he respects Israel as a tough-guy that hits enemies with force, so it must be true. Meanwhile, his two new armchair warriors, Bolton and Pompeo are whispering to him in stereo that Iran needs a healthy dose of regime change, a bit of that good old US “shock and awe”; the little people who talk to him incessantly from his TV screens and in his cheeseburger dreams are echoing their demands for more war.

And this really is it now, the “new normal”.

Hunker down. Get used to it.

He’s not a bad dream that is going to go away when you wake up.

x

“Suffer the little children” was not a suggestion

“In  2014 … the headteacher of a large secondary school told Education Guardian her school had helped to pay for the funeral of a student … Three years on, she has helped to pay for two more … The latest government figures show 100,000 more children propelled into poverty in just 12 months. There are 4.1 million children – nearly a third of the entire child population – living in households on less than 60% of the average income.” theguardian.com/education/2018/may/01/teachers-buy-children-food-clothes-mattress-funerals-child-poverty

Pumpkin sister bogl, the BogPo recently encountered a report on child poverty highlighting the increasing concern of already cash-strapped schools and even individual teachers who are struggling to ensure their pupils stay alive and awake long enough to receive some sort of education.

The Guardian returned to this theme today, 1 May, in its Education supplement.  When the government’s own figures damn them to Hell, it must surely be time for the Prime Minister to take stock of Mr Iain Duncan Cunt’s devastating social welfare policies, as awful in their own way as her vicious assault on illegal migrants that has caught so many perfectly entitled UK residents, black and white, in a fine-mesh net of bureaucracy, suspension of civil rights, detentions and deportations, as harassed and understaffed civil servants rushed to meet their secret expulsion quotas.

(The Pumpkin writes: They’re welcome to pay me to leave.)

It just occurs to The Pumpkin that one day, hopefully not too far in the future, America too will wake up to the insanity of a wealthy nation chopping itself off at the knees in the names of doctrinaire isolationism and government-sponsored inequality. Somehow, a powerful undercurrent of tribalism and hierarchy always seems to surface every other generation or two, to swamp the civilizing traditions of openness, fairness, tolerance and liberty we otherwise tell ourselves we like to strive for. They’re never quite enough.

Coincidentally, the Washington Post today carries a lengthy piece on the economic xenophobia of the inter-war years and its effect on the poor, tired and huddled masses – especially foreigners, and especially Jews. The latter category has provided a good reason for the Holocaust Museum to create a new exhibition charting the progress of fascism in America, then and now. Ishaan Tharoor writes:

“Popular media was suffused with warnings and stories of a dangerous ‘fifth column’ of alien undesirables stealing into America. Lawmakers described unemployment as a problem ‘transferred from foreign lands,’ urging deportations of foreign-born workers taking American jobs. Even children were not exempt, as shown by a letter to the editor published by the Washington Post in 1939 criticizing a thwarted plan to shelter thousands of Jewish children from across the Atlantic. ‘There are many times 20,000 children in the country with no future! Help the American child,’ it read. ‘He (note the pronoun. Ed.) deserves our help more than the German child.'”

“Remembering a past many Americans would prefer to forget” – s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?e=cGRpbmdyYW1zQGdtYWlsLmNvbQ%3D%3D&s=5ae7f457fe1ff64f250b4afc

We recall, do we not, the “Kindertransport” program, when Germany permitted an exodus of about ten thousand Jewish children to Britain prior to the Holocaust. No doubt the British people felt a surge of pride at our national decency, while the parents of those lucky youngsters, denied entry visas, were shovelling one another’s freshly gassed corpses into the ovens of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Tharoor continues: “As the war in Syria drags on and global humanitarian crises have mounted, the United States has lowered its refugee quotas and ground the admission of Syrian asylum seekers to a standstill. Anti-Semitism has again become a disturbingly regular feature of politics.”

Those of us in Britain who optimistically assumed we were being kinder than most to Syrian refugees should note that we’re donating another £250 million in overseas aid over the next two years to keep them out, having taken in fewer than four thousand in seven years out of the four million believed to have fled their war-ravaged country. And that antisemitism is once again a feature of British politics; although strangely, there appears to have been a popular swell of opinion in favor of the Caribbean migrants from the 1950s and 60s being randomly persecuted by the Home Office. Led, even more strangely, by the Daily Mail (oh dear, look, the pro-Remain Home Secretary, Amber Rudd is gone. How sad.)

I note too that we’ve taken in no Rohingya Muslims at all, ethnically cleansed from Burma, although a new purge under their filthy military junta and its racist chihuahua, the “High Counsellor”, the fragrant Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, is apparently targeting a Christian minority; so we shall have to see about it, shan’t we.

And as both good and bad things come in threes, a new book by the US-born Prof. Sarah Churchwell – she of the Literature department at the University of East Anglia – examines the histories of two well-worn and much-misunderstood political slogans: “The American Dream”, and “America First!”

Churchwell reminds us percipiently that The American Dream originated as a rallying call against the inequalities and brutal pragmatism of rampant capital, not as an excuse for them – or as a reason for every simpering American housewife to yearn for a Frigidaire in the kitchen; and that Trump’s brain-dead America First! policy was once the cry of the Ku Klux Klan before the First World War, being taken up in the 1920s and 30s by the lynch-mob-happy followers of the heroic aviator and notorious fascist, Charles Lindbergh.

Lindbergh’s Service Cross of the German Eagle medal, awarded to him personally by Hitler in 1938, just as the Kindertransport trains were leaving for the Hook of Holland, has pride of place in the Holocaust Museum’s exhibition. The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in is already proposing Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize, claiming his threat to evaporate North Korea in a peaceful nuclear strike was instrumental in bringing Kim Jong-un to the table.

Will that be the orange oaf’s reward for reviving the hideous nostrums of racism, anti-science, gun-totin’ biblical fundamentalism, xenophobia and class warfare in his own country?

Well, you know those Nazis. Some good people.

x

GW: Your old girl in a whirl

A huge, rotating storm system hit the eastern Mediterranean area on 25 April, stretching from Algeria in the west to Sudan in the south, up into northern Syria and over to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Torrential rain, damaging high winds, flash floods and big hail turning streets to rivers of ice were reported over almost the entire region. It’s not often we report on floods in:

Israel, where tragically 10 teenagers drowned after being washed away while hiking at Nahal Tzafit on an army introduction course near the Dead Sea. 9 others injured. 2 more teenagers died in flash flooding elsewhere.

(If you think there’s a difference between the people of the West and the East, the cries of “Allahu akbar!” of the stricken Muslims as the lightning flashes and the hailstones punch holes through their cars are echoed by the repeated cries of “Oh my Gawd!” as Americans watch tornadoes heading straight for their homes. See CEWN #113. Either way, He’s not helping much. I thought He promised to stop doing this stuff?)

USA: The BBC and others picked up on the big weather story originally reported on Wunderground: there have been NO TORNADOES in “Tornado Alley” this year! CNN recorded:

“Two of the US states most notable for tornadoes — Kansas and Oklahoma — have yet to see one so far this year. It is the longest into the year that Oklahoma has ever gone without a tornado since NOAA began keeping records. The previous record was April 26, 1062. If Kansas makes it to the end of April without a tornado, it will only be the fourth time this has occurred on record.”

The story of course ignores the point that there are and have been tornadoes this month in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and many other states, the reason being that the loopy jetstream bringing Arctic weather penetrated farther south and east than normal, making conditions for tornado formation difficult in the central midwest but drawing warmer air up from the Gulf to batter the southeastern states with heavy rain and flooding.

More severe thunderstorms bringing flooding and possible tornadoes are forecast for the central plains this week, all the way from southern Texas up as far as Minnesota.

Are we seeing more rain? From Dr Jeff Masters at Wunderground:

“The National Weather Service in Hawaii reported that preliminary data from a rain gauge on the north shore of Kauai at Waipa, one mile west of Hanalei, received 49.69” of rainfall over the 24-hour period ending at 12:45 pm April 15. If verified, this would break the all-time U.S. 24-hour rainfall record of 43.00” in Alvin, Texas set on July 25 – 26, 1979, during Tropical Storm Claudette.”

Let’s not forget too, the 64″ of rain that fell near Port Arthur in Texas last year over 72 hours during Hurricane Harvey.

Canada: “Snowmelt in the province of Alberta, Canada, has caused overland flooding and increased river levels over the last few days. Evacuations have been carried out in areas near Drumheller.”

South Africa: Remiss of GW, but we forgot to mention that the total ban on using water in Capetown, that was due to come into effect last week, has been staved-off until 2019 as there has been some relief from the drought and rationing has helped to preserve supplies. CEWN reports that there was “heavy rain” on the 26th that actually caused some flooding in the city.

Rwanda: death toll in floods and landslides in mountain region reaches 18.

Algeria: “Torrential rain in the north has caused at least 6 deaths as well as severe flooding that has damaged houses and washed away roads.” 200 children had to be rescued from a flooded school in Tissemsilt.

Egypt: heavy rain. Cairo floods. Lady filming a car washed away in a wall of floodwater fails to notice what looks like the body of a drowned man floating past. Giza also flooded.

Syria: a terrifying flash flood follows heavy rain on the 26th over the capital, Damascus, washing away hundreds of vehicles. Similar scenes were witnessed in Jordan; while in Somalia almost half a million people have been displaced by floods in April.

Kuwait: however, experienced a huge dust storm, that brought nighttime in the day to the oil-rich state on the 26th.

China: intense rainfall triggers flash flooding and a landslide in Anhui Province, that wiped out the state’s main highway.

Argentina: “A fierce storm struck areas around Buenos Aires on 28 to 29 April 2018. Some areas recorded over 110 mm of rain and wind gusts of 130 km/h. At least 2 people have died and 1,200 evacuated.”

Some areas saw more than a month’s worth of rain fall in 24 hours. Rivers and streams overflowed, flooding parts of the city forcing hundreds from their homes.

Brazil: believe it or not, it’s STILL raining! The town of Maceio in the east was underwater on the 22nd.

Honduras: a powerful tropical storm batters Tegucigalpa, with more damage and flash-flooding on the 27th in neighbouring Panama.

Bangladesh: fears are growing for the safety and health of 600 thousand Burmese Rohingya Muslim refugees housed under canvas in the east of the country as the cyclone season begins. A powerful storm hit the capital, Dhaka on the 22nd.

Madagascar: French island of Réunion battered on the 24th by Tropical Cyclone Fakir, the latest ever recorded in the season. Capital St Pierre flooded. 2 dead reported in a mudslide.

 

The boffins at Weather Underground are clearly fans of this, muh bogl! After I complained yet again on GW last week that they had moved my little house, this time to Sheffield, I’ve now been returned to West Wales in time for the cold and the rain. Thanks, guys!

A special message to cameraphone contributors to weather porn sites: look, we can’t clearly watch you dying and your cars getting washed away if you keep on videoing your extreme weather events in portrait format. Turn the damn phone on its side so we can get the full picture in landscape, the peak End of Everything experience!

CEWN #113, 114/ Floodlist/ Wunderground/ BBC News

Thank you.

x

Denial News

Oh dear.

In addition to all his other little foibles and peccadilloes, the notorious attention seeker, Latin scholar, blabbermouth and Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson appears to be on the side of the demons on Pennsylvania Ave.

According to The Guardian‘s Green Light environmental monitoring service, he is following in the expensively shod footsteps of Mr Scott Pruitt, the profoundly corrupt avenging angel of the decimated US Environmental Protection Agency, which he reputedly runs along climate-change-denying policy lines dictated by the Orange Imbecile himself (see previous Posts), and is winding down climate research in his department:

“The number of full-time officials dedicated to climate change in the Foreign Office has dropped by almost 25% in the two years since Boris Johnson became foreign secretary, according to data released under freedom of information (FoI) rules.

“Johnson has also failed to mention climate change in any official speech since he took the office, in marked contrast to his two predecessors.”

Has he perchance joined the gravy train of Big Energy’s billion-dollar campaign to throw a spanner in the work of carbon reduction?

In another curious echo of the US policy position – which is to, basically, do nothing at all that will upset the Koch Brothers*, but essentially to let rip on fossil-fuel energy usage while rolling back all environmental and consumer protections,

“Climate change minister, Claire Perry said: “The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change while growing our national income, ensuring we are best placed to help other countries reduce harmful carbon emissions.” (Ibid.)

Sadly, thanks to the Beast from the East – a severe weather event in February brought on by polar air being displaced by panic-inducingly warm air and anomalous sea temperatures in the Arctic causing the fragmentation of the jetstreams – our national income grew by only 0.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2018.

So don’t expect too much from the Tories in the way of action on climate change, except more lies.

We’ll just cheer the rest of you on. Go, world.

Yay.

*For a devastating indictment of how these two multi-multi-billionaire coalmining philanthropists, the Chuckle Brothers of West Virginia, have come to own the Republican Party, I urge you to watch the courageous Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Dem. Rhode Island) giving a talk to a presumably empty Congress, entitled “Time to Wake Up”, which is found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG0AOHy1kQg

 

 

Banking on the IT crew… GW: Oh, but no, look, it’s another Ice Age!… Striking miners: Scargill vindicated!…Been good to know you…

“In the course of four months, I spoke with twenty current and former staffers on Trump’s National Security Council, and tried to answer an unsettling question: What does it mean to be national-security adviser when one of the greatest risks facing the country may be the President himself?”

  • Patrick Radden Keefe, writing in The New Yorker about his profile of former National Security Advisor, Gen. McMaster. The picture painted of life in Trump’s White House by those staffers is somewhat horrifying, you have been warned. I thought I’d worked for some lying, bullying, pig-ignorant, dysfunctional money-grubbing cretins in my time, but this….

 

Vogon

 

Bolton

Banking on the IT crew

In the wake of the 2007 banking crash, in 2012 I received a letter from Lloyd’s Bank, of whom or which I had been a client for over 35 years: man, couple, homeowner and business tycoon, informing me that to “increase my consumer choice” my account was being moved, along with those of a couple of million other indigents at the bottom of the wealth heap, to a relaunched subsidiary, the former Trustee Savings Bank, TSB.

Judged by the somewhat basic “vanilla”quality of its logo and general one-color in-branch design scheme (depression blue), it was clear that things would not always go well for us. But I was relieved to find that the familiar faces had remained at my local branch and were happy to lend me money where the old Lloyd’s wouldn’t even let me have a check (cheque) card.

I chose therefore to eschew the benefits of online banking and phone apps, and resolved to continue dealing personally with my torturers, there being a point of crossover between brand loyalty and Stockholm Syndrome.

It seems like a wise decision in view of what happened last weekend.

A few days earlier, customers of TSB had received a text, warning of a suspension of online banking facilities over the weekend. The bank was “upgrading” its computer systems, but would be back online by 6 pm, Sunday.

“Hahaha”, I thought. Yeah, right. For I had been a victim of a bank computer upgrade before, back in the 1990s, when a PPI failure led to the Beneficial Bank of America demanding I repay £2,500 owed on a credit card, immediately. Difficult negotiations followed.

Eventually, two truths emerged: one, that they had fired the insurance company that had been paying off the interest on my loan under the PPI policy after my company went bust, but had not told anyone, so that the payments had stopped without my knowing; and two, that they had then lost all their customers’ records in a computer “upgrade”, that had been kept equally hush-hush, and so they had no recollection of our existing agreement for me to repay the loan on a monthly basis.

On Wednesday I went into the town branch of TSB and asked the cashier if I should perhaps withdraw all my savings in cash? It was a joke, sort of. “Oh no”, she said, brightly. “There’s no need for that. The bank has been running tests on the new system for weeks, nothing will go wrong.”

Nevertheless, I took the precaution of transferring £500 into my current account, and getting a printout of my balances.

This morning, the complaints were flooding in to the news programs. Half the customers said they hadn’t been told, they couldn’t make payments or withdraw money… one guy said he’d been credited with £35 thousand he didn’t have, and had been sent another customer’s account details… other people’s mortgages had been paid off, a curious complaint – and so it went on.

When are these vital institutions going to wake up and understand, the IT crew are just a groaning heap of useless baboons who have been at the fermented fruit again?

Get it into your woolly old bankers’ heads: nobody understands this stuff. They just pretend, take your money and hope for the best.

You’d do better to ask the Russians.

It’s a race, frankly, between catastrophic global warming, food insecurity, nuclear war and the total collapse of the overcomplicated systems we have created to try to manage our tottering civilization, as 250 more people are being born every minute, all requiring bank accounts with 24-hour service.

Postscriptum: It’s been a week now and thousands of TSB customers still can’t access their accounts online as the company has taken its online banking offline and called in a new team of beanbags from IBM to try to sort the problem out. The latest is, it could take YEARS. Good luck with that.

x

GW: Oh, but no, look, it’s another Ice Age!

As the record cold and snow persisted over the northeastern states and Canada into the weekend, firing up the YouTube Global Cooling/Grand Solar Minimum community, heatwave conditions and strong winds continued to support wildfires in the SW states, and temperatures continued to rise all across Europe, Central Africa, India and China. Edging 29C, 84F, Southern England had its warmest April day since 1949, the average anomaly for the month to the 21st being +2.5C. Running the London marathon in honor of his late father, award-winning young Cumbrian chef, Matt Campbell collapsed in the heat and died. The great Mo Farah could only finish third.

No Ice Age here, then.

USA: rain at the weekend helped firefighters contain Oklahoma and Colorado prairie blazes that have consumed over 1/2 million acres and more than 50 homesteads. 2 dead.

Indonesia: New flooding rages through Bandung, East Java.

Russia: 1 dead, several injured as powerful storm batters Moscow. Russian far east burning again already – new Siberia wildfires seen from space.

Serbia: Meteoalarm has severe weather warnings out for the Balkans for high temperature (up to 30C, 85F) and thunderstorms.

India: on 19 April, the mercury hit 45.4C (113.7F) at Chandrapur, Maharashtra state. But up in the north there’s been some unseasonal snow in Kashmir, with landslides and power cuts caused by heavy rainstorms.

Kenya: “At least 72” people are known to have died in a worsening flood situation over the past month.  More than 200,000 people have been displaced. “Wide areas of farmland are underwater and thousands of livestock have been killed. Dadaab refugee camps, which host over 225,000 refugees, have also been affected and there are concerns over cholera and other water-borne diseases. About 50,000 people are stranded in villages near the border with Ethiopia …. They have reportedly not been able to access food and water supplies for 10 days.”

Rwanda: “At least 18 people have died (23 to 24 April) as a result of floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain.” There’s also flooding in several regions of Somalia, where rising river levels are threatening a number of towns.

Chad: The mercury in Moyemtoro touched 48.2C (118.7F) last week. 46C is the forecast for Thursday.

Japan: 30C, 85F described as “more like July”.

 

CEWN #112/ Floodlist/ Meteoalarm/ Daily Mail

 

GW: Attribution, a note from the Editor

Likers, spammers etc. will know, the GW feature (Granny Weatherwax’s Global Warming diary) attempts to show every week just a fraction of the extreme and – for local communities – devastating weather events around the world that go largely unrecorded by the mainstream media, or are tucked away in obscure corners of their online platforms, where you have to know what’s going on before you can find the information.

The aim then is to raise awareness of the gravity of the situation as regards the earth’s changing climate; partly because the BogPo is a UK publication and, to date, the British Isles continue to enjoy relatively benign conditions – albeit that it’s raining miserably outside again, and Spring is still tentatively arriving more than a month behind schedule – making it easy for our home readers to remain blissfully unaware of the cumulative threat to our way of life that is rapidly manifesting elsewhere in the world.

That also goes for dimwitted middle-Americans, who can’t think further than their own backyard.

For this purpose, we rely on a variety of sources. These are normally attributed at the bottom of each weekly article, their content abstracted and lightly edited (where not original to GW) to remove extraneous detail, some of it indicative of attribution to primary sources such as regional or national weather bureaux, TV stations and news publications. Where known, these sources too may be identified here, or they may be obscure (we don’t read Indonesian, e.g.) and hence, unattributed. For which we would like to apologize, but in our view the information comes first.

In short, there is already an informal network involved in disseminating news of storms, floods, landslides, fires, heatwaves, ice-melt and related statistics, and we acknowledge the tireless work both of the originators, and of the researchers and editors in collecting and collating the secondary information on which we mostly rely.

GW hopes and trusts that the sources we quote won’t mind this sharing on a ‘creative commons’ basis – plagiarism and copyright issues are not the point here, we feel, and readers are respectfully asked to do their own lookups of the sources mentioned if you are interested in gleaning further information; thus benefiting them in whatever way they are able to monetize and support their activities.

We make no apology therefore as we stress the urgency of the global situation for reprinting in its entirety, below, this morning’s menu from issues #113 and #114 of the Climate and Extreme Weather News (Understanding Climate Change website), an important source collating visual evidence – mainly raw cameraphone footage from all over the world – of what is happening right now, publishing on YouTube every four days or so. We shall of course go into more detail of the events listed in the next issue of the BogPo/The Pumpkin, based on this and other sources.

So for really depressing viewing, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zvhx0coFxfU where you will find video posted of the following events:

00:14 Indonesia: Cilegon, Cianjur & Bumiayu floods 13:06 Tropical Cyclone Fakir 16:09 Bangladesh: Dhaka storm 19:18 Egypt: Cairo flash floods 22:35 Israel: Storm & flash floods 24:56 Saudi Arabia: Storms & flash floods 28:48 Algeria: Flash floods 34:04 Kenya: Floods 35:53 Rwanda: Floods and landslides 36:24 South Africa: Cape Town flash floods 36:54 China: Anhui floods 38:11 Brazil: Maceio flood 39:00 Mexico: Toluca hailstorm 40:43 The USA: Southern storms 42:44 India: Heatwave…00:12 Syria: Damascus flash flood 06:57 Jordan: Zarqa flash flood 11:02 Israel: Flash flood 13:10 Kuwait: Dust storm 16:00 Honduras: Tegucigalpa storm & flash flood 19:47 Panama: Flash floods 21:51 Somalia: Floods….

It’s a lot to take in. Just realize that this chaos is going on, month after month, day after day, around the globe – and it’s coming for you and me.

x – and it’s coming for us.

Striking miners: Scargill vindicated!

“The UK has not generated electricity from coal for more than three days – the longest streak since the 1880s. The new record comes just days after the last record of 55 hours was set, National Grid said.” – BBC News.

x

Been good to know you…

Arctic: a new scientific paper from geologist, Dr David Page looks at direct comparisons between the thousands of mysterious “frost-mounds” that have been appearing all over the Yamal peninsula in Siberia for the last 20 years, and a similar feature on Mars that non-geologists have always thought were just volcanic cones. Not so, says Page. They’re the same – methane fartholes. And Mars, as we know, is a dead planet.

The good news is, we don’t know how long it might take before global warming causes the Siberian mounds to go off pop – they’re full of the gas and some are already exploding – but the bad news is, Page calculates the Martian mounds all triggered one another within a period of years rather than centuries.

Oh, and that the amount of methane ours contain, if released in a continuous cascade effect – only six are known to have blown up so far, since 2013 – will put previous estimates of 50 gigatonnes of possible permafrost emissions in the shade, triggering runaway warming. The key to the problem being, no “civilization” has ever heated their planet up this quickly before. We’re in uncharted territory.

Latest CO2 daily readings from the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii give a global level around 413 ppm, already 3 ppm above March’s figure. Prof. Sir Peter Wadhams of Cambridge U. remarks that CO2 is rising faster than ever before. Readings from the Siberia wildfires raging along the Amur river were as high as 974 ppm. Prof. Paul Beckwith of Ottawa U. reports from satellite observations that methane clathrates seem to be outgassing from the shallow seabed off Novaya Zemlya. On 22 April Arctic sea ice extent was 13.552 million km², another record low for the time of year – and the sun is rising.

Arctic-News, 22 April, citing ‘A candidate methane-clathrate destabilisation event on Mars: a model for sub-millennial-scale climatic change on Earth’ published last week in  ‘Gondwana Research’ / “A Conversation with Peter Wadhams”  youtu.be/SIBoJWDAg00/ Paul Beckwith “Methane venting into air over Arctic” youtube.com/watch?v=FntMMsyGXvU

Meanwhile, from the Sputnik News website, two days ago:

“The residents of a village located on Russia’s Taymyr Peninsula were in for quite a surprise when they discovered a rift filled with warm water emerging from the permafrost near their settlement, according to Russian media reports. The emergent body of water is about 30 meters in diameter and emits a strong sulfurous odor.”

Sulfur baths might however be good for tourism. Eyewitnesses also reported experiencing warm air currents in the area, adding that the lake appears to be slowly sinking into the ground, giving a ride element to the experience. “A scientist” commented: “Things change… the permafrost is not permanent.”

GW however comments: “Assuming it is sulfur and not methane they can smell, as methane is odorless, the likelihood is more that there is a reserve of crude oil underneath.”

Meanwhile, Sputnik News also reports on an Icelandic disaster in the making:

“The ice-covered Öræfajökull volcano, which has been dormant since 1727, has recently woken from its slumber and experienced a major earthquake on October 3. Since then, increased biothermic activity has caused ice to melt and form lakes around the volcano. The melting water reported reeks of sulfur, which might be yet another token of the activity.”

A yellow warning is out to local communities as “experts” fear a repeat of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, emitting an ash cloud which left air traffic grounded for days throughout much of Europe and newscasters floundering with their pronunciation skills nowhere in evidence. One consolation: volcanologists don’t have a very good record when it comes to predicting the scale of eruptions.

Cheers!

Long Essay: Are we alone in deep time?… Back you go, then… GW: feels like makin’ history… Journey’s End.

“It wasn’t just racists who voted to leave Europe…. Cunts did as well.” – Comedian, Stewart Lee, 2016

 

Long Essay

Are we alone in deep time?

“We’re used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you’re only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated.”

Astrophysicist, Adam Frank poses an interesting question in an article in The Atlantic this month, based on a “scientific” paper published in collaboration with Dr Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

In view of the enormous scale of geological time in which anything could be hidden, the poverty of the fossil record and the blink of an eye during which Mankind has existed, could there ever have been a previous industrial civilization on Earth comparable to our own, perhaps millions of years ago – since when, all physical traces of skyscrapers, roads, drive-thru McDonalds, discarded iPhones and other artifacts would have been eliminated by the churnover of the ever self-renewing surface of the planet grinding everything to dust and squishing it down to rock? If there was, how would we know?

Well, it seems the answer lies in the chemical trace elements their activities would have left as a distinctive layer in the ancient rocks, deep down. And yes (spoiler alert), there may be some. Or maybe not….

Masters of the Universe… our civilized  Silurian ancestors. (Pinterest.com)

As with much breakthrough science, the question arose out of a casual conversation Frank was having with Schmidt one day about the possibility of finding traces of life on other planets, given that there is some mystery about why we haven’t yet found evidence of aliens “out there”, given the ever-growing realization that other viable planets exist in their billions.

Maybe we’re too late, and their own civilizations have destroyed them, in much the same way ours is about to destroy us.

In just the way a civilization on earth ten, twenty, fifty million years ago – or even during the age of dinosaurs, 250 to 65 million years ago – might have destroyed itself, possibly many times over, through overconsumption, climate change or catastrophic loss of the primary resource-base. (The theory seems to me to ignore the bounceback factor evident in the fall and rise of all known human societies. Maybe there wasn’t one.)

Frank and Schmidt have named it the Silurian hypothesis, after the intelligent lizard-beings of Dr Who, and offer an interesting range of possible chemical traces that have been detected, or that might well be detected if searched for, that could be evidence of ancient technologies in action.

For example, looking at what is about to kill humans off as the dominant species, there is CO2, traces of which are found in core samples. There is plentiful evidence linking increases in atmospheric CO2 to “dead ocean” events, such as are beginning to alarm modern oceanographers, where a complete lack of oxygen due to warming water has triggered ecological collapse and mass extinctions. The cause of past atmospheric changes was most probably natural seismicity or perhaps a global conflagration, but there is an outside possibility of species-induced warming.

The difference being, almost all of those extinctions in the fossil record (and it’s the “dead ocean” events that precipitated the billions of tonnes of dead animal and plant matter that are the basis of the carboniferous fossil fuels we are burning so recklessly today) took place over thousands of years. We’re managing it in under three hundred – unless you add in the pretty negligible effects of the previous five thousand years of “slash and burn” agriculture.

Your Uncle Bogler, as you might expect, being no scientist at all, has some thoughts to throw in the pot.

Firstly, what is meant by a “civilization”? Does it have to be industrial?

Comparison of the technological and scientific paradigm in the early 21st century with that of the Greeks and the Romans between 1500 and 2500 years ago, the Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations and the Chinese, reaching back a further few centuries, reveals many similar features as well as the obvious differences: constructed habitation, agriculture, animal husbandry and the storage of surpluses enabling settled communities, wheeled (animal-drawn) transportation leading to the creation of roads; writing, mathematics, medicine, representative art, investigative philosophy, materials science including metallurgy, common belief structures including faith in the supernatural, funerary practices, transcontinental and oceanic trade, education, money, taxation, representative democracy, the manufacture of luxury goods for consumption by hierarchical elites – constant, unremitting warfare.

All of those features are with us today.

Motive power until the late 18th century CE was provided by wind and water or by animal and human drudgery – muscle power – before being replaced by steam. Weaponry has become more deadly. Combustion culture is still with us in the form of cars, factories, public lighting and power-plant. Communications technology and the mass distribution of images and information, together with automated systems for trade and transportation, date only from the past 250 or so years, and until quite recently (before we started reverting to the old primitive methods: wind, sun and water) were entirely dependent on generating energy from finite resources at the risk of dangerously altering the climate; a threat that has possibly slipped beyond our control.

“I have just cut this man’s head off. He insulted my hat. Give me your little dog, or else!” Babylonians were even stranger than Silurians… (Wikipedia)

The combustion engine/electronic communications aspect of our “civilization” was entirely denied to those earlier societies I have mentioned (there were others: no archaeo-botanist now thinks the jungles of Amazonia and Cambodia are primeval ecosystems), but no-one denies them the right to be known as “civilized”.

If you think of a hypothetical society mainly dependent on bananas – the leaves and plant stems used for clothing and construction, the fruit for food, the skins for shoes (joke) then it is quite easy to imagine what would happen to the people if disease or drought suddenly destroyed the plantations. Does their fragility make them any less “civilized”?

So where is the line drawn between “advanced” and “primitive”?

The management of available resources is the main indicator of the level of civilization a society, whether human or otherwise, can attain. In which case we can safely include under the banner of civilization any human society that rises above mere subsistence in terms of its sustainability of organization, the degree of intercommunicability and physical security it may offer its members. That would include, for instance, the plains Indians of North America, the remnant tribes of the Mato Grosso, the aborigine of Australia or the headhunters of the highlands of Borneo, all of whom sustained their way of life for millennia. (Let’s not forget the headhunters of Celtic Wales, circa 50 BCE!).

All are in most senses civilizations. The argument perhaps rests on what degree of civilization produces the telltale traces of its past existence that are required as evidence after millions of years?

For, as Frank points out, the only known part of the planet that has remained unchanged and in plain view for more than 1.5 million years is one small plateau in the Negev desert of Israel. Everywhere else that’s as old has been turned over and plowed under, drowned or pushed up into mountains by the drifting continents, tectonic uplift, earthquakes, volcanoes, wind and rain, shifting sands and changing sea levels.

Frank’s article speculates poignantly on what geologists will find of us in ten million years’ time? Just a thin layer of imperishable plastics waste, he suggests. Embedded within it, Beethoven’s late quartets.

Indeed, all physical evidence of a highly developed, technological civilization based on fossil-fuel and electric (or some other, unknown) motive power dating from millions of years ago would by now exist only as a few trace elements layered deep in the rocks. It would have had to disappear sufficiently long ago for the carboniferous fuel deposits we depend on to have re-formed, at least about 30 million years. What chance would a nomadic tribal society or one building with natural materials – mud and thatch – communicating perhaps by telepathy, have of letting us know of their past existence? (the same obviously goes for other worlds.)

Your Uncle Bogler has one other answer:

It’s in the genes, silly scientists!

Could sheep possibly be the descendants of a “higher” civilization? It seems absurd.

You need to get out from behind your PhD firewalls and apply a bit of eclecticism to your geophysical researches and paleohistorical speculations. Or talk to a behaviorist. Try, for instance, keeping sheep.

Remaining traces of an earlier civilization predating even our mammalian ancestors, whose rise began 65 million years ago as the planet recovered from the near-terminal Chicxulub meteor collision and the age of dinosaurs abruptly ended, might be buried in our current behaviors, many of which are predicated on the basic ideas of social organization and resource management required of all civilizations.

The planet has gotten through a wide variety of climatic conditions, life-changing extremes and profound alterations in habitat, that have steered all the organisms we currently know from there to where we are now, with a lot of sacrifices along the way; and produced millions of viable species – any one of which could, for a few hundred thousand years at least, our “pinprick in geological time”, have been the proto-civilizers we are hunting for.

Just look at how many goes the planet had, to produce Homo sapiens from a range of hominid options; and all in just a couple of million years.

But let’s start with something simpler.

From keeping just a few sheep, I discovered two things about them that might unexpectedly point to inherited civilizational traits, masked by our methods of husbandry. They have hunting instincts, together with considerable cunning; and they seek shelter (a desire they are seldom granted under the pastoral management system we have devised for them over millennia. They didn’t evolve that themselves!).

Two common traits of primitive civilization.

In the first instance, while I was feeding corn to our hens, the sheep (who were allowed in the yard) would try to steal the food. After a few goes that resulted in them being chased away, they devised a system whereby one sheep would make a lunge for the corn while the others hid behind the stable. While I was chasing the miscreant away, the others would dash out and steal the corn.

In the second instance, when kept in a paddock where there was an old, disused pig ark, the sheep at night would herd their lambs into the back of the structure and then block the open doorway with their own bodies, to keep foxes out.

This certainly does not sound like the stupid creatures of myth; but let’s not forget too, that sheep are self-organizing into tribes with strong social bonds, have dominant leaders, a good-as-human ability to recognize individuals in the flock; while their young engage in imaginative play – including races and dominance games like “king of the castle”. They are not just the cud-chewing, barely sentient, toothsome fleecy creatures we have bred them to be.

The question is, are these archetypal forms of behavior evidence of ascending-dominant, or decadent-recessive genetic factors? Are they evidence of newly acquired proto-civilizational skills, that are slowly evolving – or the residual characteristics possibly of past modes of living, that have been lost through evolution and outbreeding from their ancestral heritage?

What would a more advanced civilization make of humanity only a few hundred years after a global nuclear war? Would they believe these primitives once walked on the moon, explored the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and bio-engineered new organs?

Could sheep – among many species, including ourselves – possibly be the descendants of a “higher” civilization? It seems absurd. But then, go back far enough in time and sheep weren’t sheep. In a sense they are a new species, artificially created by Man through selective breeding. Why do we constantly imagine that evolution invariably progresses towards “higher”, more complex systems? It’s trial-and-error.

The same questions could be asked of animals like squirrels, that store food against hard times – and can quickly work out complex ways of getting to it – or birds, the living descendants of dinosaurs. Many behavioral traits shown by nonhuman animals do relate to civilizational behaviors in modern Man and might therefore have originated with our long-ago common ancestors.

Just as we do, for instance, birds build nests to facilitate the organizational requirements of breeding and rearing their young with a greater probability of species survival than merely dumping them on the bare ground.

Like us, they have developed elaborate courtship rituals and co-operative social organization. They teach their young to fly, and pair-bond – sometimes for life.

Some are tool-users and problem-solvers. Some are capable of sophisticated mimicry of sounds, including human speech, in addition to broadcasting a wide range of calls understood by other birds as warnings, invitations and the creation of “eruv”-style bounded territories.

They have advanced navigational skills we have lost, and practice the avian equivalent of transhumance, moving seasonally over great distances to new feeding grounds and returning unerringly to their breeding places.

Were these behaviors more or less developed in the good old dinosaur days, possibly? Could they be surviving traces of past proto-civilizations, rather than mere adaptations? What might have been the social and environmental imperatives that initially drove those common behaviors and embedded them in our genetic inheritance?

Is it necessary to believe we have somehow come up in the past 300 thousand years (a pinprick in time) from related hominids, through a perfectly linear process of evolving as ever more superior beings with opposed thumbs and big brains and gym memberships? Is that not just self-deluding speciesism, putting us at the top of a very tall tree while ignoring the branches? Is a tree not just as extensive below ground as it is above?

Coming more up-to-date, we can observe civilizational traits in primates descended in the not-too distant past from our own ancestors.

Apes too display individualism and social organization, territorial delineation and defense, an eclectic diet based on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, responsible parenting, grooming and courtship behaviors, posturing and calling, tool-using, shows of respect for their dead, hierarchy, taboos – murder… a fondness for alcohol (!).

Where are those archetypal behaviors derived from, other than from earlier ancestors?

And who is to say those distant ancestors did not share at least the same civilizational traits, enough that they could weave them into an organized society: why is it necessary to believe they are recently learned or acquired traits, or just “animal instincts, as distinct from human rational thought, rather than behaviors inherited from forgotten early models just as, or even more sophisticated than today’s?

Could those unknown ancestors going back tens of millions of years not have developed definable civilizations before emerging in our lineage, our own “multiple intelligences”, instincts and skills passed down from theirs? Are we not in that sense ourselves living proof of past civilizations? Have we really only just discovered since Newcomen and his steam engine, since James Clerk Maxwell and Benjamin Franklin, since Locke and Hobbes, how to be “civilized”?

Or is that just cultural hubris, cutting us off from our distant, civilized past?

 http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/are-we-earths-only-civilization/557180/

x

You would imagine the prime purpose of a thinktank is to think.

Back you go, then

Evidence that not everyone is descended from distant ancestors with pre-civilized traits comes from The Guardian today:

“The government needs to be far more ambitious in its plans to register the estimated 3.4 million EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, with outreach programmes in pubs, schools, hospitals and libraries, a thinktank report has said.”

You would imagine the prime purpose of a thinktank is to think. This one seems to be more concerned with tanking.

What demographic do they think they’re dealing with?

I have not personally visited a pub or a school in years. I drink silently alone at home, like most civilized middle-class people – smelly old pubs have been going out of business at the rate of two a day for years. Hospitals are in way over their heads just trying to find enough empty beds with spare nurses to keep the service afloat, let alone administer the racist Home Office’s hate-filled immigration policy.

Most of the libraries have been closed as the collateral damage of government austerity cuts. Anyway, who goes to libraries in the age of Kindl? Only rough sleepers.

Where the baboons who infest the murky world of thinktanks have been for the past forty years is difficult to determine. They seem to inhabit a John Major England of nurses on bicycles, warm beer and cricket on the village green.

Not unlike Americans, in fact.

Maybe we should investigate their immigration status?

x

You can’t keep a dandelion underground for long… Spring cautiously arriving in West Britain.

GW: feels like makin’ history

Your old granny’s mummy was pregnant with her in 1949, when the temperature in London last topped 29C, 84F in April. But here we are again.

17C above the average. Feels like makin’ history.

And as she predicted when reporting on how everyone was moaning about how cold it was during the visit last month by the Beast from the East, the popular prints (and the BBC website) are once again full of homely advice about how to stay alive in the infernal heat of the day. (Stay indoors and drink plenty of fluids… don’t wear a silly costume if you’re going to run a marathon…)

We really are a bit sad in this country, where nothing but the internet trolling (and the desire to run in a silly costume) ever really goes to extremes.

Colombia: At least 2 people have died after a month’s worth of torrential rain fell in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca department on Tuesday 17 April, bringing the death toll to 12 in the past week. Local officials said that 68.5 mm of rain fell in 2 hours.

Tanzania: death toll in Dar-es-Salaam flooding reaches 15. Further flooding in Kenya has left over 33,000 people displaced. Local authorities say that more than 20 people have died over the past 10 days.

USA:  flooding from Winter Storm Xanto in New York City and New Jersey. Emergency services were called on to rescue around 50 people trapped in their cars. Heavy rain also affected parts of West Virginia, where a state of emergency was declared. Floods from snowmelt and rain have also affected northern Montana, where a state of emergency is in force.

“The flooding follows a massive storm from 13 to 15 April, 2018, that reached from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest, bringing with it heavy snow, hail and tornadoes. Up to 2 feet of snow fell in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. At least 5 people are thought to have died as a result of the storm.”

2 people have died as a result of the extensive prairie fires still raging in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Hundreds of square miles and more than 25 homesteads have been destroyed. Storms are predicted for the weekend in the south, but generally an easing of the wintry conditions is forecast.

Martinique: Heavy rain, lightning strikes and hail caused landslides and major flooding on 16 April. In one 6-hour period, 250 mm rain drenched Le François, 125 mm falling in just 1 hour.

Puerto Rico: ignoring 2,000 dead in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina did little to improve George W Bush’s reputation, but the towel-chucking moron soldiers blithely on, having utterly failed the people of Puerto Rico, stricken by hurricanes Irma and Maria six months ago. News reaches us that the entire power grid for the island (pop. 3 million) was down again Monday after a digger accidentally knocked over a transformer. 40 thousand homes have still not been reconnected at all.

At the same time, authorities have approved $125 million for repairs in the wake of floods in Hawaii – another island in the middle of a big ocean.

India: 15 dead in Calcutta storm. Large parts of Central India including Rajastan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are under an extreme heat advisory as temperatures climb past 40C, 104F.

United Kingdom: Blown by an onshore breeze, Granny Weatherwax’s Wunderground location moves from West Wales to Nether Edge shock! “One of the 28 electoral wards in the City of Sheffield, England.” (Wikipedia) Pop. 18,990. Says Gran: “My, they do find some interesting places to send me to!”

Edited from Floodlist/ Wunderground/ CEWN #111/

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Journey’s End

11 April, and Arctic sea ice volume was again at a record low for the time of year, threatening an ice-free ocean between July and September (Arctic News website, 17 April). Loss of ice allows more heat to enter the ocean and speeds deglaciation of the Greenland ice sheet, freshwater causing Gulf Stream current collapse. Feedback mechanisms might then result in rapid warming with an ominous rise in methane release.

Former University of Nevada bio-climatologist, Prof. Guy McPherson warns that:

“Rapid temperature rise will affect agriculture across the globe, threatening a collapse of industrial civilization, in turn resulting in an abrupt halt of the sulfates that are currently co-emitted as a result of burning fuel, reducing global dimming, which will further add to a temperature rise that is already threatening to cause people across the globe to perish at massive scale due to heatstroke, dehydration and famine, if not perish due to nuclear radiation and further toxic effects of war, as people fight over who controls the last habitable places on Earth.”  Arctic-news.blogspot.com

This scenario could start to play out with frightening rapidity this year or next, leading to human extinction by 2026. McPherson, at one and the same time the most depressing and the most depressed human being on the planet, ever, enjoins us all to be kinder to one another in our remaining days. Most of us, he suggests, will be dead within 18 months from now.

It kind of puts Brexit into perspective.

Global seismicity remains in a state of excitement, with several M6 or greater quakes reported in recent days. As if 27 inches of rain were not enough:

“The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory observations and measurements of the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō eruption on Kīlauea volcano’s East Rift Zone during the past month suggest that the magma system beneath Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō has become increasingly pressurized.”

“Mount Ioyama, a volcano in southern Japan has erupted for the first time in 250 years, spewing steam and ash hundreds of meters into the air, as authorities warned locals not to approach the mountain.” This is the third Japanese volcano to erupt in the past four months, that has not erupted in living memory.

A corporate training video mocking-up a BBC news bulletin announcing the outbreak of nuclear war has got loose on YouTube, without its disclaimer. Well, it’s only a matter of time.

While citizen journalist reports continue to pour in to the website of phenomenologist, MrMBB333 of strange and unusual animal behaviors, mainly in snowlocked midwestern America, where hungry birds, raccoons and deer – even cougars – are said to be walking right up to houses and staring at people as if asking for help; and of a tsunami that terrified residents on the shore of Lake Michigan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5K6ayaZkiM&t=104s

Most of his followers seem to agree: it’s the government manipulating the weather.

Arctic News/ Mary Greeley website/ MrMBB333 website

The Pumpkin, Issue 50: One strike and you’re in… Watch the birdie…Is it all over bar the plea bargaining?…The genius of The Pumpkin… GW: Well, blow me down! (or Up!)… No Spring?

“Like a really fucking stupid Forrest Gump…” – noted GOP Trump supporter speaking off the record.

Trump was “like an evil, really fucking stupid Forrest Gump… If we’re going to lose because of him, we might as well impeach the motherfucker,” the unnamed Republican congressman told (conservative blogger and radio show host) Erick Erickson on a recent trip to the supermarket… “He’s capable of doing some things right, although it’s usually other people doing things in his name. But dammit, he’s taking us all down with him..”– Edited from a 13 April report on TYT.

And we thought they hadn’t realized!

 

One strike and you’re in

(14 April)

If you asked me to select three political leaders whose failing prospects would benefit from the opportunity to hang tough, I would have to name Donald J Trump, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron, all of whom are in trouble with their electorates and looking increasingly embattled.

Macron is rapidly achieving the deep unpopularity and contempt which the French healthily reserve for all their presidents, especially when the phrase ‘labor reform’ is in the air. Beset by protest strikes, he is – not unreasonably – trying to push through some modest changes to a calcified public sector labor market whose privileges have been expensively underwritten by decades of Government concessions; creating a single pensions system that would treat private and public sector workers equally, and (in five years’ time) raising the retirement ages for groups such as State-employed train drivers (currently able to retire at 52!), bringing the working week and making the rules for hiring and firing more flexible, in line with the rest of the EU.

It’s not going well for him.

After being shoehorned by the party to succeed David Cameron in the wake of his referendum debacle, May vowed there would be no election before 2020 and then panicked, calling an election to boost her majority and strengthen her hand in the EU withdrawal negotiations. She didn’t exactly lose, but an autocratic campaign beset with flip-flops on disastrous manifesto policies cost her both the Conservative majority in the Commons and the legitimacy she craved. Few if any of the promised social reforms to help the “just about managing” lower middle-class have been delivered, while her poor connection with ordinary people after the Grenfell Tower fire and lack of progress on delivering a workable Brexit have created the impression of an introverted, indecisive personality, helplessly trapped between two squabbling wings of her party.

It’s not going well for her, although orchestrated, ad hominem attacks on Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and her seemingly determined defense of the realm after the novichok poisoning incident in Salisbury (still no sign of a suspect) have improved her ratings a little in the past two weeks.

As for Trump, he remains mired in ever-deeper corruption scandals and under investigation on many fronts; not least for clear and unlawful obstruction of justice, as he writhes and wriggles on hooks he keeps creating for himself by his intemperate and egoistical “tweets”, his “alternative truths”, the rambling, self-incriminating interviews and off-the-wall speeches. A so-called “blue wave” of Democratic party gains in local elections is turning his relations with the Republican party increasingly sour; with, now, some 22 Republican congressmen and women, including the previously supine speaker of the Senate, Paul Ryan, announcing their urgent need to spend more time with their families before the mid-terms in November.

Trump’s plain desire is to engineer a new chain of command in the Justice department to enable him to order the firing of his nemesis, Special Counsel Robert Mueller; knowing that to do so might end or at least weaken the investigations into his personal finances and dealings with Russia, but will inevitably result in his impeachment.

History may conclude that the decision to risk all-out war with Russia, ostensibly over the chemical attack in Douma that killed 70 Syrian civilians about whom he could otherwise have cared less, was the direct result of his panic and fury at Mueller over an FBI raid just days ago on his personal lawyer’s home and office; a raid ordered not by Mueller, who had merely handed over certain information to the Manhattan district attorney (a Trump appointee), but as part of a separate FBI investigation into Mr Cohen’s activities over the years, that Trump fears will turn up incriminating evidence against him.

With his approval ratings stuck in the 30s it’s not going well for him either, and a diversionary tactic was inevitable.

What all three leaders have been craving is the kind of opportunity a military strike – in this case against the Syrian regime, that can be spun as a measured response to an illegal act under international law – grants flailing politicians to sound authoritative and in control, and to rally popular support. The problem being that there are no “measured responses” in the multivalent Syrian conflict, in which the West has tentatively dipped its toe from time to time with no clear strategy other than a vague desire for regime change – an outcome the Russians and Iran have put out of bounds.

The unfortunate result has been that our efforts have merely made things worse: creating opportunities for increasingly unpleasant  jihadist militias to fill the gaps, promoting Israel’s ambition to strike militarily against the growing Iranian presence in Syria, while privately conceding that the quicker al-Assad wins, the sooner order might be restored. There is no reason to believe America’s actions, given a veneer of legitimacy with the addition of a few strikes by French and British jets, can possibly affect the outcome of a war that, without our intervention, was already drawing to its agonizing close.

And with Bolton and Pompeo whispering in stereo, it seems likely Trump will react to criticism that he has no strategy in the Middle East by abrogating the Iranian nuclear deal, meaning all bets are off.

Chances are that we have now reignited the conflict, possibly on a new and more dangerous level, involving direct confrontation between the major powers. Hopefully they will have cleared the operation with one another first, using the so-called “deconfliction” protocols – Gen. Mattis and his opposite Russian number being rather more grounded in pragmatism than the magical realists of the Oval Office.

For God’s sake, public, stop voting for these fragile and insecure egomaniacs! You’ll get us all killed.

 

Commentatorballs (with apologies to Private Eye)

“Out front however Vettel promptly stretched his legs and opened a gap…” (Observer report on Chinese F1 Grand Prix)

 

Watch the birdie…

Trump as we know has become notorious for watching TV all day long, doing almost no work. His favorite station is Murdoch’s far-rightwing blatherfest, Fox News.

So taken is he with the sympathetic tone of the little faces that talk to him from the screens, some of his recent WH appointments have been of Fox News on-air personnel, including the ultra-hawk on Iran, John Bolton. (It’s clear the man-child also watches the Disney Channel, recently appointing presenter Caroline Sunshine to his press office, zippadeedoodah! And who’s that cute little elephant we can put in the State Department?)

Trump watchers have spotted that many of his tweets and policy statements closely follow the news agenda on Fox, reacting to items that trouble him. Even jokes by contributors can trigger a brainslide, for instance the time tame Fox lawyer Judge Napoletano suggested the British GCHQ might have helped Obama wiretap Trump’s New York office – something he still believes to this day.

And it’s been suggested by leftwing blatherers that his staffers sometimes put out fake press releases to Fox’s newsroom in the hope that he will see the story and be nudged into doing what they want, as he refuses otherwise to listen to policy advice.

So maybe there’s a simple explanation for his vacillating policies on Syria culminating in launching 105 cruise missiles (at $600 thousand each) against Assad’s supposed chemical warfare facilities on Friday night.

We know he was pissed-off about former FBI Director, James Comey’s new book comparing him to a mafia boss. Although you’d think he’d be pleased. Mafia bosses are cool, they get to kill people. He described Comey, whom he has previously called a liar, as a “slimeball”.

Worryingly, TYT reported:

“On Friday morning, Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt suggested that military strikes in Syria could be useful to divert attention from the unflattering portrayal of President Trump contained in former FBI Director James Comey’s book.

“If the president, and France, and the UK decide to strike Syria, don’t you think that story would be a bigger story than Comey’s book that’s released on Tuesday?” she said.

Earhardt’s suggestion came while Trump is reportedly still considering a potential military strike against Syria — and amid an edition of Fox & Friends that was largely devoted to sullying Comey’s reputation.”

And then on Friday night….

Fox & Friends: Earhardt (centre, between two men). (Fox News)

He is just irresponsible and vindictive enough to bomb Syria at the suggestion of a vapid TV talkshow host.

For, it has also leaked out of the White House that when the previous week he tweeted out that he was going to withdraw US troops from Syria, thereby encouraging Assad to go chemical again, he ordered the generals he wanted it done “in 48 hours”. Told that wasn’t going to happen, he sent the National Guard to patrol the Texas border instead.

As the quote in our standfirst illustrates, even his staunchest Republican congressional supporters, who go on-air every day on Fox News and CNN to defend him, privately believe he is insane.

 

Is it all over bar the plea bargaining?

Senior staff writer at the New Yorker, Adam Davidson has been responsible for breaking important research into the Trump Organization’s business dealings with known foreign criminals, and even by association, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who had skin in the game when Ivanka Trump signed off a deal with a corrupt Azerbaijani politician to put the Trump name on a non-existent hotel in Baku.

So it might be worth noting Davidson’s analysis of the significance of the FBI’s raids on Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen: it’s the beginning of the end for the Trump presidency, he argues, and of the largely self-created Trump mythology. But bear in mind, “expert” commentators have been forecasting the downfall of the Tangerine Tsar on an almost weekly basis for 15 months, and he’s still there.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/michael-cohen-and-the-end-stage-of-the-trump-presidency?mbid=nl_Daily 041618&CNDID=49581041&spMailingID=13323455&spUserID=MTkwODY5NzgyMTM0S0&spJobID=1381400090&spReportId=MTM4MTQwMDA5MAS2

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The genius of The Pumpkin

Browsing on the backbutton, The Pumpkin came across the following excerpt from a long essay he Posted (Issue 9) on 1 March last year – 2017, fully eleven months before the whole Cambridge Analytica/Facebook thing blew up in the world’s media.

I’m hoping that by including it in this, Post 691, he might achieve some recognition as a competent, insightful and reliable searcher for clues and generally remarkable prognosticator of events yet to come. Indeed, you might find it remarkable also that nobody pays him for this brilliant stuff. For, entirely unedited subsequently, he wrote:

How to swing an election (1 March, 2017)

We are now learning that one of the ways the Vote Leave campaign got its marginal majority was by someone ‘harvesting’ personal data from Facebook and other social media accounts, profiling millions of voters from their ‘Likes’ and search histories, using ‘bots’ (don’t ask, I have no idea) to bombard them automatically with tailored messages to manipulate their presumed voting inclinations. Two million new mystery voters suddenly appeared on the register, days before the vote; presumably radicalised online. The website crashed.

Farage had been judged too toxic even for the official Vote Leave, so contented himself with fronting (Arron) Banks’ private ‘Leave.EU’ campaign, into which the boorish millionaire sank £7.5 million*. And, surprise surprise, according to a report in the mainstream Observer newspaper, it turns out that nifty Nigel is also a ‘friend’ of US multi-billionaire, ultra-ultra-conservative hedge fund manager, Robert Mercer.

Mercer’s also happens to be the wallet behind Breitbart News, whose co-founder and sometime editor, Steve Bannon, is Trump’s consigliere. And more importantly, he is a computer ‘genius’, a pioneer of Big Data, and the ultimate owner of a firm called Cambridge Analytica, which carried out the data grab on the British electorate on behalf of Leave.EU, that helped to nudge the Leavers over the line.

….

Thus we have a real live instance of private interference from the USA in a British referendum, with the aim of breaking up the annoying European union and its anti-trust, pro-consumer superstate.

I’m assuming the voter radicalisation, Big Data techniques (more usually used for online advertising) employed by Cambridge Analytica were also applied to the US election, I don’t know. What else did the Trump campaign’s Breitbart connections get up to online, I wonder? Did Russian hackers really infiltrate the DNC? Or did that come from somewhere else?

Ultimately, the story lies elsewhere. We are clearly not looking at a coup only in the USA, this is a global hijacking.

The story is the money. Follow the money!

*Subsequently questions have been raised about the source of this funding as Banks’ companies were found at the time to be desperately lending one another money to avoid bankruptcy, and are still under investigation in the UK, Malta and Gibraltar over their shareholders’ connections with obscure offshore “shell” companies named in the Panama papers. You can follow that strand of the Brexit saga at OpenDemocracy.org.)

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Firemen battle an outbreak of “unusually aggressive” fires in the suburbs of Sydney, 15 April, after weeks of “unseasonably hot” weather.

GW: Well, blow me down! (or Up!)

The US weather bureau storm prediction center yesterday (13 April) issued a rare special advisory warning known as a PDS or Particularly Dangerous Situation for an enormous swath of the midwest from the Texas border up to Iowa. The bulletin urges householders to find shelter in basements or in internal rooms “without windows”, as massive storm cells are forming over the Gulf and moving northwards, with a threat of major tornadoes and a “95 per cent probability” of the most severe wind and large hail “events”.

Coincidentally, this is pretty much the same advice you’d get if the authorities issued a warning of a nuclear attack.

Ahead of the storms, fanned by winds and with temperatures already in the high 90s (38C-plus) after months of little rain, over 200 thousand acres of Oklahoma prairie have gone up in smoke, fires visible from space. Extreme wildfire conditions labelled “historic” (one above “extremely critical”) have been flagged for New Mexico and Colorado.

Meanwhile… “Blizzard warnings were plastered on Friday morning from northeast Colorado to southern Minnesota, along the north side of an (sic) sharpening stationary front. Heavy snowfall rates and wind gusts to 40-50 mph or more will paralyze travel across large stretches of the Northern Plains.” Xanto is being called a ‘once-in-a-lifetime storm’ as more than 30-in of snow is dumped over Wisconsin in 24 hours. Hundreds of thousands of homes without power, several deaths reported.

Major flooding in New Jersey.

Pardon me asking, along with 300 million Americans, wtf is going on?

Hawaii: “Hawaii Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation on 15 April after unprecedented rains caused major flooding and a series of landslides.  The National Weather Service recorded over 27 inches (685 mm) of rainfall in Hanalei on the island of Kauai during a 24-hour period from 14 to 15 April”, beating all records.

India: 15 dead in powerful storm over Calcutta.

Malawi: The “Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) has reported heavy rain and flooding in parts of Northern and Central Regions, affecting over 2,000 people and damaging roads and hundreds of homes. As many as 4 people (including three children) have reportedly died or gone missing.”

Tanzania: “At least” 9 dead in the capital, Dar es Salaam as “heavy rain caused buildings to collapse and widespread flooding in the city. The rain has been falling since Saturday 14 April. Reuters reported television footage showing residents seeking shelter on rooftops. … Dar es Salaam recorded 81.8 mm of rain from 14 to 15 April, and 99.6 mm in 24 hours the following day.” Another 50 mm could be on the way. Floods also in Kenya.

Algeria: huge storm over Batna, massive waterspout comes ashore. Flash flooding.

Spain: tornado damages Seville. Thunderstorms cause flash flooding in Italy, Austria – where in Graz, hail, rivers of ice in streets….

Martinique: big hail, flash flooding.

Brazil: STILL raining heavily! Floods in SE.

End of…

Ma Greeley reports, USGS recorded 74 earthquakes in the Yellowstone caldera on 10 April. A M3.5 struck on the 11th.

Meanwhile, again, a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Geography, Environment and Earth Science International finds that both UV-B and UV-C radiation at ground-level are increasing beyond dangerous. The authors confess they have no idea why. UV-C can be generated and is used industrially as a disinfectant, but it is not a naturally occurring form of radiation at the earth’s surface, being fully absorbed by the atmosphere… (Wikipedia)

No doubt theoreticians from the University of YouTube will be blaming the chemtrails, the Grand Solar Minimum (Minimum means least, by the way – least activity!), NASA and Planet Nibiru. I’m wondering however if an increase in this powerful kind of light we don’t normally experience could be damaging the trees in our valley, that appear to be dying, many of them?

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No Spring?

The BBC finally reported this morning on something Uncle Bogler has been worrying about for the past three weeks, that there seems to be no Spring this year.

British farmers, it was reported, are worried that crops they’ve sown aren’t coming up. Asparagus farmers in particular are saying the cutting season may not begin for another month.

Pines browned off.

Bogler and Hunzi were out in the valley again this morning. Yes, some things are coming up: grass is growing, daisies, dandelions and celandine (or are they wood anemones? I never know) are showing up, late, but quite profusely. But there is still almost no sign of budburst on 90 per cent of the trees.

Where there are a few buds coming into leaf, the covering looks sparse; the willows have a bare sprinkling of catkins, but many are sterile, without pollen. Some trees are showing signs of die-back at the tips of the branches. Ivy is wilting. A lone, hardy evergreen rhododendron Ponticum UB reported looking a bit sick last week is almost dead.

As the overwintering gorse flowers are finishing, the branches below them are all browned-off, as if they’ve been droughted; which they can’t have been as it’s rained at least one day a week since October. Almost every gorse bush in the valley and for 50 miles southwards is being affected simultaneously.

The birds are still tweeting optimistically, and Hunzi is as up for it as Harvey Weinstein on uppers – I’ve never seen him like this – and yes, some things are doing okay: a magnolia tree down the road is flowering magnificently, as is an ornamental blackcurrant (ribes). Camellias are doing okay too. In fact most of the neighbors’ gardens seem perfectly healthy.

But look. For the past 20 years scientists have been observing Spring arriving a day earlier, average winter temperature in the British Isles is reportedly 2C higher than pre-1981, and now this.

The farmers are blaming the Beast from the East late cold snap, but I’m not so sure. We didn’t get much at all here, yet everywhere the story is the same: bare trees; dead branches; brown hedgerows; patchy cover.

Not a lot of Spring.