The Pumpkin – issue 109: The steady trickle of body bags… I know what you’re going to say… And deliver us from the 21st century… GW: Baby light my fire…

 

The steady trickle of body bags

I was disturbed, when I’m normally complicit in our mutual liberal-lefty echo-bubble, by last Friday’s edition of the Rachel Maddow hour on MSNBC. Rachel is a cool-headed analyst not normally given to hyperbole, but her rundown of all the terrible things that are going to happen to America as a result of the assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani played straight into the hands of Trump and his gang.

Autocrats – dictators and tyrants of whatever stripe – thrive on popular fear, and Trump set the tone right from his inaugural address three years ago, ramping up fears of immigrant crime and imminent social disintegration in a broken nation, that only he could put a stop to.

Americans are the most fearful people on the planet, as he well knew. Everything terrifies them, from supposedly foreign ideological constructs like the British National Health Service, to their own government.

But for some unfathomable reason, the majority of voters seem to have no fear of real things that are being done to them:

  • being stripped of their already limited opportunities for subsidized healthcare: 27 million Americans had no health insurance in 2019
  • seeing billionaires receive huge tax concessions when their own taxes are in some cases increasing and their modest wages remain stagnant
  • being supplied with polluted water and carcinogenic or climate-changing chemical emissions to benefit private corporations and corrupt public officials
  • watching the president play golf three days a week at a cost of, now, $120 million to the public purse while he and his family benefit to the tune of millions of dollars from clear abuses of his office
  • the deaths of 60 thousand Americans a year from opioid abuse promoted by rapacious pharmaceutical companies; 33 thousand more from gun-related crime and accidents
  • the egregious corruption of executives of institutions like the National Rifle Association and the department for agriculture, with its well-funded refusal to ban teratogenic chemical poisons
  • mass shootings in schools, churches and synagogues, mostly by white supremacists
  • the opening up of protected monument lands and popular hunting grounds to extractive industries in whose pockets their politicians sit stuffing their faces
  • the refusal to acknowledge scientific facts regarding dangerous shifts in weather patterns caused by climate breakdown, for the benefit of political funders in the extractive industries
  • the packing of courts with judges whose only qualification is loyalty to the president and his henchmen, the subversion of the Justice Department and attacks on law enforcement agencies
  • appalling patriarchal laws limiting women’s rights and criminalizing even natural abortion
  • the emergence into daylight of the influence of organized crime hand-in-glove with extreme fundamentalist Christianity going right to the top in national life
  • the rolling back of environmental protections and planning laws; the poisoning of their water supplies
  • the introduction of dangerous instability, bullying, extortion and brinkmanship in international relations
  • the lack of an effective opposition in Congress.

None of these public abuses and more seems to create anything like the terror in Americans as does the absurd implausibility of the suggestion that Iran might somehow invade or fire nuclear missiles which they don’t yet have at the United States in retribution for the extrajudicial killing of one of their leaders.

Certainly, if hijacked airliners were to crash into Trump Tower now, we all know who would be getting the blame, regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary.

Mr Trump’s – and by extension, America’s – rambunctious imperialist bullying only works with such smaller, less lethally armed and invasively inclined nations as are incapable of inflicting any real and lasting damage to the homeland.

Beware, however, the ability of ideologically motivated peasants in flip-flops to conduct asymmetrical warfare for years in their own lands.

The steady trickle of body bags.

 

Speaking of which, have you seen what that drone did to Suleimani’s car? He wasn’t alone – wasn’t driving. There were others in there, including the senior commander of Iraq’s Shi’a militias, a PR man and the driver.

I see the funerals taking place, the coffins – but I’m not convinced anyone knows who, what or how much is really inside them.

And, yes, okay, he was a bad guy. Was the poor bloody driver a bad guy too?

 

A tale of two shitties

Amid speculation on US TV about the decision to whack Suleimani, two stories may be true.

One, that Trump was going around for days telling everyone, including his higher-echelon ($200k a year) private members at Mar-a-Lago, with a conspiratorial smirk, that something really big was about to blow over Iran and they should keep an eye on Fox News.

So much for a rapid response to a threat of imminent attack. But it seems to have allowed his golfing buddies to get their lucrative bets down on the stock market.

The other, that the option of whacking Suleimani was just one on a list of a dozen ideas the Pentagon had sent over at his request. Apparently it was on the list only because they thought it was the last thing he would be dumb enough to do. Pompeo and Pence persuaded him otherwise.

The only press that has come out in full favor of Trump’s action has been Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

I wonder why. What could their readers possibly have to gain?

And a third shitty:

“A 2009 study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of not having any health insurance coverage. In 2018, 27.8 million Americans went without any health insurance for the entire year.”

The Guardian America story reports workers being fired purely over a medical diagnosis – Walmart imposes a strict limit on the number of days you can take off work – voluntarily giving up treatment and dying because their savings have run out.

Welcome to Trumpland, Brexit idiots.

 

I know what you’re going to say

Ha ha! After three days living with Alexa, I just called: “Alexa, please play…” and as I hesitated for one brief moment, she jumped in: “Here’s a station you might like – vocal jazz.”

It wasn’t exactly what I was going to say, Norah Jones is good if a bit C&W oriented, but a valiant first attempt at mind-reading. Also, it was a song about rain. It’s teeming down outside.

And rain is an anagram of…. Iran!

How spooky is that? 😉

 

And deliver us from the 21st century

I’m just now listening to some of my old vinyl records on my new £99 transcription turntable. You know, with the five-star reviews.

It took only about 40 minutes of working with the inexplicably small and useless diagrams I can barely see through my elderly vision impairments, using a torch, to figure out how to build the flimsy plastic Sony turntable from scratch, using matchsticks, an old cocoa tin and a skinny rubber band.

Surely to God they can sell these things in one readymade piece? Without nasty, crunchy little push-buttons? Maybe with a bit of hydraulic damping of the tone-arm? A spare stylus? And would a little LED light to show it’s operating really have broken the bank?

But I didn’t spot until I had already hanged myself in the garage, the little switch right at the back that frees the output phono plugs to talk to the phono plug inputs on my active speakers. I’d feared for a while there, I might have had to go back online to buy a separate amplifier and wait in another day for Hermes to deliver it.

As you can gather, rather like my old vinyl records I’m a bit scratchy today.

It’s partly because I’m being relentlessly pursued by a cheery email from Amazon, apologizing that they hadn’t been able to deliver my turntable because I was out when the courier called, only don’t bother replying to this email because it won’t be read. So I can’t tell them it’s already here.

The last time this happened,  they sent me another whatever it was in the post the following day. If I end up with two turntables, I thought, I shall take it as a sign to become a DJ, whatever, as I can’t see to drive to the recycling center.

I’d already determined in fact that the turntable hadn’t been delivered, because after I risked taking Hunzi out for 15 minutes to uncross his legs at lunchtime I checked the tracking information just in case, and it told me that the driver had called at 1.30 pm, a time when I know we were in, only apparently we were out and he hadn’t delivered it.

I could check the non-delivery note or go to their website and do ‘x’ or ‘y’ if I wanted more information. I would be allowed two more chances to be in when he called again.

I’d already determined that there was no non-delivery note, and going to the website I was unable to find an address for ‘x’ or a link to ‘y’ anywhere visible. So I gave up, trusting that they might just try again the following day, and began composing one of the worst one-star rancorous Trustpilot reviews that my spleen could manage.

At precisely 2.00 pm there was a knock at the door; whereon opening it, a courier presented me with a Sony-branded box containing a flimsy plastic £99 transcription turntable. ‘Did you try delivering that earlier?’ I enquired. ‘No, mate’, was the reply. ‘It’s only just arrived at the depot.’ He declared himself mystified, accepted my scrawled signature and left.

As I said at the start, I’m listening to a slightly collectible vinyl album recording of Mark Murphy’s Brazil Song on my new, flimsy plastic £99 transcription turntable. You know, the one they haven’t yet delivered. That took 40 minutes to put together and get working from the terrible tiny instructions after I found the tiny switch at the back.

But I now have a new record – as being someone who cannot be relied on to be at home when the courier doesn’t call, who needs to be pursued with more instructions that don’t make sense.

Anyway, it works, and the sound quality is not too bad, surprisingly.

Clever old me.

Except that, a few days after I’d ordered the thing, an Alexa Echo spy-in-your-home unexpectedly arrived, a Christmas present-cum-disability aid from my ex-family. ‘Alexa, play album, Brazil Song’, Mark Murphy….

Anybody want some old vinyl albums? Transcription turntable, almost new? Ready assembled?

(Aren’t vinyl albums annoying? You get only 20 minutes a side before you have to turn them over. No bonus tracks. No time for a snooze.)

 

GW: Baby light my fire

Israel: “At least 4 people have lost their lives after flooding swamped parts of the country following heavy rains on 04 and 05 Jan., 2020. 2 people drowned in an elevator. Dozens of rescues were carried out. 74mm of rain fell on Tel Aviv in 2 hours, around 20% of its annual rainfall.” (Floodlist)

Australia: may be grateful for a change for a tropical cyclone, Cat 1 Cyclone Blake is the first of the season for Western Australia and will bring heavy rain and strong winds to the Kimberley region, having made landfall near Broome, 5 Jan before moving briefly back out to sea and reintensifying to Cat 2. (Severe-weather.eu)

Angola: 1 person died in flash flooding after a continuous 12-hour downpour in Luanda province. Several hundred are homeless. (Floodlist)

Turkey: Floodlist reports, 8 Jan., “Severe weather including strong winds, rain and snow has affected wide areas of Turkey over the last few days.” 2 people died after heavy rain triggered landslides and flooding in the southern province of Mersin, where 165mm of rain reportedly fell in 24 hours.

Israel: “A second severe storm in 4 days brought more heavy rain and flash flooding to parts of northern Israel. 1 person died in floodwaters as he tried to rescue passengers trapped in their car. Emergency services rescued people from flooded homes and trapped vehicles.” (Floodlist)

USA: Accuweather is reporting on the potential for yet more storms coming out of the Gulf into  southern states later in the week. In Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, “millions of Americans are under threat for severe thunderstorms, including the potential for tornadoes.”

In South America once again, parts of both Peru and Colombia are under quite severe flood threat as rivers overflow after heavy rain, with many hundreds displaced.

UK: Thanks to the winter of 2010 when your Old Granny froze her skinny ass off in an unheated building undergoing refurbishment, despite a record number of heat records being set last year the Met Office has declared that the decade 2009/19 was only the second warmest in the temperature record, the honours going by a whisker to 1999 to 2009.

Observed over a gap of 100 years, during the period 1910 to 1920 as many cold records were set in the UK as heat records were set last year; the exact reverse was true too, with only one hot year record broken in the 1910s as opposed to 8 in the 2010s. The 10 warmest years – 2019 wasn’t even one of them, apparently – have all occurred since 2002.

Faroe Islands: 7/8 Jan., and it’s a rough old night in the North Sea. A very large, twin-core cyclone with hurricane-style low pressure – 940 mb and deepening – is centered over Iceland, bringing winds gusting over 140 mph and 50-foot waves to the Faroe Islands and the northern isles of Scotland.

Arctic: measured over Iceland in the past few days, the polar vortex high up in the stratosphere has recorded its coldest temperature in five decades of measurements, 600 km/h winds cooling the top at about 25 km altitude to minus 96 Celsius. Not sure what it means, but the clouds over Finland sure look pretty:

View image on Twitter

Photo: Thomas Kast. Story: Severe-weather.eu

Tunnel approaching….

China: “Health authorities in Wuhan first reported 27 cases of an unidentified pneumonia-like illness at the end of December, a figure that jumped to 59 as of Sunday. The patients, seven of whom are in critical condition, have been quarantined. There have been no reported deaths. Symptoms of the mysterious virus include fevers, problems breathing and invasive lesions to both lungs.” (Guardian)

Yellowstone: Newsweek reports, “In its monthly update of activity, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) confirmed there were 48 eruptions last year (2019). That’s 16 more than the previous record set in 2018, when there were 32 eruptions at Steamboat.” Up to then, the average activity at the world’s tallest geyser had been 2 to 3 eruptions a year, although 1964 set the previous record, with 29. At one time, 50 years passed without any activity at all.

Bushfires: An old Comment thread I found from October 2018 under a Guardian story on the great Australian drought has numerous contributions from ordinary citizens expressing profound concerns for a devastating season of wildfires that year. ‘Kickthismobout’, for instance, contributed:

“Between 1900 and 1970 there were 13 Major bush fires, which is 1.85 per decade.

  • 1970 – 1980 – 4 Major bush fires
  • 1980 – 1990 – 3 Major bush fires
  • 1990 – 2000 – 7 Major bush fires
  • 2000 – 2010 – 16 Major bush fires
  • 2010 – 2016 – 25 Major bush fires (15 Major bush fires in total, averaged out over projected decade, could be more).”

So let’s not pretend Canberra was not warned.

The 2019/20 season is about halfway through and already more than 800 fires – many merging together along fronts measured in hundreds of Km, to make calculating the numbers of ‘Major’ fires pretty well impossible – have burned uncontrollably through 6.3m ha – 15.5m acres – across four states, much of it forest rather than scrub. Around 2,400 properties so far, and 28 lives have been lost.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced refugees, mass evacuations, clogged roads and beaches, the military called out – toxic air quality in five cities…. It’s already the worst fire season in the country’s entire white history.

Presciently, ‘Kickthismobout’ asked: “What kind of disaster will it take to wake our bloody leaders up?”

Well, now we know. No kind of disaster at all. After days of inaction and gladhanding, reviled PM, Scott Morrison has eventually pledged Aus $2bn for ‘reconstruction’, and has gone on Facebook (along with the other fake news merchants) to advertize what a great job he’s doing.

Many other ‘bloody leaders’ have continued to deny that climate change even exists, let alone has any responsibility for the seemingly endless, lethal drought and are refusing calls to limit the burning and export of coal.

Whenever devastating wildfires are mentioned, with their huge contribution to the CO2 burden, almost nobody seems to have noticed that 16m Ha, 35 million acres of Siberia’s vast boreal forests also burned through between April and August 2019.

Perhaps it’s because not many people live there.

And it’s an interesting question, isn’t it. Are we causing these wildfires, or are they merely a perennial problem in nature?

Well, some are obviously the result of arson, or of carelessness while camping, or of accidents to man-made power lines and overheating compost heaps. But many more are set off by lightning, a natural phenomenon. And aren’t wildfires contributing to the CO2 burden, and therefore a principal natural cause of a warmer world – not us?

But if droughts in parts of the world are getting longer and deeper and average temperatures are increasing, leading to greater extremes, then there’s a pretty good connection with changing overall climatic conditions that are the predicted result of adding 37 billion tonnes of CO2 annually into an increasingly carbon-rich atmosphere.

And it is an unfortunate fact that the more CO2 is added to the atmosphere the warmer it gets, leading to further increases in the emissions of CO2 and 39 other warming gases.

The added CO2 emissions from wildfires are therefore part of a vicious circle, that begins with us.

 

 

Afghanistan: a veil of disinterest… Truth and Lies… Liberal with the actualité… The NHS is safe in Matt’s hands? Cock!… Gnawed by cats… GW: Baby, it’s a wild world

 

QotW

“This government is not simply un-conservative. It is an explicit repudiation of everything that it means to be a Conservative. … there is no way that I can as a lifelong Conservative vote for Boris Johnson’s revolutionary clique this week. “ – Peter Oborne, writing in Democracy Now.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/as-a-lifelong-conservative-heres-why-i-cant-vote-for-boris-johnson/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=5529247edb-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-5529247edb-408090269

Boris Johnson

And I managed to get it this far up my nose!

 

Afghanistan: a veil of disinterest

Editor’s note: hours after I Posted this article, a piece appeared on The Guardian website by Ben Armbruster, commenting: “…the (Washington) Post report is rage inducing, not just because of the sheer stupidity of American leaders continuing to fight a war they knew they could not win, but also how their unwillingness to take responsibility for a failed policy caused so much death, destruction and heartbreak.”

Of all the many books published about the Vietnam war, perhaps the most magisterial is David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest”, a searing indictment of the political establishment in Washington. It was first published a full five years before the ignominious retreat from Saigon.

The incompetence and waste of that war were later laid bare in the “Pentagon papers”, leaked in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, a staffer who had worked on the secret report. It revealed that president Johnson had lied to cover up the illegal extension of the war into Laos and Cambodia – the Kissinger doctrine.

Now, a major investigation by the Washington Post into the conduct of America’s other longest-running war, the 18-year-old intervention in Afghanistan, “Operation Enduring Freedom” (!) has confirmed that as the war grinds on, nothing whatever has been learned from the debacle in Vietnam, 50 years earlier.

All of the same elements are there:

  • The complete lack of understanding of the local cultural and historical context, intervention being justified largely on moral grounds.
  • The confused metrics by which the Pentagon has been judging its relative success or failure.
  • Continual political wavering in the White House giving no clear direction or appropriate resources to the military command.
  • The tendency of successive administrations to paint a misleading, rose-tinted picture of the war’s purpose and progress.
  • The strategic difficulties of fighting an asymmetrical war on unfavorable terrain against ideologically driven insurgents; failing to “win hearts and minds” among the local population.
  • The downplaying of Allied casualties (US forces to mid-2019: c. 2,400 dead, 20 thousand wounded) and the horrific toll in Afghan security forces’ and civilian lives (numbers unknown. 100 thousand-plus?).
  • The corruption of local officials – the US alone has spent one trillion dollars on the war, including massive aid packages, with absolutely nothing to show for it.
  • Secrecy – the 2,000-page Pentagon document the report is based on was acquired only through repeated FOI requests and is substantially redacted even now.
  • The refusal by politicians, especially on the Right, to accept that the whole episode has been a bloody waste of time; and the complete lack of an exit strategy to end it.
  • But it’s been great for the arms industry.

The BogPo finds it strange that the report, which came out last week, has met (mostly) with disinterest in the British media. We also have been involved in what has been called the “Fourth Afghan War” (we lost the other three), along with detachments from other NATO countries, and have taken our share of casualties and shameful retreats.

No British soldiers have been killed in the past four years, since the retreat from Helmand, but the total of 455 between 2001 and 2015 and the greater number of wounded in action plants a flag in the operation, that ought surely to interest editors and politicians alike in finding out about – and exposing – our own government’s part in this omnishambles even, or perhaps especially, in an election period.

Armbruster, the editor of Responsible Statecraft, concludes that if Congress continues to fail to hold the Pentagon to account, which it currently has no remit, inclination or obligation to do, despite spending three-quarters of a trillion dollars a year funding that bloated organization, “…it’s more likely than not that in 50 years there’ll be another batch of “papers” revealing once again that we’ve failed to learn obvious lessons from the past.”

Tell that to the nation that invaded Crimea! (No, not the Russians.)

 

“I can honestly say that if I was an Afghan at the moment, I’d dress up as a leopard and hope I get saved by Ricky Gervais….” – Frankie Boyle, 2016

Boris Johnson, fisherman, builder, baker, now milkman.

“And this is one of the old crates that won the Battle of Britain!”

Truth and lies

The press would rather argue over whether or not a photo of 4-year-old Jack Willment-Barr, a boy with suspected pneumonia put to bed on a pile of coats in the corridor of an NHS hospital in Leeds because there were no facilities available for admitting him, is real or a fake.

The crux of the story being that when a reporter tried to show him the photo, “Bunk” Johnson first refused to comment on it, then seized the phone from the hand of the startled hack and stuffed it in his pocket. Which is, technically, theft. A criminal offence. He hadn’t realised he was being filmed at the time – when he did, he handed the item back with a sheepish apology.

The Twittersphere immediately erupted with authoritative claims that the photo was staged by the Deep State. Daily Telegraph popbitch columnist, Alison Pearson added her educated view that it was “100% Fake”. No fewer than five Tory candidates retweeted the libel.

Unfortunately, the hospital was quick to confirm that the picture is not a fake, and issued an apology, but few people seem to care for the truth. Tory supporters have been tweeting death threats to the boy’s mother and even to a completely innocent hospital secretary who doesn’t work in Leeds, but whose name somehow became entangled.

Despite pleas from the mother that politicians should not use her son’s case as a political football, the story was threatening to dominate the election coverage two days before the vote, with politicians all making their own capital out of it. On the face of it, it does seem to be an indictment of the past ten years of underfunding of the NHS by the Tories, who continue lamely to blame the previous Labour administration for everything they’ve failed to put right*.

But the Tory spin machine managed to pull a Trump on the media, diverting attention to a totally made-up story, backed by indignant wails from the childe Hancock, that one of his aides had been brutally assaulted by a Labour demonstrator. Had British politics come to this? Video evidence showed the aide brushing harmlessly past the arm of the vicious Trotskyite from behind. Shades of the microphone grabbing incident that got NBC’s Jim Acosta barred from the White House last year.

No doubt their “40 new hospitals” lie will bring comfort to a troubled nation. (“Hospitals” is a Johnson meme aimed at the lower end of the dumbfuck market. We don’t need more hospitals, in fact the Tories spent years closing them down. There aren’t enough resources to run the ones we’ve got. )

Mr Corbyn in particular should perhaps be less vocal, given his reaction to Mr Johnson’s flogging for all it was worth, the London Bridge murder by an Islamist released on licence, of the 25-year-old prison reform advocate, Jack Merritt, despite the dignified request of his father not to exploit the boy’s death by demanding absurdly long mandatory sentences to please Sun readers.

It’s not worth asking rhetorically if these are really the depths to which we have now sunk.

They are.

*A claim by the current Chancellor, Sajid Javid, that homelessness in Britain peaked in 2008 under Labour and has been cut by half by the Tories since 2010 has been exposed by BBC fact-checkers as a 180-degree version of the truth, as were his made-up figures.

Homelessness fell dramatically between 2003 and 2010 under Blair and Brown, then rose equally dramatically after 2010, when Cameron’s coalition came to office. The rate of increase – not the total numbers – levelled off last year when finally a package of half-measures was put in place to stop the rot. Even so, The Guardian reported, 135 thousand children will be homeless in Britain this Christmas.

 

Liberal with the actualité

Let us turn to the Liberal-Democrat party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and its goofy-looking  leader, Ms Jo Swinson.

Their offence seems in many ways even clumsier and more egregious for its sheer effrontery.

After three years investigating dark-money funding of the Leave campaign, lefty media outlets have been even-handedly pursuing a story concerning the Lib-Dems’ £100 thousand sale of their voter database to the official Remain group, which few will remember was called Britain Stronger in Europe, before the 2016 referendum.

At first, the party explained it was just information of the kind anybody could find on the voter roll, but under pressure they had to admit, they had “enhanced” the data somewhat by adding phone numbers and other details; and there had – or as they say had not – been cross-referencing going on with other databases, possibly abroad, thus possibly creating illegal value under election commission rules. Unfortunately, that is not what they originally told the Information Commissioner.

Now, the story is way more complex than your Uncle Bogler can follow, at his age. It involves several somewhat opaque data analytics companies, software packages for targeting voters, and lobbyists, some American or South African and some even connected with the Conservative party, which is where I give up. The whole murky tale is told as clearly as possible, I suppose, in a piece on Open Democracy, at:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/breaking-lib-dems-admit-they-added-information-about-voters-in-100k-data-sale/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=1119a14ac8-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-1119a14ac8-408090269

However, what has made things much worse is that someone at Party HQ seems to have created a bogus email after the event, to prove that information about this dubious transaction was sent on request to Open Democracy and Channel 4 News BEFORE their deadline expired – in an email that was never in fact composed. The bogus email was followed up by legal threats* demanding claims of a cover-up were retracted; threats that now seem to have been based on the evidence of a crude forgery.

(Needless to say, the party has denied all this.)

“British politics is now more than ever an exercise in covering shit up…”

The whole saga is beginning to appear positively Trumpian – a further sign that his terraforming is affecting other parts of the world. British politics is now more than ever an exercise in covering shit up, the tragedy being that the shit all seems so unnecessary in the first place. A kind of mass hysteria seems to be infecting our parties, all of whom (advised by rough-edged con-men from the global PR midden) are rushing to behave even more badly than their rivals and then wasting hours and days and lots of money backtracking furiously when they get caught.

If the outcome of this is to stop the Lib-Dems from microtargeting Remain supporters, I for one shan’t be sorry. I’m not a social media user, so they can pump out whatever nasty propaganda on Facebook they like, it doesn’t reach me. (And the Lib-Dems are notorious for the nastiness of their propaganda). I’d really like them to cut down though on the “macro” propaganda, the junkmail that rains through my letterbox even when there’s no election on. No other party has been so prolix with the printed matter.

Nothing is going to persuade me to vote for Jo Swinson, sorry. I’d rather vote for any other Aardman Animations character. Sean the Sheep, maybe, or the gas cooker skiing on the moon.

Good bloke though the Libs’ local man is, my allegiance has thus shifted to a rival Remain party I have the option of voting for in this part of the country, that carries on its business as far as one can tell without blatantly lying to all and sundry, or flogging my data. (Except in the usual way, of course, pretending that it will be able to effect its policies when it hasn’t the slightest hope of forming a government.)

A party not lying their heads off may seem touchingly naive in this day and age, boring even, but there you are, I’m 70 and I don’t like what’s happening.

*The name Goodman Derrick jolts your Uncle’s long, long memory, being the firm of Rottweiler solicitors that for years represented that bombastic old fraudster, Robert Maxwell MC, né Koch; forever suing Private Eye magazine for writing unflattering things about their valued client, “Cap’n Bob”, aka the “Bouncing Czech”.

A strange synchronicity, as the Maxwell family is back in the news today, the press playing a game of “Where’s Ghislaine?” – a key witness in the Prince Andrew/Jeffrey Epstein story, Maxwell’s favorite child (what is it with clingy daughters and their powerful, abusive dads, haven’t they seen King Lear?) was last spotted in a Los Angeles mall consuming a burger. Unless that too was a faked-up photograph.

Believe nothing you read, hear or see!

 

“How does Matt Mooncalf imagine Jeff Bezos got to be the richest man in the world after Vladimir Putin?”

The NHS is safe in Matt’s hands? Cock!

This one is almost certainly true. The unspeakable Tory government-in-abeyance has done a deal with Amazon to give away free access, apparently in perpetuity, to NHS medical research data in exchange for putting our public health advice on its Alexa home snooper devices.

The one-way deal doesn’t include actual patient data, we’re saving that for the big US medical insurance corporations, but it does essentially sell the UK’s expertise in public medicine to one of the world’s worst corporate tax avoiders (Amazon reportedly pays tax on its $960 billion turnover at a rate of a little over 0.3% per annum) and the most notoriously exploitative employer outside the Far East, with the exception of Walmart, for a mess of pottage.

The Observer reported:

“Responses to freedom of information requests, published by the Sunday Times, showed the contract will allow the company access to information on symptoms, causes and definitions of conditions, and “all related copyrightable content and data and other materials”.

In other words, millions of pounds’ worth of valuable copyrights in taxpayer-funded NHS research material has just been handed on a plate to the wealthiest corporation in America. That’s revenue the taxpayer will have to make up for a second time, that could otherwise have gone to the NHS. So much for Boris’s big red bus lies, that last general phrase “and other materials” tells you darkly, everything you need to know about where this shitty deal is going.

Step forward the little weasel, Matt Hancock – a worse Health Secretary, if such a thing can be imagined, than his predecessor, Jeremy Cunt, who did at least appear to possess one of a pair. But it’s okay, he’s all of 14 years old. Not even old enough to vote for himself. They probably haven’t dropped yet. He’ll learn.

“Amazon told the Sunday Times the content it had access to was already on the NHS website. ‘Amazon does not build customer health profiles based on interactions with nhs.uk content or use such requests for marketing purposes,’ it added.”

Oh, great. So when I ask Alexa why I’ve got this strange feeling about everything and she tells me to lie down and take an aspirin, Amazon are sure that the interaction won’t be available for evermore in the Cloud for any passing pharma company to sell me more expensive drugs? How do credulous individuals like Wancock ever get to be ministers of the Crown? How does Matt Mooncalf imagine Jeff Bezos got to be the richest man in the world after Vladimir Putin, by giving away free advice about constipation?

In three days’ time, millions of unsuspecting, ignorant fools will set off for their rotting school halls and repurposed churches to vote for this Tory shitshow, after ten years of being cheerfully ripped off in the insane belief that George “eight jobs” Osborne’s austerity economics would really make us all better off in the end, and Sir Philip Green would share all his money with us. (Is Monaco even in the EU?)

Well, fuckwits, this is it. This is what you’ve brought us to.

The end.

 

“You don’t get Nazis in Scotland. It’s difficult to gas someone who’s smoking 120 a day…” – Frankie Boyle, 2016.

 

Gnawed by cats

Speaking of the end….

“A US Navy veteran whose body was found inside his apartment in Dallas, Texas, is believed to have lain dead there for three years. Ronald Wayne White’s family said they had reported his absence to the authorities on numerous occasions.” (BBC, 23 Nov.)

The Navy kept on paying his pension into his bank account and saw no reason to stop. His bank kept on  paying rent to his landlord. It was only when they realized the invisible tenant was paying his water bill but hadn’t used any water for three years, that the building manager broke in and found White’s remains on the kitchen floor. He was 51, and a diabetic.

We live in a world of digital ghosts.

Because of the location of his apartment at the top of the building, which was well insulated, the downstairs neighbours noticed nothing of concern, apart from a little bodily fluid leaking through the ceiling. His mother, Mrs Doris Stevens, is quoted as wondering why she hadn’t heard from him for three years, although he used to call her regularly as he travelled abroad for work.

No-one at work seems to have noticed he wasn’t there. His pick-up truck was found, parked in a downtown garage, covered in dust.

I envisage meeting a similar fate, to be honest.

Found by social workers. Gnawed by cats.

 

GW: Baby, it’s a wild world

Iceland: “A monster cyclone (undergoing bombogenesis) with pressure near or below 940 mbar will develop over Iceland and significantly enhance severe weather threat as an extreme amount of snow, hurricane-force winds and major snowdrifts develop. The result will be many impassable roads and significantly disturbed travel through Tuesday and Wednesday.” (From Severe-weather.eu, 9 Dec.)

UK: Most damage that could be done was probably done in 2014’s extreme storms here on the west coast, but Storm Atiyah put up a pretty good show last night, 8/9 Dec., gusting to 70 mph. Local power outages and transport holdups were reported. It’s expected to strengthen over Scotland and out in the North Sea, with 100 mph wind gusts battering northern Europe over the next day or two.

Madagascar: Cyclone Belna’s “outer bands are producing severe winds and torrential rainfall on the NW parts of Madagascar.” The storm has weakened to Cat. 1 strength but can still cause significant damage and a tidal surge. (Severe-weather.eu, 9 Dec.) Update 10 Dec: just before reaching the coastline, Belna underwent an “explosive” re-intensification.

Sri Lanka: Heavy late monsoon rains have caused extensive flooding and landslides across the country. Since 30 November, 6 people are known to have died, and over 160 thousand affected by floods, with 13 thousand evacuated to shelters. (From Floodlist)

Uganda: “At least 16 people have died and others are missing after flash flooding and landslides on 7 Dec. affected mountainous areas of western Uganda.” While, following flash floods and landslides in Burundi in recent days, “authorities in Rwanda report that heavy rain has triggered landslides in Northern Province. Dozens of people have been left homeless. There are unconfirmed reports of  fatalities and injuries.” (From Floodlist) The exceptionally heavy rains blighting East Africa are expected to continue at least until the end of the month.

Australia: As fires continue to rage in New South Wales and other states, many out of control, in parts of the country that don’t usually see such heat temperatures are again hitting record highs in the mid-40s C, and it’s still early summer. No rain is on the horizon. While milder weather may take over by midweek, says Severe-weather.eu, bringing some relief, an even hotter spell is forecast for next week. Sydney’s famous beaches are clogged with black ash from the fires.

New Zealand: As of today, 9 Dec., many hundreds of tourists are still trapped by landslides and floods in the picturesque small town of Franz Josef, on South Island. A ticket for a helicopter flight out is costing NZ$600, and food supplies are running short. Meanwhile at least 5 tourists have been killed and an unknown number more, after being caught in a sudden eruption on the barren White Island volcano. Police have seen no signs of survivors among another 22 people thought to have been in the party.

USA: An unusually sharp temperature gradient separates the northwest from the southeast at present, as a plume of -20C Arctic air settles over northern states while a +20C winter “heatwave” lingers over Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Despite major storms hitting northern California, with floods and heavy snow up in the sierras, wildfires are still plaguing the state. “The most recent fire is the Cave fire, which started on Nov. 25. It is 90% contained and has burned 3,126 acres so far. The largest active fire is the South fire, which has burned 5,212 acres so far. It started on Sept. 5 and is 100% contained.” (LA Times) CalFire reports, this season over 6 thousand fires have burned a quarter of a million acres, killing 5.

The Weather Channel reports, 2019 has topped out as the US’s wettest-ever year. Alaska had its hottest-ever year and glacier melt is rapidly accelerating. No glaciers are observed to be still advancing. Greenland‘s ice sheet is melting seven times faster than in the 1990s. A combined universities’ study calculates the rate of ice loss has risen from 33bn tonnes a year in the 1990s to 254bn tonnes a year in the past decade. (Guardian, from COP25 Madrid)

Climate: Your Gran is increasingly baffled by contradictory media reports, such as one in The Guardian, 9 Dec., describing the “incessant heavy rains” in South Africa, that have damaged power stations, reduced supply and led to rolling power outages countrywide. There’s a Floodlist report of serious flooding in the outskirts of Pretoria, with cars and buses submerged and residents trapped in buildings. “Some areas of Pretoria recorded more than 200mm of rain in 48 hours to 10 Dec.” 1 person was killed. The town of Gauteng has been badly flooded for the second time in 20 months.

Only a few days ago, she was reading about the unrelieved drought in southern Africa leading to cities facing dire water shortages. Which is it?

Meanwhile in Madrid, Spain, little if any progress is being made at COP25 on substantive issues involving practical measures to combat the effects of climate change. But the bureaucrats are having a great time. The Brazilian president described Greta Thunberg as “a brat”, always a good sign that she’s getting under their corruptly funded skins. (Is it okay to call Bolsonaro an ugly, ecocidal, smallminded,  Trumpsucking little Nazi thug in the pockets of giant agro- and energy corporations? Sure, why not? He’s out and proud on all of that.)

 

A note from the Editor: Readers new to this, muh bogl, may not realize that each new Post will be several days in the making and subject to frequent updates, revisions, additions and corrections, so you may wish to come back later for a second helping of pudding. The conceit being, that it makes the editorial process more fully transparent.

Tories. Lock them up!… Word of the month… Not fit for purpose, #1, #2, #3… A state of surveillance (Miracle on Boglington Street).. GW: It never rains but it rains

Happy Birthday to Me! (70th.)

 

QotW:

Spotted by Private Eye:

“Brexit bombshell: why Tony Blair is behind Supreme Court ruling on Brexit shutdown (D. Express, 13 Sep.)

“Brexit revelation: why Europe is behind Supreme Court ruling on Brexit shutdown  (D. Express, 26 Sept.)

Next week: “Brexit supernova: why alien lizards from Planet X are behind…”, etc.? (Both stories went on to elucidate some purely tangential connection between Blair, Brussels and the Supreme Court ruling on, etc. with no evidence offered at all of the direct influence of either on the Supreme Court.

This is the ersatz journalism we have to put up with, that is bidding to tear the country down. Who are the real traitors behind this shitshow, the judges or the editors?)

(Photo: Neil Hall/EPA)

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove at the Conservative party conference.

“It’s alright, Michael, it’s not Hurricane Lorenzo, just the wind of change.”

For a clip of the early Rees-mogg, go to:#www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/live/bbcfour

Tories. Lock them up!

The rigidly, almost insanely authoritarian Home Secretary, as dim and far to the right as any since “Something of the night about him” Michael Howard, Boris’ Big Red Bus conductress, hardline anti-immigration campaigner and rabid Brexiteer, Priti Patel, 47, the thinking liberal’s trigger-harpie, gave a rabble-rousing speech on Laura Norder at the Tory party conference.

“This party, our Conservative party” (just to remind you, in case you voted for Farage’s frothing Brexit lot in the European elections), “is backing those who put their lives on the line for our national security.” (Sure they’re pleased to know you’re behind them, Priti, stirring it up and making things worse – see recent Police concerns about rightwing terrorism, radical and racial violence).

“So as we renew our place as the party of law and order in Britain, let the message go out from this hall today:

  • To the British people – we hear you.
  • To the police service – we back you.
  • And to the criminals, I simply say this: We are coming after you.”

(I’ve always reserved a soft spot I’d like to hit with a croquet mallet for soapbox orators who spout Victorian cliches like “to you, I say this!”, as if people are too stupid to realize they’re speaking to them. Ed Miliband used to drive me mad with it. Now carry on….)

Mentally at least, foaming at the mouth, Patel went on to assure the bigoted old dumbfucks, Express readers, caravanners and crochet-knitters in the hall that she would end “freedom of movement” for people from Europe “for once and for all!”.

Er, is it okay to ask why? What is wrong with freedom of movement, Ms Patel? We took your parents in, after all. Without it, you wouldn’t be here. I’d quite like to be allowed to move freely, thanks. Or would you like us all to stay exactly where we were born? I’m afraid I can’t afford to go back to central London, not on my State pension.

Do you use the National Health Service? Ever popped in to Costa Coffee? Who do you think is going to man our essential services?

Silly cow.

A transcendently awful speech, by the sound and fury of it, fully characteristic of all pusillanimous, porage-faced Tory Home Secretaries (and David Blunkett) down the decades, with no regard for the actual consequences of their hardline policies, the social costs, that have failed time and time again here and in any country you can name, it met with wearily familiar subdued applause from the faithful and the Dreary Mail editorial team.

It seems not to have occurred to Ms Patel, a former tobacco industry lobbyist, who, let’s remember, was fired from her previous job as International Development Secretary for holding unauthorized, private talks with Israeli hardliners, that included suggestions she might divert UK aid – taxpayers’ money – to the Israeli army of occupation, that on top of all the admissions from senior Tories about their university drug habits, the biggest lawbreaker of all is her boss.

Perhaps she should have added:

  • And to the senior Law Lords, the Enemies of the People, we will ignore your rulings, traduce you in the scumbag press and put you in the Bloody Tower where we’ll have your heads lopped off for treason if you don’t let us do whatever we like, and to hell with the law.

Meanwhile, police at the conference in Manchester were “looking into” an altercation between Blimpish Tory MP, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, and a security guard who tried to prevent him bringing in an unauthorized guest; the room had to be put into lockdown, following which Clifton-Brown, 66, was ejected, still ranting and raving, from the building. (To think, his father – quite a courteous man – used to be our landlord!)

The party of law and order, indeed.

In the meantime, it’s been revealed in The Guardian by “a whistleblower” that a Ms Paola Cuneiri, who worked for two-and-a-half years in “a senior post at London & Partners (L&P), the official mayoral promotional agency which Johnson had responsibility for while he was in City Hall”, moved on from there to head the Sirius program.

That’s the government scheme she claims to have invented, so she should have known  the rules, despite which Johnson’s alleged mistress, or one of them, the American “former model” Jennifer Arcuri, a “businesswoman” with a pole-dancing pole fitted in her Shoreditch flat, as they do, was awarded a prestigious £100 thousand cybertech grant, for which two thousand companies had applied; 1,800 unsuccessfully.

The award came with an expensive and hard-to-get Tier 1 immigration visa, despite Arcuri’s firm not meeting the qualifying criteria of being actually based in, or having anything much to do with, Britain, apart from a Companies House registration; or, indeed, with cybertech development. Innotech/Hacker House is basically just an online events management support service.

The whistleblower confirmed, too, that Johnson’s department had granted Ms Arcuri around £26,000 in startup funding, and that she had travelled abroad three times on official trips with the Mayor, who had appeared on video and at events endorsing her company.

(Despite the existence of multiple photos and documents, Ms Arcuri has issued a statement denying any of this ever happened. It was all a dream, little Princess. And now she’s giving hugely expensive interviews with the dumbfuck UK press, under the watchful eye of her lawyer, although she says they didn’t actually, you know. She just gave him technological advice.)

“A friend” confirmed to the Guardian, Arcuri had told her she was having an affair with the married Johnson, who was seen “regularly” leaving her east London flat. He has refused to deny, or confirm it. Whether she overlapped with current squeeze, Carrie Symonds, has yet to be determined by the sound of breaking plates upstairs at No. 10.

Is it looking bad for Johnson? Not as long as his dithering and malevolent waffle over Brexit, his abusive populist tirades against MPs, EU officials and judges, his viral coffee-cup blunders, his halting improvisation of a terrible, unprepared closing speech to Conference and his harebrained scheme for an Irish customs border in the middle of a bog somewhere in Ireland, over which he appears to have stitched-up a deal with – yes, them again – the DUP, continue to hog the headlines.

He’s learned a lot from Trump.

 

Word of the month….

Treason /ˈtriːz(ə)n/ noun

  1. “The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government.”
  2. Disagreeing with the idea that Boris Johnson can defy the law with impunity.
  3. Thinking leaving the European Union is a bad idea.
  4. Voting Lib-Dem.
  5. er, that’s it.

 

Not fit for purpose #1: The Home Office

“We welcome international academics from across the globe and recognise their contribution to the UK’s world-leading education sector. All UK visa applications are considered on their individual merits, on the basis of the evidence available, and in line with the immigration rules.”

Thus, a Home Office spokesmouth, defending with the standard press response their refusal to allow the two very young children of an American academic at Oxford to join their mother in the UK, forcing her to have to decide whether she can remain in her job, or even in the country.

(Oh, yes, forgot. Her husband, who is working away on contract in his home country of Cameroon at the moment, is, er, black. Tsk.)

Hundreds of overseas academics are being refused visas, often on spurious legal or procedurally incorrect grounds, sometimes suggestive of racial profiling.

Even invited conference delegates and speakers are being shut out, especially from the African continent, and some universities have started automatically rejecting overseas applicants for fear of getting entangled in Home Office red tape.

Welcome to HM Prison Hulk Britannia.

Home of the terminally thick.

Not fit for purpose #2: The President

In the 12 months to June, almost entirely owing to Trump’s trade war with China, nearly 13 thousand US farmers declared bankruptcy.

Those, that is, who have not contributed to the record rate of suicides among small farmers.

Meanwhile the madness of King Donald continues unabated.

He’s now accusing House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff of inventing the telephone conversation in which he has already admitted asking Ukrainian president Zelezniy for a favor in digging dirt on Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, which he now says is fake nooze.

Er… but that’s the report the Committee is investigating! It came from the Inspector General of Intelligence, not from the Committee! (No, “Shifty Schift” is a traitor and a liar who makes stuff up and must be put on trial!)

And today, Trump doubled-down on Biden (who is no longer the Democratic front runner anyway), claiming “what he did in China was terrible” and maybe he will ask President Xi to look into it…

There is no evidence whatever that Biden did anything in China, any more than in Ukraine, where Trump once again admitted he had pressured President Zelenskiy but it was a “perfect conversation”…!

It is horrible watching the spectacle of this tortured man unravelling under the pressures of his job. He needs to be taken out of the pressure-cooker and put in a secure mental facility for his own good, but no-one in office has the guts, the perspicacity or the wisdom to see it; nor has anyone the power to do it, except the Vice President – who is himself under suspicion of assisting in the commission of a crime.

Trump is seriously not fit for purpose. Nor, indeed, is Secretary of State, Mike “I can’t believe he’s not Bunter!” Pompeo, who after five days of outright denying to the media that the phone call ever took place, that there was a report (of which he only read “two paragraphs”) or that he or anyone else, let alone the whistleblower, had any knowledge of it, has now confessed he was in the room at the time, on speakerphone.

Mr Pompeo is in Italy currently, with a brief to continue the president’s important foreign policy campaign to persuade world leaders to say it was Ukraine and not Russia that meddled with Trump’s 2016 election, which he won, to get Hilary Clinton elected; that Paul Manafort and Mike T Flynn are innocent bystanders, and that the Mueller investigation was all a hoax.

Even Bunter is beginning to look a little uncomfortable.

Not fit for purpose #3: Britain

Downing Street, according to the Mail on Sunday, for which read evil genius, Dominic Cummings, is “investigating” several of the 21 rebel MPs expelled by the Tory whips’ office last month for voting with opposition parties on the “surrender” bill.

That’s the one denying the sexually incontinent oaf, Johnson, the right to simply walk Britain out of the EU at the end of this month with no agreement to discuss future trading and security arrangements with the market of 450 million consumers just 26 miles away across the Channel.

It is yet another of the extraordinary correspondences between the Johnson administration – for want of a less organized word – and that of the paranoid Trump, who has his tame Justice Department under “Shill” Barr, busy “investigating” his political rivals too; even the ones like Clinton who’ve already been investigated.

In both cases, what is being “investigated” is the allegation that the two men’s political opponents are somehow in the pay of foreign countries and their secretive interests: exactly the same accusation that has been made against Mr Trump and Mr Johnson – but with much, much less evidential justification.

It is in fact just one gigantic smear, designed to intimidate and menace those calling for responsible governance from these two megalomaniacal, sociopathic sex-pests.

This is para-Nazism at its finest, the only difference being that we have not yet started to cause people to disappear into forest graves.

Former Justice Minister, David Gauke, one of the so-called “traitors”, was moved to warn at the party conference yesterday – he is still a party member even though he cannot stand as a candidate or vote with the Tories – that Britain is descending into Trumpism.

As if to prove it, Tory party chairman, James “but not very” Cleverley has this morning again warned of civil disorder breaking out if Johnson doesn’t get his way. Make no mistake, guys, it’s a threat, not a warning.

I suspect few of the frothing old dumbfucks sensing victory for the way of life they misremember from their youth – no dogs, Irish or blacks – no Europeans, except waiters and comic detectives – Camp coffee and proper lightbulbs – toad-in-the-hole for tea, will give a monkey’s, not even when their grandchildren are being arrested off the streets and hauled out of their school classes, Polish overstayers being interned, machine-gun nests dug into the White Cliffs of Dover, avocado toast criminalized (if there are any avocados) and Jewish and Muslim shops being firebombed.

“But I know we’ll meet again some sunny… er, rainy day.”

 

A state of surveillance

Now look. An hour ago I printed off a letter of complaint I had written to my optician as yet a third pair of these O’Neill glasses has fallen apart in my hand after less than three months.

I didn’t email it, or platform it, or anything – I just wrote it in Word and fucking printed it.

Now sitting on top of my inbox is an unrequested email from a company I don’t know, SelectSpecs.com, advertising prescription glasses.

Update… Friday morning, top of my inbox: “New sock is helping seniors turn back the clock…” “This new funeral plan is finally released to Brits over 50…” Oh, did they notice I turned 70 yesterday?

I’ll say it again, Google.

FUCK OFF AND STOP SNOOPING ON MY STUFF, OKAY?

Miracle on Boglington Street

Although, a strange miracle occurred this morning (02 Oct.). (Wouhaaouwaahouwah!)

Friends, I’ll admit, I’ve been having trouble with muh li’l laptop. F’rinstance, once it goes to sleep, you can’t wake it up again. You have to switch it off, wait 5 seconds and then on again, for which purpose I keep a small stick beside the computer, my “on-off stick”, to press the power key with, otherwise if you use your finger you can’t see the little light.

(I’m very practical, although my son thinks I’m mad!).

Also, the desktop icons ‘n stuff are never in the same places two mornings running, and occasionally you get this bluescreen warning of impending cyberdeath. Again, off-and-on-again does the trick. It’s all a bit unnerving.

Well, this a.m. when I started it up, I got a red warning sign urging me not to switch off, as the Operating System was regenerating, like Dr Who. The text of the sign had partly slipped out of the frame of the box it was contained in, and there was no attribution to any source such as Microsoft, raising suspicions of a hack.

Anyway, after a few minutes it finished its operation and an illiterate note appeared, saying “Sucessful complete” (sic). Naturally, I ran a full security scan, as I speak Kyrzgystani, but it produced no evidence at all of anything untoward.

And then, wonderful to relate (mirabile dictu, as the Romans say), as it rebooted automatically, the old pretty photo background image re-emerged, that you get with Windows 10, a different one every day, that I’d forgotten I hadn’t noticed not being there for the past several months, and I was welcomed as before to log in, which I can do because it’s not password-protected.

(I figured that would drive anybody crazy, who tries to guess my password in order to break-in to my system!)

And the very next time I let it go to sleep, the computer woke up immediately I pressed any key! Quite astonishing.

If I’ve been attacked by Hacker House or someone, well, okay, Jennifer, I’m all in!

(And after posting this, what next on my Google inbox? “Norton antivirus-plus…” For Christ’s sake, is this the world I’m bequeathing to my children? Well, at least they can’t blame me for this part, I don’t understand a fucking word of it.)

(Photo: Nikola Mijic)

Lightning illuminates a funnel-cloud forming during a storm over Bosnia, 2 Oct.

GW: It never rains but it rains

Azores: “Winds were rising and intermittent showers were hitting the northern Azores Islands Tuesday afternoon (1 Oct.) as huge Cat. 2 Hurricane Lorenzo sped towards a Wednesday morning encounter with the islands. At 11 am EDT Tuesday, Lorenzo was racing northeast at 25 mph with 100 mph winds.” (Wunderground). 7 of the 9 volcanic islands have been put on the highest alert – 250 thousand people live in the path of the storm. The islands, which are Portuguese territory, could be hit by waves up to 22 meters – 70 feet in height.

Update Thurs.: “Lorenzo brought sustained hurricane force-winds to Corvo Island, gusting to 101 mph. Winds of this strength have rarely been experienced in the Azores. AP reported numerous downed trees and power lines (a maximum gust of 128 mph was recorded on Flores). Civil Protection Agency said the main port on Flores had suffered “grave damage” – part of the dock, the port’s building and some cargo containers had been “swallowed” by the sea. (Wunderground)

UK: Torrential rains have swept across the UK, 1 Oct., causing floods, closing roads and railways, and leading to some places being evacuated. Over 150 flood warnings were  issued and some areas were hit by a week’s rain in just an hour. On the Isle of Man, a major incident was declared as a flash-flood trapped people in their homes. Elsewhere, drivers were rescued from cars. A change of wind direction spared coastal communities in Norfolk on evacuation alert from being flooded by a King tide. (BBC) The rain has moved away into northern Europe but further heavy rain and high winds are expected on Thursday as remnant Hurricane Lorenzo arrives. (Accuweather).

Update: The latest NOAA track suggests the worst of it will veer to the northwest of Ireland and Scotland’s Cape Wrath by Friday. Its sheer size, however (300 miles in diameter), will bring 70 mph gusts, torrential rain and heavy swells from its outer bands to western Britain. The Irish Met. Service has issued an “Orange Alert” wind warning for the entire western coast, with possible 45-foot waves.

India: More than 100 people have died due to flooding caused by “completely unexpected” late-monsoon rains in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Snakebites have caused several fatalities. Rail and road traffic, hospitals, schools and power lines have been disrupted. Patna was underwater as the Ganges overflowed; Varanasi reportedly awash with sewage. The Deputy Chief Minister and his wife had to be rescued from their flooded home. (BBC)

Senegal: At least 6 people have died and over 4,500 displaced by flooding around the capital, Dakar. 4 people were struck by lightning. Large areas of farm crops have been spoiled.

Korea: “At least 5 people have died and several are missing (in floods and landslides) after Typhoon Mitag swept through southern and eastern regions of South Korea on 3 Oct.” (Floodlist reports). Uljin, North Gyeongsang Province, recorded rainfall rates of 104.5 mm per hour, the highest since authorities began compiling the data in 1971.

USA: Accuweather reports: “Flash flood warnings remained in effect across several states (in a 1,500-mile corridor) stretching from New Mexico to Michigan on 1 Oct., as a narrow swath of soaking rain targets the middle of the nation. The combination of tropical moisture and a temperature battle zone will set the stage for the relentless rain, which (with ground soaked by endless rains all year) could result in widespread flooding.”

The heatwave stretching from Florida to New York, that has brought record-setting early Autumn temperatures to the East into the high 90sF, will be replaced by colder air this week.

Mexico: “Narda” made landfall near Lazaro Cardenas on 30 Sept. before weakening into a tropical depression. However, on Monday, the storm moved back over open water and strengthened back into a TS. Narda then made a second landfall in Sinaloa on Monday night. Acapulco recorded 7-in. of rain. “Tropical moisture will be pulled northward into New Mexico and Texas, where there will be additional flooding concerns.” (Accuweather)

Guatemala: 1 death has been reported and many buildings destroyed, highways blocked and schools closed, with over 5,000 people evacuated and 1,300 left homeless as heavy rains have caused flooding and landslides since the end of September. (Floodlist)

Australia: In a stuttering start to summer, Sydney experienced near-record October daily temperatures yesterday before the mercury suddenly plunged 15 deg. C in one hour. Mostly, though, heatwave conditions are building again across the entire country, and it’s been the worst start to a fire season on record.

Tunnel approaching….

Terra trema: The town of Dublin in the bay of San Francisco has had 36 earthquakes in the past week, 14 just yesterday (30 Sept.) It lies on the Hayward fault, which is part of the San Andreas. The town of Snyder in Texas was shaken by a M4, right in the middle of a fracking zone. (Mary Greeley)

The evidence is that quakes caused by fracking go on getting bigger, UK Gov. kindly note, as they’re getting bigger here too. There’s a serious environmental health risk on top, according to more than 1,200 research papers. Ban, now!

No sweat: “Hundreds” of migrant workers are dying of heat, working on World Cup football stadiums and other construction sites in Qatar, according to an investigation for the Guardian. Causes of death are registered by the authorities as cardiac arrest, but among apparently healthy young men experts believe this is masking numerous incidences of heatstroke as summer temperatures approach 50C.

Poo story: In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, where sea level has risen 4 inches since 1994, 105,000 residential properties still use septic tank sewerage, according to a new report. More than half are regularly “compromised” by higher tides and increasing rainfall and the situation is expected to worsen. (From: Wunderground)

Ironic deaths corner….

Your Uncle B. has long been interested in reports of “ironic deaths”. The latest such is that of respected US weatherman Bill Lapenta, “former director of the NOAA/NWS National Centers for Environmental Prediction”, who drowned in rough surf off the coast of North Carolina this week.

Surf that, er, weathermen had been predicting…. RIP, Bill.

 

Wankers’ corner… Ha! Haaa!! Told you so!!!!!… Tories: a record… The threewheelin’ lifestyle… Dog daze… Fucking cheek department…GW: Texas engulfed…

Hi. I’m now totally confused as to which  BogPo this is, last Thursday’s or next week’s? Does it matter, when there’s always a feast of great writing to be guzzled down with your wine?

More is being added as we speak! But I’ve only got this far, sorry.

‘So tell me a bit more about how a dictatorship could work.’

“So tomorrow we invade Luxembourg!”

Wankers’ corner…

As millions of schoolchildren and others strike around the world on climate action day, tired Labour “leader” Jeremy Corbyn’s dimly illuminated brother Piers is leading a pathetic counter-march through London, a gaggle of climate-change deniers, most probably balding, retarded internet trolls day-released from their mothers’ basements, blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight.

From the press photographs it looks like only about nine shambling, embarrassed-looking humanoids in total have turned out in support, bearing an unpunctuated banner reading “Climate policy controls you not climate”, which can be taken several ways but perhaps lacks a little punch in the old persuasion department?

Good on you, Piers, for drawing attention to how stupid, feeble and anachronistic your dying little movement is.

Is there a particular Corbyn gene, I wonder, that turns out crusty and annoying old contrarians?

(But when will climate protesters understand, global heating and plastics pollution are NOT THE SAME ISSUE! From a PR point of view you need to fixate on one or the other or you’ll just confuse people.)

As millions of people came out on the streets following the Dateline across the globe to protest official inaction over the climate crisis, a long-lost cause in your Granny Weatherwax’s view but never mind, there’s no harm in trying, the story made the front page splash all day as a running commentary on the BBC News website.

But occupied only 10th place on the Most Read listing!

And unless you went to the Weather page, there was no mention at all of the terrible floods in Texas from Tropical Storm Imelda, on which Severe-weather.eu commented: “There are truly catastrophic scenes coming out from Houston and Galveston.”

Nearly 4 feet of rain has fallen over the Beaumont and Port Arthur area in two days, the same part of the state that saw immense rainfall only two years ago from Hurricane Harvey. Disaster has been declared. Several people have been killed, much property damaged.

It’s not as if this is in some remote part of Africa. It seems the news media is just not interested in real life events anymore.

Postscriptum (lots of these today):

I’m perhaps not being fair on Jeremy, who has cleaned up his 70-year-old student activist image and is looking managerial these days. I’ve just read a very interesting and sober article in the Guardian that says Britain’s financial community is starting to think he and John McDonnell would probably be a better bet to manage the economy and deal with Europe sensibly than Johnson’s dysfunctional, profligate, flailing administration and its fourth-rate ministerial team of chancers, liars, incompetents, careerists and balloon-animal artists.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/21/bankers-corbyn-tories-no-deal-capitalism-radical-government

Although, that being mooted, nevertheless there is the minor matter of Corbyn’s personal poll rating to get over. He’s currently at minus 60 – a historic low for a British politician, or maybe anywhere.

Boris Johnson and Jennifer Arcuri at an Innotech hacking and data conference in London in October 2014.

“I say, you fellows, BoJo’s boobed again!”

(Mayor Johnson allegedly bankrolled his bling-encrusted American friend’s business venture, using London ratepayers’ money.)

 

Ha! Haaa!! TOLD YOU SO!!!!

“The question of why Wales voted to leave the EU can in large part be answered by the number of English retired people who have moved across the border, research has found.

“Work by Danny Dorling, a professor of geography at Oxford, found that the result could in part be attributed to the influence of English voters.” (Guardian)

Ha!!! Your Uncle Bogler has been saying this at every conceivable opportunity, to absolutely no effect, since Day One of the Brexit farrago. No-one has paid the slightest heed to my trollings!

Until, obviously, now. Only this guy gets paid to say it.

UK media has been lazily unaware of the seismic demographic shift that has taken place here in Wales over the past 20 years, and continues to bumble along, stupidly imagining that the majority of people living in Wales must ergo be Welsh.

We’re not! We’re settlers. Colonialists. Incomers. Saisneg.

And another clue maybe lies in the fact that the Welsh national party, Plaid Cymru, is virulently pro-Europe, but holds only one seat in the European Parliament. Leave in Wales was a vote against the Welsh Assembly.

Nor has the media made even one mention of the implication for Welsh ports of a No Deal Brexit leaving a “border” in the Irish Sea.

So is Wales really a Leave territory? Not entirely.

My friend Harry tells me, he went along to a live broadcast of the BBC’s Any Questions! here in Boglington the other night – an event of which your Uncle B. was totally unaware, as ever.

One of the panellists was the former Brexit Secretary, the lazy and dimwitted baboon, David Davis. When he was introduced, out of all the pundits on the show, he was the one who received a seething, hostile “Sssssssss!” from an audience composed almost entirely of academics and others linked to the local university.

For, thanks to the presence of so many people with an international perspective, students and staff, aware of how damaging to the universities sector this Brexit shitshow is already proving to be, our constituency was one of only two in Wales that voted solidly Remain.

I don’t know a single person here who didn’t. And when asked, all but one of the audience put their hand up to voting Remain; just as they had at a Comedy Club night I went to three years ago.

But then I don’t personally know all the dreary-looking, gray-haired, genetically damaged retirees, economic and cultural migrants fleeing the brown faces repopulating the English Midlands, static caravan-dwelling hordes who throng the supermarket aisles on Friday afternoons with their heavily laden trolleys and whining Brummie accents, like a reunion of the old UKIP members’ conference.

They look like Farage voters to a henpecked old man and hatchet-faced woman, although you never can tell. I certainly don’t feel safe among them and hold my counsel. I’d rather not be beaten to death with a sliced loaf.

Prof. Dorling concludes that actually, far from embittered northerners voting to sell Britain out to Trump and Putin, the private equity investment management community and the hedge funsters, most Leave voters were middle-aged, affluent southerners.

Blame the Cornish, he advises.

Poldarkness descends.

 

Tories: a record

8 million: people in Britain living in “unsuitable” housing.

1 million: people on local authority housing waiting lists.

83 thousand: homeless people in temporary accommodation.

8 thousand: govt. estimate of regular rough sleepers.

31: homeless young people who have died in sheltered accommodation in the last 2 years in Brighton alone.

216 thousand: empty domestic properties in Britain.

 

The threewheelin’ lifestyle

Whenever Hunzi decides to take me as far as the industrial estate that’s rapidly expanding on the other side of the exurban space that passes for our local park, a land of cycle paths and sports grounds and a particularly fetching, aromatic sewage works, we have to pass a new industrial unit housing a retail store where the theme is electrically powered cycles.

Fat tyres! Only this version is sadly not road-legal because it can go at 20 mph! It’s billed as a “mountain trike”. Useful.

Now, I’m a touch OCD and I tend to get hooked for months or years on impracticable enthusiasms. For instance, I’m desperate to own a campervan. Every time I see one in the carpark, which at this time of year is many, I will wander over and try to look in, to compare the interior fittings, the decor. Does it have a loo? A shower? Are the benches lined with hideous purple floral moquette? Would there be room for my jazz collection? Could I even lie down?

Two things prevent me from owning a campervan. One, unless I sell my little house I can’t afford one. They are insanely expensive, given that you can buy a secondhand Ford Transit, a mattress and a primus stove for a few hundred quid. DIY camping is not my style, however. I demand fittings. A satellite dish. Metal cutlery. A Polish waitress.

Added to which, there would be running costs. And secondly, I know deep down in my heart that I would almost never use it. I so rarely go anywhere nowadays. Where would I go? On my own? What for? I already live amid scenery.

But I would have a campervan! I could put up guests. And if the world ended, civilization collapsed, warlords roaming the urban canyons, rising sea level inundating the village, I could run for the hills in my second home. Even spend a weekend with Hunzi at the Brecon jazz festival!

Oh, I so want a campervan! I am practically in tears today because a beautiful VW Topaz Autosleeper in midnight blue that was for sale for weeks at my local car showroom has suddenly gone, and I didn’t win the lottery on Wednesday. (Okay, it was £35 thousand, and the bed looked to be only four feet long, but hey, it had a toilet!)

It’s like that with the electrically powered tricycle in black, outside the aforementioned store. See, it’s got fat tyres!

Electric vehicles are the future. One day, everyone will have one, by law. Why not me, now? I could sell the car, buy one and have change. Look, it has fat tyres and a large pannier on the back for all my shopping needs.

You don’t need to pay road tax or have insurance with one of these babes, although it might be wise to insure yourself. It can go for 70 miles at 15.5 mph without pedalling. That’s 35 trips to the supermarket and back, a whole month’s worth! And just imagine the queue of fuming motorists building up behind you!

But. Where would Hunzi sit? There’s nowhere, unless I bought a bike trailer for him. Would he be happy on his own, shut up in a flimsy trailer pod? It sometimes rains here, and there’s no cover. It could get very wet. And would my elderly prostate, the size of an orange, let me sit comfortably on a bike saddle?

A probable clincher, my little cottage abuts a main road. The electric tricycle wouldn’t pass through the front gate into the tiny garden. There’d be nowhere to securely park it, between daily trips to the supermarket.

The future of transportation? A somewhat eccentric Victorian machine, for popping to the shops.

I try to envision myself trundling about town on this somewhat eccentric, Victorian-looking machine, with its ladylike step-in frame. I can see how useful it will be in more dystopian times, when diesel cars are banned and the oil runs out, but now? I’d be practically the only person on the road with one.

Am I sufficiently ready to become a truculent and elderly, pioneering eccentric, like the safety-unconscious, obstreperously bearded Jeremy Corbyn lookey-likeys who ride those two-wheelers where you put on shorts, lie on your back and pedal with your legs in the air? Flying a little flag on a stick to beg sleepy Polish lorry drivers, please to not ignore your existence?

And then, unbidden, the image creeps into my mind, of me, on my electric tricycle, wearing a Pastafarian colander on my head instead of a safety helmet, and there the dream ends. For, how could you ride an electrically powered three-wheeler with fat tyres without a colander? The two just go naturally together.

Looking closer, I see that in fact, the face of the large man on the electrically powered three-wheeler with a colander on his head and a worried sheepdog in the trailer pod, trundling bitterly on squelchy fat tyres through the rain at 15.5 mph, shopping bags soggily perched in the pannier at the back, furious motorists honking behind, is not actually my face after all.

I’m more of a Bentley and good 3-star hotel with a Michelin-guide restaurant, Polish waitresses and a comfortable bed man, myself.

Postscriptum:

And lo! The very next morning in my email inbox Google have thoughtfully sent me an advertisement for… Wispa Bikes, “UK electric bicycle brand”…..

Go away, Google! Fuck off! Stop reading my stuff! This intrusive surveillance is intolerable. I have a right to a private life beyond what I publish. I am not this person who bogls!

Post-postscriptum:

Watching the industrial estate growing, with more and more large infill units opening “public welcome” trade counter-style operations, it occurs to me that press reports of our dying high streets are missing part of the story. I suspect these edge-of-town developments offering no-frills shopping with free parking may be bucking the trend towards internet home delivery.

 

Dog daze

Switching on the telly, I’m met with a BBC program about sheepdog trials, the venerable “One Man and his Dog”.

My Rottweiler, the Boot, used to love this show and would watch spellbound as, responding to a series of whistles, clever sheepdogs would round up sheep on remote hillsides and herd them into pens (“shedding”), earning points for efficiency.

Hunzi, my lovely Welsh Border Collie – the most popular breed of sheepdog – looked completely disgusted when I showed him the screen, turning his back on us and subsiding to the rug with a despairing grunt.

Then, if he had ever taken any interest in herding sheep into a pen, the farmer would never have given him to me. And if I had not just happened along that day, after we’d sold the cottage at the end of the farm track, the farmer would almost certainly have drowned or shot him, as a waste of good rats.

 

Fucking cheek department…

Another advertisement sent to my email in-tray by Messrs Google offers a 6-point “Investors’ Guide” to a No-Deal Brexit, from City investment management consultancy, Hargreaves-Lansdown.

Peter Hargreaves, the retired billionaire founder of Hargreaves-Lansdown, personally trousered over £600 million from his old firm betting on share price movements in the months following the Brexit referendum.

He had spent over £3 million backing the Leave campaign, arguing that “uncertainty” was good for the money business. The organizers now occupy seats and advisory positions in Johnson’s government, and are arguing that No-Deal will not damage the economy.

I’m sure it won’t. Not his, anyway. From Wikipedia:

“In 1986 he married Rosemary; they have one son and one daughter. They reside in a Georgian property in the West Country, where he grows his own vegetables.”

Leave voters, when will you wake up to what is being done to the country by these plotters? Or do you think your lives will somehow improve?

Better get investing, then.

 

GW: Texas enGulfed

USA: National Weather Service (NWS) in Houston said unofficial rainfall totals for a 60-hour period to 19 September showed Fannet in Jefferson County, Texas received 43.15 inches (1,096mm) of rain, as Tropical Storm Imelda stalled over southern Texas and Louisiana, 20 Sept., “firehosing” warm water out of the Gulf in a mini-repeat of Hurricane Harvey, two years ago – from which the states are still recovering.

Rivers are overflowing, parts of the road network around Houston are completely inundated and people are being ordered to stay indoors wherever they are, or to seek higher ground.

3 people have been killed and states of “disaster” declared in 13 counties. It’s already the 7th wettest storm in US history and it’s still raining, Houston reporting rates of 3-4 in. per hour, prompting some weather forecasters to speculate that it could catch up to the wettest, Harvey, that dumped 60.3 inches near Beaumont and Port Arthur in 2017.

(The above from Floodlist/Accuweather.) Severe-weather.eu adds: “There are truly catastrophic scenes coming out from Houston and Galveston.”

Accuweather also reported another familiar story: “Damaging thunderstorms will track through the northern Plains ahead of a push of cooler air at the end of the week.” Tornadoes are expected too.

Oh, and I’m wondering why these horrendous events have gained no traction today in the centrist media? The Guardian website, updated hourly, for instance makes no mention of the real catastrophe unfolding in Texas, affecting real people, but features numerous speculative articles instead about Ms Thunberg’s strike and its political importance for the working class.

Atlantic: “The second major hurricane of the 2019 Atlantic season, Humberto roared past Bermuda Wednesday night as a Cat. 3 storm with 120 mph winds. The powerful right-front eyewall battered (the island) with sustained winds well in excess of hurricane force as the eye passed 75 miles to the north, near 8 pm EDT.” (Wunderground)

Meanwhile, forecast weakening Cat 2 to Cat 1 Hurricane Jerry, battling wind shear, is just passing the Leeward Islands, where storm warnings have been issued, on a curving track heading northwestwards away from the US coast towards Bermuda. (Accuweather) Three more tropical depressions are threatening heavy rainfall events for Caribbean islands over the weekend into next week.

Forecasters are getting excited about a somehow “different from usual” tropical wave among several spotted coming out of Africa, that before it has even reached the Cape Verde islands where Atlantic hurricanes generally breed, they have got tagged for development as a potential “major hurricane”. (Severe-weather.eu) (It’s now a TS, named Lorenzo. 24 Sept.)

Mexico: Compact “Tropical Cyclone Lorena made landfall near Playa Pérula, Jalisco, on 19 Sept. before moving across Baja California, bringing floods to Arizona. NHC warned that Lorena was expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 3 to 6 inches, with maximum amounts around 8 inches. (Floodlist/NASA) Tropical Storm Mario was reported south of Lorena over the Eastern Pacific, on pretty much the same track.

Trinidad and Tobago: “Heavy rain, strong winds and rough seas brought by Tropical Storm Karen have caused severe damage in the dual-island nation in the Caribbean. Strong winds downed trees and power lines, blocking roads and causing power and telecommunication outages.” (Floodlist) Meanwhile in Haiti, at least 2 people have died and 4 are missing after flash floods in Ouest department, after torrential rain from 18 Sept. More than 20 houses were destroyed.

Japan: Not that you’d know it from reports of the Rugby World Cup, a major event, but at least 1 person was killed and another 19 injured in Okinawa as Typhoon Tapa passed over, headed for Kyushu island – scene of astonishing amounts of rainfall in the past three years. By 22 Sept. 400 mm of precipitation was reportedly falling on the island per day. Over 400 regional flights were cancelled. Rugby organisers have issued warnings and closed two venues as a precaution.

Singapore: Drivers preparing for the weekend’s F1 Grand Prix are having to contend with some of the worst air pollution the island has experienced, because of forest burning for palm oil in neighboring Indonesia. (Guardian)

(Your Old Gran opines that, were she the Sultan of Singapore, she would immediately declare war on her neighbors and angrily bomb the bejasus out of them. This annual criminal destruction of habitat for so many threatened species surely can’t be tolerated?)

Greece: “Heavy rainfall late during the evening of 19 Sept., caused flash floods in areas around the city of Thessaloniki. 2 people were rescued from vehicles trapped in flood waters.” Hail flattened a large area of farm crops. (Floodlist)

UK: Flood alerts were issued for parts of England 24 Sept, as heavy rain continued to cause disruption for commuters. The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for much of England and Wales, saying up to 70 mm of rain had fallen overnight in some parts.

Wales, UK: It is 00.05 hours (five-past midnight) on the morning of 22nd September, 2019. According to the digital thermometer in my front garden, here on the west coast, the day’s top temperature had been 26.9C. It is still 20.2C at the time of writing.

Arctic: A blast of warm air pushing up into the region past the British Isles and Iceland will displace a pool of very cold air into the continent, extending down as far as North Africa. Surface temperatures 10 to 20 deg. C above normal for Greenland will still be at or just below freezing, however. (Severe-weather.eu)

Tunnel approaching…

Yellowstone: is wreathed in dense fog, caused by cold air settling over warm ground, while 4 wildfires are being monitored in the park. Unreported drumbeats, harmonic tremors, small quakes, rising gases, Tornillo “screw wave” signatures on the seismographs. (Greeley) Also, she reports Hawaii’s Kilueia volcano’s notorious new rift, 8, that erupted so violently last year, is showing signs of life again.

 

A new BogPo emerging: Trapped in the work ethic… “Appointments Co-Ordinator”: The Angel of Death… Trump’s weird weather balloon continues to inflate… GW: It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

Revolting Quote of the Week (Look away now…)

“Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith would be caught scraping wax out of his own ears and spreading it on a Jacob’s Cracker; or licking his own belly-button fluff off a stick as if it were fairground candyfloss; or sprinkling dried smegma flakes from beneath his foreskin on to a strawberry ice cream and saying: ‘Yum! Yum! I love eating smegma!’ Everyone will have the food they need.” – Stewart Lee in The Observer, 8 Sept., after former Tory leader and chief architect of the New Poverty, Smarmy Duncan Cunt was caught on camera in the Commons, picking his nose and eating the bogeys.

 

Trapped in the work ethic

There’s an excellent dissection of modern-day society on Open Democracy today (pub. 5 Sept.). Phil Jones writes on Millennials’ obsession with “Brand You” – the neurotic pursuit of “employability” that occupies so much of people’s leisure time – and, indeed, of their working time, as they concentrate on finding the next job, and the next.

“If work/life balance feels like a bad joke, the need to market oneself is even worse – a joke that goes on forever, never to deliver. Needless to say, the joke is on us as we spend our lives working ever-more to receive ever less.”

Jones regards it as a mental health crisis.

Actually, I’ve always thought that the universal activity of looking around for better opportunities is one of the more agreeable diversions from work, and probably one of the primary causes of our woeful lack of productivity in Britain: an economy shivering through an unending winter of employee discontent.

Your Uncle Bogler is no millennial, except in the sense that sometimes he feels like a thousand years old. But he regards himself as having often been years ahead of the game. He thinks back to his last job, and the one before that, and the ones even before those, as times of obsessively reinventing himself through successive redraftings of his CV – this was mostly before lInkedIn and Instagram and all the rest of it. “Brand You” was always “Brand Me”.

So maybe it’s not such a new thing. Because 30, even 40 years ago I always felt the need to move on was the ideal form of progress. And, having milked every employer I ever had of more and more responsibility, always working silly hours way beyond my job description, never feeling sufficiently rewarded for it, it wasn’t long before I would start looking around for something more interesting to do.

Every so often I would go off for a while and employ myself, although I was my own worst manager and employer, always hopeless at structuring my time, doing accounts, finding business, networking and the social politics of being preferred for jobs I could do standing on my head, over reassuring Yes-men. It was always a great relief to get off that merry-go-round horse and hop onto a passing ride; a dodgem car, or the ghost train.

Indeed, after what? seven years! of retirement, I still wake up every day wondering where my next career move is going to come from.

Seventy, as they say, is the new 50, and finding work at 50 was hard enough. Nobody wants to hire someone afresh at the peak of their powers, there’s always a suspicion, isn’t there, that if you’re looking to get hired at 50 there must be something wrong with you; and, if hired, you’re probably thinking you can run the place a lot better than the insecure twenty-somethings blundering about in charge, which of course they won’t appreciate.

I didn’t. But having been given my own department to run, a budget and a free hand with hiring and scheduling, even at the callow age of 24 I didn’t make the mistake of not hiring more experienced people than myself to deputize, more than to do the actual nuts and bolts work; making up for the gaps in my knowledge and providing reassurance to the directors.

I made sure some of them got paid more than I did. Some of them were even women! And yet there was never any question who was running the show: it ran on my probably lunatic ideas (it’s called “innovation”), my energy, my hours, my creative imagination, my (well-regarded) precocious, professional input. I endeavored to induce a sense of co-operation – collegialism, rather than the tired cliche of “teamwork”, that absurd militaristic or sporting trope, the fallback of too many workplaces run by managers trained, rather than educated.

It’s an attitude I can pride myself on, and with me free to concentrate on my own contributions to the end-product, rather than constantly having to keep an eye on the personnel (except in one egregious case, of one serial responsibility-evader – he was the annoying baby of the team), we rapidly earned the envy and hatred of our competitors, as well as higher ratings, which I regarded then as the mark of success.

Few people, I imagine, get the chance to do that sort of thing nowadays. I won’t go shelf-stacking in Morrison’s because of it. Five minutes into the job and I’d almost certainly be thinking of the Manager much as one might contemplate the promising intellect of a primate in a zoo, adept at winkling its earwax out with a stick, wondering why Head Office was so willing to put up with the glaring inefficiencies and sheer gutlessness of its regional systems, its risk-aversion, and – privately seething with discontent at the massive discrepancy in our relative rewards – itching to move on.

It’s not a good look, as we corporatists say nowadays.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/brand-you-how-employability-came-dominate-our-lives/?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=92c44be1e6-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-92c44be1e6-408090269

 

Trump’s weird weather balloon continues to inflate

The bizarre story of how Trump has been defending, like an oversexed terrier clamped to your leg, his mistaken warning that Alabama was going to be hit by Hurricane Dorian, took an even weirder turn tonight when someone at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration, issued a statement confirming that Trump had been correct, and that Alabama had been on the track list – albeit briefly – for 12 hours.

The Trump-affirming statement appeared to contradict the opinions of NOAA’s own scientists.

Trump called the press to the Oval Office on Wenesday and showed them a map that had obviously been doctored by someone, a person widely believed to be the 4-year-old child calling itself the 45th President of the United States of America, Commander-in-Chief of US forces and Leader of the Free World, by drawing an erratic extra bulge on a very early Hurricane Center track forecast with a black marker pen, to include Alabama, after the National Weather Service had tried to correct him.

Hurricane Dorian was going, they said, nowhere near Alabama. His claim, defended in a series of vindictive tweets savaging the media for trying to make him look bad, led to some panic buying in the state, while critics have argued that it may also have led to potentially lethal complacency in the Carolinas, far to the east, where the Category 3 storm did in fact track after killing hundreds of people in the Bahamas.

Certainly, there’s a law against promulgating false weather forecasts.

The point being, that Trump’s mental condition is now under serious scrutiny, as he had clearly made a simple mistake and it wasn’t, to begin with, of any importance; nobody would have cared, and he could just have brushed it off with a disarming apology, if he had an ounce of charm or good manners. Instead he is still doubling and tripling down on it with a series of increasingly disturbing lies, and what appear to be increasingly intimidatory tactics.

Now there’s a major rift between the nation’s various weather bureaux, with a spokesman for the National Weather Service’s employees calling the NOAA statement “disgusting and disingenuous” and accusing the NOAA of “managerial malpractise”, perpetrated for political reasons.

A quick call to Granny Weatherwax confirms, after delaying an appointment for many months, late in 2017 Trump nominated for the head of the NOAA, the former CEO of a private forecasting service, Accuweather, one Barry Lee Myers, a non-scientist.

Myers had previusly made a substantial donation to the campaign fund of a leading Republican senatorial candidate, the ghastly Rick Santorum, in an attempt to get Congress to sideline the National Weather Service and benefit Accuweather’s commercial interests by effectively outlawing free public weather forecasts.

He was not confirmed in post. So, according to Wikipedia, “since February 2019, NOAA has been headed by Neil Jacobs, as acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA interim administrator. NOAA has not had a confirmed leader since January of 2017.”

Neil has a somewhat more impressive CV than Barry:

“Previously as the Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, he directed the research and development of both the aviation weather observing platform and weather forecast model programs. He was previously the Chair of the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group, and also served on the World Meteorological Organization’s aircraft-based observing systems expert team. Dr. Jacobs holds a bachelor degree in mathematics and physics from the University of South Carolina and masters and doctoral degrees in atmospheric science from North Carolina State University.” (NOAA website)

Now all he needed to do was to tell Mad King Donald to just drop it, but sadly being only yet another “acting” head of department among many, he can’t. Because his position is unconfirmed by the Senate and still in the gift of the President, he just has to do what the demented orange infant – whose uncle, let us remember, lectured in electrical engineering at MIT, qualifying Trump as a scientist summa cum laude – tells him to do.

Just get him out. Forget who he is, concentrate on what he is, which is certifiably bonkers. It’s cruel to keep him there. Just send in the men in white coats, stick an anti-spit bag on his head in case it’s catching, the megalomania – and cart him off with his arms folded.

How hard can it be?

 

“Appointments Co-Ordinator”: The Angel of Death

The NHS over in England is instructing area health trusts to write to London’s GPs, telling them not to refer patients to specialist consultants unless it’s a matter of life or death. “A spokeswoman” is quoted as saying:

“Some ideas will affect clinical services and in putting forward our plans we want to emphasise that the safety of our patients and the quality of our services will always come first.”

The spokeswoman added that they would ensure no patient waited more than 52 weeks for treatment.” (Guardian)

52 weeks is, as my Likers, Spammers, etc. all kno, a year.  No patient will wait MORE THAN A YEAR for treatment. Some idea… Some quality, first. Is this a health service or a national extermination program? Statisticians have been reporting for some time now that life expectancy in Britain is no longer increasing. This looks like one possible reason, you might agree.

Commented Health Secretary, Matt Hancock: “zzzzzzz. Wake me up when we’ve Brexited”.

My own local health board in Wales has adverted instead to a different method of imposing the death penalty on patients. Someone naming but not signing themselves “Appointments Co-Ordinator” will write to you, telling you you need to make an appointment – whether you do or not.

Failure to respond by telephone within 14 days will result in them assuming you no longer want or need treatment, or you are no longer living in the area, or you’ve died, and unpersoning you. Telephoning will produce a recorded message, telling you there is a half-hour wait to speak to someone.

Last March, for instance, I ignored – well, I tried phoning first, and then I ignored the letter because I already had a consultant appointment, made directly through his office. But you can no longer do that. And in early May I had another letter, informing me that, as I had obviously died or gone away, I no longer had a consultant. Although I had been to see him, and had various procedures in the meantime.

So, I was forced to waste the time of my GP and my consultant getting myself put back on the list. I’ve since had another letter, demanding I make an appointment – for what sounds very much like a preliminary assessment to begin receiving the consultant support I’ve already been getting for my prostate condition for the past five years.

And, of course, if I don’t phone within 14 days, I’ll be struck off again. Which rather makes a nonsense of the huge expense of the various scans, tests, surgical investigations and clinical procedures I’ve already had, since they’ll need to be repeated.

“Appointments Co-Ordinator” is not, obvious to say, a clinician, but a bureaucrat. (That’s if they really exist and are not simply an algorithm.) “Appointments Co-Ordinator” has no idea if my condition requires treatment or not; or what treatment it requires. But it certainly requires treatment.

And in writing to people in late August, “Appointments Co-Ordinator” clearly runs the risk of encountering recipients who are away on holiday, as I was when the letter arrived.

I replied immediately by letter – it’s written evidence – asking “Appointments Co-Ordinator” to check with my consultant to see if the appointment was relevant or not, before wasting everyone’s time making it.

Needless to say, after 14 days I’ve had no reply. “Appointments Co-Ordinator” can dish it out, but she can’t take it.

Which you might understand fills me with anger. Striking patients off consultants’ lists while they are receiving treatment (I have never missed an appointment) without reference to the consultant or further investigation of the circumstances in which a patient has failed to respond in time – a follow-up letter, perhaps – is a gross breach of medical ethics and saves no money at all.

All it does is close cases on open files, when they may need to remain open – thus artificially and, in many cases, one suspects temporarily – shortening overburdened consultants’ waiting lists (and the lives of the patients) to comply with official quotas.

 

GW: It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall

Bahamas: “Health minister Duane Sands has warned of the probability of a very high death toll in Abaco and Grand Bahama as the catastrophe continues to unfold. He told people to brace for a ‘staggering’ final count, when speaking to local radio late Thursday. ‘The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,’ he said.” Grand Abaco is said to be virtually uninhabitable. The UN has called for aid for up to 70 thousand homeless survivors. (Guardian and others)

Chuntering up the coast, Dorian has been bumping into the Carolinas, back at Cat 3, bringing severe flooding to coastal regions, and is set to make landfall in a third country, Canada, over the weekend before spinning out across the Atlantic in pursuit of weakening Tropical Storm Gabrielle, heading for the British Isles later next week. Several other Tropical disturbances are reported in the Atlantic, although none is as yet favored to intensify – Dorian will have churned up a lot of cold water in its wake and left a turbulent atmosphere that should discourage more hurricanes for a while at least. One meteorologist is suggesting remnant Dorian could trigger a UK heatwave. (Express)

Vietnam: Tropical Depression Kajiki, which closely followed Tropical Cyclone Podul, has brought heavy rain to parts of Vietnam and Laos, causing further flooding and landslides. Authorities report at least 2 people have died and 2 are missing in Laos, while 5 fatalities were reported in Vietnam with 3 people still missing. Heavy rain in catchment areas has also increased levels of the Mekong River, which has reached flood stage in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.” (Floodlist)

Africa: Over 40 people have died and 70 thousand are affected by flooding in Niger, West Africa, where rivers have far exceeded Red level flood stage. Other countries of the region have also seen major flooding and casualties over the last few weeks, including Nigeria and Mauritania, along with Central African Republic and further north, Algeria and Morocco. (Floodlist)

India: Flooding caused major disruption to road and rail transport in Mumbai and areas of the surrounding state of Maharashtra. 214.4 mm (8.5-in.) of rainfall was recorded in 12 hours on 4 Sept. India’s public service broadcaster, said that out of 150 weather stations in Mumbai and Maharashtra, 100 weather stations received 200mm of rainfall within 24 hours. The rain cause massive urban flooding, clogging streets, damaging homes and causing transport disruption including bus, train and flight cancellations. (Floodlist)

Japan: Tropical Storm Faxai intensified rapidly Saturday (7 Sept.) to become, now, a Cat 3 supertyphoon, with 130 mph winds, heading straight for the main island. “Destructive winds are likely across southeastern Honshu, and destructive waves are possible on Japan’s southern and eastern shores. In addition, 3 to 8 inches of rain is likely in southeastern Honshu, with isolated amounts up to a foot possible. Flooding is possible in the Tokyo metropolitan area.” (The Weather Channel) The storm has delayed the arrival of teams for the Rugby World Cup.

Previously: Supertyphoon Lingling “skyrocketed from a CAT2-equivalent to CAT4-equivalent system in only 6 hours late on September 5th. Indeed, satellite imagery showed impressive structure, with a well-developed, extensive central dense overcast and an impressive, well-defined eye. Peak sustained winds increased from 105 mph (169 km/h) to 130 mph (209 km/h). It tracked directly across Japan’s Miyakojima island”, and will “track north over the East China Sea into the Yellow Sea in the next two days, likely retaining significant strength. Possible landfall in North Korea early on Saturday, although track is somewhat uncertain.” (Severe-weather.eu)

Update, 7 Sept.: 3 killed as 155mph Typhoon Lingling bumps first along the South’s coast, then smashes into North Korea. 8 injured. Flights grounded, and thousands without power. (London Evening Standard)

USA: “Record-challenging heat will make it feel like the middle of summer across the southern United States through the weekend. Dry conditions and plenty of sunshine will stretch from eastern Texas to Georgia on Friday as an area of high pressure settles over the region. Temperatures across much of this area will climb into the middle to upper 90s F, while farther west in Louisiana and eastern Texas, highs are expected to peak near 100 F.” (Accuweather)

“A raging wildfire near Quincy in Plumas County erupted to 24,000 acres on Saturday, forcing evacuations in the area, the U.S. Forest Service reported. The Walker Fire broke out Wednesday inside the Plumas National Forest about 11 miles east of Taylorsville. The blaze was at 2,000 acres on Friday morning, before strong winds in the area rapidly caused the fire to grow, burning over 17,000 acres by Friday night. As of Saturday morning, the fire had covered 24,040 acres and was zero percent containment (sic). (Sacramento Bee)

After the storm… Just where do you start?

Mexico: The Weather Channel reports “Tropical Storm Fernand is closing in on landfall in northeast Mexico where it will bring a threat of heavy rain and flooding. Tropical Storm Gabrielle has also formed in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean”, and is on a track that may see it spin nor’eastwards towards the northern British Isles later in the week, where remnant Dorian is also heading after passing over Nova Scotia with 75mph sustained winds… “But that’s not all: The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is watching two other areas in the Atlantic for possible tropical development as well.”

 

Tunnel approaching….

Yellowstone: The Blessed Mary Greeley reports, there’s been another swarm of more than 40 small ‘quakes up to M2.7 in the Mammoth Mountain volcanic area, to the north of the Long Valley supervolcano caldera in SE California, near where there was a series of major quakes 2 months ago, including a huge M7.1. The last “small” eruption, which created Mono Lake, was only 250 years ago; but the USGS says there’s only a one percent chance one of the volcanoes could erupt again in any one year. Which is to say, a one in a hundred years chance…. and it’s been 250 years since the last eruption? Ooops.

It’s believed the magma chamber – estimated at 240 cubic miles! – could be contiguous with that of the not far-away Yellowstone volcano in Montana (11.5 Grand Canyons’ worth), where there have also been swarms of quakes recently.

Australia: The government of New South Wales is evacuating fish from the lower Darling river – part of the country’s major Murray-Darling irrigation basin – ahead of predictions of another scorching, dry summer. Last year, millions of fish died and other river-dwellers were almost wiped out as the Lower Darling fell to record low levels, partly due to overextraction. Agriculture Minister, Adam Murray said: “We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon.” (Guardian Green Light)

Do we not have laws? A BogPo supplement. Breaking things… Nature Notes… GW: Not yet the last of the Phew!… Get planting!

Do we not have laws?

An American author claims to have had two speaking engagements in Britain cancelled because his “Jewishness” might incite protests. Your cynical Uncle Bogler suspects some publicist’s dark hand in this, but we’ll respond anyway.

Dear Richard Zimler

I was sorry to read a report in The Guardian that you have been no-platformed as a visiting writer by two unnamed cultural organizations in my country, apparently because you are too provocatively Jewish; although your fiction is not specifically connected with Judaism.

I see too that you have been nominated for many literary prizes but never won. Hmmn.

But, like Salman Rushdie, you have apparently been a little controversial in your latest work, imagining a dialog between Jesus and Lazarus, which is sure to offend anyone who wants to find a target for their bigotry. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned they are both fictional characters and fair game.

It seems not only ludicrous to discriminate against you on religious grounds, but surely also illegal. We do have laws against this sort of thing, I think, somewhere. It must have been something you said! But seriously, which are these organizations? It’s normal to out them. Do they exist? Please, this is too serious to be something your publisher’s publicist has cooked up.

I’m sure there are many Jewish writers and intellectuals who have not been no-platformed here – except for Marika Sherwood, a holocaust survivor who was no-platformed at Manchester University in 2017 entirely at the insistence of Israel’s ambassador Regev, an insufferable little shit who objected to her likening the Likud party to Nazis.

As if she wouldn’t know.

Generally speaking, it is still the antisemites who cop for the most criticism here, so please don’t abandon us entirely. Of course, they exist. But we are undergoing a dark night of the soul, hanging on the definition of the word antisemite. The Israel lobby has been extremely successful in sowing division where little existed.

There will always be dimwits who desecrate cemeteries and places of worship, Jewish, Muslim, Christian. The point is the desecration, not the religion. The dimwits know nothing of religions, they merely delight in transgression; just as many so-called pitchside soccer racists use racist tropes as a weapon to unsettle opposing black players, but do not (probably) share the ideology. Of course, that’s no excuse. While the British can be bullish, even at times heartily cynical, we are seldom to be taken at face value.

(In a new survey, 90.3 per cent of those polled agreed that Britishness is no longer a matter of color.)

And there will be people like myself who are justifiably concerned by the emerging apartheid state in Israel, a formerly progressive, technically secular nation now seemingly ruled by gangster capitalists and backward-looking religious extremists. We have a right to be heard and we do not wish our dismay to be howled down by paid apologists for a corrupt regime; nor do we wish to be branded somehow as haters of Jews because of it.

If we hated you, why would we care? We oppose apartheid and support human rights and justice everywhere. It’s a salutary exercise to revisit David ben Gurion’s foundation address to the UN in 1948 and compare it with today.

Unfashionably, Richard, I would still draw a distinction between the race-baiters and the race-haters.

The former category may weaponise difference for their own advantage, but when the chips are down, will put community before difference and side with those of whatever creed or colour are considered community against outsiders.

The latter will regard all and any persons of difference as outsiders to be refused admission to the community, even to be ejected, and focus their hatred and whatever violence they believe is licensed to them specifically on target groups. They are a very small, sociopathic minority who sometimes gain disproportionate notice by breaking things.

Some will argue, what’s the difference? It’s all discrimination and to be decried. Others might prefer benevolent discrimination and communautarianism, to ideological, racially-based violence, hatred and exclusion. All people discriminate, it’s in our nature. You’re never going to end it. It’s the intent that matters.

I was frankly unaware that we have many cultural organizations left, now that Mark Rylance has severed connections with the Royal Shakespeare Company over their sponsorship arrangements – being indebted to an oil company is attracting fashionable liberal opprobrium here – and now the Sacklers have been withdrawing their opioid-funded sponsorships – but it appears from what you say that the last two may have gone. No-platforming is a negation of culture, once it’s practised you replace it with barbarism. Institutions should remain neutral and not adopt the prejudices and weakness of their officers.

So, I’m sorry for what has happened – I’m trusting your word that it has genuinely happened – and hope that it won’t totally colour your opinion of us, but frankly I’m not too hopeful about the future of Europe, let alone Britain, certainly the English part of which I washed my hands long ago. Although there are some encouraging signs that populism isn’t everywhere rampant.

I had hoped in retirement to emigrate to Portugal myself, but I’m grateful now that I wasn’t able to. I expect you’re getting used to the extreme summer heat and the wildfires, but up here on the balmy west coast of Britain it’s still hard to believe that the most important issue we face is biting us in the ass, and it’s not cultural, or religious.

Shalom, Richard, take it easy.

 

Breaking things

“China has accused protesters who vandalised Hong Kong’s parliament on Monday of ‘serious illegal actions’ that ‘trample on the rule of law’.” (BBC News)

I’m sure they have!

Why does it not occur to the media and the Hong Kong authorities that the most obvious way to discredit the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters marching daily against a controversial extradition agreement with mainland China is to infiltrate their ranks with 5th columnists and ratchet up the level of vandalism and violence?

Maybe to the point where a direct intervention by Beijing is justifiable?

 

Taking us all for a ride

Variety magazine reports that Garrett Camp, a co-founder of the Uber “ride sharing” dial-up cheap taxi business, and his parter, Elizabeth Nguyen, have bought a $72.5 million, 4.7-acre mansion estate in Los Angeles.

That’s despite the strange fact that Uber, whose drivers – not a few of them homeless people who sleep in their cars – are locked in a dispute with the company over low-pay and abusive terms of employment, has yet to make a profit.

Mr Camp (net worth $4.2 billion – Forbes) owns a “portfolio” of other substantial properties in California and New York.

In a parallel Guardian article today, social justice campaigner and environmentalist, George Monbiot reports, the billionaire press in the UK has launched a savage campaign of lies and vituperation against him and five others, for putting forward a plan to mitigate the astonishing inequality growing between the ultra-high net worth individuals – the 1%, who “own” more than half the wealth of the world – and the rest, through a process of land reform.

And from a further report, we learn that the top 10 per cent of working people enjoy a median income of $7,000 a month; the bottom one percent, just 22 dollars.

The billionaires are fighting back hard against any suggestion that they might like to give up some of their ridiculous wealth, that many of them have gained for almost no effort by cannily monetizing the growing size and data content of mass consumer markets, or by employing armies of zombie workers on skeletal wages to perform menial services for the marginally better-off.

It’s estimated that owing to high housing costs and uncertain employment in the low-wage economy from which vulgar, parasitic creatures like Camp have profited mightily, more than ten thousand Angelenos are homeless and living on the streets. Not far from camp Camp, are the camps of the underclass, many of them women with children, whom the authorities are continually harrassing. It’s a less contentious strategy than housing them.

Mr Camp’s mansion purchase seems to be a sign that the new billionairism is turning conventional economics on its head, since this individual’s obscene wealth – and he is not alone, there are more billionaires than ever – is based on nothing more than a stock market bubble that grew from a brilliant business “idea” that people could use their cellphones to call for an unlicensed taxi whose sleep-deprived driver would get 40% of the fare and hand the rest over to Mr Camp and his mates.

I suppose the brilliant flash of inspiration that led to all these poor people hiring out their borrowed or shared cars and precious time to Mr Camp and his ilk at varying rates set by an algorithm designed to benefit only themselves had to be worth something. Despite putting many licensed drivers out of a job.

It’s known as hire and reward, after all – but the wrong people are getting the rewards.

 

Nature notes

Again today in Boglington-on-Sea we have wall-to-wall blue sky all day, although don’t be fooled: there’s a fine haze of traffic pollution. Nevertheless, it’s an agreeable 19.5 degrees C in the shade, with a barely perceptible breeze, and it’s half-past ten in the morning. Global warming? Fie! (Oops – 11.15 and it’s gone over 20.4C.)

Yesterday on our walk I did a bee count, and the news was still not good. At one point there’s a stretch along the path by the river where half a dozen large Buddleia bushes splurged into spectacular flower a couple of weeks ago. The cloying scent of the panicles of purple flowers filled the air, even to my feeble human olfactory senses detectable from fifty yards away. Your average bee couldn’t help but detect them at half a mile. Yet I counted only one honeybee grazing among the lot, possibly two but it might have been a wasp or one of those false-bee hoverflies, of which there seem to be quite a few this year. My eyesight isn’t improving, but even extrapolating by a factor of ten that I must have missed, it didn’t seem like there are many bees around.

Buddleia is also attractive to butterflies. I spotted none anywhere among the bushes, although later crossing a small meadow where the ripening grass is approaching shoulder-high (I’m six feet tall) there were three browns, some whites and later a solitary tortoiseshell. Nevertheless, it has been such an amazing spring, mild and with just the right balance of rain and sunshine, masses of tumbling vegetation and wildflowers flowering early, that it does seem the insect population is recovering somewhat from last year’s disastrous start. There’s never a shortage of gnats here.

Who is it who keeps smashing down the two giant Fullers’ teasels growing beside the path? These amazing, self-sown annuals can grow to seven feet in a few weeks, their pale-green, serrated leaves on furry stems pointing upwards to the light, before putting out their multiple seed-heads, the familiar large burrs rustic weavers allegedly used in olden times to “full”, or comb the skeins of wool. Once ripened, they make interesting cut-flower ornaments for the vase. People spray them gold and silver for free Xmas decs. That’s if they’re allowed to flower. Every year, these two companions get to about four feet in height and some whistling moron comes along with a stick and bashes them down. If I ever catch them I will take a stick and bash them down.

The bee picture improved slightly when I took a glass of well-chilled Czech lager up onto the patio to contemplate my projects*. The tiny garden is bordered on one side by a magnificent privet hedge, whose top I cannot reach to trim even with the bloody awkward folding ladder thing, that gives your fingers blood blisters just looking at its stiff and snappy hinges. The privet is in copious flower and I counted half a dozen hive workers brunching on the nectar, their little legs stuck all over with pollen.

Another stripy hoverfly comes and stares at me for a while, wings going nineteen thousand to the dozen. It must take a lot of energy to perform that astonishing manoeuvre, of staying absolutely still like a hawk poised in mid-air for minutes at a time. You wonder why they bother? What are they waiting for? They rarely seem to land anywhere. I fancied it might be one of those new nano-sized military drones and that at any moment it would fire a tiny missile at my head.

 

*Huzzah! After all this time, the bricks to finish my half-built wall have arrived. The ones the yard sold on by mistake a year ago after I’d paid for them, and couldn’t get any more of. Until now. (Actually they’d had them in for months but it didn’t occur to them to phone me and say.)

Dimly sensing the throbbing of a heavy engine outside, I managed to changeover to my urine day bag and sprinted downstairs at a quarter to 8.00 this morning, just in time to stop the men delivering an enormous pallet smack in the middle of the path I share with the neighboring house, blocking it completely.

I’d spent half an hour yesterday clearing a space for them inside the garden wall, but they didn’t think the pallet would fit there and were nervous about parking on a bend. We could have been trapped for weeks! It merely required me to shift three bags of compost six inches to the right and they were able to guide the pallet into position for a perfect fit.

It’s no wonder the working people voted to Leave the EU. They all seem to be quite bereft of common sense.

 

GW: Not yet the last of the Phew!

Europe: Heat records at the weekend tumbled acoss a swathe of central Europe from Denmark in the north, to Switzerland in the south, as it was officially declared the hottest June month ever across the continent. In Germany, 34 all-time heat records were broken on Sunday, 1 July. At the river Saale in Bernburg, a scorching high of 39.6°C (103.3°F) was not only that station’s hottest temperature on any date in records going back to 1898, but the hottest June temperature ever observed anywhere in Germany. The previous record? July 2018. (BBC Weather/The Weather Channel)

Northern Spain continues very hot, recording temperatures in the low 40s C, 102F-plus. Firefighters are still battling two large blazes, one moving at 7km/h has burned 3,300Ha and is in the outskirts of the capital, Madrid. England recorded its hottest day of the year so far on 29 June, the temperature reaching 34C (93.2F) at Heathrow airport. In Scotland, people found their power sockets had turned black after a series of lightning strikes on their houses. Hundreds of homes were without power for almost 24 hours following the storm on Saturday.

Iceland too has been experiencing an “unbearable” heatwave, with temperatures in places rising to 22C (72F). Residents are more used to the average June temperature of 7C. (Euronews)

USA: “Alaska, part of which lies inside the Arctic Circle, is sweltering under a heatwave, with record temperatures recorded in several areas, including its largest city. Temperatures reached 90F (32C) in Anchorage on Thursday (4 July), shattering the city’s previous record of 85F.” (BBC News, et al

Russia: 18 people have died – 17 drowned and 1 as a result of hypothermia, in record floods in Siberia. 8 people are still missing. Emergency teams have evacuated 2,200 people from the disaster area. Almost 1,500 people have sought medical help, with 221 hospitalised. Flooding first began around 25 June after a period of heavy rain that caused rivers and lakes to overflow, including Lake Baikal. Over 6,600 homes have been flooded, affecting over 30,000 residents. 12 bridges have been destroyed, dozens of roads damaged, as well as around 40 public buildings, including schools and medical centres. (Floodlist)

India: “Dozens” of people are reported to have died in flooding and landslides in Maharashtra province. 18 people have died and 6 others are missing after heavy rainfall caused a dam breach which flooded a village. Houses were swept away as flood waters engulfed Tiware Bhendwadi village. Mumbai has had its heaviest rain for over a decade, with localized flooding, and there’s more to come. Usual transport chaos – road, rail and air – as 375mm (15-in) falls in 24 hours. 18 labourers died when a wall weakened by 2 days of continuous rain fell on them.

Japan: At least 20 people have died and more than a million have been advised to leave their homes as monstrous rains once again lash the south island of Kyushu. 1,000mm (39in) of rain has fallen since 28 June, and Japan’s Meteorological Agency forecasts the rains will continue into next week. A further 350mm of rain is expected in the southern part of the island and 300mm in the northern part by 04 July, with some areas predicted to get more than 80mm of rain every hour. The agency said a month’s rainfall could hit parts of Kyushu in just 24 hours. (BBC News)

Vietnam: 2 people were killed and 3 injured on 04 July after a bridge in Thanh Hoá Province collapsed due to the heavy rain. After passing over Hainan Island in southern China, Tropical Depression ‘Mun’ dumped 366mm (14-in.) of rain in 24 hours. Further heavy rain could affected northern and central areas, including the capital Hanoi. (Floodlist)

Pacific: Plain vanilla Tropical Storm Barbara metamorphosed overnight into a huge, 130mph, Category 4 hurricane. The Weather Channel reports, it’s just sitting out in mid-ocean, not going anywhere – but Hawaii is potentially in its path next week. Happily, cooler water should take a lot of the force out of it by then, but high surf and severe weather warnings have been issued for Oahu. This increasingly common rapid intensification of storms is a clear sign of adverse effects of a warming world.

Cuba: Sunday 1 July was the hottest day in recorded history for the Caribbean nation, which recorded an all-time heat mark of 39.1°C (102.4°F) at Veguitas. (Weather Underground). 2 people have died and 3 are missing in floods in nearby Haiti. It’s the second spate of deadly flash floods in the space of 4 weeks. (Floodlist)

Tunnel approaching…

Fracking hell: Following a meta-analytical study of over 1,300 peer-reviewed research papers, Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL, of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, said, “Substantial scientific evidence now leaves no question that drilling and fracking cause serious harms to public health. Further studies will continue to illuminate the full extent of those ill effects and to define causal pathways in further detail, but it is abundantly clear that the practice is not safe and that no set of regulations can make it safe.” (PSR – Physicians for Social Responsibility – website, 9 June)

California: A M6.2 earthquake off the coast at Vancouver last night (03 July) translated 12 hours later along a known fault into a M6.4 in a remote area of southern California, that was felt in Los Angeles, where buildings swayed. At a depth of only 8 km, it was the largest earthquake in California for many years and happened in an ancient volcano field next to a deep-well geothermal pumping station. As we reported recently, the laBrea tar pits in the LA basin have been bubbling over, and steam eruptions have been reported, pushing up manhole covers. There have been swarms of smaller earthquakes north and south along the coast, linked to major volcanic activity in the Aleutians. Dutchsinse reports too, there have been now 27 magnitude 6 or higher quakes around the Pacific basin in the past month, many more than usual.

La terra trema… the M6.2 Ridgecrest quake was followed two days later by a M7.1 in the same location. Casualties, damage. A statewide state of emergency has been declared. The epicentre is not far from the Long Valley supervolcano caldera. Dutchsinse (Michael Janitch) points to human activity – deep drilling, fracking, pumping – in the fracture zones as a contributor. He forecasts that if the force pushing down from the north Pacific doesn’t transfer to the east along the edge of the North American craton, a third major quake is likely. He had warned his viewers of the quakes days in advance – the USGS is saying they had only 48 seconds’ warning of the M7.2!

Yellowstone: In the wake of the 6.2 Ridgefield quake, Greeley reports the seismographs are showing a huge intrusion of magma under the park. The meltline is the highest anyone has ever seen.

Three days ago: Steamboat geyser has gone off 25 times this year, 7 times in June alone, set to smash last year’s record of 32 eruptions. The biggest geyser in the park, the Steamboat normally records two or three eruptions in a year, but has recently become hyperactive. USGS say they don’t know why. Old Faithful’s regular blasts are getting bigger too… new geysers, mudpools forming – more earthquakes, rising temperatures, ground uplift reported. (Mary Greeley)

 

Get planting!

Possibly the most futile piece of research this year has come from Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who has been looking into how planting trees removes carbon dioxide from the air. (Guardian report, 03 July)

Prof Crowther calculates that there is room to squeeze a trillion more trees onto uncultivated surfaces of the planet, that would remove two thirds of the CO2 – provided, of course, that we stop cutting down trees and burning more fossil fuels in the meantime.

Both propositions seem something of a stretch. A trillion is a thousand times a thousand million. The energy required for nurseries to produce and for foresters to plant that many saplings – the survival rate of heel transplants is quite low, about 15%, so perhaps five or even six trillion, pick a number – would be enormous.

Mr Gove, the Environment secretary, recently proposed planting 130 thousand more trees in British cities. There is no likelihood whatever of reaching even that modest target.

There would then be the obvious requirement to wait while the little trees grow into trees large enough to make a difference, perhaps ten to fifteen years – time we don’t really have. Meanwhile, Mr Bolsonaro’s friends in the Brazilian parliament are busy removing a hectare of the rain forest every minute of the day to graze cattle to make beefburgers for fast-food chains.

I don’t think, either, that Prof Crowther has taken into account that trees don’t absorb CFCs, methane or nitrous oxide, that are also increasing in the atmosphere and causing it to overheat; and that at least 1.5 degrees of warming is already baked into the system, mainly in the oceans.

But it’s a nice idea, well worth the grant.

 

Breaking bad… There, their dear: some pointers for internet trolls… Generation Campervan… GW: Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…

Quote of the week

“For me England is the model country in the western world when it comes to the triumph of neoliberalism and digital surveillance. You can find poverty in every one of the collapsing countries of the western world, but the unsentimental removal from sight of an entire part of the population because it is no longer of use in the value appreciation chain – that is unique to England.” – German dystopian SciFi author, Sybille Berg, interviewed in The Guardian, 30 June.

 

“While it was too soon to definitely attribute Europe’s blistering heatwave… to climate change…” – The Guardian, 29 June

“Come on, give me a break!” – Prof. Paul Beckwith, climate warrior.

Breaking bad

Of course, he’s right. I’ve been moaning about the BBC doing this, but it all comes from our ultra-cautious Meteorological Office, who like to measure summer daytime temperatures scientifically, in the dark. It’s regularly four degrees hotter in the shade where I am near the coast than the “official” temperatures they publish from a box just four miles up the road from here. I measure, not in direct sunlight, but at least in the light of day. It seems somehow more – you know, how people actually experience the world?

The logical position ought to be that as it’s getting hotter every year, and the increase is speeding up year on year, with effects that are self-evident, then there’s definitely a problem. (But you’re a frog, you can just lie back in your lovely warm water and ignore it.) That the problem might not demonstrably produce any given outcome is really a rather isolationist position to take. The current heatwave has shattered records. It is one of a rapidly warming recent series. Why would it not have been exacerbated by a warming world? We know the world is warming.

According to National Geographic magazine, Beckwith points out in a new video, Europe has had 5 (five) “1 in 500-year” summers in the last 15 years. Tens of thousands of additional deaths have accompanied the hottest – 56 thousand died in Russia in 2010 alone. Russia – in common with most of the rest of Europe – has an extremely low uptake of domestic air conditioning systems. It’s a problem!

These extreme heat events are all connected to a slower jet stream that locks weather systems into place, says Michael Mann of Penn State University. Mann co-authored a study last year that linked the slowdown in the jet stream—the band of high-altitude winds that sweep around the globe from west to east—to last summer’s unprecedented droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and flooding events across the entire Northern Hemisphere. And it is likely behind India’s weak monsoon rains and the widespread flooding in the U.S. Midwest this year.” (National Geographic)

And why is the jetstream slowing? You guessed it. Too soon to tell….

 

“All our Buddha’s are made by us using the best materials available.”

Tell me, what’s wrong with this commercial announcement? (I was looking for a large stone Buddha head for my little garden. I’ve actually found one, the garden centre sells quite nice ones, only the staff aren’t allowed to lift them, for reasons of Health & Safety, because they’re heavy, and thus cannot deliver them even to your car, which might explain why they don’t appear to have sold any.)

Yes, the plural “Buddhas” does not require the addition of a fucking apostrophe, okay?

“Grammar does not stultify, it enhances language.” – Me.

There, their dear: some pointers for trolls

I’m rapidly going bald, reading too many readers’ comments beneath articles written by journalists who, if not always right about things, and lacking the professional eye of a subeditor, that extinct species, so that mistakes often of omission or addition of entire words words are becoming increasingly common, are nevertheless qualified to set down coherent thoughts in writing.

But you seldom find a misplaced apostrophe in the Washington Post, or the New York Times.

For fuck’s sake, morons, what makes you think your crapulous opinions can possibly carry any weight if you can’t even put an apostrophe in the right place? I’m tearing my goddam hair out. It just goes on getting worse.

It’s its! ITS!! That’s if the subject belongs or attaches to something neutral, an object, a statement, it’s its! The possessive pronoun! If you plan to abbreviate “it is”, which is good practice in writing, then it’s it’s. Got it? If you wish to abbreviate can not, it’s can’t. Will not > won’t. Should not > shouldn’t. If you’re trying to say something belongs to Mr Dimwit, then it’s Mr Dimwit’s. Short for Mr Dimwit, his…

Christ on a BMX, it’s not that difficult, surely?

Oh, and you don’t apostrophize plurals. Got that too? It’s plurals, not plural’s, or plurals’. That’s known as the grocer’s apostrophe, because of so many misspelled handwritten signs you see outside grocers’ stores and on market stalls, reading “tomatoe’s $1” If there’s more than one tomato, it’s fucking “tomatos”, no apostrophe, no e either. Got that too?

To indicate possession, when the subject is singular, or when it ends with the letter s, the apostrophe goes before the possessive s (The s suffix is, in its turn, an abbreviation of hi(s), her(s), it(s), etc. As per: “Plato, his Republic” shortens to “Plato’s Republic”) So too: “Howard’s End”; “His mistress’s favors”; “Season’s greetings”; “Mr Dimwit’s latest Post”.

If the subject is plural, i.e. there’s more than one, then the apostrophe goes after the s. “Womens’ liberation”; “Readers’ comments”; “idiots’ grammatical delusions”.

The apostrophe is a long, Greek word for a useful little tick, a tiny bit of print punctuation (known as a diacritical) that helps to make sense of things.

But you should never (shouldn’t ever) use the apostrophe with possessive pronouns his, hers, its, yours, ours, theirs. Got it? Just leave them as they are, they’re fine.

And then there’s there. It’s not fucking “their”, unless it belongs to them!

  • There = prepositional adverb: there is an object. Not their. OR…
  • There = preposition: the object is there. Not their.
  • Their, or theirs = belonging to them. Not there.
  • There’s = there is. Not theirs.
  • They’re = they are. Not there, or their.

Just because there and their share a similar pronunciation, doesn’t mean they are the same, flexibly interchangeable word. Okay with that?

And while we’re about it, consider the difference between lose and loose, commonly confused. Not that you ever do. Consider it, I mean.

To lose something is to accidentally mislay it, surreptitiously get rid of it, or in a personal sense, sacrifice it, so that it is no longer in your possession or anywhere to be found. It’s a verb. (Not to be confused with the French city of Toulouse.) The related noun is loss. Loess is a type of volcanic soil; less means… er, less.

Loose is an adjective meaning free, unconstrained or untethered.

Lose and loose are not the same word. They’re not spelled the same way. They’re not even pronounced the same way. So why confuse them?

Nor are to and too the same, interchangeable word. Yet comment posters are more than inclined to too frequently interchange them!

I am going to… I am going too… these phrases have completely different meanings, because the words to and too do too. To (with one o) is a preposition, meaning in the direction of; toward. To is also an auxiliary adverb, when used in conjunction with the infinitive form of a verb: to go, to read, to think. It still suggests forward intent.

Too (with two os) is an adjective, meaning as well as; in addition (to), on top of; it’s a comparator, e.g “too much”, “too many”, “too stupid”. It’s not the same word as to, is it? Good, we may be getting somewhere.

And with the third person singular of the irregular verbs to go and to do, where an e is inserted for ease of pronunciation, it’s s/he goes and s/he does, not s/he goe’s and s/he doe’s, okay? For pity’s sake! Why make work for yourself?

Grammar does matter! It really does. (Not doe’s, as in belonging to a doe!)

Confusing words like there and their, to and too, misplacing apostrophes, cannot simply be dismissed as casual lapses, typos, carelessness under pressure of time. They are basic errors; evidence of ignorance.

Grammatical rules may be only longstanding literary conventions (note careful positioning of adverb only) but they exist to clarify text, to unmuddle thought, to convey meaning – not as tiresome distractions to embarrass the semiliterate and show them up in front of their betters. Grammar does not stultify, it enhances language.

If written language didn’t have rules – which include consistent spellings, albeit sometimes varied by dialect or editorial school but always consistent within them – we might just as well junk written texts altogether and communicate – as many around where I live do – by a system of grunts and clumsy gestures, or clubbing one another indicatively over the head.

Why let yourselves down? Do you imagine I care what you think about more difficult and complicated matters, about politics and philosophy and climate change, if you haven’t been bothered to educate yourself beyond the fourth grade to the simplest rules of English grammar?

 

Generation Campervan

As I was born sort of on the cusp of 1950, I wonder if the now faintly dismissive social designator “baby boomer” really applies to my personal demographic?

Although it sounds pretty much like the circumstances of my conception.

I think of myself more as Campervan Man.

Happy campers! (Pinterest)

When I was a kid, or child, as they used to be known, I used to watch the colorful cinema commercials (TV was still black and white, and there was only one channel with no ads, the one I still watch exclusively, despite its annually unexciting summer schedule) and badger my poor single mother endlessly to take me to Butlin’s for my summer holiday. (She wasn’t really single, it’s just that my father was being a glamorous globetrotting TV reporter, never home.)

It looked such fun! Compared with an only childhood in a small flat above a garage in Kensington, you had your own little chalet, and there were happy smiling people with bad teeth, not like the hoity-toity miserable wealthy kids I’d been sent to a posh pre-prep school in London with. It was always sunny! There was a big swimming pool with a chute! And you could line up and help yourself to food!

There were those ever-helpful, smiling, singing comedians in red jackets, the “Redcoats” (sad wannabe actors), and organized games, and a playroom for we (us) kids with a swing and a slide, while the adults held nobbly-knees and biggest-boobs competitions, ballroom dancing where they did the jive, and… and… everything! It was surely a Heaven on Earth!

My mother, however, had the sagacity to recognize these cut-price Communist workers’ paradises for what they were: indoctrination camps for the easily pleased. And took me instead to the more agreeable Ship Hotel in Brighton every year she could, because that’s coincidentally where her boyfriends also stayed.

Now, what seems like a lifetime later – oh, look, it is – I have an equally deluded fantasy, created I expect by clever admen to appeal to elderly romantics and supported by the endless stream of evocative little self-propelled white boxes trundling past my house in summer, to holiday for a week in the back of Morrison’s carpark, just a stone’s throw from McDonald’s. Some impressively not so little!

I can ignore the obvious lifestyle pull of joining the hordes of grey ponytailed, leatherclad, bitterly divorced men in their 60s, thumping in long lines past my house on their oversized, twin-pot 1200 cc Harley-Davidson motorbikes on a weekend away, after the long journey on challenging roads from Nuneaton and Daventry. After all, I already live here….

As the ad says, “There’s never been a better time to grab life by the handlebars and jump on a Sportster® Iron 883™.” Quite so (™, ®). Especially when you’ve got maybe ten years to live.

But I can resist the lure of two wheels, recollecting the desperate commuting days of my youth, when rain would pool soggily in your crotch as your little machine struggled up hills, impelled by willpower, and your visor would steam up and big 16-wheelers would thunder by in a cloud of spray, unaware of your existence. Besides, I’m not sure my prostate would allow it now.

I spent 15 years as an advertising agency copywriter, so I can happily stick two fingers up – and then down my throat – when I learn from their webthing of the ubiquitous Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic, that “If Bonnie and Clyde rode a Harley (™) motorcycle, this would be the one!”

But they didn’t. They rode – and died – in a Ford V8. A car. There’s no evidence whatever that they ever rode a motorcycle, unlike Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who in the movie at least had a go on something in Bolivia but it wasn’t a Harley (TM). Now I think of it, it may even have been a bicycle. Some copywriters deserve the eternal fires of hell, others are just pathetically unimaginative. This kid sucks.

Sorry, got a bit sidetracked there. But I desperately want to own a campervan!

Why? They’re so totally declassé! And besides.

We should first of all make a distinction between the campervan and the mobile home. Neither, let us first say, is a caravan. Caravans are shit. Everyone hates you, you park them in a field, and. That’s if they haven’t been blown across the road on the way. Or you can pay for an expensive pitch and live in it on license for 90 days a year. It’s up to you, but I’d rather own a house, which I do. Mostly.

The only possibly interesting thing about caravans is the word “hoburn”. I have no idea where it comes from, America I expect, but it apparently refers to a gathering of caravans. Shit squared.

A campervan is a vehicle you can drive anywhere, park-up (even reverse!) and spend the odd night in, maybe at a festival or on a weekend fishing trip, but you wouldn’t want to live in it. It’s basically just a day van with extra windows and a folding bed and a Primus stove, and often you can’t stand up in it to do the washing-up, but it gives you a degree of freedom you never thought possible with your head on.

A mobile home, on the other hand, is a swanky palace on wheels, often with several rooms, a pool and a garage for a VW Up!. No, I kid you not, I’ve seen ads for touring homes in the wide-open spaces of the USA that are as commodious as any million-dollar Malibu beachfront house, and twice as expensive. At 8 mpg you’ll need unlimited money for gas, and also to pass a bus driver’s test. But you can move around for ever and never hit land. Bliss!

As with everything in life, there are, I feel sure, solutions inbetween, better suited to narrow, winding roads laid out according to the topography of the medieval strip-field system.

Aside from the likelihood that I’d never go anywhere – I have thought of it in terms of surviving the coming apocalypse, but then would you? – there are, of course, about a dozen good reasons not to buy a campervan.

First on the list is the knowledge that you would probably almost never use it. Try this test: if there’s nowhere you’d particularly want to go by car, train, plane or boat more than once in your life, then why imagine it would be helpful to go there in your campervan?

For the price of a campervan, you could probably enjoy several hundred nights in relatively comfortable, three-star hotels. But consider, there may not be one locally!

There you’d be, risking to be murdered by the local psycho in revenge for Algeria, while parked in a French layby, for how long before you discovered the auberge down the road? That there, tucked away in back of the nondescript café with the signed, blown-up photo of Eddie Merckz and the flyspecked Tour de France cycling posters, was the three-star Michelin restaurant gastronomique: something of an improvement on hot-soup primus-chic; and overhead, a comfortable bed for the night?

Then, there’s the price. You could probably acquire a 1993 Fiat Ducato van for about nothing, maybe fifty quid. Stick a Z-bed, a chair, a handbasin and some cupboards in the back, cover everything in purple floral moquette, and you’re talking £6,000. Just don’t look underneath.

Also in a range of hideous colors. The VW Transporter: not for swinging cats.

The popular VW Transporter format is an enclosed space: not one in which you would easily practise your cat-swinging skills. Yet my local car showroom, where I bought my trusty Citroen Berlingo – not that I’d planned to go to Berlin – has outside, this week, a relatively new, pre-loved, hi-top Transporter camper conversion, priced at only £34,500….

My eyes begin to water. For an equivalent sum, you could buy 34,500 entire medieval villages in rural France, including VAT, or a passionate night for two necking champagne on Richard Branson’s Necker Island.

Campervan lust is a form of insanity, I grant you. I think vaguely of the annual weekend I might spend at the Brecon jazz festival, which I have never been to, although it is not far away. A campervan would offer a free home-from-home, not only for me but for li’l Hunzi too.

And those music workshops we go to once or twice a year, how much might we save by not having to include the accommodation in the price? (Answer: not much, and no maidservice.)

I think too, of visiting my lovely daughter at her new home on the other side of the country. They could put me up, there’s a spare room, but wouldn’t you know, there’s also a demented, dog-hating cat, carelessly adopted from a shelter. Having a ‘van would allow us the extra, separate space we’d need to avoid a savage clawing spat and the embarrassment of having to continually apologize to my own daughter, “It’s alright, darling, I’m sure she’ll come home soon”, while secretly hoping the furry little termagent has been run over.

I keep reading that baby boomers have eaten all the pies, and because of my selfishness, Generation X or whatever can’t afford a life. Well, my lovely daughter married her university beau, they both have good jobs and have bought a house together, no help from me. I refuse to feel guilty, in my tiny cottage on a thundering main road in the fringes of a seaside town seasonally overpopulated by campervan dwellers and traversed by tragically sociopathic monster-bikers.

I look at them all, gray haired, lumpy 63-somethings, miserable couples with decrepit spaniels, and wonder: how the hell does anyone of the sort afford these amazing multicellular units, that cost from £60,000 to £120,000 apiece. Did they win the lottery? Did they cash in their bloated pension pots, sell their houses?

Probably, like me, they’ve got “pay nothing ’til you die” retirement mortgages. I should have used mine to buy a campervan, I was so desperate to, but there were other priorities and I drew back from the edge. Now it’s beyond me.

Could I really have envisaged myself taking the ferry to Calais, mooching around Europe with nobody to talk to, when I can just Google a virtual adventure at home? Campervanning is really more for couples who are past the age of speaking to one another.

But that’s me! Only single. A man and his dog.

Across the street, my neighbor Mr Hughes parks a vehicle called Monty. It’s to die for, a 1996 Autosleeper conversion of a long-wheelbase Peugeot Boxer, in delicately pale Nile green. They seldom go anywhere in it. I’d go to the eds of the Earth! I gibber lovingly everytime we pass it, and dream of the wide open spaces.

Stuck in a jam on the M4.

Have I really matured since those lonesome childhood days when I was transfixed by the fleeting promise of a different kind of life in the sun? Where I should probably have had seven kinds of shit kicked out of me by working-class lads with red knees and headlice, for being the posh kid who read books?

Is this just me wanting to go round again?

Butlins on wheels?

 

GW: Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

Newshound

Many reports emerge today, 1 July, of a freak hailstorm that has buried Guadalajara in northern Mexico overnight under five feet of ice, after a day when the temperature had been over 30C. Two people were treated for hypothermia, cars were slowly borne away in the tide and 200 buildings were damaged. A precisely similar event happened two years ago at Cordoba in Argentina that was barely noticed in the press, but now we are all climate change enthusiasts.

“The vast expanse of sea ice around Antarctica has suffered a ‘precipitous’ fall since 2014, satellite data shows, and fell at a faster rate than seen in the Arctic”, records the Guardian. “The plunge in the average annual extent means Antarctica lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34 years. Researchers said it showed ice could disappear much more rapidly than previously thought.”

“An area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch is now being cleared every single minute, according to satellite data. The rate of losses has accelerated as Brazil’s new right-wing president favours development over conservation.” (BBC News) More depressing still, Japan has resumed unfettered commercial whaling.

And as Europe swelters (satellite forecasts show the African heat returning next week with some potential for a 49C record in Spain on 11 July):

  • More flooding has affected parts of Ecuador, this time in the northern province of Sucumbíos. Around 600 people have been affected in the province in total, with 150 evacuated and 150 homes or buildings damaged. Landslides have blocked roads, stranding motorists.
  • Recent heavy rains in the Mopti region of Mali have caused floods, aggravating the already precarious situation of the 50,254 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.
  • Over 700 people have been moved to relief camps in the state of Assam, north eastern India, after annual flooding caused by the overflowing Brahmaputra, Barak and Jia Bhoreli rivers. Monsoon flooding has affected around 5,000 people in 12 villages. Rail services have been disrupted.
  • Houses and infrastructure have been damaged in floods affecting large parts of northern Vietnam. Disaster authorities in the country reported that 1 person died after being swept away. 3 people are still missing in the floods. Another person died as a result of lightning strike in Dien Bien province. (Floodlist)

Dr Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground, comments that what makes last week’s heatwave over France so unusual is the extreme difference between the new records set and the old ones. He can find only one other incidence in weather history, of an old heat record being beaten by a margin as great as 5.9C, 10.4F, as at Montpellier last week. It happened in the US, in 1936, during the dustbowl drought emergency.

A new report expresses concern over increasing fluctuations in the level of the US’s Great Lakes, which contain a fifth of the world’s fresh water. Climate change is responsible for more damaging flooding around the shoreline, as both 2C of warming since the 1990s and the recent polar vortices, combined with storms and increased rainfall have been causing big surges in the water level. (Floodlist, citing University of Michigan)

Despite predictions of an above-average season for Eastern Pacific storms, not a lot has happened in the month since the season started. Storm Alvin has blown itself out, but Tropical Storm Barbara has a chance of reaching Hawaii next week as a hurricane. To the West, Tropical Depression 4 may strengthen before reaching Taiwan.

There’s still no sign of anything untoward in the West Atlantic and Caribbean, although of course the unusual chain of supercell thunderstorms breezing out of the Gulf of Mexico into Texas and up through the flooded Midwest into the Great Lakes region has not stopped since March.