“I tried to get taller, but I couldn’t grow any taller, and so I tried to get younger, but I couldn’t get younger. But I could grow a mustache, so I did that”. – Harry Harris, US ambassador to South Korea. Former naval officer, Harris has come under attack because as a Japanese-American by birth he reminds older Koreans of the brutal occupation of the country by Japanese who sported mustaches. Koreans prefer to be clean-shaven. Another triumph for the Trumpian international order.
Conservatism Today (#bluecheckbook)
The Guardian reports, 15 Jan.: “Five thousand people died before they could be reimbursed for a government error that left chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants thousands of pounds out of pocket. … Approximately 70,000 claimants were originally estimated to have been underpaid about £340m between 2011 and 2014” – as a result of benefits office staff not being required to check that people were getting the full benefits they qualified for.
Presiding over this fiasco at the time? No, not the Yorkshire Ripper. Not even Rheinhardt Heydrich, the Butcher of Prague, whose depradations now look comparatively modest. Take a bow, arch-CUNT (Conservative and Unionist, Neo-Thatcherite) ‘sir’ Iain Duncan Smith, newly ennobled nose-picker and snot-eater par excellence; glib apologist and smooth operator for the self-enriching ERG Leave tendency.
We should perhaps add to the toll of his victims, those disabled and chronically sick individuals who were dying off at the rate of 500 a month on his watch, having been denied benefits designed to support them into work on grounds that they had been assessed by incompetent outsourced contractors as being perfectly healthy and fit for work; many dying while waiting months for their appeals to be heard.
Meanwhile, a coroner’s report into the death of 57-year-old Erroll Graham in 2018 found that his disability benefit had been stopped after he missed two appointments. “When he was found, starved to death and weighing just four stone, his Nottingham flat had no gas or electricity supply. There was no food in the property apart from two tins of fish that were four years out of date.”
A spokesmouth for the Department of Work and Pensions said it had referred Graham’s case to a panel to see what if any lessons could be learned. Presumably, the lessons they didn’t learn from the death by multiple causes including starvation in 2017 of Stephen Smith, from Liverpool, when they “followed policy”. “Smith, who could barely walk, was deemed fit for work after a capability assessment in 2017, an appointment he was taken from his hospital bed to keep, which meant his employment support allowance (ESA) payments were stopped.” (Guardian)
The architect of this grotesque charade, what ‘Sir’ Duncan Cunt has done to deserve his knighthood, other than rid the country of a lot of useless disadvantaged old scroungers, no-one can really say. It sounds more like an indictable crime against humanity. He was for a time Leader of the party, in a bland and undistinguished sort of way – did he lose an election? I can’t honestly remember, but that’s about all.
In other Conservative Party news, party megadonors, the billionaire Done brothers (£375k last year) Fred and Pete have been found to own a number of companies that have been awarded way north of £5 million-worth of Government and NHS contracts broadly in the field of mental health and employee counselling. It looks like a serious conflict of interest, which an NHS spokesmouth explained as being due to its farming-out of due diligence to a third party that didn’t appear to have checked on what else prospective contractors got up to in their spare time.
What’s this? The Done who? A 1970s country rock band, maybe?
The name Fred might give the game away. ‘Betfred’ is a widely advertised, £750+ million turnover, high-street and online/appy betting operation, sponsor of many a sport shirt, that was recently taken to task by the Regulator for substituting more instant-access online games for the fixed-odds, no-limit, in-shop betting terminals – in more innocent times we used to call them fruit machines – that were sucking the life out of poor communities, wrecking families, destroying lives, and which have now been severely capped. Perhaps less severely than they might have been without the £375 grand, who knows.
Fingers are also being pointed at how the firm ‘forgot’ to tell its own employees they’d been underpaid their statutory holiday pay, in what some suggest was a deliberate act of penny-pinching meanness.
Among services the Done ghouls, resembling a pair of cadaverous old money-grubbers out of a Victorian vampire novel, are supplying on contract via a company satirically named Health Assured, the Guardian reports, is counselling to the betting addicts the greasy chute they operate so profitably creates. In addition, another company called Angel Advance – they must have such laughs around the dinner table thinking up these names before repairing to their coffins for the day – sells advice, for a fee, on managing debt.
You could look at it in one of two ways.
Well, no, one actually. Because if the Dones were paying for them, then when all’s said and, er, done these services might count as a philanthropic gesture, sort of.
But they’re not. We are.
Today, I’m not an appy bunny
Once or twice a year I send a few pounds to help support Adblock-Plus, a program, or ‘app’ as they call them now, that reduces the annoyance factor of being multiply advertized to by commercial parties in whose products I have not the slightest interest, who insist on interrupting serious editorial content with GIF-like messages that wobble and waggle in my face, like the waggling, wobbling tits-and-ass merchants of the Babestation platform.
I realize the operators of websites need to make a living, I do too, although despite devoting years of my life to it, I can’t really monetize an entertaining and informative bogl – one that frequently beats the professional news sites to the real meat and import of stories, and the connections between – with an average of only 7 readers a day. I know, I should take to Twitter, whatever.
But I’m genuinely not interested in receiving ads and don’t see why I should be forced to. I get enough unwanted commercial content as it is on Google mail.
The news and weather platforms I visit now frequently demand that I turn the Adblock off, when I really only need to check a fact or steal a quote, and have no intention of wading through the other 99.9 per cent of their adrich content. And they should know that, as I have no intention of buying the stuff, they’re conning the advertisers into paying good money for my eyeballs, that aren’t looking with persuadable intent at their ads. The clients should be pleased that my disinclination to buy their products could actually save them wasting time and money obliging me to ignore their irrelevant messages.
Today, however, despite having the Adblock app switched On, every site I’ve visited has been pumping ads at me like they’re going out of fashion – which I wish they would. They seem to have found a way past the block, or the block seems no longer to be working, and, try as I might, I can’t turn them off. It’s an assault on my privacy – a form of blackmail.
What’s so cynical is, they very often offer you a way to pay them not to show you ads in the first place.
Failing the bulk erasure of all the ads on a page, Adblock-Plus enables you to turn off offending ads one by one, using quite a complicated routine that asks technical questions I can’t answer. But if the site has somehow found a way to bypass the app, and there are ten ads on a page, there’s nothing I can do but just try to ignore them, and fume
Chief among the miscreants today is The Guardian, whose persistent importunate demands for money are already attached at length to every article, and who – there seems to have been a shakeup managerially in the past week and some respected contributors appear to have gone – have taken to including as a regular feature, an item of what we used to call ‘advertorial’: an extended, paid-for product puff that is not labelled as such, in the actual News section.
Given that the Scott Trust, owner and publisher of The Guardian and the Sunday Observer, is sitting on a huge pile of cash, over a billion pounds, it’s frankly disgusting and a betrayal of their values that they are doing this. The sheer hypocrisy of an organization that constantly harps on about its environmental responsibility and eco-sustaining political stance, while continuing to promote long-haul holidays, fashion trends, celebrity culture and consumer bling in their Lifestyle section, is bewildering. There has to be a point where you can no longer justify holding both positions, surely?
If the onslaught continues, is there any point in keeping Adblock-Plus on my system? This valuable resource is possibly the last bastion of freedom we poor, battered consumers have been relying on to maintain sanity, as the real world disintegrates around us under the pressure of unsustainable economic growth. I read now that a developer has created a multi-functional, active contact lens with a built-in computer you can stick in your eye and use voiceware to have your eyeball talk with your phone, and get a heads-up data display direct to your retina, even with your eyes shut. Night-vision is also an option, for nocturnal warriors on terror, presumably.
For fuck’s sake!
These sites probably already monetize me as a content-user, selling my data to various third-party agencies. Every item selection, every keystroke, every Google lookup and pensive hover of the mouse is monitored for signs of exploitable behavioral characteristics commercial interests can buy into. Being forced to view their ads, my eyelids glued open by blackmail, is merely adding insult to injury.
Just bloody go away.
And while we’re about it, Reverb is a web platform for musicians, on which I have latterly posted in the Classified section an opportunity to buy my collectable little handbuilt Fibonacci archtop guitar, ’03 of 03′, going cheep. I’m short of money. (Just put Fibonacci in their search bar.)
That connection seems to have encouraged them to send me a Googlemail ad at least five times a week inviting me to buy a Gibson Super 400, of which there is apparently only one such fancily inlaid version in the world. There seems to be no way to tell them that, even if I sold my house and went to starve in a tent, after paying off the mortgage there is no chance whatever that I could afford the £120 thousand the owner is asking for it.
Please, just stop, okay? You’re taking up headspace. But I have to say, the past few years do seem to have created a race to find the world’s most expensive guitars.
All aglow again
What’s strange about this sunset, Followers, Likers and Spammers of this, muh li’l bogl (that needs only 9 more Posts to reach 850 by the 26th of February, marking the 8th anniversary of its miraculous conception)?
No, sorry, that’s wrong! It’s the sky in the East.
Over in the West where suns generally set, it went down behind the hill about 20 minutes before I took this photo on my crappy Samsung Galaxy A3, which doesn’t really show how bright the clouds were, and there’s only a golden glow to mark its passing.
On the opposite side of the sky, however, where I’ve previously photographed interesting sunrises over the river that looked very similar, the clouds were turning livid red. Is the world in a hurry to get to tomorrow, I wondered? I stepped out in front of a passing local schoolteacher lady on her bicycle. “Tell me I’m not going mad…” I began.
“Lovely sunset”, she replied.
“Yes,” I said. “But the sun just went down over there….” And pointed in the opposite direction. “That is West. This is East.”
As the deep red fiery glow began to infect the sky between, until all the clouds were glowing embers, we agreed to be amazed.
“Is the southeastern quadrant of the island continent destined to become the first supposedly settled region of the planet to be made uninhabitable by climate change in the modern era?”
GW: Life gets teejus, don’t it?
16 Jan. Heavy rain has come to the rescue of firefighters in parts of the southeast worst affected by fires, although authorities in New South Wales and Victoria fear more dry weather on the way could reignite still smoldering embers, while the severe thunderstorms are creating problems of their own, lightning starting several new blazes (CNN). Nine News reported parts of Melbourne hit by a month’s worth of rain in a few hours, though not (to date) East Gippsland, where some of the worst fires in the state are raging, producing a pall of smoke over the city, where playing conditions for the Australian Open tennis are still causing controversy.
17 Jan. The heavy rain, in some places 3 months’ worth fell overnight, has caused localized flooding. There are reports of hundreds of thousands of fish killed when ash from the fires turns to toxic sludge and gets washed into rivers. An eyewitness was quoted as saying: “The stench (along the McLeay river) was overwhelming – it stank that much it made you heave.” The river has become anoxic along a 100 km stretch and could take decades to recover, if ever. (Reporting: Guardian Australia)
20 Jan. Vast dust storms propelled by winds rising to 100 k/h have been sweeping across New South Wales from the interior over the weekend, followed within hours by a battering of the city of Canberra by golfball-sized hailstones. Many animals, especially birds, were killed and injured as people ran for cover. CNN reports: “The hailstorm is now headed east toward the coastal cities of Sydney, Wollongong, and Newcastle, according to the Australia Bureau of Meteorology. The bureau warned that the cities could see ‘damaging winds (possibly destructive), large hailstones (possibly giant) and heavy rainfall.’ More storms are forecast early in the week.
Coming on top of record long drought, forest and bush fires, damaging thunderstorms and the run-off pollution and death of rivers, all within the past three months, as a huge hotspot continues to linger offshore in the Tasman Sea, the question must surely be, is the southeastern quadrant of the island continent destined to become the first supposedly settled region of the planet to be made uninhabitable by climate change in the modern era?
North Atlantic: In the wake of Storm Brendan last Monday, “another quite rapidly deepening cyclone has formed just west of the UK today, 16 Jan., moving towards the Faroe Islands and the Shetlands. Its central pressure is currently around 975 mbar and deepening, expected to deliver severe dangerous winds into the far NW tip of Scotland.” Meanwhile, yet another powerful cyclone brewing over north America is expected to undergo ‘bombogenesis’ – a rapid drop in pressure – in mid-ocean, the fourth in two weeks. Severe-weather.eu reports: “Hurricane-force winds will develop while the system will be moving along far eastern Canada into the open waters of the northwest Atlantic ocean.” The forecast track is to the north of the British isles, with Iceland once again bearing the brunt.
Canada: widely reported, St John’s, the capital of Newfoundland, was digging itself out this morning, 19 Jan., after an 80mph blizzard deposited 750 mm of snow over the city, bring normal life to a halt. Thousands were left without power and a search is underway for a missing man. The governor has called for military assistance. (NB: St John’s is on roughly the same latitude as Boglington-on-Sea, where the sun is shining mercilessly out of a cloudless sky and we’ve just had the coldest night since last winter, dropping to a terrifying minus 3C.)
Europe: a huge temperature difference occurred over Finland at the weekend, 18 to 20 Jan. The extreme north of Lapland reported -36 °C while the capital Helsinki in far south Finland reported +5 °C – that is 41 °C difference! (Extreme-weather.eu)
As high pressure continues to sit over southern Europe, several cities have been enduring dangerous air pollution. BBC reports, “Sarajevo is among the cities to record some of the worst levels in recent days, along with the capital cities of neighboring Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia. …Temporary bans on diesel vehicles have been ordered in Italian cities, including the capital, Rome. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, protesters have taken to the streets in gas masks demanding action. Environmentalists have described the situation as a smog emergency.” (NB Said high pressure system will move northward over the UK in coming days.)
20 Jan. pressure has been building over northern Europe, an exceptionally high 1050 mb being recorded over the UK following last week’s powerful Storm Brendan which brought flooding, building damage and transport disruption to many parts.
Fiji: Intensifying tropical depression Invest 93P is expected to reach cyclone force overnight, 15 Jan. as it heads for Fiji, where it will come close to the main town of Labasa as a Cat 1 storm named Tino. Its next port of call is likely to be Tonga, where it should arrive as a high-end Cat 2 over the weekend. Heavy wind, rain and surf warnings are out everywhere. (RNZ) It’s the second major storm to affect Fiji in less than a month.
Thousands of people in Tonga have been evacuated from their homes as Tino hit at Cat 3, with potentially destructive winds, 18 Jan. The cyclone is weakening as it moves southwards, but still big enough to send 3-meter waves all the way to northern coasts of New Zealand.
Bolivia: at least 6 people have died in floods, building collapses and lightning strikes in a week of powerful storms and record rainfall. Many rivers have broken their banks and a state of emergency has been declared in the capital, La Paz. (from Floodlist)
Zambia: “More flooding has been reported, this time in Southern Province where crops have been destroyed in areas already facing food shortages after severe drought. … the Meteorological Department reported 109mm of rain fell in Gwembe on 15 Jan.” (Floodlist) Heavy rainfall in northern Mozambique continues to cause havoc in the province of Cabo Delgado. 1 person died and five are missing after a bridge was washed out.
Puerto Rico: NASA reports, satellite observations have shown the entire SE corner of Puerto Rico sinking by 5.5 inches since hundreds of earthquakes up to M6.8 shook the island through New Year (Mary Greeley). There was another big M6.8 quake followed by a M5.2 aftershock on 7 Jan. in which 1 person was killed. The island sits on the boundary of the North American plate atop three major faults and is highly prone to quakes, but this is the worst for many years. Around 500 homes have been damaged, powerlines and phone communications downed, while thousands of people are staying put in public shelters. A Federal state of emergency has been declared, with losses estimated so far at $110 million. (Time/AP)
Puerto Rico is yet to recover fully from the shellacking it took from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, when around 3 thousand people died while president Trump was demanding the island first repay money he claimed it owed to Goldman Sachs if it wanted to receive federal aid, and criticizing islanders for being too lazy to help themselves.
Fish ‘flu: British epidemiologists have claimed the numbers of cases of the new SARS-like coronavirus traced to a fish market in Wuhan, China, could be as high as 2 thousand. To date 50 cases have been confirmed, with the deaths of 2 elderly patients. Cases have been reported in Japan and Thailand and US immigration officials are screening arrivals from China as the Chinese New Year travel rush approaches. The USA is already dealing with a larger than usual outbreak of winter ‘flu, possibly brought about by the early cold weather across much of the country.
Update: another 139 cases have been reported in China over the weekend of 18-20 Jan., including some in the capital, Beijing. A third patient has died. A case has turned up in South Korea. Temperature checks at airports and stations are said to be pointless as by the time a patient develops a temperature they will already have been spreading the virus.
Treefall: 28 of the largest ‘Monarch’ Sequoia gigantea trees have so far been confirmed dead in the Yosemite National Park as drought and an infestation of bark beetles whose populations are moving northward as the climate heats have overturned the long-held theory that such trees, which grow to a height of 300 feet and can live for 3,000 years, were immune. Altogether, millions of trees have died in the park, probably owing to climate-related factors, although changes in forest management have led to hotter, less survivable fires. (Guardian Green Light)
Slipsliding away: 20 residents of the small seaside community of Skipsea in East Yorkshire have been warned that their homes could fall into the sea within the year. Stronger storms and rising sea level combined last year to erode the coast at a fast-accelerating rate of a meter a month. It’s the fastest eroding coastline in northern Europe.
USA again: meteorologists at Severe-weather.eu – a Copernicus service – are all in a whirl this morning, 18 Jan., over a) a ‘textbook’ series of satellite images showing a huge cyclone forming with hurricane-force winds over the north Atlantic, heading straight for Iceland, being only one of b) FOUR huge cyclones simultaneously visible right across north America from the Pacific coast in the west to the central north Atlantic in the east.
It should be noted possibly that this seemingly unending chain of big storms we have seen emerging from the eastern seaboard for many months runs on up into the high Arctic, bringing warmer air and sea conditions and big waves to break up whatever thin winter ice may be forming. Mean surface temperature in the region is 2.5C above pre-industrial, twice the global average change. Paradoxically, while this leads to more open water, reducing the ability of the ocean to reflect sunlight (there being little sunlight at this time of year) it also allows heat to escape from the surface, reducing the risk of methane eruptions from deeper on the seabed.
Global dimming: the Taal volcano that has been erupting in the Philippines, displacing 125 thousand people, could create some extra global dimming as the initial ash plume at 9.5 miles was high enough to reach the stratosphere, where it would be spread around the globe. Dimming from industrial pollutants reflecting sunlight in the upper atmosphere is believed to be suppressing global heating by about 1 deg. C. A very interesting piece is available at Accuweather: http://www.accuweather.com/en/severe-weather/was-the-taal-eruption-large-enough-to-influence-the-climate/663984