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The void at the heart of it
For God’s sake, how is it that after all these years Arkansas, the WordPress Spam filter thing, cannot manage to understand that an email from Dawn@payfor.sex (etcetera) dot.ru, congratulating me in pidgin on an awesome piece of writing that I Posted almost five centuries ago and am fed up seeing in my Stats as the only thing anyone has looked at all night, that they are going to learn ‘quite a lot’ from, or a message from ‘Pussy’ addressing me as ‘mates’, is quite probably SPAM?
I mean, you go to the expense of designing an algowhatsit just to weed out Spam, and your pet Dashboard deaf-mute Arkayla tells you tweely, congratulate me, (Name), I’ve saved you from 5,678 Spams already! And then this?
It’s not just the odd one that slips through, that would be forgiveable.
Every day I get three or four of these nonsensical messages in parrot-Russian, telling me how awesome my writing is, how bad my spelling is and how if I use more h-tags I will gather another million or so fucking Spammers to my site. How do they slip through the net?
Asking for advice on how to put up a bogl as wonderfully crafted as mine, when actually it’s about as basic a format as a bogl can get, and besides I have no idea, my daughter set it up for me; or complaining that it’s fine in Opera but doesn’t appear in the right aspect ratio on Explorer, and what should they do? Neither browser, I imagine, would support Castle Wolfenstein by now.
The conclusion I have come to is that almost all of the 5,678 Spam messages I have been prevented from viewing over the past five years were probably my real readers, Likers and Followers, desperately trying to send me a couple of quid to keep me alive; while the only messages Arkayla ever lets through are fucking nonsense efforts from imaginary baboons with five-line email addresses disguised as spammers through a large-scale array of poxy servers in Kyrzgystan.
Why in hell’s name are these people sending me this stuff? What do they expect me to do with it? I’m certainly not going to keep it, frame it, or retweet it to both my friends. I wouldn’t dream of replying to it. They don’t even try to get at my bank details or give me some sob story about their uncle Jubba, late President of Bechuanaland, who’s left fifty thousand goats in his will only they’ve been impounded by Customs who want two grand to let them out and if I’d only oblige they can have half a dozen sent round.
If it looked like a genuine scam, I could send them all my money. I’m an elderly person. It’s just these meaningless, effusive, congratulatory messages written in Nonglish, about ancient Posts, for God’s sake move on, which obviously makes me paranoid that there’s some secret subtext, some cultural metatrend that, at my advancing age, with my prostate problem, I wouldn’t know about; a ‘meme’ possibly, that some cool people in the loop will ‘get’ and others tragically won’t.
What can it be for?
It seems so utterly pointless. Cooler people whom I have cautiously approached have removed their headphones momentarily and grunted, nah, don’t worry about it grandad, it’s just bots, they’re everywhere. My knowledge of bots being limited to clipping the shitty wool around a sheep’s arse (‘dagging’) to prevent infestation, luckily we only had a dozen or so to do every Summer, their sage advice has, I admit, gone soaring like a kite over my grizzled pate.
The worst of it is, you can’t even Spam WordPress back to complain. Indeed, there seems no way of contacting mine host about anything to do with this popular webthing they created. (Like with God, it was perhaps a hit-and-run?) Especially about the lack of any opportunity to adjust your line and paragraph spacings; and the crap new editing program they brought in about 18 months ago, to increase our consumer choice.
There’s just a huge, silent void at the heart of it.
Elections in fantasy land
The recently adopted leader of the misconceived shambles that is the multi-millionaire-sponsored ‘popular grassroots’ party, UKIP, Mr Paul Nuttall is what they used to call a colourful character, uncannily resembling with his beaky nose, thick glasses and bald pate, not to mention the waxy white substance between his ears, no less a personage than Mr Potatohead.
Now standing for Parliament in a by-election at Stoke, he has recently been in the wars with the entire population of Liverpool over a claim that he was personally present at Sheffield’s Hillsborough football club ground in 1989, when 96 people, mostly Liverpool fans, were crushed to death after a policeman acted on a misinformed instruction and opened a gate at the wrong moment. In addition, he states – or rather, his official website, which he says he doesn’t contribute to and has never read, states – that ‘close personal friends’ died next to him.
When even our intrusive and rapacious press corps couldn’t find any evidence to justify this somewhat maudlin claim, and concluded that it might just be wishful thinking on his part, out of sympathy with the fans, Mr Nuttall broke down in tears and accused them of an ‘evil smear campaign’. A UKIP press flak received her cards after admitting, presumably with a wet towel over her head, putting such dreadful misinformation on Mr Nuttall’s website. Mr Farage stepped in helpfully to claim Mr Nuttall had told him the story years ago – he couldn’t recall exactly when, to within a few years – so it must be true.
“Farage said Nuttall should not be blamed for not checking his own website: “I’ve never checked mine. Never. And I tell you what, I bet there is hardly anyone in frontline politics that checks everything that’s put out in his name.” (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/17/paul-nuttall-tells-ukip-hillsborough-claims-are-cruel-smear-campaign)
Yes, Nige, let’s not let checking facts get in the way of competent political administration.
The raw issue all these years is that it was not until a massive inquest ended in 2016 that South Yorkshire police finally apologised for the mistake, and were forced through gritted teeth to confess that there had been an industrial-scale cover-up, and that assertions (repeated in the press, especially the Sun) that the Liverpool fans had been drunk and disorderly were in fact lies.
So elephantine is the close-knit Liverpudlian community memory of the shames inflicted by the media on their loved ones to protect the police, that even today the Soaraway Sun sells only one copy in the city every week, to a subscriber who’s been dead for twenty-eight years. (Alt-fact alert, but hey, it could be true. Ed.)
The founder of UKIP, the attractive multi-millionaire Arron Banks, backer also of the Leave.EU campaign (originally called the Leavemypersonalwealthalone.Eurocunts campaign)*, has gone on record as saying, basically, Hillsborough was all a fuss about nothing and Liverpool should get over it. That hasn’t done anything to endear Liverpudlians to UKIP, but Stoke (70% Leave) may be a different story.
UKIP is still seemingly on track to capture the seat from Labour**, despite the emergence of several other colourful interpretations of his CV that Mr Nuttall’s website has been promoting since 2009, that he hasn’t noticed before: notably, that he has a PhD, which he doesn’t; was honoured to be invited to sit on the board of a youth training council he had visited only once, which they say he wasn’t; and is a former professional footballer, when he played a few tryouts for Tranmere Rovers’ youth team. (Source: Ibid.)
Once upon a time, such a huckster would have been laughed out of town.
Now, however, it seems the more fantastical the embroidery of one’s life story, and the more – let’s call them inconsistencies – the hated media digs up on you, the more endearing the voters find you.
This is especially true of the poorly educated Brexit Dumbfucks, whose lives are so humdrum and grey with weekend trips to New York and such, that almost any bright shiny object – like an openly braggadocious politician, as-seen-on-TV – impresses them mightily; just as the six-times-bust and deeply in hock to the banks and other unsavoury characters, the ‘World’s Greatest Deal-maker’: like, ever in history, and ‘populist’, tellin’ it like it is, billionaire property mogul who refuses to let anyone see his tax returns to prove his claims of vast wealth, the made-for TV character Donald Trump has most recently discovered:
Lying biggest works best.
**They didn’t. He came second.
*Oh, God, here we go again.
In an Observer exposé today (26 Feb) we learn that the fundamentalist alt-right US pioneering Big Data multi-billionaire and hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, a longtime ‘friend’ of Nigel Farage, is behind even Mr Banks in bankrolling the Leave.EU campaign, and lent his tech firm Cambridge Analytica to the cause of ‘data-harvesting’ British voters in the referendum to target them with personally tailored anti-EU messages – a story first covered by the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, six weeks ago, but without the Mercer connection and not subsequently pursued by the BBC or taken up by any other media outlet.
(The pro-Brexit BBC has been curiously laggardly in reporting any news from the USA, despite having sent the usual horde of reporters and technicians to cover the election campaign, since Trump took office there has been barely a peep out of them, other than a small whinge about being excluded from a Spicer ‘gaggle’ briefing yesterday, and a piece today about Trump refusing to attend the annual White House Correspondents’ bash in April. Mr Trump’s assault on the media, it may be noted, has grown with every new revelation in the New York Times and the Washington Post about his financial situation and his relationships with figures both in the USA and Russia linked with organised crime. So bad.)
At the same time, investigations are continuing into the hacking of the DNC server, possibly by Russians under the direction of the Kremlin, with the aim of influencing the outcome of the US election… or was it? Are we looking at disinformation pointing the finger away from powerful US interests with big computers?
Mr Mercer, the story goes on, is also the ultimate owner of Breitbart News, an alt-right, anti-Semitic, anti-human civilization web journal founded and for a while edited by, among others, the Orange President’s Chief Policy Advisor, Steve Bannon. Mr Bannon gave a rare personal appearance speech at CPAC, the Conservative Party of America Conference, last week (where Farage also put in an appearance), stating (to Conservative cheers) that the policy of the new government is to dismantle the entire administrative apparatus of the United States; hence the appointments to key positions of individuals known to be committed through malice or incompetence to wrecking their departments; where senior administrative positions remain unappointed and edicts have gone out to ban the release of information to the public.
Mr Trump, in an interview with, I think it was, ABC news, when asked which media he most trusted, brandished a copy of Breitbart in front of the camera. The interesting thing about that being Breitbart isn’t a print journal; someone had to have deliberately printed off a screengrab of the homepage and primed the President to promote the website, whose correspondent now has a front row seat at White House press briefings, next to the man from Marvel Comics.
Mr Trump as we know is not averse to abusing his position to promote his own business interests: he is still making speeches extolling the virtues of his loss-making golf resorts, his daughter’s clothing and perfume lines; his neo-Nazi billionaire buddies’ fake news outlet, a virulent anti-liberal scandal sheet around which so much of this unseemly tale revolves.
And he still refuses to release his tax returns, that many people believe will show a) he has not paid any personal tax since 1995, and b) he isn’t a billionaire, as he claims to be. In fact, he may have substantial debts he is anxious not to repay. The unasked questions then must surely be, is he being personally bankrolled, or are his known debts in some way owned, by business interests – by international syndicates, or even by a supposedly hostile foreign power he refuses to criticise but continues to praise?
Is he, in other words, a straw man, deliberately emitting a dense smokescreen of controversy and confusion through his weird behaviour and incoherent utterances, or a mere dupe who is being advised and encouraged to make misleading and false statements, while behind him powerful forces seize control of the world’s greatest democracy?
Meanwhile, one more strand in the story blithely not being covered in UK media*, is Trump’s latest policy announcement of a massive ratcheting-up of the US military – at the same time, threatening more unspecified internal ‘homeland security’ measures – and of his nuclear capability, in defiance of nuclear non-proliferation treaties dating back to the Reagan era.
What the hell is going on?
*Okay, it is being now.
As you can tell, I’m having a problem not writing about Donald Trump.
You may have twigged, the BogPo has been trying to ghettoise the Presidential doings in a series of parallel columns entitled The Pumpkin (a pumpkin being an outsize orange fruit). It’s a sort of 2,000-mile firewall I’ve built to keep him in a separate universe teeming with neo-Nazis, Russian spies, dishonest reporters, environmental catastrophe, Wendi Deng Murdoch and greasy rapists.
It isn’t working.
The latest issue of The Pumpkin runs to about 4,000 words and covers only about one eightieth of all the weird or dumb things he’s done and said and the chaos that continues to enfold him in just the past 48 hours. He’s the guy who for writers and comedians puts the ‘present’ in President.
I’d like this Post to just be more about ordinary stuff going on. And I worry that the media continually targeting Trump’s bizarre eccentricities, his bragging pomposity and skewed perceptions is missing the point: he sits as a vain and easily malleable patsy atop a stinking pyramid of global corruption and graft.
But I have to share one thing he said at his crazy one-man press show yesterday, because for the first time in a long while it made me laugh.
He was asked by a black reporter, the veteran White House correspondent April Ryan, if he had plans to meet with the African-American caucus in Congress (who wrote asking for a meeting over a week ago and haven’t heard back from him) to discuss his policies on (recent statements and curious beliefs about) inner cities.
And after summoning maximum threat to tell a respected senior reporter from a Jewish weekly newspaper to “siddown, you’re out of it” for asking an innocent question about anti-Semitic attacks, when he was expecting only “a simple question, okay, this is a complicated issue, okay?”. and having announced that: “I’m the least anti-Semitic person, the least racist person, ever”, the ever-sensitive Donald replied to Ms Ryan: “Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”
Beam him up, Scotty.
A shame you can’t eat oil.
The UN is desperately trying to draw the world’s attention to the relatively new nation of South Sudan, age 6, where 4.7 million people are in imminent peril of starving. A long-running war with Islamic northern Sudan was supposed to have resulted in an internationally agreed ceasefire more than a year ago, but fighting continues between tribal militias loyal either to the President or his deputy, making both agriculture and the delivery of aid impossible.
What lies at the heart of the conflict is, once again, oil. South Sudan is rich in the stuff. But falling world prices, lack of security, the cost of conflict and massive corruption have conspired to derail government promises of investment in modernising the country, which could easily afford to feed itself. Northern Sudan lost three-quarters of its oilfields when the breakaway republic gained recognition in 2011, but South Sudan is dependent on a pipeline running through the north to export its crude. Production has been patchy.
Naturally, it’s the people who are suffering. Almost two million are displaced as refugees. South Sudan spends a third of its GNP on arms. Charity, Global Witness has spent years trying to find where the oil wealth has gone. One of the few international companies known to have won concessions to drill in the south is Star Petroleum, a tiny, secretive Spanish-registered company with just €100 thousand issued share capital.
According to Global Witness (http://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/south-sudan/):
- No information about who owns Star Petroleum is available to the public. Instead the company’s shareholders are all other companies registered in tax havens or unknown jurisdictions;
- The company isn’t producing oil anywhere else in the world;
- The deal is being negotiated behind closed doors, and through a loophole in the law, which means that Star has faced no competition from other companies in its negotiations for the concession;
- Star Petroleum is closely connected to ‘a businessman’ convicted of a €million online scamming operation. (“Mr Javier Merino is the beneficial owner of a small minority current participation interest (around 3%) in the Company and was a Director during a short period of time. He presented his voluntary dismissal and now he has no role in any Company activity”. – Star statement.)
Star Petroleum has also been linked by Global Witness to Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, still enmired in corruption allegations alleging massive bribes to state politicians for fraudulent construction projects.
Findthecompany dot com says:
Founded in 2003, Star Petroleum S.L. is a small organization in the petroleum product companies industry located in Madrid, Spain. It has approximately 10 full-time employees and generates an estimated $36,376 in annual revenue.
And that’s about the most information anyone has on them. On those figures, it seems like Star’s ten paid employees are probably starving too. Yet they have significant drilling concessions in the south of the country. Is this operation possibly more about drilling for illegal money or drugs, than for the actual black stuff?
Mr Trump has already reversed an Obama-era regulation (how long ago that seems!) obliging US energy companies to declare payments to foreign regimes for extraction rights. So even if shady US oil interests and individuals are not behind Star – and the suggestion is in fact that the Chinese have more of a hand in it – we’ll no doubt be seeing a lot more of these impenetrable exploitation deals with kleptocratic African regimes, with no way of tracing the money.
Meanwhile, the West is once again being treated to the sight on our TV sets of flyblown children with distended bellies and xylophone ribs, dying in the scrawny arms of their helpless mothers.
There is a sulphurous smell of rotten eggs hanging about the oil business. It never goes away.