The Pumpkin – Issue 49: Bolt-on accessory… GW: Not Singin’ in the Rain… Long Essay: Labour, a sorry State of affairs.

“…it’s hard to see why Trump didn’t just give the job to Alex Jones.”

(Apologies for delay in completing, further health issues.)

Bolt-on accessory

“State Department intelligence analyst Christian Westermann told committee staffers Bolton “got red in the face … shaking his finger at me” in a dispute over language Bolton planned to use in a speech that discussed Cuba’s biological weapons capability. Westermann said he felt Bolton wanted him fired over the matter. Bolton said he had “lost confidence” in Westermann for recommending changes to the speech without consulting him first.” (USA Today)

Yale law graduate, virulent Islamophobe and all-round TV savage, the Mark Twain-mustachio’d Irishman John Bolton allegedly has a filthy temper and a propensity to lash out at colleagues who don’t see things his way. In this particular case, Mr Bolton was busily manufacturing “evidence” for a report alleging Cuba had a biological weapons program, which his staff knew it didn’t. He would later go on to support President W Bush’s false assertion that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction”, in order to justify “regime change” in Iraq.

The art of persuasion: John Bolton wields the finger of Fate.

As a Fox News studio pundit, in prominent press articles he has more recently recommended similar “regime change” in Iran, with the tearing-up of the international agreement on Iranian nuclear weapons development, and a first strike nuclear attack against North Korea. In fact, it’s hard to see why Trump didn’t just give the job to Alex Jones. Fling wide the doors of the madhouse. (Mr Jones is now saying he no longer supports Trump. Who next?)

This is the man President Donald Trump has been listening to with growing approval for months and has now appointed to the key post of National Security Advisor in place of the more level-headed General HR McMaster, with whom he is said not to have got on. So, no party bag for you, egg-head. Let’s recall that Mr Trump’s judgement was that McMaster’s predecessor, General Mike Flynn, was an all-round good guy. Later, however, he complained that no-one had warned him that Flynn was a known security risk. That was after he’d fired Acting Attorney-General Sally Yates for trying to warn him Flynn was a known security risk.

You see what we’re dealing with here?

And the problem is, the National Security post is not subject to Congressional scrutiny: it’s in the gift of the President.

Bolton is frequently referred to as ‘former UN ambassador’. The term relates to a short stint he spent at the UN as a sort of vacation intern, put there by Bush – who wanted him to have the job full-time – during a Congressional summer recess, after the Senate had refused to ratify his appointment on the grounds that Bolton was prominently on record as saying “The United Nations doesn’t exist … it occupies a 38-storey building in New York and if you took the top ten storeys off, no-one would notice.”

Non-Americans would have been equally alarmed at the sentiments he expressed, that the UN should just shut up and do as it was told because America was the only relevant power in the world. In this regard, he reminds us of Mr Nigel Farage, the campaigning British politician and a member of the European Parliament, whose singleminded dedication to destroying the organization that pays him a very handsome salary and vast expenses, which he hardly ever attends except to insult and berate his foreign colleagues, led ultimately to the Brexit vote.

But there’s more.

“Carl Ford, the former chief of intelligence and research at the State Department, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton was a “serial abuser” of low-level employees and a “quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.” (See USA Today article.) Melody Townsel, a businesswoman working on a government contract in Moscow in 1994, said Bolton, sent to persuade her to withdraw a complaint about lack of funds, threw a tape dispenser at her and made remarks about her weight and sexual orientation. She remarked about the experience in Moscow:

“Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel — throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats…”

(Extract from Todaysworkplace.com quoting The Daily Kos website*)

And it’s now being reported that Mr Bolton enthusiastically  took part in a number of pro-Trump campaign promotional videos on Facebook, as part of the experimental program run by Steve Bannon’s Cambridge Analytica and/or its US parent company, SCL, to subvert the electorate with microtargeted messages based on the misdirected personal data of 50 million Americans.

Mr Bolton denies any such connection with Cambridge Analytica, which seems odd considering a superPAC (unlimited political fund) “run by John Bolton” and funded by the Mercers has reportedly paid Cambridge Analytica $1.1 million since 2014 for “research”, according to an official review of campaign finance records. (Democracynow.org)

With another Iran/NK hawk, Mike Pompeo at State; Larry Kudlow, a poorly regarded Fox TV finance pundit echoing his antediluvian views on the economy, and Fox TV lawyer Joseph DiGenova now leading the defense against the witch hunters following the ousting of John Dowd, Mr Trump now has only three barriers remaining before his ego achieves the total power it craves, independent of any politicians, qualified advisors or people who aren’t certifiably psychopathic: his Chief of Staff, General Kelly, the parent he hates for grounding him; the Defense chief, General Mattis, a dangerous communist – and Bob Mueller, the implacable Justice Department bloodhound investigating his financial crimes under the guise of an inquiry into the fake-news collusion with Russia.

All three will probably be gone by the end of the month.

PS: Oh, oops, 26 March… DiGenova’s already been fired before he even started. Conflict issues… Trump had only previously seen him on Fox News, met him and didn’t like him after all, saying he and his Fox News TV lawyer wife (who came as a package) looked “scruffy”. (Trump is of course a total fake president: childlike, incoherent and mad as a fruit bat.)

*A joke occurs to The Pumpkin: the White House should be renamed. Toadysworkplace….

 

Trump not considered criminal target in Mueller’s Russia inquiry – reports

“According to a person familiar with the investigation, the president is a subject of interest but there’s not enough evidence to bring charges. The person was not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations and demanded anonymity.” – Guardian, 4 April.

Don’t tell me, let me guess… David Dennison? John Miller? John Barron?

 

Watch now:

weather.com/en-GB/unitedkingdom/great-outdoors/video/baby-elephant-in-thailand-cuddles-with-american-tourist

 

GW: Not Singin’ in the Rain

Australia: following on from Cyclone Marcus, safely out at sea and degrading but causing big waves off the SW coast around Perth, Cat 3 Cyclone Nora with gusts up to 270 km/h has arrived in the fortunately sparsely populated northern territories, where residents have been warned to find ‘stronger housing’, and up to 300 mm of rain is expected. The storm could track across to Darwin city, still clearing up after Marcus. Much of Queensland is already affected by flooding. Meanwhile in Victoria, S Australia, successive fronts are causing damaging winds across a wide area. Tasmania is particularly affected.

PS Queensland: Port Douglas recorded 593 mm (2 ft) of rain in 24 hours to 26 March, 2018. Flash flooding wipes out Cairns caravan park, 42 rescued. Meanwhile the mercury hits 46C, 115F on the Mardie sheep station in Western Australia.

Indonesia: Torrential rains. Floods. Landslides. “Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) said that so far this year, more people have died in landslides in Indonesia than any other type of natural disaster. Since 01 January 2018 there have been 197 landslides in the country, which have left 53 people dead, 60 injured and 1,369 homes damaged.”

South Korea: heatwave. Extensive early-season wildfires destroy homes, force evacuations.

South Africa: “Parts of Gauteng Province in South Africa were hit by a severe storm from 22 March, 2018. Some areas recorded more than a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours. Areas around Johannesburg and Pretoria were particularly badly hit. Strong winds have downed trees and heavy rain has flooded several roads, causing major traffic problems.”

USA: The “Pineapple Express” storm hit further north of Santa Barbara than predicted and so did not cause the feared landslides in the area affected by the Thomas fire. There was severe flash-flooding in Sacramento county. Some areas recorded new rainfall totals and a number of households were rescued from flooding. Damage was minimized by dredging operations following February’s disaster. Winter Storm Uma blankets Iowa and Minnesota in up to 16 in. of snow.

A band of heavy rain is causing concern for flooding from Texas to Alabama – but residents of Amarillo were celebrating 0.24 mm after a drought that has seen only 0.01 mm in the past 160 days. Owing to the prolonged drought, “half of the winter wheat in Kansas—the nation’s largest producer of the crop—was ranked in poor or very poor condition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as of Sunday.” “The low temperature at Bush Intercontinental Airport on Tuesday was 73°F, which ties the warmest daily low ever recorded in Houston in March.”

Mexico: Mexico City, 1 dead as extraordinary ‘rain bomb’ falls from cloud.

Brazil: Still raining. Flash flooding in Belo Horizonte; Assis; São Paolo (again). Flash floods in Medellin, Colombia.

India: A rise of 8C in a day brings heatwave conditions back to Mumbai: 41C, 106F. Mercury hits 44C (111F) in Gujarat. African, Indian, Chinese heatwave forecast moving northwards into Europe, Central Asia by 5 April. 40C-plus too already in Iraq.

Northern Europe: Another beastly blast of cold air from Siberia is forecast for the Easter weekend, bringing more snow across central and northern Europe, with continuing below-normal temperatures forecast at intervals through into May. Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations reports that melting snow and ice jams have caused flooding in Altai Krai region. “As of 27 March, flooding had affected 55 rural settlements.” Over 1000 residents evacuated.

Southern Europe:  Storm Hugo brings heavy rain, snow and flooding to northern Portugal and Spain; high Mediterranean winds ship huge volumes of floodwater over the coastlines of Corsica, Calabria, Sardinia. Dense Sahara sandstorm turns skies orange, blankets Crete. Heavy snowfall in Algeria.

A report by EASAC – the independent European Academies’ Science Advisory Committee – finds that extreme precipitation events globally have increased by 400% since 1980.

Grand Solar Minimum

You may hear a lot about the ‘GSM’ being responsible for the cold weather/new ice age that’s upon us.

It’s bullshit: the last refuge of the ‘man-made climate-change’ denial lobby. The earth isn’t warming, it’s cooling? Your Granny doesn’t think so. The sun isn’t cooling either.

The idea behind the theory is that there’s very little sunspot activity at the moment. (As sunspots are cold, surely lack of them ought to mean it’s outputting more heat?) As the amount of energy reaching the earth from the sun fluctuates normally through an 11-year cycle, there’s an idea that a much longer so-called Kondratieff Wave brings about a Grand Solar Minimum; also known after its theorist as a “Maunder Minimum”, at roughly 150-year intervals, when the world is plunged into a Little Ice Age.

Actual astrophysicists tell us we’re on the downside of another 11-year cycle, but so far there’s nothing to suggest it’s anything out of the ordinary. Also, the calculations of climatologists suggest that at most, the solar cycles make a difference of plus-or-minus a third of a degree. That and other background factors are already allowed for in calculations of the degrees of warming attributable to the 39 billion tonnes of CO2 and other stuff we shove into the air annually.

Meanwhile, despite the cold weather and a persistent weak La Niña, adjusted global temperature is still marginally higher than last year, and the years before that. 16 of the last 18 years have been the warmest on record. A 4.1C high-temperature anomaly has been recorded over Antarctica (25 March).

ABC/ Weather.com/ Floodlist/ Paul Beckwith/Wunderground/ CEWN #105, #106

 

Long Essay:

Labour: a sorry State of affairs

Look. I’m a pro-semite, if such a thing can be said to exist.

I’m not myself semitic, of course, but I’m glad of the presence of our Jewish “community”. They seem like a great bunch of people, bouncy and fractious, lugubrious and self-deprecatingly humorous by turns. People with admirable resilience and a fascinating culture, the product of two and a half thousand years of adversity. Not all, obviously. There are always non-conformists, outliers, backsliders, secularists. It doesn’t help to generalize. But I am not now and am never going to hate (as I never have) an entire clade of people for being a bit, well, unusual. Difference is what makes the world go around. I can be pretty unusual myself. I confess, I do sort of hate many named individuals, but I cannot hate an entire people for merely being as they are: not myself.

(Why do I even have to preface my critical opinion with a disclaimer? Is it come to this? Should I refrain in the interests of decency from mentioning my three past delightful Jewish girlfriends? I’d claim that some of my best friends are Jewish, but it wouldn’t be true: I don’t have any friends at all now, it’s easier.)

Would it be too anti-semitic, then, to note that, once again, nervous Israeli conscripts (is there any other kind? Could they not put something relaxing in the tea?) have been taking pot-shots, firing tank shells at innocent parsley farmers, blasting them to bits obviously without any legal repercussions, who strayed as they thought too near the border (an internal border: Israel likes to keep its enemies inside) – and firing live ammunition rounds at despairing demonstrators armed with stones and confined behind razor wire, killing and wounding many hundreds? And then the tiresome old lie: armed terrorists, human shields, most regrettable… justifies nothing, but, you know, the military.

And this, experts say, as a warning or provocation to Israel’s external enemies: Shi’a Iran, and its proxy external army, the 50-thousand-strong Hezbollah militia, currently battling everyone’s enemy ISIS in Syria, Israel’s other enemy, and holding together a fragile peace in Lebanon. No-one in the region is any longer good or bad; just enemies. Iran who, it should be noted, are the enemies of Israel’s new friends, the Gulf Arab states, Salafist Saudi Arabia. There are too many bad actors in the region spoiling for a fight.

Their allegiances are temporary, unstable and should be discounted, frankly. Just shoot back at whoever is shooting at you.

Are we to approve these Biblical acts of smiting the innocent and the guilty alike, in preference to being culture-shamed and name-called by paid shills for the Israeli junta? There are hundreds of thousands of Jews who are equally appalled that this insanity goes on, and on, without commitment to a resolution. Is there any degree of tolerable disapproval of the actions of the Israeli State that does not incur outraged denials, shirt-rending appeals to history, to God, to Justice, and a further stirring-up of fearfulness among the Jewish diaspora by the community leaders themselves? Is there an end to the impotent stupidity of Hamas?

Yes, I hold certain of the Jewish leaders guilty of stirring up and exploiting the old fears as a political weapon. Sorry. We are living at a time when the Internet has made it easy for everyone to hate everyone else. I can be proved wrong, but I am not sure more people really now hate and issue tangible threats to Jews as do those opposed to Muslims, politicians, Hollywood producers, women, TV personalities, “baby-boomers”, Brexit moaners, people with disabilities, taxi-rapists or any other identifiable minority group.

And might it overstep the bounds of semitism, pro- or anti-, to observe that the “right-wing Likud government” of Israel seems to have been taken over by gangsters: international oligarchs, friends of Jared Kushner, intolerant religious Pharisees, settler lobbyists, refugee American wackos and out-and-proud racist cunts like Defense Minister Lieberman, while the “hard-line” prime minister, the rectitudinous Mr Netanyahu, is mired in charges of corruption and influence peddling?

I’d be anti-that. Wouldn’t anybody?

And would it be too anti-Semitic to ask, why now? Why has something Mr Corbyn – I haven’t met him, we’re the same age but I don’t like what we’ve seen of him, he seems a most dreadful humbug (but such a genuine one) and I think I would prefer it if he never becomes prime minister – something stupid he said or did six years ago, why has it emerged only now to highlight his most tremendous failing, that as a Friend of Palestine he and his shadow cabinet rabble must all be rabid Jew-haters? They obviously aren’t, so who’s saying it – and more importantly, why? How have we got from there to here?

And how has a media furore been created around these “five thousand anti-semitic” – er, things – that members of the Labour party have supposedly done, that need to be “investigated”, whatever they are and whoever they were done by? (You should, I feel, be prepared to endure something of a furious backlash when you mount campaigns of disinformation like this.) Targeted, and forced competent officials to resign for not being sensible enough of other people’s instances of anti-semitic – things, unspecified tweets, what? the borderline is as thin and wispy as an eruv – and created a general air of suspicion and damaging, unwanted disunity in the body politic at this critical time? What Mr Trump might call a “witch hunt”?

This is playing with fire.

Why, you would almost imagine some people are beginning to worry that Mr Corbyn has become too popular for the nation’s good and might, if returned to office, say characteristically nasty, anti-semitic things about the Israeli government and refuse to toe the American party line, invite al-Q’aida into a coalition or fall out with Crown Prince bin-whatsit, refusing to sell him bombs to kill more Yemeni children (you see, I’m not one-nation prejudiced). But we might perhaps make another note, this time that over the past year there have been intense but short-lived media-driven onslaughts on all sorts of people: men, Russians, the Parole Board, Trump…. They come, they go.

Which brings me on to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Council and that sinister apologist for the crimes of the gangster regime, Mr Mark Regev, now the Israeli ambassador to London – his reward for years of bullying the BBC into silence, lying, name-calling and cranking-up the moral blackmail to shut down criticism of his paymasters in Tel Aviv. Regev, who recently forced Manchester University to, essentially, no-platform a Holocaust survivor for likening Likud to the Nazis – perhaps a somewhat extreme position, but maybe she should know? And then had the chutzpah to demand total editorial oversight of the rest of the conference proceedings, like a perfect little fascist…. Would it be too anti-semitic to dislike this repellent individual intensely by name?

No doubt he would say so. Not for his religion, his Australian ethnicity (Regev is not his birth name), but for the horror of what he is glibly excusing.

In former years those reasonable, respectable bodies of, no doubt mostly elderly men, who confined themselves largely and with dignity to overseeing Jewish affairs, now possibly under the influence of the new representative from Tel Aviv, who has some pretty persuasive tactics under his belt, seem to have formed an aggressive triumvirate of corncrake lobbyists unafraid of intervening, not to say rabble-rousing, to subvert the normal course of British politics. It is of course their privilege, we could use some new political parties, but not one advancing in a phalanx of unsubstantiated allegations.

It may be that they have an entirely genuine cause for concern, it may be that Britain has become a cesspit of sieg-heiling Jew-baiters, cemetery-desecrators and synagogue-burners. It’s just not something I’ve really noticed going on, just as Mr Corbyn – call him Jeremy – blindly failed to spot the glaring Nazi-era tropes in the offensive public mural he defended (six years ago) against two coats of council whitewash, assuming (one assumes) that its purpose was purely to highlight the oppression of the poor by the world’s banking community in the wake of 2008.

We are left to contemplate, too, the corresponding attacks on Mr Ken Livingston, whose questionable assertions about Hitler and Zionism (I edited the original AJP Taylor essay for an anthology, it’s not all that conclusive) have been interpreted as evidence of systemic prejudice in the Labour party, perhaps because he stubbornly persists with them – as if what he thinks matters any longer. But being an old cynic, it did immediately occur to me that there is more going on in Regev’s world than meets the eye; and that the Nazi-era tropes are not confined to the display of anti-semitic public artworks.

You see, Israeli politics has been dominated for decades by the need to turn history on its head. The approaching 70th anniversary of the Nafqa, as Palestinians call it – apocalypse – when 680 thousand residents of Galilee who had tilled the land for generations were driven from their homes like Native Americans, to spend more generations in refugee limbo, killed, or both, to allow the State of Israel to invite all and sundry to come and live there, would to anyone other than an extremely conservative Israeli or a wealthy Labour donor be a significant anniversary of an act that has caused untold misery, global violence, moral ambiguity and division down the years.

Modern Israel’s take on it however makes themselves out to be the victims, justifying the oppression of an entire people. Under the watchful eye of a military state barely clinging anymore to the moral high ground their founders claimed, the land-grabbing and the illegal settlements, the casual brutalities and the occasional massacres go on, and on, justified apparently by random acts of defiance by the oppressed and the forceful efforts of the lobbyists.

Even the Israeli press, at least the liberal Haaretz, has this to say today, 1 April – Easter Sunday:

Israel and the United States are no longer interested in a pragmatic and equitable two-state solution, if they ever were. In exchange for a truncated Palestinian mini-state that won’t control much more than the Palestinian Authority does, Abbas is now being asked to not only recognize Israel but to acknowledge the Jewish people’s inherent, biblical right to the Land of Israel, a statement that would constitute a repudiation of the entire history of the Palestinian national movement.

It might also require the Muslim Abbas to acknowledge the primacy of the Jewish bible as a title deed to the land. You see, that’s where you can get by endless bullying, lying, defiance of international conventions, ultraviolence and special pleading. And, might I add, in complete defiance of the somewhat nobler aspirations of the founders, as expressed in the famous 1947 UN speech by David Ben-Gurion:

“…it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

And anyone who doesn’t approve of that elegant eviction order is an anti-semite, pure and simple.

Seriously, Ben Gurion was well aware of the dilemma. In creating a State of Israel to which he felt Jews were absolutely entitled to “return” from the Diaspora according to their ancient compact with “God” and the recent horrors of the Holocaust, he recognized that he was taking away the homeland of the Palestinians who had lived there for at least two thousand years. (Modern Israeli archaeologists now realize, the “Arabs” as the Zionist settlers called them are a fully related semitic people who predate even the first Hebrew settlement and who stayed on through and after the Roman expulsions, which were more limited in scope than the mythology suggests.)

Yet although he clearly understood it, Ben Gurion could never accommodate himself to “Arab” resistance to the occupation. He continually defied external criticism of his and his successors’ warlike State actions, attempting to combine extreme reasonableness and open offers of co-operative citizenship (the “one-state” solution, more-or-less) with threats of unlimited morally and politically unquestionable reprisals in the face of continued resistance. As he has oft been quoted as saying: “It doesn’t matter what the goyim say, but what the Jews do.”

Thus he inadvertently laid the ground for what is by all accounts now a totalitarian State, which walls up its uncompliant “Arab” citizens in unsustainable ghettos and visits them with condign punishment through the use of advanced and illegal weaponry (which they do not themselves possess) at the slightest sign of resistance, heedless of mass civilian casualties which, like the playground bully (“Why are you hurting yourself, eh? Oh Sir, he started it!), it blames back on the Palestinians’ elected representatives; and brands external critics “anti-semites” when they raise the obvious parallels with policies pursued in Nazi Germany, certainly between 1935 and 1941 when the “Final Solution” began; and obdurately refuses to accept any moral authority other than that of its Biblical avatars, who – it must be said – lived in less complex times, but in their robust slaughter and rape of the Amalechites and the Canaanites were perhaps not as desiring of peace as painted by the First Prime Minister.

Thus, anti-semitism is never something that is provoked, a reaction against the behavior of Jews themselves; it must always pre-exist in the flawed nature of the goyim.

Let me just remind you of one small story among many bigger ones that is ongoing today. I warn you, it is utterly shameful. Saying that, I may have crossed a line.

After an Israeli soldier shot her cousin point-blank in the face with a rubber bullet, he remains on life support, a 16 year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, flew angrily at a group of soldiers and slapped one of them on the face. (Pro-Israel media say “punched”. Just another example of ratcheting up the prejudicial emotional rhetoric.)

This brutal attack against a defenseless armed soldier was seen in various quarters as immensely disrespectful of the military. Israeli soldiers raided the Tamimi home at 3 a.m., arresting Ahed and confiscating the family’s phones, computers and laptops. Ahed has been denied bail and could face years in prison.

Doubling-down on their sense of overweening authoritarian power, soldiers arrested Ahed’s mother Nariman later that day when she inquired about her daughter, and she too remains in custody. (That’s the practise of ‘Sippenhaft’, targeting innocent family members to intimidate resisters – something else they appear to have learned from the SS. Sorry.)

A military trial began on 12 February, is still without a verdict, while the press, human rights supporters and Palestinian diplomats have been barred from the courtroom. (Reporting by lots of people but specific words are from media bias monitoring website, Fair.)

I’ll leave it to you to decide if this rotten behavior characteristic of the filthiest totalitarian regimes is a Jewish thing, or simply an Israeli thing. Or maybe something they learned from real totalitarian regimes, like, you know.

For David Ben Gurion, despite all his weaselly promises of conciliation, citizenship and offers of friendship, provided nobody questioned his people’s right to do whatever the hell they liked, if necessary with maximum violence and inattention to human rights, there could be no difference.

It was all the same to him.

And that, I’m sorry to say, is where blind idealism gets you.

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The Pumpkin #47: A Portrait of Success… A fascist coup in motion… Go the Kush… Trade Wars… The way we prefer it… And finally: GW

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. Does anyone know where the fuck we’re going?” (Photo@TheBogPo)

As of 1 March, in the first 13 months of his Presidency a total of more than 50 staff members appointed by the Trump administration have left their jobs in the White House and/or the Pentagon. (MSNBC report)

A Portrait of Success

Hi again. Yes, it is I.

As you know, The Pumpkin has a hopefully temporary vision problem. Some karma there, no doubt. Am I turning a blind eye to some other problem in my life? You bet. I didn’t need to go half-blind to know that.

I can’t spend long on-screen, so I may need to lean on other people’s efforts to shore up my case that Donald Trump doesn’t need nuclear weapons to destroy everything around him, he just needs to remain the lovable,  pig-ignorant oaf he is.

As the last staffer departs the White House, appropriately named Hope, I’ve stolen the following Comment post from someone on the MSNBC website calling themselves Edit Halk, made in response to a video of Trump arguing insanely for an import tariff wall for steel and aluminum to protect the US’s inefficient and underinvested dinosaur industries, flanked by heavy-set party donors who look like their dads were probably leading lights in the Cosa Nostra.

“Edit Halk” writes:

“List of regulations Trump has cut:

  • Canceled a phaseout of the use of private prisons.
  • Erased net neutrality rules established by the FCC under Obama.
  • Repealed a rule mandating that Internet service providers seek permission before selling personal information.
  • Canceled a rule mandating that financial advisers act in the best interests of their clients.
  • Blocked the Clean Power Plan –
  • Ended a rule that barred employers from taking some or all of the tips given to service employees.
  • Ended a rule that allowed consumers to file class-action suits against financial companies.
  • Blocked implementation of a rule that would have made it easier for farmers to sue big agricultural companies.(I could see big business profiting from this one easy)
  • Repeal of a bill that mandated that employers maintain records of workplace injuries.
  • Killed a rule mandating that government contractors disclose past violations of labor law.
  • Overhauled and scaled down the Department of Justice and the State Department.
  • Rescinded a rule mandating that rising sea levels be considered when building public infrastructure in flood-prone areas.
  • Rejected a proposed ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos. (Damages unborn children’s brains. Ed.).
  • Postponed an EPA rule that would have had chemical plants better evaluate and inform the public about possible safety issues.
  • Rescinded a limit on the number of sea animals that can be trapped or killed in fishing nets.
  • Repealed the Waters of the United States rule. This rule expanded the definition of water bodies that were protected by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Reversed a policy instituted by the Obama administration to expand punishments for campus sexual assaults.

“Obviously there are a lot more bull$hit things that Trump does (such as reversing an Obama law limiting the engineering of microbiological agents, or including a clause in the Budget bill removing Congressional oversight of CIA funding – Ed.) , and this is only a short list, but you get the idea.”

No wonder Little Donny believes himself to be the most successful President in history! If you set out to lay waste to every advance civilization has made in 200 years, and no-one has the power to stop you, the job’s a cinch.

And somewhere in the dim and distant past of The Pumpkin, we recall, we listed over 30 rollbacks of environmental protections this lunatic signed into law in his first days in office without reading them, including attempts to ban climate research.

Why doesn’t he just arm businesses with poison gas and let his buddies just kill us all?

Oh, he is.

 

A President who can blatantly claim “trade wars are good” while brushing aside the alarm of even his own appointed economic advisers is not a man who should be in charge of the economy.

A fascist coup in motion

A piece by Alan Burdick in the New Yorker today (03 March) headed: “Donald Trump’s Know-Nothing Science Budget” points to Trump’s profound ignorance and suspicion of learning, that has developed into a frenzied assault on the scientific community and on Federal agencies relying on research, including killing key earth-observation satellite programs and environmental monitoring services, even into the post-midterms future:

“Trump’s newly proposed federal budget for 2019 continues the assault on knowledge and reason. Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the E.P.A. would each be cut by eighteen per cent or more, compared with the final 2017 budget.”

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/donald-trumps-know-nothing-science-budget?mbid=nl_Daily 030318&CNDID=49581041&spMailingID=13044707&spUserID=MTkwODY5NzgyMTM0S0&spJobID=1360228381&spReportId=MTM2MDIyODM4MQS2

This, possibly more than his latest threat to raise a tariff wall against German car imports, clearly aimed at the liberal elite, is what ought to terrify us most about this unstable President, whose tenure promises to bring about a new Dark Age. The assault on knowledge is precisely calculated to match the political attacks on democratic institutions and the promotion of atavistic tribal instincts among the gun-owning population in the heartland.

Regardless of the President’s total lack of historical awareness and tendency to act instinctually (as with his trade tariffs, which he seems to have made up on the spot in response to a question during a press conference at a time when aides described him as being in a foul mood) rather than from any predetermined political philosophy, the Trump administration IS a fascist coup in motion.

It is not necessary for him to don dress uniform, muster an army of brownshirts, stage vainglorious parades, invade neighbors, smash windows, burn down the Capitol building; to arrogate special powers to himself and pander to all the other familiar tropes of 1930s National Socialism, for his administration to display profoundly fascist tendencies.

Call it neofascism if you must: it is enough merely to subvert the knowledge-base to the benefit of the party’s private backers, while increasing the powers of the security State to crush opponents. That’s all fascism is, and does.

You cannot dismiss as liberal fantasy, the fascistic nature of Trump’s unfolding legislative and budgetary programs. His every instinct is autocratic: he has no interest in collegiate government; in the minutiae of diplomacy and administration. Anything can be achieved by brute force. His multifarious attempts at measures, when taken together, fully meet the definition of fascism as autocratic rule supported by an alliance of corporate-funded State, Church and Military, achieved through:

  • government by edict.
  • rampant cronyism,
  • attacks on prevailing cultural norms,
  • ignoring inconvenient parts of the constitution,
  • glib lies passing for official communication,
  • falsification, exaggeration or downplaying of official statistics,
  • threats against the free press targeting individual journalists,
  • abuse of process and packing of the judiciary,
  • disinterest in independent advice and contempt of colleagues,
  • flirting with extreme points of view and the possibilities of nihilism,
  • re-engineering and gerrymandering of the electorate,
  • encouragement of informal local militias and police violence,
  • personal attacks on critics and opponents,
  • persistent claims to “victim” status,
  • appeals to imaginary past glories,
  • erection of isolationist barriers to free trade,
  • abrogation of international agreements,
  • claims that you have ‘the only answer’ to the nation’s problems,
  • personalization of the office of President,
  • tub-thumping militarism,
  • exploiting fear and suspicion of foreigners to encourage…
  • the dehumanization and deportation of minorities.

What else would you call it? A textbook manifesto? Oh, it’s “only Trump’s inexperience of politics that makes him think this is how a President is supposed to run the country, he’ll soon learn”? Do me a favor!

“Judge him not by what he says but by what he does”, they said, So, what’s he been doing? Oh, right. Okay. So now it’s legal again to import his son Eric’s hunting trophies. Constructive use of powers there.

Only the last of the triumvirate remains, for now, outside the ambit of the Oval Office. Thus far, the Military has been seen as a counterbalance to Trump’s subversive foreign policy; although it seems fully and happily compliant with the operational free hand he has licensed to it abroad, and the huge boost he has ordered to its funding and arsenal of planet-destroying weaponry.

The seemingly comic chaos of a White House that has turned-over more than fifty staff, many of them utter incompetents, professional lobbyists and family friends placed in key roles, in the first thirteen months of the administration is set to take a much darker turn.

There will surely come a point where a brooding and vengeful Trump is no longer seen as a figure of fun and speculation as to his mental condition, but will start to demand respect not only from his cowed minions, but from the country at large – and “tomorrow, the world”. There will be an increasing resort to violence. The ad hominem Twitter attacks against the press will lead to a death, then more deaths. Disturbingly, despite a catalog of disasters and a bizarre flip-flop on gun control, his historically low approval ratings last week began to show signs of improving.

Where this groundswell of sympathy or approbation is coming from it may be too early to say: it is possible, however, that his new belligerence on trade has convinced many that he is serious about putting America first, whatever longterm damage the reviled “experts” predict it may do to the world’s economy and his own. A President who can blatantly claim “trade wars are good” while brushing aside the alarm of even his own appointed economics advisers is not a man who should be in charge of the economy.

But despite the months of controversial and tendentious nonsense, the desperate self-defensive bleats spewing from his overheated Twitter account; despite the months of plodding federal bureau investigations into his well-documented financial criminality; despite the revelations about Russian interference, despite the barbs and scorn of the late-night TV shows and the professional concerns of the psychiatric community, there he remains, apparently unmoved and unmovable; his unique view of the role of the President as chief disruptor and autocrat daily turning into a new and frightening normality.

It’s not looking good, is it.

 

Go, the Kush

If you’re following the other saga of the Kushners, you’ll know that plastic boy’s lost his maximum security clearance and so can’t do the job he was singularly unqualified to do in the first place.

The latest trail of damage revealed by the New York Times is that his bankrupt companies are being heavily invested in by the CEOs of businesses that have had numerous meetings and privileged access to the Trumpenführer himself at the WH.

Nothing to see there, move on.

 

Trade Wars

Who in the world does actually buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle these days? Given the 20-grand-plus cost of an iconic machine that finds hills a bit of a challenge?

Every bank holiday, dozens of thick-waisted, leather-clad elderly men with gray ponytails and droopy Zapata mustaches arrive in convoy in our remote seaside town to congregate collegially on the seafront, their leaking single-cylinder engines pounding in concert, teardrop fuel tanks and monkeybars gleaming with nostalgia for the late 1960s.

These are presumably the same old retired teachers, accountants and bank clerks who still buy Levi’s jeans, once fashionable rough work apparel that fails to comply at any point with the human form.

I forget what else Jean-Claude Juncker was threatening to raise tariffs on in retaliation against Trump’s impromptu 25% tax on steel imports, a self-destructive move to protect the inefficient US steel industry which has brought fresh jitters to world markets and will only push up the price of a Harley-Davidson for the American buyer.

It was a pretty short and desperate list of American export goods, anyway*.

What do we actually buy from America, apart from nuclear weapons and Amazon Prime subscriptions? Wouldn’t it be worth taxing those? What do they actually make, apart from oil and Coke? They no longer supply us with proper-sized avocados and Dole raisins, or decent r&b music.

Even if Juncker recognized the existence of sugary Californian Zinfandel wine, he wouldn’t dare admit it.

The only thing I’ve consciously bought in recent years that had a Made in USA label was a pair of shoes I ordered online, because no UK shoe shops now stock half-sizes. Out on a wet day, a month later the soles separated gloopily from the uppers and refused to stay stuck back together again, even with Araldite – so I struck a blow for free trade and binned them.

  • Yes, the third thing was ‘Kentucky Bourbon’. Revolting sweet Irish whiskey. And now peanut butter. Whatever next?

 

A bad Scituation: Massachusetts coastline at Scituate, 4 March (Image: Ralph Karl Swenson/Wunderground)

The way we prefer it. GW writes:

This not-unprecedented, but in recent years quite rare event, a 2,500-mile wide and deep Arctic ‘plume’ stretching from northern Norway to the Mediterranean and far across Russia, which the BBC has with time-honoured insularity referred to as “the UK’s cold snap”, in bringing late-winter weather to these islands serves to remind us to “Expect the Spanish Inquisition”, in more ways than one.

We were lucky to escape a similar weather phenomenon in 2016, that affected other parts of the hemisphere. For whatever reason, the jetstreams are not behaving themselves. They have become loopy and broken, allowing more unusual and extreme weather events around the globe. Such as the bizarre sight of large hailstones smashing through car windscreens after a sudden 20C plunge in temperature in Saudi Arabia.

Powerful storms are pushing warm air and water up into northern latitudes, reducing the ice cover and creating unprecedented temperature anomalies north of the Arctic circle. Blue-water and methane feedbacks and the sooty deposits from forest fires threaten even worse to come.

Globally, in 2017/18 there has been an inexorable increase, both in droughts and in rainfall amounts; weird ice storms, record levels of flooding, bizarre temperature gradients and shifts. There is already a detectable effect on food production everywhere, and hence on prices and availability. Only a few agronomists, a few insurers are trying to draw attention to the $trillions cost of our new chaotic climate. President Trump would seemingly rather ignore it.

As is its wont, the media is capable of concentrating on only one issue at a time, and often fails to connect the boldest of dots. As we sit here shivering, ears glued to our wireless sets for news of fresh disasters, it still seems that the only threat facing the British economy is Brexit: along with the Irish land-border question, which will almost certainly end in a last-minute fudge of an agreement with Brussels, avoiding the necessity to reassemble the Black and Tans.

Not one commentator so far as I can see – which at the moment is not very far, owing to retinal surgery, the disintegration of the NHS being yet another pressing matter – has thought to ask, what if the threats multiply?

So, here we are in March, 2019.

In just a matter of days we will walk away from our 46-year-long commitment to our European allies, into a Turneresque sunset. The markets are jittery, the pound sinking, interest rates rising, the Bank of England furiously printing money to hedge against economic collapse. Destroyed by the currents from the Amazon, retailers overinvested in real estate have been going bust all year; thousands more shopworkers are on the dole. US hedge funds are having a field day gobbling up our pensions; US banks have moved from the City to Dublin and Frankfurt. The Treasury is obliged to consider the fiscal implications of new tariffs and falling receipts. There’s customs chaos at the borders, a river of lorries stretching all the way to Sevenoaks.

But then… another unseasonal finger from the polar vortex descends, another “1-in-500 years” flooding event washes out the Spanish salad vegetable market, a trail of superstorms smashes through the Caribbean. Transport is brought to a halt, food begins disappearing from the supermarket shelves. 2018’s crops in Europe have again been heat-blasted – thanks to a new heatwave named Son of Lucifer, wheat, oil and grape production in Italy and Spain has fallen another 60 per cent, wiping-out farmers – for a second year. Prices rise inexorably.

War breaks out between the Gulf states, Iran and Turkey, with the peripheral involvement of the Russians. Both US and European foreign policy are in disarray following 2018 elections that have seen more extreme nationalist elements advance in Europe and the Republicans hold on to their slender Congressional majorities with an emboldened Trump clinging to office as the leaderless Democrats implode and the real impotence of the Mueller investigation is exposed.

A limited nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea, together with incursions in the South China Sea, brings China into conflict with the USA.

Oil prices soar like drones in the Spring sky.

As we obsess day after day over the pointless hypothetical questions, the economic implications of a hard or a soft – a chewy, or a floppy – Brexit, May’s inevitable defenestration by the neo-Thatcherites, the possibility of a Corbyn government to add to the chaos enveloping Westminster, no-one here seems to be thinking strategically in terms of the global economic threat multipliers.

Here in Britain, it is so often as if the outside world does not exist, until it pushes its chilly fingers over the Channel to remind us we are not immune to world events. Once again, we have to gird up our loins to sort the beggars out.

It’s just the way we prefer it.

 

And finally… GW

Boston, Ma. engulfed by 14ft sea surge as Storm Riley trashes the NE coast, 7 dead… 7ft of snow dumped overnight in California’s Sierra Nevada… 60 dead in Europe’s Beast… small child killed by massive hailstorm at La Quiaca, Argentina… “The Rain in Spain” brings flooding – and to Java, the Solomons, Argentina, Brazil, Rwanda, Angola, Malawi, Indonesia, Australia… More idiots driving into 3ft of water and floating away. Large parts of central India – Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat – experiencing heatwave, with temperatures of 38 to 40C degrees being 6-10C above normal for the start of March… Hottest summer on record for New Zealand… Cat 3 cyclone Dumazile heading away from Madagascar… tornados in Spain, Portugal… record lows again for both Antarctic and Arctic sea-ice extents.

Here we go round again, another year, and Climate & Extreme Weather News #98, #99 (and they couldn’t wait!) #100 are out on YouTube, over an hour of all the latest extreme flood, fire, heat and beastly cold events – anomalies – from all around the world, as caught on camera by you, the people.

Catch up at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Num1pNMXlQ.

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 to 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?

 

 

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