Home » 'Impossible things' » No, sorry, it’s turned into a Pumpkin! Issue 88: Middle East: Houthing up… The three lives of Gene Wilder… A load of guacamole… You scratch my back… And I’ll scratch yours… GW: It never rains but it burns… Essay: Us vs. Them: a draw?…

No, sorry, it’s turned into a Pumpkin! Issue 88: Middle East: Houthing up… The three lives of Gene Wilder… A load of guacamole… You scratch my back… And I’ll scratch yours… GW: It never rains but it burns… Essay: Us vs. Them: a draw?…

Middle East: Houthing up

“Hands up. Who in the class believes Iran or its proxy militias would be so stupid as to try to blow up two more oil tankers in the Gulf, right under the nose of the angry headmaster with his big, swishy cane, just while his friend the Japanese Prime Minister was in Tehran on a peace mission?

“Yes, Bolton?”

“Oooh, Miss, look, I’m in the fake news press! It says: ‘The US national security adviser, John Bolton, said Iran was almost certainly involved’.” (Guardian, 13 June)

“And why do you think, Bolton, that the entire class is so stupid as to believe your crazy, hotheaded Irish blarney? I mean, anyone in the school who doesn’t already know you and your friends from the Israeli special forces were smoking behind the bike shed last night. ‘Almost certainly’, what’s that?”

“Because, Miss, blowing up ships and pretending it was the other boys wot did it has always worked to start wars before.”

“And why would you want to start a war, Bolton? People might get hurt.”

“Well, Miss, wars are fun. Things go bang, your shares in Raytheon rocket up like July 4th and your oil export price doubles overnight while strong domestic output keeps consumer prices steady. The Commander-in-Chief gets to look like a leader instead of a leaky, one-winged, criminal mallard with no feathers. The country swings behind him and he’s a slam-dunk for a second term. While Netanyahu’s in for life.

“It’s a win-win-win-win situation we can’t lose. And besides, we haven’t had a good war since the last one I helped start on the basis of flawed intelligence. Mine, that is…. Look, here’s a meme of the Iranians removing a limpet mine from a tanker, so it must be them who put it there, mustn’t it.”

“Fair enough, Bolton, carry on. Class, let’s now turn to page a hundred and seventeen of your Farsi history primer, to where it says ‘And then the US 5th Fleet merrily began bombing, because the White House had been handsomely paid by the Dashing Young Prince of Barbaria'”….

Postscriptum:

In the interests of balance, we should mention that it is being suggested by highly paid experts that Iran might be minimally blowing up foreign tankers as a gesture to warn the Americans they could interdict Saudi oil traffic through the Straits if they wanted to.

I guess even the Americans probably knew that already?

 

A research project at Brown University has concluded that at 59m tonnes, the US military emits more greenhouse gases annually than Portugal.

 

The three lives of Gene Wilder

I see comic actor Gene Wilder just died again. So sad, I was a huge fan. Blazing Saddles… The Producers… if you needed a blond, curly-haired, blue-eyed, blanket-chewing Jewish neurotic with a wispy side, Gene was your man.

But there seems to be something rather odd about the sad news, a chronoclasm that might have interested the late Professor Stephen Hawking, with his theories about Time an’ all.

The BBC reported, today, 10 June 2019:

“US actor Gene Wilder, remembered by many for his lead role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died at the age of 83, his family has confirmed.”

This happened apparently yesterday, Sunday, and is very sad. Heartfelt tributes were pouring in, from his friend, Director Mel Brooks, actor Russell Crowe, Ricky Gervais and other claim-jumpers.

Cats have nine lives, it’s said, but it seems Willy Wonka had at least three. For, with great foresight BBC News actually published an obituary of Wilder by Arts supremo, Alan Yentob on 29 August, 2016. Clearly it was premature. Because then, they published a news report of his death the following day, on 1 September – which is completely spooky, right? I mean, how did they publish an obituary, not knowing the subject was going to die the very next day?

But then, for some unknown reason, they’ve repeated the story today, 10 June, 2019. Why, the man is a veritable Schrödinger’s Cat. Was he dead, or wasn’t he? Just how relativistic is Time, as a concept? We’re not being told, although we definitely should be.

At the bottom of the page is a link: “Why you can trust BBC News”. It takes you to another page, which begins:

“The BBC is recognised by audiences in the UK and around the world as a provider of news that you can trust. Our website, like our TV and radio services, strives for journalism that is accurate, impartial, independent and fair.”

But not necessarily much less than three years old.

The average age of a BBC TV viewer is said to be 62 and rising. Not all of us have Alzheimer’s, as Wilder did, but clearly the Editor of the BBC News website is in urgent need of nursing care.

 

Interviewed on ABC TV about Don Jr’s latest appearance before the House over his 9 June, 2016 meeting with Russians, that he lied was about adoptions, Don Sr said he’d certainly consider offers of foreign help to get elected in 2020, and probably not tell the FBI if he thought it wasn’t illegal.

Er…

 

A load of guacamole

“The president stakes out a maximalist position but never clearly defines his objectives. That way, after he backs himself into a corner, he can use a deal of any kind, even if it’s merely a fig leaf, to justify retreating from whatever misguided policy he’s threatened. Then he declares victory, having done little to nothing to solve the underlying problem.” – Senator Chuck Schumer, on Trump’s phoney triumphalist brinkmanship.

Before coming over to hobnob with his favorite gal, HM Queen, the only person on earth who, by virtue of her apolitical contract can never, ever mock or criticize him, Trump announced, as usual by tweet, yet another unexpected policy initiative he had apparently discussed with no-one other than the little yammering faces of Fox & Friends on the White House TV screens, his only connection with reality.

In lieu of funding for the Wall, he was imposing a tariff on all products coming over the border from Mexico, starting at 5% and rising monthly to 25%, until Mexico agrees to do more to stop refugees and other migrants from reaching the US border.

(The Editor writes: It is the policy of the BogPo to refer to “refugees and other migrants”, rather than just “animals”, “rapists”, “terrorists”, “M-13 gang members” or “drug lords” until someone tells us just what the hell is going on in his diseased brain.)

Returning days later from his successful European trip, while heading off to another of his golf courses for a few well-deserved days’ r&r, Trump tweeted that he might not after all be imposing the tariffs most economists agree would hurt American consumers and businesses more than they would hurt Mexico.

This was because he had done a Great Deal: Mexico had agreed to send the National Guard to the Guatemalan border and promised to buy billions of dollars’ worth of US agricultural goods, to please our “patriotic farmers” who have been royally screwed by Trump’s China tariff war and the endless rain and are committing suicide in droves.

This left Mexico’s government somewhat confused, as the National Guard has already been sent to the border, that happened during Obama’s presidency, and there was no agreement they knew of, to buy more US farm produce. So he resorted to the ancient art of bullshit and, like Chamberlain returning in triumph from Munich, peeled from his shoe a piece of paper he said was the new agreement.

Mexico is, in fact, we believe without fact-checking, a net exporter of agricultural produce to the US, while of course presumably importing as much corn and soybean back from the gringos as they can use; of avocados and beer and also of Tequila, that being the nature of the close trading relationship the now-dead NAFTA created between the neighboring countries.

He seems to have either dreamed it, or he made it all up.

Meanwhile, Trump’s violent posturing over immigration has caused a great panic, and vast numbers more South American refugees and migrants have reportedly been heading up through Mexico to the Arizona border, totry to beat any further extreme measures he might tell his worshipful dumbfucks he’s taking, that he might actually take.

It’s all a crisis of his own making.

Once again rave-tweeting and yelling in all-caps at the “failing” New York Times for pointing out these simple-to-check facts, totally fake nooze, waving a piece of paper he says proves him right, nevertheless Trump appears to have been caught out in his 10 thousand, seven-hundred and somethingth lie since assuming office.

But you can see this time it was for the good of the country. And the “patriotic” farmers he loves*.

*Why does he keep calling them that? Because he has had to invent an alternative reality in which the farmers support his crippling 25% tariffs on Chinese imports, even though retaliatory Chinese measures have essentially destroyed the hugely valuable US soybean and pork trades, that many analysts believe may never recover. Other sources say they don’t, not really.

 

You scratch my back…

“For his dubious role as the ‘godfather’ of Reaganomics, Slate dubbed him World’s Worst Economist. He’s been called a key part of the ‘Intellectual Rot of the Republican Party’. Esquire suggested that Laffer’s turn as the architect of the disastrous Brownback tax experiment in Kansas should hang ‘like a dead possum’ around his neck for the rest of his days.”Guardian

They say he who Laffs last, Laffs loudest, and Mr Arthur “Dead Possum” Laffer is certainly taking the piss out of the rest of us. He’s the author of a famous graph, the Laffer Curve, showing on a restaurant table napkin how, if you take all the money away from the poorest people at the bottom and hand it gratis to the people right at the top, everyone gets richer.

And having written a garbage hagiography about “Trumponomics” (basically, the art of extortion, debt default and bank fraud), he is Laffing all the way to the White House shortly, to receive a medal from the Golden Shower, Mr Very Stable Smarts himself.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the country’s highest civilian honor, awarded in this case to the man who has successfully persuaded the criminal kleptocracy in Congress that they can deny economic freedom to the maximum number of Americans while ordering up their fifth superyacht, from which everybody benefits.

The lunacy of Laffer has been well exposed, both theoretically and empirically, but still the very rich go on using his cretinous theory to justify their egregious acts of State-sanctioned theft. And why wouldn’t they?

But wait, what’s this? Why, step forward Boris “Watermelon Smiles, etc.” Johnson, kitchen-table racist front-runner for the worst job in British politics. With the beaming endorsement of his fellow narcissist, America’s stupidest-ever President, Johnson is bidding for the leadership of the Headless Chicken party against nine lesser dangerous lunatics on a platform of…. £9.6 billion-worth of Laffer-inspired tax cuts for the higher-rate taxpayer, combined with the expensivest of hard Brexits (paid for by a giant, crippling Trumponomic-style sovereign debt default, for which Messrs Standard and Poor’s will surely beat us into the ground).

After nine years of austerity and with the social fabric of Lesser Britain already ripped to shreds and lightly tossed away in a dumpster, or skip as we called them in the days of our independence, let’s see how that goes, shall we?

 

And I’ll scratch yours

Meanwhile, reports of astounding levels of corruption are swirling around Trump enabler and obstructionist Senate leader, “Cocaine” Mitch McConnell, who is married to Trump’s transportation secretary, Elaine Chao.

Ms Chao has apparently been caught failing to obey an Ethics committee ruling that to avoid conflict of interest she should divest her substantial shareholding in a transportation-linked company, one of America’s biggest suppliers of road-building materials. With every mention of infrastructure projects, her shares get ratcheted up a notch.

Bad enough but, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reports, citing extensive press coverage in the past fortnight, Chao has been abusing her cabinet status to promote business links and lucrative contracts between a Chinese state-owned shipping company run by her father and the Commerce department, while discouraging grants and contracts for US competitors; and has created a private back-channel through her office specifically to fast-track grants for infrastructure projects in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky to improve his re-election chances.

It being noted that McConnell oversaw the approvals process in the Senate by which his wife got the cabinet post in the first place. Welcome to Trumpworld.

According to reports, McConnell – who is the major roadblock for any possibility of getting a slam-dunk Trump impeachment from the House through the Senate – has benefitted from $78 million dollars’ worth of private contracts this way.

Odd this should have come out now, what with so much pressure on House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to get impeachment proceedings under way, her bein’ so shy, an’ all. It isn’t working.

 

GW: It never rains but it burns

China: At least 7 people have died after record heavy rain and flooding in southern China over the last few days. In Guangxi, “torrential rain from around 09 June caused flooding that left at least 1 dead and 4 missing. In Xinhua, a total of 514,000 people were affected and 45,000 displaced.” “In Guizhou province, an entire town was submerged under 2m (6ft 6in) of water”. There’s been infrastructure damage and thousands of Ha of crops ruined. (BBC News) “National Meteorological Center said that some areas recorded as much as 93mm (4-in.) of rain per hour and between 250 and 300mm in 24 hours on 09 June, 2019.” Continued heavy rain for southern areas is forecast. (from: Floodlist)

Afghanistan: “At least 3 people died and dozens of houses were destroyed after flash floods in Badakhshan province, 08 June. Wide areas of crops and farmland were also damaged. Over 100 people have died and thousands of homes destroyed in a spate of flood events in the country that began in March this year. In neighboring Tajikistan, 2 people died in a mudslide after heavy rain, 04 to 07 June. Homes were damaged or destroyed and about 80 people rescued. (from: Floodlist)

India: The death toll from the “unbearable” heatwave that’s persisting over northern India, said to be the worst ever, had risen by 02 June to more than 500*, as temperatures in places (and into Pakistan) have several times exceeded 50C, 123F. 4 people were reported to have died from heatstroke on a train journey in Kerala. Authorities were having to waste scarce water pouring it on roads to stop them melting. Ironically, only next month’s monsoon is expected to bring relief – and with record rainfall around the world, it’s only going to create a different kind of problem. (BBC News/NDTV)

*I don’t know where this figure came from, later reports say less than 40.

Update: the “rare” monsoon now arriving in the NW Indian state of Kerala is organizing in the Arabian sea as a fullblown cyclone, named Vayu. With 130km winds strengthening, and bearing up to 10-in. of rain, it’s due to make landfall 13 June as a Cat 3 in Gujarat state, north of Mumbai, heading on up across the border towards the populous city of Karachi in Pakistan by the weekend. A track the Wunderground people are calling “uncommon”.

These uncommon hurricane tracks are becoming quite common, in your old Gran’s opinion. The last Cat 3 to hit Gujarat in 1998 killed over a thousand people. (BBC/The Weather Channel)

Indonesia: Thousands of people have been affected by flooding in Sulawesi. The death of a baby was reported. Bridges, roads, health facilities, crops and fisheries have all been damaged.

Haiti: At least 3 people have died and an unknown number are dead or missing after flooding affected several provinces. “Roads, bridges and over 500 homes have been flooded or damaged and as many as 17 homes have been destroyed.” (from: Floodlist)

Maldive Islands: “Local media are reporting that heavy rain has caused flooding in the northern islands of the country over the last few days. The country has seen a spate of severe weather over the 10 days (to 10 June), and the latest flooding brings the total number of houses damaged to almost 600 since late May.” (from: Floodlist)

USA: At least 4 people have died after storms and heavy rainfall swept across southern and south eastern states in the USA from 05 June. Boone, North Carolina, recorded 13.57 inches (344.68 mm) of rain in 72 hours to 09 June, 2019. Other areas in the southeast also recorded high rainfall totals. NWS Atlanta said parts of Peachtree City recorded 7.81 inches of rain from 07 to 09 June. There was flooding too in New Orleans, after up to 8-in of rain fell in 72 hours. 1 person was killed when a helicopter crashed in heavy rain on the roof of a skyscraper in New York.

Meanwhile westerly states are expecting record temperatures. “Phoenix is likely to see its first 110-plus-degree temperatures of the year by Tuesday or Wednesday. Highs in mid-90s are forecast as far north as Portland, Oregon. Daily record highs could be threatened in a few locations through midweek. This includes Portland and Phoenix on Wednesday; the current daily records for June 12 are 93 degrees and 112 degrees, respectively. San Francisco tied its daily record high of 91 degrees on Sunday afternoon” – before hitting 96F on Monday. (The Weather Channel) (112F is 44C)

KTAR news reports, the Woodbury Fire in remote hills east of Phoenix jumped to 6,000 acres 12 June, and had more than doubled to 13,000 by the 13th, as 112 deg. temperatures and strong winds contributed to the spread. 600 firefighters are on the scene but the fire remains 0% contained.

Canada: More than a dozen fires still burning, 6 out of control, in Alberta province after more than a month are turning skies red over South Carolina USA, two thousand miles to the southeast, while their smoke has been detected by the UK Met Office. More than 10 thousand people are still unable to return to their homes. No new fires have broken out today, 11 June, but almost 700 thousand Ha of forest have been burned.

Reports of equivalent wildfires in southern Siberia have dried up somewhat, but the BogPo belatedly records a report from Greenpeace Russia that “catastrophic” fires at the end of April/early May destroyed homes, crops, forest and wildlife, causing many burn injuries, over a vast area. Siberian Times reported, forest roads around Irkutsk were closed, as residents reported increased asthma attacks and skies turning black. Smoke was detected as far away as Washington DC. The fires spread unchecked also across thousands of Ha of prairie in neighboring Mongolia.

Turkey: 5 people are reported to have died in flash flooding in the capital, Ankara, on 09 June. Emergency services attended over 370 calls for aid. The mayor says the city received 5 times the amount of rain predicted. (Floodlist) The provincial Governor’s offices were flooded out. It’s the 5th time Ankara has experienced severe flooding in the past 13 months. (Bianet)

Yemen: “Strong winds, heavy rain and flash floods have hit several parts from 08 June, causing major damage and at least 3 deaths. Aden saw 77mm of rain, most falling in a 3 hour period. Houses and roads were submerged. Satellite images showed rainfall rates of up to 35mm per hour in southern and western areas of the country. Further severe weather warnings have been issued as Typhoon Vayu intensifies in the Arabian Gulf, with outer rainbands stretching hundreds of miles around. (from Floodlist)

UK: Hours of steady downpours have brought much of the rail network to a halt in parts of the south of England, and many suburban roads around London are under water. The M25 London beltway has been closed as two sinkholes have opened up. The Met Office says the region has seen a month’s worth of summer rain in 24 hours, with another month’s worth to come over the next 3 days. Yellow warnings are out as the system is slowly moving northwards. (BBC Weather)

Floodlist reports similarly intense rainfall across Europe causing flash floods in Italy, Germany, Greece and Poland. Severe hailstorms have also been reported in Germany, Italy, Poland, Croatia and Slovenia, and landslides in northern Italy.

Approaching tunnel….

Mount Bolshy: Russian geophysicist Ivan Koulakov is warning that the 9,500 ft Mt Bolshaya Udine, a volcano in the Udine chain on the Kamchatka peninsula declared extinct in 2017, may not be. A M4.3 earthquake suggests it might be waking up, with possibly catastrophic consequences.

Road resurfacing? Some seismic activity seems possibly occurring in the downtown Los Angeles area as liquid tar has begun bubbling up across from the La Brea tar pits along the Miracle Mile, accompanied by much outgassing of methane. The Blessed Mary Grealey records that the media doesn’t seem very interested. CBS reports, residents say it’s not unusual, but it’s never been this bad before. Cooler weather is forecast from tomorrow, 11 June.

(Rainy Sunday afternoon TV viewers might recall a 1997 movie called Volcano!, starring Tommy Lee Jones, in which an eruption trashes Los Angeles {but he heroically stops the lava with a line of overturned buses… as if!})

Vicious cycle: “Carbon emissions from the global energy industry last year rose at the fastest rate in almost a decade after extreme weather and surprise swings in global temperatures stoked extra demand for fossil fuels. BP’s annual global energy report revealed for the first time that temperature fluctuations are increasing the world’s use of fossil fuels, in spite of efforts to tackle the climate crisis. … BP (plans) to drill new oil wells which could hold up to 30m barrels of oil.” (Guardian)

Your Granny assumes that’s a Grauniad error and they mean 30bn, as 30m barrels is only 8 hours’ worth, globally speaking. We’re basically fucked.

 

Essay: Us vs. Them: a draw?

Would some helpful statistician kindly reflect and possibly comment on the extraordinary and growing phenomenon of political polarization?

The more choice of parties there appears to be, the more freedom to vote for whatever you like, the more atomized politics has become in a world of mass personalization and “identitarianism”, the closer the results seem to get, between the same old left-right-split parties. It’s like we’re afraid to reach out, except to ever-more authoritarian, religio-racist groups on the right and anachronistic class-warfare dinosaurs on the left.

But you don’t have to be a weeping libtard snowflake Blairite centrist! Why would you not vote for the Green Party agenda, for instance? For a better life? Another way of doing business? From Schumacher to Herman Daly, Greenomics has a perfectly sound intellectual base.

The narrowness of electoral margins seems to be becoming endemic. Brexit (52%-48%) and Trump (50.5%-49.5% in favor of Clinton) being famous cases in point, there have been many others. The 2017 Austrian election, for instance, was too close to call and had to be rerun. The British election in the same year resulted in a hung Parliament; as had the 2010 election, with only a wafer-thin Conservative majority in 2015. The Australian election was daylight cobbery and resulted in a tiny squeaking upset for the favored Labour opposition party.

Many uneasy coalitions have had to be formed in other countries, too, in order to keep the wheels in motion.

Yesterday’s Israeli Parliamentary election resulted in a dead-heat at 37 Knesset seats apiece between the two main parties, victory being claimed for a fifth term by the deeply unpleasant and authoritarian religio-racist, Netanyahu only because his party panders unashamedly and often illegally to the demands of more of the smaller and loonier rightwing religious parties than his opponent’s could.

Is it a function of more proportional voting systems? Not in first-past-the-post Britain. Should we blame the media for encouraging a more adversarial climate in the name of entertainment, are politicians more inclined to use ‘divide and rule’ as a tactic, or is there some meta-statistical reason, perhaps connected with rising population numbers or changing class expectations, for these inconclusive outcomes?

It occurs to me on re-reading this that humans themselves may have become polarized – or, in a sense, paralysed. I’m currently – I confess – becoming quietly resigned on the subject of Brexit, that I have been frothing against since long before the referendum, when I could see perfectly clearly that it was a rightwing neocon coup attempt, nothing much to do with Europe, sponsored by disruptors in the USA and Russia, and nobody else seemed to have realised.

Now, I simply can’t decide, or any longer bring myself to care, about what ought to happen next. Whatever it is, we deserve it. I’ve bought my toilet paper, my canned sardines and a month’s supply of Pot Noodle, I’m set for a siege.

I literally “switch off” – my radio, when yet another Leave politician is trotted out, frothing and swivel-eyed, to repeat the same old bullshit mantras to the same old interviewers asking the same old questions, week after week, sucking all the air from the news agenda – and none of them with a single interesting or helpful idea to offer, as the planet fries.

If asked to vote, frankly I’d have to toss a coin – statistically resulting in a 49.5% to 50.5% split, obviously, if enough people were to do the same.

Psychologists always trot out the ‘Fight or Flight’ cliche when describing the survival strategies available to sentient organisms facing existential threats. They regularly ignore the third ‘F’, “Freeze”.

Politics is everywhere frozen. As are we all.

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