Oxfam: Only trying to help…. GW: stumbling blindly through the blizzard… Yellowstone News: It’s been a blast!… A higher gear…

“…the Bronze Age states (c. 1250 BC) were hit by multiple events. Not just sustained droughts and famine, but also numerous volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, civil unrest, mass refugee migrations, trade disruptions and war.” – BBC feature: Economic Collapse: the real message of the fall of Troy.

Ring any?

Oxfam: Only trying to help

Like John Milton I’m going to struggle with my near-blindness for a bit, because I need to say something. (Unlike Milton we’re hoping it will go away eventually…)

I’ve just lost it again with a harmless old chap I run into most days on my walk, who keeps triggering my inner libtard by parroting toxic ideas he gets from the rightwing media, mostly about ‘foreigners’ (although he tells me he was born in America).

A bit ashamed of that, actually. Sorry, dear old chap. I treasure you really.

Today, he was most exercised that ‘we’ give money to Oxfam so they can exploit 10-year-old Haitian prostitutes.

I agree, that’s not good. However, it’s probably more shocking in my more expansive view that ‘we’ pay the officers of Oxfam half a million pounds a year to fly first-class and stay at the best hotels just down the road from the disaster zone, while allowing 10-year-olds to ply the oldest profession in the street outside.

The economics of prostitution are generally related to a failure of good governance at many levels, but it is invariably born out of necessity, of a kind one had imagined charities like Oxfam have for more than 50 years been paid to relieve.

While Oxfam probably employs many thousands of good people around the world in difficult situations where they can’t always be supervised, there are a few bad apples in every large organization, who in this case were fired as soon as Oxfam found out. That’s not good enough for the British press, however.

But do we really want to destroy institutions that still do some good in the world, while yet there is a British parlour wall unhung with a 60-inch TV screen?

The occasionally atrocious behavior of a tiny handful of employees is a lot less unexpected than the broader failure of the organization to do its work. There should be no 10-year-old prostitutes in the first place in an earthquake disaster zone where international charities are thick on the ground. That’s the outrage – not that a few wicked and licentious officials may be tempted to exploit them.

The elderly party thinks it’s a disgrace anyway that the government gives ‘our’ money away to people in foreign countries when we should spend it instead on the National Health Service and other poverty-stricken causes in ‘our’ own country.

I agree… many of ‘us’ also need help. But… Don’t ‘we’ already get help? Maybe not quite as much as we feel we deserve. But there is no famine in Britain. No militarized mass rape. No genocide. No rampaging warlords or traffic in “blood diamonds”, beyond a few isolated cases of exploitative gangsterism. Influence-peddling, some inequality, but no kleptocracy to speak of; and very few earthquakes.

As I have recently experienced, in Britain you can walk in off the street into a clean, professionally run hospital and, provided you have the right condition, be swiftly assessed and treated expensively for free. Every child receives a free education to the age of 18. Comply to the nth degree with the miserable conditions and endless bureaucracy of the Government’s rotten means-test and you can at least get a few tens of pounds a week in benefits to help you survive to an age when the State grants you a pension.

And who left those “shithole” countries in the state they’re in? They’re mostly former colonial territories of ours, the French, the Belgians, the Germans, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese – and they didn’t have much to begin with.

I try explaining that ‘we’ give just 70 pence out of every hundred pounds we earn, our Gross National Product, to the aid budget because some people on earth are even more desperate than we are, the sixth richest nation in the world – and we’re nominally a Christian country. Does the old guy really think that if ‘we’ took back that 70p, they’d give more to people like him? Ha ha! Sillyface.

The NHS already swallows twelve whole pounds out of every hundred we earn; the problem seems to be (forgive me, I’ve spent too much time in hospitals lately) a mismatch between the facilities available, the staff available and the patients’ medical needs, which are seldom serious. That’s a management, not a money problem. £40 billion goes to Education; a similar amount to defend ourselves against the North Korean menace. Good God, we’ve spent 7 billion pounds building two leaky aircraft carriers with no aircraft, and propose to spent 60 billion more on useless nuclear submarines we can only operate with the permission of the Pentagon – 60 billion more still on a superfluous and destructive 110-miles of railway line on which you and I will not be able to afford to travel.

Isn’t that selfish enough for the average Daily Mail reader?

Indeed, £38 in every £100 the nation earns goes into the pockets, the country estates, the offshore accounts and the Bentley Continentals – who knows, maybe also the 10-year-old prostitutes – of the top 1 per cent of wealthy people in ‘our’ country – among them that braying, bullying egoist, the £2.5m a year editor of the Daily fucking Mail – people who prefer you not to think of them when you’re begrudging the world’s poorest their 70 pence.

I should like to explain that only some of the aid budget, that 70p in every hundred pounds, goes to famine and disaster relief. Some goes to useful development projects that intendedly help to increase ‘our’ export sales. Some goes to preventing refugees from coming to Britain. Some goes to maintaining embassies abroad. Some goes to the United Nations. And some even goes to the military to pay for peacekeeping missions that ultimately increase security on ‘our’ streets.

This huge generosity is what the editor of the Daily fucking Mail, the world’s nastiest, greediest, most selfish, fascist-supporting so-called newspaper, a privileged Jingoistic swine who owns a 17 thousand-acre Scottish estate and gave himself a 60 per cent pay rise last year, a bullying brute by all accounts pandering profitably to the worst instincts in stinking humanity, describes as ‘madness’.

But I don’t explain. What would be the point? Instead, I tell this elderly party, who’s probably no older than I am, ‘oh, fuck that Daily Mail bullshit’, and walk away angrily, because I don’t expect him to understand what I’m saying to him. No-one wants to hear they’re being played for fools, or that they’re just normally thoughtless, selfish, dog-eat-dog human beings.

I’m sure he was only trying to be helpful.

 

GW: stumbling blindly through the blizzard

Look, I’m still not really up to writing loads of copy. Staring at this screen hurts my eyes. I’m going to just give you a link to Climate & Extreme Weather News #92 pt 2, the latest issue, and you can draw your own conclusions. They’d better be the right ones. Video footage from Iowa includes instructions (from 08’53”) for how to build a traffic jam out of idiots – 12 of whom died trying.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djg7FEuxQCI

And now there’s CEWN #93 and it’s just overwhelming:

Cyclone Gita: Samoa, American Samoa & Tonga …The Philippines: Tropical Storm Basyang …Bolivia: Tiquipaya mudflows …Brazil: Porto Alegre storm …Argentina: Cordoba hailstorms … The USA: Midwest snowstorm & south-east flooding …Europe: Western Europe cold & France snow …Iceland: Reykjavik blizzard …India: Maharashtra thunderstorms …Japan: Snowstorms …Australia: Queensland heatwave & Brisbane thunderstorms …New Zealand: Opotiki flooding …Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event…. and more!

To summarize (more winterize, actually):

5 dead in the Philippines as TS Basyang batters Mindanao. Cordoba experienced quite a few giant hailstones of 10 cm dia. and more, but we recall it is the city that had five feet of hail in fifteen minutes last August. 12 people have died in record snowfalls over coastal Japan in the past week. Central Queensland is heading into a possible record heatwave for next week. 4 people died in a cyclonic hailstorm in Maharashtra, with extensive crop damage.  Reykjavik experiences total whiteout and hurricane-speed winds with 5-ft snowdrifts burying cars overnight. Arctic sea ice is at another record February low, while a heatwave in the stratosphere is intruding over the Arctic and expected to play hell with the polar vortex over the next few days.

The forecaster fails to mention however that the subArctic jetstream is somewhere over North Africa.

USA: “Heavy rain, flooding and landslides have affected areas of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee since 10 February 2018.” 2 die as Chicago experiences 9 straight days of snow.

Bolivia: “Heavy rain and flooding has left 6 people dead and 9,600 families affected. As many as 14 municipalities have declared a disaster.”

Mediterranean: “Severe weather, including strong winds, heavy rain and high waves, caused damage in Malta on 10 February. 1 man was killed and a passenger injured when a car was hit by a fallen tree. A large ship ran aground during the storm. Over 100 mm of rain fell in some areas in 24 hours.”

Pacific: “Days of heavy rainfall brought by Tropical Cyclone Gita have caused flooding and landslides in Samoa. The storm dumped massive amounts of rain from 07 to 11 Feb. Some areas recorded over 600 mm in a 24-hour period. Heavy rain in eastern areas of Malaysia caused flooding in parts of Sarawak from 03 Feb. Samarahan Division recorded almost 200mm of rain in 24 hours to 06 February. Schools and hospitals have been closed and thousands of people affected.”

Africa: “The south of Malawi is enduring a dire dry season that the country’s ministry of agriculture says will leave more than 700,000 farmers with less than 40 percent yield from their crops.” Mob violence has accompanied rumors that the drought is due to witchcraft. (Washington Post, 08 Feb).

Last week, however, GW was relaying news from Floodlist that northern Malawi was yet again underwater owing to intense rainfall. Maybe a pipeline or some buckets would be useful?

Anyone there at Oxfam?

Thanks to Floodlist/ Washington Post/ Climate & Extreme Weather News #92 pt 2, #93.

 

It’s been a blast

Yellowstone is “under strain” according to a group of seismologists who are monitoring the potentially catastrophic volcano, prompting fears an eruption is imminent. 15 Feb a new earthquake swarm up to M2.9 is recorded (but not reported) in the park.

Food security: “Some areas of Australia have seen up to 70% (grain crop) reductions compared to last year’s output. Reasons are drought and cold related issues.”

Mary Greeley website quoting the Billing Gazette and an unsourced scientific paper/ ABC News

 

A Higher Gear

I don’t normally give a shit about the BBC’s noxious car show for drooling petro-cretins and their embarrassed-looking girlfriends, Top Gear. I’m just watching for the first time the stilted, amateurish, characterless new autocue-stumbling presentation team going through the motions while waiting for something better to come on.

A dreary presenter is having an orgasm driving the latest Ferrari round a track somewhere. It goes at 300 mph, you can’t legally drive it on the road and it’s not race-licensed either. Only 40 will ever be made, it costs only £2 million, comes with its own fulltime team of mechanics – the tyres last only a few miles – and you can’t just buy one, you have to be invited as a deserving person to own one (Lewis Hamilton, enjoy!).

It is, of course, exquisite. Out of this world. It even limits the number of laps you’re allowed to drive it, before you die of smugness. And has a button that lets you drift excitingly round corners at 200 mph with no traction control, just for the hell of it.

FXXK? FXX that.

You’re taking the piss, right?

Or is this a new series of Pointless?

 

 

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The BogPo: Back in your box please, Norman. Now… This Revengers’ tragedy has gone far enough… Assholes is as assholes does… GW: skating on thin ice.

“Hmm. Can’t have the party leader telling me which way to vote…”

“I know, I’ll abstain…”

Back in your box please, Norman. Now.

Another distressing old ghoul from the 1980s-era Thatcher cabinet, a zombie dripping with soil and maggots, ‘Lord’ Norman Tebbit of BALPA has risen untimely from the snow-covered earth and raised his sightless skull to howl at the moon.

His former cabinet colleague, ‘Lord’ Heseltine (they’re all Lords, Time-lords presumably since they all ought by rights to be dead by now, along with their unholy mistress) went on record the other day as saying it might be preferable to have a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn, than to endure the kind of nonsensical, damaging, divisive Brexit Mrs May might be proposing – if anyone, even she, knew what she is proposing.

While it is almost certainly preferable that Hezza is in opposition to the tight-knit cabal of power-hungry pantomime villains in the Tory party, the Bakers and the Patersons, the Redwoods and the Bones, the Duncan Cunts lobbying tirelessly (the Undead never sleep) for the hardest kind of Brexit, i.e. no deal with the remaining EU states, a new British Empire rising from the sea, free from the garlic-munching constraints of one of the most profitable open-border trade deals we have ever had, his remark kind of damns the future with faint praise.

It’s also a tad off-kilter, because Corbyn is just as much of a Brexiter as any cretinous empire-loyalist throwback and neo-Thatcherite, ultra-liberal plotter on the Tory benches. If he wasn’t, he’d be in Downing Street by now, the woolly-pated old clodpuddle who just can’t resist rebelling against the party leadership, even when he IS the party leadership.

And we wouldn’t be headed for a life of servitude under the restrictive domination of the World Trade Organization and its secret court of arbitration; recast as a cut-price offshore tax shelter under the control of US corporations, owned by billionaire fund managers, hanging our fiscal arse out for anyone who wants to come by and pay tuppence to fuck it; proudly waving our second-class blue passports as we queue at the Aliens’ counter of once welcoming vacation destinations (there being some corner of a foreign airfield that is forever England…)

Tebbit’s spectral threat, however, is chilling. He asks of Heseltine: “It must call into question whether his loyalty is to the UK or a foreign power.”

Wow, that’s vintage Trump. Our dead white politicians are clearly learning.

Which “foreign power” would that be, Norman, you loathsome, rotting corpse, you? You always were a bit of a Goebbels figure. Not possibly the “foreign power” that bankrolled this clusterfuck in the first place? If anyone’s loyalty is to the Kremlin, it must surely be yours.

Back in your box please, Norman.

Now.

x

This Revengers’ tragedy has gone far enough

Well-known throughout the English-speaking world, the American writer/broadcaster and “feuilletoniste” par excellence, Garrison Keillor has been fired by the obscure local radio station he put and has kept on the map for the past four decades, Minnesota Public Radio, for putting his hand on a female colleague’s back, as he admits, finding bare skin – and as both originally described it, to console her over some unhappiness she was sharing with him. He would, he avers, have done the same for anyone, female or male.

How to destroy a popular franchise with a few well-chosen weasel words. (Photo: futureperfectpublishing.com)

But she seemed a little leery about it at the time, so, as far as both of them were concerned, she settled for his apology, verbally and in writing, and Keillor thought no more of it until the woman’s lawyer weighed in a few days ago, on (literally) the back of a lot of other, seemingly trivial, vexatious and opportunistic complaints that have followed, among them admittedly more serious allegations, many affecting the broadcasting industry, since the “outing” by more than 20 women two months ago of predatory Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein.

Since when, it has turned into a blamefest that is playing into the increasingly unseemly political “debate” on both sides of the channel, proving so easy to get rid of opponents with a well-judged swipe of a lipstick.

“On Wednesday he (Keillor) wrote a column saying there was no reason for Senator Al Franken, who is accused of sexual misconduct and was photographed groping a sleeping broadcaster, to resign.” – BBC report.

And five minutes later, wham! He’s toast.

There’s nothing like guilt by association to improve a news item, is there. Even if it is libellously inaccurate. So now it’s not acceptable to offer any kind of a defense of someone you think has been pushed to the brink over allegations of minor misconduct you believe have been blown out of proportion, at a time when past flirty behavior is all of a sudden being treated as a serious category error of which all men are automatically guilty without due process? Great.

So here’s my defense of Mr Keillor, and Sen. Franken, for what it’s worth:

The additional reporting on this story perpetuates the allegation that Franken “groped a sleeping broadcaster”. But Franken himself was part of the broadcast! The woman wasn’t “a broadcaster”. “Broadcasters” aren’t generally found “sleeping” on the job! Nor did he actually “grope” her. The story is bullshit.

Before he ran for Congress, the senator was a TV comedian. Such is the American Dream.

The old photograph of him “groping” the woman depicted what was obvious horseplay, apparently on-set during a rehearsal for a skit in a TV show. The woman was not a “broadcaster”, she was another comedic actor taking part in the skit. A BBC journalist should know the difference.

Franken was fully aware of what he was doing, it seems, as he was mugging at the time into the lens of a camera which, if you have genuinely sinister intent, you certainly would not do. His hands do not appear to touch the actor, but hover suggestively over her breasts, which were covered for whatever dramatic purpose with a ridiculous, pointy, armored metal brassiere! She was not “sleeping”, she was pretending to sleep: ACTING a part. Franken was not “groping”, he was simulating “groping”, for comedic effect.

But she has since recalled that he later tried to kiss her…

Whatever else he may have been accused of, however tedious or infantile the joke, Franken was not “groping” the woman. He was pretending to. Comedy was clearly the intent. If he later tried to kiss her, well, silly him. Is it that serious? Actors kiss everyone, all the time. People kiss actors. Kissing is a social thing, it isn’t rape.

Politicians too: I seem to recall Tony Blair disgracefully snogging Col Muammar Gadaffi, a serial rapist and pedophile whose supply of Semtex to the IRA had killed hundreds of British citizens. I was on a course recently, we all hugged goodbye at the end and a woman I was not physically attracted to and had shown no sign of interest in, someone I barely knew, kissed me full on the lips. Should I call my lawyer?

We don’t know the precise circumstances; only that a woman many years later says she was so outraged, so humiliated, so… sexually assaulted by a fumbled kiss from a colleague? that the man has to end his political career on her say-so. Why? Well, because she’s a woman. Surely enough evidence for anyone: women can’t possibly be expected to cope with a little flirtatious attention. And if Franken was a bit flirty, a bit gropy, a bit louche, so what? Millions of men are, always were, it’s what makes the world go around. Ask Simone de Beauvoir. Ask Collette, Anaïs Nin… (Strangely, French women seem to get it… Americans derive their matriarchal power from not getting it.)

There was a time when flirtatiousness between men and women was an expression of human sexuality rather than a patriarchal power-fantasy. It cut two ways – women had their stratagems – and was not just tolerated: it was a game of two halves, as someone once said about soccer.

What is really disturbing is that it is no longer a defense to point it out. It’s okay for a woman to put on 3-inch denim hotpants, 6-inch heels and a boob tube, drink a pint of vodka and stagger out into the nighttime streets to get sex off any drunken guy they fancy. No, it really is. But why is it now a retroactive, career-destroying offence for a man to flirtatiously put his hand on a woman’s knee in a bar at a political convention? Is it a crime to want human contact? We’re programmed to. Is it a crime to point that out?

Because “inappropriate sexual conduct” such as wolf whistling or propositioning or casual touching in a non-threatening manner are not criminal offences: they were bad manners; now they’re a political policy.

We should perhaps remind ourselves from time to time that whoever resurrected this “evidence” of past misconduct that – among later accusations of similarly flirty masculinist behaviour –  drove Sen. Franken to resign would have been well aware that he is a Democratic senator, that the Republicans have only a slender majority in the Senate, they have difficult and frankly lousy bills to get passed and they know too that their irascible President has been accused of, and is self-confessed to, far worse predatory sexual behavior, from which some distraction is required.

Of course they are going to make the most of it; especially in the light of accusations against their equally appalling candidate in Alabama, the unspeakable Roy Moore. (Unfortunately, his sexual peccadilloes have occluded his vile racial and religious bigotry.)

Oh, and did I mention that when the ‘Golden Showergate’ dossier came out, Trump joked that he knew all about the form of blackmail known in Russia as “Kompromat” because he too owned hotels; hotels perhaps not dissimilar to the one in which his son-in-law, Jared Kushner’s dad compromised his own brother-in-law, filming him secretly with a prostitute and sending the tape to his wife, his own sister, to get him to drop his testimony in a fraud trial? And that the President is now accused of having sex with porn actresses after only one year married to Melania, women he’s bought off? And nothing is going to happen as a result, because it’s not illegal?

There are surely degrees of offense, some of which seemingly require that the supposed offender should be blackmailed into a course of action favorable to the blackmailer. There will however be voices raised in support of Charlie Kushner, disapproving of prostitution, or hotels, or something.

Did Keillor masturbate, like Weinstein, allegedly ejaculating into a plant pot in front of this woman? Did he emerge naked from the hotel shower and ask for a “massage”? Did he threaten to destroy her career if she didn’t have sex with him? Did he call her up like Bill O’Reilly of Fox News used to, and tell her he was playing with himself while they talked? Did he make gratuitous remarks about how she had great tits, push her up against a wall and kiss her, or try to “grab her by the pussy”? Did he exonerate himself by claiming she was too ugly to have bothered with, or impose a legal gagging order threatening her with financial ruin? (All allegations have been denied by the men concerned.)

No, according to Keillor he touched her on, as he thought, a “safe” place (as we men have been taught to regard various supposedly non-erogenous zones of a woman – given that it is impossible and psychologically inadvisable to go through life without sometime touching at least one other person) on the small of her back, in what he claims was, and she accepted at the time was, a sympathetic gesture of solidarity. But of course, he’s a middle-aged white man, so we can’t possibly believe his version of events.

And now she’s gone and terminated his career, one imagines through her lawyer demanding the not-for-profit station pays them both off handsomely over this singular incident, which – according to the report – did not involve any actual impropriety, other than a hand patting or rubbing or pressing on her back, which can often be misinterpreted as a perfectly innocent, decent human gesture. Nice person.

Nor is Keillor yet being painted as a serial rapist – give it time:

“The station said it did not know of any allegations involving any other staff.” – BBC report. (That’s after 42 years with the station.)

Nevertheless, in stark terror MPR said it would:

  • end its contracts with Mr Keillor and his companies
  • stop broadcasting his syndicated show The Writer’s Almanac
  • stop rebroadcasting highlights from A Prairie Home Companion
  • change that programme’s name
  • separate from an online catalogue and website associated with him.

Over this one incident that allegedly took place, its propriety in retrospective dispute, we know not how long ago.

From all that we do know, this grotesque, Stalinist un-personning of Keillor, this cowardly airbrushing of their star performer and his folksy shows that millions have listened to with pleasure for over 40 years, would seem so egregiously over-the-top and so unnecessary, so unfair on the listeners, so hedged about and justified with weasel words, that it surely now behoves every male on the planet, even the gay ones, especially the gray ones, to come forward dressed in chains and kneeling in contrition, to renounce their jobs and dismantle their families, who ever engaged in any physical contact whatsoever beyond air-kissing and cooing ‘Hugs, babe!’ from a safe distance with a female of the species.

I’m sorry, I may be entirely wrong, I’m not an advocate of harrassment, but we seem to be gripped by a collective insanity involving a vituperative historical revisionism, in this case of what formerly passed for normal interpersonal behavior until the rules were arbitrarily changed last November. I sense a feeling of triumphalism about the #metoo movement.

We might as well die out. We deserve it in so many ways.

 

Assholes is as assholes does

Trump… Weinstein… Kim Jong-un… Rodrigo Duterte… Boris Johnson.

Stuart Jeffries has an entertaining piece in the post-Boxing Day Guardian, about how 2017 was the Year of the Asshole, according to a book: The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt, by Robert Sutton (Penguin Books).

Generally, assholes (in the American spelling) are people who abuse their authority to diminish others, while themselves acting like complete dicks.

Whaddaya mean, my tie is in your tea? (photo: forfreepsychology.com)

Like the MD of an ad agency I briefly worked for, who would give you a hazing, snarling at you with his stale breath and fishy, pale-blue eyes magnified tenfold by pebble lenses, from a distance of two inches, seriously questioning your loyalty and why you needed to go home before eight p.m. after working a 14-hour day.

As the most profitable creative in the building, I once asked for a raise and he snapped back with: “So who would you like me to fire, so they can pay for you to have more?” And then pocketed the entire staff bonus pool for the year, lying to us that we had made a loss, to buy himself a yacht.

And the time he sent his most cowed and creepy fellow board director illegally round to my house, to check that I really did have a horrific sweating virus with a temperature of 108 and wasn’t just malingering.

Or the MD of another company I briefly worked for, who was so organizationally conflicted he needed three PAs just to even try to keep his appointments and his over-generous promises to clients on-track.

This asshole would order the most junior person in the office to phone a supplier to negotiate a discount after the supplier had already delivered and invoiced the job, standing behind them screaming: “Tell ‘im ‘e’s a fuckin’ cunt an’ if ‘e’ doesn’t give us 30 per cent I’ll fuckin’ destroy ‘im…” And once on the way to a meeting, realizing he’d double-booked his appointments, he asked me in a panic to take over with one of the clients, promising me a bonus if I screwed the guy for a £5 thousand budget for a project. I came out with £10 thousand, but of course I never saw the bonus.

A man seemingly without qualifications or any redeeming features, he eventually achieved the Holy Grail of assholery – 100 per cent staff turnover in one year.

And then there was the editor of a terrible freesheet newspaper I freelanced on out of desperation as a subeditor one day a week. This baboon had been a printer, or ‘stone-hand’ as the troglodytes called themselves, on The Sun and had no journalistic background. He would sit brooding in his glass fishtank, from where he could monitor all our screens, before erupting four times a day like a Pixar octopus to scream at some unfortunate, occasionally me (my limited typesetting expertise had been gained in book publishing): “Oi pays you fuckin’ Fleet Street rates (he didn’t) an’ Oi ‘as to do all the fuckin’ work meself!” before correcting some tiny discrepancy in the alignment of the text across the gutter of the pages and slithering back to his dark and watery domain.

I once observed him brutally firing a raw recruit, a young trainee who had foolishly given up his tenancy to travel 250 miles to a new town and a new job. On his first morning the “editor” had told this kid to go and interview a publican who had ejected a drunk from his bar the previous night, having called the police – and to take a photographer and come back with 20 usable shots. Of course there was nothing to see but a self-satisfied bloke and a building and not a lot to say, the story having already been widely reported, so he instantly and loudly fired the kid, who left in tears.

I decided at that point that the only way to treat this “bosshole” was with serene detachment, because he was really a comic character, the perfect caricature of a ruthlessly efficient Alpha male presiding tyrannically over the world’s most dysfunctional weekly: a disgusting piggery of a newsroom filled with broken equipment, burnt-out screens, unsorted piles of paper, old food cartons everywhere and pervaded by the sweaty smell of fear. The day I quit, he looked at me with horror and asked, piteously, “Why, was it something I said?”

Ironic, then, that a thread of quite witty and profound Comments inspired by Jeffries’s piece should be summarily terminated after only 134 entries by an asshole on the Guardian Comment staff posting imperiously:

“Comments here were opened in error and will be closing shortly. Thank you.”

Thus denying your Uncle Bogler the opportunity to get in early with a merry quip. “Opened in error”. Why, was it not considered a prize piece of assholery to censor Comments on a popular and amusing subject? Was there something political, did people suddenly start attacking immigrants or Brexit remoaners? What “error” caused a supposedly grownup, independent, liberally-minded national newspaper to flee from its responsibility to allow a reasonable opportunity for public comment? Fuck you!

I don’t respond to 20-something Guardian editor Kath Viner’s tragic daily pleas for money to keep going. I did once, about a year ago; sending her a grateful blogging pensioner’s tenner, before I read in Private Eye that the Scott Trust, the holy body that owns the Guardian, was sitting on a cashpile of around £600 million. What’s more, the sanctimonious pricks at The Guardian act like an institutional asshole toward their own journalists, operating with a minimal staff, imposing on them low-paid, zero-hours contracts that include provisions like a compulsory annual month off, which thereby excludes them from pension rights, and so on.

And what are the Grauniad hacks minimally paid to do? Why, to offer a reasoned daily post-feminist critique of über-capitalism and the gig economy!

This could just be the year I wean myself off an adult lifetime’s dependency on all such assholes.

Thank you.

x

GW: skating on thin ice

UK: “…findings from power research group MyGridGB show that renewable energy sources provided more power than coal for 90% of 2017, figures up to 12 December show. British wind farms produced more electricity than coal plants on more than 75% of days this year. … In April, the UK had its first 24-hour period without using any coal power since the Industrial Revolution.” Snow has closed roads and airports, ahead of Storm Dylan (30 Dec.)

Malta: a private jet belonging to Britain/Belize’s tax-dodger-general, Tory donor Lord Michael Ashcroft, was picked up and blown through an airport fence, crashing into an office building Thursday, by a powerful gust of wind. Struck back in August by a ‘Med-icane’, the island has again been hit by a powerful storm system, with 5-meter waves, thunderstorms, hail, torrential rain and a single-digit cold snap all in the forecast.

Australia: SE Queensland swelters through a Christmas heatwave, until powerful storm cells bring strong winds, heavy rain and hail, smashing up homes, breaking car windshields and causing power blackouts. “Cricket-ball sized” hail batters the small town of Athol, near Twoowoomba (just as England’s Cook was battering cricket-ball sized, er, cricket balls for his 244 in Melbourne). More storms are forecast for the New Year’s weekend.

Philippines: the death toll from Typhoon Tembim (TS Vinta) stands at 240, with 107 still unaccounted for. Whole villages were washed away or buried. The remnant typhoon, downgraded to a TD, is now battering Vietnam.

USA: Much of the eastern mid- and NE US is experiencing record cold and snowfall in a huge swath from the Arctic circle down to Florida. Erie, Pennsylvania is under five feet of snow, that fell in a day and a night. “3 to 4 more feet” is the forecast. 50th State, Hawaii has had near-record rainfall and flash floods; 6-in fell on Maui airport in 24 hours. Meanwhile, heatwave conditions persist in the far SW and California, where the Thomas fire is 80% controlled.

And as for Alaska… temperatures this December have been “20 to 30 degrees above average”. 2017 is likely to be the costliest year ever for the US in terms of weather disruption. 700 scientific staff posts are reportedly vacant after a wave of resignations at the US Environment Protection Agency.

Oceans: “…on December 21, sea surface temperatures were as high as 31.7°C or 89°F north of Australia. In line with rising temperatures caused by global warming, sea surface temperature anomalies are high across the oceans. … temperature anomalies over the Arctic Ocean could be as high as 30°C, 54°F.” (Shome confusion here… 30°C is 86°F, not 54°F, which is 12°C. Ed.)

BBC News/ Climate & Extreme Weather News #88, citing CBS News, RUPTLY, Maui Now, et al./ Wunderground/ Arctic News

 

Final word

There’s a cat outside our house…

West Yorkshire police report that they took a hundred thousand completely trivial “emergency” 999 calls in 2017, ranging from: “There’s a cat outside our house and it won’t move, what should we do?” to: “My mum’s at the hairdresser’s and they’ve tinted her hair the wrong colour”. (BBC report, 28 Dec.)

Well, really, if the police don’t have the manpower or the time to send someone to sort out these very real humanitarian crises, where is the country coming to, after eight years of Tory rule?

No wonder people are voting for Brexit.

The Pumpkin – Issue 41: Are all US politicians just lying, thieving scumbags?… What have the following words got in common?… If Carter…? GW: packing her trunk into the Oldsmobile and heading on down the smoky road… “Fuck off”.

Thief armed with golf clubs robs country: elderly billionaire wearing blond wig and Brioni suit Most Wanted by FBI. May act confused. Approach with caution. DO NOT LEND MONEY!

 

Are all US politicians just lying, thieving scumbags?

Today I became more profoundly depressed than I think I have ever been.

And I’m not even an American.

Today, Friday – always a good day for putting up smokescreens while burying astonishingly lousy news – the lying, self-interested, criminal sonofabitch got up in front of a room full of suits and admiring nodding-dogs in uniforms to warn the world that America is coming for us. Naming Russia and China as competitors, aggressors, blaming – as ever – his predecessors for their weakness, he vowed that America would come first in any global trade deal.

And while he was spouting his autocue shit, a predictably bombastic and empty campaign speech that even made the number one spot on the supine BBC news, the Republican Congress was running off with the money, while at the same time some little bought and paid-for shill, Ajit Pai, on a Trump-packed committee was handing control of the entire Internet to three huge US corporations, on some phony, lying pretext or other, despite the protests of the entire rest of the industry.

I make no apology for drawing quite so extensively on the New Yorker magazine for the following extracts from an article billed as “The GOP’s Corrupt, Cruel, Budget-Busting Tax Bill”. Just call it a retweet:

Almost eleven hundred pages long, the final bill is just as regressive and fiscally irresponsible as either of the two earlier bills, and arguably more so. At its center is a huge tax cut for corporations and unincorporated business partnerships—such as the ones that Donald Trump owns—while arrayed around the edges are all sorts of carve-outs and giveaways to favored industries and interest groups.

Another provision, which wasn’t in the House or Senate bills, allows real-estate developers who own buildings through L.L.C.s, as Trump does (and his little plastic boy, Kushner – Ed.), to deduct twenty per cent of the income that these properties generate. To qualify for the break, the properties have to be newish ones that haven’t been fully depreciated. “This helps people who have held property for a while, like Donald Trump,” David Kamin, a law professor at New York University, told … the International Business Times.

Corker had been the only Republican to vote against the Senate version of the tax bill, but on Friday he announced that he’d changed his mind, and that “after great thought and consideration, I believe this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make U.S. businesses domestically more productive and internationally more competitive is one we should not miss.” Corker didn’t mention his personal interests, but …: “Federal records … show that Corker has millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate-related LLCs that could also benefit” from the final bill.

So Bob Corker, scourge of the President just a few weeks ago, the man who made news around the world by referring disparagingly to the Oval Office as an ‘adult daycare centre’, has been bought off – possibly as he planned. Stand up as a holdout on an important finance bill in Congress, where everyone else hopes to make a killing, and wait for the bribes to roll in.

What a repulsive, rutting little bitch this greedy, hypocritical smalltown whore is. Spread ’em, Bob.

Five trillion dollars, looted from the State and taxpayers by these disgusting, lying, cheating, God-bothering cretins. And where’s it coming from? Why, your healthcare programs, Americans! Your schools! Your roads! Your social security. Your future taxes.

Serves you right for voting for these pond-scum, time and again. You have to be among the most pig-ignorant, self-deluding baboons on the planet. What the hell did you think, that they would somehow make your lives better? That by taking all the money they’d make you richer? That they’d make America great again?

Idiots. You’ve been royally screwed.

x

What have the following words got in common?

  • Vulnerable
  • Entitlement
  • Diversity
  • Transgender
  • Foetus
  • Evidence-based
  • Science-based

That’s right! They’ve all been BANNED in use by the Trump administration!

(Postscriptum: no, it appears the story is wrong in that respect: it is not the administration banning the use of the words, further reporting reveals that it is the CDC administration suggesting they need to avoid those words for fear of confusing or upsetting individuals within the Trump administration: self-censorship, in other words. Of course, says Ed., when organizations start to censor themselves it’s come to a pretty pass and might as well be the government doing it.)

Administrators overseeing budgets at the world-leading Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta have warned staff not to use the words in official communications, apparently on the orders of the government.

Analysis of the banned words suggests that a mix of Trump policies requires censoring terms that might be used by medical researchers relating to activities that are either offensive to rightwing pro-life Christians, such as ‘foetus’ and ‘vulnerable’; upsetting to racists and homophobes (‘diversity’, ‘transgender’, ) or inimical to the vast profits made by pharmaceutical corporations, such as ‘science-based’ and ‘evidence-based’ medicine.

The only people with an ‘entitlement’ are the fucking Republican millionaires, entitled to screw the country.

When you add this to earlier bans on federal government scientists publishing, promoting or receiving research on climate change, please understand, we are living in perilous times.

The last time this happened we ended up in a near-global war with possibly 50 million people dead. Brute authoritarianism and the promotion of lies and ignorance in the interests of a state aligned with corporatist and religious goals have to be resisted, by force if need be.

If that means the rest of the world has to go to war to restore freedom and democracy in America, then that’s what we should do.

Let’s not tolerate fascism.

(Thanks to TYT for the list)

x

If Carter…?

Oh, dear Lord.

You may recall an iconic 1970 British gangster film called ‘Get Carter!’, starring Michael Caine – I do, because my mum was in it.

This, however, is not about that.

Trump’s security of the nation speech yesterday, as you would expect, perpetuates the tedious myth of ‘Axis of Evil’ Iranian mischief in the Middle East  – Iran, that is, that’s the puppet of the Russians, that’s spent over a decade fruitlessly pursuing the nuclear option North Korea seems to have perfected in five minutes just to obliterate Israel, which they wouldn’t be stupid enough to do.

But, so long as the Saudis want to buy his beautiful weapons, Trump is happy to threaten to obliterate Iran.

The Pumpkin has just stumbled across a June 2013 podcast by the independent commenter and sometime RT presenter, Thom Hartmann, no Kremlin puppet he, asking where America might be if Jimmy Carter – probably the best president of modern times – had won a second term in office?

Those of you who were conscious in the late 70s might recall that a crisis erupted during the Iranian revolution, when a bunch of hotheads invaded the US embassy in Tehran and took lots of diplomatic staff hostage.

Let’s remember that the revolution was against the corrupt and authoritarian monarchy of the Pahlavis, originally imposed in the 1950s through a coup orchestrated by the CIA and the British mainly to secure Britain’s oil supplies.

The seige went on for months, and Carter was foolishly persuaded to let US special forces go in and free the hostages and it was a complete clusterfuck, and Carter lost the election to Reagan, whom everyone thought was a crazy anti-Communist warmonger who would start WW3 but at least he wasn’t WEAK!

So, as Hartmann reports, while the seige was ongoing there was a change of government in Tehran and Mustafa Bani-Sadr was elected President by a big majority on a campaign to release the hostages and stop embarrassing the country. So he goes to the Ayatollah Khomeini to ask if the ruling clerical committee will let him go ahead and send the Americans home, and Khomeini says no, because…

He’s done a deal with the Republicans in the US to keep the seige going so as to ensure Reagan gets elected, as Ronnie has offered to supply arms and military spares to the Revolutionary Guard in exchange for a bit of help….

Bani-Sadr then apparently wrote an article confirming all of this, that was published – in, of all places – the Christian Science Monitor, and never otherwise saw the light of day.

And then the increasingly feeble-minded Reagan is persuaded to promote the neoliberal agenda proposed by Friedrich Hayek and the Chicago school of economists, egged-on by his dear friend, the Blessed Margaret Thatcher, and now you see the apotheosis of that rightwing Austrian fascist bullshit in the Trump administration – not that Trumbo has ever read Hayek, or anything at all, he just does what he thinks will please the dumbfucks.

America, you keep getting screwed.

Why?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdkU6LHMq8g

x

GW: packing her trunk into the Oldsmobile and heading on down the smoky road

Trucial States (UAE): Oman’s Civil Defence Department said (16 Dec.) that 3 people have died in flooding after heavy rain (111 mm in 24 hours is more than five times the norm for the whole of December). According to local media, one victim died after being struck by lightning in Saham and two others lost their lives after their vehicle was swept away in a flooded wadi in Fariq (Al Batinah).

USA: “After the Thomas fire surged to record levels this past weekend (275k acres to date), winds have lessened in Southern California. However, an uptick in dry, windy weather is in store starting during the middle of the week. A storm system digging into the western United States at midweek will stir up gusty (‘Santa Ana’) winds in the Los Angeles Basin and (up to 60 mph) in the San Gabriel Mountains.” The Thomas fire is expected to go on burning well into January.

CO2 levels over parts of southern California while the wildfires were burning at their peak on 7 Dec. reached in excess of 920 parts per million.

Indonesia: The archipelago, recently hit by deadly flooding from Tropical Storm Kai-Tak, is experiencing something of a heatwave, with temperatures into the high 90s F.

World: “This year is almost certain to be the planet’s warmest year on record that lacks any influence from El Niño, and will likely be the second or third warmest year in recorded history. As of December 17, 2017, 182 major weather stations have beaten (not just tied) their all-time highest temperature records, and 17 have beaten records for their all-time lowest temperature. Earth’s four warmest years of the last century-plus are virtually certain to be the four years from 2014 through 2017.”

 

Floodlist/ Wunderground (citing Maximiliano Herrera)/ Accuweather/ Arctic News

 

Fuck off.

My uncle was for many years the editor of a well-known satirical magazine, that was always being sued by aggrieved politicians and businessmen whose nefarious proclivities had been exposed in the previous fortnight’s edition.

One such case, Arkell vs Pressdram, was resolved in in 1964 when my uncle boldly advised his lawyers to enter the response to the litigant. It went down as a defence in legal history:

“Fuck off” was all it said.

The Pumpkin has been distressed to learn of a case in Canada where a couple married for 70 years, Herbert and Audrey Goodine, are being split up before Christmas because the husband is being moved to a more advanced care home, leaving his devastated wife behind.

A representative for the long-term care home responded on Facebook.

“Once a resident is beyond our level and social development has reassessed to determine their level, I have to follow the rules and regulations set by the government. In fact, it’s against the law for me to not follow the rules and I could lose my licence. At this point the decision has been made and it is out of my hands.”

No, Sir, it isn’t.

Just tell whoever you think in your pathetic cowardice is going to fire you:

“Fuck off.”

x

Wacky definitions #27

“A spokeswoman from Counter Terrorism Policing North East said: “The public may have heard a loud bang at the time as police entered one of the properties, but it was not an explosion.

“[We] would like to reassure them that it was part of the method to gain entry to the property.” – BBC News report

 

 

The BogPo, a Trump-free zone: Old Bigot writes (The rules of cricket)… The old one-two… So deport me! … GW: Your gran, rescued in a rubber dinghy by three handsome firemen

Well, almost…

“You’re May, right ?”
“I am. And you must be Nuts…” (Photo: The Independent)

 

“God help us if war broke out, we’d be too busy to defend ourselves, worrying what to call the enemy without causing them offence…”

Hello again.

Old Bigot writes:

You know, at this time of year as the nights draw in and the snow lies crisp and even; as robin redbreast poses fleetingly on a spade handle in the irridescent twilight and is gulped down by next-door’s cat, we may sit by the fire, staring into the flickering flames, wondering why some of them are red and some blue, and contemplate the complete fucking insanity of the modern world.

In writing about it, I might be guilty of contempt of court, although God knows these days I wouldn’t be the only journalist courting that risk for a good story, but I have been struck by one particular example in particular, the case of the England cricket all-rounder, Ben Stokes*.

Ben, a fit-looking young fiery redhead, was (it is alleged) caught on CCTV outside a Bristol pub (or club, I’m a bit vague on the details) taking a poke at one of a bunch of local idiots who had been persecuting his party, probably calling Ben’s teammate ‘gay’ and/or other such words that if we said they were insults would inevitably upset one or other group identifying as such-and-such; and thus technically being the possible cause of a minor affray in which no-one emerged either with much credit or very much bruising, as far as one can tell.

Nobody died. (PS: I now understand a minor orbital fracture was involved.)

Young, and sometimes not-so-young, mildly drunken, testosterone-fuelled British working-class lads, well-paid sportsmen and pumped-up squaddies from the military have been causing similar affrays with fisticuffs outside hostelries from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a Saturday night since God were a lad. It’s what we men do, let off a bit of steam after a hard week at the coalface. It’s totally British Values. Someone spills your pint, eyeballs your girlfriend, insults your team, it gets out of hand, then wallop, it’s finished and off home to beat-up the wife before Sunday roast.

Similar retaliations on a national scale are not unknown to history either.

Only not any more, it seems.

The ‘alleged incident’ happened weeks and months ago, but the press is still snouting around excitedly, Mr Plod is still ponderously ‘investigating’, ‘charges’ are still being weighed by the Public Prosecutor, a ‘trial’ is still being contemplated, poor Ben is still suspended from his rather valuable job and without him the England cricket team have had to put up with yet another sound ten-wicket thrashing by Australia, the Hated Ones – only none of their quick bowlers or century-smashing captain Smith has been ‘arrested’ and ‘questioned’ and ‘cautioned’ and ‘charged’ over it, they get away with that sort of violent affray down under, every time the old enemies clash at the riotous Gabba stadium in Sydney. Cricket, it ain’t.

So what the hell is there to ‘investigate’? The guy evidently punched someone on a provocation. Okay, his bad. But when did we stop banging-up battered and dishevelled miscreants for the night, parading them bleary-eyed before the magistrate in the morning, letting them plead guilty to “drunk and disorderly”, fining them 50 shillings with a caution, bit of compensation possibly ordered if at fault of injury, end of story?

Police officers relax after a hard day wasting public money. (timbrink.nl)

What on earth has happened to us as a society? What happened to our practicality, our robust pragmatism? Where’s our commonsense ability gone, to just sort things out firmly but if possible fairly? Why can we no longer manage our complex human behaviours without an appeal to some authoritarian, overworked third party? Why are the police and the DPP and the courts squandering vast amounts of precious time and public money on this totally trivial incident? Just because Stokesy’s newsworthy, a sporting celebrity?

It’s an absolute outrage. Just tick him off, pocket the money and let the poor man get on with his life, win a few matches for us, can’t you?

But, oh no, we’re changing the name Britain to ‘Bythebook’. It’s enough to make anyone of my generation weep, we’ve turned into a nation of pathetic plastic snowflake dwarfs, terrified of our shadows. God help us if war broke out, we’d be too busy to defend ourselves, worrying what to call the enemy without causing them offence.

And as for the ludicrous, pointless, heartbreaking, multi-million pound cost and waste of immensely valuable, desperately needed, strategic crime-fighting resources in the face of cut after slashing cut in the police budget, hundreds of trained men and women spending thousands of wasted hours raking over the cold, dead embers of lurid allegations made by instantly discountable ‘survivors’ of ancient sexual improprieties against long-dead politicians and tottering old celebrity ‘entertainers’, unable just to say no for fear of upsetting genuine victim groups in the current fugue of moral outrage, I won’t even start.

Who’s that poor sod, Leslie, a superannuated TV kids’ show presenter, “put his hand up a woman’s skirt” at a hen night party in a club about thirty years ago? And now hauled up in court over it? How many years in choki at the taxpayer’s expense is that worth? Why’s he even having to bother denying it? Can’t they let him say sorry, he doesn’t remember much, and everyone move on? And that gropy old US Senator who was a washed-up comedian, Franken, he’s been forced to resign while his accusers make Time magazine’s Persons of the Year cover. Only Trump survives, with his gagging orders and non-disclosure clauses.

For Pity’s sake, what have we come to? Are we to cram the remaining interstitial spaces in our rotting understaffed Victorian gaols with elderly rakes who once put their hand on a young intern’s knee, or patted their bum at a party? In a world where militarized mass rape, starving cholera-ridden stunted children, state-sanctified murder and ethnic cleansing are the order of the day, and we do nothing about it so as not to upset the fucking arms manufacturers? This is really a decadent first-world luxury, this sort of vindictive moral crusade designed to ‘deliver a lesson’ most of us dreadful old men got, thank you, years ago.

Has the Director of Public Prosecutions never been to a hen night? I expect she probably must have. Did she put her hand out to touch the thrusting, gold Lurex-clad groin of a male stripper ‘for luck’? And regret it in the morning along with the seventh Jägerbomb? Or does that sort of serious criminal assault only happen in the North?

I’d hate to upset anyone’s feelings, but.

‘Free Ben Stokes’, is my motto for the week.

And he doesn’t wear Lurex.

*For the benefit of my many American readers, Russian Spammers, etc. the rules of the English national game of cricket were first codified in the late 18th century. Old Bigot writes:

The laws of cricket, explained

“Cricket is played with flat-faced bat and hard leather ball between two teams of 11 players, the object being for the fielding side to break the ‘wicket’ (a structure of three upright wooden sticks, or ‘stumps’) of 10 of the batting side while giving away as few runs as possible. Runs are scored by the two batsmen who are ‘in’ (hence, an ‘innings’) exchanging ends between the two wickets or striking the ball across a boundary marker.

“Batsmen must defend their wicket against the bowler while scoring as many runs as possible, but may be dismissed by being ‘bowled’, ‘caught’ (the ball not first having touched the ground) ‘run-out’ by a fielder breaking the wicket with the ball before the running batsman has safely gained the ‘crease’ line, or trapped ‘leg-before-wicket’, the umpire determining that the ball was impeded by any part of the player’s body. The bowling end is changed ‘over’ every six balls.

“The side with the most runs or the most wickets in hand at the end of the allotted number of ‘overs’, within the agreed time limit, or having dismissed the opposing side with fewer runs, wins. Owing to the weather, too many longer matches (a ‘Test’ is scheduled to last up to 5 days) were ending inconclusively in a ‘draw’ and so a measure known as ‘Duckworth-Lewis’ was devised to produce a statistical result. (Tea is taken at 4 pm.)”

Play!

x

(Warning: too much information.)

“I stand, head leant against the cold tiled wall, dreaming of sleep, holding on to the heated towel rail that stupidly only heats up when the central heating is on, which is almost never. The towels are never quite dry.”

The old one-two

One:

A wrenching pain splits my chest.

I fear I may be having a heart attack, or have burst my aorta. Or I have collapsed my lungs, or my diaphragm is torn and I will never sing again. Sundry other aches and pains briefly twinge and twang, then subside.

Actually, I am pushing down as hard as I can with every muscle I own into my pelvic floor, desperately trying to birth a few more dribbles and drops of urine through my crimped and crushed urethra. It’s 2.20 am and I’ve been in here for nearly an hour since being woken from a dream for the second time in the night by an urgent need to empty the bladder that merely mocks me.

Was it even full?

Virtually nothing dribbles out, each visit a teaspoonful, if that, and I need to relax through the throbbing pain and wait another three minutes before trying again. In the meantime I am taking sips of water. The danger is, if I cannot empty it I could burst my bladder; but the alternative is wizened, dried-out kidneys and a life on dialysis, so. Your choice.

I have stuffed a wad of toilet paper in my bottom to absorb the dribbles and wet farts, the blowback from the effort of straining to piss.

An entire night of this torture stretches ahead.

Lying down in bed only makes it worse. I am up every two minutes, schlepping back and forth to the bathroom, trying not to step on the dog. He is worried about me, hearing my feeble groans, and won’t leave the bedside. Please, God, this time…. Dribble-wibble, throb.

I wonder, should I call for help? It’s the recommended procedure, technically a medical emergency, but an entire ambulance? At this time of night? For an exhausted junior doctor to stuff a catheter up my pipi to drain the swamp? I’m too over-the-limit to drive myself, although not in the least bit drunk. What a waste of good whisky. And who would look after Hunzi and his li’l friend, Cats?

The tile floor is cold – it’s freezing outside but there’s no heating, I refuse to use it. Nor do I need lights, the Highways Agency pays to light my house with its bright new LED streetlights banishing both night and stars.

So I stand on the bathmat, head leant against the cold tiled wall, dreaming of sleep, holding for life to the heated towel rail that stupidly only heats up when the central heating is on, which is almost never. The towels are never quite dry.

This time I feel we are in for the long haul, my flabby and complaining old bladder, ‘Blad the Impaler’ and I. So I bring in a copy of the new Private Eye magazine, the When Harry met Meghan issue,  and read disinterestedly about bent politicians and city slickers, media shits and shysters, and groan at the unfunny cartoons and prep-school jokes, squinting at the tiny print by the light of the shaver point.

I have prostatitis – ‘benign prostatic hyperplasia’. It comes on like this about once a month, or whenever I travel and need to perform on stage, and often depends on what I’ve been drinking: in this case, last night a quart of Scotch. I call it my period.

There’s a chance it’s been brought on, not by whisky, but because we’ve just finished a run of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – a musical production in which I played the leading character, the miser Scrooge, in a physical performance you would not believe for a man of 68 who takes no exercise normally. It has taken its toll on me, I fear, in various ways.

But there’s almost nothing you can do with an enlarged prostate gland, except laser the tissue away – and in 70% of cases the operation leaves you leaking permanently into a bag strapped to your leg with a catheter in your groin. I’m already impotent from atrophy of the blood supply to my penis, so that side-effect is irrelevant.

Mr Aniya the hospital urologist has been up there, “where the sun don’t shine”, several times with various diagnostic tools and tells me it’s okay, it’s not cancer. He has an 18-month waiting list for appointments, so that’s a historic comfort. He sent me off to a clinic run by a very pretty nurse who I gather is married to a man even older than me, she made me piss into a funnel and agreed, I have almost zero pressure.

Just dribble.

I stopped taking the pills he prescribed two years ago. It seemed the only difference they made was to increase the panic attacks I get in the supermarket, with the bustle and the lights and the terrible cover versions of Taylor Swift-type twinkie-shit, or Queen, and what the hell to eat this evening when you’ve tried everything before?

Still, the upside is, the drought never lasts more than one night, before…

 

Two:

Next morning, on the return leg of our walk, Hunzi and I.

I sensibly had a pee before we left the house but the thought has just crossed my mind a mile further on that we may need another one anyday now…. There appears to be no urgency, but we head toward the Texaco gas station where there is a capacious disabled loo, just in case.

I have a vision of arriving home, just a few hundred yards along the street, only to have my usual minor calamity on the doorstep while fumbling hurriedly for the right key (of two, it’s a decision), hurling the shopping bags and the confused dog’s leash and the keys to the hall floor and rushing upstairs, ripping off my coat, fumbling with buttons, praying to Blad not to let go just yet, just a few more steps….

Too late.

There are certain places now that act as Pavlovian trigger points. Entering the kitchen down the steps from my studio is one; making that first coffee of the morning; running the water for the washing-up; the front doorstep another, where before I can even think of getting upstairs to the bathroom or using the handy drain out behind the kitchen, wrenching at these damn buttons, the stupid layers of clothing beneath, how does anyone ever manage to commit rape?

…disobedient muscles contract and release involuntarily, the hot pee starting to trickle down my leg.

The gas station is another such place, producing anywhere in the proximity of the toilet an immediate letdown reflex. It holds other terrors too, for the cubicle is often Out of Order, or busy… several times as the warm, dark stain spreads down my jeans we’ve had to run around the back of the building, behind the terrible Costcutter convenience store, where I’ve let go in the corner of the carpark. Probably in the full glare of the security cameras, but I don’t care. It’s a medical emergency, your Honour. It just… emerges.

Today we hobble home, an uncomfortable, rapidly chilling wet patch (it’s another cold day) spreading down the front of the most expensive pair of jeans I’ve ever bought, darkening down as far as my shoes. We have 300 yards of public street still to walk, crossing shamefacedly to the side facing away from the cars, hoping we don’t meet the neighbours coming the other way.

There was a guy, Tom I think, who used to come to choir. He would always sit next to me, because someone had told him I was the go-to person in our section, the bass section, if you weren’t sure of the notes. And he stank so badly of old piss, and after three weeks I had to excuse myself and quit the choir altogether. He’s long gone, I hear, but I haven’t been back.

Because now I too stink of old piss. It’s one of those evocative smells that never leaves you. Every now and again you get a whiff. You smell it just thinking of it. I’ve learned to wash out my chapfallen old feller more often, but it lingers in the crotch of every pair of trousers, in my underpants, my pajamas, my bedclothes

…accusing me of getting older by the hour.

x

“My knowledge of life in modern Britain sadly did not extend to remembering exactly when the War (sic) of the Roses broke out…”

So deport me!

I was just reading a BBC News article about poor Meghan Markle and the crazy hoops she’ll have to jump through (surely not! Ed.) to obtain British citizenship.

Surely Border Force  wouldn’t send her packing?

While I’m sure she’ll have absolutely no problem declaring that her fiancé ‘earns’ more than £18,500 a year (apparently Harry trousered a £20 million dividend from the Duchy of Cornwall last year, that’s a lot of organic biscuits), as a global ambassador of this-or-that she may struggle with the proviso that she has to spend a minimum of 270 days a year trapped on this dark and dismal island in the meantime, watching us tear one another apart like cannibals; while having to attend an interview with some bootface at an office in darkest Croydon is surely cruel and unusual punishment, even for a foreigner.

I doubt somehow that failure to complete the questions would result in her being immediately seized and delivered to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre for Women and Babies. In fact she could become an avatar for a more compassionate approach. What we have here is the Princess of Migrants!

So, as you probably do, I instantly followed the link to a website where you can take the immigrants’ British Citizenship test for fun or practice. And as you do, almost certainly, I failed it; correctly guessing just 14 out of the 24 answers.

My useful knowledge of life in modern Britain sadly did not extend to remembering exactly when the War (sic) of the Roses broke out, in the fifteenth century, although I do know why and between what parties; nor precisely when Britain first became geographically separated from the Continent (Midnight, March 31st, 2019?), as I was born shortly afterwards.

I’ve turned out to be confused about the constituent parts of the national flag, assuming wrongly that the red cross bit is England. Apparently not. Nor, to my deepest shame, as I live there, did I recall that it was Henry V111 who first forced Wales to become part of the UK, as the Act of Union of 1707 which created the UK post-dates him by 160 years and I’d assumed that was when, but apparently it was Scotland.

I could not agree with the setter that pool is a ‘traditional pub game’ in Britain, as it is a more compact variant of snooker imported, I thought, from the USA. Not many Muslims would know much about pub culture, I imagine, especially as almost no-one drinks in a pub anymore, they’re closing at the rate of two a day. I do know that a coalition is a combination of two or more political parties in government, however the question betrays a certain ironic detachment on the part of the question-setter as we have not had a coalition government since 2015; unless, I suppose, you count the present shameful arrangement with the cave trolls of the DUP.

I was, frankly, shocked.

  • Which of the following is not a common swearword?

No, htat’s not a question, but seriously, nothing in the quiz appeared in the least bit relevant to life in Britain today: nothing on Brexit or pornography, nothing on Coronation Street, Bakeoff or Strictly Come Dancing, nothing about The War, the law, the weather or the honours system, the Royal Family (the Beckhams); how to buy stuff on credit or a seat in the House of Lords, how to get a quickie divorce or complain to BT about your broadband – why you need an Oyster card to get around London – but contained some awful, embarrassing, smug, self-congratulatory flammery, like asking the sitter to select five from a list of six statements with which they agree about how free and fair and decent and tolerant Britain is, which (apart from being a lie) is what any country will say about itself, even the worst flyblown dictatorships and rutted feudal demesnes; just tacky propaganda.

Not even the rules of cricket!

So I went on the Comment thread and tried to post the following:

“This so-called test is an insult, frankly, to earnest, honest, decent, hardworking people who just want to be part of our nation. It has no practical application or value whatsoever.  And we need them here. Now, give me the Guardian crossword… and where are the questions on football? Pop music? TV soaps? Shopping? Benefits? The things that truly matter to normal people, as opposed to whatever obsesses junior civil servants and their elevated political masters in their filter bubbles?”

(I didn’t mention the Wars, plural, of the Roses, 1455 to 1485, a dynastic tussle that ended with the Battle of Bosworth, my kingdom for a horse, and the enthronement of Henry V11 Tudor – a Welshman.)

And was asked to Log In, and went to do so, only to discover that a) I had to have a Facebook account before I could post my comment, very ‘free and fair’, and b) the website had already decided I was not me, but my son.

One of the ‘rub-your-foreign-nose-in-it’ questions was ‘Who invented the Worldwide Web?’ I knew the answer had to be Tim Berners-Lee, although there is a shade of opinion that suggests he didn’t quite, depending on your definition of what the Worldwide Web actually is. But as he was the only one on the list with a knighthood it was a no-brainer.

Anyway, I’m thinking of asking him to try again, because there is absolutely no reason for a website I’ve never been on before to identify my IP address as that of my son, who has his own trail of superannuated communication devices to play with.

Perhaps they’ll deport him, rather than me?

I’d love to be sent somewhere warmer, with nicer people, but I’m getting a bit old for that sort of thing.

x

GW: Your old gran, rescued in a rubber dinghy by three handsome firemen

Western Malaysia: “has been affected by flooding over the last few days. Around 13,000 people have been evacuated to special relief camps. Local media report that 2 people have died in the floods.  One area of Pasir Mas District in Kelantan recorded rainfall above 400 mm each day for 4 consecutive days from 25 November.”

Thailand: almost 400,000 people are affected by flooding in the south of the country. The department for disaster prevention reports at least 5 dead and states of emergency have been declared across a wide area. More heavy rain is forecast.

Australia: “December will commence on a volatile note across eastern Australia (Canberra area) with flooding rain and powerful thunderstorms expected. Residents should prepare for disruptions to travel, outdoor and weekend activities. The strongest thunderstorms may be capable of causing damage.”

Spain: “A short period of heavy rain in Andalusia, southern Spain, caused flash flooding in the provinces of Malaga, Granada, Seville and Cadiz on 29 Nov. A train was derailed near Seville with at least 21 people injured, 2 of them seriously. Local media said the derailment was caused by the heavy rain. Houses were damaged in several areas.”

Albania: “Torrential rain has caused flooding in central areas of the country, prompting dozens of families to evacuate their homes. A man died after he was electrocuted in flood water. Roads have been blocked, flights cancelled and schools closed. Over 70,000 homes have been left without electricity. Emergency services have evacuated 200 people after they were trapped inside a flooded shopping centre in Kashar. Heavy rain has also been reported elsewhere in the region, including in Macedonia, Croatia and Montenegro. More heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast…”

Italy: a huge waterspout formed off the coast comes ashore as a tornado and trashes the town of San Remo.

USA: Good news; the official Atlantic hurricane season ended today, 30 November, with no last-minute major disasters. “Preliminary death toll from Harvey is 84, and 95 from Irma. Hurricane Maria, though, may be responsible for over a thousand deaths. New research that has not yet gone through peer-review puts the indirect death toll from Maria in Puerto Rico at 1,085 and rising, according to a story published Wednesday at vox.com”

Thanks, Tweety-Pie. Oh, but I got an A+ from FEMA. The fuck you did. Useless asshole.

Total damage from this last, most busiest hurricane season has been estimated at $207 billion, comfortably beating an adjusted-for-inflation total of $185 billion for the second-most expensive ever hurricane year for the US, way back in 1893. On the same metric, Typhoon Ruby, that hit Hong Kong in 1964 killing nearly 800 people, might alone have caused $241 billion in damage. These are insured losses and capital recovery project costs only, there’s no accounting for the rest, hoi polloi.

No figures have been added, however, for an extended flood-and-wildfire season; and the effects of prolonged drought across most of the midwest. Hurricanes tend to edge other extreme weather events out of the news, but cities like Houston, New Orleans, Kansas City, Charleston and Las Vegas were all hit by severe flooding from other weather systems during the summer, while the California wildfire season was the worst ever in terms of damage and casualties.

Floodlist/ Wunderground/ Accuweather/

 

The end of Days

Mount Agung, eh? What a prick-teaser!

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.

x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not for the first time.

x

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

Our money or your life #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And money is winning.

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

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

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

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

I say ‘might’.

 

Meanwhile, in faraway Portugal…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question therefore ought to be rephrased:

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