The Pumpkin – Issue 29: Is Anyone Awake?; Minnie the Moocher; Baked Alaska; Maids in America; Where’s Wendi Deng?

“The security implications are just awful”

“Washington is very busy with other things right now, unfortunately. The healthcare vote was an incredible blow to the Republican party. I suspect that many in office are licking their wounds today,” (a spokeswoman said). “The US state department is not fully staffed. I don’t think they are staffed up for this event.” – James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Is anyone awake?

Thus the Trump administration, in tatters, boldly responds to “this event” – another threatening and provocative intercontinental ballistic missile test by North Korea, the potentially nuclear-armed projectile splashing down harmlessly yet undiplomatically 1,000 miles away within the sovereign Japanese Economic Area, or sea as it’s known. And with a second test reported this morning, Pyongyang is crowing that it can now hit anywhere in the continental United States.

What goes up…

Yet Trump has lost the plot. He’s throwing tantrums over the unpatriotic Democrat opposition (the clue is in the word) conspiracy against him to thwart his great new American healthcare bill (it doesn’t exist – somebody tell him). He’s sending menacing Mafia-style tweets to Republican senatorial recusants accusing them of letting the nation down (L’État, c’est moi, as Louis X1V the ‘Sun King’ used to say). He prefers to target the LGBTs in his own military and is picking fights with everyone from his White House Chief of Staff, the weedy Reince Priebus, to surely his most loyal acolyte, the lying Georgia weasel, Attorney General Jeff Sessions; while appointing an unpleasant, foul-mouthed, preening little bitch from the mean streets of New York, Wall Street being the meanest, Anthony Scaramucci – ‘The Mooch’, yuck – to be his new ‘communications’ director.

Minnie the Moocher

So, already becoming the other big story of the week, which Trump won’t like as he prefers to be the centre of attention, the media- unsavvy Scaramouche is a former Goldman Sachs investment whatnot and millionaire hedge-trimmer, who has already caused a media shitstorm by threatening to fire the entire WH pressroom staff unless someone fesses up to who leaked the story that he’d been invited to dinner with Fox News w’anchor, Sean Hannity, and the President. A ‘leak’ he describes as having major national security implications… and blamed Chief of Staff Priebus.

And then he has given some rather odd interviews, explaining that while politicians stab each other in the back he’s more of a ‘front-stabber’; expressed his loathing of the media, forced the resignation of a random innocent press office spokesman and gone off on a potty-mouthed rant, accusing Priebus (who tried to block his appointment) of being a ‘fucking paranoiac’* and Steve Bannon, not without some insight, of ‘sucking his own cock’ – in a message to a New Yorker magazine reporter. He followed up with an insouciant tweet apologising that it’s just his way of communicating, and then promptly deleted it.

With his extreme views about ‘leakers’ – he’s publicly said he’d like to have them all ‘fuckin’ killed’, the adorable little fantasist, ignoring that most of the Whiteyleaks come from the Oval Office itself – and his troublingly effusive declarations of ‘genuine love’ for the President, people are already questioning his sanity, especially as his job doesn’t even start until 15 August and he has no power to fire anybody. But the rightwing media and Trump, of course, is loving it. The Mooch is his kinda guy.

The story took a brilliant turn this morning when, according to The New York Post, Scaramucci’s blonde WASP wife Deirdre announced over breakfast that she’s filing for divorce, explaining that she doesn’t want to have to drag the kids to Washington, she loathes Donald Trump, and despairs of her husband’s revolting Presidential bumsucking: “She is tired of his naked ambition, which is so enormous that it left her at her wits’ end.”

All this is just a pleasant diversion, as we haven’t heard much about the FBI investigation into Trump family enterprises and his manoeuvering to fire the Special Counsel, Bob Mueller, for at least three days.

So the President is absolutely not paying attention to national security.

Meanwhile, most of the posts at the State Department and key ambassadorships in the SE Asia region remain unfilled; Secretary of State ‘Tex’ Rex Tillexxon has gone on vacation and is reportedly considering his untenable position. He’s been sidelined on foreign affairs by Trump’s plastic-toy and all-purpose foreign affairs Nanki-poo, Kushner, now on his second team of defense lawyers; and thwarted in his expectation that Russia sanctions would be lifted, allowing the zillion-dollar Exxon-Rosneft deal to go ahead to drill the fuck out of the Arctic, thereby inflating the $245 million share package he left the company with.

Jefferson Beleaguered Sessions 111, the subject of so many frankly disgraceful undermining public tweets from little Presidential thumbs in recent days (not that we give a shit what happens to him, it’s the principle of the thing) has taken the hint, too, and is away on an important fact-finding visit to discuss jurisprudence in El Salvador.

Republican majority leaders in Congress so badly need to get a grip on this insecure, vindictive, whining little mafia-baby they put in the White House. But they’re not home either.

With Kim Jong-un rampant and the Chinese quietly taking over the vacated spaces of the world, the Russians angry because their boy Trump hasn’t come through for them on sanctions, floods and wildfires everywhere, trade deals in abeyance, revolt brewing in the House, the State department emasculated, the military confused, the FBI closing in – the security implications are just awful.

Not so very post-scriptum…

And tonight, after being escorted from the White House by Security, Mini the Mooch is hightailing it back to New York, fired by General Kelly after only ten days in a job he wouldn’t officially have started for another two weeks. The senile President had to do as he was told by heavily-bemedalled daddy or be sent to bed with no milk and cookies.

Lucky man, it may save his marriage. And he won’t have to sell his business for $85 million to the Chinese, which was going to be another problem as it looked like a dirty backroom deal to gain influence with the regime in Washington. Bad.

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“Under the demented policies of the Golden Orb, the USA is going all-out to extract and burn every last drop of its own energy as quickly as possible…”

Baked Alaska

In a desperate, last-minute attempt to give the screaming baby a sugar-dummy to suck on before the babysitters head off to abuse one another at summer camp, the chinless Sen. McConnell’s terrible compromise ‘skinny repeal’ bill, just to pare back any parts of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act he can, failed at 2 a.m. yesterday to pass.

Like its two failed predecessors, the bill was cooked-up in secret by a kitchen cabinet of late-middle-aged rich conservative white men to carve 72-oz entrecote steaks off Obamacare and give the best cuts away to the top 2% (who already own 80% of the wealth of America).

And now everyone is in the toilet.

Which is great when your equally insecure, vindictive, whining little mafia-baby enemy over the water is playing with nuclear toys that could obliterate parts of…

Oh, wait a minute.

Didn’t Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke just warn, bad things could happen to Alaska?

Wasn’t it as a result of Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski honorably voting No to the initial proposal to debate the ‘skinny’ bill, saying she wasn’t going to be intimidated, and then honorably voting again with two colleagues, Sens. McCain and Collins, along with the Democrats against the actual bill too, on grounds that no-one had had time to read it and it hadn’t even been debated, causing it to fall…?

Or, it’s possible Trump is hoping for a first-strike on Hawaii, where the circuit court did so much to twice thwart his silly and inconsequential immigration bill; the only piece of primary legislation he has – in a watered-down form – been able to get through Congress in six months of shambolic maladministration.

Still mindful of Pearl Harbor, the Hawaiian State Legislature is reportedly making civil defense preparations.

Why are the Republicans so obsessed with committing electoral suicide? Is it existential guilt? No-one seems to know.

“It’s a deliberate policy of genocide for the rest of the human race…”

As The Pumpkin has observed before, the GOP congressmen and women are between a rock and a hard place. The rock being the Koch Brothers, zillionaire kings of dirty energy, who have offered ‘at least’ $400 million funding to the party for next year’s mid-term elections; the hard place being where Republican candidates may find themselves when the voters finally realize that repealing Obamacare without a replacement will leave 32 million hardworking American families nowhere to go when they get sick; which, as consumer protections, animal welfare and food quality regulations are pared back, and dangerous agrichemicals greenlighted, they are sure to.

The Pumpkin’s belief is that the Kochs, two avuncular philanthropic octogenarians in whose mouths butter would turn to snake venom, are less interested in the repeal bill than they are in the budget, debate on which has been held up for months while McConnell blustered and flustered over Trump’s furious demands to get Obamacare repeal done; something he promised his dumbfucks he would do on Day One. But then, he lied. So bad.

The budget is, if anything, more crazy and disgusting than the repeal bill, cutting 4.3 trillion dollars from all kinds of progressive social supports and schools programs and handing the lot to millionaires, corporations and the bloated arms industry in the form of huge tax cuts – an ultra-con economic model so fundamentally wrong that its experimental application has all-but bankrupted the state of Kansas; its failed Governor Sam Brownback, a man whose brain would struggle to get noticed in a peapod, has just been nominated by the mad President as America’s global ‘ambassador for religion’. So we have a prayer….

The energy bidness – fossil-fuel – already benefits from hidden subsidies in the US of $37.5 billion annually, giving the lie to all their executive whingeing about unfair subsidies for renewables, which are far smaller – about $10 bn. That oil, coal and gas subsidy increased by some $6 bn under the Obama administration, by the way.

And, let’s not forget, as former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond once said, US energy companies don’t really regard themselves as patriotic American employers. They operate all around the globe. The total subsidy to energy corporations around the globe is rather more, a little under $1 trillion.

http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies (2013 figures)

But it’s not enough! Under the demented policies of the Golden Orb, the USA is going all-out to extract and burn every last drop of its own energy as quickly as possible, providing $trillions more profit for shareholders currently scrambling to build themselves climate-controlled underground bunker complexes, the latest billionaire must-haves, until it runs out; whereupon Trump will order his refinanced military to go out and ‘take the oil’ – the gas, or the minerals, from places like Afghanistan, until nothing survives.

It’s a policy of deliberate genocide for the rest of the human race. We have essentially been written off the books and, in their madness, it’s an extinction the money-breathers fantasize they can survive.

It shouldn’t be long now.

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* Within an hour of The Pumpkin Posting this, it’s been reported that Priebus has seen the writing on the wall and quit. A career politician, he never did fit with the squabbling and chaotic amateur arselickers of Trump’s inspirational cabinet, the Wall Street Kids. Having been hired as a biddable missing link with conventional politics on the Hill, he was bound to end up as the fall guy for Trump’s humiliating failure to get any of his crazed legislative program through before the recess.

Gen. Kelly, the Homeland Security director, has been drafted in as Chief of Staff. Good luck with that. He’s not a politician either, so Trump clearly hasn’t learned the lesson, that if you want to do politics, get things done, you need to be one of Them.

It’s beginning to look more and more like the end of the Weimar republic every day.

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“And she was bleeding from the … wherever, you know?”

Maids in America

After regaling the Boy Scouts of America with stories about wild parties involving drugs and women on yachts, for no apparent purpose other than to illustrate his robust views on law and order Trump – who has an obsession with women bleeding – threw out a peculiarly disturbing image during another of his 2020 campaign rallies last week. From a report in the Guardian entitled “Scaramucci, one week in: civil war in the White House and an even wilder Trump”, by White House correspondent David Smith, Trump is quoted in a passage as follows:

In Youngstown, Ohio, he painted a lurid picture of “predators and criminal aliens” who “take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long.”

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/29/scaramucci-white-house-reince-priebus-donald-trump

What could he possibly have meant by that little vignette, we wonder: who or what is he referring to? It’s not as if he gave chapter and verse for the reference. Was it something he saw on Fox News or, his new fascination, the teenage version of Politico, Circa – even Fox is beginning to let slip the odd criticism of the nightmare for America that is the Trump maladministration, while its ratings have been plummeting.

Trump has some curious psychological ‘tics’, one of which is bringing up bad things that happened without being prompted, presenting them as examples of his opponent’s behaviour, but for which he then transfers credit to himself. ‘Crooked Hillary may have done ‘x’, but I tell you, if I did that it would have been the best ‘x’ ever…’

We can only pray then that this unscripted reference to the torture and murder of underage girls is not something he knew about from past experiences in the New York underworld, where he reputedly got a kick out of mixing socially in the 1970s and 80s.

The Pumpkin was recently led via a link in a Comment to a web article created by an anonymous former New York model, or so the author claims, who has spent years researching Trump’s connection with the sleazy milieu of underage ‘Size-zer0’ models, many trafficked illegally into the United States by dubious modelling agencies linked with underworld gangs.

The resulting long article can be found on the Daily Kos website, bylined SwedishJewfish. It describes – and one needs to be careful here, although the report is sourced to other media investigations – how in the 1970s a Trump associate, John Casablancas, founded a new kind of modelling agency that was all about flash: money, celebrities, sex and cocaine – creating the public image of the ‘supermodel’ – and how before setting up his own modelling agency, Trump pushed his daughter, Ivanka, into a modelling career, aged only 14, through Casablancas’ agency, exploiting his influence in the business, despite Casablancas’ reputation as a serial abuser of underage girls. Casablancas later fled to Brazil, where he worked for a while as a property salesman for the Trump Organization.

I’ll just quote this short extract:

I was not alone in my impressions – others who commented on the Mother Jones piece (see below) and the subsequent coverage made similar observations. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes commented that Trump Models seemed to be borderline human trafficking, initially making the comment on Twitter and later on dedicating a segment of his prime time show to exploring the topic. Seth Meyers, for his part, did a segment on the MJ piece as well, comparing it to an episode of Law & Order SVU. While his commentary was cloaked in his usual sardonic humor, Seth’s disgust was evident as he wondered aloud if the prospect of Trump harboring sex slaves in his proverbial basement would be enough to make voters sour on his candidacy. At the time this story broke, I assumed it was going to blow up. I assumed that follow up reporting would be done, and it would become the major story of the 2016 election. I thought it might even open up a long overdue dialogue about sex trafficking, and how our broken immigration and criminal justice systems enables its existence. 

But that never happened.

No, but what did happen during the 2016 election was the spreading via social media of completely absurd, off-the-wall memes promoting ‘fake news’ slurs against the Clinton campaign (see previous Pumpkins).

One of which gained notoriety, when a gunman walked into a pizza restaurant in Washington popular with Congressional staffers, Comet PingPong, and fired shots into the ceiling, after reading online that Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, were running a ‘paedophile ring’ from the basement

A space that turned out also to be ‘proverbial’… there being no basement.

Is this perhaps a ‘proverbial basement’ where girls were actually tortured and murdered, in Donald Trump’s fading recollection? Is it a case of ‘What did you know, and when?’ Is there, in short, a basis in experience for his psychotic fascination with women and blood?

Or has he just been watching too much torture porn during the sleepless hours?

We may never know. The website Pizzagate.wiki goes into simply enormous and seemingly authoritative detail about connections between Clinton Democrats and their funders and various ‘known’ paedophiles and child-traffickers like Sir Clement Freud, Jimmy Savile and the owner of the Comet PingPong restaurant, James Alefantis, yet is mysteriously completely silent on the subject of Mr Casablancas and Trump Model Management.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/donald-trump-model-management-illegal-immigration

From which, purely coincidentally:

“…a Trump agency representative who served as a chaperone had a bedroom to herself on the ground floor of the building. A narrow flight of stairs led down to the basement, where the models lived in two small bedrooms that were crammed with bunk beds…”

xFrom which,

Where’s Wendi Deng?

Missing from the photo op below is the ex- Mrs Murdoch, queen of the political pajama parties. (Only joking.)

Of course, with the failure of the replacement healthcare act and even the ‘skinny repeal’ bill, whereby lifting the requirement for all Americans over 25 to carry basic insurance and for employers of more than 50 staff to make contributions would have taken so much money out of the system that premiums would have to go up sharply for the rest, the vindictive obsessionist Trump has decreed with his proudest and most marmorial Mount Rushmore face on that Obamacare ‘must now be allowed to implode by itself’.

The bad news is, although he genuinely seems to have convinced himself with his own windy rhetoric that it was, it wasn’t failing until he came along. The good news however, certain Red Republican states will now feel empowered to blow the extra money Obamacare gave them for an increase in Medicare provision for the sick on sneaky, lying TV propaganda to get themselves re-elected. Obamacare – which took seven years to put in place in the face of howling Republican opposition and does admittedly need some tweaking – will wither on the vine, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So nasty, these Republicans. So ugly. Twisted.

Sen. Jack Fart ‘n’ hold  is on the right of your picture, in the blue onesie.

If proof of upright, responsible, Republican governance were needed, here is Senator Jack Farenthold, R. Texas, pro-repeal, pro-gun, pro-Big Orl, enjoying a well-earned moment of leisure before publicly challenging Senator Susan Collins, ‘skinny repeal’ recusante, to a duel – citing a historic precedent in which a former senator was tragically shot dead.

Mother Jones website, from where The Pumpkin purloins this picture, reports: “Farenthold … was once sued by a staffer for sexual harassment (the claim was settled outside of court)”.

Balanced folk must ask themselves from time to time, who on earth votes for these sleazy, fatuous, ignorant bumpkins like Farenthold, imagining they would be fit to hold office in a drive-thru burger-bar, and why do they? Their lives are never made better as a consequence.

And the answer comes back: sleazy, fatuous, ignorant Americans, who no longer believe anything will make a difference to their lives and don’t care. They’re the core base. There’s millions of ’em, and they love grotesque pork-barrel candidates like Fart ‘n’ hold; like Donald Trump, as seen on TV.

See, what a refreshing change he is from those corrupt stuffed-shirt bastards on the Hill!

Make America great again, boys. Yee-ha!

x

And finally…

If ever a metaphor presented itself from the heavens to perfectly illustrate the American nightmare, it’s the story of the Ohio woman who called 911 from her garden to plead for help.

A snake collector, she’d just rehomed a six-foot boa constrictor. Now it was wrapped around her face, squeezing hard, and wouldn’t let go of biting her nose.

Unlike the Republican party, the fire service had the right idea.

They cut its head off.

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The BogPo: Mrs May is the very embodiment of British ghastliness.

Thursday again… except it’s already Friday! (I’m busy.)

I’d like to start in the laziest possible fashion by linking you somehow (you’re smart, you’ll figure it out) to a Guardian Today article : “Theresa May’s Brexit Britain can no longer be considered a serious country”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/05/theresa-may-brexit-britain-uk-europe-liberal

Following which, ‘UltraLightBeam’ Commented:

Agreed. Just when you thought that there’s no further depths of stupidity for the UK to sink to, that we’ve finally reached peak stupid, a whole new vista of stupid yawns open.

The UK inexplicably voted to inflict serious harm on ourselves, and to inflict collateral damage on our closest allies. Now we’re simply amazed that the EU doesn’t just want to roll over and let us do what we want. But…but…we’re Britain! Don’t they know that? Why are they so vindictive? Why are they picking on us?

We choose Theresa May, the most awkward, stilted, charmless politician in recorded history to negotiate on our behalf. She predictably humiliates herself, and the UK, and then we blame the European press for pointing it out. Our own press foams at the mouth, spitting venom every day, but we expect the European press to be impartial. Why?

We disregard all logic and economic expertise, and make a stupid political decision to Brexit. Now we’re astounded that the EU are also prioritising political imperatives over economic ones, by making it difficult for us. Why do we expect completely different standards from the EU than we apply to ourselves?

There seems to be very little awareness in the UK, and definitely not from the government, that we’re the ones doing all this. The EU are just reacting, logically and predictably, to protect their own interests against our senseless, mindless, stupid actions. They’re not doing anything to us. We’re not victims here.

What’s happening now is what was always predicted, by everyone who knows anything about these things: the ridiculous fantasies of the Brexit campaign are coming into contact with reality, like a cruise liner grinding into an iceberg. And the magic beans salesmen who brought us here are busy blaming the EU for the mess they created.

I really could put it no better myself. Because I have done, many times – and was putting it, long before the referendum. Sadly, I have precisely 34 Followers – none of whom appears to be reading this, muh bogl, anymore. Most of them were only trying to sell me stuff.

And today, the BogPo had 17… spam messages from bots. An astonishing one-day record. And two Viewings. Yet we plough on regardless…

Led by a corporatist press that profitably descends into paroxysms of chauvinism at every turn, Britain has had a shameful record for many decades of whingeing and whining about our treaty obligations in Europe, always demanding special treatment and complaining of being bossed about, yet happy to benefit from our cut-price membership whenever decisions we help to make go our way.

As Helena Kennedy QC has pointed out, just one instance of the total, crass stupidity of the Leavers, no-one considered that the 27 remaining members are bound by the decisions of the European Court; so if we want to have new treaties enabling us to trade in Europe we will still be subject to European Court rulings – yet one of the principal arguments in favour of Leaving was that we would be free of the tyranny of the European Court!

And all the time this smug sense of superiority, even among the least cultured of us, shaven-headed, tattooed barbarians shagging in the gutters of package holiday resorts stinking of chips and good British vomit, that characterises the insular warrior nation reduced to a mere spear-carrier on the global stage.

There is just no self-awareness of how ghastly we are; and fittingly Mrs May is the very embodiment of British ghastliness, a woman for our time.

 

“…we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.”

– Carole Cadwalladr, writing in The Observer, 07 May (apparently, the only British journalist researching the story that you have been reading about for weeks in The Pumpkin – possibly the most important story you will ever read.*) Read it! Weep!

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy

*So there’s a BBC Panorama programme on it tomorrow night.

 

 

 

It’s all just a crazy dream

Hey ho, Thursday again, time for the weekly BogPost and I can’t think of a single thing to say I haven’t written about ten times before.

Cameron has made a big speech advocating more bombing foreigners. Why? So, he agrees with the military experts that it’s unnecessary and won’t make a blind bit of difference on the ground, but we have to show ‘solidarity’ with everyone else and ‘keep Britain’s streets safe’, while also protecting ‘our brave forces’ from going into action on the ground, letting some unidentified other foreigners do it for us instead. That’s brave, Dave.

I’m quite glad I didn’t go to Eton, I never met an Old Etonian who wasn’t either a brooding alcoholic; a bumbling aristocratic halfwit, or a sneering bully-boy (or a combination, etc.) (You don’t get many round where I live.)

Gideon ‘George’ Osborne performed an insouciant volte sneering face on Wednesday by reversing his fiscal policy on taxing the poor into the mud. I have a theory about him, that he always leaks bad news until we hate him, then performs a daring pliée at the last minute to win the love and forgiveness of the multitude. Attar of roses fills his pants this weekend.

Let’s not forget, however, the appearance earlier in the month of his mate, Cameron, on the Andrew Marr Show, in which he issued a sneeringly robust defence of the policy of removing tax credits from three million hardworking single-parent families, despite the mounting evidence that suggested the mitigating rise in the minimum wage wouldn’t prevent teaching assistants on £7,000 a year donating £1,300 of it to shore up Britain’s rotting public finances and Gideon’s other mates in the City’s bonuses.

Another grand example there of Dave’s notoriously poor judgement.

(Postscriptum 2 December, and a sneer so vile it beggars description. Calling on his troops to vote for his pointless bombing campaign (I have christened it ‘chimpanzee warfare’ (as opposed to ‘guerrilla’) – you get together in a small party, jump up and down gibbering and waving your arms, and throw sticks at the enemy from as far away as you can), Cameron urged them not to go along with Mr Corbyn and the ‘terrorist sympathisers’. This veneered, jumped-up bag-carrier from a TV PR department is the most unspeakable apology for a Prime Minister or indeed, a human being of any kind, this country has ever had.)

So I won’t write about that, obviously, or the visibly disorientated Mr Corbyn, the Spike Milligan lookalike Labour ‘leader’ who has indeed written to all his MPs to say he doesn’t personally approve of bombing Syria but they can go ahead and vote against the party Whip if they like, as it’s the sort of thing he used to do. That’s the kind of flakey example I always set, which is why I never became a leader of anything.

Just some personal observations, then. (More might follow, but I’m doing Panto for the next few days and it’s enough just to eat, drink and sleep. I’ve learned though that the reason actors fluff their lines is because they’re so worried they’re going to forget the next line, they can’t remember the one they’re speaking. Plays hell with the concentration.)

 

Staying up

I’d been trying to upload a file to a publisher in Ireland, against a deadline, but they would only let me do it via their website – or by surface mail. Judgement Day was due, and I didn’t think it’d make it in time.

Anyway, I hadn’t finished writing it yet. You know me and deadlines.

And the website wouldn’t let me in without a password. The usual result, it knew my name and IP address, obviously, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to email me to remind me to send the file in the first place. Nothing much confidential in it, either, but you know web designers too, they just loves paswurdz.

Anyway, of course I couldn’t remember the bloody thing, I last contacted these guys more than a year ago. So I had to ask for a reminder, twice, and nothing was appearing in my inbox. Frantic emails to ‘info@’ yesterday produced no reply either. By eleven last night, with the deadline approaching like the 9.45 from Billericay, I emailed the editorial department in distress.

And amazingly, at 11.47 pm, that’s at night, the Editorial Manager, Mary-Jane, emails me back to say she’s sorted me out a temporary password and is sorry I’d had a problem.

Now, even allowing for the time difference in Cork, where it’s always last year, who works in an office until practically midnight, and why? Anyway, I’m jolly glad they do.

Great country, Ireland. Good people, great craic.

Better get writing….

Postscriptum

So the temporary password didn’t work and the Support hotline refused to let me Submit a request for Support with logging-in, because I wasn’t logged-in, so in despair I decided to try and re-register, knowing it probably wouldn’t let me do that because someone with the same name was mysteriously already registered, you know how it goes.

So I pushed the Button marked Register, and before I could log-in again the IT leprechauns welcomed me back and opened the page for me to upload the file, without a password….

Things can sometimes go like that in Ireland, I think.

 

A burning issue

I’d briefly thought about retiring to Greece, land of my forebears.

Spectacular scenery, laid-back lifestyle, sun and sea… Only don’t go there to die.

An article on the BBC Magazine website reports that Greece has, like, totally run out of burial plots. You now get three years maximum parked in the stony ground, before the burial-plot warden has your remains towed away.

People are having to dig-up their grannies and parents and sadly dead children with their heartbreaking little tributes and pay to have the bones stored in a small cardboard box on a shelf somewhere.

Thanks to austerity imposed by hard-faced Teutonic bankers, no-one can afford the rents.

So the alternative is the authorities just chuck your loved-one’s bones at random into a public pit, all jumbled-up together. And – I hope you’ve already breakfasted – not everyone is fully decomposed after three years.

What is the attitude of the Greek Orthodox church to all this desecration?

Well, the obvious solution is to cremate the dead bodies, keep Mum in a handy Grecian urn on the mantelshelf. But there isn’t a single functioning crematorium in the entire country. It’s not allowed, according to Church law.

While live Syrian refugees arrive in swarms and depart for points North, there is another flourishing trade in black-market migration of Greek corpses to neighbouring Bulgaria, where the crematorium business is on fire, as it were.

According to Metropolitan Anthony, a title that makes him sound like a rough-sleeper on the London Underground, the head of the church, cremation is definitely not on the cards.

Being cremated, see, makes it too difficult for Jesus to resurrect your body on the Day of Judgement.

What body, for God’s sake? It’s in a fucking rubbish dump, in bits.

How did we ever let these medieval lunatics in their daringly retro outfits rule our lives in the first place?

 

Lost in the jungle

I’ve been invited by online social petitionists Change.org to sign a pledge not to buy anything from Amazon during the month of December, to punish them for their many crimes.

Oh, God. Sigh.

Future historians will conclude that while the 20th Century was the century of evil dwarf dictators with dehumanising scumbag ideologies running countries, the 21st was the century of evil dwarf dictators with dehumanising scumbag ideologies running large US tech corporations. Why bother with messy old countries, when you can create your own evil empire and enjoy total control?

Employing 50,000 robotised former humans, Amazon’s Seattle HQ is by all accounts a hell on earth. And its founder, Mr Bezos, is the evil genius whose bullying scumbag management philosophy permeates every aspect of the organisation and its people’s lives. Work for Big Jeff, and it doesn’t matter that you get only minimum wage, because you won’t have your own life to spend it in.

Executives are expected to be still at their desks after midnight – they get emails to check. Internal systems are set up for employees to spy on one another and report their colleagues’ disloyal or negative behavior. A lengthy report in the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1HNMWQq) quotes one executive as saying he usually finds his colleagues weeping silently at their desks. Other managers: higher-functioning sociopaths teenage neo-Nazis and Old Etonian types, say they just loves working there.

Not only does Mr Bezos want to rule the corporate world – he’s already the world’s 5th richest person. He wants to take over every aspect of your life and mine, when it comes to our daily relationship with products and services. He wants to put every other retailer on the planet, along with the publishing industry,  out of business. He plans to target and bomb us with goodies from lethal delivery drones.

And, just to make sure he’s got it all covered, in case there are competitors on Mars, he’s just successfully test-fired his own re-usable delivery spacecraft.

And I spend about £2 grand a year with this maniac’s business, mostly buying jazz records. It’s so bloody easy, so convenient. Check out some tracks on YouTube, flip to the Amazon website, find the album, click on my speed-ordering button, it’s here next working day, and I’m wondering how I got overdrawn again?  How cool is that?

I live in a perfectly nice little town, but it’s quite remote and can’t support every kind of retail outlet selling every product I crave. Also, buying by mail-order means stuff comes through the mailbox, like at old-fashioned Christmas.

I does loves gettin’ prezzies, doesn’t you?

I’ve argued before, that criticism of Amazon’s low-or-no-tax business model ignores that their £5.3 billion UK turnover, on which they pay about £4 7s 6d tax annually, is not what it seems.

Amazon incorporates tens of thousands of third-party sellers and acts as a portal to thousands more retail businesses all over the world. I might order a jazz record in the UK that comes via a distributor in New York, whose warehousing operation is in Taiwan. Part of the price goes to paying royalties to the artists and the recording company. Each node in the matrix is a cost-centre. Turnover is not the same as profit.

Also, until it is able to knock our hats off with its postal-drones, frantically looking for ‘Ty Bach’ in a street of identical Welsh house-names all sharing the same postcode, Amazon keeps the postman service and the brown-cardboard-envelope manufacturing industry going.

So no, I’m not going to sign the pledge, because I can’t guarantee I won’t use Amazon at some point to get a card or a gift off to some relative or another in the diaspora, it may not be possible to do it any other way.

But I promise to try. Just to teach them a lesson.

Postscriptum

Ah. Okay, minor epic fail (1 Dec., Betty Carter album). Sorry, won’t happen again.

 

Now what?

Dressing after my shower, I am half-listening to a science programme on the radio. Listeners have been invited to send in questions to an expert panel.

One listener asks: We are told there is a vast volume of empty space between the atoms of even a solid object, relative to the size of the atom. Atoms themselves are made up of fundamental particles: a nucleus; protons, electrons. In turn those seem to be made up of smaller particles, muons and gluons and quarks and bosons; science stuff, with further vast volumes of empty space between them, relative to their size.

The question being, if you squeezed out all that empty space, given that the smallest building blocks of the atoms we yet know about have no mass, squeezed it right down, can we say there would be a residue of anything left?

And the answer was, obviously, no, not really. The smallest particles that make up the atom don’t behave like solid objects. We don’t even know where they actually are in space and time.

In which case, my friends, nothing exists. Everything is made from nothing. The Universe is a hologram. Or just a crazy dream.

I’ve been trying to tell you.

It’s just jazz.

 

 

Tales of the Riverbank

Short movie script

(The camera cuts between long shot of man in phone box beside river and closeup of man speaking on old-fashioned telephone.)

MAN BY RIVER (EXCITEDLY): “Professor, the Japanese Knotweed… It’s… It’s… Aaaaargh!”

MAN ON PHONE: “Hello, Carruthers, is that you?” Silence. FX Flackety, flick, flack. “Hello? HELLO?”

Long pause.

MAN BY RIVER: “Herro?”

Shame and guilt in the jingle jungle

“The station was located in a grim, lightless basement just off Fleet Street, above what was said to have been a mass burial of C18th plague victims.”

A reminder on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One show, that it is 40 years ago today since the first legal commercial radio station in Britain, LBC, went on-air.

I remember it vividly, as I was one of the two rostered news announcers on that day, having joined the company in July 1973 after three years of working as the ‘one-man newsroom’ at Britain’s first private industrial broadcasting network, UBN. I had in a sense been ‘on-air’ for a month already, as I had recorded a four-minute trailer with David Jessel that went out at 15-minute intervals to keep the transmitters warmed-up and pre-announce all the wonders of the service to come. So advanced was the LBC master plan, that we had to borrow a tape-recorder from a man in Hammersmith who produced a talking newspaper for the blind.

LBC was a total shambles from the get-go. It was three weeks late starting up, as the studio equipment had not yet arrived from Canada. Canadian network Fox FM (no relation to Murdoch’s right-wing empire in the USA) was a major shareholder, and a foolhardy decision had been taken to impose the low-cost Canadian model of local, one-man-and-a-husky community radio on what was intended to be the flagship 24-hour rolling news service for one of the greatest cities in the world, and the provider of news on contract to the proposed national Independent Radio network, which had yet to come into being.

It meant having one-person, self-operated studios hubbed to an automated master control room, an entirely alien concept with which few broadcasters in the UK had any experience. The training was hopelessly inadequate, the equipment having arrived so late there was no time to get anyone used to it. The ad-hoc solution to the frequent breakdowns of communication and failure to bring in live feeds from outside was to post an engineer in the control room, which merely added to the confusion as there were no sightlines between the studios and MCR.

The station was located in a grim, lightless basement just off Fleet Street, above what was said to have been a mass burial of C18th plague victims. An appropriate atmosphere of doom-laden hysteria still hung about the place. Unfortunately, as Express Newspapers was the other major shareholder, LBC had also omitted to hire many actual broadcasters, but had recruited most of the higher-paid management and staff from print journalism.

As a result, they failed to realise that radio news shows are normally produced by a team of people; imagining instead that a time-served journalist hauled from El Vino’s could just be propped-up in front of a microphone linked to a desk with rows of buttons, dials and faders more complicated than the flight-deck of Concorde, and would improvise a radio show for up to three hours at a stretch, ensuring that all the news bulletins, inserts, commercials and trailers were played in and out on time.

Actually, not.

As if this chronic miscalculation were not enough, the lunatics in charge, led by Michael Cudlipp (a nephew of the great Daily Mirror editor Hugh Cudlipp), had let in the militant print union, SOGAT, to man the teleprinters in the wire room. This was totally unnecessary, as teleprinters were designed to be used by the most hapless, non-technical of journalists. No journalist was allowed to touch the copy as it came in. The union men,  ex-printroom machine minders, had a complete stranglehold over the news output of the station.

These atavistic, foul-mouthed Bolshevists were paid up to £600 a week to tear sheets of paper off the teleprinters at leisurely intervals and hand them to the duty editor. Their job was to replace the paper rolls when they ran out. Once a week they might give the machines a squirt of oil, or stop playing poker long enough to hold a strike meeting. Broadcasters like myself were paid less than £100 a week to make and deliver the actual programme content.

We were rostered on a killing shift pattern of alternating days and overnights, five days on, four days off, and rapidly became disorientated from sheer exhaustion. One morning, as a grey dawn broke, I returned home to Harrow on the tube, forgetting that I had left my car parked behind Gough Square on a double-yellow line.

At first there were few regular presenters in each of the scheduled programme slots, it was simply down to whoever was on duty to present the programmes. (This soon changed when the great Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, then an ambitious young ex-social worker, launched his successful career by persuading Cudlipp to let him have the prime lunchtime slot all to himself.)

There was, of course, almost no advertising revenue to support this farrago; and what there was soon crumbled away. As the network still consisted of only the one station, followed shortly after by Sir Dickie Attenborough’s slick London music streamer, Capital, which had its own news operation, ad agencies were not sufficiently impressed to recommend the new medium to their clients, especially the high-spending national brand advertisers. The wholly predictable failure to perceive the fragmented network as a national sales medium persisted for many years, financially crippling the early takers-up of franchise opportunities.

The late unlamented Pumblechooks of the Independent Broadcasting Authority had a lot to answer for in encouraging this cack-handed conspiracy of the vain, the inexperienced and the useless to launch such a dismal effort, when more professional and experienced consortia had failed to be awarded the London news franchise.

LBC could not manage to fill a whole 24-hour schedule, as was its remit; and, when I eventually returned to it as a freelance, as late as 1977, I found myself presenting music filler programmes, punctuated at infrequent intervals by a single, raucous commercial for a chain of exurban cut-price liquor stores distinguished by their corrugated-iron windows; while the running of the station had been taken over, essentially, by the National Union of Journalists, sidelining the management.

After enduring three months of misery, shame, guilt and sleep deprivation, one day in December 1973 I thankfully took a call from a BBC producer, asking if I might possibly be available for a month’s presentation work? I resigned on the spot, without giving notice. By then, the management were too shellshocked and tearful to care.

Postscriptum

In 1977 I returned to LBC as a contract freelance, and worked there for another three years, over time writing for, producing and presenting almost every programme in the schedule. I worked as a reporter on election coverage, and was commissioned to produce a series of interviews with 50 famous Londoners, to mark the station’s fifth anniversary.

In September 2013, aware of the impending 40th anniversary, I emailed the MD of the successor company to LBC, also known as LBC, to let him know I was still just about alive – in case they might be celebrating and want to recontact surviving members of the original team.

The reply came back, that he was passing my details on to the organiser of the proposed event. I heard nothing more. October 8 came and went, and I read on their website a few days later that they had held a great party to mark the occasion, with lots of faces from the old LBC days.

It’s a relief to see that the management is still as sharp and reliable as it was 40 years ago.

Here’s to the 50th.

Cunts.

 

Synchronicity? Don’t knock it!

Some months ago, my estate agent called to say they wanted to show my house to a Mr Philips,  a property portfolio owner from London.

I hate speculators of any kind and don’t believe in people owning other people’s homes as a business. My house is really too small to make money from renting it. And I particularly dislike carpetbaggers exploiting the relative economic chasm between the capital and up-and-coming rural areas like this.

But there hadn’t been any interest for a while, so I put aside my principles and agreed to let him come. I said that I would go out and let the agency handle the viewing, in case I said something unpardonable to him.

Just as I was leaving at the appointed time, a smooth-looking bloke in grey slacks and a blazer arrived outside, with a gorilla in tow whom I gathered must have been his estate manager, the guy who extorts the rents. The blazer put on a dazzling smile, and in a condescending tone announced:

“Hello. We’ve come all the way from London to look at your house.”

I think he may have misread my socio-economic indicators.

As a student in London in the late 1960s, I shared a flat with some old school chums above William Hill’s bookmakers’ at Moravian Corner, on Chelsea’s famous King’s Road. Behind us were small streets, some with former stables used as storage premises for the many antique dealers with showrooms on the fashionable main drag.

Every summer, the ex-minor public school, ex-army ruffians and part-time offenders who worked behind the scenes repairing, stripping and faking-up the ‘antiques’ (a light charge of buckshot would give a chair an authentic-looking case of woodworm), would rent trucks and head out into the wilds of the British countryside, particularly Wales, for a fortnight ‘on the knock’.

There, they would set about conning old ladies in dilapidated cottages out of their rustic chairs, clothes chests and Welsh dressers — particularly prized as, the ‘old thing’ they picked up for forty desperately needed quid in Tally-wherever could be stripped, repaired, matched with a new top or drawer-base, have some artificially aged brass handles added and would sell, typically for anything between eight hundred and a couple of thou, to the upwardly mobile urban multitude eager to reconnect with their peasant ancestry; or be shipped-off by the container-load to the US, Germany or Japan.

I could see no difference between the ‘knockers’ and this Philips character. He could sell a two-bed upstairs flat conversion in some nondescript suburb of London and for the same money buy four little garden cottages like mine in the outskirts of a Welsh university town, where students and professionals alike are desperate for temporary accommodation, doubling his rent at a stroke.

Swallowing my tongue, I muttered something like, ‘Well don’t just look, buy it!’, and dragged Hunzi briskly away across the road for our morning walk in the exurban space beyond, a walk he knows in dog-language as ‘Round the Sewage Works’. Later on, I got a message from the agency to say that Mr Philips wanted to send his wife over to look too, and was my studio building insulated?

‘Of course it’s bloody insulated’, I snapped. ‘Does he think I’m so stupid as to keep seven grand’s worth of music equipment, including a four thousand pound guitar, in a fucking garden shed?’

We’re still on the market.

But here’s a curious thing. Way back in 1988, I wrote a comedy play called Subject to Contract, about a firm of small-town estate agents in Thatcher’s Britain. It’s never been performed. I came across it in a box a few days ago, and gave it an approving read-through.

In Act Two, a yuppie couple from London are taken to view an old lady’s country cottage, that they hope to get on the cheap, and Justin, the smooth-talking husband, says to her, condescendingly:

‘Hello, we’ve come all the way from London to look at your house.’

Synchronicity? Don’t knock it!