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 been 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 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, have lived and worked here ever since and whose children 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 – not in person, obviously – 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, nine 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-opts everyone he meets to become complicit with his web of deceit, and he lies that journalists are the ‘Enemies of the people’, peddlers of “fake news”. (That’s when he’s not feeding them stories about himself.)

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, the secret emissaries of a self-ordained global empire, who supposedly “share our values” as our “closest ally”. If they were not part of the security gang, hiding behind secrecy laws, many of them would be serving life sentences for their crimes against humanity.

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 and his criminal cabal of cronies and horseshit-shovellers.

The best you can say of him is that he hasn’t actually murdered anyone. So far as we know. That’s because, like his Great Negotiator,  like his Billionaire Business Tycoon, his Mafia Don persona is all an act too. The danger lies in what his creepy-crawly lieutenants like Cohen and Stone are prepared to do for him.

Many times, The Pumpkin has felt like giving up the argument as the realization dawns that this is now, and 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 lauding the rude health of Candidate Trump. But it’s not dèjá vu, in the sense that we have heard it all before: MSNBC reported in – I forget exactly when, lies and lies ago – that Bornstein had merely amended and 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 kept 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 ever 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, another superannuated, adulterous monster, has apparently blurted out on Fox & Friends that yes, Trump did pay Stormy Daniels off – at least, he reimbursed Michael Cohen, although he claimed to have not known why. 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 secret numbers of 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 through post-Holocaust moral blackmail and censorship – a position wearing increasingly thin.

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 inspections commission, is holding just fine.

He won’t believe it. He’s seen a picture of Bibi’s impressive folders containing 100 thousand documents and shiny CDs proving that Rouhani is a lying sonofabitch, he respects Israel as a tough-guy that hits enemies with force, another country run by crooks, racists  and religious charlatans, 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 tiny faces that yammer at 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.

Trump is now, forever.

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, when we could be baiting bears.

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 rotten 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 American 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 Gahd!” as Americans watch tornadoes barreling toward 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 year was April 26, 1962. If Kansas makes it to the end of April without a tornado, it will only be the fourth time this has occurred.”

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 the 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 up to Sheffield, I’ve now been returned to Boglington-on-Sea in time for the arrival of the cold and 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

 

 

Advertisements

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/

x

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

x

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.)

x

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?

x

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.

Does anybody tell the truth about anything anymore?… The NHS: a post code lottery?… Yes, Icahn… GW: Anyone for 10°-ish?… Early to bed…

We have Lego, we can rebuild… Surgical strikes take out Syrian school laboratories (BBC).

Slime is the new Truth.

Does anybody tell the truth about anything anymore?

Truth is supposed to be an objective ideal, probably in the view of some old Greek philosopher like Pluto, whatever. Nowadays it’s become a lot more fluid, just as the fashion for making ‘slime’ in your kitchen (ostensibly for the purpose of washing your hair with it, apparently) is overtaking the Lifestyle sections of the popular blatts, courtesy of YouTube.

Slime is the new Truth.

For instance, I’ve been gazing perplexedly this morning at a report on The Guardian website that advises me that house prices in Britain are rising, falling and “flat”-lining, all at the same time. Which is true, A, B or C?

A “House prices in London are falling at the fastest rate in nine years, according to Halifax, Britain’s biggest mortgage lender. Prices in the capital were down 3.2% between January and March. Prices grew strongly elsewhere in the country.”

B “Across the UK, house prices stalled in the first quarter. Paul Smith, IHS Markit’s economics director, said: “The subdued performance of the UK housing market, especially in the south of England, seems to reflect a general lack of appetite…”

C “The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said that demand from buyers fell for the 12th month in a row in March, new instructions from sellers declined for the seventh consecutive month and prices were flat nationally.”

The new Truth? (Image: planetphotoshop.com)

What’s most worrying is that neither the author of the article, one Julia Kollewe, nor the subeditor appears to have noticed that all three of these supposed expert bodies, heaps, you will be unsurprised to hear, in the view of your Uncle Bogler, of groaning baboons who have been at the fermented fruit again, are contradicting one another; almost certainly in support of their own commercial objectives.

Either the people at The Guardian have not noticed, or they cannot be bothered to find out the truth of the story, considering perhaps that it no longer matters, it’s all slime.

Anyone wishing to act on the information needs to be aware that truth in the property market is a relative concept. My daughter, for instance, might be concerned to read that prices in her part of the country have increased by 7.2 per cent in the past year, as she and her fiance have been saving to buy a house and thought they were almost there. Although she will be relieved to hear also that prices probably haven’t increased at all, being flat and, indeed, subdued.

For myself, I was delighted to read that prices are increasing everywhere, as I have been hoping to sell up and get the hell out of this fucking awful country before civil war and worse overtakes us. Except that, now I read that prices are also falling, I’m subdued again. A Janus, both happy and sad at the same time. And stuck here either way.

I popped into an estate agent last week, one of the few in town I thought I hadn’t used before. As I began to outline my plans, he soon corrected me on that, as it turns out I had employed him for six months in 2015 with no success whatever. Rather sourly, he informed me that, in his view – I might get a more favorable opinion from the agent across the road – I would be lucky to get an offer of £30 thousand less than I paid for the house seven years ago.

Anyway, there is us, The Best, and there is Russia, The Beast, and we both have diametrically opposed but always fluid versions of reality. They hotly deny doing beastly things to us, and we accuse them of not telling the truth, which in view of the theatrical absurdity of their childlike protestations – said to be the Russian humor – they  must not be.

They accuse us in turn of doing beastly things to them, forcing their neighbours to join the EU, kidnapping their exiles, gassing our own children, and we protest loudly that they are lying because any fule kno, we are nothing if not The Best; and besides, nobody here speaks Russian.

Oh, but why does nobody believe us when we insist the world is flat, even though the moon is a sphere made from Edam?

That’s how the game proceeds to the brink of a globally conclusive nuclear exchange. And what will be left of life?

Only slime.

x

The NHS: a post code lottery?

Spokespeople are good at slime, aren’t they?

Explaining why its hospital has mothballed 270 beds for the last four years for lack of money to buy more nursing staff, while allowing 92 per cent occupancy of its remaining beds – a dangerous situation, according to clinical experts – a spoke for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS foundation trust slimed:

“In 2013, the trust implemented its transformational plan which involved optimising the use of space in our hospitals to improve patient pathways…”

Yes, removing beds from the corridors means you can get to the wards more easily…

It reminds me of an earlier Post in which I quoted a similarly optimistic assertion by someone from the B&Q group of DIY stores that they were closing 60 branches to increase consumer choice and convenience. This predated by some years Trump spokesmouth Sean Spicer’s “alternative truth” assertion that the President’s disappointingly small inaugural crowd had been the largest for any President, ever, a “fact” that was not to be denied by the common press.

Recently I found myself in hospital for a night, for the first time since I was born 68 years ago. But I was not ill, or seriously injured! Because my eye surgery didn’t finish until gone 10, the hospital decided against sending me home, a journey of two hours and a 20-minute walk the other end – but instead kindly gave me a bed for the night.

Not wishing to inconvenience them further, I climbed onto a handy gurney in the otherwise empty side ward, insisting that I would be perfectly comfortable. Five minutes later an orderly turned up with a proper hospital bed, which I declined to use on the grounds that they might need it for a real casualty. I remained the only occupant of the ward all night. After waking me up at 3 a.m. to test my blood pressure, the next day they would not let me go until I had seen a specialist dragged in on his Saturday off, and had partaken of a not-too-bad hospital lunch; following which, I was put into a taxi and driven home in comfort; all at no cost to myself.

The devolved NHS is clearly a post code lottery: happily, I don’t have a North Tees and Hartlepool post code.

 

Yes, Icahn

Speaking of slime, is there any need to elaborate on the case of Mr Scott Pruitt, the former Attorney-General and Butcher of Oklahoma* (I fear I may previously have written Arkansas, it’s pretty much the same thing, all earthquakes and fracking)?

In case you really haven’t been paying attention, this impertinent fellow Pruitt was appointed a year ago by the grotesque and incompetent President Trump as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

A bizarre decision, as Pruitt had previously sworn to destroy the agency, having sued it no fewer than fourteen times on behalf of energy corporations annoyed that environmental protections were cramping their style. But, perhaps not so bizarre, given Trump’s determination to pull America out of the Paris climate accord, claiming – entirely meretriciously – that staying in would cost trillions of dollars and lead to huge job losses.

Three days after the Senate approved his appointment to a job for which he had no qualifications whatsoever, Pruitt’s deathlike grip on a tranche of nine thousand emails exchanged while he was in public office finally relaxed, and environmental campaigners who had been pursuing Freedom of Information requests for years were able to confirm their suspicions that he had numerous connections and financial relationships with the energy corporations on whose behalf he had been acting. This knowledge might very well have prevented his appointment, had it come out earlier.

But which? (Apart from the Kochs’, obviously. You probably won’t have heard of Harold Hamm, the “fracking king” who owns the climate-change-denying University of Oklahoma.)

Things progressed about as well as could be expected. Pruitt (who accepts there may be climate change but denies that CO2 is a greenhouse gas) hollowed-out his department, failing to fill 700 appointments; imposed gags on publishing research, approved controversial pipeline projects, set about repealing climate controls such as the Clean Power Act and vehicle emissions limits, and removed all the scientists from his own Science Advisory Panel, replacing them with energy company executives and lobbyists, some of whom he sent to the Bonn climate conference to give a well-received presentation on the merits of burning coal.

And then a couple of weeks ago, amid all the presidential shenanigans, the dam quietly broke. Pruitt was accused of being about the most corrupt administrator in US government history, probably ever.

The New York Times reported, his accommodation while in Washington was being provided largely at the expense of veteran energy lobbyist and former Reagan administration legal advisor, Stephen Hart. The deal was that Pruitt would pay only 50 dollars a night to rent a luxury apartment in a building part-owned by Hart and his healthcare lobbyist wife, in one of the trashier parts of the city. And, of course, nothing at all for nights when he was not in residence. His daughter, too, benefited from a similar arrangement, which Pruitt described as “more or less an Airbnb”….

A maximum rental of 1,500 dollars a month. Quizzed on TV, Pruitt argued that it was “about market rate”, and, with a straight face, absolutely denied that any of Hart’s clients at Williams & Jensen had any relationship with the EPA. Both were out-and-out lies. “Market rate” for an apartment in the building was soon established by investigators to be “about” 4,750 dollars a month, while it was virtually impossible to get a room anywhere in Washington for fifty bucks a night, without tipping the bedbugs for service.

Williams & Jensen were heavily involved in lobbying to replace President Obama’s Clean Power Act with one that looked less like targeting the fossil-fuel end of the energy bidness. And another of Hart’s clients among many having dealings with the EPA is a Canadian energy company, Enbridge, involved in a pipeline project Pruitt had signed-off.

At that point, the EPA’s ethics watchdog came out and “clarified” his earlier benign analysis of whether the rental arrangement broke the federal gift rule, saying he “didn’t have all the facts” when evaluating the lease; and Pruitt hastily moved out.

Another of Trump’s stranger appointments, the grizzled multi-billionaire Carl Icahn, a Master of the Universe whom some believe to have been the model for the heartless asset-stripping Gordon Gecko in the film Wall Street (“Greed is good”), had been made responsible for “Regulatory reform”, and immediately gone about reforming the regulations in his own financial interest.

As Rachel Maddow of MSNBC reported the other day, it appears that Icahn, who departed the White House after making 31 million dollars from what looked suspiciously like an insider-trading deal – he sold shares in a steel-importing company just days before Trump announced a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports, that has yet to be imposed – was the money behind Pruitt.

After spending $tens of thousands on such vital arrangements as a Faraday cage in his office, to prevent electronic eavesdropping, in December 2017, Pruitt flew at public expense ($40 thousand) to Rabat with an entourage of seven of his own staffers, in themselves controversial appointments – one was found to have failed to turn up for work for three months, while others received enormous pay hikes for no obvious reason. There, he spent several days trying to persuade the Moroccan government to buy Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Americans call it Liquid Natural Gas, it sounds more natural… we know it as propane) from the US.

Now, it was not in Pruitt’s job description to act as a traveling salesman for LNG exports. More interestingly, according to Maddow there is only one company in the US that exports LNG, and that’s a company whose principal shareholder is one Carl Icahn. Not only that, Cheniere Energy Inc. of Houston, Tx. is also listed as a client of… Williams & Jensen, Stephen Hart’s lobbying firm.

While it is said that even Mr Trump, who seems to have attempted at every turn to profit from the Presidency, is unhappy with Pruitt’s astounding corruption in office (and there’s plenty more where that came from, demanding a personal motorcade with sirens and an armed escort just to get to his favorite restaurant every evening, for instance), nevertheless there is no sign as yet that he is being fired.

Or, as would seem more appropriate, if the facts are true, arrested, charged and gaoled.

It seems odd, when you consider that Health Secretary, Tom Price was fired merely for going on a shopping trip to Yerp with his wife, flying first-class at public expense.

The Butcher is obviously a man after the President’s own… er, Hart.

*He earned the sobriquet when the Oklahoma federal penitentiary ran out of lethal injection stuff while trying to execute a black man, Clayton Lockett. According to reports, Pruitt ordered staff to find anything on the Internet that might do the job, demanding: “Just get it done”. Lockett died in agony, pleading for them to shoot him after 45 minutes of increasingly frenetic attempts to kill him with a non-lethal substance, during which his veins collapsed, from a stress-induced heart attack.

 

GW: Anyone for 10°-ish?

“On March 18, 2018, the sea surface temperature near Svalbard was 16.7°C or 62.1°F, i.e. 14.7°C or 26.4°F warmer than the daily average during the years 1981-2011.”

While the latest (leaked) report of the International Panel on Climate Change is claiming a mean global temperature increase of just 1°C 0ver pre-industrial levels, seemingly in a bid to validate the 1.5 degree target of the Paris accord, the 2 April Arctic News blog edited by a team of climate scientists going under the collective pseudonym of Sam Carana pours scorn on the finding.

Carana’s calculations take into account a number of different factors to produce a current figure of over 1.7°C: for instance, the obvious stupidity of basing global average temperature on figures derived only from the surface temperature of the sea. Indeed, if you take the highest monthly average figures rather than the lowest, use the 2 metres above sea-level readings and start the clock in 1750 rather than 1900, says Carana, we’re already at 2.3°C above pre-industrial.

With CO2 continuing to rise (note: CO2 level does not include other greenhouse gases having a forcing effect on the climate and so is only a partial indicator of the rate of warming) past the 410 ppm mark (11 March level), warns Carana, the prospect of an 8°C rise by 2026 and 10°C by 2031 becomes frighteningly real.

In other news:

USA: as far as the eastern US is concerned, March seems to be becoming the new February, with many areas again reporting colder, wetter/snowier conditions in the later month. Wunderground coins the hideous neologism “Marchuary”. March’s warmest day/night records across the whole of the USA marginally outran the coldest records last month thanks to record highs in the SW and record lows in the east. Winter Storm Xanto hit the midwest wth blizzards, 10 April it was snowing again in Chicago, while parts of Florida were battered by storms, with big hail and tornadoes, including a monster over Fort Lauderdale.

California experienced an unusual weather anomaly, the ‘Pineapple Express’. Aided by a 1°C rise in sea-surface temperature, the atmospheric river that arrived from Hawaii had swept up the remnants of 150mph supertyphoon Jelawat on its track across the Pacific and carried a record amount of water over the Sierra Nevada, some parts receiving over 4 inches of rain overnight. In “San Francisco, the two-day rain total (Fri.-Sat.) of 3.29” was its wettest for any April since before the Civil War”, but the rain mostly missed Los Angeles, which has had a record dry spell since October.

Southern California at the same time enjoyed a 90F-plus (32C) heatwave, setting records since 1890 for April. On 10 April the mercury topped 100F (38C) in the San Pasqual valley.

Brazil: believe it or not, it’s STILL raining. Widespread floods affecting central and NE regions (Recife underwater).

Colombia: floods.

Argentina: “severe flooding … “paralysed the city of Río Gallegos.””)

Dominican Republic: floods. (“Over 99 mm of rain fell in 24 hours in Jarabacoa, La Vega Province between 05 and 06 April.”)

Fiji: in the path of intensifying 150 Kph sustained Cat 2 Tropical Cyclone Keni, many evac. warnings issued. “After the low pressure system that had been raining on Vanuatu moved away from the island nation, it intensified, organized and developed into a tropical cyclone.” It’s the second major typhoon to hit Fiji this month.

Indonesia: “At least” 1 dead in floods and landslides in West Java province on 7 April.

New Zealand: late Autumn cold spell. “Christchurch saw highs of 27C give way to highs of just 8C over just a few days, compared to the 17C that is the average high temperature for this time of year. In addition, up to 50cm of rain fell over the mountain passes of the South Island.” A powerful thunderstorm including hail, rain, snow, tornadoes, cyclone-force wind pounds Taranaki, North Island.

Saudi Arabia: Intense rainstorms cause flash-floods, including in Mecca. Yet again, huge hailstones smash car windscreens.

India: 12 people killed in powerful storms affecting the northwest, huge hail.

Spain: widespread flooding in Navarre – city of Pamplona underwater. Spain and Portugal still experiencing heavy snowfalls.

World: Scientists report, the Gulf Stream (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – AMOC) is now 15 per cent weaker than it’s been for the last 1,600 years, threatening much colder, wetter conditions for western Europe, more heatwaves in central Europe and rapid sea-level rise for the eastern seaboard of the USA. 2018 is already looking like a colder outlier on the graph. Globally, March 2018 was the 3rd warmest on record, 0.4°C above the 1981-2010 average and 0.3°C cooler than March 2016, our most recent “hottest” year. But it’s still only April….

Edited excerpts and bits pirated from: arctic-news.blogspot.co.uk/ Wunderground citing Bob Henson / CEWN #108 citing EU Copernicus (C3S), #109/ Floodlist/ Guardian Weatherwatch.

 

Early to bed…

Why is nobody mentioning what seems obvious and concerning only to me?

How strangely late Spring is arriving in Britain this year, after many years of “scientists” commenting on how it seems to be arriving weeks early.

On our walk this morning, 12 April. (The green trees behind are in fact brown, just covered in ivy.)

I bogld about this last week. I tell people, look, those trees still have no leaves and it’s almost the middle of April. They look surprised and say, it’s probably the cold weather, the ‘Beast from the East’ (that was five weeks ago and we didn’t have much of it over here) when I secretly know, because I know these things but dare not say them aloud where I live, that budburst is mainly dictated by hormones produced by the changing day length and has almost nothing to do with the weather.

Many are, it’s true, bearing closed buds and a sparse covering of blossoms and catkins, but fewer than 5 per cent of the trees are showing any signs of coming into leaf. Quite a few appear to be dead, you can snap off smaller branches and find no sap, only a brown core suggestive of disease – which seems endemic to particular species here.

And it’s the same for the hawthorn and beech hedgerows (nothing will stop privet or holly growing…), the great clumps of briars and wild gorse: a few stems are greening up here and there, some clearly tried earlier in the year and the buds got frosted – but the bulk of it remains brown and dead; perfect fuel for a summer of wildfires.

On a bus journey yesterday, 50 miles down the coast and a few more inland, uphill and down-dale, the story was the same. It still looks everywhere like the middle of winter. People are going about their business unconcerned that, well before this time last year, life was bursting out across the hills and down in the valleys in a seemingly unstoppable riot of greenery, normally June-flowering wildflowers hurling themselves out of the ground; but today it’s all brown and bare.

And now there’s evidence that late rising is bad for humans too.

“Scientists” have discovered that “evening people” who sleep-in are more prone to mental and physical ill-health than people who rise with the lark.

People who go to bed late and struggle to wake in the morning are (10 per cent) more likely to die prematurely than early risers, according to new research. Comparing the definite evening types with definite morning types, night owls were also 90% more likely to have psychological disorders and 30% more likely to have diabetes, as well as being more prone to gastrointestinal and neurological disorders. – BBC

This too is worrying. I didn’t get up until gone ten this morning, it’s become a habit. I’ll generally sit here until midnight, a’boglin and a’togglin between news channels, dropping terse Comments, trolling trolls, waiting for war to break out, despairing at the crappy fare on the BBC iPlayer service, looking for anything to distract me for a few more hours of life, when clearly I could be extending that life just by going to bed earlier and getting up at eight.

I doubt I would be missing anything, in fact I quite enjoy being asleep.

But I suppose it might be better to be ‘healthy, wealthy and wise’ than riddled with cold, broke and befuddled. My incipient Type 2 Diab., as flagged by the nice German lady doctor (I imagine we’ll have thrown her out by now), the griping pains I get in my stomach like rats trying to gnaw their way out – the extreme anxiety and loss of an entire lexicon of words, places, names and dates – are all now neatly explained.

Incidentally, the eye specialist at the end of my bus journey was not particularly hopeful either, following my retinal reattachment. It seems I’ll only ever be able to see the world again with my right eye as through the bottom of a glass.

Which is how it tends to look, at midnight.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43711631

(And this morning I wake to the news that drinking wine every day is knocking another 4-5 years off my life expectancy.

Indeed, I’m amazed I wake up at all.)

I lasted 18 seconds… You can’t eat a fucking Social Mobility Action Plan, Mrs May… Poisoning the diplomatic atmosphere…GW: Dead…

Pulling strings: Nigel Farage commands the fish to rise from the waters. (Sky News)

“Even a second series of The Night Manager would suck less air out of the schedules.”

 I lasted 18 seconds

Forty or so years ago there used to be a pretty anodyne and harmless but highly rated family quiz on Sunday evening primetime TV. You tended to put it on in the suburban background in lieu of anything else, other than getting remorselessly pissed on gin, there being only one and a half channels to watch and no Netflix in those good old days.

From left: £4.2 million; £3.5 million. (BBC/ David Venni) Uncle Bogler (top): £ zero million. Oh well, next time.

All-singing, all-dancing, genial master of the catchphrase: “Alright, muh luvs?” “Nice to see you, to see you nice”, etcetera – (I never promised you a prose garden, btw) – Bruce Forsyth would get contestants to stuff a duvet blindfolded in under half a minute by the big counting-down studio clock, whatever, make fools of themselves, ask them some easy questions and they’d get a chance to go away happy with a pile of crap from the pound shop, items they’d memorized going around on a conveyor belt (“Cuddly toy!”), with a main prize usually of a small, silently rusting British Leyland car to astound an audience living on five quid a week, as one was.

National treasure, Sir Brucey twirled off for the last time into the wings last year, aged 180. (“Didn’t he do well?”) So now the BBC has revived his old show with the help of the rest of the Strictly Come Dancing “comedy” presentation team: usually quite funny comedienne hoping to go straight, Sue Perkins and her besty, Mel Gdrcie (Are you sure about the spelling? Ed.), lavishing a fortune bled from your £145.50 a year TV license fee on brightly colored sets, bizarre costumes, props and raising the heights of the TV Centre doorways for special guest Richard Osman to pass through.

Unfortunately money is not, and never has been, an adequate substitute for creative originality. You need more sparkly tat.

So, anyway, if you don’t know who Richard Osman is, ask his mother. A gameshow host, promoted from Assistant Gameshow Host (“the scores, please, Richard, and cut the smartypants ad-libbing!”) he supplements his daytime TV income from a show appropriately called Pointless!, where I think the idea is contestants start with points and have to lose them, by making frequent appearances on other gameshow hosts’ gameshows.

It’s nowadays impossible that an entertainment can be created just for the TV audience (controversy has already arisen over whether the studio audience lives in a can or just shares a strange laugh that breaks out for no obvious reason now and again); Osman appeared to be one of an entire panel of “celebrity” experts invited at great expense to sit next to the stage and comment on the performance of a fat lady spinning plates. I mention Osman so frequently, only because I do at least know who he is. He’s unmistakably tall.

Even a second series of The Night Manager would suck less air out of the schedules.

Within ten seconds I was already feeling as if I’d had a flannel full of Novichok stuffed in my face. Switching off Sue and Mel’s Generation Game moments later was purely an autonomic reflex before paralysis set in. Fortunately they’re only making two in the “series”, although I have my suspicions.

Disapproving of the product, a cheap cigarette brand made from the floor sweepings at Imperial Tobacco after the night shift had gone home, under duress I once wrote an ad campaign that was so deliberately far downmarket, I’d hoped it would never get up again. The normal response to a similar campaign might with luck just be 1.5%. My hideously garish, illiterate, insulting mailshot pulled 16%. I was the hero of the hour.

No-one ever got anywhere overestimating the tastes of a bussed-in British TV audience, either. I thought those people had gone extinct in the 1980s, but… Brexit?

Look forward then to an extended run, maybe as the nights start lengthening in the Autumn and the realities of our economic situation set in, a return to the 1980s will seem attractive. In a week or so, even hardened Guardian critics will be polishing up phrases like “all good family fun” so as not to seem out of touch with the zeitgeist.

Oh. They already are.

Floral wallpaper, anybody?

 

“It’s the grey skin, the pallor. It’s the pallor you really notice.”

You can’t eat a fucking Social Mobility Action Plan, Mrs May.

Four out of five head teachers are reporting growing signs of malnutrition and sickness among their pupils.

A report compiled with the Child Poverty Action Group, presented at the annual conference of the National Education Union in Brighton reveals that many schools are having to devote increasing time and resources, not to improving test results, but to social action programs to try to relieve the consequences of nine years of knuckleheaded, attritional Government cuts to welfare, universal child benefit, tax credits – creating adverse knock-on social deficits, such as massive reductions in local government safeguarding services.

Among measures they are having to take are:

  • Creating food banks and handing out food parcels
  • Teachers supplementing meagre ‘bread and margarine’ lunches out of their own pockets
  • Providing free uniforms and laundry facilities to keep homeless children looking clean
  • Staying open during holidays with volunteer teachers providing meals
  • Offering free debt counselling
  • Providing emergency loans to families.

One head from Nottingham noted:

“Monday morning is the worst. There are a number of families that we target that we know are going to be coming into school hungry. By the time it’s 9.30am they are tired. It’s the grey skin, the pallor. It’s the pallor you really notice.”

Another from Portsmouth, said there had been a four-fold increase in the number of children with child protection issues. “Every one of these issues has had something to do with the poverty that they live in. It’s neglect. It’s because they and their families don’t have enough money to provide food, heating or even bedding.”

Head teachers acknowledged that many of the parents of these starving children are working poor, who would be marginally better off on benefits.

The Department of Education has responded with the following:

(We want) “to create a country where everyone can go as far as their talents can take them. That’s why we launched our social mobility action plan, which sets out measures to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers…”

Mmm, yummy. Nutritious action plan for lunch again.

Dear God, voters of Britain, when will you look up from your stupid fucking phones, instruments of social control, and throw these diseased incompetents on the bonfire of history? No civilized country should be managed like this in the 21st century.

How anyone could tolerate the continuance of this demented, morally bankrupt Tory government whose sole economic policy is, and has been for some time, to deliberately starve children of the food their brains need to “close the educational attainment gap”, is quite beyond me.

The sixth largest economy in the world and we cannot house, clothe or feed our people. Yet our crazy housing market adds two thousand paper millionaires to the heap each year. It’s obscene.

As is the brutal illogicality of spending millions on remedial action (as they claim to be doing. The evidence suggests they are lying) to “reduce child poverty” at the same time as depriving parents of the income they need to reduce child poverty.

No?

(Edited from a BBC News report, 02 April: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43611527)

 

So who could help feed Britain’s 120 thousand homeless children, and why should they?

“British wealth rose to a record £12.8 trillion in June 2016” (Cityam.com, who genuinely have a banking correspondent called Jasper Jolly…)

“A quarter of all new UK wealth goes to millionaires” (Oxfam report). “A total of 3.6 million households in Britain held wealth of more than £1m by June 2016, up 29% in two years” (BBC, quoting Office for National Statistics.)

“With the number of millionaires on the up, the wealth of the top 10 per cent of households was five times that of the bottom half combined by the end of 2016.” (thisismoney.co.uk)

“The £2 million given to him to help buy a home in the capital includes payments of £28,000 a month to cover mortgage interest. These total £740,000 since he took the top job in the summer of 2015. He will keep any profit he makes on the swish apartment if he decides to sell or rent it out. In addition to interest payments, the Pru handed Wells £514,000 to cover stamp duty on his new home – enough to buy a £5 million property. Because the payment is a taxable benefit, he was given £330,000 to settle his bill with Revenue & Customs. The company paid £200,000 for his possessions to be shipped across the Atlantic. He was also given £178,000 for temporary accommodation while he was waiting for the purchase to complete. That takes the total he has received for housing costs to £1.96 million. On top of that, he received £37,000 last year to cover flights back to the US. Wells’s package came to £8.7 million last year, taking his total pay and bonuses since he became chief executive in June 2015 to £23.6 million.” (thisismoney.co.uk on the staggering remuneration package of the Prudential UK CEO, Mike Wells.)

Of course, he may give it all away to Britain’s legions of grey children. Who knows, stranger things have happened.

 

Poisoning the diplomatic atmosphere….

As diplomatic relations slip through the rabbit-hole into an Alice in Wonderland world of threats and conspiracy theories, many of them thrown up by the wily Russian who succeeded as ambassador to the UN, a predecessor whose autopsy following his sudden death a year ago has been marked Classified, the odd case of the Salisbury Poisoner continues to raise many apparently unanswerable questions.

The Pumpkin has asked many of these right from the beginning. It has been said, for instance, that novichok A232 is a virtually instantaneously acting nerve agent, whose lethality decays over time. Yet the Skripals apparently spent several hours having lunch in town after they were supposedly contaminated at home, before they were found unconscious on a park bench.

And they have both apparently survived; unlike a Russian banker and his secretary who were also poisoned with a novichok agent in Moscow in 1995 and died almost immediately. A tribute to the skills of the NHS, I expect.

If A232 decays to the point of non-lethality, then why is it that people in suits are still scraping around Salisbury weeks later looking for traces of it to decontaminate? What do they expect to find?

Who uses their front door handle to close the door behind them?

What was Skripal doing with two guinea-pigs in the house? (Dimwitted Plod apparently sealed-up the house, leaving the Skripals’ two cats and the guinea-pigs inside to die of thirst and starvation. One of the cats was eventually taken, barely alive, to Porton Down for examination for traces of nerve agent but had to be put down by a vet. The other has gone missing. This is surely a matter for the RSPCA?) I’ll repeat the question. Cats, okay, so James Bond – but what was Skripal doing with two guinea-pigs in the house?

Did he manufacture the A232 himself, for some other purpose? It can be done in your garage, apparently, following some simple instructions available from certain sources. See:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/06/uk-us-case-file-russian-nerve-agent-shikhany-spy-poisoning

Many questions also remain, concerning the contaminated policeman, Detective Sergeant Bailey. It now appears a second, unnamed policeman was also treated in hospital. Why has he remained unnamed thus far, but not Bailey? Did Skripal have a security detail – or just a tail?

Where did they come into contact with the A232? If it was at the house, as was reported, then how did the police know to go there before the couple had been identified or a nerve agent had even been pinpointed as the cause of the Skripals’ distress? When in the timeline did that happen – as it’s not the most likely scenario?

If someone had searched the unconscious Skripal’s pockets and found an address, how were they not also contaminated?

If the nerve agent had been suspected before Sgt Bailey went to the house, why did he go there unprotected? Was Sgt Bailey indeed the “first responder” at the scene – a detective sergeant, called out to a report of two people who, witnesses say, looked like drunks or druggies on a park bench?

If he had been, then he surely would not have been the one to go straight to the house….  as he would have been too busy making reports at the scene. Did he already know who the Skripals were, and where they lived?

Was someone anticipating just this scenario?

Nothing adds up and I doubt it ever will. But if I were Yulia Skripal, I certainly would not want to go back to Moscow with Cousin Viktoria.

Just sayin’.

 

GW:

“The greatest declines were seen in west Antarctica. At eight of the ice sheet’s 65 biggest glaciers, the speed of retreat was more than five times the rate of deglaciation since the last ice age” – cpom.org.uk

With a current 4C 2m/surface temperature anomaly, Antarctica is now coming in for the scare story treatment as scientists find that most of the melting is going on unnoticed, UNDERNEATH the vast ice shelves and glaciers.

“The results could prompt an upward revision of sea-level rise projections.” – (UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.)

Spring 2017

Dead

In April last year I’d already begun posting in amazement at the incredible outpouring of biomass I’d observed in our valley. The speed and volume of growth so early in the year were, in my view, unprecedented.

Climbers fighting for light, 2017.

Trees that would not normally crown before May were already densely and – for a change – healthily in leaf; wildflowers were blooming, the nearby playing fields covered in snowy mats of daisies; ground-cover and climbing plants fighting for light in the densely packed hedgerows and head-high clumps of already berrying brambles.

Just outside my studio, five years ago I planted perennial herbs. A border hedge of rosemary; oregano, that would be covered in bees, a clump of thyme. And a rather expensive, miniature ornamental Japanese acer.

They’re all dead.

As is most of a hebe I planted three years ago in the front garden; although a couple of other plantings seem healthy – a hydrangea labelled ‘hardy’ seems to be just that, coming into leaf. The early clematis Hendersonii is in flower…

But nothing much has come to life in the valley. I’m walking Hunzi along paths lined with dried-out, dead last-year’s vegetation, withered brambles, a few bearing stricken early leaf buds; here and there ivy, leaves turning brown at the tips, shrivelled berries; evergreens looking blasted and ever-brown; clumps of bleached grass; a few daisies, celandine and dandelions showing, but nothing like the riot of exuberance we had this time last year.

Spring 2018.

Evergreens turning brown.

Now, okay, admittedly it has been a colder winter, later than we’ve had for a while. But not nearly as cold or snowy here on the west coast as in the east. Cold and wet. And I haven’t seen any flying insects at all (no, a few midges came out yesterday with the sun and I was buzzed by a solitary foraging bee on our walk in the rain just now. It won’t find anything.) While the birds started nesting in February, I’m wondering what they’re getting to eat?

Then, I’m seeing too that these die-offs appear to be recent, and simultaneous, although the hardest frost was three weeks ago. It’s like Russia has sprayed everything overnight with weedkiller.

Is it something we’ve done?

USA: caught in a loop of the jetstream, Winter Storm Wilbur is dumping another foot of snow over the northern states, from the Rockies to the Great Lakes, as the song goes. It’s the fifth major winter storm event of the year, but it’s a double-whammy as a second front is also hitting the east coast, including New York. Too warm to settle for long, though.

“A powerful late-season atmospheric river is headed for central California late this week, with the potential to bring near-record rains for April … Intense rain rates on Friday night will pose a flood risk in the Sierra Nevada, where the runoff will be bolstered by rain-induced snowmelt. By Saturday, high winds and heavy rains will rake parts of western Oregon and Washington … ‘This is really an historic event …’ said Cliff Mass (University of Washington)”.

“Torrential rain, strong winds, lightning strikes and flash floods hit parts of Indiana and Illinois” on 3 April, Indianapolis recording its wettest ever April day. Local forecasts for Phoenix Az. are predicting the return of 100F, 39C temperatures next week – still early mid-April. Dangerous UV levels already being measured.

Canada: powerful winds knock down buildings in Ontario.

Meanwhile northern Europe and Russia have also seen extreme cold and heavy snow persisting well into spring. These huge pools of arctic air make the northern hemisphere look like Narnia, but elsewhere across Africa, the middle East, the SW US, Australia there are enough hotspots still to keep global temperatures marginally above the 1980-2011 average for March/April.

Bangladesh, Nepal: 7 killed in severe storms, massive hail smashes houses down.

Brazil: STILL raining intensively in many areas, flash floods, cities underwater in Goias province and elsewhere. In Mexico, an intense hailstorm reduces streets in Tlalpan to rivers of ice.

Argentina: “Over 50 people were evacuated and dozens of streets closed after flooding in Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz province. Local media reported that the city received 3 times the amount of rain it would normally see for the whole of April.”

Fiji: “At least 4 people (now 6) were killed and another was missing after Cyclone Josie caused severe flooding in the South Pacific island nation. Josie moved past the island of Vitu Levu from 31 March as a category 1 storm, bringing with it heavy rain and wind gusts up to 100 km/h.”

Vanuatu: flash floods destroy homes.

Indonesia: Devastating floods in Sumatra and Java.

Greece: “Several rivers in the Balkans have broken their banks over the last few days, causing flooding in parts of northern Greece, southeastern Bulgaria and northwestern Turkey.” Police are searching for a party of “about 15” migrants thought to be missing after trying to cross a swollen river.

UK: “Snow and heavy downpours closed roads and caused travel disruption throughout the holiday weekend of 31 March to 02 April … Emergency services were called to rescue at least 8 people trapped in flood waters. Up to 10cm (4ins) of snow blanketed areas of north England, north Wales and Scotland. At one point on 02 April there were 271 flood alerts in place…” Interestingly, GW noticed absolutely none of these events taking place locally from her eyrie in Wales. Sorry.

World: “Storms, floods and other extreme weather events are hitting cities much harder than scientists have predicted, said the head of a global network of cities tackling climate change.” According to Mark Watts, executive director of the C40 climate change alliance: “Almost every (C40 member) city is reporting extreme weather events that are off all the scale of previous experience, and ahead of all the modeling of climate change.”

Edited from reports: Boglington Post/ Floodlist/ Wunderground/ MrMBB333 website/ CEWN #107, #108/ Reuter