Hancock’s half-arsed… Coughing your life up… The return of gray text… Enviro-morons award for 2019… GW and the end of everything.

Quote of the Week

“The brutal reality is that we live in a world that is under constant siege by sharks of many different kinds, from the financial markets to Silicon Valley and the White House. The ultimate goal of Russian interference and billionaire voter suppression campaigns alike is to get us to ‘Keep Out’ of politics: to accept the dominance of transnational oligarchs, and to lose hope that things can change.” – Paul Hilder, co-founder OpenDemocracy.org

Jeremy Corbyn with Labour supporters in Middlesbrough, January 2019

What makes you think I’m going to start now?
(With apologies: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

“This is the stupidity of the public pushing itself unwittingly to the brink of oblivion in pursuit of human vanity.”

Hancock’s half-arsed

Genes marking for antibiotic resistance in bacteria have been found in soil samples taken from the beaches of Svalbard, the world’s northernmost inhabited islands up in the high Arctic.

The scientists aren’t sure how they got there. Birds? Tourists? They don’t know. All they know is, it’s pretty disturbing to find that potentially lethal infectious disease organisms can spread from India, where the genes are believed to have first mutated, to the Arctic via the rivers and seas.

How and why they found the genetic material – not the actual bacteria, which would presumably be easier – is not explained in The Guardian story this morning. Were they looking for it? Have either the pronounced warming of the sea around Svalbard – an average 16.9C increase over 2010 was recorded last year – or defense interests got anything to do with it?

The BogPo in its ignorance wonders if the rogue genes might even be naturally occurring and found everywhere?, being unsure of how genes can exist independently without a host cell, but whatever, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has declaimed in his infancy that this is a worse threat even than global warming.

We don’t think so.

The prognosis is that by the year 2050, 10 million people a year could be dying from untreatable infections around the world.

That pales into insignificance, compared with the billions who are not going to make it past 2030 if the planet goes on heating at the present rate, with consequent food insecurity leading to violent socio-economic breakdown.

It is nevertheless concerning, which is why the BogPo raises one critically arched eyebrow at Mr Hancock’s proposal to restrict the use of whatever antibiotics are still effective over the next five years.

Five years? Two thousand people are dying from untreatable infections – sepsis – a year in the UK already.

Doctors could be ordered to stop prescribing antibiotics now for contra-indicated conditions, such as colds and ‘flu, merely as placebo to get rid of demanding patients. Online supply could be made illegal and inoculations (such as tetanus shots) and other preventative measures made compulsory.

Veterinarians shovel huge quantities of antibiotics into the nation’s pets and farm animals, often (it seems to this veteran pet- and farm animal owner) entirely unnecessarily “as a precaution”, or as a growth-promoter, when it bumps the fees up a bit (I don’t care. So sue me!)

Heavy sanctions could be imposed for non-compliance. One of the sillier things the Blair governments did was to get rid of the Central Office of Information, that used to make effective public information films and TV spots – as, for instance, the AIDs campaign pushing safer sex, or the “Clunk-click every trip” campaign promoting seat-belts, that I can still remember 40 years later – and not just because it starred Jimmy Savile. Those boys were good.

People must be made to understand that if they continue imagining antibiotics are a cure-all for runny noses, they could die unnecessarily painfully from a scratch. The script practically writes itself.

The government has already announced that it’s thinking about ways of incentivising the drug companies to invest more in researching new classes of antibiotics. Greedy drug companies haven’t discovered any for the past 30 years, because generic drugs the NHS can afford aren’t as profitable as mass-marketable weight-loss pills, indigestion remedies and hair restorers.

Again, this is the stupidity of the public pushing itself unwittingly to the brink of oblivion in pursuit of human vanity.

 

Coughing your life up

Sometimes it’s necessary to live nearly your whole life in a cloud of self-mythology and bitter recrimination before you start to realize what’s been wrong with you all along.

Take, for instance, my lifelong depression and ‘Eeyore-ish” attitude of “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”, that so frustrated my employers and colleagues, that I protested was just sensible, prudent pessimism: a glass half-empty being soon refilled by the attentive waiter.

I’d long assumed something awful must have happened when I was small, that has gone echoing down the decades and strikes with an underlying negative emotion whenever similar situations arise. Maybe it was those moments of powerlessness we all experience as children, when you lose the sense that you control anything and have to resign yourself to whatever the adults want, even if you imagine it poses an existential threat.

Or maybe it was something someone said, something critical to me, that rankled at the time and stuck in my brain as a self-perpetuating neurosis?

Such as on my first night away from home, in the strange new environment of boarding school, age just 7, when an older boy suddenly asked me a demanding question over high tea, and I let out a small fart in fright. In front of the whole school, he jumped up, pointed at me and shouted “God, you stink!”

I still remember his name, 62 years later: he was a pale, thin, carrot-headed, freckled youth called Sorby. (I hope he’s good and dead by now.)

And I have stunk ever since.

To the extent that I came to believe that I might have been physically abused as well. That is, before I was. Public school followed, and the relentless pursuit of my perfect 12-year-old ass that preoccupied the older boys, day and night for two years, I’m glad to say mostly fruitlessly, until I developed a carapace of boils and a heavy smoking habit, sloping off to the town pubs and failing miserably to win a place at any university in the land – especially Cambridge, where my clever uncles had all got firsts (one, a double-first!).

Now, however belatedly, comes some relief from those demons.

I may not be as I am, profoundly insecure (deadline-driven) and self-loathing because of that and similar experiences; of shitting my pants, age 5, on a school outing and not daring to tell anyone – in antiquity I seem to have started doing that again, to go with the alternating urinary retention and incontinence, the ongoing battle for space between my bladder, my colon and my hyperplasic prostate; latterly with a rubber pipe running between them all to make sitting on both cheeks a trial.

(Congratulate me, I’ve just been informed by letter that I am being allocated my very own Community Health Visitor! They might be perplexed that I seem to be able to cope perfectly well by myself, given the chronic state of most people my age, but it is surely one of life’s significant moments.)

Because neurologists are waking up to the possibility that post-childhood depression could be largely to do with your early environment:

“Of the 284 children studied, those who lived in the top 25% most polluted areas at age 12 were found to be three to four times more likely to have depression at 18, compared with those living in the 25% least polluted areas.” (Guardian report)

And that compares with only a 1.5-times likelihood of developing depression as the result of physical abuse.

TS Eliott famously wrote in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

“The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes. The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes. Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening. Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains.”

He was writing about London, city of my birth seven years (for me) before the passing of the 1956 Clean Air Act, when those famous Sherlock Holmesian pea-soupers were common in winter; caused by tens of thousands of fireplaces burning cheap, inefficient brown lignite, a form of compressed peat pouring out huge quantities of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and CO2, that sometimes got trapped for days beneath atmospheric inversion layers.

“Primarily because of latent high moisture content and low energy density of brown coal, carbon dioxide emissions from traditional brown-coal-fired plants are generally much higher per megawatt generated than for comparable black-coal plants.” (Wikipedia: Brown coal)

Astonishingly, the burning of millions of tonnes of this filthy stuff is still permitted – even encouraged – in many otherwise civilized countries; but its domestic use was eventually banned in Britain and, for a time, until traffic emissions took over, air quality improved.

Not before I had lived through the notorious 1953 Great Smog, which may have carried off as many as 12 thousand Londoners in a few days, weakened by years of wartime privation, habitual smoking and endemic lung disease; and many other similar atmospheric events around that time. And through dreary days and nights in the school sanatorium, coughing my guts out as a victim of the “bronchitis” doctors couldn’t tell from childhood asthma in those days.

Research is now showing that not only is carbon dioxide – whose atmospheric concentration has grown to 414 parts per million, from 405 just a year ago and from about 280 before the industrial era – a “greenhouse gas” that absorbs and retains solar infrared energy and is heating the planet to a dangerous degree; but also, that inhaling it in greater than normal quantities over time seriously impairs cognitive function.

Lowered intelligence is a marker for depression. It’s easy to guess how that mechanism works. The inability to fully comprehend, to order events, or to fulfil your potential is profoundly frustrating, especially in a small degree.

The brighter you are to begin with, the more frustrating it can be to find yourself unable to fully maintain concentration; to not quite be able to focus on things or to argue a case coherently; to lose track of words, names, faces, dates and events; to find yourself in situations where you are not fully in control, and to lose motivation as a result.

“Oh, it’s hopeless! I’ll never be able to do that complicated task; solve that puzzle; understand those instructions; read those map directions; hold my own with those clever people; say what I mean; cope with those responsibilities; land that job; write that novel!”

If the piling-up of tiny failings is indeed a symptom of the “yellow fog”, developmental brain damage caused by breathing foul air for so many years, as many city children still have to, it adds yet another dimension to one’s gloomy self-reflection: why despite many apparent successes have I felt such a repeated failure all my life? (It might also cast light on social issues such as inner-city knife crime, and supposedly conquered diseases that seem to be worsening again after many years of amelioration.)

Or was it just a small fart – a whiff of bad air – that set it all off?

I guess we’ll never know.

 

The return of gray text

I’m reading that even relatively reputable, reliable online news sites like the newsy part of Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post – owned by something huge called Verizon – are shedding staff at a frightening rate.

It seems they’re unable to find a sufficiently flexible business model to cope with fluctuating demand for their product while producing any revenue at all to pay the wages.

Several of them went in for video as a distraction from the kind of endlessly boring text you’ll get here, with The Boglington Post. (That’s only because I’m so tech-averse that despite being a Film School graduate (analog-era), I have no clue how you make and upload a video.)

But apparently fickle subscribers no longer like short videos, they want longer ones, and only – erm – broadcasters are geared-up to producing those.

People also like audio podcasts, presumably so they can multitask without chopping off their fingers or getting their ties caught in the machinery.

So we’re back to radio and TV.

What goes around, goes underground, as they say. And indeed, there’s been a revival of interest in this, muh li’l bogl – four viewings yesterday confirm it!

Maybe boring text is due for a comeback.

Postscriptum

I just invigilated another exam today. One poor girl was panicking. She was being asked to base her answers on “two texts”. But they hadn’t sent her any texts!

Turned out, the “texts” were her set books. She had no idea what the word meant outside the context of her phone.

On the shelf

Speaking of layoffs, Tesco has announced 9,000 jobs are to go in the fresh-foods sections of their supermarkets.

No fresh food in Tesco.

Isn’t that going to be rather a bad look?

 

Guitar bore: Loony Tunings… Has been relocated to the next issue for reasons of space.

 

Enviro-morons award for 2019

First candidate up: Morrison’s supermarkets

Morrison’s are to trial 20p paper carrier bags as an alternative to the 10p “reusable” plastic bags I seem to have a kitchen full of, that are henceforth to cost 15p.

Morrison’s marketing hotshop says that the material used to make its paper bags will be 100% sourced from forests that are managed responsibly.

And if new forests are grown to replace lost trees, they say, it will help to offset the climate change impact, because trees lock up carbon from the atmosphere. (Yes, which they immediately begin giving back when you cut them down!)

So no, it won’t. If each tree cut down were to be replaced with only one tree of the same age, the process would be (sort-of) carbon-neutral.

That’s as long as you don’t count the emissions of the chainsaws and stump-grinders, the disturbance of the soil, the journeys of the logging vehicles, the sandwiches and cups of tea of the loggers and the shipping around the globe of lumber on highly polluting diesel-powered cargo ships; the emissions of the power stations required to produce the energy.

The only way to get a carbon-negative outcome would be to replace each cut-down tree with two trees. But then they’d be only a foot high with few leaves and you’d need to wait 15 years before they grew and started to lock-up the same amount of carbon between them as the tree you cut down to make the paper bag. In the meantime, you’d have cut down millions more trees….

By then we’re all dead.

Making, recycling and distributing the paper bag is a carbon-intensive process requiring the use of energy, many liters of otherwise drinkable water, polluting chemicals and waste pulp discharge to the environment. Whereas the plastic bag made from oil you haven’t burned lasts longer and can be reused more times, as long as you remember to take it with you to the store and not feed it to a passing turtle.

The BogPo’s quick ‘n’ easy solution?

Ban supermarkets.

 

GW and the end of everything

Cuba: “A tornado (F3) and pounding rain have smashed into the east of the capital, toppling trees, bending power poles (overturning cars) and throwing shards of metal roofing through the air as the storm cut across eastern Havana. President Miguel Díaz-Canel said on Monday at least three* people were killed and 172 injured, as power was cut to many areas.” (Guardian, 28 Jan) *Now 6.

USA: Winter Storm Jayden. “Warnings have been issued across the upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions. Blizzard warnings have also been issued from central North Dakota into northeastern South Dakota. High wind warnings have been issued for the northern High Plains and northern Rockies.” It’s cold, too: “The Windy City will unfortunately live up to its name, with the National Weather Service office in Chicago predicting wind chills of –35° to –60°F for Tuesday night and Wednesday night.” (The Weather Channel/Wunderground) Death toll as of 31 Jan: 8. (It’s only -27° in northern Siberia…)

Australia: “Torrential rain and swollen rivers have left communities cut off and farmland inundated in parts of northern Queensland, Australia. Over 620 mm of rain was recorded in Whyanbeel Valley, between Port Douglas and Daintree in northern Queensland, in a 48 hour period to 27 January. Several other areas received over 500 mm during the same period.” (Floodlist) Meanwhile, hot air from Australia’s long-running heatwave is beginning to affect New Zealand, with temperatures climbing over 35C.

For a heartrending moment, watch a koala holding the hand of a householder who is feeding her water. news.sky.com/video/koala-demands-water-during-record-breaking-heatwave-11617129. Thousands of animals have died from heat exhaustion and dehydration during two weeks of 40C-plus temperatures.

Europe: Snow in some quantity is forecast for Tuesday 29th spreading across much of Ireland and the British Isles. Update, 31st Jan: “The UK weathered its coldest night of the winter so far. Braemar in Aberdeenshire was the coldest place in the country as temperatures dipped to -11C (12.2F), which was 0.2C lower than the previous record for 2019.” Really? It’s not freezing here on the west coast, and no snow, certainly none settling at sea level.

Meanwhile a severe low is forming in the Bay of Biscay, with peak winds expected over Brittany, France of 160 K/h. Intense rainfall is indicated once more in extreme northwest Spain and in particular in northern Portugal, where totals will exceed 100 mm over a large area. Significant snowfall is expected over the Pyrenees and parts of northern Spain where up to 50 cm is expected.

As many as 5 tornadoes hit Antalya, southwestern Turkey on the 26th. Major damage was reported in the city center. Antalya Airport was also hit – 12 injured. Skies turned orange over the Cyclades on the 25th and more Sahara dust is expected this week across Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, pushed by a broad low over the eastern Med. (All from Severe-weather.eu)

Japan: Organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have “decided to shift the start time for the men’s and women’s marathons to 6am – an hour-and-a-half earlier than originally planned – to avoid the health risk to runners and spectators from the intense heat later in the day. The men’s 50km walk will start two hours earlier, at 5.30am, the newspaper said, citing sources close to the Games. In July last year a record 133 people died from heatstroke or heat exhaustion with thousands of others admitted to hospital.” (Guardian)

CO2 latest: “On January 21, 2019, hourly average CO₂ levels well above 414 ppm were recorded at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, the highest levels since such measurements started. A recent Met Office forecast expects monthly averages to reach a level of 414.7 ppm in May 2019*. The forecast expects annual average CO₂ levels at Mauna Loa to be 2.75 ppm higher in 2019 than in 2018.” Contributing thus to an additional 0.5C of warming by 2029. (Arctic-news.blogspot.com). On January 23rd, “sea surface temperatures near Svalbard were as high as 18.3°C or 64.9°”.

*Postscriptum: at end-April 2019 daily average CO2 was exceeding 415.5, with hourly readings over 417 ppm.

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser went off on the 25th for the third time in 2019, after last year’s record 32 eruptions. Earthquake swarm continuing. (Mary Greeley)

Cretins’ Weekly

“On a day that Trump ridiculed concern about climate change because of the current blast of arctic weather in the midwest, the (chief of) intelligence’s report also includes sombre predictions of the repercussions of global warming. Trump has dismissed climate change as a hoax, and on Tuesday tweeted: “What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic) Please come back fast, we need you!”

We suggest the permatanned amoeba goes to live in Australia, as he clearly has no idea what weather is.

 

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The scaly scales of justice, #1… The scaly scales of justice #2… Monstering cookies…Trump: Hittin’ ’em in the pocket… GW: sperm counts falling like snow…

Quote of the week

“You enabled the nationalism that threatens our societies. You stiffed so many of us. You fought for rules that let you steal the future from our children. You pushed for monopolies … and austerity and deregulation. People got angry, and some of them voted for hell. And who benefited? You again. Because instead of following their anger up to the summit where you gather, the enraged were goaded, sometimes by your fellow plutocrats, into punching downward and turning on the most vulnerable.” – Anand Giridharadas, in an open letter to the World Economic Forum (Davos), published in the New York Times.

According to Oxfam, the richest 26 individuals now own 50 per cent of the world’s wealth.

“Let the Yanquis come. They will see we have many more medals where these came from!” Venezuela prepares.

The scaly scales of justice #1

Despite turning up at court along with its co-defendants trailing no fewer than four pairs of defense barristers, “a spokesman for the University of Bristol said it was fully committed to assisting the coroner’s investigation and ensuring that any lessons learned were built into its support.

“At the heart of this is a student who has tragically died, her family, and members of our community who continue to be deeply affected by this loss. Our thoughts remain with Natasha’s family and friends. The evidence submitted in advance of the pre-inquest review shows that every effort was made to assist and support Natasha, both from within her school of physics and by the university’s pastoral support services,” the spokesman said.

Except that…. Natasha Abrahart had “’no direct contact’ with the university’s student wellbeing service, the first pre-inquest hearing in August last year was told.” Although as it turned out, she had emailed the university begging for help and seemingly got no reply. Now her parents are faced with at least £50 thousand in costs they are struggling to fund through an internet appeal, to try to match the legal firepower of the university, just to find out the truth about what happened to their daughter.

Meanwhile, student suicides continue to mount up: 95 in 2016-17 alone. (All from Guardian report, 22 Jan. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jan/22/student-death-did-university-do-enough-help-natasha-abrahart-bristol)

Somehow our institutions – universities, the police, the NHS, the Home Office, the Department of Work and Pensions – have to be made to take responsibility for their failings and stop lying and bullying and spending their way out of trouble with our money.

The scaly scales of justice, #2

Nixonian fixer (he apparently bears a tattoo of Nixon’s face across his scrawny shoulderblades), Trump bagman and all-round dirty trickster, the reptilian Roger Stone, 64, was arrested before dawn by armed, presumably pissed-as-hell, unpaid FBI agents today and bailed for $250 thousand on 7 charges, mostly to do with lying to everyone and intimidating a witness, presumably Jerome Corsi – Obama “birther conspiracy theorist and occasional conservative pundit” (Vox).

Released from the courtroom, he reached immediately for a phone and called the one man in America he thought would stand by him: Alex Jones, the rabid rightwing motormouth and bitterly estranged father-of-two who fronts the shameless but relentlessly constructive InfoWars YouTube channel, and his two million Adderall-addicted followers.

Protesting his innocence of what he called the “bogus” investigation into collusion with Russia (he is now the 36th entity to be indicted by several Grand Juries on “bogus” charges concocted by the Mueller team), Stone nobly declared: “”There’s no circumstance under which I would bear false witness to the president.”

It’s my long-held belief that, as a nabbed henchman, you can only betray someone if they are actually guilty of doing something that’s probably illegal, or hiding dark secrets. Otherwise, there’s nothing to betray. But the suggestion that Stone has become the victim of a brutal and intimidatory Deep State system that might somehow force him to declare falsely that the President is a Kremlin stooge is straight out of the “Tommy Robinson” persecution playbook.

While the charges contain no suggestion of collusion with the Russians, Mr Stone has had some problems recently explaining why he went around boasting to everyone about his relationship with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, The ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ of London SW1, who most certainly did “collude” in the release of tens of thousands of emails illegally hacked by the Russians from Clinton and her campaign staffers, if he really didn’t.

I’d say “watch this space!” but I’m losing track of them all. There’ll be a new space along tomorrow.

 

Monstering cookies

As I don’t keep up with the technology stuff, I have little idea – is it an EU thing? – why every damn website now has to put up a big box obscuring their page content, requiring you first to grant permission for them to slap cookies all over your computer; and then to switch off your adblocker so they can show you wonders you have no interest in.

The BogPo doesn’t do it, why should they?

Why do they want or need to give you cookies in the first place? I only want to read the fucking article, maybe even not that much, just check a name or a quote or something in the first lines. I may not ever return to that site, it’s just research, a reference thing. I’m not interested in subscribing for everything they publish. I don’t want to participate in some obscure game of drones, to capture my location and identity and have ads pointlessly targeted at me.

If you’re brazen anough to want to openly publish information on the worldwide web, it’s my view you shouldn’t put more terms and conditions on my right to read it than you absolutely need to; and leave my privacy alone.

Even less reasonable, it seems to me, is that I should have to tick that box every damn time I bring up the same website. It cannot be without the bounds of possibility to employ a one-tick-is-forever system. Once you’ve put your damned cookie on my computer, for whatever purpose, why do you need my recurrent permission to leave it there? It’s just annoying, and not likely to endear me to you

Grrr.

 

Trump: Hittin’ ’em in the pocket

As we all kno, the FBI is Trump’s chief bête noir: an existential threat both to him and his family, and to his tenure of a brain-damaged presidency he never really wanted and for which he was spectacularly unqualified and unprepared.

Not only is the Special Counsel, Bob Mueller reliant on handpicked federal agents to pursue his inquiry into Trump’s financial dealings, that may amount to decades of money-laundering; his ties (we can put the prefix “loyal-” to that) to Russia, and his illegal attempts to lie and deceive the American public into believing he is innocent while investigators are pursuing what he continually mischaracterizes as a politically inspired “witch hunt” against him.

The FBI is also itself pursuing many lower level enquiries at the behest of courts and grand juries all over Washington, Virginia and New York, including into already indicted Trump lieutenants Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, Sam Nunberg, George Papadopoulos, etc. as well as Erik Prince, DHS Secretary Nielsen and others connected with his administration; but most especially, into the Trump children: Don Jr, Eric, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, and their roles in the many scams the First Crime Family has perpetrated in its gilded patriarch’s insatiable quest to finally please his dead dad, Fred.

So how to shut down those investigations and make them go away? Why, suggests MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, there is surely no better way than by so damaging the FBI’s employees financially that it exposes them to loss of their security clearances, their family health insurances and their jobs on grounds of vulnerability to corrupt offers from criminals and spies; not to mention making working for the FBI a less than glamorous career option for the best graduates when you know you could be putting your life on the line every day for no pay, on the whim of a vindictive sociopath in the White House.

Under cover of a manufactured crisis on the southern border, based on phoney fears of a mass “invasion” of criminal migrants, and a preposterous demand for billions of dollars of public money to build a 2,000-mile border wall, or fence, or “steel slats”; a “wall” that most experts believe would have not the slightest effect on drugs and crime and illegal immigration in the country; a “wall” that the opposition Democrats simply would not accept as public policy when funding is sorely needed for so many more socially useful causes; a “wall” that Trump pretends is so vitally necessary to national security that to obtain it may not preclude him taking emergency powers; an illogical, ineffectual, stupid “wall” with which he seems so unshakeably obsessed, the Great Dealmaker has deliberately manufactured a blunt instrument: a shutdown of many government departments, including, as it happens, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

That is to say, a shutdown but not always a cessation of work. FBI agents, who cannot go on strike, are being forced to continue working without pay, and have already missed one monthly check as the shutdown spreading out to affect millions of hard-pressed people living from month to month – including many Trump supporters, whom he seems to be throwing under the bus – and costing the economy billions of dollars, enters its second month with no resolution in sight. Even now, US airports are clogging up, with flight delays around 45 minutes, as everyone from the air traffic controllers to the intimidating immigration staff is not getting paid.

That’s despite the House majority Democrats helpfully offering repeated bills to keep the finances flowing – bills that the profoundly corrupt, arch-Trumpsucker and Senate leader from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell – Cocaine Mitch, as he’s been called – refuses to debate unless there’s $5.7 billion for the “wall”. It’s been his dubious role to block any legislation the Republican funders won’t support, going back to the Clinton era.

FBI offices are reported to be opening food banks for cash-stricken employees.

The majority of Americans, two-thirds have not bought Trump’s lie that the crisis is all the fault of the Democrats. They all saw and heard him take responsibility for what the wily Speaker Pelosi was calling “the Trump shutdown”. They can clearly see who is obstructing the legislature. Daily, he piles lie upon lie*: one of the latest being to claim the “wall” will solve the opioid crisis that is killing 50 thousand Americans every year, when any fule kno’, the opioid drugs are being manufactured legally by Big Pharma in the USA and overprescribed by doctors, not smuggled across borders.

Indeed, his claims are getting so lurid and far-fetched it’s impossible to think that he really believes in them himself.

But it may not yet have sunk in, that there is a distinct possibility this whole shitty mess affecting many government departments has been deliberately created as smoke and mirrors, while the real aim is to hit just one specific target:

The pockets of the people lawfully investigating “Individual 1’s” – the “unindicted co-conspirator’s” – the President’s many crimes.

Thom Hartmann has a most excellent commentary on all of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km20E5_-TqM

Addenda

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reports, there has also been some written evidence in the form of memos suggesting that the “crisis” at the border may have been cooked up in the Oval Office as early as 2017 to provide false evidence on which to hang future “emergency” decrees amounting to a potential seizure of the government.

She further mentions, the appropriate contractor Trump will need to go to for slats employing the right kind of steel for his border wall is a Canadian company owned by a Russian, Chelsea FC’s very own Roman Abramovitch: sometime rubber-duck salesman, Israeli citizen, owner of the world’s biggest superyacht, leading contributor to the Putin slush-fund, victor of the somewhat bloody ‘aluminium wars’ of the 1990s and married to Irina, one of Ivanka Trump’s closest friends.

Trump is no doubt most apologetic for having been made to sign a Congressional order sanctioning the $11 billion oligarch back in 2018. As we’ve discovered with Paul Manafort, for Putin’s favorite olgarchs it’s payback time.

*The Washington Post‘s tally of Trump’s lies now stands at over 8 thousand since he took office two years ago. On a good day he manages around 30.

 

Things are spinning out of control.

Against a background of economic collapse engineered in part by US interests opposed to the shambolic leftwing government in Venezuela, bereft of any sound foreign policy advice the idiot Trump has tweeted that he is backing Juan Guaido, a 35-year-old rightwing opposition politician from the sidelined national assembly, who has declared himself ‘Interim President’.

You’d think Trump would approve more of the populist (but not popular) President Maduro, a blundering incompetent who he says is an unelected dictator, rather than supporting a coup whose figurehead claims to be a Libertarian, but there’s nothing rational or consistent about the US president other than his ceaseless quest for money and validation.

Maduro says he’s staying, and appears still to command the loyalty of the security forces, so things seem set for a showdown. American diplomats have been given 72 hours to leave the country. Civil war looms, with the potential for US military intervention: nothing is off the table, says Trump.

Meanwhile, the would-be dictator Trump’s former attorney and criminal bagman, Michael Cohen, has had to plead with Congress to postpone a scheduled appearance in front of a sitting committee because Trump has openly threatened his family if he testifies.

Further explanation comes from Trump’s senile motormouth attorney Rudy Giuliani: Cohen’s father-in-law is Ukrainian. ‘Nuff said? No? Well, organized crime… ya know? Nudge nudge…

Trump, who now no longer seems to care what he says or does, despite his rocketing public disapproval ratings, up 9 points this week, has also seemingly warned House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi to “be careful”, if she continues to refuse him the chair in Congress to deliver his State of the Union address on the 29th unless he orders federal workers whose pay he has suspended for the past month back to work.

See, the nasty mans

Among other threats Trump is making, is to speed up deportations of the children of ‘undocumented’ immigrants with temporarily protected status under an Obama-era decree. Meanwhile his Republican apologists are brushing aside claims of hardship as 800 thousand federal workers face a second missed paycheck: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, until his appointment a director of a bank heavily sanctioned for money-laundering and run by the man who loaned Trump millions of dollars he has yet to pay back, being typically helpful in suggesting they could take out bank loans to pay their rent.

Other leading Republicans have suggested the government workers should be grateful they’re getting a free extension to the Christmas holiday, claiming that it’s a privilege to be able to make this sacrifice for the future of their country.

Is anyone else re-arming, and shouldn’t we be?

It surely ought to have clicked with poison-monkey Ross of all people, a man with a face like the portrait in his attic, that US banks wouldn’t even lend to Trump anymore. Banks only lend to customers with proven income.

It’s hard to see why the country is not engulfed in fire and fury against these fucking monstrous sons of bitches.

 

GW: sperm counts falling like snow

USA: “Parts of the Midwest and Northeast were still digging out Monday after Winter Storm Harper dumped 1-2 feet of snow in some locations and brought some of the coldest temperatures of the season. In the Northeast, the storm left behind a trail of thousands of flight cancelations, hundreds of crashes, thousands of homes without power and at least 10 dead. In addition to ice and snow, several states were dealing with coastal flooding on Sunday.” (from Floodlist)

“Two more blasts of bitterly cold air will dive across the central and eastern U.S. through next week, bringing widespread subzero temperatures to the Midwest while also keeping the South and Northeast shivering at times. Temperatures as low as minus 20F with -40F windchill are forecast for next week as far south as Missouri.” (The Weather Channel)

Africa: The Red Cross reports that torrential rain and flooding in Burundi has left at least 10 people dead and over 100 homes damaged or destroyed. The rain began late on 17 January, 2019, causing severe material damage. In Niger, emergency relief efforts are underway as extensive flooding around the capital, Niamey, has affected more than a thousand homes. (from Floodlist)

Madagascar: Heavy rainfall that began late on 19 January, 2019, has caused problems in the capital, Antananarivo. Local media say that several people have died, some are still missing and several were injured after buildings collapsed due to heavy rain, landslides and flooding. AFP news agency reports  the death toll is 9. (from Floodlist)

Australia: “At least 28 locations hit all-time highs on Thursday. In Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, the official West Terrace station rocketed to 46.6°C (115.9°F) … About 200 miles away, the city of Port Augusta hit its all-time high on Thursday with a blistering 49.5°C (121.1°F). … “the Red Rocks Point station—which faces Antarctica from the Nullarbor coast—hit 49.1°C (120.4°F): ‘the highest temperature recorded anywhere in the world at such a close distance (70 metres) from an open ocean.'”. (Wunderground)

“Around two dozen (later 90) wild horses in various stages of decomposition have been discovered strewn along a 100-metre stretch of a swimming spot called Deep Hole, 20 kilometres from the remote community of Santa Teresa.” (The watering hole has run dry. Deaths of wild camels are also being reported.) “The region has hit a record 12-day run of temperatures above 42C.” (ABC News)

Europe: “Yet another excessive snowfall event is developing across the western and northwestern Balkan peninsula through the middle of this week as a deep cyclone … pushes into the north-central Mediterranean region. Up to 20-50 cm of fresh snow is possible in many areas, locally even more. Severe winds will result in blizzard conditions in some areas. Up to 70-100 mm of rainfall is likely along the W coast of Greece. Also some very windy weather, particularly at higher elevations on Crete and islands in the eastern Aegean region, where peak winds will likely exceed 100 km/h.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Spain: “4 people have died in landslides and flooding caused by (three) days of heavy rains in northern Spain. One of the victims was swept away by flooding from an overflowing river in Tineo. The other victims died in separate incidents in Laviana, Mieres and Salas when their vehicles were either swept from the roads or caught in landslides.” (Floodlist)

And disturbing news for increasing numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe. Thanks to that deep Arctic low, “waves reaching maximum heights up to 10-14 meters are expected on Friday, pushing towards the eastern Mediterranean and affecting the coasts of (Algeria) Libya and western and southern Crete. Expect the waves to gradually diminish over the weekend.” (Severeweather.eu)

Visit the BBC’s weather service and marvel as a gurning Darren Bett prattles on about the jetstream keeping cold air hanging over the British Isles for a few days, while failing to remark that his graphic shows there is a huge broken loop trailing all the way from the Arctic down into the Sahel.

It’s not supposed to do that.

The living end…

High energy: The National Audit Office reveals, the British taxpayer is having to pick up the £24 billion bill for previously agreed tax reliefs for oil and gas companies decommissioning their North Sea drilling rigs, as the wells run dry. The figure is related to their tax-deductible losses, so the more money they can manage to lose, the more the Treasury is obliged to refund them.

Yellowstone: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, there was a new swarm of quakes in the caldera over the weekend. Two larger quakes – M2.8 and M3.0 – hit close to Old Faithful geyser on the 21st. SO2 and ancient helium outgassing is seriously increasing; as is the upwelling magma, with continuing ground deformation, seismic drumbeats and tornillo waves, and rising ground and water temperatures.

If that’s not enough….

A new threat related to global warming has been identified: a decrease of ozone in the stratosphere. As warmer air becomes more laden with water vapor it’s allowing increasing amounts of life-ending UV-B radiation to reach the earth’s surface. Arctic News’ “Sam Carana” reports:

“Rising temperatures cause heat stress and infertility, and there are domino effects (especially for rising ocean methane emissions. GW). Furthermore, stratospheric ozone loss causes cancer and infertility. Only once the ozone layer formed on Earth some 600 million years ago could multicellular life develop and survive. Further loss of stratospheric ozone could be the fastest path to extinction for humanity, making care for the ozone layer imperative. As described in an earlier post, Earth is on the edge of runaway warming and a moist-greenhouse scenario means oceans are evaporating into the stratosphere with loss of the ozone layer.” http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/

Following that up, because Carana is an acquired taste, your Gran finds the following on NASA’s website:

“NASA scientists analyzing 30 years of satellite data have found that the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching Earth’s surface has increased markedly over the last three decades. …UV-B damages DNA, causing a range of health problems such as skin cancer and diseases affecting the immune system.”

And from The Conversation, a report that finds extreme heatwaves can seriously damage male fertility:

“… (Red flour) beetles, and many cold-blooded animals, can live for years and are likely to see multiple heatwaves. When we exposed (beetle) males to two heatwave events, ten days apart, their offspring production was less than 1% of that of unheated males.” – Kris Sales, PhD researcher in evolution biology, University of East Anglia.

So keep fanning yer nuts, mateys, or we’re done fer!

 

 

Welcome to a BogPo “Brexit- and Trump-free” zone! Knowing, “no-ing”, none… You said it, not me!… review: Hiromi. Is this a record?… Answers from the blue… GW: and the heat goes on…

Welcome to a BogPo Brexit and Trump-free zone!

750 coruscating Posts!

Quote of the week

“We were caught off guard by surveillance capitalism because there was no way we could have imagined its action, any more than the early peoples of the Caribbean could have foreseen the rivers of blood that would flow from their hospitality toward the sailors who appeared out of thin air waving the banner of the Spanish monarchs. Like the Caribbean people, we faced something truly unprecedented.

“… We are the native peoples now whose claims to self-determination have vanished from the maps of our own experience.” – Dr Shoshana Zuboff, author: The Age of Surveillance Capital

 

You said it, not me!

Judging by the reviews, #amazonshitcarshow (sic) is just about the right name for Jeremy Clarkson’s new series.

Oh, sorry, that’s “Amazon’s hit car show”! Why didn’t they say sooner?

Millennials, eh?

 

“I’m also quite concerned about going extinct before I die.”

Knowing, “no-ing”, none

An article in Psychology Today (12 Jan) attempts with an air of bewilderment to work out why it is that humans, when faced with an overwhelming existential threat that just might be averted by a radical rethinking of their current modes of behavior, prefer to go on flying long-haul as if nothing is happening.

My immediate response was to cite the tragic case of Deasy Tuwo, 44, a scientist working at a pearl-fishing farm on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, who died last week after being partly eaten by a 17-foot long, 740-lb crocodile she had been feeding as a pet.

What the fuck did she expect would happen? Personally, I take care around my cat; still bearing as I do the livid three-inch scar on my arm from when I tried to evict a stray from the house, thirty years ago. I would maintain a very healthy distance from a 17-foot crocodile, I assure you.

Thus, through the application of the precautionary principle I have attained my 70th year.

I’m also quite concerned about going extinct before I die. But unless you lot start to come around, there’s not much more I can do, other than keep writing the GW column in this, muh li’l bogl, for the benefit of my average five lovely Likers, Spammers etc., who are probably stuck in my echo chamber anyway. I’m really not reaching the unconverted.

One could instance probably millions of cases in which people act in their own worst interests, despite the evidence staring them in the face.

The death toll in the recent disaster in Mexico, where 73 people (so far) are known to have died while siphoning fuel from a ruptured pipeline is matched by the incident only the week before, in which 80-odd Nigerians died in an identical “accident”.

The only reason gasoline powers your car is because it’s flammable, dummies. It’s a highly volatile liquid, and you’re standing too close. But you didn’t know that, right? So you lit a cigarette, pleading poverty and fuel shortages as an excuse.

Then there’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Always a bit of a tearaway, giving new meaning to the phrase “advanced driver”, at the age of 97 he seems to have developed a death wish.

First, he overshoots his wife’s driveway at Sandringham, careers blindly across the main road into the path of an onrushing vehicle (endangering the lives of two women and a baby, to whom – being a royal – he refuses to apologize) and is sent rolling over and over. Aided by a passer-by, he drags himself from the wreckage unscathed, and the next day is back behind the wheel of an expensive replacement car taxpayers have magically produced for him – having then to be “spoken to” by Norfolk police for failing to put on his seatbelt.

What is he like? As they say. Well, whatever else he may be like, he is certainly in denial of something that ought to be staring him in the face. He’s past it, okay? Just accept it, mate. You must have plenty of chauffeurs hanging around, furtively smoking and speed-dialling the editor of Hello! magazine. Why not engage one?

Anyway, it seems that psychologists have begun banding together to see what’s to be done about the problem of mass denial.

The earth’s climate is overheating, the heating is accelerating (93% of it so far has gone into the sea), it’s our fault for continuing to burn vast amounts of carbon-emitting fossil fuels while denuding the globe of the forests that used to lap up the CO2.

The effects are already glaringly obvious. Food and economic insecurities are mounting, species are going extinct, the web of life is torn asunder and nobody will survive if the climate state should suddenly shift gear into runaway mode, which it will do when (not if) huge frozen reserves of potent methane gas are liberated by the warming we have already generated.

Rising sea level is the least of our worries.

But as long as one diehard attention-seeker continues to insist that we are instead watching the dawn of a new ice age, or that the warming is because the sunspots have disappeared; or who argues that the climate always changes and and will change back again, we are screwed.

So many people want desperately to believe the disinformation of those who imagine they can go on profiting massively from their current business models and who see no need to worry consumers. To change would, after all, affect “our way of life”, that capitalism has assured us is sacrosanct.

Let me assure you: it isn’t.

 

Review: Hiromi, “Time Control”

Is this a record?

I have a dreadful habit most evenings of hitting on YouTube clips of music by artists I normally like and sometimes whizzing straight over to the Amazon with an order for the CD.

Hiromi Uehara is possibly the most virtuosic and inventive improvisational pianist in the jazz canon, ever. People have compared her with, I don’t know, any of the great names listed as her “mentors” while a student at Berklee: Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, I could go on endlessly with examples of great pianists she is compared to but I won’t. Comparisons, as they say, are odious. She’s pretty bloody good, is all one can say.

We all make mistakes in the course of our careers, though, and her 2007 album “Time Control” with her Sonicbloom group is possibly the most egregious I know of. Profoundly disillusioned, I have just binned my copy on first hearing and shall chalk the expense up to experience.

(The only other album I have ever bought and binned instantly featured the dreadful American jazz singer, Melody Gardot, with her nauseating, syrupy arrangements.)

The short excerpt from “Time Control” I heard on YouTube is, of course, great. I have several other albums and videos featuring Hiromi, as she simply styles herself, and they’ve amply repaid the investment in listening time and money.

Otherwise, the rest of the tracks on the album are just different takes on a childish post-funk noise experiment, exacerbated by the frequent annoying overuse of an electronic keyboard effect akin to the wah-wah pedal beloved of guitarists in the mid 1970s.

It reminded me of those ghastly, cutesy little chemically-dwarfed East European gymnasts wiggling their pert little asses at the judges on the mat at the Olympic games of about the same vintage.

It’s easy to understand how Hiromi, who usually delivers a stunning blizzard of notes firmly grounded in a metronomic left-hand, could possibly feel that a Steinway grand piano on its own just isn’t enough. I have heard it said, both of Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk, very different stylists, that as musicians they were seeking the spaces between the keys. In jazz, it’s easy to see why; you soon run out of notes.

On stage, Hiromi performs at the piano alongside a couple of synthesisers, sometimes playing both acoustically and electronically at the same time; then dives inside the piano to pluck at the naked strings, or resorts to a hammered percussion effect.

Anything, to relieve the monotony of her own brilliance.

Not being gifted, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be allowed to push your gift so far out into the universe, only to find there is an end to everything eventually.

In this case, I’m afraid the elastic snapped.

 

Answers from the blue

I have recently returned once again to attempting difficult crossword puzzles at bedtime. It’s a test, to see if my increasingly fragmented thoughts and memories thoughts and memories – see what I did there? – are terminal, or merely symptomatic.

The hardest one I find is the Genius-level crossword in The Oldie magazine. Hard, because it invariably contains lights that have no clues, or only part-clues, that you have to divine according to a convoluted rubric I barely comprehend.

The unclued lights generally include the name of a famous person, an author or artist, from history; and the titles of some of their works. The only key being their dates. You can sometimes guess what and who they are from the clues you can actually solve, but it helps to have a knowledge of art and literature. I must have skipped those classes.

Anyway, Saturday night and encroaching sleep left me stuck for any suggestion as to who the famous person was, two words, who was – so the rubric said – born 200 years ago next month.

The following morning just before 9 o’clock I turned on the radio. The annoying presenter of Radio 4’s Broadcasting House magazine, Paddy O’Connell, a grown man seemingly afflicted with ADHD, was giving his usual random rundown of the programme’s forthcoming content.

I was delighted immediately to hear him announce a feature on John Ruskin, the C19th polymath and art critic, born 200 years ago next month, because the name fit perfectly with the two letters I already had in the down lights, and we were off again (Googling is cheating. Okay?).

The universe works in mysterious ways. It never lets me win anything on the Lottery, or sell my house, but occasionally it delivers answers to tricky questions.

 

GW: and the heat goes on…

Australia: In the last ten days Oz has had five of its hottest ever recorded. The Bureau of Meteorology said preliminary readings showed daily national temperature highs averaging 40C. A high of 48.3 °C was recorded at Tibooburra Airport (NSW) (Severe-weather.eu) The town of Noona in New South Wales meanwhile recorded a night-time temperature of 35.9C. It was the highest minimum temperature ever recorded anywhere in Australia, the BOM said. And there’s no sign of an end: temperatures on Friday (18 Jan) will soar above 42C in “broad areas”, the bureau predicted. (BBC News)

Antarctica: Since December 25, Antarctic sea-ice extent has set calendar-day record lows every day for more than three not-so solid weeks. Satellite-based records from the National Snow and Ice Data Center go back to 1979. Typically, Antarctic ice reaches its minimum for the year in late February or early March (late summer). As of Monday, January 14, the extent was 3.979 million sq km, which is well below the value of 4.154 million sq km observed on that date in 2017. Land ice too is melting at an alarming rate. Scientists have reported a sixfold increase in the loss of Antarctic land ice over the last 40 years. (The Weather Channel)

USA: As California continues to be pelted by successive storms carrying heavy rain and feet of snow in the Sierras, causing mudslides and evacuations in the tree-depleted fire-zones of the last two summers, “Winter Storm Harper has already pummeled parts of the West with heavy snow and will spread its mess of snow, ice and wind into the Plains, Midwest and Northeast into this weekend. The storm will tap into cold air once it moves through the central and eastern states Friday through the weekend, delivering a widespread swath of significant snow (1 to 3 feet).” (The Weather Channel)

Russia: Temperatures plunged to -57.5 °C in Delyankir (Sakha Republic) in far eastern Russia last night. This part of Russia is the one of the coldest places on Earth and the coldest inhabited area – the (fairly) nearby Oymyakon holds the official lowest recorded temperature in the northern hemisphere: -67.7 °C on February 6, 1933. (Severe-weather.eu) Generally colder weather with more snow is forecast over western Europe up into the British Isles while a 10 degree warmth anomaly persists over Greenland.

South America: “At least 3 people have died in flooding and storms that have affected several provinces of Argentina over the last few days. Strong winds caused damage in Santiago del Estero. Record rainfall was recorded in Resistencia, Chaco. Authorities have warned that the Uruguay River could reach danger levels. The river has already broken its banks upstream, causing flooding in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, where some areas have recorded almost 500mm of rain in the last 3 days. Stormy weather has also caused at least one fatality in the state.” Heavy rain has also affected parts of Uruguay, and there have been floods in Peru and Bolivia. (From Floodlist)

South Pacific: Severe weather brought by tropical cyclones Penny and Mona has affected several Pacific islands over the last 2 weeks. At least 3 deaths have been reported with a further 6 people thought to be still missing. Strong wind has damaged homes and crops, while heavy rain and storm surge has caused widespread flooding. Red Cross volunteers have been helping with evacuations and relief operations in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. Flooding was also reported in parts of Papua New Guinea. (Floodlist, NB, some of this reporting dates from the last week while the BogPo was mostly offline.)

Africa: “Violent storms and flash flooding triggered by heavy rain have affected the south east African countries of Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique over the last few days. Over 20 people have reportedly died since 09 January, 2019.” (Floodlist) 18 of the casualties were caused by lightning strikes over Mozambique.

 

Disappearing acts

Yellowstone: with hundreds of cubic miles of magma still inexorably rising toward the surface, an unusual ‘screw-wave’ earthquake, or ‘Tornillo’ was recorded 48 hours ago at 6km depth under the Grant region of the lake. An almost identical seismic wave pattern heralded within days a major eruption in Iceland in 2011. (Mary Greeley)

Another problem being, the people at US Geological Survey who are supposed to be monitoring the Wyoming supervolcano’s increasingly alarming antics and advising people in the event of an impending cataclysm are on unpaid leave, thanks to Trump’s insane shutdown of parts of the government.

A BogPo slowly forms: Go, Munchkins. Munchkins are go!…You can’t wait until Kevin Gates… The Light fantastic… Yet stands Boglington-on-Sea… GW: No business like snow business… Not so fast: RIP George

Quote of the Month

The Tweet: “You have Walls, and you have Wheels. It was ALWAYS that way and it will ALWAYS be that way.”

The follow-up: “You know, I said to some people over the weekend, you have walls, you have wheels, and some things that never get old. They’re not gonna change.”

Donald J Trump first tweets, and then clearly explains to his bemused cabinet, why he needs $5.7 billion to build his insane border wall, that may be a fence, possibly even on wheels, who knows?

 

Go, Munchkins. Munchkins are go!

The American Treasury Secretary is a person called Steve Mnuchin. He’s not very popular, not since he was unwisely photo-opped grinning smugly next to his expensive and arrogant young wife, looking like a Russian spy or something, while gloating over a sheet of dollar bills newly printed with his name on them, as if they belonged to him.

I say “or something”, because there’s an unexpectedly heavy aroma of massive collusion potentially amounting to treason hanging over the Munchkin today, and he’s so dumb, he may not even know it.

“Here’s the wages you ain’t gettin’ paid, suckers!” The Munchkins at work and play.

It goes back to Trump, of course, and the day in 2013 when he delivered whatever remained of his soul up to the Kremlin.

It was in Moscow, and he was there to launch his tacky Miss Universe pageant, maybe get to paternally fondle a few bare asses, and there was a dinner party. Putin wasn’t present, but a baker’s dozen of his ‘cronies’ were, call it a coven – and Trump boasted excitedly afterwards like the child he is that “all the oligarchs were there”, this gang of grotesquely rich criminal billionaires who had all profited from dodgy selloffs of state assets at the people’s expense, whom he greatly admires for their enterprise.

It was then that, flattered by the attention of his idols, Trump seems to have done his fatal deal over Trump Tower Moscow, that lies at the center of everything Bob Mueller has been investigating. A gossamer sheet of lies still hangs between the President and members of his campaign team, many of whom have already been indicted and even gaoled for trying to coverup what went on, but the evidence must surely be that Trump himself presided over their actions.

And what it essentially boils down to is that, to finance possibly the biggest deal of his life, a project sold to him everso sweetly and innocently by the Russian mafiosi around his table, and dangled like a carrot by Putin – Trump allegedly offered him the $50 million penthouse suite for free if only his friend Vladimir would approve it – Trump set his team the task of privately continuing negotiations even while publicly distancing himself as a candidate for the US presidency – and beyond.

It was far from the first time that Trump had taken Russian money. In the 1980s, his failing casinos were bankrolled by a man believed to be at the head of a major crime organization, Semyon Mogilevitch. Mogilevitch associates and others subsequently acquired many Trump properties at grossly inflated prices suggestive of money-laundering. And the Trump boys have both said at one time or another that they get all the funding they need for the golf courses and so on from Russia – “we’re in and out of there all the time”, said Don Jr, breezily, even as his father was frantically lying to the nation that he had no business dealings whatever with Russia.

United in hatred of Clinton, the Russians were angling for a US administration that would lift the damaging sanctions imposed on them, and so offered to help fix the election. In return, presumably, they had agreed to find Trump the money and permissions he would need for the insanely expensive Tower he had been dreaming of building for years.

His Moscow business partner, property magnate Aras Agalarov, was behind the fixing of the 9 June, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, New York with the Kremlin lawyer, Natalya Veselnitskaya – who was indicted just five days ago on charges of providing false evidence to a New York court in an apparently unrelated case involving a $230 million tax fraud in Russia. Unrelated, that is, but for the presence in the background of another of Trump’s Russian business partners, the notorious Felix Sater, thought to have helped launder the proceeds through offshore vehicles.

And by the presence at the meeting of Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort; a meeting about whose exact purpose Trump, his family and members of his team were to lie increasingly desperately for months. (Indeed, we still don’t really know. Manafort’s history of fixing elections in Ukraine might tell us something; while the claimed purpose of obtaining “dirt” on Hillary Clinton might well relate to any leverage the St Petersburg trollfarm boys would have been able to bring to bear against the Democrats in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, of which more in a minute.)

But Putin’s own plans went far beyond a piffling few billion dollars, a penthouse and a new excrescence on Moscow’s historic skyline.

He saw an opportunity to own his very own President, who could be ordered to spin an entirely new US foreign policy that would benefit his project to restore Russia’s sphere of influence to Soviet dimensions, and perhaps beyond to the recovery of sovereign territories lost in Gorbachov’s shameful era of Glasnost and Perestroika.

Mr Trump has not let him down.

A court filing released in the past few days was so ineptly redacted by the lawyers that journalists were easily able to see behind the blacked-out sections that campaign chair Paul Manafort’s role in the plan has been exposed by Mueller.

And now Mnuchin has been summonsed by Congress to explain something quite shocking.

Manafort was himself compromised by a $19 million debt to a sanctioned Putin oligarch called Oleg Deripaska, a longtime player on the international stage, ‘friend’ of British Labour peer and former EU Trade Commissioner, Lord Peter Mandelson, that he couldn’t repay.

It now appears that the price of forgiveness was to work with a contact from the GRU, Russia’s foreign intelligence arm, one Konstantin Kilimnick, to obtain useful polling data from certain swing states, enabling the hackers in St Petersburg to focus their efforts on finding and influencing Democratic voters there, weaponizing the data.

US elections are a bizarre entanglement of rules and procedures. But the plan worked: those were the very same states where the Clinton campaign rashly felt safe enough – may even have been persuaded by covert GRU disinformation – to reduce their hustings; the three key states where, despite not having a popular majority in the country overall, on 11/9/2016 Trump had secured sufficient numbers to gain by just 77,000 votes enough delegates to win the presidency in the Electoral College.

And on 17 December 2018, the day Congress was shutting down for Christmas, it quietly slipped out into the public domain, with almost zero media coverage and no explanation, that Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, had unilaterally lifted the sanctions on some companies linked with Russia’s Aluminum Tsar, Oleg Deripaska.

The question must surely be left hanging, Cheshire-catlike, in the air: has Putin also bought himself a direct line in to the US Treasury?

They need to be told.

Urgently.

 

You can’t wait until Kevin Gates

A story of terminal frivolity

A Japanese tech startup has unveiled at the CES Tech show in Los Angeles, a touch-enabled device that performs all of the functions of a Google Home Help or an Alexa.

So what? You may ask. Do we need another spy in the corner, that can turn the lights on when you shout at it, play your favorite tunes just like Spotify, and send details of every sigh and curse you emit to an advertiser somewhere, to have your data blended into persuasive messages?

Well, yes. Because, unlike tech devices made to look uncannily like tech devices, this device is modeled on… a plank.

An ordinary, featureless wooden plank. Brown, about 14 inches long by two inches wide and maybe 3/4-inch deep.

You know, the plank that usually serves as a metaphor for stupidity, as in: “(Former Brexit Secretary) David Davis is as thick as two short planks”.

The kind that if you found it lying around the house, you’d chuck it out in the shed thinking, that might come in useful for something someday; knowing deep down it never will.

Touch the plank, however, and miraculously control buttons light up out of the bare wood, and words and numerals and numerous icons and slidy things are obtained, Lord knows how, because there was no sign of them under the smooth grain of the plank, but there they are.

The plank is interactive.

You can talk to the plank, too. Surely, one of the great marketing concepts.

And when middle-aged white-guy and overweighting BBC substitute techie teenager, Rory Cellan-Jones asks it to demonstrate, he slowly and deliberately asks the plank, which is called Mui, “What’s the weather like today, Mui?”

And slowly the plank lights up, words appear, and it replies:

“You can’t wait until Kevin Gates.”

Thus proving that, at least, it recognizes a verb when it sees one.

I fear the end may be nigher than we think.

 

The Light fantastic…

And indeed, so does Dr Malcolm Light, earth systems scientist.

Interestingly, I posted a Comment on The Guardian website that referred readers to the following story just now, and for some unknown reason, my Comment disappeared a few minutes later, without even a note to say it had been Moderated. You’ll maybe see why.

A new report on the website Arctic-news.blogspot.com (7 Jan.) makes for chilling reading in a warming world:

“Recent data from the Arctic confirm an exponential rise in the temperature anomaly of the Arctic stratospheric methane which is now 65 degrees C above the normal, while it was only 20 degrees C above the normal, 6 to 8 years ago. Using this data and the recent … estimates of the minimum Arctic ice shelf volume it is now possible to estimate the timing of the Arctic – Permian style methane blowout firestorm.”

Indeed, Dr Light estimates that on present trends, after the initial eruption in 2021 we should have about another year before the “methane burp” – the anticipated rapid outgassing of explosive methane from the Arctic ocean floor predicted by Arctic researcher, Dr Natalya Shakhova – pushes global temperature by 10C and boils us all “like lobsters”.

“The Major Arctic Permian Style, Methane Blowout – Firestorm Event which will cause the release of some 50 Gt of methane from the Arctic shelf and slope (Shakhova, 2010), a 10 Degree Centigrade Rise in Mean Global Atmospheric Temperatures causing a Catastrophic Permian Style Global Extinction Event, is timed to begin on 4th September, 2021. There is a 95% probability that the Arctic Ice Shelf will have Zero Volume by the 5th of September 2022.”

And thus, by September 2023 it’s game over. The one positive being that we shan’t have to worry about Brexit anymore, as the global backstop looks pretty final.

I know we all feel a bit like this in January, but this is looking a bit serious. Dr Light, late of the Centre for Polar Observation and Monitoring, goes on with the use of many dire capital letters to advise:

“Do not worry about dying as it comes to all of us in the end, only this time we will all be going together. The Earth will soon after, lose all its oceans and become ‘Venus Like’.”

As he explained in a 2014 interview:

“There are such massive methane reserves below the Arctic Ocean floor (more than 5000 billion tons of methane carbon) that they represent around 100 times the amount that is required to cause a Permian style major extinction event, should about one percent of the sub-sea Arctic methane be released into the atmosphere. There are also giant reservoirs of mantle methane, originally sealed in by shallow methane hydrate plugs in fractures cutting the Arctic seafloor. Unfortunately for us, global warming has heated up the oceanic currents fed by the Gulf Stream flowing into the Arctic, causing massive destabilization of the sub-sea methane hydrates…”

There is no technological fix for this problem; it’s not CO2, shutting the factories and power plants and permanently parking the cars while we build more windmills won’t change anything. CO2 has done its work already: putting Earth on course for an uninhabited hothouse world.

 

Borderline nuts

A GoFundMe campaign to persuade fellow Trump supporters to donate to a $1 billion fund to contribute to building the President’s insane wall running 2,000 miles along the border with Mexico has raised just $20 million. A significant amount, but only 2 per cent of the target.

And because the President stamped his dainty little foot and abused his powers to shut large swathes of the Government down, holding 800 thousand poorly paid Government workers, their families and local shopkeepers hostage to his demented fantasy, there’s nobody in position within the administration to accept the donations anyway.

So, having failed to meet the stated objective the organizers have had to switch the basis of the appeal to the funding of a private company that plans to go ahead and build the wall themselves. the wall for which the President wants $5.7 billion.

Which means refunding the original donations.

And we think Britain is a divided nation in which a bunch of calculating thugs in yellow tabards is yelling at the smart people that they’re not happy and it’s all our fault.

Indeed so confused have things become, that violent ultra-nationalist protestors on the far-right are accusing Remain-leaning MPs in the centre of both left and right parties of being Nazis.

 

Yet stands Boglington-on-Sea

A project funding ‘expert’ has described a suggestion by the Energy minister that Britain could fund future nuclear power stations by offering developers more of the future revenues up-front – at cost to the consumer – as: “A desperate leap in the dark”. (BBC)

Hmmmn.

Speaking of darkness, I collared a young lad on the footpath yesterday evening while out walking dogs (he being the only other person around, the son of a neighbour), and asked him to witness something rather strange I had observed.

My phone battery had died and there would never be any other evidence.

Away over on the horizon was a blood-red sunset. I’d watched it turn from a shimmering pinkish glow and grow brighter and redder and broader, until it consumed the whole of a bank of low cloud; while directly up above, a flocculent cloudscape outlined against a pale blue sky was turning fiery pink.

So it was sunset! I hear you jeer. What’s so unusual about that?

Yes. Except that the sun normally sets in the west. Due west, across the town. And this was in the south-west, down the coast. Where the sun should have been setting remained resolutely grey.

It was a phenomenon (we don’t say ‘phenomena’ for the singular, as the idiots now do. ‘Phenomena’ is the name of a 2013 film directed by Steve Coogan and starring Dame Judy Dench) to rival another I had witnessed only a few nights before.

Being dragged out by Hunzi for his last-gasp walk, at about 11.15 p.m., through the darkness we observed the sky over the town had turned a bright, fiery red. It honestly looked as though some huge conflagration had broken out and was being reflected back by clouds. But no sirens could be heard.

I hastened to a better vantage point where no buildings intruded. It was so bright, I was able to take photographs. Ultimately, my excitement died down and I realized, it was only the sodium street lights of the town refracted in a bank of sea-mist.

Yet stands Boglington-on-Sea.

 

GW: No business like snow business

Europe: up to 3 meters of snow on high ground in Austria and SE Germany generated red warnings, and there have been casualties from avalanches and falling trees: 12 dead to date, with more snow forecast for the weekend. Northern Greece registered a low of -23C but more southerly Greek temperatures are expected back up to 17C with intense rainstorms forecast – social media photos are circulating of snow on the beaches near Athens. (Guardian/Wunderground)

USA: Unusually, the whole of the United States from coast to coast is in a low-temperature anomaly, without the pattern of cold-east, hot-west we’ve seen for the past two years at least. Temperatures in places like Santa Fe were barely above freezing. “Winter Storm Gia will spread a swath of snow and some ice from parts of the Rockies, Plains and Midwest to the mid-Atlantic into this weekend, making travel a challenge in these areas. Gia was named late Thursday afternoon as the number of people in winter storm warnings surpassed 2 million. (The Weather Channel)

Update: The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office has issued an evacuation order for residents below the Thomas Fire and Sherpa/Whittier Fire burn areas, as a (second) winter storm bears down on the Central Coast. (Mary Greeley). The third, fast-moving storm in the series to hit California is expected to move into the area Tuesday into early Wednesday with a potential for rain and snow in the higher elevations. The fourth system, expected to be the strongest and wettest of the three, will hit the area Wednesday and Thursday. Debris flows and mudslides are likely in areas where heavy rain hits burn areas. (The Weather Channel)

Australia: And after a few cyclonic days, Roasting Matilda is back. “Low-intensity heatwave conditions have been forecast across parts of central Western Australia to southern parts of the Northern Territory, southwestern Queensland and across New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. Every state and territory will bake through a heatwave on Monday with meteorologists saying soaring temperatures (up to 45C, 113F) will last for days in some parts.” (Guardian)

 

End News…

Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser, largest in the park, has erupted for the first time in 2019, on 04 Jan., after a year in which 33 eruptions were recorded – 4 more than in the previous record year, 1964. The average is 2 or 3 a year. Ground uplift and water temperatures continuing to rise as 300 cubic miles of magma makes its way toward the surface. (Mary Greeley website)

Update: ground shaking, small quakes, magma rising, sulphur dioxide emissions off the scale…. just sayin’ (Mary Greeley)

Trump shutdown: “The 99th meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) is being held this week in Phoenix, Arizona, but a huge hole in the meeting has been created by the absence of U.S. government scientists, who were denied attendance due to the ongoing government shutdown. At least 700 scientists who were scheduled to attend could not, leading to the cancellation or last-minute rearrangement of about a quarter of all of the talks.” (Wunderground)

Anyone would think Trump is doing this deliberately.

 

Not so fast: RIP George

‘George’, the last surviving Hawaiian Tree Snail, has died at the ripe old age of 14.

The story of Achatinella apexfulva is a paradigm for the ignorance and stupidity with which humans have approached the “stewardship” of the planet.

Had it not been for an outbreak of snail disease in the study colony, where the last of the species clung on in captivity, and but for 250 years of human depredation – before Europeans arrived the snail had no natural predators – perhaps the once abundant species might have hung around in the trees a while longer.

But its extinction was assured following the the deliberate introduction in 1955 of the predatory Rosy Wolf Snail, which was supposed to get rid of the accidentally introduced Giant African Snail but set about feasting on all the other species as well.

On New Year’s Day 2019, the Hawaiian Tree Snail was declared extinct. (Guardian Green Light)

The Pumpkin – Issue 73: He’s gone completely nuts… The Dunning Kruger Effect strikes again… Straight thinking… It’s something in the air… GW 2019, and the beast goes on….

“No-one has as much hair as me. I have the greatest hair of any president, maybe in history. I am ordering a complete shutdown of hair until we know what the hell is going on.” Serenaded by a barbershop quartet, Trump adopts the bald approach and shaves the day.

He’s gone completely nuts

He’s been unable to persuade House Leader Nancy Pelosi that she’s really the one who is causing the shutdown of large parts of the government, putting 800 thousand employees on garden leave or forcing them to work unpaid for the last two weeks, because the Democrats won’t vote funding for the wall.

It’s a ploy for which he is on video recently saying he takes full responsibility. But now he doesn’t.

Following their meeting, the madman declared that he is prepared to shut the government down “for months or years if necessary” and call a State of Emergency to enable the army to take over the running of essential services, if he does not get his $8 billion for the border wall. He will order the Corps of Engineers to build it, using contingency funds from the military budget.

Supported by the Republican leader in the Senate, the creepy old slimeball Mitch McConnell,  a supine Trumpsucker who would kill his own grandchildren to save the profound corruption wing of the party, Trump has in effect declared war on the House of Representatives, now with a substantial Democrat majority, and on the US Government.

Pundits are gauging his mood and think that he is probably bluffing, but the threat to declare a State of Emergency is something they have been fearing since he was first elected.

It would be a first step towards achieving the absolute authority Trump craves. Most of the key positions in his cabinet are currently filled by “acting” executives he can replace at will. He has no legal team capable of defending him, so some drastic action is required.

Declaring martial law and assuming executive powers would allow him to round up and imprison his political opponents and detractors, as he has many times threatened to do, without trial.

He could shut down the media, and suspend the Justice Department, ordering all investigations into his and his family’s extensive criminal activities and the literally hundreds of civil suits outstanding against him be stopped in their tracks.

It’s not about the wall, it’s about Mueller.

In case you think it’s an exaggeration to say he has truly gone out of his mind, try this:

 

The Dunning-Kruger Effect strikes again

“How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?”

Trump responds with a tweet to an ill-advised criticism in the House, praising himself to the skies. Does he really believe this nonsense? Because it’s all a complete fantasy. That paragraph alone contains five provable lies.

Psychologists, Drs Dunning and Kruger came up in the late ’90s with a fascinating theory: some people are too stupid to know how stupid they are, thus assuming wrongly that they know more than anyone else.

We’ve all heard Trump boasting that he knows more than his generals about dealing with ISIS, and more about tax than any accountant (except, obviously, his own). He admitted ruefully that the dreadful US healthcare system that he had told MAGA rallies from Hicksville to Okeefenokee he would fix in a heartbeat was in fact “complicated”. Who knew? He knows all about nuclear science because he had an uncle who worked for NASA. He invented the phrase “fake news”, that maybe nobody had ever used before. All of the media his public image totally depends on, that fantasy that he is a successful billionaire business mogul, is “fake” and “failing” – “enemies of the people”. The entire criminal justice system from the failing FBI to the disloyal Justice Department is a Democrat conspiracy against him.

He understands the polls “a lot better” than many pollsters, which is just as well because they’re giving him only 34% approval for the job he’s not doing well, and 80% disapproval for his border wall, although he says it has overwhelming support and will keep out criminals, drugs and diseases. Border patrols, he says, are arresting ten terrorists a day; many appear to be children. Contrary to the advice of fire and forestry experts, he still insists that raking California’s forest floor regularly will prevent wildfires, which were made worse by the authorities syphoning all the available water off and sending it to the Pacific.

Just two days ago, he commented that technology was something he knew more about than anyone else. He’s making Medicare stronger for all while defunding the program to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, including himself. Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by lots of “ocean water”, he informed us he had just learned, while 3,000 people did not die in the botched aftermath of Hurricane Maria, that figure from research commissioned by his own administration was made up by Democrats to “make me look bad”.

”Clean coal” is, of course, coal that has been washed before burning. His inauguration crowd was visibly the biggest in history; the photographs showing a virtually deserted plaza were faked. Millions of undocumented migrants voted for Hillary Clinton, which is why he won. The Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighter, the most expensive flying weapons platform in history, which he claims to have helped design, is literally invisible, you can’t see it.

Climate change may be a hoax, “many scientists have said it’s a hoax” (98% of the world’s scientists must be complicit in a 140-year-old hoax then, because they all say it’s real, as do Exxon-Mobil and Trump’s own science policy department), “It may be a hoax, I don’t know”… (he always qualifies his more questionable assertions in such a way as to suggest he would be right if only you believed it too….)

The recent vertiginous slide in the stock market is “just a blip” and all the fault of the Federal Reserve bank (although he caused it by his winnable “trade war” with China, having taken credit for the previous rise that was due to the policies of the previous administration)… While his tariffs that are “bringing back millions of American jobs” and his assaults on migrant workers are causing shutdowns and layoffs and farm bankruptcies….

For many more totally false and self-aggrandizing assertions, try: http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/statements/byruling/false/

His verified untruths now running at over eight a day, Trump is clearly very confident in the amazing breadth and depth of his knowledge, but sadly none of it turns out to have much basis in fact. Some of it is expedient lying for political effect, but much more of it seems to be based in some delusionary alternative reality he inhabits.

And by his compulsive outbursts of rage tweeted against the Special Counsel enquiry, to the despair of his defense team, and his emplacement of outspoken, biased defenders within the Justice Department and the courts, he continues to implicate himself deeper and deeper in the federal crime of obstructing justice; for which he can be indicted.

Indeed, he may be one of the most profoundly stupid and ill-informed people ever to hold the office of President; carried over the line by irrepressible narcissism.

So much so, that he lacks the mental apparatus to know he’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and that’s Dunning-Kruger at work. Impervious to expert advice, incapable of absorbing more than the simplest of cartoon briefings, seemingly barely able to read, his policies informed by the little yammering TV faces on Fox & Friends, from where increasingly he imports his staff appointments, he has chosen instead to assume he is the smartest person alive.

“I’m, like, a really smart person – a very stable genius,” he told a CNN reporter. He told another interviewer, without his unique brain the economy would collapse. He had earlier claimed that both Vladimir Putin and Margaret Thatcher had hailed him as a genius.

Researchers found no truth in the assertion, Trump having seized on the word in a mistranslation of a speech in which Putin described him as merely ‘colorful’.

But he’s not alone. Dunning-Kruger appears to infect many politicians. Here’s another great example:

The train now departing…

The British Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling is a very tall man with a head shaped like a lightbulb. He has been under fire all the past year for the abject failure of an attempt by the government-contracted train operating companies to reschedule their timetables in a supposedly co-ordinated manner, that led to chaos on the network with thousands of cancelled services – some trains reportedly not heading to the advertised destinations, stranding passengers miles from where they needed to be – and had to be abandoned.

It has been admitted that the failure was because no-one was in overall charge. As Grayling himself has pointed out, he is not a “railway specialist”. So it wasn’t his fault no competent individual had been appointed to oversee the complex project.

A 3% fares hike that came into effect on 1 January with no sign of improvement in the dirty, unreliable and overcrowded service has understandably pissed-off hard-pressed commuters – again. Britain has by far the most expensive train fares in Europe, per mile. Grayling says, it’s all the fault of greedy train drivers wanting more money.

Alternatively, he says, it’s because the train operators need loads of money for investment (much of it goes in executive bonuses!) – it’s the same lame excuse every year.

Either way, it’s nothing to do with him; a 140% increase in passengers being shoehorned into groaning carriages and often stranded by the endless “engineering works” or “leaves on the line”, must, he says, be proof of the popular success of the railways. Although one might conclude, it’s his failure to ensure the maintenance of the roads, the lack of parking, increasing town-center pollution charges and the ever-rising cost of city living that are driving people who live out beyond cycling distance to board the cattle-truck commuter trains in increasing numbers.

Meanwhile, the UK government has been trying to frighten rebel Conservatives in Parliament by making a huge deal out of emergency preparations for major freight delays at ports leading to shortages of food and medicine in the event that Brexit goes ahead without a formal separation agreement. Effective customs protocols and systems haven’t yet been put in place or even invented. The costs of stockpiling are rising – $120 million to date.

With less than three months to go, “Failing Grayling” as the press are calling him has played his part by handing a $19 million contract to a small, unknown company to operate additional cross-channel ferry services to speed the importation of vital supplies from France. A company that owns no ferries and has no experience of maritime freight operations. Questioned on the BBC about this perverse choice, Grayling replied that people should be pleased that he’s supporting a new British business startup – one of whose white, middle-aged male directors appears to be a hefty party donor. Plus, he had made sure they had a watertight contract (my pun, sorry.)

So the company has gone full-steam ahead and published a website, detailing its terms and conditions of business, its contract with the taxpayer, and is now being ridiculed on social media as it appears they simply cut-and-pasted a pre-written document from some fast-food supply company and accidentally omitted to re-word large sections of it.

Grayling’s watertight contract for a cross-channel supply lifeline is all about pizza delivery.

Commentators are demanding to know, how the hell does this incompetent, bungling nitwit keep his job? No-one has an answer – least of all Grayling, who continues to show a total lack of self-awareness as he blunders from one ministerial post to another, trailing chaos in his wake.

Yet his interviews reveal him to be a man of boundless self-confidence, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect is probably all that is carrying him through.

Like Trump, Grayling is so stupid, he doesn’t know he’s stupid.

It doesn’t bode well for all our futures.

Postscriptum, 26 May: Since the above, Grayling’s department has paid out a further £83 million in compensation to actual ferry operators or companies with ferry operating experience, who were not included in the tender process as they argue they should have been. The original contract with Seaborne Ferries has been cancelled, at full cost.

Yet you can find many people still posting comments claiming Labour is the party of financial mismanagement.

 

Straight thinking

“It would never occur to him to ask what books will be in the library, since he himself barely reads.”

“US President Donald Trump has mocked the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan. Mr Trump suggested the contribution was of no use to reconstruction efforts in the country. ‘That’s like five hours of what we spend,’ the US president mocked.”

Everything this dumb bastard says or tweets is based on the crudest of transactional analyses.

The idea that libraries are educational, civilizing influences and have been since writing was invented would never occur to him as a developmental tool, so crudely fashioned is his reptilian brain.

Since he has none, the moronic Trump does not value knowledge; does not comprehend – cannot comprehend – the priceless nature of learning to an isolated tribal country like Afghanistan, that has been at war for decades and is increasingly controlled by puritanical, religious primitives almost as crude and reactionary as the President of the United States and his Evangelical base.

It would never occur to him to ask what books will be in the library, since he can himself barely read and has no interest in doing so.

Will there be fiction, to open up new horizons and introduce stimulating creative ideas? Poetry? Will there be a reservoir of the region’s long history, promoting ideals of courage and sacrifice that can be built on? The foundation stories of the nation? Or will there be textbooks, the basic building-blocks of learning, spreading enlightenment, internationalism and the roots of future value-creating innovation? Will the books help to spread the ideas of liberal democracy; bring healing and reconciliation to a fractured nation? Will they teach engineering, economics, medical science and technology? Or will the books be all of these and more?

He doesn’t give a fuck.

He’s the president, and you’re not.

A library – a room full of dumb old books – is just not expensive enough to compare with all those $trillions and lives both military and civilian successive US administrations since 9/11 have wasted pursuing the Great Game, that he thinks should be paid back in treasure. As if India is somehow in debt to him personally.

But it did occur to him to praise the Russians for invading Afghanistan in 1979; a history of which, evidently, he is entirely ignorant.

Fuck Donald Trump, right to Hell.

He wouldn’t know.  He’s never read a book; not even the ones he lies constantly about having written himself. He’s just a thuggish, bullying imbecile stuffed with junk food; a Frankenstein creature cobbled together by the media out of the volumes of rotting cheeseburger that lumbering suit contains; a brain, made from congealed greed and expedient lies; a philosophy of Bannonite nihilism imposed on a mob-boss mentality that has shown an extraordinary degree of compromise and cowardice during his two years of bullshitting his way around the office of President.

A lifelong minor criminal, a cheating small businessman sanctified by a garbage TV show, now a senile buffoon who can no longer imagine how you close an umbrella.

It is possible no man has been hated as much as Donald Trump is hated, by millions of Americans aghast at his incompetence; his rudeness, sheer nastiness; and by people of sensibility around the world, for the thuggish gangsterism, childish tantrums, celebrations of ignorance, betrayal of ideals and fathomless corruption he stands for.

If as the Evangelical Christian conman, former convict and fellow borderline psychopath, Jim Bakker, says, Trump has been sent by God and must be unquestioningly obeyed, then it is surely to teach us a lesson in civics.

Never again should any sentient body of people even dare to think of electing a totally unqualified and so obviously unfit candidate merely on the grounds that you’ve seen him looking powerful and decisive on TV (you think the word “reality” in “reality show” means it’s real?), he’s a bit “different” from conventional politicians; he dares to “say what we are thinking” and takes no nonsense from so-called experts, the liberal elite.

It’s liable to be the end of your world and mine.

Because you’re not thinking straight.

 

It’s something in the air

Some years ago, the British biochemist, Dr Rupert Sheldrake proposed a strange theory: that once something had happened once, it reduced the odds against it happening again. The cosmos was capable of learning from experience.

For instance, crystals all form in the same way, once the original crystal has formed. Why? Is there some kind of cosmic energy field that arranges things so?

Learned behaviors in biological organisms too seemed to spread in a kind of contactless way, that he put down to genetic memory. Sheldrake called it the field of “morphic resonance”, and conducted an experiment at long distance, whereby pupils in the UK were set to solve a math problem that was then given to pupils in faraway Turkey, timed against a control problem both groups had already solved, to see if the Turkish pupils got any faster once the new problem had first been solved in Britain.

Sorry to disappoint, but I absolutely forget what the outcome was. Probably inconclusive. Because, of course, Sheldrake was roundly mocked and accused of practicing New Age pseudo-science by his colleagues in the biochemistry community.

Although he continues to obtain appointments to various, apparently serious, parapsychological research posts – mainly in US universities – and wins awards, his theory of morphic resonance remains unproven out on the fringes of rational science.

Except that there does seem to be a curious connection, possibly spiritual, between the UK Conservative party and the Trump so-called administration to suggest a possible proof.

While there is no direct chain of command, nevertheless the British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, a man with a face looking as if it was created by a mildly sozzled balloon-animal entertainer at a children’s party, the second-generation son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver, seems to have had a very similar epiphany to that of US President Donald Trump, only a few days behind.

Both men coming imminently from migrant family stock, are nevertheless committed to the same course of demonizing refugees in exchange for the bigot vote.

Javid: “…a face looking as if it was created by a mildly sozzled balloon-animal entertainer…” (Photo: James Gourley/Rex/Shutterstock)

There used to be an ad for an insurance company who claimed: “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis”. In Mr Javid’s case – he refers to himself, apparently, as “the Saj” – he has been busy over the holidays doing precisely the opposite: claiming that the attempts since the beginning of November by about 200 bedraggled Iranian migrants to cross the Channel in small inflatables amounts to a national emergency, worthy of recalling the British Navy to fight them off.

The teenage Defense Secretary, Gavin Williamson, a fresh-faced ex-fireplace salesman who pops up at every turn eagerly offering to put soldiers on the streets to quell non-existent public disorder and hand out rations, as Our Boys have nothing better to do, immediately rallied to the flag, pulling his little fleet of warships back from every corner of the globe to defend the Realm. But then, he too is gunning for Theresa May’s job when he grows up.

The resonances between this absurd exaggeration and Trump’s bullshit pre-midterm elections propaganda campaign, shoving out massive quantities of fake news about the terrifying so-called migrant “caravan” wending its way from Honduras to the Mexico border where, without his $5bn Wall, they would be primed by the Jew Soros in league with the failing Dems to invade, bringing in drugs, gangs, murder, terrorism, pollution of the white race, unknown diseases and people willing to do shitty jobs, are striking; albeit the American version is land-based and the British, in the finest tradition, maritime, both are examples of calculated rabble-rousing that are falling rather flat with the majority.

Without any apparent collusion, both men seem to have hit on much the same idea of closing the borders, both for promoting themselves as decisive leaders facing down an existential threat of exaggeratedly enormous proportions; and for dividing their countries over a matter exciting much irrational debate and manufactured tension.

To enhance his voter appeal, The British Saj cut short his holiday in South Africa and flew home to confront the armada of desperate people as brown as himself, only to end up more red-faced as colleagues opposed to this rather obvious pitch for the leadership of the party post-May gleefully leaked that he and his wife Laura had been largeing it in a £1,700 a night safari lodge, while over a million Britons had been enjoying Christmas dinner at their local charity food bank.

What both men are resolutely ignoring is the illegality of denying genuine refugees the right, guaranteed by the United Nations, to apply for asylum and have their cases fairly heard. The claims are the same: you don’t know who these people are; there could be terrorists among them; they’re being trafficked by bad men; the crossing is dangerous so they mustn’t be allowed to try; they should apply in the first country they come to; sending rescue ships will only encourage them; there’s no room at the inn, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, as reports emerge of extensive child abuse going on in the makeshift holding pens to which the appalling Kjaersten Nielsen, US Homeland Security Secretary, continues to send hundreds of children ripped away from their migrant families at the border, the British government still has no knowledge of the whereabouts of more than 500 refugee children, legally qualified to join family members in Britain, who simply vanished from the makeshift camps across the Channel after a campaign led by the fascist-leaning Daily Mail resulted in a halt to the program they were meant to be admitted under.

And, following the efforts of the French police to eradicate the unofficial Calais “jungle” camp, men, women and children are sleeping in the open in fields around the Channel ports, hoping against hope that someone will ferry them the 26 miles to what they foolishly persist in imagining might be freedom.

While all there is in the air is the oppressive miasma of manufactured prejudice, the fear that “once you let one in, they’ll all want to come”.

Proving conclusively, Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance.

 

No discrimination

Texas police looking for a white man described by several witnesses in connection with the drive-by shooting of 7-year-old Jazzmine Barnes have arrested 20-year-old Eric Black Jr.

Mr Black is… er, black.

 

GW: 2019, and the beast goes on….

Australia: “Adelaide has seen temperatures soar to 41C as SE Australia sweats its way through 36 hours of intense heat. Further inland, Port Augusta touched 44.7C, Ceduna 45.5C and Nullabor 46.2C at 1.40pm. On Friday, Melbourne is set to hit 42C, a ‘once in a decade’ heat event. Several wildfires are being reported. Parts of New South Wales including Sydney are sweltering through day 10 of a heatwave”, although on 2 Jan. the city was battered by an intense hailstorm powerful enough to smash car windows, while strange cloud formations were reported.

‘Mammatus’ cloud over Sydney, 2 Jan. (Dylan Robinson/News Corp)

And then… The “change will be even more dramatic in Melbourne late on Friday afternoon. The 40C Friday will turn into a high of just 22C on Saturday. Melburnians could see a drop of between 15 to 20 degrees in just one hour on Friday afternoon as the cold front careers through.” A wildfire in Tasmania has burned 30 sq miles of forest in a conservation area. Meanwhile “the cyclone season is in full swing in Queensland with Cyclone Penny looking like it will make a handbrake turn and come straight back towards the coast.” (all reporting:  News.com.au)

 

USA: The overnight low in Phoenix, pretty much the hottest city in America, dropped to 30F, -1C on 02 Jan. as Winter Storm Fisher brought up to 6 inches of snow to the Arizona desert. Wintry conditions have since arrived in Texas and Oklahoma, where freezing rain has caused multiple car crashes. The jetstream is reportedly slumped all the way down into New Mexico where up to 3 feet of snow has fallen at altitude near Los Alamos. (The Weather Channel)

Nevertheless, European forecasters Severe-weather.eu are predicting a rapid warming over the whole continental US, with temperatures climbing over the next 7 days to 10 to 15 degrees C above normal for January. Residents of Sanibel Island, Fla. were bemused on 22 Dec. to experience a tidal surge through the town, produced by a ‘meteotsunami’ caused by a rapid change of barometric pressure. “Temperatures dropped by almost 10 degrees in Southwest Florida as barometric pressure momentarily rose by 1.6 millibars. Waves were projected to be about 1.7 feet at 1:30 p.m. but reached 5.04 feet before decreasing rapidly over the next hour.” Wind gusts measured by the National Weather Service spiked at 54 mph as a storm brought heavy rains and tornado warnings to the Naples area. (Naples Daily News)

Philippines: Death toll from floods and landslides inflicted by Tropical Depression Usman is now 105. Almost a quarter of a million people have been affected. “The storm has caused severe damage to agriculture, with costs estimated at over $6.5 million.” Heavy rain that began on the 29th Dec. was still falling on 3rd Jan. (Floodlist)

Sri Lanka: Severe weather from late December has affected over 125,000 people. At least 2 died and 5 were injured. …Strong winds, heavy rain and flash flooding began around 22 December and continued for several days. Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology said 365.1mm (13 in.) of rain fell in Mullaitivu district, in 24 hours to 22 December.

Europe: A cyclonic Bora wind over the Tyrrhenian sea is expected to produce up to half a meter of snow over central Italy and a secondary cyclone forming over Greece pushing up through the Balkans, may bring as much as 30 cm of rain to parts of Turkey in the next few days, moving on into the Caucasus with heavy snowfall in the mountains. With a developing Sudden Stratospheric Warming event, the polar vortex is splitting, bringing very cold weather down from the Arctic that’s likely to persist. (from The Weather Channel)

Update 5 Jan: Europe faces a deep freeze next week, amid forecasts of a giant snowstorm over large swathes of the continent. The AccuWeather warning system has issued a blizzard alert for areas of Germany and Austria so far. (Express) Up to three feet of snow is expected to affect many Alpine resorts – good for skiers, but only if they can get there!

Update 7 Jan: Over the weekend, 7 dead, ‘several more’ missing as skiers are unable to cope with the extreme conditions. Another 4 ft is expected in Austria by Thursday.

 

End notes

  • “Public opinion polling indicates that although there is widespread acceptance of climate change resulting from human activities, the public’s preparedness to pay for action to mitigate climate change is actually declining – even as climate scientists warn of the increasing urgency for action. These results signal a serious problem in the public communication of climate change.” – Dr Mary Debrett
  • According to Professor Boris Worm of Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, and co-researchers in five countries, the trendlines are showing that if we do not act immediately to protect the oceans, the last saltwater fish will die sometime in 2048.
  • A record $3.1m has been paid for a giant bluefin tuna at Tokyo’s new fish market. It was bought by sushi tycoon Kiyoshi Kimura, who runs the popular Sushi Zanmai chain. Stocks of Pacific bluefin have been depleted by 96 percent from their pre-industrial levels. (from Guardian)