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)

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Time to despair… Sorry mate, you’re talkin’ foreign. Ph what?… Sunk like a Stone… GW: underwater climate news (and overground too…)

Time to despair

We’re all aware, aren’t we, of the strenuous efforts made by oil and gas and coal extractors over the decades to shut down and twist debate on their own research findings that burning their products on a vast scale is causing the planet to overheat dangerously, by promoting false narratives and sponsoring willing deniers.

A new polemic from George Monbiot writing in The Guardian today, for instance, reveals that while many environmentalists are cosying up with apparent gratitude to the Shell oil and gas company for diverting $300 million to reforestation and other climate-change mitigation schemes, they are at the same time spending $25 billion on exploring for and exploiting new oil and gas reserves that must, according to scientists, absolutely be left in the ground if we are to stand any chance of avoiding an extinction-level event this century.

When that event – more of a process – might happen is still unfortunately for the scientists a matter for some conjecture, as they are not in the chicken-entrails business. Some indeed fear it could be within the next decade if certain feedbacks already observed start to accelerate out of control.

So, I feel we really need to despair more, as it’s not only the fossil-fuel energy corporations that are still cynically denying the evidence of their own research in the name of shareholder greed and even ramping up their output, knowing perfectly well the murderous, ecocidal effect it’s having on our oceans and atmosphere.

Led by their example, despite international accords the governments of increasing numbers of oil-and-gas producing countries are following suit, so that there is now realistically zero possibility of achieving goals and targets set out in recent agreements, feeble though they have been.

A BBC series that concluded last week investigated the plastics industry, which depends on oil and gas for its feedstocks, and found that producers expect to double the global use of plastics in the next ten years; while at the same time doing little or nothing to mitigate the effects both of greenhouse gas emissions from its production and of pollution, both by plastics waste and by nanoplastics particles we (and by extension every other species on the planet) are eating, drinking and breathing all the time, whose health effects are as yet unknown.

While, BBC News today reports on the upcoming G20 summit in Japan that the climate emergency rates barely a mention.

“A draft of the closing communiqué mentions climate change as just one issue among many and omits to use the phrases ‘global warming’ and ‘decarbonisation’. Critics believe that Japan is trying hard to win favour with the US on trade issues by downplaying the scale of the climate question and possible solutions to it.”

Yes, that’s the same Japan that has endured anomalous heatwaves for the last few years, that have been killing their citizens by the hundred. And days of tumultuous rain last week that led to deaths and a million people having to be evacuated on Kyushu, for the second year running. The lives of ordinary Japanese are as nothing, compared with Premier Abe’s pathetic sucking-up to the corrupt*, degenerate old monster in the White House; and the exigencies of “trade”.

The same BBC report says, too, that countries such as Saudi Barbaria – how many of those lazy Arabs have in the past two centuries made any contribution from their artificially created “kingdom” to world peace, science, art, agriculture, music, philosophy? How many Nobel prizewinners have they produced? They live their worthless, gluttonous lives on free money from the ground and get indentured Pakistani labor to do all the work – are holdouts against even last year’s pretty anodyne warnings from the IPCC, refusing to endorse the conclusions of the report.

But neither can the supposedly Green EU agree on future emissions targets, in the face of atavistic opposition from the coal burning, rutted feudal demesnes in the east.

There is nothing really left to say.

No-one in their right mind seriously believes the crisis is not real. But as politics is showing across the world, magical thinking has taken over; a form of reckless, Devil-take-the-hindmost hysteria infects the ruling elites. I suppose we can take heart from another narrow electoral victory of the center-left, this time in Denmark, from the growing popular protests against government inaction on the issue, and from the progressive wing of the hopelessly divided Democrats in the USA.

But it’s really not enough, and it’s already way too late.

It’s a good thing too, if true, that the UK of all countries, where the crisis began 270-odd years ago, has reached the point where almost half of our annual energy production comes from renewables; while outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has promised – not that she will be around to deliver – a commitment to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.

But as the CO2-equivalent atmospheric burden of heating gases passes 562 ppm, these small gains are massively offset by the insane rush of other, much larger nations to industrialize on a broken, 20th-century model that threatens the future of all life on earth. And nothing, it appears, not even the massive economic cost of climate breakdown already being felt (see below and numerous GW diaries passim), is going to stop them.

*the latest example of Trump’s corruption: his Environmental Protection Agency is expected shortly to be licensing a controversial mining project in Minnesota to a company owned by a billionaire Chilean businessman who just happens to be the landlord of the rented $4.5 million mansion where Jared Kushner, wife Ivanka Trump and their brood live when they are in Washington.

Ethics violations? Breaches of the emoluments clause – profiting from office? Conflicts of interest? Not a bit of it, we’re the Trump gang, he’s the president, we can do whatever the fuck we like, and no-one can stop us!

 

Sorry, mate, you’re talkin’ foreign. Ph what?

A leading UN organization, UNESCO has joined other international institutions in saying it will no longer support conferences in the UK because of the blatantly racist policy of the Home Office to deny temporary visas to so many visiting academics from black and asian backgrounds, that it makes organizing events an unacceptable financial risk.

At least, racism is the interpretation one has to put on the numbers of University-accredited and fully funded delegates, with families back at home, who are being told, with no appeal, and despite being able to show their invitations and name their sponsors – no, mate, you can’t come in here because we believe you intend not to return home and you don’t have the resources to support yourself.

The quasi-fascist policy has led to some truly horrendous gaffes, such as the conference on International Development sponsored by members of the UK Parliament having to be cancelled because so many overseas delegates were refused visas.

Clearly, only the natives should be discussing International Development. It’s our money, after all. And we know what’s best for you.

Is it a deliberate act of self-sabotage, I wonder? Because if it weren’t so serious it would be a huge joke, wouldn’t it? Assuming that BEM visitors can’t possibly be academics on their way to a conference, I mean. Because of their color. Or perhaps it’s just the uneducated stupidity of Border officials failing to understand the meaning and purpose of an academic conference or exchange visit, and the paperwork involved.

But it looks more and more to me like Little Britain pulling up the drawbridge.

The no-visas approach has been adopted by a Home Office that is clearly out of control: dysfunctional, authoritarian, administratively incompetent, racially biased and certainly not fit for purpose. Its spokesmouth responded predictably to complaints from serious quarters about the no-visas policy by saying, in its inimitable, tongue-in-cheek, “Yes, Minister” style: “We welcome international academics and recognise their contribution to the UK’s world-leading education sector.”

Clearly, no, they don’t. Because they’re not part of it. So they’re destroying it.

Alison Phipps, UNESCO lead on refugee integration, was quoted as saying:

“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money and given the irresponsibility and erratic nature of UKVI decision-making, it’s the number one item on my risk register and we cannot, with any integrity, allow that kind of finance risk to the projects.”

Phipps, reports The Guardian, is particularly frustrated by the refusal of the Home Office to issue visitor visas to academics taking part in the government’s own Global Challenges Research Fund – a five-year, £1.5bn fund that uses UK aid money for research on intractable global challenges.

“The fund’s purpose is to hire and pay overseas academics to work with the UK on a range of government-funded projects,” said Phipps. “But even though we’re using the government’s money for exactly the purpose we’ve been given it, academics we sponsor are being turned down with no appeal rights.”

The Home Office has obviously gone rogue when its nationalistic, isolationist, Kafkaesque policies are working against the government’s own intentions. But the government itself is in total disarray and cannot be expected to sort out problems like this one. The Secretary of State has been far too busy with his failed bid to be selected to lead the party, to actually do his job. The actual Prime Minister is a ghost, haunting No. 10 until that fatuous Old Etonian nincompoop moves in with his soon-to-be ex-bit of totty.

(That’s a doomed relationship if ever I saw one – and I’ve had a few. Party girl meets midlife crisis? Forget it!)

It is as if Sajid Javid, first-generation-born son of immigrants from Pakistan, son of a bus driver, is so ashamed of his lowly origins, so hates who he is, that he has been instructing his Home Office officials to go in hard on anyone black or brown since, obviously, they can’t be bona fide academics, living as they do in mud huts and up trees. Just more illegal immigrants, takin’ the piss.

What are the fans going to think, when global football stars are being denied visas to play for their beloved clubs, I wonder? Musicians from other countries, including America, are already refusing to tour in Britain because of difficulty with visas. And still nothing has been set in stone, as regards EU citizens’ residency rights post-Brexit. People are still being wrongly interned or deported, or denied access to employment, housing rentals and health services they’ve been entitled to for decades.

It’s bad enough that the number one worry of UK universities is that Brexit will virtually end exchanges with European researchers and turn off the lucrative tap of foreign students, especially from China and the Indian subcontinent, already turning to the USA and Australia for their degrees rather than suffer at the hands, both of the Home Office and of our home-grown racist street-thugs. It’s getting harder to tell the difference.

But it’ll be great, won’t it, when the whole of white Britain can finally dumb itself down to the level of the daytime TV morons who voted for this omnishambles and who still refuse to understand what it is they’ve done because, well, “there’s more of us than you so we won’t be told”.

Great, when the feckless oaf, Boris Johnson, the domestic abuser and prime narcissist, a man who treats women like internet trolls use Kleenex – who apparently declines to practise safe sex or self-control – and who couldn’t even manage the job of Foreign Secretary without constantly putting his size-12s in it, becomes Prime Minister next month, and the role model for every gormless prat in the country.

I’m 70 this year, I don’t have many years left on the rockpile. Why, dear God, do I have to spend them trapped in a rotting prison hulk moored in mid-Atlantic with this bunch of useless bastards carousing on the bridge?

 

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

Tell me, what is wrong with this commercial announcement? (Yes, I’m looking for a large stone Buddha head for my little garden. I’ve actually found one, my local garden centre sells quite nice ones, only the staff are not allowed to lift them, for reasons of Health & Safety, one gathers, which might explain why they don’t appear to have sold any.)

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 of entire 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! If you wish 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. And if you’re trying to say something belongs to it, then it’s its.

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

(A longer version of this article will appear somewhere, maybe next week.)

 

Donald Trump’s bill to the US taxpayer for his 3-day weekend golfing trips has now topped $106.9 million since he took office in January 2017. Twenty-one per cent of his time as president – 186 days – has been spent on the golf course. (Farron Cousins/TYT). Mr Trump has claimed he works harder than any president in history.

 

Sunk like a Stone

Collectors of gems should hie themselves to an obituary in The Guardian, 25 June, of the historian Norman Stone, who has – probably mercifully, by the account – died at the age of 78.

It does seem something of a miracle he lasted so long.

It’s not done to speak ill of the dead; except that nowadays it is, and all the more fun for that. Although I’m not sure what Stone’s three sons will make of Prof. Richard Evans’ cooler than cool appraisal of their wayward dad.

I wonder actually what my own kids might make of my record? Not being in the slightest bit famous – or notorious – I guess I’ll just have to self-obituarize. I can be quite excoriating about myself, if it helps. I’m only intermittently a nice, kindly bloke with an optimistic outlook and a good word to say about anyone. I try to be unpleasant and kind on alternate days; balance being all, to a Libra. But – this bogl apart – I’m not the most communicative person you’ll never reach on the phone.

Though a minor celebrity Stone, Evans reckons, was a fairly lousy, lazy historian who got by mostly on one good book, a ton of literary flair and flashes of personal charm. I can relate to that, I relentlessly sent up the A-level exam questions as I’d done no revision, let alone prior work, yet managed somehow to get an A in History, presumably A for Amusement. Marking is such a chore. My teachers were not amused, however and it took the precocious gift of a bottle of whisky to placate my form master, who had written me off entirely.

Glasgow-born Stone, fee-paying-educated on an airforce scholarship granted after the death of his father in a training accident, also Norman, managed to get into Cambridge. London-born me didn’t, so there we part ways. And from there, like the Duke of Wellington, when he was up, he was up… you know the rest.

Evans – regius professor of history at the University of Cambridge, president of Wolfson College, Cambridge and Fellow of the British Academy for Humanities and Social Sciences – starts as he means to go on:

“One of the specialities of the historian Norman Stone, who has died aged 78, was character assassination.”

And goes on brilliantly to assassinate Stone in almost every paragraph; although if the accounts are true, Stone didn’t need much assassinating; at least, not in the literary sense. His morose drinking habit was enough to kill most people off, but apparently not whatever he had come to detest in himself.

“At a time when malice and rudeness were highly prized by some rightwing Cambridge dons, Stone outdid them all in the abuse he hurled at anyone he disapproved of…”

One wonders, though, how seriously he took his habit of using his modest academic platform to hurl invective at real politicians? His blasting of Ted Heath as “a flabby-faced coward” was, incidentally, plagiarism: Private Eye magazine had been successfully sued some years earlier for using the same flame-thrower on Tory Chancellor, Reginald Maudling.

Evans lovingly details how, following the publication of his well-received (if, in Evans’ opinion, somewhat Edwardian) magnum opus on “The Eastern Front, 1914-17”, Stone then subsided into a career marked by the publication of a succession of poorly researched potboilers. Having been an editor of history books, I am aware of the notion that infects publishers’ marketing departments that the mere mention of the name Hitler in a title will increase sales by 15 per cent. Needs must.

Posted by a relieved Cambridge establishment over to Oxford where, with the help of a doubtless polished reference from Sir Geoffrey Elton, he became Professor of Modern History, it seems Stone hardly ever turned up to work, frequently expressing his total contempt for his colleagues, all of whom he dismissed as “Marxists”.

“As a teacher Stone could be inspiring, often winning over his pupils with his charm, which on occasion could be quite considerable, but he became increasingly undisciplined, neglecting his duties, and spending increasing amounts of time playing poker and drinking himself into oblivion in Soho. … On the occasions when he did appear in Oxford to do some teaching, Stone became notorious for groping his female students … and annoyed Worcester College by sub-letting his rooms to make a bit of extra money. “

You kind of warm to him.

Eventually sacked, his considerable language skills came to his rescue, and having briefly been an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, who ignored his perfectly sensible view of the reunification of Germany – she saw it as a threat – but also generously ignored the occasion on which, pissed, he passed out in her presence, his career gently declined with a succession of middle-European academic postings, supported by increasingly rightwing views – he was a fan of the embryonic dictator, Viktor Orban.

There’s a little resonance there too. My father had been a “Soho rat” in the war years and after: an actor, director, globetrotting TV reporter and documentarist who self-exiled ino France for the last 30 years of his life, where he posed as an intellectual admirer of the rank, anti-semitic ultranationalist, Jean-Marie le Pen; whom he found personally charming. I don’t think it meant anything, quite honestly, it was mostly for show: he had run unsuccessfully as Liberal candidate for Twickenham in 1964, inspired after interviewing Jo Grimond.

Evans’ obituary of Stone ends on an unnecessary note of rancour, quoting a Trumpian rejoinder from Heath:

“Many parents of Oxford students must be both horrified and disgusted that the higher education of our children should rest in the hands of such a man.”

Must they, Sir Edward? It must be a comfort, knowing what people nowadays think of your Prime Ministership. And now you two lovebirds can discuss it together.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/25/norman-stone-obituary

 

GW: underwater climate news (and overground too…)

France: Dozens of people have been evacuated in northern France after thunderstorms and torrential rain caused flooding and mudslides on 24 June. A month’s worth of rain fell in 6 hours. Severe flooding and mudslides were reported in Lisieux, where streets were under 1.5 metres of water. Cars were swept away, schools and roads closed. The Le Cirieux river broke its banks, flooding the village of Malicorne. Local fire crews responded to over 150 incidents. The train line between Paris and Caen was closed by a mudslide. (From Floodlist)

Meanwhile, as heat starts to build from the so-called Spanish Plume (actually it’s coming up from North Africa), Météo-France is predicting peaks of 45C (113F) in the southern towns of Nîmes and Carpentras by Friday. That would be almost 4C hotter than the notorious 2003 heatwave, that killed 70,000 people across Europe. And that was in August, not June.

Wunderground adds: “Wildfire danger is predicted to steadily increase during the week, reaching the “Extreme” level by the weekend over portions of France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. The European Union is already well above recent norms for hectares burned & number of fires ignited in 2019.”

While, the WHO warns: “Heatwaves occurring early in the summer have been shown to be associated with greater impacts on mortality in the same population than later heatwaves of comparable or higher temperatures.” Something to do with adjustment. And watch out for Saharan dust, warns Severe-weather.eu, there’ll be a lot of it blowing about.

UK: Hours of heavy rain on 24 June caused flash flooding in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh and other parts of the country. Firefighters worked throughout East and Central Scotland to protect communities and property as torrential rain caused widespread localised flooding. In Edinburgh, tram services were temporarily suspended after flood water covered tracks. According to the Met Office, Edinburgh saw 44.4mm of rain in 24 hours. 14 people were rescued from a flooded building in Stirling. (From Floodlist)

Balkans: Croatia and Serbia were both hit on 23 June by extensive flooding. Rivers broke their banks. In Croatia houses were flooded, roads were blocked and crops and farmland damaged. Fire crews carried out over 60 interventions, pumping water or clearing flood debris. While areas of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, saw over 100mm of rain fall in less than 2 hours, the equivalent of more than a month’s worth of rain. Images on Social media showed swamped roads and stranded cars along streets of the capital. (From Floodlist)

Poland: “The interior ministry said 90 people have drowned so far this month trying to cool off in lakes or rivers, and in Lithuania 27 people were reported to have died in similar circumstances as temperatures in the Baltic state soared above 35C. In Germany (38.5C) officials imposed a 120km/h speed limit on stretches of the Saxony-Anhalt autobahn as the road surface began to deteriorate, while rail tracks buckled near Rostock on the Baltic Sea. With temperatures in Italy forecast to hit 40C, charities were preparing to distribute 10,000 bottles of free water, while 33 of Spain’s 50 provinces will be facing record-breaking temperatures, which could reach 44C by the weekend. (Guardian)

Columbia: 2 people have been killed and several are injured or missing after deadly landslides cut the highway between Florencia and Nueva, in Huila province Sunday. Again, heavy rainfall is to blame; orange alerts are out for rising river levels. (Floodlist)

Ecuador: “Severe flooding and landslides have affected central areas of the country since 20 June. At least one person has died, 1 is missing, 1 injured and 145 evacuated due to landslides and floods. Rivers broke their banks. The heavy rain also caused a landslide in Río Blanco which destroyed at least 4 houses. Three bridges were destroyed and several roads damaged. Several communities (have been) cut-off since 21 June. Local authorities have declared a state of emergency.

Australia: It’s not unheard of for nighttime temperatures to drop below freezing in the desert, and this winter has generally seen high pressure bringing cold nights to Alice Springs, where residents’ lawn sprinklers have produced pretty shows of icicles. However, my earlier point about subeditors being an extinct species is born out by this fascinating sentence in the report of “Ice cold in Alex” (my title. It was a movie!) on Sky news.au:

“In winter, this process is exacerbated by the sub bing far too the north and therefore less heat reaching the found.”

I think we can loosely translate that as “it’s colder where it’s not sunny”. Vital science information… My friend Harry has just seen his granddaughter off to her new life as a lawyer in Australia… Doesn’t look like she’ll have too much trouble getting on there.

Tunnel approaching…

Brace for impact: The Taurid Resonant Swarm is an occasional encounter the Earth has with a cluster of meteors in orbit around Jupiter that arrives every few years at the end of June along with the Taurid shower – a twice-yearly phenomenon that normally produces no more than a pretty display of shooting stars – not that we’ll see them here as the forecast this week is for cloud cover thick enough to reach 30 thousand feet, where the commercial jets fly.

Severe-weather.eu writes: “there are some seriously big space rocks in there. In 1975 seismographs on the Moon left by the Apollo mission astronauts, detected a flurry of seismic activity, most likely caused by large Taurid meteoroids impacting the Lunar surface. The last big encounter with the Taurid swarm was in 2015. In the last days of October and first two weeks of November, bright fireballs from the Taurid stream were noted across the world, many lighting up the sky brighter than the Moon!”

Typically, the Swarm produces rocks from 1 to 3m in diameter, but in 1908 one 50m across flattened a large part of Siberia and a few up to several hundreds of meters, big enough to have astronomical numbers and create an extinction event, are embedded within the swarm. As the bigger stuff is blackened with soot, astronomers may not see them approaching until it’s too late to send Bruce Willis up with a nuclear bomb. Happily, it’s only necessary to paint an asteroid white on one side to get it to change course.

Telling it like it is: “The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said. Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.” (Guardian report)

Insectaggeddon: Perhaps due to the mild, wet winter there seems to be something of a minor revival in insect populations this year where I live, especially flies. I tried to keep a few alive during the winter, fearing the worst. I’m actually starting to find them quite annoying again.

I’m watching a tiny, golden wasp, less than half an inch long. It is burrowing into a hole in the ground, through the dirt between the concrete flagstones of the patio. I notice there are several holes, with little mounds. Is it hunting ants, their eggs maybe, or is it a wasp that lives in holes in the ground?

I have no idea, so I look it up. It may be a Sphex wasp, of which there are 150 species. Who knew? They are harmless and prey on aphids, of which we have a glut again this year, infesting an annoying Elderflower tree growing through my amazing privet hedge. I would cut it down, but now I know the tiny wasps eat blackfly, I’ll leave them to their lunch.

 

 

Snowflakes are falling… D-Day branding… Boo, again, BBC… And boo, Wales… GW: Wiv me skirts a’ flyin’ above me ‘ead… Tunnel Approaching… Morons’ Corner.

Quote of the Week:

It’s a terrible feeling to discover that your country is full of strangers.

Mihir Sharma, writing in Bloomberg on the landslide victory in Indian elections of Modi’s ugly Hindu nationalists.

Your Uncle Bogler had exactly that feeling yesterday afternoon in Morrison’s, perceiving himself beset about by late-middle-aged white couples, seemingly of few means, with strong Midlands’ accents who had, most of them, probably, just voted for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

Not my country, mate.

Notes

D-Day branding

The US Department of Energy has rebranded liquid methane (natural gas).

Likening the powerful greenhouse gas to the American military, that liberated Europe 75 years ago, Mark W Menezes, the US under-secretary of Energy, has renamed it “Freedom gas”. We are, he said, exporting “molecules of Freedom” to the world. (Guardian report)

It’s getting more like Dr Strangelove every day over there.

Processed food … “linked to early death”

“People who eat large amounts of heavily processed foods, from breakfast cereals and ready meals to muffins and ice-cream, have a greater risk of heart attack, stroke and early death, according to (a) major study (in France).

“The study, published in the British Medical Journal, does not prove that ultra-processed foods cause disease. Nor does the effect appear particularly large….” (Guardian)

I fear we are all going mad.

 

Snowflakes are falling

“Festivalgoer Renardo Henry, 21, said he saw people passing out in the heat. “We were in the queue, four people had collapsed around us, people were throwing up and shouting for medics, all the staff were doing was throwing water bottles into the crowd of people,” he told the BBC.” (Guardian, 26 May)

Yes, temperatures in London this Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend soared to an unimaginable 20C, 68F – not a record for late May, in fact it was hotter in late February – and young people queuing for three and a half hours for tickets but without the right ‘free drinks allowance’ wristbands, were collapsing everywhere like koalas in the intolerable furnace of the We Are FSTVL – er, festival.

Another crowdgoer tweeted of water bottles bouncing off people’s heads, presumably why “bouncers” are called just that. Alexi Hicken tweeted: “i was trapped inside the tent while all this was going on clinging to a pole so i didn’t get trampled on, after three hours of queuing and the blaring sun it wasn’t ideal.”

Aye, a Pole can come in handy, Brexit or no.

What in God’s almighty name is wrong with these pathetic dwarfs, that an averagely pleasant late spring day bringing temperatures only marginally higher than that recommended by the Shops, Offices and Factories Act, 1963 as a safe working environment, poleaxes them in droves?

How will they cope with June?

Over in Japan, it’s hot. 39C, 104F! They’re still alive and queuing. They’re not clinging to tent poles while water bottles bounce off their heads, thrown, in his best Puerto Rico fashion one could imagine, by visiting President Donald “The Donman” Trump and his sour-looking estranged wife, Moronia.

At least he’ll know what to chuck back at the jeering crowds in London when the gross, lying criminal fraudster pays us a state visit next week. Not paper towels, not double-cheeseburgers, not salted caramel milkshake, but life-saving water bottles.

And whatever happened to Extinction Rebellion? Why were they not on hand to protest the careless proliferation of plastic drinks containers?

Life used to be so much simpler.

 

“We still do not know whose money has been driving the Brexit party.”

Boo, again, BBC

There was a long and thoughtful article in yesterday’s Observer, in which several experienced people from the news industry contributed individually on a topic the Bogler has returned to several times, the public confusion and confirmatory bias generated by BBC News in its ruthless pursuit of “balance”.

The coverage of last week’s European Parliament elections on Monday morning’s R4 Today program was a case in point.

My understanding of how things now work is that there is less separation than in my very brief day at the BBC between News and Current Affairs, benefiting from supposed “synergies”, no doubt – “synergy” being management-speak for operating across different departments with fewer staff, driving the poor beasts to work ever harder.

Anyway, neither on the program itself nor on the news-generated segments and the main hourly bulletin did I hear one very obvious point being made about the result, which could only be released overnight Sunday going into Monday, when Europe – you know, that dozy lot over there – had finished voting for as many Putin-funded neo-Nazis and razorwire fence-erectors as it could find.

Which, in a sense, the ageing miseryguts and bellyachers of the retrograde Brexit party were doing, voting for “strong leadership” and a course of action likely to bring the economy to its knees, stealing the futures of the younger Remain tendency just to remind them who won the war.

We heard, in fact, very little in detail about the European votes, you know, the foreign ones. We heard that some far-right parties and the Greens had basically done well, with a far-left result in Spain.

But we heard nothing, and have heard in all nothing ever on the BBC, of the faceless US and Russian Christian alt-right, anti-women’s rights, anti-Islam, gay-bashing Bannonite campaign groups and billionaire disruptors behind the scenes, funding the nationalist ultras in many countries; including our own.

We still do not know whose money has been driving the Brexit party and paying for Farage’s £million home. If his adoring voters (“Oh, he’s just like us!” Yes, he lives on expenses) could be arsed to find out who he consorts with when he’s not faking a march from Jarrow to London or throwing fish into the Thames, they would shit themselves. It seems the BBC doesn’t want us to find out either. It’s just not on their bucket list to investigate.

Instead, the local story was of the victory of Farage’s Brexiters – who went from nowhere six weeks ago, to 28 comfortably remunerated seats in Strasbourg, by far the largest British group – over both Conservative and Labour, historically the two main parties, who mustered between them only 13 seats, with the ruling Conservative party beaten into fifth place overall on just 9% of the vote.

And, yes, that is one story – one that was made up by the news media long before the event. We could have heard, of course, but we didn’t, analysts pointing out that the Brexiters’ view that Britain is the vassal of an undemocratic EU superstate ruled by faceless foreign bureaucrats in Brussels is completely demolished by attaching the importance Brexit disruptors have accorded to this election to the European Parliament; an election that is likely to produce a very short-lived but nonetheless democratic representation for British interests in Europe, that they want us to give up.

It was indeed a night to celebrate for the Brexit tendency and its candidate list of dismal street-thugs, extreme nationalists, misty-eyed boozers, racists, misogynists, undereducated housewives, golf-club bores, unemployed steel workers and self-publicising reality TV-show hacks, who did indeed pour buckets of milkshake all over the established parties.

They deserved it. Both Labour and Conservatives are irredeemably split on the issue of Europe, have been for years, and have failed to deliver either the non-specific (and undeliverable) Brexit “the People” voted for, again by only a large minority, nearly three years ago, or its opposite, satisfying no-one. Neither has either of them been much bothered about rising inequality, slave wages and the abusive bureaucracy that fails to address those problems.

Now they are paying the price.

What nobody, not even the embarrassingly lightweight Political Editor of the BBC, Laura Kuenssberg, would say out loud, was that Brexit had won only 32% of only a 37% turnout of voters, highlighting the monumental irrelevance, both of the Brexit party and of this election to the vast majority of the population.

It certainly wasn’t going to come up in the main 08.10 Today interview slot with the oafish Leave-supporting junior minister for Children, Nadhim Zahawi – a blustering, ignorant, Hard Brexiting spokesmouth almost as overexposed on BBC Current Affairs slots as Farage himself.

(You bet there was no sign of our now-dead Prime Minister, Theresa May, another of the architects of this clusterfuck quietly fading from view.)

It was not until a quarter of an hour before the three-hour-long program ended that a guest, Lord Heseltine, the sometime flamboyant Tory cabinet minister who dared to stand up to Thatcher, and who was stripped of the party whip last week for announcing that he would vote for a Remain party, the Liberal Democrats – which he did, and they won in his constituency! – pointed out what must have been glaringly obvious to everyone, barring the Editor of the program, the significant fact that:

Remain-supporting parties had won more votes combined than Brexit had done, with two-thirds of the vote. A fair majority on any night. Scotland hasn’t finally filed, but the SNP is another pro-Remain party and looks like it has swept the board. Throw in Labour’s 10 – a three-quarters majority of Labour supporters are in favour of Remaining, it’s only Corbyn, the stubborn lifelong contrarian and 70-year-old student activist, who is refusing to shift party policy off an obscure fence of his own making – and Remain would have won more seats too.

(As Trump has shown, however, it is necessary to do more than just claim a popular majority when institutional biases can come into play to defeat the winner.)

That this was the proverbial elephant in the room (Come on, Bogler, you can do better than that! Ed.), that no-one in BBC News or the Today team wanted, or could bear to, or was allowed to acknowledge, is glaringly obvious. There was no reason, was there, why whoever edited the bulletins couldn’t just say it, instead of hammering home the unalloyed message of a Brexit triumph?

Just say, Remain parties won the popular vote but under our skewed system the seats fell to the Brexit party. Just admit it?

A second confirmatory referendum now would produce a Remain majority, doubtless, and several contributors made the point – but News stuck like superglue to its theme of a Brexit victory and a night of humiliation for the ditherers, giving listeners little chance to conclude that No Brexit After All had just become an increasingly likely option, in a country riven by factionalism.

We are to forge ahead instead with a defeated and despised minority government – plus the doddering remnants of the Conservative party membership – plucking, in their death-throes, on behalf of the entire country, our new Prime Minister from among its own ranks of ambitious little shits.

Some democracy!

It will probably be step-forward, Boris “Watermelon, Piccaninny, etc.” dePfeffel Johnson, the vain, self-serving, adulterous, cynically expedient orator and roguish faux-buffoon, author of lies and racial insults, our very own mini-Trump, who now perceives his best interests hang with the promise of a No Deal exit, but who until the week of the referendum in June 2016 was a Remain supporter, an internationalist who notoriously had prepared articles for his Telegraph column both for and against remaining, just in case the wind changed.

It’s not a good look, as one German journalist on the program noted. (Yes, it is about Europe….) But that kind of careless talk can cost lives – or at least, careers. We can doubtless look forward to a fractious summer with very little enlightenment from our national broadcaster.

Let’s hope the weather, as it has turned over the weekend, remains iffy.

At 20C, there could be bottles flying.

 

And boo, Wales

I voted for Plaid Cymru, the pro-Remain, center-left Welsh Nationalist party that has in recent times modernised, youthed-up, detached itself somewhat from the interests of the farming community and mopped up the Liberal Democrat vote in the Land of Song.

You’d think people here would support them. But, coming second in terms of votes, and with Remain parties jointly producing more votes but fewer seats, there being only four at stake for the entire region, a bit of a travesty given the wide range of demographics, we won only one seat. Fortunately, the one where I live.

The purpose of voting for candidates who are committed to removing themselves from the institution they are campaigning to join is not exactly clear to me. What good can any of these candidates do for their constituents under those conditions? I’d like to see Plaid Cymru, who traditionally haven’t done well down in the depressed Labour heartlands of the Rhondda Valley where the working-class vote was solidly FOR Brexit, a very far rightwing party, challenge the whole farcical situation in a court of law.

Some further devolution from Westminster short of an economically unfeasible declaration of  independence is an obvious necessity; while what Welsh economy there is has been kept going by Brussels. Wales’ extensive university sector, too, is hotly pro-Europe; our research base is strongly linked with European institutions and can only suffer the pangs of separation: reduced funding and knowledge exchange opportunities.

Then there’s the cost to be born of a likely hard border in the Irish Sea – for which, read expansion of Welsh ferry port facilities. None of this will have registered with the Brexit-voting dumbfucks.

EU structural funding for the regions is unlikely to be taken up by a government in England anxious to get itself off the hook of austerity, an economic re-expansion that is likely to cost a great deal of whatever remaining money this feckless Conservative administration has not already pissed away on ferry companies with no ferries.

And that’s another point we’re not hearing mentioned. Britain was supposed to have left the EU on 30 March last. To prepare for the eventuality that we might have to leave without a final agreement on the terms of separation, before trade talks could even begin, the government spent some £4 billion on emergency measures to prevent food riots breaking out; and then applied for, and got, an extension of Article 50 to next 31 October.

They then stood everyone down, cancelled the ferries and switched off the fridges. But if another No Deal Brexit date is looming, say we get to the beginning of October with no agreement in Parliament on a renegotiated deal the EU is in no mind to give us, we’re going to have to crank up the No Deal machine all over again, at a cost presumably of another £4 billion in civil servants and ferries and stockpiling tins of beans and fridgefuls of insulin and putting the army on standby.

Yet to my surprise and shame, and not a little alarm, these Brexit cretins in Wales have done it again. The economic cost of leaving the EU for Wales is appalling, the support for what is essentially an English nationalist project objectionable, but they just don’t care. I have yet to meet one, so I have no idea what they think they have been voting for, since they all voted UKIP at the General Election – and look how well that’s turned out.

I can’t believe it’s the Welsh who are doing this to themselves. The Welsh-speaking rural heartland is solidly Remain. It has to be all those whiney, white-flight economic migrant settlers from Birmingham. There are bloody thousands of them here, ageing ex-motor industry assembly workers with little formal education and bluff, middle England attitudes. The kind who expect fish and chips in Torremolinos and look up to the boss class.

The ones who are stealing our children’s futures, God rot them.

 

But one cheer for Manchester

A tiny light on the horizon, the criminal racist midget and loudmouthed, self-martyring street-thug, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka “Tommy Robinson”, founder of the English Defence League, was sent away with a flea in his tone-deaf ear, whining and crying about some Deep State conspiracy to silence the Voice of the People – his own voice, basically – by the voters of Manchester, who gave him just 2% of their crosses.

At which point, sadly, he lost his deposit. But I’m sure he’ll be back. His kind always are.

 

No cheers for Trumponomics

Despite record low unemployment, “Nearly 51 million US households (43%) don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone,” according to a study released Thursday.

Are they allowed phones in cells? We should be told.

“The figure includes 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families dubbed ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This group makes less than what’s needed ‘to survive in the modern economy.'” – CNN

Move to the sound of the guns

But for a totally terrifying minute of your life, catch up with Vice-President Mike Pence’s address recently to the graduates of the West Point military academy, and bunker down:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpSt34qB6K8

 

GW: Wiv me skirts a’ flyin’ above me ‘ead

USA: CNN Weather News reports, in the last 11 days there have been 261 instances of tornadoes touching down  in the midwest, resulting in several deaths, riding on a conveyor belt of severe storm supercells pushing up from the Gulf of Mexico across Texas and Oklahoma all the way up into the Great Lakes. Meanwhile to the northwest there’s record rain and flooding, snowmelt, rivers at “historic levels”, and to the southeast in Georgia and Florida they’re sweltering in 100-degrees-plus heat.

Update: Another 55 tornadoes on Monday, including one extremely severe one, estimated at 1 mile wide, that hit Kansas City, and another death have prompted the US weather service to remark that it’s all a bit unusual. “The past couple of weeks have seen unusually high tornado activity in the US, with no immediate end to the pattern in sight”, reports The Guardian and others.

More storms are forecast later in the week as there’s no sign of a huge, sagging loop in the jetstream moving away from the contiguous USA.

China: “Heavy rain, floods and landslides in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have left 7 dead and 9,000 displaced. Over 9,000 hectares of crops have been damaged and 185 houses destroyed. A total of 200,000 people have been affected. Tiandeng recorded 242.8mm in 24 hours to 28 May.” (Floodlist)

Afghanistan: “At least 24 people have died in a new wave of flash flooding that has affected parts of the country. Hundreds of houses have been damaged or destroyed. At least 1 person died and 3 are missing in flash floods that hit the neighbouring South Khorasan province of Iran on 22 May.”

“Afghanistan has been blighted by flood events since early March this year. By mid March, 63 people had died and 31 injured. More than 122,600 people across 14 provinces had been affected and were in need of humanitarian assistance. Further floods hit in late March with at least 13 people losing their lives, and again in early April when over 20 people died.” (Floodlist)

Rep. of Georgia: Heavy rainfall, hail and flooding have caused severe damage to vineyards, which are the main source of income for many households in the southeast of the country. Homes, crops, bridges and roads have all been damaged. (Floodlist)

India: Hundreds of people have been rescued and over 1,000 evacuated to safety after two rivers burst their banks in Tripura province, in the northeast of the country, following heavy monsoon rains. (Floodlist)

Uganda: 8 people are confirmed dead in flooding after intense rainfall hit the region around the capital, Kampala. Floodlist quotes a Red Cross source: “The flash floods have had a devastating effect on the lives of people, livestock, businesses, household items and has affected human settlement. Many people have been displaced…”

Saudi Barbaria: “Heavy rain from 22 May has caused flash flooding in the southwest, prompting dozens of flood rescues and leaving at least 1 person missing.” (Floodlist)

 

Tunnel approaching….

If you were of a mind to go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocGWsGO_DPA at about 6’50” you’d see a graph on Paul Beckwith’s website, produced by Exxon-Mobil’s in-house climate research team, 30 years ago.

It predicts both temperature rise and CO2 concentration from burning fossil fuels.

The warming prediction was absolutely spot-on at 0.89C, by the IPCC’s lights (many climate scientists argue we’re already at 1.85C) but the expected level of CO2 in 2019 was 420 ppm, instead we’re only at 415.7 with peaks over 417. 420 is the prediction for next year.

So there’s plenty more warming baked into the numbers.

It presumably explains why, over the scientists’ heads, the board of Exxon decided to spend $millions on a PR campaign to bamboozle the public into believing the planet isn’t heating and there’s no connection between atmospheric heating and CO2 emissions from burning their oil.

It doesn’t explain why the Trump administration got John Bolton to set up a committee to rubbish the “hoax” science, chaired by a 79-year-old Physics perfesser who says CO2 is getting the same abuse as the “poor Jews” under the Nazis; and that research papers should be “vetted” rather than peer-reviewed.

Antibiotic resistance: “…Some of the world’s best-known rivers, including the Thames, are contaminated with antibiotics classified as critically important for the treatment of serious infections. In many cases they were detected at unsafe levels, meaning resistance is much more likely to develop and spread. Researchers tested 711 sites in 72 countries and found antibiotics in 65% of them. In 111 of the sites, the concentrations of antibiotics exceeded safe levels, with the worst cases more than 300 times over the safe limit.” (Guardian)

Climate emergency: Between 2014 and 2017, the number of jobs in the UK renewable energy sector fell by a third. In the same period, government investment halved. (Report from the Prospect union)

 

Morons corner

Are Americans truly the most stupid, idiotic and gullible of all God’s creatures? Is it something in the water?

The Blessed Mary Greeley continues to stir the pot over a ludicrous myth that NASA is planning to cool-off the Yellowstone magma chamber by pumping lots of water into it.

This story originated about three years ago in a BBC report that said that was exactly what they were not planning to do, but never mind, everyone believes it. (NASA is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, it has nothing whatever to do with volcanoes, except on Mars!)

No-one has ever, so far as I know (apart from me) asked, how much water would it take to cool off 7 cubic miles of 1,000-degree magma, even if the resulting superheated steam explosion didn’t destroy most of the continental United States? Probably the entire contents of the Great Lakes, but don’t tell anyone I said that!

Two weeks ago Greeley reported, or at least repeated, on her otherwise quite informative Yellowstone observation website, that she now bulks out with misunderstood and unchecked news reports, a story that the United Nations is planning to invade an American city to take people’s guns away, as there’s too much violence in the cities.

She prefaced the story with a moan that the authorities are always trying to shut down serious websites that publish information they don’t like.

This most obvious and utterly absurd of fake news conspiracy theories has apparently been taken up by Mr Trump himself, who (according to some obscure source she chooses to believe, and which takes avoiding action by slating the fact-checking website, Snopes, before it can debunk their, er, bunk) has issued an Executive Order. I couldn’t be bothered to keep watching to find out what he was ordering, another double cheeseburger probably.

Tragically, the item is followed by an endless trail of outraged comments from Trump dumbfucks demanding that America declare war or something on the evil United Nations.

How fucking stupid are Americans? It’s unfathomable.

But this not very well educated old woman is being evil, exploiting her clickbait community, who are always praying for her in their weird way, and that’s not a good thing, is it.

There is, as always, some reality behind the unreality, and it is this.

Addressing a rally of the National Rifle Association in Indianapolis on 25 April, Mr Trump sought to gain their approval and funding for his 2020 election campaign by vowing to withold US participation in a proposed UN treaty on global conventional arms control. As small arms are included, Trump argues, it challenges America’s second-amendment constitutional gun rights.

This has been blown up by the NRA propaganda machine into an attempt to take away Americans’ guns.

It’s actually an attempt to limit the proliferation of weapons to terrorists and oppressive regimes that like to spend more money on weapons than on social programs and jobs. It doesn’t in any way threaten  American gun owners’ tiny manhoods.

But you can’t have everything, can you. I don’t suppose there’s a single MAGA dumbfuck who believes that the NRA took $30 million in funding from Russia in 2016 and handed it straight to the Republican party treasury to elect Trump.

Why would they believe it, when it’s true?

 

 

The Pumpkin – Issue 78: Surviving Brexit… Intemperate outburst: an apology… Sympathy vote… GW: spinning a few more records (Mozambique cyclone LATEST)… EV phone home

 

Quote of the Week

“I’m struck, as the British parliament moves towards the endgame on Brexit, with the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have been advanced by the Brexiteers in the public debate as magical alternatives to Britain’s current trade and investment relationship with the European Union. This is the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments that have emerged from the Land of Hope and Glory set now masquerading as the authentic standard-bearers of British patriotism. It’s utter bollocks.” – Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, writing in The Guardian.

16 days to go…. and Mr Rudd offers us a much-needed reality check, too late I fear: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/11/commonwealth-save-brexit-britain-utter-delusion-kevin-rudd

 

“Yippee, we won that one!”

Surviving Brexit

Never mind! Britain has signed a post-Brexit trade deal with the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea, as the government rushes to sign as many agreements as possible before 29 March. (from BBC)

Just what we wanted: more tariff-free shrunken heads. As if we haven’t got enough politicians already.

Here be weasels

In a caption to a video, 15 March, BBC News explains that children all over the world are expected to skip school today in a mass protest against political inaction on climate change.

Change that, a BBC journalist writes, is “expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events – though linking any single event to global warming is complicated.”

Are these cowardly weasels going to go on forever pretending there is some “debate” about this, and include automatic red-flag caveats with every report that might frighten the horses?

Theresa May during the debate on extending the Brexit negotiating period, 14 March 2019

“Oops, no, we lost that one!”

Intemperate outburst: an apology

The maverick biologist, Dr Rupert Sheldrake most famously posited a theory of “morphic resonance”, that suggested an experimental way of showing that there are metaphysical connections between events in the world that can be explained on a quantum level, as if the Universe is capable of learning through experience and transmitting the information at a distance.

I resort to this idea now, when trying to explain an extraordinary and embarrassing – thing – that has happened. Without wishing to seem solipsistic, i.e. that in this rather isolated state in which I dwell among you, I have come to believe, like poor Mr Trump, that I am personally responsible for everything that happens and that the sun revolves around me.

Over the last couple of days I have taken to binge-watching videos of some of the finest moments in the public-speaking career of the late and much-lamented Christopher Hitchens, the leftwing, humanist polemicist famous for demolishing the absurd deistic arguments of all-comers, high and low, from the religious spectrum.

I have, perhaps, overdosed rather on his thrilling rhetoric and fierce mental clarity

Born in the same year, Hitchens and I come from similarly upper-middle-class, English boarding-school-educated backgrounds, which perhaps explains why we share the same animus towards arbitrary authority and undeserving entitlements. But where he was fiercely intellectual, erudite and widely travelled, I am a lazy, ill-read, cowardly and inarticulate old stick-in-the-mud. Where he liked to get out and take on the rabbis and the mullahs and the incense-sniffers head-on, I just crouch here behind the barricade and snipe.

I was doing exactly that, late last night, and regret it. Unfortunately, with three or four large Scotches under my groaning belt, in a mood of intense irritation (I shan’t explain it, but there were reasons) and in some discomfort from my catheter: both directly, being unable to sit for long without pain; and indirectly, having suffered an instance of unwanted and odoriferous leakage (not connected with the alcohol), feeling unpleasantly moist.

Thus, on a Comment thread beneath a YouTube video of Hitchens administering yet another series of “Hitchslaps”, as the cult that has grown around his memory calls his pithier arguments, to the proponents of supra-natural beliefs, I reacted furiously to some stories in the news, the egregious nature of each of which suggested to me that the religious establishment has lately been regaining the upper hand.

I have never been to Argentina, for instance, but it seems the Catholic church, that not long ago apologised through its Pope for the genocide between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries of almost a billion native Americans, and now having to apologize again for thousands of acts of sacrilegious child-abuse by its celibate priesthood and its centuries-long cover-up by the authorities, continues nonetheless to exert its malign influence over the common people.

Recently, it was reported, religious authorities there had insisted on an 11-year old girl carrying a pregnancy to term, when she was obliged to give birth by Caesarian section to a child forcibly got on her by her own step-grandfather, after they had refused to sanctify the early-term abortion she and her parents had desired.

I hope this strikes you too as obscene. You should therefore consider, as Hitchens does, the horrible thought that in certain parts of the world, child-rape may result in the death penalty – for the child, caught in adultery, not for the older man. That too is a religious edict, directly mandated by God.

In another instance, one of the more exotic places in the world I have actually visited, a long time ago, is Iran. I had a very good Iranian friend at one time, and I continue to grieve for the Iranian people, regarding their theistic fascist regime propped up by the extreme violence of religious courts, secret police and a corrupt “Revolutionary Guard”, as a toad squatting on the face of humanity.

It had nothing to do with Islamophobia – people are free to think as they must – and everything to do with hatred of fascism in whatever form it takes. I had been horrified that morning to learn of the jailing by a religious court of a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer for an outrageous 38 years, with 150 lashes, merely for defending women opposing the diktat of the patriarchal mullahs that they must cover their heads in public; about which the Qu’ran has little or nothing to say, other than requiring female modesty.

These are the same calculating and devious authorities who are keeping a British-Iranian mother, Mrs Nazanin Zighari-Ratcliffe, locked up on a ludicrous forced confession of plotting to overthrow the State; and who have just rejected the latest attempt by the British government to have her conviction overturned through granting her diplomatic status. (Do not imagine Iranian courts permit accused persons to offer a legal defence. Or that Mrs Ratcliffe is the only person in her predicament.) So now their offence is against the British state, not that we intend to do anything about it.

And that same morning, we had learned that the Saudi authorities – I refer to their country as Saudi Barbaria – have dragged into court, with the aim of imprisoning, and/or perhaps brutally flogging, ten token women’s rights activists arrested and tortured despite the specific focus of their protest, the absurd law against women drivers, having recently been overturned by order of the Crown Prince himself.

I hope this strikes you too as utter, misogynistic hypocrisy. These creepy, closed-minded, madrassah-uneducated little men are terrified of women and use extreme, often sexual violence and a twisted version of religious law to keep them in their place.

Anyway, so I posted some fairly pungent remarks about religious abuse, one of which might if taken out of context be regarded as generally anti-Islamic; which was not my specific intention. And awoke seven hours later to the awful news that, at the very moment I had been firing off my ill-considered and intemperate Post, that at any other time would have passed among the general, on the furthest side of the world an appalling atrocity was being perpetrated against peaceful worshippers by a deranged and calculating Australian neo-Nazi, a psychopath in the Anders Breivik mould.

That man is not me. I hope.

Readers of this, my ever-lengthening bogl, must by now be fully aware of my instinctive opposition to violence in all its forms; to authoritarianism, and my detestation of racists. I am a passionate believer in social justice. Through a kind of “morphic resonance” overnight, however, my words coincidentally took or borrowed dreadful shape in the form of an actual bloody massacre of 49 people to whom I wished no harm.

To my mind there is no moral difference between a murderous and bullying regime carrying out daily atrocities in the name of their malign and vindictive God, imposing their wickedness on a cowed population; and the actions of one arrogant and murderous racist who takes upon himself the mantle of avenging angel to punish those who offend him, merely by their appearance. Both are clearly manifestations of that extreme form of psychosis which every normal person, even the non-religious and the atheistic, codifies as “evil”.

So, when I suggested that the Iranian regime was a horrible death cult who should, in that case, fuck off and die, it was not intended as giving licence and encouragement to an actual act of slaughter, which we understand was years in the planning; or as a random assault upon the entire global congregation of Islam.

Rather that, to paraphrase the words of the Christian gospel, in the case of these oppressors, the abominable priestly caste of whatever brand of faith who think they know the mind of their ineffable deity (whom I’m afraid I also insulted) and can therefore act with impunity as a law entirely unto themselves, to oppress others, millstones should be tied around their necks and they should be cast into the sea.

It’s a Biblical metaphor.

I hope that clears it up, to the best extent possible in the circumstances; and I sincerely apologize for any unintended offence.

The Pumpkin

 

Sympathy vote

During his bizarre, 2.5-hour-long homily to the US Conservative PAC conference the week before last, basically these days a bunch of overprivileged, college-educated neo-Nazis in Brooks suits, the Washington Post reports, a visibly sweating Trump (Nixon used to sweat heavily too) succeeded in telling over 100 fact-checked lies during his rambling, disconnected speech, that was all about himself, of course – along with the usual feeble, self-referential jokes and terrifyingly bad impressions of critics and opponents he likes to abuse publicly.

It was another of the impromptu speeches that, er, prompted the US media to wonder long and loudly again about the President’s sanity; or at least, his present state of mind, and whether it was safe to leave him home alone with matches.

His daily average lie count is now 22, up from six a year ago, to a total since being forced into office of over 9,500. It seems unusual that several media outlets should see the need to employ units of fact-checkers to monitor the statements made by the president of the United States at all, but when you elect a pathological liar I suppose it’s too good an opportunity to pass up.

The most extraordinary fact, however, is this. Since his failed summit with Kim Jong-un, the devastating 35-day government shutdown at Christmas and his failure to secure funding for a border wall which 65% of Americans say they think is a terrible idea, his poll ratings have actually been going up.

in November, he lost control of the House of Representatives. The economy is on a slide: on his watch the national debt is approaching $23 trillion, the trade gap is $100 billion wider than when he launched his tariff wars, North Korea is back to testing missiles, his former lieutenants have been testifying copiously to his instinctive criminality, his connections with Russia that he still strenuously denies have been laid bare, his Middle East policy is in chaos, he reportedly works less than 4 hours a day on four days a week and golfs the rest, he continues to promote his own businesses at taxpayers’ expense, sells access to himself, overrules his security service heads on almost every front, continues to waste public money on senseless inquiries into his election result and non-existent voter fraud, opposes the entire scientific establishment of the United States on the climate crisis, refuses to condemn right-wing violence (he’s threatening to invade Venezuela), has had his photo taken with a Floridan chinese brothel-madam who sells her clients access to him at Mar-a-Lago – and his 2020 draft budget proposal blatantly sets out to wrest even more money from the poor, children and the disabled to give to the richest 1%, sucking $1.3 trillion out of Medicaid and $800 billion out of Medicare over 10 years, defunding programs that support the poorest members of his own base, while giving another $25 billion to the bloated military and $8.6 billion to build the border wall he tells his dumbfucks he’s already built. (Oh, that’s a lie, by the way.)

Yet they continue to love and worship him as if he were a cult leader, or a god, whose every word is sanctified. That imagined person he boasted he could “shoot on 5th Avenue and not lose voters” is one of his own supporters, but they don’t mind. They are addicted to his power.

As many legal experts state, he has committed at least eight impeachable offences while in office, and many indictable crimes before. His frenzied efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry are unabashed and unabated; as are his undisguised attempts to rollback environmental protections as openly bought favors to his vastly wealthy donors in the Energy sector. He continues to ride on a crazy rollercoaster of White House staff, now on his seventh communications director; to spray out demented tweets savaging his perceived enemies, however trivial their complaints, to abuse the fallen and the dead, and to threaten and bully the media.

No president before has been so obsessed with making crude, disparaging comments, demeaning and abusing and threatening anyone who dares to criticize, in disjointed, whining, self-justifying 4 a.m. tweetstorms full of screaming capitals: NO COLUSION! LIAR COMEY! DEM PLOT! FAKE NEWS CNN! The novelty may have worn off, as no-one but his base seems to care anymore what he says. No president before has so repeatedly praised the actions against his own country of brutal foreign kleptocrats, or torn up so many treaties and abrogated so many common understandings and shared values with America’s allies.

Despite all of that, his arch-enemy, Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi has dismissed calls to impeach him, saying he isn’t worth the bother. It’s a calculated insult, but one that masks an underlying problem: the senior Democratic elders like Pelosi and Schumer are as implicated in the corporatist conspiracy and as far from the zeitgeist of the upcoming generation as the Republicans and cannot find a way out of it.

Now they have a new intake of younger congressmen and women with a more progressive, anti-corporate, anti-corruption, pro-environment agenda, the party may have trouble holding itself together at the polls. There is increasing concern that without an impeachment, whose success is far from guaranteed, Trump could be elected by default for a second, equally or more disastrous term.

Thus 44% of Americans now say they think Trump is doing a good job; of what, is not made clear,

Entertaining them, I suppose.

Watching someone gibbering and sweating in the throes of mental disintegration, someone whose delusions include taking personal credit for the corporate policy of the Apple corporation, then getting the CEO’s name muddled up, calling him “Tim Apple”, and then going to enormous lengths to have his people deny he actually said what the recording clearly shows him saying, another one of those “alternative fact” moments, as if it even matters, is such fun, isn’t it.

This is a man desperately clinging to the remnant shreds of sanity and in dire need of professional help. Impeachment would be a mercy. So severe are his symptoms, he will be the last to recognize it.

 

GW: spinning a few new records

Mozambique LATEST (Fri 2pm 15 Mar):  “Meanwhile, over the Mozambique Channel, Cyclone Idai had built waves up to 7 metres high. As a cyclone moves over water, it drives a storm surge in the face of it. In this case, the surge was about 2 metres. So, before Idai’s approach, the surface of the ocean rose 2 metres with waves rising regularly 7 metres above that – at worst, 9 metres. The weather station at Beira airport is 8 metres above sea level. The tide can rise to a surprising 7 metres as is the case forecast for Friday. Thursday evening’s tide was 5 metres and the storm surge from Idai arrived with it. The waves were driven on top.” (Al Jazeera) Meaning potentially 14 meters (46 feet!) of sea-level rise.

“Communications have been lost from the port of Beira since Thursday evening.”

In its early stages, Idai brought widespread flooding to southern Malawi and the adjacent Mozambique province of Zambezia. At least 80,000 people have been displaced and dozens of people killed. Idai has the potential to drop up to 500mm of rain on its way through central Mozambique. (Al Jazeera)

Further reporting (Thu, 14 March): “The number of people killed in heavy rains and flooding in southern Malawi has risen to 30, while the number of people affected is now approaching 500,000 with an estimated 30,000 of them displaced. Meanwhile the same weather system has also caused flooding in regions of Mozambique, where over 30,000 people have been affected and 7 deaths reported. Heavy rain has also affected areas of KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa, in particular around the city of Durban.” (From Floodlist)

USA: “Snow and gusty winds from slow-moving Winter Storm Ulmer continue from the Colorado Rockies to western South Dakota and much of Wyoming. Deteriorating weather with increasing snow and wind, including blizzard conditions, will intensify in parts of the central High Plains into the afternoon”… as the storm undergoes ‘bombogenesis’ – a rapid collapse in atmospheric pressure, to a hurricane-like 968 mb. Warning includes a swath from northeast Colorado, including Denver, to western South Dakota. Up to 2 feet of snow is forecast.

Updates: Over 1,000 drivers are stranded in cars along highways in Colorado and Nebraska as National Guard troops have braved 90 mph blizzards to rescue them. A state of emergency has been declared. One trooper has been killed and a motorist has died. 7 states are under blizzard warnings. (The Weather Channel)

This is now mid-March… and a poll in Kansas finds 96% of the population is getting fed up with winter! Ulmer has created record flooding in Ohio and Nebraska, some rivers many feet over former record levels (14 March). Meanwhile, further south “a line of severe thunderstorms is moving eastward through portions of central Texas this morning (13 Mar.) Damaging wind gusts hit 85 mph, trashing an Amazon depot at Fort Worth, and 5 people were injured by a tornado in Dexter, New Mexico.” Up to 4-in of rain is forecast.

And a new report from William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science says the fast-flooding Texas and Louisiana coasts could see up to 2 feet of sea-level rise by 2050 (The Weather Channel). Property value losses owing to the threat of coastal flooding in 17 states from Maine to Mississippi between 2005 and 2017 have been estimated at $16 billion. But it’s okay, folks, President Trump says nothing to see, keep voting.

Bet you’ve never seen this before! Upside-down lightning over Ugljan, Croatia, 11 March. Photo: Jakša Kuzmičić.

Venezuela: As electricity blackouts continue to plague the capital, Caracas, into their second week, there’s a brief mention on the BBC News of 40C daytime temperatures there. Your Granny is unable to find any more details, sorry. Googling Venezuela 40C produces only a reference to postage rates.

Brazil: Heavy rain, severe flash-flooding and landslides affected São Paulo State from Sunday 10 March. At least 12 people have died and 6 have been injured. 1200 rescues were effected. Flood water was reported in several neighbourhoods of the city, blocking major roads and causing severe disruption to public transport. Santo André recorded 182mm rain in 24 hours to 11 March.” (From Floodlist)

World: It’s been a winter of extreme extremes, according to Wunderground. “On March 2, Dover, Tasmania, attained an all-time record high of 40.1°C (104.3°F), the hottest reading ever observed in that (furthest southerly) Australian state during the month of March. Just the next day (4 March in the US) minus 46°F (-43C) was measured at Elk Park, Montana, a new (preliminary) all-time record for cold in that state for March.

While the USA and Japan froze solid, many European countries had spells of record warmth for February. Down south, both New Zealand and Chile experienced their hottest-ever summer months: “Chile heatwave breaks all-time records at 10 cities, with temperatures ranging from 35.1°C (95.2°F) to 40.7°C (105.3°F). 40.7°C at Traiguen is perhaps the most southerly 40°C+ reading ever measured on Earth.” On 15 Feb, however, “42.4°C (108.3°F) at Traiguen. New national monthly record.”

And in Angola, bordering South Africa, 41.0°C (105.8°F) at Espinheira, Angola set an all-time national record on 15 Feb. for any month.

In the US, at the same time as a new February record was being set in the UK, of 21.6C (70.9F) (just four miles from where your old Granny’s new digital max-min thermometer was giving her a shade high of 24.1C, 75.4F), “Los Angeles failed to hit 70°F for the first February since records began in 1878.”

A comprehensive list of this winter’s many impressive new world records can be found at: https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/North-South-Winter-and-Summer-Record-Temperature-Extremes?cm_ven=hp-slot-4

Global greenhouse: “The rise in the levels of carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere continues to accelerate. Over the past 31 days, CO₂ levels at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, have been above 410 ppm, while on March 3, some average hourly readings exceeded 415 ppm. The levels recorded in the year up until now weren’t expected to occur until April/May.” Rising levels of methane, especially over Antarctica and the Himalayas, and N20 (nitrous oxide, a GHG 300 times more heat-absorbent than C2) continue to give cause for concern. (Arctic News, 15 March)

 

EV phone home

Guardian Green Light reports: “At least a quarter of local authorities in England and Wales have put a brake on the expansion of charging networks for electric vehicles. More than 100 local councils (60 failed to reply) say they have no plans to increase the number of charging points they offer. Campaigners and politicians fear this could hinder the expansion of the UK’s electric fleet..”

Why is that? Because they can’t afford to do it and keep essential services like schools, libraries and garbage collection going.

Your old Granny is astonished. Why is it up to local authorities to instal charging points? On the Council tax many non-drivers and many more non-owners and can’t-afforders of expensive electric vehicles are obliged to pay?

Why are the lousy, cheating bastards selling environmentally ecocidal carbon-emitting fuel and paying PR men to lie about the consequences of burning it, not being FORCED to pay for electric vehicle (EV) chargers out of their obscene mega-profits, in their highly priced roadside filling station outlets?

They already have over a $trillion in fuel subsidies* and cheap concessions from rotten governments around the world, whose corrupt ministers pocket their share of the proceeds. Someone should tell them, that’s enough.

But it won’t be the Department of Energy. A Spokesmouth replies: “Our Road to Zero strategy sets out our commitment to massively expand electric vehicle infrastructure.”

Yes, at my expense, you cunts. Road to Zero is a great way of branding human extinction, as well as my bank balance.

*Latest figures show that 22 banks globally have between them subsidized the oil, gas and coal industries to the tune of $1.9 TRILLION since the Paris accord was signed

The Pumpkin – issue 77: Why Trump hates Puerto Rico… Why we love Randy Rainbow (and you will, too!)… Yang and the Big Yin… A voice from the dead… Eat shit, dystopians… GW: Ooh, what a spin I’m in… Ending it all down under

Quote of the Day

“Unfortunately, the Nazis don’t play cricket. If they did, we wouldn’t be on opposite sides now.” – Capt. Mainwaring (from BBC TV’s “Dad’s Army”)

 

Ivanka Trump, left, and Jared Kushner.

“So long, suckers! Thanks for all the security clearances…”

(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters. Sorry!)

Why Trump hates Puerto Rico

Wanna know why Trump hates Puerto Rico so much?

Maybe because it’s got the word ‘RICO’ in the name.

RICO – The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – is the 1970 Act of Congress detailing how prosecutors can go after organized crime.

“The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering and allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing, closing a perceived loophole that allowed a person who instructed someone else to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because they did not actually commit the crime personally.” (Wikipedia)

In the light of key moments in the Michael Cohen testimony to Congress, when he averred that Trump uses a kind of coded mobspeak to persuade people indirectly to carry out illegal acts that benefit him without putting himself in the frame, and did so in the case of Cohen’s buying the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels with election funds, people are increasingly talking about bringing RICO to bear on his former employer.

No-one yet wants to accuse Trump of being an actual mob boss, a racketeer – but many people from former FBI director James Comey and his successor, Andrew McCabe, to Congressman Schiff and the liberal media are drawing attention to the obvious parallels between the way Trump runs his businesses, the way he suborns everyone around him to do his bidding, reeling them in one bad deed at a time, insisting on personal loyalty and a code of omerta, and the way mafia bosses ran – or run – their ‘families’; spinning a web of corruption, lies and deceit around everyone and everything he deals with.

Just the way Trump tweeted that Cohen was a “rat” is being seen as proof that the president is not the legitimate businessman he boasts he is. Because to “rat” in criminal circles is not to lie, but to spill the actual beans.

And Trump has beans in spades.

Given that Trump’s mentor was the notorious mob attorney and top-level ‘fixer’ of politicians, police chiefs and judges, Roy Cohn, and his associates have included ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, a member of the Gambino crime family, and Felix Sater, an associate of the Armenian-born Russian mob boss Semyon Mogilevitch, who invested unwisely in Trump casinos, it’s not really a surprise.

What is a surprise is that the RICO Act was most successfully put into practise by none other than Rudy Giuliani, the ‘shoot-from-the-mouth’ lawyer Trump now relies on to protect him in countless bizarre media interviews, back in the days when, as a New York Attorney-General in the mid-1980s, and later as mayor, he was instrumental in taking down the city’s notorious crime families.

Could this be why Trump appointed him – and despite his many gaffes, keeps him on? Because he knows more about racketeering and how it is investigated than most lawyers ever will, is Giuliani the gamekeeper-turned-poacher for the head of the criminal Trump Organization, now being investigated by the Southern District Court on at least 18 counts of fraudulent financial activity, obstruction of justice, bribery, extortion, witness intimidation, organized employment of undocumented immigrants, etc.?

You know, stuff the mob does?

In a widely quoted piece in the New York Times today, historian and author, Garrett M Graff writes:

“The parallels between the Mafia and the Trump Organization are more than we might like to admit. … Cohen was clear about the rot at the center of his former employer: ‘Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day most of us knew we were coming and we were going to lie for him about something. That became the norm.’

“Indicting the whole Trump Organization as a ‘corrupt enterprise’ could help prosecutors address the thorny question of whether the president can be indicted in office.” Graff writes. For a second time, Trump could be labelled as an “unindicted co-conspirator” as, from the relative safety of the Oval Office, he watches helplessly while his rackety empire is progressively dismantled around him. At that point, getting himself re-elected in 2020 would not be much help.

RICO would also allow the authorities to seize the assets and interdict the revenue streams of Trump’s entire operation; possibly to prosecute the officers of the company, including Trump’s awful children – and impeach the President himself, actions neither the Mueller probe nor the splurge of inquiries and subpoenas of documents announced by the Democrats having fun with their newfound majority in the House of Representatives seems likely to be able to achieve on its own.

http://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/04/opinion/rudy-giuliani-trump.html

 

Why we love Randy Rainbow (and you will, too!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7q0bz0sk30

 

Yang and the Big Yin

“There is something deeper, most commentators feel, that he doesn’t want to come out; something for which he is preparing to exercise the Presidential pardon on his own account if Mueller or the FBI gets too close. It is something potentially so serious that he has twice in the past week been prepared to say, or not say, dumb or reckless things that add to the growing tally of reasons to impeach him. He’s prepared to risk his position, to bet the presidency on it.”

The Pumpkin made that comment about two years ago, but we are still really no wiser.

The “thing” he didn’t want to come out then is most probably the Trump Tower Moscow story, that has emerged from the investigations into Trump’s legal fixer and bagman, Michael Cohen – now staring at a three-stretch and pouring his little heart out to Congressional committees.

He and several of Trump’s staff were involved in clandestine Russia trips and meetings during the 2016 election campaign that have since turned out to have been involved with his plans for a huge and lucrative hotel complex, that required Putin’s permission. Plans the boss didn’t want the minor inconvenience of running for President and even possibly being elected to get in the way of.

It’s one possible explanation for why he so vehemently denied time and again he had any business in Russia, which was a Bigly Lie; and why he has done everything in his power to please Putin, as he stood to gain hundreds of millions of dollars from the project. And in part why the puppetmaster, Putin has kept him dangling on a string ever since.

However, those pesky sex scandals never seem to be far away. The Daily Kos website and others are currently digging into a story that starts like this:

“In late February, billionaire Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, was arrested in a prostitution sting centered around a day spa in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft faces two counts of soliciting sex, and prosectors say evidence includes video surveillance taken at the spa.

The investigation uncovered a series of crimes taking place there, resulting in charges that include human trafficking, racketeering and money laundering. (All my italics. A quick divert to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meyer_Lansky will bring you up to speed on the history of mafia activities in Florida and elsewhere.)

“Turns out, spa founder Cindy Yang is quite the fan of Donald Trump and Republicans, and has appeared at a number of Republican events. She was also a guest at Mar-a-Lago for a Super Bowl watch party with Donald Trump himself.” (http://www.dailykos.com)

Yang has also personally donated over $50 thousand to Trump’s 2020 campaign war chest; and she and her family are or were the owners of a number of other suspected “rub-and-tug” massage parlor operations across the state, ten of which have been closed down by investigators on suspicion of employing undocumented women. Since selling her original spa, she has founded a lobbying business fairly openly selling access to Trump during Mar-a-Lago weekends. Did he know about that?

(Incidentally, Googling “Trump; Kraft” will bring all this up on Mother Jones and other websites, including the Miami Herald, which seems to have broken the story in the first place as its reporting is extensively quoted with little attribution elsewhere.)

The story reminds us however of a previous exposé in The Daily Kos, regarding Trump’s New York model agency in the 1990s and a string of under-age, ‘size-zero’ models imported as undocumented migrant workers from Eastern Europe; some of whom may have ended up at another agency owned by notorious pedophile and “man about town”, John Casablancas, a “friend” of Trump’s – along with his 14-year-old daughter, Ivanka.

That line about “charges that include human trafficking, racketeering and money laundering” therefore gains a certain resonance in the light of The Pumpkin’s lead story, above, that the Southern District court of New York is considering invoking the RICO anti-racketeering Act to enhance their powers to investigate the Trump Organization and its officers – among them, his children.

For here is a direct connection apparently between Trump’s operation and another family network in Florida accused of involvement in what look remarkably like organized criminal activities, as listed in both hearings. The Herald reports:

“Facebook is covered in photos of (Yang) standing with President Trump, his two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott, Sarah Palin, the president’s campaign manager and an assortment of other high-level Republican operators.”

While she was also photographed alongside Trump with Kraft at a Patriots’ party at Mar-a-Lago.

The Pumpkin has long wondered, and publicly posed the question wherever able, about Trump’s apparent obsession over images of young women with their hands bound and tape over their mouths, bleeding from the eyes, etc. It’s something he frequently alludes to during his rambling campaign speeches about immigrants, traffickers and gang crime.

It may be an image he got from a movie. In a recent speech to his MAGA dumbfucks in El Paso, he recounted as entirely truthful, a completely fictitious scene involving migrants on the border that he had most probably seen in a film, as several keen cinéastes have pointed out. So that could be the most probable explanation for his flashbacks to girls being kidnapped, tortured and even murdered. He saw it in a movie.

What kind of movies does the president watch?

The other explanation doesn’t bear thinking about. But it’s probably all just innocent fun. As The Kos optimistically concludes:

“If nothing else, it shows just how easy it is to buy access, and that should be troubling to us all.”

 

A voice from the dead

A six-week old embryo in Alabama is suing a 16 year-old-girl for aborting it.

Using a new ‘personhood’ law pushed through the legislature by an anti-abortion group, 19-year-old Ryan Magers has brought a joint action together with his putative, never-to-be born son or daughter against his unnamed former girlfriend, the family planning clinic AND the pharmaceutical company that made the pill, for infringing his paternal rights.

No-one is saying who put this little shit up to it, he’s unemployed and can’t afford a lawsuit, but the girl, who was underage at the time and now faces an uncertain future as she has been named in court as “the Mother” is insistent she did not consent to sex. The inchoate bundle of cells she expelled is being named in the case as “Baby Roe”.

It’s not a baby. She’s not a mother. Ryan is not a father. But he is a rapist, and the Alabama court system appears not to care about that part.

It’s the first case of its kind and if the judge rules in favour of the plaintiff it’ll set a troubling precedent in terms of male rights over women’s bodies.

Great news on International Women’s Day. But make no mistake:

The Evangelicals and the Trump Judges are coming for you. (Story: Jill Filipovic, in The Guardian)

 

“We truly live in a world spiralling into madness and the dark.”

Eat shit, dystopians

“Washington’s ambassador to the UK has defended the US’s approach to food hygiene and farming. Criticism of US food standards was ‘designed to reduce not increase trade’,” Woody Johnson told the BBC. “Mr Johnson said the UK should accept American meat as part of a post-Brexit trade deal. ‘To get a robust trade arrangement, that lifts all boats, it has to include farming and farm products,’ he said.”

If that sounds reasonable, The Pumpkin would like to refer you to an excellent piece written for The Guardian this morning by Mr George ‘Useless’ Eustice, the recently resigned Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, on the subject of America’s antediluvian farming practices.

It’s not for the squeamish.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/06/us-chlorinated-chicken-trade-deal-agriculture

Mr Eustice, a farming MP who has quit his post over the usual Brexit disagreements, nevertheless makes some very robust points. Britain was largely responsible, he argues, for raising all the boats in the EU when it comes to more humane farming practices, clearer food labelling and product hygiene.

Are we going to throw all that away to become part of the virtually unregulated Big Food production racket? (He doesn’t mention the Chicago mafia, but the huge US food conglomerates and their lackadaisical attitudes to animal welfare, consumer protection and pollution runoff have mostly grown out of the criminal monopolies and union abuses of the 1920s.)

Well, it’s a good question, George. If you don’t believe we should be bullied into accepting cheap industrialized food dumped on us from the USA, why did you vote to leave the EU, you dismal shit-shoveller? What else did you think would happen? Farmers are committing suicide in droves already because of what you’ve done.

And if there is one thing in your article it might be possible to doubt, it is the optimistic assertion that the Yanks (their meat-producers’ cabal already seeking entry by the back door of the Institute for Economic Reform, parent of the treasonous Parliamentary conspiracy known as Jacobin Irish-Mogg’s European Research Group – are you starting to twig what’s been going on, you Leavers?) are going to accept our rules and regulations.

Yet you are well spoken of in farming circles. We truly live in a world spiralling into madness and the dark.

Britain should tell Robert Wood “Woody” Woodpecker 1V Johnson to go fuck a chlorinated chicken. What does this overprivileged, aristocratic scion of a baby-powder dynasty know about UK/EU food standards and farming, anyway?

How dare he come over here and order us that it’s shit or bust as far as a post-Brexit trade deal with his failing country goes? Is this their subtle way of negotiating? Are we going to accept being a directly ruled province of the criminal US empire and go down the pan with them?

Also, kindly note one detail of Johnson’s remarks. He says: ‘farming AND farm products’. In other words, we don’t just have to take their chemically supplemented, mechanically rendered horseflesh in our shops, to accept the millions of extra food-miles needed to turn us all into gross, waddling blimps and give us endemic cancer and irritable bowel syndrome to keep the US healthcare corporations with which Mr Johnson will no doubt order us next to replace the NHS, happy.

No, we have to accept their “farming” too – i.e. submit to allowing US producers to set up their black-site animal torture-factories in leafy Britain, without submitting to UK/EU regulatory standards; putting UK producers out of business.

No, we’re proud Britons! Oh, oh yes, right, sorry….

It seems to The Pumpkin that so much about America still smacks of the early-20th century: its abusive labor laws, its collapsing infrastructure, its rigged Tammany Hall elections, its casual racist brutalities, its isolationism, its intolerance of any hint of social co-operation (a huge threat to corporate interests) – the ignorance and fear of its citizens, the corruption, racism and institutionalized criminalities of its rotten system of governance; its flag-shagging, God-bothering hypocrisies; its rapacious business culture, its childlike militarism; its desperately limited, fiber-free diet.

Which is why I voted not to leave the EU rather than be dragged screaming into the nightmare of Trumpworld. Could you not see this coming, you pointless, half-witted Leavers swiping kiddie porn day and night, on your piss-stained, pay-nothing-now, sale-bargain sofas, guzzling your fucking giant bargain buckets of lardy chickenshit in roomsful of discarded £4 Primark sweaters?

Welcome to dystopia.

 

Footnote:

A Matter of National Pride

The American Cancer Society says the jury’s very much out on baby powder. But a New York Times article last December describes how Johnson & Johnson has for many years been using lobbyists to fight a desperate rearguard action to convince American mothers that their talc product is free from carcinogenic asbestos contamination; which it possibly isn’t.

“In one instance, Johnson & Johnson demanded that the government block unfavorable findings from being made public. An executive ultimately won assurances from an official at the Food and Drug Administration that the findings would be issued only ‘over my dead body,’ a memo summarizing the meeting said.”

Currently, there are 12 THOUSAND lawsuits pending against billionaire Ambassador Woody Hardon’s family business. No wonder he seems particularly sensitive to criticisms of safety standards in the US factory farming industry. It’s a matter of national pride.

http://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/business/baby-powder-asbestos-johnson-johnson.html?mc=contentSEintl&ad-keywords=IntlAudDev&gclid=CjwKCAiA_P3jBRAqEiwAZyWWaNLAPA–AvDWSFF6jt4cYnGxjQDyfLOkpHCPIbB03mOg60PebEUa3xoCAjgQAvD_BwE

 

GW: Ooh, what a spin I’m in

USA: The Weather Channel reports, the contiguous USA (that’s the big bit without the colonies) had its wettest ever winter season (December to March). Averaged over the whole country, they’ve had more than 9 inches of rain (31 inches over the whole year, thanks to Hurricane Florence), with local rainfall and snowfall records set in many places; and the second wettest ever February. It’s never been wetter before in Tennessee. Nome, Alaska held the snowfall record with 69 inches. Despite all that, thanks to a weak El Niño, a warmer December and a Top 10 warm winter in the southeastern states it has still only been the 38th warmest of the past 124 winters.

This may sound familiar, however: “Another powerful low-pressure system will track across the Lower 48 late this week and into the weekend, bringing snow and wind from the West into the Plains and Midwest and a risk of severe thunderstorms to the South.” (Forecast, 6 March). Winter ain’t done yet. Before and after photos of the devastation caused by the monster EF-4 hurricane that tore through Lee County, Alabama last week killing 23 people, can be seen at weather.com/storms/tornado/news/2019-03-05-before-and-after-images-tornado-damage-alabama?cm_ven=wu_videos?cm_ven=hp-slot-3.

Africa: Heavy rains in southern and central parts of Malawi have caused flooding and rivers to overflow, in particular the Shire River in Chikwawa, where local media say 6 people have died and many more are missing in flash floods and river flooding after 160mm of rain fell in one day. (Floodlist)

Indonesia: Heavy rain on Flores Island caused flooding and landslides in West Manggarai Regency early on 7 March. At least 2 people have died, 6 are still missing and 3 reported injured. (Floodlist) There’s also flooding in Java.

Arctic: As we head into spring in the northern hemisphere, Arctic sea ice “Extent (extent is not volume, by the way) for February 2019 averaged 14.40 million square kilometers (5.56 million square miles). This was 900,000 square kilometers (347,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average extent. For the Arctic as a whole, 2019 tied with 2015 for the 7th lowest average February extent in the 1979 to 2019 satellite record.” (US National Snow, Ice and Data Center) BBC reports, Greenland is getting too much rain in winter when it should be snowing, says a new report.

Antarctic: More shocking are the satellite images for the South Pole, revealing an enormous loss of ice that was in extent in January the third lowest since 1981, but in concentration visibly thinning everywhere. “Across the entire continent, there are more than 750,000 square miles of sea ice missing, a record deficit for this time of year. Antarctica will keep shedding sea ice for about another six weeks or so, and is currently on pace to drop far below the all-time record low set in 2016.” (Grist, 3 Jan) The Ross Ice Shelf retreated a month before it usually does. Loss of sea ice leads to shelf collapse, allowing the major glaciers to slip into the sea. A global rise of 3 meters would follow, if they all did.

 

Ending it all down under

Australia: Readers, Spammers etc. will be broadly aware that the climate in Australia has crashed spectacularly. Record heatwaves both for temperature and duration, record floods, cyclones, record wildfires – economic damage, increasing food (and wine!) production problems, major loss of wildlife, another vast area of the Great Barrier coral reef bleached beyond recovery. All these have occurred in the past year.

It’s coming into autumn now and the furthestmost southerly part of Australia, the part nearest the Antarctic – the island of Tasmania – has had an appalling summer of fires rampaging through its unique ancestral forest, while only two days ago, 5 March, the temperature exceeded 39 degrees C.

Controversy over the failed policies of successive governments to take more than a passing interest in these problems grinds on. It’s currently focussed on this phantom “emissions reduction fund” of AU$2bn set up in 2009, that appears to have done precisely nothing as emissions continue to rise, but which has become a political football. Most recently, the Morrison government decided to rename it the “climate solutions package” – from which it has already made a big grant to global mining company RTZ to operate a new diesel-fired power plant up in Arnhemland, adding to emissions.

Finagling of “carry-over” carbon credits has also allowed the government to pretend they’re making progress on meeting their Paris targets by contributing years of past credits – which are earned by selling your excess emissions to less polluting countries – under the old Kyoto agreement, to the current account balance. In the meantime, Australian ministers of the bluffer sort continue to ridicule the science behind climate change, and to promote the country’s main source of energy: no, not vast amounts of free sunlight – coal.

Now there’s a report in The Guardian that possibly explains why they’re continuing with this suicide mission. Lobbyists in Australia have been secretly hurling money into the blazing reactor of official denial and indifference:

“The multinational mining giant Glencore spent millions bankrolling a secret, globally coordinated campaign to prop up coal demand by undermining environmental activists, influencing politicians and spreading sophisticated pro-coal messaging on social media. An investigation by Guardian Australia can reveal the covert campaign, dubbed “Project Caesar”, was orchestrated by world-renowned political operatives at the C|T Group, the firm founded by Sir Lynton Crosby (the genius behind Theresa May’s 2017 ‘Strong and stable’ election trainwreck) and Mark Textor.”

The $7 million campaign has used personalized social media messaging and conventional media to target disinformation – fake news – aimed at undermining environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and companies promoting renewables, and “helped set up online grassroots groups to push positive messaging about clean coal technology”. Or, as Glencore’s spokesmouth puts it: “The project’s objective was to convey simple facts about coal and in particular to counter misinformation from environmental activists.”

I don’t know about you, but your old Granny is warming to the idea that the only solution to these sick bastards and their bottomless pockets the world over is extreme personal violence.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/07/revealed-glencore-bankrolled-covert-campaign-to-prop-up-coal