The Pumpkin, Issue 26. “I know a lot about health care.” Pardon, Mr President? The most extraordinary thing about Donald Trump; So, farewell, Spicey.

 

Okay, yeah, my wife and daughter are now zombies, your Popeyness, I forget to top up their employer premiums. But we’ve always made room for Catholics. Wanna buy a tie? Made in Vietnam?

I know a lot about health care.” Pardon, Mr President?

Would you like to know all about the Republicans’ ‘Repeal and Replace’ Obamacare bill, that narrowly failed to achieve a sufficient majority in the Senate last week, opposed not so much because it seeks to deprive 32 million Americans of their existing health cover, but mainly because it didn’t cut enough from the wasteful public Medicaid and Medicare budget to give sufficient tax breaks to the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans, who have no shame about demanding more money from cancer victims and the unemployed?

(When are Mr Amazon, Mr Facebook, Mr Microsoft, Mr Apple, Mr Uber, Mr Space-X going to step up and use the blunt force of their billions to stop this crazy descent into hell for the majority of Americans, who buy their shit? They could buy out the fucking Koch brothers’ political PACS ten times over – along with the entire Senate.)

Who better to ask what the bill was about, than the prime mover and advocate of ‘Trumpcare’ himself, Donald J Trump, President of the United States of America?

With apologies for the image theft to Jeffreyhill.typepad.com/ Google Images/ Grant Wood ‘American Gothic’.

Here he is, interviewed verbatim in the New York Times, explaining in its entirety the detailed ins and outs of health insurance. (The Pumpkin warns you, it’s a complicated subject, but he has mastered the brief.) Let us remember that he was elected on a promise to get the bill passed on ‘Day One’ of his Presidency, because his plan was so great, so beautiful, the American public wouldn’t want to wait for it….

“As they get something, it gets tougher. Because politically you can’t give it away. So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70 you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, ‘I want my insurance.’ It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

“These guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about healthcare.”

Lovely, fragrant Ana Kasparian at TYT has raised the possibility that Trump in his rambling stream of madness doesn’t understand the difference between health insurance and life assurance, but I’m not so sure. Every time I read another one of his bizarre word salads I think I begin to discern some pattern in it, something he is struggling to get out. Or maybe I’m as confused as he is and we’re just running in parallel.

Michael Wolfe has a good piece in The Guardian today, explaining why Mr Trump will not be removed from office before at least the impending disaster for the Republicans of next year’s mid-term elections, if even then. Part of the reason could be, he wouldn’t find his way out.

Another might be that he is gearing up to fire the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller – which has involved hiring new lawyers, replacing his head of Communications, firing Sean Spicer, and throwing ‘disloyal’ Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the wolves with a Big Leak to the WashPo over the content of his meetings with Ambassador Kislyak.

This in itself might amount to intimidation, just the threat of firing the man who is looking into possible crimes committed by Trump or his staffers during and before the election campaign – another layer to the case for an obstruction indictment.

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC speculates that forcing Sessons’ resignation allows Trump to appoint a shill to the job, who will fire Mueller and lift the cloud of investigations into Trump’s family and their financial dealings, removing the threat that Jared and Ivanka could be jailed over their security disclosures, or lack of them. Kushner has hastily added another 77 not previously disclosed foreign financial transactions to the affidavit he signed in January, making more than 100 things he should legally have declared in order to obtain the top security clearance, but omitted to. That could get him five years.

The head of the Ethics department has quit, and been replaced by a water-cooler appointee – some jerk they found in the corridor who’ll do as he’s told. Conservatives in Congress are gearing up to try to switch the focus of treason allegations away from the Trump gang and onto Hillary and the Obamas. That’s already happening. The new tactic is to go back to out-and-out denying the Campaign crew ever heard of a place called Russia.

It’s about to get very ugly.

Clearly, despite the Russia thing (collusion in hacking the election), the other Russia thing (sanctions-busting, money-laundering), the third Russia thing (the Pipigate Dossier), maybe a fourth (decades of documented connections to the Russian mafia) – let’s forget treason for now; his dodgy property deals with their obvious opportunities for money laundering, his fake University scam, breaches of Classified national security matters, corrupt appointments, misuse in office of public funds, bad overseas loans affording opportunities for blackmail, the blatant ripping-up of the Foreign Emoluments clause, the apparent attempts to obstruct justice, the refusal to recuse himself from his businesses, his desperate clinging to his tax returns…. there seems to be nothing whatever that the Golden Orb can do to incur impeachment – as he bragged to the dumbfucks at one of his election rallies, he could shoot somebody dead on 5th Avenue and they’d still vote for him.

Complete and total ignorance of his brief after six months in office is obviously not a sacking offence, as it would certainly have been in any one of the 21 jobs I’ve been sacked from, if I hadn’t been sacked for other reasons. Dereliction of duty – we’re losing count of the number of golfing vacations he’s taken, at a cost to the taxpayer of $50 million (much of which goes in profit to his golf resorts) and counting – still doesn’t cut it with the GOP, who seem willing to tolerate any abuse of office lest they pull down the shithouse around themselves; pleading that he’s new to the job and will learn. Trump? Learn? (so what are they doing to teach him?). He’s 71. He has dementia. He has a dubious past. He doesn’t want to go to jail. What else is to learn?

Vice-President Pence is of course authorized by the 25th Amendment to remove the President, at gunpoint if necessary, should he be considered mentally incompetent to fulfil his duties. But the snow-capped walking advert for Anusol, the strangely grinning Mike Pence is equally in it up to his righteous Christian ass and definitely does not want to undergo the same degree of scrutiny as he is witnessing with his Master.

Besides, The Pumpkin is more convinced by the day that, while he is everything they all say, an overgrown child with ADHD, a narcissist, a bully, all the rest of it, the conclusion has to be that Trump is not mad; just very, very naughty.

Attempts do seem to have been made by White House staffers to marginalize him, damage limitation, because he is a total embarrassment to America and the free world, his approval ratings at record lows, but nothing seems to be working. He just keeps slipping away from nurse and running off at the mouth, spewing out illiterate tweets, often incriminating himself, his family and his despairing legal team in the process. Even Donny Jr and the Little Nazi, Eric have been saying they wish it was all over. God knows what Melania thinks.

Well, they’ve been doing their best to incriminate him.

So that’s okay, because today he’s reported to have instructed that burgeoning crowd of bungling clowns and Christian charity bunco artists, his lawyers, to brief him on the legal ins and outs of issuing a blanket Presidential pardon to himself, his family and his immediate circle of deplorables before anything really incriminating comes out. He’s also ordered them to find any ‘dirt’ to close down the special prosecutor, Mr Mueller, and his team investigating Mr Trump’s private finances – something he told the NYT was crossing ‘a red line’ with his family, as far as he is concerned.

Now why would he want to do that, I wonder? What has he got to hide?

Of course, if he is planning to leave town in convoy, taking the Federal reserve with him, and take up residence in Moscow, he could always pay Manafort for some advice.

You have to admit, though, he’s a one-off.

We can hope. In the meantime, no State business is getting done; probably for the best, given the manifesto: basically, give all the money to the rich, they’re best at knowing what to do with it.

It’s incomprehensible to an outsider, how this dismal failure of a Presidency is being allowed to grind on, and on, and on making America daily smaller and more ridiculous in the world.

It’s very, very sad.

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The most extraordinary thing about Donald Trump

This is so damned infuriating.

The piece I just wrote disappeared off my screen and only three letters were saved as a draft. There is some connection between the ctrl key and another letter I type, that wipes any unsaved text. I don’t know what it is, as I am usually busy typing.

So I’m going to park this link here now, just in case, before I hit Save Draft. You will need it later.

newrepublic.com/article/143586/trumps-russian-laundromat-trump-tower-luxury-high-rises-dirty-money-international-crime-syndicate

And now I’m taking Hunzi for one of his walks. If we don’t come back, after reading the link have the river dredged.

Wanna see my Mussolini?

The most extraordinary thing about Donald Trump is probably not his hair, or that his emotional development ceased at the age of eleven, or even that he is – I know, don’t – President of the United States of America.

No, the most extraordinary thing about Donald Trump is that he is still alive.

Donald Trump took a dive into the cesspit that was his father’s rack-renting property businesses maybe fifty years ago under the watchful eye of Fred’s mafia lawyer buddy, the brutal Roy Cohn, enjoying the patronage of one ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, king of the New York concrete supply business, a member of the Genovese familia, and has continued to glide effortlessly through that same shit-smelling space without ever once touching the sides.

Countless books and articles and TV documentaries by the best and most dogged investigative journalists in the world present a weight of circumstantial evidence alluding to Trump’s profound criminality over the decades that would bury Mount Everest in a pile of trouble.

Yet like Al Capone until he got into a bit of a muddle with his taxes, Mr Trump (who refuses to publish his tax returns) has never been convicted of anything untoward. No ‘smoking guns’, no paper trail, nothing has ever stuck. It probably helped that his sister was a District Court judge in New York, but that would only get you out of a charge of stealing candy from the grocery store.

It would hardly ‘trump’ a rumoured longstanding business relationship with someone of the stature of, say Simeon Mogilevitch, the Ukrainian-born billionaire believed by European and United States federal law enforcement agencies to be the “boss of bosses” and, according to his substantial Wikipedia encomium, the most dangerous head of most of the Russian Mafia syndicates in the world.

Yet, while Mr Mogilevitch, another ‘friend’ of Mr Putin, is alleged to reign over a global business empire incorporating such characteristic diversifications as people trafficking, prostitution, drugs and arms smuggling, art-theft, illicit gambling, individual removal services and money laundering on a small-nation scale, there has never been the slightest suggestion that Mr Trump has been personally involved in any of those activities, even though Mr Mogilevitch is also suspected by investigators of having bankrolled Mr Trump’s failed casino developments. Numerous supposed associates of his have been identified as tenants of Mr Trump’s office-cum-residential properties, whilst being convicted from time to time of racketeering or ‘pump-and-dump’ financial fraud. Yet Mr Trump was blithely unaware of their existence.

Such unproven assertions litter the worldwide web. It is necessary only to Google ‘Trump, Russia’ to be deluged with reports on the subject. There’s another one at the link I gave you above (it’s cut-and-paste, I’m afraid.) An industry has grown up around the desire to get to the bottom of Donald Trump, as it were. Yet there appears to be no bottom. He is unfathomable, doors infolding upon doors.

Mr Trump has frequently denied having connections with Russia, even as the scandal of his campaign officials’ and his oldest son’s potentially treasonous complicity with a foreign power continues to grow and swirl around him. Of course, we know that’s not true. His denials are merely to plant a marker with the dumbfucks, his support base, who will see any reports to the contrary as more ‘fake news’. He has numerous connections with Russia and they go far beyond his sleazy 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Even his sons admit he has received $100 million-dollar financial investments from Russian sources, and has frequent contacts with Russian businessmen. Nevertheless, he appears to be mortgaged to the hilt.

We know, too, that he owes large sums of money to Russian and other foreign banks, who never seem to press him for repayment. The story is examined again in today’s Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/19/deutsche-bank-donald-trump-russia-investigation-subpoenas

While the list of identified people who attended the fateful “Clinton emails” meeting with lawyer Natalya Vesevlnitskaya at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016 continues to grow, now standing at eight (making it more successful than this summer’s failed blockbuster movie, ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’) with the addition of one more Russian, making four. Daily, the denials turn to grudging admissions and more figures are identified, while it is known that He was “in the building”, as they say; it is, yes, rumoured even that Trump himself may have been the ninth person at the meeting, as he appears to have acted on certain details immediately afterwards – but so far, his is the one name that remains unconfirmed.

And may forever be so. For, The Pumpkin has concluded, Mr Trump’s existential secret, the one thing he absolutely cannot allow to get out; the reason for his desperate lies, double-denials and obfuscations, his deliberate smokescreens and diversionary tactics, his insane-seeming tweets, directives to his staff to, if necessary, perjure themselves on his behalf; his crude demands for ‘omerta’ – loyal silence, his Roy Cohn-style rottweiler legal attacks on anyone who gets near him, on the press and the media in general; his furtive leaks, firings of Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Security Adviser General Flynn, FBI Director Comey, all of whom got too close to the bottom; his attempts to smear the Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller, all point to one startling possibility, in our view:

Mr Trump is a protected witness.

And if that were true, it really would be the most extraordinary thing about Donald J Trump.

 

Greed on steroids

Possibly Trump’s most assiduous pursuer, for more than 20 years Pulitzer prizewinning financial journalist David Cay Johnson has been following the Golden Orb’s untarnished progress in the belief that he may be a tax-evading financial fraudster.

Asked on the Democracy Now web channel about Trump’s healthcare proposals, he relates the tale of how, when Trump’s father Fred died and the money was divided among the five children, Donald Trump withdrew funding from his seriously ill young nephew’s longterm treatment program because it reduced his own share of the estate.

Greed on steroids, is how Johnson describes the President.

I am starting to think a chemical execution arranged by Mr Scott Pruitt, the incompetent butcher of Arkansas, would be too good for this sick, solipsistic, money-breathing sonofabitch.

Torture, of which he says he approves, should be applied by the bucketload. Preferably for as long as he lives.

 

So, Farewell Spicey

We all hate bullies, right?

But we also despise the people they bully. Also right? Because bullies have an unerring instinct for the right victims.

Siddown, New York Times. Recognise the correspondent from Mad Magazine. Yes, your question?

There was something about Sean Spicer, President Trump’s hapless press spoke, that reminded me of boys at my school who were mocked for their inability to play in goal for the second X1. They would pass the stings on to the smaller boys, bullying them but always surreptitiously. You knew that if they found you swigging from a vodka bottle in the bootroom, it’d be them who would go straight to the housemaster. They would develop strange sexual proclivities, stealing your Wellington boots and masturbating into them, or paying their study mates to jerk them off while hanging by a pajama cord from the hook on the back of the door. Not everyone survived that.

Like Spicey, they were always stocky and sandy-haired, with severe short back and sides haircuts, enjoyed cross-country running, military stuff and had a faintly unpleasant odour. You could never imagine them having much success with girls.

Mr Spicer has been replaced already, making somewhat notional his ‘unhappiness’ with the promotion in Trump’s typically delusional CEO fashion, of the first guy standing by the watercooler as the next Communications Director. Enter yet another Wall Street suit, Mr Antonio Scaramucci, ‘The Mooch’, currently senior vice-president of the Export-Import Bank, a “US government agency” not, one imagines, a million miles from the CIA,  which “guarantees loans for foreign buyers of American exports”. (No opportunities for laundering embezzled Russian money there, then.)

“I love the president and it’s an honour to be here,” Mr Scaramucci announced modestly, having found the microphone on-switch, adding nervously: “He is genuinely a wonderful human being.” His first three lies successfully out of the way, toying with a crucifix and a bunch of garlic, he went on: “The president has really good karma.” Then presumably he went home and jerked off in the toilet to a Taylor Swift album, while his wife was on the phone to the party planner.

Mr Scaramucci, “who has no previous experience in communications roles”, paid tribute to Mr Spicer as a “true American patriot” and “incredibly gracious”. “I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money,” he said. (That being all that matters in Trump’s America. So great. Meanwhile, Spicey is swinging from a tree in the woods.)

“Mr Scaramucci also apologised and said he had been “unexperienced” (sic) as he explained his previous criticism of the president. In an August 2015 interview with Fox Business, he dismissed Mr Trump as a “hack” and “an inherited money dude” with “a big mouth”. (BBC News)

If he can explain that away, he’s up to the job.

Despite sounding like an illiterate Bond villain, The Mooch is clearly a tragic shill for the sickest, most demented, bullying fantasist ever to occupy the Oval Office of the White House.

Judging by Trump’s overnight tweetstorm of paranoid bile against James Comey, for daring to ‘leak’ to the failing New York Times (to whom he gave an incoherent wordstream of an interview only three nights ago) that Jeff Sessions, the loyal and devoted Attorney General he wishes he hadn’t appointed to head the Russia investigation, did in fact discuss the election with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, having sworn on oath that he never, he is clearly going to have a horrible time for the money.

Worse, he’s the boss of the sweaty-lipped current White House press spokesbitch, Sarah ‘Look at me, I’m a Christian’ Huckabee Sanders, which makes him the wop filling in a bully sandwich.

But that’s karma for you.

What goes around, comes around.

 

Congress attack on climate science: The Pumpkin – Issue 24: More Damned Lies, plus world weather report.

‘The Republicans on the House Science Committee held a three-hour hearing on the merits of climate change science, a cavalcade of falsehoods so relentless and seemingly irrational that one might well need psychiatric counselling after having watched it” – The Independent, 30 March, 2017

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” (Benjamin Disraeli)

Here’s an insight from the proper scientific community into the problem we have with energy industry shills, rogue scientists, corrupt politicians and corporate-funded populist media creating amplifying feedbacks by cross-referencing one anothers’ ignorance and refusals (for whatever reason) to attempt any semblance of objectivity concerning the very real threat of global warming resulting from humans overexploiting fossil fuel reserves, clearing forest and breeding huge numbers of animals for food.

From: Greatwhitecon.info website – a scientific blog monitoring ice cover in the Arctic:

“We have now broken the all-time global temperature record for three consecutive years and a number of published articles have convincingly demonstrated that global warming has continued unabated despite when one properly accounts for the vagaries of natural short-term climate fluctuations. A prominent such study was published by Tom Karl and colleagues in 2015 in the leading journal Science. The article was widely viewed as the final nail in the “globe has stopped warming” talking point’s coffin.

“Last month, opinion writer David Rose of the British tabloid the Daily Mail — known for his serial misrepresentations of climate change and his serial attacks on climate scientists, published a commentary online attacking Tom Karl, accusing him of having “manipulated global warming data” in the 2015 Karl et al article. This fake news story was built entirely on an interview with a single disgruntled former NOAA employee, John Bates, who had been demoted from a supervisory position at NOAA for his inability to work well with others.

“Bates’ allegations were also published on the blog of climate science denier Judith Curry (I use the term carefully—reserving it for those who deny the most basic findings of the scientific community, which includes the fact that human activity is substantially or entirely responsible for the large-scale warming we have seen over the past century — something Judith Curry disputes). That blog post and the Daily Mail story have now been thoroughly debunked by the actual scientific community. The Daily Mail claim that data in the Karl et al. Science article had been manipulated was not supported by Bates. When the scientific community pushed back on the untenable “data manipulation” claim, noting that other groups of scientists had independently confirmed Karl et al’s findings, Bates clarified that the real problem was that data had not been properly archived and that the paper was rushed to publication. These claims too quickly fell apart.

“Though Bates claimed that the data from the Karl et al study was “not in machine-readable form”, independent scientist Zeke Hausfather, lead author of a study that accessed the data and confirmed its validity, wrote in a commentary “…for the life of me I can’t figure out what that means. My computer can read it fine, and it’s the same format that other groups use to present their data.” As for the claim that the paper was rushed to publication, Editor-in-chief of Science Jeremy Berg says, “With regard to the ‘rush’ to publish, as of 2013, the median time from submission to online publication by Science was 109 days, or less than four months. The article by Karl et al. underwent handling and review for almost six months. Any suggestion that the review of this paper was ‘rushed’ is baseless and without merit. Science stands behind its handling of this paper, which underwent particularly rigorous peer review.”

“Shortly after the Daily Mail article went live, a video attacking Karl (and NOAA and even NASA for good measure) was posted by the Wall Street Journal. Within hours, the Daily Mail story spread like a virus through the right-wing blogosphere, appearing on numerous right-wing websites and conservative news sites. It didn’t take long for the entire Murdoch media empire in the U.S, U.K. and elsewhere to join in, with the execrable Fox News for example alleging Tom Karl had “cooked” climate data and, with no sense of irony, for political reasons.

“Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of this committee has a history of launching attacks on climate science and climate scientists. He quickly posted a press release praising the Daily Mail article, placing it on the science committee website, and falsely alleging that government scientists had “falsified data”. Smith, it turns out, had been planning a congressional hearing timed to happen just days after this latest dustup, intended to call into question the basis for the EPA regulating carbon emissions. His accusations against Karl and NOAA of tampering with climate data was used in that hearing to claim that the entire case for concern over climate change was now undermined.”

http://greatwhitecon.info/2017/03/the-house-science-climate-model-show-trial/

This is a kind of warfare between objective truth-seekers and people who simply will not listen. Unfortunately the deaf ones often seem to have a more obvious reason to continue denying what anyone can see is happening, and what even to a non-scientist logic must explain.

Money.

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More damned lies

On Friday I found myself wrestling with the BBC Complaints system, which is purpose-designed to funnel complainants into irrelevant streams (divide and rule?) and dump everything you’ve written the first time before ultimately sending you an evasive and anodyne response, to which there is no appeal.

While we await that, here is what The Pumpkin wrote:

Full Complaint: You invited on the Today programme this morning Mr Myron Ebell, a known climate-change denier and PR lobbyist for any number of energy corporations, but failed to identify him as such, or to make any attempt to balance the noxious views he espouses, beyond explaining that he is an advisor to the Trump cabinet, giving him undue credibility as a spokesman.

Mr Ebell has a notorious history of spreading false propaganda from behind a succession of well-funded false-front policy institutes, to undermine the scientific consensus on a range of environmental issues. He is widely known to have been in the pay of Exxon-Mobil, Murray Energy, Dow Chemical and many others with vested interests in spreading false information. Mr Ebell has no qualifications whatever as a climate scientist or indeed a scientist of any kind.

He was, however, previously a guest on the Today programme in 2005, when he proceeded to level a series of scurrilous accusations and insults against the UK’s chief scientist, Prof King, resulting in a Parliamentary question. Your production team appears to have been entirely unaware of this history. No attempt was made to balance his offensive views, a black mark against new editor, Ms Sands.

In my opinion (as a former news editor), your entire coverage of this disastrous Trump administration and its ‘advisors’ from the Washington lobby swamp has been permanently on the back foot compared with his own domestic media’s, especially the excruciatingly bland reporting of your overly diplomatic correspondent, Mr Sopel.

The Today programme’s editorial team indeed has been consistently supine: deferential, incurious and seemingly uninformed about the goings-on in the White House. Added to their inability seemingly to find anyone to speak out passionately in favour of the European Union before it was too late, I have to say I am finding it all rather sad and depressing.

Wake up.

So, lo and behold, come this morning and the BBC news has as its second lead, the story that broke in the New York Times on Monday about Donny Jr’s meeting with Kremlin lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya acting as go-between at the Trump Tower in New York on 9 June last year – following which, further reports are detailing, later that same day Trump tweeted a sour-grapes retort to a mocking comment by Hillary Clinton, mentioning for the first time ever the ’33 thousand’ deleted Hillary Clinton emails he would later tell a rally he hoped the Russians would find.

Did he get that number from his son, via the Kremlin?

The Washington Post reported Tuesday:

“The session was set up at the request of Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star whose Kremlin-connected family has done business with Trump in the past, according to the person who arranged the meeting.

“Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who represents Agalarov, confirmed Monday that he requested the Trump Tower meeting at Agalarov’s request. Emin Agalarov and his father, Aras Agalarov, a wealthy Moscow real estate developer, helped sponsor the Miss Universe pageant, then owned by Trump, in Russia in 2013.

“After the pageant, the Agalarovs signed a preliminary deal with Trump to build a tower bearing his name in Moscow, though the deal has been on hold since Trump started his campaign for president.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/kremlin-denies-knowing-of-donald-trump-jr-meeting-with-russian-lawyer-during-2016-campaign/2017/07/10/c2bfee34-6566-11e7-a1d7-9a32c91c6f40_story.html?utm_term=.78785cc380c4

From there it gets complicated. Suffice to say, if the original email from LA-dwelling ‘music promoter’ and former British sleazeball journalist and big Russia fan, Rob Goldstone, that brought him, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort scurrying to that meeting can be found, telling Trump Jr that the Kremlin wanted to help his father get elected, it will, say Washington lawyers, be the ‘smoking gun’ that proves collusion by the Trump campaign with a Kremlin-inspired effort to derail Clinton and put Trump in the White House.

Of course, Mr Trump’s lawyers are saying the first the President knew about the meeting was last week, although the story hadn’t broken then, and Donny Jr has now hired his own lawyer to try to settle once and for all on a convincing explanation, the affair following the now standard pattern of denial followed by obfuscation in several versions followed by admission and post-dated registrations as required by law.

Apart from the odd tweet, some other things happened after that 9 June meeting, which Donny Jr says he didn’t remember, oh, yes, it wasn’t about anything, I thought I would get information that would help the campaign, it was all very vague, we discussed Russian orphans…. (The Russian orphans thing concerns a piece of Obama legislation called the Magnitsky Law, halting US adoption of Russian orphans in reprisal for the murder in gaol of anti-corruption lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Putin wants it repealed.)

First, eleven days after the meeting Manafort was formalized as the campaign committee chairman. He was later dropped, however, when the extent of his financial relations with ousted Ukrainian kleptocrat and Putin-crony, President Viktor Yanukovitch became known via the leak of the Panama Papers, exposing probable money laundering.

Then, that same week, according to the New York Times, on his own admission Peter Smith, a freelance operative, put together a team of computer specialists (including a Russian speaker) answering, he says, to General Mike Flynn, to try to find the missing Clinton emails.

Just the first part of this story appeared on the BBC news, but I thought it was a good start, followed by an interview with Melinda Gates in which she criticized Trump for attempting to shut down family planning clinics and, by this evening when the PM programme was reporting on his latest attempt to cut funding to international HIV/AIDS programs, it seemed they had properly taken my advice to heart and were finally getting off their arses before he gets impeached and it’s too late to start detailing the horrors of this bogus presidency.

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Faint glimmers of hope from nowhereseville

It’s not all awful. People are fighting back, often with the surprising assistance of the courts and political leaders.

While the G20 is still wrangling the cretin Trump over his contemptuous and contemptible abandonment of the Paris Accord, long after delegates were supposed to have run the gauntlet of a hundred thousand protestors defying police water cannon in Hamburg to fly back to their offices, Mother Jones lists a small but heartening selection of positive news items (8 July).

The main one of which is a Reuter’s story that “state prosecutors in Maryland, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, DC, filed a lawsuit on Thursday, challenging Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s decision” to reverse an Obama administration ruling banning the use of Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide known to affect brain development in unborn children.

Why any alleged human being would want to encourage birth deformities in children, I have no idea. Perhaps it is because they are scumsucking psychopaths dressed as politicians corrupted beyond understanding.

Mr Pruitt’s famous hoard of emails from his days as Attorney-General of Arkansas, a State closer to the Stone Age than most, reveal that he had several meetings with the makers of the unborn child-poison, Dow Chemical, prior to his announcement. And Trump’s key environmental ‘advisor’ is, of course, the loathsome bottom-feeder, paid professional liar Myron Ebell, who has directed a frenzied assault from the White House on Obama-era environmental protections and lists Dow Chemical among clients of his PR consultancy, the Dr Josef Mengele Memorial Trust.

Investors, however, are pushing back. Dick Russell’s 2017 book Horsemen of the Apocalypse describes a growing revolt against the energy corps by virtually the entire current generation of the ‘trillionaire’ Rockefeller family acting as a concert party, and other large-scale investment funds that have ‘got’ the point, that their future too needs to be a sustainable one. According to Mother Jones, “In 2011, there were 12 shareholder resolutions filed with food and beverage companies when it comes to climate risk. This year there are 131.”

(It is not a sufficiently well-known factoid, that five major US corporations control 80% of the world’s food production and distribution.)

As powerful as these money-breathing, somnambulant dog-turds think they are, they are not going to win. The tragedy is, a lot of people will die unnecessarily in the meantime. The list of good news stories is still massively outweighed by the current tally of extreme heat and flooding events on every continent, as The Pumpkin and the BogPo have jointly been tracking (see elsewhere); and the effect on global food production is already evident.

http://www.motherjones.com/food/2017/07/youll-be-shocked-to-learn-we-have-good-news-about-food/

 

Big Brother is Locating You

There is apparently an Android ‘app’ alliteratively known as SnapMap. I feel the originators missed the opportunity simply to name it Smapp, in line with the modern fashion for crushing words together to make nausea-inducing neologisms, but let’s move on.

It seems that if you are a subscriber to this useful location-finding service, a derivative of the photo-file-sharing site SnapChat, unless you reset the privacy settings, other users can identify and even view your precise location to within one metre anywhere on a virtual global map.

Stay clear of the bathroom.

This omnipresent eye seems helpful for muggers, vengeful ex-wives, pizza delivery boys and pedophiles, or for when you’ve told the boss you’re in bed with ‘flu and you’re really on the beach, or possibly to the emergency services if you’re having a heart-attack somewhere that doesn’t have a postcode, like in the countryside, and the controller is refusing to send help until you tell them what it is.

But SnapMap seems just the latest in a long list of privacy violations of the kind you’re expected to put up with and to be ruthlessly monetized by a service provider in exchange for the convenience of carrying the equivalent of the Library at Alexandria, the Amtrak timetable, Jay-Z’s Greatest Hits, the schedule of lunar eclipses, the Yellow Pages and the British Museum around in your vest pocket.

The BBC iPlayer recently forced users to betray our whereabouts. Now I get only BBC Wales programmes, which is intellectually somewhat limiting. Worse, they’ve got a section where they guess what you’d like to watch next. It seems to consist entirely of the same episodes of Dr Who and Hinterland (a gloomy Welsh detective show with two-dimensional characters. Ed.) they’ve noticed I watched yesterday.

I feel technology is zeroing in on me, but there are ways to protect yourself.

I keep my phone off the hook, in a metaphysical way, by pressing the Power Off button, although in my pocket it often switches itself on again without me noticing, revealing to anyone interested that I’m in the wine section of Morrison’s again. I never make phone calls, only sending cryptic texts at predetermined times once a fortnight from secret locations around town. I hit the Off button anytime a call comes in, as it’s rarely anyone I need to talk to.

Even so, the battery runs down every day, so I’m assuming the thing is in constant communication with someone. It’s like the Eye of Horus, or the feeling that God is up there counting the hairs falling from your head. Some people find that comforting, I know.

Of course, at my age I’ve no idea what SnapChat is, although I could have guessed from the punning name. It doesn’t sound compulsory, though.

Not yet.

 x
“I have been wondering, exactly, when is the denouement of the various investigations?”
It’s not a perfect world.
“Raisehavoc” is a Guardian Pick commenter today, Sunday, and she has the following contribution I’d like, without apology, to pilfer for your enjoyment, just as she pilfered it for ours:

Zoe Leonard puts it succinctly in her poem way back in 1992. Timely …

“I want a dyke for president.

“I want a person with AIDS for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia.

“I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to AIDS, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying.

“I want a president with no air-conditioning, a president who has stood in line at the clinic, at the DMV, at the welfare office, and has been unemployed and laid off and sexually harassed and gaybashed and deported.

“I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape.

“I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them.

“I want a Black woman for president.

“I want someone with bad teeth and an attitude, someone who has eaten that nasty hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy.

“I want someone who has committed civil disobedience. And I want to know why this isn’t possible.

“I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown. Always a john and never a hooker. Always a boss and never a worker. Always a liar, always a thief, and never caught.”

So, Ms Leonard got her first want, and her last.

The Pumpkin has commented before that Mr Trump looks and sounds and often behaves like an elderly bull-dyke in male drag; his predatory prowling around Hillary Clinton at the debates was a dead giveaway. She oughtn’t perhaps to have worn that suit.

Liar, thief, never caught?

Spot-on, Zoe.

I have been wondering, exactly, when should we expect the denouement of the various investigations – the FBI, the Special Prosecutor, the Senate – into Trump and his gang’s precise associations with Russian and Ukrainian financial, technological and clandestine political interests?

Is there an endpoint, will armed G-Men fight a standoff with the White House security team at some stage, before storming the Oval Office?

Will Trump be forced to do the ‘perp-walk’, led away in full public gaze wearing leg irons?

It seems to be taking ages to prove conclusions we all reached months ago.

There is a protocol, I suppose – a sitting President is unlikely to be charged even with treason until he has been impeached, and at the moment it appears there are no Republicans scandalized and appalled enough at his outrageous behavior and willing to risk deselection to stand up and impeach the fucker.

They know they hate and despise him and themselves for adopting him as their candidate, but they just won’t, the big wusses.

But will anyone be brave enough at least to tell us that the investigations are complete and the President is a big crook?

I somehow doubt that too. It’s not a perfect world.

x

Weather News

  • 138 major wildfires burning in British Columbia, Canada.
  • Palm Springs, California: 122 Deg, F. (50 C.) Phoenix AZ still 111 F. Wildfires in Santa Barbara, Arizona, Utah. Wildfires in Colorado. 90 mph winds, severe storms bring flooding to the east of the USA, Massachusetts – Cape Cod – into New York.
  • 22 dead in floods in Japan’s Kyushu island after Typhoon Nanmadol brings 3 ft of rain in 9 hours. 83 dead since mid-June in Hunan province, central China. 12 million affected, 1.5 million evacuated. Flooding and and landslides hit North Vietnam.
  • 26 million facing severe food shortages in East Africa after two-year drought. Some 15 million are displaced by flooding and 44 dead in Assam, Manipur, India and Pakistan (8 July).
  • Kuwait: 96 deg. F. Oh, wait, that was at two a.m yesterday…. 121 F. now… Watch as a truck sinks through tarmac up to its axles.
  • Madrid, Spain: parts of the city underwater after torrential rain, freak hailstorms. Metro system closed. Greece basks in 42 deg. C. heat. 28 major wildfires reported, two on Crete.
  • Mexico: historic centre of Veracruz under three feet of water.

 

The Denial Gene. On the Button: Myron Ebell and the BBC. Criminal Ecocide. Complaining is Not the British Way.

“Because of your culture of flaunting your ignorance, you can never admit you’re being played for fools…”

The denial gene

We used to keep chickens on our small farm.

A city-boy, I noticed after a while that when we tried to herd the flock into their house for the night, there was always one that would go in the opposite direction from all the others.

That can be a useful evolutionary tactic if you think the other 19 of your fellow hens are clearly going to their deaths, shut up in their house overnight, that they’re all making the wrong decision collectively and you’re going to be safer outside on your own.

We could hear the foxes licking their lips for miles around.

You humans, too clever by half!

I’ve concluded from Comments people post everywhere that there’s a rogue ‘denial’ gene affecting maybe 1 in 5 humans who simply refuse to study the world, to observe, to listen to others, to read and properly evaluate evidence and use the logic and reason God gave them; who actively despise people who do those things as ‘elitist’, imagining everyone will be better off like them: stupid.

Of course, you might not have television and medicine and nukes and a cellphone, but stupid is better, right?

Because of your culture of flaunting your ignorance, you can never admit you’re being played for fools by people who earn more money in an hour than you will in six months.

There’s a reason why Mr Rex Tillerson was paid £100 thousand dollars A DAY for running the huge oil company Exxon-Mobil. They have known for many decades that burning fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – is a highly risky strategy; but have conspired to quash research into the alternatives because they like to make a lot of money, at which he was very good. Although millions of people in the non-developing world now lead more miserable and impoverished lives because of him and his shitty deals with corrupt states, at least we can keep on driving our SUVs to the supermarket.

Exxon is just one of many fossil-fuel companies that wards off demands for change by paying professional liars millions of dollars to make up stories undermining the overwhelming scientific consensus that the planet is heating to a dangerous degree; promoting the culture of ignorance among working folk, manipulating the media.

Blossom in DC, February

It’s only logical to assume that if we keep pumping billions of tonnes of warming gases every year into a finite atmosphere, it will warm the oceans and affect the weather; we have known it for over 100 years. All the science tells us is that what was predicted would happen is happening, only faster and harder. Data under constant revision are now showing the process of climate change – global warming – is going much faster than previously thought, and has not slowed down as the purveyors of highly selective interpretations have been telling us it has. There is no logical reason to think it might have, is there? Given that we are still polluting the atmosphere? Think!

How much of that money are they sharing with you, trolls? None, of course. You are as ass-poor as ever. Exploitation is, after all, their business and they are very good at it. They are playing you for fools, exploiting and encouraging the class of people who enjoy wallowing in ignorance, educational failures who imagine it’s cool to repeat simple stories that give them the comfort of feeling they’re superior to the many who can weigh-up the facts and come to rational conclusions we hope will save us from likely extinction within a generation.

Fine, if it’s only you pecking around in the dirt outside the hen house oblivious to your impending fate, feeling superior to the hens inside, too clever by half, safely shut up for the night.

I don’t personally give a shit what happens to you, the foxes can have you for all I care, you deserve it. I’m damned if you’re taking my children with you, you recrudescent Trumpish baboons, merely to celebrate your apathy, your ignorance and your fear of people who can actually think.

But, now your infantile trolling has official blessing, and we are losing hope.

x

“In an interview on BBC Radio 4 in 2005, Ebell said that the UK’s Chief Scientist David King was “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change”. An early day motion deploring “in the strongest possible terms” Ebell’s “unfounded and insulting criticism” was raised in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, and was signed by 66 Members of Parliament.” – Wikipedia

On the button: Myron Ebell and the BBC

God knows, I have been rude enough about the BBC’s unquestioning and uncritical acceptance of Donald J Trump as some kind of normal president, and the excessively ‘diplomatic’ reporting of their chief diplomatic correspondent in Washington, John Supine.

Radio 4’s increasingly bland and poorly researched presenter-fest, the Today programme, this morning (7 June) gave extensive coverage to Mr Trump’s imminent meeting with Vladimir Putin ‘for the first time’ at the foul-smelling G20 summit in Hamburg, and attempted a feeble analysis of his speech in Poland yesterday somehow without once mentioning the phrase ‘white nationalism’, or wondering how he managed to appear so coherent.

(Shielded behind bullet-proof glass, with two autocue devices, a bussed-in ‘cheering crowd’ and a speech 98% cleverly written by Steve Bannon for the benefit of East European white nationalists keen to receive the coded neo-Crusader rhetoric, is how.)

Between eight o’clock and nine o’clock I heard North Korea mentioned only once. No guest referred to the worrying co-operation between Russia and China over this crucial issue; no guest referred to the increasing provocations by the US Navy in the South China Sea and around the coast of North Korea, or the installation of missiles in South Korea, pointing north.

One guest, we forget who, did mention sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine thing, stating that they were being ‘raised’. No guest however referred to the Russian ‘rest camps’ on Long Island and in Maryland, closed down as rats’ nests of spies by President Obama, which Mr Trump has proposed allowing to reopen.

Certainly, no-one queried what or whose strategy lies behind Mr Trump’s new anti-Russian rhetoric increasingly contrasted with his previous support for the Putin regime; or on the likely outcome of FBI and Congressional investigations into Trump’s business goings-on, from which he has not yet divested, as a conduit for Russian and Ukrainian ‘dark money’.

Finally raising the subject of Mr Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change, citing damage to US business interests, at ten to nine the 73-year-old veteran presenter John Humphrys introduced as a spokesman on the environment for the President’s advisory team, one Myron Ebell: a ‘climate-change skeptic’.

Mr Ebell is rather more than that, to say the least, as to be a skeptic one needs to start with some knowledge of the subject. But he is no stranger to Radio 4:

Ebell has been given extensive media coverage, frequently cited or interviewed by journalists in a way that presents a false balance by giving Ebell’s lay views equal weight with those of expert climatologists, and thus misrepresents the consensus of scientific opinion on climate change. – Wikipedia

Mr Ebell is not a climate scientist, nor indeed any other kind of scientist. He is a PR bunco artist from the deepest layers of the Washington ‘swamp’ of lobbyists, who has made a very nice living from lying publicly about the effects of continuing to burn coal, oil and gas. Corporations who have paid Mr Ebell very large fees to spread false stories about global warming ‘slowing down’, a ‘little ice age’, etc., and to do whatever he could to undermine public trust in science and promote the relentless poisoning for vast financial gain of land, sea and oceans include Exxon-Mobil, Dow Chemical and Murray Energy.

Mr Ebell has been connected with, or responsible for setting up, numerous imposing-sounding lobby groups, false-front policy ‘institutes’ working, for instance, against protections for wildlife, opposing the work of the Environmental Protection Agency. Responsible for the insulting pro-carbon slogan ‘They call it pollution, we call it life’, he has also lobbied intensively on behalf of the tobacco companies to prove that smoking is a healthy pursuit.

Almost every one of the vile causes this greedy little shit has espoused on behalf of his paymasters has been fabulously successful, inasmuch as they have provided inspiration for the bulk of the Trump administration’s pro-business policies and have Ebell’s bloodstained fingerprints all over them. It is so easy to press the buttons of dumbfuck Republican supporters desperate to validate their counterfactual ignorance and suspicion of the ‘authorities’.

What this lying creep was doing on the Today programme this morning, I have no idea. I had to switch it off, having previously learned that mental health services in the NHS are overstretched already.

Clearly the editors hadn’t a clue either, as they must have been unaware of the 2005 appearance cited above, that caused such a furore in Parliament, and could not be arsed to spend two minutes doing a background check on this douchebag or to obtain a balancing viewpoint before inviting him to squirt his pus all over the British public – again.

Please write in and complain to the BBC Board, for the sake of the earth.

x

“He believes it is perfectly possible to go on pumping billions and billions of tonnes of poisonous and heat-retaining, long-lasting gaseous by-products from combusting carbonaceous fossil fuels year-on-year for two hundred years into a delicately balanced, complex – and above all finite atmospheric system and there will be no consequences to follow.”

Criminal ecocide

As we know, Mr Trump’s strange gameplan for governance has followed a two-track strategy.

One, fill as few middle-to-high-ranking posts as he can, making the administration of government agencies very difficult if not impossible, while at the same time blocking the publication of inconvenient scientific research; and two, put in as heads of departments only people to whom he owes favours, or his own family, inexperienced administrators with no qualifications in the field: people who are fully committed to sabotaging the normal administrative functions of government.

Why, almost anyone would imagine he was deliberately trying to bring down the State.

Why has Mr Trump gone along with this idea that destroying the jobs of people who make the country function safely is an efficient solution to what was probably a genuine problem of bureaucratic inertia? He has no policy to replace the existing system: it is a Year Zero plan, a nihilistic political philosophy that plays to his dumbfuck supporters but risks pulling the country down into a very scary place.

“Thanks for the job Mister President, I won’t let Exxon down.”

Perhaps mindful of his own incompetence in the environmental field, but well-briefed by ‘experts’ working for his paymasters at Koch Industries, Hamm, Devon and Murray Energies, the heavily compensated apologist Mr Scott Pruitt, feral-clown head of the Environment ‘Protection’ Agency, for instance, has just announced a plan Mr Trump would like.

He proposes to spend public funds on finding enough dissenting ‘scientists’ to form a committee to formally challenge the 98.5% of real scientists around the world, experts in many fields whose funding or university tenure does not depend on energy company blackmail, to ‘prove’ that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas – denying a thoroughly researched principle that has been fully and widely known since 1889.

The Director has already declined to refill 57 of the 68 positions on the scientific advisory group that reviews genuine EPA research, and tried to lean on the chairwoman, Dr. Deborah Swackhamer when she was due to give evidence to a Congressional committee last month. to get her to say nothing about the probable effects of his destructive behavior.

Happily, an appellate court has struck down his plan to abandon controls due to come into force shortly on monitoring and reducing methane emissions from drilling and fracking operations, which are of an alarmingly high order; although it looks certain the ruling will be overturned by a Republican-packed Supreme Court, whose casting vote, so-called ‘Justice’ Gorsuch, has never once in his well-funded career on the bench ruled against a corporation.

Mr Pruitt is very probably mad, or has been driven mad by the weight of money shovelled down his fat gullet by vastly wealthy corporate interests. He is, to put it bluntly, a corrupted official, undeniably so according to the contents of many of the nine thousand of his work e-mails that finally surfaced owing to repeated Freedom of Information requests from environmental campaigners, just days after his appointment was hastily confirmed.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/22/scott-pruitt-emails-oklahoma-fossil-fuels-koch-brothers

There is already a cottage industry of climate-change denial, led by lunatics like ‘Lord’ Nigel Lawson, the tendentious 103-year-old former British chancellor from the bygone Thatcher era, a ghoul who won’t lie down, whose entire knowledge of atmospherics is confined to expensive cigar smoke-filled rooms. Showing great cunning (or profound stupidity) Mr Pruitt does not argue that the climate is not changing, in ways ‘we don’t yet fully understand’. He merely refuses with ever-increasing stubbornness to accept that there is an overlying problem with burning fossil fuels of the kind his paymasters are in a new frenzy of ruthlessly exploiting, greenlighted by that other Nobel chemistry laureate, Donald Trump.

Pruitt, as Attorney General of Arkansas an enthusiastic executioner of black people using whatever materials came to hand, believes it is perfectly possible to go on pumping billions upon billions of tonnes of poisonous and heat-retaining, long-lasting gaseous by-products from combusting carbonaceous fossil fuels year-on-year for two hundred years into a delicately balanced, complex – and above all finite atmospheric system, and there will be no consequences to follow.

Or maybe he just believes in getting rich, it’s hard to tell.

A difficult point to make.

It’s kind of a difficult point to make at a time when Arizona is on fire and New York State is underwater. And, yes, when people are dying in heatwaves, floods and landslides all around the world, right now. Vast areas of central and southern Europe, central America, Russia, India and China are all currently stricken with a deadly combination of record heatwaves and record pre-monsoon rainfall. Methane is erupting from a warming Siberian tundra where wildfires are raging, contributing further to the CO2 overload in the atmosphere.

Yes, other factors are involved. Extreme events have and do occur naturally, of course they do, that’s the law of averages; but not all at the same time in so many places, within the same bands of latitude and with the increasing frequency and intensity we are now experiencing. Natural carbon ‘sinks’ kept the climate in balance until we started burning coal, and then oil, overwhelming the ability of the regulator to maintain a breathable atmosphere within habitable temperature zones. The planet has been warming detectably for the past 100 years but is now at a tipping point – many tipping points – beyond which it is difficult to see a way back; and which, researchers warn, will produce more abrupt and economically challenging changes still.

The energy industry, we know, has been well aware of the risks for decades and was beginning to accept that it needed to be part of the solution, not the problem – until last year. Since when, the entire tenor of the gerrymandered and Russian-sponsored Trump administration has been to let rip and to hell with the consequences – just as long as ‘America’ (meaning Republican politicians and their funders) makes a huge amount of money out of us before we all die. How long the courts can defy them, we don’t know.

It is, of course, beyond insanity; beyond understanding, that supposed human beings can act like this.

It’s criminal ecocide; a game of ‘chicken’ with only one outcome.

 

Weather news

The northern jetstream has broken up into several pieces (Paul Beckwith – Ottawa U., 7 July).

Six dead, 20 missing is the toll so far in an unprecedented storm over the northern part of Japan’s southernmost island, Kyushu, 5 July centred on the city of Nagasaki. Dozens of properties have been washed away in floods and landslides. 500 mm – 2 feet – of rain fell in just 12 hours.

56 people are dead after extensive flooding hit Guangxi province in China causing rivers to rise to never previously recorded levels. Over a million people have been evacuated. In neighbouring Hunan province another 1.4 million have been evacuated. Thirty-five people are believed dead. In Assam, India, 20 dead in the past three days. Four million people have had to find higher ground.

California is braced for another weekend of record heat. The temperature hit 122 deg. F., 50 C. in Palm Springs yesterday. Parts of Ulyanovsk in Russia are under 2-3 feet of water.

x

“Civilians escaping right now speak of horrific experiences. They have been caught between aerial bombardment, artillery, snipers and car bombs. They live in fear; they hide in their homes without food or water … In Raqqa, too, hundreds of thousands of people are caught in the crossfire, with casualty numbers rising as a result of airstrikes as well as sniper fire and brutal executions carried out by the jihadists to intimidate those still trapped in the city.” Washington Post, 05 July.

Complaining is not the British way

Comparisons, as I keep saying to little effect, are odious.

None of us would wish to have been caught up in the dreadful fire that engulfed and gutted the Grenfell tower-block in west London three weeks ago. The shocked and in many cases destitute residents who did manage to get out, some 158 individuals and families, have lost everything. Many will have been traumatised by the sights and sounds of those who perished on the upper floors signalling for help that never came.

No way out for thousands.

But they are here, and they are safe. While Britain has disgracefully pulled up the drawbridge against the people of Mosul and Raqqa and the rest of Syria and other war-ravaged countries in the region, from where there is no escape; for whose traumatized people there is no relief. None of us would wish to be caught up in that either.

There has rightly been criticism of the inadequacy of the immediate response by the local authority to the social problems created by the fire. Heads have already rolled, but it was not surprising: the numbers and quality of staffing in most local authorities have been in decline for years, although Kensington and Chelsea is said to have cash reserves approaching a billion pounds.

My mother lived in the Royal Borough – indeed, your Uncle Bogler too was born and lived there many years ago.

At the age of 92, after 52 years in the same flat, new landlords took over. Rosie found herself trapped by infirmity and lack of money unable to go anywhere else, a rent-protected tenant alone on the top floor of an otherwise empty building she could not have escaped from in an emergency. Flats in the next-door building were for sale at £12 million each.

We pleaded less than a year ago with the council to rehouse her in sheltered accommodation, only to be told there was nowhere and, anyway, until she was actually evicted and on the street they were not legally obliged to help. She died in December.

Confronted by the immediate chaos of several hundred men, women and children needing immediate rehousing and other support, some of whom spoke little English and were fearful of the immigration authorities, or who may well have lost their jobs by now and moved away, I don’t suppose the council much appreciated the rash promise made by the prime minister, Theresa May, who was herself being severely chastized for her impersonal response to the disaster, of a ‘permanent home nearby within three weeks’, with the government possibly, maybe, someday to pick up the bill.

I don’t suppose it has penetrated through her filter-bubble that there is a grave housing crisis in London, partly brought about by the city’s insatiable demand for cheap migrant labour; and partly by the foreign money-laundering transactions that have been grossly inflating property prices for years, that successive administrations have been happy to turn a blind eye to despite it leaving tens of thousands of private properties unoccupied.

Where were these people to go? Seems a pretty fair question. In fact, it’s a bit miraculous that 139 family units have already been offered housing they are too picky to take.

Yes, look.

I fear there’s going to be a backlash any minute now, and it won’t be pretty.

Because to date, only 14 out of 139 households who have already been offered alternative accommodation have accepted the arrangement. The  others are refusing to move out of their hotel rooms and community halls, complaining that the council has failed to consult them properly about their needs.

I have no doubt their reasons are convincing – to them. Too big, too small, too high up, only temporary, the wrong area… One family were offered a flat in a block in another borough that’s due to be demolished next year and turned it down because they wanted a permanent home, another is on the radio complaining about the forms, the flat he’s been offered is 15 minutes away, too far, he doesn’t like the area – and only two bedrooms (it’s just him and his daughter).

“I can hear … shock-hacks like Katie Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn sharpening their quills”

Meanwhile the rest of the country is struggling with a major housing shortage, ever-rising rents – and over 600 thousand families, many with children, can’t find permanent homes at all or are forced to live many miles away from their low-paid jobs. Gentrification in London continues to push the low-paid out to the margins, increasing their travel costs.

At the mercy of private landlords, most people have no choice where and in what conditions they live.

The list of complaints of the Grenfell refuseniks may be just, their plight genuine, but that is not how it will play to the majority of people throughout the country. I can hear already the scratchy little noise of shock-hack columnists like Katie Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn sharpening their quills and dipping them in strychnine.

It sounds too much like ingratitude, stemming from a sense of entitlement that has been growing among not only the Grenfell Tower survivors, but among the residents of buildings around, the adjacent low-rise Grenfell Walk for instance, that has had to be evacuated because the joint heating no longer works, egged-on by political protestors and the media.

Yes, people will say, you had a terrible experience and you needed help. You’re being offered help, people are doing their best to help you in trying circumstances, large sums of money have been raised, clothing supplied, but nothing we do seems good enough for you.

Your endless complaining is not the British way.

A media storm started, for instance, when one surviving resident found that rent had accidentally been debited from her account a week after the fire, when the authority was supposed to have suspended payment of all Grenfell rents.

Well, good Lord, annoying I know but worse happens to the rest of us every day, struggling with miscalculated utility bills and lousy transportation, waiting three weeks just to see our GP, and all you had to do was point out the obvious mistake for it to be immediately rectified with apologies. Why make so much fuss, so publicly?

The sense must by now be growing in the country that the survivors have grown an exaggerated sense of entitlement, encouraged by media and politicians’ handwringing over social divisions and inequality.

It’s not their fault they’ve been caught up in a national debate that was long overdue and have become pawns in other people’s games; or that they’ve been blinded by the glare of the media spotlight.

It just looks like some of them are taking advantage, possibly for the first time in their lives.

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 22: The emollients clause. Plus: The forensic mind of Donald Trump. Computer News.

 

“Cheer up Ma, at least Trump’s cancelled” (AP)

Hello again

With apologies to its author, Philip Cohen, may I share with you this most excellent diatribe on the subject of The Pumpkin’s favourite object, stolen from the Comments section of The Washington Post, 7 June?

Thank you.

Drumpf’s a charlatan—an arrogant, autocratic, ignorant, incompetent, inarticulate, blustering, uncouth, unprincipled, hypocritical, malevolent, divisive, thin-skinned, grossly narcissistic sociopath; a draft dodging, much sued, numerously bankrupted, pathological liar, and political neophyte, with an adolescent brain displaying chronic “status twitterus” (a debilitating condition in which twittering fits follow one another without recovery of consciousness between them)—in sum, a classic, “Dunning-Kruger” / “Peter Principle” affectee—utterly unfit to be POTUS.

…had he not been born into great wealth it’s likely he would now be living under an overpass somewhere—yet the “poorly educated” have elected this “bouffanted buffoon” POTUS, making the U.S. the laughingstock of the world.Drumpf’s a man of principles few and flexible—he offers only incoherent bluster and delusionary or naively simple answers to complex problems—we will be lucky if this crétin does not cause some major tragedy to befall us. The only thing scarier than Drumpf is the ~63 million idiots that voted for this oaf, and about whom—some may soon enough come to realise—he cares not one iota.

Those who feel this is a bit excessive and are willing to forgive the President for skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars off his browbeaten and shallow-witted son Eric’s fundraisers for a children’s cancer charity, or for claiming that he was ‘better trained militarily than most’ of the 82 thousand US troops who died in Vietnam while he was securing successive exemptions for a probably non-existent and easily curable condition, thus avoiding the necessity to prove the claim, might pause to consider his latest wheeze.

It appears that one of a series of assaults on poverty in the budget he’s recently presented to Congress is to cut funding by 29 per cent for a federal program that provides an already limited amount of housing benefit to the homeless, enabling them to have an address from which to seek work; while at the same time preserving a special government subsidy to wealthy landlords.

Mr Trump has extensive rental property holdings, as you know, including a 4 per cent stake he inherited from his father Fred in a complex called Starrett City, from which he is said to earn $20 million a year. Having, as I say, inherited the holding, Mr Trump has at times claimed it was one of the best investments he ever made. He is an incorrigible scoundrel, a liar and a fantasist, but never mind, let’s press on.

Starrett City’s shareholders have reportedly received $490 million from the subsidy alone since 2013; $28 million in the last four months.

Mr Trump, who nobly announced on taking up the job that he would forego the normal salary of $450k a year, seems to be using the office of President to guarantee himself a side-income of a few million dollars a year; what is, essentially, a taxpayer-funded backhander to himself and his cronies, whilst ensuring the very poorest Americans whom he swore an oath to protect have nowhere to live, thus lessening their chances of finding one of the many jobs he is failing to deliver.

To ensure nothing goes wrong, Mr Trump has appointed the woman who organized his wedding to Melania, Lynne Patton, a former officer in Eric Trump’s charity foundation, a person with no public service experience, to head the New York office of the Department for Housing and Urban Development.

It would be a joke if it weren’t so sad.

(Reporting: Washington Post)

The Pumpkin is honestly at a loss when reaching for the usual supererogatory expressions of nausea today to find new words to accompany this horrible, horrible man on his journey to the innermost circle of Hell, given that I used to keep pigs and have great respect for their perceptive intelligence, forbearance and selfless humanity; their grasp of foreign policy.

I will simply let Mr Philip Cohen’s resonant encomium, that provides such a lazy introduction to this week’s issue 22 of The Pumpkin, stand as mute testimony to my imaginative failure, and go take Hunzi for his morning walk.

The weather too has taken a turn overnight. After five days of record-breaking heat and humid sunshine, reeking of tanning oil, we are enshrouded in a clammy, murky drizzle.

Oh, well. Probably Yellowstone will get us instead.

x

“…there is never an ‘endgame’ in the Middle East, only a transition to something worse.”

The forensic mind of Donald Trump

To use the phrase ‘American foreign policy’ with regard to the situation in the Middle East is to do oxymoronic violence to the English language. For even the forensic, nimble and well-stocked brain of the President seems not quite able to figure out, in his own words, just what the hell is going on; the problem being, he’s the one in charge.

But the Middle East is complicated, idn’t it?

In the space of barely a month, Mr Trump met with the Emir of Qatar and assured him of America’s undying friendship and desire to sell him billions of dollars’ worth of ‘beautiful military equipment’ (the man is sick in the head, but we’ll continue…).

On his return, he tweeted out that he, Trump, had in a single two-day visit to Riyadh – during which he performed a sword dance and Ivanka was handed a present of $100 million, seemingly without strings – ended the scourge of global terrorism for ever, persuading the Saudi allies to embark on a policy of blockading evil Qatar, the source of all global terrorism.

Then, ahem, having been reminded by Gen. Mattis that there are 11 thousand US and NATO troops stationed in friendly Qatar, the main base from where operations are being conducted against ISIS, Mr Trump tweeted out again to complain that he had been misled by the Saudis and Qatar was not a sponsor of terrorism after all, so the UAE should back off.

The correction came somewhat late in the day, as (supported by Russia and Iran) Turkey had already sent troops to Qatar in a ‘training’ capacity to wave a scimitar in the hostile face of Riyadh, and the fairly gratuitous shooting-down of a Syrian airforce plane by a US airforce plane had brought Russia and America eyeball to eyeball once more over the proposed fate of the Assad regime.

Having abandoned command of his forces to the generals on the ground, Trump was now seeing things spinning out of his grasp.

Meanwhile, in a palace coup the senile King Salman’s pleasure-loving son, the war criminal in charge of all those beautiful weapons currently slaughtering Yemeni children, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, has been nominated as the sock-puppet who will take over as the heir-apparent to the ‘oil-rich’ terror-sponsoring Gulf state in place of the King’s more sensible, peaceable but less US-friendly nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who has, in the words of The Sun newspaper, been ‘fired’….

From The Sun (22 June):

SAUDI Arabia’s future King is a millionaire businessman who is friends with Donald Trump and recently splashed out over £400 million on a yacht.

Mid-East policy all at sea: The Serena (Getty Images)

So we must assume that once King Salman, who is said to have Alzheimer’s, kicks the bucket, Saudi Arabia will follow a pro-American line; rather than as, at present, America follows a pro-Saudi line. And if he is not in jail by then Trump will personally – and presumably financially – benefit.

Who is this a victory for?

Now, The Pumpkin has a confession. Throughout my career I prided myself on my analytical pattern-recognizing abilities and the particular strength I felt I had in being able to join the dots in complex situations: pull together the threads, grasp the big picture (enough business cliches. Ed.).

Pundits are starting to refer to the ‘endgame’ in Syria as Assad finally bids foul to regain control of the country after six years of war, thanks to his Russian pals, with whatever consequences it may bring for his opponents – my bet is a massacre – but you and I know, don’t we, there is never an ‘endgame’ in the Middle East, only a transition to something worse.

So I would really love to give you insight and clarity on the situation as it stands currently, because lots of new and strange things seem to be happening, but I’m afraid it will have to wait for someone better to come along. I am utterly at a loss to explain what is going on, so irrational and contrafibulatory do all the many actors appear to have become.

The noisy men – Victor McGlaglan

It is possible I, or they, have gone mad trying to work out the connections. It’s like John Wayne and Victor McLaglan and Alan Ladd (on his box) slugging it out in a Howard Hawks mass barroom brawl that drags everyone in, smashing chairs and bottles over one another’s heads with scant regard for who is on who’s side. No sooner do I feel I have a handle on it, than my brain suffers a chronic meltdown and everything starts to slip alarmingly sideways.

However, I can offer one possible clue.

Just last week I gave up trying to find anything worth watching on TV, and reverted to my DVD collection. One of the first films I pulled out was ‘Syriana’, a thriller set in the Middle East, by and starring George Clooney as ‘Bob’, a redundant CIA operative turned freelance, who equally has a problem knowing what is going on when he is kidnapped and tortured by the jihadis he has just sold some state-of-the-art kit to (okay, that’s not quite it, but I’m too old to explain) and has to be rescued by Hezbollah; with Matt Damon as the good guy, the fresh-faced analyst from the State Department sent to groom the heir to an oil-rich Gulf kingdom, but who gradually realises he’s being corrupted by the Deep State*.

It must be about ten years old and, although I’ve watched it four times now, I’ve never really grasped the plot.

All I know is that a key point comes – and here is the amazing synchronicity – when the ageing King of the unnamed Gulf state changes his mind about his successor and ‘fires’ his strong and stable but independently reformist heir and friend of Matt Damon in favour of a weak and dissolute younger brother who doesn’t care about ‘his people’. He will prove a more useful asset to the rogue group of CIA conspirators plotting with a giant and totally amoral oil company to turn the oil-rich kingdom into a client state, and will stop at nothing – including sponsoring arms sales to useful but unpredictable jihadi militias.

Meanwhile, the agency has succeeded at home in deflecting an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption reaching up to the highest levels of the company and beyond – as far up as Christopher Plummer, an apparently immortal billionaire politician and former CIA head who, ‘Bob’ realizes, is running the operation from behind the scenes.

Is this starting to remind you of anything?

Spoiler alert

The CIA is essentially depicted as a state-within-a-state, out of control and operating entirely on its own agenda, fractious, fuelled by dirty money and capable of causing havoc across the region in support of global energy interests, corporations no longer bound to the United States and its official foreign policy.

The last scenes of the film show Clooney as agent Bob, tired of being used by all sides, racing across the desert to warn the outgoing prince that he’s in danger, only to be incidentally vaporized in a drone strike by remote CIA operatives in the USA.

Let’s hope that’s the one part of the movie he didn’t get right.

*Just last week in an echo of the scene where Matt Damon’s son dies, accidentally electrocuted in the oil-sheikh’s swimming-pool, there was a report of children electrocuted in a swimming-pool in Turkey. It’s not a very common occurrence. I expect these odd synchronicities go on all the time unnoticed. Either that, or I am making the world happen around me.

Indeed, I have long had a feeling that the world ended in 1962 with the Cuban missile crisis, we weren’t spared the nuclear holocaust after all, we all perished, and the sense that this is all an increasingly weird and dystopian, shared near-death experience and any minute now it will fade to black is nearer the mark.

x

“The exciting thing about working for maniacs … is, anything can happen in the next half-hour.”

Computer News

Did they have inside help?

We’re aware, are we not, of Mr Trump’s undying loyalty to those who are loyal to him – until he thinks they’re not?

It’s a cuddly trait that has, we can see, provided a lot of employment since the election for party and campaign donors from all over the USA. Why, it almost led to our very own Nigel Farage getting the plum post of ambassador to Washington!

Sadly the job was not in Mr Trump’s gift. Nor did Farage have any prior diplomatic service experience. In fact he’s about the least diplomatic person you could shake a cocktail at. But we wonder what our Nige did for his strangely glowing master to deserve that one?

Anyway, in our lead story today, we saw from a report in the Washington Post that Mr and Mrs Trump’s wedding party organizer has been put in charge of housing development in New York, where Mr Trump owns a lot of housing.

It reminds me of my previous employer, Shane, who after thirty years running businesses in Japan signed his memos ‘Founder’, a clear sign of incipient megalomania. He also has an advanced appreciation of loyalty, there’s probably a Japanese word for it, that runs to putting in the job whoever is standing nearest the water-cooler when the previous guy dies.

Hence, hired as the gardener, within weeks I was managing a terrible country hotel with one part-time assistant, an obese Goth with greasy hair and bipolar disorder. I had no hotel management experience whatever after a lifetime in journalism, advertising and publishing. After Matt ran off with the petty cash it was just me, the guy in the Wellington boots standing by the water-cooler (metaphorically – there wasn’t one), cooking meals and cleaning, organizing weddings, chasing intruders at 2 a.m. and renegotiating the business rates.

The exciting thing about working for maniacs with Entrepreneur Syndrome – the belief that whatever the business, they can walk on water – is, anything can happen in the next half-hour.

So, in the Trump cabinet, there are rancid climate-change deniers with no prior experience or science qualification running the Environmental Protection and Energy agencies; the ex-CEO of the world’s greediest and most shameful oil company as Secretary of State, in charge of global diplomacy; a major donor with no public schools administration experience hoping to foist Creationism on America’s children; a multibillionaire seeking tax breaks for his mining businesses put in charge of government revenue; a Russian agent originally (but no longer) in charge of National Security; a blustering little twerp who’s not very good at lying handling the press briefings, Trump’s private banker in charge of Commerce and his not very bright, 36-year-old property developer son-in-law tasked with everything else, from Middle East peace to government reform.

It’s a bit like the amateur dramatic company I work with. Most of the male roles have to be played by women on account of there aren’t enough men.

The Pumpkin has, however, been learning from the indefatigable Rachel Maddow at MSNBC, of a loyalty appointee of an altogether more interesting stripe.

John deStefano was, until he was appointed as Mr Trump’s Presidential Personnel Director, director of a small data analytics firm contracted by the Republican campaign, Data Trust Inc., a business for which it is hard to find a listing. It doesn’t seem to appear among the top six companies on Google with that name, in the first three pages.

It’s possible that he was just being rewarded as a loyal Republican, although he is named as having campaigned as a ‘Never Trumper’. So many were.

Like Charlie Parker, “DeStefano grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. His uncle helped him to get an internship with Oklahoma Representative J. C. Watts during his junior year. Following his graduation, he worked for the House Republican Conference as a liaison to outside conservative groups. In 2006, he ran the reelection campaign of Ohio Representative Deborah Pryce.”

So he does at least have more political experience than the President. By way of further explanation:

“Conservative HQ said DeStefano’s appointment was designed “to funnel Capitol Hill staffers loyal to the congressional Republican establishment into key jobs in the executive branch.” The organization also pointed out that DeStefano has zero experience in human resource functions, which are at the core of his new role.” – Wikipedia, and see above

In other words, draining the swamp off Capitol Hill and into the White House.

As a funnel, Johnny DeStefano was the guy Trump ordered to write the letter firing Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General, who had been trying to warn the White House that Gen. Flynn was a Russian agent. The reason he gave was her resistance to implementing the Muslim ban, but as that was being blocked by the 9th circuit and about every other court in the land, the real reason seems obvious.

Mr DeStefano also, however, appears to have been entrusted on payment of $6.7 million with collating the entire US voter registration database, 198 million names, addresses, dates of birth, voting intentions, religious affiliations an’ all.

And he accidentally left it sitting for a while in a public Amazon cloud account on an unencrypted server and, hey, guess what?

As Ms Maddow reports, it appears that as far as early research can tell, the Russian ‘hack’, which the FBI now says affected 21 states, although it may have been all 50, appears to have targeted only those wards where the majority voted Democrat in previous elections.

And where there was a corresponding overlap with the use of polling station computers using registration software supplied by companies that reported being hacked earlier, there were reports of unusual breakdowns and delays in processing voters on the door, again in mainly Democrat wards.

It wasn’t an attack on the actual votes, as far as the FBI is prepared to go at this stage. The hackers didn’t impersonate voters or change the counts or anything too overt. It was an attack on the electoral process, designed to deter Democrats from voting. A marginal outcome could statistically have made enough difference to get a candidate, in this case Trump, over the line.

But it required detailed knowledge of voter distribution. And what the implications are for the 2018 midterms we can only imagine.

Did the Russians have insider knowledge of the systems and help with targeting their disruption campaign? We know how attached Republicans are to voter suppression and other fraudulent tactics.

According to the website Carbonated.TV:

“The now-secured files contained data typical to political campaigns, some of which is already public information, but also included analysis to help the GOP best target specific voting populations. Many of the records stored on the server came from data firms other than Deep Root Analytics, one of which was The Data Trust, the primary provider of the GOP’s voter details contracted by the party for a whopping $6.7 million in 2016.”

http://www.carbonated.tv/news/data-of-198-million-voters-exposed-in-massive-leak-by-gop-contractor

 

Making monkeys of themselves

President Erdogan in his wisdom has ordered all references to biological evolution to be removed from Turkey’s state school textbooks. The subject is, says his education director, ‘too controversial’ to be taught to 14-16 year-olds and may only be discussed in universities. (BBC News)

The only other country in the Middle East to have banned the teaching of evolution is Saudi Arabia, a country also not known for its progressive views.

The Koran says God made Adam out of a lump of clay, so that’s a scientific fact. It’s actually not so far from the truth, we do indeed share many elements found in the general make-up of the universe, including those found in clay. But it was just an allegorical story. The point Darwin made is we didn’t start out like this, in human form. We got here by trial and error, starting with a small colony of prokaryotic cells. We were not made from lumps of clay, but by an evolutionary leap called sexual reproduction. It takes two.

And of course, there is now an overwhelming body, not of opinion but of experimental, empirical observation to show that, while there are other evolutionary mechanisms in play, evolution by natural selection of the most useful genetic mutations is the main means by which new species come into being over time. Basically, if you fall over a cliff it helps to quickly sprout feathers.

One student quoted in the report says his teacher asked him if he believed he was descended from a monkey? This stupid debate was settled years ago.

When even teachers are too lazy and illiterate to understand a relatively simple proposition, that we co-evolved alongside the apes, a separate branch from monkeys, from a common ancestor; that there have been many species of humanoid but we are the only ones so far as we know who survived to be what we are today, i.e. credulous, incurious naked baboons capable of swallowing any amount of allegory from 2,000-year-old books, capable of denying the evidence of our own reason, capable of electing dangerous idiots to lead us, you wonder if it’s worth teaching children anything.

Because to refute the oft-observed fact that species are continually changing asa result of ‘the survival of the fittest’ (fit meaning… oh, I give up. Not that kind of fit, the kind that means ‘best adapted to the conditions’) is to suggest that we cannot ever properly learn. Learning is a crucial stage in evolution, since before new physiological characteristics are selected for in our ever-changing, ever-challenging environment the first changes must come in our cognitive processes and behavioral patterns.

Not much sign of that.

So Turkey, ostensibly a civilized, modern and progressive nation of 80 million, has started on its long march backwards to the mud. Yes, advanced organisms like States can revert to type, but in the process they become less fit for survival and are vulnerable to extinction.

So much for Mr Erdogan and his ‘leadership’. We could have told you, Turkey, but you wouldn’t have listened.

 

Our money or your life. A thing of beauty is a joy until the neighbours move in: Welsh news. Meanwhile, in faraway Portugal…

The prophetically named Torch building in Dubai. Nobody died.

“The lifts weren’t working so we had to walk down 72 flights of stairs with everyone, that took about 10 minutes as there were people carrying their children and babies and people who just weren’t fit enough to get down the stairs.”  

– The Telegraph.

London, North Kensington, 15 June, 2017? No… Dubai, the Gulf of Arabia, 20 February 2015.

 

“The speed with which the fire spread has been paced by the speed with which politicians and the media have rushed to take up entrenched positions.”

Our money or your life

Look. The BogPo isn’t going to minimise the horror of what happened at Grenfell House two nights ago. Nothing could.

It seems unlikely that if the fire brigade and the police ever do manage to locate and recover all the remains of those who died and identify them, that the death toll is going to be less than 100. It may be a lot higher – there were possibly up to 600 people in the building. Most of them would have been asleep and known nothing of the fire until it was too late.

Virtually no-one escaped from above the 18th floor. There was no fire alarm, no sprinkler system – only one stairway all the way to the 24th floor. We believe Britain is one of the few countries in the world that permits this. It appears that refurbishment works may have included a new gas main installed for speed and cheapness within the supposedly fire-resistant stairway and not fireproofed. Fire barriers may have been removed to facilitate pipework and not replaced. If there was a smoke-clearance system, it failed. Perhaps mercifully: the victims would have been unconscious before the fire reached them.

The safety advice was to stay put and wait to be rescued. It was the wrong advice in the circumstances, although it has worked in tower-block fires elsewhere; fires that were contained, deliberately, by the design of the building.

Certainly, something caused what the extraordinary firemen who ran into that inferno could not explain at the time, the pattern and rapid spread of the fire. If the whole building had acted as a gas burner, with a forced draught up the open stairway, it might possibly explain it; giving rise to the unthinkable image of a giant fan-assisted oven.

Media attention, however, has focussed on two main aspects: the fire that visibly took hold of the cladding of the building; requiring, one feels, no further ‘evidence’ to present to the cladding industry – and the idea that it was all the fault of the rich people living in the des-res Georgian squares around about, a symptom of our Victorian attitude to the working-class.

But really, it has been ever thus: and how else does our market-led economic system allow things to be? What did we expect? Poor people have been dying in shoddy buildings since the Romans were here.

Yet the Guardian‘s veteran socialist, Polly Toynbee, approaches her column thus:

“That tower is austerity in ruins. Symbolism is everything in politics and nothing better signifies the May-Cameron-Osborne era that stripped bare the state and its social and physical protection of citizens. The horror of poor people burned alive within feet of the country’s grandest mansions, many of them empty, moth-balled investments, perfectly captures the politics of the last seven years. The Cameron, Osborne, Gove Notting Hill set live just up the road.”

The idea that, for instance, the Thatcher or even the Blair years guaranteed the happy, healthy lives of all our citizens until neoliberals and well-heeled Tory bastards betrayed the working-class and made them less safe is vacuous political claptrap. Yes, London, the ‘Great Wen’ is an otiose example of economic inequality; it always was, and always will be. It might be of interest to know how much Ms Toynbee’s own residence is worth, at current value? Does she feel it makes her personally responsible for the residents of Grenfell Tower?

***

As may be seen from the photo above of the fatefully named Dubai ‘Torch’ building, at 79 storeys one of the highest residential blocks in the world, the cladding is well alight. What you’re not seeing is the fire taking hold of the whole of the interior, as it did with Grenfell Tower. Clearly, from the photographs it looks as though in the Grenfell incident there were two separate issues, with the fire spreading both inside and out. Could the new double-glazed windows also have been a factor? Photographs show the uPVC frames  comprehensively melted, allowing the windows to fall out and the blazing cladding to enter the rooms.

(Postscriptum – it seems otherwise difficult to understand how a fridge-freezer bursting into flames in a kitchen, now the official line on the source of the fire, would have ignited the external cladding?)

Plus, of course, there is the third issue, which is that local authority-owned Grenfell Tower was refurbished in perhaps too much of a hurry, and, perhaps, as cheaply as possible: £8.7 million, to bring a 1970s block of 124 flats up to something resembling modern standards; while management of the building was farmed out to a privatized entity, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

This was a typical local authority fudge designed to save public money at a time when government austerity measures, of which the country has grown tired after eight years – and an ideological commitment to the free market – have led to a mad belief that the private sector will deliver where the public sector cannot. In fact, it’s only led to worse cost-cutting and a loss of control and oversight, visible as much in the built environment as it’s been invisible in the social care sector for several years.

Yet it has to be taken into account that there is enormous pressure on London local authorities to find accommodation for the 100 thousand overseas workers who arrive every year to service the insatiable needs of a city growing in wealth and power; virtually a state-within-a-state, yet one which has failed – especially during the eight-year reign of the mayoral buffoon, Boris Johnson – to make adequate provision for its less well-off inhabitants amid the ‘garden bridge’, the ‘Crossrail project’ and the whatever it is, cycle ‘highway’ – vanity projects that have brought chaos to the gridlocked city.

And you have to admit, Kensington and Chelsea council did authorize the money, were spending £8.7 million pounds on IMPROVING conditions for their lower-paid workers, did presumably act with the best of intentions, however ultimately disastrous. They could not have known, although their consultants must have foreseen, that the building was absolutely not safe to sign-off. They did not set out deliberately to murder possibly several hundred residents through the malign application of inequitable standards for poorer people, that is not what local authorities do, by and large. They do their best with what they’ve got.

While the cladding was obviously a cosmetic improvement on the bare, rain-stained 1970s brutalist concrete, making Grenfell less of an eyesore for the rich folks in their leafy squares and for motorists coming in on the Hammersmith flyover, there was a clear benefit in that the flats were previously very poorly insulated; a health risk. The main function of cladding is to improve heat retention and make the units more, not less, habitable: social progress, of a sort.

Nevertheless the rightwing press is blaming the ‘green’ movement: EU environmentalism gone mad – for the addition of the panels. How confused can normally rational people get? It’s a safety issue, were the panels fireproof or not? It’s not a reason to keep the less well-off trapped in cold, damp, unhealthy conditions; or sweltering in summer behind windows that can’t be opened, just to confound the Brussels bureaucrats.

The speed with which the fire spread has been paced by the speed with which politicians and the media have rushed to take up entrenched positions.

This led, for instance, to the ludicrous pasting of communities and local government secretary, Sajid Javed on the Today show this morning. The past-retirement-age presenter John Humphrys (73) angrily demanded to know why it was taking the Government more than one day to get round to emailing every tenancy management company in the country, if indeed they were doing that, given we’ve just had an election and the PM had only finished making her appointments the day before, to find out if four thousand similar tower blocks had unsafe cladding and what did they intend to do about it?

“The Guardian’s notoriously thin-skinned leftish liberal columnists were already hard at it, bravely demanding social change”

The BBC optimistically imagines that tenancy managers all around the country would naturally take only one day to respond, if at all, to a potentially incriminating government request for complex information about building materials. Of course they wouldn’t be calling their lawyers! It’s all so simple when you’re sitting in a studio in London! Mr Javed must realise the urgency of the situation? Well, yes he did, but… The BogPo’s views on the tendentious humbuggery of Mr Humphrys are well established. He is a man with a mind like a forensic tortoise, born with a soapbox on his shoulder, who will climb onto it at the drop of a hat.

But he is far from the only one. While fires were still breaking out and firemen, not knowing if the building might collapse at any moment, working 12-hour shifts because the capital is short of 600 firefighters thanks to cuts imposed under the gilded buffoon, Johnson, were still working their way flat by flat, floor by floor, to find any survivors, The Guardian‘s notoriously thin-skinned leftish liberal columnists were already hard at it, bravely demanding social change – even that tower blocks should be outlawed, which would certainly precipitate a housing crisis. How many of them employ cleaners, gardeners, nannies?

The statistical evidence according to fire chiefs is that there are ‘two or three’ fires in high-rises every day. Seldom if ever do they result in mass casualties and the immolation of entire buildings. As the men who went in reported, there was something unique about Grenfell Tower.

Which brings us to the fourth issue: despite the urging of local authorities and residents’ associations, building safety regulations have not been reviewed in Britain for more than ten years; building owners are only lightly regulated, with little oversight. The price of land in London is driving developers to build more and more high-rise towers; while it seems that nobody much is paying attention to the use of materials banned in other countries. (It has since been claimed by the Chancellor, Mr Hammond, that this particular type of cladding is banned here too… although the BogPo suggests that he is confusing a ban with a guideline that it should not be used on buildings over 10 storeys high.)

Simon Jenkins asks rhetorically in The Guardian today: “How could people still die in this horrific fashion in one of the world’s richest capital cities?” The answer is, somebody’s fridge overheated (possible fake news alert) in a multiple-occupancy tenement building that didn’t meet safety regulations. No more, no less. Rich or poor, people die in fires. But not that often.

High-rise flats were originally designed, not to honour the minimalist 1930s French architect Le Corbusier  – a man who has done probably as much social damage in the world as St Augustine of Hippo – but by Sir Denys Lasdun, to save space while warehousing low-paid workers and aspiring young arrivals taking their first steps on the ladder in one of the most expensive cities in the world. High-rise was a new dawn, ‘vertical streets’ the quickfire answer to the problem of replacing grimy old, worn-out, bombed-out back-to-back Victorian workers’ terraces without bathrooms, inside toilets or privacy. It could all be done industrially, systematically. Lego building had arrived.

With the demolition of the terraces, the loss of community cohesion was total. Making it easier twenty years later for Mrs Thatcher to start the process of destroying trade unionism. But for the newly housed occupants, life had become a lot more convenient, more comfortable, cleaner. No more scrubbing doorsteps until the stone wore away! And that made it easier for women to go to work. Until we started using these grim concrete towers as places bereft of hope, to store the new underclass: drug-dealers, the mentally unstable, the ‘problem kids’ moved in, took over.

***

What Dubai shows us is that even comparatively rich people in ‘signature’ buildings with spectacular views and one-room flats starting at £165 thousand can be caught up in disasters; the story is the same: cheap flammable cosmetic cladding, lifts not working, fire warning systems switched off because of annoying false alarms…

“The Torch, situated in the glitzy Dubai Marina area, stands over 1,000ft tall and is one of the world’s highest residential buildings. The fire broke out on the 50th floor of the 79 floor building, while the majority of the residents were asleep…”

And no-one died. Everyone got out. But to claim as much of the media is doing that putting people in high-rise apartment blocks that can catch fire is a conspiracy against the working-class and evidence of the corruption and failure of Conservative party politics is pretty tendentious. It can happen elsewhere, and to people in higher income brackets, in thoroughly modern buildings.

The Dubai Torch fire of 2015 was followed by another in January last year when a fireworks display set fire to cladding on the 63-storey Address hotel and spread to the interior. Sixteen people were injured, but there were no fatalities. The building was badly damaged. In July last year there was a third tower-block fire in Dubai’s Sulafa tower. There were no casualties and the fire was extinguished in a couple of hours. Again, though, cladding caught fire and pieces of blazing material were falling into the street and threatening surrounding buildings.

“Phil Barry, a fire safety consultant with Gloucester-based CWB Fire Safety who has worked extensively in Qatar and the UAE, said: ‘No-one has died yet, but there will be fatalities sooner or later.’ He described Dubai’s many tower blocks as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

“At the heart of safety concerns is the use of polyurethane and aluminium composite cladding on buildings throughout the height of the emirate’s building boom. The material was … outlawed by new building regulations in 2013.”

(Reports: Gulf Times, The Telegraph)

So somebody should have been alert to the dangers. It should not have been left to the residents of Grenfell Tower to complain of their fears in meeting after angry meeting last year, only for nobody at the management company to take any notice. (It’s been reported that two of the victims were being threatened with prosecution over their allegations against the management company.) In the light of those fires, the experience of Dubai and others in France and Australia, why was this type of composite cladding, containing a chemical producing lethal cyanide gas, still permitted in Britain at the time Grenfell was refurbished in 2014?

A safer variant of the same system, using rockwool, is said to be virtually fireproof. This was known about. But it costs fractionally more. Those lives might have been saved with the expenditure of, literally, £5 thousand: £2 a square metre.

***

“We tried for two months to get her rehoused, forming the impression that Kensington and Chelsea housing department’s diversity policy included too many people with learning difficulties…”

So, was a 40 per cent cut overall in local authority budgets and savage cuts in London’s fire services, the result of seven years of austerity budgeting, also to blame?

My mother was a resident of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, until her death last year at the age of 92. A private, rent-controlled tenant in receipt of housing benefit, for over fifty years since their divorce she had lived in increasing poverty and ill-health as her acting career waned, trapped in the flat my stepfather had first rented in 1946, unable to afford to move.

Just three hundred yards from Harrod’s glitzy department store, two-bedroomed flats in the newly rebuilt block next door, demolition and building work she’d had to put up with on the other side of the wall seven days a week for two years, were on the market at £12.8 million each.

The upgraded wiring… 300 yards from Harrod’s.

Until 2014 when the housing department finally stepped in, her landlords, hoping she might get out and let them achieve a more commercial rent but maybe not realizing she couldn’t, had failed to carry out any repairs for over thirty years. Single-glazed, leaky, pre-war metal-framed windows – no central heating, the flat was damp and mouldy, the carpets worn through, floor tiles lifting, half the electrical circuits dangerously out of order. She used a torch to go to the bathroom.

When the building changed hands in 2016 the other tenants moved out, leaving Rosie alone in the flat, increasingly immobile on the second floor, unable to negotiate the five flights of stairs to the front door – unable to escape in the event of a fire. No risk assessment was done by the new landlords, apart from a standard letter asking if the flat had a gas supply? She never answered it.

The new heating system. 300 yards from Harrod’s.

Until then for years she’d refused to leave. Now she became desperate, fearful. We tried for two months to get her rehoused, forming the impression that Kensington and Chelsea housing department’s diversity policy included perhaps too many people with learning difficulties who never returned our calls or passed on messages, but unless or until her new landlords actually evicted her, an imperious, independent 92-year-old woman with all her marbles, a smoker who could walk painfully only with the aid of a frame, the Royal Borough was not obliged to do anything to help.

There was a two-year waiting list for sheltered accommodation. By the time Social Services had managed to scramble together the funding for a care package that involved returning her to the flat, with no nighttime cover, she had conveniently for everyone given up living after two sleepless weeks in a frantically busy hospital ward: a terminus to the next world where anonymous, chalk-faced old women were wheeled in, died – usually in the night – and wheeled out again before the next patient arrived.

The hospital apologized just last week for losing her teeth. I cannot even begin to think of a reply.

Back at the flat, a letter on the table from her GP practice announced that she had been struck off their list, for ‘failing to attend appointments we have made for you’. With the return of an old breast cancer, she had a massive secondary on one lung, a collapsing spine, constant unmanaged pain, self-medicated with alcohol – £94 in her account and owed £9,000 on a credit card the bank had been silly enough to approve. They ended up writing off the debt.

Boxes full of other letters – she never threw away a piece of paper – betrayed the secret, that she had lived for many years by selling off items of jewellery, vintage couture dresses – my stepfather’s remaining artworks; having been been virtually bankrupted in the great Lloyd’s of London reinsurance swindle of 1986.

Perhaps that’s why, living 250 miles away, I never fully realized quite how bad things had got, on any level. She had been an actress, after all.

***

“It was yet another PR fail…”

Mrs May, under criticism for what is perceived to be her usual bloodless response to human need, visited the site, spoke briefly only with emergency service chiefs, shunned the survivors (on ‘security’ grounds!) and the exhausted fire crews, the cries of trapped and burning children indelibly imprinted on their souls, rushed back to Number 10 to declare an immediate public inquiry into the disaster, and a £5 million relief fund to rehome the survivors.

Today (16 June) she made tightly controlled visits to a hospital and a church shelter behind a wall of police who had to surround her car to keep the angry crowd at bay. Later, she hijacked BBC’s Newsnight programme to go public in a bid to set the record straight. The interview was a disaster: a stiff, overcontrolled, misjudged, scripted and uninformative performance from a Prime Minister too reticent in her manner to cope with the exigencies of the job. Truly, as one North Kensington resident told the BBC, whatever was going on inside her head, she came across as a cold fish.

The announcement of an inquiry suggested that the Government doesn’t want anything too embarrassing to come out: judge-led inquiries are slow, expensive and not required to compel witnesses or provide narrative verdicts on individual deaths, nor to allow the relatives to testify, as would be the case in an open inquest.

Compare the morning-after photographs. The Torch is only lightly damaged. Grenfell Tower is a smouldering, gutted tomb. (Reuters/Getty).

 

 

 

In any developing country in the world, one suspects the private management company’s senior executives, the cladding manufacturers, the building refurbishment contractor and the council’s housing inspectorate would be in police custody by now, negotiating tricky questions.

But it’s not the sort of thing we do here. A ‘criminal investigation’ has been started, but without a full report on how and why the incident happened, who was involved and when, with no evidence of corruption – only perhaps inept practice, inadequate materials and poor oversight – it is hard to see where it would go. As time drags on, the most likely outcome will be a civil prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive, a fine and a rap over the knuckles.

‘Lessons’ will no doubt be ‘learned’, in the same way they undoubtedly weren’t after the last major tower-block fire in London, at Lakanal House, Camberwell, in 2009. In 2013, The Guardian reported: “Deaths of six people in UK’s worst tower block fire could have been prevented by proper fire safety checks, inquest concludes.” The outcome of the four-year inquiry? Southwark council pleaded guilty to four counts of ‘breaking fire safety regulations’.

None of the specific recommendations for safety improvements that came out of that inquiry, such as the retro-fitting of sprinklers in all local authority high-rises and public schools, were ever implemented. The Southwark coroner’s verdict? the fire was “largely caused by botched and unsafe renovation work and the council’s failure to inspect the building.” Officials and ministers refused point-blank to meet community representatives and fire service chiefs. They included the then-minister, Gavin Barwell. He is now Mrs May’s chief-of-staff at Number Ten. Claims that the recommendations were being implemented were lies.

And once again amid all of the post-electioneering claptrap, the moral outrage, the over-hasty demands for instant answers, instant solutions, ‘lessons to be learned’, social reforms required but never to be delivered in our lifetime, individuals to be held accountable, politicians to be blamed, the 7-plus victims at the heart of it remain lost and anonymous, desperate friends and relatives scratching hopeful or loving messages on the wall downstairs, flowers and tributes piling up, knowing the worst.

The BogPo wonders, idly, with so many foreign migrant workers and refugees escaped with nothing more than a dressing-gown or a T-shirt, with no papers or passports or other ID, everything destroyed, how will they re-establish or even prove their immigration status, or maintain their asylum applications? Will we shortly be seeing reports of ruthless Border Force officials raiding the church refuges, mosques and school gyms, where desperate survivors are waiting with no news from the mostly absent officials, to be rehoused? There is no report of them being granted special immunity.

As with the World Trade Center, Grenfell Tower will one day be demolished, many of its former residents perhaps still entombed inside, mothers huddled together with their children, words of hopeless reassurance burned into the scorched concrete; never identified, never found.

Maybe never even known.

For they were the faceless ones; the office cleaners, the sweepers, the Transport for London staff, nursing auxiliaries, the daycare providers my mother never saw, Uber drivers, the pizza deliverers, the refugees in ‘temporary’ accommodation.

Some place to end up.

 

Chutzpah award for abysmal PR likely to bring a business to its knees in ten seconds or less

Harley Facades, the company that fitted the panels to the building, said in a statement: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.” (Photo: Daily Mirror)

 

Postscriptum:

Sunday, 25 June: Out of 34 samples of tower-block cladding so far sent for analysis on the orders of the Communities and Local Government department to the fire safety authority by local councils and housing associations around the country, as of 23 June, 34 – one hundred per cent – have been found to be unsafe.

With residents already evacuated for their own safety from several blocks in North London, this is threatening to become a hugely expensive national emergency.

x

“We were far kinder to the Welsh than ever we were to the Scots and the Irish…”

A thing of beauty is a joy until the neighbours move in

As indeed is Boglington-on-Sea, the traffic-ridden seaside town I have been trying to leave for the past five years, but which will not let me go.

Down the road from me is a pair of semi-detached cottages. Cheaply built in the 1930s, single-breezeblock construction, like too much Welsh property they are in poor structural condition, not helped by the flood of 2012 when the residents – a couple with children renting next door to the old woman who owned both the houses and lived in one, had to be evacuated and never returned. As you walk past them in winter, even with doors and windows closed you could smell the damp coming out of the houses. The woodwork is rotting, the quarry-tiled floors white with mildew.

All around the back, the garden had gone wild. It was romantic, but you could see how the old planting was being lost under exuberant piles of brambles, nettles and knotweed. Visible just were still a few apple trees, a carmine-red Camellia sinensis flowering abundantly in February. To one side of the house was a large and lovely Magnolia soulangeana, mature and stately, a glorious sight in spring, covered in flamboyant blush-pink and white, tulip-shaped flowers. Hidden inside the overgrown front hedge, the rusty carcase of a small grey Austin car from the 1960s occupied the collapsed remains of a wooden garage.

Recently, there have been signs that people are hoping to move in, work going on – but no professional builders, just a young family and a middle-aged man with a van. The old woman’s heirs, I’d imagine. Welsh properties almost always come down to lengthy ownership disputes within families. They’d started last week to clear the garden, I assumed of its overgrown undergrowth. Today I walked past and saw to my horror, they had hacked down the lovely Magnolia and were busy cremating its remains.

Involuntarily I blurted out, no, no! A blonde woman, early 30s, came out. What’s the matter? Your beautiful magnolia tree! I exclaimed. You’ve cut it down! So what? she snapped. It’s my garden, I can do what I like!

So your garden isn’t supposed to give pleasure to your neighbours? So that’s right, just kill it, I called out. Kill everything, why not!

As you can imagine, I am a little overwrought these days, what with Brexit, Trump and May and the encroaching darkness. I imagined that, because the tree – which was not in the way of anything other than maybe a two-car park or a concrete patio with a nice barbecue, not cutting out light to the house – is not still in flower, they probably didn’t even know what it was. Nor cared.

And that, gentle reader, is why (as I have bogld in the past) I hate my neighbours.

Now, after 16 years in the country I have many very nice Welsh friends. Well, a few – I don’t socialize much. But there’s another sort I would move a thousand miles to not live next to: the working-class Welsh of mid-Wales. Resentful, selfish possessiveness is deeply ingrained in them; a natural response no doubt to being invaded by the Norman English king Edward 1 in 1282, an event etched in the memory, never forgotten. The national chip on the shoulder.

Despite lopping off a few traitors’ heads we were far kinder to the broody Welsh, still smarting over being conquered by the Romans twelve hundred years earlier, than ever we were to the Scots and the Irish, whom we massacred and starved and commandeered their farms for shooting estates and booted them off to America with gusto, for centuries. They don’t hate us. Yet for some reason, perhaps because sometime in the 1530s king Henry V111 banned the Welsh language, the Welsh just cannot get over it: we English who presume to live in a united kingdom are still known, sotto voce, as the ‘colonialists’.

In the course of my work I have met a few fanatics who simply refused to discuss anything in English, even though my Welsh is too rudimentary to address the points at issue. You could warn them they were in imminent danger of being run over by a truck and they still wouldn’t budge until you hired a translator; yet there is not one person anywhere in Wales who can’t speak and read English perfectly well, unless they are maybe Polish.

I once applied to a local publishing company who were looking for an editor for their English-language editions, only to be turned down for the job because I don’t speak Welsh, the language in which the company insists on conducting everyday business. That’s despite six years’ experience editing books and twenty-five years’ more working as a news editor and copywriter.

With these obdurate people it’s always: ‘my tree, my garden, my house, my land, my country, my impossible language, my music, my pretty awful food, my terrible old van, my bible-black, prodnose chapel culture, my burdensome morality. And no-one else, especially the English, is to be invited to share in the beauty of the country or any of the better things it has to offer. It’s my beauty, I don’t want you appreciating it and I can destroy it if I like. It’s my futile gesture; my ugliness.

Welsh women, especially, are the worst: harridans, termagents, Furies. I have vowed never to become entangled with one. There is no gainsaying them; they are invariably right on every point, mistresses of every issue, refusers-to-back-down in any argument, holders of the moral high-ground regardless of the illogicality and unreason of their position; their ignorance of the facts.

I briefly worked in the advertising department of the local newspaper. Evilly underpaid, nevertheless I had some years previously been the Creative Director of an advertising agency. But no, the dumpy housewives who manned the advertising department would not, under any circumstances, allow me to correct or improve the advertising: the client had signed off on their mistakes, it was not my place to question them.

“It was like meeting Donald Trump in a provincial Welsh suburban cul-de-sac.”

Last Christmas, I drove down to my ex-wife’s house to drop off some chairs we’d inherited from my mum. The street is narrow, there’s parking on one side only, it was all taken. Across the street is a concrete apron where people sometimes park. So I pulled onto the forecourt, intending to stay only for a few minutes.

There were two women, one old, the other older, gossiping on the pavement a little way away. Immediately I got out of the car, the older woman rushed at me.

Who gave you permission to park on my space? she demanded to know. I tried to explain: I’m just delivering something across the road, I’ll only be a minute. Do you mind? Well, you got no right to park on my space, so just move! she said, the ‘bloody English’ neon sign flashing brightly over her head. You’re always parking here! (I have done once or twice over the years, no-one has ever objected before.)

But you don’t even live here! I made the mistake of pointing to the empty building. Or maybe it was the mistake of arguing with her at all. Out came the soapbox: Yes I do, it’s my house. (She doesn’t!) And you don’t even have a car! I persisted. And it’s Christmas! Doesn’t matter, you’re not having it. It’s my space, now move on!

So I ended up carting the chairs by hand all the way around the block, fury in my heart. These dimly illuminated country folk are just so possessive, disobliging – so unnecessary.

And now the uncouth Young Philistines had cut down a precious thing in a dying world, a beautiful flowering tree, just to show who owned it and what they could do with their property if they liked. We may be depressing, ignorant environmental vandals, but we have the power!

It was like meeting Donald Trump in a provincial Welsh suburban cul-de-sac. “I’m the President and you’re not!”

Aren’t other people entitled to enjoy beautiful things regardless of who owns them? I demanded pathetically, as we shuffled on, Hunzi and I. But there is no gainsaying a Welsh woman, is there. She stood her ground, Furie-like.

We can’t ever go by there again, I thought. We’ll have to go all the way round now. Fucking idiots! I called out, halfheartedly over my shoulder, anticipating the arrival of an irate husband, fisticuffs, the loss of my expensive dental bridge, as we rounded the corner of Simon’s house opposite.

He’s an environmentalist. He’ll understand, his garden’s a mess.

Somebody for God’s sake get me out of here, I thought.

Not for the first time.

x

“We are literally seeing now, the final stages of a race to the death: money versus the human race.”

Our money or your life #2

At the same time as an unknown number of people have died in a terrible fire in London, possibly over 100 on present figures, the death toll in Bangladesh from floods and landslides in a non-stop monsoon the past few days has topped 156.

Where are the Guardian columnistas challenging the neoliberal politics of the region? Why are we not furious that poor people in muslim countries are exposed to worse conditions than the rich? Why are we not demanding inquiries into the safety standards of Bangladeshi housing?

Watch the video from about 7.40: the incredible rains in Maharashtra, India. See idiot motorists commuting through rising floodwater, as if they do not recognise the consequences of what they are doing. Watch a motorcycle float down a river that was a street. Watch many motorcycles floating.

Vast areas of China, too, are underwater. Yet southern India and northern China are suffering severe drought and continuing 40 deg C.-plus heat. Food production is affected. (Postscriptum: 25 June, rescue workers are trying to find 120 people missing after a 2km-wide landlslide engulfed a village in Sichuan during heavy rain.)

Why is the Daily Mail not bemoaning the lack of environmental measures, I wonder? Why have Mr Trump and Mr ‘$100,000 a day’ Tillexxon not been arraigned on charges of criminal ecocide and failing to return their on-deposit soda bottles?

Possibly because, as the BogPo is reading in a new book called ‘Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Men Who Are Destroying Life on Earth–And What It Means for Our Children’, by Dick Russell, exposed by a remarkable coalition of the extended billionaire Rockefeller family there has been a forty-year cover-up and disinformation campaign costing hundreds of millions of dollars by the boards of Exxon-Mobil, Koch Industries, Devon Oil and other giant energy corporations, of the fact that their own research departments in the 1970s predicted exactly this outcome if we continued to burn fossil fuels at an ever-increasing rate; and they deliberately suppressed it.

People have been purposely confused, undermined, lied to for years by false-front ‘think-tanks’ and cynical PR men who have become millionaires in the process; by glib pork-barrel politicians who have had their mouths stuffed with cash.

We are literally seeing now, the final stages of a race to the death: money versus the human race.

And money is winning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv-gY4Nc9wg

‘It’s the same the whole world over, ain’t it all a bleedin’ shame? It’s the rich wot gets the pleasure, and the poor wot gets the blame.’

On the subject of wealthy America, where of course the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina set the benchmark for official nonchalance, let us remember an incident, not much reported here, back in February when, after a weekend in which fifty tornadoes ripped through Georgia and Louisiana, killing 22 people including a toddler sucked into the air and never found, desperate pleas for federal help from the counties affected fell on deaf ears.

So yes, it’s good that we are holding ourselves now to a higher standard. These tragedies are always accompanied by the hollow sound of stable doors being bolted, ‘lessons’ being ‘learned’, but this time the floppy sound of handwringing over social conditions and inequality might begin to move our political logjam a little further downstream.

I say ‘might’.

 

Meanwhile, in faraway Portugal…

Many parts of the world are starting to look like this.

The death toll in the forest fires that have consumed much of Beiras province in central Portugal over the weekend has topped 60, with many more injured. Families burned to death in their cars as they tried to evacuate their villas and villages along winding mountain roads.

The fires have followed days of 40 deg. C-plus temperatures and no rain for weeks.

Today’s running story in the British press is, obviously, the Grenfell Tower fire. There’s much discussion of the cynical refusal by successive governments obsessed with austerity to vote enough money for recommended safety improvements in public housing, or for local authorities to maintain fully co-ordinated emergency services.

A typical headline in The Observer asks: “Why does it take a tragedy like Grenfell Tower for ministers to put lives above saving money?”

You could extrapolate that sentiment on a global scale. The BogPo has recently been reporting ad nauseam on the alarming coincidence of extreme weather events all around the world. Hundreds of people have died already this year in floods and ‘once in 100 years’ storms; millions are threatened by drought.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the world is heating to danger level, with consequent effects on the weather. Fossil fuel companies like Exxon-Mobil have known this would happen since the 1970s. Yet despite increasing divestment by concerned institutional shareholders they continue to pour $ millions into campaigns to promote public confusion and denial that there is anything wrong. With $35 trillion still in the ground and over a billion cars in the world they feel they have no choice, even if it means we don’t either.

And while they proclaim their ‘green’ credentials by spending a token amount on renewables (projects that also make them money) and post lovely images of healthy crops benefitting from their wondrous developments in poisonous chemical controls, crops in the real world now shrivelled and drowning, they continue to suppress their own research into alternative methods of carbon-free power generation and engine technology by squatting on thousands of undeveloped patents.

The question therefore ought to be rephrased:

“Why does it take many tragedies like Portugal for global corporations to put lives above making money?”

 

Spring is bustin’ out all over: 2017 nature survey. Plus: We want our bins emptied: the hidden undercurrents of UK foreign policy.

A feeling you’re being swallowed-up by Nature

“It’s a landscape that would have set a writer like JG Ballard thinking.”

Hi.

Look, I know you’re probably not reading this. You’d rather be reading those old stories about the ill-fated Comex 2 expedition, or How to Live in a Stately Home, basically by becoming a desperately underpaid caretaker, that I Posted years ago.

But I need your help.

Wherever you live, and you should know, I’d like you to just take a few seconds next time you’re out on a walk in some countryside, assuming you don’t live in a city or a desert, to look around and tell me if you’ve ever seen so much spring growth, looking so healthy?

Because I’m well on in my seventh decade and I can honestly say, my walks with Hunzi are getting like we’re being swallowed-up by Nature. One day soon we might go out and never find our way home!

I try to tell people, but they just shrug and hurry on by, staring at the ground – hopefully, to avoid treading on snails.

I was born and raised in the city, but for the past 32 years I’ve lived either deep in, or right on the edge of, the west British countryside, where for some years I worked as a gardener and estate manager.

My location is only a couple of miles from the sea, where nothing is ever taken to extremes other than sometimes Atlantic storm fronts that come sweeping through, the tails of old Gulf hurricanes, in recent years with increasing violence; although this year I remember only one called Brian. It’s Goldilocks country: seldom too warm, never too cold. Never too sunny, seldom too wet. Perfect!

Bracken up to my shoulders – in early June (there’s a railway behind the gate, I think).

Over the past few years, however, I’ve noticed it’s been getting greener. Which is to say, there’s more vegetation coming up in spring, flowering or blossoming earlier, growing taller and more luxuriant; all tumbling over itself in the fight for light.

This year has been just phenomenal. It’s impossible to do justice to the scene using a cheap  cameraphone; anyway, in a photograph you’ve got nothing to judge by, no sense of time passing and little sense of scale. But I’m trying…

And so healthy! For years, our trees have been showing signs of stress. Ash die-back, chestnut canker, oak wilt… We’ve been hearing for a long time of terminal threats to the traditional British countryside. This year there’s no sign of those diseases in my local river-valley arboretum; no tragic spindly thinning of crowns, no sooty or powdery mildew on the leaves.

It’s frankly a little scary to see this and have no idea what’s really going on. There seems to be a lot more birdsong than usual, too. Nestbuilding started early, courtship flights in February? Maybe the birds can tell me what is going on? It’s even scarier that I don’t know anyone else who has really noticed those things until I raise the subject.

That’s why I need your help. Do please feel free to write and tell me if you’ve noticed it too!

My theory seems too way-out for anyone who doesn’t follow the unfolding story of climate change and what it is doing to the planet, or who doesn’t want to. I mention it, but they just look like they don’t understand, or don’t want to know. The weather here is so, well, normal, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like further south.

A while ago, I came across a mention of a report that said biomass – vegetation – has increased around the world by about eleven per cent since some appropriate time in the past, owing to increasing carbon dioxide – CO2 – in the air, encouraging plant growth.

Uh-huh, I thought, that seems to fit.

Mats of weed forming on the local river. I’ve not seen these before.

A little later, I read that atmospheric CO2 is now at 410 parts per million (I have no idea what a ‘part’ represents, by the way. I generally think in terms of measures as small: a large wine-glass, and big: half a ‘Wales’), about 50 per cent higher than at the beginning of the 1900s, thanks to burning oil, gas and coal; also, thanks to intensive livestock farming, which through the efforts of the intensive livestock farming industry doesn’t often get mentioned as the real problem it is.

A 100 per cent increase in CO2, to 570 ppm, would produce, experts say, about five degrees of warming globally. But much less warming, less than two degrees, might be enough to trigger massive releases of methane gas locked-up in the frozen tundra and under the Arctic sea. Methane, a form of carbon-plus-hydrogen, is an accelerant for global warming and it’s said to be reaching danger levels.

With a big enough methane release we could have a planet that’s ten degrees warmer by 2030, and that’s not survivable. Most life would go extinct.

Because it appears that plants can absorb only so much CO2.

Lots of supposedly reliable websites like the BBC and The Telegraph reported a while ago, research that shows plants are capable of absorbing more CO2 than was thought, and will therefore save the world. This sounds to me like one of those ‘fake news’ stories, misleading research that is put out by scientists and PR lobbyists working for the fossil fuel industry.

The helpful Skepticalscience.com website, however, paints a different picture, reporting that:

 “Too high a concentration of CO2 causes a reduction of photosynthesis in certain plants. There is also evidence from the past of major damage to a wide variety of plants species from a sudden rise in CO2. Higher concentrations of CO2 also reduce the nutritional quality of some staples, such as wheat.”

Shoulder-high clumps of wildflowers and weeds fighting for light

So, with reduced photosynthesis, do plants need to produce more leaf-area, more luxuriant growth, to get enough food from sunlight?

Also, says the report, more rapid plant growth requires more rainwater – not of the rapid, flood-everything kind we are increasingly seeing, but of the slow percolation, ‘little-and-often’ kind – and reduces soil fertility. It’s worth reading the whole article: Plants Cannot Live on CO2 Alone (skepticalscience.com/co2-plant-food.htm)

Other reports say 97 per cent (it’s always ’97 per cent’!) of warming to date has gone into the oceans, which has created different but equally problematic effects. It’s acidifying the water, killing the plankton at the base of the food chain that absorbs CO2 and produces most of our oxygen; causing sea-level rise through volume expansion, that’s already periodically inundating seaside communities like ours; and melting the polar sea-ice cover – which in turn creates wider ‘dark water’ areas that absorb more solar energy.

Another effect of the warming ocean is to iron-out the gradients between warmer and colder water. This has an effect on important currents like the Gulf Stream, which this year produced a worrying ‘cold spot’ in the north Atlantic; but also on the jetstream, the high-altitude, high-velocity winds that circle the globe, normally at latitudes defining the arctic and antarctic circles.

A riot of blossom on tree-high gorse.

In recent years the jetstream has been losing energy, meandering around slowly and allowing warm air to move into the polar regions and dumping frigid air on the USA and central Europe. Stronger winds at lower altitudes are creating bigger waves in the arctic, that are helping to breakup the thinning sea-ice; warmer water in the Southern Ocean is undermining the vast antarctic ice-shelves, causing them to breakup and disperse; meltwater is lubricating glaciers everywhere, speeding up their rate of travel and eventual disappearance.

Views of Antarctica are now, paradoxically, showing areas of the formerly ice-covered or barren, rocky land turning green with new forests of mosses.

So it seems we’re not going to win against the climate, and increasing numbers of scientists are advising us to say our prayers and enjoy life while we can.

But a walk through the magical new ‘subtropical rain-forest’ environment that is my nearby river valley, for however short a time it may last, is to step back into an era historians remind us was a time of abundance in the natural world that we’ve been missing now since our great-grandparents’ generation; and maybe hadn’t even noticed had gone by.

It’s a landscape that would have set a writer like JG Ballard thinking.

He liked a good apocalypse.

x

Google images ‘Vote for a harder Brexit!’ (But the Tories tanked.)

x“…it may very well be that one of the first votes in the new Parliament will be on whether or not to go to war once again…”

We want our bins emptied: the hidden foreign policy undercurrents of the UK election

It’s getting bad.

Extraordinary arctic temperature anomalies, smog-laden anticyclones, supercell storms and ‘polar vortices’ descending as far south as Florida and even the Sahara (it snowed in Libya!), extreme weather events have been creating widespread and costly disruption.

There can be no question that climate change is now a permanent feature of life on earth and, driven by a warming climate, is having profound economic effects everywhere.

Against this background, President Trump has signalled US withdrawal from all measures to limit global warming in favour of a dash for profits for dinosaur American businesses.

While peoples affected by floods can expect the waters to abate and life to resume, there is an urgent need to rescue those suffering from seemingly permanent droughts and intolerable heat, in which normal agricultural production becomes impossible. Tens of millions are on the borderline of starvation, their condition ignored and exacerbated by corrupt governments in thrall to the fossil fuel extractors and the arms peddlars.

UN relief agencies have been crying out for support, as the flood of refugees – those who can manage to flee – becomes a tide; and the food runs out. But the USA under the criminal ecocide Trump is deliberately witholding promised financial aid to the UN.

What is their policy?

Other Western nations, egregiously Britain, but including ultra-nationalist, Islamophobic countries like Hungary, are forever moaning that these people need to look after themselves, demeaning their status and cutting aid while continuing to exploit their fragile economies with inequitable trade deals, erecting legal and physical barriers to forestall the inevitable point at which we will have to admit our policy is to let them all die; if we do not actually have to massacre them ourselves.

Thus climate change is an urgent foreign policy issue for every nation.

An issue that played absolutely no part in the UK’s customarily insular and parochial general election.

Nor, indeed, did the coming wars with Iran and North Korea, as the situation in Syria continues to spin out of control, that are threatening to engage the major powers.

Unlike Britain’s after eight years of pointless austerity, the economy of a resurgent and united European Union is on the rise. After her failed campaign aimed at securing a majority for a suicidal ‘hard Brexit’ negotiation with the 27 remaining members, Mrs May will struggle to maintain a government that is sufficiently ‘strong and stable’.

And it may very well be that one of the first debates in the new Parliament will be on whether or not to go to war once again, riding on America’s coat tails.

A war we have already shown in Iraq and Afghanistan we are ill-equipped to prosecute.

The extra money that always seems to be found for absurd military adventures in pursuit of lost glories will, of course, have to be denied to the collapsing social-care and health-service infrastructure, the schools already dumping teachers by the thousands and cutting free meals, the vanishing ‘early start’ childcare and youth apprenticeship schemes, the failing universities and adult education colleges, the closing women’s refuges – the disappearing bobbies on the beat.

The vanishing remnants of UKIP supporters will of course be delighted, but with even Romania’s economy growing at twice the rate of Britain’s, and our currency back on the floor, there will be no more economic incentive for EU workers to come here. We shall become increasingly a threadbare industrial and service nation, as it has long been a fantasy of the Right that there are millions of unemployed but fully deserving Britons willing to step in to take up the slack left by the hoped-for departure of the beastly ‘foreigners’ who have been undercutting our labour market.

There aren’t.

Foreign policy is inextricably linked to domestic affairs. Chickens tend to come home to roost. Theresa May’s hasty and ill-judged commitment to the epochally dysfunctional and malignant Trump administration may also shortly become another issue of foreign policy, a diplomatic train-wreck with which her bumbling apology for a Foreign Secretary, Mr Johnson (newly reconfirmed in his job. Why?) will soon have to deal.

That’s if he hasn’t made another bid for her job.

Dumping Trump

US politics receives massive coverage in the UK during their election periods, but almost none after.

‘Mister Trump’ as the BBC continues to refer to him in respectful tones, as if his corrupt, nepotistic and thuggish White House regime with its wrecking-crew of unqualified billionaire appointees were completely normal, is under intense Congressional scrutiny already, after only four months in office; while several criminal investigations continue to draw ever-closer to the cognitively impaired President as the centre possibly of a ring of money-launderers, disruptors and foreign agents.

He has found numerous ways to piss-off our trading partners and defensive treaty allies in Europe, which looks to The Pumpkin quite like Putin’s strategy, from whom we are foolishly hoping to detach ourselves with the minimum of damage to our economy. Brexit has not come at a good time, politically. Without Trump, without Mrs Merkel’s Europe, that can ‘no longer trust’ us, we could be finding ourselves a bit friendless and in a sorry state of growing irrelevance on the world stage.

It is incredibly serious.

Congressmen, pundits and the ‘fake news’ media in America are all in agreement: it’s already much worse than Watergate; which, let’s remember, happened during Nixon’s second term in office – not within days of his inauguration.

The President has continued to bluster, to lie, to threaten, to (apparently) attempt to pervert the course of justice, to fire investigators, to attack the media and the judiciary, to ringfence himself behind a battery of lawyers, to fantasize about ‘tapes’ of his mafia-boss-style conversations, mano a mano – and ultimately to sulk like a four-year-old, in an apparent attempt to push the investigations away from focussing on him personally.

Why? What has he been up to? What has he to fear? Why would an honest President not welcome an inquiry into possible wrongdoing among his campaign staff, if the strong suspicion arises?

So toxic is the Trump brand, four leading Washington law firms reportedly refused to take his case. Building owners have been removing his name from the facades of their Trump-sponsored hotels. He cannot find candidates to fill the more-than 500 vacant senior posts in various government agencies. Several of his closest aides have been implicated in the FBI’s investigations, even his son-in-law ‘Mister Kushner’ the ‘successful property developer’ who owes a billion dollars; and are under investigation for possible espionage, sanctions-busting and money-laundering, that is even now reaching out to figures in the UK with links to UKIP and the Leave campaign.

And like NATO, Trump doesn’t pay his bills – or his contractors. He is facing a mountain of lawsuits from aggrieved creditors; investigations are also ongoing into his possible misuse of private tax-exempt charity funds and his ‘Trump University’ scam; while he owes hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions, to foreign banks including sanctioned Russian banks, American banks having refused to lend him money for many years since he gained a reputation for suing banks when they asked for repayment.

And he is reportedly connected with wealthy oligarchs who may have found his particular business model helpful in managing their money. He seems vulnerable to pressure on many fronts.

There’s the in-fighting in the Oval Office.

Did Steve Bannon leak to the New York Times, the story that Kushner had meetings, first with Russian ambassador Kislyak and, shortly after, with the head of the VEB Bank – a Russian bank linked both to Putin and the FSB security service – who flew in specially for the meeting; and that he owes money to twenty banks? Kushner failed to declare the meetings on his security clearance form and dad-in-law has seemingly kicked him into the long grass over it, putting Bannon back at the centre of his advisory team.

Many of Trump’s speeches, policy statements and presidential ‘executive orders’ appear to support the theory that he is somehow beholden to, or in the pay of, President Putin; an idea that he has furiously denied in many seemingly self-incriminating tweets. He continues despite widespread criticism to give the impression of promoting Russia’s foreign-policy ambitions over those of the United States, and refuses to say a bad word about Mr Putin. Why? What is the connection? He refuses to say. He is certainly beholden to US energy billionaires and has made a frenzied assault on environmental protections.

Why, the Senate is demanding to know, did he meet with top Russian officials including Foreign Minister Lavrov in the Oval Office, excluding any US media from an unscheduled visit only a day after he fired the head of the FBI, James Comey? Comey now says Trump tried to stop him investigating his connections to the Russians; criminal interference with an investigation. What did Trump blab to the Russians about Israeli penetration of the ISIS network – a conversation publicly denied one minute by his security advisor, General McMaster, only to be admitted to in another self-incriminating late-night tweet the next?

Why did he insist on even his Attorney General leaving the room while he apparently attempted to secure a personal commitment of loyalty and a public statement from Comey that he himself was not being investigated, under the implied threat of removing the FBI director from his position? How did he imagine Comey could have given such an undertaking in the middle of an investigation without it compromising any possible future evidence that might have to be given in court?

And what was the purpose of the many meetings and phone calls the intelligence services are sure his aides had with Russian agents during and after the election campaign? Meetings which they denied under oath, but were later forced to admit to? Calls, intercepted by GCHQ and other European agencies? Why the secrecy? Why the cover-up?

Indeed, it appears that, even before the inauguration, efforts were being made to undermine the Obama regime’s sanctions against Russia; while top officials such as General Flynn and NSA head, Admiral Rogers who were dismissed by, or under investigation at the instigation of, Obama following intelligence intercepts, were immediately re-hired on the Trump campaign and transition teams and have continued to refuse point-blank to co-operate with Congressional committee hearings despite being held in contempt.

Why? What is their loyalty to Trump? Or is it because they too are under investigation by the FBI and cannot speak publicly without losing some promised immunity they may have been offered from prosecution? All the material has been handed over to special prosecutor Mueller; yet the Justice department refuses to confirm or deny that Mueller himself could, in theory, be answerable to the President for his job.

Why has Mr Trump not yet replaced the 47 circuit court judges he ‘retired’, some of whom were reportedly looking into his affairs; why did he fire Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, immediately after she had warned his White House counsel about the concerns of the intelligence community, specifically about his National Security Advisor, General Flynn, and his connections with Russia? Why, having fired him too, does he continue to try to rescue Flynn from the investigation?

Why, having been forced to recuse himself from any Russia-connected inquiries after lying several times on oath about his meetings with Russian officials, is Attorney General Jeff Sessions still in his job as the head of the Justice department; and how then did he apparently have a hand in the firing of Comey?

It is all incredibly serious.

The talk is of enforced resignation, possibly on grounds of mental ill-health. Senator Al Green of Texas is a black man, and a Democrat, and is therefore suffering a social media shitstorm of threatened lynchings and rapes of himself and his family by Trump’s crazier dumbfucks, but yesterday he announced he was drafting articles of impeachment.

However, Trump is protected against most criminal indictments – even for betraying classified information to a foreign power, which he has now done three times, claiming executive privilege – as long as he is still in office.

So there’s a long way to go before Trump is dragged kicking, screaming and tweeting infantile nonsense from behind his desk and admitted to a secure facility. Throughout his business career he has been suspected and accused of criminal wrongdoing and having deep connections with international crime syndicates – Dark Money – and the vastly wealthy and corrupt individuals who run them from the shadows.

The ‘evidence’ is to be found all over the internet, in the form of perfectly serious media investigations.

So counter-litigious is Trump, so manipulative, that nothing has ever stuck.

Maybe getting himself elected President, with or without overseas aid, will save him; maybe it will be his Nemesis.

Either way, Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with America will be sorely tested, as it becomes clear his promises on trade are not worth the paper – remember: ‘America First!’ – and he drags us into military intervention on a dangerous path to a new world war.

So you see, foreign policy is not something politicians should ignore at election time.

But, who cares?

We want our bins emptied!

 

More weather news…

You might not want to be in Capetown right now.

After months of drought and water rationing in the city, a terrifying storm has battered the Western Cape coast. Eight people are so far dead. The storm surge sent seawater flooding communities hundreds of metres inland. Lightning killed a woman and three children in a car; and has set fire to thousands of acres of tinder-dry forest. The wind was strong enough to overturn parked cars and prevented helicopters from firefighting. Schools and a hospital are among hundreds of homes and buildings evacuated and burned down in the town of Knysna.

One witness said: ‘It looks like a war zone’. Another, his dashcam recording as he drives through fire, just keeps repeating: ‘Fuck!’

The forecast is for the storm to last several more days.

Raw footage and local news reports on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE1-Pdl4sXM

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 19: ‘Slumdog Billionaires’; The Only Way Is Ethics.

 

“For some reason I don’t seem able to breathe?”

I’m sorry, but your President is a racist hypocrite

A few days ago, two American men, one an army veteran, who stepped in to try to stop a white supremacist dogturd yelling abuse on a Portland, Oregon train while waving a knife at two terrified young muslim girls, were stabbed to death.

In the dock the gross-looking, unrepentant, arrogant little piece of trailer-trash shouted Trump-like slogans about ‘America First!’ – apparently unaware of the fact that he’d just butchered two fellow white Americans.

‘America First!’ is of course the English for ‘Allahu akbar!’

From the White House there was only silence until, three days later, in face of a growing public campaign to get the President to at least say something appropriately condemnatory, if only to express some sympathy with the dead men’s families, the orange fatarse tweeted that the killings were ‘unacceptable’.

While his official Twitter feed, that he doesn’t write, grudgingly admitted that ‘the victims were standing up to hate and intolerance’, the following day the President of the United States of America posted this on his personal feed:

“The Fake News Media works hard at disparaging & demeaning my use of social media because they don’t want America to hear the real story!”

This is an intolerable situation for any American, to have elected as President a self-serving Philistine with arrested development and zero affect, a grossly spoiled, solipsistic child-man who is more concerned about his personal fucking reputation than about the lives of the more decent of his citizens, or even the fate of his country, now branded around the world thanks to him as a pariah state.

As if to rub in the point, within minutes of the latest outrage in London, in which eight bystanders and three perpetrators were killed on Saturday night, and many more injured, in a car-and-knife rampage on London Bridge, this treacherous racist pig was on the phone to Prime Minister May, hypocritically offering any help and support the US could give.

He knows, we feel certain, that it was British intelligence that alerted the National Security Administration in 2015 to the suspicious activities of his wrecking-crew on the campaign staff and their many contacts with Russian spies and money-laundering oligarchs. We feel sure therefore that the phone call was intended merely to suggest that we could still be friends, despite the scornful attitude of the EU and the rest of the world.

To add insult to injury – this outrage on our streets is none of his fucking business but he seems determined to make political capital – he has since launched an astonishing attack on the muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The Guardian reports:

“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack,” the president wrote on his personal Twitter account, “and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!”

“The mayor, Sadiq Khan, did not use the phrase “no reason to be alarmed” in a statement overnight or when he spoke in a television interview earlier on Sunday.” – The Guardian

So, more shameless inventions squirting from the President’s lying Twitter feed. When will he be imprisoned? He would be an embarrassment if he weren’t so incredibly unpleasant.

What Khan actually said was:

“This was a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners and visitors to our city enjoying their Saturday night,” he said. “I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. There is no justification whatsoever for such barbaric acts.” (Ibid.)

No longer trusted by the European allies, like the school bully toadying up to any kid who isn’t already his victim, desperate for validation, America and Brexiting Britain now need one another more than ever.

For Trump, those two American heroes were just a pair of losers. As far as he is concerned the only evil terrorism is Islamic evil terrorism, which he proposes to continue bombing into submission, at whatever cost to the rest of us, because he sucked up the Bush line about the ‘war on terror’ and he liked the sound of that.

He will make what propaganda he will out of terrorist attacks abroad – Islamic resistance that his own foreign policy is clearly exacerbating – while remaining sanguine about the vile tide of white racism he has unleashed in America.

That pleases his loyal band of dumbfucks, who are just now waking up to the news that he’s put their taxes up and slashed their healthcare to enrich his billionaire friends and funders, and swamped his administration with Wall Street insiders and fossil lobbyists; but who don’t seem to mind.

We are reminded that two weeks from today will mark the anniversary of the horrific murder on a Yorkshire street of the rights campaigner and pro-Remain MP, mother-of-two Jo Cox by Thomas Mair, a deluded ‘Britain First!’ loner with ties to a neo-Nazi group in South Africa.

A murder celebrated at the time on ‘social’ media by many of Donald J Trump’s extremist supporters with howls of delight.

Evil. Sick. Demented slime-dwelling creatures with a grossly overinflated sense of their importance, granted to them by the capitalist illusion of unregulated ‘social media’.

Unacceptable.

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Slumdog Billionaires

Amid the global contumely and condemnation both abroad and at home of Mister Trump’s singular repudiation (against the best advice available) of the Paris accord, as now doth America, so stands he sadly alone.

And that’s just where he seems happiest, bathed in the refulgence of his own self-pitying solipsism.

Poor Donny, nobody loves you now.

Except he’s not really alone, despite not being able to recruit staff to replace the ones he’s already fired because he doesn’t trust them. I mean, would you?

For Steve Bannon is back in the shadows, having thrown Mister Trump’s politically inexperienced son-in-law, plastic boy Mister Kushner, 36, a successful millionaire property developer (as the supine and compliant wankers at BBC News keep calling the billion-dollar bankrupt), under the giant crunching wheels of the FBI juggernaut last week with a well-aimed leak to the New York Times about his undeclared meetings with Russian officials.

We could possibly swallow the line about opening a back-channel to Moscow, were it not for two clues that it might not be true.

One, he lied about it; or rather, failed on oath to tell the truth. Why? If opening back-channels with known spies when front-channels aren’t working is a good thing for foreign relations, why not say so? But why not wait until Trump was inaugurated before playing footsie with the enemy? And why did other members of the transition teams – Flynn, Sessions, lie more than once about their meetings with Russians?

And two, what on earth was Kushner then doing, having meetings with Sergei Gorkov – the head of VneshEconomBank, or VEB, a Putin crony heading a known FSB intelligence service slush-fund operation, who has no diplomatic credentials whatever?

Add to that, Kushner was not an accredited government official with a security clearance at the time of the meetings, and was thus not legally in a position to hold unofficial meetings with Russian diplomats. It’s illegal under the Logan Act for an ordinary citizen to treat with a foreign power; which possibly explains why he wouldn’t own up to it as it made him an unregistered foreign agent.

Just as had been General Flynn, now thought to be pouring what remains of his heart out to the FBI; Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, all under the spotlight now but all sometime Trump appointees to the campaign team. Not to mention poor Nigel Farage, whose overweening vanity appears to have landed him in the compromising rats’ nest of slumdog billionaires surrounding Orange Satan.

Let’s be charitable. Let’s say, Mister Trump was innocently ‘cucked’ by a conspiracy of Russian agents. His known past associations with New York and Russian mafia figures seem to have been based merely on a mission to do business and to win, whatever it takes; rather than on any desire to personally run drugs or pimp trafficked women. In the mafia, loyalty to the family is everything. Trump is loyal to no-one but his great big beautiful self.

Nevertheless he seems to have a history of courting shady characters while assiduously avoiding criminal proceedings. He perhaps sees criminal types usefully as ‘winners’ rather than ‘losers’, because they have money to flash around and a total disregard for the norms and conventions of society, which he sees as a conspiracy of the losers.

It’s possible, is it not, that he was willing to work with, to turn a blind eye to, a nasty little cabal of traitors, sanctions-busters, money-launderers, PR sloths and verminous oil-industry lowlifes willing to go-between where you and I wouldn’t, because he saw only the advantages for his campaign of playing dirty.

The downside – life imprisonment for treason, possibly – never crossed his greedy old mind, other than as a Freudian transference of his own culpability onto his political opponent, ‘Crooked Hillary’.

It’s an old mind that appears to be failing, to judge by some of his TV appearances. I especially recommend the one where, in the middle of a meeting with Kushner’s mentor, Israeli hardman Binyamin Netanyahu, the Donald just stands up looking confused, brushes away a handshake opportunity and stumbles off the stage as if he has no idea where he is, leaving Bibi clearly puzzled and annoyed. It’s not the first time he has gone wandering off like that.

But his spoiled infantilism, his apparent auto-immunity from responsibility, his notorious Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder that means briefings have to be presented to him in short comic-strip form, the overbearing narcissism that means to retain his interest those briefings have to include frequent mentions (in a positive light) of his own name, praising him for his wisdom and maturity; those abusive meltdowns when he feels he is the only person he can trust to do things properly, or when he’s no longer the centre of attention – Entrepreneur Syndrome – a burning desire to please his authoritarian father – those are the attributes that leave him intensely vulnerable to the Iago of the Oval Office, Stephen K Bannon.

The Pumpkin feels that Trump – sorry, Mister Trump – is in fact in the grip of two separate but conjoined conspiracies; we have previously shown they are linked by money and religion. There is the Russia thing, where it still has not been shown that he is not financially compromised by private bankers, as many people seem to suspect, or worse; and then there is the alt-right nationalist, fundamentalist Christian Breitbart News connection, fronted by Bannon and backed by the Mercers, Robert and daughter Rebekah.

Did Mercer weaponize the Russian-hacked Hillary intel through his Cambridge Analytica company to fix the election of his boy Donald? Just askin’.

Anyway, so, whatever, back to Kushner – sorry, Mister Kushner – and his dealings with the Russians. You see, lots of cable TV news anchors are putting two and two together, and leaping to the unlikely conclusion that the meetings with Ambassador Kislyak were to get a deal whereby Orange Dad would lift Obama’s sanctions and restore the two Russian embassy ‘holiday compounds’ in New York State and Maryland that Obama shut down because of the Trump campaign’s close Russia connections, to which he had been alerted by foreign intelligence services in 2015.

Was that in exchange for a bailout from the VEB’s Gorkov to cover the Kush’s huge losses in the property market? Essentially putting the son-who-also-rises in the same bad applecart as Orange Dad? As in “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” – Eric (Little Nazi) Trump.

It is obviously much too fanciful to speculate that the whole thing might have been Vladimir’s idea. ‘Don’t worry about the $1 billion Steve Bannon accidentally told the Fake News press via his back-channels that you owe twenty banks, plastic tovarich, don’t bother getting it from Soros, he’s not happy with you anymore. We’ll consolidate the loan in exchange for a few simple concessions, like you let us have the cozy rats’ nests back that the nasty black man took away; and if you take off those silly financial sanctions too we’ll let Tex Tillexxon drill the fuck out of the Arctic, now you’ve melted it for us.

How’s that for improving relations?

x

The only way isn’t Ethics

Yes, sorry.

While all this may or may not have been deniably going on, Mr Trump back from holiday abusing the EU and NATO ‘allies’ has rediscovered what his right hand is for and signed into Executive purgatory pending congressional rubber-stamping a number of useful new measures we in Britain probably aren’t going to hear about on the credulous BBC news, courtesy of our man in Washington, John Sopoor.

For instance, Congress purportedly has oversight of what used to be known as ‘ethics’ in government. You know, anti-corruption, influence peddling, nepotism, illegal acceptance of foreign emoluments, peddling of US immigration visas, obstruction of justice sort of things.

Among the latest edicts to emanate from the Oval Office has been the suspension of ethical oversight for President Bannon and 16 other members of the cabinet.

All these Trumpointees were in the anomalous position of having worked until recently as paid lobbyists, or as persons with clear conflicts of interest, having previously worked in private-sector companies and now finding themselves in positions of authority over branches of the government responsible for matters pertaining to their previous employments, as it were.

Those conflicts of interest were just about mitigated by a two-year separation rule. Now, the New Swamp has been granted immunity from ethical oversight, to enable them to more quickly and efficiently carry out their mission of destroying the administration and unpicking the regulatory environment, especially where good governance conflicts with the interests of their billionaire backers.

It’s all more businesslike, you see.

And as we recall, Mr Trump has never quite understood the role of an Opposition party in the two houses of Congress. Obama was a Democratic Party choice, so obviously the President hates Democrats, especially more popular ones; as they don’t have a majority in either house, which makes them poor losers.

But when it came to getting things like the wonderful healthcare bill through, the Democrats were just a complete nuisance, weren’t they, opposing everything he is trying to do to make America great again?

Donny’s not sure he can abolish Democrats entirely, but he can make certain of one thing. They won’t be interfering in this tiresome, Fake News thing about Russia and the FBI. Why, he’s never had any dealings with Russia, except the ones he has had.

His latest diktat therefore seeks to prevent any Democratic party politicians, such as the Ranking member, Senator Warner of the Intelligence committee, that is due to hear more possibly damning testimony from that bastard Comey on Monday, from requesting information from the FBI without first getting permission from the Republican chair of the committee, Senator Burr.

Because he doesn’t have power to order the Democrats around, he’s using his position as Chief Executive and therefore head of the security services (bypassing General Kelly, the head of Homeland Security) to tell the FBI instead that they are under no circumstances to co-operate with Democratic representatives and senators investigating his connections with Russian intelligence, unless authorised so to do, effectively by him.

To what lengths, one wonders, does Trump have to go in the obstruction of justice to earn himself an indictment on grounds of a federal crime? Well, it seems his new Italian lawyer buddy has told him, the Prez is immune to prosecution for pretty much anything unless and until he’s been impeached and removed from office for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’.

Anyway, it’s now being reported that he is weighing-up with his lawyers the possibility of using executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying. How incriminating would that be? In the words of the repellent former Exxon contractor and current Trump energy adviser Myron Ebell, on hearing of opposition to the withdrawal from the Paris accord, ‘Who cares?’

So he seems like Nixon to be at liberty for now to go on trying to impede or make go away the many lines of investigation into himself and his cronies; but he is surely stacking up a mountain of trouble if the House Republicans eventually understand they’re going to be the biggest losers in history in 2018 if they don’t Dump Trump and find someone more capable and less disaster-prone – although for the GOP that’s going to be a stretch.

They’re almost all straw men, fossil-fuel shills and fundamentalist cretins who couldn’t find anybody better than the ineffective and appalling Trump the last time. Ted Cruz? Rick Santmoron? Mike Pence? Please God, not the spaniel-eyed nodding-dog Paul Ryan? while no-one in their right mind would want to follow Trump into the White House, with all the media attention and odious comparisons that would create; and with Trump’s paludine appointees still in place.

No, the genie is out of the bottle, the evils out of Pandora’s box, the system broken. President of the United States is just not a viable employment any longer for any normal, sane human being, which is why you have Trump now. Get rid of him, and get rid of the office. You don’t need ’em.

Free yourselves from institutionalized tyranny, is our advice.

Postscriptum

The Pumpkin has just been watching Mike Nichols’ clever movie of Joseph Heller’s bleakly comic novel, Catch 22, again.

He’d forgotten how like the young Donald Trump is the character of Milo Minderbinder, the heartless entrepreneur who swaps the aircrews’ parachutes for a consignment of cotton-wool balls he coats in chocolate to sell as cakes. Later on, he persuades another US squadron to bomb his own base so he can collect the insurance on the cotton-wool balls he can’t shift.

Of course, such things could never happen in real life.

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I love Paris in the Springfall

“…the target for restricting warming to 1.5 degrees C is already tragically out of date.”

The Pumpkin went slightly overboard on Wednesday night, trolling several Trump supporters in base language over the Paris thing. He blames an incipient 24-hour virus and a bottle of inexpensive Merlot.

In fact it seems unlikely that serious environmental damage will be done as a direct result of abrogating the treaty. It’s more a matter of the global shame and embarrassment most Americans were feeling the next day, the loss of leadership, knowing that everyone now thinks they’re a bunch of uneducated, small-minded ecocidal maniacs who want to withdraw from the world behind a big wall and overthrow the postwar applecart, playing right into Mister Putin’s relatively large hands for such a small man.

There are two reasons why abandoning the accord will make little difference.

One is that the target for restricting warming to 1.5 degrees C is already tragically out of date. The Paris accord is a feelgood declaration, something for the nations of the world (except only Syria, Nicaragua and the USA) to come together over, but it’s far too little and too late to stop a life-denying six degree rise occurring before 2030.

But the second is more encouraging. Many US State governors and big-city mayors have come out in force to tell the deluded President he’s wrong and they’re going to go on aiming for carbon reductions whatever Bannon, the religiose fuckwits and fossil-fuel shills in the White House and in Congress are saying, and have recommitted to the Clean Energy policy of the Obama administration, which was actually working.

After all, they’re the ones who are having to mop up the floods and beat out the wildfires, find the water for agriculture, hold back the sea and reconstruct the tornado-smashed suburbs and trailer parks, that are costing the nation $billions.

And they’re being supported from the most unlikely quarters; apart from the filthy, rich Koch Brothers, the creepy uncles you wouldn’t want at your wedding, almost every energy corporate CEO and tech billionaire has come out of the bunker to tell the President he’s wrong about controlling emissions; that renewables are a business opportunity, not a threat; that there are five times more jobs in solar than in coal. (You have to admire their principles.)

That’s likely to make him even madder and more isolated, but even so.

Anyway,he’s not listening.

The Pumpkin is also feeling very positive about President Macron of France. So far he appears not to have put a foot wrong, apart from one of his ministerial appointees being hauled out of the Quai d’Orsée and charged with tax fraud. Can happen to anyone – and frequently does nowadays. He’s got a crushing handshake one has to admire.

In fact The Pumpkin is thinking positively again about moving to France, if possible, now the threat of Marine le Pen has temporarily receded, to get away from Theresa May – although Corbyn’s poll ratings have been dramatically narrowing since he bought a suit, so it might be worth hanging on.

And a brilliant speech from Macron, a blast against the Monstrous Trump: ‘make the world great again’ – in English, too. Classic. And he’s told Putin where to get off. Formidable!

It’s also a very good sign, we feel, that the governing Fine Gael party in Ireland has chosen by a big majority, as its new leader and Prime Minister, or Taoiseach, a second-generation Indian immigrant doctor who came out as gay in 2015.

That, and gay marriage too? Ah, da toimes, dey are a’changin’. It certainly spells the end of the shameful history of domination by the Catholic church in Ireland.

Excuse the poor attempt at a Dublin accent.

x

Death: the art of the deal

BTW, where does Britain stand as a major exporter of probably illegal arms to war-criminal Saudi Arabia, now that Mister Trump has bought the shop?

His $300 billion deal ought to cover most of their child-killing needs for the foreseeable future, closing-out BAe as a key supplier. So much for Mrs May’s supine adherence to the postwar protocol that Britain supports the USA in any of its adventures, advisable or otherwise (except Harold Wilson, who courageously kept us out of the Vietnam war – thus sparing my life. Ed.)

And as usnews.com reported: “A new administration and a new arms deal in the Middle East sends shares of defense contractors soaring.”

It seems no amount of bribery makes one immune to a bigger deal.

Kushner was impressively able right there in Riyadh to persuade the CEO of Lockheed-Martin to lower the price of some high-tech arsenal of death or other with a single phone call to clinch the bargain.

God knows what that’s cost the American taxpayer: while Mrs Kushner was no doubt delighted to accept a $100 million ‘donation’ from the shameless Saudis on behalf of a private charity she runs, promoting – all together now – women’s rights. (She has of course recused herself from benefiting personally, under the Foreign Emoluments clause, while in office.)

Women’s rights. From the Saudis!

Women’s rights.