The Boglington Post: Wimbledon: Enough. Who? Your filter-bubbles will not protect you. A not-unattractive moustache on the face of a woman..

Enough.

I’m watching the emotional breakdown of a fiercesomely black-bearded man of 28, 6’6″ in height, who looks like he might be losing a game of tennis barely before it has begun.

Former US Open winner, Marin Cilic is sitting on the sideline of the packed Centre Court at Wimbledon in tears, at three games and a set down after only half an hour, in the second set of the men’s final against the Swiss master, Roger Federer – at 35 an older man whom he has beaten in matches before, but who on this occasion will not allow his record eighth victory here to be denied.

You’d think seven would be enough for anyone.

Cilic is a brilliant, agile, powerful player with a deadly accurate 130 mph serve, but after two weeks of battering five-set tennis against players of his own stature in the crucible of the Centre Court he bears the entire weight of expectation of the people of Croatia, his impoverished Balkan homeland, and there is little he appears to be able to get right in this, his first Wimbledon final, against a player uplifted by his delirious corps of fans, who has run through his opponents so far without losing a set.

That Cilic will take home £1.1 million as the losing finalist means nothing compared with his national pride.

We have seen too many players recently who are being emotionally destroyed by the pressures of this demanding singles game. That includes our own darling of the Centre Court, the driven Andy Murray, who disintegrated in front of our eyes on winning his Olympic gold medal in Rio against the huge-serving Argentinian, Juan Del Potro; and dissolved again on winning last year at Wimbledon against the Canadian child-mountain, Raonic.

The half-witted commentators are at a loss to explain Cilic’s emotional state, speculating for several minutes that he must have sustained some injury.

He has. Blisters on his enormous feet, huge toes sculpted by Michelangelo, are being attended to by the tournament doctor, who seems to be more concerned about his client’s emotional state. Injury is the best explanation the pundits in their box can manage, as the honour of the game must be beyond question.

Scenting blood, on goes Federer, his almost miraculous groundstrokes bludgeoning and whipping and passing and outsmarting his wounded bear of an opponent, a giant being steadily dismembered by the Swiss’ alchemical skills. Each 3-minute average-length game he wins brings him another £122,000.

It is more than I can watch, which is why I’m writing this instead. I feel guilty being a part of it.

And now the Wimbledon crowd has swung behind the tall Croatian, urging him on. Not because they want him to win. They just want him to win a set or two so they can admire their hero a while longer. They want their money’s worth. They love an underdog.

Too much money, too many physical demands as the men’s game especially nears the margins of human endurance, too much expectation ladled over the players by an insatiable media and its complicit commentators; too much pressure, too many matches….

Federer wins in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. And now he too is dissolving in tears at the courtside, as his wife displays their beautiful blond children to the admiring crowd….

Enough.

(Presumably to rub it in, apart from the money second prize is a crappy little silver platter that looks like something off your auntie’s sideboard. First prize is a rather spiffing, 18-in high, elaborately decorated gold cup he’ll need to get insured.)

 

Who?

Immediately after the tennis the BBC runs a curiously low-budget and unimaginatively plotted 60″ trailer, revealing the ‘identity’ of the eponym who will play the part of Dr Who, at least for a one-off special next Christmas.

Horror upon horrors, the hooded figure of the 13th Imam turns round to reveal a female of the species.

Worse, I’ve never ‘eard of ‘er. It’s political correctness gone mad… Why, we’ve only just got rid of the Doctor’s black lesbian assistant, ‘Bill Potts’, and now this!

And out pour the dumbfuck Who ‘fans’ from their darkened, fetid rooms in force, intergalactic trolls with their misogynistic tweets and farts, like it’s the end of civilization as they never really knew it.

Er, guys… actually, my real GP is a woman! Worse, she’s a German woman (Sorry, I don’t do Twitter)….

Worst of all is the Daily Express, a pathetic snivel of a snotrag at the best of times, owned by a millionaire pornographer and read by 71-year-old Brexit voters, undereducated nostalgic empire-loyalists on caravanning holidays, that has published a picture of the actor Jodie Whittaker ALMOST IN THE NUDE.

The Broadchurch favourite, who is set to replace Peter Capaldi as the BBC Time Lord, left nothing to the imagination back in 2006 movie, Venus. The 35-year-old played Jessie in the comedy-drama, in which she starred alongside the likes of Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips and Vanessa Redgrave. Jodie bared her breasts and pert bottom in raunchy scenes as her character flashed elderly actor, Maurice Russell (O’Toole).

The ‘story’ doesn’t mention that ‘the likes of’ O’Toole, Phillips and Redgrave, immensely respected thesps, were GERIATRICS even then. And it was a COMEDY. And NOBODY REMEMBERS IT. Actors need to WORK so they can get PAID, just like the intellectual molluscs of the tabloid press, and they have to do what the DIRECTORS TELL THEM, they don’t fucking make it up as they go along, they don’t bare their ‘pert bottoms’ (only some howling cretin with a hairy arse and prolapsed piles writes shit like that) because they’re morally degenerate, like the editor of the Daily fucking Express.

These soi-disants ‘journalists’ are sick in the head. Almost as mad are the feministas from The Guardian, rushing into print to hail the first female Time Lord in the history of a patriarchal, male-dominated Universe without stopping to note that the character of ‘Missy’, brilliantly played by the barking Michelle Gomez, is also a Time Lord and the feminine avatar of The Master.

No, if I have a moan it is that Ms Whittaker does not come across as a quirky enough personality. I have no problem with a female Dr Who, or anyone anywhere else on the gender spectrum, but the character really demands an eccentric: larger-than-life, grounded in unpredictability. Not just a conventionally attractive and competent actor who has proved that she can spread herself adequately across a range of earthly roles but would not, perhaps, thrill and charm and irritate the viewer in a kickass caper across time and space.

My vote would have been for the thoughtful but flamboyant transvestite ceramicist, Grayson Perry. After Capaldi’s angst-ridden and tired old intergalactic gunslinger who has run out of magic bullets, a creative Couture Who would make a refreshing change.

x

“Less than a fifth of Americans are aware that extreme hunger threatens the lives of 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, yet the overwhelming majority regard it as the most pressing global issue once they have been told, a poll of US voters has revealed.” – The Guardian, 13 July

Your filter-bubbles will not protect you

The Pumpkin reported recently on a US poll revealing that 38% had no idea that Senator McConnell’s American Healthcare Act (AHCA) – also known as Trumpcare – is expected to remove health insurance cover from 32 million poorer Americans over the next ten years, to force premiums up to insupportable levels for those with pre-existing conditions, and to result in $800 billion defunding of the basic Medicare program that covers everyone for things like maternity and care home services.

You’d think they’d take an interest, but most seem happy to rely on Mr Trump’s assurances on the campaign trail that he will look after their interests with a ‘great big, beautiful plan, it’ll be so easy’ and that it is perfectly safe for him to tear up Barack Obama’s detestable, failing Affordable Healthcare Act because he has something much better in mind.

Middle-America votes. But where’s his healthcare now, eh? The silly old dumbfuck.

He doesn’t. There never was a plan. It was another Trump lie. And still the dumbfucks worship at his dainty, well-shod hooves.

When told about it directly, people express shock and opposition: the AHCA (it’s now got another set of initials, I lose track) has, supposedly, just a 12% approval rating. The leech-like Sen. McConnell has had to extend the Congressional term two weeks into the annual recess just to try to get it done, in the face of growing opposition even from Republican senators who have actually gotten around to reading it. Mr Trump has said he will be ‘very angry’ if it isn’t passed soon.

But then he is already very angry about everything and is said when not off playing golf to be doing little else but sit in the Oval Office, screaming abuse at the TV sets.

It is possible to draw only one conclusion from this story, that people are no longer actively interested in what happens outside of their headphones or their social media ‘filter bubbles’, that almost certainly don’t include any seriously life-threatening information they might need to know.

Which gives one little hope that they can go further, to understand that it’s the politicians they vote for who are behind these damaging actions, not the Muslims or the Mexicans, nor Volkswagen, and have an agenda that does not include the ordinary citizen; that major vested corporate interests are behind them*.

For instance, the ‘millennials’ so horrified to discover that vast numbers of people around the world are on the verge of dying for lack of food and water perhaps would also like to know that under the so-far undebated Trump budget, the US government is proposing massive funding cuts to UN relief programs in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest 1%, but I don’t suppose it’s even crossed their self-absorbed radar.

Climate disruption is another issue that really isn’t out there among the majority of people.

A recent article in the New York Magazine by David Wallace-Wells, entitled ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, has caused consternation and unleashed a tsunami of outraged denial about climate science, which is ironic considering the article is about just that: our desperate wish to push back against the issue of our imminent extinction as a species if we cannot break our addiction to burning fossil fuels now.

In a summary of the real scientific consensus on the effects of global warming, that we don’t normally get in mainstream media, Wallace-Wells has interviewed dozens of actual scientists to get a relatively modest overview and to write it up unemotionally in a way normal people can understand.

That would account for the torrent of scorn and opprobrium that has greeted the article from the familiar ranks of denialists, the usual suspects complaining that it is not sufficiently ‘scientific’ (irony abounds) to make its point.

Wallace-Wells explains to ordinary readers in plain English that real scientists have been too frightened of creating a panic or of just not being believed if they said how bad things are really getting, of being seen as too extreme, to tell people the unvarnished truth, that we and our innocent co-evolutes on the planet are heading for catastrophe: mass extinction within decades or maybe only a few years.

The article is being hailed as the first ever to try to bring together the various strands of thinking on the issue in order to present them to the lay reader in a popular medium; which is, of course, a bit of marketing hyperbole by the NYMag. Articles, books and YouTube videos abound on the subject. Nothing Wallace-Wells writes comes as any surprise to the Editor of this blog. The information is all out there if you care to look.

Most people don’t.

As of course is the ‘balancing’ view, in the form of articles online and in the rightwing press dependent on corporate advertising, from well funded denialists saying it’s all a big fuss about nothing. It’s marketable contrarianism, dangerously so.

For it appears from the huge response the story has been getting that the mass of ordinary people really have no idea of how serious the situation is; of how many of the natural systems we rely on are already at the point of collapse. Although it is probably obvious to the millions affected by annual droughts and flooding on an unprecedented scale.

The Boglington Post has been reporting the story for some time now, that a growing number of scientists are warning we are passing irreversible ‘tipping points’ in self-reinforcing feedbacks that could create more abrupt disruption to world weather patterns than was previously expected. The release of a possible 1.6 Gt of stored Arctic methane from melting permafrost is but one feedback among many. The signs are all there: a second successive year of record floods and droughts all around the globe, of polluting NOx and ozone smogs, is surely visible to all but the most obdurate denialists.

Wallace-Wells writes, too, that food production will be severely disrupted by increasing droughts alternating with more severe floods and more powerful storms. Well, there go your 20 million Africans. It’s not just about rising sea levels or any single event, a 200 kph hurricane here, fifty tornadoes in one wild Georgia weekend there, but a combination of events. Increasing wave heights because of stronger winds, for instance, are helping to break-up the Arctic sea ice faster. More blue water absorbs more heat, increasing transpiration.

It ought to be snowing in the Arctic now – in actual fact, it’s raining. Warmer seas make for a wetter climate, leading to heavier rainfall and more powerful storms. The normally reliable jetstreams have broken down, allowing anomalous weather conditions to develop anywhere. Thus, last winter we had snow in the Libyan Sahara.

And from Svalbard, Norway’s northernmost permanently inhabited settlement:

“The average temperature for the year was minus 0.1 degrees Celsius, or 6.5 degrees Celsius above normal, according to Bernt Lie, a weather statistician…. In addition, a record 310 millimeters of precipitation fell during the year, 63.2 percent more than normal and soundly topping the previous record of 267.9 millimeters in 2012.

“In July, October and November there was record heat,” he wrote. Temperatures at Svalbard Airport in December were 7.4 degrees Celsius above normal, the 73rd straight month of above average temperatures… Lie, in his summary of Longyearbyen’s weather statistics for 2016, called the trend here a “frightening development.” – Icepeople.net

Even so, the Icepeople website editor headlined the story as if nothing was amiss: “Frighteningly ordinary: Record high temperatures in 2016 nothing new for Longyearbyen or Earth.”

What would you think is meant by the word “record”? Oh, it’s been another boring old record every year for the past six years…. Nothing new, then. That Inuit sense of humor.

This year, extreme temperatures in many countries combined with increasing humidity have brought it home that human physiology cannot cope beyond a certain point, and that point is being reached more often and earlier every year. In Pakistan, in Iran, in Kuwait and California the mercury has topped 120 deg. F. , and it’s not yet the height of summer. The human body cannot cool itself through sweating at those temperatures, with 96% humidity. Your skin chokes you to death.

People are undoubtedly dying. A 100-deg. plus (42 C.) heatwave is in its third week in the south-western United States at the time of writing, floods are devastating large parts of Asia (2’6″ of rain fell on Japan’s Kyushu island in just nine hours last week) and many barely controllable wildfires are contributing to the CO2 burden in the atmosphere; more so in fact than our industrial emissions, which thanks to controls and an economic slowdown have not increased in the last three years. (Worryingly, the global economy is picking up again.)

Whatever the professional denialists in the pay of the energy industries will try to tell you, this is not normal!

The standfirst to this piece, for instance, indicates that climate change is almost certainly worsening the food supply problem for those 20 million Africans and people of the Arabian peninsula. Many of them have or will become climate refugees and die in the desert or drown in the Mediterranean.

Those of us lucky enough to live in more temperate latitudes have no way of coping with the scale of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the equatorial regions, other than through denial.

But this shit is coming for us all, so you’d better look it up and be ready.

Your filter-bubbles will not protect you!

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

*An article by George Monbiot in today’s Guardian investigates a new book by Nancy McClean: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. The plot by alt-right billionaires to overthrow democracy was first laid out by a Nobel prizewinning economist and crazed free-market advocate, James McGill Buchanan, in the 1960s. Everything he recommended is now happening, Monbiot realizes, with a shock of recognition – and not only in the USA.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/19/despot-disguise-democracy-james-mcgill-buchanan-totalitarian-capitalism

x

Granny Weatherwax, 15 July:

  • Canada: number of wildfires in Williams Lake area of British Ciolumbia ‘drops below 200’ but more hot windy weather is forecast. Considerable devastation has been caused, small towns entirely destroyed. Evacuation centres for 14,000 opened across the state.
  • Arctic: temperatures recorded at two locations on 11 July over Canada’s Mackenzie River, one of 32.6°C or 90.8°F at the mouth of the river and another one of 34.7°C or 94.5°F further inland. Surface temperature of water pushed up by increasing windspeeds through the Bering Strait into the Arctic ocean recorded at 10C, 50F. Little sea ice left, being pounded by rain.
  • 65 major wildfires burning across 11 US states. California worst hit: many homes burned, residents evacuated in Santa Barbara. Wildfires in Nevada caused CO2 to reach concentration levels as high as 742 ppm on July 12.
  • Huge storms bring flash flooding and record river rise to the eastern USA – state of emergency declared in Wisconsin. New York State, DC, New Jersey, Massachusetts affected. More forecast. 14 July, major storm in west, parts of Arizona under water.
  • Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – 15 July, city underwater.
  • Major flooding continues to affect very large area of NE India. Up to 40 million ‘marooned’, 85 dead, 1.7m evacuated in Assam. Refugee camps being set up. Still raining – heavy storms over Arunachal, 4 dead in Gujarat. 650,000 affected in Bangladesh.
  • Flash floods and landslides in Tibet – buildings washed away, many evacuated. 42 deg. C.-plus heatwave across China following weeks of flooding (93 cm more rain falls on Hunan province in the week). 16 July, 36 dead in devastating floods in Jilin city. A violent thunderstorm batters the city of Chengdu, Sichuan. Much damage.
  • Typhoon Talas is heading for Taiwan at 12 mph. after pounding N Vietnam. 42 deg. C. heatwave in S Korea turns to deadly flooding. Cheongju city, s. of Seoul, underwater.
  • Many wildfires reported in Khazakhstan. Satellite records CO2 at 747 ppm. Temperature of 53.1°C or 127.5°F in Iran for July 11.
  • Severe flooding in the Irkutsk region of Siberia after ‘endless rain’ has stranded airline passengers. Scientists warning, trans-Siberian pipeline projects could be affected by explosive methane eruptions.
  • Damaging flash floods hit Oman, Trucial States, after days of heavy rainfall in the mountains..
  • Storm floods Paris metro. S France, Spain continue to experience record heatwave. Greek tourist sites, Acropolis closed due to extreme heat, humidity.
  • Italy: wildfires ravage slopes of Mt Vesuvius, Naples; 1,ooo tourists evacuated from wildfires in Sicily, many properties destroyed. While in Calabria, Sicily – deadly ‘rain bomb’ floods the town.
  • Portugal, Alejo, more raging wildfires. Crops devastated across S Europe. Wildfires in Croatia, 34 fires reported around the capital of neighbouring Montenegro.
  • Storms flood parts of Lagos, Nigeria. 20 dead in Niger State. 40 deg. C.-plus heatwave threatening harvest in Egypt: ‘worse year on year’.
  • Coverack, Cornwall, Britain. 18 July. Flash flood follows torrential rain, hail breaks windows, sea surge cuts off road access.
  • An overnight snowstorm has hit Santiago, Chile, for the first time since 1970. A change from recent floods and wildfires.
  • Latest research shows global CO2 ‘equivalent’ – ie overall atmospheric greenhouse gas content including methane (CH4), CO, CO2, SO2, NOx – has reached 490 ppm.

(Climate and Extreme Weather News #42/Floodlist/Arctic News/Wildfire Today/Siberian Times)

Most extraordinary, is to observe from the camphone footage from around the world how people are prepared to take absurd risks driving through rising floodwaters and wildfires.

What climate change?

 

Sports News

A not unattractive moustache

I learn just now that Venus Williams is 6’1″. I am in love. She is such a sweetheart, and at 37 the perfect age. There is of course her opponent in the Wimbledon Ladies final, the aristocratic-looking Garbine Muguruza (6’0″, 23), a lovely creation for whom the word ‘lissom’ was surely invented.

If Muguruza wins, it will be because of her sense of style. She has been wearing Stella McCartney, our leading British designer and daughter of the Beatle. Everyone else is in Nike, or Adidas – or, as in Williams’ case, her family’s own-brand. Peasants.

Yet despite her perfect shoulders (I’m a bit of a shoulders man), the heavily strapped-up leg is not such a good look. This year, our leading players all appear stricken. Murray, Nadal, Djokovitch and many more have limped out in the second set or finished as losers, broken and bowed, owing to accumulated injuries. Many are match-rusty after months out of work, undergoing operations and retraining. Some should frankly not have turned up just to collect their first-round losers’ appearance fees, which are not ungenerous, bilking the crowd.

Commentators have suggested it might be due to their top-heavy match schedule. The winners of the Wimbledon finals each stand to go home with cheques for £2.2 million. My suggestion, for what it is worth, is that there is too much money in the game and that if even the top players are forced to compete week-in, week-out all over the world, even in minor suburban tournaments to maintain their ranklings and seedlings, the organizers of the flying circus might fairly be accused of greed.

The majestic progress of the greatest master of the game, ever, Roger Federer, stands out all too clearly when you consider his age, 34. He has simply swept past his younger opponents with magisterial grace and good temper. Not to mention his breathtaking skill. Miss Williams, too, at 37 to be in the final (she’s currently winning – sorry, no, she’s losing), is a wonderful example of how to be an entirely normal, yet supernaturally gifted human being.

Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Glaxy) and John Lloyd (Blackadder) wrote a silly book years ago, taking odd-sounding but real place names as the basis of funny dictionary definitions. Scrabster is a hardscrabble fishing port on the unforgiving east coast of Scotland, from whence come the finest kippers (smoked herring). It is also: ‘A not unattractive moustache on the face of a woman’.

The Spaniard, Muguruza is definitely a qualifier. And some woman! You knew she had her semifinal opponent Simona Halep beaten, when in the last two games the diminutive but fast and powerful forest-dwelling Romanian stopped making that hideous shrieking noise with which she propels the furry projectile at 90 mph towards the far baseline; and refused to play the last service return.

But the thing with true tennis champions is, one minute they’re 4-3 down in the fourth set, gasping for air and making desperate appeals to their box to send them more drugs – then before the kettle’s boiled, they’re 5-4 up with two match points in hand and serving for the £2 million cheque. It’s quite magical. Bewildering, how they do that.

Having never won anything, I’m fully qualified to remark on life’s mystery.

 

PS: ‘@StellaMcCartney’ wins, 7-6, 6-0. I feel so sorry for Williams, she is a complete sweetie who has lived under the shadow of her little sister Serena, the most successful women’s singles player of all time (some might argue for Navratilova or Court), who is off on baby-leave, yet she has won seven Grand Slam titles in her own right. At 37, this might well have been her last crack at Wimbers. Boo.

 

For the benefit of Mr High-as-a-Kite

Speaking humorously as I was there of drugs, there is a quite astonishing story in the Sport section of today’s Guardian – or is it the companion Sunday Observer? the website’s the same. It concerns a film that has been made about the ‘Russian doping master’, Grigory Rodchenkov, now in an FBI witness protection program after others considering blowing the whistle on a performance enhancement campaign apparently conceived by Mr Putin before the Sochi Olympics suffered unexpectedly massive heart attacks.

As head of the Russian equivalent, Mr Rodchenkov was trustingly shown around the UK’s anti-doping facilities before the 2012 London Olympics, and so worked out a way of cheating the system. He also devised the great wheeze of drilling a hole secretly under a table in the floor of the lab hut, disguised as a power socket, and passing clean urine samples through to an accomplice on the inside, making this the most wonderful story of opportunistic ingenuity since those RAF officers escaped from Colditz.

It’s a long and fascinating tale, which I recommend to anyone who wants to be educated in the workings of Mr Putin’s and the greater Russian mindset, especially in the light of the efforts to tamper with last year’s (and next year’s) US election. There’s too much to plagiarise for this article, so go to:

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/15/russian-doping-programme-olympics-london-2012-sochi-2014?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=235195&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Pip pip!

UB

Anger management issues, #1 and #2. Syria: a grotesque deception? Plus: Cheese-dreams; The Sekulow Society…

“I am sanguine even when the Prime Minister of a minority House bribes the tiny and rebarbative Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland with my money for their vote…”

Anger management issues

I am so angry in general, I find I am no longer angered by things I would have been angry about before.

Specifics

A part-privatization of patient records-handling in the NHS is reported today (27 June) to have led to a backlog of 700 THOUSAND files missing from patient/doctor consultations up to 2014, many of them related to cancer investigations and child-protection issues. The company sat on the information for three years, until it was discovered that the records had simply been stuffed into a cupboard and ignored by directors of NHS Shared Business Services, a company created especially to transfer paper records between hospitals and GP surgeries in England. There appears to have been no oversight.

“A spokeswoman for NHS SBS acknowledged there had been “failings”.” – BBC News

There have been cases in the past of postmen who hid their sacks of mail at home or destroyed them as they were ‘too heavy’ to deliver. As the Royal Mail was basically guaranteed by the monarch, the outcome has generally been a salutary prison sentence. It has long been my view that civilization is falling apart, due to underfunded and over-rigidified systems operating in an era of increasingly baffling complexity. But paper records? Come on!

(Okay, so I’ve got cupboards full of unopened bills and statements. This is different!)

More specifics

A hundred and fifty people, including children and babies, are burned to death in Pakistan. A fuel tanker has overturned at speed on a bend in the road, much like the bend outside my house where the fuel trucks hurtle by, going at 50 mph in our 30 mph zone. Fuel is leaking, poor people arrive with cans to try to take the leaking fuel.

And some fucking baboon lights a cigarette.

And do you know what? I can’t even get angry. Not at the baboon – Pakistan is a poor country, full of village idiots who can’t give up smoking and often underestimate the volatility of benzo-hydrocarbons – nor at the foolish folk who forget this always happens when poor villagers try to steal fuel from leaking tankers and pipelines, usually somewhere in Nigeria. Nor at the driver, who should be in gaol, nor at the corrupt crony-capitalist system that deprives poor people of fuel and the money to buy some, while bludgeoning them into insensibility with religion.

So, in far-off Portugal, 65 not-so-poor people are cremated alive in their cars or overcome while running away after dry-lightning sets off a huge, fast-moving forest fire in the middle of a catastrophic heatwave that is sweeping Europe. I should be angry that the European Union, German bankers and the IMF have forced austerity measures on Portugal after making high-interest loans to the government that can’t pay them back, so that planned safety measures such as cutting fire-breaks and making public fire-refuges in that enormous forest had to be delayed. But it’s futile getting narked with them, they don’t read muh li’l bogl and wouldn’t care much if they did.

While in China, rescue workers are frantically digging for 120 people missing after a 2 km-wide landslide, the side of a small mountain, buries their village after heavy rain. So what? I find myself shrugging. That’s how it goes in those countries. 159 people died in mudslides and flooding in Bangladesh the previous week, 150 people died in mudslides and flooding in Sri Lanka the week before that – many more in Chile. Should I get angry that villages are built under weak and overhanging mountain slopes and the rural poor have little choice but to to live in them, under the monsoon rains that get heavier year by year? Maybe.

Should it continue to upset me greatly that this is the fault of the lying bastards from Exxon, from Shell, from Hamm and Koch and Devon, Murray Energy and Peabody Coal – giant corporates who have spent hundreds of $millions over decades funding climate-change deniers and stuffing the mouths of politicians and journalists with cash, while racing to burn the last vestige of our inherited energy at the lowest possible cost to enrich their already overwhelmingly rich stockrobbers? That their CEOs are racing to build underground compounds and spacecraft to Mars, buying superyachts and hiring private armies to try to survive the hell they’re making, in which the rest of us have already begun to perish by the thousand – next year, the million? Not really. What can we do? It’s already too late to do anything, even killing the money-monsters won’t stop it.

And here we are in jolly old Britain, gaping at the unexpected news that so far, and despite the inspections we imagined they must have undergone over the years, one hundred per cent so far of the cladding samples from 600 high-rise public-housing tower blocks in England where the poorer sort are condemned to live and sometimes die have failed their safety tests; while some blocks don’t even have fire-resistant doors (1,000 such doors have not been fitted to just five buildings in north London), or proper fire escapes – and are served by unprotected gas pipes. That’s the supposedly safe type of cladding, mind, not the unsafe type that caught fire somehow on the Grenfell tower in north London, killing 79 (that’s 18 dead recovered so far, including the six who jumped; plus 61 still missing… out of possibly hundreds more whose hidden prior existence is suspected but not confirmed, perhaps even covered-up), two weeks after the event.

And the US company that makes the cladding, Arconic, part of the aluminum giant Alcoa? They’ve decided to stop selling it because the regulations in Europe are so complicated. I’m assuming our mutual extradition treaty will enable the police to extract the directors on manslaughter charges? Well, it is complicated: dated UK government regulations would have prevented the use of this type of cladding in these circumstances but were not enforceable owing to deregulation of the inspectorate, so the building trade introduced its own, lower standard…

I ought to be angry about that, right? I mean, politicians should be going to gaol?

Well, I can get somewhat angry when the minister with a special portfolio for vanity projects like the uneconomical Hinckley Point B nuclear power station, whose Sino-French electricity if it is ever finished will cost five times as much as the wind and solar juice we can make ourselves – HS2, the costly and destructive high-speed rail link that will cut 20 minutes off the journey time between London and Birmingham for anyone who can afford a ticket, which won’t be us – the polluting and unimaginative third runway at Heathrow, requiring the bulldozing of historic villages, all in the interests of ‘global competitiveness’ and the Godalmighty ‘business community’ – when ‘Lord’ Andrew Adonis fails to mention fixing the cladding problem, the housing crisis, the defunding of schools and universities and the broken health service as possible priority ‘infrastructure’ projects…

But I don’t. There won’t be enough migrants to build them anyway.

I am sanguine even when the Prime Minister of a minority House risks the disintegration of the Good Friday peace accord, inviting new acts of terrorism, by bribing the tiny and rebarbative Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland for their votes with $1.5 billion skimmed off the budget (if there was one) for the ‘unaffordable’ necessities aforementioned; money that will presumably have to go towards mitigating the unmitigated disaster of the open-ended energy subsidy scheme created by the dog-faced leader of the DUP’s Bible-thumping Parliamentary squad, Ms Arlene Foster. Money perhaps to be rescued from Brussels, that will certainly not now be going to the cash-strapped NHS, as promised by the lying Brexit cunts (Conservative and Unionist Neo-Thatcherites).

And now I am struggling on behalf of the 320 million citizens of the United States of America to get angry, when I read that the Koch brothers, David and Charles, their worth as human beings measured at $48 billion dollars apiece, have issued an ultimatum to the Republican majority on the Senate and their leader, the flexible Trump-licking apparatchik Mitch McConnell: toughen-up and pass the repeal bill of Obamacare, that will doom millions of losers to uninsurable medical misery; pass the $500 billion tax cuts for the top 1% on Fortune’s rich list, who own between them half the wealth of the world, or they will defund Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, on whom they otherwise plan spending $400 million buying their votes and their lies about climate change.

Well, the tar-sands ravaging Kochs won’t defund, will they. That’d be pretty self-defeating. Unless they buy the Democratic party instead, which they could easily afford. They have no political allegiances, they’re not even human beings anymore. They’ve bought themselves out of the human race. They just eat and breathe and shit money while ripping the heart and the lungs out of our dying little blue world; the Saromans, the miners of Mordor. And the poor old GOP senators: damned if they do, double-damned if they don’t. You have to feel sorry for them, before you string them up. But there is no doubting who owns the government, and it ain’t the American people.

No, I cannot today get unduly exercised over the state of the world because I am already so fucking angry, overall, that no horrors can make a difference.

For I am becoming unreasonably furious with the shave-head, tattoo guy renting next door. He spends his entire life screwing about with an old van he’s somehow acquired, out in all weathers – under a tarp in the rain – taking the wheels off, putting them back on again, fiddling with the engine, painting the windows black – not in the yard, right out on the street, on the main road there, look – opposite my house, in the entrance to the side-street where I need to find parking space every day, on the narrow pavements and on people’s private forecourts when they’re out. (It’s a nice, quiet, middle-class estate.)

Enough screwing with the van already! For weeks this man-child has been driving me nuts. He doesn’t even have proper tools for the job.

As, among the many crude modifications he’s made is the installation of some fucking enormous boombox system, that goes ”boom-slump, boom-slump… (pause)… thump-dump, thump-dump… (pause)… boom-thump, dump-wump all fucking day long, shaking the house while he’s out there fucking about with the van, that never goes anywhere more than ten yards around the road, the estate, where no-one ever used to let me park without sticking a threatening note on my windshield. Not a musical note to be heard, just bass fucking thump-wump, that you can hear a mile away.

Get a job!

Christ, I hate poor people. They’re so – always in your face.

They’ve probably got more money than I have.

x

“…why would he not concoct some foreign policy misadventure to show what he is really made of?

Syria: a grotesque deception?

In a bizarre development, Mr Sean Spicer, the frazzled White House spokesmouth sent out daily to lie for America, has announced at a late-night press briefing that the President has received ‘intelligence’ that President Assad is planning a fresh chemical attack on ‘his own people’, including, of course, many ‘innocent children’.

Trump’s response, he goes on, should that happen will be to launch a direct missile strike on Damascus, at the heart of the Assad regime, aimed at cutting off the head; regardless of the Russian interest. And regardless of any innocent children who happen to get in the way of his expensively acquired ordnance. The USA, he points out, is militarily far more powerful in the region than is Russia.

The reaction of the Pentagon and the generals on the ground in Syria has been wondrous to behold.

Nobody told them.

“The White House must have solid intelligence about a possible Syrian sarin attack but why they chose to send [a] message to Assad and Putin via press release isn’t clear,” Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association said in a tweet. (The Guardian, 27 June)

Why ‘must’ they have? (Sorry, I’d tweet that but I don’t have a Twitter account. Ed.)

One of Mr Trump’s key campaign pledges was that he would never again involve the United States in unplanned foreign adventures as his predecessors had; and that for the sake of US forces abroad he would impose a blackout on advance information of military operations.

So here he is, going back on his word again, twice. Is this another ‘you’d better hope there are no “””tapes”””‘ moment, a childish bluff he has post-rationalized as ‘smart’, to ensure that Mr Comey would not be lying when he told the Senate Trump had leaned on him… er… ooops… that could rebound on him bigly?

And why is it not clear why Mr Trump is conducting military strategy by press release? Normally he does it by tweet, but his staffers are having some success in prising him off his iPhone. Or he just invites the Russians into the White House and tells them in person. He screams at the press like a bitch when they criticize him, but doesn’t mind using them when it suits.

How it suited on this occasion was that Trump had only one outlet for the statement that he could control: Sean Spicer.

With the Orange Clown’s approval ratings still hovering in the mid-to upper thirties and the Senate and FBI investigations into his money-laundering activities and Russian contacts and the pathetically misguided attempts he has made to shut them down showing no signs of stopping, why would he not concoct some new foreign policy misadventure to show what he is really made of?

Which is: pathological lies, self-incriminating tweets, confusion and contradiction, ignorance and obfuscation, mindless greed and nepotism, crony capitalism beyond caricature – plus a horrible series of blunders in the Middle East that have brought Saudi Arabia to the threshold of war with Qatar.

Responding to this ’45 minutes’ dirty-dossier announcement, our own beloved Defence minister, arch-Tory cunt and chinless bully-boy Fallon, goes all kneejerk once again. Of course we will follow Mr Trump into the jaws of hell, no questions asked, regardless of the consequences. Not that we’ve been told about this either.

Who is he speaking for? The nation? Parliament? The DUP?

Why do we allow ignorant and inept politicians to conduct foreign policy on our behalf? Who asked them to create misery around the world, that comes back to bite us? What do we get out of it?

There seems to be a money-tree somewhere contingent entirely on the whims of the Tory party. We can’t afford to provide mental health outpatient services for our disorientated young people, so that they have to be ripped away from their families and sent to the nearest secure bed 300 miles from home, but by God we can still waste millions of pounds worth of ordinance we’ve bought from the Americans, risking a world war to massage the bleeding ego of the most disgusting, crooked and incompetent old monster ever to occupy the sacred office.

We can always find money for a good war.

I am hoping this crazed announcement is only Spicey going rogue. He’s as mad as his master, for sure.

x

Cheese-dreams

I’ve always supported the idea of radio as a natural home for ‘beautiful voices’.

Modestly, I used to be acknowledged as one such myself.

Listening to a voice that is damaged or grating is not a particularly pleasant experience. Some visual content might help to extenuate the sometimes excruciating or merely annoying aural sensation of an impedimented speech; okay on TV, perhaps, but on its own, it makes it difficult or even impossible to move into the sacred communication space between ear and loudspeaker.

A regional accent is generally acceptable, provided it is not so strong as to make it incomprehensible. That means most regions, the most difficult to the southern English ‘RP’ ear being the Northeast, Glasgow and – most difficult of all – Belfast, where interviewees with poor education, no vocal training or consideration for the foreign listener speak so fast and furiously, not a word can be made out. That a Northern Irish accent can be soothing on the ear is evidenced by the dulcet tones of newscaster, Kathy Clugston.

An inveterate listener to Radio 4’s Today programme, I am still perturbed by the voice of presenter Nick Robinson. I know that he survived throat cancer, which has left his voice with a rough tinge. I respect the years he spent as chief political correspondent, a title condemning the holder to doorstepping a succession of Prime Ministers outside Number 10, which obviously he can’t go on doing in the cold night air without further damage to his vocal chords, but the sympathy factor doesn’t make him easier to listen to; while I feel mainly that his high-handed style of interviewing doesn’t fit the early-morning need for a more gentle takedown of political pretension.

There is no doubt that Dame Hilary Mantel, best-selling author of the Tudor romance Wolf Hall – one of those books like Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Proust’s A La Recherche des Temps Perdu which one suspects many may have in their bookcase but few will have read from cover to cover – is an enormously intelligent, well-read and interesting person.

Despite realizing the importance of her perception of history as something which, as with our modern God, we have internalized over generations, until of course it came to the historic blunder of voting to leave the EU, I have found it difficult to listen to her current series of Reith lectures. Her wheezy, wavering, disembodied soprano is like checking-in to a half-timbered old country-house hotel and waking paralysed in the middle of a terrifying night of post-prandial port- and cheese-dreams to find yourself being harangued by the ghost of a dead child.

I learn that it may be the result of steroidal medication for endometriosis or some other medical condition. She has not had an easy life. For that reason I stuck with the latest episode and found it rewarding. To quote from her forthcoming foray: ‘History is what remains in the sewer after the centuries have flowed through it.’

A gal after my own heart.

 

The Sekulow Society

I am unable to manage my anger, however, after reading the following story:

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/27/trump-lawyer-jay-sekulow-donations

For it seems Mr Trump is not the only scam-artist making a fortune out of well-meaning but gullible charity donors. This lying scumbag he employs as an attorney is just as unspeakable, only worse, as he professes to be a Christian. He’s not, it seems instead that he’s a bottom-feeding invertebrate in a toxic sludge pond.

  • UB

PS (Script, to be read over the phone in a reassuring but menacing voice):

“You may like to make a donation NOW to cover your use of the BogPo/The Pumpkin. I’ll understand if you are poor and can only afford $100 dollars or so. It’ll be worth it to save your immortal soul and avoid burning in the fires of eternal damnation, brother/sister.

“You can save your kids from getting cancer too by sending me all the money you have. If not, I’ll just sue you for it, you un-Christian cheapskate.

“Thank you for your time, have a nice day.”

 

 

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.

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“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.

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“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?”

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 17. The Bartered Bribe. Plus long essay: 100 Days of Sod ’em

“…gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes?”

The Bartered Bribe

By: Our Chief North America Correspondent, John Sopoor. ©2017 @support_us.gov

You know, I keep going back to a Post of The Pumpkin on 21 April which began with Oliver Cromwell’s famous 1653 speech dissolving the Long Parliament, and finding more and more resonances with Trump’s White House.

Once again I am indebted to Rachel Maddow at MSNBC for exhaustively explaining (her explanations can be pretty exhausting, and then you don’t get the meat of the story because she’s gone to a commercial break and the rest hasn’t been uploaded, but we’ll persevere) the background to yet another potential shitstorm, this time involving the plastic toy, Special Advisor and general US Government, Jared Kushner.

I have often exclaimed in mock despair that there appears to be no end to the stories and allegations of dodgy dealings surrounding  Trump and his family, going back into the mists of time and before; and it seems into the future, with no reprehension; no clarity, no remorse. I guess some families are just like that. The Borgias spring to mind.

But the Pumpkin’s famed despair is beginning to lose its mockiness. I read on the hot-news ‘crawler’ unspooling beneath Ms Maddow as she outlined the latest Trump family financial plans that, for instance, Ivanka Trump’s lovely face is now to be found on billboards announcing the opening of the Trump Tower in Manila, capital of the Philippines.

Now, Mrs Kushner – Ms Trump – Ivanka has an official position in the US government. She was appointed three weeks ago as a special advisor, given a title: ‘First Daughter’ (her wicked stepmom remains a prisoner in the gilded Manhattan tower), her own office and a brief in the White House – and a top-level security clearance.

Under the Emoluments clause of the constitution it’s illegal for public officials to profit from foreign business transactions, but here she is, advertising Orange Daddy’s hotel business, that she and her brothers Donny Jr and the Little Nazi, Eric, are supposed to have been put in charge of precisely so he isn’t compromised by his ownership of said businesses while he abuses the Office of President of the United States.

Well, fuck that for a game of soldiers.

Not only that, but Trump has invited Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines, to the White House – Duterte, a squalid little pockmarked thug who publicly called President Obama a ‘fucking son of a whore’, makes salty jokes about personally raping the women his soldiers have missed and has operated an open policy of paying police death squads and vigilantes to hunt down and murder anyone suspected of involvement in the drugs trade, the number of his victims now at 7,000 and rising; has compared himself favourably to Hitler, and who has boasted that he has personally murdered people, is considered by Trump a fit person to enjoy his chocolate-cake hospitality at the expense of the US government.

Could there be a connection? Is the US taxpayer, of whom The Pumpkin is one, paying for a private Trump Tower Manila-flavoured thank-you gift to Duterte? I don’t suppose in the midst of everything else we shall ever know.

Kushner is in fact all over the press today, it is necessary only to Google ‘Kushner, Guinea’ to get the story from several newspapers behind Maddow’s exposé of his business relationship with Beny Steinmetz, an Israeli businessman whose companies are in the New York South District Court dock right now, charged with paying massive illegal bribes to the government of Equatorial Guinea for iron ore mining rights, following an FBI wiretap operation involving the widow of the late President, Sekou Touré.

Israel-based Steinmetz is alleged to have invested almost $200 million in Kushner’s properties, including a Trump Tower project, since his firm was indicted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. That in itself would be prima facie evidence of corruption.

Yet nothing seems to touch the Trump family. The recent piece of brilliant investigative reporting by Adam Davidson in the New Yorker magazine linking Trump Organization via Ivanka to a deal over a Trump Tower in Azerbaijan that appears to have been part-financed with laundered money from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (a proscribed terror organization) in breach of international sanctions, through the profoundly corrupt Mammadov family, seems to have attracted barely more than a yawn, and a ‘well, he’s Trump, what do you expect?’ from the authorities. (The Trump lawyer who carried out the apparently innocent ‘due diligence’ search and greenlighted the illegal project in Baku has been given a key post in the administration.)

These kinds of deals are going to be increasingly difficult to uncover, as one of Trump’s earliest executive orders rescinded an Obama rule that companies involved in the energy and mining industries have to declare payments to foreign officials for extraction rights.

No prizes for speculating why he passed that particular Trump Turd, then.

Meanwhile details are emerging from the Wall Street Journal of some more of ‘Mr Kushner’s’ financial arrangements, including the news that he is indebted to more than 20 banks for a total of over $1 billion, part-guaranteed by Machiavellian billionaire speculator George Soros. Unfortunately he forgot to declare it when accepting his multitasking role as a White House advisor to his equally deeply indebted father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

There’s one world for them, and fuck the rest of us.

‘A mock-presidential cumface, like Frankie Howerd being sodomised by a camel.’

Sayings of the Week:

“Money is no longer a measure of value; for most people in the West it is merely a form of energy, like gas and electricity. The new currency of capitalism is data.” – Uncle Bogler

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Long Essay

100 Days of Sod ’em

The problem, it seems to The Pumpkin, that the world’s media is having in presenting the mad, ugly, dysfunctional face of Trump to the public is that the appalling things he is doing – or trying to do – and the bizarre way he is going about doing them are so bewilderingly stratified as to be almost incapable of coherent rationalization in policy terms.

(A mock-presidential cum-face that, excuse me, rather resembles the late comedian Frankie Howerd being sodomised by a camel.)

Instead of grasping the bull by the horns and campaigning full-out to get the President removed from office urgently as a threat to national security, so clearly mentally unhinged is he, the media is salami-slicing Trump’s grotesque first 100 days, spinning out a catalogue of monstrosities as a disconnected series of odd events, and thus failing to present a holistic picture; presumably for considerations of space, as a comprehensive blow-by-blow critique is going to take a fair-sized tome.

Can The Pumpkin do better? Well, not a lot, but he’ll try.

For instance, we appear to have forgotten already that only a little over a week ago Trump had sent V-P Mike Pence, a weirdly smirking snow-capped tailor’s dummy, to South Korea, where he was threatening all-out nuclear war against tiny North Korea, until his boss realised that the nuclear-tipped ‘armada’ he thought someone had despatched to the southwestern Pacific to threaten President Kim was in fact 3,500 miles away in the Indian Ocean on exercises with the Australian navy.

Yes, within his first 100 days, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful force on earth had managed to lose an aircraft carrier, two destroyers, a frigate and some supply ships.

Today, instead, he is lauding Kim Jong-un as ‘a smart cookie’ whom he would be ‘honoured to meet’ – this is the 33-year-old mass murderer and personality-cult leader in charge of the most repressive, over-militarized regime on earth. The Daily Mail reported, not without relish:

“North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un executed his uncle by having him stripped naked and eaten alive by starving dogs while he watched, a report claimed yesterday.”

Honoured? Fuck’s sake. Make America great again, kowtow to a teenage psychopath who starves dogs. It’s pretty demeaning, but you can understand the envy with which the fragile ego constrained by civilized values contemplates the possibilities of absolute power. MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough, thrown to starving women….

It’s only a few other days since Trump made a snide comment about how Kim had been involved in ‘failed’ negotiations with President Bill Clinton, not realizing that it was so long ago it would have had to be his father, Kim Jong-il. (Indeed, according to Prof Chomsky, North Korea has several times tried to make peace with the US by giving up its nuclear ambitions and been rebuffed.)

However, it does seem the strategy has been working, inasmuch as President Xi has been so alarmed by Trump’s aggressive irrationality, his ignorance of affairs in the western Pacific and charmed by the chocolate cake dessert at Mar-a-Lago, that he appears to be co-operating in cramming a lid at least for now on his chubby Korean ally’s more provocative nuclear flag-waving.

Nor, it was demonstrated in another weird appearance before the press last week, could Trump recall who his oyster-eyed acolyte, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan is. Instead, he kept confusing him with former Senator Ron Paul, founder and practically the sole member of the Libertarian Party.

He continues to obsess like a dog at a bone about the election result, in which he failed by 2.8 million votes to win a popular majority; and about the poor turnout at his inauguration, holding more and more rallies of the faithful to convince himself that he really won, that he is really loved by the people.

He isn’t loved by the CIA, however; as, at a memorial service in January for their Cold War dead, he delivered an atrocious speech in the poorest possible taste, praising himself, his election victory and his record turnout.

You see, he’s too old for this. He’s still not in the mental space labelled President of the United States, and may never be.

Since taking office, Trump has not ameliorated his habit of reacting petulantly to every perceived criticism; continuing to Tweet out bilious, misspelled vengeful messages in the early hours in response to anything he half-remembers seeing on TV news. It got him into serious trouble early in March when, at 06.30 on the 4th, this appeared:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

The story is cloudy. Trump’s grasp of the history of McCarthyism is tenuous, to say the least. He later amended the analogy to ‘Watergate’, as he has a habit of self-incrimination by subconscious blurting, but it appears he was jumping to conclusions after seeing a story from Breitbart News among his morning briefs, that was subsequently traced to a so-called ‘alt-right’ website, InfoWars, run by the demented shock-jock Alex Jones; and thence to other obscure rightwing sources; and may ultimately have had its origins in a manufactured leak back in the White House.

The story broke just as the FBI investigation into connections between team Trump and Russian intelligence was getting interesting. When FBI director Comey dismissed the wiretap allegations as unproven and absurd, Trump proceeded via Fox News to an even wilder allegation against the British intelligence monitoring service, GCHQ, that provides the NSA with all the latest European and Russian scuttlebut, plus of course weekly copies of this, muh bogl.

Two weeks later, however, there appeared to be some tangential truth in Trump’s madness when it became clear that GCHQ was the source of the original allegations against Trump staffers, in particular one Carter Page, a ‘deniable’ self-deluding international fixer, as the British had intercepted conversations in 2015 with Russian agents who were already under routine monitoring and the FBI had obtained a FISA order to surveille Page.

The story thus dissolved into the normal smoke-and-mirrors of friendly clandestine spying operations between nations and took the heat off the President and what if any role he may have played in allowing or encouraging Russian military intelligence to hack his competitors’ servers to dig up dirt he could use against Clinton.

Trump thus felt totally vindicated, until on the 20th FBI Director James Comey confirmed to a Congressional hearing that Obama was innocent but he was still investigating the Russian connection. The hearings were abruptly halted by Republican chairman Devin Nunes when it became clear that the next key witness was going to be Sally Yates, the former Acting Attorney-General, who had been abruptly fired by Trump over ‘what she knew’ about National Security Advisor, General Mike T Flynn – who had himself been fired after lying about his Russian connections.

So bizarre and clearly panic-stricken was Chairman Nunes’ behaviour in attempting to suppress his own investigation – fed another anonymous ‘intelligence dossier’ via the back door of the White House ‘proving’ Obama’s treachery, he subsequently pretended to hand it in to the Presidemt and then claimed that the hearings were continuing in secret at his home without any of the committee members being invited – he was eventually forced to recuse himself and would do well to book himself into rehab.

But the hearings have not been resumed as the matter has since proceeded up to the Senate, where there’s again a small Republican majority. It seems unlikely to get any further; there is talk of Grand Juries already sitting, but the Justice Department is being packed with Trump appointees who will surely not dare to challenge him. There is as yet no sign of the kind of dogged Special Prosecutor who did for Nixon or Clinton.

This astonishing kerfuffle was so irregular that it seems almost to have been forgotten about, but it clearly illustrates the disturbing nature of the administration and the smokescreen of chaos with which it has deliberately surrounded itself.

The fact that Trump had instantly Tweeted out his total belief in a phoney claim made in a most dubious publication without bothering to check the facts with his security advisors and the FBI surely indicates either that he is temperamentally unfit to be the President, or that he rightly has no faith in his security advisors.

Nevertheless he is still there, and may be until January, 2021 at least. It is hard to see who or what will remove him, other than if he were to make a determined sexual assault on Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the House.

“…no sooner has the liberal establishment expressed amazement and concern over one bizarre interview or scandal brewing than there will come another, and another to confound everyone.”

Meanwhile, the ‘Golden Showergate’ dossier, a 35-page report compiled by former British MI6 Russia-desk officer Chris Steele from Russian intelligence sources indicating that Trump might have been the victim of a kompromat operation by Putin’s spies, and that he was a potential security threat, remained in the background, parts of it being confirmed occasionally by Congressional investigators, the FBI and the CIA, to no apparent overall effect.

The story of Teflon Donald’s first 100 days, about the historically unprecedented success of which he has already begun making promotional TV commercials, complete with paranoid attacks on the ‘fake news’ media, also reveals the unprecedentedly shambolic nature of his fumbling maladministration, his incredibly poor and uninformed capacity for rational thought or judgement; and ignores his past criminal associations, his doubtful financial record, his compulsive lying, his boasting, his ungrammatical confusions, his ignorance of detail, his ‘flip-flopping’ (We prefer the more grown-up ‘bewilderment’. Ed.) on so many key issues.

This week, for instance, we had more of his rambling, incoherent, self-contradictory assertions – the latest of which is that former President Andrew Jackson, a brutal slavemaster and genocide of Native Americans whom Trump greatly admires for his ‘big heart’, was so concerned about the issues surrounding the origins of the Civil War that he might have prevented it had it not been for Abraham Lincoln invading the South.

Never mind that he died sixteen years before the first shot was fired by the Confederacy at Fort Sumter.

Now, detailed examination of this rubbish – Trump also speculated that, had he been there at the time, he would personally have prevented the war, and complained that ‘nobody (but him) ever asks’ about the causes of the war – the purpose of possibly several hundred books on the subject he will never have heard of – which were much misunderstood, would lead one to the conclusion that the President a) has no knowledge whatever of American history, yet is perfectly prepared to pose for his Dumbfucks as an expert; and b) is so mentally unstable and narcissistic as to constitute a danger to the free world.

For it must be obvious to anyone with eyes to see, that he is also posing as a President.

But there is no time for such detailed examination, because no sooner has the liberal establishment expressed amazement and concern over one bizarre interview or scandal brewing than there will come another, and another to confound everyone.

The media is never going to convince his supporters that they made a stupid decision, even when it is clearly shown that his American Healthcare bill, that failed abysmally at its first hurdle and was withdrawn without a vote, sneaking back this week in a barely revised form, will not only disqualify millions of poorer Americans – including themselves – from holding adequate health insurance, but will penalize many with pre-existing conditions so severely that they will simply be left to die.

That is actually Republican Party policy, to get the sick and the State-dependant off the books as fast as possible; while at the same time gerrymandering constituencies by the simple expedient of disenfranchising black and Latino voters likely to be Democrats, and passing laws preventing Democratic party politicians from passing laws.

Numerous other of Trump’s huge and generalized campaign promises, seemingly made on the hoof, have turned out to be bullshit. But not all. And advantage is being taken of the abrasive tone of his campaign speeches by other sections of his party.

Among some of the extraordinary laws Republican States administrations have been trying to pass since the election is, for instance, the formal exoneration of motorists who kill demonstrators by running them over if they obstruct the highway. The Pumpkin hopes that was fake news. States that had liberalized personal marijuana possession are being forced to recriminalize it. Masked and well-armed State police have threatened they will be out early, kicking down doors. Oklahoma has been racing to execute more prisoners before they run out of drugs to do the job.

A kind of licensed brutality is in the air, but so little is comprehensively reported that it doesn’t look like a takeover by the authoritarian far-right, which it plainly is.

First Amendment freedom of the press to criticise the President is also becoming an issue.

The coverage by the mainstream media that reaches most Americans is disturbingly supine and respectful, as if they are dealing with a normal person, a normal administration that is perhaps just a little wayward in its early days, but which will straighten up and fly right eventually.

“I’ve got a little list”

Any actual criticism is shrugged off by the Trump propagandists as ‘fake news’; but like Nanki-poo, they’ve ‘got a little list’. The ‘enemies of the people’, as he continually calls them, aware of corporate financial pressures on their editorial staff and the ongoing loss of advertising to the internet, the rise of so-called ‘citizen media’ making the cost of investigative reporting prohibitive, the ‘failing media’ is conspiring to prevent Trump making America great again, and that’s what his supporters will believe until their dying day.

In fact, many Americans have met their dying days since Trump took office: not only the service personnel unnecessarily sacrificed to his vanity and military incompetence. The toll of record floods, raging wildfires, supercell storms and tornados, droughts, record temperatures and big-freeze ice storms is running into the hundreds, just this year. Sixteen more, including several children, died in floods and tornados only yesterday in Texas and the midwest – Trumpland. The climate is running rapidly out of control; and so is the oil-fuelled, coal-burning President, in hock to the denial industry.

And nobody cares, nobody apparently wants to see that their hero is just the extreme manifestation of the elitism of the rich and powerful, the very embodiment of ‘the swamp’ he promised them he would drain; that he has not the slightest interest in helping people he calls ‘the losers’ but, with his history of bankruptcies and lawsuits, his tax avoidance and huge unpaid debts to foreign banks, is out only to enrich himself and his already obscenely wealthy friends, driven mad by money; and, if the allegations prove true, his Russian paymaster.

The Pumpkin could enumerate literally dozens of horrible, awful things Trump has either initiated or agreed to.

What human being but a complete sadist or the crazed ‘supermom’ Sarah Palin, with her Tea Party morality and her sexually incontinent children would readily agree to sign an order licensing hunters to shoot hibernating she-bears with cubs?

It is incomprehensible that such a minute detail of administration should occupy any President in his first 100 days, yet there he was, his camel-fucked Presidential cum-face glowing like an amber traffic light next to his ridiculous squiggle on a document licensing many such horrors, a gurning crew of sycophantic macho hunting loby poltroons lined up proudly behind him for the photo-op.

This is surely one monstrous old poser, a cretin bereft of most human values, who is bound straight for Hell by express delivery.

“A cretin surely bound for Hell by express delivery”

The man is wittingly or otherwise an ecocide, a world criminal, having attempted to push through more than fifty such orders removing protections and precautions for the environment, for the climate, for wildlife in a frenzied onslaught on our fragile ecology, with no comprehension, no compassion, no vision – no belief in anything other than the power of money; as if we can eat money, drink it, breathe it – survive it.

He has been obsessive in his vindictive, childish determination to remove every trace of his more popular predecessor, Obama; to trash his reputation and to exceed his excesses with barbaric enthusiasm.

Federal agency budgets have been cut savagely*, NASA has been told to drop its satellite weather monitoring program; the National Monuments lands are under threat of development, permits being granted for aggressive pipeline projects and unrestricted drilling in formerly protected wilderness areas, the Arctic, all in the name of creating ‘thousands and thousands’ of jobs that will in fact disappear as US energy production goes into overdrive for no commercial reason – global demand is already far exceeded, the oil price has collapsed.

Energy industry transparency is being shut down; coal revived and dishonestly or foolishly promoted by Trump as ‘the cleanest energy ever’. Government scientists are being barred from publishing climate research, federal agencies barred from carrying out their duty of issuing public information on environmental matters, their administrations hollowed-out, gone. Climate change? ‘It’s a hoax’. (Has been since the 1880s when CO2 was first outed as a greenhouse gas. A long time to maintain a hoax involving tens of thousands of trained postgraduate scientists, possibly.)

The problem is, you see, once Trump has to get to grips with a little basic science, he becomes the greatest atmospheric physicist the world has ever known. Who better then to declare global warming a hoax?

Then there are his financial dealings; the dealings of the smartest negotiator, possibly ever; the smartest businessman. Simply Google: ‘Trump’, plus the name of any Russian bank – Alfabank, Sberbank, Deutsche Bank; ‘Trump’ plus Azerbaijan; ‘Trump’ plus Rybolovlev; ‘Trump’ plus Moscow, plus Mafia…. Even the rightwing Daily Mail was shocked by that last one. The evidence of money-laundering, of association with criminal enterprises at home and abroad is everywhere you look. Every day throws up the name of another oligarch with alleged connections to Trump and his gang.

For The Pumpkin, Trump’s most unique attribute is this: a man born into wealth, who need never have done any work in his life, something in his upbringing, some Trump family gene, some parental abuse has caused him to live his life like a ragged-arsed immigrant clawing his way out of the Bowery in about 1910, willing to do anything at all, whatever it takes to survive.

The gold of Trump is just leaf, the swagger and smarm a veneer. Underneath he is pure Charlie Chaplin; pure Bugsy Siegel, pure Clyde Barrow: a poor bastard who has turned himself through the desperate desire to prove himself good enough for his father, but who can only measure his progress in money, into a deceitful, facile thug.

His closest associates in the White House, his campaign team, his transition team… many of them are tarnished by similar allegations, financial dealings with corrupt foreign oligarchs and governments; attempts to thwart FBI investigations; billionaire ‘disruptors’ pursuing obscure rightwing and Christian fundamentalist causes, using their vast wealth to influence the outcome of elections, to undermine democratic institutions and cause profitable chaos in order to grasp more.

Wall Street sharks are filling the administration – we should understand that, while on the campaign trail Mr Trump admonished Goldman Sachs in particular, they are the financial advisor that made most of his connections to lenders such as Deutsche Bank and Bank of China, lenders to whom he owes more than a billion dollars; and to whose former executives he has in return entrusted all of the major financial arms of the State.

These are not conspiracy theories, those people are quite open, even boastful about their objectives and methods. They believe, apparently not without good reason, that they are at last untouchable: the Masters of the Universe, back in overwhelming numbers and in reach of real political power at last.

Trump’s immigration policy has been wild, insane, sickening. He has encouraged dreadful divisions in US society, turning people against foreigners and Muslims;  branding all migrants in this land of migrants as criminals, drug dealers, rapists.

Families that have been settled in America for decades are being torn apart as thuggish border goons interpret their remit, unopposed by Congress, to drag hardworking fathers and mothers in handcuffs, even from hospital beds, away from their American children to detention centres from where after a perfunctory hearing they are bundled out, having committed no crime other than to exist, to countries where they have no homes, no connections, no work.

Extra judges are being press-ganged to sit on 24-hour immigration tribunals; punitive funding cuts threatened against ‘sanctuary cities’ whose mayors refuse to impose draconian rules against useful and productive ‘illegals’. It is an onslaught that invites comparisons with Nazi Germany.

Yet immigration is vital: the native American birthrate is well below replacement, the population – as elsewhere in the Western world, is ageing.

Trump’s boneheaded and valueless attempts on ‘security’ grounds to ban temporarily, people traveling from countries from where no actual terrorist threats have ever emanated, the so-called Muslim travel ban, that absurdly has not been applied to prolific terror-sponsoring nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, ended twice in chaos and confusion, leading to face-offs with the courts and those he reviled as ‘so-called judges’, risking in his ignorance of the workings of Government a major confrontation between the Executive, Judicial and Congressional branches of the State.

Even a former Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, on his way to a prayer breakfast (don’t ask me. Ed.) was detained for two hours of questioning at Dulles airport, an incriminating Iranian visa stamp in his passport. And there’s talk of more and more oppressive Homeland Security – the compulsory surrender of personal media passwords, for instance; while Trump has readily signed over to internet service providers the automatic right to sell subscriber data – both measures in fact reducing the national cybersecurity.

He seems to do whatever anybody tells him, provided they are rich enough.

Trump’s much-vaunted promises to build a grandiose and ineffectual wall between the US and Mexico, that Mexico would pay for, that would divide border communities and hinder normal commercial flows worth $billions, have so far thankfully remained unfunded, despite his unfounded belief that it would totally halt the flow of drugs and illegal migrants into the USA.

His vain threats to impose punitive trade tariffs on Mexican goods, it has been shown, would have a negative effect on American consumers, while his promise to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, that he has now abandoned, merely showed him up as being ignorant of its real economic benefits and the costs of ending it. He persists in the hubris that isolationism is the way to restore the stagnant incomes of Americans, while the Federal Reserve continues to print money to lubricate the banks and holds interest rates at zero.

In his first 100 days, so many of his spontaneously generated campaign chickens have come home to roost. Being President is more complicated than he thought. So, Donald, go?

Likewise, another ‘ten-minute briefing’ at the White House with NATO chief Lars Stoltenburg caused another 180-degree turn in policy: ‘failing’ and ‘irrelevant’, NATO is now important once again; although one cannot be sure that he has been cured of his erroneous belief that NATO pays the USA money in exchange for a defence umbrella, and that many member States are not paying what they owe. Hence his $390 billion ‘invoice’ to Angela Merkel.

No, Donald, that’s not how it works! It’s a treaty organization guaranteeing mutual defense. NATO members are independent nations. They commit to keeping their defence budgets at a certain level, but they all have different GDP to begin with! Different defence requirements. And the treaty obliges them to come to your aid too, if the USA is attacked. NATO is not, as he hoped, some kind of standing army, that will take on ISIS terrorists on its own initiative.

This is a man almost entirely ignorant of the affairs of State, of how the world works, of the history of international relations, who is undergoing a learning-curve that seems almost entirely beyond his capabilities to negotiate. Is that not a serious enough failing in a President, in the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful armed force in world history, by whom one mistake could end human civilization?

Earlier in April, while at dinner with the Chinese President at his vulgar golf resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, from which he continues to profit while in office, Trump theatrically left the table to sanction a strike by 59 cruise missiles on an airbase in Syria, thereby overturning his own non-intervention policy. It appeared to be an emergency, but by a strange coincidence, his entire security team were already there, waiting in another room.

The strike was ineffectual and although justified as a show of force to tell President Assad he couldn’t use chemical weapons on civilians, and to tell President Xi the US has a tough guy in charge who means business, it was widely seen as a convenient distraction from the FBI’s investigations into Trump’s Russian connections.

Mr Trump later expressed awe at his own military power and suggested he had just realized you had to be careful with this stuff as missiles could kill people. Nine civilians, including four children, died so that he could discover the principle. It was reminiscent of Mr Trump’s revelations regarding uranium, that could be used to make ‘bad things’, who knew?; and his naive query as to why, if we have nuclear weapons, we don’t use them more? Was he joking?

No, his budget provided for billions of dollars to increase the nuclear capability, that is already sufficient to eradicate all life on the planet several times over.

But a strong military is essential for the defence of the nation – and good for share prices.

Soon afterwards his airforce dropped an 11,000-lb MOAB air burst bomb on a cave complex in Afghanistan, killing – it’s thought – 36 ISIS guerrillas, a piece of theatrical sabre-rattling designed to intimidate the North Koreans, against whom Trump began fulminating the next day. His record of drone strikes has far exceeded even that of his predecessor, Obama; ‘collateral’, civilian casualties have quadrupled as his military has been told there will be no criticism, no comebacks, whatever they have to do to get the job done. (The ‘job’ is to eradicate the so-called Islamic State by saturation bombing, another futile policy.)

Since Trump took office, US troops have been sent by the thousand in secret to several more potential theatres of war. He has placed a blanket ban on announcing military operations. He has previously said that the objective of US military policy should be to ‘seize the oil’. He was persuaded not to do that in Iraq, only when it was pointed out to him which side the US was fighting on.

The corrupt appointments: his family members, friends of the family, his financial backers, the party’s financial backers, the backers and staff of Breitbart News, gimlet-eyed military hawks, demonstrably stupid, venal and incompetent local political hicks, all rewarded with key government posts they are not remotely qualified to fill; other, many other posts left vacant – key ambassadorships, heads of department – all are indicative of his inexperience, his isolation as CEO of his own business.

His proposed tax reforms, for instance, all one page of them (in easy to read bullet points), benefitting corporations and the top point two percent of the most wealthy to the tune of, literally, trillions of dollars; gouging the poor and the middle-class, will scarcely pass with no-one in the Treasury in charge of the country’s tax planning; but that post remains unfilled too, another empty department.

Under the toxic Attorney-General, Jefferson Beauregard ‘Jeff’ Sessions 111, who lied about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and had to recuse himself from any investigation of Trump’s team and its unexplained connections with Russia, the Justice Department is filling up with Trump appointees, after he fired all the circuit judges in January without any replacements lined up. The southern racialist, anti-civil rights, anti-abortion advocate and avowed Confederate supporter, Sessions has been busy removing any legal constraints on the actions of the police nationwide.

General Flynn, the first National Security Advisor, waved through by the Trump administration on the basis of an old security clearance that should have been revoked after he was fired by Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, lasted 24 days in post before having to stand down after being caught lying about connections with Russia. They began to emerge in 2016, and have still not stopped emerging, as he took substantial sums of money as an undeclared ‘foreign agent’ for obscure PR efforts on behalf of Russia, and of Turkey – financed by the Russians.

Trump’s son-in-law, the 36-year-old property speculator Jared Kushner, too, who is wearing a bewildering array of ‘hats’ in the White House, including a brief to re-engineer the entire administrative machinery in Washington, was caught lying about contacts he had with Russian Ambassador Kislyak; while since the inauguration a number of prominent Russian diplomats, bankers and business ‘contacts’ based in Washington (and one or two in Moscow) have unexpectedly died, including the Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin – whose autopsy results have been Classified.

The Russian connection extended to apparent attempts to influence the election through the hacking of Democratic party servers and the release via the ever-useful Wikileaks of what the FBI found were non-incriminating emails sent and received by Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta. In March Mr Trump seems to have employed a British politician, Nigel Farage, as a go-between to Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange – but Sessions has since had a new warrant issued for Assange’s arrest on old charges of leaking classified documents.

(Beware of Assange’s revenge!)

Farage is an associate of Raheem Kassam, the UK editor of Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News website, and a ‘friend’ of ultra-rightwing billionaire fund manager, Robert Mercer, who with his daughter Rebekah funds Breitbart. Other Breitbart writers and section editors have received posts in the administration, including ‘Dr’ Sebastian Gorka, a British-Hungarian security analyst with suspected connections to a secretive neo-Nazi movement in Hungary (he has now left the administration). Mercer’s company, Cambridge Analytica, is alleged to have been behind computer ‘botnet’ attacks on the British EU referendum, in which Farage campaigned prominently for ‘Brexit’.

Bannon and other wealthy disruptors are linked in a tenuous network with Republican funders and Russian oligarchs promoting religious and racial ‘purity’ and an Islamophobic, antisemitic agenda. They seem in the early days at least to have ‘captured the castle’ as far as Trump and his administration were concerned, giving rise to the suggestion that the President is merely a ‘useful idiot’ in a plot to undermine Western democratic institutions and to destroy the US government in its present form – as Bannon boasted was his intention in a speech to the Conservative CPAC conference in January, at which young, wealthy male delegates notoriously gave a Nazi salute, shouting Heil Trump!, apparently without irony – a plot in which the Russian president Putin is suspected of having a disruptive hand.

Trump seems to have an unhealthy regard for ‘strongman’ dictators: in addition to his expressed admiration for Duterte and North Korea’s Kim, he has happily received at the White House such humanitarians as General al-Sisi of Egypt, Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and Viktor Orban of Hungary – an old friend of Gorka’s – and has refused to criticise either Putin or the increasingly paranoid Erdogan of Turkey, to whom he Tweeted congratulations on scraping through a referendum giving him absolute powers for life (Following which, Erdogan proceeded to arrest or suspend another ten thousand government officials as ‘plotters’ supposedly supporting his nemesis, the US-exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen).

Indeed, Trump has praised both of them lavishly; and it seems General Flynn’s missions may have helped to bring about a rapprochement between the two countries – as indeed did those of Russian oligarch Aleksandr Dugin – and, perhaps, advanced a lucrative undersea gas pipeline deal bypassing Syria for Noble Energy – a company drilling in collaboration with the Israeli energy sector, in which Trump has shares; one of whose former directors, George Papadopoulos is an Energy Advisor appointee in the Trump administration.

Yet he pretty much cold-shouldered Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Abe, appearing to fall asleep standing up and noticeably refusing to wear his translation earpiece at their joint press conferences, so he had no idea what they were saying.

As a result, his foreign policy is a total muddle that no-one can clearly follow. As is his administration.

His Foreign Policy pointman, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – former boss of America’s biggest oil company – has no diplomatic experience, and virtually no diplomatic or administrative support at the State Department, which has been hollowed-out with over 500 appointments still vacant; there are 34 ambassadors yet to be hired, many to key countries around the world – South Korea, Japan, Singapore. Entire foreign desks, including China, are missing. Is it deliberate? It feels like a Bannon policy.

The Commerce Secretary – an old ‘consigliere’ to the Trump family, billionaire Wilbur Ross was until this March a major investor in and vice-chair of Bank of Cyprus, a known conduit to the west for sanctioned Russian money. His fellow directors included the former head of Deutsche Bank, another money-laundering bank that lent Trump hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which he was unable to pay back. Who owns those debts now? Trump connection Dmitry Rybolovlev owns 10 per cent of the bank. Trump was reported to have benefited from a property deal they did in Florida, to the tune of $60 million. The property was subsequently pulled down as being unfit for habitation.

The former Attorney General of Oklahoma, the climate-change-denying baboon Scott Pruitt, equally has no-one running the key departments at the Environment Protection Agency, that he has vowed in any case to destroy as it conflicts with the demands of his benefactors, the energy companies. He has sued the EPA on behalf of fracking interests on 14 separate occasions. Pruitt fought for years to prevent the release of emails subpoena’d by environmentalists expected to show his connection to the fabulously wealthy mining and energy extractors, the Koch Brothers; America’s third biggest polluters of all three carbon ‘sinks’.

Trump’s appointment as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, had no public administration experience in the Education field, other than co-owning a business pursuing student debtors. A Christian fundamentalist, she’s the wife of Amway pyramid-selling multi-billionaire and friend of Trump’s, Dick DeVos – who as the owner of healthcare corporations stands potentially to benefit from the new American Healthcare Act if it ever passes.

DeVos’ Spectrum Healthcare was revealed in February to be one of only two users sharing a mysterious email server in a small town in Pennsylvania, traced to the Trump Organization. The other user was the Russian Alfabank, owned by Mikhail Fridman, an oligarch who, Fortune magazine reported, was planning to divest his oil holdings in Rosneft and go into ‘US healthcare’.

Other, lesser appointments reveal a catalogue of incompetents promoted above their capabilities, with woeful CVs, suggesting that no-one in their right mind would want to work for this failing administration.

One success Trump can claim is the appointment of a far-right Supreme Court judge, Neil S Gorsuch, 49, who has an unblemished record of finding against individuals in cases involving corporations and whose career has been bankrolled by oil, sports and leisure industry magnate, Philip Anschutz (net worth $11 bn). To get him appointed, the Republicans on the Approvals committee had to get Congress to change the rules, having filibustered furiously for over a year to keep President Obama from filling the vacant position with a Democrat, but hey, it was a triumph. Of sorts.

Mr Gorsuch’s first act in office was to use his casting vote in favour of executing another black man.

Trump’s relationship with the press has been a disaster of epic proportions, thanks to his hapless, blustering, bullying dimwit of a Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, and his lunatic PR flack Kellyanne Conway – inventor of the ‘alternative truth’.

While there may be humour in the situation, less humorous have been the threats issued against journalists by Trump’s senior policy advisor, Stephen K Bannon; and now, hollow threats by the pathetic Reince Priebus, the White House’s sidelined ‘Chief of Staff’, to rewrite the First Amendment to the constitution in order to modify the concept of free speech for the press. Even to think that might be possible is to countenance the kind of authoritarian administration that characterized Germany in the 1930s; yet Trump’s compulsive, illiterate 3 a.m. Tweeting accusing minor female celebrities of being too fat makes him a pretty comic, second-rate Hitler.

Can we just laugh him out of office? Well, no. He wouldn’t even attend the annual dinner last weekend of the White House Press Corps he despises, after being insulted with humour last year. His only eye on the world is Fox News.

And it just goes on. The refusal to release his tax returns; the leaks, both intentional and not; the illegal profiting from foreign government money funnelled through his hotel in Washington, subsidised by the government estates department that owns the freehold of the building; the threats to sue anyone who writes the sort of things I am writing here; the smell of cover-up and national decay, the permanent smokescreen of confusion and chaos – the primacy of money above humanity.

Indeed, the only question one can ask is, in Trump’s own notorious words, just what the Hell is going on?

To say Trump’s presidency has thus far been a cataclysm and promises only to get worse is an understatement. His military men are still looking for some excuse to go to war, probably with Iran unless North Korea runs another nuclear test or Assad gasses some more civilians or China blockades the South China Sea. Maybe even with Russia, if they step out of line. He seems to have no moral compass when it comes to discussing pre-emptive strikes.

The energy industry with its vast power to lobby governments and to buy politicians like you’d buy a pound of bananas is clearly in charge now of both domestic and foreign policy, regardless of the increasingly alarming, adverse climate data Trump is rushing to suppress; in fact, you could describe it as a global coup unfolding, a grab for the last of our fossil fuel reserves. And the Pentagon is right there with them, Trump’s office is stiff with retired generals – he looks up to strict, authoritative men, like his Dad presumably. He’s a mess of post-parental conflicts and complexes.

Even now, teaching packs are being sent out to schools, telling children climate change is a hoax, there’s nothing to worry about. Will Mrs DeVos stop them? Well, she wants schools to teach Creationism and abstention rather than birth control, she’s homophobic too, so the Pumpkin doubts it. Obama’s liberal edict permitting transgender students to pee in whichever bathroom they prefer has also been rescinded.

Women’s rights too have come under ferocious attack, especially since the four-million march outnumbered Trump’s inauguration crowd; family planning clinics around the world have been defunded from government aid programs. Consumer protections, pollution controls, vehicle emissions limits are being trashed as ‘business-unfriendly’ – and to hell with children’s developing brains.

One hopeful sign, Trump himself has acknowledged in his 100-days interviews that the task of playing at being President is beyond him, telling the world how happy he was just running his family property business and franchising his name and Ivanka’s decorative schemes out to developers of Trump this-and-that around the world; her Chinese sweat-shop-made clothing ranges that he continues to promote on her behalf despite his hypocritical and economically disastrous demands that US businesses buy and sell and manufacture only in the USA; his Canute-like attempts to rollback globalization.

Healthcare? More complicated than expected. The role and purpose of opposition parties? Unexpectedly obstructive. Syria? Complicated. North Korea? His new friend Mr Xi, who executes more prisoners than Arkansas, has explained: it’s complicated.

The man demonstrates it with every breath: an arrogant, thin-skinned, spoiled, narcissistic, childish buffoon; ignorant, unlettered and not in control of his thoughts: he has no mental discipline, no ordered mind; he is observably barely literate: ‘Some of my best friends, contractors, good friends, can’t read or write.’ he told a campaign rally. ‘That doesn’t mean they’re not smart.’ He has stupid ideas, but reverences them as a toddler might proudly present its mother with a nappy full of shit: look ma, see what I just made!

His aides, alarmed, reported that he has the attention span of a four-year-old with ADHD and does not take briefings or read papers of state, he just watches TV all day between signing stuff he doesn’t appear to read. He spends three days a week golfing at Mar-a-Lago, at a projected cost to the taxpayer of $30 million a year; it’s another business, as well as his other golf courses around the world, that he continues to plug mercilessly for profit despite the clear conflict of interest.

He doesn’t care. The theft, the kleptomania are blatant, and his supporters don’t care as long as he allows the mentally ill to own guns – another of his early edicts. His sucking-up to the National Rifle Association has been craven and disturbing: especially from a former gun-control advocate, he now wants to arm the nation three times over, it’s great for jobs. Never mind the thirty thousand gunshot fatalities every year, against which ‘terrorism’, which he equates purely with Islam, white racist attacks don’t count, pales into complete insignificance.

Trump supporters are a kind of death cult.

It’s understandable they felt left behind, he was a symbol of change – only not in the way they expected. Many indeed hope he will bring about the End Times, when they shall see God, get to meet Jesus.

When he promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and has instead appointed lobbyists and Goldman Sachs executives and promised to let Tillerson’s buddies drill on open range in national parks and on monument land that is pretty much sacred to those people, when he cheats on his healthcare promises so their mothers and children are going to die prematurely from cancers, and stinking-rich corrupt Republican politicians tell them Jesus will take care of them if they live right, when he proposes to blow another $50 billion on the military, and they still think he’s great, that he’s cleaning out the stable and raising the stars and stripes, well, who are we to deny them this extraordinary fantasy world they’re living in?

It’s been 100 days that shook our world, and The Pumpkin can’t see the shaking is going to stop until Vice-President Pence exercises his constitutional right and duty under the 25th Amendment to have the senile President carted off with his arms folded, like that’s ever going to happen; or until Mr Comey and the FBI get their finger out and arrest him; or Congress impeaches him.

Like that’s ever going to happen.

The best the USA can hope for is that he will eventually come to and realize, he’s too old and tired and befuddled to run again. Let Jared have the job; let Ivanka.

In the meantime, although the Democrats have also become flaccid tools of the corporate overlords, at least a Democrat victory in the mid-term elections next year might wrest control of the Congress out of the hands of the Republicans, many of whom are as batshit crazy, dumb, actually evil and corrupt as any of the swamp-monsters, billionaire Christian fundamentalists and fuel-fossils in the White House.

And hope for President Elizabeth Warren in 2020.

 

*Not so, we hear. Voting on the budget, following the global March for Science, Congress has inserted modest increases for federal science programs this year. Not all is rosy: Trump’s orders are for cuts to bite in 2018.

 

Postscriptum

My admiration for President Duterte of the Philippines just went up a notch.

Trump, whose new American Healthcare bill passed the House and if ratified in the Senate (unlikely) would see hundreds and thousands of Americans condemned to an early death for lack of medical care while the money goes to tax breaks for the wealthy, invited the self-confessed murderer to the White House.

And Duterte told him no thanks, he’s far too busy.

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 14. Trump Arrested: Development

Editor’s Note: Apology

Sorry, our headline today should have read ‘Trump: Arrested Development’. Our apologies to readers who may have been harmed by this inadvertent clickbait, a misplaced colon that could have happened to anyone.

Carry on.

E. von-und-zu B.

Fake noose!

“Cities unfortunately have a chequered history of harbouring violent political movements. You can be anonymous in a city, until you decide it’s time to sign your name in blood.”

Follow the money!

Hi, Americans.

I’m British and concerned about our media coverage of the Westminster ‘terrorist’, Masood, because  I don’t want you to imagine this was a typical  ‘jihadi’ of the kind you need to fear (why Americans are so pathetically fearful I don’t know, your chances of dying in an Islamist terror attack in any year are about 100 million to one. Your chances of being shot to death by another American or your infant kid are just 10 thousand to one.  That’s less, by the way. Ten thousand times less.)

You need instead to understand that there is a new current in our overpopulated, socially  unjust world. It’s not just ISIS, or whichever demons your government wants you to fear. There are other evil forces who want to pull down your democracy. Like hyenas, the billionaires have evolved special skills to scent weakness; there’s scant morality in their methods. And what they are doing through your ‘social’ media is licensing citizens to act unilaterally, to act out their violent thoughts, to undermine any sense of normality and to provoke overreaction. Islamic jihad is their smokescreen, providing as it does a constant supply of ‘useful idiots’, whose buttons of malcontent are so easy to press.

It was, really, a relatively minor incident. Not, I know, for the victims, their families and friends; the injured. It was far from a normal day in the city. But – four dead, plus the perpetrator. It could have been worse: it has been elsewhere. I don’t wish to sound callous or complacent, but with guns and explosives, or a bigger vehicle and more intent, it would have been a lot worse. But that’s the point: at a higher level of organisation the security services stand more chance of nipping an attack in the bud. I’m sorry, too, that another elderly American tourist was unlucky enough to be among the dead. But out of how many? Tens of thousands. It is so vanishingly  rare.

It was amplified by the setting – the Houses of Parliament and its busy concourse, the bridge  – the extraordinary scale of the police response – the killing of a policeman, which is, I have to assure you, also very rare in Britain (was he wearing a stab-vest? No-one asks. Is there something strange about the Bogler mind, that so often he asks the questions that don’t seem to engage the professionals?)  – the expectation that something would eventually occur (threat level: Severe) (this probably was not it, by the way. Worse is probably lurking out there somewhere) – the cynical anticipation of the British press, who have been just dying for a Paris-size attack to get their teeth into, to boost sales; or a reason to reignite their phoney Jingoism over ’foreigners’ and refugees, who we are being taught we must hate and fear.

But to reiterate, the last severe terrorist attack on London  – again by home-grown Muslims – was in 2005, when 56 people were killed as four suicide bombers – British-born – attacked the public  transport network. Twelve years ago. In the thirty years before that, you could have been blown to bits instead by the Provisional IRA. Funded by Irish-Americans and the Libyan leader, Col. Gadaffi, they set off dozens of bombs at random across the country for decades, regardless of who they killed.

The Provos came within an ace of blowing-up Mrs Thatcher in Brighton; they blew her friend up, the MP Airey Neave, who survived being a PoW in Colditz castle, outside the House of Commons in the carpark. They blew-up Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO, PC, FRS – Prince Philip’s uncle, on a fishing trip. And then there were the Red Brigades, the Angry Brigade – Carlos the Jackal.

Muslims don’t even come close.

Cities unfortunately have a chequered history of harbouring violent political movements. You can be anonymous in a city, until you decide it’s time to sign your name in blood.

Cities, as Mayor Khan almost commented, are melting pots where this sort of thing happens from time to time. It’s unavoidable. The ‘Little Nazi’, Donald Trump Jr, in his puerile ignorance, has seized on this rational comment to prove that Khan, a Muslim, is most probably a terrorist sympathiser. Like his bizarre parent, an elected terrorist who has discovered a new weapon of terror: administrative chaos and confusion; belief in ‘alternative realities’ and a turgid stream of incontinent, rambling bullshit. Plus, a tiny finger on the nuclear button.

Are you more afraid of ISIS than of your own President? You shouldn’t be. If you still think he is Presidential, a safe pair of hands, just watch the press conference following his humiliation over the Americare fiasco, and tell me he knew what was in the hapless weasel, Paul Ryan’s hastily cobbled-together bill. He hadn’t even read it! Pressed on which parts he would improve, because he had just said there were parts he would improve, he was unable to recall a single thing he would improve, but there were things he would improve, and it would be a great bill, you’ll see (the effect of the bill was to deprive 24 million low-income Americans of health insurance, by the way – his idea of the ‘greatest health insurance ever’). He went on to blame the opposition party, the Democrats, bitterly for not voting for it, when in fact it was a rebellion in his own party, the Republicans, that brought the votes up short. What he imagines the role of an opposition party to be, God alone knows.

Is he a complete fool? Does he have dementia, or is this masterly misdirection?

Last Wednesday’s was not a severe attack, it was not an ‘attack on our democracy’, which frankly no longer exists, or our ‘way of life’, which has altered greatly since the Editor were a lad; it was a lone operator, a clearly disturbed man with a violent history armed with a car and a kitchen knife.

The claim by ISIS that he was a ‘soldier’ is pathetic, vainglorious nonsense – they are facing military defeat. ISIS has only a tiny minority following outside its conquered territories, that it is fast losing. The media and the administration will use the incident to smear the Muslim community (I’m not Muslim, by the way, I’m an elderly white atheist). But really it’s nothing to do with them.

Try to understand, this perpetrator was not an ‘immigrant’ or a refugee; like the Paris attackers, perhaps, French-born, petty criminals, but still in their twenties. Masood was a 52-year old, British-born product, as I understand, of a casual mixed-race relationship between an African man and a British woman, single-parented. His leafy middle-class neighbourhood, his sporty schooldays, old friends remembering a good guy they lost contact with – his birth name was Adrian Elms; his stepfather’s name Aoji. He was confusingly married to several women, perhaps not at the same time, with kids.

Masood seems to have become a drifter, rootless and increasingly despairing of his life. He sounds rather pathetic; trapped in his own insignificance.  He had a record of minor offences, assaults, mainly connected it seems with being racially abused – a stabbing that got him a two-year stretch.  He may have been radicalised and converted to Islam in prison, 12 years ago. That happens a lot in our prison system, which is increasingly dangerously run on the cheap by greedy and uncaring private US contractors.

In 2008 he is found working in Saudi Arabia as a TESOL English-teacher. Maybe that set him off; it nearly did me. (The teaching, I mean, not being in the home of well-funded global terrorism.) He had occasional jobs, but seems never to have settled for long back in the UK and we don’t know how he supported himself here. Police have been raiding addresses all over the country where he seems to have tried living for a time. He was briefly on the MI5 radar twelve years ago as peripheral to a jihadi group, as thousands of Muslims have been, but there was no evidence of activity to justify keeping him on watch. It’s fatuous to blame them. Was his constant criss-crossing of the country deliberate deception? Was he a Sleeper? We don’t know. Where did he get money from, to rent cars for weeks at a time, to stay in hotels and rent apartments? We don’t know. A man of mystery.

After spending a week agreeably in a hotel in the south-coast holiday resort of Brighton, home of arty ex-London bohos, a ‘gay capital’, hardly a place where a fanatical Muslim would choose to vacation, Masood launched his attack using a hire car, and then reverted to a kitchen knife before being shot, as he must have expected to be. The Paris attackers by contrast were armed with assault rifles and suicide vests, and killed 130 people. It’s quite hard to get hold of guns and explosives in Britain. We don’t allow them. Masood took four lives, including, tragically, that of one of our unarmed police who chats to tourists at one of the entrances to Parliament. A good man, by all accounts. More of our police are armed than you might think, Masood was taken down by a security detail of the Defence Secretary, who was nearby. It might have provided more evidence of intent if they had shot only to disable him, but it’s probably what he wanted.

And then the vastly well-paid, alt-right motormouths of patriotic moonshine, the publicity-sucking Farages and the Morgans, the rabid fuckbitch Hopkins, inevitably weigh in. It’s all the fault of Tony Blair; libtards; multiculturalism; prison-averse judges; flip-flop politicians; Remoaners; the Facebook generation; the soft-option; decent human beings who stupidly cling to a belief in civil society. Bring on more POWERS! Build more PRISONS! Bring back HANGING! Sell more PAPERS! Op-ed pus merchants,  who said nothing, felt nothing, were out to lunch when Remain campaigner, the MP and mother of two Jo Cox was hacked to death in the street and her white supremacist assassin gaoled forever. And then publicly attacked her husband, like the bestial dog-fucking cowards they are.

We like to pretend that ours is an open, democratic society, symbolised by the myths of our unarmed ‘Bobbies’, warm beer and red buses.  But the training, the assumption is always, ‘suicide  bomber’. Barbaric religion. Other. And everywhere you are, you’re being watched.

Something needs to change. But demonising a whole section of the population isn’t going to change it the right way.

Nor is ignoring what is happening elsewhere in the world. Without wishing to make false comparisons, or justify suicidal protests – and, by the way, Masood appears not to have made it clear what exactly he was prepared to die for, but it wasn’t religion – Muslims are dying in droves, and for what? Two hundred civilian dead in US bombing raids this week on supposed ISIS positions in Mosul might convince your incompetent, out-of-his-depth President that he’s a great military leader, but we’re not fooled. Thousands dead in Saudi war-crime attacks and kids starving in Yemen – no Comic Relief going there, I fear. Hundreds of brown-on-brown deaths in suicide bombings on harmless Islamic sects considered ‘haram’ by purists and paid agitators in Pakistan.

Instead of focussing your fear and loathing, your righteous anger on strangers, America, understand: this religious stuff is just distraction. Smoke and mirrors.

Follow the money, is my motto.

You’re being fucked.

 

And we’re being Foxed…

British TV viewers are being deprived by the curiously lacklustre performance of the BBC of so much exciting news about President Trump and his international business activities.

You may very well not know that his organisation is under investigation for sanctions-busting, in connection with a deal Trump did in New York in 2014 with an Azerbaijani billionaire to lend his name and tasteful design expertise to a project to convert an unfinished tower building into a ‘luxury’ hotel in an insalubrious neighbourhood of the capital, Baku. A project that netted him $4 million, but was hastily abandoned when Mr Trump arrived in the White House.

There seemed to be some discrepancy between what was paid for the project, which was overseen by Ivanka in fastidious detail right down to its endangered tree-wood panelling, and the original cost. A bewildering trail of contracts pointed to a connection between the Mammadovs and an Indian family connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – a ‘state-within-a-state’, financing Hezbollah and other Shi’a groups abroad, and listed in part as a ‘terrorist organization’.

Writing in the New Yorker earlier this month, journalist Adam Davidson exposes a web of connections and an unexplained failure by the Trump Organisation to carry out due diligence on the spectacularly wealthy Mammadovs, who were notoriously corrupt even by the standards of former Soviet republics, now largely family dictatorships.

Such a failure could expose Trump executives to lengthy prison sentences.

“The available evidence strongly suggests that Ziya Mammadov conspired with an agent of the Revolutionary Guard to make overpriced deals that would enrich them both while allowing them to flout prohibitions against money laundering and to circumvent sanctions against Iran.”

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/donald-trumps-worst-deal

Davidson reports that the man who signed off the contract, Trump lawyer Jason Greenblatt, is now employed at the White House as the President’s special representative for international negotiations.

But let’s not hold our breath. According to a report in the Irish Times, following a story that Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev has also been massively enriching himself and his family:

“The United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Aliyevs’ Azerbaijan, including millions for military and security training. Azerbaijan’s government is one of the largest buyers of influence in Washington DC and, together with its lobbyists, spent at least $4 million in 2014 alone burnishing the country’s image.”

irishtimes.com/business/panama-papers-how-family-that-runs-azerbaijan-built-an-empire-of-hidden-wealth-1.2597762

Nor is the USA the only country up to its withers in the well-oiled strategic arse of the Azeris. Mrs May’s pick for International Business Secretary, the man chosen to replace all the business we expect to lose in Europe, post-Brexit, is ‘Dr’ Liam Fox – frequently known as ‘the disgraced former Defence Secretary’, and the author of a little-known book, Rising Tides. (Cover price £20. 13 copies available, used, from Amazon at £0.1p)

From the Amazon blurb:

“The world has changed more and faster than any of us could have imagined. While that may be accepted in terms of global business and financial markets, and to some degree the worldwide web, people including their political leaders may have been slower at grasping what these new interconnections mean for the way we operate in this new era.”

‘Dr’ Fox indeed has not been slow to grasp the new ways of doing interconnected business in the new era. From The Guardian, August 2016:

“The register of MPs interests shows that the oil-rich dictatorship of Azerbaijan, via its London lobbyists, paid Dr Fox £5,700 for the right to translate Rising Tides into an Azerbaijani Turkish edition. The generosity of Azerbaijan’s rulers did not stop there. On 1 February 2015, the regime flew him and an aide to Istanbul to launch the book and put them up in a luxury hotel. The cost of the four-day trip was £3,579.94.

“It wasn’t his first overseas promotion. The Azerbaijani press reported that Dr Fox was in Baku in September 2014, where he was received by no less a magnifico than President Ilham Aliyev… The Panama Papers showed that the Aliyevs and their accomplices (the Mammadovs, in a joint conglomerate called ATA Holdings – Irish Times) controlled assets worth $490m via offshore accounts.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/07/liam-fox-azerbaijan-relationship-book-publishing

This was, of course, through the busy Panamanian law firm of Mossack-Fonseca.

Where too we find the name of Paul Manafort, Trump’s now oublietted campaign manager – who in 2016 was found to have set up a number of offshore companies to decontaminate the assets of his Ukrainian employer, the exiled dictator Viktor Yanukovitch, who seems possibly to have paid him £12.7 million for the work.

It is indeed a new world we live in. ‘Dr’ Fox needs to be careful however who he chooses as Britain’s new friends: US authorities may be watching carefully to see where the web of sanctions-busting connections goes next.

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Duck, you’re not covered

Five weeks ago, there were protests coming close to rioting in seven French cities, every night for a week and sporadically thereafter, following reports that a young black man had been gang-raped round the back of a street protest in Paris, by police with batons.

These evenements were widely reported in online websites such as The Telegraph, The Express, The Mail, New York Times, Breitbart News etc. and on US TV. From The Telegraph, for instance:

“Police fired tear gas to disperse about 400 protesters, but smaller groups then went on a rampage in other parts of the capital, smashing windows and overturning dustbins in near Place de la République and in the Marais, another popular area for holidaymakers.

“Disturbances also erupted in the northern city of Rouen, where 21 people were arrested. Nearly 250 people have been arrested around France since unrest began in the Paris suburbs after police were accused of assaulting a black man on February 2.”

So, not an insignificant series of events. But despite keeping at least four ‘correspondents’ and editors on permanent station in Europe, including Katya Adler in Brussels and Lucy Williamson in Paris, it was only on the fourth or fifth night that the BBC bothered to mention it.

Again, two nights ago there was a shooting outside the train station in Lille, in which three people were injured, including a 14-year-old boy. Widely reported on US media, it turned out to be gang-related violence and not a terrorist attack. Even so, to begin with there was no way of knowing who might have been responsible, yet the BBC failed to report it at all.

They are still reporting in the news police operations, which have been wound down, to investigate any possible accomplices of Masood, the lone Westminster attacker, days after the last of the suspects has been released. The current affairs slots are still filled with increasingly boring speculative pieces about Masood, his history and motivation, about Britain’s security and our anti-radicalization programmes providing, as Simon Jenkins has sagely pointed out, endless publicity for the IS.

And indeed, the BBC is currently reporting another nightclub shooting, this time in faraway Cincinnatti,  in which one person is so far known to have died and others injured; although they report that it is not thought by local police, who say there’s always trouble at the venue, to be a terrorism-related incident. It’s another gun-crime related incident, of which there are thousands in the US every year.

The report appears second on the bulletin-board, beneath the main story about Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, calling for a ban on encryption of messaging apps, so the police have access to them. This follows a report that Masood sent a coded message shortly before his suicide bid.

Good luck with that.

I’m still trying to work out what strange biasses are operating in the BBC’s increasingly inaccurate and dysfunctional ‘cross-platform’ news operations; where the toll of dead and injured in the Westminster attack seemed to blow with the wind. Was it five dead, four, three? Twenty-nine injured, 40, or 50? All these figures were wildly thrown out, sometimes at intervals of only minutes, depending on who was doing the reporting; and still are being.

Get your stories straight!

Or tell the Tory MPs moaning about your post-referendum ‘negativity’ about their beloved Brexit to fuck off and mind their own sodding business. Until, that is, Theresa’s got the dirty business out of the way on Wednesday.

 

The son-in-law also rises

Now, see what I said about how the BBC covers Washington politics in the Trump era?

“Mr Kushner, 36, told the newspaper the “government should be run like a great American company”. He is a property investor and media executive who is married to Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka. He already advises the president on foreign relations, and is said to have been influential in helping President Trump choose staff for his campaign and in government.” (BBC report, 27 March: “Jared Kushner to be questioned over alleged Trump-Russia ties”.)

You fuckin’ shittin’ me? As Americans are wont to ask?

The sickening deference shown to ‘Mr Kushner’ – a little plastic rat under investigation in the Senate over relations with one of Putin’s banks – ignores what just happened last week. ‘Mr Kushner’, it seems, finally managed to offload No. 666 Fifth Avenue (yes, I know!), a piece of real estate that he lost a packet on when he acquired it in 2007 just before the banks hit the skids. Running a great American company can be hard on a fourteen-year-old, especially in the shadow of his bigly successful dad-in-law.

What was unusually odd about the deal was that half the dough didn’t appear to be tied to the property, but seemed to be more about a large ‘bung’ that neatly covered Kushner’s $400 million loss. CNBC quotes Bloomberg:

“A deal with Chinese company Anbang Insurance Group has brought in $400 million dollars for the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. The $4 billion deal for a New York City office building located at 666 Fifth Ave. includes the large cash payout to the Kushner’s real estate company Kushner Companies.

“Some real estate experts consider the terms of the deal’s agreement unusually favorable for the Kushners.”

Given that it also paid off a large slice of his mortgage, you can say that again. It’s always useful being married to the favourite daughter of the President of the United States, especially when he says scary things about China.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/13/chinese-firm-invests-400-million-in-building-owned-by-kushner-family.html

‘Mr Trump’ is himself also reported to owe rather a lot to the Chinese. The Mother Jones website has been keeping track. In addition to the £364 million he owes Deutsche Bank – a marker thought by some to have been picked up by the Russians – we find this:

“According to his own public disclosure, Trump, as of May, was on the hook for 16 loans worth at least $713 million. This list does not include an estimated $2 billion in debt amassed by real estate partnerships that include Trump. One of those loans is a $950 million deal that was cobbled together by Goldman Sachs and the state-owned Bank of China—an arrangement that ethics experts believe violates the Constitution’s emolument clause, which prohibits foreign governments from providing financial benefits to federal officials.”

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/guide-donald-trump-debt

And to reinforce ‘Mr Kushner’s’ authority in advance of the Senate hearing, ‘Mr Trump’ just promoted him – again. In addition to multiple portfolios including China and ‘Middle East peace’, the plastic rat – a  successful, Chinese-financed New York real estate mogul connected now to a sanctioned Russian bank, VEB, and its KGB-educated chairman, Sergei Gorkov – has been put in charge of a new office called the Office of American Innovation. With not one minute’s experience in government, he’s got a brief to ‘reform’ the United States government.

Interesting to see what emerges. Some Russian ideas, maybe.

Please, BBC, stop grovelling to these monsters. It’s beneath you.

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 13: Jim’ll Brexit: There is no end to this conspiracy. And: Hey everybody, Rex Tillerson!

It’s Budget Day on the Hill

Okay guys, I found the money, Vladimir lent it to me. Let’s get spending.

Jim’ll Brexit

The question The Pumpkin would like to ask is, to what extent is Russian interest in the US election a continuation of the old Cold War and Putin’s ambitions to destabilise the West – or is it something quite new and excitingly different?

While the media focus is  on the Congressional Committee hearing at which FBI Director, James Comey, confirmed with his lovely eyes that the security police are looking into connections between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence, hopefully not forgetting the money-laundering, the ‘Enemies of the People’ may be ignoring other, perhaps more disturbing connections between far-right Christian fundamentalist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic groups in Eastern Europe, possibly funded by Russia, to members of the current Trump administration.

Former Methodist minister and convicted criminal, Jim Dowson is a virulent anti-abortion campaigner and extreme Protestant  loyalist from Northern Ireland (no jokes about ‘Orange men’ now. Ed.), with connections to Hungarian and other East European nationalist groups who like dressing up and marching around.

He’s frequently labelled in the press, ‘millionaire Jim Dowson’, although The Pumpkin’s limited researches have been unable to establish any source for that fact. He owns no businesses, seemingly; is CEO of nothing. Wherefore then, apart from having been a fundraiser for nationalist charities (and not apparently well trusted in the role) does he become a millionaire?

dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/exclusive-bnps-scots-fundraiser-is-criminal-1025700

Among things we have established is that he is an unpleasant piece of work who delights in publishing the names and addresses of employees of family planning clinics. He has also been videoed dressed in camouflage gear on a ‘hunting expedition’ with armed vigilantes on the Bulgarian-Turkish border – hunting Syrian refugees.

According to Wikipedia, who got the info probably from the anti-fascist group Searchlight:

“Dowson has been observed in eastern European countries with his latest venture, the Knights Templar International (KTI)*, along with former BNP (British National Party) leader Nick Griffin and a Hungarian anti-abortion campaigner, Imre Teglasy.

“Dowson’s last sighting, according to the Daily Mirror, was on the Turkey-Bulgaria border with the KTI supplying equipment to a vigilante paramilitary group, the Shipka Bulgarian National Movement, to hunt down asylum seekers.

“Dowson was subsequently reported as having developed close links with Russian extremist Aleksandr Dugin, with Dugin aiding Dowson in the establishment of a Belgrade office for his internet activity in support of the ‘alt-right’.”

* No immediate relation to the late-medieval religious order that committed unspeakable atrocities against the Muslim population of the Holy Land.

nytimes.com/2016/12/17/world/europe/russia-propaganda-elections.html

Now, Dugin is a bit different: not your average fascist bully-boy, he is a well-bearded Russian philosopher – the son of a KGB man – respected on the far-right, and spiritual guide to Vladimir Putin. He has said he wants to bring on the ‘end-times’. Thus he fits in almost perfectly symmetrically with Steve Bannon. Described as a modern Rasputin, Dugin in turn is sponsored by “Konstantin Malofeyev, a multimillionaire with ties to the Russian Orthodox Church” (Independent. See below).

Dugin is said to have been instrumental in bringing about a rapprochement between Putin and the increasingly paranoid and authoritarian Turkish president Erdogan in the wake of the shooting down in 2015 of a Russian fighter over the Syrian border: thus, Islamic Turkey is moving out of the ambit of Europe and more towards a pro-Moscow line of pragmatic non-opposition to the war-criminal Bashar al-Assad.

Russia and Turkey being two countries where, it may be noted, President Trump’s sacked National Security Advisor General Mike T Flynn was doing bidness last year. Turkey is, of course, a NATO country.

“…Dugin, whose views on the evils of liberalism have been cited by Bannon and other far-right leaders … also moved Russia a step closer to fulfilling his vision of unwinding the US-led global order, in part by luring Turkey away from NATO and creating a “Russo-Islamic pact” that includes Iran.” (Ibid.)

Dowson is linked too with László Toroczkai, the extreme right-wing mayor of Assotthalom, in Hungary – the village where, the BogPo reported some time ago, Muslim migrants are ‘banned’ from settling, even to the extent that specially designed traffic signs are to be found, excluding people wearing Islamic dress. (BBC report)

And alt-right watchers will have noted the name of Nick Griffin, one-time leader of the British National Party, who is now based in Hungary – not a million miles from Dowson’s Russia-funded Budapest office, one might assume. Clearly, they have patched up their differences following Dowson’s departure from Britain First – a group he founded, but whose attacks on mosques he felt were ‘un-Christian’.

This story is positively trammelled with such weird contradictions: indeed, the KTI website specifically states that attacks on other religions are against the Biblical traditions of Christianity. There seems to be an element of fantasy in Dowson’s crusade for some long-ago, lost age of purity and chivalry. This puts him in the same league as some of Trump’s immediate circle: not racist, but purist, could be Stephen K Bannon’s motto.

But all agree, the coming war will be between Christianity and Islam for the soul of the world.

The founder of an alt-right website called ‘The Patriot News Agency’, Dowson also interferes in other countries’ elections. Again from Wikipedia:

“Dowson described his strategy as spreading “devastating anti-Clinton, pro-Trump memes and soundbites into sections of the population too disillusioned with politics to have taken any notice of conventional campaigning.”

Yet Dowson has no apparent dog in the US election fight; nor any specific reason to support Trump, other than a generalised desire to cause trouble benefitting the Russian campaign of destabilization.

Among the ‘memes’ he is alleged to have spread is the story of Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, operating a worldwide paedophile ring from the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant – a story so preposterous that only forty per cent of Donald Trump’s supporters were inclined to believe it.

And his next ‘project’ is to bring about Scottish independence and the dissolution of the United Kingdom. According to the New York Times:

“The ex-Orange Order member, who along with his family is based in Northern Ireland but spends considerable time running the rightwing agency in eastern Europe, claims his networks have a global reach of 50 million online viewers, 17 million of whom live in Britain.

“A one-time member of the far-right Britain First organisation, which he resigned from three years ago, Dowson said he would be directing the pro-independence online media campaign from his bases in Hungary and Serbia as well as in Britain, including from an office in Stirling.

“(He said) ‘This is a global network that I believed helped elect Donald Trump and backed Brexit to win.'”

For many people prepared to overlook the obvious point that Britain held real powers within the EU and extended its influence into Europe, rather than having genuinely been in the position of surrendering sovereignty to “unelected bureaucrats in Brussels” – a meme so simple and easy to spread among the British Dumbfucks that even Dowson might have thought of it, Brexit was about ridding Britain of foreign influences. For some, like Dowson, the Brexit campaign was a moral crusade to restore the ethnic and religious (i.e. Christian) purity of the British race; although he now sees that it might have to lead to a federal Ireland rather than a hard customs border.

How like Islamic fundamentalists Christian fundamentalists are.

theguardian.com/politics/2017/mar/20/jim-dowson-back-scottish-independence-patriotic-news-agency-far-right?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=218243&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

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Power Hungary

Dr Sebastian L v. Gorka “attended St Benedict’s School in west London, and received a lower second-class honours (2:2) Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Theology from Heythrop College, of the University of London.” (Wikipedia). Heythrop was founded in 1614 in Louvain, Belgium, at the height of the Inquisition, by the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits, to whose stern moral code its website suggests it retains some residual connection.*

Born in Britain to Hungarian refugee parents, nationalists who fled from the Soviet repression of 1956 (we gave refuge to 27,000 Hungarians, rather more than we seem to have managed with the desperate Syrians), Gorka re-migrated to Hungary in 1992, where he ended up in 1998 as an advisor to the authoritarian nationalist premier, Viktor Orban.

In the meantime he had somehow converted that pretty poor degree into a PhD in Political Science from Corvinus University, Budapest, and become an expert on Islamic terrorism. In 1996, he married an American heiress from an old Methodist family in the ironmongery business, Katherine Fairfax Cornell. A trawl of the sources fails to produce an estimate of her worth, or indeed that of the family business, that nowadays makes architectural steel products. All we find on their website is that the company used scab labour to break a strike in 1987 and probably turns over $10 million a year.

Yet what Katy Cornell Gorka’s family has in common with Donald Trump is that girders from the original iron smelting works took “New York’s buildings from four stories in the 1850s to thirty stories by 1899.” (Wikipedia). Even the Statue of Liberty stands on Cornell iron.

“Katharine C. Gorka is the President of the Council on Global Security, a think tank that works to develop, advocate, and build support for policies that will promote freedom of belief and defeat extremist ideologies*. From 2009 to 2014 she served as Executive Director of the Westminster Institute, based in McLean, Virginia. Her company, Threat Knowledge Group, provides counter-terrorism training and expertise to the FBI, Special Operations, local law enforcement and military. She co-edited the volume Fighting the Ideological War: Winning Strategies from Communism to Islamism and appears frequently in the media, including FOX News, Breitbart, EWTN, CBN, and al-Hura. Most recently she co-authored the report ISIS: The Domestic Threat.” (Amazon book page biography)

*The website for this organization is non-responding. A message merely says it is not currently available.

On November 30 2016, The Intercept reported that Gorka had been appointed to be part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s transitional “landing team.” (Wikipedia) Her role, like her husband’s, was to advise der Trumpenführer on the causes and growth of Islamic fundamentalism. (You recall, he ‘knows more about ISIS than many generals, believe me’. Gorka’s input may be why he thinks so.)

Yet there is something quite peculiar about her.

Living in Hungary for 12 years, Katy Gorka is a former director of the National Forum Foundation’s Budapest office – whose URL brings up only ‘Freedom House’, a think tank founded by the Roosevelts in 1941. “The organization’s annual Freedom in the World report, which assesses each country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties, is frequently cited by political scientists, journalists, and policymakers. Freedom of the Press and Freedom of the Net, which monitor censorship, intimidation and violence against journalists, and public access to information, are among its other signature reports.” (Wikipedia/Freedom House website)

Political freedom? Civil liberties? Freedom of the press? Almost nothing could be further from the domestic policies of Viktor Orban, to whom in 1998 Katy’s husband Sebastian was an ‘advisor’. But amid all the high-minded talk about monitoring the kind of intimidation against journalists which her Presidential employer is busy practising, she is also a contributor to Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News – an alt-right website pushing a racially pure, Christian agenda; often of false news, and whose former editor warned the press a month ago to ‘shut its mouth’ and think carefully about what they print about the President in future.

And one of Trump’s first executive orders, which none of the media has seen fit to protest about, was the gagging of  public access to information in the shape of the normal dissemination of news and scientific papers through the federal Environment and Parks agencies, and NASA’s Earthwatch program. Where did he get that from? He’s not thought to have any ideas of his own. An unusual approach to ‘freedom of belief’.

In 2012, ‘Dr’ Sebastian Gorka applied to become an American citizen.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that Dr. Gorka concealed the material fact of his membership in the Vitézi Rend, a far-right anti-Semitic Hungarian organization, when he applied for U.S. citizenship. As you know, it is unlawful to make a false statement in naturalization proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1015) and procuring naturalization by concealing a material fact or willful misrepresentation is punishable by denaturalization (8 U.S.C. 1425, 8 U.S.C. 1451).”

So wrote three US Congressmen recently upon learning that Gorka is, or may be, an illegal immigrant.

businessinsider.com/sebastian-gorka-vitezi-rend-nazi-trump-2017-3: 3 US Senators calling for inquiry into his immigration declaration

According to some sources, through his father Gorka – who includes in his full name the telltale lowercase letter ‘v’ for Vitez – is a virtually lifelong member of Vitézi Rend, an extreme Hungarian nationalist group with maybe as many as twenty thousand members. His membership has been admitted by its leaders, although he’s denied it. How did anyone know? He appeared on TV wearing a jacket of the type worn ceremonially by members of the society, the Bocskai tunic, and sporting their pin-badge – which he later explained was only a tribute to his late father.

Again, when we look at the origins in the 1920s of this secretive society we find that same element of East European chivalric mysticism and a yearning for racial purity, enshrining the virtues of the knightly warrior caste that had once stood against the advance of Islam, that formed such a strong part of the National Socialist ideology in Germany in the 1930s. Indeed, the Order of Vitez, founded by Admiral Horthy to celebrate the heroism of fallen Hungarian soldiers of the First World War, was encouraged by – and perhaps even assisted – the Nazis during the occupation in 1944 as they hastened to eliminate 800,000 Jews ahead of the advancing Red Army.

Gorka is a naturalized American citizen. He gained his citizenship in 2012 but his acceptance may now be in doubt as it is reported he made no mention on his application form, a compulsory question, of his membership of Vitézi Rend, which is listed in the US as a banned organisation for its associations with the wartime Nazi occupiers in Hungary.

In addition to being cited as a member of and contributor to, a speaker at, numerous academic institutions and think tanks, in January 2017 Gorka assumed the position of Deputy Assistant Security Advisor on Terrorism in the Trump Administration. How did Trump get to know about him? Gorka immediately became a member of an internal White House team known as the Strategic Initiatives Group, which was set up by Trump’s Chief Policy Advisor, Steve Bannon, together with Trump’s annointed, his son-in law Jared Kushner, to act as a counterweight to the normal channels of advice the President might receive on matters such as national security and foreign policy, to prevent him being led astray by outside experts infected with things like knowledge and sanity.

thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/31/steve-bannon-builds-a-new-node-of-power-in-the-trump-white-house.html

While some academics and military people say he’s pretty sound on Islamic jihad, basically arguing that the West is at war with Islam already, the peer-reviewed journal of terrorism research, Terrorism and Political Violence, has never used him as a reviewer, because according to associate editor Lawrence P Rubin, he “is not considered a terrorism expert by the academic or policy community.” (Wikipedia)

From 2014 to 2016, Gorka was an editor for National Security Affairs for the Breitbart News Network, where he worked for Stephen K. Bannon.

Surprise, fucking surprise.

Everything to do with Trump sooner or later comes back to Bannon, Breitbart and the illegal movement around the globe of vast sums of Russian money: the so-called “Global Laundromat”.

How much of that money is finding its way over to ‘whiter-than-white’ organizations led by agitators, disruptors and misty-eyed, medieval-Christian revivalist ‘millionaires’, we wonder?

*On re-reading, I have just spotted this potential connection with Steve Bannon, who is associated with the conservative leader of the Jesuitical Catholic fringe group, Opus Dei, Cardinal Burke.

Correction: Cardinal Burke is not the ‘leader’ of Opus Dei but merely ‘associated’ wiith the leadership.

Postscriptum, 1 May

Following a shakeup or ‘palace coup’ instigated by ‘Mr Kushner’ and the new Pentagon hawks installed in key advisory roles – a military takeover – both the Strategic Initiatives Group and ‘Dr’ Gorka are no longer part of White House policy advisory arrangements; Steve Bannon is no longer a permanent member of the Security Council although he retains his role as ‘senior policy advisor’.

Ivanka Trump is now the ‘First Daughter’ – her stepmom remains a prisoner in the penthouse at Trump Tower in New York – and officially in post as ‘advisor’ to Orange Daddy. She continues to advertise Trump businesses, including Trump Tower, Manila – Mr Trump has welcomed the squalid little thug, President Duterte of the Philippines , to the White House, in line with his general policy of admiring ‘strong leaders’ who remind him of his father.

x

There is no end to this conspiracy.

I’m trying to remember what I was doing at the age of 42. It’s a bit hazy. I think I’d just started a small PR business with an ethical charter, supporting small environmental businesses and NGOs by devising joint promotional programs with bigger clients needing to improve their ‘green’ credentials. It folded five years later because none of them would pay their bills on time.

At 42, billionaire investment manager Constantin Malofeyev (see above) is one of the movers and shakers behind a religious revival movement that has captured the White House without a shot being fired. From Vanity Fair:

“As a believer in the Russian empire on a cultural and religious level, Malofeyev’s goals align with those held by some of Europe’s fringe parties. Both would like to see the weakening of the European Union.

“In 2014, Malofeyev attended a Vienna-based conference for Europe’s far-right parties. Also in attendance were Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, who openly supports Putin (she has called for the removal of sanctions) and accepted at least 9 million euros in Russia-backed loans in 2014; and Austria’s Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the Freedom Party, which was recently defeated in national elections.” (Presumably not the outcome General Michael T Flynn was hoping for at Trump Tower in December when he discussed doing a bit of PR for him. Ed.)

vanityfair.com/news/2016/12/mike-flynn-nazi-sympathizers)

thinkprogress.org/trump-russia-sanctions-1b20f8d48ded#.46jtlm8e1

The Pumpkin is sort of waiting for the links between the Brexit campaigners and Putin’s Christian-right crusade to become more obvious. A less obvious link might be to Mr Paul Manafort, Trump’s erstwhile campaign manager, said to have been the recipient of a $12.7 million fee for ‘campaign advice’ (Oh, come off it! Ed. Really, where do I sign?) to the exiled Ukrainian kleptocrat, Viktor Yanukovitch; and also, of a $10 million a year PR retainer for several years from the Russian government.

The Daily Beast (August 2016) reported:

“The Associated Press has also found that Manafort helped route “at least $2.2 million in payments” from the Party of Regions “to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012” and did so in possible violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. (Was either of those firms possibly linked to General Flynn, The Pumpkin asks, idly? Or Mr Tony Podesta?)

“According to a leaked document that was “brought” to Vladimir Putin’s presidential administration, the takeover of Crimea may have been mooted in mid-February 2014, as independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported. Likely prepared in part by “Russian Orthodox businessman” and future separatist-financier Konstantin Malofeyev, the text envisioned a “launching of the process of the ‘pro-Russian drift’ of the Crimea and eastern Ukrainian territories” along with a “PR strategy” in advance of “referendums raising the question of self-determination and further possibilities of annexation to the Russian Federation.” The Daily Beast.

I guess if it can work in Ukraine, and Britain, it can work in Texas or Arkansas.

Remember the Alamo. Remember Dunkirk! Build that wall!

x

A Game of Leapfrog

Over in France the waters are just as murky.

Already under investigation for allegedly paying his wife half a million Euro out of public coffers to do a few hours’ secretarial duty, with only days to go before the first round of Presidential elections that could see the alt-right ‘Marianne’, Marine le Pen, do well, former Prime Minister Francois Fillon is now accused of taking money from a Lebanese ‘businessman’ to fix a meeting between the head of global French energy company Total, and… President Putin.

An  article in the venerable satirical journal Le Canard Enchainé, reports that Fillon’s consultancy company 2F Conseil had earned $50,000 for setting up the 2015 meeting. According to a Guardian report:

“Fillon’s spokesman vigorously denied the allegation, saying Canard Enchaîné’s “insinuations” were “completely without foundation”. The Kremlin dismissed the report (encouragingly) as “fake news”.

“The claims are the latest in a string of accusations levelled at the beleaguered rightwing candidate, who languishes third in the opinion polls for the first round presidential vote in a month. He is also under scrutiny for accepting an undeclared €50,000 loan from a French businessman in 2013 and for the gift of bespoke suits worth up to €48,000 from another wealthy friend.

“Fillon has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing … saying … “I’ve made mistakes. Who hasn’t?”

Quite so. It explains perhaps why The Pumpkin has almost nothing in the bank, having made the mistake of failing to become a highly paid political lobbyist. (Oh, I thought you said ‘hobbyist‘!).

Thanks to social media, the vast amounts of dirty money sloshing around and the power-seeking ambitions of extra-national third-party actors it’s getting too easy for disruptors in the Kremlin and elsewhere to try to affect the outcome of elections, in what is increasingly evident is a deliberately orchestrated campaign to shake up the existing alliances in the West.

Their task is made easier still by the appalling venality of politicians like Fillon and, in Britain, George “eight jobs” Osborne.

As has been widely reported, with no prior journalistic experience the former Chancellor of the Exchequer has accepted an offer presumed to be somewhere in the mid-six figures to become the new editor of the London Evening Standard, formerly a newspaper but now the personal fiefdom and social diary of exiled Russian oligarchs the Lebedevs, père et fils.

That bloody country just won’t lie down.

And while The Pumpkin is conspiracy theorising, Mr Osborne and his friend, Mr Cameron, showed blinding incompetence in their ‘leadership’ of the failed campaign to keep Britain in the EU, focussing on what the Leavers dubbed ‘Project Fear’, an entirely negative assessment of the economic risks which they plugged relentlessly at the expense of any more positive reasons for remaining in Europe.

Is this a reward?

x

Hey, everyone! Katy Gorka?

‘Hillary for President’ contributions to the 2008 primaries:

  • Gorka Enterprises LLC: $750
  • ‘Cornell’: $550

Big spenders! But get this… Hillary’s campaign coffers in 2008 also contained $800 electo-bucks donated by… 21st Century Fox TV!

Nothing like hedging your bets. Or mislabelling your post.

x

Hey, everyone! Rex Tillerson?

A story on today’s Guardian quotes ‘sexy Rexy’, Trump’s normally taciturn Secretary of State, as saying he didn’t want the job. (It shows. Ed.)

He was looking forward to retiring to his ranch in Texas, he says, to enjoy his grandchildren (good luck with that, Rex – most people won’t get to enjoy theirs), his Old Age pension buoyed up by $245 million in free Exxon shares, but after Trump – whom he hadn’t previously known – offered him the post out of the blue at a surprise meeting called to “discuss the world”, and presumably how to end it, his wife told him: “God isn’t through with you yet”.

I’ve always felt I was appointed to high office by God, haven’t you?

I felt, you see, that God wanted me to be the boss of a bloated global corporation that endlessly lies and cheats and gouges the poorest people on earth while raping it of its commons for my own obscene enrichment and that of my billionaire friends at Davos, that tramples God’s Creation into the methane-pluming ground, heedless of warnings of the dire future it’s creating for the very survival of Mankind (we’re making the eye in that old needle as big as we possibly can.)

Sadly, as the Almighty is only a figment of the boundlessly optimistic American imagination, I’m sitting here writing this stuff instead.

Mysterious ways, and so forth.

Next time, eh?

Dogwhistle politics: It has to stop now. But Oh, God – what is going on?

“More than a quarter of EU citizens are having their applications for permanent residency in the UK rejected since the UK voted to leave the EU, according to new analysis of the government’s migration data.” – Guardian Today, 28 Feb. (Meanwhile the number of EU citizen doctors planning to quit the NHS, of which they comprise 40%, is now 60%)

In order to apply for residency, EU citizens domiciled in Britain are forced to complete an 85-page form, complete with supporting evidence. Any error in the data results in an automatic letter requiring the citizen to return to their country of origin, despite the fact that EU citizens have the right to reside and work in any EU country. Many are in essential work.

One woman interviewed, a French citizen, had submitted her physical passport in evidence, only to have her application form rejected on another technicality. Her passport was returned as an officially certified copy had been taken. When she re-applied using the certified copy of her passport, she received a deportation notice as she had failed to submit her physical passport a second time. She has lived here for 20 years and has a British husband and British-born children. She speaks fluent English.

Twenty-eight per cent of forms are automatically rejected. I repeat, Britain has not yet left the EU. We are still subject to EU conditions. Free movement of people is one of the fundamental principles of EU membership.

Extreme euro-fascists are untroubled, even in denial. It’s not true people are being told to leave; are being targeted, victimised by Immigration officials. Of course EU citizens are free to remain. For now. Confronted with the thought that European countries might retaliate against Britain’s two million expatriates, most of them pensioners, the Tory euro-fascist baboons reply: no they won’t, as soon as they see we’re deporting their nationals the European surrender-monkeys will back off. We’re great, we’re Britain.

These people are efectively being held hostage by the unelected Prime Minister, who is directing the movements of her appointed triumvirate of castrated Brexit-donkeys, Wilson, Kepple and Doris. Happily, the House of Lords has demanded an amendment to the Article 50 bill guaranteeing the security of EU nationals. But it’s expected that the robotic Mrs May will try to get it overturned. She needs those hostages.

The problem with being a liberal snowflake is simply that we are basically cowards. If we had any guts we would arm ourselves and declare war on the fascists and destroy them like ants before it’s too late. But that goes against our principles. We believe in civil society; agreeable accommodations; amity between peoples.

It doesn’t go against theirs. Because they don’t have principles; only brutish instincts.

Which obliges us once again to wait until dehumanised minorities are clawing at the walls of gas chambers and tanks are rolling across the Centre Court at Wimbledon before we can feel free to fight back.

I can’t find an emoji for resigned despair.

***

“Should he return, I fully expect Sir Mo will be placed in detention and then posted back to wherever the thuggish goons of Theresa’s immigration service decide he would be best left to rot.” – Ed.

It has to stop now

Many Posts ago I wrote a piece called Stirring the Jam Back Out of the Pudding.

It was in fact a review of a play, Arcadia, by Sir Tom Stoppard, a Czech refugee immigrant, in which I had taken a modest role. The plot, such as it is (it’s quite intellectual), linked the neoclassical revivalist world of aristocratic C19th Britain with the shallow fopperies of modern academia.

My thought was that once the currents of history had become intertwined, there was no way back. You could not, literally, stir the jam out of a semolina pudding once you had mixed it all in – although I recall Stephen Fry or someone doing something amazing with physics on TV, doing exactly that with water and some chemical dye he separated out, I forget how.

Allow me to explain what it is now, that has to stop.

Here’s a brief history of the world:

For millennia, humans have been migrating around the globe. Eleven – perhaps it was 16 – thousand years ago, Siberian tribespeople crossed the Bering Straight along the Aleutian islands from northeast Asia into what is now Alaska and spread southwards over the American plains into Mexico and across the Isthmus of Panama into South America. Many stopped on the way and founded pre-Columbian civilizations.

Humans had emerged, more than once, from the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia and driven by climate change spread northwards and eastwards to follow the hunting. Some were driven back by the advancing Arctic ice sheet, but thousands of years later returned to the northern lands as the ice retreated.

Those who moved eastwards into Anatolia and Sumeria began the seven thousand years of transhumance, of settled agriculture and technological development that have brought us to the modern era and the verge of extinction. Others founded the classical Mediterranean cultures.

Possibly in a separate evolution, a third eruption, forty thousand years ago humans left southeastern China and moved into Micronesia and on to Australia, where they were marginalised thousands of years later by brutal and arrogant white European settlers. Something similar happened in the Americas. Millions perished; cultures came close to vanishing.

Around the world the seas rose and fell, exposing and then isolating the land; the sun baked people brown, red, black; freezing winters turned people white.

But the intermingling continued at the margins.

Settled communities growing grain that could be stored for the winter had time on their hands; they began making stuff – pots, weapons, tools, jewellery, clothing, icons. At Dolní Věstonice in old Czechoslovakia are the early remains of a factory churning out ceramic ‘Venus’ figurines, as we call them: fetish objects, currency, souvenirs – we have no idea – thirty thousand years BCE.

The makers and their middlemen began trading in the surpluses. Trade depended on the endlesss, restless movement of peoples and goods across continents. Running for thousands of miles through mountains, across plains and along great rivers, trade routes opened up vast areas of the globe, chaining cities and their markets together.

Ports sprang up, customs flourished. Merchants settled and sold goods in one another’s capitals; sailors criss-crossed the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, the Baltic. Phoenicians from Carthage – black men – traded with tin miners in Cornwall; London traded furs for African diamonds with Volgograd. Empires arose, and as they expanded, kept stirring the human pudding.

Craftsmen were imported from everywhere to construct and decorate the grandiose buildings of military and religi0us empires for the glory of the rulers. Warfare and rapine spread genetic variation; conquered lands settled, moved and removed and scrambled-up entire populations.

And people intermarried.

After the first great era of modern mercantilism got under way, resource wars broke out – tentatively in the 9th and 10th centuries AD and into the early Medieval, then more fully in the C17th as people rushed hither and yon, desperately trying to grab a slice of the profit for themselves.

Millions of Europeans – some greedy, most just hungry – took ship for the New Worlds, seeking a better life for themselves, usually at the expense of the settled peoples who simply disappear from view, murdered, marginalised and miscegenated.

The transatlantic trade in slaves grew – the human power-plant of the early industrial and agrarian revolutions, inconsiderable by-products of commodity brokers – mixing Africans with Berbers with Europeans with native Caribs and Indians and Portuguese traders and London haut-bourgeoisie and Virginia plantation bosses – God-knows who, you can’t stop people from having sex.

While ethnic ‘purity’ persisted in pockets, indeed to this day the Welsh of mountainous North Wales are reported to be 85 per cent ethnically ‘pure’ Brythonic survivors of the Romans and the Normans and the detested English. Otherwise, miscegenation was the general rule over the entire world.

But some crazed ruler, some self-important baboon along the way had invented the idea of the ‘nation state’.

And thus it was on 25th February, 2017, that a grandmother, Irene Clennel, married to a British man and domiciled in Scotland for 27 years, a woman with a British native husband, two British children and a British grandchild, having been abducted on her return to the country by the State and held in a detention centre, was forcibly put on a plane to Singapore – her country of origin – because in the flint-cold eyes of some brain-dead bureaucratic cypher, an unperson I would be happy to pull a lever and watch twitching, a dope on a rope, the few years she had spent caring for her dying father in Singapore along the way disqualified her from having any right of residence in the UK; and her sick husband does not nowadays earn enough money to qualify to be allowed to keep her without imaginary State support.

(The Trades Union Congress has calculated that real wages in Britain have fallen by one per cent since the well-padded bankers got away almost literally with murder in 2008.)

The injustice and hypocrisy, the sheer malignant brutality of this indefensible, unChristian action in targeting this innocent woman for deportation and the heedless damage to her family it has caused defies belief. It is beyond words. It sears the soul.

It is, if such a thing can be isolated and focussed on the fate of one individual, a crime against humanity.

Last year we celebrated the life and mourned the passing of one David Jones, also known as Bowie. London-born, this globally famous ‘British’ rock star had lived for much of his life in Berlin and New York. Nobody kidnapped and imprisoned and deported Bowie or his family for the crime of living in the wrong country.

Wealthy Russians – Lebedev, the self-promoting millionaire owner of the London Evening Standard; Goncharenko, billionaire owner of £multi-million Mayfair properties left empty; Fridman, the ‘second richest man in Russia’, owner of £130 million Athlone House; Usmanov, who reportedly paid $77 million for Beechwood House in Highgate, north London and is busily building a Roman emperor-style pool complex underneath the tasteless Victorian excrescence; such men, their trophy wives, their well-armed goon squads and gardeners have no problem with their British residency status.

Up in Oregon, in a gated compound, lives with his British wife and children  ‘Sir’ Mohammed Farah, world-famous distance runner, winner of many races, holder of many records and titles. This extraordinary athlete lives in America But he comes from war-ravaged Somalia. A black African Muslim, he celebrates his successes in the colours of Great Britain, he is honoured as a knight of the Queen’s realm. But he doesn’t live here in Britain.

Should he return, I fully expect that Sir Mo will be placed in detention and then posted back to wherever the thuggish goons of the British immigration service decide he would be best left to rot.

Anywhere but here.

And as the Trump deportations grind into gear, the ethnic cleansing of swathes of America, the hollowing-out of its labour force, the ‘military operation’, the ruthless removals by the gum-chewing moronic Border Force thugs to God knows where of eleven million people to make America ‘great again’, cowering behind its protective wall, white again (how long has it been white, Trump, you disgusting and pretentious old orange slug?), English-speaking, we hear of more and more of these cases of lunatic official intransigence at our supposedly civilized gateways.

We hear of academics on their way to conferences with no intention of remaining, and writers and much-needed technology industry workers turned back, their Green cards useless; even the former Prime Minister of Sweden, for having an Iranian stamp in his well-travelled passport; detained at the airport, grilled for two hours.

We hear of US citizens with darker complexions detained and questioned for hours for reasons of blind and untutored prejudice on the part of dumbfuck airport jobsworths; even small children, regarded as ‘terrorists’; of racial and cultural hate crimes increasingly perpetrated under licence from cynical and expedient ‘populist’ politicians, proxies and bum-boys for diseased billionaires hastening to suck-out the remaining wealth of the world in the last days of humanity, before the game ends.

While here in tolerant, liberal Britain, home of Democracy, Empire, Commonwealth and manifest hypocrisy, we learn today that within a month, workers from Europe, 26 miles across the English Channel, will no longer be allowed automatically to settle and work; although employers are already complaining of labour shortages and major infrastructure projects are in abeyance. While those already living here with jobs and families are offered no security as Mrs May instructs her three wise monkeys to use them as a negotiating tool against the 27.

A strange shift in human evolutionary history seems to have begun.

Try as one might, it is hard to imagine: but the great vomiting disease of nationalism is separating everyone back into their original forms, forcing us to return to our points and conditions of origin, to fester behind miles of razor-wire.

We hear the newly empowered nobodies saying: well, according to our identification chart you’re this colour, you have these genes, you have this accent, these clothes, these visa stamps in your passport; you prefer these foods, you follow this unacceptable minor variation in our perceptions of the imaginary Creator; you have these genetic predispositions to particular diseases and disorders, your hair and eyes are this colour, your nose we measure such a length, your penis has this bit on the end or not, we determine that your ancestors came from such-and-such a place, you’ve stolen my job, so back you go.

A vast and, frankly, futile quest to ‘stir the jam back out of the pudding’ is underway which, if taken to its logical but frankly risible conclusion, would see a complete reset of a hundred thousand years of human migration and miscegenation when, in truth, our origins are so obscure, complex and convoluted as to defy racial and topographical analysis.

It’s bonkers – but on an individual level, heartlessly destructive: pointless, economically self-defeating, mad and cruel.

It has to stop now.

Dogwhistle politics

From: Political editor Laura Facebook ©2017, @Laurasweeplace

Remember the name Roderick Chunn, of  The Elliott School, Putney (a wealthy borough in SW London).

(Although you might care to note that it has not been The Elliott School – founded 1904 – since 2012, when it became known as The Ark Academy, under a Government scheme to rob public education of finance to pay US multinational corporations to run failing schools in the UK.)

For, there’s a petition trending on Change.org, that is approaching a quarter of a million signatures.

Clearly, a very serious issue of public concern. About education funding, possibly?

Actually, it’s about a pensioner, 87-year-old ‘Bob’, who rents a room in a care home in Carlisle, Cumbria, 316 miles from London, run by an outfit called Mead Medical.

Bob has a dog, a Schnauzer called, perhaps not politically correctly, Darkie, who has been his companion since his wife died from cancer two years ago. Bob has been in the home, Burnfoot Hall, for four years. The original lease from the local council gave him permission to have the dog, which is apparently well behaved and popular with the other residents, but the council has since privatised the operation, as I understand it, and the new landlords have given Bob an ultimatum: either the mutt goes, or you do.

Contrary to all other opinion I have seen on the petition, Mead Medical (‘Person-centred care’)  have argued that Darkie is ‘a nuisance’. Now, I have a dog, Hunzi, and I could lay my hands on at least thirty witnesses before lunch who would tell you straight, Hunzi is no nuisance. In fact, their observation would be that he is astonishingly well behaved; quiet, patient and gentle. And here he is, snoozing at my feet.

But I live in constant fear of someone maliciously pointing a finger, or reporting him for some imaginary crime, in a situation where their own uncontrolled dog has committed, and not for the first time, some unexpected savagery for which Hunzi will be blamed.

It has almost happened once, when an elderly party I recognise from casual encounters on walks was bitten by another dog, whose owner subsequently lied to the police that he did not own a dog, so it must have been my dog, ‘ the man over the road’, Hunzi being of a similar appearance and breed. Only the victim had already told the police that he knew my dog and it was not him, and the police let the matter drop. At least, I was never interviewed.

And poor Hunzi, so innocent and guileless is he that he is constantly being snarled at or actually attacked on our walks by the kind of vicious dogs the cretins off the council estate like to parade in public to show how tiny their genitals must be. (Or nice, retired middle-class folk with demented spaniels…)

So I understand the power of an accusation: many people – especially our wonderful police – being all too ready at the drop of a hat to jump to conclusions and point the finger of blame wildly in all the wrong directions; there being never any ‘smoke without fire’ in a mainly working-class community where incomers are regarded with suspicion.

On 1st February ‘Bob’ received a formal notice to quit, for failing to comply with the new regulation. He is to be evicted in April. So far, Mead Medical has refused to show the slightest concern that a baying mob of two hundred and forty-four thousand petitioners would cheerfully march on Carlisle, burn down their offices and string up their company officers on piano wire from lampposts in the street.

Like Donald Trump, Katie Hopkins or Nigel Farage, the company’s directors appear to be impervious to, even to thrive on, popular hatred.

Below the details of the petition is a Comment thread. It starts out, as you would expect, with half a dozen messages of support and sympathy for ‘Bob’. Most people in Britain, I suspect, other than out-and-out Nazi scumbag trolls hoping to foment bloodshed, chaos and oppression are righteously angered by such displays of high-handed officialdom and random instances of injustice.

Not so, young Master Chunn.

The snotnosed cretin pretending to come from a no-longer extant school in a really posh riverside suburb of wealthy London town, Chunn has contributed a brief message consisting of just seven terrible words:

“They wouldn’t do it to an immigrant.”

And from that point on, virtually the entire Comment thread erupts into a furious tirade from ghastly old hags and trolls, obese football hooligans bound to their piss-stained, bargain-basement sofas, poisonous amoebas who can barely spell their own names, howling down anyone reasonably disposed to pointing out that the matter has nothing whatever to do with immigrants.

Master Chunn’s message has received as of the last time of looking, 112 Likes.

Where has this visceral, kneejerk hatred of ‘foreigners’ grown from? What is going on, when so many people are happy to wallow in the abusive meme that ‘foreigners’ somehow get a better deal in life than they do; and why should that be a cause of such loathing?

It’s being promoted, exploited and revelled in by politicians who see votes in it; and their shadowy corporate backers.

The loutish British are notorious for their admiration of ignorance and prejudice, disparaging but secretly envying anyone marginally worse off – or marginally better off than – or in any respect different from themselves. Everything that goes wrong in their petty lives has got to be someone else’s fault, everyone else is somehow getting a better deal, more favourable treatment – is ‘on the take’ or ‘only out for themselves’ – as if wallowing in one’s own ignorance and prejudice is not itself evidence of the selfish behaviour of the human piggery.

It is so easy to push their buttons.

I wish it were only the insular British underclass, with their eternal inferiority complex and pathetic clinging to myths of cultural superiority, victory and Empire. But just over the water, in Holland, where the ‘genetically pure’ British mostly originated, we have the vainglorious, bouffant-haired pretty-boy, Wilders, poised to achieve victory come election-time on a platform of exploiting the fear, prejudice and bile against darker-skinned Others of the deeply devout and conservative, red-faced Boers.

Fortunately, his neighbouring presidential candidate, Mme le Pen, who seems to share many of his super-nationalist views, or is at least equally willing to exploit the dark undercurrents of chauvinism and prejudice in the bourgeois French soul – the French, whose ancestors originated in both northern Europe, Roman Italy and moorish Spain – has just become embroiled in an expenses scandal that threatens to setback her own campaign for a racially and culturally ‘pure’ France, free from both the evils of Greater Europe and the Muslim plague.

If genuinely a pupil, which must be in doubt, young Master Chunn needs to be brought to the attention of his school, who should call in the Prevent programme de-radicalisation specialists before his stupid and childish racialism, his dimly educated irresponsibility becomes a habit of mind.

But that isn’t going to happen. Because only-ever Muslims are radicalised in the security obsessed, authoritarian hellhole of State surveillance and the interception of Orwellian thought-crimes this country has become.

Anyone else – it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where in the world the name Chunn has come from – is apparently now on the side of the angels.

Snow-white Christian angels, that is.

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Dead letter days

Because she was born in Scotland in 1924 on an RAF base my mother, although half-Greek and half-English and living in London, always had a fantasy of being Scots and in the early 1960s opened an account with the Royal Bank of Scotland, to whose brand she remained loyal all her life.

When she died in December last year I rang the Bereavement office at the bank to ask them to close her account, only to be told they could find no record of her; although I had her most recent statement in my hand, showing an unaccustomed surplus of £474.66.

Reasoning nothing would happen over Christmas and New Year, I sent a death certificate to her branch on the 6th of January, asking them to make sure the account was closed. The certificate was returned to me a few days later with a letter from the Bereavement office saying someone would be in touch with me shortly.

When nothing arrived, I followed it up on the 21st of January with another letter to the branch, begging for confirmation that no more money was going out of the account. Nothing.

On the 24th of February a photocopy of the certificate arrived in the post, again from the Bereavement office, with a letter saying they had received it and someone would be in touch with me shortly. Three weeks later I had a closing statement: there was £90 in the account.

I’m not surprised these incompetent 73 per cent taxpayer-owned bailed-out wankers, once the biggest bank in the world, have lost a total of £58 BILLION since the crash of 2008, £7 billion of it last year alone.

The CEO should be arrested.

Instead of which, Mr Ross McEwan, an Australian – sorry, New Zealand – immigrant, is being paid an annual salary of £3.8 million.

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A Message from The Editor:

Hi. Bogl here. So great!

With only four days to go until the fifth anniversary of the first-ever edition of this, muh li’l bogl, for the first time I awoke this morning, a) feeling as if I had been transformed into a giant insect, and b) wondering whether Monday oughtn’t to be the day I finally stop doing this, since I still use grammar like: oughtn’t to, which modern linguists find not only quaint, but repulsive.

588 Posts ought to be enough for anyone; I’m not going to make it to the magic 600 before Monday, thus for the first time my numericism is in doubt; and when you consider that in recent months and years I have taken to producing multi-Posts, rambling omnibus editions of spleniferous political commentary running sometimes to five and six-thousand well-aimed words, my global word count is definitely well into the low tens of millions.  So many words, so little effect, it’s unbelievable.

I have begun therefore to realise why it is that my Likers, Spammers, Followers, and Those No Longer Reading My Bogl invariably go on and on switching into just an annoyingly small handful of Posts I Posted more than four years ago; and are ignoring any more contemporaneous comment they might find instructive.

It is because they have realised how long it will otherwise take them to get to the end.

There are some Posts they lap up avidly: for instance, those about the ill-fated ‘Comex Two’ Commonwealth Youth Expedition to India, in 1967, on which I rashly ventured beyond my comfort zone into what sadly turned out to be the real world, articles mainly concerning the frisky relationship between Time and Memory; there is one about my seven years a slave, employed for £1.60 an hour as the Old Caretaker of a freezing ‘stately home’ in a windy Welsh valley, that seems inexplicably attractive to wishful-thinkers; there is the inconsiderable trifle masquerading as an encomium to apple crumble, and other pensées that are grateful to receive some scant attention.

That sort of thing goes on attracting viewers by the bucketload, averaging at least three a week. But anything mentioning my twin-track obsession with Brexit and Trump… Well, you are getting your fake news elsewhere and it seems hardly worth my while fulminating over the results of my adventures into the farther reaches of the US alt-left media or conning the wit and wisdom of Boris Fucking Johnson and Iain Cunting Smith, if you are just going to wallow in nostalgia for those early days before the End Times arrived.

Yesterday, for instance, as I toiled over The Pumpkin – Issue 7, all day my viewing figures hovered around the average: zero. By bedtime one reader had crept in late, unobserved. But this morning, unaccountably, the figure in the handy WordPress bar-chart had jumped up to 19, marking a record since records began the previous week; when on the Wednesday we achieved 25. (The all-time record is a Guinness-unattributable 47, set some time last October. That was when it occurred to me that GCHQ might be listening in.)

It is of course possible that these extra readers are illegal immigrants, whose viewings should not count.

Bringing up the rear, one person yesterday had actually viewed a Post I posted only a week ago, The Pumpkin – Issue 5, making it almost a contemporary piece. I was so overjoyed, to be honest, I went back and re-edited it, in case anyone else drops by. And in fact, it garnered a ‘most viewed the previous day’ award from WordPress, for which I made a silent speech thanking my old headmaster for putting me off the idea that I might ever enjoy a rewarding career.

But I am assured by one technically minded reader, muh gudfriend Professor Sir Roger d’ Boyle, that there may be more eyes on the internal workings of my journalistic brain than I might appreciate, via the DSS;  viewers who by some means would not appear in the figures. I shall leave it to him yet again to explain how.

There is one other reason I am imagining abandoning my quest.

This, muh li’l laptop thing. It’s disintegrating, literally. One of the hinges holding the lid on has fallen to pieces, and there seems to be some connective mechanism inside the hinge that has become wildly displaced. This connects to the screen, which is floating free as the lid comes in two parts, at least it does now. And I dare not turn it off, ever, as when I have done recently it won’t wake up again, and I have to resort to various mystical passes and incantations, and it takes about 20 minutes to get to where I want to go; which is of course here.

Then indeed there is the problem of the vanishing lettering on the keys, that those of you who do try to keep up may have read about before. Despite more than thirty years in the field of high-pressure literary endeavours of all kinds, I have yet to learn to touch-type and can thus hardly sneer at Mr Trump for never having learned to read, or speak. Or, as you have just added, think. In this way my miskeying count continues to rise, doubling the editing time it takes to present a respectable text to the world.

Yesterday I ventured into the local branch of Curry’s where, after twenty minutes of bulling the shit with a bored salesboy, I heaved a sigh and made a choice from a range of about twenty-five identically boring machines. As we went through the rigmarole of purchasing the thing, however, when it became clear that a computer advertised at £629.99 would cost more like £999.99 once I had paid for all the extras to be able to actually use it, I was, I now realise, being saved by my Committee of Discarnate Entities from a rash fiscal error when the shop’s intranet ground to a halt and we were unable to complete the transaction that evening.

I have not been back, as promised.

I can’t face it, to be honest. All those passwords.

Leaving this and other compulsive internet-based practices behind me, becoming mindful, living toadly in the Now!, I reason, I could embark on a more fulfilling life, maximising the time available for struggling to piss, walking li’l Hunzi, selling my guitars and crawling into bed alone in the dark, which has become one of my favourite activities; as with sweaters, thick socks and a woolly hat on, a padded underblanket and two thick fleecy blankets atop the duvet, a couple of large nightcaps burning their way through my hiatus hernia, even in an unheated house in winter it’s so… I don’t know, cosy.

Anyway, I will bethink me, and let you know in due course.

In the meantime, I have to take a nap, sorry.

Bloody cats.

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But I can’t, can I?

Oh God, what is going on?

I’ve blogged already as have many others about the weird statements Trump made last weekend concerning Sweden, migrants and the non-events of the previous night, that did not in fact happen until two nights later.

His curious error made news all over the free world as the Swedish government puzzled over what exactly he was on about. His camp proposed that he had in fact been discussing the ‘crime rate’ in Sweden, a) an unlikely proposition, given that he has no interest in Sweden and did not use the words ‘crime rate’, and b) again alt-factual, as the crime rate has actually been going down since so many migrants arrived.

The mystery is now compounded by further weirdness upon weirdness, as revealed in – again – a Guardian report. (The Guardian was one of the news organisations denied a seat at the Spicer ‘gaggle’ briefing on Thursday.)

One of the very few journalists on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News channels to dare to criticise the Orange President, Bill O’Reilly invited on his show to discuss the Swedish matter, two guests.

One was a Swedish news reporter, the other a man called Nils Bildt, billed as a ‘national security advisor’. But after the show, the Swedish defense ministry denied having any knowledge of or connection with Bildt, whose position in debate was virulently anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and who confirmed Trump’s inaccurate belief that migrant crime in Sweden is a national problem.

Surprise, surprise when AP trotted out the following info:

“Bildt is a founding member of a corporate geopolitical strategy and security consulting business with offices in Washington, Brussels and Tokyo, according to its website….

“Security experts in Sweden said he was not a familiar figure in their ranks in that country.

“He is in not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate,” Swedish Defence University leadership professor Robert Egnell said by email to The Associated Press on Saturday.”

– Guardian Today: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/26/fox-news-nils-bildt-swedish-defence-advisor-unknown-to-countrys-military-officials?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=215024&subid=19570602&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Someone was being set up?

O’Reilly’s producers claim Bildt was foisted on them in the usual way, through their research team and its contacts. But it seems a stretch to imagine someone outside didn’t wangle him a seat in the studio. Whether to discredit O’Reilly, to massage the President (whose ego did seem somewhat bruised when his nonsense was pointed out), and to make him happy (he mostly watches Fox News and gets most of his policy announcements from them) or to simply further the alt-right cause among the Dumbfucks by putting in a ringer, we may never know.

But to this paranoid conspiracy theorist, there are numerous threads – fingers in the pie – running through this evolving tale of a globalised corporate coup in motion against liberal democracy  (they are not by and large corporates whose brand-names anyone would recognise, by the way), where names crop up again and again in the context of semi-official skulduggery, that include one labelled Murdoch; owner of Fox.

And it would not be entirely bonkers, would it, to wonder about that mini-riot in Stockholm, and how conveniently it provided the fuel for rightwing commentators to justify Trump’s ‘post hoc, propter hoc’ assertion that migrants cause crime; justifying his policies of voter disenfranchisement and ethnic cleansing – with possibly worse to come – in the US.