The Pumpkin – Issue 71: The strange crime of Paul Manafort… Lax financial regulation… Ha!… GW: Has it all blown over yet?

“Er, Houston, we have a problem… (bleep) stowaway on board… (bleep) says his name’s Musk…”

NASA successfully lands InSight probe on Mars

 

“Donald Trump has apparently succeeded in scamming the supposedly cast-iron Purple Heart ex-marine, Mueller; a minor victory that will undoubtedly give him great satisfaction as he shuffles bald-headed to the latrine to empty his night soil, avoiding the gaze of large negroes.”

The strange crime of Paul Manafort

Just when you thought the Trump presidency was running out of the most appalling words and deeds and mispunctuated Twitter characters, and the Orange Panda was losing touch with reality as the Mueller investigation closes in on him and his family, comes time to think again.

There is no bottom to the man.

The most astonishing twist yet in the whole “collusion” saga has emerged in the last three days, when NBC News reported that they’d received a bunch of papers, apparently authentic documents from inside the Mueller investigation; which, to date, has been as tight as a duck’s ass when it came to leaks.

(You may wish to regard this entire narrative as imaginative fiction, since I’ve certainly been putting together the twos I have been gleaning from the American media today to make five, and then some.)

The papers were an informal survey of potential indictments and a prospective plea-bargain relating to the minor crimes of one Jerome Corsi, a peripheral bit-player in the campaign saga, another self-publicizing has-been-or-never-was, but a claimed contact of the reptilian Republican party fixer and longtime Trump dirty-tricks specialist, Roger Stone.

Corsi had it seems agreed to become a Mueller “grass”, compromised by Mueller because he had information that Stone was in frequent contact with Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, in London during the months before Wikileaks published the missing Clinton emails, that were hacked by Russian intelligence; and that Stone had tried to intercede on Assange’s behalf with the Ecuadorian government.

(Shitsplaining: Self-promoting whingeing narcissist Assange is in voluntary incarceration as an inconvenient political refugee in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy, where he’s been holding court to the global disruptor community (and the foolish Pamela Anderson) for the past six years.*)

It was possible evidence linking Stone both to Russia and to Trump.

But suddenly, last week Corsi seems to have changed his mind about spilling everything he knew to Mueller, and instead made public the details of his arrangement with the FBI – and, more pertinently, the questions and issues that he knew from his interrogations that Mueller was most interested in. A move said to be unprecedented in US legal history.

It was information that has apparently already gotten back to the White House via Corsi’s and Trump’s lawyers, enabling Trump to lean on a few minor facts in order to tweet evermore furiously the story that the Mueller investigation is in disarray and fake news and a WITCH HUNT and all the rest of the cheeseburger-flavored smoke he’s been generating for almost two years, to try to make the horrid bad man go ‘way.

Who ordered the papers to be leaked so openly to NBC – Trump’s supposedly least favorite failing fake news channel? And why?

So, anyway, now it gets murkier still.

You’ll have heard the name Paul Manafort, in the news. Manafort (69, tall, confidently bulky, dyed hair, self-satisfied pug-eyed expression, expensive suits) had for a couple of decades involved his PR consultancy with shady political campaigns in Ukraine; being responsible, among other dirty tricks, for the demonization of former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko – gaoled in 2011 on probably trumped-up corruption charges – and the election as President of the now-deposed Putin crony and massive kleptocrat, Viktor Yanukovitch.

He was also deeply embedded with organized crime figures and other Putin oligarchs in Russia, billionaires seeking influence and the lifting of personal sanctions; and was paid many millions of dollars for his work, which seems to have involved a lot of money laundering and sheltering of illicitly obtained funds through offshore shell companies.

And Manafort was also present at the crucial 09 June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with the Kremlin lawyer Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr, Kushner and two other Russians, both with connections to money laundering and Russian intelligence. Shortly after which, Trump referred for the first time at an election rally to Clinton’s missing emails, and openly called on Russia to find them. Then, in July, Trump appointed Manafort as chairman of his election campaign – later claiming he barely even knew the man. (The FBI is now looking into a trove of “late-night” phone calls between the two.)

That was a lie, wasn’t it.

Seeking to establish connections between Trump and the Kremlin, Mueller and the FBI zeroed in on Manafort, and earlier this year indicted him on many charges, including failing to declare the income from his work in Russia, and bank fraud – the latter relating to a $10 million loan Manafort obtained from an obscure bank, on a promise that he would persuade Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Senior White House advisor, to appoint the manager of the bank to the lucrative post of Secretary for the Army. (It was a con – he didn’t. And he never repaid the money.)

The loan was ostensibly for the purpose of repaying other money Manafort had previously offered to invest on behalf of a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska – a Putin crony with suspected links to organized crime. Instead, Manafort had pocketed the money to fund his expensive taste in “ostrich-skin jackets” and his collection of apartments in New York.

All this emerged from the first of two scheduled trials, at which Manafort had unexpectedly pleaded not guilty – even though Mueller had him bang to rights, as they say. The jury duly deliberated, and found him guilty on eight counts – enough to put him away for the rest of his life.

Manafort then cheerfully entered the prison system to await sentence, where he’s being kept in solitary confinement for his own protection. But soon seemed to drop his tough-guy “no co-operation” stance and agreed a plea deal with Mueller to make the second trial go away and the possible life sentence be reduced in exchange for spilling everything he knew about the Trumps, Russia, Wikileaks and collusion.

Two days ago, however, a furious Mueller wrote to the court demanding the judge now execute the sentences for the original guilty verdicts and bring about the second trial, as (after giving him 10 days to rethink his statement) he had concluded that Manafort had been telling the investigators a pack of lies.

Warning: Here we enter the realms of speculative fiction.

Why would Manafort have spent two months pulling the wool over Mueller’s eyes, knowing that if found out, he would spend several more lifetimes behind bars? Lying to the FBI and obstructing justice are serious crimes in America.

Mueller has so far indicted some 32 co-conspirators, including a number of Russians he can’t get at; nevertheless, he has enough detail in the case to be able to compare notes and tell when someone is feeding him a plate of rotten fishheads. Surely, Paulie was living on borrowed time?

The key prosecution witness had either gone crazy, commentators said, or there must be a deeper motive.

Look at it this way.

Trump has the power of issuing Presidential pardons, but he’s mentally a mobster, basing his business methods on bad stuff taught to him by his mentor, the mob lawyer Roy Cohn. He may not really be a “made man”, as they call members of the mafia who come from outside the tight-knit crime families; nevertheless he’s done bidness with a few, and likes to behave like a mob boss himself.

Such a man would rather murder, than pardon anyone who snitches on them. So we can conclude that he would not even be considering pardoning the crimes of Paul Manafort if he believed for one second that Manafort had really spilled his guts to the FBI about Trump’s collusion with the Russians.

The only way Manafort could get out of his extreme predicament would be by serving the interests of the mob boss in the Oval Office: doubling-down on his many crimes by flim-flamming the Russia investigation; pretending to hold a weak hand; presenting a reasonably convincing false narrative to his interrogators, misdirecting them and causing as much delay and confusion as possible; ensuring he would be kept close to the team.

You know how a Lapwing evades its predators, by feigning weakness?

As a prosecution witness, by that “not guilty” plea and then the guilty verdicts making himself seem vulnerable and open possibly to turning informant, Manafort had cleverly managed to insert himself on the inside of the tightly controlled Mueller team, and – like Corsi – his plan was to feed through his lawyers, information about the investigation back to the White House, earning himself a full pardon for his crimes.

In fact, it was Corsi’s recantation of his plea bargain and the release of the documents that put the media onto the possibility of a connection with Mueller’s letter to the court, rescinding Manafort’s protected status. Was it the same plan? And have the written answers Trump gave last week to Mueller’s written questions possibly conflicted with something Manafort might have said?

The question now becomes: was Trump himself personally in on the act? How much did he know, and when? Was this his plan, to scupper the tightly controlled Mueller investigation by planting a man on the inside; making Mueller believe he was open to a juicy plea bargain? Well, as yet Trump has not described Manafort as “weak”, which is Trump code for “disloyal”, and applies in spades to “very weak” Cohen. We can take that as a clue.

Trump’s business history is littered with cleverly plotted scams that have reportedly netted him and his family millions of dollars over the years from so-called “pump & dump” schemes. The MO has been to schmooze the media throughout his career, to build a gilt-edged reputation for the Trump brand: the billionaire playboy/successful business mogul image, complete with a pumped-up blonde on each arm, that convinces his “marks” they’ll be adding value to their criminal money-laundering enterprises with a Trump or two on board.

These scams seem usually to be perpetrated in the so-called emerging nations; especially the former Soviet republics and other countries known for their corrupt politicians and businessmen, where the Trump brand of rackety glitz and bling is still regarded with some awe, still given currency by third-rate gangsters; where the Trump name on a hotel, casino or a leisure complex still guarantees the right kind of trade: punters willing to be fleeced!

Somehow, at some stage the projects all go belly-up and the Trumps walk away with the profits, protesting their complete innocence of any involvement beyond merely “licensing” the Trump name and sales of branded merchandise – for which he is also paid $millions by gullible local sleazeballs eager for the smell of Trump-flavored money to rub off on them.

But that’s just the small change. Without putting their name to the property deeds, the Trumps nevertheless “partner” the developers up until the point at which they walk away from the bankruptcy proceedings as beneficial owners of the company’s cash, which will have been long gone. But the deals always have total deniability. Funny, that.

Trump hustles, basically, crooks. He knows they’re the easiest marks; and that nobody much cares if he stiffs them. He doesn’t care where the money originally came from: in the case of a Trump-branded hotel in Baku, that never opened, it’s reported the source was a proscribed terrorist organization, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. A lot of his “partners” in these scams seem to wind up in gaol.

Here, however, the lifelong grifter had succeeded, albeit temporarily, in getting inside the Mueller camp to find out just what was going on, what evidence the squeaky-clean, poker-rigid Mueller has on him and his feral kids. And still it looks like his involvement may not have touched the sides: his legal team may carry the can. Weird old Granny Giuliani already appears to be in complete meltdown.

If it could be proved, though, it would … well, obstruction of justice barely covers it. It would be Trump’s Watergate moment multiplied a hundred times: a President of the United States conspiring with a convicted felon to sabotage a legally constituted Special Counsel inquiry into collusion with a foreign power to steal an election, abusing the presidential power of pardon to induce a witness to lie under oath? He would die in gaol; unless he in turn could count on a pardon from his Vice-President, Mike Pence – who is also reportedly now under investigation.

Trump has already been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of his former lawyer and bag-man, Michael Cohen, over misuse of election funds to bribe women to silence over affairs with Candidate Trump. Some of those funds are directly traceable to lobbyists for Russian business interests; other money came from corporations tricked into believing they were paying for privileged access to the Oval Office.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to everything. He’d like to see his kids again in this lifetime, and has spilled his guts to Mueller, principally about Trump’s already well-known business connections in Moscow, presumably the Agalarovs, and confirmed what we’ve all known for years, that Trump had an ambition to see his name on a Moscow hotel tower – but Putin has been blocking it. But is he lying too, for a pardon down the road?

Strangely, this story has come out today and is blocking further interest in the far more serious Manafort case. Overwhelmed with news, the US media is running around like a headless chicken with ADHD.

Not to mention, the New York Attorney-General’s office subpoenas alleging corruption within the Trump Organization and financial irregularities involving the Trump Foundation: none of which is in the power of the President to pardon.

The Manafort case however threatens to detonate a thousand barrels of gunpowder under the White House.

The insertion of a spy into the Mueller camp in this extraordinary way is the mark of a master con-man, used to strategizing the fraudulent acquisition of large sums of money by both quasi-legal and contra-legal methods. Donald Trump has apparently succeeded in scamming the supposedly cast-iron Purple Heart ex-marine, Mueller; a minor victory that will undoubtedly give him great satisfaction as he shuffles bald-headed in leg-irons to the latrine to empty his night soil, avoiding the gaze of large negroes.

But Trump surely cannot now pardon Manafort, Corsi and Cohen without revealing his tiny hand as a pervertor of the course of justice; has Paulie miscalculated? To protect himself and his grimy family, Trump’s only out now will be to let the former campaign chairman he barely knew rot in gaol – where he’s probably safest anyway, with so many angry Russians on his tail. But that will risk Manafort at some stage recanting his recantation….

Is Trump now completely screwed? It may be the return of Christmas, which the made-for-TV president promised his dumbfucks, what seems like a lifetime ago.

But don’t count your turkeys.

 

*Former CIA man, Malcolm Nance entertainingly describes how Assange has been hacking the computers of the staff at the embassy even while the Ecuadorians have been monitoring all his visitors and communications through British IT contractors. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgwegB34cGc It’s like the cartoon strip in Mad Magazine – Spy vs. Spy.)

 

“Why have I never made a penny when it seems so easy?”

Lax financial regulation

Company A and company B are both owned by Company C. Company A “borrows” $1.5 million from Company B. Company A “fails” to pay the money back and is sued by Company C.

Meanwhile, Company B borrows $1.6 million from a genuine investor to cover the loss and the loan is guaranteed by Company C which will pay when it gets its money back through the court, where a case is pending. (The odd $100 thousand goes to whoever as useful expenses, presumably. You know, brokerage.)

But when the investor politely requests the return of the loan, Company B is in liquidation. So the investor sues Company C. And the court finds that as there is a prior unresolved case between Company C and Company A, over money owed by the bankrupt Company B, the investor cannot sue Company C, which then makes off with the money.

Simples? Especially when the owner of Company C, and hence presumably Companies A & B, is linked with a business partner of Ivanka Trump.

Those Trumps, a magical name yet so unlucky in their business partners. I put it down to them being quite poor judges of character.

The Pumpkin is neither an accountant (he can’t afford one, either!), nor a grift specialist, thus he apologises profusely to everyone concerned, or unconcerned, if his simple take on some bad business that is described in much greater detail by Ben Shreckinger in GQ Magazine is confused and unhappy.

However if things are much as outlined above, it would be a classic “pump & dump” confidence trick.

Wouldn’t it? Oh dear, why have I never made a penny when it seems so easy?

In the meantime, GQ readers have also learned from Mr Shreckinger, a court acting for the Emirati-owned Commercial Bank of Dubai has quietly issued a subpoena to a company called Madison Avenue Diamonds, which traded until recently as Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, alleging that they may be unwitting accomplices to a fraud. Quite a large one, actually.

It seems that $100 million of diamonds may have been bought from a dealer in Israel by a pair of Dubai oil traders to conceal financial assets they owed to the bank, passed through various offshore shell companies and made into jewelry which – the inference is – may or may not have passed through Madison Avenue/Trump Fine Jewelry, obviously without their knowledge or permission, obviously, and then been sold and the money returned to the borrowers sparkling clean, stiffing the bank: a classic case of money laundering, it’s said (I wouldn’t know, at my age I don’t wash very often).

The director of Madison Avenue Diamonds is a real-estate developer called Moshe Lax, who happens to be the friend who introduced Ivanka to her shiny husband, Jared Kushner. How so? because he was Ivanka’s business partner and thought the couple would be perfect for each other!

Things, as they say, eventually went sour, and Trump parted company with Lax just last year, many months after she took up an interesting but somewhat vague position as an adviser to her father in the White House; where she and Kushner are alleged to have made over $80 million together during President Trump’s first year in office, although how is not explained.

Lax, as I have poorly understood these matters, is or was or is somehow also connected with Company C. Or was it A? Or B? I’m so easily confused, it’s lucky I have no money to invest.

Now, I hope I’ve understood that right, because I’m not an accountant or a diamond specialist; although I once had a client in the costume jewelry business and she was as bent as a paste brooch clasp on a clumsy Edwardian dowager. It appears, anyway, that the diamond dealer had spent time in prison a few years ago on an unrelated matter. Sorry if I have misunderstood, it’s quite complicated. Actually that doesn’t seem all that relevant, I think they threw it in just to add to the general air of criminality. Sorry, where were we?

Now, Trump herself is apparently not accused of anything untoward, as she merely “licensed her name” to Lax’s company, a family – sorry, familiar – story, and no longer runs Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, which seems to have gone out of business, although she probably did at the time the $100 million disappeared into the global laundromat. (Where in connection with Trump Organization, I wonder, have we heard that before?) Lax himself has been accused of involvement in all sorts, extortion and so forth, but no-one is saying anything.

Except that a house in New York owned by someone or other connected with the deal got torched the other week, NYPD is “investigating”, and nobody will say anything about that either.

All v. mysterious.

Look, if you’re really interested, here’s the link: http://www.gq.com/story/ivanka-trump-jewelry-business

And good luck understanding it, because I may not have got it at all right and have been foolishly jumping to conclusions. Sorry, and all that. I never was any good with money.

 

“An old dog, me, but a tricksy one!”

Ha!

Matthew Hedges, the British student, has arrived back in England after being released under an Independence Day blanket pardon by Crown Prince Mohammed of Dubai; a stroke of good timing, as (much to the consternation of the Foreign Office) Mr Hedges had just been handed a 25-year sentence for spying.

I hesitated to put the word student in inverted commas, because I don’t want to be accused of churlishness or anti-British feeling so near to Christmas, but certain facts in the case as reported in UK media do rather suggest that Mr Hedges is as much a student as Jamal Khashoggi was a “journalist”.

In other words, while writing a PhD thesis about the Arab Spring and a monthly column in the Washington Post’s mid- section might qualify both men for the descriptions, the terms “student” and “journalist” probably tell only a small part of the story.

Yesterday, in his alternate persona as The BogPo’s UB, The Pumpkin wrote:

“Was there some tiny hint of a possible suggestion there, then, that Hedges was hoping to find out what, if any, shift in policy there may have been towards the UAE favoring China as a future trading partner, or some such possibility? Just speculatin’.”

Because it seemed to me that there wasn’t much else worth spying about, given that the UAE buys all their top gear from us and the Americans anyway.

And today, highly paid experts at the BBC write:

“Crown Prince Mohammed … has also developed his relationship with both Russia and China. The UK is in danger of losing its favoured status in the UAE unless it can demonstrate that it is both a useful and reliable ally.”

Ha! An old dog, me, but a tricksy one!

Now look, I am not going to fuck-up somebody’s life chances by slinging speculative assertions around, so don’t take this the wrong way, but Mr Hedges doesn’t look to me entirely like a student, if one is any judge of character. He looks quite grown-up, and two “facts” about him, mentioned by a spokesman for the Emirates on the BBC yesterday just as the formalities for his release were being tied-up, were that he is a) also a “businessman”, and b) he spent much of his earlier life living in Dubai.

Whether those facts are necessarily correct, or grounds for concluding that British foreign intelligence might consider someone with those three strings to their bow as a potential asset, either permanently or merely opportunistically, I have no idea. His wife says he doesn’t speak Arabic. I find that hard to believe. As a PhD student – a very advanced educational level – with a speciality in Arab affairs, and having lived in the UAE “off and on” from the age of 8, so we are told, it seems, well – shall we say – less than likely. Although my son gave up learning the language, finding the writing too squiggly.

But I’m just an old bloke sitting in a chair, the cold rain teeming down outside from a leaden sky, a fitfully gusting wind, still strapped to a bag, a hard plastic tube pressing uncomfortably on my grumbling prostate, who can’t get an appointment to have it looked at for another three months; becoming increasingly testy as another Christmas on my own hoves into view. (I’ve already bought my present.)

Pay no attention.

Oh, though, if I may be permitted one small observation:

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains incarcerated in an Iranian hellhole after more than two years apart from her young daughter and British family. One wonders, had she really been spying for MI6, might she too have been sprung by now?

 

It’s not happening

The Godfather of Pump ‘n’ Trump schemes, as Inside Politics kind of dubbed him, is meanwhile blithely denying that there is a word of truth in the 1,400 pages of a report legally commissioned by his own administration from fourteen government agencies and compiled by some 300 climate scientists, painting a bleak picture of a future powered on continuing high-octane fossil fuel production.

Quoting the catchphrase of the great Victor Meldrew, of “One Foot in the Grave” fame, Trump trumpeted:

“I don’t believe it!”

That supine old fanny, the BBC thus informs us that Trump “cast doubt” on the report.

WTF? Trump is such an ignorant fucking pig he couldn’t “cast doubt” on whether the crap in his gold toilet is his or some other orange asshole’s. You actually have to know something to “cast doubt”, and he knows nothing at all. Nothing. His – and our – problem is, he’s so stupid, he doesn’t know he’s stupid.

Flat denial is not a doubt-casting argument. But the BBC is so mired in fear for its future it cannot any longer maintain even a semblance of objectivity when it comes to any story whose fair reporting might put it in bad with the hard-Brexit politicians who hate it and could come to power if May’s government collapses.

Those, that is, who haven’t clocked that Trump has also today poured cold water on prospects for a US-UK trade deal post-Brexit, something they are desperately relying on to justify the banality of their evil.

Remember his “beautiful” steel tariffs? Well, they’ve just cost 14.5 thousand General Motors blue-collar Trump-voting workers their jobs, with another 18 thousand “voluntary redundancies” in the pipeline, but who’s noticing when he comes out with stuff like this? Everything he does or says is calculated to cover-up the last dumb thing he said or did. The man literally farts a cloud of cheeseburger-flavored lies wherever he goes, that swirl about him and hide the truth:

He’s mentally incompetent.

As evidenced by what he then went on to say, which was that climate change was not the fault of the USA, which was “record clean”, but of all the other countries that are signed to the Paris accord, which are not.

In fact, while India and China have higher aggregate emissions, because they have four times the population, the US has the second highest per capita carbon footprint of any nation, behind only Saudi Arabia.

A record of cleanliness – a “clean sheet” so to speak – to be proud of.

But this is the moron who believes “clean coal” means you wash it before burning. And that raking the forest floor will prevent wildfires. Who chucks paper towels and frankfurters to please hurricane victims. Who doesn’t know how to operate an umbrella, or that the President is expected occasionally to show respect to dead US soldiers. Who often doesn’t recognise his own wife. A six-times bankrupt man with skidmarks on his golfing pants and toilet paper stuck to his fucking shoe.

So, from what he says, abrupt climate change is both real and it isn’t. That’s increasingly the binary universe Trump is weaving from quantum entanglements, a kind of “both…and” Heisenbergian uncertainty in which two opposing propositions can be equally true at the same time.

The President, among whose very first actions in office were to issue a series of executive orders removing controls on polluting emissions to air, land and water, permitting drilling in nature reserves and banning the publication of climate research, later gutting and defunding the agencies responsible by putting unqualified energy corporation lobbyists in charge of the environment, has forgotten all that. It never happened.

He finds no contradiction whatever, has no embarrassment at all in announcing to the assembled media gaggle (after, as he says, reading “some of the report”; The Pumpkin concurs that the title page may often provide a clue to the contents):

Right now we’re at the cleanest we’ve ever been and that’s very important to me. But if we’re clean, but every other place on Earth is dirty, that’s not so good.

“So I want clean air, I want clean water, very important.”

Do you sort of get the feeling from that, that he didn’t really make it past fourth-grade? He certainly hasn’t read the report, as the cartoon version is yet to come out. It’ll be on the Christmas books pile when it does. He doesn’t believe it. Only he does. It’s a hoax, only it may not be, “some differences”….

It’s the method-acted Presidential certainty with which he makes the most illogical, inarticulate and uninformed pronouncements that really grates, knowing his dumbfucks will lap-up any smelly brown substance that dribbles from his rotting brain.

So now, go back to my fourth paragraph and take back your “I say, steady on! He IS the President of the United States after all… He must know what he’s talking about…. Let’s have a return to civilized discourse, old chap….”

Fuck that, matey. He’s a monstrous cretin, a deranged criminal ecocide, a caricature Mussolini and phoney game-show host, a lifelong business confidence trickster and serial adulterer beloved of slimy Evangelical Christians, who has to be removed from office immediately, before he kills us all with his ignorance, his stupid and fatuous lies.

If you have to pay him money to go, just do it. It can’t cost more than he does.

 

GW: Has it all blown over yet?

30 November sees the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season. The total of three Category 4 or greater hurricanes making landfall in the continental USA in the past two years is an all-time record. Michael was among the four strongest in history. Hurricanes seem to be changing their patterns and tracks, too. “Hurricane Leslie maintained hurricane status … to a location where no hurricane had ever been observed: just 200 miles west of Portugal. 3 hours after being declared post-tropical, ex-Hurricane )70 mph) Leslie made landfall on the coast. Damage was over $115 million, making Leslie one of their costliest wind storms on record.” (Wunderground)

USA: Winter Storm Bruce brought bone-chilling temperatures to parts of the eastern half of the United States over Thanksgiving last week. Once again the anomalies look kind of weird, it being much warmer than normal again over the far-western half with a sharp gradient inbetween the two systems. At least 21 low-temperature records were broken (CEWN #146), prompting Trump to ask what had happened to global warming? A stupid question he trots out every winter. Monday 26th, Chicago was locked-in by a fierce snowstorm: O’Hare was closed, and traffic became gridlocked as far west as Kansas City.

01 December: hundreds of households in burned areas of California are being mandatorily evacuated and roads closed as torrential rain causes flash-flooding and dangerous mudslides. (The Weather Channel)

Saudi Arabia: Powerful storms have once again brought flooding to the desert kingdom, with Mecca especially badly hit on 24 Nov. These countries are always in the news but you never hear about the many extreme weather events affecting the Middle East this year. (CEWN #146)

Greece: Reporting a bakeries federation warning that bread prices and other flour-based products are about to rise by up to 6.5%, a local source states: “Unprecedented weather conditions in Europe and America, combined with high temperatures, prolonged drought and heavy rainfall, have led to a large decline in the production of agricultural products such as grains… The daily adds that price increases of 20% have been already recorded in bread and goods based on flour in some European cities.” (Keep Talking Greece website)

Which is odd, because most wheat growing areas reported bumper harvests and lower prices this year. Except Australia, where the harvest was slashed by 50% owing to the long drought. Late soya harvests in the USA have been severely hit by the early onset of winter. Russian moves to close the waterway through the Azov sea could affect up to 2 million tonnes of grain exports from Ukraine. (AgriCensus)

Australia: two days after being covered in orange dust blown in from the outback, “Sydney has been deluged by the heaviest November rain it has experienced in decades, causing flash-flooding, traffic chaos and power cuts. Heavy rain fell throughout Wednesday, the city at one point receiving its average monthly rainfall in two hours. At least 2 deaths have been blamed on the storm.” (BBC News) The first week of December sees over 100 fires burning in Queensland, where temperatures are expected to be up in the mid-40sC, +100sF. A cyclone is possibly forming off the coast: the State premier has warned people to “expect anything”. (Guardian)

Advertisements

The sands of time… Our Vanishing World… There is no hope whatever of surviving this…GW: Slip sliding away

Quote of the day:

“The man who was Brexit secretary until 10 minutes ago now reckons the Brexit deal is worse than staying in the EU. Yes, mate. The great spectacle of the past two and a half years has been watching allegedly very clever people realise this incredibly slowly.” – Marina Hyde, writing in The Guardian

 

“Is this rain, Jerry? You have rain here too? You know I melt in the rain. Is this the umbrella guy? Are there burgers? I like to give burgers. They like me to add a little tomato sauce. Where are all the people? I usually have people…. (etc.)”

 Rain Man visits Paradise, Ca.

 

The sands of time

Matthew Hedges, the British PhD research student gaoled for a minimum of 25 years in Abu Dhabi on espionage charges, has been offered the possibility of “clemency”, following a fairly robust intervention by the new British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Update, 26 Nov.: Mr Hedges has been granted a “pardon” in the upcoming National Day list of prisoners to be freed and is expected home “once formalities have been completed”. This is far from the end of the story, however….

The BogPo suggests he was lucky Boris Johnson is not still the Foreign Secretary, the useless and lazy gumboil who sank the chances for release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British national imprisoned on trumped-up charges by the Revolutionary Guard in Iran, blurting out in Parliament that she was probably doing exactly what she was accused of (i.e. teaching Iranian women how to become citizen journalists).

A pardon from the Emir would of course require Mr Hedges to confirm the court’s perverse ruling that he is guilty, and presumably require him to sign an NDA on any mistreatment he has suffered.

Mr Hedges, attached to Durham University, was arrested while leaving the country, where he has lived on and off since the age of eight. Perhaps unwisely chosen, his research thesis was on the Arab Spring, to which end he had interviewed participants who might be seen to be controversial.

It is frankly quite easy for a noted conspiracymonger such as the BogPo to imagine that this story seems rather convenient, but we’ll press on….

After six weeks of enhanced conversations, allegedly, Hedges was held for six months in solitary confinement and is in delicate health. During his time in prison, under interrogation, he was forced to sign what turned out to be a confession.

The document was in Arabic, which his partner says he does not read. It’s the oldest play in the shithole countries’ police entrapment book. He was denied the benefit of a translator, or legal representation. The court in Dubai last week sentenced him to life after a five-minute hearing at which, again, he was allegedly denied representation or the right to make a defence; although he now has a court-appointed lawyer; and with international media interest generated by his partner, has come the FO’s belated intervention.

Dubai is not on the list of countries the British government likes to upset by confronting them over their pretty rank human rights record.

Any normal human briefly considering the case might conclude that someone who does not speak Arabic is not going to make a very good spy. These primitive desert dwellers are still entirely dependent on Western technology, so what exactly Mr Hedges was supposedly sent to spy on is not clear, given we’ve already got more of whatever it is than they have.

The Foreign Minister of Dubai has described the abysmal proceedings as the fair exercise of justice, but says the Emir might look favorably on an appeal. Frankly, we should lock up their ambassador and pull his toenails out. But that’s not how we do things: we just extract their oil money instead.

My advice to anyone thinking of visiting this luxury tourist trap – lots of shiny skyscrapers, flood-prone artificial island estates for Western celebrity taxdodgers, air-conditioned golf courses and indentured slave labor; nevertheless still home to tribal societies barely out of the Stone Age – country is, don’t. Why go, when you could summer in Margate? Don’t give them the satisfaction of your interest, your money.

Only, the fans of Manchester City have. Britain’s most up-and-come Premiership soccer club followers have reportedly rallied to the flag, the flag of Dubai that is. So happy are they about the scads of oil wealth that have pumped up their formerly failing kickabout enterprise with a plethora of hugely well-paid immigrant talent, that doubts are being raised on their Forum or whatever about Hedges.

It appears from what they are saying, that he must have been a spy after all.

And indeed, that is what the Emirati are saying. An official described Hedges as “50% PhD student, 50% businessman and 100% in the service of British intelligence”, claiming Hedges was trying to get information on the uptake of technology in the state – odd, since presumably one only had to look at the shopping lists they regularly send us.

Was there some tiny hint of a possible suggestion there, then, that Hedges was hoping to find out what, if any, shift in policy there may have been towards favoring China as a future trading partner, or some such possibility? Just speculatin’.

Anyway, the BogPo has detected one curious anomaly. In Hedges’ supposed “confession”. The BBC reported, he had claimed to be “a captain in MI6”. MI6 of course does not operate a system of military ranks, unlike the Russian GRU. Was this perhaps a piece of false information Hedges had inserted before disappearing forever into a Dubai dungeon, to draw attention to the absurdity of his statement and the compulsion under which it was made?

I doubt we shall know, as the detail has not subsequently been much mentioned, other than on the trite satirical BBC panel show, Have I Got News For You. Which I am sure is watched by many MI6 officials.

For a more cogent briefing on what to expect if you fall foul of the Emirati, go to:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/23/justice-uae-dubai-british-academic-matthew-hedges

 

Our vanishing world

Let’s pause for a second to pay tribute to John Allen Chau.

Okay, second over. This brainwashed American booby bribed some Indian fishermen, now being held in custody, to ferry him within kayaking distance of the shoreline of North Sentinel, one of the Andaman islands now owned by India. He stepped ashore brandishing his waterproof bible (the pernicious evangelical movement has thought of everything), singing hymns, and began immediately trying to convert the natives to Christianity, proferring gifts of a pair of scissors, some fish, and a soccer ball, according to his diary – all his grieving mother has left of him.

Was ever Jesus bartered so cheaply? Mr Chau wrote: “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?” And that, after 200 years of occupation by the British! These awful prodnoses not only need their heads examining, they need to be taught a little history.

The Sentinelese, as the tiny community of aboriginal tribespeople are called (because nobody knows what they call themselves) enjoy special protection, their numbers having been decimated by years of contact with the trigger-happy, disease-ridden Raj. Outsiders are forbidden by law from landing on the island. The authorities are now pondering what to do about collecting the remains of Mr Chau, perfunctorily St Sebastian’d with arrows and buried on the beach.

The Twittersphere’s verdict? Basically, good riddance. Retailing the tragic story, however, the Washington Post reminds us, Mr Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected fascist President of Brazil, and a dead-ringer for Rudolf Hess, the Nazi war criminal, has a manifesto commitment to tear up the agreements permitting Amazonian tribes – roughly 100 are left – protected access to their reservations, as he licences more vast areas of the rainforest to be cut down and burned to make space for his business cronies to grow more soybeans to sell to China.

Mr Bolsonaro’s religion is, of course, money – lots of it. He was elected on a platform to end corruption. Why do voters fall for this bullshit every time? It is the best argument I know against extending the franchise to the common people, who do not, as the theory goes, possess even one ounce of native wisdom or percipience when it comes to the horrible bastards they regularly put in power in the pathetic belief that “strong leadership” will save them from the hopeless condition in which they are kept by the very same lying politicians they noisily support at election time.

It’s acknowledged to be one of life’s mysteries, why they do that.

 

Okay, BBC, get over it.

So you’ve discovered women.

Not only is veteran newsreader and Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce slated to take over from Dimbleby at Question Time, and the entirety of Radio 2 being presented by Zoe Ball and Sarah Cox, we now have perky standup, Lucy Porter “guesting” on R4 as presenter of The Now Show in place of Hugh Dennis.

But behind every successful woman there’s a little man, they say… the main writer’s credit still goes to Steve Punt.

 

“The efforts of King Cnut spring to mind.”

There is no hope whatever of surviving this

Anyone fancying that we can change our way of life just in time to prevent the coming Age of Extinction events needs to imagine that they are Mr Andy Southern, a resident of Bath Spa.

An elegant, compact Georgian city in the West of England, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is being eaten away by pollution. Laid out long before the arrival of the horseless carriage, it sits in a hollow depression, where trapped traffic fumes contribute to a noxious atmosphere in which thousands of residents are suffering from asthma and other lung conditions. And Bath is a traffic nightmare.

The surrounding topography makes the construction of a bypass problematic. Solutions such as tunneling under the city are ruinously expensive. And so, on the direction of central government, that has legally binding emissions targets to meet, the council has proposed introducing a £9 a day charge; creating a low-emissions zone for diesel vehicles, just as there is in London, to help cut down toxic Nitrogen dioxide and micro-particulates; also, the pernicious Sulphur dioxide which, when combined with rain, is eroding the soft sandstone out of which the city was made.

Naturally, there is massive local oppostion to the proposal. Quoted in The Observer, one interviewee among many to voice similar sentiments, Mr Southern says:

“I have a diesel car that will fall foul of this. It’s going to cost me £2,200 a year. I agree we need to improve air quality but this scheme will hit families like mine.” (Guardian)

I agree we need to improve air quality but this scheme will hit families like mine… precisely encapsulates the irresolvable dilemma that is condemning the majority of species on earth, including our own, to extinction; certainly within 100 years, although the process has already begun, is fast speeding up and no-one knows how quickly the web of life and human society could collapse. Some scientists give it less than the next decade.

If you agree we need to improve air quality – I imagine Mr Southern has children – then what the fuck else does he suggest we do, than force diesel car drivers off the road? I’m sorry he can’t afford to switch to a car that runs on unleaded, I can’t either. Even that is not going to save us. He and I need to stop driving altogether and switch to public transport (I can no longer sit a bicycle saddle, thanks to an enlarged prostate). You do too.

But we won’t. Not until we’re all dead.

Bizarrely, in Washington the Trump administration is frantically backpedalling on its own 1400-page report, compiled from contributions from over 300 government scientists, that points in great and specific detail to ever-advancing environmental destruction, food shortages and huge economic damage from chaotic weather patterns and rising seas, toward a 2100 timeline for the end-time.

The response from the White House?

“The White House said the report – compiled with help from numerous US government agencies and departments – was inaccurate” (BBC News). A Trump person spokesplained that it fails to take into account the as-yet unproven assertion that technology will provide the solution just as long as we go on exactly as we are.

Having met with some skepticism toward Lyin’ Sarah’s version, the WH later amended its opposition to claim that the report’s conclusions were based on a worst-case scenario. They weren’t. Quite the opposite.

Meanwhile Trump continues to double-down on his fatuous denials, hailing the sharp arrival of winter in the eastern United States last week as evidence of his theory that climate change is probably a hoax, and if it isn’t it will soon reverse itself. This is a story that is apparently believed by 47% of Republican voters.

A “hoax” that was presumably therefore perpetrated way back in the 1880s when atmospheric warming by CO2 was first demonstrated and has persisted in secret among tens of thousands of scientists from many different disciplines and in many different institutions in dozens of countries, who have been warning us ever since, to no apparent purpose.

The efforts of King Cnut spring to mind.

With these petro-cretins in charge – the claim that the report is “inaccurate” is based on no evidence whatsoever, let alone scientific evidence – and with the prevailing social attitude – also evident in France, where popular riots have followed a proposed increase in fuel duty – that: “I know we have to change, but it will hurt me personally so I’m not going to”, there is no hope whatever of surviving this.

 

GW: Slip sliding away

Vietnam: Typhoon Usagi is just crossing the Vietnamese coast, Saturday 24 Nov., headed for Saigon. To the north, Typhoon Man-Yi is weakening as it approaches the Japanese islands, but the Philippines is threatened by a frontal system bearing torrential rain.

USA: Death toll in the Camp Fire that incinerated the town of Paradise now standing at 84, with 475 still unaccounted for. 14 thousand homes were destroyed. Torrential rain has turned the ash to sloppy concrete making the search for more bodies difficult. Warnings are out for mudslides on steep slopes denuded of tree cover. The fire is now 95% contained; the Woolsey Fire around Malibu to the south of LA is also nearly out, 1100 people still under evacuation orders and 3 confirmed dead.

Update 25 Nov. : the Camp Fire, deadliest in California’s history, is finally out.

This weekend marks the 68th anniversary of the great Appalachian snowstorm that dumped 64 inches over Coburn Creek, Pennsylvania between 22 and 28 November, 1950. Winds in New Hampshire gusted to 110 mph. The temperature in Pellston, Michigan fell to minus 23 F (-30.5C). “A curious extreme occurred in Virginia: the state’s monthly high in November 1950 of 90° at Buccs Island Dam on the 2nd and low of -3° F at Burkes Garden on the 25th were respectively the hottest and coldest temperatures ever measured during November in Virginia.” Between 160 and 350 people died. (Christopher Burt, Wunderground historian, proving that extreme weather is not always the product of a changing climate.)

Australia: “Australia’s east is facing a weather double whammy with both an unprecedented heatwave and flooding rains as two systems roll across the country. Cairns sweltered through its hottest day ever recorded as the mercury peaked at 41.3C. The forecast comes as bushfires punish Queensland with … an out-of-control “monster” blaze focused on the state’s central coastal area. Hundreds of residents have fled their homes.” (News.com.au) Meanwhile an atmospheric phenomenon, known as a gravity wave, has appeared over Melbourne. 100 mm of rain is anticipated in central New South Wales.

Bangladesh: Village women on the coastal margin too poor to afford the bribes to obtain building plots further inland are suffering a higher rate of miscarriages which, researchers believe, are caused by increasing salinity in their drinking water as rising sea-level displaces their fresh water sources and pollutes their crop-growing areas.

Europe: “Excessive” rainfall was again forecast for parts of SW France, Italy and the southern Balkans over the weekend. 4 tornadoes were confirmed touching down around Cortone in Calabria and up into Puglia on the afternoon of the 25th, video showing they were alarmingly large, causing significant damage, and produced several “big hail” events.

UK: A revised forecast from the Meteorological Office suggests that by 2070, summer temperatures across Britain will range from 0.9 to 5.9 degrees hotter, with a 1-in-2 chance of a summer as dry and hot as 2018. Average summer rainfall is predicted to be up to 47% lower. It’s amazing what you can come up with while playing pin the tail on the donkey.

Dust: What’s your preferred color? A huge wall of gray dust has engulfed the city of Zhongye in northwestern China, driven off the Gobi desert by strong westerlies. Sydney, Australia was choked with orange dust from the outback at the weekend. More red dust is to be found on Mars, where the latest NASA mission, the Insight Lander, was due to touch down Monday evening (26 Nov.)

The price of extinction… A footnote to history… It’s the reel thing… GW: sifting through the ashes of Trump’s conflagrated brain

From BBC News website, 20 Nov.:

“People trapped in a falling lift in the US city of Chicago thought they were going to die as they plummeted 84 floors to the ground. Those aboard screamed, prayed and cried, reports said.

“You may also be interested in:

  • Mystery of wombats’ cubed poop revealed”

 

The air is so hot ahead of the fire that palm trees burst into flames like torches in a Malibu garden as smoke darkens the daytime sky and the Woolsey fire bears down on an expensive villa property. (David McNew/Getty, with apologies again) Is this where we’re all headed?

The price of extinction

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

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

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

The price of a liter of diesel in France is still 6p lower than it is Britain (except on our famously expensive motorway network, where you will pay greedy petroliers a 12p to 15p/l premium). Crediting AFP, the BBC reports:

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

The protestors are up in arms about a further 6% increase Macron has proposed for January, claiming the price of oil has fallen; although actually, it’s been going up. (Oops, no, it’s just plunged 7% again today and the markets are jittery.) They’ve called on Macron to resign as he “doesn’t have the interests of the people at heart”.

A new report in The Lancet meanwhile suggests that the developing lung capacity of urban children is reduced by 5% when they are exposed to daily levels of NO2, the main pollutant gas from diesel fuel, higher than the WHO standard, as children are in most European cities; and that this will shorten life expectancy, leading on to lung disease and a generally unhealthier population. It also impedes brain development. A recent Chinese study revealed too that CO2 can reduce cognitive ability in 60-year-old adults by about a year’s worth of schooling. The CO2 burden in the atmosphere at more than 405 parts per million has not been this high in the last 1.5 million years.

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

 

Daybreak

Today is World Toilet Day (19 November).

 

A footnote to history

Three unusable water cannon bought by Boris Johnson from the German police when he was mayor of London to control potentially riotous crowds have been sold for scrap, at a net loss of more than £300,000. (Guardian)

The 25-year-old vehicles cost £85,022 each in 2014, but were found to be riddled with faults and required expensive modification to make them roadworthy. It then turned out, it was illegal to drive them on London’s streets as they did not meet emissions standards.

After struggling for months to find a buyer meeting the original contractual conditions of the sale, i.e. that they were not to be sold to a repressive regime (such as the Johnson government to come?), after it appeared that not even an oppressive regime would want them, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who promised in his election manifesto that he would donate the sale money to children’s causes, has given up the unequal struggle.

The ageing vehicles fetched a total of £11 thousand for their scrap value, but the money falls far short of the cost of maintaining them for three years.

The BogPo feels there is comedy gold in this story, if anyone cares to write it. Just the thought that this blundering, bloviating incompetent oaf could be our next Prime Minister fills an entire nation with dread, on whichever side of the deepening political divide you stand.

Another footnote:

UKIP’s latest leader, the preposterous Gerard Batten has appointed the pseudonymous “Tommy Robinson” (aka former English Defence League führer Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) to advise the party on Muslim grooming gangs, several of which have already been sentenced this year to lengthy terms in gaol; and on prison policy, which (having considerable experience) he regards as an abuse of his freedom to speak out against the “replacement” of the white race by Muslims.

Batten – who has compared the publicity-hungry midget to Gandhi – said: “I have appointed Tommy Robinson to be a personal special adviser on two subjects which he has great knowledge (sic). It is not necessary for him to be a party member in order to assist me in this role. I am looking forward to working with him.”

“Robinson has convictions for assault, drugs and public order offences, and has been jailed for mortgage fraud and for using someone else’s passport to travel to the US. He is awaiting a decision on his contempt of court retrial, which was referred last month to the attorney general for review.” (Guardian)

Of course, people can change. Not always for the better, but hey.

Batten raises shades of PG Wodehouse’s ludicrous character Roderick Spode and his “Blackshorts”. Having been dragged somewhere to the right of 1930s Germany’s National Socialists, too toxic even for founder Nigel Farage, the former party of middle-class protest, UKIP is surely a busted flush.

It is, isn’t it?

Please say it is.

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

 

Out of his 668 days in office, Trump has spent 159 playing golf, and over 250 visiting his own properties with a full security detail, at the taxpayers’ expense. He later claimed he was “too busy” to attend the annual Veterans’ Day ceremony at Arlington cemetery. White House officials later confirmed that he feared the effects of the heavy rain on his complicated combover.

 

“I just wish eBay would stop emailing me five times a day…”

It’s the reel thing

So, I waited four days and fourteen something hours, and to my surprise got home to find I was the beneficial owner of an Akai 4000D reel-to-reel tape recorder. Throughout that time, no-one had been bidding much near to what I reckoned might be an okay maximum bid to work from; but when the second bidder came up short my bid was dropped £10 and I’d won.

I’ve never bought anything on eBay before; and to be absolutely honest, after I’d missed the previous item I’d bid for, I’d just stuck in a bid not expecting to win, on the very next machine to come along – without realizing quite how many more fish there were in the sea, many of them more advanced and desirable and with reasonable buy-it-now prices.

Still, it’s been completely refurbished, and comes with a supply of tapes – mostly used, I gather – so my doubts and fears about buying stuff unseen this way should hopefully come to nothing. Secondhand reel-to-reel tape recorders mostly date from the 1970s and the moving components and record/playback heads are generally worn-out, you have to be careful. But the list of things the vendor had replaced and the technical description gave me confidence.

I just wish eBay would stop emailing me five times a day, inviting me to bid for more reel-to-reel tape recorders. I’ve already got one now, thanks! How many fucking reel-to-reel tape recorders can anyone use? (No, sorry, “unsubscribe” doesn’t work, it only encourages them.)

So, why do I need a reel-to-reel recorder in the digital age, when I have an excellent Zoom H4N handheld recorder that can make professional quality stereo recordings? It’s one of those stories. Reduced to its essentials, a) I’ve been wanting to make an album of songs, but with that slightly imperfect but warmer quality with greater bandwidth you got in the old days. Days when, b) I used to work as a producer using analog equipment and now have no faith in my ability to operate digitally.

For it is a truth sadly told, that I am unable to find on this machine, whatever it is that I have just recorded.

An Oldie rants

Everything digital and Smart is a gross mess of overcomplication, taking weeks or months to learn. I can’t be bothered. I imagine teams of marketing people and designers sitting around an endless conveyor-belt of off-the-wall, blue-sky ideas, to include this useful feature and that, another and – just in case – ten more.

It’s called “product differentiation”, the joke being that everyone has the same winning ideas, so that you end up with loads of virtually identical products to choose between, all replete with this and that user-friendly add-on or bundled apps you will never use, or a settings menu you really don’t need, whose obscure terminology you don’t understand.

I don’t understand what nine-tenths of the features do. Record-Rewind-Playback is all you need, with a volume pot. The rest of your balancing and mixing and splicing and special-effects and pitch-altering trickery can be done in studio, if you must. Why clutter your portable handheld machine with editing facilities no-one over 50 can understand?

In my view, industrial designers ought to be forced to live with their products for a year before companies are allowed to sell them. Free psychiatric support would be provided. Designers would soon realize that those ironic little postmodern touches, like disguising the on-off switch as a piece of the casing, can actually drive anyone over the age of 50 round the bend; reminding us of our irrelevance in the modern world.

Last year’s must-have feature on the iPad, for instance. No headphone jack! And this year, no Home button. My favorite of all time however is the Alfa Romeo 156, a saloon car whose rear-door handles, to make it look like a really cool 2-door sports coupé, were hidden in the roof trim.

Form should follow function, is my motto.

And if you imagine fingerprint and facial recognition are there for your security, you’re living on another planet. They are there to save wasting scarce police resources.

But what to make of the increasing volume of importunate demands for money?

From the Washington Post, with its $90 no-free-options paywall; Accuweather, that offers you a choice: take the ads or pay for the content; to the Guardian, whose owners are sitting on a cash pile worth £800 million and is in line to make £1 million profit this year, absolutely plastering its main menu and every story with long-winded explanations for why people should send money by the sackload, to every petition-mongering charity that hooks you with an innocuous request for a signature over some injustice and immediately hits you with a funding appeal…

Your Uncle Bogler would propose to investigate setting up a Patreon account, were it not for the strange fact that almost nobody reads this stuff, even though it’s good – and free.

Postscriptum

He did investigate a Patreon account, and immediately got dragged into a terrifying vortex of overcomplication. He only wanted a simple donate button and a secure page to feed the money into his account; instead he got six trial business plans and many levels of membership with incomprehensible benefits. He will in future stick to PayPal, thanks for donating, btw.

As if to emphasize the fact that joining Patreon is the equivalent of being sucked up in a Roswell alien tractor-beam, I have received an email just now, exhorting me to “customize your onboarding process”. Wtf, is all I can say.

 

Leavers on the line

A mass survey by the University of Cambridge and YouGov found that 31% of UK “Leave” voters believe there is a government plot to replace the British population with Muslims. 15% think the world is run by a secret cabal.

 

Unholy row

Suing Netflix for $50 million, the Satanic Temple organization has agreed undisclosed damages for copyright infringement over an image of a winged goat that appears in “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, a reboot childrens’ TV series.

Satanic Temple, which claims 100 thousand followers, recorded a huge increase in applications in the weeks following the election of Donald Trump. The group holds Satan as a symbol of “opposition to arbitrary authority”. (BBC News)

Paradise, Cal. after the Camp Fire swept through, killing at least 79 people and destroying 7 thousand homes. The terrifying speed of the fire-spread was described as “one football field every second”. 700 are still missing.

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

USA: With the discovery of more charred remains, the death toll from the Camp Fire that swept over the town of Paradise, Cal. (pop 27,000) last week has risen to 79. 700 people still remain unaccounted for, although authorities are hoping many were simply dispersed and have not come forward. Thousands too remain in temporary shelters and camps, refugees in their own country. The fire is still only 80% contained, although said to be burning now “in pockets”. 9 thousand firefighters continue to battle fires throughout the drought-stricken state. The death toll in the Woolsey fire in Ventura County has risen to 3. (BBC)

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

Sacramento, California had the worst air pollution of any major city on Earth on Friday. On Saturday, the anti-honor for most polluted city went to Oakland. Cooler, rainy weather arriving yesterday has handed the honors back to New Delhi and Beijing this week. (Wunderground) The increasing heavy rain has forced many fire evacuees living in tents to seek shelter anew. The total damage could be as much as $20 billion.

In the east, near-record cold temperatures are expected to put a dampener on Thanksgiving Day celebrations. 5F below was the coldest in New York since 1871. Blizzards are forecast going into the weekend. (Accuweather)

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

Otherwise the east coast has been suffering record low temperatures for November; around one and a half meters of snow has blanketed Quebec, according to one report – other reports claim 15 cm.

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

Vietnam: “On the heels of deadly Tropical Storm Toraji, a budding tropical storm will bring a renewed risk of flooding and mudslides to Vietnam later this week.” (Accuweather) At least 13 people are dead after landslides destroyed homes and buried victims in mountain villages near the resort city of Nha Trang on Sunday (AP). 4 others missing. 380 mm (15 inches) of rain fell in 18 hours on 18 Nov. There’s been extensive flooding too in southern Thailand, with 3 confirmed dead. (CEWN #145)

Philippines: 1 dead confirmed in landslides and flash floods from Tropical Depression Samuel.

Australia: Parts of drought-stricken northern New South Wales were affected by a massive red dust storm yesterday, 20 Nov. Another huge dust storm is threatening the cities of Canberra and Sydney. In New Zealand, a large tornado touched down near Canterbury, on the south island. There were no casualties.

Iceland: While the rest of Europe appears to be cooling down after last week’s exceptionally warm spell in the north, and the weather has started to look remarkably normal, albeit with “significant snowfall” expected for large parts of southeastern and eastern Europe over the next several days, with extremely heavy rain over lower-lying areas to the south of it, posing a flood threat to parts of Greece, Iceland remains this weekend at anything up to a disturbing 18 degrees C, with heavy rain forecast. (Meteo World/Severe-weather.eu) The extreme warm anomaly is expected to persist over Greenland and across to the far north of Scandinavia, anything up to 30C above normal, for several more days.

Italy: Heavy snow in the north of the Balkans, Austria and the Alps being balanced by “excessive” rainfall in southern Balkans and central Italy, with “enhanced risk” of flooding. (Severe-weather.eu, 19 Nov.) A huge “unusual” waterspout came ashore in Salerno, on the SW coast today (20 Nov.) but little damage was reported.

Spain: “Locally intense storms will produce persistent torrential rainfall, resulting in locally 100+ mm of rainfall over the next 48-72 hours.” (Severe-weather.eu, 19 Nov.) These intense storms extending down into North Africa have been characteristic of the past three months in the Mediterranean region. In Catalonia, 1 person has died and many were injured when a landslide caused by heavy rain derailed a train. “Heavy rain over the past few days in the north of Spain too has caused flooding and landslides. A woman died on Sunday after a river flooded in the north-western Galicia region.

On Saturday, 20-foot ocean waves swept through the city streets of La Palma, Tenerife, flooding ground floors and tearing away the balconies of a seaside apartment building. (Guardian) Forecasters warn of torrential rainstorms to follow later in the week, with possibly as much as 7 in. of rain over the weekend. Southern Spain too is on Yellow alert.

UK: “sleet, hail, strong Easterly winds and snow will strike Britain this week, marking an end to the unusually mild start to November.” (BBC Weather) Up to 4 inches of snow could cover the Scottish highlands. Wintry weather is expected to last into December with temperatures at night falling to -5C. (The Sun) Boglington however continues dry and sunny.

Turkey: Intense rainfall brought extreme flooding to the city of Bodrum, in southern Turkey, on the 17th, with damage to property and cars. (CEWN #145) A damaging waterspout hit Marmaris, Mugla province, southwestern Turkey, 21 Nov. The waterspout impacted the marina, overturning, lifting and displacing yachts and cars. No injuries have been reported.

Middle East: Footage emerges with an extremely belated Climate & Extreme Weather News #145 of a terrifying storm that inundated Kuwait City in the UAE on 06 Nov., of flash flooding in Jordan that killed 13 people around the ancient rock-carved canyon city of Petra, and of flooding in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, on 09 Nov..

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

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

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

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

 

The Big Bang

Yellowstone: Did we mention Steamboat #29 before? Losing count. The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, Yellowstone Lake area is showing its highest uplift level ever.

The giant Fuego volcano in Guatemala has erupted for the fifth time this year.

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

Book choice: A BogPo Longish Essay

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

Brexit daze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sentiments echoed many years later by the fatuous oaf, Boris Johnson reminding Britons of how we stood alone against the devilish European unifying forces of Hitler and Napoleon. And to remind everyone, “we” hadn’t been invaded! The Falklands conflict was touch-and-go, just like every other war involving the under-prepared British, the government and the media propaganda machine having made of the Falklands a fragile microcosm of halcyon prewar British society (flag-waving, English-speaking white-skinned cabbage-boilers with a village-green culture and red post-boxes), and not an occupied group of wind-blasted islands off the coast of Argentina, with more sheep than people.

There too, in that limited small-scale conflict we came within a hairsbreadth of defeat by a vastly inferior foe backed only by the logic of geography; near-defeat and the triumph of improvisation being absolutely necessary to the myth of historic British actions.

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

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

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

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

Exulting in our insularity, a certain section of the British public clings to our brief moment of triumph in 1945, all the tropes of survival against overwhelming odds lived over and over again as a vindication of our furious impotence in the modern world. For a nation built on trade, we still look to force of arms and an indomitable, churlish spirit as the primary British virtues. But we couldn’t even hold on to Basra.

Instead, the 21st-century reality is that we are a relatively prosperous, settled, multicultural, middleweight nation like many another, still with useful influence in the world, but without the responsibilities and heartless brutalities of Empire. Successive administrations increasingly dominated by technocrats and money-breathers have wound down our manufacturing capacity to the detriment of traditional communities, and tend to ignore our real strengths in the cultural and innovations industries in favor of their friends in the City, who can magically breed money from money.

Pretending that the 20th century never happened and that England’s glories are merely waiting to be stirred anew is a minority pastime. It’s a myth propagated by cynical huxters that too many people from the industrial heartland who have been effectively sidelined, diseducated and beaten down with doctrinaire “austerity” are allowing themselves to believe in; although we should remember that austerity comes only at the end of a long period of stagnation and the near-collapse of capitalism, from which no lessons were learned, except that the guilty men can get away with it and hope to do so again.

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

We seem to be getting bored with too much peace.

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

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

Prelude

8 pm, Wednesday 14 Nov.

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

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

Until, of course, one remembers how she got the “backing of her cabinet” for the previous draft, the so-called Chequers agreement, only for the swivel-eyed hard-or-no Brexit lunatics to renege on it three days later, and for Boris Johnson to resign as Foreign Secretary; which, tragically, he can’t do twice.

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

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

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

The day war broke out

10.15 am Thursday, 15 Nov. 2018

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is a coup d’état.

Civil war.

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

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

This coffee is too strong.

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

 

 

On entering the lobby….

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Alliance, which reportedly shares an office address in Muston St, W1 with half a dozen other false-front political lobby groups posing as educational research charities, or “think-tanks”, startled the legal profession last week by fully owning up to a massive smear campaign against Shamir Sanni; including a possibly libellous attack on him on the BBC by Matthew Elliott, head of the Vote.Leave campaign. The Guardian reports:

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

“48 letters” Irish-Mogg: the tragic, faux-aristocratic loner many working-class Brits yearn to touch their forelocks to, seein’ as ‘es such a toff an’ all, contemplates a pile of ham sandwiches and thinks of his colleagues in the ERG.

Wanted, dead or alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Clawing one’s way up the ladder

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

Wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the day we did Latin and stuff under the firm tutelage of the redoubtable headmaster, Colonel Stuart Townend, who was still running the place when he died in 2002 at the age of 93. Hill House boys were a familiar sight, trooping in crocodile formation along Hans Crescent in our rust-brown uniforms and baggy, Don Bradman caps. (Things have changed a bit: popstar Lily Allen is an alumna, I believe.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo pinched from the BBC archive, sorry)

Fully occupied

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

You spend them looking for your glasses.

 

Feeble Brexit joke:

What is the masculine form of Vaseline?

Vassalage…

(I was pleased to see that the comedian’s comedian, Stewart Lee, latched onto this joke for his weekly Observer column. I’m still waiting for the money.)

(Returning to this Post weeks later, I realize future generations reading this bit will not get the reference. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab referred to the likely state of Britain should Mrs May’s Brexit deal be passed, as ‘vassalage’ to the European superstate.)

On ice

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

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

The ice has all gone.

 

I Spy, with my little i

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to my readership, secret Follower.

Even though he or she spells their name in Cyrillic text.

дмитрий куприянчик

(You might like to send them a cheery message of greeting.)

 

If you have a spare moment, go kill these assholes

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

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

The home of Charlie Parker?

 

The ultimate hack-proof account

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

Karen Bradley, the newish Northern Ireland Secretary, admitted she had so little idea about politics in the divided province that she did not understand the historic relationships between religion and voting preferences. Why were Catholics mostly  Republicans? And why wouldn’t they vote for the mostly Protestant Unionists? She wanted to know.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World: October 2018 was the planet’s second-warmest October since record keeping began in 1880. The only warmer October came in 2015 (NOAA). The deadliest weather-related disaster of October 2018 was Cyclone Titli (eastern India) which killed at least 85 people and injured hundreds more. Storm surge, high winds and torrential rain were blamed for $920 million in damage.(Wunderground)

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

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

 

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

Quote of the WW1 century:

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

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

The Dead Can Wait

What’s he gone and done now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet, he’s still there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Postscriptum

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

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

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

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

And still can’t get it right.

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

 

And in other news…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poo corner…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

GW: This is getting silly.

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

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

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

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

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

To give some idea, the WHO guideline for safe – rather, “standard” – concentration of particulates in the atmosphere is 150 microgrammes (µg) per cubic meter. Regions of California are showing over 9 thousand µg/m3. CO₂ levels as high as 809 ppm were reached on November 10, while there’s a lot of toxic CO (carbon monoxide) around too. (from Arctic News, 4 Nov updated 12 Nov) Sulfur dioxide emissions are also high, producing the “global dimming” effect without which global temperature could rise another 2.5C in a matter of weeks. The dilemma is obvious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A bigger splash…

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

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

They might include:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deja vu corner…

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

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

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

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

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

Quote of the Week

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

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

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

Progress report:

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

 

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

 

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

Remember God?

Uncle Bogler writes:

Can it be coincidence?

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

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

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

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

There’s no bypass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

…air quality monitors.

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

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

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

Get outta my face!

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

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

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

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

You remember God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You already know what it is.

 

The Office of Petty Cash Deceits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long can this omnishambles go on?

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

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

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

 

Forever young

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

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

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

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

GW: I could go on singeing

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

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

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

President Ignorant Fat Cunt tweeted: “There was no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.” He also threatened to withhold funds, due to “gross mismanagement of the forests”. He does not have Clue One about it, but it plays to the dumbfucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Orders Please…

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

 

Magical Realism

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

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

 

Dear JK Rowling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Business manager
  • Hospitality manager
  • Wedding organizer
  • Marketing & PR manager
  • Housekeeper, purchasing supplies
  • Cook, of guests’ delicious organic breakfasts and occasional table d’hôte dinners
  • Waiter
  • Barman/”Designated Premises Supervisor”/potboy
  • Cleaner
  • Laundryman
  • ‘Plongeur’ – the dishwasher was broken. (Try washing-up for 150 after a 4-course wedding breakfast….)
  • Gardener/forester
  • Driver (for the owner, when present)
  • General maintenance man
  • Night security guard

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At long last, I managed to persuade my employer that the building was genuinely uninsurable. No insurance = no licence. I warned that he could be legally liable to a huge fine or even prison if we kept trading. While he set about raising money to turn the place into the bookkeeper’s dream of a “5-star hotel”, I (the gardener!) was to appoint conservation architects and brief them to carry out the conversion works.

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

And that’s the story of how I found myself in private service, Joanna. Ten per cent of it. I spent years trying to find a similar position, with no success whatever; and eventually retired on the State pension.

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

You know how, in Victorian romantic novels, the honest servant always gets the blame and ends up in the colonies, or the workhouse? Well, we don’t always thoroughly deserve it; although I will own up to borrowing a bottle of wine every now and then, when I had no money left to buy my own; subsisting at times on the leftovers from the meals I cooked, sometimes at 11 o’clock at night when the guests finally showed up.

One more short story:

In Gloucestershire we had a neighbour, the legendary TV producer Linda A., who’d sold her production company for many £millions and was living life in the Grand Manor next door to our mould-infested cottage. One day, her odd-job man left her brand-new, £40 thousand Mercedes unlocked with the key in the ignition (therefore uninsured) while he went to pay for petrol, and when he came back it was gone. Linda just shrugged, drank some more champagne and ordered another one.

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

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

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

Sincerely, etc.

PS – More Cormoran Strike!

 

Trunk calls

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

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

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